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Saturday, 31 January 2015

January Book Haul!

In my last book haul, I said that my New Years resolution was to only buy one book for every five I read, so really I should have only bought three books this month. However, this month was also the first time I ever got paid from my job, so I caved and bought SO MANY BOOKS. I'm gonna try and cut back next month, so hopefully it won't throw out my overall year total too much... But it was pretty bad. I have no self control.
However, I also received three of the books I won through Goodreads First Reads, and got a couple of eBooks from authors, so they will also be included - as well as a list of the books that I've been approved to read on NetGalley, reviews of which you can look out for over the next month or two.

Goodreads First Reads: 



The first of my Goodreads wins that I received this month was 'A Reunion of Ghosts' by Judith Claire Mitchell. It sounds a lot like 'The Virgin Suicides', in that it involves three sisters writing one suicide note, but other than that I don't really know what it's about. This book is released on the 24th of March, so expect me to be reading and reviewing it around that time!



The second Goodreads win that I received was 'Organize Every Day: An Amazing Way To Get The Most Out Of Every Day' by Can Akdeniz. I read this the day that I received it, so check out the review I posted!


The third and final Goodreads win that I received was 'Corrupted' by A. D. Croucher, the second book in a series. I bought the first one last month, in preparation for the arrival of this one, so I'll probably end up reading them fairly soon. On the giveaway I won, it didn't say that it was going to be signed, so it was a lovely surprise when it turned up with a little message in it!



Gifts: 




The first gift I received this month was 'Us' by David Nicholls. This was a Christmas present I ordered for myself using my Christmas money, but it took a while for it to arrive. The reason I decided to buy this was because it was signed! David Nicholls book 'One Day' is one of my favourite ever books, so I couldn't resist getting his new release, and I can't wait to dive into this.




The second gift I received this month was 'Learning To Live' by Kira Adams, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I posted that review a couple of weeks ago, so you should go and read it! It tells the story of Ciera and Topher, a nerdy girl and a popular jock, and the trials and tribulations they go through during their developing relationship. It wasn't the best book I've ever read, but I still enjoyed it and I want to say another massive thank you to Kira for sending me a pdf and letting me read it.

eBooks: 



The first of the two eBooks I bought this month was 'The Winner's Curse' by Marie Rutkoski. If you haven't heard of 'The Winner's Curse', it's the first book in a new YA fantasy series (I believe a trilogy). The second book is out in a couple of months, so when I saw the first book was on £1.43 on Kindle Daily Deals I thought I might as well buy it to catch up in time for the second book. 


The second eBook I bought this month was 'Zomburbia' by Adam Gallardo. I've already read and reviewed this book (and the second one in the series) so check that out if you're interested. 'Zomburbia' is the first book in a new YA zombie apocalypse series, and it's unique in the fact that it's set just over ten years after the zombies first arrived. I didn't love this book, but if you like zombies and YA novels, you should definitely check it out!

Books: 



The first book I bought this month was 'Horns' by Joe Hill. If you haven't heard of 'Horns', it's the story of Ig Perrish, who wakes up with horns protruding from his head the night after his girlfriend is brutally raped and murdered. I'm not quite sure what else happens in the book, but it was adapted into a film last year and it looks majorly creepy and horrifying, so it's the kind of book I'm sure I'll fall in love with. I annoyed myself by buying the movie edition of the book, but it was only £3 in The Works so it seemed worth it anyway. 


The second book I bought this month was 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton. This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2013, and because I've been trying to get into more literature oriented novels, I thought I might as well get this one. It's over eight hundred pages, so it will take me a while to get through it, but I bought it for £1.50 so it was well worth that price.


'The Wolf In Winter' is the twelfth book in John Connolly's Charlie Parker thriller series. I already own the other eleven, so when I saw this book half price in Morrison's I had to buy it. I can't really talk too much about the plot of this book, because it is the twelfth one in a series, but if you like thrillers I would seriously recommend John Connolly's 'Every Dead Thing' because it's one of the first murder mystery/crime novels that has made me feel physically sick and absolutely terrified.


Technically, 'The Wolf In Winter' should have been the last book I could buy this month, but I'm a terrible person so it was not. On Fridays, I have three hours to spend between getting to town and going to work, so I generally go book shopping and then sit and read somewhere. The book that broke my resolve and led me spiralling down a never-ending road of book buying, was 'Fateful' by Claudia Gray. I bought this book because I have the 'Evernight' series by her, and I really enjoyed the first one, but I didn't make the connection that actually Claudia Gray is the author of 'A Thousand Pieces Of You', one of my most anticipated releases of last year. 'Fateful' is a book about the Titanic, and I really enjoy books surrounding that story, so hopefully I'll enjoy this one.


The next book I bought was 'Nocturne', the sequel to 'Claire De Lune' by Christine Johnson. I bought 'Claire De Lune' ages ago, because it's about werewolves, but I wanted to wait and get the second book in the series before I power read them, so now it's like four years later and I've finally gotten the second one. Not sure when I'm going to get around to these, but they're short so I'm sure I'll read them really quickly when the time comes.


I'm not really sure why I bought 'Dangerous Boys' by Abigail Haas, other than the fact that it's a pretty new release and the cover was really beautiful. The premise kind of reminds me of 'We Were Liars' by E. Lockhart, in that someone dies and there's a lot of questions and secrets surrounding it... I'm not sure, because I haven't read 'We Were Liars' yet, but the ideas of them seem very similar in my mind.


If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know that back in September I bought three Douglas Coupland novels, and even though I still haven't managed to read any of them, I couldn't resist buying these two: 'Miss Wyoming' and 'Girlfriend In A Coma'. I don't really know much about either of them, but all of the Douglas Coupland novels I've bought have such interesting plots and ideas behind them, so I couldn't resist grabbing these.


I recently discovered that the Waterstones in Swindon has quite a big clearance sale, and I managed to pick up both 'My Love Lies Bleeding' and 'Bleeding Hearts' by Alyxandra Harvey, brand new, for a pound each. I've read the first two books from the Drake Vampire Chronicles series before, but I really wanted to buy them all and re-read them, so I'm getting closer to that goal. The Drake Chronicles series focuses upon Solange Drake, the only female vampire born and therefore a threat to the vampire queen. From what I can remember, each book focuses on a different Drake sibling, and I did really enjoy them when I read them before, so I'll get around to these soon.


Another book I bought from the Waterstones clearance was 'Every Last Drop' by Charlie Huston. It's the fourth book in a series, which I've only found out since I bought it, but it seems to be somehow linked to vampires and crime... I'm not really sure, but the blurb sounded great and the cover was cool, so impulse buy!


'Before I Wake' is the sixth novel in Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series, and I own the first five, so I had to buy this one. The series focuses upon Kaylee, a girl who can sense when people near her are about to die, and when she gets this sense she is compelled to scream, and scream, and scream. I read the first book a good few years ago, but I did really enjoy it, so I'll get around to this series soon.


Next up, I bought 'All The Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven. I don't normally buy brand new books, because they're normally much too expensive, but I have been anticipating this novel and WHSmith had it on offer for £5 the week it was released, so there was no way I was going to resist getting it. If you haven't heard of 'All The Bright Places' (which will really surprise me) it tells the story of Finch and Violet, two teenagers who meet on the ledge of the school bell tower when they're about to jump. I've heard a lot of amazing things about this book, so I'm a bit worried that my expectations are too high, but I'm glad I've bought it so that I can get around to it soon.


After buying 'All The Bright Places', I received a voucher for £5 off if you spent £15 in WHSmith, so of course I had to take advantage of that offer. I bought 'The Dream Thieves' and 'Blue Lily, Lily Blue', the second and third books respectively in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I got halfway through 'The Raven Boys' before giving up, so hopefully now I have the three books already released I should be able to get the motivation up to start it again.


However, as well as my £5 off voucher, if you bought two books you got one free, so I picked up 'Sisters' Fate' by Jessica Spotswood. I read the first and second books in the Cahill Witch Chronicles, 'Born Wicked' and 'Star Cursed' back in December, so I'm beyond excited about reading this third and final installment.


This book belongs to my mum, but I'm hauling it because I'm the one that found it and convinced her to buy it, because Anthony Horowitz is her favourite author. 'Oblivion' is the fifth and final book in the Power of Five series, which is apparently advertised as Stephen King for young adults. I don't know much about the series, but I will be reading them eventually. However, the reason I convinced my mum to buy this book, was because it was signed and it was only £7.50!



The next book I bought this month was 'Golden Son' by Pierce Brown. I read the first book in the series, 'Red Rising', late last month and I absolutely adored it, so I can't wait to read this second installment. It was only released a couple of weeks ago, and the third book, 'Morning Star' has already had its covered revealed, so the hype surrounding this series is at an all time high and I would suggest jumping on as quickly as you can. 


I had intended upon 'Golden Son' being the last book I would buy in January, but it was Friday yesterday, so of course I bought a lot of books while I was in town. The first of yesterdays finds was 'Gathering Blue' by Lois Lowry, one of the books from The Giver quartet. I bought 'The Giver' a couple of months ago, soon after the release of the film, so I was pretty excited to find one of the other installments for £1.60. 


The next book I bought was 'The Sound' by Sarah Alderson. I actually bought this book on my Kindle last month, but it was £1 in The Works, and I had a £1 off voucher, so I technically got it for free. I do generally try to buy all books that I get on my Kindle in physical copy, it was just unfortunate that I found this so close to the previous edition that I purchased.


I also found 'The Essence' and 'The Offering', books two and three in the Pledge trilogy, each for £1 in The Works. I work in a library, and I've seen this books on the shelves a few times and have been very interested, so at £1 each I couldn't really say no. I haven't got the first book in the trilogy, 'The Pledge' yet, but I'm hoping to get hold of it soon.


Next up, I bought 'Abandon' by Meg Cabot, the first book in a trilogy. I've already read the first two books, and I absolutely adored them, and I own the third book on my Kindle, but I really want to re-read them before I read the last book, because I can't really remember what happened. 'Abandon' is a re-telling (kind of) of the story of Persephone and Hades, because Pierce is a girl who was clinically dead and revived by paramedics, and John is from the Underworld. I'm kind of worried about re-reading this book, because it has been four or five years since I read it the first time around and my reading tastes have matured greatly, so I hope I still enjoy it. 


The penultimate book in my book haul is 'Alice's Adventures In Wonderland' (and 'Through The Looking Glass') by Lewis Carroll. It wouldn't be one of my book hauls without buying a Vintage red spine edition of a classic. 


The final book I bought this month was 'Radiance' by Alyson Noel, the first book in the Riley Bloom spin-off series from The Immortals. I bought 'Shimmer' back in September, and I thought that it was the first book in the series, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found 'Radiance'. Also, the charity shop I bought it in has a buy two, get one free policy, so I actually got this book for nothing; yay!

NetGalley books:

I'm not going to go too much into these ones, because there are quite a few of them! So I'm just going to list the titles that I've received this month, linked to their reviews if I've already posted them. I'll be reading them all over the next couple of months, depending on when their publishing dates are, so keep an eye out for the reviews when I publish them.
  • 'A Grimm Legacy' and 'Grimm Memories' by Janna Jennings
  • 'Phobic' by Cortney Pearson
  • 'The Walls Around Us' by Nova Ren Suma
  • 'I Was Here' by Gayle Forman
  • 'The Orignals: Rise' by Julie Plec
  • 'Mind Games' by Teri Terry
  • 'Clarity' the trilogy by Loretta Lost
  • 'Endgame: The Calling' by James Frey
  • 'We Are Watching' by M. Stephen Stewart
  • 'Cruel Summer' by K. R. Conway
  • 'The Last Leaves Falling' by Sarah Benwell
  • 'Ignite', 'Entice' and 'Incite' by Erica Crouch
  • 'All Fall Down' by Ally Condie
  • 'Stung' by Joss Stirling
  • 'How (Not) To Fall In Love' by Lisa Brown Roberts
  • 'Summoner: The Novice' by Taran Matharu
  • 'Silverwood' by Betsy Streeter
  • 'Untouched' by Lauren Hawkeye
  • 'The Sham' by Ellen Allen
  • 'Dorianna' by Catherine Stein
  • 'Whispers In The Dark' by Chase Jackson
  • 'Gifted' by Donald Hounam
  • 'Zombified' by Adam Gallardo
  • 'Heaven Has No Regrets' by Tessa Shaffer
  • 'Denton's Little Deathdate' by Lance Rubin
  • 'We All Looked Up' by Tommy Wallach
  • 'Crash and Burn' by Lisa Gardner
  • 'Soul Crossed' by Lisa Gail Green
  • 'The Naturals' by Aaron Patterson, Melody Carlson, Robin Parrish and K.C Neal
  • 'Forsaken' by Kristen Day 
Phew! That was quite a list! So yes, look out for those reviews over the coming weeks. Seven of the reviews are due throughout February, so those will be coming along soon.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

'Gifted' (Gifted #1) by Donald Hounam - SPOILER FREE REVIEW


To start with, I need to say a massive thank you to Penguin Random House UK Children's publishing, for accepting my request to review this book from NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

'You don't choose to be Gifted. It seems like fun at first, when you're setting things alight and bringing your mates out in spots. But then you notice that people are scared of you. They resent the fact that you can do these tricks and they can't. They're afraid you'll turn them into something slithery.'

'Gifted' might be one of the most unique YA books that I have ever read. Set sometime in (what I'm guessing) is the early 1900's, it focuses upon Frank, a sorcerer working for the police. He does forensic science work on the various dead bodies that turn up, and his working day takes a turn for the exciting when the Bishop of Oxford is found dead - and beheaded - in his library. 
After the initial discovery of the body, Marvell, Frank's partner in crime, fetches him to investigate the scene, setting up some interesting personality dynamics within the first fifty pages. Frank's boss, Caxton, hates him with a burning passion, mostly because of a fear of sorcerers, and his co-worker Ferdia is post-peak, so that doesn't give them the happiest of relationships either. 
But other than the initial set-up, this book moves extremely slowly, and the set-up is rather confusing to start with. I'm not going to delve too far into spoilers of the plot, because it is quite a good murder mystery and it is quite difficult to see who did it, and why. But I am going to delve into the world, explaining how the sorcery in this novel works, so that if you do pick this book up it will be a lot smoother to get into. I found it to be quite a struggle to start with, because all of these things were being referred to as if we should know what they meant, but they didn't get properly explained until a good quarter of the way in. So here we go: 
First of all: there are tatties. Tatties are police officers, but they have some special attributes unique to this novel. Tatties can get insights, in which they will know something without a flicker of a doubt, without much reason. But in return for their insights and their astonishingly brilliant eyesight, as soon as they enter their late twenties they get the Blur, which takes most of their eyesight and leaves them nearly completely blind.
But the focal point of the novel is mostly definitely the sorcery. There are two laws in sorcery: the Law of Similarity and the Law of Contiguity. The Law of Similarity means that sorcerers can imitate things, an example of this in the story being the Elementals. Elementals are crafted by sorcerers, based off of real things (one of the earliest ones we encounter being a lion) and are summoned to fulfill a task (such as guarding an establishment). Once they've fulfilled that task, they poof! Gone, off into the unknown. The Law of Contiguity finds the link between two objects, and comprises of three rules. 'One: Contiguity fades over time to the point of undetectability, but never absolutely disappears. Two: it cannot be destroyed by magical means. Three: it cannot be magically induced between two remote objects.' This means, that because I am typing on my laptop at this very moment, there will be strong contiguity between me and my laptop. If I didn't touch it for fifty years, it might fade quite substantially, but the link between us will never completely disappear. Similarly to tatties, sorcerers can become post-peak, but as well as losing their eyesight they lose their ability to perform magic as successfully as they once could, relegating them to only summoning Elementals and performing magic tricks. 
It might not seem completely vital right now, but the Law of Contiguity, and contiguity tests, are constantly referred to throughout the novel, and it was quite daunting at the start. The book is set quite a while ago, so shifting my mindset into an older time period and trying to get to grips with all of the magical lingo, it did take me quite a while to adjust, which meant I didn't enjoy the beginning of this book as much as I probably should have. 
Other than the difficult to understand set-up, this is a really enjoyable book. Frank is a brilliant character, with a wittily sarcastic attitude that made me chuckle more than once. His response to the Anti-Sorcery Brotherhood, and their massive prejudice towards him as a sorcerer with no regard to his individuality, is very well-written, and perfectly demonstrates what it's like to be one of the outcasts of society. Frank does self-harm at a couple of intervals in the novel, which I found very uncomfortable to read, especially with him giving tips about how best to commit suicide by cutting your wrists, so if you do find scenes like that triggering I would recommend staying away from this novel. The self-harm is not a major plot point, but it crops up regularly enough to be worth avoiding. 
Personally, I love Marvell's character a lot more than Frank's, but the dynamic between them - him wondering about when he's going to lose his magic and her worrying about when she's going to lose her eyesight - is the most interesting of all. The constant debating about who would have it worse when their time came was thought-provoking, because it really makes you consider - would it be better to lose your eyesight, or to lose the magic that you'd been trained to use as a living for the majority of your life? I'd automatically think that losing your eyesight would be the worst thing, but if you'd had something that made you special, and it went away... That could be extremely hard to deal with. 
If you like detective books, this is definitely something I'd recommend for you, because it puts a new twist on a pretty much dead genre, but it's also a book that I would recommend for people who like books with magic and fantasy elements. Bare with it, because it does take a while to get into it, but by the end it's definitely worth the earlier struggle. There is a second novel coming out, called 'Pariah', and I'm not sure when it's released, but I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it, because I can imagine this series just getting better throughout further installments.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

'Zombified' (Zombie Apocalypse #2) by Adam Gallardo


If you haven't checked out my review of Adam Gallardo's first 'Zombie Apocalypse' novel, 'Zomburbia', go and read that now! 

*This review will contain spoilers!*

To start with, I need to say a massive thank you to Kensington Books for approving my request to review this book from NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide. 

Generally, when I'm reviewing a book on or before release date, I like to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but because this is the second novel in a series, I'm going to be referring to things that have happened in the first book, and this is one of those novels where everything I want to talk about is inherently spoiler based, so I'm just gonna have to go in all guns blazing.
In the first novel of the 'Zombie Apocalypse' series, we were introduced to Courtney Hart, a teenager who was selling drugs to make a better life for herself, dealing with the deaths of both of her best friends and had just gone through a not-very-brutal-at-all break-up. At the end of the book, a lot of things were left up in the air, such as whether Courtney and Phil were going to end up together, what was going to happen to her old boyfriend, new drug addict Brandon, and whether there was going to be any explanation as to how and why the zombies were developing, suddenly able to run and function more than they had in the past. 
All of those questions had me going into this book with a lot of hope for answers, and for the issues that I had with the last book to just be kinks that Adam Gallardo was going to work out, but sadly none of my prayers were answered. In fact, the things that I liked about the last novel seemed to have deteriorated, leaving me shuffling through this one with a bland disinterest. 
In the first book, I thought that the mixture between teen romance and zombie action had been perfectly offset, leaving us with a YA novel about zombies that didn't have too much hormonal stropping, but that mixture was completely tipped the other way in this second book. Yes, there was still quite a lot of zombie action spread throughout - Cody, Phil and Courtney going on nightly hunts was exciting toward the start of the novel - but the sequences were all repeated: find a zombie, try to kill the zombie, fall over/drop weapon/other mistake that causes you to nearly get killed, have one of your friends save you, happy ending. This happened so many times throughout that as soon as zombie was in the scene I was just pleading for it to be over already, because I was internally face palming the entire time. The zombie action was dry, but even drier was Courtney's personality. Instead of being the bad-ass (sort of) woman that I'd grown to have fond feelings for in the first novel, she became a over-the-top, hormonal idiot. 
No, I'm not being harsh. At various points, Phil would say something and Courtney would take it in the completely wrong way, leading to a harsh internal monologue and a strop. After one of these instances, she decided to kiss another guy (because that's a great way to deal with your relationship problems, well done!), hid it from Phil and was beyond shocked when the other guy decided to say something to his friend. After everything came out, Phil decided to forgive Courtney, but then later on in the novel she said that "boyfriends and girlfriends should never keep secrets" and called him selfish, both of which made her the biggest hypocrite I'd ever had the displeasure of encountering. If I was Phil I would have called her out on it, but of course, he just let it slide, not even a flinch of irritation due to her appalling attitude towards him. 
Similarly to the first book, the first half of this novel was definitely the better part, but it all just seemed so predictable that I had no invested interest. Brandon being Buddha's drug dealer was the most blatant plot point I've ever encountered, but it took Courtney so long to catch on that I just wanted to slap her. Furthermore, Brandon's death was obvious from the moment he walked into her bathroom with drugs in his pocket, and I was exasperated that Courtney didn't see it coming. 
The ending of the book, too, was predictable. The first novel ended with a massive zombie attack at a party, so the second one had to do the Exact. Same. Thing. At. The. Exact. Same. Location. The entire situation just made me want to scream - if you'd been attacked at a cabin in the middle of the woods and nearly died, would you want to return? No! And if you did want to return, I'm pretty sure you deserve to get eaten by zombies, because that's just idiotic. I was kind of disappointed, in a sadistic way, that none of the main characters died, because it might have justified the time that I'd spent reading this novel. The face-off between Courtney and Brandon was the ultimate anti-climax, with her killing him quickly and easily within a minute or two, and it really wasn't worth all of the build-up throughout the entire novel. It just didn't seem written realistically, in the way that she charged forward on her solo mission and took out the evil overlord of all of the zombies without even breaking a sweat. 
The book ended in such a way that that could be it - Courtney and Phil happily going off to their respective colleges, driving off into the sunset together - and I really hope that this is the last of the 'Zombie Apocalypse' novels, because I just can't see them getting any better. Yes, I am kind of interested in seeing what New York is like following the zombie apocalypse and the army reclaiming, and that could be written very well, but what Adam needs to do is not repeat the same plot again. If there is a third book, and it ends with a massive party and a zombie attack, I will scream from frustration. The zombies are still intriguing, and it's still more unique than most of the other books in the genre, but it doesn't matter how individualistic your ideas are if you're just squeezing them into the same formula. This series had a lot of potential, but it seems like it's missed the mark quite dramatically. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

'Zomburbia' (Zombie Apocalypse #1) by Adam Gallardo


*This review will contain spoilers!*

I bought 'Zomburbia' after receiving the sequel, 'Zombified' through NetGalley, because I absolutely love zombie books and I haven't read one in what feels like months. I hadn't heard of it before, so I didn't have my hopes raised too highly, but it seemed like it was going to be a book I would really enjoy. 
'Zomburbia' is a bit different from other zombie books, in that it's set just over ten years after the zombie apocalypse has occurred, and life is still pretty much normal. Our main character, Courtney, works in a fast-food restaurant with her best friend, has a best guy friend who has madly crushed on her for most of their lives, and, like pretty much every teenager, dreams of leaving her home behind and moving somewhere better to go to college. However, unlike the majority of teenagers, Courtney decides to make money for her college fund by selling drugs - namely 'Vitamin Z', a drug made out of zombie brains. 
So far, so interesting. I was completely gripped through the first half of the novel because it was so interesting to read a story where the zombie apocalypse is already so far along, instead of in the first couple of days where everything is new and unusual and disastrous. The development of the zombies was interesting, having some of them mutating to run instead of shuffle, and it was good that the development had taken so long, meaning that the population would have been lulled into a false sense of security by their consistently slow movements until this point. It was also nice to get the mixture of typical YA drama in with zombie fighting action, and neither of the two aspects really got boring, because they were very well mixed - Courtney deciding to ride her bike home in a strop and nearly getting attacked proved just how unlike our lives their's are, and Courtney going on her first date with Brandon and getting attacked by zombie struck the balance between the two stories extremely well. But they only seemed to be balanced during the first half of the novel.
I'm not really sure what went downhill, but the second half did not do as much for me as the first half did. I thought that Willie's death was quite surprising, and the idea that people could physically bring themselves to commit suicide by letting zombies attack them sent shivers up my spine, but Courtney's ensuing mourning/selfish wallowing grated on my nerves, because it was dragged out for so long. I understand that if one of your best friends has just killed himself, and it was practically your fault, that you would be distraught, but in a world where death is so intrinsically linked to your every day life I think you would have a way of dealing with it better than staying in bed for nearly a week. 
Similarly, the death of Sherri wasn't too surprising, because of the premonition-like dreams that Courtney was experiencing, but Courtney's reaction surprised me. If she was so distraught and devastated by the death of a guy that she'd never loved back and had always looked down upon, surely she would be even more depressed and upset by the death of her best friend? It just didn't seem to make much sense to me that she didn't go through the same grieving process, or even seem to exhibit a visceral emotion, after she was practically to blame for the death of yet another friend.
I did think that the idea of 'Vitamin Z' was extremely unique and it was a big selling point of this story for me, until I realised why it seemed so familiar - the drug 'V' that is constantly used during 'True Blood' is a hallucinogenic using vampire blood, while 'Vitamin Z' is a hallucinogenic using zombie brains... It all just seemed a bit too similar for me to really sell into the story after I realised it.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate this book - Courtney's character had some redeeming aspects, such as her ability to be the only female in this entire world who seemed to be able to get stuff done, and the relationship between her and Brandon was kind of cute until she decided to dump him with little more than a second thought - but it wasn't the best zombie book I've ever read. This book finishes with a lot of questions about how the zombies are evolving, so it will be good to see if we get any answers about that in the second novel, and there's also the implication that Courtney and Phil could end up together, which could be funny because of how socially inept he seems to be. I'm hoping that I'll like the second one more, because it could be that the world was still finding its feet in the first book, so I'm going to be reading and reviewing that over the next couple of days. If you like zombies, I'd recommend 'The Walking Dead' novels over this series, but that might change with the second book.

Friday, 23 January 2015

No Devotion - The Bowery District Reading, 22/01/15


This show was not your ordinary show. Instead of having a support band, there were a couple of DJs playing before the main set, meaning that this gig really was all focused upon the headline band. This is the second time I've seen No Devotion, the first being when I attended their first show in Cardiff back in July, and despite the fact that they played the exact same set as the first time around, it was obvious how much they've developed in the last six months of their existence. 
Starting off with 'Night Drive' was still a brave decision, throwing a basically unknown song out into the ether, and following it up with 'Eyeshadow' got the crowd moving a little bit more, but vocalist Geoff Rickly couldn't have said it better when he said that the set starting at 8:30pm might have been a little bit early, going so far as to say "If we were two more drinks in, we would probably start again". But despite the fact that the crowd weren't necessarily warmed up, the band were still playing brilliantly. 'Addition' and 'I Want To Be Your God' are still encapsulating in a way that most songs aren't, and the promise of an album released before the end of the year is extremely exciting, because it's going to be filled with amazing material. 
Following the departure of drummer Luke Johnson, announced at the beginning of this month, it would have been easy for the band to get disheartened again, but now more than ever you could feel the visceral passion emanating from every member that filled the tiny club stage. Geoff stepping off stage for the band to perform 'Death Rattle' was still a highly emotional moment, perhaps even more so because of the intimate size of the venue, and you could see the pain still plastered over all of the members faces: not in a fake way, obviously put on for the performance, but so, so real. Even touring drummer Philip Jenkins, of Kids In Glass Houses fame, was so obviously moved by the raw, passionate instrumental, and that is a moment that I'm not going to forget for a very long time. 
'Stay', the first single that No Devotion released, obviously received the best reaction of the evening, with the crowd throwing everything they had into it, but losing song 'Grand Central Station' - the song that Geoff proclaimed as his favourite - was soaring and melancholy, sending a shiver down my spine. 
No Devotion are impressive because of the fact that they are all playing music that is so completely different from anything that any of them have done in their pasts. They stand out so brilliantly from the rest of the scene at the moment, and it's refreshing to hear something new and interesting when so many bands nowadays sound exactly the same. Geoff said on stage that their music in the future was "gonna be all different human emotions", promising that in the coming years of the band they will be branching out into heavier music, to contrast the pop-edged songs they've been releasing at the moment, and I can't wait for that promise to come true. With the band playing Brixton O2 Academy tonight, supporting Gerard Way, they're going to be playing the biggest show of their careers, but I can't wait to see them headlining stages that size on their own in a few years. 

One extra thing - I just want to say a special thank you to Philip Jenkins, for being such an amazing drummer. If you didn't go into the concert knowing that he was a temporary drummer it would not have been obvious at all, because he looked so confident and at home with the rest of the band that it wouldn't have been a far stretch to assume he was one of the original members. Even during 'Death Rattle', one of the hardest songs that the band perform - both musically and emotionally - he was so in sync with the rest of the members that it was utterly awe-inspiring. Finding out from him after the show that the band only had two or three rehearsals all together, I was truly amazed by how hard Phil had practiced to put on an amazing show for the No Devotion fans, and that deserves an honourable mention. Once again, thank you Phil! 

Setlist: 
Night Drive
Eyeshadow
Addition
I Want To Be Your God
10,000 Summers
Only Thing
Death Rattle
Stay
Grand Central Station

Thursday, 22 January 2015

'The Last Leaves Falling' by Sarah Benwell - SPOILER FREE REVIEW


First off, I want to say a massive thank you to Random House UK Children's publishers for accepting my request for an early copy of this book from NetGalley, and a huge thank you to NetGalley for the service they provide. 

'The Last Leaves Falling' tells us the story of Sora Abe, a seventeen year old boy who is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly known as ALS, especially following the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that circulated over social media for most of last summer, but also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig's disease). In case you don't know about ALS, it is a debilitating degenerative disease that commonly occurs in older people, but can affect people of any ages, as any illness can, and sadly does. There isn't a common, widespread cure for the illness, but some sufferers can live longer than others, with death commonly occurring anywhere between two and ten years after diagnosis.
So as I'm sure you can imagine, this novel is emotional and affecting in a way that I had not been anticipating, and I am sat here writing this review feeling shocked and deeply saddened in a way that I haven't experienced from a book before.
Sora's story is so touching because it occurs in someone so young, at a time when their life should still be stretched out in front of them, not coming to a close. A lot of the novel focuses upon Sora coming to terms with the fact that he will never get to become a professor, the thing that he had yearned for all of his life, and dealing with the knowledge that his wishes will never come true. His doctor offers him a Wish4Life program, but he dismisses it with a feeling of disgust, knowing that all of his wishes are long-term, not material. I believe this is dealt with really well, because having a single wish come true at the end of your life is, in my opinion, a ridiculous notion, and it's nice to have that sentiment touched upon. I do understand that I've never been in this position, and I hopefully will never be, but I think that asking someone who should still have so much time to do everything that they've ever wanted, to just choose one thing... That seems cold to me. I also appreciated the fact that Sarah chose to write about how unfair the whole situation was, with Sora even questioning why it was happening to him, because I do think that with that happening to you you would be feeling bitter and angry at the world and all of the healthy people out there.
The progression of the disease was also written very well, so much so that it was very subtle how much had changed within Sora until it hit you in the face how badly he was doing. A lot of the time, with books that focus upon teenage illnesses, they are absolutely fine one minute and die in the next, to demonstrate how anybody like you or like me can be struck down in the prime of life, but this was written a lot more intelligently than that. Starting off with a simple trembling of the fingers, it was both fascinating and horrible as Sora's body started obeying him less and less, eventually leaving him almost completely dependent on the constant care of his mother.
However, as well as focusing on the illness, and Sora coming to terms with his diagnosis, this novel is clever in the way that it just showed Sora's days as normal, demonstrating how people can live with the disease for months or even years without it affecting them in too visceral a way. The scenes between Sora, Mai and Kaito were written in a way that was funny but also realistic, perfectly capturing the essence of new friendships in your teenage years, and the holiday that Sora and his mother take to visit his grandparents was both upsetting - as his grandparents came to terms with the fact that it might be the last time they saw their grandchild - but also enlightening, as he had fun with his grandfather and made memories that would last a lifetime.
Another thing that impressed me about this novel was the fact that it is a young adult contemporary novel that does not have a glaringly obvious romantic plot. Sora has many much more serious problems to cope with, so I'm glad that he didn't develop feelings for Mai; it was much more enjoyable to read about them as friends than to read about them falling deeply in love with each other in a relationship that was obviously going to be doomed. It's a credit to Sarah's writing that this YA novel was so absorbing and engrossing without the need to be overly romantic.
The only thing I didn't really like about this novel was the use of the forums throughout. This could have been a problem with the format I was reading it in, because I did read this book on my Kindle, but the forum dialogue just didn't run as smoothly as the rest of the novel, with it seeming disjointed and uncomfortable in multiple areas. The same can be said for the email dialogue, because that also didn't seem right on my Kindle, but I'm more than likely going to purchase a physical copy and re-read the book once it's been released, so that aspect of my opinion is likely to change.
I've heard a lot of people saying that they'd recommend this book to fans of 'The Fault In Our Stars', and I do agree with the sentiment, but 'The Last Leaves Falling' is so much better that it's likely going to blow your mind. I also agree with the recommendation of keeping tissues near by, because despite the fact that I don't cry at books, I finished this one twenty minutes ago and I still have a lump in my throat and a burning behind my eyes. Please, if you buy one book this month, buy this one. You won't be disappointed.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

'I Was Here' by Gayle Forman - SPOILER FREE REVIEW


First off, I want to say a massive thank you to Simon and Schuster UK Children's publishers for accepting my request for an early copy of this book from NetGalley, and a huge thank you to NetGalley for the service they provide. 

If you haven't heard of Gayle Forman, I don't know who you are or where you've been hiding, because you're missing out on brilliant books. Before 'I Was Here', I'd only read the 'If I Stay' duology but I adore both of those novels and I've heard amazing things about the 'Just One Day' duology even though I haven't got around to reading them yet, so my hopes were extremely high for this book, and I did not end up disappointed.
'I Was Here' is in a similar vein to 'If I Stay', in that it focuses upon a serious plot that really makes you contemplate the issues that the characters are going through. Cody's best friend, Meg, commits suicide and Cody finds it extremely hard to deal with the situation, as she hadn't seen any signs of Meg being depressed in the past. However, Meg recently received an extremely lucrative scholarship and went off to college, leaving Cody stewing at home, feeling more bitter towards her best friend with every happy informative email she receives. The fact that they've grown apart over the last few months fills Cody with a sense of guilt and she blames herself completely for the fact that Meg has killed herself, leading to her investigating the events occurring before her death and attempting to solve the mystery of why she did it. 
A lot of the books I've read that have had a focus upon suicide have been bordering upon triggering, with some people claiming that the books have made them feel worse about their problems, so a sensitive subject like this is really hard to deal with. However, even with that hurdle to overcome, Gayle Forman has written a spectacular book that deals with the subject in a sensitive and enlightening way. The discussions about the feelings of the people left behind are heart-wrenching but eye-opening, as the second-hand victims of suicide are often completely forgotten.
Even though the book does focus mainly on Meg's suicide and the grieving and healing that Cody goes through in the following months, it also deals with the subplots very well as well. Learning not to judge people at first glance is a big theme throughout the book: when we're introduced to Meg's roommates, we encounter Stoner Richard, but as his back story unfolds later in the novel we get to know a completely different side to him, and it's the same with Ben, originally the spoilt and uncaring rock star, but who turns into an emotional and caring person, showing that death really does change everyone that it touches, some people even for the better. Also touched upon is the fact that grief brings people together, with Cody and Ben's friendship only developing because of Meg being their mutual friend, and Cody's friendship circle increasing dramatically following the loss of the person that is closest to her. 
Similarly, the question of what is a real family is touched upon quite a lot in the subplots, with Cody constantly craving the company of Meg's family following her suicide, even though she feels awkward being near them. The question of what is a stable family unit is brought up multiple times, when comparing Meg's family of a mother, father and two children with Cody's family only being her and her mother, and it's interesting to see how different families work with different dynamics - maybe not always one hundred percent successfully, but functioning in their own ways. 
Of course I recommend this book, because I recommend everything that Gayle Forman ever writes. It's a quick read, because once you get sucked into Cody's investigation you can't help but fly through this novel to get to the conclusion, but I've got a feeling it's going to keep me thinking for a long time into the future. The philosophical quotes littered throughout will make you reconsider some of the opinions you had that you thought were fixed, and you will leave this novel feeling emotional but with a sense of closure, just as many people feel after loss. The emotions written in this novel are so visceral, peppered through with Cody's gallows humour, that you can't help but go on the rollercoaster ride with her, and you will feel as though you've been through the ringer afterwards, but it's such a refreshing feeling.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

'Amy and Matthew' (aka 'Say What You Will') by Cammie McGovern


*This review will contain spoilers!*

'Amy and Matthew' (known as 'Say What You Will' in some other countries, I'm not quite sure which ones) is one of the most unique books I've ever heard of, in that it's the story of Amy, a cerebral palsy sufferer, and Matthew, a sufferer of OCD. I've never read a YA novel about OCD or cerebral palsy, so having them both in this one book was quite overwhelming and I don't think I appreciated it as much as I would have if it had been about one or the other, but I definitely appreciated the effort that went into the writing of the characters, portraying them as different, but not in a negative way. 
As you can probably guess by the front cover, 'Amy and Matthew' is a story of first love and all of the terrible things that can happen throughout the course of it, but it's also a story about friendship. When we start the novel Amy and Matthew don't know each other that well; they've been at the same school for years, but have never really spoken because they had no reason to, until Amy requests that Matthew become one of her peer helpers at school, assisting her in carrying her books and her bag between lessons. Amy gets four peer helpers, all paid by her parents to help her fit in at school better and start making friends, but Matthew is the first one that she really becomes friends with. Over the course of the novel they both fall in love, but obstacles keep getting in the way, so it's a constant question of will they or won't they? 
I thought I would love this book a lot more than I did. Don't get me wrong, the first half was amazingly well written and I loved the development of their relationship: Amy helping Matthew with his OCD, Matthew learning to open up and talk about the condition that had haunted him for years. Seeing the development of Amy's relationships with all of her peer helpers was also really interesting, and I was glad to see a book that was so focused on the sense of being 'other' that didn't also have a large percentage of the book being about bullying, and dealing with that. Sometimes it's good to have a book that features bullying, because it is a big problem in a lot of peoples lives, but I thought it was a credit to Cammie that she managed to display the struggles when your own self is the problem in your life. The minor characters were also written very well: I would have liked more focus upon Chloe, but Sarah's character was quite developed and it was nice to get some of her back story through Matthew and Amy, encapsulating perfectly the way people at schools know of each other, even if they don't really know each other.
However, after the description of the wonderful summer Amy and Matthew spent together, it all just seemed to fall apart. Finding out that Amy had slept with Sanjay didn't surprise me, but the fact that she was so clinical about the entire situation, implying that it was research for possible experiences with Matthew, really annoyed me. Matthew storming out was both petulant and childish, but I could almost appreciate his reasoning even though it still made me groan. 
I also really disliked the way the novel cycled around. After the revelation that Amy was pregnant, Matthew was there for her and they were happy just as they had been over summer, then as soon as she tells him she wants to go back to college he storms out once more. The real focus of Amy having her baby and giving her up for adoption seemed to be on the fact that they had both grown up and matured, but this cycling just proved that absolutely nothing had changed and it really exasperated me. If they had really matured they would have been able to have a real conversation, instead of Matthew shouting over Amy and rushing out, which wasn't fair in the slightest.
The ending also left me feeling rather flat. It was quite open - possibly to allow for a sequel in the future - but that caused the ending to fall short of the mark. The fact that Matthew was dating a different girl, and Amy was settled at college, would have been a good ending, demonstrating perfectly the fact that sometimes you can be in love with someone but obstacles can get in the way and make it eternally impossible, even if you can manage to continue a friendship. However, with Matthew kissing Amy's cheek and saying that they would just need to see what the summer felt, I was completely filled with a sense of despair and irritation. They'd already messed up the relationship twice, and they'd both managed to move on, yet the book ended with this sense of hope that was unnecessary. It would be nice if once in a while there could be a book that finished with a resolution, instead of needing to allude to the perfect happy ending in the distant future. In this way, it almost reminded me of the 'If I Stay' duology by Gayle Forman, in that it didn't really need to have a sequel but people always yearn for a happy ending. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

'Organize Every Day: An Amazing Way To Get The Most Out Of Every Day' by Can Akdeniz


First things first I want to say a big thank you to Goodreads, because this is another book I won from their Goodreads First Reads competitions. I've been waiting for this book to come since Halloween, so as soon as it came in the post I read it straight away.
I wasn't actually planning on writing a review for this 'book', because it's twenty four pages long, so I didn't think there would actually be that much for me to say. Surprisingly, however, there is a lot in this book that is just grating on my nerves, so I thought I might as well get it out somewhere so that I don't feel all agitated for the rest of the day. 
'Organize Every Day...' is a self-help book that is designed to help you organise your day so that you can get the most out of it, making you a more productive and therefore a more positive person. I agree with the concept completely, because since I've started formulating my own plans for my days I've been way more productive (hence the fact that I'm four books ahead on my reading goal and I have had time to relax and exercise as well). However, most self-help books give you a few options and detail some research that has been performed in the real world, to help you decide on a path that is both right for you and scientifically proven to work. This is not one of those self-help books.
The first chapter, 'Each Day Starts The Night Before: Plan Ahead' contains a couple of useful tips, such as deciding upon an outfit for work and getting it out of your closet the night before you have work, so that you don't need to rush around deciding upon clothing choices in the morning. This, I agree with. However, for a chapter that is focused entirely on the premise that waking up in the morning can be difficult, there are no suggestions on how to overcome this. From research I did a few months ago into my own sleeping patterns, I've found that you get optimum performance if you sleep for seven hours, with your alarm going off to coincide with your seventh hour of sleep (which is only referenced in the last chapter, 'There Is Tomorrow: Don't Overwork' and doesn't even link in with the chapter that it's mentioned in). If you get seven hours of sleep, you're waking up naturally around the same time that your alarm is going off, so it's not a violent jolt awake, it's just a gentle nudge. Suggesting something like this could actually be more helpful for the people who need to organise their lives, because instead of going to bed late and waking up extremely early, leaving themselves rushed in the mornings, they would feel healthier when they awoke which meant that they could be more productive instantaneously. 
Furthermore, I understand that a lot of people drink coffee in the mornings as a way to wake themselves up, but if you have a caffeine drink that early you will crash in the middle of the day, meaning you will actually be less productive in the time that could be your best working hours. By not offering an alternative suggestion, anyone who is averse to coffee is automatically left out of the equation. If there was a suggestion of a glass of water or orange juice it could actually kick-start mornings much more effectively, making people more productive throughout their entire days. 
This book reads much more like a blog than a self-help book. It's very specific to the author, who doesn't seem to take other peoples personalities or preferences into consideration. It's focused entirely upon being organised at work and in the work place, so if you're looking to organise your day to day life of paying bills and keeping track of money, this is not the book for you. One of the most important things to tackle when writing a self-help book is to make sure you put yourself into other peoples shoes, allowing the book to have a wide impact on everyone who could choose to pick it up, and that doesn't really happen here.
Relating back to what I said earlier, none of the scientific research that he mentions is referenced, meaning it could all be a lot of gobbledygook - I'd quite like to see the names of the researchers and the years that the work was carried out, so that I could look into the studies further and get more information about what makes people organised and productive. An example of this would be at the end of chapter four, when it's stated that 'research by U.S. psychologists explains that people who keep a clean working space tend to be more generous and have a healthier mind.' I've definitely seen research into clean working spaces equating to increased concentration, but increased generosity is something I would like to look more into, if the research had been referenced. On the other hand, the quotes taken from books are referenced extremely well, but the standard should be kept up throughout, not just on one or two pieces of information. Similarly, the anecdotes that show his points in the real world are linked in well, making the theories seem more feasible and realistic, but, again, that's just one man proving that what he's saying works, and of course he's going to support his own theories. 
I'm sure, if people are going out and getting books on how to organise their days, they are quite desperate for advice, but I wouldn't suggest getting it from here.

'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' (To All The Boys I've Loved Before #1) by Jenny Han


*This review will contain spoilers!*

After reading 'Burn For Burn' by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian just over a month ago, I couldn't resist checking 'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' out after finding it in my local library. I didn't think I was going to love it, but I thought it was going to be a nice, fluffy contemporary read that I'd get through really quickly. But I was wrong; I absolutely adored this novel.

'If love is like a possession, maybe my letters are like my exorcisms. My letters set me free. Or at least they're supposed to.'

'To All The Boys I've Loved Before' follows Lara Jean Song Covey, a sixteen year old girl who writes letters to the boys that she loves, but keeps them for herself, never allowing them to see the light of day. But then one day the letters get mailed, and Lara Jean has to confront her past feelings before she can move on with her future ones.
In all honesty, I didn't think it sounded like the most riveting of plots, but Jenny Han has this amazing writing style that just sucks you in, and once you start this book it is so hard to put it down. Generally I aim to read fifty pages of a book every day, but the first day I picked up this book I realised I'd accidentally read 300 pages in just a few hours, because it is just that addictive. I thought the direction of the plot was really obvious, but I still couldn't wait to watch it all play out.
I don't actually know what to write in this review, because there was nothing that I hated in this novel. The characters were all brilliantly written - I loved Lara Jean and I related to her so much (I think every girl will be able to relate to her, who hasn't written a letter to their crush in a moment of pure infatuation?), so much so that I think she might be one of my favourite female contemporary characters of all time. I loved the contrast between Peter's outward personality around school and his one-on-one conversations with Lara Jean, I loved bubbly and excitable Kitty and I loved crazy, rebellious Chris, the unlikely best friend.
I will admit, the only character I didn't completely love was Margot. She seemed too cold and uncaring throughout the first half of the novel, but then after the reveal that Josh 'tried' to kiss Lara Jean she seemed to become an incoherent mess. The fact that Peter only said that Josh tried to kiss her, not that they actually kissed, should have made her angry at Josh, but she automatically accused Lara Jean of betraying her. Just because a boy tries to kiss you, doesn't mean it's your fault - Josh had his own mind, he knew what he was doing, and Margot should have blamed him rather than her sister. That was the only complaint I had, but then I've never discovered that my ex-boyfriend of two years has tried to kiss my sister, so I don't know how you would react in that situation.
As well as loving most of the characters, I actually really enjoyed the plot. The sending out of the letters wasn't dragged out throughout the entire novel - it happened, it was over - but the fact that the plot then focused upon the repercussions of the letters being sent out was very clever. Lara Jean running up to Peter in the corridor and kissing him was hilariously written, and I thought the entire fake relationship was equal parts endearing and funny. Peter and Lara Jean developing feelings for each other didn't surprise me, but the fact that she put her feelings for Josh to rest so quickly shocked me, but in a good way. Too often in YA contemporaries the characters know where their true feelings lie but the try to feel the way that they think they should be feeling, so it was good that she just sat there and realised she was over him and it was time to move on. I actually think the quote that accompanied this was one of the ones I related to the most:

'This is the moment I realize I don't love him, that I haven't for a while. That maybe I never did. Because he's right there for the taking: I could kiss him again; I could make him mine. But I don't want him. I want someone else. It feels strange to have spent so much time wishing for something, for someone, and then one day, suddenly, just to stop.'

That's the thing that I think is special about Jenny Han's writing. She knows how to take an emotion that everyone has felt at one point or another in their lives and verbalise it. That's something I find very difficult to do - take all of the things that are inside and verbally communicate them in a cohesive fashion, but Jenny has a real talent for it.
The sequel, 'P.S. I Still Love You' will be coming out in a few months time, so I will definitely be reading that, and I can't wait to see whether Lara Jean and Peter managed to sort everything out and stay together, how Jamie the puppy is getting on, whether Josh and Margot got over each other or got back together... I just feel so emotionally invested in all of these characters and I can't wait to continue on with their stories soon.

Monday, 12 January 2015

'Learning To Live' (Learning To Live #1) by Kira Adams

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*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I want to say a massive thank you to Kira Adams, who sent me a free pdf of this novel in return for an honest review. 

"I can't explain the way you make me feel, but I can tell you I've never felt more alive in my entire life than when I'm with you."

'Learning To Live' is an upper Young Adult/New Adult novel, which tells us the story of Ciera and Topher. Ciera is an outcast at her high school, constantly bullied by the group of popular kids she not so affectionately refers to as 'The A-Team', trudging her way through school and wishing for the last day to hurry up and arrive. Topher is the complete opposite to Ciera, a popular jock, a member of 'The A-Team' and one of her biggest tormentors. He's dating the hottest girl in school and everyone wants to be him, or be with him, but he doesn't feel anything but contempt for his girlfriend or for the people around him. 
At the start of the novel, you will absolutely hate Topher. It's an unavoidable fact. He is the most arrogant, self-important, uncaring boy that I have ever read in YA or NA - ever. Ciera is a little sweetheart, trying her hardest to be invisible and to avoid all of the bullying that she's being tormented to, so you can't help but have your heart break for her, and watching her going through her transformation (all thanks to Madalynne, who seemed to be one of the most unappreciated characters in this novel) and finally get the confidence to look people in the eye is very inspiring. Sometimes characters go through big changes before you can really get a feel for who they were before, but Kira wrote 'Learning To Live' very cleverly, in that we get to know both of the main characters very well very quickly, making us fully appreciate the transformations that they both undergo throughout the book. 
I did think it was pretty obvious that Ciera was ill from quite early on, so the reveal of her having an incurable brain tumour was not the most surprising announcement, but it was dealt with extremely well, appreciating the fact that it was a sensitive subject that could affect many of the readers. When Ciera decided to reveal the fact of her condition to her best friend, Mack, and Topher, it definitely pulled at my heartstrings, and despite the fact that it normally takes a heck of a lot for me to cry during books, I did feel myself welling up at the unfairness of the entire situation. 
However, despite the fact that it was a sad book, it was also very inspiring. Ciera's positive attitude is infectious, and the way she grabs life by the horns with her bucket list made me want to start doing more exciting things with my life, suddenly gripped with an unshakable desire to go camping. Similarly, the discussion about what it's like for the people we love after we go definitely made me think, and I thought it was a definite positive thing that it was a dual perspective novel, because it was good to get the insight from Ciera of how the illness was affecting her, but also from Topher and how the illness and the draining of her life affected him, too. 
A lot of people have compared this book to 'The Fault In Our Stars' by John Green because of the doomed love story element, but I actually think it has a lot more in common with 'Before I Die' by Jenny Downham (also known as 'Now Is Good' after it was adapted into a film). In 'Before I Die', a teenage girl is dying with cancer, so she writes a bucket list and attempts to complete it all before her time comes, falling in love with her hunky attractive neighbour in the process. I got a lot of the same vibes I felt during that novel throughout this one, but because 'Learning To Live' was only one hundred and fifty pages I didn't feel as attached to the characters, so I didn't feel so emotional when the eventual death of Ciera came around. 
Despite the fact that I really did like this book, I did still have some issues with it. Ciera decided to set her death day at February 20th, so after we know that her and Topher are completely in love with each other I thought that maybe we would have a super romantic and soul-crushing Valentine's Day meal scene, but that didn't happen, which left me feeling slightly flat. Furthermore, Mack and Topher seemed to be making progress when they found out that Ciera was dying, but then when Topher took her and her family to Disneyworld, Mack didn't even get a mention, and then from there on to the end of the book we didn't even get a scene of him saying goodbye to her. If Mack really was in love with her, and they'd been best friends for years, it would have been extremely emotional to see a scene between the two of them, possibly with him announcing his feelings and them coming to terms with the fact that they would be separated. There were also quite a few grammatical errors throughout this book, but it didn't annoy me as much as it normally would have because the book was a quick read, so it didn't interrupt my flow too badly. 
This book was only released yesterday, and it's definitely worth giving it a read because it is always interesting reading about how love can transform, and apart from the serious nature this is actually quite a light read - Ciera has a bubbly personality that flows from the page and her positive spin on her traumatic situation definitely makes it easier to look on the bright side of live. It is more of a New Adult novel than a Young Adult novel, so if you're a strong advocate that there should never be sex scenes in YA this is not the kind of book that you should read, and that's the only case that I wouldn't recommend picking it up and giving it a try. Be warned, Topher's personality at the start of the novel is very abrasive and definitely rubbed me up the wrong way, but keep on with it because it gets better after the first fifty or so pages. If you read 'Learning To Live' and enjoy it, I would also suggest picking up the next book in the series, 'My Forever', which focuses upon Madalynne and Parker, and I haven't looked up the other two novels in the series for fear of getting spoilers, but I'm sure I'll be continuing on with it eventually. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

'The Kind Worth Killing' by Peter Swanson - SPOILER FREE REVIEW


'The Kind Worth Killing' doesn't come out until February the 3rd, so I'm going to post a review with no spoilers, and then sometime around the 10th - when it's already been out for a week - I'll make a post with all of my thoughts about the spoilery events, so if you're interested in that keep an eye out! 
'The Kind Worth Killing' is a thriller, so if you normally follow my blog for my young adult book reviews this one probably won't interest you, but I've always been a fan of thrillers and murder mysteries, so when I saw the ARC of this in a charity shop back in December, I couldn't resist picking it up.
This is a book told in three parts, split into four different perspectives over those three parts. Part one features Ted and Lily, two people who meet in an airport lounge and spend the flight discussing how he can kill his wife, who is having an affair with the general contractor on the new home that they are building. The second part follows Miranda, Ted's wife, and Lily, while the third part follows Lily and Detective Kimball. 
When I first started this book I absolutely loved it - the entire first part that is Ted and Lily's perspectives really grabbed me, because I really enjoyed both of their characters. Ted was obviously struggling with the moral decision of whether or not to kill his wife: wanting to, because she was cheating on him, but also apprehensive because he did love her at one point during their marriage. On the other hand, Lily's chapters were wholly engrossing and captivating, telling us the stories of her past and the two people she had already killed, giving us her reasons why and how she managed to get away with both of them for over ten years. 
However, moving on to part two, I just didn't really like Miranda's perspective. I know the whole point was that we were supposed to hate her, but her arrogance and her self-importance really turned me off, making me want to skip through her chapters. It was impressive to have two strong female voices, as most of the thrillers I've read in the past have consistently had males as their focal points, so that was refreshing at least. Similarly, part three with Detective Kimball started off well but just seemed to unravel quite quickly - things happened that didn't seem likely looking at the events of the book that had already unfolded, so it just seemed like a really odd way to wrap things up. 
I won't give any more away, because this is a book that you really need to go into without getting spoilers, but I do recommend you get hold of a copy as soon as you can because it was a really interesting books with some twists that I did not expect, even though there were some that I did see coming. Overall I definitely enjoyed the novel; the debate between whether killing could ever be moral was interesting and it definitely made you think. Not the best thriller I've read, but definitely one of the most intriguing.  

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

'Teeth' (Teeth #1) by Chele Cooke


*This review will contain spoilers!* 

First off, I need to send a massive thank you to Chele, for sending me a free copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review. I requested it just before Christmas, and I've sped through my other reads over the holiday season because of how excited I was for this one - boy howdy I was not disappointed!
Throughout 'Teeth', we follow three perspectives: Thomas, Spencer and August. Thomas is a newbie vampire, turned just before the start of the novel and learning to come to terms with his new paranormal life and what it means for his career as a medical intern. Spencer is a slightly older vampire, helping Thomas through the transformation and teaching him how to be a good vampire, and August is the oldest of the three of them, thought of as the leader of their coven, taking orders and reporting back to the oldest vampire of them all, Charles.
I have read a lot of multiple perspective books where I've been left with a flat feeling, because the characters have all been too similar, but that is not a problem at all in 'Teeth'. Chele Cooke has a talent with her writing style in that all of her characters feel completely fleshed out even after we've only been with them for a few pages, and that sucked me in. Too often, minor characters are bland, included as a literary device to force the story in a certain direction, but they all felt so real and I found myself feeling all sorts of emotions for these characters. Usually in shorter novels (this book is only 200 pages!) it's difficult to really get a feel for anything, to really get involved and sucked in, but it was all just so well described, the characterisation so complete, that it already felt as if I knew them.
'Teeth' is the first book in a series of I'm not sure how many books, and at times it does read like that - the novel is much more based on the emotional than on action, but that's refreshing in a vampire novel; too often they constantly revolve around epic showdowns and we don't get as much from the characters, so it was refreshing to get into the heads of the vampires more. The description of Thomas's sire bond with Cleo at the start of the novel held a palpable obsession that was equal parts intriguing and worrying, and the later reveal of August and Spencer's sire bond, and the emotions that Spencer went through when he found out he had been manipulated, was also extremely well written.
I don't really have much to say about this novel, because I loved it so much. There were no negatives, there were no scenes that bored me or that I thought were unnecessary, and there wasn't a single character that I thought seemed meaningless. The inclusion of minor character Heather, an author who writes vampire romance novels, was quite funny, and even though she was only in it for a scene you got a sense of who she was, which is something not many authors can do.
The only thing that I felt was disappointing was the length of the novel, because I just wanted it to keep going and going. The second book in the series, 'Meat', can't come quickly enough, and I'm going to keep an eye out for it, get it as soon as it's released and read it within a day, because this novel is very addictive and I was very pleased with it. The climax of the novel, with the reveal that werewolves also exist in this world, was cleverly written and placed in a way that it's impossible not to continue on once you've read the first book, and it seems obvious that the second novel will focus on the rivalry between the vampires and werewolves, but I'm also interested to see how Thomas and Paige's relationship develops, and how/if the dynamic between Spencer and August shifts following the reveal of his manipulation.
If you're looking for a vampire novel with a difference, I highly recommend this one - it manages to juggle both the romanticised and idealised version of vampires with the violent and predatory nature, making it the perfect mix for this type of novel. Bravo, Chele. Bravo.