Monday, 29 September 2014

Read the first chapter of Half Bad by Sally Green

If you loved 'Half Blood' by Sally Green then you will be very excited by the news that Penguin have released the first chapter of the sequel 'Half Wild' to keep fans going until it's release in March 2015.

Penguin have also announced an exciting new short story by Green today. Half Lies is due for release across all digital book platforms on 13 November. Set in the months before Half Bad, Half Lies takes the form of a diary written by Michele, the sister of Gabriel, Nathan’s Black witch friend. Having fled Europe for Florida, Michele falls in love with a local White witch boy. There, she finds that the divide between the Black and White witch communities is just as dangerous as it was in the life she's left behind.

Ben Horslen, Editorial Director, Puffin Books says: 'Fan response to Half Bad has been so overwhelming that it seemed very unfair to keep readers on tenterhooks until March for their next taste of Sally Green's amazing world. I know Half Lies will thrill and intrigue her fans while they wait for the next chapter of Nathan's story.'

Sally Green says: 'Gabriel is a key character in the Half Bad trilogy and he also happens to be the one I'm desperately in love with (I know a lot of fans are rather fond of him too) so it was great to write a little more about his life. Half Lies is the story of Gabriel and his sister Michele, told from Michele's point of view. Of course it's not a totally happy story, there's love but there's violence too, but they are Black witches so what do you expect?'

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blog Tour: After - Anna Todd

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for Anna Todd's Wattpad sensation 'After' which is now being published in print by Simon and Schuster.  Read on for my review.

Goodreads synopsis:
There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER... Life will never be the same. Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way. But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to. But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even.

For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room.  Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her? Unless…could this be love?

'After' by Anna Todd originally started out as a Wattpad sensation.  It's now appearing in print for the very first time and as soon as I heard about it I couldn't wait to start reading it.  It sounded like exactly the kind of book that I usually love.

The first book in a series, the story follows teenager Anna who is starting college and finally getting out from under the eagle eye of her controlling mother.  Anna is extremely innocent and quite naive about some things.  She doesn't know what to think about Hardin when they first meet, especially considering he is so rude and at times pretty cruel towards her. But there's a fine line between love and hate and Anna seems to be straddling the two.

There were aspects of this book that I did like but I thought that the story was quite slow at the beginning and the plot felt like one that I'd read before. I wanted to see more of Anna's college life and her experience of settling in and making new friends but instead she seemed far too consumed by her relationship with Hardin to invest time in anything else. Considering the way in which he talks to her and treats her I found it hard to understand why she was quite so obsessed with him and willing to put up with his behaviour. She makes a lot of excuses for him.

Hardin was a difficult character to like. Because I didn't really warm to him at all, It was hard to become fully invested in the romance between him and Anna. He uses her inexperience to keep her close and almost expects her to read his mind at times. I kept waiting for that one big redeeming moment when I would finally fall head over heels for Hardin and realise that he had a heart of gold after all but it never came. There is a big revelation about his family and his past near the end of the book and while I felt sympathy for him and what he had gone through, for me, it didn't excuse the way in which he had acted towards Anna.

I'm interested enough in the story to wonder what will happen next so I will be checking out the next instalment in the trilogy, but I really, really hope that Hardin's personality develops because Anna deserves better.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Review: Famous in Love - Rebecca Serle

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 23rd October 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Paige doesn't think she's particularly special, but after getting the starring role in a massive film adaptation of the bestselling Locked trilogy, the rest of the world would disagree. Now she's thrown into the spotlight, and into a world of gossip, rumour and deceit. The only people who know what she's going through are her two male co-stars, and they can't stand the sight of each other. Paige knows it's a mistake to fall in love on the set of a movie, but days of on-screen romance and intensity start to change her mind. The question is, can she keep what happens behind the scenes a secret when the world is watching her every move?

This book made me instantly think of what it might have been like behind the scenes on the Twilight films, as we get to see how the relationships and romances play out between the three leads on a remote Hawaiin film set.

Paige Townsen is plucked from obscurity to be the lead in the latest YA book to movie adaptation.  On the set she's caught between the gorgeous Rainer and the inexplicable attraction she feels for the enigmatic Jordan.  If you love Young Hollywood then you will enjoy 'Famous in Love' which explores this world in depth, showcasing the real day to day life of the actors away from the glitz and glamour of magazine shoots and red carpet premieres. 

I was a bit fed-up of the fact that yet again this book features another love triangle but it was written really well, even if I found it quite easy to make my mind up about the two boys from the very start.  I couldn't quite understand how Paige found herself quite so torn between the two of them.  The story isn't only about romance however.  It's also about Paige being on her own for the first time away from her family and how she adjusts to her new-found independence.  Her relationship with her friends is also shifting and changing and she's having to find her feet in a world which is alien to her.

I enjoyed Rebecca Serle's writing style and I like the way that she really gets inside her characters' heads.  The only thing that spoilt this book slightly for me was the ending.  It wasn't how I wanted the book to finish and even though I think I understand what the outcome was, I'm actually not entirely sure (if anyone else has read it and wants to chat about it, let me know!).   

If you're intrigued about the book which is being made into a film as part of the storyline of 'Famous in Love' then good news, you can read an e-novella of 'Locked'.  I'm intrigued enough about it that I think I will be taking a look. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Review: The Baking Life of Amelie Day - Vanessa Curtis

The Baking Life of Amelie Day by Vanessa Curtis, published by Curious Fox on 11th September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Amelie Day loves to bake - cupcakes, biscuits, bread, tarts and muffins - so she's thrilled when she's invited to compete in Britain's Best Teen Baker of the Year. But Amelie has Cystic Fibrosis and some days she can barely breathe. Determined not to let her condition or her mum stop her, Amelie musters all her flour power, but will it be enough to get her there?

'The Baking Life of Amelie Day' is a delectable read!  Be prepared for this book to give you an insane craving for cupcakes and a desire to rush out to your kitchen and make lots of other scrumptious home-baked goodies.

This is a middle-grade book but it's one that I think just about everyone will adore, even older readers.  Although the story is about a girl with cystic fibrosis, this isn't revealed until a few chapters in and even then Amelie informs the reader in a very matter of fact way.  She doesn't let herself be defined by her illness and indeed I'd say that the book is much more about her love of all things baked rather than about the illness which she tries not to allow to control her life.  When she is chosen to take part in the Teen Baker of the Year competition, she desperately wants the opportunity to go but she has a lot more hurdles than the other competitors to contend with first.

I thought that Amelie was a wonderful character and this was a truly fantastic read.  I was hooked from the very beginning as Amelie struggles to lead a normal life and embrace her all-consuming passion for baking.  She is never more happy than when she's in the kitchen dreaming up a new recipe and that is something that I can definitely identify with!

What I really loved about this book was the inclusion of some of Amelie's recipes which I will definitely be having a go at making.  I especially want to try her orange polenta muffins and chocolate cupcakes which both sound delicious. 

I have all my fingers and toes crossed that Vanessa Curtis is planning a follow-up book because I would absolutely love to read more about Amelie and find out what happens to her next.  If this book was a cake it would be the best one you'd ever tasted!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: The Iron Trial - Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, published by Doubleday on 11th September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Callum Hunt has grown up knowing three rules by heart. Never trust a magician. Never pass a test a magician gives you. And never let a magician take you to the Magisterium.

Call is about to break all the rules. And when he does, his life will change in ways he can't possibly imagine.

A double team offering from bestselling authors Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.  I've never read anything by the latter before but I love Cassandra Clare so I was dying to get my hands on this book which sounded brilliant.

It's the first in a new five book series which will follow the main character Call through each year of his life at the Magisterium.  Callum Hunt, or Call as he is known, reluctantly enters the Magisterium against the wishes of his father.  He must learn to hone his magical skills and abilities, even though he has always been told that magic is dangerous and must never be used. 

I loved seeing life at the school.  Everything from the training lessons, to the friendships which are formed between Call, Aaron and Tamera, to the magical foods and challenging tests were a treat to read about.  It was also great to see Call gradually embracing his magical gifts and learning more about his past, as he becomes someone at the Magisterium that the others can begin to rely. 

There is a brilliant twist near the end which was very unexpected but definitely changed some of my opinions about the characters and the direction of the series in an extremely positive way.  I'm excited to see what will happen to Call and his friends next.     

Yes, there are similarities to Harry Potter but so what.  It didn't bother me at all.  This is still a fantastically entertaining and magical read which I really enjoyed and which swept me away for a couple of hours while I became totally immersed in the intrigues of the plot and the struggles of the characters. 

The second book in the series is due for release in 2015 and I for one will be first in the queue to get a copy. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: One More Chance - Abbi Glines

One More Chance by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd September 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Grant Carter did everything in his power to convince Harlow Manning that he was a good guy. More than a smooth-talker and someone she could trust. He had to overcome his reputation as a playboy, and his history with Harlow's half-sister, Nan, a woman with a reputation of her own.

Harlow had taken the chance, falling hard and fast for the guy who thrilled her with his all-consuming desire. After a lifetime of avoiding bad boys like Grant, she had opened herself to the possibilities of love...

But a life-changing secret has torn them apart, and now Grant and Harlow must decide if they have enough fight to make it work - or if the pain of betrayal has permanently destroyed their future.

This is the concluding part of Harlow and Grant's story which began in 'Take a Chance'.  I found it one of the most emotionally moving books that I've read so far in the series.  It was hard to see the words on the page at times because I was crying so much.

The point of view alternates between Harlow and Grant as we get to see them on the next stage of their journey together.  The narrative intersperses various letters as well which really added such a poignancy to the book.  It goes without saying that I loved Grant but actually I adored Harlow too.  She is such a pure-hearted and good person, both inside and out, that you cannot help but wish that you had someone like her in your life.

The book was a quick read but only really because I couldn't put it down!  I always have to read Abbi's books in one sitting because they are so wonderfully good and totally addictive. 

I love the Rosemary Beach crowd and it was great getting to see some of the other characters again.  I was taken aback by the unexpected act carried out by one of them and thrilled to see them all taking such a big part in each others' lives.  I'm over the moon as well that we will finally get to read about Tripp and Bethy who are the subject of the next book.  I think that this is the one that we've all been waiting for! 

Pitched absolutely perfectly, Abbi Glines will break your heart with this story of a love so strong and true that it can conquer any adversity.  A perfect fairy tale finish for one of my favourite couples.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

News: Bath Children's Literature Festival 2014

Every year I wish I was able to attend the Bath Children's Literature Festival.  They always have a stellar line-up of authors talking about their new books and this year is no exception with some fabulous guest speakers.

Moira Young and Michael Grant are going to be there on Sunday 5th October and even more excitingly, if you are able to get a ticket, then on Saturday 4th October you will be able to see Holly Black and Cassandra Clare in their first UK event together.  They are going to be discussing their new book 'The Iron Trial' which is the first in the Magisterium series.  I am dying to read this one which sounds absolutely fantastic.

The Festival runs from 26th September to 5th October and you can find out lots of information about tickets and the schedule here

Comment and let me know if you're attending.  It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Review: Trial By Fire - Josephine Angelini

Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 28th August 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

This is quite a difficult review to write because I loved Josephine Angelini's Starcrossed trilogy and have been anticipating this new series for ages now.  Unfortunately 'Trial By Fire' and I got off to a bit of a shaky start and never really recovered by the end of the book.

The first in the new Worldwalker trilogy centres around the main character Lily, who is allergic to everything.  This means that her life is restricted by all the things that she can't do.  Lily lives in Salem and after a difficult situation at a party with her best friend Tristan, she ends up disappearing.  When she wakes up she is in a different Salem altogether where her whole existence begins to change and she discovers things that she could only ever have dreamt of before.

Two things feature heavily in this book: witches and parallel universes.  I don't have a good track record with books about witches at all for some strange reason, even though I'm always hopeful that a story will make me change my mind.  Sadly, 'Trial By Fire' didn't.  I found it too heavily leaning towards fantasy and although the world building in the book was extremely well done, I just couldn't connect to the story itself or the characters.  It was only when I got about half-way through that things started to pick up and I became more engaged.   

Lily is normally a character that I would have loved but I never fully warmed to her or her predicament.  The romance which developed between her and Rowan was  a bit lacklustre and not enough to get me wanting to pick this book up either.

I'm really disappointed because I was dying to read this one and was expecting to be raving about it but this book and I just didn't click. 

The second in the trilogy 'Trail of Tears' will be published in 2015.  I haven't made up my mind yet whether I want to continue with Lily's journey but I know there are lots and lots of fans of this book out there who loved it, so if you think it sounds like your kind of read then please give it a go.    

Friday, 5 September 2014

Review: Messenger of Fear - Michael Grant

Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant, published by Electric Monkey on 26th August 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear.

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out...

I'm a massive Michael Grant fan so I was desperate to read this book.  The Gone series introduced me to his incredible writing and jaw-dropping stories but was almost too amazingly good, making it hard for any of his other series to really live up to it.  'Messenger of Fear' was brilliant but I still miss the Fayz and the characters that I had grown attached to. 

If you are looking for a creepy, shocking story which is all out gruesome at times then this is the book for you.  Horror fans will love it as Grant doesn't hold back from inviting the reader to join Mara on her twisted journey.  When Mara finds herself an unwitting accomplice to the Messenger of Fear she struggles to remember how she ended up with him.  She gradually starts to piece her memories back together which leads to a fantastic twist about her identity.  The Messenger himself has been appointed to uphold the balance.  If someone commits a terrible act then he ensures that they are given the choice to pay or play.  This leads to some harsh lessons being dealt but all with the expectation that the person will learn to be better because of it.  

There are lots of interwoven mini stories and characters throughout the book whose fates unravel as the plot progresses.  Some of these stories were actually quite difficult to read about, as not everyone gets a happy ending.  What I love about Michael Grant's books though is that happy endings are really immaterial.  He is never afraid to wrench one of your favourite characters away from you or to confront the reader with a difficult scene if he feels that it is right for the story. 

The plot is incredibly unique and original and I really did enjoy it, even though it didn't quite wow me as much as some of his other books have done in the past. A sequel is planned but you will have to wait until 2015 to get your hands on it.        

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Review: If You Leave - Courtney Cole

If I Leave by Courtney Cole, published by Hodder & Stoughton on 20th February 2014 

Goodreads synopsis:
26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can't get past, he needs someone who can help him heal...even if he doesn't realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn't need anybody...or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents' messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there's no way in hell that she's ever letting that happen to her.

They don't know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other. But Gabriel's got a secret, a hidden monster that he's afraid Maddy could never overcome... And Maddy's got issues that she's afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they've got demons to fight.  And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.

This is a cross between an Adult and New Adult book but whichever category you put it in, it is a really moving and quite emotional read.  This is the second book in the series but I don’t think that it matters too much if you read them out of order because they are more like standalone stories anyway.  Some characters do appear in this one from the first book but I personally don't feel like it spoils anything.
Maddison or Maddy as she’s known to her friends and family is searching for something although she doesn’t quite know what.  Gabriel (which happens to be one of my favourite guy names ever!) is running from something which haunts him.  The two together are a combustible combination if they can first help each other deal with the ghosts of their past.
I wasn’t too sure about Maddy to begin with.  She displays some behaviour which I wasn’t particularly a fan of.  However, as I got to know her and learn more about what she had sacrificed, I came to really admire her and her self-sacrifices.  She is incredibly tough and very protective of her younger sister which is another quality I loved about her.  It was great getting to see her character grow over the course of the story and come out a stronger person on the other side.
Gabe on the other hand I liked instantly.  He is dealing with a lot of issues but his determination to overcome these made me like him even more.  I loved the way in which he eventually became someone on whom Maddy could lean on, rather than her always having to look after herself.
Courtney Cole does a great job of showing the emotional and mental impact that serving in the military has on the brave men and women that go out there to protect us and this was an element of the story which really resonated with me. 
‘If You Leave’ was a fantastic book which I devoured in one sitting. I will definitely be picking up book three which is about Gabe's sister and is called 'Before We Fall'.  

Monday, 1 September 2014

Review: Dark of the Moon - Siobhan Curham

Dark of the Moon by Siobhan Curham, published by Electric Monkey on 3rd July 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
For Grace, being shipwrecked on a deserted island has brought two good things: new friendships . . . and Cruz, her soulmate. But as her romance with Cruz intensifies, so do the strange happenings on the island. A girl haunts Grace’s dreams – but what does she want? And will she ever let Grace leave?

Love, betrayal and voodoo darkness, beneath a seething sun . . .

Dark of the Moon’ is the second book in the Shipwrecked trilogy by Siobhan Curham.  I will admit that the opening instalment in the series didn’t totally wow me, although I found it enjoyable enough but the excitement steps up in this one which I devoured and really loved. 
I enjoyed it much more than the first book because I felt like I was thrown right into the middle of the action.  Siobhan Curham never once let up on the sense of danger which hangs over the group or the sense of unease that you experience from them being on the island.  There were also a lot more intriguing and unexpected twists along the way which had me hook, line and sinker. 
Grace and her friends are still trying to escape the island and the Voodoo Queen Hortense.  When they leave on a boat, hoping to find their way home, they realise that escape may not be possible until Hortense’s plan has played out to its full conclusion.   
There's romance between Grace and her boyfriend Cruz, plus friendship drama between Grace and Jenna who is struggling to hold things together.  The other secondary characters, Belle, Todd and Flea also feature but I kept expecting something terrible to happen to one of them the whole way through.
The ending was a huge surprise. Wow!  I didn’t see it coming at all and desperately didn't want the story to end.  I'm in absolute shock and the suspense of what is coming next is going to kill me!
This is a sizzling, spooky and supernatural read which is perfect to slip into your beach bag on a hot, sunny, summery day. 
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