Tuesday, 31 March 2015

'Daughter of Glass' by Vicki Keire - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First off I need to say a massive thank you to Curiosity Quills Press, for sending me an e-copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review, and for allowing me to be a part in the 'Daughter of Glass' Blog Tour! 

This is one of those books that has an utterly intriguing, completely brand new concept, or at least it's not one that I've ever heard of. 

Sasha Alexander has a powerful ability.

Either that, or she’s dangerously mad. She isn’t always sure which.

Her father shrouds her in isolation, convinced he’s protecting her from the same madness that took her mother. But the seven impossible guardians that only she can see insist she’s gifted. Her companions since her mother’s suicide a decade ago, they protect her from hurt, pain and fear.

They also keep her from feeling love.

Sasha doesn’t know how to react when Noah explodes through her defenses. This strange young man with the scarred hands suddenly makes her feel again. And she wants more. More of Noah, of his wakening touch. But the guardians don’t want to lose their decade-long hold, while her father despises Noah on sight.

Sasha risks exposing Noah to a world that would cheerfully see him dead.

But unless she can learn to control her own emotions, the biggest danger to them all may be Sasha herself.

To start with, I felt quite confused about the direction that this book was going in. Sasha is at an art gallery opening, celebrating the artwork that her mother created before she committed suicide. Sasha cannot feel any emotion, and she hasn't been able to since she was eight, on the day that her mother died. This is because her seven guardians: Anger, Desire, Guilt, Oblivion, Fear, Sadness and Joy, siphon her emotions away from her to allow her to keep them in check, meaning that she's only able to feel things for mere seconds at a time before they take them away from her. As you can tell by reading the synopsis above, this all changes when she meets Noah, an art fan who is also attending the gallery opening. Sasha can tell that there's something different about Noah, because for the first time in nearly a decade she is able to feel things.
The only real negative about this novel is the insta-love that Sasha and Noah experience. I can understand why - if you met someone and were able to feel things for the first time ever around them, I'm sure you'd fall in love with them instantly - but it just kind of annoyed me that Noah returned the feelings straight away.
However, everything else about this book was utterly genius. Before the start of every chapter there are gorgeous illustrations bringing each and every one of the characters to life, but this wasn't even necessary because of how viscerally Vicki Keire manages to embody the emotions into the guardians. Each guardian has such a distinctive personality, and they really stand out from Sasha and Noah, making it a brilliant concept for a novel.
But even Sasha and Noah are brilliant characters. Sasha's internal battle with herself over her feelings is written in a touching way, while Noah might be the weakest character in the entire book but he still has a lot of positives; he's an extremely caring guy, and when Sasha needs help he automatically wants to protect her and look after her, meaning he really does embody the essence of an old school hero.
If you know anything about plots, when there's a hero there has to be a villain, and this character is Mr Bain. When a strange man turns up out of nowhere and starts asking Sasha to help him achieve his nefarious goals, it's easy to tell that this is a turning point in the novel, and it's very interesting how an already stuffed plot gets even more filled up. Vicki has a very talented way of writing, making it feel as though one plot is our main focal point while the subplot is brewing, ready to take over, and it makes it very difficult to see where this book is going, but that is not a negative thing.
I'm not going to give any spoilers away about how this book develops, because I think it's a really good thing to see for yourself, but I will say that by having the epilogue positioned with one of the guardians viewpoints, it's brilliant to get more into their heads, and I seriously hope Vicki considers writing a companion novel from the viewpoint of one or more of the guardians, because that would make for seriously interesting reading.
Once again, I want to thank Curiosity Quills Press for allowing me the opportunity to read this book and fall in love with these characters, and for allowing me to take part in this blog tour. I definitely suggest you consider reading this book, because even though it's rather short, it's extremely enjoyable.

Alyce's Lazy March Book Haul!

Basically, I bought well over one hundred books this month (YES OKAY I KNOW I HAVE A PROBLEM), so instead of posting information about all of the books that I bought, I'm just going to put some pictures of them in different categories. If you're interested in any of the books and want any more information, you can always tweet me or comment below - I just can't talk about all of them individually!

Books in series!: 

(Plus 'Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters' by Rick Riordan, which my mummy is reading at the moment)

Standalone YA:

Crime books: 

Autobuy authors:

Books I've been recommended: 

Vintage books:


And that's it! I know, that was so many, it's getting ridiculous... I'm trying to stop but it's just so hard. Altogether, there were 128 books in this haul... Crikey. I promise there will NOT be this many next month!

Monday, 30 March 2015

'Denton Little's Deathdate' by Lance Rubin - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First things first, I need to say a massive thank you to Simon and Schuster UK Children's publishing, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

'People have known that tomorrow is the day I will die since I was born.' 

'Denton Little's Deathdate' is one of those unique books that make you think "why didn't I think of this idea?". The premise is quite simple, really. A company have managed to create the perfect equation to be able to work out your deathdate: the day that you will die. By gathering blood and hair samples on the day that you are born, they can predict the exact day by which you will die, and there's no avoiding the fate that they prescribe to you. You can't die before your deathdate, but you can be paralyzed, or become brain damaged, meaning that a far off deathdate isn't necessarily the best news, but Denton has a much bigger problem than those potential issues:
Denton's deathdate is tomorrow. 
We join Denton on the morning of his funeral. Because people know exactly when they're going to die, funerals are now held the day before their deathdate, meaning that they can be celebrated, hear all the nice things that everyone has to say about them, and give their own eulogy to the world. Knowing that he has less than forty eight hours to live, Denton decides to use his self-eulogy to tell some truths to the world: he lets his girlfriend Taryn's ex, Phil, know how much of a tool he is, which is something that he's always wanted to do. 
But on his deathdate, all hell breaks loose. 
I'm going to try not to give too many spoilers away about the progression of this novel, because it is a heck of a journey, and I really want you to undertake it on your own. But this is one of the greatest books I've ever read. Denton's sarcastic voice is utterly hilarious, making me laugh out loud on my bus journey multiple times, which is something that I've never experienced from a book before - but as well as Denton's voice, his antics with his friends are equally as funny. For a book about death, this thing really is a riot, definitely putting the 'fun' into funeral. 
There are some negative aspects, as I'm sure you can imagine - it's pretty difficult to write a flawless book, especially when it's your debut novel. However, this one is damn close. Yes, at times Denton does get rather annoying - he has less than twenty four hours to live and he's more worried about arguing with his girlfriend, and the possibility of having sex, than about the potential cause of his untimely demise. But then he'll pick up on it, stating 'It suddenly seems overdramatic. I mean, come on, I'm the one dying' which means I can almost forgive him for it; we all have times when we do something that we know is ridiculous but we just can't help ourselves. His attitude is the perfect blend of self-deprecating and sarcastic asshole, meaning that, at times, Denton can be on the verge of offensive with his blasé attitude, but on the whole it just comes across as more humorous. This could be because I have the sense of humour of a five year old, but that's just my personal opinion. 
Additionally, the ending of the book seems a little bit rushed: the progression up to that point is utterly brilliant, well-timed and with a good pace, but the ending seems to shove everything together so quickly that the events blur behind your eyes, making you feel as though you've missed something when you eventually do get to the end. I'll suggest this to you: no matter how fast the events are going, just take your own time with it and don't be afraid to re-read sections, because some of the goings on are not very clearly described the first time you experience them. 
Other than those aspects, I did really enjoy this book. The events unravel quite slowly to start with, giving you time to have seeds of doubt and niggling ideas growing in the back of your mind, and it's a credit to Lance Rubin's writing style that I didn't see a few of the things that happened coming, because I'm normally great at predicting everything that goes on. The relationship between Paolo and Denton is heart-warming - the fact that they're both scheduled to die pretty soon, but they stick together, really makes you believe in the strength of friendship in times of adversity. Denton can be a dick at times (see: cheating on your girlfriend the day before you die) but it makes him more realistic as a character, so it's something that I can appreciate even if I don't exactly love it. 
But more than anything, this book is thought-provoking. If you could find out the day that you were going to die, would you do it? My first thought was that it would be absolutely amazing, because you'd be able to live every day as though it was your last, and you'd be able to make sure that you made time to do everything you wanted to do and see everyone you wanted to see. Then it occurred to me... None of us know when we're going to die. It could be tomorrow, it could be next week, it could be in fifty years time. So we should live every day to the fullest, no matter how many of them we have left, because why should we take life for granted? I wouldn't want to find out the day I could die, because then you'd probably be left with regrets about the things that you couldn't squeeze in, but if you try to do as much as you can before your time ends you'll feel a sense of pride and accomplishment either way. 
It absolutely amazes me that one of the funniest YA novels I've ever read is also one of the most inspiring and invigorating novels. I really just feel like grabbing the bull by the horns and throwing myself headlong into every challenge that life throws at me. If you want to have a laugh, read this book, but if you want to read a book that really hits home how meaningful life is, this is the book for you as well. It's the first book in a duology, so I'm not quite sure how the second one will pan out, but the first three quarters of this book are definitely superb, even if the ending gives us more questions than it answers. 
What about you: would you want to find out your deathdate? And if you did, what would you want to do with your life before your inevitable end?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Of Mice and Men - Brixton O2 Academy, 29/03/15

I didn't manage to hear much of the set from opening band Volumes, because the queue for Of Mice and Men was so long that we didn't get in until much before the end of their set, but what I saw I most definitely enjoyed. Much heavier than I expected, Volumes definitely have something special, and I'm going to have to listen to more of their music in the future, as this was the first time that I'd actually heard of them. If the crowd had been completely in the building before the majority of their set was over, I can imagine that they would have gotten an amazing reaction, but from where I was the response seemed muted but polite, which isn't what these guys deserved. 

It felt as though a lot of people in the room were only there to see the support act, The Amity Affliction, Australian metalcore heroes. As soon as they walked out on to the stage, the crowd started going utterly crazy, and that didn't change throughout the entirety of their set. I hadn't listened to The Amity Affliction before (don't hate me, I'm just not very good at listening to heavier music) but at the start of their set I was extremely impressed. 'Pittsburgh' was a brilliant display of their style - as well as being a band with a clean vocalist and a screamer, you could understand nearly every word coming out of the screamers mouth. This might not seem like a big deal, but one of the most important things to me is lyrical content, so it was brilliant to really get a feel for their emotionally charged songs. I can definitely understand why so many people are so affected and appreciative of this band. Too often in heavy, metalcore music, I find that it feels too dense. This might sound like a strange way to describe it, but that's what it is: instead of being a well written piece of music, it comes out sounding like a wall of noise, making it impossible to decipher one guitar from another. This is not the case with The Amity Affliction, whose songs are less a wall of noise and more a finely crafted blanket of sound, which means it's really refreshing in such a heavy genre.
However, by the end of the set I just felt as though I'd heard the same song a few times, which left me with a disappointing feeling. Don't think that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it got quite old quite fast, which is a shame. There were some stand out moments, most notably 'Chasing Ghosts' and 'Never Alone' (which, bizarrely, had an intro that reminded me of 'Shameless' by Kids In Glass Houses), and during the latter, with a call to "Get up on your partner's shoulders and fucking boogie!" really getting the crowd going. But the memorable moments were few and far between, making it hard for me to really recall any of them even a day later. I think it could take a while before The Amity Affliction have enough material to create a setlist that will include both rises and falls and will be able to hold the attention of an entire audience of this size, but they're well on their way. 

Greens Avenue
Lost & Fading
Chasing Ghosts
Death's Hand
The Weigh Down
Never Alone
Open Letter
Don't Lean On Me

But of course, most of the crowd were in attendance to see Of Mice and Men play their biggest headline show to date. With this being a part of the tour supporting the release of the deluxe reissue of their latest album, 'Restoring Force: Full Circle', it wasn't a surprise that most of the songs played were off of the newest album, but it was brilliant to hear a few old gems thrown into the mix. This is my third time seeing Of Mice and Men in the last year, and I had been disappointed with their set structure, wanting to hear more of a mixture of their new and old material, but this show most definitely fulfilled that wish. Kicking off with 'Public Service Announcement' wasn't a surprise, but the audience screamed back every word and this brilliant response continued throughout the rest of the show, during new song 'Broken Generation' and older song 'O. G. Loko'. 
The only low point of the entire set to me was quite early on, and it was 'Let Live'. I'm not sure why I was so disillusioned with it, because the rest of the set was practically flawless, but it just didn't seem to translate as well into the live environment. I know clean vocalist Aaron Pauley isn't the one that sang on the original track, and as it's one of my favourite 'Of Mice and Men' songs this might be why I wasn't so convinced by it, because it didn't seem as powerful and captivating as the recorded version.
However, I'm happy to say that this was only an issue with that one song. The rest of the set was brilliantly performed, with no other hitches in the set, and the energy didn't let up for a single moment. Running through nearly the entirety of their newest album, songs like 'Feels Like Forever', 'Bones Exposed' and 'Would You Still Be There?' were all received with adoration from all of the fans, proving that Of Mice and Men are just going from strength to strength with every album that they release. With these being their only UK tour dates in 2015, it's definitely pointing towards the fact that work on their fourth album will be starting soon, and it's going to be very interesting indeed to see what they decide to do with it. Being able to perform in venues as big as Brixton O2 Academy is a brilliant sign, but if the next album goes as well as I think it will, I won't be surprised if they can sell out this venue one or two nights in a row. 
My personal highlight of the set was 'Second and Sebring', the song that really did catapult Of Mice and Men into public awareness. With Austin Carlile encouraging everyone to scream along at the top of their lungs, it was unsurprising when everyone willingly participated, leading to one of the most goosebump-inducing moments of the night; the band completely stopping to allow the crowd to lead them through the final chorus. After such an electrifying moment, it was actually a relief for the band to go off stage before their encore, and with the crowd screaming "One more song" for a good few minutes, it was fabulous when Austin bounced back out onstage and declared that they were going to be doing two more. If you've been to an Of Mice and Men show before, you'll know that they nearly always finish with 'The Depths' and 'You're Not Alone', so this setlist wasn't really surprising, but it doesn't really matter when the songs sound this good. If you haven't been to an Of Mice and Men show before, what are you doing with yourself? They're one of the tightest live bands, particularly out of those with two singers, and the songs are all so catchy that you'll be humming them under your breath for days afterwards. If you live near any of the venues that they're hitting towards the end of this tour, and the tickets haven't sold out yet, I'd passionately recommend you go along - you will not be disappointed.

Public Service Announcement
Glass Hearts
Broken Generation
O. G. Loko
Let Live
You Make Me Sick
This One's For You
Feels Like Forever
Bones Exposed
Would You Still Be There?
Another You
Identity Disorder
Second and Sebring
The Depths
You're Not Alone

Friday, 27 March 2015

'Untaken' by J. E. Anckorn

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills Press, for sending me an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was fairly nervous about reading 'Untaken', because I haven't read many alien invasion novels, but I read and absolutely loved 'The Fifth Wave' by Rick Yancey last year, so I was worried that this was going to be too similar to that and I was going to end up hating it.
However, 'Untaken' is a completely different novel, which really stands out in the genre in its own right. We follow three perspectives: fifteen year old Brandon, fourteen year old Gracie and seven year old Jake, throughout their travels on the road and their attempt to survive and thrive in a world that has gone massively downhill. Throughout the first part of the novel, we get the story of how the three of them met and how their journey began, while the second and third parts follow them throughout the trials that they face on the road. 
One of the most interesting aspects of this novel are the 'Space Men' themselves. At the start of the book we witness Drones, which are little black octopus like creatures, engulfing humans, who then turned up perfectly fine the next day... Until they decided to get on to the alien spacecraft and fly off. It's a very underdone plot, the aliens taking the humans rather than murdering them, so it was a very enjoyable feature - too often the aliens are shown as aggressive and violent creatures that want to murder all of the humans to take the planet for their own, so actually taking the humans to their planets was a great twist. Towards the end of the novel, my theory was confirmed: the aliens need the bodies as hosts, so they invade planets and take specimens to use as their own to survive. I've definitely seen this played out in a few different things, so it's not the most unique of ideas, but I haven't seen it occur that they also take children. The fact that Jake was one of our main characters, but was also an alien, was a great inclusion - his voice was extremely different from both Brandon and Gracie's, so you really got a feel for the different species. In other books that I've read, the aliens have often felt human from the beginning, so it hasn't been a great choice for a multiple perspective, but the disconnect between Jake's voice and the other two was a genius idea.
There were some negative aspects - at one point the group enter a mall to try and scavenge for supplies, saying that they're going in in the early morning so will be out of there by noon, but after what seems like only a couple of hours it is already twilight and they're struggling with the fast falling night. I don't know if this genuinely happens in the northern parts of America, that the day is over that quickly, but it just seemed as though it jumped too much so that whole scene didn't really make much sense. 
Similarly, a lot of the goings on are just much too predictable. With Gracie being a massive fan of films in the sci-fi genre, you think she would have learnt that you never trust anyone when in a situation like this, but too often the group put their trust in the wrong people and get royally screwed over. It wasn't too much of a negative, but when you can predict everything that is going to happen it does kind of take away from the twists and turns, making it less of a rollercoaster and more of a teacup ride.
But really, on a whole, this is an enjoyable book. There's a lot of questions about what really makes someone bad - Jake constantly refers to Bad Men, citing that people with guns are normally Bad Men, but he can tell that Brandon and Gracie are good. Also, with Gracie and Brandon both harbouring ideas that Jake might be one of the aliens who took their families for them, it takes both of them quite a lot to still look after him, both proving his theory about them being good, and showing that you cannot generalise the members of an entire species because of their actions. It's also a great novel for discussing what people will do to survive - the aliens need to take over entire planets to continue on their species, while Gracie and Brandon both consider killing to extend their life spans, so it is very interesting and definitely makes you question what you would do in their positions.
This book will definitely hold more appeal for a younger audience, as the romance between Brandon and Gracie only goes as far as kissing, and the violence displayed isn't all too descriptive or over the top, but there is quite a lot of profanity in this novel - which is to be expected really, when all of your families are dead or Taken. If you're a fan of 'The Fifth Wave', I'd definitely say that this book will be good for you to read, because it has enough similarities that I'm sure that you'll enjoy it, but it's not a direct copy. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First off I need to say a MASSIVE thank you to Algonquin Young Readers, for accepting my request to view this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

'The Walls Around Us' is the first novel that I've read by Nova Ren Suma, so I didn't really know what I was expecting - but my god, it utterly blew me away. We follow the perspectives of Amber and Violet, one girl who is alive and one girl who is long dead, and through their perspectives we unravel their own personal secrets and the story behind Orianna Speerling, the person who links them both together. 
It's been three years since fifteen year old Orianna was convicted of the murders of two of the fellow dancers from her ballet class, leaving her branded "Bloody Ballerina" for the rest of her life, which will be spent behind bars. Violet is still coming to terms with the fact that her best friend of over seven years was a murderer, even though she's managed to move on with her life pretty well: lead roles in multiple ballet productions, and a place a Juilliard, all coming after the incarceration of her biggest rival and closest friend. Meanwhile, Amber has been locked up for years following the accidental death of her step-father: an accident that her family, and the judge and jury, all automatically assumed that she had caused. But on the fateful August night that we join her at the Aurora Hills Juvenile Detention Center, all of the doors come unlocked, and the prisoners run riot, leading to Amber experiencing a very strange encounter. 
This is a beautifully written novel with two completely unreliable narrators, which makes for a brilliantly confusing and intellectual plot. At the start of the novel, it seems as though the guilty and the innocent are very clearly stated - there doesn't seem to be any room for query, because the stories are told so passionately that it feels as though they must be honest. However, by the end of the novel you will be questioning and re-questioning everything that you've read, feeling more and more jigsaw puzzles pieces snapping into place. Instead of stating all of the developments bluntly and easily, Nova Ren Suma has an amazing writing style that really makes you consider the implications of the statements she's laying out for you, and you are completely unable to see what is coming until it's right there in front of you. 
There are aspects of the novel that seemed a bit too much for me - some of the timelines are very easy to get confused, and it can be hard to keep all of the goings on straight in your head, so I definitely think this is a book that you're going to need to take time with. I'm already considering re-reading it, because I'm sure that there are insinuations and clues that I've missed scattered throughout, because for some reason I just have the strangest feeling that I'm missing something. Things do unwind and link up eventually, but I think if I'd read this book over a few more days, or possibly a couple of weeks, I definitely wouldn't have been as impacted by it as I was by reading it quite quickly. This is one that you need to read in as close to one sitting as you can manage, or you will end up detracting from your enjoyment of it. 
But other than that one negative, there is nothing else wrong with this novel. The characters are all so convincingly well written: all of the prisoners at Aurora Hills have such strong personalities and come across as very individualistic, meaning that none of them feel surplus to requirements in the unfolding of the stories. I also like the fact that - despite there being forty-two inmates in the detention center - we don't encounter too many characters: the ones that are put in are there for a reason, and there's no unnecessary listing of names and crimes, we only get information about the ones that are relevant. Because of how well the inmates are written, you feel as though you empathise and root for them, no matter whether they are guilty of their individually accused crimes or not. I think it's very good that Nova Ren has managed to take a section of society who are normally utterly looked down upon, not sympathised with at all, and has managed to make them easy to care for and cheer on - it's a testament to her skill as a character writer that this is possible. 
Similarly, another fact that points towards the skill that Nova Ren possesses, is the transition between the voices. It is written absolutely perfectly: it's impossible to get the two viewpoints confused, because Violet is extremely outspoken and, at times, abrasive, while Amber seems to be more passive, preferring to watch and listen to the people around her while she delivers their books on her library cart. For the majority of the first half of the book, Amber avoids actively participating in their conversations, until she has no other option but to be forced into their discussions. Despite the fact that Violet is an over-achiever, one of the best ballerinas that her dance class has ever seen, and therefore she has quite a pompous and uppity attitude, you still feel as though you can support her. She's been through a lot, being friends with a double murderer, and her commitment to her dancing and her sheer determination to succeed are both admirable qualities... At least to begin with. 
I'm not sure what it is about this novel that grabbed me so completely, I can't put my finger on what pulled me in, but something definitely did. The supernatural, ghostly elements are understated, which means that if you normally avoid supernatural novels in favour of more gritty contemporary novels, this will probably still appeal to you. The majority of the book definitely focuses upon the emotions and the motives behind the characters - what leads to their actions, how and why - so it is quite based in character development. The eventual climax of the novel is written believably, not in a throwaway I-don't-know-how-to-end-this fashion, meaning that I wasn't disappointed by the ending in the way that I'd been dreading with the rest of the book being so great. The beliefs that Nova Ren has about justice are well stated throughout the novel, and it's good to find a strong opinion on such a controversial topic, especially in YA. I can't think of any other books that are anything like this one, which is a great thing, and it's definitely a unique read which I highly recommend. From the wrapping up nature of the ending, I'd definitely assume that this is going to be a standalone novel, which I think is great - there's nothing else that could be added to this novel, and if it turned into a series of stories exploring each of the inmates back stories I think it would just get a bit too repetitive and would take away from the magic of this first installment. 
I need to get hold of more Nova Ren Suma books, right away. I haven't been this gripped by a writing style in a very long time, and I'm intrigued to see what the rest of her novels feel like, and whether their characters are as strong as these ones. 

Author Spotlight: Amy Bearce!

Amy Bearce is a fairly new author (and by fairly new, I mean her debut novel, 'Fairy Keeper', has only been out for a couple of weeks!) but she is definitely an author that you're going to want to get on board with. I was so impressed by 'Fairy Keeper', because it's unique and it proves that Amy has a brilliantly creative mind. This author spotlight will give you a bit more information on Amy, and then some more information about 'Fairy Keeper', which I highly recommend you get your hands on!

About the author: 

Amy was an army kid, which meant that she moved eight times before she'd even graduated high school. But the one constant she had in her life was books and reading, a fact that definitely hasn't changed, and she particularly enjoys reading fantasy and science fiction. She married her high school sweetheart, despite all of her moving around. They met back in 1991, in their junior English class in an American school in Germany! They now have two daughters, and they're making sure that they love science fiction and fantasy too. 
Amy's a former elementary and middle school teacher, where she taught English and reading. Amy recently completely her Masters of Library Science, and she's excited about a career field filled with kids, teens, books and technology. A homebody with a serious addiction to personality tests, Amy was described as a perfectionist by the DISC personality test, a title that she hated. She retook the test immediately, changing some of her answers, but the results still came through as perfectionist. She took the test a third time, changing more answers for an even better result... not seeing the irony until later. 
And yes, the result still came back as perfectionist. 

If you want to get in touch with Amy, she has her own website, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

About the book: 

Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year-old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper, but the birthmark is right there on the back of her neck. It shows everyone she was born with the natural ability to communicate, attract, and even control the tiny fairies whose nectar is amazingly powerful. Fairy nectar can heal people, but it is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. She’s forced to care for a whole hive of the bee-like beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father. Then one day, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead. The fairy queen is missing. Her father’s Flight operation is halted, and he plans to make up for the lost income by trading her little sister to be an elixir runner for another dark alchemist, a dangerous thug. Desperate to protect her sister, Sierra convinces her father she can retrieve the lost queen and get his operation up and running. The problem? Sierra’s queen wasn’t the only queen to disappear. They’re all gone, every single one, and getting them back will be deadly dangerous.Sierra journeys with her best friend and her worst enemy — assigned by her father to dog her every step — to find the missing queens. Along the way, they learn that more than just her sister’s life is at stake if they fail. There are secrets in the Skyclad Mountains where the last wild fairies were seen. The magic Sierra finds there has the power to transform their world, but only if she can first embrace her calling as a fairy keeper.

I read 'Fairy Keeper' just last week and I absolutely loved it, so I really do vouch for this novel. Why wouldn't you be interested in it, with a synopsis like that?! If you want to buy this book, you can get hold of it on Amazon US and Amazon UK - the Kindle edition is only a few pounds, which is well worth the money. 
I also want to give a big shout out to Amalia Chitulescu, who designed the absolutely gorgeous front cover!

This is my first ever blog tour, so I need to say a big thank you for Curiosity Quills Press for letting me get on board with this: I hope I did okay! I also recommend that you check Curiosity Quills out, because they're a small publishing company that was only founded in 2011, and they're doing a brilliant job. 

Monday, 23 March 2015

'Hidden Deep' (Hidden Trilogy #1) by Amy Patrick

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first I need to say a massive thank you to All Night Reads for accepting my request to review this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

'Hidden Deep' is the story of Ryann Carroll, (yep, Ryann with two N's) a girl who has just moved in with her grandmother in the woods on the outskirts of Mississippi following her mother and father's divorce after his affair. Ryann has been exploring the woods behind her new home, and after stumbling across a natural pool she can't resist jumping in to cool off on the hot summer day. However, when she resurfaces, the boy who saved her life ten years ago is stood there, watching her swimming, on her private land. 
Now this to me would automatically set off alarm bells, but Ryann is one of those protagonists that doesn't really seem to question the events that are questioned by a reader. No matter how gorgeous and beautiful the man is that is watching you swim nearly naked, you don't walk off with him into the woods when he tells you he needs to talk to you. That's serial killer rule number one, surely? Or at least it's pretty high on the list. 
However, Lad (yes, Lad. The names in this book are not a positive) seems like a genuinely nice guy: sweet and innocent in a way that teenage boys don't seem to be nowadays. So I can almost forgive her for her terrible decision, because she's lucky that he is a lovely person. But other than this first decision, her choices throughout the book leave a lot to be desired. When Ryann realises that things with Lad aren't progressing in quite the way that she hopes, and she feels dejected and friend-zoned, she decides that it'll be a brilliant idea to pretend to return feelings for another boy, Nox. It's not very fair of her to play with his emotions and to drag him along, and even the fact that she realises it was a bad idea and tries to stop the events later on in the book really doesn't make it any better. If you feel comfortable manipulating people like that, you're just not a very nice person. 
However, this isn't just any old contemporary romance with a love triangle. 'Hidden Deep' is one of those books in which you're not quite sure what you're dealing with until you get told, but once you get told it just slaps you right in the face. This is how - for the first half of the novel - I was beyond convinced that I was reading a book about werewolves. Super attractive guy who lives in the wood, always has an extremely high body temperature, doesn't wear shoes or button up his shirt and has an affinity for jumping up trees? I don't know about you, but all of those facts scream werewolf right in my face.
Which meant it was actually a nice surprise for me when we eventually get told that Lad is an Elf. It should have been obvious, due to his close relationship with nature and the fact that his people live underneath a massive tree, but for some reason I just couldn't get past my preconceived notions of werewolves. I was pleased that the book dealt with Elves, because it's definitely a species that isn't explored as much as it could be in the YA genre, so it was nice to have a bit of variety spicing up life.
In all honesty, I hoped I was going to enjoy this book more than I did, so I did feel a bit deflated when I finished it. I could see what Amy Patrick was trying to do with the book - the battle between whether Lad was in love with Ryann, or in love with the idea of 'other', was an interesting moral conflict, even though it wasn't as well explored as it could have been - but I just didn't really enjoy it.
I will admit that the epilogue was extremely interesting: with the death of Lad's father and his promotion to king, there are a lot of possibilities about what can happen over the next two books, and the ongoing drama with the 'fan pods' being mind warping cults led by Dark Elves is also interesting, but the book wrapped up so well it doesn't really feel like it needs a sequel. I just feel like it was all coming together nicely at the end, so the sudden death of Lad's father is a not even subtle way to make an excuse to carry the series on. 
If you're going to read this book, I'd suggest leaving it until nearer to the second installments release date, because I think it will be a lot easier to read when you know it's going somewhere. It just feels a bit incomplete with the sudden ending and the anticlimactic events occurring through. 

All Time Low - The Hippodrome, Kingston, 22/03/15

After only seeing them two days ago at Wembley Arena, I couldn't believe I was hopping back on a train to go and see an intimate All Time Low acoustic set. From a 12,000 capacity venue to a 2,000 capacity venue, walking in was a startling contrast, and the energy in the room was palpable from the word go. With this being their second acoustic performance of the day - the matinee performance at 4pm, as well as the later show that I attended at 7pm - many of the crowd had already seen the band once and had queued up for round two, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm in the room.

This meant that it must have been a daunting task for opener Rob Lynch. Being confronted with a few thousand people can't be the easiest task on a normal night, but when you're opening for a band like All Time Low in a setting like this it must be absolutely terrifying. He didn't see to let the nerves get to him though, as his thirty minute set was filled to the brim with sing-along moments. Starting off with 'Broken Bones' I was surprised by how beautiful Rob's voice was - I'd never listened to him in the past, so I wasn't certain of what to expect, but his tone is pure in a striking way that you don't normally hear in rock music. Running through a selection of brilliant songs I was impressed by how different Rob's songs sounded from one to the other - too often with acoustic artists it's difficult to distinguish one track from another because of the similarity in tone. The only song of Rob's that even slightly resembled anything else was 'Whiskey', which had a feeling of Ed Sheeran's 'Give Me Love' - not in an overly similar way, but the emotional aspect to the song definitely resonated. Both encouraging the crowd to sing and completely enjoying himself, it was brilliant to see everyone responding to him well, instead of just with the polite attention that sometimes is given to a support act. The audience clapped and swayed along through the entire set, proving that there's definitely something special about Rob Lynch. I was thoroughly impressed by every song in his seven song set, so much so that I automatically bought both of his albums afterwards, and I can't wait to listen to him more. If any of you are going to Slam Dunk festival in May, make sure to pop in and see a few songs of his set - it's not something that you want to miss. 

Broken Bones
Feeling Good
Baby, I'm A Runaway
My Friends And I

Of course, all of the crowd were really there to see All Time Low perform, so it wasn't a surprise that the chants for them to come on stage started a good few minutes before their set time. It has been on my bucket list since their MTV Unplugged set to eventually see them playing acoustically live, so I'm happy to say that they definitely met my expectations. After a flurry of bras had already flown onto the stage as soon as they walked out they started with 'Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)', and I was impressed by how confident the band were even in an acoustic environment. As they don't play acoustic sets very regularly, I wasn't expecting them to sound as tightly well arranged as they did, so it was very relieving. After the first song Alex Gaskarth was already complaining about his hand hurting so much from playing the tambourine, but this didn't stop him from throwing everything he had into every song they played. 
The set was rather a lot shorter than the one at Wembley, which is to be expected when they only had a fifty minute set time, but it was still just as enjoyable and still featured a large variety of songs. I was extremely impressed by the acoustic arrangement of 'Kids In The Dark', which - if it's even possible - sounded better in this version than the original, and it was definitely my highlight of the evening. Cassadee Pope performing guest vocals on 'Remembering Sunday' again was also a great inclusion, and I was even more impressed with her voice than I had been at Wembley. 
The only low point in the set for me was 'Weightless', which just didn't seem to translate as well as the other songs into an acoustic. Some of the harmonising between the guys seemed a little bit flat, and because of how powerful the song normally is in a live environment I did find it quite a bit disappointing, but you can't have every song go perfectly so this wasn't such a negative. The rest of the set went off without a hitch, and playing 'Dear Maria, Count Me In' as the penultimate song instead of the closer was a nice difference from the normal set that they put on. With Jack Barakat joking that they were going to perform 'Come One, Come All', an early song that they never put in their set, it was brilliant to hear a large cheer go up for the song, so I'm hoping that the next time All Time Low tour over here they think about slipping in some little surprises.
Closing with 'Something's Gotta Give' was a brilliant way to raise the anticipation for 'Future Hearts' even further. To get a ticket to this show you needed to pre-order the album, so everyone in the room was understandably already excited for it, but leaving the show on a high note like this was a brilliant decision. With new song 'Runaways' premiering on MTV today, I can't wait to see what the rest of the album brings, but I think it's going to be brilliant. 

Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)
Backseat Serenade
Somewhere In Neverland
Kids In The Dark
Remembering Sunday ft. Cassadee Pope 
Dear Maria, Count Me In
Something's Gotta Give

Saturday, 21 March 2015

All Time Low: One Night In London - Wembley Arena, 20/03/15

All Time Low's One Night In London, March 20, 2015 // Photo Credit: Ben Gibson
(Photo credit to Ben Gibson)

This was supposed to be the first time I'd seen a Real Friends set in full, after popping in on their sets at both the 2013 Warped Tour UK and Slam Dunk 2014. However, sadly, their set got pulled forward by twenty minutes so I nearly missed the whole thing. Luckily I got there with enough time to hear the end of 'Summer' and 'Late Nights In My Car', both of which were performed extremely well, but I couldn't really get a feel for their performance because I only experienced a small section. Next time I can get to a Real Friends show I'm definitely going to try, because I was highly anticipating this one, but for now I'm going to try to be content with 'Maybe This Place Is The Same and We're Just Changing', their full length album which was released last year, which I managed to buy at the show. 

Main support for All Time Low were Wrexham lads Neck Deep, who stormed out onto the stage with the rousing 'Losing Teeth', the crowd were automatically thrown into high gear, and they stayed there for the majority of the set. I was amazed by the variety of songs they played, the biggest surprise being 'Turning Tables' from the 'A History of Bad Decisions' EP, because normally support bands keep their song choices from their recent releases, and I was happy to hear an early song performed. The majority of the set was comprised of songs from 'Wishful Thinking', Neck Deep's 2013 album, however they also managed to squeeze in quite a few songs from their other EP, 'Rain In July'. My favourite moment was 'A Part Of Me', my personal favourite Neck Deep song, which had an amazing response - everyone screaming along to the words and showing Neck Deep that they might only be one album in but they're definitely adored. With their second album coming soon, and their highly anticipated sets at Slam Dunk and Reading, we're going to be hearing a lot more from these guys, and I can't wait to see where they go next.  

Losing Teeth
Turning Tables
Damsel In Distress
Crushing Grief (No Remedy) 
All Hype, No Heart ft. George Prole
Over and Over
Zoltar Speaks
Growing Pains
A Part of Me ft. Laura Whiteside
Kick It
What Did You Expect?

With a forty five minute set up, it was obvious that All Time Low were getting ready to put on the show of their lives, and that is exactly what they did. With a setlist of twenty one songs - twenty one! - this set was an extreme tour de force showcasing every one of the high points that All Time Low have reached throughout their twelve year career. 
Bursting out on to the stage with 'A Love Like War', the crowd instantly surged forward, with more of the floor jumping and dancing than I've ever seen at a Wembley show. Whether this was because of All Time Low or because of the fact that it was a DVD recording, I'm not quite sure, but the response was utterly mesmirising. Speeding through 'Lost In Stereo' (including a slip up from singer Alex Gaskarth that resulted in the second verse being sang through twice, the only error in the entire near two hour set), the surprises of the night started when their third song was 'Six Feet Under The Stars', a song that they haven't played in quite a while on UK shores. The majority of the set was comprised of songs you'd be expecting from an All Time Low DVD show - 'Stella', 'Somewhere In Neverland', 'Weightless', while of course slowing it down for acoustic renditions of 'Remembering Sunday' (featuring a brilliant guest appearance from ex-Hey Monday vocalist Cassadee Pope) and 'Therapy' - both of which were performed on a stage in the middle of the Wembley floor, surrounded by fans. 
Following the acoustic, they restarted the full band set with a bang, erupting into newest single 'Kids In The Dark', proving exactly why 'Future Hearts' is going to be one of the biggest album releases this year. In my opinion 'Don't Panic' was quite flat and rather safe, but since hearing 'Something's Gotta Give' and 'Kids In The Dark' I am BEYOND excited for the new album, because it's definitely a progression and a big step forward from the last two albums. Hearing the songs live is even better - the energy is effusive and it really seems to re-energise the band members when other bands could be lagging, especially in a set of this magnitude.
My personal favourite moment was 'Outlines', which is my favourite All Time Low song. Every time I've seen them I've had my fingers crossed that they'll add it into their setlist, and they never have, so when it started last night I was understandably excited - which just elevated further when Josh Franceschi, vocalist of You Me At Six, came bounding out on to the stage. I'd expected a guest appearance during the O2 stop on their co-headline tour, and when it hadn't happened I had been majorly disappointed, so this was the icing on the cake of a brilliant DVD performance. Josh's vocal worked so well with Alex's, and the chemistry between the two of them as they were bouncing around on stage was absolutely brilliant. I really hope these two write and record a song together at some point, because that could be an amazing collaboration.
The rest of the set went off without a hitch, running through hit after hit and not giving the crowd a single moment of rest. Following the tradition of their shows and getting fans up on stage for 'Time Bomb', Alex told people to put their phones away, stating that "too many of you beautiful individuals are living your lives through a screen", asking all of the fans involved in that song to be in the moment with them, instead of experiencing it through technology, which I thought was a beautiful sentiment. 
Of course, this is an All Time Low set, so even while playing a set that is going to be recorded and re-watchable for eternity, the banter levels and childish jokes were out in force. Even when they were being viewed by over twelve thousand people, they could act as though they were only in a room with a few hundred people, and it really is a testament to how good this band is that they could make an arena show feel intimate. I'm always impressed when I go to see All Time Low live, and there was no way that this show was going to be any different. Deciding to play 'Jasey Rae' one song before the end was a stroke of genius - I was so convinced that they weren't going to bother including any songs from the EP, so when that one slipped in it was just another peak of excitement. It couldn't have ended any other way that with 'Dear Maria, Count Me In', and I can't wait to watch the DVD to relive this show again, because it was absolutely amazing. 
After finishing the set, 'Uptown Funk' came on over the speakers, and the fact that the band stayed and danced around on stage shows how down to earth they really are. Guitarist Jack Barakat took the opportunity to take off his shirts and jeans and sprint around the stage in his underwear, an opportunity that he rarely misses, and it was a hilarious end to a brilliant night. If you haven't seen an All Time Low show, I would seriously recommend that you get to one as soon as you can: I'm seeing them again at Reading festival, and I can't wait! I'm actually seeing them again tomorrow as well, when they perform acoustically at The Hippodrome in Kingston, so my review from that show will be up early on Monday - make sure to check that out! 

A Love Like War
Lost In Stereo
Six Feet Under The Stars
Somewhere In Neverland
The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver
Remembering Sunday ft. Cassadee Pope
Kids In The Dark
Outlines ft. Josh Franceschi
Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)
Forget About It
Backseat Serenade
Time Bomb
Something's Gotta Give
The Reckless and the Brave
Jasey Rae
Dear Maria, Count Me In

Friday, 20 March 2015

'Bittersweet' by Kimberly Loth - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First things first I need to say a massive thank you to Kimberly Loth for accepting my request to review this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

'Bittersweet' was definitely not what I was expecting after reading the blurb: 

Every Sunday Savannah Ray gets an email from her dead dad. She doesn't know how the emails work but she's finally ready to start looking for answers. To find those answers she has to go to the one place she show she'd never set foot in after he died--Haunted Valley, the amusement park. Once there and on the hunt for answers she is distracted by the charming Dallas and falls hard for him. When she answers she finds aren't what she expected and Dallas betrays her, Savannah must make a choice--succumb to the insanity that destroyed her father or find the strength to rise above it. 
 Now I don't know what that says to you, but to me it sounds like a paranormal romance: more spooky than cute. Needing to go to an amusement park called Haunted Valley, while being contacted by her dead father? I thought that all of the staff were going to be ghosts and it would have been absolutely terrifying. However, that was not the case.
'Bittersweet' is a contemporary romance that deals with themes of suicide and depression. It's been two years since Savannah's father killed himself, but she's still finding it hard to deal with, made worse by the betrayal of her best friend. In a moment of fury Savannah decides to shave her head, alienating her mother even further than she did when she was suspended from high school. Her mother think it's well past time that Savannah learns some responsibilities and maturity, so she conspires with Savannah's uncle, and they decide to send her to Haunted Valley, the amusement park that her uncle owns, for work over the summer. No, Haunted Valley is not filled with ghosts, it's just an extremely misleading name for an amusement park.
The first half of the novel was definitely the better half. Following Savannah as she learnt to deal with being in a new town and holding down a new job was written very well, as was her character development from the sullen and depressed girl to a person who had more of an optimistic outlook on life. Her relationship with Dallas was also written well - a realistic depiction of first love, even though it was a bit too insta-love with all of the trimmings.
However, the second half of the novel just fell flat. All of the exciting events happen in the last quarter, meaning that for a bit in the middle nothing really is going on - just repetitive descriptions of what she was doing where at work, and what the mean girls were doing this time. Most of the events described in the blurb actually happen right at the end, so in some ways the blurb itself is a massive spoiler, which is quite disappointing - nothing in this book is really surprising because of that. Also, the attitudes of most of the characters really annoyed me: you'll hate most of them for one thing or another by the end of the book, even if Savannah seems to be able to forgive their misgivings almost instantly.
All in all it's quite a good read, dealing with suicide in a sensitive way, but I didn't really feel connected to the characters at all, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd been hoping to. I might think about looking into some of Kimberly Loth's other novels, but I'm not feeling too inclined to do that right now.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

'Fairy Keeper' (World of Aluvia #1) by Amy Bearce - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First off I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills Press for sending me an eBook copy of 'Fairy Keeper' in exchange for a fair and honest review!

'Fairy Keeper' is Amy Bearce's debut novel and it is an absolute achievement. Gripping you from the word go, you can't help but be pulled into the world she's created which is filled to the brim with magic and marvel. 
Sierra is a fairy keeper, much to her chagrin. By being born with the fairy keeper mark on the back of her neck, her destiny has been decided for her since day one, which is something she despises. Her father, Jack, is a dark alchemist, so the nectar that she collects from her fairies only goes towards furthering his nefarious goings on - most well known being his creation of an addictive substance called Flight. When we start the novel, Sierra is in the middle of collecting the nectar from her fairies when an earthquake hits, an event that has become scarily common in the world of Aluvia over the past few months. Because of the earthquake, Sierra goes back to her fairy hatch to attempt to collect more nectar, terrified of what Jack will do to her, or her little sister Phoebe, if he returned home and discovered she'd wasted a single precious drop of the nectar he uses in Flight. However, when Sierra gets to her fairy hatch, she discovers all of her charges have dropped dead, and her fairy queen - inventively named Queen - has disappeared... 
This is a quest novel in the purest form, which is something I haven't read in a very long time. Once Sierra realises her queen has disappeared, Jack decides to send Phoebe away with one of the men that he works with, not wanting to risk losing any of the money from their Flight deal which has just fallen through. However, Phoebe can stay at home if Sierra manages to find her queen within a month, so she sets off the next day - accompanied only by her father's enforcer and her long time nemesis, Nell. When her best friend Corbin also discovers that his fairy has disappeared, he decides to go with them, commencing a long and difficult journey to the mystically inhabited Skyclad Mountains. 
Some aspects of the novel do drag, but that's almost to be expected in a book that involves long distance travelling; it would be completely improbable if something gripping and exciting happened every day that they traveled. However, these scenes are few and far between, because most of the time the events that occur between the three friends are interesting and exciting. The relationships between the three of them fluctuate regularly: tensions grow between Corbin and Sierra as he develops a stronger friendship with Nell, and Nell and Sierra's relationship becomes complicated to say the least after a couple of life-threatening events unfold. Some of the conflicts between the characters seem a little childish, but with Sierra only being fourteen - and this being a middle grade now - this is also something that I'd expected, and while some of her actions did annoy me these were also not too common throughout. 
On the whole, this book is brilliant. With unicorns who shed their horns, dragons, fauns and mermen, (not forgetting the fairies, of course!) the mystical creatures in this book are captivating and written amazingly well. While none of the creatures are completely new inventions, the way that Amy Bearce has included them is refreshing and entertaining. The whole premise of fairies being kept similarly to bees, creating nectar instead of pollen, is so unique - definitely not something I'd ever considered before! - and it's very easy to fall in love with the world of Aluvia. 
The ending of the book does wrap up quite well, so I'm thinking that this could be a standalone, but if Amy ever decided to revisit Sierra and her friends in the future I would love to read more of their adventures. A brilliant debut novel!

I'm going to be involved in the blog tour for this book, which commences on the 23rd of March, so keep an eye out for my Spotlight on Amy Bearce in the next couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

'Madness' by Sleeping With Sirens

I think I might be listening to the wrong album, because all of the reviews that I've seen so far have cited 'Madness' as Sleeping With Sirens best album, and this was just a massive pile of disappointment to me. It hurts to write that, because I am a massive Sleeping With Sirens fan - I pre-ordered the album the day that it came out and I have been eagerly anticipating it, but I now wish I hadn't. 
Kick starting things with 'Kick Me', the song that Sleeping With Sirens released in the middle of 2014, I was automatically struck by how over-produced the track seemed. A song that talks about kicking someone when they're down should be visceral and violent, gripped in the midst of emotion, but the production on this track takes away all of the soul. After seeing it live at Reading festival I was beyond impressed with the fury and the explosive attitude that filled the song, but all of the life was seeped out of it in the recorded version.
Sadly, this theme just continues throughout. Whereas I really enjoy Sleeping With Sirens faster songs, the majority of this album is slow and dreary. During multiple songs (most noticeably 'Save Me A Spark' and 'November') I just felt like giving up and going to sleep, because the effusive energy that radiated throughout the whole of the 'Feel' album has dissipated somewhere along the way. 
I can understand why people are impressed by this album: it's more mature, lyrically and musically, and vocalist Kellin Quinn has tamed his voice giving them the opportunity to appeal to the people who wrote them off automatically due to his vocal tone. 
There are a few songs that are stand out tracks, the main two being 'Fly' and closing track 'Don't Say Anything'. 'Fly' sounds more like the Sleeping With Sirens of old, but not in a repetitive way - you can hear that they've taken a step forward, but it's not so far forward that it loses everything that made them special. Similarly, 'Don't Say Anything' manages to get a mixture between fast and slow so that it really stands out, instead of becoming another dreary almost-ballad. It's just a shame that the closing track is also one of the most brilliant; it would have been a much better album if Sleeping With Sirens had chosen that as the starting point. But they didn't, meaning that throughout the entire rest of the album, all the songs start to blur together.
However, as well as the majority of the songs being similar due to their timing and structure, most of them also sound like other songs. The riff featured in the middle of 'Go Go Go' sounds like a direct pull from Busted's 'Crash and Burn' (while, funnily enough, 'Crash and Burn' is repeated through the lyrics multiple times... Coincidence?), the 'Ooh, ooh, ooh' at the end of 'Save Me A Spark' is exactly the same as the structured ooh-ing in 'Magic' by Coldplay, and the speedy, kick you in the teeth 'We Like It Loud' sounds scarily similar to You Me At Six's 'Underdog'. Yes, some of these might be coincidences, but all of them? Seems like too much to me... 
And while the other songs on the album don't necessarily sound as though they've pulled directly from other artists, they all sound similar to songs that are already out there, meaning that this isn't a revolutionary - or even that exciting - album. 'The Strays' shows an acoustic mixture with the heavier music that is already being done better by other bands, 'Better Off Dead' sounds just like 'Face Down' by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus sped up a notch or two and 'Gold' sounds like it wouldn't be out of place as a new All Time Low song. 
I can't imagine this album winning over any new Sleeping With Sirens fans. I enjoyed it, because I already really care about the band, but if I was new to the band and this was my starting point I definitely wouldn't continue. Instead of featuring their unique sound, it just sounds as though all of the mainstream radio rock bands have been combined into one album - more like a compilation of covers than something that can stand out on its own as a brilliant collection of tunes. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

'Fire With Fire' (Burn For Burn #2) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a burn for a burn. A life for a life. That's how all this got started. And that's how it's going to end.' 

If you haven't read my review for the first book in the trilogy, 'Burn For Burn', you should go and check that out now!
I absolutely loved the first book in this series, and my love has just grown with this second installment. Set just a few days after Reeve's accident at homecoming, we pick up where we left off and are quickly thrown back into the lives of Lillia, Kat and Mary. You'd think that drugging the boy and making him break his leg would be big enough revenge for Mary, but after a confrontation with Reeve ends badly she is desperate to hurt him as much as he hurt her, if not more. The girls come up with a plan; they know Reeve has barely veiled feelings for Lillia, so they task her with the job of faking a romance with him to break his heart.
However, not all goes well. Lillia finds real feelings for Reeve developing quickly, and she struggles with her loyalty to her friends fighting against her emotions. Mary has difficulties with the situation too - she still thinks that she's in love with Reeve, so many years after what he did to her in their childhood - so seeing them together is bittersweet. 
In a similar vein to the first book, this installment is fast-paced and no holds barred, zipping from character to character so that there isn't a single opportunity to get bored. We don't get all of the time reported, with subtle jumps pushing the novel on quickly from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year, but it doesn't feel like we miss anything which is a big plus of this book. Lillia is still the focal point, with the majority of the book following her and her burgeoning relationship with Reeve, but we get to see more depth to the other two: Kat has moved on from her revenge plan on Rennie and is focused upon her college applications, while Mary attempts to hone and develop the supernatural skill set she discovered at prom. 
For a while there I genuinely thought that Mary could have been endowed with telekinetic abilities, but as more and more spooky and unexplained events happen throughout the novel, it shouldn't have taken me as long as it did to realise that she actually died when she was thirteen. Her realisation and the reveal was written so well, leaving me on the edge of my seat as my deepest suspicions were confirmed. The clues had been placed so subtly over the last two books, meaning that when you get to the climax you really do audibly hear the puzzle pieces clicking into place. 
I can't imagine what is going to happen in the third novel. With Lillia and Reeve finally going public with their relationship, Kat still unsure if she's going to get into college and Mary going all vengeance spirit, it's going to be the perfect mix of high school contemporary and paranormal mystery, and that's something I can't wait for. I wish I hadn't waited as long to pick up this book, because this is quickly becoming one of my favourite trilogies of all time. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

'Cruel Summer' (Undertow #0.5) by K. R. Conway

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first I need to say a massive thank you to Wicked Whale Publishing for accepting my request to review this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

When I requested this book on NetGalley, I didn't realise it was a prequel to K. R. Conway's Undertow series; I thought it was a standalone with an extremely intriguing cover and a unique and compelling synopsis, so I requested it. I found out it was a prequel when I went to start it, so I looked up the first book in the Undertow series, and the synopsis didn't grab me, so I questioned whether or not I really wanted to read this book. 
In fact, I questioned until this morning, when I decided to start it... And then finished it in one sitting. 
'Cruel Summer' tells the story of Ana and Kian (who I'm guessing are minor characters in the Undertow series) and how they met. I was expecting to struggle with this book and I was extremely apprehensive, but I was grabbed from the word go, which is where we meet Kian driving along the road with the dead drug dealer in the trunk of his car. YEAH. That's what I thought; it's unexpected, question provoking and damn gripping. When Kian's car breaks down, the guy who stumbles across him lets him know that his friend is a mechanic and that she will come and have a look at it for him, to which Kian scoffs "A girl? Your mechanic is a chick?". This automatically annoys Ana, who hears him from the other end of the phone, and their relationship jump starts on the wrong foot - or at least it does for Ana, but Kian has strong feelings for her from the moment he sees her.
However, their characters are both so deep that they are developing throughout the entire novel: it's not a case of insta-love that grates and irritates. Ana is a strong and independent teenager who finds it hard to trust people due to her alcoholic and abusive father, only having one friend in the form of MJ. Despite the fact that she's strong, kicking Kian to the curb at multiple times when his ego gets too big for him, she also really loves her father, painting a picture of the abuse victim who constantly believes her abuser can get better. It really is heart-wrenching stuff, seeing Ana get her hopes built up and crashed down around her multiple times, like the waves that she rides when she surfs every day to help relieve her emotions. Instead of the victim being written in a condescending way, constantly questioning why they stay and making their escape route completely obvious, Ana's character is written in such a way that you really do empathise with her decision to try to help her father - you can't see any other way around the situation, because you can tell that her father does love her, or at least he did once upon a time. As well as Ana being a victim of abuse, she's also partially psychic - partially meaning that she can't read minds but she can read emotions - which adds yet another layer to an extremely multi-dimensional character.
Meanwhile, Kian isn't just any normal psychotic murderer - Kian is a Mortis. The Mortis are soul sharks, who live off of the energy that they can suck out of their victims: immortal, beautiful, dangerous creatures. Most Mortis feed solely off of humans, as their souls contain the most energy, but some can live off of animals. Kian is one hundred and eighty two years old, but he looks like a twenty year old, so it's not too surprising when him and Ana begin falling for each other. 
I was worried about the romance aspect of this novel, because it does seem as though Kian develops strong, almost obsessive, feelings for Ana a bit too quickly, considering the fact that he's had a hell of a lot of time to look for a woman. However, Ana's feelings for him are written extremely realistically; she doesn't want to trust him, but when he shows how much he cares for her he breaks her defenses down and she can't help but fall for him.
I was so happy that it seemed that their relationship was going to work out, because every hurdle they came across, they faced together. At points I felt myself verging on rolling my eyes, like when Ana accepts the fact that Kian is a Mortis with hardly a blink of an eye, but she is such a strong character you can imagine that she would be able to make up her own mind about that kind of situation within a matter of minutes. However, with their separation at the end of the novel I was left shouting, desperate to know how their relationship ends up and what happens to them. 
K. R. Conway's writing is very good at encapsulating realistic emotions, and I highly recommend this novel because, unlike some dual perspective novels in which the characters sound similar and it's easy to get confused, both of the characters have extremely strong voices and personalities, making them very easy to fall in love with. If you're looking to read this as a standalone I wouldn't say that's a good idea: for one, you won't be able to resist reading the rest of the series, and for two there are a few things left open at the end of this book, events that I'm sure will be wrapped up in the main bulk of the series. I've definitely reconsidered my aversion to the 'Undertow' synopsis and I'm definitely going to look into reading it - it's not something I would have attempted before, but because I really like K. R.'s writing I'm definitely going to pick it up as soon as I can. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

'Marly's Ghost' by David Levithan

*This review will contain spoilers!*

When you die, the heart just stops.
When she died, my heart just stopped. 

If you haven't guessed by the title, 'Marly's Ghost' is David Levithan's retelling of the classic 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. The thing that makes this not a direct copy is that the main character, Ben, is haunted by the ghosts of Past Love, Present Love and Future Love following the death of his girlfriend, Marly, and the novel is set on Valentine's Day Eve rather than Christmas Eve. 
Other than those two aspects, this book is basically a direct copy of the Dickens classic, which is a novel I hold very close to my heart. When I hear a book described as a retelling, I normally expect quite a few changes to the characters, or differences to the plot, to make the retelling more unique, but there is nothing that particularly stands out about this book. 
In fact, I pretty much hated it. Not even pretty much, I hated this book. Ben and his girlfriend, Marly, have been together for a pretty long time in teenage relationship standards, and he has supported her through her entire struggle with cancer. Yet his friends all seem pretty bummed out when he won't celebrate Valentine's Day by partying with them a mere four months after she dies. So this is the story of a boy with a dead girlfriend and a group of highly insensitive friends... Great justification for his dead girlfriend's ghost to show up and basically tell him it's time for him to get over it and move on with his life. 
Then the ghosts turn up and tell him if he doesn't get over his girlfriends death RIGHT NOW, he'll end up killing himself in two years. There doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement of the fact that time heals wounds, and death is easier to cope with when it has been longer than four months. It just seems to be imperative that he moves on from her and stops his silly displays of emotions as quickly as possible.
There really is nothing else to say about this book. It really is all there is. Ah, there's a nice scene between Ben and the Ghost of Present Love, when she tells him to blame people's discretions on the individuals, rather on the entity that they claim inspires them (a good piece of advice, when multiple people claim hatred on different gods due to the actions of extremist individuals) but other than this there is nothing of worth in the novel. I can tell it's meant to be an enlightening story about how the memories of people we love keep them alive after they've gone, and how it's not worth wallowing in grief when you're lucky that you still have a life to live, but in my opinion it's perfectly fine to grieve for four months after your loved one has died. In fact, it's okay to grieve for as long as you like - it's an individual process! 
If you haven't read a David Levithan book, don't start with this one. It seems to be a soulless commercial product, with none of Levithan's usual creative uniqueness that makes him stand out in the YA crowd. I think the publishers wanted a cute little Valentine's release to lead up to the release of 'Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story', and I'm sure that this sold a lot of copies, but please don't fuel it any further. This is not a good book, not at all.