Wednesday 31 October 2012

Book Review - Before I Die

Title: Before I Die (also re-released as 'Now Is Good')
Author: Jenny Downham
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: 2010
ISBN13: 9781849920452

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

My Review
I saw this on the shelves in Libraries and book shops for years but never picked it up, sounded a little too depressing for me. Then a few weeks ago I saw a movie trailer for a film called 'Now Is Good', it stars Dakota Fanning as the lead character and she is one of my favourite actresses. I then discovered that the film was based on this book, and still whilst not a cheery subject I decided to give it a go. If I know a film is based on a book I have to read the book first, so I requested a copy.
It arrived at the library but got knocked down my list to make way for some review books, but today I was inbetween books and figured this was quite short and would be a fairly quick read.

Now I have very mixed emotions about this book, I absolutely loved it, it's so beautiful and heartfelt and real and just powerful. It will make you feel, laugh, cry and realise you are lucky to be alive. My heart really goes out to Tessa and I felt like I connected with her. But on another level I hated this book - and it's purely for personal reasons. My Gran died of Cancer back in April of this year, it was short and shocking and I still miss her everyday, I always knew reading a book where the main character has cancer would be hard but I thought I could handle it, and I coped surprisingly well, but towards the end I could not stop the tears, Downham writes everything so realistically that it brought back some painful memories that made me want to put the book down and run away. I hated it for making me feel this way, then loved it at the same time. I guess this shows just what a powerful book it was and just how well written and researched it was.

Tessa has been fighting cancer/leukemia for 4 years and is coming to the end, she decides to give up the medication and just live life. She creates a list of all the things she wants to do before her time is up and tries her hardest to live what is left of her time to it's full.
Yes it is a very sad story and not exactly a 'light' read but there is something so magical and powerful about it, you will absolutely fall in love. 

So I would say if you have personal experiences with this sort of thing, be warned, it will stir up memories, but if you feel like you can handle it, i would still recommend it. A lot of things are explained and may clear up some questions. 
If you just want a book to stick your teeth into, something that will make you feel and fall in love with the characters, then this is definitely the book to pick up.

I would sum this book up as 'Hauntingly Beautiful'.
And I definitely still want to see the film, I'll just have to make sure I have a box of tissues with me!

My Rating

Book Review - Scent of Magic

Title: Scent of Magic
Author: Maria V Snyder
Series: Healer (book 2)
Publisher: Mira Books
Release Date: 18 Dec 2012
ISBN-13: 978-1848452046

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avery of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avery is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avery will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avery is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.

My Review
I was lucky enough to get a free copy of this book through NetGalley. This in no way affects my review.
OMG, I read 'Touch of Power' (book 1) last year and fell in love with it, I reviewed it as part of a competition which I ended up winning and the prize was my ipad. :O 
I'm so glad I loved that book as it made my review enthusiastic and just well, a winner! So when I saw that NetGalley was offering advanced copies of this book, I of course had to apply. I never imagined I would actually be lucky enough to get a copy but here we are. After finishing book 1 last year I have been desperate to know what would happen to Avry and Kerrick and her team, it's one of those books that stay with you, and sure enough jumping into this one didn't cause me any problems. Everything came back to me and I was instantly transported into that world once more.

Everyone believes Avry is dead, a powerful position to be in, but instead of hiding away she is determined to do all she can to bring down Tohon's army.
Kerrick sets off on his own Quest, trying to rally his Kingdom to fight and coming across lots of obstacles.
There are a lot of returning characters and some new ones too. I was sooo excited and happy to see one character back. My heart literally jumped for joy and swelled with happiness. Thank you Maria, you don't know how much that meant to your fans!!! 
I really liked the return of the two children Danny and Zila. Danny in particular plays a bigger part and I really grew to like him, he will make a great future player.
Once again you are thrust into a world of magic, mystery, adventure, fighting and romance. There isn't quite as much romance in this one in some ways as Avry and Kerrick spend quite a bit of time apart, but they think of each other and in many ways you can feel their connection stretching over the pages, keeping them together.
There are a lot of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages, I laughed, I cried and I was shocked throughout, this story really takes hold of you and draws you in. I feel like I know the place and people. I step into their land, become a part of the group.
If you haven't read book 1 yet, I strongly recommend you do, get it now and read it before this one is released. Also check out her other series 'Study' series and 'Opal Cowan' series.
You won't regret it!!!

My Rating

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Book Review - The Mark of Athena

Title: The Mark of Athena
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Heroes of Olympus (book 3)
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 2 Oct 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0141335742

As Annabeth, Jason, Piper and Leo fly towards Camp Jupiter in the Argo II she can't blame the Romans for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon, she just hopes that the sign of their Praetor on deck will reassure the Romans that they come in Peace. All Annabeth really wants is to be reunited with Percy, but now it looks like there could be war.
And that's not her only worry, in her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with a demand: "Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me." but what more could Athena want from her, she's already battling the prophecy that will send seven demigods to find and close the Doors of Death.

My Review
Some spoilers may be included.
I have been a Percy Jackson fan for a few years now and always look forward to the new releases. It always seems like a long time between books but when you get them the wait is so worth while and they are always big. This book is a hefty 572 pages, but that's over 500 pages of sheer awesomeness!!!
It did take me a little while to get back into the story and remember what had happened in the previous books but once I was there, i was right back into the book. 
I'm not even sure where to start with this, this book just had so much to it that I'm finding it hard to sum it up.
I suppose characters are a big thing, after all - no characters, no story!
So Annabeth is kind of a main player in this book and she has grown a lot since that little twelve year old we first met. She is smart, feisty, passionate, logical, head-strong and vulnerable. She has moments of pure awesomeness, a really butt-kicker, but where Percy is involved she can be weak at the knees, that is when she isn't fighting to be with him, or protect him. I loved their connection and relationship. Their reunion just makes my heart melt!
And her whole solo quest thing, wow, that girl has some serious pressure on her and steps straight into the face of danger and the unknown. You got to admire the girl's courage.
Percy, ah Percy! Man I love that boy. He's cheeky and arrogant and boastful, yet insecure and sometimes shy. He's a fighter and true hero, but with a heart, one heck of a heart and a fierce love for Annabeth and the urge to do the right thing. He also has some great one liners.
Jason - I've been pretty indifferent to Jason up until now, I wasn't really bothered about what he did, or whether he was around, but throughout this book I found myself looking forward to his scenes, and his relationship with Piper was sweet, although there were moments when I was shouting at him to just 'kiss her already', he's a bit slow with the whole relationship stuff, but it's kind of endearing. And Piper herself kicks butt.
Leo is BACK!!! Leo has to be one of my all time favourite characters, he is so funny and immature, yet he always means well and tries his best and really you can tell he just wants to fit in. My heart goes out to Leo, seriously I love this boy, and he makes me laugh out loud more than any other character.
There are other characters to get to know better too, Hazel and Frank (who I just want to hug by the way) for a start. 
Having the book told from different POV's also allow us an extra insight into thier lives and personality and make you feel like you are connecting better to them.
The plot of this book is quite fast paced and there is always something going on. You tend to get 3/4 chapters with each character before it switches to another POV, this ensures that you are hooked in and pulled along, then moved along before you get bored. Although this did take me slightly longer to read than I thought it would, A few bits were slightly predictable, but overall it didn't lower my enjoyment of the book, I was still very impressed with it.
There are some truly laugh out loud moments, some 'Nooooooo' moments, some 'awwww' moments and some 'OMG EPIC!!!' moments, really a bit of everything.
Rick Riordan really is a master storyteller and I am truly looking forward to the next part 'The House of Hades', but why do we have to wait another year for it?

My Rating


Monday 29 October 2012

Book Tour, Review & Giveaway! - Phantom

Title: Phantom
Author: Laura De Luca
Publisher: Pagan Writers Press
Pages: 270

The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card.

Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist.

Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.

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My Review
I've only ever seen 'The Phantom of the Opera' once on DVD but I did enjoy it and I like the idea of the storyline, and the music is beautiful. I have had the soundtrack on my ipod for years and know a lot of the songs. My best friend has seen it in theaters all round the world and it's her all time favourite so I thought I would give this a go and see if it was worth recommending to her.
The story starts with Becca - she's shy and tends to be invisible to everyone but her two best friends Carmen and Deb, but then the school announces that their end of year play will be Phantom and she decides to audition. She has been a fan for years and already knows it word for word, and when her teacher discovers that she has the voice of an angel she is thrown into the lead role, but then strange events start to happen, events that mirror the script and end up with people being killed. Things start to get out of hand and Becca must find out who is behind it, all whilst figuring out whether she likes dreamy guy Tom, or new mysterious guy Justyn.
I liked all the characters, they all seemed very realistic and I could picture people I was at school with acting the same way. Tom sounded like a good guy and actually quite considerate to others, which isn't always usual for the popular guy. Justyn was strange, I did like him but I also wanted him to just come out and say things occasionally instead of being so mysterious, but it all added to the atmosphere so I was happy overall.
This book surprisingly had me hooked. I sat down with the intent of reading just a few pages, but then found that I was totally engrossed and would end up reading multiple chapters. In fact I read this book in two halves, and between reading I found myself thinking about reading it.
This book is basically a High School Murder mystery which I never thought I would like (being a total wimp and all) but it is done in a really clever way - none of the deaths are overly described - there are no gory details but the suspense is at a good level that will keep your heart thumping.
Some things were a little bit predictable and I think if you knew the original Phantom story better it might be very predictable but for me it was just right.
I did find that the characters recovered quite quickly from the deaths that happened - they move on very easily, almost like it's not a big deal. Which I found slightly odd, the other thing that puzzled me is the fact that Becca never reports any of the threats or messages, she gets some voicemails telling her that some has or will be murdered yet she doesn't say anything to her parents or the police - not even in passing. I would sure hope that if teenagers were getting worrying messages they would tell someone, especially if after the first one comes true - she must surely realise the others could too.

So there were a few eye raising questions but overall I really enjoyed the book and I did not suspect the guilty person. Totally shocked me, looking back on it, I should have realised but at the time, I had no idea. 
So overall an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to others. :D

My Rating