31 July 2012


Author: Helen Lowe
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Orbit
UK Release date:
Genre: Fantasy

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark--which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai--or Haarth--may have. (Goodreads)

When you start reading Heir of Night, you can’t deny that a hugely complex world and history has been built for the story. Helen Lowe has created an environment rich with different gods, heroes, magical items and even a spiritual world beyond the ‘gate’.

For me however, there were too many characters to focus on. I didn’t feel like I knew enough about each secondary character to make them substantial in my mind and I got a little confused between the characters to start with. I think this was compounded by the fact that there was a lot going on in the story - there was so much back history to learn and so many new strange things happening, like the hunt, that I really had to concentrate to keep up with the action. If fewer points of action and fewer characters had been fleshed out this might have worked a little better and I might not have struggled so much to finish. 

I also expected Malian the protagonist to be older than she was. At 13 years, I thought the story would revisit her after she had grown up, but in fact the story stayed with her at that age. As the only heir to the Night throne, Malian is vital to the clan surviving and has been brought up to know her duty, which is perhaps why she seems knowledgeable and mature. However she wasn’t treated with reverence by everyone, particularly her father, and I did feel a little sorry that other members of the household were dearer to her than him.

I liked young Kalan. No matter what he stood by Malian and protected her, and I can see a great relationship and partnership developing between them.

Heir of Night is a richly descriptive fantasy with masses of action and magical learning.

Rating: 3.5*

29 July 2012


Author: Zoe Marriott
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Walker Books
UK Release date: 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy tale

When Alexandra’s mother is slain by an unnatural beast, shadows fall on the once-lush kingdom. Too soon the widowed king is entranced by a cunning stranger — and in one chilling moment Alexandra’s beloved brothers disappear, and she is banished to a barren land. Rich in visual detail, sparked by a formidable evil, and sweetened with familial and romantic love, here is the tale of a girl who discovers powerful healing gifts — and the courage to use them to save her ailing kingdom.

The Swan Kingdom is a retelling of one Han's Christian Anderson's fairy tales, The Wild Swans. Like a traditional fairy tale this story had magic, romance, the horrible step-mother, and a battle of good against evil. The setting really took me back in time with the wise women, herb lore, and the magical stone circle which reminded me of Glastonbury and Stone Henge. It was such a beautiful place; so when her new step-mother arrived and started wreaking havoc over the land I was incensed.

What I love about fairy tales, and this story, is the way characters aren't what they first seem. Zella, Alexandra's new step-mother, is beautiful and immediately enchants everyone in the Kingdom. But underneath you know something very evil and dark lurks. And in contrast, Alexandra is initially presented as the strange and ugly girl. But when as you read her honest and open narrative, you can't help but love her.

The writing style was very languid, poetic and descriptive. From the very first word I felt completely immersed in Alexandra's world. The rhythm of the story was slow and natural, but reading it didn't feel slow. There were plenty of high tension moments, threats of danger and undercurrents of romance. I would have liked to have known Gabriel, Alexandra's love interest, in more detail. But having said that you instantly know he is a good and kind man.

It has to be said that Alexandra was an ugly duckling; she disappointed her father, wasn't pretty and took after her mother as a wise woman. However I loved Alexandra's personality and the humorous thoughts she had to herself. She was courageous, brave and throughout the story developed into a strong young woman. Despite starting off shy and lacking in self confidence, she slowly became more able to stand up for herself and for her Kingdom.

The Swan Kingdom is a beautifully written magical fantasy fairy tale.

Rating: 4*

24 July 2012


Author: Alyson Noel
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK Release date: 2009
Genre: YA, paranormal

Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste . . .
Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies. (Goodreads)

I found Evermore to be a very pleasant read, and the pages just skipped through my fingers with ease and enjoyment. The concepts and ideas weren’t unique - good looking, rich boy with mysterious talents and a young girl with new psychic abilities - however I really enjoyed reading this book. The plot was filled with mystery, especially around Damen, and there was lots of action and intrigue.

Since the accident, Ever has developed psychic gifts which allow her to read people's minds. She's really struggling to cope with these gifts as well as her grief and guilt, and her best solution is to pull up her hood and drown out the world with her music. I did like seeing her change and develop throughout the story, even if a lot of this was prompted by Damen. Her denial and attempts to block her gifts lead her down a few wrong paths, but essentially she is a good person and I couldn't help but root for her.

Damen is the new kid at school, and completely surrounded in mystery. There was plenty of build up to find out who or what Damen really is, and I liked guessing and trying to put together the little clues. Whilst I liked him, I was a little perturbed and dubious of the way he would give a flower to Ever one day and then a flower to popular Stacie the next day. It felt a little like he was playing with both their affections regardless of the reason. Having said this, the eerie mystery shrouding Damen made him intriguing and interesting.

I loved Riley. I won't say who she is, but her part in the book is a little heartbreaking and sad but also warming. Her character brought an interesting and humorous dynamic to the story, and I loved the different costumes she dressed up in each day.

An enjoyable and easy read, Evermore is the first in a series of six books. Although I can't imagine what will happen for all other five books, I'm looking forward to finding out.

Rating: 4*

22 July 2012


Today's film review has been written by my lovely other half Dani Riot.

Director: Mary Harron
Writers: Rachel Klein (novel), Mary Harron (screenplay)
Release date: 2011
Genre: Horror/paranormal

The Moth Diaries is the debut novel of Rachel Klein, published in 2002.

At an exclusively girls' boarding school, a sixteen year-old girl records her most intimate thoughts in a diary. The object of her growing obsession is her roommate, Lucy Blake, and Lucy's friendship with their new and disturbing classmate, Ernessa. Around her swirl dark rumors, suspicions, and secrets as well as a series of ominous disasters. As fear spreads through the school and Lucy isn't Lucy anymore, fantasy and reality mingle until what is true and what is dreamed bleed together into a waking nightmare that evokes with gothic menace the anxieties, lusts, and fears of adolescence. At the center of the diary is the question that haunts all who read it, "Is Ernessa really a vampire?" or has the narrator trapped herself in the fevered world of her own imagining?

I'll come clean, I haven't read the book that The Moth Diaries movie was based on, so I have nothing to base my opinion on, as I appreciate that so many people say the movie versions of books are not as good. I should even come clean and say I didn't even know what the story was going to be about when I watched it. Because as a photographer, I watched this film predominantly for the styling… But that's not to say I wasn't pleasantly surprised.

The story is great because it keeps you guessing. None of the characters, especially Ernessa are ever 'outed' as to what they truly are. I really like films that are psychological, leaving it up to the viewer to keep questioning over and over as each element is put into place. Is Ernessa a vampire? Is she a dead girl from years past? Or is it all in Rebecca's head? It's hard to tell, but one things for certain… something strange is going on.

Personally, I don't think the film is long enough, at just under 1 hour 20 minutes, some things look really rushed. At one point two nights of action pass within minutes. Of course there is always the problem of things seeming too dragged out also, but I feel this movie had a lot more scope to learn more about some of the other characters in the story, as it does seem very Rebecca, Ernessa and Lucy centric. There are other fairly main characters we never really learn about, only their interactions with the main three.

Visually, this movie is awesome, I really like the way they mix the modern with the Victorian. It really helps that the boarding school has a history as an old hotel resort, so a lot of the resort is left behind, like the now decaying gardens, and the deteriorating creepy hallways and dorm rooms. But the stand out for me is the way Ernessa's character bounces between the generations, sometimes dressed in modern goth blacks, and then vintage Victorian dresses.

Overall, it's a good movie, something to get your brain working with, and at its length, it's not too taxing either. I have watched this movie twice now, first alone when I just let myself fall into the story, and a second time with Hannah where it threw up discussions and opinions on character and story. So depending on what you want to get from this movie, it's flexible in that way.

The Moth Diaries is a creepy, intriguing and beautifully styled film.

21 July 2012


Today I am really excited to have author Rachel Hartman joining me on the blog to talk about how she developed the world for her novel Seraphina, what sparked the ideas for it and how did she balance the world building against the characters.

If you've read Seraphina, or even if you're interested in writing, you really must read this insightful and funny account into what went into writing Seraphina.

The world came first, which seemed the natural order of things to me. There was no single moment when it came into being, no Big Bang or separation of the land from the waters. Rather, it came in bits and pieces over many years. 
I had my first inkling when I was twelve and had to write a narrative poem for school. Inspiration struck hard, and I wrote a long poem called “The First Adventure of Sir Amy,” about a little girl knight saving a king from an opera-singing witch. It was quite silly, but it established a number of things: the name Goredd (it rhymed with Fred, the name of Sir Amy’s horse); King Kiggleworth, who later became Prince Lucian Kiggs; and the presence of dragons.  

When I was sixteen, my father took a sabbatical year at Wye College, Kent. I was an avid reader of the English classics, and I was awestruck by the way literature intersects with real life in England. We walked the path of Chaucer’s pilgrims, lived near Jane Austen’s brother’s estate, and were just a short hop from places mentioned in David Copperfield. History was just as palpable and present. Roman walls seemed to converse pleasantly with Georgian houses and Norman churches. I conceived an abiding love for Medieval architecture. The texture of Goredd comes from Canterbury most of all, and from the bucolic hills and close horizons of Kent.  

After university, I wrote and illustrated a comic book for a number of years, and that’s when these disparate elements – things I’d seen, read, and invented – began to solidify into a unified whole. The comic was set in Goredd, and featured a girl named Amy (who was no longer a knight). My love of Medieval history had turned into a large collection of Medieval reference books; I studied the illustrations closely, absorbing details of ornamentation and the forms of everyday objects, and then tried to base my drawings in truth, which was often more astonishing than my imagination. I didn’t want the hackneyed Middle Ages that everyone already knew; I wanted to revive overlooked details and make them live again.  

From the material world grew the cultural world. I wanted there to be religion, or the trappings of religion that interested me most: cathedrals full of candles and statuary, shrines covered with offerings. I was wary of giving offense, so I invented my Saints, very different in nature from Christian saints. My people needed music and medicine, a national epic and history, neighbours and holidays. I put all these things in the comics, learning as I drew, as if my pen were teaching me. I sat back and watched it unveil the world. 

Of course there had to be dragons, because of the dragon in my poem. I soon discovered, however, that I did not enjoy drawing dragons. My dragons all looked like dogs. It was a disaster. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon the idea, however. Luckily, I hit upon a solution: the dragons could take human form.  

And that was the origin of shape-shifting dragons: an expedient of illustration that ended up being a tremendous wellspring of ideas, the happiest of happy accidents.  

So the world has been with me a long time, slowly accumulating detail and depth. I’m not sure whether other writers work this way, or whether it’s my own eccentricity, but once I had the world the characters were easy. The characters generally showed up whole and ready for work; I almost feel like a movie director, and they’re actors I’ve been working with for a long time. Some are what I’d call “utility infielders.” That’s my American roots showing. In baseball, a utility player is one who can play multiple positions. Maybe he’s not the best at any one position, but his flexibility is handy in a pinch. Josef and Lars are of this type; they’ve played a number of different roles over the course of many drafts. 
Having such a well-established world from the beginning allowed the characters space and time to stretch and develop. I must underscore, however, that the world never stops growing. Quighole, the dragon ghetto, was a recent development. I needed something concrete to keep people wary of dragons even after forty years, so I decided there should be an enclave of quigutl (small, flightless dragons who can’t take human shape) in the city. I was telling a friend about this over lunch one day, and she said, “But why do people find the quigs menacing? Are they aggressive pan-handlers?”  

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at that suggestion. If it makes me laugh, it wins. That is why the book contains pan-handling lizards, and that is how a world grows, piece by piece.

Thank you so much Rachel for taking time to talk about Seraphina! Personally I would love to see Rachel's drawings, even the ones where dragons look like dogs! If you would like to find out more about Rachel Hardman and her book Seraphina you can find it here:


Seraphina was released earlier this week. You can read my review of it here or you can head on over to Amazon to grab yourself a copy.

19 July 2012


Author: Michelle Harrison
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Simon & Schuster
UK Release date:
Genre: Paranormal YA

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 . . . (Goodreads)

As soon as I started reading Unrest I was hooked. The atmosphere and natural writing style pulled me in, and I became completely wrapped up in Elliott's life. The plot was fabulous, full of mystery and creepy hauntings. I loved the ending because it was absolutely unexpected but really cleverly crafted and planned out. It seems so simple, but that's because Michelle Harrison has done such a good job at make the story believable and gripping.

I really felt for the main protagonist Elliott. At the beginning he's in a bad place, emotionally and to some extent physically. He's struggling to get his life back on track after his near-fatal accident; he's lost weight, isn't sleeping properly or looking after himself. And this is all down to the strange sleep paralysis and ghostly hauntings he has started experiencing. I loved seeing him make little steps towards getting his life back on track and regaining some hope for his future. His changing feelings and budding romance with Ophelia was also so sweet and adorable.

To start with I thought Ophelia was blunt, snarky, and snide. She seemed pretty grumpy and stuck up, but she started coming to life throughout the story. I wouldn't says she's a loud brash personality but that didn't matter here. In fact, her more subdued personality fitted her experiences and the overall feel of the book and I certainly grew to like her. She felt very real and interesting, with her henna hands and love for her horse. Both her and Elliott had their problems, and they seemed like the perfect match together.

The setting for this creepy, spooky story was Past Lives, a history museum full of old houses and plenty of stories from the past. I thought this setting was a stroke of genius. Perhaps because it made me reminisce of a very similar place back in Cardiff. But also because it fitted so well with Elliott's ghostly problems, and was pivotal to the drama and plot.

A brilliantly crafted ghost story, Unrest is a creepy and thrilling must-read.

Rating: 5*

18 July 2012


Today I am really pleased to be part of the exclusive cover reveal for Strange Chemistry's January 2013 title BROKEN by A.E. Rought:

Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry’s boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetary and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she’s intrigued despite herself. He’s an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely…familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel’s. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there’s something very wrong with Alex Franks.

And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks’ estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

What do you think of the cover? I love the colours and the gothic feel to it! It perfectly fits the synopsis for the book.

Broken will be simultaneously released in paper and ebook versions in January 2013, which seems like a long way away! To make the wait even more tantalising here is my favourite snippet from Broken picked out by Ann the author.

       A heavy breath escapes me, and if he wasn’t holding me so close, I might melt and pour from this dress. 
     Alex clings to me like I may honestly be a fairytale princess and when he lets go, I’m going to disappear. He pulls off one glove, tingles following his bare hand as it glides over the curve of my back, up my neck to tangle in my curls. He guides my head to his chest. Thunder rumbles in his heartbeat, and his electric surge slicks over my skin like warm oil. 
     Neither of us speak. Words have less meaning than time in his arms. 
    “There’s so much I want to say,” he whispers in my ear. I press my fingers to his lips. My heart jolts when Alex kisses them. Then he curls them in his gloved hand and holds my hand pressed above his heart. “Feel that? It doesn’t beat for me, Emma.”

Gah, I can't wait to read it! If like me you can't wait to get your hands on a copy, enter below to win an ARC of Broken - UK entrants only sorry. (Please note: the giveaway deadline is 1st August 2012, and the winning ARC will be available a few weeks after this.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

17 July 2012


Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
UK Release date: 2nd August 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Celeana Sardothien is an infamous assassin. Yet the seventeen year old is living out the rest of her days imprisoned and set to work in Endovier’s harsh salt mines. All because she made the mistake of getting caught. So when the Crown Prince of Adarlan rescues her from the mines with an offer she can’t refuse, her freedom is finally within reach. She must compete as the Prince’s champion against twenty-three warriors, thieves and assassins to win a place as the King’s assassin and gain her future freedom. But as contestants start turning up dead, Celeana could be next unless she finds out who is behind them and what evil is lurking in the castle.

Throne of Glass was an easy and enjoyable read and I found it both captivating and fast paced. The world of Erilea and its surrounding countries is beautifully crafted and wonderfully written. The plot itself erred on the simple side, and in my opinion would have benefitted from more plot twists, action, and intrigue. However the story certainly had plenty of romance and sexual tension. There is also an underlying hint of fae and magic that permeates the story, although this has been squashed by the King of Adarlan and remains forbidden and lost. This exists as part of a huge backdrop to the story, where the king has been on a long campaign to domineer the surrounding lands. This aspect really intrigued me, and although we didn’t see much past the glass castle of Rifthold in this story, there is so much potential to find out about the political upheaval in these other kingdoms.

Celeana was a fiery, fierce and sassy protagonist. Her strength as an assassin meant she could be arrogant, daring and haughty. And yet her troubled and tortured past made her vulnerable as well as emotionally and physically scarred. The time she had spent in the mines left her starved and beaten but not broken. Her personality shone through, showing an incredible strength of will. This balance of courage and fragility made her an interesting and likeable character as well as a mysterious and attractive individual to both the Prince and Captain Westfall.

A big part of the plot was this love triangle between Celeana, Dorian the Crown Prince and Chaol, Captain of the Guard. I know love triangles can often put readers off, but her Chaol and Dorian are both great characters; both strong and kind in their own way. Celeana and Dorian shared interests in reading and had such witty and sharp dialogue exchanges; whilst with Chaol, Celeana was more like an equal able to challenge each other physically in training. As a reader I liked both men and did wish that Celeana would just pick one rather than continue to flirt with them both. I did however love the dichotomy these characters felt, not knowing whether to trust Celeana, and whether they should be locking her up or falling in love with her.

What really intrigued me about the story is how it began and developed. Sarah J. Maas started writing about Celeana on fiction press ten years ago and has written and published several prequels to Throne of Glass, all novellas looking at Celeana’s life as an assassin before her imprisonment. Sarah J. Maas admits that the story started by thinking what Cinderella might be like if she was an assassin. You can certainly pick up some classic fairy tale qualities and elements to the story, although here they are packaged in a dynamic, dangerous and epic style.

Throne of Glass is an epic YA fantasy debut filled with action, forbidden romance and magic, and a deadly heroine both dangerous and vulnerable in equal measures.

Review: 4*

15 July 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 been filled half and half with books I've bought and books I've kindly received from publishers. I have to admit, the books I bought on the left are to prepare for the Foyles' Summer Scream event (see below). I really want to make sure I've read books by most of the authors if I'm going to go to it!


Unrest by Michelle Harrison (bought).

The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney (bought).
I met Karen at a writers event a few years back, before she was published. She was so lovely, and it was her talk that persuaded me to set up my own blog. Thanks Karen!

The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby (kindly given by Angry Robot).

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (kindly given by Angry Robot).
This is the second in the Miriam Black series. I loved Blackbirds, and would absolutely recommend reading it!

Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs (kindly given by Templar).


Roll up! Roll up! Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls, for one day only Foyles will once again be hosting a circus of literary delights to spook even the bravest amongst you. Come and meet authors Michelle Harrison, Zoe Marriott, L.A.Weatherly, Karen Mahoney, Laura Powell, Ruth Warburton plus many more.

4th August 2012, 2pm - 6pm, Foyles Charing Cross Road - Free Event

2-3pm: Panel - Michelle Harrison, Zoe Marriott, L.A.Weatherly and Karen Mahoney
4:30-5:30: Panel - Laura Powell, Ruth Warburton and authors TBC

14 July 2012


This is a quick note to highlight the prequels to two YA fantasy stories...

Bloomsbury are kingly offering readers the chance to read the free prequel novella to Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Assassin & The Pirate Lord on SugarScape. It's only available for a few more days, so get reading. On this site you can also read a taster for Throne of Glass.

Rachel Hartman has written a short prequel to her amazing fantasy, Seraphina, which is available for download on Scribd here.

I loved both of these books, so take the chance now to read the prequels and I would definitely recommend reading the books too!

12 July 2012


Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Orion
UK Release date: June 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him. But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him? (Goodreads)

Fantasy is one of my favourite favourite genres, but sometimes when I read fantasy books I can get completely overwhelmed by the setting and world building and the history of the story. But The Gathering Dark wasn't like that at all. The concept of magic wielding Grisha living in Ravka was set up beautifully, so that it completely captured my imagination and was easy to read and get into. With the menacing Shadow Fold splitting Ravka in two, there was a sense of foreboding underlying and driving the plot. As Alina discovered some hidden powers, she was thrown into a completely new world which tested her, amazed but also surprised her.

I loved the idea that Grisha had hierarchies based on their gifts and area of expertise, whether that was healers or Fabirkators. From the outside, Grisha seemed magical, perfect and beautiful - a life of splendor. But on the inside there was actually jealousy, prejudice and fighting. With the Darkling at the top of that hierarchy, everyone deferred to him and fought for his attention. It was these psychological complexities that added so much intrigue as I tried to understand each of the characters and whether they could be trusted or not.

The Darkling was the most mysterious character of all; he was aloof, secretive and powerful. He would often disappear for weeks, coming and going as he pleased. As leader of the Grisha, he had this appeal and attraction surrounding him that people in positions of power often have, and like Alina I could feel myself drawn to him. Despite this, there was also something about him that felt a little dangerous and exciting but I couldn't put my finger on it and figure out what that was. But I liked the fact that he oozed mystery because it kept me guessing.

Alina was the kind of protagonist that I like, as she started off weak and vulnerable and to be honest a little snappy. But as she developed her gifts she became much more positive and happy. I liked the fact throughout the story she still kept her own sense of personality and didn't submit to everyone else's wishes.

Mal and Alina have had this close connection since childhood when they met in an orphanage. They've been best friends for years, but Alina can't help but feel something more for him. But he doesn't seem to notice her, which made me want to shake him senseless. To start with we didn't really see much of Mal, but later into the story he really came into his own and I have to admit I started falling for him a little. His protectiveness and caring side balanced really well against his manly, rugged, independent side making him the perfect hero to any story.

The Dark Gathering was a thrilling and enchanting fantasy; easy to read and hard to put down.

Rating: 5*

10 July 2012


Author: Chrissie Keighery
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Templar
UK Release date: July 2012
Genre: YA, contemporary
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Fifteen-year-old Demi's world is shattered when she is left profoundly deaf by a sudden illness. Everything is different now, and Demi must learn to adapt to a new school, new friends and even learn a whole new language. Whisper is a coming-of-age tale, about discovering who you are and where you fit in life. About friendships and first love and, most of all, learning to love the person you are. (Goodreads)

Whisper was very focused on Demi’s personal journey which was really touching and moving, making me empathise with her new situation in life. She struggled to cope with losing her hearing, trying to stay in touch with her old friends, and deal with the insecurities of being deaf. Demi felt pulled in two different directions: trying to maintain a normal life with hearing friends and family, and trying to connect with her new deaf friends who can completely understand her. Being written in first person, it really put me in her shoes and made me feel the frustration she felt when she couldn’t ‘hear’ or lip-read someone or when she couldn’t quite keep up with fast signers.

Stellar is the cool girl at Demi's new deaf school; she is confident and very secure with her identity as a deaf person. She isn’t necessarily easy to sympathise with though because she has such strong views on how ‘hearies’ and deaf people should stick to their own communities and deaf shouldn't make any concessions for hearing people. Her role however is crucial as she gives an insight into a very different life to what I'm personally used to - she has grown up in a completely deaf family, never having to socialise or compromise with hearing people. It was a different type of discrimination to what I had expected, but her opinions were certainly thought provoking.

To contrast against Stellar, Demi’s mum firmly wanted her to maintain as many links with the hearing world as possible. She constantly nagged and tried to show how staying in her ‘normal; school would be better for Demi. These polar opposites played a big part in influencing and shaping Demi’s thoughts but also causing her to question herself, other people and her choices.

In terms of the other characters I loved them all - Keisha was so upbeat; the nephews Harry and Oscar were absolutely adorable; and her perfect sister was a surprise. Each had their own distinct personalities. I would have liked to have seen Ethan in more depth and seen a bit more of him and Demi getting to know each other. But I still liked him and really enjoyed the moments him and Demi shared together.

There were a few incidences and hints of past events played up at the start as big issues, but as we learnt what they were, they didn’t seem that big to me as a hearing person anyway. But I think it is important for the reader to appreciate that something that would seem small to us could be a huge thing for something who can’t hear. Situations can easily become out of control when hearing and non-hearing people aren’t able to communicate and understand each other. For Demi, whose deafness was fairly recent, it is these misunderstandings and conflicts that caused her so much anxiety and anger.

Whisper was really easy and enjoyable to read and I finished it really quickly. Demi's narrative was insightful and the story was a captivating and absolutely fascinating insight into a young girl's life without hearing. I think every school library should have this book and every teenager should read it.

Rating: 5*

8 July 2012


Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Random House
UK Release date: 10th July 2012
Genre: Fantasy
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

In the realm of Goredd, dragons and humans live side by side in a fragile attempt at peace. Their differences keep them apart; dragons believing humans are irrational, indulging in unnecessary emotions, and humans believing dragons are cold, dangerous creatures with no soul. When Seraphina is dragged into the limelight by her musical talents, she risks exposing her dangerous secret. But it is this secret that will help uncover a dangerous plot to upset the balance between humans and dragons.

Seraphina is a complex and captivating fantasy featuring dragons as we have never seen them before. They are able to transform into saarantrai or human form and live alongside humans. However the peace between dragons and humans is very precarious and tenuous. Neither side fully trusts the other and their differences makes them suspicious and wary of each other.

I love the fact that dragons are scientific, rational, logical creatures; they don’t understand or want human emotions, which sully the mind and infect their rational decision-making. Their lack of affection, sympathy or appreciation for art and music puts them at a distance from humans, which seems irreconcilable. And this is why I loved Orma, a dragon secretly living in Goredd in human form. He struggled to understand the emotions and physiological reactions he was feeling as a human, and yet he refused to ignore them. He was heartwarming and full of funny contrasts.

Although I struggled a little with the first chapter, once I got into the story I found it completely absorbing and captivating. There are so many different elements to the story from the extravagant world building, intriguing and multilayered characters, and underlying tension and prejudice between human and dragon kind.

As the female protagonist, I can’t think of anyone better than Seraphina. For someone so young she was mature, vulnerable, sassy, reserved and outspoken all at the same time. Despite wanting to live a quiet life, her talents as a musician draw her into the palace and into the public eye. Here she meets Prince Lucian, a strong man with his own insecurities. Their interactions and the slowly building romantic tension between them was charming and thrilling. A big plus for me was that Hartman didn’t feel the need to constantly remind the reader how attractive Prince Lucian was. His personality and Seraphina’s feelings for him did all the work, leaving me slightly infatuated and very fond of him.

The concept of Seraphina’s ‘mind-garden’ is unusual and strange and yet so brilliant. Here Seraphina controls and tends her ‘unruly’ thoughts to prevent her visions and breakdowns. Unusual characters and landscapes bloom in her mind and threaten to expose her secret. I won’t say more about this, but will only say you must give this book a read!

Seraphina is a beautifully unique and fascinating debut fantasy. I can’t wait to read more from Rachel Hartman.

Rating: 5*

You can check out the all-new Seraphina website here: www.SeraphinaBooks.com and view the trailer for Seraphina below:

7 July 2012


When I got an invitation to Macmillan Children's Book's 4th of July celebration for Dreamless, I was so excited. Partly because I'm extremely nosy and I look snooping around publisher's offices. But also because Josephine Angelini was going to do a live web chat from America.

Not only did the lovely staff at Macmillan go all out decorating their office with flags, blue, white and red stars and striped banners, but they made lots of stunning food from rocky road, hot dogs and cupcakes set out like the American flag!

But to top it all off, Josephine was absolutely amazing - so bubbly, chatty and friendly. It was so lovely to hear how characters from Starcrossed are based on members of her family, from Jerry (named after her brother) to the Delos family in general which is based on her own large and loud family life. I'd never really thought about it before, but Josephine explained how thinking about her own family helped her develop the characters, by using traits and situations from real life (not including shooting thunder bolts) to embellish the characters.

Josephine explained how her initial inspiration for Starcrossed came from seeing Romeo & Juliet and the Iliad on the bookshelves next to each other and wondering why no-one had thought to modernise the story of Helen of Troy. I have to admit when Josephine said she would like to have dinner with Hector most out of all her characters, I couldn't help but agree!

We were also lucky enough to hear a snippet from Goddess, #3 in the series, which I can't wait for. Shame we have to wait a year for it. And can I also say, considering it was early morning for Josephine, she somehow managed to look flawlessly beautiful! This woman can do no wrong!

I am rather annoyed at myself for not taking any more pictures, but I was just so overwhelmed my brain kind of stopped functioning properly. But honestly, with cupcakes and Josephine on web chat, who can blame me!!

If you haven't seen the web chat, hop over to My Kinda Book's Google + site to take a look.

6 July 2012


*Although there won't be spoilers for Dreamless, there will be spoilers about things that happen in Starcrossed. You can read my review of Starcrossed, the first in the series, here.

Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Yes, #2
UK Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
UK Release date: 5th July 2012
Genre: YA, mythological
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Can true love be forgotten?
As the only scion who can descend into the Underworld, Helen Hamilton has been given a nearly impossible task. By night she wanders through Hades, trying to stop the endless cycle of revenge that has cursed her family. By day she struggles to overcome the fatigue that is rapidly eroding her sanity. Without Lucas by her side, Helen is not sure she has the strength to go on.
Just as Helen is pushed to her breaking point, a mysterious new Scion comes to her rescue. Funny and brave, Orion shields her from the dangers of the Underworld. But time is running out--a ruthless foe plots against them, and the Furies' cry for blood is growing louder.
As the ancient Greek world collides with the mortal one, Helen's sheltered life on Nantucket descends into chaos. But the hardest task of all will be forgetting Lucas Delos. (Goodreads)

Although I enjoyed Starcrossed, I didn't fall deeply and madly for it. But I have to say Dreamless totally won me over. I loved Angelini's style of writing, which was easy to read and flowed well. The story had great pace as so much happened action and plot wise, and there are so many twists, turns and revelations that I just couldn't guess what direction the story might take. I was completely drawn in and really wanted to find out if Helen could free scions.

In Starcrossed we find out that Helen and Lucas are first cousins and all hope of them having a relationship is destroyed. It's a bit of a sticky situation, because despite knowing they shouldn't be they are still inevitably drawn to each other and struggle to suppress their feelings; but being cousins makes it wrong and slightly icky. With the addition of hunky, funny and caring Orion, Helen has someone else she likes but is forbidden to be with. This makes for a great love triangle, as they all need each other but their feelings for each other are forbidden. The fact that all of them is well rounded with their own strengths and weaknesses and can standalone as a character makes it all the more real - why wouldn't Helen fall for Orion, as he's down to earth, protective and kind?

Greek mythology is an integral part of Dreamless's plot, and its been worked in really well. Obviously a lot of thought, research and planning has been done, to match the story with myths and effectively create and develop the characters, and it shows in the reading. Helen's nightly visits to the Underworld are hellish (quite literally!) and a really great addition is that we get to see a lot more of the Gods from Hades, Persephone, and Ares. Despite having a huge cast of characters, Angelini has managed to build in relevant backstories for each and create well rounded individuals.

Dreamless is a fast paced action-packed whirlwind of forbidden romance and greek mythology. This series just gets better!

Rating: 5*

4 July 2012


Author: Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: May 2012
UK Release date: Amulet
Genre: YA
Read via NetGalley

On her 18th birthday Lena Mattacascar decides to leave the safety of home and travel to the dangerous and wild lands of Scree to find her father and discover the truth behind her goblin-like hands and feet. On her journey she meets young Jimson Quiggley on his way to start a new life as librarian to Mr Beasley at Zephyr House, and he offers Lena a job and a safe haven when she needs it. But as the hunt for peculiars increases, Lena, Jimson and the eccentric Mr Beasley must flee to Scree to survive.

Lena is on a journey of self discovery as she heads off to Scree to find out who her father really is and if the rumours of her being descended from a goblin are true. As being a peculiar is a considered shameful and peculiars are treated with discrimination, contempt and mistrust, Lena tries to hide her hands and feet and who she really is. As she travels further north though, she is faced with people who accept her for who she is and others who vilify her, and she must learn to stand up for herself and accept herself no matter what. She does this with courage and bravery, and she was a great protagnoist for the story.

The most intriguing characters for me were the inventor Mr Beasley and his mysterious cat. Mr Beasley was an eccentric, missing his eyebrows, and able to invent pretty much anything; and he was constantly joined by his cat, who seems to be rather human-like and hyper-intelligent and potentially hiding some deep dark secret. I loved the mystery surrounding this unusual pair and the fact that they seemed to somehow know everything and could pretty much solve anything too.

I was intrigued to find out who the peculiars might be. Do they have special abilities? Are their abnormalities just genetic anomalies? Is Lena one or not? In fact peculiars seems to pass down unusual traits, such as wings or goblinism. I would tell you more about them, but actually these are the only two types of peculiars that were mentioned and I don't know much else about peculiars in general. I spent a lot of the story waiting and wanting to find more peculiars but it never happened, and because of this expectation I was a little disappointed at the end. From the research I've done, this seems to be a standalone book. But actually it reads like there is more to come and frankly I think it would benefit from a follow-on book as such, which could involve more peculiars and more of a definitive conclusion to the story.

I had to admit I also had trouble placing the time and setting of the story. At first I thought it was set in a completely new fantasy place with Scree as a wilderness at its north. But as references were made to Darwin, Lister, and historical authors, I realised it was set somewhere in the late 1800s to early 1900s. I always get thrown a little when fantasy and reality are mixed together this way, and whilst other readers might not find it an issue I prefer historical and fantasy genres to be kept pretty separate.

The Peculiars is a steampunk infused, historical fantasy. Although I didn't necessarily enjoy some of the different aspects of the story, I think there is still plenty of potential for character development and more involvement from peculiars which could be better harnessed in a second book.

Rating: 3.5*

2 July 2012


Author: Anne Cassidy
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
UK Release date: May 2012
Genre: YA Crime
Read via NetGalley
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

When Rose was twelve, her mother and stepfather went out for dinner and never came back. Now seventeen, she lives with her grandmother and goes to school in London. She’s always wondered about her stepbrother, Joshua, whom she only lived with briefly and who was also relocated after their parents’ disappearance. When Rose and Joshua meet again, they find they have much in common, including a desire to uncover the mystery surrounding their parents’ disappearance . . . and a mutual attraction to each other. But when Rose witnesses the murders of not one but two of her classmates, she must uncover who is behind these violent crimes. And when she and Joshua discover that a much larger conspiracy is underway, both of their lives will be in danger. From international bestseller Anne Cassidy, this first in a fastpaced and romantic new mystery series will keep readers guessing. (Goodreads)

Rose is an unlikely heroine at the start of the book because she expresses so little emotion. She's hidden inside herself and withdrawn from connecting with other people on any level so that she won't get hurt emotionally. This is only compounded by her cold aunt, who offers her no affection or love. But deep down Rose is tough and forthright and when Emma asks for her help she can't resist helping her and later on investigating the two deaths. Partly because no one did for her parents, but also because underneath her tough shell she is kind and caring. If you give her time, she will grow on you.

Joshua is this strange combination of friend, step-brother, and potentially something more. Rose is really uncertain of her feelings towards him, and because of his apparent sisterly feelings for her, she is afraid to do anything about it. There isn't really any romance, more of an underlying hint and allusion to something that could happen. I'm hoping the rest of the series builds on this and we might see something develop between or change between them. I also we get to see more of Joshua and what he is like behind his obsession to find his dad.

There is a lot of intrigue and tension in Dead Time. As Rose becomes drawn into the murders of two fellow students at her school, the tension started to rise. Rose couldn't help but investigate who was behind the murders, and often I wanted to shout at her because you could just feel something bad was going to happen. With the murders and her parents' disappearance there are different clues to follow and questions to answer, and whilst I enjoyed all the mystery behind the story I wanted there to be even more. I wanted more action, drama and intrigue, and I wanted to get a little further into the mystery behind her mum's disappearance.

Dead Time is a murder-mystery ride infused with intrigue and danger.

Rating: 3.5*

Check out the trailer: