31 August 2012


Author: Cora Harrison
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK Release date: August 2012
Genre: Historical YA
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away.

Luckily the girls each have a plan for escaping their humdrum country life: Rose wants to be a novelist, Poppy a jazz musician and Daisy a famous film director. Violet, however, has only one ambition: to become the perfect Debutante, so that she can go to London and catch the eye of Prince George, the most eligible bachelor in the country.

But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.

Although Debutantes is a historical fiction, I felt it a little hard to categorise as part of the swinging jazz era. Yes, it's the 1920s, jazz is up and coming, and fashion is changing to short skirts and bobbed hair. But there was still a feel of the Victorian tradition to it: family standing and inheritance by the eldest son is still common, and debutantes have coming out parties and are presented to the Queen. There was quite a lot of cross over between the two periods, particularly for the Derrington family. The four sisters redesigned old fashioned gowns to short dresses and skirts and they have to fight their old fashioned aunt and father who can often be stuck in their ways.

I found this mix of eras a little surprising and disconcerting at first, but the story also an exciting edge to it, as women were becoming more independent and could go out to work and earn their own living. Daisy's dream of becoming a film director and Rose's dream of becoming a journalist were real future options to them, but would not have been an option for women in a time not long before that.

Each of the four sisters had a very distinct personality. I liked Poppy, Daisy and Rose who each had their own ideas for making their way in the world and wanted to do things because they enjoy it. Poppy was passionate about jazz and her music, Rose constantly created and worked with words, making amusing little taglines to what was happening at any given moment, and Daisy filmed on her movie camera. Out of the sisters, I would say Violet was my least favourite, because she was moody, intent on marrying for money and wanted all the best material things. I think she became a better person as the story went on, but at the start of the book I was slightly bothered about the constant concern of being poor and desire to marry into a wealthy family.

The story was written from Daisy's perspective, who was very astute at understanding other people and their individual habits, and as the reader you get to an insight into each of the sister's lives. The plot was interesting, with twists and turns, romance and parties. The ending was slightly predictable, but overall I found it to be an enjoyable read. There were different mysteries and clues that had to be pieced together, which gave the story different elements beyond Violet's debutante season. If you like fashion, then you will love reading about the sister's redesign of old clothes, the parties they went to and their trips to London.

Debutantes is a lighthearted, fun read set in a time where everything is changing and there is plenty of fashion, romance, fun and frolicking.

Rating: 3.5*

26 August 2012


I'm so excited that Strange Chemistry has finally launched. Strange Chemistry, as a 'younger sister' to Angry Robot, will publish modern young adult science fiction, fantasy and everything in between. They have an amazing lineup of authors and new titles coming out, some of whom we heard readings from at the launch earlier this week. The launch itself was a huge success and a very promising start to a wonderful imprint - not only did the books grab your attention, but the popping candy in test tubes certainly got me bubbling with excitement! Keep you eyes peeled on My Book Journey for a Strange Chemistry goody bag giveaway coming soon!

Below are the burbs for the first 5 books to be released, and you can read extracts of these titles on Strange Chemistry's website.

Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke - tbp October 2012
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings - tbp October 2012
15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.
In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond - tbp September 2012
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.
Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.
Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

Shift by Kim Curran - tbp September 2012
When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He's a 'Shifter'. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Katya's World by Jonathan L. Howard - tbp November 2012
The distant and unloved colony world of Russalka has no land, only the raging sea. No clear skies, only the endless storm clouds. Beneath the waves, the people live in pressurised environments and take what they need from the boundless ocean. It is a hard life, but it is theirs and they fought a war against Earth to protect it. But wars leave wounds that never quite heal, and secrets that never quite lie silent.
Katya Kuriakova doesn’t care much about ancient history like that, though. She is making her first submarine voyage as crew; the first nice, simple journey of what she expects to be a nice, simple career.
There is nothing nice and simple about the deep black waters of Russalka, however; soon she will encounter pirates and war criminals, see death and tragedy at first hand, and realise that her world’s future lies on the narrowest of knife edges. For in the crushing depths lies a sleeping monster, an abomination of unknown origin, and when it wakes, it will seek out and kill every single person on the planet.

Don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for Strange Chemistry's other titles which will be released in 2013:

Broken by AE Rought
The Holders by Julien Scott
Pantomime by Laura Lam

24 August 2012


In case you haven't heard, UK YA have put together the top 100 UK YA books, as decided by the public.

The list is now up on their website, and it is up to you to vote for your favourites. You can pick up to 10 of your favourites, but I guarantee it will be a tough decision!

16 August 2012


Author: Julie Cross
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK Release date: January 2012
Genre: Science fiction
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.
That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future. (Goodreads)

Tempest has a very complex and interweaving plot, which jumps all over the place – literally from one time period in Jackson’s life to another. It could be a little hard to keep up with, but this wasn’t a bad thing. I loved the fact that there were so many things for Jackson to figure out and learn about his father, as well as himself. Cross must have had one hull of planner to keep track of the characters when she was writing this!

At first I was a little dubious about the time travelling concept, but the way it’s done makes it so interesting. A few chapters in and I was hooked. The sci-fi feel mixed with the CIA elements, made the plot dangerous and exciting. Jackson was constantly being chased, but no matter where or when he went he couldn’t seem to escape. It was like a complex, thrilling game of cat and mouse, packed full of action and adventure.

You could attempt to read Tempest as a standalone, but there are a lot of hints and questions unanswered, and I want to know what the future will actually turn out to be and whether Jackson can save Holly. The idea that the future can change like a ripple effect from one single event, means that the follow-on from this book could be anything, and personally I find that really exciting!

Although Jackson often had to lie and cover his tracks, I still liked him. He was funny, spontaneous, and clever, and I enjoyed his honest and real internal thoughts and reactions. Because of all the deception and uncertainty around so many characters, I liked the real moments and memories that showed us the true Jackson, like the heartbreaking card he wrote for his sister. And the fact that he was so protective over Holly made him even better in my eyes.

I kind of felt sorry for Holly, because she doesn’t know what is going on but is still involved in the conflict between the CIA and the time travellers. I liked the fact that the Holly in 2009 and 2007 are different character wise – she’s more serious and reserved when she’s older, but she still keeps Jackson on his toes. For me it shows how her character has changed, even if we haven’t necessarily seen how or why.

Tempest is a sci-fi time travelling thriller, with action, adventure and romance around every corner.

Rating: 5*

14 August 2012


Zoe, Karen (talking about her books) & Lee
The other week I was thrilled to go to Foyle's Summer Scream event in London. Amid the chaos of the Olympics, 4 wonderful authors braved the tourists to come speak about their books.

The authors were: Zoe Marriott, Karen Mahoney, Michelle Harrison and L.A. Weatherly.

It was so refreshing and reassuring to hear authors talking about the struggles it took to get their first and current books written and published. Zoe talked about how her characters changed gender several times in the editing, and they all mentioned the frustrations and downfalls of leaving a story unfinished and uncompleted.

All four of the authors were lovely and funny and each gave a reading of their books. Michelle's reading was scary and thrilling (I loved Unrest!) and we were lucky enough to get a read from Karen Mahoney's not-yet-published book Falling to Ash. The main character, Moth, sounded spunky and so fun! Lee talked about her books becoming films, and Zoe talked about her childhood passion with a lot of zeal!

4 authors and 4 very cool books. In case you haven't picked up these books yet, here's a quick blurb...

Angel Fire by L.A. Weatherly
Only Willow has the power to defeat the malevolent Church of Angels, and they will stop at nothing to destroy her. Willow isn’t alone, though. She has Alex by her side – a trained Angel Killer and her one true love. But nothing can change the fact that Willow’s a half-angel, and when Alex joins forces with a group of AKs, she’s treated with mistrust and suspicion. She’s never felt more alone…until she meets Seb. He’s been searching for Willow his whole life – because Seb is a half-angel too.

Michelle and Zoe
The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney
Donna Underwood is in deep trouble.An ancient alchemical order is holding her accountable for destroying the last precious drops of the elixar of life. Never mind the fact that Donna was acting to free her friend, Navin, from the dangerous clutches of the Wood Queen at the time. But what the alchemists have in store is nothing compared to the wrath of the fey. The Wood Queen has been tricked and Donna must pay. Get ready for all hell - quite literally - to break loose...

Unrest by Rachel Harrison
Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless - but to Elliott they’re terrifying.
Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again - and it wants Ophelia, too . . .

FrostFire by Zoe Marriott
Frost is cursed - possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them ... from herself.

12 August 2012


Letterbox Love is a new meme hosted by Lynsey @ Narratively Speaking for UK based book bloggers to showcase the books that they’ve received each week.
This week my mailbox has seen more books I've kindly received from publishers. I have to admit, I spent ages in the bookshop looking for some books to buy, but I was so befuddled and overwhelmed by the great choices, I didn't end up getting any. :( Recommendations more than welcome to help me make up my mind!


Breathe by Sarah Crossan (kindly given by Bloomsbury).
The world is dead. The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air. And as they walk into the Outlands with two days’ worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

Debutantes by Cora Harrison (kindly given by Macmillan Children's Books).
It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it, but stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. But a house as big and old as Beech Grove Manor hides many secrets, and Daisy is about to uncover one so huge it could ruin all their plans—ruin everything—forever.

Tempest by Julie Cross (kindly given by Macmillan Children's Books).
The year is 2009.  Nineteen-year-old Jackson Meyer is a normal guy… he’s in college, has a girlfriend… and he can travel back through time. But it’s not like the movies – nothing changes in the present after his jumps, there’s no space-time continuum issues or broken flux capacitors – it’s just harmless fun.
That is… until the day strangers burst in on Jackson and his girlfriend, Holly, and during a struggle with Jackson, Holly is fatally shot. In his panic, Jackson jumps back two years to 2007, but this is not like his previous time jumps. Now he’s stuck in 2007 and can’t get back to the future.

Fated by Alyson Noel (kindly given by Macmillan Children's Books).
Strange things are happening to Daire Santos. Crows mock her, glowing people stalk her, time stops without warning, and a beautiful boy with unearthly blue eyes haunts all her dreams. Fearing for her daughter’s sanity, Daire’s mother sends her to live with the grandmother she’s never met. A woman who recognizes the visions for what they truly are—the call to her destiny as a Soul Seeker—one who can navigate the worlds between the living and dead.

11 August 2012


Please note: although I won't give spoilers for this book, there may be spoilers for the first in the series.

Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Yes, #2
UK Publisher: Mira
UK Release date: May 2008
Genre: Fantasy

With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep. But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall.

Although Magic Study wasn’t as stunningly good as Poison Study, I still enjoyed the second book in the Study series. Yelena has a very different journey to make in this book, as she leaves Ixia and Valek behind. She still manages to make me smile, and she still learns and develops as a character. Her connection to Kiki, a rather wild and wilful horse, was very unexpected but I found their interactions very humorous and sweet.

I was really sad that Yelena had to leave Valek, as he’s such a dynamic character. But you don’t need to be too disappointed, as he pops up in the book with his typical deadly fighting moves and protectiveness over Yelena. Perhaps not as often as I would have liked but enough to keep me going.

With the introduction of Yelena’s family and the Magician's Keep, a wealth of new characters are invited into the story. Once again, Snyder is skilled at creating wonderfully real individuals, and also balancing the action packed plot against the character driven elements. And it must be said, the plot was just exploding with action. The downside was that the plot often felt repetitive - Yelena would go off on her to own to solve a problem and end up getting caught, tortured and very much in trouble. A little deviation and variety wouldn't have gone amiss.

Both Cahil, the surviving prince and apparent heir to the Ixia throne, and Yelena’s brother, did however really confuse me. They would blow hot and cold, and I couldn’t figure out their true characters. This wasn’t a downside though – I loved the fact that the characters were three dimensional; they had secret motivations and agendas and changing emotions. Like in real life, I couldn’t predict what they were both up to, and this made the plot more interesting.

Magic Study had a lot to live up to, and although it didn't surpass Poison Study, it was still an action packed fantasy.

Rating: 4*

9 August 2012


*Please note, there won't be spoilers for Suited, but there may be spoilers for Debris, the first in the series.

Author: Jo Anderton
Series: Yes, #2
UK Publisher: Angry Robot
UK Release date: July 2012
Genre: Science fiction
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

In Morvoc-under-Keeper Tanyana has chosen to help the Keeper and fight the Puppet Men. But something is wrong in the city - debris is disappearing, and strange doors are appearing in the Keeper's world. Can Tanyana figure out what is wrong and help the keeper, or will the puppet-men finally turn her into the weapon she doesn't want to be?

What I loved about the first in the series, Debris, was Tanyana's fall from being a pion binder to being a lowly debris collector and adapting to her new life. Whilst Suited didn't have that same feeling of loss and struggling to get Tan's life on track, there was plenty of action, upheaval, sadness and plenty of questions. I liked the dichotomty Tan felt with her suit - it protected her and gave her powers and strength that no-one else had, but it also started to change and work autonomously. Tan had to fight her suit to feel like herself, which made for interesting personal change and dilemmas for Tan.

I did sometimes feel like the plot was going around in circles, not necessarily the action, but in terms of finding out what the 'puppet-men' were up to and helping the Keeper close the doors. Each time I thought I was on the verge of finding out something new about the mysterious doors appearing and the disappearing debris, I found myself back at square one and none the wiser. It was like being constantly in the dark, chasing shadows and trying to find the light, as Tan ran around blindly following the Keeper. It was both frustrating and compelling because I wanted to find out what was happening.

The relationship between Tanyana and Kichlan changed in this book, and would swing from tender to untrusting. I loved the moments when they shared touches and shy openess about how they feel for each other. But despite the fact that Deviche is no longer around, Tan and Kichlan have a distance between them that they can't seem to cross. I really hope they can overcome this in the third book as I really want to see them together.

Childlike, vulnerable Lad also changed a lot. He became more outspoken and thought more for himself. I was worried that his beautiful character might change too much, but he was still completely lovable and adorable.

Before I saw the Keeper as useless and a bit of a snivelling coward. Although he's still a little bit like this in this book, the kepper has a much bigger role, and we see him a lot of different scenarios and see him change and develop. We get a little closer to figuring out who or what he is, but I suspect we won't really find out until the next book.

Suited is a strong follow-on from Jo Anderton's first science fiction book.

Rating: 4*

7 August 2012


Author: Jenny Downham
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
UK Release date: September 2012
Genre: YA Contemporary
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

Now is Good, otherwise known as Before I Die, was released a few years back, but has been re-released with a new cover and title to match the film that comes out in September and features Dakota Fanning.

Written in first person, Tessa’s illness is made all the more real. You can’t escape from her thoughts and feelings or the pain she suffers. The story itself is heartbreaking and it really makes you appreciate all the little things in your life that you normally take for granted.

The plot counts down to the inevitable, and I admit for a big chunk I cried my eyes out reading this book. It is very emotion driven and the intensity of the emotions meant I had to put the book down at certain points and have a break from it. The action revolved around Tessa’s final fews month where she was trying to complete a ‘list’ of things she wanted to do. Although this list was integral to Tessa’s emotions, every action had an emotional element to it – what was the meaning behind it, what was she trying to recapture or explore? I was a little surprised by her list to start with, but being sixteen I should have expected boys to come into it somewhere! I really liked the way her list changed throughout the story, not only for her own benefit but for her family’s.

Although the story is from Tessa’s perspective, you really get to see and feel how her family and friends are coping with the situation and how it is affecting them. Out of everyone I felt most sorry for Tessa’s dad, because he hadn’t come to terms with the diagnosis and was still holding out for a cure. As her father he also wanted to protect Tessa, and struggled to cope as she ran off to complete her ‘list’. Cal, Tessa’s younger brother, was a little star. Perhaps being a little too young to understand exactly what Tessa’s illness meant, he added a light and humour to the story that was desperately needed. His innocence and natural curiosity about life and death helped Tessa and me as the reader think of her illness in a different way.

Zoey was an unusual character for me. One moment she would be fully supporting Tessa, and I would really like her. And the next minute she would swing and come off selfish and uncaring. Even though I didn’t always like her, I think the story needed the balance of different characters coping in very different ways.

Truly heart wrenching, Now is Good, will have you appreciating all the little things in your life.

Rating: 5*

2 August 2012


Author: Maria V. Synder
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Mira Books
UK Release date: 2007
Genre: Fantasy

Yelena has a choice – be executed for murder, or become food taster to the Commander of Ixia. She leaps at the chance for survival, but her relief may be short-lived. Life in the palace is full of hazards and secrets. Wily and smart, Yelena must learn to identify poisons before they kill her, recognise whom she can trust and how to spy on those she can’t. And who is the mysterious Southern sorceress who can reach into her head? When Yelena realises she has extraordinary powers of her own, she faces a whole new problem, for using magic in Ixia is punishable by death... (Goodreads)

First off I absolutely loved this book. In Poison Study, Snyder has created an amazing fantasy world, simple but extremely well written. Her writing style has a natural ebb and flow to it that makes it easy and pleasurable to read.

The main protagonist, Yelena, starts off as a criminal and prisoner in the Commander’s cells. Her only reprieve from the noose is the offer of a job as food taster to the Commander of Ixia.

Even when she is saved, she is vilified and shunned by everyone. I loved the fact that Yelena had such an interesting and dangerous role, having to learn about different poisons, whilst fighting off those that still looked down on her. It gave the whole plot a unique and different take.

Yelena was intelligent, brave, witty and tough. She's already been through so much and yet Poison Study has so much in store for her - but this one girl that gets up no matter how many times you put her time, and for that I adore her. Even though to begin with I didn’t fully know what Brazell and Reyad had inflicted on Yelena, I knew enough to feel sympathy for her, and I smiled whenever she was able to prove people wrong.

The fact that Yelena had to work for the most dangerous, lethal and ruthless man in the country added an extra element of danger. Valek was cunning, tricky, and brutal. Yet I loved seeing his soft side peek through, and see him protect Yelena. His character and personality was so magnetic and charismatic, that I was irresistibly drawn to him.

Snyder has also developed an amazing cast of secondary characters from the ‘power’ twins Ari and Janco, to some of the most sinister characters such as Brazell and Mogkan. Each one felt very real, with different traits and sides to their personality, and I liked that some characters you just couldn’t figure out at first. Were they going to be mean and pick on Yelena or could they be potential friends? The guessing and intrigue really kept me interested and on my toes.

Although some overarching elements of the plot were easy to predict, there were so many sub plots and twists that the story never bored me. I loved the mix of action, threat, and subtle romance.

A fantasy masterpiece, Poison Study, is a beautifully written story filled with wonderful characters and crammed with danger, mu rder and fighting.

Rating: 5*