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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is devoted to my addiction to YA fiction.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Review: Purity - Jackson Pearce

Purity by Jackson Pearce, published by Hodder Children's Books on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: listen to her father, love as much as possible, and live without restraint. Those Promises become hard to keep when Shelby's dad joins the committee for the Princess Ball, where girls must take a vow of purity - no "bad behaviour", no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises, Shelby makes a decision - to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby begins to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.

There were a lot of things that I liked about this book but there were also some aspects of the story which didn't completely gel with me.  I'm a big fan of Jackson Pearce and I've read and loved all of her previous books, so I was very much looking forward to starting this title which sounded so different to her other work.  I enjoyed the fact that she's written a contemporary YA and I found it a quick read but one which contained real depth and honesty.

The main character Shelby narrates the story of her challenge to honour three promises that she made to her dying mother, while also trying to do the right thing for herself.  Shelby has a fresh voice which I enjoyed listening to and I thought it was equally refreshing that she doesn't always make the right decisions but she learns by her actions and discovers more about herself in the process.  I found the whole concept of the Princess Ball and Shelby's problem with having to vow purity to her father quite American and I couldn't understand why she was so desperately set on losing her virginity beforehand as it seemed such an extreme solution. 

I enjoyed seeing the interactions between Shelby and her father.  They are not particularly close and don't always know how to talk to each other but they are both willing to work at it.  One of my favourite scenes in the book is the cake tasting they go to together, as it's the beginning of them trying to mend their fractured relationship.   

The book raises philosophical questions about God, as well as exploring how to live your life in a way that's honest and true.  Although I was surprised at some of the events which happened near the end of the story and things didn't necessarily unravel the way I would have chosen, I still thought that 'Purity' was a great contemporary read which deals with a lot of the issues that young people face today.      

Monday, 21 April 2014

Review: The Fearless - Emma Pass

The Fearless by Emma Pass, published by Corgi on 24th April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
The Fearless. An army, powered by an incredible new serum that makes each soldier stronger, sharper, faster than their enemies. Intended as a force for good, the serum has a terrible side-effect - anyone who takes it is stripped of all humanity, empathy, love. And as the Fearless sweep through the country, forcing the serum on anyone in their path, society becomes a living nightmare.

Cass remembers the night they passed through her village. Her father was Altered. Her mother died soon after. All Cass has left is her little brother - and when Jori is snatched by the Fearless and taken to their hellish lair, Cass must risk everything to get him back.

'The Fearless' by British author Emma Pass is pretty much awesome from start to finish.  I was in a bit of a reading slump until I picked up this book and it was just what I was looking for, a fast-paced story which led me on an exhilarating, terrifying and nail-biting journey.  I haven't actually read Emma Pass's first book 'Acid' yet so I wasn't sure what to expect from her writing, but I loved it.  The characters and the story concept were both brilliant and had me completely hooked. 

I could definitely see the story transferring well to the big screen because everything was so well depicted and it had all the right ingredients to make anyone a fan of the series.

The plot is about a society which has been taken over by the Fearless - people who have been injected with a serum which takes away their emotions: fear, hate, love and their empathy for other human beings.  Super strong and fast, they begin to destroy everything in their path, leading to families literally fleeing for their lives.  The main character Cass lives on the island of Hope, where she and her younger brother Jori seek shelter from the horrors of the world.  With her mother and father dead she is determined to protect Jori no matter the cost. 

Packed full of suspense, the story hurtles along, hardly giving you time to breathe as Cass finds herself in some desperate and dangerous situations.  I really, really enjoyed it and found myself unable to put it down. I was gripped by the adventure that unfolded but also liked the touches of romance and the strong bond between siblings that came across so well.  It's nice to come across a British author who can more than hold her own with some of the most popular YA series in bookshops at the moment.

I'm extremely impatient to find out what lies in store next for Cass as the ending of the book signals more action still to come (I hope this isn't a standalone).  I will definitely be along for the ride!    

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Review: Don't Look Back - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 10th April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
What if you had the chance to start again...but only if you promised never to look back? Samantha is popular, rich, and seemed to have it all...until the night she and her best 'frenemy' Cassie disappeared and only Sammy resurfaced, with no recollection of who she is or what happened. Sammy's a stranger in her own life - a life she no longer wants any part of. Losing her memory is a chance to start again. Then Sammy begins receiving mysterious notes warning her about that night, urging her to not look back. But she can't let it go. As she starts poking around in her past she begins to remember...and something sinister begins to surface.

This is my first book by Jennifer L. Armentrout in one of my new favourite genres - psychological thriller.  The combination made for a superb read and I will definitely be seeking out more books by this author in the future.  I'm a huge fan of this particular genre because it's gripping, compulsive, addictive, dark and twisty.  It makes for a story which you have to read in one sitting because there's no way you're going to be able to sleep until you know the outcome.  I know I couldn't!

The main character Samantha is suffering from amnesia after an accident involving her best-friend Cassie, who has disappeared.  With no trace of Cassie anywhere and Samantha unable to remember what happened, she has to try to piece her fragmented memories back together before suspicion falls squarely on her shoulders.  The problem is that creepy notes start appearing and it seems that someone else desperately doesn't want her to remember the events which led to her friend's disappearance. 

I enjoyed this story so much.  I had my suspicions about what had happened and who was involved and I always have fun with these kinds of books in trying to follow all the clues but in this case I was way off the mark and completely taken by surprise when the truth finally emerged.  I thought that Jennifer L. Armentrout did a great job of adding in lots of little things which threw me off the right path and made the ending even more exciting.    

I loved lots of the secondary characters in the book too, in particular Samantha's twin brother Scott and her childhood friend Carson.  I fell head over heels for Carson from the very first moment that we were introduced to him.  He's so sweet and I loved the fact that he and Samantha had shared so many wonderful childhood moments together.  I was definitely rooting for them to end up with each other. 

'Don't Look Back' was a thrilling read which had me glued to my seat.  I can't wait to get my hands on more titles by Jennifer L. Armentrout in the future and I would highly recommend this book to other readers.  You won't be able to put it down! 


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Review: A Kiss in the Dark - Cat Clarke

A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke, published by Quercus on 3rd April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.

Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.

Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive…

But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

One of the things I like about Cat Clarke books is that they always make me question my own opinions.  I may not always feel comfortable with some of the scenarios and situations she puts her characters in but I think that's a good thing because Clarke often shows that things are not always as clear cut as they may first appear to be and this makes you think twice about your own feelings and standpoint. 

'A Kiss in the Dark' throws up a lot of questions about identity which will resonate with teen readers.  At a time when a lot of young people are just starting to work out who they are and who they want to be, I think the character of Alex is one that readers will find some sympathy for.  A question mark hangs over many of the decisions that Alex makes throughout the story - were these made intentionally or unintentionally and this is something that I thought a lot about as I was reading.  I have to admit that I still wasn't entirely sure of how I felt about things by the end of the book.

Based on a real life set of events, I'm going to avoid talking about the storyline at all because there is the potential to accidentally reveal a huge spoiler.  Although this is revealed after only a few chapters, it is one that completely took me by surprise and turned everything on it's head.  I can't imagine anyone would be able to guess what happens.  This secret forms the structure of the book which is split into a before and after the reveal. 

Although 'A Kiss in the Dark' isn't my favourite Cat Clarke book, I still thought it was an extremely thought-provoking read which was brilliantly written and absolutely fascinating in terms of the very different storyline.   

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Deadfall - Chris Ryan

Deadfall by Chris Ryan, published by Red Fox on 10th April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Zak Darke is sent on what seems like a straightforward surveillance op in South Africa but it soon turns into the toughest, most dangerous mission he has ever faced. An old enemy has teamed up with a terrifying gang of child soldiers and Zak is caught in the middle. Having travelled to the heart of the African jungle, will he make it out alive?

I'm a massive fan of the Agent 21 series by Chris Ryan, so I was extremely excited about getting to read the newest instalment.  Teenage agent Zac Darke is one of my favourite male characters and I couldn't want to dive in and find out what adventure he was going to become embroiled in next.

This time around Zac's old nemesis, Cruz Martinez, rears his head again.  Zac's former friend, he is now his sworn enemy due to the death of his father.  Cruz's movements lead Zac, along with Gabs, Raf and computer whiz Malcolm, to Africa, where they uncover a shocking conspiracy which will endanger the lives of innocent citizens unless they can stop it.  

The story is set mainly in the African jungle, which was a brilliant backdrop because of all the natural dangers which awaited Zac and co.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing them having to survive in the wilderness and struggle against the elements, as they face dehydration and exhaustion, as well as the threat from other animals in the jungle.  It was nice to see Zac's training really kicking in now.  He's able to use all of his new skills and abilities in the field and he never stops thinking two steps ahead.  He even, on occasion, surprises Gabs and Raf with his ingenuity and quick thinking. 

Each chapter in the book was fraught with danger and the story was tough and gritty.  A real page turner, I found it hard to put it down as it was so gripping.  Zac hurtles from one tense predicament to another which was extremely thrilling. 

'Deadfall' was an adrenaline pumping rollercoaster ride of adventure and suspense.  This is a top series and I love reading about Zac and his missions.  I hope there are lots more books to come in the future!      

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: The Madness - Alison Rattle

The Madness by Alison Rattle, published by Hot Key Books on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother's footsteps, and become a 'dipper', escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him - a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie's infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy.

This is the first book I've read by Alison Rattle and I found it a superb example of historical fiction which brilliantly conjures up a sense of the place and time of the story.  It's set in the year 1868 in the seaside town of Clevedon.  I love reading about the Victorian era and it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the more contemporary books I've read lately. 

The main character Marnie has been crippled by polio and walks with the aid of a stick.  She has been taught by her Ma to love the sea and she feels most at home and in her own skin when she's slipping between the waves, free and alone.  Her Ma is a dipper which was fascinating to read about.  Well to do ladies come to be dipped into the sea to improve their health at the recommendations of their doctors and it's Marnie's mother who runs a fairly successful business doing exactly this. 

Marnie's story is interspersed with journal entries from Noah de Clevedon, who is temporarily staying in Clevedon, so that his mother can be near the sea and improve her health.  Marnie soon becomes infatuated with Noah but his journal reveals that he sees Marnie as nothing more than a way to have some fun and pass the time.  She is an amusement to him but her feelings for Noah run far deeper.

I felt sorry for Marnie but I have to admit that I never really liked her.  She's involved in a tragic event at the start of the book and almost from this point onwards I found that I couldn't give her my complete sympathy.  She begins to spiral out of control when her fixation with Noah takes over her life.  I thought Alison Rattle did a brilliant job of depicting the gradual deterioration of Marnie's senses but I still wasn't sure about the extent to which she was willing to go in her pursuit of Noah. 

'The Madness' was an interesting read with lots of lovely details of the period.  This will appear to readers who like psychological dramas, as well as historical fiction. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Blog tour: Union Trilogy - Joe Kipling

Thanks to Samantha for inviting me onto her blog to discuss my journey to publication and to offer tips to any aspiring writers out there.

My debut novel “Blinded by the Light”, a young adult dystopian novel was published in October 2013 by Cillian Press, a Manchester based publishing company. The events in the book take place in the near future, 20 years after a virus has decimated the population of the UK. The story follows MaryAnn; an Alpha, born into a life of privilege and entitlement in a city protected by a boundary fence. She worries about the small things: her popularity, being seen at the right parties, having the right boyfriend and wearing the right clothes. These are the things that matter to her friends so they’re important to her too. Through a life changing event she’s forced to face up to reality of the world that she lives in and to question the foundations of the Neighbourhood that she was born into.


The book was the product of many hours spent hunched over my laptop at airports, train stations and in taxis while I travelled for my work as a business consultant. When I first came up with the idea for the book three years ago I never imagined that it would be accepted by a publisher. I submitted it to Cillian Press for review and fully expected that it would disappear into the ether of their slush pile. To my delight (and slight astonishment) they accepted my manuscript and this started my journey towards publication.

It was a fantastic experience working with Cillian Press. They claim to operate as a partnership with the author, and I can testify that they hold true to this claim. I was consulted at every stage of the publication process and involved in any key decision-making. Not only did this satisfy the obsessive-compulsive project manager in me, but it gave me a great insight into the publishing world. I feel that I’ve learnt so much over the last year; not just as a writer but as someone new to the world of publishing. I also feel that my skills and experience working as a business consultant helped me navigate the publishing world as a debut author. I thought that it might be useful to share some of these business insights with all of you.

Networking is a key feature of the business world, but I think it’s also essential for writers to build up a network too. I see lots of writers on social media platforms such as Twitter, churning out tweets that are just a variation of ‘buy my book.’ I’m not sure how effective this is as a sales technique, but in my experience people don’t want to feel like they’re being sold too. Instead they want to feel engaged. The best salespeople are those people who build up relationships based on respect and a trust in their product. Your story is your product, so make sure you market and sell it wisely.

Take responsibility for your work. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, resources are often limited. Smaller publishers in particular, work on very tight margins so you’ll often be expected to do a lot of the marketing work yourself. Be prepared for this. Learn about the marketing process, what works and what doesn’t. Create a plan. You publisher will often be involved in launching a number of books simultaneously, but you have your own book and your own personal best interests at heart. Don’t sit back and wait for something to happen, actively seek out opportunities.

Be a professional and keep your good reputation. I’ve recently read a number of blogs about author professionalism. Some of them discuss instances were authors have reacted badly to reviews etc. Obviously it hurts to get a bad review or for someone to criticize your work, but similar to the business world, a writer’s reputation can be ruined with a few misplaced words. It’s a small industry and word can spread pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s better just to walk away. I have a writer friend who once advised me after receiving a bad review, to choose a couple of my favourite authors and read their 1 star reviews. What I discovered is that there are actually people out there who don’t like John Green! Yes, it shocked me as well, but there’s no accounting for taste.

 It’s also important to remember that, similar to many writers who are juggling full time jobs, family commitments and a writing career, book bloggers and reviewers are in the same situation. I always feel that there is a symbiotic relationship between the blogging/review community and writers. It’s in our best interests to treat them well and to have realistic expectations about the amount of time it takes to read and review a book.

Have a contingency plan. Again this doesn’t fit in with the romantic image of the published author, but the sad truth is that it’s hard for debut authors to make enough money from their book to make a full time living (. . . ,unless this involves pitching a tent in field and foraging for wild foods.) For every JK Rowling, there are thousands of authors trying to scrape a living on earnings that are often less than the minimum wage. Its good if you have other skills that you can utilise too. I’m lucky that I have a day job that I really like. For me it makes it easier to tap into my creativity if I know that I have enough money to buy food and pay the mortgage (plus I get a bit agitated if I’m hungry, which isn’t conducive to good writing.). 

While I love the creative process of writing, I think my business background has really helped me both as an aspiring writer and a published author. I appreciate it’s not particularly romantic to talk about business and writing in the same context, but they really can complement each other and I think I’ve benefitted from bringing some business acumen to my writing. Obviously you don’t need to have experience in business to do well as a writer, but the great thing about writing is that it’s so versatile that you can compliment it with any other skills that you my have and build on your own experiences.

Blinded by the Light is available on Amazon as an eBook: http://amzn.to/15Yb3NZ or Paperback: http://amzn.to/1bHnXVw

You can also win a copy of the book by visiting: http://totalteenfiction.blogspot.co.uk/
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