Friday, 28 February 2014

February Review

February has been an awesome reading month for me. Yay for half term, long train journeys and rubbish weather

Books read
20) The Worst Girlfriend in the world by Sarra Manning (British Books Challenge) 5 star read
21) Half Bad by Sally Green (British Books Challenge)
22) Girl with a White Dog by Anne Booth  (British Books Challenge) 5 star read
23) Far from you by Tess Sharpe
24) Just a girl standing in front of a boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes  (British Books Challenge)
25) The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr  (British Books Challenge)
26) The State we're in by Adele Parks  (British Books Challenge)
27) The Secret of Happily ever after by Lucy Dillon  (British Books Challenge)
28) Going over by Beth Kephart
29) Model under Cover: A crime of fashion by Carina Axelsson
30) Echo boy by Matt Haig (British Books Challenge)
31) Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan (British Books Challenge)
32) You had me at hello by Mhairi McFarlane  (British Books Challenge)
33) Dead Silent by Sharon Jones  (British Books Challenge)
34) Hi so much by Laura Dockrill  (British Books Challenge)
35) Biggest Flirts by Jennifer Echols
36) Poppy by Mary Hooper  (British Books Challenge)
37) The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle  (British Books Challenge) 5 star read
38) Don't look back by Jennifer Armentrout
39) Daughters of time by Mary Hoffman  (British Books Challenge)
40) A midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger 5 star read
41) Hog in the Fog by Julia Copus (British Books Challenge)
42) Squishy McFluff by Pip Jones (British Books Challenge)
43)  Magneto by Greg Pak
44) Goose by Dawn O'Porter (British Books Challenge)

I've been seeing a lot of debate over twitter about people sticking with books they don't enjoy. Therefore from this month onwards I'll be keeping a list of books I don't finish (I might even go back and add to last month's too so I have a years worth) for you all to see. I am very much all for giving up on books that I'm not in the mood for or not enjoying. Sometimes I go back to them eventually, sometimes not. Life is too short to force yourself through books for the sake of it.

Books given up on
The Virgins by Pamela Erens (too literary for my mood at the time)
The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes (too much like work as focused on a school teacher)
Take back the skies by Lucy Saxon (wanted to try it as a debut author but I struggle with fantasy novels)
The Eagle Trail by Robert Rigby (too military based for my liking)
Sleuth or Dare by Robin Benway (2nd book in a series effect)
Shift by Jeff Povey (too much like work as kids in detention)
Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern (made me feel wrong. No idea why really)
The visitors by Rebecca Mascull (just wasn't doing it for me at the time)

Book events attended
None as such but I did have a lovely day in London with my lovely friend Non (soon to be published author of trouble) and Sarah and Sammee (two of my favourite bloggers) which was fab.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

Whitley Johnson's dream summer of shopping, partying and tanning on the beach has just turned into a nightmare. Because Dad didn't tell her he doesn't live by the beach anymore, or that he's no longer a bachelor. He's picked up and moved to a tiny, lame town called Hamilton and gotten himself a fiance. A fiance whose son just happens to be what's-his-name from last week's drunken graduation party one night stand. Just freakin' great.

As if the summer couldn't get worse, Dad seems to forget Whitley's even there. She doesn't fit in with his perfect new country club family, and Whitley does what any kid lucky enough to go all summer unsupervised does: she parties. Hard.

So hard that she doesn't even notice the good things right under her nose: a younger future step-sister who is just about the only person she's ever liked, a best friend (even though Whitley swears she doesn't 'do friends') and a smoking hot, sweet guy who isn't her step brother (yet) and who actually seems to care for her. It will take all three of them to convince her that they're not phoneys, and to get Whitley to get through her anger and begin to put the pieces of her family together.

My thoughts

I loved the DUFF by Kody Keplinger so was so excited to get this for review earlier this week. I am pleased to say I loved it.

For me Kody Keplinger is one of those authors who I love. Her characters are realistic and therefore I always find the voice is spot on. This book was no exception. The main character Whitley is written superbly stating as this messed up unlikable screw up at the start of the book. Once the story gets going and you start to get under her skin you actually start to see more of why she has become the person she has and you start to warm to her.

I also love how the author writes teen sex without being judgmental and presenting it as a normal part of teenage life not just for boys but also girls. Another example of how YA can be used to do that well and proves you don't need NA titles for sexy times.

I defy anyone to read this book and not fall instantly in love with both male teen characters. I adored Nathan and Harrison entirely and I loved the scenes they were in. Also I found seeing Whitley through their eyes made me like her more too which was good.

Also any book that has a cameo from characters from the author's previous works just slipped in is always a thumbs up from me. I love those entirely in a really geeky way.

All in all a book I really loved. I cannot wait to get my hands on more from the author

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Review: Hi so much by Laura Dockrill

Ten-year-old Darcy sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her. This second book sees Darcy move-up to Big School - and all of a sudden EVERYTHING changes. Her best friend Will isn't sure he should talk to girls anymore, her new teacher may in actual fact be a cauldron-bubbling witch and, horror of horrors, her precious pet Lamb-Beth goes missing. Can Darcy face these challenges head-on, armed only with her curious, whip-smart mind and eye for a story?

Joyous drawings, colourful characters and a high-energy voice - the Darcy Burdock books are packed with personality from start to finish.

My thoughts
Hi so much is a fab little read. Perfect for 9 - 12 year olds. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

After loving Darcy burdock last year I was a bit worried about this book mostly because I've been struggling with second books series this last year or so as I've found they've never quite lived up to book one. I am so pleased to say I didn't have that problem at all with Hi So Much and it is just as good, if not better than book one.

This instalment of Darcy burdock follows Darcy as she makes the transition to high school, a daunting prospect for all eleven year olds I'm sure. I loved how this book dealt with all the worries Darcy was feeling at this point in her life and actually I'd recommend it to parents to give their kids who are worried about moving up to high school for that alone.

What I loved about this book though was the brilliant mix of funny and poignant that Laura Dockrill does so well. Darcy is a brilliant character and you really get under her skin as she wears her heart on her sleeve and treats her reader as her personal best friend. I love this as you connect with her so well as a character. I love her imagination and quirkiness and you can't read this book and not fall a little bit in love with her. Be warned though, while on the whole this book is laugh out loud funny you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by Darcy's poem about her beloved lamb Beth which had me in pieces.

All in all another brilliant read from Laura Dockrill. I cannot wait to read book three and am so excited to see her promoting this book at an event I have booked later this year.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Review: Banished by Liz De Jager

Sworn to protect, honour and slay. Because chaos won’t banish itself…

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she’s encountered her unorthodox cousins and their strange lives. And her home-schooling now includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons. But it’s not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn’s enemies. As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves – it’s that or lose everyone she’s learnt to love.

My thoughts

Just a quick review today for Liz's debut novel. Liz is one of the first bloggers I met when I first started blogging and I have been so excited for her on her road to publication and I almost can't believe I am now it a position to review it on here.

If you love urban fantasy this book will blow you away. Awesome world building with a kick-ass main character who you will love In Kit Blackhart (think Buffy, less vampires and more Fae).. I was drawn in from the first page and loved how action packed it was from the outset. A really satisfying read in itself but so much set up for the rest of the series which I cannot wait to get my hands on. A stunning debut. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Books I can't wait to read

These are the books I am desperately hoping will drop through my letterbox soon

Dark days by Kate Ormand

The future world has been divided into sectors--each the same as the other. Surrounded by thick steel fences, there is no way in and no way out. Yet a cyborg army penetrates each sector, picking off its citizens one by one, until no one is left. Behind the sectors' thick walls, the citizens wait to die. Few will be chosen to survive what's coming; the rest will be left behind to suffer. A new world has been created, and its rulers are incredibly selective on who will become a citizen. They want only those with important roles in society to help create a more perfect future.

Sixteen-year-old Sia lives in one of the sectors as part of a family that is far too ordinary to be picked to live. According to the digital clock that towers high above her sector, she has only fifteen days to live. Sia has seen the reports and knows a horrific death is in store for her, but she is determined to make the most of her final days. Sia refuses to mourn her short life, instead promising herself that she'll stay strong, despite being suffocated by her depressed mother and her frightened best friend. Just when Sia feels more alone than ever, she meets Mace, a mysterious boy. There is something that draws Sia to him, despite his dangerousness, and together, they join a group of rebels and embark on an epic journey to destroy the new world and its machines, and to put an end to the slaughter of innocent people.

It's by a UKYA author which is pretty enough all I need to know for now on this one 

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

The spellbinding, seductive finale to the bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him—must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world change in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

It feels like I have waited an age for this book. I need it now.

Hi so much by Laura Dockrill

Ten-year-old Darcy sees the extraordinary in the everyday and the wonder in the world around her. This second book sees Darcy move-up to Big School - and all of a sudden EVERYTHING changes. Her best friend Will isn't sure he should talk to girls anymore, her new teacher may in actual fact be a cauldron-bubbling witch and, horror of horrors, her precious pet Lamb-Beth goes missing. Can Darcy face these challenges head-on, armed only with her curious, whip-smart mind and eye for a story?

I loved the first Darcy Burdock book. I cannot wait to get my hands on this. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Review: It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning

Meet Ellie Cohen, one of the most perfect girls in London.

Ellie manages a swank Mayfair gallery, but it’s her life that’s a real work of art. Great job, really good hair, loyal friends, loving family. It’s only her succession of lame duck boyfriends that ruin the picture.

Oh, and the world-famous rock-star father she’s never met, who won’t even acknowledge her existence.

Then Ellie’s perfect life is smashed to pieces when her secret is sold to the highest bidder and her name, face (and pictures of her bottom) are splashed across the tabloids. Suddenly everyone thinks she’s a gold-digging, sex-crazy, famewhore.

Enter David Gold. Charming and handsome David Gold. On paper he’s even more perfect than Ellie, if only he wasn’t her father’s ruthlessly ambitious lawyer whose job is to manage the crisis – and her. He certainly doesn’t think that Ellie’s the innocent party and she doesn’t trust him at all. So why is it that every time they’re alone together, damage limitation is the last thing on their minds?

My Thoughts
It is no secret that I am a Sarra Manning fan so when I got my hands on a copy of this book I was more than a little bit excited. Quite honestly it met all the expectations I had for it and I loved every page.

The book revolves around the story of Ellie a 20 something living in London a normal life working at a high end art galley until the day when her secret is leaked to the press and the tabloids have a field day making her out to be a sex crazed gold digger and printing unflattering pictures of her in compromising positions.

Without giving too much away about the plot I must say I enjoyed several things about this book.

I loved Ellie. She was a really down to earth character and I really enjoyed following her story and seeing with how she dealt with all the rubbish thrown at her since being thrust unceremoniously into the spotlight without any say in the matter. I loved the relationships she had with her friends and the values she had regarding family and what it means to be part of a family. The story had a really good comedic parts to it which really made me chuckle, a lovely dash of romance which was both sweet and hot in just the right amount. I loved all the the secondary chair artery in their own ways from the gorgeous David to Ellie's rock chick mother and as always with a Sarra Manning there were a fab set of cameos which made me fan girl just a little bit as you got to see characters you'd met and loved in previous books.

A brilliant read with real heart which I loved entirely. A perfect example of everything I love about books written by Sarra Manning. Highly recommended.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Bookcase Showcase: Author Paige Toon

Ever since I got a Kindle, I’m sad to say my bookshelves have become a bit of a dumping ground. I didn’t tidy up at all before taking this photo (although, I did pull the following items off the shelves: one set of ugly Peppa Pig PJs which daughter got as a present, one cosmetics bag which a friend forgot to take home months ago, and two sets of children’s headphones for an in-car DVD player). So you can see that the last cookbook I used was Ainsley Harriot’s, and if you look a little closer, you’ll be able to make out the original cover art mock-up for One Perfect Summer with bleached-out beach hut style background. As heat magazine’s former reviews ed, I was sent hundreds of books, most of which I’ll probably never read, so there are some randoms in there, including a signed book by Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fletcher, and a LOT of cookbooks, which I like flicking through when I have time, but rarely do anything with. The top left is chick-lit-tastic: Jojo Moyes, Lindsey Kelk, Melissa Hill, and signed copies of the lovely Giovanna Fletcher’s Billy & Me, and my good friend Ali Harris’s The First Last Kiss which was one of my favourite books of last year. Also Sarra Manning’s It Felt Like a Kiss which I recently gave a cover quote for. Ditto the fantastic Slammed by Colleen Hoover. Look out for the dark colours to spot my love for YA sci-fi: The Host, Breaking Dawn, Mockingjay and The Mortal Instruments to name but a few, plus the whole brightly-coloured Harry Potter collection. There are also a lot of maps and destination guides which often come in handy when I’m researching my books – I almost always go to the country I’m writing about. You might notice Memoirs of a Geisha, which is one of my favourite books of all time, and also a fair few novels by another favourite of mine, Marian Keyes. She’s one of the only authors I will buy hardback for, but shamefully I still haven’t read The Mystery of Mercy Close (top, second shelf along) because it’s so heavy and cumbersome in comparison to my Kindle. I’m going to rectify that by downloading it right now. There. I have. It’s next on my reading list.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon

My fifteenth birthday was the worst day of my life, and it's inconceivable to think that any single day in my future will ever be as bad. My mum was killed in a freak accident on her way to pick up my cake. Even when there was still no sign of her after two hours later, and my friends started to arrive at our house, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't be coming back.
That was six months ago. My mum died without telling me who my real dad was. And for a while I hated her for it. I thought she's taken the secret of my father's identity with her forever. But she didn't. Holy hell, she didn't. Because three weeks ago I found out the truth. And I'm still reeling from the shock of it. My dad is none other than Johnny Jefferson, mega famous rock star and one-time serial womaniser. And now I'm on my way to LA to meet him and his family. 

My Thoughts
Having only recently discovered Paige Toon I managed to read her entire backlist in a week early on in December and have been excitedly awaiting her first YA offering since then.

Put simply I loved The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson for several reasons. Firstly I adored Jessie as a character. I loved her teenagerness especially towards the start of the book and I loved seeing how she adapted to all the changes to her world that occurred once she found out Johnny Jefferson was her father. I just thought the way she was written as this bolshy teen who was terrified underneath all that bluster was awesomely well done because it made her feel real.

I also loved this book because it gave me a chance to see more of Meg and Johnny from Johnny Be Good and Baby Be Mine. I love that Paige's books allow to catch up with characters from her previous books as they pop in and out of the story either in a big way like in this book with Johnny and Meg but also via the mentions of Joseph Strike.

The story itself follows Jessie as she finds out about Johnny being her father and goes on to meet him and find out more about the world that he lives in. I loved seeing how she starts to slot into his world but also how it gave her more appreciation of what she had left behind with her stepfather in England. I literally cannot wait to find out more in her next book.

Monday, 3 February 2014

History Books I rate: The Holocaust

Some of you might know I teach History at High School. I love finding good YA historical fiction which I can use in the classroom if only to recommend to my students as wider reading.

I do however find that I can be very critical of historical fiction and I do find myself having to give up on books others have raved about because I can't get over historical inaccuracies or stories where events are treated lightly.

This month I have a selection of books set in and around the holocaust. In the last week or so it was national holocaust memorial day for which I made this brief video of reading recommendations for Bookish Brits. I have included a selection of novels, graphic novels (both YA and adult) and non-fiction.