Vicki 2011 Round Up: Reminiscing and Resolutions

Wow. I actually can not believe that I'm here doing this post already. Where the heck did 2011 go? It feels like I blinked and missed it. There was so much I was going to do personal wise that I never got round to (mainly decorating) and the cupboard under the stairs still needs cleaned out...this year I swear I'll get round to putting the Christmas tree away properly!

Blog wise it's been a pretty exciting year all round I think. 2011 saw a big change and after a year of blogging alone under the name of Rhiana Reads... I was joined by Lyndsey and together we became Heaven Hell and Purgatory Book reviews. Having a blogging partner has been fantastic...the pressure is definitely less when the reading and reviewing is shared plus having someone to talk books and bounce idea's off is great. Lyndsey's been an awesome co-blogger, particularly over the last couple of months when my work and personal schedule has taken me away from things here. Luckily she's done more than her share to keep things running and I owe her a HUGE thanks for that.

Not only did the team double, but this year all of our stats did too and we end 2011 with twice as many followers as we thanks to all of you for that. Visitor numbers have almost trebled compared to this  time last year, which makes me proud that people genuinely seem to appreciate our opinions on books. 

I was lucky enough to be invited to some amazing events because of the blog this year and met some fantastic bloggers, authors and publicists. Highlight of the year though had to be an overnight stay in Alnwick Castle to celebrate the second book in the Poison diaries series. Along with some of my very favourite people I got to have a sleep over in the Castle used as HOGWARTS(!) for some scenes in the first two movies, meet the Duchess of Northumberland, have high tea in the state dining room and dinner in the most amazing  tree house restaurant. To see my report and pictures of the event click HERE

A very close second however was attending the launch party for Alyson Noel's final book in her Immortals series, Everlasting. I even got my tarot read...something I'd always wanted to do. Alyson was incredibly nice too. Report and pics HERE

Sarah (Feeling Fictional), Me, Stacey (Pretty Books) at Alyson Noel's launch party
If all this wasn't exciting enough I managed to win tickets to the Radio One Big Weekend and took along my lovely blogging partner Lyndsey. We saw Lady Gaga, My Chemical Romance, Bruno Mars and some other amazing acts live and despite the cold it was a brilliant day!

2011 saw us host our very own feature month here, Summer Lovin' 2011. It was hard work but lots of fun and I'd like to thanks all the bloggers and authors who took part by writing guest posts. If you'd like to see what it was all about then click HERE

So what next for 2012...

I think it's fair to say that I burned out a little by the end of this year reading and blogging wise and after thinking about it a while I'm pretty certain I know why. I'm one of these people who don't work well under fact if I feel I HAVE to do something then I'm even less inclined to want to do it. If I'm honest a point came where reading was no longer as fun as it used to be, I was forcing myself to read certain books at certain times and it just wasn't working. 

So the approach for 2012 here will be a much more relaxed one, back to how it first started out. We're no longer going to be solely a 'Young Adult' site as we're both finding it more so. There's a whole range of books we want to read and talk about...and so that is what we'll do. I'm also dramatically scaling back the number of books I acquire by whatever means. While having lots of books drop through the letter box is lovely, it's also pressure and the truth is I'm not a machine. I can only do so much. Plus I'm on the verge of having to move into the shed to make way for all these books I've yet to read. I'll be much more selective in the coming year. 

Which brings me onto my next point. We've decided we won't be participating in In My Mailbox anymore, in fact it's been a while since we have and it's been liberating. This is in no way a criticism of the meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren .. I've loved taking part in the past, it's introduced me to some amazing bloggers and brought them to me...for which I'm grateful. However it's time consuming and as Sunday's are my only regular day off I'll be spending them with my children from now on. 

What I'd like for 2012 is a return to a real love and passion for the books I read, more interaction with the blogging  and book community (who I have neglected in the past few months...thanks to those who still visited us despite my rudeness) and more spontaneity with the books I read and posts I publish including more personal, fun and discussion type posts. 


Happy New Year To You All!!!

Lyndsey's yearly round up!

2011 has been a great year in books and blogging for me. A whole year now Vicky and I have been doing this blog together and I couldn't be happier for having collaborated with her. As it's the end of the year, I thought it would be good to share with you my top books of 2011, some blogging highlights and things I'm looking forward to in 2012.

Favourite books of 2011

Up until the first week of December, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly was by far my favourite book of the year. Set in Paris, it mixes music, history and love together in the most fantastic way.

Everything about this book appealed to me and I couldn't put it down once I had started reading. The story stayed with me for such a long time and I know I won't be forgetting it any time soon.

You can read all about why I loved this book so much here!

Late November came and the highly anticipated Clockwork Prince turned up at my door. I loved Clockwork Angel and so this was a book I couldn't pick up quick enough. Cassandra Clare completely outdid herself with this sequel, showing the dark and cobbled streets of Victorian London but also writing one hell of a romance at the same time. As love triangles go in YA books, Will, Jem and Tessa have got to be my favourite. I haven't read one so plausible and realistic in a long time and I'm having such a hard time deciding who I prefer. Maybe I'll never actually decide.

As I said, up until the beginning of December, Revolution was my favourite book. Then The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern came along. Bloggers all over had been raving about this one and my sister even managed to read it before me, telling me I HAD to read it NOW. The Night Circus is a book that for me, sums up everything that reading is all about. Having to picture such amazing scenes and characters in my head is the thing that I love so much about reading and this book made me do it for every single word on every single page. I'm having a hard time expressing my thoughts on this one in a review so it won't be up until January but in short... magical, perfect, stunning!

Blogging highlights

In October, I got the chance to meet Jennifer Donnelly in Leeds with the wonderful Emma Bradshaw from Bloomsbury. It turned out that only me and one other person could make the event so it turned into a lovely, intimate brunch with the four of us talking books, blogging and everything in-between as well. I was extremely nervous meeting Jennifer, having loved Revolution so much but she was lovely and I had a wonderful time. Having a signed copy of one of my favourite books of the year is definitely a highlight.

Technically, this is not a blogging highlight but.... As Radio One's Big Weekend was in Carlisle this year, Vicky managed to somehow get tickets and asked me to go with her! How could I have ever passed that down?! It was so nice getting to spend some time with Vicky drooling over her books for a day (and stealing quite a few) and then getting up super early to stand in a line in the rain. Every drop of that rain was worth it though. Getting to see Lady Gaga, The Script and more and going a bit mad with my blogging partner was one of the best weekends I ever could have asked for.

2012's most anticipated!

After having such a good year for books this year, I'm hoping 2012 will be even better. There haven't been many books at all that I have hated or not finished this year. Author's have really been stepping up their game and bringing out some fantastic stories. It gets me thinking about if anything in 2012 will beat the books that I loved the most in 2011.

Here are just a few of the books I am really looking forward to next year:

Sometimes there's no easy way out.

Victor hates his life. He has no friends, gets beaten up at school, and his parents are always criticizing him. Tired of feeling miserable, Victor takes a bottle of his mother's sleeping pills—only to wake up in the hospital.

Bull is angry, and takes all of his rage out on Victor. That makes him feel better, at least a little. But it doesn't stop Bull's grandfather from getting drunk and hitting him. So Bull tries to defend himself with a loaded gun.

When Victor and Bull end up as roommates in the same psych ward, there's no way to escape each other or their problems. Which means things are going to get worse—much worse—before they get better….

I have to thank the lovely Carly for bringing this one to my attention (as well as MANY others). This one sounds completely fresh, original and quite exciting... it is set in a psych ward after all!

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”—known to everyone as the Glitterati—without them suspecting a thing is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her: evening the social playing field between the haves and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of thefts at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could Aidan wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

Again, another one that Carly brought to my attention. Like her, I have never seen a retelling of Robin Hood before and the fact that I live in Robin Hood land (Nottingham) myself made me desperately want this one!

In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the clockwork army before it's too late. As Jem's health worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves — even if it means never seeing the other one again?

This one isn't out until nearly the end of 2012 and right now, it seems sooooo far away! As you can see above, Clockwork Prince was one of my favourite books in 2011 so obviously I am dying for the next installment. I need me some more Will, Jem and Tessa!

So, there we have my yearly round up! It's been a great year and I can't wait for what 2012 has to bring - a lot of great books no doubt! Happy New Year to you all!

Vicki's Top Books of 2011

Well, this has been a fantastic year book wise and I've read some amazing books. Some of my favourites though have been surprises and ones I probably wouldn't have picked up a year or so ago and a mix of adult and YA novels. 

This isn't a top anything...I couldn't limit it to 3 or 5 so just chose my absolute favourites. It's also in no particular order...all these books are winners in my eyes.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book blew me away with it's stunning, rich, descriptive text and breathtaking magical romance. I've never read such an evocative book before and as I read the whole circus was brought to life in my mind. I couldn't put it down and even when I wasn't reading it, I was dreaming about it. 

Find out more at Goodreads HERE
Read my Review HERE

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

This is one of the most powerful and relevant books I read this year. It dragged every emotion possible from me and I went from anger to sadness to smiling and laughing along with it's amazing and lovable hero..10 year old Jamie. Tackling issues such as family bereavement, terrorism, racism, bullying and alcoholism in a brutally honest and thought provoking way, this is the book from 2011 I'd urge every teen to read.

Find out more at HERE
Read my review HERE

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Go back 12 months and this book was on my list of most anticipated books of 2011 and WOW! It didn't disappoint. I started reading it the second it dropped through my letter box and didn't stop for several hours until I'd read every last page. Fast, fierce, and Four (yum!!!) this was definitely worth it's wait and I can't wait for the next installment, Insurgent in May 2012. 

Find out more at HERE
Read my Review HERE

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This is one of those books that everyone was declaring absolute love for and despite it not originally appealing to me all that much, i eventually had to find out what all the fuss was about. Now I know. Etienne St Claire *swoon* Definitely wins cutest book of the year...but it also surprised me with a pretty meaty story. Finally it's set in Paris. Say no more.

Find out more on HERE
Read my review HERE

Shadows On The Moon by Zoe Marriott

Oh how I loved this book and the beautiful world it's set in. Filled with magic and romance it captivated me throughout. But among the fairytale there’s a story of loss, identity, self-hatred and vengeance. Suzame goes down for me as the best heroine of the year... she rocks big time and her journey is unforgettable!

Find out more at HERE
Read my review HERE

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

I'm going to be honest, Paranormal romance didn't really do it for me this year. It was all a bit, samey. Apart from this one...which I absolutely LOVED. In main character Clara, Cynthia Hand has ripped up the rule book on wimpy, lovesick heroine's of YAPR and instead we have a strong, lead female and an equally strong supporting cast. I also loved the relationship between the family. Exciting AND refreshing.

Find out more at HERE
Read my Review HERE

The next two aren't released until 2012, but HAD to make it in my top books of 2011 list as I adored both...go add them to your wishlists/pre-orders now!

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set in Alaska in the 1920's this book tells the story of a childless couple who yearn for a child and a mysterious girl who comes and goes with the snow. Wonderfully descriptive and heartrendingly sad at times and with it's roots in Russian folklore, this book is spellbinding and perfect for loosing yourself in infront of a blazing fire.

Find out More at Goodreads HERE
Published Febuary 2012 (UK)

The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

A story told over 24 hours and full of what if's, this book is just so good and heartwarming it will leave the most cynical among us believing in fate. It’s the perfect book to lift any post Christmas blues and a must read for any hopeless romantics out there!

Find out more at HERE
Read my review HERE

So that's it! There are many more fabulous books I've read this year but these for me where the most memorable.

Did your favourite make it on my list? Have I missed your favourite out and you want to tell us why it should've been there? leave a comment below!

Waiting on Wednesday: Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking The Spine and allows us to spotlight upcoming books we are eagerly anticipating.

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

Calla has always welcomed war. But now that the final battle is upon her, there’s more at stake than fighting. There’s saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay’s wrath. There’s keeping Ansel safe, even if he’s been branded a traitor. There’s proving herself as the pack’s alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers’ magic once and for all. And then there’s deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is.

In the final installment of the Nightshade trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer creates a novel with twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat until its final pages. A dynamic end to this breathtaking trilogy.

Published 21st February 2012 by ATOM

Book Review: Awakened (House of Night #8) by P.C. and Kristin Cas

Awakened is the 8th book in the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. It was published by Atom on 25th October in paperback and the book is 304 pages long.

Exonerated by the Vampyre High Council and returned to her position of High Priestess at Tulsa's House of Night, Neferet has sworn vengeance on Zoey. But Zoey has found sanctuary on the Isle of Skye and is being groomed by Queen Sgiach to take over for her there. Being Queen would be cool, wouldn't it? And what about Stevie Rae and Rephraim? The Raven Mocker refuses to be used against Stevie Rae, but what choice does he have when no one in the entire world, including Zoey, would be ok with their relationship? Does he betray his father or his heart?

What I thought
When I began reading Awakened, I could barely remember what had happened in the previous book. It had been that long since reading it that I was now going into this book quite blind. As the story began to unfold though, it did all start coming back to me slowly. That is one of the good things about this series. Even though there are sometimes large spaces of time between books, each new one recaps on things that have happened before so that you can't forget anything important.

As with the rest of the House of Night series, Awakened is told from multiple points of view. As Zoey is the main character of the series, I would have preferred for her to have more chapters but it is also nice to realise what is happening with everyone else, especially as they aren't always together. This being said, I think it would probably have been better if other characters only got a chapter or two, instead of taking up whole chunks of the book. The series started with Zoey and what was happening to her and I think focusing on her would really bring the series back to being as good as it was to begin with.

The thing that I was happiest to see in Awakened was Zoey and Stark being back together. I loved Stark from the minute he arrived in the series and now he gets a much bigger part in the story overall. As Zoey and Stark have been through a lot together and have experienced things that no one else can understand, they share a very strong bond and I really loved how you could tell that they were now extremely close. As Zoey and Stark have been spending time on the Isle of Skye with Queen Sgiach, the story takes a very interesting turn when Zoey is given the opportunity of a life time. More and more is explained about Queen Sgiach and the things she believes in/ what she follows and I would have loved to have known more about this.

Due to the multiple narrators, the pacing of Awakened is all over the place. One character could have a lot going on and their storyline be very exciting but then another character would come in who has less going on. For me, this made the pacing really hit and miss throughout. I don't mind a change in pace, in fact, I think it's a good thing but here it was too much all of the time. Just when something would start to get a bit faster paced, the character narrating would switch and the pace would change to extremely slow or sad etc.

One of my biggest problems with this book (and the series...kind of) are the references to pop culture. I don't mind a couple in a book but Awakened is full of them. Having this in a book dates it very quickly and I think this is a massive negative thing for the series as a whole. There are other YA books that will be able to stand the test of time because they don't mention things that people will have forgotten about in a few years time. One mention that really bugged me was about Glee. Ok, Glee is extremely popular but the mention seemed really over the top and it wasn't needed at all. Considering the characters are always busy fighting off evil etc, when would they even have time to watch Glee?

Although there were some pretty big things that I didn't like about this book, there was also a lot I did like. Awakened seems to me like the book that sets up everything that is about to happen, a filler book. Each main character has a lot going on and is preparing to face down Neferet, hopefully once and for all. Towards the end of the book, everything began to get really exciting as smaller plot lines began to be revealed, not to mention the twist at the end. I really am hoping that Destined has some massive shocks in-store for House of Night fans. 

Book Review: The Haunting Of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck

A magical, enchanting tale, with stunning illustrations that will transport you into another world. 

Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past. What she does know is that she is NEVER to go outside unsupervised. And she is NEVER to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from. 

But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem. (From Goodreads.Com)

The Haunting Of Charity Delafield is one of those books that once you open the first page, will transport you into another world completely and keep you hooked until the very last page. Reading it was an absolute pleasure.

The book is set in Victorian times, which as I've mentioned once or twice before is my most favourite time of all to read about and Ian Beck captures it beautifully. All the ingredients of a delicious Gothic tale are here: a huge, intimidating mansion, family secrets and  loyal servants. Everything about this book screams children's classic and it reminded me of books like The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgeson Burnett and The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, my two favourite books from childhood and the ones I credit my love of books to. Like those books, I can see the Haunting Of Charity Delafield also inspiring a love of reading and it's certainly a book you'd want to read over and over again.

It also has a magical, fairy tale element which is revealed towards the end of the book and I admit I wasn't actually expecting. it's beautifully written and imaginative though and I absolutely loved it. At only 200 pages long it's perfect for confident readers of age ten upwards and I know if I'd read this at that age I would have been spellbound by it. This is certainly a book I'll be keeping for my daughter to enjoy in a few years time. 

My copy was a proof, but the hardback is truly a thing of beauty with it's gold tipped pages and stunning illustrations, it makes the perfect gift. A book for children to inspire a love of reading, and adults to enjoy a nostalgic journey of their own childhood books, this is one book that should be making it into Christmas stockings this year. 

Published by Random House Children's Books 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review

I was lucky enough to interview Ian Beck about The Haunting Of Charity Delafield earlier this year and you can read it HERE

Picture Book Review: Jesus' Christmas Party by Nicholas Allen

When I was in Infant school, a long long time ago (:D) it was the big kids who did the Nativity in their final year. I dreamed about the day I too reached the grand old age of six and would be up there on the stage shining in my white sheet sewn up by my mother with a tinsel halo round my head. I distinctly remember the day parts were being given out and praying I'd be an angel and not a sheep...and I was! Then the day before the big show I got very sick and missed it, never again getting the chance to give the most angelic performance ever. 

So two years later, when my younger brother was given the part of the Innkeeper and struggled to learn that one famous line, I took it upon myself to help. For days we'd act out the whole show at home, with me of course playing the important bits. When his performance came round I remember beaming with pride when he got his line perfectly on cue. Since then I've always had a soft spot for the Innkeeper and it's one of my favourite parts of children's nativity plays. 

But just what did that poor Innkeeper make of all those shannigans all those years ago? Well if you've ever wondered you can find out in this delightful and funny picture book by Nicholas Allen. The story is told from his perspective, and the grumpy little soul is non too happy to be woken up in the night not only by Mary and Joseph, but by the shepherds and kings who've lost their way and some very loud divine singing. 

What's so brilliant about this book is how it tells a funny story in such simple language and very few words that both children and adults alike will love it. Yet it still gets over the message of Christmas in an unpreaching way so even the least religious amongst us will still appreciate it. With it's hilarious illustrations the story is brought to life and the text is easy enough for beginner readers to have a go at themselves. This book is perfect for children aged from around three who are just learning the Christmas story themselves and is a perfect read aloud book to cuddle in with in the run up to the big day.

Jesus' Christmas Party is a unique spin on the original story of Christmas and has been read over and over again by my daughter since it arrived, who loves shouting out the grumpy Inn keepers lines. The ending leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling just like all Christmas stories should. We loved this book and I think it's one of the best Christmas picture books we own (and we have a lot) Highly recommended!

Published by Random House Children's Books. Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review. 

There's also a short animation/song from the school musical based on this cute?

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

All Lydia's ever wanted is a perfect Christmas... 

So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She's been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies - all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. 

But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year... (From

A few weeks ago I found myself making a nightmare journey by train all in the name of childcare. Four times. On one of my bad tempered treks across the country I realised I'd forgotten to pack a book, and considering I had 3 hours to pass without a child panic set in. With Tesco being the nearest and only open shop that sold books that's where I headed. It's only a small shop though and had a limited selection of books but this one appealed with it's stunningly pretty cover and festive synopsis. 

My forgetfulness turned into a blessing though as I thoroughly enjoyed Scarlet Bailey's debut novel from beginning to end. This is chick lit at it's best and ticks every single box. A likable and relatable heroine, an awkward situation with hilarious and cringeworthy moments and not one but three potential love interests. Throw into the mix three interesting and different girl friends, an emotional birth and CHRISTMAS and this is a winner. If you're a fan of chick lit then you'll love this one. 

One thing which pleasantly surprised me was the setting of Keswick in the Lake District. I spent a couple of the best years of my life living there and now live just half an hours drive away, but never have I come across a book set in this part of the world. I loved how Scarlett Incorporated the area into the story, bringing it to life with genuine passion and even throwing in a bit of local dialect which made me chuckle. I do have one issue though. Why in all the time I've spent here have I failed to find myself a Will Dacre (whose surname even lends itself nicely to the area)? *Swoon indeed!* Moody, broody and earthy, I LOVED him. 

I also loved the fact that the book is set over a few days of Christmas. Often a *Christmassy* looking book like this only features the season briefly but this is full on festive right the way through. All the tensions, romance and humour of Christmas are captured beautifully and I went from laughing to sympathising to feeling all warm and fuzzy throughout. The story moves at a fast pace and I couldn't put it down and after my train journey stayed up into the small hours just devouring it. 

The Night Before Christmas absolutely hits the spot if you're looking for a lighthearted romantic festive comedy. Despite being Scarlett Bailey's debut I found the pacing, writing and character development accomplished and confident. It was a joy of a read which left me feeling happy and cosy, delivering everything I wanted...with tinsel. I'll certainly be looking out for more from this author in the future and recommend you treat yourself this book to curl up with over Christmas. You won't be disappointed.

Published by Ebury Press October 2011

Christmas Week at Heaven, Hell and Purgatory Book Reviews!!! (AKA Vicki returns to the land of the living)

You may have noticed that I, Vicki, have been missing recently and Lyndsey has been holding the fort here. That's because I've been helping Santa get all those presents for you!

Ok, that's not true. I've been working ridiculously long hours in a shop which despite the incessant sound of 'Well I wish it could be Christmas everday-ay-ay' since October has felt more torturous than festive. Things are going to be tight next year and I had to grab the hours while I could. I'm not the most organised/great multi tasker in the world either and by the time I got home at 7pm, saw to the kids the only thing I've been fit for is falling into bed by 9pm. 

But good news! That's all over now. I survived! I'm at the other end and enjoying a few days off before the coming crazy weekend and FINALLY have that festive feeling. So I've dragged out the tree and decorated the blog, given Lyndsey a very well deserved week off and will be reviewing and recommending Christmassy books for all ages this week-from picture books, to story books, YA and Adult. Maybe I can even give you some last minute inspiration for a bookish gift.

Hope you enjoy!!

Book Review: All These Things I've Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've Done is the first book in the Birthright series by Gabrielle Zevin. It is published by Macmillan Children's Books on 6th April 2012 and the book is 384 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.

Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a Mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embroiled in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the Mafia family, but her father's relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya's violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya's Mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believes she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win's father wants to be mayor, and he can't risk having his ambition jeopardised by rumours spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist...

What I thought
Having read a fair amount of dystopian books recently, I wasn't sure whether or not to pick up this book. I didn't want it to be anything like the others I had recently read but luckily, it was nothing like any of them.

Anya was a very refreshing main character. After already having been through a lot in her short sixteen years, she has a maturity that you rarely see in YA books. Although her Grandmother is her legal guardian, Anya is put in charge of looking after her brother and sister as well as making sure her sick Grandmother is ok at the same time. On top of all of this, Anya still has to go to school and try to lead a normal life. While she is doing all of this, Anya manages to stick to her morals and the faith she believe in without letting people pressure her into changing. Because of all of this, I could really respect Anya and the things that she stood for.

Anya's family are actually a pretty big deal in this book. Her older brother Leo has a learning disability so instead of him being in charge, Anya is. Then, there is her little sister Natty who always seemed to demand attention and wanted to be in the middle of whatever was going on. As characters, Anya, Leo and Natty are all extremely different but at the same time, you can see that they are siblings. Little things would tie them together and make me remember that they are actually related. I liked how different they all were because even though Natty and Leo could have been used more, they both bring something special and endearing to this book.

Looking at the bigger picture of Anya's family though is where things really get interesting. Her less immediate family are the Mafia, controlling the chocolate supply. As chocolate, among other things, are now illegal there is a big demand and because of this, the family can pretty much do whatever they want. When Anya's ex boyfriend is poisoned by eating chocolate, her suspicions are raised and she knows she needs to get to the bottom of what her family are doing. As she doesn't have much to do with them though, she doesn't know who to trust any more and who is even telling the truth. I loved the mystery aspect and felt that it gave the book a whole different feel to anything else I have read in a long time. The streets of New York seemed like a dark and dangerous place to be because of the things happening outside and against the laws.

The romance in this book is where I felt let down though. Anya falls for Win, the son of the new D.A. Quickly, his father asks Anya to not get involved because of his campaign. Although Win's father is supposed to come across as quite scary and intimidating, I didn't feel this at all from him. If anything, he actually seemed quite nice and friendly, even when he was trying to shock Anya. Because of this, I didn't really feel that the relationship between Anya and Win was ever forbidden and they certainly don't fit into the 'star-crossed lovers' category. I wanted to feel a sense of danger when it came to this relationship but there wasn't any point at all where I did feel that way.

That being said, I did actually like the relationship that Anya and Win had. Win is a lovely boy who clearly cared a lot for Anya and didn't care about what anyone else thought about them being together, even his father. Win's life is most definitely his own and won't let anyone tell him what to do. Anya is a strong and determined character as well so because of this, they really did make a good couple. The banter between the two was funny but sweet at the same time and it was easy to see how much they liked each other. I would have loved to have seen a little more passion between the two to back this up a little better but I can't ask for everything.

Overall, All These Things I've Done is a great start to a new series. It is set in the year 2082 which is not all that far away which makes things seem real and scary. I would never like to live in a world where chocolate was against the law and where everyone had a curfew. I'm excited to see where Zevin will take this series and to see what happens between Anya and Win. 

Book Review: Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest is the debut YA novel from Julie Cross and the first book in a trilogy. It is published by Macmillan Children's Books on 5th January 2012 and the book is 432 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.

Jackson Meyer is hiding a secret. He can time-travel. But he doesn't know how he does it, how to control it or what it means. When Jackson, and his girlfriend Holly, find themselves in fatal danger, Jackson panics and catapults himself two years into his past, further than he's ever managed before, and this time he can't find a way back to the future. All the rules of time-travel he's experienced so far have been broken and Jackson has no choice but to pretend to be his younger self whilst he figures out a solution. Jackson is tearing himself apart with guilt and frustration, wondering if Holly survived. he's also become the target of a enemy force he cannot even begin to comprehend and it seems even his dad is lying to him. Jackson is racing against time to save the girl he loves, discover the truth about his family and, most importantly, understand why he can time travel and who wants him dead.

What I thought
I was so excited by this book from the moment it arrived. It sounded quite like the film 'Jumper' but with time instead of just space and with a lot more romance. However, when I started reading, I found it quite slow to get in to and I just wasn't feeling it. After putting it down for a couple of days, I picked it back up and I am so thankful that I did.

The beginning of Tempest is all about explaining how main character Jackson (loved his name by the way) can time travel. A lot of information is given in the first couple of chapters and for me, it was quite overwhelming. I understand completely that it was needed in order to set the scene of the story but the beginning was just a little too much to take in one go. Once all of that was over though and the story really got going, I was addicted!! I actually nearly missed my bus stop on the way to work because I was so engrossed in what was happening.

The YA genre is dominated by female narrators so I loved the fact that Tempest was told from a male's perspective. Jackson is 19, in love and a time traveller. His narration is fresh and upbeat and it really made a nice change. As he has no real idea about how hi ability really works, along with friend Adam, he is just trying to figure things out as he goes along. Jackson is far from perfect and he isn't afraid to admit that which is something I really liked about him. He also doesn't bitch and whine when things don't go his way but instead, he actually tries to do something about the situation.

Jackson's relationship with Holly was another aspect of Tempest that I loved. Their relationship is quite complicated and continues to get even more so as the story goes on but I really liked this. Their relationship also felt extremely real and that as due to their dialogue and a couple of scenes in particular. They do things that normal, everyday couples do and it was great that Cross let them swear and have an intimate relationship. There isn't too much of either aspect though so it isn't a book completely aimed at the older end of the YA spectrum.

Tempest had a hell of a lot more action than I was expecting. This is a great way to aim the book at boys just as much as girls though and because of the added male narrator, I think this would be a great book for boys. I'm not always the biggest fan of the kinds of action scenes that this book has but I couldn't help but like these. Everything about this book is exciting (even the slow start). The pace is fast and intense but also has enough places where you can catch your breath. The plot has so many twists and turns that made me not know if I was coming or going (much like Jackson) but I didn't care. I was dying to know what would happen next.

Even though I didn't really like this book to begin with, I soon ended up loving it. Tempest is exciting, thrilling and passionate and I can't wait for the other two books in the trilogy.

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