Monday, 30 June 2014

Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts

After the earthquakes came the infectious rage, turning friends into deadly enemies. For survivors Michael, Aries, Mason and Clementine the battle to stay alive is about to get even tougher. The new world is organising itself, with camps that promise protection for the uninfected. But the reality of the sites is far more sinister. Besides, nobody is safe from the rage within their own soul...

The sequel to Dark Inside, the first few chapters goes back to before the earthquake, with some details about their lives before, then zooms to the present, three months after the initial attack. I'll admit, I was a bit lost but the prequel bit showed how the rage was starting to infect some people, which was interesting to see. We also got a section from Daniel's perspective and seeing how he acted before made his actions in the present that more understandable.

In the present, they were all getting a bit more pro-active in their survival. Clementine still hunting for brother, getting closer all the time, and the rest of them have set up a home with supplies and even contacts with a few other groups of survivors. Meanwhile, Mason and Daniel are being, well, stupid in their attempts to even the playing field, attacking Baggers and amazingly winning. But then they get captured and taken to Bagger Central where they are tortured and put to work in the Bagger's new world order. 

Much like the previous book, the story was told from multiple perspectives, including Nothing. In this one, Nothing's perspective became more of a person than a collective; it was clearly the dark thoughts of someone which was deeply unsettling but very intriguing to read. All of the characters had changed quite a lot; Michael was more open with his feelings, Aries and Clementine were both sore about how they were surviving and aching to do something more, which made for an awkward yelling match but ended in a great rescue mission. 

I really liked having a continuation of the story, it was really interesting to see where it went and how they all adapted and fought back for their world. There were also a few surprises, and some that were completely obvious about who could or could not be trusted. I'd really like another book to see how everything turned out, especially on that ending! But if not, even though it ended openly, I still really enjoyed it, terrifying though it might have been.

Published 30th August 2012 by Macmillan Children's Books.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Readathon Wrap-up' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things! 

So the only thing that's been happening that you will want to hear about is the YALC readathon. I aimed to read 6 books and so far I've finished 3, over halfway through a fourth and started a fifth. Yeah, more details about that below. So I've been surprisingly busy this week and that has sucked up my reading time. In fact, between a bike ride and shopping trip with grandparents, I was barely home, let alone had time to read! But I'm still pretty pleased with what I've read, even if I don't finish my last book. 

On The Blog
Review of This Time Next Door by Gretchen Galway (3 stars)
Review of Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts (4 stars)
Review of The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick (5 stars)

Currently Reading
Two-thirds through The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch. I had to leave it at home for my night at my boyfriend's, way too heavy. I've also started Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, which is really good. These are my fourth and fifth books for YALC readathon which I think is all I'm going to manage; my sixth and last book is Take Back The Skies by Lucy Saxon.

On My Bookshelf
Unstoppable by Liz Bankes
Rosie has managed to wangle spending the summer before uni in the same house as her boyfriend Cal – but who else should also be staying except for the infamous man-eater, Cleo.

Things between Cal and Rosie could never have been described as easy, but her growing jealousy seems like an unstoppable force. Can their love weather the storm?

Sounds like a perfect contemporary read for summer. Thank you Piccadilly Press!

Friday, 27 June 2014

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick

Twenty-four year old grad student Lizzie Bennet is saddled with student loan debt and still living at home along with her two sisters;beautiful Jane and reckless Lydia. When she records her reflections on life for her thesis project and posts them on YouTube, she has no idea The Lizzie Bennet Diaries will soon take on a life of their own, turning the Bennet sisters into internet celebrities seemingly overnight.

When rich and handsome Bing Lee comes to town, along with his stuck-up friend William Darcy, things really start to get interesting for the Bennets and for Lizzie's viewers. But not everything happens on screen. Lucky for us, Lizzie has a secret diary.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet takes readers deep inside Lizzie's world and well beyond the confines of her camera from the wedding where she first meets William Darcy to the local hangout of Carters bar, and much more. Lizzie's private musings are filled with revealing details about the Bennet household, including her growing suspicions about her parents unstable financial situation, her sisters budding relationship with Bing Lee, the perils of her unexpected fame, and her uncertainty over her future and whom she wants to share it with.

Featuring plenty of fresh twists to delight fans and new readers alike, The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet expands on the web series phenomenon that captivated a generation and reimagines the Pride and Prejudice story like never before.

I loved watching the video diaries last year so when I found out they had written a book based around it, I went straight online to find me a copy. And although it was very different to the videos, because of the different media style, Lizzie's voice came across so clearly and it was so easy to read and fall back into her story. 

If you haven't watched the videos, or at least not for a while, I would recommend watching them alongside reading the diary; there were a few little things that Lizzie mentions in the diary that I had forgotten were portrayed online. But mostly, it was like an amazing behind the scenes thing with extra secrets and juicy bits of gossip that is hinted at in the videos, or not even mentioned. Like Jane's scare or Lizzie's relationship with her father, or her mother setting the curtain on fire at dinner. Oh, oh, oh! How could I forget? Viewers of the videos will know about The Letter. Well, guess what? It's included! I actually squealed a little when I found it! All this extra information was just amazing to read and made me feel a lot closer to Lizzie as she goes through everything from meeting Darcy to Charlotte leaving, from Lydia's dramas and meltdown at Christmas to George's awful behaviour explained. 

Lizzie is prejudiced, or at least stubborn in her first impressions. We all know that, but this really came across in her diary. In the videos, we did get the impression that 'Lizzie sees what Lizzie sees' but reading it for yourself, even from Lizzie's perspective, you can tell that she is just seeing what she wants to. Especially in the case of Darcy, and to a lesser extent Lydia. It was really interesting hearing about Lizzie's insecurities over making and posting the videos, about putting her and her family's lives online and how it effects them. 

Lizzie's diary was unfiltered, unlike her videos, so you could really feel how everything got to her. I mean, my heart broke when I watched what happened to Lydia but reading about it from Lizzie's perspective was something else. From Lizzie's perspective, you can tell it is hurting her that she can't do anything to help her little sister but you also read that Lizzie is doing everything she can to coax Lydia out of her shell and to understand her properly, not just as that crazy party girl. 

Reading Lizzie's diary, I fell back in love with her story. Lizzie and Darcy is a love story for the ages but what I adore about this modernisation is Lizzie's relationship with her family, especially her sisters. As she begins to understand that she was judging too harshly, she makes the effort to connect with Lydia as she is, not what Lizzie or anyone else expects her to be. This modern version of the story resonates with our society as much as the original did and I loved hearing it again. 

Published 1st July 2014 by Touchstone. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known since childhood; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost!

An earthquake triggers a primal spirit to emerge in many humans, driving them to do the most dangerous and horrifying things. It was all a bit vague, what had happened and why, but I kinda of liked it like that. There was no logical explanation for these things, for this weird power to come over people that makes them kill. And like it. All we knew was it was happening all over the world and it was scary as hell. 

It was written between four narratives, the main characters experiencing the same event at different parts of the US. It takes a while for them to actually meet but before they do, we get this universal impression of the horror that's happening everywhere. All four of them were scared and left alone to survive as best they could. Split between the four of them as it was, the story should have felt staggered, and it was to a certain extent but not so much that I lost the thread. I actually really liked the way it was written, with a variety of characters in different situations and varying skills of survival. 

It was terrifying to the point that my heart was in my throat for half of it, my breath held until whoever was out of danger. The not knowing, the horrible rage, the lack of power and food made for a very scary and gripping read. I especially liked the girls point of view, Clementine and Aries had no proper skills but were both stubborn and smart enough to get by. Mason was difficult to get a read on but such a tough time of it that I couldn't help but like him a little; at least his strength came in handy! And finally Michael was quite vulnerable, put on a good face but was actually scared out of his mind, but he did pull through when it mattered. 

Honestly, I wasn't sure I'd like it, it's not my usual thing, but was so well written, so easy to get into that I actually loved it. A very good book for fans of horror and zombie-type dystopian. 

Published 24th May 2011 by Macmillan Children's Books.

Monday, 23 June 2014

This Time Next Door by Gretchen Galway

Twenty-six-year-old Rose Devlin may shop in the plus-size department, but she’s never had a problem attracting men—with disastrous consequences. Recovering from her latest mistake, Rose has sworn off casual sex and moved to California to grow up, help her best friend, and make something of herself.

When Rose asks the cute-but-geeky Mark to help her land a job in high tech, she never expects to unearth his quiet strength, stunning accomplishments—and hidden talents. With a secret in her own past, Rose tries to keep her distance, but she finds that nerdy Mark isn’t so nerdy when the lights go out. And that maybe, just maybe, she’s not too grown up to risk one more disaster…

I can't even remember why I got this, probably just a cheap, cute-looking find. Luckily, it was pretty cute and funny. it started with Rose auditioning with a plus-size model company, only to find she was too big. Ignoring the cruel irony, Rose sucks it up, picks herself up and walks out with her head high. I knew immediately that I would love her. 

Annoyingly easy to relate to, Rose was mid-twenties and struggling to find work after university. This was made slightly more difficult by her following her best friend across the country for a place to live rent-free. Rose was a pretty great friend to Blair, especially as it turns out that not only is she pregnant, but pregnant as a result of a one night stand with Rose's ex. Yeah, I know; I probably would have ditched her. 

Their new neighbour was Mark, nearly thirty and living back at home, a computer nerd and full of the socially awkwardness that comes with it. At first a little scared of Rose, with her sense of humour and confidence, Mark and she grow somewhat close. He manages to get her job with his company and their friendship grows into something more. Even though Rose had sworn off casual sex after what happened with John, their relationship evolved at an odd speed that was both really sweet and way to quick. So in that sense, it was very realistic and I actually really liked how they both grew to like each other without realising.

Of course, it wasn't easy. Mark had a surprising secret about his work. Ok, so he's rich and didn't tell her, I don't really understand why that made Rose run away. He might have kept it from her but she was practically a stranger, plus it was self-preservation. It's a good thing he's cute and very easy to like, or I might have wanted to smack him for being so annoying. 

All in all, it was funny and light-hearted romance, full of quick wit and real-life work problems that made it cute and realistic. 

Self-Published 2nd July 2012.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'YALC library trip' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things! 

Because I've been amazingly restraint, I haven't done a WH since the beginning of the month because I haven't got any new books. Well, that changed! I've got most of my books ready for the YALC read-a-thon starting tomorrow and got an impulse buy for summer reading. In other news, not a lot to report. I finished my work experience at Mongoose, it went great and will even get a free copy of the book I worked on!

Since this is the first one in a while, the posts listed will be just some of my favourites from the past few weeks.

On The Blog
Review of White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L Armentrout (4 stars)
Review of Take Me On by Katie McGarry (5 stars)
Review of Shut Out by Kody Keplinger (5 stars)
Discussion: DNFing
Review of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (4 stars)

Currently Reading
Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts - the sequel to Dark Inside, it is just as scary and thrilling. Hoping to finish today so I can start the read-a-thon on time tomorrow morning.

On My Bookshelf
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West
Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

A fluke find in my charity shop and I had to scoop it up! It sounds adorable and a perfect way to spend a sunny summer afternoon.

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Five strangers. Countless adventures.One epic way to get lost. 

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. 

There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. 

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

This sounds really good and I can't wait to get stuck in. The only thing: it comes up as 'New Title' on my Kindle, which is incredibly annoying. Anyway, thank you MiraInk and Netgalley!

The 100 Society by Carla Spradbery
For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it's an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker - the Reaper - he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.

As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.

With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever...

I met Carla briefly back in January at Hachette and her debut sounds very cool, I can't wait to read it and probably get terrified! Thank you Hodder and Netgalley!

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Callum is a nought - a second-class citizen in a world run by the ruling Crosses...

Sephy is a Cross, daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country...

In their world, noughts and Crosses simply don't mix. And as hostility turns to violence, can Callum and Sephy possibly find a way to be together? They are determined to try. 
And then the bomb explodes... 

This and the following I picked up from the library for the YALC read-a-thon, starting tomorrow! 

Geekhood 2: Mission Improbable by Andy Robb
Archie is a Geek to his core - and despite having a Close Encounter with Sarah at the beginning of term, he's still completely clueless about girls. Enter Clare - an older woman (she's sixteen) who Archie meets on his weekend trip to see his dad and his nightmare step-mum, Jane. Clare and Archie hit it off - and she's got a brilliant, foolproof way to get their crushes to notice them: pretend to be going out with one another! What can possibly go wrong? In the midst of school, getting Sarah to forgive him and dealing with his insane family, Archie and his mates step-up the nerdiness and go Live Action Role-play gaming. Ladies and gentlemen, we are entering a new era...

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathon Stroud
When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

Still to get: Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse (because Amazon has decided to send it with my pre-order (urgh), so I'll get the library copy) and The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch. This is going to be a great read-a-thon! Everyone else taking part: good luck!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him--the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target. In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

My first Maureen Johnson book and having seen evidence of her humour online, I can safely say it transfers well into her writing. Even the murder aspects had a sense of humour in it, which was good, it stopped it from being too dark.

Like most of England, hell the world, I've always been slightly obsessed with Jack the Ripper. This was a fairly fresh take on it, a series of murders that mimic the originals and send London into a frenzy. But as the story progresses, it gets more complicated and it appears that the murderer might not even be alive. And everything is spinning around Rory, new girl in London with a strange and unwanted skill. 

Rory was very funny and very easy to relate to. Moving from Louisiana to London was a big step and it was highly entertaining seeing her adapt to life in England, like understanding the school system and the rules of hockey. I'll admit, I was weary that Johnson wouldn't get the details right but she actually did it really well. And we really explored London, from sneaking onto the roof of the school and into pubs, to getting lured into abandoned tube stations. 

I liked the balance between normal school life and the growing creepiness that was the murders and seeing ghosts. The sense of mystery that Johnson created, up to and including a secret part of the government that hunts ghosts, had me gripped from beginning to end. But what I really loved about this book was that the murders wasn't the main focus; I mean, it was always around but there was also friendship and humour and understanding. And that ending has left me wanting more, so bring on more Maureen Johnson!

Published 29th September 2011 by Harper Collins. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Discussion: DNFing

Inspired by Jesse's similar post which can be found here, and Sophie's Books I Couldn't Finish, I was thinking about when I give up on a book and what that means to my reading. And yes, I am aware that it has been a while but better late than never, right?

As a general rule, I really dislike to DNF a book. I don't think it's fair to not give the book a full chance but there have been a few that I just could not continue.
- Vampire Diaries by LJ Smith - gave up at page 68. Elena annoyed me too much, I barely got past her meeting Stefan. 
- Fitzwilliam Darcy, Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud - goodness, this book was insanely long! I remember it took me weeks to get barely half way through and I had so many other books to read that I just stopped. With the full intention of going back to it, but I haven't yet and that was over a year ago. 

Then of course there are ones that I almost wish I had given up on:
- Darkness Falls by Jessica Sorensen - hardly any of this made sense and I kept going, hoping that it would reveal answers but instead I just got more questions. 
- Portal 24 by Meredith Stroud - had so much potential but never really lived up to it. It was a fairly good book, just not for me. 

I rarely give up on books but sometimes I think I have to, especially when I look at all the other lovely books I've still got to read! Sometimes I also think I should give up on more books, as it means I'm putting up with books I only half-enjoy. 

What does it take for you to put down a book? Do you ever go back to it, or just leave it forever?

Monday, 16 June 2014

Trust Games by Simon Packham

When kind, charismatic new drama teacher, Mr Moore, arrives at school, Beth’s life starts to look up. She’s cast as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and as she grows close to super-popular Hannah (Juliet), Beth finally has the female friend she’s been yearning for.

Meanwhile it seems that all the girls – including Beth – are in love with Mr Moore. And when a scandal breaks, Beth must make a decision that can only have dire consequences for everyone involved.

Beth is being bullied at school but when popular girl stands up for her, she thinks she has a chance to get that best friend she's always wanted. Her persistence in befriending Hannah was borderline creepy but I can understand her need for having a friendly face at school. Then new drama teacher Mr Moore, a very cute and young new teacher, comes in to produce Romeo and Juliet. Knowing what was going to happen, I was wary of Mr Moore, especially when Beth had a huge and obvious crush on him. And I'm not sure Mr Moor understood boundaries, what with inviting them to see him perform poetry and asking them to call him Steve outside of school. No, just no.  

The 'scandal' moved slowly, as Beth's crush is deflated and her friendship with Hannah evolves. Beth was so damn naive sometimes, not being able to see past the pitiful excuses Hannah gave her. It became obvious quite quickly, at least to me, that Hannah was the one having the affair. As we were seeing it from outside the relationship, from Beth's point of view, we didn't see it happen, see it grow, which made Hannah's cries of 'true love' seem a little pathetic. Which I think is the point, as she is so young and the relationship so unbalanced. The whole teacher/student relationship is something that has always grossed me out. The age gap is one thing but the abuse of power is scary, and that was portrayed quite well in Trust Games

You can see where this is going, can't you? It was inevitable that once Beth found out, they would run away. It reminded very strongly of a news story from over a year ago; they even both ran to France. Once the secret is out, Beth has to choose between her friendship or Hannah's safety; personally, I think she was both stupid and brave for not telling on her. I would have done; Hannah was too young to know better and men like Mr Moore, as we find out, are not to be trusted.

All in all, a difficult subject matter but was handled fairly well from an outside perspective. Short and sweet, I liked it fine, although the topic does make my skin crawl. But it is a very real possibility and it was portrayed fairly and seriously. 

Published 14th June 2014 by Piccadilly Press. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males born with a lifespan of 25 years, and females a lifespan of 20 years--leaving the world in a state of panic. Geneticists seek a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 
When Rhine is sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Yet her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can t bring herself to hate him as much as she d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement; her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next; and Rhine has no way to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. 
Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

This has been sat on my shelf for nearly a year, so I'm really glad to finally get into it. I was originally intrigued by the concept of what would happen to society if we all died really young. The breakdown of knowledge and tradition is obvious, but this was set only a few years after the fact, with some of the first generation still alive and frantically searching for a cure for their children and grandchildren. 

Rhine was kidnapped and sold to a rich man looking for women to bring him children. One of three of Linden's new wives, Rhine is trapped in this grand house, expected to bear children and grow "old" with Linden. I didn't really understand why they had been kidnapped, why this guy needed three wives; it's not like there were more women than men. But as I continued, it becomes apparent that Linden isn't the bad guy, his father is. Linden is just as trapped as the three girls.

It was really interesting to see how everything had affected this little world, as the house was so cut off from the rest of society. Apart from the Grand master Vaughn, Linden's father, and a few servants, everyone was under the age of twenty-five, the women dying at twenty. It took a bit of getting used to, especially Rhine's hand-servant being a young girl of about 10. It took some getting used to but it worked, especially once the girls started to trust each other. The youngest being only 13, the oldest a year from dying and Rhine in the middle, I really liked how they bonded, even though Cecily was too naive to understand the consequences of where they were. Rhine and Jenna, as the oldest, knew they were held against their will, knew the dangers of crossing Vaughn and knew not to forget what bought them here. 

Although I didn't quite understand the reasoning behind it, I really liked the sense of community and seclusion being stuck in the house together bought. Rhine has to navigate the house between her sister wives, her new husband, her father in law who may or may not be keeping dead bodies in the basement to test the cure. You know, the usual! There was a lot of stuff going on, from Linden's dying first wife to a possible crush in one of the servants. It all blended together really well and I think it got better once Rhine had settled into the house. I'm not sure about continuing with the series; I'd like to know what happens next but I'm actually pretty happy leaving as if it was a standalone. 

Published 22nd March 2011 by Simon and Schuster.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

The girls of Hamilton High School are going on strike.

Sick of the rivalry between their boyfriends' American football and soccer teams, Lissa and her friends are determined that the boys won't see any action from them until they put an end to their immature pranks.

But Lissa hasn't counted on a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first ...

The battle of the sexes in high school - as if there wasn't enough of that going on already! It started out as a way to get their boyfriend's back, but it turned into a fairly feminist, searching for sexual identity sort of thing, which was a nice twist. Especially for teenage girls, as this is when they need that confidence boost, that extra friendship and knowledge.

I really liked Lissa, she was typical teen girl, full of insecurities and troubles at home and odd little quirks. Plus she was surprisingly brave and stubborn; it may have started out to get her boyfriend's attention back but it morphed into something much more important, both for her and her friends. Her best friend Chloe was Lissa's opposite: loud, sexy, confident. She was pure awesome, the girl that might have been getting slut-shamed but the girl we all wish we had her confidence; she just let the insults slide off, plus she had some wicked come backs! The poster girl for modern feminists, Chloe was a great friend and supported of Lissa's cause. 

One of the biggest things in this book that I really loved was the Keplinger didn't shy away from the sex talk. It shouldn't be taboo that teenagers talk about and have sex, especially girls. This funny and truthful story went some way in trying to dispel that stupid archaic notion that girls don't like having sex. What the girls realised about themselves and each other was very real and an important part of growing up, especially in modern society. 

Maybe it was the strong feminist in me but this book was just... pure amazing. Sure, some of the characters were annoying, it made them real, and some of the guys were almost stereotypical in their "jock/sex" lifestyle but it helped the story move along. So it may not have been perfect but it was perfect for me. It was funny and adorable and annoying and sexist but full of truth and learning, on both sides of the battle. 

Published 6th September 2012 by Hodder Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

God Save The Queen by Kate Locke

The Year is 2012—and Queen Victoria still rules with an immortal fist.

She's the undead matriarch of a Britain, where the Aristocracy is made up of werewolves and vampires, where goblins live underground, and mothers know better than to let their children out after dark. A world where technology lives side by side with magic, where being nobility means being infected with the Plague (side-effects include undeath) and Hysteria is the popular affliction of the day.

Xandra Vardan is a member of the elite Royal Guard, and it's her duty to protect the Aristocracy. But things get complicated when her sister goes missing. Xandra will not only realise she's the prize in a dangerous power struggle—but she'll also uncover a conspiracy that threatens to topple the empire itself.

Something most people don't know about me is that I love Steampunk. So a story purely about a Steampunk alternate history, I was bound to adore. And I did but the details was a lot to take in. For example, the aristocracy was mostly made up of vampires, but there were also werewolves, goblins (who were deformed aristocracy) plagued humans, who carried the gene for... god, something. See? It was all a bit complicated but very interesting. The other thing with the alternate history was how the world had evolved with modern gadgets. For the most part, they hadn't. As one might assume from the immortal reign of the Victorians, they were a bit reluctant to rid themselves of traditions, which is why the Season was still in the summer even though the nights were shorter. 

We followed Alexandra, or as she liked to be called Xanrda, as she hunts down her supposedly dead sister. I really liked Xandra, with her spunky attitude and toughness but she wasn't that complex. Which was fine, fun actually, as with everything else going on, I didn't need a complicated and troubled heroine on top of that. And the relationship she had with her half-siblings was really sweet although the whole thing with bastard children of the aristocracy took a while to get my head around. You know normally, bastard children are looked down upon (think Jon Snow of Game of Thrones) but in this, they were sort of special, because of the extra strength and thus were tasked with protecting the aristocracy. 

So, while on the hunt, Xandra discovers something horrifying about the world she lives in. Everything she holds dear about the aristocracy appears to be wrong and I couldn't really blame her for being in denial about it all. But, to me at least, this sort of made sense. Of course the aristocracy wouldn't want to give up control to half-breed bastard children, or not have secrets about any so-called research they might be doing about the plagued genes. 

All in all, an enjoyable read but took longer to read than I expected and was surprisingly complicated. The basic story line and the characters were very likeable but there were too many things to get your head around, which for me ruined the overall feel of the book at times. 

Published 5th July 2012 by Orbit. 

Saturday, 7 June 2014

YALC: read-a-thon

Having booked tickets to London Film and Comic Con, to go to the first Young Adult Literature Convention, it took me a couple of days to realise that I haven't read a book by some of the authors I will be seeing. And I just think that's a bit rude. So, naturally, I've decided to raid my library and make amends and read at least one book by the authors I will be seeing on the Saturday (because that's the day I'm going). I'm gonna be honest, I picked Saturday because of Malorie Blackman and Rainbow Rowell, but I am going to miss meeting Tanya Byrne and Sarra Manning on the Sunday - I'm sorry, I couldn't afford a hotel!

Here is the list of authors appearing on the Saturday and my reading status:
Amy McCulloch
Andrew Lane 

Andy Robb - read Geekhood
Byrony Pearce - read Weight of Souls
Catherine Johnson

Charlie Higson - read Young James Bond
CJ Skuse - read Dead Romantic and Rockoholic
Darren Shan - read A Living Nightmare (Cirque du Freak 1)
Derek Landy
Emma Viecelli
Frances Hardinge
Holly Bourne - read Soulmates

James Smyth
Jonathan Stroud 
Kim Curran
Lucy Saxon 
Malorie Blackman - read Hacker
Marcus Sedgewick
Natasha Ngan 
Patrick Ness 
Rainbow Rowell - read Attachments, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl
Sarah Crossan - read Breathe and Resist
Sarah McIntyre
Steve Cole
Tim O'Rourke
Will Hill

Wow, that wasn't as many I thought! A few I've heard of but haven't read because it's not my genre or target audience but I will try them. And honestly, some I haven't heard of at all, which makes me feel bad.  

Fast forward a few weeks and Carly, Michelle and Jess have announced they are hosting a YALC read-a-thon at the end of June. Er, yes please! So bring on my goals:
I'm going to buy Pretty Bad Things by CJ Skuse; borrow the following from the library: Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Geekhood 2 by Andy Robb, The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathon Stroud. I also have Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon, courtesy of Netgalley. Making that a total so far of 6. Not sure if that's over ambitious but even if I over-run, I will read all these damn books!

Just need to figure out where I'm going to get a copy of The Elites by Natasha Ngan, and which Patrick Ness/Marcus Sedgewick book to read. Any suggestions?

Friday, 6 June 2014

Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.
West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping him fighting for her is a shot at redemption. Especially since it' s his fault her family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.
Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

When I started it, I wasn't too sure what relation these characters were to previous ones but then suddenly clicked that Wash is Rachel's brother from the previous book Crash Into You. It was really interesting seeing things from Wash's perspective, especially as I didn't pay much attention to him before. Take Me On overlaps some events from the ending of Crash Into You, particularly Rachel's crash and recovery, so it was kinda fun piecing together the timeline. And then there was new character Haley: a great martial artist but has given it up after a bad break-up. Not that anyone knows exactly what happened between Haley and her ex, whose name I have forgotten.

So, quick summary: West gets kicked out and goes to Haley's school. On his first day, he defends Haley's honour and gets talked into a fight with her ex. Way to play the unwanted hero, West! Feeling responsible, as well as incredibly annoyed, Haley agrees to train him so he doesn't die. I adored seeing their relationship evolve; typical of McGarry's style, they put up with each other and then before they realise it, they've fallen. Hard. Something about these pairings are so balanced, they bring out the best in each other, which is so adorable to see form. 

West is feeling guilty for his part in Rachel's accident and wants to do something to prove himself not completely useless, and he thinks he can do this by standing up for Haley. Turns out that his and Haley's lives are intertwined more closely than that, as West's father may have had a part in Haley's father losing his job. Which is the reason Haley and her family are living with her uncle and cousins. During all this, we see more about the Youngs' home life, with their dysfunctional way of dealing with things and lack of communication. Gladly, things improve, but not before getting slightly bleak first. 

And before I finish, I must mention Abby. I'm not sure I liked her as much in this one, maybe because we were seeing her without Rachel, when she is clearly smitten. I still really like Abby but she came across much more dangerous, the dealer that she is. But Abby is still so funny and such a smart-ass and damn cute that you just can't help but like her. 

I cannot show how much I love, and I mean absolutely love, McGarry's books. This one, just like the others, is more than just a love story, it bares truths and allows for greater development than just finding someone to kiss. Haley and West find someone to trust completely and fall hard for and most importantly, someone to brave the future with. 

Published 6th June 2014 by MiraInk. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Mini reviews: Red At Night by Katie McGarry and Vampire University by VJ Erickson

Red At Night
Stella and Jonah are total opposites. She's the girl with purple hair from the wrong part of town. He's a high school senior who hangs with the cool crowd. Until a car accident leaves him haunted by guilt, and Jonah starts spending time at Stella's favourite refuge…the local cemetery.

Stella knows she should keep her distance—after all, she spent her girlhood being bullied by Jonah's friends. Once he's sorted out his tangled emotions, Jonah won't have time for her anymore. Too bad she's already fallen for him….

Oh, I love everything written by Katie McGarry and this was no different! Typical of McGarry's style, the story was split between Stella, a strange girl with purple hair who likes to hang out in a cemetery, and Jonah who is haunted by the words of a dying stranger. It was a novella but nothing felt rushed or crammed in; the pace was good, skimming over some of the 'getting to know you' parts to get to the good stuff, the confessions and the heart aches. 

I really liked these characters; Stella was so sweet, stuck in such a crappy situation and waiting until she could escape. She was the complete opposite of Jonah, he needed someone to accept him with no complications or expectations. As you would expect from McGarry, both characters grow and develop together to meet in the middle for the better of their relationship. I adored seeing them both grow, especially seeing Jonah stand up for himself against his so-called best friend, and see Stella share a part of herself she keeps private with Jonah.

Vampire University
Constantly moving as she grew up, Taylor had learned the hard way how to blend in wherever she went. But when she moves to VanCamp University for her freshman year of college, she immediately finds herself at the center of attention of nearly everyone she encounters. From the charismatic and mysterious Evans twins, to her quirky, clingy roommate Hannah, it seems that the people in Taylor's new college life have no intention of letting her be the wallflower.

It's not just blending in that Taylor has to worry about, though. At VanCamp University, there is more to the staff and students than meets the eye. While trying to adjust to her new life on campus, she finds herself in a world where fairy tales and reality collide, where gargoyles and leprechauns mingle with humans and vampires, and where nothing is as it first appears.

And as she discovers the truth of her own unusual heritage, Taylor learns that fairy tales are just the beginning.

I had such high hopes from this - a university where vampires and other mythical creatures roam? Sounds awesome right? Unfortunately, not so much. Maybe because it was quite short, maybe the introduction to vampires wasn't very good, or the story wasn't executed very well - all of the above made for an overall disappointing read. 

It had quite a bit of potential, with its campus life blending into a fight for survival and all sorts of mystical creatures coming into play, but all these things were crammed in to a short story and the pacing didn't work at all. The basic story was pretty good: new girl at uni, finds herself a target for a stubborn vamp, discovers she has secret powers. Unfortunately, it wasn't set out very well, with too much else going on from vampire room mate to leprechaun senior; plus the big baddy wasn't even part of the story until the last little bit before he was taken care off anyway. If it wasn't so short, I would have given up. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L Armentrout

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.
Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she’s crushed on since forever.
Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she’s not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue, considering Roth has no soul.
But when Layla discovers she’s the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

I don't know what it says about me but the possibles flaws in this book, from it stereotypical slutty best friend to world-revolves-around-me heroine, from the (again) typical almost-love triangle to the more-sexual tension-than-plot, I don't care, this book was hilarious and adorable and so dramatic it verges on soap opera. I'm a sucker for dark romance and this, with it's demon powers and gargoyles being the guardians between good and evil, I just loved it.

Layla was sort of-almost spoiled and her "I must make up for having demon blood even though that's not my fault" thing was admirable if naive and a little stupid. However, she was quite easy to like, despite having nothing that makes her stand out. Apart from the demon blood of course, but let's not go into that. She was having sort of a rough time of it at the moment, with more and more demons coming topside and apparently having a thing for her. Then she meets Roth, an Upper Level demon with amazing strength and incredibly good looks, who should be a bad guy but saves her from another demon trying to nom her face.

Roth was your typical bad guy with a good heart: hot, a tough guy, always around to save the day. He was incredibly sarcastic and would have been annoying if he wasn't so funny. I adored their relationship, as basic as it was. Although Layla had no actual skills of her own, she wasn't about to let Roth, a guy she had the hots for but shouldn't trust, swoop in and save her every time. 

As for the plot, it was your typical good girl and bad guy team up to save the world. The mythology behind the gargoyles/Wardens and their eternal battle with Hell was very cool; I always appreciate how it was slipped into the plot when and where it was necessary so it wasn't an overload of information. The demon blood in Layla becomes a major plot point - of course it does - one that I sort of saw coming but really liked the detail and complexity behind it. 

Armentrout's novels are something of a guilty pleasure of mine; the flowing plot, the hot romances, the dark and sometimes gritty twist on mythology, I loved it all. The ending was especially surprising and gripping and I can't wait to see what happens next in this series.

Published 4th March 2014 by MiraInk. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.