Tuesday, 31 July 2012

July review

The summer holidays are finally here. That means lots of reading time!!

Books read in July
Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins
My life next door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Purity by Jackson Pearce
Confessions of an Angry girl by Louise Rozett
Torn by Stephnie Guerra
Pushing the limits by Katie McGarry
Debutantes by Cora Harrison
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
The Loners by Lex Thomas
Mistakes in the Background by Laura Dockrill
Dr Horrible and other stories by Zach Whedon
Losing Lila by Sarah Alderson
The Terrible thing that happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne
Dark eyes by William Ritcher
Dollhouse: Epitaphs by Zach Whedon
The Forsaken by Lisa Stasse
Such a rush by Jennifer Echols

Book of the month



Without question it had to be Barnaby Brocket. I must admit it's not the sort of book I would have just picked up and read had it not been sent to me for review but I absolutely loved it

Book events attended

I didn't actually get to anything at all in July and actually had to turn down a few invites because work was so busy at the start of the month. Roll on August as I have a couple of very very excited events lined up!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Torn by Stephanie Guerra

Torn by Stephanie Guerra


Stella Chavez is your classic good girl: straight As, clean-cut boyfriends, and soccer trophies . You’d never guess that Stella’s dad was a drug addict who walked out when she was a kid. Or that inside, Stella wishes for something more.

New girl Ruby Caroline seems like Stella’s polar opposite: cursing, smoking, and teetering in sky-high heels . But with Ruby, Stella gets a taste of another world—a world in which parents act like roommates, college men are way more interesting than high school boys, and there is nothing that shouldn’t be tried once.

It’s not long before Stella finds herself torn: between the best friend she’s ever had and the friends she’s known forever, between her family and her own independence, between who she was and who she wants to be.

But Ruby has a darker side, a side she doesn’t show anyone—not even Stella. As Stella watches her friend slowly unravel, she will have to search deep inside herself for the strength to be a true friend, even if it means committing the ultimate betrayal.


***

Stella is torn between her old friends and her old and what she considers to be boring life and Ruby the new girl who seems really exciting with her outlandish ways and her don't care attitude.

This book was another one of those reads where I found myself losing interest and not actually caring about the trivial day to day existence of a girl who has very few redeeming qualities.

There are a few things within the storyline that kept me interested particularly the storyline involving Ruby and the older man that she started a relationship with but I just felt they were not involved enough to make the story interesting enough on the whole to be an engaging read.

A super short review because quite honestly I don't really have much to say about this one.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Nominate your favourite UKYA reads!

Just a quick post today from me to let you know about something quite exciting



NPR have been complying a list of the 100 best ever teenage reads which features some reads from British authors which is fantastic news. Keris who blogs at UKYA wants to take it one step further and compile a best ever 100 UK YA reads which I think is a brilliant idea because there are so many awesome YA books out there by UK authors.

Go to her post here to nominate your favourites

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bookcase Showcase author Keris Stainton



I used to be fanatical about keeping books, but once I started reviewing and then writing, I had to be more ruthless. Now I only keep books I really love (and sometimes not even then; if they're easily available from my local library and I'm running out of space, even much-loved books sometimes have to go) (which is why the Princess Diaries and Harry Potter series aren't here). 

These shelf units actually have five shelves, but the bottom shelves are my husband's books and magazines, so I've ignored them! 

 
 

Ah, my Secret Shame Shelves (No Longer a Secret). These are the books I've been sent for review and have yet to read. Some of them I've had for AGES. Some of them have been sent to me by lovely bloggers when I've said "Ooh! I really want to read that!" and then they sit there... so embarrassing. 

I made the bugs with my 3-year-old a couple of weeks ago. We were quite proud of them.

 
 

This is half of the next shelf. (The other half is yet more unread books.) The Eloisa James series that I adore and some favourite New York books. I bought the little ornament in Greece years ago, because the old fella's mournful expression made me laugh. 

 
 

The left of the top shelf is dedicated to signed books and books by some of my friends. The Jennifer E Smith proof is there because it was the first book I was quoted in as an author, rather than a reviewer. From The Power of One (my favourite book of all time) onwards, along with the next shelf, are some of my favourite books. The Armistead Maupin books on the right are first editions, which still thrills me since they're my other favourite books of all time. 

I bought the Willow Tree ornament a few years ago - it means "Courage". But one day, when I was arranging the shelves, I knocked her off and she lost an arm. So she stays tucked in to the books now. (The photo on the next shelf is my mum when she was young.) 

 
 

Next shelf down are some of my favourite YA and children's books, including the Enid Blyton books from when I was a kid. Rockoholic is on the top cos I just finished it this week and haven't made space for it yet. 

 
 

The other half of the above shelf. Some favourite non-fiction and parenting books, along with a couple of Sweet Dreams books. I was OBSESSED with Sweet Dreams books as a teen and Thinking of You was my absolute favourite. 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Review: Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins

Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins
Published by Harlequin



Your heart misleads you.  That's what my friends and family say.  But I love Noah. And he loves me.  We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms. It should be  ROSE & NOAH forever, easy. But it won't be. Because he's Amish. And I'm not.

***

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. There are certain parts I really enjoyed and other parts that actually left me feeling a little uneasy.

In some respects this book is completely compelling. The story between Noah and Rose is really touching and actually very believable. I liked seeing that really innocent first love unfold in spite of it all. To a certain extent you really find yourself routing for me.

The thing that really gets me with this book is Rose. I found her to be a really weak character and in that respect not actually that great a role model. I also didn't really agree with her choices and the way she decided to go about changing her life to fit in with the boy she had only just met at such a young age. In that regard I actually found bits of the book, especially towards the end, a bit creepy and definitely unsettling and I felt it almost came across as a bit preachy in places.

The end leaves you on a huge cliffhanger and I am both very interested to see where it goes and also quite scared at the same time as I don't really see anyway back for the characters and am not sure whether I actually want to see what the character does to herself next. The jury is still out on which way I'll go

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Review: The girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross

The girl in the Clockwork Collar by Kady Cross
Published by Harlequin


In New York City, 1897, life has never been more thrilling - or dangerous.

Sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne and her "straynge band of mysfits" have journeyed from London to America to rescue their friend Jasper, hauled off by bounty hunters. But Jasper is in the clutches of a devious former friend demanding a trade-the dangerous device Jasper stole from him...for the life of the girl Jasper loves.

One false move from Jasper and the strange clockwork collar around Mei's neck tightens. And tightens.


***

I wanted to start this book the minute I finished the last one but deliberately held off to savour the experience as I really loved the world set up and the characters involved.

This book picks up where the first left off as Griffin, Finley and co head off to American in attempt to save their friend who has been falsely accused of a crime. Throughout the book you start to get more of the backstory as to why he's been accused and get more into the relationship between Griffin and Finley which I loved. I am absolutely team Griffin all the way as he is completely gorgeous. I loved that the story was really engaging and pacey throughout with lots going on to keep me entertained and twists to keep me guessing.

My only criticism of this book is you can tell that the author is an American writing a British character. This is because the language used is so American in places. For example the main British character uses the term Tardy in a sentence. Find me a Brit who would use that now let alone in Victorian times and I'd be impressed. It really niggles me that the author hasn't considered thing like that over the entire series so far.

So overall I'm hoping there is another book in the series because I need more Finley and Griffin! 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Review: The Glimpse by Claire Merle

The Glimpse by Claire Merle
Published by Faber and Faber


In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.

Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society, and as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe.


***

I really enjoyed The glimpse for several reasons.

First and foremost I loved that it was a UK based dystopian YA novel as there seems to be so much dystopian out there but not much of it being British. I therefore loved the feel of the book and its setting especially when I could picture the rough geography of the closed cities in my mind.

This book deals with an interesting idea in the way the society deals with separating people because of mental illness (or the potential to be carrying one). I found it fascinating as an insight especially consider the discrimination that fairly exists in our society today towards people with mental illnesses. I really liked how the author really got into the debate around what classed as being mentally ill and I think it actually will raise awareness of the discrimination people go through on a daily basis. It also raised a lot of questions about the morality of DNA testing which I found to be really thought-provoking and resonate in today's society.

I really enjoyed following the story of the main character and found her story really engaging from page one. Ana was everything I look for in a character, strong and feisty yet without being arrogant and with enough conviction to stand up for what she believes in. The storyline was pacey and engaging and, while left on a bit of a cliffhanger, didn't leave me with that unsatisfied feeling that nothing had been accomplished as a reader that some books seem to do.

all in all a fab read.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas


It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning.

A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school.

In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.


***

Quite honestly I do not know why I actually finished reading this book. I thought it was a poor imitation of several different novels I have read over the past few months. Certainly not one I'd recommend for several reasons.

One thing I didn't like about this book was the fact that I felt the story dragged at places but then went the other way at times and rushed along at a silly pace and I felt as a reader that I couldn't get my head around what was going on.

I didn't like the characters at all. I couldn't warm to any of them which meant I therefore didn't care what went on or what happened to them.

I found that the book was far to graphically horrible. Some of the scenes were really repulsive to the point where I didn't want to read what was going on. I thought it was over the top and just done for effect.

If you want a series about a group of teenagers left to it go read Michael Grant's Gone series instead.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Review: Unravelling by Elizabeth Morris

Unravelling by Elizabeth Morris
Published by HarperCollins


24 meets the X Files in the biggest teen blockbuster of the summer…

STOP THE COUNTDOWN. SAVE THE WORLD…

Leaving the beach, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit head on by a pickup truck.

And killed.

Then Ben Michaels, resident stoner, is leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows Ben somehow brought her back to life…

Meanwhile, Janelle's father, a special agent for the FBI, starts working on a case that seems strangely connected to Ben. Digging in his files, Janelle finds a mysterious device – one that seems to be counting down to something that will happen in 23 days and 10 hours time.

That something? It might just be the end of the world. And if Janelle wants to stop it, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets – and keep from falling in love with him in the process…


***

 Unravelling is an awesome read. It twists and turns and keeps you on your toes from the very first page right through until the very last

This book was good in how it leads you down one route of thinking and then completely twists and changes your mind time and time again. The book I thought I was reading when I started wasn't the book I finished and I found that to be be really refreshing indeed. In that way I can see why the publishers have been making the comparisons to 24 as you really don't know what's lurking in the next chapter to throw you completely.

I loved the main character Janelle. She is one of those girls you can really get behind. She's spend most of her teenage years looking after her family whilst her mother has been crazy and her father has been mostly absent working for the FBI. I loved the relationship she had with her younger brother whom she thought the world of and actually longed to sweep in there and mother them both (yes I am getting old). I also loved her best friend Alex and the way in which they supported each other throughout the entire book.

One thing I also loved about this book was Ben the resident odd boy turned gorgeous love interest. Seeing his transformation through Janelle's eyes. The chemistry between the two was sizzling in places and it made me desperate to see where their story would go.

On the note of getting older the character I actually really loved was Strutz Janelle's father's partner at the FBI. Can we have an adult spin-off which is based on him and his general gorgeousness?

What I also liked about this book was that when the action kicked off boy did it kick ff. I got to the point where I couldn't put the book down and needed to keep reading to find out what happened next. The only think that irked me a little was when Janelle when mini FBI agent. While I loved her spirit that meant she had the guts to do that I didn't think it was all that realistic and I generally thought it was a little odd.

The end of the story was good but left on a killer of a cliffhanger. I can't see that a sequel won't happen (even though I can't find anything about one yet online) but if it doesn't I will be very cross indeed.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Review: Purity by Jackson Pearce

Purity by Jackson Pearce
Published by Little Brown


A novel about love, loss, and sex -- but not necessarily in that order.

Before her mother died, Shelby promised three things: to listen to her father, to love as much as possible, and to live without restraint. Those Promises become harder to keep when Shelby's father joins the planning committee for the Princess Ball, an annual dance that ends with a ceremonial vow to live pure lives -- in other words, no "bad behavior," no breaking the rules, and definitely no sex.

Torn between Promises One and Three, Shelby makes a decision -- to exploit a loophole and lose her virginity before taking the vow. But somewhere between failed hookup attempts and helping her dad plan the ball, Shelby starts to understand what her mother really meant, what her father really needs, and who really has the right to her purity.


***

I really enjoyed Purity and I thought it was a brilliantly different read from an author I thought I knew so well but I clearly didn't.

Purity is a brilliant contemp novel about Shelby a teenage girl living life according to three promises she made to her dying mother. Keeping those promises proves to be very difficult at times for Shelby as she's torn between the things she might want to do and the things she is told she ought to do. Everything comes to a head when Shelby's father starts to arrange a princess ball during which Shelby will have to promises her purity to her father. Due to her promise to her mother to do as her after says she finds herself in a situation of needing to do all the things she wants to do like have sex to find a loophole out of her promise.

I loved several things about this book. Firstly I loved Shelby and her teenage ways. I love her logic and her morals, the relationships she has with the people around her and the way she lives her life. I thought her quest to have sex before the princess ball was really poignant and funny and I loved seeing how her relationship with her father changed as the book went on.

A quick read at 218 but packed full of laughs and all the different feelings associated with being a teenager. Fab stuff which is highly recommended.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Kieran Larwood

Before I started writing this, I had a peek through some of the other bookcases on this blog and have ended up with a bit of a complex. I certainly don’t have as many books as some folk. My Ikea shelving is a bit cheap and shoddy and I’m worried people will laugh at the size of my graphic novel collection. Here goes anyway.




Space is a bit of an issue in our house, so books really have to earn their place on these shelves. I tend to only keep books that I want to read again- even though I know I’ll never get a chance to until I actually retire. I also tend to get a bit OCD with my book organisation, as you can see. I did have every shelf sorted into sections, but when my daughter was a toddler she discovered the joy of throwing any book she could reach onto the floor, so all that went out the window.

The shelves she couldn’t reach are still in good order though, and you can spot my graphic novels at the top (Preacher, Sandman and some Alan Moore). There’s also a clutch of H.P.Lovecrafts and Harry Potters, some Dan Simmons and William Gibson, and also a bunch of Horus Heresy novels. I love a bit of gothic sci-fi, me.




This shelf starts off with some more graphic novels, some old RPG books from when I was a massively geeky teenager, and lots of photo albums. The next layer has a section of Victorian history that I used for research when writing ‘Freaks’, and a big bunch of Robin Hobb books. (Two of them signed- I am such a fanboy). Further down are Stephen King, George R.R.Martin and Tolkein, and just out of shot at the bottom is a mixed up mess that used to be my poetry and 19th century books. Culture-tastic.



This bookcase starts off with my sketchbooks, then a load of proper art books, including a few on graffiti. I’ve never actually done any actual street art, but it’s on my bucket list.

At the end are my Walking Dead and Nausicaa collections- both infinitely better than the film/TV versions. The shelf below is a bit of a mish-mash. There’s some of Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines books, and some really old ones that I’ve had since I was a child. The Hounds of the Morrigan, The Borribles and some Fighting Fantasy books. I think there’s a couple of Moomin ones too. It’s amazing how just flicking through them can transport you right back. Books are so much more than just stories.

The shelf below that is where my wife is starting to encroach on my book space with some of her paperbacks. Next time she’s out, I think a sneaky trip to the charity shop is in order. I have a pile of twenty or so other books upstairs that need those slots more than she does…

So, that’s my little personal library. Hope you enjoyed the tour, and didn’t judge me too badly. It’s quality, not quantity, you know.

You might also notice the lack of plastic figures and other cool nick-nacks. That’s because it’s situated in our front room, and apparently the only ornaments allowed there are strangely shaped wooden things and scented candles. If I ever get a writing studio of my own, then there’s a cardboard box in the loft full of Spawn figures and Buzz Lightyear dolls that are definitely coming out. Until then, I’ll have to put up with the potpourri.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: Unison 3.0 by Andy Marino

Review: Unison 3.0 by Andy Marino
Published by Catnip

 


Everyone is obsessed with Unison, the social network that knows you better than you know yourself. Everyone who can afford it, that is. Living beneath the vast ceiling that separates Eastern Seaboard City into rich topside and poor sub-canopy zones, Fifteen-year-old Mistletoe can only dream of logging in and has to make do with technological hand-me-downs.

Worlds collide when Ambrose Truax, the privileged heir to the Unison empire, wanders into the dangerous sub-canopy streets and Mistletoe saves him from suspicious, uniformed men. They soon discover that they share eerily similar dreams, hinting at a significant past.

Together, Ambrose and Mistletoe begin to unravel the mystery of their identities and learn that they’re pawns in a bigger game: the Unison 3.0 upgrade, a whole new kind of Friendship.


*** 

Unison 3.0 is a fast paced and interesting sci-fi which I enjoyed and left me with lots of think about.

The reason why I think this book will appeal to Young Adults is because it is really fast paced and plays around with a lot of ideas about social network and the place it will evolve to in the future which in all honesty is quite a scary idea. It follows the story of two characters, Ambrose and Mistletoe two teenagers. Ambrose comes from the upper-level and has spent his life and career involved with social networking and developing its use even further while working for his father. Mistletoe comes from the lower level and has litle to no experience of all these things but circumstance bring the unlikely pair together and ends up with them fighting for their own existence and identities against a social network which is all seeing and all knowing controlling the ever waking thoughts and feelings of the masses.

I really enjoyed this book because it was fast paced and got you straight into the action. You also felt like you really bonded with the characters from the first page and I founf it very easy to imagine their worlds as the writing was brilliantly descriptive. I didn't have the time to get get bored or fed up with it which was awesome.

The only thing I would say about this book is I do think I might need to give it a second read as the ideas thrown about towards the end were so insane that I think going over it again would get it a bit more clear in might head about what actually went down in the end because it was a little bit confusing to my tiny brain (although that also might be because I read so fast!)

all in all a book that was very different and good fun to read

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Review: So yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld



Ever wonder who was the first kid to keep a wallet on a big chunky chain, or wear way-too-big pants on purpose? What about the mythical first guy who wore his baseball cap backwards? These are the Innovators, the people on the very cusp of cool. Seventeen-year-old Hunter Braque's job is finding them for the retail market. But when a big-money client disappears, Hunter must use all his cool-hunting talents to find her. Along the way he's drawn into a web of brand-name intrigue-a missing cargo of the coolest shoes he's ever seen, ads for products that don't exist, and a shadowy group dedicated to the downfall of consumerism as we know it.

***

I am a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld. I have loved much of what I have read of his books to date but unfortunately this one didn't live up to my expectations.

The story itself was an interesting one which looks at consumerism, the role of media in pushing a brand and all of the many things that makes an item or a look 'cool'. It had the potential to be a really interesting read. The main characters were likable and the idea was really interesting.

Unfortunately for me I felt the book had all these grand ideas about what it wanted to be/do/say and they never really delivered. The story was thin at best with a random selection of events just strung together in a way that made very little sense to me. By the end of the book I was left with the feeling that nothing had actually happened and I didn't know what the point of the book was ... except to maybe make a statement about what is 'cool' and makes something 'cool'

So if you're contemplating a Scott Westerfeld for the first time don't start with this one. Try Uglies instead.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

another one of my blogging ettiquette rants

To all the bloggers out there who sometimes think that the fact that you are 'hiding' behind a computer screen means you can say whatever the hell you like to whoever you like and ignore the social niceties called manners.

Can I ask on the behalf all of the bloggers out there who know how to behave in polite society because the actions of few give us a bad name.

Firstly you are entirely entitled to dislike a book. You are entitled to write a bad review of that book if you so wish and put it on your blog and tweet about it. However just think about what you are doing when you directly tweet that author / publishing house and air your opinions and the position you put that author in. Firstly they are generally going to feel like crap about something they have slaved over and secondly they can't go out there and start complaining back at you because it'll blow up into another author/blogger saga. As a rule of thumb think "would I say this to the person face to face?" If not don't do it.

Secondly if you go on twitter and start moaning and complaining that you want ARCs and you want them now and generally craze the backside of everyone following please think about how spoilt and ungrateful you look. Especially if you don't actually review all that much on your blog but instead fill it with memes etc. Blogging isn't about the free books, it never was and quite honestly if you are going to behave like that you don't deserve them.

Thirdly please please please can you just follow the mantra of "if I have nothing nice to say to other bloggers I shall say nothing". The case in point being a few weeks after the Story Siren Saga had died down I noticed one blogger still tweeting insults at her. Don't get me wrong I get why people were upset at the time but however you feel about that whole saga just let it go. The girl doesn't deserve to be public flogged for the rest of her existence.



I'll finish by saying to all my lovely UK blogging friends the following:

I'm so pleased we are too British to do blogging related drama. I love the fact that we all get on brilliantly and I am always grateful for your general wonderfulness. Keep being awesome!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Published by Bloomsbury


Celaena Sardothien is a daredevil assassin with unrivalled fighting skills. After a year’s hard labour in the salt mines of the kingdom of Adarlan, Celaena is offered her freedom on one condition—she must fight as handsome Prince Dorian’s champion in a contest sponsored by the king, facing the deadliest thieves and assassins in the land in a series of set-piece battles in the country’s stunning glass palace. But there is more at stake than even her life—for Celaena is destined for a remarkable future..

***

This book is one that is set to be huge. People are already raving about it online because it already has a huge fan base having already been self published online in a slightly different format in previous years by the author. The concept is epic. A teenage girl assassin fighting other assassins in a competition to become the King's champion and win her freedom from the salt mines in which she has been a slave labourer. Don't get me wrong I do think this series is going to be huge however I don't think it was necessarily the book for me.

There were things about this book I liked and that kept me reading through to the end. I particularly loved the main character purely because she is such a strong young female role. She has the ability to kill a man twice her size with her bare hands. How is that not cool? I also liked getting to know her as the book went on and getting to know the softer side to her which is hidden at the start of the book.

I also liked the political intrigue that is throughout the book. The historian in me got very excited hearing about all the political side behind the main storyline and I imagine there is a huge backstory to be explored here.

However for me I found this book far too slow. I spend many a chapter hoping for something exciting to happen or kick off. I felt there was a lot of time put into getting to know the characters and the backstory but very little that pushed the story along until the very end. I'm hoping that this isn't a feature of the series as a whole but more just because the book is the first in a series and that by the time we get to book two things will have changed.

All in all a series which I have my reservations about at the moment but still one I am looking forward to continuing on with as I think the series as a whole has epic potential.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Review: Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock

Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock 





Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.

Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf.

Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but bloodlust is not easy to control.

Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.

Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.


***

I'm not going to lie. I've read better Werewolf books that this one.

The story itself is an interesting twist on the whole werewolf idea. The world is a place where werewolves are very much known about to the point where their rights are discussed in public debates by government officials. The story itself focuses around Mackenzie, a teenage girl who lost her best friend in a wold attack.

The main thing I liked about this book was Mackenzie and the relationships she had with the people around her. She is very much one of those characters you can really root for as you follow her throughout the book. She live with her cousin after being abandoned as a small child and she very much treats her friends as extensions of her family which is clear to see in the way she treats them. There is a bit of a love triangle going on as seems to be the norm in all teenage paranormal books I seem to pick up of late. The main plot line involves Mackenzie attempting to get to the bottom of the story behind her friend's death as she has this gut feeling that something isn't quite right with it.

For me the plot-line was painfully slow in places and I spent much time willing for something to happen and for the story to get itself moving. This is a shame because when the action did start it was awesome and I loved the way it went and the mystery behind what actually happened to Mackenzie's best friend. The story itself was left very much open but not in a cliff-hangery way which was also quite nice too.

Not the best werewolf book I've read by a long slot but an interesting twist on the overall idea which you will enjoy if you love paranormal romance.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Susie Day


BOOKCASE SHOWCASE - Susie Day

I don’t own a photo album, or keep a proper diary, but my bookshelves do a pretty good job of keeping track of my memories.




The tattered copy of Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy top left, perched atop the reference books, is the one and only book I’ve ever destroyed. I was partway through reading All The Pretty Horses on a trip to Arizona, and was about to spend 3 days hiking down into - and back out of - the Grand Canyon. When you have to carry every last item on your back into a desert canyon in August, you take sunscreen and food and as much water as you can bear. You don’t take books. But I needed something to read down there; I just didn’t need to carry the other two books that happened to be attached to the back of the one I was halfway through.

So - yes, I know, it’s awful - I I ripped through the spine, and wrapped the chapters I needed in a plastic bag. It’s still cloudy with canyon dust, that bag. But I’ll never forget reading those flyaway pages, my feet in the creek, fighting off sunstroke with the canyon height and heat looming all around.



I spent a scarily long time at university, writing a thesis on biographies of Virginia Woolf - before realising that instead of writing about other people’s I could make up my own stories.



I used to divide my bookshelves up, trying to keep things neat and tidy - the books on the left and right date from my student days  - but I’ve realised that the associations the books have for me personally are more important than genre. Kidlit, YA, detective fiction, chicklit, modern fiction, classics... or ‘what I read lately’. As a filing system it might not make sense to anyone else, but it works for me. 

www.susieday.com
Twitter: @mssusieday
Facebook: www.facebook.com/susiedaywriter

Friday, 13 July 2012

When you just can't find the words .....

Is it just me or are there times when you just can't find the words....

Ok ok let's be more specific because being honest there are a lot of days when I get muddled word wise as the kids I teach will testify. I'm actually talking about the times you read a book and love it so much that you cannot find the words to do it justice and then get stuck when writing a review for it.

I find this can happen for several reasons.

1) The book is just too fab but you can't find the words to explain its fab and wonderfulness

2) You don't want to include spoilers which means you can't say anything. I find this especially the case if the book is the 2nd/3rd/4th ... in a series.

My question to your dear bookish folk is how do you get around it? Any tips or helpful hints would be gratefully appreciated!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Review: Soul Fire by Kate Harrison

Soul Fire by Kate Harrison
Published by Indigo


Alice Forster regularly talks with her dead sister, Meggie, in the virtual world of Soul Beach - an online paradise where dead teenagers are held in limbo.

Alice has learned that if she can solve the mystery of someone's death in the real world, then that person is released from the Beach. Meggie needs Alice to solve her murder so she can be free, but as Alice is getting closer to discovering the murderer, the murderer is getting closer to Alice!

The second thriller in this utterly gripping trilogy for teens that explores social networking in a whole new way - Facebook for the dead!


***

This review is going to be quite short. Please don't think it's because I didn't enjoy the book because I really did. It's more because I can't say too much without spoiling it for others.

What I liked:
I liked seeing more Alice. I really liked her in book one and it was nice getting back to her. I loved seeing the relationships she builds around her.
I loved the suspense in this book. Throughout the story you are never quite entirely sure who to trust or whether the people Alice meets are being entirely honest with her.
I love the concepts and ideas behind this book. The whole idea of a place where you can go to hang out with the dead who haven't quite moved on is all a bit too .
I loved the scenes in Spain when Alice visits to try and dig deeper into the mystery of her sister's murder. You really get a feel for the city as Alice is walking around.

What could be better.
The ending is another killer cliff-hanger. I did feel a little bit cheated because as a reader I don't necessarily feel like I'm getting anywhere fast nor do I have a sense of closure with this book having been left hanging again

All in all a book I enjoyed. I cannot wait for Book three. I hope it lives up to the rest of the series.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Review: The Seeing by Diana Hendry

The Seeing by Diana Hendry
Published by RHCB


"What gave me a sudden shiver was the notion that there were two of me. The little sister me, who was good and mostly kind; the girl Alice and Dottie knew. And then there was this other me, the one lurking inside me, eager for danger and risk, for something that could be as wild as the sea in winter. For Natalie."

Nothing ever seems to happen in the quiet, respectable seaside town of Norton. The war is over, and everyone's thrilled to be living peacefully - everyone but thirteen-year-old Lizzie, who's so bored she feels like she could scream. Until wild, dangerous, break-all-the-rules Natalie arrives. Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the exciting new girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and as the girls grow closer over the summer, Lizzie discovers a new side to the town - and to herself - that she had never imagined before.

Natalie and her young brother, Philip, let Lizzie in on a secret. Despite what everyone thinks, the danger of war is still hanging over them. Philip has a 'second sight', and all around him he sees evil: apparently innocent people, hiding in this quiet town until the time is right for revenge. Natalie and Philip call them 'Left-Over Nazis'. It's up to them to root these people out and force them out of Norton. Lizzie is swept up in what begins as an exciting game, but as the children begin to target their neighbours, the consequences of Philip's 'gift' spiral quickly out of control. 


***

 This was a short, chilling and atmospheric read which I enjoyed.

The thing I enjoyed most about this book was the historical backdrop it is set in. It's set in post war Britain which is a fascinating world to read about. The country is changing as people are demanding more after having to experience total war and the demands that experience put on the population whether they were part of the armed forces or not. For some living in this new world means finally having all those things they couldn't have before and saw the explosion of the cosumer market whilst others still lived in poverty. I liked seeing the contrast between the families of the two girls at either end of this scale and seeing how their world views differed because of this.

The book also builds up a sense of paranoia. You are never quite sure whether or not Philip's abilities are real or not and the way in which he and his sister hunt out old Nazis is creepy. It shows you how the actions of a few can make life very difficult for outsiders and also leaves you with a seed of doubt in your mind to whether these people are as innocent as they say they are or whether it is just post-war hysteria.

The ending of the book was the most unsettling for me. The story goes very dark and wasn't at all what I expected from the book which was quite nice in someways as I hadn't second guessed what might happen and was therefore surprised.

All in all a unique and interesting read.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame


Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame
Published by Simon and Schuster



Eighteen-year-old Maggie Darlington has turned into an entirely different person. The once spirited teen is now passive and reserved. A change Lord and Lady Darlington can’t help but be grateful for.

It’s 1912, and the Darlingtons of Wentworth Hall have more than just the extensive grounds to maintain. As one of Britain’s most elite families, they need to keep up appearances that things are as they have always been… even as their carefully constructed fa├žade rapidly comes undone.

Maggie has a secret. And she’s not the only one… the handsome groom Michael, the beautiful new French nanny Therese, the Darlingtons’ teenage houseguests Teddy and Jessica, and even Maggie’s younger sister Lila are all hiding something. Passion, betrayal, heartache, and whispered declarations of love take place under the Darlingtons’ massive roof. And one of these secrets has the power to ruin the Darlingtons forever.

When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details that closely mirror the lives of the Darlingtons, everyone is looking over their shoulder, worrying their scandal will be next. Because at Wentworth Hall, nothing stays secret for long.


***

I really enjoyed Wentworth Hall. If you loved Downton Abbey or The Luxe series you will love it too!

The thing that drew me in about this book was the whole host of characters all of whom had their own quirks and things that made want to know more about them. I particularly loved Maggie, the elder daughter and seeing her story as her father tried to marry her of the the richest local landowner. I loved the younger daughter Lila and seeing her alternate view to a world were she felt second best for being younger. I found her voice to be a really realistic portrayal of what it like to be that younger sibling and having to live in the shadow of elder siblings whilst trying to prove that you are as capable and grown up in your own right. I also loved the servants Nora and Michael and seeing their views of the household in contrast to those of the family.

I loved the historical setting and the feel the story gave you for the time in which is was written. I love historical fiction like that because sometimes books can get so bogged down in telling the history that they get boring (and this is coming from a history teacher) whereas books like this give you all that insight without being dull.

I love the intrigue and the gossip that run throughout this book. The twists that are thrown in were brilliant and I certainly didn't see them coming. I loved how the gossip was so scandalous for the time period even though we wouldn't blink an eye at it today.

I loved the ending and was so pleased how it ended. I can't tell you anymore than that about it other than to say how I really did love it.

All in all a book I definitely recommend.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Graffti Moon by Cath Crowley
Published by Hodder Children's

 

"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.


***

I really enjoyed Graffiti Moon for several reasons.

I loved the two main characters Lucy and Ed and really thought the split narrative in this book worked well. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the develop and change as the book went on. I loved Ed's vulnerable side and all the secrets he hid as he didn't want Lucy to think he was stupid. I also loved the contrast with Lucy's feisty side but also seeing how Ed and Lucy were actually very similar characters on the whole.

I really loved that this book was set in one evening and really took its time to get to know the characters well. All too often I feel books rush this and leave you not caring about the characters at all whereas in this book I felt really invested in them by the end of the book.

I loved how Lucy spent the entire evening hunting for Shadow not realising that he was there in front of her all along.

I also really liked that the young adults in this book were a little bit older meaning the story had a bit more too it. Sometimes when the main characters are younger teens I find the storyline to be a little superficial and childlike which certainly wasn't the case in this book.

I really compulsive read which I couldn't put down with characters that are going to stick with me for a long time to come.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Caroline Lawrence


MY OVERFLOWING LIBRARY by Caroline Lawrence
I live in a riverside flat with my husband Richard, an English graphic designer and author of non-fiction books. The flat is in Battersea, southwest London, about a half hour’s walk from the Kings Road in Chelsea or leafy Wandsworth Park in Putney. As an American, I never feel a stranger or out of place because London is so cosmopolitan. 

Richard and I have just had a purge of about three hundred books but there are still thousands left. This section in my study (the second bedroom) is about a hundredth of the total number. When we moved in twelve years ago we had a carpenter put in an entire wall of bookshelves in our bedroom and also in our big living room. There are even books in the hallway, stacked against the walls. 



This picture shows part of my Western Mysteries research shelf. The top shelf holds books about Mark Twain and his time in Virginia City as a reporter. I also have books on the history of that town and the area around it, called The Comstock. 

Other topics covered here are Music Hall, the history of the Pinkerton detectives, famous shoot-outs, desperados, prostitutes, ghost-towns, and the Jews of Nevada. “Doo-Dah!” is a biography of the great songwriter Stephen Foster. Unlike my other historical passion, first 
century Rome, I can listen to 19th century music!

Below my box set of DVDs for the entire 1960s series of The Wild, Wild West you can see my stereoscopic viewers. My books are set at a time when the first 3-D photos were in vogue. Using those viewers with stereoscopic photos, I virtually look into the past. 

Out of sight on the shelf below is Flederman’s gun catalogue and other catalogues from the American Victorian period, plus big picture books about guns, Native Americans and early photography.

One of my motives in writing a series set in 19th century America was to learn more about my own history and background. My husband Richard has always been a Civil War enthusiast and for the past five years I’ve been sharing that passion with him. 



Another delight of researching this period is delving into the thousands of intimate letters and journals written by people. My “Bible” (apart from the King James version) are the diaries of Alf Doten, a massive three volume record of one man’s life, kept from the age of 19 until his death fifty odd years later. It lives on my desk by my computer.

What you can’t see here are all the documents I have in box files and folders: newspaper articles, travel brochures, museum guides and re-enactment programmes. Nor can you see the fabulous resources I have access to over the internet: thousands of Mark Twain’s letters, for example, or scans of Lady’s Magazines, just to name a few. And you can’t see my Kindle, where I have just downloaded Team of Rivals: a biography of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and a 900+ page document on my iPhone! 

And then there are the DVDs like the film Gettysburg or Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary about the American Civil War… But I am getting away from the main topic: books!

As Emily Dickinson says:
There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away
--
Caroline Lawrence’s latest history mystery book, The Case of the Good-looking Corpse is set in Virginia City in the 1860s and includes shootouts, firemen, lawmen, journalists, music by Stephen Foster, Mark Twain and ‘soiled Doves’.