Tuesday 30 December 2014

My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins et al.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me ...This beautiful collection features twelve gorgeously romantic stories set during the festive period, by some of the most talented and exciting YA authors writing today. The stories are filled with the magic of first love and the magic of the holidays.

This was an absolutely adorable Christmas anthology. With some of my favourite authors as well as well-known but so far unread by me, there were some stories I was looking forward to more than others but I honestly loved each and every one. 

A few of my favourites were, of course, Rainbow Rowell's, Matt de la Pena's and Stephanie Perkins'. These were all contemporary love stories and all very adorable in their normal, Christmas-y miracle way. Holly Black's and Laini Talyor's had a magical, mystical element to them that worked very well, especially in such a short story.

I read a story every day in the run up to Christmas which really helped my Christmas spirit among all the work! A great mix of styles and settings but all full of Christmas love.

Published 9th October 2014 by Macmillan. 

Sunday 28 December 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Christmas' 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 finally Christmas! I had two whole days off and had an amazingly lazy Christmas, I hope everyone else did too. I was working non-stop right until 2 o'clock Christmas Eve and am working all this weekend too, so I'm bloody tired! Luckily I have most of next week off so, yay free time!

On The Blog

Review of Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison (5 stars)
Review of The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable (4 stars)
Review of Vendetta by Catherine Doyle (5 stars)
Review of Crescendo, Silence, Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick (4.5 stars)

Currently Reading

Talon by Julie Kagawa - a new book, details below, one I've been enjoying fairly slowly.

On My Bookshelf
Breaking The Rules by Katie McGarry
For Echo Emerson, a road trip with her boyfriend is the perfect way to spend the last summer between school and college. It’s a chance forget all the things that make her so different at home. But most of all, it means almost three months alone with gorgeous Noah Hutchins, the only boy who’s never judged her.

Echo and Noah share everything.

But as their pasts come crashing back into their lives, its harder to hide that they come from two very different worlds. And as the summer fades, Echo faces her toughest decision – struggle to face the future together or let her first love go…

Talon by Julie Kagawa
To the outside world Ember Hill is an ordinary girl, but Ember has a deadly secret. A dragon hiding in human form, she is destined to fight the shadowy Order of St.George, a powerful society of dragonslayers. St. George soldier Garret is determined to kill Ember and her kind. Until her bravery makes him question all he’s been taught about dragons.

Now a war is coming and Garret and Ember must choose their sides – fight to save their bond or fulfil their fate and destroy one another.

These two are review books from Mira Ink; the first I've already read and absolutely loved, review to come very soon, and the second I've nearly finished.

It's The End of the World As We Know It by Saci Lloyd
Welcome to a world controlled by a megalomaniac Lolcat. A world where data pirates, zombies and infobots on surfboards roam free. A world at war over cheese ... When teenager Mikey Malone gets sucked through a wormhole into this parallel world, he discovers a power-crazed corporation is planning to use Earth as a dumping ground for an uncontrollable poisonous algae. It's a race against time for Mikey and his rebel friends to stop the ruthless tyrants from getting their way.

A review book from Hachette which I am super excited for, it sounds really funny - thank you Hachette!

500 Words You Should Know by Caroline Taggart
Ever wanted to ameliorate your atavistic lexicon, engage in a little intellectual badinage, or been discombobulated by tricky diction? 500 Words You Should Know has you covered. This book will inspire readers to use uncommon words in their correct context, to utilize the English language to its full potential, and to test themselves on the words they think they already know. This is a book for the appreciator of correct usage, and contains words you thought you knew (decimate, caveat, nemesis), words you should know (euphemism, diatribe, tautology), and just a few that you might want to know (peripatetic, shibboleth, callipygian). Arranged thematically, each word is dissected, with a brief explanation of etymology, historical, and modern usage, allowing you to fully understand and effectively employ the word in its proper context. 

The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

And these two are my only book Christmas presents, the first from my parents, the latter from Santa. I'm really excited for my first Holly Black book and I've already flicked through 500 Words and is very entertaining. 

Saturday 20 December 2014

Christmas holiday!

Hello everyone! This is just a quick announcement that, like most of you I'm sure, I'll be taking the Christmas week off from blogging.

I'm actually working a lot in the run up to Christmas as well as the full weekend afterward, so I won't have a chance to write much, let alone read! Ah, the joys of working retail.

Anyway, I will still be around online so come poke me on twitter, I'd love to chat. And I will see you all after Christmas with what I hope will be a huge book haul!

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

Friday 19 December 2014

Crescendo, Silence, Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora should know better than to think her life can return to normal after falling in love with a fallen angel. And Nora's life isn't normal - her dad was murdered, and the facts about his death just don't add up. Now Nora's own life is in imminent danger. Are she and Patch strong enough for the battle ahead?

This was very different to Hush Hush in that it wasn't so much a romance as a dark thriller. Also, Patch was so damn annoying in this one; he and Nora got into a big fight because Patch was hanging out with Marcie, evil incarnate, and he wouldn't explain why. I could completely understand why Nora blew a gasket, Marcie has been terrorising her since they were little and Patch couldn't justify him protecting her until the very end of the book. As for Nora, she acted quite stupidly, risking her life just to see if Patch would still come rescue her.

As I said, it wasn't so much of a romance in this one, not just because Nora and Patch broke up but also because the plot was much more complex now, with Nora's dad's death and old childhood friend is keeping strange secrets. Despite spending a lot of the book annoyed with both of them, I did really enjoy this; it was exciting and dramatic and full of twists. 

Nora Grey can't remember the past five months of her life. After the initial shock of waking up in a cemetery and being told that she has been missing for weeks - with no one knowing where she was or who she was with - she tried to get her life back on track. Go to school, hang out with her best friend, Vee, and dodge mom's creepy new boyfriend.

But there is this voice in the back of her head, an idea that she can almost reach out and touch. Visions of angel wings and unearthly creatures that have nothing to do with the life she knows. And this unshakable feeling that a part of her is missing.

Then Nora crosses paths with a sexy stranger, whom she feels a mesmerizing connection to. He seems to hold all the answers...and her heart. Every minute she spends with him grows more and more intense until she realizes she could be falling in love. Again.

Nora had been kidnapped and has returned five months later with no recollection of the entire summer. Most of the book was Nora chasing down leads to recover her memory. Even though there wasn't much new information, it was still an enjoyable story as we followed Nora's frustration and got to know Patch again.

The main plot of this book, apart from Nora's lack of memories, was the looming war between Nephilim and fallen angels, and the mystery of the Black Hand's army. In the process, we learned more about Hank Miller, Nora's biological dad, and my God he was horrible! He was twisted and egotistical and had no heart. 

I believe this was going to be the last book, which explains the lack of action and the whole 'one step forward, two steps back' feel with the amnesia. Again, I was a little disappointed with the romantic element but the story of the fallen angels and Hanks' army and everything was very cool, and very fun to read.

Nora is more certain than ever that she is in love with Patch. Fallen angel or no, he is the one for her. Her heritage and destiny may mean they are fated to be enemies, but there is no turning her back on him. Now Nora and Patch must gather their strength to face one last, perilous trial. Old enemies return, new enemies are made, and a friend's ultimate betrayal threatens the peace Patch and Nora so desperately want. The battle lines are drawn--but which sides are they on? And in the end, are there some obstacles even love can't conquer? 

At last, the final book! I have really enjoyed this series, despite my feelings about Nora and Patch sometimes, they do generally make a good team and their final battle was a good one. Coming out of the previous book as the Black Hand's successor, Nora is not only fighting the fallen angels but also her image within the Nephilim army. 

I finally felt like Nora and Patch have reached some sort of equal ground; they weren't fighting over every little decision and Nora did begin to understand that Patch was protecting her, while Patch stopped fighting her battles for her. And yet, because I'm still not entirely sure how old Nora is, I felt that their romance was a bit weird. And also sometimes inappropriate; like, you're currently dealing with a war to end all wars and you choose this moment to confess your true feelings and have a little make-out session? Hello, priorities! And back to the age thing, is Nora even old enough to be so completely in love with Patch? And the epilogue, three years later - is *someone* (avoiding spoilers) really getting married at 19? 

Anyway, rant over! Never mind all that confusion on my part, this was actually a pretty strong finale to the series; even though the prep for the war was dragged out, we did get the big fight scene and some death and sacrifices, and the perfect little twist to see everything work out in the end. Not the greatest dark romance but a very entertaining and enjoyable fallen angel story.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell's life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys' dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties - the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.

This is a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but with the Mafia. Do you need anything else?

Doyle's debut told of Sophie and her quiet life at her summer job at her dad's diner. All she wants to do is save up money to get out of town, where everyone points at her because her dad is in prison. But then something exciting: a family of five brothers move into the permanently empty house at the end of the road. An instant hit with the town gossip, the boys are mysterious, not to mention hot. But there is more to them than meets the eye and as Sophie gets closer, she is in more danger than she thought.

The story was full of feuds, revenge, blood oaths and dark secrets. Sophie is left in the dark for a lot of it, which was incredibly frustrating because we are given no apparent reason to fear the boys apart from her uncle's paranoia. But then as we get to know them, we see how strange they act, how secretive they are and I at least began to fear for Sophie and her involvement.

Nic was, in a word, amazing; he was surprisingly sweet and very protective of his family and later Sophie. To a point, he was scary too and understandably Sophie was terrified of how far he could hurt someone. This was when the dark underbelly of his family secrets came out and it was really interesting seeing it from Nic's perspective, who saw what they did as honourable and necessary. 

I absolutely loved this, it had everything from forbidden romance to violence in abandoned warehouses. It was scaring and thrilling and surprisingly romantic; I cannot wait to read the sequel and see how far Sophie is willing to go for Nic. 

Published 1st January 2015 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday 12 December 2014

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable

Alone in the world, Sophie dreams of being someone special, but she could never have imagined this. 

On a school trip to Russia, Sophie and her two friends find themselves on the wrong train. They are rescued by the beautiful Princess Anna Volkonskaya, who takes them to her winter palace and mesmerises them with stories of lost diamonds and a tragic past. 

But as night falls and wolves prowl, Sophie discovers more than dreams in the crumbling palace of secrets

This is a bit younger than I normally read but still an amazing story. It told of Sophie, an orphan who dreams of adventure and family. When a mystery woman turns up at her school with assurances to whisk her away to Russia, Sophie can't believe her luck. Things after that are quite confusing; Sophie and her two friends apparently get on the wrong train, they are abandoned on said train and a strange man (I pictured a Hagrid-like figure here, it worked) picks them up from an empty train station in the middle of a snow storm. So yeah, definitely an adventure!

The beautiful princess Anna rescues them from the snow, welcomes them to her - admittedly cold and deserted - castle and tells them of her family, the brave prince who distracted rioters so his wife and child could flee during the revolution. There, the girls are drawn into the mystery of the family's lost diamonds and the protection of the wolves.

What I was most impressed with was the descriptions and imagery; the ice and snow over Russia was almost fantastical and I was actually shivering when the three girls were thrown out into the snow! The whole mystery of the family and the dilapidated house and the reason the girls were even there was absorbing and I had to know the truth. The influence of the folk tale aspect was very well done and did a lot to help the mystery and strange-ness of the story. I really loved this story, it was beautifully written and set out with a winter-y and fantastical elements, not to mention the harsh betrayal and the shock ending that had me gasping. 

Published January 2015 by Chicken House.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

Sam and Hannah only have the holidays to find 'The One'. Their lobster. But instead of being epic, their summer is looking awkward. They must navigate social misunderstandings, the plotting of well-meaning friends, and their own fears of being virgins for ever to find happiness. But fate is at work to bring them together. And in the end, it all boils down to love.

This was an absolutely adorable and hilarious rom-com of a book. It perfectly described teenage life and the pressure of university alongside the normal stuff of friends and love life. It was written split between Sam and Hannah as they meet, drift apart and are thrown back together again. I loved seeing their lives intersect and how they each handled their encounters.

Now speaking of teen life, I couldn't quite believe how much the guys only cared about hooking up - boys can't really be like that or have I just been lucky to avoid it? As for the girls, Hannah and her gang were much as my friends and I were in sixth form; absolutely mental, tight-knit and talked/worried about everything from the next night out to adulthood. However I did have a slight issue with Stella. I knew girls like her, used to getting what they wanted, not knowing how to handle rejection or indeed proper boy trouble, and it's always difficult to read about because on the one hand, you want the heroine to ditch the bad friend but you can see that she's not always a bad friend. In the end, I'm glad they made peace with each other, Hannah and Stella, because fighting over boys is never a good enough reason to lose a great friend.

The whole thing of finding a great guy/girl to lose your virginity to was equal parts sweet and funny; for many people it is a big deal, to give yourself over to someone else completely and to hunt that down, for whatever reason - to get it over with or to enjoy it - will always be an adventure in love and find out more about yourself and your limits, as it were. It was a joy to read, made me laugh out loud - which is awkward on a busy train - and made my heart clench. A perfect summer contemporary with adorable characters and a heart warming story. 

Published 5th June 2014 by Chicken House.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Weekly Highlights: the 'Work, Work' 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 filled with non-stop work. Not a whole lot to report; went to the cinema to see Mockingjay, my review went up on Friday (link below), and I finally have a Sunday off as it's family reunion time. 

On The Blog
Review of Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L Armentrout (4 stars)
Movie review: Mockingjay Part One

Currently Reading
I'm nearing the end of Vendetta by Catherine Doyle, which is amazing! Next up is Crescendo, book two in the Hush Hush series. I'm also planning on starting My True Love Gave To Me in the run-up to Christmas. 

On My Bookshelf
Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane
Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a Web-design drone and serendipity coupled with sheer curiosity has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. And it doesn't take long for Clay to realize that the quiet, dusty book emporium is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few fanatically committed customers, but they never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes perched on dangerously high shelves, all according to some elaborate arrangement with the eccentric proprietor. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has plugged in his laptop, roped in his friends (and a cute girl who works for Google) and embarked on a high-tech analysis of the customers' behaviour. What they discover is an ancient secret that can only be solved by modern means, and a global-conspiracy guarded by Mr. Penumbra himself... who has mysteriously disappeared.

Tape by Steven Camden
Record a voice and it lasts forever…

In 1993, Ryan records a diary on an old tape. He talks about his mother’s death, about his dreams, about his love for a new girl at school who doesn’t even know he exists.

In 2013, Ameliah moves in with her grandmother after her parents die. There, she finds a tape in the spare room. A tape with a boy’s voice on it – a voice she can’t quite hear, but which seems to be speaking to her.

Ryan and Ameliah are connected by more than just a tape. This is their story.

These two are books from work, the first one I requested, the latter just turned up. I am really excited about both of them though, they sound very cool in different ways. 

Home For the Holidays by Jeaniene Frost
'Tis the season to join Cat and Bones for some holiday cheer in this Night Huntress novella by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Jeaniene Frost.

They were looking forward to a normal holiday—at least as "normal" as it gets for vampires Cat and Bones and their otherworldly friends and family. But their yuletide plans are shattered when a mysterious stranger shows up and reveals long-buried secrets that threaten to take a bite out of their holiday cheer … and lives.

Just a little cheap novella in my most favourite series ever - and just in time for Christmas!

Friday 5 December 2014

Movie review: Mockingjay Part One

If you are any kind of fan at all, I would have thought that you've already seen this movie but just in case, I call spoilers on both the book and the movie.

The one and main thing I loved about this movie was how true it was to the book. I re-read it in preparation and I'm really glad I did; I knew what horrible bits were coming and I could see all the tiny details from the book. So, the things I recognised and loved that they kept in from the book included: stepping on the skull in 12, finding Buttercup in the house, Gale and Katniss out hunting, the conditions of her being the Mockingjay. Even some lines, like 'if we burn, you burn with us' and 'it's the things we love that destroy us'. 

Seeing the familiar from the book was awesome but actually seeing the descriptions come to life... that never gets old. I loved, absolutely loved, seeing Finnick's confession alongside Peeta's rescue; that was incredibly dramatic and nerve-wrecking. Then there was extra, very cinematic, stuff like the riots in the districts; I particularly loved seeing rebels blow up the hydraulic dam in 5 after The Hanging Tree song, that was powerful stuff. We also saw Snow's response to seeing Katniss in the hospital in 8, where he reasoned that any association with the Mockingjay was considered treason; Coin and Plutarch in discussion about Katniss; Snow planning speeches; seeing the Capitol's reaction to the power outages. All of this just added to the overall story of the distrust and abuse between the Capitol and the districts. 

Even though Effie isn't in the book, I can see why they bought her in instead of Katniss's prep team; Effie is more recognizable in the movies and she does know Katniss better than she thinks so came up with good suggestions, treated Katniss like normal and all that. Speaking of treating Katniss normally, Haymitch's entrance was everything I wanted from that man: rude, sarcastic but still wanting to get the job done.

Finally, the ending/cut-off point. I wasn't really sure where they were going to end it but having it just after the rescue/murder attempt made it feel final; sort of on a cliffhanger but still like it's own movie. I can see that Part Two is going to be about Peeta's recovery and the battle into the Capitol. All in all, a fantastic portrayal of the book, an amazing movie (anyone else still got The Hanging Tree in their head?) and I cannot wait for Part Two!

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L Armentrout

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

This is the sequel to White Hot Kiss which I absolutely loved. The dark romance with demons, guardian angels and forbidden love was very much a guilty pleasure and I couldn't stop myself from finding out what happened next. So, Layla is mourning Roth as he sacrificed himself to save everyone else but then he appears, alive and well! Annoying or what? To make matters worse, Roth is acting as if she meant nothing to him, which was heartbreaking.

The main plot line, apart from the boy troubles, is that Layla's powers are changing. They are on the hunt for a Lilin, a very dangerous soul-stealing demon, and Layla is worried that maybe she is the reason why students at her school are acting so weird. Roth has been tasked with finding out the truth behind all the strangle occurrences so Layla has to put up with him as they hunt for the Lilin or whatever it is. I really liked this dangerous and action-packed story, it made a change to see Layla kicking ass than just whining about boys.

Even though I liked Zayne in the first one, for some reason I didn't really fall in love with Zayne/Layla. I have no reason why, I just didn't quite believe it, not after the shear hotness of Roth. And even though Roth apparently wanted nothing to do with Layla, she was still stuck in the love triangle and while it did work - it wasn't just Layla not being able to choose, it was Roth being a douche and Zayne being a sweetheart - I don't really like love triangles.

Things made a lot more sense by the end; from the shocker twist with what's causing the wraiths, and the real reason Roth is being a huge douche. I might have some technical issues, like Layla might be funny but she can be quite weak (although she was better in this one than the first one), but it was so much fun to read and was absolutely full of twists and turns. 

Published 21st October 2014 by Harlequin Teen.