Friday 31 May 2013

Weekly Highlights: the Month of May edition

Obviously not a 'weekly' update but as May has been a busy one for me, and reviews and books have been slow because of making uni work a priority, I thought I'd save it all up for the end - like an explosion of bookish awesome!

Books read

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa
You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett
The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles
Fall of Night by Rachel Caine
All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Blood Calling by Joshua Grover-David Patterson

Not a great reading month, but in my defence, I had to hand in my dissertation, two essays and a presentation! Plus had a whole week where I was too ill to even pick up a book.

On My Bookshelf

The Originals by Cat Patrick - hand-me-down from Sophie
Fall of Night by Rachel Caine - read it straight away, finished in two days!
ACID by Emma Pass - could not resist this!

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent
A Man for Summer by Ruby Laska
Ember X by Jessica Sorenson
Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
Cupidity by Holly Hepburn
This Time Next Time by Gretchen Galway
Dying to Get Published by Judy Fitzwater
A Dark Kiss of Rapture by Sylvia Day
Hollow Earth by John and Carole Barrowman
Crossing the Line by Katie McGarry (novella)
Why Do Fools Fall in Love? by Louise Marley

Behind the Blog

The author of the Morganville series, Rachel Caine, came to Bristol on 10th May - me and Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time, went up to meet her. She was really sweet and chatted with us both about her books and writing. And we also got a Morganville tote bag and a Morganville ID card!

In other news, I have finished university! I handed in my dissertation on the 17th, my last presentation on the 20th then I got a massive cold/flu-type thing that left me almost completely bedridden and too exhausted to realise I have nothing else to do with my life. Even without any job prospects, I do have volunteer work at my library and the Summer Ball to look forward to this summer, so I'll worry about the real world afterwards!

Tuesday 28 May 2013

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

Sixteen year-old Anya becomes the head of a mafia family after her parents are both murdered by rival gangs. Although Anya is embroiled in the criminal world, she is determined to keep her brother and sister out of the mafia family, but her father’s relatives aren’t so keen to let them go. When Anya’s violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate – chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya’s mafia family – she is arrested for attempted murder and sent to the notorious jail on Manhattan Island.

Eventually she is freed by the new D.A. in town, who believes she has been framed. But this D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn, and her freedom comes with conditions. Win’s father wants to be mayor, and he can’t risk having his ambition jeopardized by rumours spreading that his son is seeing a member of a notorious crime family. Anya knows she risks the safety of her family by seeing Win again, but the feeling between them may be too strong to resist...

I cannot believe it took me so long to pick up this book, it was so good! Maybe not as dramatic as I was led to believe, definitely more contemporary than dystopian but I still loved it. Anya was a very strong and strangely likeable character; getting past the fact she had my name didn't take very long, although she did have some uncanny similarities with me! She's the glue in her family, taking on all the responsibility and looking after her Nan, brother and sister after her mother then father were killed. This is because the family business is technically illegal. And while her father might have trained her to the ways of that world, Anya has no interest in joining it, which I thought showed real strength when she could have let her mafia family deal with everything.  

Speaking of her family, her brother and sister were adorable. Natty was a little flirt, so sweet and the typical little sister. Leo is the oldest but after an accident that left their mother dead, he has trouble concentrating and dealing with stress (don't we all?). Anyway, he is apparently "simple minded" but I saw little evidence of that, which  made me think that Anya's treatment of him was a little condescending. As for the love interest Win, he was the complete opposite to Anya, funny and just fun, and I think she needed that. 

I also really loved the parallel's with Prohibition New York, and the setting of New York full stop - I would love to visit New York! The whole story was well written and engaging, plus the characters were amazing. Anya was a great protagonist in her strong beliefs and it was really interesting to read about a mafia family from both the inside and not, as Anya had no interest in running the family business. And, how could I forget, Anya's style of addressing the reader was unique and pretty entertaining, with her N.B's and asides. I cannot wait to read more from her and her... let's say interesting life!

Published by Macmillan on 29th March 2012.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Fall of Night by Rachel Caine

Claire never thought she’d leave Morganville, but when she gets accepted into the graduate program at MIT, she can’t pass up the opportunity. Saying good-bye to her friends is bittersweet, especially since things are still raw and unsettled between Claire and her boyfriend, Shane. 

Her new life at MIT is scary and exciting, but Morganville is never really far from Claire’s mind. Enrolled in a special advanced study program with Professor Irene Anderson, a former Morganville native, Claire is able to work on her machine, which is designed to cancel the mental abilities of vampires. 

But when she begins testing her machine on live subjects, things quickly spiral out of control, and Claire starts to wonder whether leaving Morganville was the last mistake she’ll ever make...

This is the fourteenth book in the Morganville series, the penultimate instalment of this fantastic series and as ever, I devoured it! This one was different than the others because it wasn't in Morganville, which started out interesting as I laughed at the "inside joke" feel when Claire knew how to handle herself, but while it was just as good, it wasn't the same. Luckily, this did not distract from the awesome that is Caine's story-telling. 

Even though it wasn't in Morganville, there was not a quiet moment. After the shocking events of the last book, Claire needs to get away and goes to MIT to study with an ex-Morganville resident about vampire control. It was very interesting to read about vampires outside the "safe" surroundings of Morganville, made it a little surreal! But of course, you can take the girl out of the town, but not the town out of the girl, and Morganville catches up with Claire. Which was amazing, because I was beginning to miss Myrnin's crazy and Eve and Michael's sweet relationship madness. An added bonus was the alternate chapters written by Shane's point of view, which allows an alternate view of life outside Morganville. 

As this is the second-to-last book, you really realised how far all these characters had come. Especially Claire. She has turned into a smart and confident young woman, able to hold her own against anything. And then there's the vampires. Myrnin was adorably weird in this one, which I love about him. Plus Claire's device has some disastrous effects on all the vamps, which I found terrifying; having met and fallen in love with these characters and to have some "believers" mess with their person was just horrible. 

Non-stop action, heart in your throat moments, as well as sweet romance and - I have to mention this - some historical references that I guessed right! And the ending? Oh wow, Daylighters is going to be EPIC!

Published 2nd May 2013 by Alison and Busby.

Friday 17 May 2013

The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles

Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular--and never been kissed. Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile--and a total player. And also Elle's best friend's older brother... 

When Elle decides to run a kissing booth for the school's Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer--this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak. 

But will Elle get her happily ever after?

The Kissing Booth is a normal, fun teen read - nothing particularly special but still kinda sweet. It tells of Elle and her best friend-since-birth Lee having to come up with an idea of a booth for the Spring Carnival and finally decide on a kissing booth. Elle doesn't want to actually do it because she hasn't been kissed before. You can see where this is going, can't you? She kisses Noah, Lee's brother, who obviously had a thing for her before this, though Elle was blind to it, and then they can't keep their hands off each other. 

I'm just going to say: I liked this, but I had a few issues with it. First, Elle was pretty much typically normal, she was pretty without realising it, one of the guys, but didn't know how to be a teenage girl: she couldn't flirt, tell when guys were being a bit too predatory, anything like that. She was nice enough, but so naive sometimes I wanted to shake her! Then there was Noah. He was surprisingly cool, and boy was he hot in his Superman underwear! But he was also a violence junkie and seemed to get off on protecting Elle from any living male, which made her all the more naive to the ways of the world! At least she realised that and told him off for it. Go Elle. And then there was the progression of their relationship. Elle kept saying she was a romantic, but she lost her virginity to Noah after a couple of months of secret making out. Plus, again, way naive when she couldn't tell that a drunk guy was going to grope her. Honestly, get rid of the rose-tinted glasses!

Her relationship with Lee was also a little bare. Don't get me wrong, he was great and I actually liked that it wasn't going to be one of those 'oh, I like you more than a friend' stories, because those are too common, but he was incredibly dramatic when he found out about Elle and his brother, which is understandable on one level but on the other, I couldn't help thinking 'God, get over it, they clearly love each other'. 

All in all, a cute teen read that had so much potential. It was funny and sometimes adorable but lacked any real development. 

Published 13th December 2012 by Random House. Thank you to netgalley for my e-copy.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett

It was all so good. Sasha and Rose. Best friends in a band, singing together. Right up to the finals of Killer Act when the judges tell them one of them must go Suddenly their friendship is put to the ultimate test. On TV in front of millions. Two girls. One huge mistake. Can they ever forgive each other?

This is my first Sophia Bennett book and I loved it. Her style, her characters, everything was so well done and excellently portrayed and just plain awesome! The story of Sasha and her best friends accidently being entered into an amazing music contest and having that friendship torn apart by the horrible effects of the media was incredibly real and heart-breaking. 

It was a really interesting and realistic portrayal of the effects of social media. I am painfully aware of the impact mean texts and messages can have and it was intriguing to see that in YA fiction, as it is a big deal to teenage life and should be addressed more. Plus Bennett also tackled body issues. This is already addressed in fiction but not necessarily from the perspective of someone else. The significance of Sasha not noticing nor caring about Rose's size was obvious plus her naive reaction made the breakup all the more heartfelt. 

But more than anything else, this was a story of friendship, and although Nell and Jodie were a little annoying when they left Sasha to deal with the brunt of the criticism, the fact that they all came together in the end, despite what they had all gone through, made me cry a little. And as it was told from Sasha's point of view, we realise the extent of all the criticism and really feel for her as she struggles with all of it. That made me love Sasha as a character, that she was so strong and even after thinking Rose had dumped her, still would not say a bad thing against her. 

This book had the most fantastic blend of funny and serious, mixing privacy control and death threats with songs about sunglasses and dressing up! It made me cry and laugh, sometimes both, and comes highly recommended. 

Published 6th May 2013 by Chicken House. Thank you to Chicken House for my review copy. 

Friday 10 May 2013

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood 

She has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever-and possibly end human and vampire existence. 

There's a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago-and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries, if Allie can get to him in time. 

Allison thought that immortality was forever. But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could never have imagined having to make.

I loved The Immortal Rules last year and the sequel does not disappoint. Julie Kagawa has this amazing gift to write the most normal things and make them as extraordinarily interesting as you like! Mostly this included walking through sewers, searching for clues about the virus and verbally sparing with her travelling companions. Kagawa has this skill to recap the events of the first book without being boring or listing, which was very helpful because I could not remember all the details of the first book after all those months! 

The most important thing with this book is that it allowed more time in Allie's world, which is fantastic because I love her! Plus, Zeke returns, and as I'm sure you're aware by now, I love a good romance and while Allie's moaning about losing her humanity did get old quickly, I do love Allie and Zeke together. They were on the hunt for Allie's sire Kanin, with an unlikely ally in the form of Jackel - I know, it shocked me too. Even more so that I actually kind of liked him after a while. This quest took her to her home of New Covington and guess who shows up? Stick. I kind of (read: really) wanted to hurt him for all the crap he puts Allie through - all because he wanted to feel powerful. I really must take a moment to applaud Kagawa for creating such an incredibly irritating character and not feeling the urge to kill him instantly. 

As they search for Kanin and then discover why New Covington has been shut down, Allie realises some things about herself and her possible future. Even though this creepy virus is making any future look unlikely. It was action packed and gory, Kagawa having upped the blood and guts which is awesome. And what might be even more impressive was how she blended this gore with the budding romance - not an easy task! I'm not sure it had the same boom to the first book, but definitely worth the continuation of a fantastic series, with awesome characters and skilled writing that I wish I possessed. 

Published 3rd May 2013 by Mira Ink. Thank you to Mira Ink for my review copy. This also went towards my Genre Variety challenge. 

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Adorkable by Sarra Manning

Jeane Smith's a blogger, a dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand, and has half a million followers on Twitter. Michael Lee's a star of school, stage, and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie. They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can't they stop making out? This novel is about an unlikely relationship, but it's also about roller derby, dogs on skateboards, dogs on surfboards, dogs doing any form of extreme sport, old skool hip hop, riding your bike downhill really fast, riot grrrl, those boys you want to kiss but punch in the face at the same time, dyeing your hair ridiculous colors just because you can, stitch 'n' bitch, the songs that make you dance, the songs that make you cry, being a bad ass, cake, love, death, and everything in between.

Jeane is the queen of her own fashion statement: she loves to look however she wants and doesn't care who she annoys while she speaks her mind. I instantly fell in love with her then got annoyed with her, then loved her again. Sounds confusing but I understood her, which is saying something about my social life, and liked her when we were inside her head but did get a little peeved when we saw her from another perspective. Maybe that was just because Michael didn't understand her for quite a while. Either way, Jeane was an amazing fresh protagonist in YA, a nerdy girl that doesn't care about her social status, her body shape, keeping up with fashions - just plain awesome.

I loved the alternating chapters, allowing us to see both sides of the story and understand both Jeane and Michael, which meant I didn't automatically dislike Michael just because Jeane did. It was refreshing to see a double perspective that didn't confuse me! And with this double narrative, we saw the development of both characters, saw how they mended bridges and morphed behaviour a little without even realising, just to not cause more arguments or because they actually liked each other and didn't want to admit it.

Michael was pretty sweet, kind of annoying in his "everyone likes me, I dress to be popular" thing, but he had individual thought, which I think attracted Jeane. And while their relationship was not typical, it was surprising in a good way, for both the characters and the reader. But I think the most important thing about this story was that it turned out to be so much more poignant, more expressive than I thought it would be. It shows the importance of being who you are, not conforming and learning to be comfortable with yourself when no-one is in the age of teens.

Published 24th May 2012 by Atom. 

Saturday 4 May 2013

Whatcha Doing?

*Warning: spilling of the heart in this post*

I know we bloggers don't do what we do for the followers, but as I just lost some followers and have been doing it for a year and still have under 50, I'm having a slight crisis of faith. I am aware of how silly it is to get upset about the number of followers, or readers and commenter's. And yet I just cried because I suddenly felt so depressed and useless for putting all this effort into my blog and hardly anyone reads it! Don't get me wrong, I am ever so grateful for those of you that do read my blog regularly, but I can't help compare myself to other blogger friends, those with hundreds of followers...

Anyway, I'm going to take a leaf out of Sophie's book and ask you what you want to see on this blog! Would you like to see:
- personal posts
- blog tours
- movie reviews
- discussion posts
- guest posts
- anything else?

For your consideration, I've also been thinking of some ideas:
- I've already asked Faye to design me a pretty new banner
- I have been debating trying to make some sort of rating system to put at the end of my reviews
- If I can come up with some ideas, how about a few themed weeks a year? Like love/sex in YA, or top ten stuff, or guest posts about blogging, or anything else I can think of?

I've been doing this for over a year but apparently am still very much a noob when it comes to encouraging followers and loyal commenter's, so any ideas are welcome! Seriously you guys, I love that I have any readers at all but I would love to spread the book love as far as possible!

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Twice Tempted by Jeaniene Frost

Publisher: Avon
Published: 26th March 2013
Pages: 360
Series so far: Once Burned
Dating the Prince of Darkness has its challenges...
Leila's psychic abilities have been failing her, and now she isn't sure what the future holds. If that weren't enough, her lover, Vlad, has been acting distant. Though Leila is a mere mortal, she's also a modern woman who refuses to accept the cold shoulder treatment forever–especially from the darkly handsome vampire who still won't admit that he loves her.

Like choosing between eternal love and a loveless eternity...
Soon circumstances send Leila back to the carnival circuit, where tragedy strikes. And when she finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who may be closer than she realizes, Leila must decide who to trust– the fiery vampire who arouses her passions like no other or the tortured knight who longs to be more than a friend? With danger stalking her every step of the way, all it takes is one wrong move to damn her for eternity.

This is the fantastic continuation of Vlad and Leila's story as they battle bad guys and their relationship problems. I just want to mention that I'm going to try my hardest to keep spoilers out of this review, because there were a lot of great actions I didn't see coming and I really would hate to ruin it for anyone.

The characters are still reeling from the events of the first book which is a nice continuation of adventures, but also means we get right back into the action which is awesome. Leila had decided at the end of the first novel that she needed a break from Vlad if he wasn't going to be emotionally available. So the first half had minimal Vlad, which was disappointing but I understood that both Leila and Vlad needed space - especially after the shit Vlad pulled at the beginning of the story. After that, Leila goes back to the carnie but of course things don't go that well, as she finds out her act has been replaced and then the trailer park blows up.  Obviously, someone wants Leila dead and she's not sure who, and she even suspects Vlad which makes things a bit difficult.

This is where I'll stop, because everything happens in the second half, with a Maximas and Vlad showdown, betrayal and revenge, blood and sex and all sorts of drama! So, instead I'm going to talk about character development and writing quality. Of course, I expect no less from Frost than fantastic writing and plot lines and characters. As for the relationship, Vlad is changing for Leila, which means you get less snark, but I am a romantic and thus think it is adorable and admirable that he is changing for her. And what was great about the relationship was that Leila knew this and did not encourage it! She wanted him to stay the same man she fell in love with! This balance was brilliantly handled, I thought, as changing dynamics in relationships can be disastrous but Frost has this amazing knack of writing believable developments, allowing both partners time to adapt amid all the drama. And when that happens to be Vlad and Leila, one of my favourite book couples ever, I just want to hug the book!

All in all, this book had it all: Frost's amazing writing and characters, blood and gore, love and, of course, had me aching for the next book!

This counted towards my Genre Variety challenge.