Monday 31 January 2011

Review: Glee: The Beginning - Sophia Lowell

Glee: The Beginning by Sophia Lowell, published by Headline on 5th August 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
Get more of your favorite characters in this official Glee prequel!
All great performances deserve a warm-up! Enroll early at McKinley High--before New Directions was even a glimmer in Mr. Schuester's eye. When did Rachel first decide Finn was more than just a jock? When did Puck and Quinn start their secret romance? And how did the fledgling Glee Club function without a fearless leader? Hint: It wasn't exactly a perfect melody.
Break out the gold stars and refill the slushies: It's time to find out what happened to all your favorite characters before the show-mance began.

All you Gleeks out there (of which, yes, I am one!) will love this book which is a prequel to the phenomenal smash-hit TV show.  There's a danger with TV tie-ins that they won't capture the spirit and enjoyment of the show itself but there's no need to worry about that here because Sophia Lowell has done a tremendous job of transferring the essence of Glee into the written word. 

I had fun finding out about all my favourite characters before they formed 'New Directions' with Mr Schuester, their Spanish teacher at McKinley High.  We get to see Rachel joining Glee Club and determining to become a big star; the beginning of the love triangle between Finn, Quinn and Puck (which was touched upon in the TV series but never gone into in any depth); Tina and Artie's blossoming relationship and the close friendship between Mercedes and Kurt.  I loved the story and I liked the fact that it actually added a lot of insight into all the characters.  I got to understand more about Rachel's fear of being stuck in a small town which fails to recognise her talents and Tina's lack of social skills which have left her always sitting on the sidelines and the Glee kids desire just to try and fit in somewhere during the rocky ride which is high school.

This is a fun and fabulous read which left me with a big smile on my face when I'd finished.  Although, as others have pointed out, there were a couple of things which didn't match up with the TV show, I really didn't care and it didn't spoil my enjoyment of a fantastic book.

Even if you've never watched Glee before (and if you haven't then you really should!), I guarantee that you'll enjoy this book.  The second book in the series, 'Glee: Foreign Exchange', is published by Headline in February 2011.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Review: Bloodline - Kate Cary

Bloodline by Kate Cary, published by Egmont Books on 4th October 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
Thirty-five years have passed since the death of the Master. But now a new evil walks among the living. . . .
When nineteen-year-old John Shaw returns from the trenches of World War I, he is haunted by nightmares—not only of the battlefield, but of the strange, cruel and impossible feats of his regiment's commander, Quincey Harker. Harker's ferocity knows no limits, and his strength is superhuman.
At first John blames his bloody nightmares on trench fever. But when Harker appears in England and begins wooing John's sister, John must confront the truth—and stop Harker from continuing Dracula's bloodline.

'Bloodline' is an inventive sequel to the original Bram Stoker's Dracula.  The story takes place many years after the events that led to the downfall of Dracula - events that left, however, his bloodline intact.

Quincey Harker is a captain leading a band of men during the war.  John Shaw is one of his lieutenants, who witnesses the atrocious nighttime exploits of his captain and who returns to England to convalesce and recover from his injuries, haunted by what he's seen.  Mary Seward is the daughter of Dr. Seward (from the original novel) and is in charge of helping John to return to good health.  As she nurses him she falls in love but soon comes across his journal where she discovers the full depth of his torment.  As Harker's relationship with John's sister Lily deepens, it's up to John and Mary to save her from a great evil.

I first read the original Dracula a few years ago but I could still remember enough to piece together the important parts of the story that were woven together with 'Bloodline'.  The latter is an imaginative and intriguing take on a classic novel that's influenced a whole genre of books.  I don't think it really matters if you haven't read Dracula itself although it's interesting to pick up the thread of the story and follow a new generation of characters.  It also meant that I had a real sense of foreboding throughout the book and I was sat there reading and waiting for something terrible to happen!   

The narrative alternates between the four main protagonists and is told through their thoughts, letters and journals.  This gave valuable insight into their thoughts, feelings and emotions and helped to create three dimensional characters that seemed vividly real.  It also meant that it was difficult sometimes to know where my sympathies lay because not everything was as black and white as it first seemed.  My preconceptions were often turned completely upside down.

If I'm nitpicking, the only thing that didn't necessarily gel for me was the conclusion of the story.  It seemed (without giving anything away) that it didn't work so well with some of the elements of the original novel.  I didn't completely like the direction which it took at the end, although I think it has set things up nicely for the sequel.  That aside, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book and finished it in one sitting as the story drew me in and continually left me on a knife-edge at the end of each chapter.  The mystery and suspense was drawn out well, particularly in the latter half of the book, until I was on the edge of my seat and desperate to know how it was all going to end. 

The sequel 'Reckoning' is published by Egmont Books in February 2011 and sounds awesome. 

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #14

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 
Huntress by Malinda Lo
Published by Little Brown Books on 5th April 2011
Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Taninli, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

This is the prequel to Malinda Lo's debut novel 'Ash' which I read last year and loved.  I'm so excited about this one that I can hardly wait.  It sounds amazing, it has a stunning cover and is described as 'overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details', which definitely appeals to me because I love stories based in and around China.  April seems such a long way off!

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Review: Goldseekers - Jane Johnson

Goldseekers by Jane Johnson, published by Scholastic on March 7th 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
In 17th century Cornwall, Jude's mother was called a witch. Her son is a 'finder' with a rare and strange power. He can sense the presence of gold wherever it is hidden. But Jude's talent is dangerous - especially when he leaves his childhood home after his parents' sudden deaths. Captured by a sinister, one-eyed sea-captain, he is plunged into terrifying magical adventures on the magnificent and mysterious Cornish coast. Battling Barbary pirates, slave-stealers and an evil telepathic cat, he is befriended by a family of gold-hungry djinns, doomed to dwell for eternity among the legions of the damned unless he agrees to save them.

This book is described as 'Moonfleet meets Treasure Island meets The Arabian Nights'.  When I read that it certainly piqued by interest and got me bumping this up my TBR list as soon as it arrived.  The description is apt because it contains some elements of all three but is also an original and fresh take on the historical fantasy genre.

'Goldseekers' is a really exciting adventure story, combining magic and fantasy with elements of reality.  When Jude Lanyon is orphaned at the age of twelve, he has no idea what his future has in-store for him and no way to predict the intrigue, mayhem and adventure that awaits him.  He becomes embroiled in one calamity after another but he's brave and courageous and quick-witted.  He also has a special gift - to sense and find gold, which sets him apart from the rest and it's this special talent which may just save him in his time of need. 

I loved the character of Jude and I adored his little kitten Byasen, who he's able to communicate with through thoughts alone.  Imagine being able to communicate with your pet!  I expect a lot of people would like to have that particular talent!  Jude is an appealing and likeable hero that leads the reader on a rollickingly good ride with surprises around every corner.  There are pirates, sea captains, djinns and talking cats - what more could you want!

Although this would probably appeal to slightly younger readers, it's still an immensely enjoyable and fun story for adults and children alike.  It's not published until 3rd March but I'd recommend grabbing a copy when you see it.

Thanks to the publisher for sending this one for review.

Monday 24 January 2011

Review: The Memory Cage - Ruth Eastham

The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham, published by Scholastic on 3rd January 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Alex's Grandfather keeps forgetting things. Desperate to help him remember, Alex starts collecting old photographs. Bust as Alex digs into his grandfather's past, he stumbles across secrets that have been buried since World War II. Uncovering the truth could save Grandad ... but it might also tear Alex apart.

'The Memory Cage' is a debut novel by British author Ruth Eastham, who has been compared to Michael Morpurgo.  That's high-praise indeed but it's also well-deserved.  It's a powerful and emotional story, dealing with universal themes such as family and war. 

Alex was adopted from Bosnia during the Yugoslav Wars.  He's formed a close bond with his new Grandad, who rescued him and brought him to England.  Alex loves his Grandad immensely but his grandfather's memory is failing and he's in danger of being taken away.  Alex determines to stop this from happening by helping him remember the events of his life.  This however, leads to a number of long-buried secrets being revealed and painful memories resurfacing of his time during the Second World War.  As Alex's Grandad begins to deal with the events of his past, Alex too has to face his own history before he can begin to move forward.

This book deals with a number of difficult and serious subjects such as adoption and alzheimer's disease, in a thoughtful and sensitive manner.  For the age group at which this book was aimed, I felt that this could have been done in a heavy-handed way but instead the right balance was achieved between a serious exploration of the issues and pure reader enjoyment in the story.  I found myself being caught up in the lives of the characters and becoming completely engrossed in the book.  I'll also admit to crying a fair bit near the end! 

This is a beautiful debut novel and I look forward to future books by a talented first-time author. 

Thanks to the publisher for sending this one for review.

This is the first book I've read for the Debut Author Challenge 2011 and the third book I've read for the British Books Challenge 2011. 

Sunday 23 January 2011

In My Mailbox #12

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for holding this meme every week.

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes. 

          All links go to Goodreads, where you can add the books to your wishlist if you like the look of  them.

I received one book to review this week but it's one that I've been waiting and waiting for, so I was thrilled when it dropped through my mailbox.

(I read The Other Countess a few months ago and loved it.  You can read my review here)

I also got some books from the library as they had some new stock in this week.

(I've read this one already so review to follow)

Friday 21 January 2011

Follow My Book Blog Friday (21 January 2011)

This week I'm taking part in Follow My Book Blog Friday, which is hosted by Parajunkee's View

If you've just stumbled upon me via Follow Friday then welcome to my blog. I hope you find something that interests you!  Follow Friday is a great opportunity to visit lots of new blogs and meet like-minded book lovers from around the world.  I love taking part :)

I'm going to go and explore some of the other links over the weekend.  If you'd like to join in the fun too, then head on over to these sites, read the rules, post your own link and away you go :)

This week's question is: Who do you cheer for?

Well, I'm based in the UK and am actually a huge sports fan.  I support the rugby league team Wigan Warriors, who are the reining Super League champions.  The new season's due to start in a few weeks time and I'm very excited!! 

Thursday 20 January 2011

Review: Matched - Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie, published 2nd December 2010 by Puffin

Goodreads synopsis:
In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

I'm a big fan of dystopian fiction but when I thought back to which books I'd actually read, not many sprang to mind, except for the fabulous 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood and more recently 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy.  I don't think I'll have any problem remembering 'Matched' however.  I absolutely loved it and it's a perfect example of dystopian fiction which lives and breathes in your hands and your head.  I know it's only January but I have a feeling that this is already going to be competing for my book of the year. 

What I enjoy most about this genre is reading about the imagined world as it may become in the future.  Yes, obviously we can't see into the future but who's to say that these things won't actually happen.  We have no idea what awaits humanity.  It's both chilling and frightening and intriguing all at the same time.  Cassia lives in a perfect society governed by officials who make all the rules and decisions for people - who they marry, how many children they have, when they will die, where they will live, what job they have and so it goes on.  People are given pre-packed meals catering to their individual dietary requirements and there has been a cull of art, poetry and books with only a hundred items of each selected to remain in popular culture.  The latter is horrifying!  I'm someone who loves culture and being surrounded by literature and theatre and art.  I can't imagine only being able to read a prescribed 100 poems and not having the ability to write and create. 

All choice and free will has been eradicated in cultivation of what the officials call an equal society.  Cassia believes in the virtues preached to ber by the officials and the story begins as she is about to attend the ceremony that will 'match' her with her future husband.  All goes well until a mistake is made and Cassia's whole life is turned upside down.  Her future is no longer clear cut.  Cassia is a strong central character who begins to question the rules and regulations which are imposed upon society.  She finally starts to see things clearly for the first time in her life and fights back against the bonds which are imposed upon her.

The love triangle between Cassia, her best friend Xander and neighbour Ky is dealt with sensitively and thoughtfully.  When Cassia does finally make her choice, I liked the fact that it wasn't necessarily a choice which would isolate her from one or the other.   She loves both boys but in different ways and it was nice to see those feelings explored.  She has known Xander all her life and they've grown up together so the potential is there for them to have a long and happy life with each other but there's also Ky with whom she feels the first blossomings of a love that's new and exciting and real.  He teaches her about things she has no knowledge of and they learn and grow together. 

Hope is a significant theme in the book.  The idea that there's always something to hope for and that however much you may have to struggle and however futile things may seem at times, hope always remains.  That meant that the book ended on what I thought was quite an uplifting, rather than bleak, note.

Ally Condie's prose is exquisite.  I savoured every single word.  I felt like I was living Cassia's story with her and experiencing the same emotions and feelings.  I'm hugely impressed by this sensational debut and thrilled that Condie is planning a whole trilogy.  There's so much more to come and I'm excited to see where the story is going to go next.  The film rights have also been sold to Disney so there's a big screen outing for 'Matched' sometime in the future too.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me this one.

If anyone has any suggestions for great books in the dystopian genre it would be great if you could drop me a comment.  I know that there are heaps of books out there and I really want to read more like this.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Review: Low Red Moon - Ivy Devlin

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin, published by Bloomsbury

Goodreads synopsis:
The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver—deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together. Then Avery meets the new boy in school—Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced. When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him—at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died.Part murder mystery, part grief narrative, and part heart-stopping, headlong romance, Low Red Moon is a must-read for teen paranormal fans.

I have to start this review off by talking about how gorgeous the copy of the book I received is.  It has a shiny metallic red cover and has a lovely red illustrated page immediately inside.  Every mention of the word 'moon' is in red ink.  I literally swooned over this when it arrived!  This is the sort of book that you see on the shelves and you just want to touch it.  It is very covetable!

I was really intrigued about this book when I first heard about it because Ivy Devlin is a pseudonym for Elizabeth Scott.  It's always interesting when authors write under a different name - usually when they're writing in the style of a genre that they're not normally associated with or writing for a different age group.  I'd also read a lot of reviews of 'Low Red Moon' which were quite mixed, so I was looking forward to getting an opportunity to make up my own mind.  I ended up loving it from start to finish!

The author herself says that she was influenced by the children's tale of Little Red Riding Hood and there are definitely some identifiable aspects.  But this was also a truly original story.  One of the signs of a good book for me is great characters and I immediately loved the central protagonist, Avery Hood.  She's just lost both of her parents in a brutal murder that she witnessed but can't remember any of the details of and she's now living with her grandmother, Renee.

Avery doesn't have any real friends to speak of and she's always been close to her parents so she feels isolated and alone after their deathes.  The three of them were always their own little unit which was cemented by the fact that they lived in the forest and she was homeschooled a lot of the time.  Her memories of her parents are emotive and touching and I liked the way that she wasn't embarrassed or ashamed about who she was.  She'd always been taught just to be herself.  Throughout the book Avery struggles to recall the events of that night but when she meets new boy Ben Dusic and sees his silver flashing eyes, she gradually starts to piece things back together and remembers small incidents which she hopes will lead to the arrest of her parents murderer.  The relationship between Avery and Ben escalates quickly as they feel a connection to each other straight away.  I enjoyed the way in which Avery starts to discover the truth about Ben and is willing to accept him for who he truly is.

'Low Red Moon' is a marvellous read.  It's got romance, excitement and mystery and the suspense is built up nicely as it heads towards a dramatic conclusion.  I'm definitely going to be recommending it to people I know - it's a fantastic book.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me this one for review.

Take a look at the amazing trailer for 'Low Red Moon'.

Monday 17 January 2011

Review: Bright Young Things - Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen, published by Puffin on 6th January 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
The year is 1929. New York is ruled by the Bright Young Things: flappers and socialites seeking thrills and chasing dreams in the anything-goes era of the Roaring Twenties.

Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey escaped their small Midwestern town for New York's glittering metropolis. All Letty wants is to see her name in lights, but she quickly discovers Manhattan is filled with pretty girls who will do anything to be a star…

Cordelia is searching for the father she's never known, a man as infamous for his wild parties as he is for his shadowy schemes. Overnight, she enters a world more thrilling and glamorous than she ever could have imagined—and more dangerous. It's a life anyone would kill for . . . and someone will.
The only person Cordelia can trust is Astrid Donal, a flapper who seems to have it all: money, looks, and the love of Cordelia's brother, Charlie. But Astrid's perfect veneer hides a score of family secrets.

Across the vast lawns of Long Island, in the illicit speakeasies of Manhattan, and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls' fortunes will rise and fall—together and apart.

As well as loving young adult fiction, I also read a lot of literary classics, particularly 19th century fiction and ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my favourites.  Although it’s set a few years before this book, when I heard about ‘Bright Young Things’ and the fact that it takes place in 1929, I immediately thought of Jay, Gatsby and Daisy – the roaring twenties, prohibition and the glittering lights of New York City. 
I haven’t actually read Anna Godbersen’s Luxe series yet (although I really want to) but I know that they have absolutely amazing covers and ‘Bright Young Things’ joins them in being really eye-catching and stylish.  I’m a sucker for a pretty book and I think I would almost have picked this up on the cover alone.  It also meant that I was coming to Godbersen’s writing fresh.  I love her use of description that perfectly conjures up the sights and sounds of the big city and transports you back to a moment in time during a different era. 
The story centres around three girls – Letty Larkspur, Cordelia Grey and Astrid Donal.  Alternating chapters tell of their adventures in the big city.  The contrasting viewpoints of the three very different characters meant that the narrative remained interesting and varied.  The girls set out with individual agendas.  Letty Larkspur has arrived in New York to make her name and become famous.  She has a beautiful singing voice but she’s naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world and easily taken advantage of.  She believes that everything is going to fall into her lap but she suffers a serious of setbacks which shake her faith in the world.  Although she can be rather shy and self-conscious, I admired her bravery in leaving her family behind and striking out on her own.
She comes to New York with her best friend Cordelia, although the two part ways almost immediately on arrival.  I thought it was a little strange that the two girls who were so obviously close would have parted company so quickly over a small falling out but then I guess in a lot of ways they want different things and although Letty initially feels like she needs the braver Cordelia, Cordelia is strong enough to survive on her own.
Cordelia’s come to New York to find her father and this particular storyline is concluded quite quickly.  It might have been more interesting if she’d maybe stumbled across the wrong man and we’d seen the consequences of this.  Cordelia, although she has various faults, was my favourite character and I enjoyed reading the chapters about her the best.  She’s sometimes selfish but she’s also seeking her independence and freedom and learning to survive on her own two feet.
Astrid Donal is a contrasting character to the other two girls.  She lives with wealth and decadence all around her and wants for nothing.  This however, doesn’t necessarily make her happy.  I suspect that there’s a lot more to be revealed about Astrid later in the series and I get the impression that she may be hiding a very dark secret.
I liked the fact that the book was set in 1929 because it meant that we could see the girls branching out on their own in a period when America was prospering.  Obviously in late 1929, the Wall Street Crash was a significant event for many Americans, so it will be interesting to see if this is incorporated into the next book in the series, Beautiful Days which is published in September 2011.  I can't wait.
‘Bright Young Things’ was a real treat to read and I’m so glad that it’s only the first in the series because I want to learn more about all the girls and follow them on their journeys.

Thanks to the publisher for sending this one for review.

Sunday 16 January 2011

In My Mailbox #11

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for holding this meme every week.

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes. 

          All links go to Goodreads, where you can add the books to your wishlist if you like the look of  them.

This is actually two weeks worth of books since I wasn't able to do my IMM last week.  They're currently all sitting in a great big pile on my bedroom floor waiting for me to find room for them on my shelves!
I received some fantastic books to review which I'm really excited about!  Thanks to Bloomsbury, Penguin, Scholastic and Oxford University Press for sending me these.  Look out for reviews of them coming soon! 

I also bought a couple of books this week.  There's a great bookshop which has opened in my local high street and all of their books are such great prices that I can never resist going in to see what's new.

I also had a couple of books sent to me by friends, which I'm looking forward to reading.

(Sent to me by my friend Lindsay.  I'm still catching-up with this series and loving it so far)

(Sent to me by my amazing friend Sal!  I absolutely adore the cover and have been wanting to read this for ages now.  I'm definitely going to be starting this one soon)

Saturday 15 January 2011

On My Wishlist #6

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. Each week I'm going to choose 3 of the books on my wishlist that I am dying to get my hands on but haven't bought yet.  These will be a mixture of released, unreleased, old and new.

My wishlist currently stands at over 1,000 books which is ridiculous I know but there are always so many amazing books being published and I have very varied tastes that I'm forever adding titles.  I really need to stop adding more until I've got it down to a reasonable number!!

DIE FOR ME is the first of three books about Kate, a sixteen-year-old American who moves to Paris after the death of her parents. She finds herself falling for Vincent, who she discovers is not the typical French teenager he appears: he is something else entirely.

DIE FOR ME presents a new supernatural mythology presented in a city where dreams are sometimes the same as reality

This is one of my most anticipated books of the year.  I've been hearing about it for a while now and with that cover I don't know how anyone could possibly resist. It's published by ATOM (who seem to be releasing a lot of the best titles at the moment) on 10th May 2011. 

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted…by magic. When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth. 

I'm a big fan of historical fiction and I'm hoping to get hold of this one to read for the Historical Fiction Challenge that I'm participating in this year.  I'm not aware of a UK release for it yet but it's published in the US on 1st March 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin.

This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action.

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Ooh, this one sounds really good.  I've read some reviews from people who have been a little disappointed with this book but it hasn't put me off wanting to try it.  I like stories which combine healthy doses of romance and adventure!  It's published by HarperCollins on 15th February 2011.

Friday 14 January 2011

Review: Ice Maiden - Sally Prue

Ice Maiden by Sally Prue, published by Oxford University Press in February 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
The queen of fairies took me To yon green hill to dwell . . . No one believes in fairies any more. No one goes up to the common. Except Franz. Something is there, watching him. Something cold and wild. And pleasant is the fairy land But an eerie tale to tell. Edrin is no longer safe. Her tribe is plotting against her, with hatred in their eyes. Why is she so drawn to the human boy? Can he save her from the cold - and from the tribe?

This was a really interesting little book combining faeries with a lonely young boy and interweaving themes of survival, war, isolation and what it means to be an outsider.

The story takes places in England, 1939, shortly after the events of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) in Germany when the Nazis attacked the Jews.  Franz and his parents are now living in England after leaving their home in Berlin behind.  Franz feels alone and estranged from his parents, who he believes to be loyal Nazis, capable of turning their backs on those in need.  He nicknames them The Wolf and The Squirrel and carefully guards his feelings from them but there are some surprising revelations in store for him regarding his family.  

Franz's story is mirrored with that of Edrin, an ice maiden who lives on the common and who feels set apart from the rest of her tribe.  She's not your usual happy and carefree faery.  She's actually far from the stereotypical image and along with the rest of her tribe, is vicious and ruthless and intent on murdering her rivals before they can put an end to her.  When she and Franz come together there's a surprising conclusion to their story, as they come to help each other when they both need it most.   

This book was very different from anything else I've read lately and actually has a serious message to convey about the morals of right and wrong and good and evil.  It teaches about aspects of German history and the persecution of the Jews but in a careful and thoughtful way.   

I received a proof copy of the book which has a plain blue cover, but the final cover art is gorgeous and would definitely make me want to pick this off the shelves.  I love the colouring in particular - with the pretty blues and pinks which seem to merge together.

'Ice Maiden' is the Prequel to 'Cold Tom' by Sally Prue, so I'm hoping that it explains more about the history of the Tribe and possibly provides more of the back story of Edrin.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Review: Priscilla the Great - Sybil Nelson

Priscilla the Great by Sybil Nelson, published by WorldMaker Media in 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner!

Priscilla the great is an understatement!  Priscilla the amazing; Priscilla the awesome; Priscilla the fantastic is more accurate!

The book is about a young girl who discovers that she has some extraordinary talents.  She can create fire with her fingertips and she also has superhuman strength and hearing.  In addition to that, she has a sinister organisation on her case who are intent on hunting her down and experimenting on her and if that wasn't bad enough, she also has boy troubles (and hasn't even had her first kiss yet).  She's dealing with all the usual problems facing most young girls: an unrequited crush, a love-hate relationship with the boy-next-door and issues with her best friend, but she also has to face several life and death situations. 

This was a really fun and enjoyable read.  A breath of fresh air!  Priscilla is a great character and I absolutely loved her fantastical story.  Her and her family reminded me a little bit of The Incredibles.  They're certainly not your average all-American family.  I liked the way they were each individualised and their personalities developed - overprotective Dad, troublesome twins, secretive (and often absent mother) and Christina Aguilera music loving brother.  I thought the way their secrets all started to unravel throughout the book kept the suspense and intrigue high. 

It was interesting finding out about how Priscilla ended up with superpowers and during the second-half of the story the pace really picked up and got very exciting.  I ended up taking this to bed with me to finish because I just couldn't wait until the morning to find out the conclusion of the story.  It ended on such a cliffhanger though!!  I didn't realise that this was going to be a series but there are a further four books planned so I'm thrilled that I'll get to read more of Priscilla's story. 

Find out more about the book and series at the website of  Priscilla the Great or check out Priscilla's blog.

Thank you to the author, Sybil Nelson, for sending me a copy of her book for review.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #13

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Published by Razorbill/Penguin on 3rd March 2011

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

This book's already getting a huge amount of hype and it's not even published yet!  It's definitely already one of my most anticipated reads of the new year.  It sounds incredible and the cover is absolutely gorgeous.  I'm so excited about reading it that I'm counting down the days until it's out.   

Sunday 9 January 2011

Review: Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey, published by Harcourt Children's Books in 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents rules;especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father's office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she's tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be the key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To improve her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen's sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill's accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything, even Tristen's love just for the thrill of being . . . bad.

This is the first book that I've read by Beth Fantaskey and what attracted me to it originally was the interesting plot.  It's based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The action is transposed to an American high school where Jill Jekel and Tristan Hyde are drawn together after the murder of Jill's father.  I enjoyed the way in which the story mirrored the original literary classic.  I thought that it was a really clever writing technique and luckily I could remember enough of Stevenson's classic (I read it a few years ago) to pick up on some of the subtle similarities and themes that were touched upon throughout the book. 

I loved the fast-paced and exciting storyline and the way in which the narratives were woven together.  Most of the book was told from Jill's perspective but some chapters gave more of an insight into Tristan himself and the potential danger that Jill was getting herself into by becoming involved with him.  When they team up to try and win a prestigious science scholarship they find themselves recreating Dr. Jekyl's experiments with potentially devastating consequences.  This leads to a good few twists and turns and an exciting ending that I didn't predict at all.  I love it when a book completely takes you by surprise and this had a number of revelations that were totally unexpected. 

I liked the character of Jill, who is shy and self-conscious, but falls prey to the lure of the formula that can make her forget all of her inhibitions.  I can see how tempted she would have been to escape who she was and become someone self-confident, brave and daring.  Her relationship with Tristan was one of the highlights of the book for me, from the first moment that he comforted her at her father's funeral to some of the later scenes in the book.  It felt real and like they had a genuine connection from the start.  Without giving anything away to those that haven't read it yet, I'm pleased with the way that the story was concluded and I think Beth Fantaskey took it in exactly the right direction.    

Overall, I thought that this was a superb addition to the paranormal genre, with great characters, an exciting storyline and fast-paced writing.  I really want to read Beth Fantaskey's first novel now which is called 'Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side'.  I've heard that it's even better than this one, which is reason enough to get my hands on a copy!

Saturday 8 January 2011

On My Wishlist #5

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. Each week I'm going to choose 3 of the books on my wishlist that I am dying to get my hands on but haven't bought yet.  These will be a mixture of released, unreleased, old and new.

This week I've picked 3 books which are very near the top of my wishlist!

 Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces. Is love a great enough power against evil?

I know that this book has had some mixed reviews but I still really love the sound of it and I can't help swooning over the gorgeous cover.  It's published by ATOM. 

 Paradise wasn't supposed to suck.   Not the state of being, but a resort in the Caribbean.

Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all there for different reasons, but at Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. Paradise will change them all.

It will change Jena, whose first brush with romance takes her that much closer to having a life, and not just reading about those infinitely cooler and more exciting. It will change Dakota, who needs the devastating truth about his past to make him realize that he doesn't have to be a jerk just because people think he's one. It will change Skye, a heartbreakingly beautiful actress, who must come to terms with the fact that for once she has to stop playing a role or face the consequences. And it will change Owen, who has never risked anything before and who will take the leap from his online life to a real one all because of a girl he met at Paradise. . . .

From confused to confident and back again, one thing's certain: Four months after it all begins, none of them will ever be the same.

Carolyn Mackler is one of my favourite authors but I haven't gotten around to getting a copy of this book yet.  I must rectify this soon!  'Tangled' is published by HarperTeen and is out now. 

What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?

I've read some good reviews of this book and it was recommended by a friend so I definitely need to check it out soon.  It's published by Farrar Straus Giroux and is out now.

Thursday 6 January 2011

Review: Blood Ransom - Sophie McKenzie

Blood Ransom by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon & Schuster in 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
The long-awaited sequel to the award-winning Blood Ties by the bestselling Sophie McKenzie. Clones Rachel and Theo now live thousands of miles apart. They keep in touch, but things just aren't the same. When Rachel discovers that evil scientist Elijah is still working in secret for a section of the government and about to murder Daniel, she sets out to rescue the little boy, but her plans backfire with disastrous consequences. Theo sets off to find her.

I absolutely loved 'Blood Ties' when I read it earlier this year and had no idea that there was going to be a sequel.  Imagine my excitement when I saw this in my local bookshop!  I bought it immediately! 

This book is a perfect read for when you get home after a long day at work and you want to pick up something that will make you forget everything but the story you're reading.  The action picks up within the first few pages, with very little prelude and maintains a constant pace until the end of the book.  There's excitement, suspense and tension which absorbed me totally and I found that I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.  There are plenty of thrills and spills and revelations around every corner.

As well as being a brilliant thriller, the book also raises a number of serious scientific, ethical and moral questions which are laid open for consideration.  What are the barriers that shouldn't be breached, even if it may help humanity in the long-term?  Sophie McKenzie doesn't shy away from anything.  She tackles everything head on, which is one of the aspects that makes this such an amazing book.

I loved revisiting the characters of Rachel and Theo.  The chapters alternate the narration between them which works well to present their two points of view and also keeps the story exciting because we get to follow both of them on their mission to stop evil scientist Elijah.  Although it may be a little far-fetched in places, particularly when you remember that Rachel and Theo are both teenagers, I recommend suspending your belief for a short time, getting comfortable and sitting back to enjoy a fanastic, thrilling read.

This is the second book I've read as part of the British Books Challenge 2011.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #12

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 
Blackwatch (Wintercraft #2) by Jenna Burtenshaw
Published by Headline in April 2011

There's no description for this book yet but this is the second in the series.  'Wintercraft' was Jenna Burtenshaw's debut YA novel and it was amazing.  It had fantasy, adventure and excitement and really great characters.  I've been looking forward to the follow-up for quite a while now.

Monday 3 January 2011

Review: A Beautiful Lie - Irfan Master

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master, published by Bloomsbury on 3rd January 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
An extraordinarily rich debut novel, set in India in 1947 at the time of Partition. Although the backdrop is this key event in Indian history, the novel is even more far-reaching, touching on the importance of tolerance, love and family. The main character is Bilal, a boy determined to protect his dying father from the news of Partition - news that he knows will break his father's heart. With great spirit and determination, and with the help of his good friends, Bilal persuades others to collude with him in this deception, even printing false pages of the local newspaper to hide the ravages of unrest from his father. All that Bilal wants is for his father to die in peace. But that means Bilal has a very complicated relationship with the truth...

I received this book to review and was initially a little unsure about whether or not I was going to enjoy it.  Although I am a fan of historical fiction, I tend to read books set against an English or American backdrop, so a story set in India is not normally the sort of thing that I'd choose.  However, it was a really interesting read and taught me a lot about a key event in India's history.  

The story is based around the partition that took place in India in 1947, when India won freedom from British Colonial rule and Pakistan was created.  This led to a split along religious lines.  The story is narrated from the point of view of a small Indian boy called Bilal, who wishes to keep the news of the partition from his dying father.  He believes that the partition would break his father's heart so he recruits his friends to help him with his lie.  I loved the way that Bilal's friends all banded together to support him with his decision.  Although religious differences eventually come between some of them, they're best of friends and will do anything at all for Bilal. 

I knew nothing at all about the history of India before reading 'A Beautiful Lie' and it was both fascinating and educational learning more about the partition and understanding the repercussions that it's had and the long-term effect it's caused on the people of India.  The book was fast-paced and interesting and I was swept along with Bilal's story. 

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending this one for review.

This is the first book I've read as part of the British Books Challenge 2011.

Sunday 2 January 2011

In My Mailbox #10

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for holding this meme every week.

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes. 

          All links go to Goodreads, where you can add the books to your wishlist if you like the look of  them.

I only had one book for Christmas but it was one that I had been dying to read for months and months.  I was so happy to finally get my hands on it that I read it straight away.

Just before Christmas, I also received a book to review from Bloomsbury.   It has the most gorgeous shiny red cover and some pages with red ink inside.  I'm in love!

As usual, I couldn't resist buying a few more books too.  I'm really going to have to sort my bookshelves out soon to fit all of these in.  I'm absolutely crammed at the moment.

Blood Ransom by Sophie McKenzie

Misguided Angel by Melissa de la Cruz

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
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