Thursday 28 June 2012

From the Review Pile (8)

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!

First of all, I'm sorry for posting this so late today - trust me to forget the day of the week!

This week, I'm going to showcase After the Snow by S.D. Crockett!
I think that this books sounds really interesting - It's described as post apocalyptic which is one of my favourite genres, so I'm hoping that this one will impress me, despite the mixed reviews. I think that the reason why I haven't picked this one up yet is because I'm quite a seasonal reader, so I really want to read this one when there's snow around me in winter, I just think it'll add some extra impact for me! 

After the Snow by S.D. Crockett
Hardback, 320 pages
Published 2nd February by Macmillan Children's Books

I'm gonna sit here in my place on the hill behind the house. Waiting. And watching. Ain't nothing moving down there.The valley look pretty bare in the snow. Just the house grey and lonely down by the river all frozen. I got to think what I'm gonna do now that everyone gone.But I got my dog head on.The dog gonna tell me what to do. The dog gonna help me.The house look proper empty – don't it dog?You just sit quiet in these rocks Willo.Set in the haunting and barren landscape of a new ice age, After The Snow is the story of fifteen-year-old Willo, a "straggler" kid who loses his family in the opening pages. Completely alone, he is immediately flung into an icy journey of survival, adventure, friendship and self-discovery – with only the dog spirit inside his head to guide him. Meanwhile, across Britain, outlawed followers of survivalist John Blovyn are planning an escape to the fabled Islands talked of in a revolutionary book.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Graffiti Moon

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Paperback, 416 pages

Expected Publication: 5th July 2012 by Hodder Children's Books
(First Published 1st August 2010)

My shelves: 
arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, contemporary, currently-reading, read-in-2012, realistic-fiction, too-much-hype, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
"Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow. The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds trapped on brick walls and people lost in ghost forests. Paints guys with grass growing from their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn mowers."

It’s the end of Year 12. Lucy’s looking for Shadow, the graffiti artist everyone talks about.

His work is all over the city, but he is nowhere.

Ed, the last guy she wants to see at the moment, says he knows where to find him. He takes Lucy on an all-night search to places where Shadow’s thoughts about heartbreak and escape echo around the city walls.

But the one thing Lucy can’t see is the one thing that’s right before her eyes.
Buy this book:
My thanks go to Hodder for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was very curious about this book since reading all of the rave international reviews. When I discovered that the book would be released in England, I knew that I had to try and get a copy. As soon as I had a copy in my hands, I was very eager to read it, but also a little reluctant - I had high expectations! Thankfully, it didn't disappoint.

One of the first books that I reviewed on this blog was A Little Wanting Song by the same author, which I did like, but it didn't impress me all that much. It was based around music, which I don't have that much of a connection with. In contrast, Graffiti Moon is based around art and two artists, which I could very easily connect with. I used to create a lot more art than I do now, (click here if you want to see it), but I will never lose my connection towards art, and it feels to me as though the characters in this book could never lose their connection to art either. I don't know if Crowley has a personal adoration for art, but I think that in a few simple words, she has been very successful in portraying that feeling across. 

Even if you're not an artist or if you don't visit galleries often, I believe that you could still easily enjoy this. You've probably heard of or seen some of Banksy's art, and essentially, this story is about a couple of boys like him - 'anonymous' street/graffiti artists called Shadow and Poet. I love Banksy, so I instantly loved the idea of this one. The story is told in several points of view - from Lucy, Ed (Shadow) and Leo (Poet). I was surprised to see that Poet's chapters were actually written in poetry and I loved that. 

This book reminded me a little of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. As we follow Lucy and Ed throughout one night, we get to learn about them as they learn about each other and their friendship progresses. Lucy is on a mission to discover who Shadow is, and doesn't realise that she's forming a friendship with him. I personally thought this was a bit more realistically written and definitely better developed than Nick and Norah. It is really hard to believe that this book is set over a night, so much is crammed in, but it doesn't feel overly-packed - it does feel natural. I really loved learning about all of the characters that we were introduced to in this book, not just the main ones. We got to hear about people who helped and inspired our protagonists and their development was very strong, even though they were in the 'background'. Lucy and Ed both felt very genuine and real to me, their personality beaming through the pages.

This is a fantastic contemporary read that managed to really impress me. It's not exactly full of joy - maybe not a beach read, but it is full of discovery and has a great sense of hope about it. I wouldn't hesitate to anyone who wants a quick but  reasonably deep and satisfying young adult read. 

Monday 25 June 2012

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Paperback, 416 pages

Expected Publication: 2nd August 2012 by Bloomsbury

My shelves: arc-or-review, better-than-expected, 
books-i-own, cover-appeal, fae, fantasy, magic,
read-in-2012, really-good, series-or-companions,
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Celaena Sardothien is a daredevil assassin with unrivalled fighting skills. After a year’s hard labour in the salt mines of the kingdom of Adarlan, Celaena is offered her freedom on one condition—she must fight as handsome Prince Dorian’s champion in a contest sponsored by the king, facing the deadliest thieves and assassins in the land in a series of set-piece battles in the country’s stunning glass palace. But there is more at stake than even her life—for Celaena is destined for a remarkable future...
Buy this book:

My thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

To be honest, I hadn't really heard of this book until I was asked if I'd like to review it. After a quick search around the internet, it was crystal clear that this was one of the books to get excited about, so I jumped at the chance! As you'll all know by now, I'm intimidated by high fantasy, but I've been stepping out of my reading comfort zone a lot this year and so I gave this a go.

As expected, I did find the book a little difficult at first. The book is quite different to what I've read before in terms of both ideas and setting, so it did take me some time to adjust. Thankfully, it didn't take too long to get into it and despite still remaining a little confused, it wasn't overwhelming. This isn't a simple story where everything is given to you on a plate - there are lots of little clues scattered throughout the story, so it's important to try and concentrate on everything. The only thing I can really compare it to is the way that J.K. Rowling has a meaning  and story behind everything - there were actually a few things that reminded me of the Harry Potter series throughout, and I can't complain about that! Maas has crafted her story with great intelligence and thought. Mass has immense potential to make this into an even more complex story as she continues the series.

Throne of Glass focuses on Celeana Sardothien's attempt to become the King's Champion, by fighting in a tournament in order to be named as the one who protects the King and carries out various 'tasks' for him for four years, after which, she will be granted freedom. There is a lot of mystery throughout and also quite a bit of action, but the real action occurs near the end, where we see Celeana actually battle the other contestants. It does sound a similar idea to The Hunger Games and it did remind me of it very slightly, but no complaints there as the story in general is very different. The fight scenes were slightly more gruesome than I thought they'd be, but in the best possible way - it felt as though nothing was being held back. Celeana also has some important dreams and hallucinations which are written very well. 

The characters were interesting. I liked Celeana, our main kick-ass character, who was witty and had a confident attitude. We don't really know much about her at the beginning apart from that she was the assassin of Adarlan, sent to the country's salt mines to work as a slave. I wasn't completely blown away by her, but she wasn't a bad character in the slightest - I just wanted something a little more unique. I did like that her femininity did show in the story, whilst she was still a fierce character. I absolutely loved the UK cover for this book, but after reading it, I feel as though the US cover is slightly more fitting - it reminds me that Celeana is in fact just meant to be a young girl.

I think that 'romance' in the book was the one thing that made me a bit hesitant about the characters. The obvious love-triangle is sort of introduced, but I was grateful that it certainly wasn't the focus of the book. There was an underlying and quite subtle romantic theme which did work as it was, but it will be interesting to see how it progresses in the next books. I really liked Captain Chaol Westfall and despite his somewhat promiscuous reputation, I thought Prince Dorian wasn't bad either - I did grow to like him, especially once I learnt about his vast collection of books. I do find myself rooting for a certain character, Chaol, and I think it is going to be very interesting to learn more about him, especially after his actions in this book. 

Of course, there are a multitude of other characters that we are introduced to - including the charming Princess Nehemia and the wicked Lady Kaltain. There is a whole load of people and just things in general that I could mention - I could keep on typing for days! This book just feels so 'full' and the length is certainly justified. Maas has obviously done her best at creating the world inside the palace and she has done it brilliantly - I would just like to discover more about what's happening/has happened outside too. I never thought I'd get through a 400+ page high fantasy book, but I have been impressed. The writing and depth in Throne of Glass was superb, and I'll be looking forward to reading more of this series.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Stacking the Shelves/Showcase Sunday (8)

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews.
Showcase Sunday is a meme 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 four very different books for review this week - only one of which is actually YA! I am most excited to read and review Why We Broke Up, so expect a post for that very soon! I also received French Lessons as part of a blog tour I will be participating in. As well as those, I received Cox and Split Second

 I made quite a few swaps this week and received some awesome-looking books in return! I received two books by Jennifer Echols, The One That I Want and Love Story which I'm very excited about - I've only read Going Too Far by her, but I loved it, so I'm hoping these ones will be just as good! I also got The Girl in the Mask, Crave, The Rules for Hearts and a copy of Once a Witch!

 I was gifted a copy of Mad Love by the lovely Jade @ Ink Scratchers this week, thanks Jade! I also won an awesome prize from Electric Monkey including a cool satchel, a finished copy of Dads, Geeks & Blue Haired Freaks and an ARC of Zombies Don't Cry!

 Yep, even after getting all of those other books through the mail, I couldn't resist buying a few! I had a pretty rough time at the doctors on monday, so I walked down to the local indie bookshop (which may not actually be closing now they have plans for a cafe inside it!) and bought a copy of a book I've been after for a while - Grave MercyI am always on the look out for books with a LGBT focus and when I found out about About a Girl, I had to buy a copy of that. Courtesy of The Book Depository summer solstice 24 hours of offers, I also bought a copy of a YA contemporary - Lex - for a couple of quid!

I hope you've all had an equally successful bookish week!
What books did you get?

Friday 22 June 2012

Follow Friday (10)

Hi everyone, just to let you know that I have been featured at Midnight Reads!
If you want to check out the interview, you can view it by [clicking here].

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee & Alison Can Read
The question that everyone was asked this week was:

If you could "unread" a book, which one would it be? Is it because you want to start over and experience it again for the first time? Or because it was THAT bad?

The immediate answer that comes to my head in response to this question is The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. If there is one book that I hate with a passion, it is The Catcher in the Rye. Hate it. I do partly blame myself, as I had high expectations for the book and was very excited to read it, but when I did it was just... awful. I don't actually wish to 'unread' it because it was awful though, but rather so that I can experience it again and see if I feel any differently to what I did a couple of years ago. Since it took me so long to trudge miserably through it the first time, the thought of re-reading it makes me groan, but I really do want to know why it's a classic and why so many people love it. It's just one of those books where I really can't understand why it's so highly regarded. I really just couldn't stand Holden and his whining. 

Thursday 21 June 2012

From the Review Pile (7)

 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!

First of all, I'm sorry for posting this so late today - trust me to forget the day of the week!

This week, I'm going to showcase The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg!
I am not quite sure why I haven't gotten around to this one yet as it just looks fantastic! It has such a gorgeous cover and the premise behind it sounds really, really interesting. I'm looking forward to reading more UK YA too, so I'll have to get around to this one soon!

The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Hardback, 375 pages
Published 21st February by Penguin Young Readers

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning.... Welcome to forever.

BRIE'S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn't love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she's D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there's Patrick, Brie's mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick's help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she's ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1) by Kendare Blake
Paperback, 384 pages

Expected Publication: July 5th 2012 by Orchard Books
(First Published August 30th 2011)
My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, cover-appeal,
 ghosts, magic,
read-in-2012, supernatural, horror, title-appeal, young-adult

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story... 
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. 
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. 
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. 
And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.
My thanks go to Orchard for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to finally get my hands on a copy of Anna Dressed in Blood after reading mostly rave reviews about it from American readers. I'm glad to say that this didn't disappoint and I can see it becoming a very popular young adult book over here when it is released here in the UK! This is the start of a trilogy that is certainly going to appeal to a lot of paranormal fans.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a fantastic YA debut from Kendare Blake and it shows that she certainly has talent and a good imagination! The plot was an interesting one - we're introduced to Cas, a boy who finds it his duty to kill the dead. I found it a little confusing that he was killing murderous  ghosts who were already dead, but it seems he was trying to get them to transition into another afterlife. Cas is always travelling, on a quest to avenge his father's death, and we meet him when he arrives at a new school. Whilst there, he meets a group of people who take him to the house where Anna, a girl who died in a blood soaked dress, haunts. From thereon in, the book is enthralling, captivating and rather gory! Personally, I loved all of the gory details and creepy situations. It was unsettling without being scary. This would certainly make a great book to read around Halloween!

Anna was such an interesting character - As soon as she was mentioned, I want to know more about her and she still remains intriguing after I have heard the story of her death. I have a very vivid image of her in my mind - she is creepy, a pretty strong character and, well, haunting - I can't fully explain it, but my main point is that she's a very bold and interesting character. She seems complex and I'd love to read more about her. Unfortunately, I wasn't that taken by our other main character, Cas. He simply didn't interest me all that much - he paled in comparison to Anna. I did warm to him as the book went on though and I found his relationships with the other characters to be interesting. Cas and Anna's relationship progressed during the book at a reasonable rate - I was glad that Blake managed to create some gradual chemistry between both of them, though I do think it was still a little too fast. As for the other characters, I absolutely loved Thomas, a guy who befriends Cas and who has some psychic abilities. He was totally endearing and his interest in Carmel was adorable.

Whilst Anna Dressed in Blood was for the most part very engaging, it wasn't perfect. The main reason why I liked this book was Anna, and she didn't always take the main stage. At some points, it felt as though Blake didn't really think of the bigger picture and just made the characters do what they wanted, even if it wasn't realistic and some things felt inconsistent. A lot of people will love the action, particularly at the end of the book, but I actually preferred the subtleties of the storytelling. 

Overall, I thought that this was a wonderfully gruesome book - I fell in love with Anna more than the storyline, but I can't wait to see what happens in the next instalment of this trilogy. It was great to read some really creepy, gritty YA and I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the paranormal genre. 

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman by Lily Blake (et. al)
Paperback, 240 pages

Published 1st June 2012 by Atom

My shelves:
 arc-or-review, books-i-own, currently-reading, fairy-tales, fantasy, magic, movies-or-tv, read-in-2012, young-adult
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:
A breathtaking new vision of a legendary tale. Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman who was dispatched to kill her.
Buy this book:

My thanks go to Atom for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

I confess that I'm a little wary of reading books based on movies as it seems a little unnatural - surely movies should be based on books? Still, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about surrounding Snow White and the Huntsman. To be honest, I lack the concentration span for films, so it was actually great to see that a novel was being released - I can use my own imagination and take it at my own pace.... but now, after reading the book, I do want to go and see the film version! 

I have read some fantastic fairytale retellings (Cinder) and some not so great ones, so it was interesting to see what this was like. Snow White is one of the most popular fairytales that I think almost everyone knows about. It's a little dangerous to mess around with something the world knows and loves, but I think that for the most part, the changes worked out okay. 

The story was vivid and it felt as though there was a lot of adventure, even though it wasn't particularly fast-paced. I think that if the pace had been a bit more rapid, it would have been more effective - I think that the blurb of this book makes it sound a little more action packed than it is, but the book remained simple, perhaps so that it is more accessible for younger readers.  

There wasn't really anything complex about this book - it was relatively short and a quick read, so there wasn't much room for depth, but I don't feel as though the story suffered for that - I still got a good idea about all of the characters and they were firm in my mind. Personally, I like to learn more about the emotions of characters, but even without this, I did have an idea of what the characters were feeling. Of course, more development could have been made but for the type of book this is, it wasn't necessary- it's just a reasonably quick, entertaining read and it's good that way - I think that it could've gone disastrously wrong if it took itself too seriously - the easy-to-read yet still quite beautiful writing is definitely a bonus for younger readers.  

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed by the ending of this book - there wasn't a huge climax in the story and the ending didn't really come as much of a shock, either. There was potential to notch up the tension a bit, but it never seemed to happen. I personally thought that the ending was a little boring and a bit of an easy way out of the story, though I guess it did tie things up.

Although this is a very simple and quick book to read, it was enjoyable and I am glad that I read it - just to see what the twist on this traditional fairytale was. The book does feel quite 'cinematic' at points and I feel like maybe the story could be portrayed in a slightly more exciting way on screen. However, I'm a firm believer in reading the book and seeing the film. If you like reading, for less than the price of a cinema ticket, I'd pick this up and give it a try.  

You should know that I need absolutely no excuse to flail over Florence and the Machine, but I actually have an excuse this time! Florence actually wrote and recorded a song called 'Breath of Life' which is the soundtrack to Snow White and the Huntsman and is absolutely amazing! Watch the video below to hear the song and to watch the video which has lots of shots of the film included!