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

4 June 2011

In My Mailbox #77

Check out all these awesomesauce books that I got in the past couple of weeks! :D

Amaaaaazing, right?! I just wish I could read them ALL right NOW!!

What did you get?
Have a wonderful weekend, bookaholics! :)