Thursday, 26 February 2015

Review: Unlovely - Celeste Conway

Unlovely by Celeste Conway, published by Merit Press on 2nd January 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Accidents happen. But they happen more often when the beautiful ballet dancers return each summer to the island. When he hears the ruthless way that the loveliest dancer talks about boys getting what they deserve when they break girls' hearts, Harley, home for the summer after his first year of college, wonders if he's losing his mind. He knows for sure that he's losing his heart to this girl...But then, strange incidents start happening all over the island and Harley is caught between desire and fear: could he also be in danger of losing his life?

I haven’t read any books by Celeste Conway before but I was attracted by the absolutely beautiful cover and the fact that it featured ballerinas. Two of the things which are guaranteed to make me pick a book up!

The main character Harley starts a summer romance with a beautiful ballet dancer called Cassandra. Although he hasn’t gotten over Mairin, the girl he thought he would always be with, she has moved on and closed that door behind them. Harley is initially infatuated with Cassandra, but then terrible things start happening to the boys who ‘supposedly’ wrong the ballerinas and his life turns into a nightmare. I loved the way that the story echoes that of the ballet Giselle. This was really clever and made me want to watch the ballet itself now.  I wasn't familiar with the story itself, so I had no clue what was going to happen with Harley and the dancers. 

Harley was likeable and decent but didn’t wow me as the protagonist of the book.  Celeste Conway definitely carried off the male central viewpoint but I would have liked to have seen some different sides to his character, as at times he was a bit one-dimensional.   

I found the beginning of the book started off very slowly and I wasn’t sure if it was going to do enough to grab me. However, I got more involved in the story as events progressed and then I had to keep reading on to find out what was going to happen next. It did tail out again at the conclusion but I like the fact that it left a seed of doubt about what might occur after the reader has finished the last page.

The story combines both romance and horror but I actually thought that the book wasn’t as scary I thought it would be. The horror is more implied rather than explicit and it’s the suspenseful, jumpy kind of horror, rather than the sort that makes you want to keep the light on all night.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review + UK Giveaway: Stung - Joss Stirling

Stung by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 5th February 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Kate has a talent for disappearing. Framed for murder, and hunted by a violent gang, she's running for her life . . .

Nathan is the young recruit tasked with finding Kate before her enemies track her down. He's determined to stay detached no matter what.

But when Nathan and Kate's paths collide, neither is prepared for the electricity that sparks between them. As the net tightens, can they trust each other long enough to stay alive? Or will their next kiss be their last?

Joss Stirling is one of my favourite UK authors and I'm always excited when she has a new book out.  I adore her Soulfinders series but I'm turning into an equally big fan of the titles in her new Young Detective Agency series.  Last year's 'Storm and Stone' (renamed Struck) was a brilliant read and I was hopeful that she would write another instalment.  My wishes were granted with 'Stung' which follows two other members of the team, Nathan and Kate, as they find themselves in danger and on the run.

The story was really exciting, with Nathan tasked with bringing Kate in.  However, she is not the easiest person to apprehend and keeps him well and truly on his toes, as he tries to hunt her down.  I thought the relationship between the two was great, with a kind of love/hate vibe going on in the beginning, until Kate comes to realise that Nathan is on her side and will do anything to help protect her.  I didn't feel the romance between them as much as I had previously done with Raven and Kieran but I think that was in keeping with the overall storyline, which was more about the mystery behind what had happened to Kate and why she was on the run, rather than focusing on the two falling for each other. 

I did prefer Nathan as a character to Kate, but I think that's partly due to the fact that Kate was on the defensive most of the time, so didn't reveal quite so much about herself.  Nathan on the other hand was terribly sweet and also extremely likeable. 

I loved the mystery and action of the plot and the sense of danger that lurked the whole way through the story.  I found the ending really gripping and packed full of thrilling moments.  This was another winning read for me and I'm dying for Joss Stirling to continue the series.  What will happen next?!

UK Giveaway - win a copy of the book!
The lovely people at Oxford University Press have been kind enough to provide me with a copy of 'Stung' to giveaway.  To enter you must have a UK postal address, follow my blog and eave me a comment on this post with your email address.  Good luck!  The giveaway ends on 8th March and the winner will be notified by email shortly after. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: Conspiracy Girl - Sarah Alderson

Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson, published by Simon and Schuster on 12th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Everybody knows about the Cooper Killings – the Bel Air home invasion that rocked the nation.
There was only one survivor - a sixteen year-old girl.  And though the killers were caught they walked free.

Now eighteen, Nic Preston - the girl who survived - is trying hard to rebuild her life. She’s security conscious to the point of paranoia and her only friend is a French Mastiff bulldog, but she’s making progress. She’s started college in New York and has even begun dating.

But then one night her apartment is broken into and the life Nic’s worked so hard to create is shattered in an instant.

Finn Carter - hacker, rule breaker, player – is the last person Nic ever wants to see again. He’s the reason her mother’s killers walked free from court. But as the people hunting her close in, Nic has to accept that her best and possibly only chance of staying alive is by keeping close to Finn and learning to trust the person she’s sworn to hate.

This may be my favourite Sarah Alderson book yet.  It knocked my socks off! 

Tense, exciting, thrilling and with a drop-dead gorgeous and irresistible male co-lead, it was definitely my kind of book.  I couldn't get enough of the characters or the story.  It was utterly amazing and gripping and I never wanted it to end.

Eighteen year old Nic is trying to put her life back together.  She has built some pretty impenetrable walls around herself and she is not about to let them down for anything or anyone.  That is until everything around her starts to crumble and she is once again facing danger from every corner.  A computer genius and hacker, Finn is the only one who seems able to protect her and the two end up going on the run, chased by people who are determined to see her dead.

I was hooked after the first chapter and desperate to find out how the plot was going to unfold.  This meant that I had to stay glued to my seat for several hours as there is no way I was putting this book down!  I was intrigued about the reason behind Nic losing her family but I certainly didn't guess the real reason behind her loss.  I liked the way that Sarah Alderson tied in elements of the storyline with real life events, as it lent an air of authenticity to proceedings.     

Now onto Finn ...I'm willing to fight anyone for him!  He's hiding a lot of secrets but he's also geeky and gorgeous and pretty much perfect in my eyes.  He goes above and beyond to protect Nic and from the moment he came into the story, I fell head over heels for him. 

Sarah Alderson keeps her foot on the gas the whole time, as the tension builds from one extreme to another.  I loved it!  This book was everything a great YA thriller should be with a gorgeous boy who has a heart of gold and a kick-ass, tough heroine at the helm.  I can't recommend this book enough and I will be urging everyone I know to read it immediately. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Review: Apple and Rain - Sarah Crossan

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury in 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

This is the fourth Sarah Crossan book I've read and it reminded me most of 'The Weight of Water' in the way that the main character Apple, expresses her inner feelings and emotions through the poetry that she writes.

The story is about thirteen year old Apple who lives with her Nana but longs for her mother, who left her when she was young, to return.  When her hopes are answered, she believes that she and her mother can rebuild their relationship but things don't turn out to be quite so simple.  The idealistic picture of her mother that she has built up in her head is far from reality and as much as she tries to pretend otherwise, her life starts to spiral out of control. 

There are many of Apple's poems throughout the book and they are really beautiful.  They reflect the tumultuous nature of her relationship with her family.  She has a real gift for words and I enjoyed reading these immensely.  Through her poems she can begin to explore her feelings of anger, disappointment and sadness which she has bottled up for such a long time. 

I thought that the story was very moving and touching and perfectly explores the bonds that are formed between family and friends.  Things don't always work out the way we want them to but that's okay because life always has ups and downs.  The bumps in the road will always be there but with the help of those who love us, it's possible to overcome them and come out the other side in one piece. 

'Apple and Rain' is a brilliant contemporary read by a British author who has a talent for wringing every drop of emotion out of you.  Have your tissues ready!   

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter - Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, published by Scholastic on 5th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.  She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

'The Sin Eater's Daughter' is a glorious fantasy drama that will enchant you and leave you wanting more.  This fabulous debut from UK author Melinda Salisbury, starts strongly and goes from strength to strength as the story builds up the tension between the characters and the political intrigue played out behind the scenes of the Royal Court.

Twylla, the main character, is blessed in the eyes of the Gods.  However, she feels more cursed than blessed, with a deadly touch that can kill a man or woman.  Used by the Queen as a Royal assassin, she has almost become resigned to her life, until she meets Lief, who is tasked with guarding her safety.  He opens her eyes to the truths that she cannot or does not want to see.

There are so many things to love about this book.  I enjoyed the first person narrative immensely.  Twylla is an extremely likeable character who is put in an unenviable position.  Her narrative felt like she was talking directly to me and I empathised with many of the difficult choices she has to make.  She undergoes quite a personal transformation and by the end of the story she is a changed person. 

Yes, there is a love triangle of sorts but it's brilliantly written and left me constantly changing my mind about who I wanted Twylla to choose.  I wasn't expecting to like both male leads as much as I did, even though they both have secrets to hide. 

The ending was totally unexpected and made me rethink my thoughts about some of the characters.  I didn't see it coming at all which is a tribute to Melinda Salisbury's captivating and amazing storytelling skills.   

There's only one thing I want to know now.  Is there going to be a sequel and if so, when can I get my hands on it!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Blog tour: Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines - Katy Cannon

Today I'm hosting a stop on the 'Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines' blog tour.  Read on to see what I thought of Katy Cannon's new book.

With the Great British Sewing Bee back on UK TV screens, this book has arrived at just the right time.  Following in the footsteps of last year's 'Love, Lies and Lemon Pies' (which was one of my favourite titles of 2014), Katy Cannon's new book focuses on Grace, one of the members of Bake Club, as she deals with family issues, drama club and a love/hate relationship with new boy Connor. 

Grace wasn't my favourite character in the first book, so I was a little nervous about the thought of her getting her own story.  However, I need not have worried because I was very pleasantly surprised about her character development and the way we get to see what really makes her tick.  One of the things I like about Katy's books is that she really gets beneath the skin of a person and shows you not to have pre-conceived ideas about people because they will always end up surprising you. 

The sparks between Grace and Connor mirror those of Beatrice and Benedict in the Shakespeare production of Much Ado About Nothing that the school is putting on.  I enjoyed the way in which they don't particularly like each other at first but gradually learn more about the other person and Grace especially, steps up and proves all of her doubters wrong. 

It was brilliant getting to see the rest of the gang too.  I loved the bits with Lottie and Mac and I'm hoping that the next book might be about the ever wonderful Jasper.

In the last book, we had lots of fab recipes to follow and this time it's sewing tasks which appear at the start of each chapter.  I can sew a little bit but these made me want to pick up my sewing basket again and get started on a new project.  I think other readers will love these too and it's a nice way to encourage people to have a go. 

Sweet and wonderfully written, this is UK YA at it's very best.  Katy Cannon has made a life long fan of me!  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest - Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, published by Indigo on 5th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

This was my first Holly Black book and one which I had been really looking forward to reading.  I know Holly Black's subject matter is normally faeries and magical beings, all wrapped up with fantastical plots, so I was expecting great things of 'The Darkest Part of the Forest'.  While it didn't quite reach the heady heights of my favourite books list, I still enjoyed it a lot and would read more by her in the future. 

It took a little while for the story to really pick up momentum.  I'd say that I didn't feel fully immersed in the book until about hundred pages in but although the start was slow, it then kicked up a notch and everything seemed to click into place.  I raced through the second half of the story.   

The plot centres around a brother and sister called Ben and Hazel, who live in Fairfold.  Their small town has faerie folk living in the forest and a sleeping boy with horns on his head lying in an unbreakable coffin.  When the 'boy' finally awakens it spells trouble for the siblings who get sucked into a magical journey of truth and discovery.  I loved Hazel's character and the bond that she and her brother Ben share.  The closeness between the siblings really came across and I liked the fact that they felt almost incomplete without the other. 

Highly original and unique, this book delivered lashings of fantasy, magic and adventure.  I couldn't guess any of the plot twists, had no idea what was going to happen from one chapter to the next and got completely engrossed in the dark magic and mayhem that was generated throughout.  I would quite like to go back and read it again now because I think I would appreciate it more the second time around.  There are so many small details added into the book that I'm sure I would pick up on different aspects of the story on a second read through. 

This was a terrific and entertaining book which I would recommend to readers who are new to Holly Black as well as long time fans.      
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