Friday, 31 August 2012

Friday Finds - 31st August

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).

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood
Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood by Eileen Cook - added after finishing The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove and seeing this book was markes as similar on Goodreads.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)
Unwind by Neal Shusterman - added after it appeared on my Goodreads feed.

Demonglass (Hex Hall, #2)
Demonglass/Raising Demons by Rachel Hawkins - added after finishing (and LOVING) Hex Hall.

Unremembered (Unremembered, #1)
Unremembered by Jessica Brody - added after discovering on Goodreads.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Author: Rachel Hawkins. Website, Twitter
Published: 1 April 2010 (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)
Pages: 336
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Borrowed from library

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

My Review:
If there's a type of book I can almost guarantee I'll love, it's one set in a magical school. Hex Hall tells the story of Sophie Mercer, a witch whose latest spell mishap lands her in Hectate Hall, a reformatory school for magical students.

Literally within the first few pages I knew I was going to adore this book! Sophie's humour from the very first page was hilarious and instantly I was hooked. It's in the first person so you get her witty, sarcastic view on the world and the people around her and I was laughing all the way through. I just loved the writing style! Sophie as a character is pretty brilliant, too. She's a bit of a klutz and feels totally out of her depth at her new school. Growing up as a witch, separated from the magical world, she's used to living the human life and soon realises she's going to have to embrace her powers.

What made this book even more awesome was the mix of magical people. Witches, check. Shifters, check. Vampires, check. Faeries, check. It's a winning combination, and throw in all the teen drama and competition between the different magical races and it adds up to a constantly exciting story. The school setting providing everything from cool classes, that give you a glimpse of everybody's powers, to romantic clashes. Sophie's fellow witches Elodie, Chaston and Anna provide plenty of bitchiness and upset to Sophie's school life which upped the drama. Add in the fact that Elodie is dating the gorgeous Archer who Sophie finds herself drawn to and there's plenty of drama and rivalry to get stuck into! Just what I like.

My favourite character, though, was Sophie's best friend Jenna, a vampire with a southern accent, love of pink and wicked sense of humour. She really stood out to me. I loved every moment when Sophie and Jenna were together. They made a hilarious pairing!

Throughout the book there's plenty of mystery and intrigue, from Sophie's family to the "covern" trio of Anna, Chaston and Elodie. There's plenty of things for Sophie to discover about the school itself and the people she meets there. I was totally gripped as the ending provided more and more twists and turns, including some truly jaw-dropping surprises!

I wish I'd picked up this book sooner because I totally fell in love with everything about it. If you love magic school stories then don't miss this one!

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins, book 2 in the Hex Hall series
Books like this: Evernight by Claudia Gray

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - 28th August

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!
Hex Hall (Hex Hall, #1)
"Her words sounded garbled, like she was mumbling around a mouthful of marbles. Then I realized that she was mumbling around a mouthful of fangs."

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: Sabriel by Garth Nix

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Author: Garth Nix. Website, Twitter
Published: 6 May 2003 (Harper Collins Children's Books)
Pages: 368
Amazon: paperback|audio
Waterstone's: paperback|audio
Book Depository: paperback|audio

Source: Bought from a charity shop.

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world.

My Review:
I picked up this book up not knowing much about it. I'd heard of Garth Nix and wanted to read more fantasy so it was an impulse buy based on that. I've had it sitting on my shelves for ages and picked it up a few times, but I'd never really felt in the mood for this kind of book. Feeling like now was the right time to read it, I dove in. Sabriel is a necromancer, daughter of the powerful Abhorsen. When her father ends up in trouble he sends a message to Sabriel, who must set out on a quest to find him.

I think the reason I'd been put off when I'd picked it up in the past were the opening few pages. They didn't really grab me, but I soon discovered that this was just a prologue. Once I got into the main part of the story I found myself more interested. I liked the opening, discovering the magical world the book takes place in. Sabriel has the power to reach into death and bring people back from the dead, and can sense death around her. It was a great premise that hooked me in.

I was a bit disappointed when I realised that we weren't going to see more of the school which is the setting at the beginning of the story. I love magic school stories and it seemed like Wyverly College, where Sabriel attends and hones her magic, had a lot of potential. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the idea of her quest. The pace suffered a bit when Sabriel was alone because there was pages and pages with no dialogue but once she met up with Mogget, a spirit housed in a talking white cat, things picked up again.

The second half of the book was where I started to lose interest. Fantasy can be quite dense sometimes and I found myself a bit in over my head when it came to some of the finer details of the world. I don't think this was helped by the fact I found the writing to be a bit clunky. I was put off the plot when some romantic elements were introduced which just made me flat out cringe. Several plot points bugged me by just being far too convenient as well. The point of view switched perspective between characters a few times at completely random points which was a bit annoying.

The ending did pull it back a little and it built to a great climax. I'm still undecided whether I'll look up the sequel. Part of me wants to know what happens but I just don't know if this series is for me. Overall it wasn't the most enjoyable read. It had a lot of potential, though. A disappointing 2 stars for me.

Rating: 2*
What to read next: Lirael by Garth Nix, book 2 in the Abhorsen trilogy
Books like this: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa, Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Weekly Book Round Up! - 26th August

Weekly Book Round Up!

20th - 26th August

Has another week passed already?! Below you can find out what books I've been reading, aquiring and reviewing this week. But the big news is that Total Teen Fiction is now on Facebook! Make sure you visit the page or hit the like button below so you can keep up with all the latest posts and news about the blog.

Currently reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix. I bought this book forever ago and have been meaning to read it for ages. Finally getting round to it!

Books finished: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, Before I Die by Jenny Downham, The Eyes of the Desert Sand by Edwin Wolfe.

Library books: I picked up Blood Red Road by Moira Young from the library this week. Can't wait to read it, finally!

Library holds: I'm currently waiting for Fallen by Lauren Kate and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Author: Jenny Downham. Website, Facebook
Published: 29 April 2010 (David Fickling Books) (first published 2008)
Pages: 336
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Bought

Plot Summary (from Book Depository):
Tessa has just a few months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It's her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is sex. Released from the constraints of 'normal' life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up.

My Review:
I didn't know a great deal about this book before I bought it, other than it was about a girl who was going to die. The book tells the story of Tessa who has terminal cancer, and has come up with a list of things she wants to do before she dies. Together with her friend Zoey, she sets about ticking off things from her list, the first thing being sex.

This book was a lot gritter than I expected, but I liked that. Tessa's bucket list includes sex, drugs and fame and the things she wants to do are pretty rebellious. It made for a great contrast with other books with similar storylines and really made the book stand out. The first half of the book, in my opinion, was a lot darker than the second. With drugs and sex being on Tessa's list, they obviously crop up a lot throughout the story. I thought they were both handled pretty well.

Tessa herself is a pretty out there character. She's not always the most positive person and she fights against her family and friends but it made her very interesting.The book focusses on Tessa's relationship with her best friend Zoey, as well as Adam, the boy next door. I liked that both Zoey and Adam had their own issues, which sometimes made their relationships with Tessa a bit of a battle. There were plenty of ups and downs and surprises along the way. Tessa's relationship with Adam was one of my favourite parts of the book, because it wasn't your typical teen romance. Tessa knows she has a limited timescale and she's very much focussed on making the most of what she has. A lot of their relationship is centred on the physical side of things but there's some great development between the two characters as they get closer which made me really care about the two of them.

The writing in this book was what made it so brilliant. The author has this great way of describing Tessa's view of the world which was really striking. The second half of the book in particular blew me away and the last couple of chapters were some of the most poignant writing I've ever read. I really felt like I was inside Tessa's head and could feel the emotions she was going through. It made for a very powerful book, indeed.

My only real flaw with this book was a personal one, and so I'm trying not to judge the book too harshly for it. There's a lot of smoking in this book and for a book about cancer, specifically a teenager with cancer, it just made me uncomfortable. I have very strong views about that sort of thing so it's quite hard for me to put that to one side completely. Obviously it might not bother everyone but it slightly tinged the book for me.

Before I Die is a beautifully written, gritty, dark take on the cancer story. It's about embracing life and falling in love, friendships and family and what matters.

Rating: 4*
What to read next:  You Against Me by Jenny Downham
Books like this: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Before I Die has been adapted into the film Now is Good which is released next month. Watch the trailer here.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday Finds - 24th August

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).

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Nick and Norah's Infinate Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Added this after finishing Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I hadn't read anything else by David Levithan and he's an author I'd like to check out more of.

Lola and the Boy Next DoorLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins. Added after finishing Anna and the French Kiss which I adored! The opening chapter of this was featured in the copy of AatFK that I read and I was instantly grabbed. Can't wait to read it!

Meant to Be
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. Added after discovering it during last week's Friday Finds! It's set during a school trip to London and I love London, so any book set there gets a thumbs up from me.

The Thing About the TruthThe Thing About the Truth by Lauren Barnholdt. Another Friday Finds add. An unlikely love story with characters hiding secrets? Sounds intriguing!

While He Was AwayWhile He Was Away by Karen Schrek. Again, added after Friday Finds. This sounds really interesting - about an army girlfriend whose boyfriend has just been deployed and their long distance relationship.

Thursday, 23 August 2012


 Bookmarks! I love bookmarks. I realised lately that my supply of bookmarks is becoming somewhat of a hoard. I couldn't live without them, though. Ever since I banished my page folding days and became obsessive about looking after my books (I hate breaking the spine - I've had people comment that my books don't look read!) I always make sure I have a bookmark on hand.

So for this post I thought I'd share some of my favourite bookmarks!

London 2012 has been everywhere recently, and when I wasn't watching the Games I was, of course, reading. I picked these up whilst in London for the Olympics. The bookmark on the right came free from Foyles. Love that shop! The Team GB one has had the most use. Nothing like supporting your team whilst enjoying a good book.

Promotional bookmarks! I got the top one free in a book I bought and the bottom one came free with a review copy book I was sent.

And of course bookmarks make great gifts! The above bookmarks were presents from friends. Aren't they cute?! I love using the Expecto Patronum one with a Harry Potter book. Makes it even more magical.

Of course, makeshift bookmarks have to do sometime. I've found the ultimate makeshift bookmark is the print out from the library machine. When I take books out it gives me the option to take a receipt which has the return date on. If I use that as a bookmark then I never forget when to take it back! I've never had a late fine so it must be working.

Do you use bookmarks or are you a page folder? Maybe you're like a certain family member of mine who just leaves the book open, turned over on the sofa arm? (I disapprove of this...) What are your favourite bookmarks? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Review: The Eyes of the Desert Sand by Edwin Wolfe

The Eyes of the Desert Sand by Edwin Wolfe

Author: Edwin Wolfe. Website, Twitter
Published: 6 June 2012 (Aauvi House Publishing Group)
Pages: 306
Amazon: hardback
Waterstone's: hardback
Book Depository: hardback

Source: Received free copy from author to review.

Plot Summary (from Waterstone's):
How many parents would believe their thirteen year old son who told them that two vampires and a hooded stranger had tried to abduct him? Strange thing is, young Ethan Fox is convinced his parents, George and Betsy do believe him. Could it have something to do with the mysterious poem he wrote in his sleep? Or maybe it has something to do with his past, the past he cannot remember before his eighth birthday. Something strange is afoot, and it is about to turn Ethan's world upside down.

My Review:
I was offered the chance to receive a free review copy of this book, and after reading a bit about it (it was described as Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland) I thought it sounded like my kind of book. The story follows Ethan Fox who finds himself in a secret magical land where he meets the Caretakers, a race of people who protect and control the Earth's species. Along with Haley, a girl he mysteriously meets before he uncovers the hidden land, they discover their new surroundings and learn more about both of their pasts.

The first thing to say about this book is that it takes place in such a fabulous world. I really enjoyed the imaginative places and creations that pop up in this book, from books that are really portals, to the magical creatures. The writing style really drew me in and the combination of fantasy, mythology and fairy tale (there's a beanstalk and vampires) made for a really intriguing world.

Where the book started to disappoint me was the characters. The book is written in third person, and over the course of the story, we get very little insight to Ethan, the supposed main character. I think it could have benefited from being written in first person so that we got to get inside Ethan's head as he entered this magical world. As it was, I struggled to connect with him. He didn't seem to show much emotion (he's separated from his parents early on in the book and I didn't get the feeling he missed them at all) and too much of the narrative was dedicated to describing the things that went on around him, as opposed to what he thought of it all.

It seemed this book was definitely setting up the world it takes place in (it's the first book in a planned series) and sometimes the plot suffered a little. I loved all the descriptions of the new locations and magical discoveries but it became more about that then the actual plot at times. It came together at the end, though. I would definitely check out the next book in the series because I think the world has so much potential, and there was a cliffhanger ending that left me wanting to know more!

Fans of fantasy and fairy tales should love this book.

Rating: 3*
What to read next: The as yet untitled, unreleased 2nd book in the Chrysalis Chronicles.
Books like this: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - 21st August

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!
The Eyes of the Desert Sand (Chrysalis Chronicles #1)"Those are the negative doors," Irvin replied. "Stay away from those too, they lead to the past, and what's done is done, I always say."
- page 83, They Eyes of the Desert Sand by Edwin Wolfe.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Author: John Green and David Levithan. JG: Website, Twitter DL: Website, Twitter
Published: 5 April 2011 (Puffin)
Pages: 336
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them both legions of faithful fans.
My Review:
I'm working my way through John Green's back catalogue so this one was next on my list! I haven't read anything by David Levithan so I was interested to see what I thought of this collaboration. The story is based around two boys with the same name: Will Grayson. When they end up meeting completely by chance, their two worlds collide and friendships and relationships are built.

This book alternates chapters between each Will Grayson, as their lives start out completely separate, miles apart and somehow end up merging together. There's a great contrast between the both the characters, and the way each chapter is written, as the two authors each write one of the Will Graysons. My niggle with this way of doing it was than I pretty quickly found myself enjoying one of the writers' chapters more. David Levithan's chapters were a lot more unique, written without capital letters and incorporating IM conversations etc. and I just found myself looking forward to those chapters whilst reading the others.

I could tell which author wrote each chapter pretty much straight away because John Green has a very distinctive style. I think after reading a few of his books I've decided that I'm never quite going to enjoy anything as much as I did The Fault in Our Stars. I just have this problem that the characters are great, funny, and interesting but they don't do enough to really engage me. I just wish there was a little more action or something to grab me. I did totally love Tiny, though, who was John Green's Will Grayson's best friend. He was absolutely genius! He provided some hilarious moments than had me sniggering throughout.

The book deals with mental health and sexuality in a brilliant sort of everyday way; highlighting the issues but not dwelling on them or exploiting them. I loved that it was a book with a gay main character, rather than a background character, too. Overall there's some great moments of friendship and an insight into the drama of teenage relationships.

I really struggled to rate this book. I just felt it was let down a little by the first Will Grayson. I didn't much care for him, and as he narrates half of the book it began to drag a little for me. If you love John Green's other books then I don't doubt you'll love this one, because it feels very John Green. It definitely makes me want to go and look up more by David Levithan as well. Because I had a few niggles I'll give it 3*s, which is probably more like a 3 1/2.

Rating: 3*
What to read next: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.
Books like this: Paper Towns by John Green, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Weekly Book Round Up! - 19th August

Weekly Book Round Up!

It's been quieter this week so I thought I'd just go over what books I've been reading/getting my hands on this week!

Currently reading: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.

Books finished: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Legend by Marie Lu.

Bought: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate. As I mentioned in my Friday Finds post, I hadn't heard of this title before I saw it in a charity shop. I'm still waiting to read Fallen so I thought I'd pick this up in the mean time!

Library: I picked up Will Grayson, Will Grayson this week by John Green and David Levithan. I've been working my way through John Green's back catalogue so I requested this one from the library a while ago.

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

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Author: Stephanie Perkins. Website, Twitter
Published: 4 August 2011 (Speak)
Pages: 372
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary (from Book Depository):
Anna can't wait for her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a good job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's not too thrilled when her father unexpectedly ships her off to boarding school in Paris - until she meets Etienne St. Clair, the perfect boy. The only problem? He's taken, and Anna might be, too, if anything comes of her crush back home. Will a year of romantic near-misses end in the French kiss Anna awaits?

My Review:
This is a book I've been wanting to check out for a while, because it seems like one of those YA books that everyone tells you you have to read. The story follows Anna, whose dad has enrolled her in an American boarding school in Paris. She'll have to spend the next year adjusting to French life and coping without her best friend and crush who she's left back in Atlanta.

Okay, I loved this book. I think the thing that made me fall in love with it was the wit and humour. I love Perkins' writing style and how she's created these sharp, intelligent characters who made me giggle throughout. Anna is such a great lead! She loves film and writes reviews, and her complete hopelessness when it comes to speaking French or what to do with boys made her even more lovable.

During the story, Anna is torn between two boys. Back home there's her crush Toph, who she's worried won't still be around when she gets back. Then at her new school she meets St Clair, who shows her the ropes and makes her feel at home in her scary new surroundings. He has a girlfriend which makes him off limits, but they can't help but be close to each other. St Clair is the ultimate adorable male character who you just wish was real, and the friendship between him and Anna throughout is so cute. They have some hilarious banter and they're just such a great duo. They have their ups and downs and it makes for some great drama and tension when they're not making you laugh. I became completely invested in their relationship.

I loved the premise of the book. It may not be anything groundbreaking, but I loved the whole culture clash between the American school students and their beautiful Parisian surroundings. There's a great ensemble of characters, too. It's totally a book that makes you want to pack your bags and get on the next plane to Paris! (You know a book is good at setting the atmosphere when you can practically taste the French crepes as you read!) I was completely swept away as I got carried along with Anna and her journey.

I read this book in about a day which is pretty quick for me, considering the length of the book. I just couldn't put it down! Anna's adventure is one I loved and wanted to be part of. I think it was completely relatable in the way Anna struggles with her feelings and the friendship dramas she becomes a part of. I really cared about her and, more importantly, who she ended up with! The characters were so well written and believable. I didn't want the book to end.

I can see why there's so much fondness for this book, and it's certainly one I'll be recommending now I've finally gotten round to reading it!

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, the companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss.
Books like this: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Friday Finds - 17th August

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).

It's been a while since I took part in Friday Finds so I'm excited to join in again! Here are my finds for the past couple of weeks (to catch me up!).

The Betrayal of Natalie HargroveThe Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate. I picked this up in a charity shop this week. I hadn't actually heard of this title but I'm currently waiting for Fallen by Lauren Kate to become available at the library, so I thought it'd be good to check out another book by her, too!

Someone Else's Life
Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale. I nearly bought this whilst I was away but I'd already bought a few books so I passed. The title stayed with me, though, so as soon as I got home I looked it up. My library has a copy so hopefully I'll get a chance to read it eventually. It's about a girl whose mum dies from Huntington's, who also faces the chance of having the illness herself.

ShiftShift by Em Bailey. Another "almost bought". "There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile before she'd even started at our school. The first was that she had no parents - they were dead. And the second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them." Once I read that I knew I had to read this book!


I'm still holding back a bit at adding books to my TBR because I have SO many books to read at the moment, so this week's FF is a short one again.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Author: Katie McGarry. Website, Twitter
Published: 3 August 2012 (Mira Ink)
Pages: 416
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Won in a competition on the Mira Ink Facebook page.

Plot Summary (from Book Depository):
What if the last person you should fall in love with is only one who can save you? I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise. Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. You didn't do that - did you. It was done to you?

My Review:
I've had my eye on this book for a while so when I won a copy I was literally giddy. I couldn't wait to read it! Pushing the Limits tells the story of Echo and Noah, two teens with a whole heap of problems who might just be able to help each other on their way to battling their own demons.

I have no idea where to start with my review. There's so much I want to shout about because I absolutely adored this book! Before I read it I had a few reservations, mainly because I'd only heard good things. Could it live up to the hype? And love stories can be either hit of miss with me. But this book totally exceeded my expectations.

The book alternates between Echo and Noah's point of view throughout the story. Getting the story from both character's perspectives was brilliant, because it made me fall in love with both of them. Both Echo and Noah are probably two of the most interesting characters I've ever read. They felt so completely real and had so much depth to them that I felt like they were more than just characters on the page. In fact, all the characters in Pushing the Limits were so well written that they stirred up every emotion possible. It's been a while since I've been this invested in the lives of book characters!

The plot blew me away. Echo and Noah share the same school clinical social worker and both of them are facing problems in their lives. For Echo, this means trying to deal with the fact she has repressed the memory of a traumatic event with her mother. Throughout the book she has to deal with what happened to her, all the time not knowing exactly what that was. I'd heard of repressed memories before but this book brought to light just what a terrifying experience it can be. Of course there's a whole heap of other things associated with Echo's trauma, including problems in her home life and trying to regain and maintain friendships. I loved her story and how it developed. Meanwhile Noah is in foster care and trying to see more of his younger brothers.

I'm going to talk more about Noah because, I'll admit, I wasn't expecting to like him as much as I did. I'm not usually one for the bad boys (shocking, I know) so I was totally surprised when I liked him from his very first appearence. There's so much to his character, and although he has his flaws, deep down he does things for the right reasons and his relationship with Echo only brought out the best in him. I think he's probably one of my new favourite male characters.

One of the words I've read a lot in association with this book is "intense" and I would agree with that. The book deals with some pretty big issues (therapy, drugs, sex, mental health) but it does them well. There's swearing throughout but the good kind that feels real, not forced or unnecessary. Noah and Echo do have an intense relationship with each other but it's one of those relationships that leaves you totally rooting for them.

I couldn't put the book down and ate up the last 200 pages, then went on to dream about the book afterwards. It will stay with me for a long time I reckon. I'm really excited about this author because the writing itself was phenomenal. I look forward to reading more from her! Oh gosh, I've written so much already and I'm sure there's more I wanted to say! I'll let you decide the rest for yourselves because this is definitely a book you won't want to miss.

Rating: 5*
What to read next: Dare You To by Katie McGarry, a spin-off focusing on Beth, a character from Pushing the Limits.
Books like this: Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Legend by Marie Lu

Author: Marie Lu. Website, Twitter
Published: 2 Feb 2012 (Puffin)
Pages: 304
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Borrowed from library.

Plot Summary (from Amazon):
Los Angeles, California Republic of America. He is Day. The boy who walks in the light. She is June. The girl who seeks her brother's killer. On the run and undercover, they meet by chance. Irresistably drawn together, neither knows the other's past. But Day murdered June's brother. And she has sworn to avenge his death.

My Review:
As a huge fan of dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, this book has been one I've wanted to read for a while. Set in the futuristic Republic of America, Day is wanted man, on the run and causing havoc amongst the city. Then there's June. Sister of a government captain and something of a prodigy.
The book alternates between Day and June's perspectives which is something I really loved. The two characters come from different worlds yet on a lot of levels they're similar, so it made for a really great combination. They're both really interesting characters. June scored a perfect score on her Trial, the test each child must take at the age of ten. She's extremely intelligent and perceptive, and has a slight rebellious streak which causes problems for her brother who has raised her since they lost their parents. I really liked her intelligence and how she approaches situations. June has grown up in one of the rich sectors which means her background contrasts that of Day, who comes from the poor Lake sector. Having the alternating chapters between the two of them means you get to see both side of the society they live in.
I liked the world the book is set in. There were enough unique, imaginitive elements which make it stand out among the other dystopian books I've read. The city is constantly threatened by illness and rebels called Patriots provide the anti-government threat throughout the story. There's that sense of unease throughout and as always, there's a lot more to the authority figures than meets the eye. There were some terrific villains in Legend who I loved to hate.
I was completely glued to the book as the drama and tension unravelled. Both Day and June evolve a lot through the story as the plot develops. I found myself both shocked and excited when things started coming to light towards the end and I really enjoyed the action scenes, which didn't feel overdone.
This is the first book of a planned trilogy and the ending of Legend has me eagerly anticipating the next book. If you haven't checked this one out yet and you loved Divergent, Matched or The Hunger Games then definitely seek it out now! Another book to add to my dystopian favourites list.
Rating: 5*
What to read next: Prodigy by Marie Lu, the sequel to Legend released in 2013.
Books like this: Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Matched by Ally Condie.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Teaser Tuesdays - 14th August

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!

Pushing the Limits"I stared into his eyes and waited for his response. Neither one of us moved."

- page 55, Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Author: Laini Taylor. Website, Twitter
Published: 5 July 2012 (Hodder)
Pages: 448
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book 
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Received free review copy from Waterstone's.

Plot Summary: (from Book Depository)
Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came. In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

My Review:
I entered a draw to win a copy of this from the Waterstone's Facebook page (it's a review copy so I've also posted a review on their website). I was so excited because it was a book I'd already come across and was wanting to read! I wasn't sure initially if it was YA fiction but I've seen it reviewed on a lot of other YA blogs, and the main character is a teenager so I think it appeals to that market. I'd probably class it as crossover.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone focuses on Karou, an art student living in Prague with a nuisance of an ex-boyfriend. She's grown up having to balance her studies and social life with her other life; running errands for the mysterious Brimstone who inhabits a shop the other side of a portal. Suddenly things start happening around Karou. Hand prints start appearing on portal doors and she has the fear she's being followed.

Firstly, I loved Karou. She's an absolutely fascinating character and so witty. I loved her friendship with Zuzana and the two of them had some hilarious moments that endeared me to them both. She's strong and capable, with a slightly cheeky side and her doubts about herself and who she truly is make her even more intriguing.

The plot itself is gripping, with plenty of mystery. I was kept in suspense throughout, waiting to discover what was going on. Whilst the majority of the book is written from Karou's perspective, you get glimpses from other characters which gives you more insight into the world the book takes place in.

The book is beautifully written. I adored the descriptions of Prague which is such a beautiful setting for the story. The magical and mythical elements of the story were so captivating, as well. I love books that leave me feeling wrapped up in the words and the writing.

The only thing that lead me to mark the book down a star was just the way the information was finally revealed towards the end. I would have preferred it to be done a bit differently because I felt the pace dragging a bit towards the end. Other than that, though, it's a book I would highly recommend.

If you love all things magical and mysterious, or you're a fan of angels and myths and legends then this is definitely for you. But this book has the potential to open up new worlds to readers looking to discover something a little different.

Rating: 4*
What to read next: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.
Books like this: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Letterbox Love - 12th August

Hello! I am back from a very enjoyable holiday and seeing as I've been aquiring books as souvenirs I have an awful lot to mention in my first ever Letterbox Love post! Letterbox Love is a UK meme hosted over at Narratively Speaking.This is a round up of the past two weeks. Being away has left me dying to squee and fangirl over these books so prepare yourselves!

For review

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (won from Waterstone's Facebook page)
The Eyes of the Desert Sand by Edwin Wolfe (sent to me by the author - thanks Edwin!)

Books bought

Before I Die by Jenny Downham (from Foyles)
The Statistical Probabilty of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (from Waterstone's) Review here!
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (bought in my local charity shop)

Books won

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (won from Mira Ink's Facebook page) *huge squeeeeee*

Library books

Legend by Marie Lu
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Book swag

I received this awesome postcard yesterday after entering Meagan Spooner's Skylark contest. I love it! It's going straight on my wall <3 Thanks Meagan!

I've already read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Those were my holiday reads and I thoroughly enjoyed them! I'm currently reading Legend which I've been wanting to read for so, so long.

Words can't describe how excited I was to win a copy of Pushing the Limits. I've been so excited for this book!

I've been waiting an age to read Anna and the French Kiss, too, and my library finally got it in. I can't wait to read it. It seems I'm one of the few people that hasn't read it yet!

Phew! That's a lot of books. I look forward to seeing what everyone else has had through their letterbox this week :)

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Website, Twitter
Published: 24 May 2012 (Headline)
Pages: 240
Amazon: paperback|Kindle
Waterstone's: paperback|e-book
Book Depository: paperback

Source: Bought from Waterstone's.

Plot Summary: (from Waterstone's)
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane? Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

My Review:
I picked up this book whilst I was on holiday in London which seemed pretty appropriate! This book is all about Hadley, who misses her flight to London by minutes and ends up meeting Oliver at the gate whilst waiting for a later flight. She should be on her way to her dad's wedding, an event she's dreading, but suddenly she finds herself enjoying the company of her new British companion.

The book takes place over the space of 24 hours which was one of the things I loved about it. Despite the short time frame, the story manages to fit in a whole load of drama to keep it pacy and interesting. I felt for Hadley and the situation she'd ended up in. She's torn between her parents and dreading meeting her soon-to-be step-mother, is having to overcome the culture barrier between the UK and the US and then she meets Oliver and has all sorts of boy problems to deal with!

The relationship between Hadley and Oliver is cute without being over the top. The humour and banter between them made me love the time they spent together and Oliver was a really interesting character in his own right. I like how the title sort of sums up the complete improbability of the two of them meeting. The fact it almost doesn't take itself too seriously made it more believable. I liked the elements of fate and chance, and that everything doesn't always go smoothly for the two of them.

It's a perfect holiday read with most of the book taking place on an aeroplane and the rest of it taking place in London, a city unfamiliar to Hadley. I read this on the train home from London which added to the experience! As a Brit, I loved the author's view of London and the humour playing off the differences between America and the UK.

If you're still looking for something to read on holiday or you love contemporary young adult romances then this book is a must. Funny, cute and wonderful writing, it'll have you glued to the pages!

Rating: 4*
What to read next: The Rock Star's Daughter by Caitlyn Duffy.
Books like this: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Opinion: Swearing in YA

Recently I've read a lot of articles surrounding the issue of swearing in YA novels. As a YA book blog I thought it was about time I shared my thoughts!

I think before I start off talking about swearing in books, I need to explain my postition on swearing in every day life. I swear. Let's face it - who doesn't?! But one of my biggest traits is politeness. Like, seriously, I'm too polite. Which means there are actually some people who have probably never heard me swear. At school I used to surprise the hell out of people who didn't know me too well if they caught me swearing. I was such a goody-goody that I'd never swear, surely? Wrong.

Here's the deal. I generally draw the line at swearing in public or in front of people I don't know too well. I would never swear in front of a teacher/boss/elderly relative either. At home, I'll eff and jeff as much as anyone. It's where I'm most comfortable. But out in public where kids could hear me? Nuh-uh.

One of my hobbies is writing. I took part in NaNoWriMo last year and love to write when I find the time and energy to do so. When I write novels, I aim them at teens. Writing YA is my passion just like reading YA is my passion. So do I swear in my writing? No. And here's where my thoughts on swearing in YA come in.

Swearing in YA novels doesn't offend me. I don't mind it. Teens swear so swearing teenage characters is realistic. If it's done well then it adds to the atmosphere in a story. But is it necessary? I don't think so. I don't think you need swearing in a YA novel to make it feel realistic. If I had to write a list of must have features in YA writing then swearing wouldn't really come into it.

I read a lot of books where swearing is referenced, but not explicitly stated. For example: "he swore under his breath" or some other such reference. For me this is the best of both worlds. I think the most important thing is that (in general) I don't miss swearing when it's not there. This way of referencing swearing is probably the best compromise in that respect.

It's not that swearing makes me uncomfortable. I just think in a world where you don't need to swear then I'd choose not swearing over swearing. In real life I think people can use swearing far too flippantly. They ingrain curses into their every day way of speaking, and that's where you lose the actual effect of swearing. Do I think kids are damaged by reading swearing in books? No! Would I ever advocate the removal of swearing from YA books? No! I don't believe in censoring and teenagers swear, so as long as they swear in real life they will swear in YA books, too.

This wasn't meant to be a hard-hitting opinion post or anything like that. I'd just seen a lot mentioned recently and so I wanted to throw my own views out there so people know where I stand. It comes up in my reviews sometimes (I sometimes feel the need to mention if there's a lot of swearing, just so people know what to expect).

Some interesting articles/blog posts on the topic can be found below:

"Swearing Characters More Popular, Attractive in YA Novels" - ABC.
"Swearing in YA Novels - Yay or Nay?" - Strange Chemistry Books
"James Dawson: Why Teens in Books Can't Swear" - Guardian Children's Books
"Swear Words in YA Fiction" - KidLit
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