Monday, 31 October 2011

Review: Lola and the boy next door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola and the Boy next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Published by Dutton
Series: Companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss
Source: Purchased myself



Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit -- more sparkly, more fun, more wild -- the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket -- a gifted inventor -- steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

***

I am going to apologise in advance. This review will probably feature fan girl gushing which I will not be able to help in any way shape or form because I loved this book as much as Stephanie Perkin's first book Anna.

From the first page Lola is one of those characters you want to love entirely. She is quirky and crazy but also a really good girl. She does her homework, loves her parents and doesn't stay out later drinking or smoking. The girl has her own sense of style dressing in wonderfully quirky and crazy outfits featuring a variety of bright colours, wigs and her own unique modifications.

Lola's family is a quirky as she is. She was raised by two dad's who both are fiercely protective of her. She has limited contact with her actual parents who gave her up when she was born. What I loved about her family is that despite the fact that from the outside they would appear to be extremely dysfunctional and odd they are in fact a solid and loving family unit who provide Lola on a daily basis with all the support she needs to go out into the world and be the person she wants to be.

The main storyline follows Lola as she goes about her daily life which revolves around school, her boyfriend and the Boy Next Door who, after a gap of several years, has just returned to the neighbourhood and into Lola's life. This development throws Lola completely off balance and makes her question herself.

Now Lola has a boyfriend. An older boyfriend who is a rock god. He is 22 and gorgeous and Lola loves him completely and I must say I was also completely taken in by him. He plays in a band and did I mention he is gorgeous? However when Cricket Bell turns up on the scene Lola starts to doubt her relationship with Max if only in the very back of her minds but continues to dismiss it. I for one loved Max and thought that Lola was crazy to even be questioning her feelings for him and spent a lot of time hoping Cricket would just clear off. However as the book continues you start to see the bad side of Max and start to fall in love with the gorgeous side of Cricket just as Lola does and become torn between the two without knowing which way you (or Lola) should go.

I won't tell you how the story plays out but I will tell you that I loved it and am continue to marvel at Stephanie Perkins's ability to make you fall utterly in love with characters. I was very very pleased to see that both Anna and St Clair make several cameos in this book which make me stupidly happy as I simply couldn't get enough of them in the earlier book.

The final section of the book is just gorgeous. Lola is both put through so much but also ends up with a perfectly wonderful and gorgeous outcome which was so awesomely perfect that it will be left with you for ages. Definitely a book I would recommend whether you have read Anna or not.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

In my Mailbox (66)

In my Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at www.thestorysiren.com

I had an awesome book week this week (although I am now rapidly running out of space in my library)



Raid on Sarah's shelves
So this week I went to visit Sarah (www.feelingfictional.com) She made the mistake of letting me raid her shelves and I ended up taking this lovely lot home ...

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick (UK Hardback)
Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly (UK hardback)
This one is awesome. 
Fury by Elizabeth Miles (UK hardback)
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (UK hardback)
Looking forward to getting onto this ... but I still need to read book 2 in the series.
This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Opel (UK hardback)
Velvet by Mary Hooper (signed UK paperback)
I loved this so very excited to get a signed copy.
Stealing Phoenix (signed UK proof)
Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez (UK paperback)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Anthology (UK paperback)
Dearly Departed by Lia Habel (UK paperback)
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (UK paperback)

Goodie bag
The Invisible Assassin by Jim Eldridge (UK paperback)
Blood by KJ Wignall (UK paperback)
The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan (UK proof)
In Darkness by Nick Lake (UK proof)
These were a complete surprise which I got in a goody bag at the Foyles Cassandra Clare event.


Review
All those things I've done by Gabriella Zevin (UK proof)
This one looks so good.

Bloodline by Katy Moran (UK paperback)

Bloodline rising by Katy Moran (UK paperback)

Spirit Hunter by Katy Moran (UK paperback)

Bought
Steampunk Anthology (UK paperback)
Envy by Gregg Olsen (signed UK hardback)

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Bookcase Showcase: Bloggger Zoe Crook

Hi everyone, my name is Zoe from the blog, Bookhi (http://bookhi.blogspot.com/) and I would like to thank the awesome Kirsty for having me here today.
I don’t have as many books as most of the big blogs out there but I still have a fair amount! I have an old rickety bookcase of which my bright books have dazzled it up a bit and I also have various piles around my room. A lot of my books in the past I have swapped, given to charity shops and got out from the library – but now being such an avid reader I can’t bear to part with them! Before I started blogging I read lots but I didn’t read much of a wide range of genres – however now I will read absolutely anything.




I like to keep my bookshelves quite organised. They are not in alphabetical order or anything, but I keep them quite tidy. On the very top shelf is my TBR books (the Hunger Games are there, I must read them soon!) along with the bookmark pots too.


The next shelves down as you might be able to make out are the Harry Potters, bang in the middle. On the third shelf down I keep classics and general old-fashioned books. I have there Enid Blyton stories, The Hobbit, Little Women, Oliver Twist etc. On top of the photo album (currently photo-less) I keep my library books. After that shelf, you can probably see a (scary looking) homemade stuffed teddy, and other various ornaments.

On the bottom shelf I keep my magazines, annuals, stickers and other worthless stuff crammed at the bottom!


Below are various pictures of some of the piles of books I also have dotted around, including even in my bed!




Thanks again to Kirsty for having me!
Find me:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Review: Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Published by OUP
Source: Purchased myself



A hidden truth.
Mortal enemies.
Doomed love.
Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.


***
Firelight is one of those books which I really enjoyed because it was effortless to read, with a host of interesting characters, an engaging storyline and most importantly of all was that it had its own unique take on the YA paranormal romance genre.

Jacinda was really interesting character as she is forced into a situation which is both put on her to save her from something really horrible but also one that starts to tear her up from the inside out forcing her to be something that she isn't. I quite liked seeing how she struggled to come to terms with that she had to do to save safe and what she wanted and needed to do to stay sane.

I wasn't wholly convinced about the relationship between Will and Jacinda and I suppose that's because it was an attraction due to instinct rather than anything else which left me feeling that I didn't really know Will enough to feel a great deal about him either way. I am hoping future books remedy this so that I can love him a bit more.

The ending did annoy me quite a bit as it left me on a huge cliff hanger which was excruciating. I would have preferred the author to have written a few more pages just to round the whole thing off a little bit more leaving me with the feeling that I'd come to a bit more a satisfying ending.

Don't get me wrong this is a series that I am very interested to continue and I am hoping that it'll turn out to be awesome but at the moment I am very much left a lot of unfulfilled hopes and dozens of questions which I will need answering before I am fully convinced.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Review: Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Published by HarperCollins
Challenge: DAC
Source: Review copy



Their love was meant to be.
When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs.
But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction.
***
I thoroughly enjoyed Carrier of the Mark and would definitely recommend it to someone who is looking for something a little bit different in the YA paranormal romance genre.

I loved the first part of the book as you got to meet Megan and her friends. It was very easy to warm to her as a character and want to get know her even more. I loved the relationships she quickly built up with her friends and also enjoyed the fact that it wasn't one of those YA books where new girl starts at a school and gets pick on by the popular kids and befriended by the weirdos so that we all have to feel sorry for her.

I definitely did feel that this book has taken influences from twilight as there were several points in the books where there were obvious similarities. I don't necessarily say that as a bad thing but it is certainly there.

The book takes a complete change in direction when the paranormal supernatural element is revealed which seems to be based on Irish Druid mythology / history (I'm not really sure which word is most appropriate there) and it certainly quite interesting especially once the storyline starts to dig a little deeper and you get the background to everything that is happening.

I wasn't fully convinced with the relationship built up between Adam and Megan and actually thought it happened all a bit too quickly which annoyed me somewhat. I found their dependence on each other at such a young age a little bit over bearing and creepy and not sure it gave out an entirely appropriate message to teens.

The final section of the book is where everything kicks out and it is certainly action packed. It was a fast paced ride and it certainly kept me hooked and page turning as I needed to know what was going to happen.

All in all a book I certainly enjoyed and a series I will be looking forward to seeing through.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: This is not forgiveness by Celia Rees

I have a bit of a Love / Hate thing going on with Celia's books. I'm not this one is one I get on with.

This is not forgiveness by Celia Rees
Published by Bloomsbury in February 2012



Everyone says that Caro is bad ...but Jamie can't help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can't believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn't know why, but there's no way he's going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro. But as Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is more to Caro - much more. There are the times when she disappears and doesn't get in touch, the small scars on her wrists, her talk about revolutions and taking action, not to mention the rumours he hears about the other men in her life. And then always in the background there is Rob, Jamie's older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect ...but that isn't how things work out in real life, and Jamie is going to find out the hard way. This taut psychological drama is the brilliant new novel from acclaimed Celia Rees

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Review: Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Rules of attraction by Simone Elkeles
Published by Simon and Schuster
Series: Perfect Chemistry #2
Source: Bought from Waterstone Norwich


When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now

***
Rules of Attraction is the second book in the perfect chemistry series which focuses on the second brother Carlos. I loved the first book in the series but absolutely adored this instalment.

From the outset Carlos is very bit the bad boy with attitude. He is angry at the world having been sent to live with his brother in America which he is not in the least bit happy about. He arrives at a new school and settled in way he knows how by partying hard with the cool kids. Within the first few days of enrolling the school is raided for drugs. Before he knows it Carlos is moved into Kiara's home to live with her family and made to join REACH a program for delinquent youths.

The plot of this book is the same as book one, Bad Boy falls for Good Girl and in this sense the book is entirely predictable, there is even a cheesy epilogue at the end but nevertheless I loved it and devoured every page greedily.

I loved Kiara as a main character and thought she was the perfect heroine. She's clever without being a nerd, loves and helps out her family without being a good-two-shoes, has a gay best friend, runs and hikes mountains and knows how to fix cars. All these things rolled into together make her such a cool character. Although to start with Carlos doesn't think so.

I loved seeing how their relationship changed as the book progressed. To start with they hated each other with Carlos's ego getting in the way at every opportunity. However as the book progresses you start to see Carlos's softer side and their relationship begins to change little by little. The tension between them is excruciating with so many near misses.

By the end of the book I was totally sold on Kiara and Carlos being together and I loved how the story went by the very end. A fantastic read with lots of hot and sexy tension which kept me hanging on every word waiting to see what happened next.
conclusion

Monday, 24 October 2011

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Published by Atheneum
Source: Bought myself


Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares. 


***
I have had Nevermore on my shelves for a while and have been put off starting it because of its size, at over 500 page it is a bit of a beast, but I really shouldn't have worried as I whizzed through it in the space of a few hours.

Isobel and Varen are an unlikely couple, forced to spend time together when they are made to do a joint project on the work of Edgar Allen Poe. While you can tell from the outset they are going to get together it's hard to see how at first. However as the book develops you find yourself routing for them more and more, hoping that they'll sort it all out against the odds. Their relationship isn't the usual lovey dovey romance, it's haunting and dark and built up in the creepiest backdrop you'd ever care to imagine which is what makes it uniquely different from other paranormal romances I have read of late.

Isobel on the surface is one of those girl, the one you hated at school for appearing to have it all. It's not until she starts to lose that perfect life, the friends, the cute boyfriend and such like that I started to warm to her especially when you start to see how toxic her friends actually are. I tolerated them up to the scene in the icecream parlour but after that I hated every single one of them. I was also very very annoyed with Isobel's Dad who seemed to have his own personal love affair going on with Brad and treated him like a God even though he'd treated his own daughter like rubbish.

From this point on Isobel became more interesting for me. She meet Gwen (I loved that girl entirely) and starts to delve deeper into Varen's world and finally starts to be pulled into his dream world, facing the very danger that Poe faced himself. These sections of the book were very creepy and I often was left not quite sure what was going on as reality and dream world started to overlap. As the book went on the setting and the events became more and more creepy and in some places quite disturbing.

By the end of the book I was left on a complete cliff hanger desperate to know where the story goes from here. I can't wait for the next instalment!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

In my Mailbox (65)

IMM is hosted by Kristi at www.thestorysiren.com

I received some really awesome books this week ...


This looks fab
This one looks really awesome and I cannot wait to start it.
Not read the other two in this series. Is it a good series anyone?
The description Robin gave of this at the event I went to yesterday was awesome and really has me wanting to read this even though the cover scares me.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Bookcase Showcase; Annabel Pitcher author of My sister lives on the mantelpiece


 Today on Bookcase Showcase Annabel Pitcher has done a guest post as part of your blog tour to conincide with the release of her novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece in paperback.

A bookshelf...  A bookshelf...  That might be tricky.  Having recently moved house, most of my books are still in boxes and I have yet to put up my bookshelves, as you can see.





Eek. 

My mother-in-law is coming for Christmas, so I must sort out the spare bedroom before December.  Until then (*closes door and turns back on all the mess*).

However, I do have something I can show you, and that is the pile of books on my bedroom windowsill.  For whatever reason, these books have been sought out over the past few weeks.  I have risked death-by-dust-and-mess by clambering over the paraphernalia in the spare bedroom and squeezing a hand into a crammed plastic box in search of these very tomes.  You can surmise, therefore, that these books are the ones that are most important to me, at the moment at least.  And here they are:


First up we have The Velveteen Rabbit, revisited recently for its gorgeousness.  Next there are the scripts of The Office and Extras, which I am using at the moment to work out how to structure a programme/play/film as this is an area of writing that I’m interested in.  That’s also why Robert McKee’s Story is on there – quite simply the best book I’ve read on creating a screenplay and a gift from one of my best friends.  To try and work out how to adapt stories into scripts, I’ve been reading a collection called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and thinking about how I’d turn these short stories into plays, which is why the Raymond Carver is on the shelf.

Embarrassingly, my own novel is on the windowsill too, but only because I need it to hand for festivals, visits or literary lunches, like the one I’ve just done at The Galpharm stadium with Joanne Harris.  There are two teen novels (How I Live Now and Before I Die) and I dip into these regularly when I’m in the middle of my own books as great examples of fiction and first person narration.  A study of these novels is a master class in writing for young adults, and I have learned a lot from analysing their structure, voice and characterisation.  While we’re on the subject of children’s fiction, also of note on the shelf is Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and The Amber Spyglass.  I reread the last Harry Potter before the final film and I wanted to look at the love scene between Lyra and Will in the last book of the His Dark Materials series.  Pullman writes so beautifully about first love, and this is important in Ketchup Clouds.

Other works of fiction include Revolutionary Road, The Accidental, The Go-Between, Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress, Love in the Time of Cholera and some classic Dickens and Bronte.  All these would be in my top twenty books of all time, and I like to read bits of them every now and again.  I find it hard to focus on a whole novel when I’m busy creating my own stories, but I’m a compulsive reader so need to dip in and out of my favourites in the evening or if I’m having a coffee break.

Non-fiction I find easier to digest when writing myself, so I’ve recently enjoyed Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, a fascinating book about one man’s life as a writer and a runner, and the similarities between these two lonely pursuits.  I also have to mention The Coast to Coast Guide, which I got out of the box quite recently when returning to Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time since completing the 192 mile hike across England a couple of years ago with my husband.  Quite simply, it was the best experience of our lives and we spent a happy hour looking at the book and reliving the journey.  That’s why Alfred Wainwright is up there too – a delightfully quirky hand-drawn guide to the Lakes, dedicated amusingly to, ‘Those unlovely twins, my right leg and my left leg, staunch supporters that have carried me for over half a century, endured much without complaint and never once let me down (but are nevertheless unsuitable subjects for illustration)’.

Finally, just in view is my favourite bag, Books Are Good, which I take on all my school visits because it has a picture of a ginger cat on the front much like Roger, and at the other end of the windowsill is an oak carving of a girl holding a book, which my parents bought for me when My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece was accepted by Orion – one of the happiest days of my life and a nice reminder of that first thrilling moment when I realised I was going to be a published author.                  

Friday, 21 October 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Doubleday
Challenge: DAC
Source; Amazon Vine



The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
***
The Night Circus is a uniquely different read which conjures up a world you can get lost in.

The Night circus is one of those books that isn't afraid to take its own sweet time when it come to developing the story line and I spent a great deal of time wondering what was actually going on and where on earth was the story going to go.

The writing style used on this book is very descriptive, slowly building up for the reader the world of the Night Circus and giving you a real insight into the magical world of the circus.

I enjoyed following a variety of the characters, my favourite being the twins Poppet and Widget and their friend Bailey. In the end I loved how their story was played out the most.

One thing I did struggle with when it came to this book was how the chapters weren't always in chronological order but rather flitted backwards and forwards which meant at times I was left confused about how everything slotted together.

For me I found the final ending a bit lacking. I had high hopes for something spectacular to happen and it just didn't which did leave me a little bit disappointed as I had invested the time to read the book.

So all in all for me this book didn't meet all the hype surrounding it but I certainly did enjoy it still and enjoyed particularly the fact that it was a unique read with ideas of its own.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Review: The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove

The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove
Published by Catnip
Source: Review Copy

Juliet’s a worrywart, and no wonder! Her little sister, Oaf, follows her around taking notes and singing “The Irritating Song” all day long. Her parents are always arguing about Dad’s clutter. Nana’s so tired of craft lessons that she starts barbecuing things in the middle of the night. And Juliet’s friends Lindsay and Gemma are competing to see which of them is her best friend. Juliet can’t fit in any more worries! But then she makes a remarkable discovery. Behind the wallpaper in her new bedroom, Juliet uncovers an old painting of a very special tree. Nana remembers it well: it’s the Worry Tree, and with the help of the Worry Tree animals, Juliet just might be able to solve some of life’s big problems.

***
I don't read a great deal of books aimed at younger readers and spend a lot more time on those aimed at A YA audience but in this case it was worth making the exception. I loved the worry tree and thought it was a beautifully written and poignant novel which has a lovely message to get across to youngsters.

The Worry Tree revolves around Juliet. Juliet is a worrier. She worries about her sister bothering her all the time, about her grandmother falling and hurting herself, about the school bully, about her parents and more and deals with her worries by sorting and collecting things obsessively (which is why I reckon Non, who is Catnip's editor, sent it to me. It was like reading about my younger self).

Juliet is offered her own bedroom and when she moves in and starts to decorate she finds the worry tree behind the old wallpaper. Her grandmother explains the purpose of the tree and the animals that surround it is to serve as a place to hang all your worries on before going to bed so that you don't have to worry about them anymore and can sleep soundly. Over time this allows Juliet to manage her worries meaning she doesn't have to carry the burden of them around with her day to day. I loved the moral of this and the message it had for youngsters especially in an day and day when children are tested and put upon from an early age if nothing else but government sponsored testing in school.

This side is balanced out with a host of comical character and funny scenes which would engage most youngsters quite happily in the storyline. The family itself were both loving both totally bonkers in themselves with the mad scientist dad, the crazy younger sister and the clever but frustrated grandmother.

Certainly a book I recommend and one I think would be an invaluable resource for primary school teachers covering PSHE lessons in class especially as the back of the book has sections for children to write down their own worries. A fab and highly recommended read.