Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

He was Apollo, the sun, and he'd burn down anything that tried to hurt her... Cassandra and Aidan are just your average high-school couple. Or so Cassandra believes. Blissfully unaware that she was once a powerful prophetess, Cassandra doesn't even know thats god exist... Until now.

Because the gods are dying - and Cassandra could hold the answer to their survival. But Aidan has a secret of his own. He is really Apollo, god of the sun, and he will do anything to protect the girl he loves from the danger that's coming for her. Even if it means war against his immortal family...

I'm sure by now it isn't a secret that I'm a history geek, and that fascination extends to mythology; the basics I know from Disney's Hercules, but I love all their stories, the gods and goddesses complicated family, their powers - but I still learned things from this, about the Trojan War and the gods relationships with humans, especially Apollo and Cassandra. I loved seeing them all in a different, modern setting, when no one believes in them any more, and how they've survived all this time, or not as the case may be. 

Athena, the goddess of war, and Hermes, the messenger and god of thieves, are on a mission to find out why they are dying, slowly and painfully. Little snippets of their past were slipped into conversation alongside clues to their future. If they have one. The balance between finding out friends and new allies was dramatic and, if I may say so, educational. From my studies, I got a little thrill when I recognised a story or a character, especially Odysseus. It was fun to see how they interacted now, having such a long history together.

The synopsis gives the impression that it is a dramatic love story, and I'm glad that it didn't completely resolve around the love story, it was much more involved; the horror of Cassandra's visions, the truth of who she and Aiden are, the unknown mastermind behind it all made for great story telling and I'm impressed with how Blake balanced it all. 

While it might be helpful to do some homework before reading this, I didn't find it necessary to enjoy it. The history is a big part of the story but as there is subtle explanations, it didn't feel bogged down with details or completely brushed over. Again, nice balance. I loved this for the mythology, but anyone else will love it for the drama, the love story, the action, or all of the above!

Published 10th September 2013 by Orchard Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Bout of Books 9.0

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 6th and runs through Sunday, January 12th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 9.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.

Ooh, how exciting! I haven't done anything like this before and as I am officially out of work again, I not only have time but also the inclination to throw myself into my books! I haven't decided what books I'm going to read, at least one will probably come from my TBR jar, and as it's a week, I think I'll aim for 3 books. Check back later for my list of books, at the start of the read-a-thon. 

Sign up here and good luck!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Weekly Highlights: the 'Christmas' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things! 

I might have unexpectedly taken the week off, because it's Christmas and I couldn't be bothered to write! But I'm returning next week but until then, here's my haul from Christmas - surprisingly I got quite a few books considering my family doesn't buy them for me anymore because "you've got too many". Pfft!

Currently Reading
Imposter by Susanne Winnacker - my first book for 2014! Very intriguing so far, all drama and super powers.

On My Bookshelf, or Under The Tree
Tales from the Dead of Night
From a beautiful antique that gives its owner a show he'd rather forget, to 'ghost detective' whose exorcism goes horribly wrong and a sinister masked ball which seems to have one too many guests, these classic tales of supernatural terror are guaranteed to make you shiver, thrill and look under the bed tonight. From rural England to colonial India, in murky haunted mansions and under modern electric lighting, these master storytellers - some of the best writers in the English language - unfold spinetinglers which pull back the veil of everyday life to reveal the nightmares which lurk just out of sight. They are lessons in ingenuity and surprise, sometimes building slowly to a chilling climax, sometimes springing horror on you from the utterly banal. And as you'd expect from these writers, the stories are more than simply frightening - they're also disquieting exposures of mortality, loneliness and the human capacity for both evil and remorse.We wish you pleasant dreams.

A beautiful hardback from my bestie Sarah.

Dracula and Other Horror Stories by Bram Stoker

Dracula and Other Horror Classics collects the most memorable tales of horror by Bram Stoker. In addition to Dracula--the landmark vampire novel that set the pattern for virtually all vampire fiction written after its publication in 1897--this omnibus collects the novels The Jewel of Seven Stars and The Lair of the White Worm. In also includes a dozen of Stoker's short tales of the macabre, including "Dracula's Guest," a sidebar to his famous novel.

I've already got a copy of Dracula, but it is such a great book and my boyfriend knows me so well, that he knows I just love the cover! I can't wait to curl up and read the other stories.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is a murder mystery novel like no other. The detective, and narrator, is Christopher Boone. Christopher is fifteen and has Asperger's Syndrome. He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched. He has never gone further than the end of the road on his own, but when he finds a neighbour's dog murdered he sets out on a terrifying journey which will turn his whole world upside down.

I also got A Spot of Bother and The Red House, in matching covers, because my boyfriend is the best!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Soulmates by Holly Bourne

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect matches for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love…thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems.

Enter Poppy, the 17-year-old cynic with a serious addiction to banana milk, and Noah, the heart-throb guitarist; residents of mediocre Middletown, sometime students, and…soulmates. 

After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, (and a looming psychology coursework deadline), they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…

These two are from my Blogger Secret Santa, which happened to be best friend Sophie. She knows me too well, plus I think she just really wants me to read The Infernal Devices! Thank you Sophie!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Weekly Highlights: the 'December' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things! 

This is basically the month of December, as I haven't bought any new books til now so I hadn't bothered with Weekly Highlights. Therefore, so I'm not clogging up the post, I'll just link to the few posts I actually want you to read!

In other non-bookish news, you may know that I finally found work last month. Well, it was only temporary, so after the New Year, it'll be back to job hunting. Hopefully something that doesn't leave me with bruises and headaches! Wish me luck!

On The Blog
Review of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (5 stars) - technically the end of November, but it has become one of my favourite books that I couldn't resist!
Review of Crash Into You by Katie McGarry (5 stars)
Review of The Host by Stephanie Meyer (5 stars) - book and film
Discussion of Top Books I Haven't Read Yet

Huh, the reviews I posted this week haven't made the list, but I will link them here anyway, because you should still read them and spread the comment love! (The Soterion Mission and Cross My Heart)

Currently Reading
The Future Of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler - it is very funny and weird so far, in a 'I get that joke, but you don't because it shouldn't be happening to you' sort of way. But good, definitely good!

On My Bookshelf
I was bad and had a bit of spree in The Works. To be fair, I did get Christmas presents as well, but yeah... probably shouldn't be let loose in there!

Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell
Wilfred Mott is very happy: his granddaughter, Donna, is back home, catching up with family and gossiping about her journeys, and he has just discovered a new star and had it named after him. He takes the Tenth Doctor with him to the naming ceremony. But the Doctor soon discovers something else new, and worryingly bright, in the heavens – something that is heading for Earth. It's an ancient force from the Dark Times. And it is very, very angry.

Girl About Time by Kerstin Gier
Every family has secrets. But what do you do if you find out that you are the family secret That's what happens to Gwen when she finds herself unbelievably transported from out on the town to turn of the century London. It's enough to make any girl dizzy.

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

The Blessed by Tonya Hurley
From the author of the New York Times bestselling ghostgirl series, the start to a captivating and haunting teen trilogy about three girls who become entangled with an enigmatic boy—a boy who believes he is a saint.

What if martyrs and saints lived among us? And what if you were told you were one of them?
Meet Agnes, Cecilia, and Lucy. Three lost girls, each searching for something. But what they find is Beyond Belief.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Cross My Heart by Abigail Strom

When opposites attract...
The last thing Jenna Landry wants is to fall in love. The former rock musician is getting ready to start a new job and a new life in L.A., and she's only back in her hometown for the summer. Nothing could tempt her to stay any longer than that...not even the sexy doctor next door.
Michael Stone has a reputation for being as cold as ice. So what is it about his free-spirited neighbor that sets him on fire? The strait-laced M.D. has his hands full with his career and his teenage daughter, and even if he were looking for a relationship, he knows Jenna is all wrong for him. So why does being with her feel so right?
I can't resist a good adult romance and even though most of them sound corny, this was anything but. Yes, it had moments of typical insta-lust but it had the slow build up of their relationship that I loved. They actually took the time to learn more about each other, not act on initial primal urges until they felt something in their hearts instead of just their pants! 

I really liked both Jenna and Michael, they both had their own lives to live and weren't going to give that up for just anything. Their interactions were sweet and heartfelt, both were complicated and smart people; Jenna was an ex-rock star, an independent woman, and Michael was a heart surgeon and a sort of estranger father. By getting to know the other, they were both improved and seemed to get more out of life, if only just because they had a different sort of person to engage in conversation and get comments from. That sort of relationship, where they learn from each other, can be comfortable talking for hours or just working side by side, I loved that about them. 

Michael's teenage daughter Claire was a welcome addition to the story, a very good character to help bridge the gap between Jenna and Michael as well as another person to consider in beginning their relationship. Instead of being an hindrance or bratty, Claire somewhat unknowingly helped them understand each other better; Jenna was welcomed into their little family and became a role model for Claire, whereas Michael learned how to understand his own daughter by learning from someone who used to be one! Overall, I loved this short and sweet unlikely romance. 

Published 1st September 2011.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross

Does the Soterion hold the key to saving civilization?

In a post-apocalyptic world where no-one lives beyond their teenage years, the mysterious Roxanne arrives in Cyrus’s village, fleeing the barbaric Zeds. She claims to be on a mission that can save them all, but can she be trusted? Cyrus joins her in her quest for the legendary Soterion, but the Zeds are determined to get there first.

Set a hundred years in the future, an epidemic has caused all adults to die, and everyone since to die in their nineteenth year. This promised to be a very original and thought-provoking dystopian, and while I did enjoy it, I think it could have been much better.

The story was quick to start with the drama, but it was incredibly confusing at first. I couldn't quite grasp why there were these two groups, almost religious sects or something... but now that I think about it, they do represent the two ways that society can turn after an apocalypse: try to recreate the ways of the past or break down into murderous thugs. But my point is that it was all simplified, yes, but not explained how these groups had come into being after the Great Death. I would have liked some technical world-building and explanations, but that's just me. 

It was set in the future, but because of the break down of society, it felt like the 1600's, with the lack of knowledge about technology and suspicion about strangers, which made for some very interesting situations and unique problems that nowadays could be easily solved. And because of this inability to pass on knowledge, books were rare and the ability to read was valuable. Luckily, the community Roxanne comes from has three books, on which they had based all their theories of the Long Dead. This made for some very funny in contrast to the drama of the end of the world, especially trying to make sense of Peter Pan! Now, speaking of Roxanne, I had my moments of dislike. There was some superficial development in most of the characters but I think the thing that really annoyed me was the instant attraction between Cyrus and Roxanne. It seemed forced and I'm really pleased that it didn't become the main focus of the story. 

It was very interesting concept and raised issues I hadn't really thought of: like the loss of knowledge and having kids when you're 15. The world building was imaginative and original, but sometimes the characters or the situation was spelt out too easily. This is the main reason I think I am just too old for this; a younger reader would enjoy it more and probably not have as many analytical criticisms! 

Published May 2013 by Curious Fox. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

Top Books That I Haven't Read Yet

I'm sure most of us have these lists, the big and popular books that you really have to read but just never really got a hold of. Mostly due to money issues, lack of shelf space and, probably, pure laziness, I seem to have missed quite a few big releases. And I'm sure many other great books, but for this I'm going to concentrate on the big and hyped books that I'm sure we've all heard of and probably read, apart from me! 

Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cyborgs, space and fairytale re-tellings, God why have I not read these yet? I've heard so many great things about this series, and it sounds truly amazing but for whatever reason, other books seem to come first and I've never picked these up.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

Supposedly one of the greatest vampire series ever! Enough said!

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Amy has left the life she loves for a world 300 years away. Trapped in space and frozen in time, Amy is bound for a new planet. But fifty years before she's due to arrive, she is violently woken, the victim of an attempted murder. Now Amy's lost on board and nothing makes sense - she's never felt so alone.

Yet someone is waiting for her. He wants to protect her - and more if she'll let him. But who can she trust amidst the secrets and lies? A killer is out there - and Amy has nowhere to hide...

Another great-sounding series, about love and space, and honestly, apart from the changing covers, I would love to get my hands on this series. 

The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them....

Come on, everyone knows these books! I've read City of Bones but that's it. I've been told that I would like this series more than the Mortal Instruments, because of the historical element. Honestly, that's enough to convince me, I just haven't had a change to get a copy yet!

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.

Another amazing series that has nothing but glowing reviews, so why haven't I picked it up? A sci-fi love story, I mean really I should be all over that!

Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn't get out much. Not because she's not pretty. She is. It's just that, well, Sookie has this sort of "disability." She can read minds. And that doesn't make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He's tall, dark, handsome--and Sookie can't hear a word he's thinking. He's exactly the type of guy she's been waiting for all her life....

But Bill has a disability of his own: He's a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of--big surprise--murder. And when one of Sookie's coworkers is killed, she fears she's next....

I actually have the first book of this series but I haven't read it yet. After loving the TV series based on these books, I know I'll love these books. I think what's putting me off, at least a little, is the length: there is now 15 books in this series and while I'd love to binge-read all of them, I need to get them first! 

Of course, this list is practically never-ending and this is certainly not all of them! But I think this is enough for all of you to hate me for not reading them yet! Let me know if you've missed any of these, or any other great books. And if you think there's any of these that I need to get hold of with Christmas money, asap! 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that takes over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

Wanderer, the invading 'soul' who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves - Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

I'm going to do something different today: review the book and the film alongside. I've read the book about 5 or 6 times over the years and, even though I only got it two weeks ago, watched the film twice! In my opinion, they are both very good, brilliant really, but I am a firm believer of "book first" and especially in this case because you can get a lot more from the book than the film.

The book is very slow, all about the build-up, both in the story and the romance. I adore this because it allows for real time passing and the relationship between Wanda and Melanie to progress. We don't really see this in the film, it seems more forced, at least at first. And with Wanda and Ian, I love their slow budding romance, with Melanie's third wheel and Ian really understanding Wanda's role and personality in the caves. This is subtly and slowly explored in the book, with little hints at Ian's feelings and while the film got this right, I feel it was rushed a bit. Probably just because it's a 600 page book crammed into a film less than 2 hours long!

Jeb is a vital character in the book, and one of my favourites. He is a crazy genius and I am so glad that they kept his rambling theories about Wanda in the film. I am sad they didn't keep all of them though, because his questions are something I love in the book, as it shows all the humans that Wanda is a separate being from Melanie and allows them to see her as something other than the enemy. This builds up trust, slowly but surely, and I understand that the film had a time limit but I did miss the pages and pages of Wanda agonising over what they all think of her and trying to comprehend human emotions. 

Even though the film got quite a few things wrong and many things were left out, I still really liked the representation of the new world and the souls, the visual awesome-ness that was the caves, the complications between Wanda, Ian and Jared. There were also some extra's, added to make the film more dynamic I guess, like seeing Jared's raids, and the Seeker's mission to find them all. Overall, I did like the film but every time I watch it, it makes me want to re-read the book to remember all the great details! 

Published 6th May 2008 by Sphere. Film directed by Andrew Niccol, staring Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons and Jake Abel, 2013. 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

‘KISS ME,’ Isaiah whispers. My heart beats frantically. Isaiah is hot and scary and hot. Why would a guy like him want to be anywhere near A GIRL LIKE ME?
People expect Rachel Young to be the good girl who always gets straight As. But Rachel’s keeping her real life secret.
Her wealthy family have no idea that she loves racing strangers in her Mustang. Or about dangerous, intense Isaiah Walker. Isaiah has secrets too. And the last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl slumming it. But when their shared love of speed puts their lives in jeopardy, Isaiah and Rachel have six weeks to come up with a way out – and to discover just how far they’ll go to save each other.
The third book in McGarry's amazing companion series focuses on Isaiah, Noah's best friend. We learn much more about Isaiah in this, more about his past and why he's in foster care, which is great because I've always liked him and his strong relationship with Noah. And let's face it, Isaiah deserves someone after what happened with Beth and Rachel seems perfect for him. As with all of McGarry's novels, they are pushed together by fate but their character development, both in terms of feeling comfortable within themselves and to feel worthy of the other, was impressive and what I love about her writing. 

New character Rachel was very interesting: a seemingly-spoilt girl from rich people neighbourhood is actually a car junkie, with a big secret that could tear her family apart. Her family is already broken and her relationship with her parents in particular was strained, to say the least. But Rachel has a secret worse than fixing up cars: she's very ill and having to hide it from her family so they don't worry. I liked her instantly; she was fed up with feeling weak and being the little girl of the family. She was stubborn and smart with her cars but compared to Isaiah, very small. I mean literally and emotionally. They both had their problems and what I liked about their growing relationship was their lack of presumptions about the other. Well, Isaiah did assume that Rachel was spoilt, and Rachel was initially scared of him, but when learning about each other, they didn't judge because they both knew what it meant to feel alone in the world. 

The plot was fast paced and thrilling - getting involved in drag-racing is dangerous but the streets are worse and owing money to the wrong guy? Too much worse. Add in a heart-wrenching love story and terrible secrets, I was hooked from beginning to end. I loved everything about this; Isaiah and Rachel's relationship was very sweet and almost adorable, especially picturing tough-guy Isaiah getting loved up! I also really liked to see how both of them changed from being with each other in relation with other parts of their lives; Rachel grew brave and finally told her family what she thought, not what they expected of her, and Isaiah plucked up the courage to see his mother after all these years and hear her side of the story. Oh, and Abby! I almost forgot Abby! Another new character, she was an old friend from Isaiah's part of town and one of the only people he trusted to look after Rachel when he wasn't around. Even though she was pretty weird and random, I adored her; she only knew Rachel for a few days but instantly felt protective over her. 

I cannot rave about this book enough, seriously! Everything about it, from the good and bad characters, the love story, the cars and the racing, the money and the family drama, it all added up to Isaiah and Rachel becoming brave and gaining the strength to be who they are and who they want to be with. I loved the balance between budding romance and 'oh my god, we owe money to a street king and we're going to die'. And yes, I definitely had some heart in my throat moments of sheer panic but I still loved it. 

Published 26th November 2013 by Mira Ink. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They've shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin's parents announce that they've arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

The drama of being in a gay relationship has never been scarier than set in a country where it is not only illegal, but punishable by death. Overall, it was a bit of a weird, but refreshingly original, subject matter. I liked the drama, the background stories, even the setting of Iran as it gave some new insights into their culture. But their love story seemed forced. I'll get to that later.

Set in a country I know next to nothing about, about forbidden love and brave, life-altering choices, I fell into this world easily. But I did have my nitpicks about it, which was annoying. I know I should have loved this and many parts I did. I instantly felt for Sahar, feeling trapped in a society where she can't be herself, so insecure but so sure of her love for Nasrin. I can admire that. But Nasrin was spoilt, a drama-queen, and occasionally manipulative at the expense of Sahar. 

Because they were already "in love", I didn't get their progressive love story and I missed that. Also, we were supposed to believe that they were in love and had been for years but I got the impression that Nasrin didn't really love Sahar, just liked the attention. Having said that, I think it was incredibly brave of Sahar to even consider changing sex for Nasrin, although I was waiting for it to fall through because, let's face it, Sahar didn't seem to think it through properly. Especially as she didn't discuss it with Nasrin and she just shoved it back in her face. I really didn't want Sahar to make such a huge sacrifice for someone who didn't appear to appreciate it. 

Although I didn't quite believe the love story, I liked just about everything else about this: the reality of an oppressive state and what dangers that entails when you're different; the Persian words and phrases slipped effortlessly into the narrative; the underbelly of transsexualism and even what it means to be a woman in such a strict country. It was thought-provoking and a very brave story.  

Published 20th August 2013 by Algonquin Young Readers. Thank you to the publisher and Netgally for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

I adore Rowell's writing but boy, she can pull on my heartstrings! The whole story was bittersweet: the delicate first love woven with bad family drama and hatred. Their interactions were slow and easy, neither wanting to upset the cart of high school hierarchies. They fall in love over comic books and mix tapes on the bus, then grow braver in every encounter. Although they might be in some ways complete opposites, Eleanor has horrible secrets and Park is almost an open book, they are so similar in that they are outcasts and find a sense of belonging in each other.

Let's discuss Eleanor first. She was a big girl, with red hair, likes to wear ribbons, golf shoes and men's shirts. There is plenty about her for the mean girls to pick on. Yet she is brave and stubborn and mature enough to let it slide off her back. She might have been a bit stand-offish at first, making it difficult to understand her, but she was very sweet, nervous around Park and I really loved her, with all her accessories and secret box for special things. As for Park, he was a fresh take on the school-boy-crush: son of war veteran and Korean national, he is used to the funny looks due to his appearance but nothing prepares him for the emotional onslaught that is Eleanor. After a bit of adjusting, he takes it in his stride, realising (as you should) that appearances don't matter, not compared to what's in your heart.

It was adorable but also, more importantly, real. Yes, it was pretty rude and some of the content was plain deplorable, but things like that happen and I think Rowell did an amazing job in dealing and describing so many personal issues. The most obvious one being bullying, in all its shapes and sizes; from mean girls to jackass step-parents. Eleanor was incredibly brave and mature in dealing with the school-yard bullies, especially when Park could only punch things. Like Steve's face. And the development in their relationship, both in terms of holding hands and trusting each other with their deepest secrets, was subtle yet dramatic. It was obvious they were perfect for each other and the slow build-up made it realistically beautiful. That is what made this one of my new favourite books. 

Published 1st February 2013 by Orion. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron by Jonathon Strahan

A stellar cast of acclaimed fantasy writers weave spellbinding tales that bring the world of witches to life. Boasting over 70 awards between them, including a Newberry medal, five Hugo Awards and a Carnegie Medal, authors including Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix and Holly Black delve into the realms of magic to explore all things witchy.

Another fantasy anthology! I really liked this one, it was full of cool, funny and magical stories. Most, luckily, I really liked and I'm going to talk about those in this review. But I have mention that some I didn't like. Maybe because of the content, or the writing style, whatever it was, I sometimes wished I'd skipped them. But they all offered something unique and I can appreciate that. 

So, a few stories that I liked. First up, the first story of the book in fact, was Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund. It told of a poor old stray dog that turns up at an animal shelter and the volunteer there suddenly realises she can hear its thoughts - because it's a wizard's familiar! Not only was this a great way to start the anthology, but it was sweet and funny and had a great happy ending. Next up was Payment Due by Frances Hardinge, where a girl swaps bodies with a cat to get into a bad guy's house. Not just any bad guy, the repossession man that took her grandmother's furniture and prized possessions. It might have been about revenge but it wasn't vindictive, it showed that not all important things are expensive and the value of family. Which Witch by Patricia A McKillip described a young witch, in a band no less, getting to know her new familiar, a crow, while saving the world from a creepy hag/creature. It was a bit weird but I liked it, it was funny, surprisingly sweet and you know, good conquers evil and all that. 

On to some proper witches and wizards now. There's a witch living down the road and Carlos's sister has run away to be her apprentice. But he knows its dangerous, and what's with all the tree stump statues? In The Carved Forest by Tim Pratt, the witch has appointed herself the town's protector, but it is far from selfless, she's stopping them from moving and growing and I thought it was was really sweet that Carlos helped her ease her grief. Anderson's Witch by Jane Yolen is the story behind Hans Christian Anderson's inspiration for his fairy tales. Probably. Either way, it was sad and sweet and quite clever how Yolen wove the story to be true to Anderson's life and also how Hans tricked the witch in the end by doing what he loves. And finally, B Is For Bigfoot by Jim Butcher. The only wizard in the phone book is hired to protect Bigfoot's son from being bullying. But not even that is what it seems. Full of equally funny and brave moments, this was a great tale of overcoming bullies, even if they are mythological creatures training to hunt. It was one of the longer stories but I liked it, with its blend of real and magical. 

Published 4th October 2013 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honnst review. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Weekly Highlights: the 'fortnight' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things! 

So, I didn't do this last week, I sort of forgot. News from the last fortnight include some new books, plenty of reviews and starting the new job! It's going pretty well so far, and it's only part-time so it shouldn't suck up too much of my reading and blogging time but we'll have to see. But back to the books: I've managed to keep the reviews going up twice a week, and I got some pretties from awesome friends!

On The Blog
Review of After Eden by Helen Douglas (3.5 stars)
Review of Daylighters by Rachel Caine (5 stars)
Review of Hooked by Liz Fichera (3 stars)
Review of Myopia by Jeff Gardiner (4 stars)

Netgalley November update: you may have forgotten, but I am actually participating in Netgalley Nov and so far I've read three and am on my fourth, but one of those wasn't actually for Netgalley. Maybe cheating, but I'm justifying it because it was for review and I've had it since before summer! I'm well on track to read the 4 ebooks I set out to, so doing well!

Currently Reading
Onto my fourth ebook for Netgalley Nov: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan. Also, having finally finished Under My Hat, I'm treating myself to Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell.

On My Bookshelf
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it. Then, at last, they found the cure.

Now, everything is different. Scientist are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she'll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable...

A pretty good find in my charity shop - can't resist a pretty-ful hardback!

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Cassie Hobbes is not like most teenagers. Most teenagers don’t lose their mother in a bloody, unsolved kidnapping. Most teenagers can’t tell who you are, where you’re from and how you’re likely to behave within moments of meeting you. And most teenagers don’t get chosen to join The Naturals.

Identified by the FBI as uniquely gifted, Cassie is recruited to an elite school where a small number of teens are trained to hone their exceptional abilites.

For Cassie, trying to make friends with the girls, and to figure out the two very different, very hot boys, is challenging enough. But when a serial killer begins recreating the details of her mother’s horrific crime scene, she realises just how dangerous life in The Naturals could be...

Long Live the Queen by Kate Locke
Xandra Vardan thought life would be simpler when she accepted the goblin crown and became their queen, but life has only become more complicated. Everyone -- vampires, werewolves and humans -- wants the goblins on their side, because whoever has the goblins -- wins. 

Queen Victoria wants her head, Alpha wolf Vex wants her heart, and she still doesn't know the identity of the person who wanted her blood. What she does know is that a project from one of the 'secret' aristocrat labs has gotten free and she's the only one who can stop the perfect killing machine -- a sixteen year-old girl. With human zealots intent on ridding the world of anyone with plagued blood and supernatural politics taking Britain to the verge of civil war, Xandra's finding out that being queen isn't all it's cracked up to be, and if she doesn't do something fast, hers will be the shortest reign in history. 

These two are hand-me-downs from Sophie of So Many Books, So Little Time - thank you Sophie, they both look awesome!

Twinmaker by Sean Williams
Clair is pretty sure the offer in the ‘Improvement' meme is just another viral spam, though Libby is determined to give it a try.

But what starts as Libby's dream turns into Clair's nightmare when her friend vanishes. In her search for answers, Clair seeks out Jesse - a boy whose alternative lifestyle might help to uncover the truth. What they don't anticipate is intervention from the mysterious contact known only as Q, and being caught up in a conspiracy that will change everything.

And this is from Debbie from Snuggling on the Sofa - thank you very much, Debbie, it looks so cool!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Myopia by Jeff Gardiner

Jerry is bullied at school. Pretty severely, in fact, just because he wears glasses. But his short-sightedness gives him a different view point on the world and allows him to overcome this horror-story of secondary school.

Having been a victim of bullying myself, I could completely sympathise with Jerry's feelings of fear and anger, and I really do commend him on how he handles it. Although he has a low moment of lashing out, Gardiner writes Jerry to have the strength to take the higher ground and report it to a teacher. Of course, much like at my school, not much is done until Jerry himself gets creative. I loved how Jerry handled himself and tried so many ways of getting the bullies off his back; some were funny, others very effective, but some were just bad. But in the end, Jerry does really well for himself and his school by beating the bullies and helping to create a better atmosphere of zero-tolerance. 

It was the characters that really built this book. Jerry interacts with a myriad of amazing and brave characters, like Mr Finn, the deputy headteacher with the strength to carry out anti-bullying ideas; Jerry's love interest Mindy, who was adorable and smart; Silu and Matt, Jerry's friends who stick with him, even when it doesn't seem like it. Then there was Wayno and his gang were just awful; violent, racist, rude, jeez I could completely understand students and teachers alike hatred of them.

What I really liked about this book was how Gardiner tackled not just bullying but the reasons behind it. It is a common thought that bullies bully because they are victims in another part of their life. And I think Jerry realising this about Wayno was an important part in both Jerry dealing with his fear and Wayno realising the  error of his ways. It does take a while but they all get there, and I loved how the whole school got behind Jerry's anti-bullying ideas. Because it is a big problem and it takes a whole force to deal with. Most importantly, as it is Anti-Bullying Week, what this book reinforces is that no-one should go through it alone. 

Published 14th December 2012 by Crooked Cat Publishing. Thank you to the author for a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Hooked by Liz Fichera

When Native American Fredricka ‘Fred’ Oday is invited to become the only girl on the school’s golf team, she can’t say no. This is an opportunity to shine, win a scholarship and go to university, something no one in her family has done. 

But Fred’s presence on the team isn’t exactly welcome — especially not to rich golden boy Ryan Berenger, whose best friend was kicked off the team to make a spot for Fred.

But there’s no denying that things are happening between the girl with the killer swing and the boy with the killer smile...

This combines two things that I haven't seen in YA before: golf and Native American customs. Considering I know as much about golf as I do any other sport, i.e. none, I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about it. It was original and quite sweet how Fred used golf as her escape. As for Native Americans, it was incredible to get an insight into their lives and customs, which I have always found interesting. 

Using alternate perspectives between Fred and All American lover-boy Ryan, it told of Fred joining the boys golf team at her local high school, creating unimaginable tension. Especially as one of the boys were kicked off to make room for her. Fred was pretty cool, although she didn't grow into her own until the second half of the book. I liked her, she has got some major guts for not backing down when the boys don't want her on the team. Especially Seth. God, that boy needs to be institutionalised! I was honestly scared for Fred at several points when it came to Seth, the whack-job. And her Native American history was interesting, but it took me a while to connect with her. 

Ryan was the typical American teenager: bit of a brat, used to getting his way, but comes from a lousy family. You know you should hate him, especially as he does not stand up for Fred when he knows he should, but the way he falls head-over-heals for her and her golf swing did make me melt. Eventually. He was so adorably in over his head when it came to Fred; it was obvious neither of them knew what they were doing when it came to love. Which was pretty damn annoying! But despite them both being complete fools, their story was sweet and developed slowly to allow both of them to overcome previous prejudices and dramas. 

The blend of romance and sport was well done, the details basic enough for anyone to understand (and I did!). Fred and Ryan had some troubles to overcome, both socially and at home, and I liked how both their families had this back story that effected the teens in their everyday lives. The balance between the budding romance and them growing as individuals was well written; add in the competition of the sport, their family/friend drama and some racist bullying, I was pretty invested in these characters! And while this story, or its characters, wasn't perfect, I really did enjoy it. 

Published 29th Janurary 2013 by Harlequin Teen. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Daylighters by Rachel Caine

While Morganville, Texas, is often a troubled town, Claire Danvers and her friends are looking forward to coming home. But the Morganville they return to isn’t the one they know; it’s become a different place—a deadly one…

Something drastic has happened in Morganville while Claire and her friends were away. The town looks cleaner and happier than they’ve ever seen it before, but when their incoming group is arrested and separated—vampires from humans—they realize that the changes definitely aren’t for the better.

It seems that an organization called the Daylight Foundation has offered the population of Morganville something they’ve never had: hope of a vampire-free future. And while it sounds like salvation—even for the vampires themselves—the truth is far more sinister and deadly.

Now, Claire, Shane and Eve need to find a way to break their friends out of Daylighter custody, before the vampires of Morganville meet their untimely end

I entered the final book with both excitement and trepidation - I always fly through these books, I literally cannot put them down, but at the same time it's the end! I don't want it to end!

So, the Daylight Foundation have wormed their way into Morganville and the vampires are no longer in control. In fact, they've been penned in and shackled, and the gang have a horrible feeling that what Fallon, Daylight leader, has in mind for them is not what he promised. So they have to be the bad guys and save the vampires. Because Claire knows that it is just prejudice to punish them all for a few's crimes. I really liked the moral implications here, it's a problem that Morganville citizens all have when faced with vamp problems and if anyone thinks it's a black and white solution then they're as heartless as Fallon.

The Foundation was incredibly scary, like Umbridge from Potter-verse, they honestly thought what they were doing was the right thing. Like therapy for vamp-lovers, to have them drained to point of death, and forcing a so-called cure on vampires that had a 20% success rate! Speaking of the cure - even though I wouldn't understand it, I kind of wanted the science behind it. Knowing later that Fallon was a priest and a student of alchemy made a bit more sense but come on, turning vamps back into humans? Even for Morganville, where apparently humans can turn into werewolf-vampire hunters, it seemed a little far-fetched. Oh yeah, the werewolf-hunter creatures, or hellhounds as Shane so affectionately calls them; these things are quite possibly the creepiest thing I've ever heard of. I really must commend Caine, her description of them hunting for Amelie gave me shivers!

I so love how all the characters have grown, especially the Glass House gang. Claire and Eve are all grown up, fighting for themselves selflessly, the boys are as funny and endearing as ever, while still being the kickass hero's they are. As for the vamps, Amelie and Oliver were incredible in this, especially how Amelie dealt with the Foundation. She was brave and regal and showed real leadership in setting an example for all the vampires. And Myrnin. I don't really have anything to say about him, except: I LOVE YOU! He is by far the best thing in these books and his interactions with the group made me laugh out loud, especially Jesse. Although I will miss his flirting with Claire, Jesse really is sort of perfect for him.

It's the end! I honestly could not think of a better ending for this series - it was typical HEA but with a Morganville twist: of course the good guys had to win but of course it wasn't tied up with a neat little bow. Come on, it's Morganville! It still needs a lot of work but this ending gave us the readers and the town some closure. Not to mention hope. 

Published 5th November 2013 by Allison and Busby.