Tuesday 31 May 2011

Review: Dead Beautiful - Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon, published by Usborne on 1st May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
At Gottfried Academy, just one kiss will take your breath away. After Renee discovers her parents dead in what appears to be a strange double murder, she is sent to Gottfried Academy, a remote and mysterious high school dedicated to philosophy, 'crude sciences', and Latin: the Language of the Dead. Here she meets Dante, a dark and elusive student who harbors a deadly secret, but to whom she feels inexplicably drawn. Despite himself, Dante cannot control his attraction to Renee either and their desires gradually deepen into a complex and dangerous romance. But Dante's not the only one with secrets...Gottfried Academy has a few of its own. When Renee begins to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a former student, she begins to realize just how deadly these secrets are...

As soon as I saw the cover of 'Dead Beautiful' I knew I had to read it.  It's a striking cover shot and really grabbed my attention before I even knew what the book was about.  It's been compared in many ways to the Twilight saga but I have to say that although I agree in some respects, in others I thought that 'Dead Beautiful' really stands on its own merit as a brilliant read which was gripping and exciting and deserves to be considered in it's own right as a superb paranormal romance.

After the death of Renee Winter's parents in mysterious circumstances, she is sent to live with her grandfather who she finds it difficult to communicate with.  I would have liked to have seen their relationship explored further, as I always enjoy reading about the relationships between family members.  I liked the gradual unravelling of her grandfather's history and background and I think he could be very important in the future to many of the important secrets that Renee will come across.  He decides to send Renee to Gottfried Academy and although she doesn't want to leave all of her friends and her life behind, he insists that she goes.

This book had all the perfect ingredients for a fascinating read.  I thought that Renee was a brilliant female character who was really interesting and engaging and goes through a huge amount of character development over the course of the story.  There's lashings of romance mixed with dark and mysterious secrets and plenty of action to grip the reader entirely. 

'Dead Beautiful' ticked another box for me in that the majority of the story was set at a boarding school.  I never wanted to attend one myself but I love reading about them and seeing how the characters get on standing on their own two feet and interacting with each other within the confines of the boundaries, rules and regulations of the school which has a dark and Gothic feel to it.

At Gottfried Academy, Renee meets the enigmatic Dante Berlin who I loved!  Seriously, the guy is gorgeous, beyond beautiful and like all great boy crushes, has so many layers and hidden secrets that you keep discovering more and more about him as the story unfolds.  I could definitely identify with Renee being drawn to him!  I loved the way in which their relationship developed.  It didn't seem too sudden and fast, which meant that sufficient time was spent on building up the chemistry and romance between them.  By the end, even I was feeling weak at the knees!  I'm looking forward to seeing more of Dante in future installments and discovering all of his secrets.

Another thing I loved about the book was the interweaving of Latin and philosophy.  The idea of Latin as a 'dead language' is of huge significance to the story and I found this absolutely fascinating.  So much so, that I'd quite like to try and learn it myself.  Several of the character's names are also derived from philosophers which provides insight into their personalities and behaviour.     

I thought that the main plot progressed quite slowly but this was actually a good thing as it allowed greater depth to be built in the plot and for the characters to be developed fully.  The ending was mind-blowingly good and shed light on lots of the mysterious happenings throughout.  This opening installment has got me well and truly hooked on the fascinating Renee Winters and Dante Berlin and I can't wait for the sequel 'Life Eternal' which is due to be published next year.

Monday 30 May 2011

Review: Pretty Twisted - Gina Blaxill

Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 6th May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Ros has a secret crush on Jonathan. Jonathan is massively hung up on Freya (even after she dumps him). And Freya? Well, Freya is a beautiful enigma. Even more so when she goes missing without a trace..."Pretty Twisted" is narrated in alternating chapters by Jonathan and Ros who meet online at a time when things are going sour for Jonathan. His stunning girlfriend, Freya, is away at college and they are growing apart - consequently, he is struggling with his own sense of identity. Ros is also experiencing some problems - one of her friends is dating an older man whose strange behaviour gives Ros cause for concern. Meanwhile, the local news has been reporting some kidnappings of teenage girls. So when Freya dumps Jonathan, then seems to disappear off the face of the earth, he enlists Ros' help in tracking down the girl he still loves.

'Pretty Twisted' is not normally the sort of book that I'd pick up and read.  It's a modern, contemporary thriller narrated by two teenagers who seem to get themselves into an awful lot of trouble!  The storyline is scarily realistic and as the story progresses, you believe completely that the events of the book could actually happen in real life and indeed often do.  I was intrigued to read this one when I found out that this was the debut young adult offering by British author Gina Blaxill, who is actually only 24 herself.   

The plot twists and turns and the motives of the characters are never certain until the end of the book.  This adds to the sense of suspense and danger which is felt throughout.  I was never quite sure who could be trusted as they all seemed to have so many hidden secrets. 

The story centres around fourteen year old Ros and sixteen year old Jonathan, who first meet online.  I have to say that I found some of the 'chat speak' difficult to read.  Although these sections are reminiscent of how teenagers communicate with each other online, I did find these bits often spoilt the flow of the story and seemed a little clumsy.  The two characters start to reveal things about themselves which they probably would never be able to do in real life and although they've never met they become closer and closer, to the point that Ros fantasises about Jonathan becoming her real life boyfriend.  The two finally meet when Jonathan's girlfriend Freya goes missing and Ros agrees to help him try and track her down.  I liked the fact that there is nothing sinister about their online relationship at all.  Although Ros is first worried about meeting him, believing that he might not be a teenage boy after all, their friendship develops into something real and they do end up genuinely liking each other.  Although the book definitely warns about the dangers of meeting people who you chat to on the Internet, it also shows that you can make friends this way too.    

One of the things I liked most about this book was the fact that the writing and the events of the story are so realistic and believable.  Gina Blaxill is a really fresh and modern teen voice and she has definitely tried to capture the feelings, emotions and experiences of young people in a way that the reader can really connect with.  She's obviously researched her characters well and it shows. 

If I'm honest, the plot didn't completely win me over, although I joined the unexpected twist at the end but normally I enjoy a generous helping of fantasy which for obvious reasons this book didn't have, so it did take me a little while to really become engaged with the story.  Saying that, I'm still looking forward to seeing what Gina Blaxill has up her sleeves next!  

Sunday 29 May 2011

In My Mailbox #26

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 a title that I've been waiting to get my hands on for months now.  I was so excited when it dropped through my letterbox!

(The cover is gorgeous, the plot sounds fantastic and I'm beyond excited to read this as Alyxandra Harvey is one of my favourite authors)

It was my birthday on Wednesday and I had two books from my brother which have been high on my wishlist.  Really pleased with both of these :)

(I've heard amazing things about this book...and just look how shiny it is!)
(I still have all of my Sweet Valley books from when I was younger and I can't wait to revisit all my favourite characters and see where they've ended up)

Thursday 26 May 2011

Hotly anticipated sequels #1

I've read so many amazing novels over the last few months that I have lots of new and wonderful authors to add to my list of favourites.  Many of these have actually been the first in a trilogy, so I'm hotly anticipating the sequels coming out either later in the year, or in some cases, next year (which is way too long to have to wait!).  Here, are a few of the sequels which can't be published soon enough for me! 

I'll be featuring some of my other picks over the next few weeks. 

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

I was blown away by Ally Condie's 'Matched' last year.  I loved the whole concept and I thought the story was brilliantly executed and wonderfully written.  It ended on quite a cliffhanger and I can't wait to follow Cassia and see how the triangle between Cassia, Ky and Xander is going to work out.  There's no UK release date for this one yet but it's published in the US by Dutton Juvenile on 1st November 2011.

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on—that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

Boys and dragons.  It's a combination that really does work, as proved by Sophie Jordan in her debut novel 'Firelight'.  I'm very excited about the sequel to this one!  I think that this series would be amazing on the big screen too.  It's published in the US on 6th November 2011 (and I've featured the US cover) and tentatively scheduled for a September release here in the UK.  

Ever and Damen have spent centuries facing down bitter rivals, jealous friends and their own worst fears-all in the hope of being together forever. Now in Everlasting, their destiny is finally within reach.

Will they be united-or torn apart forever?This is the final book in The Immortals series and hopefully we'll get a happy ending for Ever and Damen at long last.  I'm hoping that they'll be able to overcome all the barriers that have come between them and that this one will feature plenty of kissing ;)  There's not too long to wait luckily, as it's published in the UK by Macmillan Children's Books on 1st July 2011 and you lucky US readers can get your hands on it on 7th June 2011 when it's published by St Martin's Press.

In this must-have sequel to Bright Young Things, Cordelia and Letty are small-town girls no longer. Letty is ready at last to chase her Broadway dreams. Cordelia thought she lost her true love, but a chance meeting will change her fortune—and her future. The unflappable flapper Astrid Donal has promised herself to Charlie Grey, Cordelia’s half-brother, but isn’t sure their love is true enough to survive. And a bitter rivalry will ensnare them all in a dangerous feud played out in the speakeasies of Manhattan and on the great lawns of Long Island. As these bright young things live out their beautiful days in the summer of 1929, they find romance and heartbreak, adventure and intrigue, new friends and unexpected rivals. 

Anna Godbersen's books always have the most beautiful covers and this one is no exception.  I love having these adorning my shelves.  'Bright Young Things' is published in the UK on 1st September 2011 by Puffin and in the US on 20th September 2011 by HarperTeen.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Exodus and Zenith by Julie Bertagna - UK giveaway

To celebrate the fact that it's my birthday tomorrow (yay!), I'm holding a UK giveaway for 'Exodus' and 'Zenith' by Julie Bertagna.  This is a fabulous series and I've reviewed both books on the blog so check them out if you want to know more about them.  The third book in the trilogy is due to be published on 3rd June, so now's the perfect time to get caught up with the previous installments.  To enter just fill out the form below.  You must be a follower and have a UK postal address (as I'm sending the books out, I'm afraid I can't stretch to international postage costs at the moment).  Good luck.

Less than a hundred years from now, the world as we know it no longer exists. Cities have disappeared beneath the sea, technology no longer functions, and human civilization has reverted to a much more primitive state. On an isolated northern island, the people of Wing are trying to hold onto their way of life - even as the sea continues to claim precious acres and threatens to claim their very lives. Only fifteen-year-old Mara has the vision and the will to lead her people in search of a new beginning in this harsh, unfamiliar world.

In this compelling continuation of Julie Bertagna’s timely trilogy, the search for a future remains a terrifying fight for survival. Sixteen-year-old Mara and her ship of refugees are tracking the North Star in search of land in the mountains of Greenland to call home. A Gypsea boy named Tuck, orphaned when Mara’s ship plows through his floating city, becomes inextricably linked to their fate. Meanwhile, back in the drowned ruins at the feet of the towering sky city, Fox begins his battle with the cruel, corrupt rulers of the New World. Forced to make their own new beginnings in a savage world, three teens must struggle to make sense of the past, overcome the harsh dangers of the present, and build a future worth living.
 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 must be a follower to enter.
  • Deadline for entries will be on 7th June. 
  • Winner will be drawn by random.org
  • Winner 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.

Monday 23 May 2011

Review: Blackwatch (Wintercraft #2) - Jenna Burtenshaw

Blackwatch (Wintercraft #2) by Jenna Burtenshaw, published by Headline on 14th April 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Kate has escaped the clutches of the High Council and Silas has left Albion for the continent. But their lives are forever linked and as the veil weakens, causing Albion's skilled to fear for everyone's safety, Silas and Kate find themselves drawn together by the mysterious and corrupt Dalliah Grey.

I am a huge fan of Jenna Burtenshaw's debut novel, 'Wintercraft' which was published last year.  It absolutely blew me away with its brilliance so I was really eager and very excited to receive a proof copy of the sequel from the wonderful publisher Headline.

The story picks up immediately after the events of 'Wintercraft'.  Kate has been imprisoned by the Skilled who believe that she is a huge danger to the world.  She is a Walker, and her spirit is able to move between the worlds of the living and the dead.  The Skilled fear this power as Kate is untrained and her very presence can weaken the veil between the two worlds, blurring the boundaries between life and death.  Kate is also being hunted by the Blackwatch, who are part of the Continental Army and will stop at nothing to get their hands on Kate.  Silas Dane, a significant character from the first book, also makes a return and he too is being held at the mercy of the Blackwatch, whose motives are uncovered as the story progresses.

Kate is a real heroine.  She's so brave and has to face such adversity but she never gives up and although she has a difficult path to follow is always prepared to do what's right, even when it might not necessarily be the easy choice.  I'm a huge Silas Dane fan and I thought that he was really well developed in this installment.  He's often difficult to read as he's quite a complex and mysterious character and you never quite known whether he's good or bad but I think that's what makes him so interesting.  I look forward to seeing more of his interactions with Kate and finding out how their relationship will progress.  Plus, I love his ever faithful crow - I think we should all have one!

I have to say that Jenna Burtenshaw has done it again!  She's created an incredible imaginary world, in Albion and crafted wonderfully three-dimensional characters who come to life on the page.  The story flows beautifully and the plot, as in her previous book, is interesting, unpredictable and gripping.  I really think that this series could be turned into a film franchise, because everything is described in such vivid detail and I'd love to see these characters up on the big screen.  The series so far reminds me a little bit of Narnia crossed with Philip Pullman's Dark Materials books.  It's absolutely enchanting and would appeal to those who are fantasy fans, as well as those who are new to the genre. 

Jenna Burtenshaw can't write the next installment of this fabulous series quick enough for me, as I'm eager to read more about Kate and Silas and their adventures.  'Blackwatch' was a real page-turner and compulsive reading.  Make sure you clear your schedule before you pick it up because once you've started, you won't want to stop.

Find out more about the series at: http://www.wintercraft.co.uk

Follow Jenna Burtenshaw on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/JennaBurtenshaw

Sunday 22 May 2011

In My Mailbox #25

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 some great new titles this week.  All of which I'm really excited about reading.

(If I Stay by Gayle Forman was one of the best books I read last year, so I have high expectations that this should be just as good)

(I haven't heard much about this one but I won a copy in a giveaway so I'm intrigued to see what it's about)

(I'm a big Maureen Johnson fan so I was extremely excited when this book arrived.  Even though the subject matter isn't normally one I'd choose I still think I'm going to enjoy this one)

(I haven't actually read the first in the series yet, Raised By Wolves, but I do have it lined up to start very soon.  This one has a gorgeous shiny cover too!)

Friday 20 May 2011

Review: Unearthly - Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand, published by Egmont on 2nd May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
 In the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

I'm afraid that I'm going to gush terribly in this review because I really and truly loved this book.  I was sad to finish it and am literally going to be on tenterhooks until the second book in the trilogy, Hallowed, is published.  I have no idea how I'm going to cope with the long wait!

'Unearthly' was everything I look for in a book and more.  It was instantly captivating and made me forget everything and everyone around me when I was reading it.  The story flowed beautifully, I adored the characters and it kept me fascinated and intrigued throughout.  The plot, although based around the angel mythology which is heavily prevalent in the YA market at the moment, was still original and different and the premise appealed to me from the start.  The writing fairly flowed off the page and the characters came to life before my eyes.

I adored the love triangle-esque aspect of the story too.  Clara, the main character, finds that she's pulled in different directions and is torn between gorgeous and seemingly perfect Christian Prescott and rough and ready Tucker Avery, who she starts off having somewhat of a love-hate relationship with, before she finally gets to know the real Tucker.  I loved both boys but I have to say that Tucker was my favourite.  Without wanting to spoil anything for those who haven't read the book yet, I adored the way in which his character was written and the fact that there's a lot more to Tucker than you originally see.  He's pretty old-fashioned at times, but in an appealing way and he's certainly full of surprises.  I'm looking forward to seeing how the relationship between Clara and the two boys eventually develops.     

Clara is a wonderful protagonist and immensely likeable.  I enjoyed seeing the close relationship she has with her mother and brother, along with her interactions with the many secondary characters she meets throughout the book.  I liked the fact that she may be part-angel but she doesn't have all the answers and although many things come easily to her, she still has to struggle with her abilities at times.  This made her very real and allowed me to identify with her and her experiences.   

If I had to make any criticism (and believe me, it's extremely hard to find anything wrong with this book), it would probably be that I found the ending a little bit of an anti-climax, but saying that, I still thought it was executed well and laid all the foundations for what should be a phenomenal trilogy.

'Unearthly' is one of the best angel books I've ever read.  It's utterly compulsive reading and a stellar opening.  Cynthia Hand, I commend you!!

Thursday 19 May 2011

Review: Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

Finding Sky by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 7th October 2010

Goodreads synopsis:
When Sky catches a glimpse of Zed for the first time, lounging against his motorbike at school, she is drawn to him just like every other girl in Wickenridge. But Zed sees something special in her that the other girls don't have. Zed tells her they are both Savants - people with special powers like telepathy and the ability to see into the future. Not only that, she is a Savant too, and his soulfinder - meant to be together.

This book appealed to me instantly - a girl with a mysterious secret, a bad boy in town and a paranormal mystery which might threaten both of their lives.  It's also written by a British author and is her debut novel so as I'm trying to read more home-grown talent this was another point in its favour. 

The first chapter was brilliant and really helped to set the scene for the secret surrounding the main character Sky's history.  This was carried on throughout the book and really had me puzzling over what might actually have happened to her.  This sense of suspense was well executed, right up to the big reveal.  After the initial opening, I found that it did take me a little while to get fully involved in the story and the characters, however, things clicked for me about a third of the way through and from then on I was totally sucked in.  The story picked up pace and then hurtled along to it's very exciting and breathtaking conclusion.

As I found out more about Sky, on whom the story is centred, I discovered myself empathising with her completely and really rooting for her character to come out on top.  She's had a tough start in life and was adopted when she was ten by Sally and Simon, a married couple who take her to live in America when they get offered a great job opportunity.  Starting at her new school she meets resident bad boy Zed Benedict, who also happen to be all kinds of hot!  They soon get off on the wrong foot with each other until Sky discovers that she can hear his voice talking to her in her head, a revelation that leads to the discovery that Sky is a savant and Zed is her Soulfinder, or other half and they are destined to be together forever.  Sky finds the news of this difficult to accept and spends a fair amount of time trying to push Zed away.  I loved the scenes where Zed is trying to start afresh with Sky and trying to show her his true character inside.  She's insecure and uncertain throughout much of the book but I enjoyed her gradual progression to becoming more confident and happy and the way in which she eventually blossoms into who she's truly meant to be. 

The story had just the right amount of romance between Sky and Zed and I thought the tenderness and care which he shows towards her was incredibly touching.  Sky isn't a girl that's going to fall into his arms straight away and Zed has to try and win her affections and woo her the old-fashioned way.  In a lot of books, the girl is often head-over-heels for the boy from almost the first page, so this made a very refreshing change. 

I believe that this is actually a stand-alone book and as far as I know Joss Stirling doesn't have any plans for future installments about Zed and Sky which is a shame because I'd love to read more about them.  Zed also has six other brothers too and it would be fascinating to follow them on their quest to find their own Soulfinders.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #26

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! 
Aurora by Julie Bertagna
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 3rd June 2011

Much of Earth is underwater - in the high mountains at the top of the world Lily survives with her mother and her people ...but she feels trapped. Elsewhere, beneath the exclusive sky-cities that tower above the waves, Fox has been waiting too. But when Fox and Lily meet on a virtual plane, they realize the time has come to act. The world must be made whole again, even if it means losing each other! The third and final installment in the brilliantly imagined, hugely romantic and poetically told trilogy set in a frighteningly realistic future.

This is the third part of Julie Bertagna's fascinating trilogy about orphan Mara and her fight for survival.  Written four years after book 2, Zenith, I can't wait to return to this series and find out how everything is going to end for the characters.

Monday 16 May 2011

Review: Montacute House - Lucy Jago

Montacute House by Lucy Jago, published by Bloomsbury on 3rd May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
At first a boy’s body is discovered, then John, Cess’s best friend, disappears . . . What is the mystery behind these sinister events?

Cess works caring for the chickens at Montacute House but on her thirteenth birthday everything changes. She finds a precious locket hidden in the chicken coop and is convinced someone has placed it there for her to find. But the day is overshadowed by fear as a boy’s body is found by the river, and then John disappears. Cess is determined to find him but is soon embroiled in a plot that threatens her world and forces her to draw on powers she never knew she possessed, powers that will place her life in danger if they are discovered by the villagers.

‘Montacute House’ by Lucy Jago will appeal to fans of Mary Hooper – those who like a cracking good story, set against a vividly depicted historical backdrop.  I really enjoyed this book and found it both entertaining and hugely informative.  I always learn loving more and finding out about different periods in history and in that respect I was certainly not disappointed.  I enjoyed the wonderful descriptions of Montacute House and the surrounding areas of Somerset.  This is somewhere that I’d love to visit and go and look around so I devoured all the fantastically rich and lush detail that was interwoven throughout.  

The main protagonist of the book is unlikely heroine Cess, who works for the owner of Montacute House as keeper of the chickens.  On the morning of her thirteenth birthday she finds a valuable necklace hidden under one of her chickens and this sets in motion a chain of events in which she is set to play an important part.  Soon after, her best friend William goes missing and she determines that she'll set out to find him.  along the way she uncovers a number of secrets and a hidden plot which could endanger many lives.     

On the whole, I enjoyed the story, although there were a few places in the book where I found that the pace of the plot was a little slow and it took a while for it to really pick up.  When it did however, it was exciting and quite thrilling.  Murder, mystery, adventure and romance are all combined to make this a book which should appeal to quite a wide audience of readers - beyond those who are just fans of historical fiction.   

I found that there was an educational aspect to the book as well, as the story incorporates a multitude of themes including the divide between Protestants and Catholics, life during Elizabeth I’s reign and explores in some detail elements of witchcraft and paganism.  I'm not sure if the latter completely worked for me, as there were some parts where it didn't seem to completely mesh with the story, but I still found this an interesting subject. 

Historical fiction fans will enjoy this lovely story from debut YA author Lucy Jago.  I’ll certainly be checking out future books by a very talented writer. 

You can find out more about Lucy Jago at http://www.lucyjago.comAlso check out this film of Lucy on location at the real Montacute House in Somerset http://bit.ly/fP8bB5

Sunday 15 May 2011

In My Mailbox #24

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 two titles to review this week:

(I've heard fantastic things about this book already and I'm looking forward to reading it soon.  It's published in August 2011 so my review will be up nearer the time)

(This is Gina's debut novel and it sounds wonderfully twisted and intriguing!)

I also couldn't resist buying one book this week:

(I'm a massive Alex Rider fan and I've started reading this one already.  Can't believe it's going to be the last book in the series!)

Thursday 12 May 2011

Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time - Yasutaka Tsutsui

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui, published by Alma Books on 9th May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
One of Tsutsui's best-known and most popular works in his native Japan, The Girl Who Leapt through Time is the story of fifteen-year-old schoolgirl Kazuko, who accidentally discovers that she can leap back and forth in time. In her quest to uncover the identity of the mysterious figure that she believes to be responsible for her paranormal abilities, she'll constantly have to push the boundaries of space and time, and challenge the notions of dream and reality.

This book was originally published in Tsutsui's native Japan and is his fifth work to be translated into English.  This slim volume contains two stories, 'The Girl Who Leapt Through Time' and 'The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of'.

When I was initially offered this book to review I wasn't sure whether to accept as it didn't sound like the sort of thing I normally read.  However, I love giving new authors a try and the very pretty cover did grab my interest, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I have to say that on finishing it, I wasn't really sure what to make of the book.  I'm not a big fan of short stories which this volume seemed to be, as I find them too brief and insubstantial.  Plus often just as your interest is piqued they finish and you're left feeling wholly unsatisfied.   

'The Girl That Leapt Through Time' is about a young girl called Kazuko who discovers that she can leap and teleport herself through time, following an accident in her school science lab.  With her new-found abilities she is able to help her friends when they need it but is determined to find the shadowy figure who she believes is responsible for her time-travelling powers. 

The premise of the story was interesting enough but on the whole I just didn't find that the story went anywhere.  Not enough time was spent on developing the characters fully which meant that I couldn't engage completely with them and I didn't care enough about what was happening to them.  At times I also found that the narrative was a little stilted but that may have been due to the language being transcribed from its original form and some of the nuances and meanings being lost. 

There are some deeper issues underlining the very simple story, such as warnings about the future and the outcome of scientific advancements, however I found the general storyline puzzling and struggled to remain interested about what was actually happening throughout .

The second story in the book is called 'The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of' is about another young girl called Masako who tries to confront her fears, at the same time as helping her little brother who's scared of strange things he sees at night.  Yet again I found this one a strange and although I liked the general message of overcoming your fear by facing it head on and therefore being able to overcome it, I would have liked the story to have been developed a bit further.  Saying that, I did prefer it out of the two stories contained within this volume, so I'd even go so far as to say read this one first and give it a go.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #25

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! 
Stealing Phoenix by Joss Stirling
Published by Oxford University Press in October 2011

Yves' story.

This is about getting you out...I'm stealing you.

Phoenix belongs to the Community - a gang of thieves with paranormal powers. Yves Benedict - an American student visiting London - is her mark. But Yves turns out to be more than just a target. He is her destiny. Her soulmate. But the Community owns Phoenix's past and it wants her future too.

I've just started reading Joss Strling's debut book, 'Finding Sky' which I'm really enjoying so far, so when I found out about this title, I immediately added it to my wishlist. 

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Trailer: Angel's Fury - Bryony Pearce

Angel's Fury by Bryony Pearce is published by Egmont on 4th July 2011.  It sounds fantastic and I'm planning to read my proof copy soon so expect a review in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, here's the official trailer to whet your appetite!

Cassie Farrier has always suffered from terrifying nightmares. On a trip to Germany she recognises scenes from her dreams and finds evidence of a sixty year-old massacre. Fearing for her sanity, her family sends Cassie to a retreat where she meets others with symptoms like her own and finds out that she has lived a number of past lives.

However, the Doctor at the retreat is not what she seems. Cassie and the boy she comes to love must escape the Doctor’s influence but can they also escape the misery of their shared past?

Monday 9 May 2011

Review: Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce, published by Hodder Children's Books on 7th April 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.
Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?
You will never think about wolves in the same way again after reading ‘Sisters Red’.  They are the monsters that haunt Jackson Pearce’s world and which Scarlett and her sister Rosie have vowed to hunt down and kill, after a brutal attack which ended in their grandmother dead and Scarlett permanently maimed.  From that moment on, Scarlett has made it her life’s mission to seek revenge on the evil Fenris (the name for which the werewolves are known) by finding and killing as many as she can.  She believes it is her duty to save and protect the innocence of others and it is this which she dedicates herself whole-heartedly to.  She has no room in her life for anything other than the hunt and the only people who are close to her are her sister and childhood friend Silas, who is handy with an axe and used to be her partner before he became disillusioned with the hunt and started to want something more. 
Dark, brooding and bloody, this book captivated me from start to finish.  The first chapter which starts seven years before the main story, literally grabbed me by the throat and from that moment on never let go.  I’ve heard the story described as a modern re-telling of Red Riding Hood but with a twist.  However, for me, it’s so much more than that.  Scarlett and Rosie are not content to sit and wait for someone else to help them or rescue them.  They're headstrong, brave and fiesty and they've learnt how to survive on their own.  Each chapter presents their alternate viewpoint of events and although Scarlett started off as my favourite character, I loved the development of Rosie throughout the course of the book and the way she really came into her own at the end.  I also loved the way subtle way in which a romantic storyline between Rosie and Silas developed and this helped to balance out and provide a lighter tone to the darkness which is always present in the story. 
The bond between the two sisters is one of the things that I particularly liked about the book.  They are described as having one heart but as the story progresses they begin to drift in opposite directions – no longer with the same purpose in life, and this journey that they both go through is one of the best features of the story.  Having a sibling myself, I can share Scarlett’s feeling of things being like a bookshelf with a row of upside down books when the two are having an argument or have momentarily fallen out about something.  She doesn't feel right in herself until everything is back to normal between them.  The bond they share is pivotal to the story and I really enjoyed seeing how they always had each other's back. 
I absolutely loved all the fight scenes which dominated much of the second half of the story.  They only confirmed to me that Scarlett is one kick-ass heroine!  The Fenris are as evil as can be and are really scary!  Their souls are beyond redemption and the sense of them picking and stalking their prey was suffocating at times and oozed out of the pages but highlighted how important Scarlett's mission to protect people against them was. 
The story was a real rollercoaster ride although I did guess the major twist that came near the end of the book quite early on.  Even that however, didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story.  For the most part, the writing was paced well and the plot fairly skipped along at times as I found myself totally sucked in and immersed into Jackson Pearce's imagination.  For me, the ending was perfect and provided just the right conclusion for characters which I had grown to love.  I would urge you not to hesitate and go and pick up a copy of this book now, particulalrly if you're a fan of the paranormal genre, because 'Sisters Red' is one of the best books I've read so far this year.  I loved it!   

Sunday 8 May 2011

In May Mailbox #23

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 had a great week for new books.  I received these four titles for review:

(I've heard amazing things about this book and I can't wait to start reading it)

(I thought that the first book 'Dark Heart Forever' was a promising start so I'm intrigued to see if this one's going to be as good)

(I've wanted to read this one for ages!)

(I love Jackson Pearce and I think this book's going to be fantastic)

I also picked up these three books in the Waterstones 3 for 2.  There were so many I wanted that I took ages choosing!

(Ash was brilliant, so I grabbed this one as soon as I saw it)

(Yes!  At last I have a copy!!!)

(I haven't actually read the first book in this trilogy yet but they sound great)

I was also lucky enough to be sent a proof copy of this book by Lynsey from Narratively Speaking

Saturday 7 May 2011

Review: It's Not Summer Without You - Jenny Han

It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han, published by Puffin on 5th May 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Last year, all of Belly’s dreams came true and the thought of missing a summer in Cousins Beach was inconceivable. But like the rise and fall of the ocean tide, things can change-- just like that. Suddenly the time she's always looked forward to most is something she dreads. And when Jeremiah calls to say Conrad has disappeared, Belly must decide how she will spend this summer: chasing after the boy she loves, or finally letting him go.

There may be spoilers from the previous book in the series.

'The Summer I Turned Pretty' was one of my absolute favourite books of last year and introduced me to the wonderfully talented Jenny Han.  I was therefore extremely eager to read the sequel and second book in the trilogy, 'It's Not Summer Without You'.  I am hugely pleased to report that it's just as good, if not even better than the original.  It's a perfect summer read and will definitely appeal to the majority of the teen audience.

The story picks up after Belly's life-changing summer in Cousins.  She thought she'd finally got the boy she'd always longed for; the boy who'd always held her heart in the palms of his hands but nothing is ever perfect forever and things for Belly are set to change.  After the death of Susannah, Belly will never spend the same summer in Cousins again.  So much a part of her childhood, everything seems to be changing around her, whilst she's also dealing with overwhelming feelings of grief and sorrow.  When she receives an unexpected phone call from Jeremiah, telling her that Conrad is missing, she immediately agrees to help find him but soon finds herself caught between the two boys yet again.

The relationship Belly has with Conrad and Jeremiah has always been at the heart of the series so far, but in this book is really brought to the fore.  Belly has always loved Conrad but he's never been able to reciprocate her feelings fully, except for the one perfect night they spent together.  He's so intrinsically linked with the person she is; her hopes and aspirations for the future, that she wonders if she can ever let him go.  One of the things I admire hugely about Jenny Han's writing is her ability to vividly recreate and evoke feelings that we've all experienced, such as those of first love and of knowing someone and falling in love so deeply that it's impossible to see anyone but them.

Jeremiah has always been on the sidelines.  He's the responsible one, the one that takes care of everyone else and the one who Belly never chose.  I really enjoyed the chapters interspersed throughout which showed how he viewed certain events and these provided great insight into how he truly felt about Belly. 

Reading the book, I was absolutely torn between the two boys as well, so I know how Belly feels.  Conrad has hidden depths and is extremely private but is capable of deep emotion (and he's oh so hot!) while Jeremiah is the boy who will never let you down.  Okay, okay, maybe Conrad just has the edge for me but how lucky is Belly to get to choose between these two.

Although this triangle lies at the centre of the book, it also highlights much deeper issues, such as the death of a loved one.  I thought that Han dealt with this sensitively and realistically, showing the impact a bereavement can have on people and the different ways in which they cope with an event like this happening. 

This was a wonderful book which I fell in love with.  No second book syndrome here, that's for sure!  The characters feel like old friends, the writing is clever and witty and conjures up all those feelings of growing-up and standing on the precipice of adulthood.  I've added it to my favourites shelf already. 

I have to just end by say that the ending is evil!  I couldn't believe how Han left it and I am now dying for the last book in the trilogy, 'We'll Always Have Summer'.  The anticipation is going to kill me!  Will we finally know what or who Belly chooses for her future.  I can't wait to find out!

Thursday 5 May 2011

Review: Fallen Angel - Heather Terrell

Fallen Angel by Heather Terrell, published by HarperTeen on 28th December 2010

Goodreads synopsis:

Ellie was never particularly good at talking to boys—or anyone other than her best friend and fellow outcast, Ruth. Then she met Michael. Michael is handsome, charming, sweet. And totally into Ellie. It’s no wonder she is instantly drawn to him. But Michael has a secret. And he knows Ellie is hiding something, too. They’ve both discovered they have powers beyond their imagining. Powers that are otherworldly.
Ellie and Michael are determined to uncover what they are, and how they got this way . . . together. But the truth has repercussions neither could have imagined. Soon they find themselves center stage in an ancient conflict that threatens to destroy everything they love. And it is no longer clear whether Ellie and Michael will choose the same side.

This is one of those books that on paper sounds like it's going to be the perfect story.  In reality, although I thought I was going to love it, I had very mixed feelings about 'Fallen Angel'.  It definitely didn't completely win me over, although I'm still trying to put my finger on quite why.

The plot centres on Ellie, who has been having strange dreams in which she can fly.  When she meets new guy Michael at school, the two are instantly drawn together, even though he claims that they met in the past but she has no recollection of him.  Their relationship soon starts getting serious and Michael helps Ellie to begin to understand the feelings that she's been experiencing and the dreams she's having.  From then on, it's full steam ahead between the two of them but there's a deeper mystery still to be uncovered in which they could end up playing a major part.

All the ingredients are there for this to be a captivating read.  It has a strong supernatural base which is always something which appeals to me, it features a female protagonist with a mystery and an obligatory sidekick, there's a hot guy, a battle between good and evil and a number of interesting revelations about the characters.  However, I found that all of these elements didn't always gel and frankly, sometimes the story was so slow that I found my attention kept wandering away from the pages in front of me.

Some parts of this book were good but overall it just didn't grip me.  The plot wasn't very original and I guessed a lot of things before they actually happened which meant that I was often tempted to skip ahead to the end which is never a good sign. 

Regardless of all this, I do think that there's still plenty of potential for the second book in the series, 'Eternity' but the storyline will really need to improve to get me well and truly hooked.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #24

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! 
Embrace by Jessica Shervington
Published by Orchard on 6th October 2011
Violet Eden is dreading her seventeenth birthday dinner. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. The one bright spot is that Lincoln will be there. Sexy, mature and aloof, he is Violet’s idea of perfection. But why does he seem so reluctant to be anything more than a friend?

After he gives her the world’s most incredible kiss – and then abandons her on her front doorstep – Violet is determined to get some answers. But nothing could have prepared her for Lincoln’s explanation: he is Grigori – part angel and part human – and Violet is his eternal partner.

Without warning, Violet’s world is turned upside down. She never believed in God, let alone angels. But there’s no denying the strange changes in her body ... and her feelings for Lincoln. Suddenly, she can’t stand to be around him. Luckily, Phoenix, an exiled angel, has come into her life. He’s intense and enigmatic, but at least he never lied to her.

As Violet gets caught up in an ancient battle between dark and light, she must choose her path. The wrong choice could cost not only her life, but her eternity...
I only heard about this book recently but as soon as I read the description I knew I had to read it.  A strong heroine, a killer romance and angels!  What more could you want!  I've actually posted the Australian cover as it hasn't been released here in the UK yet but I will be showcasing the UK cover art as soon as it's revealed. 

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Trailer: Divergent - Veronica Roth

'Divergent' by Veronica Roth is one of those books which has been riding high on my list of most eagerly awaited releases for what seems like forever.  Luckily, the day has finally arrived and it's hit the shelves in the UK today.  In honour of the release, take a look at the awesome trailer which has me even more desperate to get my hands on a copy soon.

Sunday 1 May 2011

The Fool's Girl Giveaway Winners

I had a fantastic response to my UK giveaway of two copies of 'The Fool's Girl' by Celia Rees. 

I'm pleased to announce that the two winners are:

#2 Hayley Rutland

#4 Jadey!

I will be contacting both winners soon by email to confirm your details.  Congratulations!  I hope you enjoy the book and thank you to everyone else that entered.  I hope to have another giveaway soon so keep checking back.
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