Wednesday 30 April 2014

Book review-Ink by Amanda Sun

Title: Ink
 Author:  Amanda Sun
Series:  The Paper Gods #1
Published:  21 June 2013 by Mira
Length: 356 pages
Warnings: one scene which could be read as attempted rape
Source: ARC from publisher
Other info: There is an ebook novella prequel, called Shadow. Rain is the sequel coming in June.
Summary : Ink is in their blood. On the heels of a family tragedy, Katie Greene must move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn't know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks and she can't seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building. When Katie meets aloof but gorgeous Tomohiro, the star of the school's kendo team, she is intrigued by him…and a little scared. His tough attitude seems meant to keep her at a distance, and when they're near each other, strange things happen. Pens explode. Ink drips from nowhere. And unless Katie is seeing things, drawings come to life.
Somehow Tomo is connected to the kami, powerful ancient beings who once ruled Japan—and as feelings develop between Katie and Tomo, things begin to spiral out of control. The wrong people are starting to ask questions, and if they discover the truth, no one will be safe.
Review:  Katie Greene is forced to move to Japan to live with her aunt. There, she meets Tomohiro, a boy whose drawings come to life. with runins with the Yazuka and working around attraction to Tomohiro, Katie learns about his connections to the Kami, Japanese gods of old.
I had a period of really really loving Japan. I’m not totally obsessed any more, but I still like it. When I heard about this series, I was just “aww hell yes. Must read. Excited.”
Katie is still finding her feet in Japan. You get bits of Japanese and snippets of random culture, some of which I recognise from things written by Japanese people, so I’m assuming that the other things were all correct to. It was certainly fully built and different to the Western school settings.
The random Japanese phrases are nice to start with, but they get annoying quickly, because even though it comes with Katie’s translations (mainly), they interrupt the flow with their frequency and make you feel like you need to have a working knowledge of Japanese to understand this book in the way it flows. Oh, and the constant “ne”s got on my nerves. Because they indicate a question. And then are followed by a question mark. And at one point there was an explanation of this when you could infer what they meant. Unnecessary in written stories.
Characters, I liked Katie to start with because I relate to her difficulty at fitting in. However, once we met her and she got a few friends, she got a a bit boring and didn’t move on. Tomohiro, I didn’t care for at all. He moodswings a lot and is mysterious in a boring way. And then he’s really really creepy.   There’s a sweet guy whose name I forgot. I liked him. Minor characters were mainly forgotten when Tomohiro shows up.
 I loved the inclusion of the Kami, using mythology other than Classical Greek/Roman. Don’t get me wrong, I love Classical Greek and Roman, but it’s used so much, and the use of Japanese mythology was wonderful. The originalness and the description of the creatures added awesomeness to the book.
It’s very stereotypical YA paranormal romance, if you ignore the fact that it’s set in Japan and has Japanese gods. Badboy who wants you to stay away? Check. Instalove? Check. See him once, can’t get him out of your head? Check. I could go on, but I won’t.
Unrelated to the writing, the illustrations are gorgeous. 

  Overall:  Strength 2 tea to a book with a wonderful different mythology, but lots of drawbacks.

Saturday 26 April 2014

Book Review- Model Misfit by Holly Smale

Title:Model Misfit
 Author: Holly Smale
Series:  Geek Girl #2
Published:  26 September 2013 by Harper Collins
Length: 356 pages
Source: netgalley
Other info: I kind of enjoyed Geek Girl (review here). Picture Perfect is coming in June.
Summary : “My name is Harriet Manners, and I am still a geek.” Harriet knows that modelling won’t transform you. She knows that being as uniquely odd as a polar bear isn’t necessarily a bad thing (even in a rainforest). And that the average person eats a ton of food a year, though her pregnant stepmother is doing her best to beat this. What Harriet doesn’t know is where she’s going to fit in once the new baby arrives. With summer plans ruined, modelling in Japan seems the perfect chance to get as far away from home as possible. But nothing can prepare Harriet for the craziness of Tokyo, her competitive model flatmates and her errant grandmother’s ‘chaperoning’. Or seeing gorgeous Nick everywhere she goes. Because, this time, Harriet knows what a broken heart feels like. Can geek girl find her place on the other side of the world or is Harriet lost for good?
Review: The book begins when Harriet is doing a modelling job. And then rushes to her  physics GCSE. This essentially sums her up from Geek Girl. Then it’s summer time, but none of her friends can stay around. It looks like it’s going to be the worst summer ever...until she goes to Japan to model for Yuka. Which would also involve seeing nick. Which would be good if they hadn’t recently broken up. Over in Japan, Harriet, despite knowing lots of things like how any nerve cells are in the brain and the chances of dying in a plane accident, she still has a lot to learn.
When I started this, I immediately decided it was better than Geek Girl because I didn’t want to punch Harriet (I really hated her voice to start with, but then got used to it and started liking it).
Harriet is a bit more mature here, having to figure out where she fits in her family, standing up for herself and being independent.
There’s some new characters here, models Rin and Poppy. who both provide different things, and the return of favourites like Yuka and Nick.
I’d have liked to see more of the family side of Geek Girl.  I get that half of it is in Japan, but the family is my favourite thing about this series because they're written so realistically,  and big drama things in the first half are happening and then we leave them so I’m hoping that in book three, we see them again.
I like the use of flashbacks to reveal what happened between Nick and Harriet. Current plotwise, it was hard to see what was happening until the end.

Overall:  Strength 3.5 tea, a bit more a 4, to a second book in a series that is growing on me.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

From Bard to Bookshelf SignUp Sheet

It's 23rd April, so kind of a busy day. First, its' Saint George’s Day, so if any of you are English patriots, or otherwise interested, click here to read about him (Then hang around that site. It’s a great site with retellings of all the myths with a giant dose of humour. Well, not all of them, obviously. But lots of them).
Happy World Book Night! Have fun, everyone who's giving books out, either as an official person with the pretty covers, or as a Community Giver, giving books to people because why not?
Finally, more the reason for this post. 23 April is the accepted birthday (and death day) of William Shakespeare, and this year's even more special, as it should be Shakespeare's 450th birthday.
You may or may not know that I really like Shakespeare's plays. I love seeing them performed. i am attempting to have done one-person dramatic readings  of three quarters of his plays by the time I leave school. I’m working on it...
Anyway, sometimes I wonder. Why are his stories so popular that they’ve lasted centuries, being performed by countless players, and adapted by so many writers? I know that his plays were often based off other stories, but it’s his take on them  that we remember.
And it’s his take on them that gets adapted a lot. It’s often into films, but then there’ll be other plays. And comic books. And manga. And novels. And I want to do something to celebrate this.
I’m planning a blog event to happen in  August when we all celebrate Shakespeare, and Shakespeare’s influence on YA. It's open to anyone who enjoys Shakespeare; readers, writers, actors, whoever. I’m thinking posts you host on your site unless you really want it hosted here, reviews of plays by or YA inspired by Shakespeare, alternative interpretations, posts about themes in Shakespeare and YA,opefully a few giveaways here, anything goes.
If you’d like to take part, fill out the form below,  and do a post or video or somehow spread the word about this event, linking back here. Soon there’ll be a pretty button you can share, when I’m a little less busy. I’ll email you to talk about what you want to do, and sort out posting dates and things. Signups are open until mid-July.

 I leave you with one of my favourite lines from Macbeth.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Book Review- Say Her Name by James Dawson

Title: Say Her Name

 Author: James Dawson
Series:   N/A
Published:  5 June 2014 by Hot Key books
Length: 240 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: James has also written Cruel Summer, Hollow Pike, Being a Boy and This Book is Gay. He’s also done a few interviews here.  
Summary : Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear...But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it? Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror...five days...but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before...
Review: Bobbie Rowe does not believe in ghosts. so when another girl dares them all to summon Bloody Mary, she's fine with it. And she's fine to start with. But the next door, a message appears while she's in the shower: five days. Over said next five days, Bobbie realises that she, Caine and Naya are actually possibly in trouble  and they have five days to find a way out before Mary comes  for them.
I read this because I love James Dawson's work and horror so a proper combination of the two was bound to be something I'd look forwards to.
I really liked the friendship between Bobby and Naya. The romance between Bobby and Caine was good too. All three of them worked really well together. I also liked the way characters came in for a couple of chapters, played their part, then left. This plays out very much like a horror slasher ghost film. I like it.
I love the fact that Mary gets a great story. Villain back-story is always something I love, and the one James wrote makes you really feel motional for Mary. Also, I may be a horrible person for liking hr even more after the last page. but that was a great ending- lots of clever little things coming together, one very unpredictable twist, and a final parting shot.
James' style is, as in Cruel Summer, informal, full of pop culture ad  modern references, and very funny, more so than you typically find in horror. but the horror is definitely there in scenes with Mary, and lingering  when she isn't. 
This isn't the absolute scariest thing I’ve ever read-that title still belongs to Koji Suzuki and Ring which was completely terrifying. But this is up near the top, with tension rising and falling in a two steps forward, one step back approach. And it also succeeded in making me scared of mirrors at night.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a really good teenage horror story that will hopefully bring more horror to the shelves.

PS. For more UKYA horror, check out Georgia’s post about it. 

Monday 14 April 2014

Book review- A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

Title: A Kiss In The Dark
 Author: Cat Clarke
Series:  N/A
Published:  3 April 2014 by Quercus
Length: 384 pages
Warnings: brings up sexual assault

Source: publisher
Other info: Cat has written Entangled, Torn, and Undone which I read and reviewed. She also wrote Falling, a shorter story, which I read and enjoyed.
Summary : When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant. Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend. Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive… But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.
Graph: This is a new feature I am trialling which I will use when my opinion of things or levels of devices like scares, tension, interest, fun, laughs (anything really) fluctuate  throughout a  book.  Tell me what you think of it and if I should do more.
Review: Alex gets to know Kate via the internet. Alex meets Kate at a concert. They start going out. They're perfect for each other. Except Alex is a girl (I don’t feel bad for telling you that because we learn this within the first 15 pages). And Kate doesn't know.
Cat Clarke is one of the authors whose name guarantees I'll read a thing. I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but it was totally different to anything I may have wanted to expect.
Cat Clarke always manages to write perfectly real characters, and those in A Kiss in the Dark are no exception. they interact and react well, and all  the  minute of emotions that Alex and Kate feel about being in love is valid and accurate.
I am in love with all characters in the Before. Alex slightly less than Kate because while I see why she would do that, it's quite a big thing to not be open about, and I prefer my romantic couples to not have secrets this big. I didn't like Kate in the After. I get it, finding out your boyfriend is a girl is quite big and she has the right to be upset with Alex for keeping such a big secret. But I really dislike people who do what she did. she redeems herself in the closing pages, but still. My favourite character was Jamie  Alex's brother. He's supportive, a bit funny, and loyal. I found Astrid a little annoying.
The best thing in this was the tension, especially in the first half. From the moment Alex chooses not to tell Kate she's a girl, and they go out, as the romance builds, which I think is one of the most adorable things ever despite my general wariness of romance when they’re keeping such huge secrets from each other, you’re just thinking ahead to what's going  to happen when she finds out; so every kiss and every smile they share, is slightly tainted by the fact you just know it’s going to broken and you just have to keep reading to see how it goes. and  then ohmigosh Cat puts in 14 words that ramp up the tension so much and then it all happens and ugh perfectness. The day I read this, I highly disliked school. It stopped me reading this.

Overall:  Strength 5 tea to a to a truly unputdownable book.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Book Review- Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott

Title: Fire and Flood
 Author: Victoria Scott
Series:  Fire and Flood #1
Published:  25 February 2014 by Chicken House
Length: 336 pages
Source: publisher
Other info: Book 2 will be called Salt and Stone. I highly approve of the alliteration.
Summary :  Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place.
Review: Tella’s brother is dying. Her parents move them all out to the remote areas of the land, away from all civilisation. Still, Tella receives a blue box inviting her to the Brimstone Bleed, a competition taking place in jungle, desert, sea and mountains, the winner receiving the Cure for any illness whatsoever. Tella accepts it, and finds herself in a competition a where everyone wants to win.
 I’ve heard lots of people compare to The Hunger Games. This is accurate.  One person wins only. People die. People really want to win. Happy upbeat announcer at all stages of the game. I like the added motivation for competitors of the chance to have the chance to save a loved one.  
 The Pandoras, protector animals that have been created specially to help the competitors, are essentially  were pokemon, but a little more normal. I loved Madox, and the fact that the differing ways people treated their Pandoras said quite a lot  about them.
I didn’t really care much for the characters, apart from Cody (dying brother who is absent for most of the novel) and the twins. Tella doesn’t really do much compared to other dystopian and survival heroes, instead, love interest Guy does most of it. Not saying boys can’t do things, but for a heroine, it would be  nice if she did more than tag along.
It was fun to read in some places. Tella’s voice is funny, and the story moves through the areas quite quickly.
I’d like to know more about the world. Technology must have advanced somewhat to get Pandoras, but other than that, we don’t know how the world differs to ours. There’s hints of it towards the end, but I’d like to see more in future.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a book that is quite like The Hunger Games, but with added pokemon and less strong characters.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Book Review -The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Title: The Killing Woods
 Author: Lucy Christopher
Series:  N/A
Published:  October 2013 by Chicken House
Length: 369 pages
Warnings:  sex, alchohol, drugs, pstd
Source: publisher
Other info: Lucy Christopher has also written Stolen.
Summary : Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.
Review: Emily’s dad walks in one night with a dying girl. He is then accused of manslaughter. She’s sure he’s innocent, but how can she prove it? To try, she enlists the help of Ashlee’s (the dead girl) boyfriend, Damon, who may know something about how Ashlee died. Together, they unravel the mystery.
 I read this because 1)I got sent it for review and 2) so many people had been talking about how good it is and I had to know how good it was for myself.
The characters, I liked them to start with, but at times they were a bit dreary. I would have liked to know Emily a bit more other than the fact that her father is accused of manslaughter. I liked Damon, even though he is a bit crazy at times. I liked Emily’s father. I really like the fact that Lucy handles PSTD, drugs, and choices in what I think is a good way.  
I loved the Game. I wanted to know what that involved, and all the little hints as to what it was built up well for the reveal.
I started to guess vague details from around two thirds of the way through. I ended up guessing the reasons for Ashlee’s death, but not who had done it.
The pacing was good. I didn’t get bored with the way that the mystery was unravelled at all- I really wanted to know what happened and I read this in one day.
I liked the writing. It moved the story on along really well and really built up the setting of Darkwood really well.

Overall:  Strength 4 tea to a fast mystery that kept me gripped from the start.

Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Wednesday 2 April 2014


So, a week and a bit ago, I got invited to the premiere of Divergent. Needless to say, I accepted!

The premiere was last Sunday, and I took one of my friends from school. We got to Leicester Square which had been transformed into a Fan Experience area, so there were lots of things for people to do. There were lots of Erudite and Dauntless faction members running around, doing tattoos, initiations, aptitude tests and more.

I met and got to run around with Rita, who runs Weaving Pages, which was great. For a short while (i.e. a few seconds) I saw Casey (Dark Readers), Ben (Benjamin of Tomes), Jim (YA Yeah Yeah), Debbie( Snuggling on the Sofa) and Hannah. People who I knew were there but never got to see include Jess (Jess Hearts Books), Ryan (Empire of Books), Cait (the Cait Files) Jax (Making it Up)  Amber (The Mile Long Bookshelf) and Amber (Books of Amber) and   . Lesson learnt-busy film premieres are not the place to try and do a "meet all the bloggers". Maybe another time?

I am most definitely not Dauntless
Back to the day. I met Rita, which was really good. My friend and I did the aptitude testing, which said we were Erudite within a few questions. Rita and I went on the rock climby thing, which she won by miles. We were going to do some other things, but then we saw how long the queue to get into the cinema was already and decided to go join it before all the good seats were gone!

 I'm not sure, but I think we were in the queue for over an hour. Not complaining-we're British, we know how to queue. While we were in that queue, all the important people started arriving. We were on the other side of the square, so we didn’t get to see them up close, but we could see them on screens and hear the fans screaming (I’m not sure if my ears have yet recovered from the cheers when Theo James arrived).

look! wristbands! 
Finally we got to the front of the queue. After an Erudite guy checked that we were allowed in (I am so jealous of all the people who got to spend a weekend pretending to be people from Roth's Chicago), we got on the red carpet and chose a faction, and we got wristbands that correspond to our chosen factions.

Ok, wristband designer, seriously? Did you not realise some people might like to take theirs off without cutting the thing? I pulled mine on normal tight, and my normal playing with things on my wrist tightened it even more. I was inside the cinema when I realised that it wouldn't come off. When I got out, I realised there were spikes keeping the fabric once it had been pushed up. I had to cut my wristband off. Designer gets negative consumer feedback.
the sad fate of my wristband
We then got seated by faction. Erudite were somewhere in the middle, which suited me fine. We got to see a livescreen of what was happening outside, ie everyone's interviews on the red carpet. I got a bit angry when they asked Shailene and Kate who designed their clothes but not Theo, and then remembered "we live in a sexist world that values women by what they wear" and tried to get not too annoyed before hopefully enjoying the film. Then a short presentation of the people involved. Then the film began.

The film was really good. It adapted the world really well, made Roth's Chicago come to life, and
Of course, there were some changes. Things got cut, i.e. the whole eye stabbing thing, which is the only thing bar the major characters, world and plot that I remembered, and some things got added. I'm sure there were more changes, but I've not read this series in ages.
Trigger warning for attempted rape. It's short, and in Tris's fear landscape thing, and I'm glad it's in there because people will talk about it and sexual assault is a thing that we as a society need to talk about and deal with, and it's nice that she gets praised for defending herself. But trigger warning is there.
They made Four an asshole in this. I know he wasn't the nicest guy at the start of the book, but by the time they were kissing, I honestly didn't see why Tris liked him in the film. He does get nicer after that though.
I love the way they did everything, especially the testing, the fear landscapes... everything about Dauntless really! The acting was really good, especially Jeanine, Christina and Eric. I left with a strong craving to reread Divergent (first review here). And Insurgent (first review here). And actually read Allegiant. Film wise though, I am definitely ready for Insurgent.

Anyway, after the film, I tried finding people. Mostly failed (see prior list of people who were there but I never saw). Outside  we saw this guy in a suit who had loads of people crowding him and fawning over him and he was only a few feet away and we might have got his autograph or something but by the time my friend and I had tried to work out who he was he was gone

Anyway, it was a great day. Thank you hugely to Entertainment One and Harper Collins for the amazing opportunity, and I hope that if you see Divergent, you do too!