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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 dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Review: A Witch in Love - Ruth Warburton

A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton, published by Hodder Children's Books on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Anna still finds it hard to believe that Seth loves her and has vowed to suppress her powers, no matter what.

But magic – like love – is uncontrollable. It spills out with terrible consequences, and soon, Anna is being hunted.




Review:
*There may be spoilers from the previous book in the series

This is the sequel to ‘A Witch in Winter’ which was one of my favourite books of last year. I’ve been looking forward to catching-up with all the characters ever since. I’ve no idea how Ruth Warburton has done it, but I have to say that ‘A Witch in Love’ is even more brilliant and even more compulsive reading than the first in the series. I picked this one up on Sunday afternoon, planning to just read a few chapters but then decided that there was no way I was going to be able to sleep that night until I’d finished it. So I was glued for the rest of the day!

At the beginning of the book we see Anna and Seth together, happy and in love. Their relationship seems to have grown stronger since we saw them last and from the outside they look like the perfect couple. Seth is kind and affectionate and isn’t afraid to show his love for Anna, who it is quite clear he adores. Anna however, still worries about the spell she cast on him and can’t shake the fear that his love for her may not be truly real. This is the crux of the problem which threatens to tear them apart. I really loved the scenes between the two of them in this book. The focus of the story is much more on the romantic side which meant lots of heart-thumping, tingly moments. There’s also a potential love triangle set-up for the end of the trilogy but I’m hoping against hope that Warburton doesn’t invest too much in this because surely Anna and Seth are perfect for each other.

Anna is determined to suppress her magic after warnings from the Ealdwitan in the first book. She can’t however deny who she is which leads to lots of problems with magical leaks. It was interesting to see her having to struggle with her true nature. After so many years of not knowing who she really was and what she could do, you would almost think it would be easy to return to that but having tasted magic, she finds it hard not to use it. There’s also a new threat this time around which leads to danger for Anna.

Another interesting aspect of the story was Anna’s determination to find out more about her mother and her mother’s family. There are plenty of secrets which have been kept hidden and these all threaten to come spilling out.

The latter part of the book threw in lots of surprises that I didn’t see coming. I literally couldn’t read fast enough! It was an explosive end and it was brilliantly written, combining excitement, sadness, sorrow and hope. I don’t know how I’m possibly going to be able to wait for the final instalment, which is entitled ‘A Witch Alone’. Fingers crossed that the publication date isn’t too far away.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Blog tour - Metawars: The Fight for the Future - Jeff Norton

Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for Jeff Norton's book 'Metawars: Fight for the Future' which is being published on August 2nd, 2012 by Orchard Books. As well as being an author, Jeff is also a filmmaker and the founder of Awesome, a creative incubator.


I’m very fortunate to play in the creative sandboxes film, television, and now books.

For background, I’m an escapee from the zoo of advertising, and I then worked on both the creative and corporate side of entertainment, produced an award winning family film, managed the Enid Blyton literary estate, and then just over two years ago jumped feet first into the choppy waters of writing.

I’m media agnostic. I now write professionally for television, film (including a feature film I’m attached to direct), but my heartland is books.

It’s a myth that the world of books and the world of film and television are worlds apart. The creative process of dreaming up something new and special and bringing it to life starts in the exact same place: on the page.
I spend every day (starting early) dreaming up and developing the most exciting stories I can muster. And I find my training in screenplay development to be an invaluable tool. Good script development focuses the mind on finding the true essence of a story. A screenplay is a thin document, between 90 to 120 pages (the guiding assumption is one page equals one minute of screen time, which is generally right unless you write rapid-fire banter like Aaron Sorkin). If you’ve never read a screenplay, I highly suggest it. The scripts of many of our favourite films have screenplays online (during Oscar season) and when you read a script for the first time, you’ll be amazed at how efficient the writing is. Every single word on the page pulls its weight. A great script is in service to only one master, the story. 

My first book, METAWARS: FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE, is an action-packed thriller. It’s the story of two teenagers caught up in the war for control over the internet. The story takes place in a near future when we’re running out of oil and so whoever controls the web, controls the world. Jonah is a sheltered teenager living on a retired bus (with a huge population and no oil, all the London buses have been turned into flats!) with his widowed mother, while Sam is a globe-trotting insurgent, part-assassin, part-terrorist. She spends her nights blowing up buildings that house computer servers in an effort to break the monopoly that one company has over the internet (imagine a mash-up of Google + Apple + facebook + Xbox).
A few early reviewers have called it “cinematic” and “hyper-visual” and it was my intention to trigger the visual imagination to bring the story world to life in the reader’s mind.

The big difference between visual media and text media is the sheer amount of people required to bring the visual media to life. If you’ve ever seen a film crew shooting a scene, you know exactly what I mean. All of those people!

And yet both start with black text on white paper (or in my case, screen). In the case of film and TV, a large team of creative professionals translate the written word into a dynamic visual experience. Books start the same way, with words arranged on a page, but have a very special, one-to-one relationship with the reader. The reader is director, producer, sfx, costume, and (in my case when I read) catering. Cinema-goers today may get 3D, but the reader gets “5S” – a five sensory experience. My job is to put the right words on the page in the right order so that the reader can translate the letters into a multi-sensory experience using the imagination.

It’s my ambition with METAWARS to create a world (well, two worlds actually; the dystopian real world and the dizzying virtual world) that is so immersive and so compelling that young readers will be pulled in and won’t want to leave. 

The success criteria for METAWARS is the torch to bedroom light ratio; that is, how much clandestine reading the reader pursues, under the covers and lit only by torchlight, after a parent declares “bedtime” and orders “lights out.”

One of my driving forces in creating the world of METAWARS was to originate a series (there are four books) that would successfully compete with films, tv, and video games for the attention of reluctant readers.

I was a very reluctant reader as a boy, and truthfully found the characters, stories, and worlds in movies, tv, and even early video games to be much more compelling than the books that my parents or school was forcing on me.

It wasn’t until I discovered the second-person narratives of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ game-books and subsequently a dark, dystopian novel called ‘After the Bomb’ that I believed that books had something to offer me. Of course, reading is a lot like athletics: the more you practice, the better you are, and the more confidence you develop. It’s a virtuous circle, but as a reluctant or under-practiced reader finding the right place to hop onto the reading carousel can be daunting and intimidating.

It’s my hope that reluctant readers like I used to be, who all-too-often abandon books at age ten (but devouring films and games), will be hooked by the “5S” experience of reading METAWARS, and ride the carousel into adulthood.



Find Jeff on the web at www.jeffnorton.com, ‘like’ him at www.facebook.com/thejeffnorton or follow him on twitter via @thejeffnorton

Friday, 27 July 2012

Review: Metawars: The Fight for the Future - Jeff Norton

Metawars: The Fight for the Future by Jeff Norton, published by Orchard Books on 2nd August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
In an unforgiving future, two warring factions - the MILLENIALS and the GUARDIANS - are locked in a brutal battle over control of an online virtual world called the Metasphere. Jonah Delacroix has always known which side he's on - the same side as his dead father. But when he assumed his father's avatar, he learns that things aren't as black and white as he once believed. He's catapulted into a full-throttle race through both worlds - but can he find the truth?


Review:
Jeff Norton is a writer-director turned author who aimed to write a book for the current generation of teenagers obsessed with video games and living in a technology fuelled society.  'Metawars' is Norton's debut YA novel and is a roller coaster ride through a virtual world where people go to escape the humdrum existence of their real lives.

Elements of the story reminded me of the film The Matrix, with people plugging themselves into a virtual reality which is more real to them that their own day to day existence.  I could feel the sense of escapism that they experienced and the freedom they had to experience things which they wouldn't normally be able to do.  The main character Jonah for example, delights in the sensation of flying which is mentioned several times throughout the book.  I mean who wouldn't want to be able to do that whenever they wanted to.

Those visiting the virtual world are represented by avatars.  These are created by the person's subconscious and can be pretty much anything and everything.  It was slightly strange at first to see a dragon, unicorn and elephant conversing with each other, but after a while I didn't think much about it at all.  It just seemed to be normal!

One of the most interesting ideas in 'Metawars' is that you can upload your virtual self and all your memories.  This means that even if you die in the real world, you can in effect live forever in a virtual state.  I thought this was a fascinating idea and one which is explored through Jonah's grandmother who he visits even after her death.  

There is an exciting climax to the story with plenty of questions left unanswered.  I'm sure there is a planned sequel to the book which hopefully will deal with many of these things. 

This book will appeal hugely to male readers but there's lots to catch the eye of a female audience too.  There is pretty much non-stop action from the word go and the drama never lets up.  I found the plot a little bit complicated in places but on the whole Norton has come up with a terrific storyline which screams excitement and adventure. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Blog tour: The Night Sky in My Head - Sarah Hammond

I'd like to welcome Sarah Hammond to the blog today with a wonderful guest post about the inspiration for her debut novel 'The Night Sky in My Head'.


Where does a story idea come from? This is often a difficult question to answer. However, when I wrote The Night Sky in my Head, there was a very obvious moment where the story idea took root and began to germinate in my mind.

It all started with a poem. I heard a brilliant reading of Slow Reader by Steve Voake (from the collection Please Mrs Butler by Allan Ahlberg) and it made me feel furious and indignant on behalf of the protagonist.

Click here to read the poem:

I’d never really thought about life from the perspective of someone with learning difficulties and, when I did, I was angry that this character felt so belittled and inadequate because he didn’t see the world in the same way as most other people. For me, this is one of the best things about reading – you look at life through a different pair of eyes, stand in someone else’s shoes for a while, and find another perspective on the world.

I decided there and then that I would write a story for this boy (although the poem doesn’t specify gender, I imagined him as a boy). I would give him something special, a gift that no-one else has.

As I tried to get under the skin of the boy’s character, I decided to use a taunt as the working title for my piece. Titles have an energy to them, even if you change them at a later date (I absolutely love The Night Sky in My Head as a title, but it came after the story was finished). I thought about the horrid things children might say to Mikey - my story-boy had a name by now - and I wrote ‘Backwards’ across the top of my blank sheet of paper.

As I started to write chapter one, I described how Mikey was locked out of the house by accident one evening and how he went down the garden to his shed/den with his dog, Timmer. Then something rather magical happened. I noticed that I was writing odd sentences as I described the world through Mikey’s eyes. I wrote down things like “I’m going to watch the Backwards” or “The world is going swirly – the Backwards is coming”.

What did this mean? I kept writing.

Mikey sat on the floor of the shed and waited. The door opened and his mother walked in. But two things were odd with this scene: first, it was night-time in the story, but the light around Mum was bright as if she was in a pocket of daylight; and secondly, Mum’s hair was the wrong colour. She redyed her hair earlier in the week and her hair was the old colour as she rummaged around in the shed, looking for some jump leads. Her hair was the colour from a few days ago.

A tingle ran down my spine: I realised what was happening. It was one of those lovely story-magic moments. The taunt of the ‘Backwards’ had transformed into Mikey’s special gift: he could ‘see the Backwards’ and the ‘Backwards’ was Mikey-speak for the past. He could see the memory of a place, see events from the past replay for him like a real-life film even though he wasn’t there at the time. He could uncover all sorts of secrets about the past that hide in the shadows…

I had found the bones of my story.

Don't forget to check out Sarah's beautiful website and follow her on Twitter @sarahhammond9

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: The Night Sky in My Head - Sarah Hammond

The Night Sky in My Head by Sarah Hammond, published by Oxford University Press on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Mikey Baxter isn't like other fourteen year old boys. Not since the accident.

The world sees him as damaged. But Mikey has a remarkable gift: the ability to go backwards in time and witness things that hide in the shadows.

Now he must uncover the terrifying truth behind his dad's disappearance. Before the past starts to repeat itself . .


Review:
This is the debut novel of author Sarah Hammond and is described as the perfect read for fans of 'Skellig' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time'.  Having not read either of these and not knowing much about about 'The Night Sky in My Head' prior to receiving a copy for review, I was a bit unsure if it was going to be my sort of book.

The story centres on a fourteen year old boy called Mikey who it transpires at the beginning can see events in the past.  He calls this the backwards which sometimes shows him things he would rather not see happen.  He has to unravel the mystery of what happened to his Dad with the help of some of the people he meets along the way.

The passages where he sees the backwards were a little strange at first but as these continue they gradually begin to make more sense.  They are like pieces of a puzzle which just need to be slotted together for them to form a picture of events which have taken place.  This device is extremely clever and helps to move the plot along, whilst presenting to the reader information about Mikey himself and his family. 

He has a close relationship with his mother and it's obvious that she adores him but she's also struggling to cope with some of the things which have happened in the past.  I really liked some of the small details which were dropped in about the fact that she always leaves him little notes when she has to go out and if she wants him to get some shopping then she draws pictures of all the items to buy.  They have both learned to adapt the way they communicate with each other.

I thought that Mikey was a terrific narrator.  He has a very individual way of seeing the world and this is quite different to everyone else.  He is extremely trusting of others which isn't always a good thing because they can take advantage of him without him realising it, but he has so many wonderful qualities which means that he comes across as a truly likeable and lovely person.  By his side throughout the whole book is his dog Timmer and they have a truly special bond between them.  Whenever he's sad or upset or worried then Timmer is there to comfort him and I think that's a very special thing to have.

'The Night Sky in My Head' is an unusual book and unlike anything else I've read.  The writing is intelligent and engaging and although not normally the sort of title I'd pick up in a bookshop, it was extremely enjoyable.  

Monday, 23 July 2012

Blog tour + Giveaway: Soul Fire - Kate Harrison

I am beyond excited to welcome Kate Harrison to the blog today as part of her tour for 'Soul Fire', the second book in the Soul Beach trilogy.  I'm a huge fan of both Kate's young-adult and adult novels and am really pleased to be helping to spread the word about this fantastic series.



The Power of Three: writing a trilogy

For the last four years, my life has been dominated by an online paradise, a social media mystery and a murder that won’t be solved until 2013.

Welcome to the world of the trilogy!

Soul Beach first began to form in my mind back in 2008, when I noticed how Facebook pages could turn into tribute pages after the sudden death of a user. I wondered what would happen if there was a site where teenagers whose lives had been cut short could carry on living their lives – and recruit the living to try to find justice.

Fast forward to today and I’ve had two of the novels published in the UK , translated versions are coming out all around the world, and I am working on the third and final book. I still adore my brave and funny heroine, Alice, who is determined to avenge her sister’s murder – but the writing process has been a rollercoaster ride and I’ve learned a lot that I’d love to share. So here are my Power of Three tips for trilogy writing (I just wish I’d had these when I was embarking on my journey to Soul Beach).

Lesson One – how do you know it’s a trilogy?

At first, I only had the story – I didn’t even know I’d write it as a YA book, though I did realise it wouldn’t quite fit alongside the romantic comedies I’ve been writing since 2003.

But the more I thought about the idea, the more it evolved into something big. There was so much to explore: addiction to social media, fear, obsession, the afterlife, reality TV… I could go on.

I soon realised that the idea was bigger than anything I’d had before – something I couldn’t possibly fit into 75,000 words. But maybe I could manage it in 3 x 75,000…

Lesson Two: this is a marathon, not a sprint – so be prepared for the long haul…

 I do plan my novels before I begin – not down to the finest detail, as JK Rowling famously does, but I know who does what to whom and roughly how the book ends. For me, there’s a balance between having a framework to build on – which is good – and working out every single action – which tends to kill the fun for me.

 With Soul Beach , I knew how the first book would open – with Alice receiving an email from her murdered sister on the day of her funeral. I also had a clear idea of the scene at the end of the final book… though I’m not telling, for obvious reasons.

 Before I started, I wrote a movie-style treatment covering what would happen in the three books, and I thought about how the world would develop, with Alice ‘unlocking’ layers of knowledge about this environment as she went along. But now I really wish I’d spent more time working out the rules of the Beach in detail – it would have saved me a lot of rewrites along the way.

Which brings me to …

Lesson Three: writing a middle book is the hardest thing you’ll ever do

I won’t lie – there were times when I was writing Soul Fire when I was terrified I’d never get it right. Even though my YA books are shorter than my adult novels, Soul Fire took longer and caused me more anxiety than any of the others. It was more like hellfire than Soul Fire at times…

 The basic problem was emotional involvement – I knew I couldn’t reveal the full story behind Meggie’s murder until Book 3 – and what I’d planned to keep the tension and drama up wasn’t enough. Bear in mind, I’ve written eight novels before this – and yet this was the toughest job ever.

I honestly couldn’t have done it without my wonderful editor, Amber Caravéo. She and her fab colleague Jenny Glencross were amazing cheerleaders but also tough about making sure I got it right. Amber helped me focus on what mattered – the emotional heart of the book.

I’m nervous about revealing this, yet the first responses from readers have been very positive so I do really hope all our hard work paid off. So to help you avoid my mistakes, here’s my quick guide to planning a trilogy.

Book 1 – establish your characters and central story from the very first page. Do horrible things to them that test them to their limits. Have one story you can resolve – and others that keep the reader wanting more.

Book 2 – throw even worse things at your characters – things they think will defeat them but actually help them grow. Work out an amazingly satisfying story for this book that will make the reader gasp – while building up your central story and the question that can only be answered by…

Book 3 – this is where all your story elements and planning come together – but don’t forget you still need major new twists to stop it feeling like a rehash. Here, you get nastier than ever to your main characters… push them to breaking point. Maybe they do break… along with the reader as the tension becomes unbearable…

Easy, right? Except, as I wait for the editor’s feedback on the very first draft of Book 3, all I can do is keep everything crossed that I’ve nailed it myself! 


Don't forget to also check out Kate's website and follow her on Twitter @katewritesbooks

To celebrate the release of 'Soul Fire' the very lovely people at Indigo have given me two copies of the book to giveaway. This giveaway is only open to entrants within the UK and you must be a follower of my blog.  Good luck!

Giveaway rules.

  • There will be two winners.
  • Open to entrants with UK addresses only. International entrants may enter, provided they have a UK address to send the books to.
  • Please fill out the form completely - including email address
  • You must be a follower of my blog
  • Deadline for entries will be on 2nd August 2012
  • Winner(s) will be drawn by random.org
  • Winner(s) will be contacted via e-mail, and will be given 48 hours to response. Otherwise, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Any details will be deleted after use and will not be passed on to any third party.

 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: Devilish - Maureen Johnson

Devilish by Maureen Johnson, published by HarperCollins Children's Books on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Ally and Jane may not be that popular but they're good friends...that is until they each get allocated a freshman, a 'little' to show the ropes to at school. Cracks begin to show as Ally changes into a whole different person, literally overnight. She's dressed better, making new friends, and ditching Jane more and more. But Ally's transformation has its price. And it's up to Jane to save her former BF from a ponytail-wearing, cupcake-nibbling devil in disguise!



Review:
I previously enjoyed 'The Name of the Star', the first book in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, as well as '13 Little Blue Envelopes' so I was looking forward to reading more by her.  Sadly 'Devilish' didn't quite meet my expectations.

The story itself was pretty unusual.  It's about a girl who makes a deal with the devil to become popular and her best friend who is determined to save her no matter the cost.  The quirky plot didn't particularly engage me and I kept thinking how far fetched the whole thing was.  Although the initial idea of selling your soul to the devil was interesting, in reality it didn't actually work for me. 

Extremely light-hearted but lacking any real substance, I was hoping for much more from this book.  It was funny in places but the humour wasn't consistent throughout and I found myself reading on just to get to the end and see what was going to happen.  The ending was also quite abrupt and left some elements of the story underdeveloped. 

I'm a fan of the paranormal but I thought that 'Devilish' lacked that essential spark which I look for in a book.  I've read some great reviews of this title so there are lots of people out there that loved it but it fell a bit flat for me.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Review: Party Disaster! - Sue Limb

Party Disaster! by Sue Limb, published by Bloomsbury on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Fred and Jodie are now an item. Disaster! But Jess soon has other things to worry about when she invites a few friends over for a quiet night in and word accidentally gets out that she's having a huge party. More and more people arrive, many of whom Jess doesn't even know! The evening spins out of control, Jess's house is devastated and her mum's beloved daffodils are trampled. Double disaster! Jess is seriously going to need her friends' help to get out of this dilemma ...



Review:
Having not read the previous books in Sue Limb's Jess Jordan series, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to pick up the thread of the story and know who all the characters were.  It turned out to be no problem at all though as Jess was such an engaging figure that she won me over almost immediately.  The plot was also easy to follow and centred around Jess's fixation on her ex-boyfriend Fred who she wants to win back, except he's now dating one of her other friends Jodie. 

Light hearted and entertaining, this was a fun book with laugh out loud humour which was the perfect pick me up!  I giggled at some of the predicaments that Jess finds herself in, such as when she decides to have a few friends over and it turns into a party disaster.  Her efforts to clear up before her Mum discovers the mess are truly funny, as are her attempts to work out whether or not Fred still has feelings for her.

The story is about friendship, love and family and Jess is a character with a heart of gold.  She may not always do the right thing but she always has the best of intentions. 

Because of the ages of the characters, I think 'Party Disaster!' is more suited to a slightly younger teen audience.  Fans of Cathy Cassidy are also sure to enjoy this one.  I read it in one evening and will probably go back and read the other books in the series now too to see how it all began.

Review: Soul Fire - Kate Harrison

Soul Fire by Kate Harrison, published by Indigo on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Alice Forster talks to her dead sister, Meggie, in the virtual world of Soul Beach – an online paradise for the young, the beautiful and the dead – but paradise can be stifling and the Beach’s guests want to move on.

If Alice can solve the mystery of her sister’s murder then Meggie will be free.

But passions are running high, the temperature’s rising and as Alice gets closer to finding the killer, the killer is getting closer to Alice . .



Review:
*There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

This is the second book in Kate Harrison's fantastic Soul Beach trilogy.  Alice is still trying to solve her sister Meggie's murder.  She has a list of possible suspects but it appears that Meggie's killer may be closer than she first thinks.  Her journey takes Alice from the virtual world of Soul Beach to the hot and steamy climate of Barcelona where danger lurks around every corner.  At the same time she is also trying to help the other guests at Soul Beach such as Javier who wants to be able to move on once and for all. 

An event near the start and an online discovery, spark off a chain of events in the book which lead to Alice becoming more and more embroiled in danger.  She's done a lot of growing up since the beginning of the series and is an incredibly brave character but may have just got in over her head this time around.  

There are several clues throughout 'Soul Fire' to the identity of the murderer.  I have my own suspicions about who is responsible but I still have a lot of questions to be answered which hopefully will all be dealt with in the final instalment.  I'm convinced that it is going to be the person you least suspect and I'm sure Kate Harrison has plenty more twists to throw into the mix yet.

There is suspense in bucket loads and the tension is held taut throughout the whole book.  The danger crackles around Alice who seems more determined than ever to get answers about Meggie and who can't move on until she has put her sister's death to rest.

Kate Harrison definitely knows how to hook her readers in and keep them gripped.  This was an enjoyable sequel, leading up nicely to the third and final book in the trilogy which I can only imagine will be another explosive read.     


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: Deadly Hemlock - Kathleen Peacock

Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock, published by Simon and Schuster on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.


Review:
Having read a lot of vampire books lately, I was looking forward to a change of pace and ‘Deadly Hemlock’ provided exactly that with a thrilling story about a society in which werewolves effectively live out in the open after the spread of lupine syndrome. Taking place in the small town of Hemlock, Kathleen Peacock has written a fast-paced and edge of your seat story which had me gripped from the word go.

I have to start by saying that this book has one of the best love triangles that I’ve come across in recent months. The main character Mackenzie, literally has two incredibly hot guys in love with her. What’s a girl to do?! Personally, I was torn between them too. Firstly there’s Kyle who has been Mackenzie’s closest friend since they were children and who is sweet and reliable. It was quite obvious from the start that although she kept professing that they were only friends, there was a lot more than that between them. Then there is Jason, who was her best friend Amy’s boyfriend, but who she feels an undeniable attraction to. Usually I’ll pick one guy or the other but in this case I loved them both and I enjoyed seeing her interactions with both characters. It will be very interesting to see how the love triangle develops between them.

There is of course much more to this book though than just romance. At the centre of the plot lies Mackenzie’s determination to find out what really happened to her friend Amy who was murdered by a werewolf. As she begins to investigate her friend’s death, she discovers a number of shocking secrets about the people she thought she knew. Multiple twists and turns meant that I was continually left guessing about who could be trusted and found it impossible to put the book down until I’d read just one more chapter.

Paranormal romance fans will love ‘Deadly Hemlock’. The idea behind the story is just so original and even if you’ve read a lot of werewolf stories already, I can promise you that you won’t have read anything quite like this.

The first in a trilogy, this book delivers mystery, romance and plenty of supernatural twists and will leave you wanting more!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Review: Dreamless - Josephine Angelini

Dreamless by Josephine Angelini, published by Macmillan on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Can true love be forgotten?

As the only Scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.

Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out—a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies’ cry for blood is growing louder.

As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen’s sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos.



Review:
*There may be spoilers from the previous book in the series.
‘Starcrossed’ by Josephine Angelini was one of my favourite books of last year so understandably I’ve been unbelievably excited about the sequel ‘Dreamless’. Ever since reading the final page of the first book in the trilogy I’ve been looking forward to returning to the series and catching up with all the characters. This is a book that really will leave you “dreamless” because you’ll be up all night reading it and like me, probably won’t get any sleep at all!

The storyline focuses mainly on Helen’s nightly descent to the Underworld and her quest to defeat the Furies. Determined to end the blood debt once and for all, she endures extreme torture and pain during her nightly ritual, and even with her health failing, she won’t stop. In the Underworld, Helen meets Orion, who has been sent to protect her. Through their ordeal, the two share a powerful bond and knowing that she can never be with Lucas, Helen finds herself drawn towards him.

The Underworld setting was quite literally hell for Helen. I thought the descriptions of it were absolutely perfect and it gave me a chill every time Helen had to go there. She comes across some really scary things and has to endure unimaginable horrors.

Orion is one of my favourite new characters in the series. He’s had a really tough life but he’s still a very positive and upbeat person and becomes Helen’s saviour in the Underworld. The two are linked together from the start and whereas I don’t normally like the guy that becomes the third person in a love triangle, for Orion I’ll make an exception! He’s kind and understanding and pretty irresistible, but of course, Helen is still fighting her feelings for Lucas. I did love all the phone texts which went back and forth between Helen and Orion and the way that even when they weren’t together, thinking about Orion always made Helen feel better.

There definitely isn’t as much Lucas in ‘Dreamless’ which is a shame as I missed his presence in the story. It’s heartbreaking to see him struggle to stay away from Helen when he’s quite obviously head over heels in love with her.

I also enjoyed getting to see the developing relationships between Helen’s friends and the other Scions. I’m a big fan of Claire and Jason and I liked the way he was so protective of her because he was worried that as a ‘human’, she would get hurt.

The plot is fast paced and complex and plunges the reader straight back into the action from the get-go. If I’d had time I would have liked to have re-read ‘Starcrossed’ first to remind myself of everything that had happened previously but saying that, it didn’t take me long to pick up the threads of the story again.

There is a massive cliffhanger at the end which means that I now have another long and impatient wait until the third book is published.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Review: Riven - Sarah Bryant

Riven by Sarah Bryant, published by Snowbooks on 1st May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Devastated by the death of her boyfriend, Lucas, Sophie moves in with her mother in Edinburgh, hoping to grieve quietly. But since meeting Lucas, nothing about Sophie's life has been quiet, and his death doesn't change this. If anything, life has become more complicated and confusing than ever. Her mother is determined that she get over him. A strange, compelling man seems to be stalking her. And she's begun to have visions she doesn't dare believe. Because, if she does, it means that Lucas isn't dead at all. Instead, he's entangled in a fate worse than death. And only she can save him.



Review:
Please be aware that there may be spoilers from the previous book in the series.

I fell in love with 'Bound' by Sarah Bryant when I read it earlier this year and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel.  'Riven' exceeded all my expectations and had me gripped and immersed in the story from the very first page.  Brilliantly written and with an intricate and astounding plot which was both imaginative and magical, Bryant has done it again with this fabulous novel.

The story picks up where 'Bound' left off.  Sophie is devastated after the death of Lucas and tries to rebuild her life with her mother in Edinburgh.  In the Scottish city she meets several new faces, including the mysterious Rive and kind hearted Angus but is still haunted by dreams of her lost love.

I can't mention too much about the plot because I don't want to give anything away but suffice to say that there are lots of unexpected twists throughout.  You never know what is going to happen which is part of what makes it so enjoyable.  At the centre of the plot lies Sophie's struggle to survive without Lucas and to cope with losing the love of her life.  With this in mind, it was interesting to see the interaction between Sophie and her mother, the latter not understanding how deep the bond between her daughter and Lucas had been.   

I enjoyed learning more about Sophie and Lucas's history which was fascinating, including how they first met each other and how their love developed.  They are a perfect couple in so many ways and it's easy to understand the attraction which lies between them.  I also loved Sarah Bryant's interpretation of the beginning of creation and the detailed descriptions provided of the hierarchy of angels, aeons, daevas and humans. 

'Riven' took my breath away!  Powerful storytelling with an unbreakable love at it's heart makes this a book to be savoured and read again and again.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  There was a tantalising peek at the end, of the last book in the trilogy, which is called 'Morningstar' and due to be published in 2013.  I'm dying to read it!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Review: Blood Moon - Alyxandra Harvey

Blood Moon by Alyxandra Harvey, published by Bloomsbury on 5th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
When the vampire tribes convene for the rare Blood Moon ceremonies, Solange Drake is plunged into a battle with her feral nature. The Drake brothers have been raised knowing they had to protect their younger sister at all cost. But forbidden magic and a mysterious stranger have put all of them in terrible danger.

Nicholas is going to have to make a difficult choice: between his girlfriend, Lucy, and his little sister, Solange - blood or love.



Review:
This is the fifth book in the extremely popular Drake Chronicles series by Alyxandra Harvey.  The story picks up after the events of 'Bleeding Hearts' with Solange struggling to battle her own vampire nature.  At the same time, the Blood Moon ceremonies are taking place and vampire tribes have convened from all over the world to take part which means several new faces.     

The focus of the story shifts between Solange, Nicholas and Lucy.  Solange has never been one of my favourite characters but she undergoes quite a change in this book.  There are reasons for her strange and unpredictable behaviour and they are pretty shocking!  It will be interesting to see these explored further in the next book. 

I loved the fact that much of the plot resolves around Lucy and Nicholas who are adorable together.  They featured prominently in the first book of the series so it was nice to hear from them again and see events unfolding from their perspective.  Lucy is trying to fit in as a new student at the Helios-Ra school and is also coping with her best friend not speaking to her.  Although Solange has treated her quite badly, Lucy still wants to try and put things right and isn't willing to give up on her.  Nicholas has his own problems too and faces a choice between his girlfriend and his sister.  However, when they are with each other all these things seem to just fade into the background.  There's one particularly romantic scene between them which left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside!

The rest of the Drake family also feature too, as well as Hunter and Isabeau who it was good to see again along with their respective other halves. 

The ending of 'Blood Moon' nearly killed me because it leaves you on such a big cliffhanger.  Please tell me that I don't have too long to wait until the next book in the series because I don't think I'd be able to stand it otherwise.  I love the way that Alyxandra Harvey always throws something new and unexpected into the plot and continually surprises me with the directions that some of the characters take.

This edition also features an exclusive bonus story about Liam and Helena Drake which was a nice added extra.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Trailer: The Forsaken - Lisa M. Stasse

One of the books which I've been eagerly anticipating this year is 'The Forsaken' by Lisa M. Stasse which is published in the UK by Orchard Books on 2nd August 2012.  Not only do I want to read it because I love dystopian fiction but when I saw the publisher describing it as 'Lost meets The Hunger Games' I was even more excited!! 


Alenna Shawcross is a sixteen-year-old orphan growing up in a police state formed from the ashes of Canada, the US and Mexico after a global economic meltdown.

But when she unexpectedly fails ‘the test’ - a government initiative which supposedly identifies teens destined to be criminals - she wakes up alone on a remote island reserved for the criminally insane.

Terrified and confused, she soon encounters a group of other teen survivors battling to stay alive, including Liam, a boy who will become her love... and her lifeline.

Soon Alenna makes the terrifying discovery that there’s more to the island (and her past) than she could ever have guessed... But who can she trust? And can she ever escape?


Here's a look at the official trailer for 'The Forsaken' which is absolutely epic!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Book news: Girl Heart Boy series - Ali Cronin

Ali Cronin's new series Girl Heart Boy is described as 'the hottest, sexiest, teen romance series coming this summer'.  The first in the series 'No Such Thing As Forever' which is due to be published on the 2nd August 2012 by Penguin Razorbill sounds exactly like my kind of book.  If you can't wait that long then you can get your hands on the e-book which is out now. 


Meet four girls, three boys, all turning 18 and get set to follow their eventful final year at school. Cass is known as Ms. Monogamy, Ashley is a player, Donna is a party girl. But what about Sarah? Her friends tease her for being uptight, but she's waiting for The One. Now she's found him, but is he forever - or is Sarah just his summer fling?

You can also keep up-to-date with Sarah's weekly video blogs on Youtube where she explores teen love and sex issues.  Here's the first vlog from Sarah.


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GirlHeartBoy

Twitter: @girlheartboy #girlheartboy

Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: Wereworld: Nest of Serpents - Curtis Jobling

Wereworld: Nest of Serpents by Curtis Jobling, published by Puffin on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Young Werewolf Drew Ferran, rightful king of Westland, has rushed to the aid of the besieged Staglords, whose mountain stronghold is surrounded by the forces of the Werelion Prince Lucas.

And deep in the haunted Dyrewood forest, the Wereladies Gretchen and Whitley seek sanctuary within the city of Brackenholme. No opposing force has ever breached the palisade walls, but danger could be closer than they think... As Lyssia's greatest war rumbles towards a thunderous climax, the lines between friend and foe are blurred. What if the enemy is one of their own?


Review:
I was super excited when I realised that there was a new book in the Wereworld series out.  After having been left on a cliffhanger at the end of the fourth book, I was eager to pick this one up and start it straight away.

The first part re-introduces the reader to all the characters and picks up the thread of their stories.  Hector, Drew, Whitley and Gretchen, alolng with Drew's brother Trent are scattered throughout Lyssia.  Drew is helping the Staglords defend themselves against the Werelion Prince Lucas, whilst Gretchen and Whitley are headed for Brackenholme and safety.  As the story progresses, an old foe returns to put everyone's lives in danger.

As I've read each book in this series, I've been continually impressed and amazed at the sheer scale and scope of the story and the Wereworld universe.  There's now a huge cast of interesting characters with new faces appearing all the time.  The only problem is keeping track of all of their names! Sometimes I have to check back to make sure I remember who someone is correctly.

I've always made no secret of my love of Hector, the Boarlord.  He's made quite a transformation from the beginning of the series and at times he seems quite unrecognisable from the person that Drew first met.  Without giving anything away, because my lips are firmly sealed, I'm starting to worry that he may finally be beyond redemption.  I'm not sure if there is any way back for him now.  However, there's always hope and I truly believe that although he's done some terrible things, beneath it all is still a heart of gold. 

I also enjoyed getting to see more of Drew's brother Trent who is now repentant about his actions towards his brother and wishes to put things right.  I think there may be a possible romance on the cards between him and another character but I'll have to wait and see.  Gradually all the characters are being drawn back together and I'm looking forward to finally seeing them all reunited. 

Even though Jobling is now on book five, the writing remains wonderfully vivid and the story gets even more engaging with each new instalment.  There are some amazing battle scenes which are brutal, bloody and no holds barred and there's plenty of action and adventure to satisfy readers.  There's a fast and furious pace to the story and I didn't want to put the book down for a single second.

There's an epic quality about this series which I love and I can only hope that Jobling writes fast because I want more now! 

Just a quick note about the cover of the book.  The cover art for the series has been redesigned and published with a whole new look.  I have to say that I preferred the old one and not only because I like all my books in a set to match.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Wentworth Hall - Abby Grahame

Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame, published by Simon and Schuster on 7th July 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed façade rapidly comes undone.

Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.



Review:
Fans of the great British period drama will love 'Wentworth Hall' which has all the same charm and distinction, along with absolutely gorgeous cover art.  I picked this one up to read as soon as it arrived after having been enticed by the description of Downton Abby meets The Luxe.   I also adore books which have a historical setting, as does this one which takes place in 1912.

It features the Darlington family of Wentworth Hall - older daughter Maggie who all the men fall in love with, younger sister Lila who feels forever in her shadow, older brother Wes and Mr and Mrs Darlington.  As well as seeing events through their eyes, the story also encapsulates the experiences and lives of their servants.  It was interesting getting to see what upstairs and downstairs life was like for all the characters and contrasting the privileged life of the rich with that of the poor .

Interspersed throughout the book are articles from The Sussex Courier newspaper.  The mini-stories are a satire on the Darlington family and are both scathing and mocking.  The big mystery surrounding them is who is the author.  I had several guesses but none of them were right.  I did think they seemed a bit unnecessary to the main story, although they were quite amusing and fun and illustrated nicely the destruction that gossip could cause.

Reading 'Wentworth Hall' felt at times like watching a soap opera unfold before my eyes with all the characters having a secret or some kind of scandal to hide.  As we all know skeletons never remain in the cupboard forever and I knew they were all going to come spilling out at some point.

This was definitely the book for me!  There was intrigue and scandal in abundance and secrets set to shock all.  'Wentworth Hall' was a fab read and I finished it in one evening because I was totally hooked.  This book is perfect material for a Sunday night television show!  As much as I loved it, I was also pleased to see that it was a stand-alone novel so everything was nicely resolved at the end.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Trailer: Seraphina - Rachel Hartman

On July 19th, Doubleday is publishing 'Seraphina' by Rachel Hartman.  The story is an epic fantasy involving dragons and features an absolutely gorgeous cover.  After watching the trailer, I now want to read this one even more than I did before!

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.


Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: Emma Hearts LA - Keris Stainton

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton, published by Orchard on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Emma's not sure that LA's for her, but when she accompanies her sister Jane to an audition, a chance meeting with a teen TV star starts to change her new sunshine lifestyle for the better... But what about Oscar, so far her only friend in LA, who's turning out NOT to be the idiot she thought he was?

Soon Emma begins to find herself torn between two boys and reconsidering her entire future.

Maybe LA's not that bad after all.



Review:
Leaving behind the bright lights and buzz of New York City, Keris Stainton's latest offering is set in the sunnier climes of Los Angeles, home of the stars.  When Emma's mother gets a fabulous job offer, Emma and her younger sister Bex move with her to start a new life in LA.  Once there, she reconnects with her childhood friend Oscar who has undergone quite a lot of growing up since she saw him last.  However, with handsome movie stars around every corner, Emma has to make a big decision about who and what she wants. 

While I was reading this book I couldn't help but feel envious of Emma getting the opportunity to start fresh with a completely new beginning.  Although she's more dubious about moving to the other side of the world than Bex, who throws herself wholeheartedly into a new lifestyle, she gradually finds herself embracing the new and learns to open herself up to exciting, new experiences.

I loved the idea of being able to reach for your dreams, however impossible they may seem and having the courage to follow your heart.  Yes, you may fail at times but until you try you'll never know.  One of my own dreams is to one day visit New York but after finishing this book I'm adding Los Angeles to the list too!

I thought that Keris Stainton perfectly captured everything about Emma's new home, from the awesome food to the sights and sounds of the city, such as Grauman's Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  There were so many amazing places and they were all so wonderfully described that I really felt I was living vicariously through Emma.

As well as Emma, there are lots of other fab characters in the story, including the adorable Oscar, who is the perfect mix of cute and nerdy (the latter in a good way!) and Emma's sister Bex who she has a very close relationship with.

'Emma Hearts LA' is an amazing book and the perfect light, summery, fun read.  It's a book with a heart of gold and a wonderful read.
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