Thursday, 8 October 2015

Spotlight: DC Origami Super Heroes, Demons of the Hellmouth, Secret Garden Artist's Edition and Harry Potter: The Character Vault

DC Origami Super Heroes, John Montroll
448|10th September 2015| Curious Fox

Heroes aren’t born. They're folded!

What happens when you combine Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Justice League?

You get the most incredible collection of paper-folding projects ever assembled. This book contains 46 original origami designs, devised by internationally renowned origami master John Montroll that are guaranteed to amaze. With clear, step by step diagrams and instructions, simple squares of paper transform into Batarangs, S-Shields, Batcycles and your DC Super Heroes and Villains! Includes 96 sheets of specially illustrated folding papers to enhance the finished look of the models.  

As soon as I heard about this, I was sold. Superheroes? Origami? What more could you want? But sadly it wasn’t as cool as I was hoping.

I loved the designs, the printed sheets and the fact that there’s two of each so when I inevitably messed up, I could do it again! Or, as what happened when I first gave it a go, me and a friend both had a go and had an origami battle. It kept us occupied for hours.

I did have a few issues with the functionality of DC Super Heroes Origami though. Where the tear line was so far into the spine, it was hard to pull them out without ripping them and ripped sheets meant nothing went right! I have to say that I also didn’t think that it was for children like it was promoted for. I’m 23 and I struggled with most of them, and they were some that just didn’t work, no matter how many times I followed the instructions to the t.

Demons of the Hellmouth: A Guide for Slayers, Nancy Holder
151|4th September 2015|Titan

After the fall of the Watchers Council, and the defeat of The First, Rupert Giles was determined to use his experiences from his seven years in Sunnydale to educate the New Slayers. He pulled together various notes and papers, including excerpts from his Watcher’s Diary, to form a new handbook and field guide: Demons of the Hellmouth.

This is Giles’ original copy and contains pages annotated by Buffy, Willow, and Xander. It has passed through many hands since the Battle of the Hellmouth. And now, Slayer, you hold it in yours. Are you ready to be strong?

With a foreward by Anthony Stewart Head and annotations by Giles, Buffy, Willow and Xander, this felt like a really nostalgic dip back into a familiar world.

All of the annotations felt authentic and genuinely like the characters and the comments referenced events in episodes and seasons. The whole thing is an encyclopaedia of vampires, demons and other icky creatures that featured in the series, in either one episode appearances or part of a whole arc. I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen all of Buffy yet so I did actually get spoiled on a death which was upsetting, so I’d say be careful if you’re one of the few strange ones like me that hasn’t finished Buffy yet!

This is a perfect, nostalgia-fuelled fest for Buffy fans.

Secret Garden: Artist’s Edition, Johanna Basford
20|14th September 2015|Laurence King

From the artist and publisher that brought you the hugely successful Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest – this special artist’s edition features 20 beautiful, pull-out art prints for colouring in. colouring fans of all ages will enjoy immersing themselves in a selection of the most popular artworks from the original book, now presented in a new, large-scale format for maximum colouring enjoyment. Each detailed illustration is printed on high-quality card and can be removed easily for framing or craft projects.

The 20 selected pictures are beautiful on large, single-sided card that I could colour in with my pens and not fear them bleeding through. They were really easy to tear out and I loved that the book is A3.

A brilliant gift for evert fan of adult colouring books.

Harry Potter: The Character Vault, Jody Revenson
207|25th September 2015|Titan

Unlock new information about your favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies with this definitive coffee table book profiling the good, the bad, and everything in between. Concept art, behind-the-scenes imagery, and film stills track everyone from Harry, Hermione and Ron to Dobby, Mad-Eye Moody and Dolores Umbridge, telling their complete stories as they evolve throughout the film series. The ultimate Harry Potter character overview.

It was so lovely to be back in the world of Harry Potter, even though I finished The Character Vault wanting to re-read and re-watch everything…

For every character in the book we have a mini character profile, original sketches, a portrait, details on their wand and, mostly, the details on constructing and designing the costumes, make-up, hair and extras that go from turning an actor into a character. It was a fascinating process.

The Character Vault is a must-have for every Harry Potter fan. I know it’s one I’ll be going back to. 


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Did I Mention I Need You?, Estelle Maskame

Pages: 387
Publisher: Black and White Publishing
Release Date: 19th October 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles in this Series: Did I Mention I Love You?

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrother…and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren’t over each other. But can they resist temptation?

In Did I Mention I Need You?, the second volume of Estelle Maskame’s phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, Tyler and Eden must face up to their feelings and decide what to do next. Is their love strong enough to face the challenges that lie ahead?

It took me by surprise how much I fell in love with Did I Mention I Love You? a few months back so I read Did I Mention I Need You? in one gulp the day it arrived.

It’s been two years since Eden met Tyler and the rest of her step-family and now it’s the summer before Eden goes off to university and Tyler has finished his year on tour. It's been a year since they’ve seen each other and now they have six weeks together in New York City. And the tension between them was unbelievable. Even though Eden’s with Dean, she can't help how she still feels about Tyler. I love the chemistry between them and I was championing them even harder than in DIMILY.

Tyler has changed since his and Eden’s first summer together. He's cleaned up his act and his whole attitude is much more positive but still has his spark and wicked sense of humour. I think I fell even more in love with him than I was already. I love the tension that no one knowing about the nature of Eden and Tyler’s relationship gave every moment they forget about who they are to each other. And it's definitely not smooth sailing. There’s blackmail, secrets, showdowns, epic declarations and a heartbreaking ending. I loved every page of it, even when I got shouty and wanted to through it across the room in frustration.

I gobbled this down far too quickly and I'm bereft now I have to wait for the final instalment, Did I Mention I Miss You?. Gimme!

Thank you to Black and White Publishing for the review copy.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mini-Reviews: The Rithmatist, The Help & Wild Crush

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson
384|Tor|26th February 2015|purchased

Joel is fascinated by the magic of the Rithmatics, but few have the gift and he is not one of them. Undaunted, he persuades Professor Fitch to teach him magical theory. Joel can't infuse his protective lines and circles with power, or bring his chalk-drawn creatures to life, but he’s quick the master the underlying geometric principles. His unique skills will soon face an extraordinary test when top Rithmatist students are kidnapped from his Academy.

Since he’s not a magic user, Joel appears to be safe – but he’s so desperate to investigate and prove himself. Then people start dying. However, can Joel really stop a killer alone? As even more students disappear, he realises he’ll need the help of Rithmatist apprentice Melody. Together, they must race to find clues before the killer notices them – and takes them out too.    

Brandon Sanderson is a hero in the world of fantasy and I’ve always been a little intimidated by that, and the size of his novels, but after finding The Rithmatist nice and cheap on Audible, I decided to finally give him a go. And I really, really enjoyed it.

I couldn’t believe how detailed and all-encompassing Sanderson’s magic system is in The Rithmatist. Rithmatics is the mathematics of chalk circles, lines and creatures that battle. It’s a magic system built on geometry and  have to admit that it took me a while to figure out the rules and everything while listening as I missed out on the illustrations that were in the physical copy – having them described isn’t quite the same! I found that high fantasy is a little more difficult to get into on audio, but I ended up being really involved and invested in the world and characters.

With such a complex and perfectly constructed world, I kind of expected the characters and their relationships to dim in comparison but they were equally as well done. Joel is a slacker in his lessons and assignments, but he’s naturally gifted as the theory of Rithmatics, even though he’s not one and never can be. As he begins to study under Professor Fitch, a brilliant Rithmatist, Joel’s skills develop even further and he begins to get a toe in the world of the Rithmatists. Fitch is also tutoring Melody who is completely hapless at the basics of Rithmatics, though her chalkings (chalk drawn creatures used in Rithmatic battles) are some of the best Fitch has ever seen. I loved the banter and teasing in their friendship, and even more, that it was just friendship between them. So refreshing! Joel, Melody and Fitch made a brilliant team when it came to investigating the mysterious murders and I frequently found myself laughing aloud at them.

The Rithmatist was a lot of fun and I already have two more Brandon Sanderson novels lined up: the rather intimidating The Final Empire and The Way of Kings… Wish me luck!

The Help, Kathryn Stockett
444|Penguin|13th May 2010|purchased

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962.
Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely on one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

My mum read this novel in about 2011 and was constantly on at me to read it. I finally did, four years later, and I really should have listened to her then! It’s wonderful.

I have to admit that I went into The Help with some trepidation. I was worried, as I always am when it comes to hyped bestsellers, that I wouldn’t enjoy it; that it’d give me so much second-hand guilt it’d be impossibly uncomfortable to read; and that it might be a tad boring. I was wrong on all accounts. I listened to The Help on audiobook and the narration was split between Aibileen and Minny, two black maids, and Miss Skeeter, a young, white girl who dreams of being a writer. The narrators were so wonderfully spot on. Aibileen was by far my favourite. Her chapters were warm, vibrant and quietly powerful. I was surprised by how funny all three narrators are. Minny is outspoken and brash; Miss Skeeter has a clever, sarcasm about her and Aibileen is one of those wise, old women who knows what's right for you before you’ve even identified a problem. I fell in love with all three of them.

The Help offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a small town in Mississippi when women still stayed home and had kids, had League meetings, Bridge clubs and could destroy someone’s life with the click of a finger. Miss Hilly, the head of the League and Minny’s former employer, is the Regina George of 1960s Jackson and I hated her with the fire of a thousand suns. The way she treats people is unbelievable, and that’s not limited to the maids; she's just a vile human being and I hated watching people crumble under her will.

But really, this is a story about friendship and love. Whether that be the friendship between the maids, between Skeeter and Aibileen, or between the white ladies of the League; the love between the maids and the white children they bring up or for the people they have to sacrifice to survive in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s. There are so many layers to every relationship in The Help and I could wax lyrical about my favourites and the way that people are treated, but I honestly feel that you’ll appreciate it a whole lot more going in blind like I did; I barely knew a thing about it and ended up falling in love.

The Help is an important book: funny, touching, powerful and clever. I’m so very glad I finally read it, and I really recommend trying the audiobook.  

Wild Crush, Simone Elkeles
240|NLA Digital|22nd September 2015|purchased

When the only girl you want is the one you can't have…

Bad boy Vic Salazar breaks all the rules except one: Don’t make a move on your best friend’s girl. It’s a Guy Code that Vic lives by. It doesn’t matter that he’s had a crush on her for years, Monika Fox is off limits.

Monika has a secret of her own and when a tragedy throws her and Vic together, the only boy she trusts is the one she shouldn’t confide. Vic.

As Vic struggles to keep his distance, and Monika struggles with her secrets, will their wild connection violate every rule both vowed never to break – about relationships, about friendship, about love?

I’m a huge fan of Simone Elkeles and have been for a long time, and although Wild Crush wasn’t her best, I still devoured it in only a few hours.

Elkeles’s novels have something of a formula: rich good girl and poor bad boy, secrets, miscommunications, swoony scenes and romantic declarations. For some people that might not work, but I'm a total sucker for it and I love the comfort that reading one of her novels brings me. Wild Crush was no exception. Vic actually reminded me a lot of Alex Fuentes, her most popular hero from Perfect Chemistry, and my favourite *swoons just thinking about him*. Very excitingly, Alex made a few extended cameos in Wild Crush and I got rather excited about it; especially when Alex himself identified how much like his younger self Vic is. They’re judged for their badassery, misbehaviour and penchant for getting into trouble, but underneath they’re strong, clever and have a heart of gold. And it takes a girl to bring that to the surface.

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Monika. The synopsis of the novels promises secrets, but the secret she kept was life-threateningly dangerous and it wasn’t worth it. I also didn’t really feel anything for or from her; she didn’t have a huge amount of personality, she was largely a reaction to the boys in the novel and the expectations placed upon her. Monika has a chronic illness that dictates a lot of what she can and can't do, but the way it was presented made me a little uncomfortable. I can't quite pinpoint why, maybe the constant referable to her being ‘disabled’ or her refusal to share it with anybody, I just don’t know.

Even though Wild Crush lacked Elkeles’ usual snap and I didn’t like it as much as I wanted to, I’ll always read her books and it was still a pleasure to be back in her suburbs of Illinois.


Monday, 5 October 2015

Stand Off, Andrew Smith

Pages: 401
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: 10th September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Grasshopper Jungle, The Alex Crow, Winger

Senior year is supposed to be easy, but for Ryan Dean West there are no guarantees.

He may be the school rugby captain but his new roommate, Sam Abernathy, is a twelve-year-old with extreme claustrophobia and a crush on Annie Altman, Ryan Dean’s girlfriend.

And Ryan Dean has his own problems, too – he’s haunted by things from his past he can't escape, fear of losing Annie, and the fact that sometimes the uncontrollable force of friendship moves under its own power.

A laugh-out-loud story of heart and hope.

I loved last year’s Winger so I was super excited to see how Ryan Dean’s story continued after the shock, emotional ending of the first book.

Ryan Dean is back at Pine Mountain and he’s a fifteen-year-old senior. But it’s not going to as easy a year as he thought it would be. Spoiler warning for Winger so skip this paragraph is you haven’t read it and intend to! Joey’s death has really affected Ryan Dean. He’s constantly anxious, having nightmares and, honestly, I think he’s suffering from PTSD. It was heartbreaking to watch him struggle and refuse to share with his friends how he was feeling. It was even more so when it became the reason behind the way he had been treated his new roommate, twelve-year-old freshman, Sam Abernathy.

Sam unfailingly enthusiastic and nice about everything, he has severe claustrophobia and is too embarrassed to get changed in the same room as Ryan Dean. He’s adorable and brilliant and he’d drive me mad as well! But he’s the best friend Ryan Dean could ask for in the situation. All Sam wanted was to be Ryan Dean’s friend, but Ryan Dean was terrified at becoming friends with someone else because he didn’t want to get hurt again.

Andrew Smith also tackles some other really important issues in Stand Off. There’s a huge discussion about consent and being respectful and that’s one of the first times I’ve seen it discussed so openly in a YA novel narrated by a teenage boy. I cheered. I loved how consistent the message is throughout the novel and that it was taken on board in gay as well as straight relationships. Ryan Dean’s PTSD was dealt with in a way I imagine lots of other teens deal with mental illness: trying to hide and ignore it, and yet when it did come out and he started to share and went to therapy, he started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It felt authentic and the message was subtle and important.

Even though Stand Off ended perfectly, I would love to read a third instalment set during Ryan Dean and Annie’s first year a Berkley.


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Letterbox Love #107

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated.

I forgot to post last Sunday so this is the last two weeks of review books!

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, Jenny Hale (e-proof)

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas…and the rush of falling in love under the Mistletoe.

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an entire designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of becoming a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

Another comfy Christmas read for me! Thanks NetGalley and Bookouture.

Make a Christmas Wish, Julia Williams (e-proof)

What's your secret wish this Christmas?

Last Christmas, when Livvy as knocked down in the supermarket car park she certainly wasn’t ready to be dead! For months now she's floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.

And she's not ready to go just yet! She's furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she's worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.

This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take the gift she's been given to create the perfect family Christmas?

Nope, definitely not another Christmas book… Thanks NetGalley and Avon!

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, Jennifer E Smith (e-proof)

One night. A life-changing decision. And a list…

Of course Clare made a list. She creates lists for everything. That’s just how she is.

But tonight is Clare and Aidan’s last night before college and this list will decide their future, together or apart.

It takes them on a rollercoaster ride through their past – from the first hello in science class to the first conversation at a pizza joint, their first kiss at the beach and their first dance in a darkened gymnasium – all the way up to tonight.

A night of laughs, fresh hurts, last-minute kisses and an inevitable goodbye.

But will it be goodbye forever or goodbye for now?

I loved this! I devoured it in about two hours. Thanks Headline and NetGalley.

The Crossover, Kwame Alexander (paperback)

“A bolt of lightning on my kicks…
          The court is sizzling.
                   My Sweat is drizzling.
Stop all that quivering.
             Cuz tonight I’m delivering.”

Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They're kings of the court, star players for their school.

But when Jordan meets a girl, the twins’ tight-knit bond is tested – are the rules of the game about to be broken?

I’m not usually a fan of sport novels, but I was sent the first few pages by the publisher and I fell in love with the feel of the novel as it's in verse! Thanks Andersen Press!

Did I Mention I Need You?, Estelle Maskame (paperback)

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrother…and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren’t over each other. But can they resist temptation?

In Did I Mention I Need You?, the second volume of Estelle Maskame’s phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, Tyler and Eden must face up to their feelings and decide what to do next. Is their love strong enough to face the challenges that lie ahead?

YAY! Reading this immediately! Thanks Black and White Publishing!

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, Michelle Cuevas (proof)

Jacques Papier thinks that everyone hates him.

After all, teachers ignore him when he raises his hand, nobody ever picks him for sports teams, and his sister, Fleur, keeps having to remind their parents to set a place for him at the dinner table.

But then Jacques discovers an uncomfortable truth: He is NOT Fleur’s brother, he’s her imaginary friend!

And so begins Jacques’ quest for identity…what do you do when you realise that the only reason you exist is because of someone else’s imagination?

The whimsical “autobiography” of an imaginary friend who doesn’t know he’s imaginary – perfect for fans of Toy Story, The Imaginary and Moone Boy.

This sounds like so much fun! Thanks S&S!