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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, 26 May 2016

Review: V For Violet by Alison Rattle

V For Violet by Alison Rattle, published by Hot Key Books in April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing - but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe - an auspicious start, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn't look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. Then she meets Beau. Beau's a rocker - a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet's grey little life, and she can't believe her luck. But things don't go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet's best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting.

‘V For Violet’ by Alison Rattle is set in the 1960’s. I’ve been trying to think and I don’t think I’ve actually read anything set in the sixties before. It’s not my favourite period but it was an interesting choice and worked well not only with the overall themes of the book but also in terms of showing what post-war society was like for a lot of teenagers. I’m doubtful that the historical setting will appeal to all readers however.  

The main character Violet has finished school and is working in her parents fish and chip shop. She’s afraid of being left behind by her best friend who has a job in a factory, new friends and a fella on her arm. When Violet meets the dangerous and exciting Beau, she discovers the possibility of a romance of her own. However, she also has family problems to deal with when her long presumed dead brother returns, at the same time that girls from the area start turning up dead. I really liked Violet and I could identify with some of the feelings she had at the start about finding her place and the worry she has about what’s coming next. Having left school behind, the real world is opening up to her and that can be scary. She grows a lot as a character throughout the story and I think even surprises herself by the end. 

Unfortunately the overall book was a bit hit and miss for me. There were parts I liked and thought were well done and there were other aspects of the story that felt a bit rushed. It seemed like Alison Rattle was trying to work a lot of different threads into the story and not all of them were given enough attention. The mystery element of the book was probably my favourite part but I was disappointed with the outcome. I don’t want to spoil anything about the plot but I thought this could have had much more impact if a different direction had been taken in terms of the murderer. The romance between Violet and Beau was okay but I didn’t feel any real sparks between them and Beau came across as a bit one-dimensional at times. The storyline with Violet’s brother could have been quite powerful but again, I think this wasn’t given enough attention until near the end of the book and by then I didn’t feel invested enough in the conclusion.

What I do like about Alison Rattle’s books is that they are all so different and she doesn’t restrict herself to one particular time-frame, setting of theme. You never know what to expect from her stories. Although this wasn’t a huge hit with me, I have enjoyed her writing in the past, so I'll put this title to one side and will look forward to whatever she has in store for readers next.     

Monday, 16 May 2016

Review: Chasing the Stars - Malorie Blackman

Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman, published by Doubleday on 21st April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety.

Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.

Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced.

But not everyone is pleased. Surrounded by rumours, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?  

I wanted to like this book.  I thought that I would like it.  It sounded right up my alley with a plot which is based on Shakespeare's Othello but set in space.  How awesome does that sound?!  I usually love books that are a spin on a Shakespeare play but this one didn't do it for me at all.  There was too much sci-fi, I thought that the dialogue was quite wooden and clunky and I didn't find the relationships between the characters very believable, especially the insta-love between Vee and Nathan.

The story seemed to take an age to really get going and as this is quite a big book, I toyed with the idea of giving up on it and moving onto something else.  However, I'm always hopeful that things will pick up and improve and I like to give every book a fair chance, so I carried on until the end.  But I just didn't enjoy it at all.  I do have a rocky relationship with Malorie Blackman's writing.  Some of her books I've thoroughly enjoyed and others have been more of a struggle to finish.  Sadly, 'Chasing the Stars' just wasn't for me, although I will still be looking out for other Shakespeare spin-offs in the future.   

Friday, 13 May 2016

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, published by Bloomsbury on 3rd May 2016 

Goodreads synopsis:
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court - but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms - and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future - and the future of a world cleaved in two.

‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ far exceeded all of my expectations. It literally blew my mind! From the second I picked it up and started reading, I was hooked. Nothing else existed but the world and the characters that Sarah J. Maas had created. I was torn between racing through the book in one feverish sprint and taking my time to savour each chapter and make it last as long as possible. In the end, I opted for the latter, although I had to use a lot of restraint not to stay up all night until I had got to the last page.

I honestly now find myself waiting for the release of a new Sarah J. Maas book with a sense of anticipation that can only be matched with waiting for Christmas Day to arrive. She is one of my absolute favourite authors and always on my auto-buy list.

This second instalment in the series, picks up the story with Feyre having been reunited with Tamlin and now back in the Spring Court. Although she and Tamlin are finally back together, she is struggling to cope with her experiences Under the Mountain. She is a different Feyre to the one we are used to. Her spirit has been extinguished and she is now compliant and yielding, unable to assert herself and bowing to the commands of others. It was interesting to see how she had been changed and how, although she was free from Amarantha’s grip, she still wasn’t free in the real sense of the word. Tamlin is determined to protect her against all costs but his iron grip on her, only serves to remind her of the imprisonment she previously suffered. I wasn’t really sure which direction Maas was going to take the story but I knew that it was going to include Rhysand and boy, did it! He turned out to be an integral part of the book and quickly became one of my favourite characters. I will admit that in ‘A Court of Roses and Thorns’, I wasn’t too sure about him. I saw him as a rival to Tamlin who I loved and some of his actions in the last book were slightly questionable. This time around, the reader really gets to know Rhys and what makes him who he is. He has had to shoulder a lot on his own and yet he has managed not to be broken in the process. He has his own demons to bear, but his mind is strong. I loved the fact that he treats Feyre like her own person and not someone to be kept safe in a box. He challenges her and pushes her and ultimately I feel that he makes her into a better version of herself. I don’t want to say too much about Rhys and Tamlin, for fear of giving anything away, but I do just want to say that all of my feelings about them were turned on their head and I ended up with very different emotions about them than when I started the book.

There are some fantastic secondary characters that are introduced into the series too. Rhys’s inner circle were all interesting and unique figures. I really liked Mor and Cassian swiftly became a firm favourite too. Sarah J Maas’s characterisations are always spot on and the characters in this book are no exception. She writes them in such a way that they come alive from the page and allow you to really connect with them and experience everything alongside them.

The plot is typically brilliant with enough pulse-pounding moments to keep you well and truly on the edge of your seat. There is action and danger and suspense and a good pace to the story with some lighter moments of relief to balance out the story. There isn’t as much romance as in the previous book, but that’s okay because what we get instead is a slow burning flame which grows steadily stronger as the story progresses. You won’t be disappointed.

I can’t heap enough praise on ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’. It is a stunning read and I enjoyed every second of it. I was shocked and stunned by the ending and I don’t know how I’ll be able to bear the wait until the next installment. I need it NOW!

Monday, 9 May 2016

Review: Shaken - Joss Stirling

Shaken by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 7th April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In a tall, narrow brownstone, in Brooklyn, New York, there is a girl with a secret. That girl is Rose Knight. She needs to raise millions of dollars to save her father's life. The arrogant and suave Damien Castle is good at uncovering secrets. He's even better at catching criminals. When he meets Rose he knows something is amiss but he can't help but get distracted. It isn't her terrible dress sense that confuses him, or even her obsession with Egyptology. It's the fact that he has never felt this way about a girl before. But when duty and love are both on the line, which one will Damien choose?

'Shaken' is the third book in Joss Stirling's fantastic series about the Young Detective Agency.  This time, the story takes place on the other side of the Atlantic in Manhattan, New York.

Rose Knight, the girl next door, is hiding a big secret.  She is trying to raise millions of dollars to pay for her father's ransom using her brains, genius and stellar computer skills.  She wants help from no one but Damien Castle, on a visit from abroad, is determined to ensure that Rose doesn't get herself any deeper into trouble.

I liked both Rose and Damien, who don't necessarily get off on the best foot, but end up becoming friends and then a pretty cool couple.  They are very different but their personalities compliment each other well and although I didn't initially see sparks between them, they work well together.  It was also great to see Damien and his friend Joe again, after they both featured in earlier books in the series.  

The story was a bit slow at the start and I kept waiting impatiently for something to happen but the plot built nicely and in the second half there were plenty of exciting moments and some great action packed chapters.  It was great to see Rose not just sitting around and waiting for someone to help her like a helpless female. She tries to get out of trouble on her own, using intellect and wit. 

I loved the ending so much!  Thank you Joss Stirling.  It was absolutely perfect!

I hope there's another book in the series.  It would be brilliant to see Joe find his perfect match too. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: Nobody But You - Jill Shalvis

Nobody But You by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 29th March 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
After an overseas mission goes wrong, Army Special Forces officer Jacob Kincaid knows where he must go to make things right: back home to the tiny town of Cedar Ridge, Colorado. All he needs to scrub away his dark past is fresh mountain air, a lakeside cabin, and quiet solitude. But what he discovers is a gorgeous woman living on a boat at his dock.

Sophie Marren has nowhere else to go. She's broke, intermittently seasick, and fighting a serious attraction to the dark, dishy, I'm-too-sexy-for-myself guy who's now claiming her dock. Something about Jacob's dark intensity makes her want to tease - and tempt - him beyond measure. Neither one wants to give any ground...until they realize the only true home they have is with each other.

'Nobody But You' is the third book in the Cedar Ridge series, about the elusive Kincaid brother Jacob.  I've heard a lot about him but this is the first time that he's actually appeared in the flesh.  Returning from active service, Jacob is determined to heal the rifts with his family and especially with his twin brother Hud. What he doesn't expect is to fall for sexy redhead Sophie, who has just left her cheating ex-husband and is now living on his boat. 

I really liked Jacob but I definitely found him more of a closed book than either Hud or Aidan.  It took me a lot longer to understand what made him tick and he was certainly very enigmatic.  Saying that, although he kept his feelings close to his chest, it was obvious how much he cared about his family.  However, having left them behind once before, they are wary of him hurting them again.

As well as dealing with family matters, Jacob also unexpectedly finds romance with Sophie.  Hot, hot, hot!  If you like your romance smokin', then this is the book for you.

I love the way that Jill Shalvis intertwines all the characters of Cedar Ridge, showing all the happy couples together.  It makes you want to be a part of their family and community. 

Jill Shalvis's books are the best.  I'm so glad that I discovered her and thrilled that she has such a big back catalogue for me to savour.  Her stories are always a real treat and this was no exception. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Review: My Kind of Wonderful - Jill Shalvis

My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 22nd December 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Bailey Moore has an agenda: skiing in the Rockies, exploring castles in Europe, ballroom dancing in Argentina. Now that she has a second lease on life, she's determined not to miss a thing. What she doesn't realise is that item number one comes with a six-foot-one ski god hot enough to melt a polar ice cap. She doesn't want to miss out on him either, but Hudson Kincaid isn't the type of guy to love and let go. And as gorgeous as Cedar Ridge is, she's not planning to stick around. As head of ski patrol at his family's resort, Hud thinks he's seen it all. But never has he run into someone like Bailey. She might look delicate, but her attitude is all firecracker. And her infectious joy touches something deep within him that he's been missing far too long. Now he'll just have to convince Bailey to take a chance on her biggest adventure yet . . . something rare and all kinds of wonderful.

Jill Shalvis's books are my happy place.  I adore her writing and they always give me a much needed injection of romance with a guaranteed happy ending.  Her stories are dreamy, her couples are always perfectly matched (even if they don't always realise it!), there are obstacles to overcome which make the resolution even more satisfactory and they always leave me with a smile on my face. 

'My Kind of Wonderful' is the second book in the Cedar Ridge series and is centred around Hudson Kincaid, ski patroller extraordinaire and the Prince Charming to artist Bailey, who arrives in Cedar Ridge to paint a family mural at the ski lodge.  Hud falls hook, line and sinker for Bailey, who has recently determined to live her life to the full, embracing new experiences and taking chances.  After having overcome illness, Bailey wants to grasp her future with both hands and with no holding back.  I adored Bailey's outlook on life.  Now she has been given the all clear by her doctors and is finally healthy, she is determined to really go for what she wants - and that includes Hud.

I loved both central characters and I was rooting for them from the start.  I also enjoyed getting to see all of Hud's extended family again too, particularly Aidan and Lily who featured heavily in the first book in the series.  Gray and Penny always make me laugh, so it was great seeing them as well. 

This book left me feeling all warm and fuzzy.  A perfect read to devour while curled up by the fire in a comfy chair and with a big mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows.  Jill Shalvis has most definitely done it again!  Fans are in for a real treat!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: What I Thought Was True - Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick, published by Electric Monkey on 7th April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

This is the second book I've read by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I was expecting something in the same vein as 'Open Road Summer' but I found that this story was quite different.  Rather than being the easy breezy summery read that I was expecting, it turned out to be something altogether more serious, dealing with complex issues involving families and friends. 

The story is set on Seashell Island - a picture perfect place where the main character Gwen Castle lives with her family.  Gwen is trying to forget her 'big mistake', when he turns out to be the new yard boy for the summer on the island.  Suddenly Cass is everywhere and impossible for Gwen to avoid any longer.  From the start of the book, it is made obvious that something happened between the two characters which they have not been able to properly move past.  I guessed what it might be but I think the truth should have been dealt with sooner, rather than being strung out until nearly the end.  The revelation wasn't as big or as shocking as I was expecting it to be, even though it did seem out of character for Gwen. 

Gwen and Cass are both quite mixed-up, stumbling over mistakes they have made and uncertain of how the other person really feels.  I thought that they were interesting characters but I didn't feel any great warmth towards either of them.  I actually found the relationship between Gwen's cousin Nic and her best friend Viv much more intriguing, as they try and face up to the decisions they have to make about their future and how these will affect them as a couple.  Everyone is adjusting to what awaits them around the next corner and facing great uncertainty about their next steps.

I did struggle with the extremely slow pace of the story and the fact that nothing really substantial actually happens until very near the end.  At that point, I have to be honest and say that I had almost lost focus by then on what was actually going on.  I was disappointed that I didn't enjoy this book more but I'll keep my fingers crossed for Huntley Fitzpatrick's next one. 
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