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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, 22 October 2014

Review: Black Ice - Becca Fitzpatrick

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, published by Simon and Schuster on 7th October 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

'Black Ice' was a book of two halves.  The second part was so much better than the first but it depends if you are willing to wade your way through the opening chapters to get to that point.  I know a lot of other bloggers have read this one and had quite strong reactions to it but I always try to approach books with an open-mind.  Sadly, it isn't one that I particularly enjoyed which is a shame because when I first heard about it I thought the synopsis sounded brilliant. 

I didn't warm to the main character Britt or her best friend Korbie, who both seemed incredibly shallow and spoilt.  They are supposed to be best friends but it seemed more like a competition between them.  Because they seem so spoilt, they don't appear capable of doing anything for themselves, which made the idea of them backpacking alone through the Teton mountains almost unbelievable.  When the weather takes a turn for the worse, they end up seeking refuge in the first cabin they stumble across which happens to contain two men.  Now, I know that they are in a potentially dangerous situation, cut-off from seeking help from any other source, but surely common sense would tell you that it's more dangerous to stay in a cabin with two strange men that you don't know. 

I didn't like the way that Britt and Korbie behaved with the men either.  They flirt and compete against one another for attention, rather than thinking about the possible danger they are in.  There are so many indicators that they shouldn't trust them but they ignore all of these.

I did enjoy the survival aspect of the book and the fact that they have to find a way to stay alive in the wilderness but even that wasn't enough to get me on-board with the overall plot. 

As the pieces of the story began to click together, I began to enjoy it a little more and I thought that it was very creepy and suspenseful in places.  Unfortunately the book was just let down by extremely unlikeable characters who I couldn't find it in me to care about.

I will still be looking out for Becca Fitzpatrick's next book but sadly, this one wasn't for me.          

Monday, 20 October 2014

Review: The Mission - Allen Zadoff

The Mission by Allen Zadoff, published by Orchard Books on 4th September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse.

Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so begins a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

But nothing about this mission is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

Since the end of the Alex Rider series and Young Bond, I've been looking for a similar YA thriller series which will leave me with sweaty palms and a racing heart.  I think I've finally found it in the shape of the superb Boy Nobody books by Allen Zadoff.  If you're a thriller fan, who enjoys tense, nail-biting reads which are fast-paced and incredibly exciting then you definitely need to get your hands on these books which are described as Jason Bourne meets James Bond. 

'The Mission' is the second instalment in the series about a nameless teenage assassin who works for The Program; an organisation which is shaded in mystery.  As it's secrets gradually begin to be revealed, Boy Nobody, starts to question everything he thought was true.  I like the fact that you are never really sure whether his missions are ultimately good or bad, but having been used to following orders for so long, he is almost afraid to discover the truth about the people who command him.

This time around, our assassin has a new target but is left out in the cold when communication with his superiors is cut off.  Working alone and without back-up, he has to decide how to act, when some surprising revelations come to light.  I was glued to each chapter, as the story gets more and more tense and exciting and I wasn't sure who was going to be left standing at the end. 

This is a real edge of your seat read.  You never know what is going to come next and Allen Zadoff certainly isn't afraid to pull any punches.  If a character is superfluous to the plot or has served their purpose then they have to go.  This keeps the reader in a state of anticipation as you don't want to get too attached to anyone. 

This series has it all.  Action and excitement, plus a great over-arching plot and a protagonist who you want to believe in, even when you question his actions.  The only thing I'm disappointed in is that after finally having stumbled across such a fantastic YA thriller series, there is only one more book in the trilogy still to come.  'The Traitor' is the concluding instalment and is due to hit shelves in June 2015.   

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review: The Perfectionists - Sara Shepard

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard, published by Hot Keys Books on 2nd October 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Caitlin and Parker seemingly don't have much in common. Each has their own friends, dramas and goals. But one thing they do share: they all have a deep hatred of Nolan Hotchkiss. And they all think it's about time he paid for what he's done. They come up with the perfect murder - a hypothetical murder, of course. It's all wishful thinking ... until they wake up one morning to find that their wish has come true. Nolan has been killed - in exactly the way they planned. The thing is, they didn't do it. So who did?

This book was a really good read which left me puzzling out all the clues and trying to work out who did what.  I'm a big fan of the Pretty Little Liars book and television series, so I was itching to read this new title by Sara Shepard as soon as I heard about it.  The only thing that worries me is that the series will end up being as drawn out and protracted as PLL was.  I like a generous helping of suspense and lots of red herrings and twisty plot turns but I also don't want to get fed-up with being left in the dark for too long.

The story focuses on Ava, Julie, Mackenzie (who was my personal favourite), Parker and Caitlin.  Each chapter is from a different girls' point of view as they get drawn together by their shared actions.  They all have seemingly perfect lives but they are all hiding secrets which they don't want anyone to reveal.  The basic premise of the plot is that Nolan Hotchkiss, a rich kid who they hate, ends up dead at the beginning of the book.  The reader is left to work out who did it and why as the girls find themselves up to their necks in trouble.

There are quite a lot of similarities with the PLL series, least of which being about a group of girls brought together by a dark secret, but I didn't really mind that as the story was so gripping.  I couldn't connect up all the dots but I'm going to enjoy puzzling it all out and trying to discover who the guilty party actually is.

There is a massive cliff-hanger ending in the book which has left me in a state of suspense.  I'm hooked and I desperately need to know what is going to happen to all the girls next.

Deliciously dark and twisty, this is a great read which will leave you wanting more...immediately!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Review: The Memory Keepers - Natasha Ngan

The Memory Keepers by Natasha Ngan, published by Hot Keys Books on 4th September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Seven is a thief with a difference - he steals downloadable memories from banks and memoriums to sell onto London's black market, trading secrets and hidden pasts for a chance at a future of his own. He makes sure he keeps some special stuff back to 'surf' himself though - it's the only real form of entertainment he can afford. But one night, as Seven is breaking into a private memorium in a wealthy part of London, he is caught in the act by one of its residents; Alba, the teenage daughter of London's most famous criminal prosecutor. Instead of giving him away, Alba promises to keep Seven's secret - as long as he allows her to go memory-surfing herself. In doing so, they discover a hidden memory about Seven's past, revealing a shocking secret about Seven's childhood, the government and a mysterious experiment known as The Memory Keepers...

This is the second book by Natasha Ngan after last year's stellar 'The Elites'.  While I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, it was still a pretty good read. 

I thought the concept for the novel was brilliant.  Set in the future, it imagines a world in which people are able to store their memories.  These are then either kept or traded as valuable commodities.  They are even sometimes stolen by criminal gangs, which is where one of the main characters Seven features. I loved the idea of being able to relive your own memories, or experience other peoples' through their eyes.  It's such an incredible idea but Ngan makes you believe that there might come a day when it would be possible. 

Seven is a poor teenager living in the South, who is caught trying to steal a memory by Alba, the daughter of one of London's most prominent criminal prosecutors.  In the process he discovers a huge secret about his own past which changes his entire outlook and his future.  I really liked both characters but I particularly enjoyed seeing the story unfold from Alba's point of view.  She is incredibly likeable and although she has an extremely unhappy home life, she never lets it break her and has more grit and determination than she gives herself credit for.

The beginning of the book was a little slow but it picked up for me after a few chapters.  The ending was extremely exciting and there were lots of unexpected surprises along the way which I enjoyed.  As much as I liked reading 'The Memory Keepers' I'm happy that this is a standalone because there are just so many trilogies being published now that it's nice to read a story which gets concluded rather than having to wait another year for the following instalment. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Review: The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird - Arabella Weir

The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird by Arabella Weir, published by Piccadilly Press on 2nd October 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
When 13-year-old Tab Baird starts at a new school, she's determined to be the coolest, most popular girl there - whatever it takes. She adjusts her school skirt so it's just the right length. She has enough attitude to make it into the in-crowd. She even gets the attention of the hottest guys. But it's not easy being uber-cool. No one must find out that her mum, brother and her have moved into her gran's house, so she tries to persuade Gran to pose as a house-keeper. And if anyone discovers her mum's blog - about her teenage daughter - it'll be the ultimate in social death.

This is the first book about thirteen year old Tabitha Baird who at the beginning of the story finds herself having to start at a new school and get used to living in her Gran's house with her mum and younger brother.  Luckily Tabitha does it all with a smile...most of the time!

This was such a funny, light-hearted and entertaining read.  Arabella Weir has created a fantastically irrepressible character who I enjoyed laughing along with, as well as seeing how she extricates herself from one muddle after another.  You can't help but like Tabitha.  She has a great narrative voice and the book is told in diary style so we get to hear all about her misadventures, both at school and at home.

I liked the fact that although she has some big adjustments going on in her life, she is a pretty positive and upbeat person.  Her Dad's no longer living with them because he's an alcoholic but she still tries to give him a chance, even when things start to go wrong.  There's a good mix in the book of more serious matters, as well as plenty of humour which I think readers will enjoy.

I have to admit that I adored Basil too, her Gran's westie dog, who is always being made to wear ridiculous knitted outfits.  Luckily Basil comes in handy when Tabitha comes across a gorgeous boy also out dog walking which leads to her trying to engineer a proper meeting.

Luckily, there is set to be another book in the series called 'The Endless Trials of Tabitha Baird' which I'm sure will have me laughing out loud as much as this one did.      

Monday, 6 October 2014

Review: The Fall - Bethany Griffin

The Fall by Bethany Griffin, published by Orion Children's Books on 2nd October 2014 

Goodreads synopsis:
Madeline and her twin brother Roderick have the Usher name, the Usher house - and the Usher disease. Something is wrong with the family's blood - and it seems to have spread to the house itself. Sometimes Madeline even thinks that the house is alive... When Roderick is sent away to school, the house seems to want revenge on the one member of the Usher family left behind: Madeline herself.

This book is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher'.  I wasn't familiar at all with the original so I really had no idea how the story was going to unfold and after the fantastic opening which had me hook, line and sinker, I was prepared for anything to happen!

The story involves twins Madeline and Roderick Usher, who are inflicted with a curse which has blighted the lives of all Ushers before them.  When Roderick is sent away to school, Madeline is left alone in the house which seems determined to have it's revenge on her.

Bethany Griffin's personification of the house was excellent.  It seemed to ooze maleficence and evil appeared to seep through the walls and floorboards.  It was extremely creepy and incredibly atmospheric.  It's certainly not a house that I would want to spend the night in.

The narrative structure was unusual and made the story a little difficult to follow at times.  Madeline recounts events but each chapter jumps around to when she is at a different age.  This meant that the plot unfolded at a slow pace.  Because of this I found that my attention wandered in the middle and as it's a fairly long book, I kept waiting for something more to happen. 

Deliciously gothic and mysterious, I was puzzled by some aspects of the story but wanted to keep reading because I felt like the payoff at the end was going to be worth it.  I won't give anything away apart from to say that this is a book which will keep you thinking long after the final pages.  I'm still not sure that I have everything straight in my head!  I'd like to read Poe's original story now as well, so that I can compare the two.  

If you're a fan of the gothic and the bizarre then I would recommend that you give 'The Fall' a read.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Review: Day 21 - Kass Morgan

Day 21 by Kass Morgan, published by Hodder on 25th September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
It's been 21 days since The 100 landed on Earth. They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries... or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.

I am a huge fan of The 100 television series and an even bigger fan of the original book on which the show is based so I was extremely eager to get stuck into the sequel.  I devoured it in one evening and enjoyed it immensely.  Kass Morgan has kept the pace fast, the plot intriguing and the characters interesting and I enjoyed this one as much, if not more than the original.  If like me, you are hooked on the show then I would definitely recommend getting your hands on the books.

It's twenty-one days since the hundred landed on earth and they have discovered that they are not alone.  As the characters struggle to get along together and survive in their new environment, there is an even bigger threat to their safety lurking on the periphery. 

The narrative once again alternates between Glass, Clarke, Wells and Bellamy.  I love all four characters and I enjoyed getting to see their differing perspectives on events.  Wells has always been one of my favourites and I liked him even more this time around as he tries to be a strong leader to the rest of the group. Glass really grew on me too and I was gripped to her part of the story which takes place back in space.  The people who remain behind on the ships are in even more danger than the hundred but I thought that Glass handled the threat with real courage and bravery.  She is determined that nothing will come between her and Luke and is willing to fight for their love. 

I really liked the introduction of some new faces too, particularly Sasha who Wells gets on with extremely well.  I was never keen on the love triangle between him, Clarke and Bellamy, so I'm glad Kass Morgan has introduced another female to the mix.        

'Day 21' was sheer brilliance and definitely got me out of my reading slump.  The only problem is that because it was so fantastic, I ended up reading it really quickly and now have a long wait for the next instalment.  I'm going to be on tenterhooks until then! 
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