Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Selection - Book Review

The Selection – Book Review
Kiera Cass
YA Romantic Dystopia
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
I really did enjoy ‘The Selection’. Not only did it have a unique plot and storyline, but it was also the first dystopian I’ve read where no one has died, bled or been severely maimed or traumatized along the way. Not only did that make it a refreshing and unconventional read, but also a compelling one as well.
Written by Kiera Cass, the book follows the life of America Singer, a girl born to a family of lower class entertainers who live in a world where life is dictated by your caste number- where everything from your job to potential suitors is determined by social rank and status.
However, with the chance of gaining a better life for her family, America reluctantly signs herself up for the selection – a competition where 35 girls compete for the opportunity to become the wife of Prince Maxton, and in turn gain their family a level 1 royal rank with all its wealth and privileges. However with thousands of girls entering, America is shocked when she is chosen to become one of the competitors. So now she must battle it out with another 34 girls to win herself a life (and a man) she doesn’t even want, especially as her heart has already been claimed by another…
Overall I thought this book had a unique charm, despite the fact that it had many of the typical young adult elements such as mean girls, makeovers and stunning dresses. However I felt the characters lacked something; particularly the secondary ones who I wished had a little more depth and well, personality.  Yet having said that there was enough drama and plot twists to keep me distracted from these minor flaws. 
As for America, she was an interesting main character who was often indecisive and occasionally humorous. I enjoyed her developing romance with Prince Maxton who I preferred over her child hood friend Aspen. However I’m curious to see what will become of their little love triangle, especially as the book ended rather abruptly with nothing really concluded – yet this also assures that I’ll be reading the sequel!

Distinctive, intriguing and with a totally gorgeous cover, ‘The Selection’ made for a nice average read that despite a couple of nit-picks, I ultimately enjoyed. 3 ½ stars!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Letterbox Love #3

Letterbox Love - a new weekly meme for UK book Bloggers to share their weekly book hauls, hosted by the lovely Lynsey over at Narratively Speaking.
Hey guys, hope your all having a fab week! Anyway as most of you know I recently finished uni (totally and completely done!) so I finally got around to treating myself to some books from my wish list, check them out!
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Cascade by Lisa T Bergren
Torrent by Lisa T Bergren
The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott
Graceling by Kirstin Cashore
 Well that’s it for another week! What came through your letterbox?
Happy Reading!

Friday, 25 May 2012

At the house of the Magician - Book Review

At the House of the Magician – Book Review
Mary Hooper
YA Historical
(Book 1 of ‘At the House of the Magician Trilogy’)
Lucy dreams of being a maid in one of the houses of the gentry – anything to get her closer to the queen and further from her drunken father.
By an odd twist of fate, she finds employment at the house of Dr Dee, court magician and Consultant to Elizabeth I. Lucy is intrigued by the mysterious world of the doctor and his dark associate, Me Kelly. She can’t resist poking her nose in, especially if it means catching a glimpse of the Queen.  But she learns more than she bargained for, and discovers a terrible secret that she must convey to Her Grace at all costs!
This first book in ‘The House of the Magician’ trilogy was a quick but very enjoyable read. A mix of historical and supernatural elements, the story is told through the eyes of servant girl Lucy who gives the reader a taste of Elizabethan life, from the courtly fashions and customs to simple mundane chores of the serving class.
The book begins when Lucy is forced to flee her home, needing to escape the clutches of her violent, alcoholic father. Now homeless and without a job, she decides to make her way to London but after a fateful meeting, Lucy finds herself as the new maid/nanny in the house of Dr Dee – court magician to Elizabeth I.
The gossip and rumours in the surrounding village claim that Dr Dee can raise spirits and communicate with the dead – however Lucy soon learns that the great Dr Dee’s powers are nothing more than artful trickery. Yet after aiding the doctor in one of his charades by playing the part of a nobleman’s recently deceased daughter, Lucy is soon fraught with sinister dreams.  Dreams that all point to one thing – that someone is plotting to murder her grace, the Queen of England...
A quick and light read at only 228 pages, ‘At the house of the magician’ was a sweet and charming novel that gave a fictional insight to the possibilities of what it was like working for Dr John Dee.  Also the writing was simple but decorative, with Mary Hooper adding in lots of detailed descriptions of Richmond Palace, as well as Elizabethan style dress and customs.
The characters were interesting, especially the portrayals of the famous historical figures whom were both accurately described and very believable.  However the fictional cast were also very well written with plenty of memorable characters such as ‘Tom fool’ (both the man and the monkey) as well as the old cook/house keeper, Mistress Midge.  I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing the return of these characters in the sequel ‘By royal command’.
Also I particularly liked the glossary at the end of the book, which also included amongst it Elizabethan recipes and instructions on how to make lavender wands – All of which I thought was a nice after touch to the book.
So overall I thought that the book a delightful read and would recommend to any fans of historical fiction! 3 stars!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Tangle of Magicks - Book Review

A Tangle of Magicks
Stephanie Burgis
MG Historical Fantasy
(Book #2 in the Kat Series)

After her antics in ‘A Most Improper Magick’ Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat’s sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother’s name…


‘A Tangle of Magicks’ is utterly fantastical. The second book in Stephanie Burgis’ Kat series, this story is just as spellbinding as the first, only with an even more captivating storyline. Full of amazing characters, magic and plot twists, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this book!
This second story picks up a few weeks later from the happy-ever-after ending in the book one, and begins with Kat’s quick recap of events. Both her older sisters are happy, what with Elissa literally about to be married and Angeline having finally found her true love. For once everything is right and happy in the Stevenson home - until inevitably, disaster strikes.
Now, with Kat banished from the magical order and Angeline accused of witchcraft, Step-Mama quickly relocates the Stevenson family to the famous city Bath, striving to avoid the gossip and scandal which is sure to follow.  Yet wherever Kat goes, trouble is never far behind. And it is there; in the ancient Roman-Bath houses that Kat discovers a deadly and sinister plot. One involving her gullible brother Charles and dangerous, wild magic…
I have to say – I just adore this series! Interesting and fun, Kat is probably one of the most unique and entertaining characters I have ever found in Middle Grade fiction. Wild and unstoppable, she is brave and hard headed, doing her best to stand-up against the injustices doled out to her family.
In this second book, not only has the author Stephanie Burgis shown her ability to write the most intriguing and imaginative of plots – but she has made this story much deeper and darker than its prequel. The storylines are more complex with higher stakes, the place setting is both historical and descriptive - and despite their constant fights and squabbles, the relationship between the members of the Stevenson family is always fun and moving to read. I especially liked the character of Kat’s father who, along with Kat’s brother Charles, played a bigger role in this story which made me feel that I got to know the Stevenson family better as whole.
So overall, an incredible sequel that I would highly recommend to all! Intriguing, fun and magically explosive, the Un-lady like adventures of Kat Stevenson is not a series to be missed! 5 stars!
Also if you haven’t all ready, you can check out my review of the first Kat book ‘A most improper magick’ HERE.

Monday, 21 May 2012

New Girl – Book Review and Interview with Paige Harbison

New Girl – Book Review
Paige Harbison
YA Contemporary
They call me 'New Girl'...
Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend…but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.
‘New Girl’ is a contemporary retelling of Daphne DuMarurier’s classic novel, ‘Rebecca’ which I read years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Therefore I was particularly interested to see how Paige Harbison’s new version would compare and I can honestly say that it was pretty amazing. While keeping all the key elements of the original story, Harbison manages to put her own individual spin on the tale making ‘New Girl’ a really intriguing read.
The story begins when our main character (who remains unnamed until literally the very end!) is accepted into Manderley Academy, a prestigious boarding school that she dreamed of attending back when she was 11. However now 17 and about to start her senior year of high school, leaving behind her friends and family is the last thing she wants but, unable to disappoint her parents – she puts on a smile and accepts the offered place.
However when she arrives at the academy, her fellow students are not nearly as warm and welcoming as she had hoped for. Instantly dubbed as the ‘new girl’, our main character soon discovers that her spot at the school only opened up due to the disappearance of another girl – Becca Normandy.
Loved and popular, Becca Normandy was the centre of all things cool at Manderly Academy, but nobody wants to know the ‘New Girl’ who’s replacing her. Everything New Girl does, she finds herself compared to Becca and always falling short – But when New Girl lands herself Becca’s old boyfriend Max, the school erupts in rumours as everyone tries to discover what really happened the night Becca disappeared…
 A year apart, the story is told through the dual perspectives of both Becca and New Girl as they go through and experience the same things and situations in Manderly Academy. The plot – despite a few plot holes and slight ‘not sure that would really happen moments - is packed full of intrigue and suspense as every events leads up to finding the truth of what really happened the night Becca disappeared.
The characters themselves were also really interesting. New Girls roommate was sufficiently creepy, and Becca herself was as selfish but relatable villain. The romance however, between New Girl and Max didn’t really work for me – mostly as I found Max quite shallow in the beginning and for someone who supposedly doesn’t care what people think – he really dragged New Girl into a strange on/off relationship.
The ending though I thought was brilliant and ver cleverly done. It certainly put a satisfying end to the book and has put Paige Harbison on my 'authors to watch' list. Mysterious, suprising and all in all a great retelling, 'New Girl' was an intriguing read. 3 1/2 stars!

1)     What gave you the idea for NEW GIRL and how long did it take you to write?

Watching Hitchcock movies, remembering about Rebecca, and thinking: a girl is jealous of a girl and it’s fuelled by her interest in a guy?  High school! I also wanted to delve into the obsessive compulsion teenagers have when it comes to tragedies involving their peers. If someone goes missing, dies, gets pregnant or anything at all, they obsess. It took me about a year from the very start to the very finish. 
2)    While writing, did your characters behave as you wanted them to or did they ever change the direction of the story?

Oh absolutely they changed the direction. When I write, I plan out a couple of points I mean to hit along the way, but I completely let the characters and the scenes drive themselves. If a guy and a girl is arguing, I let them say the things they’d really say, wounding or not. So a girl says something she doesn’t mean to the guy and he ends it. I might have intended that, but as the dialogue crescendos, I just let it go where it wants.
3)    What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing NEW GIRL?

Writing the main character. She was based on, of course, the main character in Rebecca, who was unreasonably meek and spineless. I had to translate that quality to a modern day girl who you wouldn’t want to slap. And at times you still do want to shake my character and say, “stand up for yourself!” But she doesn’t, because she’s real. How many times have we all looked back and wished we done things differently or realized how much we let someone walk all over us? It’s the same for my characters. 

4)    Can you tell us anything about any new/future writing projects of yours?
I am working on my next book now. I can’t say too much, but that it delves into the friendship between two girls that become driven apart by their own personal fears made worse by a boy and a discovery in a creepy shop.
5)    And finally, what was the best piece of advice you received back when you were still an aspiring writer?

I never really aspired to be one, actually. It just kind of happened. I started writing Here lies Bridget, title and all, and the next thing I knew, I was a writer. But my mother, New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison, certainly gave me advice once I was on the road. Most of it was in the form of her reading my books and making notes saying, “This part is stupid.” That’s the advice I took away: recognise when something you write is dumb and unrealistic.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Letterbox Love #2

Letterbox Love - a new weekly meme for UK book Bloggers to share their weekly book hauls, hosted by the lovely Lynsey over at Narratively Speaking.
Hey everyone, this is my book haul for the last two weeks – Some very exciting books to look forward to J

Saving June by Hannah Harrington (Mira Ink)
I’ll be there by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Piccadilly)
Wolf Whisperer by Karen Whiddon (Mira Ink)
Endure by Carrie Jones (Bloomsbury)
Dark Kiss by Michelle Rownan (Mira Ink)
Chime by Frannie Billingsley (Bloomsbury) – you can read my review HERE
The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Mira Ink)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins!
Thank you so so much to Montana @ thebookbelles for sending me this.
Well that sums up this week. Also if you haven’t all ready, please check out my giveaway HERE to win a book of your choice from the Book Depository.
 What came through your letterbox?
Happy Reading!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Giveaway Time! (International)

Hey guys, sorry I haven’t been around much lately. Been really busy with Uni work but I am now relieved to say that… I am officially finished! Woo! Bring on graduation (and let the job hunting begin)!
Anyway to celebrate I’m going to be having a giveaway!
THE PRIZE: Book of your Choice up the value of £10 from the Book Depository!
 All you have to do to enter is simply leave your name and email into the rafflecopter below. You don’t have to be a follower to enter, but if you do decide to follow me it really is appreciated.
So good luck guys! And just to let you know that reviews & posts will be resuming as normal from Monday J

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Fool's Girl - Book Review

The Fool’s Girl
Celia Rees
 YA Historical
Young and beautiful Violetta may be of royal blood, but her kingdom is in shambles when she arrives in London on a mysterious mission. Her journey has been long and her adventures many, but it is not until she meets the playwright William Shakespeare that she gets to tell the entire story from beginning to end. Violetta and her comic companion, Feste, have come in search of an ancient holy relic that the evil Malvolio has stolen from their kingdom. But where will their remarkable quest--and their most unusual story--lead? In classic Celia Rees style, it is an engrossing journey, full of political intrigue, danger, and romance.
This wholly original story is spun from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, and includes both folly and suspense that would make the Bard proud.
Ever since I read ‘Pirates’, I have been a big fan of Celia Rees and like all her novels, ‘The Fool’s girl’ did not disappoint. Set in Shakespearean England, the plot is devised from the famous play of Twelfth Night and centres around Violetta, an exiled Duchessa who is on a mission to restore her country to its former glory and claim back her title as ruler of Illyria.  Along with her trusted fool Feste she forms a plan to steal back the holy-relic that was plundered from her city, but to pull it off she must enlist the help of the playwright Will (Shakespeare) and his band of actors. Yet despite Will’s reluctance to help, their lives become tangled together and Violetta finds herself in the centre of a web danger, romance, political plots and religious conspiracies…
I must admit that it took me awhile to get into this book, mainly as the timeline within the story shifts back and forth from present to past, flipping from one characters perspective to the other. However once you settle into the rhythm you will soon find yourself captivated, swept up into a story of intrigue and power.
As usual, Celia Rees paints the time period beautifully, with vivid imagery and easily flowing prose that, at times, is as educational as it is beautiful. Not only does she give the reader a breath-taking glimpse into the past, but adds elements of old magic into the mix that somehow, still manages to keep the story within the realm of possibility – one of the reasons I love her work so much. Even though ‘The Fool’s Girl’ is a work of fiction, it is easy to imagine it being a true tale. It is most definitely an interesting and entertaining read.
Therefore with its depth and attention to detail, I would recommend this book to all fans of historical fiction. However I will also add that although I thought this book was a great read, it was not an easy one. A reader must be prepared to commit to this story as it can be quite confusing at times but I believe it is worth the effort.  3 ½ stars!
Side Note
Hey guys, just a note to let you know that I won’t be posting on the blog again until the middle of next week. This is my final week at Uni (bring on graduation!) and I’m totally bogged down with assignments and last minute chaos! L At least the end is in sight! See you all next week!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Letterbox Love #1

Hi guys. So, like many other UK Book Bloggers, I’m swapping the In My Mailbox meme over to Letterbox Love! Personally I just like the name more, plus it is far better suited to us UK Bloggers. J Anyway, I have just a couple of books to share with you this week!
(Sorry, forgot to add Bumped to the picture)
Bumped by Megan McCafferty (Random House)
New Girl by Paige Harbison (Mira Ink)
All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Emerald by Karen Wallace
Well that sums up this week. What came through your letterbox?
Happy Reading!

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Legacy - Book Review

The Legacy
Gemma Malley
YA Dystopian
(Book #3 of the Declaration series)

When a Pincent Pharma lorry is ambushed by the Underground, its contents come as a huge surprise—not drugs, but corpses in a horrible state.
It appears Longevity isn’t working and the drugs that are supposed to guarantee eternal youth are failing to live up to their promise.
A virus is sweeping the country, killing many in its wake, and Longevity is powerless to fight it. When Richard Pincent of Pincent Pharma suggests that the Underground has released the virus, something has to be done to alert everyone to the truth and put the story straight once and for all.

‘The Legacy’ is the third and final book in Gemma Malley’s declaration series and I must admit, although it tied up all the loose ends and finished on a good and surprising note,  I thought the story itself was pretty average. While the book was interesting, I just couldn’t get into it and the characters felt a little hollow to me. However having said that this book is aimed at younger teens and I think that’s why the romantic and emotional aspects of the book were lacking in depth.
Yet I still love the premise of the book. Set in a world where science has created a drug that prevents death, age and disease – the world is over populated and the birth of children outlawed. Any illegal ‘surplus’ kids are rounded up to either be executed or trained as servants, never to offered the longevity drug. But when people begin to die of a mysterious illness, the creator of the drug Richard Princent, blames the resistance, hindering their efforts by turning the world against them. But the resistance is the worlds’ only hope. With natural resources running out the resistence must find away to stop Princent drugs before the people, and the world, destroy themselves…
I agree that it was great to see the characters from previous books again, however the scenes and POVs changed constantly so it was hard to reconnect with the characters, let alone feel empathy towards them.  Yet I liked the author’s choice to make Anna and Peter (the previous books main hero/heroine) parents, but I thought they sounded much older than what were. Still it was nice to see how their story had continued.

I also really liked how Gemma Malley created a plot so ripe with both political and moral issues. It certainly gave me something to think about and I must say that while I thought the story average, the ending itself was pretty climatic. With several surprising twists and turns, it also gave me plenty of food for thought.
So overall an average read but a good ending to great trilogy. I would recommend it to younger teens but also to fans of dystopian novels. Great for those who like to ponder on the ‘what if…’ kind of questions. 3 1/2 stars!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Witch in Winter - Book Review

A Witch in Winter – Book Review
Ruth Warburton
YA Paranormal
Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.
‘A Witch in Winter’ is the stunning debut novel of British Author, Ruth Warburton. Action-packed full of spells, drama and romance it truly is a fantastic read and if you haven’t all ready, I would whole heartedly recommend you check it out.
When Anna Winterson and her father move to the small coastal town of Winter, they never imagined that their ancient house was once the home of witches. But then Anna discovers a half burned book in the old fireplace – a Grimoire, the treasured spell book of a witch. Yet despite the book and rumours whispered around town, Anna is still dubious towards the existence of magic. At least until her friends convince her to have a some fun and cast a little love spell.
Suddenly Seth, the hottest and most badass boy in school dumps his girlfriend and much to Anna’s surprise, professes his undying love for her. Now with time ticking away, Anna must somehow find a way to reverse the spell before her attraction towards Seth can grow deeper, but each failed spell only serves to bring her and Seth closer together. Yet Anna’s problems are only just beginning as slowly, she begins to uncover the buried secrets of her true heritage…
All I can say is that this was truly a brilliant read. The story was well paced, the plot intriguing and Anna was such a great character that I just couldn’t seem to stop turning the pages! I also loved that the story was set in England, a real rarity in paranormal, YA fiction.
 A really easy book to fall into, ‘A Witch in Winter’ really picks up as Anna learns to cope with her newly discovered powers. As a main character she is brave, honourable and reacts to things just like any other fifteen year old girl – which makes her extremely likeable and easy to relate to.
Also Seth, Anna’s be-spelled love interest, sounds absolutely gorgeous! Despite him being a bit of an arrogant bad boy, you can’t help but fall for his charms and as a reader, I was fully rooting for their romance to be real. Both of them were really satisfying lead characters.
Furthermore as their romance develops, new plotlines are added bringing with them new dangers and challenges. With the stakes constantly being upped, Ruth Warburton builds up to a very climatic ending that has left me thirsting for the next book in the series.  
Magical, Romantic and totally spell-binding, ‘A Witch in Winter’ will be loved by all fans of YA Paranormal. It’s sequel, ‘A Witch in Love’ is due out in July 2012 and I would recommend the series to all. 4 Stars!