Book Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

Wolfsbane is the second book in the Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer. It was published by Atom on 26th July and the book is 400 pages long.

Plot
In the lair of her sworn enemies, the Searchers, Calla Tor wakes up certain it is her time to die. Why else would she have been shot at and kidnapped?

Instead of ending Calla’s life, the Searchers make her a very interesting offer… work with them instead. Help them stop this war once and for all. Save her pack. Save Ren. More importantly, help Shay fulfil his destiny. If Calla decides to risk everything for the people she once thought she would never trust, she has to realise what it may cost her. Will saving Ren and her pack mean losing Shay in the process or is he really going to be there for her no matter what? Is stopping the war worth risking losing everything for?

What I thought
There are many YA books about werewolves available now but the Nightshade series is by far one of my favourites.

Andrea Cremer’s writing is amazing. Quite plain and simple really but that’s exactly how I feel about it. While the book has a dark and mysterious tone throughout, the characters and language used was very real. Even though we are smack bang in the middle of a story about werewolves, there is a simple reality to the whole story because of the writing. Yes, some of the characters are werewolves but behind that, you can see that they are just normal people as well. They have the same problems and fears as everyone else but they also have a bit more than normal to deal with.

Cremer doesn’t hold back on the language she uses and I loved this. I have a big thing about the language used in YA books because some writers don’t write believable characters at all and it’s all down to the way they speak. The characters in Wolfsbane aren’t afraid to swear at each other (in the right context of course) and while this won’t be for everyone, I think it fit in to the story perfectly. A big war is about to happen and people are angry and upset so lashing out with what they say to people is only natural and this is captured wonderfully.

Although the first half of this book is quite slow going, I loved it. As Calla and Shay are with the Searchers, we get to learn so much more about both of their backgrounds. There is a lot of mythology put into the first half of the book and while some people may find this a bit boring and frustrating, I loved it. I think having all of this information answered a lot of the questions that I had from Nightshade but also it gave the characters a lot more depth and meaning. I could understand a lot of the characters much better knowing what they had come from and now, what they were about to face.

As Calla and Shay are now away from the other wolves and with a whole new group of people, they have a lot of time to grow closer but also further apart at the same time. I have always been split when it comes to the love triangle in this series and this book hasn’t made my choice any easier. As much as I love Shay and the way in which his character develops in this book, I seriously missed Ren. In the last book, I wanted to slap him for being such an idiot but as he wasn’t around in Wolfsbane much, I would have happily had that idiot back. I can definitely see why Calla is having such a hard time realising where her heart really lays and I can’t wait to see who she chooses in the end.

Calla is the character who really changes a lot in this book. Gone is the strong and confident leader we first met in Nightshade and instead, she is now very unsure of what she is doing… in all areas. Now that she is alone with Shay and Ren isn’t around, Calla feels guilt like there’s no tomorrow. Although she loves Shay, she can’t help but feel something for Ren still but she doesn’t know how to deal with these feelings. Shay doesn’t exactly help in this department either. Also, Calla is trying to do what is best for everyone, especially her pack but now she doesn’t know who she can really trust so again, her feelings are split in two.

While I did love Wolfsbane, it did feel a bit like a filler book to me. It is the middle book of a trilogy and there was a lot of explaining before anything really happened. Now that a lot of that is out of the way, I can see the final book being non stop throughout and I can’t wait for it to be released already.

Haunted Blog Tour: Guest post by Jamila Gavin

As part of the Haunted blog tour, we have a guest post from Jamila Gavin, who has a short story in the book, about Halloween and horror!
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When I was a child I don’t think people celebrated Halloween in Britain or in India – except - at the American school I went to for one year in India; they celebrated Halloween. Certainly this was the first time I’d ever heard of it. I was nine years old living in Mussoorie, a hill station, and it was close on a mile walk from our bungalow, down a winding mountain path to the school where there was to be a Halloween fancy dress party. My mother got together odds and ends to create some kind of costume and I had to make the walk all alone, dressed up, and rattling with paraphenalia, as my mother had my younger sister to look after.

Halloween is all about being scared, but nothing was more scary for me than the real thing.

I’ve had some good frights in my life; I mean inexplicable ones. Like the time I stayed as a guest right at the top of a Victorian house. I woke in the night to see an elderly man coming into my bedroom wearing long johns. He sat down on the edge of my bed, flicked off his bedroom slippers and got in with me: not by me or on me but right through me. As I rolled away in horror, my brain was saying:”this can’t be real. This isn’t happening.” And my absolute belief that it had to be a dream meant that I didn’t rush screaming from the room, even though my heart was thumping fit to burst. When I had calmed down, I stretched out a hand across the bed to reassure myself I was the only one in it.

Next morning I said to my host over breakfast. “If I believed in ghosts, which I don’t, I’d have said I saw a ghost last night,” and I told her what had happened. When I described the elderly man, she looked very disturbed, and said quietly, “it used to be my father’s room when he was alive, and he wore long johns.”

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Haunted is available now but you can also read Jamila's contribution 'The Blood Line' here!!

Book Review: My Soul To Steal by Rachel Vincent


My Soul To Steal is the fourth book in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent. It was published by Mira Ink on 21st October and the book is 304 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Plot
After Kaylee Cavanaugh’s boyfriend Nash became addicted to Demon’s Breath, making up and trusting him again is extremely hard and it isn’t the only thing she has on her mind. Kaylee is a Bean Sidhe, a banshee who screams right before people are about to die! If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Nash’s ex-girlfriend that Kaylee knew nothing about has just turned up in town and enrolled at the same school. Like Kaylee, Sabine is no ordinary teenager. She is a mara… a real life nightmare… literally! In order to stay alive, Sabine must drain energy from people’s nightmares and as people are dying in their sleep, she is at the top of Kaylee’s suspect list.

In order to get Nash back and to get rid of the crazy ex-girlfriend, Kaylee must uncover what is really going on before something extremely bad happens. However, Sabine has other ideas and knowing Kaylee’s deepest, darkest fears and she isn’t afraid to use them against her to get everything she wants!

What I thought
This is a series that has quickly become a favourite of mine. As soon as I finish one book, I am left desperately wanting the next one but they just don’t come out quickly enough! 

This doesn’t happen much but Kaylee is a character that doesn’t really bug me a whole lot. During a series of books, the main character usually has a point where I want to slap her but not with this one. Even after all Kaylee has had to deal with, she is still strong and mostly knows what she wants. This book is a little bit of an exception when it comes to the latter because of her situation with Nash but I could overlook that. As Nash hurt Kaylee so badly, she has a lot going on in her head and this makes it harder for her to make solid choices but I could totally relate to this. Still, even with this going on, Kaylee still tries to be the best she can be and to stop bad things from happening.

What I loved about this book compared with the rest of the series is that it steps up the adult themes a notch. Now, I know this is still a young adult book but it is aimed at the older end of the spectrum and I like that! Too many authors shy away from the topic of sex and relationships in a real way so I was glad to see this explored a lot more in this book. Sex between Kaylee and Nash has been an issue in the previous instalments but I liked the way the story was taken this time around, especially with the addition of Sabine. 

Sabine was really a breath of fresh air for this series and although she causes problems, big problems, for Kaylee, I really want her to stick around. She added a very fresh and new kind of character to an already fantastic series. Due to having a hell of a lot more life experience, everything about her is different; from the way she talks to the way she acts/ reacts to certain situations. I know Kaylee and Emma would never act in the same way but this is why I loved her so much. Sabine also added a real human (forgetting that she is infact not human!) element to the story which hasn’t really been seen in this way before now.

As for the plot, I loved it. I am always astounded by how many different situations Rachel Vincent can come up with for Kaylee and the gang without sounding monotonous. Her imagination is certainly wild but it is also extremely entertaining. The Netherworld is brought back into the plot once again but this time, not quite so much. I do love the parts set in The Netherworld but it is also nice to see the characters react in the real world without having crazy plants or demons to contend with at the same time. The main idea of the plot was interesting and instantly had my attention as soon as things began to happen!

Overall, I think this is my favourite in the series so far. I am so excited to see what Sabine has up her sleeve next and I am really praying that she doesn’t run off any time soon. Once again, Rachel Vincent had me start a book and not move until it was finished!

Book Review: My Soul To Keep by Rachel Vincent

My Soul To Keep is the third book in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent. It was published on 15th April by Mira Ink and the book is 368 pages long.

Plot
WHEN KAYLEE CAVANAUGH SCREAMS, SOMEONE DIES
AND KAYLEE IS ABOUT TO SCREAM HER HEAD OFF...

Kaylee has one addiction: her very hot, very popular boyfriend, Nash. A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them.

Until something does.

Demon’s breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The Netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow, the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends—one of whom is already hooked.

And when the epidemic hits too close to home, Kaylee will have to risk everything to save those she loves


What I thought
As soon as I read the first book in this series, I was hooked. Unfortunately, I had to wait quite a while before being able to buy the third book.

Just like the other books in the series, My Soul To Keep gets off to an extremely quick and exciting start. Rachel Vincent doesn’t mess around when it comes to getting the party started and this one goes off with a bang. I really loved how quickly this book got exciting and I could see that it probably wouldn’t be slowing down at any point. I was right. The whole book moves along at a really nice pace, mixing faster more thrilling parts with slower, more explanatory bits but I liked it this way. Just at the right times, the pace slows down enough for you to get your breath back ready for something else to happen.

Although this book has a supernatural twist, it still manages to deal with normal teenage problems albeit in a slightly unusual sense. A theme running throughout the whole book is the use of and addiction to drugs. This is a massive problem to address but Vincent does it really well, making it possible to see this happen in a normal situation. The problems and side effects associated with drug use are shown quite graphically at times but I thought that this helped to show just how serious a matter it is.

I’ve always loved the relationship between Kaylee and Nash and although this may sound strange, it is because I can see things wrong with it. Now I’m not saying the author has missed something out here but more that I can see that they aren’t perfect and even though they have a lot of supernatural issues to deal with, they are also just a normal couple at the same time. Nash has a history with girls so I am just waiting for it to come back and bite him on the arse. In this book, cracks begin to show between Kaylee and Nash and I was glad about this. While it was good to be reminded of them not being perfect, I also wanted to shout at Kaylee and say ‘Get on with it already!’. If you read the series then you’ll know why!

My Soul To Keep reintroduces some favourite characters from the previous books and one I was ecstatic to see was Tod, Nash’s dead brother. He always brings so much to each story and I really hope that he will be around for the duration now. As well as the characters we have already met, it was good to see the addition of new ones, both good and bad. The bad guy in this series creeps the hell out of me and My Soul To Keep didn’t do anything to stop that, it only made it worse. I seriously had chills from this guy.

As this series grows, with each book we get to learn more about the Netherworld. I completely love this aspect of the series because it is so dark and scary and also because of how complex and exciting it is. Something new pops out of the shadows each time we take a trip there and I’m always on tenterhooks to find out what it is going to be. It is always a surprise and not what I’m expecting at all.

This is one of my favourite YA series and cannot praise it enough. I really don’t have a bad word to say so far. I cant wait for the next book in the series now to find out what happens next with Kaylee and Nash.

Blog Tour: Mantelpiece Musings: Interview with Annabel Pitcher

Today we are very happy to be a part of Mantelpiece Musings, the blog tour for Annabel Pitcher's 'My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece'. Below you can see our interview with the author herself!

Describe your book in 5 words.
Oooh, tough!  No, wait, is that two gone already? Those words don’t count do they?! Right, let’s start again. I would describe My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece as real, funny, quirky, emotive and hopeful.
 
Did you need to do any research for My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece?
I did a little bit, checking my facts about Islam and visiting websites devoted to people who had lost their lives in terrorist attacks, but mostly I just wrote as authentically as I could, drawing upon my own experience. I find it very easy to empathise with people, so it wasn’t too difficult to imagine the father and his reaction to losing Rose, or how a child of Jamie’s age might become fed up of the attention given to her urn on the mantelpiece.

Who would you like to see as the main cast if My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece got made into a movie/ TV adaptation?
There are some fantastic questions here. I have never been asked this before.
Okay, here goes... (swigs tea and loads up Google)

Jamie – Ryan Turner from the front cover and trailer
(see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7GQljV3xtQ&feature=related). He’s always been my Jamie, ever since I saw him in the promotional video.

Jasmine – Saiorse Ronan.  She’s a good actress, very real and raw and sort of strong yet vulnerable, which is important for Jas.

Dad – Right, this is a strange one, but I always picture Simon Pegg. Though he’s better known for his comedic stuff, he’s a great dramatic actor as well, and he’s a little unhinged but empathetic, which is crucial for Jamie’s father.

Some authors do certain things while they write like listen to music etc. Do you have to do anything like this while you write?
I prefer to work in silence, but when that gets too much, I always listen to classical music when I write. Anything with lyrics I find too distracting.
 
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Since about the age of ten, I always thought of writing as one of my career options – but I also considered playing for Manchester United (men’s team) and becoming an international spy. I wasn’t particularly serious about it, but I knew that I loved writing and I loved the way I felt when I was making up stories, and how fun it was to invent different worlds. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started to take my ambition to be a writer more seriously. In a bookshop in Ambleside, I suddenly realised that people were making a living as authors, and there was no real reason why I couldn’t give it a go too. That day, I bought loads of notepads and pens and started to jot down different ideas. A couple of years later, I wrote My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.
 
Are there any other YA authors that you admire?
I like Jennie Downham for the courage of her writing. She deals with difficult subjects in an unflinchingly honest way, never becoming sentimental or resorting to cheap shock tactics. The characters in her books feel so real, as if they are people you could meet in the shop or at school, and that is difficult to achieve. I also admire David Almond. He writes poetically, really focusing on the lyricism and sound of the words, and is more concerned with the beauty of a piece of work than its commercial appeal. I respect that.   
 
What is your favourite book of all time and why?
The Go-Between. It is a beautiful, coming-of-age tale that perfectly captures the uncertainty, pain and excitement of leaving childhood and being on the brink of adolescence. I’ve read it five times and I’m sure I will read it five more!
 
What book are you reading at the minute?
At the moment, I am laughing my way through Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman.  

Which YA (human) character would you love to be and why?
Hermione in Harry Potter, for her brains, her guts and the adventures that she has. I’d love to escape from a goblin bank on the back of a dragon, hunt for horcruxes, sleep in a magical tent in the middle of the countryside with Ron Weasley... Yes, I’d do all of that quite happily!

Which YA (non human) character would you love to be and why?
I think I’d have to be Pan, Lyra’s daemon, in Northern Lights, for his ability to shape-shift. Imagine being a bird when you just fancy getting away from it all, a mouse if you want to hide from the world, a lion if you need to be brave... Incredible.

Thanks so much Annabel for answering our questions! It has been a pleasure having you on the blog today!

The new edition of My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece was published by Indigo on 29th September!

Book Review: Angel Fire by L.A.Weatherly

Angel Fire is the second book in the trilogy by L.A. Weatherly. It was published by Usborne on 1st October and the book is 720 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Plot
Now on the run from the Church of Angels, Willow and Alex are running out of options. As a half-angel with an Angel Killer boyfriend, Willow knows there aren’t many places to turn to. Their only hope is to follow one of Willow’s psychic dreams to Mexico. As the pair find their bearings in the midst of a group of AKs, Willow feels everyone’s eyes on her. Alone, not trusted and under suspicion, Willow finds peace in Seb, the boy from her dreams. However, Seb is also a half-angel, something Willow thought didn’t exist and she cannot help but be drawn to someone who has been searching for her his whole life.

What I thought
First of all, let me start by saying that Angel Fire is one beast of a book. At 720 pages long, it hit my floor coming through the letter box with a massive THUMP! It sat there sitting on my shelf for a few days before I could even start reading it because to be honest, it intimidated me a little bit!

I completely and utterly loved the first book in this trilogy, Angel and fully immersed myself in the lives of Willow and Alex and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store next for them. I really liked the way that the story started off. With Willow and Alex on the run from the insane Church of Angels, I liked how they decided where they were going to go next and how all of that happened. Also, as the book doesn’t focus solely on Willow and Alex it meant that we get to meet Seb extremely quickly.

To start with, I was a massive fan of Seb and thought that I was going to completely change my allegiance from Alex to him. The build up of Seb and Willow meeting was the best thing about his character and I hate having to say that. I enjoyed reading about Seb’s upbringing, his past and the things he has been through but as soon as he met Willow, everything changed. Their relationship was far too much too soon for my liking and it all felt unnatural. I understand that Seb had been looking for Willow his whole life and felt a connection to her but it just didn’t sit right with me.

I have always wanted to go to Mexico so I was very excited by the fact that most of the book is set here. L.A. Weatherly paints a picture so vivid and clear that I could imagine myself there with the characters, watching what they were getting up to. At different stages, the scenery was beautiful and peaceful but then she would take you to the streets filled with busy markets and then to the AK headquarters. There was so much variety for me as a reader to take in and I really liked getting to explore different aspects of Willow and Alex’s adventure.

When it comes to the plot, there was so much going on. With the addition of some exciting new characters and the Church of Angels being thrown into the mix once again, there is always something exciting happening in Angel Fire. While I did like most aspects of the plot, there were some I wasn’t so crazy about. I really thought that the 12 Angels were going to be so much more of a big deal than they actually were so I was left quite disappointed about this. I wanted to get to know the 12 and to find out what they were all like but there wasn’t much given away unfortunately. Even so, making up for this was a lot of action, massive fights and a hell of a lot of tension between some of the characters.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Angel Fire nearly as much as I did Angel. I think this was mainly down to not getting to know some things and the way that I felt about Seb. I am firmly on Team Alex when it comes to this series and I really don’t think I’ll be changing my mind any time soon! Even though I didn’t like this as much as Angel, I do think the final instalment will prove to be explosive, exciting and emotional!

Book Review: Wild by Aprilynne Pike

Wild (also known as Illusions) is the third book in the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike. The book was published by Harper Collins Children’s Books on 28th April and the book is 356 pages long.

Plot
Last year Laurel begged Tamani to let her go and forget about her so she could get on with her relationship with David in peace and without being tempted. A lot has happened since then.

Somewhere close, a hidden enemy threatens to ruin everything that Laurel has worked so hard to achieve. Even though she spends her summers studying a different form of education now, all she really wants is the chance to be normal. Although she doesn’t want to, she knows the only person who can really help her figure out this new enemy is Tamani. This time, the threat is so large that Laurel is far from sure that they will win and it also means that her choice between the different worlds is coming closer to being made.

What I thought
I think that the Wings series as a whole is probably the cutest I have ever read about and what’s wonderful about it is that it has a completely new and refreshing take on faeries.

Wild’s pacing was pretty damn perfect for me. Aprilynne Pike’s books start off pretty slow and then really build up to some amazing action. The pacing seems really natural instead of jumping backwards and forwards being different things. The fact that Wings lets us see into the human world as well as Avalon, the faerie world really broke up the monotony of the book just being based around the characters being in high school and doing regular teenage things like going to dances etc. Having Avalon in this book a little bit reminded me of the magic that is behind the whole series.

I loved, loved, loved the fact that Tamani is back in this book. I didn’t agree with the fact that Laurel sent him away in the last book although I could completely understand her reasoning for doing so. She has never wanted being a faerie to change who she is and still wants to have a normal, teenage life and having Tamani around will never allow for that to happen. As much as I like David, that is as far as it goes for me with him. He’s a nice guy and has stuck with Laurel through a hell of a lot with Tamani is really the one who Laurel should really be with. I think that David has had more than enough time as Laurel’s boyfriend as now, it’s about time that Tamani gets a real shot with her. I have totally been Team Tamani since day one.

The newcomer in this book is Yuki, a foreign exchange student from Japan. I really didn’t want to say this but I completely hated her. I don’t think she does much for the book (although I think she will in the next one). Although she is a main point of the plot, she is in the background for the most part and I didn’t think having her in like this was really worth it. If she is what everyone thinks she is then she should have had a much bigger role and been in the forefront more. I really thought that Yuki was annoying more than anything else and she was actually pretty bland and boring. Considering what she was brought in for, I think she could have been a whole lot more interesting.

Another aspect of the book that I really liked was the trolls. I have liked (well, not actually liked obviously) them since the first book and I think that they make a great enemy for the faeries. This is a really different enemy compared to others in YA books and it makes for a very welcome change. The contrast between the beautiful faeries who look like flowers and the ugly, clumpy trolls was amazing for me and it really shows the differences between good and evil. Although they are recurring baddies in this series, each book brings a new problem for Laurel and the gang each time they get way more inventive. I kinda hope that the troll problem isn’t solved quickly as they are always entertaining to read about.

Wild is a fantastic third book in the series and I can’t wait until next year when the fourth instalment is released. Highly recommended.

Book Review: The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? 

Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane? 

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver... 

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it (From Goodreads.com)

There are a lot of reasons why The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight appealed to me. Firstly I’m a huge believer in fate and destiny and all the ‘what ifs’ of the synopsis intrigued me. Then there’s the fact that under the cynical shield I at times portray, I’m a BIG romantic and while love at first sight is a topic that divides opinion, I’m firmly on the it can happen side. Finally, there was one night, spent sitting in an old castle gardens chatting books with several of my favourite and most respected book bloggers when this book was discussed with such high praise and enthusiasm that it went to the very top of my can’t wait to read list. When I was lucky enough to receive an early copy I was ecstatic!

The Statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight is set over a 24-hour period, where Hadley is travelling from the USA to London to attend her father’s second marriage. Only this isn’t a happy occasion, as Hadley still hasn’t forgiven him for abandoning her family and moving thousands of miles away. When by chance she meets with fellow traveller, Oliver, she has no idea of the impact he will have on her.

Wow, what an emotional and romantic journey this book is. Every single word that Jennifer E Smith writes conjures up feelings so intense it’s like I was experiencing it myself rather than through Hadley. I absolutely loved this book from beginning to end.

I’m going to let you into a little secret. Quite a lot of years ago now, I made a journey from my home in Northern England to London overnight by coach and found myself sitting next to this gorgeous guy, spending the next nine hours falling in love. There’s something about travelling at night and meeting a stranger who you somehow just click with that’s almost magical. I remember feeling like I’d met a kindred spirit, that possibilities were endless and that the night would go on forever. Jennifer E Smith exactly imagines those intense feelings I remember perfectly. Right down to the end of the journey where in the cold light of day, awkwardness and reality returns and it becomes almost like a dream. For me though, that’s where things ended as we muttered goodbye in the busy, dirty coach station, leaving me with my own ‘what ifs’. As a reader I was so invested in Hadley and Oliver, I was screaming at them to not let each other go.

Stories about love at first sight have to be believable to work, and for me Jennifer E Smith’s debut definitely hits the mark. Because the entire book is set over just 24 hours, the reader can experience the building relationship between Hadley and Oliver so rather than be told they suddenly have these intense feelings, you actually witness and experience them developing. Both characters become rounded and real as they share their stories with each other and I admit to being just as charmed by the gorgeous Oliver as Hadley is herself. What I really love about this book is the simplicity and humanness of it. There’s no twists, monsters in the closet or flashy tricks. It’s just a beautiful and touching story of two people meeting and connecting in unusual circumstances and leaves you to imagine for yourself what the future will hold for its characters.

The statistical Probability Of Love At First Sight is one of the best books I’ve read this year and definitely makes it into my top recommendations list. With a release date in January 2012, I suggest you pre-order it now. It’s the perfect book to lift any post Christmas blues and cheer and warm your heart. If you have an ounce of romance in your soul, you’ll love this book. 




Published by Headline UK 5th January 2012
Thanks to the publishers for sending an advance copy for review.

Book Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die is the first YA novel by Jenny Downham. It was first published in 2007 but has had multiple make-overs from then until 2010. The book was published by David Flickering Books (Random House) and the newest version is 327 pages long.

Plot
Sixteen year old Tessa is dying. She knows she doesn’t have that long left and there is no cure. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, Tessa makes a list of things she wants to do before she dies.

No. 1 - Sex

Tessa’s Dad is extremely protective of her, especially since she got ill so Tessa has to go behind his back to complete her list. Best friend Zoey is on hand to help but doesn’t always give her what she needs. Taking a chance on her own, Tessa begins to go off the rails, until she meets Adam. The guy from next door is unlike anyone that Zoey has tried to set her up with. He’s different. He cares. He’s everything that should be bad for Tessa but she can’t help herself. She might be dying but she’s also falling in love.

What I thought
I had heard a lot of great things about this book but knowing the subject matter, I really had to be in the mood to read it. One night when I couldn’t sleep, I picked this up…and I didn’t put it down.

How could you not feel for Tessa? I thought she handled her illness extremely well considering everything that was going on around her. I think if that were me, I would also want to achieve certain things before I died, especially only being 16 years old. The things on her list were, for the most part, very reasonable and I think quite common for anyone her age. Who would want to die a virgin? Who doesn’t want to do some crazy things in her lifetime? Her list got me thinking about the things I would have put on my own at 16 and I think that a lot of them would have been the same. I wouldn’t have cared whether they were plausible or not.

I loved Adam and could tell that he was going to be someone amazing to Tessa. Their relationship is far from happy all the time and the pace of how things work out was realistic. This is definitely not one of those books where a couple fall in love stupidly fast and everything works out well. Their relationship is hard and it takes a lot of work, both Tessa and Adam have their own problems and dreams to work though. Adam was slightly mysterious to start with but I was glad to see that his secrets were slowly revealed. I think Adam was the best thing that could have happened to Tessa as it changed the whole way that she looked at the rest of her life. At least she got to be happy, even if it was for a short time.

I really didn’t like Zoey for the most part of the book. She was horrible and extremely selfish when it came to helping Tessa with the things that she wanted to do. She was pushy and arrogant and I didn’t warm to her at all, not even at the end of the book. I was glad when Adam appeared in Tessa’s life and showed her what a real friend was like. I think that Tessa would have been much better off without Zoey being around her so much at such a hard time in everyone’s lives.

Watching how Tessa’s family cope with the situation was very interesting. The way her Dad reacts to certain things changes all of the time, like he is coping better at certain times, rather than others. Putting all of that aside, he really is Tessa’s rock, always being there for her and thinking of what is best, even if she doesn’t believe that herself. Little brother, Cal was one of the characters that I felt the most sorry for though. He didn’t really know what was going on, other than the fact that his sister was ill and he didn’t know what to do about it. Cal got angry a lot of the time because his sister was getting a lot of attention and he was feeling left out. It was a shame that the family didn’t have more support so that Cal didn’t have to feel like this though.

Before I Die has got to be the saddest book I have ever read. I love Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember and this book made me think of that a lot. There are a lot of similarities but they are completely different stories. I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard at a contemporary novel. It was so much that I had to put the book down for a minute and sort my eyes out so I could actually see and finish it. Before I Die is a must read and one that I wish I had read a lot sooner.

Book Review: The Lost Saint by Bree Despain

The Lost Saint is the second book in The Dark Divine series by Bree Despain. It was published by Egmont on 7th March and the book is 416 pages long.

Plot
By making the ultimate sacrifice to save her boyfriend Daniel, Grace Divine was infected with the werewolf curse and lost her brother, Jude, at the same time. She would have done anything possible to save Daniel and the love that they share. When Jude went missing, Grace never thought she would hear from him again but after a haunting phone call from him with a warning, she knows what she must do. The only hope of saving Jude is for Grace to become a Hound of Hell.

On the mission to find Jude, Grace befriends newcomer Talbot who knows of her secret and assures her that he can help. He can help her come the superhero that she so desperately wants to be. Using her powers for good is the only thing Grace can think of. As Grace and Talbot grow closer during their training sessions, Grace’s relationship with Daniel begins to fail. As she grows stronger, the wolf in Grace begins to show through more than it should and when a deadly trap is set, she wonders if she has the strength to let the right person come through and not give in to everything that she was warned against.

What I thought
The bulk of this book focuses on Grace and her struggle to control the wolf within her. All Grace wants is to be able to use her newfound powers for a good cause and become a Hound of Hell, someone who can really make a difference in a world full of crime. This aspect of the story really shows just what a wonderful character Grace really is. After risking everything to save her boyfriend and taking on a terrible curse herself, she still manages to find the strength to fight for a better cause. Everything is completely selfless with Grace and I loved this about her.

Something that I had a problem with in the first book of the series, The Dark Divine, was the amount of religion added into the story. Now, I have completely changed my opinion on this. While it felt overpowering the first time around, I think that now, it only strengthens some of the characters, Grace in particular. Her religious upbringing really shines through and shows that she really has some great morals. Being brought up the way that she has been, Grace knows that there is a lot of bad in the world but also people can actually do some good and change things and this is why I liked the religion aspect of the book this time around. I think without this upbringing, Grace would have been completely different and would have made different choices.

As Grace is desperate to find her brother Jude, knowing how troubled he is, she manages to get herself in quite a few sticky situations. At the same time, she meets Talbot, a mysterious young man who she is quickly drawn to. With Daniel being as distant as he has been, Grace turns to Talbot to learnt the things she thinks she should be learning. Talbot tends to keep himself to himself and because of this, we don’t really get to learn that much about him but I liked that. I enjoyed not knowing what he was really all about and not knowing if he was really trying to help Grace or not. As much as I loved this new character, Daniel really grew on me a lot more in this book. After changing, he shows a completely different side to his character and it was one that I didn’t really think we would ever get to see.

I love how this gave the book a more action packed feel to it compared with the first in the series. The whole second half of the book is extremely exciting and I was reading as fast as I could to find out what was going to happen. There are some pretty big twists in this book and some of them I didn’t see coming at all. Due to certain events, I was always unsure as to whether I was thinking the right thing or not and I really liked the fact that I couldn’t figure everything out immediately. I think that this was mainly down to the fact that I was always unsure about a lot of the characters and this mystery really helped to keep things interesting.

The Lost Saint is a fantastic sequel which builds up to a huge cliff-hanger ready for the last in the trilogy. This book was quite a bit darker than the first but I really loved that about it. If you haven’t started this series yet, you should, ready in time for what should be a very exciting ending.

Book Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Sweetly is the second book in the Fairytale Retellings series by Jackson Pearce. It was published by Hodder Children's Books on 6th October and the book is 336 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Plot
Twelve years ago, Ansel, Gretchen and her twin sister went into the woods looking for a witch. Only two of them returned.

Years later, Ansel and Gretchen have been thrown out of their house, left to fend for themselves. When their car breaks down, they find themselves in the small town of Live Oak, South Carolina. People in Live Oak don't like outsiders though and the only place for the siblings to stay is with Sophia Kelly who lives on the outskirts of town. Although both Ansel and Gretchen feel safe for a while, it isn't long until Gretchen realises the witch they once ran from is lurking in the dark.

Sophia holds a chocolate festival every year but immediately after, girls go missing. The town's people blame it on Sophia but there is someone who knows the truth. Together, he and Gretchen must find a way to stop any more girls going missing.

What I thought
I loved, loved, loved the first book in this series, Sisters Red which was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. As I have mentioned before, fairytales are the topic for my dissertation so I am trying to read as many as possible but I actually wanted to read this one anyway.

What I love so much about Jackson Pearce's writing is that she gets right back to basics of fairytales. Her writing is dark and gritty in the places it needs to be but also manages to weave in a magical element. The world she has built in Sweetly is very mystical. Although I knew the basics of the story of Hansel and Gretel, Pearce leaves room for her to put her own stamp on it and this left me guessing where and what the twists would be. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, something completely different did and I was thrown, not knowing, again, what would happen next.

From the original story, you wouldn't think that Gretel was a tough heroine but now that she has morphed into Gretchen, this changes. I really enjoyed the changes that Gretchen went through in Sweetly. At the beginning of the book, she is quite unsure of herself due to her sister going missing all of those years ago. She has never really known how to cope with what happened and certainly hasn't gotten over it in any way but when she arrives in Live Oak, this begins to change. Meeting new and different people shows Gretchen that she isn't the only one with problems and bad things happening to her. One person she meets in particular has a massive effect on her life and I loved the interaction between the two characters.

Even though Sweetly and Sisters Red are two completely different stories, they are a part of a series and do have something that links them together. The Fenris are so scary and creepy that I kind of didn't want them to make an appearance. That being said, they added a fantastic horror element to the story. The scenes with these creatures are extremely creepy and I didn't actually see them coming which made them even scarier. The Fenris also add a lot of fast paced action scenes which I completely loved. A lot of the book is quite slow paced due to Ansel and Gretchen getting themselves settled in a new place but once the action gets going, it really gets going!

Sophia was a complete mystery to me and I was extremely thankful for not being able to guess what was going on with her. Even though I knew something was obviously not quite right with her, I had no idea what it was. The thing about Sophia is that she just gets on with her every day life, making chocolates and doing the things that she needs to do. There doesn't seem to be anything too special about her for a long time in the book, apart from the fact she is beautiful and makes awesome chocolates. I couldn't tell if she actually was a witch or something else entirely or nothing at all! There was a hell of a lot of mystery surrounding Sophia and I was quite shocked when things about her began to be revealed.

Jackson Pearce, once again, hits the nail on the head when it comes to fairytales. 

Book Review: Prized by Caragh O'Brien (Birthmarked 2)

US Cover

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime.  In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole? (From Goodreads.com)

A few months ago I read Caragh O’Brien’s first book in the Birthmarked series and I absolutely loved it. The writing style was right up my street and everything I want in a dystopia: poetically beautiful prose, a strong brave lead character and most importantly a believable world (to quote myself). So when I noticed Prized, second book in the series available on Netgalley, it wasn’t long before it made it’s way to my kindle.

Prized picks off pretty much exactly where Birthmarked left off with Gaia struggling for survival after fleeing the Enclave. On the brink of death she’s rescued and taken to Sylam, a small colony of people with a very different way of living and strict moral order, which Gaia finds difficult to accept. Only this time, there’s no escape.

Once again O’Brien creates a desolate and believable world, where climate change and a dwindling population has created a new society with new rules. I thought the idea that women rule was ingenious and at first was ‘yay! This will be great’ I mean, how many times have we females thought the world would be better if we were in charge? :P But the saying absolute power corrupts absolutely holds true and The Sylum society has an Orwellian feel. It’s both fascinating and terrifying all at once.

What I really like about O’Brien’s series is the many themes it throws up, not just political but environmental and genetic, and without being heavy or complicated really encourages the reader to think. These are issues, which are completely conceivable, I can understand and see how they’re created. Despite some pretty heavy themes though, I always find the writing absorbing and easy and like Birthmarked I flew through Prized in a couple of sittings.

UK Cover
Gaia again was a character who appealed to me and gained my respect. I love her fierce loyalty and sense of what’s right. Sometimes I felt she acted selfishly in her quest for justice and allowed others to be sacrificed but then I guess this is what makes her a great leader. I was fascinated by Sylum’s hierarchy, in particular the Matrarc, who is a complex and intriguing character. One thing I didn’t enjoy so much was the introduction of a love triangle, or even square and Gaia’s indecision and recklessness where it was concerned. I love Gaia and Leon together, and enjoyed the subtle chemistry in Birthmarked, I just felt this book didn’t really need the added complications, it has enough to carry it without.

Not everyone is going to love this series: if you like your dystopia desolate and thought provoking and don’t mind a lack of obvious action then I would recommend you look it up. Personally it’s exactly what I want, and despite a couple of complaints with the unnecessary romance, I wasn’t disappointed with Prized. The book finishes in such a way I can’t wait to find out what happens next and will certainly be looking out for another book in this series (as yet unnamed but scheduled for Autumn 2012) 


Published by Macmillan Childrens Book (US) 8th Nov 2011/ Simon & Schuster (UK) 11 Nov 2011


My copy was an ebook proof courtesy of Netgalley 

Book Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Forever is the third and final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. It was published by Scholastic on 12th July and the book is 496 pages long.

Plot
As a wolf, Sam watched over Grace for years until the day came where, as a boy, he was able to hold her in his arms and carry out his dreams. Since that day, it has all been about Grace.

Grace’s life is now completely different from everything that she ever thought it was going to be. Nothing about her life is certain anymore and due to some massive changes, that now includes Sam, the one person she thought she would have for forever. As Sam faces a life without Grace, he realises that he will have to face his scariest demons straight up in order to save her…and the wolves. Sam is willing to risk everything he has in order to save Grace but will it be in time?

What I thought
Forever was one of the books that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this year and as soon as I picked it up, it didn’t take long at all for me to finish it.

The thing that I love about this book (and the series) is that it is told from different points of view. While this is something that has been done a fair bit in YA books, I think that this is a book that does it the right way. Getting to hear what is happening from Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel’s view meant that we were really able to get the whole story. There is so much happening in this book and I think that if it had been told from one or even two points of view then we would have missed out on so much that was important. This way of telling the story also lets us get to know more than the two main characters and I liked that there were more people really involved than that.

The first half of the book was quite slow going for me and it felt like it was more of a filler than part of the real story. There wasn’t an awful lot happening apart from explanations of some kind or things trying to be figured out. Nothing major really happened and I would have loved for there to be more tension or action in some parts which would have broken up the pacing a little bit. The second half of the book was much better though and this is where the story really got interesting. There are all kinds of crazy things going on in all directions and it made the story more interesting that it already had been.

Some of Forever was pretty predictable but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I would have been quite upset if some of the predictable things hadn’t happened. To counteract the predictably parts, there were a few things that really shocked me and things that I didn’t see coming at all. This really did break up the slower parts of the book and added a lot to the mystery and excitement of what was going to happen next. There were definitely a few parts that made me gasp with shock and I wasn’t expecting this at all.

The thing that made me love this series as a whole was the relationship between Sam and Grace. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is so beautiful and poetic that makes it near impossible to not fall in love with these two characters. Over the course of the series, they have both been through a lot and I think both have coped extremely well with what has been thrown at them. Sam was the standout character though out of the two in this book as he was around that little bit more. Through Sam’s point of view, I could really feel everything that he was feeling and experiencing and it made me feel as though I was there with him at some points. Grace was still wonderful in this book but I just think that she was overpowered a little bit by Sam and also Cole and Isabel who I loved completely.

I hate to say it but I was really disappointed with the very end of this book. After such a dramatic ending to the trilogy which I did love overall, I think that some of the ends could have been tied up a lot better without characters being left all up in the air. I really wanted to see everyone settled and happy but this really wasn’t the case. There are still questions about the main characters that I would like to have seen answered but this just wasn’t the case. I think the ending let down what was an overall great book and it would have put it in the amazing category instead.

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