Thursday, 25 November 2010

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Author: Jenny Downham
Date of release: April 2008
Number of pages: 340
Publisher: Definitions
Also by this author: You Against Me

Book Girl Rating: * * * *

 It's really going to happen. They said it would, but this is quicker than anyone thought. Everyone has to die. We all know it. With only a few months of life left, sixteen-year-old Tessa knows it better than most. She's made a list though - ten things she wants to do before she dies. Number one is sex. Starting tonight. But getting what you want isn't easy. And getting what youwant doesn't always give you what you need. And sometimes the most unexpected things become important. Uplifting, life-affirming, joyous - this extraordinary novel celebrates what it is to be alive by confronting what it's really like to die.

The book is about 16 year old Tessa Walker, who is dying of terminal leukaemia. Tessa has formulated a list of things she wants to do before she dies – starting with sex.  But Tessa will learn that getting what you want isn’t always easy, and sometimes the smaller things in life are the ones that really count.  Living this list will mean shying away from her sheltering father and estranged mother... 

I’ve honestly and truly never been so moved by a book.  From the outset, the synopsis and praise quotes on the cover, we know this book is about somebody faced with death – but not once did I anticipate such a frankly astounding and beautiful read.  We’re instantly thrown into Tessa’s world and it’s clear from the beginning that whilst she has dealt with her prognosis with grace and dignity, she also shows us the anger and frustration she feels.   
Tessa’s frank account of losing a life she is yet to live is so powerfully poignant and utterly moving.  Whilst at times painful to read, Tessa’s humour and humility give the book a sense of hope, especially for the people she is to leave behind

Whilst there is an idea that this book is about death and dying, Tessa’s story is anything but – it’s beautiful and hopeful and relishes the experiences and moments sacred to living, rather than the grim reality of facing death.  In the face of it all, Tessa is unfalteringly brave and tells us her story from the perspective of a teenager who is forced to condense her short life into a series of experiences.
Especially moving at parts when she describes her desires for her funeral and what she wants it to be like, it was at times hard to read.  But Tessa has such a perspective, experiencing the things she does with such great intensity, realising the true value of life.  Then least of all, Tessa expects to fall in love.  Then she meets a boy.  So I found myself wanting Tessa to get all the things she desires before her life ends.  I needed her to fulfil these desperate requests, because I lived the book like she was me or at least a best friend, which made it so painful to contemplate her death.
Unequivocally the best book I’ve read in 2010, astounding, heartbreaking and profoundly moving, it’ll tear your heart out and put it back together simultaneously.  Furthermore, whilst my thoughts on the book were sometimes contrary – feeling sad, but simultaneously hopeful – I loved every minute of reading. Jenny Downham’s writing is wonderful; specifically for a first novel – especially the vivid descriptions of hospital treatments and Tessa’s feelings.  I can’t wait to read more of Jenny's work in the future.

Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

In My Mailbox - No.10

Following an absentee In My Mailbox last week (due to uni commitments and a surprisingly busy social week!)  As always, thank you to Kristi at the Story Siren for hosting this. 

Here's what I got this week:

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Strangely enough I hadn't heard of this book until a recent film trailer I found on the web - for the film version!  The film looks fantastic and in line with film versions such as Twilight, I figured that it may have spawned from a good book.  The reviews are excellent and it looks like a modern day fairytale gone awry, with a serious message to convey!  This looks really interesting and I can't wait to start it.

Here's what it's about:


A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly. (Amazon.co.uk)

The Eternal Kiss - Various authors

A collection of short (vampire inspired) stories from revered YA paranormal writers such as Libba Bray, Rachel Caine and Cassandra Clare?  Yes, please!

Here's the synopsis: Theres an allure to vampire tales that have seduced readers for generations. From Bram Stoker to Stephanie Meyer and beyond, vampire stories are here to stay. For those fresh-blooded fans of paranormal romance or for those whose hunt and hunger never dies, these stories have what readers want! This collection of original tales comes from some of the hottest, most popular, and best-selling YA writers, including: * Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tithe) * Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty) * Melissa De La Cruz (Blue Blood) * Cassandra Clare (City of Bones) * Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires) * Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie (Wicked) * Cecil Castellucci (Boy Proof, Queen of Cool) * Kelley Armstrong (Women of Otherworld) * Maria V. Snyder * Sarah Rees Brennan * Lili St. Crow * Karen Mahoney * Dina James They will make everyone a sucker for eternal kisses. (Amazon.co.uk)

What did everyone else get this week?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Immortals Series: Night Star (Book 5)


Author: Alyson Noel
Date of release: November 2010
Number of pages: 320
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin - US/Macmillan Children's Books - UK
Also by this author: The Immortals Series (Evermore, Blue Moon, Shadowland, Dark Flame, Night Star), Cruel Summer, Radiance.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in this series.

Book Girl Rating: * * * * 


Best friends make the worst enemies - they know all your secrets, your weaknesses and just how to hurt you most...

Haven knows something about Damen - something sordid about his past - and she's practically begging me to make her reveal it.  "I know you want to know, Ever.  And I can't say I blame you.  Damen's got secrets.  Big, juicy, dark and dirty secrets."  She stops just shy of me, her gaze taunting, gleaming, dangling her words before me like an apple before Eve - practically begging me to taste (taken from dust jacket).

Night Star picks up where Dark Flame left off, with Roman’s recent demise, Haven’s fury and her relationship with Damen and Jude still afflicting Ever’s thoughts.  Even though Roman’s gone – Ever doesn’t have the elixir and Haven begins to hint that she knows something dark and dangerous about Damen – something Ever doesn’t know – and it’s connected to their past.

Overwhelmed by the recent events, Ever is also fighting with Sabine, after her recent discovery that she was working as under the guise of Avalon, a psychic at Mystics and Moonbeams.  Desperate to escape the world of conflict with her aunt and Haven’s vehement revenge but also wanting to see her high school career out and graduate – it seems as if life has never been so hard for Ever Bloom.  Things only seem to be getting more dangerous and confusing.

But perhaps the most evident of Ever’s worries is Haven.  Her once sweet, bubbly personality has been transformed through her grief for Roman’s death – transcending her into this furious, vengeful girl fuelled by desire for revenge.

I really enjoyed Night Star; it was a refreshing addition to a fantastic series and complemented the events of Dark Flame, not to mention answered a few more lingering questions – e.g. What will Haven’s revenge be?  Can Ever choose between Damen and Jude?  It also delved into some of the past life guises of Damen and Ever and hinted at secrets and troubles that we didn’t know existed before.

Ever seems to be more determined in this book, particularly towards the end – in the face of doubt and uncertainty. The book’s ending left me wanting to know more – but so fantastically intriguing, as Alyson appears to add another sphere to the story, enough to see it well into the final chapter Everlasting.  I’ll be sad to finish this series, as I adore the books.

Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge.

The Immortals Series: Shadowland (Book 3) and Dark Flame (Book 4) by Alyson Noel Combined review

In light of reading Night Star recently, I decided I'd do a combined review on the third and fourth books in the Immortals Series, for continuity purposes (the covers pictured are both the US and UK sleeves).

Shadowland

Author: Alyson Noel
Date of release: July 2010 (UK)
Number of pages: 370
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (UK) and St Martin's Griffin (US)
Also by this author: Evermore, Blue Moon


Book Girl Rating: * * * *

WARNING: These reviews are of the third and fourth books in the series and as such may contain spoilers for the previous books.

Ever and Damen have travelled through countless past lives – and fought off the world’s darkest enemies – in search of each other. But just when their destiny seems finally within reach, a powerful curse falls upon them. A single touch of their hands, a soft brush of their lips will mean death for Damen – cast into the darkness of the Shadowland. But as she seeks to break the curse, Ever meets Jude – a green-eyed, golden surfer boy who understands magick, and understands Ever better than she realises. And she begins to ask a terrifying question: even if you’re immortal, can true love really last forever? (Amazon.co.uk)

In Blue Moon, we saw the terrible events unfold under Roman's hand and Damen and Ever were nearly torn apart.  In the opening of Shadowland, they are back together and the spell is lifted - but Ever is guarding a dangerous secret - the idea that whilst she saved Damen, she may now kill him if their DNA is to mix in any way.  Battling with this newfound sphere to their relationship, Ever and Damen must determine a way to resolve it.  This book also sees their relationship progress, but not without another dimension - the Shadowland.  Whilst they are immortal, Damen discovers a place that destroyed immortals are banished to and then linger - and he is desperate to save Ever from that one fate...

I really enjoyed Shadowland.  I was pining for Ever and Damen to be reunited in Blue Moon, but obviously not without a complication!  Ever and Damen's love intensifies and we learn more about the fantastic past they share, in all their former life guises.  Not to mention the introduction of charming, surfer boy, Jude - and the complications that ensue, causing Ever to question her past and her future with Damen.  Then there's Roman and his dirty tricks..

Dark Flame 

Author: Alyson Noel
Date of release: September 2010 (UK)
Number of pages: 340
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (UK) and St Martin's Griffin (US)
Also by this author: Evermore, Blue Moon, Shadowland, Night Star (2011)


Book Girl Rating: * * * *



Once it seemed being immortal was a gift to Ever Bloom - now it's a curse. And she's a danger to herself. Ever has been dabbling in Magyck - seeking to explore her own powers, hoping to find a future for her relationship with Damen. But she's not in control - in fact, the magyck has bound her eternally to her immortal enemy, Roman. Whenever he's near, she feels his heartbeat, his breath, his blood racing in her veins. Ever is in deep - and the one person who might be able to help her must never find out what she's done .

Ever Bloom's life is getting more complicated and out of control by the day.  Fuelled by her desire to find an antidote to the problem she and Damen face, ever dabbles in Magyck, the dark and dangerous kind.  But that's not her only problem.  In dabbling in this unknown territory, she unwittingly binds herself to Roman, her biggest enemy - and all she can think of is him.  Not to mention, there's Haven, Ever's formerly sweet and mortal best friend, who is now anything but mortal and is rioting up a storm - threatening to expose everything that Ever and Damen have worked so hard to protect.

Once again - Alyson had my heart racing and the suspense all over this book.  Between wanting to be with Damen, seeking out Roman to find a cure and trying to rein Haven in - Ever's all over the place!  With Jude in tow to add further complications!

I loved both these books as much as their predecessors.  Ever is a witty, strong protagonist with spirit, determination and perseverance (I suppose she'd need it!) and I can't get enough of this series (see my review of Night Star up now).




Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Crescendo - Becca Fitzpatrick

Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Date of release: October 2010
Number of pages:432
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Also by this author: Hush, Hush

Book Girl Rating: * * * *

Nora should know better than to think her life can return to normal after falling in love with a fallen angel. And Nora's life isn't normal - her dad was murdered, and the facts about his death just don't add up. Now Nora's own life is in imminent danger. Are she and Patch strong enough for the battle ahead? (Amazon.co.uk).

I fell in love with Hush, Hush after the first few chapters.  I loved Nora’s humility and Patch’s bad boy mysteriousness – so I was anxiously awaiting Crescendo.  In Crescendo, Nora finds herself troubled by her father’s death; meanwhile Patch seems to be distancing himself – and going towards Marcie Millar, Nora’s arch-enemy.  Torn between her feelings for Patch and moving on, Nora meets Scott – an old friend who moves back to town – to add his own share of mystery to the mix.

As if the opening chapter wasn’t fascinating enough – Crescendo swept me up instantly, just like Hush, Hush.  Opening with the events leading to Harrison Grey’s death – we realise there’s more to the story than revealed in Hush, Hush.

I think Becca has a great talent for keeping her readers on edge, guessing and intrigued to read more.  Her characters are still likeable, but Nora becomes needier in this book and somewhat fervently obsessed with Patch. I adored this book, particularly towards the end.  Crescendo sees Nora’s knack for sleuthing grow and Patch’s mystery intensify – however, I did feel a little conflicted about their relationship in this book; namely because Nora seems to jump to a few conclusions too quickly – but these seemed to resolve themselves by the end of the book.  It took me longer than I thought it would to read Crescendo – and this was mainly because I felt conflicted about Nora and Patch’s relationship in this book.  Their relationship develops but it’s not without its share of emotional torment and anguish – which left them separated for parts of the book, and an absentee Patch was tough!

The truth behind Patch’s feelings for Nora, her father’s death and Patch’s real name are all fantastically revealed in this wonderful sequel.  Not to mention a few comical scenes that made me chuckle. Once again, Becca stunned me with her creative narrative and plot – you don’t expect the things that occur, which keeps the story refreshing, exciting and completely addictive.  At first thought Crescendo couldn’t live up to Hush, Hush – simply because the storyline brought up so many surprises and was so inventive – with a fantastic ending that left you just satisfied enough to wait for another book. 

Becca has done it again – produced a fantastic story with a roaring thrill ride of a climax, which leaves you gripped until the end.  She manages to keep the suspense closer and more intriguing in Crescendo, revealing snippets of details that left me whipping through the final chapters to know more.  But the cliff-hanger at the end is so suspenseful and intriguing...I’m desperate for the final chapter, Tempest, next year. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

In My Mailbox - No.9

Hello!  This week marks my ninth week of In My Mailbox posts.  Before I start, I'd like to thank Kristi at The Story Siren for this great idea - and you can check out her blog here.

If you could only have one book in your mailbox this week, what would it be?  Well, this week was the book I wanted and the book I got (because its release date was earlier than expected!) - hello, hello..


Night Star by Alyson Noel

I adore, adore, adore Alyson’s writing; here's the synopsis (taken from the book sleeve):

Best friends make the worst enemies - they know all your secrets, your weaknesses and just how to hurt you most...

Haven knows something about Damen - something sordid about his past - and she's practically begging me to make her reveal it.  "I know you want to know, Ever.  And I can't say I blame you.  Damen's got secrets.  Big, juicy, dark and dirty secrets."  She stops just shy of me, her gaze taunting, gleaming, dangling her words before me like an apple before Eve - practically begging me to taste.  

I was so happy I got this book this week - I can kick start my reading challenge with a brand new read, and one of my favourite book series too!  The cover is the US version (I prefer the US covers for the Immortals books) and it's absolutely gorgeous!

On another happy note, I have a week's break from uni and will hopefully be able to start checking out some more blogs and becoming more active on blogging - there are so many great blogs out there.

What did everyone else get in their mailboxes this week?

Nat

Friday, 5 November 2010

A little reading challenge - 8th November – 31st December 2010

A few of my anxiously anticipated reads!
End of 2010 reading challenge!

For months I have collected books I’ve wanted to read and watched them slowly stack their way up my shelves, remaining untouched.  However, when I finally get around to reading one of them, I’m perpetually kicking myself for having waited so long – because I usually adore it!  So, I am setting myself a little challenge – from the middle of November to the end of December, to read all of these gorgeous books (possibly more, if there’s time!), then review them as I read them (click on link to see review).  Because there’s little point in starting a proper reading challenge until the New Year, this is my way of sharing the books I have and also shaving a few off the pile!

The books I have chosen are a mixture of old and new releases, some from recent IMM posts, but mainly the books I am desperate to read first.  Here's what I decided on (TBR order):


  
I still have a bit of uni work to complete before the end of the year, so this will definitely be a challenge – but hopefully I’ll succeed!

Let me know what you think!

Challenge update (31/12/10) - due to work commitments I managed to get six books read between November and December...

Nat 


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Becca Fitzpatrick: Event Report



Becca Fitzpatrick & Crescendo!

So here goes – my first post on my first signing!  On a very, very rainy Tuesday I went up to Manchester for  the author of Hush, Hush and Crescendo, Becca Fitzpatrick's book signing and talk.
 
This won’t come as a surprise – but Becca is absolutely lovely!  She opened the talk by asking us what time the Vampire Diaries was on that evening :D    Becca also talked about tips for aspiring writers, how she came to be a writer and shared some information about the cover (how the cover was originally meant to be the other way up –  with Patch falling face down) as well as how she came to name the books.

Most interestingly for me – she admitted that Patch can be mystery to her too, when asked if she would write a story from his point of view!  She also explained her inspirations for the characters in her books, including a mysterious guy  from school as part of her inspiration for Patch.  She went on to regale us with tales of her life in high school, experiences that have influenced her writing and her younger career aspirations of being a spy! 

I am very anxious to finish Crescendo now and regretting taking my time to finish it – so I’m sure my review will be written in no time!

I was very nervous about meeting Becca – but she was really friendly and took the time to talk to us all individually, which was ace.  I also met some fellow fans and had a great chat about books.  All in all it was a wonderful night, despite the atrocious weather!  There are some more pictures below:
My signed copy of Crescendo


Hush, Hush!
Pictures with Beccca
Did anyone else see Becca on her UK visits?  Please feel free to leave comments below, I'd love to hear from you.

Nat



You can read my review of Becca's second novel Crescendo here.