Tuesday 29 April 2014

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause. When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky? From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy. At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?

I'm not entirely sure where to start! I lost myself in this book, this monster of a book that took me a week to read, and I loved every last page of it. Taking place moments after DoBaS finished with Jael's army of angels flying onto Earth, it seems that the shit has hit the fan. Earth is scrambling to make sense of these religious figures appearing, and the chimaera and the seraphim have been forced to make unlikely allies to fight a more pressing enemy. From the very offset, this story was tense with the possibility of betrayal, and it often did happen but somehow, Karou's strength as well as chimaera and seraphim alike desire to live pulled everything together. Moments were tough, on the sands where Akiva met with the White Wolf, in the Kirin caves where they made plans, in Vatican City where Jael was bending humans will to his own. 

As per usual, it seemed to be up to Karou and Akiva to be the calm voices of reason amidst all this turmoil. I adored Karou's idea of fighting without the bloodshed, and maybe I wanted a bit more of a dramatic final fight, the fighting we did get was brutal and honestly I don't think I could have handled much more. And on the other hand, I definitely wanted more Karou-and-Akiva moments but with everything going on, I could understand the need for higher priorities. But we did get plenty of Zuzana and Mik adorable-ness; they both proved themselves to be worthy and helpful and ingenious alongside Karou's fight and of course we got some amazing examples of Zuze's wit. Speaking of cute couples... should I say? Oh yeah, I have to, Ziri and Liraz both deserve that happy ending. And oh my God, this particular happy ending made my heart burst!

Oh, but so much more information than my head could take! Don't get me wrong, this is a five-star review and an amazing book but adding more secondary characters and more back story at the end? It was a little too much and almost (luckily not quite) ruined the neat-and-tidy ending. Saying that, I can't complain much, I did really enjoy hearing from other characters and Eliza especially was sweet and a bit of an enigma that was a joy to watch unfurl. Everything had a purpose and even though some weren't revealed for chapters, some the next page, everything slotted together so very nicely; from its betrayals to its deaths, their touching moments to their sore ones, this book came together to make an epic conclusion to an amazing story. One that I have loved and will sorely miss.

Published 17th April 2014 by Hodder and Stoughton.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Space ship' 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! 

Another week, some more amazing books! Got a couple of really great-looking ones, one I started right away even though I was still reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters! As for the work front, that's going well too; I spent most of this week making deck plans for space ships, images for a new book. Fun and interesting, plus I'm getting a much better understanding of the program now, but God, it makes my eyes hurt after a while!

On The Blog
Review of Tease by Amanda Maciel (4 stars)
Discussion: Top Male Protagonists
Review of Riot by Sarah Mussi (4 stars)

Currently Reading
Raging Star by Moira Young - got it this week and dived right in!

On My Bookshelf
Briar Rose by Jana Oliver
For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.

This has been on my wishlist since I finished the Demon Trappers series last year, and then I saw it's 98p in Kindle? Snapped right up!
Raging Star by Moira Young
When the star reader, Auriel Tai, challenged Saba to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo and the Tonton, Saba was so confident in her purpose. Then she met DeMalo and he confounded all expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo and Saba had an intense and passionate encounter - physical, emotional and psychic - that changed her life, and now he wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world…for the chosen few.

Jack’s choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop his dangerous New Eden project. Still uncertain, her connection with DeMalo a secret, Saba commits herself to the fight. Joined by her brother Lugh, anxious for the land in New Eden, Saba leads an inexperienced guerilla band against the powerfully charismatic DeMalo, in command of his settlers and the Tonton militia.

What chance do they have? Saba must act. And be willing to pay the price.

As I said, reading this right now, and only half way through but what an epic conclusion to a great trilogy this is shaping to be!
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
This is the story of how we became freaks. It's how a group of I's became a we.

When Class 10B got their flu shots, they expected some side effects. Maybe a sore arm. Maybe a headache. They definitely didn't expect to get telepathy. But suddenly they could hear what everyone was thinking. Their friends. Their teachers. Their parents. Now they all know that Tess has a crush on her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper. Some of them will thrive. Some of them will break. None of them will ever be the same.

Yay, yay, yay! Requested this one as soon as I could, I've wanted to read this since I heard about it back in Janurary! Thank you Hachette and Orchard!

Friday 25 April 2014

Riot by Sarah Mussi

It is 2018. England has been struggling under a recession that has shown no sign of abating. Years of cuts has devastated Britain: banks are going under, businesses closing, prices soaring, unemployment rising, prisons overflowing. The authorities cannot cope. And the population has maxed out.

The police are snowed under. Something has to give. Drastic measures need taking.

The solution: forced sterilisation of all school leavers without secure further education plans or guaranteed employment.

The country is aghast. Families are distraught, teenagers are in revolt, but the politicians are unshakeable: The population explosion must be curbed. No more free housing for single parents, no more child benefit, no more free school meals, no more children in need. Less means more.

But it is all so blatantly unfair - the Teen Haves will procreate, the Teen Havenots won't.

It's time for the young to take to the streets. It's time for them to RIOT: OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE, OUR BODIES, OUR FUTURE.

My first Sarah Mussi book told of a terrifyingly real possibility; the risk of over-population in Britain is putting a strain on our sources, so the government has enforced a law to sterilize the lower classes, the less-likely to succeed, those deemed unworthy. A lot of the technical details were as horrifying as the gory stuff, the riots, the deaths, which made the story all the more gripping. I actually read it in a day, the first time I've ever done that! The story just flowed so smoothly, it was impossible to put down. 

Tia was in many ways the perfect heroine: she was smart and brave but not reckless, she kept her cool and saved the day but freaked out when necessary. Plus Mussi wrote her some pretty amazing character development; just over the few days that it is set, Tia grows from an idealistic, poor little rich girl to have a much better understanding of the way the world works. That being said, I did have some minor issues with Tia; for a hacker, she was pretty useless at staying off the radar; she didn't seem to appreciate the things friends and strangers alike did to help her and I wanted much more on her friendships outside the whole 'running for your life' thing. 

Tia met Cobain properly when they were both trapped in a building he just set fire to. Yeah, I know, genius. But apart from that awful first, and second, impression, Cobain turns out to be a pretty damn good partner in crime, with his rebellious nature and cute green eyes. They had a good instant connection that didn't translate to insta-love, which is always a bonus. He proved himself to be strong and determined, not to mention stubborn and with his own skills of arson, staying hidden and getting away (mostly) unharmed. 

Thinking about it now, there are quite a few nit-picky issues that could be found in the plot and storyline, like the believability of the government being hijacked by one influential man, and the likelihood that it would be able to topple so easily at the end. But when reading it, I didn't notice any of this. All I saw were the cracking characters, the horrific and a little bit cringe-worthy back story, and the near-perfect blend of dystopia and romance. Well worth a read. 

Published 1st May 2014 by Hodder's Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Top Protagonists: Male

This is something I've been pondering a while, after a long ago Top Ten Tuesday. So, with the proper ownership known, I will begin my list. Side note: this does not include love interests, that is a whole other list!

- Quentin from Paper Towns - smart and brave, if a bit blind to love, Q is willing to travel across the country on the day of his graduation to bring back the girl he loves and solve her mystery.
- Leo from The End Of The World As We Know It - technically sharing the lead role with three other characters, Leo was the comic relief in the apocalypse and was surprisingly helpful in planning attacks and saving the damsels.
- Lincoln from Attachments - adorably sweet and shy, Lincoln falls in love with a girl by spying on her email. Sounds a bit creepy like that, but Lincoln was troubled by moral implications, as he grows closer to a woman he has never met.
- Vlad from Prince of Darkness series - technically, Vlad would definitely by on my book crush list but I can't keep him off this one; as much a part of Leila's story as Leila is, Vlad gets his chance to tell his tale in this spin-off the Night Huntress series, and boy what a story it is!
- R from Warm Bodies - so very unique in his story-telling and his voice, R has that little something in his story that I haven't come across since. Slowly getting his humanity back in a world over run by zombies, R has to be brave in his search for something better.
- Noah from Pushing The Limits - beyond troubled, Noah has many issues but so does Echo; they fall, somewhat fitfully, in love and help each other through. Noah's voice was painfully truthful and he was brave and strong-willed and daft but at the end, so in love that he was willing to do anything.

What do you think of my list? Agree with them, think I've missed anyone off?

Monday 21 April 2014

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault.

At least, that's what everyone seems to think when Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. But Sara is sure she hasn't done anything wrong, because Emma brought it on herself. Sara is adamant that she was the victim - not Emma.

Inspired by a true story, TEASE is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt you long after the last page.

This is a new perspective on an age-old story of high school bullies; told from the bully's perspective, you find yourself sympathising with her! Even without Emma's side of the story, I found myself torn between the bully and the bullied, often yelling at the book to talk, not terrify! But enough of that for a moment; alternating between before and after Emma's suicide, you see how Sara's life rules and ruins around Emma's misdeeds. 

So here's the deal: even now that's I've read it, I'm still not sure if I liked Sara or not. In the 'after' she was whining quite a lot, how the lawsuit was ruining her life and I could understand her frustration but it was pretty insensitive. But in the 'before', she was being pulled around by Brielle, whom I could tell straight away was the real mastermind bitch behind the whole thing. Even though I have no idea what Emma stealing Sara's boyfriend had to do with her, or why she had to take it so far. Brielle was heartless and fearless, which is an especially terrifying combination in a teenage girl. Meanwhile, I could see that Emma wasn't completely faultless, she was flirting with any and every guy, made out with Sara's boyfriend, I mean I can't say I approve of the way the girls handled it but I can understand the anger. They were forming opinions on her without getting her side and it was deeply unfair, especially since I've been where Emma was. 

As you can see, I can waffle for years about this deeply personal issue and this book bought up so many different perspectives on it, mostly because it was told from the bully's point of view. There were so many emotions rolling around, both before and after, that I was getting dizzy, not to mention annoyed with so many people. Even Emma at least at one point! And myself a little bit, that I was sympathising with a horrible girl that drove someone to that brink. But somewhat luckily Sara made up for in the end, in the best way she could. Which wasn't much when a girl was dead, but compared to Brielle, it was obvious that Sara felt that guilt and desperately wanted to make some kind of amends. 

I don't know if you can tell, but this was a difficult book to review. It was bought up horrible emotions, heartbreaking issues, and a very difficult and, more awfully, common situation that was quite hard to read knowing what was coming. And even though it appears that only Sara learned something from all this, even too late, it's a step in the right direction. 

Published 1st May 2014 by Hachette Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday 20 April 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Dreams' 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!

It's been a pretty good week! I started my publishing work experience on Wednesday and although I've only been there two days, I've already learned so much. I'm working with the art director, so I'm helping with layout and images; on Thursday I spent the day making maps of made up islands and space ships! It is so much fun.

On The Blog
Review of The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa (4 stars)
Review of The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling (3 stars)
Review of The Fearless by Emma Pass (5 stars)
Discussion: My UKYA collection

Currently Reading
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor - got it delievered straight to my kindle the day of release and although details of the previous book are a bit hazy, the story is wonderful and colourful and so easy to slip back into.

On My Bookshelf
The Vampire Shrink by Lynda Hilburn

Kismet Knight is a young psychologist with a growing clinical practice, and she's always looking for something to give her the edge in her chosen career. When her new client turns out to be a Goth teenager who desperately wants to become a vampire, Kismet is inspired to become the vampire shrink, offering her services to people who believe they are undead. Kismet herself, as a scientist, knows it's hokum, but she's looking at it in a purely psychoanalytic light, already imagining the papers she's going to write on this strange subculture. That's until she meets the leader of a vampire coven, a sexy, mysterious man who claims to be a powerful 800-year-old vampire, and she is pulled into a whirlwind of inexplicable events that start her questioning everything she once believed about the paranormal.

Apart from DoGaM, this is the only book I got this week; on sale in Waterstones and come on, how could I resist a vampire psychologist?

Saturday 19 April 2014

UKYA day!

Lucy of Queen of Contemporary and Project UKYA has declared today to be a celebration of UKYA novels and their authors. So, to spread the love, I have my UKYA collection and some of my favourite books!

So here is my current UKYA collection, as it stands next to my bed. This is not all of my UKYA books, some I don't keep here, others are on my kindle. Some of my favourites of this list are: Soulmates by Holly Bourne, Dear Dylan by Siobhan Curham, Adorkable by Sarra Manning, ACID by Emma Pass and Rockoholic by CJ Skuse.

Some others that are on my kindle are Geek Girl by Holly Smale, anything by Sarra Manning (YA or not) and The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce.

A couple of the newer UKYA books that I've read and loved:
- The Fearless by Emma Pass
- Riot by Sarah Mussi
- Rock War by Robert Muchamore
- Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

And then there are those that, in my opinion, sort of qualifies as UKYA but I'm not entirely sure because of whatever reason. See for yourselves:
- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan - written by Irish author but set in imaginary part of the Cotswold. Meh, even imaginary, I think it still counts.
- Girl About Time by Kerstin Gier - set in London but translated from German
- Blood Red Road by Moira Young - written by Canadian/English author (whom I adore, by the way) and set... oh, some creepy future world, who knows where!

So, there you have it. My collection of UKYA, as it currently stands. Of course it will grow, as I have a few UKYA books coming  up on my TBR as well as the constant flow of recommendations from this amazing community! Tell me which are your favourite UK novels, do you share any of mine? Happy UKYA day!

Friday 18 April 2014

The Fearless by Emma Pass

The Fearless. An army, powered by an incredible new serum that makes each soldier stronger, sharper, faster than their enemies. Intended as a force for good, the serum has a terrible side-effect - anyone who takes it is stripped of all humanity, empathy, love. And as the Fearless sweep through the country, forcing the serum on anyone in their path, society becomes a living nightmare.

Cass remembers the night they passed through her village. Her father was Altered. Her mother died soon after. All Cass has left is her little brother - and when Jori is snatched by the Fearless and taken to their hellish lair, Cass must risk everything to get him back.

After ACID, Emma Pass has proven beyond a doubt that she can write an amazing dystopian! I mean, The Fearless had me breathless, shaking, completely enthralled and more than a little terrified! Especially the beginning, the story of what made the Fearless, how they no longer feel empathy, and then invading Britain; I was on the edge of my seat, waiting and hoping that everyone made it alive. But of course, in a good dystopian, not everything will go the way you want it.

Skip ahead 7 years and Cass is still living on an island off the coast, a safe haven away from the Fearless on the mainland, looking after her brother and training to be part of the Patrol. Obviously it doesn't last and a stowaway appears on the island, along with two Fearless who kidnap Jori, Cass's little brother. Cass has no choice but to trust the stowaway, with more secrets than God, to take her to the mainland and bring her brother home before he is Altered. I thought Cass was so very brave, leaving her home and risking her safety to rescue her brother. I mean, she was a bit daft, putting her trust in this stranger but she had no other choice if she wanted her only family back. 

As Cass and Myo make their way north, secrets unravel and Cass realises that all she has been taught about the Fearless is no longer relevant; the government may have toppled but it wasn't right away, and the Fearless serum is no longer as potent. But it's not all horrible news: Myo seems to intrigue Cass and she does start to feel for him amidst all this. But there's a guy back on the island that likes Cass. I have mixed feelings about love-triangles but for the most part, this didn't even feel like one. Mostly because the Cass/Sol part was completely one sided. And anyway, I'm not sure I liked Sol much. He seemed ok at the beginning, trying to prove himself as a soldier and win Cass's heart but he was quite annoying and petty when Cass turned him down. Not to mention what he resorted to in the end!

All in all, an amazing read, from it's heart-breaking story to it's brave and challenging characters. Pass has an incredible skill to paint such a terrifyingly realistic world that hooks you in and won't let you go until the thrilling ride is over. If you're anything like me, you will fall completely in love with everything Pass has to offer. 

Published 24th April 2014 by Corgi Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling

In this sequel to The Diamond Thief, trapeze-artist Rémy has left the circus and her life as a thief, but she doubts that detective Thaddeus Rec will ever truly trust her. Feeling torn between her new life and her old, Rémy decides to return to France and her old circus with Yannick, an old friend who unexpectedly appears.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is sure that Yannick is up to no good. He's determined to find them and win Rémy back, even if he must risk a journey by airship to do so.

After all the drama and accusations of thievery, Remy just wants to forget about all of that and go back to what she loves best: performing. But she can't when she is on a wanted poster and Thaddeus still does not trust her. So when old friend Yannick shows up, she joins him in a trip back to France, leaving Thaddeus in the dust.

But Thaddeus knows something is wrong with Yannick, some feeling he can't put his finger on. I would call that jealousy but after seeing Yannick avoid some reasonable questions, I could see why Thaddeus was hesitant to trust him as Remy did. So after they've left, Thaddeus is unsure what to do but of course it's J to the rescue! I adored J in The Diamond Thief and he is just was adorable and street-smart as he was before, but now he has taken over the Professor's warehouse, he is proving he has more smarts than people gave him credit for. As proven when he completes the Professor's airship and fly Thaddeus and himself to France!

On the hunt for Remy and Yannick, then trying to stop an evil Count from buying Abernathy's old machines and using them for his own nefarious ends. Nothing is as it seems, not Remy's friend Claudette, not Yannick, and not the old gypsy woman that has an incredible secret to reveal to Remy. While the book is a bit young for me, it's still a fun read with plenty of twists and dramatic scenes. Reminds me of Cat Royal by Julia Golding, with its historical elements, heroic actions and evil bad guys to beat to save the world.

Published 10th April 2014 by Curious Fox. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday 14 April 2014

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa


Allison Sekemoto once struggled with the question: human or monster?

With the death of her love, Zeke, she has her answer.


Allie will embrace her cold vampire side to hunt down and end Sarren, the psychopathic vampire who murdered Zeke. But the trail is bloody and long, and Sarren has left many surprises for Allie and her companions—her creator, Kanin, and her blood brother, Jackal. The trail is leading straight to the one place they must protect at any cost—the last vampire-free zone on Earth, Eden. And Sarren has one final, brutal shock in store for Allie.

In a ruined world where no life is sacred and former allies can turn on you in one heartbeat, Allie will face her darkest days. And if she succeeds, triumph is short-lived in the face of surviving forever alone.

The final installment of The Blood of Eden series, following the steps of Allie and her sire and blood brother to find and stop mad vampire Sarren from unleashing a terrible virus on the world. You know, nothing new! We pick up right where we left off, with Allie, Kanin and Jackal on the trail but finding many horrible distractions of Sarren's twisted mind along the way. They pick their way across the country towards Eden, trying in vain to get ahead of Sarren but of course that would be too easy. There are gangs of rabids, slaughterhouses filled with blood and displayed bodies designed to disorientate and freak them out. Which is does successfully, especially in my case.

After the death of her love, Allie is losing the battle with her inner monster and it takes her sire's patience to bring her back from the brink. Then, of course, life throws her a curve ball and Zeke comes back from the dead! I had a horrible feeling this was about to happen, Sarren is twisted and cruel and knew that breaking Zeke beyond recognition would tear Allie apart and distract her from saving the world. The fact that Sarren has left him in charge of Jackal's haunt Old Chicago irritates Jackal no end as well!

When they finally make it to Eden, the humans are already in trouble, Sarren has left another major distraction in the form of rampaging rabids on the island and has already perfected the virus to inflict maximum damage. I read the last quarter on the edge of my sit as hope dwindled that they would make it in time. Luckily, the smallest things turned the tide in their favour but not without casualties. 

A brilliant conclusion to the trilogy, with all the loose ends tied up, happy ending possible and all that. I'll admit, I had my moments of doubts but that is what made it thrilling! And a little bit terrifying!

Published 15th April 2014 by MiraInk. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Mongoose' 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!

One thing to report this week: I got some publishing work experience! I start on Wednesday at Mongoose Publishing and I am extremely excited. I went there last week to meet the head man and the art director, whom I'll working with. Not the side of publishing that I am used to but they design and make their own original publications and that will be so very interesting to learn about. Also got a couple of great books this week, with another hopefully on the way, that I am really looking forward to.

On The Blog
Review of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (4.5 stars)
Review of Hacker by Malorie Blackman (3 stars)
Review of The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr (3 stars)

Currently Reading
The Fearless by Emma Pass - about a third of the way through, I'm reading this with my heart in my throat! Scary but so damn good!

On My Bookshelf
The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling
In this sequel to The Diamond Thief, trapeze-artist Rémy has left the circus and her life as a thief, but she doubts that detective Thaddeus Rec will ever truly trust her. Feeling torn between her new life and her old, Rémy decides to return to France and her old circus with Yannick, an old friend who unexpectedly appears.

Meanwhile, Thaddeus is sure that Yannick is up to no good. He's determined to find them and win Rémy back, even if he must risk a journey by airship to do so.

The sequel to The Diamond Thief which I read last year. Already read this, a pretty good sequel to keep up with the potential of the storyline. Thank you Curious Fox!

Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson
In the village of Martindale, hundreds of miles north of the new English capital of Windsor, sixteen-year-old Silver Blackthorn takes the Reckoning. This coming-of-age test not only decides her place in society - Elite, Member, Inter or Trog - but also determines that Silver is to become an Offering for King Victor.

But these are uncertain times and no one really knows what happens to the teenagers who disappear into Windsor Castle. Is being an Offering the privilege everyone assumes it to be, or do the walls of the castle have something to hide?

Trapped in a maze of ancient corridors, Silver finds herself in a warped world of suspicion where it is difficult to know who to trust and who to fear. The one thing Silver does know is that she must find a way out . . .

My first book from Pan Macmillan! A bit more thrilling than my usual read but I couldn't resist the Windsor Castle meets The Hunger Games!

Friday 11 April 2014

The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr

Orphan Edie is sent by her artdealer uncle to Knight’s Haddon School, to investigate the disappearance of a precious glass bird belonging to his secretive client’s daughter, Anastasia, an unhappy Russian princess. But what Edie uncovers instead is a dangerous mystery that only the girls themselves can solve.

Raised by her grandmother then abandoned to her aunt and horrible cousins, Edie is rescued by her uncle to go undercover at a boarding school. Her mission: to protect a Russian princess from the fellow schoolgirls that seem to be picking on her. 

In this brilliant boarding school setting that reminded me of a younger version of Night School, Edie has to navigate secrets, general bitchiness and tough lessons to get to the bottom of whatever Anastasia's problem is. Which appears to much more complicated than her just misplacing things.

Edie was so sweet, surprisingly strong considering what she's been through and so determined not to mess this up, both for her future and her growing friendship with Anastasia. Considering all the pressure her uncle was putting on her, I'm surprised she didn't crack but after he let her go, she wanted to find out the truth no matter what, which is very admirable. As for Anastasia, it took me a while to get a bearing on her, maybe because for a while we only heard about her from her father and gossip, and even when we did meet her properly she seemed so flighty and unpredictable. But once she calmed down and started to trust Edie, we got to see the real her, who was friendly and energetic and dramatic.

Speaking of trust, everyone seemed to be hiding something or acting weird at some point and I could not for the life of me figure out what the motivation was for making Anastasia seem paranoid! But that is of course the makings of a great mystery and this did not disappoint in the bad guy arena! With all the accusations flying everywhere, the real culprit was a shocking discovery and, apart from the whole 'we can save the day, never mind the adults', was very well written. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

Published 1st May 2014 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Hacker by Malorie Blackman

When Vicky's father is arrested on a charge of stealing over a million pounds from the bank where he works, she is determined to prove his innocence. Helped by her brother and his best friend, Vicky decides to try to find the real thief by hacking into the bank's computer system.

This was a very short at only 200 pages, but caters and plays to its young target audience with its dramas, family troubles and over-the-top attitude that EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT! Oh yeah, I remember that stage of my teens! So, Victoria's father works at a bank and just after her first exam of the season, he is arrested for stealing money. She and her family know he can't have done so, so Victoria, with her computer skills, goes about proving his innocence.

A short but sweet story of a young teen hacking into the bank's details, proving her dad's innocent, hopefully finding the real culprit, you know the normal! Written in the 90's, it was quite nostalgic to read, but even the old-school computer stuff went over my head! Luckily, it wasn't bogged down with details and I was able to skim over them and still get the gist, still continue with the story without getting myself confused.

I really liked Victoria. Adopted, she had quite a few personal issues to work through; her douche brother didn't help but what can you expect from a teenage boy? But she was determined to do the right thing for her family, which was incredibly sweet and admirable. A little naive that she thought she could do it alone, but can't win them all. The whole 'we must save the day without telling our parents' seemed a little too easy, but there were realistic bumps in the road and moments when I thought they wouldn't make it, but of course the good guys always win. 

All in all, a nice quick story about hacking that manages to smoothly brave bigger issues like crime, family and colour. A little young for me, a typical middle grade book, but still an enjoyable read.  

Published 1st August 1993 by Transworld Publishers.

Monday 7 April 2014

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

This was a modern take on classic Victorian Gothic; it had the small town with a big secret, a big family trying to stay in power, and even a bit of the unexplainable magic thrown in for the fun of it. It told of Kami, journalist/detective in training, her weird telepathic powers with new boy in town and his family's claim to fame: 'We neither drown nor burn'. Sounds nice, huh? 

Kami wanted to be a journalist and the whole book had this 'there's a secret and I must know' feel which led a powerful mystery narrative, which was really fun to read alongside what I take to be Brennan's typical display of witticisms. Kami is investigating the return of the power family, the Lynburns, starting with the teen cousins in her school. Now, the Lynburns were... let's just go with interesting. Nothing about them seemed to make sense and it was frustrating to be left in the dark. But I guess that was the point! As for Jared, he was highly entertaining, if annoying to all hell; he was stubborn and disagreeable, weirdly protective and considering we were basically in his head, he was very difficult to read. His and Kami's interactions were either adorable or extremely awkward; I can understand it being a bit weird to find your imaginary friend come to life but that doesn't mean you have to hold her at arm's length!

I'm not sure I liked how the mystery took a back-burner for the first half of the book, just to explore Kami and Jared's relationship; it made the clues piece together funny and the time seemed to drag, as well as their relationship not really progressing much. Jared was stubborn enough to make it have a 'two steps forward, one step back' feel. But they were quite sweet together when they weren't over-thinking it, and they made a good team in the hunt for clues. Speaking of team, Kami's best friend Angela was a nice saving grace from all the weird. She was very funny and lazy to the point of useless but she clearly cared for Kami and would follow her in her stupidly dangerous hunts, if only to make sure she came back. And Holly, new comer in their Scooby Gang, was clever and eager to help.

All in all, I really liked this but I had my moments of doubt; some plot points were rushed even though they were crucial, and some interactions (as I said) were awkward after they appeared to make a great step towards proper friendship. But not over-thinking the characters weirdness, the plot had a great twist-and-turn feel with all the little mysteries adding up to one big secret that endangered the entire town.  

Published 11th September 2011 by Random House.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'maybe work experience' 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! 

What a surprise, another boring week! Not much to report, but some possible good news on the job hunt: a local publisher wants to meet me so I can do some work experience for them! I'm just waiting to hear back about when, but I'm really excited! Wish me luck!

On The Blog
Review of Girl About Time by Kerstin Gier (3 stars)
Review of Entangled by Cat Clarke (4.5 stars)
Review of The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke (4 stars)

Currently Reading
The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa - the last book in the Blood of Eden series and it's just as fast-paced and dramatic as I remember!

On My Bookshelf
Nine Uses for an Ex-boyfriend by Sarra Manning
Hope Delafield hasn't always had an easy life.

She has red hair and a temper to match, as her mother is constantly reminding her. She can't wear heels, is terrified of heights and being a primary school teacher isn't exactly the job she dreamed of doing, especially when her class are stuck on the two times table.

At least Hope has Jack, and Jack is the God of boyfriends. He's sweet, kind, funny, has a killer smile, a cool job on a fashion magazine and he's pretty (but in a manly way). Hope knew that Jack was The One ever since their first kiss after the Youth Club Disco and thirteen years later, they're still totally in love. Totally. They're even officially pre-engaged. And then Hope catches Jack kissing her best friend Susie...

Does true love forgive and forget? Or does it get mad... and get even?

I was feeling really crappy in the week so on a trip into town, I bought this along with a giant bar of chocolate to make me feel better. The chocolate sort of made me feel sick, but books are always nice to me! Plus, I've been eyeing this one for a while and I adore Sarra Manning so looking forward to curling up with this one soon!

Friday 4 April 2014

The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

"Cat, this is Finn. He's going to be your tutor".

He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion... and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Fin struggles to find his place in the world.

Told over the span of years, we watch as Cat grows up with a brilliant AI as a tutor and best friend, and Finn never changes. Until, of course, he does. While Cat tries to manage this strange relationship alongside her human life, the world is also trying to find a place for the growing AI population.

I wasn't sure what I expected from this but I definitely did not expect it to be purely from Cat's perspective. This didn't offer Finn's thoughts on anything, only what he offered up, but as he was not technically human, it was a subtle commentary that he was not worthy of having thoughts at all. It was also interesting to read Cat's interpretation of Finn's actions. Their relationship was sometimes difficult to navigate and I did feel sorry for both of them, as neither understood what was growing between them.

Cat was a very strange character. More robotic in many ways than Finn, she was difficult to understand; growing up with only a robot tutor for company, I am not surprised she turned out to have emotional distance in her relationships in later life. God, I adored Finn. He started with simple and monotonous replies but you could tell he grew and learned from the world around him. And even though, in Cat's head you knew she really liked him, I'm not sure I approved of the way she used him. It took her a while but in the end she realised that was what she was doing to him and it wasn't fair to either of them.

The world gave us a glimpse at a very likely, robot-driven future, where AI was so sophisticated, humans and robots alike were campaigning for robot rights. It was a haunting emotional read, debated what makes us human and how wide the distinction was between us and them. And amongst that, it was a sweet and telling story of first love. Clarke doesn't rush anything, letting years pass and pieces come together naturally for Cat and Finn's possibility of a happily ever after. 

Published 29th January 2013 by Angry Robot. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Entangled by Cat Clarke

The same questions whirl round and round in my head: What does he want from me? How could I have let this happen? AM I GOING TO DIE? 17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here? A story of dangerous secrets, intense friendships and electrifying attraction.

This is one of those books that hooks you right from the start. Grace wakes up in a strange white room, with no memory of how she got there, or why she only see's this boy Ethan bringing her food. To occupy her time, she writes. She writes what she remembers, the long twisting series of events that led to this. We only know what she knows but some things she does not want to reveal, like why she wanted to kill herself, what the deal was with her and best friend Sal, and what on Earth happened with Nat?

It was nerve-wrecking to read in a weird way but I was completely hooked. As Grace writes, the story is somewhat split between her wasting time in the white room and remembering what happened to get her here. It is obvious she doesn't want to remember but with Ethan's odd encouragement, she has to finish her story. And as she does, we see another side to her, one that misses her dad, cuts herself to feel, drinks and sleeps around because she has nothing better to do. I've never read a character who cut herself, it's not something I completely understand but from Grace's perspective, it, along with her attitude to boys, seemed like a cry for help. It seemed obvious to me that she didn't like it either, she just couldn't stop.

Entangled is one of those books that makes you think. Just when you think you know what's happening, it swerves. Throughout all of this, Grace is less than perfect but even knowing all the horrible things she's done, I just wanted to hug her. I was yelling at the book at awkward moments, laughing and crying in quick succession, practically screaming at Grace 'why can't you see what's happening right in front of you?!' But of course you see what you want to see. And she didn't want to see anything wrong with her perfect relationship with Nat or her friendship with Sal. 

Oh and the ending! Don't worry, I won't spoil you, but just remember what I said about the plot swerving. This book will have your heart racing with all-consuming love and horrible secrets. A warning for adult and grim themes but definitely not one to miss. 

Published 6th January 2011 by Quercus.