Book Review · Vlogs

February 2015 Reads.

Apologies for the tardiness of this, but yesterday I finally filmed my February 2015 Reads vlog. I explain in it that the beginning of March was incredibly busy for me (by the 10th March I’d slept at least one night in 4 different towns and cities) and then my household was hit by an attack of germs that would have meant me trying to vlog with barely any voice.

Better late than never, here’s my run down of the books I read in February:

The books, in order of reading, are:

  • No True Echo by Gareth P. Jones. Hot Key Books.
  • Captive by A.J. Grainger. Simon & Schuster UK.
  • Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan. Electric Monkey.
  • All Balls and Glitter: My Life by Craig Revel Horwood. Michael O’Mara Books.
  • Worry Magic by Dawn McNiff. Hot Key Books.
  • Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell. Headline.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Titan Books.

There are still lots of things I want to improve on in these videos, I am pleased however that I managed to discuss 7 books in less time than it took me to introduce myself and talk about 3 books in my last effort! Just.

My copies of No True Echo, Captive, Marly’s Ghost, Worry Magic, Three Amazing Things About You and A Darker Shade of Magic were provided by the publisher for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

PoP: Brave Little Owl by Penny Little & Sean Julian and What’s in the Egg, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

PoP Tuesdays on Juniper’s Jungle bring two reviews of picture books.

Brave Little Owl by Penny Little & Sean Julian (illustrator). Red Fox.
BraveLittleOwlLittle Owl would love to learn to fly in time for her grandma’s birthday. But flying is scary, especially when your brothers won’t stop teasing you.

Will anyone be able to help Little Owl face her fears?

This book is really very cute. It tells the story of Little Owl, she’s scared to learn to fly but desperate to conquer her fears. I think anyone reading the book will find themselves rooting for her, particularly when her very first efforts end in disappointment. Her mildly bratty older brothers also help the reader to side with Little Owl! I liked the way Grandpa Owl was firmly on everyone’s side, wanting his grandbabies to succeed in flying, but also stood up for Little Owl when her brothers were mean – his message that not everyone is good at everything is such a valuable one for all children to hear.

The illustrations are very attractive, they’re richly coloured without ever feeling loud. The story takes place as night is falling, the colours used reflect this with the sky becoming darker over the course of the book. Towards the end of the book there is a single fold out page, this works brilliantly well with the story telling making a real moment out of something that deserves such recognition.

A really lovely picture book that I’d certainly be looking at adding to my collection.

What’s in the Egg, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman (illustrator). Simon and Schuster.
WhatsInTheEggLittle Pip liked in when her family was just three. But now the egg seems to be all Mummy and Daddy can think about, and little Pip can’t understand why… until the egg finally cracks open.

I love penguins, so I was drawn to this book with its beautiful cover. The story is about a young penguin who doesn’t understand why her parents are obsessed with the new Egg they have – they’re so focused on keeping it warm and safe, they don’t have time to play with her or to even think about anything that isn’t the Egg. Slowly but surely she becomes more involved with the Egg, her instincts take over but she still thinks the Egg is unnecessary. The ending is as expected, but it’s very lovely and heart warming.

I liked the illustrations in this book, though I was interested by the fact that Pip is a dark inky blue colour rather than the black like all of the other penguins in the book. I wonder if this is to keep the focus on her, and also to help distinguish her from the other penguins – the style is very natural rather than cartoony so the penguins look like actual penguins.

This book will of course make a really good book to share with a child that has a sibling on the way though its length probably means it would be best suited to slightly older children, maybe 4+ as there’s a lot of story to sit through. This is the third book that features Little Pip, I’d certainly like to read the other two.

Both books featured in this post were borrowed from my local library.

Book Review

Recent Reads: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith & Little White Lies by Katie Dale.

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. Headline.
HappyIf fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

I loved Jennifer E. Smith’s previous novel The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight (see my review here) so was really excited to pick this book up to read. The prologue sets up the story beautifully, an email sent accidentally to the wrong address initiates a conversation between two strangers. The spark between the two jumps off the page and you find yourself instantly invested in what’s going to happen between the two of them. I actually paused when I reached the end of the prologue so I could hug the book – I loved it that dearly already.

The rest of the book lives beautifully up to the joy of the prologue. Reading the book gave me lovely warm, happy feelings – the blend of humour, romance and fun makes for a delightful read. There is a quest aspect to the book, this is something I love when it’s done well and as you’ve probably already guessed it’s done well in this book.

I loved both Ellie and Graham they were the sort of characters I’d have like to have hung around with as a teenager. My only sadness came from the fact that the book had to end, I could have read about them for far longer. That said, I was highly satisfied by the ending and was left with an entirely content feeling.

Little White Lies by Katie Dale. Simon & Schuster.
imageThe first time Lou meets tall, dark, and handsome Christian, she knows he’s hiding something. Why does he clam up every time she asks about his past? Why doesn’t he have any family photos and why does he dye his blond hair black?

Then suddenly his terrible secret is unveiled to the world – and it seems everything he’s ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in terrible danger? But Christian isn’t the only one keeping secrets. For what if their chance meeting was no accident at all …?

As lie follows lie, nothing is as it seems, and soon Lou finds herself ensnared in a web of deceit, her loyalties torn, her emotions in tatters as she faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: should she shatter the lives of those she holds dearest, or betray the guy who, against all odds, she’s fallen in love with?

This is another book I had high hopes for, having loved Katie’s debut novel Someone Else’s Life (see my review here). The blurb grabbed my attention, I couldn’t wait to dive in and find out what on earth it all meant.

By and large I really enjoyed the book. The university setting is always one I want to see used more (despite it being set at university with slightly older teens this book is definitely young adult rather than new adult) and the mystery builds nicely within the book.

Partway through the book something happened that I found hard to swallow. I’m fine with twists and turns, and I love having the rug swept from under me by a plot but unfortunately in this instance there was a twist that just didn’t work for me and it took me a while to settle back into the book.

The characters are vivid creations, you really feel like you’re surrounded by them. The situations that they find themselves in are big and challenging, the way they deal with them is always understandable even if it doesn’t always seem like the best choice – this helps the characters to feel believable.

My quibble with a plot twist was not enough to stop me enjoying the book. It’s a tense read and one that left me thinking for sometime after I’d finished reading.

Blog Tour

Blog Tour: Katie Dale’s Little White Lies.

LittleWhiteLies

LITTLE WHITE LIES

Gorgeous Christian is a mystery. Why does he dye his hair, clam up whenever Lou asks about his past, and have no family photos? But when Christian’s secret is publicly revealed, Lou finds herself in terrible danger – and keeping secrets of her own…

As lie follows lie, nothing is as it seems, and soon Lou finds herself ensnared in a web of deceit, her loyalties torn, her emotions in tatters as she faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: should she shatter the lives of those she holds dearest, or betray the guy who, against all odds, she’s fallen in love with?

I’m very pleased to welcome Katie Dale back to my blog as she tours her brand new book, Little White Lies. Over to you Katie!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, having written a book entitled LITTLE WHITE LIES, in which the characters are somewhat truthfully-challenged, it got me to thinking about the little lies we all tell. Some are white – eg we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, so it’s kinder to lie. Some are perhaps more on the greyish side – eg no one gets hurt but it gets us out of trouble! And after some reflection, I’ve come up with the five “white” lies I confess I’m most guilty of telling…

1) “I’m not scared”
Okay, so I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat (I can’t even watch horror movies – even Scream freaks me out), but I try to put on a good front. I trained as an actress, so when I’m talking in front of a large crowd or walking down a dark street at night I try my best to convince everyone (and myself!) that I’m cool, calm and confident – even if my heart’s racing a mile a minute and my legs are turning to jelly!

2) “I have read the terms and conditions”
I know, I know, I should read the terms and conditions of anything I agree to, but they’re just on everything everywhere and they’re so LONG! I know it’s a gamble, and a risk, and they’ll probably come back to bite me on the bottom some day, but life’s just too short!

3) “Oh that’s lovely, thank you so much!”
One Christmas, my little niece opened practically every one of her presents with an exclamation of “It’s just what I always wanted! What is it?” which made us all crack up, but she’s learning early. No matter how inappropriate/boring/unwanted a present may be, I always try to make the giver feel like I’m really delighted – it’s the thought that counts, after all. (Even the tactful lemon-scented deodorising footspray I got for Christmas that time, Mum! Nice!)

4) “If you don’t come now, we’ll leave without you…”
Another white lie I’ve learned since my niece came along. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get her to leave the swings/ducks/toys so this lie makes her hurry up, even though I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe it.

5) “The dog/cat/hamster ate my homework”
When I was at school I was the queen of excuses. It wasn’t deliberate, but somehow on the bus in I’d always discover some piece of homework I’d forgotten to do – and I’d try desperately to do it on the bus – but sometimes there just wasn’t time. I still have a recurring nightmare about not having done my homework on time – it’s really stressful!

So these are five of the white lies I’m most guilty of telling – what are yours?

Little White Lies is out now, published by Simon & Schuster UK. You can find Katie’s blog here, and can find her on Twitter as @katiedaleuk.

Book Meme

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts I’m Looking Forward To.

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature created by The Broke and the Bookish so that bloggers can share lists of bookish things.

TTT3W

Debuts is the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. I love this idea for a top ten as it’s made me go and have a look to see what debuts different publishers have, I’ve stuck to books being published in the UK and aimed at children and teens. I’ve sorted my list by publication date, like always images and synopses come from Goodreads or the publisher’s website.

SplinteredSplintered by A.G. Howard. Published 1st January by A & C Kids.
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

SorrowlineSorrowline by Niel Bushnell. Published 3rd January by Andersen Press.
The past is not a frozen place. Graveyards are not dead ends. And if the Sorrowline lets you in there is a hidden world of adventure waiting behind every gravestone.

Just when 12-year-old Jack Morrow’s life is falling apart he discovers his natural ability to travel through Sorrowlines: channels that connect every gravestone with the date of the person’s death. Confused and alone Jack finds himself in 1940. He embarks on an adventure through London during the Blitz with Davy, his teenage grandfather, to find a mystical Rose that might just save his mother’s life, a mother who he has already seen die. But the terrible power of the Rose of Annwn, is sought by many, and the forces of a secret world are determined to find it first. With a league of Undead Knights of his trail, commanded by the immortal Rouland, can Jack decipher the dark secret hidden at the heart of his family? Can he change his own destiny and save his mother?

TragedyPaperThe Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. Published 10th January by Random House Children’s.
Tim Macbeth is a 17-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is, “Enter here to be and find a friend.” Tim does not expect to find a friend; all he really wants to do is escape his senior year unnoticed. Despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “it” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, and she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone finds out. Tim and Vanessa enter into a clandestine relationship, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher.

The story unfolds from two alternating viewpoints: Tim, the tragic, love-struck figure, and Duncan, a current senior, who uncovers the truth behind Tim and Vanessa’s story and will consequently produce the greatest Tragedy Paper in Irving’s history.

PantomimePantomime by Laura Lam. Published 7th February by Strange Chemistry.
R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass – remnants of a mysterious civilisation long gone – are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimeras is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide.

Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada.

InfiniteSkyInfinite Sky by C.J. Flood. Published 14 February by Simon & Schuster.
Iris Dancy’s free-spirited mum has left for Tunisia, her dad’s rarely sober and her brother’s determined to fight anyone with a pair of fists.

When a family of travellers move into the overgrown paddock overnight, her dad looks set to finally lose it. Gypsies are parasites he says, but Iris is intrigued. As her dad plans to evict the travelling family, Iris makes friends with their teenage son. Trick Deran is a bare knuckle boxer who says he’s done with fighting, but is he telling the truth?

When tools go missing from the shed, the travellers are the first suspects. Iris’s brother, Sam, warns her to stay away from Trick; he’s dangerous, but Iris can no longer blindly follow her brother’s advice. He’s got secrets of his own, and she’s not sure he can be trusted himself.

Infinite Sky is a family story about betrayal and loyalty, and love.

ZombieGoldfishMy Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O’Hara. Published 28th February by Macmillan Children’s Books.
‘Sami was still holding the goldfish. “Swishy little fishy,” she whispered, over and over. Frankie stared at her with his big, bulging, glowing eyes. Suddenly a little light bulb went on . . . Frankie was a Big Fat Zombie Goldfish and somehow he’d hypnotized my best friend’s sister!’ Tom’s big brother is an Evil Scientist who wants to experiment on Tom’s new goldfish, Frankie. Can Tom save his fish from being dunked in radioactive gunge? Er, no. In an act of desperation Tom zaps Frankie with a battery, bringing him back to life! But there’s something weird about the new Frankie – he’s now a zombie goldfish with hypnotic powers, and he wants revenge . . . Tom has a difficult choice to make – save his evil brother, or save his fishy friend?

AcidACID by Emma Pass. Published 25th April by Corgi Children’s / Random House Children’s.
ACID – the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.
They see everything. They know everything.
They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.
I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong.

IfYouFindMeIf You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. Published 2nd May by Indigo.
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the “normal” life of school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go … a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

Zenn Scarlett by Christian Schoon. Published 7th May by Strange Chemistry.
Zenn Scarlett is a bright, determined, occasionally a-little-too-smart-for-her-own-good 17-year-old girl training hard to become an exoveterinarian. That means she’s specializing in the treatment of exotic alien life forms, mostly large and generally dangerous. Her novice year of training at the Ciscan Cloister Exovet Clinic on Mars will find her working with alien patients from whalehounds the size of a hay barn to a baby Kiran Sunkiller, a colossal floating creature that will grow up to carry a whole sky-city on its back.

But after a series of inexplicable animal escapes from the school and other near-disasters, the Cloister is in real danger of being shut down by a group of alien-hating officials. If that happens, Zenn knows only too well the grim fate awaiting the creatures she loves.

Now, she must unravel the baffling events plaguing her school, before someone is hurt or killed, before everything she cares about is ripped away from her and her family forever. To solve this mystery – and live to tell about it – Zenn will have to put her new exovet skills to work in ways she never imagined, and in the process learn just how powerful compassion and empathy can be.

Taste Test by Kelly Fiore. Published 20th August by Bloomsbury USA.
If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. Her father owns one of North Carolina’s most successful barbeque joints and she’s been shredding pork and basting baby back ribs since she could reach the counter. When Taste Test, a reality cooking show for teens, accepts her for their fifth season, it’s a chance for Nora to get out of her humble hometown and break into the big leagues of the culinary world. When she shows up on set at the North American Culinary Academy, however, it’s not just the New England weather that’s ice cold. Fights with her high-society roommate and run-ins with the son of a famous chef force Nora to work even harder to prove she’s a force to be reckoned with. But, despite winning challenges and falling for a fellow contestant, Nora can’t ignore the mysterious accidents that are plaguing the kitchen arena. It seems like someone is conducting eliminations of their own and Nora’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery before she, or anyone else, is “86ed” for good.

Book Review

My Week In Books. [6]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby. Bloomsbury Childrens.
I liked the way this book throws you right into the action from the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the main character – teen paparazzo Jo – as she tries to get photographs of teen heartthrob Ned. I found that I liked Jo straight away, and then as the book progressed there was more and more to like. When she’s sent undercover to try and get highly private pictures of Ned at a rehab retreat her dilemma over whether she can bring herself to invade his privacy for the amount of money being offered feels genuine and draws the reader in.

I often find books where one character is hiding a pretty big secret from the other really stressful to read. There was a small part of this book that had me feeling a bit stressed but the way the plot is handled and evolves meant that I found myself really enjoying it. There’s a lovely blend of humorous moments and more thoughtful moments, the latter in particular may well leave readers thinking about our current celebrity culture and its cost.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Sourcebooks Fire.
I absolutely loved this book. I expected it would be one that I would really enjoy, I’m a huge sports fan so the idea of a book about a female quarterback trying to lead her high school team to the championship final sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I was hooked within the first chapter and I didn’t put it down until I’d read the final page. The plot is wonderful, yes it’s a story about high school football but it’s also a story about friendship, about love, and about family.

I loved Jordan and found that I could really identify with her, despite the fact I’d never been remotely sporty let alone so entirely sport driven. The various team mates who played significant parts in the book all made me smile, they really came across well as a group of friends who all cared for and supported each other. I found myself wishing I was part of their social circle! I have a feeling that when I’m deciding on my top ten reads of the year this book may well make the cut.

Love at Second Sight by Cathy Hopkins. Simon & Schuster UK.
I hadn’t read anything by Cathy Hopkins before but I knew lovely Liz from My Favourite Books is a big fan so when she offered me a copy of this to read I snapped it up. I have to admit that before I started reading I wasn’t 100% sure about it, the plot surrounds a teen girl being told by a clairvoyant that her true love from a former life is someone she knows in this life so she has a second chance of love with him. I needn’t have been concerned though, the plot is well constructed and really works.

Jo, the main character, is a lovely character. She’s a little bit different to a lot of the girls who get to take centre stage in YA fiction and I found this refreshing. Her friendship with Effy and Tash is lovely, I particularly liked the way that they complemented one another without having to agree on everything. I also liked the focus on genealogy within the plot, it was good to see it described well.

I enjoyed this read so much that I already have my next Cathy Hopkins on reserve at my local library.

Sammy Feral’s Diaries of Weird by Eleanor Hawken. Quercus.
This book is a lovely, quick, funny read that I’m sure middle grade readers will love. Written in diary form this is a really entertaining read about a boy whose family are all turned into werewolves at the zoo they run. After discovering his family’s misfortune Sammy is desperate to find a cure and to get them all back to normal. He’s helped along in his quest by the mysterious Donny and Red, a team of cryptozoologists who arrive at just the right time.

There are plenty of laughs in this book along with some moments that I’m sure the target audience will be appropriately scared by. I think this book has a lot of potential as a read aloud book, I can imagine a group listening very attentively to it. There are plans for a second book in this series, I’m looking forward to it already.

Book Review

Book Review : Someone Else’s Life by Katie Dale.

When seventeen-year-old Rosie’s mother, Trudie, dies from Huntington’s Disease, her pain is intensified by the knowledge that she has a fifty-per-cent chance of inheriting the crippling disease herself. Only when she tells her mum’s best friend, ‘Aunt Sarah’ that she is going to test for the disease does Sarah, a midwife, reveal that Trudie was not her biological mother after all…

Devastated, Rosie decides to trace her real mother, hitching along on her ex-boyfriend’s GAP year to follow her to Los Angeles. But all does not go to plan, and as Rosie discovers yet more of her family’s deeply-buried secrets and lies, she is left with an agonising decision of her own – one which will be the most heart-breaking and far-reaching of all…

I don’t remember how I first heard about Katie Dale’s debut novel, but I’ve been looking forward to reading it for ages. The synopsis really spoke to me, this idea of swapped babies and big family secrets sounded like it’d make for a really interesting read.

The plot worked so well for me, it mixed a pretty hard reality with a bit of romance, a little humour and some wonderful travel. I loved the variety of settings, at times the book really made me yearn to jump on a plane. There are lots of twists in the plot, it could very easily have slipped into feeling very contrived in places but I think Katie managed to avoid this quite nicely. Emotions run high within the book, at times I felt like I was actually going on this journey with the characters.

I knew a fair bit about Huntington’s Disease before starting the book, so I was really interested to see how it would work within the plot. I thought that it was used really well, enough information was given about it so that anyone who didn’t know anything about it would get a good idea of the disease and its effects but there was no irritating info-dump or the feeling of a public service announcement.

I thought that Rosie was a really interesting character. She’s been through so much and that’s clearly shaped the person that she is. I found Holly to be an equally interesting character, she also was driven so much by her emotions and the situation she is thrust into. I found at times it was hard to agree with the actions of both girls, but I could completely understand why they did the things they did. I loved Andy, I liked the way he wasn’t some perfect knight in shining armour but a flawed young man too.

I found that I couldn’t read this book fast enough, I got completely caught up in the story and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. I loved the way that so many times the characters had to make really difficult decisions and I found myself wondering what I would have done in the same situation. The way the plot is full of these moral dilemmas means that you’re thinking about it even after you’ve read the final page, always the sign of a good book.

This is a great debut, I’m definitely going to be picking up Katie’s next book.

Someone Else’s Life is published in paperback and eBook by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

I’m a stop on Katie’s blog tour, so make sure you come back on Thursday to read her really interesting guest post.