Friday, 30 May 2014

Ensnared Cover Reveal

So I don't post too many cover reveals any more but when this beauty popped up in my inbox this week I knew I had to share it with you.

AG Howard's Splintered series is renowned for its gorgeous cover art and the cover for the third, and final, book in the series, Ensnared, has finally be released! Feast your eyes, people!


What do you think? I blinking love it - now I just need to get myself organised and read book two before Ensnared comes out in 2015!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

YALC Readathon Sign-Up!

I mentioned the YALC Readathon a little while ago and now we're back with more information and a sign-up for you all. In the run up to YALC the challenge is to read as many books by YALC authors as possible, to help us all get up to date with our TBRs before meeting these amazing authors.

Important info:

* The readathon will be taking place between 23rd-29th June 2014
* It starts and ends at midnight in whichever time zone you're in.
* The goal is to read books by YALC authors before meeting them (click here to see the full line up)
* To sign up share your intention to join in on either your blog, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Goodreads etc. Grab the image and feel free to share your TBR, if you have one then share the link in the linky below.
* We're using the hashtag #YALCReadathon so we can all discuss our progress
* We'll be having a YALC Twitter chat on June 26th at 7pm UK time (but I'll post a reminder closer to the time!)
* Most importantly, you don't have to be attending YALC to take part; the readathon is open to everybody!

Your other lovely hosts are Jess from Jess Hearts Books, Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies and Vicky from Books, Biscuits and Tea so do check their blogs too!

To sign up for the YALC Readathon just fill in your details here:




Friday, 23 May 2014

Top Reads of 2014 (So Far...)

So, we're heading towards June (omg, I know right?) so I thought I'd do a little round up of my favourite books I've read so far in 2014. I've had a really great year for reading and I've found myself loving most of the books I've tried, which is always a nice feeling! I've got a huge wishlist for the second half of 2014 so I'm really excited to get cracking on this.

Anyway, my top six books of the first half(ish) of 2014 are:


Trouble - Non Pratt
A Kiss in the Dark - Cat Clarke
Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige
The Trap - Andrew Fukuda
Midnight Crossroad - Charlaine Harris

You can click on each book title to go to my review, if you fancy having a read.

So what are your favourite reads of 2014, so far? And have you read any of my picks? If so, what did you think

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

DNF: Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith

Published: February 27th 2014, Electric Monkey
Pages: 394 pages, paperback
Standalone/series: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things. This is the truth. This is history. It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

Funny, intense, complex and brave, Grasshopper Jungle is a groundbreaking, genre-bending, coming-of-age stunner.

My (sort of) review: Now, for the sake of full disclosure I need to let you all know that I didn't finish reading Grasshopper Jungle. In fact, I only made it about a third of the way through before I put it down for good. I'm calling this a 'sort of review' because I haven't read the whole story so I can't give it a full review, but I still wanted to share my thoughts.

Sometimes books just don't work for the reader. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. I was really, really excited to read Grasshopper Jungle and I was sure I'd love it. The summary was great, I tend to always love Electric Monkey's releases, I thought the cover was brilliant - it was all good. Except, however hard I tried, I just couldn't get into the story.

I can't really explain why I didn't finish Grasshopper Jungle, as there's nothing to dislike about this book. The story is unique, the characters are interesting and the writing is great - but I just couldn't connect with the characters and I found myself distanced from the story.

I'm so disappointed as I keep reading amazing reviews of this one and I feel like everybody got something that I didn't. I read a few chapters, put it down for a while, picked it up and read a few more, took a break, read a couple more... and it just wasn't happening. Reading this was a chore and my mind kept drifting to tens of other books while I was trying to get into it. It happens, and it sucks.

It happened with Darcy Burdock, it happened with Geek Girl, and now it's happened with Grasshopper Jungle. It's blinking annoying but it's the way things go; sometimes the whole world loves a book but you just don't get it. And that's okay, because if we all loved the same things how dull would the world be?

Don't let my (sort of) review put you off - I am pretty much the only person in the entire world who didn't love this book! Just hop over (hilarious grasshopper pun) to the Grasshopper Jungle Goodreads page to have a look and some infinitely more positive reviews. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Amy & Matthew - Cammie McGovern

Published: March 27th 2014, Macmillan
Pages: 322 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can't walk or talk without help. But trapped inside this uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit - a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return. Matthew has his own set of challenges - a mind consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear that he can't explain. But underneath all of the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him...

This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance or set in an imagined world far from our own. But the love they share is real. And yes, there's magic in it.

My review: Well, I almost didn't read Amy & Matthew, and what a mistake that would have been! For some reason I didn't find myself drawn in by the summary or cover and I left it on my shelf for a few weeks before I decided to give it a go, though I have to admit I was fully prepared to not get drawn into the story... Fast forward to two hours later when I closed the book and wiped tears from my face and I realised I'd majorly, majorly underestimated this book.

Amy, born with cerebral palsy, is well aware of her physical limitations but she refuses to let that dictate her life or stop her doing the things she feels passionate about, and in her senior year she feels passionate about making friends. Matthew, whose mind is forever preoccupied by anxiety and OCD, becomes one of Amy's peer helpers, something that changes both of their lives more than they could ever have imagined.

McGovern does an absolutely phenomenal job at writing about life with cerebral palsy and OCD with honesty, integrity and humour. I found myself laughing out loud at some of the lines the characters came out with, particularly Amy, who has the sort of dry sense of humour I love. So often 'issues' are written about with such brevity that the message can come across as too preachy but everything in Amy & Matthew feels natural and honest.

Amy and Matthew's story is a realistic one - it isn't smooth from the get go and they certainly have (more than?) their fair share of issues within the relationship, but it's this real relationship that makes the book so strong. Amy and Matthew prove that love doesn't land on your lap one day without any effort - real life takes hard work and there will be some days when it feels like everything is falling apart, but it's where you go when you're at rock bottom that really counts - and that's the main thing I took away from the book.

Amy & Matthew is an entertaining read but it also feels important, and I want to put this in the hands of everybody who asks me for a YA recommendation. This has true crossover appeal and it's books like this that show just how powerful and richly vibrant YA is.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Killer Instinct - S. E. Green

Published: May 6th 2014, Simon Pulse
Pages: 272 pages, eBook
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased

Summary (from Goodreads): She’s not evil, but she has certain... urges.

Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. Afterschool job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick.

Why?

Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals—delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder. But with each visceral rush the line of self-control blurs.

And then a young preschool teacher goes missing. Only to return... in parts.

When Lane excitedly gets involved in the hunt for “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer that has come to her hometown, she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her birth dad and her own dark past. And once the Decapitator contacts Lane directly, Lane knows she is no longer invisible or safe. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim...

My review: It's not very often you come across a YA novel that focuses on serial killers, so when I read the summary for Killer Instinct I knew I had to give it a go. I am a fan of horror novels and I do like all things macabre so I had really high hopes for this one. Did it live up to them? ... Sort of.

Lane has always had dark thoughts, for as long as she can remember. She's obsessed with serial killers, death and murder...only now she thinks she might want in on it herself. She has a compulsion to kill which has slowly been getting out of control and now she's not sure how much longer she can keep it in for.

So, I think it's pretty clear that Lane is a flawed character. Girl daydreams about killing people so she's not exactly an angel. However, she is kind to her family, intelligent and shocks herself by opening herself up to love. Despite her detached, cold nature I actually found myself warming to Lane throughout the novel. Hearing her doubts and worries about her compulsions really helped bring her alive as a character and, well, she's much more Dexter than Ted Bundy so that's a plus, right?

A serial killer (known as 'the Decapitator'...nice) is loose in Lane's hometown and it's when she receives direct contact from the killer that the story really begins. How much does Lane really know about her past? Bits and pieces are missing and the Decapitator seems to know a whole lot about Lane, so our heroine begins to realise she needs to track down the Decapitator before something happens to her, or worse, her family.

I really enjoyed Killer Instinct and found myself completely pulled into the mystery surrounding Lane and the Decapitator. Little clues are scattered throughout the novel and by the time we reached the final chapters I was convinced I knew exactly who was behind the murders. I was wrong, of course, as I almost always am, but it's always fun trying to solve a mystery!

Until the last fifteen pages or so I'd have rated Killer Instinct as one of my top reads of the year, as I loved reading about Lane's battle with her own demons, which was really well-handled. Unfortunately I wasn't a fan of the book's denouement, so things went downhill for me at the end. I think a lot of people will probably really like the final pages but it just fell really flat for me, especially after the tension that had been building and building through the book. I felt completely invested in the story but as soon as the Decapitator's identity was revealed it just felt a little...bland. 

It's a shame, because I really loved the book up until that point, but I can't rave about this one as much as I want to. Lane is a great character and it's such an interesting concept, I just don't think the ending was as well-executed as the rest of the book and it did feel quite rushed. So, 90% = great, 10% = not so much...but I guess that's the way round you want those percentages, right?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

Published: April 1st 2014, HarperCollins
Pages: 432 pages, eBook
Standalone/Series: This is the first book in the Dorothy Must Die series
Acquired: Purchased

Summary (from Goodreads): I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?

Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My review: Dorothy Must Die was one of my most-hyped debuts of 2014 and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the eBook! That cover, that summary - it's hard not to get drawn in, isn't it? The Wizard of Oz is such a beloved story that I'm automatically intrigued by anything that's related to it, and Dorothy Must Die was no exception.

When Amy, our heroine, is transported to Oz she discovers her mission is to destroy Dorothy, at all costs. However, it turns out to be a little more complicated than Amy first thought, when it transpires that Dorothy has warped into a powerful, terrifying version of her previous self, surviving on magic mined from Oz's earth.

Oz is such a rich world and it seems as though everybody who writes a Wizard of Oz origin story, sequel or reimagining has fun with the mythology, which is exactly what Paige does throughout this book. We meet the munchkins, follow the yellow brick road and discover the secrets of the winged monkeys, though this time around things are a whole lot darker than they were when Dorothy first visited... and we quickly begin to realise that Dorothy is exactly the reason why Oz has fallen into disrepair. Uh oh.

It was so cool to read the book and wait for the characters I knew to make an appearance, especially when I realised each one was a dark version of who they were in the Wizard of Oz. The Tin Man was particularly terrifying and, man, I am not looking forward to finding out more about the Scarecrow's 'experiments' in book two.

However, aside from the characters we already know, there are a few new faces in Dorothy Must Die and they really hold their own, slotting in nicely to the mythology we're already aware of. Ollie and Gert are my favourite newcomers, so do look out for them when you read this one.

Dorothy Must Die is a rich, visual story and it feels incredibly accomplished for a debut. I'm really, really excited for the second book in the series and I can't wait to follow Paige's writing over the years. A definite thumbs up from me!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Playlist for a Broken Heart - Cathy Hopkins

Published: May 8th 2014, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 256 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): When Paige finds an old mix CD in a local charity shop, she can't help but wonder about the boy who made it and the girl he was thinking of when he chose the songs. The tracks tell the story of a boy looking for his perfect girl, a girl to understand him, a story of being alone, being let down, misunderstood and not knowing where to turn. 

Following the clues of the music, Paige sets out to find the mysterious boy, going from gig to gig and band to band, hoping to track him down. But will who she finds at the end of the trail, be the boy she's imagined?

Another perfect girly read from Queen of Teen nominee Cathy Hopkins!

My review: I devoured the Mates, Dates series when I was a teenager so when I met Cathy Hopkins at an event last month I was ridiculously excited - isn't it great when somebody you've admired for years turns out to be even lovelier than you thought? When I was offered her newest novel for review I jumped at the chance - and boy, am I glad I did!

Playlist for a Broken Heart follows Paige's journey as she moves from Surrey to Bath, after her family suffer financial losses and have to downsize...majorly. Paige has to leave her best friend, Allegra, her crush, Alex, and her part as Juliet in her school's production of Romeo and Juliet. 

She feels lonely and isolated in Bath and isn't sure how she's going to fit in, though when she spots a home made mix CD in a charity shop and discovers each of the songs is somehow relevant to her situation things start to look up. Throw in her sharp but sweet cousin and her fashion-forward friend, Clover, and Paige starts to enjoy her new life in Bath. Plus, she quickly discovers the boys aren't all that bad either!

When Paige goes on a quest to track down the person who made the 'Songs for Sarah' CD that seems to be matching her own stresses and worries she realises that her new home might just be the best thing that happened to her.

Hopkins does such a brilliant job, as always, at writing realistic teenagers and Paige's thoughts and feelings are absolutely spot on. I love the way the mystery surrounding the CD slowly unfurls as the story progresses and the romantic elements of the book are handled really well. Hopkins has always been awesome when it comes to dialogue and Playlist for a Broken Heart is no exception - the dialogue feels fresh and current.

I have to say, though, my favourite part of the book is the setting! Lovely, beautiful Bath! Ah, it was great to read a book set in the city I'll always think of as home and Bath is such a wonderful place to set a book - it's such a vibrant, gorgeous place that it becomes a character in its own right.

Playlist for a Broken Heart is a sweet, funny story that I adored. It's a perfect summery read that'll leave you with a big grin on your face - and you'll be packing your bags ready for a trip to Bath, I promise.

Friday, 9 May 2014

May Reading List

As usual, I've put together a list of the books I'd like to read over the coming month. I've been reading a lot lately (to combat stress from job-related gubbins!) so I've settled on eight books I'd really like to get through in May.

There's quite a lot of variety this month - a good mixture of US and UK authors, some debut and some very, um, not debut. There are some dark books in there, some light-hearted - yay for variety!

Dorothy Must Die (Danielle Paige) // Playlist for a Broken Heart (Cathy Hopkins) // Killer Instinct (S.E. Green) // Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Laini Taylor)


The Year of the Rat (Clare Furniss) // Grasshopper Jungle (Andrew Smith) // Amy & Matthew (Cammie McGovern) // Tape (Steven Camden)

While I'm really excited to read all of these I think I'm most looking forward to Dorothy Must Die, because the premise sounds *awesome* and Dreams of Gods and Monsters, because this is one of my favourite series everrr and I can't believe it's ending :'(, I'm sure it'll be beautiful, though.

So, what's on your reading list for May? Any of these? And if you've read any of them already let me know what you thought!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies - Katy Cannon

Hello all! I'm here today with my post as part of the blog tour for Katy Cannon's Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, which was released on May 5th 2014 by Stripes Publishing.

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies has a baking theme running through it (as you might be able to tell from the title), so I baked my favourite recipe from the book to celebrate! My asparagus quiche turned out sooo well so stay tuned for some photos and baking chat at the end of this post.

Summary (from Goodreads): Love, Lies and Lemon Pies, the debut YA novel from Katy Cannon, is the perfect summer read for fans of Sarah Dessen and Louise Rennison. With a Bake Club recipe at the start of each chapter, this book perfectly captures the current appetite for all things baking! 

Lottie, our narrator, captures the experience of a young teenage girl navigating the world of school cliques, difficult teachers and new romance, creating a world that young readers are sure to recognize. Since her dad died, life hasn't been the same for Lottie - it was easier to push her friends away than cope with their awkwardness. But when the school suggest she joins Bake Club to get her back on track, Lottie reluctantly agrees. But Lottie's uncertainty about Bake Club melts away as she rekindles her love of baking and gets caught up with Mac, the school rebel and another unwilling Bake Club member. 

Both Lottie and Mac have secrets to keep, and as Bake Club progresses towards an end-of-year competition, the tension rises between the Bake Club members. Can Lottie keep up the facade of her perfect life without the others finding out what's really going on at home? Can Mac keep his demanding, heavy-handed father off his back - not to mention the school counsellor who's written him off as a no-hoper? And can their bubbling romance survive the pressure?

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies is such a fun read that had me smiling the whole way through. The Louise Rennison comparison is definitely valid and I thought of the Georgia Nicholson books a few times while I was reading.

The addition of the recipes at the beginning of each chapter was really lovely and I'm keen to try out a few more of the recipes now I've seen how well my first attempt went!

As I mentioned before, I decided to make the asparagus quiche recipe from the book, and here's how it turned out:


It tasted amazing, and even better with a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the side! I topped the quiche with Red Leicester cheese and added a teaspoon of mustard into the roux, which was a genius addition, if I do say so myself!

Now, if you fancy more book-related baking delights make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:

 

Monday, 5 May 2014

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

Published: May 15th 2014, Hot Key Books
Pages: N/A, eBook
Series/standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Via Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads): We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

My review: I've been a fan of E. Lockhart ever since I read the first instalment in the Ruby Oliver series so I was so excited to see I got approved for We Were Liars on Netgalley. I finished reading this one a few days ago and I wanted to give myself some breathing room before writing my review because this is such a unique novel and I needed a bit of time to collect my thoughts!

The setting of We Were Liars is a beautiful island where the wealthy Sinclair family spend idyllic summers together and part of the reason this is such a strong book is because of this setting. The island took on a personality of its own and became a character on its on right - it reminded me of classic settings like Manderley from Rebecca. 

Everything about We Were Liars from the first word to the last is beautifully crafted and every single line sings out as something special. It's impossible not to be drawn in by Lockhart's hypnotising, lyrical voice and this style of writing really shows off her talent - but, of course, her trademark sharp wit is still present throughout the novel.

This is a hard book to review - I'm sure you've read this countless times on various blogs but it really is best to pick this up and read it knowing as little as possible, rather than reading reviews - the less you know, the better! But, I promise you, this is something special.

Do you know what? I'm going to leave this here, because I've tried to write about five other paragraphs but it was impossible not to give too much away about the plot, and I don't want to risk spoiling anything for anyone. Just...read it. Seriously. Please? For me. Discover the world of the Sinclairs, fall under their spell and dig deep to learn the secrets they'd rather keep hidden.