Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Review: A Girl Called Malice by Aurelia B Rowl

Published by: Carina UK
Release date: 3rd October 2014
Series: Popping the Cherry #2

I got it from: ARC from author
Goodreads summary:   

It’s not easy being the Queen Bee. Alice Taylor should know.

You know that girl. The one that the whole school’s social life seems to revolve around. Alice used to be that girl until she decided to quit sixth form college. Suddenly her ‘friends’ aren’t so interested in following her around and her attention-grabbing behaviour is about to get her kicked out of home. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, her world starts spiralling seriously out of control.

Only new friend Zac Newton seems to believe in her. Lifeguard and poolside hottie, Zac is quite literally her lifesaver. But then, he’s never met ‘Malice’, her mean-girl alter ego, and Alice wants to keep it that way. She knows this is her last chance for a fresh start until her sordid past catches up with her at the worst possible moment.

As everything Alice has worked towards comes crashing down around her, she realises that the hardest thing of all is being yourself…

My review:
I was looking forward to this book for ages, having read and loved Popping the Cherry, and let's just say I was not disappointed. While Popping the Cherry was brilliant Young Adult fodder, A Girl Called Malice takes us more into the realms of New Adult. Alice, 17 when the book starts, is a little young for your typical NA heroine, but in many ways she's older than her years - definitely when it comes to sexual experience. Rowl is not afraid to let her characters get down and dirty, so Malice isn't a book for the younger YA generation. As an older reader though, I'm more than happy with that. I found Alice and Rowl's approach to sex refreshingly honest. But it's not all about lust...

When I first found out Rowl was writing Malice's story, I wasn't sure about it - if you've read PtC and you know about Malice, you'll understand my reticence. But it's true that people act in certain ways for reasons of their own, and Malice certainly has her reasons. It is testament to Rowl's writing that I loved this book even though I didn't identify with Alice at all. I have nothing in common with this girl, and a lesser writer could have had me running for the hills with references to Michael Buble and Hannah Montana, but Rowl told Alice's story so well that I was completely enthralled and had to keep reading. One thing that I think Rowl must have had a hard time with was the timeline - the book covers over a year, which is a long time, and it skips between taking it a day at a time, and weeks at a time. Rowl manages to make it work, but there were just a couple of bits that made me question how long things were taking. That's life though - everything doesn't happen all at once for the convenience of the plot.

The romance that was so sweet in Popping the Cherry is definitely present in Malice too, although it takes a while to make itself known. Just like with PtC, there are a few sappy moments, but what girl doesn't love a bit of stomach-clenching, heart-felt romance now and then? I've just realised that my review is a bit vague, which I apologise for. Once you read the book you'll understand - there's a lot of stuff going on that I don't want to give away. Just know that Rowl's writing is brilliant, her characters are very well-developed, there are moments that will make you sigh wistfully, lots of bits that will make you laugh, and twists to keep you on your toes. If you haven't read Popping the Cherry, go away and do it now. If you have, and you liked it, then order A Girl Called Malice immediately!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review: Breathe for Me by Rhonda Helms

Published by: Spencer Hill Press
Release date: 5th August 2014
Series: n/a

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:   

Isabel’s been cursed since the Middle Ages.

Desperate to escape an arranged marriage, she made a hasty bargain with a demon, asking for liberation from an oppressive husband-to-be and the excitement of travel. But the demon’s “gift” came at a steep cost. Each time he moves her to a new city, her memory’s wiped. No one can touch her bare skin without injury or even death. And she sees the lifespan of every living being (and is, in fact, immortal herself).

All a constant reminder that she’s different than other teen girls.

But New Orleans seems to accept her as she is. She has friends and a real life in this quirky, hot city. Then Isabel meets Dominic, whose deep soul and strong character draw her to him. Her growing love gives her the courage to confront the demon, insisting the curse be broken. But the demon’s price for freedom is much, much higher than she could possibly give.

My review:
Original and alluring, Breathe for Me is a welcome addition to the paranormal romance genre. We meet Isabel at a point when she is centuries old, yet still a teenager. She has lived many different lives, yet she remembers none of them. Such is her curse. Bound to a demon, unable to touch other humans, she has to stay removed from society. She gets to see the world, but what use is that when her memory is wiped each time she moves to a new place? But now she's in New Orleans, and the place speaks to her in a way no other has.

New Orleans makes Isabel want to be normal, to be a part of society instead of standing on the edge looking in. So she goes to school. She covers her skin, makes up an excuse of a rare illness to explain her inability to touch anyone, puts up with being labelled a freak, all so that she can fulfill her yearning to interact with other humans. She even manages to make friends. Then along comes Dominic.

Isabel's kiss is deadly, but that's never mattered before, as she's never wanted to kiss anyone before. But that was before she got to know Dominic. Dominic is an old soul. One of those dark, poetic types that certain girls are drawn to. He and Isabel bond over a love of history and English, and a sweet, innocent romance blossoms.

Helms weaves an addictive story, her characters full of realism and her New Orleans ripe with heat and magic. She is clever in her imagination, and the curse she has created, and its demon, are an intriguing basis for a very good story. Some younger readers might find the pace of Breathe for Me a little slow, as it's not all action and instant gratification like some YA books, but for me it works very well. The story builds with interesting twists, intertwined with a delightful romance. You have another fan, Ms Helms, and now I want to hear the demon's story, if you'd be so kind as to oblige!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Review: Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

Published by: Harlequin Teen
Release date: 1st August 2014
Series: n/a

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary: 

Five strangers. Countless adventures.One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named LEILA. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There's HUDSON, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And BREE, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. ELLIOT believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And SONIA worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

My review:
I've decided I love road-trip books. I don't know what it is about them - whether it's down to my love of travelling, the shifting scenery and new places, the opportunities for mischief, or the way they enable new and interesting characters, but I love them.

Let's Get Lost is a great road-trip book. It wasn't quite what I expected, but somehow it was all the better for it. At first I thought it might just be a series of barely-connected stories, a set of experiences along the way, meeting different people and changing their lives in some small (or big) way. But as Leila went on her journey and gradually revealed little pieces of herself, it became something more than that.

Alsaid's writing reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater's, which is a glorious thing. He has a similar way of painting a scene so that you really feel it, using very particular details and wording to create a mood as well as a picture. When He describes his characters, he doesn't give a run down of hair/eye/skin colour + height/weight + clothing. We all have eyes, is it really necessary to know the colour of everyone's? Not unless they are particularly startling or remarkable. Instead he gives bits and pieces that matter, that are pertinent to the person. I think I know more about the way Leila's car looks than the way she looks, but that's more than okay, as that car is in fact an extension of her, a piece of her personality.

Leila's road-trip is full of wacky adventures, heart-felt stories and incredible people. It's a perfect example of why it's sometimes okay to run away to find yourself. People scoff at the whole 'finding yourself' thing, but sometimes it's easy to drift through day to day life and lose track of who you really are. Sometimes you need to put yourself into out-of-the-way places and talk to strangers to either get back the person you were, or find the new person you need to be. Let's Get Lost is a book that can make you think, or a book to simply enjoy, or both. It's a special thing, and I can't wait to see what Alsaid comes up with next. No pressure!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Review: Take Me On by Katie McGarry

Published by: Harlequin Teen
Release date: 6th June 2014
Series: Pushing the Limits #4

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Acclaimed author Katie McGarry returns with the knockout new story of two high school seniors who are about to learn what winning really means.

Champion kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night. But then the guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is everything Haley promised herself she'd stay away from. Yet he won't last five seconds in the ring without her help.

West is keeping a big secret from Haley. About who he really is. But helping her-fighting for her-is a shot at redemption. Especially since it's his fault his family is falling apart. He can't change the past, but maybe he can change Haley's future.

Hayley and West have agreed to keep their relationship strictly in the ring. But as an unexpected bond forms between them and attraction mocks their best intentions, they'll face their darkest fears and discover love is worth fighting for.

My review:
Just when you think she must have reached her peak, Ms McGarry goes and does it again, showing us that she still has much more up her sleeve to offer. 

Pushing the Limits is the very best type of series. Each book could, theoretically, be read as a standalone - each is a self-contained tale of two people. In a way. But with McGarry it's all about the peripheral characters, and that's where you need to get intimate with the series as a whole. Sure, you could just read about West Young, the poor rich boy with attitude, but unless you've read Crash Into You, you really won't appreciate all the references to West's sister Rachel. And you can't get the most out of Crash Into You without having first read Dare You To. And so on. With each book in the series, McGarry adds a little more to her world, creating a complex ensemble cast that make the series as a whole worth much more than the sum of its parts. 

It's not just about the different couples either. With each book, McGarry gifts us with a little insight into a different kind of life. Crash Into You was a crash course in drag racing, and Take Me On is a slice of the world of cage fighters. Now I'm not into fighting, either inside or outside the arena. Violence does not appeal. However. McGarry is very good at her job, very good indeed, and so I found myself completely sucked in by her little band of fighters. The intense loyalty these guys (and girl!) feel for their family, their strength and tenacity, the way they deal with their harsh life and still come out as deep-down good people, it's hard not to love them. 

Hayley is an interesting character, hard to get close to as she lives inside her own head a lot of the time and won't let anyone else in, but McGarry draws her out bit by bit, and is rewarded with an amazing MC. This kick-boxing girl, who's been through hell and is still finding her way out of it, she's a strong one, but she doesn't realise just how strong. She doesn't get at first that accepting help isn't necessarily a sign of weakness. She's made mistakes, and she thinks she needs to fix everything all by herself. But then West Young crashes into her life. 

I was surprised but very happy to discover that Rachel's troublesome brother was going to be the focus of this book. Suspended from school for fighting and being caught with girls too many times to count, West is your typical off-the-rails rich boy lashing out at the world. He parties too hard, doesn't study enough, picks fights and gets away with it because of who his family is. But when he takes it a step too far he has to face up to some harsh realities. A chance encounter with a kick-ass beauty and a thrashing later, he's in way deep. Hayley tries to keep him away from the mess that is her life, but the boy has pride, and he won't step away. 

Hayley plus West equals hot. West is more than willing to get as close as possible, but Hayley has been burned before and tries her best to keep him at arms length. Sweet gestures and constant but gentle wooing is a hard combination to fight though, especially when packaged in such an attractive form. So get ready for a steamy, addictive adventure with a lot of fight.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Review: Fury by Charlotte McConaghy

Published by: Momentum Books
Release date: 25th March 2014
Series: The Cure #1

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

When emotions are erased from the world, creating a civilization of mindless drones, only those with fury can survive.

On the same day each year Josephine Luquet wakes naked, shivering and covered in blood that is not her own. Under the cold gaze of the blood moon she is someone else entirely, but when dawn breaks her memories flee and she is left with only an icy horror, a burning fury. Amid a sea of drones, she alone hasn’t been cured.
It will be the same each year: atrocities forgotten, truths hidden and pieces of herself left to die.
Until Luke.
He isn’t like the other drones. With secrets whispering behind his eyes and a hunger for all things Josephine, he is the only one determined to help her discover the truth before the next blood moon rises.
But time is running out. Is Luke willing to risk his life to be near her? Does he truly understand what violence she is capable of?

Raw and full of passion, Fury is a story of love in a dystopian world, and how much we are willing to forgive in the struggle to remember our humanity.

My review:
I'm not sure what I was expecting from Fury, but it certainly wasn't this. I thought I might be getting dystopia, some strange world where nobody feels anger anymore, except Josephine. In a way, that's what I did get, but I also got so much more. 

Fury is a lot more grown-up than I expected it to be. Billed as something for fans of Divergent, with an eighteen year-old heroine, I thought I'd be getting something Young Adult or New Adult-ish. And while I think a lot of teens would enjoy the book, they might not appreciate it as much as adults. With age and experience comes a higher appreciation of true talent, and that's what McConaghy has.  

Fury is no light and easy read, but neither is it heavy and hard-going. Rather, it's deep and moving and highly addictive. Josephine is the most compelling MC I've come across in ages, and once she got into my head I couldn't bear to let her go. I think I fell for her at first sight, just like Luke did. She's tragic, strong, snarky and vulnerable all at once. Her condition makes her body weak. The things she's done are without question terrible. She should be unlovable, she believes she is. But she's wrong. 

McConaghy's world is an intriguing and frightening one. She paints a picture of a future where the rich are obscenely wealthy and the poor are destitute. A world populated by drones - everyone is forced to be administered with 'the cure' - a shot that inhibits the ability to feel anger. But without anger we lose a part of our humanity. If you can't get angry when you see a child being abused, how can you stop it? 

Josi lets us into her world, piece by piece, from the confines of a mental asylum. As she talks to her doctor, describing the events of the past year, we slowly learn about the world she lives in and the life she leads. McConaghy is slow to reveal the important information that will make everything come clear, but that is no bad thing. With this suspense she is treating us, the readers, as intelligent people. We don't need everything to be spelled out in a corny information dump. We can use our imagination and the small but essential details that she gives us to build up this future world in our minds. This lets us feel everything so much stronger, and there is a lot to feel. 

Fury is a dystopian love story, and the relationship between Josi and Luke is so very intense. Caught up in a whirlwind of horror and fear, this love story may seem doomed from the start, but we all know that true love is a force which can overcome countless obstacles. Is it enough though? Is there any way that Josi and Luke can have a happy ending? I want it so much, and so will you by the time your reach the end. What these two go through, the things they've seen and done, they deserve some sort of happy ending. But Fury is the first in a trilogy so instead we're left with a cliffhanger of sorts. I don't begrudge it though, because if, at the end, a happy ending had been contrived somehow, I think it would actually have disappointed me. This is not a world of happy endings. It's a world of harsh reality. Don't be a drone reader - be brave and open up a book that will make you feel more.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Review: Goddess by Laura Powell

Published by: Bloomsbury Children's
Release date: 10th April 2014
Series: n/a

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Strikes. Starvation. Riots. Britain is at breaking-point and Aura is blind to it all. The Cult of Artemis is the only home she’s ever known. Enclosed in its luxury lifestyle, the unrest gripping the country seems to belong to a distant world. Her dream is to serve the Goddess and taking a vow of chastity and obedience seems a small price to pay. But days before Aura is due to be initiated as a Priestess, she meets Aiden, the rebellious son of a cult insider, whose radical ideas and unsettling charm force Aura to question everything – and everyone – she knows.

My review:
I have to admit, it took me a couple of chapters to get into this book. The world-building wasn't that great at first, but it was interesting enough for me to keep reading, and it got better as the book went on. When I read the author's note at the end explaining things, it all made a lot more sense, though I'm sure that note is at the end instead of the beginning for a reason, so I probably wouldn't advise reading it first.

The political vs religious intrigue makes for a satisfyingly meaty story. Powell's London is a very different place to our own in some ways, yet very recognisable in others. It's a scarily realistic picture of what could have been. This part dystopia, part alternate reality is probably the hardest aspect of the book to swallow, but if you treat it as a recognisable fantasy world rather than an unrecognisable reality you should get on okay.

Aura is a very well-developed MC. She's vulnerable in her naivety, yet strong in her convictions. Her extremely sheltered upbringing makes her into a girl to be protected and easy to love, but her unshakeable belief in what's right, is what really makes her likeable.

The mythology takes a bit of getting used to, and I suspect a rough knowledge of ancient Greek myth is helpful when reading - I certainly found it so, and I'm not sure what I would have made of it without that knowledge. But Powell brings it together well, meshing ancient myth and religion with modern life to create a truly interesting world.

Romance - I have to mention the romance. It's minimal in a physical sense, but very real on a spiritual level. Artemis is a jealous goddess and requires her priestesses to be pure in thought as well as deed. She does not take kindly to any who even think of defying her. I shan't give away any more than that, except to say that Powell approaches this aspect of the story exceptionally well.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Review: The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning

Published by: Atom
Release date: 1st May 2014
Series: n/a

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Alice Jenkins is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many, many boys who've shimmied up lampposts and shoplifted from New Look to impress her, only to be dumped when she gets bored of them. Alice has a very low boredom threshold.

But she never gets bored with Franny, her best friend since they met at nursery school. Friends are for ever. Ain't nothing going to come between them. Girls rule, boys drool is their motto. Well, it's Alice's motto, Franny doesn't have much time for boys; they're all totes immature and only interested in one thing.

But then there's Louis Allen, lead singer of The Desperadoes, the best band in Merrycliffe-on-sea (though that could be because they're the only band in Merrycliffe-on-sea). He's a tousle-haired, skinny-jeaned, sultry-eyed manchild, the closest thing that Franny's ever seen to the hipsters that she's read about on the internet and she's been crushing on him HARD for the last three years.

She's never worked up the courage to actually speak to him but she's sure on some deeper level that goes beyond mere words, Louis absolutely knows that she's his soulmate. He just doesn't know that he knows it yet. It's why he cops off with so many other girls.

So, when Alice, bored with callow youths, sets her sights on Louis it threatens to tear the girls' friendship apart, even though they're better than fighting over a boy.

They strike a devil's deal - may the best girl win. Best friends become bitter rivals and everything comes to an explosive conclusion on their first trip to London.

Can true friendship conquer all?

My review:
I was so excited when I got the approval to read this arc. I lot of the stuff I read via Netgalley is by either debut authors or authors I've never read before, so when I get a chance to read something by an author I know and love, it's like coming home to a big, warm hug.

Franny B is a spectacular character. Not least because she reminds me a bit of myself at that age. I wasn't any kind of cool, style icon, and luckily I didn't have to deal with a mother like Franny's. But I did leave school to go to college and study art, and I was a shy, naive, barely-been-kissed type. So I found myself identifying with Franny on a number of levels. It always instills a lot more book love in me when I really get the characters.

One thing I didn't have at that age was a best friend, and I envy Franny that. Her relationship with Alice is brilliant in so many ways. She might be the Worst Girlfriend in the World, but I still kind of love her. Us quiet, shy types need a loud, outgoing sidekick to drag us out of ourselves.

Then there's the boys. Oh my, those boys. I love Manning's boy characters so much. Louis is all kinds of wonderful, but not for the reasons you expect. And he's not the only piece of boy brilliance in this book, but I'm keeping shtum on the other boy talent, you'll just have to read for yourself.

Manning writes teenagers SO well. She brings back all the insanely intense stuff I felt at that age. Because when you're growing up and feeling all these things for the first time, it is intense. And you might have mental screaming matches and you might feel incredibly small and immature afterwards, but I'm pretty sure it's something all girls go through, and the way Manning writes it makes it just so real. Also, pretty funny when you're on the outside looking in, with many years of experience to fall back on.

I have to give a nod to the joy of reading good Brit fiction. I mention it a lot when I'm reading British books, but our market is so swamped by US stuff that I have stand up and give Brit brilliance a shout-out when I can.

I'm now left with that bittersweet feeling I get when I've just finished a book I loved. I'm happy because I've found this amazing collection of words, but I'm sad because I've finished reading it for the first time, and no matter that I will love it for years and read it over and over, no subsequent reading quite captures the euphoria of reading and getting to know these characters for the first time.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Storm Shells by G.J. Walker-Smith

Goodreads summary:
The only way to move forward was to go back to the very beginning….
After three miserable weeks without Charli, Adam makes the decision to follow her, desperately hoping to find a way of following through on his promise of a happy ending.
He finds her back in Pipers Cove, healing her broken heart by spending time with the one person who never lets her down.
Both know nothing has changed. They're desperately in love, hopelessly stuck in limbo, and unable to find common ground.
When fate offers them a chance at a different kind of ending, it’s a one-shot deal. Running with it means changing their plans – something neither of them has ever been willing to do before, even for each other.
Just as one begins to find their way, the other completely loses direction – and neither of them realise that time is running out.

My review:
And so my love affair with Gemma Walker-Smith's Wishes series continues. First, there was Saving Wishes. Absolutely sublime. Next came Second Hearts. An emotional rollercoaster of the very best variety. Then there's a little aside in the form of Sand Jewels - a novella telling Gabrielle and Alex's story, which I haven't reviewed, but loved the socks off of. Now, finally, we have Storm Shells. 

I don't know how to talk about this book without revealing spoilers - at least from the first two books. So I'm going to tell you now, if you've not read them, go away now. Read them, love them, then come back to me. So now it's just us, the Wishes fans, and I know that you know who I'm talking about when I say...
Much as I still love Charli, it was Alex, who really made this book for me. Because everything that Charli is, was put together by Alex. I think I might love him. He's a free spirit, someone who is happy in his own skin, content with his small life and big horizons. He has so much love and respect for Charli, that I, having grown up mostly without a father, feel inordinately jealous of Charli for having him. Yeah, I know he's not real, but I'm pretty sure there must be flesh-and-blood dads out there who are equally as awesome. 

Alright, that's my Alex love-fest dealt with, so let's look at Charli and Adam's story - the continuation. Throughout the 3 books, the Wishes series covers a fair period of time, and it's interesting because Charli and Adam are at such impressionable ages, we get to see them change quite a bit in that time. They grow up, they expand their horizons, they become bigger and better (eventually). One thing that never changes through it all though, is their love. Walker-Smith has created the perfect depiction of true love. I know this, because I'm lucky enough to have it myself, and when things are going bad and no-one understands the way Charli feels and berate her for being willing to accept his return into her life, I understand. That kind of pure love might not always be good for you, but there's no denying it. 

Saving Wishes was about fate, Second Hearts was about life, and Storm Shells is about love. 

Loose ends are mostly tied up, with a few surprises along the way. Supporting characters we've come to know and love get to shine (I still desperately want a Ryan spin-off!), and the Charli-and-Adam showboat doesn't let us down. Walker-Smith truly has created something to be proud of in this series. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll never want to leave La La Land. Oh yeah, and I just checked - there's another book in the series still to come, and I've got a rather lovely feeling that this one's Ryan's. Happy dance!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Review: The Wicked We Have Done by Sarah Harian

Published by: Penguin/InterMix
Release date: 18th March 2014
Series: Chaos Theory #1

I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:

Evalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room—an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

My review:
If you took a mash-up of The Hunger Games and Maze Runner and made it for grown-ups, The Wicked We Have Done is what you'd be left with. I enjoyed it immensely, more so than THG or MR, perhaps because I am a grown-up, although I read, and love, A LOT of YA.

There's something rather brave about making all your main characters evil criminals. Murderers, rapists and the like. When I started reading I had to question whether it was going to be possible for me to actually like or identify with any of these characters. Because, you know, I don't normally hang around with murderers. The thing is though, there's more than one side to every story, and until you hear them all you can never really know what went down.

TWWHD is a bit clever in the way it lures you in, then raises questions and makes you rethink things. Harian's writing is cunning, with well-paced reveals and events that make us see certain characters in different lights. I found the opening chapters particularly believable and though-provoking. The way the press reacts to Evalyn, the way even other prisoners react to her, and the way she reacts in turn is very telling. I want to believe that she is innocent, but I don't get to find out for some time, and when I do, I'm thinking about things in a different way.

I wondered whether romance could really work in a book like this, or if it would be overly contrived. But when you throw a bunch of young people into a crazy situation, they're bound to gravitate into groups that can work together. That's a start. Then take two people, some chemistry and a feeling that neither one is truly evil, and you have blossoming relationship. Given that anyone could die at any time, there's a certain urgency added into the mix. It's not gooey YA insta-love, but it is an acknowledgement that there's not exactly time in this situation for first dates, and come on, these are consenting adults. I think Harian has handled that side of things very well.

There are horror elements to this book, though I wouldn't call it a full-scale horror. There's blood and guts, a bit of a fear factor and some psychological thriller-ness to it too. I'm not really into horror or thriller books, but TWWHD draws it all together with the romance, the dystopian edge and new adult vibe, making the whole into something that just works on so many levels.

I have to say, I can't think of a single thing about this book that I don't like. The writing is very good, the characters are well-developed, the plot is interesting, twisty and addictive, and the pacing is perfect. It makes you think, yet it's easy to read. Even the ending, and you know how picky I am, is just right. I seriously want to read the next book, right now!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Review: Because of Her by KE Payne

Published by: Bold Strokes
Release date: 18th March 2014
Series: n/a
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:
For seventeen-year-old Tabitha "Tabby" Morton, life sucks. Big time. Forced to move to London thanks to her father’s new job, she has to leave her friends, school, and, most importantly, her girlfriend Amy, far behind. To make matters worse, Tabby’s parents enroll her in the exclusive Queen Victoria Independent School for Girls, hoping that it will finally make a lady of her.

But Tabby has other ideas.

Loathing her new school, Tabby fights against everything and everyone, causing relations with her parents to hit rock bottom. But when the beautiful and beguiling Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, Tabby begins to wonder if life there might not be so bad after all.

When Amy drops a bombshell about their relationship following a disastrous visit, Tabby starts to see the need for new direction in her life. Fighting her own personal battles, Eden brings the possibility of change for them both. Gradually, Tabby starts to turn her life around—and it’s all because of her.

My review:
For some reason, there aren't many gay girls in YA fiction. There are a lot of gay boy best friends, which annoys me a little, but gay girls are rare. So it was a real delight to find Because of Her. It's such a typical contemporary YA romance, but with girls - it's exactly what the genre needs. There must be a lot of girls out there who are either questioning their sexuality, unsure of how to deal with it, or just want to find someone else who feels the same. This book is perfect for all of them, and I think confident straight girls would enjoy it too. It's the perfect book to show straight girls that gay girls have all the same feelings as them, just for different people.

Payne creates a host of well-developed, realistic characters to play with. I thought they were all brilliant, from the parents to the best friends to the bitchy girls, and of course Tabby herself.

The book deals with a lot of different issues - the trauma of moving away from everyone and everything you know, starting again at a new school in a new city, long distance relationships, a guilty crush, and then there's the whole homophobia and coming out to friends and family thing. It's a lot to pack into one book, but Payne does it well. It doesn't feel rushed or over-done at any point. The pacing is good, and everything is given due consideration.

I found Because of Her a very sweet story. The way Tabby describes how she feels about Eden, first as a crush and then something more, is very well written and gave me that squiggly feeling inside. I felt Tabby's hurt when things were going against her, and I felt her anguish over how things went with her girlfriend Amy. Reading Tabby's story really took me back to that time in my life, not because I went through the same things, but just because Payne really captures the way a girl that age feels and processes things.

Immensely enjoyable read, I will definitely be looking up Payne's other books.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Review: The List by Joanna Bolouri

Published by: Quercus
Release date: 10th April 2014 (first published 5th Dec 2013)
Series: n/a
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:
Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn't feel fabulous. It's been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and multiple cases of wine and extensive relationship analysis with best friend Lucy have done nothing to help. Faced with a new year but no new love, Phoebe concocts a different kind of resolution.

The List: ten things she's always wanted to do in bed but has never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached. Simple, right?

Factor in meddlesome colleagues, friends with benefits, getting frisky al fresco and maybe, possibly, true love and Phoebe's got her work cut out for her.

My review:
Oh my giddy aunt, I bloody LOVE Phoebe! I want her to be my best friend. The List was a serious test of my willpower - I wanted to devour it in one sitting, but I also couldn't bear for it to end so I had to ration myself and only read a bit at a time.

It's chick-lit, but the really good type. It's not all namby-pamby romance and twee middle-class shenanigans. It's hilariously irreverent, bravely bolshy, brilliantly lewd and has one of the highest feel-good factors I've ever read. Seriously, this book put me in such a good mood. Improved my sex life too! Oh yes. The List has the best approach to sex. It approaches it as an adult, but one who's not a mire of hang-ups. It says 'Let's be grown up about this. Sex feels good, and if you step a little out of your comfort zone you'll probably find it can feel even better!' It's not erotica - there's too much comedy for that. It's raunchy and fun though.

I've decided I like books that are split up into a number of things. 16 Things I Thought Were True was another recent good read, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes was another. It's not that I need an easy paint-by-numbers story, it's just that there's just something fun about progressing through the list. Maybe I'm a list geek. Also, it's set in Glasgow, but not in a gritty, Trainspotting type way. More a modern-but-down-to-earth city sort of thing. And don't worry, it's not written in a phonetically Scottish way or full of unpronouncable slang, either. It's just Scottish in an excellent sense of humour, ballsy and outgoing way.

Now up until this point I was only about two thirds of the way through the book. I was just so excited about it that I had to write about it. I have to admit that after that point it did go a bit more standard chick-lit, but it was still really good. I just had to read faster because I couldn't leave it alone when things weren't going exactly as I wanted. Of course if it was all plain-sailing it wouldn't really by much of a story, so that is in no way a criticism. Actually, I've been reading a lot of New Adult and Young Adult angst lately, and it was so refreshing to read about people who aren't recovering from some horrific loss, abuse or sudden discovery of magical powers. 

What's actually astounding is that it appears to be a debut novel. I went onto Goodreads to look up and obtain everything else Bolouri has ever written, because I'm obsessed with her, and it turns out there is nothing else. Get writing, woman! I need more of your books!

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Salt by Danielle Ellison

Published by: Entangled Teen
Release date: 7th January 2014
Series: Salt #1
I got it from: NetGalley
Goodreads summary:
Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own.

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her.

My review:
Salt is one of those precious things - a totally unexpected Netgalley find that I absolutely adored. So I can only apologise about the amount of time it's taken me to get around to writing this review. I've been ill, and I didn't want this to be a short, second-rate review. I need to try and do Salt justice.

I have to admit, when I first started reading I couldn't help but think of Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series, because, well, demon hunters. Plus, I love that series. Salt is something different though.

Ellison is that rare thing - a writer who gives you everything you need, and holds back what you don't need or want. She makes you feel, makes you yearn, and makes you fall into her world, head-first. Every word is considered and important, and there is none of the guff that fills up lesser books.

Penelope is all sorts of wonderful. She's bright, determined, brave, sassy and daring to the point of stupidity. We all hate characters that are too perfect, so that dumb recklessness is important. She's also very down to earth, very real. Then we meet Carter. Cocky, arrogant, hot and secretly vulnerable Carter. At first, the air between these two is just full of snark, which is kind of brilliant. No insta-love to set your teeth on edge - the interactions between Penelope and Carter were laugh-out-loud funny, toe-curlingly intense and full of promise.

Ellison gifts us with a devious plot full of twists, turns, sarcasm and kissing. Her world-building is outstanding - we are treated to a secret society of kick-ass witches, nasty demons, and magic that feels like it could be real. To call it a page-turner is a cliche that doesn't do it justice. I actually had to slow myself down while reading Salt. I wanted to savour it, and while I longed for the end, I dreaded it at the same time, because I didn't want to stop reading.

Turns out this review is kind of short after-all. I don't want to waste time describing what happens though - you've got the summary and that should be enough for you - it was for me. I refuse to risk spoilers, and while a review needs to give and impression of what a books is like, it's also a personal thing and you need to make your own opinion rather than wallowing in mine for hours. Salt is the kind of book that you need to just dive into and soak up.