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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.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Review: All My Secrets - Sophie McKenzie

All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown's world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear ...including her life.  


Review:
'All My Secrets' is a new thriller from the pen of British author Sophie McKenzie.  It centres around teenager Evie Brown who at the start of the book is hit with two huge revelations - one is a shocking family secret and the other is the fact that she has just come into a ten million pound inheritance. With her life fast spiralling out of control, Evie is sent to Lightsea Island to take part in a young adult development programme.  However, mysterious things start occurring on the island and soon she fears that her life itself might be in danger. 

I liked the setting of the story, placing the action on a remote island.  It magnified the sense of danger that Evie feels throughout and means that she and the other teens on the island are far away from any kind of help or assistance.  They are very much on their own, as even some of the adults looking after them might not necessarily be trustworthy. 

I wish that I had liked Evie more, but unfortunately I never really warmed to the main protagonist.  I didn't agree with the way that she treated her parents at the beginning of the book and I didn't feel any sense of a connection to her.  A love triangle was whipped up to add some romance to the story but even this felt a bit flat to me. 

I had my suspicions about what was really going on but no idea whether or not I was right.  Sophie McKenzie is excellent at casting suspicion on people and often making you look in the wrong direction.  The ending of the story was super exciting with lots of twists but I wish that the rest of the book had matched it.  It sadly wasn't as good as some of McKenzie's other YA thrillers. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review: The Potion Diaries - Amy Alward

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When Nova's princess (more Kate Middleton than Rapunzel!) is poisoned by her own love potion, the city's alchemists are entered into a deadly, high-profile quest to find a cure. It's the chance of a lifetime for Sam's alchemist family, who have been mixing magic potions for generations... but can Sam save their crumbling reputation?

Sam must choose whether to work with or against her best friends, Anita and Arjun, and finds herself thrown towards Zain, heir to the ZoroAster synthetic potions corporation, and her arch enemy. He also happens to be the boy most likely to marry the princess...

With the nation's media watching her every move, Sam overcomes incredible dangers and impossible dilemmas in order to hunt down the ingredients: a mermaid's pearl, pink jasmine, Eluvian ivy, hair from an abominable and a unicorn's tail. Tricky. Can Sam save the now dangerously powerful princess by winning the contest? And just how close are she and Zain willing to get in the meantime?




Review:
Described as "The Hunger Games meets The Princess Diaries" if ever a tagline is going to make me want to read a book, that is it!  And what an unusual book, 'The Potion Diaries' by Amy Alward turned out to be.  Unusual in a good way but not at all what I was expecting.  It leant much more heavily towards the fantasy genre but was unlike anything else I've read before. 

The book combines a modern setting with one where magic is still prevalent.  This took a bit of getting used to because it's not every day that you experience magic being talked about in such a matter of fact way.  The main character Samantha Kemi has the ability to mix potions.  Her talent as an alchemist is second to none and is needed when her family are summoned to take part in an ancient quest to save the Princess from a potion gone awry.  Fantasy, magical adventures and drama aplenty enthuse, as Sam joins the hunt to find all the ingredients for an anti-dote. 

I have to admit that I wasn't immediately hooked by the story, although I loved the premise.  I didn't really get engrossed in it properly until at least six or seven chapters in, so stick with it if it is the same for you because it's definitely worth it.  The hunt itself was intriguing and trust me, you wouldn't even begin to be able to predict what was going to happen.  It's best to just strap in and enjoy the ride.     

I loved the character of Sam.  She is brave, resourceful and talented but also incredibly modest.  She wants to win the quest so that she can help provide for her family but along the way she learns a lot about her own abilities and talents.  Handsome Zain is one of her rival competitors.  Dark black hair and blue eyes is always a killer combination, so I was drawn to Zain even though I didn't know if he could be trusted.  There are romantic sparks between the two of them, although the romance angle takes more of a backseat to the quest itself, so more romance and kissing next time please! 

The book's recipe is to take a dash of humour and a sprinkle of romance.  Stir it up with adventure, excitement and danger and you have 'The Potion Diaries'. 

The second book in the series is due out in July 2016. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Review: At the Water's Edge - Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen, published by Two Roads on 7th May 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces.

Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.


Review:
This was an enjoyable read but not one which captivated me in the same way as Sara Gruen's bestselling 'Water For Elephants'.  The latter had a magical aura about it which stayed with me long after finishing the book.  'At the Water's Edge' just wasn't in the same league.  It was very good but didn't have the same sparkling brilliance and originality about it.  Maybe it's because I loved Gruen's first book so much that my expectations were sky high and almost impossible to match. 

That is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book because I did but it's one that I could happily dip in and out of without any sense of urgency to finishing it.  It also meant that when I'd finished it, I wasn't left with that urge to immediately add it to my re-read pile.

I expect in part my feelings about the book were down to the characters themselves who were thoroughly dislikeable for a good part of the story.  Maddie, her husband Ellis and their friend Hank end up on an expedition to Scotland to try and catch sight of the Loch Ness Monster.  With World War II raging around them, their affairs are more complicated as the bonds between them begin to splinter.  I did eventually grow to like Maddie but not until at least half-way through.  She matures a lot, learns some important lessons about herself and her desires and begins to separate herself from her volatile husband. The second-half of the story was much better as Maddie begins to find her place and gains acceptance from the people she is now sharing her life with. 

A slow paced, historical novel, Sara Gruen fans will want to pick this one up.  However if you haven't read any of her work before, then I would definitely recommend starting with the far superior 'Water For Elephants'. 

  

Monday, 22 June 2015

Review: Lucky in Love - Jill Shalvis

Lucky in Love by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 2nd April 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
Mallory Quinn has had enough of playing it safe. As a nurse and devoted daughter, she takes care of everyone but herself. And as the local good girl, she's expected to date Mr. Right. But for once, she'd like to take a risk on Mr. Wrong. And who could be more wrong than Ty Garrison? The mysterious new guy in town has made it clear that he's only passing through, which suits Mallory just fine. Besides, his lean, hard body and sexy smile will give her plenty to remember once he's gone...

For the first time in his life, Ty can't bear to leave. Helping this sexy seductress-in-training walk on the wild side is making him desire things he shouldn't, including leaving the military for good. As their just-for-fun fling becomes something more, Mallory and Ty wonder if they could really be this lucky in love. After all...anything can happen in a town called Lucky Harbor.




Review:
'Lucky in Love' is the fourth book in the Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis.  I am really enjoying this series and it's perfect for when I want to indulge the side of me that loves a good romance novel.

Local girl Mallory Quinn is the one that always looks after everyone else.  Her family and her patients at the hospital consume all of her time, until a mysterious hot new guy arrives in town and makes her go weak at the knees.  The mysterious hot new guy aka Ty Garrison, is just stopping through as he recovers from his own mental and physical demons.  That is until Mallory comes into his life and makes Lucky Harbor look like the perfect stopping place.

Sparks flew off the page whenever Mallory and Ty got together.  Jill Shalvis can certainly write hot and sexy but I also like the way that she portrays genuine warmth, love and mutual respect between her characters.  I always believe that her couples will stand the test of time.  By the end of her stories you know that they are in it for the long haul. 

I really enjoyed seeing Mallory grow in confidence throughout the book.  She has always tried to please everyone else and do what they think she should do, so it was nice to see her finally taking control of her own life.  Although I had to adjust to a whole new set of characters at the beginning of the book, I quite quickly became absorbed in their lives and was rooting for them to overcome their own personal obstacles. 

I'm so looking forward to reading Mallory's friends stories next in 'At Last' and 'Forever and a Day'.  Both Amy and Grace are introduced at the start and appear throughout as fellow cake and chocolate lovers.  There is definitely something going on between Amy and local park ranger Matt so I can't wait to see if this blossoms into love!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Review: Promtastic - Liz Elwes

Promtastic by Liz Elwes, published by Scholastic on 4th June 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Five girls. One night. Everyone wants Prom to be perfect, but things don't always go as planned. Grace was meant to be Prom Queen, so why is someone else wearing her crown? Kristyn is desperate for her crush to notice her so how far will she go to get his attention? Leigh and the rest of the Prom committee have been planning this night for months, but will Leigh even make it in time for the final dance? Charlotte never wanted to go to Prom at all, but can she resist an invitation from a mystery boy? Alex has had a crush on Chris all year. Will this be the night that her dreams come true, or will her prom end in tears?


Review:
'Promtastic' is the first book I've read by Liz Elwes, an author who I'll admit I actually hadn't heard of before.  I was attracted by the pretty, sparkly cover and I was in the mood for something light and frothy.  This sounded like it would fit the bill perfectly.

The story centres around a group of five girls all going to Prom.  The opening few chapters give a glimpse of them at their Prom, putting each of them in a difficult situation, before leaving you to guess what will happen next, as the timeline jumps back to the day before the big event.

I initially found the narrative a bit jerky at the start, as it flitted between Alex, Leigh, Charlotte, Grace and Kristyn.  I'm not a huge fan of multiple narrators but I tried not to let this put me off.  The girls' names are listed at the top of each chapter which definitely helped and as their individual personalities and characters began to come across, I got more absorbed into their stories.

I liked Charlotte's story the most and I also thought that Grace's was really good.  Her 'boyfriend' Evan is hiding a big secret from the world and has drawn Grace into helping him keep it from his friends and family.  I wasn't quite so keen on some of the other girls storylines.  Nothing seemed to go to plan for them as they try to unravel things for themselves. 

This was a quick, fun contemporary read which I think slightly younger readers will enjoy.  I think Prom is a very American concept and we certainly didn't have anything like this when I was young but I guess a lot of teenagers now will identify with pinning all your hopes on one big night to celebrate the end of your school days. 

There are some fun quizzes and prom tips at the end of the book which are a nice additional touch.     




Monday, 15 June 2015

Review: In Another Life - Laura Jarratt

In Another Life by Laura Jarratt, published by Electric Monkey on 4th June 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
American sisters Hannah and Jenny Tooley have spent their lives dreaming of flying to the UK and visiting all the places their English mother has told them about. But Jenny’s dream turns to a nightmare when she vanishes without a trace.

Hannah and her father arrive in England to a big police investigation. As Hannah gets to know some of Jenny’s friends and acquaintances, she realises that her sister is up to her neck in something – and the mysterious text messages she’s receiving bear this out. She is particularly drawn to Harry and, against her better judgement, begins to fall in love.



Review:
I raced through this book in a couple of hours.  The story is so gripping that I felt myself pulled along by my intrigue behind the disappearance of Hannah's older sister Jenny.  I have read all of Laura Jarratt's previous books and I think this one might be my favourite so far. 

Hannah and her father arrive in England to help with the investigation into Jenny's disappearance.  Hannah is determined to find out what really happened to her beloved sister and begins to try to piece together Jenny's movements with the help of her employers and friends.  As she begins to get to know the people that saw her sister last, she finds herself falling for local boy Harry who she finds herself unwittingly drawn towards. 

This was a fantastic thriller.  I am usually really good at guessing all the twists and turns and I will often pick out the guilty party after the first few chapters, but I was totally wrong-footed this time.  I did have my suspicions and I thought I'd worked out what Laura Jarratt was up to with the plot but I was headed down a blind alley.  She brilliantly surprised me with a shocking and frankly quite chilling plot twist that turned everything on it's head. 

The story combined drama, deception and romance and will keep readers on their toes as they try to discover not only the truth about Jenny but also the threat that hangs over Hannah's head.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to fans of this genre.        

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Review: Royal Wedding - Meg Cabot

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot, published by Macmillan on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
A brand-new new adult instalment of the most popular YA series in all the land! Princess Mia is engaged to be married, but since when in Mia's life did anything go to plan?! Fall back in love with Mia in this new book for older readers.

Review:
As a massive fan of The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, I screamed with joy when I heard that she would finally be revisiting Mia Thermopolis aka Crown Princess of Genovia and giving all us readers an update on what's happened in the life of everyone's favourite Princess. 

Having grown-up with a teenage Mia, I loved seeing her now as a (fairly) confident twenty-five year old woman.  She may be older but she is still the same funny and wonderful Mia and yes, Fat Louie is still by her side.  My prayers were answered by the fact that she and the irresistible Michael Moscovitz are also still a couple and the scenes that the two of them share in the book were definitely my favourite bits.  They are so utterly adorable together and it's great that they are high school sweethearts who are even more in love with each other now.  Ahhh!  I'm feeling all gooey inside now. 

Cabot brings back all the other characters too that we know and love, including best friend Lilly and Tina Hakim Baba, as well as her formidable Grandmere.  It actually makes a lot of sense to have Mia with the same circle of friends because being a Princess a lot of people do not genuinely know the real her or they want to become friends with her just because of who she is.  This means that fans get treated to some classic Mia/Lilly moments, as well as some pretty hilarious conversations between Mia and her irrepressible Grandmere. 

There are some very fan-pleasing moments in the book, including a huge surprise near the end.  I'm so happy that Meg Cabot truly does justice to this wonderful series and keeps Mia's legacy in-tact.  I desperately want more now! 

'Royal Wedding' is a fantastic addition to The Princess Diaries series.  Although an adult novel, rather than YA, I think this perfectly suits fans of the books who have, like Mia, grown-up and want to see what happened to their favourite gang of friends. 

This is a five star Royal read!    
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