31 May 2010

Blog Tour: THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson

To celebrate the UK release of THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson, Walker Books are organizing a fantastic blog tour before the book officially comes out on June 7th!
Today it's my turn to post a couple of extracts from this absolutely amazing book. I couldn't possibly choose a favourite excerpt myself as each sentence is simply brilliant so I was very happy that the people at Walker suggested one for me - and I have to say that I am very, very pleased with their choice!
I finished the book the other day and it was undoubtedly the best book I've read this year. It literally blew me away and I'm still shocked by how incredible it was. What really makes this book is the amazing writing - and you can get a taste of it if you follow this blog tour. Yesterday's excerpt was posted by Chicklish and tomorrow you'll find one at My Favourite Books turn so don't forget to stop by there!

Anyway, without further ado, here are 'my' excerpts from this extraordinary book ...
“Want to play, Joe?” I say, heading upstairs for my clarinet.
“Holy shit,” I hear, then apologies to Gram and Big.
Back on the porch, I say, “You start, I’ll follow.”
He nods and starts playing some sweet soft chords in G minor. But I feel too unnerved for sweet, too unnerved for soft. I can’t shake off Toby’s call, his kisses. I can’t shake off cardboard boxes, perfume that never gets used, bookmarks that don’t move, St Anthony statues that do. I can’t shake off the fact that Bailey at eleven years old did not put herself in the drawing of our family, and suddenly, I am so upset I forget I’m playing music, forget Joe’s even there beside me.
I start to think about all the things I haven’t said since Bailey died, all the words stowed deep in my heart, in our orange bedroom, all the words in the whole world that aren’t said after someone dies because they are too sad, too enraged, too devastated, too guilty to come out – all of them begin to course inside me like a lunatic river. I suck in all the air I can, until there’s probably no air left in Clover for anyone else, and then I blast it all out my clarinet in one mad bleating typhoon of a note. I don’t know if a clarinet has ever made such a terrible sound, but I can’t stop, all the years come tumbling out now – Bailey and me in the river, the ocean, tucked so snug into our room, the backseat of cars, bathtubs, running through the trees, through days and nights and months and years without Mom – I am breaking windows, busting through walls, burning up the past, pushing Toby off me, taking the dumb-ass Lennie houseplant and hurling it into the sea—
I open my eyes. Joe’s staring at me, astonished. The dogs next door are barking.
“Wow, I think I’ll follow next time,” he says.
Between chapters there are always handwritten, poignant notes and poems, written by grief-stricken Lennie. She writes them on pieces of paper, on her shoes, on trees, on walls, everywhere. She doesn't keep any of them, though, she just leaves them at various places.
You can see an example of the right (click to enlarge).
I've never seen anything like this in a book before and I thought it was a fantastic addition!

As I said, this is my favourite book of 2010 so far and you can find out why if you come back tomorrow when I'll be posting my review - oh and I'll also be hosting a giveaway with an awesome prize (a copy the book + some great swag) so don't forget to check that out! :)

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29 May 2010

In My Mailbox #45

Hi, everyone!
It's the weekend so you know what that means - it's IMM time, woohoo!
Here's what I got in the past week ...

BOUGHT:

  • WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty - Squeeee! I've been waiting for this book for nearly a year as it's been postponed three times and it went through two cover changes, heh. My copy finally arrived and it jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile!
  • JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta - I've heard so many great things about this book that I just couldn't resist not getting a copy myself and see what the fuss is about, ha!
  • ENDLESS SUMMER by Jennifer Echols - I haven't read anything by this author yet (shame on me, I know) so I got myself a copy of this book, which is pretty but massive (it's 2 books in 1)!
  • CRAZY IN LOVE by Chris Manby - I just read Getting Over Mr Right (review coming soon) and it was a fun read so I decided to buy this one as I've been eyeing it for months!
FOR REVIEW:

  • KISSING MR WRONG by Sarah Duncan - Quite a few people have reviewed this recently and I hear it's a good read so I'm excited to find out!
  • CHERYL by Sean Smith - I'm not too keen on non fiction generally so this is not the type of book I'd read whole, but I'll certainly go through it to learn more about this gooorgeous woman! The picture on the cover isn't the best one of her, but she's definitely had a very interesting life - I have a feeling this could turn out to be quite a chicklity story after all. ;)
Enjoy the weekend, darlings! :)

27 May 2010

Review: THE MARK by Jen Nadol ****

Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.
Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. Though she’s careful to hide her secret—even from her new philosophy-obsessed boyfriend—with each impending death comes the temptation to test fate. But so many questions remain. How does the mark work? Why is she the only one who sees it? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?
I learned about this book a few months ago when bloggers started receiving ARCs and I was immediately fascinated by the premise - a girl who can tell that someone's going to day on that very day, will she tell them or not? Should she save their lives?
I've read mixed reviews about it so I worried that I might be disappointed, despite the promising concept - but luckily, I wasn't disappointed at all!

The story is narrated by Cassie, a 16-year-old girl who hasn't had an easy life at all. After losing her parents as a small child, Cassie was taken under the wing of her grandmother Nan. As time went by, Cassie often noticed this glow around people and it took her a while to realize that this means the person was about to die that day. She has a hard time coming to terms with this realization, especially when she sees it around her beloved Nan ...
I found the plot to be a bit slow at first, but the pace really picked up once Cassie met someone she really cared about and saved his life after seeing the mark on him. After that, he tried to persuade her that she has this gift and that she should use it to save others too. Unsure, Cassie tries her best, but sadly she's far from successful. On top of her first relationship falling apart, Cassie also uncovers the tragic story of what really happened to her parents and thus learns some shocking things about herself ...

The novel raises some thought-provoking (albeit very hypothetical) questions: If you knew someone was to die today, would you tell them and thus ruin their last day, or should you just let them go about their day unsuspecting? If you tell them, will they believe you? And even if they do, what if this results in something even more tragic? Is someone's life worth saving or is it really their time? How will small choices influence your life? Is it all predetermined or can things still be changed?
I thought the author explored all these dilemmas really well, not only through Cassie's eyes, but also with the help of various philosophical views on the subject and even with a dash of Greek mythology - I thought it was all quite fascinating, really.

For me, the book was mostly plot-driven, but I can't complain about the characters or the writing either. The latter flowed nicely - it wasn't spectacular or flowery or anything, but it was good enough and fitting.
I found the characters quite well developed too, especially Cassandra. I enjoyed her narrative and her sadness and panic was almost tangible. It's debatable whether seeing The Mark around people is a gift or a curse, but it certainly is a burden and I felt for her as he had to live with it and struggled to make some sense of it. I thought she really grew after having to cope with so much so suddenly and my only complaint was that the novel was too short - I'd love to read more about how Cassie coped with everything and what her life was like after she moved back home, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a sequel, that would be great!

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

26 May 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: KISS HEAVEN GOODBYE

KISS HEAVEN GOODBYE
by Tasmina Perry
[5 August 2010]
A delicious cocktail of glittering escapism and gripping entertainment, KISS HEAVEN GOODBYE is Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller Tasmina Perry at her sizzling best...

A hot summer. A private island. A dark secret... On the luxurious private island of Angel Cay, four privileged students toast the end of their exams, but one dark night will change their perfect lives for ever. As the friends move into their glamorous careers – fashion, music, politics – each tries to put the past behind them. But no matter how high their stars climb, they cannot escape the dreadful truth. And when the consequences of that fateful night finally catch up with them, for one of the four, there is a terrible price to be paid... From the sugar-white sands of the Bahamas to Australia’s Coral Sea; from London’s glittering society scene to the lavish decadence of Hollywood, Tasmina Perry travels the world and turns up the heat in her most spectacular novel yet...
I haven't read any Tasmina Perry books yet, but this one just sounds SO good and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy! I love the cover too - what a perfect summer read! :D

What's *your* Waiting On Wednesday pick this week? :)

24 May 2010

Review: A RELUCTANT CINDERELLA by Alison Bond ***

Samantha Sharp turned seventeen, left her old life behind and moved to London, determined to make her fortune.Ten years later and she’s a super-agent to the stars, with her name in the papers, millions in the bank, and one success after another. Love has taken a back seat because her past has put her off relationships for good.
Everyone's got a history but Samantha’s is particularly murky. What’s more, she hasn’t got to the top of her game without collecting a few enemies along the way. So when she meets a man who might be a little bit dangerous, someone she’s finally close to loving, is there anyone to tell her what a terrible mistake she’s making?
Will Samantha find her happy ever after? And if her carefully hidden past comes into the light,will her fairytale coach turn back into a pumpkin? Samantha Sharp needs to find a way to cling onto her sparkle …

After you look at the cover and read the blurb above, what do you expect this book to be about? My lovely boyfriend suggested, "A girl looking for her Prince Charming?" Yep, that's what I thought too, but after I finished the book, I just stared at the cover for a while, wondering what the hell just happened, heh. The cover is gorgeous and I can easily admit that it's the main reason why I was so eager to read the book, but WHOA - the cover, the title and the blurb couldn't possibly be more deceiving ...

Firstly, this is no fluffy chick lit story - it's far darker and more serious. There's no ditzy heroine, no comedy scenes, but instead the story tackled foster homes, death, alcohol, drugs, prison, revenge etc. Overall, it's not depressing and I quite liked these themes though, they made the book more gripping than the usual chick lit novel. However, there was another very prominent theme that I wasn't too keen on, but we'll get to that later.

Secondly, there is no love story whatsoever (apart from a couple lusty affairs) - our main character Samantha Sharp isn't even remotely interested in looking for her Prince Charming or her happy ending, she's out there to succeed and to make money and that's it. She been through some tough times and is hiding quite a few dark secrets, but when we meet her at the beginning of the novel, she's at the top of her game. She's very driven and she uses every single moment she can to succeed. When her life starts to crumble and someone's obviously out to get her, she doesn't break down, but she's determined to clear her reputation and get back to the top again. I thought she was a fantastic character and I really admired her determination, plus she quite a refreshing change from the typical chick lit characters!
Sam is many things, but she certainly has nothing in common with the drawing on the cover. After reading the story, I still have no idea or explanation where this cover came from?! As I said, this is not your typical chick lit read, even though the cover screams otherwise. However, I'm convinced that this book deserves a far more powerful cover - I'd imagine something black and red and white and strong, not this romantic thingy, which is completely wrong (albeit pretty). I'm honestly wondering if there's been a mix up and they've stuck the wrong cover on the book??
And I can't explain the title either - where did the Cinderella bit come from? Reluctant or not, Sam and Cinderella have about as much in common as a tiger and a kitten. To top things off, the blurb doesn't do the book justice either - it doesn't sum up the book and it doesn't even remotely hint what the book is about. Which brings me to my next point ...

Thirdly, based on the cover and the blurb, would you ever in a million years expect the main topic of this book to be FOOTBALL - in Poland??? Nope, me neither, LOL. The blurb describes Sam as an agent to the 'stars' - well, as it turns out, those are all *football* stars and Sam earns big bucks discovering and representing them. Actually, Sam is only one of the main characters - the other two very prominent characters are Gabe and Joe, two more or less professional footballers, and quite a big portion of the book is dedicated to their misadventures on and off the football field (*yawn*) in Poland (where they play and Sam represents them). I'm not football fan by any means so if someone told me that there was SO much football in this book, I'd never pick it up - I'm sorry, but that's just not what I signed up for. Just look at the cover again - and then imagine that this book revolves mostly around football - how on Earth did that happen? I'm still baffled.

The basic story was rather good (although the twist was slightly predictable and the ending felt a bit rushed) - Sam's secret past, her relationship with her brother, someone trying to ruin her etc., but I could really do without Gabe and Joe's subplots. I could even handle Sam's job as such (I'll admit it was quite fascinating to read about such a strong woman in a typically male profession), but with these two footballers there was just TOO MUCH FOOTBALL TALK - in my supposedly chick lit book ... QUE? *still confused*

All in all, this was honestly NOT a bad read and I finished it in one day, but unfortunately it just wasn't the book I expected. The only problem I have with this book is that the marketing for it is completely wrong and very deceiving - the exterior is very pretty so the book will sell, yes, but it just won't read the target audience. With the World Cup approaching, this would be the perfect time to give the book the cover it deserves and maybe boldly stick a football on it or something to do it justice. Granted I personally maybe wouldn't pick it up, but I'm sure many others would and with this cover they might just miss it. Or maybe they'll be pleasantly surprised - that's what Chloe thinks so go read her review to see another point of view on this book.

I can't help but laugh at my WOW post from a few months ago, when I described this as "another silly romcom" - ha, how wrong was I! As I said, the exterior of the book is very deceiving and after reading the book, what I personally imagine on the cover is a fierce business woman (or a silhuette) with one foot on a football and standing next to her office desk, and the title would read something like She's Got Balls (pun is related to a scene in the book). It could even be quite chicklity looking - maybe something like what I put together in 2 seconds (see picture on the right), LOL. Does that look and sound stupid? Possibly (well, it was just an idea, heh), but at least it's a tiny bit more true to the book itself. ;) As pretty as the original cover may be, I just think this book ~needs moar fierce~ ... and definitely a football on the cover, whether I personally like it or not. ;)

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

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23 May 2010

In My Mailbox #44

As you all know, IMM is hosted by The Story Siren and here are the books I received in the past week ...

FOR REVIEW:


  • THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson (Thank you, Walker Books!) - This is the UK edition, which comes out soon (June 7th!), and it literally looks amazing with the elastic band and different format and all the pictures etc. inside, it's quite special (more in my review). I expect the inside to be just as unique - look out for my review soon!
  • ALL THAT MULLARKEY by Sue Moorcroft (Thank you, Choc Lit Publishing!) - I love the sound of this one and the cover is so pretty! Can't wait to read it!
  • THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN by Linda Green (Thank you, Headline!) - I was instantly hooked by the great premise of this one, but I'm a tad worried I won't get all the 80s references, seeing how I was born in 1985 and have absolutely no recollection of that decade, lol. I'm sure I'll enjoy it regardless seeing how I've heard nothing but praise soon far! Oh and this book arrived with a fab 80s-themed press release, yay!
BOUGHT:


  • THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DUMPED by Jenny Colgan - I've seen mixed reviews about this one, but I'm still very excited about it, seeing how I absolutely loved my previous Jenny Colgan reads. Oh and Amazon has the next Jenny Colgan book listed as The Cupcake Cafe, but on Twitter Jenny said it'll actually be called Welcome to the Cupcake Cafe or Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe - how totally AMAZING are these titles?! I'm already in love! And can you just imagine how cute the cover will be! :D Can't wait!!
  • GIMME A CALL by Sarah Mlynowski - This is the UK edition and I think it's much prettier than the US one, plus it's in paperback, yay.
Hope you all had a great book week as well!
Oh and those of you who are attending BEA - have fuuuuun and don't forget to take a lot of photos and post a full report on your blog when you get back!
Happy reading, everyone! :)

ps: Don't forget to enter my contest to win a copy of DELLA SAYS: OMG! - it's international and it ends on May 31st!

21 May 2010

Review: DELLA SAYS: OMG! by Keris Stainton **** + GIVEAWAY!

Della’s over the moon when she kisses her long-standing crush at a party – but then she discovers her diary has disappeared...
When scans of embarrassing pages are sent to her mobile and appear on Facebook, Della’s distraught – how can she enjoy her first proper romance when someone, somewhere, knows all her deepest, darkest secrets?
I've been wanting to read this book ever since I first came across it months ago so I was very excited when Keris asked me to be a part of her blog tour - you can read my interview with her here. It took a while for my copy to arrive (that's what happens when you live in the Middle of Nowhere), but in the mean time a whole bunch of very positive reviews started popping up all over the internet and I knew I was in for a treat!

The idea behind the book explores everyone's worst nightmare (well, almost) - I kept an embarassing diary too when I was a teenager and I know I'd be absolutely mortified if someone stole it and started posting it everywhere, eeeek! Sadly, this happened to Della, but after the initial shock she coped with it quite well with the help of her best friend Maddy and her lovely boyfriend Dan (who was honestly adorable and just awesome!).

I thought the book captured really well what being teenager is really like - falling in love for the first time, sex, family problems, mean girls at school, friendships, parties etc. The novel had its serious moments (especially towards the end), but I thought it was a fun and a rather positive read.

The writing is simple and the plot isn't too complex either, but the characters are fabulous! I loved Della and Maddy's friendship and even though they're quite different in character (I found Maddy to be more of a wild child and Della more of a good girl), they're both great and teenagers will easily relate to them and their problems. DanTheMan is the type of boyfriend every girl dreams of (well, unless you're into bad boys :p) - incredibly understanding and supportive and gentle and cute and fun etc. Furthermore, Della's parents were fantastic (and hilarious) too and I loved how their family wasn't just another dysfunctional one - it was a nice change from most of the YA novels.

All in all, this was a quick, but a rather enjoyable read. I really reminded me of Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway since both books are about being a teenager and they feature first love, teenage problems, awesome BFFs and fab parents - plus they're both so much fun to read! Lastly, I love the cover too, it's quite simple but powerful and yet cute & fun - just like the book itself! :)

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

And now it's time for another GIVEAWAY - don't you just love those? :D Well, I ended up with an extra copy of DELLA SAYS: OMG! so I figured I might as well give one away and give one lucky reader a chance to enjoy this great debut!

Here are the rules:
  • the giveaway is open internationally;
  • it ends on May 31st;
  • to enter, just fill out this form;
  • you can increase your chances to win with extra entries - you'll find all the relevant info on the form itself.
Any more questions? Fire away! Good luck! :)

19 May 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton

I have a special WOW pick today - it's one of my most anticipated books of the year: THE DISTANT HOURS by Kate Morton! You may remember Ms Morton as the author of The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden - I absolutely adored those books (they're among my all-time favourite reads) and that's why I'm sooooo excited about this one!

I've been wanting to post about it for a while, but I decided to wait until both covers were released so we could compare - which one do you prefer, the UK or the US one? (see below, click to enlarge) I honestly can't decide, I don't dislike either and I don't really care about the cover in this case, I just want to read the book NOW!

Release dates: 15 October 2010 (UK) & 9 November 2010 (US)

Edie Burchill and her mother have never been close, but when a long lost letter arrives one Sunday afternoon with the return address of Millderhurst 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: Juniper, her twin sisters and their father, Raymond. In the grand and glorious Millderhurst Castle, a new world opens up for Edie’s mother. She discovers the joys of books and fantasy and writing, but also, ultimately, the dangers.

Fifty years later, as Edie chases the answers to her mother’s riddle, she, too, is drawn to Millderhurst Castle and the eccentric Sisters Blythe. Old ladies now, the three still live together, the twins nursing Juniper, whose abandonment by her fiancĂ© 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 Millderhurst 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 . . .
Doesn't it sound AMAZING? Watch the trailer below too! Honestly, words cannot express how excited I am about this book, I need it now now NOW! :D

18 May 2010

Review: THE UNIDENTIFIED REDHEAD by Alice Clayton ****

When Grace Sheridan returns to Los Angeles to become a working actress, it's a second shot at a life-long dream. With some help from her best friend and agent, that dream could become a reality, but at thirty-three, has Grace missed her chance at the big time? Will an unexpected sizzling romance with the entertainment industry's newest 'it' boy shine an uncomfortable spotlight on her life?

Alice Clayton spins a playful and erotic May to December romance in her debut novel. Clayton's funny, borderline neurotic heroine is perfect in her imperfections, and the off the charts sexual chemistry between her and her charming, yet blissfully unaware leading man are the true heart of The Unidentified Redhead. With laugh out loud dialogue and a super steamy romance that will get your heart racing, sneaking around in L.A. and dodging the Paparazzi has never been so fun.
As you can see above, this book promises to be fun, but I honestly didn't expect to have *that* much fun reading it, wow! This is a an amusing and adorable story of Grace, aged 33, who moves back to LA to try her luck with acting. At her friend's party, she meets Jack Hamilton, a 24-year-old film star in the making. The chemistry between them is incredible and they hit it off immediately, but their little fling soon turns into a proper life-changing relationship.

I can't say this book excels plot-wise. The book is honestly mostly about Grace and Jack's relationship with a massive focus on their sex life. Yes, this book is rather explicit in terms of sex and swearing etc. so here's your warning if you're sensitive about that sort of thing. But don't worry, it's not offensive or super kinky or anything - it's just about two adults with incredible chemistry in the initial stages of their relationship when passion takes over anything. Personally, I was anything but offended by it - I actually enjoyed reading about their relationship growing and getting more passionate and everything, it was just adorable and fun (and quite hot too :p)! Anyway, as I said, there's hardly any proper plot to speak of, no antagonist or anything, but I didn't really mind. I found their relationship to be slightly too sex driven as it seemed that they barely knew each other outside the bedroom, but the book was just so much fun to read.

The novel does, however, stand out in terms of characters. I can't say that they showed incredible dimension, but pretty much all the characters were fantastic and the type of people you'd want to be best friends with. Grace was a fabulous narrator of the story and I loved her relationship with her best friend Holly, who's also her house-mate; the two really had the most awesome friendship ever. And ooh, don't even get me started on Jack! What an amazing and sexy guy, almost too perfect - and did I mention HE'S BRITISH?! ♥ Yeah, I know = dreamy accent! Luke Brandon (from the Shopaholic series, my little book crush) has some serious competition. ;)

Furthermore, the writing in this book is simply fabulous! No, the prose is hardly very eloquent, it's all just modern speak, but I thought it fitted the novel perfectly. As I mentioned before, there is quite a bit of swearing (in an endearing way), but I thought it just added character to the novel and made it more realistic. The narration is great, but the dialogue itself was even better and often absolutely hilarious - I loved it!

The novel wraps up nicely, but I want to know what happens next and how Grace and Jack will coping with the change in their relationship. Will Grace become a star? And how will Jack being a star when his film comes out affect their relationship? I do wonder - that's why I'm screaming for a sequel and I do hope there's one in store. ;)

The blurb above really doesn't lie - "laugh out loud dialogue" and "super steamy romance" sum up this book really well! I really enjoyed reading it and I definitely recommend it if you're looking for a light, sexy and super fun read! :) To get your copy, please visit Omnific Publishing. This is a debut novel, but I'd love to read more by this author!

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

16 May 2010

Cover WIN / FAIL: Angelic covers? + Winners announced!

It's cover talk time again, woohoo! Yeah, it's been a while, but I just had so many other reviews and interviews to post that I just couldn't squeeze it in, but now the time has finally come to spotlight two covers that got my attention recently - one took my breath away and the other one made me raise my eyebrows, heh. As always, I mean no offence - I'm just expressing my humble personal opinion and you're more than welcome to disagree - tastes differ, after all. :)

Anyway, this week I decided to spotlight two books that both deal with the subject of angels. Quite frankly, this sort of books are way out of my comfort zone so I must confess I didn't really read the summary for either of the books below, I'm just focusing on the covers, which really are special.




Cover Win: HALO by Alexandra Adornetto
Honestly, doesn't this cover just make you go, 'WOW!'? I think it's absolutely beautiful and I'd buy it for the cover alone, I don't even care what it's about. I'm not usually not a massive fan of "non-drawn" covers as I don't think there's anything amazing about a picture with some text on it, but this one really is beautiful and I can tell that a lot of thought and effort was put into it.

Cover Fail: THE UNFINISHED ANGEL by Sharon Creech
I'm sure there's a good explanation for this cover, but I just can't help disliking it. It's just boring and blah. :( I've noticed this book on another blog where quite a few people called the cover 'adorable', but I just don't see it myself. I would never pick this book up in a bookshop or bother to read about it online, the cover is just too off-putting. I'm sure I'm very wrong to judge this book by the cover as it's aparently very good and it won the Carnegie medal, but still. Luckily, the book was re-designed for the paperback release, which looks a bit better and more like something I'd bother picking up off the shelf in a shop. But the original just makes me frown, I'm sorry.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know! :)

ps: Before I wrap this post up, I still need to annouce the winners of my Ilana Fox competition! Thanks to everyone who entered - I had nearly 200 entries! And yay for Google Docs for making it so easy to pick winners with the help of random.org (yes, I know I'm late)! Anyway, without further ado ...
The two winners of SPOTLIGHT are TINA and NATALIE & the winner of THE MAKING OF MIA is Iffath - please EMAIL ME in the next two days to claim your prizes! Congrats, girls, and I hope you enjoy your faaabulous new books! :)

15 May 2010

In My Mailbox #43 + A new book blog introduction!

Before I reveal which books I got this week, I want to invite you all to check out a new book blog on the block - it's called This Miss Loves to Read and the girl behind it is my friend from Uni/college, a fellow bookworm. :) She's now the first and only book blogger I know in real life (not surprising since she and I live pretty much in the Middle of Nowhere) and she's one of the few people I can discuss books with in real life. Then I got myself this blog and I started telling her how amazing the book blogosphere is and totally nagging her about how she should start her own book blog too since she reads a lot - and she finally did, yay!
So do go visit and follow her - she's already posted a whole bunch of awesome reviews, ranging from YA to paranormal to historical to classics and so much more (Twilight Saga, Fallen, The Book Thief, The Musician's Daughter, Wuthering Heights, The Luxe, The Collector, The Phantom of the Opera etc.)
I think her comments aren't working properly at the moment, but I'm sure she'll fix that soon. You can still follow her blog (she just got herself a pretty new layout, yay) or on Twitter. :)

Anyway, moving on to IMM! I'm happy to say that I've had an amazing book week, woohoo!

Firstly, here are the books I got for review:

  • THE CASTAWAYS by Elin Hilderbrand - Another surprise from Hodder! I haven't heard of this before, but it sounds and looks good, and rather intriguing too!
  • PIECES OF SKY by Kiki Warner - I've been waiting for this one for quite a while. It's actually a western (as in cowboys etc.) romance story, quite unlike everything I've read before so I can't wait to see what I think of it.
  • A RELUCTANT CINDERELLA by Alison Bond - Yaaaaay, I've been looking forward to this one for ages and I even did a WOW post on it months ago! I was so happy when it arrived and I cannot wait to read it!
I also bought a few books (shocking, innit :p):

  • HEART OF THE MATTER by Emily Giffin - I pre-ordered it a while ago and it arrived pretty much on the release date, heh. I've read two other books by Emily Giffin (Baby Proof & Love the One You're With) and loved them so I'm expecting great things from this one too! I've read the first chapter and it was fantastic, I'd totally read the whole thing in one sitting if I had the time, which I sadly really don't, argh!
  • THE FINISHING TOUCHES by Hester Browne - Other chick lit blogs have been buzzing about this book for months and I just couldn't resist it, it's too cute!
  • NO GREATER LOVE by Danielle Steel - This one was recommended to me by the awesome Juju @ Tales of Whimsy since we both enjoy Titanic-related books. I ordered it straight away - thanks for the rec, Juju! :)
  • INFINITY by Sarah Dessen -This little book thingy is a major RIP OFF! The description online is really vague and since it's only about 100 pages long, I thought it was a novella or something, cool. Imagine my surprise when this book arrived and I opened it and I saw that it contains a short story called Infinity (30 pages) and then two excerpts, one from Just Listen and the other from That Summer, each 30 pages long with huge font and like double spacing. If I hadn't pre-ordered it for like 2 €, I would totally demand my money back. I mean, who wants excerpts in a book?! No one, especially not for 3.99 GBP! Just thought I'd warn anyone who might be considering getting this book. ;)
Right, that's it from me - can't wait to see what you all got!
Have a great weekend, everyone! :)

ps: Don't forget, there are only a few hours left to enter my contest to win a copy of Spotlight or The Making of Mia by Ilana Fox!

14 May 2010

Review: CAN YOU SEE ME? by Ruth Gilligan **

When Alice arrives on campus amidst the ancient splendour of Cambridge University, she thinks she’s found her wonderland. Then one night something happens – one inexplicable act ruins everything and she finds herself alone. Alice will not admit defeat; having practically raised her two brothers single-handedly, she is good at being strong. Too good.
But soon her dark secret becomes too much and the cracks begin to show. Her weekly meetings with Flo, the stranger on the bench, become her lifeline. And try as she might to bury the dark truth of that awful night, she begins to realise that some things have to be faced up to.
It’s time for Alice to look at her broken reflection and start to put the pieces back together…

I bought this book (trade paperback even!) immediately after I heard about it months ago - it just sounded so good, just my kind of thing. I started reading it as soon as I could and I was rather impressed by the beginning, but then things just went downhill and I found myself struggling to finish it, which was completely unexpected. I don't think the book itself is to blame, I guess it just didn't strike a chord with me personally.

The plot started off well - I enjoyed reading about Alice's settling back into the Cambridge life for her second term and I found the descriptions of her Uni life rather interesting as my experience was quite different. But that's just the side plot whereas this book mostly revolves around the fact that Alice was raped and the effect this has on her life. Obviously, this is a very difficult topic to tackle and I appreciated that it wasn't sugarcoated at all. In fact, I thought the author did a good job portraying the internal struggle women have after being raped - doubting that they were raped, wondering if it was their fault, nightmares, feeling dirty, withdrawing from people, facing emotional breakdown etc. While I appreciate that, I still the plot didn't flow well - I somehow still found it boring? There was an explosive subject at the heart of the book, but the story failed to intrigue me somehow. I thought the Flo bit was rather silly and I wasn't too keen on the ending either - it was slightly confusing, but I didn't really dwell on it, I was just relieved that the novel was finally over.

I'm afraid I didn't really warm up to the characters either. Alice should be someone I should symphatize with, and I did at first, but then I somehow just found her more annoying than anything, as harsh as it sounds. I could understand why she acted the way she did, she wanted to remain strong as always etc., but I just couldn't relate to her. The side characters just all fell flat for me too and sadly I wasn't particularly intrigued by any of them.

The author has a great way with words and her writing is really lyrical at times, which is something that I appreciate and I know she'll be able to go a long way with it. However, I still can't say that the novel was incredibly well written, seeing how to me the plot didn't really flow nicely and I certainly wasn't keen on multiple narrators - every now and then, one of Alice's friends takes over the narration: sometimes it's her BFF Millie, then it's her friend Joey, a couple of times it's her ex Paddy etc. These narrators aren't marked by name or anything so you have to figure out yourself who's telling the story now, which isn't particularly difficult (although their narrative voices are quite similar), but sometimes it's still a bit confusing.

All in all, I had high expectations for this novel, but sadly they were not met. I knew what it would be about and I expected such a topic to inspire a very moving book, but unfortunately it all just fell a bit flat for me. I'm not saying the book was bad, as a matter of fact I think the author is very talented, especially given her youth, but I just really couldn't connect neither with the story nor with the characters. But wahey, at least the covers are pretty, right? Pictured above is the one I have (Irish trade paperback) and below are Irish paperback and the UK paperback respectively. Which one's your favourite?


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

12 May 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: ELIXIR by Hilary Duff

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

My this week's pick is Hilary Duff's YA debut titled Elixir. I'm completely indifferent to Hilary Duff and so I won't be picking this up because it's (supposedly) written by *her*, but mostly because the story sounds quite interesting - plus I just know I won't be able to resist the massive hype this book will most likely be subjected to, heg.

The cover was also recently released - what do you think of it? Personally I'm not overly impressed, but it is rather astounding how this cover manages to be powerful and boring at the same time, ha.


ELIXIR by Hilary Duff
[12 October 2010]
As the daughter of a renowned surgeon and a prominent Washington D.C. politician, Clea Raymond has felt the glare of the spotlight her entire life. And though she dreads the paparazzi who track her every move, she herself is a talented photojournalist who takes refuge in a career that allows her to travel to the most exotic parts of the world.
But after Clea’s father disappears while on a humanitarian mission, eerie, shadowy images of a strange and beautiful young man begin to appear in Clea’s photos—a man she has never seen in her life.
When Clea suddenly encounters this man in person she is stunned—and feels an immediate and powerful connection. As they grow closer, they are drawn deep into the mystery behind her father’s disappearance and discover the centuries-old truth behind their intense bond.
Torn by a dangerous love triangle and haunted by a powerful secret that holds their fate, together they race against time to unravel their past in order to save their future—and their lives.
What's up with all these celebrities taking up YA fiction all of a sudden? (I'm looking at you, Tyra.) What's YOUR opinion on this? Do you ever buy a book just because it was written by a star, or could you care less? :)

11 May 2010

Review: THE HIDDEN DANCE by Susan Wooldridge ****

On March 1st 1933 the luxury liner, SS Etoile, sets sail from Southampton en route for New York. On board the liner is Lily Sutton – a fragile but determined woman who is seeking to escape the brutality of her failed marriage, and begin life anew in America.
During the five days at sea, Lily is caught between the world she leaves behind, with its attendant riches and position in society, and her new-found love which has given her the strength and courage to be herself. Travelling in steerage so as not to attract attention, Lily is terrified that her flight from England will be uncovered, but a new friendship makes the journey easier to bear... until an old enemy surfaces and Lily must do everything she can to protect those she loves most in the world.

I've been wanting to read this book ever since it came out in hardback last year - it just had my name written all over it, being set on a ship (called Etoile! - I love that word, it's French for 'star') and in the 1930s and everything. I patiently waited for the paperback and then when it finally arrived, I pretty much read it immediately - and gosh, what a delight to read it was!

I must admit that I wasn't overly impressed at the beginning as the story started out a bit slowly and it just kept jumping forwards and backwards, and I was starting to worry where all this was going ... However, once the stage was set and all the relationships were established, the book really picked up and I just couldn't put it down as I couldn't wait to found out what will happen to Lily - will she manage to escape her violent husband Charles and start a new life in the US with her son Nickie and her beloved, or will her enemy Lavinia ruin everything for them just out of spite? I was quite pleased with the conclusion, but then the epilogue, set in 1943, provided some additional information that I wasn't expecting so I guess the ending turned out to be rather bittersweet - sad, but optimistic.

The story itself is fascinating, but it also gets quite dark at times, what with tackling the issues of domestic violence and the effects of war on people. All the characters have also had their fair share of struggle and while I don't really fancy living their lives, I certainly admire them for overcoming their problems. Characters like Lily, Johnnie, Mrs Webb etc. were easy to sympathize with and the villains (namely Charles and Lavinia) were easy to detest, especially Charles - just reading some of the violent scenes made my blood freeze.

As much as I enjoyed the story and liked the characters, I actually thought the writing itself was the strongest point of the novel. I found the novel to be well researched and believable, but the writing was really just the cherry on top - the imagery it painted was exquisite and I absolutely adored the dialogue, which really made me feel as if I was transported back into the 1930s.

Overall, this was a magnificent historical novel, set in a fascinating period of time and with a bittersweet story at heart - it may be set mainly in the 1930s, but some of the issues it tackles are still very topical today.

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

The publishers, Allison & Busby, have chosen this title as their Book of the Month so visit their website in order to get a 25 % discount! :)

10 May 2010

Interview: ILANA FOX + WIN a copy of SPOTLIGHT or MIA!

I absolutely loved both of Ilana Fox's novels - her smashing debut THE MAKING OF MIA and her recent bestseller SPOTLIGHT (my review here) so I was thrilled when she not only agreed to be interviewed here, but also provided some fabulous answers, yay!

Furtheremore, those of you who are not familiar with her books yet will also get a chance to WIN either of her novels so scroll down for more info on the giveaway!

Enough rambling for now - let's move on to Ilana's answers! :)

* How would you describe your two novels in five words (per novel)?
THE MAKING OF MIA: Ultimate makeover and revenge story.
SPOTLIGHT: When being famous goes wrong.

* How did you come up with the idea for Spotlight? Were you inspired by any real life events or people? Beau is rather reminiscent of Simon Cowell, methinks ... ;)
I'm really interested in how you can be a celebrity without having any special talent ... and how 'celebs' are turning more and more into brands. Take, for example the Sugababes. Their brand is exactly the same as it's ever been, but the three original members have left and have been replaced. Yet they're still the Sugababes! When Britney Spears had her very public breakdown people weren't just concerned for her, they were concerned about her image, too, and it's becoming less and less about the person and more what brand values they project. I'd love to say Simon Cowell didn't influence Beau at all, but I'd be lying. Simon Cowell is a genius and an expert in building pop brands - but that's where the similarities lie. I doubt very much Cowell would be as ruthless as Beau Silverman ... although they both do have hairy chests and dark hair.

* What kind of reasearch did you have to do? How did you get all the behind the scenes info on reality TV, the lives of the rich & the famous and (most importantly) strippers? ;)
I'm really lucky that most of my friends work in the media, and know famous people. I've interviewed a lot of celebrities, and the good ones are expert in turning their brand on and off - when they're on they're incredibly professional, but when they're off they're just like you and I ... only perhaps more insecure and needy. Their careers are based on wanting to be loved, and they live in fear of not being adored any more, especially if their career is all they have. I couldn't live like that! When I was writing the stripper scenes I asked around, and one of my friends had gone undercover at a strip joint for a national newspaper. She filled me in on how the business worked, and I used the Britney Spears 'Gimme More' video for a setting. I know some girls think it's cool to go to strip clubs so they can pretend to be one of the lads, but they're not for me. I don't have a problem with girls making money that way if they want to, but it can be so dangerous and exploitative.

* Being a Brit, was it challenging for you to write a novel set mostly in the US, or is that like a second home to you?
It's actually a second home for me, as I'm half American! I was born in England but my mother's American, so I've been to America more times than I can count! When I was writing the novel I went to Oklahoma, Boston and Chicago for work, so I set some of the book there. I also love love love Manhattan, so it was a treat to be able to set a lot of Spotlight there. Unfortunately I've not been to California yet, but so many TV shows are set there you get the gist of what it's all about. It's somewhere I definitely want to go.

* How long did it take to write the book and were there any particular scenes you were struggling with? On the flipside, what scene was your favourite to write?
THE MAKING OF MIA took nine months to write (on top of working full time at The Daily Mail), so I naively assumed SPOTLIGHT would take the same. The reality is it took eighteen months - mainly because I had so much going on in my personal life. 2009 was definitely the worst year of my life - although there were some amazing highs, too - and it took a lot of determination to finish SPOTLIGHT. I look at it and I think, yeah, I had a shitty time, but I also managed to write this book and I'm really proud of it. So it wasn't all bad!
I don't think I particularly struggled with any scene, although I'm sure there were times when I would look blankly at my manuscript and wonder what on earth was going on. I remember getting about halfway through and feeling a bit lost, but if I feel that way I know my characters have veered off track a little, so it's about pin-pointing where it starts to go wrong and changing it. When I was writing a bit near the end where Beau's about to get his comeuppance it went really wrong as one of the characters said 'we're going to do this to get back at you!' and Beau simply shrugs it off. I didn't expect that - but then, Beau is really wily.
In terms of my favourite scene, well, the last scene of a book is always my favourite to write as I sob my eyes out. Honestly. I know it's ridiculous, but when you finish writing a book it's like saying goodbye to a whole amazing world filled with people you know intimately, and there's a massive release. My boyfriend came home from work just as I finished SPOTLIGHT and couldn't work out why I was sniveling at my screen. He thought I was quite mad.

* How did the gorgeous cover come about? Would you happen to have any stories to share about it?
I wish there was an amazing story to tell about this, but there isn't! The paperback cover of THE MAKING OF MIA is gorgeous, and I think Orion wanted to have something quite similar. When I saw it I was shocked at how pink it is! I'm not a particularly girlie girl, or very 'pink', but I love the cover. I'd definitely pick it up if I was in a shop. Literally, tens and tens of people have asked me if those are my legs on the cover. They're not! Maybe I'll audition my legs for NO PRINCE CHARMING.

* Did you do anything special on the Spotlight launch date? Was there a party?
I had a massive champagne-fuelled launch party for THE MAKING OF MIA, and even though it was utterly amazing, I wanted to keep the SPOTLIGHT launch a bit more low key. The problem with huge parties is you try to speak to everyone and end up speaking to nobody. So this time round I had a dinner at my favourite restaurant - Roast, in Borough Market in London - for 15 of my best friends and family. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we drank champagne and my favourite wine, and had the best food and service ever. I always go to Roast for special occasions, and the team there made it really magical for me. I can't thank them enough.
And to celebrate on the day itself - a Thursday - I went out and bought a car. On impulse. I got a beat-up, green VW Golf Convertable, and I love it. I've not driven in about nine years though so I'm having a couple of lessons to remind me how to park and reverse. I can drive without a problem, it's just the parallel parking bit that gets me every time!

* The rumour has it that you've recently quit ASOS to become a full-time writer - how has your life been ever since?
Yes, it's true! I was at ASOS for over a year, and I set up all their social media activity, but it was all getting a bit too much. My job at ASOS was really full-on, and I realised that if I stayed there while I wrote NO PRINCE CHARMING I wouldn't be able to give as much as I could to either. I miss working in an office, and I especially miss working in newspapers, but I love working for myself. I do a bit of social media consulting to get me out of the house and for pocket money, but it really feels like I'm living the dream. I feel very lucky.

* Amazon tells me that we'll have to wait for nearly two years for your next novel, No Prince Charming. Why so long? And can you tell us what it's about?
I think Orion are just being cautious, and I'm hoping it will be out Spring 2011 - we'll see how it goes! I'm writing it at the moment and I hope to have the first draft finished in a couple of months. It's so exciting! It's about a girl named Ella who has settled for what seems like the perfect life, but it isn't really. Then she falls in love, and it all falls to pieces. I'm not going to tell you any more as it's still early days, but I'm very very very excited about this book. I have quite a few plans and tricks up my sleeve. It's really good fun, and I'm talking to a lot of people (some quite famous) about things to make sure it's authentic. Would love to tell you more, but you'll just have to wait and see!
__________

Thanks so much for your fabulous answers, Ilana! I cannot wait to get my hands on No Prince Charming!
Don't forget to visit Ilana's website and follow her on Twitter.
Visit Amazon or Book Depository to purchase her books.
__________


Lastly, it's GIVEAWAY time!

I have
one (1) copy of THE MAKING OF MIA
and
two (2) copies of SPOTLIGHT
up for grabs
so there will be three winners in total.


Here are the rules:
  • fill in THIS FORM to be entered
  • you don't have to be a follower to enter
  • see the form for how to get extra entries
  • ends May 15 at midnight UK time
  • open to UK only this time, sorry.
Feel free to comment below and at least let me know which book you'd prefer to win, but in order for your entries to be counted, you must fill out this form. This is the first time I've used Google Docs so I hope I'm doing it right, heh?!

8 May 2010

In My Mailbox #42

Hey, everyone! I've been MIA in the blogosphere in the past few days as sadly I was so busy again that I just didn't have time to blog or sadly - I haven't read a single page the whole week, things were that crazy every day! I also got only like 5 hours of sleep per night max so I had to catch up today and I slept for 12 hours straight, lol. Yay for weekends! But I still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of reading, blogging and replying to emails, eek!

Aaaanyway, it's time for another installment of IMM (hosted by The Story Siren). I was expecting a looot of books this week, but only two showed up so I'm hoping the rest will be here next week. Here's what I got:



THE CLEARING by Heather Davis - I saw this one on several other blogs and I was instantly intrigued by the story. As someone else pointed out somewhere (can't remember who, sorry), it sounds quite a bit like The Time Traveler's Wife, which is one of my all time favourite books, so how could I resist getting this one? Can't wait to read it!

DELLA SAYS: OMG! by Keris Stainton - Yay, finally! Got this one for review from Keris and it jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile! I'm hoping to read it this weekend so expect a review soon!

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

5 May 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm looking forward to the release of THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES by Kristina McBride, which comes out on May 25. I don't really read thrillers and such, but this one intrigues me, plus I quite like the trailer!
It’s been two years since Noelle disappeared. Two years since her bike was discovered, sprawled on a sidewalk. Two years of silence, of worry, of fear.
For those two long years, her best friend Tessa has waited, living her own life in a state of suspended animation. Because how can she allow herself to enjoy a normal high school life if Noelle can’t? How dare she have other friends, go to dances, date boys, without knowing what happened to the girl she thought she would share everything with?
And then one day, someone calls Noelle’s house. She’s alive.
A haunting psychological thriller taken straight from the headlines, The Tension of Opposites is a striking debut that explores the emotional aftermath of a kidnapping on the victim, and on the people she left behind.