About Me

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United Kingdom
I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review: Beware That Girl - Teresa Toten

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten, published by Hot Key Books on 12th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Kate O'Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She's determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.

There's one girl in particular that catches Kate's eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she's a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia - an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

This book is described as Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars.  That was enough to make me want to read it.  I don't always like psychological thrillers but I was willing to give this one a try.  It's set to be a big screen film with Dakota Fanning so I thought I would read the book first.

There are two main characters in the story, Kate O'Brien and Olivia Sumner.  Kate is the poor scholarship student who is desperate to get into Yale and determined to use Olivia's wealth and social connections to help her do so.  I didn't like Kate at all the beginning but the author threw in some brilliant twists and turns and by the end, I was rooting for her one hundred percent. The story is very cat and mouse until everything gets turned on its head.  My opinions of many of the characters had to be revised and I had to rethink a lot of the things which had happened in the book.  

The friendship between the two girls seems to be going well until Mark Redkin, the new educational director in charge of fundraising, enters the scene. Suddenly three is very much a crowd and Kate is no longer in control.  I did find that some of the scenes between Mark and Olivia were pretty disturbing and not to my taste at all.  I thought that they went a bit too far and at times seemed unnecessarily brutal but I guess the author was using this to set up the big finale.  The second half of the book got extremely dark and twisted and although I was intrigued, part of me didn't really want to find out what was going to happen. 

I didn't see the ending coming at all, although I'm sure many readers will but I do think that it was very clever and flash-backed to the beginning of the book.  Probably not quite to my reading tastes but I think that fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.       

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review: Carve the Mark - Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, published by HarperCollins on 17th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

I was really thrilled to get my hands on 'Carve the Mark', although I couldn't quite tell from reading the synopsis what the story was going to be all about.  I loved Veronica Roth's Divergent series and I was really interested to see how her writing had changed and what direction she would take her storytelling in next.  This was such a treat to dive straight into!

I found the first half of the book, particularly the opening five or six chapters, unfolded at quite a slow pace.  Admittedly there was a lot of world building though and introductions were made to many of the main characters and their families.  I did find some of the characters' names bewildering and difficult to keep track of and I was a little puzzled about a few of the things that happened early on in the story.  I did go back to read a couple of sections again and that helped a lot. 

Luckily the story picked up a lot and I was gradually drawn further and further into the intrigue and action.  The main pull for me was the two main protagonists, Akos and Cyra.  Each chapter alternated between their two perspectives giving you different insights into their lives.  They have extremely contrasting personalities which was interesting.  Akos is extremely emotional and attached to his family, where as Cyra has learnt how to be tough and strong and operates more as an individual.  One of the dominant ideas in the story is that each person has a currentgift which is an extension of their personality.  Cyra and Akos find that their currentgifts almost compliment each other and this is one of the elements which brings them together.  Although I didn't love them as much as Tris and Four (I mean come on!), they were still an intriguing couple. 

Parts of the story actually made me think of Romeo and Juliet.  There are two rival nations, Thuvhe and Shotet and each is fighting for supremacy.  Cyra and Akos find themselves caught in the middle but their relationship seemed to me like it would prove to be pivotal to the overall outcome.      

The ending was absolutely brilliant with a shock revelation to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.  I really want to read the next instalment of the duology now.  I have to say that as a Veronica Roth fan, I didn't enjoy it as much as Divergent which grabbed me from the very beginning.  However, 'Carve the Mark' improved massively in the second half and has left me wanting more.   

Monday, 19 December 2016

My Favourite Books of 2016

2016 has been another up and down book year for me.  I have to admit that I gave up on a lot of titles that failed to grab my attention.  This is something that I would never have done in the past but my new philosophy is that there are far too many books out there that I do want to read to persevere with ones that I'm not enjoying.  There were a few highlight titles for me but sadly not enough to make my usual top ten, so instead here's my 2016 top five list.  These are in no particular order and have not necessarily been published this year.

1. Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens
Published by Puffin
A festive five star read! I absolutely adore this series and I loved everything about 'Mistletoe and Murder', from the perfect snowy Cambridge setting, to the ingenious murder mystery, to the wonderful cast of characters. I devoured this in one sitting.   
2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
Words cannot describe how much I love Sarah J. Maas. Her books are utter perfection and 'A Court of Mist and Fury' was probably THE book which most knocked my socks off in 2016.

  3. Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens
Published by Puffin
Robin Stevens is the only author to have two titles in my top five books of 2016. If you haven't read this series yet then what are you waiting for.
 4. Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Hodder
The return of Katy and Daemon meant that this was definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year and also one of the best. It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces again and this newest installment did not disappoint.

  5. The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
Published by Gollancz
Utterly gripping, this was a fast paced page turner. Exciting, riveting and impossible to put down, I loved it. I wish there wasn't such a long wait though for the next book in the series.
Comment and let me know what your favourite books of 2016 were.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Review: Replica - Lauren Oliver

Replica by Lauren Oliver, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 11th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects - Lyra, aka number 24, and the boy known only as 72 - manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

I was really intrigued when I first heard about this book because of the interesting and unique narrative structure.  It can be read as two separate stories or it can be read in alternating chapters by turning the book from front to back.  I decided on the latter because I was worried that if I read them separately, I might find the plot a bit too repetitive.  I think this worked well and I was pleased with my choice, although I'll admit that I did get a bit fed up with having to turn the book around every few minutes.  That aside, the structure was incredibly clever and provides two differing narrative viewpoints from the main characters Lyra and Gemma.

I enjoyed Gemma's half of the book the most.  The way that she develops as a character was really interesting and the way that she decides to investigate and unravel the secrets being kept from her was enough to keep me glued to the pages.  Her father has a mysterious connection to Haven, a secret research facility and Gemma is determined to find out what is really going on there.  I thought that her journey was fascinating and packed full of surprises.

Lyra was much more mercurial and enigmatic.  Her story starts off with her living at Haven until a pivotal event throws her existence into chaos.  I wasn't sure what to think of Lyra in the beginning until I gradually began to understand more about her and saw her start to open up a little.

I sped through the second half of the book which was particularly gripping and couldn't believe the revelations that came to light.  As this is the first title in a duology, the ending left the reader on tenterhooks and desperate for the follow-up.    

Cloning is a hugely pivotal theme in the book and I thought that Lauren Oliver did a terrific job of exploring the different layers and viewpoints surrounding this subject.  I liked reading about all the science behind it and haven't come across any books quite as interesting on this topic before.   

Monday, 5 December 2016

Review: Mistletoe and Murder - Robin Stevens

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin on 20th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms - but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident - until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

A new Wells and Wong mystery is fast becoming the highlight of my reading calendar.  This is one of my favourite series and each book is a genuine delight to read.  I usually devour them in one sitting - the perfect bun break treat!

The newest title is set around Christmas time in the gorgeous setting of snowy Cambridge.  Hazel and Daisy are spending Christmas with Daisy's Aunt and her brother Bertie.  They have no expectations beyond exploring their ancient surroundings and enjoying buns galore in Fitzbillies.  Well, that's not entirely true, as the two girls always have a nose for any possible mystery that might arise!  Instead of a quiet Christmas with family, they stumble upon a murder mystery after a terrible incident occurs.  Determined to investigate and solve the crime, they face competition from the Junior Pinkertons, Alexander and his friend George, who want to prove that they are the best detective society in Cambridge.

As usual, the mystery is fiendishly clever and such fun to untangle.  There are lots of clues presented along the way and suspects identified but I'm always in awe of Daisy and Hazel and their powers of deduction.  They make a great team.  People always seem to underestimate a pair of girls, which plays in their favour and allows them to investigate all kinds of different avenues.  Stevens, also uses this to highlight the differences between the two genders and the fact that even in the 1930s, women were still in an inferior position and treated as such by men. 

I loved the Cambridge setting.  I've never visited but would love to, so it was great getting to live vicariously through Daisy and Hazel.  Plus the ancient buildings sound gorgeous and are the perfect place for a murder mystery to occur.    

A five star fabulous read, I was head over heels for 'Mistletoe and Murder'.  I love the fact that it took place during my favourite holiday season and I can't wait to see our intrepid duo back together again for their next mystery.  This is one series that I hope will go on and on and on.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review: Secrets in the Snow - Michaela MacColl

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl, published by Chronicle Books on 4th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Jane Austen's family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking—until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family's name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

This book has a beautiful front cover which drew me in, along with the fact that the story draws on the life of Jane Austen who I am a massive fan of.  'Secrets in the Snow' is a fictionalised account of a moment in Austen's life when she meets Irishman Tom Lefroy and solves a murder in the process.  It was an interesting mix of fact and fiction which is something that Michaela MacColl does really well.  I thought that the character of Jane Austen was brilliantly written and I felt that her personality had been captured beautifully.  She came alive on the page and I particularly liked how witty and insightful she is, as well as being incredibly observant of everything and everyone around her.

The story draws parallels with 'Pride and Prejudice', suggesting that Tom Lefroy and his family may have served as inspiration for the well loved tale of the Bennett sisters.  It is an interesting link to make and while we will never know if it is true or not, it was an intriguing angle to explore.  Incidentally, if you do want to read more about Jane and Tom, then 'Becoming Jane' is a fantastic book and looks at their relationship in more detail.   

MacColl's plot delves into a mystery surrounding Jane's cousin Eliza who is suspected of helping the French, England's enemy.  When a body is discovered, events take an even more serious turn but Jane is never one to back down and plunges headfirst into solving the case.  While the mystery itself may not have been terribly complicated and was fairly simple to figure out, the treat was in seeing how a determined Jane goes about getting answers, not letting any of the menfolk stand in her way.

This was another great book by an author who weaves together fact and fiction wonderfully well.  I would recommend to other Austen fans.    


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Review: Passenger - Alexandra Bracken

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, published by Quercus in 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In one night, Etta Spencer is wrenched from everything she knows and loves. Thrown into an unfamiliar world, she can be certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles, but years from home.
Captain Nicholas Carter is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous Ironwood family. They are searching for something - a stolen object they believe only she can reclaim. But Nicholas is drawn to his mysterious passenger, and the closer he gets to her, the further he is from freedom.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by a desperate thief. But as Etta plays deeper into the Ironwoods' game, treacherous forces threaten to separate her not only from Nicholas, but from her path home - for ever.

A huge book at nearly 500 pages, this is one that I'd wanted to get my hands on for ages.  I was super excited to get a copy and dived into it immediately.  I can't believe that it actually ended up taking me ages to finish reading it though.  I picked it up and put it down over and over again, reading a single chapter here or there until finally finishing it.  I'm amazed that I managed to persevere with it because I kept thinking that it would suddenly grab me and hook me in and yet it never did.

I found the story very unusual and quite different to the subject matter I was expecting.  It was essentially about time travel and so was set in lots of different countries and different time periods such as New York 1776, Damascus 1599 and Paris 1880.  I personally found that this made the plot hard to follow and unnecessarily drawn out.  I think the main issue I had with the book was that I just didn't buy into the relationship between the two main characters, Nicholas and Etta.  Their journeys are linked as they search for an elusive missing object and as they begin to learn more about each other, they grow closer together.

I don't think that I will be continuing with the series as it was a relief to finally get to the end of the book.  It's such a shame because I had high hopes for it and it came with a stunning recommendation on the front cover from one of my favourite authors, Sarah J. Maas.  I have since read mixed reviews of 'Passenger' and the majority of them have been very positive, so if you like stories about time-travel then maybe give it a go.  Sadly, it wasn't for me.     

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