Monday, 30 May 2011

The Collaborator by Margaret Leroy

2nd June 2011, Mira Books
480 pages, Paperback
Review copy


1940's, Channel Islands, rationing, evacuation, occupation by the enemy, momentous decisions, single mother, affair (closed doors policy on adult relations), teen romance, being a teen in war time,

Summary from the press release 

1940: As France falls to the Germans and the enemy looms to Guernsey’s shores, Vivienne de la Mere has the ultimate decision to make - to leave Guernsey, along with most of the islanders and take the treacherous trip to mainland England, or stay, and risk the inevitable occupation with her two daughters and mother-in-law. Vivienne’s decision to stay is set to change the course of hers and her daughters’ lives forever.

Nayuleska's reasons for loving Vivienne...she uses her head (some of the time) and does what it takes to keep her children safe, and happy during such difficult times. She also takes risks that didn't need taking, as well as those which did.

Is there another character who deserves a mention? Millie - she is positively adorable! She's a young girl, and her view on life is a pleasure to read.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? To be honest, it wasn't the Germans who were evil - it was the people in charge of them, back in their homeland. Some were cruel, but most didn't have a choice.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? Ever so many - although the press sheet actually had a big spoiler, so I was aware of one surprise.

One of my favourite parts was...It's a point where Millie gets asked if she can swallow pills, and her reply is 'Of course I can. I'm four and a half." She's the 2nd heroine of the novel.

I give this book 9/10 for being extremely detailed and engaging all my emotions.

Make sure you take a peek at Margaret's other books on her website.

Suggested reads
A fictional diary which could have been written by Peter, who shared the annex with Anne Frank in Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Or the life of a Polish boy, orphaned during Nazi occupation in Auslander by Paul Dowswell

Friday, 27 May 2011

Tiger's Curse by Colleen Houck

26th May 2011, Hodder
512 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult

Myths, Indian forests, isolation, tigers, mystery, adventure, some moderate teen romance, mixed emotions, luxury, deities brought to life, snakes,

Summary from the book's website
Passion. Fate. Loyalty.

Would you risk it all to change your destiny?

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and  mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.

Nayuleska's reasons for loving Kelsey...she hates snakes and camping as much as I do. She seems to have a personality change halfway through the book, and I couldn't understand her motives for her actions and feelings towards Ren.

Any other character who deserves a special mention? Ren - come on, tigers are really cute! Especially white ones.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? Until the last part of the book, there wasn't an enemy or much real conflict before page 300. I'm not entirely sure where the conflict kicked in, I stopped checking page numbers. However, the kappas and monkeys were rather scary.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? Only a few scattered around the book, certainly not as much as I'd hoped there to be for a series like this.

One of my favourites parts was...when Kelsey got to try lots of different food! I could almost smell all the spices and herbs.

I'd like to make a note that where it says in page 74 'In Islam, it is believed that Allah will send a tiger to defend and protect those who follow him faithfully , but he will also send a tiger to punish those he considers traitors', as far as I know from personal experience, this isn't entirely accurate. A beast will be sent, who has some elements like a tiger, but certainly isn't an entire tiger - most of it will be constructed of different animal parts. I haven't ever comes across a passage in the Quran or elsewhere that says it's a tiger, so that might be a regional interpretation of what the beast will look like.

Because of the lack of action/twists, and Kelsey's dramatic and incomprehensible (to me) change in character, I give this a 5/10.

Find out more about the Colleen and the series on the dedicated website.

Suggested reads 
For paranormal romance involving cat shapeshifters, check out Heart's Sentinel by PJ Schnyder

Or check out Rachel Vincent's series which ends with Alpha

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Threads by Sophia Bennett

August 2009, Chicken House
272 pages, Paperback (*)
Review copy

(* I adore this cover! I was given a special edition one, designed by Giles Deacon (I'd never heard of him, but he's a top fashion designer (I know next to zilch about the fashion industry), which really does fit in with the design element of the book, but I like the original best. It's bright and snazzy and more my style.)

Young Adult,

Fashion, school life (GSCE year), celebrities, the realities of being an actress, moving up (and making moves in) the fashion world, the cruel realities of life in other parts of the world, photography, beautiful creations, lots of humour, tissues most definitely needed

Summary from Chicken House 
Nonie’s passion is fashion. Humanitarian Edie wants to save the world. And budding actress Jenny has just landed a small part in a Hollywood blockbuster. But when these three friends meet a young African refugee girl called Crow, sketching a dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum, they get the chance to pool their talents and do something truly wonderful, proving that fashion fairy tales really can happen.

Nayuleska's reasons for loving Nonnie....she has such a big heart. Crow works her way into Nonnie's heart, and Nonnie makes things happen for everyone.

Is there another character who deserves a mention? Sweet little Crow, who is one talented young girl. But my favourite character is Edie - such a nerd, and puts her foot in it, but like Nnnie she has a big heart and does all she can for Crow, which Jenny can't always do as she's away so much.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? There isn't really one - apart from the evil sickos who start the horrendous wars and conflicts in the world.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? Several very good surprises which I thought would end up as bad ones.

One of my favourite parts was...I can't say because its the end event which made me need a tissue. I'll opt for the one when Crow takes her sewing machine on holiday, and Nonie remarks it is Crow's version of a teddy bear.

There's only one rating for this - 10/10, hands down.

Find out more about Threads and the other books on Sophia's website.

Suggested reads
In some ways Nonie's fashion sense reminded me of Viola in Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani(For some reason I haven't reviewed the sequel, which is really odd because I enjoyed it, but I think I read it when life was being very life-y. At some point I'll try to review online, rather than just in my head).

Monday, 23 May 2011

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould

April 2011, Razorbill 
272 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult (12+) Historical 

Mysteries of Venetian society, lots of danger, half-truths, rumours, the hidden power of women, secrets, tragedy, mild romance

Summary from Puffin

Laura della Scala knows nothing beyond the convent walls which have trapped and bound her since she was twelve years old.
A single night will change her life.
She will soon learn the difference between an arranged marriage and true, reckless love.
Venice is a dangerous city. Intrigue, romance and power lie at its heart and secrets run through the blood of its rulers.
They call Laura 'La Muta'. The Silent One. She is about to break her silence . . .but at what cost?

Nayuleska's reason for loving Laura...even when she's afraid, she keeps following her heart and persuing what she believes is right. She isn't totally naive about life, but inevitably time inside the convent will make some social customs unknown to her. 

Is there another character who deserves a special mention? Faustina, Laura's maid. She cares for her mistress greatly, but looks the other way and tries to put her best interests first. 

How evil/nasty is the enemy? Until the end there are several enemies, and they all seem terrifying to Laura.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? The novel really turned itself on its head in several places.

One of my favourite parts was...when the Segreta (a secret society) gave Laura protection when she most needed it (and I'm not saying whereabouts in the story that is!)

I give it 8/10

For another Venetian tale try Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli

For mystery wherever you turn, try The Lady in the Tower by Marie-Louise Jensen

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Bad Karma Diaries by Bridget Hourican

March 2011, O'Brien Press
240 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult,

School life, bullying, revenge, teens with a mission, blinkered view of life, anorexia, racism, teen hormones,

Summary from Frances Lincoln 
Best friends Anna and Denise need some cash, so they go into business running birthday parties for younger kids. They earn a bit of money AND have lots of funny stories to add to their blog...

But then the girls come up with an even madder money-making scheme and the Instruments of Karma are born, taking revenge on bullies - for a fee! They even blog about it (anonymously, of course).

But Karma is a funny old thing, and the girls learn the hard way that revenge isn't always sweet...

Nayuleska's reason for loving Denise....I don't. Her attitude and behaviour are mostly wrong throughout the entire book, although the attitude at home was something I had when I was a teen.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? Anna and Denise think the enemy is really evil, but they don't know all the facts.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? There were a few big ones, which added a twist to the story.

One of my favourite parts was...when Denise's mother tells her exactly what she's like. The truth hurts, but it can change lives.

Although I didn't like Anna and Denise did or how they thought, I give it 8/10 because it was a really good read.

Suggested reads
For a really good way of how bullies and trouble makers are taken care of at a college, check out The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

For younger readers, check out what Princess Poppy does (imaginary princess) when she gets in with the wrong crowd at school, in Princess Poppy: Playground Princess by Janey Louise Jones

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Quarry by Ally Kennen

February 2011, Scholastic
240 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult, thriller

School life, living in a run down area, mental health, dementia, divorce, dares, mobile phones, pranks which aren't funny, secrets, pushing the boundaries, training to be a thug, exams, mild teen romance

Summary from Scholastic 
Someone knows all the secrets of Scrappy's troubled family – and, by text message, is luring him into a deadly trap ...

Nayuleska's reason for loving Scrappy: he's the total opposite of me, I respect the bravery he shows, and  his compassion to his grandfather, and his more deeply buried sibling love for his sister.

Is there another character who deserves a special mention? Sheeley, Scrappy's sister. I wish there had been more appearances from her.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? All I'll say is it starts with a dead cockroach...and gets much worse. Scrappy's on target for being a criminal...if he carries on.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? Although the main one I'd had my suspicions and was proven correct, there were all the minor plot twists which were very well written.

One of my favourite parts was...whenever he realises how much he cares for his sister.

I give it....9/10

Check out Ally's blog here.

Suggested reads
Jason has a similar level of hardship to deal as Scrappy does in Crazy by Han Nolan

For an equally funny and mysterious read, check out Scat by Carl Hiassen

Monday, 16 May 2011

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

July 2007, Walker Books
448 pages, Paperback
Personal copy

Young Adult, Fantasy

Lots of thrills and mystery, runes, magic, betrayal, family secrets, family ties, friendships, misunderstanding, werewolves who are good, vampires who aren't fabulous hosts, lots of confusion, some teen romance, some gore, 100% fun!

Summery from Walker 
Clary Fray is seeing things: vampires in Brooklyn and werewolves in Manhattan. Irresistibly drawn towards a group of sexy demon hunters, Clary encounters the dark side of New York City - and the dangers of forbidden love.

Nayuleska's reasons for loving Clary: everyone knows what's going on apart from her, I like her spirit in finding out the truth, plus her admirable skill of being prepared and making sure a weapon is to hand just in case....

How evil/nasty is the enemy? Very - some are physically scary, others are psychological scary. All are evil. Or are they...?

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? So many I gave up counting them on my fingers. There isn't a single element of Clary's past, current or future life that is predictable (apart from death, but she's very much alive at the end of the book).

One of my favourite parts was...I have to pick on? Try the whole book! Ok, I'll be good and pick....when Clary gets rescued by Luke midway and she learns his secret. Well one of them.

I give it 10/10 hands down!

Make sure you read Cem's review (I didn't read it before I read the book).

Suggested reads: 
Chloe Neill has created quite a powerful force in Some Girls Bite where Merit's personality captured me from start to finish.

For a darker read with a character who isn't at school, try Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

Friday, 13 May 2011

Jessica's Trap by H K Hillman

April 2011, Eternal Press
175 pages, e-book
Review copy

Horror, Thriller (Although personally this feels more like a Young Adult Paranormal book and fits in with a lot of what I read in those two genres)

Some quite strong gore (demons), witch trials, betrayals, well hidden secrets, magic, superstition, some humour, lots of action

Summary from Fiction Express 
In a corner of the Civil War, a demonic battle is stirring.

An inexperienced young witch calls on demonic help to capture an ancient creature, an evil as old as Time and which inhabits the one known as ‘Witchfinder-General’.

Inexperience is no match for the wiles of demons and Jessica soon loses control. The demons will build the trap she wants but…

She is to be the bait.

Reasons for loving Jessica - aside from sharing a name with her, I admire her persistence in never giving up, and thinking the best of people.

Is there another character who deserves a special mention? Yes - Brifons who does so much good for Jessica.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? Super evil - come on, it's a demon! If other demons fear it, it has to be extremely evil.

Are there plenty of plot twists and surprises? Yes! Especially at the end.

One of my favourite parts was...the incident involving Jessica at the mill pond.

I happily give this 10/10.

Suggested reads
The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (more witch trials)

The Soul Slayer by Paul Doherty - history and evil combine

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Virals by Kathy Reichs

12th May 2011, Young Arrow
Paperback, Review copy
Young Adult, fantasy/paranormal

Summary from Random House
Tory Brennan is as fascinated by bones and dead bodies as her famous aunt, acclaimed forensic anthropologist, Tempe Brennan. However living on a secluded island off Charleston in South Carolina there is not much opportunity to put her knowledge to the test. Until she and her group of technophile friends stumble across a shallow grave containing the remains of a girl who has been missing for over thirty years. 

With the cold-case murder suddenly hot, Tory realises that they are involved in something fatally dangerous. And when they rescue a sick dog from a laboratory on the same island, it becomes evident that somehow the two events are linked. 

On the run from forces they don’t understand, they have only each other to fall back on. Until they succumb to a mysterious infection that heightens their senses and hones their instincts to impossible levels. Their illness seems to have changed their very biology – and suddenly it’s clear that the island is home to something well beyond their comprehension. It’s a secret that has driven men to kill once. And will drive them to kill again

Bones! Bones are in this book, but I meant Bones, the TV series. Thanks to a very close friend I love Bones. I got curious and read the first book in Kathy's series which Bones is based on. I'm glad I read it in French. As soon as I translated the word maggots in a sentence I skipped the entire paragraph. Turns out it's a bit too gory for me. Maggots & dead bodies go hand in hand, so I haven't tried the other books. However, I loved her writing, all the twists and turns so jumped at the chance to read Virals.

Virals is awesome. There is that paranormal/fantasy element, which is strong but not necessarily the whole of the story. There is a lot of investigating of details, Tory is involved in a lot of breaking and entering with her friends, which includes a lot of trauma when they get caught/nearly caught. Tory is a strong, vibrant personality who is really funny at times. She cares about finding the truth everything, to help people. It's this characteristic which gets her into trouble. But I think at the end of the book she would agree the trouble is worth it.

It is a little bit odd that Tory's group consists of herself and three guys. You'd think there'd be another girl. There were a few in the story, who were secondary characters. Tory isn't a girl's girl. She gets bullied into being a debutante, something I didn't think even happened any more (not that I have a clue what happens in that social circle). It was quite a funny prospect, and had wide reaching consequences.

Much of Tory's life happens outside school, but there was a glimpse into American school life which I always enjoy (and feel familiar with, even though it's a totally different continent to me). I liked how the adventure spilled out into  every aspect of Tory's life, school and family. Like her aunt she will keep going until the mystery is solved. Which means her life will be full of adventures now she and her friends are infected. Although it doesn't get openly stated, Tory acts a bit like an alpha wolf, which I understand thanks to having read other similar books.

There wasn't anything I didn't like in this book, it was a real thrill-fest and I'm glad I read it mostly in one go. This gets awarded 10/10! Go check it out!

Suggested reads: Rachel Vincent's Alpha series, (Alpha = last one), Meteorite Strike by A G Taylor, Dark Visions trilogy by L J Smith

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bloodline by Kate Cary

October 2010, Egmont
336 pages, Paperback
Review copy

Young Adult, Paranormal

Summary from Egmont

Blood from last nights raid has hardly dried on my uniform, still the familiar craving builds in my belly, I long to wield my sword. I can feel the blade slicing through the air then skin then flesh then bone. - Captain Quincy Harker.
When nineteen-year-old John Shaw returns from World War I, he is haunted by nightmares – not only of the horrors of battle, but of the brutal midnight exploits of his superior, Captain Quincey Harker.
When Harker appears unexpectedly in England and lures John's sister, Lily, to Transylvania. John must confront the truth. Only the love of pure Mary can save him from Count Dracula's poisonous bloodline. But the line goes further than John and Mary can possibly imagine.
A new seductive evil walks among the living..

(Note: I have neither read books nor seen films on Dracula - this is a sequel to Dracula)

Reasons for loving Mary: She keeps a firm head even when reading and living in terrifying conditions.

Is there another character who deserves a special mention? Lily - she's naive and drove me potty with her love-sick ways, but I feared and felt sorry for her too.

How evil/nasty is the enemy? People, we are talking relatives of Dracula - of course they are evil! I'm genuinely freaked out enough that I'm not looking forward to it going dark tonight (and yet I know I'm going to read the sequel)

Are they plenty of plot twists and surprises? Yes, big ones I didn't see coming.

One of my favourite parts was....when it ended. Not because the horrors were over (which warrants a 'yay'), but because something truly wonderful happens with Mary which pushes aside the horrors.

Content: a lot of gore (quite graphic, of the vampire kind) moderate romance,

Despite being freaked out over it (more than when I came to a certain point involving Mogget in Sabriel (by Garth Nix) (which I will re-read sometime)), I give this an 9/10.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

April 2011, Mira Ink
430 pages, Paperback,
Review copy, Young Adult, Fantasy

Summary from Mira Ink 
Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her. Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

To find out the reason why I read this book, check out my review of the first book, The Iron King. Meghan is still a brilliant character. Ok, so personally it was a bit annoying at how gooey eyed she went over Ash, even when he was colder than ice to her, but I admit she makes good decisions. That isn't to say everything ends up smelling like roses. It doesn't. Some of the modes of transport must make the air smell distinctly unpleasant. Parts of the story might look like a rose, in so far as there is a fair amount of deep, red blood, caused by weapons much bigger and deadlier than tiny annoying thorns.

Time to quit the rose analogy :) Meghan was really living among the enemy when she was at the winter court. Her dire circumstances plummeted even more when An Event happens with the court, making her a fugitive (again - this happens quite a bit in this book). I thought the situation couldn't get much worse, but it really does. Thankfully when life is pelting her with rocks and 'stuff', she doesn't have to face it alone. Allies - not necessarily friends but they do help her occasionally - as well as friends fight beside her as they race to secure the source of the war. I wished she could use her magic more - the little she did she wasn't sure what had happened (I think I figured it out). She had to think. She managed to get rescued a few times, usually acquiring a bruise or cut along the way.

Her brother barely features in this book - and when he does I had an awww moment when I found out something relating to him. It was sweet and touching that even when things were turned upsidedown, Meghan didn't have to worry about him. She did have to worry about making sure a disguise stayed in place, as well as surviving a school dance (of all the things to happen!), the humour of the lovely cat Grimalkin, and the power of her fairy father, Oberon. Yes, he's quite the authority figure in this book. Especially at the end. Which is good. Very, very good. And that's all I'm saying on the  matter.

As it turns out, I've written this up without realising Cem has already reviewed the trilogy. Her review is here. I'm glad to see that we both liked Puck & Ash more in this book than the first.

This book certainly lived up to expectation, and I happily give it 9/10.

Make sure you check out more information about The Iron Fey series on Julie's website,

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Taming of Lilah May by Vanessa Curtis

12th May 2011, Frances Lincoln
192 pages, Paperback
Review copy
Children's/Young Adult

Summary from Frances Lincoln.
Lilah's Anger Diary, March 26th
Anger levels: 11/10

I'm Lilah May and I'm ANGRY.
So angry that I'm about to be excluded from school, my parents can't control me, and only one person in the world understands me. And that's my best friend, Bindi.
I haven't always been this way. It all started with my brother Jay. And what no one realises is that it's all my fault.

I totally queue-jumped with this book. I adored her previous two books, Zelah Green: Queen of Clean/Who Says I'm a Freak?  and the sequel Zelah Green:One More Little Problem. As soon as I saw this, I sensed it would involve all aspects of emotion, exploring sides of society that aren't scented with roses. It's not even published yet. But it's one you definitely need to pre-order.

I haven't ever had anger issues. At least I didn't think so, not to the extent which Lilah gets mad. There's a deep rooted reason for that, linked to when her brother disappeared. Initially I didn't have a clue what happened to her brother, but slowly as Lilah revealed more information drip by drip, I had ideas floating around my head which eventually became concrete. I really enjoyed how I didn't find out the full reason as to why Lilah blames herself as the end. I wanted to capture in her a tight squishy hug and not let go until all the held in emotions were let out.

I think it was after half way through the book that I connected with Lilah on a deeper level than I had in the beginning. Anger isn't just kicking things and being violent. It has a unique mindset, one which it turns out I really related to in my teen years (like Lilah it was rooted in situations out of my control). I think it was more the not knowing of how Jay was which hit her hardest. She'd become like a little tank, strong on the outside, locking away everything inside herself. Or more accurately a rusty tank which held something very explosive inside, that made people handle her with care. It was beautiful to read how her father figured out a way to tame her - you could see the tenuous father-daughter bond start to grow (there were 2 methods used, both very sweet). I enjoyed watching her anger levels go up, then slowly go down again. Equally fun were the doodles on the pages - it makes it feel like her diary. Oh and watching how her family almost disintegrated, then slowly started to help themselves was also a pleasure to read.

Just as with the Zelah Green books, I enjoyed how there are other big issues explored - Lilah's closest friends (well, the only friends really) end up having their own problems too. Although their problems were preventable, and Lilah's wasn't (not directly), it is through the problems that Lilah realises she can interact with the world, that other people have problems too, even if their lives seem perfect on the surface. Her friends cause her heartache, but they are there when she needs them the most.

I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel, due out January 2012!

Check out Vanessa's other books on her website.