Friday, 31 July 2015

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor – and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own …

Nicola isn't supposed to be pregnant. And she really shouldn't be giving birth to an unexpected, illegitimate baby on her best friend's bathroom floor at her birthday party. First there's the shock and the sudden action. Then there's the realisation that Nicola, who is 17 and can barely look after herself, is responsible for an adorable little person. And then there's the question of whose it is. And that is a good question.

Meanwhile, Olivia is getting pinched and pushed by her boyfriend. It's happened gradually and is getting worse. Things made worse, or better depending on how you look at it, by Nicola's admission that she and Jonty had a fling, the result of which could have been baby Eliza. With five main characters, it is told through five perspectives. Along with the expected issue of teen pregnancy, also tackled is domestic abuse, bullying, sexuality and a broken friendship.

It was surprisingly sweet, and though full of tough problems, the simple things made it easier, like having the support of your best friend. Spread over a few months and told through multiple perspectives, you could really see the character development, especially with Jonty, changing for the better and accepting responsibility. Alice was another really interesting character, Olivia's younger sister; I'm pretty sure she was autistic but either way, no one really understood her properly. It made her brutally honest and while clever, everything was in black and white to her. 

This was an unexpectedly amazing book. I got a lot more out of it than I thought and I look forward to more from Drakeford.

Published 2nd July 2015 by Chicken House.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.

This was proper, old fashioned Gothic, with its old castle, the sneaking around, the ghosts and shadows. Set in the dilapidated castle, it had a mix of Gothic and romance and plain teenage roughness. 

It told of two stories blended together, mixed past and present, between Kate and Ellie. Kate has been invited by Leo, along with the whole group  of friends, to spend the summer in his newly inherited castle. But ghosts still haunt the place with terrible secrets and the harsh past.

In the late 19th century, Ellie married a practical stranger, the man who was supposed to marry her sister before her horrific accident. But because of that twist of fate, nothing seems to go right for Ellie at Darkmere. She isn't respected by the staff, her new husband only wants her to produce an heir, and she is completely isolated from the rest of society. Hearing both stories side by side really added to the tension. Things started to make more sense for Kate as we heard from Ellie, especially in terms of the ghosts and the secret passageways. 

The two guys complimented each other as well. Both Leo and St Cloud were not all they seemed and much darker than they let on. The trouble they cause, just because they can, affected everyone around them and, especially in Leo's case, hurt their friends. It seemed the castle itself had a horrible effect on anyone that stayed there too long. 

All in all, this was an incredible story. The characters really made it for me, especially the parallels between Kate and Ellie; they were all so unique and had a great part in the story and had their own history that blended with Darkmere castle. Definitely an author to watch!

Published 6th August 2015 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon

Meet Jessie, the daughter of Johnny Jefferson, as featured in 'Johnny Be Good' and 'Baby Be Mine'. Her 15th birthday turned out to be the worst day of her life when her mum was killed in a freak accident on her way to pick up her cake. Even when there was still no sign of her over two hours later, and her friends started to arrive at her house, it never occurred to her that she wouldn't be coming back. That was six months ago. Her mum died without telling her who her real dad was. Jessie thought she had taken the secret of her father's identity with her forever. But she didn't.

My first Paige Toon was a fairly light, fluffy contemporary; some tough issues like dealing with the death of a loved one and getting used to being in someone else's family.

Jessie had a typical tough girl act, sneaking out and drinking, to cover her hurt after her mum's death. But after her step dad finally reveals the truth of her father, she jets off to LA to get to know Johnny and his new family. An incredibly awkward situation which obviously takes some getting used to but I think everyone did the best they could. Jessie wasn't a jerk about it, she just wanted to be part of the family, and Johnny and Meg might have thought she would be disruptive but all just needed to get to know one another. 

From dealing with paparazzi to suddenly having two younger brothers, Jessie goes through an extreme character development. Her budding relationship with her father was incredibly sweet and good for both of them, you could tell. All in all, it was fun and cute and I can't wait to see what happens to Jessie next.  

Published 17th January 2014 by Simon and Schuster. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'YALC Haul' 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!

Yep, as promised, here are all the books I've aquired at and since YALC. Surprisingly, I only bought 5 and 3 of those was a trilogy, which basically counts as one! At Comic Con, I also bought a Toothless plushie, 3 Pop Vinyl's, a time turner necklace and a Deadpool t-shirt. So yeah, quite a bit of shopping! 

On The Blog
Review of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (4 stars)
Review of Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning (5 stars)
Blog Tour: Killer Game's Playlist by Kirsty McKay
Review of Hollow Pike by James Dawson (4 stars)

Currently Reading
I've been making my way slowly through The Diviners and finished it yesterday morning - it was amazing! I'm now on Am I Normal Yet?, details below. I am completely in love with Bourne's writing so I have high hopes for her latest!

On My Bookshelf
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I couldn't not pick this up at Waterstone's stall! I am beyond excited for what Bourne has in store next!

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford
When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor – and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own …

A pick-me-up sort of read, I bought this from Chicken House's booth based on Sophie's recommendation. Already read it, it was awkward and heart warming and lovely. Also, great to meet Jazz in person, Chicken House's publicity assistant! 

The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott
When fifteen year old Mio Yamato furtively sneaks the katana - an ancestral Japanese sword - out of its hiding place in her parent's attic to help liven up her Christmas party costume, she has no idea of the darkness she is about to unleash on modern day London, or the family secrets that she is going to uncover.

The paralysing paranoia that descends on her before she gets to her friend's party is her first clue. The vivid and terrifying visions that nearly get her killed are a pretty good warning too.

The giant nine-tailed cat demon that comes after the sword and tries to rip her throat out? Overkill.

Seconds away from becoming kitty-food, Mio is saved by Shinobu, a mysterious warrior boy. But it's already too late. Mio has ruptured the veil between the mortal realm and the Underworld, and now the gods and monsters of ancient Japan stalk the streets of London, searching for her and the sword. 

With the help of her best friend Jack, a fox spirit named Hikaru - and the devoted protection of the betwitchingly familiar Shinobu - Mio attempts to discover the true nature of the sword and its connection to the Yamato family. Because if she doesn't learn how to control the katana's incredible powers, she's in danger of being overwhelmed by them. And if she can't keep the sword safe from the terrible creatures who want it for their own, she'll lose not only her own life... but the love of a lifetime.

I've been eyeing this series up for literally years and when the Walker booth had the entire trilogy, I didn't even hesitate!

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa
Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

This was something of a fluke find on Netgalley. I saw a few people raving about it on Goodreads and Twitter so I've downloaded it. Compared to Looking For Alaska and I'll Give You The Sun, I'm really looking forward to this! Thank you Macmillan and Netgalley!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

I was offered this for review and after a quick look around online, I knew I couldn't turn it down. Told through documents, emails and schematics, this sounds just amazing! Thank you OneWorld!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Hollow Pike by James Dawson

Something wicked this way comes...

She thought she’d be safe in the country, but you can’t escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she’s being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn’t believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn’t believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you’re alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.

After falling in love with Under The Skin, I knew I had to read my way through Dawson's back catalogue. Although fairly creepy and out of my comfort zone, Dawson's writing just has that something that makes me want to keep coming back.

Set in a sleepy little English village, haunted by its bloody history, it was the perfect setting for things to get a little out of control. As it was so remote, so small, and everyone knew everyone's business, Lis and her friend had very few places they could turn as thing go pear-shaped. Never knowing who to trust, as good guys become bad and vise versa. 

As I said, the story and the mystery was fairly creepy but I'm a sucker for witches! The never knowing who to trust, what was happening and why, that was what made it scary; the witches themselves were practically harmless, as we discovered, it was just the threat of them that makes people nervous. Ironic and clever that all this is happening alongside the reading of The Crucible

Dawson created a great teenage voice with Lis. Her bullies and her crush, everything felt very real and dramatic, as it should with teens. Add in the extra thrill of prophetic dreams and murder, and you have one very scared but determined protagonist! All in all, a fantastic story with everything you need for a good mystery, from the misunderstood bad guys to the righteous killer.

Published 2nd Feburary 2012 by Orion Children's.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Blog Tour: Killer Game by Kirsty McKay


Eerie. Thrilling. Confrontational. Uplifting. Soothing. 
Music is very important to me. That sentence is kind of like saying, ‘I have a great sense of humour.’ No one admits to not liking music, do they? As a teen, I was desperately secretive about what was on my Walkman. (Google it.) I liked to think I didn’t care what my peers thought of my taste, but really I was terrified that I’d be outed as a secret Scritti Politti fan when all the cool kids were listening to The Smiths. But, hey. One of the benefits of age is that you begin to genuinely not give a Shania Twain about what anyone else thinks. So with that in mind, here’s the run down on what was burning up my headphones while I was writing KILLER GAME.

Evanescence - Fallen
If there’s an album to listen to while reading KILLER GAME, this is it. Strung-out, gothic pop-angst. Searing vocals with a roar of orchestral, chaotic noise. For me this album evokes a feeling of isolation and an illusion of calm, while underneath uncontrollable, raw emotions crash against the shore. It’s quite beautiful, spooky, and also more than a little self-involved. It was the first piece of music that I thought of when preparing to write KILLER GAME and a perfect album to get me in the mood to inhabit Cate’s world. I even give it a shout-out in one of the first scenes set in the caves. Bring Me to Life is the most well-known track here, but my favourite is probably the gloomy but addictive My Immortal.
(Same kind of vibe … Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas)

Bjork - Hyperballad
Oh, Bjork, never change. I’ve loved this one for ages, but it came back to me while I was writing this book. An ear-worm of a song, and quite a story. The singer goes to a cliff every morning and throws a bunch of random stuff off the edge to the rocks below, in order to make peace with herself and get through the day. Destructive de-cluttering to get rid of emotional baggage. That’s a brave thought for a hoarder like me. Recklessness for a purpose, and a touch of silly. Also, cliffs. We like cliffs. Lots of cliffs in KILLER GAME.

The Doors - Riders on the Storm
Another song that ‘appears’ in the book. It’s a classic, of course, a cliché, really – but Jim Morrison remains an iconic figure of mystery to teens across the globe. This is ennui and 3am haze in a trippy 7 minutes. And check out the sound of those waves on the shore. You could just be on the island of Skola where KILLER GAME is set.
(See also Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album)

Tori Amos – Under the Pink 
This album has a little pain and a little bit of kooky and a whole heap of atmospheric, winding piano underscoring Tori Amos’ beautiful voice. It’s thrilling and wintery and isolated, full of foreboding and yearning and a touch of sardonic humour. It’s very KILLER GAME.
(Like this? Try Kate Bush’s Aerial.)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - Can’t Hold Us
There’s a vitality to this song that I love, a very masculine kind of energy, it’s ambitious and inspirational, earthy, hot. ‘Like the ceiling can’t hold us.’ Says it all really. This is the kind of invincibility the players in the Assassin’s Guild feel. ‘… like a Great White Shark on Shark Week.’ This song says, we’re going to be tested, but bring it on. Gotta love a brass section, too.
(And in the same mood … AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. Kanye pre Kim.)

210 Nature Sounds – 20 Hours of Relaxing Natural Ambiences for Meditation or Sleep 
… or writing KILLER GAME. For the bulk of the first draft of writing KILLER GAME, I couldn’t listen to anything with lyrics because it pulled me away from the story. Distracting! And then, suddenly, I couldn’t even face music. All I was able to listen to was hour after hour of natural sounds – specifically storms, waves on the rocks, vicious rainstorms and crying seabirds. This was the soundtrack of the island of Skola, the world I was creating. I felt the sting of salt on my lips, the assault of wind on my face, then the gentle lapping of calm seas on the sand … (OK, at times I felt like I was in a spa, and the endless rain noise made me want to pee.) But blimey, for the most part, was it ever atmospheric.
(Also check out … thunderstorms, your nearest ocean, rainforests, etc. Or go to a yoga class or a beauty parlor and you can guarantee there’ll be a bit of this going on in the background. Natural sounds are great, but please note, I draw the line at whale song.)

Searched through my playlist and not found a KILLER song yet? Try these. Also in the mix while I was writing KILLER GAME: London Grammar, Daft Punk, Elbow, Afro Celt Sound System, Lindsey Buckingham, Eric Church, Gustavo Santaolalla, Timbaland and Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Eclectic taste, I tell ya.
Now buy the book to match the tunes! KILLER GAME is out now and available in all the usual places online, the high street, and in your local, friendly indie bookstore.
Thanks for having me!

Follow Kirsty on Twitter @kirkybean and on Facebook at

Check out my review of Killer Game here - hint: it was amazing!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning

Bea thinks she's the most boring seventeen-year-old in the world. She's not pretty or popular or funny, unlike her mother who had Bea when she was 17. The only glamorous thing about Bea is the French father who left before she was born and lives in Paris. She yearns for la vie Parisienne every moment of her dull existence. 

So when Ruby Davies, the leader of her school's most elite clique picks Bea as her new best friend and asks her to go on holiday with them, she's wary but delighted. If nothing else it's two weeks away from her over-protective mother . But when the gang arrive in Spain, Bea is crushed to realise that Ruby and her posse have simply been using her. 

Bea wreaks vengeance on her so-called friends, and plans to decamp to Paris to find her father. But when she falls asleep on the train and wakes up in Bilbao, she meets a group of American students who are backpacking around Europe and bonds with them straight away, especially the gorgeous Toph, who helps heal Bea's hurting heart. And though Bea has a shock in store when they finally get to Paris, the 'City of Lovers ' really works it magic on Bea and Toph, who spend a week wandering the sun-dappled streets of Paris, talking, holding hands and falling in love. 

I will always go to Manning's books for a good story, a laugh and some romance. And while this is in her back catalogue, it didn't disappoint. Bea is used to being pushed around, bending to people's will just to avoid an argument. But when Ruby and the popular group use this to their advantage to have a parent-free holiday in Spain, Bea has had enough.

While the bullying was awful, nearly everything else in this story was hilarious. Bea's revenge on the girls, the tactical betrayal of their confidence, was ingenious and funny. And Bea wasn't stupid, she might have been out of her comfort zone but she knew how to handle things and right now, that was an adventure. 

After dumping the girls in Spain, Bea tries to get to Paris but falls asleep on the train and fate takes over. She bumps into a group of American college kids who are travelling across Europe and there, she meets Toph. In fact, the whole gang takes her under their wing and befriends her. But Toph is special. He see's her for who she is, and more importantly, likes her for who she is. They grow closer and have an amazing summer romance. Definitely one of my favourites! 

This was a great summer contemporary read, funny and romantic and hopeful. Bea doesn't give up on her dreams, no matter who was squashing them down, and proved her bullies wrong about who she was. She even got a cute boy too! 

Published 4th Feburary 2010 by Hodder Children's Books.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Young, beautiful and deadly. Trained as an assassin by the god of Death, Ismae is sent to the court of Brittany, where she finds herself under prepared - not only for the games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

The first in the series, I've been eyeing it up for a while and finally picked up a copy in the library. And while some parts took me by surprise, it was still a great story. This was a new piece of history for me, set in medieval France when Brittany was its own country and under threat from the French.

Ismae has been rescued from an awful arranged marriage and an abusive husband, and has been trained as a handmaiden for the old god of death. She was an incredibly cool heroine. Strong and skilled, Ismae is out on her first proper mission but soon finds she's out of her depth and surrounded by possible enemies. Not sure who to trust, she awaits instructions from the abbey but they seem to contradict what she's observing. So who's lying, the people at court or the abbess? 

The whole story, taking instructions from marks made by a god, the subterfuge at court with its politics and lies, and never knowing who to trust made for some very well-paced tension as well as a great adventurous plot. Ismae has a lot to deal with, some threats more dangerous than others, and all by herself. Her story battling the politics and the enemies of state was exciting and interesting, and LaFevers writing style, blending history and intrigue, was gripping. 

Published 7th June 2012 by Anderson Press. 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'Pre-YALC' 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!

The last two weeks haven't been that exciting. I've had a couple of interviews and am waiting to hear back. I've been volunteering and reading and generally keeping busy. And then of course this weekend it was YALC! I'll talk about all the swag and books I picked up next week, as right now I'm too tired! I'm really bummed I couldn't go both days but hope everyone has fun today. I, on the other hand, will be spending today in bed, with my book, and some tea, recuperating! 

On The Blog
Review of My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood (4 stars)
Review of Killer Game by Kirsty McKay (5 stars)
Review of To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (4 stars)
Review of All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (4.5 stars)
Review of The Rain by Virginia Bergin (4 stars)
Review of One by Sarah Crossan (4.5 stars)

Currently Reading
Darkmere by Helen Maslin - not very far though, am planning on staying in bed all morning to read it, but good so far!

On My Bookshelf
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Irene must be at the top of her game or she'll be off the case - permanently...

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she's posted to an alternative London. Their mission - to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it's already been stolen. London's underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find herbook.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested - the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene's new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she's up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option - the nature of reality itself is at stake.

I couldn't resist - I'd heard great things from an old work friend and when I spotted it in Amazon's summer ebook sale, it was like fate!

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten
June barely has time to mourn the death of her best friend Delia, before Delia's ex-boyfriend convinces her Delia was murdered, and June is swept into a tangle of lies, deceit, and conspiracy.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

These two I pinched from my old staff room at Waterstones - it's good thing they still like me! I've heard great things about both of them so I'm really looking forward to reading them.

Friday, 17 July 2015

One by Sarah Crossan

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

Told from Grace's perspective, this is a
 very strange and completely unique as we hear how it feels to be conjoined at the hip. It mostly highlights the difficulties and the differences that means for a normal life and how the girls struggle to feel normal in a world that is determined to shun them.

It was beautifully written, and so very sad. Even just the everyday troubles of showering, dealing with a new school, medical bills, it was all so overwhelming and it was a miracle that they had even lived this long! Also learn the impact of the obvious have on their family. They have a little sister who loves to dance but is usually ignored for her weird big twin sisters; their mum struggles but tries to stay positive, and their dad doesn't deal so well and drinks a lot. 

As we hear more from them, you realise that they are just like twins, even if they share legs and some intestines, they have their own personality. It was heart warming learning the impact they had on their family and friends, the hope they inspired, but the ending broke my heart. Grace and Tippi's story was awe-inspiring and beautiful and horrible but you have to read it. So much emotion was conveyed in so few words and the girls' story will leave you humming with love. 

Published 26th August 2915 by Bloomsbury. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The Rain by Virginia Bergin

One minute sixteen-year-old Ruby Morris is having her first proper snog with Caspar McCloud in a hot tub, and the next she's being bundled inside the house, dripping wet, cold and in her underwear. Not cool. As she and Caspar shiver in the kitchen, it starts to rain. They turn on the radio to hear panicked voices -- 'It's in the rain's in the rain ...' 

That was two weeks ago, and now Ruby is totally alone. People weren't prepared for the rain, got caught out in it, didn't realize that you couldn't drink water from the taps either. Even a drip of rain would infect your blood, and eat you from the inside out. Ruby knows she has to get to London to find her dad, but she just doesn't know where to start ...After rescuing all the neighbourhood dogs, Ruby sets off on a journey that will take her the length of the country -- surviving in the only way she knows how.

Bergin's debut was surprisingly terrifying, especially as I was reading it started chucking it down! An alien parasite is hiding in the rain, it loves to reproduce in water, and it's already left some casualties in Africa and isolated Russia. It was a pretty clever concept for a dystopian. The British public were caught unaware and many died immediately, leaving the stragglers to figure things out for themselves.

Typical English bank holiday, people are caught out in the rain but then they start bleeding. It all happens so fast and all Ruby wants is to get home. But it's in the rain and she can't touch it without getting sick too. The story is told through Ruby's  inner monologue, including freak outs and ramblings, as she tries to survive, tries and fails to help her family, her friends, anyone who might need it. But Ruby is not a bad-ass heroine but her survival instinct and protective nature made her real and very relatable. Come on, world's trying to end, the rain is killing people, who wouldn't want to hide in their room and cry for a bit? Her main priority is make up, just in case she's seen by anyone she knows. Vain, yes, but just like many a teenage girl!

As her family die just from a few drops, Ruby decided to make her way to London, to her father. But everything is all the more dangerous when you can't touch water, you can't get caught in the rain and you run out of food and drink very quickly because all the supermarkets have been ransacked. Ruby takes the family car, picks up a few runaways and tries her damnedest not to freak out again on her way to her dad. 

I really liked this story. It was dramatic and incredibly scary, surprisingly well thought out, with some mental characters to make things extra interesting. Ruby was a great protagonist, she wasn't the smartest or the best, just a normal girl, trying to survive the worst thing ever. 

Published 17th July 2014 by Macmillan. Thank you to the publisher and Neygalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 13 July 2015

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the 'natural wonders' of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

Told in alternate perspective between Violet and Finch, we see the differences between them shrink as they grow closer. Violet is still heartbroken after her sister's death nearly a year ago. Her guilty feelings of surviving the accident that claimed her sister is too complicated and sometimes too much to deal with. That's how she finds herself on the roof of the tower, where Finch pulls her down. Whereas, Finch has never felt comfortable in his skin and has trouble fitting in. Add in the abuse he faced at home and it makes for a very confused teenager who can only deal with these emotions by contemplating suicide. 

They were both incredible characters, properly complicated and twisted and full of emotion that they don't know what to do with. As they scrape away the false layers, Violet comes back to herself, a sweet young woman who wants to write, wants to make liver better after her's was turned upside down. And Finch deals with his darkness, his undiagnosed illness that prevents him from fully enjoying life. 

It was beautiful and sad. As much as I was longing for a happy ending, the ending I got was more real, although it did make me cry. Overall it was more about the goodness and the hope in everyday life. 

Published 8th January 2015 by Penguin.

Friday, 10 July 2015

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Lara Jean keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. One for every boy she's ever loved. When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean's love life goes from imaginary to out of control...

This was a treat to myself, a sweet, lovey-dovey contemporary that I've had my eye on for a while. And I'm really glad I finally picked it up, it was funny, fun to read, a little embarrassing but incredibly romantic. 

Lara Jean wants to avoid the embarrassment of Josh finding out she used to fancy him, by pretend dating another former crush Peter. As things go on, lines get blurry and it doesn't feel pretend anymore. As I was reading, I wasn't sure who I should have been cheering for! It was almost a love triangle but not really, as Lara Jean moves on from an unrequited love to a possible real one. 

There was also a great relationship between the sisters, as they all had to do their part around the house after losing their mother when they were young. And as the eldest heads off to university, there is a change in the family dynamic and Lara Jean has to set up. 

This story was nice and light hearted, nothing too complicated but still real. There were some great characters, and some very funny interactions as Lara Jean tries to balance the lies with her feelings and her family. A fun rom-com of a book, perfect for summer reading, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Published 7th August 2014 by Scholastic. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Killer Game by Kirsty McKay

At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer Game is a tradition. Only a select few are invited to play. They must avoid being killed by a series of thrilling pranks, and identify the murderer. But this time, it's different: the game stops feeling fake and starts getting dangerous and Cate's the next target. Can they find the culprit ... before it's too late?

Killer is a game. You are chosen to play, put through a horrible initiation and pranked and fake killed. But you're part of a great and secret tradition, something special that not everyone knows about. 

The pranks can ruin reputations, not to mention get you in trouble with the teachers, but the thrill of discovering the "killer", of being on your toes, is addictive. Even though the pranks were not allowed to be life threatening, the thrill of the unknown was terrifying. But then a girl's life is threatened when she has an allergic reaction and the game is changed.

The adrenaline rush of being part of this very secretive and kind of dangerous game is something everyone wants to be part of. And Cate has finally been chosen to play. But then childhood friend Vaughan is back in Cate's life, which makes for a weird clash of past and present as he infiltrates Killer. Between Vaughan wanting to blow the lid off the game and Cate just trying to survive, the added threats of someone watching her, then nearly and successfully killing people, it gets too much! My heart was nearly out of my chest half the time!

The boarding school setting in the middle of nowhere really added to the creepy and mysterious atmosphere. They were so isolated, literally on their own island, and when lives are in danger, that inability to get help was truly scary. I literally could not put it down; I read it in under 2 days, that's how much I just had to know what happened! It was thrilling and intense and damn scary, I completely fell in love with the characters and the story.

Published 2nd July 2015 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 6 July 2015

My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood

Geeky girl meets famous boy . . . what could go wrong?

Tuesday Cooper is happy being normal -doing her a-levels and indulging in her twin obsessions: buying weird vintage clothes in charity shops and writing her beloved music blog (which nobody ever reads). Her love for music started when she was thirteen and had a massive crush on Jackson Griffith, teen rock god and SUPER HOT LOVE OF HER LIFE. Now Tuesday's eighteen and has moved on to fancying boys in real life and Jackson went off the celebrity radar years ago.

So it can't be him that's messaging her on her blog, can it?

From one girl's computer to the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival, this is a love story for anyone who has ever wished that someone would sing a love song just for them.

Dreams can come true . . .

This is a really sweet and funny story about fate and famous crushes. Tuesday writes a music blog. Nothing impressive, just musings on life and 80's rock, so she is surprised when a random comment appears to be from Jackson Griffith, rock star and front runner to Chew's favourite band. 

Chew feels more comfortable online, has always wanted to write - could really relate! Her story was fun to read and very funny, as she finds herself in extraordinary positions with Jackson. But of course the dream eventually comes crashing down, which was quite sad. But Jackson had one too many problems and Chew couldn't fix him, no matter how much she wanted to. 

Supporting cast included Chew's boyfriend Seymour, who was nice but kinda bland. He played in a band too but wasn't anything special. I did feel sorry for him as Chew was too scared to tell him how she really felt but then by the end, he did something that was a little too harsh. Then there were Nishi and Anna, Chew's best friend and her girlfriend. Surprising but really nice to have a gay couple, especially as their relationship problems were just normal; way to demystify lesbian couples!

All in all, a fun read about the love of music and writing, and the dangers of getting caught up in the celebrity world. Chew learns her lesson and becomes better off for it, so does Jackson I think. A good and realistic look at relationships, friendships and A-levels, with some mad music references thrown in.

Published 4th June 2015 by Macmillan Books.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'July TBR' 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!

Blimey, is it really July already? Well that heat certainly suggests it is! Bloody hell! Anyway, not a lot to report, it's been another week of lounging, job applying and reading, with the added twist of trying to do drown in sweat.

On The Blog
Review of On The Fence by Kasie West (5 stars)
Review of Seed by Lisa Heathfield (5 stars)
Review of It's About Love by Steven Camden (3 stars)

Currently Reading
The Rain by Virginia Bergin - I was in the mood for a dystopian and why not one about water in the middle of a heat wave?

On My Bookshelf
Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis
While on holiday in Montana, Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, the two of them take shelter in a mountain cabin where Hope makes a strange discovery. More than a hundred years earlier, another English girl met a similar fate. Her rescuer: a horse-trader called Nate. 

In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

Darkmere by Helen Maslin
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.

A couple of review books from Chicken House, part of their 'How do you like your romance?' campaign. I'm really looking forward to both of them, especially the gothic nature of Darkmere. Thank you Chicken House!

July TBR
It's Chapter 5's Summer Reading Challenge again! Check out my twitter here and you can see what I'm planning to read for each category. And that's pretty much all I plan to read this month. I have a few review books due out late August, early September that I might get to this month or maybe leave until August. Haven't decided yet.