Thursday 29 March 2012

Review: Fury - Elizabeth Miles

Fury by Elizabeth Miles, published by Simon and Schuster on 29th March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...

Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.

On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.

In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

'Fury' is based on the concept of The Furies who often feature prominently in Greek mythology.  They're three witches or spirits who seek vengeance for wrongdoings and this lies at the heart of Elizabeth Miles's story. 

The narrative alternates between two characters - Em Winters and Chase Singer.  They have more in common than they think because they've both wronged another and now they're about to be punished.  Whereas Em's indiscretion is clear from the start, Chase's isn't fully revealed until a good two-thirds of the way through the book when the mistake he made costs him dear.  Although I knew that Em and Chase had both done things which were wrong, I couldn't help but keep thinking that Zach (Em's best friend's boyfriend) had done things far worse and that the Furies should really have been after him.  The ending luckily dealt with that quite well.

I really liked Em's friendship with boy next door JD.  As they've grown up together, they're completely comfortable around each other and is was obvious from the start that they'd make a perfect couple.  I loved JD's quirkiness and honesty and his unfailing devotion to Em.  Their relationship does change near the end of the book and I'm looking forward to seeing how this will be explored in the second book in the trilogy.

Although I enjoyed Em's story, I actually liked the chapters which were centred on Chase slightly more.  He's had a difficult time of it living in a trailer with his Mum and has desperately tried to fit in with his peers, sometimes acting out of character to try and impress them.  It was interesting to see the contrast between his behaviour when he was around his friends and when he was with his mother.  His story took an unexpected turn near the end which took me completely by surprise but was a brilliant twist.

I would have liked to have known more about Drea who fills Em in on the Furies and how she's involved in everything but I have a feeling that more will be revealed in 'Envy' the second book in the series.  I didn't love 'Fury' quite as much as I initially thought I would as I found the start quite slow and kept wondering when something was actually going to happen.  I also didn't click with all the characters but I still thought the whole concept for the book was fantastic and I'm intrigued to know what direction Elizabeth Miles will take the story in next.

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.

The very first page of this book had me hooked - a letter from a girl going by a pseudonym who believes she's responsible for several murders.  And so the brilliant and mind-twisting 'The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer' unfolds.

After the deaths of her boyfriend Jude and friends Rachel and Claire in a mysterious accident, Mara's family decide to uproot and move to a new city.  Mara was the only survivor of the accident but can't remember any of the events of that night.  Watched closely by her mother and big brother Daniel she tries to adjust to a new school but keeps seeing the faces of her dead friends.

This was quite a long book but I sped through it because it was so good.  It wasn't what I was originally expecting when I first heard about it but it did meet my very high expectations.  I'll confess that I wasn't always sure what was really happening and whether or not the things Mara was seeing were real but I enjoyed puzzling it all out and although I finished this book several days ago I'm still thinking about it now.  I liked the way it challenged me and although I have some theories about what may really be going on I have a feeling that there are still plenty of twists and turns and revelations to come in what is an extremely unique plot.

Mara's love interest appears in the form of Noah Shaw.  I fell in love with Noah.  He's gorgeous (and knows it) but he's also smart and intelligent, witty and funny and his family just happen to be rich.  The achingly perfect Noah is drawn to Mara from the start.  I loved the way that he had to try and win her over and eventually does to the point that even if she wanted to resist him she wouldn't be able to.  I liked the way their relationship started off on pretty shaky ground but they eventually grew closer and closer.  Although they're physically attracted to each other, there's also a lot more to the bond that they share.

The sequel, 'The Evolution of Mara Dyer' is due to be published in October 2012.  I can't wait to get my hands on it as I need to know what's really going on!

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Trailer: The Intern - Dillon Khan

On 5th April, Puffin will be publishing 'The Intern' by Dillon Khan, a behind the scenes look at the music industry.  This featured in my selection of hotly anticipated titles for 2012. 

When Jay Merchant lands an internship for the best job in music television, he is given a backstage pass to the biggest gig of his life. The velvet rope to the biggest VIP parties and hottest celebrities has been lifted and now he's got to capture it on camera. But with only six months to turn his intern dream into a real job, does he have what it takes? It's time to face the music...

My review will be up on the blog nearer to the publication date but until then here's the fantastic trailer for the book which has already been heaped with praise by industry insiders including Reggie Yates and Trevor Nelson.

Monday 26 March 2012

Review: Dark Storm - Sarah Singleton

Dark Storm by Sarah Singleton, published by Simon and Schuster on 29th March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Ellie is staying with her maternal grandparents for the summer, while her recently bereaved dad takes off on holiday with his new girlfriend. Upset by his apparent callousness, missing her mother, and jealous for her dad's attention, she begins to spiral into depression. Her grandparents suggest she joins a local theatre group, to meet people her own age and get away from the dark thoughts that threaten to engulf her. But then she gets roped into a seance at the theatre, and is the only one who actually sees a real ghost. Now a spirit is contacting her from beyond the grave - and as the dead boy's story unfolds, Ellie finds herself falling in love with him. But if she solves his mystery and helps release his soul, will he be lost to her forever?

'Dark Storm' is a ghostly love story about a lonely teenage girl called Ellie who while visiting her grandparents for the summer discovers a secret from the past.  She falls in love with a handsome vision who appears to her after she finds a theatre model in an old bookshop.  The model connects her with Harry - a ghost from the past who she sets out to discover more about.

I initially found the story a little slow to start but as it progressed I was sucked into Ellie's quest to find out more about the mysterious Harry and who he really was.  I actually really enjoyed reading about the historical research that she embarks upon and the way in which she gradually begins to connect all the dots together to find out the truth about him.  It's like a puzzle which she has all the pieces for but it won't make sense until they're all put in the right place.   

British author Sarah Singleton has an engaging writing style. Her characters are realistically and truthfully portrayed like typical teenagers and they're easy to empathise with.  I liked Ellie, the central protagonist, in particular  She feels displaced and alone after the death of her mother and resentful of her father's new girlfriend.  She's drawn to Harry's presence and there's a definite connection between the two but I didn't necessarily feel the sense of love which develops.  I far preferred the solid and dependable Alex, a local boy who Ellie becomes friends with and who's always there when she needs him.

There's also local girl Daisy who Ellie befriends when she joins the local theatre group.  Daisy is quirky and cool and their personalities seem to compliment each other.  While Ellie is often sad and confused, Daisy is a happy person to be around and she seems like a great friend to have.

I liked the symmetry which developed between Ellie's mother's romantic past and Ellie's present relationships.  The second half of the book in which many of these secrets come to light was extremely good.  Overally this was an enjoyable read and probably my favourite of Sarah Singleton's books so far. 

Friday 23 March 2012

Review: The One Dollar Horse - Lauren St John

The One Dollar Horse by Lauren St John, published by Orion Children's Books on 1st March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Fifteen year old Casey Blue lives in East London’s grimmest tower block and volunteers at a local riding school, but her dream is to win the world’s greatest Three Day Event: the Badminton Horse Trials. When she rescues a starving, half-wild horse, she’s convinced that the impossible can be made possible. But she has reckoned without the consequences of her father’s criminal record, or the distraction of a boy with melty, dark eyes, with whom she refuses to fall in love. Casey learns the hard way that no matter how high you jump, or how fast you gallop, you can never outrun the past.

Horse mad children and teens will love this story about a young girl who rescues a horse from the knacker's yard and then goes on to ride him in the Badminton Horse Trials, the world's greatest three day event.  They will also love the gorgeous hardcover copy with shocking pink edged pages.  This book practically begs you to pick it up!

Casey Blue loves horses.  After she saves Storm Warning from near death, a bond is formed between horse and girl that nothing can break.  Casey has had a tough life after her father was sent to prison for his part in a burglary but she's determined and has a dream that she'll do anything to reach.

When I was younger I used to love reading books about horses.  I was a huge fan of The Saddle Club series by Bonnie Bryant and was always on the lookout for new titles.  This book brought back many happy memories of my horse-mad days and I'm sure will be well loved by today's audience.  I really liked the main character Casey and enjoyed the way the book explored her relationship with her father, as well as the romance which develops between her and the Farrier's son Peter, who notices something different and special about her from the moment he first sets eyes on her.

Lauren St John has really managed to capture the love of horses that many of the characters share and the excitement of competing on one of the greatest stages of them all.  It was extremely enjoyable watching Casey overcoming so much adversity and so many obstacles and the book makes you believe that anything is possible and that dreams really can come true. 

The second book in the trilogy entitled 'Race the Wind' will be published in March 2013 and follows Casey on the next step of her adventure.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Review: Forgiven (The Demon Trapper's Daughter #3) by Jana Oliver

Forgiven by Jana Oliver, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 1st March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Riley has made a bargain with Heaven, and now they've come to collect. 

Lucifer's finest are ruling the streets and it seems that Armageddon might be even closer than Riley imagined. But with her soul and her heart in play it's all she can do to keep herself alive, let alone save the world. Riley's not afraid of kicking some major demon butt, but when it comes to a battle between Heaven and Hell, she might need a little help...

There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

I'm a massive fan of Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series and each book just seems to keep getting better and better.  'Forgiven' is the third instalment and picking it up was like getting reacquainted with old friends.  I instantly felt immersed back into Riley's world and plunged straight into the action.

Riley has been tasked with trying to prevent Armageddon which frankly seems an impossible task, except for the fact that this is Riley we're talking about and she always appears to be capable of doing pretty much anything she sets her mind to.  Caught between heaven and hell she's stuck right in the middle of two powerful forces and often finds herself in situations where the line between good and evil, right and wrong, is blurred.  What I love about her character is that she will never back down from a fight, she's never afraid of making the difficult choice and I love seeing all the facets of her personality developing as the series progresses.

Riley definitely gets dealt a tough hand this time around.  She has to deal with the repercussions of sleeping with Ori, whilst also fighting multiple demons, helping her father and making amends with Beck.

I have to admit though that one of the main attractions of the books is the will they/won't they relationship between Riley and Denver Beck.  He's one hot demon trapper and sparks fly when they're in each others company.  I love everything about Beck.  I love his gruff, tough exterior and yet the way he turns to mush inside when it comes to Riley.  I adore the way he's so protective about her and willing to put his life on the line to defend her against all costs.  The build-up of the romantic side of their relationship has been a slow burn but when that kiss eventually comes it's definitely been worth the long wait.

I absolutely adored this book which is a perfect combination of action, adventure, kick-ass fights, romance and the ultimate battle between good and evil.  I salute you Jana Oliver because although you broke my heart at the end, you've created a world unlike any other which I can't wait to see more of.  'Forgiven' quite literally rocks!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #57

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!

Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published on 7th June 2012 by Quercus

Bryn knows first-hand that being the alpha of a werewolf pack means making hard decisions, and that being human makes things a thousand times worse.

She's prepared to give up her humanity, but the wolf who promised to Change her is waiting - though for what, Bryn doesn't know. Still human, she must take her place in the werewolf Senate, the precarious democracy that rules the North American packs. Standing side by side with werewolves who were ancient long before she was ever born is enough of a challenge, but Bryn soon learns that the Senate has been called to deal with a problem: the kind of problem that involves human bodies, a Rabid werewolf, and memories that Bryn, Chase, and the rest of their pack would rather forget

With bodies stacking up and political pressure closing in from all sides, Bryn and her pack are going to have to turn to old enemies and even older friends for help - especially when it starts to look like this time, the monster might be one of their own. 

This is the third book in the Raised by Wolves series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  I've really enjoyed following Bryn's story and the challenges she's had to face as a human living with wolves.  I have no doubt that this will be another well-crafted and exciting instalment.   

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Book Trailer: Legend - Marie Lu

If you've recently reread The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and are feeling at a loss to know what to read next then check out the trailer for the incredible 'Legend' by Marie Lu.

Legend takes place in a dark future, when the United States has split into two warring nations. It tells the story of a famous 15-year old boy criminal and the 15-year old girl prodigy hired to hunt him down. When their paths cross, the truth they uncover together will become legend.

If you're a fan of The Hunger Games then this is the next big read you'll be looking for.  You can see my review of the book here which I definitely found a 5 out of 5 star read.

I can't wait to see The Hunger Games movie but until then here's the very awesome trailer which I'll admit I've watched multiple times and which has only left me more excited for the film.

Monday 19 March 2012

Review: Skin Deep - Laura Jarratt

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt, published by Electric Monkey on 5th March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Ugly people don't have feelings. They're not like everyone else. They don't notice if you stare at them and turn away. And if they did notice, it wouldn't hurt them. They're not like real people. Or that's what I used to think. Before I learned...

After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna is permanently scarred. She struggles to rebuild her life, but every stare in the street, every time she looks in the mirror, makes her want to retreat further from the world. Until she meets Ryan. Ryan's a traveller. When he and his mother moor their narrow boat on the outskirts of a village, she tells him this time it will be different. He doesn't believe her; he can't imagine why this place shouldn't be as unwelcoming as the rest. Until he meets Jenna. But as Jenna and Ryan grow closer, repercussions from the crash continue to reverberate through the community. And then a body is found...

'Skin Deep' is a beautifully moving contemporary romance about a young girl scarred for life after a car accident which killed her best friend and a charismatic traveller called Ryan.  I'd been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard about it.  The initial extract I read got me really excited and when I finally got my hands on a finished copy I picked it up immediately.  I'm happy to report that it was just as good as I was expecting.

The two main characters, Jenna and Ryan, have really interesting stories and I liked seeing how their two lives gradually intersected.  Although it initially appears that Ryan is predominantly the one helping Jenna, as their relationship develops you can see that they're actually providing mutual support for each other.  Jenna is still struggling with the repercussions of the accident which changed her forever and Ryan also has problems of his own.  His mother is bipolar and he's had to learn to cope with her mood swings as well as the taunts from his peers about being a gypsy.  Just as he teaches Jenna not to be so self-conscious about her face, she teaches him acceptance too.  I felt a lot of empathy for both characters and what they have to deal with.  They're both so well written that I could really place myself in their shoes at points in the story.

I also liked the dual narrative which alternated between the two of them as this provided a better understanding of their personalities, thoughts and feelings. 

The romance between them is a sweet, tingly tale of first love and although Ryan is older and more experienced than Jenna, it was lovely to see how he treated her properly and with care and respect.  He's never afraid to stand up for her and to stand by her side, even when others are quick to whisper behind her back.  I loved the ending which I thought was very realistic and honest but I wanted to read more about them and found the end came far too quickly!  

This was a fantastic book and I certainly wouldn't hesitate to recommend 'Skin Deep' to anyone looking for a romantic read with real heart.  Much of the story is about the impact that one tragic event can have on peoples' lives and this was sensitively handled with real insight, compassion and empathy.  I look forward to reading more by Laura Jarratt in the future.

Sunday 18 March 2012

In My Mailbox #57

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

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes.

I had some lovely books this week so thank you to all the wonderful publishers who've sent titles for review.  I was also thrilled to see that I was quoted on the press release for Alyson Noel's new book 'Fated'. 
(The first in her new Soul Seekers series, I'm dying to start this one!)

(I'm a huge fan of this series and am anxious to know if Violet and Jay will get a happy ending)

(Sounds intriguing - I've already dipped into a couple of pages)

(I've actually only read the first in this series but loved it.  I really need to get hold of and read the other two titles before I can start this one)

(Looks so good and one I've been waiting and waiting for)

Friday 16 March 2012

Review: Poison Heart - S.B. Hayes

Poison Heart by S.B. Hayes, published by Quercus on 1st March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
A mysterious girl, with luminous green eyes, stares back and from that moment on she haunts Katy and appears to know her every move, even what she is thinking. What is the strange connection between them? And what is the power of the emerald pendant which the girl bestows on her?

Very creepy and unsettling, 'Poison Heart' kept me guessing right up until the end.  I love books which are slow burners until they suddenly throw a huge curveball at you which makes you rethink everything you thought you knew - this is definitely one of those books.

Katy believes that Genevieve is out to steal her life - her friends and her boyfriend Merlin.  She sets out to discover the truth about her nemesis with the help of Luke, the boy next door who she's literally grown up with.  As the story progresses Genevieve gets more and more stalkerish to the point that Katy starts to feel that she could be in great danger. 

A brilliant read, I couldn't put this book down because I was desperate to find out the secret that new girl Genevieve was concealing.  When it finally came, the twist was clever and made my jaw drop.  It turned everything on it's head and wasn't predictable in the slightest.  What I also really liked was that you never knew whether or not Genevieve could be trusted.  Is she really evil or is Katy the one losing her mind and being overly paranoid?

The friendship between Katy and Luke was another thing I loved about the story.  It did however seem blindingly obvious to me (although not to Katy) that he was interested in being more than just friends with her. 

Fiendisly clever, I was very impressed with this enjoyable debut.  It was well plotted, gripping and a fabulous read.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Review: Falling Fast - Sophie McKenzie

Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
When River auditions for a part in an interschool performance of Romeo and Juliet, she finds herself smitten by Flynn, the boy playing Romeo. But Flynn comes from a damaged family—is he even capable of giving River what she wants? The path of true love never did run smooth . . .

Sophie McKenzie is one of my favourite British authors and I always look forward to her new books.  'Falling Fast' was a sweet contemporary romance and is the first in a new series.  It features River who auditions for a part in a school production of Romeo and Juliet and the very cute Flynn who she meets and falls head over heels for.

What I love about Sophie McKenzie's books is that she can really write realistically about teenagers and their lives.  It's like she totally gets inside their heads.  River's emotions, her feelings towards Flynn, her desire to find love and not just to have a shallow crush like all her friends is laid bare on the page.  McKenzie describes things as a teenager would experience them - the uncertainty of not knowing how the boy you like feels about you, the first pangs of a new love and the torment of wondering whether or not he'll call. 

There are also quite a few references to the characters in the book having sexual relationships which surprised me at the first because many of them seem quite young in their behaviour and outlook but I guess this constitutes an honest depiction of some teens. 

Flynn has some really interesting character traits and comes across as having a tough exterior but being very caring and kind underneath his bravado.  I thought that he had a lovely relationship with his mother and sisters and had obviously got used to being the man of the house even though it meant he continually had to worry about affording things that other teenagers normally took for granted.  I think River brought out the best in him and made dealing with a difficult home life slightly easier.  I am worried that there's trouble in store for him in the future but I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next to his relationship with River.  They make a very cute and sweet couple.  Ahhh, young love! 

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #56

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!

Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls #5) by Ally Carter
Published on 5th April 2012 by Orchard Books

The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, her memory is a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and dirt under her nails. All she wants is to go home. But even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers as Cammie and her friends face their most difficult challenge yet. With only their training and a few clues to guide them, the girls go in search of answers on the other side of the world. But the Circle is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.

This is one of my favourite series!  I usually devour these in one sitting because each book is so darn good that it's impossible to put down.  The last book in the series was the best so far which left me even more excited for this one.  I can't wait to see what secrets Cammie is going to discover this time around.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Review: Advent - James Tredwell

Advent by James Tredwell, published by Hodder and Stoughton in February 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
For centuries it has been locked away Lost beneath the sea Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight. But now magic is rising to the world once more. And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall. When he arrives, there is no one there to meet him.

This is the first book in an exciting new trilogy.  Don't let the length of the book put you off because it's well worth every second spent in the company of Gavin and co.

'Advent' got off to an intriguing start - the very first chapter is set in 1537 and centres on the greatest Magus in the world. My interest was immediately piqued and I couldn't wait to read on and further immerse myself in the story.  After the first chapter, the focus changes to the present day with young Gavin setting off on the train to stay with his Aunt Gwen in Cornwall.  Almost straight away, we know that there's something different about Gavin.  He's no ordinary boy as he can see people who aren't really there.  This has always frightened his parents with whom he doesn't have a very close relationship.  He's gradually learnt to keep many things to himself for fear of what others will say.

During the second half of the book, the emphasis is more on the magical and fantastical parts of the story and this is where a lot of things gradually began to click into place for me. 

Pendurra, Conrwall was a brilliantly entrancing setting.  I could almost feel the magic in the air and there's a tangible sense of something mysterious and unseen to normal human eyes about the place.  The possibility that anything could happen is very real and Pendurra almost seems like it's from another time with residents who are enigmatic and mysterious. 

The book is based on the Faust legend of a scholar making a deal with the devil in exchange for knowledge and worldly pleasures.  I thought this was really clever and added an extra dimension to the book.  There are also elements of Arthurian myths and legends which is another aspect I enjoyed.

The story is multi-layered and although I can't confess to understanding everything that happens in the book I think that is actually part of it's charm.  'Advent' seems like the type of book that you'll pick up over and over again and each time you'll reread it and discover as well as understand, more of the secrets contained within its pages.    

This book is exquisitely written and will definitely appeal to lovers of the fantasy genre.  I also think it has crossover appeal for adults as well as teens.  The intriguing ending has left me in great anticipation of the next book in the trilogy which will hopefully be out next year.    

Monday 12 March 2012

Review: Bunheads - Sophie Flack

Bunheads by Sophie Flack, published by Atom on 1st March 2012 

Goodreads synopsis:
As a dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward is living her childhood dream. She gets to be up on stage in front of adoring crowds every night. And while she might not be a prima ballerina yet, she's moving up the ranks and surely if she works hard enough she can make it happen.

But devoting her whole life to ballet leaves very little time for anything else: friends, family, school have all fallen by the wayside. Hannah doesn't mind, until a chance encounter in a restaurant brings Jacob into her life. He's cute, he plays guitar and he's offering a whole future that Hannah never considered. And now she must choose between her lifelong dream or what could be the love of her life...

When I was a little girl I took ballet lessons and like many others dreamt of becoming a ballerina.  I've always loved the spectacle of watching ballets being performed on the stage - the beautiful costumes, the gorgeous music and the wonderful stories the dancers tell with their bodies.  Although my dream didn't come true, I never stopped being obsessed with a world which from the outside is all about grace, poise, elegance and beauty but underneath the veneer is actually more about hard work, grit, determination and sacrifice.

The author Sophie Flack was a dancer herself with the New York City Ballet for nine years and so has firsthand experience of the ballet world.  She's therefore able to present a realistic and true depiction of what it's like to devote your whole life to a single purpose, literally to the exclusion of anything else.

The central character Hannah Ward has done exactly that.  As part of the Manhattan Ballet Company, she's a dancer in the corps de ballet but her ultimate goal is to be promoted to soloist.  When she meets Jacob, a cute guy who also plays the guitar, she begins to open her eyes to all the other possibilities that are out there and ultimately has to decide whether or not she should give up her dream of becoming a prima ballerina to experience the real world instead.

Hannah's life is incredibly insular.  She has no friends outside of her fellow dancers.  She left home at fourteen and so has never developed a real relationship with her parents.  She's never had a boyfriend before and has no time for anything outside of ballet.  All of these facets of her life, helped to show how dedicated you have to be to become a ballerina and how many sacrifices you have to make.

What made this book really stand out for me were all the behind the scenes details about the daily grind that the dancers have to put their bodies through for each performance.  I enjoyed reading about each of the ballets they stage, how they break in their new pointe shoes and the regime of dancing, pilates and yoga that they have to undergo to remain at their best. 

It's hard to put into words how much I adored this book.  I absolutely and whole heartedly loved it and enjoyed it so much that I never wanted it to end.  The addition of a lovely epilogue was the perfect ending.  I thought that Hannah was a wonderfully real character with an incredibly difficult decision to make.

Sophie Flack has written about a subject that I am and always will be in love with but I also thought that she had a great writing style and created very true to life characters who I came to consider as friends.  I can't wait to see what she writes next.  She's turned me into a true fan!     

Friday 9 March 2012

Review: Shooting Stars - Allison Rushby

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby, published by Walker on 28th February 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Meet Josephine Foster, or Zo Jo as she’s called in the biz. The best pint-sized photographer of them all, Jo doesn’t mind doing what it takes to get that perfect shot, until she’s sent on an undercover assignment to shoot Ned Hartnett—teen superstar and the only celebrity who’s ever been kind to her—at an exclusive rehabilitation retreat in Boston. The money will be enough to pay for Jo’s dream: real photography classes, and maybe even quitting her paparazzi gig for good. Everyone wants to know what Ned’s in for. But Jo certainly doesn’t know what she’s in for: falling in love with Ned was never supposed to be part of her assignment.

Sharp, funny and witty, 'Shooting Stars' is an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable read.  Have you ever imagined what the life of a paparazzo is really like - well you can find out all their juicy secrets here.  This book will definitely appeal to those who are obsessed with celebrities and the world of entertainment, for which I would definitely include myself!

Jo is a sixteen year old paparazzo, following in the footsteps of her father.  She loves the rush of snapping that elusive shot and because of her age she's able to go places and get photos that no one else can get.  She agrees to enter a retreat to get pictures of singer and teen sensation Ned Hartnett but she ends up discovering a lot more about Ned and herself, than she bargained for.  Jo is an engaging and sharply perceptive central character and narrator.  I warmed to her straight away and although she keeps her feelings buried deep inside, she has a big heart.  I really liked the way that Jo actually ended up learning things about herself during the retreat which helped her to decide about her own future.  There was a tremendous amount of growth in her as a character which I enjoyed. 

There were some great secondary characters in the book too, including Jo's paparazzo friend Mannie, her air-hostess cousin Wendy and various others like Katrina and Seth who she meets at the retreat.  The latter two are also working on rebuilding their lives after personal difficulties and tragedies but it was nice to see that Jo made some real friendships through her experience.

I loved the twist that Allison Rushby drops into the book about half-way through.  I have to say that I didn't guess it at all but it made the second part of the story even more interesting as Jo has to try and find a solution for the mess she's got herself into!

'Shooting Stars' is a fun read with a cute boy, a sassy heroine and an engaging storyline.  I for one, will never look at celebrity snaps in magazines the same way again.  Don't wait, go out and pick this book up now!

Thursday 8 March 2012

Review: The Broken Road - B.R. Collins

The Broken Road by B.R. Collins, published by Bloomsbury on 16th February 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Rufus is an apprentice in his father's goldsmith workshop in Cologne. He is one of many who fall under the spell of Nick, a charismatic preacher whose promise to lead a journey to the Holy Land is mesmerising. Mesmerising enough for hundreds to leave family and safety and follow him. But despite Nick's charisma, he is flawed, and the crusade that Rufus embarks upon with so many others turns, terribly, into a journey of failed dreams and broken promises.

'The Broken Road' is set in 1212 and is a fascinating take on the Children's Crusade  which involved a band of children setting out on their own to try to rid the Holy Land of Muslims.  There are various accounts of what actually happened but B.R. Collins has chosen to concentrate on the Crusade from Cologne to Genoa and then Rome. 

The book reminded me slightly of 'Crusade' by Linda Press Wulf, which is also an interpretation of the journey but which focused on the more well known version of events with the children eventually being sold into slavery.  It's incredible to imagine all these young children and teenagers setting out on such a long journey where death and hardship is waiting around every corner and so it was interesting to read such a captivating account of an event which robbed mothers and fathers of their offspring.

The story focuses on Rufus, who is a likable and appealing narrator.  He tries to do what he believes in but he also always tries to do what is right.  He's captivated from the start by the charismatic Nick, who leads the group on the road to Jerusalem.  Nick believes in the Crusade but is often blind to much of what's happening around him and doesn't notice the horror of children dying along the way and many having to be left behind because they're too weak to walk any further.  These are children who are starving, thirsty and exhausted at an age when they should be at home with their parents.  I thought that Collins perfectly captured the excitement and exhilaration they experience when they initially get a taste of real freedom for the first time and then the reality that gradually begins to permeate their consciousness when their siblings and friends begin dying.

God is another major character in the book and I thought it was a unique idea to introduce him through Rufus's eyes and as a real and substantial character in his own right.  There's a religious and spiritual theme present throughout the whole story and blind faith plays an enormous part in the actions of many of the children.  

'The Broken Road' will appeal enormously to fans of historical fiction and is both an informative and enjoyable read.  I look forward to reading more by the British author B.R. Collins in the future.  

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #55

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!

Slated by Teri Terry
Published on 3rd May 2012 by Orchard Books
Kyla's memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost forever.
She's been Slated.
The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla's mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?
I'm dying to read this one!  It sounds like the perfect combination of mystery and intrigue and has really piqued my interest.  I've read some pre-publication reviews which have been raving about it so can't get my hands on this book soon enough.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Review: Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, published by Electric Monkey on 6th February 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That's what you do to enemy agents. It's what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine - and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I'm going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France - an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

This book is set during one of my favourite periods of history to read about - the Second World War, and the backdrop to the story alternates between England and Occupied France.  It's a story about the true heroism of men and women during the war, often risking their own lives for the good of the war effort.  It's about the strength and courage that ordinary people show during a time of need.  Be prepared to sob your heart out in places.  I certainly did.

'Code Name Verity' follows the story of two girls, a spy and a pilot, who become best friends as they each do their part for their country.  I found the narrative in the first half of the book sometimes slightly confusing as we see things from the viewpoint of one of the girls who has been captured and is being interrogated in a German prisoner of war camp, tortured by the Gestapo for information.  She tells the story of herself and Maddie but talks about herself in the third person.  I thought this worked well within the particular context because she uses it as a distancing device, but it meant that I really had to concentrate on what was happening and who was narrating the story.  The second half of the book picks up with Maddie herself looking back at events and that's when I found a lot of plot points started to slot into place.

I loved the friendship between the two girls but I also liked them as two individual personalities who are often very different but absolutely loyal to each other  Although at the start, you're never quite sure if our captured girl can really be trusted, as she begins telling her account of things to the Germans, be prepared for some pretty surprising moments along the way which shed new light on many of the events of the story. 

The book in itself is also a fascinating account of the Air Transport Auxiliary with lots of interesting details about the planes which were used during the War.  However, it occasionally felt like Wein got a bit too immersed in all the aircraft history rather than concentrating on the real heart of the story.

I think 'Code Name Verity' would appeal both to fans of young adult fiction, as well as having crossover appeal for adults who are interested in this period of history.   

Monday 5 March 2012

Review: BZRK - Michael Grant

BZRK by Michael Grant, published by Electric Monkey on 5th March 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Set in the near future, a conspiracy is afoot to create a perfect and perfectly controlled world. The Armstrong Fancy Gift Corporation is a front for the conjoined Armstrong twins, Charles and Benjamin, and the plot to create their own version of utopia.

A shadowy guerilla group known as BZRK form a nascent resistance movement. Both sides develop sophisticated nanotechnology to achieve their goals.

I’ve never read anything by Michael Grant before but I’ve read so many stellar reviews of his books that I thought it was about time I tried one for myself. BZRK is published by Egmont’s new YA imprint Electric Monkey and is unique because prior to the book’s publication, a six-month long interactive transmedia prequel was launched online, incorporating social media, web sites, blogs, video games and many other mobile devices to develop people’s interest in the characters and the story before actually reading the book. The beauty of this is that people can become as involved as they want to be but the more they interact with the content, the more they’re likely to engage with the story. I think this is a great idea and it would be interesting to know how successful this project has been. It may be something that other authors consider adopting in the future.

‘BZRK’ had a stellar opening which really grabbed my attention and left me wondering what was coming next. A private jet crashes into a stadium full of people and Grant pulls no punches in showing us what happens in gory detail. Although a book for young adults, Grant’s writing, along with the complexity and sophistication of the plot and many of the concepts and ideas incorporated into the novel are not dumbed down at all. This is a book that you need to pay attention to. I have to say that at some points I wasn’t completely sure I understood what was happening and some passages I had to go back to and read again which slightly spoilt my enjoyment of the overall story.

Grant has invented a world where two factions are battling for the future of civilisation as we know it. They’re battling not with conventional weapons but with nano technology. One side controls biots while the other side uses nanobots – designed to be implanted into people’s heads, allowing someone else to control their thoughts, actions and feelings, without them even knowing it. This is a scary idea as it seems impossible at the moment but plausible in the future. There are some explicit descriptions of them entering people’s eyes and brain which definitely had me wincing more than once.

The main fault for me with ‘BZRK’ was that I didn’t feel any real connection with the characters. Many of the people in the book go by code names to protect their identity, but this, combined with the fact that there wasn’t much back story for the two main protagonists, left me with a sense that I never really got to know who they were or their true personalities. There were some interesting and unique secondary characters in the book including the creepy conjoined Armstrong Twins who want to take away peoples’ free will and a mysterious figure called Caligula but no one that I found myself really caring about.

I’ve actually got mixed feelings about the book. I wanted to love it and I was blown away by how clever it was but for me, my favourite books are ones where what happens to the characters actually matters to me and I just didn’t experience that with ‘BZRK’. I am intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next though as there were a lot of plot threads left hanging and I’m curious to see where Michael Grant will take the story next.

Sunday 4 March 2012

In My Mailbox #56

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

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes.

I didn't get around to doing IMM last week, so here's a big catch-up of all the lovely books I've recently received!

(I've read this one already so look out for my review soon)

Firespell by Chloe Neill
(I haven't started this series yet but I've heard good things about it from other bloggers)

Charmfall by Chloe Neill
(This is the third book in the series)

Immortal City by Scott Speer
(Sounds fantastic!  The finished cover is also gorgeous)

The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney
(Hoping to start this one soon as I've been waiting for it for months!)

Dreaming of Beauty by Kristen White
(An intriguing spin on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale)

The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams
(Heard a lot of pre-publication buzz about this book, so really looking forward to reading it)

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt
(Another one that I've read already and can't say enough good things about)

The Hunt by Andrew Fukudu
(Ooh scary!  Probably not one to read before bed)

Welcome Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriel
(This is a May release and I'll be taking part in the blog tour for the book)

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
(Sounds interesting - I hadn't heard about it before receiving it for review)

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby
(My review will be up on the blog on Friday - it's a funny and entertaining read)

Thursday 1 March 2012

Review: This is Not Forgiveness - Celia Rees

This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees, published by Bloomsbury on 2nd February 2012
Goodreads synopsis:
Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro.

But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there.

Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way.

Review:This is Celia Rees as you’ve never seen her before. Throw out any pre-conceived notions you may have about this book based on her previous writing because this is a very different change of direction. More commonly known for her historical fiction, this is a contemporary story of an altogether different nature.

‘This is Not Forgiveness’ deals with a subject matter Rees has never touched upon before but one which is very topical at the moment. She addresses the theme of war and how people returning from combat have to learn to adapt to civilian life, while dealing with the long lasting effects of having experienced death firsthand.  I like the way Rees also shows the effect that their return can have on their friends and family. 

The powerful opening had me curious and intrigued about the story from the very first few pages.  We know that Rob is dead and his younger brother Jamie has his ashes in an urn.  The actual story unfolds a year prior to this, showing how Rob's death occurred, while keeping the reader on their toes and guessing about what may have occurred.  Things are never quite as they first seem. 

The three narrative strands ensure that the feelings of all three of the main characters are laid bare.  There's Jamie who I immediately liked, his older brother Rob who has been injured and traumatised by the war in Afghanistan and the beautiful and elusive Caro who it took me a little while to warm to.  They each have very distinctive voices and personalities and I enjoyed getting to see events from each of their perspectives. 

The story is hard hitting and the subject matter is often difficult to read about but I found it a thought provoking and interesting book.  There's no neat happy ending and things are often messy and complicated for the characters, but I think this honestly and accurately reflects real life, showing that not everything can be easily fixed. 
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