26 December 2010

Review: REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly ****

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.
Revolution is the story of a teen girl called Andi, who has suffered the devastating loss of her younger brother Truman in a tragic accident, for which she blames herself. She struggles with her feelings of guilt and grief, and thus does some stupid things to cope with the pain. However, before she completely falls apart, her father takes her with him to Paris on his trip on which he is to investigate if the heart in the jar really belonged to Louis XVII, the young king who was locked up in a tower during the Revolution since some people speculate that Louis was somehow saved.

So our Andi finds herself in Paris and is determined to meet her father's conditions in order for him to let her go home asap. While staying at her dad friend's, she comes across a diary from the Frech Revolution days that was kept by Alexandrine, a young girl who went from a street performer to living in the castle and entertaining Louis XVII. When his parents were killed and he was imprisoned, she went around the town setting off fireworks because she knew he was watching and that they made him smile. She was on a mission to save Louis from the tower and Andi goes completely engrossed in her diary entries, hoping that she was successful ... But was she?
Andi hates staying in Paris at first, but she soon makes some friends and does some interesting research for her thesis on Amadé Malherbeau, a musician from the late 18th century. Just when she's almost ready to go back home, something interesting happens to her during a late-night visit to the catacombs ...

But enough about the plot, before I give too much away - let's focus on writing next. I thought the novel was beautifully written. I liked Andi's snarky narrative voice and I felt that both 18th century and modern day Paris were so vividly described that I easily being there - I just got sucked into the world described in the novel. The author must have done an awful lot of reserach on the French Revolution - I mean, I'm no expert on the subject, but it all seemed very believable to me. The author sure didn't sugarcoat anything so certain scenes might not be for the squeamish - let's just say that Paris was quite nasty and smelly back then and that the gruesome guillotine scenes made me a bit queasy, heh. But overall reading about the French Revolution was a rather fascinating experience.

As I said, the novel is written from Andi's perspective and I really enjoyed her narrative. As I read what happened on that fateful day, my heart just broke for her and for her poor little brother. Her grief was so strong that her pain was tangible so I wasn't at all surprised by all the stupid things she did to cope because what happened on that day was really too horrible to bear. Apart from prescription pills etc., Andi also copes with the help of music, which is very important to her and she feels it deeply. Music is another important topic that's really well researched.

All in all, I was rather impressed by this book, although not completely blown away. The historical part was far more interesting than I expected, even though this is not my favourite period to read about. The time travelling bit will require you to suspend your disbelief, but other than that, this novel was very realistic and well written, plus the cover's fantastic! Ms Donnelly is certainly a superb author and I look forward to reading her other three novels (Tea Rose, Winter Rose & Northern Light), all of which I already own, I just have to get around to finally reading them and they all sound great!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5

22 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: The Time-Travelling Fashionista

Goodness gracious, it's been a while, eh?! :( Due to my hectic life, I just can't seem to muster enough time or energy to be creative or productive online and I hate it. I have a few reviews drafted, but they're just not finished yet so I have to work on that ... Meanwhile, please enjoy this latest installment of WOW - it's for a book that I've been looking forward to for ages, and now that I've finally seen the cover and the summary, I'm even more excited about it! How amazing does this look & sound?! :)

by Bianca Turetsky
[5 April 2011]
When Louise Lambert receives a mysterious invitation to a traveling vintage fashion sale in the mail, her normal life in suburban Connecticut is magically transformed into a time traveling adventure.

After a brief encounter with two witchy salesladies and donning an evening gown that once belonged to a beautiful silent film star, Louise suddenly finds herself onboard a luxurious cruise ship in 1912. As Alice Baxter, the silent film star, Louise enjoys her access to an extensive closet of gorgeous vintage gowns and begins to get a feel for the challenges and the glamour of life during this decadent era. Until she realizes that she's not just on any ship -- she's on the Titanic!

Will Louise be able to save herself and change the course of history, or are she and her film star alter ego, destined to go down with a sinking ship in the most infamous sea disaster of the 20th century?

12 December 2010

In My Mailbox #65

Here are the books I got in the past week - all purchased by me:

MATCHED by Ally Condie - My UK paperback finally arrived and I look forward to reading it after hearing SO many good things about it!
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS by Sara Sheppard - I just couldn't resist this, it's sucking me in! I haven't read the series or watched a single episode of the TV show, but I totally think I should! Now if only I had the time, le sigh ...
ONE DAY by David Nicholls - I've been urged to read this so I got myself a copy. I hate the UK orange cover so I got myself a US edition, which looked pink & black online, which is lovely, buuuut instead the cover text is actually in hot pink & hot orange - whoever decided to mix those two colours must've been out of their goddamn mind as it looks horrible, ew.
SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Emma Heatherington - Been wanting to have a copy of this forever so this felt like a good time to order it!
SO WHAT IF I'M BROKEN by Anna McPartlin - I love love love the title and the cover of this one! I was offered the UK version (called The One I Love) for review, but turned it down because I just adore this cover & title. Wonderful and I just hope the plot is equally good, but from what I've heard it shouldn't disappoint.

I'm really happy with my book haul and I hope you all got awesome books too! :)

8 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: New Amy Huberman!!!

You might remember that I read this book called Hello, Heartbreak a while ago that I *really* enjoyed and I was over the moon when I learned that the author, Amy Huberman, has a new book coming out in 2011!!! Are you excited? I sure as hell am!

I'm afraid I find the cover a bit meh, but I do appreciate the ice skates. I'm really liking the title though and the plot sounds great - gimme gimme gimme! :D

by Amy Huberman
[9 June 2011]

The eagerly awaited funny, stylish and romantic follow-up to the No 1 bestselling Hello, Heartbreak

When you put your heart into it, anything's possible …

Annie has cornered the market in quirky style, but her love of all things fashion is not exactly fulfilled by her job: styling well-to-do ladies who have way more money than fashion sense.

At least her love-life is perky, although she's not getting misty-eyed at the idea of walking down the aisle. Which is more than a bit of a problem when she sees her boyfriend about to go down on one knee.

Into her muddled-up life comes silver-haired Sylvia - vintage clothing queen, ex-Hollywood costume lady and one hell of a woman. Sylvia has seen it all and done it all. She tells Annie that the secret of happiness is to discover your heart wish. Now, if only Annie can work out what her heart's greatest wish really is …

6 December 2010

Review: MEN I'VE LOVED BEFORE by Adele Parks ****

How do you know when you’ve met the one you’re meant to be with?
Neil and Nat are a match made in heaven. They hate marmite and the opera. They love smelly cheese and the missionary position. And they both absolutely do not want children.
At least that’s what Nat thought. But now Neil seems to have softened to the prospect of dirty nappies and sleepless nights, and he’s practically begging her for a baby. Nat, however, has no intention of swapping her high-flying career for a life of endless self-sacrifice. As the cracks start to show, Nat wonders if Neil really is the man of her dreams. Or is it possible that someone from her past could actually be ‘the one’?
Nat’s little black book, filled with the names and addresses of previous lovers, could hold the answers she’s looking for. Or it could be a one-way ticket to all kinds of trouble. And is the perfect match too much to ask for?
This book hit so close to home that it was actually getting a bit scary, heh. Based on the description, I knew I'd be able to relate to it, but once I started reading it, it all sounded almost too familiar, especially the thoughts and the feelings and fears of Nat, the main character. As you can see above, the main twist of this story is that Nat and Neil, a happily married couple, have both agreed that do NOT want children, period. However, that changes overnight when Neil realizes that he actually wants to have children - he longs to become a father so his kids could have the same great childhood he had. So he goes all soft and mushy and mumbles: "Let's make babies." Nat thought he said, "Let's make love, baby," so you can imagine her shock when she learns what he really meant - yeah, EEK!

Obviously, this is a HUGE deal breaker in a relationship so their marriage goes into a massive crisis. They drift apart and start living separate lives, hiding the truth from one another. Neil finds comfort in a stripper with a cute little daughter and Nat starts meeting up with her exes, just double checking if any of them might be The One since Neil obviously doesn't seem to be ...

Firstly, I think the title of the book is completely WRONG because this novel is hardly about Nat's men she's loved before - all those men are barely mentioned (granted there were quite a few so the book could get rather long if those scenes were more detailed), plus all that stuff felt more like a filler to me and rather far fetched. I can't understand why that was chosen as the title of the book, when it's definitely not the main issue, but I suspect it's due to the commercial reasons - not many people relate to not wanting children, whereas everyone has people they've loved before so it sounds more relatable, right? I'm just guessing.

As I said above, I could really relate to the topic of the book so it's not at all surprising that I found it very engrossing. Like Nat, I'm also determined to never ever have children, which tends to shock people. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't like children (in fact, I adore them) or don't want to have them (I do actually ... I guess?), but I just feel like I shouldn't have children in this crazy, insane, horrible world ... I don't want to get into the reasons why because it's a long story and most people don't understand me, but this is something that's very important to me and something that I've promised to myself a looong time ago. My lovely boyfriend, on the other hand, is not so opposed to the idea of reproducing for the same reasons as Neil. He'd make a fantastic dad and he's the kind of person I'd love to have children with, but I really shouldn't and can't. So obviously this is bound to become a deal breaker for us too eventually, but we're only in our mid-20s so it's not something we actively think or argue about now, but we know each other's point of view. That's why I was so fascinated by this book - to see what happens when an important thing like that becomes an issue ...

Nat also has her own strong reasons for not wanting to become a mother - her reasons are completely different to mine, but I could still really relate to her feelings. She bears a secret that she hasn't even shared with Neil, which I found quite surprising, but I suppose that 'thing' just hurt her so much that she couldn't bear to talk about it, which is something that I understand. But still, I was surprised that not even her husband knew about something so basic.

I'm not too sure how I feel about the ending of the novel ... I appreciated the twists & turns because I was wondering what all the mess would result in. I suppose I shouldn't say I was disappointed by the ending because that's really not nice, but honestly I was happy for them and even got a little teary, aww.

Personal aspect of the novel aside, I thought the book was really well-written and definitely an improvement from Love Lies, which is the only other Adele Parks book I've read and was slightly unimpressed by it. This one, on the other hand, kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, but I guess I'm a little biased, hehe.

Overall, this books not only met my expectations, but also exceeded them. It was a bit of a scary read due to my familiarity with the main issue, but well carried out. I wonder how people with children or the longing for them feel about books with a theme like this one? Reading this, I was immediately reminded of BABY PROOF by Emily Giffin as the books are rather similar in many ways. I really enjoyed that one too (I read it as soon as it was published a few years ago) and I'm glad that there are a few brave authors who decide to tackle this topic that not a lot of people can relate to.

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 3/5

5 December 2010

In My Mailbox #64

I've been so busy lately that I didn't get to do an IMM for a while so here are all the brilliant books I got & bought recently:

FROM NOTHING HILL WITH LOVE ... ACTUALLY by Ali McNamara - I bought this mainly for the goooorgeous cover. I'm not a huge film buff so I don't know if I could enjoy this book properly, but I just had to have it because of the cover! Wow!
50 WAYS TO FIND A LOVER & THE (IM)PERFECT GIRLFRIEND by Lucy-Anne Holmes - I bought these because I've heard SO many great things about them. They're meant to be hilarious and goodness know that's my favourite kind of books!
THE SECRET SHOPPER'S REVENGE & THE SECRET SHOPPER UNWRAPPED by Kate Harrison - These just sound cute and look absolutely adorable so when I saw them in real life, I just couldn't resist them!
SINFUL DECEPTIONS by Zoë Miller - I'm quite intrigued by this one and I've been waiting for the paperback for aaaages!
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Lucy Dawson - Sounds like a good read so I just bought it.
BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys (ARC) - This one is bound to be horrifying. It takes place during WWII in Siberia. I've read a few pages and my heart was instantly broken. I know this won't be an easy read, but I still feel it needs to be read. You can find about this book at the website.
THE JEWEL OF ST PETERSBURG by Kate Furnivall - Another one I love the sound and look of! Had to have it.
LAKE OF DREAMS by Kim Edwards (ARC) - I wasn't expecting this one but the synopsis sounds quite good so I look forward to reading it!

That's it from me - what did YOU get? I can't wait to find out! :)

ps: I invite you all to check out Nadine's blog THE READING QUEEN. She's been blogging for quite a while and she's one of my favourite book bloggers out there, but since she's not really promoting her blog much, she doesn't have many followers yet. I think she definitely deserves many more so feel free to check her out & follow her. :)

1 December 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Two amazing 2011 chick lit releases!

From what I've seen so far, 2011 will be the year of fantastic chick lit books and here are the first two I've decided to spotlight in this meme, with the rest to follow in the next few weeks ...

by Pippa Wright
[4 March 2011]
'Have you ever noticed that the modern romantic heroine can be, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit useless?'
Lizzy Harrison has everything under control. Lizzy Harrison isn't a romantic heroine. Not even close. She doesn't have a cat, owns no more shoes than the average person, and is in no way hopelessly scatty and disorganised. In fact her life is in perfect order, and that's just how she likes it.
Okay, so she hasn't met the right man yet, but she really doesn't have the time what with her busy job in PR and her packed schedule of improving activities. Her diary is planned months in advance and she's determined that nothing spontaneous will force its way into her life...hasn't she?
But when her best friend Lulu questions her need for control, Lizzy starts to wonder if she needs to let go a little. So when she's thrown into the arms of her boss' number one client, notorious comedian (and love-rat) Randy Jones, she reluctantly relaxes her hold on routine.
Lizzy Harrison is about to find out that losing control could win her more than she had ever imagined.

by Charlotte Kymberley
[17 February 2011]
It’s not you, it’s me - That’s the cowardly text message that Katie receives from Jack, her actor boyfriend of three years, when he dumps her. And things go from bad to worse when photos of Jack canoodling with a famous size-zero actress are splashed across every gossip magazine and tabloid soon after. Just how much humiliation can a girl take?
With the paparazzi camped out on her doorstep, Katie decides to preserve what’s left of her dignity. So she agrees to become her PR colleagues’ next project. They will make her over (hair, teeth, clothes, Botox, boobs – the works) and turn her into an instant celebrity in order to win back her ex and show the world that an ordinary girl can rival a beautiful bimbo.
But will a new life in the limelight be everything Katie dreamt of? Can she make it in the cut-throat world of the beautiful, rich and famous? Is Jack worth all the hassle or is there someone else out there who might love Katie just the way she is?
Ooh, I am LOVING the sound of both of these! But that's just a taste of what's in store for chick lit in 2011. I'm excited - are you? :)

28 November 2010

Review: THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton *****

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives with the return address of Milderhurst Castle, Kent, printed on its envelope, Edie begins to suspect that her mother’s emotional distance masks an old secret.

Evacuated from London as a thirteen year old girl, Edie’s mother is chosen by the mysterious Juniper Blythe, and taken to live at Millderhurst Castle with the Blythe family.

Fifty years later, Edie too is drawn to Milderhurst and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancé in 1941 plunged her into madness.

Inside the decaying castle, Edie begins to unravel her mother’s past. But there are other secrets hidden in the stones of Milderhurst Castle, and Edie is about to learn more than she expected. The truth of what happened in the distant hours has been waiting a long time for someone to find it . . .

I've been raving about this book for months and I was SO excited when I finally got my copy! Reading it was such a treat and it was pretty much everything I've hoped for, having really really enjoyed her previous two books, The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden.

Unlike the first two books, which mostly alternate between the early 1900s and the present days, the historical part of this novel takes place during World War II and the present day narration is set in 1992, which is when our heroine Edie's mother receives a letter (from 1941) that changes everything. The letter itself is nothing special, but with its arrival Edie learns that her mother Meredith was evacuated during WWII and spent a short period of time living at the Milderhurst Castle ...

Soon after that, Edie finds herself in the Milderhurst village and books a tour of the castle, where she meets the three Blythe sisters that her mother used to know and who still live there: the twins Persephone and Seraphina and their younger sister Juniper (also knows as Percy, Saffy and June respecitvely). Neither of them ever married and the twins are now caring for Juniper, who has supposedly lost her mind on 29 October 1941 when her fiancé never showed up for dinner and she's still stuck in a time loop, convinced he will arrive after all.

At the centre of the novel is the now crumbling but once magnificent Milderhurst Castle and its residents, the Blythe family, who have had their fair share of tragedy. The father of the Blythe Sisters, Raymond Blythe, has tragically lost both his wives so he mostly had to take care of his daughters himself. He was also the famous author of The True History of the Mud Man, a children's classic novel, which plays a very important role in the novel as well; as one of the characters says, this story begins and ends with the Mud Man - and oh yes, does it ever ... Gosh, I so wish that story actually existed because I really want to read the whole thing now, not just the prologue that's featured at the beginning of the book.

Although Edie was the narrator, I felt she was more the side character and that the Sisters Blythe took over the central stage, which I quite liked actually. I enjoyed reading about their growing up in the castle and it made me sad how none of them ever realized their ambitions and how they remained tied to the castle. The book is divided into five parts and there are several cliffhangers. I raced through it to see what actually happened on that fateful stormy night of 29 October 1941 - and whoa, talk about twists and turns!

The novel is masterfully crafted, but that should come as no surprise if you've read Morton's previous two books, and her latest accomplishment just proves what an outstanding storyteller she is! Granted that this book is massive (nearly 700 pages!) and a bit slow at times, BUT Ms Morton's amazing writing style makes every single page an absolute delight to read. She creates a world that is so detailed and so well presented that it completely sucks you in and I loved getting lost in it.

If you love a good and well written story with secrets and a fair bit of mystery (including a literary one) and a fantastic set of characters, then this is the book for you. If you've read Ms Morton's books before, then I can assure you that you will not be disappointed by her latest offering. And if you're not familiar with this author yet, then I urge you to give her books a try. This book was well worth the wait and I'm really excited about Morton's future's novel - I do hope she's working on one already!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

ps: Watch the video below to learn more about the book.

14 November 2010

In My Mailbox #63

Whoooa, another crazy week! Where does the time go?! The week just went by SO fast, but wahey at least I got some great books!

  • THE REDHEAD REVEALED by Alice Clayton - Squee! I got an e-ARC of this book a while ago, but Alice kindly arranged for me to have a finished copy too, yay! Thanks so much, Alice! I loved the previous instllment, The Unidentified Redhead and I cannot WAIT to read more about THE BRIT and his sexy adventures, hehe!
  • HOLD STILL by Nina LaCour - The new cover and the trailer totally sealed the deal for me and I just had to get this book!
  • DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver - WOOHOOO! What an amazing surprise! I got this for review from Hodder so thank you to whoever who thought of me! I was amazed by Before I Fall and I've heard nothing but praise for Delirium so far! Really looking forward to this one and in case you didn't know, it comes out in February 2011.
  • I DON'T WANT TO BE CRAZY by Samantha Schutz - This one was recommeded to me by Chelsea @ The Page Flipper. We were sort of discussing books about anxiety and the lack of them so she recommeded this one. It's written in verse and it looks very interesting.

That's it from me. What did YOU get? :)

Have a great Sunday, everyone!

8 November 2010

Review: HELLO, HEARTBREAK by Amy Huberman *****

You'd think 27 years would be enough time to wise up to the rules of love and loss, especially Rule Number 1: Do not, at any time, let him see how much he has hurt you. But no, Izzy Keegan was probably off doing sambuca shots when that lesson was taught. So, starting with public humiliation (that infamous blow-up with her Ex and his new woman...huge mistake), and taking in temporary insanity, rebound sex, and a night in a police cell along the way, Izzy has to make up her own rules for coping with heartbreak.
Luckily she has friends who are there for her through thick and thin (even if 'doing an Izzy' is their new shorthand for completely losing it). And she's got her foot in the door of the film business (though dogsbody wasn't exactly the job she dreamt of doing). Now, all she has to do is put the dirty cheating love-rat behind her. You'd think 27 years would be enough time to wise up to the rules of love and loss. Make that 27 and a bit...
Oh my goodness, this book was SO GOOD!
I still chuckle and grin and giggle just thinking about this brilliant little thing, but I have to be honest with you, I wasn't expecting that much to begin with. I'm not into books about girls coping with breaking up and waaah, plus I read that Ms Huberman is an actress so I sort of figured she's just another girl who got a publishing deal just because she's famous. But boy oh boy was I *wrong*, this girl was BORN to write chick lit!

The story itself is quite simple - our occassionally ditzy yet absolutely adorable heroine Izzy has been dumped by the love of her life and now she has to cope with all the humiliation she's gotten herself into trying to win him back. She tries to get over him with the help of her amazing friends and housemates and some yummy boys, and gets herself into about a million hilarious situations along the way. Please excuse me for simplying the story to the max, there is SO much more to it, but it's not the plot itself that takes the cake - it's the writing and the humour that make this book absolutely GOLDEN, just like the cover!

The author is Irish and as I've said before, Irish chick lit is simply the best! I love Irish humour and this book just made me laugh SO hard, I was honestly laughing my arse off and I couldn't read normally because I was crying from laughing so much (no joke!). I read one scene or sentence, burst out laughing, then tried to read more and cracked up again. I was reading it at the hotel lobby while waiting to be picked up by the agency (the holiday was over, boo) and people must've thought I was completely manic because I was literally laughing like crazy, LOL. Maybe I was just in a good mood or relaxed, but seriously, this book made me laugh so much it literally hurt and I'm not even joking! :D

Yes yes, this book is 100 % fluff and occassionally a bit silly and super light and blah blah, but SO WHAT? Its only purpuse is to entertain and I personally have to say it excels at it! I loved everything about it - Izzy, her friends Susie and Keelin, their rabbit Dermont, all the hilarious scenes involving Cian and 'Edna McClodmutton', Aidan and his gang, Izzy's workmates (espesh Eve & Geraldine) and thieir project Snog Me Now, You Dublin Whore and Gavin and ooh and aah! I loved it all! The only tiny complaint I might have is the cover, which is not really my favourite and I think it could be much better, but I suppose it's not that bad ... However, in this case what's inside really does count! ;)

The blurbs on the back cover describe this book as 'Jane Austen on ecstay' or 'Bridget Jones on viagra' and I have to say I agree, I don't know what the author was smoking or popping while working on this book, but it totally worked and reading the book really is like inhaling laughing gas or something! Other blurbs say the novel is 'fun, bubbly, gutsy and lively' as well as 'sharp and sassy' - all true!
In more awesome news, this cute little brain candy is also nominated in several categories at this year's Irish Book Awards and I'm totally keeping my fingers crossed that it wins Best Irish Newcomer of the Year and Irish Popular Book of the Year - I've already voted!

Right, well, this review was a bit hyper, but I blame it all on this book - I've read it more than a month ago and it still has this crazy happy effect on me. I want to re-read it and I just might do that the next time I'm feeling down - this awesome piece of Wit Lit is bound to do the trick!

In conclusion, all I can say is that this book was downright hilarious and brilliant and a must-read for everyone who doesn't mind a light read with lots of comedy. It's one of the best books I've read this year and I sure hope there's more where this came from, but I can't find anything on Amazon ... Nonetheless, if Ms Huberman writes any more books in the future, you best believe I'll be the first in line to read them!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

7 November 2010

In My Mailbox #62

Whew, another busy week finally ended and I can't believe it's Sunday already! I only got two books in the past weeks and here they are:

IMMORTAL BELOVED by Cate Tiernan - I got this ARC for review from Hodder and it arrived in this awesome blue envelope, I really liked the packaging! The story sounds really interesting too and my review should hopefully up by January 2011 when this book comes out!
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? by Claudia Carroll - I loooooved Carroll's latest book called Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmothwer so I decided to get her back list too, starting with this one because it sounds like the most fun!

That's it from me, what did YOU get? :)

1 November 2010

Review: A PLACE OF SECRETS by Rachel Hore ****

The night before it all begins, Jude has the dream again ...
Can dreams be passed down through families? As a child Jude suffered a recurrent nightmare: running through a dark forest, crying for her mother. Now her six-year-old niece, Summer, is having the same dream, and Jude is frightened for her.
A successful auctioneer, Jude is struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband. When she's asked to value a collection of scientific instruments and manuscripts belonging to Anthony Wickham, a lonely 18th century astronomer, she leaps at the chance to escape London for the untamed beauty of Norfolk, where she grew up.
As Jude untangles Wickham's tragic story, she discovers threatening links to the present. What have Summer's nightmares to do with Starbrough folly, the eerie crumbling tower in the forest from which Wickham and his adopted daughter Esther once viewed the night sky?
With the help of Euan, a local naturalist, Jude searches for answers in the wild, haunting splendour of the Norfolk woods. Dare she leave behind the sadness in her own life, and learn to love again?
I've come across Ms Hore's books before and I always thought they sounded interesting, but I haven't read any, although I've always wanted to! Then I got the chance to review this and I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get acquainted with this author's work. I expected this book to be good and I certainly wasn't disappointed - but not really blown away either. Nonetheless, it turned out to be a very enjoyable read!

I like a good mystery and enjoy stories with the past and present narrative so this book was just my cup of tea! It's the story of a young widow Jude, who works for an auction house and travels to the countryside to value the collection of books from the 18th century at Starbrough Hall. The job couldn't be more perfect: the owners of the house are lovely, the work is fascinating, she gets to spend more time with her beloved niece and she also meets the charming naturalist Euan.
The collection she is valuing belongs to an astronomer from the 18th century, Antony Wickham. While inspecting the collection, Jude also comes across a diary, which apparently belongs to Esther, Wickham's adopted daughter. The strange thing is that there is no record of her anywhere - no clues about where she came from and what happened to her. It appears like she never existed - if it wasn't for the diary entries, which eventually uncover a rather fascinating story about her astronomical discoveries with her father and her own life story ...

The main story takes place now, but it's interspersed with Esther's diary entries from the late 18th century. I quite liked this format - thus the mystery was gradually revealed and I found myself eager to know more about Esther's life, work and her strange disappearance into history. The ending didn't disappoint and I thought her story came to a marvelous conclusion! The only complaint I have is that perhaps there were perhaps just a tad too many coincidences and everything connected maybe just a bit too easily, in my opinion. But hey, this is fiction so that is to be expected! Other than that, the book proved to be a rather absorbing read with a lovely main story and an interesting mystery at heart.

I can't fault the writing or the characters either. I thought the book was well written and the characters were believable and warm (well, most of them) and they felt real. The novel itself is nice too, but I think a picture of the folly and perhaps a starry sky would be far more fitting. I suppose the publishers choose this look to bring the book to the attention of Kate Morton fans? The covers *are* rather similar in design, after all ...

Which bring me to my last point - the Kate Morton comparisons. The author must be fed up of them, but they just can't be avoided as there seem to be quite a few similarities between the books by these two authors. Personally, I've only read one Rachel Hore book as opposed to three Kate Morton books (all of which I *adored*), and thus I'm not the most fair judge. Well, in my opinion, Kate Morton is the absolute Queen of this sort of historical fiction, but Rachel Hore seems to be a good replacement for when you're waiting for the next Kate Morton book, hehe! So if you're a Ms Morton fan, definitely give Ms Hore a chance - or pick up the book if you're just looking for a good story, you won't be disappointed!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5

30 October 2010

In My Mailbox #61

Yay, I got some more amazing books, but that's hardly surprising since, y'know, I kinda bought them and I obviously wouldn't if I didn't think they are fantastic, LOL! So here's are some of the books I couldn't resist buying recently - those that have arrived in the past week:

HESTER'S STORY by Adele Geras - I came across this book quite randomly and I was immediately captivated by the cover and the premise - ballet and a mystery, totally my cup of tea! It's apparently mostly sold out so I was over the moon when it was still available at Book Depository, yay!
THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET by Pseudonymous Bosch - This one is suspiciously similar to Lemony Snicket's ASOUE and the rumour has it this might be one of his alter egos! In case you didn't know, I thought ASOUE was positively brilliant and this book really does sound quite a bit like it so I just had to have it immediately! Knowing me, I'll probably order the rest of the series before I even read this book, lol.
THE SECRETS OF SOPHIA MUSGROVE: DANCING & DECEPTION by Janey Louise Jones - Look at this cover! Don't you just love it?! This sounds & looks like a totally cute historical YA read - another one that I just *had* to have as soon as I saw it, hehe.

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend, darlings!
Me? Oh, you know, I'll just be reading THE DISTANT HOURS!!! I started it today and I'm loving it already and my plan is to dedicate the whole weekend to it! :)

27 October 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: The copycat edition!

Sadly, I haven't done this meme in a while due to all the crazyness that's been my life lately, but to get back on the scene I decided to do it a bit differently this time - I picked my favourite three WoW picks that were featured on the blogs I follow. This way I discovered three completely new books and I love the sound of each and every one of them, woohoo!

The Vespertine
by Saundra Mitchell
[March 7th, 2011]
>>> spotted @ ~*Loves to Read*~
The summer of 1889 is the one between childhood and womanhood for Amelia van den Broek—and thankfully, she’s not spending it at home in rural Maine. She’s been sent to Baltimore to stay with her stylish cousin, Zora, who will show her all the pleasures of city life and help her find a suitable man to marry.

With diversions ranging from archery in the park to dazzling balls and hints of forbidden romance, Victorian Baltimore is more exciting than Amelia imagined. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. Newly dubbed "Maine’s Own Mystic", Amelia is suddenly quite in demand.

However, her attraction to Nathaniel, an artist who is decidedly outside of Zora's circle, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. And while she has no trouble seeing the futures of others, she cannot predict whether Nathaniel will remain in hers.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.
Yay, this one is set in my favourite period of time and it sounds so mysterious!

Falling in Love with English Boys
by Melissa Jensen
[23 December 2010]
Sixteen-year-old Catherine Vernon has been stranded in London for the summer, no friends, no ex-boyfriend Adam the Scum (good riddance!), and absolutely nothing to do but blog about her misery to her friends back home. Desperate for something, anything, to do in London while her (s)mother's off researching boring historical things, Cat starts reading the 1815 diary of Katherine Percival her mom gives her, and finds the similarities between their lives to be oddly close. But where Katherine has the whirls of the society, the parties and the gossip over who is engaged to who, Cat's only got some really excellent English chocolate. Then she meets William Percival, the uber-hot descendant of Katherine, and things start looking up ...
Ooh, yes, I love me some English boys always & forever! :D

Fractured: Happily Never After
by Joanna Karaplis
[1 November 2010]
>>> spotted @ Oh My Books!
Everyone knows a fairytale or two. They’re the kind of stories that seem to stick with you. Maybe it’s the magic. Maybe it’s the handsome prince. Or maybe they’re just the absolute perfect place to lose yourself for a little while.

But what would happen if Snow White were around today? Would Cinderella still need a fairy godmother? And would the Little Mermaid show up on YouTube?

Joanna Karaplis has put an unexpected spin on Snow White, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid; she’s quietly fractured the stories and then reassembled them for the 21st Century. So, while there may not be a whole lot of horse-drawn carriages and magic potions, you can be sure that there will be at least one evil witch and maybe even a handsome prince (or two)…
How intriguing and I love the cover!

25 October 2010


Heartbreak, headlines and Hermes – welcome to Brooke's new world…
Brooke and Julian live a happy life in New York – she's the breadwinner working two jobs and he's the struggling musician husband. Then Julian is discovered by a Sony exec and becomes an overnight success – and their life changes for ever.
Soon they are moving in exclusive circles, dining at the glitziest restaurants, attending the most outrageous parties in town and jetting off to the trendiest hotspots in LA.
But Julian's new-found fame means that Brooke must face the savage attentions of the ruthless paparazzi. And when a scandalous picture hits the front pages, Brooke's world is turned upside down. Can her marriage survive the events of that fateful night at Chateau Marmont? It's time for Brooke to decide if she's going to sink or swim …

I'm such a sucker for 'rags to riches' stories so I was really looking forward to reading this one! To tell you the truth, I've never read anything by Ms Weisberger before - I've only *seen* The Devil Wears Prada (loved it!), which I own a copy of along with Everyone Worth Knowing, and I'm definitely planning to read both eventually, they really do sound like my type of reads ... Well, so did this one, but I was left unimpressed ... Don't get me wrong, this is certainly not a bad book by any means, I actually quite enjoyed it, but I just thought it lacked that X factor, something special ... But I'll get back to that later.

The story revolves around Brooke and Julian's relationship and their world, which turns upside down when Julian, previously a struggling musician, becomes a massive star overnight. The lives change almost immediately and it's no surprise that they're struggling to adjust to all the changes, however fabulous they may be. Sure, they're partying with all the biggest stars and the money's not a problem anymore, but while Julian is playing the biggest shows and touring the country, Brooke's job is suffering and she's often lonely. On top of it all, the paparazzi are following them 24/7 and printing lies and speculations and trying to break them apart ... Brooke is not sure she can cope with all the madness - how much is enough to ruin her marriage? Will Julian even try to prevent it?

As I said, this is certainly an enjoyable read and I can't really fault it, but for me it was just missing that spark ... I often have this problem with American chick lit where I feel like I'm just watching the story through the window and I don't really connect with the characters all that much. On the other hand, I often find British and Irish chick lit so much more fun to read - it's often not just about following the story, but also about having a blast while reading it!
So while this book didn't make me fall asleep or roll my eyes, it also didn't make me laugh or engage me, I was more like, "Oh, I see, okay ..." On the plus side, I did enjoy reading about the lifestyles of the rich and the famous (beware, there is a lot of name dropping and celebrity cameos in the book, which I thought was rather fun).

Obviously recommended to chick lit fans, but not quite the best the genre has to offer, in my humble opinion.

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 3/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 3/5

24 October 2010

In My Mailbox #60

Wowzers, two IMMs back to back?! Jeez, I don't think I've ever stooped this low before, yikes! :( How exactly did this happen? Oh yeah, that's right, I was still busy out of my mind, but but but the awesome news is that I've actually (FINALLY) finished translating that book today so now I might actually have some free time after work, woooohooooo! Yes, that means I can actually read now and post reviews and comment and stuff! I've been neglecting all this for the past months, but now I'm back, yay!

More good news: I got some awesomesauce books this week! LOOK!

HAZEL by Julie Hearn - I saw this one over at The Story Siren and ordered it as soon as I read that it's about the suffragettes! Couldn't resist and I'm really excited about this one!

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS by Anna Godbersen - OMG!!!!! SQUEEEE!!!!! This is one of those Books of the Years that I've been really excited about (along with Mini Shopaholic & The Distant Hours) and I was over the goddamn moon when it arrived! It's the UK paperback so it will match my the Luxe series, which I loved! I've been waiting for this book forever and now I finally have it, YAAAAAAAAAY! Excuse the hyperventilation, but this makes me really happy! :D

RAE by Chelsea Rae Swiggett (aka The Page Flipper) - I finally got myself a copy of this! I've been looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard about it and I have a feeling it might hit quite close to home ...

Hope you've all had great book weeks too! :)

17 October 2010

In My Mailbox #59

Yes, yes, I knoooow, I've been a horrible blogger for far too long and those of you who still bother to visit this little site are probably sick and tired of my excuses, but honestly - I'm just putting the finishing touches on the book I've been translating in the past weeks and on top of my day job, it's pretty much all my life is about right now. It's not terribly fun and exciting, it's just craaaaaazy busy and thus I've no time left for blogging or reading. This saddens me, but on the other hand I love translating, it's what I've always wanted to do so I can't complain really. But I'm so ready to finish this book! My deadline was errrr yesterday (*blush*), but that was impossible what with everything that's been going on so I managed to get it extended by a few more days, phew.

My life is now completely pre-occupied with that right now, but I've had SUCH an EPIC book week that I just couldn't resist doing an IMM this week (kindly hosted by The Story Siren, as always). OMG, just look at all the AMAZING books I got!!!!!

BOUGHT: historical & chick lit

THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton - WOOHOOOO!!!!!!!! You have NO idea how happy I was when this book arrived! Having loved Morton's previous books (The House at Riverton & The Forgotten Garden), this is one of the books I've been looking forward to the most this year and I cannot wait to read it - I just know it's going to be amazing! It's massive, well over 600 pages, so I'll probably take like one whole weekend off from real life and just focus on the book. It'll be magic and I can't wait! YAY!
A WEEKEND WITH MR DARCY by Victoria Connelly - I honestly bought this book mostly because of the cover. I'm not a massive Austen fan and I don't have a thing for Mr Darcy (I'll take LUKE BRANDON over him anytime!) so this book is not very high on my TBR pile, but I bought it because I appreciate the cover art. Yes, I'm indeed that shallow, but I'm sure the publishers don't have a problem with that. :p But seriously, how BEAUTIFUL is this cover?! I know, right? :)
DOWN TO EARTH by Melanie Rose - Another book I was attracted to by the cover, but but but here the story actually sounds amazing and really intriguing! I own Ms Rose's previous two books as well, but sadly I haven't read them yet. I've heard great things about them so I expect them to be fantastic!

BOUGHT: young adult

REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly - Another book I've been waiting for for too long! I haven't read anything by Ms Donnelly yet (although I own all her books), but this one sounds really good!
THE EXILE OF GIGI LANE by Adrienne Maria Vrettos - I've been wanting to buy this book for months and then I just couldn't resist it anymore so I bought it. It's supposed to be good - can't wait to find out!
STARS OF ICE by Kay Woodward - The third installment in the Skate School series. I haven't read the previous two, but I'm just buying the series because I'm planning to read it eventually. A skating boarding school - who could resist?!
SUGAR AND SPICE by Lauren Conrad - Another series that I own but haven't read (jeeez, I own far too many unread books!). This is the last book in the LA Candy series, which I bought because of all the hype. Yes, not only am I shallow, but also weak. :( In my defence, it's meant to be good stuff though!


THE BIRTHDAY PARTY by Veronica Henry - I've posted about this book before, saying how much I adored the cover, and then this book kindly arrived in my mailbox, courtesy of Orion. What a wonderful surprise! The cover is even more STUNNING in person, it's even sparkly and all! Gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous!
DEADLY by Julie Chibbaro - Ooh, this one sounds promising! I was kindly sent an ARC by the author and I really like the sound of this book so you can expect my review around the pub date, which is February 2011!

Phew, so that's it in terms of news from my mailbox! What did you get? :)

9 October 2010

Review: MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins ***

Hi there! As you can see, there will be no IMM as I only got one book this week and it seems a bit silly to feature just that (although I've done it before). So I've decided to save that for next week and post a review instead!
Things are still pretty boring around here, but that's because I'm just finishing up the book I'm translating. It's due in a week (massive eeeeeeeek, still so much to do) so I have to focus on that to make it happen, which means I have to neglect blogging and reading for the time being, sorry. But I promise to be back very soon! :)

Anyway, moving on to the review ...
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge... The thrilling final instalment of this ground-breaking trilogy promises to be one of the most talked-about books of the year.
As you may remember, I absolutely LOVED the first two installments in The Hunger Games trilogy (my reviews here and here). The Catching Fire ending was spectacular and I couldn't wait to read Mockingjay – there was just so much potential, but I'm afraid that Mockingjay left me a tad disappointed and I made me go ''HMMMMM …'' instead of the usual ''WHOOOA''.

Why, you might ask? Well, I'm afraid I can't answer that without SPOILERS so please don't read any further if you don't want to know what happens in the book. Consider yourself warned!

So you're OK with spoilers? Right, well, the main reason why I didn't enjoy the book as much as I expected to is that it just felt too … different. Nothing like the other two books, which had a strong psychological element to them, but this one was far too military to my liking. It reminded me of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – another book where everything changes and it's all about war. Mockingjay certainly portrays the physical and emotional effects of war very convincingly and realistically, but somehow the book just felt too different from what I was used to.

Another thing this book has in common with HP7 is that everyone dies. That's not a massive surprise when there's war going on, but I felt that these deaths were brushed off too quickly … For example, Cinna was one of my favourite characters and I was convinced he was still alive and I kept waiting for him to show up – but he never did. I really disliked how death was never properly explained and it really touched me the most. Overall, there were too many important deaths too quickly and the author just made them feel unimportant when I was like, HELLO, something major happened here, why aren't we paying it more attention?! I honestly didn't like that at all and I would've prefered more respect to be paid to the deceased characters that I grew so fond off (Finnick & Prim among others). I know this is nothing new for Collins since the deaths before (e.g. of the tributes) were always quickly brushed off, but those were some random people and this were actually important characters ... But I guess that's my problem since I'm too sentimental whereas Collins handled this the proper way without dwelling on what you can't change.

Not only did the story feel different, but the characters were changed too, which was to be expected based on what they've all been through and I suppose that made them even more real. But somehow I couldn't warm up to them and I just felt like I was following the whole thing from a distance rather than being engrossed in the action like in the previous two books, which was a shame. I honestly can't explain it, all I can say is that it was all too different. It was a logical shift from the previous books, but I struggled a bit to adapt to it.

As for the ending … I've always liked both Peeta and Gale so I didn't really care who she ended up with, they were both nice guys (well, for the most part). I was surprised by Gale's move and sorry that their story ended so abruptly – this was again another thing I wanted more closure and explanation on. I suppose the ending was nice and bittersweet (I'm talking about the epilogue here, the scenes before that were quite horrendous, yes), but not quite as mindblowing as I expected.

On the plus side, the novel was typically realistic - perhaps even too much so if you're squeamish like me. It's brutal and not a single gory detail is spared and there's no place for sentimentalism. As I said before, these books are definitely not my typical reads, but they're just so well written that they just suck you in, take you on one hellouva ride and then don't let you go easily once you're done with them - oh no, these are the kind of books that stay on your while for a loooong time ...

All in all, this was an OUTSTANDING series, it's just the final installment that didn't really live up to my very, very high expectations, but I still think it was a spectacular and a very powerful read, just different to what I expected. You'll find a lot of people who were completely blown away by the conclusion and thus I urge you to give this series a go if you haven't already as it's most definitely worth reading!

overall rating:
plot: 3/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 3/5