Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read.

This week I've chosen The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. The cover art is absolutely stunning and I haven't really read too much about this one - it looks like a story that's best enjoyed if you go in blind.

Publication date: September 27th 2011
Published by: Simon & Schuster

Summary (from Goodreads): Mara wakes up from a coma with no memory of the accident that caused the deaths of her best friend, boyfriend, and boyfriend's sister. The doctors tell her parents that starting over in a new state, a new school will be good for her and to let the memories come back on their own.

But Mara's new start is anything but when she sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere and her world is falling apart. And then she begins to see people's deaths before they happen - at least she thinks that is what is happenning. On top of that, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen can't seem to leave her alone, but is his agenda more than he leads on?

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So what about you guys? What are your picks for this week?

Monday, 27 June 2011

Review: The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness

Published: September 7th 2009, Walker
Pages: 517 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the second installment. Book three (Monsters of Men) is out now
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): We were in the square, in the square where I'd run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her - But there weren't no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men...

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order.

But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode...

"The Ask and the Answer" is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the "Chaos Walking" trilogy.

My review: Patrick Ness, you absolutely ruin me. Every. Single. Time. I actually cannot get enough of these books. I never thought The Ask and the Answer would surpass The Knife of Never Letting Go but somehow it managed it. Everything I loved about the first book in the series was magnified this time around and I just hope things continue in Monsters of Men - I'm fairly certain they will.

We see Todd and Viola mature even further in The Ask and the Answer and I love their relationship. It's built on trust and love and dependance and everything that's important in a relationship, whether it's a platonic or romantic. They are two of the best characters I've come across and they are absolutely what makes the Chaos Walking series second to none.

As with all of Ness' books, the writing is superb. He manages to make me laugh out loud, cry buckets and get physically angry, all within the space of a couple of pages. The dual viewpoints were fantastic and I loved hearing from both Viola and Todd - it added a great depth to the story.

There were numerous secondary characters from The Knife of Never Letting Go who became real stars during The Ask and the Answer - notably Davy Prentiss and Wilf. Corinne, Mistress Coyle and Angharrad also deserve a shout out for being brilliant characters. Only Patrick Ness could make me care so deeply for a horse who has a vocabulary of only ten or so words.

I don't want to give away a single detail about the plot of The Ask and the Answer as this is one you need to discover on your own, without any outside opinions. I can't wait to get started on Monsters of Men - though I'm already worried about the Chaos Walking withdrawal symptoms I already know I'll have.

First line: "Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt."

Read if you liked…: The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 19/20 (A)

Friday, 24 June 2011

Exciting Karen Mahoney News!

*Note* Sensible words provided via a Random House press release. Unhelpful comments in brackets provided by myself.

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Random House Children’s Books is delighted to announce a three book deal with YA author Karen Mahoney (yesss!). Fiction Publisher Annie Eaton and Fiction Editor Jessica Clarke secured a deal for World English Language rights for two titles in a brand new series called Beautiful Ghosts, on behalf of Miriam Kriss at Irene Goodman, the first book of which will be published by Random House in 2012. A separate deal was made with Heather Baror of Baror International for The Stone Demon, the third and final book in The Iron Witch trilogy which will be published in 2013 (SO FAR AWAY).

Annie Eaton, Fiction Publisher comments ‘Karen Mahoney is a natural storyteller with a wonderful imagination. Her debut novel, THE IRON WITCH, was published to rave reviews, and there is an eager audience out there wanting more!’

Jessica Clarke, Karen Mahoney’s Editor adds ‘Karen is a dream author, with an incredible passion for YA fiction and a huge online following on both sides of the Atlantic. Her blend of strong female protagonists and punchy paranormal drama is breathing (much-needed) new life into this genre, and we are very proud to have her on the RHCB list.’

THE STONE DEMON is the final book of The Iron Witch trilogy, where Donna Underwood must work with the alchemical Order of the Crow in London to create a new Philosopher's Stone. If she fails? A three-way war between the dark elves, demons and alchemists will lead the world into an unimaginable apocalypse. (Ohshit! This sounds AWESOME)

BEAUTIFUL GHOSTS:

Being a vampire is for life - not just a lifestyle.

Reluctant teenage vampire Marie 'Moth' O'Neal infiltrates a group of Otherkin kids in Boston, teenagers who believe they are reincarnated vampires, in order to find out who or what is killing off the troubled teens... and then turning them into something truly undead with a taste for human flesh. All this while trying to stop sexy young hunter Jace Murdoch from shooting anything that doesn't breathe - including her.

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Brilliant news! I loved the first installment in The Iron Witch series and cannot wait for Wood Queen. Beautiful Ghosts sounds just fantastic! I'm super excited about more Karen Mahoney in my life - not only is she a fab writer, she's absolutely lovely. Hooray, Kaz!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Winner: Passion Giveaway!

Hi everybody! Just a quick one to announce that the winner of my Passion manuscript giveaway is...

Sally from Always Lost in Stories!

Thank you to everybody who entered and check back soon for another international giveaway!

x

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

Published: November 3rd 2008, Walker Books
Pages: 479 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book one. The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men are books two and three
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee - whose thoughts Todd can hear, too, whether he wants to or not - stumble upon an area of complete silence.

They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden - a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?


My review: So, this is one of those reviews that I have absolutely no idea how to write. Anything Chaos Walking related just turns my mind to mush. What I do know, though, is that The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the best books I have ever read. Honestly. That's not something I'd say lightly as I don't rave about books very often. But this one, seriously, it's in a different league.

Dystopia has become a bit of a trend in YA at the moment, while some of it is great, some of it is not so good. The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the first dystopia books I came across (long before it became a trend) and it's definitely the strongest I've ever read. The world Ness creates is so vivid, I haven't felt so engrossed in a different world since I read Harry Potter.

The characters here are fantastic. Todd and Viola are both so brilliantly well developed - I love that Todd is a flawed hero, struggling with his identity and the awkward transition of going from being a boy to a man. When it comes to light that everything Todd has grown up believing may actually be a lie he is thrown into complete turmoil. Who can he trust? Who is it who is lying to him? He feels completely alone and that feeling of isolation is definitely something we can all relate to, even though none of us have been in a situation quite as extreme as Todd's.

I want to give Manchee his own paragraph. Seriously, that dog. So sweet I swear to God he may have given me diabetes. Such a wonderful character and I'm a sucker for dogs as it is. He made me want to give my puppy a big fat hug.

The ideas explored in The Knife of Never Letting Go are so complex, I'm sure I'll be able to read this one over and over again and still take in more details that I missed before. How would you adapt if everyone around you could read your thoughts? How would you cope without any privacy? Life in Prentisstown is a truly terrifying thought and Mayor Prentiss, well he plain scared the crap out of me.

I could carry on raving about this book for a long time but instead I'll leave you with a visual representation of how this book made me feel throughout the entire time I was reading:


First line: 'The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 19/20 (A)

Alternative covers:



Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Power of Six - Pittacus Lore

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read.

This week I've chosen The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore. Even though the cover art is horrendous and I think James Frey is a douche I still really enjoyed I Am Number Four so am looking forward to this one - though I do worry it may be a disappointment.

Publication date: August 23rd 2011
Published by: Penguin

Summary (from Goodreads): I've seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. John Smith, out there, on the run. To the world, he's a mystery. But to me . . . he's one of us.

Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us—if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We're hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we'll be equipped to fight.

Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I've been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who may be strong enough to bring the six of us together?

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio—and failed.

I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.

And I'm ready to fight.

*

So what about you guys? What are your picks for this week?

Review: Living with Feet Too Big for a Glass Slipper - Lynne Tapper

Published: April 29th 2011, Matador
Pages: 272 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from the back cover): Someone once asked, 'What's in a name?' Well, quite a lot actaully, in the kooky Kingdom of It Is What It Is, where everything is as it seems and everyone is the perfect performer in the game of life.

In the mythical year of 1212 B.R. - Before Reason - the beautiful Princess Innocent is born in the Royal Borough of Look at Me - one of many Drama Districts that constitute The Kingdom. Having been raised on the propaganda of the Fairy Tale Land Press, she is ill-prepared for her life's journey when she leavces her home castle to find her One True Prince.

Unfortunately she finds Prince Bad Boy, Captain Unavailable, Lord Lie-A-Lot, Prince Rescue Me - among many others!

My review: Well, I don't like to start a review on a bad note but that summary up there almost made me throw up. Sickly sweet, much? Anything that features the word 'kooky' is probably not going to score particularly highly with me. However, I'm pleased to say that Living with Feet Too Big for a Glass Slipper is a lot more fun to read than the summary is.

If you can look past the irritating place and character names then this story has some real merit - the writing is good and the characters well rounded. There are a few archetypes present but I'm sure they were put in to further parody the fairytales we know and love.

Once Innocent leaves the palace to go out into the world on her own we see her meet a whole host of unsavoury gentlemen (and a few stars), which does provide some great comedy moments. Innocent is a character I think a lot of us can relate to and it was nice to read about a girl who cared about real friendships as much as she did about finding her 'one true love'.

However, my main problem with Living with Feet Too Big for a Glass Slipper is that readers are subjected to information overload. There is such a huge cast that I found it so hard to keep up with who was who, who lived where and everybody's backstory. I think Tapper could easily have cut out half the characters and been left with a much more effective story.

So, Living with Feet Too Big for a Glass Slipper is a fun read that is perfect for these long summer days. It's not the most ground breaking novel I've come across but it certainly isn't bad. Plus, the illustrations are gorgeous.

First line: 'Innocent was born with all the promise of happiness a first child brings.'

Read if you liked…: A Reluctant Cinderella - Alison Bond

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 13/20 (C)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review: Tiger's Curse - Colleen Houck

Published: May 26th 2011, Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 498 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book one. Book two (Tiger's Quest) is out now
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing 17-year old Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened.

Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.


My review: Now, Tiger's Curse is not the kind of book I'd normally pick up. A girl attempting to break a 300 year old curse, with a tiger as a sidekick? Yeah, not my kind of thing. However, the story of this series' publication is fascinating (Google it) and the early reviews were glowing, so I decided to take a look.

The world building in Tiger's Curse is just great, the mythology is so rich and I loved finding out the history behind the curse. The vast majority of the action is set in India, which I think was a risky move as one detail out of place could have ruined the story. When an author decides to set a novel in a country as culturally rich and exciting as India the description needs to be spot on - luckily it was in this case. It's clear that Houck did her research and every detail rings true, which makes for a great reading experience.

The pace in Tiger's Curse did have some problems, for me, and I think the beginning was a little slow. It did take me a good few chapters to settle into the story and it did drag somewhat in the middle - this is a chunky book so don't expect to get through it in a single sitting. However, once the action really picked up (in the final third, I'd say) I was completely engrossed until the end, which I loved, by the way.

Tiger's Curse is a truly unique novel with a wonderful story behind it and I can really see this series becoming a huge hit. Finally, I just have to add that the cover art is absolutely beautiful!

First line: 'The prisoner stood with his hands tied in front of him, tired, beaten, and filthy but with a proud back befitting his royal Indian heritage.'

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Monday, 20 June 2011

Review: The Opposite of Amber - Gillian Philip

Published: April 11th 2011, Bloomsbury
Pages: 311 pages, ARC
Series?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): 'They found the fifth girl right after the snow melted ...the place where he left her was winter water, crazed with ice-feathers and dusted with snow. The traces from her body were gone, the ones that said his name, but she had an extra skin of ice that protected her and she looked perfect, like Snow White'.

Ruby and her older sister Jinn live together on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene - again - and Jinn starts to change.


First Nathan moves in with Jinn and Ruby, making Ruby feel an outsider, and then Jinn and Nathan move out, leaving Ruby alone. Jinn no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears.


My review: The Opposite of Amber is one interesting book. I thought I knew what it was about and what I was going to get (a Jack the Ripper-style murder mystery set in London) but I got a real shock. Firstly - yeah, I had the location allllll wrong. What I thought was a story set in our country's capital turned out to be set in a little village in Scotland. And the muder mystery element? Not as important as I thought. Instead, we focus primarily on the relationship between Ruby and Jinn, two sisters who have experienced more than their fair share of hardships.

Ruby, the younger, is our narrator and her voice is fantastic. She's hilarious, witty and sharp - my kind of heroine. She comes out with some great pieces of dialogue that made me laugh out loud, despite the dark tones of the story. For example, this little gem taken from page 115:

'"Yeah, I saw the pair of you sniggering. You gave away my necklace for a joke!"
"So what? YOU DIDN'T WANT IT!"
At which point I stormed off and got drunk.

I had a wonderful time. The combination of first being happy, and then being insanely, irrationally furious: that's what did it, I think. I actually talked, and talked a lot. I'd discovered the angel alcohol and it was good, it was the salvation of me, it taught me to speak and not just that: to make jokes. God, I was funny. I was witty like you wouldn't believe (I wish I could remember some of my lines). I didn't hesitate to say things and my tongue was not coated in Velcro, it was smooth and slippery and quick like a cobra.'

Brilliant. It was Ruby who really stole the show for me and just about saved the story. I did love Philip's gorgeous prose and the sense of foreboding whenever Nathan entered the scene (I did get the sense of pantomime booing whenever he was present) but there was something about Jinn's character that I couldn't quite connect to and that let the book down a little, for me anyway.

Don't get me wrong, I loved The Opposite of Amber and wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to any fans of YA (plus, no vampires or werewolves - hooray). I just wish Jinn's character felt as well developed as her sister's. She didn't feel particularly real to me and so I had a hard time caring about what happened to her. The only reason I did care is because of how Ruby reacted to her disappearance.

For me, The Opposite of Amber isn't perfect but it's a solid book and definitely an interesting story. Fans of snappy dialogue will love Ruby (as I did) and there are some beautiful lines of prose to be found here.

First line: 'They found the fifth girl right after the snow melted.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 15/20 (B)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Review: Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

Published: 7th April 2011, Puffin
Pages: 338 pages, ARC
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): One night fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and young brother are hauled from their home by Soviet guards, thrown into cattle cars and sent away. They are being deported to Siberia. An unimaginable and harrowing journey has begun. Lina doesn't know if she'll ever see her father or her friends again. But she refuses to give up hope.

My review: Between Shades of Gray has already garnered a great deal of buzz throughout the book world and it completely deserves every line of praise it receives. This is a beautifully written book from a fantastic new voice in YA fiction and one I highly recommend.

This book will make you cry. That I promise. But it will also make you feel hopeful, which is the important thing. Sepetys doesn't shy away from difficult situations but she writes them wonderfully. Her prose is gentle and lyrical and I adore her style. I really cannot wait for her next release.

Lina is a fantastic protagonist, wise and brave beyond her years. In times of hardship she stays strong and she's such an inspiring character, definitely one that will stay with me. Her family are just as real and well developed and it's clear that Sepetys has put so much love into writing this story. And it's a story that needs to be told. I saw Septeys speak at an event earlier this year and the journey of discovery she went on to research Between Shades of Gray is remarkable - there were a lot of wet eyes in the audience (yes, including mine).

Between Shades of Gray is a stunning debut novel and if it's still on your TBR list I suggest you bump it up to the top - you won't be disappointed.

First line: 'They took me in my nightgown.'

Read if you liked…: The Memory Cage - Ruth Eastham

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 18/20 (A)

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: Killing Honour - Bali Rai

Published: June 2nd 2011, Corgi
Pages: 292 pages, ARC
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): When Sat's sister, Jas, is married off into the Atwal family she changes, she's quiet and distant. But Sat's too busy with his own life; his girlfriend, his friends, football... Then Jas disappears.

According to her new husband, she's run off with another man. Her family disown her; don't seem to care if she's ever found. But Sat doesn't believe it. Something has happened to his sister and he's determined to figure out what. But his investigations take him into dark and dangerous territory...

My review: Anybody who's read anything by Bali Rai before will be well aware that he's not one to shy away from controversial subjects and he makes no exception with Killing Honour. I really enjoyed this book, despite it being far outside my comfort zone. I have read another of Rai's books - City of Ghosts - and loved it, so he's definitely an author I'd recommend to fans of YA.

Rai's use of language is wonderful and deceptively simple. His style reminds me a little of David Almond, although his subject matter is clearly very different. I flew through this book in a matter of hours, it's not particularly short but once the action began I honestly couldn't put it down. I had to know what happened to Sat and his sister, Jas.

The characterisation in Killing Honour is great - I empathised with Jas from the very beginning and, even though she doesn't get a lot of page time, I felt as though I knew her well. Sat is such a brilliant character; throughout the whole book the idea of honour is explored and, really, Sat is one of the most honourable characters I've come across in a long while.

This book will make you cry, it will make you angry and it will make you care deeply about the characters. Yes, it may shock you too but I promise, it will make you think. A wonderful story. Brilliantly executed.

First line: 'The room is cold because she's left the window open, and a wintry storm has turned the sky purple.'

Read if you liked…: An Act of Love - Alan Gibbons

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 15/20 (B)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Blog Tour: Passion - Lauren Kate

So today I've got a brilliant guest post from Lauren Kate, who you'll all know as the author behind the Fallen series. Lauren's been hopping from blog to blog in the last couple of weeks for a blog tour to promote her latest release, Passion, and I'm lucky enough to be hosting the last spot on the tour!

I asked Lauren to tell me a little bit about how she tackles writing endings - as we all know she loves a cliffhanger! Check out her response below:


Endings are impossible. With every book, they terrify me. I think that might be why I love writing series so much: you can procrastinate and procrastinate, offering cliffhangers in place of a proper ending. I was probably no further along in the series than midway through Torment when I began to worry about the ending the Rapture.

I am loathe to sum things up. I want to offer just the minimal amount of closure to give each book a sense of being its own entity--but mostly, I want to open the door for more possibilities to come. In terms of the plot, this tendency usually steers me toward that ol’ cliffhanger--which readers, you know you love to hate! But, more importantly, in terms of the overall experience of the narrative, I think an open ended ending is much more empowering to everyone concerned--to Luce, to me, to every kind of reader. We all need to be able to hold onto our own mystery in the series, and what that means will vary from person to person.

Epilogues are great, I think, because they propose a gap of time and space that leaves as much as we want to the imagination but also gives us a hint more closure to the overall series. I think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games both had excellent epilogues. I preferred both epilogues to the books’ “actual” endings.

My very favorite novel ending is the last page of The Great Gatsby. I love it for its beauty and its poise. Those final lines, “so we beat on...” are always running through my mind. It’s an ending encapsulates everything that feels important about the book without pinning down “what’s going to happen” to any of that characters afterwards. I love that.

I just finished writing the first draft of Rapture, and the ending is still nagging at me. It wants more completing one moment, much less the next. It’s a work in progress that I’m sure I’ll go back to a dozen times to get just right. Maybe it’s because, as I said above, endings are impossible.

And maybe it’s because I’m not ready to think about the series being over just yet.

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I definitely agree with Lauren when it comes to epilogues - I'm a huge fan of them! Fingers crossed we have one at the end of Rapture! What do you think about endings? What are some of your favourites?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Review: A Monster Calls - Siobhan Dowd and Patrick Ness

Published: May 2nd 2011, Walker Books
Pages: 215 pages, hardback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

My review: A lot has been written about A Monster Calls. Where do you even start? It's such a powerful book, started and finished by two exceptional writers, one of whom is so sadly no longer with us. I cry a lot when I read - I think most of you know that by now! I'm not ashamed to admit I shed my first tear of A Monster Calls when I read Patrick Ness' introduction, which is perfect. Trust me, if you read this one (which you absolutely have to, I insist) you'll need a tissue. Or maybe a whole pack.

First things first, the writing here is absolutely spectacular. Honestly, there isn't a thing I can criticise about it. Ness is a master of words and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that this is first thing of his I've read - though when I finished A Monster Calls I dived straight into The Knife of Never Letting Go (my review of which is coming tomorrow). The writing in A Monster Calls reminded me a little of Skellig - the language used is deceptively simple but leaves room for so many wonderful ideas to take precedent, which is what makes this book have such crossover appeal.

The illustrations in A Monster Calls are stunning. It's such a gorgeous book and such great quality, it feels so heavy and just looks fantastic - the spine is simple but completely eye catching. Perfect. Gothic, terrifying and always beautiful. Jim Kay, you are a genius.

A Monster Calls is heartbreaking in such a controlled, subtle way. The scenes between Conor and Lily seemed particularly real and I loved their relationship, very sweet. Now I've read The Knife of Never Letting Go I did see some slight similarities between Conor and Todd and Lily and Viola and I found it really interesting to see how these similar characters behaved in such different circumstances.

There's nothing else I can say that hasn't already been said in the hundreds of 5* reviews that are all over the Internet. Just please, please pick up a copy of this wonderful, important book. I promise you won't be let down, it's definitely one of my reads of the year and I guarantee you won't be able to get it out of your mind for a long while after reading. Stunning.

First line: 'The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.'

Read if you liked…: Flyaway - Lucy Christopher (for a more lighthearted read that focuses around similar themes)

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 19/20 (A)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Zen and Xander Undone - Amy Kathleen Ryan

Published: May 3rd 2010, Houghton Mifflin
Pages: 224 pages, hardback
Series?: Nope, this is a standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Zen and Xander are sisters—truly, madly, deeply sisters, and this is their last summer together.

Zen is the "good" girl with a black belt in karate and a newfound penchant for kicking heads. Xander is a wild scientific genius with a self-destructive streak a light-year long.

They have three things in common: they’re brown-eyed blondes, they’ve noticed the boy next door has turned into a hottie, and they miss their mom, who died almost a year ago.

These sisters are surviving just fine—except Zen keeps getting into fights that are harder and harder to finish, while Xander spirals into a vortex of late-night parties, scary men, and drugs.

What’s worse, Xander has scholarships to the most coveted universities in the country, but she’s about to ruin everything. Should Zen keep trying to protect Xander, or finally let her go?


My review: After reading Vibes (which I recently reviewed) I was keen to try out another one of Amy Kathleen Ryan's books. She has a really distinct, modern style that I enjoy and I was pleased to find that this style is also present in Zen and Xander Undone, which I enjoyed just as much, if not more, than Vibes.

Zen and Xander are best friends, sisters and complete opposites - we have the well-behaved, appropriately named Zen, who loves martial arts and adhering to the rules and her contrast, Xander, a promiscuous maths genius. Yeah, slightly out of the ordinary, right? I loved the fact neither of the girls fitted into a standard YA stereotype. Maybe Xander loves maths but she loves guys just as much - how often do we see a 'smart girl' getting paid so much attention by the opposite sex?

Both girls are dealing with the grief of losing their mother and, although they are extremely close, Zen and Xander both realise that their grief is something that needs to be handled privately. Ryan handled the sensitive subject matter very sweetly and I think anybody who has suffered a similar loss will definitely relate to what both of the girls are going through and the distractions they use to try and ease the pain - Zen gets into fights and Xander flirts with men.

The stakes in Zen and Xander Undone are high - something I think a lot of YA novels fall down on so I was glad this wasn't the case here. Xander risks losing her place at a fantastic university because of her behaviour and Zen has a huge decision to make - does she try to save Xander yet again, or does she finally let her sister make her own mistakes and face the consequences alone? Well, you'll see if you pick up this gem of a novel. Highly recommended, I loved it.

First line: 'My sister, Xander, causes a scandal pretty much everywhere she goes.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 15/20 (B)

Alternative cover:

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Mini reviews: Inside My Head, Pretties, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

So I like to try and stay up to date with the books I’m sent for review so I’ve decided to write a collection of mini reviews to be posted each week to help me keep up to date. This week I’m featuring mini reviews of Inside My Head (Jim Carrington), Pretties (Scott Westerfeld) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth (Jeff Kinney).

Inside My Head - Jim Carrington

Published: April 5th 2010, Bloomsbury
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): This cleverly constructed narrative consists of three points of view: of Gary, constantly victimised by the school bully in a nasty, name-calling and vindictive way; the bully's friend, David and a new girl to the school, Zoe. All viewpoints are revealing.

Gary reveals the painful and often unsuccessful attempts by a young man to control his anger under great provocation - and his inability to communicate. David is someone who is uncomfortable with the bullying but doesn't dare to do anything about it - until the end. Zoe is a young woman who can see Gary through different eyes and is independent, freethinking and brave.

Also featured in this title are rampaging tractors, shotguns and cheese puffs.


My review: Okay, so any summary that includes the line 'Also featured in this title are rampaging tractors, shotguns and cheese puffs' is a winner, in my opinion. After reading the summary I was sold and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read Inside My Head, as it's a completely unique novel that has the huge plus point of being extremely well written.

The three points of view work really well together and bring the novel to life. David's voice was particularly engaging and it was really nice to see another dimension to the stereotypical 'bully's sidekick'. Quirky Zoe grated on me just a little, not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the novel but it is what stops me marking this one higher.

This is the first novel by Jim Carrington that I've read but I'll definitely be checking out In the Bag shortly. I also want to point out that I love the cover art of both Inside My Head and In the Bag, both simple but very effective.

Rating: 3/5

Pretties - Scott Westerfeld

Published: March 4th 2010, Simon & Schuster
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted. But beneath all the fun -- the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom -- is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important.

Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.
Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life -- because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.

My review:
Big, big sigh. Well, I don't think I've ever felt so let down by a second novel before. Seriously, this was really, really bad - in my opinion, at least. If you take a look at the Goodreads page for Pretties there is a real mixed bag of reviews - there are a ton of 5* reviews, naturally, but it seems I agree with more people than I thought.

For me, the main issue is the slang used in the novel. It made me want to punch someone, it really did. Yes that may sound a little extreme but, honestly, if I heard that something made Tally feel 'bubbly' one more time... Seriously. I did start off underlining every bit of slang that pissed me off but that got a bit ridiculous. However, I would just like to share a very, very small selection of the phrases that grated on me, taken from three pages:

- "Pretty bubbly-making, huh?"

- "Very non-bogus, Tally."

- "Of course, that wouldn't be very bubbly, would it?"

- He reached for Tally's hand, drew her to him, and they kissed again.
She blinked once, then felt a grin spreading on her face. "Just to keep us bubbly."

Oh, seriously? This whole 'bubbly' thing? I couldn't deal with it. The story would be ticking along nicely, I'd be really getting into it and then there'd be two pages of ridiculous 'bubbly' references and I'd spend the next two chapters trying to forget how much it annoyed me. Not a great recipe for enjoyment, I assure you.

Now, Scott Westerfeld is a great writer and I'm a big fan of his. I'm hoping this is just a blip and that I'll enjoy Extras and Specials as much as I did Uglies, I'll definitely be reading them.

Rating: 2/5

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth - Jeff Kinney

Published: November 10th 2010, Puffin
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Greg Heffley has always been in a hurry to grow up. But is getting older really all it’s cracked up to be? Greg suddenly finds himself dealing with the pressures of boy-girl parties, increased responsibilities, and even the awkward changes that come with getting older—all without his best friend, Rowley, at his side. Can Greg make it through on his own? Or will he have to face the “ugly truth"?

My review: Yay for Diary of a Wimpy Kid! Book five in the series is just as sweet and funny as the rest of the series and I continue to be so impressed with Jeff Kinney's writing. I can see how boys (and girls) are completely obsessed with the series, I know I would have been if they'd come out when I was younger.

In this installment we see Greg mature somewhat and, as such, the tone of the books does change a little bit. It's great to see what a journey Greg has come on and it's nice that readers of the series have been able to grow up alongside him and relate to the difficulties he goes through in The Ugly Truth. Teenage years are difficult for both boys and girls and I really think that books like this can make these awkward years a little bit more bearable.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, 10 June 2011

Review: Never Slow Dance with a Zombie - E. Van Lowe

Published: August 18th 2009, Tor Teen
Pages: 253 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Romy and Michelle's Hight School Reunion meets Night of the Living Dead in this laugh-out-loud debut YA novel by Emmy Award-nominated TV writer E. Van Lowe.

Principal Taft's 3 Simple Rules for Surviving a Zombie Uprising:

Rule #1: While in the halls, walk slowly and wear a vacant expression on your face. Zombies won't attack other zombies.


Rule #2: Never travel alone. Move in packs. Follow the crowd. Zombies detest blatant displays of individuality.


Rule #3: If a zombie should attack, do not run. Instead, throw raw steak at to him. Zombies love raw meat. This display of kindness will go a long way.


On the night of her middle school graduation, Margot Jean Johnson wrote a high school manifesto detailing her goals for what she was sure would be a most excellent high school career. She and her best friend, Sybil, would be popular and, most important, have boyfriends. Three years later, they haven't accomplished a thing!


Then Margot and Sybil arrive at school one day to find that most of the student body has been turned into flesh-eating zombies. When kooky Principal Taft asks the girls to coexist with the zombies until the end of the semester, they realize that this is the perfect opportunity to live out their high school dreams. All they have to do is stay alive...


My review: So, it looks as though zombies are becoming the new vampires, doesn't it? Now the market for vampire novels seems to have finally become exhausted (fingers crossed) the attention has turned to another branch of the undead. Yay. That was sarcastic. Now, horror novels involving zombies? Brilliant, love them, can't get enough. But a zombie novel that may contain even a whiff of a romance or high school politics? For God's sake. Not impressed. Zombies are awesome and scary, let's not dumb them down, please?

So, onto the story. How would you react if you walked into your high school one morning and found that 90% of the students were zombies? Um, run, maybe? Well, not in this novel. Of course, when the undead are threatening to take over the world it's obvious that what you need to do is whine about not having a boyfriend and try to become chair of the homecoming committee. Believability is not one of this novel's strong points. How am I supposed to have empathy for characters when they're so dumb they think the zombie uprising is nothing to be concerned about?

Okay, maybe I'm being a little harsh. I know Never Slow Dance with a Zombie is supposed to be funny and realism isn't the main priority. I get that, I do, I just couldn't relate to Margot at all and, as such, I didn't care what happened to her. Oh, and it kind of annoyed me that the most important thing in the entire world was for her to get a boyfriend. Really, because that's the most important thing for a teenage girl to achieve? Great.

But my main problem wasn't the fact I found the story to be unrealistic and the characters hard to warm to. I just couldn't take to the writing style at all - I found the writing quite sloppy and the pacing was all over the place. The beginning was so slow it barely moved forwards for chapters on end but the ending was completely rushed. This is one novel that definitely would have benefitted from a lot more editing.

Now, this book is definitely one that you either love or hate and unfortunately I fall into the latter category. Hate is a strong word and I didn't exactly hate Never Slow Dance with a Zombie but I did struggle with it and it's not one I'd rush to recommend. I love zombies in a horror capacity and really hope this trend of lacklustre YA zombie novels doesn't continue. They smell, they're dead, they eat brains and will rip you apart - okay? Remember that.

If you're looking for a number of 5* reviews of this novel then head on over to the Goodreads page to check them out - there are a fair few so do have a look at them if you think this may be one you'll enjoy.

First line: "Do you think I'm a failure?"

Read if you liked…: I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It - Adam Selzer

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 12/20 (D)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Review: Out for Blood - Alyxandra Harvey

Published: November 1st 2010, Bloomsbury
Pages: 292 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book three. Book four (Bleeding Hearts) is due out this November
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Hunter Wild is the youngest in a long line of elite vampire hunters, a legacy that is both a blessing and a curse at the secret Helios-Ra Academy, where she excels at just about everything. Thanks to her friendship with Kieran Black, Hunter receives a special invitation to attend the coronation of Helena Drake, and for the first time, she sees the difference between vampires that must be hunted and vampires that can become friends—or even more.

When students at the academy fall victim to a mysterious illness, Hunter suspects they are under attack from within. She will need someone she can trust to help her save the future of Helios-Ra . . . help that shockingly comes in the form of Quinn Drake, a drop-dead gorgeous vampire. Who said senior year would be easy?

My review: I've already raved about the first two books in this series but I definitely think Out for Blood is my favourite installment so far - Harvey's writing just gets tighter and funnier with each book.

We're introduced to a host of new characters in Out for Blood, which focuses on the Helios-Ra vampire hunters. Hunter (aptly named) is our heroine and she's fantastic, completely kick ass and one of the top hunters at the academy. She comes from a long line of famous vampire hunters and is under a great deal of pressure to excel. And stay away from vampires. And definitely not date them.

The politics of the vampire world are explored in more detail in Out for Blood and we learn more about the Hel Blar, who scare the crap out of me, by the way. When the Hel Blar start attacking the Helios-Ra academy and venturing closer and closer to the Drake estate both the Drakes and the vampire hunters realise something not quite right is going on.

I really liked learning more about the Helios-Ra, we'd seen hints of them in the previous books (mostly because of Kieran) but seeing inside the academy was great. I loved seeing the training they go through and I was definitely reminded of Buffy more than once. Also - the nicknames were great (Buffy and Lestat, I'm looking at you).

Out for Blood definitely stands alone as its own story but also gives some great hints about what we should expect in the next book in the series, Bleeding Hearts, which I believe focuses more on the Hel Blar and Conor Drake, Quinn's twin brother. The Hel Blar are fascinating so I can't wait to hear more about them in Bleeding Hearts, which I cannot wait for!

First line: "Shakespeare said, 'What's in a name?'"

Read if you liked…: Blood Feud - Alyxandra Harvey

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Popular - Gareth Russell

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read.

This week I've chosen Popular by Gareth Russell. I love the cover and the story sounds great - right up my street and a perfect summer read. Yay!

Publication date: 7th July 2011
Published by: Penguin

Summary (from Goodreads): 'AND HOW ARE WE?'

'BETTER.'

'THAN?'

'EVERYONE.'

MEREDITH HARPER is rich, popular, manipulative and almost unnaturally beautiful. At the age of sixteen, she's already a social legend.

IMOGEN DAWSON, beautiful and sexy-chic, she's Meredith's best friend and a total bombshell. And doesn't she just know it. Then there's . . .

KERRY DAVISON, daddy's little princess with a passion for pink and a penchant for Fabulous Induced Breakdowns. Now meet

CAMERON MATTHEWS, six-feet tall, blue-eyed and the most popular guy in school.

Together they're unfathomably gorgeous and like, totally beau. But under the glamorous surface of parties and spa-days is a wealth of comforting lies and convenient silences, bitching, break-ups and scandal. Let the games begin . . .

*

So what about you guys? What are your picks for this week?

Review: Blood Feud - Alyxandra Harvey

Published: July 5th 2010, Bloomsbury
Pages: 258 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book two
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): It has been centuries since Isabeau St. Croix survived the French Revolution. Now she's made her way back to the living and must face the ultimate test by confronting the evil British lord who turned her into a vampire and left her buried for two hundred years. That's if she can control her affection for Logan Drake, a vampire whose bite is as sweet as the revenge she seeks...

My review: So I've made no secret of the fact I am not a fan of paranormal romances. At all. Especially paranormal romances that focus on vampires. There are so many series that centre around vampires that I've completely given up on the genre. Except for when it comes to Alyxandra Harvey, that is. I read My Love Lies Bleeding last December and loved it, much to my surprise, so I was really excited to be sent Blood Feud for review.

One of the things I love most about the Drake Chronicles is the mythology and politics that Harvey explores in each of the novels. I love that we learn about the different tribes of vampires, their culture and their laws. It's fascinating and definitely a refreshing change from the majority of vampire novels I've read before. I'm so glad that we got to learn even more in Blood Feud and I hope this carries on throughout the rest of the series.

I think the way this series is written is so interesting - we see the same cast of characters in each novel but each story is told from the point of view of different characters. In this installment we're introduced to Isabeau (the pricess of the Hound tribe) and our other narrator is Logan Drake, one of the younger brother who has a penchant for frilly cuffs and Victorian shirts.

I really liked the contrast of their narrative voices and particularly liked Isabeau - she's so different from the other characters in the books and I loved finding out more about the Hounds, the tribe she is a princess of. Their culture is so rich and her lifestyle is completely different to that of the Drakes, so it's no surprise that things don't run particularly smoothly in Blood Feud. But then that just makes for a more interesting story, doesn't it?

I felt that the love story took a bit of a back seat in Blood Feud - and I don't mean that as a negative at all. It was nice to see some emphasis put on something other than romance but the romance that was included was well written and not over the top, a la Twilight.

Harvey is doing wonderful things for the genre, in my opinion. Her female characters are always strong and independant and the romances realistic and well developed - well, as realistic as they can be when they involve vampires and the like! This is one of the only series that I read, as I'm much more of a standalone fan, and I really do hope there are at least a few more books planned. Maybe one for each brother. That sounds good to me.

First line: 'If Isabeau St. Croix had known it was going to be her last Christmas Eve, she would have had a third helping of plum pudding.'

Read if you liked…: My Love Lies Bleeding - Alyxandra Harvey

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 15/20 (B)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Review: Vibes - Amy Kathleen Ryan

Published: October 6th 2008, Houghton Mifflin
Pages: 249 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Gusty Peterson, the hottest bimboy in school, is always thinking I’m sick, as in totally gross to look at. Not that it matters, since I don’t have a crush on him or anything. And Mallory, my first real friend since forever, has disturbing romantic ideas about me and my ginormous gazungas.

Ask me if I’d rather not know these things.
I have enough to worry about with my dad showing up after two years of saving Africa from typhoid, ready to resuscitate our relationship. There’s something he’s not telling me. I know it.

And now I’ve been assigned to work with Gusty in a hideous new project the faculty are torturing us with at school. It’s so wonderful to explore yourself with someone who’s always thinking you’re sick.

I’d probably be a lot better off if I weren’t psychic after all...


My review: How has it taken me so long to read one of Ryan's books? I'm absolutely obsessed! She has such a unique voice and I already have another one of her books (Zen and Xander Undone) lined up to read soon. If you're a fan of YA and haven't picked up one of Ryan's books then I strongly suggest you do, she's fab!

Our heroine, Kristi, is just brilliant. Full of melodramatic teenage self loathing and her own strongest critic, I'm sure all of you with have felt like Kristi at one time or another and that's what makes Vibes such a great book. Although the storyline might not be completely realistic (I'm talking about the mind reading here, though I loved it) I think Ryan writes a fantastic depiction of a teenage girl struggling to fit in in high school.

I'm glad that Vibes doesn't shy away from the... less savoury side of being a teenager. We see swearing, slang and sexual innuendo aplenty and I loved it! Maybe some more sensitive readers might not be impressed by some of the language used (there are probably more slang words for boobs here than in an episode of South Park) but for me, not a problem at all. The fact is, it's how the majority of teenagers do talk and I felt real and modern.

Ryan examines our perception of beauty in a sweet, subtle way, which I really appreciated. It didn't feel at all self righteous or preachy, which is so important when writing for teenagers. I think anyone who reads Vibes will come away with a fresh take on looks, personality and how we perceive those around us. If you've read this one (or any of Amy Kathleen Ryan's other books) let me know what you thought as I haven't come across too many reviews of her books.

First line: 'It isn't easy being able to read minds.'

Read if you liked…: Fly on the Wall - E. Lockhart

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Interview: Daisy Whitney (The Mockingbirds)

So today I have Daisy Whitney here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her life as a writer and her newest novel, The Mockingbirds. Without further ado, on with the interview!


1. The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets The Mockingbirds apart from the pack?

Great question! I hope it's an original read and I think what sets the book apart is that it's both entertaining and an issue book. Rather than just being a book about dealing with the aftermath of a crime (in this case - date rape), The Mockingbirds shows the main character going through the process of pressing charges in a student-run justice system and how this form of speaking up helps her to heal and move on.

2. What did you hope to accomplish by writing The Mockingbirds? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?

My goal was to write a book that would inspire and move teen readers. I've been fortunate to hear from a number of teens via email and Facebook who have said the book has touched them, impacted them and given them courage about standing up for themselves. I can't ask for anything more!

3. Do you think your teenage years have influenced you as a writer? If so, how?

Of course! In my case, I moved around a lot growing up and I think the experience of transitioning, making new friends, and readjusting constantly to schools and teachers and places definitely stayed with me and has helped me to understand some of the issues of constant change that teens of any generation go through.

4. There is a lot of argument within the young adult market as to what is appropriate for teens to read. Where do you stand on this matter? Do you think teens should be protected from reading about taboo subjects or do you think they should have the freedom to choose their own reads?

I believe in the freedom to choose what you read. I also believe parents should talk to their kids about what they're reading, share books and openly discuss ideas with their kids.

5. What books do you think we should be looking out for in 2011?

One of the best books I have ever read came out last fall and it's THE THINGS A BROTHER KNOWS by Dana Reinhardt. Everyone should read it! It's tremendous. Also, Gayle Forman's Where She Went - it's spectacular and just as good (maybe even better!) that her incredible book If I Stay. And in July, Suzanne Young's A Need So Beautiful comes out - loved this one too!

*

So, have any of you guys read The Mockingbirds, what did you think? It was great to speak to Daisy and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).

Review: The Iron King - Julie Kagawa

Published: February 4th 2011, Mira Ink
Pages: 363 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the first installment
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): My name is Meghan Chase. In less than twenty-four hours I'll be sixteen. Countless stories, songs and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset. I don't think it will be that way for me.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school...or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical fairy king and is a pawn in a deadly war.

Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face...and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

My review: Okay - if I had to sum up this series in one sentence I would have to say: Another paranormal romance series about faeries.

Faeries seem to be jumping ahead of vampires as the latest paranormal trend. I can't even count the amount of series there are that feature faeries and, while The Iron Fey series is a strong one, it isn't particularly original and it's only Kagawa's writing that makes it stand out against the others.

What I liked is that The Iron King was a little darker than a lot of the other fairy books I've read (I'm not using faery, I'm sorry, it grates on me). Things didn't feel too Hollywood or sugar coated. I felt as though any character could have been killed off at any moment that that sense of tension and mystery is something I enjoyed.

I think the characters are what stopped me falling in love with this book. I enjoyed it but I didn't love it, it's not one I'll rush to reread any time soon. I just felt Meghan was a little lacklustre and, a week or so after finishing this book, I can't recall anything interesting about her that sets her apart from any other paranormal romance heroine - which is usually my main critique of the genre.

As I said before, Kagawa's writing is fantastic. She creates such a vivid and visual world for her characters that I could see every scene so clearly in my head, which made for a brilliant reading experience. Although I'm not keen on the vast majority of fairy books, this is a series I think I'll carry on reading - the writing completely drew me in and I'm keen to see how the story develops in The Iron Daughter.

First line: 'Ten years ago, on my sixth birthday, my father disappeared.'

Read if you liked…: Need - Carrie Jones

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Sunday, 5 June 2011

In My Mailbox - 31


Hi everybody! Here’s my In My Mailbox for this week – I hope all of you had a great week and received lots of lovely books.

In case you haven't taken part before, In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi who's over at the awesome blog, The Story Siren.


Received for review:

David - Mary Hoffman
The Devil Walks - Anne Fine


Tiger's Curse - Colleen Houck
Haunting Violet - Alyxandra Harvey (signed!)


Truth & Dare - Various
Lula Does the Hula - Sophie Mackintosh


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Thanks to Bloomsbury, Hodder & Stoughton, Random House, Egmont and the lovely Sophie over at So Many Books, So Little Time for brightening up my mailbox this week!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Mini reviews: Airhead, Being Nikki, Runaway - Meg Cabot

So I like to try and stay on top of the books I’m sent for review so I’ve decided to write a collection of mini reviews to be posted each week to help me keep up to date. This week I’m featuring mini reviews of the first three books in the Airhead series by Meg Cabot.

Airhead - Meg Cabot

Published: September 2008, Macmillan Children's Books
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Emerson Watts, 16 and female, loves playing video games, hanging out with her best friend, Christopher, and has made peace with her less-than-supermodel-esque looks. But when she's involved in a mysterious accident, she wakes up to find she's now in the body of...a supermodel. Who was behind this switch? What was the motive? And how can she get Christopher to realize she's still the same person inside?

My review: Will Meg Cabot ever released a book that I don't immediately love? I don't think so. Her writing is just superb, her characters realistic and her storylines so tight that you can't help but be drawn into the world she creates in each one of her books. She really is the overlord of YA fiction and I become a bigger and bigger fan every time I read another one of her stories.

The Airhead series is off to a great start with this installment - we learn about tomboy Emerson's life before she's mysteriously transported into supermodel Nikki Howard's gorgeous body and her friendship with hottie Christopher. Emerson is a brilliant protagonist. She's so likable and easy to relate to for any teenage girl as she has her insecurities as we all do/did as teens.

I loved slowly learning about Nikki's complicated life and scheming Brandon, Nikki's ex. Things are set up so well for the second book in the series but Cabot doesn't end the book with too many loose ends or cliffhangers. There's the perfect amount of mystery here and I guarantee the series will satisfy all contemporary YA fans.

Rating: B

*

Airhead: Being Nikki - Meg Cabot

Published: July 2009, Macmillan Children's Books
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Teen supermodel Nikki Howard has a secret. She's not the gorgeous golden airhead she seems - on the inside she's someone else. Literally. Em Watts is stuck in the body of glamazon celebutante Nikki. And it's not easy. Especially when Nikki's past is about to catch up with her, her boss is spying on her, and Em's heart wants one thing but her lips keep kissing someone else...

My review: In Being Nikki we see the Airhead series move in a completely different direction than it did in the first book but I loved it for that.

We learn a lot more about Nikki herself in this installment, which is something I was really hoping for. The inclusion of Nikki's brother, Steven, was great and he answered a lot of the questions that were raised in Airhead.

Being Nikki is a light-hearted quick read that you'll storm through - there are laughs on every page and a whole host of new characters that make this installment even better than the first. But, let's face it, anything by Meg Cabot is always going to be a hit so no surprises here!

Rating: B

*

Airhead: Runaway - Meg Cabot

Published: September 2010, Macmillan Children's Books
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Emerson Watts is on the run: from school, from her family and from herself. She's reeling from the shock that Nikki, the girl whose body her brain was forced to inhabit, is still alive. And she's furious. Manipulative Brandon plans to use Em to discover a secret that will ensure his success, whilst Christopher is out for revenge, fuelled by his jealousy. With everyone around her playing a dangerous game, maybe Em should just keep on running...

My review: Using her signature humour, excellent characterisation and fantastic writing, Meg Cabot is back with another winner with the third book in the Airhead series.

The action is ramped up in Runaway, where we see Em on the run after the shocking revelation at the end of Being Nikki. Cabot does a brilliant job with the feeling of isolation and solitude that Em goes through, especially when even best friend Christopher turns on her.

I don't want to reveal too much about the story as there are so many potential spoilers I could write about - so much is crammed into Runaway that you'll finish the book feeling exhausted! The excitement doesn't dip for a moment and the stakes are high - super villain Brandon means business, that's for sure.

I honestly can't recommend this series enough - I'd love to be able to talk about the books in detail but this series was such a lovely surprise for me I think it's definitely best to go in blind so you'll just have to take my word for it. Any Meg Cabot fans already know what a genius she is but if you haven't given any of her books a go yet then I'd really recommend starting with this series.

Rating: B

Friday, 3 June 2011

Review: Very LeFreak - Rachel Cohn

Published: January 10th 2010, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 303 pages, paperback
Series?: No, standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Very LeFreak has a problem: she's a crazed technology addict. Very can't get enough of her iPhone, laptop, IMs, text messages, whatever. If there's an chance the incoming message, call, text, or photo might be from her super-secret online crush, she's going to answer, no matter what.

Nothing is too important: sleep, friends in mid-conversation, class, a meeting with the dean about academic probation. Soon enough, though, this obsession costs Very everything and everyone. Can she learn to block out the noise so she can finally hear her heart?

From acclaimed author Rachel Cohn comes a funny, touching, and surely recognizable story about a girl and the technology habit that threatens everything.

My review: Hmm. Where to start with this review. Honestly, I was so disappointed with Very LeFreak. I first read about this book last year when it was released and instantly wanted to read it. The cover, the synopsis, it completely drew me in and I couldn't wait to get a copy. When I finally got around to ordering it I dived straight in, convinced that I would love it. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

You all know how disappointing it is to be so excited about a book but then not enjoy it at all. From page one I found the writing to be clunky and a little awkward. Please see the below quotation as an example, which runs as a single sentence:

'Hey, she wasn't even bothered that yesterday she'd been fired from her work-study "security" job checking student IDs - a feat that, contrary to her university career services advisor, was not, like, impossible to pull of - yet Very probably could be counted on later today to blow the remaining credit on her maxed-out card for primary wants like new headphones rather than for secondary needs such as food and tuition.'

Okay, so I know that's not a horrendously structured sentence (it's just one I picked from page one) but I don't think a reader should ever have to reread a sentence to get it to make sense. I found myself having to skip back and reread passages continually, which constantly interrupted the flow of the story and stopped me getting as involved as I wanted to be.

Writing aside, another issue I had was with the characters in the novel. Very herself was extremely unlikable - I do get that she's supposed to be cold and a bit detatched and normally I like a bitchy protagonist but I just couldn't warm to her. She was horrible. I know that in the later scenes where she talks about her issues at ESCAPE I should have felt bad for her but I couldn't - she lies so much in the story that by that stage I didn't know if anything she said was the truth. I don't know, I didn't like her. She did too many cruel things that I don't think can easily be explained away by a person having a bad childhood - everybody has things happen to them that they can use as an excuse for bad behaviour but it doesn't cut it with me. *Rant over*

Oh, and the Lavinia thing felt a bit shoe horned in to me - the foreshadowing throughout the story was not subtle at all so I knew what was coming chapters before it happened. And the El Virus revelation? Yeah, that too.

One other thing - the swearing. Okay, I am not offended by swearing in the SLIGHTEST. I think most YA books should have more swearing, to be honest - I think swearing is all well and good and can help depict a realistic teenage/YA voice. However, Very's swearing felt completely gratuitous to me and I was really disappointed as it just seemed as though it had been put in there to try and make the book seem a bit more edgy - something I really, really hate.

And so ends my review of Very LeFreak. I'm so disappointed that I didn't love this one as I really wanted to. I will admit that I did enjoy the book more in the second half but I just don't think the writing or characterisation was up to scratch, at all. What's interesting is that Cohn mentioned it was her first novel, not her first novel published but the first one she wrote. Of course it's been edited plenty of times since then but I wonder if that's why it felt quite weak, to me anyway. I've heard so many great things about her books that I definitely won't let Very LeFreak put me off of her other books and I'm keen to try her collaborations with David Levithan in the near future.

First line: 'It wasn't the fact that Starbucks did not - would not - serve Guinness with a raw egg followed by an espresso chaser that was ruining Very's hangover.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 12/20 (D)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Trailer Thursday: Reckless, Jane and Entangled

Hi everyone! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love book trailers. I think they’re absolutely fascinating and I love to see the different wants books are promoted through their trailers. I’m starting a weekly feature on a Thursday, where I’ll be bringing you a few trailers that I’ve found on my travels. Enjoy!

Reckless - Cornelia Funke



Jane - April Lindner



Entangled - Cat Clarke



*

So what do you guys think about book trailers - do they ever influence your decision to read (or not read) a book?

Review: Rules of Attraction - Simone Elkeles

Published: April 27th 2010, Walker (US copy)
Pages: 302 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book two. The third book (Chain Reaction) is due out this August
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): 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.


My review: I reviewed Perfect Chemistry earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with Elkeles' addictive writing style. I was worried that Rules of Attraction wouldn't quite live up to the first in the series but, luckily, that wasn't the case.

I know this has been touched on in every single review of this series but... Seriously, those Fuentes boys. Oh my! Foxy, to say the least. Movie adaptation soon, please! Although I don't think Carlos was quite as likable as Alex I did find him to be utterly charming. I thought it was a really nice touch that Alex and Brittany cropped up in the story from time to time and I do hope that trend continues in Chain Reaction.

I thought the contrast between Carlos and Kiara was really interesting and it was great to see their relationship flourish, despite their differences. Carlos is brash, outspoken and a little vain, whereas Kiara is quiet, reserved and couldn't care less about appearances. Although things were a little fast paced, I did think their relationship developed in a realistic way - which made a nice change from the love stories in a lot of YA fiction.

The secondary characters in Rules of Attraction were great as well, especially Kiara's family. Her parents were great and Brandon was a complete sweetheart. It was nice to learn a little more about the Fuentes family as well and I enjoyed the little snippets where we got to see more of Luis, who's set to star in Chain Reaction. He does seem very different to Alex and Carlos so I'm really excited to see how his story pans out when Chain Reaction is released later this year.

First line: 'I want to live life my own terms.'

Read if you liked…: Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 16/20 (B+)