Monday, 30 December 2013

My Favourite Books of 2013

I've read so many fantastic books in 2013 that it's been incredibly difficult trying to choose my top ten favourite titles.  I've picked books that have been impossible to put down and have kept me up reading until late into the night, as well as books which have made me want to start reading them again as soon as I've got to the end.  These are in particular order and have not necessarily been published this year.

1. Angelfall by Susan Ee
I said - 'A stunning, spellbinding story which absolutely captivated me. It's hard to list all the things I loved about it but it pulled at my heartstrings and captured my imagination'.  This is one of the best angel books I've ever read.
2. The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
I said - 'The Vincent Boys' is the hottest book of 2013. If you're trying to banish those winter blues then I would recommend picking up this title immediately'. 
 3. Losing It by Cora Carmack
I said - ''Losing It' is one of my top books of 2013 and is a 5 star read! It has wonderful characters, a sizzling romance, a brilliant plot and so many memorable moments that it would be hard to pick a favourite'.  If you love New Adult fiction then you need to read this book.   
 4. Because of Low by Abbi Glines
I said - ''Because of Low', the second book in Abbi Glines Sea Breeze series, is a steamy New Adult romance that was so good I devoured it in one sitting and then went back and read all my favourite parts again.'
 5. All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
I said - 'It's no exaggeration to say that this is the must-read book of the year. Whether you've got to beg, borrow or steal a copy, I implore you to get your hands on it. Utterly tense, exciting and gripping, this book will keep you up all night reading, as well as the night after that when you'll be re-reading it all over again'.
 6. As You Were by Samantha Summers
I said - 'The whole book is a real roller-coaster of a ride. Each chapter is packed full of excitement, fraught with danger and laced with romance. There is also a jaw-dropping revelation at the end which makes me even more desperate to find out what lies in store next.'
7. Becoming by Samantha Summers
I said - ''Becoming' was a superb read which delivered romance, adventure, action and excitement in spades! I was absolutely engrossed in the story and found it compulsive reading. I'm so sad that the series is over because I've become invested in the characters and their lives and I don't want the adventure to end. I'm going to be re-reading the trilogy over and over again because I have so many favourite moments that I want to go back and relive'.  I can't wait to see what Samantha Summers writes next but I won't give up hope that she might return to Ronnie and Kalen at some point! 
 8. The Trap by Andrew Fukuda
I said - 'Andrew Fukuda is an incredible writer. The scenes in the book leap off the page as his writing leads you on a journey full of horror, terror and danger. There are some wonderfully rich descriptive passages in the book which made everything feel very real and frankly left me quite terrified at times'.  This series is brilliant and the concluding instalment provided explosive action and adventure.       
 9. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
I said - 'I can't get enough of Abbi Glines's books. She really can't write them fast enough for me. They are sooo good!'  I love the residents of Rosemary Beach and this story about Blaire and Rush delivered the perfect romance.   
 10. While It Lasts by Abbi Glines
I said - 'What I particularly loved about the story was the fact that when I was reading it, I was completely swept away from reality and ended up totally engrossed in the characters' lives. I enjoy realism in books but sometimes I just want a break from real life and 'While It Lasts' delivered that for me.'
 Comment and let me know if you've read any of these and what your personal favourites of 2013 were.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

News: Launch of Bloomsbury Spark

Today sees the launch of Bloomsbury Spark, a brand new digital imprint dedicated to YA and New Adult e-book titles. 

The first seven titles available are:

Pride’s Run by Cat Kalen – @CatKalen

Pride has been enslaved and raised in captivity for her power as a shape shifter, but when she finally gets the chance to run, she must trust in the boy who promises her freedom, the same boy she was sent to hunt. This is the first book in a planned series. Pride Unleashed and Pride’s Pursuit will follow in February and March, respectively.
The Secret of Isobel Key by Jen McConnel – @Jen_McConnel

When an indecisive college student runs away to Scotland, she discovers romance, dark secrets of witchcraft, and learns to trust her own intuition.

The Sound of Us by Ashley Poston – @ashposton

Eighteen-year-old Junie Baltimore is glad the band Roman Holiday is dead, done, so last year-- but she never planned on falling in love with the lead singer.

The Art of Falling by Jenny Kaczorowski – @jennykacz

Bria knows exactly who she is – the militant vegan, purple-haired Queen of the Art Room - until she kisses the high school quarterback. 

Beyond Our Stars by Marie Langager – @MarieLangager

Fleeing a destroyed Earth, Hope has become a young leader for the people who remain, searching for answers in a new world. But when she is the only one who can withstand the tests of the natives on their new planet, she is about to become their last chance for survival. 

Until We End by Frankie Brown – @frankiebrown25  

If saving her brother from the government post-apocalypse means a suicide mission, Cora's willing. But there's one guy who can't let her go. 

Positively Mine by Christine Duval – @ChristineDuval1

Freshman year is hard enough without having to hide an unplanned pregnancy from a summer fling...
Find out more by visiting Bloomsbury Spark.  Comment and let me know which ones you are looking forward to reading?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: Let It Snow - John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, published by Penguin on 5th September 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

I decided to wait to read this one until December so that I could enjoy the Christmas themed stories in the run up to the big day.  You definitely want to start this title when you're curled up by the fire with a big mug of hot chocolate in your hands.  'Let It Snow' consists of three festive and inter-connected stories by bestselling YA authors John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.  Each is extremely unique and quite quirky.  Personally I'm not a big fan of short stories as I often find that I'm not given enough time to become properly acquainted with the characters or that I'm just getting into a story when it's suddenly all over.  I did find this was the case with this collection although I still enjoyed it.   

The first story is called 'The Jubilee Express' by Maureen Johnson.  It's about a girl called Jubilee who is on her way to stay with her grandparents for Christmas when her train gets stuck in the snow in the small town of Graceland.  Here she meets an interesting cast of characters who also feature later on in the book.  This is followed by John Green's 'A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle' which features Tobin and his friends trying to get to the Waffle House after finding out that fourteen cheerleaders have descended there after being stranded in town.  The final story called 'The Patron Saint of Pigs' by Lauren Myracle was actually my least favourite.  It centres around Addie who has promised to collect her friends teacup piglet but can't seem to focus after having split up with her boyfriend Jeb.

Each story centres around the themes of love and friendship.  They feature romance and new beginnings, as well as what happens when friendship turns into something more.  There's the promise of forgiveness and starting over, with all the characters' stories concluding in quite unexpected ways.  It's not the best Christmas book I've ever read but I still enjoyed this wintery, festive collection which would make a great present for the holiday season.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: Simple Perfection - Abbi Glines

Simple Perfection by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd December 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Woods had his perfect life mapped out for him. Rise up the ranks of the family business. Marry the rich girl of his parents’ dreams. Pretend that wealth and privilege was all he’d ever wanted. Then a girl named Della breezed into town, a beautifully imperfect stranger who captured his heart and opened his eyes to a new kind of future. Woods is ready and willing to sacrifice everything for her when the sudden death of his father leaves him with his mother to care for and a business to manage.

Della is determined to be strong for Woods, even as she’s quietly falling to pieces. No matter how far from home she’s run, the ghosts of her past have never stopped haunting her. Struggling to hide her true feelings from Woods, Della fears she can’t be his rock without dragging him down into the darkness with her. But is she strong enough to let go of the last thing holding her together?

It's no secret that I love Abbi Glines so when this book arrived I dropped everything to start reading it immediately.  It continues the story of Della and Woods's romance which began in 'Twisted Perfection' and proved yet again to be an unputdownable read.  I love the Rosemary Beach gang and I enjoyed not only getting to see whether Della and Woods would finally achieve a happy ending but also seeing some of the other characters who we've been introduced to so far.

Della's personal story has often been pretty dark and twisty.  Her terrible childhood has left her with deep scars which she has been trying to overcome and with Woods she thinks she may have finally found her future.  But there are a few more hurdles to get over first.  Worried that she may not be the best thing for him, she takes drastic action, believing that she's doing what's right for him.  Della's story took quite an unexpected turn in the second half of the book which did come a little out of the blue but for me, proved to be the right conclusion for her.  Although she has never realised it, she's incredibly strong and resilient and so it was great to see her get some happy news for once.  It was also a nice change around to have Della providing Woods with a shoulder to cry on when his father dies and he's left in charge of the family business.

Woods has always been one of my favourite characters in the series.  He adores Della and worships the ground she walks on and he would do anything for her.  I did think he got a little bit needy at times when he had to have Della near him constantly but it was also sweet and very romantic. 

Now, I thought this book was brilliant and I really, really enjoyed reading it but I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of a major twist that takes place at the end.  I can understand why Abbi decided to follow this path but it slightly took the gloss off what up until that point had been a pretty much perfect read.  I can imagine that a lot of fans of the series may not be too happy about it but it does open up an interesting path for a couple of the other Rosemary Beach characters.  That aside, 'Simple Perfection' was fantastic and another five star read from the wonderful Abbi Glines.   

Friday, 6 December 2013

Review: The Lost Boys - Lilian Carmine

The Lost Boys by Lilian Carmine, published by Ebury Press on 26th September 2013 

Goodreads synopsis:
Fate has brought them together. But will it also keep them apart? Having moved to a strange town, 17-year-old Joey Gray is feeling a little lost, until she meets a cute, mysterious boy near her new home. But there’s a very good reason why Tristan Halloway is always to be found roaming in the local graveyard.

Girls, ghosts and forbidden love.  All the ingredients for what should be a stellar read but which for me, didn't quite live up to my admittedly high expectations.  'The Lost Boys' was a Wattpad sensation for author Lilian Carmine and this book is the first in a trilogy featuring main character Joey and the handsome but ghostly Tristan. 

Described as being perfect for fans of Stephenie Meyer and Lauren Kate, I really wanted to love this title but it didn't sweep me off my feet as I was hoping it would.  It focuses on teenager Joey who at the start of the book meets Tristan in the graveyard near to her house.  I won't spoil you with what happens next except to say that the two share a very unusual bond which leads to them going off to attend boarding school together.  The latter half of the book centres on Joey's friendships with the other boys at the school, as well as her budding romance with Tristan. 

My main issue with this book is that I found some of the dialogue to be extremely stilted.  This could possibly be because the author is Brazilian.  It just didn't flow off the page particularly well, so I found it difficult to become fully immersed in the story or to care hugely about the characters. 

Although this title wasn't for me, there are millions of Wattpad readers that have fallen in love with Joey and her boys and would disagree with me, so I would suggest that if it piques your interest, you give it a try for yourself.  It will appeal to fans of paranormal romance and ghostly love affairs. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Review: Teardrop - Lauren Kate

Teardrop by Lauren Kate, published by Doubleday Children's Books on 24th October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Eureka won't let anyone close enough to feel her pain. After her mother was killed in a freak accident, the things she used to love hold no meaning. She wants to escape, but one thing holds her back: Ander, the boy who is everywhere she goes, whose turquoise eyes are like the ocean.

And then Eureka uncovers an ancient tale of romance and heartbreak, about a girl who cried an entire continent into the sea. Suddenly her mother's death and Ander's appearance seem connected, and her life takes on dark undercurrents that don't make sense.

Can everything you love be washed away?

'Teardrop' is the first book in Lauren Kate's new series.  After the huge success of her Fallen series it has high expectations resting on it's shoulders.  The cover is absolutely stunning!  All the artwork for Lauren's books have been amazing so far but this one is achingly gorgeous.  There's no way that you could resist picking this off the shelf. 

I loved the whole concept for the book which is unique and original.  The way in which Lauren Kate has combined elements of mythology with a modern day story is extremely clever and I thought the idea that Atlantis could be raised again by one girl's tears was brilliant.  Although I did think it was very slow at the start, it really picked up at the half-way point and from then on I was hooked.  If you find the same as me at the start and your attention wanders a bit, then I would strongly suggest you stick with it because the plot totally sucked me in during the latter half of the book. 

I wasn't hugely keen on the main character Eureka but she grew on me throughout.  A large part of the book deals with her grief about her mother's death, but things get a lot more interesting when she discovers that her mother Diana was keeping some pretty major secrets which she begins to unravel with the help of the mysterious Anders.  Eureka is strangely drawn to Anders who I liked immediately.  I do hope there's more romance between the two of them in further instalments of the series because I thought it was a little lacking at times. 

The ending was fantastic and I have a feeling that although 'Teardrop' may have been a bit of a slow burner, the rest of the series will be amazing.  I can't wait to see how Lauren Kate will transition the story into a more mythological realm and how she will take the characters down their new future paths.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Trailer: Storm and Stone - Joss Stirling

I'm a massive fan of Joss Stirling's Soulfinder series, so I was excited to hear about a new standalone book called 'Storm and Stone' which is being published by Oxford University Press in February 2014.

Here's the fantastic trailer which has been put together by Joss herself!

Behind the ivy-clad walls of an exclusive boarding school, lurks a sinister web of corruption, scandal, and conspiracy. American student Raven Stone has noticed something is horribly wrong. First there were the unexplained disappearances. Then there were the teachers' lies. And now the death threats ...Also entangled in the disturbing turn of events is the enigmatic Kieran Storm - a fellow student with a killer intellect and a body to die for. He's heading for trouble and taking her with him. Raven can feel herself falling in love, but can she trust a boy she knows almost nothing about?

Also, for those of you that, like me, love the Soulfinder books, then you'll be excited to hear there's a new one out next year called 'Misty Falls'.  I can't wait!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Review: Fathomless - Jackson Pearce

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce, published by Hodder Children's Books on 4th July 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Celia Reynolds is the youngest in a set of triplets and the one with the least valuable power. Anne can see the future, and Jane can see the present, but all Celia can see is the past. And the past seems so insignificant - until Celia meets Lo. Lo doesn't know who she is. Or who she was. Once a human, she is now almost entirely a creature of the sea - a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid - all terms too pretty for the soul-less monster she knows she's becoming. Lo clings to shreds of her former self, fighting to remember her past, even as she's tempted to embrace her dark immortality.

When a handsome boy named Jude falls off a pier and into the ocean, Celia and Lo work together to rescue him from the waves. The two form a friendship, but soon they find themselves competing for Jude's affection. Lo wants more than that, though. According to the ocean girls, there's only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. She must persuade a mortal to love her...and steal his soul.

I loved Jackson Pearce's previous fairy-tale books, 'Sisters Red' and 'Sweetly' but I didn't think that 'Fathomless' held quite as much charm and magic.  I enjoyed it but it didn't leave me as enthralled as Pearce's other titles.  Based on 'The Little Mermaid' by Hans Christian Anderson, the book has been given her own unique spin but for me, veered a little too far from the traditional tale. 

I really enjoyed the first half of the book, although I wasn't so keen on the direction it took at the end.  Although this tied it in with some of the other characters from Pearce's stories, it seemed out of keeping with the rest of the plot. 

The story is jointly narrated by Celia and Lo.  Celia is one of triplet sisters, who has the special ability of being able to see into the past of the people she touches.  Although she abhors this, it proves to be vital to her friendship with Lo.  A creature of the sea, Lo lives in the ocean but struggles to leave her life as a human behind.  She desperately wants to remember the details of who she was and what happened to her family but the details have slipped away.  I really liked Lo who I thought was an interesting and multi-faceted character but I wasn't as keen on Celia. 

Although there were quite a few elements of the book which didn't work for me and I would have liked there to have been more romance but not the obligatory love triangle, what I did love was the way in which Pearce captured the beauty and danger of the ocean.  I could sense the way that Lo felt at home in the waves and the power and majesty of her surroundings. 

'Fathomless' didn't tick all my boxes but I'm still excited to read the fourth and final book in the series which is going to be based on The Snow Queen and will be called 'Cold Spell'.

Friday, 22 November 2013

News: Unlocked ebook imprint launched

Hotkey Books have recently launched their new ebook imprint.  Unlocked will publish digital novellas for 16+ market, in various genre sets, the first being Christmas Romance. With the launch of each new genre set there will be a contest to give new writers the chance to write for the list.

The first set of Christmas novellas are quick, fun and steamy reads.  Included within the set are 'Under the Mistletoe' by Kate Kingsley, 'All I Want For Christmas' by Esme Taylor (aka Keris Stainton), 'Santa Baby' by Ali Cronin, 'Baby It's Cold Outside' by Catherine Cooper and 'Last Christmas' by Harriet Reuter Hapgood'.

I love Christmas stories so I'm definitely going to be checking out some of these! 

For more information about Unlocked and their forthcoming set of fantasy ebooks, you can follow @UnlockedBooks or have a look at their Facebook page to read extracts of some of these titles.  

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Review: After Eden - Helen Douglas

After Eden by Helen Douglas, published by Bloomsbury on 7th November 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she's hooked. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So why doesn't he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

'After Eden' is the debut novel of British author Helen Douglas.  With a winning combination of time-travel and romance, this book will appeal to fans of Ally Condie and Beth Revis. 

The story is set in Cornwall and centres around teenager Eden whose life changes when she meets new boy Ryan.  There are strange quirks about him, such as the fact that he has no idea about everyday things like pizza and he becomes a puzzle that she wants to solve.  When she discovers his secret, the truth about him is stranger than she could ever have imagined. 

This book was a quick read which I finished in one evening and while I enjoyed it, I have to say that I didn't feel like I got deeply involved with the characters and their lives.  I personally thought that Eden was very accepting of the things she discovered about Ryan and quick to believe everything he told her.  I would have liked to have seen her question things more as I think that would have been more realistic and true to her character. 

The ending of the book was thrilling and provided an unexpected twist which I didn't see coming.  There is a sequel planned called 'Chasing Stars' which will be published in 2014.  I'm intrigued about what is planned next for Eden and Ryan, as I think the next instalment could potentially go in quite a different direction, but at the same time 'After Eden' could equally have worked well as a standalone title because I thought the ending was pretty perfect as it was.     

This is a clean and quick read about teen romance against the odds and will appeal hugely to readers who love stories about time-travel and the possibility of what could be out there beyond our home planet.    

Monday, 18 November 2013

Review: Becoming - Samantha Summers

Becoming by Samantha Summers, published on 31st October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
You can’t run from darkness. Eventually, the sun has to set.

Turning his back on the killer he was trained to be wasn’t as easy as Kalen Smith had hoped. They’d tried to run. They’d tried to hide. People had lost their lives. The wrong people. Now, driven by a thirst for revenge, Kalen and his team are preparing to take down those responsible.

But vengeance comes at a price and Ronnie can feel the boy she fell in love with slipping away from her, as the darkness he’s been running from for so long threatens to consume him.

With danger looming in every direction, the possibility of a happy-ever-after is looking bleak, but The Agency isn’t the only obstacle in the way of Ronnie and Kalen’s future. Ronnie’s harbouring a tragic secret that isn’t hers to keep and the truth could destroy not only their relationship, but what’s left of Kalen’s humanity.

One way or another, everything is about to change...

I don't know where to start with my review of 'Becoming' because I loved this book and indeed this series so much that I can't believe it's all over!  When the final instalment landed through my letterbox I was equally torn between shutting myself away to start reading it immediately (because I really couldn't wait to start it) and wanting to wait and prolong the enjoyment and anticipation.  In the end, my desire to find out how the story was going to conclude and what was going to happen to my very favourite book couple, Ronnie and Kalen, won out.  I read it in one evening and could not put it down.  Samantha Summers storytelling held me in the palm of it's hand and each chapter delivered so much that I was gripped and absorbed the whole way through. 

It's no secret that I love the romance between Ronnie and Kalen.  What I love even more is the fact that there's no obligatory love triangle thrown into the mix just to shake things up between the two of them.  They've only ever had eyes for each other and although obstacles have frequently been put in their path, when it comes down to who their hearts belong to, there's no doubt that they are soul mates.  Although there wasn't quite as much romance in this instalment as I would have liked ('As You Were', the second book, delivered this in spades), I did enjoy the final twist that was thrown in and I thought it made the last few moments of the book even more special.  I'm trying desperately not to give away any spoilers but I do want to say that I thought the ending was mind-blowingly brilliant and was very true to all the characters and their stories.

Ronnie has taught Kalen so much about himself since they met.  I particularly liked some of the flashbacks in the book to when he first set eyes on her and how he couldn't get her out of his head, even when he tried desperately to forget about her.  They've always had an amazing connection and although at times Kalen has doubted whether or not they should be together because of the danger it puts Ronnie in, there has never been any doubt in my mind that they are a team and always work better together. 

With Kalen and co plotting to take down The Agency once and for all, there are lots of new faces in the book as the other boys of Project Five Fifteen begin to surface. I loved seeing them all together and although they're not actually related by blood they are like a family and have each other's backs.  Ace is yet again utterly adorable and I really warmed to Denver who steps up and takes charge when needed.  There's definitely potential for a spin-off featuring some of the other characters or even a TV show! (I pictured Colton Haynes in my head when I was reading about Kalen).

'Becoming' was a superb read which delivered romance, adventure, action and excitement in spades!  I was absolutely engrossed in the story and found it compulsive reading.  I'm so sad that the series is over because I've become invested in the characters and their lives and I don't want the adventure to end.  I'm going to be re-reading the trilogy over and over again because I have so many favourite moments that I want to go back and relive.  Samantha Summers, I applaud you and I will read anything you turn your hand to next.  Thank you for giving me Ronnie and Kalen and thank you for writing such a wonderful series of books. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Review: Twinmaker - Sean Williams

Twinmaker by Sean Williams, published by Electric Monkey on 14th November 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Clair is pretty sure the offer in the ‘Improvement' meme is just another viral spam, though Libby is determined to give it a try.

But what starts as Libby's dream turns into Clair's nightmare when her friend vanishes.

In her search for answers, Clair seeks out Jesse - a boy whose alternative lifestyle might help to uncover the truth.

What they don't anticipate is intervention from the mysterious contact known only as Q, and being caught up in a conspiracy that will change everything.

'Twinmaker' is a sci-fi thriller set in a world which on first appearance seems to be pretty much perfect. People are able to travel anywhere in the world using d-mat technology which can transport them to their chosen destination in a fraction of a second.  There are no limitations to where a person can go and the technology described in the book sounds amazing.  For Clair and her best friend Libby, d-mat is a normal part of their everyday lives, until Libby decides to use it to 'improve' herself.  Improvement turns out to be more dangerous than they could ever have thought possible and changes their very existence.  Suddenly the world doesn't seem so perfect after all.   

At the beginning of this book I wasn't convinced that it was going to be my kind of read.  I love dystopian fiction and I'm quite keen on the sci-fi genre but I found the world building at the start of 'Twinmaker' difficult to get to grips with.  There were a lot of new concepts to cope with and I didn't understand all the technological explanations of d-mat and how it worked.  I very nearly gave up but I'm so glad that I stuck with it and kept on reading because Sean Williams turned out a great story which was thought-provoking and interesting and raised so many ethical questions that I'm still pondering some of them now. 

It is quite a long book at over 500 pages and in places I thought that it could have been trimmed a little but once I got over my initial confusion about the direction of the story it really took off.  Clair is a great heroine who surprises herself with her strength and bravery and she is at the heart of the plot.  It's on her shoulders that the future of the world rests but she is more than capable of the journey ahead of her.  There are some intriguing secondary characters in the book as well, including the elusive Q, bad boy Zep and Clair's counter-part Jesse who I really liked.    

This is the first in a trilogy so there were a lot of questions left unanswered at the end, but I'm hoping that these will all be addressed in the sequel which will be out in 2014.          

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

News: Writes of Passage

I have news today about a new teen reading recommendations initiative that has recently launched in the UK by Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman.  Nominations are now open for 'Writes of Passage’.

The award-winning author of bestselling teenage series Noughts and Crosses is inviting book lovers of all ages to help compile the definitive range of titles for young people to try by the time they hit 16.

So think about all those books you couldn't wait to read and tell your friends about or think back to your teenage reads and nominate those titles that rocked your world.  

Anyone can take part by visiting the World Book Day website and sharing their favourites by Friday January 17th, with one lucky participant set to bag every book on a final list of 50 recommended reads for teens which is being unveiled for World Book Day 2014 (March 6th).

Monday, 11 November 2013

Trailer: Foreplay - Sophie Jordan

Today, I'm showcasing the fabulous trailer for Sophie Jordan's new book 'Foreplay' which is the first in The Ivy Chronicles trilogy.  This book sounds brilliant and will definitely be going on my Christmas list!  

Pepper has been hopelessly in love with her best friend’s brother, Hunter, for like ever. He’s the key to everything she’s always craved: security, stability, family. But she needs Hunter to notice her as more than just a friend. Even though she’s kissed exactly one guy, she has just the plan to go from novice to rock star in the bedroom—take a few pointers from someone who knows what he’s doing.

Her college roommates have the perfect teacher in mind. But bartender Reece is nothing like the player Pepper expects. Yes, he’s beyond gorgeous, but he’s also dangerous, deep—with a troubled past. Soon what started as lessons in attraction are turning both their worlds around, and showing just what can happen when you go past foreplay and get to what’s real…

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Review: The Falconer - Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth May, published by Gollancz on 26th September 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

'The Falconer' has been one of my most eagerly awaited debuts of the year.  It's a stunning mix of fantasy and steampunk with a historical setting and the addition of evil faeries.  The story rockets along, particularly in the second half, at breakneck speed and there is so much drama, tension and excitement packed into the book that you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat, biting your nails down to the quick. 

Set in Edinburgh, the story features one of the best heroines that I've come across this year.  Aileana Kameron is an aristocrat.  The only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, she tries to pretend an interest in balls and dancing and all the other things that go along with her position but secretly leads a double life.  She is determined to avenge her mother's death by killing the faerie that brutally murdered her mother and ripped out her heart.  It soon becomes apparent how different Aileana is when she tracks and kills an evil faerie at a ball she is attending before the creature can ruthlessly kill one of the other guests.  Aileana is a marvellous protagonist.  She is not interested in trivial matters and although she tries her best to kept her father appeased, she is far more worried about protecting the city she loves and the people who live in it. 

She has a complicated relationship with her fae mentor, Kiaran Mackay.  He is a complex figure in the book and I feel like I have so much more to learn about him.  He is not always forthcoming about himself and he seems to be hiding a lot of secrets but he and Aileana work well together and there are hints of romance in their future.    

I adored Derrick the pixie who lives in Aileana's dressing room.  He has an addiction to honey which often leads him to become honey drunk but although he is small, he will do anything to protect and defend her.  He has some of the best lines in the book and provides a nice dose of light relief to balance the darkness that Aileana faces on a daily basis.  I definitely want a pixie just like him!

This is the first book in a trilogy but I can't believe that I've now got to wait for the next instalment!  I hope Elizabeth May writes very, very fast!     

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: How to Love - Katie Cotugno

How to Love by Katie Cotugno, published by Quercus on 3rd October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he’s never noticed her, until one day… he does. They fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town, leaving a devastated – and pregnant – Reena behind.


Three years later and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again.  After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?

I finished reading this book a few weeks ago but I'm still trying to make up my mind about it.  There were some aspects which I enjoyed and there were others which I didn't understand at all.  I have very mixed feelings about the whole story and the characters so I'll try to explain my overall opinion of it.

The story is told within two time frames: Before and After.  Before Sawyer left Reena and After he walked back into her life.  Now, I'm personally not a huge fan of this particular narrative device.  It was interesting to see what happened between the two main characters in the very beginning but I found the constant switching backwards and forwards just left me feeling disorientated most of the time.  I also had to keep checking to make sure I knew which time period I was currently reading.  I definitely think this affected my overall enjoyment of the book. 

In terms of the characters, I liked Reena who always tries to do the right thing but who feels she has let her family down.  I didn't however understand the attraction she feels for bad boy Sawyer LeGrande who she has been fascinated by for as long as she can remember.  She's intrigued by everything about him and doesn't have eyes for anyone else.  When he starts to date her best friend however, she has to try to put aside her feelings for him but that's easier said than done.  I have to say that I just didn't like Sawyer.  He only ever seems to hurt Reena and he came across as extremely selfish and self-centred.  I much preferred Aaron, the other male figure in the story who treats Reena with love and respect.  I know the book deals with showing the messy, real side of love and relationships but because I wasn't a fan of Sawyer, I found it hard to make myself care about whether or not he and Reena would end up together. 

The story shows that there isn't always a happy ever after and that relationships have to be worked at if they are going to survive.  This is not the kind of book where everything is tied up with a neat bow at the end.  Although I wasn't always keen on the character portrayals I could still appreciate Katie Cotugno's writing and I  hope to see more titles by her in the future.               

Friday, 1 November 2013

Review: The Waking World - Tom Huddlestone

The Waking World by Tom Huddlestone, published by David Fickling Books on 3rd October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
The Island is in peril. For years, bloodthirsty Marauder pirates have raided along the coast, carrying off goods and cattle. Now they're growing bolder, striking further inland, even taking slaves to man their black ships. An invasion is underway.

As the son of a wealthy Law, young Aran should be safe. The underground farmstead of Hawk's Cross lies miles from the sea, and even the killing winds that sweep down from the moors can't penetrate those solid steel gates. But Aran doesn't want to be safe, he wants to be a warrior: to fight for his friends, his family and his home.

Many tales have been told of the boy who became our greatest King. Very few have spoken of the future . .

'The Waking World' is a futuristic Arthurian tale on an epic scale.  It's set in a future society which is completely unlike the one we know today.  The Earth has been ravaged by pollution and climate change and the people live as they did in the past, surviving off the land.  The story is set at Hawk's Cross, the home of Aran, the main character in the book.  He is one of the sons of a wealthy Law but the Island on which they live is under attack from the invading Marauders.  Aran is desperate to protect his home but also must discover the secret of his true heritage if he is to fulfil the destiny laid out for him. 

I really liked the fresh take on the Arthurian legend of Arthur and Merlin.  It's one which so many people are familiar with but I thought that Tom Huddlestone still managed to bring something entirely new to the traditional tale.  At the start I wasn't sure how he was going to link everything together but bit by bit all the pieces started to fall into place.  It's an entirely different slant but it does work extremely well and the story is packed full of excitement and adventure. 

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the friendship between Aran and his friends Cas and Mohanna.  They have grown up together and know each other inside and out and I liked seeing them look out for one another when they were in some dangerous situations.  I also loved the bond which develops between Aran and the mysterious Peregrine.  The latter was extremely intriguing and it was a delight to get to discover more about him throughout the course of the story. 

I presume this is the first in a series as I finished it feeling like there was lots more to come.  I hope so because I enjoyed getting to explore Aran's world and I'm hoping to read more about him and his friends in the future.      

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review: Tinder - Sally Gardner

Tinder by Sally Gardner, published by Indigo on 7th November 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire - pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires?

Sally Gardner is one of those authors whose books I long for.  I'm always excited when I hear that a new book written by her is being published and I'm always extremely eager to get my hands on it.  With 'Tinder', Gardner has written a spellbinding story based around Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale 'The Tinderbox'.  I actually have a really old book on my shelves which is the complete collection of tales by Anderson and which has been passed down through my family.  One of the most well thumbed sections of the book is this exact fairy tale which has always been one of my favourites.  I always loved the image of the dogs with eyes as big as saucers and the magical tinderbox which has the ability to grace the recipient with whatever his heart desires.   

There are elements of the traditional version of the story here, but Gardner has also reinterpreted it in her own unique way.  It is now set at the time of The Thirty Years war when soldier Otto Hundebiss is given a pair of shoes and a set of dice.  These innocuous objects are set to change his future destiny as he embarks on a strange and mysterious new journey where he will have to face love and death and confront his own personal nightmares. 

I thought 'Tinder' was wonderful.  It's quirky and unusual and quite dark in places but it drew me in and kept me enthralled until the very end.  It shows that fairy tales don't always have happy endings and that conflict, love and loss are faced by people in every walk of life. 

I read a proof copy of the book but the final finished version features over 100 black and white images by illustrator David Roberts which accompany the text of the story.  If you love Sally Gardner and have already read 'Tinder' then why not buy a copy for a friend or if you haven't yet discovered this amazing author then I implore you not to wait any longer and rush out and get yourself a copy today.  You won't be disappointed! 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Review: Blinded by the Light - Joe Kipling

Blinded by the Light by Joe Kipling, published by Cillian Press on 1st October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
In the near future, when the world's population has been decimated by disease, the fortunate few live inside the Boundary, while the unlucky ones are left to die on the Outside. MaryAnn is one of the privileged. It doesn't matter that her friends can sometimes be cruel or that the boy she likes just threw up on her shoes, it's all about being noticed at the right parties. But it takes a single event to rip her life apart.

Struggling with physical and psychological scars, MaryAnn must face up to the truth about the foundations of the Neighbourhood and the legacy of her family. Once she learns the truth she can never go back, but can she really put her faith in the Union?

'Blinded by the Light' is a dystopian young-adult novel, written by a British author.  The first book in the Union trilogy it paints a bleak portrait of a future society which has been decimated by disease, leading to the formation of the Boundary.  The latter has been set up to protect the people within it from the Echo who are feared by all.

The main character MaryAnn lives inside the Boundary with her parents.  She's an Alpha - safe, well looked after and privileged.  She always has enough synthetic food to eat, she's free from disease and is luckier than many of the Delta who hold menial jobs in society.  At the start of the book I really wasn't sure about whether it was going to be for me because so many of the characters came across as quite unlikeable.  As I read on, I was sucked in by the story but sadly never really became a big fan of MaryAnn and her friends and family.

Everything changes for MaryAnn when her parents are killed by a bomb.  Trying to cope with her devastating loss, she goes to live with the Director but only begins to discover the truth about events when she comes into contact with her brother Daryl.  I thought the plot was great.  I'm a big fan of dystopian fiction and I enjoyed the idea for 'Blinded by the Light'.  The world building in the book was excellent and it was interesting to read about a world where the residents live within a protected barrier, believing they are being kept safe from outsiders.  The truth is something altogether different and I thought the way that Joe Kipling gradually revealed this was done brilliantly.          
I felt like the book was let down slightly by some of the dialogue and by the fact that it was hard to feel real sympathy and understanding for some of the characters.  There are hints of romance between MaryAnn and Peter but I suspect that this is going to be developed more in later instalments of the series. 

There are some interesting questions raised in the book and it puts forward ideas about good and evil which show that this isn't always completely clear cut.  I enjoyed the opening instalment, even though not everything came together completely for me and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.      

Friday, 25 October 2013

Review: Resist - Sarah Crossan

Resist by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 10th October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Resistance to the Pod Leadership has come apart. The Grove has been destroyed but so has the Pod Minister. Quinn, Bea and Alina separately must embark on a perilous journey across the planet's dead landscape in search of the rumoured resistance base Sequoia. Meanwhile the Pod Minister has been succeeded by his capricious daughter. Her brother, Ronan, is supposed to advise her, but his doubts about the regime lead to him being sent out of the Pod in search of Quinn. In a world in which the human race is adapting to survive with little air, the stakes are high.

'Resist' is the sequel to 'Breathe' which I read last year and really loved.  I was very excited to see how Sarah Crossan's story was going to be concluded so picked this one up as soon as it arrived. 

When I'm reading the second, third or fourth book in a series I do find it useful if the author provides a recap of characters and key plot points at the start.  Mainly because I read a lot of books and sometimes there's a large gap between books in a series being published.  This didn't happen in 'Resist' and I was plunged straight back into the story, so I did find it took me a little while to find my feet and remember exactly what had happened previously. 

The story is narrated yet again by Bea, Alina and Quinn, but also by Ronan, the mayor's son.  I enjoyed the fact that there were multiple narrators, as it meant getting to understand different character's viewpoints and motivations but it did mean that the story jumped around quite a lot and just as I was getting engrossed in what was happening to one person, the perspective switched to someone else.  Yet again Bea was my favourite character and I enjoyed her sections of the book the most.  Brave, tough and determined, she never gives in and she, more than anyone else, seems to be at the heart of the story. 

The message in the book comes across loud and clear and is about not giving up, about fighting for a better future and about having hope, even when you're continually knocked down.  The characters have to face great adversity but they never stop trying and never give up the will to live. 

The ending was touching and heart-breaking and beautifully concluded the story.  Make sure you have some tissues handy because you'll need them.       

Sarah Crossan is definitely an author to watch and I'm already eagerly awaiting her next book. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review: The Trap - Andrew Fukuda

The Trap by Andrew Fukuda, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st November 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
After barely escaping the Mission alive, Gene and Sissy face an impossible task: staying alive long enough to stop an entire world bent on their destruction. Bound on a train heading into the unknown with the surviving Mission girls, Gene, Sissy, David, and Epap must stick together and use everything they have to protect each other and their only hope: the cure that will turn the blood-thirsty creatures around them into humans again. Now that they know how to reverse the virus, Gene and Sissy have one final chance to save those they love and create a better life for themselves. But as they struggle to get there, Gene's mission sets him on a crash course with Ashley June, his first love...and his deadliest enemy.

'The Trap' is an epic and exhilarating conclusion to one of the best series out there!  I was on the edge of my seat as I followed Gene and Sissy's struggle to save the ones they love and survive in a world riddled with danger. 

I have loved each instalment but I think this was my favourite so far.  It was an incredible, pulse-pounding read which I devoured in one sitting.  The story takes up where 'The Prey' left off, with Gene, Sissy and co on-board a train headed towards an uncertain fate.  As they face unimaginable horrors, they vow to stick together no matter what but someone from Gene's past has other ideas.

The plot rockets along at full speed ahead, as Gene and Sissy find themselves in one dangerous situation after enough.  Having followed their journey this far and having invested so much in the characters I was desperately keeping my fingers crossed for them.  They've faced such terrible situations that I really wanted them to come out the other side and have some hope for the future.  They have a lot to get through first though before that's even a possibility.       

Andrew Fukuda is an incredible writer.  The scenes in the book leap off the page as his writing leads you on a journey full of horror, terror and danger.  There are some wonderfully rich descriptive passages in the book which made everything feel very real and frankly left me quite terrified at times.      

I was preying that the ending would leave me satisfied and wow, did it ever!  There was a truly unpredictable twist near the end which was jaw-dropping and so, so clever.  I never saw it coming which made it all the more surprising.  Sometimes the last book in a series can let you down but 'The Trap' delivered right up to the last page.    

This was a real page-turner that I can guarantee you won't be able to put down.  I'm excited to see what subject Andrew Fukuda will turn his hand to next.    

Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: The Naturals - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, published by Quercus on 7th November 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Cassie Hobbes is not like most teenagers. Most teenagers don’t lose their mother in a bloody, unsolved kidnapping. Most teenagers can’t tell who you are, where you’re from and how you’re likely to behave within moments of meeting you. And most teenagers don’t get chosen to join The Naturals.

Identified by the FBI as uniquely gifted, Cassie is recruited to an elite school where a small number of teens are trained to hone their exceptional abilities.

For Cassie, trying to make friends with the girls, and to figure out the two very different, very hot boys, is challenging enough. But when a serial killer begins recreating the details of her mother’s horrific crime scene, she realises just how dangerous life in The Naturals could be...

I was slightly taken by surprise after reading this book.  I thought it was going to be good because I'm a big fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's writing and I know she always comes up with brilliant stories but 'The Naturals' was absolutely superb and hugely gripping.  I'm thrilled that this is only the first book in the series because I can't wait to read more about the characters and find out what happens to them next.
In recent months I've become slightly hooked on crime and mystery novels because they are so engrossing and I enjoy trying to solve the cases along with the characters.  I therefore loved the premise of this book which centres on teens with special abilities who work for a secret FBI programme.  It reminded me a little bit of The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting, so if you enjoyed those books, then I would definitely recommend giving 'The Naturals' a try.

The main character Cassie is a Natural.  She has the ability to profile people, putting together a psychological profile of even complete strangers and this talent leads her to join a special team put together by the FBI.  She, along with other teens who have similar abilities, help to solve cold cases.  She has an ulterior motive too, in that she wants to discover more about her mother's murder and hopefully track down clues to the killer.  There's a real sense of danger throughout as the killer turns the tables on Cassie and she becomes the hunted rather than the hunter.      
One of the things which really helped to make the book stand out for me, was the authenticity of detail which Jennifer Lynn Barnes has woven into the story.  We get insights into how the FBI work, as well as the psychology of how the team attempt to understand the thoughts and motivations of criminals and killers.  I loved all of this and found it utterly fascinating. 
A hugely enjoyable read which had me engrossed from the first chapter, I'm immensely looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Review: Eternity - Elizabeth Miles

Eternity by Elizabeth Miles, published by Simon and Schuster on 10th October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
The weather is mild in Ascension…but beneath the surface, everything is burning up. The nightmare Emily Winters has been living through for months shows no sign of ending, as the Furies stay on the peripheral, slowly driving her crazy. Em feels...different. She's angry, and never cold, and too strong. It's only a matter of time before she turns into the thing she hates the most. Em needs to take her fate into her own hands, but without Drea to help, or anyone to turn to, Em is quickly running out of options.

Crow's involvement with Em has grown more complicated, as his visions begin to take shape. It doesn't look good for Em, but Crow has a plan. He will do anything to save her. Anything. JD misses the Em he used to know...and love. She seems so different these days, like she's hiding something. When JD begins to learn the truth, he is as scared as he is determined to help her. But his help may be the last thing Em needs to survive.

'Eternity' is the third and final instalment in the trilogy about Emily Winters and the small town of Ascension.  I thoroughly enjoyed the previous two books and I was looking forward to reading the conclusion of Emily's story but I wasn't quite as wowed by it as I'd been by 'Fury' and 'Envy'.  Maybe because the gap between reading this and the other books was too long, but it took me a little while to get back into the story and pick up all the threads of the character's lives. 

Emily fears she's losing herself and becoming someone or something else.  She doesn't know how to break the Furies curse until JD begins to put all the pieces together and provides the smallest glimmer of hope that Emily might have a future after all.  The chapter point of view alternated mainly between Emily and JD.  They both still seem to be oblivious to their feelings for each other but this may be the one thing that can save them.

The story was pretty dark and twisty with life and death quite literally at stake but I couldn't help but feel that the Furies didn't come across as ominously as they had in the past.  Previously they'd been a malevolent presence in the town but they didn't seem to play such a big part in 'Eternity'.  They are still there to make Emily's life a misery but they didn't have such an active role in the book.   

I have to say that I was also disappointed with the ending which felt rather abrupt and the big showdown, when it finally came, was something of a let down.  It seemed that Elizabeth Miles was trying to tie everything up too quickly and so the edge of tension went out of the story. 

I think it may have helped if I'd gone back and read the whole series in one go but as I didn't, this final chapter in the series just didn't seem to live up to it's promise.  There were some aspects about it that I enjoyed and I was pleased to finally find out what was going to happen to Emily but overall I had high hopes for it which just weren't met.                

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Review: United We Spy - Ally Carter

United We Spy by Ally Carter, published by Orchard Books on 5th September 2013 

Goodreads synopsis:
Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle’s elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

'United We Spy' is the sixth and final book in the Gallagher Girls series.  I was desperate to read it because I love these books but also wanted to savour every page because it was sad saying goodbye to such fantastic characters and such an amazing world.  If I could have picked any school to attend then it would have been the Gallagher Academy because the girls are so much more than just school friends, they are sisters as well. 

Cammie, Bex, Macey and Liz are still intent on hunting down the members of the Circle of Caven when they discover a terrible truth.  Much of the story is focused on their attempt to avert catastrophe as they try to save the world and each other.  These girls have come a long way since the series first began.  They've always been clever, ingenious and brave but their talents have now been honed and their determination is off the chart.  Cammie in particular has really grown over the course of the series.  She has faced some terrible things and is still haunted and scarred by what has happened to her but she never loses track of the end goal and won't rest until the Circle has been dealt with once and for all.  I love the darker tone that the later books have had and the fact that everything is on the line for Cammie and her friends and family. 

'United We Spy' is a thrill-ride of a story and a fitting end to what has been an amazing series.  Exciting and compulsive reading, I was hooked and couldn't bear to put this book down.  Not even for a second!  Danger lurks at Cammie's heels as she puts into action all the training she's received over the years.  Instead of surviving on her own, I like the fact that we get to see all the girls working together like a well-oiled team.  They all have different strengths but they bring out the best in each other and never lose faith in their abilities.              
I really don't know what I'll do without any more Gallagher Girl adventures.  I love this series and I'm going to miss Cammie and Zach and all their friends so much.  I wonder if Ally Carter could be tempted into writing a spin-off somewhere down the line about their new careers.  I would be the first in line to read about that!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Book Trailer: How to Love - Katie Cotugno

Quercus recently published the debut novel of author Katie Cotugno.  I'm going to be reviewing 'How to Love' on the blog very soon but here's a peek at the fabulous trailer for the book. 

This is a love story. But it’s not what you think. This is not a first kiss, or a first date. This is not love at first sight. This is a boy and a girl falling in messy, unpredictable, thrilling love. This is the complicated route to happiness that follows.

This is real. This is life. This is how to love.

BEFORE: Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. But he’s never noticed her, until one day… he does. They fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town, leaving a devastated – and pregnant – Reena behind.

AFTER: Three years later and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again.

After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?

Friday, 11 October 2013

Review: Because It Is My Blood - Gabrielle Zevin

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 19th August 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Since her release from Liberty Children's Facility, Anya Balanchine is determined to follow the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, her criminal record is making it hard for her to do that. No high school wants her with a gun possession charge on her rap sheet. Plus, all the people in her life have moved on: Natty has skipped two grades at Holy Trinity, Scarlet and Gable seem closer than ever, and even Win is in a new relationship. But when old friends return demanding that certain debts be paid, Anya is thrown right back into the criminal world that she had been determined to escape. It's a journey that will take her across the ocean and straight into the heart of the birthplace of chocolate where her resolve--and her heart--will be tested as never before.

It seems ages since I read the first book in this series about Anya and her family.  I couldn't wait for the sequel and I'm pleased to say that it was just as enjoyable as the opening instalment was. 

Anya has been released from Liberty Children's Facility and is finally able to re-join her family.  She wants life to go back to normal but everything around her seems to have changed.  Anya is a fantastic main character.  I admire her strength and courage and her determination to do whatever is best for her family and friends even if it means she may suffer as a consequence.  She will go to any lengths to protect her sister Natty and brother Leo and sometimes has to make incredibly difficult choices to ensure they remain safe.   

Her romance with Win is one of my favourite things about the books.  He seems to understand her in a way that no one else does and even when she questions his feelings for her, there's no doubt in my mind that he would do anything for her. 

Throughout the book Anya learns more about the Balanchine chocolate business and about the tangled web of relationships that lie behind it.  Up until this point she has almost been like a pawn in a bigger game but now she seems ready to step up and take her rightful inheritance.  Half-way through the story she ends up in Mexico learning how to farm cacao and this leads to a whole new cast of characters who I enjoyed reading about.

'Because It Is My Blood' was such an enjoyable read and a great book two.   I really love the Birthright world and I became completely immersed in the character's lives.  The only problem now is the long wait to find out what happens next!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Review: Marina - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, published by W&N on 10th October 2013 

Goodreads synopsis:
In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Óscar Drei suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts. It all began the previous autumn when, while exploring the dilapidated grounds of what seemed to be an abandoned house filled with portraits, he inadvertently stole a gold pocket watch. Thus begins Oscar's friendship with Marina and her father Herman Blau, a portrait painter.

Marina takes Óscar to the gardens of the nearby cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m., a coach drives up to the cemetery and a woman with her face shrouded, wearing gloves, and holding a single rose is helped down from the coach and walks over to a nameless gravestone, where she sets down the flower, pauses for a moment, and then returns to the coach. The gravestone bears no marking but the outline of a strange-looking butterfly with open wings. On one of their subsequent walks Oscar and Marina spot the same woman and determine to follow her. Thereupon begins their journey into the woman's past, and that of the object of her devotion.

I've enjoyed several of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's adult books, particularly 'The Shadow of the Wind' which is a big favourite of mine.  I've also read quite a few of his books for young adults which have also been very good.  I'd heard of 'Marina' which is actually one of Zafon's earlier works and really liked the sound of it.  I normally enjoy Gothic stories but sadly, I struggled my way through most of this book.

The story is set in Barcelona in 1980 and is told through the eyes of main character Oscar Drai.  Oscar is a student at a local boarding school who one day inadvertently stumbles across Marina and her father Germain.  I thought the opening few chapters of the book were intriguing and made me want to keep turning the pages.  I actually felt that some comparison could be made with Dickens's 'Great Expectations' as Oscar and Marina reminded me initially of Pip and Estella.  However, then the story took a completely different turn and the elements of Gothic horror really came to the fore. 

Within the book stories within a story are recounted by various secondary characters.  This continually added layers of mystery and intrigue which began to unravel as Oscar made it his mission to get to the bottom of events. 

'Marina' is an incredibly creepy book.  It has one of the most frightening scenes in it I've ever read and the grotesque aspects of the story really put me off wanting to finish it.  I did persevere and I certainly do admire a writer who can be so versatile in writing about different subject matters but this one just wasn't for me.            

Monday, 7 October 2013

Review: Unbreakable - Kami Garcia

Unbreakable by Kami Garcia, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st October 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
When Kennedy finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn't know that evil forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into her house and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon - a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother's place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon - battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

I was really excited about reading 'Unbreakable'.  I love the Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and her co-author Margaret Stohl, so I was pretty hyped about this first book in a new supernatural series by Garcia.  Because my expectations were so enormous, I felt a little let down when I actually finished the book.  Please don't think I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it failed to completely win me over.  I still want to read the rest of the series as I feel that this was a promising enough start to make me want to find out what happens next, but I do hope the next instalment ramps things up a notch.

The plot centres on teenager Kennedy, who comes home one day to find her mother dead.  From this point on her whole world is turned upside down.  She discovers that her mother was part of The Legion, a group who protect the world from evil spirits and demons.  Taken under the protection of twin brothers Jared and Lukas Lockhart, she joins them and their fellow demon hunters, as they battle all kinds of evil. 

After the opening of 'Unbreakable', the story hurtles along at breakneck speed.  There are some seriously creepy moments in the book and I wouldn't recommend reading this if you're alone in the house.  I was frankly terrified!  Be prepared for just about anything to come creeping out of the darkness when you least expect it.  I kept jumping out of my chair!

Although there's a lot going on, I thought that some of the character development perhaps suffered because of this.  I felt like I knew very little about the main character Kennedy before she's sucked into a whole new world, and I would also have liked more time to have been spent on developing Jared and Lukas.  The inevitable love triangle between the three of them didn't particularly draw me in, as I didn't care enough about either boy to root for one or the other of them.

I enjoyed Garcia's world building and I loved some of the action sequences but some aspects of the book just didn't work for me.  I will be intrigued to see how things progress but I'm yet to be completely sold on this new series. 
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