Wednesday 30 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, originally started by Jill at Breaking the Spine , that highlights upcoming book releases everyone is waiting on...hence the title. This week's pick is Something Like Normal by Trish Doller. Here's the synopsis:

"When Travis Stephenson returns home from Afghanistan, his parents are on the brink of divorce, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and nightmares of his best friend getting killed keep him completely spooked. But when he runs into Harper Gray, a girl who despises him for trashing her reputation with a middle school lie, life actually starts looking up. As Travis and Harper see more of each other, he starts falling for her and a way through the family meltdown, the post-traumatic stress, and the possibility of an interesting future begins to emerge. His sense of humor, sense of his own strength, and incredible sense of honor make Travis an irresistible and eminently lovable hero in this fantastic and timely debut novel."

So, I read the first chapter of this the other day (which is on Trish's website) and I loved it so much that I pre ordered the book! I'm excited to read about a soldier (YUM) but also to delve into the issues surrounding what it's like to be out there in Afghanistan and what it's like to come away from that. I immediately loved Travis' voice and I'm looking forward to reading the book which will be a birthday present to myself....from myself ;)

Something like Normal is published on 19th June, 2012. There is no news about a UK release as of yet. To find out more about Trish and her books, click "a href="">here to visit her website.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, originally started by Jill at Breaking the Spine , that highlights upcoming book releases everyone is waiting on...hence the title. This week's pick is Starters by Lissa Price. Here's the synopsis:

"The first in a futuristic thriller series featuring a society where youth is coveted at an impossible price, and one girl's ability to bring it all crumbling down."

I realise there is not a great deal of information to go on but I remember hearing about this book at the Random House bloggers meeting. Lissa Price is a screenwriter and if I remember rightly this is something to do with hiring out your body to others but don't quote me on that. Anyway, will you look at that gorgeous cover? I love the dystopian genre and I can't wait to read this!

Starters is published on 13th March, 2012 in the US and 5th April, 2012 in the UK.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Movie Trailers

There are a lot of movies coming out next year that I am EXTREMELY excited about and a lot of the trailers are just starting to appear now. Just in case you've failed to notice them or heaven forbid, have never heard of them in the first place, I wanted to show you...

First up, is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. This is one of my favourite trilogies EVER and I can't wait to see it up on the big screen. If you haven't read this yet, DO IT. DO IT NOW.

Then we have Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart. This is of course a retelling of the classic fairytale but it's what I lovingly call "the dark fantasy version". Snow White is portrayed as some kind of bad ass girl hero and I like that.

Then we have the rival film Mirror Mirror, which seems to be a much lighter retelling with comedic elements and probably aimed at a younger audience. I definitely still want to see it though and it will be interesting to compare the two films.

Finally, we have The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to see this. There is no official trailer as of yet but I loved this fanmade one.

I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be a pretty good year ;)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Review (and a giveaway)

I have decided that I’d quite like to live inside Laini Taylor’s head. Her imagination is OFF THE CHARTS and I’m suitably impressed with the amount of originality oozing off the pages of this book. I’d heard about Daughter of Smoke and Bone back in March when I had the opportunity to meet Laini (see here) and then I saw Laini’s post about her visit to her UK publishers (see here) and it was a feast for the eyes! I remember thinking “beautiful but weird” and now I’ve actually read the book, the decorations make sense! Curious? You should be. Here’s the synopsis:

“Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?”

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a high fantasy novel that takes you on an enticing trip around Europe and will have you adding places like Geneva, Prague and Marrakesh to your “places to visit before you die” list. Laini’s writing is effortless and more than worthy of a little envy I think. Her concept is original and highly entertaining and I feel more intelligent after reading this book, like Laini assumes her readers are intelligent and treats us as such.

I’m not sure I have a favourite character as they were all equally well written although I had a soft spot for Kishmish. I thought Karou was a fantastic protagonist - creative, intelligent, sneaky and a certainly not a girl to be messed with! And Akiva? You know what’s coming, don’t you? Yep *adds to list of literary boyfriends*.

I’m not usually such a huge fan of high fantasy but Daughter of Smoke and Bone took me by surprise and has me reconsidering my outlook on this. I’m very pleased to report that this is part of a planned trilogy and I will be watching with interest to see where the story goes next. A superb book that should act as a guide on how to write fantasy, and write it well.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone was published on 29th September , 2011 both in the US and the UK. To find out more about Laini Taylor and her books, please click here to visit her website. She is also active on Twitter.

If you would like to win a gorgeous UK hardback, then please leave a comment with your name and e mail address. This contest is open to UK readers only however if you are an international reader and are willing to pay for shipping, you can enter. The winner will be chosen at random and once notified, they have 48 hours to claim their prize otherwise another winner will be chosen. The deadline is 30th November and any entries made after that date will be disqualified. Good luck!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Shut Out Review

I have to admit that any book or movie that features sport immediately makes my eyes glaze over. I am not and probably never will be much of a sporty person. FACT. And yet time and time again, when I DO give these sorts of stories a chance, I’m always surprised by how much I enjoyed them. For example, I had no interest whatsoever in watching the movie “The Blind Side” but when I finally sat down to watch it, I loved it. With that in mind, I wanted to give Shut Out by Kody Keplinger a chance aaaaaand....I really enjoyed it! It was nice to read a contemporary book for a change, not a hint of the paranormal in sight and yet it was equally as entertaining. Here’s the synopsis:

“Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: she and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Inspired by Aristophanes' play Lysistrata, critically acclaimed author of The Duff (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) Kody Keplinger adds her own trademark humor in this fresh take on modern teenage romance, rivalry and sexuality.”

First off, let’s just get this out of the way early on. YES, the girl on the book cover REALLY looks like Liv Tyler. I’m sure it’s probably not her but it sure does look like her. I love the fact that this book is based on a play by the ancient Greek playwright, Aristophanes and even though it was written centuries ago, it STILL translates really well to modern day. This is a battle of the sexes but does anybody really win in the end?

I read another review of Shut Out a while ago that slammed Keplinger for choosing to write about how the girls only way of halting the rivalry was to use sex and how instead, they should have started some kind of youtube campaign. Had I been drinking coffee at the time, I’m sure I would have snorted it through my nose. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to their opinion but I thought that was an incredibly unrealistic thing to say. Youtube campaigns and petitions have their place but this is not one them. I commend the girls in this book for hitting the guys where it hurts (so to speak) and it wasn’t just about denying sex. There were plenty of girls who were virgins and so for them; it was more about withholding affection. Also, through doing this, some of the girls found out how their boyfriends REALLY felt about them when they were caught shacking up with someone else.

This book explores the issue of teenage sex and how everyone thinks that everyone else is doing it and no one knows if they’re doing it right because no one talks about it. When they DO start talking about it, it becomes a revelation for all. This is a book to get you thinking, it’s incredibly readable, highly entertaining and should ignite some interesting discussion among teens and adults alike.

Shut Out was published on 5th September, 2011. To find out more about Kody Keplinger and her books, please click here to visit her website. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, originally started by Jill at Breaking the Spine , that highlights upcoming book releases everyone is waiting on...hence the title. This week's pick is Larkstorm by Dawn Rae Miller. Here's the synopsis:

"In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives: She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first."

It's a dystopian!! You know how much I love dystopian books, right? This book sounds right up my street - full of angst, romance and struggle. Also, the cover is simply beautiful and I'm pre ordering as soon as the link becomes available. The good news is we won't have to wait very long for his as Larkstorm is published on
5th December, 2011. No news about a UK release but apparently it will also be available in e book format. To find out more about Dawn and her books, please click here to visit her website.

Monday 14 November 2011

Shatter Me Review

“He pulls my swaddled figure close to his chest and I shatter”

I have to admit that I had never heard of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi before BEA (Books Expo America) but there was a lot of blogger buzz about it and Tahereh was signing ARCs so I queued up to get one as I trust my fellow book bloggers. I was pleased to meet Tahereh and she was so sweet and tiny but that meeting has much more meaning now I’ve read her debut novel and I wish I could have hugged her and told her how fantastic it is. Yep, the girl done good and I can’t wait for you all to read it. Here’s the synopsis:

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now, so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.

It’s no secret that I love dystopian books and I have to say that what I love most about Shatter Me is the writing - it is so beautifully lyrical and I’ve not seen a style quite like this before. I thought the opening chapter was amazing and so unexpected. In the beginning, Tahereh has you questioning so many things and I love that kind of mental stimulation.

Juliette is our protagonist and I just wanted to give her a hug (although it would probably kill me!). I felt her loneliness crawl off the pages and I can’t imagine what it would be like never to touch anyone for fear of hurting them. I tell you what though, it’s certainly a sure fire way to get the lustometer scale to go off the charts and DAMN, it certainly did. Adam is a hot, military man (dear God do I love a man in uniform) who has more secrets than a teenage girl’s diary. Seriously. And he has a connection with Juliette, only where do his true motives really lie?’ll have to read and find out ;)

I’m going to pause right here and make a confession which involves a short story so bear with me. I went to a Cassandra Clare event recently in London that was hosted by Sarah Rees Brennan. During the event, Sarah admitted to being the captain of Team Sebastian (for those of you who have not read the books, without going into detail, Sebastian is pure evil) and how he just needed some love and this made me question Sarah’s sanity (I love you really, Sarah). However, I now find myself in a position of complete understanding as I declare myself captain of Team Warner. In Shatter Me, Warner is the guy in charge and some might describe him as a bit of a psycho who wants to use Juliette’s power as a weapon but pffft.....I think he is a tortured soul with a complicated past who just needs the love of a good woman to sort him out! I found myself strangely attracted to Warner and this freaked me out for a short time but now I’ve made peace with it. Either I am extremely tolerant or Tahereh is a clever writer ;) I hear on the grapevine that he plays a critical role in the rest of the series and we will learn more about him in upcoming books. WOOT!

I have to admit that I have some slight reservations about where the series will go and if I’m honest; my biggest concern is that it has the potential to turn into X Men. I’m not entirely sure how Tahereh is going to avoid this or where indeed she will take the story but I sure do look forward to finding out. All in all, Shatter Me is a fantastic debut novel full of action and tension and I can't recommend it highly enough. BRING ON BOOK TWO!

Shatter Me is published on 15th November, 2011. There is no news about a UK release but surely, this can’t be far behind after all, the film rights have been sold and I can’t WAIT for this to be up on the big screen!! To find out more about Tahereh and Shatter Me, please click here to access her website. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t know, Tahereh has the BEST Tumblr account ever and you can find that here.

Sunday 13 November 2011

The Crossroads Blog Tour CONTEST

I hope you all enjoyed reading the author interviews I posted as part of the Crossroads Tour although I have to say that they're lacking in comment love somewhat :( I tell you what, one of the authors I interviewed as part of the tour was Stacey Kade and she has graciously offered to give away one of her books on the blog (a book of your choice - either a paperback of Ghost and the Goth or a hardback of Queen of the Dead). All you have to do is comment on one of the author interviews posted as part of The Crossroads Blog Tour and then leave a comment in this post with your name, e mail address and country. This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway and the winner will be chosen at random as part of some random winner picker software thingy.

Here are the links you will need and if nothing else, you will find out some juicy secrets from them!:

Day 1 with Lucienne Diver and Jackie Morse Kessler
Day 2 with Rachel Vincent
Day 3 with Shannon Delany and Carrie Harris
Day 4 with Kitty Keswick and Linda Joy Singleton
Day 5 with Joy Preble and Dawn Dalton
Day 6 with Jeri Smith Ready and Amanda Ashby
Day 7 with Stacey Kade and Judith Graves
Day 8 with Angie Frazier and Kiki Hamilton

The deadline for this contest is 26th November and all entries made after that date will be disqualified. The winner will be notified and they have 48 hours to claim their prize otherwise a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Saturday 12 November 2011

Crossed Review

I’m a huge fan of Matched by Ally Condie which I reviewed here and Crossed, the upcoming sequel is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. You can imagine my elation when I found out that Ally was going to be signing ARCs of Crossed at BEA (Books Expo America) which took place earlier this year and fortunately, I was going to be in attendance for the first time ever! There was NO WAY I was going to miss out on snagging one of those ARCs and I also dragged my precious hardback of Matched across the ocean to get that signed too. I’d heard some whispers in the queue that Ally was only signing ARCs that day but I thought “stuff it! I’ve come all this way, I’m a huge fan and I can only ask”. So I got to the front of the line, pulled out Matched and Ally was more than happy to sign it for me *squee* (thanks Ally!).

Matched did not leave us with a cliffhanger as such but it was an ending that definitely left you wanting more. Ky was taken to the Outer Provinces and Cassia has gone after him and this basically forms the plot of Crossed. Here’s the synopsis:

“In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.”

I couldn’t wait to read Crossed and thankfully, it did not disappoint. I enjoyed it just as much as the first book but be warned, it is quite different in that no longer are we in a sprawling urban jungle as the Outer Provinces are made up of desert and rock. I was rooting for Cassia all the way and as the book went on, I became more and more DESPERATE for her to find Ky. What I didn’t expect was my change of heart for Xander and I definitely felt a pull towards him. In book one, it was all about Ky but Xander is the dark horse here and whilst he is only in the book for a short time, his absence is more like a presence. We find out a lot more about Xander in Crossed together with some startling revelations that I certainly did not see coming and these set the tone for the next book.

Whereas Matched was told from Cassia’s point of view, Crossed gives us a split narrative and we get to see the world through Ky’s eyes which I thought gave us more of an insight into his character. It was nice to see the current situation from both sides but I would have LOVED to have seen it through Xander’s ;)

I’ve heard a lot of people say that Crossed is slow and nothing happens but I couldn’t disagree more. I thought it was extremely suspenseful and carried the story along quite nicely. The writing continues to be lyrical and there were some stand out scenes for me. This is supposed to be Cassia’s journey and it was good to see a different part of the landscape and how The Society is involved in everything that happens, even in the Outer Provinces. I did not expect the ending that we were given and this only makes me hungry for more. I suspect that the next book will probably be the best one yet and I can’t wait to read it!

Crossed was published on 1st November, 2011 in the US and 24th November, 2011 in the UK. To find out more about Ally Condie and her books, please click here to visit her website. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday 11 November 2011

A note about Divergent

I have been raving about Divergent by Veronica Roth since the day I finished reading it. This is easily one of the best YA books I've EVER read and I can't recommend it highly enough. If you don't know anything about it, read my review here or just read the synopsis:

"Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place her in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances."

I remember having a conversation with someone from Harper Collins earlier in the year about Divergent and how it hadn't sold as well as expected in the UK which shocked the hell out of me as this book is AMAZING! It was suggested that the cover might have something to do with it as it comes across as quite masculine like, although I have to say that I liked it just the way it was. Anyhow, I'm pleased to present a very new looking paperback of Divergent that will be released in February, 2012 and I think it's gorgeous! I'm probably going to have to get this now to go with my collection :) Definitely snap up a copy of this book and read it before the movie is made. You won't regret it!

To find out more about Veronica Roth, please click here to visit her website.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Overprotected Review

NO ONE writes forbidden romance like Jennifer Laurens and Overprotected is oh, so good. As you might know, I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Laurens books and I really enjoyed this one. There’s something inherently sexy about someone protecting you, even if it is your childhood enemy and especially if you’re not supposed to be attracted to him ;) Here’s the synopsis:

“Ashlyn: A lonely society princess living in New York City.

Daddy hired you to be my bodyguard.

Colin: Childhood enemy, now her protector.

Daddy thought I’d be safe. He thought I’d never fall in love. He thought he could keep me forever.

Charles: obsessed with keeping her safe, keeping her his, he hires the one person he knows she could never fall in love with: Colin.

Daddy was wrong.”

Imagine being wrapped up in a bubble of protection, unable to live your life properly. Sounds like hell right? Especially for a teenage girl. Now imagine that your bodyguard is someone who used to tease you mercilessly and hell just became a whole lot worse. Ashlyn is sometimes a bit spoilt (as you might have guessed) but thankfully she is not annoying. She is a victim of her upbringing and as she’s been wrapped up in cotton wool for so long, she’s not been allowed to grow up. She’s not allowed to go to parties, to sneak out of class, to go on a road trip or any other rite of passage that normal teenagers go through and it’s all for her own protection. Something happened when she was younger that’s turned her dad into some paranoid mess and now that there’s been threats on her life? Well, that’s justification enough in his eyes.

Ashlyn’s last bodyguard got a little too close to her for his liking and so this time daddy isn’t taking any chances, hence the reason he hired the one guy he knew Ashlyn would never fall for. Enter Colin who is by far my favourite character. I love the way he struggles with his emotions vs. doing his duty and I find that incredibly hot. You can see what’s coming a mile off but that doesn’t affect the entertainment value one bit, in fact, it just adds to it as the lustometer soars out of control!

What with Colin, the death threats and the fact that her parents’ marriage is falling apart at the seams, Ashlyn has a lot to deal with and then the worst happens, she is kidnapped. Can Colin save the day? Does he care enough to save her? You’ll just have to read and find out.

Overprotected is yet another fantastic read from Jennifer Laurens and this book takes has pride of place on my bookshelves. With so many books under her belt now, I’m looking forward to seeing what Jennifer has in store for us next ;)

Overprotected was published on 29th April, 2011. To find out more about Jennifer and her books, click here to visit her website.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, originally started by Jill at Breaking the Spine , that highlights upcoming book releases everyone is waiting on...hence the title. This week's pick is Touched by Cyn Balog. Here's the synopsis:

"Nick Cross always listens to the voice in his head. Because if he doesn’t? Things can go really, really wrong. Like the day he decided to go off script to save a life, dooming another one in the process. Trying to change the future can have disastrous consequences..

But this summer at the Jersey Shore, something’s about to happen that Nick never could have predicted. He meets Taryn, a girl with a dark family secret that may be the key to understanding his past. But will she also destroy his future? . Now the path that he thought he was on begins to shift . . . and there’s no way to stop it. Or is there?

In a life where there are no surprises, nothing has prepared Nick for what he’s about to discover—or the choice he will be forced to make. . . "

I love Cyn and I love her books so of course I'm excited for this one! It sounds wildly different from anything she's written before but that's not a problem for me as I trust her as a writer. I think the synopsis sounds fab and will you take a look at that cover? GORGEOUS!!! I'm also quite liking the fact that it's a bit different from her other covers. I can't wait to read this one :)
Touched is published on 14th August, 2012. For more information about Cyn and her books, please click here to visit her website.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Starstruck Review

Starstruck by Cyn Balog is the one book you can read whilst legitimately eating a donut and you know what? I TOTALLY DID. Not only did an early image of the book have a donut on the cover (I believe it was changed, presumably so it could not be blamed for encouraging mass donut eating worldwide) but our main protagonist Gwendolyn or Dough as she is more affectionately known lives in a bakery. Sounds like heaven, right? Not quite. Here’s the synopsis:

“When Gwendolyn “Dough” Reilly’s boyfriend and best friend Wish moves away in seventh grade, the only consolation she can find is in her family bakery’s donuts. Now, it’s sophomore year, and Wish is coming back. But in only three years, they’ve both changed—drastically. She’s seriously overweight, and suddenly Wish is the most popular guy in school, and girls everywhere want him. Dough has doubts that appearances don’t matter and that Wish can love her as she is, so she launches into a plan designed to keep them together. That is, until she discovers that Wish’s gorgeous looks and charm might not be all they appear to be.”

This has got to be one of the worst nightmare scenarios fate could ever throw at you EVER and I really feel for the girl. I have to say though that Dough handles the situation as best as any girl in that situation can by going on a crash diet and then giving up by eating donuts. HUGELY authentic.

There were tons of laugh out loud moments in the book and I loved Dough’s voice. I also enjoyed the fact that she’s not some skinny, beautiful girl with the world at her feet, rather she is a normal, average girl with the same insecurities that I suspect most girls have. She was definitely relatable, at least from my point of view. Wish is a nice guy and again, this made for a refreshing change. I love a bad boy as much as the next girl but sometimes it’s good to have a shout out for the NICE guy and I’m pleased to say that even though he morphed into hot stuff over the 3 years he’s been away, he’s still a nice guy. Phew! One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Wish was his e mails to Dough as he randomly capitalizes words and I do THE EXACT SAME THING!!! LOL although I like to think that it’s not so random in my case ;)

I believe Starstruck explores the theme of looks vs. Personality and what that means to us but not only that, surprisingly there is a touch of the paranormal to this book but nothing that you’ve seen before and nothing you would expect. Intrigued? You should be!

Cyn Balog is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and Starstruck is out and out fun - I enjoyed every minute of it. If you want to read something totally original and entertaining, something where everyone ISN’T beautiful, where the characters represent NORMAL people? Then, this is the book for you.

Starstruck was published on 12th July, 2011 in the US. For the UK’ers, you can buy it online or check with Foyles in London as they sometimes carry Cyn’s books. To find out more about Cyn Balog and her books, click here to visit her website. Cyn is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday 6 November 2011

The Scorpio Races Review

It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

As some of you may know, I went to BEA (Books Expo America) this year and my whole trip was made in the first 5 minutes of the exhibition. Why? Because I’d managed to score not only an ARC of Forever but also an ARC of Maggie’s new book, The Scorpio Races. And as if that wasn’t enough, I was lucky enough to be invited to a US Scholastic event in the heart of New York City and had the opportunity to meet Libba Bray, Meg Cabot and of course spend time with Maggie who may or may not have been surprised to see me on her side of the pond for a change! I wasn’t able to read the book on the plane ride home (sorry, Maggie!) but I’m glad I waited until now because the book is set in October/November and this is the PERFECT time to read it.

I’m going to start this review with a confession. I read the premise and immediately screwed up my face and thought “huh? Water horses?” Do you remember that 2007 film, The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep? Um, Yeah. The horses in Maggie’s book are not like that AT ALL. Forget cutesy, these horses are huge, monstrous creatures that are very, very carnivorous. Known locally as the Capaill Uisce, they immediately reminded me of this classic Guinness advert:

Yes, I’ll admit that I was terrified to read the book but not because of the killer horses but rather because I was scared that I wouldn’t like the story. I’ve actually been putting off reading it because I did not want to be the one blogger who didn’t like it, especially considering how much of a Maggie fan I am. And you know what? Even before I’d read the first 50 pages, I was already in love with it. I’ll even go as far as saying that I believe The Scorpio Races is Maggie Stiefvater’s best work yet. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of Maggie’s and I adored The Wolves of Mercy Falls series but her new book surpasses everything else and leaps into a whole new category. The Scorpio Races may be quite different from her other books but I absolutely loved it. Here’s the synopsis:

“It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.”

What’s interesting about The Scorpio Races is that Maggie does not tell you where or even when this book is set. We know it’s an island called Thisby but we don’t really know where that is. The dialect is British/Irish and because of that and the names of the islanders (and also Maggie’s Irish roots), in my head I had decided it was close to Ireland. I adore the island feel Maggie brought to the books where everyone knows everyone and there are of course those who can’t wait to leave but equally there are those who are married to the island, such as Puck (Kate) and Sean. The island is part of them; it’s in their blood.

Sean is effectively a horse whisperer. He loves horses and there’s no one better on the island at dealing with them, especially the Capaill Uisce. I believe this is not only because he loves them but because he respects them and knows he cannot control them. They are wild animals after all and I liken it to caring for lions - by all means love them but remember that they are unpredictable and that’s something Sean doesn’t forget and probably why after all these years of working with them, he’s still alive. There is one horse in particular Sean has come to love and that is Corr, only Corr belongs to the richest man on the island and Sean’s employer, Benjamin Malvern and he’s not willing to sell him, not even to Sean.

In Puck, Sean finds a kindred spirit. What’s interesting about Puck is that she seems to be the complete opposite of Grace from Shiver. Whereas Grace was neat, logical and practical, Kate is most definitely not practical, is full of fanciful ideas and clutter is her natural habitat. I remember this time last year when Maggie first told us that she had written another book and she promised beaches, blood and kissing. By the time I got to page 200 or even 300, I was so eager for kissing and there was none to be found. Maggie has indeed perfected the art of teasing her reader. She doesn’t give you all the information up front but has you questioning throughout and just when you’re wondering about something and thinking that it hasn’t been explained, she provides the explanation. I believe the same could be said for the kissing. Sean and Puck’s relationship is a very slow burn and really not the heart of the story, but a nice sideline. There are many other love stories going on within the book - brotherly/sisterly love, between the island and the water horses, between Sean and his horse Corr and between Puck and her horse Dove. One of the things I really enjoyed about Puck and Sean’s relationship (and worth mentioning) is that they never really alluded to their physical attributes. A lot of books mention eyes, lips and hair but it wasn’t like that for Sean and Puck. Whilst I don’t doubt that there must have been SOME physical attraction, it was more about spirit and personality.

I’ve always wanted a brother and I enjoyed the relationship between Puck and her brothers. Finn is the youngest and possibly a touch autistic. He likes to tinker with engines, can’t stop washing his hands and doesn’t take compliments well but he is my personal hero and you’ll find out why when you read the book ;) Gabe is the older brother, the one shouldering all the responsibility since the death of their parents and struggling to cope with this, after all he’s a young man himself and has a life of his own to lead.

I had to laugh at the mention of a family with the surname of Gratton and this is obviously a nod to Tessa Gratton, one of Maggie’s critique partners who has now effectively been immortalised in one of Maggie’s books. I shall be watching with interest to see how Tessa can slip the word “Stiefvater” into her next novel. Yeah, good luck with that.

Sean and Puck both have their reasons for entering The Scorpio Races and no matter who wins, the cost of losing is going to be high. A word about the ending, I thought it was just brilliant and had me pumping my fists in the air screaming “YES!!”. And yes, I seriously did that. The final pages were heart wrenching and damn it Maggie, you did it again and brought me to tears. This is starting to become a habit now! The Scorpio Races was absolutely brilliant and I can’t recommend it highly enough. There is NOTHING in the Young Adult market like it at the moment and the movie rights have just been optioned so we might just see it on the big screen and I for one cannot wait.

The Scorpio Races was published on 18th October, 2011. To find out more about Maggie and her books click here. Maggie is also a member of the Merry Sisters of Fates (together with fellow authors and crit partners Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff) and you can access the site here. Maggie is active on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday 4 November 2011

The Secret of the Keepers Blog Tour

I'm so pleased to be part of this blog tour as I loved The Light of Asteria and it's recently published sequel The Secret of the Keepers by Elizabeth Isaacs. If you haven't heard of The Light of Asteria before, please read my review here. I also recently read and reviewed The Secret of the Keepers here. I have to say that I loved the books and I can't wait for the third book in the series! The Secret of the Keepers was published on 1st November.

As part of the blog tour, I got the opportunity to interview Elizabeth and ask the questions I've been dying to know the answers to. Thankfully, she was more than happy to oblige. Welcome to the blog Elizabeth!

I've been dying to ask you how you come up with character names?

I love symbolism, and so names, for me, are extremely important. I do quite a bit of research on most of the names, but there are a few characters that appeared already named. For example, Jayril and Jakkar named themselves.

I love names that have meaning! Who is your favourite character in the series then?

That's a tough question. Aside from Nora and Gavin, I adore Edna. But this past year I have grown to love Rune. And, of course, Elias and Weylin are two of the hottest men that have ever traipsed through my head. :-).

I love Rune too and YOU KNOW how much I love Weylin *swoon*. Kailmeyra is a bit different to Earth, how did you go about world building?

World building is extremely difficult to do. I see Kailmeyra so clear in my mind it's often difficult to find the right words. Too, there's a fine balance in creating something never seen and overwhelming the reader. Readers have to have some semblance of reality to anchor fantasy to, so they can visualize the land easily. That takes finesse.

How important is music to you when you’re writing? Do you have a play list or a favourite piece of music to write to?

I know this might sound weird, but I have to have complete silence when I write. I'm a musician, and when music is playing my mind solely focuses on the layers of sound, how they interact and play off each other. I hear every instrument individually and so I can't think or create when music is on. The only exception is when I wrote the prologue in The Light of Asteria. I listened to Orff's Carmina Burana, which absolutely scared the bejeebers out of me!

Why should people read The Kailmeyra Series? (I already know the answer to this question, but sell it to us...)

I believe the strongest books are the ones that carry a message. The ones that make the reader stop and think, take stock in their lives and how they treat others. The Light of Asteria was originally written for my daughter as a message of what love is supposed to be and the power of forgiveness. The Secret of the Keepers explores that love is more than just the love of a mate. If you are looking for a series that has action, adventure, romance, and possibly a little insight then I think you'd enjoy the land of Kailmeyra.

How many books will there be in this series?

The third book, which I hope to have out this time next year, will be the final in this series.

What’s the biggest message that you want people to take away from your books?

The entire series goes on the premise that emotions hold power, and that we need to explore within ourselves the origin of thoughts, for its those very thoughts that guide our intent. I think it's a shame that so many people live their lives surviving day to day, never believing that they hold a power greater than anything they ever imagined. Never realizing that a simple act of kindness or love can change someone forever. In that regard, the land of Kailmeyra very much is real.

Can you give us any hints or spoilers for book three?

Our beloved clan heads back to earth, and this time Weylin accompanies them, which brings a little added flavor to the mix! :-D

Oh, I can't wait to read more about Weylin ;) What are you working on now (or after the series ends)

I'm currently working on the third book but but I also have a steampunk novel in the works. Lately though, what's been calling my heart is to write a serious piece for parents and teachers about the lessons I've learned from the children I've taught over the years.

As a final question, what YA books have you read and loved?

I have such eclectic tastes in books, and I'm probably showing my age, but some of my favorite books ... the one's that really stuck with me when I was entering college was the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson. And then, of course, Harry Potter (even though it's considered children's literature by some). JK Rowling has an amazing depth to her characters. I also like the oldies but goodies ... the Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, etc. And a little more recently I enjoyed Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, although I'm tired of waiting for the fourth book. While these are fantasy/adventure books, the romantic in me comes from historical romances and the old Harlequinn's my grandmother used to have, which I secretly read when we visited her farm. (She never knew I found her stash :-).

Thank you for answering my questions Elizabeth :) If you want to WIN an e book of The Secret of the Keepers, just leave a comment to be entered. The next stop on the blog tour is Lilliputian Journey and to find out more about the blog tour itself, please click here. To find out more about Elizabeth and her books, click here to visit her website. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, originally started by Jill at Breaking the Spine , that highlights upcoming book releases everyone is waiting on...hence the title. This week's pick is a book I've wanted to read since I first heard about it a few weeks ago, Revived by Cat Patrick. Here's the synopsis:

"As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger — and more sinister — than she ever imagined."

OMG this sounds so awesome and right up my street! I really enjoyed Forgotten (Cat's first novel and one I still need to write my review for eek!) and I can't wait to read this book. I am in love with the concept and as if you need any more proof of how much I want to read this book, I have just hit the pre order button. Revived is published on 8th May, 2012.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

The Secret of the Keepers Review

"No one has ever doubted that you would die for those you love.
The question then becomes ... would you live?"

How lucky am I in that I didn’t have to wait that long after reading The Light of Asteria by Elizabeth Isaacs before I got to read the sequel, The Secret of the Keepers? VERY is the answer! But for everyone who had to wait, let me tell you that it is so, so worth it! If you’ve read my review for the first book here then you’ll know how much I love this story and I couldn’t wait to dive back into the world of Kailmeyra. I’ve come to know and love the characters almost as much as Nora does I think and I’m glad that I can continue with them on their journey. Here’s the synopsis:

“Life for Nora couldn't be better; she has married the man of her dreams and loves living in the pristine land of Kailmeyra.

That is, until the darkness threatens her perfect world.

Now war is upon the land. She and Gavin must strengthen their clan and prepare to fight. But the enemy has an ally—one that not only wields power, but holds knowledge of the ancients' secrets. Secrets that could destroy creation itself.

As the darkness grows, doubt seeps in ... protectiveness hinders progress ... and the unthinkable comes to pass. Bewildered and alone, Nora shoulders the responsibility of leading an entire race to war. As she struggles with decisions that seem impossible to make, she is haunted by one choice.”

How jealous do I feel or Nora in the beginning of this book?! She’s married the man of her dreams and they are most definitely in the honeymoon period, living in one of the most beautiful, purest lands there is. Now THAT is my idea of bliss. This part of the book is written with such beautiful sensitivity that the whole thing is incredibly romantic and I really appreciated that. But you know what? The honeymoon can’t last forever and Nora has one hell of a fight on her hands with the Dokkalfar who threaten EVERYTHING she’s come to know and love.

This book was WOW. I loved it and couldn’t put it down! I laughed and cried as I shared Nora’s journey which was tumultuous to say the least. Be warned that there are quite a few revelations in this book and some shocking twists and turns that you won’t want to believe are true.

All the old characters are present and I have to say that I love Reena even more in this book, if that’s possible. She is such a bundle of joy that I wish I could pluck her out of the book and have her come live with me! Of course, then I’d also have to bring Weylin too *swoon* and just so you know, the only reason I wouldn’t take Gavin is because he is spoken for! Ah, but who pray tell is Waylin, I hear you ask? He’s just some hot, single warrior who oozes confidence and enjoys a challenge. I’M RIGHT HERE WAYLIN!!!! *adds to ever growing list of literary boyfriends*.

Another new character is Rune who I picture as a bit of a leprechaun/dwarf kind of character. I don’t know why, I just do *shrug* but he is adorable.

One of the things I enjoyed most about The Secret of the Keepers was finding out more about the culture and belief systems of Kailmeyra. I’m absolutely fascinated with the idea of everything having energy (which btw it does) and how this can be harnessed (which btw it can). And we find out the secrets behind Kailmeyra but unfortunately, so does the enemy and it aint gonna be pretty.

I love reading stories that explore the power of thought and also the power of faith which is why this series totally floats my boat. The writing is beautiful and strong for the most part but sometimes I got lost with who was speaking and where in time and space the characters were. The story is so strong however, that this did not detract from it at all. Overall, Elizabeth Isaacs definitely has talent and her books just keep getting better and better. I’m going to need book three STAT.

The Secret of the Keepers is published on 1st November, 2011. To find out more about Elizabeth and her books, click here to visit her website. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter. I am pleased to tell you that I am part of The Secret of the Keepers blog tour so come back on 4th November for my post :)