Thursday, 31 May 2012

Review: Starters - Lissa Price

Starters by Lissa Price, published by Random House Children's Books on 5th April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . .

Dystopian novels are huge at the moment which I'm personally really pleased about because I'm a massive fan of books which imagine what the world will be like in the future.  Lissa Price has a particularly frightening vision of the future in her debut novel 'Starters'.  This is one environment that I would not want to be a part of!

After the spore wars, everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty ended up dead - unable to get the precious vaccine which spared the lives of teens (Starters) and the elderly (Elders).  Without their parents to keep them safe and protected, some young people have had no choice but to live on the streets, facing potential dangers alone.  The main character Callie is determined to look after and provide for her younger brother Tyler which leads her to Prime Destinations.  A facility offering to pay a huge sum of money for Starters to rent out their bodies.  The whole idea of Prime Destinations was creepy and chilling.  I can't imagine how you would feel knowing that someone else was going to be walking around in your body.

I thought the whole plot was incredibly original and beyond intriguing.  I didn't have a clue what was going to happen to Callie who abhorred the concept of renting your body but who desperately needed the money for herself and her brother.  There are elaborate rules in place about what Enders can and can't do in these bodies but just hearing about some of these things made the situation seem even more terrifying.

The tension was kept high throughout the book - no one was really who they seemed to be, so you couldn't tell who to trust and who to be wary of.  There was also a huge twist near the end which completely threw me for a loop.

I would have liked to have seen Callie's relationship with Michael explored a little more, as I felt that the only thing missing from this book was the romantic element which I usually look for.  It may be though that there will be more of a focus on this in the next book in the series.

The sequel 'Enders' is due to be published Winter 2012.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Trailer: Riven - Sarah Bryant

One of my favourite books so far this year is 'Bound' by Sarah Bryant which was a dark and delicious read about fallen angels.  I'm absolutely dying to read the sequel which was published by Snowbooks on 1st May 2012 and is entitled 'Riven'.

If you haven't discovered this series yet then I urge you to get your hands on the first book immediately!  I was gripped by 'Bound' and after seeing the awesome trailer for 'Riven', I think Sarah Bryant could have another success on her hands.  Forbidden love, angels and a battle between good and evil.  What more could you possibly want!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Cover reveal: Throne of Glass - Sarah J Maas

On August 2nd 2012, Bloomsbury are publishing one of the most exciting releases of the year, 'Throne of Glass' by Sarah J Maas.

Here's the fabulous cover for the book with the main character Celaena looking very fierce!

Celaena Sardothien is a daredevil assassin with unrivalled fighting skills. After a year’s hard labour in the salt mines of the kingdom of Adarlan, Celaena is offered her freedom on one condition—she must fight as handsome Prince Dorian’s champion in a contest sponsored by the king, facing the deadliest thieves and assassins in the land in a series of set-piece battles in the country’s stunning glass palace. But there is more at stake than even her life—for Celaena is destined for a remarkable future...

I was extremely lucky to have been sent a pre-publication proof of the book so expect my review to be up on the blog in the next few weeks.  If you're already dying to know more about it then click here for an extract from 'Throne of Glass'.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review: A Face Like Glass - Frances Hardinge

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 10th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
In the underground city of Caverna the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare - wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear - at a price.
Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell's emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed ...

'A Face Like Glass' is the fifth book by British author Frances Hardinge.  It's one of the most original and spellbinding stories I've ever come across.  I can't even begin to try and compare it to anything else because it stands in a league of it's own and is so unusual and surprising that I could never guess what was going to happen from one chapter to the next.  This is one of those books that will gradually creep up on you to the point that you won't be able to think about anything else.  It's the perfect read for a lazy Sunday when you can read and read all day without ever having to put this book down.

Frances Hardinge has created something truly magical in the world of Caverna - an underground city where people can't express real emotion, where the Grand steward wields power with the help of his Right and Left Eye and where foods are potentially explosive and win can retrieve or hide memories.  I was continually astlounded by the millions of little details that were woven into the story.  This is a world unlike any other.

The most interesting thing about the people of Caverna is that their faces are all masks of expressions which have been learnt as their own faces are blank canvases.  Some people have been taught hundreds of different faces which they can alternate between as required and others, like the drudges of the city, only have two or three.  Amidst the people of the city, we are introduced to Neverfell who is the central figure in the story - an eleven year old girl who is set to change Caverna's whole future.

I have to say that a lot of things happened to Neverfell throughout the story but it wasn't until the very end that I was able to piece it all together and make sense of everything.  The puzzle finally made sense and I could sit back and admire the cleverness and ingenuity of the plot. 

I adored 'A Face Like Glass' and am now depserate to read all of Frances Hardinge's other books.  She's a real talent!  I can't wait to tell everyone I know about this stunning book.  Read it or regret it forever.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Review: Whatever Love Is - Rosie Rushton

Whatever Love Is by Rosie Rushton, published by Piccadilly Press in April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
When Frankie Price goes to live with her wealthy cousins, she finds herself part of a social scene that she’d only read about in magazines.

Shy and overwhelmed, she retreats into her own passion: writing – pouring out her feelings into her short stories.

But when the entire family is rocked by scandal, and her mate Ned comes under the spell of the beautiful but manipulative Alice, Frankie realises that she has to fight for the life she wants.

This is a modern-day version of Jane Austen's classic 'Mansfield Park'.  It will introduce Austen to a whole new audience and for those that already love the original you'll want to rush off and grab your well thumbed copy for a re-read (which is exactly what I did!).  I really liked all the fitting quotes from 'Mansfield Park' at the start of every chapter which gave a tantalising glimpse of what lay ahead.

The setting has been updated to Thornton Parslow in Northampton, where our heroine Frankie Price goes to live with her rich cousins.  Frankie is head over heels in love with her cousin Ned but he doesn't seem to treat her as anything other than an honorary younger sister.  Although the heart of the story is Frankie's unrequited love for Ned, it is also about the importance of family, as well as containing a serious message about social issues. 

The storyline was engaging and even though I knew the plot from the original and guessed how some parts of the story were going to work out, I was still glued to the pages of this brilliant book.  I did think however that the ending slightly short-changed readers, as the resolution between Ned and Frankie was a bit rushed and over all too quickly.  All of that build-up and then no big romantic moment?! 

What's great about this series is that Austen may have been writing so many years ago but her stories still resonate with different generations and have so much relevance today.  Rosie Rushton has managed to provide a fresh twist and has given new life to Austen in her wonderful interpretation of a beloved classic.  I'm sad to see that this is the last book in the series because they've all been such great reads.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review: I'll Be There - Holly Goldberg Sloan

I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, published by Piccadilly Press on 24th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn't been in a classroom since the second grade. He's always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It's said that the two boys speak with one voice--and that voice is Sam's.

Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell's home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it's too good to last.

A story that will genuinely touch your heart, 'I'll Be There' is the debut of author Holly Goldberg Sloan.  After only a few pages, I found myself immediately rooting for brothers Sam and Riddle and desperately hoping that life would take a turn for the better for them both.

One of the things that I found so different about this book was the fact that there's very few passages of dialogue throughout the whole story.  Instead, a third person narrator tells the story of how Sam met Emily and his life changed forever.  Emily feels an attration to Sam but as she becomes more involved with him, her whole family open the doors of their home to him and his younger brother Riddle.  Emily's parents' relationship with the boys was so touching, particularly the bond that formed between her mother and Riddle who has never really known a mother's love.

Half-way through the book the story went in a slightly different direction to the one I was expecting but that was okay because I actually loved this turn of events and found myself enjoying the second part of the book even more than the first.  Having connected with all the characters I was engrossed in 'I'll Be There' and raced through it in one evening.  I'll admit to reading most of it with my fingers crossed, desperately hoping for a happy ending.  I won't reveal how it does conclude except to say that Holly Goldberg Sloan couldn't have written a more fitting or more perfect ending.

One of the central ideas in the book was of people entering each other's lives, no matter how briefly and making a difference, sometimes changing someone's life forever.  This was really inspiring.  The power of human kindness is also extremely evident in the love that the Bell family show to Sam and Riddle who have never experienced anything like it before.

This book has soul - it's a read that will make you hug the people you love and hold them close.  I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this wonderful story to others.  

Monday, 21 May 2012

Review: Fated - Alyson Noel

Fated by Alyson Noel, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 24th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

There on the dusty plains of Enchantment, New Mexico, Daire sets out to harness her mystical powers. But it’s when she meets Dace, the boy from her dreams, that her whole world is shaken to its core. Now Daire is forced to discover if Dace is the one guy she's meant to be with...or if he’s allied with the enemy she's destined to destroy.

I'm a huge fan of Alyson Noel.  I loved her series The Immortals and I'm currently also enjoying her Riley Bloom spin-off.  Her books are captivating and wonderfully entertaining, with imaginative storylines which really draw you in.  I've been waiting and waiting for the first book in her new Soul Seekers series and praying, with all my fingers crossed, that I would love it just as much.  While I think it was a promising beginning and I'm eager to read the next book 'Echo' which is out 27th September 2012, there were some things about it which left me with a distinctly mixed reaction to this new title.

The first thing is the plot.  While it was sufficiently different to The Immortals plotline, there still seemed to be some major similarities and it again dealt with the spiritual and paranormal.  I thought that the main part of the story took quite a while to get to and the initial beginning of the book seemed a rather long prelude to the crux of the plot.  It may just be me but I also found some of ideas at the start quite complex and so on a couple of occasions I had to go back to reread pages again, to make sure that I fully understood the whole concept of soul seekers.  Even now, I feel that Noel may have only just scratched the surface and there's still a lot more to learn.  Her evocative descriptions of animal spirits however and the role they play in the characters' lives was very interesting

I liked the main character Daire and she grew on me a lot as the story progressed but I can't say the same about all the other characters.  I'd love to know more about Xotichl (although why give her such an unusual name) and her adorable boyfriend Auden and I liked Chay who seems a strong support in Daire's life.  I wanted to see more of Dace, the hoy guy in town and 'good' twin who Daire dreams about long before they first meet.  I just couldn't picture him clearly enough in my head when I was reading and while I was hoping for some genuine romance between the two of them, it overall seemed a bit lacking in that department.

I thought the setting for the story was perfect.  The small town of Enchantment in New Mexico was suitably isolated and remote, so that it felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, far removed from the outside world and consisting of it's own small community.

As 'Fated' concentrated mainly on plot building, I'm hoping that the second book in the series will focus more on building a connection with all the characters and developing the romance between Daire and Dace which I'm eager to see more of.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Review: The Immortal Rules - Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, published by Mira Ink on 4th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die… or become one of the monsters.

'The Immortal Rules' is a stunningly imaginative story from author Julie Kagawa.  Adopting a fresh approach to the traditional tale of vampires, she has managed to bring something new to this popular genre.  Having seen rave reviews of this book I had high expectations which were met in every single way.  I was completely engrossed in the story which was brilliantly written and proves once again what a fabulous talent Kagawa is.

At nearly five hundred pages long this is a big book but it's pure entertainment the whole way through.  The story is set in a future world where the main protagonist Allison Sekemoto is living on the fringes of society, an Unregistered, who is determined never to be used as a meal ticket by the vampires who rule the city.  After she and her friends are discovered, life for Allison will never be the same again as her whole existence changes.

The world which Kagawa has created is incredible.  A large proportion of the first section of the book concentrates on filling the reader in on the background history of the vampire hierarchy and this was fascinating.  It did mean digesting a lot of information within the first hundred pages but helped to set the scene for the rest of the story.  The amount of detail was truly amazing and the use of imagery allowed me to conjure up characters and places really vividly in my head.

Allison develops some interesting relationships in the book, particularly with her mentor Kanin and with Zeke.  Even after her life changes though, she's still Allison and determined to remain so, protecting others and making sure that those she cares about are safe.  I liked the way the story was split into sections, each one showing a different side to Allison and leading her down her future path.

This was a superb book which I found difficult to put down.  It's full of adventure and excitement, plus a generous amount of blood and gore, so probably not for the faint-hearted.  I'm already dying for the sequel which can't come soon enough!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Review: Unrest - Michelle Harrison

Unrest by Michelle Harrison, published by Simon and Schuster on 26th April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless - but to Elliott they’re terrifying.

Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again - and it wants Ophelia, too...

Creepy and atmospheric, 'Unrest' is a book which, like the main protagonist of the story, will keep you up all night wondering what could be out there in the shadows.

Having previously read and enjoyed Michelle Harrison's award-winning series The Thirteen Treasures, I was eager to try her first young-adult novel.  While I'm not a big fan of ghost stories you've got to hand it to Harrison - she sure knows how to ratchet up the tension and make you believe in things that go bump in the night.

Full of suspense and intrigue, 'Unrest' is a real page-turner and if this is a subject matter that you normally enjoy then this is definitely the book for you.  While I found some of the ghost stories told when the main character Elliott gets a job at Past Lives, a supposedly haunted museum, a bit long at times, they did serve to create a really spooky atmosphere for Elliott's own experiences. 

I initially didn't warm to either Elliott or the mysterious Ophelia who he meets at Past Lives.  They were interesting figures but there wasn't anything about them that I particularly liked.  I did however think that Harrison did a good job of writing from a male perspective and as their friendship developed, I enjoyed seeing how they were mutually supportive and actually had quite a life-changing effect on each other.

The story itself was so clever, especially because elements of it were rooted in fact.  Using the idea of sleep paralysis, with the dreamer waking during a dream but unable to move, thereby blending their dream with reality, meant that there was a good mix of truth and theory, causing the story to seem more believable.

'Unrest' was a chilling read full of twists and turns leading to a truly shocking chain of events and an explosive final few chapters which will literally blow your mind. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Review: The Hunt - Andrew Fukuda

The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda, published by Simon and Schuster on 10th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Against all odds, 17-year-old Gene has survived in a world where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. The only remaining humans, or hepers as they are known, are housed in domes on the savannah and studied at the nearby Heper Institute. Every decade there is a government sponsored hunt. When Gene is selected to be one of the combatants he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow competitors whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.

'The Hunt' is a truly terrifying and electrifying read from debut author Andrew Fukuda.  Having heard a lot about this book prior to publication I had a feeling that I was going to love it and love it I did.  Scary, sinister and incredibly exciting, this is a story which will appeal strongly to both a male and female teen audience.  There's something for everyone, danger and scares, a touch of romance and a plot which will have you gripped. 

Seventeen year old Gene lives in a future world where humans are practically extinct.  Near the start of the story he is selected to take part in a government sponsored hunt.  But this is a hunt with a difference because the prey consists of a group of humans (or hepers as they are known).  For most, this would be an honour but Gene isn't just anyone.  He's hiding a big secret which if exposed during the hunt could end up costing him his life.

Although Fukuda never mentions the word vampire in the book, you can only put all the clues together - can't go out in the sun, sleep upside down, long nails and fangs, and come up with one outcome.  The fact that the population are never named but their unusual characteristics and traits are discussed in detail, actually made them seem even more sinister, if that's possible. 

What I found even more scary about the story was the constant struggle for survival that many of the characters face.  You never know when someone is going to meet a particularly nasty end and the tension in the book is palpable.  No one is safe and I got the feeling that Fukuda would not be afraid to kill off one of the main characters if it benefited the story.  That meant that I was constantly worried about my favourites surviving until the end of the book.

A jaw dropping revelation on the final page had me extremely anxious for more - so please Andrew Fukudua, don't keep us in suspense for too long!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Review: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe - Shelley Coriell

Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe by Shelley Coriell, published by Amulet Books on 1st May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Big-hearted Chloe Camden is the queen of her universe until her best friend shreds her reputation and her school counselor axes her junior independent study project. Chloe is forced to take on a meaningful project in order to pass, and so she joins her school’s struggling radio station, where the other students don’t find her too queenly. Ostracized by her former BFs and struggling with her beloved Grams’s mental deterioration, lonely Chloe ends up hosting a call-in show that gets the station much-needed publicity and, in the end, trouble. She also befriends radio techie and loner Duncan Moore, a quiet soul with a romantic heart. On and off the air, Chloe faces her loneliness and helps others find the fun and joy in everyday life.

This is Shelley Coriell's debut novel and was an enjoyable and upbeat read.

At the start of the story, fun loving heroine Chloe, who has a penchant for vintage shoes, finds herself cold-shouldered by her two best friends.  Ignored by everyone at school, she becomes involved with the school radio station and a whole new era of Queen Chloe is born.

The book started off quite slowly for my tastes and in the beginning I didn't feel hugely invested in the characters or the story.  However, as Chloe begins to spread her wings at the radio station and makes friends with Clementine, Duncan and co, I saw a new depth to her character which I liked.  She initially came across as a little shallow but soon proved that there was more to her than cute shoes and a bubbly personality. 

Chloe is a really positive and upbeat person.  I admired the way that even in tough situations she always tries to look on the bright side of things.  Being ditched by your best friends must be terrible as she ends up completely isolated but new beginnings are around the corner for her.  I enjoyed her quirky radio station broadcasts too which were very amusing. 

I loved the close relationship she has with her Gran who's suffering from Parkinson's Disease.  Grandparents don't often figure prominently in young-adult literature so it was nice to see the two of them sharing such a close bond and actually taking the time to do things with each other.  It was obvious that her Gran had been like a second mother to her and it was interesting to see the relationship reversed with Chloe having to look after her Gran.

There's romance on the cards for her too in the shape of the enigmatic Duncan who's hiding a big secret, but I felt that the story was mainly about Chloe herself and her personal growth.  There's also a positive message in the book about letting people into your life and finding your own place in the world. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Blog tour: Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe - Shelley Coriell

Today I'm kicking off the blog tour for Shelley Coriell's new book 'Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe' which was published by Amulet Books on 1st May. 

'Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe' is a lovely story about a girl with a penchant for vintage shoes and an undeniable sense of fun.  Check back tomorrow to read my review. 

Read on today for an extract from the book and don't forget to also check out Amulet Books on Facebook who will be giving away some fun goodies as part of the tour.

Welcome Caller This is Chloe_Chapter 1 Extract

Friday, 11 May 2012

Review: The Duff - Kody Keplinger

The Duff by Kody Keplinger, published by Hodder Children's Books on 5th April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “Duffy,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

'The Duff' is a fantastic book by a fresh new voice in teen fiction, Kody Keplinger.  I'm definitely excited to read more by her in the future.  I was so inspired to find out that she wrote this book when she was only seventeen and still at school.

The story centres around Bianca Piper who at the beginning of the book is labelled with the nickname the Duff (which stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by hot but irritatingly annoying Wesley Rush.  Taking this to heart, Bianca can't help but dwell on the nickname but finds that she has other problems to deal with too and only one way in which she can temporarily put them all out of her mind.

What I loved about 'The Duff' was how realistically and truthfully all the characters are portrayed.  They have their faults, they don't always do the right thing or say the right thing but they're human and they sometimes make mistakes and get things wrong.  No where is this more amply illustrated than with Bianca herself.  Although I liked her immediately and she came across as quite self-assured and confident on the outside, underneath she has self-esteem issues and problems just like everyone else.  I didn't always agree with some of her actions but she learnt a lot about herself throughout the course of the book.  Her relationship with Wesley is central to the story and there were definitely enough sparks flying between the two of them to start a fire! I have to say that I didn't like Wesley at all in the beginning but as I learnt more about him he did start to grow on me.

Bianca's two friends, Casey and Jessica were amazing.  I liked the way they were all extremely different but seemed to bring out the best in each other and were there whenever any one of them needed a friend or a shoulder to cry on. 

The book deals frankly with the topic of teen sex which I found quite a refreshing change.  Keplinger certainly doesn't tiptoe around the subject.  That does mean that the book is probably better suited to a slightly older teen audience, as there's some strong language too but I appreciated the fact that the subject is out there and openly discussed. 

'The Duff' was an addictive read which really stood out among a crowded teen market.  Funny, entertaining and most of all real, it scored a hit with me.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Review: Bringing the Summer - Julia Green

Bringing the Summer by Julia Green, published by Bloomsbury on 10th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
It’s the lazy end of summer and Freya is about to start her A levels. Her brother Joe died a year ago, but she is slowly coming to terms with his death. She is beginning to feel ready for something new – a change. And then a railway accident brings her into contact with the gorgeous Gabe. Freya is drawn not just to his blond good looks, but everything about him, including his large, shambolic, warm and loving family, which seems to Freya so different from her own.

And then Gabe’s clearly troubled older brother makes it clear he is interested in Freya – and Freya has some decisions to make about what she really wants.

I haven't read anything by Julia Green before but although this is the first of her books I've tried it certainly won't be the last.  'Bringing the Summer' features the character of Freya who first appeared in Green's earlier novel 'Breathing Underwater'.  Freya is now sixteen and with her parents is trying to move on with life after her brother's death.

An unexpected and shocking event at the very start of the book connects all the events which follow, leading to Freya meeting Gabes and through him his wonderfully big, lively and welcoming family at Home Farm.  She immediately feels welcomed into the fold and Gabe's family life is presented as a huge contrast to her own home which feels empty and lonely without her brother Joe.  She is having to adjust and adapt to now being an only child with parents who seem to be living their own lives without her.   

I really enjoyed Julia Green's writing style in this book.  Images are painted so vividly that scenes, settings and characters just leapt off the page.  I could imagine perfectly Gabe's bustling family with it's matriarch Maddie at the helm and assorted brothers and sisters always present.  It was very easy to see what attracted Freya to them so much.  I have to admit though that I wasn't a big fan of Gabe's older brother Theo who enters the picture part way through the story.  He's rather enigmatic and mysterious at times but yet again however he presented another contrast, the dark to Gabe's light and sunny personality. 

Freya is a fabulous heroine because she's so positive in her outlook to life.  Things do get her down sometimes which is only normal and to be expected but she's a naturally upbeat person and wants to experience everything life has to offer.  I loved this short quote from her Grandfather when she tells him this, "If you want to see a lot, standing still in one place is a good way to do it". 

I initially thought that this was going to be quite a light read but I soon found that the story dealt with much deeper issues.  Much of the book is about how people deal differently with influential and pivotal events in their lives and how they cope in the aftermath of a bereavement.

In Julia Green I've found a new British author who I only wish I'd discovered before.  Her writing is a real treat and I'm excited to get hold of her previous works now. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Review: Out of Sight, Out of Time - Ally Carter

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter, published by Orchard on 5th April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
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.

There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

There's action and adventure, as well as mystery and intrigue around every corner as the Gallagher Girls return in the fifth instalment of the series.  Take a deep breath now because this book will take you on a rollercoaster ride full of non-stop excitement.

Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series is one of my favourites.  She can't write them fast enough for me!  Each book only gets better and better and as one layer is peeled back and a secret revealed, there's always another one waiting just underneath.  These books are compulsive reading so before you start 'Out of Sight, Out of Time' make sure that you've cleared your schedule for the rest of the day.

After a huge bombshell at the end of book four, I was dying to catch up with Cammie and co and find out what was going to happen to them next.  There's no going back to normal for Cammie however who finds that she's been awol for the whole summer with no memory of what really happened to her or where she was during that time.  It's up to her and her friends to piece things together even if it means remembering something terrible.

Ally Carter has the art of suspense down to a tee.  The whole way through I was on the edge of my seat wondering where Cammie was going to end up next and what she was going to discover.  Just as she was eager and impatient to regain her memories, I was equally as keen to find out too.  With the threat of the Circle of Cavan hanging over her, she's determined to protect her family and friends no matter the cost, but this is one fight that they're not going to be left out of.

At times I wasn't sure who could be trusted in the story but that only added to the sense of danger which is present the whole way through.  The ending was truly shocking and Ally Carter surprised me yet again with her bold choice of plot twists.

This was a fantastic read and a superb addition to the series.  Roll on book six!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Review: How to Keep a Boy as a Pet - Diane Messidoro

How to Keep a Boy as a Pet by Diane Messidoro, published by Electric Monkey on 7th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Circe Shaw is on a mission. She must transform into a fabulously sophisticated journalist and discover the amazing scientific truth about boys. Urgently.

But life is beyond complicated. Circe has to deal with a poisonous rival, her mum’s annoying ‘just friends’ men and her own Dark Past.

Can Circe’s daring investigation really teach her the facts of love?

The title of this book is fun and quirky which is exactly what the story is like.  Our heroine Circe Shaw's new mission is to find out about boys by treating them like a pet and possibly snag herself a boyfriend along the way.  I found myself laughing out loud frequently at the hilarious Circe and some of the things that befall her!

The format of the book is a series of blog entries by Circe about her life, friends and quest to make a boy fall in love with her.  Along the way she gains a blog reader who comments on her posts to give her much needed advice.  She also has her two best friends Tash and Ben to rely on, although much of the time they're busy snogging each other, leaving Circe stuck in the middle.

The narrative voice of Circe is so adorable.  She's funny and witty and her accounts of her experiments with 'The Rudest Stupidest Most Despicable Boy' kept me amused the whole way through.  She's a character who I'm sure teens will love and easily identify with.  Not only does she struggle with boy troubles but she has family issues to deal with too, as well as putting up with a dislikeable girl at her school knowing a secret about her.

If you want some tips on boys then you'll learn a thing or two by reading this book which was immensely funny and entertaining.  Some bits had me in fits of giggles and I had to stop reading until I'd managed to compose myself again. 

Circe will be back in 'What Not to Do in the Dark' and I'm looking forward to joining her. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Review: We'll Always Have Summer - Jenny Han

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han, published by Puffin on 3rd May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Isabel has only ever loved two boys, Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher.

One broke her heart; the other made her happier than she ever thought she'd be. But each brother is keeping a secret, and this summer Isabel must choose between the Fisher boys, once and for all. Which brother will it be?

When this book arrived in my mailbox I couldn't wait to pick it up and find out which boy Belly was going to end up with.  Would it be her first love Conrad or his brother, the ever reliable and kind Jeremiah?  I knew who I was hoping for but my lips are sealed on the outcome as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet.

The story begins two years after the events of the previous book in the trilogy, with Belly now at university.  She's made new friends and has done a lot of growing-up, but most importantly of all Jeremiah is her boyfriend and they're blissfully happy together.  I enjoyed seeing Belly as an independent adult making her own decisions and choices about her life.  She still has all the endearing qualities which made her such a great character but she's matured a lot throughout the series.  She has some more tough choices to make when an unexpected revelation turns her life upside down.

The majority of the story is told through Belly's eyes but there are a few chapters interspersed which are narrated from Conrad's point of view.  These helped to explain a lot about Conrad himself as well as some of his previous actions.  He's always tried to do the right thing, even when he's gone about it in the wrong way but I adore his character and I think I loved him even more in this book. 

Belly's journey has had it's ups and downs but I thought the ending was absolutely perfect and left me with tears in my eyes.  I can't believe it's finally all over.

I've adored this trilogy!  I love the way that Han has showed all the different kinds of love between the characters - brotherly love, sisterly love, first love, true love, maternal love.  It's made me laugh and cry and has broken my heart numerous times, only to put it back together again and make me believe in soul mates and true love.  In my opinion Jenny Han is one of the best young-adult writers around at the moment and I can't wait to read more from her in the future. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #61

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!

Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts
Published on 30th August 2012 by Macmillan Children's Books
After the earthquakes came the infectious rage, turning friends into deadly enemies. For survivors Michael, Aries, Mason and Clementine the battle to stay alive is about to get even tougher. The new world is organising itself, with camps that promise protection for the uninfected. But the reality of the sites is far more sinister. Besides, nobody is safe from the rage within their own soul...
'Dark Inside' by Jeyn Roberts was one of my favourite books of 2011 and I've been eagerly awaiting the follow-up ever since.  It's gripping, it's scary and it's captivating and I'm dying to find out what happens next to all the characters.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Review: When You Were Mine - Rebecca Searle

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Searle, published by Simon and Schuster April 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Rosaline has been best friends with Rob since they were little kids. Recently, something deeper and more electric has entered their friendship, and when Rob returns after the summer break and asks Rosaline on a sort-of date, it seems they are destined to become a couple, just as Rosaline always knew they would be. The next day at school, a mysterious, beautiful girl arrives: Rosaline's long-lost cousin, Juliet. And suddenly it looks as if Rosaline might be about to lose her best friend AND her new boyfriend…

As soon as I heard about 'When You Were Mine' I knew I wanted to read it.  'Romeo and Juliet' is one of my favourite plays so I was incredibly intrigued to see if Rebecca Searle could pull off a story about Romeo's first love Rosaline, whilst also transporting the action to a modern-day high school setting.  Saying that, the best way to approach this book is to throw away all your preconceptions of Shakespeare's original so you can truly appreciate the clever twists that Searle adds to the story.

Rosaline Caplet is in love with her next door neighbour Rob Monteg.  They've been best friends for years but lately there's been something more than friendship between them.  However, just when Rose thinks she's snagged her perfect guy, her pretty cousin Juliet who she hasn't seen in ten years arrives on the scene and suddenly she's not the only one that Rob has eyes for.

What was great about this book was that instead of rooting for Juliet and Rob, I actually quite disliked Juliet and yet loved Rosaline, or Rose as she's known to her friends.  Searle managed to breathe new life into her character and show us what happened before Juliet appeared in the picture.  Rose's emotions were perfectly expressed and they ran the full gamult from the butterflies of a crush, to the pangs of first love, to heartbreak and utter devastation, as well as hope and strength. 

Rose has two fabulous friends in the story, Charlie and Olivia.  I liked Charlie in particular who is the kind of best friend you dream of having.  She and Rose are always there for each other through thick and thin and she seems more like a sister to Rose than a friend.  The message of the book was clear, that it's not always blood relatives but sometimes the people you know and the friends you make who can be closer to you than your own family.  

The ending was one I was expecting but still found unbelievably tragic.  Mixed in with the sadness however was new hope for the future and new beginnings. 

'When You Were Mine' is a sweet, irrisistible read about the pangs of first love and learning to embrace the new.  I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a contemporary romance with a twist. 

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