Sunday, 31 March 2013

Stacking The Shelves and Showcase Sunday (45)



Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.



I received two seriously exciting books through the post this week! The book that I was most excited to receive was a finished copy of The Storyteller - as you probably know, I've been raving about this book since I read an advanced copy of it a few months ago. I was so overjoyed when this copy arrived by surprise - and even better, Jodi had signed it for me - seeing as she's my favourite author and this will undoubtedly be my favourite of her books, that was amazing. I got a second surprise when I opened the book to see my name on the inside front cover of the book, labelled as a fan! As you can tell, I'm so happy!

I also received a copy of Charity Norman's new book which will be released later in the year, The Son-in-Law. I'm so excited to see what this book is like as I absolutely loved After the Fall which I read late last year. The premise sounds very intriguing!

I hope you all have a very Happy Easter!




Thursday, 28 March 2013

From The Review Pile (46)


From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

-----------------------------------
This week, I'm going to showcase The Hit!

I'm going to feature this book, though I know I will probably get around to reading it quite soon anyway! As soon as I heard about The Hit, I was so excited! When I was quite a bit younger, my english teacher recommended Junk by Melvin Burgess to me and I got really absorbed into it. I haven't read anything else by this author, but with the similar subject matter to Junk, I'm sure this is going to be great!


The Hit by Melvin Burgess
Paperback, 303 Pages

Expected Publication: 4th April 2013

Take it. Live it. F*** it.
A new drug is out. Everyone is talking about it. The Hit. Take it, and you have one amazing week to live. It's the ultimate high. At the ultimate price.
Adam is tempted. Life is rubbish, his girlfriend's over him, his brother's gone. So what's he got to lose? Everything, as it turns out. It's up to his girlfriend, Lizzie, to show him...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Day I Met Suzie


The Day I Met Suzie by Chris Higgins
Paperback, 368 pages

Expected Publication: 7th March 2013 by Hodder

Shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, contemporary, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, to-be-reviewed, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

'My boyfriend could get into trouble if he gets caught. He could go to jail.' I moan softly. 'So could I.' 'Anything you tell me is completely confidential.' I sigh deeply. What have I got to lose? 'I wouldn't know where to begin.' 'At the beginning?' she says. 'In your own words.' So that's what I do. I start at the beginning like she says. The day I met Suzie. Indigo (Indie) rings the Samaritans. She is frightened and desperate with no one to turn to. Over the course of one long night, Indie tells her story to the person on the end of the phone. She realises that her friend Suzie has taken over her home, her friends, her work, her boyfriend - and her life. After every few chapters we are brought back to the present moment, and see how piecing the story together helps Indie progress towards resolution.

Although Chris Higgins is quite a big name in the UK YA scene, this is the first book that I've picked up that has been written by her. I love a good realistic teen read and that is exactly what this was. The blurb of the book promises intrigue and writing that tackles real, difficult problems and so as soon as I read about it, I wanted to find out more.

The premise of The Day I Met Suzie is refreshing - the telling of it, through a phone call to the Samaritans, is imaginative and works very, very well - this is really why I picked the book up. The story is based around a subject that I've not seen tackled in UK YA literature before - teenage debt. For me, the thing that made the book what it was were the characters - our protagonist, Indigo (Indie) and a girl that she befriends, Suzie. 

The story opens with Indie making a phone call to the Samaritans, a non-judgemental support helpline based here in the UK. We are not sure why Indie is making this call, but it's obviously very important for someone to listen to her. As she talks to the lady on the other end of the phone, she also talks to us, telling her story. I thought that the way this book was written was really effective. Although it's quite a heavy subject that's discussed, the writing never become too complex and it was very easy to follow, making this suitable for younger teens or young adults. I personally enjoy a little more complexity in stories, some more depth, but for a quick yet quite serious read, this was definitely satisfying. Although I do think that some of the book was a little unbelievable at times, for the most part it was realistic enough to easily enjoy. There were also quite a few twists and turns which kept me hooked.

As aforementioned, the characters are what make this book what it is. The story revolves around Indie's friendship with Suzie. Initially, Indie, nor anybody in her life, knew nothing about Suzie, apart from that she didn't have a permanent address. Indigo and Suzie seem to be opposites, but with Indie's determination and altruistic nature, she invites Suzie into her home and so a transformation begins. Rather quickly, Suzie starts to imitate Indigo, mostly through her appearance. Suzie decides that she wants a new name along with her new life, and so Suzie is born and a lot of trouble ensues. Indie and her boyfriend stumble into financial trouble after Suzie arrives and things spiral out of control. Truthfully, I thought it was obvious that Suzie would have to be somehow involved in their problems, but it was interesting to see how my feelings towards her changed as the story progressed. A very important thing to mention is that the author never seems judgemental - though at points the characters may seem like they're judging each other, it's clear that Higgins is not judging anyone, which I really admire. 

Overall, this book held my attention throughout and I enjoyed it. It was a page turner, holding my attention from start to finish. It wasn't a challenging book at all and so will be suitable for all young adult readers. Though it may not be liked by everyone, I personally liked how Higgins gave it a realistic ending - it wasn't exactly positive, but it was realistic to the situation in the book and to many other real-life debt situations. I will definitely aim to read more books by Higgins in the future.


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday (44)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.


I've had a pretty good week for books! I wasn't expecting most of these, which made them nice surprises too! I am so excited to tell you that I'll be participating in Phil Earle's blog tour soon, and so I received a copy of Heroic to read. I received a copy of Follow Me Down which has such a gorgeous cover, The Secret of Ella and Micha which I'm currently reading as well as copies of Moose Baby, Jon For Short and A Lily, A Rose.

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

From the Review Pile (46)


From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

-----------------------------------
This week, I'm going to showcase  Easy!

I participated in a blog tour featuring this book earlier this year and I've been longing to pick this book up ever since! I've heard a whole load of positive things about it and I'm curious about the 'New Adult' genre, so I'll try to give this a go soon!


Easy by Tammara Webber
Paperback, 322 pages


Published 7th January 2013 by Razorbill

The New York Times bestseller

I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly before turning around. It was Lucas who stood there. His gaze was penetrating, not wavering for a moment, and my pulse hammered under his silent scrutiny. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so full of pure, unqualified desire.

Lucas is the stranger who saved Jacqueline from an attack by a fellow student - she'd never noticed him before then, and now he's everywhere. But can Jacqueline trust him - or will the secrets he's hiding come between them?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend


The Case Of The Missing Boyfriend
Paperback, 336 pages

Expected Publication: 1st March 2013 by Corvus Books

Shelves: books-i-own, arc-or-review, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, not-for-me, lgbt-characters, chick-lit, adult-fiction
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

A number 1 Ebook hit: grown-up, intelligent chick-lit offering a fresh take on the eternal quest for happiness.

Thirty-nine year old CC is living the urban dream: a high-powered job in advertising, a beautiful flat, and a wild bunch of gay friends to spend the weekends with. And yet she feels like the Titanic - slowly, inexorably, and against all expectation, sinking. 

The truth is, CC would rather be digging turnips on a remote farm than convincing the masses to buy a life-changing pair of double-zippered jeans - rather be snuggling at home with the Missing Boyfriend than playing star fag-hag in London's latest coke-spots. But sightings of men without weird fetishes or secret wives are rarer than an original metaphor, and CC fears that pursuing the Good Life alone will just leave her feeling even more isolated. 

Could her best friend's pop-psychology be right? Are the horrors of CC's past preventing her from moving on? And if CC finally does confront her demons, will she find the Missing Boyfriend? Or is it already too late?

I hadn't heard of this book or of the author, Nick Alexander, before picking this book up. Initially, I was in two minds about reading this book when I got the offer - whilst there were parts of the synopsis that sounded like they would be of interest  to me, I wasn't fully confident that I'd like it. However, as I looked through mostly positive reviews and even saw this book compared to one of my favourites, Bridget Jones's Diary, I decided that I would try it out.

As you'll see in this review, this book wasn't to my tastes, but I'll openly admit did actually warm to it as the book progressed. I haven't really read a book like this before, which is probably why it took me some time to adjust to it. Unfortunately, I didn't really like the way the characters were portrayed and so I didn't feel as though I could connect with them. The majority of the characters in this book are gay, something that the author obviously wanted to put across to the readers. Personally, I felt that the author put too much emphasis on the sexuality of these characters - we didn't get to see all that much of the personalities of the men, and  when we did, a lot of the characteristics were that of your stereotypical gay man. I think that the portrayal would have been so much more effective if other aspects of the characters were also explored, rather than just objectifying homosexuality - it's important to realise that people are not all the same and that they are not just their sexuality. Of course, some people may disagree with my feelings and they may find the portrayal to be similar to their experiences - I just didn't think it was the best depiction and it didn't seem realistic. 

Our heterosexual protagonist, CC, takes the back-seat for quite a lot of the first half of the book, where we see her interact with her friends and learn a little about the several sub-characters and her way of life, rather than her personality. I think that was the main weakness of the book for me, as when we did start to learn more about CC, I found myself enjoying the book much more - it was nice to have the one main focus. As the book progressed, I did find myself liking CC more than I did at first and easier to empathise with, despite not having all that much in common with her. If this book started by focusing on CC and carried on with that focus the whole way through, I think it would have been a lot more enjoyable. 

The start of the book is mainly focused on the setting and CC's way of life. During the second half of the book several very gritty and difficult subjects are tackled. I love reading about real life issues and although they could have been explored in more depth, I thought that they were handled well and gave some dignity to the book. Despite the darker subjects, the book never really weighs you down as Alexander does a good job of keeping a sense of humour in the story, too.

Overall, I did end up finding this book reasonably enjoyable, but unfortunately it took me too long to feel that way about it. There are so many positive reviews for this book and so I can see that a lot of people genuinely enjoyed it, so I wouldn't simply tell people to skip over this one. I think that the main reason why I didn't like this book is simply because it wasn't to my tastes - I didn't find it funny, I didn't find it exciting or full of suspense and it took me too long to like the characters. I will admit that I am a little tempted to read the follow up book to this as hopefully CC will develop even more but I do think that there is other reading material that I would enjoy more.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday (43)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.



I received quite a lot of books for review this week - all fantastic surprises!
I'm particularly excited to read The Hit. I read Junk by the same author on recommendation from my teacher back when I was in school and loved it, so I'm hoping this will be just as enjoyable. I also received copies of Don't Look Back, The Last Wild, The Shining Girls and a book with a gorgeous cover, The Sweetness of Forgetting.

I hope you've all had a great week!  

Thursday, 14 March 2013

From The Review Pile (45)


From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

-----------------------------------
This week, I'm going to showcase Born Wicked!

I recently hosted a stop on the Born Wicked blog tour and so this is a book that I really need to get around to reading! I've seen some mixed reviews for this one, so it'll be interesting to see what I think of it!


Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Paperback, 352 Pages

Published 7th February 2013

A gorgeous, witchy, romantic fantasy by a debut author! Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and the Beautiful Creatures series!

Everybody thinks Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they're witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship--or an early grave. Then Cate finds her mother's diary, and uncovers a secret that could spell her family's destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. But if what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren't safe--not even from each other.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Storyteller

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Hardback, 464 pages

Expected Publication: 26th March 2013 by Hodder & Stoughton

Shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, comfort-novels, contemporary, cultural, death, favourites, historical, lasting-impression, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, really-good, suicide, ww2
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?


I will start by saying that it is very difficult for me to review this book - I often find it difficult to review my favourite books as I find it hard to truly express how much I enjoyed them. From the first page, I knew that The Storyteller would become one of my all time favourites. Jodi Picoult is definitely a favourite author of mine, yet she still manages to blow me away every single time I pick up one of her books. This one was no different.

As soon as I heard about The Storyteller, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy - I was quite literally counting down until I could get my hands on an advanced review copy. As aforementioned, I love Picoult and I also love history, particularly the two World Wars. There is something so intriguing about the Second World War and, in particular, the Holocaust. I have been interested in this period of history since I was very young, and since visiting the two Auschwitz camps a few years ago, this subject hits me harder than ever. However, this is a subject that stirs emotion in almost everyone -  you certainly don't need to have visited a death camp in order to be moved by such a huge tragedy. It is such a big risk to attempt to 'relive' the Holocaust in fiction, to write about it, to try and write realistic personal accounts of both the victims and camp leaders, but Picoult manages it and she manages it phenomenally well. I am so glad that this novel worked out so well.

For me, it is always more powerful when I read personal accounts of history, though, admittedly, I rarely read fictional accounts. Picoult, as always, has managed to create some really authentic characters in this story, which I'm very glad about. Though I'm no expert, the story read in a very realistic manner and it's clear that Picoult has done her research on the subjects mentioned. Picoult is very talented in creating characters - our four main characters in this book, Sage, Josef, Minka and Leo are all well defined and very strong. I found it easy to empathise with each character, despite their differences in their stories and emotions. It was so important to be able to connect to the characters in this book, particularly Minka and Leo, but the book certainly succeeded in making these characters relatable, despite their huge differences.

Primarily, Sage is our protagonist. She is quite an introverted young woman, who works during the night, doing her favourite activity- baking. Sage is a very multi-layered girl and she struck me as emotionally fragile - she certainly had a lot of things going on her mind already when she met Josef in the bakery one day. Josef is a man who asks Sage to assist him in dying. Josef admits to have being been a Nazi during World War Two and that is the reason why he wants to die. The relationship between Sage and Josef progressed quite quickly - Josef admitting his deepest, darkest secret quite quickly to Sage. Sage decides to investigate more into the Holocaust and, in that process, discovers that her Grandmother, Minka, had been in Auschwitz.

The main part of the book, and for me the most interesting, was the large portion that Minka narrated. We got to learn Minka and her family's story. I won't say much about Minka's story as it's something that you really need to read for yourself, but as you can imagine, her life was certainly not easy - it was almost complete devastation. Despite all of the atrocities that it was describing,  the writing was absolutely beautiful. I actually can't emphasise how impressed I was with the writing - the absolute horror was shrouded by, yet accentuated with, the most delicate descriptions - it was extremely emotive.  The hint of hope that Picoult managed to incorporate into the most heartbreaking situations was truly incredible.

I don't want to spoil the book for anyone, so I'm not going to go into the details of the story, or what happens, but trust me, it is amazing. As I've said, this is a book that an individual really has to read and absorb for themself. There are judgements to be made about the characters, particularly Josef, but it would be silly to assume everyone would judge the same - in fact, I think there will be a big variation in what readers think about the whole situation, that's another reason why this book is so interesting. Like several other Picoult books, this does have a twist at the end which may completely change the way you were looking at things. To be honest, the twist didn't surprise me as I was predicting it before the book ended. This might add a bit of impact for other readers, but for me, the book didn't need any more impact at all - it was all there in Minka's story as it was told.

Needless to say, I loved this book and I can't praise it or recommend it highly enough. I  was absolutely gripped from the first page to the very last whilst reading and I truly hope that others will feel the same way. Though I only read at the start of January this year, I believed then and I absolutely know now that this will be the best book that I read all year. 



Check out some quotes from The Storyteller!
Images taken from the Official Jodi Picoult UK Fanpage.

 




Sunday, 10 March 2013

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday(42)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.


I received one book this week and I'm very excited about it! It's not a book that I had previously heard of, but after looking at a few reviews and reading the blurb, I'm looking forward to opening up this very promising book!

I'm sad to say that due to the high demand of review requests, I'm no longer able to accept self-published books for review at this moment. Hopefully I'll have the ability to re-open requests of this type in the future.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Grace Grows


Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners
Hardback, 336 pages

Expected Publication: 1st March 2013 by Allen and Unwin UK

Shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, chick-lit, contemporary, kate-bush, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Like many young women, Grace Barnum's life is a precarious mix of sensible choices and uncomfortable compromise. She dutifully edits children's textbooks that she fears may be more harmful than helpful. She is engaged to a patent attorney with whom she has a reliable relationship. She's wary of her fascinating father, a renowned New York painter, and she prefers her mother slightly drunk.

Always organised, always a planner, Grace carries her life around in a handbag - that is, until the responsibility-challenged Tyler Wilkie shows up, with his warm eyes and a smile that makes Grace drop things. Worst of all, he writes tender, loving, devastating songs - about her.

Tyler reaches something in Grace, something she needs, but can't admit to. Something she wants, but won't succumb to. Falling in love with him would ruin everything. And yet...


Grace Grows is a book that I hadn't heard all that much about when I was given the opportunity to review it - I hadn't seen it around and so I hadn't read any reviews. However, I did like the premise and so decided to give it a go. I am so glad that I did as it was such a fun read.

Grace Grows is an adult chick-lit book, but will definitely appeal to young adult, contemporary fans too. The plot revolves around our protagonist, Grace, and a young man she meets, musician Tyler Wilkie. Personally, I thought that the plot sounded more young-adult than adult, but that's certainly not a bad thing. The story isn't too 'young' by any means - the writing is good, it isn't overly complex and so easy to just sit back and read. I'd imagine that Grace Grows would be a perfect holiday read - it has a relaxing pace and really does manage to hold your attention. The only slight issue I had with pacing was when Grace left her fiancé - I thought that all happened a little too quickly and without much repercussion, making it less realistic. However, that certainly wasn't a huge issue - I got over it pretty quickly as I was so eager to see if and how Grace and Tyler's relationship progressed.

Grace's character was very likeable, surprisingly funny and down to earth, someone that would make a fantastic friend, the perfect word to describe her would be, simply, 'lovely' - this was obviously very important for the book to work. However, for me, Tyler just totally stole the show... Tyler is in no way perfect, but that just makes him even more loveable! I'm finding it very difficult to describe Tyler, you do have to read the book to see what he's like. If I'm being honest, I didn't love Tyler straight away and some of his actions/reactions did confuse me, but I learned that was part of who he was and as we became familiarised, I did start to love his quirky personality. I can't say that I've read a book about a boy like Tyler before and so it was refreshing, a welcome change. This is another reason why I liked reading about Grace and Tyler's relationship - it wasn't instantaneous and it wasn't as typical as most other books. 

Okay, now it's time to fess up: I have to admit that I did become biased towards this book as soon as it mentioned Kate Bush. Anybody who knows me knows just how obsessed I am with Kate Bush (just check out my blog name!) and it came as a fantastic surprise to see her mentioned several times as one of Grace's favourite musicians. Tyler Wilkie, our moody fictional character sings his own version of 'Feel It' to his love interest, in front of a crowd and to say that I swooned was an understatement! So yes, I may have been won over by this, but still, as Kate would say, 'wow.'

To sum it up, Grace Grows was a fun, entertaining and charming read. I enjoyed the story from start to finish and was certainly left wanting more. Sumners is undoubtedly a talented writer and will most likely appeal to fans of authors such as Sophie Kinsella. I really hope that people pick this book up and it gets the popularity that it deserves!



Listen to one of the most mentioned songs in Grace Grows:



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