Friday 27 July 2012

The Seeing by Diana Hendry

Publisher: BodleyHead
Format: ARC
Published: 5th September 2011

Number of Pages: 176
Book: For Review*
Genre: Realistic-Fiction, Historical, Thriller, Suspense, Action-Adventure, Magical Realism, Mystery, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Swearing, Violence, Bullying
No Alcohol, Drug References
Author's Blog: Diana Hendry

“I’ve told you.  Philip can see.  He can see inside people.  He can see the swastikas on their hearts.”
1956.  When wild, dangerous Natalie arrives in the quiet town of Norton, thirteen-year-old Lizzie is drawn irresistibly to the girl from the wrong side of the tracks.
As the girls grow closer, Natalie and her eerie younger brother, Philip, reveal a shocking secret.  Philip has a second sight, and sees evil all around – “left-over Nazis” lying in wait until the time is right for revenge.  Natalie and Philip believe it’s up to them to root these people out of Norton.
Lizzie is swept up in what starts as a thrilling game – but the consequences of Philip’s ‘gift’ quickly spiral into disaster.
A chilling, powerful tale from Whitbread Award-winner Diana Hendry.

"Believe me.  Believe Philip.  Whoever he's Seen is a LON, a Left-Over Nazi.  And we'll find him."
The war has been won, peace has been reached and all is calm in the small seaside town of Norton.  People are overjoyed to be living in a time of peace and prosperity.
Well, everyone except Lizzie.  Lizzie, who’s so bored she thinks she’s going mad.
Until she meets Natalie: dark, wild, dangerous Natalie.  Lizzie is drawn to the out-of-control Natalie, and as they grow closer, Natalie reveals something about her strange little brother, Philip: Philip Sees things no one else can, can see that the threat of war is not over.
He can see the “Left-Over Nazis” and it’s up to him and Natalie to find them and force them out of town.
To begin with it’s all a game to Lizzie, but before long Philip’s “gift” starts consequences that spin dangerously out of control…
I've never read anything by Hendry before, but the moment I read the blurb of this book, I knew I simply had to get my hands on it.  It was one of those books you start reading and find you simply cannot put down, no matter how hard you try.  It was dark, addictive, seductive and so much more than I ever thought a 170-something paged book could ever be.  I don't know if you guys have read it, but something about The Seeing reminded me of The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine.  It had the same darkly dangerous feel to it, the same addictiveness.  But The Seeing was better in my eyes, much, much better.  Incredible, actually, even if the beginning was kinda slow.  And, my God, that ending...
I must say, Hendry's characterisation was sublime.  All the characters were so 3D and intriguing.  Lizzie was very much your average teenager, and perfectly embodied how easy it is to get pulled to the ‘dark side’ by boredom or a need for excitement.  Natalie was just… well, intriguing.  Hendry couldn’t’ve written her better if she spent a million years trying.  She was cruel, but she really believed what she was doing.  She was “cold”, “ruthless” and so, so complex…  Philip was the most interesting of the lot.  There was just something about him.  He just knew stuff, stuff he shouldn’t – couldn’t – possibly know.  All the way through, I couldn’t figure out whether maybe, just maybe, he really did have some kinda “second sight”…  Hugo was really sweet and kind; he was probably the most likeable character in the book.  I loved getting an outsider’s view of the trio, seeing them all through his eyes.  While they were all so well written and padded out, obviously Natalie and Philip stole the show. 
The writing was just… whoa.  It was atmospheric, creepy and so much darker than I thought it could be.  And it was all so beautiful: it was like I was there!  I loved that we got to read from each of the main characters’ POVs: it meant we got the whole picture.  As for the story line, I was hooked from the prologue.  I mean, talk about gripping openings!  It was one of those that meant you simply had to carry on reading – putting the book down just wasn’t an option!  The plot was fast-paced, thrilling, with the perfect amounts of suspense, description and dramatic pauses.  As for the ending…  Oh.  My.  God!  Just…  God
I loved doing post-war Britain in history and have always been fascinated by historical fiction set in that time period.  It intrigued me to see the two sides of post-war UK: the rich, prosperous side and the financially struggling, hard-done side.  The post-war pain and fear and damage was palpable throughout the book, especially whenever Lizzies mum was involved.  The Seeing was like a little time machine back to 1956.  I must say, all the themes in this were so much darker than I thought a 176-page-book could have.  One example was the way Natalie and co went about ridding the world of “LONs”.  It was simply bullying, and if there’s one thing I truly hate, it’s bullying.  I actually felt sick to the stomach at some of the things they did…  But that just made the book even better, even more powerful.
This book literally blew me away.  I can’t tell you how powerful and shocking The Seeing was, how addictive it was.  This literally has something for everyone: suspense, mystery, historical setting, contemporary themes, thriller, romance, a paranormal tilt…  As I neared the end, I found myself reading faster and faster and faster, totally hooked, unable to put the book down, not even for a second…  This was such a hard-hitting book, so much so it hurt.  Just… whoa.  I really don’t know what else I can say.  It was just… beyond explanation.  Read it, have your mind blown, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Star Rating:
4¾ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Tulip Touch by Anne Fine

Challenges It's Taking Part In:

Happy Reading
* This book was received from RandomHouse in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Alice in the Spotlight by Chris Higgins

Series: The Secrets Club, Book One
Publisher: Puffin
Format: ARC
Published: 7th June 2012

Number of Pages: 208
Book: For Review*
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic-Fiction, YA, YA-Child Crossover
Recommended Age: 9+
Contains: Mild Swearing, Older Sister Drinking
No Drug References
Author's Site: Chris Higgins, That's Me

Alice, Tash, Lissa, Dani.
Introducing The Secrets Club.

‘“It’s ok.  We’re the Gang of Four, remember?  The No-Secrets Club.”  Tash’s stern face softens into her familiar smile and my world lights up again.  Briefly.
‘But soon the cloud comes back.
‘I have got a secret.
‘I want to tell my friends, I really do.  But the longer I keep it hidden the harder it is to do…’

Join Alice and the girls in the Secrets Club series as they begin their new lives at Riverside Academy, making friends, facing their fears and choosing which secrets they share…

Alice has just started high school - a posh high school none of her friends are going to.  On her first day, her father yells at another student's mum, swears at the headmistress and acts an awful lot like Alice's irresponsible party-girl big sister, Nikki. 
It's at Riverside Academy, though, that Alice finds a group of new best friends.  Alice, Lissa, Dani and Tash are all totally different but they soon become best friends - the "Gang of Four". 
So when one day they vow to keep no secrets, Alice's heart falls.
She's keeping something back, something locked away in her head. 
She wants to tell her new friends, but she vowed to herself she would let no one find out...
But is Alice the only girl in the "No-Secrets Club" keeping something to herself?
I've never read anything by Chris Higgins before, but Jayde (a lovely lady at Penguin, who sent me this wonderful book) said she thought I'd like it, so I happily picked it up.  I'll admit that 8+ is a little younger than most of my books, but I soon found myself wrapped up in the story.  It was a really quick read and a really fun one too.  Something about the book just sucked me in and kept me there.  I read it in a single sitting!  It was so addictive!  It was like being an 11 year old all over again, though I must admit, Alice's experience was rather more exciting!
I loved the huge variety of characters in this book: I really think there's a girl everyone could relate to.  I loved how Higgins showed them all - they all had strengths and flaws.  They're the kind of girls I think Tweens will really be able to relate to.  Alice was really smart and practical and careful: the sort of person who thought through the possibilities before doing something.  I loved her, and how devoted she was to the environment!  Alice’s sister Nikki was brilliant: impulsive and a party lover, she was kind of a wild cannon, but I liked her and the sister-bond between her and Alice.  Lissa was super posh and glamorous and nice, and although she was really together on the outside, she was really quite insecure underneath the surface.  I’m really intrigued by her secret…  Tash was warm and sweet and smiley: totally confident and great fun.  She loved school and was a really bubbly person.  Dani was a tomboy and totally devastated she was at an all-girls school!  I loved that she was her own person with her own mind.  I’ve just gotta mention Nikki’s boyfriend Greg, ‘cause not only was he hot, but he was cute and kind and sweet, too. 
The family relationships were really varying throughout the book.  The one between Lissa and her Mum was pretty strained and I could tell Tash's mum relied on her a lot.  The rather stormy family Alice had was the one at the heart of the book.  Alice's mum and dad were always worrying about Nikki, 'cause she partied a lot and got into trouble.  But they obviously all loved each other, even though they wound one another up and drove each other crazy. 
This book brilliantly tackled how scary it can be, going up to high school.  I remember how terrifying it was for me - I was so scared that I wouldn't know anyone in my form.  (I ended up in the same one as my best friend and at least five kids from my school!)  So can you imagine how terrifying it would be to go to a school no one you know was going to!  As well as that, it dealt with secrets and trying to fit in and how you grow up and change.  All of the things covered are really relevant and will really just click with teens and pre-teens. 
Alice had kind of a dry humour in her voice, making the book a real pleasure and great fun to read.  While it really sounded like an eleven-year-old, sometimes Alice sounded a little too old, but she was a “thinker” and it just suited her.  I'll admit that I had an inkling on where everything was going, the 'big secret', pretty early on, but then this is aimed at eight year olds, so what so you expect?  None the less, I was simply addicted to the book and plot.  I'm not all that sure what exactly it was about the book, but I was sucked right into the head of Alice, feeling like an eleven year old again.  With all the secrets and mystery, this book had a plot that kids will love just as much as I did!  Also, I couldn't figure out some of the other girls' secrets, so I'm desperate to find out what they are hiding too!
Ok, so this book was aimed at a lower age group then most I read.  But I loved it!  It was fun, funny, addictive and such a short, sweet read.  I was left wanting more!  It's going to be a huge hit with all pre-teen girls - and after-teen gals too!  I can't wait for the next in the series and will definitely be checking out some of Higgin's other books!  Yay to the (No) Secrets Club!
Alrighty, Alice often did little lists like this, so I’m going to do one about: Reasons to love this book:
  • ·         It's fun
  • ·         It's funny
  • ·         It has great, relatable characters
  • ·         It has an engaging, addictive plot
  • ·         It has tons of things teen girls will totally get and relate to
  • ·         It's quick and light
  • ·         It teaches you about secrets and their effects
  • ·         It's cover is so cute!
  • ·         And it's deeper than it looks

Oh, and totally off topic, I loved the little keyholes at the start of the chapters and the cute little keys at the end of them.  They were totally cute!  And tied in with the whole secret thing perfectly.

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Kiss Series by Luisa Plaja
The Chocolate Box Girls by Cathy Cassidy
Books by Jacqueline Wilson
Cassie's Crush by Fiona Foden

Challenges It's Taking Part In:

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review

Thursday 19 July 2012

The Rising by Will Hill

The Rising (Department 19, #2)Series: Department 19, Book Two
Publisher: HarperCollins Children'sBooks
Format: ARC
Published: 29th March 2012
Number of Pages: 704
Book: For Review*
Genre: Action-Adventure, Paranormal, Urban-Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Mystery, YA
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking References
Author's Blog: Will Hill

91 Days Till Zero Hour:
That’s 91 Days To Run
91 Days To Hide

Or 91 Days to Pray For Department 19 to save you…

After the terrifying attack on Lindisfarne, Jamie, Larissa and Kate are recovering at Department 19 headquarters, waiting for news of Dracula’s stolen ashes.
They won’t be waiting for long.
Vampire forces are gathering.
Old enemies are getting too close.
And Dracula… is rising.

Run, hide, pray, fight.  Whatever you do, you must know: Dracula has risen and Department 19 have just nine days to track him down and kill him, before he grows too strong and wreaks his revenge upon the world...
It's been seventeen weeks since Lindisfarne and Jamie, Larissa and Kate are settling into life at Department 19.  Jamie's made a name for himself, having killed one of the oldest vampires alive.  Not, of course, that has made the other agents any fonder of him. 
But something is stirring.  Vampires are gathering, preparing. 
Dracula is rising. 
It's 91 days until Zero Hour. 
Who knows what will happen... 
I adored Department 19, so much so that once I'd finished if I simply had to read The Rising!  And, boy, did it not let me down!  Action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled and utterly addictive, I read the 700-something paged book in a blur, hooked to every single word, as the days until Zero Hour counted down.  And oh my God, this was so, so much more awesome than the first book!  I simply cannot wait until the next one in the series!
I loved all of the characters to pieces: Will Hill remains the master of making in-it-for-one-chapter characters that jump off the page.  And his main characters are just so loveable it’s untrue.  Jamie is just the perfect hero: sweet, brave, strong, brainy and so, so real.  He may have been a kickbutt boy agent, but he was also just that: a boy, only seventeen.  While he struggled with his emotions at times and occasionally lost his temper, I adored the sweet, loving boy beneath the tough exterior.  The fact he isn’t perfect and makes mistakes just made me love him all the more: in fact, I have a serious book-boy-crush on him.  As for Larissa: she is so awesome!  Admittedly, super vamp powers and teen hormones weren’t such a great mix, but she was so caring and loving; I just loved the vampire girl to pieces.  Kate was brilliant: strong, determined, level-headed and so kind to everyone – especially the new vampires.  I loved seeing how she’s grown.  And Matt, who you may remember from Book One as the boy who was attacked, woke up in the Loop and faked amnesia, was such an awesome character.  He was super clever, like genius clever, as well as sweet, determined, enthusiastic and just darn adorable!  Valentine Rusmanov just has to be mentioned, ‘cause his dark sense of humour just killed me.  Plus, not an “immortal psychopath” like his brother Alexandru, so huge improvement there!  I liked him – I’m not sure if I was meant to, but I did. 
Will Hill isn’t just amazing at characters, though.  His writing, plot-designing and world-building is just as incredible.  His writing is action-packed, addictive and full of flashbacks, letting us see into all the character’s minds, both in the present and the past.  When describing science-based scenes, lots of writers talk down to us, treating us like we can’t understand.  Will Hill did not: we were told in a simple way, but he didn’t talk down to us, not even once.  That particularly struck me about the writing.  As for the action: just whoa.  From the very first page to the very last, The Rising was action-packed, addictive, a non-stop adrenaline rush that lasted 703 pages.  Bloody, violent and amazingly kickbutt, I found the action addictive, which obviously made the twisty, mysterious plot even more stunning and amazing.  And this plot, quite literally, left me speechless.  Multiple times.  I’ve never found a plot as marvellously twisty and unpredictable as this: love it!  The mythology is stunning: utterly new but traditional.  I love that we now know more about Dracula’s origins, but some parts are still left a total mystery.  I wanna join Department 19 so I can know everything.  It’s a serious plan.  ‘Cause I love this world.  As in: "Please, please, PLEASE let me be a Department 19 agent!!" kinda love.  I love the science, the department, the people, the weapons.  My bags are packed.  I’m moving in as soon as possible.  Seriously.
With action, romance, suspense and bundles of awesomeness, The Rising just blew me away.  I loved every single moment, unable to put the book down.  Sure, this is a horror-action book, but it has such strong family and friendship themes, ones that are really sweet and believable and just make me smile.  And the way Will Hill links all the different stories together, twisting and twining them is just amazing, beautiful, perfect and just so utterly unique.  This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite series ever!  Will Hill, I shall be anxiously awaiting your next book - I know it will be amazing!
James Bond with cooler weapons, kickbutt teens and vampires!  Forget 007 and give me Department 19 any day!

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Challenges It's Taking Part In:

Happy Reading
* This book was received from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review

Elen's Awesome Adventures Award!

Elen Caldecott writes brilliant contemporary adventure stories for pre-teen kids that really show the issues faced by modern children.  Her latest book, The Mystery of Wickworth Manor, is an exciting, action-packed and funny book that explores the history of the slave trade.  To thank all of Elen's fans, Bloomsbury has a great competition going on called Elen's Awesome Adventures.  To win lots of awesome stuff, such as signed books and an iPod Touch, get creative this summer and follow this link now!  Have loads of fun too, of course!

The Mystery of Wickworth ManorOoh, and check out Elen's Website, Facebook Page and Twitter!  And read the blurb of Elen's latest book...

Synopsis From Goodreads:

When Paige and Curtis, two kids who are forced together during a school trip, discover a hidden painting, they are determined to find out who the Wickworth Boy really is and the real story behind the painting. Swept up in a rollercoaster of an adventure, an unlikely friendship develops between them, and soon they are working together to expose the truth. Could the boy in the painting really be the ghost who haunts the manor? Or will they find the truth is even more surprising?
Ooh, and if I'm not mistaken, on Goodreads, there's a giveaway to win the book, so definitely check that out!  

Friday 13 July 2012

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

Series: Lorien Legacies, Book Two
Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback
Published: 12th April 2012
Number of Pages: 400
Book: For Review*
Genre: Science-Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Horror, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing
No Alcohol, Drug References
Author's Blog: I Am Number Four

I’ve seen him on the news.
John Smith, out there, on the run.  To the world, he’s a mystery.  To me… he’s one of us.
Nine of us came here to Earth.  There are six of us left.
Is Hogn Number Fiour, and is his appearance the sign I’ve been waiting for?
And what about Number Five and Six?
Caught Number One In Malaysia.
Number Two In England.
And Number Three In Kenya.
They Tried To Catch Number Four In Ohio – And Failed.
I am Number Seven.  One of the six still alive.
And I am ready to fight.

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies, #2)                                                                   Review:
Seven has been living in a convent for years. She wants to keep moving, keep hiding, but her Cêpan seems to have forgotten about their mission. So instead, Seven just follows the news on John Smith, the boy everyone believes to be a terrorist, but she believes is one of them. She is right.
Number Four, AKA John Smith, is on the run - both from the cops and the Mogdorians, the evil alien race who destroyed his home planet Lorien and is determined to kill the remaining six children too.
Can Seven remain hidden and find her way to John and the others? Can Four, Six and Sam keep ahead of those pursuing them?
Is the Power of Six strong enough to destroy all of the Mogdorians?
Whatever happens next, they will all fight to the death for their planet...
I loved I Am Number Four – it’s one of my favourite Sci-Fi books ever!  And The Power of Six did not disappoint me!  I was hooked to every page and loved all the new characters, the new feel they gave to the book.  I fell in love with the action-packed-ness of I Am Number Four, and it was even more compelling in this one!  Man, I am just ridiculously in love with this series.  And even more desperate for the next book - The Rise Of Nine!
The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies, #2)
All the characters were amazing and so real!  I loved them all – especially the newbies, as they added a new and awesome feel to the book.  Number Seven, or Marina, was a brilliant addition: determined, sweet, with a fighting spirit like no other.  She was so, so caring – she’d do anything for the ones she loves.  And her powers?  So awesome!  I’ve always loved Four, and he was still sweet and totally devoted to his friends, but in this one he was a little too reckless.  Then again, what makes him loveable and believable is his flaws and the fact he isn’t perfect.  Plus, I love his strength and how he makes me laugh!  Six was only in the end of the first book, but she was huge in this.  And she is so kick-butt awesome!  What do you need?  Stitches?  Awesome powers?  Secrets leading to intrigue?  Invisibility?!  Oh, just ask Six!  How I love her!  But Sam is definitely my favourite.  He’s just so cute and nerdy and funny, so sweet and brave and clever. Gotta love him!
The bond between Sam, Six and Four really developed in this one and I could really feel their friendship.  Even though both guys were kinda crushin' on Six.  I did and do like Sarah, but she just can't compete.  Six is kick butt awesome and I just love her. She's a way better love interest for anyone if you ask me.  So, yes, can’t wait to see where this one goes!
Man, I love ‘Pittacus Lore’.  He just blows me away.  For starters, the plot: amazing.  Action-packed, twisty, addictive.  Even if some scenes were slower than others, I loved them anyway because of the mystery in them, the sense of purpose.  And then halfway through, bam!  The pace just kicked up and went full throttle, and there was just so much action and suspense – two of my very favourite things!  But even with all the action, there was just so much emotion.  The bond between Sam, Six and Four.  The loss of loved ones.  The way the characters loved.  We got to see stories from the past and all the powerful emotions of love and grief that came with them. I just love that such an action-packed book about alien races can have so much heart, so much soul, so many human emotions.  Oh, and then there was the writing, alternating between Four and Seven: yes, split POVs!  Both sounded very different and both had the same addictiveness.  I loved getting to see what life was like for one of the other Nine.  As for the world – or more precisely, the alien worlds – well, let’s just say I wanna be a Lorien.  Enough said!
An action-packed, addictive, romantic, scary-awesome book with the most amazing characters and world... I seriously love this series and book - I wasn’t bored for a second ever!  And I so need the next book!  And for this one to be made into a film - because it was epic!  I seriously need the next in the series!  It's gonna be even more awesome!

Star Rating:
4½ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
Earthfall by Mark Walden
Virals by Kathy Reichs

Challenges It's Taking Part In:
Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review