Friday 29 June 2012

Tiger's Curse - Book Review

Tiger’s Curse – Book Review
 (Book #1 of the Tiger Saga)
Written by Colleen Houck
YA Fantasy


Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

I had heard a lot of hype about this book on the blogsphere and although it’s taken me awhile – I finally got around to checking it out. All I can say is, I wish I’d done it sooner. It really was a great read and quite different to other fantasy’s that I’ve read, plus the cover is simply divine and looks fantastic on my shelf J 
The story starts with eighteen year old Kelsey who, fresh out of high school is on the hunt for employment. She expects to get a normal job in either an office or shop but instead, finds herself the newest employee of the local circus. Charged with looking after the animals, it is here she meets Ren, the beautiful white Indian Tiger and star act of the show.
Instantly Kelsey finds herself captivated by the Tiger but when Ren is suddenly sold to an animal reservation in India, she knows she’s not yet ready to say goodbye and seizes upon the opportunity to travel to India with him. But as Kelsey is to discover, there is much more to Ren than meets the eye. And so begins an epic journey that brings to life the myths and histories of India, taking the reader of a whirlwind adventure as Kelsey fights to break a 300 year old curse that keeps a noble Prince a hunted Tiger…
I have to be honest; I didn’t click with this book right away and thought the beginning rather slow with too much back story. It wasn’t until a third of the way through, when Kelsey reaches India that I truly found myself engrossed in the book but from that point on I was completely captivated. So if anyone else finds the same problem, I promise your perseverance will be worth it.
I thought the concept of the story was very original and the plot was full of Indian culture and mythology which I loved. You can tell the author has done her research and it really helped make the book a memorable read. However, I know from other reviews that some people had problems with the plot and felt that everything worked out a little too easy. I admit I did notice that some parts (such as Kelsey’s foster parents allowing her to go to India) did seem rather convenient but ultimately none of these things took away my enjoyment of the story.
As for the characters, they were brilliant. Kelsey is very much a typical teenage girl and with the story told from her narrative, her emotions and raging hormones made her very fun to read. Ren is very well written and like most male leads, he sounds very suave and swoon-worthy, if a little bit arrogant but hey, he is a prince. However my favourite character has to be Mr Kadam who is just so polite and adorable - a real fatherly figure.
Naturally romance also plays a huge part in this book and I really enjoyed how the relationship between Kelsey and Ren developed. It was slow paced, humorous and full of those ‘almost moments’ where you wanted them to just kiss and get together.
So overall a really great read and recommend to lovers of romantic fantasies. Intriguing, mystical and adventurous, Tigers Curse is definitely one to check out. 4Stars!
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Monday 25 June 2012

All These Things I've Done - Book Review

All These Things I’ve Done – Book Review
Gabrielle Zevin
(Book #1 of Birthright)
YA Dystopian  
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.
I really enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I felt it got off to a slow start. The pace didn’t pick up until around a third of the way through but I really liked the premise of the novel being a dystopian mafia mixed with romance kind of story. However thanks to the book’s combination of great characters, plot twists and drama - I know I will definitely be reading the sequel.
Set in a futuristic New York where chocolate has become a banned substance, sixteen year old Anya is the daughter of a deceased but highly renowned crime boss whose family specialise in the illegal production and distribution of chocolate.  Although Anya does her best to shun the family business and provide a safe and secure life for her brother and sister, inevitably she soon finds herself pulled into the darkness and danger of the mafia world. Especially when her ex-boyfriend is poisoned and Anya is named the number one suspect in the investigation of his potential murder. 
However Anya turns out to have more allies than she thinks, but common sense tells her that getting romantically involved with the chief of polices’ son may not be one of her best idea. Especially when she learns that this new relationship threatens to destroy everything and everyone she’s worked so hard to protect. Her friends, her family, her future and even her hard won freedom. Is the love of one man really worth the risk of losing it all…?
I really did enjoy this story and although it was labelled a dystopian novel, to me it read more like a futuristic contemporary. However this made the story a uniquely refreshing read and with romantic, moral and often thrilling elements the book really grips a reader’s attention.
Told from Anya’s point of view, the author Gabrielle Zevin has created a character with a relatable voice and a unique narration. Anya is a strong and really admirable protagonist who due to the horrors of her past has a cynical but very practical way of looking at the world. She doesn’t believe in love at first sight and due to her family criminal connections, accepts the fact that people automatically assume she’s bad news. However what few people know is that (mostly) she tries to be a devout catholic, is very protective of her family and tries her best to stay out of trouble.
The other characters were also intriguing and well thought out. Leo, Anya’s disabled older brother, I found particularly sweet and I liked the warm and caring relationship Anya had with her all immediate family. The love interest Win was also a great character, charming and flirty, he had his quirks but most of all I loved how naive and sheltered he was compared to Anya – who was normally the voice of reason in their relationship.
This of course brings me on to the romance within the story which I thought had a very Romeo and Juliet feel to it. With their families divided and standing on to very different sides of the law, Anya and Win had to overcome many obstacles in order to be together and it was sweet watching how their relationship developed. Her dark past against his light-hearted dreams of the future formed a nice balance in their relationship and I’m looking forward to seeing how things between these characters will further progress.
So overall I found All These Things I’ve Done to be a thrilling and somewhat different read to what I was expecting.  It isn’t written like most dystopian novels so I think readers will find it distinctly refreshing. 3 1/2 stars!
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Thursday 14 June 2012

Seraphina - Book Review

Seraphina– Book Review
Rachel Hartman
YA Fantasy
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
Fantasy is by far by far my favourite genre, so when I read the press release of Seraphina that explained it was story with dragons that take on human form; I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy. Therefore it came as no surprise that I ended up loving the book. It proved to be the kind of YA fantasy novel that I could put on par with works by authors such as Garth Nix, Tamora Pierce and Maria V Snyder. A truly fantastical read!
The story is set in a world where for the last forty years, a tenuous peace has been kept between humans and dragons. Yet the bloodshed between the two species has not been forgotten – leaving the protagonist Seraphina literally caught between two warring worlds. Born from the forbidden love of her parents, Seraphina is a half dragon half human, a creature that divine law states should not exist.
Hiding her true identify away from everyone, Seraphina does her best to fit in among humans. Then she stumbles upon a plot to destroy the fragile peace of the treaty and bring back the days of war – leaving her morally obliged to investigate further. Only now, working side by side with the Prince whose speciality is in uncovering the truth, Seraphina must work doubly hard to keep her heritage a secret – otherwise her family, her life and even her heart, she stands to lose them all…
I truly did love this book. However I have to say that the first chapter is confusing and pretty hard to get through – I don’t know if this was just first chapter jitters from the author but I really do recommend you persevere, the writing style really relaxes after that first chapter and you’ll find yourself truly locked into the story.
The world that the author Rachel Hartman creates is simply amazing. Very intricate and descriptive - it is full of philosophy, religion, music, mystery and of course dragons.  It is all extremely well developed and simply sets the imagination soaring.
The plot contains many twists and turns and there is always much more to each character than first meets the eye. Seraphina for instance makes a remarkable heroine, she has a quick mind and a kind heart which more often than not leads to trouble. Her love interest Prince Kiggs is also very endearing and I really liked the slow burn of their romance.
However every character in the story is equally unique and interesting, Orma, Fruit Bat, Vivirdius, Princess Glisselda (just to name a few) play such fantastic parts and are so refreshingly individual! The dragons themselves also bring a dry humour to the book as they fail to understand human emotions and customs. Generally they ignore social etiquette and unintentionally, are often quite rude.
Overall I loved it. However this is a high fantasy book so I know it won’t be for everyone but for those of you who do love fantasy, Seraphina is a must read! 5 stars!

Thursday 7 June 2012

Saving June Blog Tour - Book Review and Interview

Saving June – Book Review
Hannah Harrington
YA Contemporary
‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’
Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going, California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down again.
As many of you will probably know, contemporary YA isn’t usually my thing but for some reason I felt compelled to give this book a go – and I’m so very pleased I did. Very quickly I found myself intrigued with the storyline and I’ll say now that ‘Saving June’ was an absolute page turner!
The story begins with the suicide of Harper’s older sister June who, with no note or any kind of goodbye, leaves Harper a mess of hurt, angry and confused emotions. Now as their divorced parents fight over splitting June’s ashes, Harper begins to form a plan, a plan to take June’s ashes to California (June’s dream destination) and scatter her ashes in the sea as a final tribute to her sister.
Enlisting the help of her best friend Laney, and rather begrudgingly accepting Jake’s offer to drive them, Harper successfully steals her sister’s ashes. And so begins the road trip of a lifetime…
Honestly it’s hard to describe how much this book moved me. What starts off as a story of grief and pain turns into a journey of friendship, self discovery and all the adventure that comes with being a teenager. Watching as Harper learns to trust and remake herself after being shattered by June’s death, her growing relationship with Jake and her realization of all the life and beauty this world has to offer was simply heart wrenching.
Each character was so deep and Hannah Harrington used them expertly to express such raw emotions that you could easily have believed that this story was true. Also music also plays a big part in this book. Not only are playlists from each scene listed at the end of the novel, but the songs themselves were chosen to help convey the feelings of each scene. Especially for Harper, who found the lyrics often triggered or released her suppressed feelings.
So overall I really enjoyed this book. Although I would probably recommend it more to older teens or mature readers as emotionally this story is very profound and heartfelt. Intense, expressive and deeply moving ‘Saving June’ is fantastic. 4 stars!

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

I fist had the idea for Saving June while I was in high school. When I was seventeen, I’d lost a relative of mine to suicide and the “splitting the ashes” thing was something that actually happened. The summer after I graduated, I was living out of my car and working as a pizza cook. The radio would always be on in the kitchen, so I was spending a lot of time listening to music and kicking the idea around in my head. A few years later I found some of the bits and pieces I’d written back then, and decided to sit down and write out a full first draft. So some of it comes from my personal experiences, and of course some of it is inspired by music I love. It all ended up tying together!

It took me about three months to write a first draft of Saving June. It kept evolving in newer drafts after that time, but for the first draft, it was three months.

2)    While writing, did your characters behave as you wanted them to or did they ever change the direction of the story?

For the most part my characters behaved! I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted each of them to go from start to finish.

3)    What was the biggest challenge you faced when writing Saving June?

I think the biggest challenge was trying to stay true to the emotion but also allow the story to have some more light-hearted elements. A lot of the story is about finding the beauty in life, in relationships with friends and possible love and just the world and nature in general. To have Harper learn to appreciate all of that, I had to make sure she wasn’t buried under her grief the entire time.

4)    Can you tell us anything about any new/future writing projects of yours?

My next book, SPEECHLESS, will be published by Harlequin Teen at the end of August. It’s the story of a girl named Chelsea Knot, who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways get her in big trouble.

5)    And finally, what was the best piece of advice you received back when you were still an aspiring writer?

Keep writing! The more you write, the better you get. I also think a good idea is to look at the books you’ve read and loved and try to figure out what about them strikes you so much, and try to keep that in mind for your own writing.

Friday 1 June 2012

Fins are Forever - Book Review

Fins are Forever – Book Review
Tera Lynn Childs
YA Paranormal
On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form, when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?
I really enjoyed the first book in this series ‘Forgive my Fins’ and I’m pleased to say that this sequel, ‘Fins are Forever’ was equally as fantastic. Still sweet and fun, this book was much more dramatic than the last, with higher stakes and greater romantic complications. It made for a quick, light-hearted read that was so cute; I could help but be left smiling.
The story starts a week after the events in book one. Lily and Quince are officially a couple (although an un-bonded one) and Lily is just beginning to come to terms with her decision to live life on land. But then, just when things are starting to go smoothly for the mermaid princess, her cousin Dosina turns up looking for a place to stay after an unknown incident leads to her being exiled from Thalassinia.
Dosina wastes no time in finding trouble and soon bonds herself to Lily’s former crush Brody. So now not only does Lily now have to find a way to un-bond the newly bonded couple, but when one of her old childhood friends turns up and offers Lily a way to keep her royal title, she is torn between the choice of following her heart or accepting her royal duty as future Queen of Thalassinia. The question she must ask herself is who does she care about more, her fellow mer-people? Or her true love Quince?
I must admit, that while this book still made me laugh out loud I don’t think it was quite as funny as the first one. I imagine this was mainly because now that Lily and Quince are couple, they don’t argue nearly as much and their scenes have gone from sweet and flirtatious to emotional and serious – which wasn’t a bad thing. It shows how much their relationship has progressed and it is clear to see their love for each other.  Their romance was certainly one of things I loved most about this book.
As for the characters, I found Lily still very much the same insecure, worry-over-everything mer-girl she was in the last book. Quince however I felt was little darker, still very hunkish and drool-worthy but I missed some of his witty humour and one liners.
As for Dosina and Brody, I was quite surprised to find that I liked them both immensely. Their characters were more developed in this book and they both more than made up for their past annoyances and grievances. There romance was also rather sweet and I’m looking forward to finding out what fate has in store for them all next.

So overall ‘Fins are Forever’ was yet another fun and quirky read by Tera Lynn Childs. While I think anyone of any age will appreciate the humour and sweetness this series brings, I would ultimately recommend it to a younger YA audience who would enjoy reading about the trials and embarrassments that come with first love and growing up – especially if you are a mermaid!
Sweet and light-hearted with a plot filled with fishy-fun – this is definitely a number one beach read. 4 stars!

Also you can click HERE to read my review of ‘Forgive my Fins.’