Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hav3n Blog Tour: Tom Easton Guest Post + UK Giveaway!


Hav3n is published in the UK on August 2nd by Andersen Press, and it sounds brilliant! Here's a summary from Amazon:

It starts with a cough, a few aches and pains and a weird spot on the back of your neck. It is HAV3N, the worst disease the world has ever seen.

With friends and loved ones dying in their thousands, the villagers of picture-postcard village Great Sheen are convinced this is more than just media hype. Their entire existence is under serious threat. So they barricade themselves in - and the infected out.

Seventeen-year Josh, his sister Martha and their two friends survive the onslaught of HAV3N, along with only seventy-eight other villagers. But they now face a very different future. One in which they could be the only living teenagers in the world . . .

To celebrate the release I have a really cool guest post from author Tom Easton as well as a UK giveaway further down this page. Please do enter!


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Top 5 Celebrities To Help Rebuild a Shattered World 
by Tom Easton

1) Bear Grylls
Obvs. Bear Grylls has a proven track record of surviving in deserts, on oceans, through blizzards and ratings slumps. Whatever hell this planet can throw at him, he just swallows, chews and spits it back out again. Unless it's edible, in which case he doesn't do the spitting bit.
Strengths – knows where to find food, whether it's in the New Forest, at the top of Mt Snowdon, or in the harrowing wilds of Staines Retail Park.
Weaknesses – Tends to refer to fellow survivors as 'the camera crew'. Insists on serving up meals of grubs and cat intestines even when tinned beans are available at nearby Morrisons.
2) Lady Gaga
Perhaps not the obvious choice, but Lady Gaga is adaptable and open to new ideas. She's young, fit and knows how to get what she wants. Likes it rough.
Strengths – Great make-up tips for hiding those hideous boils, scars and weeping sores. Plus, if you run out of food, you can always eat her meat dress.
Weaknesses – Inappropriate footwear. Possibly too thin to survive first winter.
3) Stephen Fry
The oldest of the group, Fry is a must-have for his wisdom, his intelligence and his mostly unflappable attitude. Because of Twitter, Fry is already used to having plenty of half-crazed followers.
Strengths – Knows everything in the world. Potential leader of future global government. Weaknesses – Technophile who may find it difficult to adapt to a world without Apple. May not be much help re-populating the planet.
4) John Terry
A controversial choice. Terry is nonetheless a fighter and a survivor. He's used to horrific, blood-soaked catastrophes, having been a member of two England World Cup Campaigns.
Strengths – Never gives up, even when the ball has crossed the line, even when he's 2-nil down with 5 minutes to play, even when the girl he wants is happily married to a team mate.
Weaknesses – Not entirely trustworthy.
5) Tom Cruise
Star of the 2005 remake of War of the Worlds as well as dozens of other excellent films, Tom Cruise is a guy you'd want standing by you, presumably on a box, in the event of alien invasion, or other global catastrophe.
Strengths – Scientology background useful when talking to Alien Supreme Beings. Highly professional. Great hair.
Weaknesses – Really weird bloke. Cruise-Gaga dynamic extremely unpredictable.


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Giveaway!

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK only.
  • End date: August 10th, 2012.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Books will be sent out by the publisher.

Fill in the form below to enter, and good luck!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry


Publisher: Mira Ink
Format: Paperback
Released: August 3rd, 2012
Rating: 7.5/10


Amazon summary:

I can't remember the night that changed my life. The night I went from popular to loner freak. And my family are determined to keep it that way. They said therapy was supposed to help. They didn't expect Noah. Noah is the dangerous boy my parents warned me about. But the only one who'll listen. The only one who'll help me find the truth. I know every kiss, every promise, every touch is forbidden. But what if finding your destiny means breaking all the rules? 

Review: 

I first heard about Pushing the Limits a few months ago and I must admit I didn't pay much attention to it. It sounded like a few other books I'd read before all rolled into one, and it wasn't until I received a copy for review that I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did because it's a genuinely good book and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

Pushing the Limits is the story of Echo and Noah, two teenagers having therapy for different reasons. Echo is the popular girl with a life-changing event that has left her a loner and Noah is the bad boy trying to save his family from foster care. Echo and Noah meet, sparks fly, secrets are revealed and pasts are revisited. All in all it's a pretty simple plot but one that is believable and executed well.

It took me a good few chapters to properly get into this book, but once I did I was hooked. It's gritty, realistic (to a point) and compelling, though I do think it was slightly too long. I also had a hard time with all the drama - there just seemed so much of it! Echo and Noah never seemed to get a break and instead had one horrible thing after another thrown at them and it made it hard for me to fully identify with them.

I really liked Noah and his unwavering loyalty to his younger brothers and, while I did like Echo, I didn't connect with her as much. She always seemed distant to me, and maybe that's because I could never truly imagine what it would be like to be in her position. The romance in this book was brilliant and reminiscent of something you'd find in a Simone Elkeles novel. Noah and Echo were so well matched and they really ds heat up the pages!

The dual narrative and easy, addictive writing style made Pushing the Limits a fast read for me. I was pleasantly surprised and now understand all the glowing reviews I'd read. Although not quite as good, it's the perfect book for fans of the Perfect Chemistry series and I'm looking forward to reading more by Katie McGarry. I love finding new contemporary YA authors!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

In My Mailbox #155: New Books This Week



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

Thanks to all publishers and authors who sent me lovely books to review this week!


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For review:



&

Kindle eBooks for review:
  • The End of the World As We Know It by Iva-Marie Palmer
  • Art of Disappearing by Elena Perez

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 Bought:




Happy reading!




Saturday, 28 July 2012

Review: Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols


Publisher: MTV Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: July 10th, 2012
Rating: 8/10


Amazon summary:

Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons.By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true . . . but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they're determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.

 Review:

I was pretty disappointed with Jennifer Echols' last couple of books so I was a bit unsure what I'd think of Such a Rush. I needn't have worried, though, because it was a return to form and almost as good as The Boys Next Door, which is my favourite of all Jennifer's books.

Such a Rush is about Leah, her job at Hall Aviation and her ambition to become a pilot. She works for Mr. Hall at his airport, towing banners that attach to planes, and he gives her flying lessons. After his untimely death, his twin sons Grayson and Alec - both seniors in high school - come back to run Hall Aviation and keep their Father's legacy alive.

As with all Jennifer's books, there's a hot romance present. It's sexy, heated and keeps you completely glued to the pages. I won't say who Leah ends up linked with but I will say that both Hall brothers are very fine boys indeed and whoever she ends up with is sure to grab your attention!

There are several other reasons why I enjoyed this book as much as I did, aside from the realistic romance. Here are some of them:

* The aviation theme. I'm scared of flying and have never even been near a tiny plane, but I found learning about pilots and flying to be really interesting.
* Leah and her no-nonsense, independent attitude to life. She basically rocked and I want to be friends with her.
* Grayson Hall. Be still my heart.
* Themes of family. I like a good story about families and all their trials and tribulations and this one fits that requirement perfectly.
* Jennifer's addictive writing. Could I turn the pages fast enough? No I could not.
* SEXY TIMES. Jennifer is the queen of YA sex scenes and she never disappoints.

So, contemporary YA readers, I do hope you'll run to your nearest store or laptop and purchase Such a Rush. You may have doubts like I did, but don't worry, this book will not disappoint you. Jennifer Echols is back on form and raring to go - I can't wait to read whatever she serves up next.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: When It Snows


Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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When It Snows
 by Richard Collingridge

* Published by: David Fickling Books (UK)
* Format: Hardcover (UK)
* Release Date: September 27th, 2012 (UK)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.co.uk:

When everything grinds to a halt because of the snow, one small boy and his teddy bear refuse to allow the weather to spoil their fun. They embark on an amazing journey in which they ride a polar bear and meet huge snowmen, an ice queen, fairies, elves, a giant reindeer and Father Christmas.


And at the very end of the story, in a wonderfully cosy and festive fireside scene, there's a clever twist - he has simply become immersed in the magical scenes of his favourite book.

I've never really been a reviewer of picture books, and I haven't mentioned many on my blog, but I *need* to read this one! I'm not ashamed to say I've been stalking Richard Collingridge's blog and am a little bit (see: a lot) in love with his artwork and When It Snows looks and sounds like a beautiful book. I think my mum will enjoy this book too so she'll be reading it after me!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Review: Shrinking Violet by Lou Kuenzler


Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback
Released: July 5th, 2012
Rating: 8/10


Amazon summary:

Violet is normal-sized one minute and pocket-sized the next! It's the BIGGEST day in Violet's life. All she has ever wanted to do is ride Plunger, the scariest roller coaster around. And tody she is finally TALL enough. 1.4 meters to be exact. But just as Violet is about to climb into one of Plunger's carriages, someting totally crazy happens. Violet shrinks! She is suddenly as small as a fish finger. Although Violet doesn't stay little for long, her chances of ever riding Plunger are ruined. She never wants to shrink again... Bt then Granny is accused of stealing, and tiny Violet might just be the only one who can catch the thief. 

Review:

Shrinking Violet randomly showed up at my house one day and I decided to read it on a whim. I do read a fair amount of 8+ children's fiction and this one looked funny and intriguing. I mean, who doesn't want to read about a girl who shrinks to the size of a fish finger?! I'm really glad I read it anyway as I immediately fell in love with tiny Violet and her sneaky ways!

I've always liked smaller people - hobbits, borrowers, Steve from Land of the Giants - to name but a few, and now I can add Violet to my list. She FINALLY gets to be 1.4 metres tall and big enough to go on the Plunger ride when suddenly she shrinks! She has all kinda of miniature adventures, including ending up in a very messy public rubbish bin. Yuck! She soon becomes a spy, though, in a quest to help clear her grandma's good name and restore order to the nursing home where she lives. Super Violet to the rescue!

The layout of Violet's tiny tale is really cool and appealing to younger readers. There's plenty of fantastic illustrations, larger unusual fonts and a generally fun approach to things. If all books looked this nice and lilac-coloured, I think we'd all get a lot more reading done!

Shrinking Violet is the perfect read for its target audience. In fact, it's my favourite 8+ title of 2012 so far. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the next book in the series. So, if you know anyone looking to share in an adventure of smaller proportions, do grab a copy of Shrinking Violet. It's well worth a read!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Review: Slated by Teri Terry

 
Publisher: Orchard Books
Format: Paperback
Released: May 3rd, 2012
Rating: 8/10


Amazon summary:

Kyla's memory has been erased, her personality wiped blank, her memories lost for ever. She's been Slated. The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla's mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?


Review:

Slated is a fantastic futuristic debut novel that still has me thinking about it a week after finishing it. It's full of thought-provoking ideas and possibilities that could easily come to fruition in the future, and that's what makes it such a compelling read. I really couldn't put it down once I'd picked it up and, even though the page count is a decent size, I finished it in a matter of days!

Right from the first page, Slated had me hooked. Sixteen-year-old Kyla's memory has been erased, her personality completely wiped clean, and she is sent to live with a new family. The government are responsible for this whole process - reserved for criminals, terrorists and threats to society - and call it slating. This book takes place in our future, but the ideas still seem like they're a possibility. I can see something like this happening in the future, maybe even sooner than we think. *shudder*

Each slated person has an implant in their arm called a levo, so the government can keep track of their emotions. So, for example, if someone who is slated is happy, their levo levels will probably reach seven or eight. If they're angry or threatening, levels will drop and the levo will cause a blackout. I absolutely love the idea of levos and slating - it's really captured my imagination. I wouldn't like it to happen to me, though!

In addition to a very strong female lead, Slated also features a brilliant array of secondary characters, including Kyla's new slated sister Amy, her friend Ben and her doctor from the slating hospital, Doctor Lysander. There isn't one single character that failed to hold my attention; I wanted to see more of every one of them. A few of them are shady and questionable but I'll leave you to discover that for yourselves!

Although not directly related to the story, I do think Slated has some editing issues. A lot of commas seem to be in the wrong places and I found it off-putting as it interrupted my reading flow. I know it's probably not important, but I had to mention it. It drove me a bit mad when I was having to re-read sentences and fill in my own pauses. Hopefully it will be corrected in a future printing, but don't worry, it doesn't detract from the book.

Slated is part futuristic thriller, part action. It's really non-stop right from the beginning and it doesn't let up for a good long while. It explores a lot of themes and issues like loyalty, truth, and terrorism to name just a few, and it leaves your head spinning for days after. It made me wonder what would happen to me if my memory was wiped, and that's what Kyla faces here. She starts to uncover the truth about her life, and that's perhaps the most interesting aspect of her story. Of course there's a cliffhanger and many questions left unanswered, but a few do get answered very satisfactorily. I can't wait to find out what comes next!

Slated is a gripping, realistic and captivating novel from an exciting new British author. It raises many questions, introduces new ideologies and is basically perfect for a school syllabus. I'd love to study it and really get to grips with everything the author has imagined - what a clever, terrifying world to live in!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

In My Mailbox #154: New Books This Week



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

 I haven't done an IMM post for a few months but I'm going to try and start doing it weekly again. Thanks to all publishers and authors who sent me lovely books to review!


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For review:






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Gift:




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Bought:



Saturday, 21 July 2012

US Vs. UK: Throne of Glass Covers



US // UK


Check out that UK cover! WOW! Now if ever there was a cover that would immediately make me want to read a book, this is it. Talk about eye-catching. The whole thing is amazing, from the title font to the image used to the icey blue background colour. Just brilliant. Does she look badass or what?!

I'm underwhelmed by the US cover - it seems generic and like so many other covers I've seen recently. The font is nice though and I like the emphasis on the dagger strapped to her arm. I think the UK cover has completely clouded my judgement when it comes to the US one. Well done, Bloomsbury!

So, which edition would you buy?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Discussion Post: Are You Over Paranormal YA?

I've always been a huge fan of the paranormal, ever since I can remember. Vampires mainly, but I also like werewolves, ghosts, angels, everything really. I like it in TV most, but I'll take books and films too. Recently I've found myself becoming bored with paranormal when it comes to YA books, and I wondered if it's just me. There's a chance I've just read too much of it but I've noticed a steady decline in paranormal titles read over the last year and a half, so maybe not.

Twilight really started me off reading more YA and exploring all kinds of genres within that age range. I love that series with a passion (yes, even now) though I'll refrain from mentioning Breaking Dawn as I don't think it's worthy of being classed as part of the series. These days, dystopian and post-apocalyptic novels are huge, and fantasy (especially dragons) seems to be making its mark on unsuspecting YA readers. So where does that leave paranormal? There are still plenty of titles being published - some part of a series like Becca Fitzpatrick's Finale, the last part of the Hush, Hush sequence - others are standalones (very rarely, it seems). But are readers still clamouring for more?


The only paranormal novel I've bought recently is Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins. I like the cover and the sound of the plot, so I thought I'd give it a go on my Kindle. Whether it's good or not, I don't know, but reviews so far are positive. I think one of my main problems is that I read quite a few novels in this genre that didn't hold my interest and seemed to be too similar to other books. Weeding out the good from the bad can be a difficult task, which is why I rely so heavily on Amazon, Goodreads and fellow blogger's reviews.

A fairly recent book I enjoyed along these lines is Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry. It's about zombies so falls into my supernatural criteria, but it's also horror with a bit of post-apoc chucked in there for good measure. It kept me on my toes, the characters are brilliant and it somewhat restored my faith in the genre. Others I'm looking forward to reading are The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda (vampires), Unrest by Michelle Harrison (ghosts), Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock (werewolves) and Zom-B by Darren Shan. All of these books just happen to be published by Simon & Schuster in the UK who are, in my opinion, still the best for paranormal and supernatural YA reads. I'm hoping I enjoy all of these and that they might inspire me to get back to reading more of this genre I usually enjoy so much.



What I want to know is are you past paranormal? Have you found genres you enjoy more, or do you just think it's been done to death? I know YA crazes come and go (I'm listening to the Game of Thrones soundtrack as I type this which should give you some indication of my current genre preference), but I thought this one would have lasted longer. Instead The Hunger Games blew Twilight out of the water, kick-ass female warriors are the new vampires and mermaids seem to be all but forgotten. Have people had enough thanks to the success of franchises like The Twilight Saga, has the helpless female heroine been overdone or are there just bigger and better ideas out there? I'm interested to find out.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Review: In Honor by Jessi Kirby


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardcover
Released: May 8th, 2012
Rating: 4.5/10


Amazon summary:

Hours after her brother’s military funeral, Honor opens the last letter Finn ever sent. In her grief, she interprets his note as a final request and spontaneously decides to go to California to fulfill it. Honor gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen Rusty in ages, but it’s obvious he is as arrogant and stubborn as ever—not to mention drop-dead gorgeous. Despite Honor’s better judgment, the two set off together on a voyage from Texas to California. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn’s memory—but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Review:

In Honor is an ok book. I'd like to say it was better than that, but it hasn't stayed in my head and isn't one of the better contemporary YA novels I've read this year. It's a pretty slow mover, one of those where nothing much happens but then there's a big cheesy ending and that's it. I know quite a few people liked it though so as always it's each to their own!

It has a simple plot, really: Honor's brother Finn died in Iraq and she receives one last letter from him that includes concert tickets to her favourite singer Kyra Kelley. This prompts Honor to fulfil Finn's obvious last wish and road trip from Texas to California to get to the concert. She's joined by her brother's best friend Rusty who's one of those guys who won't take no for an answer, as well as being somewhat of an enigma. I can't remember what exactly we found out about him by the end of the novel, but I don't think it was a lot.

I didn't feel like I ever knew these characters. I know why they did certain things and I know how they felt about Finn's death, but I didn't get much more than that. Rusty comes across as a complete asshat and why Honor likes him I have no idea. Instead of being edgy and endearing in a Texan Tim Riggins kind of way, I found him arrogant and irritating. Definitely not someone I'd want to go road tripping with.

Honor is slightly better in the character stakes but even she's a bit dull and scarily hellbent on seeing Kyra Kelley who is like Kelly Clarkson crossed with Taylor Swift. Would the concert really be that important to her, in the grand scheme of things? The idea is a good one - who doesn't love an interesting road trip novel? - but I don't think it worked here. This one wasn't for me but I would like to read more by Jessi Kirby!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Falling for You


Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Falling for You
 by Lisa Schroeder

* Published by: Simon Pulse (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: January 1st, 2013 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Goodreads: 

Rae's always dreamed of dating a guy like Nathan. He’s nothing like her abusive stepfather—in other words, he’s sweet. But the closer they get, the more Nathan wants of her time, of her love, of her...and the less she wants to give.

As Rae’s affection for Nathan turns to fear, she leans on her friend Leo for support. With Leo, she feels lighter, happier. And possessive Nathan becomes jealous.

Then a tragedy lands Rae in the ICU. Now, hovering between life and death, Rae must find the light amid the darkness…and the strength to fight for life and the love she deserves.


Lisa Schroeder is another verse novelist I absolutely love, and I'm looking forward to seeing what her first non-verse novel will be like. Her last book, The Day Before, was one of my 2011 favourites and I can't wait to find out what Falling for You is like. It's just a shame it's not published until 2013 (*sob*). Lisa is a great contemporary author and, as an added bonus, her books always have lovely covers!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

 
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback
Released: September 1st, 2011 (reprint)
Rating: 9/10


Amazon summary:


Following his doctor's instructions, engaging simpleton Charlie Gordon tells his own story in a semi-literate "progris riports". He dimly wants to better himself but with an IQ of 68 can't even beat the laboratory mouse Algernon at maze-solving. Algernon is extra-clever thanks to an experimental brain operation so far tried only on animals. Charlie eagerly volunteers as the first human subject. After frustrating delays and agonies of concentration, the effects begin to show and the reports steadily improve. But getting smarter brings cruel shocks, as Charlie realises that his merry "friends" at the bakery where he sweeps the floor have all along been laughing at him, never with him. The IQ rise continues, taking him steadily past the human average to genius level and beyond, until he's as intellectually alone as the old, foolish Charlie ever was--and now painfully aware of it. Then, ominously, the smart mouse Algernon begins to deteriorate...

Review:

Flowers for Algernon was first published in 1966, and I'm quite ashamed to say I'd never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago when I bought a selection of the Gollancz 50 titles with bright yellow covers. It immediately grabbed my attention and, even though I don't usually find older books easy to read, something pulled me towards it and I started it straight away. I'm so glad I read it because it's a brilliant book, one that is worthy of its classic sc-i-fi status and one that I'm still thinking about now.

Charlie Gordon is thirty-two years old at the start of the novel, and he's intellectually challenged. He has an IQ of 68, can't read or write well and is often blind to what's going on around him. For example, his friends at the bakery where he works aren't really his friends: they laugh at him and make him do things because they know they can and he will. Instead of realising what they're doing, Charlie thinks they're his best friends and that they laugh at him because they like him so much. If only that were the case. A short while later, Charlie's literacy teacher, Alice Kinnian, recommends him for an experimental brain operation that will make him smarter. It's already been tested on a mouse called Algernon, and so far it looks like it's been successful. Charlie volunteers, has the operation and within a couple of months his intelligence is increasing, he becomes self-aware and gradually starts to experience some emotional connections that are all new to him.

This book just about broke my heart. I loved Charlie from the beginning, because of his efforts to always better himself. He was trusting and kind and never hurt a fly. No-one was particularly nice to him but he didn't let that deter him. He carried on working, going to his job at the bakery every day, and he also took classes to teach him how to read and write. Because Charlie couldn't do both those things well to start with, the book starts off being written in phonetic English. Charlie spells things as he says them, which was a bit distracting and took me a while to wrap my head around. I soon got used to it though and I think it was a really clever thing for Daniel Keyes to do because I felt like I was in Charlie's head.

After the experiment, Charlie's spelling and grammar improves, and he's literally a genius. Everyone around him thinks he's a know-it-all who thinks he's better than they are, but to Charlie he's just been given the chance to learn everything he possibly can. He doesn't immediately understand that he's now much more intelligent than your average person, scientists even, and their negative behaviour confuses him. This just shows that even though he now has a high IQ, he's still a boy in his mind. He's never grown up with the knowledge and common sense of everyone around him, and learning all that in a short period of time is bound to have an effect on him.

As Algernon deteriorates at quite a rapid speed, Charlie realises that the same thing could happen to him. Reading his diary entries and progress reports at this stage was so difficult, because he knows what's happening and he wants to contribute to science by finding out why and what went wrong. His relationships start to sufffer, and he quickly becomes frustrated. I won't say any more about the rest of the plot, because what unfolds really is thought-provoking and very, very sad. Flowers for Algernon is about experiments and artificial intelligence, but it's also about one man's life within a prejudiced society. It's about how he lives and survives, how he welcomes change and the ability to learn and, ultimately, how nothing can take away his appreciation and value of life.

If like me you've never heard of Flowers for Algernon, I urge you to get a copy. It's a timeless story that isn't too sci-fi for the average reader, and one that will appeal to all genders and all ages. I'm so glad I happened across a copy and decided to pay some attention to it. It's a beautifully realised story that's given me a lot to discuss and think about, and I hope I find more people who have read it.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tarzan - The Jungle Warrior Blog Tour: Andy Briggs Guest Post!


Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior was published by Faber and Faber on July 5th, and I have a great guest post from author Andy Briggs as part of the blog tour. I think we can all agree that Andy has one of the coolest playlists ever. Hope you enjoy!


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BEYOND THE DOOR...



This is the door to my office. My Fortress of Solitude, and that’s as far as you’re getting. Even my own family has to be biometrically scanned before they can deliver coffee. Behind there I write comics, books, TV shows and movies. That’s where my brain lives.

Creation is a messy process. It’s also very loud. In between writing this blog, I am writing my next Tarzan book just as TARZAN: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR hits the shelves and I am looking around my office trying to think what my writing process actually is - how does anybody go about creating a wondrous read?

I’m a plotter. Every aspect of the story has to be bolted down before I start writing. I create a plan that outlines the key points of every story beat and details the characters’ arcs. I think this comes from the screenwriting side of my life which demands very finely tuned story structures - every page of a script is a minute on-screen and since movies are generally 90-120 minutes long, you don’t have much room for waffle. Books, on the other hand, offer an endless canvass to tell the tale, and given half the chance I know I would just write-and-write-and-write, probably never finishing a manuscript.

With my story’s skeleton pinned to the wall I start to type away. Not an easy task considering my office is surrounded by toys and other paraphernalia designed to distract, although it is really there for inspiration. I usually buy an action figure or model, something fun, to represent the story I am writing. Only recently have a realized that this old habit allows me to project the characters onto the figure, it helps me visualize their movements and reactions - and many times have I been caught hanging my figures off the bookshelf, making gun noises and lion roars as I coordinate an action sequence. It’s not play, it’s work!

It’s all too easy to get distracted. To ping your emails, check Facebook just in case you are missing out on a new trend, or just idly surf the web. I try not to, instead I stare out of the window, at the trees beyond... then I may spot something. A bird I haven’t seen before... so I will Google it, and so the sorry mess of distraction begins all over again. Oh, and I drink coffee. Lots of coffee. By the end of the day there are often a dozen cups (washing the same cup out takes up too much creative time) and plates of crumbs everywhere. Books have been pulled off shelves for a quick burst of inspiration, research papers re-read and then cast to the floor - all creating a terrible mess... which needs to be tidied, which is a convenient excuse to stop writing...

However, I have found a tool to help focus my attention on the story (other than a haranguing email from my editor wondering where the manuscript is!), and that is music. I have a large collection of movie soundtracks that I play at full blast when I write. I find music helps me get to grips with character emotions and the pacing of a scene. If it’s a sad part of a story, sad music will wail from the speakers. An action-packed sequence will have energetic music flowing, and my fingers will be scrambling across the keyboard in an effort to keep up with pace. Before I begin a project I create a playlist so I know exactly what music will inspire me. For Tarzan, I have the following soundtracks lined up:

Congo - Jerry Goldsmith
Avatar - James Horner
Mighty Joe Young - James Horner
King Kong - James Newton Howard
Jurassic Park 2 - John Williams
Jurassic Park 3 - James Newton Howard
Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - John Williams
The 13th Warrior - Graeme Ravell’s rejected score
Casino Royal - David Arnold
Blood Diamond - James Newton Howard
Rise of Planet of the Apes - Patrick Doyle

I know which tracks to jump to depending on the scene I am writing and the mood I am trying to convey. So, from beyond the door, if you are listening, you will only get the most general idea of what it is I am writing - and that’s before the music stops and the action figures are broken out for another round of “rehearsals”...

TARZAN: THE JUNGLE WARRIOR is out now, published by Faber.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Cool Covers: July 2012

Here are some books released this month with covers that I love! What do you think?



 Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
UK / Orchard / July 5th, 2012



 Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
UK / Simon & Schuster / July 5th, 2012



The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
UK / Atom / July 17th, 2012



 Revived by Cat Patrick
UK / Electric Monkey / July 2nd, 2012



 Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
US / MTV Books / July 10th, 2012

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Format: Hardcover
Released: June 19th, 2012
Rating: 7/10


Amazon summary:

When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.

Review:

I read Something Like Normal after hearing amazing things about it. While I liked it and read it really quickly, I don't think it quite lived up to the hype surrounding it. It's a good contemporary read with certain elements I hadn't encountered before, but it didn't have a huge impact on me.

Main character Travis Stephenson is a nineteen-year-old marine who's home after his first year of active duty, and he's having a hard time readjusting to normality after witnessing the horrors of Afghanistan. He has nightmares, he has difficulty opening up to people and the one place he truly feels at home is the place that's most dangerous for him. If you want to read about a layered, complicated teenage boy, Travis is definitely him.

I don't seem to read many YA books told from a male perspective, so Something Like Normal was a nice change of pace for me. I liked being inside Travis's head and hearing his thoughts on girls, sex and other guy stuff, and I also really liked his banter with his friends. Everything he's been through has changed him as a person and now he's trying to find something that resembles normal.

Travis's relationship with Harper develops nicely and I believed in it for the most part. It does come across as slightly rushed, but that could be due to the shorter page count. I liked Harper and she was good for Travis, though I would have liked a bit more romantic build-up and more information about her background and home life.

Something Like Normal is the first YA book I've ever read that is about the war in Afghanistan. I used to stay away from them before because it was never something I wanted to read about, but reading about Travis has made me want to seek out similar stories. It's a fascinating story to tell, and that's what Trish Doller does best. You can tell she's researched the war and spoken to people about it, and that shines through in her excellent writing.

As far as contemporary YA novels go, Something Like Normal is a good one worth a read. I would have liked a longer page count allowing the characters to develop a bit more, but that's really my only big problem. I felt like there was still more story to be told, especially Travis and Harper's journey to a future together. Still, two-hundred and twenty-four pages of Travis is nothing to complain about!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Tilt


Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Tilt
 by Ellen Hopkins

* Published by: Margaret K. McElderry (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: September 11th, 2012 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com: 

Love—good and bad—forces three teens’ worlds to tilt in a riveting novel from New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins. 

Three teens, three stories—all interconnected through their parents’ family relationships. As the adults pull away, caught up in their own dilemmas, the lives of the teens begin to tilt…. 

Mikayla, almost eighteen, is over-the-top in love with Dylan, who loves her back jealously. But what happens to that love when Mikayla gets pregnant the summer before their senior year—and decides to keep the baby? 

 Shane turns sixteen that same summer and falls hard in love with his first boyfriend, Alex, who happens to be HIV positive. Shane has lived for four years with his little sister’s impending death. Can he accept Alex’s love, knowing that his life, too, will be shortened? 

Harley is fourteen—a good girl searching for new experiences, especially love from an older boy. She never expects to hurdle toward self-destructive extremes in order to define who she is and who she wants to be. 

Love, in all its forms, has crucial consequences in this standalone novel.


I'm a big fan of Ellen Hopkins and as usual this book sounds pretty damn brilliant. I like that she writes about real issues that real teens deal with, she never shies away from important topics and tells it like it is. All her novels are written in verse too, which makes them that much cooler. I do like my verse novels and I think Hopkins is the best at conveying stories and emotions through only a few lines. September is going to be a VERY good month for books!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My Favourite Books: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson


My Favourite Books

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I've been meaning to start this series of posts for ages. AGES. I'm dying to talk about my favourite books, but recent personal issues prevented me from blogging properly for almost six months so this got left to the side. Now that I'm almost back to blogging normally, I thought it was about time I started talking about my favourite books, so here I am, and I'm starting with I Am Legend by Richard Matheson!

Now, I Am Legend isn't my favourite book of all-time, that little award belongs to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is, however, my second favourite - basically it's on the list of books I'd save if the house was on fire. I recently bought a new edition of it (the bright yellow one you can see in the blurry picture above) so decided to re-read it for what I think is the fifth or sixth time. It still holds up today, and the final paragraph still makes me cry and sends shivers down my spine. It's incredible.

I first read I Am Legend when I was around eleven years old, in 1998. My vampire obsession had started (thanks Buffy!) and my dad gave me his 1971 copy of Richard Matheson's classic novel about the undead. I read it straight away, then read it again as soon as I turned the final page. I don't remember any other book ever creeping me out as much as this one did, and there aren't many books that make me cry. Especially not ones about vampires. I still treasure that copy of my dad's. He bought it when he was fourteen, and covered it with protective plastic. The pages are yellowing now, it smells like musty book and the pages are starting to come away from the spine. I don't read it any more for fear of damaging it, but it will always the most cherished book I own and I still think it's the best I Am Legend cover out there. Here are a couple of scans of the edition I'm talking about:





Yes, this edition was only 25p! Wow, if only books were that price now...

Although I Am Legend is a vampire novel, it's so much more than that. It details one man's struggle for survival, his loneliness, and his unwavering determination to find a cure for a virus that has taken over the world and destroyed everyone and everything he loves. It's part science fiction, part horror, and I can't think of any other book that has terrified me like this one does. There are scenes in the book where Robert Neville, the last man on Earth, barricades himself inside his house so that the group of vampires prowling around his front lawn can't get to him. Those vampires include his best friend, Ben Cortman, and countless other people he once knew. I find the whole concept of this novel horrifying - I can't imagine being the last person alive - but especially these parts. How truly awful it must be to watch your friends and neighbours want nothing more than your blood, your life. Yet Robert carries on, night after night.


I think Richard Matheson was way ahead of his time with I Am Legend. It still stands today as one of the greats, and his ideas are often above anything else I come across. It was first published in 1954 and is set in 1976, a time that Matheson obviously had no knowledge of. Cleverly there is very little in the way of electronics or gadgets mentioned in the book, really only a record player and TV. Nothing feels dated, even the language and writing style was easy for me to read and, even now, I struggle with classics or anything written before 1980. I don't know why, I just lose concentration when reading stuff like that. Not this book, though!

I Am Legend has been adapted for the big screen three times: The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007). I don't think any of them have done the book justice, and the closest to it is The Last Man on Earth. One day I hope someone just takes Matheson's script and makes a low-budget vampire film true to the source material. It's an endless topic of discussion for me and my dad, we like to talk about how they could do a good job and how they need to leave the creatures as vampires, not turn them into zombies. It could happen, and I hope it does. The vampire-loving world would love a straight-up adaptation of it.


I wish I could post the final paragraph here, but it's a huge spoiler for the end of the book so I can't. I wish I could do that because it's possibly the best paragraph I've ever read. It only spans six lines, but wow do those six lines leave a lasting mark. I know it by heart, and often recite it to my dad (I'm sure he thinks I'm bonkers). He just smiles and laughs, safe in the knowledge that he fuelled my vampire obsession and helped create a monster who now has a room full of Buffy merchandise and far too much undead memorabilia to list.

I hope this post might inspire someone to pick up and read I Am Legend, even if they've never heard of it before. It truly is a sci-fi classic, without a doubt one of the best out there. For me it represents a lifelong interest in the undead and supernatural, and I have very fond memories of cracking open the spine and meeting Robert Neville for the first time. Very fond memories, indeed.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Format: Hardcover
Released: May 22nd, 2012
Rating: 7.5/10


Amazon summary:

Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life. Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now. Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Review:

Melissa Walker writes great, underrated YA books, and Unbreak My Heart is no exception. I've been a fan of hers since I read Lovestruck Summer a few years ago, and have since looked forward to every new book as if it was a Sarah Dessen title. Her writing is summery and addictive, and before long I end up lost in her words.

Unbreak My Heart is the perfect book for summer, especially because of its scenic boat setting and sunny backdrop. It's about first loves and first losses, friendship, family and learning to look to the future. Basically everything you could want from a quality YA novel!

Clementine (Clem) is the main focus of this story, as she sets out for a summer at sea with her parents and sister Olive, who just happens to be one of the coolest siblings ever to grace a page. I loved her! Clem is getting to grips with something that happened during her recent sophomore year, something that has affected her closest friendship and made her into the talk of the town.

Melissa Walker tells both sides of Clem's story - the past school year and the present summer - with both narratives running parallel to each other. This gives a thorough insight into Clem's life and really makes you feel for her. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they're young, but best friends should really try and stick together. She learns the importance of this and realises just how much her beat friend Amanda actually means to her.

Along the way she meets boating boy James, a seventeen-year-old artist with red hair who has troubles of his own. He helps her as she helps him, and together they figure out that sometimes you just need a little perspective. I like James and his happy-go-lucky attitude to life, his constant grin and positive outlook. He's good for Clem, and I definitely believed in their friendship. My only problem with this book is that sometimes Clem sounds younger than her sixteen years - it's not off-putting, but for me it was noticeable.

I enjoyed Unbreak My Heart and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to readers of contemporary YA. It's a good one to read during summer while the weather's nice and you're about to set sail on a brand new adventure.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

US Vs. UK: The Look Covers






US // UK

I'll be honest here: I definitely prefer the US cover for Sophia Bennett's YA novel The Look. Anyone who knows me will know that I'm not a pink-loving girly girl, so I think that's my main reason for my preference. I really like the layout of the UK edition, but for me it's just too pink. Even the page edges are bright pink! It's a lovely looking book but not one that I'd automatically pick up in a shop. That's just me though - I'm sure lots of teenage girls will love it!

Also, I don't think the UK version quite conveys what the book is about. I haven't read it yet but I know it's about illness, as well as other things. The US cover shows that better, I think, through the use of two images with varying amounts of hair. I prefer the colours used too, I quite like purple. I do find the split screen effect to be a bit distracting, but it's great placement for the title. Regardless of my personal taste in colours, I can't deny that both covers are eye-catching in one way or another.

Which cover do you prefer?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Review: Scream Street - Flame of the Dragon by Tommy Donbavand


Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Paperback
Released: October 6th, 2011
Rating: 8/10


Amazon summary:

Having been banished to the Underlands by Acrid Belcher, the evil head of G.H.O.U.L., Luke, Resus and Cleo begin their thirteenth adventure fighting for their very existence. And life doesn't get much easier from there - the quest to return the sixth and final relic will take them to a dragon's lair in China, after which they must overcome the not-so-small problem of a deluded slime beast hell bent on creating an evil new world order. Once again it's up to the trio to save Scream Street - but will they fall at the final hurdle?

Review:

Flame of the Dragon is the thirteenth, and final, book in the Scream Street series, which is one of my favourite series for younger readers. I've read all thirteen books and have loved every one of them. I'm sad to see this series come to an end but I'm glad it went out on a dragon-fuelled high!

In typical Scream Street fashion, Flame of the Dragon is a fast-paced mad mix of adventure, humour and the supernatural. Luke, Resus and Cleo being their quest to return the final relic, and along the way they end up encountering werewolves, G.H.O.U.L. workers, zombies, a monstrous Sir Otto Sneer and even a Chinese dragon or two. To say this book is jam-packed is an understatement!

I'm glad most of my favourite characters made an appearance in this final book, especially Twinkle the fairy, zombie Doug and little Kian the vampire. It was like the whole Scream Street family came back for one last mission, unless the unexpected open ending means there might be more one day?!

I need to say a big thanks to Tommy Donbavand for writing these books, and for reintroducing me to 8+ fiction. I've had a lot of laughs and enjoyment from reading the Scream Street series, and I hope younger readers will continue to read and love them as much I do.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Discussion Post: I Bought a Kindle!


Guys, I bought a Kindle! Me, who has always been against e-books and vowed to never, ever get an e-reader. I've had it for almost three weeks now and I absolutely love it. I can save space, money and won't have to take my beloved books out with me anymore.


There are several reasons why I gave in and bought an e-reader:
  • More and more publishers are using e-books these days. They distribute ARCs through NetGalley (I think this is a great idea as proofs cost them so much money and once we read them there's nothing else we can do with them - they can't be added to library catalogues so I usually end up passing them on to friends) and are even starting to send e-books out for review instead of finished copies.
  • Space! Over the last five years I have bought a ridiculous amount of books, most of them US hardcover publications. I have stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read (review and non-review) and I'm fast running out of space. Having a Kindle means I can store thousands of books in one tiny place, which is essential for collectors like me.
  • The price. Those aformentioned US hardbacks usually cost me between £10-12, and more often than not I'll read it, decided I don't want to keep it and give it away. I've bought some similar titles on my Kindle and they were around £6.
  • Convenience. I've spent quite a lot of time in hospital with my mum this year, and now I can take a book to read! I'm not fond of taking physical books out with me in case I crease them, but with an e-book that isn't a problem. I'm in London this weekend with about four hours on a train, so I'm going to try and read an e-book. Hopefully it won't make me feel sick like train reading usually does.
  • I won't have to lug giant 800-page books around the house with me. RELIEF.

I opted for a Kindle because:
  • I think it looks nicer than Kobo, the other main e-reader in the UK. Now I know I shouldn't actually say that seeing as how I sell Kobo's at work, but I have to be honest. The Kobo Touch is nice because it comes with different coloured quilted backs, but I've always preferred the Kindles. A customer showed me his Kindle Touch a few weeks ago and I knew I had to have one.
  • Everything goes through Amazon. My account is linked to my Kindle, I can buy books easily from there (one-click purchase will be the end of my bank balance!) and their customer service is the best around.
  • I know lots of people with a Kindle and reviews are good
 


So far I've hardly had my Kindle out of my hand. I've organised my books into collections (folders), like YA, ARCs for Review, Adult, Finished etc. I've only had to charge it once in three weeks, and battery life seems pretty good so far. I think the battery needs to be charged a few times before I'll get maximum usage out of it, but so far so good. I've read five e-books in two weeks, and am now on my sixth. I find it really easy to read on, thanks to the e-ink screen and fast page turns.  I've had no problems yet I feel better knowing that, if I do, my Kindle is guaranteed for a year through Amazon and I also have additional insurance for a further two years.

I'll never stop buying, reading and reviewing physical books, but I like that now I've got the option of reading e-books too. Not only will my mum be glad that my ceiling won't fall through, but I'll be able to save a bit of money and read ARCs without having to then worry about finding good homes for physical copies.

I'd love to hear feedback and thoughts from anyone else who has recently bought an e-reader or is thinking about it. I'm glad I took the plunge!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Review: Wentworth Hall by Abby Grahame


Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: July 5th, 2012
Rating: 7/10


Amazon summary:

Wentworth Hall is one of England's oldest estates and the Darlingtons are among the elite class of British society. But under all that wealth, there are secrets they do not want told. When scandalous satires start appearing in the newspaper with details suspiciously similar to the goings on of Wentworth Hall, the Darlingtons are determined to keep their secrets to themselves and the affairs (both private and public) in order. And the first order of business is finding the culprit. But where to start? Downstairs? Or Upstairs?

Review:

I think most of my blog readers know by now that I love books and TV shows that centre around rich kids, gossip and scandal. I'm also fond of period dramas set in the early 1900s, because of the manners and propriety. Wentworth Hall is like both those things mixed together - like Gossip Girl and Downton Abbey, if you will - which to me makes an excellent book. Honestly, I was hooked just from reading the back cover.

Wentworth Hall is set in 1912 (the Titanic's sinking is mentioned at least once) and is about the Darlington family. Lord and Lady Darlington, their son Wes and daughters Maggie and Lila make up the family, while maids Nora and Therese and stable boy Michael round out the help below stairs. This is typical Downton Abbey; let's be honest here. You've got the privileged family, the servants, the hall. Not to mention bucketloads of scandal and many secrets just waiting for a chance to get out!

Wentworth Hall isn't the best book you'll ever read, but it's quick and fun. Even though it's set in 1912, the language flows well and isn't hard to read (I struggle with classics because of this), and you get hooked pretty quickly. Each character is layered, with hidden secrets and agendas, and it's not until the end that everything becomes clear. I don't have a stand-out character that I absolutely adored, though I do like Maggie and her rebellious side. Also, Michael the stable boy? Yep, he's not too bad either.

I've seen Wentworth Hall compared to The Luxe series and, if I'm honest, I much preferred this one. I never did get on with The Luxe very well, it was too slow for me. I think this book moves at a better pace, and it's also hard not to get drawn in immediately. So, if like me, you're anxiously awaiting the next seasons of Gossip Girl and Downton Abbey, give Wentworth Hall a read - you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Burn for Burn



Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Burn for Burn
 by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

* Published by: Simon & Schuster (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: September 18th, 2012 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com:

Postcard-perfect Jar Island is home to charming tourist shops, pristine beaches, amazing oceanfront homes—and three girls secretly plotting revenge.
     KAT is sick and tired of being bullied by her former best friend.
     LILLIA has always looked out for her little sister, so when she discovers that one of her guy friends has been secretly hooking up with her, she’s going to put a stop to it.
     MARY is perpetually haunted by a traumatic event from years past, and the boy who’s responsible has yet to get what’s coming to him.
     None of the girls can act on their revenge fantasies alone without being suspected. But together…anything is possible.
     With an unlikely alliance in place, there will be no more “I wish I’d said…” or “If I could go back and do things differently...” These girls will show Jar Island that revenge is a dish best enjoyed together.


  OMG, I can't wait for this book!I love Jenny Han soooo much (if you haven't read The Summer I Turned Pretty and its two sequels yet, buy them NOW) and I've read one of Siobhan's books (Not That Kind of Girl) which I enjoyed. I think this is actually the book I'm most excited about for the remainder of 2012. Any new Jenny Han stuff makes me excited - she's amazing and Burn for Burn sounds great... roll on September!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington


Publisher: Mira Ink
Format: Paperback
Released: June 1st, 2012
Rating: 7/10


Amazon summary:

If she'd waited less than two weeks, she'd have been June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that. When sixteen-year-old Harper’s sister June, the perfect, popular, pretty one to Harper’s also-ran, commits suicide just before her high school graduation, nothing in Harper’s world makes sense anymore. With her family falling apart, Harper has a plan – steal June’s ashes and take her sister to the one place she always wanted to go: California. Embarking on a wild road trip of impromptu gigs and stolen kisses with mysterious musician Jake, the one person who could hold answers about June, Harper’s determined to find peace for her sister. But will she find peace for herself along the way?

Review:

Saving June took me a while to get into, I thought it started off quite slowly and I didn't immediately click with all the characters. It wasn't until about halfway through that I really appreciated the story Hannah Harrington had told, a story of loss and friendship and overcoming one of the worst things a family can face.

Saving June's premise is a fairly simple one: Harper Scott's older sister June committed suicide, and Harper's separated parents decide to split her ashes between them. Harper takes June's ashes with the intention of scattering them in California, a place June never got to visit, and is accompanied by best friend Laney and June's friend Jake. There's so much more going on in this novel than first meets the eye and, as I found out myself, Harper's journey turns into something truly poignant.

Road trips and music are two of my favourite subjects in YA books, and Saving June has both. Music is a huge part of Jake's life and I loved all the references to bands, songs and playlists. It really gives the characters personality and makes them seem like real people, especially when I'm familiar with the music and the feelings it can evoke.

Throughout their road trip, Harper, Laney and Jake learn things about each other as well as themselves. Harper comes to realise that the June she knew wasn't the real June, and that so much was hidden from her, including June's sadness that ultimately led her to end her own life. Jake perhaps knew her slightly better, but even he never saw the complete picture. He helps Harper come to terms with her grief, a grief she finds hard to confront, and their building relationship is brilliant to read and be a part of.

I can't even comprehend what it would be like to lose a sibling, and because of that I could never completely identify with Harper. It didn't deter from my enjoyment of the book, though, and there were even a few moments that left me with tears in my eyes. I liked this one, and if it wasn't for the slow start I think I would have loved it. Read this one if you liked Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - it's not quite as good but it isn't miles behind.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The Glimpse Blog Tour: Exclusive Extract!


Claire Merle's debut novel, The Glimpse, was published in the UK on June 5th, and I'm very happy to be part of the blog tour! Here's more about the book from publishers Faber and Faber:

Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick.
But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana's defects, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a conditional reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana's joining ceremony looms closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a 'normal' life. But then Jasper disappears.
Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.

~


Extract

Here's an exclusive extract of The Glimpse with an introduction from Claire Merle. Enjoy!


Hi! Thank you for having me here as part of The Glimpse blog tour. Today I’m sharing with you an extract from the beginning of The Glimpse, where 17-year-old Ana is supposed to bind with Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. The binding is the first official step in a month long process where the couple gets to know each other. At the end of the month they will finally decide if they wish to be joined, which is like getting married except that Pures are not allowed to divorce. Hope you enjoy it.
Ana waved goodbye. Behind her the huddle of chattering girls grew tense and silent. A lady in a brown suit opened the wrought-iron gates and beckoned them forwards. Mothers kissed their daughters goodbye. Joining planners made last-minute tucks of hair and sweeps of lip gloss. Ana was the first up the paving stone path to the listed Queen Anne house. She imagined the superintendent registrar would have said something if they were missing a male binding participant. But then the woman had barely looked at the girls, so maybe she wouldn’t know if the count was off. They paused at the black front door, allowing the others to catch up. Ana focused on inhaling and exhaling but she felt as though she’d forgotten how to breathe.
‘We will now proceed to the music room,’ the registrar said as the last two girls tottered up. Breathe, bend leg at knee, lift foot, bend other leg. Thank goodness her heart continued to beat on its own, even if it was way too fast. Ana followed the registrar into the hallway and first left. The music room lay at the front of the house. Wood-panelled walls glowed honey-brown in the afternoon light. The young men stood twelve feet away with their backs facing the door. Two rows of three. Six sets of dark-suited shoulders. Seven girls. Ana lost her footing. Pastel colours rippled around her as the other girls swept across the wooden floor to join their respective partners. Chest pain, dizziness and shortness of breath are all symptoms of a panic attack, she warned herself. You cannot have a panic attack. She pressed her toes against the soles of her low-heeled shoes.
A plump girl reached the centre of the room and pivoted in confusion. At the same time the remaining young man glanced back. Oval face, dimpled chin, wavy hair. Jasper’s hazel eyes met Ana’s and the tension inside her burst. She wobbled towards him feeling light-headed.