Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Review:Between-Jessica Warman

book cover of   Between   by  Jessica Warman

'Between' isn't actually released in the US until August and October over here but I thought I'd review it now whilst it's fresh in my mind. Perhaps once I've been blogging longer I might have the foresight to make notes as I read but at the moment I'm just winging it!

'Between' arrived with a plain blue cover with hardly any blurb and comparisons to 'Before I Fall' and 'The Lovely Bones' (both books I really enjoyed), so expectations were high. At over 400 pages in paperback 'Between' is something of a beast and pacing-wise it's a bit uneven. I don't think I'm spoiling anything to say that the book starts with a bang as at the end of the first chapter Elizabeth discovers she has died, but after this initial revelation the book spends the first 100 pages dragging its feet until picking up again around the 150 mark.

My initial problem was with the character of Elizabeth Valchar herself. She's the typical mean girl those of us exposed to American teen books and movies know so well, a spoilt brat who thinks the world owes her a favour. She's similar to the protagonist in 'Before I Fall' in her selfish popularity but rather predictably she starts to grow as a person as she learns a few life lessons.

To begin with the aspects I've outlined above felt too familiar and left me frustrated, however as Elizabeth became accustomed to her existence as a spirit and began to remember more of her life before things became intriguing. Crafting the idea that after death Elizabeth and her companion Alex's memories of their lives are hazy was a clever turn as the reader fits the pieces together at the same pace as the characters do.

'Between' is a difficult book to discuss without giving away surprises the plot hinges upon but I really enjoyed seeing Elizabeth develop beyond a spoilt stereotype into a traumatised girl who spends much of her time feeling lost. The love story element referred to in the press release also took me by surprise and doesn't follow the usual path of the anguished paranormal love story.

By the end once all of the pieces were firmly in place I felt quite touched by Elizabeth's sad story and was really glad I'd persevered through the difficult beginning to get to the heart of the story beneath. 'Between' is a different take on the life beyond death theme and has shown me there is breath left in the telling of paranormal stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Monday, 13 June 2011

Books Quiz

I've seen this in various places but please let me know if there's someone to credit!

Rules of this survey - no two answers can be the same book, all books must be fiction.

Book next to your bed right now: I have a massive stack of books next to my bed, two I know are near the top are 'Hunger' by Michael Grant and 'Pretties' by Scott Westerfeld.

Favorite series: I love the Harry Potter series but the series I've enjoyed most in the last couple of years is the Wicca series by Cate Tiernan. I enjoyed all 14 books in the series and the last one was an incredible ending to it all.

Favorite book: I have quite a lot of books that are really special to me but my favourite is 'The World According to Garp' by John Irving. To me it's the perfect book, funny and absurd and moving and unpredictable.

The one book you would have with you if stranded on a desert island: I'd probably take something huge like a complete works or 'Shantaram', something I'll probably never get around to reading otherwise!

Book/series you would take with you on a long flight: Probably something fairly long by an author I can rely on to deliver or a good book I've already started reading. One of the best books I've read whilst on a long journey was 'My Name is Memory' by Ann Brashares.

Worst book you were made to read in school: I usually came to appreciate books I had to study so on reflection I'm glad I read them all. That said I didn't enjoy Pat Barker's 'The Ghost Road' too much the first time around.

Book that everyone should be made to read in school: I think both are now studied for GCSE/A Level but definitely 'Animal Farm' and '1984' by George Orwell. I read both when I was 14 and they are still amongst some of the most powerful books I've ever read, not to mention that they seem to become more and more relevant over time.

Book that everyone should read, period: I'm a big fan of cult classics so if someone is looking for something to read that's slightly off the beaten track I'd recommend 'The Dice Man' by Luke Rhinehart or 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J.D Salinger.

Favorite character: This is a hard one! I absolutely fell for Henry from 'The Time Traveller's Wife', I love his bookish nature and the tragedy of his condition- he's my ideal book crush!

Best villain: Not too original here but I'd have to say Voldermort, he is menacing and creepy beyond words.

Favorite invented world: This is a hard one! I tend to favour books with fantastical elements in an urban setting rather than a whole new world, but I'm a massive fan of Alice in Wonderland so I'll go for Wonderland!

Most beautifully written book: I've found all of the books I've read by Alice Hoffman completely beautiful, in particular 'The Skylight Confessions' which is beautiful from cover to cover and made me cry.

Funniest book: The funniest book I've read recently is 'Domestic Violets' by Matthew Norman which has several laugh out loud moments. I also remember laughing out loud at 'Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About' by Mil Millington, I love down to earth books with characters arguing over pointless every day things!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Did You Miss Me? Plus: Flyaway Review

My apologies for my lack of blogging business lately, I tend to run out of steam with things sometimes but I'm determined to try and keep this blog going, even if I don't update as regularly as I might like. I have been reading rather a lot so I have some books in my mental archive.

Anyway, it's on with business for a bit!


I got hold of this book via Netgalley, I'm always on the lookout for interesting YA books on there, particularly as a lot of American titles I might not be aware of otherwise turn up on there. 'Flyaway' was just such a title and one I started reading after noticing one of the reviews mentioned Ellen Hopkins.

'Flyaway' introduces us to Stevie, a fifteen year old free spirit who thinks her Mom is the greatest person on earth. That is until her Mom disappears for three nights with no warning, leaving Stevie forced to stay with her uptight and interfering Auntie Mindy.

In many ways Stevie is the archetypal teenager with problems: moody and angsty with a fair bit of door slamming and resentment on top. As Stevie gradually rebuilds her life without her Mom around and comes to terms with her Mother's flaws and drug addiction, she manages to blossom into her own person.

'Flyaway' is a really sweet story that deals with difficult issues in a way that manages to avoid oversimplifying or becoming too dark. Stevie's work at the bird sanctuary is a really nice aside as is her burgeoning romance. I think this book would have benefited from being a little longer but that aside I have no criticisms and it certainly left me with a smile on my face. Plus kudos on the cover it is lovely!

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me access to the book.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Guest Post and All Apologies

I have a guest post about 'Beastly' up on the lovely Clover's blog:

My apologies for not updating recently, I'm out of the reading slump so have been prioritising my reading over reviewing. I'm hoping to get back into the swing soon so to my few loyal readers: please keep following I'll be back soon and have lots of lovely books to discuss!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Guest Post and Review:The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon

Firstly, I wrote a rather person guest post for the lovely Clover, which can be found here. I'm still not finding myself on the right track reading-wise but I am getting some reading done so it's better than nothing.

book cover of   The Last Good Place of Lily Odilon   by  Sara Beitia
This was a rather random acquisition of mine, I'd seen it mentioned somewhere online and then decided to purchase the e-book whilst at a loose end last week. Rather unusually for me I bought and read this book within a matter of days, whereas a lot of the time I am 'desperate' to read a certain book only to have it sit neglected for eons until it's the 'right' time to read it. Anyway, I found the combination of the intriguing premise, good title and moody cover were not to be resisted.

Lily Odilon shifts between the present and the recent past and fills in gaps as it goes. All of the events unravel from Arthur's perspective, and I found it refreshing to read a YA from a male perspective. The action revolves around the enigma of Arthur's girlfriend Lily and her mysterious disappearance in the middle of the night.

There were several compelling parts of this book and a couple which were less so. I really liked piecing together a picture of Lily, as although at the centre of the book she is only seen through the memories of others and even by the end of the book I didn't feel like I was under her skin. I liked this because it was exactly the kind of character Lily was shown to be throughout, a damaged and unstable girl that had that certain something.

I also loved the use of memory and the 'gaps' in Lily's memories that contribute a lot of suspense to the story. It's difficult to go into detail about this aspect without giving away parts of the story but I liked seeing the fragile side of Lily and how she hid this from others, and I thought her diary was an excellent prop.

The things I didn't like so much were the rushed ending and generally the character of Arthur. He was only developed in relation to Lily so while we heard plenty of back story for her there was hardly any real personality behind Arthur and while I get he's meant to be a normal guy propelled into a crazy situation he was too cowardly and indecisive for me. The ending brings my rating for the book down from a 4 out of 5 to a 3.5 because after waiting for the whole book to find out what had happened to Lily there was such a rushed ending it fell massively flat.

I definitely enjoyed this book and it does tackle some tough subjects and it has some real moments of tension, but an extra 20 pages to explain things more would have created a more lasting impression for me.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Jenny Colgan-Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

book cover of   Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe   by  Jenny Colgan

Apologies for my lack of posts lately, I haven't been writing because I haven't been reading, or at least finishing books. I must have read a bit of about five different books but nothing stuck for me. Thankfully the book drought seems to be over as I finished this rather delightful book today.

'Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe' is Jenny Colgan's twelfth book and the first of hers I've read. Aesthetically it is such a pretty book and I love the title too. About 6 years ago I read a wonderful book called 'Sophie's Bakery for the Broken Hearted' by Lolly Winston and when I discovered this book I hoped I'd find something similar. Although the story here is more gentle it's certainly engaging and completely absorbing.

The story centres around Issy, a rather wallflower type character who has inherited her love of baking from her Grandfather. When she gets made redundant from her job as an estate agency, she decides to invest her redundancy money into starting her own business. The chapters are integrated with tried and tested cake recipes which I loved, and as the book progresses the reader gets to follow Issy on her journey to success.

Like all good girlie stories there is a suitably hopeless lovelife with a completely vacuous git as well as a rather dreamy alternative with some interesting baggage. Issy's friend Helena and colleagues Pearl and Caroline are always on-hand with both sage and, often unwanted, advice. As 'Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe' is a rather long book I felt I could really get immersed in the story and the pacing felt just right. Issy's business doesn't go from zero to hero overnight and this made the story completely credible. Issy is a really easy to like and everyday character and her Grandfather is lovingly developed.

This book definitely put a smile on my face (as well as making me desperate to try all of the cakes it mentions!) and got me out of my reading slump. I really want to attempt following one of the recipes now and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes romantic stories, particularly if you share my sweet tooth!

Four Stars

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Guest Post

I've helped out with 'Translation Month' at Mostly Reading YA's blog, my review is here if you care to take a look:
I will have some reviews coming up this week but I've fallen into a bit of a book slump so things are moving rather slowly.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Branching Out A.K.A My First Manga

So every now and then I surprise myself by reading something 'outside the box' on a whim and really enjoying it. I like to think my tastes are pretty varied already but I sometimes get into a bit of a genre rut and need something new to work its magic on me. After reading several fantastic books in a row recently I stumbled over what to read next. I spotted this new volume, (which combines the first two books), and was taken in by the black cover and black edges. Sometimes a pretty cover is just enough y'know?

So, the story? It goes something like this. Light Yagami is a model student and a seemingly ordinary teenager until a twist of fate lands a Shinigami death god's 'death note' into his lap. The death note in question is a notebook which, once you record a person's name in it they die. As the books progress the reader discovers more 'rules' of the death note and ways the owner can control the deaths and their victims.

As Light becomes increasingly addicted to the control the death note gives him a parallel story begins to develop chronicling the police investigation into the deaths of multiple criminals all over Japan (all victims of Light's death note of course).

I was hooked by the questions 'Death Note' raises about right and wrong. After all, at least initially Light's victims are criminals, many of whom are murderers so he sees his act as a positive one for the country and regards himself as the saviour of humankind. As Light becomes consumed by his power and control things slip and the line becomes more blurred.

Although this omnibus ends in the thick of the action I can't wait to read more and I'm glad I broke out of my mould! As a result I've also borrowed a few graphic novels from the library so I can rediscover those too.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

March in Books

I haven't posted anything for over a week, I have been reading but I haven't felt compelled to review anything so while I wait to feel inspired I thought I'd do an overview of March instead.
Here are the books I managed in March:


I really enjoyed almost all of the books I read this month so it's been a good one, although I usually find if I'm not enjoying a book I'll just put it aside in favour of something else, life is just too short to read books I'm not committed to !
My favourite reads this month were 'Rockoholic' by C. J Skuse and 'Anna and the French Kiss' by Stephanie Perkins. At the moment I'm in two minds about if it's worth reviewing 'Delirium' because I've seen so many reviews of it already, but I might do some mini-reviews and include it there.

At the moment I don't have any concrete plans for my reading in April, but as I have 10 days off work I'm hoping I can tackle one of the lengthy books I've been postponing!