18 December 2011

Review: BUNHEADS by Sophie Flack *****

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?
Now THIS is JUST the kind of book I've been waiting for my whole life!

When I was about 10 or so, I read my first Lorna Hill book from the Sadlers Wells series - and BANG, I was hooked! I couldn't get enough of them and they got me dreaming of what it would be like to be a ballet dancer someday ... I soon realized I'm far too short, fat, ugly & clumsy to have the slightest chance of ever becoming one, but that's okay, I quite enjoy watching ballet from afar, hehe. But yes, I am still VERY much fascinated by how graceful and incredibly BEAUTIFUL ballet is and I've always about the lifestyles of ballerinas ... I was hoping to find a novel that would describe all the highs & lows of a professional ballet dancer, and finally all my wishes were granted by Ms Flack, an ex-ballet dancer, who kindly allowed us to take a sneak peek into the life of an up-and-coming ballerina Hannah Ward.

Hannah is a 19-year-old ballet dancer, who's been dancing in the corps de ballet for far too long and is dreaming of getting her first solo part. Goodness knows she entitled to it, as she lives & breathes ballet and has been pushing herself harder than ever. But when she gets a glimpse of the outside, normal lives, she finds herself conflicted ... Is she really willing to give up her whole life for dancing?

That's the main plot in a nutshell, but there really is SO much more to it, especially if you're an admirer of ballet like myself. What I loved the most about this novel is that it's one hundred per cent focused on ballet and what it takes to make it in the ballet world, how much effort and dedication the dancer have to show to be noticed among other talented girls. It realy is incredible how these girls push themselves and their bodies to the very limit for the art.

You best believe I was gobbing it up like a yummy piece of cake. :p

No, I wasn't surprised to learn that the life of a professional ballet dancer isn't always glamurous, but mostly blood, sweat and tears. Although it's not always a pretty world and it's highly competitive, I was still entranced by it. I didn't understand the ballet speak much, but that didn't bother me one little bit, if anything it made me happier to be bombarded with the terms like they were something completely normal. :)

The story itself isn't much - it's just tracks the days in the life of a young pro baller dancer, but I still loved it! Furthermore, I thought this book was really well written and believable. And although a part of me wanted to scold Hannah for being SO damn hard on herself, I also grew to understand her and I could even relate to her, albeit on a very distant level. But she was real to me and so was the world she was describing. Simply AMAZING.

I really truly enjoyed getting a glimpse of Hannah's professional (and personal, whatever little there was of it) life and getting behind the scenes of a legendary ballet company. I felt like I was there myself and reading this book was just like watching a ballet performance - it made me sigh happy sighs and it just fed my 'soul'. I've been waiting for a book like this for SO long and I am just happy that I finally get to read it! :D So thank you, Ms Flack, for sharing this story with us and PLEASE turn this into a series somehow? :)

All in all, if you can't tell, I absolutely adored this book and I strongly recommend it to anyone who's even remotely fascinated by ballet or curious about what goes behind the scenes!

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

Here's a quite interview with the author:

I mean, just LOOK at this! Isn't it GLORIOUS? Oh-so-BEAUTIFUL? *le sigh* I just can't explain how much this amazes me, but just ... WOW!

19 November 2011

In My Mailbox #84

I've acquired quite a few goodies since my last IMM so here they are in all their glory!
TIME OF MY LIFE by Cecelia Ahern
THE DOUBLE SHADOW by Sally Gardner
(UN)LIKE A VIRGIN by Lucy-Anne Holmes
CATCHING THE TIDE by Judith Lennox
PANDEMONIUM (ARC) by Lauren Oliver
BETWEEN by Jessica Warman
A GIFT FOR MY SISTER by Ann Pearlman

Very pleased, I just need some spare time to read them all - but what else is new, le sigh. Well, I've already read the new Cecelia Ahern so that's something, eh? :)

14 November 2011

The Hunger Games Trailer!!!

Yes, I've tweeted about this already, but this is just SO very exciting that I just had to post about it too! Yes, The Hunger Games trailer has finally been released and it looks AMAZING! See for yourself if you haven't already, but unless you're living under a rock or something, you've probably watched it like 10 times already - I know I have, hehe! But one more time doesn't hurt. :)

EPIC much, y/y? As you may remember, I was positively blown away by the books (see my reviews here, here & here) and while I doubt that the films will measure up to the books, I'm still suuuper excited to see the films, which is quite extraordinary about me since I hardly ever get excited over films, hehe. But this I'm just DYING to see.

I just love the feel of it ... Things are not quite as I pictured them, but I still love the look of District 12 and the Capitol and the Reaping and everything! Can't wait to see how Haymitch and Cinna are portrayed - those two really are two crucial characters. And err I'm not overly impressed by Peeta and Gale but Katniss looks incredible.

Roll on, March 2012 - I cannot wait!!!

Who else is excited? Judging by my Twitter news feed, pretty much the whole world is loving it, yay! :)

ps: Have you heard that China Glaze are doing a Hunger Games nail polish collection? Read all about it here. Isn't it such a clever idea? The shades as such aren't my preferable ones (I prefer subtle nude colours myself), but I still think this is fabulous and I'm loving the names!

9 November 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: SOMEDAY DANCER

Hi! I wasn't planning to do a WOW this week, but then I saw Lori's post and saw THIS BOOK and just had to feature it myself! It sounds amazing and I cannot wait till August 2012 to read it, I need it NOW!

by Sarah Rubin
A ballerina tale with a thoroughly modern twist!

Casey Quinn has got more grace in her pinkie toe than all those prissy ballet-school girls put together -- although you'd never guess it from the looks of her skinny white chicken legs and dirty high-top sneakers. It's 1959, and freckle-faced Casey lives in the red-dust countryside of South Carolina. She's a farm girl: Her family can't afford ballet lessons. But Casey's dream is to dance in New York City. And if anyone tries to stand in her way, she's going to pirouette and jet right over them!

But what if the Big Apple has something different in mind for Casey's stage debut? When she meets a visionary choreographer she calls "Miss Martha," Casey's dancing dream takes a thrillingly midcentury MODERN turn!
This has my name written ALL over it! I love love love watching ballet, it's just the most incredible and graceful thing. Thus I obviously LOVE reading books that feature ballet in one way or another. As I child, I used to be obssessed with the Sadler's Wells books by Lorna Hill, but apart from that I sadly haven't really been able to find a lot ballet themed books.
My collection so far includes the following:

Sadly I haven't read most of these books YET, but I'm most definitely planning to!
Please DO let me know if you know of any other ballet novels?

Lastly, I'd like to take this opportunity to post THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VIDEO I've ever seen.

I'm no ballet expert at all, but in my eyes this video is perfection. PERFECTION!

Anyway, fire away your ballet books recommendations, please!

ETA: Leah just tweeted me informing me about a book called BUNHEADS by Sophie Flack, which has the most incredible US cover and is out already and sounds AMAZING!!! How come I've never heard of this?!?! #epicfail Ordering the book as I type! Thanks so much, Leah!
And here's the gorgeous cover for you all to enjoy! :)

30 October 2011

Review: FALLEN ANGELS by Tara Hyland *****

From the poverty of post-war England and Ireland to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood's golden age, a beautiful, sweeping family drama that illustrates that the bonds between a mother and daughter can never be broken.

An unwanted child: San Francisco, 1958. On a dark December night, a baby girl is left at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage on Telegraph Hill.
A mysterious suicide: One year later, movie star Frances Fitzgerald takes her own life. Her husband, wealthy businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is rumoured to know more about her death than he's letting on, but nothing is ever proved.
A terrible secret: What is the connection between these two events?
That's what Frances's daughter, Cara, wants to find out. Abandoned by her mother when she is just seven years old, her childhood is filled with hardship and loss. As a young woman she finds professional success as a journalist, but on a personal level, she still struggles to trust those around her. Soon Cara becomes convinced that uncovering the secret behind her mother's death is the only way to lay her demons to rest, but learning the truth may end up tearing her apart.
Oh my goodness, what a story!

First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed Tara's debut Daughters of Fortune, but even though that was already an excellent read, I thought Fallen Angels was even better! It unexpectedly pulled me in and I just couldn't stop reading this book! I found myself racing and racing through it and I read the final chapters with eyes and mouth wide open, going all ''WHAAAAT?!', hehe. Talk about a shocking conclusion! But let's start at the beginning first ...

The book is an amazing family saga that starts in 1946 in Ireland and ends in 1972 in the US. It's divided into five parts. During this time it moves from rural Ireland to London to Los Angeles. I don't recall ever reading a book set during this particular time period, which was actually more interesting to read about than I expected! There's a lot of talk about the Golden Age of Hollywood, which was fascinating to read about and so vividly portrayed that I could easily picture everything as I was there, although I was rather unfamiliar with it. I imagine this book required a ton of historical research since the book includes so much detail, and I thought the author did a fantastic job including it all in the story.

Speaking of the story, one word I would use to describe it is MAGNIFICENT. It features two female protagonists: Franny and her daughter Cara. At the beginning, Franny is a young girl who dreams of making it big in Hollywood and is determined to escape her parents' boring lifestyles. So when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant (a horrible thing to do in 1946 Ireland), she runs away to London and works various jobs to support herself and her daughter. Seven years later, she finally gets a chance to go to LA and become an actress - expect she can't bring her precious daughter along. So she has no choice but to leave her with her mother Theresa, whom she hasn't seen for seven year. And off she goes, convinced Cara will be able to join her in just a few weeks ... But life never goes according to the plan and while Franny's life is becoming more and more glamourous, Cara's life with her grandmother is anything but. The communication between the two is broken and in 1958 Cara reads that her mother committed suicide. At the same time, she is also on her own and her life is about to take the turn for the worse, which turns her into an incredibly tough girl. In her mid-20s, Cara decides to investigate what actually happened to her mother and why she never came back for her. And oh yes, what she learns is absolutely shocking to say the least ...

Part of why I was so engrossed in this book were also the characters. At first, I loved Franny and I felt for her when she was suffering and rooted for her to make it big like she wanted to. But after she left her daughter behind and kept her a secret while enjoying her mega glamourous life, I did start resenting her and I was quite disappointed by her, especially the poor little Cara was struggling so much withour her. Luckily, the poor little thing grew up into the most admirable woman with incredible investigating skills!

As I already said, the story itself was fantastic, but the conclusion was just mind-blowing and I was not prepared for all the surprises that kept hitting me in the face during the final chapters! The crucial events in 1958 when Franny drives off the cliff and dies are only briefly described when they happened and based on that it's SO easy to make your own conclusions and judge people who were involved at the time, but the truth is actually completely different and it turns everything upside down. I thought I had figured a few things out, but it turned out I was wrong wrong wrong and I never saw the ending coming! I love it when the novel surprises me like that and despite all the tragic events that took place in this book, I found the ending rather satisfying.

Furthermore, this review would not be complete with me gushing over the cover! Seriously, how incredibly BEAUTIFUL is this cover?!?! Like the book itself, I just can't praise it highly enough since it's almost too good to be true! Well done to Lizzie Gardiner, who designed it! OK, OK, I'll admit that the US cover and title might actually be more fitting, but I still prefer the UK version because it's just more eye-catching and intriguing - and wonderful!

All in all, this was an absolutely fantastic, gripping and an outstanding read! And oh it certainly doesn't shy from tackling very serious topics, but I won't discuss those too much in order not to spoil the book too much. All I'm saying is that if you're looking for a facinating and well-written story, then this book is an absolute must! Personally, I can't wait to see what what Ms Hyland comes up with next!

23 October 2011

In My Mailbox #83

Sorry I've been so quiet here, this year really is incredibly busy for me! :\
While I was away, I also attended the Frankfurt Book Fair, which was very exciting, but sadly I was too busy rushing around and meeting people to take any proper pictures. :( It was lovely though!

Anyway, I've received so many fantastic books in the past two weeks that I just couldn't resist showing them off. :)

I'm soooo excited about these and I wish I could read them NOW!!! *sigh*

9 October 2011

In My Mailbox #82

In the past couple of weeks or so I got theeeese beauties below!

  • THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern - I've been waiting for this one for ages and I adore the cover and the black edges and everything! I've heard some incredible things about it so I really must read it asap!
  • SAPPHIRE BATTERSEA by Jacqueline Wilson - I haven't read Hetty Feather yet (this is the sequel), but I do have a soft spot for Ms Wilson and I keep buying her books, hehe.
  • AN AUTUMN CRUSH by Milly Johnson - Review copy, thanks S&S! I adoooore Ms Johnson's covers, they're always so pretty and they match, that's always a plus!
  • THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF by Lucinda Riley - A finished copy for review. I already have the proof so I'll be giving one of these away. I looooved Hothouse Flower so I cannot WAIT to read this one, it sounds sooo good!
The last two items are not strictly book related, but they were so cute that I just had to include them in my little haul! :)
The first one is Juicy Lucy slim diary for 2012 and it's just sooooo adorable, it brings a smile to my face everytime I look at it. I'm not huge on writing stuff down in diaries/agendas or whatever, but this one I just had to have! I love Juicy Lucy, their stuff is just so lovely!
The last big things is a 2012 his & hers wall planner by Love Is ... - I looove those cartoons and I have three books full of them! This one was just too cute to miss! :)

That's all from me & I can't wait to see what you all got!

2 October 2011

Review: FROM LONDON WITH LOVE by Jemma Forte *****

Can you run from James Bond?
Jessica Granger is desperate to know: her father is one of the most famous actors to tackle the part and, as Heavenly Melons, her mother was voted sexiest Bond girl. But for Jessica it's an embarrassment too far . . . she simply wants to be a person in her own right.

So she flees Hollywood for London, seeking independence in a city where nobody knows her name. But when she finds a job as a celebrity booker on a chat show she realizes the more friends she makes, the harder it becomes to keep up the lies about who she is. And when Jessica falls for Paul, a writer on the show, her life as a double agent puts him in double trouble.

When the truth explodes like a thunderball, can she convince Paul to live and let live rather than live and let die? Perhaps a sprinkling of the 007 magic might spice up her love life after all ...

First of all, GORGEOUS COVER ALERT!!! Yes, I know you Pink Fluffy Cover Haters out there are rolling your eyes, but I personally adore this cover. The font itself is boring, but the cover illustration is what my dreams are made of so well done to Adrian Valencia who designed this cover! It's actually even more gorgeous in real life and you can see a picture of it here. I was kindly sent a copy of this, but if I randomly saw it in a bookshop, I would most definitely grab it, pet it and take it straight to the cash register. It would just have to be mine, regardless of what's inside!

Luckily, what's inside doesn't disappoint either! I know it's a bit of a far fetched story, but again it's the stuff of my dreams, haha. The daughter of two very rich & famous James Bond film actors has never been able to do anything on her own without her doting father interfering so she decides to go to London, pretend she's just a normal person. She gets a job working behind the scenes of a talk show, she starts enjoying herself and she even falls in love - with a man who is all about straight up honesty and despises fakes. She dreads people learning about her real identity and yet she knows she can't keep it a secret forever ...

Seriously, what's not to love about this book? I adored Jessica as a character - she could easily be an airhead like so many other daughters of super rich parents, but she wanted to escape this and prove herself. She was so down to earth and so kind and normal. She's the complete opposite of her best friend Dulcie, who's just outrageous and hilarious. I also loved all her new work mates, one funnier than the other, and the scenes when she first joined them cracked me up so much, haha. All the characters in this book were just so wonderful.

The book tackles some more serious topics too, like depression and broken homes, but overall it's mostly just a modern fairytale. It's all about giving people a chance instead of judging them based on your assumptions of who they should be. It's a fantastic, lovely and funny read - definitely recommended if you need some TLC or cheering up!

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

17 September 2011

In My Mailbox #81

I'm BACK with another FABULOUS installment of IMM. So happy because I got some AMAZING books!!!

LinkFALLEN ANGELS by Tara Hyland - Isn't this gooooorgeous?!?! I loved Tara's debut Daughters of Fortune and I was over the moon to receive a review copy. Cannot wait to read it!

THE LADY OF THE RIVERS & THE WOMEN OF THE COUSINS' WAR by Philippa Gregory - Haven't read anything by PG yet, but I've heard sooo much praise that I really have to!

LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver - A lovely shiny finished copy! Lauren Oliver is amazing and this book looks brilliant with all the illustrations inside. I'll be giving my ARC away when I review this (someday) so stay tuned for that.

BEAUTIFUL DAYS by Anna Godbersen - Woohoo! Loved The Luxe series and I can't wait to read BYT as well, I know it will be brilliant, but I'm saving it cos I want to read the whole series back to back!

THE GIRL ON THE CLIFF by Lucinda Riley - Yaaaay!!! Loved Hothouse Flower and this one sounds absolutely fantastic and I cannot wait to read it!

FINDING MR FLOOD by Ciara Geragthy - Review copy. Sounds good, although the cover's a bit boring ...

THE SECRET PRINCESS & ORDINARY GIRL IN A TIARA by Jessica Hart - These look like fun reads and I really like the Riva covers.

I'm SO pleased with this haul! Can't wait to get lost in these! :)
What did YOU get?

11 September 2011


Absence makes the heart grow fonder…doesn’t it? What happens when two people decide to give themselves the year off … from each other?

Annie and Dan were the perfect couple. But now the not-so-newly weds feel more like flatmates than soul mates and wonder where all the fun and fireworks went …
When Annie lands her big break in a smash-hit show that’s heading for the bright lights of Broadway, she’s over the moon. Goodbye remote Irish village of Stickens, hello fabulous Big Apple! But with their relationship already on the rocks, how will Annie and Dan survive the distance?
They’re hitting the pause button on their marriage. One year off from each other – no strings attached, except a date to meet in twelve months at the Rockefeller Centre to decide their fate.
Will they both turn up? Or is it too late for love?

I really, really enjoyed Carroll's previous book Personally, I Blame My Fairygodmother and I couldn't wait to read her latest! Then I learned that it's actually more of a romance story than a proper comedy and I admit I was a little worried as I prefer comedy to just romance, but Carroll pulled it of really well actually!

At the beginning, we're introduced to Annie and Dan, a young couple who have completely drifted away. Annie is absolutely miserable living with his intrusive family in the middle of nowhere and her once oh-so-caring husband is always working and forever letting her down. He's so distant that she can't even tell him how she feels and she feels so trapped. Then finally she gets her chance to escape by starring in a Broadway show - but that would mean moving away for a whole year ...

I must admit I was appalled by how Dan was treating Annie at the beginning. He felt he needed to work so much to help his family that he didn't want to let anyone down, but at the same time he completely failed his wife. Part of me understood Dan, as I'm a bit of a workoholic too, but part of me just wanted to really wanted to give him a very good talking to! Based on his behaviour, I could easily symphatize with Annie and her pain, after being let down SO many times, was tangible. After all that's happened, I can't say I blamed her for escaping to the Big Apple and enjoying her independence for a bit, although I did think the idea itself was a bit drastic, heh.

Once Annie starts enjoying her freedom in NYC, the romance part really starts. Sparks start flying between her and the director Jack, who is a very charming man indeed who could easily sweep Annie off her feet. At the same time, Dan starts missing his wife and he starts reaching out to her again, showing his softer side. I absolutely adored their lovely 'meetings at the moon'.

I loved the gentle romance between Annie and Dan, and on the other hand I quite enjoyed the sparks flying between Jack and her. There were so many twists and turns that I had no idea how the book would end, but I'm pleased to say that I really liked the ending, which made me go all AWWWWWW. :)

There is a fair bit of comedy in this book, which is mostly due to Carroll's narrative, which is typically Irish and thus hilarious in itself - as I've said before, I love Irish authors write, it just cracks me up! Jules was another funny character and I really enjoyed her scenes.
On the other hand, there was plenty of sadness and heartbreak, on top of other serious topics, like drug addiction and alcoholism. Altogether, I thought it was well balanced, plus it was set in the acting world, which I was not very familiar with and so I quite enjoyed reading about it.

Overall, this book isn't just rainbows and butterflies, which turned out to work really well in the end. It features an interesting story with believable, real characters and so many twists and turns to make your head spin, but it ends up making you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus the cover is absolutely gorgeous, which is yet another massive plus!
I really can't fault it and while I have almost the whole Carroll's backlist to read, I also cannot wait to see what she comes up with next - it's bound to be a good one!

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

3 September 2011

In My Mailbox #80

Errr, remember me? :)
It's been a while, eh ... What can I say, in case anyone still cares? Well, I've had a very, very busy summer and I guess consequently I just lost my online mojo for a bit. :( I was online, just not very active, I'm afraid. I've been reading a bit and I have a few reviews to post, but I just can't seem to find the energy to write them, although I really want to ... Hopefully soon! I just really need to get my blogging mojo back first! Any tips? :)

I did receive quite a few lovely books though ... Check 'em out:
ESCAPE by Barbara Delinsky - I'll read it one of those days when I just want to escape ... It appeals.

FROM LONDON WITH LOVE by Jemma Forte - I'm halfway through and it's BRILLIANT so far. Hilarious! Plus the cover is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks, Jemma!
LinkBAD SISTERS by Rebecca Chance - Review copy. Apparently it's a good bonkbuster!

WHAT THE NANNY SAW (ARC) by Fiona Neill - I really am intrigued by what she saw, yes ... Sounds good!
LinkTHE FIRST WIFE by Emily Barr - Review copy. Oooh, mysterious! I've heard good things about this one so I really have to read it!

DEAD MAN'S COVE by Lauren St John - A Famous Five-type like adventure story. I was a major sucker for this back when I was a lot younger. Still can't get over them at the ripe ol' age of 26, haha! Haven't read one of these in well over a decade, but as soon as I spy one, the kid in me gets all excited and I have to have it, heh!

THE MYSTERY OF THE WHISTLING CAVES & THE MYSTERY OF THE MIDNIGHT GHOST by Helen Moss - Same as above applies. I wrote more about these books here.
Not a massive haul, but still an impressive one, methinks!

I look forward to seeing what you all got, darlings!

10 July 2011

In My Mailbox #79 + Harry Potter Friday parody!

It's been a while since my last IMM so here are the goodies I've received lately!
  • WILL YOU STILL LOVE ME TOMORROW? by Claudia Carroll - Massively excited about this one!!! I love Carroll's previous book (although I have since heard it's been heavily plagiarised) so I'm really looking forward to her newest too! Thanks, Harper Collins UK!
  • ALWAYS ON MY MIND by Colette Caddle - I've been wanting to read this ever since it came out in hardcover, but I wanted to wait for the paperback. I was a bit sad the cover was changed, but now I quite like this one too. Thanks, Simon & Schuster UK!
  • CALIFORNIA DREAMERS by Belinda Jones - I was quite disappointed by this cover (it has nothng on her previous cover!!), but I like the story and I can't wait to read the book! Thanks, Hodder!
  • LOVE ALWAYS by Harriet Evans - Sounds intriguing! I was waiting for the paperback! Also not super impressed with the cover (her previous ones were much better IMHO), but oh well, it's nice enough.
  • THE SHADOWS by Jacqueline West - I really like the sound of this one. I think I saw the trailer somewhere and just got in on a whim. Haunted Victorian mansions? Yes, please!
  • LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver - Squeeee! I saw that a lot of others bloggers got an ARC and I never thought I'd be one of them so imagine my surprise when I open an unexpected package and inside I find *this book* along with the cut out theatre! Amazing! Made my day! I mean, it's Lauren Oliver! Thank you, Hodder!
On a slightly unrelated note, who's excited about the final Harry Potter film? I know I am! I was a bit disappointed by part 1, but I still can't wait to see the final installment, although I will undoubtedly bawl my eyes out about it all ending ... But like DanRad said, the story lives on. I can't wait to re-read the whole series at some point - if you've read it, then you know how incredibly amazing the books are! Long live Queen Rowling!
Speaking of amazing, have you seen the Harry Potter Friday parody by The Hillywood Show? I must've watched it about 20 times (seriously) in the past week and it cracks me up each & every time, it's just SO spot on! See for yourself! :)

6 July 2011

Review: MY LAST DUCHESS by Daisy Goodwin ****

Beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, the wealthiest debutante in America, is spirited away from the glamour and comfort of her Park Avenue mansion and suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, mistress of Lulworth Castle, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. As Cora is soon to discover, nothing in this strange new world is quite as it seems. Her handsome new husband is withdrawn and secretive; the English social scene is stuffed with pitfalls and traps; and there are increasingly dangerous forces at work, people who wish she'd never met Ivo in the first place.

THE AMERICAN HEIRESS is a dazzling debut novel from Daisy Goodwin, whose brilliant new voice is reminiscent of Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Kate Morton.

The other day I was just in the mood to read something lovely and historical, which I haven't done in quite a while and I really missed it. I don't know why, but I just felt drawn to this book - maybe it was the cover, or simply the promise of getting lost in the 1890s, which is my absolute favourite historical period to read about ...

I really loved the book at first. The amazing ridiculousness of the Gilded Age simply blew me away, as always, haha. I really warmed up to Cora (the richest girl in the world!) and was really excited about the prospect of her journey to England, meeting her husband etc. Overall, I absolutely adored the whole atmosphere of the book, but I just thought the story itself was a bit ... boring? Don't get me wrong, it was beautifully written, but I just felt nothing was happening. I was waiting for a huge mystery or a big scandal to happen, but nothing. Well, there was this thing towards the end, but it was far less exciting than I expected it to be.

Oh and don't even get me started on the ending, which I thought was left far too open. I really wanted to know what happened to all the characters and then all I got was ... a rushed mess with loose strings. I don't think there's enough material for a sequel, but surely this can't be the end? How did T react? And what happened to B&J? I just felt there were pages missing and ultimately I was left unsatisfied.

All in all, I loved loved LOVED getting lost in the lifestyles of the rich and the famous of the late 19th century. So delightful! The atmosphere was magical, the language was magnificent and the characters were lovely, but I just wished there was more to the story; nonetheless, I enjoyed reading it immensly.

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

26 June 2011

Review: CRYSTAL BALLS by Amanda Brobyn **** + GIVEAWAY

Tina Harding is a successful and ambitious estate agent. All is going according to plan and her painful past as a failed actress has been well and truly buried. Now she's a down-to-earth and hard-headed businesswoman ... Life, however, is full of surprises.
While accompanying her more wide- eyed colleague, Chantelle, to a psychic fair, Tina herself falls victim to the lure of the Crystal Ball. She is warned that she must learn to trust her own decisions, and assured that the arrival of her soul mate is imminent. An elated Tina feels she has discovered a shortcut to fulfilment her very own life's SatNav.
Enter the gorgeous sex-on-wheels property-developer Brian Steen, who is very keen indeed to get up close and personal with Tina. But, call it fate, call it karma or just sheer bad luck, their steamy encounters are destined to fizzle out every time. But Brian is a patient man ... up to a point ... and, with help from Tina's psychic guides, things are sure to pan out just fine ... aren't they?
Before I get into the actual review, can we please discuss the most obvious thing? THE COVER, of course! Oh my gosh, isn't it AMAZING? I swear I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and I've honestly been staring lovingly at it after I closed the book. I mean, WOW!!! The picture, the fonts, the little stars, the colours - everything is damn near to perfection! I think it would be even better if the cover was actually sparkly and the letters were embossed and if the tagline wasn't an ugly green colour, but overall you won't hear me complain! As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best covers ever so mad props to whomever designed it. Sadly it doesn't say at the back, but dammit they did a brilliant job!

Now that my cover gushing is done, it's time I talk about the book itself. Well, I'll admit I found it a bit slow at first, but then the plot really picked up, got rather dramatic and I ended up loving it! It's basically just about this girl Tina, a failed actress but now a very successful business woman, who doesn't believe in fortune telling and such, but after one reading, the gypsy's words keep echoing in her mind and she can't stop thinking about them ... She has another reading and many more over the phone (at one pound fifty a minute!) and by following her 'inner voice' (inspired by the voices of fortune tellers), she manages to turn her nearly perfect life into a huuuuuge mess and is left to pick up the pieces. Like I said, the story was a bit slow and it took forever for Tina to become interested in this fortune telling business, but then it really picked up and I found myself totally engrossed in it.

The book is well written for a chick lit and there are several hilarious scenes. For example, Tina falls for this this tycoon Brian and there is awesome chemistry between them, but they just cannot seem to actually get it on - something (ridiculous) always comes up and prevents them right before they get down to business. I was seriously thinking, "Jeeeez, will these two ever do it or what?!", but whatever prevented them each time really made me laugh because it was just unbelievable, haha. So did they or didn't them, you wonder? Read the book to find out. :p

All in all, I really quite enjoyed the book with its little twists & turns and hilarious bits. There were some serious moments involved, but overall it was a light and entertaining read I definitely recommend!

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

If you're interested in reading this book, then this is your lucky day as I have an extra copy that I am now giving away! This giveaway is OPEN TO EVERYONE and it closes on July 3rd, 2011. All you have to do is fill out this little form here and tell me why you'd like to read this book. The winner will be picked with the help of random.org and emailed shortly after the deadline. Good luck! :)

22 June 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: ADVENTURE ISLAND by Helen Moss

So here's the thing: I'm nearly 26 and quite excited about a new adventure series that's coming out soon, targeted at like 8 to 12 years. Pretty damn weird, right? But allow me to explain.

When I was like 9 to 13 years old, there was this writer called ENID BLYTON (legend!), who pretty much rocked my world. I absolutely adored her Famous Five and Barney Mysteries series (the only two that were translated into my native language) and I would read them over and over and over again, especially during summer holidays. I loved all their adventures and I just had a blast reading those books back then - they were totally THE books of my childhood!

I guess I never really got over them, heh ... The other day I learned that there's this new series coming out, called Adventure Island, which sounds just like Enid Blyton wrote it! And the covers are similar too! (Ooooh, what a coincidence, innit, haha.) My inner child just got so excited at the sound of these - I mean, I would've LOVED this like 15 years ago! Where were these books when I needed them?! Instead I had to resort to reading Enid Blyton over & over again, ha. It was fun and stuff, but got a bit less exciting eventually since I knew damn well what was going to happen, which kind of ruins the whole point.

Aaaaanyway! If YOU too used to be a massive Enid Blyton fan, then you'll probably get a bit excited about these books too - here they are!
Book 1: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves
When Scott and Jack Carter have to stay with their great aunt for the summer they steel themselves for the most boring holiday ever. But then they meet Emily Wild and her loveable dog, Drift. Emily shows them the lighthouse, the castle - and the amazing whistling caves. Legend has it that when the caves stop whistling the castle will be attacked - and that's exactly what happens! Priceless treasures are stolen and Emily and the boys are determined to investigate. But how was the treasure smuggled out of the castle? Why did the caves stop whistling? And can the friends solve the mystery in time to catch the thief?

Book 2: The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost
When Scott , Jack and Emily hear that a film is being made at the nearby manor house they can't resist going to watch. But when the glamorous star of the film vanishes the friends realize they have a new mystery to solve! Has the star been kidnapped by a crazed fan? Could she have run off with her boyfriend? Or did she venture into the manor's attic at midnight and fall foul of the legendary ghost that haunts the old house?

Book 3: The Mystery of the Hidden Gold
A game of hide and seek in the old Castle Key lighthouse during a violent thunder storm leads to an amazing discovery - a tattered old treasure map! Scott, Jack and Emily can't wait to search for the hidden gold but first they must solve the clues to uncover its secret hiding place. And someone else is after the gold too - someone who doesn't plan to let anyone get in their way! Can our heroes figure out the map, outwit their enemy and find the hidden treasure?

Book 4: The Mystery of the Missing Masterpiece
When thieves raid the house of a neighbour, Emily, Jack and Scott are ready to investigate. But, strangely, the neighbour doesn't seem to want the thieves to be caught! The burglars didn't escape with much this time but could the raid be connected to a much older crime involving millions of pounds? The friends begin to uncover the truth, but are they leading themselves into serious danger? Mystery, menace and adventure await in the fourth book of this gripping new series!

Book 5: The Mystery of the Cursed Ruby
The circus comes to town, full of conjurors, clowns, tightrope walkers and trapeze artists. But dark secrets lurk beneath the sawdust and spangles - secrets that are part of a dangerous mystery that might prove impossible to solve!

Book 6: The Mystery of the Vanishing Skeleton
A string of unusual crimes hits Castle Key and the chief suspect seems to be a skeleton! Scott, Jack, Emily and Drift the dog immediately start investigating, but nothing about the mystery makes sense. Will the friends finally be defeated by this baffling mix of crimes and the mysterious culprit, or can they uncover the sinister secret that connects them all?
The Adventure Island books will be published in pairs every month: the first two come out in July, then two in August and two in September this year.

I know, I know, all these sound rather childish and I have no business being excited at nearly 26, buuuuut I just have a soft spot for Blyton-like adventures - she just made my childhood magical and I'm sure you understand if you used to enjoy her books. ;)

Soooo tell me - any more Enid Blyton fans in the house? :)

19 June 2011

In My Mailbox #78

These are the goodies I've received in the past couple of (busy!) weeks:

Lovely, aren't they? :)
Now all I *desperately* need is a reading holiday!!!

Hope you're enjoying you weekend. :)

12 June 2011

Review: MY LIFE UNDECIDED by Jessica Brody ****


Okay, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’m sorry, I’m feeling a bit melodramatic at the moment.

Here’s the deal. My name is Brooklyn Pierce, I’m fifteen years old, and I am decisionally challenged. Seriously, I can’t remember the last good decision I made. I can remember plenty of crappy ones though. Including that party I threw when my parents were out of town that accidentally burned down a model home. Yeah, not my finest moment, for sure.

But see, that’s why I started a blog. To enlist readers to make my decisions for me. That’s right. I gave up. Threw in the towel. I let someone else be the one to decide which book I read for English. Or whether or not I accepted an invitation to join the debate team from that cute-in-a-dorky-sort-of-way guy who gave me the Heimlich Maneuver in the cafeteria. (Note to self: Chew the melon before swallowing it.) I even let them decide who I dated!

Well, it turns out there are some things in life you simply can’t choose or have chosen for you—like who you fall in love with. And now everything’s more screwed up than ever.

But don’t take my word for it, read the book and decide for yourself. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll scream in frustration. Or maybe that’s just me. After all, it’s my life.
I was hooked by the premise of this book as soon I first heard of it. I mean, have your blog readers make the decision instead of you by voting on a poll? It sounds ridiculous and yet kinda intriguing. I certainly thought it was original and had enough potential for interesting (erm, catastrophic?) consequences so I gave it a try and the book certainly didn't disappoint!

Our girl Brooklyn Pierce, also known as the infamous Baby Broklyn (why? read the book :p), has made a whole lot of horrible decisions in her life, but organizing a secret party at her mum's model home and then accidentally burning it down has to be the worst one yet. It landed her at the police station, she's sentenced to community work, her parents have grounded her, her best friend Queen Shayne refuses to even acknowledge her and overnight she turned into a complete loser. She knows she's not the best at making decisions so she sets up a blog where she will poll the readers on what she should do. Whenever somebody asks her a question, she says she'll think about it and then asks her blog readers asking what to do. Should she be a Miss Goody Two Shoes or a Bad Girl? Should she try out for the rugby team? Should she accept the invitation to the winter formal? Should she renew her magazine subscription? What should she read for her English Class? She vows to do whatever the blog readers decide and surprisngly does - well, most of the time ... And then things get complicated and her blog goes viral and oh my!

This book was a quick and easy read about a young girl coming to terms with the fact that everyone makes mistakes and that's just a part of life. Perfection doesn't exist, that's only perception. The story wasn't very complex, but it was entertaining and nicely written. It features a love triangle, an interesting relationship with a moody old woman and a lot of dilemmas. The ending was a bit too fairytailish to me, but overall I really quite liked the book.

A cute, modern, original and enjoyable read that will definitely speak to teens!

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

6 June 2011

Review: SWEPT OFF HER FEET by Hester Browne *****

The steps of a charmingly complex dance—Scotland’s famous reel—are at the heart of Hester Browne’s enchanting contemporary novel of two very different sisters whose dreams may come true at a romantic Scottish ball.

Evie Nicholson is in love . . . with the past. An antiques appraiser in a London shop, Evie spins fanciful attachments to Victorian picture frames, French champagne glasses, satin evening gloves, and tattered teddy bears—regardless of their monetary value.

Alice Nicholson is in love . . . with Fraser Graham, a dashing Scotsman whom Evie secretly desires. As crisply neat and stylish as Evie is cheerfully cluttered, Alice is a professional organizer determined to pull her sister out of her comfort zone—and who presents her with an irresistible offer.

As a favor to friends of Fraser’s family, Evie jumps at the chance to appraise a Scottish castle full of artifacts and heirlooms. What could be more thrilling than roaming the halls of Kettlesheer and uncovering the McAndrews’ family treasures—and dusty secrets?

But crossing paths with moody heir Robert McAndrew has Evie assessing what she wants the most . . . and at an upcoming candlelight gala, a traditional dance will set her heart reeling.

Last year, I read my first Hester Browne book, The Finishing Touches, and I absolutely loved it! That's why I was over the moon when I heard about Hester's 2011 book Swept Off Her Feet, which sounded fantastic too and I rushed to read it as soon as I could since I knew I was in for a treat!

If I had to sum up the book in one word, it would be: romantic. A stately home, snow, dashing men, secret compartments, a love story from the past, an upcoming ball - what's not to love? I'm not an overly romantic girl myself, but I happily allowed myself to see the world through Evie's eyes, where romance is everywhere and I have to admit I found it quite enjoyable. She's an antique appraiser so it's a dream come true for her when she's invited to find to the Kettlesheer castle in Scotland to help its residents find something valuable that they could sell in order to cover the massive bills. Though she's supposed to be working, she also has plenty of opportunities to daydream and she even gets the chance to learn the Scottish reels herself, which results in several hilarious situations since Evie is meant to be the clumsiest person ever, haha.

I just loved getting lost in the snowcovered Kettlesheer - I thought there was just something magical about it. I was rooting for Evie to find something valuable (goodness knows that proved to be more difficult than it seemed at first) and to find some romance of her own. I'm not telling if she did or not, but the chemistry between her and a certain dashing male character was certainly off the hook! I also loved reading about the Scottish reels, which took me by surprise. I admit I wasn't too familiar with them before, but since Evie's lessons were described in so much detail, I decided to look up of videos of the particular reels (Hamilton House, The Eightsome, 51st Division) so I could picture them more easily, and surprisingly I found the far more fun and endearing than I thought I would! I'll attach one of the many videos below so you can see how adorable these dances are!

All in all, like I said, what's not to love? The plot was wonderfully romantic, the characters were a bit quirky and positively lovely, plus there was several lough-out-loud scenes. I loved the setting itself and the little twists & turns. I'll admit a few coincidences were perhaps a tad too coincidental (certain things are discovered just in the nick of time), but I wasn't too bothered by that at all since to book was just such a delight to read!

Yes, this is a very fluffy read, but luckily not in the way that would make you roll your eyes, but more in a way that will leave you feeling all warm & fuzzy inside and you'll close the book with a smile on your face. Sometimes it just feels goooooooood to read books that take you away from the stress of everyday life, am I right? Well, if you need a bit of romance in your life or some cheering up, then give this book a try - you'll love it!

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