Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lets Get Lost - Adi Alsaid

"Hudson could hear the car's engine from blocks away. He stepped outside the garage and closed his eyes, listening, picking apart the sounds so that he would know exactly what he's have to fix before he even popped the hood. 
Standing there against the garage, listening to the still-far-off car, Hudson could forget about everything else. About school and girls and his future and whether his friends were actually jackasses or just acting like them." 

Leila is on a mission. She is travelling across the country at her own pace, doing her own thing. On the way she will meet and change the lives of four others. Hudson is a small-town mechanise with a lot of prospects, but willing to throw away his dreams for true love. Bree gets her kicks from Seizing the Tuesday, and a few stolen good along the way. Elliott believes life is like a brat pack movie but then his own goes off script and Sonia, she's worried that losing her boyfriend will make the only part of her life that still makes sense crumble away. When Leila leaves each of them, they find new meaning, but whilst she is helping them can she also help herself and find out more about her own truth? 

***
This was an interesting book that had so much potential. I loved the idea of it when I heard about it and was severely disappointed when the first chapter read like a cheesy porno. It got better though and I was glad I carried on the way I did… but it still didn’t do a lot to keep my attention. 

My thoughts on this book can be summed up by the following: It was bad, then it was really good, then it got bad again. I hated Hudson’s ‘part’ and was so glad when Leila’s trip took her away from him. Bree and Elliott were my favourites and the final part which belonged to Leila herself was good purely because you found out more about her and she found her own life changer in Dee - who was awesome. 

The writing left a lot to be desired and if, during Hudson’s part, Hudson drew attention to Leila’s smile one more time I might have chucked the book across the room. There wasn’t a lot to grab me throughout and I think in terms of the writing my favourite part would be the joke-y bits. Leila’s attitude and her wit really impressed me but the majority of the time she was a bit dream-like, or guardian angel-like. 

There’s not much for me to talk about with this book to be honest. I enjoyed the middle bits and really liked that not both of the boys Leila encountered fell for her. I liked the references to movies in Elliots part and I really resonated with Bree in her part. Even Sonia’s part made for a good story… I probably could have cut the first part out and snipped the last the pages from Leila’s part and really enjoyed the book but as it stands, I just didn’t like it that much - it was average. 

I know others have loved Lets Get Lost and I am probably one of the few who feels this way but it definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for at all! 

Lets Get Lost will be published on August 1st by Mira Ink. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

For more info please visit: 
Amazon | HiveGoodreads | Author Website 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

YALC; the good, the bad and the... erm, freaking out

So the very first Young Adult Literature Convention was a couple of weekends ago, as many of you will be aware. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on how I thought the weekend went on my blog as a fair few others have an in light of this article on the Telegraph. 

Reading the many blogs and that above mentioned article you would think that the event was a great success, and to be honest I really hope it was and that the people at Showmasters, who organise LFCC, think so too so it can be done again. Saying that though I think there are some things that would need to be addressed for me to return if the event happens. I want to be completely honest in my write up of YALC as I think its pointless not being vocal about where things went wrong - how will they be fixed if the people organising the event don’t know where things went wrong?

Reading that above sentence probably makes you think I’m about to go into full blown rant mode. I’m not. There was a lot I loved about YALC and a lot I didn’t. With this in mind I’m going to just muddle them up and tell you about them all. 

DRAGON! 
First up because YALC was part of LFCC (London Film & Comic Con) there was a lot of people there. Figures thrown around by a few of the organiser people I talked to were something like 70,000. This was both a good and a bad thing. The venue was packed, and it was boiling hot and the air conditioning didn’t come on on Saturday until quite late on. These were all downsides, but there were plenty of upsides. The LFCC go-ers are obviously well into getting their geek on. There was cosplay, there were geeky t-shirts, and the excitement radiated through the place. The cosplayers were great to see and the stalls in the LFCC side of the venue were totally my kind of thing so I enjoyed venturing over to them, especially as I have never experienced one of the comic cons before (I have been meaning too but thought I’d feel a little too out of my depth before now!). Being part of LFCC also meant that there were a fair few people who I think came wandering over to YALC just because it was there and to see what it was about, hopefully taking with them an insight into the fact that YA isn’t just for kids or thinking about looking into some of the authors on the panels and doing signings, but who knows! 

As I briefly touched on above the atmosphere for the weekend was electric. There was a lot of excitement and I honesty felt more at home at YALC and LFCC than I have ever done before. Knowing that most people there were as big a geek as I am was awesome, even if their geekiness was over something other than books. In the YALC part of the venue it was brilliant knowing you could just start chatting to the people in front of you and they wouldn’t look you up and down like you were a weirdo as you would get trying to chat to people in the queues in your local Tesco. I felt like everyone there left their judgement at the door and that was awesome. 

I'm too sexy for this book...  
The schedule for YALC was pretty heavy. There were five author panels, five author/publisher workshops and a load of signings by those authors throughout the day. I think my main bug bear was that on Saturday I got there at 11.30 and the panel tickets I wanted to go to had all gone, the workshops were done in a lottery and I wasn’t interested in those and there wasn’t much else to do other than sit and wait for the signings I wanted to go to. There needed to be more on in the YALC zone other than a swag stand and a Waterstones stand I think… However I understand that this was the first year of doing the event so its hard to work out how to do it when it hasn't been done before. 
On the Sunday we got there early and managed to get tickets for the two events I wanted to go to the most. The first, ‘I’m too sexy for this book’ with James Dawson, Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles talking about sex in YA was fantastic. I managed to get a seat near the front, could see and hear everything and generally had a great laugh while there was talking of ‘hammering it out’, ‘trickle down effects’ and ‘alternative hole usage.’ The speakers for the mics could have done with being a bit further back though as the panel area was in the open, and where we were sat for the second panel was pretty much impossible to hear anything. There were also people coming over and just sitting down whilst they waited for friends, family etc, to go into the photo booths either side of the panel area to get their pictures with Lena Headey and Stan Lee… which was annoying. I think a mostly walled off space for the talks is needed somehow to stop this from happening especially as those people were coming and sitting down and talking among themselves whilst the people who wanted to hear the authors talking couldn’t hear a thing. Quite rude really! 

When it came to the signings, there was a fair bit of shuffling around needed. Basically on the Saturday the queue for Rainbow Rowell was ridiculous, especially considering there was ample space on a signing table that was more accessible yet she was seated somewhere awkward to get to! This was rectified on Sunday though and I think the organisers learnt their lesson fast with that one. Most of the authors were awesome and would have a quick chat whilst signing and this did make things go slower but gave a more personal experience. I will say that there probably should have been a limit on the number of books a person could take to be signed, even if its a ‘get three signed then return to the back of the queue if you have more’ rule because it wasn’t fair on other fans in the Darren Shan and Malorie Blackman queue who had to be turned away because the author had to leave for a panel and other commitments.
Me and Sarra Manning! 
My personal signing highlights had to be meeting authors I don’t talk to that much who actually knew my name from my twitter account like Sarah Crossan, Alexia Casale and, much to my surprise, Sarra Manning. This was awesome and especially awesome was Sarra because I have loved her work since I was 13 and I just freaked out inside when she was aware of me… I actually went quite quiet and shy because I was freaking out inside so much so she probably thinks I’m really weird but never mind! Then I finally got to meet some of the awesome authors I talk to a fair bit but only online like Cat Clarke and CJ Skuse, and see some others who I’ve met before but still love to pieces like Non Pratt and Tanya Byrne. 

It was great to meet some of the people from the publishers that I talk to a lot and I really do appreciate the hard work they did to make YALC special for everyone. I have to give a massive shout out to Nina from Indigo for sorting out the blogger brunch on Sunday morning and to Harriet from Random House who helped me out a lot with a major problem I had with the cloakroom at the venue! 

I honestly think Sunday was so much better organised that Saturday and I am so glad I went back. I was considering not doing so and I know other people who didn't bother, but to be honest it was better, the air conditioning was on, there was more space in the really busy signings as they moved them to the more open signing spaces and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was saying on Saturday that I wouldn’t go back next year but if the problems with the panel area was solved then I probably would. I would also like to see more actual stands from the publishers but I understand that this might be a problem due to staffing and cost etc. 


All in all, YALC was an experience and it wasn’t always a great one, but at other times it was fantastic and one of the best things that I have done! Here’s to the next YALC and what I am hoping it will bring! Thanks again to Malorie Blackman, publishers, organisers, and authors for all their hard work! 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Letterbox Love (#86)


Letterbox Love is a weekly feature that is hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking and is a way for us to share the books that come through our letterbox, galleys and e-books (through our electronic letterbox) and any other bookish goodies that we want to tell you about.


New dinosaur alert! My new steggy is awesome but needs a name... suggestions welcome! 

For Review:

Viva Alice! - Judi Curtin (unsolicited) 

This is the latest book in a middle grace series called Alice and Megan I believe. Its not a series that has to be read in order as far as I can tell and sounds quite sweet. Not my kinda thing but it might be a fun quick read on one of these hot days we're having! Thanks to O'Brien Press for this.
Published: 4th August


I love books told in verse so I am definitely looking forward to this! Its about a bully who turns into the bullied and I think he tells his own story in the verse... possibly. I will have to read more to find out! Thanks A&C Kids
Published: 14th October 


A middle grade comic book about a girl who is deaf and has to wear a super power hearing aid which makes he pretty much a superhero when it comes to hearing things others can't - like teachers in the staff room and in the bathroom! It looks to be a story about true friendship and being the person you want to be so I am excited for this. Thanks Amulet Books! 
Published: 1st September


EEEE! New Cat Winters! I am SOOOO Excited for this. I read Cats first book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds and adored it so I've been after more from her for ages. The Cure for Dreaming is another historical fiction set in Oregon in 1900 and follows the story of Olivia, a young suffragist. I can't tell you how much I love the sound of it! Thanks again Amulet Books! 
Published: 1st November


The Castle is about a girl who's father is missing presumed dead and mother is planning on remarrying. She's convinced her father is still alive and the story follows her as she goes looking for him. Sophia Bennett is an awesome author and I've loved her last two books so I am hoping to love this one too! Thanks Lovereading4kids.co.uk and Chicken House for sending this out! 
Published: 7th August 


Another unsolicited book from O'Brien Press but one I saw the cover for an instantly thought 'I need to read that!' Its about a girl who's mother is ill and who is doing everything to look after her mum, keep her head down and pretty much stay invisible, who then finds friendship in a boy who needs help and strikes up a friendship. I am intrigued especially with that beautiful cover and I am looking forward to reading it soon. Thanks O'Brien for this! 
Published: 11th August 


The awesome people at Electric Monkey have released these ace new covers for the collaboration books from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan and offered them up for review in light of David Levithan's UK Book tour. It turns out I actually already have read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist but I had a temporary moment of insanity and requested both books for some reason but I am looking forward to Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List! Thanks Electric Monkey for sending these! 
Published: 3rd July 


At YALC last weekend we got given a goody bag which had this and a copy of Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List in it! I gave away my copy of Naomi and Ely because I knew I had one on the way but this little beauty wasn't going anywhere. This is a non-fix book which is designed to help teens understand sexual orientation and gender identity. Its an important book and I am so glad James has written it because I know he will have tackled the issues in the same way he tackles everything, with humour and honesty. Thanks to Hot Key Books for giving us bloggers the chance to read this one! 
Published: 4th September

Friday, July 18, 2014

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie - Jeff Norton

“My name is Adam Meltzer. The last thing I remember was being stung by a bee while swinging at a robot-shaped piƱata on my twelfth birthday. I was dead before the candy hit the ground. 
That’s right, I’m dead. But I’m alive… ish. The ‘ish’ is important. I’m the walking dead. Talking too. Its awkward and gross, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” 

Adam is dead. He has crawled out of his coffin, dug his way out of his grave and is dropping soil all over his mums new carpet. He hates himself for this - and hang on, new carpet?! He is disgusted at his new zombie way of being but he has to find out what happened, solve his own death, and resurrection, and he needs to do it before someone else gets hurt, or joins him in the living dead camp. With the help of his new vegan vampire friend Corina and the chupacubra Ernesto, he will get to the bottom of his own demise, and it can’t kill him, because he’s been there and done that! 

***

What a hilarious and fun book! It was just what I needed when I was a bit down and tired and it brought light to my depressed lunchtimes at work after such an amazing weekend last weekend. This book is guaranteed to bring a smile to anyones face and you will be laughing throughout if you know whats good for you! 

This was my first Jeff Norton book and his ability to bring voices to life as you read seems to be an impressive one. All the characters in this book had their own unique way of talking and I loved that right from the get go. The characters themselves are funny, bright and pretty cool. You have Adam who is totally OCD and trying to get over the fact he hates his slimy zombie self whilst trying to find out what happened to make him that way. Corina is a bit overwhelmed at whats expected of her and takes it out on the whole world. Ernesto needed a little more about him but I did enjoy his input on the conversations. I think one thing that was fantastically captured in the books as the brother-sister relationship, which was so scarily like my own relationship was with my brother at that age - expect he wasn’t a zombie. 

The story is fun and it reads like the first in a series, setting up a possible strand of exciting things for Adam and his friends to explore. Its perfect for the age range with ease of following and a lot going on without overwhelming the reader. younger readers in the 8 to 12 age range are sure to enjoy it. 

The best thing by far in Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie was the humour. Adam, like I said, is a zombie with OCD tendencies so theres a lot to laugh about with his comments about everything being gross. The attitude of the characters and the situations they got themselves into made me laugh too and I absolutely adored the puns they came out with. 

This book was a bit of fun for me and something I would pick out when I’m feeling down because of the happiness it holds. I think a lot of kids will absolutely love it and I really do recommend it! 

Memoirs of a Neurotic Zombie will be published on August 7th by Faber and Faber. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

To buy or find out more about the book please visit: 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Red Ink - Julie Mayhew

“This is the recipe. 
Take five pounds of hulled whole wheat. Hold it in your arms. Feel that it weighs nothing compared to the load that lays heavy on your heart. Wash the wheat, let your tears join in. Strike a match, strike up faith, light the gas. Watch the wheat bubble and boil. See steam rising like hope.”

All her life Melons mum told her The Story. The Story was like a fairy tale gone wrong, but it was beautiful all the same. It was the story of how Melon came to be, how her mum became the person she was and of how the Fouraki family is cursed to die young. When her mum is run down and killed, Melon is alone with no family to speak of, she has to make sense of the world, and her family’s position in it.

***

What a powerful book! This coming of age tale is unlike one I have read before, with myth and an almost magical feel. I knew from the beginning of the book that there was something more going on than a simple tale of grief and this book has it all, and I loved it. 

One of my favourite things about this book was the way it was told. The chapters didn't flow through a linear time scale like they would in most books, instead the reader was told how many days since, or before, that chapter was in relation to the death of Melon’s mother. I loved this because you got a whole range of feelings and you were told the really important bits of Melons story at the time you really wanted them, instead of having to remember back to earlier in the book, it was all relative to what had just been mentioned in the previous chapter or what was coming up in the next. 

There was technically three stories in this one book, there was Melons story about her life, just before, on the day of and after her mums death, then there was her mum’s story, told to her at various points in her life, mostly when she was feeling down about having a name like Melon, and finally there was the true story. I knew this was coming, all the way through the book there are little clues that don’t add up about things that Melon remembers and I loved that the reader got these insights because of the way the book was written. You know that Melon went to see her great aunt at 9 and her great aunt didn't know her name, you pick up on some things that Melons mum says that Melon doesn't pick up on cos its just her mum being her overdramatic self. 

I was fortunate to see Julie Mayhew at YALC this past weekend and I got her to sign my book, at the time I was part way through and when she looked at where I was she kind of went ‘ooooh, you're there! hhhmmm.’ I was about 2/3 of the way through at that point and as soon as I got on the train home and finished the book I realised why I got that reaction, about 3 pages after where I was, it got real. I loved that last 100 pages more than any of the rest of the book and I couldn’t stop reading. All my curiosities were answered and Melon became her true self - not the angry, world hating girl she was at the beginning of the book, but someone who will tackle things head on and be herself, I loved it. 

Melon isn’t a nice character in places and Julie said on the panel at YALC that Melon has been called a b*tch and people think she's selfish, I didn't get that at all. To me Melon was a implicated girl that had a hard name to deal with, a pretty eccentric mum and a whole lot of anger and frustration. Theres something that you learn about half way through the book that completely justified, for me anyway, why she is the way she is and I felt her character shine through even more because when I read about that part of the story I knew that if I was in her situation, I would feel the exact same. 

All in all Red Ink is a fantastic novel which really is worth a read. The contemporary aspects flow so well with the mythical and the anger seeps into the pages as you turn them, but if you are like me, you can’t help but feel for Melon and what she's going through. 

Red Ink was published in February 2013 by Hot Key Books, my copy was purchased. 

To buy or find out more about this book please visit: 

Monday, July 14, 2014

True Fire - Gary Meehan

“Megan had no trouble slipping away from the mil. Her grandfather was at the kitchen table, doing his accounts by the light of the single candle he permitted himself, while Gwyneth was in the living room, needing no light for what she was doing with Holt.” 

While Megan is out of the house sneaking a meeting with Wade, her village is invaded and her life is turned upside down. Wade is killed in front of her and she sees her grandfather slaughtered; the witches have returned. Taking to the road she wants revenge, she wants to raise an army to fight against the witches, but in a world of deception she is not sure which way she can turn. Every way seems to lead her down a more terrifying path for both her and her unborn baby and if Megan doesn’t act fast and learn who to trust her world may never turn the right way again. 

***

This book was really surprising. I thought I had read it all when it comes to witches but apparently not. Blending magic, religion and family honour this book really hit the nail on the head as a decent fantasy with great characters and a brilliant sense of humour. 

The story was a little slow to begin with however I like how it slowly emerged me into the setting, there were a few chapters right at the start where I wasn’t sure if we were in the 21st century, before the 1st or somewhere in between… I’m still not sure for certain but it was a more medieval in feel than anything else and the technology of the time is obviously very basic. Once you are emerged in the setting the story builds well and I really liked where it went, the idea of the witches and the thing that is revealed really captured me, but I don’t want to go into it too much for fear of spoilers. 

The one downside in the story was that I felt it all got a little bogged down in the details. Considering its the start of a series I felt it covered a lot more than usual and it was lengthy because of it. The story got a little lost in places and the characters did a lot of running in circles during their time at Eastport especially. 

However saying that the characters are what made me really enjoy the book. Megan, the lead, was strong willed, unafraid of combat and happy to take on anyone despite their size. Her and Eleanor were incredible together and I don’t think there was any real instance where they couldn’t get out of sticky situations themselves - which made a great change to the stories that have strong female character who have to be protected and saved by others. Damon made a fun addition to the team and I loved the repartee between him and Eleanor especially. 

I did enjoy the book and thought the writing was easy to follow and quick to read. I felt a few times that a lot of focus was put onto peoples names and it was easy to get them mixed up but other than that I found that the description did mean I was able to fully immerse myself into the story and the world it was set in. I am looking forward to what happens next in Megan’s story and am hoping that justice is served to those who wronged her in this book. 

True Fire was published on April 24th by Quercus. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

To buy the book or for more info please visit: 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Head Over Heart Blog Tour: The Great Equaliser by Colette Victor

Today on the blog I have Colette Victor, As part of the blog tour or her new novel Head Over Heart she is writing about her experiences and how they shaped her and her novel. 

Working in a poor community
I’ve been working as a community worker in an underprivileged ex-mining community in Belgium for ten years. We have a lot of migrants living here (I’m a migrant myself, I come from South Africa.) First, second, third, even fourth generation migrants who came here well over fifty years ago to work in the coal mines.

Polish people, Greeks, Italians, Turkish people and Moroccans. At the same time, there are also a lot of Belgians living here, Belgians who have some or other history with the mines too. A neighbourhood, a community, where a whole bunch of people live together under difficult conditions since the mines closed over twenty-five years ago.

As a community worker I have a wide and varied range of tasks to do. I could be called on to arbitrate between two irate neighbours, or offer support and advice to a family crippled under a load of debt. I’m expected to stimulate and organise community gatherings with my eye on the goal of social cohesion, or I could facilitate a group of residents who get together to deal with the problem of fly-tipping on their street.

The best and the worst of humanity
It’s a job where I get to see the very best of humanity, where I meet people every day who inspire me in their dedication to make this a better world through the huge or tiny things they do. It’s also a job where I see the absolute worst of humanity. I’m confronted with racism and intolerance, I hear tales of incest and domestic abuse, I sit at the kitchen table with parents sobbing into their coffee because they can’t afford to feed their children – children who don’t have the right profile to be eligible for state help.

Some nights I go home thinking, This is the best job in the world! Other nights I sit in my car and resolve, I’m going to look for another job, I can’t do this anymore. It’s a job of extremes – extreme hope, extreme despair and quite a lot in between.

The inside of poverty
We work with a steady stream of work experience students from the local colleges. (One of these students was an emancipated Muslim woman named Zehra who was the inspiration for the character by the same name in my teen novel, Head over heart.) At some point, each and every one of these students who’ve spent years learning about the theory of poverty, will make the same observation, “Every person in this country should be forced to do this job for a week.”

And it’s true. They’re quite right. Poverty is something you can only understand from the inside. It’s a great equaliser. When you’re poor you’re poor, no matter what your origins are. When you’re hungry, you’re hungry, regardless of whether your parents are Turkish immigrants or you’ve got a mental illness or you didn’t go to school long enough to get a job. But, at the same time, on rare occasions, it can also be a vehicle that inspires us to change the world we live in.

Head Over Heart by Colette Victor out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Apple & Rain - Sarah Crossan

“I don’t know if what I remember is what happened or just how I imagine it happened now I’m old enough to tell stories… 
I have one memory from that time. It never changes, and if I wanted to make up memories, wouldn’t they be good ones? Wouldn’t all my childhood stories have happy endings?”

Apples mother walked out when she was a baby, for the past 11 years she has lived with her overbearing Nana and dreamt of the day her mother returns. When that day arrives Apple feels whole again. However just like that stormy Christmas Eve when her mother left, her return is bittersweet. Apple is confused about her mother, her friends and what is going on in her life. Then she meets someone who is more lost that she is, and a relationship builds that puts everything into perspective. Apple discovers something which can help her truly feel. 

***

What a story! I wasn’t sure what to expect from Apple and Rain but it wasn’t this. I expected it to be good and it really was, but the story, the issues tackled and the way it tackled them? well it just blew me away. 

I loved Sarah Crossan’s debut novel The Weight of Water, and I was kind of hoping for more written by her in verse. Unfortunately Apple and Rain wasn’t verse but it incorporated it by Apple getting in touch with poetry and putting her feeling into poetry a lot. I loved that this book gave that insight into poetry and what it can mean, and how it can change a person. I remember hating poetry at school but since I have found some I love I know what it can mean to a reader. This book put that across perfectly and I wish every school had a teacher like Mr Gaydon to help kids see that. 

The story itself was sad, and it tackled a lot of issues for a relatively small book. It did it well though with family break ups, health, and abandonment as priority and smaller, yet no less worthy, issues which included bullying, school problems and romantic relationships all having their own space within the book. I really loved what this book showed readers about maturity and growing up and how often the decisions we have to make are not easy ones and sometimes there is no right answer… yet we always know who to rely on if we just stop and think about it. 

I don’t want to go into the characters too much for fear of ruining the story. They are pretty much all of great importance and I could easily say something which will give the story away. I will say that they all invoked strong feelings in me, from the bully at school to Apples best friend, and her mother was the cause of quite possibly my strongest feelings of anger for quite some time. All of that was tackled brilliantly though and I think Sarah Crossan really does write some of the best contemporary UKYA. 

I couldn’t praise this book more and I really think it deserves a all the recognition it can get. It looks from the cover to be focused on romance, with the apple shaped into a broken heart but its so, so much more than that. Romance is covered but its nothing compared to everything else and I loved every second. 

Apple and Rain will be published by Bloomsbury on August 14th. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

To buy the book or for more info please visit: 
Amazon | HiveGoodreads | Author Website

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Darkness Hidden (The Name of the Blade #2) - Zoe Marriott

“The Kitsune were celebrating. 
Their court - a massive natural amphitheatre, hidden deep underground - echoed with wild music and giddy laughter. Immortal fox spirits in both human and animal form wandered upend down the grassy terraces and danced around the huge golden trees that ringed the steep earthen bowl. Some of them were making so merry that it was kind of hard to know where to look.”

Mio and her friends defeated the terrifying Nekomata, against every odds and now there was cause for celebration. But Mio is still connected to the Katana, still compelled to protect it, and the celebrations are cut short when it is discovered that the underworld has spawned a worse breek of monster to come after her. As London crumbles and the Kitsune go into hiding, Mio, Jack, Rachel and Shinobu need to find a way to stop these terrible creatures. Before its too late.

***

I have always loved Zoe Marriott from the minute I picked up my first book by her. She blends fantasy with a beautiful contemporary fantasy style which is both easy and beautiful to read and the second instalment of her first series, The Name of the Blade, has earned another tick on her backlist from me. 

First of all I have to give a major shout out to the ‘Previously in’ start to Darkness Hidden. Its been over a year since I read the first book in this series, The Night Itself, and as its currently being read by my big sister over 40 miles away I couldn’t exactly flick back to it for my own reference. The ‘previously in’ was just two pages so it was the very tip of everything that happened before the events of this book, but it was still very helpful.. thanks Zoe and Walker for that! 

I said in my review of the first book in this series that the characters were brilliantly developed and even though you don’t actually know them for very long time-wise, you feel like they are your friends and you know their true feelings. This book was even more impressive than the other when it came to that and I absolutely loved everything that went on between Rachel and Mio. The lack of Jack was noticeable for me though as she was probably my favourite character in the first book, but I still enjoyed sticking with the others. 

I really loved that this book answered a lot of the questions I had from the first about the background to the Katana and how the Yamato family came to be in possession of it. It wasn’t all revealed but it was definitely enough to stimulate me, without bogging the book down with information. There was one part of the story that I absolutely adored, however it happens towards the end and I don’t want to spoil anything for everyone. Knowing it happened in the book fills me with happiness though and it has made me even more excited for the next book.

Again the book only takes place across a couple of days. I believe Mio was underground with the Kitsune for a few days but other than that the events right at the end of the book could only be a week at the most since those at the start of the first book. This is not a bad thing though and whilst the characters have to go through A LOT in that time nothing felt rushed and it all flowed really well. 

In this book and in the first you experience little asides where the focus goes from Mio to other characters and I loved it in Darkness Hidden because it really let you know how a certain other character was feeling and what they were going through. It also, again, took you back into past Japan and told you more about the Katana and Shinobu and I loved those bits as well. 

It took me a little while to actually get my head around the book at the beginning and I think thats because its been so long since I was in this world, so I don’t recommend that you go into this one over a year after reading The Night Itself, its definitely worth a re-read and you will benefit from it for sure. However saying that once I felt comfortable being back in Mio’s world I was in love once more and I think the wait for book three (which has an awesome name: Frail Mortal Heart) will be a killer.

Darkness Hidden is the second in the ‘Name of the Blade’ series and was published on 3rd July by Walker Books. My copy was sent from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

“He’d stopped trying to bring her back. 
She only came back when she felt like it, in dreams and lies and broken-down deja vu.
Like, he’d be driving to work, and he’d see a girl with red hair standing on the corner - and he’d swear, for half a choking moment, that it was her. 
Then he’d see that the girl’s hair was more blond than red. 
And that she was holding a cigarette… And wearing a Sex Pistols T-Shirt.
Eleanor hated the Sex Pistols.”

Eleanor knew she was done for the moment she stepped on the bus. She knew she’d be target practice for the vultures. New in town and knowing no-one she ends up sat with Park. 
Park is the boy at the back of the bus that the others almost ignore. He’s learnt over the years to keep his head down and become invisible. But Eleanor sees him. 
Over the next few months the two of them share comic books, whispered conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes. They fall for each other harder than they ever thought possible - they way you do the first time, when you’re young and you feel as if you have nothing to lose.

***

So this is clearly a YA romance. And I dislike YA romances… so if you are a regular reader of my blog you are probably wondering why its here, reviewed like a YA contemporary ‘issues’ book or a dystopian, a fantasy or a paranormal. It is here on my blog because I couldn’t not read it any longer, its here because all the hype about Rainbow Rowell is truly deserved and I knew after reading Fangirl that I couldn’t not read more of her books. Its here because after hearing everyone praise Eleanor & Park, I had to find out if what they were saying was true - it turns out it is. 

I dislike books which focus too much on romance and little else. However that is why I loved this book. There is so much more going on that you forget that its a love story. As the characters are falling in love with one another, you are falling in love with them because of how amazing they are. The story is a sad one but incredible at the same time, the way that Eleanor and Park just gradually become close and how Park helps Eleanor out so much - I honestly didn’t want it to end. Eleanor has a lot of serious whiz going down with her family and there was a period when she wasn’t with them at all and she spent a lot of the time in the book not wanting to be in her own house - and I could see why. 

I knew kinda where the book would lead and what kind of thing might happen towards the end but nothing prepared me for my own feelings when it did happen. They way the narrative flicks between Eleanor’s and Parks perspective really allows you to get into their head space and understand whats going on so what happened really wrenched my guts. I loved every second and I think a lot of that is because of the magical way Rainbow Rowell offers her characters to you in her writing. She shares her characters as if she wants you to love them as tenderly as she does and even when you want to shout at them for being idiots - see incident before Christmas in this book if you have read it! - you can’t help but understand why they have done what they have done and why they feel that way. 

I honestly cannot praise this book more. I didn’t think it would be my kind of thing which is why I read Fangirl first. Even after Fangirl I couldn’t help but think it wouldn’t be as good - especially as the actual fangirl aspect of that book was one of the main things I loved and this book didn’t have that! - however I think I possibly enjoyed this even more. There was something about Eleanor and her attitude that drew me to her, and it probably helped that I feel the same about my size as she does about hers. She was real and she was so many things I am - yet she was also a lot more clued up about things than I was at her age! I cant help but want to become friends with her and love her for being her. 

After that declaration of love I guess I should just give it to you straight to finish my review. If you haven’t read this book yet you should. End of. 

Eleanor and Park was published by Orion in February 2013. My copy was purchased from my favourite indie bookstore Storytellers Inc

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