Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#29)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

Title: Man Made Boy
Author: Jon Skovron
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Released: 3rd October 2013

Love can be a real monster.

Sixteen-year-old Boy’s never left home. When you’re the son of Frankenstein’s monster and the Bride, it’s tough to go out in public, unless you want to draw the attention of a torch-wielding mob. And since Boy and his family live in a secret enclave of monsters hidden under Times Square, it’s important they maintain a low profile.

Boy’s only interactions with the world are through the Internet, where he’s a hacker extraordinaire who can hide his hulking body and stitched-together face behind a layer of code. When conflict erupts at home, Boy runs away and embarks on a cross-country road trip with the granddaughters of Jekyll and Hyde, who introduce him to malls and diners, love and heartbreak. But no matter how far Boy runs, he can’t escape his demons—both literal and figurative—until he faces his family once more.

This hilarious, romantic, and wildly imaginative tale redefines what it means to be a monster—and a man.

Um, this sounds...awesome?  For my English Lit A2 coursework I did my essay on Frankenstein and Dracula (as well as Poe), and I happen to love Jekyll and Hyde.  I seriously can't imagine what it would be like to not have contact with anyone, to be afraid of anyone just looking at you for fear of what they would do.  I kind of want to hug Boy already.  I need this book now!  Please?  Book gods?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Review: Wait For You

Title: Wait For You (Wait For You #1)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout (J. Lynn)
Publisher: Harper Fiction
Released: 24th April 2013
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

So I guess I should admit right off the bat that Wait For You is my first JLA book (and now I'm pretty sure I can hear cries of 'Hallelujah!' and 'What took you so long?').  You guys were right.  This author is the definition of amazing.  And I don't even want to admit how obsessed I am with this book.  Seriously, it's embarrassing.  I wish I could just say I love this book and be done with it, but since I can't...

Avery is looking forward to a fresh start at her college, having moved to a new state to escape her past.  Nobody knows her here, and finally she can leave Halloween night five years ago behind.  She just has to keep her head down, her bracelet on, and if she's lucky she might even make a few friends.  What she doesn't count on is Cam, who seems to be everywhere after she crashes into him on her first day.  Cam draws out feelings she didn't expect to feel - feelings she doesn't want to feel - but it's impossible to stay away from him, especially with his habit of seeking her out.  At the same time she's receiving emails and phone calls that are echoes of the comments back home, and Avery is forced to confront her past.  The question is if anyone will find out.  And if Cam discovers the truth, will that destroy their relationship?  Heaven knows it destroyed every relationship she had before she moved, with everyone from her parents to classmates turning against her.  Having history repeat itself isn't a risk she's willing to take.

I loved Avery's voice right from the start.  Actually, that beginning was pretty much perfect because I could relate to it.  Her attitude towards being late is exactly the same as mine, and I will go to more or less the same lengths as her to avoid it.  The reasons are very different, but I do absolutely loathe being late.  But moving on from that, Avery was a character very easy to sympathise with.  She's a remarkably strong character, but it's also extremely clear how vulnerable she is.  Her awkwardness was endearing, but there were times when it was simply that she was overly jumpy, and it was obvious that she was still massively affected by what had happened to her.  Armentrout managed to drop clues about her past while still creating suspense, and I really wanted to know what had happened to this girl.  I hated how she started college with no-one, not even her parents, because of their prejudice against her.  I couldn't take the coldness of her parents, and it was wonderful to see first the small acts of rebellion, and then Avery actually confronting them.

Now, how do I begin to describe Cam?   How do I begin to describe how much I loved Cam?  I loved how open and straightforward he was; it was quite refreshing to see the level of communication on his part, and he struck me as very mature - well, as long as we leave his overconfidence to the side.  For all his cockiness, he is a genuinely good guy.  The conversations and interactions between him and Avery were amusing and had me smiling constantly, and it was easy to appreciate how much he went out of his way to spend some time with her.  I did grow frustrated with Avery when she kept pushing him away, kept refusing to tell him the truth even after he admitted his own past, although I could understand it at the same time.  These two together are just amazing, and their relationship is wondrously slow.  It was lovely to see Avery slowly let him in, see how Cam picked up on certain things, and his reaction when he learned the truth was perfect.  He proved himself to be supportive and honest and just...perfect.

This review isn't all that great, I know, but really.  Ask me to tell you how much I loved this book and why, and no answer I give you will be adequate.  I know, too, that some are getting bored with New Adult because it can be predictable.  And it is, although to be honest I'm so addicted right now, and in such a contemporary mood, that I truly don't mind.  But the characters here are incredibly vivid, and this book really made me feel.  I can see I'm going to have to read more of this author, and soon.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life

Title: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)
Released: 17th September 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I looked back over the synopsis before I started this, I wondered what had made me add it in the first place.  I'm not usually into books with high school issues like popularity.  But really, the answer is quite simple: music.  Second to my love of reading is my love of music, and a book with music in it is even more irresistible than chocolate cake.  But you know, reading this, I discovered that this book is about so much more than popularity.  It's about finding out who you are and accepting who you are.  Music is a way of enabling that, and we can see just how powerful it is here.

Elise Dembowski is unpopular and without friends.  She can't pinpoint what it is that makes her different from everyone else, but whatever she does she still stands out.  So, in one final attempt to change all this, she changes her appearance and catches up on all the latest celeb gossip.  When this fails, she's ready to give up - not just on popularity, but on life.  But that doesn't go to plan, either, so she takes to long walks at night, unable to sleep.  On one of these walks she meets Vicky and Pippa at a warehouse party, and is introduced to Char, the DJ.  Suddenly Elise has found acceptance and friendship and a hidden talent that will redefine her life.

There is something entirely unique and refreshing about Elise's voice.  The first word that came to mind when I was reading this was 'dignified', which may seem strange given her suicide plan and her thoughts on her life.  But her voice is quiet and honest, even funny.  She challenges the reader to judge her, and she's right.  We can't possibly dictate what she should do and how she should feel unless we've been through her experiences.  She kept her feelings from her parents, and I could see why.  They aren't exactly the most astute, and one anecdote she shared about her father showed him incapable of dealing with her problems appropriately.  Nor was her mother much better.   It was nice to see them communicate more towards the end, however.  But what I especially loved was seeing Elise come into her own, transforming from someone who desperately wanted to fit in to realising her own worth and refusing to let anyone get in the way of who she was.

My favourite character after Elise had to be Vicky.  This girl proved herself to be an amazing friend, accepting and supportive, loyal, honest.  I loved Mel, too.  Pippa wasn't the person I thought she was, but I was glad to see some measure of growth in her by the end.  I'm not sure about Char.  He was a nice guy who liked being a DJ, and he really helped Elise by mentoring her; on some level, he did care about her.  But at the same time he's someone trying to get somewhere in life and he doesn't like that Elise is better than him at DJing.  He's not the type of person to commit to anyone.  But I think underneath it all, he's sort of like Elise: when he DJs, he gets to be someone else, someone who matters.  Perhaps he's not as relatable, but we can understand him from a more objective viewpoint.  Sales has created quite a realistic range of characters here.

This Song Will Save Your Life is a very powerful novel.  I haven't talked about the music, but I will say that it is explored incredibly well.  I loved Elise's voice and the beautiful way that Leila Sales has explored issues of identity.  I had a smile on my face for a long time while reading this,, and I have honestly not read anything like it.  This novel is definitely not one to be missed.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Review: The Fury

Title: The Fury (The Fury #1)
Author: Alexander Gordon Smith
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Released: 23rd July 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

First of all, can we just talk about that cover?  I love how unashamedly creepy it is (though if it's too creepy and you favour something slightly more traditional, you can see the 2012 edition).  I didn't really know what to expect going into this, and I haven't read anything else by this author, although from what I understood his works have generally been well-received.  What I got, then, was a solid read that actually offered something a little different.

Life was normal for Cal, Brick and Daisy until everyone suddenly turned on them for no reason.  Family, friends, complete and utter strangers - literally everyone is after them, mindlessly attacking them, wanting nothing but their deaths.  This is the Fury.  In their struggle to find out what's happening, the three of them realise they're not the only ones - that there are others who for some reason have also become potential victims.  But as they find out the truth, it becomes clear that they are in a war, and the power of their enemy means they all may well end up dead.

I said before I didn't know what to expect when I started this.  I didn't expect it to be creepy; I didn't expect it to be dark.  I certainly didn't expect the kind of ideas and world that are explored here.  Smith brings to life an engaging storyline and actually succeeds in making this chilling at specific moments.  I really liked his concept, finding his take on certain aspects to be different from the usual.  The synopsis doesn't give much away, and I think that's a good thing.  What I would comment on, however, is the length.  If there is one thing about this book, it is that it is so incredibly long.  In all fairness, I was short on time when reading this, but even so, I never felt a need to keep reading fully, so I did end up skimming chunks of it.

The Fury is told from multiple perspectives.  Cal, Brick and Daisy are the three main protagonists, but there are also some extra perspectives as well.  The range of characters here were, I felt, true to life: some with weaker personalities, some stronger, brought to light by the harsh circumstances.  Smith played with my emotions here somewhat; at the start, when I read from Brick's point of view, I was interested in reading more of it.  Yet when it came to Cal, I didn't really feel anything.  But the more I read, the more I came to dislike Brick and actually really like Cal.  Not only that, I liked some of the relationships developed here.  All of these characters started out as complete strangers to one another, and yet they start to take protective roles - Cal with Daisy, younger than him by several years, and Daisy with Adam, younger than her again.  Some of this was really sweet to see, which unfortunately could not be said of other characters I could mention - but again, isn't this representative of life?

The Fury is quite a dark book and also somewhat emotional at times...particularly with that ending.  It was an excessively long book, but despite this, it was one that I truly enjoyed.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Interview, Extra & Giveaway: Bryony Pearce (The Weight of Souls)

Hey, guys!  As some of you may know, I recently read The Weight of Souls and really enjoyed it (you can find my review here).  Bryony Pearce has very kindly agreed to do an interview, and she's also provided a set of rules of the sinister V club for you to peruse.  It's Truth or Dare like you've never played before.  As if that wasn't enough, she is also hosting a giveaway, the details of which you can find here. So.  Shall we move on?  Bryony Pearce, everyone!

Hello, Bryony, and welcome to the blog!  For those who don't know, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your upcoming novel, The Weight of Souls?

Hi there.  Well, I have two children aged 7 and 4 (a girl named Maisie and a boy named Riley) and a cat who likes to sit on the laptop when I'm working.  I live in a village at the edge of the Peak District, a welcome change from London, where I lived (or rather survived) for six years after university.  I'm a chocolate and wine loving vegetarian and people who know me are often surprised about how dark my writing is.

Generally I write books about good vs. evil and redemption.  My books are embedded in the modern world (or alternative reality versions), but with a supernatural twist.  I believe that the more realistic the starting point, the more creepy the supernatural element becomes.

My first book, Angel's Fury, published by Egmont in 2011) was about a girl who suffers from terrible nightmares, who discovers that she has been reincarnated and that all of her lives are being manipulated by a fallen angel who is trying to destroy mankind.

My second book, The Weight of Souls, out in August with Strange Chemistry, is about a teenaged girl who sees ghosts...but if a ghost touched her she has to avenge its death.

I visit schools, festivals and events and love it if people come and say hello...particularly is they have enjoyed my work.

One of the things I really liked about The Weight of Souls was how there was so much more to it than I expected.  How difficult was it for you to incorporate all the different ideas?

I like the stories I read to be complex, to make me think over an idea, to be something I come back to and reread from a different lifetime perspective and I try to write books that offer my readers the same experience without hitting them over the head with an 'issue'.  The first novel I ever tried to write was a dreadful mish-mash that extended to over 100,000 words, I tried to include way too many themes and ideas.  As I have grown as a writer I have learned that it is about selecting a few ideas that work together to form a story and blending them seamlessly.  I felt that the character of Taylor was complex enough to hold together several different story strands: bullying, ancient curses, Egyptian gods, a murder mystery, a secret society, they all work together in The Weight of Souls to form one cohesive whole and through Taylor I had no problem incorporating them all.

The hardest thing was where to put the 'backstories'.  Originally I had two prologues: 200 years ago (which was the story of Oh-Fa) and five years ago (the story of Taylor's first experience seeing ghosts).  I struggled with this, especially as my agent is not a fan of the prologue, and ended up putting them into the main body of the book.  It works because I think the opening of The Weight of Souls is strong as it is, but I still wish I had managed to keep some of the content that I had to dump in order to keep the story flowing.

Even as a child in primary school, I never really liked Truth or Dare, mainly because I was worried about the kinds of things that might be asked and where it might go.  And it looks like I was right to be wary.  Was there something in particular that made you want to write about a secret society?  And why Truth or Dare?

Interestingly The Weight of Souls was originally titled 'The Society' because, for me, that was the key part of the book, the heart of the murder mystery and the issues I wanted to explore (bullying, fitting in, crowd mentality).

School is hard (certainly not the best years of life) and sometimes it feels as if there are secret societies all around you: every clique that you cannot enter (because you are not sporty enough, not beautiful enough, not cool enough, not clever enough) and do not understand has its own rules.  So I decided that I wanted to write about a clique that literally did have rules, that started off fairly innocent, but that got out of control.  I wanted to use the V club as a microcosm of society, to explore power structures and the experiences of people doing things they never otherwise would, just because the crowd, or their social rules, demand it (much as in Angel's Fury I used the Milgram Experiment to explore how people will do terrible things when directed to by an authority figure: 'Ordinary people...can become agents in a terrible destructive process.' - Milgram).

For The Weight of Souls I looked at Freud's Crowd Behaviour Theory (the idea that the moral centre of consciousness - the super-ego - is displaced by the larger crowd, to be replaced by a charismatic crowd leader) and I explored the idea of Deindividuation which argues that in typical crowd situations, factors such as anonymity, group unity and arousal weaken personal controls (e.g. guilt, shame, self-evaluating behaviour) by distancing people from their personal identities and reducing their concern for social evaluation:

'The intelligence of that creature known as a crowd is the square root of the number of people in it.' - Terry Pratchett.

In the V club people do 'what they do':

'Justin nodded.  "This game is crazy.  Look at what we do.  Look at what you're doing.  You don't break the rules, you just don't.  Plus they've got something on you now."'

'Pete raised his head.  "I'm so sorry.  I didn't know.  I mean, I knew something was way off, but I wasn't sure, and it was V, man, you just do what you do.  You know."'
And the reason I chose Truth or Dare was because I wanted a game that easily gets out of control and results in people going further than they ever would because they are goaded to do so.  I needed something with a clear rule structure which I could embellish.  

Taylor makes a nice change from the standard YA protagonist, and she's also a very real character.  Is she based on you or someone you know?
I am one of those writers whose main characters pretty much pop into their heads fully formed.  Taylor has been sitting grumpily in the back of my head for some time now, yelling at me and growing in clarity over time.  She is not based on anyone I know (although her experiences being bullied are very much drawn from my own school experience).  Several of the secondary characters, however, are amalgamations of people I know.
Justin's character undergoes a lot of development, from someone unlikeable to someone the reader sees as more complex, and who I actually came to love.  Did that change in his character come naturally, or were there challenges along the way?
Like Taylor, I knew Justin and his story pretty well.  I knew that he came into the school late and needed to fit in.  That he was cool and attractive enough to lead the 'cool clique', but that he secretly fancied Taylor.  However, like many young boys who are only just starting to discover girls, he goes about expressing his interest in the wrong way - trying to get her to notice him by picking on her.  This leads the rest of the cool kids to follow his lead.  By the time he and Taylor are teens Taylor hates him, he is trapped in the V club (with its scary lifetime membership) and stuck with a girlfriends who is more interested in her own lifestyle than their relationship.
I liked Justin and was a bit sorry to make him unlikeable at the start of the book, but the book is told from Taylor's perspective, so it is her own view of him that colours the reader's.  As she finds out more about the real Justin, her view changes and so the reader's is able to change too.
What was your favourite scene to write?
I love so much of it, but the part I enjoyed writing the most was the moment when Taylor realises that Justin has been murdered.  That was the scene that had been playing in my head for months, screaming at me that it needed a book to go in.  It was great to finally get it on paper and out of my brain!
Finally, can you tell us anything about what you're working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a book about a boy who can jump from one universe to another, based on Homer's Odyssey and multi-universe theory; there are cannibals, killer machines, crazy priests, mad gods and much more.  As usual it is on the dark side and deals with good and evil, redemption and freedom.
Side note: *stares* 'Cannibals, killer machines, crazy priests, mad gods and much more'.  That book is obviously meant for me.

Rules of the V Club:
  • Club meets once a week unless there are exceptions such as  new members coming in.
  • No talking about the club outside the club.
  • To get into the club you have to be proposed by another member, seconded and you must complete the dare set by the club master.  Then you are in, but have no right to set challenges until you complete another round.
  • Each time you complete a dare, you have the right to set the next challenge.
Choosing the challengee:
Either the challenger can choose the challenged (you cannot choose the same person more than twice in a row) or, if there is no preference, the challenger spins a wheel to select the challenged.
  • Dares have to be witnessed by at least three other members (where possible) and video recorded.
  • Dares can be anything, but at least three other members have to agree that they are achievable.  You cannot set an impossible dare.  If you set an impossible dare you are forbidden from setting another dare for three rounds, even if you complete your own challenge.
  • A member has the right to turn down a dare up to three times in a row, after that they have to complete a challenge, or they are barred from the club.
Double Dares:
Challengees have the right to double dare - send it back to the challenger.  However, they have to 'double up' - make the challenge doubly difficult (that has to be gauged by three other members).  If the challenger does not choose to accept the double dare he or she will then lose their chance to be challenger for that week.  Furthermore, anyone else in the club has the chance to accept the double dare.  They will then accrue points.
Points can be accrued through completing double dares - these can be saved up and used at any time.  Points enable you to either:
  • Force someone to give you a truth
  • Make someone do something for you outside the environs of the club - e.g. complete a homework assignment
If the challenge does not want to do the dare, they may ask for a truth instead.
  • Or a truth may be set instead of a dare.
  • If a truth is asked for the challenge MUST enter the confessional.
  • A truth is not just a question and answer.
The truth about your personality:
The confessional explores concepts such as:
  • How brave/cowardly are you - facing your worst fears.  Challengers may put other things in the confessional with you.  You must remain inside for ten minutes with e.g. spiders, mice, cockroaches etc.
  • How nice are you?  You have the chance to swap your place in the confessional with your 'best friend' - do you do it?
  • How much pain can you stand?  You have to put your hand through a hole in the confessional wall.  You may be burned, iced, cut etc.  This is a three minute challenge.
If you are asked a question you MUST tell the truth.  This truth must be verifiable.

Verifying the truth:
  • At least one other member should be able to verify that you are not telling the truth.
  • If this is not possible but the answer is found to be a lie of misdirection at any later time - because the truth is immutable - the challenge will be 'sent to Coventry' (for a period to be determined by a vote) - see barring from the club.
Barring from the club:
  • No-one is permitted to talk about the club or its challenges.  Anyone barred from the club or who doesn't get into the club is not permitted to talk about the club - if this happens they will be 'sent to Coventry' - total social death.
  • Often hounded out of school.

Angel's Fury - GoodReads - Purchase
The Weight of Souls - GoodReads - Purchase
If you want to know more about Bryony Pearce, you can find her here:

Friday, 26 July 2013

Review: Fall of Night

Review: Fall of Night (Morganville #14)
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: Allison & Busby (UK)
Released: 2nd May 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm sure I don't need to tell you how I was feeling or what my expectations were when I started this - the fact that I'm still here reading this series, fourteen books in, speaks for itself.  While Fall of Night didn't have that extra spark that some of the other books did, Rachel Caine, once again, did not let me down.

In this penultimate instalment of the Morganville Vampires, it's time for a change of scene.  Claire is leaving Morganville and heading to MIT.  Saying goodbye to her friends - not to mention Shane - is one of the most difficult things she's had to do, but she needs to do this.  She needs to leave, for a number of reasons, and not for anyone else, but herself.  At MIT she's enrolled in a special study programme where she'll be working with Professor Irene Anderson, also of Morganville.  This is a chance for Claire to work on VLAD, her machine that should, in theory, eventually be able to cancel out vampiric abilities.  But where anything even remotely relating to Morganville is concerned, trouble is never far behind.  Claire thought the outside world would be safer than Morganville.  Truth is, it might be even worse.

Taking the storyline outside of Morganville was, I thought, a nice change.  And I also like the direction Caine has taken with this series.  I liked the draug, I thought they were an intriguing twist, but I can see how they might be considered as nothing more than a tool to elongate the series.  For me, this book brought a more natural turn of events, and it certainly sets the basis for what should hopefully be an amazing finale.  It does take some time for the pace to pick up and the action to kick in, but once it did I was fully hooked.  I think the first half to two thirds is more character-focused, especially with Claire getting acclimated to her new surroundings and being on her own.  This book is split only into two POVs, that of Shane and Claire, which I actually thought was really nice.

Now.  Speaking of characters.  There is something of a mixed bunch in here.  I loved Jesse, and when I found out who she actually was, the history geek in me was thrilled.  Myrnin was amazing and sweet; I love that vampire so much.  Claire is, of course, as kickass as ever, making the best of situations that are out of control.  Actually I felt really bad for her, because some of the things she had to do to make it out alive - for them all to make it out alive - didn't necessarily warm her to other characters, and she had to make some difficult decisions.  The two characters who grated on my nerves were Liz and Eve. Are you surprised at my mentioning Eve?  I'll come to her in a minute.  Liz is Claire's housemate and her old best friend from high school.  Despite her bad experiences, I could only feel the barest of sympathy for her.  I found her to be an exceptionally annoying character who didn't know how to stand up for herself or learn from her past mistakes, and the choices she made were far from wise.  In truth, she grew to be quite a pathetic presence in the book.  Now, Eve...I had already been somewhat irritated with her in Bitter Blood; for someone who sees Claire as a sister, she was incredibly quick to turn on her.  And the same happened here.  After all they have been through together, it seems she really does not trust Claire.  And because of that, I actually found myself wishing that Claire had a better set of friends.  Because - and it pains me to say this - at this point it doesn't seem as if any of them are worthy of her.  And much as I love Shane, that does kind of include him.

In some ways, then, this instalment did bring disappointment; it wasn't as good as could be hoped, and my love of this set of four friends has somewhat diminished because of the way they've been starting to treat each other, particularly when it comes to Claire, who, let's not forget, was the newcomer to this group.  I think Eve particularly has become something of a weak point.  Nevertheless, there is something about Rachel Caine's writing that draws me in, and while I can see that this is not as strong as it could be, that did not stop me from enjoying it.  Indeed, with how this one ended, I am left crying for that final book.

Thank you to the lovely Emma for joining me in a read-along!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Review: The Weight of Souls

Title: The Weight of Souls
Author: Bryony Pearce
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: 6th August 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Weight of Souls took me by surprise.  As good as it looks on the surface, I was not expecting the extra layers that came with it.  Pearce brings to the table ghosts, bullying...a secret society and Egyptian mythology.  What you see is not just what you get.  There is a lot going on, yet it all comes together nicely to form a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Taylor Oh is cursed.  Not only can she see the ghosts of murder victims, but when a ghost touches her, they leave a mark on her skin; she has three weeks to find the murderer and pass it on, thus avenging the victim.  If not, the Darkness will come and take her instead of the murderer.  This is bad enough as it is, but it only gets worse.  Justin, popular kid at school and who's made it his life's mission to bully Taylor, is murdered.  Does she really want to help him?  Help the guy who helped ruin her life?  But it's too late.  He passes the mark to her and she has to find his murderer in three weeks, otherwise the Darkness will come for her instead.  Her findings lead her to the V Club, a secret society that is a little more sinister than just a group of sixth formers messing around.  Somehow Taylor needs to find out who exactly killed Justin, preferably without actually dying herself...And what about the fact that she and Justin are becoming closer?  Just when Taylor thought her life couldn't be any more complicated, Justin's murder makes it take a turn for the worse.

Pearce wastes no time in introducing us to Taylor's ability, showing us immediately how it works.  It's quite a simple idea, really: a girl who sees ghosts.  Yet with that comes emotions and questions, and these were explored nicely.  Despite the layers in this book, it never became cluttered; it never felt like the author was trying to fit in too much.  Everything was connected, with Taylor in the middle to truly bring it all together.  The flashbacks and extracts from The Tale of Oh-Fa (a diary of Taylor's ancestor) particularly gave this added flavour.  It was also a strange yet compelling mix of ordinary elements, such as bullying, and mythological aspects.  Then in the middle was the V Club.  This was a well-thought out idea which was interesting to read about.  The only thing I would have liked added here would be the truth side of the game, as all the focus was on the dares - understandable, but I would have liked a glimpse of the other side.

Taylor herself was a real character, one easy to relate to.  The fact that she gets bullied implies a vulnerability - and she is vulnerable - but she is also strong.  Her struggle with her curse comes across clearly - the fact that she has to be on the constant lookout for ghosts because they all come for her and want her to help them means she can't enjoy a normal life.  This isn't helped by her father, whose character frustrated me with his obstinacy and absolute refusal to believe that Taylor suffers from nothing more than a genetic condition.  All of this made her a character easy to like.  Yet Justin's character is, for me, the most transformative.  As a bully, and seemingly having no other side to him than that, I disliked him and could not really imagine why Taylor would end up loving him.  But when he is a ghost and we learn more about him, his character evolves and becomes more complex, until I loved him.  He really is sweet; he simply allowed his twisted guy logic to lead him the wrong way (what is it with guys picking on girls to show their interest?).

The Weight of Souls is a novel commendable in all the themes it explores and its success in doing so.  At the moment the matter of a sequel is in question, but I sincerely hope there will be one, as there were certain issues and questions specifically brought up towards the end that I would like to see resolved.  But even aside from that, my first experience with this author has left me wanting more.  This is definitely one I would recommend.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#28)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

Title: Find Me
Author: Romily Bernard
Publisher: Harper Teen
Released: 24th September 2013

"Find Me." These are the words written on Tessa Waye's diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa's just been found...dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target. Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick.

Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick's deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she's going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal

Cover love!  Again!  But besides that, Wick sounds like an amazing protag, so I'm really hoping she lives up to that.  This seems quite mysterious as well.

What do you guys think?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Review: Gameboard of the Gods

Title: Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1)
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Dutton Adult (Penguin)
Released: 4th June 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I don't usually (almost never) review adult books, but for Richelle Mead I will make an exception.  Like many of us, I think, having loved Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series (Bloodlines is a story for another day), I was eager to see what more she had to offer us.  While this wasn't entirely as good as I was hoping, it was still a fairly decent and enjoyable read that leaves me hopeful for the rest of the series.

Religion is now, for the most part, forbidden, as it is this that is mostly blamed for the Decline.  The two forces in power are the RUNA (Republic of United North America) and the EA (Eastern Alliance).  These are surrounded by provinces, which are typically considered backward.  Justin March is a servitor exiled to one of these provinces; his job was to investigate religious groups and believers in the supernatural, but one of his reports led to him losing his job and his citizenship.  Now, however, a spate of ritualistic murders has the government calling him back.  Mae Koskinen, an elite soldier with enhanced skills, is assigned to protect him.  But as the investigation goes on and more truths come to light, unknown powers start to assemble for their own power play, with the world as their gameboard and humans as pawns.

In this new venture Mead brings to life an intriguing and complex world, with a remarkably tiered society and a clash between the scientific and the religious, or the mythological.  I did feel this lost some of its effect as I found myself somewhat confused at times; we are thrust straight into this new world and after a while you start to get a feel for it, but I think it would benefit from clarification about a few things.  Still, this did not completely hinder my enjoyment of it, and I found myself taking things in with interest.  I liked seeing such a mix of ideas, with technological and scientific elements, and the supernatural, coming together nicely.  The murder mystery aspect of this was also decently done, although I think it took a while to really kick off and could have been used to better effect.  The ending, really, is where all of these elements were at their best, where we finally get some answers and some intrigue and some pace, and if the whole book had been done at that level, this would have been given a higher rating.

Mae is a pretty badass character - she has to be, I suppose, given that she is who and what she is.  Even so, she's impressive.  And when you learn about her past, and later as we find out more about her, she is easy to feel sympathy for.  Justin did not get the benefit of such warm feelings from me, at least not consistently.  Truth be told, I found him annoying at times, impossible to deal with and, I felt, with something of an entitled attitude when it came to Mae; part of the reason he excels at his job is because of his powers of observation and being able to take in every minute detail, and I felt like he was almost invading Mae's privacy when he could simply have asked her things.  By the end of the book, though, this had changed, and I became more sympathetic towards him.  I quite liked reading from both their perspectives; this is all in third person, which made a change for me, but it was nicely done.  The one perspective I didn't appreciate was that of Tessa.  I'm not sure why, but she grated on me almost as soon as I met her.  As well as that, for some reason she constantly sounded younger than her 16 year old self.  I'm not sure if that was just me, but in any case, I was never in a hurry to get back to reading from her point of view.

All in all, Gameboard of the Gods was, if somewhat underwhelming, still an enjoyable read.  I particularly love the mythological side to it, and I really can't wait to see how this develops in the sequel, particularly with the ending of this one being what it was.  Richelle Mead has once again proved herself a wonderful storyteller, and I look forward to coming back to this series.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#27)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

Title: Briar Rose
Author: Jana Oliver
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Released: 12th September 2013

A dark and sexy reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale from the author of THE DEMON TRAPPERS.

For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.

I love my sleep - like, seriously love it, as long as it means I can stay up as late as I want and sleep in as late as I want - so sleeping for a hundred years seemed like an amazing idea at first.  Thinking on it, though, I'd much rather be able to sleep just for a week or two.  I like that this is a Sleeping Beauty retelling, which is really a bonus because as soon as I saw the author it was automatically added to my TBR.  Thank goodness September isn't too far away! (*She says, refusing adamantly to think about studies*)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Release Day: Excerpt & Giveaway: Take Me Now

Title: Take Me Now (Take Me Now, #1)
Author: Faith Sullivan
Expected release date: 16th July, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Ebook available at: Kindle | Nook ($2.99) 

How do you survive the internship from hell?

Don't fall in love.

Ivy thought being a reporter-in-training at the Independent Gazette would be her dream summer job. Little did she know, interviewing Eric, a landscaper with a heart of gold, would derail her plans. It turns out Ivy's boss, Lauren, has been eying his chiseled physique for quite some time.

But at twenty-four, Eric already has a tragic past, one that he is still reeling from. Even though his ordeal turned him into some sort of local celebrity, it's been a while since he's shared his bed with anyone. When he comes to Ivy's rescue out of the blue, it's not long before the two of them start seeing each other behind Lauren's back. When they get caught, Ivy's journey toward a college degree is jeopardized and her relationship with Eric is severely put to the test.

Career versus love? In the end, a shocking turn of events provides Ivy with a revelation she never saw coming.

If only I were open to the possibility of romance, but I'm not.  There's no way I can be.  There are circumstances that can't be wished away or ignored.  My heart's not ready - not yet.  And while this absolutely gorgeous girl has wandered into my life, I'm not going to act on it.  It's too soon.
    I stride into my shop, gently placing her on the counter.  Her feet are bleeding and she looks like she could use a drink of water.  She's covered in dust from the road but she looks adorable sitting there.  I don't know what it's like to be in a scenario like this with a girl.  I'm used to things being straightforward and laid out before me.  This looks like something I could easily get lost in if I'm not careful.
    We still haven't said a word to each other, and I hate to break the silence but it can't be avoided.  "Rest here a minute.  I'll be right back."
    Her hand lingers on my upper arm, her thumb massaging my bicep.  I exhale heavily, trying desperately to clear my head.   Her touch is stirring things inside me I haven't experienced in quite some time.  Emotions I never thought I'd feel again.  "Thank you," she whispers, her eyes never leaving mine.
    "No problem," I try to say as casually as possible.  She's looking at me like I'm her knight in shining armor and I don't want her to get the wrong idea.  I can't go down that road again.  I just can't.  My soul isn't fully healed from the last time.  I can't trust myself in these kinds of situations.  I need to back away as gracefully as I can.

Other New Adult contemporary romances by Faith Sullivan! 
Click covers to purchase.


Author Links: Blog | Amazon | Twitter | Goodreads

Monday, 15 July 2013

Cover Reveal & Giveaway: Wings

Today we are super excited to share the cover to WINGS, the third and final book in author's Elizabeth Richard's BLACK CITY series!

Check out this beauty! 

Wings (Black City #3) by Elizabeth Richards

Get the first two books in the series! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 12 July 2013

Cover Reveal: Off Course

Title: Off Course
Author: Sawyer Bennett
Released: August 4, 2013
Genre: Contemporary
Age Group: New Adult
Cover designed by : Vitalink  

Renner Caldwell has her life perfectly mapped out. She has the ideal relationship, the perfect job and all is right in her world. When a shameful turn of events happens, she boards the first plane bound for Ireland to lick her wounds and get her head back on straight. Cillian O’Braidagh is the sexy, front man to the Irish rock band, Over The Edge. His rising fame and sultry voice make him every woman’s fantasy come true. Not to mention his single-minded determination. To put it simply: what Cillian wants, Cillian always gets. And he wants Renner, because there’s just something about the flame-haired beauty he has to possess. If their relationship was just about sex and rock n’ roll, it would be easy for them to get lost in their desires. Only their relationship is anything but a hook-up. Will lies, deceit and hidden tragedy get in the way, making the path to true love uncertain? Or will the girl whose been knocked Off Course, find her footing with the man who is teaching her it’s okay to lose control?    

 photo SawyerBennett_zps59043f28.jpgAbout the Author
USA Today Best-Selling author, Sawyer Bennett, is a snarky southern woman and reformed trial lawyer who decided to finally start putting on paper all of the stories that were floating in her head. She is married to a mobster (well, a market researcher) and they have two big, furry dogs who hog the bed. Sawyer would like to report she doesn't have many weaknesses but can be bribed with a nominal amount of milk chocolate.
 photo AToMRToursC66a-A00aT03a-Z_sml_zpsac1dbe05.jpg

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Review: A Really Awesome Mess

Title: A Really Awesome Mess
Author: Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Released: 23rd July 2013
Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

On the surface, A Really Awesome Mess doesn't look like it has much to boast about.  And despite my love of contemporaries, it's not necessarily something that I would usually go for.  But there was a small part of me that was curious and, as often happens when it comes to me and books, that small spark of curiosity was enough to prompt me to read this.  Now I can say that I have absolutely no regrets, because this proved to cover a multitude of issues, present interesting character relationships and be completely hilarious all at once.

Welcome to Heartland Academy, a reform school in the middle of nowhere meant to deal with a whole range of mental health, emotional and other issues, from anger management to eating disorders to compulsive lying to addictions to suicidal tendencies and more.  In Heartland Academy we meet six key people - Emmy and Justin are the two protagonists, yet alongside them are four friends, and it is through all of these characters that Cook and Halpin explore such issues.  These were managed nicely so that they interwove together; while all these problems weren't explored in detail - indeed, there were too many of them for that to happen - it was still enough for me to appreciate them and what the characters were going through.  There were also layers created, particularly in Emmy's case: just when I thought I knew about her life and why she felt the way she did, I learned something else about her.

I thought the authors had also done a remarkable job with the characters in bringing them alive and making me connect with them all.  Admittedly I was annoyed at certain times, but the more I read the less this was so.  For me, the last third or so of the book was the strongest, at least in terms of character relationships.  I loved watching them all work together, encouraging each other to work past their issues and really come to be friends.  The plotline this took place around was undeniably ridiculous - several times I stopped to reflect on what exactly was happening and why these characters were working together - but it was so funny and actually not at all bothersome, that I just accepted it and read on.  I had this near-constant grin on my face, and I was content to just be along for the ride, however unlikely it was.

A Really Awesome Mess turned out to be a quick, almost surprisingly enjoyable read.  I usually like my books dark and emotional, yet this somehow turned out to be a mix of emotional and quite funny, one that was strangely compelling in this case.  I'm definitely glad I decided to give this one a go.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (#26)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming features we can't wait to get our hands off.  Here's mine for this week!

Title: Project Cain
Author: Geoffrey Girad
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young
Released: 3rd September 2013

Fifteen-year-old Jeff Jacobson had never heard of Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer who brutally murdered seventeen people more than twenty years ago. But Jeff’s life changes forever when the man he’d thought was his father hands him a government file telling him he was constructed in a laboratory only seven years ago, part of a top-secret government cloning experiment called ‘Project CAIN’.

There, he was created entirely from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA. There are others like Jeff—those genetically engineered directly from the most notorious murderers of all time: The Son of Sam, The Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy . . . even other Jeffrey Dahmer clones. Some raised, like Jeff, in caring family environments; others within homes that mimicked the horrific early lives of the men they were created from.

When the most dangerous boys are set free by the geneticist who created them, the summer of killing begins. Worse, these same teens now hold a secret weapon even more dangerous than the terrible evil they carry within. Only Jeff can help track the clones down before it’s too late. But will he catch the ‘monsters’ before becoming one himself?

Whoa.  This sounds just the tiniest bit creepy with the geneticist, but I seriously want to read this and meet Jeff.  This sounds quite dark, and I have to say (because I can't seem to refrain myself at all anymore) that cover is just perfect.  So yes, I am in insta-lust with this one.

Let me know what you guys are counting down the days for this week!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Cover Reveal: Take Me Now

Hey, guys!  Today I'm super happy to be a part of the cover reveal for Faith Sullivan's Take Me Now!  I couldn't wait to see what this cover looked like, and as soon as I saw it I loved it.  Everything about it, from the models to the fonts to the shading, just work together.  What do you guys think?
Take Me Now (Take Me Now #1)
Release Date: 16th July 2013

Summary from Goodreads:
How do you survive the internship from hell?
Don't fall in love.
Ivy thought being a reporter-in-training at the Independent Gazette would be her dream summer job. Little did she know, interviewing Eric, a landscaper with a heart of gold, would derail her plans. It turns out Ivy's boss, Lauren, has been eying his chiseled physique for quite some time.

But at twenty-four, Eric already has a tragic past, one that he is still reeling from. Even though his ordeal turned him into some sort of local celebrity, it's been a while since he's shared his bed with anyone. When he comes to Ivy's rescue out of the blue, it's not long before the two of them start seeing each other behind Lauren's back. When they get caught, Ivy's journey toward a college degree is jeopardized and her relationship with Eric is severely put to the test.

Career versus love? In the end, a shocking turn of events provides Ivy with a revelation she never saw coming.

***Author Links***

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Review: After Eden

Title: After Eden (After Eden #1)
Author: Helen Douglas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Released: 7th November 2013 (first published 4th July 2013)
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

When new boy Ryan Westland starts at her school, Eden knows there's something different about him, and it's not that he's American.  He seems like a normal teenager, except for the fact that he doesn't seem to be able to recognise basic things, like pizza. And he's never heard of Hitler.  Who hasn't heard of Hitler?  Little things like that create the one big mystery that is Ryan.  But these are things that can be explained away, however unlikely.  Eden and Ryan gradually spend more and more time together, soon becoming fast friends and then something more.  But at Ryan's house, Eden discovers an autobiography of her best friend...and it's from the future.  Piecing things together, she discovers who Ryan really is and why he is there.  The truth is more shocking than she could have realised, and she herself plays an integral part.

After Eden made for a quick, entertaining read.  It had a simple writing style which flowed easily, although I noticed that it mainly comprised of dialogue.  It was not a particularly deep read, and the time travel side of it was not difficult to understand.  I appreciated the astrological references to help boost the sci-fi theme, and it generally made for interesting reading.  One thing this book really was good at was pointing out how one small thing can affect everything else.  When I read the prologue, I didn't understand the significance of it; I didn't understand what it was supposed to tell me or do for me as a reader.  Later, however, when I had more information, I understood what that scene meant, and it really makes you think about how much impact one simple choice, or one simple moment, can have.  I wouldn't say this is a particularly plot-driven novel, however.  The pace was, for the most part, easy-going, only really building up towards the end.

The characters were decent enough, but forgettable.  I really did think the romance between Ryan and Eden sweet, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop.  Having said that, there was nothing to make them stand out.  With Eden's character, my feelings for her actually bordered on dislike at times.  I didn't care for the way she was behaving simply because she was around a good-looking guy, and she was in denial over a fact that was painfully obvious; I wish she'd just step up and acknowledge the truth.  This brings me to her relationship with her best friend, Connor - really, it was a trio of close friends: Eden, Connor and Megan.  The bonds between them here were inconsistent, made little sense and seemed to change for no apparent reason.  Aside from the fact that Eden and Connor had known each other since they were young children, I didn't understand why they were friends.  And then, finally, there was the cleaner - someone related to Ryan's time travel mission, whose job it is to make sure things are as they should be and there is no trouble in any shape or form. I worked out who it was before anyone else - although no-one seemed to actually try and work it out - and again here was a change in character - one I really didn't see as necessary.  It was like the author was trying to create an obvious villain and make us root for Eden, yet it just came across as messy.  I can't really be clearer than that without giving anything away.

Douglas has made a decent effort here with her novel, and it was easy enough to read it in one sitting.  The romance was sweet, the plot undemanding.  If what you're looking for is something quick or simple, then this is one to consider.  But there is no substance, nothing that will really make you connect with anyone, no real reason for you to remember this after reading it.  I would recommend this only as a filler book, something to pass the time; somehow it makes for quite a readable book, but it certainly isn't one of the better sci-fi novels out there.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Review: Playing Tyler

Playing TylerTitle: Playing Tyler
Author: T. L. Costa
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: 2nd July 2013
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have absolutely no idea where or how to start this review, since T. L. Costa seems to have robbed me of my ability to think, so I'm just going to jump right in and say this book was wonderful.  It completely took me by surprise.  I looked at this and I thought videogames, which is fine, since I read Ready Player One and loved it, even though it was completely - completely - out of my comfort zone.  Playing Tyler is not so far out, but enough that I was hoping this would work for me.  And of course I had expectations. What I did not expect, however, was for this to be as deep and emotional and explorative as it was.

Tyler has ADHD and consequently has difficulty focusing on things.  His only real strength is playing videogames, but he knows that this isn't exactly going to get him very far in life.  As well as that worry he's got to look after his older brother Brandon, who once again is in rehab for taking heroin.  When his mother's at home he's looking after her, too, since the death of Tyler's dad hit her hard.  Things look up when Rick, his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor and the only person he can count on, provides him with a game to beta test.  It's a flight simulation, one that would actually be used in training pilots if it works out.  If he scores high enough, Tyler gets to go to flight school and possibly have a career doing the one thing in life he most wants to: flying.  Then he meets Ani, the game's designer, and it seems like maybe his life won't be a disaster after all.  But that's before he discovers that there's much more to the game than he first thought, and before his brother goes missing.  Now it's not a question of what he's going to do with his future.  It's a question of whether he's going to live that long at all.

I may as well say now, the writing style here is probably going to be very hit or miss, I think because it's specifically meant to show us Tyler's thoughts as a person with ADHD.  For some it works and for others I know it doesn't.  For me, it was brilliant.  It allowed me to truly appreciate Tyler's difficulty with keeping a single, focused train of thought, and with actually being able to verbalise those thoughts.  But even aside from that, he was an extremely tough and likeable character, and one I felt a lot of sympathy for.  His mother, at the very least, is the one who is meant to be looking out for him, yet instead it's the other way around; it takes her far too long to realise where she should be focusing her attention.  And as for Brandon, well, he was as much of a disappointment, if not more, and it was only towards the end that he decided to step up and do something for his brother - although I'm still not sure that it wasn't just a cop-out for him.  There is a lot of focus on character and relationships in this book, making it one that actually brought out a lot of emotion in me.  The only issue I had in this area was Tyler's reaction to Ani when he first met her: I got that she was someone he admired for her position in the gaming world, that she was someone who understood him and who he could communicate with relatively easily; I just think that it could have been taken a bit slower.  But otherwise theirs was a sweet relationship.

Of course there was the videogame aspect as well, and all the technical details that brought.  Costa brought alive an intriguing plotline, which would no doubt actually be something possible in real life, a scary thought when you discover the truth of the game.  I appreciated the layers there were to it, so that when I thought I understood what was happening, other elements were added, and it was these that also reinforced a character issue and vice versa, making it all the more relevant to Tyler and therefore the reader.  The full import of what the realities of the simulation meant was conveyed clearly, as was the danger that Tyler and Ani are in when they discover the truth.  The last section of the book really emphasised this; it was the ending that was the most action-packed and had me absolutely refusing to put it down until I reached that last sentence.  There was a lot of urgency and the pace quickened to fulfil that, and it really meant that this book ended on a superb note.

Playing Tyler was so much more than I expected.  With only minor flaws, this was an absorbing read that realised both the need for plot and character investment.  Going into this I truly had no idea that it would be so emotional and with such serious issues.  I can see how this isn't for everyone, but I feel T. L. Costa has added something worthwhile to the YA market, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more work from her.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Review: The Testing

Title: The Testing (The Testing #1)
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Released: 4th June 2013
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to have any sort of firm grasp on what I thought of this book, because it really was a mix for me.  The reviews for this were mixed, so I didn't really know what to expect going in, and then the book itself seemed to reflect all of those different thoughts, leaving me uncertain as to what exactly I made of this.  But after thinking on it, it seems to me a solid read, even if flawed.

Cia wants nothing more than to be chosen as a Testing candidate so she can go to the University, get a better education and come out with a successful career that will help rebuild their destroyed planet.  And when she is selected as a candidate, she's ecstatic.  This is short-lived, however, when her dad speaks to her the night before she leaves, warning her that this isn't the great opportunity she thinks it is, and that she must trust no-one.  Cia thinks on her father's words constantly, newfound suspicion arising in her as she looks at those around her.  Gradually she realises that he is right, that nothing is what it seems and that everything and everyone is too sinister to be trusted.  But there must be some people she can trust - someone, surely?  If not anyone else, what about the person she's falling in love with?

It took me a little while to really get into this, as I felt disconnected from the writing.  While nothing was technically wrong with it, it just seemed to fall flat for me.  This did, however, improve throughout the course of the book; though by the end it was no means perfect, it was enough for me to feel more connected with the plot and with the characters.  The world-building itself allowed me to get a clear image of the world Cia was living in, and how it had come to be that way, although I feel this could have been more smoothly done, since there was some info-dump.  Yet I did like the idea of The Testing and the need to pass it before being allowed into the University.  One of the things that stand out most to me about it is that it comprises of both an academic and a practical element.  I can't really think of a dystopia I've read where they've had to sit down and do hours worth of exams, which is part of what Cia and her fellow candidates had to do, and is actually something that we can relate to.  This was then balanced with practical tasks of various natures, until finally the main part of The Testing, the real test that they all need to pass, the one that most challenges the question of their survival.  I have to admit, this did feel like The Hunger Games - but since I'm one of the extremely rare people who were disappointed with The Hunger Games, this wasn't a problem.  In fact - and here's where I really may lose a few (alright, a lot) friends - I'd go so far as to say this was better.  Yes, that's what I said.  Go on, then.  Off you go.  I'll just talk to myself now.

What I really feel The Testing would benefit from is more characterisation.  Cia was a decent enough character, very resourceful, actually, which I really appreciated...but there could have been more.  More development and more about her that would have enabled me to really root for her and connect with her.  The same with Tomas.  For this reason the romance between them didn't work for me. Their characters weren't present enough, weren't vivid or real enough; I didn't understand what they saw in each other, why they were in this relationship.  I didn't feel any spark or chemistry.  This need for more did not apply to all the characters - there was one who particularly surprised me because his true nature was not actually what I thought it was; and I definitely got a sense of ruthlessness and danger from the staff, especially with certain tasks.  Michal, too, became something of a favourite.  There were some characters and events linked to them that did have me feeling emotion.  I just wish this could have extended to the protagonist and her love interest.

The Testing, all in all, is by no means a bad book. It has flaws which, for me, cannot allow a complete enjoyment of the book, yet I did want to keep reading.  I did want to see what happened and what the outcome would be.  And I do certainly want to read the sequel.  To anyone still reading this review (and I'd be very surprised), if you're still not sure about this, I would encourage you to check out what other people have said, since, as I mentioned before, this is one there seems to be a lot of debate over.