Thursday, 28 February 2013

Review: What the Spell? - Brittany Geragotelis

What the Spell? by Brittany Geragotelis, published by Simon and Schuster on 29th January 2013

Goodreads Synopsis:
Almost-sixteen-year-old Brooklyn feels invisible, but she desperately wants to be pretty, to be popular, to be adored by a cute guy. Luckily for her, she’s a witch about to come of age—so she’s only a few spells away from making it all happen.

On her milestone birthday, Brooklyn’s conservative parents finally unbind her powers, which include the ability to magically match couples with a love spell. Brooklyn uses her special skills to get a makeover, new friends, and the attention of her crush, Asher. But the popular clique Brooklyn wants to infiltrate puts her in the same precarious position as her Salem ancestors: If she’s found out, she could be vilified—and lose Asher in the process. Can she make the most of her magic, or will she be luckless and loveless? Be careful what you witch for!  
‘What the Spell’ is a fun and enjoyable read about a teenage witch. If this is giving you flashbacks of Sabrina the Teenage Witch then you are on the right track! The author was published after having her story spotted on Wattpad, giving hope to aspiring writers out there. The main character Brooklyn has her magic unbound by her parents on her sixteenth birthday. Suddenly, with the power of magic, anything seems possible and so she sets about turning her life around and hooking herself a boyfriend in the process.

I could understand how exhilarating it must feel to be able to change yourself so completely, but it did seem at times that Brooklyn wasn’t happy with any aspects of her old life. She totally changes her appearance and some of her actions were distinctly questionable, but I could see that she was trying to find her feet and where she fits in at school. This is a theme that readers of the book will probably find familiar. She comes under pressure from ‘The Elite’, a group of the most popular teens at school and desperately wants to be one of them. However, I think she did gradually come to understand that there is more to life than popularity and develops a real relationship with Asher and his sister Abby, along with her ongoing friendship with Ms. Zia, the guidance counsellor.

The romance between Brooklyn and Asher is sweet and warm. Although I initially thought his interest seemed to follow on immediately after her transformation into the new hot girl at school, he did come across as genuine and too shy to say anything to her about his feelings before. They made a cute couple and I really enjoyed reading their scenes together.

I loved the magical aspects of the story and finding out about the history of the witch families and the truth behind the Salem Witch trials. It will be interesting to see how this is explored further in the series, as I would like this element of the plot to be developed more.

Younger readers in particular will love this story about magic, mayhem and romance and I for one am looking forward to more in the series by author Britanny Geragotelis.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Review: The Holders - Julianna Scott

The Holders by Julianna Scott, published by Strange Chemistry on 5th March 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
17-year-old Becca spent her whole life protecting her brother from, well, everything. The abandonment of their father, the so called 'experts' who insist that voices in his head are unnatural and must be dealt with, and the constant threat of being taken away to some hospital and studied like an animal. When two representatives appear claiming to have the answers to Ryland's perceived problem, Becca doesn't buy it for one second. That is until they seem to know things about Ryland and about Becca and Ryland's family, that forces Becca to concede that there may be more to these people than meets the eye. Though still highly skeptical, Becca agrees to do what's best for Ryland.

What they find at St. Brigid's is a world beyond their imagination. Little by little they piece together the information of their family's heritage, their estranged Father, and the legend of the Holder race that decrees Ryland is the one they've been waiting for. However, they are all--especially Becca--in for a surprise that will change what they thought they knew about themselves and their kind.


I was looking forward to reading this book as the premise sounded very intriguing.  However, I'll admit that I was a little worried that it was going to veer too much into fantasy for my tastes, so I started it with some trepidation.  Turns out that I needn't have worried at all because 'The Holders' was right up my street!  It had a gripping plot, plenty of exciting twists and turns and some pretty fantastic characters which all combined to keep me glued to the pages.

The main protagonist Becca, accompanies her younger brother Ryland to his new school, St. Brigids in Ireland.  Her brother has always been a bit different and she has always been used to looking after him but once at the school, she discovers the truth about Ryland's ability to hear voices, as well as some unexpected revelations about herself.  I thought that the idea of people having special abilities was executed brilliantly and I couldn't wait to find out what each person's gift was.  Their history was also fascinating and kept me interested even when there was on occasion quite a lot of information to absorb.    

One of my favourite things about this book was the connections between many of the characters.  I loved the protective streak that Becca has towards the people she cares about and the way she is fiercely loyal and defensive about them, especially where her brother is concerned.   However, what truly made 'The Holders' for me was the bond which develops between Becca and Alex.  I could immediately believe in the feelings which they have for each other and I couldn't wait for all of their scenes together.  There are so many great moments, including lots of romantic sparks that I was rooting for them the whole way through. 

The story was fast-paced and the pages simply flew by.  The setting of the book was fantastic and I almost wish that I could have attended a school like St Brigids.  It seemed wonderful and had a very homey and welcoming atmosphere about it.  There was lots to keep the reader absorbed and I didn't want it to end.  It completely exceeded any expectations I had at the start and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to other readers.  I desperately want a sequel to the book now!  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Review: Survive - Alex Morel

Survive by Alex Morel, published by Electric Monkey on 4th February 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Furious and depressed, Jane is released from an institution for a rare visit to her family. But Jane has an escape plan. On the flight, she is going to take a lethal dose of pills and end her pain forever. But the plane never reaches its destination. Jane wakes up amidst piles of wreckage and charred bodies on a snowy mountaintop. There is only one other survivor: a boy named Paul. What starts out as a death mission quickly becomes a fight for life as the two struggle through snowstorms and starvation.

'Survive' by Alex Morel had an intriguing premise which caught my attention as soon as I heard about it. The plot concerns a teenage girl, who on the flight home to her family plans to commit suicide, until the plane she is on crashes. She decides that she wants to live after all but has to try to survive in the wilderness and make it back alive. This sounded exactly like my kind of book and for the most part I enjoyed it but there were one of two things that prevented me absolutely loving it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen on the main character Jane. I found it hard to connect with someone so intent on taking their own life and I didn’t really feel like I ever got to understand her fully. I did enjoy the fact that she learns a lot of life lessons throughout the book though and begins to value the life she has rather than being intent on throwing it all away. I thought the connection with her father was dealt with well but I would have liked to have been made to care more about her throughout the story, as well as perhaps being presented with more of her back story.

The section of the book dealing with Jane and Paul surviving on a snowy mountaintop was brilliant and fascinating. I love survival shows so this definitely piqued me interest and kept me glued to the pages. This part of the story is rich with vivid images and descriptions of knawing hunger, unquenchable thirst, adrenaline and despair. Both characters have to deal with so many different emotions as they do everything they can to make it back to civilisation.

The overall message that came across to me when I was reading this book, was that life is something precious which should be treasured and lived to the full. Rather than planning every second, people should let go and embrace the experiences that are out there. I loved the ending which was truly heartbreaking, but I would have preferred it if the book had been a little longer, so some aspects of the plot and characters could have been developed more. This was still a very enjoyable read however, with a valuable lesson to teach.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Review: Finding Cherokee Brown - Siobhan Curham

Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham, published by Electric Monkey on 4th March 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
When I decided to write a book about my life I thought I'd have to make loads of stuff up. I mean, who wants to read about someone like me?

But as soon as I started writing, the weirdest thing happened. I found out I wasn't who I thought I was. And I stopped being scared. Then everything went crazy!

Best of all, I discovered that when you finally decide to be brave it's like waving a wand over your life - the most magical things can happen . . 

I thoroughly enjoyed Siobhan Curham's debut 'Dear Dylan' which was published last year, so I've been looking forward to reading more from her ever since.  'Finding Cherokee Brown' is another great title which I read in one sitting because it was such a brilliant story.

It centres on fifteen year old Claire Weeks who decides that she is going to write a story about her life after finding an old copy of a book called 'So you want to write a novel?'.  What starts off as an attempt to escape from her day to day life, soon turns into something even more powerful and life changing when she discovers a huge family secret which makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself. 

Claire aka Cherokee was a great main character.  Curham can really write people who you warm to instantly and feel enormous empathy for.  She has several issues to deal with in the book, one being the fact that she is bullied at her school.  This is something that a lot of people have faced at one point or another in their lives and I enjoyed seeing her finally decide to fight back and not let the bullies get away with it.  I thought it was interesting that one of her teachers fails to deal with the teens who are taunting her.  It shows that even adults sometimes suffer confidence issues, feel powerless and cannot stand up against other people.

Claire feels like she doesn't fit in with her family, since her mother remarried and had twins.  Throughout the book she gradually learns that everyone has the power to change their own life and that wonderful things can happen when you take control of your own destiny.  

Anbody being bullied or bullying others should read this book because it features a truly inspirational heroine and has a powerful message to convey about the power of both the written and spoken word.  It is also moving, poignant and funny and is another great title from a fantastic author.


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Review: Skinny - Donna Cooner

Skinny by Donna Cooner, published by Electric Monkey on 4th February 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it.

But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over.

With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own.


I was hesitant to start this book because I'm not really a big fan of stories which centre on weight loss issues.  The plot is about a girl who wishes she was no longer overweight and ends up having quite drastic gastric bypass surgery.  However, although she loses weight, she finds that the taunting voice in her head of 'skinny' is still there determined to knock down her confidence at every turn.

Perhaps because I got off on the wrong foot with this book even before starting to read it, I struggled to become engaged with the story.  Ever takes a huge step in deciding to have surgery but I wish we had seen more of her trying to lose weight naturally or attempting to exercise, rather than just skipping straight to such a drastic solution to her problem.  I felt like because a lot of these things were skimmed over, I didn't fully understand Ever's decision.  Her eating is linked to issues she still has with the death of her mother and food is often her way of trying to keep the memories of her mother alive.  I would have liked to have seen her family making more of an attempt to explore this with her, instead of just looking at her with disapproval when she eats.

My favourite thing about Ever was her love of musicals and show tunes.  This was something which I could definitely identify with.  I adore them too!  Songs and singing are her escape from the real life issues that she has, although she is afraid to sing in front of people because of her lack of confidence due to her weight and her personal appearance.

Donna Cooner has created a twist on the classic Cinderella fairytale with the reader left guessing throughout if Ever will ever be transformed into the person she has locked up inside.  Stepsisters, a Prince Charming (although she does not recognise him at first) and a fairy godmother are all present, as she begins to undergo an uphill battle to change her life around.

Sadly, I never felt like I came to fully understand Ever or her motivations.  Also, because of the focus of the story, 'Skinny' wasn't really my kind of book.   However, it was still well written and hard-hitting and will probably appeal to teen readers who are looking for titles on this subject matter.    

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Blog update: Bloglovin

Did you know that you can now follow my blog with Bloglovin.  All you need to do is click on the link below or the button on the right of the page:

This is a great way of staying up-to-date with all the latest news and reviews featured on A Dream of Books, as well as all of your other favourite blogs.  

You can also subscribe to my blog by email (just click the link on the right of the page) or via an RSS feed.      

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Cover reveal: Teardrop - Lauren Kate

I'm a huge Lauren Kate fan so I was very excited to hear about her new book, 'Teardrop' which will be published in the UK in October.  Here's the absolutely beautiful cover which has to be one of the prettiest that I've seen lately.  I can't wait to get my hands on this one!  

Never, ever cry. . . . Eureka Boudreaux's mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn't, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before.

But Ander doesn't know Eureka's darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth . . . and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Review: Cracks - Caroline Green

Cracks by Caroline Green, published by Piccadilly Press on 28th February 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Who do you trust when you discover your whole life has been a lie?

Cal thinks he's losing his mind when cracks start appearing that no one else can see. But his life splinters apart when he discovers that, far from leading an ordinary life in a northern town in 2012 as he thought, he has spent his whole life so far in a deliberately induced coma. The year is actually 2024 and a repressive regime is in force: it plans to brainwash the whole population. Set free by the local resistance movement, he finds himself drawn into their struggle; and he gets involved with Kyla, a girl who lives on the streets. But are they all just using him: is there anyone he can really trust?


'Cracks' is a dystopian novel by British author Caroline Green.  I was thrilled to be sent a copy to review as even though I haven't read anything by Green before I loved the sound of this book which is set in 2024 where society is very different from that which we live in now.  The Securitat are now in charge and are determined to quash any resistance to the regime.  The way they plan to do this is extreme and frightening and forms the basis for the experiences undergone by the main character Cal. 

The story is split into three distinct sections.  I'll admit that I initially found the first part rather puzzling but as the second part started everything became much clearer and I began to see how things were going to fit together.  I would have preferred it if the introduction had been slightly less disjointed and at times I was confused about how this was going to have any link with the rest of the book but as Cal began to make sense of things, so did I. 

I was fascinated by some of the ideas incorporated into the story and I enjoyed reading about the changes that society had undergone.  There could perhaps have been a little more world-building and I would have liked to have seen some of the details discussed expanded on more, but on the whole it was depicted as being quite terrible and bleak for those living in it.  I sincerely hope that 2024 does not turn out to be anything like Green describes here!

The tension builds throughout the book and I ended up enjoying the second half a lot more than the first.  There are lots of challenges for Cal to face and plenty of ups and downs in store for him and the other characters.  An enjoyable dystopian thriller, 'Cracks' is a roller coaster ride of thrills and spills with lots of surprises lying in wait for the reader.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Review: Drowning Instinct - Ilsa J. Bick

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick, published by Quercus on 28th February 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Jenna is sweet sixteen, the age when a girl is supposed to find her prince.

Instead she finds Mr Anderson – intelligent, handsome, married Mr Anderson, who just happens to be her chemistry teacher. With a dark past and a difficult family, Jenna is just happy to have someone to protect her, to worry about her, to love her.

But should she be suspicious of Mr Anderson’s reputation for helping ‘damaged’ students? Why is the most popular girl in school suddenly jealous of her? And where is Mr Anderson’s wife?

'Drowning Instinct' deals with the dangerous subject of the formation of an illicit relationship between a pupil and her teacher.  Although this at first seems to be the main focus of the story, it's actually more of a sub-plot to the larger problems that the main character Jenna faces.  She has had to cope with an extraordinary number of traumatic events such as a childhood fire and her beloved brother leaving to join the army.  She deals with her tumultuous family life by self-harming.  When she makes a cut on her body she momentarily feels better but the sense of release never lasts.

Ilsa J. Bick has taken a completely different direction in her new novel.  Having previously read the fabulous 'Ashes' and 'Shadows', I was surprised to see that the topic of this book was the polar opposite to her other work.  'Drowning Instinct' is hard-hitting and quite controversial.  Bick writes with such a deft and sure touch however that I never felt she was forcing any particular opinion on me.  I formed my own ideas about the characters and their motives as the story progressed.

The opening chapter intrigued me from the start.  Jenna has clearly been involved in some kind of accident and is asked to tell the truth about what happened by a police man.  The reader does not know yet what has occurred and so her story begins to unfold.  Her narrative voice drew me in immediately and I felt so much sympathy for her as I learnt more about her situation.  No teen should have to go through the things that she deals with and her life is sadly lacking of any adult that she can trust in and rely on. 

There is a non-judgemental tone throughout the book which suggests that things are not always as black and white as they might first seem.  Her relationship with her teacher Mr Anderson develops quite naturally over the course of the book and does not seem predatory on his part, although he is of course in a position of power and responsibility, so the reader must decide whether or not he has abused this privilege.

The ending is explosive and turned everything that happened on it's head.  It made me question what I thought and challenged some of my pre-conceived notions.  Nothing is ever really as we think it is although Bick leaves it up to the reader to ultimately decide whether the line between right and wrong can ever be blurred.      

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Trailer: Hidden - Marianne Curley

Today I'm sharing the stunning trailer for 'Hidden' by Marianne Curley.  The book is published in the UK by Bloomsbury on 14th March and sounds incredible with a story about stolen angels, intense romance and a secret that may change one girl's life forever.

For as long as Ebony can remember, she’s been sheltered. Confined to her home in a secluded valley, home-schooled by her protective parents, and limited to a small circle of close friends. It’s as if she’s being hidden. But something is changing in Ebony. Something that can’t be concealed. She’s growing more beautiful by the day, she’s freakishly strong, and then there’s the fact that she’s glowing. On one fateful night, Ebony meets Jordan and she’s intensely drawn to him. It’s as if something explodes inside of her—something that can be seen from the heavens. Ebony still doesn’t know that she’s a stolen angel, but now that the heavens have found her, they want her back.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Cover reveal: Zenn Scarlett - Christian Schoon

One of the books I'm looking forward to this year is 'Zenn Scarlett' by Christian Schoon which sounds extremely quirky and original .  It's being published by Strange Chemistry in May 2013. Here's the eye-catching UK cover -

Zenn Scarlett is a bright and occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. She specializes in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars was going well - until there are a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school that Zenn finds herself blamed for. As if this isn't enough to be dealing with, her father vanishes under strange circumstances, and Zenn is worried that she has started hearing the thoughts of the creatures around her...
With the help of Liam, a towner boy, and Hamish, an alien bug also training at the clinic, Zenn must try to find her father, rescue the animals and unravel the mystery of who is behind the attacks on the school. And all without failing her first year.
Let me know what you think. Will you be adding this one to your wishlist?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Review: Blood Prophecy - Alyxandra Harvey

Blood Prophecy by Alyxandra Harvey, published by Bloomsbury on 14th February 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Solange Drake will not claim her birthright; she will not be queen as vampire tradition dictates. But change always comes at a cost . . .

Possessed by a vengeful twelfth-century witch, Solange commits heinous crimes against the vampire tribes that she pledged to empower. Motives are questioned. Trust is broken. The treaty between the Drakes and the Helios-Ra is under threat. Solange must escape the folds of memory and time and fight for the fate of the royal crown - and win. Her destiny, and her heart, depends on it.

'Blood Prophecy' is the final thrilling instalment of one of my favourite vampire series by one of my favourite young-adult authors.  This is one of the first series that I started reviewing on my blog so it is sad to say goodbye to so many well-loved characters.

The story centres mainly around Solange and finally begins to explain the reasons for her strange behaviour in the previous book.  Everything gradually slotted into place but there were still plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing until the very end.  I like the way that Harvey always has something extra up her sleeve and continually leaves the reader wanting more.

Solange shared the bulk of the narration with Lucy, although Christabel and Hunter chipped in too along the way.  In my eyes, Lucy has been one of the best characters in the series.  She is funny and witty, incredibly brave and feisty and always looks out for her friends.  She is also loyal and stubbornly determined but the latter in a good way.  Her scenes with Nicholas were awesome and made my toes tingle.  I would love to see a spin-off just about them and what happens to their relationship in the future!

The story culminates in a tremendous battle involving vampires and humans and I enjoyed seeing everyone coming together to fight for what they believe in.  Each character has to step up to the mark when it really counts but they know they can always rely on each other.  There is lots of action and excitement throughout, especially in the second half of the book but there are also some lovely scenes between some of the couples in the series and some touching family moments.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed in the send-off given to the Drakes.  There is something to please everyone and glimpses of all the characters who have been in it along the way.       

UK readers are in for an extra treat too in this book, as there is an exclusive bonus story included about Sky and Duncan Drake which I enjoyed.  

Alyxandra Harvey may have bid farewell to the Drake family but I'm excited to read more by her in the future and I have no doubt that she will continue to entertain and amaze readers with her terrific writing.    

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Blog tour: The Reckoning - Alma Katsu

Today I'm hosting a stop on the blog tour for Alma Katsu's new book 'The Reckoning'.  Alma very kindly answered some of my questions about her book which is the sequel to 2011's hit 'The Taker.

What inspired you to write The Taker trilogy?

I love big sweeping dark stories. I love very bad men and the women who despair of them. I love history and the never-ending mystery of life. I wanted to see if I could write a story that had all these elements, because it seems there were not enough of them.

Was it always planned as a trilogy or did you ever think about it being a standalone novel?

It actually started as a standalone. I worked on The Taker, the first book, for ten years and by the time it was sold to publishers, I’d started missing the characters. They are an endearing, if headstrong, bunch! I thought of a way to continue their story—there were some unanswered questions—and luckily the publishers felt the same way.

In The Reckoning, the main character Lanore meets Lord Byron in 1822. If you could go back to any period in time and meet a famous figure who would it be and why?

It might very well be Lord Byron—mad, bad and dangerous to know! By writing him into the book, I created an opportunity I’d always wanted. It was a lot of fun, too.

The are some wonderful characters in the series. Who is your favourite character to write and why?

It has to be Adair. It is always interesting to be inside his head. Not always pleasant, but interesting. He is so unlike everyone else, so singular in his rationales, it’s like getting to study a psychopath close up. A very charismatic and seductive psychopath.

How much research did you have to do for the series considering all the different time periods and locations that the characters visit? Is this something that you enjoy doing?

I think a writer ends up drawing on things that are already bouncing around in her head. A lot of what ended up in the books has to do with things I’ve found interesting at some point in my life: the dark ages, the British Colonial period (Kipling! The Flashman series!), magic. I did a strange amount of research on castles and life in medieval times, for some reason I’ve forgotten. Luckily it came in handy for writing these novels!

As for the first book, The Taker, which was set mostly in 1820s New England, I didn’t have to do too much specialized research as I grew up in an area that had been settled in the 1700s (I like to call in Colonial ground zeo). I seem to have learned a lot through osmosis. I had to do more research on the early history of the state of Maine since that was more obscure (but fascinating) and a lot of what I learned ended up in the book in one way or another.

Can you tell me anything about what is in store for readers in the concluding instalment?

It picks up a few years after the end of The Reckoning. Lanny seeks out Adair to ask him to help her with something that only he can do: she wants to ask the Queen of the Underworld to release Jonathan. Of course, Adair fears the next plane of existence because he is afraid of being held accountable for his many sins and by sending Lanny into the underworld, he may come to the queen’s attention. Will Adair refuse Lanny’s request? What will happen when Lanny goes into the underworld? Will she be reunited with Jonathan or will her world—and Adair’s—come crashing down? We’ll finally learn the source of Adair’s mysterious powers, too. It’s not what you think it is!

Do you have any plans you can share for future writing projects?

Think I might have to defer on this question. It’s a tricky time, wrapping up one series and thinking about what comes next. I don’t want to jinx myself!

Which other books would you recommend for people who have enjoyed The Taker trilogy?

Readers might be interested in this post I wrote for Heroes and Heartbreakers listing some dark historical novels that I loved. They don’t have the supernatural element but otherwise might be a good fit for Taker fans. The ultimate is Interview With The Vampire, of course!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Review: Level 2 - Lenore Appelhans

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans, published by Usborne on 15th January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Felicia Ward is dead. Trapped in Level 2, the waiting room between Earth and Heaven, she spends endless days replaying memories, of her family, friends, boyfriend…and of the guy who broke her heart. The guy who has just broken into Level 2 to find her…

Felicia learns that a rebellion is brewing in Level 2, and it seems she is the key. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, she must make a choice. Between two worlds, two lives and two loves. A choice that will change everything…

I particularly wanted to read 'Level 2' because the author Lenore Appelhans also has a successful book blog and so has managed to cross-over from the blogger world to that of published author.  The plot also sounded intriguing and the cover is really striking and quite different to a lot of other titles on the market at the moment. 

The main idea that the story hinges on, is that of there being three levels of existence.  Level 1 is earth, level 3 is heaven and level 2 is the place in-between, a kind of waiting room for the dead.  Felicia is one of those biding their time in level 2.  She, along with everyone else there, spend their time viewing memories of their past lives.  They can watch those moments when they were happiest or saddest, when they had their first kiss or met their best friend.  Although they are dead, it almost doesn't seem like death because they are still conscious.  As Felicia views her own memories, we get to know more about her and the people that were important in her life and are gradually introduced to her boyfriend Neil and bad boy Julian.

Although the love triangle aspect is there, I have to say that I loved Julian from the start but didn't really warm to Neil at all.  I thought that his characterisation was quite weak and I couldn't understand what attracted Felicia to him, rather than the incredibly hot Julian, who she has amazing chemistry with.  The scenes between the two of them were one of my favourite things about the story and I enjoyed getting to see how they first met. There's a huge revelation about one of the boys at the end of the book and I'm looking forward to seeing how this will affect things in the sequel, 'Level 3'.

I thought that the story started quite slowly and didn't begin to pick-up until about half-way through when the truth about level 2 began to surface.  Although this debut novel didn't sweep me off my feet, I feel like there is still an awful lot more to come and I'm intrigued to discover what will happen to Felicia and co next.  

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Review: The Prey - Andrew Fukuda

The Prey by Andrew Fukuda, published by Simon and Schuster on 31st January 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
For Gene and the remaining humans—or hepers—death is just a heartbeat away. On the run and hunted by society, they must find a way to survive in The Vast... and avoid the hungry predators tracking them in the dark. But they’re not the only things following Gene. He’s haunted by the girl he left behind and his burgeoning feelings for Sissy, the human girl at his side.

When they discover a refuge of exiled humans living high in the mountains, Gene and his friends think they’re finally safe. Led by a group of intensely secretive elders, the civilisation begins to raise more questions than answers. A strict code of behaviour is the rule, harsh punishments are meted out, young men are nowhere to be found—and Gene begins to wonder if the world they’ve entered is just as evil as the one they left behind. As life at the refuge grows more perilous, he and Sissy only grow closer. In an increasingly violent world, all they have is each other... if they can only stay alive.

One of my favourite debut's last year was 'The Hunt' by Andrew Fukuda; a thrilling tale of vampire-like creatures hunting down the last remaining humans or hepers as they are known, to satisfy their ravenous blood-lust.  I've been counting down the days until the sequel, so when this book finally arrived in my hands, you can bet I couldn't wait to pick it up and get stuck in.

The story begins almost immediately after the events of the previous instalment.  Gene is on the run from the Heper Institute, along with Sissy and the other boys.  Having narrowly escaped with their lives, they make their way down the river, seeking the sanctuary that the Scientist promised them was out there.  Their journey is not an easy one however, as they are still being hunted and may be in danger of swapping one prison for another.

There is a real sense of trepidation and fear which emanates from the pages of the book.  Gene and co are living on a knife edge and every decision they make is vital.  What they choose to do may just be the difference between life and death.  I was terrified for them most of the way through the story, as danger seems to dog their every step.  Fukuda keeps the pace high and the tension ratched up.  So much so that there were very few chapters where I could take a breather from the terrible events that occur.  I found this title absolutely addictive reading and so exciting!

When they finally make it to a place called The Mission it looks like their struggle might be over at last.  But things don't seem quite right in their new home as they eventually begin to find out.  I honestly didn't think that Andrew Fukuda could come up with anything worse than they had already faced but fresh horrors presented themselves which had me on the edge of my seat.  The writing is vivid and descriptive and completely gripping.  I was both shocked and horrified at times but also immersed entirely in the incredible world set before me.

Inventive and imaginative, with top notch storytelling and an unbelievably exciting plot, 'The Prey' is a book not to be missed.  I'm already checking off the days until the final part of the trilogy is published in Autumn 2013.  
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