Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Sam is your average popular girl – self-centred, vain, pretty, bitchy; likes to party, get drunk with a gorgeous boyfriend and has great but equally bitchy friends. As far as she is concerned, February the 12th is just like any other day, with the exception that she plans on losing her virginity to her boyfriend. She certainly doesn’t expect to die. And she definitely doesn’t expect to wake up on the morning of February the 12th…again and again. She soon realises that she isn’t going to escape the Groundhog Day scenario without doing something drastic, and over the course of seven days she perhaps learns more about herself and the world around her than she ever did in her eighteen years of life.

Oliver manages to create an extremely realistic school setting and teenage pupils – it almost seems as though you once attended Thomas Jefferson High, with the same teachers and bitchy girls. Each character is unique, complex and are fleshed out well. I defy anyone to like Sam at first – she’s shallow, bitchy and selfish but you grow to partially understand why she is like that. Her character development is wonderful and paced very well – she doesn’t improve as a person too quick, but at the perfect pace and you end up really liking and vying for her. Kent is such a cutie and I really hate how Sam treats him at first.

Oliver is such a good writer – her words are beautiful and insightful. After reading ‘Day 1’ and getting partway through ‘Day 2’ I thought ‘Oh no’ because the pace is pretty slow at first but Oliver manages to make the exact same day wonderfully different, and Sam’s attempts to change her fate make for unputdownable reading, especially in the edge-of-your-seat climax. Before I Fall is inspirational and thought-provoking with a clever plot and Oliver’s wonderful writing - I really can't say any more than that; other than it should be compulsory reading. 

[SYNOPSIS: They say that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me. 

Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn't.
On a rainy February night, eighteen-year-old Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But then the impossible happens: she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the day that she died.
Forced to live over and over the last day of her life the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party she desperately struggles to alter the outcome, but every morning she wakes up on the day of the crash.
This is a story of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love... a little too late.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

In My Mailbox (10)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is my first ever meme where you share all the books you received during the week whether it be from the library or in the mail post.

This week I got:

Junk ~ Melvin Burges (Library)
I've read this now, and I really don't think it was my kind of book at all, though I know people who love it.
Knife Edge ~ Malorie Blackman (Library)

I loved Noughts and Crosses so I can't wait to read this one!

We Can Be Heroes ~ Catherine Bruton 
No Use Crying ~ Zannah Kearns (won - many thanks to Mostly Reading YA and Frances Lincoln Children's books)
If it wasn't for this wonderful blog, I don't think I would have heard of the two titles that I have won, so I'm immensely grateful for that because they both look brilliant!

What did you guys get in your mailbox this week? :)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Luce Price killed a boy…except, she believes she didn’t, even though she can’t remember anything about the night it happened; nonetheless, she is shipped off to a reform school where she meets a number of screwed up kids, all forms of communication barring a fifteen minute phone call once per week are banned, and cameras capture every movement. One of the screwed up kids is Daniel Grigori, who flips her off at their first meeting, yet who Luce feels drawn to…almost as though they know each other, yet she’s never met him before…is she really crazy? 

I really don’t know what happened to Kate’s writing between The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove and this, but whatever it was, I want to hug it because her writing has improved so much – Fallen was actually readable, and didn’t get thrown down multiple times in disgust! Fallen is by no means a masterpiece, and Kate still far from what call an author, but I liked it so much more than Betrayal, which admittedly isn’t saying much as I abhorred Betrayal. So. Much.

Fallen was quite slow to get going, could have easily cut a hundred pages of Luce wallowing in self pity, and is further evidence that Pretty Covers Disguise Horrible Books; but seriously, that cover is stunning (bar the quote from P.C. Cast *shudders*), as are the entire series’ covers – I can’t wait to see Rapture’s (yes, there is a fourth one). Sadly the cover is the best thing about Fallen though: we have the typical cliché of the two hottest boys in school who fall hopelessly in lurve with our stunning protagonist even though she has no personality to speak of – she likes to think of herself as smart, but of course falls into the Too Stupid To Live category, and whines the entire way through the book about the scary shadows that follow her, and the fact that Daniel seems to hate her.

 The ‘villain’ was laughably cliché and there isn’t much plot to speak of until the last few pages where it is horribly rushed and predictable but consists namely of A) What is up with Daniel (and also Luce for falling in love with him because he flips her off at their first meeting, which naturally leads to her stalking him out and breaking into his personal record), B) What happened the night Luce’s crush died in a mysterious fire that Luce herself can’t remember anything about, despite possibly causing it, and C) What are the annoying shadows that Luce repeatedly sees and moans about – these mysteries are what power you to keep reading, and Kate annoyingly knows this and refuses to divulge the answers until the last few pages, where we get ridiculous explanations.

 The ‘reform’ school that was Sword & Cross couldn’t have been any less reform – their major punishment was setting impossibly long essays for homework and keeping the kids in the same room all day; whilst their security cameras were easily disabled, and remained that way, and the extremely dangerous psychotic kids were allowed free run of the grounds – if only Kate had bothered to do some research, especially in angel mythology, then Fallen might have actually been somewhat alright.

 Despite all of this, for some reason I can't put my finger on, I found myself almost enjoying reading Fallen, and I even borrowed the sequel, Torment, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
[SYNOPSIS: There’s something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.
Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price’s attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He’s the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.
Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce–and goes out of his way to make that very clear–she can’t let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton

Blood Magic had a fresh and interesting premise – basically that magic exists, but it needs blood to work – but is yet another book let down by the horrible execution. Firstly, the romance was utterly clichéd and happened so fast (literally as soon as Silla and Nick meet) that it was laughable, as was the amount of so-called passion between them mere days after meeting – I wouldn’t have been surprised if Nick proposed by the end of the novel at the rate their romance developed… actually, it was the only thing that ‘developed’ in Blood Magic. Do you want to know Nick’s ‘adorable’ and ‘endearing’ pet name for the love of his life? Babe. Constantly. She is not a pig!

 All of the characters were very flat and unrealistic and the alternating viewpoints sounded exactly the same a la Shiver. Silla’s ‘mask’ thing where she pretends to put on different pretty masks to give her, for example, confidence or a sense of calm, got annoying, but that could have been because I didn’t warm to her. The story and prose were boring and both were difficult to get through, mostly because I just didn’t care that much, but also because they were horrible. I think Gratton may have been aware of this, as she tries to spice up the story with the disturbing death of a bunny – Silla kills it for its blood by decapitating it, and then forgets to collect most of the blood so it turns out pointless anyway, finally hurling the poor thing’s head as far as she can throw it…and then doesn’t regret it, which put me even more off her character.

I was interested in Blood Magic at first, mainly because we dive straight into the story, and also by the mystery surrounding the death of Silla’s parents-everyone except Silla believes her dad killed her mum, then turned the gun on himself-the intriguing ‘blood magic’ and finally because I hate to leave a book unfinished. The plot was predictable, there were too many pages and chapters (sixty or so in about four hundred – seriously?!) which could have easily been cut out. Also, Josephine’s chapters were supposed to have started in the 1900s but sounded extremely modern-day, with the exception of the Random words That were Capitalised, which she thankfully Grew out Of.

I can see that some Twilight fans might enjoy Blood Magic, but I found it pretty hard work to get through and I won’t be picking up the sequel when it comes out.
[SYNOPSIS: The murder of her parents has left Silla damaged and lost, and Silla's insistence that her father is not to blame only alienates her further from her friends and family. When a mysterious spell book arrives, Silla hopes it will lead to some answers about her parents' killer. In her first attempt at magic, in an old graveyard near her home, Nick, the new boy in town spies on her; he recognizes the magic that Silla is performing as the same magic his mother performed with him, before she went mad. Before long, Silla and Nick connect, though Nick is unwilling to share his history with blood magic with Silla. When Silla's friends start showing signs of possession, Silla, Nick and Silla's brother, Reese, must contend with a deadly, immortal woman who will stop at nothing to take the book of spells from them.]

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

I loved the premise of Haunting Violet – set in the 19th Century (although the cover certainly doesn’t suggest this) and centring around elaborately faked séances, the effective way in which Violet’s mother earns her living; Violet herself disagrees with conning the rich and naïve, and longs for the day when she can break away from her selfish mother in the form of marriage…that is until she starts to see the dead for herself. However, for me, the actual novel itself fell short of this superb premise. I also found that there were eerie similarities between this and The Body Finder – both main characters are called Violet, both feel the dead, both fall in love with a childhood friend and both feature murderers – but I’m sure that they were merely interesting coincidences.

The writing was good, but I’m always hesitant to read period novels as the author always appears to be trying too hard to write in the appropriate style of that era, and more often than not it comes across and makes for bad reading, which I found was the case with Haunting Violet, including dialog that appears far too modern, and I think this was the reason I found it hard to get into at first. The line breaks used for dramatic effect were far too overused and I felt that there were too many characters to keep track of, and many of them were dull and not at all developed.

I was slightly disappointed to see how much the romance aspect overtook the ghost aspect, which is what I was hoping the novel would be mainly about as I adore a good ghost story, and it’s rare to find in the YA genre. Add to that the fact that I found the romance very badly played out, abrupt and featuring a dreaded much overdone love triangle and I was pretty let down by Haunting Violet

However, the mystery element of ‘who done it’ was quite good, and had me guessing for quite a while, though the red herrings were obviously so. I wish Harvey would have included more of an explanation as to why Violet suddenly started to see ghosts, as the ability clearly wasn’t hereditary. The séance scenes were very well done and the most interesting scenes in my opinion. Most of the characters were likeable, especially Violet’s friend Elizabeth who is charmingly cheeky and Violet’s self-centred mother – a love-to-hate character. Overall, it’s a quick read for a rainy day, especially if you’re a historical romance fan who’s partial to the odd ghost story – it’s not brilliant but nor is it awful. 

[SYNOPSIS: Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts, especially since her mother has worked as a fraudulent medium for a decade. Violet has taken part in enough of her mother’s tricks to feel more than a little jaded about anything supernatural. The ghosts, however, believe in Violet and she’s been seeing them everywhere. One ghost in particular needs Violet to use her emerging gift to solve her murder …and prevent the ghost’s twin sister from suffering the same fate.]

Sunday, 11 September 2011

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is my first ever meme where you share all the books you received during the week whether it be from the library or in the mail post.
This week I got:

The H.I.V.E. series by Mark Walden + Swag (wristband, bag and t-shirt) Many thanks to Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf and Bloomsbury - this is an amazing prize to have won, and I've always wanted to read the series!

Paranormalcy ~ Kiersten White (Library)
This seems like quite a good, interesting read :)
Dark Inside ~ Jeyn Roberts (MyKindaBook)
This looks really good!
Vampire Academy ~ Richelle Mead (Library)
I've been meaning to read the series for ages, as everyone seems to adore it, so I hope I like it :)

What did you guys get in your mailbox this week? Leave a comment and I'll be sure to check out your IMM :)

Friday, 9 September 2011

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I’ve read a lot of dystopian YA fiction this year, and whilst I do enjoy it and it’s fast becoming one of my favourite genres, no matter how different the plot and characters, they always end up the same – there is inevitably a love triangle and the main character eventually rebels against the controlling system which they come to realise is not as perfect as it is made out to be and manage to convince the entire nation of this – The Huger Games and Delirium instantly spring to mind…except they were much much more well done than Uglies. Now I understand that Uglies was the first to come out circa 2005, and it has a wonderful premise, but it fell severely flat for me.

Tally Youngblood is mere weeks off her sixteenth birthday, the birthday when everything will change – she will become a Pretty by means of a simple operation, move out of Uglyville and join her Pretty family and friends in a carefree fun lifestyle. She can’t wait, until she meets Shay - Shay doesn’t share Tally’s views, and plans on running away to a mysterious place far out of town called ‘the Smoke’; she can’t change Tally’s mind, however, and ends up running off alone. Tally doesn’t bother too much, instead focusing on her excitement of becoming a Pretty…but she doesn’t get the chance and is faced with a horrific decision – give up Shay, or be forever Ugly.

Now Uglies could have been amazing, it really could have been, but I feel it was let down by Westerfeld’s writing. It’s not awful, but he’s certainly more of a storyteller than a writer, much like J.K. Rowling, which isn’t bad thing…except the premise was the best thing about this book. The pacing is really slow (until dramatic things happen in about two pages), the characters boring and very undeveloped, many events were very convenient (such as easily deciphering the note that even Special Circumstances, the future version of the FBI or there abouts, couldn’t), the government didn’t seem like that much of a threat and pretty much everything was annoyingly spelt out. Also, I got sick of Westerfeld (intentionally or not) criticising everything we ‘Rusties’ do – we’re ugly, use too much metal in buildings, severely destroyed the planet even though it survived perfectly fine and *gasp* kill trees!

There were a few twists and turns that I didn’t expect, but the majority of it was predictable and due to the frequent ‘convenientness’ you knew no matter what that Tally would not get in trouble or hurt. I think a map would have been a nice idea, so you could trace Tally’s adventures and get a sense of perspective. I love the cover – it’s very simplistic but a pretty powerful image, and I really prefer it to the updated covers featuring models, although it is a bit amusing that Westfeld’s name is misspelt.

 I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series as I don’t particularly care what happens next. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting dystopian novel, but don’t go into it expecting a masterpiece.

[SYNOPSIS: Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?
Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license -- for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world -- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.]

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Josephine Angelini Interview

Josephine Angelini is a Massachusetts native and the youngest of eight siblings. A real-live farmer's daughter, Josie graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband…and she can still drive a tractor. Starcrossed is her first novel.

Thanks to the wonderful MyKindaBook, I recently had the chance to interview the lovely Jospehine Angelini, the author of Starcrossed - here are her answers:

1. Do you think that there are any famous people, dead or alive, who may be demigods? If so, who and which House do you think they belong to?
(I’ll stick to the House of Thebes in this answer so that I don’t give anything about DREAMLESS or the other Houses away.)
I think Brad Pitt looks like he would be from the House of Thebes—definitely. And since the House of Thebes is descended from Apollo, and Apollo was the god of music and art, I’ll also have to say that someone with musical talent like Justin Timberlake would fit in nicely. For girls I would say Jennifer Lawrence and Taylor Swift. In fact, I bet Taylor Swift is secretly a demigod. Someone should check on that.

2. Why do you think we still read and enjoy the Ancient Greek myths of gods, heroes and monsters that are over two thousand years old?

Because they’re awesome stories! They’ve got everything… action, love, suspense, and end-of-the-world stakes. But what I find most appealing are the complicated characters, none of them are all good or all bad. Hercules is generally considered a hero, but he murdered his wife and children in a fit of madness. Medusa is a man-killing monster, but her petrifying face was actually a curse put on her by Athena even though Medusa didn’t do anything to deserve it.
The Greeks weren’t afraid to ask some morally ambiguous questions. They understood that good people do dark things sometimes, and that even monsters were not all bad. I think this makes more intuitive sense to people than flawless heroes who always do the right thing or evil villains that are so evil it’s kind of silly.
The ancient stories still speak to us today because even though they are mostly about gods and monsters, the characters in Greek myths are entirely human.

3. I’m assuming that you’ve read the Harry Potter books here – what house do you think you'd get sorted into if you went to Hogwarts?

I’ve read all the Harry Potter books about a gazillion times, but you know what? I’ve never thought about which House I’d be in if I were at Hogwarts. I’d like to say Gryffindor or Ravenclaw because they’re where the cool kids go, but if I’m going to be honest, I’d probably end up in looser Hufflepuff. I’m more of a hard worker than anything else, so yeah. It’d be me out in the greenhouse with Professor Sprout. Shoveling manure.

4. Greek mythology is obviously a very important aspect of Starcrossed, and I’m sure you have caused a great many more people to be interested in it, but how did Greek mythology first pique your interest? Also, how much research did you have to do to make Starcrossed as accurate and detailed as it is?

I’ve always loved the Greek myths. I am a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, and to me the Greek myths always seemed like the great grandmother of those genres. I love all the old stories about gods, heroes and monsters. I think they are so exciting.
I was a classical theater major at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, so I had studied all the ancient Greek plays and a lot of Shakespeare. This material is very familiar to me, and like they say, “Write what you know”. Of course, I had to do a lot of refreshing… going through my Edith Hamilton, making sure I had the lineage of this hero or that god straight… but I didn’t have to do that much real research. Everything I needed was on my bookshelf or already in my head.

5. Can you give any hints as to what Dreamless will involve?

Yeah I can! I’m so excited for you all to read it. I’m serious, I have to keep reminding myself not to spill the beans every time I talk about it because I am that anxious for it to get out into the world!
Okay, DREAMLESS is darker and grittier. Part of it is set in the Underworld, so it gets a little spooky in some places. There is more action in this book than there was in STARCROSSED, and there’s a new Scion for you to meet! His name is Orion, and I have a feeling that everyone is going to like him.

6. I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but do you have any advice for anyone aspiring to be an author or attempting to get published?

I sure do. Patience is your best friend. In this era of insta-fame and overnight sensations on YouTube, everyone seems to think that if success doesn’t come right away than it won’t ever happen. This is dead wrong.
There’s a saying in the arts… “She/he was a seven year overnight success story”. What this means is that on the outside, a lot of people that make it seem to achieve success in a flash, but that’s almost never the case. Most of the artists that I know that have been successful have struggled for years (for some strange reason it’s usually seven years but no one knows why) before they get any recognition. I’m no exception to this. I wrote for years before people actually started paying me to do it.
I urge any young writer to really think about what seven years means, and to just stick with it! Really. If you love to write, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen right away. Keep going, keep writing, and keep trying to better yourself as an artist.
You’ll get there.

To read the rest of the interview, please head over to MyKindaBook.

Thank you so much to Josie for taking the time to answer my questions, and to MKB for the opportunity!
The brilliant Starcrossed is available to buy now, with the sequel, Dreamless, coming out Summer 2012

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Top 10 Books I Never Reviewed

So, I've seen this on quite a few blogs recently, and thought it would be quite fun to do my own list, even though I am behind the times in doing so!
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my Top 10 Book (Series) that I never did reviews for, either because they were too horrible, I didn't have a blog back then, or I could never do the book justice:

RUNNER UP: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
These strange and wonderful books were a part of my childhood, and, despite being rather confused by them at times, I loved them, and would like to reread them one day :)

1. The Vampire Diaries Series by L.J. Smith
I love love love Smith's writing, and this was my first introduction - it's a brilliant series - I forgot how different the TV series is until a recent reread, and I'm not quite sure which is better at the minute; I don't think she should have continued the series with The Return books - I read Nightfall, which was cringey, and when I finally whittle down my library pile I will read Shadow Souls and then Midnight, and will hopefully let you know my thoughts.

2. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
I watched the movie first, loved it, then had to go out and borrow the book (I'm a firm believer of the books>movies rule), and also fell in love - brilliant stuff!

3. Holes by Louis Sachar
I love this book! It's relatively short, but it has such a story to tell.

4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Again, read this ages ago (probably too young actually!), reread recently, understood a lot more and highly recommend this wonderful, original book.

5. The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot
I remember reading all six books in pretty much one go back when I was eleven, and I kinda have to admit I'd forgotten about them until I saw them in a bookshop a while ago...I'm almost afraid to read them again, in case they aren't as good as I remember, but I will eventually, and hope to fall in love with Suze's life all over again.
6. Marked by P.C. and Kristin Cast
Oh god...I don't know where to start with how much I hated this book (a LOT if you were wondering)...To me, it was everything a book shouldn't be - perfect, selfish, beautiful, annoying Mary Sue protagonist with speshal powers, the laughably pathetic villain, stereotyped characters, nonexistant plot, icky sex references, pretty sure Zoey says poop or something immature like that whilst looking down on everyone else, vampires spelt different just to be different - I could go on for forever; It's like My Immortal, but published, and taking itself seriously *shudders* And it has a gazillion sequels - I don't even want to know what they're about...
7. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I read these when I just started blogging, and knew that I could not do any of the books justice by writing a review - I cannot recommend them enough; it is a wonderful series that has everything you could want, including a somewhat likeable protagonist, which is rare!

8. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
I have this wonderful series to thank for really getting me into reading - they were the first proper books I read, and I've been reading ever since.

9. The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
Not that I think these are good or anything (though a few years ago I would have been gushing about them) but as I previously mentioned my opinion is kinda divided - I got into them during a period when I wasn't reading, and they got me back into reading, which I'm really grateful to them for, and I was embarrassingly obsessed, but I don't regret it because they opened me to the world of YA literature, though at the end of the day, they are awful pieces of work centring on how important it is to have a boyfriend (Stephen King FTW!)

10. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Does it even need more reviews? If you haven't yet discovered this wonderful, life-changing series then there's something wrong with you! I've literally grown up with them, they have a special place in my heart and I will never ever forget them. Yes, the writing may not be perfect, but Rowling is more of a storyteller, and she's one of the best. 


Sunday, 4 September 2011

In My Mailbox (8)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren and is my first ever meme where you share all the books you received during the week whether it be from the library or in the mail post.
This week I got:
Torment ~ Lauren Kate (Library)
I wasn't all that keen on Fallen (review coming soon), but I also just saw this at my library and I am a bit curious as to how the story will develop...and I LOVE the cover (again!)
Abandon ~ Meg Cabot (MyKindaBook)
My TBR pile of my own books is getting ridiculous by now, but I have a feeling I'll be reading this very soon as it sounds fantastic, and I adore Meg Cabot - pretty much everything she writes is bound to be amazing!
The Forest of Hands and Teeth ~ Carrie Ryan (Library)
I've read excellent reviews for this, and thought I'd give it ago, although I am a bit sick of reading about post-apocalyptic worlds controlled by the government or similar.
Pod ~ Stephen Wallenfels (Library)
Seems like a very interesting read - I hope it lives up to my expectations!

I also got The Iliad and Frankenstein to read for Classics and English Lit respectively, as I've just started my A Levels, so I'm just warning you that I probably won't be reading/reviewing my own books as much :(

What did you guys get in your mailbox this week? Leave a comment and I'll be sure to check out your IMM :)
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