Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

"Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197."

The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.

Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.

Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid's Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

My Thoughts
The jewel was a really interesting read for me for a variety of reasons.

Firstly I loved the world set up around the main character Violet. When the reader meets Violet she is about to be sold to the highest bidder at auction to act as a surrogate for a wealthy family who are unable to have children of their own naturally. The ideas behind the story were really dark and often left me feeling quite uncomfortable. As a reader you get a real sense of the horror Violet faces and it is a really disturbing read for that alone.

However for me there were too many similarities to other books in the YA market which didn't make it feel original. There are shades if the hunger games in the relationship Violet has with the young man who preps her for auction and the extreme poverty faced by Violet's family in a world where the rich lives in such extreme wealth. There are shades of the selection in the world setting and the themes involving the royal families. The ideas around using young women to produce children for the very rich felt very much like Wither.

For me what I needed is for those bits that made the book unique to have a bit more development. The girls who could produce children appeared to have some kind of supernatural powers which I wanted to know more about because I didn't understand them from the vagueness given in the book.

I absolutely hated the fact that the book decided to include a forbidden love interest for Violet. I didn't think it was necessary and for me it slowed up the story overall. The ending finishes on a huge cliffhanger which is another real pet hate of mine with first books in a trilogy mostly because by the time I get to book 2 any impact the cliff hanger had will have gone because I will have forgotten book one.

All in all an interesting read which had some potential but book two needs more originality, pace and questions answered to keep me interested in the series.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

From international bestselling author, Scott Westerfeld, comes Afterworlds, a brand new, thought-provoking, suspenseful thriller you won't be able to put down!

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings…

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack.

But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

My Thoughts
I have been a fan of Scott Westerfeld for a while. I loved his Uglies series and I really love how diverse he is with his range of novels. I read this novel ages ago and I'm still not sure what I think about it.

The premise behind this novel is interesting. Half of the book is the story of Darcey a teen who moves to New York after getting a book deal. It follows her as she gets into the world of publishing. The second part of the book is the story that Darcey got the book deal for.

I must admit I got bored quickly with Darcey's book. While it started strong and excited I got bored and found myself skimming then skipping that part of the book.

Darcey's story of being published did intrigue me a lot. I've got an insight into how the publishing industry works after a few years of blogging. However I'm not quite sure how it was written for. I didn't see teenagers getting it or being interested in it and for that reason that part of the book felt a bit self indulgent on the authors part.

So as I said an interesting read but definitely not the Westerfeld I will be recommending.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Spirit Blog Tour


Throughout the trilogy, the action moves around a lot – I think it’s pretty clear that I love travelling and I’m very curious about faraway places 

We start off in Edinburgh, on the east coast of Scotland. Edinburgh is a very dark, atmospheric place that has been called ‘the dream of a poet or a serial killer’. Perfect for Sarah, I thought! In particular I always saw Nicholas fitting in there very well there. The scene where he walks down the Royal Mile on a winter’s night is one of my personal favourites. 

Meanwhile, Elodie is in Castelmonte, which is really another name for Caravino, my home village in the north of Italy, and a place I know inside out. It was lovely for me to be able to paint a picture of the mountains and the vineyards and the glacier streams – and not least mention some of the local delicacies! 

Niall and Mike are on Grand Isle in Louisiana – I’ve never been there, so what I describe of the place I found out through research. It’s a fascinating place, with its meeting of cultures and remarkable, natural landscape. I was saddened to find out, while I researched for my Louisiana scenes, that so much of its coast was spoiled by the big oil spill a few years ago. This has been disastrous for both animals and human communities and it broke my heart…

Another location I use is Japan, though it’s only mentioned in passing because Sean, Harry, Elodie and Sean’s former girlfriend (Mary Ann) used to hunt there on behalf of the Ayanami family. Of their time in Japan, I mention the Tokyo metro being invaded by Taizu spirits – this is the subject matter of a short story that I hope to release in one form or another at some point. Japan is a dream destination of mine and I hope I’ll get to visit it sooner or later. 

The second book, Tide, is set on Islay, an island in the Hebrides on the west coast of Scotland. I’ve never been to Islay, but it fascinated me because of its incredible landscape, and I thought it reflected Sarah’s looks and personality well. The Midnight family on its paternal side comes from Islay, where the Midnight mansion stands. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to the Islay Book Festival this year, so I’ll finally get to see my favourite location. 

In Spirit, the scene opens in Venice, where I’ve been many times but I’m still not used to its beauty and dreaminess. Venice was perfect for the mysterious Vendramin family, who reside in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. We also catch a glimpse of the Tuscan hills, where Micol hails from. 

The entrance to the shadow world is in Poland, in the Bialowieza forest, the most ancient forest in Europe. Poland has been in my heart since I visited many years ago, at the age of fifteen. It was so full of culture and history, and the people were friendly and open – for many years I corresponded with a Polish girl called Martyna, whose name I’ve used for Nicholas’ fiancĂ©e. 

Finally, the most spectacular of locations: the Shadow World, the parallel world where demons reside. This is our world, but the way it used to be millions of years ago, frozen in time. It’s a place of terrible beauty and danger, covered in thick forest and populated with fearsome predators. I particularly loved describing its sky, which I imagined perfectly limpid and full of stars, because there are no human sources of light there.
I hope my readers will enjoy travelling with Sarah through Europe and beyond . . . I certainly had a lot of fun doing so!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late.

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

My Thoughts

I will admit I didn't finish this book. I literally couldn't do it to myself.  This book is truly awful. I wish I had something nice I could say about it but I really can't.

To start with I hated every single character with a passion. The main character Britt was a complete brat. She was self entitled and had this big thing about being independent and tough. However she was stupid and naive. She walked into stupid situations without thinking. I hated her best friend (kadie? Kodie? Whatever ...) she was even dimmer than her friend and a complete bitch to the girl who was supposed to be her bestie. I wouldn't trust that girl as far as I could throw her. Even Britt questions why this girl is her best friend. What's worse is she is even more spoiled than her bratty best friend. For example this girl is snowed in with no food whatsoever and is offered something to eat then has the audacity to bitch, refuse to eat it and announce she wants fresh salmon instead. All whilst at gun point too.

Plotline was hilariously awful. These girls travel alone up a mountain with a variety of hiking supplies. They get stuck in the snow and rather than bedding down in the various sleeping bags with their food and waiting for it to blow over they decide to go walking in the snow blindly with the hope they might find help. Lo and behold very luckily for they they stumble upon a hut with two hot but incredibly creepy blokes who they happily decide to stay with. From the moment the door is open the alarm bells are wailing but they just happily wander it oblivious to the danger in front of them because the boys look good.

I could go on from pages about the stupidness and awfulness of this book picking out part of the book that made me scream in frustration or howl with laughter. There are so many lines of dialogue which are so bad they are laughable. I got to about page 150 and wanted to shoot all the characters to put myself out of the misery of having to read about them anymore. I'm pretty certain how this book will go without reading and my suspicions have been bore out by reading other reviews on goodreads.

Absolutely the worst book I have read this year. Avoid at all costs.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Violet and the Pearl of the Orient by Harriet Whitehorn

When a new family move in next door, Violet is sure there's something strange about them. Then her eccentric, but lovely neighbour, Dee Dee Derota, has a precious jewel stolen. Could the new family be to blame? Violet is on the case to uncover the truth…

My Thoughts
Violet and the pearl of the orient is everything I wanted from a middle grade detective adventure story. I loved every page of it and didn't want it to end.

Violet is 10 years old and is shocked when her friend and neighbour's very expensive brooch is stolen and is frustrated when the police dismiss the case despite clues that Violet uncovers and presents to them.

I loved Violet as a character and loved her determination and cleverness and loved following her as she worked on the case.

The story itself is beautifully presented with lots of lovely illustrations to go alongside the text including maps. I do love a good map in a book.

If you loved Robin Steven's Murder Most Unladylike you will adore this book too. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bookcase Showcase: Author Harriet Whitehorn

There are several bookshelves dotted all over the house and they are all a similar mess of authors and genres - I always intend to sort them out but, like tidying my sock drawer, it never happens. Looking through bookshelves is like looking through an old address book; you remember your old friends.

John Fowles was a big teenage crush of mine, and then back before that Monica Dickens, who is nestling up to Mazo de La Roche. When I was twelve I devoured her Jalna saga which is rather like Downton Abbey but set in Canada. Sitting alongside are some of the books I’ve loved recently; Susanna Clarke’s amazing Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell had me engrossed for months and then there’s Rose Tremain, Annie Proulx and Jhumpa Lahiri - all fantastic authors Moving along, there is a section of bookshelf which has the literary survivals of my childhood, and some of my mother

 As you can see from the I come from a long line of firm believers in sellotape. My favourite picture book when I was young was Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner. I couldn’t quite tell you now why I did love it so much, but I remember getting my parents to read it to me over and over again. Over on the far left, squashed next to Alice in Wonderland is Down with Skool! by Geoffrey Williams and Ronald Searle which was the first funny book I read and still makes me chortle. Then a couple of the What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge. These were a present from my godmother and I think I was as much taken by the red embossed leather covers as their content. And then there’s my childhood copy of the Return of the King- the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers must have disintegrated beyond sellotaping.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Review: This Book is Gay by James Dawson

Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people 'across the spectrum', this inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-have read

My Thoughts
Another brilliant book from James Dawson. What I love about Jame's non fiction works is that they give the facts straight without being judgmental or preachy as well as being frank, informative, funny. I love that is doesn't shy away from the details teenagers want to know but parents and teachers might shy away. I want to buy copies for all the parents and teachers of teenagers I know.