Friday, 28 September 2012

Review: The Raven Boys - Maggie Steifvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater, published by Scholastic on 19th September 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Blue has spent the majority of her sixteen years being told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. When Blue meets Gansey’s spirit on the corpse road she knows there is only one reason why – either he is her true love or she has killed him.

Determined to find out the truth, Blue becomes involved with the Raven Boys, four boys from the local private school (lead by Gansey) who are on a quest to discover Glendower – a lost ancient Welsh King who is buried somewhere along the Virginia ley line. Whoever finds him will be granted a supernatural favour.

Never before has Blue felt such magic around her. But is Gansey her true love? She can’t imagine a time she would feel like that, and she is adamant not to be the reason for his death. Where will fate lead them?

Previous to 'The Raven Boys', I've read four of Maggie Steifvater's books and have a kind of love/hate relationship with them.  On the one hand I love the wonderful stories she conjures and the brilliant imagery she conveys in her books but I haven't always found her style of writing easy to get on with.  It's quite different to anything else which does mean she stands out from many others writers of the YA genre but I sometimes find I have to concentrate really hard when I'm reading, rather than just sitting back and enjoying the book.

Unfortunately, although I wanted to love 'The Raven Boys', I found myself facing some of the same problems.  The central idea for the story was intriguing.  Blue finds out that if she kisses her true love he will die.  What a terrible thing to face.  To know that there is someone out there who you can love heart and soul but that you can never kiss or be with properly because you could kill him - even if not by your hand.  How do you even begin to come to terms with that?

So I loved the concept but not the actual telling.  I wanted to see more of Blue and her future romance, rather than the multiple story strands which littered the first half of the book.  I'll admit that I got confused with where Maggie Steifvater was taking the story, although I could eventually see everything converging and coming together and making far more sense by the latter part of the book.

There are some great characters in the story, including the Raven Boys of the title.  I particularly loved Adam who is self-effacing and rather shy but utterly adorable.  There's also the confident and determined Gansey and their friend Roman. 

My interest picked up in the second half but overall I did struggle with this title.  I've read some five star reviews of it from my fellow bloggers and other reviewers online however, so if you're a fan of Steifvater, then I would still tell you to give it a try because even though I didn't, you might just end up loving it. 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Review: Lance of Truth - Katherine Roberts

Lance of Truth by Katherine Roberts, published by Templar on 1st October 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
The quest for Camelot's survival continues - King Arthur's secret daughter, Rhianna Pendragon, has faced mortal danger, ice-breathing dragons and dark magic to win Excalibur, the Sword of Light. But the sword is just one of four magical Lights that she must find to restore Arthur's soul to his body and bring him back to life. Now Rhianna must head into the wilds of the North, to find the second Light, the Lance of Truth, before her evil cousin Mordred claims it. But Mordred is holding her mother Guinevere captive - can Rhianna stay true to her quest for the Lights and save the mother she's never known, before Mordred wreaks his terrible revenge?

*There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

I love stories about Camelot, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I’m also a massive fan of the TV series Merlin so the Pendragon Legacy series by author Katherine Roberts is perfectly suited to my tastes. ‘Lance of Truth’ is the second in a planned four book series which combines elements of well known legends with a cleverly imagined tale of the long lost child of Arthur and Guinevere. This opens it up to a whole new audience who I’m sure will enjoy these stories as much as I did.

After Rhianna’s previous quest to find the Sword Excalibur, she now needs to prevent the Lance of Truth from falling into the hands of her evil cousin Mordred, as well as rescue her mother Guinevere who is being held captive. Helping her along the way are the Knights of the Round Table as well as her faithful friend Elphin. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t see as much of Elphin as I would have liked. He’s one of my favourite characters and it seemed that their friendship although still vitally important to Rhianna, was slightly pushed to one side. I still have my fingers crossed that we might see a romance between them in the future but I guess I'll just have to wait and see!

There are some other great characters in this instalment. At long last we get to see the legendary Lancelot who didn’t turn out to be quite as I’d imagined, as well as Guinevere, who I enjoyed seeing more of. I thought the reconciliation between Guinevere and Rhianna was well written as the two struggle to adjust to their mother-daughter relationship.

Thrilling and exciting, this is a fantastic book which is a fast-paced read with plenty of twists and turns.  The plot fairly gallops along and there's danger around every corner.  The evil Mordred made me shiver every time he appeared and I was rooting for Rhianna the whole way through.   

Book three is set to feature a new adventure to find the Crown of Dreams.  I’m looking forward to seeing what lies in wait for Rhianna next as she seeks to bring back her father King Arthur.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Blog tour: Such Wicked Intent - Kenneth Oppel

I'm taking part in the blog tour today for 'Such Wicked Intent' by Kenneth Oppel.  I have a fantastic guest post from Ken about the process he went through to adapt such a well-loved classic.

Frankenstein is one of my favourite novels, and I wish I’d written it. Unfortunately, it was written two hundred years ago by a 19-year old genius called Mary Shelley. Arguably, Frankenstein is the first science fiction novel, the first monster novel, the first horror novel. Not only is it an incredibly gripping read but, like all the best literature, it tackles weighty themes: reckless human ambition, the ethical implications of scientific pursuit, the creator’s responsibilities to his creations, and the perils of really, really bad parenting. All things that are still relevant today.

A couple of years ago, while re-reading the novel, I was struck by how quickly Victor Frankenstein’s youth is described – and one line in particular stuck out: “No youth could have passed more happily than mine.” Now, remember that this is a kid who goes on to dig up corpses, chop them up, sew the body parts back together, jolt them with electricity in the hopes of revivifying them, and creating life from death. Doesn’t sound like a very happy youth to me. What might have happened to Victor to lead him to become the “mad scientist” we all know? That, I thought, would make an interesting story.

A few pages later, Shelley goes on to give a helpful clue: “I entered with the greatest diligence into the search for… the elixir of life…. What glory would attend the discovery, if I could banish disease from the human frame, and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death!”

Right away I had an image of a teenager who was curious, ambitious, possibly arrogant, but also adventurous and brave. The search for an elixir of life, while perhaps not the activity of a perfectly well-adjusted kid, would make for an excellent quest. But it seemed to me there had to be something more behind it. What if Victor needed the elixir for a personal purpose? Was he himself ill? Or maybe a friend, parent – or a beloved sibling?

And so, in my alternative Frankenstein mythology, I decided that Victor Frankenstein had a twin brother, Konrad -- who has an entirely different personality, and is a much steadier sort than Victor -- and just that much better at everything.

In writing the book, I tried to stay true to the tone of Mary Shelley’s. It’s very overwrought and gothic and histrionic, which is great fun to write. The language is a joy to mimic, though I wanted to make sure I didn’t make it too dense in case it alienated modern teens.

It was tremendous fun to learn about the real Mary Shelley and her sources for Frankenstein. I’m sure plenty of my readers will pick up on all the references to the real Mary Shelley and the fascinating and tragedy-filled life she led. From my point of view, all this material was source material for me. I used Mary Shelley’s family as a basis for Victor’s – and stole characteristics from her husband (Percy Shelley) and friend Lord Byron to build Victor’s personality and backstory. When you’re reimagining a literary classic, you want to preserve the tone of the original, and this was one way I could do it.

So I’m very grateful to Mary Shelley for writing Frankenstein, and especially grateful to her for being dead long enough that she can’t sue me for what I’ve done with her characters and story!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Competition: Girl Heart Boy - Become a published author

Here's your chance to become a published author!  Penguin are running a fantastic competition for all you writers out there and yes, you could actually get your work published. 

All you have to do is use the video above as inspiration to write a deleted scene from Ali Cronin’s Girl Heart Boy (which you can now buy for 49p on the Apple iBookstore!).

Was your scene deleted because it was too dark? Too steamy? Because One Direction or Justin Bieber took it over? Because something wickedly surprising happened?

That is up to you, but once you’ve got your idea it is time to start writing!

Enter the competition here on the Movellas website.

How to win: A shortlist will be decided on by likes, comments, favourites and quality. So once you submit your entry, share it with the world – gather all the support from your friends, family, on Twitter and Facebook and get them to do the same for you!

The prize: Lunch with the editor of Girl Heart Boy for a critique of the writing and chat through the publishing process and… to have your deleted scene published as an ebook by Penguin!

10 runners-up will also receive signed copies of the first two books in the series.

Remember: you must enter the competition on the Movellas website

Closing date: 23rd November 2012

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Review: This Is So Not Happening - Kieran Scott

This Is So Not Happening by Kieran Scott, published by Simon and Schuster on 30th August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again. — It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.

But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?

*There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

After the bombshell which was dropped at the end of 'He's So Not Worth It', I was dying to find out what was going to happen next.  The story picks up immediately after these events.  Jake's life has been blown apart by the news that Chloe is pregnant and his relationship with Ally is threatened once more.

I've really enjoyed this series.  it reminds me of some of my favourite TV shows such as One Tree Hill, with it's constant love triangles, relationship drama and tangled affairs of the heart.  Jake and Ally have been on again/off again from the start so I enjoyed finally getting to see what was going to happen between them once and for all.  Without giving anything away, the ending couldn't have been more fitting and was a perfect conclusion.

I love all the characters too!  Not just Ally and Jake but all their friends...even when they're making wrong decisions about things.  These are real teens dealing with real life issues.  I liked the pregnancy storyline enormously.  This is a huge issue for anyone to face and it was intriguing to see how different people reacted to the news.  I did guess what the outcome was going to be but I thought it was well written and a good plot twist.

This book tied up all the strands of the story neatly but I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed that maybe we'll see more of the Orchard Hill gang in the future.  I'd love to see them all at college, taking their next big steps in the world. 

'This Is So Not Happening' was a fab read with romance in abundance.  I enjoyed every second and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fellow readers.  I would love to read more contemporary YA romances like this as it makes a refreshing change from the paranormal, so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.   

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Blog tour: Crusher - Niall Leonard

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Niall Leonard's fantastic debut novel 'Crusher'.  You can read my review here.  Niall had an interesting route to publication which he talks about in his inspiring guest post.

I’ve written TV episodes for years. It can be rewarding, but it can be frustrating too– you’re creating adventures for someone else’s characters following someone else’s rules. I used to complain to my wife about this, but her reply was always the same – if you want to tell a story your own way, write a novel.

I wanted to, and I had lots of different ideas. Crusher came to me when a friend explained her sons never read books because they weren’t interested in sci-fi or vampires. Immediately I thought, what about a seventeen year old private detective? Call him Finn Maguire. Not an old-fashioned private detective – he couldn’t have an office, or follow people in a car… he’d have no parents… what happened to his parents?

His mum left home years ago and now his dad’s been murdered, and he has to find out why.

That’s where I started. I wrote half the first chapter –Finn comes home and finds his dad dead– but couldn’t think of what happened next, so I put off working on it. Lots of people make that mistake. They think that if they wait, a brilliant idea will come to them.. But that never happens, because good ideas don’t come out of nowhere. You promise yourself you’ll finish writing your book ‘sometime’, but you never do.

NaNoWriMo gives everyone who wants to write a novel a deadline. You have to do it NOW. And you are in the same boat as hundreds of other people who all encourage each other. I organised a NaNoWriMo meeting in a local pub, and every week three or four of us would sit round a table typing away on laptops. We’d stop every hour for coffee, but after a few minutes everyone would get back to writing, knowing if we messed around it would distract everyone else.

So now I had to work out what happened to Finn after he found his dad murdered. Well, I thought, I guess the police would accuse him of doing it. So I tried that– and I was off. Soon Finn learned his Dad had annoyed a local gangster, and that he’d had a girlfriend – who was married to someone else…

I’d written a rough outline before I started, like I would for TV, so I always knew where I was going, if not how I was going to get there. Some things that happened in the story surprised even me – but that was part of the adventure. And eventually I ended up with a novel, Crusher, that’s getting published.

So I’d recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone who wants to write a novel. Even if you don’t know what to write about, or how your story ends, think of something and start. You’ll be amazed how much fun you have, and how much you learn about writing. I’m sorry I didn’t do it years ago, but late is always better than never, and now is always better than sometime. Go for it.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: The Masque of the Red Death - Bethany Griffin

The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, published by Indigo on 2nd August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Everything is in ruins.  A devastating plague has decimated the population. And those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles to pieces around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery make-up . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club. And Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither boy is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find something not just to live for, but to fight for—no matter what it costs her.

This book is based on an original work by Edgar Allan Poe, although when I read it I was unaware of the link.  Araby Worth is living amongst a city decimated by a terrible plague - a plague which robbed her of her twin brother.  As she tries to find oblivion at the infamous Debauchery Club, she stumbles into the path of a power struggle which is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

Bethany Griffin has created a terrifying world where people live in fear of catching the plague.  To protect themselves, those who can afford it wear masks which stop them from catching the deadly air born germs.  The startling imagery of citizens with porcelain masks on, hiding their true expressions and creating a lack of intimacy, is quite frightening and sinister.

The first person narrative from the perspective of Araby meant that I could feel the sense of loss which haunts her throughout the book but also the gradual blossoming of hope she experiences by the end and the sense of a new beginning being on the horizon.   

I liked the love triangle between Araby, the darkly handsome and tattooed Will (who I loved) and Araby's friend's brother Elliott.  The latter never greatly appealed to me because although he showed glimpses of the good I didn't entirely trust him, whereas I adored Will almost immediately. 

'The Masque of the Red Death' is a dark and seductive story with vivid and imaginative writing which immersed me from the very beginning.  I'm looking forward hugely to the sequel which is due out next year. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Blog tour: Sophie McKenzie's Top YA Reads

I am taking part in the blog tour for Sophie McKenzie's new book, 'Missing Me' which is published by Simon and Schuster and is a thrilling conclusion to the 'Girl, Missing' trilogy..

Sophie has put together her own personal list highlighting her top YA reads.  There are some great picks here which I'm looking forward to checking out!

Unrest – Michelle Harrison

Mysterious and spooky

The Fault in our Stars – John Green

Moving and romantic

Naked – Kevin Brooks

Poignant and compelling

Rebel Heart – Moira Young

Dystopian and dramatic
Saving Daisy – Phil Earle

Raw and insightful

Finding Violet Park – Jenny Valentine

Quirky and intriguing

The Kingdom by the Sea – Robert Westall

Gripping and powerful
Dead Time – Anne Cassidy

Suspenseful and exciting

Friday, 14 September 2012

Review: The Rise of Nine - Pittacus Lore

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore, published by Penguin on 30th August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York - but I escaped.

I am Number Six. The Mogodorians want to finish what they started.

But they'll have to fight us first.

This is one of my favourite series of all-time!  It's addictive and gripping and the long wait between books is unbearable.  'The Rise of Nine' is the third instalment in the Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore and yet again was a heart-stopping and pulse-pounding read.  I literally couldn't put it down.  There's edge of your seat action from the word go and it's compulsive reading for fans of the series.

The story is this time narrated by three characters: Four, Six and Seven, so we're treated to multiple perspectives of events.  Four is with Nine and Six and Seven are together along with Ten, so the story switched between the two viewpoints.  A different typeface was used for each narrator but it perhaps would have been easier to have had each chapter headed with the character's name as it sometimes took me a couple of seconds to work out who was now speaking.  Four has always been my favourite character but he has to take a little bit of a backseat to what seemed to be the main story of Six and Seven's hunt to find Eight.  It's great to see them all gradually coming together.  I can only imagine what it's going to be like when all of them are reunited.

I really like the way that they are learning more about each other and their own abilities. Their legacies compliment each other and when they are fighting as a group they are always stronger and more powerful. Their greatest foe so far is revealed in the book and he turns out to be a formidable enemy who it's going to take their combined strengths to defeat.

We don't get to see much of Sam and Sarah which was a shame as Sam in particular is another of my favourites.  It's interesting having two humans in the mix though as they are so much more vulnerable than the others but still determined to do their fair share of the fighting. 

The story is spread over a wide geographical range, skipping from Chicago, to India, to New Mexico.  The part of the book set in India was especially good, as they try to track down Eight.  He turned out to be unlike anything I'd imagined.  He has really powerful legacies and has learnt to survive on his own after the death of his Cepan.  There's hints of a romance developing between him and Seven which I hope is explored further in the future.       

I can't wait to see if Number Five makes an appearance in the next book in the series.  As far as I know, there are another three books planned so lot's more action and adventure still to come.  It's the event of the year when a new book in the series is published so I'll be counting down the days until the next one.  

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Review: Missing Me - Sophie McKenzie

Missing Me by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 13th September 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Six years have passed since the end of Sister, Missing and Madison is now a teenager. During a visit to her older sister Lauren, Madison learns that their biological father was an anonymous sperm donor and sets out to track him down. Her search bears fruit sooner than she expects, but is the father she discovers all he seems? As Madison gets drawn into a mysterious investigation involving missing girls and secret hideaways, she finds herself in more and more danger.

This is the third book in the series and is set six years after the events of 'Girl Missing' and 'Sister Missing'.  As such it was nice to revisit some familiar faces and see what their lives are like now.  The story focuses on Madison who is now fourteen and attempting to track down her biological father.

As I've come to expect from a Sophie McKenzie book, the story was hugely appealing and the storytelling was both exciting and addictive.  Events take a dramatic turn particularly in the second half when my heart was beating so wildly that I couldn't put the book down.

I loved seeing a teenage Madison who is now much more grown-up and making decisions of her own.  Her relationship with her half-sister Lauren was also great and I liked the close sisterly bond that they share.  My only gripe really was that it seems Madison's life has been constantly in danger throughout most of the series and literally everything seems to happen to her.  Saying that however, that's part of what makes the story so thrilling and gripping so I can't really complain.           

Sophie McKenzie is one of the best British authors around at the moment and with 'Missing Me' she cements her reputation even further as one to watch! 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Review: Deadly Little Secret - Laurie Faria Stolarz

Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz, published by Hyperion Books on 10th November 2009

Goodreads synopsis:
Up until three months ago, everything in sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at the art studio downtown. But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, Camelia's life becomes anything but ordinary.
Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe the rumors, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. She's inexplicably drawn to Ben...and to his touch. But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she is in danger, and that he can help--but can he be trusted? She knows he's hiding something... but he's not the only one with a secret.

 I wasn’t really sure what to expect from ‘Deadly Little Secret’ as I haven’t read anything by Laurie Faria Stolarz before and from reading the blurb I wasn’t completely certain what the story was going to be about.  However, the cover caught my eye and I like giving new authors a go so I picked this one up.  I’m glad I did because overall it was a great read and very similar in style and plot to Kimberly Derting’s ‘The Body Finder’ and ‘Desires of the Dead’ which I loved. 

The main plotline concerns 16 year old Camelia, who becomes obsessed by new guy at school Ben, after he saves her from being hit by a car.  She’s desperate to find out more about him but when she does, she discovers that he left his last school after being suspected of having something to do with his ex-girlfriend’s death.  With everyone seemingly against Ben, she’s not sure if she can trust him but she just can’t stay away, particularly when he tells her that her life is in danger and only he can help her.
The chapters told from Camelia’s point of view are interspersed with those of an anonymous narrator.  These become steadily creepier and more sinister as the story progresses and although I had a couple of guesses about who I thought it could be, I was way off the mark and was very surprised when their true identity was revealed.

There's a sense of danger throughout the book which often had me on the edge of my seat and biting my fingernails down.  I enjoyed the way the mystery unravelled and the plot was engrossing and enjoyable.
I need to catch-up with these books as there are a further three titles in the series which I'm looking forward to reading soon. I want to know what is going to happen to all the characters next.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Review: Darkness Falls - Cate Tiernan

Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 13th September 2012
Goodreads synopsis:
Nastasya has lived for more than 400 years but things never get any easier. As she learns more about herself, she questions whether it will ever be possible to break free from the darkness of her former life. Can she turn away from the one person she wants to be with above all others? Should her past determine who she should - or should not - love?

This is the second book in the Immortal Beloved series by Cate Tiernan and is just as good, if not better, than the first.

I was instantly plunged back into Natasya’s story as I began reading this book. She’s still trying to turn over a new leaf but she’s worried that her magick may always be dark and harmful to others.  She's also trying to deal with choices and decisions that she has made in her past and which she has to face and reflect on before she's fully able to move on.

After running from Incy for so long, we see Nasty getting sucked back into her old life. A large proportion of the story is focused on this and features a number of flashbacks which look at how they embraced their life together before Nasty finally opened her eyes to his true character. It was interesting finding out more about the enigmatic Incy but he’s definitely one of my least favourite characters so far. 

Although I enjoyed seeing Nasty on her personal road to self-discovery, I actually couldn’t wait for her to return to River and co because I like the sense of community she feels when she’s with them. It was also pleasing to see how well-rounded her character is becoming under their influence. She’s really grown on me since the beginning of the series when I initially found her quite self-centred and I enjoyed seeing different facets of her personality change and develop.

I’m hoping that book three will have more of an emphasis on Nasty’s romantic relationship with Reyn. I’ve loved the idea of them as a couple from the first so I really want to see them explore further their feelings for each other.

‘Darkness Falls’ has an exciting, pulse-pounding climax and is so good that you won’t be able to put it down. Cate Tiernan is a master storyteller and I like the way she combines so many different elements into her books – magick, romance, danger, excitement, history and a character on an incredible journey towards a life of new promise.  If you haven't read this book yet then I would recommend grabbing yourself a copy immediately. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Review: Secrets, Lies and Locker 62 - Lil Chase

Secrets, Lies and Locker 62 by Lil Chase, published by Quercus on 30th August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
Secrets have a special home at Mount Selwyn High. For years, students have posted their deepest desires and fears in Locker 62. And then this locker is assigned to new girl Maya. She could use the knowledge to help people. Or she could use it to become popular. Maya, who was bullied, who has never been cool, who will do anything to be popular, is now the most powerful girl at school. What will she choose to do next?

I really enjoyed Lil Chase's debut novel last year, 'Boys For Beginners' so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review her new book.  The premise sounded intriguing - a locker in a school which holds everyone's secrets and deepest thoughts and the new girl who finds that she holds immeasurable power over her peers when she's assigned the aforementioned locker 62.  Although I liked the general idea for the story, I'll admit that I had quite mixed feelings about it when I'd finished.

I liked the overall message that I think the story was trying to convey.  The fact that people aren't always who you think they are and that appearances can quite often be deceiving.  The main character Maya learns not to judge people until you've got to know them and that it's good to try and fit in but not at the cost of becoming someone you're not.

I also thought that Maya herself was great.  She starts out by trying to help people by guessing who the secrets belong to and then attempting to make their hopes and dreams come true.  Her intentions may be noble but along the way she's swayed by her longing to fit in and be part of the popular crowd.  This is something which I think most people have gone through at one time or another and I thought it was dealt with really well.

On the other hand, I wasn't so keen on the rather abrupt ending.  To be honest I thought that the story finished just as it was starting to get quite interesting.  There's a pretty major revelation near the end of the book which I felt was glossed over rather than being dealt with and explained in more detail.  It's also quite a big twist and I'm surprised that more fuss wasn't made about it.

'Secrets, Lies and Locker 62' was a quick and easy read but seemed a bit too predictable for my tastes.  It skirted over a really serious topic which I would have liked to have seen explored further and although I liked the main protagonist, I felt that some of the other characters were slightly one dimensional.  Overall a little disappointing considering how much I enjoyed 'Boys For Beginners'.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Review: Blackwood - Gwenda Bond

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond, published by Strange Chemistry on 4th September 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

This was a magical and mystical debut by author Gwenda Bond. It reminded me of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and not just because of the fact that the central protagonist is called Miranda and the action takes place on an island where mysterious events occur.

Featuring a Battlestar Galactica loving heroine and a teen who hears the voices of the dead, ‘Blackwood’ had me intrigued from the word go. Extremely unique and original, the story drew me in until I was just as immersed in the mystery of the island as all the characters.

The plot is inspired by Roanake Island’s history and a legend involving the disappearance of 114 people from the Lost Colony. I thought the meshing of elements of history with a modern day setting was really clever and the story was fresh and exciting. I had no idea what was going to happen but I had fun finding out!  The unpredictable nature of events in the book meant that I thoroughly enjoyed the element of surprise and read it expecting almost anything to happen.

Even when I put the briefly put the book down, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  As the story only takes place over a few days, there was a frantic feel about it with things quickly spiralling out of control and this lended itself nicely to the gripping and intense mood of the writing.

‘Blackwood’ is a terrific addition to the young-adult genre. Absolutely captivating, I loved not only the growing romance between misfits Miranda and Phillips but also the danger and intrigue of the events which unravelled on the island. The book was different to anything else I’ve read in recent months and Gwenda Bond is certainly an author I’ll be keeping my eye on.

Review: Shift - Kim Curran

Shift by Kim Curran, published by Strange Chemistry on 4th September 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He's a 'Shifter'. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Published by new young-adult imprint, Strange Chemistry, 'Shift' was an enjoyable and original debut by British author Kim Curran.

I loved the idea behind 'Shift' which is that certain teenagers have the ability to shift from one reality to another, where decisions can be changed, leading to different future paths.  Like the main character Scott, I thought that would be such a cool ability to have.  I mean imagine being able to right all those wrong choices with a single thought.

Very few young-adult books have male narrators so it was refreshing to see events unfold from the viewpoint of Scott Tyler, who unexpectedly discovers at the start of the story that he is a shifter.  His whole world is literally turned upside down by this revelation and nothing in his life will ever be the same again.  He meets lots of new people from here on in and one of the best is Aubrey who is smart and clever and explains to him the new life which now lies ahead of him.  In places I thought that the dialogue seemed a little stilted which sometimes made it difficult to connect with all the characters but many of them had grown on me by the end of the book.  

I actually thought that the story initially started a bit slowly and I wasn't sure whether it was going to pick up.  Luckily it did and as the plot progressed, it got a lot more exciting with some unexpected (and on occasion quite grotesque!) surprises thrown in along the way.

I don't know if this is a stand-alone novel or not, but I'm guessing from the way it concluded that there will be a sequel.  It will be interesting to see where Kim Curran takes the story next as at this point she could take it in several different directions.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Review: The History Keepers: Circus Maximus - Damian Dibben

The History Keepers: Circus Maximus by Damian Dibben, published by Doubleday on 2nd August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
The History Keepers are in terrible danger once more. Stocks of Atomium - the crucial ingredient which allows them to travel through time - are perilously low, and the agents must embark on a risky mission to find more. And now a new and even more evil member of the Zeldt family is planning a hideous take-over of the Ancient world, and they are forced to travel further back into history than ever before in order to save the day.

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

Jake and the History Keepers are back in this thrilling new instalment by British author Damian Dibben. This time they are travelling back to AD27 and Ancient Rome to try and rescue Topaz.

What is so great about this series is the actual premise of being able to travel back to any period in time. The characters get to visit some amazing locations, enriched by fantastic details of all the historical events which actually took place.  The scenes in the book really come alive with such wonderfully descriptive writing and all of these things mean that the scope for the series is pretty much infinite.  There are so many exciting places and adventures which could lie in store for the History Keepers.

I really enjoyed the first in the series when I read it last year but I loved ‘Circus Maximus’ even more. The basic idea behind the secret organisation has already been explained and put in place, so Dibben can now simply concentrate on weaving a fabulous story with plenty of action for Jake and co as they attempt to save the world.

The characters grew on me even more too this time around. Jake is a brilliant hero (move over Percy Jackson!) but I also adore Nathan who is by Jake’s side throughout and my personal favourite. He’s funny and charming, obsessed with fashion but also loyal and brave and the right person to have by your side in times of need.

The History Keepers have to face Agata Zeldt and she makes a great baddie – the character that you love to hate. Every hero needs an enemy and Zeldt is it!  Every time she appeared I wanted to run and hide because she's just so scary.

The ending nicely plants the seeds for the next book in the series which promises to lead the group on yet another dangerous mission.  A sublime combination of fantasy and adventure, hold onto your seats as Dibben takes you on a rollercoaster ride through history, fraught with danger and excitement.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Review: Rage Within - Jeyn Roberts

Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 30th August 2012

Goodreads synopsis:
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...

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

'Dark Inside' by Jeyn Roberts was one of my surprise hits of last year.  I absolutely adored it!  Dark and twisty, it blew my mind with it's sheet brilliance and I've been eagerly waiting for the sequel ever since.

'Rage Within' picks up from the first book by following main characters Michael, Aries, Mason and Clementine.  They are now tougher and more resilient than ever before and have experienced unimaginable horrors.  When we were first introduced to them they were scattered across the country but now they have found their way together with a small group of other survivors.  They aren't living though - they are only surviving.  Life isn't the same and has no resemblance to the existences they led before.  In reality, death is around every corner, the threat of the Baggers is uppermost in their minds and every day is designed simply around trying to stay alive.

I liked the way that each character had their own personal agenda but as a group they shared a common goal which brought them together.  The chapter perspective alternates between the four teens and I enjoyed getting to see more of their individual stories and as well as sharing their feelings about what they have seen and been forced to do.  I was pleased that we also got to find out more about the mysterious Daniel.  He has fascinated me from the start and I was intrigued to discover what his own motives were for some of his actions.

Whereas the setting of the first book was spread out over the whole country, the events of 'Rage Within' take place within quite a small circumference.  This made the atmosphere highly fraught with danger and added a sense of suffocation, as well as contrasting this with a fragile sense of safety and companionship.

There were some exciting revelations near the end of the story which turned things on their head completely and lots of twists and turns which kept me on edge throughout.  Now I need to know more as soon as humanely possible because I have so many questions! 

This was a stunning sequel with everything you could want in a good book.  Terrifying, gripping and unbelievably exciting, I guarantee you won't be able to put it down.  
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