Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.


Product details:
Publisher: Corgi Childrens.
Paperback, 288 pages.
Release date: July 2nd 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Reviewed by: Arianne.

It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?


For fans of We Were Liars and The Sin Eater's Daughter, this is one book you’ll need to watch out for in 2015. Stylishly written, highly engaging and utterly captivating, The Accident Season heralds the arrival of one the most original and striking voices in YA fiction for decades.

Every October, seventeen-year-old Cara and her family – including her mother, older sister and ex-stepbrother - board up the windows, hide sharp implements and batten the hatches, because if something bad’s going to happen to them, it’s going to happen during the titular Accident Season. Throw in the mystery of a girl who shows up in all of their photographs, though nobody else seems to notice or even remember her, and The Accident Season sends chills down your spine from the very first page. 

The Accident Season is a shifting, shadowy tale which seems to hover in the border between reality and fantasy. It reads with the ease of a labyrinthine Tumblr or an abandoned places Instagram; flowing, illustrative, and telling more story in a single page than some authors do in a lifetime. The plot is exquisitely constructed, and often raises more questions than it answers. It’s full of tarot cards, masquerade balls, fortune-telling, dreams, hallucinations and hazy, intoxicating magic. As its secrets are revealed, it will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about this surreal storytelling world.

Fowley-Doyle seizes her chance to make use of legends and folklore, but never overplays her hand; she breaks free from tradition as much as she draws on it, and I loved it. The book is set in Ireland, and it could have easily seemed too Irish or cliché (thank you, any writer who’s ever written an Irish stereotype, for leaving me unable to read about Irish characters without wondering if a hardy, handsome, gruff émigré or maybe a green-eyed half-leprechaun teenage boy is about to come strolling around the corner). Yet The Accident Season and all its settings are cleverly written, very natural and hugely relatable. In avoiding the usual pitfalls of an Irish-set book and always taking the brave choice, Fowley-Doyle’s true talent may even lie in the way she skilfully appeals to an international audience. Her prose springs to life and dares you to hold on; she writes fearlessly, brimming with intellect and vivacity. 

The Accident Season is a quite a dark book, never far from themes of trauma and tragedy, so it’s not for younger readers (and I haven’t even mentioned the drinking, trespassing and truancy yet). For older YA readers, however, it’s a treasure trove; powerful, striking, and totally unnerving, it’s perfect if you’re looking for a very different kind of read to fill your summer with. For me, the only downside came with the characters. They’re well-drawn, but it’s difficult to connect with them in such a heady, ethereal atmosphere, and even more difficult to relate when so much of their decision-making is questionable at the very least. There’s a great LGBTQ+ storyline but unfortunately romance usually take a backseat to the spooky happenings of the plot. That said, when you’ve got so many mysteries to unravel, there’s always something to keep you reading. 

In short: The Accident Season is an absolute diamond of a book. Beautiful, enchanting and just a little dangerous, it holds an almost mythical power over the reader, drawing you in until you can’t look away. Deliciously dark and utterly spellbinding, this is a shimmering and unmissable début.


--Arianne.


Monday, 29 June 2015

Book Review: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han.


Product details:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster.
Hardcover, 337 pages.
Release date: May 26th 2015.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Other Books in Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before.
Source: Purchased.

 Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I've Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.


With To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han truly hit the bookish jackpot. A slice of pure YA perfection with a great premise and cast of loveable, highly-relatable characters, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was the best book I read last year, and well deserving of the number one spot on my list of 2014 favourites. Now, the heroine of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Lara Jean Covey is back, and this time round things are about to get serious. Because Lara Jean is no longer the girl that plays it safe indulging in never-to-be-spoken-of crushes and faux-relationships with handsome boys. Nope, this time, Lara Jean is getting real. This time Lara Jean is playing the dangerous game of falling in love.

And, as anyone who has been in love knows, the highs are oh-so-great, but then sometimes things turn bad and you have to deal with soul crushing lows of  heartbreak too. Will it be all plain sailing for our cuter than cute couple? I hope so! But if Peter K’s very own first love, his scheming ex Genevieve has any say in the matter a plain-sailing relationship will exist only in Lara Jean’s dreams. That’s right, Genevieve is sticking around. She’s out for revenge, and she’s on a mission to bring Lara Jean down. We’re about to hit rough seas, folks!

First crushes don’t always translate into first loves, but that’s exactly where Lara Jean is at. She should really thank her interfering little sister Kitty for that!  We were all privy to Peter K and Lara Jean’s hot tub make-out session in To All the Boys I’ve Loved…and so it seems was a certain sneaky somebody else, when a  video of their hot tub session winds up on the internet and goes viral.  Who is behind this mean-spirited act? Lara Jean is quickly convinced that it’s Genevieve (of course it is!) but Peter isn’t so quick to condemn his ex, with whom he maintains a close relationship – much too close of a too-close relationship if you ask me, but then I’m not Lara Jean. I swear, I wanted to give Peter K a good talking to a times due to his behaviour in this book! But our girl is kind-hearted, level-headed and mature – and she doesn’t do jealousy – or at least she tries not to.

All the same, Genevieve’s continued presence in Peter’s life, his forever hanging out with her, his constant defending of her behaviour, drives a wedge between the lovebirds.  And when another very cute boy from Lara Jean’s past enters the picture, well, maybe Peter K can’t have it all his own way, and there just might be major trouble in store. Could it be that Lara Jean is all kinds of smitten with two boys at the same time?! Studious, wise beyond his years and oh-so-dreamy, John Ambrose McLaren, another recipient of one of Lara Jean’s infamous ‘crush’ letters seems to be the perfect fit for Lara Jean – and he’s a big fan of her baking to boot! Well, who isn’t?  Peter K might have captured your heart in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but John Ambrose McLaren might test your love for him here.


Just like its predecessor P.S. I Still Love You is not just all about boys and crushes and kissing. Lara Jean’s family is back; Kitty, who is now proud mom to a puppy called Jamie Fox-Pickle, is on a mission to get their dad back in the dating game, and she is still Peter K’s biggest fan. All-knowing, all-seeing, always-interfering Kitty is a real favourite of mine, and I think she deserves her very own spin-off series of books. I’m pretty sure Kitty would be in total agreement with me on this. One person missing from this book is Josh, older sister Margot’s ex-boyfriend and Lara Jean’s one time crush, who is no longer a constant presence in Lara Jean’s life. At first I was surprised at Josh’s absence since he played such a big part in To All the Boys…but I guess it makes sense in a very true-to-life way that he’s not around as much in this book. As Lara Jean says, in one of my favourite quotes from this book, “People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Jenny Han is the Queen of heart-warming, feel-good reads, and P.S. I Still Love You is certainly no exception to the rule. The storyline here may be a little less captivating than that of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but with pitch-perfect prose and characters that will remain in your heart long after you’ve finished reading, this book is yet another winner from Han, who, in my mind, can pretty much do no wrong.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Stacking the Shelves - New Books This Week!


Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga's Reviews.


Here's a round up of the books I've received for review in the past few weeks. Let me know your thoughts in comments!


Click on Book Titles for more info!

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton (Proof)
Tagline: We were inseparable. Until the day she killed my sons.

Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel
Described as a YA Grey Gardens - can't wait to read!

The Lie by C.L. Taylor - won this in a Twitter giveaway!

Gone Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why.




Air (Blue #2) by Lisa Glass
Arianne will be reviewing this follow-up to last summer's very popular Blue.

I'm a big fan of Cat Clarke's books - can't wait to read this one.

The Blue by Lucy Clarke
One of my go-to authors for great summer reads full of intrigue.



Netgalley Finds



First and Then by Emma Mills



The Daughter's Secret by Eva Hollan

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica


*****

Friday, 26 June 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward.


Product details:
Publisher: Simon & Schuster.
Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: July 2nd 2015.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 10+
Reviewed by: Arianne.
Source: Received from publisher for review.

 When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.


After reading some incredible but totally devastating and emotional fantasy and contemporary reads this summer, I wanted something lighter for my next read. The Potion Diaries - a highly-anticipated new release, with a beautiful cover, a fabulous book trailer, and huge potential - struck me as the perfect choice.

I love the premise of this book. It tells the story of Samantha Kemi, a girl called to help save the life of her kingdom’s princess, poisoned by her own love potion. The contrast between both girls is used to great effect; Evelyn is heir to a throne, fantastic wealth and a lifetime of stardom, while Sam is heir to a crumbling potion shop, sole survivor of a tradition long since made obsolete by Nova’s technology-dependent world. Potions, quests, romance, and all with a 21st century twist – it’s definitely an eye-catching concept.

Every moment spent between the potion maker’s shelves - with its dusty jars, magical ingredients and centuries-old recipes - reads like something out of a fairy-tale, and it was undoubtedly my favourite part of the book. It’s brilliantly unique and not an idea I’ve seen used often outside adult fiction. I wished we could have spent more time there, but with Sam’s quest quickly becoming the focus of the novel, we’re forced to wave goodbye to her beautiful, tumbledown home far too soon. That said, the world of the book is vivid and colourful, each setting racing to outshine the last, and serves as a great backdrop for this sweet, fun adventure.

I really liked heroine Sam, too. Compassionate, kind and very relatable, I have a feeling she’s going to connect with a lot of readers. She’s more intelligent than she gives herself credit for, too, and her bravery in the face of danger is hugely admirable. I liked Samantha’s family and her best friend Anita, too – but for me it was all downhill from there.

These characters carry out their roles and nothing more. They don’t spring to life or capture the imagination. There’s no light and shade, no complexity, no realism. The heroes are heroes and the villains are villains. They appear when the plot calls and then vanish again until they next time they run in through a portal or conveniently turn up during a climactic scene. I couldn’t help but wonder: what have all these characters been doing while the plot trundles on without them? Twiddling their thumbs? Rehearsing their best evil laugh for hours on end? Or did they just go home to catch up on the new series of Orange is the New Black?

The plot is clear and straightforward, with a clear goal and just enough complications to keep you reading – if only it wasn’t a collection of ideas already seen in other books. The Wilde Hunt is just a sillier, tamer, pale imitation of The Hunger Games and Auden’s Horn has already starred in several works by C.S. Lewis. The scene where Sam and her fellow potion-makers sign up for the hunt is taken straight out of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and don’t even get me started on the love interest who’d probably be more at home (and better written) in a piece of One Direction fan fiction. The problems don’t end there, either. The writing style wasn’t for me, and I was particularly irritated by All The Unnecessary Capitalisation of Perfectly Ordinary Words As If That Suddenly Makes Them Mean Something Original. There’s no sense of danger anywhere in the book; the characters are never really under threat, and there’s no genuine problem or issue to overcome. The romance is flat and predictable, lacking both chemistry and surprise.

The main issue I had with the book, however, is that the teenage characters don’t act like teenagers – they act like they’re following a very idealized, safe idea of what teenagers should be. Feelings or conflicts – guilt, jealousy, anger, betrayal – that might make us doubt their position as good guys, as heroes, are glossed over. The book had so much potential to be complex as well as entertaining, and while it could make for a fantastic and captivating children’s or early young adult book, perhaps 9 or 10+, older readers will lose out when faced with its lack of emotional power and resonance.

In short: The Potion Diaries is ideal if you’re looking for a frothy, fun, quick read, especially for older children’s or young YA readers. I loved the premise, but was let down by the writing style, secondary cast and execution of what could have been a fantastic book.


--Arianne.


P.S. Check out the Book Trailer for The Potion Diaries!


Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Other Child Blog Tour: Lucy Atkins on Injecting Tension into Your Writing & Win a Copy of The Other Child - UK Only!


The Other Child by Lucy Atkins || Release date: June 4th 2015


Sometimes a lie seems kinder than the truth . . . but what happens when that lie destroys everything you love? 

When Tess is sent to photograph Greg, a high profile paediatric heart surgeon, she sees something troubled in his face, and feels instantly drawn to him. Their relationship quickly deepens, but then Tess, single mother to nine-year-old Joe, falls pregnant, and Greg is offered the job of a lifetime back in his hometown of Boston. Before she knows it, Tess is married, and relocating to the States. But life in an affluent American suburb proves anything but straightforward.

Unsettling things keep happening in the large rented house, Joe is distressed, the next-door neighbours are in crisis, and Tess is sure that someone is watching her. Greg's work is all-consuming and, as the baby's birth looms, he grows more and more unreachable. Something is very wrong, Tess knows it, and then she makes a jaw-dropping discovery . . .

*****

Guest Post: Lucy Atkins on Ways to Inject Tension Into Your Writing.





 My literary agent, Judith Murray, says that she knows she’s found a new writer when their work makes her miss her tube stop. All writers, regardless of genre or style, need to have tension in their work. It might be emotional – the scene in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, where Wentworth simply passes Anne a note (that still brings me out in goosebumps)… or it could be a full on, white-knuckle FBI chase.  Tension is what keeps the reader reading. It is what makes the book coherent, engrossing, vivid, ‘readable’.

One good way to work out where your own central tension lies is to force yourself to summarize your book in just a few sentences – the ‘elevator pitch’. You’re in the elevator with a Hollywood producer and you have thirty seconds to sell your work. My elevator pitch for The Other Child might be:

‘woman falls in love with a handsome American doctor, moves with him and her child to a wealthy Boston suburb; unsettling things begin to happen, and she realizes he might not be who she thinks he is….

There are also writerly ‘tricks’ such as weaving in a character’s backstory gradually, rather than dumping it in one go; or being aware that the pace of your book needs to be varied, with some fast-moving elements, some slower, more thoughtful ones; or avoiding layering on too many adjectives or adverbs, which can clog up your style; or making sure that each chapter ends with the reader craving more…

I have ended up writing psychological suspense novels, where a growing emotional tension lies at the heart of the book, powering it on. But whatever you want to write, even if it’s non-fiction, it’s vital to bear in mind what’s keeping people turning the pages.  No writer, after all, wants a bored or disengaged reader.

*****


 *****

With thanks to Quercus Publishing I have a copy of The Other Child up for grabs.
+Giveaway Open to Entrants in the UK.
+Winners details will be supplied to the publicity department at Quercus Publishing.
+Prize will be sent directly from Quercus Publishing.
+I bear no responsibility for prizes lost or undelivered - alternative prizes will not be offered.
+This is a sponsored giveaway: please refer to T&C's for further information.


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