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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, 28 July 2014

Review: Unstoppable - Liz Bankes

Unstoppable by Liz Bankes, published by Piccadilly Press on 1st July 2014
Goodreads synopsis:
Rosie has managed to wangle spending the summer before uni in the same house as her boyfriend Cal – but who else should also be staying except for the infamous man-eater, Cleo.

Things between Cal and Rosie could never have been described as easy, but her growing jealousy seems like an unstoppable force. Can their love weather the storm?
This is the third book by UK YA author Liz Bankes. It features my favourite so far of her female characters - the perennial worrier Rosie, who is about to move in with her boyfriend Cal and start a brand new internship in Oxford. Rosie worries about everything (and with so many changes going on in her life, there are a little of things to occupy her mind) and feels socially awkward a lot of the time. She’s been with Cal for a year and the two of them seem quite secure in their relationship until Rosie freaks out about the fact that man-eater Cleo is moving into the house too.

Rosie undergoes a big transition throughout the book. She is at that crux point where she has to decide what she wants to do with her future and she has to finally stand up for herself and not bow to the pressure that her Mum is putting her under.  This is something that everyone has to face at some point and it was interesting seeing Rosie begin to develop confidence in herself and find her own chosen path.  She also learns a lot about relationships and trust as she and Cal have to weather the ups and downs of their romance.  
‘Unstoppable’ features lots of familiar faces from Liz Bankes earlier books. There’s Mia and Gabi, as well as Jamie and Dan. It was great to catch up with them and see how all the friends were getting on and in which direction their lives were headed in next. 

This was a sweet romance and a great summer read. I missed a little of the polish of some of the US YA books which I read but I still really enjoyed this one.  It had a great mix of humour with drama and romance. I read it in one sitting and look forward to my next Liz Bankes story.  

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Witch Hunt - Ruth Warburton

Witch Hunt by Ruth Warburton, published by Hodder on 5th June 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Eighteen-year-old Witch Hunter Luke Lexton has failed his initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum - the secretive brotherhood devoted to hunting witches. Instead of killing the witch he picked from the Book of Witches, he has committed the worst possible crime: he has fallen for her. Sixteen-year-old witch girl Rosa Greenwood has failed to secure her struggling family's future by marrying the handsome, cruel, rich and powerful Sebastian Knyvet. Instead she has set fire to his factory and has brought disgrace on her family.

Now together they are on the run - from Rosa's ex-fiance and from Luke's former brothers in the Malleus. As they flee across England, and with the danger of their past catching up to them ...can they overcome their differences? Can a witch hunter ever find love with a witch girl?

‘Witch Hunt’ picks up the story of Luke and Rosa where ‘Witch Finder’ left off. The couple are now on the run from not only Rosa’s ex-fiancé Sebastian, but also the Brotherhood, who want to kill Luke for betraying them. The first half of the book features an exciting chase as Luke and Rosa try to stay one step ahead but know that danger is on their trail. They have to try to cover their tracks as they desperately fight for their lives and their forbidden future together.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book but I didn’t feel that there was a huge amount of progression in the story, or at least not until the very end of the book when suddenly lots of secrets and revelations came to the fore. Instead, the focus was on the relationship between Luke and Rosa who grow closer together and begin to learn more about each other. This was reflected in the split person narrative, which gives the reader a unique insight into the characters’ feelings and emotions. It became obvious that they cared greatly about each other and were willing to give up a lot for the other person. It was nice to see the way in which the romance between the two of them progressed, even though they were on the run. I think the romantic relationships in Ruth Warburton’s books are always written tremendously well and I really found myself rooting for them to get their happy ending.
I love the fact that Ruth Warburton threw in some really shocking twists in the book which changed the perspective of some of the characters. I hadn’t guessed what was going to be revealed either which made it even more of a big surprise. The ending of ‘Witch Hunt’ almost broke my heart and talk about ending on a cliff hanger! I really hope that there is another instalment still to come in this series.

Ruth Warburton is one of my favourite British authors and I would read anything by her. I’d recommend getting your hands on these books if you’ve previously enjoyed her Winter trilogy. You’re in for a real treat!  

Monday, 21 July 2014

Review: Eversea - Natasha Boyd

Eversea by Natasha Boyd, published by Headline on 10th April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
An orphaned, small-town, southern girl, held hostage by responsibility and self-doubt.

A Hollywood A-list mega-star, on the run from his latest scandal and with everything to lose.

A chance encounter that leads to an unlikely arrangement and epic love affair that will change them both for ever.

'Eversea' is set in Butler Cove, South Carolina which is like my dream seaside town.  It is small enough that everyone knows each other, with sea, sand and romance right on the residents' doorsteps.  The main character Keri Ann has grown-up in Butler Cove and it is the only place that she has ever called home.  With her older brother away at school and both her parents dead, she only has her best friend Jazz to rely on, until Jack Eversea - a gorgeous and famous actor, walks into her life and sets her heart spinning.

'Eversea' is a gorgeous romance which weaves a beautiful story about love against the odds.  Keri Ann wasn't expecting to have her heart stolen by the handsome stranger who appears in her bar one night, but this is a love which although against the odds, will be hard fought for and cherished.

I really liked Keri Ann who is somewhat of an old soul.  She is scared of opening herself up to anyone after having suffered terrible loss but Jack seems to wear down her resistance and makes her want to start living again and taking chances.  She has settled for a life which she believes she must accept but he shows her that there is so much more out there for her to experience. 

Handsome Jack Eversea is definitely my new boy crush!  Phwoar, he is hot, hot, hot!  I fell head over heels for him from the start.  Although he is a famous movie star, he is incredibly down to earth and the sparks between him and Keri Ann are off the chart.  I loved the way that the tension simmered away between them and built to a real fever pitch.   
I was captivated and swept away by 'Eversea' which was impossible to put down.  I would highly recommend this book to fans of the New Adult genre and I am utterly desperate now to read the sequel 'Forever, Jack' so that I can revisit my two favourite characters.     

Friday, 18 July 2014

Review: Sea of Shadows - Kelley Armstrong

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, published by Atom on 8th April 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire's worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed by an ancient evil, Moria and Ashyn must race to warn the empire of a terrifying threat. Accompanied by a dashing thief and a warrior with a dark history, the sisters battle their way across a wasteland filled with reawakened monsters of legend. But there are more sinister enemies waiting for them at court - and a secret that will alter the balance of their world forever.

I stumbled across ‘Sea of Shadows’ in my local bookshop without even realising that Kelley Armstrong had a new book out.  It sounded intriguing and I thought the cover looked pretty striking so I picked it up.  I’ve enjoyed some of Armstrong’s books in the past but not all of them, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading this.  What I got was an exciting, action-packed fantasy adventure which started slow but then really picked-up and threw everything at the reader.  Strangely enough it reminded me a little bit of ‘Blood Red Road’ by Moira Young, although that may just have been because of the giant worms!  
At the heart of the story are twin sisters Moria and Ashyn.  They are the Seeker and Keeper of Edgewood, charged with keeping the village safe from the angry souls of the dead that reside in the forest.  They have been trained from birth to fulfil their roles and each have an immortal creature by their side: a wildcat and a hound.  These animals are bonded to them and are like an extension of their own selves.  When things start to go wrong with the ritual of quietening the spirits, a terrible evil falls upon their village, leading Moria and Ashyn to embark on a dangerous journey. 
The journey itself takes up the majority of the book but I found it incredibly exciting because it was fraught with danger at every turn.  There are a whole array of scary creatures which make appearances in the story and there are some seriously creepy moments which had me jumping out of my seat.  I think Kelley Armstrong does a great job of keeping readers on their toes with this part of the plot.  The sisters become separated on their journey but they are each accompanied by a potential love interest (although this isn’t necessarily how it starts out).  Personally, I really liked Gavril and I thought that the bond which grows between him and Moria was much more real than the lacklustre sparks between Ashyn and Ronan.         
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed ‘Sea of Shadows’ and although it got off to a slow start it was well worth sticking with because it kept getting better and better and the second-half of the book in particular was fantastic.  I sometimes find that I can get a little lost with fantasy books but I thought that everything was explained extremely well and the world building was brilliant.  I’m now dying for the next instalment of this trilogy and I can’t wait to see what twists and turns are going to be thrown into book two.  This is probably my favourite Kelley Armstrong title so far!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: The Rain - Virginia Bergen

The Rain by Virginia Bergen, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 17th July 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
One minute sixteen-year-old Ruby Morris is having her first proper snog with Caspar McCloud in a hot tub, and the next she’s being bundled inside the house, dripping wet, cold and in her underwear. Not cool. As she and Caspar shiver in the kitchen, it starts to rain. They turn on the radio to hear panicked voices – ‘It’s in the rain . . . it’s in the rain . . . '

That was two weeks ago, and now Ruby is totally alone. People weren’t prepared for the rain, got caught out in it, didn’t realize that you couldn’t drink water from the taps either. Even a drip of rain would infect your blood, and eat you from the inside out. Ruby knows she has to get to London to find her dad, but she just doesn’t know where to start . . . After rescuing all the neighbourhood dogs, Ruby sets off on a journey that will take her the length of the country – surviving in the only way she knows how.

I love end of the world and apocalyptic disaster books.  I was hooked on the initial description of 'The Rain' which described it as a story about survival in the face of a truly terrifying natural disaster.  What would you do if you discovered that there was something in the rain which could kill you?  How would you survive without water?  This is the predicament faced by the characters in the book.  This initially sounded really great but unfortunately, although there were some elements of it that I enjoyed, I didn't particularly like the overall tone of the book or some of the character choices that were made.

The thing that stood out for me the most was the unusual and quite quirky narrative voice of the main character.  Fifteen year old Ruby is facing the end of life as she knew is but she still manages to find time to fixate on the fact that she snogged the gorgeous Caspar and doesn't have to go to school.  I know this might be more realistic than somebody suddenly discovering that they have incredible survival skills and can be the one to save the world, but for me, I just found it a bit annoying and shallow.  Ruby is such an unlikely heroine.  She makes mistakes and gets herself into trouble and seems to only manage to survive by luck alone.  She isn't someone that I would want by my side if the world was ending.

I also thought that the slightly humorous and extremely quirky narrative didn't always meld well with the dire situation that Ruby was facing.  The story got extremely strange in places too, such as when Ruby is taking part in the looting of shops, not for food and fresh water mind you but for jewellery and fancy clothes.   

Overall, I loved the concept for the book and I think the idea of the rain being contaminated was brilliant and one which could have made for a stunning story.  Unfortunately, I didn't love Ruby or the blend of humour with apocalyptic disaster and this made it a bit of a struggle to get to the final page.   

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review: Shadow of the Wolf - Tim Hall

Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall, published by David Fickling Books on 4th July 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
So many tales have already been told of Robin Hood. Already he's the hero with a thousand faces. First, forget everything you've heard. Robin was no prince, and he was no dispossessed lord; he didn't fight in the Crusades; he never gave a penny to the poor.

His real name wasn't even Robin Hood. Marian called him that as a kind of joke. Sir Robin of the Hood. A name Robin would cling to when he was losing grip of everything else. Mind you, one thing you've heard is true. He was blind.

No, that's not right. Let me put that another way. Truer to say, Robin Hood didn't see with his eyes. In fact he was the only one who saw clearly in this place of illusion and lies.

'Shadow of the Wolf' is an astounding new interpretation of the traditional tale of Robin Hood by debut author Tim Hall.  I was very excited to read this book because I'm a huge fan of the original story and I couldn't wait to see which direction Hall was going to take with the plot and characters.

The story follows a young Robin who at the beginning of the book finds that his family have abandoned him.  Left to survive on his own, he uses his independence as a shield to protect himself against further hurt.  His solitary life begins to change however when he meets Marian in the forest and discovers his true soulmate.  The two seem destined to be together but when Marian is taken from him, he determines to do whatever it takes to get her back. 

My favourite part of the story was the very beginning when Robin and Marian are young and roaming free together.  They are living an idyllic life which they both know won't last forever but which they cherish for the simple fact that they are with each other.  They embrace the beauty of the forest which is all around them and revel in having nobody to answer to but themselves.  Although deep down they realise they are playing at living a fantasy, nothing else matters to them except for being together.   

Throw out all of your preconceptions about Robin and Marian because these two characters are unlike anything you could have anticipated.  Marian is not the helpless heroine you may have been used to seeing her as.  She is headstrong, fiery, determined, intelligent and above all resilient.  She endures terrible things in the book but I had absolute faith in her that she would always manage see things through.  Although there were times when I found her less that likeable, mainly due to her spiky temperament, I never stopped admiring her strength and endurance.  Robin too has to face unspeakable horrors and is far from the merry figure with his bow and arrow that we are used to seeing.  I felt great pity for him throughout the book and I kept desperately hoping for something good to happen to him.      

Some other familiar faces crop up in the story with Will Scarlett, Much, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Bors all making appearances.  It was great to see Tim Hall interweaving all of these secondary characters, although again don't expect them to act like you would have imagined.  The Forest too is like a character in itself.  It is dangerous and mysterious and conceals many secrets which slowly begin to unravel.     

'Shadow of the Wolf' is an unusual combination of history and fantasy which took a little bit of getting used to.  The plot took an unusual and unexpected turn about half-way through which turned everything on it's head and made me think about the book in a totally different way.  It is incredibly rich in detail, wonderfully written and so unique that this truly is a Robin Hood tale unlike anything you could ever have dreamt of.  I was still left with so many questions at the end however, that I am looking forward immensely to the next instalment in the series.    

Thursday, 10 July 2014

#ShareAPuffinBook - The Neverending Story - Michael Ende

This summer Puffin are bringing a series of timeless and unforgettable stories to life for a new generation of readers to discover as A Puffin Book – including Goodnight Mister Tom, Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down and Tarka the Otter. The new editions feature beautiful new cover designs, including iconic cover images and new artwork, as well as additional content, such as material unearthed from the Puffin archive, activities inspired by the books (such as make your own origami Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat!), background information on the story, as well as quizzes, author profiles, fun facts and much more.
I'm pleased to share my favourite story from their launch list of twenty titles.  It wasn't too hard to pick my favourite as soon as I saw 'The Neverending Story' by Michael Ende on the list. 

I first read 'The Neverending Story' when I was twelve, after having seen and fallen in love with the film.  My two best friends and I were hooked on the film and we used to watch it over and over again.  We cried in some places, such as when Atreyu is in the Swamps of Sadness, we laughed in others and we cheered when Bastian finally finds himself in Fantasia, riding on the back of the wonderful Falkor. 

One of the Christmas presents that I found in my stocking that year was a copy of the book.  I think the rest of my presents were forgotten as soon as that book landed in my hands.  I was swept away as I entered the amazing world of Fantasia and joined Bastian on the most incredible adventure of his life.  Michael Ende's writing is truly wonderful and the story is timeless.  Since then I always try to re-read 'The Neverending Story' every other year and I have recommended and implored countless others to read and enjoy it too.

A magical and captivating story, it's one of my all-time favourite books.         

Check out #ShareAPuffinBook to see what others have chosen as their favourite Puffin read. 

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