Thursday, 25 August 2016

News: Hashtag Reads - Simon and Schuster

One of my favourite publishers is Simon and Schuster who have provided readers with some of the best YA titles of recent years. Today is the launch day of the very first newsletter for their online community Hashtag Reads.

Hashtag Reads is home to some of the best-loved YA authors including Cassandra Clare, Gayle Forman, Paige Toon, Morgan Matson and Darren Shan. It’s a great place for readers to find out about the latest YA reads, hear more from their favourite authors, read exclusive material and enter the hottest competitions.

You can find them online via:
Twitter: @hashtagreads

Sign up to the Hashtag Reads newsletter using the handy form below and you will automatically be in with a chance to win your height in books. Wow! That's one prize I would absolutely love to win!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: The Boy Most Likely To - Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick, published by Electric Monkey on 9th June 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To find the drinks cabinet blindfolded, need a liver transplant, and drive his car into a house.

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To . . . well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard . . .

I was really looking forward to read 'The Boy Most Likely To' the follow-up to Huntley Fitzpatrick's novel, 'My Life Next Door'.  I loved the latter which featured the romance between Samantha and Jase and I was excited about picking up with all the characters again.  I was however, a little worried about the fact that the story this time around focuses on the relationship between Jase's sister Alice and Tim who we were previously introduced to.  Alice I liked but I didn't feel the same about Tim.  I just had my fingers crossed that he would begin to grow on me. Sadly that didn't happen and while I enjoyed elements of this book, Tim failed to win me over. 

Alice has a lot on her plate and has taken on responsibility for helping to keep her family together while her father is in hospital recovering from an accident.  She is trying to finish nursing school, at the same time as supporting her mother with babysitting and keeping track of the family finances.  She definitely doesn't have time for romance and certainly not with Tim who comes with his own set of issues.  Whereas Alice is extremely adult in nature, Tim is the complete opposite.  He is royally screwing up his life and seems much more immature. 

There is a pivotal event in the book which begins to change Tim's outlook on life.  I won't spoil it and mention what it is but I didn't like this element of the storyline and I found it quite contrived.   

I was also slightly disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Jace and Samantha.  They appeared at various moments in the book but they were always in the background and didn't feature in the main plot at all.  I would have much preferred a follow-up to their story, rather than Alice and Tim.

What I did love was the Garrett family.  The children are all adorable, especially George who is so sweet and asks the best questions.  I enjoyed reading about them and they pop up a lot throughout the story. 

This book took me a long time to finish which is unusual for me as I normally read very quickly.  I think I was really looking for something which was a bit more light-hearted for summer and this most definitely wasn't it. 

Review: And I Darken - Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White, published by Corgi Childrens on 7th July 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

'And I Darken' is the first in a new trilogy by author Kiersten White, who has reimagined Vlad the Impaler as a female called Lada and has set about breathing new life into a series of historical characters. 
I loved the start of the book.  I was absorbed by the story and the characters and I couldn't put it down.  I'll admit that my interest waned a little in the middle when I felt the pace of the story got a bit bogged down but then it picked up again at the end and I was sucked back in. 
I haven't seen a female heroine like Lada before in YA.  She is most definitely an anti-princess.  She refuses to be beholden to anyone, she fights as well as any man and she is determined not to let anyone control her or own her.  Occasionally, I found her quite difficult to like.  She's so tough and prickly that it's hard to get past the armour she surrounds herself with.  Her achilles heel (if indeed she has one) is her love for her younger brother Radu. 
Radu was my favourite character in the book.  There is a lgbt angle to his storyline which was well written and depicted.  He spends a lot of the story conflicted about his feelings but I really felt that he came into his own in the second half.  He and Lada have a complex relationship which only becomes more complicated when they meet Mehmed, the son of the Sultan. 
Brutal and bloody, 'And I Darken' pulls no punches and spares you nothing.  It's very in your face.  It blends historical fiction and fantasy together brilliantly and is an extremely intriguing opening to the series.    

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: Run - Kody Keplinger

Run by Kody Keplinger, published by Hodder Childrens Books on 14th July 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and an alcoholic mom. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never stayed out past ten p.m., never gone on a date and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally-blind daughter, but Agnes isn't quite sure what they are protecting her from.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs more deeply than anything else. But when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, police sirens wailing in the distance, Agnes is faced with the biggest choice she's ever had to make. Run, or stay?

I normally always enjoy a new Kody Keplinger book.  Her writing is refreshingly real and honest and that's something that really appeals to me.  I have to be totally honest myself though and admit that 'Run' didn't really do it for me.  I didn't out and out dislike it but it didn't compare well with some of my favourites from her other titles, such as 'The Duff' which still holds the top spot.

The story is about two girls who could not be more opposite but who end up becoming best friends.  Bo is the wild girl about town who has a big reputation but is it all talk?  Agnes is visually impaired and has always been the one to follow others.  She is not a risk taker or a rule breaker but her relationship with Bo might well change all of that. I did like Agnes but Bo was a lot harder to warm to.  I felt that she took advantage of their friendship a lot and never fully developed into someone who I could end up rooting for. 

I also wasn't particularly keen on the format of the book which jumped backward and forward a lot of the time.  I usually prefer a much more linear structure and found myself losing interest a lot of the time.  As well as the timeframe, the narrative also alternated a lot too.  Bo and Agnes both get to tell the story from their own points of view.  I found Agnes's chapters fairly enjoyable but I ended up skimming through some of Bo's narrative. 

The ending was unusual and wasn't really what I was expecting.  Frankly it just fell flat and for me, the book didn't finish on a high note.  It's a shame because I have enjoyed most of Kody Keplinger's books in the past.  I'm going to chalk this one off and move onto anticipate her next offering.    

Review: To Have and To Hold - Lauren Layne

To Have and To Hold by Lauren Layne, published by Headline Eternal on 26th July 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Discovering her fiance is a con man moments before they exchange vows devastates LA celebrity wedding planner Brooke Baldwin. With a fresh start in New York and her first Wedding Belles bridal client, things are looking up. Until she meets the uptight businessman who's holding the purse strings...

Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank cheque and be done with his sister Maya's wedding, but micromanaging the event is his only chance at proving that Maya's fiance is a liar. He needs the help of her stunning, sassy wedding planner who he finds both irritating - and undeniably tempting.

Can Seth persuade Brooke to unplan a wedding? And, more importantly, how will he convince her that the wedding she should be theirs?

'To Have and to Hold' is the first book I've read by Lauren Layne and kicks off her brand new series, The Wedding Belles.  An indulgent treat, this was exactly the kind of book that I was in the mood for.  It was sweet and romantic and reminded me a lot of some of my favourite Jill Shalvis titles.  I'm so pleased that there is a whole series about the Belles to look forward to.  I'm going to be reading them all!

Brooke is a wedding planner who has recently moved to New York and has got a job working for the Wedding Belles - a service which helps brides to plan their dream weddings.  She's been hurt in the past but wants to put all of that behind her and move on with her life.  I liked the steely centre that Brooke has and the way that she is always looking for the positives in a situation.  She is one tough lady but she 's also a real sweetheart and I'm sure readers will identify a lot with her.  In the course of helping to plan the wedding of Maya Tyler, she meets his brother, handsome businessman Seth.  Although she is instantly attracted to him, he is much more of a closed book.  He is gruff and appeared controlling at first, but it soon becomes evident that he is just trying to look out for his sister and ensure that she doesn't get her heart broken.  Once you get past his tough exterior, he is a real softie underneath. 

Brooke and Seth both have issues to deal with and there are some ups and downs as they traverse the numerous obstacles in their path.  I never doubted though that they would perfectly compliment each other if only they could truly open up their hearts. 

I thought that the book was sweet, sexy and romantic and very well written.  The characters were rounded individuals who I really liked and there were some intriguing secondary characters too, who I'm hoping to see more of in the future.  They all seem to have their own stories to tell. 

The ending genuinely made me cry and Lauren Layne made me a very happy reader indeed.   

Bring on more of the Belles!  'For Better or Worse' is next in the series and I can't wait.    

Monday, 8 August 2016

Review: Sweet Little Lies - Jill Shalvis

Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 28th July 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Choose the one guy you can't have... As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas - the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she's in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Fall for him - hard... Pub owner Finn O'Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don't ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

And then tell him the truth. Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it's what she wishes for at the historic fountain that's supposed to grant her heart's desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story-because Pru's been keeping a secret that could change everything...

'Sweet Little Lies' is the first book in Jill Shalvis's new series Heartbreaker Bay.  With every book I read by this author, I become more and more a fan of her stories.  I adore her Lucky Harbor series and this was in a very similar vein.  It was feel good, romantic, uplifting and a perfect read to pick up and devour while snuggling into your favourite chair with a big cup of tea.  I am so pleased that Shalvis has such an extensive back catalogue of titles because I seriously want to read them all!

The main character Pru, has spent a large proportion of her life trying to make amends for the terrible series of events that her parents caused.  Her need to give to others and her selflessness lies at the core of her being.  She is always thinking of how she can help people and often puts their needs before her own.  She was a wonderful character and one that I immediately found myself liking and rooting for.  Her latest wish is that handsome bartender Finn will find true love. 

I adored the romance which begins to flourish between Pru and Finn.  She gives him fun and warmth and adventure and in return, he gives her stability, trust and support.  They really compliment each other and I definitely fell for them as a couple.  I cared about what happened to them and I couldn't wait for them to realise that they were just perfect together.  There are some pretty hot and steamy scenes between the two of them and you will be guaranteed to get very hot under the collar. 

The ending was beyond perfect and for some reason reminded me a little bit of Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' which is one of my favourite classics.  I also have to give a shout out to Thor the dog who was utterly adorable and a complete sweetie.  If you haven't discovered Jill Shalvis yet then you need to remedy that immediately.  She's my new go-to author for heart warming romances which leave you feeling all fuzzy inside.         

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Review: With Malice - Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook, published by Hot Key Books on 9th June 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn't just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn't the one to blame?


I love a good YA thriller and 'With Malice' by Eileen Cook ticked lots of boxes for me.  It actually reminded me of '13 Minutes' by Sarah Pinborough in the way that the main character gradually has to regain her memories of a pivotal event and how the storyline unfolds like a puzzle - piece by piece. 

The central protagonist, teenager Jill, wakes up in hospital after a terrible car crash which happened during a school trip to Italy.  She has lots of questions about who was involved and what caused the crash and is shocked to discover that she was the one driving the car.  Was she responsible?  As readers, we are left as clueless as Jill.  Her memories and dreams begin to construct events but are they real and can they be trusted? 

The plot unravels slowly and I found the pace of the book a little frustrating.  Small fragments of information are drip fed to readers by the police interviews which feature throughout the story and by the online comments.  These are left by friends, acquaintances and members of the public who comment on what has become an international incident.

I really liked 'With Malice', although I felt that the ending let it down.  The big finale wasn't as dramatic or as satisfying as I was expecting and it was somewhat of an anti-climax after the brilliant build-up which preceded it.  It was also very ambiguous which isn't something I normally like.  You are left to draw your own conclusions in the end about what you believe is true or false.  

This was a fairly quick read which overall I really enjoyed.  There were a few things about it which bothered me and some loose plot threads which could have done with tightening up but that aside, it was just the kind of thriller that I like.
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