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I've moved ... you can now find this blog at CosyBooks.Blog ...same content, different place!

Book Review: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

*** This is a review of the second book in a series. If You haven't read Delirium you might want to look away NOW ***

Love, the deadliest of all deadly things. It kills you when you have it. And when you don't.

I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
push,
push,
push,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Pandemonium is a poignant, explosive, recklessly romantic and utterly heartbreaking novel. Like Delirium, the first in the compelling trilogy, it will take you to the very edge. That's all you need to know. We'll let Lena do the rest of the talking . . .(From Amazon.co.uk)

One thing's for certain, Lauren Oliver knows how to leave a reader desperate for more. When I read Delirium over a year ago I couldn't believe I'd have a whole twelve months to wait for the next instalment. THAT ending! How could she do that? There was little doubt I'd be getting a hold of a copy as soon as I could and I almost jumped for joy when my pre-order landed on my door mat a few days early last week. I ditched everything else in my TBR and dived straight in.

Pandemonium is a book of two parts told in alternating chapters titled Then and Now. Then picks up almost immediatly where Delerium left off and follows Lena's story as she faces life in the wilds. Now is six months later when she's become part of the resistence and finds herself undercover in New York. Normally when a book is split between times like this I have a favourite period, but in Pandemonium each one is equally as brilliant.

It was fascinating to discover The Wilds beyond the fence we heard so much about in Delirium and we're introduced to some interesting new characters, Raven and Tack. Life in the Wilds is brutal, it's a fight against the elements to survive but what stands out in these sections is the belief and care in others the people have.They look out for each other, it's all about surviving together and they embrace their differences. In stark contrast we also get a glimpse into a political pro-cure organistation Deliria Free America (DFA) who are sterile, cold and calculating.

Pandemonium is far edgier and action packed than Delirium. Lena has come so far from the girl she was back then, Lauren Oliver has created and developed this character with intricate detail and care. There's also a new boy on the scene too, Julian, Lena's exact opposite and head of the DFA youth movement. Throwing them together the way Oliver does was ingenious, creating masses of tension. As much as I like him, he's no Alex though. And that's as much as I'll say about that.

I grabbed every available moment I could to read this book and got through it in one day. In a lot of ways I liked it more than Delirium, I liked the pace and the action which I found gripping. It shouldn't have been a surprise at all to get to the end of Pandemonium and be slapped with another gut wrenching 'omg' cliffhanger. I don't know whether to love or hate Lauren Oliver for doing this again! Pandemonium is a cracking sequel that lived up to the anticipation I'd placed on it and fans of Delirium won't be disappointed.

Published by Hodder & Stroughton  March 2012 (UK)

Book Review: The Catastrophic History Of You And Me by Jess Rothenberg


Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever. 


BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally. 


But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after. 


With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces? ( From Goodreads.com)

I'm going to find this review very difficult I think, due to a fear of giving too much away. So I apologise in advance for vagueness.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me isn't exactly what I was expecting and is hard to categorise. The entire story takes place in Brie's afterlife and is incredibly surreal. Jess Rothenberg has a very readable, witty writing style and with the book split into sections covering the five stages of grief it's easy to become absorbed. I read it in just a few sittings over a couple of days.

I liked the originality of the book. I've never read anything like it before and I had no idea where it was going. I loved the idea of splitting the book into the stages of grief, so each one became a stage or lesson that Brie needs to work through. It did strike me a little odd that the grief was the dead persons, for themselves, at first but then I would probably grieve for myself too in that situation. Being an 80's child I also really liked the references to eighties music with song titles or lyrics mainly from that era titling every chapter...in a very clever way! Patrick was by far the most interesting character in the book and I admit a little soft spot for him...you really can never go wrong with a cheeky chappie on a motorbike can you? OK maybe that's just me then.

So there was quite a lot to like about this book, and despite the suggestion from the cover and synopsis it isn't as light as it appears giving the reader things to think about. However I had an issue with a major aspect of this book, namely the dieing of a broken heart. This appears to be literal, and Brie's behaviour after her death to the boy she blames for her broken heart is diabolic. Even more shocking is the fact these are 15 year olds. Now I'm not belittling the pain that a break up can cause, at any age, but particularly that age. I've been there, I felt my world was ending. But I didn't like the message that was sent out here, that she actually dies because a boyfriend of eleven months breaks up with her? (this isn't a spoiler. It happens in the first few pages) It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Some effort is made to explain the condition towards the end, but it's very vague. Oh and talking about age... I found Brie so confusing. At times she (and her friends) seemed older than 15. Then other times, a lot of other times, she was pretty bratty and immature.

I ended up having mixed feelings with this one. Yes, it was beautifully written, quirky, original and compelling enough but I just couldn't connect with Brie that much and found her a confusing character. I can see a lot of people really loving The Catastrophic History of You and Me, for me it was just ok.

Published February 2012 by Penguin (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review purposes.

Most Popular Blog Posts (And we want to know what yours are too!)

A few days ago I was having a twitter conversation with Jess (of Jess Hearts Books) which led to us thinking about our most visited blog posts ever. We were both pretty surprised by the results and thought it would be a great idea to share them, and for you to share yours too. 

My Top 10 Popular Posts Of All Time


So I was pretty surprised to find the top two posts were book reviews. I've not read either of them (they were reviewed by Lyndsey) and the NO.1 spot is a pretty negative review at that. But at least the top spots are taken by reviews right? Because after all, this is a book review site.

3. 1st Blogoversary Giveaway (January 2011)

Giveaways are always popular, so I'm not particularly surprised that these two feature in the top 10 posts, especially as the Glee giveaway (courtesy of Headline) was awesome.


Another two book reviews. A year on and these are still attracting big hits from Google. People do search for book reviews then.


I love the fact that Carly's guest post makes the top 10 most visited pages of all time. People really like summer beach reads and beach bonfires!
I'm also really pleased to see a book review from a British Author on the list too, and dare I say, a book that isn't one of the *big* paranormals.


Who said people don't read interviews and blog tours?

********

So, that's my top 10. I'm very pleased to see that book reviews are the most popular posts on this site. What's became clear to me though is that these posts are still getting hits a year or more after they were posted despite them not being my most commented on posts by a long stretch. The discussion on popular posts came about after discussing the merits of interviews/guest posts/blog tours as a lot of people feel they aren't that popular. yet my stats show they are, certainly in Google searches. Maybe as bloggers we need to remember we're not just writing for other bloggers?

Oh and clearly anything to do with Angels are always a winner. Who knew?

Check Out Jess's Top 10 over at Jess Hearts Books

Want to share your stats? 

So in the name of scientific research (or plain nosiness) Jess and I would love you to share your most popular posts too. To take part just put up your own post similar to this one linking back to Jess and I. Then come back here and leave the link in the comments. If time is short just share your top 3 in the comments below.

To find your top 10 posts in blogger, simply go to your dashboard, click stats, then posts, then all time.

Look forward to seeing your results!

Book review: Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

For the first 50 pages of this book I was fully prepared to give up on it. I was beyond confused at the new world we are dropped into with very little explanation and didn't have a clue what was going on. But then it all clicked into place and from then on I was hooked.

Under the Never Sky is set at an indeterminable time in the future, where the population is split into two due to the dangerous Aether  covering the sky. Aria is a dweller, raised in an underground pod with virtual reality to occupy those who've never been outside. Perry is an outsider, one of those who roam the wastelands in an unforging and brutal landscape at the peril of aether storms. When fate throws them together, it's with great reluctance. But with each desperate to find a missing loved one they are forced to work alongside each other and embark on a dangerous journey of survival.

The book begins with Aria. Her world in the pod is alien and complex and at first I really struggled to get to grips with it. Veronica Rossi doesn't ease the reader in slowly, more plonks them right in and I truley felt I was in another world. Once I got my head round the ideas though I absolutely loved it. It doesn't take too much to imagine a world where people live in a virtual reality. Where Aria's world is futuristic, on the outside Perry's is primeval. The people on the outside live in clans and at the mercy of the elements.  I loved the contrast between the two, though immediatly preffered Perry's. Despite the dangers the outsiders faced I'd take that over a life stuck in a pod where you have everything you wanted or could imagine, though none of it is real. The aether itself is a constant, threatening presence and is described so vividly I could see it in my mind, despite the fact I had no idea what it was to begin with.

Told in a switching third person narrative by both Aria and Perry, Veronica Rossie ensures we really get to know both of these characters very well. I didn't like Aria to begin with, but throughout the book she developes into a strong heroine. There isn't a pivitol moment where this happens, she doesn't suddenly turn from protected weakling to kick-ass. It's a quiet and believable progression. Perry on the otherhand was fascinating from the start (and also particularly swoon worthy!). If I'm ever stuck in a post apocalyptic world, he's the guy I want with me. As with Aria's developement, Rossi takes a slow approach to the romance in this book. And wow, did I get fully caught up with it. There's no instant attraction here, the pair connect through need rather than want and the chemistry between the pair is as electrifying as the aether that constantly threatens them.

Despite the slow start, Under The Never Sky turned into a fast paced, thrilling ride which had me hooked. It's tough, bloody and action packed at times with some heart stopping moments that kept me turning pages as fast as I could. Although I was baffled with the world to begin with, Rossi captures it so well that once you get it, it becomes believable, detailed and developed, so much so that while reading it I felt I was actually there. I would like to know what happened to make the world how it is in Under the Never Sky, as this isn't covered. Maybe that will come in following books in this series, which judging by the ending of this one promise to be every bit as good. If you like your dystopia worlds bleak and ruthless with an action packed and fast paced plot, then I recommend Under The Never Sky.

Published February 2012 by atom (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for sending a copy for review.

Author Interview: Charlie Price ( Desert Angel )

I recently read and reviewed the tense and terrifying thriller, Desert Angel, by Charlie Price ( Review HERE ) Charlie kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the book and writing in general...

Hi Charlie, thanks for visiting us today. Can you tell us a little about your book and the inspiration behind it?

Desert Angel follows a fourteen year-old girl as she flees one step ahead of her mother’s murderer through the barren country around the Salton Sea in southern California. By chance she encounters the Mexican American illegal immigrant community and they shelter her while she searches for options.

My wife and I were driving though the country where the book was set, looking at the hardscrabble dwellings and the dry empty land and I began wondering what a girl’s life would be like if her mother followed a handsome but cruel man to such a place. I had worked with girls from similar backgrounds in county locked facilities and I knew how dangerous some of those situations are and how desperate a teenager trapped in such a place becomes.

You previously worked with at risk kids, can you tell us how much this influenced Desert Angel?

Angel is emblematic of several girls with whom I worked: tough, gritty, raw, energetic, and at their wits end. What can they do to change their lives and find a viable future? Most fear it’s hopeless. Their spirit collapses from time to time and they can become self-destructive (cutting) or suicidal, but with a little validation for their struggle and worth, they persist in searching for new resources and a solution.

Desert Angel provides a glimpse into a rural community that is both very closed and private, yet generous and warm to Angel. Did you do any research to make it so believable and realistic?

My daughter was partly raised by a marvelous Mexican family that spoke only Spanish in Oakland California. When she was two, my wife and I moved to Mexico for a year. I had worried we might not be safe. Turned out we were far safer in the Interior of that country than we were in the states and the strangers we met were unfailingly kind and especially sweet to children. During the book writing, I checked my colloquial Spanish (I’d taken the formal language in school) with a young woman who worked with illegal immigrants in southern California and she strengthened my impression of their altruism. Most of them help each other and easily identify with others who are oppressed. It saddens me that many in the United States are so angry at the illegal immigrant community, especially since, unless we’re Native American Indian, we’re all immigrants!

I thought Desert Angel was very tense and the dialogue in particular added to it. Was this intentional?

Yes. I was hoping this story would be hard to put down, once someone started reading. I wanted the pace and the prose to be fast, most of the time. But there were other reasons. Angel is shy, under-socialized, home-schooled. She has not had girl friends or confidants. Talking to adults, except for her mother, feels awkward. The men in her life have often flirted with her, making their conversation unwelcome. With the Mexican-American community, there can exist a bit of a language barrier so their English conversations tend to be less wordy.

I also thought Desert Angel would make a great film and could see it playing out in my mind. If Desert Angel were a movie, are there any actor's you'd have in mind for the lead roles?

Angel needs to be fourteenish, blondish, gritty, tenacious, and almost terminally self-reliant. – Kristen Stewart (The Runaways)

Scotty, slick and venomous. (the killer) – John Hawkes (Winter's Bone)

Rita, steadfast and perceptive. (the woman that takes Angel into her home) – Rosario Dawson (Unstoppable)

Vincente, a hard-working fun-loving hot-headed. (Rita’s husband) – Michael Peña (Tower Heist)

Momo, strong, good-looking, inexperienced but willing to risk. (the boy that tries to help Angel) – Victor Rasuk (Stop-Loss)

Ramon, kind, but tough and unflappable. (a leader in the immigrant community) – Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica)

the Director, a person who can blend the combination of edgy thriller and the marvelous, impossible enigma of adolescent girls.

– Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight)

When you’re not writing what do you like to read? Which books would you recommend to those who enjoyed Desert Angel?

I love to read fiction books that that have rich believable characters, books that grab me from the first page and don’t let go.


I also read non-fiction books about Decision Making and other brain operations. I love that research is indicating human beings are not as reason-driven as we’d like to believe.

For Desert Angel readers, I’d recommend The Killer’s Cousin by Nancy Werlin – chilling, eerie relationship between a boy (murderer?) and his younger female cousin; Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams – marvelous funny girl protagonist solves a crime; Peace Like a River – great characters, multi-layered story. And readers might like my previous book that won the 2011 Young Adult Edgar Award, The Interrogation of Gabriel James – a boy grilled by the police about his role in two killings resulting from his effort to help a shy girl with a bizarre home life.

Finally, do you have any tips for aspiring writers out there?

Yes.

1) The better you examine and understand your own feelings, motivations, decisions, and those of people you encounter, the better and more realistically you’ll be able to

write. Characters are more important than plot to a story. Believable characters help a reader stay engaged and care about what is going to happen next.

2) Analyze what you like when you read and ask, how is the author capturing me? What makes the dialog effective? How are the characters described?

When you watch a movie or play, ask the same kind of questions: Why is this actress so convincing and another, not? How does the movie maker create mood and setting besides using music?

3) Write about things that intrigue you or trouble you. Turn your mind loose and see what ideas surface as you type away.


Thanks for stopping by Charlie and taking the time to answer my questions.

Find out more about Charlie and his books : Website / Goodreads

Waiting On Wednesday: Fingerprints Of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and allows us to spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia

I spotted this over at Kristi's (The Story Siren) IMM blog on Sunday and fell in love with the cover IMMEDIATELY. Then I read the synopsis and it sounds pretty awesome!


Lemon grew up with Stella, a single mom who wasn’t exactly maternal. Stella always had a drink in her hand and a new boyfriend every few months, and when things got out of hand, she would whisk Lemon off to a new town for a fresh beginning. Now, just as they are moving yet again, Lemon discovers that she is pregnant from a reckless encounter—with a guy Stella had been flirting with. 

On the verge of revisiting her mother’s mistakes, Lemon struggles to cope with the idea of herself as a young unmarried mother, as well as the fact that she’s never met her own father. Determined to have at least one big adventure before she has the baby, Lemon sets off on a cross-country road trip, intending not only to meet her father, but to figure out who she wants to be. 

Lyrical and moving prose from an original voice whose writing Judy Blume calls “luminous” deftly depicts the nuanced conflicts of early motherhood and the search for identity.

Published August 2012 by Simon and Schuster (US)


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Book Review: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Trapped on board the spaceship Godspeed, Amy trusts no-one. 

The ship's ruler is dead and a rebellion threatens. Amy wants to help Elder as he tries to take charge, but she's torn between her feelings for him and the chaos that's pulling everything apart. As more harrowing discoveries are made about Godspeed, Amy is caught in a desperate race to unravel its secrets. Only one thing is certain. 

They have to get off this ship. 

The heart-stopping sequel to Across the Universe: a story of love, murder and madness - set in space. (From Goodreads.com)



*** This is a review of the sequel to Across the Universe. To avoid spoilers for either book I'm keeping it very short and vague*** 


It seems like a lifetime since I read Across the Universe and was blown away by it. At almost eighteen months on I was a little concerned I'd find it hard to pick up the story in A Million Suns. I needn't have worried because as soon as I started reading it all came back to me. I was completely drawn into the world of Godspeed once again.

And Wow... it;s very, very rare I say this about a sequel, but I actually think I liked this one better! It picks up very shortly after ATU ends and continues the dual narrative between Amy and Elder which I love. I find the world aboard the spaceship so well crafted and the voices of the two main characters genuine and authentic. Before I picked up this series I would have said I didn't like sci-fi. But Beth Revis pulls me in with a fascinating plot full of twists and turns and a beautiful romance. I'm a convert and now count this as one of my most favourite series ever. 

A Million Suns follows a period of transition for the people on the ship, and most particularly for Elder. I feel we really get to know his character here and I thought the dynamics of the ship were fascinating. It ends on a huge cliffhanger which leaves me desperate for the third and final book, Shades Of Earth, and I can't believe I have to wait until 2013. 

If you've yet to try this series I suggest you obtain a copy of Across the Universe asap. Even if you think you hate Sci-Fi...give this a go. And if like me you've been long awaiting this sequel but have been worrying it won't live up to the first, then I can put your mind at rest and promise that you won't regret keeping up with this series. 

Published by Razorbill January 2012 (my copy is a US Hardback)

The UK edition is published April 2012 by Penguin. Here's the cover. I prefer my hardback personally. I do like the mechanical and futuristic look but it's so different to the cover of the Across The Universe cover, it just doesn't match (I hate that!) It has a bit of a Hunger Games look about it..right? Maybe that's no coincidence.

You can read my review of Across The Universe HERE

Book Review: Yesterday's Sun by Amanda Brooke

I always make a point of checking out books from Richard and Judy's book club, so when I saw the newest selection in Smiths recently I had a quick browse. Yesterday's Sun by Amanda Brookes caught my eye because of the pretty cover and the recommendation on the front from author Katie FForde claiming it 'Magical and Unputdownable'. When I read the synopsis describing the story of a woman offered a glimpse into her future by a mysterious Moondial I was sold.

Holly and Tom have just moved into their dream home and are about to embark on a new five year plan. For Tom this involves a family, but after a childhood of neglect and bitterness Holly isn't so sure. When she comes across a box containing a glass orb and strange mechanical objects during the renovations, Holly doesn't know what to make of them. Until it becomes clear that they belong to the stone sculpture Tom unearthed and plans on using as the centerpiece of their large gardens in the belief it's a sundial. But when elderly neighbour Jocelyn tells Holly it's actually a moondial, Holly is intrigued. One night when the moon is at it's fullest Holly feels an irrisistable draw to the moondial and places the glass orb into the mechanical contraption she painstakingly put together. She isn't prepared for what happens next. For Holly is offered a glimpse into her future. One which includes a beautiful baby daughter and for the first time Holly feels the stirrings of maternal instinct. But something is wrong with the picture of the future. It doesn't include her at all. Holly must work out if she can change her destiny, or will it become a choice of Holly's life for her daughter's?

I love time travel stories. I love real life settings with a magical twist. I thought I was onto a winner with this one, it contained both elements and sounded incredibly emotional too. Unfortunatly this one fell short and left me disappointed.

I encounted problems very early on in the book. Amanda Brookes writing is very readable, but personally I didn't find it at all convincing. Holly and Tom are in their early thirties, yet I've never met anyone of this age who talks the way they do. They just weren't believable at all. Secondly, it's a bit of cliche overload to the point of being cringeworthy at times. Finally it's so sickly sweet, the scenes between Tom and Holly left me wanting to gag. If the writing wasn't so easy going I would have given up very early on. Besides, I really wanted to know what the deal with the moondial was.

I actually thought the premise was a really good one. Imagine being offered a glimpse into a future which didn't include you and the only way to save yourself was to sacrifice someone else? The workings and history of the moondial are what kept me going and were at times fascinating. But as Holly wasn't interested in having children in the first place I wondered what message Amanda Brookes was sending out here. Tom is very persuasive and pressurising towards Holly in the early pages regarding her having children and Holly's emotional attachment to the child she glimpses in the future is immediate. Is she saying that a womans role is purely motherhood? I'm not sure. I didn't get it.

Maybe the book lacked a little emotional involvement for me. It's written in a third person narraitive from Holly and tells rather than shows Holly's turmoil. Again I thought the over sentimentalaity and outdated character speach distanced me. It felt like I was supposed to find this story heartrendingly sad but the truth is I didn't. And I'm the biggest wuss going and cry at anything usually. I also saw the plot twist coming about 100 pages before it happened, convinced myself it couldn't be that obvious and read on to find it actually was.

I did like the wise old neighbour Jocelyn however. She's a figure of strength and the little glimpses into her story were fascinating. In fact, this is whose story I wanted to hear full stop. Everyone else were charicatures, and old fashioned ones at that and I didn't like any of them. The other plus is that this is a pretty short book. It's only just over 300 pages and an easy quick read to pass a couple of hours. Overall though this book wasn't for me. Too syruppy, no emotional connection and the story was the wrong one, from the wrong person.

Published by Harper (Uk) January 2012

Book Review: Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale

When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all... Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own - one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all... (from Goodreads.com)

Like twisty, turning plots that will keep you on your toes? Well then Someone Else’s Life is for you! I honestly can’t imagine what was going on in Katie Dale’s head as she planned this story or how on earth she kept up with it all but it’s very, very clever. Every few chapters she hits you like a bolt out of the blue with another great twist, leaving me open mouthed.

Someone Else’s Life follows Rosie as she comes to term with the death of her mother from the hereditary condition Huntington’s disease and discovers that she isn’t actually her mum after all. Katie Dale doesn’t take a gently, gently approach. I was surprised at just how brutally honest Someone Else’s Life is from the very beginning.  Her characters are complex and flawed, and react in human ways, which aren’t always pleasant but are believable. This kind of book could easily get wrapped up in over sentimentality but Dale doesn’t give into it.

I knew absolutely nothing about Huntington’s disease before reading this book.  Without overwhelming the reader with medical jargon we get an insight into the terminal disease and genetics, which was very interesting. But this isn’t just a book about a family ripped apart by illness or a quest to find biological parents. It throws up many other questions along the way. Is knowing your fate being forewarned or is it better to enjoy your life while you can? How much does biology make a family or is is it down to more than DNA? Can changing the fate of others ever pay off even if you truly believe you are doing the right thing? as well as many others. Yet it manages to never be preachy and the questions are drawn from the readers themselves rather than thrust upon them from the author.

For such a complex book, Katie Dale manages to keep the story easy to follow and uncomplicated, even when the lives of the characters most definitely are. I’ve seen this book described as Picoult for a younger generation, and I’d agree it has some elements of Jodi Picoult’s novels. While I think it is more accessible though, Someone Else’s Life doesn’t simplify things and would appeal to both teens and adults alike. This is a gripping, emotional roller coaster with a very real and human cast. It does border on the over dramatic at times, and things fall into place a little too easily now and then, but over all I thought this was a very clever plot well done. I certainly couldn’t put it down and thought long and hard about some of the issues it raised, most particularly would I want to know if I was going to develop a horrendous illness sometime in my future? If you enjoy emotional, contemporary fiction, twists and turns and thought provoking subjects you’ll enjoy this book.




Ebook received via Netgalley for Review 



Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Broke My Heart

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke And Bookish 

I've been meaning to join this meme for a while because I always enjoy reading other people's posts so much. Then when I saw today's topic was anti-valentines I was IN. For the record...I don't Hate Valentines Day. I just don't get the hype around it.  :D

Top Ten Books That Broke My Heart

This was tough. Mainly because I'm a crybaby and the slightest thing can set me off in tears. 

1. Before I Die by Jenny Downham I cried SO much at this book I couldn't actually see the pages towards the end. Heart. Breaking

2. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Probably my favourite book of all time. There was no doubt this wasn't going to end well. I still cried my eyes out though. Then went back to the beginning and started again

3. Charlotte's Web E.B White This is the 1st book which ever broke my heart. We read it in class when I was around 8 years old. I LOVED this book, couldn't wait for the next time we'd be having class reading and read more. Then the spider DIED. It was a literary Bambi moment for this little girl.

4. Delirium by Lauren Oliver I was ok with this book, reading along without too many emotional involvements. Then bam. Lauren Oliver made me gasp loudly and throw my hand to my mouth. On public transport. 

5. The Diary Of Anne Frank Another childhood right of passage. Until this book I had no idea how horrible the world and people could be. The first true story that broke my heart. A life changing moment.

6. My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher 10 year old narrator Jamie broke my heart into pieces in this book. Then put them back together again. 

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak When a book is narrated by Death I guess it's a given there's going to be some weepy moments. And indeed there are. Stunning book.

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey This my most recent heart-breaker. You can feel the pain of main characters Mabel and Jack in this book. But it's also very, very lovely. 

9. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness Based on an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd I was an emotional mess when I finished this book

10. Mile High Apple Pie by Laura Langston You wouldn't think a picture book would cause an adult to cry right? Wrong. Possibly because this book was VERY close to home as my own grandmother had just been diagnosed with Alzheimers when I read it to my daughter, this book is so touching my voice was shaking.  


And that's my list. 
So what books have broke your heart?

Blog Tour: The Roots of Hollow Pike - James Dawson

Today we are extremely happy to be hosting a stop on the Hollow Pike blog tour. We have author James Dawson with us to tell us about the roots of Hollow Pike!!

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When I started writing Hollow Pike in 2009, I’m happy to admit I drew inspiration from various sources. Who doesn’t? I mean, how can you not be inspired? The whole writing saga started when I used to borrow YA books from the Year 6s of Middle Street Primary in Brighton, where I was teaching at the time. I remember reading Noughts and Crosses, Twilight, The Declaration and being blown away by the imagination and scope. Throw in my long-standing love for His Dark Materials and knew that I wanted to write YA.

From that starting point, it was actually film and television that mainly inspired Hollow Pike. I think it wears its roots on its sleeve, but I feel these were the main inspirations behind the novel.

  1. 1. Twin Peaks: I came to this late, long after it had finished its first showing on TV. I urge anyone who hasn’t seen this to track down a DVD boxset. For me, it’s the best TV show ever made. Created by visionary writer/director David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive), no other show mixes terror, suspense and humour in quite the same way. Borrowed from Lynch I suppose were the rural, isolated setting of Hollow Pike and the high-school murder mystery. Moreover, what I love about Twin Peaks is that you never really know if what you see is supernatural or not...
  2. Heathers / Mean Girls: Depending on your generation, one or both of these comedies are probably among your favourites. Heathers is a lot blacker than Mean Girls, but both raise the bar in terms of razor-sharp dialogue, and each are endlessly quotable. Both, I suppose, have the underdogs plotting revenge against the high school bitches, a key theme in Hollow Pike.
  3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer:The TV series, not the film, obviously. What I loved about Buffy was the way it used monsters and demons as metaphors for the perils of adolescence. Episodes like The Pack and Earshot so clearly use teen angst as a starting point – the monsters are by-the-by. Again, I think a lot of people forget how funny the series was too – the dialogue whips along, and much like Hollow Pike, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
  4. Scooby-Doo: No seriously. The gang in Buffy also referred to themselves as the Scooby Gang, and I used to same character archetypes. Using the Freddie, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy stereotypes allowed me to clearly work out which of the Hollow Pike gang would say which lines, and how they would react in each situation.
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Last year I blogged about why this was my favourite horror film of all time. Lis’s dreams are a big part of Hollow Pike, and this film really examined why nightmares are so terrifying – the loss of control and the blurring of the rules of reality. In a dream, the normal horror tropes of ‘get out of the front door!’ or ‘call the police!’ no longer count for anything.
  6. Scream: Another Wes Craven entry, but I wanted to include some Kevin Williamson too. The Dawson’s Creek/Vampire Diaries showrunner writes such clean, smart, fresh dialogue for his teenage characters and always gives them rare intelligence. Critics of Scream and Dawson’s Creek said they characters spoke older than their years – but when else are you trying to impress people with your vocabulary than as an adolescent? Scream was the first horror film to acknowledge young people watch horror, and Lis and co are fully aware of the conventions of the genre.
  7. The Craft: This 90s cult classic was very similar to the current series The Secret Circle (which I always think sounds like a incontinence product). In fact, I wonder if The Craft wasn’t inspired by the LJ Smith novels. The Craft more than TSC, however, uses witchcraft as a metaphor for the ‘outsiderness’ of the characters, something which I pinched for Hollow Pike.

So there you go. I do hope Hollow Pike is more than just a sum of its parts. Bringing something fresh and new to the crowded YA market is difficult, but I like to think that the characters in Hollow Pike are all mine! I believe their voices are what makes Hollow Pike a little bit special. I like to think it might be also be tricky to pigeon hole Hollow Pike – part dark romance, part teen noir…it’s not about vampires or fallen angels. I leave it up to you to decide if it’s even about witches…
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Thanks so much for that James!! Hollow Pike is a great book and out now so go and get yourself a copy! Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour which you can see below!




Blog Tour: Katie Dale...'So I Say Thank You For The Books...'

Today I have Katie Dale stopping by as part of her UK blog tour for fabulous new book - Someone Else's Life. This is probably my very favourite So I Say Thank You post, ever! Over to Katie....


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When I first started at nursery school, my Mum says she used to ask me every day what I’d done, and I’d shrug and say “playing” – and then one day I came home and could read! With a writer as a mother – she started writing children’s books when she was pregnant with me, so I guess somehow I absorbed it from the very beginning! – I grew up surrounded by books and writing, and even my Dad used to make up bedtime “Moley” stories for me and my sisters.

Consequently, it felt like second nature to make up my own stories, firstly acting them out with Sylvanian families, then later writing them down. Acting and writing have always gone together for me – they’re both all about creating characters and losing yourself in other worlds – and I’d make up plays and dramatic scenes from my favourite books and perform them with my sisters and friends – I particularly remember my under-the-table dragon’s cave for The Paperbag Princess and wrapping my legs in a towel to be the Little Mermaid!

Particular books I remember from my early childhood include Rosie’s Walk and Goodnight Owl  – I’d borrow them from the library over and over again, even though I knew them by heart, delighting in having them read to me by my ever-so-patient parents, and enjoying the surprise ending just as much every time. Once I was old enough to read by myself, I became addicted to Enid Blyton. I fell in love with The Magic Faraway Tree and all its colourful magical characters, loved the hijinks of the girls in Mum’s old copies of Mallory Towers, and SO wanted to join the Secret Seven or Famous Five! I even tried out some of their spy techniques on the neighbours!

Books had a way of making the everyday seem magical. Who knew which wardrobe might secretly reveal an entrance to Narnia? Or whether there really were little people living in my house that carefully hid from me every time I entered a room? Or whether Peter Pan might someday come knocking at my window to take me off to Neverland?

Jacqueline Wilson and Morris Gleitzman both provided the perfect stepping-stones between magical worlds and gritty realism with their phenomenal books The Story of Tracy Beaker and The Suitcase Kid (Wilson) and Misery Guts and Sticky Beak (Gleitzman). Their combination of pathos and humour worked wonderfully to keep a story light whilst describing often quite harrowing or tragic situations, and managed to keep me feeling safe and secure, whilst opening my eyes a bit to the world and its darker sides.

Then as I got older I discovered Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High – gosh, how I was obsessed with those books! I still have a whole shelf of my bookcase filled with the adventures of identical blonde twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield! I just could not get enough! I remember I went to a second-hand bookshop one day and swapped a whole box of books, including some of my precious Famous Fives for enough money to buy about three new Sweet Valley books. I’d spend whole summer holidays with my nose glued inside their covers, even if we were up beautiful mountains or on a sandy beach – the draw of Sweet Valley was too strong! I loved everything about them – the friendships, the mistaken identities, the love triangles, but possibly most of all the location – glamorous, eternally-sunny, California. I think that was when my infatuation with America was born. That, and for some reason there just didn’t seem to be that many UK authors writing for twelve/thirteen/fourteen-year-olds at that time. I’d grown out of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and Dick King-Smith, wonderful as they were, and instead devoured Judy Blume, Caroline B. Cooney, Paula Danziger, and Sharon Creech. Those books were a bit like a guide to puberty - they understood adolescence with all its strange moods and hormones and changes, and it was wonderful to identify with and be reassured by characters going through the same things – which were far too embarrassing to talk about, even with my friends (who also read the same books – they’d get passed around the class till they were dog-eared!).

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve really progressed much past YA!

True, I’ve read my fair share of classics and adult books, but given the choice, the books I still find most inviting, intriguing, romantic and exciting – the books I really delight in picking up and losing myself in –  are still YA. It’s such a vital stage of life – when there are so many choices and complications and heartaches and discoveries – and that to me is endlessly fascinating, and probably why I choose to write YA myself.

Perhaps Peter Pan did sprinkle some pixie dust on me after all!



Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale
Published by Simon & Schuster Feb 2nd 2012



When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all... Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family's deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own - one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all... (from Goodreads.com)


Read the first chapter on my website: http://katiedaleuk.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @katiedaleuk


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Thank you Katie for dropping by and writing such a fantastic guest post. a total nostalgia trip...I think we must have grown up on exactly the same diet of books! 

If You would like to take part in 'So I say Thank You For The Books...' and write a guest post for the feature please find more infomation Here or checkout previous guest posts Here

Book Review: Wonder by R.J Palacio

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. 

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? 

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels. (From Goodreads.com)

Wow. Over the two days I was reading this book I went on an emotional roller coaster, which took me through almost every feeling possible. I laughed, I cried, my heart ached, I detested, I loved, I felt despair, hope and pride all through the pages of a book telling the story of one small boy.

The book begins from Auggie’s viewpoint. He has a very matter of fact insight to his condition and his tone is refreshingly honest and brave.  There isn’t a person alive whose heart he couldn’t creep into and steal and I’m in awe at how completely believable and authentic the author has made him. Quite often books written from a young child’s perspective fail to loose the adultness of the author. Not the case here at all. 

The book shifts view point several times and we also get an insight into the lives of his sister and friends. I really like how RJ Palacio kept the viewpoints to those of kids. I think it gave the book a more honest poignancy that wouldn’t come from an adult. I particularly found his sister Via’s story touching. She struggles with feelings of jealousy at times when it’s difficult for her to get her mum’s attention but with such guilt and love for August, my heart went out to her.

Wonder is a book that truly shows the best and worst in human nature. At one point I was so angry I slammed it shut. Yet another section made me feel so uplifted at the strength of human spirit I actually shed tears. Mostly, this is a book that will strike a chord and make you really think.  Adults and kids alike need to read it. Everyone will be touched and take something away from it. Wonder is exactly that. A wonderful book that comes highly recommended. Go right now and pre-order. You won't regret it.


Published by Bodley Head (Random House) 1st March 2012 (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.


Similar books: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon and My Sister Lives On the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher both speak with authentic young voices coping with difficult situations. 

Book Review: The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

3 years, 1 month, 1 week and 6 days since I’d seen daylight. One-fifth of my life. 98,409,602 seconds since the heavy, steel door had fallen shut and sealed us off from the world 

Sherry has lived with her family in a sealed bunker since things went wrong up above. But when they run out of food, Sherry and her dad must venture outside. There they find a world of devastation, desolation...and the Weepers: savage, mutant killers. 

When Sherry's dad is snatched, she joins forces with gorgeous but troubled Joshua - an Avenger, determined to destroy the Weepers. 

But can Sherry keep her family and Joshua safe, when his desire for vengeance threatens them all? (from Goodreads.com)

When I picked up The Other Life to read I was surprised by how quickly it moved. Within half an hour I’d read a great big chunk, and the same happened throughout. This book is very fast paced and the writing style is easy to race along with, meaning that I’d finished it in just a couple of sittings.

The book has no specified time period, although I think it’s probably set in this decade. A mutant form of Rabies has attacked the human race, forcing healthy families into hiding under the advice of the government. Sherry and her family have been in their bunker for just over three  years, but now their four year supply of food has run out and the radio messages from the military stopped coming over a year ago. They’re completely cut off from the outside world and have no idea what’s happening out there, but the choice is either stay and die of starvation or leave and die trying to survive.

Ok, so the plot of this book is both original (mutant rabies? Never heard that one before) and also very similar to other books (a virus that makes humans into Zombie like creatures anyone?) What probably sets it apart is the ease of which you can read this book. Wow it’s fast. Almost too fast at times and left me a little breathless. Things move so quickly, it looses some believability and the opportunity to bond and connect with the main characters suffers. Sherry moves from fifteen-year-old girl who has spent her adolescence in near isolation, to kick ass Weeper killing heroine in a heartbeat. I prefer more build on my stories and development of characters, but I can see others will love this approach. It certainly doesn’t give you time to get bored, that’s for sure.

I also found the book a bit squeamish, in particular the Weepers, who’s name comes from the fact their eyes ooze pus like liquid resembling tears. Every time it was mentioned my stomach heaved a little bit and I struggled to get the image out of my mind.  If you like a bit of gore though, then this might be right up your street.

The Other Life takes a look at medical science, biological warfare and government conspiracies,  which I did like. I love a conspiracy and there’s a big one in this book. While it’s not altogether unpredictable, it definitely raises some interesting questions about just what does go on in the name of science. I don’t understand why anyone would want to research and create diseases that would wipe out populations, but it happens. I also liked the mish mash of characters that find themselves thrown together. While we don't find out much about them in this book, there's potential for some very interesting people in future books.

While The Other Life was a fast and quick read, it didn’t bowl me over. I felt the pace meant some depth to both plot and characters was lost as well as plausibility. However, if you’re a fan of horror, action and gore then I’d say this would probably be up your street. I’d also recommend this book to reluctant readers and think they’ll find it engaging.

Published by Usborne February 2012 (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review purposes

Similar books: Ashes by Ilsa J Bick and The Forest Of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan both deal with a world attacked by a zombie virus, though both are more character driven. Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer describes a world where the moon is knocked closer to earth but shares a similar survival story in isolation.

Book Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is an author I’ve been intending to read for what seems like an age. I even own one of her books, Garden Spells; though sadly have never got around to it. After reading The Peach Keeper all I can say is ...why the hell did I leave it so long?

The Peach Keeper tells the story of two generations. It’s set in modern times and follows Willa and Paxton, but in-between we also get the story of their grandmothers, Georgie and Agatha. In the tiny town of Walls of Water the girls are from two of the most prominent families around. Only Willa’s family suffered a fall from grace back when her grandmother was a young girl. Willa just wants to forget her family's past and get on with her life, but when Paxton buys the derelict old family mansion once belonging to her grandmother’s parents, secrets are about to be revealed. Ones that have remained buried a long, long time.

You know when you get a book you just sink right into? Well The Peach Keeper was exactly that for me. I finally understand why Addison Allen is so very loved. Her writing is warm, slightly mystical and intoxicating…I was completely addicted and read the entire book in one day.

I LOVED the setting of the small town of Walls of Water. It’s slightly odd and eccentric with a personality of it’s own. Willa and Paxton couldn’t be more different, despite the original connection between their families. Willa is easy going, hard working and just wants to put her ancestors once grand past behind her while Paxton is ambitious, aloof and a natural leader. Neither have much to do with the other until Paxton buys the mansion, The Blue Ridge Madam. Through a forced collaboration we get to know the women, their insecurities and their dreams and witness a beautiful friendship blossom.

I’m always a sucker for stories about a big, old house full of family secrets, and The Blue Ridge Madam certainly didn’t disappoint (how awesome is that name? I adore the imaginative and wistful names in this novel!) There are plenty of secrets waiting to be revealed in the newly refurbished mansion. The Peach Keeper also has another favourite story style of mine, flashbacks to the past (yay!) and I thought the mystery of Willa and Paxton’s grandmothers was very well told and kept me glued.

Sarah Addison Allen’s writing is naturally romantic just in its style, but The Peach Keeper does have some actual ‘romance’ for the two main characters in the form of Sebastian and Colin. This was probably the most predictable part of the story, I could see a mile off where things were headed but it didn’t necessarily weaken the novel. The journey to the end more than made up for my guesswork and through all four characters we see a development of both individuals and friendship, which was a joy to read.

Sarah Addison Allen is renowned for adding a smidge of magic into her novels, and The Peach Keeper is no different. It is ever so subtle though, barely a wisp and certainly shouldn’t put off those who like stories firmly on the realistic side of the fence. I think I was probably expecting something a little more magical though, and this was perhaps my one tiny disappointment. A very minor disappointment however, because I thoroughly enjoyed The Peach Keeper. It was so beautiful and comforting, I lapped up every page. I certainly don’t plan on leaving it too long before reading more from this author!

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