Monday, 9 November 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis.

Product details:  
Publisher: Chicken House.
Paperback, 368 pages.
Release date: September 3rd 2015.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Reviewed by: Arianne.

A sweeping tale of love, legacy, and wilderness set between the present day and 1866 in the dramatic landscape of modern-day and territorial Montana.

While on a trip to Montana with her mom, British teen Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, Hope and Cal take shelter in a cabin, where Hope makes a strange discovery in an abandoned diary. More than a hundred years earlier, another British girl -- Emily -- met a similar fate. Her rescuer, a horse trader named Nate. In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

 If there’s one thing I’ve really loved about YA this year, it’s the sheer wealth of originality and unexpected stories which have taken the book world by storm – and surprise. From Sarah Crossan’s One to Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season, fans of young adult fiction are all about embracing stories that feel a little different.

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis certainly has the unexpected part of that trend down: full of cowboys and catastrophes, tradition and tragedy, it is a far cry from the magic and monsters of Inglis’ urban fantasy début, City of Halves, which took us deep into the world of the Eldritche and even saw a dragon set up on shop on top of the Bank of England.

Yet for British teenager Hope, being swept off to Montana for her mother’s work is like being swept into a world she never knew existed. Her entanglements with mysterious local boy Cal Crow are dramatic enough, but with the discovery that more than a hundred years before, a similar fate befell a recently-arrived English girl named Emily and a boy named Nate, it looks like there’s much more to what’s drawn her to Montana than meets the eye. For her, Montana is stunning wilderness and desolation wrapped in whispers and bitter histories. This history, however, may be more closely tied with own future than she thinks.

I’m still campaigning for a sequel to the hugely enjoyable City of Halves, but in the meantime there is a lot to like about Crow Mountain. It has a fantastic setting, bags of drama and one of the most beautiful young adult covers I’ve seen all year, with its clever nods to the story amid a lush sweep of silver, purple and orange-gold. It’s a straightforward, easy read, and that ending! Crow Mountain’s emphasis on a time in history which doesn’t crop up as often as you’d think in UKYA is also fantastic, and I loved the strong presence of horses in both sections of the alternate narration. Emily’s story is written in second person – addressed directly to love interest Nate – which was both surprising and intriguing, but unfortunately I couldn’t root for either of the romances at the heart of the book.

Like many other readers I want to see more chemistry and healthy relationships in YA, but here both romances have more than their fair share of problematic moments. There are issues and backstories which could have been handled better, and the attitudes of some characters seem very out of place in modern young adult fiction. Many readers won’t appreciate the way Hope’s mother’s feminism is made a recurring joke by the story and the undercurrents of misogyny – internalised and beyond - are particularly insidious. Even in the narrative as a whole there’s an occasional tendency to cliché and it doesn’t really spring to life.

I didn’t like the characters as much as I’d hoped – with the exception of Hope’s character arc, which sees her grow more confident in herself and her dreams, and Margaret Redfeather, who is brilliant and bad-ass. That said, the book is well-researched and I loved the mystery which ties the novel together. Readers will be racing to discover how both stories intertwine.

In short: Crow Mountain is far from perfect, but it has drama, a wonderfully unusual setting, and a great story for fans who loved True Grit and The Next Together.


Win a copy of Not After Everything by Michelle Levy! (US Only!)

Not After Everything by Michelle Levy || Release date: August 2015.

A gritty but hopeful love story about two struggling teens—great for fans of The Spectacular NowWillow, and Eleanor and Park

Tyler has a football scholarship to Stanford, a hot girlfriend, and a reliable army of friends to party with. Then his mom kills herself. And Tyler lets it all go. Now he needs to dodge what his dad is offering (verbal tirades and abuse) and earn what his dad isn’t (money). Tyler finds a job that crashes him into Jordyn, his former childhood friend turned angry-loner goth-girl. She brings Tyler an unexpected reprieve from the never-ending pity party his life has become. How could he not fall for her? But with his dad more brutally unpredictable than ever, Tyler knows he can’t risk bringing Jordyn too deeply into the chaos. So when violence rocks his world again, will it be Jordyn who shows him the way to a hopeful future? Or after everything, will Tyler have to find it in himself?


A gritty and raw debut, Michelle Levy's Not After Everything received a starred review from Kirkus reviews, with its literary spin on themes of parental suicide and abuse, family dysfunction, and life-affirming romantic risk.

To be in with a chance to win a copy of Not After Everything, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.

+ This competition is open to entrants in the USA. You must have a US postal address to enter.
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+ Fill in the Rafflecopter Form to Enter!

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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Stacking The Shelves & A NaNoWriMo Break!

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!

Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison - Romance. Mayhem. Hamsters. Not your average school trip...
I loved Lobsters - the frank and funny debut from this writing duo, and Never Evers while aimed at a younger audiences (first kisses rather than first times!) sounds like a very cute read too!

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick - She's not who she says she is. And he will be her undoing.
New from Becca Fitzpatrick, Dangerous Lies centers around witness protection and an enigmatic guy called Chet Falconer. This is out next week in the UK!

The Menagerie - Animal Portraits to Colour: Illustrated by Claire Scully and Richard Merritt - Adult colouring books seem to be having a moment right now! This one contains a host of animal portraits on perforated pages which can be taken out and displayed once complete. 

Unforgiven by Lauren Kate -  Every love story has a dark side. 
Unforgiven, the fifth book in the Fallen series tells bad boy Cam's story. Just like bad boy Cole in Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series, Cam was always my favourite in the Fallen books. What can I say? I guess I have a thing for bad boys. I am a fan of the Fallen books (although I never got around to reading the last book, Rapture) and I hope to check this out at some point. *Crosses fingers and hopes The Recaptains have recapped this series!*

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit - Releasing from Penguin Random House in January 2016, Anna and the Swallow Man is a WWII-set book said to be perfect for fans of The Book Thief. 


From Netgalley

I read a glowing review of this one last week on Goodreads, which prompted me to go track this one down on Netgalley. It's still available for a little while, if you want to go grab it. It's got a creepy house and doppelgangers and sounds all sorts of scary! Read the synopsis: HERE.


Just a quick note to let readers of this blog know that I am once again participatingin NaNoWriMo this year and, after a week, I am WOEFULLY behind on my word count. I've decided to take a break from blogging for the rest of November in order to catch up!  There will be a new review from Arianne for you to enjoy next week, but apart from that, it will be quiet around here for the rest of the month!


Friday, 6 November 2015

TV Things: War and Peace on BBC 1.

Image via

I can't wait to see this adaptation of Tolstoy's War and Peace, which comes to BBC 1 in early 2016 (I've heard it's January, but I'm not certain on that).  Starring Lily James, Paul Dano and my favorite, Aneurin Barnard (you might know him as Richard III from The White Queen) this is sure to be a treat for those cold winter nights.

War & Peace will air on A&E, Lifetime and The History Channel in the US.

Take a look at the trailer below -and tell me what you think!

If embed link doesn't work, go HERE to watch the trailer.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Reviewed by Arianne: Counting Stars by Keris Stainton.

Product details:
Publisher: Hot Key Books.
Paperback, 324 pages.
Release date: September 3rd 2015.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Reviewed by: Arianne.

 Big city, big dreams, no money, no problem...

Six 'friends', one flat, big dreams... what could go wrong? When eighteen-year-old Anna leaves school and moves to Liverpool, she feels like her life is finally beginning. She's landed her dream job at a theatre, and she's moving into an exciting (if not slightly run-down) flat on a buzzing street lined with shops, bars, and buskers. Best of all, her new flatmates are kind, welcoming and a lot of fun - what more could she ask for?

But although her new life is fun, it's also a little overwhelming. Anna's job quickly falls through, and then she realises that although her new friends are great, they're also a little mixed-up... and it's not long before Anna starts using her blog to talk about her experiences, from the hilarious to the ridiculous to the little-bit-scary. But when Anna spills a bigger secret than she can handle, suddenly the consequences are all too real. She'll have to prove she has the mettle to make it in the big city, or risk losing everything she thinks she wants

Famous for fun, light novels like Jessie Hearts NYC and Emma Hearts LA - and of course as an avid champion of One Direction – Counting Stars sees Keris Stainton, one of the most recognisable names in UKYA, take on a very different kind of book. A uniquely British blend of comedy and drama, Counting Stars is a tale of housemates, heartbreaks, relationships, mistakes, family, vlogging, job-hunting and general life disasters. It’s messy, uncompromising and perfect for fans of Skins and Gavin & Stacey: you can almost hear the TV show springing to life around it. 

Anchored by newcomer Anna, Counting Stars delves into the intertwining lives of a cohort of young housemates in Liverpool. Stainton has the cast dancing like marionettes to her tune as each plot unfolds. Anna, Nina, Sean, Molly and Alfie share both camaraderie and conflict as they navigate the intense highs and lows of independence. It’s an easy read, with a straightforward, down-to-earth writing style, with Stainton clearly hoping to appeal to an audience of readers and non-readers alike. Long-time fans of YA may wish for more description or more challenging prose, but when it comes to story, Counting Stars packs a punch. 

This is a type of book you rarely see on the shelf: gritty and realistic, yet big-hearted and intriguing, with some great LGBTQ+ characters and moments of humour. If you’re tired of YA where sixteen-year-olds have trust funds and everyone has a summer house in the Hamptons, Counting Stars could be for you: it’s not for younger readers, but it features teens living a more ordinary life, watching telly and doing the weekly shop. There’s even a romance between Anna and cute, hard-working love interest Alfie to root for and the potential for a whole saga of sequels. 

It’s set in a fantastic city, too. Stainton’s Liverpool is vibrant and friendly, unique and familiar; like any city it has its own thriving heart, and Stainton fills it with everything from kind people to dodgy streets to strong friendships. Cities like Liverpool are brimming over with untapped potential when it comes to YA, and I’d love to see more authors take advantage of that. It’s a breath of fresh air to see any UKYA set outside London, and here, Liverpool is the perfect backdrop.

Unfortunately the book isn't without its downsides. Anna is a little too ‘relatable’ and docile – I know she’s supposed to be the reader’s eyes, but she’s not supposed to be invisible. The other characters, while plausible and chatty, seem more like teens from a ‘90s-era comedy-drama than a modern YA novel. They’re more realistic than the characters of Paper Towns or The Potion Diaries, but there are scenes and anachronisms that make it very difficult to picture this book as taking place in 2015. There’s plenty of swearing, for example, but not enough slang, and the secondary characters’ improbably lack of interest in social media is of course very convenient for Anna as she tries to keep her vlogging habit hidden. The book isn’t without its problematic moments and unlikely storylines, either. Thrown from one subplot to the next, it lacks the depth of consequence and exploration readers may be looking for.

The biggest issue I had with the book, however, is that it’s not really a YA novel at all. I'd wondered why the cover so resembled that classic adult fiction chick-lit look, and it’s because this book is closer to adult fiction or chick-lit than YA. Many scenes are unnecessary and detract from story’s appeal, and I won’t be recommending it as often as I’d hoped.  Re-shelved as an adult book, it could do well - it could even be described as that elusive ‘new adult, but about the actual realities of being a new adult’. As YA fiction, however, it’s not so enjoyable, since in the hunt for an older tone, it loses the warmth and charm we read YA for in the first place.

In short: Fresh, chaotic and full of drama, Counting Stars isn’t perfect, but has a brilliant premise and a fantastic setting. It’s messy, unglamourous, and very, very British - UKYA fans will love it.


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