Thursday, 29 March 2012

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 085707363X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857073631

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.It can.She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.There is.She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.She's wrong. 

Mara awakes in a hospital to her parent’s concerned faces, and asking what she can remember about the accident. But Mara can remember nothing. Can’t remember going to an abandoned building in the middle of the night with her friends. Can’t remember what happened to Claire or Jude. But worst, can’t remember what happened to Rachel. The only person who is alive to tell the tale of what happened that night is Mara. And her mind won’t release the memory.

When Mara starts having blackouts and out of control PTSD, her parents talk about institutionalisation…the last thing Mara wants. And so she convinces them that a change of scenery would do her the world of good. She says goodbye to the home she has known all her life to relocate to Florida.

Mara doesn’t get off to a smooth start at her new school. Somehow without even meaning to, she put herself on the radar of the queen bee…and Noah Shaw. The most beautiful boy Mara has ever seen.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was written in dreamy prose. It is one of those rare books that it feels like your best friend is sat beside you, telling you all about this thing that happened to her. You weren’t reading a book. You were being told a story. Mara’s voice was realistic and sympathetic and I couldn’t get it out of my head for a long time after finishing it.

The story was very original, the romance…swoooon…It has been a long time since I read a romance so realistic and believable. And while it was a very fall-hard-and-fall-fast type romance, it was one that didn’t feel at all fake or rushed. It felt like diving off the high board. Free and exhilarating.

The support and concern Mara receives from her family was extremely well written. The overbearing mother, only worried about her daughter, the absent and overworked father, the overprotective big brother. All the parts of her family came together and while it might have been dysfunctional, you couldn’t deny how much they cared about her.

I loved this book. I felt like I was falling in love and going insane all at the same time. It was…beautiful. 


Monday, 26 March 2012

Book Review: Spellcaster by Cara Lynn Shultz

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 562 KB
  • Publisher: MIRA Ink (6 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B007D61X14
  • Finding your eternal soulmate - easy. 

    Stopping a true-love-hungry evil - not so much… 

    After breaking a centuries-old romantic curse, Emma Connor is (almost) glad to get back to normal problems.'s not easy dealing with the jealous cliques and gossip that rule her exclusive Upper East Side prep, even for a sixteen-year-old newbie witch. Having the most-wanted boy in school as her eternal soul mate sure helps ease the pain-especially since wealthy, rocker-hot Brendan Salinger is very good at staying irresistibly close.... 

    But something dark and hungry is using Emma and Brendan's deepest fears to reveal damaging secrets and destroy their trust in each other. And Emma's crash course in über-spells may not be enough to keep them safe…or to stop an inhuman force bent on making their unsuspected power its own. 

Spellcaster picks up shortly after Spellbound, reintroducing the lovers Emma and Brendan, and how they are after breaking the centuries old curse. Brendan and Emma’s feelings for each other was well written, tender and sweet.

In Spellcaster, the pair face a whole new set of trouble as the jealousy rises when it is clear Emma and Brendan are forever, not a passing fling. Plenty of girls want to get their hooks into him and don’t like Emma being in their way.

We get split POVs from Emma and the occasional word from Angelique when Emma is unable to tell us what is going on. Some people may enjoy this different view, but for me it felt like a cop out, the easy road rather than figure out an alternative way around.

While the love between Brendan and Emma felt real enough, it had just a touch of ‘we had no choice in this’ to make me feel uncomfortable, and if I’m being honest, the romance a little bit fake.

There are plenty of good points that will make fans of the first book appreciate this one, and pleased to see Emma and Brendan’s story continue.  


Friday, 23 March 2012

Book Review: Kiss of the Vampire by Cynthia Garner

  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Forever; 1 Original edition (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0446585114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446585118
  • Warriors of the Rift

    Once a generation, the rift between the paranormal world and the human world opens, allowing supernatural entities to cross. Vampire, demon, or shapeshifter, they can save the world-or send it spiraling into chaos.

    Half-demon, half-human, Nix de la Fuente is accepted by neither and mistrusted by both. Determined to prove she's more human than not, she devotes herself to solving crimes between the world's mortals and its most unsavory undead. But her latest case brings her face to face with the one vampire she could never resist . . . 

    Called in to investigate a string of violent murders, special agent Tobias Caine isn't interested in rekindling his relationship with Nix. Yet one look and the vampire knows his need for her is as strong as ever. Once, their all-consuming passion nearly cost Nix her fragile hold on her humanity. Now, as their hunger for one another intensifies, exposing them to an unimaginable danger, it could cost them both their lives. 

Nix was a feisty character, with a sharp tongue and scrappy nature. She has a tender hold on her humanity as she struggles daily not to let her demon half overcome her. But when Tobias re-enters her life, she must work harder than ever. I liked Nix’s inner battle, it gave her character a sense of integrity and strength.

The tension between Nix and Tobias was thick and intoxicating. The old lovers banter back and forth, tease and push the other till breaking point. But amid the flirtation, there is the dangerous matter of solving the recent spree of murders. Nix and Tobias find themselves in much deeper water than they initially anticipated, and the added complexity gave weight to the story.

I did find myself more drawn to the romance, and wish the whole thing could have been just a little more. As it went on, my interest in the problem-solving grew less and less. Really, it could have been a fair bit shorter than it actually was and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all.

Great for any fantasy/paranormal fans. 


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Book Review: Beat The Band by Don Calame

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press (MA); Reprint edition (9 Aug 2011)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0763656631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763656638
  • Get ready for riffs on hot girls, health class, and social hell! The outrageously funny boys from Swim the Fly return to rock their sophomore year.

    In this hilarious sequel to Swim the Fly, told from Coop’s point of view, it’s the beginning of the school year, and the tenth-grade health class must work in pairs on semester-long projects. Matt and Sean get partnered up (the jerks), but Coop is matched with the infamous “Hot Dog” Helen for a presentation on safe sex. Everybody’s laughing, except for Coop, who’s convinced that the only way to escape this social death sentence is to win “The Battle of the Bands” with their group, Arnold Murphy’s Bologna Dare. There’s just one problem: none of the guys actually plays an instrument. Will Coop regain his “cool” before it’s too late? Or will the forced one-on-one time with Helen teach him a lesson about social status he never saw coming? With ribald humor and a few sweet notes, screenwriter-turned-novelist Don Calame once again hits all the right chords.

Coop feels like his world is falling apart. Best friend Matt is always with his new girlfriend, Val, Sean is moping over his ex…then he gets paired with Hotdog Helen in health class.

The ridicule starts swift and sure, the masses branding Coop ‘Corndog’. The last thing he wants is to be around Helen or be associated with her. Then he hears about the Battle of the Bands. Coop figures, if he wins, people will back off and remember how cool he is. What Coop doesn’t factor in is the other kids. His reluctant friends for one…and the popular girls who are out for humiliation.

One thing is for sure, health class has changed Coop forever.

So, I have to admit, on behalf of all girls everywhere, I cringed with pretty much every word that came out of Coop’s mouth. At first. His attempt at flirting and even the way he viewed girls almost made my skin crawl. Had Coop been at school with me and acted like that, I’m pretty sure I would have reacted very similar to the popular girls.

That said, it didn’t take long for Coop to totally charm me. I loved his sense of humour and the grim determination to get the band off the ground. And yes, I even snort-laughed at Coop’s, er, tummy problems, in the library. Seriously. I couldn’t see the page from the tears of laughter.

A lot of people will say Coop is a shallow and flawed character. And he is, absolutely. But like all people, he is capable of change. And as is usually the case, it starts with a girl. I understood Coop’s reluctance to get closer to Helen. High school can be hard enough without the added pressure of doing something you know will get you teased mercilessly.

Beat the Band is cringe-worthy, romantic, hilarious and full of surprises. I am looking forward to the next instalment of the series and seeing the world from Sean’s point of view. But Coop is a hard act to follow, and I can see his book being my favourite. 


Friday, 16 March 2012

Book Review: Unleashed by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

    • Paperback: 400 pages
    • Publisher: Corgi Childrens (2 Aug 2012)
    • ISBN-10: 0552564540
    • ISBN-13: 978-0552564540
    • Who do you run with?

      It's always tough being the new kid in town. And even worse when you have to live with your grandfather in the middle of the forest.

      But when Katelyn starts at Wolf Springs High she realizes that her new life might not be so bad. There's the enigmatic Trick, who is always there to protect her. And Cordelia Fenner and her irresistible cousin seem extra friendly.

      Katelyn suspects that there is more to the Fenner Family than meets the eye. But why is she so drawn to them? And in a town full of secrets, who can she trust?

Katelyn’s life is explicably changed when her mother dies suddenly. Uprooted from the life she adores to live with her grandfather in Arkansas, Wolf Springs is like nothing she has ever experienced before. Surrounded by dense woods and zero cell service, Katelyn feels more alone than ever.

Every small town has its fair share of secrets, but Wolf Springs seems to have a bucket load. She learns a girl her age was killed in the woods and with another falling victim to an unseen danger lurking among the trees, Katelyn is totally right to be edgy.

But there are upsides to Wolf Springs. Beautiful Cordelia Fenner takes Katelyn under her wing and shows her the ropes of the high school. Gorgeous and friendly Trick is her ride to school, and welcome flirting partner. But then there is Justin, Cordelia’s cousin. Justin sets her body on fire and is drawn to him even though she shouldn’t be.

Cordelia’s strange behaviour and Tricks’s inconsistencies makes Katelyn wonder who she can trust. And who she should flat out avoid.

Unleashed had all the foundations for an amazing book. But to be totally honest, it fell a little flat for me. Katelyn wasn’t the strong, wilful character I desperately wanted her to be. After losing her mother she is understandably grief-stricken and full of anger, but it is quickly forgotten when she focuses on what could be in the woods. What bothered me most were her instincts – they were just plain bad. She listens to people and takes everything they say verbatim while ignoring the facts right in front of her, and who has always had her back.

The interactions Katelyn has with Justin felt creepy and wrong. She meets him for a fleeting instant and she wants to throw herself on him. Of course there is such a thing as lust or love at first sight, but there was a wrongness to it that made me feel uncomfortable. Even when Katelyn learns something upsetting about Justin, she can’t keep her desire under control when around him.

The saving grace in the novel is Trick. Smart, funny, reliable if somewhat mysterious. His bond with Katelyn is instantaneous. He gives her something she needs after uprooting her whole life – someone to lean on, laugh with, be comfortable around. There is no question that Trick is hiding something, but it never felt malicious.

Unleashed asked more questions than it answered. With a name like Wolf Springs Chronicles, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the angle might be. That said, I was taken by surprise a few times. We are left with gaping holes in the story by the end of the book, enough to ensure I will read the next in the series.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to not read this book, but I wouldn’t actively promote it either. If you keep your expectations low, this book won’t disappoint.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Book Review: A Tale of Two Proms by Cara Lockwood

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 471 KB
  • Publisher: TKA Distribution (11 Dec 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language English
  • ASIN: B006M41IYK It was the best of prom, it was the worst of prom. 

    Miranda Tate returns for her senior year at Bard Academy and she is counting on two things: Prom with her boyfriend, Heathcliff, and then graduation from the haunted boarding school where fictional characters come to life. Fate, however, has other plans. 

    When Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff's long-lost love, appears on campus, suddenly everything she thought she knew about Heathcliff is changed forever. Catherine seems determined to win Heathcliff back, even if that means destroying Bard Academy and banishing its ghostly teachers - for good. 

    Miranda and her friends face their most daunting challenge, yet, which will take them for the first time inside the classics that have powered their mysterious boarding school. It's up to them to save Bard Academy - and prom. Can Miranda change her destiny and Heathcliff's? Or is this one story that was written in the stars?

A Tale of Two Proms is the fourth book in the Bard Academy series. Miranda has returned to the elusive school for her senior year…and to boyfriend, Heathcliffe. As in, the Heathcliffe.

With an acceptance letter to her top choice of college’s burning a hole in her pocket, Miranda already knows this year will be full of difficult decisions without Heathcliffe adding to the mix with a bombshell of his own.

As the rest of her class gets excited for prom, Miranda’s mind is firmly on other things…like the sudden appearance of Catherine, Heathcliffe’s long-lost love. With her life in tatters, Miranda and her friends must once again fight for what they love and believe in, before everything is lost forever.

A Tale of Two Proms is sure to be a hit with many teens. Bringing classics to life is a risky endeavour, and while it sometimes pays off, other times the classical characters fall a little flat for my liking. One thing is certain – it will provoke enough curiosity to encourage new readers to pick up the books mentioned by the author and broaden their reading horizon.

Miranda and the rest of the cast of characters keep things interesting as the plot develops, but my biggest nit about this book was how a lot of it seemed so repeated. Repetitive mentions of previous books, whilst at times helpful for the reminder, at others distracting from the current book.

I wasn’t blown away by this read, but I have every faith that many others will simply adore it.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Review: Firelight by Kristin Callihan

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Forever; 1 edition (1 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1455508594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455508594 
  • London, 1881
    Once the flames are ignited . . . 
    Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented. Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities. Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

    They will burn for eternity . . . 
    Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man. Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride. Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime. When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied. Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue. For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Miranda is haunted by her gift.  Able to manipulate fire, it is her defensive weapon that she loathes. In her father’s house she feels like a prisoner. He blames them for their misfortune and little money. So when the offer for her to marry the infamous Lord Archer, her father rejoices.

At first Archer is cold and aloof, a stranger behind a mask. But as Miranda gets to know her new husband who won’t touch her, she knows him better than anyone ever has before. When Archer is accused of being responsible for a series of gruesome murders, Miranda is determined to prove his innocence…and step by step remove the mask.

Firelight had an eerie and dream-like quality to it. A romance set in a horror story. The reader is kept guessing what Archer hides behind the mask, and how terrible it may be. But, like with Miranda, the better we come to know him, the less it matters.

Miranda is a sassy and street-wise character and extremely likeable. Her determination to get to the bottom of what Archer is hiding aggravates him, but he has finally found his match in her. Archer himself is like the Phantom of the Opera only noble and true. The passion they feel makes Miranda’s fire feel like a cool wind.

I adored the interactions between the pair, and the puzzle of the story. Highly recommended. 


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Book Review: A Little Night Magic by Lucy March

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (31 Jan 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1250002672
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250002679
  • Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, New York, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias, the cook, for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends—Peach, Millie, and Stacy—and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on shaking things up, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends . . . but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical Southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her life than she ever dreamed. As Liv’s latent magical powers come to the surface, she discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, with those she loves at her side . . . and in the cross fire. Can the most important things in life—friendship, love, magic, and waffles—get her through the worst that the universe can throw at her?

A Little Night Magic is a great rainey day read. Perfect to shut the curtains, forget about the world and curl up on the couch with a good book.

Our protagonist, Olivia, is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. After a failed seduction of best friend and all around hunk, Tobias, she realises something has to change. Sick of small town life, she make a break for freedom and books a ticket to Europe and plans to sell her house. But just as she writes off her small home town, things start getting a little more interesting…

A Little Night Magic really lives up to its title. This book didn’t feel like a full-on paranormal romance or urban fantasy. It was a book about self discovery with a hint of other-worldlyness.

While this book was well written and had interesting characters, I found my attention wandering very regularly. It couldn’t hold me and to be perfectly blunt, I didn’t care about the characters: who ended up with who, what happened to who etc. But even though I didn’t love it, I’m sure other people will.

Many thanks to NetGalley and St Martin's Griffin for providing me with this book. 

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