Saturday, 30 June 2012

Review: The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty. Website, Blog
Published: 1 April 2011 (Young Picador)
Pages: 490

Source: Bought from Oxfam Books.

Plot Summary:
 Since Listen Taylor's dad started dating a Zing, her life has gone from unusual to downright weird. The delightfully mad Zing family live in a world of unexplained projects, coded conversations and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment - all to protect the Zing family secret, one so huge it draws them all, including Listen's dad, to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night. And Listen isn't invited. But Listen also has things she'd rather keep hidden - a secret too heartbreaking to share and an unconventional spell book (with a spell to make a vacuum cleaner break and another to make someone eat cake? ) that might be the answer to her problems.

My Review:
Before I jump into my review, I think it's important to give a little history about the background of this book. Upon researching it a little further, I discovered that The Spell Book of Listen Taylor is a young adult adaption of the book I Have a Bed Made of Butetrmilk Pancakes - an adult book written by Jaclyn Moriarty. I haven't read the original so I can't compare the two, but I think it's interesting and is something that definitely explains some of the things I thought whilst reading the book. You can find out more about the differences between the two books here.

This book tells the story of several characters - Listen and her dad, her dad's new girlfriend Marbie, Marbie's sister Fancy and her daughter Cassie, and Cassie's schoolteacher Cath. Listen's story focusses on her starting year 7 and the ups and downs that brings. On the way she discovers a mysterious spell book which she turns to throughout the year.

I really liked Listen's story. I think we can all relate to starting secondary school and the huge shift that brings. I found myself wishing the story was more about her, probably because it was what I was expecting with her name being in the title, but also because she was a really compelling character. She's definitely the most sane character within the book. One of the problems with the older characters in the story was that there were just too many eccentric characters. I'm all for strange and wacky, but I found myself slightly distracted by just how barmy some of the adults were!

The first half of the book dragged a little for me. I love Moriarty's quirky writing style, but as the book went on I just kept waiting for the point where everything would fall into place. It seemed all these characters had random stories that didn't really fit together and at times I'd just get plain confused.

However, the second half totally saved the day. Things finally started coming together and my faith in Moriarty's story-telling was restored! The way the mysteries unfoled was very reminiscent of Becoming Bindy MacKenzie (the third book in Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series) and for the last 100 pages or so I couldn't put it down. I didn't see any of the twists coming and I was really excited when stuff started to be revealed.

I think this book could have done with being 100 or so pages shorter, and I was disappointed that some of the background characters were forgotten towards the end. I really liked the conclusion to Listen's, story though, and I finished the book with a smile on my face.

I didn't quite live up to the Ashbury/Brookfield series to me, but it was still well worth a read.

Rating: 3*
What to read next: Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty, book one in the Ashbury/Brookfield series.
Books like this: Becoming Bindy MacKenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Friday Finds - 29th June

FRIDAY FINDS is hosted over at Should be Reading and showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

Most of my finds this week come from this post which lists the top ten teen books of 2012 so far. Some of them I've read or already added to my to-read list previously, but the rest got added straight away! I hadn't heard of most of them so I was really excited to discover some new titles.

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)

Other finds: The Believer's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy, added after finishing The Rock Star's daughter (which you can read my review of here!)

The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney. I have a promotional bookmark with these books on. Promotional items work! I really want to check out this series.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Reasons to be excited about The Mortal Instruments films.

With the news breaking last week that Jemima West has been cast as Isabelle for the upcoming film adaptation of The Mortal Instruments Series (she looks perfect to me!) I decided to put together a list of my top ten reasons why I'm super excited for the films (and why you should be, too!). Enjoy!

10. Cassandra Clare talks about the films. Sure, she's not directly involved, but all her Tumblr coverage of the casting and news makes me super excited for what's to come. Author approval means everything *nods*.

9. The locations. New York, the Silent City, the Institute - places we want to see not just inside our heads.

8. The books are amazing! Words of wisdom from my friend when asked to help contribute ideas to this blog post. True.

7. 5 books so far. Hopefully this means at least 5 films. We'll be watching TMI films with our kids if all the books get made into films. Well, maybe not. But it'll keep us going for a longgg time.

6. More tweets like this from Cassandra Clare.

5. There are no more Harry Potter films. This will forever make me sad. The excitement of a new trailer, new photos, cast speculation - I miss it. But all that exciting stuff is still to come with TMI!

4. Jamie Campbell Bower. We all love bad boy Jace, and who better than the gorgeous Jamie to play him?!

3. Shipping. So many couples to ship, so little time. We've spent ages with just our own images of those all important scenes in our head, but now we'll get to see them played out. Imagine how much the Internet will blow up when we get out first glimpse of some of the series' couples together for the first time. Tumblr will EXPLODE.

2. More people will read the books. You know those people we all know who only read a series once they realise there's a film? (*cough* The Hunger Games *cough*) Well, we don't mind if it means even more people read the books and therefore you get more people to talk (i.e squee with joy) about them with.

1. Magnus Bane. 'Nuff said.

Are you excited for The Mortal Instruments film adaption?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Review: Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories by Mike Kalmbach

Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories by Mike Kalmbach

Author: Mike Kalmbach. Website, Twitter
Published: 24 April 2012 (CreateSpace)
Pages: 174
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Book Depository

Source: Received free copy from the author to review.

Description: (from Goodreads)
When all you have is a blank page, it's often tough to begin writing.

Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories aims to help you overcome that initial hurdle by making it easy for you to write down simple, focused ideas and craft them into stories.

However, coming up with ideas is not enough. Teen writers need to understand basic story structure so they can avoid typical writing problems.

Filled with plenty of tips, advice, and examples to help any teen writer, the first book in the Writing Advice for Teens series focuses on getting ideas down quickly and pounding out that first draft. After following the advice and using the techniques outlined in this book, you should understand how to bring the stories locked in your mind to the surface.

My Review:
I was sent a copy of this book by the author after I expressed interest in the book on Goodreads. I, myself, am a writer so I was really excited to get a look at this book! I've been writing seriously since I was about 19 and reading this book made me realise how much I could have used this when I was a teen.

The book provides writing tips on everything from writer's block and dealing with distractions, to how long your book should be and how to create interesting characters. This book is tailored towards teens and provides age approriate advice. An example of this is some really great tips on what school subjects and extra curricular activities would be handy for aspiring writers. The book also focusses on distractions that would be a problem for teens, and how to fit in writing around things like school and homework. The author also provides references to books such as Harry Potter, which helps make the advice relatable to the target audience.

Overall, though, the writing advice in this book would be useful to anyone. There are lots of exercices placed throughout the book designed to spark ideas. I found myself learning an awful lot about things I've been doing wrong and finding some new things I can't wait to try out! The book is easy to read - not at all intimidating or wordy. There's a glossary of words at the back and any important information is displayed in boxes on the page, making it easy to pick out any key points.

I'm very much someone who has to work hard at writing - it doesn't come naturally to me as it does with some people. This book made me feel like that wasn't a problem at all and had great advice about how I can work towards the goal of becoming a writer. I found it to be very encouraging whilst at the same time preparing the reader for the difficulties of writing and getting published. The tone was friendly and I really enjoyed reading it.

If you're an aspiring writer (old or young!) then there's an awful lot to be learnt from this book - I'd highly recommend it!

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Writing Advice for Teens: Editing by Mike Kalmbach. (coming October 2012)
Books like this: Your Writing Coach by Jurgen Wolff

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - 26th June

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Listen peered out of the kitchen window. She had turned off the light so she could see into the moon-splashed yard: a sagging trampoline. a tangled hose, crouching trees, a vegetable patch and, hulking down by the far back fence, the Zing Family Garden Shed.

Page 43 - The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty.

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Author: R.J. Palacio Website, Twitter
Published: 1 March 2012 (Bodley Head Children's Books)
Pages: 320
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's, Book Depository
Source: Borrowed from library.
Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

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

My Review:
This book tells the story of August, who having been homeschooled his whole life is about to start fifth grade - his first ever experience of real school. He's grown used to the stares and comments about his facial disfigurement, but entering a building full of kids who speak their mind and judge quickly provides even more hurdles for August to face.

I really liked this book. I think the thing to remember with this book is that whilst not everyone can relate to August's specific problem, the issues raised in this book are still pretty relatable on the whole. Everyone has been teased because of something about them, or has witnessed teasing around them. It's a pretty cruel world sometimes and people aren't very nice! And although August is somewhat of a unique case, the problems he faces in this book aren't always unique to him.

One of my favourite aspects about the book was the way that the story was told from several characters' point of view. We start off seeing the world through August's eyes, which is a real eye-opening, sad at times, inspirational at others view of the world. Then the book moves around and tells the story from the eyes of his sister and school-friends etc. which was a really enjoyable way to read the story. Each character has their own views on August and getting each person's perspective and getting to see their own flaws and problems was brilliant. I particularly liked hearing about August's sister Via and his friend Jack Will. All the characters had their own things going on and I loved that we got time dedicated to each one.

The overall tone of this book isn't all sad. There's some really great messages weaved into the story about friendship, and the obstacles we all have to face, but it's not at all preachy. I loved seeing how all the kids coped with the bullying that went on in the school and how they viewed their friendships with each other. This book definitely captured that child-like innocence! There were plenty of times I had a huge smile on my face and by the end I was laughing along as I read.
A great contemporary story about friendship and family that'll leave you feeling fuzzy inside. A definite must read.

Rating: 5*
What to read next: The Fault in our Stars by John Green.
Books like this: House Rules by Jodi Picoult.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Review: The Rock Star's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy

The Rock Star's Daugher by Caitlyn Duffy

Author: Caitlyn Duffy. Website, Twitter
Published: 5 July 2011 (Lovestruck Literary)
Pages: 319
Buy: (free downloand) Kindle, Smashwords

Source: Free download from the Apple iBooks store.

Plot Summary: (from Amazon)
When Taylor 's mom unexpectedly dies the summer before Taylor starts her junior year, she receives a crash course in fame. She has no choice but to join her father and his new family on their summer concert tour before she has even had a chance to mourn the loss of her mother. Life as the daughter of a rock star seems like it would be enviable, but Taylor can't figure her dad out. He seems like a supportive authority figure (even if he's kind of a fashion tragedy) , but she is collecting a growing pile of evidence that he's a liar and a cheat. Her stepmother, Jill, can’t seem to decide if she wants to treat Taylor like a girlfriend or a nuisance. Having had no time to grieve and say goodbye to her childhood before being thrust into the limelight, Taylor is suddenly finding herself in situations she could have never imagined before this summer.

My Review:
So I got this book after browsing the Apple iBook store on the lookout for freebies. This was available for free so I got it, scanned the first few pages and suddenly I was hooked! I couldn't stop reading.

This story is about Taylor who, after losing her mum, is forced to spent the summer with her rock star father. He's never been present in her life - only supporting her by sending money to her mum and paying for her boarding school fees, so their relatiosnhip is practically non-existant.

I really liked Taylor and despite the ridiculousness of the situation she finds herself in, you could still really feel for what she's going through. Her dad has remarried and so she finds herself with a new stepmum and stepsister to get to know. I loved her personality, though, and her view of the world. She was a really captivating main character.

The story was a lot more interesting than I was expecting, too! Taylor has to trail around with her dad's band as they tour the U.S which means visiting new cities and getting to know the only other people her age on the tour - including Jake, the token eye candy. Their relationship wasn't the main focus of the story but I liked that it sort of ran in the background.

Overall I really enjoyed the book. There's plenty of adventures and ups and downs along the way. With the rock star lifestyle comes the dilemmas of alcohol, drugs and boys and even the adults are battling their demons, but it's all written from Taylor's point of view and I think her views on these subjects are what makes it interesting. I loved the writing style which kept me gripped and I was really happy with how the charatcers changed and grew throughout. I'm really glad I stumbled across this book!

It's Y.A meets chick-lit - a perfect summer read for a bit of escapism into the celebrity lifestyle!

Rating: 4*
What to read next: The Believer's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy, the second book in the Treadwell Acadamey series..
Books like this: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Weekly Book Round Up! 18th - 24th June

Weekly Book Round Up!
Another week has passed so here's my reading round up! This week's book goodness all in one place. Enjoy!

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)Books finished: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Intangible by J. Meyers, Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie, The Gathering and The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, Phew! A busy week. A really amazing selection of books.

WonderCurrently reading: I had a few books lined up to read next but then I got an email from the library letting me know that Wonder by R.J. Palacio was available to collect, hurrah! I've been waiting for this book for a while. I'm really enjoying it so far :) I'm also reading The Rock Star's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy which I got on a free iBook downloading spree on my iPod last night. It's actually pretty good so far! Reviews of both will come this week.

Anna and the French KissLibrary holds: I'm currently waiting on the following titles to become available - Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Paper Towns by John Green, all of which my library has ordered in after I requested them. This is why libraries are AMAZING. I'm so excited to get them all! Because I'm waiting for so many books (and I'm going away next month and might not be here to collect them) I've banned myself from placing any more holds - something that is proving seriously tough! I have plenty of my own books to read, though, so I won't run out of reading material anytime soon :)

What have you been reading this week? Let me know! :)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Author: Maggie Stiefvater. Website, Twitter
Published: 5 October 2009 (Scholastic)
Pages: 448
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's

Source: Bought.

Plot Summary: (from Amazon)
Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Every winter, she watches him but every summer, he disappears. Sam leads two lives. In winter he stays in the frozen woods, with the protection of the pack. In summer, he has a few precious months to be human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. When Grace and Sam finally meet they realize they can't bear to be apart. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, for ever.

My Review:
This is the first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I picked it up for a bargain £1.99 after I read the blurb and looked up the book on Goodreads. I hadn't read anything by this author but it caught my attention and for that price I couldn't resist!

The book tells the story of Grace, who has been fascinated by the wolves living in the wood at the back of her house ever since an encounter with them as a child. She's drawn to one wolf in particular - one with yellow eyes who, when human, is a boy named Sam. The story is told from both Grace and Sam's perspectives as they both search for each other after meeting for the first time when Sam was a wolf. When they finally meet as humans they develop a close relationship as they battle to keep Sam warm and human.

I really loved the unique twist on werewolves that forms the basis of this story. The wolves shift when their temperature drops too low (hence the title of the book!) and it was just a really interesting take on werewolves that made the story feel fresh. It leaves this threat hanging over the characters throughout the story - the fact that winter is approaching and it means that the wolves time as humans is limited, which made it a really gripping read.

The relationship between Grace and Sam was what absolutely won me over with this book. It was unlike any relationship I'd read before - totally in a good way! There was no "does he/she like me" or anything like cliched like that. These two were already so comfortable with each other and just utterly perfect together and had this amazing chemistry that made me adore reading about them. Their bond is so special and they fit so well together that it's just an absolute pleasure to spend time with the characters. It was one of those books I didn't want to finish because I was just so in love with everything about their story!

As individuals, too, Grace and Sam are great characters. I liked that you got the story told from both their perspectives so you could get inside both of their heads. I think Sam's chapters were my favourite because he's such a special character. He's so vulnerable and sweet!

The writing in this book was so beautiful, too. The descriptions of the wolves, the weather and the emotion between Grace and Sam was just breathtaking.

If you like supernatural stories with a twist, or just a really good, non-slushy, beautiful love story between two awesome characters then this book is a must. I adored it!

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, the second book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.
Books like this: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong, Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday Finds - 22nd June

FRIDAY FINDS is hosted over at Should be Reading showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

The Opposite of HallelujahThe Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzad. I added this to my to-read list after visiting this blog and then looking up the book on Goodreads. It sounded intriguing!

ttyl (Internet Girls, #1)Again, another fellow book-blogger find thanks to WWW Wednesdays. ttyl by Lauren Myracle is a book written through instant message conversations. I like books written through different narrative styles like that so I'll have to check it out. Find out more about this book here.

Switched (Trylle Trilogy, #1)This week I spent some time browsing e-book stores online as I wrestle with the idea of getting my own e-reader. I currently borrow one for all my e-reading needs but haven't found myself needing my own yet. Finding cheap books online might change this though! Whilst browsing Google Play I came across this title which I hadn't heard of before. Switched by Amanda Hocking. It looks good! More here.

What books have you added to your to-read list this week?

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Intangible by J. Meyers

Intangible by J. Meyers

Author: J. Meyers. Website, Twitter
Published: 29 January 2012 (CreateSpace)
Pages: 348
Buy: Amazon, Kindle,

Source: Received an e-book copy from the author to review.

Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
Twins Sera and Luke Raine have a well-kept secret—she heals with a touch of her hand, he sees the future. All their lives they’ve helped those in need on the sly. They’ve always thought of their abilities as being a gift.
Then Luke has a vision that Sera is killed. That gift they’ve always cherished begins to feel an awful lot like a curse. Because the thing about Luke’s ability? He’s always right. And he can’t do anything about it

My Review:
I have a lot of books to read at the moment, including a steadily building pile of review copies, but this book jumped out at me as something I'd like and so it found itself at the top of the queue! The book follows twins Sera and Luke as they deal with their life, knowing they have powers they cannot share with anyone but each other. With Luke having visions of terrible things to come, it becomes clear that something is going to have to give.

Firstly, I absolutely loved the relationship between Sera and Luke. Not only are they twins, but they have this special bond with both of them having powers - Sera can heal people and Luke can see the future. My favourite scenes were when the two of them were together and their personalities bounced off each other. I'd find myself laughing along with their jokes and it made the whole reading experience that bit more enjoyable!

The book is written in third person and showcases different characters' points of view, a technique that was extremely well done in this book. The narratives flowed from one person to the other perfectly and smoothly, and it gave the chance for every character to have their moment to shine and for the reader to witness all the unfolding drama happening in each character's life. I really loved how it was written and the characters were all really interesting, from Marc who can hear people's thoughts to the mysterious vampire Jonas.

There was lots of tension as you get to glimpse the future through Luke's visions and then wait for them to unfold. I read the last 100 or so pages from the edge of my seat, unable to put it down as I waited to find out what happened! And plenty of action at the end to make the pay-off worth it.

I really loved the world this book takes place in with all the supernatural characters. There was a really good balance between the real and the fantasy, I thought, and it had all the right elements to it.

If you like supernatural or urban fantasy books then this is definitely one to check out. I adored it!

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Intuition by J. Meyers - a bonus Intangible short story available for free here.
Books like this: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris.

Book Trailer: Skylark by Meagan Spooner

One of the books that cropped up on my radar during all the BEA talk on Twitter was Skylark by Meagan Spooner. I added it straight to my to-read list as soon as I saw it! You can read about the YA books getting buzz over on the Huffington Post website and watch the trailer for Skylark below. 

How exciting does this book sound?! If you're looking forward to this book as much as I am then you can pre-order it on Amazon UK now. Find out more about the book on Goodreads here.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

WWW Wednesdays - 20th June

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted over at Should Be Reading. Here's mine for this week!

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

IntangibleCurrently reading: Intangible by J. Meyers. I received a copy of this to review and I'm addicted already! This totally jumped out at me out of the review books I've received as something I'd enjoy and it hasn't let me down so far. You can find out more about the book on Goodreads. It's also the first book I've read on an e-reader because I'm a bit behind the times like that. I'm using a Kobo e-reader and liking the experience (much as it pains me to say it - I've always been a books>e-books type of girl!). I also started Shiver by Maggie Steifvater this morning which I'm loving so far as well.

Falling FastRecently finished: I've just finished Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie, which I read in a day and enjoyed more than I was expecting! And this week I also finished The Calling by Kelley Armstrong.

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1)What do you think you'll read next? This is so tough! I have a pile of 4 books on my bedside table that are top of my to-read list. I know I'll read one of them but I keep shuffling the order about so I've no idea which. They are: Eragon by Christopher Paolini, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Evermore by Alyson Noel and The Spellbook of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty. That's unless any of my library holds become available before I finish my current reads!

Review: Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie

Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie

Author: Sophie McKenzie. Website, Twitter
Published: 1 March 2012 (Simon & Schuster Children's Books)
Pages: 256

Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary: (from Waterstone's)
This is life, not a rehearsal...When River auditions for a part in an inter-school performance of Romeo and Juliet, she finds herself smitten by Flynn, the boy playing Romeo. River believes in romantic love, and she can't wait to experience it. But Flynn comes from a damaged family - is he even capable of giving River what she wants? The path of true love never did run smooth...

My Review:
So I stumbled across this book after typing in "young adult fiction" into my library's online catalogue and looking at the first page of results that came up. This book caught my eye and there was a copy available so I stuck it on hold there and then. Sort of like book roulette!

I'd never read anything by this author before and from the plot summary I was expecting a cheesy teen love story. Whilst some of the elements of the plot are pretty cliche, I was actually taken by surprise by a lot of this book.

River is a hopeless romantic who dreams of playing Juliet in a local boys' school production of the play. She wants to fall in love and be loved in return, whilst her friends are obsessed with sleeping with boys they don't even care that much about. One of my pet peeves in teen fiction is unrealistic or stereotypical portrayals of teenage life but this book felt very real. The characters drink too much and go to parties, sleep with their boyfriends and worry about their body image. River, whilst slightly delusional at times, is totally relatable as a character. I think we've all been the one worrying over every little thing a boy does and what exactly it means!

At the end of the day it is a teen love story and so some parts of this book are going to feel a little twee and predictable, but there was a lot from this book I wasn't expecting. McKenzie explores some pretty tough issues in a sensitive way. Flynn made a really interesting male lead with a lot of depth and you could see why River was so drawn to him. I'm not a huge fan of relationships that involve obsessive girls and unhealthy attitudes towards what's acceptable behaviour for a guy, and at times this book felt like it was crossing that line a tad, but River gained a lot of strength as a character and Flynn really showed development so I ended up enjoying those journeys the characters went on.

This is a really clever little book, with a lot more to it than I was expecting. It's a nice easy read, short book, large font but it doesn't shy away from more controversial issues. I'll definitely look into reading more by this author.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie.
Books like this: Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review: The Calling (Darkness Rising book #2) by Kelley Armstrong

Spoiler warning! This book is the second book in the Darkness Rising trilogy, which follows on from the Darkest Powers trilogy. If you haven't read The Gathering, The Summoning, The Awakening or The Reckoning then look away now! Reviews of all four books are on the Reviews page. You have been warned...

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Author: Kelley Armstrong. Website, Twitter
Published: 5 April 2012 (Atom)
Pages: 336
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's

Source: Borrowed from a friend.

Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
Maya Delaney’s paw-print birthmark is the sign of what she truly is—a skin-walker. She can run faster, climb higher, and see better than nearly anyone else. Experiencing intense connections with the animals that roam the woods outside her home, Maya knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to Shift and become one of them. And she believes there may be others in her small town with surprising talents.

Now, Maya and her friends have been forced to flee from their homes during a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set. Then they’re kidnapped, and after a chilling helicopter crash, they find themselves in the Vancouver Island wilderness with nothing but their extraordinary abilities to help them get back home.

My Review:
This book picks up right after where The Gathering left off, with Maya and the others on the helicopter being evacuated from a fire ravaged Salmon Creek. It soon becomes obvious that something isn't quite right with the evacuation and the story suddenly becomes a tense, exciting fight for survival.

I absolutely loved this book; even more than The Gathering! You find out a lot more about Maya and her hidden abilities, and more excitingly you start to learn more about some of the background characters. I was really excited to learn more about Sam and Nicole in particular. I'm always really pleased when there's more to a character that originally meets the eye!

The characters spend a lot of this book in constant peril which really amps up the tension. Unlike the previous book, I didn't get bored once and was gripped throughout. There's plenty of twists and turns throughout and everyone's loyalty comes into question. Seeing Maya explore her new found powers was really exciting too and she got some really great action heroine moments. There's just something about her character I really like especially her sense of humour and the way she interacts with the male characters - like she's an equal to them.

A really exciting second instalment in the Darkness Rising trilogy with plenty of action and surprises that kept me glued to the page.

Rating: 5*
What to read next: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, the third book in the Darkness Rising trilogy - coming 2013.
Books like this: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong.

Related news: Kelley Armstrong reveals cover for The Rising.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Review: The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Author: Kelley Armstrong. Website, Twitter.
Published: 7 April 2011 (Atom)
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's

Source: Borrowed from a friend.

Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
Strange things are happening in Maya's tiny Vancouver Island town. First, her friend Serena, the captain of the swim team, drowns mysteriously in the middle of a calm lake. Then, one year later, mountain lions are spotted rather frequently around Maya's home and her reactions to them are somewhat . . . unexpected. Her best friend, Daniel, has also been experiencing unexplainable premonitions about certain people and situations.

It doesn't help that the new bad boy in town, Rafe, has a dangerous secret, and he's interested in one special part of Maya's anatomy - her paw-print birthmark.

My Review:
This book follows on/runs alongside the Darkest Powers trilogy but from reading this book, I can't see that you need to read that trilogy to enjoy this one. I'd really recommend those books anyway, though! And there's a few crossover characters and references you'd pick up on only if you've read the Darkest Powers books. Nothing in this review should spoil them though. Now, on with The Gathering!

Maya lives in Salmon Creek, as isolated medical research town with a tiny population. After losing her best friend, Maya is trying to get back on track and enjoy her life again.

Firstly, what struck me about this book was how different it felt to the Darkest Powers trilogy. The writing and the feel of it just felt a lot more gentle, and the pace especially was a lot slower. I really loved Maya from the start, though. She's such an interesting main character and I really enjoyed reading about her and her closeness to her animals, her friendship with her best friend Daniel and her relationship the with new boy Rafe. I think she's far from your typical teen girl heroine; she's not overly girly and she doesn't go gooey over boys. She's confident and has a good relationship with her parents and as the book went on you got to see some of her flaws which I really liked. Daniel, too, was a really great character and I loved finding out more about him and his background

I found the plot really engaging. It was clear from the beginning that there was more to the town and the people than met the surface, and throughout the book you got this sort of uneasy feeling. It was great at keeping the suspense for a while but towards the latter stages of the book I found myself really wishing for something to actually happen and for the big reveal to hurry up already, because all the action and drama comes very late on. It was worth it when it came but for 50 pages or so beforehand I was getting a bit bored just waiting and waiting.

Overall though I absolutely loved it. I really like Kelley Armstrong as a writer, based on what I've read previously, and it was great to dive into a new trilogy and new characters. This book had a really great ensemble of characters, exciting twists and lots of suspense.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, the second book in the Darkness Rising trilogy.
Books like this: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

In My Mailbox/Weekly Round up! - 17th June

Hello! This week I've decided to take part in In My Mailbox, a meme hosted over at The Story Siren. Be sure to go over there and check out a great selection of books and blogs.

The reason I wanted to do it this week was because I actually ordered some books and had them come in the post, woohoo! Here's what I got:

Now I am a HUGE Jaclyn Moriarty fan (I'll say that a lot on this blog) but unfortunately some of the books of hers I absolutely loved as a teenager ended up being cleared out my mum years and years ago (sad face) and it's always made me sad that I no longer had copies of those books. So imagine how excited I was when I found one of them on Oxfam Books! (very). Feeling Sorry For Celia (which is an amazing, amazing book) was available at a steal for just £1.49 so I grabbed it.

Upon searching the Oxfam website I also found The Spellbook of Listen Taylor which is the one book of Moriaty's I haven't read yet, so I grabbed that too! I'm really excited to give that a read as it's the first book that isn't a part of the Ashbury/Brookfield series.

After finding Feeling Sorry For Celia I went on an Internet search to find the second book in the Ashbury/Brookfield series Finding Cassie Crazy. I managed to grab that for £2.48 from an Amazon seller.

All these copies are second-hand but I don't mind that about books - it means they've been read and loved by somebody else and that's awesome!

If you haven't read any of these books then here's a quick plot summary of each (from Goodreads). You need them in your life, you really do. (Note: although the Ashbury/Brookfield books are part of a series, they can all be read independently as each book has it's own unique plot focusing on certain characters, but characters from across the series pop up in each of the books so it's a better reading experience to read them all.)

Feeling Sorry for Celia (Ashbury/Brookfield book #1)
Life is pretty complicated for Elizabeth Clarry. Her best friend Celia keeps disappearing, her absent father suddenly reappears, and her communication with her mother consists entirely of wacky notes left on the fridge. On top of everything else, because her English teacher wants to rekindle the "Joy of the Envelope," a Complete and Utter Stranger knows more about Elizabeth than anyone else.

But Elizabeth is on the verge of some major changes. She may lose her best friend, find a wonderful new friend, kiss the sexiest guy alive, and run in a marathon.
So much can happen in the time it takes to write a letter...

Finding Cassie Crazy (aka The Year of Secret Assignments) (Ashbury/Brookfield book #2)
Three Aussie girls become pen pals with three guys at another school in this delightful, high-spirited read by Feeling Sorry for Celia author Jaclyn Moriarty.

Told entirely through letters, diary entries, emails, and other writing, Moriarty's novel introduces us to Emily, Lydia, and Cassie -- all students at Ashbury High -- who begin writing to their Brookfield High counterparts through the schools' organized pen pal project. Readers learn quickly that each girl has her own writing style and that at two of the Brookfield boys (Seb and Charlie) seem to be smitten with Lydia and Emily. The only trouble is Cassie's pen pal, Matthew, a shady character who first sends her short, threatening letters and then becomes strangely sweet toward her. Nobody can figure out why Cassie keeps writing to him, but after she has a crushing meet-up with Matthew, Cassie discovers -- with the help of her friends and the Brookfield guys -- that he hasn't been honest about his identity. All could be ended there, but when Charlie helps take revenge and Brookfield High gets mysteriously vandalized, the group comes together to deliver justice and save the endangered pen pal project.

The Spellbook of Listen Taylor
A fairytale, a mystery, a history of hot-air ballooning, and a romance . . . A novel so brilliant, moving, zingy -- and Zingy -- that it could only have come from Jaclyn Moriarty.

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret -- one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.
Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!

Since starting this blog I've also had some e-book ARCs arrive in my e-mail inbox! The books I got were Intangible by J. Meyer, Deception by Ashley Strachan. I can't wait to read them both!

The Weekly Round Up! Here's what I've been reading this week:

The Gathering (Darkness Rising Trilogy, #1)Books finished: Crossed by Ally Condie, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher.

Currently reading: The Gathering by Kelley Artmstong, the first book in the Darkness Rising trilogy.

Library hold: Ready to collect on Monday - Falling Fast by Sophie MacKenzie.

Don't forget to check out more IMM posts on The Story Siren!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Review: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Author: Annabel Pitcher. Website, Twitter.
Published:  29 September 2011 (Indigo; Mass Market Paperback edition)
Pages: 240
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's
Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
Ten-year-old Jamie hasn't cried since it happened. He knows he should have - Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad still cries. Roger didn't, but then he is just a cat and didn't know Rose that well, really.

Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that's just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations. Five years on, it's worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum's gone and Jamie's left with questions that he must answer for himself.

This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy's struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

My Review:
This book is all about Jamie and follows his life after he moves away from London following the death of his sister. It's a really sweet, poignant book that deals with some pretty tough issues, but it's absolutely wonderful.

Jamie as a main character is everything you want. He's coming up to his tenth birthday and loves Spider-Man and his pet cat Roger. He likes drawing and hot Ribena. He's literally adorable! The book is told from his point of view and you get his perspective on everything which is so effective. The book deals with such strong issues such as terrorism, bullying, racism and eating disorders but all told through Jamie's eyes, with that childlike innocent view kids have on things. I sometimes have problems with child POV when the writing doesn't feel realistic, but this absolutely does.

It honestly made me want to reach inside the pages and give Jamie a massive hug which shows how attached to the story I got! I know not everyone likes reading books dealing with so much sadness but this book is aimed at readers of all ages, including younger children, so it's not too daunting or miserable.

A really charming, beautiful read. I'm giving it four stars because I don't think it's the kind of book I'd read again and again, but it's definitely a book that everyone should read at least once.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, released November 2012.
Books like this: Small Change for Stuart by Lissa Evans.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Author: Julie Kagawa. Website, Twitter
Published: 21 January 2011 (Mira)
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's

Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary (from Goodreads)
Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

My Review:
This is the first book in The Iron Fey series and cropped up on my radar thanks to Goodreads recommendations. As soon as I saw it I put it on hold at the library thinking it looked pretty good. The story follows Meghan as she goes from worrying about not having enough money and her mother not noticing her, to having to deal with a missing brother and the discovery of a whole other world.

I'll start with the positives! This book is very pretty, both the cover and the chapter designs. I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover, but it's a very nice looking book! The book takes place partly in the mortal world and partly in Faeryworld or the "Nevernever" and I really loved the vivid descriptions of all the magical locations. Meghan is guided through the world by a very cool cat named Gremalkin who is totally the highlight of this book. He's funny and sarcastic and really adds an edge to the story.

Overall, though, I struggled a bit with the vast amount of information there is to absorb in this book. There's a whole load of fantastical creatures to get to grips with, a myriad of locations the characters journey to and lots and lots of terminology. If you're really into your fantasy then I don't imagine this will be too much of a problem but for me it was a bit much. I'd find myself having to go back and re-read whole paragraphs to make sense of everything and sometimes the characters moved around so fast that I'd lose track of where they were. I could have done with a bit more of the beginning of the story to ease me into the book.

I had problems with the romantic sub-plot, too. I didn't find it all that believable, even though I saw it coming from early on in the story.

I didn't hate it, though. I liked the world the book is set in and the ending had me wanting to grab the next book. I think it's a series I'd have to put time aside to really immerse myself in instead of being a quick, light read.

Rating: 3*
What to read next: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa, the second book in The Iron Fey series.
Books like this: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Friday Finds - 15th June

Friday finds is a meme hosted by MizB over at Should Be Reading and showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

My Friday Finds!

Most of my book discoveries come via Goodreads either through the site's recommendation feature or though people I follow on there. I also get recommendations from friends or books I spot at the library. This week I've added the following books to my to-read list!

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and WondersFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman - added after my friend started reading it and raved about it!

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - This appeared on my Goodreads recommendations and on my Goodreads feed, a sure sign I needed to check it out!

Three WishesUntitled by Jaclyn Moriarty - I absolutely adore Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series (more about that in a post to come on Sunday!) and so I visited her Goodreads page on a frantic internet search to find out if she had any new material coming out soon, and found this mysterious title on her page. Exciting! Hopefully there'll be more info about this project soon. Whilst not YA, I also added Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty purely on the basis it's written by one of my favourite teen author's sisters. That's good enough reason, right?!

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver - Ok, I have no idea how this wasn't on my Goodreads to-read list already, but it wasn't, so I added it! The library doesn't have a copy at the moment so I've submitted it as a stock suggestion and hopefully it'll surface soon. I absolutely loved the first book Delirium so I'm really excited to read the sequel.

What have you added to your to-read list this week?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Insurgent (Divergent, #2) by Veronica Roth

Spoiler warning! This is the second book in the Divergent trilogy and so this review will contain spoilers for the first book. You can read my review of that here. You have been warned!

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Author: Veronica Roth
Published: 1 May 2012 (Harper Collins Children's Books)
Pages: 525
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, Waterstone's

Plot Summary: (from Goodreads)
War looms in sixteen-year-old Tris’s dark dystopian world as disputes between the factions grow. Tris must now fight against all odds to discover the truth that can save her and the people she loves. Sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge – and the choices she makes will have devastating and unexpected consequences.

My Review:
I don't know where to start reviewing this book, so many mixed thoughts/feelings! This story picks up where Divergent left off, as Tris struggles to deal with the losses she's suffered and learns to deal with the consequences of her actions.

A lot of the book focusses on her internal struggle, as the world she has come to know falls apart. What's great about this story is that we get to see more of the other factions - Amity, Candor and more Erudite. It's fascinating to get a better look at the people and headquarters, which was something I wanted from Divergent.

The action scenes in this book are exciting and tense, but sometimes I felt they were a bit pointless. There were an awful lot of fight scenes I felt could have been cut to help the pacing of the story. You still get the feeling that the book is building towards something, and when you get there it completely blows you away. So, overall I think it's another thrilling read but maybe not quite as good as Divergent (in my opinion).

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Matched by Ally Condie, the 1st book in the Matched trilogy.
Books like this: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

News: The Hunger Games Round Up!

There's been a few news stories surfacing around The Hunger Games lately (still no Catching Fire casting, boo!) so here's a quick round up, all in one handy post!

The Hunger Games UK Facebook page teased the DVD release announcement, directing followers to this countdown website - An announcement will be made tomorrow. Exciting stuff!

Hypable posted this news story regarding the IMAX release of Catching Fire, which will be released on 22nd November 2012. They also posted photos of a meeting between Jennifer Lawrence and CF director Francis Lawrence.

Catching Fire casting speculation continues as reported in this post by Kimmy from the site also featured in a video with ReelzChannel about the casting.

You can see my review of The Hunger Games here or check out my Catching Fire and Mockingjay reviews over on the Reviews page!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Video: John Green at BEA

Check out this awesome John Green vlog from BEA! I watched it and loved it so much I just had to share it. Be sure to check out my review of The Fault in Our Stars here. You can pre-order Chris Colfer's upcoming children's book The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell here.

Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Author: John Green. Website, Twitter.
Published: 16 October 2008 (Speak)
Pages: 227
Buy: Amazon, Audio Book, Waterstone's

Plot Summary:
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

My Review:
For about two thirds of this book I wasn't exactly sure what I thought of it. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't really gripped either, but I was curious enough about the story to carry on and find it interesting.

What I like about John Green is his characters. He has a way of making them quirky and unique, but in a way that his readership, who embrace the geeky, can totally relate too. His characters aren't outcasts because of their quirks as so many authors would make them.

By the last third of this book I'd gotten into it a lot more, and realised that the relaxed nature of the story was actually a good way to make it more focused on the characters, who I loved. Throughout the book there was information I wanted to know that I feared would never be revealed, but the end of the book gave me what I was looking for and made for a satisfying ending. I really love the writing style and look forward to reading more by this author.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Paper Towns by John Green.
Books like this: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Related News: John Green reveals new Nerdfighter designed cover for An Abundance of Katherines
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