Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Dead Beautiful - Yvonne Woon

Dead Beautiful (Dead Beautiful, #1)Dead Beautiful by Yvonne Woon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dead Beautiful – Yvonne Woon 3.5 stars

Renee is an ordinary California teenager, spending her 16th birthday on the beach with her best friend Annie. On the way home she makes a terrible discovery, the bodies of her newly dead parents, and her life changes dramatically. Left in the care of her grandfather, Renee is taken across the country to a boarding school in Maine which focuses on existential matters. Her grandfather insists that she will be safer there than in California. At first Renee misses her old life, Annie and her sort-of-boyfriend Wes, but the machinations of Gottfried Academy gradually take over and she leaves her old life behind.

Renee is inexplicably drawn to the gorgeous but mysterious Dante. Even more strangely, Dante seems to return the sentiment and agrees to tutor her in Latin. But Dante is not all that he appears to be. He feels cold to the touch, Renee’s hands go numb when she touches him and he refuses to kiss her on the lips. In addition, something seems to be preying on Gottfried Academy students. A student died the previous Spring in a similar way to Renee’s parents and she thinks Dante can tell her more about it. Will she solve the mystery before she and her friends fall victim to the Gottfried Curse?

What I didn’t enjoy – there were a lot of clichés. If you put Twilight, Harry Potter and Wuthering Heights in a blender, you might come out with something like this. It’s quite angst driven, but then so are many teenage girls and they are the target audience.

What I enjoyed – it’s actually quite a good story, and a slightly different take on the genre. The mythology was interesting, as were the references to philosophers. When the action kicks off and Renee finally discovers Dante’s secret, the book moves away from some of the more clichéd elements and finds its own pace. The ending was interesting enough that I will look up subsequent books in the series.
This title was provided by the publisher, Disney Book Group, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Iron Traitor - Julie Kagawa

The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #2)The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Julie Kagawa's world building is second to none and her characterisation is perfect. That said, I found The Iron Traiter a bit slow to get into. Once the pace picked up, however, it was impossible to put down.

Keirran continues to try and find a way to keep the love of his life, Anwyll, from fading. His obsession with his quest puts Ethan and Kenzie into danger on a number of occasions and he is in genuine danger of letting his darker nature take over.

Ethan and Kenzie face issues of their own. There are consequences over their sudden disappearance in The Iron Prince, and Kenzie's father is not keen to let Ethan near his daughter again. Ethan's misguided attempts at chivalry threaten to drive Kenzie away, he really does underestimate her.

Grimalkin as usual is the star of the show and completely steals the limelight in every scene in which he appears. Puck and Ash also lend sparkle and push the story from good to excellent.

The cliffhanger ending will either have you throwing the book in disgust, or lining up early to read the next installment.

Highly recommended.

Digital ARC provided courtesy of the publisher via Netgalley.

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Sunday, 25 August 2013

It Would be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend (Wouldn't it?) by Sophie Ranald

It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend (Wouldn't it?)It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend by Sophie Ranald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ellie Mottram lives somewhat in the shadow of her younger sister, Rose. Rose has glamourous friends, designer clothes, an exciting job as an art buyer and a string of rich boyfriends. Ellie prefers comfortable clothes, watching Masterchef and hanging out with her not-boyfriend, Ben. That is, until Rose brings Oliver home and Ellie is smitten. What lengths will Ellie go to to steal Oliver away from Rose? And what will it cost her if she succeeds?

This is the debut novel from Sophie Ranald, although you wouldn't know it. It is a testament to her skill that although Ellie is attempting something pretty callous, she remains a likeable and sympathetic character throughout. First person narrative can be tricky, and Sophie handles it well, creating a cast of three dimensional charaters as seen through Ellie's eyes. The writing is clever and funny and Sophie maintains a good pace throughout, creating the need to carry on to find out just what will happen to Ellie and Rose.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Lies You Told Me - Jessica Ruston

The Lies You Told MeThe Lies You Told Me by Jessica Ruston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Klara's mother left when she was six and died soon after. She grew up with her father, who was full of stories about how beautiful and wonderful her mother had been, and how in love they were. Klara knew little else, other than that her mother, Sadie, was a model who'd gone to work in America. When Klara receives an anonymous letter and a key to a lock up filled with her mother's belongings, she is determined to find out more about the mysterious Sadie, but when what she discovers begins to contradict the stories her father has told her, she starts to wonder who her parents really are and exactly what truth her father's lies are covering.

I really enjoyed this. Once it got to a particular point I couldn't put it down and ended up reading until 1am so I could finish. Told from the joint viewpoints of Klara, in the present, and Sadie, through her diary, the book explores loss, obsession and love in its myriad forms.

Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How do I feel about this book? I'm not quite sure yet. I read it all in one setting, I had to know what happened before someone spoiled the ending.

Let's get the not-so-good out of the way and then concentrate on the good:
Like the last few books, it starts off being quite pedestrian, day in the life of Sookie.
Not everyone is going to be happy with the choices Sookie makes.

The better bits:
The choices Sookie makes are her choices, and she's happy with them.
We get a sense of closure for just about everyone who's ever appeared in the series (and is still alive).
There is actually an element of mystery that has been sorely lacking in the last couple of books.

It's not the best of the series, but it's far from the worst. I give it 4 stars, but I'm adding one for all the enjoyment I've had from the entire series. I won't miss the books, it was past time for them to end, but I have really enjoyed Sookie's adventures over the years, and this was a fitting ending to her story.

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Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits, #2)Dare You To by Katie McGarry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dare you To will be published in May/June 2013 in hardcover and e-book formats.

Dare You To is the sequel to Pushing The Limits, which was one of my favourite books of 2012. It does, however, work as a stand alone novel. Although there are references to characters and events in PTL, this is a distinct story that stands on its own.

We first met Beth in Pushing the Limits. She was the niece of Noah and Isaiah's indifferent foster mother, coming to live with them when her mother's abusive boyfriend hit her one time too many. We don't learn a lot about Beth in PTL, she's sullen and hostile and mostly stoned. We know she's had an unpleasant home life and that her mother has chosen the boyfriend over her, but as PTL is focused on Noah and Echo we don't know much more than that, other than that Isaiah loves her.

Dare You To is billed as Beth's story, but as with PTL it is a shared perspective story with each chapter alternating between the viewpoints of the main characters. I really wanted this to be Beth and Isaiah's story, but it's not.

We start with Ryan Stone, promising baseball player about to enter his senior year. He and his friends play a game of dares, seeing who can get the most girls' phone numbers. They have no intention of calling these girls, it's simply about winning. Ryan is dared to approach a pierced, black haired girl with attitude: Beth. Her refusal to give him her number sparks Ryan's competitive streak. He doesn't do losing.

When Beth gets herself arrested to stop her mother going to jail, her uncle gets involved and takes her to live with him. He asks one of the local boys to show her around the school and help her settle in. It turns out to be Ryan, the obnoxious jock who tried to get her number.

Inevitably, sparks fly and a mutual attraction develops. Can Beth find a way to trust Ryan? And is he worth trusting, or is it all a game to him after all?

I really liked Ryan as a character. Despite his swagger he really is decent and honourable and vulnerable.

Beth's story is heartbreaking. By the end you really want her to find her HEA.

There are a few gratuitous mentions of Noah and Echo, and the book would have worked as well without them. They didn't really add anything to the story, apart from giving Beth a reference for what love looks like.

I didn't love it quite as much as Pushing the Limits, but I loved it enough to read it all in one session, staying up until 2am to do so.

Isaiah's story will be continued in Crash Into You.

My copy of Dare You To was provided by Harlequin UK through netgalley.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits, #1)Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb:

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible. Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again. 

The story:

"...growing up means making tough choices, and doing the right thing doesn't necessarily mean doing the thing that feels good."

Echo is damaged, physically and mentally. She has terrible scars on her arms that she tries to hide under gloves and long sleeves and everyone speculates about how she got them, including Echo. She has no memory of the night she was injured. Two years and a procession of therapists haven't been able to help so she doesn't see what the new school social worker, Mrs Collins, thinks she'll be able to do.

Noah had a loving family, once. Now he has a major attitude problem thanks to the screwed up foster care system that took him away from his younger brothers. He will do anything to get them back.

Echo is given the job of tutoring Noah in order to increase his grades and give him a shot at College. Rather inevitably they fall for each other, but more importantly, they help each other to discover the truth and find a way to maybe, one day, be happy.

The verdict:
I loved this book. Really and truly loved it. It reminded me of books that broke my heart as a teenager, books by Judy Blume and Cynthia Voight and John Marsden. McGarry gives us both Echo and Noah's viewpoints. This allows us to sympathise with each character in a way we couldn't if it was just Echo's story. It also creates greater depth. Noah's pain is different to Echo's, but no less important. I'm told that the portrayal of the foster care system is quite accurate. To think that there are thousands of real children going through what Noah has is terribly sad.

This is a romantic coming of age story for two young people faced with gritty reality. I really recommend reading it.

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Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A year of books

I entered the Goodreads reading challenge for the first time last year. I started low, aiming for 40 books and there were times when I was behind my goal. When I reached that I upped it to 60, and ended the year having read 84 books.

2013 involves a massive move across the world and a lot of changes, so I may not have as much time for reading. I'm aiming for 50 books initially, so around one a week.

My most anticipated book this year is A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I started reading the Wheel of Time series in 2000. It took me three goes to get past the prologue on the first book. In the end I ignored it and just started with Chapter 1 and went back and read the prologue afterwards. It made much more sense then. I read all of the subsequent books, and then Jordan died before he could finish the series. Sanderson was chosen to use Jordan's notes to finish the series, and that finally happens this month when A Memory of Light is published. It's been a long time coming. Will the folk from the Two Rivers overcome the powers of evil? I can't wait to find out!

I have a couple of story ideas banging around my head as well. It's unlikely that anything will come of them, but I'm going to try and get something down on paper this year as well.

What are you aiming to read this year? Is there a book you're particularly looking forward to?