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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.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Review: The Revelation of Louisa May - Michaela MacColl

The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl, published by Chronicle Books on 14th April 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Louisa May Alcott can't believe it—her mother is leaving for the summer to earn money for the family and Louisa is to be in charge of the household. How will she find the time to write her stories, much less have any adventures of her own? But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad, and blossoming love.



Review:
I love the story 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott.  It's a childhood favourite which I still enjoy re-reading now.  There's something utterly captivating about the March sisters which never fails to delight me.  When I heard about Michaela MacColl's new book, I knew immediately that I wanted to read it because it weaves fact and fiction to present a portrait of the life of the famous author.  I loved the little quotes from 'Little Women' which are at the start of every chapter.   

Set in 1846, Louisa May Alcott's early life unfurls on the page.  There's Louisa herself, along with younger sisters Beth and May, plus beloved Marmee and the elusive figure of their father Bronson.  At the beginning of the book Marmee is getting set to temporarily leave the family to find work elsewhere and it's up to a young Louisa to step into her shoes and keep her sister and father looked after. 

The Alcott family are vocal abolitionists and this plays a huge part in the plot of the book.  It incorporates aspects of the slave trade and highlights the way in which the Alcotts helped to shelter slaves who had escaped and were looking for a new future.  I found this aspect of the story really interesting, as Louisa and co place themselves in real danger to try to help those who desperately need their assistance. 

The story features some other real life figures too.  Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are philosophers who play a big part in Louisa's outlook on life.  I didn't know a huge amount about them beforehand, so I enjoyed discovering more about their beliefs and morals and the way in which their lives intersected with Louisa's.

There were some good plot twists near the end and some quite unexpected surprises which kept me on my toes.  I loved the combining of historical and biographical details which made this a brilliant read which I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the famous author of a well loved classic.     

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Review: Simply Irresistible - Jill Shalvis

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 8th March 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
In one fell swoop, Maddie loses her boyfriend (her decision) and her job (so not her decision). But rather than drowning her sorrows in bags of potato chips, Maddie leaves L.A. to claim the inheritance left by her free-spirited mother-a ramshackle inn nestled in the little coastal town of Lucky Harbor, Washington.

Starting over won't be easy. Yet Maddie sees the potential for a new home and a new career-if only she can convince her two half-sisters to join her in the adventure. But convincing Tara and Chloe will be difficult because the inn needs a big makeover too.

The contractor Maddie hires is a tall, dark-haired hottie whose eyes-and mouth-are making it hard for her to remember that she's sworn off men. Even harder will be Maddie's struggles to overcome the past, though she's about to discover that there's no better place to call home than Lucky Harbor.


Review:
This is the first book in the Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis and the first one by this author that I've read.  Her writing reminded me of Lisa Kleypass and I will definitely be seeking out more of her back catalogue of titles. 

'Simply Irresistible' is about three sisters that are left a small beach side inn by their late mother in the town of Lucky Harbor. The story centres around the middle sister, Maddie, who after losing her job and ditching her boyfriend, desperately wants to make the inn her new home.  When she meets gorgeous local guy Jax, she has another very good reason to want to stay. 

Maddie is a great character.  She has let herself be walked over in her life but she is determined to become more assertive and stand up for herself.  She is incredible likeable and I loved her slightly up and down sibling relationship with her half-sisters Tara and Chloe.  They all have extremely different personalities but their strengths and weaknesses complement each other.  As they begin to bond, you have no doubt that they would do anything to support one another. 

Sexy Jax is enough to turn anyone's head!  He and Maddie together make a great couple.  I loved the way he had to work to win over her trust and her heart.  Particularly knowing the way she had been hurt in the past.  There are some steamy moments between them but on the whole it is more about the wooing and the romance. 

Lucky Harbor is like my dream coastal town.  It is exactly the sort of place that I would like to live in.  By the sea, simple and uncomplicated and where everyone in the small community looks out for each other. 

A sweet, sexy and romantic read, this is the perfect book to settle down with on a warm summer's night.  I'm going to be picking up the second in the series 'The Sweetest Thing' about the oldest sister Tara immediately and then I will be searching out all of Jill Shalvis's other books too.  A delightful read!   

Monday, 20 April 2015

Review: Vanishing Girls - Lauren Oliver

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 10th March 2015
 
Goodreads synopsis:
Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara's beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it's too late.

Review:
I've read nearly all of Lauren Oliver's books now but so far none of them have totally bowled me over.  I thought 'Vanishing Girls' might have been the one to change that but although it was a good read and at times quite gripping, it wasn't one which would have kept me up all night reading to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The story is about sisters Dara and Nick and the deterioration of their sibling relationship.  The story is told in Before and After chapters, following a car accident involving the two of them.  You know that something else has happened to drive a wedge between them but you don't know what.  It's a case of trying to read between the lines.  Nick has always been the responsible older sister, so when Dara disappears on her birthday, Nick is determined to find her and fix their fractured bond. 

Touted as a psychological thriller, I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't guessed the big twist very early on in the story.  I think this is a device which has been used so often now that it wasn't a particularly big surprise.  It was still incredibly well done but the element of tension and suspense was missing for me. 

I also didn't like the narrative structure of the book.  I found it quite fragmented and jumpy with two time frames and two characters sharing their perspectives and thoughts.  I normally prefer more of a linear storyline so this took a bit more getting used to.

I really wanted to like this title more than I did but it was too predictable and overall I didn't connect with the characters enough to feel invested in them and their situation.  There's no doubt that the writing itself was excellent but for me, I felt like there was definitely something lacking. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Review: The Novice - Taran Matharu

The Novice by Taran Matharu, published by Hodder Children's Books on 5th May 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands.




Review:
'The Novice' is the first book in the Summoner series and was a Wattpad sensation before it hit the shelves in print.  Taran Matharu's debut takes the reader on a fantastical journey in a world unlike anything you've seen before.  The characters are placed in dangerous life or death situations as the horror of war looms ever on the horizon.

The story is about an orphan boy called Fletcher who discovers that he can summon demons.  He ends up going to train at the Vocans Academy where he prepares for his role in the fight to defeat the orcs in battle.  A large portion of the book follows Fletcher as he practices his new-found skills with demon Ignatius.  When the two are working in sync, they have the ability to do incredible things.  The demons reminded me a little of those in Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy, as they become in tune with their owners' emotions.  I've also heard them compared to Pokémon and actually they did remind me of this, because each demon has it's own animal characteristics and performs to a different level. 

I really enjoyed watching the students train in the art of summoning.  This makes up the biggest part of the story and delves in-depth into the training process.  It was a bit drawn out and I felt like it slowed the pace of the plot down a little but at the same time it helped to draw me into Fletcher's world and gave me a better understanding of the demons themselves. 

There's a fantastic and diverse range of characters in the book, including Othello the dwarf and Sylva the elf.  It was fun getting to know them all.  Fletcher's friends help to teach the value of friendship and the importance of making bonds which aren't based on class divides. 

'The Novice' was a brilliant fantasy read where adventure always seems to be waiting on the horizon.  It was a really promising start to the series and if the second book is equally, if not more exciting, then I'll be very happy. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Review: The Return - Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Return by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 26th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
It’s been a year since Seth made the deal with the gods that pledged his life to them. And so far, the jobs they’ve given him have been violent and bloody–which is kind of all right with him. But now Apollo has something else in mind for Seth. He’s got to play protector while keeping his hands and fingers off, and for someone who really has a problem with restraint, this new assignment might be the most challenging yet.

Josie has no idea what this crazy hot guy’s deal might be, but it’s a good bet that his arrival means the new life she started after leaving home is about to be thrown into an Olympian-sized blender turned up to puree. Either Josie is going insane or a nightmare straight out of ancient myth is gunning for her.

But it might be the unlikely attraction simmering between her and the golden-eyed, secret-keeping Seth that may prove to be the most dangerous thing of all.



Review:
Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of the authors on my auto-buy list.  I love her books and her characters and I adore the way she continually creates these super-hot romances which practically make the pages sizzle.  'The Return' was fantastic and has given me a new book guy to swoon over!

Readers of the Covenant series will be familiar with the character of Seth.  He finally gets his own story in 'The Return' and if you weren't his no. 1 fan before, you will be after reading this one.  I guarantee it.  He wasn't perhaps the most likeable character in the Covenant books but I began to see him in a whole new light and I really liked the person he developed into.  So for the record, phwoar!  Seth is super sexy and will definitely set female readers hearts aflutter.

This is a new-adult book, so there are some weak at the knees, tongue hanging out of you mouth moments.  I loved it!  Don't get me wrong, the story was fabulous too but Seth without a shirt?  Everyone needs more of that in their lives. 

At the beginning of the story, he is sent to protect a girl who is off-limits to him.  However, Josie turns out to be no ordinary girl and sparks immediately begin to fly between them.  The dual perspective meant that I was able to get inside both of their heads and understand more about them.  I liked Josie instantly and I was intrigued about her role as she is extremely central to everything that happens.  She has a great connection with Seth and I enjoyed seeing this grew throughout the book. 

Exciting action, a heart stopping romance and plenty of moments of drama and adventure, 'The Return' was a winner for me.  I want more and I want it now!    

Monday, 6 April 2015

Review: Black Horizon - M.G. Harris

Black Horizon by M.G. Harris, published by Orion on 2nd April 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
After the tragic death of his father, Ben Carrington's mother, Caroline, teams up with entrepreneur, Jason Truby, to form an elite, top-secret international rescue organization - Gemini Force.

But when disaster strikes and Caroline is killed on a rescue mission, 16-year-old Ben is determined to continue her work with the Gemini Force team. As Ben fights to earn his place, can he prove he has what it takes to face dangerous situations and save lives?




Review:
This is the first book in the Gemini Force 1 series, written by M.G. Harris from an original idea by Gerry Anderson, creator of Thunderbirds.  The story is about teenager Ben Carrington, who as the start of the book is mourning the loss of his father in a tragic mountaineering accident.  His mother, also a top climber, decides to team up with Jason Truby, a wealthy entrepreneur who has set up a top secret rescue squad organisation called Gemini Force.  Ben desperately wants to become part of the team but first he has to prove himself. 

The opening of the book throws the reader right into the action as a dangerous situation develops involving Ben and his mother.  This sets the tone for the rest of the story which is packed full of thrilling danger and adventure.  'Black Horizon' was a great read because I love books which are about teenagers doing incredible things and exhibiting amazing levels of bravery and this fit the bill perfectly.  I don't think it was as engaging as some other series I've read in the same vein but I liked the concept and I think it has a lot of potential to get better and better.

So what would I like to see more of?  The character of Ben could be developed and polished.  He does have to deal with some really tough situations in the book, as well as several personal tragedies, but I didn't warm to him as much as I was expecting to.  He is obviously used to getting his own way and that's one of the things that made me think of him as a bit spoilt.  I would also love to see more of some of the other characters who were a bit one-dimensional.  Plus, the action could be ramped up another notch and the boundaries pushed a little more.   

I do like the fact that this book was originally made possible because of a kickstarter campaign by Gerry Anderson fans.  That's the power of readers for you! 

The second book will be published later this year and will be called 'Ghost Mine'. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Review: As White As Snow - Salla Simukka

As White As Snow by Salla Simukka, published by Hot Key Books on 5th March 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Three and a half months have passed since Lumikki Andersson was left for dead in a snowdrift - a bullet wound in her thigh and frostbite creeping into her skin. But the scorchingly hot streets of Prague in summer provide a welcome contrast to that terrifying time, and now Lumikki just wants to move on - forget the events of the past year, forget about the Polar Bear's crime ring - and escape her parent's oppressive concern... She's alone again, which is just how she likes it.

But Lumikki's peaceful solitude is about to be shattered. She is approached on the street by a nervous young woman, who, unbelievably, thinks she might be Lumikki's long-lost sister. Lumikki is unconvinced - although Zelenka's story seems to ring horrifyingly true - but there's something weird about her. Something jumpy, and suspicious.

Review:
'As White As Snow' has been translated from the Finnish by Owen F. Witesman.  It is the second book in the series about Lumikki Anderson and is set in Prague during the summer.  After the events of the previous book, Lumikki is trying to find freedom and solitude, but she finds her plans interrupted when she is drawn into a dangerous situation involving a woman claiming to be her long-lost sister. 

This was a fabulously thrilling read!  I'm a huge fan of these books and although I didn't think this instalment quite reached the heady heights of 'As Red As Blood', it was still brilliant and full of suspense.  A lot more is revealed about Lumikki herself and some of the secrets to do with her personal life, which were only hinted at before, were gradually revealed.  If possible, these made me like her even more.  She is what makes this series so darn good.  I love the fact that she's very resourceful and genuinely likes her own company and spending time on her own.  It's refreshing to see a character who is more of an introvert and doesn't crave the company of a crowd of people.  There's something very appealing about her which draws the reader in and makes you want to discover more about her.

The plot wasn't particularly complex and I grasped what was going on quite quickly but there was one twist which I didn't guess until the very end.  I like seeing how she gets out of some frankly quite dangerous situations and how her wits and intelligence are the things which help her save the day. 

Tense and exciting, I loved the climax of the book which was brilliantly executed.  It's left me with more questions which I hope will get answered in the third book in the series which will be called 'As Black As Ebony'.  Fingers crossed, the truth about Lumikki's family will finally be revealed.     


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