31 July 2013

Bout of Books 8.0 - Read Yourself Silly!


Bout of Books


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team.

I love Bout of Books - this will be my fourth time participating, although I have the super-magnificient book blogger weekend in Amsterdam on 23 - 25 August I'm not going to be able to participate in the whole week, but I'm certainly going to give it a good go in the first four days!

If you haven't participated in Bout of Books before, I can definitely recommend it - I meet great new bloggers every time AND the Twitter chats are crazy-amazing.  

This time around I'm going to go in blind with NO reading list.  Just whatever grabs me as the week goes on!  So if you want to join in, go and sign up on the Bout of Books blog.

Review: Apocalypse Z by Manel Loureiro


Apocalypse Z (Apocalipsis Z #1) by Manel Loureiro

Published: 2007

Pages: 397 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie

Source: Own library

Synopsis

The dead rise…

A mysterious incident in Russia, a blip buried in the news—it’s the only warning humanity receives that civilization will soon be destroyed by a single, voracious virus that creates monsters of men.

Humanity falls…

A lawyer, still grieving over the death of his young wife, begins to write as a form of therapy. But he never expected that his anonymous blog would ultimately record humanity’s last days.

The end of the world has begun…

Governments scramble to stop the zombie virus, people panic, so-called “Safe Havens” are established, the world erupts into chaos; soon it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. Armed only with makeshift weapons and the will to live, a lone survivor will give mankind one last chance against…

My Thoughts

There are many books written in diary format in zombie-world, and very few of them that I particularly enjoyed.  If I had known that Apocalypse Z was written as a diary, I therefore probably would have passed it over, but I'm glad I didn't.  I believe that the name of the main character is never revealed, and although there's a chance it's my memory failing me, I'm pretty sure from one of the final scenes of the book that this is on purpose.  So for the purposes of my review I shall call him Survivor Man.

Originally written in Spanish, and translated recently into English, Apocalypse Z is the journal of Survivor Man, a widowed lawyer, and his cat, Lucullus, and their experience of the global zombie apocalypse.  What I really liked about the journal format in this case was that he does include a lot of information about the fall of the world to the undead, and that his journey always has a purpose - whether searching for other survivors, or escaping a bunch of dodgy sailors and their crazy captain - and he's also dedicated to his cat.

Pets in the apocalypse are rarely touched upon, and although there a few examples of dogs as companions or family members while fighting zombies, this is probably the first one I've come across with a cat - and as a cat person, it was a huge added bonus.

There was a turn in the plot halfway through, when Survivor Man meets a bunch of sailors on their ship, and this is where Apocalypse Z lost me a little, because I didn't really understand the point of it, and it all seemed a little far fetched and unnecessary.  It did drive the rest of the plot, but it didn't sit very well with me - it felt like the author had imagined the most unlikely scenario possible just for the sake of having something unique, rather than something that fit.

Overall Apocalypse Z is a good, solid zombie read.  It didn't blow me away, but it was enough to keep me satisfied and turning the pages, and I loved that the main character was so dedicated to his cat, and treated it more like a person than 'just an animal'.  It does have some unique aspects, but not all of them felt to me like they belonged.  However, I'll be interested to see where this series goes next, however currently the next book is not yet translated into English.

29 July 2013

Are Book Bloggers Too Hard On Themselves?

Currently, I'm in the middle of the biggest blogging slump I've ever had.  It was only in April that I offloaded all my angst about blogging and for a short while after that, I felt like I was back on track.  I was reading, commenting, posting and just generally immersing myself in books under my own terms.

But less than four months later, I'm back in exactly the same situation.  It's not that I'm falling back into the old pressures that had me reading books I wasn't passionate about, but more that I'm feeling the pressure of blogging full stop.  And I'm starting to wonder if this is pressure is something that book bloggers in particular are more susceptible to than other bloggers.

After all, lets be blatantly honest here, book blogging is REALLY competitive.  There's the ARC stalking, the follower number obsessing, the pressure to post every single day, and to write unique, quality posts or think up an amazing feature/meme/competition.  There are literally thousands upon thousands of book bloggers, and comparing yourself to someone else is almost inevitable - why does that blog get all the followers, the award nominations, the fandom?  What makes them better than me?  I work hard to do all of those things above, and yet, I don't feel like a PROPER book blogger because I'm not posting every day, reading every ARC before the release date and thinking up fabulously amazing posts that no one has ever thought about before.

Yet while I'm wallowing in my own self pity, I've noticed that for bloggers in other 'genres' (see, even in this post I can't get away from the book thing!), that pressure just doesn't seem to be as intense.  Lately I've been spending a lot of time on fashion blogs.  Not the big ones, but the ones that an individual pours their heart and soul into and their passion really shines through.  And I've noticed that when a fashion blogger doesn't post for a day, or a week, or even a month, they are, quite rightly, pretty unpreturbed.  They post a quick update and just move on with their blogging.  They don't post about hiatuses or slumps or pressures - they simply enjoy blogging at their own pace, and in their own style.

These bloggers receive things for review too, and although you could argue that reviewing a nail polish or a pair of shoes doesn't take the same amount of time as reading and reviewing a book, that is even MORE of a reason that as book bloggers we shouldn't feel guilty when we fall behind schedule.  Yes, we have an obligation to follow through with our promises, but would a publisher want us to write a negative review of a book we forced ourselves to read due to obligation?

There are lessons to be learnt from bloggers like this.  I shouldn't have to feel guilty about the fact I simply haven't felt like reading a book, or talking about it, or writing a post.  I shouldn't have to worry that my ARC pile is threatening to smother me to death.  I'm one person, I need to eat/sleep/work/leave the house occassionally - and I don't want to beat the love of reading out of myself.  

Maybe getting all this out there won't make the pressure disappear, or even make it lessen, but I had to get this out - I can't keep ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own.

So for every other book blogger out there that is in the middle of a blogging slump, for every book blogger who has ever had a blogging slump, and everyone that has one in the future, please don't beat yourself up about it.  Take time out to enjoy other things in life, go shopping, go on holiday, play computer games or watch movies until you can't stomach the idea of them for another second, and just relax.  The world won't end if you don't read that book, post that review or have the most mindblowing idea for a post ever. And now, I'm off to play a mindless point and click game.  BECAUSE I CAN!

28 July 2013

Showcase Sunday #48

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

The weather has been so amazing for the last week or so that I've pretty much abandoned my laptop for the sun.  I should be around a bit more this week considering it's now raining - boo!

Just three books this week, although at the rate I'm reading at the moment (again, distracted by the weather!), my TBR is still growing....


Keeping Her (Losing It #1.5) by Cora Carmack (thanks to William Morrow)
White Space (Dark Passages #1) by Ilsa J. Bick (thanks to Egmont USA)
The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale (thanks to Mulholland Books)

How was your week?!

27 July 2013

Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen (The Cousins' War #1) by Philippa Gregory

Published: 2008

Pages: 408 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

My Thoughts

I'm a sucker for historical fiction, but it's rare that I read a book about British Royalty because, to be perfectly honest, the large character lists with their similar names and titles, scare the pants off me.  In fact, The White Queen has sat on my shelves, unread, for about three years and it was only when I saw part of the miniseries currently running on the BBC that I thought it was time to get overmyself and read it.

The White Queen turned out to not be quite as overwhelming as I expected it to be, and sadly, not as good either.   Although the character list is rather long, there wasn't really many times I was confused over who was who, as Gregory does connect each one back to the overall storyline at regular intervals.

What I didn't particularly like about The White Queen was the simplicity of the writing - not in the way that made the book easier to read, but rather, the language made it feel less than authentic.  I can understand that Gregory wanted to make the story of the War of the Roses more accessible to readers who don't necessarily enjoy complicated language and plots, but to me it was so dumbed-down that I just found it frustrating.

As far as the characters go, there were only a few that felt to me like they were fully realised - even the main character, Elizabeth, wasn't 100% convincing and there were a few times when I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her because she was just so bloody single-minded and didn't seem to learn a single thing from mistakes she had made in the past.

The plot itself is based on historical events, but the pacing is quite uneven - there were long periods of plotting and scheming with very little action or information on what was happening outside Elizabeth's immediate surroundings and in the more fast-paced parts, there were large chunks of time missing or skimmed over in favour of more plotting, double-crossing and back-stabbing.  

Despite all my bitching and moaning, I didn't completely dislike The White Queen - I finished it feeling that I knew a great deal more about the Plantagenets and the War of the Roses, and in a way, the simplistic way that the book was written had me turning the pages rather than getting lost and frustrated, but I honestly expected quite a bit more from this book.

26 July 2013

Giveaway & Guest Post: Online Dating and Time Travel by J.L. Bryan

I'm so excited to have the amazing Mr J.L. Bryan on the blog today with an awesome guest post about Online Dating and Time Travel AND for a giveaway - one ebook copy of his new book, Nomad (releasing today - cue excitement
peeps!) - check out the guest post for info on how to enter!


Online Dating: Now with Time Travel!
by J.L. Bryan

You’ve tried all of those sites—well, the ones that didn’t look too creepy—but it’s never worked out. After countless dead-end dates, you’ve begun to wonder whether anyone in the entire world was right for you.

It’s time to expand your horizons! Maybe the right person for you is out there, but living in a different century altogether! Bet you never thought of that possibility, did you? Did you? You know you didn’t, but we’ve thought of it for you!

Using our patented new UniversalLoveMatch (TM) technology, we’ll compare your values, personality, lifestyle, and adorable quirks/annoying habits to every human being who ever lived (or will live from now until Armageddon, which, it turns out, will happen in 2832, as predicted by absolutely no one, and will involve a giant squid).

Have you ever dreamed of dating a handsome, stoic cowboy, who speaks little and spends much of his time squinting into the desert sun in a really sexy way? Perhaps you long to be swept away by a charming and witty Enlightenment-Age pirate or marry a dashing Renaissance prince in a fancy jacket, while the peasants do folk dances just for you. All this can be yours, maybe!

Simply fill out our online personality test and submit your picture, email address, fingerprints, bank information, Social Security or tax identification number, DNA sample, and a copy of your handwritten signature, and we’ll find the perfect date for you!*

Using our somewhat reliable time-travel equipment, we’ll send the two of you on a dream date to any century you like. See the majesty of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or the Sphinx when it was still new and shiny (and had the original lion head, little-known fact). Watch gross stuff like Vikings bashing each other in the heads, if you’re into that. Take a blood bath with Elizabeth Bathory if you like. Hey, no judgment! (Weirdo.)

New! Ladies’ Deluxe Package. Limited time only! Our researchers have discovered that, due to genetic engineering run amok, the 27th century has a giant surplus of handsome, rugged alpha-male types, all with great senses of humor, hearts of gold buried inside them, and amazing teeth (just amazing teeth). Act now to claim one of these heartthrobs engineered by overzealous Amazonian scientists, before they’re all married up! (Did we mention they’re all doctors?)

Whether you’re a person with a lot of money or a person with some money, we’ll help you find the man (or woman) of your dreams! Hot romance and lifelong happiness guaranteed!**

For your comment below, you might tell us what kind of historical hottie you’d like to meet? A chivalrous medieval knight? A hairy fur-trapping mountain man? Other? Just let us know for a chance to win a free ebook of Nomad!

*UniversalLoveMatch, Inc. is not responsible for any diseases contracted via time-travel dating.
**Not a guarantee.


J.L. Bryan’s book Nomad, a new adult time-travel dystopian, releases this Friday, July 26! (See it on Goodreads.)




They took everything: her family, her home, her childhood. By the age of nineteen, Raven has spent most of her life in the sprawling slums of America, fighting as a rebel against the dictatorship. When the rebellion steals an experimental time-travel device, she travels back five decades to the year 2013. Her plan: assassinate the future dictator when he is still young and vulnerable, long before he comes to power. She must move fast to reshape history, because agents from her own time are on her trail, ready to execute her on sight.

About the Author

J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in the metro Atlanta sprawl with his wife Christina, where he spends most of his day serving the toddler and animal community inside his house. He is the author of the Paranormals series and the Songs of Magic series. (His book Jenny Pox is currently free on Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, Kobo, and Smashwords!)

25 July 2013

Review: Last Light by Alex Scarrow

Last Light (Last Light #1) by Alex Scarrow

Published: 25 July 2007 by Orion

Pages: 483 (paperback)

Genre/s: Post-apocalyptic, Thriller

Source: Own library

Synopsis 

It begins on a very normal Monday morning. But in the space of only a few days, the world's oil supplies have been severed and at a horrifying pace things begin to unravel everywhere. This is no natural disaster—someone is behind this. Oil engineer Andy Sutherland is stranded in Iraq with a company of British soldiers, desperate to find a way home, trapped as the very infrastructure of daily life begins to collapse around him. Back in Britain, his wife Jenny is stuck in Manchester, fighting desperately against the rising chaos to get back to their children in London as events begin to spiral out of control—riots, raging fires, looting, rape, and murder. In the space of a week, London is transformed into an anarchic vision of hell. Meanwhile, a mysterious man is tracking Andy's family. He'll silence anyone who can reveal the identities of those behind this global disaster. The people with a stranglehold on the future of civilization have flexed their muscles at other significant tipping points in history, and they are prepared to do anything to keep their secret - and their power - safe.

My Thoughts

When it comes to post-apocalyptic novels, the ones I find I enjoy the most are the ones that are very real scenarios.  Not that zombies or alien invasions aren't realistic scenarios (yep, I had to say that!), but natural disasters or man-made disasters such as the storyline of Last Light are the ones that scare me the most.

I first read Last Light in 2009 or 2010, but I've always wanted to go back and revisit it again, because as well as being entertaining, it's a book that carries a message - the dependency of the human race on oil is huge, and it's complicated.  It's not something I give thought to often, but imagine if the oil supplies were suddenly cut off - would the world band together or would it descend into chaos?

Last Light focuses on one family, the Sutherlands, in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the worlds' oil extraction and distribution process.  Andy Sutherland is something of an alarmist, but the reasons behind his paranoia are actually justified - he knows just how precarious the world is in it's dependency and has no doubts on just how catastrophic the loss of oil would be.

Last Light is told through multiple perspectives, and this is where it lost me a little.  Whilst the storyline of Andy in Iraq is vital to the story, it wasn't the part that I was particularly invested in - I liked the focus on the collapse of the British economy and infrastructure far more, and particularly the perspectives of Andy's wife, Jenny and daughter Leona as they witnessed the spiralling events first hand.

The characters all feel very real - the Sutherlands are normal, everyday people with normal, everyday problems and perspectives and that makes them incredibly likable and I was also able to sympathise with them as they tried to find each other whilst surviving some scary situations.

There are also mystery elements in Last Light that opens the appeal up to more readers than just the apocalypse lovers, and although it wasn't the type of storyline that I normally enjoy, it was an essential part of the story that I found very intriguing.

What Alex Scarrow does very well in Last Light is paint a picture of how a nation, and a world, could collapse so suddenly into chaos, and there are moments of real tension and terror as humans turn on each other for a bottle of water or a mouldy slice of bread.  It's not always clear how events are going to turn out, and that makes Last Light an incredibly readable and scary book.

22 July 2013

Review: Survivors by Z.A. Recht with Thom Brennan

Survivors (Morningstar Strain #3) by Z.A. Recht with Thom Brennan

Published: 19 June 2012 by Permuted Press

Pages: 320 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Own library

As the third book in the series, this review may contain spoilers for the first two books.

Synopsis

In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, two separate bands of survivors journey across a decimated America, each with the desperate goal of finding the cure for the virulent plague that threatens the existence of humankind—or what’s left of it. Now it’s up to these inheritors of the future to outlive their waking nightmare, any way they can.

BUT FOR THESE SURVIVORS, IT IS JUST THE BEGINNING.

One group includes a brilliant virologist; for the other, an immune soldier proves invaluable. Battling infected and marauding raiders at every turn, the teams soon uncover the devious plans of Sawyer, an agent of the Chairman of the Reunited States of America, who believes that Dr. Anna Demilio already has the cure, and he will stop at nothing to find her. Now, with the salvation of the world and their own souls on the line, how far will the survivors go to emerge victorious?


My Thoughts

The final book in the Morningstar Strain series has a sad story behind it.  Author Z.A. Recht tragically passed away in December 2009 at the age of 26, eighteen months after the publication of book #2, and before Survivors was finished.  More than two and a half years later, Survivors was finally published after being completed by Thom Brennan, although how much was written by Recht and how much by Brennan is something only Permuted Press and Thom Brennan himself know.  It took me nearly another year before I could pick up Survivors, because the Morningstar Strain series was the zombie series that really got me addicted to our undead friends, and as well as being sad to see the series end, I was pretty wary of this book.

If, like me, you are tentative about finishing this series, I personally recommend reading the other books again if it's been a long time since you read them.  Time has a way of changing our memories of books, and I probably would have been disappointed with Survivors if I hadn't read Plague of the Dead and Thunder and Ashes again right beforehand.

Both the first books in the series have multiple perspectives, but Survivors goes one further and includes one more group that haven't really been sighted since the beginning of Thunder and Ashes.  Unlike many multiple-perspective books I read, this one didn't have me reading quickly through perspectives I cared less about to get to the 'good stuff' - all the perspectives were relevant, interesting and added an extra level to the story.

Part way through I was thinking that the character development was a little bit lacking, but it definitely picks up in the second half as the psychology of survival and guilt starts to come into play with some of the original characters and it begins to affect how they function both negatively and positively.

The big question is whether I could tell the difference between the writing of Z.A. Recht and Thom Brennan.  To be perfectly honest, even with reading Thunder and Ashes immediately before starting Survivors, I couldn't really discern a difference.  Survivors is certainly paced on the same level as the first two books, and although it felt more 'military ops', that feeling was also there in Thunder and Ashes in particular.

Whether it was the intention of Recht or a product of the writing of Brennan, one thing that I always appreciate (enjoy is the wrong word) is a writer who isn't scared of killing off characters that you think are going to make it through - it makes the story more realistic and intense, even if it's emotionally shocking and there were a couple of them that I wanted to make it through that didn't.

And the ending?  Whilst I didn't want the book to end, I found the ending to be rather fitting although for some readers it may be a little bit more open-ended than satisfying.  I'm sad to say goodbye to this series, but I am glad I read the final book.

21 July 2013

Showcase Sunday #47


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

Yep, no self control.  This does not include all the clothes, shoes and accessories I ordered when inspired by the sunny weather.  Sorry my fellow Europeans, that means snow next week ;-)



Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberley McCreight
Coda (Coda #1) by Emma Trevayne
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Boy Nobody (Boy Nobody #1) by Allen Zadoff
Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis
A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes
Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach
Zom-B Angels (Zom-B #4) by Darren Shan
Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

EBooks

No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale (thanks to HarperTeen)
The Social Code (The Start-Up #1) by Sadie Hayes (thanks to St Martin's Griffin)

20 July 2013

Review: Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne

Follow Me Down by Tanya Byrne

Pulished: 9 May 2013 by Headline

Pages: 368 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Contemporary, Mystery

Source: Own library

Synopsis

When sixteen-year-old Adamma Okomma, a Nigerian diplomat's daughter, arrives at exclusive Crofton College in Wiltshire, she is immediately drawn to beautiful, tempestuous, unpredictable Scarlett Chiltern. Adamma and Scarlett become inseparable - until they fall for the same guy. Soon the battle lines are drawn and Adamma is shunned by Scarlett and her privileged peers. But then Scarlett goes missing and everything takes a darker turn. Adamma always knew that Scarlett had her secrets, but some secrets are too big to keep and this one will change all of their lives for ever.

My Thoughts

When I read Tanya Byrne's Heart Shaped Bruise earlier this year, I was quite taken with the story, but even more so by the writing.  And as in Heart-Shaped Bruise, the writing in Follow Me Down is really the stand out - because although the pace is rather slow, at times almost frustratingly so, again the writing was what hooked me in.
On the surface the synopsis seems pretty straight-forward - set in an English boarding school, two girls who are so very different on the surface become fast friends until a boy comes between them and things turn catty pretty quickly.  All of the characters are complicated and the setting brings a level of intensity that would have been hard to produce if it wasn't in the fish-bowl of a boarding school where the girls are continually together.

Told in Before and After sections, it did feel like there was some parts of the story missing as it moved along, and although I'd hoped they would be resolved at the end, a few things were left slightly open which was a little disappointing, but certainly added to the mysterious plot-line.

I liked Adamma, but there were times that I didn't understand her actions.  That doesn't make her a bad character, but it made it difficult for me to connect with her at times.  I loved that Ms. Byrne threw in some cultural references too - Adamma's family plays a large part in her life and her relationship with them, in particular her father, is very close and felt realistic.  Parenting in YA is so often absent or cringe-worthy that it was a nice change to have the families so closely involved with the story.

And although it is a mystery, I did guess about halfway through where the plot was going and who the baddie was, it was still a well-constructed mystery without any frustrating holes or discrepancies.  Normally I'm happy with open-ended books but Follow Me Down wasn't completely satisfying - the climax was over too fast and there was not really any indication of what happens to the characters afterwards.

Follow Me Down is a strong novel, with a mixture of unique and slightly cliched characters, but once again I really enjoyed Tanya Byrne's style and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

19 July 2013

Review: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

Expected Publication: 23 July 2013 by Simon Pulse

Pages: 352 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Mental Health, Realistic Fiction


Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis


When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.

My Thoughts

I don't think I've ever read a book about OCD before, but it's something that I'm guilty of using in jest myself - saying that I'm slightly OCD about having my books in strict alphabetical order, or about washing my hands before dinner and bed - without really thinking about the people that are genuinely affected by it.

And some OCD sufferers may not like that the author of OCD Love Story doesn't have OCD - and I was a little wary myself - can you really get into the mind of someone with OCD without having experienced it first hand?  But Corey Ann Haydu never had me doubting her sincerity for a moment.

When the book begins, Bea is a seemingly average teenage girl with a few 'quirks'.  She has a tendency to obsess over people in her life, and although in the beginning it's not explicitly explained, there is obviously far more to her story than first impressions would have me believe.

Bea is a likable character, if a little naive and not particularly self-aware.  She has one close friend and a bunch of peripheral acquaintances, but for the most part she seems quite unremarkable which actually makes her a little more endearing.  As a reader I wanted to reach through the pages and either hug her or give her a stern talking to on more than one occasion   I enjoyed the blossoming romance between Bea and Beck (no insta-love here folks), and I didn't particularly like nor dislike Beck - it was hard to see where the attraction between himself and Bea really came from apart from similar experiences, although perhaps that was the point.

One thing I did notice after the first 100 or so pages was the lack of parental involvement, and although Bea herself actually states further on that her mother is completely disinterested and doesn't seem to understand the severity of the situation, it felt like a bit of a cop out to be honest - even a disinterested parent can have a little more involvement in a story, even if it is just being a blatant arsehole.

Bea's spiral really starts to ramp up the pace of the story in the second half of the book, and it's almost like a car crash - I knew something bad was going to happen and yet I couldn't look away.  

Overall I really enjoyed OCD Love Story despite a few small issues and I think Corey Ann Haydu's writing is excellent and really fits the tone of the story.

18 July 2013

Review: Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell

Undercurrent by Paul Blackwell

Expected Publication: 23 July 2013 by HarperTeen

Pages: 320 (hardback)

Genre/s: YA, Mystery, Thriller

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

A shadowy figure. An intense roar. The sensation of falling—fast.

That’s all Callum Harris remembers from his tumble over the waterfall. But when he wakes up in a hospital bed and finds his best friend trying to kill him, Callum knows something is seriously wrong. Unfortunately for him, the mysteries are just getting started.

Why are his parents acting like he’s some big sports star all of a sudden? And why are all the buildings in town more run-down than Callum remembers? Worst of all...what happened to Callum’s brother? Either Callum has gone seriously crazy or something happened when he went over the falls. Something impossible. Callum needs answers, and now. Because in this twisted new version of the life Callum knew, his former best friend isn’t the only one who wants to see him dead.

My Thoughts

Imagine waking up one day and everything you thought was your life was suddenly different.  Your friends are no longer your friends, and it seems that you are not even the person you thought you were.  This is exactly what happens to Callum in Undercurrent, and when I read the synopsis I was immediately intrigued.

Callum is a pretty average teenage boy - he hates sports, has a close group of friends that aren't the most popular kids in school but aren't particularly picked on, and does OK in school.  His older brother, Cole, is the all round sports star with a few skeletons in his closest, and their parents have recently split up.  Callum isn't a particularly memorable character for his personality, but his situation is certainly unique.

The first thing that really stood out for me about Undercurrent was, that despite there being some female characters, there's not really any romance in this book, which is unusual for a YA novel.  Instead, the focus is much more on the mystery surrounding Callum's life and his journey to try and uncover exactly who he is, and how his life could suddenly be so very different than what he remembers.

The overall tone is dark and mysterious, and there were quite a few twists that although I could sense they were coming, I rarely managed to guess what they were before they happened, and that made Undercurrent incredibly readable.  The reactions of the people around him were so unpredictable to Callum and me as a reader that I had to keep coming back for more as Callum gradually uncovered exactly what was happening around him.

There is a smattering of internal dialogue which I did start to find a bit unnecessary and slightly irritating by the end of the book, but not enough that it ruined the book, I personally just couldn't see the point and it felt a little bit awkward.

Undercurrent's ending does feel slightly rushed, and there are a few points that didn't feel completely resolved, and although I didn't really need a lot more explanation, I can see where others may feel that it was a bit too neat and easy.  In saying that however, the climax is pretty terrifying and chilling, and I was left feeling pretty satisfied overall.

If you enjoy mysteries, I can definitely recommend Undercurrent.

17 July 2013

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge: Day 6 - Shopping for Books

Hosted by April at Good Books and Good Wine, I'm in love with this challenge!April has come up with some fabulous challenge questions.  If you want to participate, just click on over to Good Books and Good Wine and get listing!  The linkys are open for six months, so it's (almost) never too late to join in!

Today's Challenge: Describe how you shop for books

As I live in a country where I only read the native language well enough to read pre-schooler books, my options for in-store binging browsing are pretty limited.  There are a few bookstores near me that have an English language section but they tend to be more focused on classics and best sellers, so I do the majority of my book shopping online.

The Book Depository is my go-to for pre-orders, as the shipping is free.  However, I find their postage frustratingly slow (I know, it's free, I shouldn't complain!) so if I want something in a hurry I prefer to go to the dark side (aka Amazon UK).

Yes, Amazon are something like the devil incarnate and are taking over the book selling world, but they work for me.  I can throw a whole bunch of books in my cart and the shipping costs are pretty reasonable, and they are fast - if I order something on a Monday, it's usually in my mailbox by Thursday or Friday at the latest.

Occassionally (like three or four times a year), I use a local online bookseller bol.com.  They can get pretty much any book I want, but then I have to wait - and the prices tend to be higher than Amazon, or even TBD.  Usually, I only buy stuff from them that are on sale, or three for the price of two.

When it comes to deciding WHAT to buy, I have a huge wishlist on Goodreads.  And when I want one book, I usually end up getting another 5, 10 or even 15 at the same time.....because I have NO self-control.

What about you, how do you shop for books?



16 July 2013

15 Day Book Blogging Challenge: Day 5 - Tear Jerkers

Hosted by April at Good Books and Good Wine, I'm in love with this challenge!April has come up with some fabulous challenge questions.  If you want to participate, just click on over to Good Books and Good Wine and get listing! 

The challenge linkys are open for 6 months, so if you are like me (i.e. disorganised), you can post whenever you like!

Today's Challenge is to recommend a tear jerker and it's actually an easy one for me, because there is only one book that has ever reduced me to major eye-leakage, sobbing and sniffling:


And that's Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  But this isn't just a sad book, it's also uplifting, funny and the characters are amazing.  This book has something for everyone, but make sure you bring the tissues.

What tear-jerkers can you recommend to a hard-hearted reader like me?  

15 July 2013

Review: Thunder and Ashes by Z.A. Recht

Thunder and Ashes (Morningstar Strain #2) by Z.A. Recht

Published: 21 April 2008 by Permuted Press

Pages: 304 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Own library

As the second book in the series, this review may contain spoilers for the first book.

Synopsis

A lot can change in three months: wars can be decided, nations can be forged... or entire species can be brought to the brink of annihilation. The Morningstar Virus, an incredibly virulent disease, has swept the face of the planet, infecting billions. Its hosts rampage, attacking anything that remains uninfected. Even death can't stop the virus-its victims as cannibalistic shamblers. Scattered across the world, embattled groups have persevered. For some, surviving is the pinnacle of achievement. Others hoard goods and weapons. And still others leverage power over the remnants of humanity in the form of a mysterious cure for Morningstar. Francis Sherman and Anna Demilio want only a vaccine, but to find it, they must cross a countryside in ruins, dodging not only the infected, but also the lawless living. The bulk of the storm has passed over the world, leaving echoing thunder and softly drifting ashes. But for the survivors, the peril remains, and the search for a cure is just beginning...

My Thoughts

I'm always a little wary of the second book in a trilogy, but reading Thunder and Ashes was a bit different than normal.  Although The Morningstar Strain is a trilogy, this is the last book in the series fully written by Z.A. Recht (the third one is partly ghost-written) and I've read it several years ago, so I was pretty much aware of what I was getting myself into.

The first book in the series, Plague of the Dead, is very much about establishing the characters, the virology and the collapse of the world in the wake of a zombie apocalypse.  Thunder and Ashes focuses more on just a few particular events, and how the remnants of the human race are faring as they try and survive.  There are goodies, baddies and several characters that cross the line between one 'side' and the other, but it does lack further character development. 

One thing that I did find very frustrating was that in the last book characters made mistakes because of emotional reactions which was realistic, however in Thunder and Ashes they made stupid mistakes that I couldn't understand - going into a town that obviously has seen some bad shit go down just to 'check it out' isn't something I would expect from a group of highly trained military.

In Thunder and Ashes, some of the characters that appear to be key characters in the first book start to fall into the background which is a shame, but the others start to really establish themselves as leaders, fighters and hardcore survivors.  There is a continuation of the focus on the military and the search for a cure, with both plot lines crossing into each other constantly.

Like Plague of the Dead, there are a lot of action scenes, and all of them exceedingly well-written with some heart-stopping moments as things hang in the balance, daring rescues take place and the defence of pockets of survivors take top priority.   Although there are action scenes in the first book, in this one the stakes feel infinitely higher and more personal, which I really enjoyed.

As a 'middle' book, it's not a bad book, but there were some disappointments for me in the character development, and although the pace is frenetic it didn't really feel like events were particularly moving forward.  However, this is definitely a book for post-apocalyptic and zombie fans and a good continuation of the series.

14 July 2013

Showcase Sunday #46 + Awesome Blogger Event Coming Up!


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

Eeeeeek it's a book avalanche!  The postman finally released my latest Amazon binge after holding it ransom for a week, and then Harper put up all their new books on Edelweiss.  Auto-approve is an amazing yet dangerous thing my friends - and I have NO self-control.


Invisibility by Andrea Cremer & David Levithan
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
The Hit by Melvin Burgess
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The Lost Wife by Allyson Richman
My Soul to Take (Soul Screamers #1) by Rachel Vincent
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Trouble with Flirting by Claire LaZebnik

Ebooks not shown in vlog
The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft (thanks to Sourcebooks)
Zombie Nation by E.R. Vernor (thanks to Schiffer Publishing)
The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine (thanks to Balzer + Bray)
Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens (thanks to HarperTeen)
Uninvited (Uninvited #1) by Sophie Jordan (thanks to HarperTeen)
Great by Sara Benincasa (thanks to HarperTeen)
Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor (thanks to HarperTeen)
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (thanks to Balzer + Bray)
The Lure by Lynne Ewing (thanks to Balzer + Bray)
Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2) by Megan Shepherd (thanks to Balzer + Bray)
Panic by Lauren Oliver (not shown)

Do you want to meet up with some bloggers in Amsterdam at the end of August?  Please check out Karin's post HERE.

What's new on your shelves this week?

13 July 2013

Calling All Zombie Lovers


If there's anything I like MORE than a gory, death-filled zombie movie, it's a spoof-filled gory, death-packed zombie movie!  Go and check out their trailer for Supernatural Activity and just imagine what these fabulously talented people could do to with a zombie movie!

from Kickstarter: Walking With The Dead

From the same guys who brought you Supernatural Activity (on DVD & Netflix!) comes a bigger, bloodier, bitier, high-octane Zombie Comedy.

A bloody and comedic riff of modern-era zombie pop culture, Walking With The Dead stabs at any and every genre convention–WHY are zombies’ skulls so conveniently soft?!–and parodies the best and worst zombie movies and TV shows.

Twitter: @WWTDMovie
Facebook: Walking With The Dead
Kickstarter: Walking With The Dead

12 July 2013

Review: Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Published: 1 December 2010 by Henry Holt & Co.

Pages: 213 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Mystery, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of the car while her stepmom fills a prescription for antibiotics. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, the car is being stolen.

Griffin hadn't meant to kidnap Cheyenne and once he finds out that not only does she have pneumonia, but that she's blind, he really doesn't know what to do. When his dad finds out that Cheyenne's father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes--now there's a reason to keep her. 

How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare?

My Thoughts

I'm not normally a thriller-lover - I find them a little too cliched or the pacing is off - either too fast or too slow, and finding something in between can be difficult.  But I did enjoy April Henry's The Night She Disappeared when I read it last year, and Girl, Stolen sounded interesting - after all, how often do you come across a blind protagonist?

The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but what I really enjoyed was the characters and the pacing of the book.  It's pretty much non-stop from the very first page, and the tension builds quite quickly through to the climax.  And it may seem like I'm starting this review backwards, but I was very impressed by the ending - unlike many YA books, April Henry invests a lot in the climax of Girl, Stolen - and the last quarter or so of the book is real edge-of-your-seat reading.

Told in alternating POVs between Cheyenne and Griffin, it felt like there was sufficient time to get to know both characters pretty well, even though this is a short book.  Cheyenne isn't the perfect heroine, but she's determined and brave even though she has to rely on her other senses to help her to survive.  As well as focusing on the present, flashes of both Cheyenne and Griffin's earlier lives give them a more rounded feel - I felt like I could understand both their perspectives and why they did the things they did.

Some of the secondary characters however, were a little bit lacking, as although they don't play a central role in the story, it would have been great to understand more about them, and have everything connected together.

Girl, Stolen is a one-sitting read - it's  a fast read, but it's also an intense read with excellent pacing and the kind of writing that you can really feel comfortable in.

11 July 2013

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge: Days 3 & 4 - BFFs and Book Chucking

Hosted by April at Good Books and Good Wine, I'm in love with this challenge!
April has come up with some fabulous challenge questions.  If you want to participate, just click on over to Good Books and Good Wine and get listing!

3) Who are your blogging BFFs?


It took me a while to find my 'place' in the blogging world, and I think that was mainly because of the books I read.  So it was less about finding bloggers with similar tastes and more about finding bloggers that I could chat to about any random stuff, bloggers with an awesome sense of humour, and people that I could relate to.

I'd love to list every blogger that I've made friends with over the past year or so, but as this post is about blogging BFF's, I'm going to name the two bloggers that I have the most connection with.  I still love you ALL though :-D

Karin from My Life ... - I can't even remember how I met Karin, but I have a suspicion it was during Eurovision 2012.  The best thing about our friendship is that we have very different taste in books most of the time, but that really doesn't matter - we find loads of other things to chat about, and I hold her completely responsible for my Twitter jailing during Eurovision 2013.  She has a wicked sense of humour and is one of the kindest people I know.  I'm SO excited that we will be meeting in person next month!

Nikki from Foil the Plot is my book soul-mate.  Another zombie fanatic, we almost always feel the same way about books, films and she appreciates a good zombie like no one else I know.  Our tastes are so similar that we even find ourselves occassionally reading the same book at the same time without knowing it in advance.  Nikki  writes the most awesome book reviews, and her film reviews are fantastic too.  

4) What's the last book you flung across the room?

I've never physically thrown a book - but man I've been tempted.

The last one that had me seriously contemplating flinging it not just across the room but out the window/down the toilet/burning it in a pagan ritual was The Registry by Shannon Stoker.  I hated every minute that I put into the 40-odd% that I read because I found the characters shallow and inconsistent and the world building just made me want to scream.  It's one of only two books in my permanent DNF shelf.

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