Sunday 30 June 2013

Letterbox Love #8


Letterbox Love came about after some drama with the American book haul memes, so the UKYA bloggers came together on Twitter to organise one of our own. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. Hosted by Narratively Speaking.

For Review:

Scissors, Sisters and Manic Panics – Ellie Phillips (paperback)

I was having a bad hair day when this whole thing started.

Everything had been peachy. I mean, I had a cool boyfriend and I was following my dream to be a top hairdresser. But that meant working in my Aunt Lilah’s salon, which is where it all went wrong and everything in my life just went BANG.

All I did was give someone the hairstyle she never knew she wanted, and suddenly I was out of a Saturday job. Unless I got another one pronto, I could wave goodbye to my life’s ambition.

Sadie Nathanson is back, taking on her family and the rest of the world one manic panic at a time.

This is the sequel to Dads, Geeks and Blue Haired Freaks which I haven’t read and most likely won’t. If you want it, give me a shout! Thanks Electric Monkey.

Crown of Midnight – Sarah J Maas (proof)

Crowned by evil.
Bound by duty.
Torn by love.

Celaena Sardotheien, royal assassin, is the King of Erilea’s deadliest weapon. She must win her freedom through his enemies’ blood – but she cannot bear to kill for the crown. And every death Celaena fakes. Every lie she tells, puts those she loves at risk.

Torn between her two protectors – a captain and a prince – and battling a dark force far greater than the king, Celaena must decide what she will fight for: her liberty, her heart, or the fate of a kingdom...

EEK! Throne of Glass was one of my 2012 favourites so I’m beyond excited for this. Thanks Bloomsbury!

Monsters - Ilsa J Bick (e-book)

From Goodreads: The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The End...is now.

When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn't get much worse - until the doctors found the monster in her head.

She headed into the wilderness as a goodbye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a road of treacherous betrayal and terror and death.

Now, with no hope of rescue - on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won't quit - she discovers a new and horrifying truth.

The Change isn't over.
The Changed are still evolving.
 And...they've had help.

With this final volume of The Ashes Trilogy, Ilsa J Bick delivers a riveting, blockbuster finish, returning readers to a brutal, post-apocalyptic world where no one is safe and hope is in short supply.

A world where, from these ashes, the monsters may rise.

On a complete whim I decided to peruse Edelweiss not really knowing if it'd be any good. Then I stumbled across this for instant downloaded and squeaked rather embarassingly. Thanks Edelweiss and EgmontUSA!  

Won:

Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher (paperback)

Zoe Collins has a dark and terrible secret that she dares confide to no one. But one day she hears of a criminal on death row who knows all about secrets. And lies. And betrayal. Desperate to confide in someone, Zoe picks up a pen.

These are the letters that she wrote.

This sounds so, so different and it just won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Award so it must be awesome! Thanks Orion!

Sophie


Saturday 29 June 2013

Grounding Quinn - Steph Campbell


Pages: 227
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 6th May 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: My Heart for Yours, Delicate, Lengths, A Toast to the Good Times, Beautiful Things Never Last

Quinn MacPherson’s biggest fear has always been turning out like her crazy mother or cold-hearted father. That is, until she meets Benjamin Shaw.

Quinn thinks hooking up with Ben over the summer will be just a quick fling – and with his hot body and heart-breaking smile that’s all she really wants. But Ben’s not just some guy. He gets her – the real her, flaws and all – and that’s scary as hell. So Quinn does what comes naturally: she pushes him away, breaking his heart before he can break hers.

Ben isn’t prepared to let her go that easily. He knows Quinn is special, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they’re together. But will he be able to persuade Quinn to open herself up and allow him into her life...and her heart?

Oh, New Adult. I’ve tried, I really have. It’ll be no surprise to those of you who follow me on Twitter and were around late Wednesday night that I didn’t quite get on with Grounding Quinn. I was hoping this’d be the NA that’d hook me, but sadly not.

The relationship between Ben and Quinn moved so quickly. They went from just met to going for a road trip the next day and I just couldn’t accept it. There was no gradual respect, caring, friendship, trust, it just went bam! you’re hot and I’d like to kiss your face. Trust was later established in their relationship but I never really felt like they properly loved each other. All I could see on Ben’s end was his physical attraction to Quinn and she liked that he was hot and was there for her even when she wasn’t very nice. I really couldn’t find much substance in it until closer to the end, but even then it was tenuous.

I can’t imagine it helped that I didn’t like a single character in this novel besides Sydney, Quinn’s best friend. Quinn was, excuse my language, a bit of an asshole most of the time and Ben was trying to be a gentleman but his constant references to how ‘gorgeous’, ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ Quinn was undermined that for me. I didn’t really get a grasp on many of the secondary characters and most of them seemed more like plot devices that people in Quinn and Ben’s life. I understand that secondary characters are plot devices, but I rarely think that when I read about them in novels like I did in Grounding Quinn.

Usually my major qualm with the NA books I’ve read so far is the writing, but I didn’t really have any major issues with this. It wasn’t anything stand-out but it wasn’t bad, it was just okay really. it was the characters and the relationships that bothered me and stopped me from becoming involved with the story. One of the only things I have to gripe out prose-wise is how often Quinn told us the exact name of each and every bloody nail varnish she was wearing. The first time, okay a little character info, she likes red. The second time, hmm, big change. By the third I was just annoyed. I mean, unless it has a role in the story or her characterisation I just didn’t care. I thought it was a strange and rather amateurish thing to include as it had no purpose. The second was the time jumps. I never felt any indication of time passing or a gap of time between two chapters and I was suddenly thrown when it was months later. I find time jumps an impossible thing to do smoothly myself but it’s usually something so effortless in novels that I don’t even notice it enough to learn how to do it, but in Grounding Quinn I was just lost.

Grounding Quinn isn’t the worst NA I’ve ever read but I wasn’t a fan and I won’t be reading any more books in the series or by Steph Campbell I don’t think, but fans of the genre will lap this up in one sitting.

Thanks to S&S for providing me with a review copy.

Sophie

Friday 28 June 2013

Dusk - Eve Edwards


Pages: 293
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 6th June 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy


The Somme, Forward Medical Station, 1 July 1916

She leaned over the next patient, another young soldier with a dressing wound to his throat. Whitworth, 1st Somerset High Infantry, Sebastian’s regiment.

HELEN SANDFORD has learnt never to expect too much from life – until she meets an aristocratic artist Sebastian and surprises even herself by falling in love.

All too soon they are separated by the First World War. He enlists as an officer, while she nurses the soldiers injured in the bloody trenches. But their biggest battle is yet to come, because Helen’s past is filled with secrets...

The first part of an epic wartime romance.

I’m a big fan of Eve Edwards so I had high hopes of Dusk even though I’m generally not big on war novels, and I absolutely loved it.

We’re thrown right into the middle of the war; Sebastian preparing to go over the top at The Battle of the Somme, the most famous and bloodiest fight of the Great War. The horror of the trenches and the oncoming battle was so vividly described that I just felt an overwhelming sense of dread and sorrow during his chapters. Somehow, seeing the soldiers come out the other end, broken and often dead, into the care of Helen made it even more potent. It’s not a situation I can ever imagine and I don't think anyone of my generation ever will be able to, thankfully. Eve Edwards made me feel like I was there though and it was terrifying.

The intensity of the chapters set in the war made the flashback chapters set in the run up to the beginning of the battle were a relief. I loved the slow, soft and tentative pace of their romance. They became friends first, learnt about each other, and grew to trust and care for the other naturally. There wasn’t a hint of insta-love or a case of pure lust; they fell in love the way I want to fall in love. It was gorgeous and so, so refreshing. The way they shared their feelings through art, literature and poetry made me swoon and I just...*happy sigh*.

The sharp contrast between the two sections was shocking. The way that the war and their roles in it made them grow up instantly. Sebastian went from a cheeky art boy to a strong, capable Lieutenant and Helen became driven and strong-minded, but still remained caring and thoroughly in love. then towards the end of the novel their characters evolved even further, damaged by the war and what they’d seen and done. It broke my heart. As it always does when I think about war, it struck me that these were people killing other people for a cause created by people the country had no control over, people sitting somewhere safely while others fight their battles. There was a scene set during the first day of the Somme and one where Sebastian is corralled by two old women earlier in the novel that really drove this idea home.

As you can see, I loved Dusk, but there was one thing about the novel that stopped me from going ahead and giving it five stars: the ending. There’s a cliffhanger as I expected and I had felt it building for the last twenty or so pages so I was ready. I wasn’t ready for the feeling of dissatisfaction I felt when I turned the last however. I came away from Dusk pretty damn frustrated with it actually. It may have simply been a case of me being so involved in the book that I hated that it ended at all, but I felt like I was unfairly left hanging. Now I’ve let it settle for a few days, I feel a bit better about the ending and I still can’t stop thinking about this wonderful book and I’m already counting down the days for news of the sequel.

Dusk is a powerful and evocative of love, war and survival that’s impossible to get out of your head. I can’t wait for Dawn.


Thanks to Puffin for providing me with a review copy.

Sophie

Thursday 27 June 2013

Travelling with the Doctor: Book Style

It’s a known fact that Doctor Who is awesome. I think that anyone who hasn’t secretly wished for the Doctor (preferably the 10th...) to turn up on your doorstop and whisk you away are lying. I’ve spent a worrying amount of time thinking about where and when I would ask the Doctor to take me, and that’s only for Earth! As someone who thinks about book with most of my free brain space, lots of my requests were book related and here they are!

Source
The first place I would want to go to is the legendary Library of Alexandria. It was periodically destroyed between 48 BC and AD 642 (according to Wikipedia, anyway) and no one knows for sure what happened to it, other than that there were several fires. I know, it makes me shudder as well. can you imagine the amount of mythology, history and knowledge was in that place? It blows my mind. I wonder how different our world would be if it hadn’t all have been lost. I reckon there are also a few curses and mythical monsters to keep the Doctor busy while I die of happiness among to rolls of scrolls.

Source
Jumping back to England and the 1500s to something that was actually covered in the second episode of season three, The Shakespeare Code, with Martha but I just...it’s Shakespeare! That’s actually one of my favourite ever episode of Doctor Who and I love the idea of seeing the man himself in a play he wrote in the original Globe Theatre (though the picture below is the rebuilt version that’s used today). I don’t know if he ever acted in either of these but I’d love to see Antony and Cleopatra or Romeo & Juliet as they’re my favourites.

Source
Next I’d jump back to the present day and pick up one of my best friends, Sean, to meet John Keats, preferably before the whole TB thing. He’s a bit of a Keats fangirl and I’d love to see him lose it in from of him. They could chat and try and convince him to sign Sean’s battered copy of his poetry collection. I’d definitely get him to read me a poem, probably Bright Star.


Source
Staying in the Romantic era, I’d whisk my mum off the Bath (oh, Bath. I miss you) to have afternoon tea in The Pump Rooms with Jane Austen. I took my mum there for Mother’s Day earlier this year and it was gorgeous. You walk in there and you can vividly imagine the women of Regency society going to have a glass of the natural spring water and gossiping over mini sandwiches. I’d love to meet Jane Austen and see what she was really like and I’m sure my mum would have a heart attack; where better place to do it! Maybe the Doctor can give saving the world a rest and charm his way into getting us into a ball...

Source
From one of literature’s greats to another, I would love to meet Roald Dahl. It makes me so sad that the man who made me fall in love with reading died a mere two years before I was born and I’d love to thank him. He was notoriously cagey so he might not even talk to me properly, but I’d still love to say it. I’d love to try and get him to sign my battered and falling apart copy of Matilda which I’ve had since I was about 8. I also think he’d be involved in some secret, alien plot to do with his characters, maybe the Twits, for the Doctor to figure out.

Finally, I’d like to do something for my future children. I’d go back and buy a first edition copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Those that know me will know just how much I love first edition hardbacks and this is one of those that I’d never be able to afford now as they’re worth a fair bit. I’d bequeath it to my first born when they’re old enough to look after and respect it. It’d also add rather spectacularly to my collection of first edition hardbacks and while I was dribbling over this, the Doctor reveal to me that there’s actually a planet where Harry’s world is real and all my dreams would come true...

So there they are: the places I would drag the Doctor to.

Where would you go? Which authors would you meet?

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Shipwrecked - Siobhan Curham


Pages: 342
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Release Date: 3rd June 2013
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Dear Dylan, Finding Cherokee Brown

Betrayal and forbidden love, beneath a seething sun...

Grace Delaney and her fellow dance students are en route to perform on a South Pacific cruise ship when a freak storm hits and they find themselves stranded on a seemingly deserted island.

With the tropical heat rising, passions and tensions swell to breaking point. And the island itself is quietly steaming with a terrible secret...

I’m a big fan of Siobhan Curham’s first two novels and when I heard about this, I got extremely excited. Shipwrecked looked totally different to Dear Dyland and Finding Cherokee Brown and I knew I was in for a treat!

Being marooned on a deserted island isn’t a unique idea and has been done many times brilliantly but I thought Siobhan Curham may out an individual spin on it and I was right. I was really, really hoping that there wouldn’t be any supernatural elements to the novel and there were, kind of, but I actually think they made the novel stand apart. It wasn’t a typical form of the supernatural, but an old, mythical, voodoo story that gave me chills. It’s a shame we don’t see more of that in YA!

As I’ve come to expect from Siobhan, she also tackled some serious issues in Shipwrecked. There was illness, social class, divorce, pressure to have sex, betrayal and bullying. I loved that they weren’t in the foreground of the story, apart from the bullying maybe, as that was present from the very beginning, but instead these problems formed parts of Grace, Cruz, Jenna, Cariss, Dan, The Flea, Belle and Todd. Siobhan really has a gift with making characters multi-dimensional, relatable and sympathetic. Part of this also came in with The Fle’s sexuality; it wasn’t part of the storyline, it just was. There was no coming out, shock revelations or homophobia which I think is equally as important as kids reading and questioning their sexuality also need to know that they’ll be accepted and that their sexuality won’t define them.

With such a vivid cast of characters comes strong feelings about them and I have to say that there were very few of them that I liked in the beginning and that only changed slightly by the end! Jenna, Cariss and Todd made me really angry. They’re the type of people who make life miserable for others for seemingly no reason at all and every time they threw a jibe at Grace, Cruz or Belle I wanted to give them a smack. However, after their shock actions at the end of the book, I’m very intrigued as to how they’ve faired...

My only teeny, tiny niggle with the whole of Shipwrecked is that I sometimes felt that Cruz slipped from a native Spanish speaker who had adorably stilted English into a fluent American. Honestly though, he was so perfect I soon got over it! Speaking of American-ness, I thought Siobhan Curham made all of her characters feel authentically American in a way that they never manage when they try to be British!

After the super creepy epilogue, I’m dying to know what happens to Grace and co in the next book, but I also think it could have ended before the epilogue and remained as a standalone with a slightly mysterious ending. Saying that, I’m very much looking forward to being reunited with the gorgeous Cruz and seeing just what Hortense is up too...


Thanks to Electric Monkey for providing me with a review copy.

Sophie