Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review - The Rising by Terra Harmony

The Rising (The Painted Maidens Trilogy, #1)Title: The Rising (The Painted Maidens #1)
Author: Terra Harmony
Expected publication: 7th November 2013 by Patchwork Press
Source: NetGalley

Fifteen-year-old Serena is the youngest member of a dying race. The increasing acidity of the ocean is destroying her home, slowly eating away at the once thriving underwater landscape. But since the night of Serena’s birth, it is an outside force that most threatens their dwindling population. Werewolves, who once served as protectors for mermaids in the Kingdom of the Undine, now seek to eliminate all who dwell in the ocean — and Serena is about to find herself right in the middle of the deadly conflict.

Given the title of Werewolf Liaison, Serena is determined to make things right for her people. When she ventures to The Dry, she meets Liam, the werewolf with hazel eyes, and her whole world gets turned upside down. As Serena discovers the real history between werewolves and mermaids, she is left wondering who her true enemies are. [Goodreads]

I started reading this after just finishing a book I’d rated 5 stars…I was on that book high, hoping this would carry on. Unfortunately, I came back down to earth and felt myself struggling through the start of The Rising. I need to point out that this isn’t a negative review, I did actually enjoy most of the story and the premise of a history between mermaids and werewolves, but the book didn’t blow me away. As I started it, I found myself getting confused with the terminology the author used so early on and it kept drawing me out of the narrative. It felt like I was stumbling my way through the first few chapters, trying to make sense of not only what was going on, but what was making me carry on reading. I very nearly gave up, but decided to keep going hoping it would get better.

I think the main problem was that the author was throwing too much at me, too soon. I was actually really looking forward to reading a book centred around mermaids, as I can’t think of one I’ve read before, but I think the magic of the mermaids and their kingdom just became lost and failed to hook me in at the beginning. The author has created this well detailed kingdom under the sea, where the Society lives and work, but due to these details, the reader needs to quickly learn what the rules are regarding these mermaids and how their Society works. There was no exciting scene to get me interested enough to want to learn this information, which in turn made the details feel forced upon me.

However, once I got used to the mermaids way of life, the plot picked up. We’re introduced to the threat of werewolves that guard The Dry – the land above the kingdom, and the harsh truth of rising Co2 levels in the sea which are rapidly destroying the mermaid’s natural habitat. The story follows Serena, the youngest mermaid left in Society, as she is given the job of Werewolf Liaison as an attempt to rectify the broken down relationship between mermaids and werewolves that has gone on for sixteen years. Once their protectors on The Dry, the wolves turned against the mermaids as they came ashore in an event named The Maiden’s Massacre, which left them all dead apart from Serena. The plot culminates in a very eventful ending which proved to be quite a dark and gruesome read – something I was not expecting, but I’m glad it didn’t end on a cliffhanger. The story was set-up for the following book without leaving me crying out in frustration, so I will decide later whether or not I will carry on with the series.

There is a slight romance in the story that fitted in well with the plot and showed another side of Serena to the reader. I didn’t particularly connect with Serena though – she was labeled as an outcast to Society but we never knew why and I felt like I couldn’t really relate to her. She seemed to enjoy the fact that she was a bit of a loner, but got upset when she thought she wasn’t getting the support she wanted from the rest of Society. I did, however, really enjoy the scenes with Mariam in the kingdom’s archives – the images of shelves upon shelves of books containing the history of the kingdom, especially the King’s forbidden library enticed me. Both her and Rayne, the mermaid who runs the orphanage, acted as brilliant mother figures to Serena, and brought emotions out in the young mermaid we wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

I did also enjoy reading about the history of the kingdom and the feud between the mermaids and the werewolves. I think the author has created something quite original, especially with all the details she has included. However, it did leave me a bit confused over some plot points, mainly the truth behind Serena’s family, but I assume this will be looked at more closely in the following book. Overall, I thought this was quite a good read, and would recommend it for people interested in reading about mermaids with an original twist. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Scariest Looking Book Covers

Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

When it comes to being scared, anything ghostly is the thing that gets me. Haunting tales and images petrify me, and I cannot watch any kind of film in this genre. I also don’t really like to read books that feature ghosts, although I can sometimes make exceptions. I haven’t read any of these books, although there are some that I want to try, but these covers all give me chills!

 photo week9books1-3_zpsb1ee867a.png
1. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
2. Asylum by Madeleine Roux

 photo week9books4-6_zps0d18d91d.png
4. This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
5. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
6. Insomnia by J.R. Johansson

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7. It by Stephen King
8. Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
9. The Murmurings by Carly Anne West
10. The Hunting Ground  by Cliff McNish

What covers have you chosen? Do you love to read these kinds of books? Let me know in the comments and leave me a link to your post so I can check it out!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Review - Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Geek Girl (Geek Girl, #1)Title: Geek Girl (Geek Girl #1)
Author: Holly Smale
Published: February 2013 by HarperCollins Children's Books
Source: Personal paperback

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. 

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything? [Goodreads]

It feels like everything that I love about YA contemporary came together with a large dose of wit and style courtesy of the author and I was left with a pretty perfect book. I bought this a few weeks ago as it was on offer and the cover instantly made me pick it up - yes I do always judge - but I didn't get round to reading it straight away. How sorry I am now that it stayed shelved for those weeks and wasn't instantly being read! 

As soon as I started reading, I absolutely fell in love with Harriet Manners - geeky, socially awkward and a pretty much an outcast at school, she has a hard time dealing with her peers, in particular her nemesis Alexa, whilst trying to live life her own way. My first thoughts were...I can relate to Harriet so much I'm pretty sure Holly Smale stalked me for much of my teenage years, and secondly...this book is HILARIOUS. I'm sorry about the capital letters but it's true - I giggled my way through the entire book (apart from one particular hurtful moment for Harriet in her English class). To be honest, I think it was definitely our British humour that has made this book 5 stars for me. I might be wrong, but I don't think I'd have had the same reaction of  'I'm laughing so much there's a mixture of goo running down my face' if this book were set somewhere else. Holly Smale wrote with a humour that reminded me a bit of Louise Rennison in her Georgia Nicholson books, but with her own originality.

The book follows Harriet as she gets spotted in Birmingham as a model - dressed in a boy's football kit as her own clothes are covered in vomit after an eventful coach trip. We then go with her and her father to Russia as she is thrown into the world of high-end fashion and takes part in her first photo-shoot and catwalk show - and disaster ensues. 
I think the part I loved the most about this whole story was that Harriet tried her best to stay true to herself. She does end up telling lies to her family and friends about her new job, which she becomes disgusted at herself for, but she remains the same sweet, clumsy, fashion-awkward 15 year-old inside. 

To me, she felt like a real person - she was always enduring the personal battle every teenager has to go through - finding yourself at the time when you need to grow up a bit, but still appearing quite child-like, even if some people try to hide this immature side as much as possible. I loved that Harriet embraced this side more freely, much as I wanted to (and did) when I was a teenager. I didn't want to grow up fast and behave like an adult when I felt it wasn't me. I didn't know how to put on make-up, I didn't really want to have anything to do with boys, other than a classroom crush and maybe a first kiss. I didn't want to spend my weekends shopping or going to parties - I would quite liked to have stepped outside in public in my comfortable Winnie the Pooh jumper just as Harriet does, and not care what other people thought. Harriet, without even trying, is a role-model.

Her world makes me feel at my most comfortable, and I'm excited to see where Holly Smale will lead us next - a romance starts to blossom in the first book and I'd love to see where that ends up going. There was no horrible insta-love that has become so notorious in YA fiction, and I hope that stays the case for the second book in the series - something I have already rushed out to buy! I can't wait to re-enter Harriet's life and if you're looking for a heartwarming, humorous book with a refreshingly real protagonist then this might be right up your street too. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (9)

Hosted by Breaking The Spine 

Dance of Fire (Dance of Shadows #2) by Yelena Black

Cover not yet revealed
Publication date: Winter 2014

Why I'm Waiting?

I know this seems a bit silly seen as only the title has been revealed but I really cannot wait for this! I've recently read the first in the series, Dance of Shadows (review here) and really enjoyed it. There wasn't much of a cliffhanger, thank goodness, but I'm definitely eagerly awaiting the next installment!  

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review - Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)Title: Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows #1)
Author: Yelena Black
Published: February 2013
Source: Owned paperback

Vanessa doesn’t believe that her sister is a runaway. She wouldn’t leave her family behind without saying a word. The only way Vanessa can discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance is to follow in Margaret’s footsteps, but to do so she risks her sanity and maybe even her life . . .

Vanessa Adler is one of the talented few to get a place at the acclaimed New York Ballet Academy. Between backbreaking rehearsals for the school’s production of The Firebird she desperately tries to find out what happened to her sister before she vanished. There are rumors that the pressure of performing the lead role, the same role Vanessa is now rehearsing for, drove her mad. Other girls have gone missing too. Can the role be cursed? Vanessa’s new relationship with leading-man Zep only seems to complicate things further. What is he hiding from her and can she really trust him? [Goodreads]

I really enjoyed this, which seems to be the opposite of quite a few reviewers! There were some parts I would have liked to have happened differently, but on the whole, I was captivated by the magic of this book. 

The dark tale follows Vanessa as she starts her first year at the New York Ballet Academy, a school her missing sister previously attended a few years ago. She’s an amazing dancer, but her sole purpose is to discover what happened to her sister who apparently decided to suddenly drop-out of the school and run away. Vanessa doesn’t believe this, and as the weeks pass by she realises that there have been a lot of other ballerinas that have strangely disappeared too – and most of them were supposed to dance the lead role in the school’s production of The Firebird. Things start to get even stranger when Vanessa wins the lead role in this year’s ballet, and she starts attending rigorous rehearsals with the stern choreographer, Josef. 
Added into this mix of mystery is Vanessa’s blossoming romance with the male lead Zep and her growing acquaintance with Justin, Zep’s understudy. 

I was totally intrigued by this book when I first saw it, and I was desperate to read it due to its centre around ballet. I find this particular world of dance fascinating and I’m always looking out for books that incorporate it in some way. As I started, I fell in love with the whole premise of moving to New York in the autumn and attending NYBA, especially as I was sat reading this in dreary England, with rain pouring outside. As events started to unfold and the paranormal twist became apparent, I became even more enthralled with the story, and I have to say, I couldn’t work out what was going to happen. Some parts I guessed at, but there was always so much more going on than met the eye. 

Character wise, my favorite was probably Justin, a boy so full of secrets I was urging Vanessa to go and sit down with him and make him spill everything, yet also carrying a certain amount of charm to keep me guessing about his feelings for Vanessa. I also loved reading the scenes with Blaine, one of Vanessa’s best friends – I wished there was more of them! He brought a brilliant light and humerous touch to the story. I have to say though that I never really warmed to Zep and his relationship with Vanessa. He seemed far too sure of himself from the beginning and I was repelled by that quite a bit. However, the rest of the cast held up the story wonderfully, each with their own piece of intrigue surrounding them. I only wish Vanessa was sometimes not so attached to Zep, and that she actually tried going out in NY to search for her sister a bit more. However, I didn’t feel like this detracted from the story much for me. 

The dancing was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole book, and added an extra depth to the story. I loved Yelena Black’s descriptions of the ballerinas dancing and I felt like I could picture everything in my head even without knowing what most of the terms properly meant. 
The whole tale just felt magical, even before the paranormal events and I am definitely looking forward to the second book. I found the mystery compelling and the explanation to the strange events satisfying. Overall, this was a perfect book to escape into and it definitely lived up to my expectations.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Review - Endless by Amanda Gray

EndlessTitle: Endless
Author: Amanda Gray
Source: NetGalley

Jenny Kramer knows she isn't normal. After all, not everybody can see the past lives of people around them.

When she befriends Ben Daulton, resident new boy, the pair stumble on an old music box with instructions for “mesmerization” and discover they may have more in common than they thought. Like a past life.

Using the instructions in the music box, Ben and Jenny share a dream that transports them to Romanov Russia and leads them to believe they have been there together before. But they weren't alone. Nikolai, the mysterious young man Jenny has been seeing in her own dreams was there, too. When Nikolai appears next door, Jenny is forced to acknowledge that he has travelled through time and space to find her. Doing so means he has defied the laws of time, and the Order, an ominous organization tasked with keeping people in the correct time, is determined to send him back. 
While Ben, Jenny and Nikolai race against the clock - and the Order - Jenny and Nikolai discover a link that joins them in life - and beyond death. [Goodreads]

I love it when a book takes me by surprise – in a good way of course. I was drawn to this on NetGalley by the cover firstly, and then the synopsis made me request it, but I had no idea what to expect. I’ve only read a small handful of time travel books before, and even though the notion intrigues me, I’ve just not picked that many up. I went into it thinking it would be OK, but only OK to be honest. Do other people often experience this too, or is it just me?!
Anyway, I raced through this in just over one sitting – I was hunched over my mother’s kitchen island, my back and arm muscles were starting to burn but I couldn’t stop reading. I got up about once to feed my dog, and much to her dismay, my attention was devoted to my Kindle. And let’s be honest, there’s not many things better than that in the book world, is there? 

I don’t want to recap the book, I’m worried I’ll write something that will spoil it! The synopsis does the best job, so I’ll start out with the main characters, because for me they were brilliant. Jenny was a perfect lead – surrounded by mystery and a past she didn’t fully understand; she was headstrong, brave, fought for those she loved yet also incredibly sweet and vulnerable in just the right balance. Ben, a new friend Jenny makes during the book, was probably my favorite though. He’d had his fair share of pain to get through when he was younger yet the way he cared about his family and friends, and even strangers, felt so noble and strong. He went out of his way for everyone and risked a whole lot to ensure other people’s happiness and life. Then of course there’s Nikolai, a man who seems to appear out of nowhere in Jenny’s life, making himself known to her little by little. I don’t really want to give anything away regarding his storyline, because that was one of the biggest elements of the book, however I will say that he was a pleasure to read – a true hero who fights through everything to find his true love. 

As for the concept of time travel, I found that to be done very cleverly. There wasn’t too much information dumping at one time, and the unknowns surrounding it unraveled at just the right pace to keep my frantically turning the pages. I did have a few questions about some parts of it, but I didn’t feel like they detracted from the story. I especially loved the fact that part of the story was set in Russia and involved the Romanov family. I didn’t know too much about this piece of history before, but I found it so fascinating and heartbreaking all at the same time. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was dying for it not to and it just made the relationship between Nikolai and Jenny all the more believable and beautiful. I also really liked the way these parts of their history were interwoven in the story through dreams or visions – this isn’t normally my thing, but I found myself dying to know the next part to their past.
I also thought The Order was satisfyingly creepy and secretive – I liked that I couldn’t predict everything that would happen and I found the climax of the book gripping and full of suspense as the truth was revealed and the consequences ensued. 

This, however, leads me on to the disappointing bit. I cannot find news of a sequel ANYWHERE and I’m getting distressed! This story has to carry on – I need answers about what happens to Jenny and Nikolai. The ending is left fairly open, no major cliffhanger, but I still need closure. I refuse to use my imagination!! *stomps feet* So much so, that I would be forced to change my rating, because if it’s a standalone, then the ending is frustrating. So I’m warning you now, be careful before you start this! If it sucks you in as much as me, you will be left a whiny mess afterwards. Just saying. Having said that, I thought this book was pretty amazing – the characters, the setting and the adventure all came together to create this romantic yet ultimately dangerous story with a perfect time travel twist!

I received this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Stacking the Shelves (6)

Hosted by Tynga's Reviews
The Ice Cream Girls The Accidental Husband I've Got Your Number
 Paper Towns   An Abundance of Katherines
 Loads of books this week! Happy reading everyone!

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