Tag Archives: debut

Book Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Published January 1st 2015 by Chicken House Books.

22317508Goodreads Synopsis: When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.

My Review: I was so excited to read Doyle’s début, Vendetta, when it came through the letterbox! All of the online buzz described it as a tense and gripping retelling of Romeo and Juliet, in suburban Chicago, with a Mafia twist. And if that doesn’t sound like the most insanely awesome idea for a book, then you’re wrong. 😀

I loved the beginning chapters of the story. From the first sentence, there’s a strangely chilling mystery. I found myself completely sucked into the story; I started Vendetta on a train, and somehow got through sixty pages, then (reluctantly) put it away. It was difficult to stop reading!

During the first chapters I had grown to really like the main character, and really feel for her; the mysterious, vague foreshadowing about her father’s story kept me reading, as I was sure it was somehow linked to the new family that moves into the town.

Sophie felt realistic for a lot of the story… though, I did get really annoyed at a lot of parts, where the she is too busy swooning over the dudes even after she’s seen REALLY SCARY STUFF relating to them. Like… I would have run far away at some of the things that happen based around the new boys in town: Not gone running to them. Maybe that’s just me…? I just found her reactions so weird and at a couple of points I just wanted to yell, because seriously, stop swooning for a sec and look PROPERLY at these dudes.

Anyhow, minus some of Sophie’s actions which confused me: I did really enjoy the story. It had the perfect setting, and everything was revealed in really clever ways. There were lots of unpredictable moments and I was up all night finishing Vendetta. The story has that chilling, foreshadow-y feeling throughout and the story spiralled very quickly into a dark and violent crime story. The new family that move in, including the five mysterious new brothers, were so interesting to read about. The story made time to build a great back-story for each one of them, which was brilliant; while maintaining a good enough pace to keep me engrossed.

Overall, I am very mixed about some bits of the book, but in general it was an enjoyable book and an exceptional début. I finished it thinking, whoa. I adored Catherine Doyle’s writing, and I would love to read more by her in the future. Some things were left unsolved in Vendetta, which I know will be explored more in the next two books (Vendetta is the first in a trilogy). I think I will carry on with the trilogy, as I’m just very interested to see what direction Doyle will take her daring, action-packed story in.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Vendetta from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Shiver The Whole Night Through by Darragh McManus

Published 6th November 2014 by Hot Key Books.

22554125Goodreads Synopsis: After months of bullying and romantic heartbreak, seventeen-year-old Aidan Flood feels just about ready to end it all. But when he wakes up one morning to find that local beauty and town sweetheart Sláine McAuley actually has, he discovers a new sense of purpose, and becomes determined to find out what happened to her. The town is happy to put it down to suicide, but then one night Aidan gets a message, scratched in ice on his bedroom window: ‘I didn’t kill myself.’ Who is contacting him? And if Sláine didn’t end her own life… who did?

(First things first, let’s just stare at the cover for Shiver for a while. Whoa. That is the coolest thing.)

My Review: I dived into Shiver The Whole Night Through as soon as I could after receiving it, as there’s been a lot of hype around this book, and of course, I’m always eager to read new début YA titles!

From the first page, I was completely absorbed the story, with the shocking event it opens with. I was also a little surprised by the narration of the book: I’ve tried to collect my thoughts about it properly but I honestly don’t know how I feel about it! I think Darragh McManus has captured a very unique and real-feeling voice, though I felt at quite a few points that the narration sounded too cocky, which bugged me a little.

As I am with the narration, I’m a little mixed on the main character. I really loved the author’s character building skills, as Aidan Flood felt like a very realistic person to me. I liked him as a protagonist, especially at the beginning, but he did seem a little strange, in terms of his actions and feelings… He seemed eerily okay with some terrifying, and grim, things that happened in the book!

I really enjoyed how the plot progressed; there was lots of great foreshadowing and little hints as to what was coming – I thought I had the ending completely correct, but when I got to it, I was just completely wrong! The story begins at a very grim point, but it spirals into an even darker state with each chapter.The horror elements were really great and chilling; I definitely got shivers (no pun intended) up my spine while reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Shiver The Whole Night Through, though it wasn’t what I’d expected and I’m a little mixed on some things. I was, well and truly, hooked  – There was never an uneventful chapter. It’s a brilliant read for those who want to curl up this winter with a thrilling and chilly story! I’m probably in the minority though, but there was a few parts I didn’t really enjoy, or thought could have been written differently – though I do applaud Darragh McManus for writing a really creeeeepy début.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Shiver The Whole Night Through from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: My Second Life by Faye Bird

Published 1st July 2014 by Usborne Books.

20958008Goodreads Synopsis: The first time I was born, I was Emma.
I was beautiful. I had everything to live for.
But I died.

Now I have been born a second time, and my previous life haunts me. Because in it I think I did something very wrong. I must find out what I did to Catherine. I must uncover the truth about Emma…

Intriguing, compelling, heartbreaking.
What if your past life could shatter your future?

My Review: I’ve been really behind on reviewing ARCs due to general summer busyness, so I think I’ve left too much time between reading My Second Life and reviewing it, to be able to do it enough justice! It was, without doubt, a very compelling, suspenseful and original debut novel. I really enjoyed it, and though I wasn’t completely blown away as most readers have been, it was a really gripping read.

I fell in love with the concept of the story right from the first few sentences of the blurb, and the idea kept me hooked throughout the book. It was really individual, and makes My Second Life stand out. What if you were born into a second life, with memories of your past – and what if you did something terrible in your first life, that you know you need to rediscover? It’s haunting, and very chilling!

I felt like I really knew Ana and Emma (Both lives) really well by the end of the story. I got to know them really well through Faye’s writing. I was really absorbed thanks to Faye Bird’s writing voice. I would really love to read more from her in the future.

There were some very long scenes, particularly towards the end, that were very dialogue heavy… I don’t usually mind that, of course, but I found myself getting a bit tired during the long, long conversations – even though they were revealing massive plot twists (which were very clever and exciting!). I think that was the only big reason, really, that I didn’t fully enjoy it – though I understand why so much of the story was conversation.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Second Life, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers, and gritty crime stories! The characters are very well developed, and I think the concept of the story was one of the most unique concepts I’ve seen in a debut novel. A few little things meant I didn’t full enjoy the story – but overall it was a genius debut, and I’m really looking to reading more from Faye Bird!

My Rating:

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I received a copy of My Second Life from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

 

Book Review: Stitch Up by Sophie Hamilton

Published 1st May 2014 by Templar books.

20434644Goodreads Synopsis: Information is power, but image is everything…

Dasha Gold enjoys a life of indulgence, made possible by her powerful and wealthy parents. But this privilege comes at a price – extreme image control, including cosmetic surgery to transform her into a living logo for their brand.

Presented with a way out, Dasha embarks on a hunt for the truth that takes her across a divided and CCTV-dominated city, in the company of maverick Londoner Latif.

But money talks and the Golds own the media. Who can Dasha really trust?

My Review: When I started Stitch Up, I knew I was in for an action packed, thrilling read- but I think I underestimated just how action packed and thrilling it would be! Stitch Up had me completely hooked, right from the beginning.

The world building was so amazing. Stitch Up really stood out as a dystopia novel; Sophie Hamilton’s vision of a near-future London was so memorable. It’s controlled by media giants, visibly divided between the rich and the poor and is pretty much on the brink of a big-brother style society, with CCTV around every corner. In a lot of aspects, it is actually very similar to London right now, which gave it a really scary edge!

I really grew to like all of the characters- especially Latif, who’s the supporting character and the teenage, ‘rebel’ boy who saves Dasha from a dangerous London street just after she’s run away. I really did like Dasha; she’s in a really complex decision at the beginning of the book (should she run away, and be free but have to live as lower class and in the shadows, or should she stay with the Gold family, live a life of luxury… but have major plastic surgery to become a living logo?) and she felt very realistic, making really harsh decisions. She was quite relatable. One thing I didn’t really like about her though was the fact that she seemed snappy towards the people who help her, and cover up all of her traces.

The plot progressed in a way I wouldn’t have ever imagined! Every few chapters or so, just as the reader thinks they’ve got the resolution sussed out, there’s a shocking plot twist or event that changes the entire course of the story. It’s ridiculously clever, too. I loved the way everything came together towards the ending- all of the pretty complex drama fit together like a jigsaw and I was left gob-smacked, kicking myself for not sussing it out!

Overall, I really enjoyed Stitch Up. I began it hoping for a pretty fun read, and I got way more than what I expected. This is Sophie Hamilton’s début novel… And so I can’t wait to read more from her in the future (Especially the sequel to this book, Mob-Handed!). The characters are relatable, modern and generally just awesome. I found the plot scarily possible, and really interesting. I’ve never seen the topic of image, and media handled like this in a book before. I highly recommend Stitch Up if you’re looking for a new favourite thriller novel.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Stitch Up from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead might actually be the best book I’ve read this year: and I don’t think I can even do the book justice. About a week ago, I picked the book up again, and I reread it. I’m in the middle of my second or third reread now… It’s just amazing, and you can tell it’s a pretty special book, because I don’t think I’ve gone back to reread a book so quickly.

Published 1st May 2014 by Hot Key Books.

20703051Goodreads Synopsis: It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person – any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain – he died young, and so did Laurel’s sister May – so maybe he’ll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people – Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart… it’s like she can’t stop. And she’d certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it’s like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time – and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can’t keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won’t be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny.

My Review: Love Letters to the Dead completely blew me away. It’s nothing less than an absolutely stunning début novel- there aren’t actually many words that can do this story justice, I think. It was emotional, captivating, and beautifully written.

Love Letters to the Dead is written entirely in what the title suggests. Protagonist Laurel is starting a new chapter of her life, and at the same time, is still grieving for her sister, May. She pours her riveting, moving life story, and everything that she can’t say to anyone else, into letters to Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, and Judy Garland, to name a few people. Each and every letter is heart-wrenchingly powerful, and I found tears welling up reading most of them. Ava Dellaira has a fresh, gripping writing voice. It’s going to captivate anyone who reads this, I’m sure!

The romance in this book was heartbreaking, and heart-warming at points. It was beautifully told. Laurel’s relationships with characters in this book was mesmerising. I can’t say who she falls for, but I will say that the love story was a roller coaster and I couldn’t close the book. What touched me the most, though, was the story between two supporting characters. It deserved its own book; it was really unforgettable and emotional.

We get to know Laurel’s sister, May, really well over the course of the story. It’s quite hard to describe how I felt about May, but she is an unforgettable character. Her bond with Laurel is so memorable and unlike anything I’ve ever read about. Laurel is such a strong protagonist, because as the story progresses, we find out that she’s been through a lot more than we thought she had, and each new event shocked me so much. I felt really close to Laurel, and I loved her personality that really shone through in all of her letters. She’s a new favourite contemporary protagonist, and I really miss reading about her now that I’ve finished the book.

Overall, Love Letters to the Dead was an absolutely amazing début. I was a little apprehensive about starting it because I wasn’t sure how I’d find it… but there was no need to be. Love Letters to the Dead captivated me; Ava Delliara’s story captured me from the beginning and didn’t let me go until the very last page. All of the characters are so well fleshed out and memorable. I completely agree with what Steven Chbosky’s said on the front cover of the book: Ava Dellaira is a bold new literary voice. I’m really hoping to read more from her soon and I can tell Love Letters to the Dead is going to be a book I reread over and over again. It was mesmerising.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Love Letters to the Dead form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts. 

Review-Graphic: Banished by Liz de Jager

I read Banished, book one of the Blackhart Legacy, over the weekend- and I loved every second of it. It’s a brilliant new urban fantasy, and I think it’s going to be huge! I tried drawing Kit, the protagonist. Yup, obsessiveness. I decided to make a review graphic of the book, because I haven’t done one in a while- and the design & colour scheme for the cover is awesome! So, enjoy (: If you find any parts of the image hard to read, just click on it to bring up a bigger version.

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Banished is published by Tor books UK, February 27th 2014.

Note: I just want to point out that my review is not biased in any way- I do know Liz in person (she used to co-run a book blog!) but in no way at all did that affect my thoughts on the book. My review is completely honest and all my opinion.

I purchased a copy of Banished from a bookstore.

Book Review: Leopold Blue by Rosie Rowell

Published by Hot Key Books, 2nd February 2014.

Leopold BlueGoodreads Synopsis: Meg Bergman is fifteen and fed up. She lives in a tiny town in rural 1990s South Africa – a hot-bed of traditionalism, racial tension and (in Meg’s eyes) ordinariness. Meg has no friends either, due largely to what the community sees as her mother’s interfering attempts to educate farm workers about AIDS. But one day Xanthe arrives – cool, urban, feisty Xanthe, who for some unknown reason seems to want to hang out with Meg.

Xanthe arrives into Meg’s life like a hurricane, offering her a look at a teenage life she never knew existed. But cracks quickly begin to show in their friendship when Meg’s childhood friend Simon returns from his gap year travels. LEOPOLD BLUE is an emotionally taut and beautifully-written story from a debut author with a mesmerising voice.

My Review: I began Leopold Blue not entirely knowing what it would be about; only knowing that it was centered around a powerful friendship, in 1990’s South Africa. I had heard lots of really amazing things about it, though- so I started with high hopes! I really was quite blown away. Leopold Blue is a poignant and beautifully written debut. It’s captivating and emotional. The book begins with English Meg and her sister, living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, South Africa. Zanthe, rebellious and unique, starts at Meg’s school, and soon Meg realises Zanthe is a person she want to be like, and the two form an unforgettable bond, until things begin to slowly change after the arrival of Meg’s childhood friend.

I really loved the characters. Meg was quite likeable- I enjoyed reading about her, and her friendship complications. She’s a perfect representation of a teenage girl, who’s struggling to find her place. Zanthe is her almost her complete opposite; she’s ruthless, and rebellious, and I think I may have loved her a little more! I guess I liked Zanthe for her personality, though the ending was pretty… Whoa Zanthe Whyyyy??

The setting was the perfect backdrop for the story. The town, despite being too small and boring to Meg, is home to a lot of racial tension. I don’t know much about S.A., especially from the 90’s, but I think Rosie Rowell has definitely captured everything so well! The story and the setting was so vivid in my head. I loved Rosie’s writing- it was so beautiful!

The plot was really interesting. It covers friendship, and family, and has themes of peer pressure. It’s so relevant, to so many teenagers; definitely essential for young adults! I got a really great insight into 1990’s rural S.A., and enjoyed it all. There were some really shocking parts that I definitely wasn’t expecting. I think the main thing that I didn’t really enjoy, was the ending. It was so well written, and I think it was satisfying, but it seemed… abrupt? I wasn’t expecting the book to end like that; although it was a clever place to end the story, I still think I want to hear a lot more!

Overall, Leopold Blue was a really stunning debut, and as it says in the synopsis: Rosie Rowell really does have a mesmerising voice. I loved her writing- it just flowed so well, beautifully and packed with emotion. The characters were brilliant; especially Zanthe… I’m not sure how other people will see her, after certain points, though! Set in an exciting country at a really important time, I can’t recommend this more to every teenager for its themes, and to anybody who’s looking for a next big debut.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Leopold Blue from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.