Thursday, 18 December 2014

US vs. UK: Moth and Spark Covers


How cool are both of these Moth and Spark covers? I really like both of them - and there's such a blinding contrast - though I do of course have a favourite: UK! I love the title placement, the text used, the images of the moths... it's all brilliant and ridiculously eye-catching. If I saw it in a bookshop I would definitely pick it up!

The US edition is lovely too, a lot darker with a more sinister feel to it. I think it looks more like the fantasy genre too, with the candle and overall tone. I wouldn't hesitate to buy this copy either, though I think the UK has hit the nail on the head with their cover. I know it's more literal thanks to the moths, but it works.

Which edition would you like on your shelves?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: All the Bright Places


Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.


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All the Bright Places
 by Jennifer Niven

* Published by: Penguin (UK) / Knopf (US)
* Format: Paperback / Hardcover (UK/US)
* Release Date: January 8th, 2015 / January 6th, 2015 (UK/US)

* On Amazon: here



Summary from Amazon.co.uk:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the 'natural wonders' of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.


How amazing does this sound?! I can't wait to read it. I've heard so many good things about it for months, and Phil Earle tells me it's good so it must be. Roll on 2015!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Review: Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella


Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: September 25th, 2014
Rating: 4.5/10


Amazon summary:

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood! It's as if all her life has been leading to this moment. She's hanging out with the stars . or at least she will be, when she finally gets to meet movie superstar Sage Seymour, whom husband Luke is now managing. There's so much to see and do! And getting Minnie through the hurdles for her A-list Hollywood pre-school will require some.er.help. Becky sets her heart on a new career - she's going to be a celebrity stylist. Red carpet, here she comes! But Becky soon finds it's tough in Tinseltown. Luckily her best friend Suze comes over to keep her company, and together they embark on the Hollywood insider trail. But somehow...things aren't quite working out as they'd hoped. Then Becky's big chance comes, and it's an opportunity that money can't buy. But will it cost her too much?

Review:

I've enjoyed this series more than any other recent adult series, I've read every book and own them all. I love it more than Bridget Jones, I think Becky is the funniest female character in fiction and, yes, I even like the movie adaptation. I was so excited to read Shopaholic to the Stars, and for the first two-hundred pages or so I was back in good old Kinsella-land. After that, I only felt major disappointment and sadness that I no longer liked Becky or her latest far-fetched adventure, instead wishing I could get to the end and put it down. It's a book of halves, that's for sure, and it's certainly a puzzling instalment in a once brilliant series.

Things start off well: Becky is her usual endearing, funny self, married to Luke and raising toddler Minnie. Life is good, she finally has everything she wants and feels happy and secure. Then Luke finds himself working with a well-known actress, the family moves to Hollywood for a while and Becky completely loses her mind. She becomes unlikeable very quickly, and after those initial two-hundred pages I didn't think I was reading about the same character I've grown to love. Her personality departure is a shame, and I just wonder if I'm the only Shopaholic reader to think this.

There were parts of Shopaholic to the Stars I still liked, of course (daft letter replies, Becky's parents, lovely Luke), but as the book progressed they became increasingly few and far between. Becky loses sight of everything she has and everything she's worked for, she becomes stupid rather than funny, she all but forgets about Luke and there are some truly mind-boggling plot threads involving Tarkie and Suze that left me scratching my head. I hate to say it, but I will: I think the Shopaholic series has finally run its course and perhaps it's time for Becky to hang up her designer handbag.

Unfortunately this seventh Shopaholic instalment wasn't for me, and in the end I was relieved to have reached the final page. It's a long way away from early Becky, mad shopaholic and out-of-hand spender, and I'm still sad I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I'll most probably read the next book in the series - why stop now? - but my expectations will be significantly lowered. In the meantime I think I'll dig out my earlier books and revisit the Becky I like - the Becky who remembered what she had and didn't long for unfound fame.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Review: Undone by Cat Clarke


Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: January 31st, 2013
Rating: 8/10


Amazon summary:

Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it. Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself. Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down. 

Review:

Undone is only the second of Cat Clarke's books I've read (I know, I know - please don't throw things at me!) but it's the best so far. I was utterly hooked right off the bat and I truly do think Cat is one of the UK's best YA writers. She doesn't hold anything back and goes straight for the tough stuff, even if it's a bit grim and sad. Real life is tough, so it's great to read a book that doesn't gloss over that small fact.

The whole premise of Undone is a sad one; Jem's best friend Kai has committed suicide and written monthly notes to her to be read posthumously. Jem is of course struggling to come to terms with the loss of Kai, and she eventually turns to revenge and sets off down a path that can't possibly have a positive outcome.

Jem and Kai are both excellent characters, particularly Kai who we only really get to see through his letters and Jem's memories. He's kind and thoughtful, doing the best he can go ensure Jem will be okay after he's gone. Jem is grieving and angry, and the only thing she knows how to do is punish those who made Kai's life so bad that the only way out was for him to end it. They're at very different ends of the spectrum in terms of how they are as people, but personality wise they're just the best fit.

Undone isn't a particularly easy read due to its dark subject matter, but it is an honest one. Cat Clarke doesn't hold back on reality, and what transpires after the first few chapters is actually pretty shocking. Revenge is a dangerous path to go down, and it always, always has consequences. Jem learns this the hard way, and the novel has a fantastically ambiguous ending that can be taken one of two ways. It's a clever way to finish the story, and it stayed with me for quite a few weeks after I put the book down.

Undone is a book I should have read sooner, but in any case I'm glad it was worth the wait. It's a fairly long novel clocking in at just under five-hundred pages, but it never feels like that. I could have carried on reading Kai's letters and Jem's attempts to honour his wishes for another five-hundred pages, and my only complaint is that it had to end at all. This is hard, topical writing at its best and I enjoyed every page.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

In My Mailbox #237: New Books This Week



In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and any links take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!

Thanks so much to all publishers/authors who sent me lovely books to review - some nice surprises this week!


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For review:





...and this lovely Christmas parcel from Bloomsbury!





Happy reading!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Review: The Boy in the Cemetery by Sebastian Gregory


Publisher: Carina
Format: eBook
Released: October 29th, 2014
Rating: 6/10


Amazon summary:

This is the story of a girl who lived but was not alive… 

Carrie Anne is desperately unhappy. Tangled in a web of abuse, she seeks solace in the cemetery that backs onto her garden. But something creeps between the gravestones. Carrie Anne is not alone… 

…and a boy who was dead, but could not die. 

'The cemetery is home to a boy. He has guarded these forgotten bones since meeting a gruesome end two hundred years ago. Neither dead nor alive, he has been watching for a long time. And now, he finally has the visitor he’s been waiting for…

Review: 

From seeing The Boy in the Cemetery's brilliant, gothic cover, I was expecting the story to be creepy and unsettling. While it did have it's ghastly moments, overall it was just an average read that I think could have been so much more. I did like the main plot and character of the boy, but I think the author tried to do too much with Carrie Anne's horrible home life.

The boy is the best part of this book, living in the cemetery and housing worms and hundreds of other creepy crawlies inside what's left of his decayed body. I truly think he means well and wants nothing more than a companion, which is why he protects Carrie Anne and doesn't see what he's doing as wrong. I would happily read more about him if the opportunity should ever arise, and I think he's a fantastic character.

Carrie Anne, on the other hand, never quite clicked with me. I felt bad for her of course; her family and home isn't a welcoming, loving place, and she's a victim of abuse. That aspect of her life didn't ring true to me - why didn't her mother do anything about it? Why didn't Carrie Anne herself speak up before now? Why wait? It just seemed too forced to me, and her personality never got under my skin enough for me to get funny invested in her story.

The Boy in the Cemetery is a quick little read, part family drama and part horror. Sadly the drama outweighs the horror, and the potential for a chilling tale falls to the wayside. I'm intrigued enough to seek out the author's previous books; I have high hopes for them and their darker takes on fairy tales - it's just a shame this one didn't live up to expectations.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Review: Winter Wonderland by Various Authors


Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Format: Paperback
Released: October 6th, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10


Amazon summary:

On a frosty winter's day, a bear cub gets ready for his long hibernation, a puppy takes his first walk in the snow, and a lamb catches a glimpse of Father Christmas...A delightful anthology of animal stories that makes perfect bedtime reading. 

Review: 

Winter Wonderland is a really lovely selection of short animal stories from some of today's best children's authors, including Holly Webb, Linda Chapman and Anna Wilson. It's also beautifully illustrated by Alison Edgson, who brings with her a whimsical feel as well as some seriously cute little animals!

I enjoyed all the stories in this anthology, though my favourites are The Winter Party by Liss Norton, Who Is Christmas? by Anna Wilson, A Present for Micklemouse by Katy Cannon and Higgy's Winter Wonderland by Michael Broad. Of course every story featured here is well worth reading, but I have to have my favourites!

All kinds of animals are represented in these stories, from cats and dogs to bears and hedgehogs. No animal is too small or obscure to feature in Winter Wonderland, and that makes it an even better book. In fact, it should come with a sticker to warn against cuteness overload, because that's what you'll get when you open the first page!

Winter Wonderland is a great collection of animal tales that any reader will love, whether they're young or old. It has a festive Christmas theme running throughout, making it the perfect book for winter and any cold, snowy nights on the horizon. I hope you enjoy meeting these adorable little animals as much as I did!