Friday, 20 January 2017

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten

Beware That GirlKate O'Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She's determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale. 

There's one girl in particular that catches Kate's eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she's a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with. 

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia - an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

I don't tend to read psychological thrillers but I'm glad I gave this one a try, even though it was super creepy. It tells of two girls: Kate has learned to depend only on herself, she's quick-witted, ambitious and not afraid to hurt someone to get what she wants. And what she wants is Yale. Olivia is just as smart but also privileged, the typical rich little girl who has never had to fight for anything.

The different perspectives were interesting. It was first person in Kate's head, so we could tell when she was lying, when she was distracting attention; and it was third person for Olivia, so all the information we got was very surface-based. We did get some insight into her background but not a whole lot and often only what she was willing to share out loud; also we couldn't tell what she was thinking a lot of the time. It became obvious that both girls were using the other: Kate needed Olivia for a home and, if she's lucky, her influence, while Olivia needed a friend and support at home while her dad was away for work. As the book progresses, it becomes less clear who is using whom exactly.

There were a lot of secrets, like way too many! Kate's past in particular was a whole slew of lies and desperate secrets, but also the truth behind Olivia's absence from school and her new medication. Then there was Mark. He was an amazing character; horrible yes but very interesting to read about. He was brilliant at his job, the flirting and schmoozing of the bigwigs at the school, but he was also slimy. When we first come across him, Kate pegs him as an excellent liar and, for want of a better word, a con man. Mark was definitely always working an angle and the way he could worm his way into the girls lives made my skin crawl. 

This was all set in a competitive elite school, where getting into a good college was as much a daily influence as mental anxieties and drugs. This I could handle but I was not really prepared for the darkness that came with Mark's presence in the story. If Kate and Olivia's lives weren't messed up enough, why not bring in a predatory, handsome man who likes to collect secrets and girls? All in all, this was a shocking, un-put-downable read that kept me guessing until the very last page.

Published 12th January 2017 by Hot Key. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ten Hidden Gem Books I've Read In The Past Year

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

I don't do Top Tens very often but I'm trying something different, shaking things up, and other changing things metaphors. So here is a list of books that I thought were awesome and more people should read so we can all fangirl together.

Drew by T Cooper
A story about a boy who changes into a new body every year of high school, and whose first reincarnation is a petite blonde girl. It was very funny and very clever, pretty self-deprecating about how Ethan had to re-learn nearly everything as a girl, including how to handle yourself in public, getting unwanted attention, and the annoyance of leggings. 
The Flight of Dragons
Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson
Dragons are real and this is how they work: how they fly, their ability to breathe fire and their obsession with virgin sacrifices.

Think Twice by Sarah Mlynowski
The sequel to Don't Even Think About It, about a group of teenagers who develop telepathic powers. I have successfully convinced a friend to read this duology as it is very funny, so easy to read and pretty clever considering it isn't that long. 

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil
A small town in the middle of nowhere is upset by Doomsday idiots flocking to their homes because apparently that will be the only safe place when the world ends. A brilliant coming of age story with an apocalyptic twist, Alba has to come to terms with the fact that her peaceful little life can't always stay the same.

London Belongs to UsLondon Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning
Set over 24 hours, we follow Sunny on a mad dash across the city to track down her boyfriend and set the record straight about rumours of him cheating. Funny, diverse, slightly insane and a huge love letter to London, more people definitely need to read this!

Animal: the Autobiography of the Female Body by Sara Pascoe
I adore Sara Pascoe, she is hilarious and this part autobiography and part psychological essay is no different. Sara writes about personal stories with the twist of renewed feminism and the benefit of hindsight, as well as explaining lots of psychology theories on sexuality and femininity.

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts by Annie Darling
Love SongWho doesn't love books about books? It was sweet, endearing, heart warming and simply a pleasure to read and fall in love with books all over again. Plus it had a bod boy with a heart of gold and utterly hilarious misunderstandings. 

Love Song by Sophia Bennett
I don't think I will ever get tired of stories about boy bands and Sophia's is one of my favourites. Nina is hired to look after this band, trying to keep them calm, writing songs and not breaking up. It was so much fun to read, it was really down to earth and realistic, considering the subject matter, and utterly adorable. 

And there we have it! My Top Eight Hidden Gems of the past year - I'm actually surprised I managed 8 because I've been reading mostly review books and new releases for quite some time now.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

5 years!

Holy crap, I've been blogging for 5 whole years today! I honestly have no idea how I've managed this long but thank you all for reading and here's to, hopefully, a few more good years!

Anyway, to celebrate my little blog's fifth birthday, I'm hosting a giveaway! Enter using the rafflecopter widget below to win your choice of book under the value of £10 from The Book Depository. Exciting, right? And, thank goodness for free worldwide shipping, this competition is open worldwide! Please check the Book Depository website to see if your home is on the list, otherwise things could get very expensive.

This giveaway will run for a week, starting today, and I will pick a winner next week so when entering, please leave an email address or twitter handle that I can use to contact you.

All that's left to say is: good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Trouble Makes A Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

Trouble Makes a Comeback (Trouble, #2)After a fall semester of fiascos: getting arrested, then kidnapped, then blown up in an explosion (all thanks to the weird but brilliant Philip Digby), Zoe Webster is looking forward to a quiet spring. Now that Digby has left town, she's finally built a regular high school life for herself. She's dating Austin, the alternate QB; she knows girls she considers friends; she's learning to enjoy being normal and semi-popular. Which of course is when Digby comes back: He's got a new lead on his missing sister and he needs Zoe's help.

Suddenly Zoe is tussling with a billionaire arch-villain, locking horns with armed goons, and digging into what makes the Digby family tick, even as she tries to navigate the confusing and emotionally fraught world of high school politics and locker-room drama. After all, it's hard to explain Digby to a boy like Austin, especially when Zoe isn't sure how she feels about Digby herself—or how he feels about her.

Now that Digby's back, get ready for another hilarious whodunit filled with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and the most charismatic, dynamic duo you've ever met. And just try to stay out of trouble.

We dare you.

This is the sequel to Trouble Is A Friend of Mine, which I read a year ago so of course details were foggy but I remember how much I loved it. Luckily, it is just as fresh, funny and fast as book number one. It takes place several months after the events of book one, when Digby comes sauntering into town and interrupts Zoe's new normal life, where she has good friends, a jock boyfriend, and an actual social life. But Digby has new leads on his missing sister and needs help.

In this break, Zoe has left herself have a life without Digby but of course he has to ruin all that. After that surprise kiss at the end of book one, Digby's return brought a lot of awkward but I think their dynamic has changed a little bit, as Zoe knows what to expect from him now and is a little more proactive in their adventures. 

There was a surprising love triangle as Zoe has a boyfriend in the shape of QB, sweet but slightly dim-witted Austin when Digby returns. It dragged a little because of course I knew what was going to happen, or at least I hoped desperately for it to happen! Zoe's new life with Austin may be the stereotypical teenage girl dream but I think Zoe was bored and already looking for an excuse when Digby showed up. But the normal teen drama was very entertaining and really allowed Zoe to develop as a character. And also Henry, Sloane, Felix and Bill are back - although I couldn't remember Bill from book one and I wish I couldn't remember her from book two, because my God she is annoying! 

All in all, a great book with the same snark, wit and laugh out loud moments that were present in book one. The story of Digby's past as grown and is left open for book three, as is Digby and Zoe's relationship but with hope for a good outcome. Now it's just waiting for the finale!

Published 1st December 2016 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Blog Tour

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…
Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!

So here is my day's photo and caption, written by the lovely Katherine:

"As I grew into a teenager, I still was a huge bookworm and spent every second I could reading. My little sister, pictured next to me, was born when I was 13, and I used to spend hours telling her makeup stories. I knew I wanted to be a writer by this time, but I didn’t tell anyone. It seemed like an impossible dream."

Friday, 6 January 2017

My Dream Book Conference

I heard about this idea of a dream conference panel on a couple of blogs and wanted to get in on the action. They, like me, have been inspired by Eventbrite, the massive self-service ticket platform, and I was really excited to get on board with this. Honestly, I went a little nuts with ideas! There are so many great authors that I would love to talk to but I finally came up with a good theme and a few really good authors to talk about books with. I suggest checking out Eventbrite's conference management page to find or plan your own events. But here's my plan.

Maybe Next Time
On this panel, which of course I will chair (because in make-believe world I wouldn't get nervous about it!), I have five of my favourite authors here to talk about their books either set in, or relating to, the past. I am a huge history geek and historical fiction is one of my favourite genres so here are the authors and their books that I would like to talk about.

I want to talk to all of these authors about using the past in their narratives, how they researched their time period, and how easy it was to picture their characters in a time period so different from the present.

After the Last Dance Sarra Manning - After The Last Dance - two different time periods of one character, her past and how it affected her present, specifically her family. 
Sarra uses the past and present of one particular character's life to reflect on time passing and lessons learned, for that character and the other leading lady - was there a specific reason for this?

Lauren James - The Next Together - scientific reincarnation as Katherine and Matthew are reborn across time. 
Lauren uses the same two characters in multiple time periods. Was there any time period that you thought must be included? Or in fact, any that you knew should not?
Passenger (Passenger, #1)

Alexandra Bracken - Passenger - - time-travelling pirates, a musical prodigy and one very annoying "lord" of time.
Lauren and Alexandra use time travel in their stories - was it difficult to keep different time lines clear? And how weird was it messing with time?

Julia Golding - The Diamond of Drury Lane - a young girl grows up in Victorian London.
How much history did you research before you felt comfortable putting your characters in that time period? Was there ever any doubt as to which time period?And as these books are for children, did you have to intentionally leave anything out that was too complicated?

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Cassandra Clare - Clockwork Angel - Victorian London but with a secret supernatural underworld. 
Cassandra mixes history with fantasy - I can imagine that was both weird and amazing! Did it feel any different than your contemporary fantasy books?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions! I hope you enjoyed that, I had a lot of fun making it, and of course thank you to Eventbrite for including me in this project. 

If you could plan or attend your dream author panel, who would be on it? 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Legacy of Lies by Jillian David

Legacy of LiesGarrison Taggart doesn’t have time to deal with touchy-feely junk like “trust issues” or “feelings.” His dad’s health is waning and the family’s Wyoming ranch is being sabotaged. Too bad his supernatural ability to tell when someone is lying has been exactly zero help in ferreting out the betrayer so far. So, when sweet schoolteacher Sara Lopez raises concerns about his son being bullied, who can blame a guy for getting a little testy?

The last thing Sara needs is any more attention or gossip after her recent breakup with big-shot rancher Hank Brand. So her attraction to surly but sexy Garrison, Hank’s rival, is entirely unwanted. When she uncovers an insane plot to kidnap the Taggart boy and throws herself in harm’s way to protect him, Garrison must risk his deepest secret and his own life to save the people he cares for the most. But will his heroics cost him everything?

I was asked to review this by the author, and it's not my usual thing so I was going to turn it down. But, after reading about it, I thought it would be like Wynonna Earp, a TV show that I've recently discovered and love, and it kind of was: small town gossip, traditional Western romance, bit of paranormal thrown in. However there were just a few too many questions for me to properly understand it but I did overall like it.

Sara is working in her home town, which she hates and for some reason everyone hates her, to work off her student debt. She just has a couple more years to deal with then this town is in the dust. But meeting Garrison changes all of that. Despite the hot and manly descriptions of Garrison, I didn't really believe the romance until over half way through. And I really didn't understand Sara sometimes; many of her actions seemed inconsistent, like sleeping with Garrison then running away and shutting down her heart - why has the fact that you are leaving in a few years just become an issue? It's always been there! Humph, anyway. 

Sara's ex Hank was a completely unknown element in this. I spent most of his screen time, as it were, wishing he would jump off a cliff. I'm pretty sure that was the point of his character but some of his insults were sloppy, painfully misogynist and sexist for no real good reason that I was just getting annoyed with him. Also was there a reason behind his fixation on Garrison other than insecurity? Because blackmailing his wife and kidnapping his son is a bit far for simple jealousy. 

As for the paranormal element, it was really cool but there didn't seem to be any need for it. There was no explanation for Garrison and his family's abilities, it's just a thing that is there. All of his siblings have slightly different mental abilities, like being able to find a specific person or sense danger, but apparently their father just ignores these things. How do all of the kids have powers but the father not, nor know anything about them? This fact annoys me more than it should. 

Let's end on a proper positive. It was a good start to a series, but lots of things left unanswered, which I suppose is the point. It is a spin-off series which explains why I didn't get all the references. It was full of really good writing and a pretty good story line, just a strange mix of western romance and paranormal that didn't do it for me, unfortunately. 

Published 14th November 2016 by Crimson Romance. Thank you to the author for my copy in exchange for an honest review.