Thursday, 26 May 2011

Book Review - Dark Mirror by M. J. Putney

Dark Mirror by M J Putney
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin (MacMillan Imprint) 
Release Date: 1st March 2011 (US)
Genre: Young Adult

Summary (Goodreads):

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.  

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.

When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth. 

 It’s taken me a few days to write this review because whilst I did like the story, it also wound me up too. I don’t profess to know a lot about the time period Tory is from, but I know enough about English history to know when not enough research has been done to write this story. It started well, and it was believable, but then mannerisms and speech from that era started to slip the further we went into the book. Then add in a couple of unbelievable moments and I felt slightly flummoxed as to what was going on in this story.

 So, magic exists. People use it openly and other people who have no magic hire people with magic, mages, to do things for them. Well, the rich/nobility do the hiring because magic doesn’t exist in their lineage. Then the rich/nobility start to think that they’re using magic for gain, and bring about some form of ban on magic...largely in the nobility circles. Anyone born with magical abilities in noble families is shipped off to Lackland Abbey to suppress these shameful talents.

 When we meet Lady Victoria, she’s just discovering that she has magic in her blood and is horrified- and her father. So off she’s sent to Lackland Abbey to rid her of her magic. All this was where the book was written well. The time period seemed believable and the story flowed lovely. But then Tory gets to Lackland and too many characters are flung at you at once (and things start to slip in the quality of the story). Even though I did like the mixture of characters, they were too…’textbook’ and most of the time all of them were in the same scene. It doesn’t take much to confuse me in a scene with lots of characters.

 Once the story has settled with these characters, there’s a new turn of events that takes Tory to the Second World War. Everything that happens here becomes a little much. Characters who’ve never known they were magical learn magical talents in just a couple of days. The 19th Century etiquette and speech drops. And an editor didn’t do their job- there was the odd ‘Mom’ in there and some speech patterns that were quite American. (I hope that isn’t taken the wrong way, it’s just this book was set in early 19th Century England and it didn’t feel like it. I love you, America, you have my heart and excellent YA books!)

 There were certain parts involving the Second World War that just broke my heart. Anything to do with the two wars breaks my heart. That part was written very well and I loved every page of it. Even with the dodgy character moments.

 Overall, I did enjoy the book, despite what I’ve written. There was something, even with these questionable moments, that kept me hooked, kept me reading. The writing just worked. I think it also helped that the synopsis didn’t really give away much of the plot, so you don’t expect some of the things that happen in the book. Please take what I say lightly, I’m a nitpicker, and go into the book lightly. You’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Cover Reveal: Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon

Release Date: 21st July 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd

Summary (Amazon):
'He's not mine, is he?' That's the question I fear the most. You see, I have a secret. My son is not fathered by my boyfriend, but by one of the most famous people that ever lived. And he doesn't even know it. One-time celebrity personal assistant to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg Stiles is now settled and living in the south of France with her doting boyfriend Christian and their son Phoenix. But they're living a lie - a lie that will turn their lives upside down and inside out - because Meg's son doesn't look like Christian, he looks like his rock star father, and sooner or later, the world is going to realise...

I love Paige Toon's books. I will always read Paige Toon's books. So I was thrilled when Simon & Schuster revealed the cover and the office title this morning. THRILLED! Just look at it! It's beautiful! I've had this bad boy pre-ordered for months now! July needs to hurry on up! (I realise I'm over-using exclamation marks now!)

Although...I'm a stickler for continuity. I want my book collections to match. And I especially liked Paige's novels to match because they were so beautiful with the big bold colours and silhouette people! There was even some glitter on Pictures of Lily!

Even though I love this cover, and I would totally buy this one based on the cover if it was Paige's first book, but I miss the old style.

What do you think of the new cover?

Waiting on Wednesday: Spellbound

 'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
 Spellbound by Cara Lynn Schultz

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 21st June 2011

Summary (Goodreads):
What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams. Visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.
Just read that summary, what's not to look forward to about this book?!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Book Review - Kate's Wedding by Chrissie Manby

Kate's Wedding by Chrissie Manby
Release Date: 31st March 2011
Summary (Amazon)

Thirty-nine-year-old Kate had almost given up on love when she met her fiancé. Now she's planning for the wedding she never dreamed she'd have. But things seem to be slipping out of her control.

Diana, born on the day of the 1981 Royal Wedding, never doubted that one day she would find her prince. Newly engaged, and with daddy's credit card in her grasp, she's in full Bridezilla mode.

Against the backdrop of the other couple getting married in April 2011, both women prepare for the most important day of their lives. But will each bride get her perfect day? Or will it all become a right royal fiasco?

 It’s been a while since I’ve read a Chrissie Manby book. In fact, the last time I picked up a Chrissie Manby book was when she was known as Chris Manby. I don’t understand why I haven’t because she was the first adult book I read; Lizzie Jordan’s Secret Life. I still remember the story vividly and racing through it when I should have been doing my Macbeth G.C.S.E. essay. Then I got swept up in the royal wedding fever and snapped up Kate’s Wedding when it came out, and I’m glad I did.

 The book is largely told from Kate’s point-of-view, with some from Diana, and the odd chapter told from Melanie’s, the wedding dress shop owner, view. The story starts from when Kate and Diana get engaged, with them crossing paths from time to time. Kate wants a small, simple affair and Diana wants her version of the royal wedding, and by God will she get it!

 Kate was lovely. She just wants to be married without all the trappings of a wedding. I completely related to her in that sense. Even when she was ready for bouncing Ian, her fiancé, down the aisle for some of his questionable behaviour, I related to that too. But what got on my nerves in those situations, and it has done in other novels too, is when couples don’t talk. They just assume the other should know what they want. It really rubs me up the wrong way and I will never relate or understand it. That was a pet hate for me in this story.

 Then you had Diana, a complete and utter Bridezilla. I’ve never really met someone who was a Bridezilla, but I could completely imagine them to be like Diana. With no original thought of her own and constantly looking to Kate Middleton and the royal wedding, she wanted everything her way. I loved to hate Diana and the wrath she inflicted on her fiancé, Ben. I didn’t have any sympathy for him though. He had no backbone and brought it on himself. They were both written so well, that I wished there had been more of Diana and her spoilt tantrums, with Ben wondering how much more he could take.

 There were some very funny moments and sweet moments, and this has made me want to pick up some more Chrissie Manby novels as I’ve quite clearly been missing out since my last venture into her books. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves chicklit!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Book Review - Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster's Children's Books
Release Date: 3rd May 2011 (paperback US)/ 7th July 2011 (paperback UK)
Genre: Young adult

Summary (Goodreads):

Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew—just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn’t seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she’s coming to terms with her father’s death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road—diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards—this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.

This is one of those books for me that grew on me the more I read. I was little bit bored at the beginning when we meet Amy and she’s waiting for Roger to arrive. But then Roger takes one look at the road trip planned by Amy’s mother and suggests maybe going their own way and things start to liven up.

 I loved Amy and Roger. They were lovely characters, the kind that you could imagine knowing and are real. The further I went into the story, the more I wish I could really know them and be an actual part of the road trip they were on. And the descriptions of everything were spot on. Having done a small road trip from San Francisco to L.A., then on to Vegas, then back to San Francisco, I completely knew how that loneliest road felt. I was back there with Amy and Roger, amazed that there was nothing for miles and miles and then suddenly there would be a petrol/gas station in the distance with nothing else near it. Amazing.

 I loved the playlists that Roger creates and the photos and receipts that pop up from time to time. Made it feel like I was really there with them and we were scrapbooking the whole event. It made the picture in your mind that much clearer of what they were doing. The story was just at the right pace too, with different characters popping in and out to keep things interesting. The growth between the two characters was lovely and I felt better for having read their stories.

 After reading this, I defy you all to not love the story and want to take a road trip across America, complete with playlists and sugary snacks. Not to mention the pit stops (oh, In-n-Out Burger, how I miss you!)- I need to go on as many pit stops as possible so I can try all these lovely places Amy and Roger went to! You will feel better for it if you go read this book. Go now. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Book Review - Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Release Date: 3rd May 2011
Genre: Young adult

Summary (Amazon):
One choice can transform you. Pass initiation. Do not fail…

In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s world, society is divided into five factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) – each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a “perfect society.” At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives.

On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family’s group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance with a super-hot boy, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly “perfect society.” To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.

  At first I wanted this book because I kept hearing good things and seeing fantastic reviews. Then I became apprehensive at how many good reviews there was because books get so hyped that you can expect too much from them. Also, I tend to get very antsy and uncomfortable reading dystopian books. Nevertheless, I got the book and started it straight away and I’m so glad I did.

Divergent may just have won me over to liking dystopian novels. It was a little slow to start off with and I had to make myself push through the first hundred pages, but then after that it really picks up pace and I was reading it at every spare moment I had.

 The characters were well written and believable. Tris was a fantastic protagonist. Her conflicts and confusion were believable and you were there with her on everything she was doing. I was completely swept up in her story and felt everything she felt.

 There’s so many things I could talk about and gush over, but I don’t want to talk too much about the story. You need to read it and experience it without knowing much about the plot. Just go read this book and enjoy Roth’s fantastic writing and storytelling skills!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Spook's Destiny

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
The Spook's Destiny by Joseph Delaney

Publisher: Bodley Head Children's Books (Random House Imprint)
Release Date: 2nd June 2011

Summary (Waterstones):

The Spook, Tom and Alice travel to Ireland, fleeing from the war in the County. The only thing protecting Tom and Alice is the fragile and precious bloodjar. They must remain together and the jar intact - otherwise they are both at the mercy of the Fiend himself. Meanwhile Tom is recruited to tackle the evil mage alliance, on a mission which ultimately leads him to the possession of the Spook's Blade. A sword with a dark side and a thirst of its own for blood...It's the only weapon that has a fighting chance against the Fiend in combat. But first Tom needs training, and the only person who can help him is Grimalkin, the witch assassin. Will she come? And if she does, whose side will this creature of the dark be on?
This series is addictive. It's aimed at the 9-12 range, but I think it's a bit too dark for that age. I started reading these in my first year of uni on the long train journeys and devoured them. Now I have the next one pre-ordered as soon as every year. The film rights have been bought, so I hope the film goes ahead.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Book Review - Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter  by Tara Hudson

Release Date: 7th July 2011 (UK)/ 7th June 2011 (US)
Copy: Netgalley

 Summary (amazon):

Can there truly be love after death?

Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive. 

Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever. 

 I wanted to love this book. I’ve loved ghost stories since I was ten years old. So here we are with a ghost story and we have romance to boot. But I didn’t love it. There was something missing with the story because I had to force myself to continue to get to the end, and I’m glad I did because the last third is the best part of the book.

 We meet Amelia, lost in a fog since she died, doesn’t know who she is except for her first name and doesn’t know how long she’s been dead for. She knows she must have drowned because she keeps having nightmares about it, but that’s all she remembers- the drowning bit, not the circumstances for it. Whilst moving through this existence, Amelia sees a boy, Joshua, drowning and in moment of connection, she helps him to save himself.

 After saving him, Amelia realises that Joshua can see her, the first person to see since she had died. Slowly Amelia and Joshua start fall for each other as they get to know each other, and with it comes Amelia’s memory in dribs and drabs. Then Eli, a fellow spirit with a hidden agenda, steps into Amelia’s existence too with some frightful promises about what will happen to Amelia now that she is now long in a fog.

 This story had so much potential, but the writing was bland and didn’t grip me. I was bored by the characters and felt no love for any of them. Even when you read about Amelia remembering her death, I still felt nothing for Amelia. There’s no connection between reader and story. 

 The last third of the story picked up pace and all the twists and turns were thrown in quickly, almost too quickly. If the subplots had been spaced out a bit more, it would have made for a better read. Only having them all flung at you at the end in the hopes of you reading the next book does not endear me to the story. But knowing me, I’ll still read on anyway because I can’t leave a series unfinished either.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Book Review - Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon

Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon
Release Date: 8th July 2010
Genre: Chicklit/Adult Fiction 

 Summary (Amazon):
'Will you marry me?' I think of you, then. I think of you every day. But usually in the quietest part of the morning, or the darkest part of the night. Not when my boyfriend of two years has just proposed. I look up at Richard with his hopeful eyes. 'Lily?' he prompts. It's been ten years, but it feels like only yesterday that you left. How can I say yes to Richard with all my heart when most of it has always belonged to you? I take a deep breath and will myself to speak...

Ten years ago when Lily was just sixteen, she fell in love with someone she really shouldn't have fallen in love with. Now, living in Sydney and engaged to another man, she can't forget the one that got away. Then her past comes back to haunt her, and she has to make a decision that will break her heart - and the heart of at least one of the men who love her.

 Paige Toon is one of those authors where I no longer read what the book is going to be about, I just buy it and get stuck in. She has yet to fail to get me gripped into the story by chapter three or four. She has also yet to fail to give me a good, fun, addictive story. This was no exception to that. Pictures of Lily rocked my socks as much as the rest of Paige’s novels.

 In this book, we meet Lily ten years ago, when she’s sixteen and her mum’s dragged her across the globe to live in Australia and we see what happens there before coming back to the present day. It’s something Paige hasn't done in her other books and I wasn’t sure if I was a fan of it. Mainly because it takes up about a quarter of the book and we already know what’s coming, but that’s where Paige’s writing really takes over. You don’t care and you keep reading, falling in love with these characters and wanting to be part of their lives.

 Something about the way Paige writes her novels really makes you, as the reader, get really involved in the characters lives. I literally sat down and read this in one sitting, because even when I just put it down to get a drink, I was constantly thinking about what would happen next. Lily is such a likeable and relatable character, and all the other characters you love just as much because of the superb dialogues Paige writes between them. And as usual, characters from previous books turn up in some form or another. I love that. Makes you think of them as real people who are actually living these lives somewhere.

 If you have never read a book by Paige Toon, you’re really missing out. No matter what the story or setting is, she really pulls out all the stops and I certainly wasn’t disappointed in what she produced. Now roll on the next book! Meanwhile, get thee to a library or bookshop and get reading Paige Toon!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Hourglass

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Publisher: Egmont USA 
Release Date: 14th June 2011 (UK)

Summary (amazon):
For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back.

So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past.
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened?  
 I could stare at that cover all day. I'm such a cover whore. And what an intriguing synopsis! I can't wait for it. I love everything about what this story could be, I hope it lives up to what I'm expecting.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Book Review - RSVP by Helen Warner

RSVP by Helen Warner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: 17th March 2011
Genre: Chicklit/Adult Fiction

Summary (Amazon):
Four women, one wedding and a day to remember - or rather forget ...Anna's world is rocked when she receives an invitation to her ex Toby's nuptials - Toby was The One, The Love of Her Life, The One That Got Away. Will attending his Big Day finally give her the sense of closure she so desperately craves? Or will it only re-open old wounds? Clare is Anna's best friend, the person who was there for her when she and Toby split all those years ago. But little does Clare know that Toby's wedding day will also change her own life for ever. Ella is a classic femme fatale. She loves men and leaves them without a backward glance. But the one person who's never fallen for her charms is Toby. As he prepares to get hitched, is it too late for a last-ditch attempt to win his heart? Finally, Rachel is the blushing bride-to-be. This should be the happiest day of her life. So how come she feels nothing but a terrible sense of foreboding?
This, my fellow readers, is no ordinary ‘chicklit’ novel. No, no, it really isn’t. It lures you in with that lovely cover, looking like a lovely invitation, with a lovely border in my favourite colour, then BAM! You’ve been sucker punched by one amazing rollercoaster of a story!

 Oh where to start about RSVP? I went into expecting some nice fluff and my happy ever after to round it off. What I didn’t expect was the heartbreak and angst running throughout the book. It was raw, powerful and beautifully written. I love a good angst-ridden novel and this is the first one I’ve read in a very long time that filled the void I’d had for a while. It was the kind of devastation that stays with you long after you put the book down.

 The characters were well-thought out and rounded. You could almost imagine yourself knowing these people somewhere in your life. They were believable and flawed. Anna was stubborn, but a little bit too weak for me to completely love her. Clare on the other hand is how I like my characters; strong, independent and gets on with it. She’s a firm but fair friend to Anna. Rachel was a touch too nice and…something else. I can’t put my finger on it, maybe too perfect. She was flawed, but not enough. And Ella- now she was someone I loved to hate and could really sink my teeth into her story.

 It would have been nice to get some perspective from Toby. Like an epilogue at the end or something so we could get an idea of what was going through his head through the whole story. There were moments where he would give a strange look, or say something that felt out of the blue, and I didn’t feel like it was explained afterwards. It would’ve been nice to see his story too.

 Overall, this was an emotional, angsty read. It was like reading an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and I couldn’t put it down, I had to read one more chapter, just like I can never watch just one episode of Grey’s. Anyone who loves that show, will completely love this book!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Book Review - Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: 4th April 2011 (according to UK Amazon) 

Summary (Goodreads):

Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.

That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a new kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.

A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

  After I read Hunger by this author, I ordered Rage within minutes and read it as soon as I took it out of the packaging. If I thought Hunger delivered a punch, it was nothing compared to the punch I received off Rage. The story is intense, powerful and raw, whilst still keeping the black humour from the previous book.

 Missy is a self-harmer and like Lisa, from the previous book, has Death appear on her doorstep at a time when her death is close to hand by offering her to be War, the Red Rider of the Four Horsemen. From the first meeting, you know the relationship between Missy and Death will be different than the one Lisa had with him.

 When we follow Missy in her miserable existence, you feel everything she’s feeling. The descriptions were strong enough to make the reader live Missy’s life as she went through the humiliation brought on her in front of all her school peers. You feel like your living in the house where she argues with her sister and hides everything from her parents. Powerful.

 Then you have Death, looking like a familiar rock star that isn’t with us anymore, keeping a serious matter light with his humour. Just when you think you can’t handle Missy’s misery and want to put the book down for relief, there is Death to help guide her a little more, so you keep reading. War is Death’s handmaiden, so he has a vested interest in seeing Missy through her trials.

 I’m not doing this book justice. I really do urge you all to read it. The writing is strong and amazing. The characters are rounded and flawed, just like real people. The plot is spot on. It opens your eyes to a serious subject and makes you think about how hard your own life really is. Go. Read it.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Book Review - Die for Me by Amy Plum

Die for Me by Amy Plum
Date Release: 5th May 2011
Genre: Young Adult

Thank you NetGalley for this galley.
Summary (Amazon):

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything. Suddenly, my sister, Georgia and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent. Mysterious, sexy and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies...immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

 I adored this story. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started it because I’d seen a lot of comparisons/similarities to Twilight being mentioned. Now don’t get me wrong, I like The Twilight Saga as much as the next romance-loving gal. Then I read an article pointing out its faults and my love affair with the sparkly vampires was soon over. So I tried to ignore that and go into Die for Me with a clear view and I’m glad I did.

 Kate, the protagonist, was beautifully written. Sometimes overwhelmingly so, that she didn’t seem to have any flaws. In fact, I can’t think of any flaws being mentioned, but I suppose that all adds to the graceful sadness that smacks you off the page. I loved the maturity coming from her, which I can only assume is due to the European upbringing she had, because as an adult reading a YA book, I could finally get to grips with the voice. I remember being 16 and my thought process was closer to Kate’s than it’s been with any other protagonists I’ve read.

 Vincent and the Revenants were fun and I wanted more interactions with the whole group. I was drawn to Gaspard (I always like the ones that hide in the background) and I wanted more of him and his history. The mixture of different characters was just right. My only niggle was the turnaround in Jules’ behaviour. It was too much for me. But it didn't take away my love for this story.

 The story has a steady pace with nothing dragging. There’s just the right amount of intrigue to the plot that keeps you reading so that you can get the answers to all the questions that pop in your head. The only thing that was predictable, and I saw coming straight away, was the events unravelling in the last five chapters. Although, there was a moment in the book which was never answered and I’m hoping I’ll see that in the sequel…there is a sequel right?

 I really can’t recommend this highly enough, especially if you love a good angsty romance. I devoured this book in a couple of hours, which takes a lot for me to do when you have a screaming parrot in the house, that’s how much I enjoyed the story.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Book Review - The 13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison

The 13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison
Release Date: 3rd February 2011
 Summary (Amazon):
Red is now living at Elvesden Manor under her real name, Rowan, and trying to put her past behind her. But staying on the straight and narrow isn't as easy as she had hoped...Hounded by fairy messengers who are trying to convince her to participate once more in the changeling trade, Rowan is haunted by dreams of the Hedgewitch's cottage and the chained-up Eldritch, who threatens revenge against her. Her past is about to catch up with her - can Tanya and Fabian prevent it consuming her altogether?

 This is one of those series that I wish desperately had been around when I was in the age range it’s aimed at. I remember seeing the first one, The 13 Treasures, coming out and unsure if I wanted to read it. I love fairies, but I’m all about the good ones. In the end, the cover (so predictable of me) won me over. When I read the first chapter, just to check it out as I was reading something else at the time, that was it, I hunkered down and read- scratch that- devoured the book. Naturally I stalked the second book, The 13 Curses, and read that in one sitting too. I even started buying the books for any young people who liked reading because they needed to have this series in their reading lives.

 When I finally got my mitts on this book, I did my usual and threw all partially read books to one side and got down and dirty with this one. And I wasn’t disappointed. This is definitely my favourite book in the series. It’s darker, edgier and has a whole bunch of new characters to meet and keep things fresh. It had a whole new plotline from the other two, yet answered all my questions from the other two books and tied everything up neatly.

 We get to find out more about Rowan’s past and how she came to be part of a gang that helped get human children back. It was interesting meeting the people she worked with and what each one brought to their group, yet there was something dangerous about it all. Every time I learnt something new about one of them, I had my back up. I was part of the dangerous world of fairies and trusted no one.

The small subplots that went on in the background were a nice touch too. I love things like that because I always wonder what’s going on in the smaller characters’ lives, and it was answered for me from time to time.  I also have to say that the African Grey got a lot of hate from me, as well as the characters. I have to live with one (hates her with a passion) and nearly everything was spot on about how hateful they can be to live with if you don’t love parrots. The only thing missing was how they like to pick up high-pitched shrieks and use them on you when their beloved has left the room!

 Overall, this last book rounded the series off nicely. I saw some things coming, but only when they were about to be revealed. Some things I didn’t and had a few ‘No way!’ moments before rereading what had just happened. This trilogy definitely needs to be enjoyed by children and adults. It’s a series that will stand the test of time, in my opinion.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Cover Love: Nightshade & Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer.

Nightshade & Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Atom

Guys, just look at these paperback covers! I want these bad boys on my shelf yesterday!
From what I can gather over at Atom's info about it here, they come out in July.
 I haven't read Nightshade yet. I haven't even bought it yet. I'm glad I held off because I love this cover sooooo much more! Cover is everything to me. Well not, everything, but you get what I mean!

Book Review - A Weekend with Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly

A Weekend with Mr Darcy by Victoria Connelly
Publisher: HarperCollins Imprint (Avon)
Release Date: 16th September 2010
Genre: Adult fiction/Chicklit

Summary (Amazon):

Katherine Roberts is fed up with men. As a lecturer specialising in the works of Jane Austen, she knows that the ideal man only exists within the pages of Pride & Prejudice and that in real life there is no such thing. Determined to go it alone, she finds all the comfort she needs reading her guilty pleasure - regency romances from the pen of Lorna Warwick - with whom she has now struck up an intimate correspondence.

Austen fanatic, Robyn Love, is blessed with a name full of romance, but her love life is far from perfect. Stuck in a rut with a bonehead boyfriend, Jace, and a job she can do with her eyes shut - her life has hit a dead end. Robyn would love to escape from it all but wouldn't know where to start.

They both decide to attend the annual Jane Austen Conference at sumptuous Purley Hall, overseen by the actress and national treasure, Dame Pamela Harcourt. Robyn is hoping to escape from Jace for the weekend and indulge in her passion for all things Austen. Katherine is hoping that Lorna Warwick will be in attendance and is desperate to meet her new best friend in the flesh.

But nothing goes according to plan and Robyn is aghast when Jace insists on accompanying her, whilst Katherine is disappointed to learn that Lorna won't be coming.

However, an Austen weekend wouldn't be the same without a little intrigue, and Robyn and Katherine are about to get much more than they bargained for. Because where Jane Austen is concerned, romance is never very far away…

 I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, but I can’t really call myself a fan. I’ve watched every film adapted from her books. I’ve every book I can get my hand on that have stemmed from her books. I’ve even been to visit her house and grave! I know nuggets of facts about her, I read everything about her…but I haven’t read her books yet. Isn’t that just criminal?!

 Naturally, the title and cover drew me in instantly. I heard good things about it leading up to the release date and so I bought it and devoured it as soon as I could get my hands on it. The problem is I didn’t love it. I only liked it. It was missing something in some of the plotlines I think. Things like Robyn feeling like it’s a duty to stay with Jace due to something in the past, which I found to be a bit lame for an excuse when I found out what it was.

 I liked Katherine. Katherine is strong, independent and leads her life how she wants to lead it, but there’s that age-old problem she’s having- the want of a good man. Katherine’s storyline was the best bit about the book and I wanted to read more of her and less of Robyn, especially when Robyn was so weak when it came to Jace. I’m not a fan of characters like that.

 Then there’s Warwick, pretty much the only man at the weekend, with a bit of a hidden agenda for going, and I couldn’t help but fall for him as a character. Victoria did a fab job of creating him, as he really was a modern day Jane Austen hero- secret included!

 Most of the book is based over the Jane Austen weekend (oh how I wish this really happened…anyone know of one?) and the story is a quick, light read, with well-written moments but I just couldn’t love it. It was missing the magic that I usually find in Jane Austen linked books. But it was still a pleasurable read so I’ll definitely be reading the rest in this trilogy.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Book Review - Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Imprint) 
Release Date: 3rd March 2011 (UK)
Genre: Dystopian young adult

Summary (Amazon): 

Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away.

Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she’s due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.

Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her, and more if she’ll let him. 

But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? A killer is out there – and Amy has nowhere to hide . . .

 I was never going to be sure about this book as I’ve only read a couple of dystopian books before it and neither of them blew me away. In the end, I let the wave of bloggers reviewing it sweep me up, and bought it as a spur of the moment.

 I picked it up intending only to have a quick flick through because I had so many other books ahead of it to read, only one chapter to see what it was like turned into a massive reading session and I was halfway through the book. The story freaked me out, and I wanted to stop reading it to read of happy things that were set in today’s world, but that morbid need to see what happens took over.

 Everything was described so intensely that I felt as though I was Amy when she was being frozen. Then the few chapters of when she’s frozen and she’s having never ending cycles of dreams were fearful to read. The chapters with Elder were basically introducing the ship and the way of life that had evolved on there, and they were just enough to really see it all in your mind’s eye. I think this unquestioned way of living freaked me out more than the never-ending dreams Amy was having. In fact, if I was Joey from Friends, then this book totally would have gone into the freezer…only I like my books pristine and the ice would have made it soggy.

 I definitely had a love/hate relationship with this book. It was so wonderfully written that I couldn’t help it when I kept reading one more chapter, even though I knew I didn’t want to feel any more of Amy’s frustration at this strange way of living. The hate part was down to the plot and the freaky ship with its freaky cycles and freaky way of living. I applaud Beth Revis for making such a believable world…so believable I had nightmares for days after about that never-ending cycle of not reaching the new planet.

 It’s written from Amy and Elder’s points-of-view, and it works really well in getting the sense of today’s world trying to fit with what might happen in the future. The descriptions were excellent and well thought out. I recommend this freaky book to everyone. I think you all need to have a love/hate relationship with me. I will definitely be having a love/hate relationship with the whole series.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Book Review - Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Hélène Boudreau
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Release Date: 9th February 2011
Genre: Middle-grade

Summary (Amazon): 

It's hard being a pre-teen girl; it's even harder when you find out you're a mermaid! Fourteen-year-old Jade feels like a freak-of-nature when she finally gets her first period while trying on an XL tankini at the mall. It gets worse when she runs into handsome Luke Martin in the feminine products aisle while her dad Googles 'menstruation' on his Blackberry. But 'freak-of-nature' takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones bring on another metamorphosis -- complete with scales and a tail. When Jade learns she's inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother, it raises the question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?

 I came across this book by accident by flicking through the little menu on Amazon that tells me what other people bought when they bought the current book I’m looking at. I love mermaid stories (blame Disney), so I clicked on it and it was going for a really good price on the Kindle, and I’m so glad that I bought it.

  This is one of those rare books I wish had been around when I was a teenager. Jade is such a warm, funny, relatable character that could be your best friend. Taking away the fact Jade discovers she’s a mermaid and is dealing with that, I couldn’t have asked for a more rounded protagonist in a YA book. Hélène Boudreau should be proud of herself, because this is one character that can be a role model to many teen girls out there going through puberty.

 The story never stalls. We go straight into it with when Jade gets her period, then becomes a mermaid and then finds out some things about her mother’s death that sheds a whole new light on how she’s become a mermaid. The mix is just right of Jade being freaked out and taking it all in her stride to keep the story moving, rather than dwelling or accepting the change too quickly.

 The friction with her best friend as this all happens to her is spot on. I remembered all the times I’d fought with my best friend at Jade’s age and could relate to how she was feeling. I also loved the relationship she had with her dad. They grew stronger by sticking together rather than fighting when her mum drowned, and that was a nice refreshing change to read.

 The growing attraction with Luke was a nice subplot too. Especially when you throw in the Queen Bee’s attraction to him and how she gets everything she wants, then you feel for Jade and keep your fingers crossed that it’ll all work out in the end for her.

 The mixture of sweetness, growth and light-heartedness was just right. Even as an adult I could appreciate how good this book is and will be passing it on to my nieces to read- if I can tear them off the computers long enough to read an actual book. Please read this book and pass it on to any tweens that you know.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Little Women Letters

'Waiting On' Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

 The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Release Date: 26th May 2011

Summary (Waterstones):
When Josephine March's great-great-granddaughter stumbles across her letters, the "Little Women" shed a glorious light on a new generation of sisters. The Atwaters are a loving, sprawling mess of a family and Fee's three daughters, Emma, Lulu and Sophie couldn't be less alike if they tried. Emma is planning her wedding, Sophie is an up-and-coming actress, but Lulu - the cleverest of them all - is more than a little lost. If life is for living, why is she stuck in a series of dead-end jobs? Grandma Jo's letters had been gathering dust in the attic for decades, but when Lulu gets her hands on them, everything seems to change and different worlds begin to open up. And even though dark family secrets emerge, Jo's words offer comfort and guidance across the centuries. Sometimes family is all that matters. And sisters are the closest friends you can find.
 I read Little Women when I was 8 and fell in love with it. I don't remember much of the story now, but I remember how much I loved reading the story and wanting to be a March sister. I pretty much read anything linked to Little Women.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Book Review - The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Macmillan Imprint)
Release Date: 27th October 2009
Genre: Young adult

Summary (Goodreads):

What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie.

Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

 I found this book because I was pondering if I should pre-order Just Your Average Princess by the same author, but having not read her other books yet, I thought I’d order her first one, The Espressologist, and then decide. When I saw the title and cover, I was already won over before I’d read the blurb, and then I saw that it had overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and I was completely sold.

 It surprised me how small the book was when I got it, so everything went on hold so I could devour it. Now I read it quickly, but I didn’t necessarily devour it. I was a bit disappointed by it really. It was stilted and flat. Jane wasn’t relatable, and her friends were barely characters. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the story was cute and I didn’t completely hate it, but there was no…spark in the story.

The conversations were my main peeve. The speech wasn’t realistic and drawn out. The plot was predictable, certain aspects were too sweet and some parts felt forced to give the story friction, like an old school enemy coming in and trying to embarrass Jane whenever she could. Overall, it was not good but not many first novels are, so I'll probably still buy Kristina's other books at some point.

I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something to fill out your reading list for the year, love coffee and don’t want to think about what you’re reading for a little while.