19 September 2010

In My ... Suitcase! = Guess who's going on a holidaaay? :)

Yep, yours truly is finally going on the long-awaited and well-deserved holiday to a swanky hotel in Turkey with her hubby and a whole bunch of amazing books, yay! That's why there's no In My Mailbox this week (I only got one book anyway) and instead I've decided to show you all which books will be In My Suitcase - y'know, just in case you're wondering. :)

I had *such* a hard time deciding which books to take and I think I finally made my selection - see picture on the right and click to enlarge. We're only going for 8 days so I know this might be a bit much, but I just can't take any less books - who knows what I'll be in the mood foor! I've mostly chosen chick lit because I'm sure I'll want something light and fun. I haven't packed yet (eeeek!) so I don't know if all these will fit into my massive suitcase, but I sure hope so!

Right! Well, I'm afraid I won't be blogging until after I get back (27th September), but I wish you all a pleasant week! Mine is bound to be, I hope - I've had a really busy summer so I cannot wait to finally relax and reeeeeaaad and stuff!

Take care & see you on the flipside, darlings! :)

16 September 2010

Review: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins *****

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create.
As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying...
The terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games.
As you may remember, I recently jumped on the hugely popular Hunger Games bandwagon after immensly enjoying the first book in the trilogy. I was really surprised by how engrossed I was in it and I couldn't wait to read more. Luckily, the second book didn't disappoint in the slightest - in fact, in a way I perhaps enjoyed it even more than the first one!

Catching Fire opens shortly after The Hunger Games ends. I'm afraid I can't review this without discussing the plot so PLEASE BE WARNED THAT THERE WILL BE MINOR SPOILERS in this review. So yes, Katniss and Peeta move to the Victors' Village and Katniss soon learns that The Capitol is very, very angry with her due to her stunt with the berries, which appears to have provided some uprisings in various districts ... Before Katniss has the time to figure out what she will have to do in order to keep her loved ones alive, it's time for the Hunger Games again ...
It's also the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, which means it's time for the Quarter Quell aka the HG with a massive twist that occur every 25 years. Like the previous two Quarter Quells (25th and 50th anniversaries), this QQ features a cruel twist too and honestly, it couldn't have been worse! I have to say it was terribly inventive though and I have to give props to the author for coming up with such a crazy arena! The games were just SO damn twisted on so many levels and I was kept on the edge of my seat and reading to see how it will all end ... And then the ending happened! It was nothing like what I expected - suddenly everything changed and the book ended with a MASSIVE cliffhanger!!! The last line literary made me go, "SAY WHAAAT?" and I'd probably go crazy if I didn't have Mockingjay (the last installment) sitting on my shelf, heh!

Honestly, these two books have been nothing short of FANTASTIC and although I was a bit sceptical about all the neverending praise of the series at first, I can now see that it's totally deserved. This series is just so clever and so different from what I normally read, so much more brutal and raw, it's just so well written and so action packed that you just cannot put it down, regardless your reading preference!

Absolutely gripping stuff and I cannot wait to finally read the last book to see what happened to EVERYONE after the You Know What! I'm reeeeaally busy these days and don't have much time to read, but I'm taking Mockingjay to the holiday with me next week so I'll be able to read it in one sitting! I fully expect an EPIC conclusion, something rather extreme (oh yeah, there's a lot of potential for that right now!) but I'm a tad worried since I've seen rather mixed reviews of it - people seem to either love it or hate it so I wonder which side I'll be on ... Expect my review after I return from the holiday (a couple of weeks from now) and in the mean time just pick up a copy of the first book if you haven't already - you're guaranteed an amazing & brutal adventure that you won't soon forget!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 2/5

15 September 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Oh, be still, my flaming heart!

My today's two picks don't really sound like my type of reads, mostly because they seem to be about Old People in their forties and I'm really not into that sort of thing. However, I don't think I'll be able to resist buying these books mostly because the covers are OH SO GORGEOUS that I have the urge to own them and stare at them in admiration!

by Veronica Henry
[21st October 2010]
Delilah Rafferty has lived out her tempestuous marriage to hell-raiser Raf in the full glare of the media spotlight. Now, from the luxurious comfort of her beautiful kitchen, Delilah is planning her birthday party, a night that will see a star-studded gathering of friends and family celebrate in traditional Rafferty style. But she has more on her mind than just invitations... Raf has been offered a part in a movie he can't refuse. But will that mean he'll succumb to the temptations he's struggled so hard to resist for the last ten years - beautiful women and too much wine? And Delilah's three daughters, Coco, Violet and Tyger, are building careers of their own, only too aware that the press are waiting for them to slip up. For although the Rafferty girls might look like angels, they are only human. As with all families, there are secrets and rivalries bubbling away, and on one gloriously starry night, it's all going to come spilling out This is your invitation to a birthday party of the year...

by Gigi Levangie
[25th November 2010]
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman called Cynthia, queen of glittering Manhattan, who had everything she could ever want. Including a handsome king, otherwise known as her husband, sexy Jack Powers, wealthiest man in New York, and apparently devoted to wife and family.

But wait a minute, isn’t that a wicked witch in the distance? Cynthia’s just discovered her husband’s playing away with beautiful TV anchor Lara Sizemore, who’s head over heels in love with Jack. Now she has to decide whether her fairytale is worth trying to save…

Will they all live happily ever after - or can only one person have a true Fairytale Ending?
Hmm, two women with long hair in pretty dress standing on a balcony ... Do you see a pattern here? :p

Nevertheless, these covers are simply BEAUUUUTIFUL, don't you think? :)
(Although I won't be surprised if you choose to call them 'tacky', hehe!)

13 September 2010

Review: SCANDALOUS by Tilly Bagshawe ***

Sasha Miller comes to Cambridge with a dream and leaves on a mission. After falling for the lies and charms of her Director of Studies ‘Theo Dexter’ she finds herself betrayed, humiliated and nursing a bundle of broken dreams. Heading to the US she is determined to rebuild her life.
Years later, Sasha emerges from Harvard Business School with one thing on her mind, the downfall of the now famous Professor Theo Dexter.
Meanwhile Theo’s long-suffering wife Theresa also finds herself betrayed and cast aside for a younger and prettier model. Unable to cope she returns to Cambridge a broken woman and tries to rebuild her life away from the scheming Theo Dexter.
One night Sasha turns up at Theresa’s door, she wants revenge at any cost, will Theresa help her?
From the deepest betrayal comes a shocking alliance. Two vengeful women, one very unlucky man…
Tilly Bagshawe has written several blockbusters and although I own most of them, I've only read one before this book - Do Not Disturb and I couldn't help loving it! Thus I expected great things from this one too, but sadly and surprisingly I found it less enjoyable than Do Not Disturb ...

I really liked the opening few chapters, the naive and innocent Sasha arriving to Cambridge, falling in love and then the ultimate betrayal ... I felt for her and I expected her to get some cruel revenge, but after the first part the book just went downhill for me ... Sasha is a successful business woman, Theo is still the cheating scumbag and somewhat of a celebrity, his ex-wife is lonely etc. But quite frankly, I just felt that nothing was really happening and the story just wasn't going anyway, we were just following the characters through the years. I was waiting and waiting for Sasha to finally get her massive revenge, but when it happened, it was just like, "Blah, that's it?" I expected something far more epic than something so basic, something that would make up for the slow story, but the ending just felt rushed and a big anti-climax.

Luckily, the story was quite well written and I did want to find out what happened next (although not much did), but I wasn't too keen on the characters either. To me they just liked dimension. I felt Sasha was at first too naive and then too hell-bent on revenge, it was like one extreme to another. Theo had no redeeming qualities whatsoever and just too easy to hate. I suppose I found Theresa to be the most complex, but for some reason I didn't grow too fond of her either, she was just too boring.

Some of my criticism may be attributed to the fact that it took me weeks to read this book - and honestly NOT because I didn't enjoy it (because I did and I was very excited to read it), but I was just soooo busy that I had hardly any time for reading so maybe that's why I couldn't get properly absorbed into the story.

Not my favourite from Ms Bagshawe, but I'm certainly not giving up on her as I really loved Do Not Disturb and I still have Adored and Flawless to read! This was an enjoyable read, it certainly didn't annoy me or anything, but I guess I just felt it wasn't scandalous enough to live up to its title.

overall rating:
plot: 2/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 2/5 | cover: 3/5

12 September 2010

In My Mailbox #57

Hey and welcome back to another installment of IMM, hosted by The Story Siren. I didn't do an IMM last week so here are the books I got in the past two weeks (all purchased by me):

After watching the adorable trailer, I just couldn't resist ordering BEING JAMIE BAKER by Kelly Oram - plus who could resist an amazing cover like *that*?! Well done to the marketing department, I totally fell for it. :)

Then I also bought the whole HUNGER GAMES series - as I said in my review of the first book, I listened to the legally available audio book and I was so impressed by this series that I immediately ordered all three books. I got the UK covers because they're all available in paperback, but I'm not particularly impressed neither with the US nor UK covers, not my cup of tea, but luckily the stoies between the covers are fantastic!
I don't know why my copy of HG has Peeta on the cover when I ordered the one with Katniss, but oh well. Peeta is fantastic and all, but I really like Katniss, such a kickass girl.
I'm almost done with Catching Fire now and jeeez, it seems even better than the first book!!! Not the best thing to read while you eat though - I couldn't put the book down today so I kept reading during breakfast, but I nearly lost all my appetite when the squirrel mutts attacked the gang, eeek! But whoa, what a book!

That's it from me, see you all next week with some more great books! :)

11 September 2010

Review: MINI SHOPAHOLIC by Sophie Kinsella *****

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true - a shopping friend for life! But it s trickier than she thought as two-year-old Minnie has a quite different approach to shopping.
She can create havoc everywhere from Harrods to Harvey Nicks to her own christening. She hires taxis at random, her favourite word is Mine, and she's even started bidding for designer bags on ebay.
On top of everything else, there's a big financial crisis. People are having to Cut Back including all of Becky's personal shopping clients and she and Luke are still living with Becky s Mum and Dad. To cheer everyone up, Becky decides to throw a surprise birthday party on a budget but then things become really complicated.
Who will end up on the naughty step, who will get a gold star and will Becky's secret wishes come true?
I'm sure you all know how much I love and adore Ms Kinsella's books! As I've said before, she's the only author who has never ever disappointed me, not even in the slightest, and I've read all her books! I've been looking forward to Mini Shopaholic for months and as expected, I absolutely LOVED it - with it, Ms Kinsella just confirmed her status of My Favourite Author EVER!!! Be warned: there will be a lot of gushing in this post, but I just can't help myself, LOL.

Our beloved heroine Becky returns two years after she's given birth to Minnie, who turns out to be quite an energetic and determined little thing, hehehe! She's may not win the Most Well Behaved Daughter award anytime soon, but she's positively adorable, just like her mother!
Just like in the other books, Becky finds herself in a series of unfortunate events that she is determined to solve in her own special way - this time it's to do with Luke's birthday party, Minnie's upbringing, her job etc. As always, she manages to get herself in a million tricky situations, but she always finds the way out. That's what I love love love about Becky - she is such a good person. She may be a bit daft at times (and I mean that in the most endearing way possible), but she always means well and does the best she can. She is just so determined to deal with things her own way and she never gives up. Her way of thinking may be a bit silly, but you cannot help but love her. She's possibly my favourite literary character, just because she can crack me up like no one else in this world!!!

Oh and can we take a moment here and discuss LUKE BRANDON for a moment? Honestly, could this man possibly be any more PERFECT??? I don't think so and yet he keeps improving with every book, making me fall head over heels in love with him again and again! (Don't be jealous, hubby, you know I love you even more & fo' realz! ;) xoxo) He is the epitome of the perfect man and honestly too good to be true - I suppose that's why he's fictional, ha! He's not just perfect per say, but he's also perfect for Becky and I love the relationship they have, it's fantastic! OK, I think I'll stop fangirling over Luke here (even though I could go on all night, heh) and the last thing I'm saying is that he's just soooooo swoonworthy!

Excuse all the gushing (I'm prone to that when I'm discussing Kinsella's books), but I honestly cannot praise this book enough. I loved the plot, which was exciting and hilarious with all the twists & turns. The book was FILLED to the brink with HILARIOUS scenes that honestly had me in tears from laughing so hard!!! One of my favourites was the Eminem thing at Minnie's christening, hahaha! And Becky's bartering and Minnie's pocket money and Becky buying Minnie a dress for her 21st birthday, hahaha! Just thinking about everything that's happened in this book cracks me up - it's UH-MAAAZING STUFF! I was reading it during a particularly exhausting and crazy week and just reading a few pages before sleep made everything so much better - it's escapism at its best and like a little ray of sunshine that brightens up even the worst of days!

I really enjoyed seeing the whole gang again, not just Becky & Luke, but also Suze and Tarkie and Becky's parents and Janice and Danny! The new characters were fab too (Bonnie, Sage etc) and I look forward to seeing more of them in the upcoming books ... I say that with a bit of confidence as the ending of Mini Shopaholic suggests another massive adventure for Becky and I cannot WAIT to read all about it! Ooh, I hope the next book comes out sooooon, I just know it's going to be SO good!

This book couldn't possibly be any better and I tremendously enjoyed every single second of it, but now I'm crushed that it's all over. :( If you're a Shopaholic fan, they you're guaranteed to enjoy this just like the rest of this fantastic series. And if you're not a fan yet, then you absolutely MUST order yourself the whole series RIGHT NOW and read it asap - you'll thank me later. ;) Years ago, I was one of the people who looked down on others who read Shopaholic books - I thought books about shopping were far beneath me, but then I read one Shopaholic book and was immediately converted into not only a Shopaholic fan, but also a massive fan of the chick lit genre as such. So thank you, Ms Kinsella/Wickham, for showing me the light and thank you for writing such FANTASTIC and HILARIOUS books! How do you do it though, Sophie (can I call you that, by the way? Will you be my BFF? Will Becky be my BFF? Please?)? Is it MAGIC? Fairydust? Whatever it is, please don't ever stop and keep the books coming!!! :)

In conclusion: as it turns out, my predictions were correct and this is indeed THE CHICK LIT BOOK OF THE YEAR - it just doesn't get any better than this! Long live the Queen of Wit Lit!

overall rating: + ♥♥♥♥♥ (because it holds a special place in my heart :p)
plot: 5+/5 | writing: 5+/5 | characters: 5+/5 | cover: 4/5

ps: OH and don't forget to watch the third clip of The Queen herself reading an extract from the book - this time it's the visit to the Pound Shop and it's priceless, LOL!

pps: You can read the brilliant first chapter here - just click on the Extract tab & enjoooy!

8 September 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Two intriguing October chick lit books!

Today I'm waiting on two intriguing chick lit reads that both come out in October. They both have a bit of a mystery going on and I quite like that!

by Melanie Rose
[14 October 2010]
When Michaela Anderson signs up for a parachute jump she gets more than a case of vertigo… Suffering last-minute panic, Michaela’s three colleagues go first. But just as she takes her leap of faith, an almighty gale blows up from nowhere. When she returns to the ground, she finds the airfield deserted, her car gone and the seasons mysteriously changed. Posters nearby proclaim Michaela to have been missing for the last six and a half years…
But Michaela is determined to find out the truth. Was she kidnapped? Is she now suffering amnesia, or has something even more extraordinary occurred?
With the help of handsome pilot Matt, Michaela sets out to find the truth. And what she discovers rocks everything she has ever believed in to the core…
A magical tale that will enchant and enthral fans of Cecelia Ahern and Sophie Kinsella.
Lovely cover, a mystery and a handsome pilot? I'm sold! :)

by Martina Reilly
[7 October 2010]
Andrea and Lexi thought they would be best friends for ever. Through thick and thin, growing pains and wild nights out, they were inseparable. But it was their biggest adventure that was to tear them apart: travelling through Australia, Andrea and Lexi are involved in a catastrophic accident. Andrea is left scarred but her best friend is nowhere to be found. What happened to Lexi?
Two years later, Andy’s scar means she’s too scared to go out into the real world. Instead, she spends her time with her grumpy cat Baz and her hopeless boss Alistair. And Lexi still hasn’t been in touch. When Andy’s sister needs somewhere to stay, bringing her boyfriend and all their dramas with them, Andy realises she’s been hiding for too long. Just because she’s keeping some home truths buried doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way . . .
Ooh, I do wonder what ever happened to Lexi ... I guess I'll just have to read the book to find out! :)

5 September 2010

Review: THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins *****

Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with every one out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

With all the hype surrounding Mockingjay, the final installment of this dystopian trilogy, I finally jumped on The Hunger Games bandwagon too. I've seen nothing but rave reviews for this series all over the place, but I wasn't convinced if this was my kind of read - I mean, a reality show about kids killing each other off, are you kidding me? But then the first audiobook was legally available on some site for a week and somone kindly linked it in their blog (I forgot who it was and where it was, but thank you so much!) so I decided to download it to listen in the car ... And the rest is history. A few chapters in and I was totally hooked!

I'm sure you all know (plus it says above in the summary) that the book takes place in the future where North America used to be, but now it's called Panem and it consists of the Capitol and twelve districts, who couldn't possibly be more different. Through Katniss's eyes we first hear about her district (number 12), which feels nothing like the future, where the story is supposed to take place, but far more than the past, the Middle Ages or so. Everyone's poor and struggling and they hunt and live off fruit and veg, not tablets like you'd expect. District 12 is the poorest district and just like the rest, it's controlled by The Capitol. The story opens on Reaping Day and Katniss sort of chooses to become one of the 24 Tributes of The Hunger Games and so she is immediately whisked off to The Capitol to prepare for the games. The Capitol is a different world all together - people there speak differently, they can have any colour skin they want, they dress and act strangely. There you really get the sense that the book takes place in the future since the society is similar to ours, just far more advanced.

That was the setting, now moving on to the Hunger Games as such. Boy oh boy, what an insane idea, choosing 24 kids, placing them in the arena and making sure they kill each other off until only one remains? This is the Capitol's way of displaying its power over the districts and the inhabitants of the Capitol love this stuff! The people from the districts mostly hate it, obviously, but they're not allowed to question it. So on reaping day, two Tributes are chosen from each district, a boy and a girl. Then they're assigned a prep team, who will make sure that Tributes look their very best for all the interviews and everything before they are send to the arena to kill each other. The person who stays alive will go down in history and receive amazing prizes.
Everything seems like a normal reality TV show and the whole time I was thinking that naaah, surely this won't actually happen, surely they won't have to kill each other??? But yep, it happened big time. The actual descprition of the Games is quite gruesome and cruel and at times revolting as no details of the killings are spared. It's not always easy to read, but it's like a trainwreck, you just can't look away and you're desperate to know how all of this will end!

The story is narrated by Katniss herself and she is an amazing kickass girl! She's incredibly strong and capable and inventive, definitely a fantastic role model for young girls (as opposed to a certain Bella we all know, ahem). I really enjoyed seeing everything through her eyes, although I at times wishes we could have a third person narrator too as I wanted to know what was going on with the other Tributes as well as outside the arena. But anyway, the characters in this book are fantastic and really well portrayed! I loved Cinna and Haymitch and Peeta and Gale and Rue and pretty much everyone! However, contrary to most people who have read the book, I'm neither Team Peeta nor Team Gale. I quite like both guys and I couldn't possibly choose a team yet, but we'll see what happens later on, hehe.

Gosh, I could go on and on about this book, but I don't want to say too much - it's a book you have to experience for yourself. It's amazingy well-written, fast paced, original, powerful, but also vile and gruesome and oh so much more!
Do yourself a favour and get a copy, even if you think this is not your cup of tea ... Believe me, I didn't think it was mine either as this book is bajillion times more gruesome and violent than the ones I normally read, but I still loved it. Admittedly, at times it was difficult to read as I'm a vegetarian and all the talk about hunting and eating animals and wearing fur and leather *really* put me off (yeah, I'm crazy like that :p), but I eventually learned to accept it and focus more on the rest of the story, which is amazing. After I finished listening to this audiobook (it was legally available, I swear!!), I bought myself all three books because this series is a keeper. I'm almost halfway through Catching Fire and I'm still loving it - I cannot wait to see how it all ends (but please don't ruin it for me :p)!

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

1 September 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follet

You may have heard of Ken Follet's upcoming massive book which will be epic and published in like a bajillion countries on the same date, 28th September? No? I heard the news a while ago, but didn't really pay much attention to it as I haven't read anything by Ken Follet and wasn't really planning to -- until I've actually read the synopsis for this book and it sounds amazing! I'm not sure if I'll buy the hardback or wait for the paperback (oh, the dilemma!), but this is definitely on my wishlist!

by Ken Follet
[28th September 2010]
Fall of Giants is a magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in the Century trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families – American, German, Russian, English and Welsh – as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man’s world in the Welsh mining pits…Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson’s White House…two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription and revolution…Billy’s sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German Embassy in London….

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

As always with Ken, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of the Century trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the twentieth century, changing themselves – and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Ken brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.