Sunday, 30 October 2011

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
First published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2010 (this edition by Pan Macmillan in 2010)

Book #1 in the Faeriewalker series

Description (from Goodreads)

Dana Hathaway doesn’t know it yet, but she’s in big trouble.  When her alcoholic mom shows up at her voice recital drunk, again, Dana decides she’s had enough and runs away to find her mysterious father in Avalon: the only place on Earth where the regular, everyday world and the captivating, magical world of Faerie intersect. But from the moment Dana sets foot in Avalon, everything goes wrong, for it turns out she isn't just an ordinary teenage girl—she's a Faeriewalker, a rare individual who can travel between both worlds, and the only person who can bring magic into the human world and technology into Faerie.
Soon, Dana finds herself tangled up in a cutthroat game of Fae politics. Someone's trying to kill her, and everyone seems to want something from her, from her newfound friends and family to Ethan, the hot Fae guy Dana figures she’ll never have a chance with… until she does.  Caught between two worlds, Dana isn’t sure where she’ll ever fit in and who can be trusted, not to mention if her world will ever be normal again…

My thoughts
Glimmerglass is the story of Dana, a young girl who lives with her alcoholic mother and has never had any contact with her father. One day things with her mother go too far and she makes the decision to leave her home and go to live with her father in Avalon: the only place on earth where faeries and humans co-exist. Her arrival in Avalon isn't what she expected and she soon finds out that a) her father is a pretty important man in Avalon and b) she is a Faeriewalker, an individual who can travel between both world and the only person who can bring technology to Faerie and magic into the human world.

Glimmerglass is the 4th faerie book I've read this year and I was very glad of the fact that it differed significantly from the others I've read (Wings by Aprilynne Pike, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr and The Iron King by Julie Kagawa). They all follow the same basic outline (with Seelie and Unseelie courts), but each one of them has very distinctive features that set it apart from the other faerie books. (I'm always referring to the ones I have read myself) In Glimmerglass, there is a strong focus on politics. Dana's father and aunt are directly involved and Dana herself - because of the revelation of her status as a Faeriewalker - is thought to be a valuable asset for each and every one of the political big-wigs.

Dana, as a character, was ok. It is obvious in the beginning of the story that she is just plain fed up of "clearing up" after her mother (which is why she decides to up and leave), but then, as the story goes on, and she discovers more and more about her new friends, her father and Avalon, she becomes confused, defensive and distrustful. She is headstrong and tries to make decisions for herself, and while I can't say I loved her, she didn't come off as too annoying.

I was really appalled by the "parent situation" in this book, too. Why is it that in every other young adult book the protagonist has to come from a broken/nonexistent/noncaring family??? Her mother's behaviour throughout the book was pretty bad and irritating and her father wasn't so great (but without being too bad either). As for the boyfriend situation, I have to admit that I didn't really like Ethan. I much preferred a certain other person who appears later on in the book! (If you've read the book, you know who I'm talking about!)

Glimmerglass is a book that is definitely worth reading, if you are in the mood for something fairy-like, but with a splash of something else too. The characters are well developed, the storytelling is good and the plot while, in my opinion, isn't very fast paced, it is definitely engaging and appealing enough. I, for one, will definitely be reading the next books in the series.

Rating: 7/10

Jenna Black has a BA in Physical Anthropology and French from Duke University. Initially, she wanted to be a primatologist, but then found out that primates spend most of their time doing ... not much! She has published quite a few books, including the next two in the Faeriewalker series.

You can find out more about Jenna Black and her books from her official website!

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 1st In A Series Challenge 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Time Will Come (8)

The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

A novel set mostly in Afghanistan. The introverted and insecure afghan narrator, Amir, grows up in Afghanistan in the closing years of the monarchy and the first years of the short-lived republic. His best and most faithful friend, Hassan, is the son of a servant. Amir feels he betrays Hassan by not coming to his aid when Hassan is set on by bullies and furthermore forces Hassan and his father Ali to leave his father´s service. Amir´s relatively priviledged life in Kaboul comes to an end when the communist regime comes to power and his extrovert father, Baba emigrates with him to the U.S. There Amir meets his future, afghan wife and marries her. Amir´s father dies in the U.S. and Amir receives a letter from his father´s most trusted business partner and, for a time, Amir´s surrogate father, which makes Amir return, alone, to a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan in search of the truth about himself and his family, and finally, a sort of redemption.

We've had this book for ages. I really do mean that. It's possible it's been sitting on our shelves since 2004 or 2005. I haven't read it yet and, to my knowledge, neither has my brother. I remember my Grandma telling me about this book and how good it was, but for some reason I can't remember, I acted like a big snob and refused to even try reading it. And then, I just forgot about it. The only reason I remembered its existence is because we are currently going through all our books and putting them into boxes to move to our new house. But, now I am a bit older, I think I must give this one a try. Hopefully soon!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Sister by Rosamund Lupton
First published by Piatkus in 2010 (this edition by Piatkus in 2011)

Description (from Goodreads)

Nothing can break the bond between sisters... 
When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister's disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister's life - and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. 
The police, Beatrice's fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

My thoughts
Sister was not at all what I expected it to be. By that, I don't mean that I was expecting it to be a bright and light hearted read, but I definitely did not think it was going to be as it turned out to be (I am being purposely mysterious, because I don't know how else to phrase what I want to say and not spoil the book for you.)

The main character in Sister is Beatrice (or Bee). The whole book is actually a narration of the events that happened four months prior to the present time (of the book), with Beatrice telling the story from the beginning - when she gets a call from her Mother who tells her that her sister, Tess, has been missing for four days - as part of her testimony to Mr Wight, a lawyer who is keeping track of all the records and testimonials.

It is discovered quite early on that Tess is dead, something which was obvious from the first few pages of the novel. I found it rather weird that the author would choose to have the discovery of Tess' death so early on in the novel, but, since she did choose to, it became obvious that the book is not the story of Beatrice trying to find her sister alive, but rather of trying to find out exactly what happened to her, seeing as everyone else believes it to be a suicide.

The story is a very well written one, and though it kept me wanting to find out what happens in the end, it wasn't one that made me feel like I just had to read one more chapter; and then another; and then another. The characters were easy to relate to and down-to-earth, with a few cases of "worship" (you can't speak ill of the dead, can you?) and others of irritating/selfish/slap-worthy personalities. But what surprised me the most was the ending. Or maybe - to make myself more clear - the chapters leading up to the ending. Parts of them just seemed to come out of nowhere and they actually left me stunned (not the best word, but I couldn't find another one...)

All in all, Sister was a good book that is worth reading, even if you're not really into mystery/thriller/detective stories. It just wasn't one that I can say I absolutely loved. I really did like the author's writing style, so I will definitely be trying out her new book, Afterwards!

Rating: 6/10

Rosamund Lupton studied English Literature at Cambridge University. After she got her BA, she first worked as a freelance reviewer and copyeditor and then, went on to become a full-time screenwriter for BBC and independent film companies. Sister was her first novel and her second novel, Afterwards, just came out in the UK.

You can find more about Rosamund Lupton from her website.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, British Books Challenge 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
First published by Simon & Schuster BFYR in 2011 (this edition by Simon & Schuster in 2011)

Description (from Goodreads)
Amy Curry thinks her life sucks. Her mom decides to move from California to Connecticut to start anew--just in time for Amy's senior year. Her dad recently died in a car accident. So Amy embarks on a road trip to escape from it all, driving cross-country from the home she's always known toward her new life. Joining Amy on the road trip is Roger, the son of Amy's mother's old friend. Amy hasn't seen him in years, and she is less than thrilled to be driving across the country with a guy she barely knows. So she's surprised to find that she is developing a crush on him. At the same time, she's coming to terms with her father's death and how to put her own life back together after the accident. Told in traditional narrative as well as scraps from the road--diner napkins, motel receipts, postcards--this is the story of one girl's journey to find herself.

My thoughts
I really don't know where to start talking about Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is just that; epic! I enjoyed it so, so much that I started getting sad towards the end of the book, because then the characters would be gone and I would never be able to read about them again. That is sometimes the pity with stand-alone novels. But it's always nice to read a stand-alone novel, as so many books nowadays - especially new books, that are just being written now - seem to come out in trilogies or even multi(morethan3)book series.

In this book, we follow Roger and Amy while they travel through America (from the West Coast to the East Coast) in Amy's car. Amy is supposed to be driving her Mum's car from California to Connecticut, but she refuses to do the actual driving, because of the accident in which dad died. So, Amy's mum manages to rope Roger (the son of an old friend) into it, who is also supposed to be travelling east at the same time. Amy and Roger are supposed to be following a rather tight driving plan (courtesy of Amy's mother). But, of course, they decide to deviate from it and follow their own course on a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the United States.

When we first meet Amy in this book, we can see that she has sort-of "put her life on pause". She's avoiding her best friend and she is living in her house all by herself, while also trying to make herself scarce while the real estate person shows potential buyers around. As the story begins, Amy has just finished school and is getting ready to join her mum in Connecticut (where her mother has decided to have a fresh start). She only gets to meet Roger for the first time (after many, many years) on the day they're starting their trip across America, which is not something she's really looking forward to (Roger or the trip).

One of my favourite things about this book is the way Amy and Roger interact with other, as well as the way each of them grows up a little during this short trip. Amy is reluctant to get to know Roger at first, until she realises what a lovely, down to earth guy he is. She starts off by being confined in a small space (that she has created for herself), but Roger's being there is pivotal in helping her escape from her self-imposed prison. Though Amy is the one with the major "baggage" which she has to face (a recently deceased father and a brother who used to be as high as a kite and is now in rehab), Roger has some growing up to do, too.

Another amazing thing about this book - and I admire Morgan Matson for taking all the time to do it - were the playlists Amy and Roger made during their trip. There is a huge variety of songs on those playlists and it's obvious that the author has put great thought into putting them together. I haven't tried to listen to a whole playlist yet, but I have listened to certain songs and they do seem to fit in with the whole road-trip feel!

All in all, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is a book you must definitely read! I'm pretty sure that fans of contemporary fiction are going to love it, but I also think that it will definitely appeal to people who are looking for something enjoyable, but, at the same time, not all that fluffy.

And, oh my gosh, but isn't that cover just so, so pretty?? (end of gushing)

Rating: 10/10 (because it is one of my favourite contemporaries of the year!)

Morgan Matson has an MFA in Writing for Children from New School. She has been on three cross-America road-trips (!!!) and currently lives in LA. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is her first book. Her second book, Second Chance Summer, is expected to be published in May 2012. You can check her website out HERE.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Time Will Come (7)

The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

An enjoyable historic thriller, well told. A mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man, the erection of a magnificent cathedral, romance, rivalry, murder, arson, lust, and love. Set in 1135 England. 

Tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known... of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect - a man divided in his soul...of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame...and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state and brother against brother. 

This book - I am rather ashamed to say - has been sitting on my bookshelf, unread, for so, so, so many years. But have you seen the size of it? I usually don't mind reading books that are 700 or more pages long, but this one, with its 1076 pages and its tiny font, just seems like an insurmountable obstacle... I know that this is one of the most-read books of all time and that it's supposed to be very good and very well written, but that's not what convinced me to decide to try this book out someday. It was recently made into a mini-series (for TV) and I happened to watch a half hour segment of an episode. It was so well made and it made the story sound very interesting. So, I decided then and there to stop watching the series, go read the book first and then watch it. Still haven't got round to it, but I have promised myself I will! Soon! I mean, despite the size, there must be a reason so many people love it, right?

Have you read this one, or know about anyone who has read it? 
Please let me know what you/that someone said about it!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That I Bought Because Of Their Covers

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by all the lovely people blogging over at The Broke And The Bookish.

This week's list is about covers! I know people say that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I am pretty sure everyone is guilty of it at some point or another. I definitely am! Though I usually want a book because of the story and then decide to buy it because of the cover. (Weird) So, without further ado, here is my list of books! (Though I don't think I'll get to 10, to be honest!)

Amy & Roger's Epic Detour

How can you not love that cover??? Tell me! How?? I don't really care for the US one, but the UK one really is simply amazing! To me, it just screams road trip! Not that I've ever been on one, but it does includes little images that are highly indicative of America and what road trips are made up to be. The story itself definitely lived up to the cover!

Ash by Malinda Lo

When I ordered this book, I really ordered it because I had seen it on sooo many blogs and everyone seemed to like it and it was a fairytale retelling AND it has an amazing cover! It's very, very simple, but it's so pretty. It's not really indicative in any way about the story within the book, but it is definitely a pretty cover and one that made me buy the book, without really looking into the actual story too much. (I found out about the fact that it is a lesbian Cinderella retelling a couple of days before my book arrived! That's how well informed I was!)

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

This cover might not be one of the prettiest ones I have ever seen, but I just loved it from the first time I saw it. That face hidden behind the letters, as well as the actual phrase those letters make up had me sold and I bought it soon after. I do wonder what the UK cover for the second book will be... I hope it's as good as this one!

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas

In all honesty, what drew me to this book wasn't just the cover, but also the fact that its pages are black all around! I know that the black pages are even more shallow than just judging by the cover, but I can't help it! When a book has them, I really have to find out what it's about! But the actual cover is pretty, too! I do love Scarlett Thomas' book covers, but this one is possibly my favourite!

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

When I first saw this cover, I realised I had to have this book! Did you notice that girl is floating????? How could you not get it??

And last but not least,

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast

This one is a book that I definitely bought because of the cover. You can't tell from the photo, but it's all nice and shiny where those grey markings are and the whole series looks really pretty on my bookshelf. I actually enjoyed reading the first 2-3 books, but after that, they just seemed to draw out a little too much. I am currently two books behind and in no hurry to get back to the series (though I will, just to see where the story goes).

Which books did you buy just because of their covers??

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
First published by MTV Books in 1999 (this edition by Pocket Books in 2009)

Description (from Goodreads)
Charlie is a freshman. And while's he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. He's a wallflower--shy and introspective, and intelligent beyond his years, if not very savvy in the social arts. We learn about Charlie through the letters he writes to someone of undisclosed name, age, and gender, a stylistic technique that adds to the heart-wrenching earnestness saturating this teen's story. Charlie encounters the same struggles that many kids face in high school--how to make friends, the intensity of a crush, family tensions, a first relationship, exploring sexuality, experimenting with drugs--but he must also deal with his best friend's recent suicide. Charlie's letters take on the intimate feel of a journal as he shares his day-to-day thoughts and feelings.

My thoughts
The Perks of Being a Wallflower had been sitting in our bookshelf for a couple of years before I decided to finally read it. I remember that it was my brother who had wanted to buy it and read it straight away, and I am pretty sure I remember him telling me that it was a pretty amazing book. It's a rather small book, so I can only think of one reason to explain the fact that I didn't read it earlier: I forgot about it. But when my brother and I were re-organising our bookshelves so as to fit all our new books, I re-discovered it and decided to read it.

I will admit to not really remembering much about it, because of the fact that I read it more than a month ago (I have been very remiss in writing up my reviews not long after I read the book and now they've all seemed to pile up), but I am going to try my best.

In this book, we follow Charlie, who is a freshman in school and is also a bit of a wallflower (as the title suggests). On the back cover of the edition I read, there is a short description of Charlie; he's shy, introverted, intelligent, not very popular and socially awkward. To me he came across as a tiny bit weird, but mostly in an endearing way. We meet Charlie through the letters he writes to someone of unknown identity. In those, he changes everyone's names (in fear of recognition) by that person he sends them to and essentially catalogues all the events that take place within a given period of time; from the 25th August 1991 to the 23rd August 1992. Within that year, many changes take place, which either cause Charlie confusion or play an essential role in his becoming what he the end of the novel. The most important factor that influences the progress of this book is his friendship with Sam and Patrick, with his Aunt Helen also being an important presence throughout (directly or indirectly).

There were things in this book that I did not completely understand when I was reading them; what Chbosky was trying to say was not completely clear to me. (Which is probably why I will have to read this one again sometime in the not-too-distant future) But I do recognise that it is an extremely well written novel, with a main character who is engaging enough and self-deprecating enough to make you feel for him. Charlie did come across as a bit of a weirdo at times, because, try as I might, I couldn't understand what was going through his head some of the time. There are things going on in various parts in the novel that aren't explained properly at the time (probably so as to make the reader speculate as to what is happening), but it led to a slight confusion on my part. Especially regarding some of the Aunt-Helen parts.

All in all, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a lovely coming-of-age story, with a rather endearing (though not always) character, who faces "real problems" and tells us about them in his own unique voice. Definitely a book that is worth reading and one that I am going to be re-reading myself soon, in hopes of understanding those parts that I missed the point of the first time.

Rating: 8/10

Stephen Chbosky grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Southern California's Filmic Writing Programme. He managed to win an award with his first film ("The Four Corners of Nowhere"). He has written screenplays, directed and co-produced a number of films. The Perks of Being A Wallflower is his first novel.
For more information about Stephen Chbosky, you can check him out on Wikipedia.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Sunday, 16 October 2011

In My Mailbox (18)

Hello everyone! In My Mailbox is a meme that is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, so we get the chance to share our new books for the week (bought, borrowed or won) with all the lovely bloggers out there!

I've only got two actual books to show you this week, but I got a couple from Netgalley, too!

From swaps:
I heart New York by Lindsey Kelk
I've actually had this one for quite some time and it should have been in my previous IMM post, but I kind-of forgot about it....
Wake by Lisa McMann
I don't know why, but I expected this one to be a little bigger than it actually is! I do like the sound of the story, so I'm looking forward to reading this one soon!

From Netgalley:
The Hangman In The Mirror by Kate Cayley
I've already read this one and it was okay, just not as good as I expected it to be. And apparently, the main story backdrop is true!
The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
I've been seeing her books around quite a bit as of late and I came really close to buying one when I was in England during the summer holidays, so when I saw this one offered on Netgalley (without needing to be approved), I decided to try it out!

What did you get in your mailbox/postbox this week?? 
Feel free to leave me a link to your mailbox posts and I will definitely check them out!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
First published by Katherine B. Tegen Books in 2011 (this edition by HarperCollins Children's Books in 2011)

Book #1 in the Divergent trilogy

Description (from Goodreads)
Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances.

My thoughts
The time has come for me to finally write my review of the book that is possibly the "talk of the year"! (Concerning debut authors) Most of you, even if you haven't read the book yet, have probably seen it everywhere around the blogosphere. The hype that was going on about this book, even from when I had just started blogging and everyone I was starting to follow back then was getting ARCs of this book, Divergent, and then was gushing about it incessantly, telling everyone again and again how good this book is.

All of that hype let me to the decision to actually get the book and see for myself. And the same hype was what kept me from reading for such a long time after buying it. I kept hearing that Divergent is the new Hunger Games a lot and I think the fact that I only discovered The Hunger Games this year (and loved it) made me a little apprehensive about reading it. But I finally got round to reading it.

Divergent is set in a futuristic Chicago. There, all people have been divided into one of five factions, depending on each person's most prominent characteristic. All children are born into the faction that their parents belong to and after they turn sixteen, they are subjected to an "aptitude test" and are free to choose the faction they want to belong to. The main character in this book, Tris, has grown up as part of Abnegation and is now ready to choose the faction which she believes best characterises her. Her choice of Dauntless is surprising both to her and her family and her initiation to the Dauntless faction may be more than she bargained for. But it's what she discovers about herself during her Dauntless initiation that is likely to cause her the most danger.

The book really is beautifully written. Veronica Roth has a way with words that makes you want to keep reading in order to find out what exactly is going to happen to Tris next. She keeps you "on the edge of your seat" (so to speak). I don't know why, but I always find it astounding when (debut) authors manage to do that with their first book. It also makes me a much more severe critic for their next books, as they themselves have set the bar very high. I found the characters to be excellently developed and to have many hidden depths (that actually remained hidden until the last 100 pages of the book). The "unveiling" of those depths were absolutely essential to the continuation of the plot. I really enjoyed having Tris as a main character. She is not sure of what she wants in the beginning of the novel, but seems to mature substantially while she is undergoing the Dauntless initiation process; she finds out more about herself. But the character who steals the show (in my opinion) is Four. Though I hated the name from the first time we meet him in the novel, he really is a great character. You can tell there is something there (hidden depths, as well as attraction to Tris), but the refreshing fact is that he doesn't mollycoddle her or favour her in any way. He pushes Tris to her limits, because he knows she is strong and that she can take it(even though she doesn't know it herself).

Divergent definitely deserves all the hype it has been getting. I am not one for comparing books while I am reading them, but even in retrospect, Divergent did not strike me as "the next Hunger Games", as it is being labelled. Divergent is a story in its own right, despite the fact that it may belong to the same genre as The Hunger Games. I enjoyed reading them both for different reasons and in all honesty, did not find that many similarities. Though, if people mean that it's going to be the next "big phenomenon" in YA dystopian literature (just like The Hunger Games was a few years ago), then ok!

Rating: 10/10

Veronica Roth was born in August 1988 (oh my gosh, she's only a year older than me!) in Chicago and studied creative writing at Northwestern University. Divergent is her first book. The second book in the Divergent trilogy, Insurgent, will be coming out in May 2012. And here is the pretty cover:

You can find out more about Veronica Roth by following her blog.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 1st In A Series Challenge, Dystopian Challenge

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Time Will Come (6)

The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

Alice Ascher from Andover is the first victim. Next to her corpse is a spellbinding clue. It seems that a killer is knocking off his victims one-by-one, A through Z. Alphabetically speaking, Hercule Poirot fears that it's a matter of one down, twenty-five to go.

This book I remember seeing in my local bookshop a couple of years ago and really wanting to read it. When it got round to Christmas, my Mum had actually remembered that I'd said I wanted it and had bought it for me. (Cue quite a bit of excitement!) But, I am ashamed to say, I still haven't got round to reading it. This is baaaaad.... I've never read anything by Agatha Christie and I would really love to; I just don't know what's keeping me from reading this one.

The Almost Book Ban - Round 3

The Almost Book Ban is a ban with a difference. For each round, you set yourself a certain number of books to read and if you manage to reach your goal, you are then allowed to get a new book. So, basically, that one book that you are allowed to buy works as an incentive to get rid of more books on your pile of to-be-read books.

The credit for The Almost Book Ban goes to one of my best blogging friends, Katie from That Book Blog. I'm just using the idea and tweaking it a little to suit me.

For the 3rd round, I will be reading:

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
One Seriously Messed-Up Week In The Otherwise Mundane And Uneventful Life Of Jack Samsonite by Tom Clempson
Face by Benjamin Zephaniah
A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French
I heart New York by Lindsey Kelk
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

Also mentioned: Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

(Special mention: Kate from That Book Blog)

Let me know if you have read any of these books and what you think of them!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz
First published by Harlequin Teen in 2011 (this edition by Harlequin Teen in 2011)

Book #1 in the Spellbound series

Description (from Goodreads)
What's a girl to do when meeting The One means she's cursed to die a horrible death?                                              Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Connor, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.
But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

My thoughts
Spellbound was a book that I had seen around quite a bit on different blogs, but not one which I felt I had to read sometime (and the sooner that time came the better). I am sure that, had I not won this book in a giveaway, I would not have bought it for myself in the near future, as the whole story did not sound so original or so compelling. That blurb up there, which is the one I had read before I got my hands on a copy of this book, just makes it sound like yet another of those YA books where the main character fancies a boy who is the bad guy and ignores her and then things start going weird.

To be honest, the book isn't much more than that. But I did find myself enjoying Spellbound much more than I thought I would. Emma is a girl who has been through much in her rather short life: she has lost her mother and her twin brother and was made to live with her irresponsible stepfather for some time, until she finally decided to go and live with her aunt in New York City. There she attends a very high class private school and on her first day there, she manages to make an enemy. (Yep, pretty typical.) And she also manages to find a guy that she is "irresistably drawn to". (Yep, again, pretty typical.) And that, by some peculiar (or not) coincidence, they happen to be "soulmates". (... you know)

So, all in all, the storyline is not what you might call very original. Just from the blurb alone, this is not a book I think would cause someone to want to read it straight away, because of the fact that it follows a pretty predictable storyline. But, as I said before, I enjoyed Spellbound more than I thought I would, mainly because of the fact that the writing was rather good. It flowed naturally and, while I was reading it, did not make me feel as if I were reading the same old story, yet another time. What I enjoyed the most was the story behind the story. (I don't want to say more than that, so that I don't spoil the book) Suffice to say, that the explanation given for the "soulmate" theory, while a little cheesy, was sweet and I enjoyed reading the parts where it was explained.

The characters themselves were okay (what I can remember of them, at least). Emma, the main character, though she came from a rather tough background was not very much of a whinge-y person (at least to me) and I appreciated that. As for Brendan, he was rather cool, in an aloof, mind-your-own-business kind-of way and though in the beginning I was just okay with him, I ended up rather liking him. The whole romance between the two of them did feel a tad too instant-romance-y, but at least it wasn't an all-consuming type of romance (like the one that has come to get on my nerves a little in Alyson Noel's Immortals series). One of my favourite characters was Angelique, the school weird-witch. She really is just great.

To sum up, Spellbound is a book worth reading, if you feel that you're not sure about it (as I was). It's not THE most original thing in the world, but it is interesting and well written and will definitely account for some hours/days of enjoyable reading.

Rating: 6/10 (just because it's not a very original plot)

Cara Lynn Shultz obtained a degree from Fordham University and currently works as a senior editor at Her work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Teen People, InStyle and Us Weekly. Spellbound is her first novel and the sequel to it, Spellcaster, will be out in March 2012. You can keep up with her updates by following her blog.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 1st In A Series Challenge 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
First published by Little, Brown and Company in 2005 (this edition by Sphere in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)
Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to 'My dear and unfortunate successor'. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of - a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history. 
In those few quiet moments, she unwittingly assumes a quest she will discover is her birthright - a hunt for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the Dracula myth. Deciphering obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions, and evading terrifying adversaries, one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. 
Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions - a captivating tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful - and utterly unforgettable.

My thoughts
Before deciding to finally read this book, The Historian had been sitting on my bookshelves for a little longer than it should have. I did have a rather good excuse for that; its size. The Historian is over 700 pages long and it has tiny (and I do mean tiny) print. So, when it came round to me choosing the next book I wanted to read, I always ended up skipping it.

I am going to be completely honest here by saying that, though the book was great and I really enjoyed reading it, I felt like it could have been a little shorter. There were parts of it that just seemed to go on and on without really adding that much more new information to the story or helping much in the character building. But, despite that "slight" problem, The Historian really is an excellent book. It has a great narrator, great characters, lots of historical facts (if you are into that kind of stuff) and some weird things going on. What is weird about this book is that I am pretty sure the daughter (a young girl and the narrator of our story) is - as far as I noticed - never actually named. And I just realised this now, when I sat down to write up the review.

The story itself focuses on the legend of Vlad Dracula. Vlad Dracula is actually a person who existed historically, and who was evil and a little perverted. He ruled the region of Wallachia (in what is now part of Romania) and is also known by his other name, Vlad the Impaler, because of the fact that he used to impale his enemies on great poles (it was his favourite method of execution). The book contains a large number of facts about the mythology surrounding Vlad Dracula, particularly the mythology that also surrounds the inspiration of Bram Stocker's classic book, Dracula.

The story progresses through various methods. The main part of the book is about Paul and Helen's (who are closely related to the narrator) journey to find out the truth about some weird and unexplained events that seem to bring lots of people from rather different backgrounds together. Everything starts off when our narrator is in her teens and finds an ancient book on her father's bookshelves. She then proceeds to ask him about it and he slowly starts telling her a story, which began even before she was born. Later on in the book,  the author used other meant to keep on telling the story of the past (other than the father - Paul - 's storytelling), with just a few paragraphs on what is happening in the present time. (It might sound confusing, but it's not, really)

What I found to be a bit of a problem with this book was the fact that too big a part of it seemed to take part in the past. The vast majority of the book was taken over by the father's storytelling (as well as by the other devices the author uses to bring the past into the present), with only a limited number of pages left over for the narration of what is happening in the present. Sometimes, those "past" parts seemed to go on for too long (without much of a "present" break) and I was a little put out by the fact that we didn't get to focus on the actual narrator as much. She was mainly used as a device to introduce the "past" and didn't seem to have as much of an active role as I would have liked. More specifically, her interactions with Bailey were so refreshing and lovely, that I was a little sad that there weren't more of them in the story.

All in all, though it is a rather hefty book, The Historian is a worthwhile read. It is enjoyable and very informative (without becoming too heavy on information). Elizabeth Kostova has a wonderful way of writing and it is obvious that she has spent a large amount of time researching historical information to write this book. I will definitely be looking out for more of her books in the future.

Rating: 8/10

Elizabeth Kostova is an American author. She holds a degree from Yale University, as well as an MFA from the University of Michigan. The Historian was her first novel and was published in 2005. She has since published a second book, called The Swan Thieves.

You can find out more about Elizabeth Kostova and her books from her official website.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Time Will Come (5)

The Time Will Come is a great meme hosted by Jodie over at Books For Company. The point of this meme is to list a book that has been sitting on our bookshelves unread for too long and we have been meaning to get round to for ages!

This week's pick is:

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver-s license...records my first name simply as Cal." 
So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

I've had this book on my bookshelves for well over a year now. I did start reading it back then, but I was probably reading something else at the same time and I just forgot about it. I got it on the recommendation of one of my friends, who loved it, and I still haven't told him that I haven't finished it.... Really must get round to it soon, because I remember enjoying Eugenides' style of writing (when I was reading it all that time ago). 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Fake Me A Match by Lauren Barnholdt

Fake Me A Match by Lauren Barnholdt
Expected publication in October 2011 by Aladdin (this edition is an e-Galley, courtesy of the S&S Galley Grab programme)

Description (from Goodreads)
Avery LaDuke is in the market for a new best friend. Her former BFF, Sophie Burns, dumped her to hang out with the popular crowd at school. But the good news Avery's getting a new sister who's bound to be her new BFF too! Blake is her age and she's from New York. How cool is that? But things don't go quite as smoothly as Avery hoped. And what's with Blake becoming BFFs with Sophie? Huh?? That wasn’t supposed to happen!When Avery gets put in charge of the eighth grade charity project, an on-line matchmaking service, she thinks she can use this project to get Blake back on her side. She decides to fix the matches so that Blake gets matched with Sam, the most popular boy in school, but when the matches come out something has gone seriously wrong! Not only is Avery matched with Sam, but the class advisor knows that someone tampered with the program. On top of that, Avery discovers that she actually kind of, sort of, likes Sam . . . and he likes her back. Torn between the guy she likes and her sister/best friend, Avery is left wondering: is there any possible way she can keep them both?

My thoughts
Fake Me A Match is a cute little book. And it's the first book I've read in ages that has that rather large font size that you get in children's books! Maybe because this is a children's book! Anyways, I am going off topic here.

I chose to read this book not because I had really been wanting to read it, but because I was participating in a readathon (and I was also reading The Historian at the time), so I decided that something short, cute and easy to read was just the thing to refresh my mind after too much historical information about Dracula,

Fake Me A Match is the story of Avery. Avery lives with her  mum, who is going to get married to a guy, who also has a daughter, Blake. So Avery is absolutely sure that she and Blake will end up being BFFs. But then Blake starts to get chummy with Avery's ex-BFF, Sophie, and she doesn't know what she's doing wrong. Avery is also on the student council and is put in charge of the eighth grade charity project, where they're going to raise money by playing matchmaker. Things start to get complicated when Avery, knowing that Blake fancies Sam, decides to tamper with the "matchmaking programme" and set the two of them up. But, of course, things go wrong and Avery ends up pairing herself with Sam. And then she realises that she actually likes Sam and that Sam also likes her back. It does get a little complicated, doesn't it??

This is a book that is aimed at younger readers and it shows. The language isn't dumbed down in any way, but it is a lot simple. Lauren Barnholdt really has done an excellent job of getting into the young teenager's mind and depicts their mannerisms, thoughts and worries in a lovely and very sweet way. Character development is okay, despite the fact that I really could not stand Avery. To me, she came of as a bit of a whiny little girl who is overenthusiastic about everything and ended up getting on my nerves. As for Blake, she wasn't really very nice for the most part of the book. Sam, on the other hand, was a lovely character. We first meet him through Avery's preconceptions about him, but through their charity project and their dog-training sessions, we get to see what he's really like. I love it when the boy in the book is a good boy!

All in all, Fake Me A Match is a great book for younger readers, but might not be very appealing to older ones. I suppose that what this book really is is a light fluffy read (just like chick lit) for young teenagers. Definitely a book to check out if you like that kind of thing! (I am definitely going to try reading one of her titles for older readers, because I really liked her writing style!)

Rating: 6/10 (I can't give it a higher rating because I just liked it - I didn't love it - but it is still a very good read)

Lauren Barnholdt seems to be a very secretive person and I can't find anything to write here. Some of her books include:

You can find out more about her books from her Goodreads page as well as from her website. She also has a blog but it hasn't been updated in a while now.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Fury by Elizabeth Miles

Fury by Elizabeth Miles
First published by Simon Pulse in 2011 (this edition is an e-Galley, courtesy of the S&S Galley Grab programme)

Book #1 in The Fury Trilogy

Description (from Goodreads)
Sometimes sorry isn't enough....                                It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems...
Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better--the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.
On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel...something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.
Em and Chase have been chosen.

My thoughts
Before I got round to reading Fury, I remember that I used to see it everywhere for a while. Reviews, IMM posts (lots of IMM posts) etc. And then it was on Galley Grab. Since Galley Grab is pretty much the only way I can get to read books before their release that is available to people outside the UK and the US (along with NetGalley, of course), I grabbed it. And was I glad I did! (By the way, is it only me who didn't get a September Galley Grab email?)

Anyway, I had read a few reviews of Fury before I started reading it myself and their main characteristic was that they were very mixed. I tend to like it when reviews/ratings are mixed, because then I don't feel the pressure of having to like a certain book, or feeling as if I missed something when I didn't like a book that everyone seems to. In the case of Fury, I am very happy to say that I am on the side of the people who enjoyed it.

Fury is the story of a group of teenagers, with the main characters, according to the description, being Em and Chase. When I was reading the book, I was under the impression that Em was the main character... Things are definitely happening to Chase, too, but the focus wasn't on him enough to classify him as a main character (in my opinion).

The actual storyline itself rather surprised me. The title should have given me a clue as to what it was about, but never did I think of the Furies (Erinyes) of Greek Mythology. (It was pretty obvious, but I probably just couldn't see it.) The fact remains that weird things are happening in Em's hometown of Ascension, starting with a teenage girl who decided to try and end her life by jumping off a bridge and continuing with the appearance of three mysterious girls, who no-one knows where they came from. And they always seem to appear whenever something weird is actually happening; they're never too far away.

I found the writing in this book to be superb! The choice of words and the sentence building was so good, that I kept reading and reading and reading, without realising how many pages I had actually read, and I ended up finishing Fury in just a few hours. (Which is really good considering I was reading from my computer screen.) The characters were well developed, though not particularly nice. Each one of them, excepting a couple of "secondary characters", had some sort of irritating quality. Em, for example, was very selfish, a little immature and quite self-delusional, but, by the end, you could see that her heart was in the right place (most of the time).

Some of the things that happened in this book shocked me. In the sense that I really was not expecting them to happen. And that they were also rather sudden in happening, with limited build-up to the event. But I suppose that is what the author was trying to do; present us with events we didn't think would happen and shock us.

All in all, Fury is a book that I am definitely going to be buying when it comes out in paperback and one that I think is worth reading. If you want to look up some different opinions about this book, then just check its Goodreads page. Looking forward to reading the next two books in the trilogy!

Rating: 8/10

Elizabeth Miles grew up in a city/town not very far from New York City. She has a degree from Boston University and has worked ever since as a journalist for an alternative newsweekly. Fury is her first novel. You can find out more about Elizabeth Miles from her official website/blog.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, 1st In A Series Challenge
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