Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 28th February 2013
Pages: 356
Format: ebook
Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

This is the story of Harriet, a geek with few friends and a even less control over her mouth. She is clever, knows all sorts of facts about the world but cannot for the life of her figure out social situations. In fact, her impulse in difficult times is to hide under a table. I instantly fell in love with Harriet - she's a huge nerd, socially awkward and in fact, apart from the random facts, just like me when I was 15! But then she gets the offer of a lifetime (if she realised it) to become a model. Harriet is obviously terrified but in a whirlwind, she goes to Russia and gets photographed in the snow, with a gorgeous boy. Dream come true, right? Not exactly. Because she's lied to her best friend and it's killing her.

Harriet is lovely in that she is normal. A bit weird maybe, but normal. She worries about her dad and step-mum, she feels horrible about lying. Over the course of the story, Harriet grew so much, even while keeping her own identity, just learning to control her urges to babble and opening her eyes to the way the world really worked. Even seeing the fashion world through her eyes was interesting, as I also have no experience in that world, so it was cool to see it through Harriet's eyes for the first time like her.

The story flowed so easily, I was surprised when I'd nearly finished! I really didn't want it to end, but the big thing of this book was the characters. Apart from the madness of Harriet, you see her dad - just as mental - and her step-mum Annabelle, a lawyer with a wicked sense of humour, although I'm not sure she knows it, plus Harriet's best friend Nat, the creepy stalker Toby, and the cute crush Nick. All had their own sense of worth, their own humour and awesomeness, and all added to the story and Harriet's growing understanding of the world.

This counted towards by my genre variety challenge and my ebook challenge. And thank you very much to Harper Collins for the copy on netgalley.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2nd October 2008 (first published 1976)
Pages: 320
Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force–a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. 

Louis is living in eighteenth century New Orleans when he gets the chance for eternal life. Lestat, the stubborn vampire that he is, only wanted Louis' house and lands, but apparently immortal life is a fair trade for that. However, Louis is twice the vampire Lestat ever was, learning and experiencing what it is to live forever and not just taking pleasure in the kill.

This was actually a re-read for university, which I'm glad for because the first time I read it, I obviously did not appreciate the language and the awesome that is Interview with the Vampire. Despite very heavy details that takes a while to grasp, it is an incredibly engaging story, from Louis' determination to not be like Lestat, lazy and self-absorbed, to the creepiness of Claudia's growing into a fully-fledge vampire mind in a ten year old's body.

Anyone at all interested in vampires or the Gothic will have already read this, but in case you haven't or you're not into that sort of thing, I still think this is one of those books that you have to read - whether it be for the vampires, the seduction, the blood or the drama.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Lady of Devices by Shelley Adine

Publisher: Self-published
Published: 29th May 2011
Pages: 307
Format: ebook
London, 1889. Victoria is Queen. Charles Darwin's son is Prime Minister. And steam is the power that runs the world. 

At 17, Claire Trevelyan, daughter of Viscount St. Ives, was expected to do nothing more than pour an elegant cup of tea, sew a fine seam, and catch a rich husband. Unfortunately, Claire's talents lie not in the ballroom, but in the chemistry lab, where things have a regrettable habit of blowing up. When her father gambles the estate on the combustion engine and loses, Claire finds herself down and out on the mean streets of London. But being a young woman of resources and intellect, she turns fortune on its head. It's not long before a new leader rises in the underworld, known only as the Lady of Devices. 

When she meets Andrew Malvern, a member of the Royal Society of Engineers, she realizes her talents may encompass more than the invention of explosive devices. They may help her realize her dreams and his . . . if they can both stay alive long enough to see that sometimes the closest friendships can trigger the greatest betrayals . . .

First off, I think I should mention that I only picked this book because I love steampunk. Like, really love it. The mix of old and new in corsets and devices and pocket watches - how awesome is that! Anyway, the book takes this idea of an alternate world, a Victorian type setting with the power of electricity and steam that fuels the world and its politics. It was not what I expected. Not sure what I did expect, but I liked what the story turned into, a young woman having to fend her herself.

After Claire's father dies in the aftermath of a political nightmare, the rest of her family runs away to Cornwell. Claire decides to stay in London, get a job - unheard of for a young lady - and pay for her entry to university. I admired her strength and self-esteem right away; she was strong-willed and spoke her mind but knew how to play the game, pretend to be respectable in society but still have her mind. However, she loses her house to rioters, forcing her to move through the streets of London on her own, just inviting someone to rob her. And they did, stealing everything she owns including the landau, a steam-powered car. This is where it got interesting: she used her knowledge of chemistry to.. well, I'll stop there in case of spoilers.

Claire's travels in the underworld of London were incredible, very typical of Dickens, with the gang of starving, pocket-picking kids. Snouts, the ring-leader of the gang, was surprisingly clever and kind of a nice guy; some of the kids were even sweet but some of them did not quite warm up to Claire and therefore I didn't like them! But it was admirable what Claire did to try to make their life better.

Even though there was a bit of a twist that I didn't see, changing the direction of the story completely, it was a welcome twist that made it a very good book and an interesting first read of the steampunk genre.

This went towards my genre variety and ebook challenges

Monday, 11 February 2013

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: 1st October 2008
Pages: 324
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad, yet she is still held captive by memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Meanwhile Sethe's house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: "Beloved." 
Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe's terrible secret explodes into the present. 

I have mixed feelings about this book. It took me ages to get into and honestly, I don't think I ever really wanted to read it - uni book, you see. And yet it was strangely addictive: the whole first half you have no idea what horrible thing Sethe could have done and why a baby is haunting their house. The horror I felt when I found out what Sethe had done is indescribable. I physically felt sick. And yet, in a weird kind of way I can understand her passion for wanting her children safe. Even if her methods are disturbing to say the least.

There was an odd narrative to the story as Morrison moves swiftly between past and present, letting the reader fit the pieces together themselves, which you don't until nearly half way through. Quick tip, I mostly only knew when it was in the timeline if Baby Suggs was alive! The setting is also pretty incredible: the black mostly-post-slavery community is close knit and you really feel for the family when they run away. Plus the women in this story are very impressive, even if the mother/daughter relationship is a bit whacked.

I've spent many hours in university deciphering the meaning to Beloved and have got very few answers. We discussed memory, colour and identity; I'll leave it up to you, if you've read it. As for Beloved, the strange teenager, we discussed whether she was real, a figment of imagination, even a spirit possessing a body, but came to the conclusion Morrison just wants to keep us guessing.

A very odd read but worth it for the tough subject matter and the subtle ghost story.

This counted towards my genre variety challenge.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Witch Crag by Kate Cann

Publisher: Scholastic
Published: 4th October 2012
Pages: 384
In a tribe where basic survival is the only priority, Kita must make a choice: to accept arranged marriages and being treated with less value than sheep, or escape and journey to the place that even the strongest men fear with their lives — Witch Crag.

But a common threat is facing the witches and sheepmen alike. The tribes must somehow overcome their prejudices and join together if they are to win a war that threatens to destroy everything they hold as good.

This story is all about Kita, a young teen living in a tribe where all she has to look forward to is bearing children and looking after sheep. But she's something different. She has the urge to get out and see the world, find the witches that are supposed to be evil and scary but she knows that they are not. The friendship she has with her two best friends is strong and adorable, but she is jealous that they fall in love. Understandably, I think, but it comes across as a little childish.

It is a fascinating idea for dystopia - Cann makes references to a Great Havoc that causes the remaining people to return to simpler and more primitive ways of life. Then there is the city, a broken down civilisation with rusty cars and burned down skyscrapers. That's where the real bad guys life. Subtle comment on the hardship of modern life, huh?

The book started out brilliantly, with the mythical image of Witch Crag and a better life for the three friends, but the ending felt kind of rushed and I got the impression that Kita was being favourited with all her new magical powers. None the less, a great little book that keeps you engaged and inspires you to begin your own journey.

This counted towards my genre variety challenge.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

On My Bookshelf (12)

My own version of IMM and Letterbox Love.

Long overdue, I know and I've picked up more than a few books in the last few weeks so let's get to it!

Night School by CJ Daugherty 
Allie's world is falling apart... She hates her school. Her brother has run away. And she's just been arrested. Again. Now her parents are sending her away to a boarding school where she doesn't know a soul.
But instead of hating her new school, Allie finds she's happy there. She's making friends. And then there's Sylvain, a suave French student who openly flirts with her. And Carter, the brooding loner who seems to have her back.
Soon, though, Allie discovers Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Nothing there is as it seems. And her new friends are hiding dangerous secrets.

Got to love The Works for cheap books! Also got Meg Cabot's Insatiable.

Beautiful Creatures by Garcia Stone
Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Had to read this before the movie! Looks fantastic.

Fallen by Lauren Kate
Seventeen-Year-Old Luce is a new student at Sword & Cross, an unwelcoming boarding/reform school in Savannah, Georgia. Luce’s boyfriend died under suspicious circumstances, and now she carries the guilt over his death with her as she navigates the unfriendly halls at Sword & Cross, where every student seems to have an unpleasant—even evil—history. It's only when she sees Daniel that her life looks a little better. But Daniel has a secret which will put their lives in danger...

A present from Sophie, along with a bound proof of the sequel Torment, and Witch Crag by Kate Cann

Easy by Tamara Webber 
Jacqueline seems to have a knack for making the wrong choices. She followed her boyfriend to his choice of university, disregarding her preference. Then he dumped her. She chose a minor she thought she could combine with her music studies, but she's falling behind. And then, leaving a party alone one night, she is attacked. If it wasn't for the timely intervention of a stranger, she would have been raped. Now she must make a choice - give up and give in, or toughen up and fight on. Only the support of the man who is tutoring her and the allure of the guy who saved her from the attack convince her that it's worth fighting on. Will Jacqueline now have to make a choice between them too? And can she make the right decision? It's not easy . . .

Won this on Feeling Fictional's blog, along with Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan, really looking forward to this!

There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff  - 
Meet your unforgettable protagonist: God, who, as it turns out, is a 19-year-old boy living in the present-day and sharing an apartment with his long-suffering fifty-something personal assistant. Unfortunately for the planet, God is lazy and, frankly, hopeless. He created all of the world's species in six days because he couldn't summon the energy to work for longer. He gets Africa and America mixed up. And his beleagured assistant has his work cut out for him when God creates a near-apolcalyptic flood, having fallen asleep without turning the bath off. There is No Dog is a darkly funny novel from one of our most delightfully unpredictable writers.

Was persuaded by Sophie to buy this, along with The Time Traveller's Wife

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith
If fate sent you an email, would you answer?
When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds. 
Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs? 

Yay! Being published in early April, this was a gift from Headline - thank you!

Yep, am recent addition to netgalley - love it! So far, I have received:
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Mila 2.0 by Debra Driza 
Hooked by Liz Fichera
Geek Girl by Holly Smale