27 January 2013

Review: Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

"Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret - a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is not stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder. Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can - in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal."

I was hugely impressed by Ketchup Clouds - I was nervous because I had such high expectations due to the huge success of My Sister but thankfully this more than matched them. Annabel's real talent lies in creating such wonderful, believable characters and I felt for Zoe so very much that I got really emotionally invested in her story. The gradual reveal of Zoe's secret builds to a very tense climax with an emotional denouement that left me a bit teary. I would be very surprised not to see this on as many awards shortlists as My Sister.

First Line: "Dear Mr. S. Harris, ignore the blob of red in the top left corner."

Why I read it: I loved Annabel's debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, so I was super excited  to read her new book.

Who I would recommend it to: Fans of My Sister (although the content is darker in Ketchup Clouds), and readers looking for a beautifully compelling exploration of relationships and guilt.

18 January 2013

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living - one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers' arms to take their turn in the killing and  dying. Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon's secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel-box without a jewel - a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness. This was not that world.

I really liked (but didn't love) Daughter of Smoke and Bone, when I read it last year but I was hooked enough to be invested in the series and the end of the first leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Karou continues to be a superb heroine full of independence and determination. Whilst the love story is crucial to the book, it takes more of a back burner here whilst Taylor focuses on more superb world building and a dark and moving tale of war and conflict. The full review is full of spoilers if you haven't read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, be warned!

First Line: "Prague, early May. The Sky weighed gray over fairy-tale rooftops, and all the world was
watching."

Why I read it: I read the first book in the series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone which made it to number 8 on my Top 10 YA of 2012 and definitely was invested enough to want to know what happened next.

Who I would recommend it to: Well, for one, people who read the first one. This is not a sequel you can pick up without having read Daughter of Smoke and  Bone. I read the first one about six months ago and had to check a fair few things from the end of the last one before this clicked into place. But more generally; fans of high quality paranormal romance and fantasy who appreciate poetic description and excellent world building.

12 January 2013

Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale

"Harriet Manners knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. She knows that bats always turn left when exiting a cave and that peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. But she doesn't know why nobody at school seems to like her. So when Harriet is spotted by a top model agent, she grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her best friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of impossibly handsome model Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. Veering from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, Harriet begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did." 

A fast-paced and funny story with an engaging and likeable heroine. There is a lot out there that comes under the broad teen girly, funny bracket but unfortunately a lot of it is vapid, badly written and not even remotely funny so it is refreshing to have something that is largely light hearted but that is well put together and has a message at it's backbone that is actually worthwhile for teen readers to hear. Also, it's just really good fun.

First Line: "My name is Harriet Manners and I am a geek."

Why I read it: I met the lovely Holly on Twitter and after a few chats about her visiting my school, and a meet up in London, I was very excited to get a NetGalley copy of Geek Girl to read before it comes out in February.

Who I would recommend it to: Girls who like Louise Rennison and the like but want their fun, and their heroines, with a bit more depth.