Thursday, 31 January 2013

Review: The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth Laban

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, published by Doubleday on 10th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.


'The Tragedy Paper' is a beautifully written, heartbreaking read which is perfect for curling up with on a snowy, wintry day.

The book has a dual narrative and is shared between characters Duncan and Tim.  Duncan has just moved into Tim's old room at the Irving School when he discovers a stack of CDs which have been left behind for him to listen to.  These hold Tim's story which he recounts over the course of the book. 

I only meant to read a couple of chapters but before I knew it I was half-way through and a bit like Duncan, desperate to find out more about Tim and what happened to him.  Repeated hints are dropped about something terrible which took place the previous academic year and which impacted upon them both.  I was intrigued about this and had a few guesses, none of which were even close to the truth. 

I really liked both characters.  Tim is an albino and has always felt like he is on the sidelines looking in, until he meets Vanessa and falls in love for the first time.  Duncan feels strongly about Daisy too but there's something holding him back from being able to fully commit to her and their relationship.  Tim's voice is only ever heard on the recordings that Duncan listens to, but his personality and character were still perfectly captured and he came across as the overriding presence in the book.  A voice of warning from the past.   

I loved the way that the theme of tragedy was interwoven into the plot and how the characters try to define what tragedy actually means.  This was an interesting hook to hang the story on and led to some quite deep and personal explorations.  I'll admit that I was a little disappointed with the overall ending which felt slightly anti-climatic.  There was quite a big build-up but when the revelation came of what had actually occurred I thought it was going to be more earth shattering than it actually turned out to be.  This was only a minor complaint however and didn't spoil what was otherwise a tremendous read.   

Elizabeth Laban's debut novel is a real treat and I eagerly await whatever she decides to write next!

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: How to Fall - Jane Casey

How to Fall by Jane Casey, published by Corgi on 31st January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Freya is found drowned - but was it suicide or murder? Her cousin, Jess Tennant, is determined to uncover the truth. But asking questions may prove deadly - anyone could be a suspect and everyone is hiding something...

Can Jess unravel a mystery involving secret love, seething jealousy and a cliff-top in the pitch black of night?

'How to Fall' is a young adult crime thriller, described as 'Mean Girls with murder'.  The story shows what happens when female rivalry goes too far.  I'm a big fan of intricately plotted and exciting crime thrillers but there seem to be so few around which are written specifically for a YA audience.  Jane Casey, normally an author of adult books, has transitioned smoothly to a younger readership and has delivered a truly gripping story.  

Jess arrives with her mother in the small town of Port Sentinel after the apparent suicide of her cousin Freya.  After one too many things fail to add up, Jess determines to leave no stone unturned in her quest to unravel the truth about what really happened.  

The book has a fantastic opening scene which left me with my heart in my mouth and had me instantly gripped.  I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next and although I was only going to read a few chapters, I ended up reading practically the whole book in one sitting.  

Jess Tennant is one of those characters who I instantly warmed to and admired.  I would love to have had a best friend like her.  She's incredibly level headed and smart, determined and intelligent and she's not afraid to stand up for herself.  All qualities which I really admire.  Jess could definitely be seen as a modern day Nancy Drew.  She may be a teenage sleuth but she is quick thinking and leaves no stone unturned in her quest to determine what happened to Freya. 

I enjoyed the small town setting which narrowed down the number of suspects but equally led to a sense of claustrophobia.  It felt like there were secrets hidden behind every door in the small community and even the most upstanding of citizens seemed to have a secret which they didn't want revealed. 

I really liked the story and the characters. It was brilliantly written, tense and exciting with a mystery lying at the heart of the plot.  I literally did not have a clue what was going to be revealed.  One minute I thought I knew exactly who the guilty party were and the next an unexpected revelation made me change my mind completely. 
I can't wait to get my hands on more by Jane Casey.  Her debut young adult offering definitely makes her one to watch!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Review: Reason to Breathe - Rebecca Donovan

Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan, published by Penguin on 17th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
An passionate love. A brutal betrayal. Unwavering hope.

In a town where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She's more concerned with feigning perfection, pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises. Emma doesn't want anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is.

When Emma unexpectedly finds love, it challenges her to recognize her own worth - but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she's desperate to hide.

'Reason to Breathe' is not an easy read.  Dealing with the subject of abuse, it is hard-hitting, powerful and emotional and often had me in tears.  I had to put the book down several times because I was so moved and upset by what happened to Emma, but ultimately it was a story that I needed to finish.  I was nervous about starting this title because I normally avoid subjects like this which are likely to rip your heart out and stomp all over it.  However, I'd heard such good things about it from fellow readers that there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to pick it up.  I'm so very glad I did because it is a tremendous book and has left me on tenterhooks for the next in the series.

I've been reading quite a few New Adult books lately and this is definitely the one that has moved me the most.  The story centres around teenager Emma, a high-flying overachiever who gets top grades, is best friends with the most popular girl in school, editor of the school newspaper and star player on various sports teams.  She seems to have it all but is hiding a terrible secret which she will go to any lengths to protect.  Her secret is threatened when she begins to lower her defences to let new guy Evan into her life.  He makes her feel things she's never experienced before and his pursuit of her shows his obvious attraction.  Emma wants to be with him but fears letting him get too close to her dysfunctional family life.  

Rebecca Donovan drew me into Emma's struggle from the very first chapter.  I because so immersed in the story that I felt like I experienced with her all the highs and lows that she went through.  Part of me understood Emma's reasons for protecting her secret but the other half of me didn't and desperately wanted her or Sara, her best friend, to tell an adult what was going on.  I wanted Emma to find happiness and security and to have everything that most other normal teenagers have.  Instead of worrying about parties and fashion, she's concerned with how she's going to cover up her numerous bruises and what she'll tell the people who ask how she got them.

Evan was a breath of fresh air in both the story and in Emma's life.  He's interested in her from the start and wants them to be more than just good friends.  He shows her what happiness feels like and is very protective of her which I loved.  He provides her with the opportunity to escape some of the day to day horrors she is faced with and provides a real shoulder for her to lean on.  Although she won't tell him what is really going on, he begins to piece things together and offers her a way to escape.

The character of the abuser is a malicious presence in the book.  Every time she appeared in the story I was nervous about the horror she was going inflict upon Emma.  Ultimately, I hope that she is punished for her actions but that remains to be seen.  It really made me shiver when even her name was mentioned and I abhorred the way she treated Emma. 

I cannot recommend this book enough.   Although at times it is hard to read and was quite upsetting in places, I found it stuck with me long after finishing it and I'm desperate to know how the story will continue in the sequel, 'Barely Breathing'.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Trailer and Chapter Extract - Born Wicked - Jessica Spotswood

There are lots of books that I'm looking forward to reading in 2013 but one that I have had my eye on for months is 'Born Wicked' by Jessica Spotswood. It's due to be published in the UK by Penguin on 7th February.

Our mother was a witch too, but she hid it better. I miss her.

To me, the magic feels like a curse. According to the Brothers, it's devil-sent. Women who can do magic-they're either mad or wicked. So I will do everything in my power to protect myself and my sisters. Even if it means giving up my life - and my true love.

Because if the Brothers discover our secret, we're destined for the asylum, or prison . . . or death.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Review: North of Nowhere - Liz Kessler

North of Nowhere by Liz Kessler, published by Orion Children's Books on 17th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
When Mia's grandfather disappears, Mia and her mother immediately rush down to stay with her grandmother and offer support. With no friends and no internet access in the little seaside village where her grandparents live, Mia is bored and lonely--until she makes friends with Dee, the daughter of a fisherman from a nearby island, and Peter, who is on holiday with his parents. But Mia's grandad is still missing, and actually meeting face to face with Dee is proving surprisingly difficult. Mia becomes determined to find out what's going on, but the truth is much more mysterious than she ever imagined...

I haven't read anything by Liz Kessler before but when this beautiful little hardback book arrived, I couldn't wait to start reading it.  I'm always looking for new British authors to try and I'm pleased to say that after thoroughly enjoying 'North of Nowhere', I'll definitely be hunting down some of Kessler's other books. 

Set in the small fishing village of Porthaven, Mia and her mother arrive to stay with Mia's Gran after her Grandad mysteriously disappears.  Initially friendless and unhappy, Mia eventually makes friends with a girl called Dee who she hasn't met in person but communicates with through Dee's diary. 

The story is unpredictable and changeable like the seas that surround Porthaven.  Things aren't always as they first appear and to a degree you need to suspense your disbelief, particularly near the end when things take an unexpectedd turn.  There's an element of magic about the book which I loved and I thought it wa beautifully written.

Infinitely intriguing, I was hooked by 'North of Nowhere' and impressed by the very clever conclusion of the story which didn't disappoint in the slightest with it's imaginative ending.  I had no idea what was going to happen and although not everything was explained this didn't matter in the slightest.    

I was intrigued to read that the story was actually inspired by the real village of Hallsands in South Devon which collapsed into the sea.  Due to terrible gales and high tides, only one house remained habitable in the village.  It's terrible to think of people losing their homes and the hardship and heartache they must have gone through.     

'North of Nowhere' is the perfect book to read on a stormy night, curled up indoors with the fire crackling.  I was gripped by Mia's story and the mystery of Luffsands.  This was a truly magical and captivating read which I will definitely be recommending to everyone I know. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Review: Broken Illusions - Ellie James

Broken Illusions by Ellie James, published by Quercus on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
It’s Mardi Gras, but for 16 year-old psychic Trinity Monsour this is no time for celebration. Another girl is missing. Haunted by visions she doesn’t understand—of an empty street lined by crumbling old buildings, a terrified voice warning her to be careful, and a body lying motionless in the grass—Trinity embarks upon a dark odyssey she could never have imagined. She'll stop at nothing to better understand her abilities, convinced that doing so is the only way she can make sure the terrifying images she sees never actually happen.

But it seems everyone wants to stop her. Her aunt is worried Trinity might discover secrets best left in the past. Her best friend, Victoria, is afraid Trinity is slipping away, her boyfriend, Chase, fears she’s taking too many chances, and the lead detective will barely let her out of his sight. Only one person stands by her side, and in doing so, he slips deeper and deeper into her heart—and her dreams—blurring the lines of reality and illusion.

When the dust settles, one of them will be dead.

'Broken Illusions' is the second book in Ellie James's series about teenage psychic Trinity Monsour.  Trinity is still trying to come to terms with the events which unfolded in 'Shattered Dreams' when another girl goes missing from New Orleans.

Trinity has visions and dreams of the past and the future.  A lot of the story focuses on the way she tries to make sense of the flashes and the things she sees, not only to save an innocent girl but also to save herself.  She is determined to find out more about her own abilities, but threatens her relationship with Chase in the process.  Hovering on the sidelines is the elusive Dylan who I can't wait to find out more about.  There are some definite sparks between him and Trinity whenever they are together.

The plot is quite complex and I'll admit that in the middle of the book I nearly got lost a couple of times and had to go back and re-read a couple of chapters.  You really need to read this one without any distractions around you.  I still enjoyed trying to solve the mystery at the heart of the story though as well as puzzling out what was happening at the same time as Trinity.      

This was a real thrill ride of a story.  And the!  I never saw it coming and still can't believe what happened.  I think Ellie James is incredibly brave to make the decision she did which totally threw me.  It was unexpected and surprising and completely shocking.  It will be interesting to see how this affects Trinity in the future, as it is quite a pivotal moment in the series.     

Next in the series is 'Fragile Darkness', which I'm very excited about, as I'm sure there's a lot more fireworks still to come.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Review: The Lost Girl - Sangu Mandanna

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna, published byDefinitions on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Eva’s life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination – an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her ‘other’, if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it’s like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she’s ever known – the guardians who raised her, the boy she’s forbidden to love – to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

Sometimes you come across books which you know very little about but which end up blowing you away.  'The Lost Girl' is one of those books.  It absorbed me completely from the moment I started reading to the moment I turned the final page.  I didn't want the story to end as I became immersed in Eva's world and her fight for a life of her own.

Inspiration for the story comes from one of my favourite classic novels, 'Frankenstein'.  I have always been fascinated by the idea of creating new life and the theme of nature/nurture and this is something which Sangu Mandanna takes time to explore.  Elements of Mary Shelley's story are entwined in the book but this is not designed to be a new version of the original, instead it uses it as a jumping off point for the creation of something entirely unique.  

Mandanna's world building is incredible.  I was impressed with the depth of detail which is used to describe the world of the loom and the work of the weavers, who create Echos - replicas of people for those families who can't bear the thought of losing their loved ones through accidental death or illness.  Of course, the ethics of this is questioned but you can't fail to feel real sympathy for those families who only wish not to be parted from their children or spouses.

I enjoyed the way in which the book challenged me to consider more deeply ideas about life and death.  The main character Eva fights hard for her life.  She values it and treats it as something precious which needs to be protected.  She also strives for independence.  Although she has been created as an Echo of an Indian girl called Amarra, she desperately wants to be her own person rather than a replica of someone else.

There is a romantic element to the story too but I liked the fact that this was secondary to the main plot and never overwhelmed the direction of the book.  Eva has a close relationship with one of her Guardians, Sean and I enjoyed the scenes they shared together, as well as the final outcome between them but I'm glad that this didn't take the focus off of Eva's personal journey.

Beautifully written, this was a compulsive read which I loved.  I have yet to discover if there is a sequel planned or if this is a stand-alone novel but either way, I am excited to read more of Sangu Mandanna's work in the future.   

Thursday, 17 January 2013

News: Beautiful Creatures #Penguin Chat

I have some exciting news today from Penguin who are launching a brand new venture called Penguin Chats.  This will provide a unique opportunity for readers to connect with some of their favourite YA authors.   

The Penguin Chat will be a 30 minute Q&A with a Penguin author on Twitter, using #PenguinChats and hosted by @PenguinUKBooks.

To take part in the very first one, all you need to do is be on Twitter on Sunday 27th January at 8.00pm when Kami Garcia (@kamigarcia) and Margaret Stohl (@mstohl) will be answering fans questions on their Beautiful Creatures series and the very exciting upcoming movie (which I personally can't wait for!).

You can discover more about this on the Penguin blog so be sure to check it out.  You'll find a list of all the other official blog partners too who will be hosting exclusive content from the books and the film.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Blog tour: From What I Remember - Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

I'm taking part in the blog tour today for Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas's new book 'From What I Remember' which was published in the UK by Electric Monkey on January 7th 2013.

I'm very pleased to welcome the authors themselves to the blog for a special guest post.


Both of us worked in the film industry for many years as development executives and producers, and then as screenwriters. Stacy worked as a Studio Executive in Los Angeles, at Paramount Pictures, Sony and Twentieth Century Fox, working on a variety of movies, from dramas to comedies (THE ADAMS FAMILY, REGARDING HENRY, JUICE, THE LAST SEDUCTION among others). She went on to produce (JAWBREAKER, IGBY GOES DOWN) and then, finally, to write (LIZZIE McGUIRE, LESS THAN PERFECT, LABOR PAINS). Stacy still writes for film and television. Valerie spent 12 years running development for the director Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PHILADELPHIA, ADAPTATION) She helped decide what material the company wanted to pursue - whether it was books and plays they wanted to adapt to film, or screenplays that came through the door – and she spent a lot of time working with screenplay writers, helping them crack material open and forge the best possible story. She then went on to write a screenplay for Twentieth Century Fox.

A lot of people ask us what the differences are between writing for film and writing novels. In many ways, writing screenplays and writing novels require the exact same skills as they are both, fundamentally, forms of storytelling and thus rely on great characters, rich themes, and imaginative plotlines. Both require a tremendous amount of work and the discipline to sit down and write every day. But working in film and writing screenplays has given us a few tools that we may not otherwise have had.

One of the biggest lessons we learned while working with other screenwriters, helping them develop their scripts, is that you have to write more drafts than you can possibly imagine before your writing really sings. In the case of PHILADELPHIA, for example, Valerie remembers that by the time they went into production on the film, the screenwriter had written fifty-four drafts of the screenplay. He then retired from the business…just kidding. And even though occasionally that meant he took a few steps back before going forward, in the end, the screenplay continued to get better and better, more honed, tighter, more focused on its central themes. There are still times now as writers when we reflexively reject notes, thinking our work is done, but in the back of our minds we know that going back in, unpacking and rebuilding the story, will make it better. When we look back on the process of writing the two books we’ve now completed, we see that there was a seminal moment for each book when someone – our agent, our editor, a trusted reader – suggested we rewrite significant portions of the book, and at first we balked. But then we settled down, got to work, and did what was asked of us. And in each case, the novel took a big step forward. When this happens now, as it always will, we try to remember the dark days of working on films, when the script wasn’t working, and we pressed the screenwriter to try again, and again, and again…

Unlike books, screenplays rely almost entirely on dialogue – the action sequences are often described in less detail on the page than what shows up on the screen as the director has a huge hand in creating them – so we feel very comfortable writing lengthy dialogue scenes in our novels. Movies also tend to have more involved plots that move at a quick pace than many books, and both of the books we’ve published so far have involved complex plots that clip along at a pretty fast speed. Lastly, working in movies taught us to emphasize the visual aspects of a story at all times, so even though that is far less necessary in novel writing, it is something that has migrated to our books. We cannot help but see each scene in our minds, and try to bring that picture to life on the page.

In the end, screenwriting is far more formal and rigid than novel writing. You rely on dialogue for a lot of the storytelling, and you can’t get inside someone’s head very easily, as you can with a novel. So, in many ways, it’s a more disciplined, less loose writing experience. For that very reason we love writing novels – you can go in practically any direction, you can change voices, you can let your story fly off cliffs if you want to, provided you figure out how to make it work.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Review: From What I Remember - Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas, published by Electric Monkey on 7th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
KYLIE: MEXICO WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.

MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics. Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in Tijuana. With less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome.

WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring their passports across the border -- but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started.

LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight.


'From What I Remember' is a thoroughly fun and enjoyably light-hearted read.  It is pure escapism and the type of book which will make you feel giddy and carefree.

The story starts with Kylie and Max waking up together in a room in Mexico, wearing matching wedding rings.  This isn't however a case of boyfriend and girlfriend running off to get married, as Kylie and Max have never even been friends and standing over them is Max's girlfriend Lily.  The narrative then takes us back to the beginning to show how events unravelled up until this point.

The book has five separate narrators, Kylie, Max, Will, Jake and Lily.  This could have been confusing because the narrative does skip around a lot but in actual fact worked really well because each of the characters are so individual with varying personality traits.  Kylie's best friend Will is gay and struggling to develop his own identity, Max's girlfriend Lily is hiding a secret about her family and Jake, Kylie's younger brother, is autistic and views the world very differently to anyone else.  Seeing how such completely different people are brought together throughout the story was one of my favourite aspects of the novel. 

The theme is very much about moving onto the next stage of life, taking chances and not being afraid to make mistakes because these can teach us valuable lessons.  I identified a lot with Kylie and she has made me feel more inspired to try and embrace life and seek out new experiences, rather than being worried all the time about giving something different a go. 

The book is also about developing relationships with people that perhaps you wouldn't normally associate with and feeling enriched by those you do choose to have around you.  This was depicted not only by Kylie's relationship with Max but also by her bond with her father, who she discovers several things about by the end of the story which make her feel quite differently towards him.

'From What I Remember' was a great read which I really enjoyed.  I loved the movie quotes at the start of each chapter and all the film references throughout the book which I had fun trying to spot.    

Monday, 14 January 2013

Review: The Vincent Boys - Abbi Glines

The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines, published by Hot Key Books on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Beau Vincent is rude, bad, and dangerous to know. So why can't good girl Ashton Gray keep away from him? She already has the perfect boyfriend - her town's local Prince Charming, Sawyer Vincent. But Sawyer is away for the summer, and in the meantime Ashton is bored, and the heat between her and Beau is undeniable - as well as irresistible. Ashton is about to unleash her bad girl - but what will she do when Sawyer comes home? And how will Sawyer react when he returns to find his girlfriend in the arms of his best friend - and cousin?

It may only be January but '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.  Already a hugely successful e-book, it is finally available in print fomat in the UK and is set to get readers pretty hot under the collar.  There's been a huge amount of buzz around this book and I've read lots of glowing reviews from fellow bloggers, so I had it on pre-order and as soon as it arrived I couldn't wait to start reading.

The story centres around preacher's daughter Ashton, whose boyfriend Sawyer has gone out of town for part of the summer.  In his absence Ash starts getting close to Beau, who a long time ago was her childhood best friend but who also happens to be Sawyer's cousin.  I absolutely adored Beau from the start!  His southern mannerisms and the way he's so protective and caring toward Ash, plus of course that bad boy exterior, made me fall for him completely.  He's strong and tough and not the type of person you would want to get on the wrong side of, but when he is around Ash he turns into the sweetest guy and it was obvious from the start that he cared deeply about her.  I loved the fact that he really found it hard to control himself when they are together but he tries to do so anyway to protect her.

I would perhaps have liked to have seen Ash stand up for herself a little more throughout the book, rather than wait for either Beau or Sawyer to defend her, but she appears quite low on self-esteem.  Because of this, I enjoyed the fact that she gradually began to become her own person rather than the being someone that everyone else thought she should be.  By the end of the book she's undergone quite a transformation.

If you like a good romance, then you will love 'The Vincent Boys' which gets pretty steamy at times.  This book falls into the New Adult genre which has taken the book world by storm and therefore includes a lot more sexual content and swearing.  Personally, I found this refreshing and realistic and a nice change from stories which tend to shy away from this.

I was totally hooked on both of the delicious Vincent boys and am dying for more!  This title had everything I want and look for in a book and I can't wait to read it again.  Next up, is 'The Vincent Brothers' which is set to focus on Sawyer and Ashton's cousin Lana.     

Friday, 11 January 2013

Review: Into That Forest - Louis Nowra

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra, published by Egmont on  7th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Me name be Hannah O'Brien and I be seventy-six years old. Me first thing is an apology - me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again. But here's me story and I be glad to tell it before I hop the twig.

So begins this extraordinary novel, which will transport you to Australia's wild frontier and stay in your mind long after you've finished reading.

'Into That Forest' was a wonderful book, unlike anything else I've ever read before.  The story takes the reader on an incredible journey through the Tasmanian outback with friends Hannah and Becky.  Thoughts of this book lingered with me long after turning the final page and I'm looking forward to passing it onto others who haven't yet discovered such an amazing title.

The story is narrated by seventy-six year old Hannah, who is looking back on her early life.  Nothing could prepare me for the tale she would have to tell of surviving in the wilderness with her friend Becky and two Tasmanian tigers, who she names Dave and Corinna.  Not only do the girls survive but in their own way they adapt and flourish in their new environment.  They become like tigers themselves, moving on all fours and shedding their human clothes, as well as taking part in the hunt for fresh meat.  Isolated from contact with any other human being, they begin to forget their previous existence and become happy with their new lives.          

Everything changes however when they realise that the hunters have now become the hunted.  Two men are seemingly intent on capturing them and rescuing them from the tigers, but the girls do not want to return to civilisation and a new struggle ensues.

Louis Nowra depicts both the horror and the beauty of life in the outback.  I enjoyed seeing how the girls adapted to life with the tigers and even began to see them as their new mother and father.  The tigers in return adopt them as their own, surrogate daughters instead of the cubs which they are brutally robbed of.  There's a sense of freedom throughout the first half of the book as the girls run wild, their senses sharpening as they become accustomed to the sights, sounds and smells around them.  There are some wonderfully descriptive passages of them both curled up next to the tigers for warmth, as well as enjoying the taste of fresh meat and hot blood.

The ending is devastating but beautifully told and the perfect conclusion to an outstanding read.  I hope that readers who wouldn't normally pick up a book like this are encouraged to give it a try because 'Into That Forest' is a story which deserves to be read.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Review: Easy - Tammara Webber

Easy by Tammara Webber, published by Penguin on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Jacqueline seems to have a knack for making the wrong choices. She followed her boyfriend to his choice of university, disregarding her preference. Then he dumped her. She chose a minor she thought she could combine with her music studies, but she's falling behind. And then, leaving a party alone one night, she is attacked. If it wasn't for the timely intervention of a stranger, she would have been raped. Now she must make a choice - give up and give in, or toughen up and fight on. Only the support of the man who is tutoring her and the allure of the guy who saved her from the attack convince her that it's worth fighting on. Will Jacqueline now have to make a choice between them too? And can she make the right decision? It's not easy . . .

'Easy' is an amazing book which made me laugh, smile and cry.  I could hardly see the words on the page at the end because I was crying so much.  An emotional and heart stopping read, it exceeded all of my expectations and was impossible to put down. 

Tammara Webber hasn't shied away from dealing with some quite heavy subjects, the main one being rape and a woman's right to say no.  The story starts with the main character Jacqueline being assaulted and nearly raped in a campus car park and this sets up her first meeting with the man that rescued her, Lucas.  I wasn't prepared for the book to launch so quickly into such a difficult scene to read, but I applaud Webber for writing so brilliantly and sensitively about a topic such as this.

As Jacqueline begins to come to terms with what happened to her, she is also getting over her break-up with her boyfriend Kennedy, as well as being attracted to Lucas and craving to know more about him.  I liked Jacqueline a lot and warmed to her more as the story progressed.  I thought she might not be able to deal with things after the attack but she proves to be a strong person who still gets on with her life.  She enrols in self-defence classes with her friend Erin and takes steps to ensure that she never feels that vulnerable again.

I loved her developing relationship with Lucas, who happens to be both hot and mysterious.  He doesn't reveal a huge amount about himself and is very guarded when it comes to his personal life but Jacqueline always feels safe around him and he is incredibly gentle with her.  I'm not normally a fan of tattoos, piercings and long hair but for Lucas I was willing to make the exception!  There are some great moments between the two of them as their romance blossoms and they each begin to open up with the other person and express their true feelings.

The ending was totally gut wrenching and really made me cry but it was brilliantly written and fitted perfectly with the story. I loved 'Easy' and can't wait to read more by such a talented author. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

News: Beautiful Creatures: Official Illustrated Movie Companion

I'm really looking forward to seeing the big screen adaptation of 'Beautiful Creatures' by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia when it hits cinema screens next month. 

Until then Puffin have just published the official illustrated movie companion which looks amazing and should keep fans busy until February.  The cover art is fantastic and if possible, I think I'm even more excited now! 

This ultimate visual companion is lavishly illustrated with full-colour photos of the cast, locations, and sets. With never-before-seen images, exclusive interviews and personal stories, Mark Cotta Vaz takes you behind the scenes with cast and crew, uncovering intimate details of the film-making process.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Review: Paper Valentine - Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff, published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd January 2013 

Goodreads synopsis:
The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor's peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian's ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah's just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn't there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realises that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life - and it's up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

I was really looking forward to starting 'Paper Valentine'.  The plot sounded intriguing, the cover art looked amazing and I had previously enjoyed Brenna Yovanoff's other books so thought I would love this one too.  Sadly, although I liked some aspects of this title, on the whole it didn't live up to my expectations and my interest had tailed off a lot by the end. 

The story is about teenager Hannah who is still coming to terms with the death of her best friend Lillian when other girls in her home town of Ludlow start turning up dead.  These girls have been murdered and then their bodies left to be found, surrounded by a strange assortment of objects.  Hannah has to try and stop the Valentine killer before they claim another victim.

Although the plot sounds fairly straight forward it does have an unusual twist in that Hannah can see Lillian's ghost.  This was an interesting dimension to the book, as was the fact that Lillian died because she was anorexic.  Hannah is dealing with feelings of both guilt and anger about this.  She thinks that she should have done more to try and save her friend but she's also angry that Lillian didn't do more to help herself. 

The characters in the book are incredibly well depicted.  I enjoyed seeing the close relationship between Hannah and her younger sister Ariel, as well as the romance which develops between Hannah and local boy Finny.  He has family problems of his own but their friendship was sweet and real and one of my favourite things about 'Paper Valentine'.  Finny has a rough edge to him and doesn't always do the right thing but he has the potential to be so much more if people would just give him a chance.

I found the story quite slow going at times and I have to admit that I was disappointed at the ending which just didn't seem to be entirely plausible.  I kept waiting for a proper explanation for the killer's actions and when this failed to materialise I felt a bit short changed.  I would still suggest that fans of Brenna Yovanoff's writing give this one a go, particularly if looking for a spooky and unusual read but unfortunately it wasn't for me. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

News: Special extras for Vortex - Julie Cross

To celebreate the release of 'Vortex', the second book in Julie Cross's time travelling series, My Kinda Book are hosting lots of special extras for readers to enjoy.   Visit their website or click on one of the links below for some exciting extra content.

Uncensored extra content from Tempest (must be 16 or older to read)

Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, all that changes when Holly—the girl he altered history to save—re-enters his life. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents find themselves under attack and on the run. 

I haven't read 'Vortex' yet but as soon as I do, I'll be sharing my review of the book!  Have you read it yet?  If so, let me know in comments what you thought.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Review: Burning Bright - Sophie McKenzie

Burning Bright by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Four months have passed and River and Flynn are still going strong. But things are not perfect. Flynn continues to fly into unprovoked rages, and when River tells her mum, she is banned from seeing him. Fighting to stay together, they end up being torn apart. Is it all over for River and Flynn?

This is the second book in Sophie McKenzie's series about the teenage romance between River and Flynn.  Yet again it has a gorgeous cover which is beautiful and made me itch to pick it up and start reading.

The story follows Flynn and River and their volatile relationship.  River loves him wholly and completely but struggles to deal with Flynn's explosive temper.  Her parents and friends don't approve of him either but she can't imagine living without him.  McKenzie depicts the intensity of their relationship which quite often seems to be stifling and claustrophobic.  They are together as much as they can be but don't often give each other any space without one or the other of them feeling jealous.  River trusts Flynn but he doesn't always seem to give her good reason to and some of his actions in the book thoroughly test her patience and her loyalty. 

I liked the realistic aspect of the story, which shows that true love doesn't always run smoothly.  A lot of obstacles are placed between River and Flynn and it was interesting to see how they handled these.  River has to face her mother's disapproval of her choice of boyfriend and Flynn has home problems of his own with his father appearing back on the scene.  He also has to finally acknowledge that he may have the same unpredictable temperament as the father he hates which threatens to come between him and River.

This was a quick read and I finished it in one evening, in part to the fact that the story was so enjoyable I couldn't put it down.  I'm looking forward to finding out what will happen next in the third book in the series 'Casting Shadows'.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Review: Through to You - Emily Hainsworth

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. Viv was the last good thing in his life: helping him rebuild his identity after a career-ending football injury, picking up the pieces when his home life shattered, and healing his pain long after the meds wore off. And now, he’d give anything for one more glimpse of her. But when Cam makes a visit to the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees some kind of apparition. And it isn’t Viv.

The apparition’s name is Nina, and she’s not a ghost. She’s a girl from a parallel world, and in this world, Viv is still alive. Cam can’t believe his wildest dreams have come true. All he can focus on is getting his girlfriend back, no matter the cost. But things are different in this other world: Viv and Cam have both made very different choices, things between them have changed in unexpected ways, and Viv isn’t the same girl he remembers. Nina is keeping some dangerous secrets, too, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with who this Viv has become and the part Nina played in his parallel story, he’s forced to choose—stay with Viv or let her go—before the window closes between them once and for all.

'Through to You' is the debut novel of author Emily Hainsworth.  The idea for the book is utterly brilliant and incredibly clever.  It deals with a boy whose girlfriend has died in a car accident.  Cam is devastated at the loss and is struggling to go on with his life without her when he discovers that there is a parallel world where she still exists.

I absolutely loved the concept for 'Through to You'.  I was fascinated by the thought that there could be other realities out there.  I mean who wouldn't want to know what their alternative life could be like.  This discovery provides a lifeline for Cam who finds out that in this other reality, his girlfriend Viv is still alive and well and he can see her, talk to her and touch her.  Things however, don't all seem to be as he is expecting and soon secrets are unravelled and revelations revealed which change everything. 

The story started quite slowly with the first part focusing on Cam's grief and the downward spiral he is on since losing Viv, who was like his other half.  The pace picked up quite a bit in the middle and there was a mind-blowing twist at the end which I loved.  If you do struggle at the start with how slow and somewhat confusing the book initially is, then I would advise you to persevere because otherwise you will miss what turns out to be a brilliant read.     

I enjoyed the fact that the book had a male narrator and Cam's voice came across clearly and distinctly, making him an appealing figure.  He shows real growth throughout as he tries to rebuild his life and makes some tough decisions about his future.  Quite often, I don't get on well with books which provide a male point of view, but this was an exception because Cam is such a great character.

I really don't want to say too much about the plot or the characters because this is definitely the type of book that you want to read without having been spoiled in advance.  There are twists and turns and moments of complete surprise which combine to make this a fabulous story and a top read!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Trailer: Night School - Legacy - C.J. Daugherty

On 3rd January 2013, book two 'Legacy' in the Night School series by C.J. Daugherty is published by Atom.  Although I actually haven't started reading this series yet, I do have the first book, am planning to buy the second and have heard fantastic things about them from my fellow bloggers. 

In the last year, Allie's survived three arrests, two breakups and one family breakdown. The only bright point has been her new life at Cimmeria Academy. It's the one place she's felt she belongs. And the fact that it's brought the dreamy Carter West into her life hasn't hurt...But far from being a safe haven, the cloistered walls of Cimmeria are proving more dangerous than Allie could've imagined. The students, and faculty, are under threat and Allie's family - from her mysterious grandma to her runaway brother - are at the centre of the storm. Allie is going to have to choose between protecting her family and trusting her friends. But secrets have a way of ripping even the strongest relationships apart...
To whet your appetite, here's the awesome trailer for the book -  
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