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United Kingdom
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.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Review: Junk Miles - Liz Reinhardt

Junk Miles by Liz Reinhardt, published by Randomhouse Children's Books on 2nd January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Brenna Blixen has the perfect boyfriend. He's sweet, sexy, loyal, and sure that Brenna is the best thing that's ever happened to him. But being the perfect girlfriend isn't as easy as Brenna thought it would be, and the pressure that comes with trying to be Jake's everything is beginning to weigh on her. When her mother surprises her with a trip to Paris over winter break, she's torn. She anticipated spending her vacation snuggling with Jake Kelly, ice-skating, drinking cocoa, and relaxing...but what girl in her right mind would turn down a trip to Paris?

Things only get more confusing when she winds up unexpectedly and unavoidably thrown into Saxon Maclean's arms in the City of Lights. Far away from the comfort and stability she finds at Jake's side, Brenna faces down the feelings that have been swirling through her since the day she laid eyes on Saxon. Is it fair for her to call herself Jake's girlfriend when she has so many unresolved feelings about someone else?

Brenna is determined to figure it all out, even if it means making some of the hardest decisions of her entire life. She also learns that every single thing she does has rippling repercussions, some that fill her with total regret. By the time she figures out what her heart truly wants, she realizes that she may not be able to have it after all.


Review:
'Junk Miles' is the second book about Brenna Blixen, following her as she goes on an adventure in Paris and gets her heart torn in two different directions by handsome boyfriend Jake Kelly and his irresistible brother Saxon. 

I really like the character of Brenna.  She's open to experiencing new things and she always seems to live life to the full.  Although she loves Jake, she continually feels like he puts her on a pedestal and his idolisation of her makes her feel suffocated at times.  On the other hand, she's wildly attracted to bad boy Saxon and when she discovers that he's on the same trip to Paris as her, she can't seem to stay away from him.  Personally, I love Jake Kelly and at times I couldn't understand why she would even look at another guy but there were some definite sparks between her and Saxon which she wanted to face up to and I did admire her bravery in daring to take a risk. 

I had mixed feelings about Saxon.  I found his manner quite obnoxious and not very charming at all but I think underneath his tough exterior, there's a softer side to him waiting to come out.  He's obviously had a difficult home life, which hasn't been helped by the deterioration of his friendship with Jake.  I ended up hoping that things would turn around for him in the future.       

This was a brilliant contemporary romance which I really loved.  I devoured the book in one sitting and then immediately picked up the next in the series 'Slow Twitch'.  Liz Reinhardt is my new favourite author and I definitely need to get my hands on all of her other books now, especially if they're as good as this one! 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Review: Flame - Amy Kathleen Ryan

Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 7th January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered, and their home ship destroyed. The mission to rescue their parents didn't go quite as planned, and now they're at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Will Seth's health hold out long enough to help Waverly topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before the final battle? Nothing is certain and every second is a risk in this explosive finale.



Review:
'Flame' is the concluding part of Amy Kathleen Ryan's Sky Chasers series.  It's also one of the best sci-fi books set in space that I've ever read.  Every detail is brilliantly depicted and the very real human struggle for survival makes for compulsively addictive reading. 

Waverly and the other residents of the Empyrean are now facing life on-board the New Horizon spaceship and are struggling to adjust to being under the rule of the manipulative Anne Mathers.  Waverly, along with Kieran, are both being used as pawns by those that want to rule the ship and find themselves caught in the middle of a dangerous power struggle.  Each chapter is alternatively told from their point of view, along with Seth, who we last saw isolated and alone on the Empyrean.  Sick and in terrible trouble, Seth becomes a hunted fugitive as he seeks to stay alive.  Each character is well and truly tested to the limit in this final instalment, as life and death truly are both on the line.

Amy Kathleen Ryan doesn't take her foot off the peddle once as the action hurtles along at full speed.  I was totally absorbed and immersed in the world she's created and sad to reach the final page of what has been a rollercoaster adventure.  The whole trilogy has been full of excitement, explosive action and unexpected twists and turns with brilliant characters who have been faced with a series of impossible decisions to make.        

This book is a wonderful end to the series and I would never have guessed when reading the first book 'Glow' how everything was going to eventually work out.  Nothing was as I expected.  Tense and nerve-wracking, 'Flame' did justice to a tremendous story arc which never once failed to deliver.       

Friday, 24 January 2014

Review: Defy the Stars - Sophie McKenzie

Defy the Stars by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
After months apart, everyone thinks that River is successfully building a future without Flynn. Indeed, she has almost convinced herself that she is moving on. And then, one day, Flynn is back, bringing with him tales of his glamorous new life. River suspects his lucrative new work involves some form of criminal activity, but will she let herself be drawn back into Flynn's world? Or is this, finally, the end of the line for them both?


Review:
'Defy the Stars' the final instalment in the series about River and Flynn will, I feel, divide opinion among readers who have invested a lot in these two characters and their love story.  Having followed them and rooted for them all the way, Sophie McKenzie finally wraps up their epic romance but not necessarily in the way which will please everyone.  Flynn appears back in River's life after she's finally begun to get her life in order again but the crux of the book is whether or not they can ever get their happily ever after.   

Personally I was disappointed with the outcome of the story, as I had very different feelings about how I wanted things to be left.  However, although it may not have been the ending I would have wished for, I still think it was brilliantly written and extremely intense and moving.  I was totally gripped as events unfolded. 

This is quite a different book in the series, veering on the side of being a thriller which I thought made it even more exciting.  I read it in one sitting as I'm sure a lot of other readers will.  Flynn and River have both grown-up a lot and matured while they've been apart.  Flynn still seems to make some stupid choices at times but I could see that he had River's best intentions at heart which definitely endeared him to me.  Especially after losing faith with him in the previous book.     

'Defy the Stars' concludes a heart-breaking and emotional series of books about first love from one of my favourite British authors.  If you've yet to discover this series then I would recommend getting your hands on book one, 'Falling Fast' which introduces the young lovers for the first time.  

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Review: Roomies - Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando, published by Hodder on 2nd January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

Review:
I really, really enjoyed this book.  Far more than I originally thought I might.  It is in fact my first five star read of the year.  I can't wait to go back and pick it up again for another re-read.  'Roomies' is co-authored by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.  I've not read anything by either author before, although I will now be looking out for titles by them in the future.

The narrative is split in the book between Lauren and Elizabeth or EB as she's called, who are set to be college roommates.  There's a mix of first person narrative, as well as a series of emails between the two girls as they get to know one another before they officially meet in person and become fellow students.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of books which use emails as a communication device between characters.  However, it worked perfectly here and I really liked the flow of dialogue between the girls as they begin to open up and share their secrets and fears with each other. 

My favourite character in the book was Lauren and I loved her wonderful, crazy, big family of eight.  There were aspects of her character which I could personally identify with and I just enjoyed so much reading about her and her younger siblings and the amazing bond they have.  She and Elizabeth come from extremely different backgrounds and have contrasting home lives but often seem to envy what the other has.  I will admit that I actually had a little cry near the end when Lauren has to leave her family behind. 

'Roomies' is about moving onto that next big step, about becoming independent and progressing from childhood to adulthood.  It's also about leaving people, places and things behind and embracing the new.  These are all themes which I'm sure will resonate with young readers, as they will be facing many of these things themselves.  The story is a truthful and honest account of taking that step into the unknown and learning to embrace change as something positive, even when it can feel scary and frightening.  A brilliant read, I absolutely loved it!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Darkest Fear - Cate Tiernan

Darkest Fear by Cate Tiernan, published by Hodder on 9th January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Since she discovered the truth when she turned 13, Vivi Neves has rejected everything her parents hold dear - their heritage, culture, traditions, and especially their dark family secret. They are haguari - cat people, shapeshifters who turn into jaguars, as their ancestors have done for thousands of years.

Then, tragically, her parents are killed. Vivi can cling to her own beliefs and live her life the way she wants - or she can embrace her heritage and avenge her parents' deaths.

With danger closing in on her, her decision is forced... and she's pulled deeper into a mystery that gets darker and more dangerous. Finally, she must face her heritage... or die.


Review:
'Darkest Fear' is the first title in a brand new trilogy by author Cate Tiernan.  Having thoroughly enjoyed her Immortal Beloved series, I was psyched to hear that she had a new book out and couldn't wait to pick it up.  The story actually reminded me of Christine Feehan's Leopard People books (which I love) but for teens.

The majority of the action is set in New Orleans and features main character Vivi Neves, who is haguari.  She has the ability to shapeshift into a jaguar but is reluctant to embrace her family's heritage.  After a terrible event involving her parents, Vivi goes to live with her cousin Mateo and his girlfriend Aly and sets about trying to rebuild her life.    

The dramatic opening to the book immediately grabbed me and I flew through the next few chapters.  I was utterly engrossed as Vivi's whole world changes and she faces up a new future.  I loved the communal feel of Vivi's new home with her cousin and his housemates.  They may not all be related by blood but they share a common bond and they definitely feel like family.  There's no doubt that they have each others backs. 

Vivi's burgeoning romance with good-looking Rafael was another of my favourite things about the story and I can't wait to see how this progresses throughout the rest of the series.  There are definite sparks between the two of them and I would love to see more of their romance!

The only bit I wasn't too sure about were the scenes in the book when Vivi is in her jaguar form.  There's obviously and understandably no proper dialogue and instead her thoughts are conveyed as a stream of consciousness.  This took quite a bit of getting used to and I must admit I did prefer it when she was in her human form. 

Paranormal romance fans will love this opening instalment to the series which I heartily recommend.  'Darkest Night' the next book in the series will be published in September 2014.        

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Review: Red - Alison Cherry

Red by Alison Cherry, published by Quercus on 2nd January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Felicity lives in Scarletville, the world's only redhead sanctuary, where red hair is celebrated, protected - and the key to sucess.

But Felicity has a secret. A red hot secret. And if anyone finds out, she's finished.

Because Felicity's actually a natural blonde.

And in Scarletville, blondes need not apply.


Review:
I loved the premise for 'Red' because I've always wished that I had red hair!  The main character Felicity lives in Scarletville - the world's only redhead sanctuary.  Redheads in the town are admired.  They are envied.  They obtain everything they go after.  Felicity is Queen Bee at her school and a dead cert to win the local pageant.  She has everything she could ever want, except for one little problem...her hair colour isn't real. 

When I started this book, I thought it was going to be quite predictable.  Girls clawing their way up for their chance at popularity is something which comes up a lot in young adult novels.  However 'Red' was different and put a new spin on a common theme.  Felicity may appear to have it all and she may be dating the most popular guy in school but she isn't a mean girl and she genuinely cares about her friends.  She's actually a very good person who finally learns to stand up for herself and what she believes in.  She's always tried to conform to her mother's wishes because she knows how important it is to her that Felicity follow in her footsteps and win the pageant. Felicity however has other interests which she wants to pursue.  This says a lot about being your own person and not the person that your parents try to make you into.   

The theme of the story is about looking below the surface and seeing what is inside people rather than just what is projected on the outside.  There are several characters in the book who actually defy their stereotypical image and turn out to be quite different to my first impression of them.  One of these is Jonathan, who is a fellow student that works alongside Felicity on the school art show. 

There are a lot of issues to consider in 'Red' about the way in which society treats people because of the way they look and their appearance alone.  This is something which I think will appeal to teenager readers.  Debut author Alison Cherry has written an enormously enjoyable book and I hope to read more by her in the future. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Blog Tour: Find Me - Romily Bernard

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Romily Bernard's debut novel 'Find Me' which was recently published in the UK by Simon and Schuster.


Top Five Feisty Heroines
1.      I think every list of Feisty Heroines has to begin with Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, don’t you? Katniss is cold, deadly, and yet in the midst of the Hunger Games’ violence, she demonstrates far more humanity than any of the softer, kinder characters around her. Plus, she can shoot and climb trees and there’s the whole Peeta-Gale thing…wow, Peeta and Gale…where were we? Oh, yeah.

2.      Blue Sargent from The Raven Boys. Blue’s the only non-clairvoyant in a family of clairvoyants. Her biggest strength? Making other psychics stronger. She could have easily dissolved into a stand-by heroine, a girl who’s along for the ride, but Maggie Stiefvater makes her so much more. When Blue tells Gansey: “I’m not a thing. To have.”, she reminds readers and herself that she may make others stronger, but she’s still her own person. Blue’s strong enough all on her own.

3.      Hazel Grace from The Fault In Our Stars. She’s funny, sarcastic, and has zero desire to be anyone’s hero. Hazel isn’t afraid of confronting the ugly side of cancer. It’s the touchy-feely, “live your best life today” stuff that drives her around the bend. For me, that’s what 
      makes her a great heroine though. She calls things like she sees them—whether they’re horrible or wonderful.

4.      Elphaba from Wicked. Yep, that’s right. The Wicked Witch of the West is one of the most amazing, feisty, fantastic heroines I’ve ever read. I enjoyed the book. I adored the play. Elphaba understands what it’s like to be different and she champions characters that have been silenced. And, hey, who doesn’t love green?

5.      Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. I love Hermione, but then again who doesn’t? She’s crazy smart, will tell the boys to shove it, and understands the annoyance of hair product. Remember when she had to do that major potion to tame her curls and tangles before the dance? Yeah, you do. She rocks and she knows it.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Blog Tour: The Descent - Alma Katsu

I have a great guest post today from Alma Katsu, author of 'The Descent' which was published in the UK by Arrow on 2nd January.  I can't believe this wonderful series is finally over!

 
 
 
The Immortal Trilogy is the story of one woman’s long and difficult journey to understand the true meaning of the mysterious thing we call love. In The Descent, we come to the end of her story—or do we?
A Day in the Life of Lanore McIlvrae
Massive spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read The Descent yet, do not read on if you want to be surprised by the book’s ending.
A bit of time has passed since the events of The Descent. We’re still on the island, Adair and I. We’ve been joined by a fellow named Dante. If he were a woman you’d call him a maid of all work. I don’t know what the equivalent is for a man. He’s become indispensible here.
Usually we’re awake early on the island. Dante will get me up by seven a.m. if I’m not already awake, bringing in a tray with a bowl of cafĂ© au lait. Adair has usually been up for at least an hour by now and is downstairs, keeping the children occupied.
Yes, that’s the big surprise I have for you: we have two children now. A daughter, Isabella, three years old, and a son, Nym, who is about to turn one. Isabella takes after her father. She has his curly dark hair and green-gold eyes but more than that, she is like him in so many ways. A hellion, that one, and it’s more than a little fitting that a man who was such a horrible womanizer in his time should have a daughter. I wouldn’t say Nym takes after me as he is a real angel, my little man, and we all know that I am not. At the very least, he has my coloring and my blonde curls, though his are as soft as gossamer. I couldn’t believe it when I found out I was pregnant the first time, after so many years of thinking I would never have a child. It really is quite a miracle, when you think about it.
We’ve decided to stay in the fortress for now. I’ve reconciled myself to its mysterious tricks and resolved to keep a close eye on the children, not to let them go wandering. As far as staying on the island, well, it seems like a safe place to raise children as long as you teach them a healthy respect for the water. This is where Dante comes in handy as he’s nimble as a mountain goat and there’s no place the children can get to that he can’t follow them. I figure we’ll stay here a little while longer but eventually we’ll need to move to the mainland so the children can have a more normal upbringing.
Adair is a good father. He usually spends the entire morning with the children and, after lunch, leaves the rest of us to go to his study. Lately he’s been working on translations of the old tomes left behind by the previous occupant. Yes, those old books of occult philosophy, as Adair likes to call them. I imagine he wants to publish them someday.
The past four years have been quiet. Serene, almost. But you know, I can’t help worrying. Looking over my shoulder. It’s because of the island. What Adair had said is true: it’s the spot where this world and the underworld are at their closest. I can’t help worrying that the forces in the next world, the ones we put behind us at the end of The Descent, will come looking for Adair day. I’m afraid that they’ll want him back. The love of my life, the father of my children. I try not to think about it but after everything we went through in this house, I can’t put it out of my mind. And if that happened, I don’t know what I would do. I really don’t.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Review: Boys Don't Knit - T.S Easton

Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton, published by Hot Key Books on 1st January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Ben Fletcher must get to grips with his more 'feminine' side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets 'stuck in'. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates...and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him...



Review:
I loved 'Boys Don't Knit' by T.S. Easton.  It was the perfect book to start the new year with - fun, enjoyable and very, very entertaining!

The main character Ben Fletcher, discovers that he has a passion for knitting, after being put on probation for an accident involving a lollipop lady.  Of course, being a boy, he tries to keep this a secret, because he's worried what his friends and family will think of him if he reveals that he'd rather knit than go to watch a football match. 

The story is told in diary style instalments, as Ben tries to keep his friends and family happy, while also attempting to keep his new hobby top secret.  I really loved Ben.  He's such a sweet and good natured character.  He's slightly obsessive, often overly so, but it was refreshing to read about a teenage boy without lots of swearing and bad behaviour.  His friends may make some dubious choices at times, but they do have his back and come through for him when it really matters.  I think some male readers, may well also identify with the internal struggle he has over disappointing his Dad who doesn't think that boys should like anything other than football and cars.  Ben shows that you should always follow your own passions because you never know where they may lead. 

As I'm just learning to knit myself, I thoroughly enjoyed following Ben's knitting obsession as he knits and purls and develops his own unique designs.  He's an inspiration!   

This book was funny and humorous and I really enjoyed it.  Read more about Ben's adventures in the sequel 'An English Boy in New York' which is published later in the year. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Blog Tour: Helen Eve's soundtrack to Stella

Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for Helen Eve's debut novel 'Stella' which has recently been published in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books.  Having read this already, I can confirm that it's a delicious spin on the quest for popularity, set to appeal to fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.    



Helen has put together a fabulous guest post today featuring her own personal picks for a 'Stella' soundtrack.  Each song represents some of the characters in the book. 

STELLA soundtrack

Stella’s song – Fix Me, Nicola Roberts

Katrina’s song – My Dilemma, Selena Gomez

Song – Disco Love, The Saturdays

Mary-Ann’s song – Hands, Jewel

Lila’s song – Cherrybomb, The Runaways

Ruby’s song – Mean, Taylor Swift  

Caitlin’s song - Popular, Wicked 

Syrena’s song – Naughty, Matilda  

Siena’s song – Wild Horses, Cassi Compton
Jar of Hearts, Christina Perri
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v_4O44sfjM

Youth Group, Forever Young

Lovestoned, Justin Timberlake

The Stars’ theme

Swinging London Town, Girls Aloud
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTIlU9Dc170

Stella and Luke’s song

Unusual You, Britney Spears
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iR-ZKII-Ajw

Memorial

Breathe, Taylor Swift
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnXrfksTjZ8

As part of the blog tour you can also check out Wondrous Reads where Helen has created her dream cast list for Stella. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

Blog Tour: Review of Metawars 2.0: The Dead are Rising - Jeff Norton

Metawars 2.0: The Dead are Rising by Jeff Norton, published by Orchard Books on 1st November 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
The Changsphere offers a safe haven for the Uploaded, and with more processing power than the Southern Corner could ever offer, the Uploaded begin to grow, develop, and yearn to be alive again. With the Changsphere offering competition to the Metasphere, more and more avatars take up residency in it. But the Uploaded begin to prey on live avatars, infecting them, and their users, with their personalities and becoming reborn in the real world. The dead are rising.

Now reborn into the real world, the once dead avatars will not let anyone shut down the Changsphere - the source of their rebirth. Meanwhile, Jonah, Sam, and Axel struggle to keep the Metasphere safe from Granger's assault on the Western Corner, which is housed in the old subway lines under New York City. But Jonah struggles with whether they are doing the right thing: in fighting Granger, they face a more dangerous virtual world, where millions of Uploaded now roam freely, stalking users for their virtual avatars and their real bodies.



Review:
I found the first book in the Metawars series hugely exciting and full of drama and action, so I've been looking forward to catching up with the rest of the titles in this series.  The second instalment picks up the threads of the plot quickly, so I was plunged straight back into the action.  It didn't take me long either to familiarise myself again with all the characters, which I sometimes find is a problem when there's a long gap between reading the books in a series.

Jonah is spending a lot of time in the Changsphere, but begins to suspect that the Uploaded may not be quite as they seem.  They hunger for real life and soon realise that through avatars they can have the existence that they long for.  As usual it's up to Jonah to try to stop things from spiralling dangerously out of control.  He is a great main character.  He's tough and brave and determined and always tries to do the right thing even when his decisions may not always turn out as expected. I think male readers in particular will really identify with Jonah and will enjoy seeing him mature throughout the rest of the series, as he faces some tough moral dilemmas. 

There are lots of twists and turns in 'The Dead are Rising' which kept me gripped from the first chapter onwards.  Jeff Norton never takes his foot off the pedal as Jonah, Sam and the Guardians do everything they can to protect the Metasphere.  If you're looking for a fast-paced thriller with a sci-fi twist then this is the series to try.   

Although at times I got slightly confused with some of the terminology in the book, I think teenagers will love all of that, as well as some of the themes which are touched upon such as human rights and the dangers of technology.    

This is one series to jump right into and will appeal hugely to both a male and female readership looking for adventure and excitement. 
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