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31 January 2016

Blog Tour Review: Between Shadows by Chanel Cleeton

X lives by three rules: Show no weakness. Trust no one. Don’t get caught. She lives by the rules they gave her. 

The Academy—set in London, shrouded in secrecy—it trains spies, computer experts, and assassins. Their mission? Dispensing justice and altering the course of world politics. Or so they think. In a world where secrets are weapons and some kills are impossible to forget, everything X thought she knew about her life is about to change. 

They taught her to fight. To blend into the shadows like a ghost, to operate on the fringes of society, to change her identity with ease. They taught her to kill. 

She’ll need every skill they taught her, to stay alive.

Source: Blog Tour | Review Consideration | Purchase

5 Words: Assassin, family, fight, shadows, love.

This book is amazing.

I wasn't such a fan of the Capital Confessions series - I can only take so much politics, and it's not much - but with this book Chanel Cleeton is back on track.

I loved the pace, how right from the start there was action and intrigue. I loved how there was this secret place where assassins, assets, were trained from childhood in their deadly craft. The way it was written was so believable, it rang true. It could exist.

X was my favourite character. I loved how conflicted she was, how even she didn't know what to think or believe or feel. It added this whole extra depth to her. One the one hand, she's this ruthless, kick ass assassin, trained to kill in cold blood. And then on the other hand she's this loving sister, only looking out for her sibling and willing to do anything for her.

I loved the twist, it completely changed my perception of a few characters.

Ally Carter for grown ups!

29 January 2016

Book Beginnings #16

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I am currently reading Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull.

I think I had a brother once.

So, the first line/paragraph doesn't give much away. But it is certainly intriguing! I am taking part in the blog tour for this next week, so it's time to get reading. The premise is so fascinating, an orphan in the 18th Century who dreams of being a scientist? All at once it sounds uplifting and devastating, and I can't wait.

26 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #52

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Things That Should be in UKYA.

The lovelies over at The Broke and the Bookish have declared today's list a freebie, where you can pick what you want. So mine is a kind of wish list of things I'd love to see in books. I know there are some books that do have these subjects, but I need more! So if you know any, please spill the beans!
  1. Failing Exams
    I failed mine, it wasn't the end of the world. I still got into university, I still got an amazing job. But I read about characters who are "doomed" because the got AAB instead of AAA. It's just not realistic.
  2. Periods
    They're things, people. They happen to most women. And almost every female character somehow manages their life without them..?
  3. Being Overweight
    So many protagonists are slender and toned or have a perfect hourglass figure... I want to read about chubs like me.
  4. School Bullies
    They seem to be a theme in only younger YA or MG books, but I was bullied until I left school at 18, it's a thing and it happens.
  5. Mental Health
    There was a huge UKYA Chat about this last week so it's pretty fresh in my mind, but reading about MH issues helps in bother understanding and treating.
  6. Social Media
    It's a thing. It's a huge thing. And I don't think enough books acknowledge that.
  7. Getting Drunk
    It's a general trope that guys can chill and have a beer, but the second a girl sniffs some cider she's pissed and acting OOC. This is not OK.
  8. Being Poor
    But, you know, actually poor. Living hand to mouth. Eating instant noodles for dinner every day. Wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings/cousins/neighbours. Not "boo, we're so poor, but look, Granny bought me a Tiffany necklace!" poor.
  9. Crime
    I don't want it to be glorified, I'd love a bad-things-happen-if-you're-bad book that has actual repercussions and the bad boy isn't the handsome one who gets the girl. Who would want to actually be with a tosser, really?
  10. Body Problems
    Acne and painful boobs and wide hips. Shaving legs and armpits. Hard-ons at inappropriate times. Bum fluff on chins. All of the gross stuff that happens in real life but not in books.
What would you like to see more of in a UKYA book?

24 January 2016

Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her... and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 

Source: NetGalley Request

5 Words: Politics, family, death, memories, lies.

Having read Ally Carter before I was expecting action and intrigue and sass and teenage boys that act more like they're 25 than 15. I was not expecting this.

And I was actually a little bit disappointed.

It was a good read, a quick read, but it was rather slow in pace. It felt like there was quite a bit of unnecessary filler in the pages. Even with this, a few of the characters just fell flat, 2D images hovering in the corner.

There are teeny tiny hints at romance, but nothing you could really latch on to. I thought it was a bit of a shame, as even a little more development of these hints would have given the story more depth.

All that said, I did enjoy this. And that twist at the end - the twist that I felt made the book - has made sure I'll read on. It hinted at all of the things I felt were missing and I can't wait.

I loved how unreliable Grace was too, those last pages completely changed my perception of her. And it was very brave.

23 January 2016

Mini-Review: Before the Fall: Arrival by Ally Carter

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

Don’t miss this never-before-read scene from New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter’s brand-new series, Embassy Row.

Source: Purchase

5 Words: Perfect length for a cuppa.

This is super short, it really is just a scene.

But there's something about Ally Carter's style that just immerses me in the world the second I start reading.

I have read this before the first book All Fall Down so I'm not sure what it adds to the story, but as a teeny tiny standalone it worked OK.

I liked how tough Grace was even if she could do with learning some respect for people who are just doing their jobs.

21 January 2016

Reading Lots of Books

This is something new for me, where I take a little while to sit down once a month with a cup of tea and just get whatever is on my mind off. I'd love if other people joined in too, just leave a comment or a link.
Reading Lots of Books
People think that because I read a lot of books, I must read quickly, speed read, not take it all in, read trash. How else could I hold down a full time job, a Guild Wars 2 addiction, and read about 4 books per week?
The truth is that I'm a slow reader.
I savour every word I read. I sit and day dream about what the characters might do in the following pages, I watch the imaginary film play out in my head, I dream cast the main characters. I get side-tracked by Google and Wikipedia and reference books. I think about what I would do in a similar situation. Sometimes I'll read passages, even whole chapters, out loud just to relish the rhythm of the written word.
I read so much because I love it.

I especially love everything that makes me a slow reader. I love reading, I love getting lost between the pages, exploring new worlds, meeting new people...
So I make time to read. And I make it easy.
If I'm on my break, I'll have a book in my hands. If it's particularly quiet at work, I'll have a book under the desk or the kindle cloud reader sneakily open in my browser. When night comes I turn off screens and read until I can't keep my eyes open any longer. If I'm waiting for a boss or an event on Guild Wars I'll prop a book in front of my screen.
Where people around me fill their time with TV and Facebook, I fill mine with books and Goodreads.

"Did you watch XYZ on TV last night?"
"No, but I read a great book!"
I always have my kindle and at least one book on my person at all times. If you walk into my house, then beware the piles of books, the overflowing shelves. Because books are in every room, on every surface, ready and waiting to be picked up. Genre doesn't matter - I love it all, I read it all.

I have multiple books on the go at any given time, usually different genres and formats. I dip in and out of them and rare is the book that keeps me occupied for its entirety without me sampling another.

I have a slap-dash approach when it comes to deciding what to read. Sometimes I'll ask for recommendations, I'll judge by cover, I'll pick the author I've read before or the one that I haven't. Maybe I'll like the title, or I'll dislike it, or I'll squint at the flowery font wondering what it actually says. Or maybe I'll close my eyes, spin around and point my finger.

20 January 2016

Review: A Gown of Thorns by Natalie Meg Evans

Shauna Vincent, a graduate from the north of England, has just learned that the job she set her heart on has gone to a socially well-connected rival. Devastated, she accepts an offer in France from an old family friend - to be au pair to the woman's grandchildren.

Within a week, Shauna is deep in the Dordogne. With little to do other than organise her two charges' busy social diaries, she has endless hours in which to explore the magical landscape that surrounds her. Her new home is the ancient Chateau de Chemignac with its vineyards and hidden secrets, including a locked tower room where she unearths a trove of vintage gowns, one of which feels unsettlingly familiar.

Then Shauna falls asleep one afternoon in a valley full of birdsong, and has a strange dream of a vintage aircraft circling threateningly overhead. So when she suddenly awakes to find charming local landowner Laurent de Chemignac standing over her - Shauna wonders if the dashing aristocrat might be just the person to help her untangle this unexpected message from the past.

Source: NetGalley Request

5 Words: Wine, summer, war, family, secrets.

This was a pretty easy-going story, with a split timeline offering two intriguing stories that come together at the end with a slightly predictable twist.

I loved that the main character was a scientist, and how she could hold her own. In fact, pretty much every female character in this book was smart and savvy, with strengths and weaknesses a hidden little secrets that have them an extra dimension and really brought them to life - even the side characters.

What I didn't understand were Rachel's motives. I just couldn't stop myself wondering Why? every time she did something downright vindictive for pretty much no reason. Jealousy? I guess it could have been, but if it was that was one hideous monster.

I liked the slightly fantastical element to the story and how the two main characters, being scientifically minded, questioned it. But it did feel like they gave up their questioning and just went with it a bit prematurely.

This book would be best enjoyed with a nice glass of wine on a long summer evening.

I received a copy of this for free via NetGalley for review purposes. 

19 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #51

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR.

Now, my TBR is never ending. It's infinite. It grows every day. If I see a book I might possibly like, even just a little, it's added to the list. Which actually made this a little bit more difficult! A lot of these are yet to be released, and I can only pray to the fairy-god-publicists that I might receive one or two of them for review.
  1. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  2. Fly With Me by Chanel Cleeton
  3. The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan
  4. Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
  5. All Aboard by Cressida McLaughlin
  6. Broken Sky by L.A. Weatherly
  7. A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
  8. A Tyranny of Petticoats by Jessica Spotswood
  9. Blood, Ink and Fire by Ashley Mansour
  10. Love Song by Sophia Bennett

14 January 2016

Release Day Review: Match Me If you Can by Michele Gorman

Three friends upcycle their exes through London’s most popular boyfriend recycling website, but haven’t bargained on the consequences of the exchanges they make.

Meet best friends Catherine, Rachel and Sarah. Yet to find Mr Right, they’ve been settling for Mr Right Now. But when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets the girls to join her dating site where they can recycle their ex-boyfriends, they soon realise that anything could happen.

Rachel's office romance James was a big fat mistake and she's more than happy to upcycle him... Or is she? Homebody Sarah hasn't had a date in years but when her transformation finds men falling at her newly-pedicured feet, will her popularity be worth the sacrifices she’s making? And Catherine falls asleep more often on her desk than on a man, so when she builds the perfect partner who ticks all her boxes, surely it's a recipe for love... not disaster?

There’s someone for everyone, right? These best friends are about to find out for themselves...

Source: Review Consideration

5 Words: Friends, family, love, attraction, regret.

This book was so freaking hilarious that I banned myself from reading it at work during my breaks because I was making so much noise laughing.

Michele Gorman hasn't been on my radar for long, but I will definitely, absolutely read each and every book I can find. So far, every new book I read is better than the last, and that's one heck of an achievement.

Even having finished the book, I couldn't tell you which character I liked the most. It wasn't that they blended together into one, it's just that they were so different, they all came across so differently.

I loved the premise. All of these ladies still in touch with their exes, I just knew it was going to be a pretty crazy read. And it blew my expectations out of the water, especially with the inclusion of various side stories and the little snippets of the past that we got to glimpse really added another dimension to the story, I felt that it stood apart from your average chick lit.

11 January 2016

All That Glitters by Vicky Pattison
Three years ago Issy Jones walked away from her dream because her family needed her. Today, she spends her days working in her mum's salon and her nights going out with her best friend, Molly. Life is good yet Issy can't help wishing for something more.

When Issy's dad puts her forward for a sensational new reality TV show, no one expects her to actually be selected. With her family urging her to grab the opportunity with both hands, Issy suddenly finds herself surrounded by glamour, fame and celebrities. Full of excitement, Issy embraces it all - it's what she needs to do to achieve her goals. But when the reality of what she's signed up for doesn't match the dream Issy is chasing, things begin to fall apart. Issy is so close to getting everything she ever wanted - but just how much of herself will she have to sacrifice to get it?

Source: Purchase

5 Words: Fame, reality, family, betrayal, hairdressing.

When I picked this up I was honestly expecting something pants like Angel, poorly written and with an overused plot. But what I actually read? Well, my expectations were blown away.

This book smashed it.

All That Glitters has an original plot line, certainly nothing like I've ever read before. It's dry and witty and will tug on your heartstrings. You'll probably rage a little at Jason, sympathise with Molly, and want to knock Issy's head into a brick wall and tell her to be less self obsessed and open her eyes. Because I did.

I loved how this book explored family dynamics, the relationships between the people who make up a family and that sometimes they're not all related to you.

The ending was a definite high point, so much had been sacrificed and it all just sat perfectly with the rest of the story.

Overall this was a great read. Definitely one I'd say to give a chance. I was reminded a little of those romantic sagas by people like Annie Groves and Katie Flynn but dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

08 January 2016

Book Beginnings #15

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I am currently reading Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick.

An angry rap shook the motel room door. I lay perfectly still on the mattress, my skin hot and clammy. Beside me, Reed drew my body to his.

I'm pretty much starting this blind. I haven't read the blurb, I haven't read any reviews... I'm sure I've read this author before but I couldn't tell you which book. So currently, I have no expectations. I don't know what to think.
But I do like this opening paragraph. It's quite powerful. It's making me want to read on.

05 January 2016

Bookish Blogging Resolutions For 2015.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Bookish Blogging Resolutions For 2015.
Confession time: I'm bad at this. I always start with the best of intentions and then it all goes down hill. So this time I'm going to try harder.
  1. Have no more than three books on my Currently Reading at any one time.There was one point last year when I was juggling nine books all at once. NINE. It was ridiculous and I couldn't settle into any of them.
  2. Request less books on Net Galley
    My feedback ratio is now at 39%, so I've put a self-imposed ban on myself. Then all of the wonderful publicists and authors send me invites and it's be rude to decline...
  3. Finish the books my friends have lent me
    I'm terrible for this. I have huge piles of books I've borrowed from friends just sitting unread. Six months on. While I read another ~50 books that were never even on my TBR anyway.
  4. Get another bookshelf
    This time last year I didn't have a single bookshelf, just books piled everywhere. Now I have two. And I desperately need more. Because books are still piled everywhere.
  5. Listen to more Audiobooks
    I have really started getting into audiobooks, and I plan to try and always have one on the go this year.
  6. Blog more than reviews and memes
    I plan to start posting more discussions, perhaps hosting more guest posts. I love to talk books, I probably spend more time talking about them than reading them. So I'm going to follow more blogs, take part in more discussions, and meet even more of you wonderful fellow bloggers!
  7. Read more UKYA
    I already read quite a lot of UKYA but there is definitely space in my life for more.
  8. Go to more author events
    This is something that's quite difficult living in the wilds (ish) of Northumberland but I love these events so much. Getting the chance to talk to the authors that I've read is just amazing.
  9. Sort out my shelves
    Both physically and on Goodreads, because it's all just a mess. I need to trim down my TBR because the ~10,000 books on there are honestly never all going to be read. I need to be more realistic. And I need to get rid of my multiple copies and books I know I'll never read or share again.
  10. Blog ahead
    This is something that I resolve to do every few months and I invariably run out of steam by post five. But I know that spending just one day blogging ahead each month would make life so much easier.