About Me

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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.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Review: The Madness - Alison Rattle

The Madness by Alison Rattle, published by Hot Key Books on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Marnie lives in the idyllic coastal village of Clevedon. Despite being crippled by a childhood exposure to polio, she seems set to follow in her mother's footsteps, and become a 'dipper', escorting fragile female bathers into the sea. Her life is simple and safe. But then she meets Noah. Charming, handsome, son-of-the-local-Lord, Noah. She quickly develops a passion for him - a passion which consumes her.

As Marnie's infatuation turns to fixation she starts to lose her grip on reality, and a harrowing and dangerous obsession develops that seems certain to end in tragedy.



Review:
This is the first book I've read by Alison Rattle and I found it a superb example of historical fiction which brilliantly conjures up a sense of the place and time of the story.  It's set in the year 1868 in the seaside town of Clevedon.  I love reading about the Victorian era and it was a nice change of pace from a lot of the more contemporary books I've read lately. 

The main character Marnie has been crippled by polio and walks with the aid of a stick.  She has been taught by her Ma to love the sea and she feels most at home and in her own skin when she's slipping between the waves, free and alone.  Her Ma is a dipper which was fascinating to read about.  Well to do ladies come to be dipped into the sea to improve their health at the recommendations of their doctors and it's Marnie's mother who runs a fairly successful business doing exactly this. 

Marnie's story is interspersed with journal entries from Noah de Clevedon, who is temporarily staying in Clevedon, so that his mother can be near the sea and improve her health.  Marnie soon becomes infatuated with Noah but his journal reveals that he sees Marnie as nothing more than a way to have some fun and pass the time.  She is an amusement to him but her feelings for Noah run far deeper.

I felt sorry for Marnie but I have to admit that I never really liked her.  She's involved in a tragic event at the start of the book and almost from this point onwards I found that I couldn't give her my complete sympathy.  She begins to spiral out of control when her fixation with Noah takes over her life.  I thought Alison Rattle did a brilliant job of depicting the gradual deterioration of Marnie's senses but I still wasn't sure about the extent to which she was willing to go in her pursuit of Noah. 

'The Madness' was an interesting read with lots of lovely details of the period.  This will appear to readers who like psychological dramas, as well as historical fiction. 


Friday, 28 March 2014

Blog tour: Union Trilogy - Joe Kipling

Thanks to Samantha for inviting me onto her blog to discuss my journey to publication and to offer tips to any aspiring writers out there.

My debut novel “Blinded by the Light”, a young adult dystopian novel was published in October 2013 by Cillian Press, a Manchester based publishing company. The events in the book take place in the near future, 20 years after a virus has decimated the population of the UK. The story follows MaryAnn; an Alpha, born into a life of privilege and entitlement in a city protected by a boundary fence. She worries about the small things: her popularity, being seen at the right parties, having the right boyfriend and wearing the right clothes. These are the things that matter to her friends so they’re important to her too. Through a life changing event she’s forced to face up to reality of the world that she lives in and to question the foundations of the Neighbourhood that she was born into.

 

The book was the product of many hours spent hunched over my laptop at airports, train stations and in taxis while I travelled for my work as a business consultant. When I first came up with the idea for the book three years ago I never imagined that it would be accepted by a publisher. I submitted it to Cillian Press for review and fully expected that it would disappear into the ether of their slush pile. To my delight (and slight astonishment) they accepted my manuscript and this started my journey towards publication.

It was a fantastic experience working with Cillian Press. They claim to operate as a partnership with the author, and I can testify that they hold true to this claim. I was consulted at every stage of the publication process and involved in any key decision-making. Not only did this satisfy the obsessive-compulsive project manager in me, but it gave me a great insight into the publishing world. I feel that I’ve learnt so much over the last year; not just as a writer but as someone new to the world of publishing. I also feel that my skills and experience working as a business consultant helped me navigate the publishing world as a debut author. I thought that it might be useful to share some of these business insights with all of you.

Networking is a key feature of the business world, but I think it’s also essential for writers to build up a network too. I see lots of writers on social media platforms such as Twitter, churning out tweets that are just a variation of ‘buy my book.’ I’m not sure how effective this is as a sales technique, but in my experience people don’t want to feel like they’re being sold too. Instead they want to feel engaged. The best salespeople are those people who build up relationships based on respect and a trust in their product. Your story is your product, so make sure you market and sell it wisely.

Take responsibility for your work. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, resources are often limited. Smaller publishers in particular, work on very tight margins so you’ll often be expected to do a lot of the marketing work yourself. Be prepared for this. Learn about the marketing process, what works and what doesn’t. Create a plan. You publisher will often be involved in launching a number of books simultaneously, but you have your own book and your own personal best interests at heart. Don’t sit back and wait for something to happen, actively seek out opportunities.

Be a professional and keep your good reputation. I’ve recently read a number of blogs about author professionalism. Some of them discuss instances were authors have reacted badly to reviews etc. Obviously it hurts to get a bad review or for someone to criticize your work, but similar to the business world, a writer’s reputation can be ruined with a few misplaced words. It’s a small industry and word can spread pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s better just to walk away. I have a writer friend who once advised me after receiving a bad review, to choose a couple of my favourite authors and read their 1 star reviews. What I discovered is that there are actually people out there who don’t like John Green! Yes, it shocked me as well, but there’s no accounting for taste.

 It’s also important to remember that, similar to many writers who are juggling full time jobs, family commitments and a writing career, book bloggers and reviewers are in the same situation. I always feel that there is a symbiotic relationship between the blogging/review community and writers. It’s in our best interests to treat them well and to have realistic expectations about the amount of time it takes to read and review a book.

Have a contingency plan. Again this doesn’t fit in with the romantic image of the published author, but the sad truth is that it’s hard for debut authors to make enough money from their book to make a full time living (. . . ,unless this involves pitching a tent in field and foraging for wild foods.) For every JK Rowling, there are thousands of authors trying to scrape a living on earnings that are often less than the minimum wage. Its good if you have other skills that you can utilise too. I’m lucky that I have a day job that I really like. For me it makes it easier to tap into my creativity if I know that I have enough money to buy food and pay the mortgage (plus I get a bit agitated if I’m hungry, which isn’t conducive to good writing.). 

While I love the creative process of writing, I think my business background has really helped me both as an aspiring writer and a published author. I appreciate it’s not particularly romantic to talk about business and writing in the same context, but they really can complement each other and I think I’ve benefitted from bringing some business acumen to my writing. Obviously you don’t need to have experience in business to do well as a writer, but the great thing about writing is that it’s so versatile that you can compliment it with any other skills that you my have and build on your own experiences.




Blinded by the Light is available on Amazon as an eBook: http://amzn.to/15Yb3NZ or Paperback: http://amzn.to/1bHnXVw

You can also win a copy of the book by visiting: http://totalteenfiction.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Review: Brooklyn Girls; Angie - Gemma Burgess

Brooklyn Girls: Angie by Gemma Burgess, published by Quercus on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Angie James is lost.

A regular poster girl for Generation Screwed, being 22 isn’t what she expected.

What happens when having fun isn’t, you know, fun?

In the Brooklyn townhouse she shares with her best friends, Angie wants to figure out what to do with her life. But wild parties, bad dates, dead-end jobs, demanding fashionistas and even true love just keep getting in the way…

Who knew adulthood would be so damn grown-up?


Review:
This is the second book in the series about friends living in Brooklyn, New York,  trying to have fun and find romance, while at the same time attempting to find their own individual future paths.  This story centres around Pia's best friend Angie, who is about to turn 23 and realises that her life is a mess.  She's single and unemployed, her parents are getting a divorce and she can't seem to leave her wild child days behind her, even though for the most part she's unhappy and spiralling out of control.

I really liked Pia in the last book and I knew that I was always going to struggle with Angie because her personality is so different.  She gets herself into some extremely bad situations and although she does try hard to turn her life around, I thought that she was very lucky to have some things just fall into her lap at the right time.  Underneath her tough outer exterior, which is all swearing and sex, she does want to have a purpose in life and she does want to make a success of herself, but it takes her a long time to get to that point. 

A positive influence in her life is Sam, the mysterious boat boy who she just seems to click with.  The romance between them is a bit of a slow burner which I liked but I couldn't help but wonder why she took such a long time to open her eyes and wake up to her true feelings for him.  The thing I love about this series is that although there's romance, this takes a backseat to the friendship between all the girls at Rookhaven.  As much as I liked seeing Angie and Sam together, I also enjoyed seeing a new friendship blossom between Angie and Julia, who realise that they actually get on really well. 

The setting for this series is brilliant and I like following the girls as they try to carve out careers for themselves, against the backdrop of New York.  A quick and fun read, although Angie wasn't my favourite of characters, I am looking forward to the next instalment in the series which focuses on Coco, who I've always liked.       

Monday, 24 March 2014

Far From You - Tess Sharpe giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone that entered my UK giveaway to win a copy of 'Far From You' by Tess Sharpe.  This is one amazing book and if you haven't read it yet then you are in for a real treat!


I'm pleased to announce that the lucky winner is:
#  Sam S
 
Congratulations!  You will be receiving an email from me shortly requesting your postal details. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Review: Cress - Marissa Meyer

Cress by Marissa Meyer, published by Puffin on 6th February 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.


Review:
I love this series so much!  It's original, inventive, quirky, exciting and gripping and I adore Marissa Meyer's writing.  The whole concept for the series is unlike anything else I've come across before and starting each new book is such a treat that I always want to savour it as much as possible.  The only problem is that as soon as I've picked up one of Meyer's books, it's utterly impossible to put it down.  Case in point, 'Cress' which took over my life completely once I'd started it.  I couldn't concentrate on anything else apart from the story.

The third book in the Lunar Chronicles is loosely based on the fairy-tale of 'Rapunzel'.  I say loosely because as far as I can remember, Rapunzel was never stuck in a satellite for seven years orbiting the planet earth.  Cress has spent so long on her own that she has almost given up any hope of anyone coming to rescue her.  When she becomes embroiled in Cinder's quest to stop Queen Levana and sabotage her planned marriage, she is thrown into a whole new adventure with the dashing Captain Thorne by her side, but life on earth doesn't always turn out to be what she dreamt about during all those years alone.  I really loved Cress as a main character.  She can be quite timid and shy but I thought that only made some of her actions all the more impressive.  She demonstrates incredible bravery and strength throughout the story and I adored her relationship with Thorne, who she's in love with before they've even met. 

The character viewpoint in the book is split predominantly between Cinder and Cress but also occasionally touches on Scarlet and Dr Erland.  This allows the reader to hurtle between our favourite heroines as they strive to defeat the evil Queen Levana.  I was sad not to see more of Scarlet and Wolf together, because I love them, but I'm fairly sure we'll get to share more of their story in the last book in the series.  One of the things I enjoy about these books, is the way that all the characters intersect with each other.  This is cleverly done and means that there's a whole host of new faces to meet, as well as some beloved favourites to revisit.   

'Cress' weaves fantasy together with adventure and romance to create a thrilling story which gripped me from start to finish.  I thought the book was absolutely amazing and brilliantly constructed and I loved every second of it.  I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen in the concluding instalment of the series, 'Winter' but I really don't want the ride to ever come to an end.  This series is so, so good that you'll keep going back to pick these books up from your shelves to read over and over again.         

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Blog Tour: Just Like Fate - Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young

Today I'm co-hosting a stop on the blog tour for 'Just Like Fate' by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young which was published by Electric Monkey on 6th March.  You can also check out this post on Book Angel Booktopia



1.) Was Electric Freakshow based on a real band?

S-Early on, Cat and I knew we wanted to make Electric Freakshow as real as possible. Some of my students even made fake album covers and band T-shirts! Even though I knew which other bands they sounded like, I never pictured them as anyone else. Totally original.

C- We did manage to talk a real, Seattle-based band called The Social Fantastic into writing the music and producing/recording a version of the song for use in our US book trailer. It’s available for purchase on iTunes, as well.

2.) Who wrote the lyrics of Magnets for Fate?

S-I'm terrible at lyrics. I wrote a quick, awful draft of the song and Cat turned it into the masterpiece you see in the book.

C- Suzanne Young is a liar. She’s great at lyrics! Yes, it was definitely a collaboration, and we’re incredibly happy with how they turned out.

3.) What’s the most memorable live music experience you’ve ever had?

C- That’s a toss-up between seeing Arcade Fire at the outdoor Greek Theater in Berkeley, California on a warm summer evening, and seeing an intimate, acoustic Band of Horses performance at one of the loveliest theaters in Seattle, Washington on a cold, rainy night.

S-Oh, hm... When I lived in Portland, Oregon I went to an amazing jazz festival by the water. Live music, street food, handmade crafts? What could be better?

4.) Do you have particular songs that you’re listening to if you’re feeling happy or sad?

S-I listen to a lot of older songs. One of my favorites to listen to if I want to feel better is Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle". It reminds me that life can get better. The rest of my playlist is a lot of really dark and depressing stuff. I find it inspiring to write with them in the background.

C- You’re inspired by dark and depressing stuff?

S- Kind-of, yeah.

C- I get it: That’s very you. There’s a song by Metric called “Sick Muse” that I like to blast in my car on a warm day. At the moment, though, I can’t stop listening to The National’s High Violet record. Those songs are like a mood ring: They reflect and amplify however you’re already feeling.


 
The lovely people at Egmont are also giving you a chance to win a copy of 'Just Like Fate' today on Twitter.  To be in with a chance, check out @EgmontUK today. 


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review: Just Like Fate - Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young

Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, published by Electric Monkey on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Caroline is at a crossroads. Her whole family is on her back, and her grandmother, the only person who really understands her, is sick, maybe dying. All she wants to do is escape. So when her best friend suggests a night out to forget her troubles, Caroline must choose: stay by her grandmother's side, or go to the party and live her life . . . and maybe meet the boy of her dreams.

This decision will split Caroline's fate into two separate paths - and she's about to live them both. But there can only be one happy ending...



Review:
I'm a massive fan of Cat Patrick and I've loved all of her previous books, so I jumped at the chance to read 'Just Like Fate' which is co-authored with Suzanne Young.  The story adopts a really interesting sliding doors type scenario, focusing on the main character, teenager Caroline, who has to decide at the start of the book, whether or not to stay with her dying grandmother or go to a party with her best-friend.

The idea of having alternating chapters showing what happens when she goes or stays, was an interesting narrative device.  It enables Patrick and Young to present both sides of the story and to leave it up to the reader to decide what course of action they would have taken.  Both stories are cleverly depicted and flow nicely, so it never feels in any way disjointed. 

Both paths that Caroline potentially follows have their ups and downs.  She has a fractured relationship with her divorced parents and a difficult sibling bond with her older sister.  Family is a big theme in the book and I thought all the issues that Caroline has to face in terms of finding her own place in her various family units, were dealt with really well.  There's also romance in her future.  In one half of the story, she finally starts seeing the boy she's been mad about since they were children and in the other, she meets a college guy who is smart and funny and makes her feel wanted.  I know which boy I preferred but Caroline has to work through her feelings for both before she can begin to build a proper relationship with one of them.  I must admit that the romance aspect of the story was a bit of a slow burner for me and at times, I just didn't feel any real sparks between the characters.  However it did pick up a bit in the second half of the book and by the end I was really rooting for one particular couple.    

The story is largely about fate itself and philosophises about the choices that we make throughout our lives.  There isn't always a 'right' choice but the decisions we make shape and change us as people and the lessons we learn stand us in good stead for the future. 

This was a great contemporary YA read and will particularly appeal to readers who like the idea of parallel lives.  Although it didn't quite reach the heights of Cat Patrick's previous books, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and at the same time have discovered a new author in the shape of Suzanne Young. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Blog Tour - Maybe Someday - Colleen Hoover

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, published by Simon and Schuster on 18th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Sydney is living in an idyllic bubble - she's a dedicated student with a steady job on the side. She lives with her best friend, has a great boyfriend, and the music coming from the balcony opposite hers is fast becoming the soundtrack to her life. But when Sydney finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, the bubble bursts. The mysterious and attractive man behind the music, Ridge, gives Sydney hope that she can move on and they begin to write songs together. But moving on is harder than she expects, Sydney can only hope…. Maybe someday…


Review:
It's hard to believe but 'Maybe Someday' is my very first Colleen Hoover book.  I don't know how I've managed to go so long without picking up one of her novels but now that I have, I will definitely be tracking the rest of them down immediately.  I'd heard such great things about her stories and now that I've experienced one first-hand, I just know that I'm going to love them all.

I have to start this review off by commenting on the fact that this book has the most beautiful cover art.  The colours are gorgeous and very spring-like and if I hadn't been offered this one for review, then there's no doubt that this would have caught my eye in my local bookshop.  It's so, so pretty!

The story itself centres on Sydney, who has just found out that her boyfriend of two years has cheated on her.  With her life spiralling out of control, she ends up living with her neighbour Ridge, a gorgeous musician that she's previously only seen from her balcony when she's listened to him play his guitar.  Sydney and Ridge begin to write songs together and soon find that they are attune to each other in so many different ways.  It doesn't take long before they have grown extremely close but the only problem is that Ridge already has a girlfriend.

At the start I wasn't sure if I was going to like the cheating aspect of the story but Colleen Hoover handles it perfectly so if you feel the same don't let this put you off.  I really liked Ridge's girlfriend Maggie and I actually liked her before she'd even physically appeared in the book.  When I finally saw her and Ridge together in the flesh then I was convinced that they made the perfect couple, until their relationship is examined in more detail.  Sydney grew on me throughout the book and I admired the way in which she always tried to do the right thing, even if her attraction to Ridge only kept on growing stronger and stronger. 

The book very uniquely blends the story and the music together.  If you scan the QR code in the front of the book then you can actually listen to the songs sung by musician Griffin Peterson.  This adds another layer to the plot and creates a real emotional connection between the reader and the characters. 

'Maybe Someday' is a really moving, emotional and heart wrenching book which throws up lots of questions about love and life.  I thought it was an utterly gorgeous read and I'm now looking forward immensely to working my way through the rest of Colleen Hoover's back catalogue.    

Friday, 14 March 2014

Trailer: Maybe Someday - Colleen Hoover

Check out this awesome fan made trailer for 'Maybe Someday' by Colleen Hoover. 

Sydney is living in an idyllic bubble - she's a dedicated student with a steady job on the side. She lives with her best friend, has a great boyfriend, and the music coming from the balcony opposite hers is fast becoming the soundtrack to her life. But when Sydney finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, the bubble bursts. The mysterious and attractive man behind the music, Ridge, gives Sydney hope that she can move on and they begin to write songs together. But moving on is harder than she expects, Sydney can only hope…. Maybe someday…



I'm taking part in the blog tour for this book, so be sure to check back on Monday when I'll be sharing my review.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Blog Tour: Far From You - Tess Sharpe

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour countdown for Tess Sharpe's debut novel 'Far From You', which will be published by Indigo on 27th March. 


Goodreads synopsis:
Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That's how long recovering addict Sophie's been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer - but can she track them down before they come for her?




Review:
'Far From You' is an incredible and stunning debut novel from author Tess Sharpe which held me enthralled from start to finish.  I picked this up when I was off sick from work and spent the most enjoyable couple of hours curled up on the sofa, with my nose literally buried between the pages and my attention absolutely riveted on the characters and their stories.  I would not hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone, both teen and adult readers alike, because it's so good it would be a shame not to share it with everyone. 

I was completely magnetised by Sophie's story as she attempts to find her best friend Mina's killer.  She's not the most reliable narrator because she is a recovering drug addict whose word is often doubted and questioned, but as we learn more about her, it seems certain that she can be trusted and that she is the only one that can fathom what really happened to Mina and why. 

The story is told from three different time frames, which sounds complicated but really isn't.  The plot was so seamlessly put together that it didn't feel like the narrative was jumping around too much.  Everything slotted into place perfectly and was easy for the reader to follow.  We see present day Sophie struggling to come to terms with the loss of her best friend but then the narrative also takes us back to events preceding the murder which helped in gathering clues about the mystery.

I loved the process of trying to put all the pieces together while reading.  My suspicions jumped around quite a bit and there were several characters that I didn't fully trust but at no point did I guess who was actually responsible.  The book was so intricately plotted that the killer's identity remained a secret to me until the very end.  That for me is a sure sign of a good book!    

Tess Sharpe's incredible writing stirred up lots of strong emotions for me.  I felt a real link to Sophie and I was very emotionally invested in what happened to her.  She has to face a lot and yet she still manages to overcome some big challenges which anyone else may have shied away from.  She's a fantastic main character and although she has her flaws, she never gives up and always sticks to her guns. 

'Far From You' was a real treat to read.  It shows the unquenchable desire of first love as well as presenting an intriguing mystery with lots of twists and turns.  It's one of those books which is sure to cement itself into the hearts of readers everywhere.   


To celebrate the paperback release of 'Far From You', I have a copy of the book to giveaway courtesy of Indigo.  This giveaway is only open to entrants within the UK by request of the publisher.  To enter just fill out the form below.

Giveaway rules.
  • There will be one winner.
  • 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 - especially the required details.
  • You do not have to be a follower to enter.
  • Deadline for entries will be on 23rd March.
  • 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, 7 March 2014

Review: Sleuth or Dare - Robin Benway

Sleuth or Dare by Robin Benway, published by Simon and Schuster on 27th February 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Being permanently based in a local New York City high school as an undercover operative has its moments, good and bad, for 16-year-old safecracker Maggie Silver.

Pros: More quality time with her former mark-turned-boyfriend Jesse Oliver and insanely cool best friend, Roux. Getting to spend quality time with her semi-retired and international spy honorary uncle, Angelo.

Cons: High school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations.

But when Maggie's parents are falsely accused of stealing priceless gold coins, Maggie uses her safecracking skills to try and clear their names. Too bad it only serves to bring the wrath of the now corrupt Collective down on all of them. Can Maggie and her "new team" defeat their former allies?



Review:
'Sleuth or Dare' was fantastic and such a fun read.  The second book about Maggie Silver, teenage safecracker and spy, sees her becoming embroiled in a new case which her parents can't help with.  Luckily she has best friend Roux and boyfriend Jesse by her side, as she sets out to prove that her parents didn't steal evidence from the Collective. 

Maggie loves the new people in her life but she's getting bored of nothing exciting ever happening.  Being a spy is in her blood and she misses the danger and adventure that she used to experience on a regular basis.  When trouble comes knocking, she is torn between keeping Jesse and Roux safe and letting them in on her secrets so that they can help her.  Although she is dealing with life and death situations, she also has normal teenage problems to deal with, such as her friend being bullied and her boyfriend wanting her to get to know his family a little better.  If anyone can handle it all though, it's Maggie. 

The story takes on an international slant, when the action moves to Paris.  It was fun to get to know some new characters, such as Ames, Elodie and Ryo and it will be interesting to see if they crop up again in later books in the series.  Ames was a particular favourite of mine and I loved the fact that he and Roux immediately clicked.  Roux deserves somebody special of her own and I think she's finally found that person in Ames. 

Robin Benway is onto a winner with this series.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading about Maggie and her life.  This book was fast-paced and exciting with plenty of romance and adventure to keep me gripped and I absolutely loved it.   

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Review: Incinerator - Niall Leonard

Incinerator by Niall Leonard, published by Corgi on 30th January 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
London ganglord The Guvnor is in hiding, and Finn Maguire has begun a new life running a boxing gym with his old friend and coach Delroy. But when Finn's lawyer Nicky Hale vanishes overnight with all his money, Finn finds himself in hock to a loan shark with a vicious gang of enforcers. Desperate to track down Nicky and repay his debts, Finn investigates her other clients and soon finds himself engulfed in a web of lies, betrayal, malice and madness, with only his wits and his fists to keep him alive.


Review:
This is the second book in Niall Leonard's YA series about Finn Maguire.  He now co-owns a gym with his friend Delroy and is trying to get his life in order with the help of the money left to him after the deaths of his parents.  Following a nasty encounter with a loan shark, Finn agrees to pay off a debt but finds himself in further trouble when his lawyer Nicky appears to have absconded with the contents of his bank account.  He sets out to investigate her disappearance but things aren't what they seem on the surface and he looks like getting in over his head.

Everyone in the story seems to have a secret or something they want to keep hidden but Finn is determined to leave no stone unturned in his hunt for the truth about Nicky and in his quest to keep Delroy and his wife safe.  Finn is a great central character.  He's had a lot of problems in the past and has been mixed up with some really dangerous people but although he may have made some wrong choices he's very street savvy and isn't someone to back down from a fight.  He won't be pushed around by anyone but has tried really hard to get his life together even with things always seemingly conspiring against him. 

There are some surprising twists in the story which I never saw coming and I had no idea what was going to happen until events unfolded.  The ending was also brilliant and left things on a tense cliffhanger which sets things up nicely for the next book in the series but doesn't bode well for Finn.

'Incinerator' is even darker than 'Crusher'.  There's lashings of blood and beatings and some bits are pretty grim for a YA book.  This is a crime thriller which will keep you on your toes and have you continually looking over your shoulder.  Niall Leonard has definitely conquered this corner of the market with his unique blend of gritty drama and suspense.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Review: Tribute - Ellen Renner

Tribute by Ellen Renner, published by Hot Key Books on 6th March 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Zara is a mage, one of the elite in a world where magic is power, and the non-magic majority live as slaves. When her slave child best friend is killed for the crime of literacy, Zara seeks revenge by spying for the rebel Knowledge Seekers. She finds her bravery and magical skill tested to the limit when a young Maker, Aidan, is taken hostage in a bid for supposed peace. Surprised by first love, she promises to help him. But before Zara can keep her promise, her secret is discovered. Hunted by her own, she seeks refuge with the Knowledge Seekers. But when you can kill with a thought, can you ever be trusted?


Review:
Tribute’ was a really unusual read but rest assured, it was unusual in a good way.  Steeped in fantasy, Ellen Renner has created a fascinating fantasy world unlike anything else I’ve come across before.  It took me a little while to become accustomed to some of the words and phrases used in the book but there’s a useful glossary in the back pages which definitely helped.  About a third of the way through it all started to click and come together for me and that’s when the story really started to take off.
 
The central character, Zara, is a Mage.  She is part of a society of people who have magic and can control the elements through telekinesis.  They also have the ability to will their mind into the bodies of animals and birds which they can then seize control of.  Zara’s father is one of the most powerful Mage’s alive but she has never forgiven him for taking away one of the few people she’s ever loved.  In spying for the Knowledge Seekers she hopes to right the wrongs done against the non-magical society, who have been enslaved and are at the will of the Mage population.
 
I instantly liked Zara as soon as she was introduced.  She thinks differently about things to everyone else and she’s willing to stand up and fight for what she believes in.  She really grew in character throughout the book and I admired her for many of the tough decisions she has to make.
 
I found all the different factions in the book absolutely fascinating.  As well as those who have magic, there are the rebel Knowledge Seekers and the Makers who live on the other side of the Wall.  They are fighting a continual war against the Mages and are determined to protect their community whatever the cost. 
 
Ellen Renner’s writing made the characters and their world really come alive.  I was immersed in the story and on tenterhooks for most of the last part of the book.  ‘Tribute’ is a brilliant start to the series which is set to continue in August 2014 with ‘Outcaste’.  
 
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