Thursday 28 May 2015

Review: Finding Audrey - Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, published by Doubleday Children's Books on 4th June 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Audrey can't leave the house. she can't even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start.And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

'Finding Audrey' is Sophie Kinsella's first young-adult novel.  I love all of her other books, especially the Shopaholic series, so I knew immediately that I wanted to read this title.  I wasn't sure what to expect, as I didn't know a lot about the subject matter but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it and laughing a lot as I was reading it too. 

Wonderfully funny and heart-warming, the story centres around fourteen year old Audrey.  Audrey is a fantastic character who I instantly liked.  We learn throughout the course of the book that she is suffering from social anxiety disorder after an incident at her school.  She can't leave the house, she wears dark glasses all the time and she struggles to make eye contact or even to talk to people she doesn't know.  All in all, she is finding things hard going and is struggling to get her life back on track.  I actually don't think I've read a book before which deals with this subject matter.  I thought that Sophie Kinsella did a great job of portraying Audrey's emotions and feelings and I felt much more informed about the disorder itself and the effect it can have. 

Audrey's family are absolutely brilliant.  I adored her computer mad brother Frank and I loved the constant battle her Mum has to separate Frank and his beloved computer games.  She certainly goes to some extreme lengths but it's always clear that she is doing it because she wants the best for him. Audrey's Mum is quite a larger than life character in the book and is often at the centre of some of the funniest moments in the book.  Ultimately, you can see what a close knit family they are and the subtle ways that they are there to support each other.  

Frank's friend Linus also helps Audrey to face the world again and I enjoyed seeing the progress that she makes to try and overcome the emotions that she is struggling with.  By the end of the story she has undergone a lot of positive changes.  Her message is one about facing life's ups and downs and trying to always have the courage to deal with the good and the bad.  It's an uplifting story which teaches us to the importance of living without fear. 

Monday 25 May 2015

Review: The 100: Homecoming - Kass Morgan

The 100: Homecoming by Kass Morgan, published by Hodder on 26th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Weeks after landing on Earth, the Hundred have managed to create a sense of order amidst their wild, chaotic surroundings. But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from space.

These new arrivals are the lucky ones - back on the Colony, the oxygen is almost gone - but after making it safely to Earth, GLASS's luck seems to be running out. CLARKE leads a rescue party to the crash site, ready to treat the wounded, but she can't stop thinking about her parents who may still be alive. Meanwhile, WELLS struggles to maintain his authority despite the presence of the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards, and BELLAMY must decide whether to face or flee the crimes he thought he'd left behind.

It's time for the Hundred to come together and fight for the freedom they've found on Earth, or risk losing everything - and everyone - they love.

This is the third and final book in The 100 trilogy.  I absolutely love this series so I delved straight into the opening chapter as soon as the book arrived.  I devoured it in one sitting too!  It was sooo good and a brilliant ending to what has been a fantastic adventure.  Everyone's stories were concluded properly and no loose ends were left which always drives me mad.  Although I am a massive fan of these books, I haven't actually been watching the TV series...yet.  I have all the episodes recorded but I didn't want to watch them until I had finished reading the books.  I'm now going to have a huge catch-up weekend.  It will be interesting to see if I like the same characters when I see them on TV and whether much of the plot has been changed. 

The story itself picks up where 'Day 21' left off.  The colony is on it's way to earth in the remaining drop ships and the 100 have to adapt again when they arrive and immediately begin to disrupt their carefully ordered existence.  Once again, Morgan shows us all the key players - Glass, Clarke, Wells and Bellamy, and how they cope with the adults arrival. 

My favourite couple has always been Glass and Luke, so I was desperately rooting for them.  I wanted them to get their happy ever after, particularly in light of all they had gone through to get to earth.  Clarke, Wells and Bellamy also have their own challenges to face and I enjoyed following them on their journeys.  They have had to do a lot of growing-up in a short space of time but they have matured and changed a lot since we were first introduced to them.

Exciting action and adventure is driven at a relentless pace in this final instalment.  The various factions get the opportunity to face off against each, as the battle for survival reaches a climatic finish.  I have really enjoyed the different settings in the series and seeing how all the characters have managed to survive both in space and in a foreign and unknown environment.  Brilliant from start to finish, I would highly recommend this series.    

Monday 18 May 2015

Review: All Fall Down - Ally Carter

All Fall Down by Ally Carter, published by Orchard Books on 5th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Grace can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay - in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.

'All Fall Down' is the first in a brand new series from the author of the Gallagher Girls books.  This was one of my most hotly anticipated titles of the year and it did not disappoint.  Like all of Ally Carter's books, it was fast-paced, suspense driven and exciting with a typically plucky female protagonist and a whole cast of other fab characters.  I really loved it and I can't wait for the next book in the Embassy Row series. 

The story centres around teenager Grace who goes to live with her Grandfather in the US Embassy, based in Adria.  Grace is haunted by the death of her mother three years before and vehemently believes that she was murdered, rather than having died accidentally in a fire.  No one will believe her, so she sets out to prove them wrong. 

I really loved Grace.  Ally Carter's characters are always fantastic but I clicked with Grace from the very beginning.  She is driven, brave and isn't afraid to take risks.  She is not someone who will give up easily and she is undeterred by the people around her who are trying to stop her from pursuing her mother's death.  Her single-minded mission is dangerous but Grace seems to thrive on getting herself out of sticky spots. 

There is a great cast of secondary characters in the story too.  Megan, her new best friend Noah and Rosie were all brilliant.  It reminded me of the Gallagher Girls series where they all come together to watch each other's backs and protect one another.  I desperately want to see more of Alexei too, the Russian boy next door, who could be a potential love interest.  He came across as pretty mysterious, so I'm looking forward to a few of his secrets being spilled. 

I thought the setting was very unique too with the story taking place in and out of a whole row of international embassies.  The plot was fantastic and there were lots of twists and turns which kept me on my toes.  A mega twist and a big reveal at the end, left me in no doubt that I would be grabbing the second book as soon as it's published.   

Thursday 14 May 2015

Review: The Wondrous and the Wicked - Page Morgan

The Wondrous and the Wicked by Page Morgan, published by Hot Key Books on 7th May 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Ingrid Waverly has never been more alone, or more frightened. Her sister has fled to London in fear for her life, and Luc, the one person she thought she could rely on more than anyone else in the world, has also disappeared. No one will tell Ingrid where he has gone, but rumours of a fierce leadership battle amongst the supernatural forces who protect Paris are swirling, and Ingrid fears he has been forced into a dangerous position.

And it is a dangerous time to be a leader in this city - the number of demons flooding Paris's streets are overwhelming, and Ingrid and her few allies cannot cope. All the signs point to some kind of final uprising from the Underworld - but how can it possibly be defeated when the only people who stand a chance of doing so are too busy fighting themselves? Once again, everything comes down to Luc and Ingrid, and whether they can draw on each other's strength as well as their own. And this time, love really must conquer all.

'The Wondrous and the Wicked' is the third and final part of Page Morgan's gothic gargoyle trilogy, set amidst the streets of Paris.

The Waverly siblings have already endured so much and faced loss, pain and heartache.  I wasn't sure what more could possibly lie in wait for them.  In this concluding book, they each have their own personal challenges to face before they can have any chance at the lives they really want.  Separated geographically, they are caught in the middle of a dangerous power struggle with heavy stakes.

Page Morgan quickly gets readers up to speed with what happened in the previous instalments.  I was thankful of a speedy recap because it's been a while since I read this series.  It actually reminded me of just how much drama and action had taken place so far.  Everything is still to play for. 

My favourite character in the series has always been Gabby, the feisty and brave younger sister.  At the beginning of the book she has been sent to London for her own protection.  I knew however, that she would still find her way back into the middle of the action.  Gabby isn't one for just sitting on the side-lines.  I have loved the growing romance between her and Nolan, which I'm pleased to say gets even better.  There are some really fantastic scenes between the two of them. 

Ingrid and Luc's romance is played out too with Vander and Luc still vying for Ingrid's heart.  I won't reveal which one wins the girl in the end but I'm sure readers of the series will be more than satisfied. 

This is definitely a very underrated series which I'm pleased to say I have really enjoyed.  I've loved all the gothic and supernatural elements and the wonderfully dark setting of historic Paris where anything could be (and frequently is!) lurking in the sewers.

Monday 11 May 2015

Review: Saint Anything - Sarah Dessen

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen, published by Penguin on 5th May 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

I was incredibly excited to hear about a new Sarah Dessen book.  I'm a big fan of hers and associate her with stories about summer, growing-up and relationship dramas.  'Saint Anything' ticked two out of three of those boxes.  This definitely wasn't my favourite Dessen novel, I think partly because of the characters and partly the storyline itself, but it was still pretty great and dealt with some powerful subjects. 

The book starts with the main character Sydney recounting the story of what happened to her older brother Peyton.  There's a lot of hero-worship mixed in with new feelings which have surfaced in relation to his behaviour.  I could empathise with the situation she felt in and the fact that she believed herself invisible to her parents.  They were consumed with trying to help her brother and make sense of his situation and Sydney feels pushed to the side-lines.  There's no doubt that she loves Peyton but she understandably also experiences a sense of guilt about the anger she has towards him.  The brother-sister bond is one which Dessen explores a lot in this novel and that was one of my favourite elements of the book. 

When Sydney starts at a new school, she meets Layla and her brother Mac.  Being part of their group, helps Sydney to understand where she fits in and their friendship is the catalyst for her finally starting to get her own life together.  I particularly liked Layla, especially the way she takes Sydney under her wing and the way she freely offers her hand in friendship without any strings attached.  For some reason and I can't quite put my finger on why, I wasn't as keen on Mac which is a shame because normally I love the male protagonists in Sarah Dessen's books.  He had lots of great qualities but I just didn't fall in love with him.       
A lot of heavy and serious themes are touched upon in 'Saint Anything' and I thought that these were all explored in such a way as to really make the reader think about what they would do in the same situations.  There are no right or wrong answers but it came across that everyone has to do what they personally feel is right, rather than trying to conform to what someone else thinks they should do or how they should act.

Sarah Dessen's books always feature stand-out writing and this was no exception but I found the pace a little slow at times and the romance felt a bit flat.  I would still recommend giving this one a go but there are other titles by her that I personally have enjoyed more. 

Thursday 7 May 2015

Review: Rogue - Julie Kagawa

Rogue by Julie Kagawa, published by Mira Ink on 7th May 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant.

Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George.

If you're looking for a scorching hot read, then look no further than 'Rogue' by Julie Kagawa, the follow-up to the brilliant 'Talon'.  The second book in this fantastic series manages to do what few books can and that is to be even more gripping and captivating than it's predecessor.  There's no case of second book syndrome here, as Julie Kagawa cranks up the action, ramps up the tension a couple of notches and leads the reader on a breathless journey of rescue, capture and escape.  'Talon' held me in thrall from the opening chapter and this was one book that I was most definitely going to finish reading in one sitting.

The story picks up after the action of 'Rogue' with Ember and Riley on the run and Garret held to account for his actions by the Order of St. George.  It didn't take me long to get reacquainted with all the characters and the plot threads and I was soon immersed back into the world of dragons.  I have read a lot of dragon books, going through quite a phase when I was in my teens, but this is the first series I've read where the author is spot on with the mythology and the world building.  I love the idea of dragons assimilating themselves into the human world and walking amongst us without anyone realising.     

The commentary is shared between Ember, Garret, Riley and Dante, with occasional flashbacks to twelve years ago when Riley, as rebel dragon Cobalt, was still working for the organisation he now despises.  I wasn't too sure about Riley in the last book but he has suddenly become my number one favourite character.  It was great discovering more about him and his past and I really enjoyed all the scenes between not only him and Ember but also him and Wes, his right-hand man.  The love triangle between Riley, Ember and Garret continues to play out and while I feel strongly that I know which way it's going to end up, I am still firmly shipping Riley and Ember as a couple.  They are great together and share a real understanding and bond.   

There are some terrific action sequences in the book, particularly in the second-half of the story and I was on the edge of my seat throughout these.  I honestly had no idea if everyone was going to make it to the end of the book alive.  There is also a humongous revelation right at the end of the last chapter which leaves the reader on a massive cliff-hanger.  I need to know now what is going to happen next! 

The third book in the series, 'Soldier' will be published in 2016 unless my wish is granted and it gets an earlier release date!

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, published by Bloomsbury on 5th May 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

'A Court of Thorns and Roses' should be on everyone's to-read list.  An epic fantasy with adventure, danger, drama and romance, it proves Sarah J. Maas's credentials yet again as the one author you don't want to miss out on.  She is on my auto-buy list and dare I say it (because normally I can't choose just one) may actually have taken the crown of my favourite author.  If you haven't discovered her yet then you must be living under a rock! 

The Throne of Glass series is one of the best fantasy series out there.  I didn't think anything would be able to come close to topping it until I read this book and was totally blown away.  Gripping and entrancing from start to finish, I loved every single second of the story.  It was even better than I'd imagined it would be. 

The story centres around main character Feyre who slaughters a wolf while out hunting.  Trying to provide for her father and two sisters, she will do whatever it takes to keep food on their table.  However, Feyre finds herself having to pay for her actions and ends up in the faeries world of Prythian - her prison or her salvation?

Feyre has all the best traits and characteristics of a Sarah J. Maas heroine.  She is incredibly strong - not necessarily physically, but she is strong in mind.  She is a survivor and will always find a way out of the most difficult situations.  She is brave, fearless and adaptable.  She is someone to admire.  Her relationship with High Lord Tamlin was one of my favourite things about the story.  Although their first meeting sees them not exactly getting off on the right foot, they soon become more to each other.  I enjoyed watching their bond deepen and grow as they begin to understand each others character.  Another interesting relationship is set up near the end of the book between Feyre and a new character.  I'm intrigued to find out how this is going to develop and how it will affect Feyre's romance with Tamlin. 

This book had it all!  The second half was so exciting that I couldn't put it down.  While I wanted to make the story last, I also just had to race through it because I needed to know desperately what was going to happen next.  A stunning read with a heart shattering romance at it's centre.  I adored this book.  It was phenomenally brilliant and I'm dying to read it all over again.   

The first in a trilogy, I can't believe that I have to wait until I get more of Feyre and Tamlin.  It's going to be so hard but I shall be counting down the days until publication day for book two. 
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