Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Book Review: The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo

The Gathering DarkTitle: The Gathering Dark 
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy, #1
Pages:  442
Publisher: Indigo
Date of Publication: 7th June 2012
Source: Publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads: The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

My Thoughts:
This book was amazing. Seriously, I thought it was brilliant. Gah, you need to read it. It's sooo good :D

Right, okay, gushing over. I'll coherently start this review now. Basically, I wasn't sure what I would think of this book when I first got it. It's fantasy, and also, my proof copy is huge. Being not a fantasy fan and somehow having developed an aversion to all books that are over 450 pages, I wasn't really all that excited about it, despite the proof being absolutely stunning (and it looks nothing like the UK cover shown above. Nothing like it.). I don't really know why I requested it - probably because it was getting good reviews and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about...

Anyway, as I said, I'm not a fan of fantasy. I don't get it. Some people are obsessed with books like Lord of the Rings, Eragon and Game of Thrones, but I just don't see the appeal. I always try and read them, thinking I'll love them, and then I don't and it's frustrating because I want so much to love them like everyone else but I don't... Anyway, I'd read some reviews saying this was a good read for people who want to like fantasy but don't, so I read it, and oh my goodness me, I am SO GLAD I did! It's not too high fantasy that people like me get bored or are uninterested, but it's got enough fantasy that I think fantasy fans will be satisfied... If that makes sense.

I really liked the world in which the story takes place. I liked the idea of having The Shadow Fold - a vast, impenetrable land of monsters and darkness. Alina has to do what she can with her new found power for summoning light to try and destroy this Shadow Fold - before it eats up the rest of the world in which they live. I liked learning about all the different kinds of Grisha, and finding out about all their different powers and the hierarchy between them. I thought the world building was great, if a little info-dumpish at the beginning (I got confused super quickly) but after a while it leveled out and I found it was easy to keep up with everything that was going on.

I really liked Alina. I thought she was very sweet - if a little unheroine-ish... Pretty sure that's not a word... Anyhoo, she was modest and very unbelieving in herself, and it kind of annoyed me but I also thought it was cute. She didn't realise her power and she then couldn't even bring herself to use it, and then once she did she only used it for good and didn't go power-crazy or anything, like other characters may have done. My favourite character though, by far, was Mal. Seriously, Alina, are you blind?! How could you NOT realise how freaking awesome he is?! I don't know why I love him so much. I just do - he's just great :')

The plot was exciting and fast paced, and it kept twisting and turning in different directions and it was so good! It was a bit confusing at times but there was nothing a quick reread of the last few pages couldn't fix, so that wasn't really a problem. I can't wait to find out what happens in the next book!

Overall, The Gathering Dark was a huge surprise, but an amazing one at that. I can't believe Leigh Bardugo is a debut author - this book was *that* good! I'd recommend this to fans of YA fantasy and paranormal, or if you're looking to read some fantasy that's exciting and good but not too high and fantasy-ish. If you don't think it's your 'thing' but you're interested in the plot, go for it - it might surprise you like it did me.

*Huge thanks to Indigo for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the book. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Book Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Struck (Struck, #1)
Title: Struck
Author: Jennifer Bosworth
Series: Struck, #1
Pages:  373
Publisher: Doubleday Children's
Date of Publication: 26th April 2012
Source: Publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Mia Price is a lightning addict. She's survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn't who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

My Thoughts:
So, I'll confess, I read this book ages ago... And I've left my review for way too long and so it might be a bit waffley, so sorry in advance! I've made notes though so all should be fine. I hope!

The premise of this book is what drew me in the first place, and for once, it wasn't the cover. Sure, the cover's nice, but it was the fact that it's about a girl who's addicted to being struck by lightning that made me need to read this book. How is that even possible? I thought if you get struck by lightning, surely you die instantly? And yes, I know this is fiction but I can't help but feel like there might be a way to survive. Let me know, people, let me know in the comments ;P

So yeah, having never read anything quite like this, I went into it not really knowing what to expect, apart from that it was dystopian, which, as it turns out was wrong anyway (It's post-apocalyptic). I was intrigued by the idea of having a world that's divided into strong 'religious' believers and then the atheists on the other side. I kind of feel like there's rarely any mention of religion in books, and while I'm okay with that (I'm aware a lot of people find it to be preachy, and I totally get that), it was interesting to read about Prophet and see religion from a different perspective than I'm used to, if that makes sense. Not that there's a huge amount of religion in the book...

The characters were great - I really liked Mia. I thought she was determined and she wasn't led astray at the first mention of mysterious pretty boy. She kept her head and she knew when to say no, even if it didn't exactly last. She looked after her brother and had a fierce protectiveness over her family, and it was awesome to see some kinds of family bonds, even if sometimes they seemed very weak. However, Mia is a lightning addict, and for the most part of this book I didn't fully understand what this meant. I needed more from the author about how this was possible, and what it meant for Mia, as it wasn't really explored at all, until the end.

I really liked Jeremy too. I loved how the author slowly revealed things about him to us, just enough that we stayed interested, but not too much that there wasn't any mystery to him anymore. I loved the way his story arc played out, and let me tell you, I had no idea that was coming. He was vague and mysterious and I loved it. Also, he was the only love interest, so don't worry - there's no unnecessary love triangle here!

Unfortunately, there was something missing for me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but Struck lacked something, and it made it not quite as good as I wanted it to be. I think maybe it's because there are so many post-apoc and dystopian YA novels out there at the moment that the synopsis of this one jumped out at me and I was so excited to read something new and refreshing, that while it was really good, it wasn't the mind-blowingly amazing that I wished it would be.

Overall though, Struck was a really impressive debut novel and I'm looking forward to reading the next one. The characters are good, the writing's brilliant, the world building is original and refreshing, and it hooks you in at the very first page and finishes with a bang. Although perhaps lacking in that special wow-factor in the middle, I would definitely recommend to fans of dystopian and post-apoc YA fiction as this is certainly one of the better books in the genre right now.

*Huge thanks to Random House for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the book. Also, sorry it's really late! :) 

Friday, 22 June 2012

Blog Tour: A Day in the Life of Claire Merle

The GlimpseWelcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Glimpse by Claire Merle! Sorry it's a bit late but better late than never, right? Anyway, I have a guest post from Claire herself to share with you, I hope you enjoy it!

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A Day in the Life of an Author and Mum.

Hi! It’s great to be here at Cheezyfeet Books as part of my blog tour for The Glimpse. Thanks for having me, Bella. As an author and a mum my schedule varies greatly, but no matter what I’m doing or where I am, I like to find time to write every day, (and not just emails!) I thought I’d share a ‘typical’ day with you – or at least as typical as it gets. This is what my yesterday looked like (19th June) …

7:30 a.m. The kids wake me. I take them downstairs and sort out breakfast. It’s Wednesday and as we live in France, that means no school. (Yes, the whole of France has NO SCHOOL on Wednesdays.) While the boys eat breakfast I sit in the kitchen swigging back coffee and checking over the hundred words I took about three hours to write yesterday – Yesterday I received the editorial letter and marked up manuscript for my second book, THE FALL. Yesterday, after reading over the manuscript’s first page, I decided to rewrite the opening scene – hence agonising over every word.

8:30 a.m. As there’s no school today I let the kids watch telly for an hour while I take another coffee up to the office, check emails, twitter, fb and continue brainstorming the opening scene of book 2 in The Glimpse Duet. I want something controlled, something that reveals my main character’s circumstance, background and the nutshell of the central story conflict all without appearing to do so. I sweat a bit. Write a few more words. Gah! It’s quarter to ten! Better jump into the shower.

10:25 a.m. I bundle the kids into the car and take my oldest son to his Wednesday English class. It starts at 10:30. We’ll be five minutes late. We’re always five minutes late. My yonger son and I return home and he plays while I answer more emails.

11:30 a.m. I pick up my oldest son and by the time we get home it’s time to start thinking about lunch. It’s a beautiful day, so we eat out in the garden. My husband, who is working nights, wakes up and joins us. Lovely.

2 p.m. I take the boys to the park, my laptop stretching the seams of my large handbag. Yes,  it’s optimistic to think I might get a few more precious words written while my boys are playing football, but I do! (With half an eye on them at all times.)

5 p.m. We pass by the shops to pick up milk and a few basics on the way home. We arrive to find my husband in the garden, sorting out materials and packing up the van he needs for work that night. The boys stay and ‘help’ him while I sneak back to my office and write a bit more.

6 p.m. Feeding time – again. I go down to the freezer, see all the washing hanging up, waiting for me to do something with it and pretend not to. Once I’ve got supper underway, I pop quickly upstairs to post something on facebook. I end up checking twitter and my emails and as I prefer to answer an email as soon as I’ve read it, (and this one’s semi-important) I start typing a response. Does that smell like burning? I run down stairs. Oops. I’m just in time to save supper from getting incinerated.

8 p.m. I put my youngest son in the shower and sit in my office next door quickly jotting down a couple of ideas I’ve had relating to the ‘big picture’ editorial suggestions on THE FALL. Now I’ve started thinking about it again, new ideas keep popping into my head. I hear my oldest son join my youngest in the bathroom. Ooh, another idea for the first scene. I’m pretty lost in the story when I hear my oldest son crashing down the stairs. I pull myself away from my computer and go to get the little one out of the shower too. I find the bathroom flooded. The boys have blocked the plug and the little one is splashing around in a homemade swimming pool.

9.05 p.m. Phew! The boys are in bed. I write for an hour and a half. Undisturbed. Bliss. Then I watch the beginning of an American TV series (no idea which one) dubbed in French. I’m tired and not really up to following, so I drag myself upstairs and read until my eyes start closing and I can’t resist the call of sleep.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Bella! And thanks for reading A Day in the Life…



__________

Thanks Claire, that was awesome! :D Also, below is the teaser trailer for The Tamsin Diaries - can you help find Ana's missing best friend? More details here!

For the other dates on the tour, click the image to embiggen: 


Thanks for reading! Have you read this/would you like to read it? Leave me a comment! 

Thanks to Faber & Faber for hosting the blog tour and Claire Merle for writing this post for me! Sorry it's late! :)

Blog Tour: The Glimpse by Claire Merle review

The GlimpseTitle: The Glimpse 
Author: Claire Merle
Series: N/A
Pages:  432
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: 7th June 2012
Source: Publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads: In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.

Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society, and as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe.

My Thoughts:
So, what can I say about The Glimpse? Umm... It was AWESOME. I really, really enjoyed it. Despite having to read it in between exams and revision and a mountain of school work, when I actually had a chance to read it I was absolutely glued to the pages, needing to know whether or not Ana and Jasper and Cole would be okay and whether the dreaded Pure test gave real, reliable results.

The whole idea of the book - a world in which people are separated by some sort of test, has been done before, but there was not one point in the book in which it felt familiar. A little predictable, perhaps, but I felt that it stood really well by itself in the ever-growing sea of young adult dystopia that is currently all the rage. I've never really read anything to do with mental health, so that was refreshing and interesting, and I think it dealt extremely well with a potentially delicate subject.

'Crazy' and 'mental' are thrown around as insults everyday, yet I don't think I've ever really stopped to think about how it would be to be mentally ill. I've never really thought about the institutions, never really considered what it would be like to be told you're crazy, that there's something wrong with your brain, yet you have no idea - no belief - in that. You assume you're fine, yet people tell you you're not. It'd be awful... And in The Glimpse, Ana takes the Pure test (to make sure she isn't 'crazy') and is told she is Pure, so she's fine. Then, when it seems that the Pure test results can be forged, and she's told she isn't, she's declared a Sleeper (basically, she could become Active (mentally ill) at any moment) and she begins to doubt her sanity. I literally can't think of anything worse - to not even be sure of your own mind... *shudder*

The Glimpse gave us insight into mental institutions and the lives of people who were thought to be crazy. I'm aware it probably was a bit exaggerated and conditions nowadays really aren't that bad, but still, it made me consider the things mentioned above. The plot kept me hooked and I constantly wanted to find out more about the world that Ana and Jasper lived in, and how it was different to the one that Cole lived in. There perhaps could have been a bit more world-building - I would have liked to have known why the world was the way it was, but once I'd read past 10% that didn't matter anymore: I was fully invested in the story.

One of the best things about the book was that it was set in London. Reading about all these places that I've been to, that I know my way around, was AWESOME because the majority of the books I read being American, I usually have no idea where on earth the stories are taking place, and while I know it doesn't really matter if I don't have a clue, it was definitely nice to be able to read 'Camden' and be able to imagine the characters there.

And I liked the characters, though Ana definitely made some stupid decisions that were so obviously stupid before she did them that even though it's fiction and would be boring without the mistakes made, it still made me want to facepalm. Seriously, there were times I wanted to slap some sense into Ana, and tell her that OF COURSE her plan was NEVER going to work...

Overall though, The Glimpse was a great book full of twists and turns that kept me hooked. If you're a fan of dystopia but have felt like you've been wading through slogs of average feeling ones, give this a try - I felt it was new and refreshing. Thought-provoking and exciting, I'd definitely recommend it! Also, isn't the cover just gorgeous?!


And that's my review for the blog tour! Hope you enjoyed it, click on the picture below for a list of all the other stops on the tour!


And the book trailer for The Glimpse:


Thanks for reading, and thanks to Faber & Faber UK for organising the blog tour and giving me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review - in no way has this affected my opinion of the book :D

Monday, 4 June 2012

Book Review: Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid

Black Heart BlueTitle: Black Heart Blue
Author: Louisa Reid
Series: Standalone
Pages:  266
Publisher: Puffin
Date of Publication: 10th May 2012
Source: Publisher Event*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Hephzibah: You've no idea what it's like having a freak for a sister.

Rebecca: Born first, prettier, Hephzi's always been the popular one.

The Father: When he was busy with his bottle we were usually safe. Usually.

The Mother: Her specialist subject was misery and lessons of painful silence ...

Hepzibah and Rebecca are twins. One beautiful, one disfigured. Trapped with their loveless parents, they dream of a normal life. But when one twin tragically dies, the other must find a way to escape. Because if she doesn't, she'll end up like her sister.

My Thoughts:
I never know what to expect from these kind of books. I've read similar books before and sometimes I think they're incredible, and other times I think they could have been incredible yet there was something missing - I didn't feel enough pity for the characters or I couldn't understand something that was going on. And Black Heart Blue is one of the better books about domestic violence that I've read, yet I still feel as though there was something lacking, something else I needed, to be able to fully engage in the story.

For the first 75 pages or so, I found it quite slow. I was eager to find out how Rebecca would escape from her dad and find out what really happened to Hephzi, but I thought it took a little bit too long to really get to what I wanted from the story. I feel like domestic violence is something I know very little about - luckily I've never come across it apart from in my PSHE lessons at school, and therefore I'm not really sure about how I feel about the book. On the one hand, I found it interesting to read and said PSHE lessons make more sense now, but on the other it was horrible to read about and some of the things that their father did to them were awful.

I found I wanted to know why the twins' father was the way he was, why he abused them so. I wanted to know what could possibly drive him to be so cruel, and to his own children. We're given a reason at the end but I wanted to know sooner, I wanted more detail, to see if I could possibly understand him. And even though I probably wouldn't be able to, I'd still like to know. I feel like now, having read Black Heart Blue, I have a lot of unanswered questions floating around in my head and some thoughts that I can't quite put into words, and that, I think, is what was missing for me.

However, once I got past the beginning, I began to really engage in the story and feel invested in the characters. I didn't enjoy it, exactly - it's not a happy book - but I felt that I needed to keep reading to make sure that Rebecca would be able to reveal the secret behind Hephzi's death, and get out alive. I loved the way it was told in 'Before' and 'After' Hephzi's death - it gave us a chance to get to know both sisters and discover what we could about their difficult little world.

I felt I could relate to Rebecca more than Hephzi, but I thought Hephzi's ventures into the real world and rebelling against her parents were more exciting and interesting to read about, even though I didn't really like her. She annoyed me and I thought she was too obsessed with fitting in, and while I could sympathise with her and try and understand that it's because of her home life, it still got on my nerves when she ditched Rebecca because she was ugly and disfigured. She didn't really understand that all the difficulties she was having, in going to school and fitting in, were also being suffered even more by Rebecca, because of her face, and it made me dislike her, because she was really quite self-centred.

Overall, Black Heart Blue is a very powerful, very thought-provoking debut novel from Louisa Reid. If you're looking for something poignant, something that you can learn something from, then this is the book for you. I'd recommend to fans of 'issues' books, as this is one of the best I've read in a long time.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

In My Mailbox #48

Hey! I haven't done an IMM for agesss but I've finally got time and can be bothered to type one up. So yay! Because it's been so long I have loads to show... Anyway, IMM is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.

FOR REVIEW


  


We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (Puffin, 3rd May 2012) 
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (HarperCollins, 1st May 2012)
Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby (Walker Children's, released)
Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles (Simon & Schuster Children's, 5th July 2012)
Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock (Simon Pulse, 5th July 2012)
Rapture by Lauren Kate (Manuscript, RHCB, 21st June 2012)
The Selection by Kiera Cass (HarperCollins, 7th June 2012)
Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster Children's, 7th June 2012)
The Spooks Blood by Joseph Delaney (RHCB, 7th June 2012)
The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead (Pufifn, 7th June 2012)
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samatha van Leer (Hodder & Stoughton, 5th July 2012) 

WON




Unwholly by Neil Shusterman (US ARC, Simon & Schuster, August 2012)

NETGALLEY


The Glimpse  Shift  Blackwood  


The Glimpse by Claire Merle
Shift by Kim Curran
Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
The Selection by Kiera Cass

That's everything! I've been to a few signings recently too, and got some swag which is always awesome, but I won't show you that because I'm lazy ;P What did you all get in your mailboxes recently? Leave me a link to whatever meme you take part in! :D

Thanks to Simon & Schuster, Faber, Strange Chemistry, RHCB, Hodder & Stoughton, Puffin, Allison Rushby, HarperCollins, and NetGalley for everything I received this last couple of months! :D
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