Friday, 25 July 2014

Reviewed by Arianne: The Neptune Conspiracy by Polly Holyoke.


Product details:
Publisher: Puffin.
Paperback, 352 pages.
Release date: June 5th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 8+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

Nere has always felt at home in the sea. But she never imagined she'd have to leave the land behind forever, until she finds out she's part of the NEPTUNE CONSPIRACY. She has been adapted to survive underwater.

Under the careful watch of Dai, Nere is chosen to lead a group of kids across miles of treacherous ocean.

Her survival skills will be put to the ultimate test. Guided by their faithful dolphin pod, Nere and her companions face the ocean's deadliest creatures. And close behind the government's savage dive team are determined to capture them, dead or alive...



If there’s one thing I have to talk about when it comes to The Neptune Conspiracy, it’s the world-building, because it is fantastic. Not only is it well-drawn, it’s perfect for an adventure. There’s also a really strong, original sci-fi twist which makes the book stand out: the fact that it’s based on the consequences of climate change makes it even more engaging. It’s all too easy to see how the world of The Neptune Conspiracy could become a reality. The damage caused to the planet by humanity is a very present threat and Holyoke doesn’t hold back on the detail of how exactly that might affect us in the future. Throw in an authoritarian society and almost constant danger, and you’ve got perfect conditions for a story.

Nere is an ordinary teenage girl with some extraordinary abilities. She may talk about having ‘weak lungs’ but she can communicate telepathically with creatures of the sea – namely dolphins. What’s more, the vents of The Neptune Conspiracy see her discover that her parents altered some of her genes so she can live underwater. The creation of a new undersea civilization appears to be the only option for Nere – and other genetically modified Neptune kids – and others who wish to escape the Western Collective and live in peace. Nere’s underwater journey could probably be best described as ‘finding her feet’ – or should that be sea-legs? – as she starts out with little confidence and low self-esteem, but this story sees her become braver and more resourceful than ever before.

The dolphins were one of my favourite elements of the book. Conservation is another of The Neptune Conspiracy’s themes and while the dolphins in this book may seem tame because of their telepathic connection with Nere, but they’re also wild animals and that’s made apparent as the conflict and adventure unfolds. The dolphin’s voices are written with stilted grammar and little punctuation – I’m still debating over whether that was necessary or not – but each dolphin character, particularly matriarch Mariah, has a strong bond with Nere and a very important role in the novel. Holyoke doesn’t try to make them human; she simply tries to make them feel real.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much of a connection with some of the other characters. They tended to feel flat and blur together; it was hard to tell them apart, even as fight scenes and the struggle to survive took centre stage in this exciting tale. This a book where research and evident knowledge are essential to the story but sometimes the facts and figures overwhelmed the characters. The dialogue wasn’t up to scratch and there were just too many discrepancies in the characterisation for me to warm to any of the protagonists.

For me, The Neptune Conspiracy is an ideal upper middle grade read. There’s practically no romance and for all its violence, it’s almost innocent in a way. It’s more about the journey than the destination, with no real showdown to finish. It deals with serious issues but the writing style is straightforward and clear. The main character is a teenager, but only just. The book wraps up quickly but there will be a sequel - titled The Neptune Challenge – so you can expect to see Nere do even more growing up in the second book and maybe even beyond.

In short: a solid start to a great new series with a fantastic premise and brilliant world-building, The Neptune Conspiracy suffers when it comes to characters and emotion, but is a novel clearly born from a love for the sea. Occasionally disappointing but highly recommended for upper-level readers of middle-grade fiction.




--Arianne.

#PenguinJourneys Invites You To Find Your Perfect Holiday Read!


HOLIDAY READING MADE EASY: A STORY FOR EVERY JOURNEY THIS SUMMER 

Share your #PenguinJourneys and receive a recommendation for the perfect audiobook to transport you to your summer holiday destination

Travellers will see long, boring journeys become a thing of fiction this summer thanks to #PenguinJourneys – a summer campaign to give holiday reading recommendations from Penguin Random House UK and its much-loved authors.

Any traveller looking for a recommended read can tell the experts where they’re going and how they’re getting there, and they’ll recommend the perfect audiobook, podcast or ebook to keep them occupied for the duration of their journey. 

Making the 22-hour flight from Melbourne to New York? Why not listen to Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Travelling closer to home with around two hours to kill? Let the Bloody Valentine audiobook from James Patterson transport you there. 

Readers can tweet using the hashtags #AskaPenguin and #PenguinJourneys every Friday lunchtime to receive a summer recommendation.

As part of the initiative, #PenguinJourneys is teaming up with authors including Clare Balding and Graeme Simsion to take readers on a literary odyssey around the world. Readers can visit Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/penguinukbooks/pack-your-bags-for-a-literary-odyssey-with-penguin/) to explore famous literary journeys, listen to extracts from the audiobooks that have been have mapped to each voyage, and be inspired by stories from their holiday destinations.

Clare Balding, whose forthcoming book Walking Home will take readers on a tour of Britain, will also be giving fans an exclusive insight into her favourite literary journeys and top recommended summer reads as part of the campaign.

Clare Balding said: “Journeys and reading go hand-in-hand. I like to take a different book on each journey so that I associate that place or adventure with a specific book. At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I'm reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It's a great way to escape into a different world and then I come back to sport prep feeling fresh and energised. The #PenguinJourneys campaign taps into some of our greatest literary journeys and is a great way of inspiring people to read something different while they travel.”

Layla West, Consumer Engagement Director at Penguin Random House UK, commented: “#PenguinJourneys is the perfect summer reads campaign which does what we like to do best: recommend stories. The campaign has readers at its heart and is both useful and fun - helping anyone anywhere find the perfect book for their journey. 

“Audiobooks are such a growing market and we have an amazing catalogue at Penguin Random House, so it made sense to make this our focus. By partnering with Pinterest, Rough Guides and our dedicated crime community, Dead Good, we hope to inspire even more readers to pack their bags and join us on literary journeys around the world.”

Follow #PenguinJourneys on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the Penguin blog and the Penguin Podcast through to the end of August - with a special #PenguinJourneys programme featuring Clare Balding.





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Source: Press Release.



Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Read All About It: News, Deals and Cover Reveals from Emery Lord, Gayle Forman, Lauren Oliver, Cynthia Hand & More!

Here's a round up of the latest book news, deals and some cover reveals that I've discovered over the past while.  It's also basically a digest of all the exciting news stories that come my way and which I've mostly already posted on my twitter and Facebook feeds, so if you want up-to-the-minute book news and you don't want to have to wait around for me to type this up, you can follow me on those sites!

 Like DaisyChainBookReviews on Facebook  ||   Follow  @daisychainbooks on Twitter and then you'll never miss a thing!



The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord || Release date: March 2015

Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love, & second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.


********** 


I Was Here by Gayle Forman || Release date: January 2015


Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Book Review: Lobsters by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison.


Product details:
Publisher: Chicken House.
Paperback, 336 pages.
Release date: June 5th 2014.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages:13+
Source: Purchased.


Sam and Hannah only have the holidays to find 'The One'. Their lobster. But instead of being epic, their summer is looking awkward. They must navigate social misunderstandings, the plotting of well-meaning friends, and their own fears of being virgins for ever to find happiness. But fate is at work to bring them together. And in the end, it all boils down to love.




A laugh-out-loud tale of first times, friendship, and festivals, Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivision is the latest ‘keeper’ on my UKYA bookshelf. I’ve heard a lot of great things about this book from my fellow bloggers since its release in June – such good things, in fact, that I bumped Lobsters right to the top of my humungous summer reading pile. And I’m glad I did, because Lobsters does not disappoint.  I read a lot of US-set contemporary fiction, and while I love those books dearly and have lots of favourites, I always find the many differences between US and UK contemps quite interesting: Most US contemporary fiction is quite tame in relation to its UK counterpart, and it can be sugar-coated at times too, quite sweet and thoughtful in its way.  UKYA in my experience, and certainly in this book, is quite the opposite; I always find it refreshing that UKYA never fails to tell it like it is, right down to the often cringe-worthy nitty gritty.  I can’t recall a US-set Contemp that made me laugh out loud (although many have made me swoon!), but that happens all the time with UKYA, and just as a warning, if you read Lobsters in public, you’ll laugh so much that people will definitely stare and wonder if you’ve completely lost the plot!

It’s the summer before Uni, and Hannah’s main goal in life is to ‘lose it.’ Her virginity, that is. It seems like all her friends are doing it, well, except for gorgeous Stella who is keeping her intact, not because she can’t lose it, but because she wants to hold onto it. That’s Stella all out, though, she always has to be different to everyone else.   Not so Hannah, who is determined to get it over and done with –the sooner the better. Hannah meets Sam at Stella’s end-of-summer party, and the two immediately connect over a conversation about warm Ribena.  Hannah believes she has found her ‘lobster’ a.k.a ‘The One’ in Sam while he feels the same – Sam’s never had all that much luck with girls, but talking to Hannah is easy; Sam feels like he’s known Hannah forever – he feels like he wants to get to know her a whole lot better.

It should all be plain sailing from here for Sam and Hannah, but the course of true love rarely runs smooth, and our two lovebirds face many, many obstacles over the course of the summer:  Hannah doesn’t get Sam’s name and so he becomes known as ‘Toilet Boy’ amongst her friend, from here she loses track of him because she can’t find him on Facebook, there’s a problem with Hannah’s always-out-for-herself-friend Stella, a beautiful boy called Pax who Hannah meets in Kavos, and a girl named Miranda who calls herself Panda, because it rhymes and she likes Pandas. Okaaaay.  Will Hannah and Sam ever get it on? Or are they destined to remain apart forever due to a serious of unfortunate events – and a rather large dose of jealousy coupled with way too much alcohol.

Well, I guess you’ll just have to read Lobsters to find out.

I want to give a special mention to the supporting characters in Lobsters. As far as I know, this is a standalone –at least I haven’t heard otherwise- but I really, really think that this could be the start of a great series. And the reason for that: the secondary characters. Now, I know that sometimes I harp on about secondary characters, but it’s my opinion that well-written secondary characters can really add a whole lot of depth to a story. That happens here. Not only do both Ellen and Ivison write pitch perfect teenage voices, but they’ve also developed some really great characters in this book who pretty much deserve their own stories. First up, Stella. Stella is Hannah’s beautiful, but very bitchy friend. I’m not saying I’m a fan of Stella’s at all, but does she intrigue me? Yes. I want to read more about her. Then, there’s Robin, Sam’s all-knowing, Harry-Potter obsessed BFF. This guy totally deserves a book all of his own. Too funny!

But I don’t know if that’s happening. I really think it should.

If you love Ali Cronin’s Girl Heart Boy series (the last book of which I haven’t been able to find anywhere!), Skins, or The Inbetweeners, then add Lobsters to your summer reading list. You won’t be disappointed!
 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Reviewed by Arianne: From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer & Valerie Thomas.


Product details:
Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Paperback, 436 pages.
Release date: January 7th 2013.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 Kylie Flores – class brain and movie addict – has been planning her big graduation day speech for three months. A scholarship student she would never dream of mixing with the likes of Max Langston – rich undeniably handsome and athletic but totally dead from the neck up. So it’s a total mystery when Kylie wakes up in Mexico with the hangover from hell in a bed she doesn’t recognise next to Max – and they are both wearing wedding bands…

Rewind 48 hours to find out just how and why they got there!



What would you do if you woke up in Mexico with your best friend, your arch-enemy, and the most popular guy in school, who you may just have married overnight? Days from graduation, high school senior and valedictorian Kylie Flores is about to find out.

There’s something about the synopsis of From What I Remember that made me wonder if would make a great movie – maybe because it references so many movies itself, but we’ll get to that later – and, once I’d finished reading, I was sure of it. Intense, visual and character-led, it’s about chaos and perfection, escaping the past and embracing the future. There’s a fantastic focus on humour and, if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s a rip-roaring contemporary adventure you’re bound to enjoy.

The plot of From What I Remember just oozes cool. It moves fast, packed with all kinds of crazy antics. All Kylie wants is to get away from her oppressive small-town life – she wants to be a screenwriter and attend NYU – but she never expected her escape to involve high-speed chases, trucks and a detour to Ensenada, Mexico. You’re thrown into the story as Kylie wakes up, realizes where she is but struggles to remember what happened the night before. In her words: ‘Swimming in the ocean with Max. Drinking (lots of drinking) on the dock. And kissing (lots of kissing). Then… the screen goes black.’

Told from alternating perspectives, the book touches on issues like strained family relations and perfectionism bordering on OCD, tying different threads together across a wide variety of backgrounds and attitudes. I love ensemble narration, but there’s always a chance that some of the characters will start to blend together if their personalities aren’t unique enough. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here and the changing viewpoints bring much needed depth to the tale. I really hated Lily but I absolutely loved Max. He’s a very flawed guy and he can be irritating at times, but he has a good heart and grows on you and begins to admit that he’s not where he wants to be in life, even though he’s one of the most sought-after, popular guys in his school. Kylie’s best friend Will is her anchor, but he’s treated as the ‘token’ gay character of the text and I believe he deserved more than that. And, to add insult to injury, the authors again treat Kylie’s brother Jake, who has Asperger’s, as a token character. He’s treated as more of a comic-tragic sideshow than an actual person, relying on stereotypes rather than actual understanding of the way he sees the world.

The other issue I had with the book was the writing style. You can’t tell it’s a two-author book from the writing, but that’s where its advantages end. There’s no subtlety or flow. The dialogue is particularly unrealistic and clunky. The characters have unique personalities but the same telling-not-showing narrative voice. It’s as if the authors were so caught up in making sure the reader was told every single detail of the story directly and thoroughly that they forgot readers are usually capable of picking up intricacies for themselves.

However, an entire half-star can be awarded for this book’s homages to movies alone. It makes particular use of such classic tropes as ‘OMG did I get so drunk last night that I married a guy I barely know?’(We’re not supposed to be entertained by tropes in books, but it’s written in such a fun way here, it’s difficult to resist). Each chapter starts with a movie quote and, best of all, some of the characters even quote directly to each other. I think the ending may be a little too neat for my taste – every character develops as much as they should, there’s a lot of emphasis on popularity, and you can just see the final chapters being all wrapped up in a little bow – but there are some great moments earlier in the book which made reading it worthwhile.

In short. Funny and full of adventure, From What I Remember is a YA road-trip escapade to treasure this summer. It’s not the most subtle of novels and some of the character issues are badly handled, but it’s a light, enjoyable beach read guaranteed to make you laugh.


--Arianne.
 

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