Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox 29/1


Welcome to In My Mailbox! Goodness, that feels like a quick week. That's probably down to my croaky throat from last weekend getting worse, making me take a sick day during the week, but all better now :)

I didn't actually get anything new this week, but there are a few ebooks I got over the Christmas period that I didn't talk about last week, so they get their own post now.

First up is 'Hot As Hades' by Alisha Rae. This is a retelling of the Persephone/Hades myth, with a couple of twists and a lot of sexiness. (I can't find a cover image that would show up small, so... no cover.) It's published by Samhain.

Next, I got 'Captives of the Night' by Loretta Chase.
It's a historical romance, mostly set in London.

Then it's 'No Dress Required' by Cari Quinn:
This one was a fun short romance story that starts on New Years Eve, and ends with an HEA. I'm probably not going to review this one, but I would recommend fans of steamy romance check out Cari Quinn - she writes a good story. This one is published by Entangled.

Finally, I got a fun one for review last week:
I've read it, but it doesn't actually come out until April, so I'll be posting my review nearer to the time. It's from Sourcebooks, and is available for review on NetGalley at the moment.


So, what did you get in your mailboxes this week, people? What book were you most excited about? Let me know in the comments :)

~Ailsa

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review: Hollow Pike, by James Dawson



Title: Hollow Pike
Author: James Dawson
Publisher: Indigo (New YA imprint from Orion)
Release date: 2 February 2012
Source: ARC from publisher

Description: She thought she'd be safe in the country, but you can't escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her.
Lis thinks she's being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn't believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn't believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you?
Not until you're alone, in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps...

My thoughts: From the moment I read the description of this book back in November/December, I wanted to read it. I can totally relate to the paranoia here - I come from the middle of nowhere, and when I'm walking the dogs on my own, I always get jumpy. You don't really think someone is there, but if you here a sudden noise, it puts you really on edge. I love how, in the few sentences on the back cover it captures that jumpiness, which is something that runs throughout the book.

Hollow Pike was... not quite what I was expecting, at first. It starts with Lis moving to the village of Hollow Pike to live with her grown-up sister Sarah, to start over at a new school because she was being bullied. Yes, someone starting at a new school is something we've seen before in YA novels (a lot), but I like it. It's a good way for the main character and the reader to learn things at the same time, gradually, without having an info dump to get the reader up to speed.
In many ways, Hollow Pike is a story about bullying. Having come for her fresh start, Lis falls in with the 'popular' crowd, and watches as they bully other people. I hated seeing Lis just standing watching what her new 'friends' were doing. Even though I could sort of see why she didn't want to end up being picked on again, I think if she'd done something when she first saw what kind of people the girls were, and left to find other friends, she would have been fine. However, after an incident where Lis is seen talking to Queen Bee Laura's crush, the posse turn on her, and she finds herself a victim once more. The only good thing about this is that it leads are to some new friends, who actually seem genuine.

Of course the other big part of Hollow Pike is the witchcraft. In the first chapter, before she arrives, Lis dreams about crawling along a stream in the woods, and someone drowning her. It's a nightmare she's had a lot, and when her mum drives through a 'shortcut' in the woods to get to Sarah's house, Lis is shocked to realise that it's the wood from her dream. Witches are tied in to the history of the village - everyone knows it, but no one really believes it. Then a girl is murdered in the woods, and Lis's dreams get worse. Although she keeps telling herself she doesn't believe it, creepy things keep happening. She feels like she's being watched. Birds go quiet when she walks past. A creepy shop owner tells her that her dreams are a warning.

I spent the whole book trying to work out who the bad guy was. I was fairly convinced that there was something witchy going on, but still found myself questioning if that was just because of the stories about witches in Hollow Pike. I kept changing who I thought was behind everything, every time Lis found something new that seemed to point in a different direction. I really didn't guess who it was until it was far too late, just like Lis.

Bullying, in various forms, remains a theme of the book all the way through. I think it's a very good look at how it affects people, why people get caught up in it, and different kinds of bullying and prejudice. Woven through that is the paranoia of the witches, and trying to work out what is going on, if Lis is just imagining things, and if not then who is targeting her and why. It really is an excellent read, one of the best young adult novels I've read in a long time. I can't wait to see what James Dawson comes up with next. Writing this review, I realise just how well certain things were slipped in to the novel to emphasise the themes - I wish I'd had this book when I was trying to write english essays in high school, because there would have been so much to write about!

I could go on, but before you all get bored of reading, I give this book 10 out of 10. A brilliant, gripping story that fans of slightly more realistic young adult books will love.

~Ailsa

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review: The Name Of The Star, by Maureen Johnson



Title: The Name Of The Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Harper Collins (UK)/Putnam Juvenile (USA)
Release Date: 29th September 2011
Source: Bought in Waterstone's, Glasgow
Notes: Book 1 in Shades of London series

Description: Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux flies to London for the start of a new life at boarding school. But her arrival is overshadowed by a sudden outbreak of brutal murders, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific work of Jack the Ripper.
'Rippermaina' grabs hold of London, and the
police are stumped with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory has seen their prime suspect on the school grounds. But her friend Jazza didn't see anyone.
So why could only Rory see him? And what is he planning to do next?


My thoughts: I tried very hard not to buy The Name Of The Star (I really couldn't afford to at the time), but I'd been interested from the words "Jack the Ripper", and I saw so many glowing reviews, so when I found it reduced in the shop, I ended up taking it home. Over the next three or four nights, I regretted reading it at bedtime, and had to repeatedly check behind my curtains and in the wardrobe for monsters before I could go to sleep. For a YA book, it does a very good job of making you jump at shadows.

For those unfamiliar with who Jack the Ripper was, in London in the 1800s, someone brutally murdered several prostitutes, and was never caught. I knew the story when I was younger, and on a school trip to London when I was 12, we visited the London Dungeon, which has an excellent Ripper exhibit. I was fascinated by the story, this horrible murderer who couldn't be caught, even though there were various theories of who it might be. From some things I've read on twitter, I think Maureen Johnson has some of that same curiosity.

Rory's parents, both university professors, are coming to spend a sabbatical year in England, so Rory has picked a London boarding school to spend her senior year at. The book starts with her first arriving, and goes through her first few weeks at school, with the usual new-school things: making friends, different classes, and people who aren't so nice. There was no clique of mean-girls, which I think made it much more realistic, and thankfully, all of the Britishisms were pulled off well. (It's a pet peeve of mine when authors put in "British slang" and it comes across as forced and awkward.) You can tell that Ms Johnson has spent time in Britain and understands what it's like in school, and how to write Britishisms without it seeming forced. As Rory adjusts, the Ripper story is there in the background, something she hears about on the news. Wexford (her school) is quite close to some of the crimes, and she visits a couple of the scenes with other curious school friends. Even in the little snippets about the Ripper, you quickly see that something is not normal - he seems to be invisible on CCTV, and no one can figure out how he keeps slipping past police. You could feel the menace of the mystery figure, and the tension & nervousness that were starting to grip London as the murders continued and the police didn't catch him.

Part way through, Rory learns something, and the book shifts, and everything steps up a gear. It's a clear before/after point, and I loved it. Yes, I'd guessed before we found out what it was, and I think a lot of people will, but after the revelation, everything gets much more interesting, and there is so much more pressure to figure out what is going on, and why Rory is being caught up in it. I loved trying to piece together the clues in the second half of the story, and despite again having some guesses which turned out to be right before the characters figured it out, it didn't do anything to stop the tension in the book, or make me get bored with it. I really loved this story.

I'm not sure how I feel about the end. All the important story points are tied up nicely, and although you can see as you read that the book could go on as a series, it's not until the last two or three pages that it's clear there's going to be a sequel. Those last few paragraphs leave some big questions, and although it's not what I'd call a cliffhanger, I'm very eager for the next book. I'm looking forward to seeing what direction the Shades Of London series goes in now, as the Ripper angle seems to be done, and that's going to be a hard act to follow.

I really loved The Name Of The Star, so I'm giving it 9 stars.

Has anyone read it? What did you think about it, the ending, and the bits you could guess at? Where do you think Maureen Johnson will go next with the series? Let me know in the comments!

~Ailsa

Monday, January 23, 2012

Matched


Alas it's been so long, I am ashamed!!  I read this book ages ago and am now only getting to review it as I've spent the past week laid up in bed, staring at this book on my book case. So here goes. . .

In a future society, the officials decide everything, from what you eat for breakfast to who you should love. Cassia Reyes, is a normal teenage girl, who through a technical mishap discovers that the officials are not always in control, especially when it comes to who you love.

Matched, similar to the Hunger Games and Delirium, is a break through dystopian young adult series, which has received a huge amount of positive reviews. A well deserved amount in my opinion.

Ally Condie does an exemplar job at building her world - which in some respects has elements of our own. If we use IQ and personality tests to assess people's suitability for certain jobs, who is to say this won't develop further into who we  should love (on-line dating sites are prime example). The point being, that like all exemplar writers in this field, Condie builds a world that is not hugely dissimilar to our own, she takes elements of our world and skews them to an extreme and for this reason the story and moral of Matched has more impact. Definitely in my opinion, world-building is one of the strongest features of this book.

Regarding characters, Cassia was an alright character - she has her flaws and good qualities, however to be honest I didn't really engage with her. Not because of how she was written but just the character herself, which is no reflection on Condie's writing. My favourite characters are Grandfather and Bram as both strike me as free spirits in their own way. For instance, Cassia's eyes needed to be opened through the mismatch, her grandfather's words and Ky's lessons while Bram from the get go seems to always be pushing the barriers in his own small ways. I just found him to be delightful and a touching character especially when it comes to the antiques incident.

My feeling is that although this book centres around a match/mismatch, romance is not the main theme, which is refreshing. Now, there obviously is romance in this book, and it's nice to see both male leads on equal footing (smart, handsome, decent), although you do feel sorry for Xander at times. In some ways, regarding Ky too, I find it sad that it took the mismatch for open Cassia's eyes, but I'm glad this is explored in the book - that it is not taken as a given by the character, that Cassia questions herself regarding her feelings.

But my most favourite aspect of this book and the main theme (imo), is the use of poetry, especially one of my all time favourite poems "Do not go gentle into that good night" , as a catalyst for Cassia. It demonstrates that in the void of Cassia's world, where only 100 poems, novels and songs exist, the timeless impact of certain works remain. That, regulation of the arts and elimination of creative self-expression is the beginning of the end - a regulation on the evocation of emotion and the human spirit. Condie does an exemplar job of showing us how these forbidden poems fester in Cassia's mind, riling up her spirit, in a quiet but deep way and provoking her to questions the society and consequently  to seek out Ky more and more.

My only detraction from the book, is I felt the ending could have been stronger. Ky's disappearance and then Cassias leaving didn't leave me on the edge of my seat. However the last chapter was touching as she associates each word as bringing her closer to Ky, reiterating the importance of self-expression without restraints/monitoring.

Off topic: Sometimes I wonder about the wisdom of trilogies - whether sometimes an extra-long tightly written book would be better than three?

Back on topic, this is definitely one the better Dystopian YA fictions out there, and I recommend fans of dystopian romance to have a gander. I'm giving this 8 out of 10 stars :)

Toodles for now, 

Em.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox 22/1


Hello! It has been a long time since I did an IMM, so this is a pretty long video!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

I didn't realise how dark my camera was going to make the corner seem, and my voice really is pretty croaky from the cold - never mind!



Books mentioned:

Darkness Rising & Darkness Unbound, by Keri Arthur
Planet Cake
Dawn of the Bunny Suicides, by Andy Riley
Eye of the Tempest, by Nicole Peeler
Bloodfever & Faefever, by Karen Marie Moning
Iron Crowned, by Richelle Mead
Mercy Blade, by Faith Hunter
Hollow Pike (ARC), by James Dawson (thank you Indigo publishers!)
City Of Ashes, by Cassandra Clare
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness



Thanks for dropping by - what did you get in your mailbox this week? Share your links in the comments!

~Ailsa

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cross My Heart by Katie Klein



Cross posted from Incandescent

Jaden McEntyre lives a life that is about as perfectly organized as you can make it. She has everything planned out from her next fundraiser for the children of Bangladesh to the next ten years of her life as she goes from Harvard to med-school and beyond. Her boyfriend Blake is sweet and popular and sends her good morning text messages every day and even if her contractor father hasn't gotten around to fixing her bathroom sink for the past couple years, she still knows her family loves her. Everything is fine until she's late for class one day and is assigned a partner for a group project: Parker Whalen.

Parker moved to town a few months ago and the rumors about his past are as outrageous as the motorcycle he rides to school every day. Jaden isn't sure if she believes even half of them, but she isn't about to let something as ridiculous as rumors keep her from getting an A on this project. She's extremely frustrated when Parker avoids speaking to her at first, but she eventually wears him down. Then it's only everyone else she has to worry about. Her boyfriend is jealous of, her parents are worried about, and her best friend is mystified by the time Jaden is suddenly spending with Parker. But Jaden is finding that the more time she spends with him, the less he seems like the devil-may-care rebel everyone else has him pinned as. When Jaden's plans for her future suddenly fall apart, Parker is there to help her reassemble the pieces, but what will happen when she discovers the secret he's been hiding for the past six months? Will she ever be able to move past it and trust him again or has their love been shattered just like her plans?

This book seems like the normal girl-falls-for-a-boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks story, but don't let that fool you. It's not. Klein's characters are interesting and relatable and she knows how to keep your interest right from the start. Jaden has never had anyone question her plans or her need for control, so when Parker starts pushing buttons she didn't know she had everything changes. The dynamic of Jaden's family is an interesting subplot--she's the youngest of three kids with two older brothers and a soon-to-be sister in law still living at home--and it's amazing how something as simple as a broken bathroom sink takes on grand proportions as it pops up again and again through the story. On top of all this, when you get to the twist ending you'll immediately want to go back and reread the whole book looking for the clues Klein leaves along the way like bread crumbs. The building relationship between Parker and Jaden is well developed with just the right amount of tension as both of them fight the pull for their own reasons. I found myself just as curious about and captivated by Parker as Jaden was and I think it would be fascinating to see pieces of the story from his perspective.

Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a contemporary YA romance with a twist. And also, I plan on rereading it. Just FYI. :)

Sera's Rating: 10/10

Winner Announcement!


I put the entries for the Evermore/Hush Hush giveaway in to Random.org, and the winner is:


Buddyt, aka Carol!

Carol picked Evermore, so Hush Hush will be back in a future giveaway. Thank you everyone for entering, and keep your eye on the blog for future giveaways, including when we hit 200 followers (less than 30 to go!), and I'll be doing some things for my birthday in early March, too!

~Ailsa

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler



Cross posted from Incandescent.

This book is exactly what it says it is: the story of why Min--short for Minerva--and Ed broke up. Told in a letter written from Min to Ed as she returns a box of keepsakes from their relationship, you hear about their first meeting when Ed shows up uninvited to Min's best friend's sixteenth birthday party and everything that follows. Min and Ed struggle to fit each other into their lives, but Min doesn't belong in Ed's athletic, basketball groupie, beer drinking clique and Ed doesn't really mesh with Min's classic movie loving "artsy" friends. But the more people try to tell them this relationship will never work, the more determined they become to see it through. You know--and since she's writing this after the fact, so does Min--that the relationship is doomed before Ed shows up in the first chapter, but the little vignettes and the moments captures by the trinkets and tokens Min has collected draw you along as you find out why.

Not necessarily in plot, but in style this book is a daring departure from the norm in young adult fiction. Why We Broke Up mixes first and second person with the narrative written to "you" (Ed) and since Min's letter is written in a single sitting on a single day, it ends up being almost stream of consciousness as she pours out every moment and every thought and every secret. I loved the originality and the authenticity of Min's voice, but found myself lost sometimes in descriptions that would carry on for so long I forgot what she was describing. Working to concentrate on following her train of thought pulled me out of an otherwise captivating book. I did, however, love the addition of the artwork by Maria Kalman, renderings of the items Min is returning to Ed. Seeing these items described by Min added something unique to this story. 

Overall, I believe Handler and Kalman have created something beautiful here. There's a poetry to Min's meandering narrative and this is one of those books that proves the journey is more important than the destination. Knowing where we're headed doesn't take anything away from this novel.

Sera's Rating: 8/10

Last Giveaway Reminder: Evermore & Hush Hush


Last minute reminder! If you haven't got your own copy of Becca Fitzpatrick's 'Hush Hush' or Alyson Noel's 'Evermore', our international giveaway for the books is still running:


The contest closes at midnight GMT tonight, so leave a comment to enter quickly!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heart on a Chain by Cindy C. Bennett



Cross posted from Incandescent.

Kate lived a normal live once, but it was so long ago she barely remembers what that was like. After her father lost his job and her mother miscarried, Kate's life was never the same again. Her father started staying out and drinking. When he did come home, it was only to vent his anger on Kate's mother. It didn't take long for Kate's mother to turn her frustrations on the only person left: Kate. Without any friends or anyone she trusts to turn to, Kate is left to suffer in silence as her mother slowly kills her spirit.

Henry Jamison knew Kate when they were little and he thought she was beautiful, kind, vibrant, and smart. But then his family moves just as he and Kate begin to realize how much they care about each other. Six years later Henry moves back and he can't understand what happened to the little girl he once knew. He'd never forgotten her, but now she runs if he even tries to say hello. The other students either ignore or antagonize her and it doesn't seem like he'll ever be able to break through the walls she's erected around herself. Will Kate be able to trust his intentions or will she fail to recognize the first person to see through her protective barriers and care about the person underneath? What happens when an unthinkable tragedy threatens the delicate balance they've found?

This book is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful. Bennett has created characters who live and breathe on the pages--even some of the minor characters--and she sucks you into a world no one wants to live in yet people somehow survive. The tormenting Kate suffers at school may seem overblown, but having seen it in action during my childhood I can say it's not overdramatized by much. The cruelties of children are equalled by their kindnesses. It's a strange phenomenon. This is also true of the families presented in the book. Henry's family is almost too good to be true: loving, warm, generous, accepting and a perfect foil to the cold, angry home Kate has grown up in. Bennett shows readers both extremes of the spectrum and somehow manages to give the book balance, not letting it get too dark or overly fluffy and light.

Henry doesn't ride in to her rescue as much as give her a place to turn when things get bad. In fact, for most of the book he has no idea what's going on. He has suspicions that something isn't right, but coming from his loving household, it's hard for him to conceive of the abuse Kate is suffering. He is steadfast, protective, and sweet and the growing love between the two teens is a major part of what drew me into the story.

One of Kate's strengths is her ability to forgive and let go even when faced with those I don't know if she should forgive. Some people may interpret this as weak--I've seen a couple of reviews who really railed on her for this--but I think it takes a much stronger character to let go of grudges than hold onto them. By doing this Kate is not only helping herself move past this horrible phase in her life, she's (hopefully) helping the others grow and learn from her example. Just by being who she is, Kate changes the lives of the people around her. She never even realizes she's doing it. I think a lot of people underestimate the quieter kinds of power and strength.

A warning to the squeamish. There are a couple of rather brutal physical abuse sequences, so just be aware of that before picking up the book.

Sera's Rating: 10/10

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Call for Comments!


Photo found here
Hello, all! Today on Incandescent I posted about doing what scares you. Poetry has scared me for a long time, but it's an integral part of the new novel I'm working on, so I jumped in with both feet. Surprisingly, I'm not drowning yet! I posted one of the poems (which in my book are the lyrics to a song) and would love some feedback. If you're interested, stop by the post and drop me a comment! I'd really appreciate it!

Thanks, everyone!
Sera

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dream Chaser by Angie Stanton


Cross posted on Incandescent

Willow has lead her school's cheerleading team to Nationals and is known as the most death-defying flyer on the squad. She's willing to try anything, but one of her flights almost turns fatal during practice one day. Only a quick save by one of her catchers saved her from breaking her neck. Physically, she's fine, but mentally, she knows she can't ever get back in the air. in fact, cheerleading has lost its draw entirely. Her best friend and team member Jilly is not about to let her walk away, though, and Willow knows she needs an air-tight reason she can't come back to the squad. The school's drama production of Dream Chaser might just be the answer.

Before cheer, Willow was a dancer. An amazing dancer who won competitions at all levels and danced with unmatchable passion, but some scared her away from dancing, just like cheer. This something though was over 6 feet and incredibly hot: her co-star Eli McAvoy. Eli and Willow used to dance together and for years they were best friends until Eli wanted more. Willow ran, but now she needs to face the antagonism between her and her on-time best friend and decide where to go from here.

The main concentration is on the show Dream Chaser which involves the best high school performers in the city, no matter what school they attend. Even though she auditioned for the chorus, the director (who also wrote and choreographed the show) casts her as the lead to replace the girl kicked out after two weeks of rehearsals. She's taking over a position no one except the director wants her to have and her co star is none other than her ex-best friend Eli. Can she ignore the taunts and ostracization and work together with Eli or will Willow let Eli down again?

I grew up dancing. It was the only sport I was ever involved in (and, yes, it is a sport) and I love it. I watch So You Think You Can Dance on TV and still choreograph for the students at my old studio. It's awesome. I was never as good as Willow, but I know how much work it takes and I know what she was facing going into this show. The descriptions of the exhaustion and the pain and the determination were spot-on and I loved the heavy involvement in the arts. The main characters were all interesting and I liked watching how the dynamic between the different groups (show cast, director, principle actors, spurned cheerleaders) kept shifting. One thing that bothered me (and bother I think is too strong of a word) were the mentions of Willow's habit of quitting. It seemed like she was an extremely persistent person and determined to succeed in everything, not a quitter. In fact they really only talk about two things she quit: dance and cheer. She had a valid reason for cheer, but a weak one for dance. Still, I don't see how that classifies her as a quitter. Otherwise, I enjoyed this book from start to finish! It began with a bang (as Willow goes splat on the floor) and kept me very interested all the way through. I especially recommend this to anyone interested in performing arts, but honestly anyone who enjoys contemporary YA books will probably like this one.

Sera's Rating: 10/10

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rock and a Hard Place by Angie Stanton


Cross posted from Incandescent.

Before I start, I have to say that I have absolutely fallen in love with user reviews on Amazon! I am took a writing break last week (with the minor exception of jotting down ideas that pop into my head so I won't forget them) and so I started browsing Amazon. I've shopped on the site before, but I usually I already knew what I wanted. I've never taken full advantage of the user reviews. I have read twenty-two books in the past ten days (no, I'm not joking, though part of me kind of wishes I was... that much reading might be a sign of some kind of illness) and most of them I would rate at least 4 stars. Even the worst of them would get 3. I bought them based on a few factors, but the deciding point was always the user reviews and so far they have not steered me wrong! Okay, I'm done gushing about the opinions of random strangers. Onto the books!

Libby's entire family was in a horrible car accident. Only Libby and her father walked away, but her father walked away broken and reeling from the loss of his wife and second daughter. Lost in depression, he drops Libby off with her mother's sister, a cranky woman known in town for her temper and her eccentricities. Libby longs for her father to return, but it's been a year and she hasn't even had a letter from him. She has no idea where he is or how to track him down, but even if she did how can she start when she has no phone, no computer, no money, and no friends?

Peter Jamison has lead a life a lot of people dream of, especially since the band he and his brothers formed put out a chart-topping rock album. He writes the songs and he loves performing, but what he really wants is someone who sees who he is behind the rock star, someone who doesn't care about the fame and the fortune. One day when his family's tour bus stops in an out of the way park in Alabama, he meets Libby who amazingly has no idea who he is and has never even heard about his band. Instantly captivated by this refreshingly honest girl, Peter convinces his family to return to this spot between shows so he can get to know her better.

Libby is thrilled to have a friend, someone she can talk to, but Peter's family isn't so happy about this country girl who keeps distracting him from his responsibilities in the band. His older brother makes a choice and Peter loses contact with Libby just when she needs him most. Abandoned and alone, Libby is struggling for her very survival while Peter desperately searches for the girl who has stolen his heart.

I LOVED this book. All of the characters, not just Libby and Peter, were well developed and interesting and the dynamics of this dual narrative drew me in instantly. Peter's family is believable and their interactions well written. Certain sections of Libby's story almost made me cry. I liked Libby's quiet strength and her determination to persevere despite all the obstacles life has thrown in her path and Peter's devotion would have outweighed a lot of faults... but he didn't have any. Peter is actually the paragon of rock stars, exactly the way you hope all your idols are in real life, but his family has a lot to do with that, I think. His parents are both painted as loving and supportive, even if they (like everyone) make mistakes along the way.

Without being overly serious and weighed down by the issues present in this book, Rock and a Hard Place manages to remain uplifting. It's a testament to the power of love, hope, determination, and trust and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary YA.

Sera's Rating: 10/10

Friday, January 6, 2012

Giveaway Reminder: Evermore & Hush Hush


Remember to enter our giveaway for a copy of Evermore by Alyson Noel & Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick! All you have to do is leave a comment on the original post.


So far there's only one entry - I think that's pretty good odds!

~Ailsa

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Hold Me If You Can by Stephanie Rowe


(Remember to enter the giveaway! Click here.)

Title: Hold Me If You Can
Author: Stephanie Rowe
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release date: 1/1/12
Source: Net Galley
Notes: part of a series; DNF

Description: The third in a paranormal romance series packed with danger, sensuality and clever twists features Nigel Aquarian, a warrior with an artistic bent, and Natalie Fleming, a chocolatier who has a new lease on life. But her freedom comes with a dangerous gift she doesn't want.

Nigel and his fellow warriors have only just escaped imprisonment when an even worse threat emerges. Natalie is the only woman who can help Nigel–but she's also the one most likely to bring him down.

My thoughts: I’m sorry, but this really isn’t a positive review at all.
I really, really tried to give this book a chance. I made myself keep going, telling myself to see how it went as I got further. About 2/3 of the way in, though, I decided there are enough books out there I am desperate to read, so I called it a day with this.

First of all, it’s part of a series, which I didn’t realise from the description, or from being in Natalie's point of view for the first chapter. I think if I had read the earlier books, I would have understood the ‘bad guys’ more, and the threat of some of the creatures that attack our hero.
I did like the idea initially - Natalie runs a chocolate shop, where she can put a little bit of magic into the chocolate, and use it as a potion to help people. Cool idea. But we don’t see it working much, and I was too distracted by thinking “What on earth just happened here?” And I thought that a lot reading this. For a prime example, the hero is hanging out with his buddies early in the story, and they are attacked by fuzzy poodles, if memory serves. At least every few pages, something like that would happen where I had to sit up and think “Hang on, what?”
And the building of the ‘relationship’ between the two characters just felt so awkward that I couldn’t feel comfortable about them getting together. They keep almost killing each other, then they have to make Natalie feel pleasure so she can do something... it just didn't feel right that they should be getting together.

This book just really didn’t work for me in several ways. Did Not Finish, so no star rating.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sophie & Carter by Chelsea Fine


Cross-posted from Incandescent.

Sophie and Carter have lived next door to each other for years, ever since Sophie moved into town in elementary school. They're seniors now and best friends, even if they hide their relationship from the rest of the school. It makes things easier this way, for both of them. Easier to pretend they're normal. Easier to pretend their lives outside of school are normal. But they're not.

Sophie's mom is a prostitute and, in recent years, a drug addict. She disappears for months at a time and leaves Sophie in charge of her three younger siblings. Sophie has to be mother, father, taskmaster, rule maker, bill payer, tutor, and sole support when she should be enjoying high school and preparing for the rest of her life. Carter is physically scarred, but the worst damage is on the inside, the secrets no one but Sophie knows. His father was a brutal monster who abused him and his mother for years. Eventually the mental and physical abuse broke his mother and now her only solace is insanity and alcohol. His father is gone and Carter is the only one left to take care of his poor mother.

This story is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. It touches on subjects too dark to contemplate and shows how hope, love, trust, and beauty can survive even in hellish circumstances. Chelsea Fine's writing is poetic, but always real and her characters are believable and true. I only had one complaint: it was too short! Sophie and Carter are such beautiful characters and beautiful people that I wanted to see every minute of their days and hear more about their lives--both past and present. Still, it was fabulous to watch them both realize what they've known quietly for years: they are absolutely devoted to and hopelessly in love with each other. If more people persevered through adversity like Sophie and Carter do, the world would be a much better place.

Honestly, I can't recommend this book highly enough. It will captivate you from the minute you start reading (I found it on amazon, read the first chapter, immediately downloaded the Kindle edition, and read it in one sitting) and keep you thinking about it well after you put it down. Despite the strong subject matter, the language and situations don't make it unsuitable for younger readers. However, I would still suggest parental guidance as some of the topics mentioned will probably raise questions you may or may not want to answer. 

Sera's Rating:10/10

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally


This review is also posted on Incandescent.

Jordan Woods is not your average girl and she wouldn't be even if she wasn't the captain and quarterback of one of the best high-school football teams in the state. She's six-feet tall and just happens to be the daughter of NFL Quarterback Donovan Woods. Jordan has always been one of the guys, but even though this is how she wants it, it does have certain drawbacks. Like the fact that she's a senior and hasn't been kissed yet. The arrival of Ty Green changes everything.

Suddenly Ty is challenging not only her position on the team, but her sanity, her friendships, and her self-control. She's never wanted anyone this bad and never knew a crush could cause so many problems. To top it all off, her football-star father won't take the time to attend her games or even support her love of his sport, her best friend Sam Henry is upset and won't tell her why, and Alabama State (her dream school) is offering her a scholarship that will probably mean she won't play a game her entire college career. Will Jordan be able to regain control of her life or will the changes that started with Ty ruin everything?

Despite not liking sports, I love sports movies. When I heard about this book, I thought it sounded like a perfect balance. The characters were likable and entertaining and the dialogue was realistic; several times the exchanges between the characters made me laugh. I especially liked Jordan's relationship with her father and how that progressed through the course of the book. It was believable and touching. I also fell in love with Sam Henry, Jordan's best friend. He made me wish I knew someone like him. Ty was hot and an emotional disaster area for very understandable reasons, but I never really liked him much. Maybe it was because I always felt as though he was hiding something and we didn't get to know him as well. The one thing that disturbed me a little was the flippant attitude toward cheating. I can see how this is probably a realistic perspective from inside the guy's locker room (in theory, not in actuality--Jordan uses the girls locker room), but it seemed like Jordan's friends on the team were never with the same girl. And all the girls seemed to be cheerleaders. Either that cheerleading team was huge, or those cheerleaders were very busy...

The book really focuses on three things: Jordan and football, Jordan and her dad, and Jordan and Sam Henry. It's possible one of the reasons I didn't like Ty much is because it was pretty obvious from the beginning that he was only there as a catalyst to set all the other events in motion. All of the main characters have decent development through the book and that's really what kept me reading. I loved their devotion to the team and to each other and Jordan's willingness to fight for what she wanted, even if she forgot what that was somewhere in the middle of the book. She's a strong female character in a male dominated story and sport, but I think she held her own well. I did, however, appreciate that she eventually found girl friends who made her have some connection with the other side of herself.

Light, enjoyable, and fun, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining, romantic read. Although understanding what a flea-flicker is probably won't hurt. :)

Sera's Rating: 8/10 stars

Sunday, January 1, 2012

British Books Challenge


I'm not really one for doing organised reading challenges - it just becomes one more thing to try and keep up with. But, I do like supporting the 'home grown' talent in this country, and I thought last year's 'British Books Challenge' sounded pretty cool. This year it's being hosted by Kirsty at The Overflowing Library. The idea is to read at least 12 books by British authors over the year. One book a month sounds pretty reasonable, right?
If you're interested in the challenge, you can sign up here: British Books Challenge sign-up

As I read and review books for the challenge, I will add the links to this post.
Books I'm hoping to read for the challenge:

Hollow Pike, by James Dawson - this one sounds really good, a dark YA, released early this year
The Iron Witch, by Karen Mahoney - I have started this, but for some reason I didn't finish. Another great YA fantasy novel.
The Shifting Price of Prey, by Suzanne McLeod - Love this series, can't wait till this comes out in June!



~Ailsa
 
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