26 February 2013


Author: Holly Smale
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Haper Collins
UK Release date: 28th February 2013
Genre: YA
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

Harriet is a geek. And right now, geek is cool.

However for Harriet, she wasn't comfortable in her own skin. Her nemesis and bully, Alexa, was a mean hearted, spiteful girl, who delighted in picking on Harriet and making her feel like an outcast. Harriet didn't have the self confidence to ignore Alexa's taunts and thought far too much about what others think about her, meaning she felt nervous and embarrassed at every turn. Despite, and because of her flaws, I thought Harriet was great. She was down to earth and easy to relate to.

The story didn't get boring; it was a fast paced and humorous read. With a positive message behind it, Geek Girl is fun and sweet. If you were ever the geeky girl at school, you'll love this.

At first I didn't like Harriet's best friend Nat. She took Harriet for granted, inviting her to the school trip and then dumping her as soon as they arrived. I couldn't quite see why they were friends. And as the story went on there was a lot of tension between them, but I did eventually see them look out for each other.

In contrast, Harriet's dad was fab! I loved him from the off. He was off the wall, crazy and more of a teenager than Harriet, often trying to encourage her to act like a proper rebellious teen. I imagine he would be embarrassing as your own dad, but from an outside perspective he added fun and humour to the story. I just loved his personality and the way he teased Harriet, and in turn I loved Harriet's reactions to him.

My one gripe with the plot is the modelling aspect and the personalities of the model agent and fashion designers. It all seemed a little cliche and a little too easy and far-fetched. I understand Holly Smale was once a model and has experience of this job (and I don't), but for me it just didn't sit quite right.

This is a story of a young girl trying to come to terms with who she is, and although she goes to extremes to try to become a different person, it is most definitely a feel good story.

Rating: 4*

25 February 2013


If you have been reading Tera Lynn Child's medusa trilogy, then you will be interested to see the cover reveal for the third book in the series, Sweet Legacy. This series sees teenage descendants of Medusa, triplets Gretchen, Grace and Greer, face their toughest test yet as the mythological and the modern collide in a fast-paced urban fantasy adventure. 

I love the modern feel of these covers, and in particular I love the blue/purple colours of Sweet Legacy. What do you think of the covers?

Book 2 in the series, Sweet Shadows is out this March and Sweet Legacy is publishing in the UK in September 2013. If you are yet to read the first in the series, Sweet Venom, you can read my review here.

And you should definitely check out the fab guest post by Tera Lynn Childs on Gretchen's Top 3 mythical creatures.

You can find Tera on Twitter or on her website.

20 February 2013


Author: Celia Bryce
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
UK Release date: January 2013
Genre: MG
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Megan Bright and Jackson Dawes are two teenagers who first meet each other on the hospital ward where they are both being treated for cancer. Megan is scared and worried about her illness, but Jackson seems to be an old hand, having been on the ward for ages. And everybody loves Jackson! He is a whirlwind of life and energy, warmth and sparkle. Megan will need to borrow some of Jackson's extraordinary optimism to face her and Jackson's future. A moving story of first love and a remarkably powerful debut novel.

It's a very scary time for Megan Dawes when she goes into hospital for the first time. Suffering from cancer, the story focuses on her experience of illness and her stay in hospital as she receives chemotherapy. At first she finds the hospital unsettling, and filled with children and babyish decorations it's not a very comforting place for her. With her friends avoiding her and her own reaction to push her parents away, Megan is very lonely. But through the course of her treatment, Megan changes and adapts to her situation, especially with the unrelenting, positive and sunshine-like presence of Jackson. The hospital seemed gloomy until he came into the picture; his smiling personality brought warmth and humour to the plot and to Megan's life. The plot definitely benefited from Jackson's character, as it uplifted the whole story.

To me the writing felt like it had an 'old' quality to it. There were lots of old fashioned sayings and phrases in the dialogue and narrative. And although they were often words quoted from grandparents or parents, they still found their way into the teenagers' vocabulary and the general narrative. It gave me a sense of familiarity (probably because I'm getting old myself), but I'm not sure if a younger audience might find these phrases a little off and unusual.

I found the story to be a short and snappy read giving a glimpse into the different characters lives without delving too deeply in. Although there's always an undercurrent of fear and trepidation, the story isn't too depressing, making it suitable for a younger audience. Being an emotional roller coaster ride, it would have been too draining to read if it was any longer, and as it was, the plot kept a good balance of smile and cry worthy moments. However on the downside, I would have liked a little more character development. I wanted to know more about Jackson and Megan's family, and get a better understanding of their emotions and feelings around illness and loss.

Anthem for Jackson Dawes is a heartbreaking debut of two teenagers' experience of love and loss.

Rating: 3.5*

17 February 2013


Author: Katy Moran
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Walker Books
UK Release date: 7th March 2013
Genre: YA, Fae
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

When Lissy meets a mysterious and strangely beautiful boy on her way to Hopesay Edge, she is deeply unsettled by their encounter.

She discovers that the boy, Larkspur, is a member of the Hidden, an ancient group of elven people, whose secrets lie buried at Hopesay Reach. Before long, Lissy and her brother Rafe find themselves caught by a powerful magic and fighting to escape a bargain that can never be broken. (From Goodreads)

One of my favourite things about Hidden Among Us was the British setting. It wasn't just that the story was set in the UK, but the rural Hopesay Edge felt wild and rugged. This atmosphere (and very typical British rainy weather) fit perfectly with the scary fae theme. It also made the old house Lissy stayed in feel like it was right on the border with the dangerous and mysterious fae world - which of course it was.

The faeries were typically ethereal - tall and inhumanely beautiful. But they had a very dark, wild and scary side to them. They flitted in and out of the story to start and I didn't know what to expect from them; but I did know they were up to no good by stealing children from the human world to take back to the faery world. The fact that they didn't understand or follow human emotions and morals made them unpredictable, cold and dangerous. The faery King in particular was a nasty figure. Bur Larkspur was different; he seemed to understand humans and empathise with them, and for some reason I had a little soft spot for him.

I really liked that the story was told from different character's perspectives; Joe's, Lissy's and Rafe's. each character, and narrative style, was very distinct. Lissy was both wonderfully fragile and strong. There was obviously something or someone coming after her, but even when she was in serious danger she still fought back. Rafe was the tough older brother, charging around trying to find out the mystery behind Hopesay Reach. In comparison, Joe was thrown into this strange family and was made to feel like the useless outsider. In my opinion though, he was the best character in the book. He wasn't pretentious or overly macho like Rafe, but he was still brave and caring. Despite being a naturally sensible person, he still took risks. I think he was fab!

What I didn't expect were the mysterious people following Lissy's brother, Rafe. They were always unseen but always following, and so I instantly knew they were creepy and dangerous. Mind you, with this story there was danger lurking around every corner, and this really kept me on my toes.

Hidden Among Us was a grippingly creepy and wild adventure with the fae.

Rating: 4*

15 February 2013


Today, I'm really excited to have Katy Moran on My Book Journey to talk about Conceiving a Book (and pinning down the plot), in particular for her latest book Hidden Among Us.

Having read and really enjoyed this story of the fae, I'm really excited to hear how Katy developed the idea behind it! In particular I loved the very British feel to the story, and if you read below you will find out where this inspiration came from.

Hidden Among Us was first formally discussed with my editor in 2009, but for many years prior to that I’d been percolating the idea for a book in which the everyday world is not all it seems; I wanted to make readers suspect that magic really might take place, and that those old myths and legends we grew up with are far more than just stories, but actually powerful influences on real people. My greatest teachers in this respect were authors whose books I drank in with bottomless appetite as a child: Alan Garner, Robert Westall and Diana Wynne-Jones to name only a few. One of my most favourite books as a child was Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan – I read about Pidge and his sister and their terrifying close encounter with the Otherworld so many times that the book is in tatters now. Of course, Alan Garner’s The Owl Service is another masterpiece that explores not only the power of an ancient myth – the old Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd – but also the destructive effects of jealousy, bitterness and revenge. All of these books shaped my imagination as I grew up: ideas for books can brew in an author’s subconscious mind for decades before finally taking shape. Sometimes, ingredients are added almost without my being aware of them, but I do distinctly remember a boy who became my husband playing me a song in the kitchen of the house we shared at university. The song was Reynardine, sung by Sandy Denny. I’d never heard Reynardine before, and I knew that one day I would have to write a story about a wild and mysterious young man encountered one night by a young girl.

I grew up reading tales of myths rooted to wild landscapes, but one of the most crucial ingredients in Hidden Among Us was the countryside I grew up in. Cambridgeshire is almost suburban by comparison to where I live now but when I was a child, the fields and lanes we explored beneath those enormous shifting skies sometimes seemed perilously close to another world. There’s a lane in our village called the Drift – often spoken of in whispers. A friend and I ran down it in complete and genuine terror one day, convinced we were being chased by a giant – and totally non-existent – black cat. Another time, we were walking home from a dark pool that I was convinced witches had been ducked in when we discovered a tree covered in deep slashes, as if it had been scratched. I clearly remember the pair of us examining gouges cut right through the bark, then looking up to see all the trees along the lane covered in similar scratches. We ran that time, too. I can’t say for sure what really happened. Maybe there was one tree that someone had vandalised with a pocket-knife, and my overactive imagination filled in the gaps, in which case I must have terrified the living daylights out of the friend I was with. My four-year-old lives in a world that is indistinguishable from his imagination, and I suspect that this merging of reality and interior stories goes on for a lot longer in some children, and in the case of those who grow up to become writers of fiction, it never really subsides one hundred per cent.

So, Hidden Among Us was conceived in the mind of a child who lived in the countryside, reading myths and legends planted in modern landscapes by master storytellers. Maybe it was that creepy dark pool in my village, but by the time we reached 2009, and I began to pin down the plot for a new novel, I knew I wanted to re-work those old stories of sunken villages lost in floods let loose by divine retribution or the need for new reservoirs. I’d been to the Highlands of Scotland and driven past a man-made loch concealing such a village, which I think must have reignited my interest, and I also began researching odd places like the mysterious Bomere Pool in Shropshire, which reportedly houses the ghost of a Roman soldier in search of his lost love. As you will see, the plot of Hidden Among Us morphed – it was certainly one of those cases where the characters took matters into their own hands. Hidden Among Us is no longer the story of a sunken village, but of a lake which becomes a gateway into another world, and I suppose I have the tale of King Arthur to thank for that!

Thank you so much Katy for sharing your inspiration and research. I feel slightly ashamed that I don't know the Welsh tale of Blodeuwedd - I must find out!

Hidden Among Us will be published on March 7th 2013 by Walker Books. For more information about Katy or her books, you can find Katy on Twitter or on her website.

Don't forget to drop by Viv's blog next Friday for the second installment in Katy Moran's blog tour.

13 February 2013


Author: Kiersten White
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
UK Release date: 19th February 2013
Genre: YA Paranormal
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

She never chose her deadly gift but now she’s forced to use it. How far would you go to protect the only family you have left?
Annie is beset by fleeting strange visions and a guilty conscience. Blind and orphaned, she struggles to care for her feisty younger sister Fia, but things look up when both sisters are offered a place at Kessler School for Exceptional Girls.
With Annie trapped in Kessler’s sinister clutches, instincts keep Fia from killing an innocent guy and everything unravels. Is manipulative James the key to the sisters’ freedom or an even darker prison? And how can Fia atone for the blood on her hands? (Goodreads)

Having just finished the Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White, I was completely surprised and blown away at how different this book was in writing style. Sister Assassin was punchy, intense and gripping; a fast paced roller coaster ride. One minute I was thinking and expecting one thing, and then a few pages later everything had changed to make me think otherwise. The plot and structure certainly kept me on my toes.

Fia and Annie were both plunged into this strange, deceptive world after the death of their parents. Unlike the school Annie is expecting it to be, it turned out to be far more dangerous and really pushed Fia to her limits. Having been tested and manipulated so much, Fia was both incredibly strong and clever and yet also so hurt and broken. I really felt for her and wanted her to outwit the deceitful people around her.

With first-person dual narratives from both Fia and Annie’s perspectives, these gave a lot of insight into their feelings, and often their guilt concerning their sister. It could be a little difficult to keep track of who was talking and when, because the narratives would also jump forward and backward in time, but I enjoyed trying to piece together what had happened and where the story was at.

I found it so intriguing and yet sad that both Fia and Annie would make decisions based on their sister. Neither of them was happy because they felt guilty or responsible for their sister, worrying that they were holding them back and trapping them in their situation. Sadly neither of them really understood how the other felt and they kept trying to do the best for the other but it often didn’t work out for the best.

The paranormal element to the story was the existence of seers and readers. I loved these different abilities people had within the story, and the mystery behind Fia’s ability. I didn’t understand what exactly she could do for a long while, but I enjoyed the way she messed with other people’s abilities, screaming swear words or annoying pop songs in her head to put off the mind readers. Apart from Tia and Annie, I didn’t trust any of the other characters or didn’t know if I could trust them so I found it amusing when she did this.

Sister Assassin is a short, sharp, punchy read with lots of action and mystery that will keep you glued to the pages.

Rating: 5*

6 February 2013


Author: Tanya Byrne
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Headline
UK Release date: May 2012
Genre: YA

They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. 
Who I could have been.
Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time.

Heart-shaped Bruise is the story of a young girl in a youth offending institution. Emily is the bad girl – other girls in the institution fear her, and it’s obvious she’s done something awful to end up there. I wondered at first if I could have sympathy with her; with a girl who offers no regrets or apologies to the girl she victimised. But when I started listening to her story I instantly suspended all doubts and judgements, and was completely riveted by Emily’s account of why she did what she and the msytery of what had actually happened.

Written in a diary, Emily pours her feelings and memories onto the pages and also recalls the sessions with her psychiatrist. I loved the variation between the two; with the psychiatrist, there were things she is pushed to think about, and things she tries to hold on so tightly to. What she said to the psychiatrist was just as revealing as what she didn't say, and I loved the interaction between Emily and Doctor Gilyard. Writing in her diary, Emily was a lot less reserved and more honest about her feelings and the past, whilst in contrast her sessions showed her very slowly changing and moving into a new future.

Despite the fact that Emily bitterly wanted to get revenge on Juliet, I loved the way she still felt respect and admiration for her. I found this fascinating and still can't decide if it makes me feel more or less sympathy with her. These psychological and emotional elements to the story made it gripping, and Tanya's writing really made the characters feel alive.

Although I won't give spoilers, I will say that Tanya Byrne could have very easily written an ending that was happy or gave a definite outcome and resolution. But she didn't; and I like that. I think a happy ending would have felt like it was done for the sake of it. Okay, so yes, I still had questions at the end and I wanted to know for certain what happened to particular characters, but I liked the ambiguity and the fact that you could fill in the gaps for yourself.

Heart-shaped Bruise is a gripping tale of a young girl led down a troubled path.

Rating: 5*

4 February 2013


As children, and still as adults, we are told that lying and purposely misleading or deceiving others is bad. Does that then mean that any lie we might tell instantly makes us a bad person? And what of characters that lie? Can you ever like a character that lies?

L is for Lying

Despite the fact that we are taught that honesty is best, research conducted by Bella DePaulo showed that people lie at least once or twice every day. And if I was really honest, I could probably count myself with these people. But I wouldn't say I was a bad person.

Recently I thought I was buying a particular service only to realise later that it wasn't what I had thought it was. In fact it was a poor substitute. This deception really annoyed and frustrated me. But is it any different to when I tell a friend that a new haircut or item of clothes looks good (when in fact it really doesn't)? Both are lies. But the purposes are different. Whilst the shop I went to gained extra profit from their deception, I didn't really gain much from lying to a friend. Except perhaps maintaining a positive relationship. 

So do these little lies I tell make me a bad person? Would society be a better place if we didn't lie at all? Or are some little lies that smooth over social interactions a necessary evil? Many people believe that if we didn't have these little 'white' lies, then society would be very different, and not for the best either.

What I loved about the main character, Moist von Lipwig, in Terry Pratchett's Going Postal is that he cheats, cons and tricks his way through life. In fact, lying and disguising his true self has become second nature to the point where being himself makes him feel naked and vulnerable. He barely even recognised how his tricks and lies might affect other people and and enjoyed the thrill of getting away with his scams and schemes. 
"No one had bothered him. No one had looked at him twice; no one ever did. The city gates had indeed been wide open. The plains lay ahead of him, full of opportunity. And he was good at parlaying nothing into something. For example, at the first little town he came to he'd go to work on this little old nag with a few simple techniques and ingredients that'd make it worth twice the price he'd paid for it, at least for about twenty minutes or until it rained. Twenty minutes would be enough time to sell it and, with any luck, pick up a better horse worth slightly more than the asking price. He'd do it again at the next town and in three days, maybe four, he'd have a horse worth owning."
But despite all these things, I liked him. I really, really liked him. If he was just a liar and conman, then I wouldn't have. But he was more than that: he changed and grew. Meeting a rather brusque young lady helped him to slowly start seeing the error of his ways. He found somewhere that needed his charm and cheeky talk. He found someone that cared for him; someone he could care for; and he wanted to be better.

Like many of the people in DePaulo's study, I don't lie to hurt others or to necessarily gain anything. None the less, I do lie. But these lies aren't the whole of me, they don't define me; they allow me to get on better with other people. This might not be the case for everyone, but when it comes to book characters, I think we can like characters that lie if they aren't the defining feature of them. If there is more to them than lies. If there are other things that they care about.

Could you ever like a character that lies?