Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review: Everneath - Brodi Ashton

Everneath by Brodi Ashton, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd February 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

It would be remiss of me not to start this review by mentioning the exquisite and very beautiful cover for this book.  I'd kill for that red dress which is beyond gorgeous!  I've wanted to read 'Everneath' ever since laying my eyes on the cover for the first time. 

This is Brodi Ashton's debut novel and it's addictively good.  I absolutely loved it!  It made me think about how precious life is.  How we shouldn't let anything stand in the way of being with the ones we love. This is a story with real heart that made me cry, made me smile and made me believe that nothing is more important than having friends and family around. 

I adored the story.  I loved the characters.  I got sucked in by the romance between the main character Nicki and Jack and I never wanted the book to end.  I forgot about everything else going on around me and became totally immersed and absorbed in this stunning read.  Nicki has returned to her old life after spending a century in the Everneath with Cole - an Everliving.  She chose to be his forfeit so that he can continue to live as an immortal.  She was supposed to forget everything about who she was and the life she lived but there's one face she can't forget - her old boyfriend Jack.  Back in the real world, Nicki has 6 months with her family and friends to put things right before she has to return but she's followed by Cole who wants her as his Queen. 

One of the things that made this book for me was the romance between Nicki and Jack which was beautifully told.  I loved the way their history together was gradually unravelled and laid bare and how they only had to be near each other for sparks to fly off the page.  I believed in them.  I rooted for them.  And they made my heart thud uncontrollably.  Their romance is substantial and real and even when they're not together I never gave up hope that they were going to find a way back to each other. 

The other aspect of 'Everneath' that impressed me was the interweaving of an ancient myth and the retelling (with a unique twist) of the story of Eurydice and Orpheus.  I wasn't familiar with this prior to reading the book but I found it really interesting and I enjoyed the parallels it created with the main plot. 

I'm desperate to read more about Nicki and Jack and I can't wait for the next book by Brodi Ashton - the new Queen of the paranormal romance.  I'm going to be recommending 'Everneath' to everyone as it was a magical, amazing and emotional book that made me believe in true love. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

Review: Sword of Light - Katherine Roberts

Sword of Light by Katherine Roberts, published by Templar on 1st February 2012 

Goodreads synopsis:
It is the darkest hour of the darkest Age. King Arthur is dead, killed by his wicked nephew, Mordred. Saxon invaders rampage across the land and forces of evil are gathering. The path to the throne lies open to Arthur's only remaining flesh and blood - Mordred. But there is one with a better claim than Mordred - Arthur's secret child. Brought by Merlin to enchanted Avalon as a baby and raised there for protection, the king's heir must take up a vital quest: to search for the four magical Lights with the power to restore Arthur's soul to his body. Introducing Rhianna Pendragon: unlikely princess and Camelot's last hope.

This is the first book in a new series called The Pendragon Legacy.  I'm a massive fan of stories which are set in Arthurian England and I absolutely adore all the legends and tales about King Arthur and his court.  I'm always on the lookout for new books on this subject so I was thrilled when I discovered this title. 

Katherine Roberts expertly weaves Arthur's story and that of the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Mordred and co with a new character, Rhianna Pendragon.  Rhianna is the secret child of Arthur and Guinevere who was taken to Avalon by Merlin when she was a baby to protect her from those who don't wish to see an heir to the throne.  She also happens to be the only hope against the evil Mordred who is being helped by the wicked Morgan Le Fay.  Rhianna isn't alone though, she has her best friend Elphin by her side who is the Prince of Avalon and has a fair share of magic of his own to help guard her.  I loved the friendship between Rhianna and Elphin and the fact that they would do anything for each other.  I wonder whether the friendship they share will blossom into love later in the series.

The story is tremendously exciting and follows Rhianna's quest to find the Sword Excalibur, the Lance of Truth, the Crown of Dreams and the Holy Grail.  Rhianna meets innumerable obstacles along the way but she never gives into defeat and makes a worthy heroine.  I would have liked to have seen Rhianna meet Guinevere, but I assume this is being saved for the next book, as is our first encounter with Lancelot who is mentioned but never actually seen in person. 

Set in a lost age of chivalry and magic, 'Sword of Light' combines wonderful storytelling with an engrossing tale of Knights, Kings, Queens and Princesses.  I found the legend of King Arthur coming alive before my very eyes and I loved every second of reading it.  Katherine Roberts has breathed new life into a story which many people are familiar with and for those who aren't, then she's introduced a whole new readership to King Arthur and all the characters of legend.  I look forward to getting my hands on the sequel as soon as it's out!  

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Blog tour: Fracture - Q&A with Megan Miranda

I adored ' Fracture' which I couldn’t put down when I was reading it and couldn’t stop thinking about it when I’d finished. It was an emotional page turner and although we’re only in January it will definitely make my top ten book list for 2012.  I'd like to welcome Megan Miranda to the blog today for a Q&A about her debut novel.

What initially attracted you to the young adult genre?

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed Fracture. I love YA. I love reading YA, and I love writing YA. I think I’m drawn to writing characters that age because I think there’s something really universal about the experiences at that time—maybe not externally, but the underlying emotions of it. There’s something so pivotal about that time. I find that reading YA really resonates with me, and I enjoy writing it for the same reasons.

You were a scientist and teacher before writing Fracture. How do these careers compare with being a published author?

They’re each so different! I really did enjoy each for different reasons, but nothing beats working from home! Writing is by far the most “fun” profession – I love creating something from scratch. But all were very rewarding careers and required a lot of work. I’d say the biggest difference is the schedule—with writing, there are times when things are incredibly busy (like now), and times when you’re between deadlines and can relax for a bit.

What was the inspiration behind Fracture?

I have a background in science—I’ve always loved facts and concrete answers—but I’ve also found myself really drawn to the things science can’t quite explain yet. I came at the idea from a science angle, but at some point it started to walk the line between science and paranormal. I also wondered what it must be like for that person who is the miracle. How does it affect his or her life?

I fell in love with the character of Decker. Are there any male book characters that you have a crush on?

I  love the character of Ranger in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. There’s something about the elusive guys…

Are the characters of Delaney and Decker based on anyone?

They’re not. Developing characters and relationships is my favorite part of the writing process, and they always seem to have a mind of their own…

What other 2012 debut novels are you personally excited about?

I’ve already read (and loved) SLIDE, by Jill Hathaway, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, by Veronica Rossi, and DITCHED, by Robin Mellom. I’m really excited to read CINDER, by Marissa Meyer next!

I’m incredibly eager to read more from you and hope we won’t have too long to wait. What are you working on next?

Thank you! I have another book scheduled to come out in early 2013. It’s similar to Fracture in that it walks the line between science and paranormal again. It’s a standalone psychological thriller about the thin line between the real and the imagined. Hope you like it!

Friday, 27 January 2012

British Book Challenge 2012

I've decided to take part in the British Books Challenge for 2012 hosted by The Overflowing Library.  You can find out more about it and sign-up to take part here

So what is the British Books Challenge?

The BBC is a reading challenge where bloggers sign up to read books by British writers throughout 2012 which was first hosted in 2011 by www.thebookette.co.uk

The books can be in print or out. Old or new titles. They can be from any genre and for any age. My blog is obviously focused on YA literature but you are welcome to read adult or children's novels if you wish.

If you sign up for the Challenge you will be aiming to read at least 12 books by British Authors (which works out to one a month). For every book you review each month you will get an entry into the draw to win a monthly prize pack. Therefore the more you read the more entries you will rack up.

I haven't finished compiling my list of books I want to read for the challenge but it will include:

1. Jasmine Skies by Sita Brahmachari

2. Pop! by Catherine Bruton

3. Shadow of the Hawk by Curtis Jobling

4. Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

5. Hollow Pike by James Dawson

6. Mice by Gordon Reece

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: Saving Daisy - Phil Earle

Saving Daisy by Phil Earle, published by Puffin on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Losing love, fighting guilt, seeking hope.

Daisy’s mum is gone. Her dad refuses to talk about it and as far as Daisy’s concerned, it’s all her fault…

Saving Daisy is a powerful and moving story that follows the life of Daisy Houghton who first featured in Phil Earle’s critically acclaimed debut, Being Billy.

As Daisy struggles with misplaced guilt over her mother’s death, she turns to extreme and violent measures and soon her life starts spiralling out of control. This leads to tragedy and suddenly Daisy finds herself left all alone. But sometimes the kindness of a stranger can turn things around. A stranger who desperately wants to save Daisy – if she’ll only let herself be saved.

'Saving Daisy' is an emotionally charged and powerful read from the British author of 'Being Billy'.  Be warned now that you'll need to have a box of tissues beside you while you're reading this book because it will rip your heart out.

Phil Earle's writing is unflinchingly honest.  He's not afraid to tackle difficult or emotive topics such as death and bereavement, rape, bullying, drinking and other such issues.  His background as a care worker is obvious here when reading about the main character Daisy and the experiences she goes through.  He writes sensitively about her and her issues, whilst also portraying a realistic view of life in a therapeutic community for teenagers.  I thought the relationship she had with her key worker Ade was one of great trust.  It was obvious that not only did Ade care deeply about Daisy and her road to recovery but it was touching to see how much Daisy came to value Ade's friendship by the end of the book.

Some parts of the story made for difficult reading and it was hard at times to see how much Daisy blamed herself for not only her mother's death but also for many of the things that happen to her.  Trying to correct the way she thinks about herself and establish a more positive outlook for the future is one of the struggles that she has to face.   

I found the ending and overall message of the book to be full of hope, showing that there's always a way through the pain for everyone, no matter how bleak a person's future can look and no matter what someone has had to go through.  'Saving Daisy' is not a light read but it's one that will stay with you long after turning the last page.  It's heartbreaking at times and will take you on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride but it's worth every second and is a book I would definitely recommend to others.   

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Blog Tour: Q&A on cover design for Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

I'm taking part in the blog tour today for 'Hallowed' by Cynthia Hand.  I have a really interesting Q&A with the editor Ali Dougal of Egmont talking about the fabulous cover design for the book.  I think it's absolutely gorgeous - I love the blue and silver colours and Clara really does look like an angel on the front! 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with the cover design for Hallowed.

Hi, there! I’m a Commissioning Editor at Egmont, so I buy and edit books to appear on the Egmont list (although I can’t claim any credit for actually editing Unearthly or Hallowed – that was done by the American editor!). I worked closely with the designer, the Publishing Director and the Art Director on the cover for Hallowed. We looked at different images and compositions, and discussed lots and lots of different versions of the cover at our weekly covers meeting. We also liaised with the sales team to get feedback from key customers, and with the author and agent.

2. How long did it take to come up with the cover for Hallowed (from original idea to finished product) and what was the inspiration behind the cover?

It was quite a long process - I’m not 100% sure of the exact timescale, but certainly several months! We had a different cover (same title, font and background but featuring a hunky boy) all ready to go to print but at the last minute we received feedback from an important customer and decided to take their suggestions on board.

3. The covers for the two books in the series are very similar. Was this a deliberate choice?

Yes, see above! The first book (Unearthly) had done well for us and while the cover with the boy on it sat nicely beside Unearthly, the feedback was that it wouldn’t be as appealing to the readers as a cover featuring a girl.

4. Does the author have a say in the cover? For example, can they request a particular design or image be used?

Yes, the author is always consulted. In the end, we had two or three versions of the cover to choose from, each with subtle differences in type, colour and composition. We were happy with them all so we went with the author’s preferred version.

5. What do you think of the current look of many YA paranormal romance novels and how do you ensure that a new release stands out on the shelves?

Twilight obviously spawned a lot of lookalikes, and there’s still an element of that, but things have moved on a little. Red and black was the palette du jour, but there’s been a movement towards lighter and airier covers, and things are bound to continue to evolve. With paranormal romance it’s important to think about what’s already working, but try to do something a little bit different too.

6. Are there any covers for YA titles that you have particularly loved?

I love the cover for Cat Patrick’s Forgotten – it’s intriguing and it really stands out on the shelves and on Amazon. The readers obviously agree, because the book has done really well! I love the whole package for The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. The paperback is lovely, but the original version with its blue flexi-back cover was gorgeous, and it’s stunning inside too.

7. Have you ever appeared on a cover yourself (and would you consider it if asked)?

Sadly not! But several of my colleagues have, so I live in hope . . .

8. If pictures could move and talk (like in Harry Potter) what do you think the girl on the cover of Hallowed would say?

'Tucker or Christian? Love or destiny? How is a girl to decide?’

Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: The Titan Prophecy: Rise of the Dark One - AM Crawford

The Titan Prophecy: Rise of the Dark One by A.M. Crawford, published by Murray McLellan on 17th August 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Charlie and Max had a choice: take a short-cut through the forbidden grounds of a remote gothic mansion or get home after dark and face the wrath of Charlie’s mother. They decide his mother is the greater risk. Of course, that was before they entered the grounds...Soon enough they find themselves caught up in an adventure neither of them could ever have imagined...

For there has been a prophecy, The Titan Prophecy, warning of a great war: a war that will be fought on earth; a war that could destroy the whole universe. And says this prophecy there is only one hope of salvation: a Destined One. A Boy...

'The Titan Prophecy: Rise of the Dark One' is a thrilling adventure ride through the world of ancient Greece.  The book interweaves many well known Greek myths and legends such as Jason and the quest for the golden fleece, as well as featuring familiar names such as Hades, God of the Underworld.  This was one of my favourite aspects of the book, as not only did this appeal to the part of me that's hooked on the stories of ancient powerful Gods but it managed to be educational and informative (in a fun way!) at the same time which is a credit to debut author A.M. Crawford who has obviously done her research.  The only thing I thought was that occasionally there seemed to be a few too many characters introduced in quick succession and an explanation had to be provided for each God to ensure that the reader knew who they were and why they were well known in history.  Sometimes this felt like a lot to absorb all at once. 

At first glance this title could be seen as similar to the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan which also feature a boy hero but 'The Titan Prophecy' stands apart as an amazing and enjoyable read in it's own right.  I picked this one up only intending to read the first few chapters and ended up becoming so immersed in the story that before I knew it I was half way through.  There were also some gripping cliffhangers and some shocking twists at the end of many of the chapters which invariably had me reading on for just a couple more pages.

The story opens by introducing the main character Charlie and his best friend Max.  Before long their lives are dramatically changed when they discover that an ancient prophecy foretells that Charlie alone will be the saviour of the Gods who are threatened  by the Titans rising up and waging war on them.  Not only that but Charlie is being sought after by the Dark One, a shadowy sinister form who's acting as the Titans' assassin.  He's guided on his journey by a Time God by Parseus, allowing the action to move between the present day and ancient Greece.  I was pleased to see that the time discrepancy was dealt with and an explanation was provided to how time moves differently between the worlds.  This meant that the characters and plot could move swiftly backwards and forwards without leaving the reader wondering why no one had noticed they'd disappeared.

Taking place on land and at sea, there was plenty to keep the reader on the edge of their seat for much of the book.  I really liked the modern day setting of the small village of Hesper and the creepy old Hesper House which stands forebodingly over the hell realm. 

I would definitely recommend this book to those who love stories set in and about ancient Greece and those who are looking for an exciting and thrilling read.  There's non-stop action as Charlie faces one peril after another but as all good boy heroes do, he never gives up!  The first in a series, I look forward to finding out whether or not Charlie really can save the day.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

In My Mailbox #54

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'm doing IMM a day early this week for a change.  Most of this bumper pile arrived this morning which really made my day!  There are some exciting titles here that I can't wait to get stuck into. 

(I've read this fab book already so my review will be up soon)

(I've been dying to read this one for ages)

(Looks awesome and I've already been hearing good things about it)

(I love her Raised By Wolves series so hoping this is just as good)

(I really like books set during World War II.  Another offering from new YA imprint Electric Monkey)

(I'll be reading this one for the British Books Challenge)

A collection of short stories this looks like the perfect Spring read)

(The first historical fiction offering from this author)

(I haven't read anything by this author before but this series has been repackaged and is being published by Bloomsbury in February)

Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: Fracture - Megan Miranda

Fracture by Megan Miranda, published by Bloomsbury on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
By the time Delaney Maxwell was pulled from a Maine lake’s icy waters by her best friend, Decker Phillips, her heart had stopped beating. Her brain had stopped working. She was dead.

But somehow Delaney survived—despite the brain scans that show irreparable damage. Everyone wants Delaney to be fine, but she knows she’s far from normal. Pulled by strange sensations she can’t control or explain, Delaney now finds herself drawn to the dying, and when she meets Troy Varga, a boy who recently emerged from a coma with the same abilities, she is relieved to share this strange new existence. Unsure if her altered brain is predicting death or causing it, Delaney must figure out if their gift is a miracle, a freak of nature—or something else much more frightening….

I have so much love for this incredible debut novel!  This was an outstanding read from an exciting new author who is definitely one to watch.  She literally blew me away with this captivating title which I adored from start to finish.  As soon as I'd finished then I wanted to start reading it all over again.  It's difficult to really put into words how much I enjoyed this book and how immersed I became in the story but suffice it to say, 'Fracture' already has a permanent place in my list of favourite reads for 2012.      

Delaney's life changes after she falls into a frozen lake.  Trapped underwater for eleven endless minutes her heart stops and she's declared dead but then miraculously starts breathing again after being pulled from the ice.  But Delaney has changed and she isn't the same person she used to be.  She can't make sense of what she's feeling but she finds herself mysteriously drawn to the dead and dying. 

Central to the book is the bond between Delaney and her childhood friend and neighbour Decker.  I loved their friendship and although they both won't admit to their real feelings for each other, you can tell that these are two people who are destined to be together.  They complete each other perfectly.  I adored Decker who is the gorgeous boy next door type and who is sensitive and caring inside.  I wish I could just pluck him out of the pages of the book and conjure him up right in front of me!  As much as I fell in love with Decker, I seriously disliked Troy who Delaney meets after her accident.  He's an ominous presence in the book and actually pretty creepy and sinister.  He's the complete opposite of Decker and seems to be the bad to Decker's good. 

I loved Delaney who narrates the story from a first person perspective.  She is strong and stubborn and brave and became a character who I could really relate to.  Her relationship with her mother becomes strained after the accident and I thought the exploration of this was extremely interesting.  Her mother wants to keep her safe but can't come to terms with the person that Delaney's become.  She wants the old Delaney back but she's been changed forever after her near death experience.  Delaney in turn has to try to understand her mother's motivations which have been shaped by her own family history. 

'Fracture' is a novel about life and death, love and friendship and the meaning of family.  I felt quite emotional during and after reading it because I really became connected to all the characters and their lives.  Brilliantly written, I was gripped and absorbed by every single second of the story.  It's quite literally one of the best debuts I have ever read.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review: The Vampire Stalker - Allison Van Diepen

The Vampire Stalker by Allison Van Diepen, published by Scholastic on 3rd November 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world--and came into yours?

Amy is in love with someone who doesn't exist: Alexander Banks, the dashing hero in a popular series of vampire novels. Then one night, Amy meets a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to Alexander. In fact, he IS Alexander, who has escaped from the pages of the book and is in hot pursuit of a wicked vampire named Vigo. Together, Amy and Alexander set out to track Vigo and learn how and why Alexander crossed over. But when she and Alexander begin to fall for each other, Amy wonders if she even wants him to ever return to the realm of fiction.

The tag line for 'The Vampire Stalker' says it all really- "Ever been in love with a boy in a book?".  I'm sure that the majority of people would answer that question with a resounding yes, myself included!  This is definitely the book to read if you've ever found yourself with a huge crush on that cute boy in the pages of your favourite story. 

Amy is an avid reader and a huge fan of the Otherworld books by author Elizabeth Howard which feature a vampire hunter called Alexander Banks and follows his quest to rid the city of the evil vampire Vigo.  After Amy is nearly attacked one evening, she's saved by a handsome stranger who resembles Alexander in every way - which turns out to be because he is Alexander and no longer just a character in a book.  Amy has to help him hunt down Vigo but finds herself falling in love with her favourite character who is now very much flesh and blood.

This is such a great idea for a story that I couldn't help wondering why no one had written something along these lines before.  I hadn't heard much about the book prior to reading it either but it caught my eye on the shelves in my local bookshop.  The plot was well executed and the book was fairly short which meant that the tempo was high from the moment that Amy first sets eyes on Alexander.  I thought that the romance between them was really sweet and I loved seeing her introduce him to all the modern day inventions that we take for granted such as mobile phones, the Internet and television.  He actually gets to grips with all these pretty quickly!  The eventual scientific explanation about how he came to be in Amy's world was clearly explained using the premise of literary physics which was both clever and interesting. 

I also loved the fact that one of the main characters was a fabulous librarian who helps Amy to make sense of everything happening.  Ms P was great and a brilliant advocate for librarians who are geniuses at being able to help track down any information needed.  It's nice to see a positive image of a librarian for a change instead of the usual stereotype. 

'The Vampire Stalker' was a fun and entertaining read that I devoured in one evening and left me wanting more.  My only complaint is that the book was quite short and I would have liked to have had more time to spend with all the characters and see what happens to them next.  Fingers crossed that there might be a sequel in the offing. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #51

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! 

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published on 2nd February 2012 by Quercus

Every other day, Kali D'Angelo is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She goes to public high school. She attends pep rallies. She's human.

And then every day in between . . .She's something else entirely.

Though she still looks like herself, every twenty-four hours predatory instincts take over and Kali becomes a feared demon-hunter with the undeniable urge to hunt, trap, and kill zombies, hellhounds, and other supernatural creatures. Kali has no idea why she is the way she is, but she gives in to instinct anyway. Even though the government considers it environmental terrorism.

When Kali notices a mark on the lower back of a popular girl at school, she knows instantly that the girl is marked for death by one of these creatures. Kali has twenty-four hours to save her and, unfortunately, she'll have to do it as a human. With the help of a few new friends, Kali takes a risk that her human body might not survive. . .and learns the secrets of her mysterious condition in the process.

I'm a huge fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's books and can't wait for this new offering from her.  I've read some good reviews of this one already and it sounds exactly like the kind of book I love with a cool blend of science fiction and urban fantasy. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Giveaway winners

Thank you to everyone that entered my recent blog giveaways.  Here are the details of all the lucky winners.  You will all be receiving an email from me shortly requesting postal information so that I can get your books sent out!  If you weren't successful this time then do check back again soon when I'll be offering some interrnational book giveaways.

The winner of the Oxford University 2012 Prize Pack is:

# Laura Creaven

The winner of a paperback copy of 'Cinder' by Marissa Meyer is:

# Stephanie Llewellyn 

The winner of a paperback copy of 'Tempest' by Julie Cross is:  

# Mel S

Congratulations to you all and I hope you'll enjoy reading your books! 

Monday, 16 January 2012

Review: Fated - Sarah Alderson

Fated by Sarah Alderson, published by Simon and Schuster on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
What happens when you discover you aren't who you thought you were? And that the person you love is the person who will betray you? If your fate is already determined, can you fight it?

When Evie Tremain discovers that she’s the last in a long line of Demon slayers and that she’s being hunted by an elite band of assassins –Shapeshifters, Vampires and Mixen demons amongst them – she knows she can’t run. They’ll find her wherever she goes. Instead she must learn to stand and fight.

But when the half-human, half-Shadow Warrior Lucas Gray - is sent to spy on Evie and then ordered to kill her before she can fulfil a dangerous prophecy, their fates become inextricably linked. The war that has raged for one thousand years between humans and demons is about to reach a devastating and inevitable conclusion. Either one or both of them will die before this war ends.

If your life becomes bound to another’s, what will it take to sever it?

'Fated' is an incredible action-packed ride which was so deliciously good that it definitely left me wanting more.  It opens with a shocking prologue which really grabbed my attention from the very first opening sentence.  This led onto a couple of explosive chapters which set the pace for a story which was tense, gripping and exciting.

Sarah Alderson has created an incredible cast of characters.  I was immediately intrigued by the Brotherhood who are made up of a number of demons or Unhumans including a Mixen whose skin is poisonous to the touch, Thirsters who drink human blood, shape-shifters and Scorpio demons.  There's also the mysterious and enigmatic Lucas Gray, who is half-human and half Shadow Warrior.  I enjoyed discovering more about the history of the battle between the Hunters and the Unhumans and I shared Evie's amazement about a whole world she never even knew existed. 

Evie, as the main protagonist, is the last purebred Hunter on earth.  She's a brilliant heroine because she's headstrong and determined and although she's lived the majority of her life ignorant of her true heritage, she's ready when it really matters to face up to what she has to do.  The Brotherhood want to kill her before she can fulfil a prophecy which they believe to be about her.  Lucas thinks that he is the only one who can get close enough to her to kill her but as he gets to know the real Evie his feelings about her start to change. 

My absolute favourite thing about this book was the romance between Evie and Lucas, the latter whom I fell for hook, line and sinker.  The development of their romance is slow-building and simmers away throughout the majority of the story, the tension building to an epic and extremely hot first kiss which will enable you to practically feel the steam coming off the pages!  Although their love is forbidden and there are a whole host of barriers between them, there are so many sparks whenever they're in the same room together that you feel they could overcome anything to be with each other. 

Sarah Alderson really can do no wrong following her stunning debut 'Hunting Lila'.  Although she's taken a change of direction in 'Fated', she's created a story which will stay with you long after the final page and which will leave you begging for more.  If you're a fan of the paranormal romance genre then grab this one now and if you've yet to discover Sarah's books then you're missing out on a very special author who will quite literally blow you away with her talented and incredible writing.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

In My Mailbox #53

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.

Here are the books I received for review this week.

(One of my most eagerly awaited debuts of the year!)

Blade: Enemies by Tim Bowler
(This has just been republished by OUP and is the first in the Blade series)

Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate
(A gorgeous collection of short stories for Valentine's Day)

The Titan Prophecy by A.M. Crawford
(Sounds brilliant and is set against a backdrop of Greek myths and legends)

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dark days of January blog tour: Sara Grant - Dark Parties

I'm taking part in the blog tour today for Sara Grant's incredible debut novel 'Dark Parties'.  I loved this book and was really sad when I turned the last page on an incredible story.  I'm eagerly awaiting news about a sequel!  I'm extremely pleased to welcome Sara Grant today who is going to talk about the idea of identity marks which is mentioned in the book.   

Making Your Mark
My debut young adult novel Dark Parties chronicles a country that has closed itself off under an electrified dome. For hundreds of years, no one and nothing has penetrated this barrier. The citizens of Homeland are growing to look more and more alike.

The rebels in my book create identity marks to express their individuality and, for some, to easily distinguish them from everyone else. My main character Neva distils her friends into the identity marks they have created for themselves. Her best friend Sanna carves an S on her cheek to create a scar. Sanna’s boyfriend always wears red, pointy-toed boots.

You don’t have to live under a dome or in a restricted homogenous society to condense people into a simple identifier. We’ve all said something like: You know the guy in the cowboy hat. Or it’s the girl with the dragon tattoo. Or he’s the one with bad breath.

While writing Dark Parties, I often wondered what identity mark I’d create for myself and what identity mark others would create for me. I never came up with a concise answer. I think that’s because, like the characters learn in Dark Parties, people are more complex than can ever been expressed in a symbol.

But if I had to pick, maybe I’d choose...

A snowflake – Neva’s identity mark is a snowflake tattoo between her belly button and hip. I might copy Neva – although not the location, or probably the tattoo part. I love snow, not only the real, cold fluffy stuff that falls from the sky in the winter but also what it symbolizes – originality. In high school, I had a pin that said: Why be normal? If I could find it, I’d proudly wear it today.

Peace symbol – I’m not a fan of conflict – not at the global level or at a personal level. Unless someone’s in immediate personal danger, I don’t believe there’s any reason to raise your voice. My father always said, “If you raise your voice, you lose.” I endeavor to keep my cool and work for a peaceful resolution.

Megaphone – No, I wasn’t a cheerleader. But it’s the best image I could come up with to represent enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ I whole heartedly agree. I may not be the best or the brightest, but I’m hard working and try to live my life with zeal.

US and UK flags – Eight years ago I moved to London, England, from Indianapolis, Indiana. This life change was the catalyst for Dark Parties. I’m now a unique blend of both the US and UK and wonder if it makes me misunderstood on both sides of the Atlantic.

Star – Okay, maybe a bit cliché, but my parents always told me the sky’s the limit. I believe I can achieve any dream with sacrifice, hard work and tenacity. I struggled for seventeen years to achieve my dream of publication. It was about trying, failing, learning from my mistakes, and trying again. And I know it’s a never-ending process.

Book – Yeah, this is a simple one. I love reading them and writing them.

Unlike Neva, none of these symbols are tattooed anywhere on my body. I could never pick just one and to choose them all would make my body look like a children’s colouring book. (I am also concerned about how these images would morph as my body aged. Will a wrinkly, flabby snowflake have the same appeal? Don’t think so.)

I suppose I believe that what makes me unique has little to do with some arbitrary mark I create for myself or my physical appearance. Actions speak louder than words or clothes or tattoos. I would like to think my ‘identity mark’ would be something like loyalty, reliability, and enthusiasm – not the most compelling combination, I realize. But I hope it would be the words my friends, family and co-workers would use to describe me.

So how about you? What identity mark would you create for yourself? What words would you or those close to you use to describe you? How are you unique in what can sometimes feel a world where sameness rules?

Follow Sara on Twitter @AuthorSaraGrant
Check out Sara's website

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Review: Dark Parties - Sara Grant

Dark Parties by Sara Grant, published by Indigo on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Neva has been trapped since birth. She was born and raised under the Protectosphere, in an isolated nation ruled by fear, lies, and xenophobia. A shield "protects" them from the outside world, but also locks the citizens inside. But there's nothing left on the outside, ever since the world collapsed from violent warfare. Or so the government says...

Neva and her best friend Sanna believe the government is lying and stage a "dark party" to recruit members for their underground rebellion. But as Neva begins to uncover the truth, she realizes she must question everything she's ever known, including the people she loves the most.

Sara Grant's debut novel is a dystopian thriller which will take you on an incredible journey in a society ruled by fear of the government and protected from the outside by the Protectosphere.  This was a thrilling read with some shocking twists and turns.  As the story unravelled I was constantly surprised by the unexpected chain of events that played out before me.

The story centres on Neva who lives with her family in the Protectosphere, a dome which was built to protect the people living within it from those causing terror and harm.  The government control nearly every aspect of their lives but Neva longs for escape and the elusive taste of freedom.  She fights against the fact that her whole life is dictated to her, from what job she'll do, to the way she's encouraged to marry and procreate.  Unlike many others, Neva does believe that there's something more out there and keeps a list of all those who have gone missing including her beloved Grandmother, who may just be on the other side of the dome. 

I thought that the whole idea of a society like this was incredibly frightening.  The concept that life may exist outside of the Protectosphere but it could just be a vast expanse of nothingness was also extremely unsettling.  Neva tries to uncover what's happening to all the people who go missing but a lot of the time she has to rely on her faith alone because proof that there's another world out there is scant.  There's a definite feeling of claustrophobia and of being trapped and this came across really well on the page.  The theme of independence and the fight for freedom was beautifully captured in a world which is unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before.   

There's plenty of romance in the book as well with Neva caught between two boys, steady and reliable boyfriend Ethan and dangerous and forbidden Braydon.  He's forbidden because he happens to be her best friend Sanna's boyfriend but after an illicit kiss in the dark at a party, Neva finds that she can't stay away from him no matter how hard she tries.  Although I'm a sucker for love triangles and cute boys, my favourite relationship was actually between Neva and Sanna.  They're best friends but really they're more like sisters.  They've grown-up together and they've helped each other through many ups and downs in their lives.  Although Neva is drawn towards Braydon, at the same time she does try to stay away from him and put her friend first which I thought was admirable. 

If you were a fan of 'Matched' by Ally Condie then you're sure to love 'Dark Parties' which is in the same vein.  Sara Grant has a brilliant writing style which is engaging and draws the reader in.  I loved the plot and the characters and I was rooting for Neva the whole way through.   This is a very special debut by an exciting new author who's definitely one to watch.  I can't wait for the follow-up to see what happens to Neva next.   

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Review: Wereworld: Shadow of the Hawk - Curtis Jobling

Wereworld: Shadow of the Hawk by Curtis Jobling, published by Puffin on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:

Enslaved by the Goatlord Kesslar, young werewolf Drew finds himself on the volcanic isle of Scoria, forced to fight in the arena for the Lizardlords. With the help of an unlikely ally, he must find a way to break free - but who has ever managed to escape?

Meanwhile, Hector the Wereboar flees the forces of the Catlords. Now on board the pirate ship Maelstrom, the enemy's net is closing in. Haunted by the spirits of the dead, Hector is soon left wondering who the true enemy is . . .

This is the third installment of the engrossing and exciting Wereworld series by British author Curtis Jobling.  He can't write these books fast enough for me!  No sooner have I finished one then I'm eager for the next to find out what's going to happen next to all the characters.  Something major nearly always happens at the end of each book as well which leaves me biting my nails and unable to sleep until I know the next publication date. 

The story picks up with Drew enslaved by the Goatlord Kessler and on his way to Scoria where he's forced to fight as a gladiator for the Lizardlords.  He is determined however to gain his freedom and return to Lyssia to claim his kingdom back once and for all and knowing Drew, I have no doubt that he'll do so in the end. He has an inextinguishable spirit and true grit and no matter what stands in his way he never gives up and he always overcomes the obstacles put in his path.  He's endured a lot since discovering his true heritage and he's suffered both pain and despair but I love his loyalty and his single-minded pursuit of what's right.

In a separate plot strand, the story follows the Boarlord Hector, who is onboard the ship the Maelstrom.  Hector has been my absolute favourite character in the series from the word go.  He's also probably been the one character who has changed the most throughout the story and for this reason (and without giving anything away), I'm starting to worry that redemption may now be out of his reach.  His regular communing with the dead has affected him greatly and he may never return to the Hector I knew and loved.  I would love to see him meet up with Drew again because if anyone can reach out to him and put him back on the right path then it's his best friend.

There are some great new characters introduced in 'Shadow of the Hawk', including the Hawklords and one of my favourite things about these books is getting to discover all the new Werelords and their unusual talents, as well as all the unusual places they end up.  I also enjoyed seeing Drew's brother Trent again who wants to track him down but eventually begins to discover the real truth about him.   

Curtis Jobling definitely delivers after the success of the first two books.  There's action, adventure and excitement in abundance and I was glued to the pages throughout.  This book, as is the whole series, is stonkingly good!  If you haven't come across the Wereworld series yet then I implore you to rush out and grab the first book now.  Once you've started you won't be able to stop reading this epic fantasy adventure which will sweep you away into a whole new world.   

Monday, 9 January 2012

Blog tour: Wereworld "7 Realms, 7 Beasts" - Curtis Jobling

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for the third exciting installment of Curtis Jobling's awesome Wereworld series.  The third book is called 'Shadow of the Hawk' and continues to follow Drew Ferran's action-packed adventure in the Wereworld universe.

Curtis has written a fabulous guest post today all about Arik and Balk, the wereapes who feature in the series.
"Few gladiators enter the Scorian Furnace delighting in the grisly work they undertake, but the Apelord siblings are two such characters. Revelling in the adulation of the masses, Arik and Balk are responsible for the deaths of many humans in the Lizardlords’ arena, in addition to a number of therianthropes. The brothers were sold to Ignus by their own father, so fearful was he that the two of them meant to murder harm – patricide is not uncommon in Wereape society, a well-practised means of succession for this warring, therian bloodline. With the promise of glory, fighting for Ignus, Arik and Balk have thrown themselves into the roles of the people’s favourite gladiators, killing for the pleasure of their master as well as themselves. While other Werelords despise the fact that they must fight for the amusement of the Lizardlord, Ignus, Arik and Balk delight in their work.

Not the brightest of characters, the hulking Wereapes’ chests, backs and arms are a mass of muscles. Each brother cuts a brutal sight even in human form, their enormous arms and shoulders covered in a tangle of unsightly black hair. When changed into their frightening therian form, they have the addition of savage canines that can rip chunks of flesh from any foe. Cruel and conniving, Arik and Balk work as a tag-team, using their combined strength and ferocious attacks to bring down their enemies. Their battles aren’t restricted to the arena either – on more than one occasion the brothers have brought about the deaths of their enemies in the training ludus, away from the eyes of an audience. Thugs and bullies of the worst kind, they take great pleasure in tormenting their opponents, both physically and psychologically, enjoying nothing more than teasing and taunting any new blood that arrives in the Furnace. What might they make of a Werewolf in their midst?

Author’s note: I’m a BIG fan of the old Planet of the Apes films from yesteryear (although, that said, best not to bring up Battle for the Planet of the Apes – best to draw a veil over that monstrosity). Bullies and braggarts strike a resonant chord with most readers, something that each of us had no doubt endured at some point during our lives. We all remember that feeling of being trapped when cornered by such a character, the dread at what might come. I was quite lucky in my school-life, able to make the brutes laugh – distraction techniques are winners, especially a little song and dance number – but such luxuries are in short supply for Drew in Wereworld. Drew’s been a young man who always stands up for the little people – he’s been that way since RISE OF THE WOLF and now, in volume three of the series, he’d unlikely to have changed his outlook. The Wereapes provide my hero with an enemy who, though physically more powerful, are a step behind him in the smarts-stakes. This leaves Drew depending upon his quick wits, but also seeking the help of his brother gladiators."



Follow Curtis on Twitter: @CurtisJobling

Also make sure you check out the Spinebreakers website throughout the week where you can enter their ‘Friday 13th’ ‘Wereworld lucky for some’ competition!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

In My Mailbox #52

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 really great books in the mail this week and I've started reading some of these already!

(I've read this one already and found it extremely thought-provoking.  It's also an interesting change of direction for Celia Rees)

(This sounds very scary and not to be read before bed)

(Yay!  Have been dying to get my hands on the sequel to the amazing 'Unearthly')

(I'm going to be taking part in the blog tour for this book in February)

I also wanted to include the one and only book I got for Christmas which I've read and fallen in love with!  My review will be up on the blog very soon.

(Stephanie Perkins can do no wrong!  I only wish she'd write faster!)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Review: Stolen Away - Alyxandra Harvey

Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey, published by Bloomsbury on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric—who may or may not betray them.


It’s official! Alyxandra Harvey can do it all!  After having successfully written about the world of vampires and ghosts, she’s now moved onto a new subject, faeries, weaving a captivating story of love and danger amidst the faerie realm.  I found myself totally immersed in ‘Stolen Away’ from the moment that Lucas appears on the scene with his sword by his side and kneels at the feet of the main protagonist Eloise.  He has vowed to protect her against the danger posed by Lord Strahan, the faerie king, who wants to use Eloise as a pawn in his battle to hold onto his crown.

There’s romance aplenty between Eloise and Lucas, but also some hot and sizzling moments between Eloise’s best-friend Jo and Eldric, the dark and handsome stranger that arrives on the scene to sweep Jo off her feet. I absolutely adored the relationship between the latter pairing as Eldric set my heart aflutter too.  Everyone loves a bad boy!  He’s quite an enigmatic figure and so at the beginning of the book it’s impossible to know whether or not he can be trusted but as his character is gradually developed we learn more about him and his own family history.  I loved the way that he seemed as drawn to Jo as she was to him, like a magnetic force which is out of their control and he always appeared just when she needed him. There are plenty of hot kisses between them and an undeniable spark in the air whenever they're together.  My only complaint was that I wanted to read more about them and I have my fingers firmly crossed that we may just see a sequel about them in the future. 

Eloise and Jo are joined by their other best friend Devin who is right there by their side throughout the events of the story.  Their friendship is rock solid and I liked the fact that even when they didn't necessarily agree with each others opinions or choices, they were always there to back each other up.   

I love the writing style of Alyxandra Harvey and the way she paints such vivid pictures of people and places that I always feel completely transported into the story.  'Stolen Away' is no exception with wonderful descriptions particularly of the fae, including Isadora, the no-nonsense and feisty flower fairy, as well as the wasp and hornet riding fae who manage to be both endearing and fierce at the same time.  There are also some fabulous passages conjuring up images of the realm of the fae which appears to be deeply magical as well as incredibly dangerous.

Harvey had me hook, line and sinker, captivating me completely with her tale of blossoming love amidst the world of the fae.  This is another brilliant book by my favourite YA Queen and I look forward to seeing what subject she'll turn her hand to next!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Tempest - Julie Cross

I am thrilled to welcome Julie Cross to the blog today as part of her tour for the fantastic 'Tempest'.  It may only be January but I have a feeling that this is going to be one of my favourite debuts of the year!  'Tempest' is a rollercoaster ride of time-travel, romance, action and adventure and is so utterly gripping that you won't be able to put it down!

I’m super excited that TEMPEST is going to be available to the UK audience around the same time it is in the US. It works out perfect because in the UK it will be cold and everyone will be looking for a new book to cozy up with inside. Of course, those in Australia can read TEMPEST on the beach. And anyone who’s made New Years resolutions to shed holiday pounds can read the book while burning calories on the elliptical. So, really, I couldn’t ask for a better publication month.

#This Time Last Year

This time last year, TEMPEST was getting all set for copy edits. There was no cover. No one in my town or hardly anyone online had heard of me or knew that I was a writer. Only one person in my family had read the book. I was still working full time and still not sure exactly where I was headed with this trilogy.

#This Time Next Year

Honestly, I can’t even imagine next year. I’m in the mode to think about tomorrow and the day after and not much beyond. But I suppose, I’ll be preparing for the book 2 release and that’s just scary since only three people have even read it as of right now. Since Tempest is my debut, I have no idea what to expect in the next year. Maybe my life won’t change as much as people are predicting. Knowing me, I’ll cling to every ounce of my current self for as long as humanly possible.

Check out Julie's Blog
Follow on Twitter @Juliecross1980

Don't forget to check out the next stop of the 'Tempest' blog tour
over at The Vault tomorrow.

The wonderful people at Macmillan have very kindly provided me with a copy of the book to giveaway.  This giveaway is UK only at the publishers request.  Please fill out all the details required on the form below and good luck!

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 - including email address 
  • You do not have to be a follower to enter but it's always appreciated
  • Deadline for entries will be on 15 January 2012
  • Winner(s) will be drawn by random.org
  • Winner(s) will be contacted via e-mail, and will be given 48 hours to response. Otherwise, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Any details will be deleted after use and will not be passed on to any third party.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Review: Tempest - Julie Cross

Tempest by Julie Cross, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Jackson Meyer is hiding a secret. He can time-travel. But he doesn't know how he does it, how to control it or what it means. When Jackson, and his girlfriend Holly, find themselves in fatal danger, Jackson panics and catapaults himself two years into his past, further than he's ever managed before, and this time he can't find a way back to the future. All the rules of time-travel he's experienced so far have been broken and Jackson has no choice but to pretend to be his younger self whilst he figures out a solution. Jackson is tearing himself apart with guilt and frustration, wondering if Holly survived. He's also become the target of an unknown enemy force and it seems even his dad is lying to him. Jackson is racing against time to save the girl he loves, but to do that he must first discover the truth about his family and himself. And stay alive.

'Tempest' is a time-travelling romantic action-adventure which will probably be read by most people in one sitting because it's so compulsively good that you won't be able to put it down!  It's the debut novel from Julie Cross who's an exciting new writing talent and is the first in a trilogy which I'm thrilled about because I want more...now!  There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of 'Tempest' and the film rights have already been optioned by Summit Entertainment, the company behind the Twilight Saga.

I'm a huge fan of books about time-travel.  One of my favourite adult novels is 'The Time Traveller's Wife' and I love the idea of being able to travel both into the future and into the past to revisit people and events.  Jackson's ability to travel through time is initially explained at the start of the book in a very manner of fact type of way, which makes it feel like although this is something quite extraordinary, it's also believable and not beyond the realms of possibility.  Because Jackson is constantly time-travelling I did have to concentrate on keeping track of what was happening and when but the date and time were often provided at the start of the chapter which made this a bit easier.   

Having a male narrator in the form of nineteen year old Jackson, is a refreshing change.  I enjoyed seeing and hearing about things from a male perspective and he makes a fantastic central character who I really loved by the end of the book.  His sole purpose in 'Tempest' is to ensure the safety of his girlfriend Holly and he's willing to do literally anything to protect her.  Jackson and Holly are both only nineteen but they have a very mature and grown-up relationship and are secure in their feelings for each other.  There are some incredibly romantic and sizzling moments between them and I was rooting for them all the way.  I loved Jackson's completely unswerving devotion and loyalty to Holly and the sacrifices he makes for her are admirable.  They're definitely my new favourite book couple!

The writing was fast paced, the plot exciting and there were some great action scenes interspersed.  There was also a good balance between chapters which were jam-packed full of adventure and excitement and quieter scenes where Jackson had time to stop and share a special moment with Holly. 

'Tempest' had everything you could wish for in a book including time-travelling teenagers, good guys doing battle with bad guys, an awesome sidekick best-friend and a spine tingling romance.  I was constantly kept on my toes and there were so many surprises and intriguing revelations.  The ending broke my heart and the sequel can't come soon enough.  This was an amazing start to a trilogy which will blow your mind.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Review + Giveaway: Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer, published by Puffin on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Marissa Meyer delivers a knockout with her story about Cinderella as you've never seen her before.  'Cinder' is a futuristic take on a traditional fairytale which is both inventive and truly original.  I was incredibly excited about this book prior to publication even though I wasn't really sure what to expect from it.  I started it one evening planning to read just a couple of chapters but ended up becoming so immersed in the story that I stayed up half the night reading.  This is only Meyer's debut novel but it's ingenious and imaginative and an astounding and fascinating book that I ended up loving. 

It's the first book in the Lunar Chronicles quartet which will be followed by other fairytale inspired tales including 'Scarlet' (Red Riding Hood), 'Cress' (Rapunzel) and 'Winter' (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).  I think I would have cried if I hadn't known that there was more to come!

'Cinder' is set in New Beijing where cyborgs and androids live among the human citizens.  I thought the mixing of an old and well known fairytale with a futuristic backdrop was brilliant and so clever.  Cinder herself is not your normal heroine, she's half human and half cyborg and is 'owned' by her step-mother Adri.  Cinder is also a gifted mechanic and it's this occupation which leads to her meeting the handsome Prince Kai who is ignorant of what she really is.  I enjoyed seeing the friendship between Kai and Cinder blossom and although Cinder keeps the fact that she's a cyborg secret from him, they share a number of intimate moments which leads to a level of trust and mutual respect to grow between them.  I also liked the fact that the Prince isn't a snob and wants to get to know Cinder even though she isn't of the same standing as him.  One obstacle in their path is the sinister Queen Levana of Lunar who sent shivers down my spine and literally drips evil off the page. 

Meyer has assembled an engrossing and imaginative cast of characters, my favourite whom was Cinder herself.  She's incredibly gifted and immensely loyal to the people she loves and cares about, including her android friend Iko and her step-sister Peony.  She can be unconventional at times, stubborn and headstrong but I adored her and was rooting for her throughout.  She often doesn't care about her own well being, as long as she can protect her friends and family. 

One of the plot lines in the book involves the search for an antidote to Letumosis, a plague like disease which is rampant in the city and deadly to anyone who contracts it.  This was really interesting and brings Cinder into contact with Dr Erland who holds the key to a number of secrets about her past as well as to her future happiness.   

Many of the hallmark features of the Cinderella fairytale were here but always with a slightly quirky spin on them.  For example, instead of a glass slipper there's a cyborg foot and  instead of a pumpkin there's a hover car.  There's also an evil stepmother and a wicked stepsister, plus a handsome Prince and a huge ball. 

Although I did guess the big reveal quite early on in the book, it was still shocking when it eventually came and has set the stage brilliantly for the second book in this amazing series.  I'm eager to get my hands on the follow-up and I only hope we won't be kept in suspense for too long.   

To celebrate the release of 'Cinder' the very lovely people at Puffin have given me a copy of the book to giveaway.  This giveaway is only open to entrants within the UK at the request of the publisher.  Good luck!

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 - including email address 
  • You do not have to be a follower to enter but it's always appreciated
  • Deadline for entries will be on 15th January 2012
  • Winner(s) will be drawn by random.org
  • Winner(s) will be contacted via e-mail, and will be given 48 hours to response. Otherwise, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Any details will be deleted after use and will not be passed on to any third party.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Review: The Weight of Water - Sarah Crossan

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 5th January 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother leave Poland and head for the UK to find her father. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother's heart is breaking and at school Kasienka finds it impossible to make new friends. While the search continues, Kasienka is kept afloat by William, a boy she meets at the local pool who understands what it means to lose someone and who swims with Kasienka towards her new life.

This is the first book I've read which is written entirely in verse.  I thought at first that I was going to find that difficult because I imagined it would feel disjointed to read but in actuality the verse flowed beautifully, the story unfolded smoothly and each separate verse was interconnected to the next so in some ways it was just like reading normal prose but with even more lyrical prowess.

The story is about a young girl called Kasienka who comes to England with her mother, to seek her father who left and abandoned them.  Her mother is desperate to find them and believes they can do so by trawling the streets with a map and knocking on people's doors - just one of the many touching and heartbreaking moments in the book.  Kasienka is bullied at school by another girl called Clair for being too white, having too short hair, having the wrong bag but essentially for being different.  She eventually finds peace with a new friend and a boy called William who she meets at her local swimming pool.

Swimming is Kasienka's solace and it's when she's in the water that she feels sleek and self-assured and she can momentarily forget the many troubles which weigh heavy on her young shoulders.  I loved the way in which her character develops throughout the book and although she has many issues to face she does so with her head held high.

The book is about immigration and alienation and trying to fit in with people who judge you on appearance without getting to know the real you and the person inside.  Kasienka has to deal with peoples' prejudices, even those of the adults around her and an example of this is the way that she's initially put in a lower grade at school because her English isn't fluent but in reality she's actually extremely bright and intelligent and capable of studying at the same level as other people her age.  The story teaches us to be accepting of people from different cultures and to not make snap judgements about others.

I thought 'The Weight of Water' was extremely moving and a powerful read which really touched me.  I was drawn into the story and felt a great sense of empathy for Kasienka.  Although this isn't normally the sort of book I'd pick up as the subject matter isn't one which would usually appeal to me I found it a lovely debut by an exciting new talent. 
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