Monday, 28 July 2014

Dangerous Boys - Abigail Haas

Published: August 14th 2014, S&S
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

My review: After reading and loving Abigail Haas' Dangerous Girls last year, I couldn't wait to receive a copy of Dangerous Boys, which I had very high hopes for. A copy arrived for me last week and I read it the same day it arrived - once I started, I simply couldn't put it down. This is one more-ish story that will have you racing through the pages to discover what really happened when Chloe Bennett and the Reznick brothers went into the abandoned house on a night that ended in tragedy...

The narrative in Dangerous Boys is split between 'Then', which shows us the events that take place before the night in the abandoned house, and 'Now', which shows the aftermath of the fire. During the 'Then' sections we see Chloe meeting Ethan, the younger Reznick brother, their blossoming relationship and how complicated their lives become when Oliver, the enigmatic but troubled older Reznick brother, comes onto the scene.

I adored the story in Dangerous Boys, particularly the mystery about what really happened in the house and who made it out alive, as this is something we don't find out until almost the end of the book. While I was reading I kept changing my mind about who had done what, who I sided with, who made it out alive - I just couldn't make my mind up and in every chapter a new clue was brought to light. I love mysteries and this is a great one - I really don't think the denouement is anything a reader would see coming and I love that Haas kept me guessing until the final pages, just like she did in Dangerous Girls.

However, I did struggle a little with the characters in Dangerous Boys, as I didn't find myself warming to any of them in particular, so I wasn't really rooting for anybody as they all fell a little flat for me. I found Chloe a bit insipid in the beginning of the book but as she grew as a character I did find myself liking her a lot more towards the end of the story. However, when it came to Ethan and Oliver I really wasn't keen on either of them - Oliver was slimy rather than charming and pretentious in a way that just irritated me, whereas Ethan was way too soppy and clingy to be considered a compelling love interest. Now I've finished the book I'm sure they were both written with these flaws on purpose but it did grate on me a little as I was reading.

However, irritating characters aside, I flew through Dangerous Boys and read it in a single sitting because I was so engrossed by the story. If you're looking for an easy to read, summery mystery then this is absolutely perfect for you - let's just hope the sun stays shining until it's released in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Picture Me Gone - Meg Rosoff

Published: September 5th 2014, Puffin
Pages: 208 pages, hardback
Standalone/Series: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads)Mila is on a roadtrip across the USA with her father. They are looking for his best friend but Mila discovers a more important truth. Sometimes the act of searching reveals more than the final discovery can. Adults do not have all the answers. It all depends what questions you ask.

My review: First off, can we take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? It looks even more lovely in real life and the story inside is just as vibrant and rich as the cover art.

From the outset we discover that our protagonist, Mila, is extremely perceptive of people and situations. She sees things other people don't and can spend five minutes in a room and glean things that nobody else does. This talent comes in particularly handy when her father's best friend goes missing and her and her dad go on a road trip to try and find out what happened to him.

Mila knows something isn't right from the moment they meet the missing man's wife and from that point onwards things feel more and more 'off'. She isn't sure what but something strange has happened but it becomes clear that only somebody with Mila's mind could piece the mystery together. However, the mystery of the missing man isn't the only plot in the book, as other threads are delicately woven through the story to make Picture Me Gone a full-bodied, living, breathing novel that comes to life through Rosoff's unique, memorable prose.

Picture Me Gone is definitely a subtle, understated novel. There are no car chases or explosions here, no century-long romances or bloody crime scenes, just a beautifully-written story about a young girl finding her way in the world and discovering that everybody, even those closest to you, has a secret.

Monday, 21 July 2014

YALC: Day Two

So, day two at YALC!

I woke up feeling a million dollars on the Sunday morning - I was so knackered I can't remember the last time I slept so well. Me and Lynsey mooched on down to the hotel's restaurant for breakfast (hellooooo bacon and hash browns) and then nipped across to Earls Court on the tube, raring to go.

I'd been invited to the YALC blogger event, which meant we got early access to the convention centre and got waved in ahead of the huge queue - which felt pretty awesome, I have to admit. Earls Court was so lovely and quiet at that time of day and we took advantage of the lack of crowds and did some celebrity spotting (HI, HODOR!) before the blogger breakfast started. 

The breakfast itself was great fun, we got to hear from lovely publicists and James Dawson, Non Pratt, Holly Black and Matt Haig all spoke to us about their most recent books. After the event we were all given a brilliant goodie bag and got the chance to have a chat with the authors, which was great fun!

Sunday was definitely much more chilled than Saturday, and I got to meet up with even more of my blogger friends, which was my highlight! We live all over the country and it's not often we get to meet up in such a big group, so I had a brilliant time catching up with all my lovely bookish friends - I won't name names as I'll only forget and offend someone, but you all know who you are and you made my weekend absolutely top notch. Much love!

I caught Phil Earle, Sally Green and Ben Horslen's panel in the morning, which was excellent and gave tonnes of solid advice about getting your novel published. I left the panel desperate to get home and carry on rewriting my book!

After the panel most of my pals were ready for the I'm too Sexy for this Book talk - which might have been the most popular of the weekend! While they were busy with that I decided to venture out solo to enjoy the rest of what LFCC had to offer, as I'd spent most of the previous day in the Book Zone. I had a look at some of the stalls and picked up some Game of Throne badges and American sweets to take home (Nerds and Laffy Taffy, obviously). The stalls were pretty cool but, unfortunately, because of the crowds it was impossible to really stop and look.

After doing a lap of the convention centre and spotting some amazing cosplay I decided to have a little breather outside to cool down, as it was blinking hot. Aaaand that's where it all went wrong... When it came to getting back inside it was completely unorganised and there were loads of different queues at different doors, with people getting stressed out that they couldn't get back in, even though we all had our hands stamped. Things started to get a bit...tense, and nobody seemed to have any idea what was going on or where we were meant to go, so I took it was a sign to head back to Paddington and get a slightly earlier train home.

I'm a bit sad I didn't get to go back inside to catch my last panel and say goodbye to everybody but the atmosphere in the re-entry (or lack of re-entry) queue was definitely getting a bit irate so I didn't want to ruin a good weekend with LFCC drama!

Before I go into my feedback, here are my favourite pictures from day two:

Me and Michelle // GEORGE A ROMERO // Me and Faye // Me and Sophie // Me and Jenny // Sally Green, Ben Horslen and Phil Earl's brilliant panel // A WILD HODOR APPEARED

I had a brilliant time at YALC and it was fantastic to be present for the UK's first YA convention. However, there are definitely a few ways YALC could be improved in future and we were all asked for our honest feedback, so here it is:

- I really don't feel as though LFCC is the right place for YALC. YALC was overshadowed by the convention and the crowds made it difficult to get the most out of the event. It was impossible to just stop and enjoy anything without being bumped into, shoved or moved along by the huge crowds. 

- I was disappointed that barely any publishers had stalls at YALC - come on, guys! It was the perfect place to showcase books and authors and those that were there always had a huge crowd, so it'd be nice to see everybody representing what they have to offer.

- The panels on offer were great but the way they were run wasn't quite as good. The sound issues meant you could only hear if you were in the first few rows and as anybody could wander up and watch the talks it meant people with tickets ended up not being able to get seats. I think for the panels to really work they needed to be in a separate room, or in a space further away from the main crowds, as the background noise was a big problem.

- I was really keen to go to a few of the workshops but the spaces were so limited (25 or 30 spaces per workshop and 70,000 tickets sold for LFCC - the odds were definitely *not* in our favour) I didn't manage to get to any of the five I signed up for, which was a shame as they looked brilliant!

That's it, really. YALC was a fantastic idea and everybody involved did a brilliant job, I just think the venue isn't right, going forward. 99% of the problems we encountered were to do with the crowds for LFCC but I understand why YALC was held there for the first year - it proved that people ARE interested in YA and related events will attract huge crowds! Hopefully the popularity this year means YALC can have its own dedicated venue next year, which would pretty much be perfection.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

YALC Write Up - Day One

So, like a huge chunk of the UKYA community I headed up to London last weekend for the UK's first YA literature convention, which was part of London Film and Comic Con. I decided to split my write up into two posts, one for each day, so my post doesn't end up too long!

I travelled up to London on my own, and that time mostly consisted of sending a million tweets, trying to quietly eat crackers in the quiet carriage on the train and bouncing around in my seat because I was so excited. I arranged to meet my blogging pal, Raimy, and her sister at Earls Court so we could brave the giant queue together and, golly, was it a giant queue!

Yeah, the queue was huge, but I think we all expected it so we chatted and spotted awesome cosplay while we waited. We spied a bunch of bloggers too, which was fun! After an hour and a half we managed to get inside and, gee whizz, if I thought it was hot outside that was nothing compared to the temperature inside! I have to admit I did feel a little overwhelmed when I first got inside as there were literally HUNDREDS of people shoving their way through a teeny tiny little space to get into the main floor. Things did clear out when we found out way to the Book Zone, so I got a chance to cool off and chill out with some of the loveliest people in the world - other bookish types!

I met up with a tonne of my blogging and author friends (some of who I hadn't seen for almost four years!) and met some brilliant new friends too - including Georgina from What She Reads, who I have to give a special shout out as we spent all of Saturday together and she's such a lovely girl, so do check out her blog if you have a minute!

The Book Zone was, you guessed it, dedicated to all things bookish and it was great fun to walk round and see all the displays the publishers had put together. I got tattooed by Hachette, gossiped with Hot Key and browsed the Waterstones booth to check out all the brilliant releases that were for sale - they had early copies of a few books but they sold out prettyyyyy swiftly.

After a day at Earls Court I headed to O'Neills with a few other bloggers and we recharged our phones, feasted on cheesy chips and drank cocktails to relax from a busy day - after that we hit the Fringe event, organised by the fantastic Sophia Bennett, and got to chinwag with even more authors and bloggers.

Me and Lynsey didn't get back to our hotel room until almost midnight, where I pretty much zonked out for seven hours and slept like an absolute log...all in preparation for day two of YALC!

So, to finish the post off, here are a few of my favourite snaps from day one of YALC (SELFIE ALERT):

Me and my lovely new pal, Georgina // Me and my roomie, Lynsey // Me and Non (of internet sperm/Trouble fame) // Me and Tanya Byrne (we finallllly met!) // Me and my best friend, a mojito // Me and the dragon skull from GoT

I'll be back soon with my round up of day two - which will include my round up of the weekend and my highlights and lowlights of YALC!