Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Review: Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook

Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Released: January 3rd 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts.

Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.
(from Goodreads)

Unraveling Isobel had a great mix of romance, mystery and humour and was an entertaining, quick read. From the first page, Isobel had me laughing out loud and I knew that she’d be a protagonist I’d be able to relate to. She was consistently funny, and some of the comments she made about her step-dad were absolutely hilarious!  I really felt for her, because she had to go through this horrible upheaval, leaving her old life and all her friends behind just because of her mum (who I’d like to grab by the collar and give a good shake – how dense and selfish can one woman be?!). It’s no wonder Isobel was a bit sarcastic and miserable – anyone in her situation would be! In fact, I commend her for not screaming at her mother every day and throwing huge tantrums, because I certainly would have been tempted to if I were her.  Especially if I had to live with such a creepy step-dad like Richard. Seriously, that man. Throw in the horrible people at school and a confusing step-brother - well, let’s just say Isobel was a lot more tolerant than I am :P. She was strong-willed and smart and generally very likeable!

Speaking of confusing step-brothers...Nate. Deliciously attractive, but of course, off limits for Isobel. Also, kind of a jerk (to begin with). One thing I really liked about the relationship between these two was that there was no insta-love. Insta-attraction, yes. One cannot deny Nate’s hotness. But I like that the two sort of got off on the wrong foot and were quite detached and unfriendly at first, because then the whole process of them getting to know each other and start liking each other was a lot more believable, and more meaningful. There were a lot of great tension-filled scenes, and it was the kind of romance that kept me turning the page, constantly wanting more. There was quite a bit more to Nate than just his good looks, and I enjoyed getting to know him slowly, rather than knowing every detail of his life from the first chapter, or not knowing anything about him at all. He could be really sweet and awesome at times, and his scenes with Isobel...ah. Though there weren’t that many (I could have done with a lot more :P), they were all pretty amazing.

Another character I liked was Mandy, one of the librarians. She had a small role, but I thought she was so nice and helpful, and pretty cool and relaxed for a librarian. She was one of the few people Isobel could go to for help, and she had this approachable personality that made me think she could have been a great counsellor.

The mystery in Unraveling Isobel was great and kept me interested the whole way through. I didn’t really know how anything would turn out. I guessed a few things, but I was never a hundred percent what was going to happen, so the ending for me was quite surprising. I think maybe things got solved a little quickly, and the last few pages seemed a bit rushed, but that’s probably my only real complaint about the book. It was mostly very well-paced and engaging, and I think I even read it one sitting – definitely an addictive story!

Overall, Unraveling Isobel was really enjoyable. It had a range of characters, a great story and a lovely romance. I’d recommend it to fans of contemporary who maybe want to branch out to more paranormal books, or just to anyone looking for a funny, romantic read with a thrilling twist.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

In My Mailbox (#39)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

Your eyes do not deceive you - I have indeed returned! January is always a hectic month with exams (which I flopped - seriously) and whatnot but I'm back to regular posting now. So this is my first IMM in a very long time. Here are the books I accumulated over the weeks:




For Review:
Unleashed (Wolf Springs Chronicles #1) by Nancy Holder and Debby ViguiĆ©
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (thanks to Luisa at Chicklish for these two)
The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant
The Summer of Shambles (Ondine #1) by Ebony McKenna
The Autumn Palace (Ondine #2) by Ebony McKenna
Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi
Siren (Siren #1) by Tricia Rayburn
Pulse (Siren #2) by Tricia Rayburn
Oliver Twisted by J. D. Sharpe
Someone Else's Life (ebook) by Katie Dale

Won:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith (from the awesome Zoe @ Bookhi. I've already read this one and loved it, review to come).

Gift:
Hollow Pike by James Dawson (from the lovely Cait @ The Cait Files)

Bought:
Obsidian (Lux #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout (already read this one [Kindle edition] too and it was amazing! Review will be up soon)
Supernaturally (Paranormalcy #2) by Kiersten White (I actually have the paperback of this but completely forgot about it when taking the pictures, so I just used the cover image instead :P)

And that's basically everything I've received since my last IMM. What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Many thanks to Cait, Zoe, Ebony, Katie, Faber & Faber, Atom, Egmont/Electric Monkey and Luisa.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman
Publisher: Atom
Released: January 19th 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up. When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark.

But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead. His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.
(from Goodreads)

The Book of Blood and Shadows was the kind of book that completely messes with your head. I started it not knowing much about the story, and by the end, all I could think was “...”. The mystery was so carefully constructed and layered and cryptic, I had no idea what to expect! There were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming, and I realised after I finished the book that all the hints were there all along – I just never really noticed while I was reading. After though, I looked back and saw that clues were all cleverly interwoven – in characters’ mannerisms, in the letters – everything was there, waiting to be put together.

From the summary of the book, I knew from the beginning that Chris, the best friend of the main character (Nora), was going to die at some point in the book. Since I knew Chris was going to die from the start, I thought he’d just be in a few memories and things and that I wouldn’t get to know much about him. This was not the case. Chris was my favourite character. He was so funny and likeable – the cheeky, charming type you just can’t help but smile at. I adored him, and I was devastated when I read about his death, despite the fact I knew he’d die. It’s like we were presented with this amazing, loveable character that we immediately get attached to, just to have him taken away! It was so unfair, because he didn’t deserve what happened to him. The worst thing was that I actually tried not to like him too much, just so I wouldn’t be upset when he died. That just didn’t work. It was a smart move on the author’s part though, because I was just as anxious as Nora to find out who murdered Chris, and so I felt a lot more connected with the story. I wanted justice for him! If you decide to read this book (which you definitely should), beware. Because I assure you the same thing will happen to you.

Nora was a great main character. I liked her because she wasn’t perfect. She could be selfish and harsh, and had a tough time dealing with difficult and hurtful situations, but she was determined and a good friend to Chris – willing to go through anything to find out who killed him and why. She didn’t give up easily, and she was always looking out for the people she cared about. At times, she was a little naive, but after everything that she’d gone through, I think she just wanted something good to happen in her life, and so maybe overlooked a few things so she could have that happiness. I could relate to that, and I think it was quite easy to understand and see things through Nora’s eyes. One of the most intriguing parts of the book was actually Nora’s connection to Elizabeth, a girl from the sixteenth century. Nora was in charge of translating some letters written by Elizabeth from Latin into English, and while she was initially reluctant, the more she found out about Elizabeth, the more fascinated she became. There were strange parallels between the two, and Nora found herself becoming more and more concerned with Elizabeth’s life. I loved reading all the letters – they provided a look into life in those times and also played a part in the whole mystery that Nora was trying to unravel.

Eli, the sort-of-love interest, was another excellent character. I kind of loved him from his first appearance, and even though later on it was clear he was hiding something, I still wanted Nora to trust him because he seemed to actually care about her.  He always tried to help her, beyond what was necessary, and he listened to her and actually took her opinions into account, unlike Max (Nora’s boyfriend), who I struggled with from the beginning. Eli was also hilarious, and I loved the way he spoke to Max – he was so sarcastic and always managed to annoy Max (yay!), it’s no wonder the two didn’t get along.  He was more astute than Nora in some ways, and often saw things she missed, which made him a lot more sceptical. I liked that about him though because it showed he wasn’t easily fooled. His scenes with Nora were also amazing; they could range from funny and witty to serious and moving and I enjoyed every one of them! I do wish there could have been more. Possibly my favourite part of the whole book was an Eli and Nora scene. All I’ll say is look out for Jack Brown and Ella Weston, because they will crack you up.

Max and Adriane (another one of Nora’s friends, and Chris’s girlfriend) were probably my least favourite characters. I didn’t really like Max from the start, though I’m sure he would have appealed to a lot of other people. He was the moody, quiet loner type, but to be honest I found him to be a bit wet and whiny and I don’t know. I just didn’t feel his connection with Nora. Adriane I just found annoying and too persistent. She could be nice at times, but eh.

Plot-wise, whoa. I had no idea what was going on. There were some things that actually shocked me. My mind was just going “WTF” over and over trying to process it all. But it wasn't just random twists thrown in there for the sake of it, everything was cleverly connected, which I liked. I also loved the fact that the story relied on translating a lot of ancient texts. We got to see into a whole other world that most people will never experience, and I personally found that to be really interesting. The writing style really added to this as well; it was a little different to usual but I really enjoyed it and helped up all the emotions and mystery. My only problem was probably the ending, which I felt got a little too far-fetched. There was no real explanation as to what happened and why and I felt a little cheated that I’d gotten that far and never found out the entire truth. However, the book as a whole was enjoyable and I don’t think the ending had too much of an effect on it.

Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was a chilling read with a touch of romance and a mystery you don’t want to miss.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Waiting on Wednesday #41


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Lucid by Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass
July 19th 2012
Find it in Goodreads

What if you could dream your way into a different life? What if you could choose to live that life forever?

Sloane and Maggie have never met. Sloane is a straight-A student with a big and loving family. Maggie lives a glamorously independent life as an up-and-coming actress in New York. The two girls couldn't be more different - except for one thing. They share a secret that they can't tell a soul. At night, they dream that they're each other.

The deeper they're pulled into the promise of their own lives, the more their worlds begin to blur dangerously together. Before long, Sloane and Maggie can no longer tell which life is real and which is just a dream. They realize that eventually they will have to choose one life to wake up to, or risk spiraling into insanity. But that means giving up one world, one love, and one self, forever.

This is a dazzling debut that will still readers' hearts.
(from Goodreads)

I am so intrigued by this one. I've recently become fascinated by lucid dreaming (basically, being aware that you're dreaming, and therefore having the ability to shape your dream into whatever you want) and I'm assuming from the title "Lucid" and the synopsis that lucid dreaming is going to play quite a big role - but with a dark twist. The fact that the characters in the book lose the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality is quite frightening - I love books where it's hard to tell what's real and what isn't! Really excited about this one - can't wait to see what happens and how the girls deal with the risk of spiraling into insanity. I also love the cover. Quite unique and gives the hint that there's something very odd going on. The blurring of the font is also very clever - symbolising the blurred lines between dreams and reality, I assume? Whatever, it's cool! :P

What are you waiting on this week?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Review: Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey

Stolen Away by Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: January 5th 2012
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

For seventeen years, Eloise Hart had no idea the world of Faery even existed. Now she has been abducted and trapped in the Rath of Lord Strahan, King of Faery. Strahan was only meant to rule for seven years, as Faery tradition dictates, and then give up his crown to another. But he won't comply, and now chaos threatens both worlds.

The only one who can break his stranglehold on the Faery court is his wife. . . Eloise's aunt Antonia. Using Eloise to lure Antonia, Strahan captures his wife, desperate to end the only threat to his reign. Now Eloise must become the rescuer. Together with her best friends Jo and Devin, she must forge alliances with other Fae, including a gorgeous protector named Lucas, and Strahan's mysterious son, Eldric—who may or may not betray them.
(from Goodreads)

After Alyxandra Harvey’s excellent Victorian ghost story, Haunting Violet, I was really excited for Stolen Away – especially since it was about faeries (I’ve really gotten into faeries recently, probably because of The Iron Fey series). However, Stolen Away unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations. To me, it felt like it was almost written by a different person. The style was different and the book was short and felt completely rushed – there was little background information, and all the plot developments were too quick and felt jumbled and random. I couldn’t connect to the characters at all because we barely knew anything about them, and they were just hastily thrown into a completely different world, which we also never found out much about. I just felt like everything needed to be fleshed out a little more; the characters’ personalities, the Fae world, the problems going on. Things went too fast for me and I found the whole book hard to follow.

The characters were likeable enough; there was dual narration between best friends Eloise and Jo, who were both nice and funny (with a few witty lines), but nothing particularly stood out about them. I preferred Eloise to Jo and identified with her character slightly more, but to be honest, the narration was very similar and I sometimes forgot whose chapter I was reading. One thing I enjoyed more about Eloise’s chapters, however, was when she was first brought to the faery world and was interacting with all the faeries she met there. I liked the way she found out about her heritage and the way the other faeries treated her. It was definitely interesting to find out more about the faeries and how Eloise was connected to them.

As I’ve already said, I found this book to be very rushed and therefore the love interests and romance in general failed for me. Total insta-love. Lucas and Eldric were the two main focuses of romance in Stolen Away; Lucas for Eloise and Eldric for Jo. Personally, I wasn’t too fond of Lucas and he was a bit of a cookie-cutter knight-in-shining-armour type. We didn’t get to find out much about him, or his personality, and I don’t understand when he and Eloise supposedly got so close to each other. However, Jo and Eldric’s relationship was much worse. While I sort of liked Eldric’s character (I say sort of because I liked what we saw of him, which wasn’t much, and think he had potential to be so much more), the insta-love was almost painful. Jo was internally confessing her love after, what, about three days? I don’t think she even knew his name at this point, but apparently she loved him! And I have no idea why Eldric even liked Jo in the first place. Their first meeting was completely random and didn’t have anything special to suggest something might happen between the two. I don’t understand why he kept pursuing her at all, how he “fell in love” with her, or why he would risk so much for at the end when they barely knew each other. The relationships seemed like they were there just for the sake of it, so there could be a bit of romance in the story. They were hardly developed at all.

My favourite character was probably Isadora, because she was the only one who actually had a bit of backstory, and a strong personality. She was a feisty little faerie with a bit of bad attitude, due to past experiences, but a good heart deep down. She was a great minor character and I liked how excited she got when she was presented with a sword again – I felt sorry for her, because she missed her old life so much and was stuck in a form she hated. I’m glad she got to experience a bit of the fighting she missed so much.

Overall, Stolen Away was just not the book for me. I felt like things happened too quickly and that a slower-paced, lengthier novel would have been much more enjoyable. However, this was still quite a fun read and I did enjoy aspects, so I wouldn’t say it’s totally not worth reading – but perhaps read an extract first. I think anyone who really loves faerie stories might enjoy this, or if you’re looking for a quick read just to past the time, then maybe give this one a go.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Review: Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan

Darkness Falls (Immortal Beloved #2) by Cate Tiernan
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: January 5th 2012
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Nastasya has lived for hundreds of years, but for some reason, life never seems to get any better. She left her spoiled, rich girl life to find peace at River's Edge, a safe haven for wayward immortals. There, she learned to embrace River's Edge, despite some drama involving the sexy Reyn, who she wants but won't allow herself to have. But just as she's getting comfortable, her family's ties to dark magick force her to leave.

She falls back into her old, hard partying ways, but will her decision lead her into the hands of a dark immortal? Or will it be her first step to embracing the darkness within her?
(from Goodreads)

Nasty’s time at River’s Edge hasn’t been easy. Changing your whole life around doesn’t happen in one day. But Nasty’s gotten used to life there – even waking up before dawn to collect chicken eggs doesn’t seem so bad anymore. But soon, everything starts going wrong. Nasty seems to mess up everything she touches. Her New Year’s resolution to cast off her darkness seems to have been thrown back in her face – darkness is everywhere, infecting her and her surroundings. She’s hurting people she cares about, causing accidents and making things even more confusing with Reyn. What is going on? Why can’t she do anything right? And will she be able to stay on the path of good, or will she go back to the way she was? Her old friends are still searching for her – and they’re dangerously close.

Darkness Falls was an excellent follow up to Immortal Beloved. We found out a lot more about certain characters (including Lorenz, who was a minor but very interesting character), which I really enjoyed, and got to see how Nasty and Incy became friends. Nasty was her usual witty self in this book, but was also suffering a lot, and her past was really haunting her, causing her to spiral back into darkness. She relapsed for a while and definitely made some stupid mistakes, but I could see how hard things were for her, and how little she trusted anyone (including herself). I admit I got a bit frustrated with her indecision at times, but I also really felt for her, and was rooting for her the whole time. She had started to care about people, including everyone at River’s Edge, her co-worker Meriwether and a teenager called Dray, and felt genuinely upset when she made them angry and couldn’t help them. I really hope she manages to work things out with Meriwether and Dray in the future, because I think she needs them as much as they need her.

River - kind, sweet, amazing River - revealed a lot of her past to Nasty, which was fascinating. I knew that River had a dark past, but I really didn’t expect what we got here. River was the wisest, most solid and loving person at River’s Edge, and it was really weird seeing her as she was centuries ago. Nasty was convinced that she couldn’t be saved, that she was too dark to be good, but River disagreed. By showing Nasty her own, dark past, I think she managed to help Nasty see that she could get better. That everyone could be good if they truly wanted to and worked hard to make up for the awful things they did. River used to be worse than Nasty, but had managed to become the most genuinely lovely person you could imagine. I don’t know if I’d say she redeemed herself, but she was trying. And she taught everyone at River’s Edge that all you could do was try.

Another character we got to discover more about was Incy. He was a strange one. When he first came back in the story, he seemed completely normal. Nothing like the deranged guy in Nasty’s visions. I was a bit confused – as was Nasty. He acted like nothing happened, like a caring friend that was just worried. The rest of Nasty’s friends seemed normal and fine too. But as Incy and Nasty spent more time with each other, you could see something was very wrong with him. He was hiding something dark – and Nasty wanted to help, but wasn’t sure if she could by herself. I found Incy to be one of the most intriguing characters in this book, and I’m looking forward to book three to see what becomes of him.

Of course, there was also the Reyn/Nasty relationship to deal with, and with the arrival of Amy, a perfectly nice woman who was in lust at first sight with the Viking god, things got even more complicated.  Nasty tried to act like she didn’t want Reyn, that she despised him and what his clan did to her family, but she was still drawn to him, and hated the fact that Amy wanted him too. Reyn quite clearly liked Nasty but got infuriated by her comments. It was a mess. They wanted each other, but they hated each other. They were attracted yet disgusted. By the end, a few things were resolved, but still. The problems between them – their history – will always remain. I’m wondering whether they can really get past it (I hope they can).

Plot-wise, this one was a little faster in pace and there was a bit more going on. A mysterious woman called “Miss Edna” was introduced (by name only) and was quite clearly involved in very dark magick. I have a feeling she’ll be a lot more prominent in the next book and I can’t wait to find out who she is. There was also a bit more action which I liked, and I also really loved the way Darkness Falls ended. It was satisfying but still left room for more, and the last line was pretty cool in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed Darkness Falls and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoyed the first book (and to those who haven’t read the first book yet – read it!)

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Immortal Beloved (Immortal Beloved #1) by Cate Tiernan
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: January 6th 2011
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

Cate Tiernan, author of the popular Sweep series, returns with an engaging story of a timeless struggle and inescapable romance, the first book in a stunning new fantasy trilogy.
 (from Goodreads)

Nastasya, or Nasty to her friends, is immortal. She’s spent most of her life drinking, partying and self-medicating, but nothing seems to be making her happy. Then one day she sees the people she thought she trusted break a man’s spine – and enjoy it. Now Nasty is rethinking her entire life plan. Are these people, who can commit such atrocious acts, really her friends? Is she content with wallowing in her darkness? Determined to change her ways, Nasty disappears to a home for wayward immortals called River’s Edge. But as it turns out, changing one’s life isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when painful memories from Nasty’s past keep cropping up, reminding her of things she’d rather forget.

Immortal Beloved was an interesting take on immortality, and a refreshing change from a lot of other stuff in YA at the moment. I loved the fact that our main character was an immortal, a four hundred and something year old woman trapped in a teenager’s body. Nasty may have looked like an adolescent (and okay, she spoke like one too), but she had an adult mindset. She had been married, a mother, a fighter – she was more knowledgeable about the world than any teen (and most other people) could ever be. There was definitely crossover appeal with Immortal Beloved – sure, at times, Nasty acted a little juvenile and did some stupid things, but she was, by all standards, an adult. As a teen myself, however, I still felt like I could relate to her. Nasty was strangely likeable. I thought I wouldn’t like her, and that she would be one of those attention-seeking party animals with no regard for others, but she wasn’t. She had a conscience (as faint as it was, it was there) and was just stumbling through (her very long) life, trying to find out what she really wanted. In that sense, she wasn’t really that much different from any other person. She was lost and confused, and just needed someone to help her out (which was where River came in, but more on her later).  She was also quite fun, and despite the horrific things she had experienced in the past, she tried not to drown in self-pity. I loved the way she messed with Nell (another person at River’s Edge), who was annoying as hell. I don’t blame Nasty for disliking her, because Nell seriously got on my nerves with her fake sweetness and her desperation.

River, the owner of River’s Edge, was possibly the most intriguing character for me. Over a thousand years old, she had been an immortal for a very, very long time, and knew every trick in the book. She was trying to help everyone, trying to teach them that their lives didn’t have to be self-destructive, and she seemed like the most genuinely good character in the book. But there was something about her and all her mysterious wisdom that told me she hadn’t always been this way. I think she definitely had a dark, destructive past herself, and I can’t wait to find out more about her in book two.

Reyn (or the Viking god, as Nasty referred to him) was another fascinating character. It took me a while to warm up to him, because we really didn’t find out anything about him (except that he was insanely good looking) until the second half of the book (though he had that whole cool “I don’t give a crap” attitude going on that Nasty rightly described as making him even more infuriatingly attractive). And in that second half, well. I don’t even know what to say. I felt sorry for him. For Nasty. Their relationship (if you can even call it that) was pretty damn messed up. I guessed from the moment Nasty remembered something what was going to happen, but still. I don’t know what I would have done in this situation. Nasty and Reyn were clearly attracted to each other, clearly balanced each other out, but their pasts...could they ever get over their pasts? Who knows. I’m so curious as to what’s going to happen between them in the next book.

The pace of Immortal Beloved was quite slow; it was more about the characters than an action-packed plot, but I think it worked well and I enjoyed finding out more about everyone. The flashbacks were great because we got to see snippets into Nasty’s life when she was a young immortal, and it was interesting to see how different she was back then and how her past has affected her. Her ancestry was revealed slowly, and even though I was anxious to find out about Nasty’s heritage from the very beginning, I enjoyed how things were unfolded bit by bit.

Overall, Immortal Beloved was a very enjoyable read, and has been added to my “favourite immortal books” list. Give it a go if you’re looking for something different in YA, with characters that are beyond your normal teens.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Blog Tour: Night School by Christi Daugherty - Guest Post!

Welcome to my stop on the Night School blog tour! Today, Christi Daugherty, author of the brilliant Night School (see my review here) is here to tell us a bit about the lead characters in her book.

Night School by Christi Daugherty
Publisher: Atom
Released: January 5th 2012
Find it on Goodreads

Sometimes school is murder. 

Allie Sheridan's world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she's just been arrested.

Again.

This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers.

But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Its rules are strangely archaic. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there's the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch.

When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what's really going on at Cimmeria Academy.
(from Goodreads)

The stars of Night School 
by Christi Daugherty

When I started writing Night School, it really came together around its lead characters. Once I’d sketched them out and I knew who they were, they came to life for me. I then built the school and the world in which they exist around them.

Are they based on people I know? Not in any literal sense. But I have taken elements of the personalities and lives of people I have known and incorporated those. Allie’s life contains feelings and memories of my own teenage years. But Rachel sounds the most like me. I, like her, am happiest on the periphery of any party; absorbing information from the people around me. And, while some elements of Carter’s personality came from things my husband told me about his teenage years, he also reminds me a lot of a boy I went to school with.

Here are some quick character sketches of the main players in Night School.

Allie Sheridan

Allie is sixteen, and everything has fallen apart. Once a promising student, her life changed after a family trauma. She lost interest in school, and her parents lost interest in her. Her grades plummeted, she fell in with a bad crowd and spent her days skipping class and her nights tagging. But at heart, she’s still a good kid. Behind the heavy makeup, the hair dye, and the trashy clothes, there’s a wounded girl looking for herself. All she needs is someone – anyone – she can really trust.

Carter West 

Brooding, complex and intelligent, Carter immediately recognises Allie as a kindred spirit. His childhood, too, was coloured by grief. Like her, he has broken all the rules, just to see if anyone will notice. Tall, with thick, dark hair and fathomless eyes, he has broken hearts at Cimmeria for years. His reputation is so bad, Allie’s new friends warn her away from him. But there’s something in him that makes her wonder if he could be someone she could believe in.

Sylvain

The only child of a billionaire family, at 17, Sylvain appears rich and spoiled. His French-Algerian mother is responsible for his tawny skin and dark, wavy hair, while his French father gave him his almost unnaturally beautiful blue eyes. The combination of good looks and endless wealth mean that nobody ever tells him ‘no’, and it seems that this has ruined him. He seems to be just another wasted child of means. And yet he continually surprises Allie with selfless acts of bravery. There may be more to him than first meets the eye.

Jo Arringford

Perky, sunny 16-year-old Jo was born into a family that seems to have it all – money, looks, and power. But her parents are only interested in themselves – their two children were only ever for show. She’s been stowed away in boarding schools her entire life. Surrounded by expensive shoes and clothes but starved for attention, she is prone to breakdowns that endanger herself and others. She sees in Allie the sister she never had – but she finds it hard to keep it together enough to be anybody’s true friend.

Rachel Patel

Brilliant and precocious, Rachel, 16, is the daughter of a scientist mother and a security expert father. Born in Yorkshire, she’s of practical, hard-working stock. Because Cimmeria changed her father’s life – taking him from a life of hardship into one of wealth – he believes in the mythology and history of the school. But while she’s willing to accept Cimmeria’s academic side, Rachel studiously avoids its powerful secrets. She wants nothing from the school but an education. Then she’s out of there. However, the school has a way of getting to everybody in the end. 

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Hope you enjoyed the guest post and learning more about all the characters! Huge thanks to Christi for taking the time to write it, and to Rose for organising the blog tour. Make sure you visit the next stop tomorrow at Atom Books to enter the competition!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Review: Night School by Christi Daugherty

Night School by Christi Daugherty
Publisher: Atom
Released: January 5th 2011
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Sometimes school is murder. 

Allie Sheridan's world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she's just been arrested.

Again.

This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers.

But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Its rules are strangely archaic. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there's the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch.

When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what's really going on at Cimmeria Academy.
(from Goodreads)

Night School was addictive. Very addictive. Like chocolate after a bad day. While I was reading, family members kept interrupting to tell me pointless things like dinner was ready, when all I really wanted to do was keep my eyes on the page. I raced through this book, and by the end, I was left wanting more. 451 pages weren’t enough for me. The fact there is currently no news on the sequel is actually killing me (by which I mean there will be a sequel, there's just no info about it yet :P).

Night School centres on Allie Sheridan, a good girl gone bad. After her brother’s shocking disappearance, Allie’s life starts to go downhill. Really downhill. She’s hanging around with the “wrong crowd”, acting out (or so her parents think), getting into fights and has been expelled - been arrested – several times in just one year. Her parents have had enough, and so Allie gets shipped off to Cimmeria Academy, a school her mother says can help people like her. Allie is angry. Miles away from her friends, in the middle of nowhere, she quite understandably hates Cimmeria. Until she starts liking it. The people are friendly (most of the time), the classes are more interesting than at her old school and one of the most popular boys seems to be interested in her. Allie’s life seems to be taking a turn for the better – until someone dies and everything changes. Something sinister is going on at Cimmeria, and Allie believes everyone is in danger. But can she find out what’s going on before anyone else gets hurt?

Allie was an amazing character! I loved her. She was snarky and wasn’t afraid of talking back and I liked that she didn’t let people walk all over her, even though most other people probably would have in her situation. I could understand how she was feeling – she was plucked out of her school in the city and sent to some academy in the countryside, where she didn’t know anyone and where no technology was allowed (imagine – life without internet! I’d be so depressed). I actually think she dealt with the whole situation really well! A lot was going on with her life, and I think it’d have been too much to just expect her to be okay with everything. That being said, she made friends pretty easily and seemed to adjust to Cimmeria quite quickly. Jo was her first friend, and I have to say, Allie got lucky. Being the new kid is never easy, so having someone as fun, friendly and kind as Jo to befriend you and help you out is definitely a plus. Jo was awesome, and I loved her from the beginning! Yes, she could be overdramatic, but 99% of the time, she was a good friend and I loved seeing her and Allie together – Jo was the kind of friend everyone would want, that you could tell anything to and could always rely on to make you feel better. She did have her own issues, however, that we discovered later on, so I’m glad Allie had friends too – like Rachel.  Rachel was another great friend Allie made later on in the story, and I liked how she was up-front about everything and just told things as they were. I think Jo and Rachel helped Allie out a lot and she’d definitely changed a little by the end of the book.

Carter and Sylvain were the two main love interests in the story, and while there wasn’t really a love triangle in this book, I’m thinking it might develop a lot more in the next one. I’m firmly Team Carter, I really loved him! He started off all mysterious and aloof (but mysterious, aloof and funny, which made up for it) but as Allie got know him, he became a lot nicer and sweeter (though still mysterious. And funny). I liked how he was watching out for Allie all along from the sidelines, and how he wanted her to be happy. He was lovely and I really enjoyed all the interaction between the two. He had a really interesting background story too, which definitely revealed a lot about him and why he was the way he was, and I generally found him to be an interesting, likeable character. I definitely can’t wait to see more of him! Sylvain, on the other hand, I did not like. At least, not at the beginning. He basically thought he could get whatever he wanted with the click of his fingers, and that really annoyed me. By the end, though, he seemed to regret some of the horrible and stupid stuff he’d done, and did redeem himself a little, so I’m intrigued as to what will happen involving him in the next book.

Plot-wise, Night School was brilliant and unpredictable. I had no idea who was behind the attacks, why they were doing it or what the hell the Night School were up to. Isabelle, the headmistress of Cimmeria, intrigued me from the start – I knew she was not your usual headteacher, and she was definitely hiding a lot about Allie and the school. The storyline surrounding Allie’s brother was really good too. The note he left was so cryptic and the whole time, my mind was just going “WTF” because I had no clue why he disappeared or what the note meant or why he would even write it. I wanted to know what the heck was happening, which is probably why I got through the book so fast – I never stopped turning the pages! It was a great mystery and I’m already anxious to read the next book!

Overall, Night School was an exciting, captivating read with great characters and a story that will keep you entranced for hours. Highly recommended!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Review: Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Half-Blood (Covenant #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Released: October 18th 2011
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures. Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1: Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden. Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck. (from Goodreads)

Half-Blood was just as good as I hoped it would be. I’d read so many raving reviews for it, so my expectations were pretty high. I wasn’t disappointed. I loved the concept (and yes, okay, it was similar to Vampire Academy, but I think Jennifer did a lot to make this story her own, so I’m overlooking it) and I loved the characters and by the end, I was devastated – actually devastated – that I didn’t already have the sequel to read. I can’t wait until April, I actually can’t. I need Pure NOW.

Alex was nothing short of badass. She was freaking awesome. I’m generally quite a shy person, so some of the things Alex did came across as a bit rude or reckless to me, but I absolutely loved that she didn’t really care what anyone else thought of her, and that she was determined to do her own thing without being bossed around by people who didn’t even know her. Sometimes I wish I could be as brave as her! I really love heroines with strong personalities, and Alex was just that. She was a fighter, and didn’t really know any other life, so I think that’s why she was so scared of being forced into servitude. If she didn’t catch up on all the training she’d missed over the three years she was away, the Covenant were going to force her into serving the pures (pure-blooded descendants of the gods), and the thought disgusted Alex (as it did me – I can’t believe they would force people into that!) because all she wanted to do was fight the daimons that killed her mother. But as well as being kick-ass, sarcastic and talented, Alex was also pretty damn funny. She always had some great comeback, or something funny to say, and the back and forth banter between her and Aiden was brilliant to read. They were so good together! Alex also made me laugh when she felt flustered or embarrassed – as she was usually quite a confident person, seeing her blush or blabber incoherently was hilarious because it was so different from her usual self.

Aiden was...I can’t think of a word to describe him really. Sort of in a new league of book boys. He’s definitely joined my list of favourites. He was harsh on Alex while they trained, but you could tell it was because he cared. He was usually quite formal and straight-faced (and hot and stoic), but occasionally, there were these moments where he slipped up and grinned, or did something adorably sweet that just made me wish I could be Alex for a few hours. And because those moments didn’t happen that often, it was extra-amazing when they did. I just loved him, and every other page I was cursing the stupid law that made it illegal for half-bloods and pure-bloods to be together. Aiden quite clearly didn’t see half-bloods as second class, and treated Alex just like anyone else, but ahh. There was definitely tension between the pures and halfs and the law just made things worse. What exactly would happen if they did get together and reproduce, anyway? I’m so curious! I need more! And more Aiden and Alex, because those two have amazing chemistry and they need to be together. I am so Team Aiden right now, it’s unbelievable.

Another character I liked (even though I didn’t want to) was Seth. Ah Seth. The bringer of the love triangle. I just know, now that Seth has arrived, that there will be a love triangle in the next book. I’m not necessarily looking forward to it (being sick of love triangles, and all) but I think I’ll be okay with it. Mostly because in this book, Seth was pretty great. He was funny, almost as reckless and loud-mouthed as Alex, and just cool. I liked him and the way he never took much seriously, and he seemed to understand Alex more than a lot of other people. That being said, I’m still Team Aiden all the way. But I’ll be interested to see how things play out in the next book. Caleb, Alex’s best friend, was also pretty cool. He was quiet hilarious, understanding and always there for Alex. He had her back and was a good friend (well, maybe a bit reckless himself, but a good guy deep down ;]).

The plot was a bit predictable (I guessed the thing about the Apollyon from early on) but there were a few twists that kept me absorbed and I had loads of questions that I was desperate to know the answers to throughout. The book was fast-paced and never, ever boring and I finished it in one sitting. The sequel cannot come fast enough.

Overall, Half-Blood was a funny, compelling novel, with great action and amazing romance. It’s been described as a mix of Vampire Academy and Percy Jackson, which I think is exactly right. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who liked either of those series, or to anyone looking for feisty heroines and an awesome forbidden romance.