Saturday, 30 April 2016

Unrivalled by Alyson Noël

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Released: 10th of May 2016 

EVERYONE wants to be someone.

Layla Harrison wants to be a reporter.
Aster Amirpour wants to be an actress.
Tommy Phillips wants to be a guitar hero.
But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her own a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

That is, until Layla, Aster, and Tommy find themselves with a VIP invite to the world of Los Angeles’s nightlife and are lured into a competition. The prize, or rather the target? Madison Brooks.

Just as their hopes begin to gleam like stars through the California smog, Madison Brooks goes missing. . . . And all of their hopes are blacked out in the haze of their lies.

What I Have to Say 

Although not a bad story, this was a book about people I didn't like going head to head in a competition that frankly, I didn't care about. The start captured my interest, but then the entire book was the build up to that moment, with no real clues given to what happened. Basically, anyone who wants even a small bit of closer, must read the next book in the series. 

I'm just really disappointed, because I love Alyson Noël as a writer and I just expected more of her. I think if I liked any of  the characters or had any sympathy with them, I might have liked the book more, but I just felt like they were terrible people, although technically not bad characters, just unlikable. 

The story was entertaining enough though and to be fair, I will probably get the next book to find out what happened to Madison, This book really just wasn't for me though. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and MIRA Ink for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Desolation by Derek Landy

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 460
Publisher: Harper Collins
Released: 7th of April 2016 
Other Books in the Series: Demon Road

Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell – five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.

Amber and Milo’s only hope lies within Desolation Hill – a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.

And that night is coming. 

What I Have to Say 

I can't decide whether I like this book better or Demon road. At first I didn't like the fact that it wasn't about the road trip anymore, but then I started to like it because it was a road trip. There were bits about it I liked and bits that I missed about the first book, sometimes there were bits that I liked that I simultaneously was glad they were different and sad that they weren't the same as in the first book. I don't think I'll ever decide which was better, but either way, this didn't have the dip of quality that often ruin the second book in a trilogy. 

I loved the scoobie crew and their van. It was the perfect parody to bring into this series to make it wonderful. I'm especially glad that they came in this book rather than the first one. I also loved Amber's relationship. It was nice to see that despite the chaos of her life, she could find a person to flirt with in a way that didn't seem unnecessary to the plot as a lot of relationships in these types of action packed books seem. 

All in all, I felt it was a brilliant continuation of this trilogy. I think I'll be a little sad once I've read the next book, but at the moment I can't wait to see what happens next. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review. 

Monday, 25 April 2016

Soldier by Julie Kagawa

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416
Publisher: Harlequin UK 
Released: 26th of April 2016

A fighter dedicated to saving humankind from dragons in strictest secrecy.

That was what Garret Xavier Sebastian thought he was part of as a soldier of the Order of St. George. What he learned from a fiery dragon hatchling twisted all he believed in and set him on a collision course with certain death-but not without a chance to put things right.

Betrayed and on the run again, Ember and rogue dragon Riley discover an unthinkable truth about Talon and St. George. They'll need Garret's skills and insider knowledge of the Order to negotiate an impossible deal-and if they fail, there will be no way to stop all-out war. 

What I Have to Say 

I don't know what it is about this series, but I'm just not as into it as Kagawa's other books, which I adore. I was so excited for Talon's release, but it just fell flat for me. My interest picked up a bit with Rogue, but it seems to have dipped again with Soldier. I think part of the reason is that I'm just completely bored with love triangles. It was never something I was that interested in to start of with and the more they were inserted into books that just didn't need them, the more bored I become with them. 

That said, I really liked the ending. It was as epic as I have come to expect from Julie Kagawa and SPOILER there's a really cool sword fight. It had a lot of intense emotion and really made me look forward to seeing what's going to happen in the next book. 

Even though I'm still just not into this series, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next, 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Chicken House
Released: 5th of May 2016 

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

What I Have to Say 

This is a must read for fans of fairy tales and anyone who's ever lost themselves into the world of stories. Isabella is the kind of girl who lives her life believing in a fairy tale because it's better and more magical than real life and so when danger calls she does what any good heroine should do and heads into danger head on. 

Set on a fictional island somewhere off the coast of Spain, The Girl of Ink and Stars is an evocative story that delves deeply into the realm of cartography. The maps that Isabelle's father draws are so integral to the plot while also revealing a lot about the process that is used to make them. It was really interesting to read about. 

I also loved the friendship that was integral to the plot. It shows how difficult it can be when you have a friend of a different class, who doesn't understand how hard it can be for those who don't have money and acts selfish and spoiled, but it also shows how the bond that the girls share can override it, sending Isabelle into danger to search for her friend. 

I'm really glad I got a chance to read this book and hope that more people will discover it. 

My thanks go to Chicken House for providing me of a copy of this book for review. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: 3rd of March 2016 
Other Books in the Series: The Fire Sermon

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

What I Have to Say 

This series is developing in such an interesting way. I've always loved a good government conspiracy in a book, but this is bringing it to a whole new level. 

I really like the way that they're using Cass's psychic powers. I like the threat of madness that hangs over everything, especially when she meets with other psychics. It's interesting how some of the most seemingly innocent ramblings of certain characters are ignored even though they're the most important things of all. I think I'd like to see more of Cass falling apart in the next book. 
Even though I enjoyed reading this book, I did find it a big contrast to the first book. The first book is so set on the journey to the island and the subsequent events that the lack of that goal and focus on smaller goals felt a little bit of a let down. 

I don't think this effected my overall enjoyment of the book though. I think I was actually enjoyed this one a lot more than the first because I was so interested in the developments that were made. I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens in the next book. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Gallery Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 18 April 2016

How Not To Be Weird by Dawn McNiff

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Piccadilly Press 
Released: 7th of April 2016 

Woody wants to get un-weird - and fast! And he'll find help in the most unlikely of places.

Woody is forever worried about being different. He thinks himself weird and a bit of a wuss, and two bullies Della and Casey make sure he doesn't forget that. It doesn't help that his mum is slightly bonkers. She dresses up as a sheep for a living - mostly for her job as a children's entertainer. And not to mention the fact that she forces Woody to wear old granny jumpers that she finds down the local charity shop. Gooner the dog doesn't help either, always getting Woody in some awkward, smelly and rather messy situations! 

But Woody's got a plan to get unweird - and fast! Just in time for his first day at secondary school. He starts off with some rules . . . 'Don't listen to Mum about anything to do with your life, ever'. . .and. . .'don't wear old lady clothes'. And with the help of his way more normal, yet rather extravagant GlamMa and the discovery of his Dad's peculiar lucky charm, he soon finds a new sense of charm, un-weirdness and a heap load of shenanigans come his way! 

What I Have to Say 

A cute story embracing weirdness and difference, despite what the title says, How Not To Be Weird has many important messages about being your own person and knowing what you want. Woody is an interesting, quirky and naturally weird character who suffers a lot of self esteem issues who I'm sure many children and young teenagers can relate to. 

In general, I enjoyed the book. I found Woody fairly easy to relate to in a lot of ways but with some differences to make him interesting. He felt like a real kid, struggling to fit in and thinking that he had to change everything about himself to fit in, I know I felt this way when I was his age.

The only complaint I really have is that the story wasn't really compelling. I didn't have the drive to read on and find out what would happen next. The ending was fairly predictable and it just didn't capture me. 

All in all, it was good though. I like the style that McNiff writes in and will continue to read her books. 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books 
Released: 21st of April 2016 

Fourteen-year-old Hamish Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.

Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Hamish is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.

Hamish Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will ... But he's got to kill someone else first. 

What I Have to Say 

I really didn't take to this book. At all. I don't know why originally, but I just couldn't connect to the characters at all or really get much interest in the plot. It got better as I went on, especially after the sister was brought into the action, but it wasn't enough to get me very invested in the story. 

I also found the characters just so stupid at the start. I mean, I know they're young, but the way they get involved with the Big Man just for a few chairs even though they know that he's a bad person to let get a hold over them, it just took away any pity I had for the characters. 

This was just not the book for me.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Blog Tour: An Extract from Despite the Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif

I was kindly ask to participate in the blog tour for the release of the new edition of Despite the Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif. First published in 2004, the new edition was released on the 7th of April to tie into the film adaptation coming out today (15th of April 2016)

Set partly in modern day Boston and partly in 1950s Moscow, Despite the Falling Snow tells the story of Alexander Ivanov as he opens new relationships which will lead him back to the painful memories of his late wife. 

I am lucky enough to be able to share with you  an extract of this beautiful book.

After dinner they sit in the living room, almost stupefied by the food.
“I can’t believe I ate that much. I can’t move,” Lauren tells him. He offers her a chocolate truffle. “Are you trying to kill me?” she asks.
“Certainly not. I want my present first.”
She struggles up with looks of exaggerated anguish, but refuses his offer of assistance. With difficulty she slides her package into the living room. He comes to where she holds it upright, and glances to her for permission to open it. She nods, an edge of anxiety scoring into her, as she watches him pick at the tape.
“Just rip it open, Uncle Alex. It’s a portrait,” she admits suddenly, unable to wait.
“A portrait of whom?”
She smiles and they continue unwrapping together, leaving curls of gold paper all over the floor. He is about to ask the question again, but now enough strips of paper are removed that what was initially just swathes of textured paint now reveals itself as a white blouse, a neck, a throat… then a chin and a mouth – a familiar mouth. The smile freezes on her face as she sees his watching eyes change from anticipation to shock. Or is it horror?
“Uncle Alex?” she says, taking hold of his hand. She has stopped peeling away the paper, but his free hand reaches up and pulls it loose, an impatient, urgent movement. He must see the rest of it at once. He gasps for air, an alarming sound, for in its shock, his body has forgotten to breathe. Lauren’s hand is on his forehead, stroking, panicking.
“I’m fine,” he whispers.
“Are you sure?”
He does not reply. He is engrossed in the painting. He now realises that he had forgotten what Katya looked like, how she really was. The shape of her nose, the tilt of her chin, the lines on her forehead. Those details that get blurred in memory after months and years, that you find you can only recall by staring at the two photographs that you came away with, and that only return for sweet, ephemeral moments when the beloved’s face comes unsummoned into dreams or recollections. He feels he might cry if he speaks so he says nothing, and Lauren knows him well enough to wait in silence while they both look at the portrait. He forces himself to focus on the work involved, on Lauren’s achievement, as a way out of the labyrinth of emotion that has suddenly claimed him. His niece, Katya’s niece, has captured her aunt with such vivid clarity and life that he has to remind himself that she has in fact never even met her.
“Was it the wrong thing to do?” she asks finally.
He shakes his head to buy time, though there is a part of himself that is almost resentful of what his niece has done. How she has forced right before his eyes, in unrelenting clarity, the vision of his lost wife. His lost love. She waits, sensing that he is displeased in some way – she watches him biting his lip slightly. Perhaps he is trying to regain some control. Then he speaks, as quietly and calmly as he is able.
“Tell me about it,” he says.
Still gripping his hand, she speaks, slowly, carefully, explaining how she worked from the two pictures that he has, and from a couple of Yuri’s photographs, taken when Katya was a teenager, the Katya that he knew before he left Russia. Her features and facial structure were the same, of course, and gave her different angles and expressions to work from.
“And the eyes?” He looks at Lauren for the first time.
“Are they good?” she asks gently.
He nods. They are exact; so true. They look directly at him while revealing very little themselves. Katya could always have a hint of haughtiness about her, and Lauren had captured that too, but she had also placed in those eyes a fierce intelligence and an infinite sadness.
“When I was thinking about this piece, and how to do it, I went through everything I knew about her, and I realised that basically, there were two Katyas. One was my father’s. You know Yuri’s stories,” she smiles. “The laughing, clever kid sister who was always leading him a dance and getting him in trouble with their parents. And then I knew your Katya. Or at least your stories of her,” she adds, to qualify any presumption he might feel she is making.
He waits for her to go on. Tell me, Lauren, what she was like, let me try and feel it again, even though you cannot possibly understand it all.
“That was the Katya I wanted to capture. The bold, strong, vulnerable, angry woman who chose to…”
A quick movement of his head catches her eye and causes her to stop.
“Anyway, that’s what I was trying for,” she finishes mildly.
“You’re a genius, Lauren. It’s almost hard to look at.”
“I’m sorry. The last thing I wanted was to hurt you… It’s funny, I was excited all the time I was painting it, varnishing, even framing just today. It was only when I got it home this afternoon that I had my first panic attack. Wondering if I was really doing the right thing. It must make you miss her all over again.”
They are quiet together for a minute or two before he speaks.
“It does,” he says. “I mean, it only sharpens what I’ve felt for the last forty years. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
“As long as you’re okay with it. I can always take it away.”
“No, no. It was a shock, that’s all. I just need some time.”
He sounds more like himself and she is immeasurably relieved. The self-control, the rationality is back, and she is no longer fearful that she has made a terrible mistake. She leads him back to his chair and pokes at the fire, which has settled down into small, licking flames that curl around the last, luminous log of wood.
“I’ll get some tea,” she tells him. “Camomile?”
“If you’re having some?”
He watches as she goes out to the kitchen, leaving him with a precious few moments alone. He glances at the fire for comfort, but the logs are too dry and are spitting and hissing, putting out a violent heat that causes him to move his chair back a little. Closing his eyes intensifies his awareness of the canvas looming behind him. With conscious, almost ostentatious calm, he turns in his chair, and looks at it, at her, once more. She is watching him with an expression that is half-smile, half-frown, an expression that perhaps she never even had during life, but which captures her character perfectly. He feels a stab of guilt and swallows, but his mouth is dry. He looks for water, but there is only the remains of their wine. Lauren will come soon with the tea, he reminds himself. In the meantime, Katya is regarding him with that slight smile, without accusation or blame. He has always known that she would never have blamed him for what happened – his own pain and guilt have been punishment enough. But that knowledge has only ever reinforced the sense of exactly how much he lost when she died.

If you want more details of the book, look no further than the fantastic previous stops on this blog tour! 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books 
Released: 21st of April 2016 

The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark. 

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation. 

What I Have to Say 

This book had so much suspense that I was on the edge of my seat for the last few chapters. The world that the Cresswell's live in, that there father has so painstakingly made and taught them to believe in seems so obviously abusive at the start, that it's hard to see why Castley and her siblings don't question it sooner, but his control over them and the beliefs that he's raised them to believe in become more apparent throughout the books, so that the reader has so much sympathy with the characters by the end. 

The sibling relationships were interesting too. It was interesting to see how close they were, but also how much they fought and argued amongst themselves. It very realistic to the bond between brothers and sisters, but also showed how the abuse of their father and fear of the outside world that they know very little about draws them closer together.

I think that some parts of this book will stay with me for a long time. 

My thanks go to Quercus and Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 322
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books 
Released: 25th of February 2016 

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

What I Have to Say 

I loved this book so much. It was a truly beautiful story about a very screwed up girl and how her issues and the trauma she's been through affects the people around her, but I think what I liked most about it was that the story wasn't overshadowed by a romance plot that was shoehorned in there for no reason. 

It was interesting how Suzanne's story was told through Caddy's voice as well as how it was told after the things that Suzanne went through rather than before. It shows the effects of trauma and how what people go through affects them well after they get out of the situation their in. 

I loved the ending as well. I won't say any specifics, but it was the right ending, even if it wasn't the one that people may want. It was real and hopeful without everything being tied up neatly and happily. 

Beautiful Broken Things will remain one of my favourite books of a long time and I'm really looking forward to what Sara Barnard writes next. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

V for Violet by Alison Rattle

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 7th of April 2016 

Battersea, 1961. London is just beginning to enter the swinging sixties. The world is changing - but not for sixteen-year-old Violet. She was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced Victory in Europe - an auspicious start, but now she's just stuck in her family's fish and chip shop dreaming of greatness. And it doesn't look like fame and fortune are going to come calling anytime soon. 

Then she meets Beau. Beau's a rocker - a motorcycle boy who arrives in an explosion of passion and rebellion. He blows up Violet's grey little life, and she can't believe her luck.

But things don't go her way for long. Joseph, her long-lost brother, comes home. Then young girls start going missing, and turning up murdered. And then Violet's best friend disappears too. Suddenly life is horrifyingly much more interesting. 

Violet can't believe its coincidence that Joseph turns up just as girls start getting murdered. He's weird, and she feels sure he's hiding something. He's got a secret, and Violet's got a dreadful feeling it might be the worst kind of secret of all . . .

What I Have to Say

This isn't the kind of book that catches you from the first page. Violet has a dull kind of life working at her parents chip shop and it's not until her life starts to get interesting and she stops doing what's expected of her. Then girls start getting killed and you get caught up in the mystery of it all. 

I liked Violet quite a bit. She had an honest voice that endeared me towards her in the start of the book. I was glad when she started to stand up for herself a bit and find her own identity outside of her friend and family. 

The mystery didn't catch me until near the end, but it was one of those where you're kicking yourself for not guessing who it was. Because you think of everyone it could be and don't even consider the person it is. 

It was a good book overall, but I'm not sure it's one that's going to stay with me for a long time. 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 378 
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary 
Released: 9th of January 2016 

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. 

But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

What I Have to Say 

This book is basically a Buzzfeed article. You know one of those 10 Signs You Know You're a Booklover ones? It ticked every box, talking in a language of book boyfriends and the excitement when you see a new release. In it, I saw me, my friends and people I follow online who enthuse about books. It really was quite incredible to read a book that showed the passion for books that I feel every day. 

I'm not quite like the character. I don't tend to have book boyfriends (though I do know many people who do so there is absolutely no shame in it) but the enthusiasm was what really connected to me. The excitement of what going to the bookshelves and stroking all the beautiful covers feels like. I honestly didn't expect Phoebe to be so close to myself, but she was. 

The so very awkward crush on Dev was almost unnecessary to me, but it complimented the story really well and really showed what it feels like for a young girl pursuing her first crush. It showed how hard it is to come out of yourself and embrace real life, when really all you want to do is race back and hide with the books where it's safe.  

The only problem with this book for me, is actually not a problem for me at all. It's quite a common problem for me actually. Whenever there's an excerpt from made up book in a book, I always want to read the book! I would love to read about Melissa and the Victorian boy who lives in her mirror! I want to read more about all of the protagonists that Phoebe loves! 

I think it should be a rule in books that if you make up a fake book to have excerpts from, you should write that book as a companion. It's only fair. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Spencer Hill Contemporary for providing me with this copy for review.