Saturday 28 July 2012

My Holiday Reading

By the time this is posted, I will be away in France, holidaying it up. And taking a lot of books with me! So I thought, as I won't be here until the 5th of August, I'd let you know what I'll be reading, you know, to sustain you until I get back. Like many of you would miss me... shut up, let me dream!

Anyway, on my list is:
Pretties, Specials and Extras by Scott Westerfeld. I read Uglies about a month ago and found the next three in The Works for a fiver - love a good book bargain! I am really looking forward to finding out what happens to Tally, Shay and David. Have a feeling I'll read these rather quickly!

Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
Pre-ordered back in June but Waterstones was a bit rubbish and late, so have only just started it. Love it so far, though - am half way through! Not to mention Vlad! He is made of awesome. 

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Ordered off Amazon last week, arrived just in time to take away with me! If it's anything like Anna, it will be a perfect little chick-lit book to perk me up if the weather sucks. Or if, more likely, my family drive me crazy.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Like I mentioned in whatever On My Bookshelf this was on, a gift from Sophie that I have not yet read. Looks really good though, and I really hope the narrative is easy to read, unlike After The Snow. 

Working Stiff by Rachel Caine
Another find in The Works, but one I really wanted. Found on waterstones website back in Janruary or something, bought a couple of weeks ago. I've been saving this one, because I know Caine is an amazing author and I'm sure I'll fly through it. It looks so good!

See you all when I get back!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Prom Night From Hell by Meg Cabot, et al.

Publisher: Harper Teen
Published: 1st April 2007
Pages: 320
In this exciting collection, bestselling authors Meg Cabot ("How to Be Popular"), Kim Harrison ("A Fistful of Charms"), Michele Jaffe ("Bad Kitty"), Stephenie Meyer ("Twilight"), and Lauren Myracle ("ttyl") take bad prom nights to a whole new level--a paranormally bad level. Wardrobe malfunctions and two left feet don't hold a candle to discovering your date is the Grim Reaper--and he isn't here to tell you how hot you look.
From angels fighting demons to a creepy take on getting what you wish for, these five stories will entertain better than any DJ in a bad tux. No corsage or limo rental necessary. Just good, scary fun.
An awesome anthology of short paranormal stores by great paranormal writers. Let's go through them one by one, that might be easier.

So, Meg Cabot's The Exterminator's Daughter was everything I expected from Cabot: an amazing female protagonist, a hero waiting to prove himself, well written teenage dialogue and a sweet but equally exciting plot line. A very clever story about vampires and hunters, with pure-hearted motivation. Plus the alternate chapters between Mary and Adam allows for delving into motivations and the all important inner thoughts.

Lauren's Myracle's The Corsage was both interesting and scary, a re-writing of The Monkey Paw. Bit of a quick ending with little explanation but the build-up was good, the story was intriguing: a flower that grants wishes but not always what you want. Sad in parts, little bit horrifying in others but worth it.

Kim Harrison's Madison Avery and the Dim Reaper was the longest story, with lots of characterisation and a complex story line. Because this is longer, the story goes further than prom, exploring Madison's character, her family and of course the mythology of angels. Side note, was I the only one that really wanted Seth to be good? He was hot!

Kiss and Tell by Michele Jaffe had to be one of the funniest stories. Miranda has some weird vampire-like powers, Sibby is a typical annoying 14 year old with future-telling powers, put the two together, add in Miranda's addiction to crime-fighting and a corrupt Deputy, and you've got the makings of an awesome story.

Finally Stephanie Meyer's Hell On Earth was a little confusing at first but got good pretty quickly. The mayhem Sheba tries to cause at prom makes way for a romantic distraction with Gabe, the truly good guy, an angel, only trying to save her. Disgust rolls into sweet, mayhem into happiness. Honestly better than I expected. 

Monday 23 July 2012

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Publisher: Puffin
Published: 3rd May 2001
Pages: 280
Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.

These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous.

Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules.

Like many a teenage girl I'm sure, I missed this trend that seemed to engulf the boys. Late to the party as I normally am, I'm very glad I read this at last!

I love fantasy books. If they put an original spin on an old legend, even better. This is probably the reason why I loved Colfer's underground fairy world so much. He explained how LEPrecon and other magical stuff had melted into our world. Even though their world had a lot of similarities to ours, it was different, refreshingly original and not to mention threatened by the humans a.k.a Mud People. 

Artemis is an evil little child, very clever and determined but I did like how his motivations were somewhat pure in restoring his family's name. Made him more believable and a little bit cute. And Butler! Even after just the first few pages, I imagined him as a Navy Seal from NCIS: tough and strong and sneaky. I thought it was really touching how much he cared for Artemis as well, you expect someone like him to only be in it for the money and/or action. Finally, Holly. Pure awesome! She was stupidly brave and reckless but clever and resourceful; I loved how quick-thinking she was. As well as other memorable characters such as Root, Holly's masculine but secretly awesome commander, Foaly the computer genius centaur with a really annoying wit to match Artemis, and a rather disgusting drawf who can tunnel like no other. 

Filled with action and secrets, leaving no moment boring, Artemis Fowl is a quick, fun read with an amazing smart-ass narrator and a promise to make you re-think the legends. 

Thursday 19 July 2012

Versatile Book Blogger Award

Here are the rules before accepting this award:
1. Let the nominees know about the nomination for this award.
2. Nominate 15 fellow bloggers who are relatively new to blogging
3. Share 7 random facts about yourself.
4. Thank the blogger who has nominated you.
5. Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your post.

So, yeah. The amazingly awesome Pruedence of The Library Mouse nominated me! *fangirl squeal* 

7 Random Facts:
1 - Whenever I start one of these things, my mind goes blank. Normally, I can't get it to shut up but once I need it? It runs away!
2 - I have hayfever. Even with this terrible English summer where we have barely seen the sun since May, I lose count of how many times I sneeze on a daily basis.
3 - Much like Library Mouse, I get weird hiccups that act like burps when I've eaten too quickly. 
4 - This is the first year in about a decade where my family will not go abroad in a motorcaravan. This year, the parents downgraded our van for just them, as my brother and I are getting too big, so we will be travelling to France by car to stay in a rented house. Cool, huh? At least this way we get our own rooms!
5 - I have a life-sized cardboard cut-out of the tenth Doctor in my room. 
6 - My boyfriend and I share a love of books, but different genres. Our future library will be one to behold!
7 - I am somewhat addicted to entering giveaways. Well, for books anyway. I never win anything :( But it does get me interested in all different sorts of books!

15 Nominees: Well, actually less because surprisingly, I even follow 15 book bloggers! I know, terrible. So, I'm just going to name a few that I think really deserve it.
1 - Sophie at So Many Books, So Little Time - I'm sure she's already been nominated loads, she's not exactly new to this, but she's the one who got me into it, so...
2 - Amy at Teeny Reader
3 - Kerrie at Read and Repeat - she's already been nominated by Library Mouse but what the hell, she's awesome!

I really hope I don't get penalised for not mentioning 15 bloggers! But most of who I would nominate have already been taken!  

Wednesday 18 July 2012

After The Snow by S.D Crockett

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Published: 1st February 2012
Pages: 320
I'm gonna sit here in my place on the hill behind the house. Waiting. And watching. Ain't nothing moving down there. The valley look pretty bare in the snow. Just the house grey and lonely down by the river all frozen. I got to think what I'm gonna do now that everyone gone.

But I got my dog head on. The dog gonna tell me what to do. The dog gonna help me. The house look proper empty – don't it dog?

You just sit quiet in these rocks Willo.

Set in the haunting and barren landscape of a new ice age, After The Snow is the story of fifteen-year-old Willo, a "straggler" kid who loses his family in the opening pages. Completely alone, he is immediately flung into an icy journey of survival, adventure, friendship and self-discovery – with only the dog spirit inside his head to guide him. Meanwhile, across Britain, outlawed followers of survivalist John Blovyn are planning an escape to the fabled Islands talked of in a revolutionary book...

Even with the appeal of a dystopian snow-mageddon, this book didn't do it for me. The barren landscape was not explained, the random ice age did not make sense as Willo can remember playing in the sun and grass and he's only 15!

Willo's voice should have made for really interesting characterisation and from a literary stand-point, it is incredible written but for the most part, his terribly limited vocabulary and lack of understanding for tenses made it difficult and slow to read. At least for me; I read to relax, I really dislike having to concentrate on a book to understand it. His voice also misled his age and any description of his surroundings; it made him sound a lot younger, like a lost child in a world he doesn't understand, which isn't fair because he does. Willo is obviously a very skilled hunter for his age, he has adapted to the snow and mountains well.

The slow moving plot did not help; I like some slow-moving stories, it allows for really in-depth characterisation and description but Willo did nothing but wander round the snow and find Mary in the first 130 pages. Luckily, after they met other living people, as opposed to the dog in his head, it began to get interesting. Finally, some explanation! Well, kind of. I still don't understand the ever-falling snow and their society but neither did Willo and I suppose that's the point.

Despite the rushed political-based plot in the last 100 pages that did not live up to its potential, I felt an odd sense of completion once finished but I have no idea why, as I have no idea what just happened! But, if Willo feels like he can understand his father's motives and can live peacefully with Mary, then I guess I can't argue with that.

Monday 16 July 2012

Undead by Kirsty McKay

Publisher: Chicken House
Published: 1st September 2011
Pages: 294
Out of sight, out of their minds: It's a school-trip splatter fest and completely not cool when the other kids in her class go all braindead on new girl Bobby. 
The day of the ski trip, when the bus comes to a stop at a roadside restaurant, everyone gets off and heads in for lunch. Everyone, that is, except Bobby, the new girl, who stays behind with rebel-without-a-clue Smitty. 
Then hours pass. Snow piles up. Sun goes down. Bobby and Smitty start to flirt. Start to stress. Till finally they see the other kids stumbling back. 
But they've changed. And not in a good way. Straight up, they're zombies. So the wheels on the bus better go round and round freakin' fast, because that's the only thing keeping Bobby and Smitty from becoming their classmates' next meal. It's kill or be killed in these hunger games, heads are gonna roll, and homework is most definitely gonna be late. 

How does a hopeless romantic manage to love a book about zombies so much? I don't do zombies, or even horror movies. I get ridiculously scared, stupidly quickly. And even though my heart was in my throat reading most of this, I loved it. The undead were traditionally slow-moving, gross without being disgusting and so completely intriguing I really wanted to know how they even happened!

The bunch of rag-tag survivors might be a little bit cliché but it works. Just like Sophie, I could not tell if Bobby was a boy or girl at the start; it was her comment 'You're a boy, fix that!' that made me realise. And love her even more! She is an incredibly brave girl but you could still feel her fear, which is brilliant. Smitty should have annoyed me and I thought he would but he turned out to be really sweet and brave, the perfect little hero - plus some of his lines reminded me of DiNozzo from NCIS, which is awesome! I wanted to smack Alice for most of the book but she is a much needed character, and very typical of my experience at school. And finally Peter; he kind of reminded me of McGee, smart but with moments of cool that he didn't even notice.

The story did not stop for a moment, McKay successfully keeping the drama and action up throughout the whole book, which is impressive! I'm so glad the sequel is coming out next month, I don't think I could wait much longer than that!

Saturday 14 July 2012

My Life in Books

Impressed and encouraged by Sophie's post about books throughout her life, I am writing something similar. My dad tells me I was always reading when I was little, way more interested in books than my brother was - much like now, by the way! Only from looking through memory boxes do I know that I loved Kipper the Dog, Spot and Hairy Maclary (Mum loves these books too). I can also faintly remember dressing up as Madeline one World Book Day in primary school, as well as getting a sticker for every few pages I read myself of The Cat in the Hat. Finally, I have to mention Babette Cole, author of The Trouble With Dad, Bad Habits, Tarzanna and Princess Smartypants. I have been racking my brain trying to remember who wrote these brilliant books and finally remembering just bought on a trip down memory lane!

Now, the big one. Harry Potter. I have a very clear memory of reading The Philosopher's Stone under my desk after I got the first two books for my eleventh birthday - and not being overly impressed with them! Shocking, to anyone who actually knows me. I can't for the life of me remember when I picked them up again, but all I know is, I've been obsessed for at least 6 years. 

Once I started secondary school, I can distinctly remember reading to find friends when I was being bullied, and to distract myself from my crappy life; I spent many a lunch time reading Tracy Beaker in the library, sat in a corner by myself.

Luckily, life got a lot less crappy in year 9. I have one particular memory of swapping opinions with my best friend-ever-since about The Mediator series by Meg Cabot in maths class. Such a teenage girl author but insanely brilliant and I've loved her since I was about 15. I used to carry the book I was reading at the time around school with me, usually to sneakily read under the table. The Mediator was probably the first young adult love story I read and loved. Probably first paranormal book, at that. Most of the books before this were children's books, Jacqueline Wilson and all that. Meg Cabot was the next logical step and honestly, I still love reading this series! It has a great female protagonist, a solid plot line and a few hot love interests. On a side note, love the UK covers and titles way more than the US ones!

Same friend, different series: Morganville Vampires. I can't quite remember how I got into them, who started reading first, but this is a series I raced through, literally unable to put down. And now, I have two friends to chat to about! Or I will, as soon as Tanya finishes book 11!

And yes, unfortunately, I read and went through a manic phase of Twilight fever in year 11. I look back at this time with shame. I still have all four books because, as mum puts it, they were part of my growing up. Which they were. They really were! The terribly cliché love story and absolutely rubbish (which I didn't always think) male protagonist and *shudder* truly weak female protagonist all taught me to distinguish between good and bad writing.

Moving on, the one book I definitely have to mention, otherwise Sophie would kill me, is Anna and the French Kiss. Only read this last month but it has to be quite possibly the best YA love story I've ever read (adult love story being Cat and Bones from Night Huntress, by the way). Just like Morganville, I sped through it, enjoyed every page, and didn't want it to end but wanted a happy ending at the same time!

Lately, as I read more and more, books need to be pretty spectacular to stay with me. Some book series I've loved for years, like Cat Royal. Which, incidentally, my mother also reads! Some I love by chance, like the Night Huntress after the first book was bought for me by a friend. But I always keep the books. They remind of other times, when I got them, when I read them, how I love them. And obviously, there are way more books that I could mention. Like reading The Time Travellers Wife for A-level English just because I love Doctor Who. And the first Terry Pratchett book I read, at the boyfriend's insistence. And despite hating the way Stephanie Meyer went around writing Twilight, loving her other novel The Host so much. And falling in love with dystopian fiction after reading The Hunger Games.

But I think I've rambled on for long enough now. Books have always been in my life, a true constant and one I could not live without. They always have a special story to tell, characters to love and stay with me long after I've put the book down. Have you got any particular favourites for a reason? A book that you simply cannot get rid of because of where you bought it? A book that helped through a rough patch? Love to hear about them!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Dear Dylan by Siobhan Curham

Publisher: Electric Monkey
Published: 28th March 2010
Pages: 288
A first crush. An unexpected friendship. A dream come true. 
Dear Dylan! Thanks so much for your email and I'm sorry about my last one when I said I love you. I hope you don't think I'm a weirdo mentalist?!!! It's just that I was watching Oprah yesterday and she said we should all say we love each other a whole lot more. Not to everyone of course. There's no way I'd tell my scummy step-dad that I love him because that would be lying. But the thing is, sometimes when I watch you on TV, I feel as if you're talking just to me and it makes me feel less alone. I know you probably get loads and loads of fan mail but I wanted to ask you - could we be e-mates? Yours hopefully, Georgie xxx.

I don't know what I expected to happen in this book but I'm glad it didn't! I was pleasantly surprised to find how easy it was to read and how touching the story was. An amazing teenage story of growing up and standing up for yourself. Made me wish I had this book a few years ago for inspiration!

I'll admit, I started this book thinking I would dislike Georgie, stupidly just because she was so easily fooled by Jessica and the generalised emails. But luckily, I got over her slightly annoying teenage angst and fell in love with her adorable personality. Only through emails, I found out so much about Georgie, her friends and family, her hopes and her fears. And I loved her! I am very aware of the difficulties of characterising through what is a very limited form of writing - I spent a year on Clarissa, trust me I know more about the epistolary genre than I'd like to! But the emails, and Siobhan's heartfelt and a little bit childish writing made Georgie and all those she described come to life. 

Much like Nan, I read Georgie's emails with bated breath, hoping that Jessica didn't ruin anything, that Tone-deaf didn't hurt anyone and that Jamie turned out to be the person I really wanted him to be. And even though I did not expect Nan at all, she was a lovely voice of reason, the perfect mother figure for Georgie to vent to when things went great or crap. And I wanted things to go great; if anyone deserves a good summer, it's Georgie. Putting up with an evil stepdad, a nearly-absent mother and all the drama with her friends, I felt Georgie deserves a medal!

A beautifully written piece that spans teenage and adult issues alike. I couldn't get enough and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Many thanks to Siobhan who sent me a copy!

Saturday 7 July 2012

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 1st January 2012
Pages: 272
Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.     

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.     

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon. 

I had such high hopes for this book. I love historical fiction and this sounded like such an awesome concept but even without reading any of her other work, this was very obviously dumbed down for a younger audience. There was repetitive dialogue that distracted from the action, simplistic explanations and not nearly as much magic as I was led to believe. Set in a time where religion run mad with crazy superstitions, it sounds like a perfect setting for mystical goings on but there was none of that, only corrupt authority figures. And while Philippa Gregory does exploit this ridiculousness and use her historical knowledge well without bogging the reader down with details, it turns out to be boring and normal! Completely misleading synopsis!

Any frequent readers of my blog will know I have to fall for the characters of a book. In some ways I can understand the simple characterisation, at least for Isolde, as women were domestic and obedient. And maybe it was just my love for a strong heroine, but she annoyed me a few times. Yet there is no excuse for the men! Luca had such promise but I don't know whether it was his typical attitude towards the women, which was to be expected or just not very good characterisation, but I could not bring myself to believe in him, no matter how much I wanted to. 

One thing I could not fault, God knows how this happened, was the secondary characters of Freize and Ishraq. Freize was funny and a little bit stupid but in an adorable way. 'I will be damned  and double damned if I ever understand how women think'. Love his interactions with Ishraq! And she intrigued me; I wasn't aware that women, in that time and her religion, were able to be educated like she was. Even though I only warmed to her about half way through, she was most interesting character - she reminded me of Djaq from BBC's Robin Hood.

The dual narrative worked well to draw the two main characters together. But the two adventures, one nunnery and one werewolf, were rushed and a little awkward which meant I was confused half the time. I really wanted to like this book and I did enjoy it, but not as much as I had hoped. Easily recommended though!

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 1st January 2005
Pages: 425
Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend, Shay, isn't sure she wants to be Pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

This book is based on a fascinating possibility. Cosmetic surgery gone wrong? The way our world views beauty is already not that far from the Ugly world; it is scary but thrilling to see how far it can be pushed. The idea of being descended and learning from the Rusties mistakes - us being the Rusties, of course - made the story all the more believable.

Ok, the main thing I love about any book, the make or break if you will, are the characters. And this did not disappoint! Tally is adorable, brainwashed but lovable, if you know what I mean. She means well and it is obvious that she cares but it is easy to hate her a little, just for being so easily manipulated. But that is not her fault! Moving onto David, even though we meet him later. He appeared the classic hero: protective, secretive and strong. And poor Shay. She was brave and stubborn, I adored her from the moment we met her; she seemed so level-headed in a world turned upside-down! And it hurts when she turned Pretty, it gave us first-hand experience in the changes the surgery did to a person and it sucked. It was genuinely terrifying to find that an physical (outside) surgery could change who you are on the inside.

I fell in love with this story much quicker than I imagined I would; I was instantly drawn in to the reasons behind the Pretty surgery. Plus, the new social structure. I mean, Ugly tricks were one thing, but the Smoke was incredible! And just that the Smoke even existed was amazing - it actually filled me with hope!