Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart. (From Goodreads.com)


I’d read a lot about The Iron King from fellow US bloggers last year, loved the sound of it and added it to my wishlist. Sadly though I never actually got round to it then, a big mistake I now realise, having just finished in preparation for it’s UK release this February.


Sixteen-year-old Meghan is the outsider at school and her only friend is happy go lucky Robbie. But even he isn’t as he appears, as Meghan finds her beloved baby brother changed beyond recognition, he reveals himself as Puck, the mischievous elf of A Midsummer Night’s Dream fame. Leading her into the dark and dangerous world of the Fey to find her stolen brother and exchange him for the violent changeling left in his place, Meghan is to discover more shocking truths about herself and her heritage, a world she didn’t even know existed. But Megan finds herself caught up in a dangerous battle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and soon comes to realise no-one in the Never Never can be trusted. Not only that but a new, stronger fey are threatening to wipe out Faeryland and are determined that Megan will help them.

Ok, so take every Fairytale you ever read or saw on TV, mash them all together and you have The Iron King. I absolutely loved this book, whose magic and mythology wrapped itself around me and held me captive throughout. While I’ve never actually read A Midsummer Night’s Dream (although I now absolutely want to now, and see the play) which the story centres around, I was reminded throughout of many others including Alice in Wonderland and \Peter Pan, while the imagery had me constantly thinking of the film Labyrinth. 

I really, really liked Meghan. She’s very naïve to begin with, a loner who doesn’t fit in at school and nervous about pretty much everything. One of the main lessons she has to learn during her adventures with the fey is not to take individuals at face value and to never put herself in any of their debt. I loved how she developed throughout the book, growing stronger and surer of herself. Puck is a charming and fun character and provides lighter moments, and I adored Grimalkin, one seriously snarky and sly wise old cat (yet I still get the feeling he’s really a good guy) But oh Ash…dark, dangerous and devastatingly handsome, the Winter Prince had my heart racing. There’s a lot of romance in this book, without being the main focus and taking over the story…it’s like an undercurrent, an atmosphere and I loved it.

Aside from the magic, mythology, action and adventure, what I really loved was Julie Kagawa’s creativity with The Iron Fey. The idea is that Fey are born from our imaginations and dreams, and as that fades, so does Faeryland. But our obsession with industry and technology has created another breed of Fey, the Iron Fey, and their very existence threatens to wipe out Faeryland. I thought this was extremely clever, with characters such as Virus, Machina and armies of Gremlins and Bugs. It was also quite sad, as it drives home what our need for technology does to nature. It’s a very current issue told in a fascinating way and certainly had me thinking about what we really do stand to loose in the future.

The Iron King is a breathtaking journey from start to finish and I enjoyed every single page. It’s an action packed adventure with a racing pace, which will have you turning pages frantically. It’s packed with magic, myth and romance and is so captivatingly vivid, I was daydreaming about this book at work and desperate to get back to it. I laughed, cried and held my breath in awe while reading and was sad to reach the end and leave the story. The ending sets us up nicely for the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, which I can’t wait to get my hands on. The Iron King is without doubt one of, if not the best book set amongst the fey I’ve read and I highly recommend it. 








Published in the UK February 2011 by Mira Ink
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy of this book for review.


You can find out more about The Iron King at www.MiraInk.co.uk 

Book of the month - January


Each month we'll take a look back at everything we read and choose our favourite 

Vicki's Book of the Month

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

I read some fabulous books this month, but the one that stood out for me was Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. I loved everything about it, the world building, the politics between the wolves and their masters and the mythology. Oh, and there's a couple of pretty hot guys in there too!

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything— including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Published January 2011 in the UK by Atom


Lyndsey's Book Of The Month

Arrow by R.J Anderson

Lyndsey's been a fan of the Faery Rebels series for a long time and has a special place in her heart as the first YA books she read. The third installment certainly didn't disappoint, In fact Lyndsey says it's her favourite to date.

Rhosmari trembled as the Empress walked over to her. 'Oh, do not struggle. There is nowhere for you to escape,' the Empress said, her voice silken and sweet. Then she unsheathed a small dagger from her waist. 'This will only hurt a little...' Rhosmari has lived her whole life on a sheltered chain of faery islands. But with the Empress's power growing, and her desire to enslave the entire faery race becoming a reality, Rhosmari knows she must fight back..

Published in the UK January 6th 2011 by Orchard

Author Interview: Savita Kalhan

Savita Kalhan is author of the incredibly creepy novel, The Long Weekend. Welcome Savita and thanks for joining us today!


 Hi Savita, please introduce yourself and tell us about your book The Long Weekend.

Hi Vicki, thank you for inviting me! I’m Savita, apart from being a mum, reading too late into the night, and generally trying to cram far too much into a 24 hour day, I’m also the author of The Long Weekend – the book that’s been scaring everyone half to death! The book is about two boys who are abducted after school – it’s a thriller where the monster is very real and the fear is palpable.

 The Long Weekend is a fantastic thriller. What inspired you to write it and are you a fan of thrillers yourself? 

The inspiration for The Long Weekend came from a flyer that went round local schools warning that a car had been seen loitering outside a few schools and that the driver had tried to snatch children. I was horrified when I saw that. Most kids are pretty aware of stranger-danger, but kids can be easily misled and tricked if they’re distracted. It only takes a moment of not thinking straight. A scenario came to my mind where an abduction could happen with frightening ease.
Yes, I love thrillers! The best ones are so completely absorbing, gripping, full of suspense, and where you deeply care for the fate of the protagonists.

There are some very dark themes and issues touched upon in your novel and unlike many other YA novels, from a boy’s point of view. Was it a conscious decision to make your main characters male and something which was important to you?

It wasn’t a conscious decision, no. When the story arrived in my head, so did the two main characters of the book. It’s true that so many YA books are focussed on girls that it does make me wonder whether most publishers think that as its girls and young women who are doing most of the reading then YA books should generally have female protagonists. Personally, I think YA readers, like all readers, love a good story told well, and all the YA bloggers have loved The Long Weekend.

I thought you captured Sam's voice perfectly. How did you mange to do that? 

I love Sam! I don’t know why or how it happened, but when I sat down to write the story, Sam’s voice was right there in my head. That hadn’t happened before, and as soon as I started writing, his voice flowed and the story poured out. Strangely, the ending of the story was written several months after the rest of the book yet Sam’s voice still remained clear in my head. I have a very sociable 13 year old son, so I do get to spend a lot of time around kids, and perhaps that helped.

I imagine you did quite a lot of research when writing The Long Weekend, can you tell us a bit about that.

Actually, unlike other books I’ve written, I didn’t do any research at all for The Long Weekend. I just sat down every day and wrote. I do, however, know many survivors of child abuse and they have shared their stories with me.

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy reading? If you were to recommend us one book-which would it be?

I haven’t lost my childhood habit of reading practically any genre! So I still love thrillers, modern classics, world literature, fantasy, contemporary novels, teen and YA fiction...

I loved I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti, recently republished as YA novel. Last year’s favourite reads included Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Gillian Phillips’s Firebrand is excellent, as is Before I Die by Jenny Downham.
Amongst my all-time favourite books are – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney, and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, and...
You see, once you get me started, I can’t stop! I find it impossible to recommend just one book.

Can you tell us about your path to becoming a published author? Was it something you always wanted to do? Why Young Adult/Teen fiction?

The path that led me here has been a long, crazy, meandering one! When I was young I wanted to be a teacher, a librarian or a bookshop owner. I never really thought that I could ever be a proper writer! I graduated with a Joint Honours in Politics and Philosophy, but then decided I wanted to turn my hobby in Batik design into a full-time occupation. I had exhibitions, and taught Batik in schools and ran workshops for Art teachers. Then I went to live abroad for several years and taught English. That’s when I started writing. I embarked upon writing an epic fantasy trilogy for teens! After my son was born, I came back to live in the UK and finished the trilogy while he was still young. As soon as he started school, my writing changed and became much more gritty and real, and contemporary. I still wasn’t sure of my writing and I was full of self-doubt – even after finishing The Long Weekend I sat on it for a few months before plucking up the courage to try and find an agent!

I followed the advice in The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, and sent of three sample chapters, a synopsis and a cover letter. That’s when the waiting began – something, I’ve realised, that is part of the writer’s life, so the sooner you get used to it the better!

My agent, Anne Dewe, is wonderful and it was she who found me my publishers – Andersen Press. My editor, Liz Maude, loved the book, and scheduled it for publication within a year (it can take anything from a year to a year and a half for a book to go from manuscript to bookshop!)

I think I fell into writing for young adults and teens almost by accident. It certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. I wrote a lot, and as I wrote I think I gradually uncovered my voice...

Do you have any tips for any aspiring writers out there?

Read, read read! Write, write, write! They’re the two most important things an aspiring writer can do! Have your work critiqued. If a particular style doesn’t work for you, then try a different style until you find your voice. Get an agent, become internet savvy, and meet as many other writers, published and unpublished, as you can. Join a group like SCBWI (society of children’s book writers and illustrators). And lastly, don’t give up!

Finally, what's next for Savita Kalhan? 

Well, I’ve just finished writing a new thriller and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it might get a green light...



Good Luck Savita...we look forward to more from you in the future! 


You can read my review of The Long Weekend here




Waiting On Wednesday

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

Die For Me by Amy Plum


UK                                                        USA 

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything. Suddenly, my sister, Georgia and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent. Mysterious, sexy and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies...immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

I'm not going to lie, it's the beautiful covers that attracted to me to this one. I actually can't decide here which is my favourite (do you have a preference?) I like each of them for different reasons. Then I read the synopsis and wow, Paris! And Vincent Delacroix sounds um..hot! I'm so looking forward to this book!

Published in the UK by Atom May 5th 2011 and in the USA May 10th by Harperteen
                      

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan


Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home. They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn't know how to get them out. They were trapped, then separated. Now they are alone. Will either of them get out alive? This gripping and hypnotic thriller will have you reading late into the night. (from Goodreads.com)

The Long Weekend looks, and sounds, like a dark gripping thriller…and that is exactly what I got. Right from the start Savita Kalhan had me glued to the pages and didn’t let me go until I’d finished the last page.

Eleven-year-old Sam is the new boy at school. He’s been the new boy quite a few times before and finds it difficult to fit in with the cliques and gangs already formed. This time though he’s made friends with popular Lloyd through their joint love of football. Lloyd is very different to Sam, with his wealthy parents and apparent luxurious lifestyle. So when the pair make arrangements to get together after school, he’s not surprised when Lloyds Dad turns up to collect them in a flash car, kitted out with all the latest gadgets.  However, Lloyd thinks its Sam’s parents’ picking them up, and in the excitement neither one thinks to check before jumping in the back. Things soon take a sinister turn however when they find themselves locked in an old mansion and realisation dawns.  And so starts a long and very scary weekend, and someone is keen to make sure they never escape…

What was so absolutely perfect about this book was Sam and his voice through which the story is told. Although it’s in third person, it’s completely from Sam’s point of view and Savita Kalhan captures in him a voice so remarkably strong, unique and believable it blew me away. Using a lot of short sentences and jumpy thought processes, the tension throughout the book builds from Sam’s narration and is consistent from beginning to end, there’s not one dull passage in this book. I particularly liked how Sam grew throughout the book, changing into almost a different person by the end, which given his traumatic experiences, is an incredibly clever tact. To begin with he’s naïve, nervous, anxious, a little bitter and slightly envious of enigmatic Lloyd. By the end he’s a hero, Lloyds support system, a problem solver and the naivety has all gone.

The Long Weekend is incredibly creepy and tense, and being a short read I raced though in just one sitting. There was no chance I’d be able to put it down, the pacing and atmosphere made sure I had to know how it ended. I’m not easily scared, but was left with shivers down my spine at times in the book.  Some disturbing and terrifying issues are brought up, but Kalhan never forgets her audience and doesn’t go in for graphic details. I actually think this would be a good book to either read with a class of pupils 11+ or parents to read alongside their kids as there are lots of important discussion points. If anything, this book will serve as a lesson never to go off with strangers and will surely hook even reluctant readers. 

The Long Weekend is everything it appears to be, a dark, creepy story that is so gripping it’s impossible to put down. If you like being scared and enjoy sinister psychological thrillers then this is a book for you! Even if you’re not sure it’s your thing, I dare you to stop reading once you start.  


Published by Anderson Press October 2008


Thanks to the author for providing a signed copy for review.

Book Review: Arrow by R.J. Anderson

Arrow is the third book in the Knife series by Canadian author, R.J. Anderson. It was published on January 6th by Orchard and the book is 368 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.

Plot
Rhosmari has always lived a sheltered life on a series of faerie islands, hidden away from everything and everyone else. The Children of Rhys are unlike the other faeries. The like to keep to themselves and do not condone violence or war at all but when the Stone of Naming is taken from them, Rhosmari knows that something must be done.

Garan, the faery whom Rhosmari was betrothed to has run off to join the rebels, a group of faeries determined to take down the Empress once and for all. Rhosmari knows that finding Garan may be the only hope of getting the Stone of Naming back and saving her home. What Rhosmari doesn’t prepare for is the Empress and her spies in the real world. Caught up in a whirlwind of adventure, excitement and loss, Rhosmari still needs to save everyone but how far is she willing to go?

What I thought
The Knife series has been one of my favourites for a long time now, partly due to it being one of the first YA books I read and partly due to its awesomeness. 

Rhosmari was a fantastic protagonist. It was nice to see her with other Children of Rhys to begin with as it made a good comparison when she finally made it to the real world. After being hidden away all of her life, Rhosmari has no idea what to expect or how she is even going to manage to find Garan and the Oak. As soon as she began to find her way, she came across as extremely naïve, trusting people far too quickly but I also thought this was believable. Rhosmari never really knew what was happening when she met Martin, who was helping her on her journey so when things didn’t go as she planned, I felt extremely sorry for her and wanted to give her a big hug! As the story went on, Rhosmari really began to grow as a character and realise who she was and to starting knowing what she really wanted out of life. I was glad that she stood up for herself and what she believed in throughout and because she was such a strong character, I loved her.

The Empress is certainly a nasty piece of work. At times though, I really doubted just how bad she was. She has a strange kind of charm though which made me think twice about her at times. Being as manipulative as she is, I did always have the thought in the back of my head that she wasn’t being as truthful as she was making out to be when talking to Rhosmari. The twists and turns concerning her character were exciting and I was always looking forward to what was coming next because I could never quite figure out what direction she was going to go in.

Arrow has a lot of action scenes so I think that this book would be great for boys as well as girls. The mix of action and romance in Knife and Rebel was one of the main things that I loved about them but this time around, I think I would have liked to have seen a bit more on the romance side. I think that is probably more of a girls’ opinion more than anything though but I can see why Anderson kept the mix as it was in order to widen the appeal of the book. While the romance was sweet, I felt like some of it was a little rushed and that Rhosmari and the boy involved didn’t spend enough time together.

The previous books in the series explored different aspects of faery lore and we get something slightly new in Arrow. As the Stone of Naming is a integral part of the story, faery names are explained in a little more detail and why it is so important when they decide to give someone their real name. The fact that the different faeries in the story had different reasons for doing this was really interesting and I loved hearing different characters explanations of why they have done it. I was left wondering what part of the world of faeries was going to explored in the next book in this series.

Arrow was by far, my favourite book in this series so far because of how exciting and interesting it was. I can’t wait for the next instalment, even though there is quite a while to wait.



Book Review: Tyme's End by B R Collins


Bibi feels out of place everywhere - everywhere that is, except for Tyme's End, the deserted house that she breaks into when she thinks nobody is nearby. There she unexpectedly meets Oliver Gardner, the owner of the house, who's just returned after ten years away. Their story and the story of Oliver's grandfather become inextricably entwined, linked as they are by Tyme's End itself. For Tyme's End is more than just a deserted house. It is a house that by turns can be romantic, beguiling, sinister and malevolent. It is a house that had a cruel and manipulative owner. And anybody who enters Tyme's End must prepare themselves for terror ...Part mystery, part psychological thriller, set in the present yet with forays into the past, this is a cleverly ambitious novel that makes for a compulsive and gripping read. (From Amazon.co.uk)

Tyme’s End offered something I adore…a gothic setting, an old mansion and a spine chilling mystery. I love settling down to a book such as this. If it’s cold and dark outside and the fire’s blazing indoors then all the better. And so I was expecting a bit of a treat with this one.

In actual fact though, the book proved to be a little on the disappointing side. I wasn’t gripped with the beginning at all, yet throughout the book there were definite high points. When I turned the last page it was with a feeling of having enjoyed the book enough, but not being completely overwhelmed and slightly dissatisfied.

Tyme’s End tells a story spanning over eighty years and in three parts. Beginning in the present from Bibi’s point of view then switching to 1996 where Oliver Jnr takes over and finally ending with 1936 and Oliver Snr’s story. Bibi certainly isn’t the most favourite character I’ve come across, and for most of her section I found myself irritated by her. Adopted and feeling like she doesn’t fit in with her small village life, she’s prickly, childish and rude. She escapes to the abandoned mansion, Tyme’s End where she eventually runs into its reluctant owner, Oliver Jnr. Over the period of 24 hours an intense and sinister relationship developes between the pair which at times I found a little uncomfortable, forced and not completely believable. I was pretty sure after fifty pages I wasn’t going to enjoy this book at all, then all of a sudden things changed and I found myself intrigued by the mysteries of Tyme’s End, if not particularly enamoured by the characters themselves.

Moving onto the second part of the book, I finally got what I was hoping for. Oliver and his Grandfather’s relationship had me hooked with its dark secrets. In this section BR Collins really shines as a storyteller, dripping in just the right amount of tension and atmosphere to have the hairs on the back of your neck prickling. I was completely involved in this section, reading with held breath and speeding through the pages desperate to know what was happening. I really liked young Oliver too in this section, feeling desperately sorry for this lonely and sad young man and thought that Tyme’s End itself became as much a character here as any of the humans.

The intriguing and atmospheric feeling continues into the final section, set in 1936 and Collins evokes the period wonderfully. At one point I looked up from the book and was almost surprised to find myself in a modern coffee shop and not in the grounds of an eerie mansion in the English countryside back in the thirties. With Oliver’s grandfather, we slowly discover the truth about the house and it’s evil owner, and just how it ended up belonging to the naïve and orphaned student. I was all set for a fantastic finale having enjoyed this part of the book the best. Sadly things became a little confused for me. Collins introduced some spooky and disturbing ideas, but in my opinion didn’t expand enough on them, leaving them very vague, and a lot of the terror was lost for me. I was also disappointed that the house, Tyme’s End didn’t seem as alive and evil as it had previously and that many questions seemed left unanswered.

Overall I did enjoy reading this book, and after a slow start I did find myself gripped and speeding through this book very quickly. At times the atmosphere and tension are absolutely electric and deliciously creepy. The descriptions transported me back in time with such vividness I felt I’d become part of the story. I liked how by the end of the book the connection between Bibi, Oliver Jnr and Oliver Snr became clear and I could understand why all three had been drawn to the house and how similar they were despite being very different people from different times. However I felt that I’d like to have seen more of a connection between the three while reading the novel, perhaps by alternating past and present rather than moving backwards which resulted in the three stories being individual rather than entwined. I was also left feeling disappointed at the drop in tension at the end and frustrated with the questions which were left unanswered. There was a fantastic story there, somewhere in this book…I just couldn’t help feel it could have been much more. I’d recommend as a quick read if this type of story is your thing, but be prepared for not being completely blown away by it. 








Published in the UK January 2011 by Bloomsbury


Thanks to the publishers for sending a copy for review.

Lauren Kate Interview & Giveaway!


I am very pleased to say that we have Lauren Kate with us on the blog today who will be answering some of our questions! Her newest novel, The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove, was recently released on 6th January.

You can find out more about Lauren Kate and her books at http://laurenkatebooks.net/, follow her on Twitter @laurenkatebooks or 'Like' her Fallen novels on Facebook.

Describe your book in 5 words.
Nothing's more twisted than fate. 

Who would you like to see as the main cast if The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove got made into a movie/ tv adaptation?
I'm loving Lucy Hale in Pretty Little Liars. She could do conniving well, I think!

Were any of the characters or their traits inspired by people you know?
This book is more autobiographical than any of the books I've written--not in terms of the plot (no homecoming-related murders up my sleeve, happy to say) but in terms of the social atmosphere and the motivations of some of the characters. My high school social strata was cut-throat and intense and I've always wanted to write about it. The Jessamine corsages that all the girls are obsessed with wearing? That's straight out of my junior year of high school.

What kind of research did you need to do for The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove?
Besides, surviving high school? Betrayal is Macbeth retold from Lady Macbeth’s point of view and set in a high school much like my own. I poured over Macbeth and found so much beauty and inspiration in Shakespeare's character dynamics.

Some authors do certain things while they write like listen to music etc. Do you have to do anything like this while you write?
More when I revise. If I'm drafting new material, I can't hear lyrics or I get all screwed up, but sometimes I'll listen to classical music. I like Debussy. When I revise I'll have Pandora on in the background, often on the Lucinda Williams station.

What is your favourite book of all time and why?
Today, I say Lolita, because I am reading Nabokov's autobiography at the moment and am stunned by his genius anew. But ask me again tomorrow. 

Are there any other YA authors that you admire?
An ever-increasing number! But recently: Phillip Pullman, Margo Lanagan, Brenna Yovanoff, Maureen Johnson, Frances Hardinge, John Stevens, and Suzanne Collins. 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I gave up my dreams of being a principal ballerina around the age of 13. I was told I didn't have the right shaped feet.

We also have one copy of The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove to give away!

UK Entrants only at this time

To enter you must fill in the form below. 

Contest closes at midnight GMT on Saturday 5th February.
Winner will be picked by Random.org and notified by email. Failure to provide a mailing address within 48 hours will result in another winner being drawn.

Good Luck!

Book Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate


The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is the newest novel fromLauren Kate, author of the Fallen series. It was published on 6th January by Corgi Childrens Books (Random House) and it is 288 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.

Plot
Natalie Hargrove is working hard to put her trailer trash past behind her. She has an amazing boyfriend, Mike King, who is both rich and popular. The couple are on their way to becoming Palmetto Prince and Princess and think they have it in the bag but Justin Palmer is also a front runner for Prince. What Mike doesn't know is that Natalie and Justin have a past. A past that she has no intention of telling anyone about.

After a Mardi Gras party where everyone is drinking too much, Natalie and Mike see that Justin has had way too much and decide to play a bit of a joke on him. Dropping him off in front of the church in girls clothes, they think that it is just a bit of fun but something terrible happens. In the morning, Justin in found dead and it is all because of Natalie and Mike. The police are all over the situation and trying to point the finger at Natalie. Her and Mike must cover up what they did in order to protect their dreams of being Prince and Princess.

My Opinion
Although this was only recently published in the UK, it was published last year in the U.S. I already had a copy of this book but the lovely people at Random House sent me an ARC copy with the UK cover. I have to say, that when I read this book for the first time, I didn’t like it at all. The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which I wasn’t familiar with at that time. I had to read it for my degree course so now, when I re-read the book, a lot of it made much more sense.

Natalie is a very shallow and self centred character. Although her own family aren't extremely well off, her boyfriend's parents are. As soon as they get together, Natalie wants them to be the perfect couple and will go to any length to make sure that no one gets in her way. I think that Natalie is the most hard to like protagonist that I have ever read about. Although there is a fair amount of insight into why Natalie did what she did, I still didn’t feel as though I could forgive her for it. All that she came up with were excuses that didn’t cut it in my eyes. Her reasons were never real enough and never justified her being horrible to everyone. Nothing about her made me like her even a little bit and that made reading her story quite hard. You're supposed to end up feeling a bit sorry for her towards the end but I thought she got what she deserved as hard as that sounds. She messed around everyone she knew and for that, I disliked her even more.


Natalie's boyfriend, Mike King was very underused. He played quite a bit part in the story to begin with but after that, he disappeared a lot. Mike is one of the most popular guys in school and should have been a strong character. As Natalie overpowers him for the most part, he ends up coming across as a bit of a wimp. Definitely not what I look for in the hero of a book. As one of the popular guys in school, I was expecting him to have a bit more arrogance about himself and for him to be more sure of what he wanted. I would have liked it if he stood up to Natalie more, even trying harder would have helped but he seemed like such a push over.

Even though I disliked that main characters, I couldn’t stop reading, both times. The first time, I really wanted to know what was going to happen to Natalie and Mike and whether or not they got what they deserved. The second time I read this, I wanted to see if there were references to Macbeth that I obviously hadn’t seen or known about before. For me, this was the most enjoyable part of the book as it stopped me from wanting to punch Natalie even more. I will say this though, Lauren Kate has created characters that you cannot help but hate, even if they are the main characters. This was something completely new for me in a YA book as I usually like at least one main character. It was certainly refreshing to see something different for once.


While I did like this book a lot better the second time around, I was still not even close to loving it. Having read Macbeth did help a lot but the characters were just too annoying for me. It is, however, well written but with terrible characters. I know it sounds a bit of a cop out saying that I didn’t like it because I didn’t like the characters but for me, if I don’t like them, I don’t really care what happens. I will still keep reading Lauren Kate’s books though, especially the Fallen series and I look forward to what she brings out next.

Book Review: Being Billy by Phil Earle


Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did. Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else. Can he? (From Goodreads.com)

I hadn’t heard anything about Being Billy until it dropped through my letterbox, but as soon as I read the synopsis I knew it was going to be an important read for me.

Being Billy follows the story of Fourteen-year-old Billy Finn. He’s grown up in care for the last eight years after his alcoholic mother, Annie, chose his abusive stepfather over him. The only real constant in his life are his 10 year old brother and sister, who have also spent the majority of their life in the children’s home, and carer Ron, or the colonel as Billy calls the tough and regimented ex-army soldier. Billy’s angry and doesn’t care who knows it, but the social workers are warning him he’s on his last chance at the kid’s home. The last thing Billy wants is to be taken away from the twins who rely heavily on him, but with Annie having turned a new leaf and the twins spending more and more time with her it looks like his worst fears are about to come true. Is Billy about to loose it one time too many?

Wow. This book was intense indeed. Right from the very start Phil Earle creates in Billy a character so full of depth and complexities and so perfectly crafted it’s impossible to not think of him as a real person and become completely involved with his story.

Everything about this story rings true. Phil Earle worked in the care sector before he moved into book related jobs and this more than shows. He gets how a child in care really does feel; something I don’t believe just comes from the job itself but from a person who sees beyond it. Having experience of local authority care myself many years ago I recognised Billy: the anger, fear, distrust, vulnerability and feelings of hatred at others and himself.

What was especially fascinating with this book was seeing Billy’s relationships, which in turn allow the reader to see him from very different angles. With his mother he is resentful, distant and angry, with the twins he is caring, gentle and protective while the other kids at the home provoke a nasty and violent reaction. Then there’s the relationship with Daisy, new girl at school and fellow child of the care system. Here we see him unsure but hopeful and for the first time opening up to another person.

My favourite relationship however was with Ron, Billy’s long-term care worker at the home and pretty much the only consistent adult in his life. Seeing this relationship develop was just stunning. Billy detests Ron as he represents everything about the system he so hates being a part of. As we read from Billy’s perspective throughout the book I felt pretty much the same way about him to begin with, until little things are dropped in which slowly gives the reader a bigger picture and had me urging Billy to see what was right there in front of him. This relationship had me brimming with tears more than once.

Being Billy isn’t an easy read, far from it. However it is a book that should be read. This is an emotional book, one that will really make you stop and think and get right under your skin. It’s gripping from the first page and by the end you will be sure these characters actually do exist and care deeply for them. I felt every injustice Billy endures and was thinking about him long after the last page. Possibly one of the most realistic books I’ve read for a long time, I highly recommend it. 








Published January 2011 by Penguin


Thanks to the publishers for providing an advance review copy.

World Wide Competition to meet Stephenie Meyer!

The lovely people at Atom sent us emails telling us about this awesome contest and we just had to share it with you!


LITTLE, BROWN BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
TO HOST AN INTIMATE GATHERING OF
TWILIGHT FANS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
TO MEET STEPHENIE MEYER

TWILIGHT INTERNATIONAL FAN EVENT
TO CELEBRATE UPCOMING RELEASE OF
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: THE OFFICIAL ILLUSTRATED GUIDE

ATOM FAN COMPETITION ON WWW.STEPHENIEMEYER.CO.UK

London (12th January, 2011) – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, will host a special International Fan Event, featuring Twilight fans from around the world.  Ten fans will be chosen to have an once-in-a-lifetime intimate meeting with international bestselling author Stephenie Meyer.  The event coincides with the upcoming release of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (April 12, 2011; £17.99).

Little, Brown US is partnering with the Twilight Saga publishers around the globe to find the lucky Twilight fans who will attend this event. Atom (an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group UK) will be running a competition in their international English language territories (Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK) to find one super fan to join fans from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Taiwan at the exclusive event.  Each special guest will receive an advance copy of The Official Illustrated Guide and get to talk extensively with Meyer, who will answer their Twilight-related questions. 

“The one thing I miss most about my first book tour was the chance I had then to spend quality time with my readers,” said Meyer.  “At an event with just ten or twenty people, I was able to get to know everyone a little bit.  I could also more effectively answer each person’s questions.  I’m so excited to have that opportunity again, and to get to spend time with fans from many different places and backgrounds.”

“We receive hundreds of travel requests for Stephenie from our foreign publishing partners every year,” said Megan Tingley, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.  “Since it is physically impossible for one author to be in so many places, we thought this would be a great way to bring some fans to her.” 

Fans from Atom’s international English language territories will be invited to upload a short video clip explaining why they are the ultimate Twilight fan. Finalists from Australia, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK will go on to a final judging round, from which the ultimate Twilight fan will be picked. Further details can be found at www.stepheniemeyer.co.uk.

Due to the intimate nature of this event, details regarding the location and timing are being kept confidential.  Photos and additional details will be distributed upon the event’s conclusion.

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide provides readers with exclusive new material and everything they need to further explore the unforgettable world Stephenie Meyer created in Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner.  The Guide also includes character profiles, outtakes, a conversation with Meyer, genealogical charts, maps, extensive cross-references, and much more.  Originally announced as “The Official Guide,” The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide includes illustrations from several artists, including Young Kim, the illustrator behind the #1 New York Times bestselling Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1.

In five years, Stephenie Meyer has become a worldwide publishing phenomenon.  The Twilight Saga’s translation rights have been sold in nearly 50 countries and 116 million copies have been sold worldwide. 

Atom is an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, a division of Hachette UK. Launched in 2002, Atom publishes fiction for young adult readers with writers as talented and diverse as P.C. & Kristin Cast, Melissa de la Cruz, Lisi Harrison and, of course, the phenomenal bestseller Stephenie Meyer. For more information visit: www.littlebrown.co.uk / www.atombooks.net  

Good Luck to everyone who enters!

Book Review: Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Rules of Attraction is the second book in the Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles. It was published on 6th January by Simon and Schuster Children’s Books and it is 368 pages long.

Plot
Carlos Fuentes does not want to leave his family in Mexico. Although his life isn’t fantastic, he doesn’t want to leave his mother and brother in order to live with older brother, Alex. Carlos is quite a free spirit who doesn’t like being told what to do so the idea of conforming to Alex’s rules doesn’t sound much fun at all.

Kiara Westford is Carlos’ opposite. She’s extremely shy and likes to shut out the world. She certainly doesn’t live on the edge. When her and Carlos’ lives collide, Kiara is forced to re-think her life and what she is all about. Carlos is determined that Kiara thinks that she is too good for him, due to her families way of life but he never said he was interested in her, did he? As they get to know each other, they realise that they have so much more in common than they both thought was possible. Their quickly growing connection scares them but can Carlos and Kiara get over their initial fears in order to find something amazing?

What I thought
After reading Perfect Chemistry last year, I was dying to read the next instalment of the Fuentes brothers’ stories. As soon as I got my hands on a copy of Rules of Attraction, I couldn’t put it down.

What I liked about Carlos was that he was so different to Alex. He quite liked his dangerous life and didn’t want to try to do any better. When their mother ships Carlos off to Colorado to live with Alex, he isn’t pleased at all, knowing that Alex will try to change him and to try to make him live a straight edged life like he does. Carlos does have some of the traits that I loved about Alex though. He’s cocky, arrogant and full of himself but funny at the same time. I know they aren’t the typical things to look for in a guy but I can’t help liking the bad boy in a book. He also has a tattoo in a very sexy place but I will leave you to find out where.

Kiara comes from a well off family so instantly, Carlos has a bit of a dislike for her, thinking that she believes she is better than everyone else. He couldn’t be more wrong. Kiara was a really sweet character and is very shy when it comes to letting anyone in. For years, Kiara has had to go to speech therapy to sort out her stutter and because of this, she feels very insecure about being around people and in sticky situations. She does have best friend Tuck to look out for her though. What I liked the most about Kiara was that she was so different to the popular girls she hated at her school. Instead of worrying about her hair and what she is wearing, Kiara would rather be fixing up her car or taking a hike in the mountains. It was great to see a girl who wasn’t self obsessed at all.

The chemistry between her and Carlos was fantastic right from the very beginning. Both characters were quite witty and the conversation between the two bounced off of each other very nicely. I loved seeing what comeback they would think of next. As Carlos slowly gets to know Kiara, even though he doesn’t want to, he realises just how much he likes her. Because of this, a completely different side to Carlos is shown. For a small amount of time, gone is the full of himself gang member and out comes the guy who would do anything for this girl. I have to say that their relationship, when they weren’t bickering at each other, was extremely sweet and I couldn’t help routing for them the whole way through.

One of the things that I liked about the previous book was how hard hitting the parts about being in a gang were. I felt like this was an aspect that was toned down too much in this book. I felt utterly terrified for Alex but I didn’t get that same feeling this time around for Carlos. While I knew things could turn out really badly, the same impact just wasn’t there and I my heart didn’t skip a few beats like it did last time. Luckily though, one extremely steamy scene made up for this.

While I thought Rules of Attraction was really good, I didn’t love it quite as much as Perfect Chemistry. Maybe that’s my love for Alex showing through. Overall though, Rules of Attraction is a great read and one for fans of the first in the series. I still cant wait to see what happens with the youngest brother of the bunch, Luis.

Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy of this book for review.





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