Thursday, 28 June 2012

Forthcoming titles for 2012: Electric Monkey

Egmont's Electric Monkey imprint has released some fantastic titles since it launched, such as 'Skin Deep' by Laura Jarratt, 'Shift' by Em Bailey, 'How to Keep a Boy as a Pet' by Diane Messidoro and heaps more.  There's plenty still to come for 2012 so get excited about some of these fabulous books.

Revived by Cat Patrick, published 2nd July 2012

The world fades to nothing, and before I have the chance to think another thought . . . I’m dead.
Daisy West has died.  Five times.

Part of a secret programme testing a revolutionary drug which brings the dead back to life, each death brings a new name, a new town, a new life. The programme is built on secrecy; friends have to be kept at arms length, lies have to be told and being invisible at school is a bonus.

Daisy is used to this way of life and is happy to do things on her own. Mostly.
But then she meets Matt and finds a love she can’t let go. No more deaths, no more lies, this is the life that Daisy wants to live.
But can she make it happen?

 Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, published 6th August 2012

 Min Green and Ed Slaterton have broken up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. A movie ticket from their first date, a comb from the motel room they shared and every other memento collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

Ciao for Now Crazy European Chick by Joe Schrieber, published 1st October 2012




Perry and Gobi are back with an almighty bang . . .

 Zombies Don’t Cry by Rusty Fischer, published 1st October 2012
(This is the US cover as UK cover art not yet available)

 Maddy Swift is just an ordinary girl, until the fateful night when she is struck by lightning and wakes up face down in a puddle. Then it’s goodbye to all things Normal – such as breathing and having a heartbeat – and hello to yellow vision and a whole new Afterlife.

Turns out there’s a lot more to being a zombie than shuffling and groaning, but surviving school as one of the living dead requires a totally different set of skills. And things don’t get any easier when Maddy realises that she’s not the reanimated student at Barracuda Bay High . . .

High school comedy with romance and zombies. Being dead hasn’t been this much fun since Buffy!

I'd love to know which titles everyone else else is most excited about! I'm particularly looking forward to 'Revived' by Cat Patrick as I adored her debut novel 'Forgotten' and have been waiting for more from her ever since.   

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Review: The Vampire of Highgate - Asa Bailey

The Vampire of Highgate by Asa Bailey, published by Hodder Children's Books on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Kathy Bilic is adopted. Until now, she's had only a vague memory of her real family. But terrifying dreams and visions of her sister Amber are waking her in the night. When Amber starts giving her messages, Kathy gets a sickening sense that her sister is in danger - from a deadly, inhuman source. Kathy hits London to find her sister - but when she arrives at her aunt's house in Highgate, she is actively dissuaded from pursuing the mystery. Undeterred, Kathy's trail leads her through a bloody murder in the British Museum to a charged meeting with the mysterious, hypnoptic Antwain and a final confronation with her sinister father. Before long, Kathy uncovers the full horror of her heritage and her sister's fate at the hands of the Vampire of Highgate.

When I read that this book was based on the real life story of the Highgate Vampire I was immediately interested in reading it.  Although Asa Bailey has built on original elements of the story, he's also crafted something new. 

Kathy arrives in London from America, hunting for her sister Amber who has gone missing.  She gets more than she bargained for when she finds out about the legend of the Highgate Vampire and discovers a secret about her own family history which has enormous repercussions.

Set in London, near Highgate Cemetery, this was the perfect backdrop for the story.  Creepy and spooky, I got cold shivers whenever they entered the Cemetery, as it seemed that danger was lurking around every corner.  It was also nice to see a British setting for a change as the majority of the book takes place on this side of the ocean.

Having read a lot of vampire books, I didn't feel that this title offered anything particularly original within the genre, although these were definitely not friendly would want to avoid them at all costs!  The mythology was interesting but I never properly connected with the main character Kathy and I thought there wasn't enough character development to sufficiently draw me to her.

The time frames jumped forwards and backwards a lot, which I found quite confusing at times.  Although I understand this was designed to fill the reader in on the history of the Highgate Vampire, I thought there were a few too many jumps which interrupted the overall flow of the story.

Dark and dangerous, this is a book where anyone's life can be placed in danger and where you are never sure which of the cast of characters will survive until the end.  Although it wasn't for me, fans of the genre may like to give it a try.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Review: Broken Dream - Eden Maguire

Broken Dream by Eden Maguire, published by Hodder Children's Books on 3rd May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Tania’s film studies take her to New York City where she looks forward to getting lost in the anonymity of the big crowded bustling city. But Hell is all around and no place is safe as the Dark Angel’s relentless pursuit of dark souls continues.

But this time it’s more peronsal than it’s ever been before. When the Dark Angel sets its sights on Tania’s beloved Orlando it’s the final straw. Can Tania save his soul and her love?

This is the third and final instalment of Eden Maguire's Dark Angel trilogy. The story started with Tania and her boyfriend Orlando experiencing life in New York.  It was nice to see them in a different setting and how this changed the way they interacted with each other.  I would have enjoyed seeing more of the sights and sounds of the Big Apple but a few chapters in they head back to their home town of Bitterroot.

Tania and Orlando become embroiled with a film crew shooting a new movie, which is the perfect opportunity for some new faces to be introduced, including the handsome but troubled actor Jack Kane and his wife Natalia, stunt double Charlie and his sister Gwen and lonely Maya.

I've always liked the central heroine Tania because she's quite a sympathetic figure and always tries to do the right thing.  She's quick to help her friends and family when they need her and I've enjoyed reading about her romance with the gorgeous Orlando.  Her psychic visions continue throughout this story, although they are unpredictable and difficult to interpret.

Although a big fan of these books, I've struggled at times with the predictability of the plots.  'Broken Dream' was a huge improvement because it nicely brought the story full circle and featured some characters from the first book 'Dark Angel' but also threw in some different tangents and twists to keep the tension and suspense high.  Although I had my own thoughts on how the series was going to end, I was never quite sure what was going to happen.

The whole series has been building to the moment when Tania will finally have to attempt to defeat her dark angel once and for all.  The climax when it came was well worth waiting for and it was an exciting and well plotted end to an extremely enjoyable series.

Overall this has been a fantastic trilogy about the battle between good and evil and light and dark and I've enjoyed Tania's struggle to overcome the odds and live a normal life.  I'm now waiting eagerly to see what Eden Maguire will write next!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Review: Shift - Em Bailey

Shift by Em Bailey, published by Electric Monkey on 7th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Olive used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she's the class loner, and can only watch as new girl Miranda latches on to Olive's ex-best friend Katie. Soon Miranda is talking like Katie, dressing like Katie - even going out with Katie's boyfriend.

And then Katie dies. Everyone seems to believe it was a tragic accident, but OIive isn't so sure. What if the wild rumours are true? What if Miranda really is a killer...?

'Shift' by Em Bailey is a psychological thriller which also features an incredibly sweet and tender romance.  It was a gripping read and one that I couldn't put down until I'd reached the final page. 

One of the main issues explored in the book is jealousy.  All teenagers and people in general, occasionally copy or imitate each other and for the most part this is normally seen as flattering.  'Shift' however delves deeper and looks at what can happen when imitation goes too far and even becomes dangerous.

The main character Olive has been dealing with huge issues in her personal life when Miranda, the new girl at school arrives on the scene amidst a swirl of rumours that she murdered her parents.  Miranda becomes friends with Katie, Olive's former best friend but as Miranda grows more confident and vibrant, Katie turns into a shadow of her former self.  When Olive is too late to prevent a disaster from occurring, she worries that she may have become Miranda's next target.

I found Miranda thoroughly unsettling.  She made my skin crawl and seemed really unpleasant.  My knee jerk reaction was to wish that I could warn all the other characters to stay well away from her.  Even when she wasn't doing or saying anything particularly wrong, I just had a sense that she was up to no good and messing with people's minds.

As well as the friendship between the two girls, one of my favourite elements of the book was the lovely romance which developed between Olive and Lachlan, a new guy at her school.  They were so sweet together and I liked the fact that Lachlan wasn't scared off by the fact that Olive was dealing with personal issues.  He gave her space but always made sure that she knew he was never too far away.

I would have liked to have seen Olive's relationship with her father explored  a little more as I think this could have potentially been another interesting dimension of the story.  There were also only snapshots of her family life with her Mum and younger brother Toby, although many of the issues she had centrered around them all.

Halfway through the book there is an unexpected twist which I thought was extremely clever and leads to a thrilling climax to the story which set my heart racing.  A fabulous psychological drama, 'Shift' will mess with your mind as you find deception and betrayal every corner. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: My Family and Other Freaks - Carol Midgley

My Family and Other Freaks by Carol Midgley, published by Quercus on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Danielle is doomed in love and has the parents from hell. Her mum and dad are embarrassingly scruffy and their car bonnet is a different colour to the rest of the car. Worst of all, they're still in love, which is totally gross considering how ancient they are. Her best friend is a (nice) nerd, her love-rival is an airhead the colour of creosote and her dog Simon is in love with an Ugg boot. Despite all this, she hatches a plan - indeed many plans - to win the gorgeous Damien's affections. But when she brings Simon to the park to show him off in front of Damien, a smelly little accident lands Danielle with the nickname 'Dench the Stench'. Could things get any worse? When Simon is accused of biting children in the neighbourhood and her Dad decides to have him taken away, Danielle's life truly begins to unravel.

Laugh out loud funny, this book is the perfect pick me up for those days you can't face getting out of bed.  Humorous in all the right places, I really enjoyed reading 'My Family and Other Freaks' which I'll be encouraging everyone else to read immediately.  Although Danni is a slightly younger heroine than I normally prefer, she is quite a character and I loved hearing about all her trials and tribulations.

Told in diary format by Danni, she narrates everyday episodes from her life, including the problem of fancying popular Damian who nearly every girl in school lusts after, as well as dealing with her embarrassing Mum and Dad who are always kissing and going out on dates...even at their age!  She also has to face her nemesis Treasure who seems to thwart her at every turn and who gets far too cosy with the gorgeous Damian.

Being a huge dog lover, I enjoyed Danni's crusade to save her dog Simon and the anecdotes she tells about him being in love with her Mum's Ugg boots.  I couldn't help giggling when they are in the park together near the start of the book and Simon causes Danni to earn the nickname 'Dench the Stench'.   

So many things in the book rang true for me and reminded me of being a teenager.  I could relate to Danni in a lot of ways and she came across as a very appealing central character.  She has a fantastic sense of humour and sometimes even when she was trying to be serious she made me laugh.  It's probably best not to read this in the company of others because trust me, you won't be able to contain yourself.

If you are looking for a light-hearted and fun read with a great cast of characters then this is the book for you!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Cover reveal: Finale - Becca Fitzpatrick

This is the fabulous cover for the final book in the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I love it because it is such a striking image and fits in perfectly with the rest of the books in the series.  It's due to be published on 23rd October 2012 by Simon and Schuster.

Nora is more certain than ever that she is in love with Patch. Fallen angel or no, he is the one for her. Her heritage and destiny may mean that they will always be enemies, but there is no turning her back on him. But now they face their biggest challenge. Can their love survive a seemingly insurmountable divide. And in the end, will there be enough trust left to rebuild what has been broken? The lines are drawn - but which sides are they on?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Blog tour: Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks - Ellie Phillips

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Ellie Phillips new book 'Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks'.  This is a sweet and funny read about a girl searching for her biological Dad which I would highly recommend.   

I'd like to welcome Ellie herself to the blog who has written a fantastic post on the subject of identity.

Hairstyle of the Day:

OK I think this one has to be Siouxsie Sioux for anyone who doesn't remember: a crimped and crazy Cleopatra look - like she got struck by lightning!

Identity is a huge issue - for everyone. I mean we spend a lot of our lives trying to work out who we are and exactly where we fit in and of course this changes over time. I mean I was pretty sure I was Anna Pavlova when I was a child and then I wanted to be someone out of The Human League as a teenager. I was furious with my parents one minute and then giggling completely hysterically with my friends the next. My moods altered radically and I changed the way I felt about things continuously. Even as I got dressed in the morning I was asking 'OK - who shall I be today? Am I Tess of the D’Urbervilles or am I Siouxsie Sioux?' I wish I'd been a great hairdresser like Sadie is in Dads Geeks - then I could have really tried out different looks, because you've got to try things out and try things on. The teenage years are a really interesting, fluid time; you make new friends, you form all these new, deep bonds with people and they change you too.

In Dads Geeks Sadie feels like she doesn't fit in because she doesn't know who her 'dad' is. She feels as if she's different - an outsider looking in on all these 'normal' kids who have 'normal' parents. The truth is that most teenagers feel like this a lot of the time. And a lot of adults feel like this too. There are so many ways of being an outsider depending on how you're defining yourself. You can be a different religion/sexuality/ethnicity/personality/body-type to everyone else - think about the ways that you fit in and that you don't fit in with everyone.

In the book Sadie has lost her anchor (her ex-best friend Shonna) and at home her family drives her up the pole. Her fantasy about her 'Dad' is that he'll provide this great alternative. He won't be all loud and embarrassing like her Mum and her Aunt Lilah. He'll be 'unknown and different' and she'll relate to him much better than she does to her existing family.

The truth - of course - turns out to be more complex.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review: Life Eternal - Yvonne Woon

Life Eternal by Yvonne Woon, published by Usborne on 1st May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Renée Winters has changed. When she looks in the mirror, a beautiful girl with an older, sadder face stares back. Her condition has doctors mystified, but Renée can never reveal the truth: she died last May, and was brought back to life by the kiss of her Undead soul mate, Dante Berlin.

Now, her separation from Dante becomes almost unbearable. His second life is close to an end, and each passing day means one less that she will spend with the boy who shares her soul.

Just when Renée has almost given up hope, she learns of the Nine Sisters--brilliant scholars who, according to legend, found a way to cheat death. She can't shake the feeling that they are somehow connected to her dreams, strange visions that hint at a discovery so powerful, and so dangerous, that some will stop at nothing to protect it.

One of my surprise favourite books of last year was 'Dead Beautiful' by Yvonne Woon and ever since I read it I've been eagerly anticipating the sequel.  No surprises then for guessing that I curled up with this book as soon as it arrived and didn't move for the rest of the night.

Renee is now a monitor capable of sensing the Undead but has been changed forever by the kiss she received from Dante which gave her back her soul.  When Gottfried Academy is closed to all by the Undead, she's transferred to Lycee St. Clement in Montreal.  Separated from Dante and from her old life, she becomes determined to unravel the secret of the Nine Sisters which she believes may hold the key to her and Dante's future.

Having read the first book in the trilogy quite a long time ago, I was a bit worried that I wouldn't remember all the important plot points.  Luckily there's a handy recap near the beginning and I very quickly picked up all the threads of the story and was soon engrossed in Renee's journey. 

I enjoyed the change in setting from the confines of the Academy to a whole new school with lots of new faces.  There's some interesting characters including Anya, who becomes a friend of Renee and has a secret talent, along with Clementine, who is immensely jealous of Renee's talents and not to forget the very cute Noah who she becomes close to.

Although the introduction of Noah made me initially groan slightly at yet another love triangle, he really did grow on me quickly and I found myself liking him more and more.  As there aren't many Dante/Renee moments in this book, Woon choosing to focus the plot on the quest to find the secret of eternal life, I was pleased to see a friendship forming between Renee and Noah, even if he quite obviously seemed to want more than to be just friends.

The ending had me screaming in frustration and I can't believe I'll probably have to wait yet another year for the concluding part.  I don't think I can hold out that long!

This book will definitely appeal to fans of paranormal romance and to those that enjoyed the first in the series.  Life, death and love collide to create a fascinating and brilliant story from the talented Yvonne Woon.  I can't wait to see how it is all going to end. 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks - Ellie Phillips

Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks by Ellie Phillips, published by Electric Monkey on 4th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Sadie Nathanson spends her life trying to survive the excruciating embarrassment of simply existing. It’s hard enough being a bit of a shrinking violet within a loud and outspoken extended family, but the unexpected card from ‘Dad’ on her 15th birthday is the last straw.

As ‘Dad’ was an Internet sperm-donor, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a bad joke, probably set up by her ex-best-friend Shonna. But it starts Sadie wondering – just who was her father? Is he the cause of her worry crinkle and wonky bum? What would happen if she tracked him down?

So she decides to do just that. With help from her nerd cousin Billy, his friend Nodding Tony and a regular dose of ‘Haironomics’ (Sadie’s own hairstyle-related philosophy system), they uncover a lot more than they bargain for.

The premise of this book is interesting and tackled a subject that I hadn't really read about before.  On Sadie's fifteenth birthday she receives a card from her Dad.  An ordinary enough event except for the fact that Sadie doesn't know who her Dad is - he was a sperm donor.  So she sets out to track him down with the help of her cousin and his friend.  Sperm donation isn't a topic that you usually see featured in teen fiction but I like the fact that the author Ellie Phillips wasn't afraid to write about it.

Sadie's hunt for her biological father is touching and quite emotional at times.  She tries to track him down without the knowledge of her mother and with the very few clues she manages to find about his identity.  The whole subject is dealt with sensitively and I was intrigued throughout to see how it was going to be resolved.

Although the book could have potentially been quite heavy and serious, there is a light and fun undercurrent to the story.  Sadie herself is a sweet and humorous central character and has a passion for wild and wacky hairstyles.  In each chapter of the book she tries out a different hairstyle on herself and this was fun to see.

There were a few things that I thought were left slightly unresolved in the book and not explored in enough depth.  In particular, Sadie's friendship with Shonna which I felt was left as a bit of a loose end.  It would have been good to have seen a proper resolution to this.  I would also have liked more of a focus on Sadie and Tony who she has a bit of a flirtation going on with.  There can never be enough romance for me!

If you are looking for a contemporary novel with a difference then try 'Dad, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks' which deals with a teenager trying to establish her own identity and find her place in the world.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: New Girl - Paige Harbison

New Girl by Paige Harbison, published by Mira Ink on 4th May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderley Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend…but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

'New Girl' by Paige Harbison provides a clever twist on one of my all-time favourite books, 'Rebecca' by Daphne Du Maurier.  The action is set in a boarding school called Manderley where a nameless girl is about to start her senior year.  Although I wasn't sure if Harbison was going to be able to capture the magic of the original, she did a pretty good job of recreating some elements of the original but with her own spin.

The story is told through a dual narrative and is shared between the new girl (who as in Du Maurier's tale) is nameless until the very end, and the enigmatic Becca who has gone missing from the school.  This was a clever way of allowing the story to unfold because it provided first-hand insight into the new girl's experiences at the school, as well as some important flashbacks contrasting her with fun-loving and popular Becca.  The links between the two gradually became more obvious as the story progressed.

I really admired the courage of the main character being able to stand-up to those who bullied her and talked about her behind her back.  She could have gone home and admitted defeat but she didn't and actually ended up gaining a valuable experience and learning some important life lessons which put her whole future into perspective.

Some surprising revelations come to light about Becca and what really happened to her and I thought the author created a high level of suspense throughout surrounding the mystery of where she was.  I started off having one opinion about her character but this gradually changed as I learnt more about her and discovered insights into her personality and her past.

I definitely want to re-read 'Rebecca' again now and I hope this book inspires others who haven't come across it before to go and pick up a copy.  I never would have thought of transposing the plot onto a school setting so loved Paige Harbison's idea.  Although I didn't particularly connect with the characters and I'm not always a big fan of books about mean girls, I enjoyed the twist on a classic and found the story entertaining and on the whole enjoyable.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Review: Slated - Teri Terry

Slated by Teri Terry, published by Orchard Books on 3rd May 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Kyla’s memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost for ever.

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?

'Slated' is set in a future society where those who have committed wrongdoings have their memories wiped and are given a second chance to start over again.  Kyla is one of those who have been slated and sent to live with a new family.  However she soon discovers that remnants of her past are still lingering in her dreams and that she may be quite different to all those others who have left their pasts behind.

This is the debut novel from author Teri Terry and it is a dystopian thriller, guaranteed to keep you glued to your seat.  I was interested to read this one as soon as I heard about it because the premise of being able to begin a new life with no memories of the mistakes you have made was just so intriguing.

I enjoyed seeing how Kyla integrated with her new family and made the transition from spending nine months in hospital to being part of a household where she gained a mother, father and sister.  She basically has to re-learn how to do things as simple as doing the washing-up and getting out of a car.  I also liked her growing friendship with Ben, another slated teen.  They have a very honest and real connection and that was refreshing to see. 

One of the things that I found really interesting about this book was the whole idea of a future society which reflects elements of the present world we live in - the fact that mobile phones are banned because they were used to organise demonstrations made me think of the London riots.  Plus the economic collapse and the coalition government all ring true today.  The slating is society's solution to dealing with people like the anti-government terrorists.

There are some huge shock revelations at the end of the book and you're left on a cliffhanger which means that I'm now dying to read book two, 'Fractured' which is coming summer 2013.  Such a long time to wait!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Review: The Gathering Dark - Leigh Bardugo

The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo, published by Indigo on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

'The Gathering Dark' is the first book in a new trilogy which is set to take readers by storm!  It features an epic battle between light and dark, good and evil and at the heart of this lies the main character Alina whose power is far greater than she could ever have imagined.

The story is narrated by Alina and we see events through her eyes.  She undergoes a brilliant evolution throughout the book as she grows as a character.  She starts off uncertain about who she is and what her future holds but begins to understand more about herself as the story progresses.  She has a very special relationship with Mal, her childhood friend, which I loved and wanted to see more of.  There's also her connection to the powerful Darkling who I was mystified and intrigued about.

Leigh Bardugo has created a fantastic imaginary world with a hierarchy of magical people, many gifted with special powers.  Although the story does fall heavily into the fantasy genre, there is also action and romance and so much time has been spent crafting the characters that they seem very rooted in reality.

This book is very different to anything else I've read lately and has a highly original plot which had me captivated the whole time I was reading.  It is quite a long book at 442 pages, but as it was extremely fast-paced and exciting, I didn't notice except to wish at the end that it had been even longer so I could stay with the story and the characters as they took the next step on their journey. 

This story will seep into your dream.  It's absolutely engrossing, magical and wonderful.  I can't wait for more!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Review: Throne of Glass - Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas, published by Bloomsbury on 2nd August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
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...

To describe 'Throne of Glass' by Sarah J Maas as epic would be an understatement.  This extraordinary well crafted story is a book lover's dream.  After finishing the last page it will linger on long in the memory.

The book actually first began on the Fiction Press website where it gained legions of avid readers.  Ten years later and it's finally being published as a full length novel and is sure to garner many more devoted fans.  Maas's inspiration for the book interestingly enough came from Cinderella but the fairytale has been reimagined and reworked to create something entirely new.

This is a book which I found impossible to put down and which won me over heart and soul.  Every second I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it.  The characters became like friends which meant that I worried about them, laughed along with them, smiled and loved alongside them and didn't want to say goodbye to them when their adventure came to an end.

'Throne of Glass' perfectly combines elements of fantasy, adventure and romance.  All the things that I look for in a book were there and it has earned a permanent spot on my shelf of favourite books.  If I could make everyone I know read just one book then this would be it!

The actual story centres around Celaena Sardothian, otherwise known as Ardalan's Assassin.  Having been imprisoned in the mines of Endovier, she's given a chance at earning back her freedom by competing in a tournament where there can only be one victor.  Her opponents are other assassins, thieves and murderers, all attempting to escape a death sentence.  This is a brutal to the death tournament unlike any other and only the strongest and the smartest contestant has a chance at survival.

Celaena Sardothian is fierce but fragile at the same time.  She has faced terrible things in her life and survived.  She has been beaten and half-starved but her spirit is still intact.  She's extroverted and witty and she has an aura which seems to draw people towards her, not least Chaol Westfall, Captain of the Guards and Dorian, Crown Prince of Ardalan.

Usually in books which have two strong male figures, you end up rooting for one or the other but what's so great about this story is that Chaol and Dorian both come across as equally wonderful characters.  Dorian is the more overtly romantic figure but there's something interesting about Chaol which intrigued me and attracted me to him so that I looked forward to his appearance in each chapter. 

There is however much more to this book than just tangled affairs of the heart.  There is also a struggle between countries for freedom and power, as well as traces of magic and the supernatural which are central to the story.

I adored 'Throne of Glass' and I fell in love with the book!  Maas's writing is so vivid and powerful that I was drawn into the story and never wanted it to end.  With a storyline that has plenty of twists and turns and with characters that will steal your heart, this book is a winner on every level.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Review: Scarlet - A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, published by Bloomsbury on 7th June 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

I am head over heels in love with this book!  I can't wait to start reading it all over again because it was incredible.  Being obsessed with all things Robin Hood, when I first head about it I was dying to get my hands on a copy.  When I actually started reading it I was well and truly hooked.  A.C. Gaughen should be congratulated for a new spin on a traditional tale and for the the tremendous storytelling skills which are on display in 'Scarlet'.

As I was reading it, I could picture the book being made into a television series because the setting and characters just came alive before my eyes.

What's different about this story to others about Robin Hood is that Robin actually takes a backseat for once to Will Scarlet - who just so happens to be a girl.  Whereas Hood is a name which resonates with people, Will Scarlet has always been his loyal friend and member of his band.  But here the story is narrated by Scarlet who is brave and as tough as any man and determined to help the people of Nottingham whatever the cost.  Scarlet's narrative voice was really distinctive and the way she spoke fitted perfectly with the era of the story.  I loved her straightaway - she is amazing!  There's a twist involving her near the end of the book which I honestly never saw coming and which made my jaw drop.

One of the reasons I am crazy about this book is because of the relationship between Scarlet and Robin.  Although she tries to deny it to herself at times, she's mad about him.  He makes her melt when he looks at her or talks to her in a certain way.  I loved the fact that there's such a noticeable spark between them and that their romance is allowed to slowly build and develop and yet doesn't overshadow the main storyline.  The two of them really made my heart flip over when they were together.

Other familiar faces in the book include Little John who is now a young man of eighteen, as well as a Much who remains loyal to Robin whatever the threat.  There are also those figures you love to hate, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy Gisbourne who you know are characters to fear.

I've been desperately trying to find out if there will be a sequel to 'Scarlet' because there's so much more to tell about this band of outlaws.  Although I still don't know for sure, I'll keep hoping that A.C. Gaughen has more up her sleeve because this surely can't be the end.

'Scarlet' is one of my favourite books of 2012 so far and I would highly recommend it.

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