Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Book Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (28 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447260821
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447260820
  • Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.
    This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.
    Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.
    Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.
    But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

For as long as she can remember, the world has been trying to kill Lily Proctor. She is allergic to just about everything and it stops her from living her life the way she wants to…the way her friends take for granted. But the one positive thing in her life has always been Tristan. He is her best friend and has never given up on her when most other friends fall away when Lily can’t do all the same things they can. Of course, Lily is head over heels in love with Tristan. She is overjoyed when Tristan seems to return her feelings. But a devastatingly embarrassing night in front of her entire class destroys Lily. And when she hears a voice whispering to follow it, she has no reason not to.

Lily finds herself in her town of Salem, but it is not her town. It is a terrifying new world that is ruled by dark witches - the strongest of which is Lily’s other self, Lilian. Lily is thrown headfirst into a war she can’t begin to understand and if she discover her true potential, Lily might the only thing that can stop it. She is armed only by a few friends, one of which being the alternate Tristan…who I much preferred! And the distrustful Rowan, who used to be the closest person to Lilian.

I loved, loved, LOVED this book. I’m not usually one for witches and alternate realities, but I totally fell down the rabbit hole with this one. Lily is such a sympathetic and strong character. I loved that she effortlessly led us through the story and I cheered for her every step of the way. 

Trial by Fire is action packed and pulse-pounding and I sat on the edge of my seat for most of it. I cannot wait for the next in the series

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Book Review: Time Storm by Julie Cross

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (30 Jan 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0230758487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230758483
  • Tempest Agent Jackson Meyer’s back. Just . . . he barely survived the time jump forward to the year 3200 and another jump will probably kill him. Imprisoned by Eyewall, an opposition organization determined to shape the future according to their will, regardless of the human cost, Jackson needs to decide once and for all what really matters to him. Trying to save the people he loves – including Holly, one-time love of his life and in this timeline at least an Eyewall recruit – or risking everything to try to prevent this horrific future from ever taking place. But things are not always as they seem. And as the truth unravels, Jackson is forced to realise just how much love costs.

Timestorm picks up right as Vortex leaves off, with Jackson and his friends in the year 3200. It is there that Jackson learns the most about his genes and how if he time jumps again it will most likely kill him. He learns more about Eyewall and their cruel experiments and he knows he has to stop them, whatever the price may be. Jackson is surrounded by the people he loves. Including his one time love, Holly who turned Eyewall agent. Even his sister, who died many years previously is with him. 

Timestorm, and the entire trilogy, is a masterpiece. It is easy to get lost in the science with books like this, but when the main character is constantly learning so is the reader. There are a few information dumps, but nothing too overwhelming. 

There isn’t a single thing I didn't like about this series. The characters leapt off the page and were so well developed. The plot moved like a current, ebbing and flowing as it needed. This is the kind of series you curl up with one weekend and devour all three books. 

Timestorm was a perfect conclusion to what is a fantastic series. It broke my heart and pieced me together again and I can’t to read it all over again. 

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Book Review: Gloss: Summer Scandal by Marilyn Kaye

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447223993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447223993
It's the summer of 1964 and the four Gloss interns are back in New York. Sherry is working at Gloss when she gets involved in the civil rights movement and finds herself falling in love with someone she never expected to, Donna is caught up in the world of high fashion and Upper East Side rich kids, Pamela is desperate to become an actress, no matter what it takes, and Allison is finding out that going steady with a teen heart-throb isn't all it's cracked up to be. The girls are discovering that following your heart sometimes means that you can't follow your dreams . . .

It’s the summer of 1964 and the four summer interns are back in New York. Sherry, Donna, Allison and Pamela are reunited and things couldn’t be more different for all of them. The four are all set with new challenges as they embark on new jobs and relationships. 

Allison is learning that dating a teen heartthrob isn’t all its cracked up to be…and you’re never really dating just him, but everything that comes with being famous. Pamela is desperate to break into fame and will do anything to get it, no matter who she stomps on to do it. Donna is living her dream job and has to put up with a nightmare boss to do, and possibly ignore some of her morals along the way. And Sherry is trying to make a name for herself in the magazine, but someone is determined to ruin the magazine itself. 

I absolutely adored this book. I have to admit I haven’t read the first in the series, but it didn’t ruin the second for me. The characters are introduced in a vivid way with just enough backstory to stop things from being confusing. The four girls could not be more different who, although they come together with this great bond, have four very different stories to tell. 

There is a very serious heartbeat to this book. Set in the middle of the sixties, there are many class and race issues that are raised. Sherry befriends William, a black man who is a student at Columbia University. Sherry is a southern girl and back home things aren't quite as liberal and forward thinking as the people in New York. She is a sympathiser and quite simply just wants equality for everyone, regardless of their sex, skin colour or social standing. Sherry is met with quite a bit of distrust when she tries to join a few groups who want equality and it is at one of these meetings that she is introduced to William. 

Donna mets Jack and there is instant attraction. It is later that she finds out his surname is Vanderwill and comes from one of the most wealthy families in the city. Neither of them care, but his mother isn’t pleased Donna doesn’t come from better stock.

Gloss: Summer Scandal is awash with interesting characters and I loved the gritty story lines. Despite these hard-hitting topics, it is, for the most part, a light-hearted read. Best read outside on the grass wearing large vintage sunglasses with the sunshine beating down on you and a frosted glass of lemonade.

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Review: Summer's Shadow by Anna Wilson

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447241819
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447241812

When Summer's mom died, her life is turned upside down

Summer's mother's will states that Summer's legal guardian is her uncle Tristan: a man Summer has never even heard of before. Forced to leave her life in London, Summer moves to Tristan's creepy, ancient house in Cornwall. There she is met with indifference from him, open hostility from her cousin, and an aunt who has chosen to leave rather than to tolerate her presence. Soon Summer comes to believe that the house may be haunted. But is it haunted by ghosts, or by the shadows of her family's past? Scared and lonely, Summer begins to spend more and more time in the beautiful sheltered cove she discovers nearby. But she's not alone. A local boy frequents it too. Can Summer find first love and the answers to the mysteries of her new home with this good-looking boy who appears to be too perfect to be true?

When Summer’s mother dies, her will states that Summer would live with family she has never met before in Cornwall. Her Uncle Tristan seems anxious and doesn’t know how to deal with Summer. Her cousin Kenan goes out of his way to be mean and her aunt has moved out of the house. 

As if losing her mother wasn’t bad enough, now Summer has to leave behind her home, friends and normal life. Nothing is the same in Cornwall. Her family behave so strangely and she can’t even get a signal on her mobile phone. But that’s not all. Summer is haunted by strange occurrences that started with a phone call at the exact minute her mother died. Now there is a white cat that appears to Summer alone. 

Summer begins exploring the nearby beach she has discovered, and stumbles upon a secret cove. It is in the cove she meets local boy Zach, who seems to be the only person capable of pulling Summer out of her grief.

Summer’s Shadow was a good read, but perhaps at the younger end of the YA spectrum. 

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Book Review: Unforgotten by Jessica Brody

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447221141
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447221142

After a daring escape from the scientists at Diotech who created her, Seraphina believes she is finally safe from the horrors of her past. But new threats await her and her boyfriend, Zen, at every turn as Zen falls prey to a mysterious illness and Sera’s extraordinary abilities make it more and more difficult to stay hidden. Meanwhile, Diotech has developed a dangerous new weapon designed to apprehend her, a weapon that even Sera will be powerless to stop. Her only hope of saving Zen’s life and defeating the company that made her is a secret buried deep within her mind. A secret that Diotech will kill to protect.

Zen and Sera have escaped from the scientists at Diotech who created Sera. They have travelled back in time to 1609 and, so long as they keep to themselves and make sure nothing they do becomes part of public record, they can live out the remainder of their days in peace and safety but more importantly, together. Diotech can never find them. 

But something is making Zen ill, and even before that life was a daily struggle. Every move Sera makes she has to be thoughtful and cautious. One wrong move could expose her as different…something you really don’t want in 1609. And when Zen’s life is threatened it isn’t even a choice - Sera acts to save him and is apprehended shortly after. She is accused of being a witch and put on trial, which means it will be public record. 

Diotech has learned it’s mistakes and has created a weapon specially forged for Sera. They are equally matched and on paper, she cannot overcome him. But Zen will die if she doesn’t do something and so Sera must channel her human side and learn to get creative if either of them have a hope of seeing daylight as free people again.

I absolutely LOVE this series. Zen and Sera are very likeable characters, as are Kaelen and Cody. I could barely rip my eyes away from the pages and I raced through it as quickly as I could just to know what happened. It is fast paced and chock full of action and turmoil. Every emotion is channelled through this book and I think I felt every one. 

Fans of this first book will not be left disappointed and I sincerely cannot wait for the next book. 

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Monday, 21 April 2014

Book Review: Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330537903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330537902
Freed from jail, Anya hopes that things will get back to normal. But life on the outside is even more dangerous than life behind bars. Some of her gangland family want revenge for the crime for which she has done time: the shooting of her uncle. Forced to flee the country, Anya hides out in a cacao plantation in Mexico. There she learns the secrets of the chocolate trade, a trade that is illegal and deadly in her native New York. There too she discovers that seemingly random acts of violence carried out across the world have a single target: her family. As innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire Anya must act fast and decisively to stop it, no matter what the danger to herself.

Because It Is My Blood was as action-packed and thrilling as the first book in this tremendous series. Anya has just been released from prison and she wants nothing more than to go back to normal. But unfortunately for Anya, nothing can ever be the same. She is still fiercely protective of her family, of her brother Leo who she hasn’t seen in forever for his own safety, and the brilliant Natty, and for good reason, since a few members of the Balanchine family seek retribution for the shooting of her uncle. Anya can’t even seem to find a school willing to take her, what with the criminal record and ties to the mafia, and all. And worst of all, is Win, who seems like he has had no trouble whatsoever in getting over Anya. 

And someone isn’t willing to sit back and let Anya, or any of her siblings, enjoy their lives and a hit is ordered on all three of them. Because It Is My Blood quickly becomes a thick-plotted murder mystery with creeping vines of subplots that both distracts the reader and gives them valuable clues as to what may have happened.

Because It Is My Blood was a rich and engrossing novel and I drank it in, savouring each and every word. I adored Anya’s story in this instalment of the trilogy and loved seeing how much she has grown as a character. I was kept guessing for the most part of this book and the moment it was finished I felt like I could finally let the breath go that I had been holding. 

I simply cannot wait for the final book in this wonderful trilogy. 

Many thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 28 March 2014

Book Review: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (3 April 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1780870477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780870472

  • When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.
    Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy - everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.
    Alex can't help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive...
    But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

A Kiss in the Dark was raw and frank and I was gripped from the very beginning.

I have been staring at a blank page and blinking cursor for ages now, and still cannot think how on earth to write this review to both do the book justice and convey just how amazing it is. 

Alex and Kate are two teens who meet and form an instant bond. Straight away they fall deeper into their feelings for each other and can barely stand to be apart. But one of them is keeping a secret and the other has no idea. 

Told firstly from Alex’s POV and then Kate’s, we get an incredible insight into both of these characters. A secret, a lie and an impossible situation. Cat Clarke has an amazing talent of showing us gritty story lines in unflinching honesty and I admire her bravery and this book shines because of it. It was rich and vibrant with Edinburgh as the backdrop to the story and the characters simply leapt off the page is startling clarity and Technicolor. 

Once I started this book I could barely put it down and the deeper into the story I got, the more it held me until the end. It is real and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Many thanks to Quercus for the review copy.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book Review: Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (27 Mar 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1447239008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447239000
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.

Amy has cerebral palsy but like that is going to stop her from living her life exactly the way she wants to. Her parents, however, have other ideas. Amy has always attended school normally, though with an adult aide that never leaves her side. But now Amy is a senior and she is tired of having no friends, so she enlists her mother to hire students to help her between classes and at lunch, whatever she needs. She has no disillusions that technically she is paying people to be her friends, but what she really wants is the chance to show people what lies beneath her obvious disability, and the roaring person behind it. 

Matthew does not want to be Amy’s aide. Everyday he is crippled by a fear he can’t name and driven to distraction by obsessive thoughts and rituals without throwing responsibility for Amy into the mix. Too bad for him Amy doesn’t take no lightly. 

Amy & Matthew is one of the best books I have ever read. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I was blown away by the words between the covers. Amy and Matthew are two of the most vibrant characters I have ever encountered and I devoured their story as though it was the last slice of chocolate cake and tomorrow’s diet begins. 

The plot itself is cleverly written with a story arc I did not see coming. It was handled beautifully, as was both characters and their impairments. 

Whilst I liked Amy and I really loved her appetite for life and her dry humour and thought she was incredibly inspiring, my heart just went out to Matthew. I thought for sure it would be Amy I really rooted for, but there was something more vulnerable in the limitations Matthew faced everyday that just about broke me,

The relationship between the two teens was beautiful to read and it was fascinating to witness their journey, not only with each other, but in their lives. I laughed out loud, sat on the edge of my seat and prayed for a happy outcome. 

Amy & Matthew is the kind of book that you feel bereft upon finishing it. You hug it to your chest, let out the long held breath and try and imprint every word in your brain. Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime. It feeds your soul better than food ever could. 

Many thanks to MacMillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Book Review: Stella by Helen Eve

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; 1 edition (2 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447241711
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447241713

17-year-old Stella Hamilton is the star blazing at the heart of Temperley High. Leader of the maliciously exclusive elite, she is surrounded by adulation; envied and lusted after in equal measure. And she is in the final stage of a five-year campaign to achieve her destiny: love with her equally popular male equivalent, and triumph as Head Girl on election night.
By contrast, new girl Caitlin Clarke has until now lived a quietly conformist life in New York. With the collapse of her parents’ marriage she has been sent across the Atlantic for an English boarding school education, only to discover that at Temperley, the only important rules are the unwritten ones. It's a world of the beautiful and the dangerous, and acceptance means staying on the right side of Stella Hamilton, the most beautiful and dangerous of them all.
Not everyone is happy to be under the Hamilton rule. But fighting the system means treading the same dark path as Stella - and if Caitlin puts a foot wrong, it's a long way down . . .

Stella Hamilton is the star of Temperley High School. Literally. She is the leader of an elite group of Stars who rule the school and set the standard for all other girls and is in the final stage of her campaign of supreme reign: love with her male counterpart and win position of Head Girl.

Caitlin Clarke is the new girl at Temperley and has a lived a quiet life compared to Stella. After her parents separation, she travelled with her father from New York to England to attend school and had to say goodbye to the little brother she adores. Caitlin quickly learns that those in charge at Temperley aren’t necessarily the teachers and the most important rules are the ones no one tells you about. 

When Stella takes Caitlin under wing, Caitlin blossoms. She sees what life is like on the beautiful side and she doesn’t ever want to go back. Life in the popular circle isn’t always sunshine and happiness. Some aren’t happy to be under Stella’s rule but going against the system means doing things like Stella would. And if you fall, it’s a long way to the bottom. 

I absolutely loved this book. It is one of the rare books that has me switching allegiances gradually throughout. It is fraught with the perils of teenage politics and drips elegance of wealth and luxury. At times the story did go that stretch too far to be believable, but it’s largeness only made it more fascinating. 

As the story progressed each girl grips furiously to what she has claimed at the school and neither will admit defeat, and even becomes a little unhinged in their mental state. There has been a lot of comparison with the Cecily von Ziegesar books, Mean Girls and Great Expectations and I can see why, but also, Stella stands up pretty well all on its own. 

Read it and be glad you never went to this school. 

Many thanks to My Kinda Book and Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Book Review: Sea Glass by Maria V Snyder

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira Ink; New edition edition (2 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848452470
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848452473

A Game of Magic Student magician Opal Cowan's newfound ability to steal others' powers makes her too powerful. Trapped under house arrest, Opal dares to defy her imprisonment, searching for Ulrick, the man she thinks she loves. Thinks because she is sure another man - now her prisoner - has switched souls with Ulrick. In hostile territory, without proof or allies, Opal isn't sure whom to trust. She doesn't know the real Ulrick's whereabouts and can't forget Kade, the handsome Stormdancer who doesn't want to let her get too close. And now everyone is after Opal's special powers for their own deadly gain...

Times aren’t getting any easier for Opal. Her unique glass messengers have become a vital part of society. But now dangerous factions are trying to gain control of them for themselves which would mean control of Sitia and Opal herself.

Opal is still meeting resistance when she tries to prove the existence of blood magic. At every turn she is faced with doubt and even begins to doubt herself. Family, friends and mentor deny its existence and Opal fears no one will ever believe her until it is too late. She has no idea who to trust and but in the end Opal must take a leap of faith. 

Whilst I haven’t fallen into this series with loving abandon like I have with other works by this author, I do really enjoy Opal’s series. It is more of a slow burner than a roaring inferno and I find myself thinking a lot more about these books. I am constantly wondering what will happen next as the plot twists and turns. 

Opal is a wonderful character. She is passionate and driven and sympathetic. I really felt for her when no one believed her about Ulrick and Devlen and rooted for her throughout the book. I cannot wait to read the third and final instalment of this series.

Many thanks to Mira Ink for the review copy.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (30 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447263227

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She's horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life.
Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She's got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can't stop worrying about her dad, who's loving and fragile and has never really been alone.
Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realizing that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible . . .

Cath and Wren are identical twins and all their life they have done everything together. They went to the same parties, had the same friends, had the same interests. But now they are starting college and Wren craves individuality. Cath is the more reserved of the two, and doesn’t like new situations. Wren throws herself into college life, makes instant friends with her new roommate and loves the nightlife. And all Cath wants to do is bury herself in the fan fiction she writes and pretend the outside world doesn’t exist. 

Cath’s comfort zone is totally ripped from her. Her sister is non-existent, the fiction-writing professor she idolised came down hard on her fan fiction and she can’t stop worrying about her dad. Everything feels like a battle, and all Cath wants to do is wave the white flag and admit defeat. But those around her won’t let her give in so easily.

I absolutely adored Fangirl. It was one of those books that you just sink into like a piece of mouth watering chocolate cake. Cath is a great protagonist and very true to what she believes in, though she can be stubborn to a fault.

One of the most interesting things I found about Fangirl was the relationships around Cath. There are a lot of different types and not all of them perfect or even good, and how unaware she is that they are there. 

Levi and Reagan have to be my two all time favourite characters of this book. Reagan is my kinda gal, straight talking and unapologetic for who she is. And really, who couldn’t adore Levi with his floppy hair and charm?

This book is a little on the tame side, considering it is set in college but it hits some serious notes. I loved the interactions between Cath and her dad and the dynamic of the twindom. 

All in all, you’d be crazy to pass this book by. Read it and love it. And pray for a sequel. #NEEDMORELEVI

Many thanks to My Kinda Book and MacMillan Children's Books for the review copy.

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