Tuesday, 18 October 2016

5* BOOK REVIEW | '13 Minutes' by Sarah Pinborough

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am delighted to share with you a very late book review which I should have posted weeks ago, when I first finished it. A couple weeks ago I moved back to Manchester for uni and life has been hectic filled with unpacking, catching up with friends I haven't seen for over three months and trying to get through my gigantic pile of reading for second year! 

But now I have settled into my new house and am ready for a productive and book-filled term!

Today I am so excited to share with you a 5* book review of spellbinding YA novel 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough. I was kindly sent 13 Minutes by the lovely Lucy at Gollancz just before Christmas but I never got around to reading it - so this summer when my aim was to make a considerable dent in my TBR it was high up on my list to read! The best kind of summer novels are the ones you can completely lose yourself in - and this was definitely the case with 13 Minutes.

13 Minutes is a spine-tingling, heart-racing, superbly paced YA thriller with fantastic characters and a compelling plot to rival the most addictive Netflix show. It follows ex-bestfriends Tasha and Becca and the aftermath of Tasha's 'accident' - when she is dragged unconscious from freezing water. Everyone is desperately trying to figure out what happened - the press, Tasha's parents, even Tasha herself, who for the life of her can't remember the event. The only people who don't seem to turn detective are Tasha's best friends, Hayley and Jenny. The story that evolves from this event is dark and deadly, with several treacherous turns and twists. Safe to say that I was hooked from the very first sentence and Pinborough didn't let me go until the last page. Pitched as Pretty Little Liars meets Mean Girls I couldn't wait to get stuck in, and believe me I was far from disappointed.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don't remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this - it wasn't an accident and I wasn't suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you're a teenage girl, it's hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I'm sure of it. But that doesn't mean they didn't try to kill me. Does it?

To put it simply, I adored 13 Minutes. It was everything I could have wished for in a YA novel, and so much more. Although I read many, many great books during the summer few kept me up into the early hours of the morning, ferociously devouring every single page. The characters jumped right off the page and into my heart, including those like Tasha, Hayley and Jenny who I loved to hate. Although this is such a dark and seemingly far-fetched story (just like Pretty Little Liars), I believed every single word - Pinborough writes with such passion and effortless flair. I was immediately transported into the world of sex, drugs and mean girls who live their life as one big performance. 13 Minutes was a gritty and deadly dark exploration of female friendships and how dangerous toxic friendships can become.

After all - rivalry, jealousy and secrets are no fun when death is the final result. Probably one of the most normal girls in the whole story, Becca finds herself part of this dangerous game and her life is soon tainted with the deadly aftermath of the strange events that occur since Tasha is pulled from her almost certain death. And once you become involved in this dangerous game, where the mean girls rule supreme, there is no going back. And before the story reaches its knife-edge resolution, Becca finds this out for herself.

I wanted to write this review with no spoilers whatsoever, so it's pretty difficult for me to share all my thoughts about the book without giving away some of the biggest plot twists! But I will say this - 13 Minutes is a book that takes you on a heart-stopping adventure and holds you hostage until the very last page. If you're after a YA thriller that is fresh, vibrant, gritty and explosive, 13 Minutes is the book for you.

Check out Sarah Pinborough here: https://sarahpinborough.com

Until next time :) 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

BLOG TOUR | BOOK REVIEW | 'Mystery At The Ice Hotel' by Sara Grant (****)

Hey readers, and happy Thursday! Today I am very excited to be part of another blog tour (I know - two in one week!) - this time celebrating the wonderful second book in Sara Grant's Chasing Danger series - Mystery At The Ice Hotel

If you have been reading this book for a while you will know that Sara is the person who really got me into blogging (read the story here!) so when I was offered by the lovely Faye to send me the first two books in her new series for kids, I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Half Lives and Dark Parties are two of my favourite YA books and I couldn't wait to read Mystery At The Ice Hotel!

Sara Grant was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. She has worked as an editor and is also the author of a number of books for young readers and teens. She lives in London and writes full-time. Check her out at Sara-grant.com!

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

After surviving a kidnapping attempt in the Maldives, Chase and Mackenzie are off to the Ice Hotel in Iceland! What could go wrong there? But as soon as they arrive, accidents start to occur that seem targeted to scare - or worse, seriously hurt - the guests. When a body shows up frozen in an ice bed, it's up to the two girls to figure out who is behind the attacks ...before anyone else gets hurt!

I was immediately drawn into Mystery At The Ice Hotel purely with the premise of two female heroes - talk about girl power! I was really into adventure and mystery books as a kid - yet only a handful of them, if that, included female protagonists. In this sense, Mystery At The Ice Hotel was a fresh, exciting and invigorating read - that kept me on tenterhooks from the first to the very last page and gave me hope for a whole generation of girls and boys who would get to experience an adventure book with two female heroes at its heart!

Above anything else, Mystery At The Ice Hotel is simply a cracking read. Sara Grant is such an effortlessly talented writer and I felt the same sense of enjoyment reading Mystery At The Ice Hotel as I did reading her YA novels. The plotting was flawless, the characters believable, interesting and above all lovable, and the whole setting beautifully described and compelling. I've never read a book set in Iceland before and all I can say is, more authors definitely need to take a leaf out of Grant's book!

It was great to discover that the mystery began with a body (like any good mystery) and I found myself enjoying this book more than any adult mystery book I have read in a while! With this series Grant has proved that she can write a successful whodunnit for kids that still appeals to adults - the writing is energetic and has a whole lot of heart, and I cannot wait to read more of Grant's books - I need more Chase and Mackenzie please!

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32595126-chasing-danger?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mystery-Ice-Hotel-Chasing-Danger/dp/1407163302 

Check Sara Grant out here: http://sara-grant.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/AuthorSaraGrant

Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Until next time :)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'Shadow Magic' by Joshua Khan (****)

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! Today I am very excited to be on blog tour, where I will be talking about the wonderful Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan!

Shadow Magic was published on 6th October by Scholastic, and it is the first in a trilogy packed full of action, adventure and plot twists that will not let you go until the very last page.

Check out Joshua Khan here:

Joshua Khan was born in Britain. From very early on he filled himself with the stories of heroes, kings and queens until there was hardly any room for anything else. He can tell you where King Arthur was born* but not what he himself had for breakfast. So, with a head stuffed with tales of legendary knights, wizards and great and terrible monsters it was inevitable Joshua would want to create some of his own. Hence SHADOW MAGIC. Josh lives in London with his family, but he’d rather live in a castle. It wouldn’t have to be very big, just as long as it had battlements.
*Tintagel, in case you were wondering.

Shadow Magic is a fantastic story perfect for fans of Rick Riordan, Dave Rudden and J.K. Rowling. If you're looking for an alluring fantasy story with remarkable characters, an intriguing plot and a huge dark mystery at its heart, then Shadow Magic is the book for you!

Sound interesting? Check out the blurb here...

Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.
Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

Shadow Magic is a book both hilarious and heart-warming, action-packed and exciting. The dialogue was witty and realistic, the characters were fantastic and their interaction with each other was brilliant. Khan has perfected the art of cooking up characters who are brave, believable and, ultimately, brilliantly crafted. The friendships were really well done, and the presentation of strong friendships is probably the most important aspect of a MG, borderline YA novel.

The writing in Shadow Magic is definitely enough to hold the attention of even the most reluctant young reader - the plot, the characters, the intriguing mystery at the height of the novel. I would recommend this to any reader, young or old!

Check out Joshua Khan here:

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the stops on the tour!

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

GUEST POST | Perdita reviews 'The Apprentice Witch' by James Nicol

Hello readers, and happy Wednesday! Today I am delighted to publish a guest post review by the lovely Perdita Cargill - of The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. 

I hope you enjoy :)

I knew from the moment I read the chapter headings (The Snotling Nest, The Exploding Kitchen...) that I was going to love James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch. And I did. 

Things start out quite badly for Arianwyn (a humiliating result in an exam is always going to be a relateable low point), they get worse (Crawlers and Snotlings) and then they get even worse (out of control hex patches and Calvarias and rifts and worse). She’s got a lot on her plate but she’s more than up to the various challenges (even if she’s the last person to recognize that).  Arianwyn might be all legs and messy curls and no question she has an unfortunate tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she’s not a lovable loser. She’s rather brilliant and terribly hard working and I loved her for that as well as for her bravery and kindness. 

Nicol has drawn a beautifully imagined world for his characters. A brown envelope announcing Arianwyn’s posting, an atlas open to her island world of Hylund and a dot marking out Lull the little town at the very edge of the Great Wood and we know there is adventure and probably danger ahead. Place is conjured up fluently and beautifully (I want to visit the Spellorium). There are new creatures and new terrors and a new spell language, even the bus Beryl has a personality. And the physical book that holds it all is quite lovely with book cover and illustrations by Daniela Terrazzini.

But as well as being a delicious witch-in-training story this novel has a strong message, ‘Fear is with us all at some time or other. It’s nothing to be ashamed of’.  Arianwyn to triumph has to get her insecurities out of the way ‘The darkness was her own doubt, her own fear and her own loneliness’, she has to become confident about her own abilities.  Arianwyn can’t be allowed to be a little girl anymore, it’s time for her to become a witch.  And being a witch in this story means taking care of oneself and of others – it means having a whole town dependent on you for protection. These are adult responsibilities, especially in what is, for all the warmth of some of the description, a complicated and threatened world. For the most part the adults are either not there (a father fighting battles in Veersland, a grandmother whose love is reliable but whose presence is not and whose strength is beginning to wane) or a bit useless ( Mayor Belcher). But although Arianwyn is out of the schoolroom some of the classic school book themes are still there and why not? They never really go away – competing friendships and the horrible complications when you know that someone has lied and cheated. The code of friendship is always hard to understand but especially so when it is being manipulated by someone you can’t trust. These are themes I still remember being struck by when I read the Enid Blyton school stories some forty years ago.  They remain relevant.  

The Apprentice Witch is the first in a series and I can see that there is so much to come. There’s a love interest in the wings and threats are surely building as much from Urisian attacks as from dark magic.  Whatever comes I am confident that Arianwyn will be equal to it.

I loved this book.

Until next time :)

Thursday, 29 September 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'Everywhere I Look' by Helen Garner

Hey readers, and happy Thursday! Today I am delighted to be able to share with you another book review, this time of the wonderful Helen Garner’s Everywhere I Look. I read this book a couple of weeks back, just before I travelled back up to university, and it definitely got me into a positive mind set for a new term. Everywhere I Look is a fantastic collection of essays, personal diaries and recollections of a life decorated by moments of wonder, grief, humour, regret and the beauty of literature and creativity. Helen Garner is one of Australia’s best-loved writers and Everywhere I Look reveals to the reader the writer behind the novels, and the workings of a mind that has produced such brilliant and renowned works.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here…

Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

Everywhere I Look includes Garner's famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. Everywhere I Look glows with insight. It is filled with the wisdom of life.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Everywhere I Look whilst at my internship at FMcM Associates, and I am publishing my review today to celebrate the UK publication of this book – so make sure you guys head over to your nearest bookshop and pick this up!

Everywhere I Look is an intelligent, poignant exploration of life as a woman in the modern day. Garner touches on almost every aspect of life – from the complaints of old age, the tribulations involved with moving house, the often tumultuous relationship between a mother and a daughter, to emotional reflections on the murder cases that have shocked society and made us question our very nature. Garner writes with unadulterated honesty, wit, humour and acute anger. It is evident that her life lies within these pages, and to the reader she transmits her very soul. At the conclusion of the book you feel as if this is a woman you have known since forever, and the writing is so distinctive that you feel as if Garner is sat right next to you, telling you her story. 

The essays in Everywhere I Look are as a whole wonderfully written, surprising and immensely heart-warming. I never thought an essay about moving house could inspire so much emotion. My favourite essay was undoubtedly the essay about the teenage girl who was put on trial for the murder of her baby, and my favourite diary entries were the ones that recounted Garner’s friendship with a famous novelist she met in a restaurant. The language Garner uses is so intricately detailed and subtle in its beauty. As well as being touched by the elegance of the writing, I also learned so much – each essay was insightful and wise in its exploration of life. Garner is unmistakably someone who is inspired by life, and who writes directly by experience. I have been interested in reading Garner’s books for a while, but Everywhere I Look has made me desperate to sample her fiction for myself. 

Overall, I think that it’s pretty evident that I loved Everywhere I Look, and would recommend it to everyone, whether you normally read non-fiction or tend to avoid it completely. This book has definitely made me want to read more essay collections, and has also inspired me to try writing some of my own. Grab this book for yourself to find out whether it could inspire you too.

Buy Everywhere I Look here

Check out Helen Garner here: https://www.textpublishing.com.au/authors/helengarner

Until next time :)

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

RELEASE DAY BLITZ | 'The Last Dance' by Kierney Scott

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am excited to be participating in another release day blitz, this time to celebrate the publication of Kierney Scott's new novel The Last Dance, a contemporary romance novel all about ballet, spies and heart-stopping romance.

Sounds intriguing, right? Check out the blurb here...

American born Prima Ballerina Georgina Fairly made a mistake that could destroy her. Saving her career means selling her soul to the Russian government. Now a spy who uses her body to lure men and secure their secrets, Georgina is tasked with seducing Roman Zakharov, the most dangerous Oligarch in Russia.

Roman Zakharov a man with a past as ugly as his disfigured face. An assassination attempt left him horribly burned, but the scars go deeper than the frightening exterior. Jaded and cruel, Roman lets Georgina into his world but only to punish her and teach the pretty dancer that no one crosses Roman Zakharov. He will show her what it means to be used. And he will teach her to beg.

Released today on ebook, The Last Dance is an exciting, sharply written novel that is sure to hold you hostage (haha, get it?!) until the very last page. 

American born Kierney Scott lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with her kilt wearing husband and their daughter. When she is not writing, she is reading or drinking tea or spending far too much time on social media. She is fluent in Spanish, and by that she means she knows all the words to La Bamba. She loves hearing from readers. You can contact her on Facebook or Twitter.

Buy The Last Dance here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01M0JU28U?tag=relinks-21

Check out Kierney Scott here: http://kierneyscott.com/

Until next time :) 

BLOG TOUR | The Million Dollar Blog | My Blogging Journey

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! Today I am delighted to be on blog tour to celebrate the launch of a fantastic, one-of-a-kind book which will be published this Thursday! As soon as I got an email asking whether I wanted to receive this book for review, and whether I wanted to be involved in the blog tour. The answer was an immediate yes - I have never come across a book like this before and I think it is such a fantastic step in the movement towards blogging and bloggers being taken more seriously with journalists and worldwide media!

Yes, you guessed right, this book is about BLOGGING <3

The Million Dollar Blog is a how-to guide for bloggers of all kinds, on how to make your blog stand out and be the best it can be. The book tackles the most confusing and most difficult of questions, such as: how do you make money from blogging? How can you make your blog a success? The author, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shares all the best advice in this wonderfully distinctive book, with help from superstar bloggers Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody? How do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

Blogging has become the ‘it’ career of the modern world and every business knows that blogging should be an integral part of their marketing and success, but it’s actually never been tougher to be shine in the digital storytelling landscape.

No matter who are you – a mum at home, a budding fashion blogger or a small business owner –The Million Dollar Blog will be your ultimate guide to starting a successful blog or taking your existing blog to the next level.

Through a combination of practical advice and interviews with some of the world’s most famous and successful bloggers, vloggers and content strategists, including Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shows you how to build a blog that will increase your profile, create new opportunities, earn money and change your life.

I was kindly sent The Million Dollar Blog by the lovely Grace at Little Brown in exchange for an honest review :)

Across this blog tour bloggers like me are going to be sharing their own unique blogging journey - how we started, what motivates us, what we like about it. If you are a blogger or are thinking of starting a blog I hope you will find this interesting and perhaps feel a bit inspired <3

If I think about it, my blogging journey really started when, at 15 years old, I was spotted on the teen writing website Movellas and asked to write a series of articles for Huffington Post. At the time I didn't really know what I was doing - it didn't sink in at all that I was joining a crowd of talented young writers and that my writing was going to be seen by hundreds of readers every day. But after a while I got into the swing of things and enjoyed writing up an article (almost weekly) about topics ranging from my mother's complaints about my messy bedroom, to Michael Gove's prospected changes to GCSEs and UKIP, to Malala Yousafzai and why she is my inspiration. I continued writing for the Huffington Post until May of last year.

A few months after this I got the fantastic opportunity to attend a book launch of an author in the same agency as my uncle - Sara Grant, the fabulous author of YA novels such as Half Lives and Dark Parties. It was my first experience in a professional environment and at fifteen years old it was pretty unnerving! However, I felt so excited to be surrounded by so many 'book' people and felt at home in amidst of the conversations about books, new publications and my favourite fictional characters. Meeting Sara is still one of the stand-out moments of my blogging career. She not only gave me stellar writing advice but listened to what I had to say and then said 'I know what you should do'. And this, ladies and gentlemen, was book blogging

Sara Grant introduced me to the amazing Nina Douglas, then working for Indigo at Orion, who immediately inspired me and got me thinking about what I wanted to do. We chatted about books and reading trends and she told me about two fantastic new YA novels being published in the next couple of months. These were Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone and Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me - three years on, still two of my favourite novels. 

Aaaaaannnnnnddddd the rest of history! Since then I feel I have grown as a reader, a writer and a person. I have been exposed to books I would never have normally picked up in Waterstones, and had so many amazing opportunities I would never have received if I hadn't have been a book blogger. From meeting and interviewing authors such as  Marcus Sedgwick, Holly Black, Sarah Crossan and Sally Green (I also interviewed Martha Collison off the Bake Off! Just saying ;) ) to being able to attend Hay Festival, London Book Fair and YALC, these past three years have been an absolute blast. Sure, at times it has been stressful when I have had to balance school (and now uni!) work and blogging, but it all has been worth it. I am so, so fortunate that I now belong to this amazing community, with people who inspire me daily. I have made lifelong friendships and professional relationships. Not a lot of hobbies can give you that!

So I hope you have enjoyed reading about my blogging journey and that I haven't completely bored you! Please do check out the other spots on the blog tour, and also buy The Million Dollar Blog when it is released on Thursday - I am sure you will not regret it.

Check out Natasha Courtenay Smith here: http://natashacourtenaysmith.com/the-million-dollar-blog/

Until next time :)