‘Model Under Cover: A Crime of Fashion’ by Carina Axelsson

368p 2014 Usbourne Bought: Waterstones

When 16 year old Axelle Anderson is sent to Paris by her parents to stay with her fashion-obsessed Aunt Venetia for Paris Fashion Week, as a birthday present, the long-legged Axelle couldn’t imagine anything worse. Though her mother is always trying to get her interested in fashion and modelling, all Axelle wants to do is become a private eye, solving mysteries for a living.

Axelle is not looking forward to trailing after her aunt all week taking notes about fashion. But when one of the top designers in the fashion world goes missing, Axelle is determined to find out why. Much to her dismay she realises it will involve doing the thing she despises most: Modelling. Her scary Parisian aunt is delighted to facilitate her and soon Axelle is a semi-willingly transformed model.

In her new guise ‘model Axelle’ dives into the world of fashion with one thing on her mind: to solve the mystery. With the help of British super-model Ellie and gorgeous Sebastian, the three try to uncover who is the culprit behind Bella La Lune’s disappearance. But when Bella’s brother and sister both disappear as well, the stakes get higher. Who is the kidnapper- and why?

Model Under Cover: A Crime of Fashion by Carina Axelsson is such a fun book to read. I bought this right before I moved to California in March of 2014, and actually read it on the plane! The plot is fast, full of intrigue and I didn’t want to put it down. Axelle is a fabulous character, sharp-witted, funny and determined, and I thought that the story was well-written. I also think the cover art-work is fab, it definitely says ‘pick me up!’

The fashion world- and all the crazy people in it- plus the handsome Sebastian, and of course a whirlwind mystery was the perfect mix.  Now I have to get my hands on the next two books in the series!

‘Paper Towns’ by John Green

320p 2010 Bloomsbury UK Borrowed

Ever since Quentin Jacobsen was a kid in Jefferson Park, Orlando, he’s idolised his gorgeous, yet distant neighbour, Margo Roth Spiegelman. Though they played together as children, now in their last year of high school, they never talk. Margo is popular, while Quentin is not. But one spring night when Margo unexpectedly appears in Quentin’s bedroom, and drags him into a whirlwind midnight adventure, Quentin feels that there might actually be a chance of the two becoming closer.

The next day, Margo isn’t in school and after three days Quentin is questioned by a private inspector because Margo has, once again, disappeared from home. Quentin finds clues, small obscure things that he’s convinced she wanted him to find. Over the weeks before graduation, he is obsessed with trying to discover what Margo means with her clues, and ‘paper towns’, which she spoke of to him on their midnight escapade.

His two friends Ben and Radar, and Margo’s childhood friend Lacey, who was pranked on the night Quentin last saw Margo, begin to help him and they visit various places that Quentin thinks Margo might have meant by ‘paper towns’.

 At one deserted run-down building, Quentin finds a map, and on the day of his graduation, he finally connects the dots and realises where Margo might be: Agloe, New York, a non-existent ‘paper town’, one that was planned but never built.

Quentin is certain that Margo wants him to find her, and he wants to sweep her off her feet in a romantic gesture of heroism. Missing their graduation, Ben, Lacey, Radar and Quentin race from Florida to New York on an exciting road-trip to try and reach Margo before she leaves Agloe. Will they find her? And most importantly, does she want to be found?

I was looking forward to reading Paper Towns by John Green, but I’m not sure whether I love it or loathe it. I thought the protagonist, Quentin, was very annoying with his made-up image of a perfect, pretty, Margo Roth Spiegelman. I wanted to bash him over the head sometimes. But then at other times I had to appreciate his devotion (however silly it was) and his kindness. I enjoyed the road-trip and the feeling of comradery between the four teens, but I didn’t quite like the other bits so much; such as when Quentin was obsessed with finding Margo, dropping everything else. The plot was very detailed and philosophical, which I enjoyed, but the general idea, clever, unpopular boy wants to save the pretty, popular, yet a bit messed-up girl from herself, was a bit predictable.

‘Louder Than Words’ by Laura Jarratt

416p 2014 Electric Monkey Bought: Waterstones

Rafi has been mute for eight years, ever since she was six. The only person who really understands her is her older brother Silas. One day on the way home from school they meet a very upset girl, Josie.  It turns out that Josie is being publically bullied and harassed online by her ex-boyfriend.  Silas volunteers to use his computer skills to try and stop the harassment. During this process, the girls start to become good friends.

At an art exhibition, the three friends meet Lara, who Silas is immediately enraptured with. Lara is beautiful and mysterious, and Silas is willing to do anything to impress her. He begs her to go out with him, and she eventually accepts. Lara brings him to her political activist group meetings, and Silas was surprised that he was actually known to the group because of the way he used his tech skills to stop Josie’s on-line abuse. Silas is slowly sucked into doing more and more things for the group, and he doesn’t say no because he still wants to impress Lara. His involvement with the group means he begins to ignore Rafi, who tells Josie, in writing, that she is worried about Silas’s mysterious disappearances.  The two girls try to figure out what is the cause of his absences and strange behaviour. But when they find out what he has been doing, they realise that he could be in bigger trouble than they thought.

The story is written mainly from Rafi’s point of view, with Silas and Josie featuring occasionally as narrators. It was well written and the plot was incredibly intense. I really had no idea of what would happen next. The characters intrigued me, and Rafi’s condition of progressive mutism was so interesting to learn about. Silas was definitely an enigma though: I found it slightly hard to believe that he, normally so sensible, would change everything just for the girl he liked.

I had huge expectations for Louder Than Words by Laura Jarratt as I loved her previous books Skin Deep and By Any Other Name, and this lived up to my expectations. Laura Jarratt’s books are always so captivating and they really blow me away.

‘Eleanor and Park’ by Rainbow Rowell

336p 2014 Orion Borrowed

When Eleanor has to sit beside Park on the school bus, at first they don’t even look at each other, instead they both look to find another seat. There aren’t any because no one else wants to sit with either of the shy and awkward outsiders.

Eleanor, who lives with her alcoholic step-father, mother and four siblings, isn’t allowed to see boys. Park is a loner who is very quiet and thoughtful.  But, on their daily journey to school, they slowly begin to bond over a love of comic books and music. When they encounter teasing at school, and Park rushes into a fight, angered by a comment made about Eleanor’s looks, they both realise that they might have something more than friendship.

Desperate to avoid her step-father at home, Eleanor starts to take refuge at Park’s house, going over after school and lying about it to her family. When she starts receiving sick anonymous notes, Eleanor puts it down to the bullies at school, but one night she discovers the truth behind the notes, and everything is changed.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell is one of the best books I’ve read recently. My friend was desperate that I read it, and her taste was impeccable. The story of a teen romance in the 1980’s kept me breathless and I sat stock-still, moving only to turn the pages. I thought the plot was perfect and I fell deeply in love with the characters.

I’m desperate to know what Eleanor said in her letter to Park. I have a small suspicion, but if anyone else thinks they know, do get in touch!

Fabulous.

‘The Songbird Cafe Girls: Mollie Cinnamon Is Not a Cupcake’ by Sarah Webb

181p 2015 Walker Books Bought: Amazon

12 year old Mollie Cinnamon has always been a city-girl, so moving to tiny Little Bird Island to live with her great-granny while her mom is travelling the world, filming a TV show, seems like the opposite of fun. At first, Mollie is shocked by the small island with its ‘ice-cream’ coloured houses and the close-knit community and can’t wait until she joins her mom in Paris. Slowly though, Mollie makes friends with quiet Sunny and friendly Alanna at the Songbird Cafe, and begins to feel that things are looking up. But when the cafe, where Mollie met her friends, is in danger, Mollie is desperate to help. Will The Songbird Cafe be saved from closure?

Mollie Cinnamon Is Not a Cupcake is the first book in The Songbird Cafe Girls series by Sarah Webb and I couldn’t wait to start reading it. I thought it had a good plot, and it was easy to connect with Mollie and how she dealt with school, moving to a new place, making new friends or feeling passionately about a cause.

I think the writing and topics would appeal more to kids slightly younger than me (13), but it is definitely a story I would recommend.

The next book in the series, Sunny Days and Moon Cakes is out already, and the third book in The Songbird Cafe GirlsAurora and the Popcorn Dolphins, is published in March 2016. Also, for the older readers, I urge you to check out Sarah’s first series, Ask Amy Green, as that is an amazing series.

‘Looking at the Stars’ by Jo Cotterill

366p 2014 Bodley Head Won in a giveaway

When Amina’s father is killed by soldiers working for the country’s dictator, Amina, her mother and her two sisters flee their home. At a checkpoint, Amina and her older sister, Jenna, are separated from their mother and their younger sister Vivie. Worried about their safety and that of their mother and Vivie, Amina and Jenna decide to walk to a refugee camp, hoping to be reunited with them there. 

In the refugee camp, the two girls have the good fortune to meet Cosima and her two sons, Aron and Lemo. When the sisters agree to stay with Cosima’s family in their crude, makeshift tent, Amina and Jenna have to adapt to living in the harsh refugee camp very quickly. While in the camp, they have to struggle for survival every day. Filled with despair, Amina starts to let her imagination run and she begins to tell stories about the stars. Her stories transport many people’s minds to a wonderful starry world, taking them, just for a while, away from the cruel reality of their lives.  Amina’s stories help the people in the refugee camp. The stories make them hopeful that there will be an end to the war and that they will be happier one day. Will Amina and Jenna ever see their mother and Vivie again?

Looking at the Stars is a book that I will always remember, it pulled at my heartstrings. All the characters are so well written, they seem alive, and the stories that Amina weaved left me star struck. It’s such a special book, and is also very similar to what is happening currently with the huge Syrian refugee crisis.

When I first read this book I wanted to know what happened to the girls next.  Now, I’m unsure as to whether there should be a sequel to Looking at the Stars; it’s perfect as it is.

‘Fortune Cookie’ by Cathy Cassidy

241p 2015 Puffin Bought: Amazon

Fourteen-year-old Cookie lives with his single mom and his two younger half-sisters, in a flat above The Paper Dragon restaurant. He’s happy with his life in Chinatown: it’s cool, exciting and even though his family doesn’t have much money, they manage just fine. 

When letters start arriving from a Honey Tanberry claiming that she is his half-sister, he thinks it’s a scam, but after a while, he begins to wonder whether the letters are telling the truth. Cookie has no intentions of going to visit Honey and her family, who their shared father left years ago, but when he makes a huge mistake and needs money to fix it, he decides to run away to Tanglewood House.  It seems like the perfect plan to Cookie: he’ll go there for a few days, getting his younger sister Maisie to cover for him at home.  This way he can meet his other half-sisters and see if they can help him get some money from their dad. What could go wrong?

Fortune Cookie is the sixth and last book in The Chocolate Box Girls series by Cathy Cassidy. I was looking forward to reading this, as I have loved all her other books, and it definitely didn’t let me down!  Though I wish Coco, Skye and Summer were featured just a bit more in this last instalment, I did feel that this book tied up all the loose ends in the series and I’m pleased how things ended for Cookie and all the Tanberry girls. I think Cookie made many mistakes, some of which I didn’t think were quite believable, but he eventually matured and realised that sometimes you have to stick with your family and work things out together, rather than trying to save the day flying solo.

The Chocolate Box Girls series is fun and engaging- each book drawing you deeper into the lives of the Tanglewood characters.  All of their experiences, the good as well as the bad, will keep you turning the pages.

If you’re sad, like I am, that Fortune Cookie is the last book in the series, Cathy also has the Chocolate Box Secrets out, and a compilation of all her e-book short stories on the characters featured in the books, titled Life Is Sweet, is coming out in October 2015.