Sunday, 15 March 2015

Review: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Title: All Fall Down
Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 306
Source: Purchased from Berkelouw Books.
This book saved my life because: in the beautiful setting of a foreign country Ally Carter sets up the gripping tale of a girl whose life mission is finding what happened to her mother. It was a beautiful story of family relations in a political setting with great twists and turns that left me desperate for the next book.

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her - so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because  on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

I was super excited to read Ally Carter's new book, as I have loved everything she has written so far. And All Fall Down was not a disappointment. The book follows the main character Grace, who is adamant to find out who killed her mother. It takes place in the made-up country Adria, on what Carter terms 'Embassy Row', the area in which all the embassy's to Adria are located.

I loved the concept of an Embassy Row, as it provided an amazing setting for the book. It opened up many opportunities for political conflict with many different nationalities. Also, by creating a new country (Adria) Carter could give the allure and beauty of a foreign and beautiful place where anything could happen. This also allowed for many of the characters, especially the friends Grace makes, to be different nationalities and really made the story interesting.

“Mom’s Israeli. Dad’s Brazilian. What can I say? I am Embassy Row personified. You really lucked out in the best friend department”  

One of the brilliant aspects of this novel was the way that Ally Carter deals with mental illness. In a dramatic turn of events, it is revealed that Grace has been struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And I loved how the whole book was leading up to this point. Their were clues along the way to point towards this, such as Grace's reckless behaviour, her utter fixation on finding her mother's killer, and what I thought was the most unnerving - Grace having 'sworn' she had seen her mother's killer many times before. Those instances were written so well, as Carter wove Grace's character as one that was almost slightly untrustworthy. I love that while I was reading the whole time I was rooting for Grace, but also realised there was something up with her character.

“No! I need to go home," I say, but then the realization comes: My mother was my home. My mother is dead.”  

Something I think that is not realised by many readers of this book is the way family is represented in this book. Grace is propelled by the love for her mother to find out what happened to her. She will not let go of finding out what happened. Also, her relationship with her grandfather, who her relationship develops throughout the book. Even in the background you have the constant mention of her brother Jamie (who I hope shows up in the next book) and even her father. This shows that family plays an important role in Grace's life. I love how family was important in the unfurling of the book.

One drawback that I found to the book, however, was the ending. The entirety of the book there is a feel that there is something going on that Grace doesn't know about, in addition to the mystery of her mother's murder. And at the end there is only a semi-confirmation of this. It is confirmed to Grace that her mother was killed for a reason, and she discovers what appears to be a secret room. However, it is not confirmed what the purpose of the room is, nor what Grace's mother was involved in (spies? political espionage?). This isn't saying that I don't love a cliff-hanger, but I feel like it could have been left hanging while still leaving the reader like they knew where the series is heading.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I read it all in one day as I could not put it down, I had to keep on reading. I can't wait for the next book, and to see what Grace is going to be involved in, as well as hopefully solving the issue of her mother's murder.

xx Viv

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Harry Potter Book Night

2005 was the year that I (belatedly) discovered a book series that would change my life. Yes, I love Harry Potter that much. I read the first book in a week, which at the time (I was 11) was a record for me. After that, I read the whole series, engulfing one book after the other. My obsession was instant and very big. Some of the highlights of my Harry Potter obsession include:

1 - Going to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for my 11th birthday, and getting to the cinema an hour early, as it was the time before cinema seats were numbered.

2 - Having a Harry Potter Scene It party when I was 13 (2007), which involved inviting my friends over to play Scene It and making Harry Potter theme food including Cauldron Cakes and Chocolate Frogs.

3 - Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 three times in the cinemas.

My Harry Potter Wizard's Hat Cake
12th Birthday
Harry Potter Movie Exhibition

4 - Going to the Harry Potter movie exhibition in 2011 at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and being able to see the costumes and props from the movies.

5 - Collecting photos when the Sunday Telegraph had a Harry Potter photo album and released new photos each day.

6 - Getting a Pottermore account, and enjoying getting sorted into houses and exploring the world of Harry Potter in a totally different way.

7 - Joining The Deluminators, the Sydney chapter of HPA (Harry Potter Alliance) in 2014.

Waiting for our letters
Muggle Mug
Dreaming of Hogwarts

As you can tell I was a dedicated fan. For many years my door was covered with pictures from the movies, including a big picture of Daniel Radcliffe's face right in the center (probably my earliest celebrity crush haha). But there are thousands of fans out there, and for good reason too. J. K. Rowling created an amazing world, and I think there are so many reasons why the whole world fell in love with Harry Potter.

“There are some things you can't share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.”

Harry Potter has ideas that make everyone wish they were magical. First of all, Hogwarts. Who doesn't want to get a letter in the mail saying you can go to a school for magic. In the Philosopher's Stone, Harry is saved from a terrible life by his letter and taken in to a world he couldn't have imagined. This is an amazing concept that has everyone wishing they could go to Hogwarts and leave their problems behind.

Another thing that is amazing about the series is the relationships. Rowling writes brilliantly, making everyone wanting to be friends with Harry, Ron and Hermione a.k.a the Golden Trio. I love the banter between these three, and also how they stick with one another through so many things. There have been so many times I have longed to be off roaming the corridors of Hogwarts after dark, going to Hogsmeade or fighting trolls with these three.

I could talk endlessly about the list of things I love about Harry Potter. I love the little things that magic allowed Rowling to come up with, such as Quidditch, Flourish and Blotts, Berty Bott's Every Flavour Beans, and the Marauders Map. I love the twins banter, Lupin and Tonk's relationship, Dumbledore's faith and Hagrid's big heart. And the list goes on and on ...

“He can run faster than Severus Snape confronted with shampoo.” 

The thing I love most about Harry Potter is the way it brings people together. This brings me to the Harry Potter Alliance. HPA is an organisation that aims to, as they say on their website 'turn fans into heroes'. It is a way of being inspired by literature to do great things. HPA has chapters all over the world, and in 2014 one of my good friends co-founded the Sydney Chapter, called The Deluminators. We run campaigns to make a difference, and last year they included celebrating Esther Day and hosting a Yule Ball to raise money for charity. I love being part of this organisation that is full of people who love Harry Potter and use this love to make a difference in the world.

“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to Imagine Better.” – J.K. Rowling


House Tables
Yule Ball Photo Booth

The Deluminators

As you can imagine, I am very grateful to J.K Rowling for creating the world of Harry Potter. Without it my childhood would have been much different. I have loved thinking about what makes Harry Potter so great and reminiscing on my many crazy and fun Harry Potter fan moments on this Harry Potter Book Night. 

xx Viv

Monday, 2 February 2015

Review: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Mass

Title: Heir of Fire
Author: Sarah J. Mass
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Review copy received via Netgalley
This book saved my life because: through new and old characters and Sarah Mass continues to weave the captivating story of Celaena Sardothien which left me desperate for the next installment 

 Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

Firstly, thank you so much to Bloomsbury for this review copy!

This book surprised me so much. Every time I thought I new where the plot was going, Sarah Maas would change direction and completely amaze me yet again. Heir of Fire is the third book in the Throne of Glass series which follows the heroine Celaena Sardothien. And although you felt very much like you were in Celaena's world, this book has a very different feel to it. Like Sarah Mass had brought it to the next level. Basically, it was amazing in a totally different way to the first two novels.

One of the main changes that made this book so different to the first two was the change in the way Mass wrote her different povs. While the books always showed not just Celaena's perspective, this novel I feel like the different pov's made the intensity of the book so much more. The fact that you followed not only Chaol and Dorian, this was contrasted with Celaena and then again with Manon. and the you got to see how the different plot lines were working together, and gave such a legitimacy to the story. The way Mass weaved the tales together gave a real sense of the land and characters, which is very important in fantasy genres.

One of the most surprising elements in Heir of Fire was the storyline of the witches. When a preview chapter was released in Manon's perspective I must admit I was disappointed. However, as I read the novel I actually began to look forward to the parts of the story from her perspective, and even began rooting for her clan despite the role they are playing in the novel. I am really looking forward to see where Mass takes Manon as a character and what role she will have to play.

Another character which I grew to love was Rowan. At first I was worried that he would become another love interest for Celaena, which would practically ruin the books for me because Chaol is my favorite character and is basically amazing. However, I began to realise that he had a very different role to play in the story, and his friendship with Celaena was so awesome. I loved to see how he helped her grow her skills not only physically but also mentally as well. She really became the person she needed to be to return and fight the King.

The bits I loved most about this book, however, was the following of Chaol and Dorian back in Adarlan. Although the ending of Crown of Midnight was fantastic, I was worried that Chaol would become inconsequential to the story. However, he was still central to the book, which I loved. I am still hoping that he and Celaena will be together! Also this book made me like Dorian so much more, and I think out of all three books it was the one that revealed the most about his character. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading his pov. It shows how amazing Sarah Mass' writing is, as it made me invest in a character I previously didn't care much for.

Heir of Fire is one of my favorite books and really shows how amazing fantasy books can be as they weave the picture of other worlds so well. I am so excited for the next book to see what happens.

xx Viv

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Wrap up and Top 10

So this has been my first year (or I guess half year) of blogging. And while it started off okay, I had a pretty challenging second half of the year. I tried to keep up with reading and reviewing but struggled quite a bit. I only read 55 out of my 100 books on my Goodreads challenge. I also didn't do many reviews, but hopefully I will be able to post more next year.

I have been so thankful to those who have supported me though this year, especially to Sunny, Francoise and Joy who are bloggers that have been such great support. Also to all the publishers who have been so kind and welcoming to me.

Out of the 55 books I did read there were some amazing ones, and some would be in my top fave books of all time.

Here are my top 10 books/authors/series that I have read this year:

1 - Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas.

I can't believe I only discovered this series this year, it feels like I read them so long ago! But this is the series that got me back into fantasy and made me fall in love with Chaol Westfall.

2 - Rainbow Rowell

I read both Fangirl and Eleanor and Park this year and they were so beautifully written. It is hard to come by contemporaries that are a good mix of lightness and seriousness, and Fangirl was exactly the right mix being one of my favorites. Eleanor and Park made me cry it was so heartbreaking. Rainbow has become one of my favourite authors to re-read.

3 - Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead
I absolutely love the Vampire Academy world and the next book in the Bloodlines series did not disappoint. I loved how it had Richelle Mead's usual cliffhanger and unexpected twists but still had the characters we know and love.

4 - The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancy

I was a bit worried that the sequel to The 5th Wave would ruin it, however I was proved totally wrong, I stayed up all night to finish this and was not disappointed!

5 - Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Probably my most anticipated read of 2014 was a perfect contemporary, however I enjoyed it because it was a little different from Stephanie Perkins normal structure.

6 - Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Unexpectedly Solitaire blew me away. I wasn't sure what to expect when I read this, but Solitaire was a raw and honest books that explored what it's like to be a teenager and how life is not always easy to live.

7 - Falling Kingdom series by Megan Rhodes

Although this series was complicated to follow all the characters at the beginning it was a fantastic fantasy read and I loved the first two in the series.

8 - City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

I was very skeptical about this book after I had not enjoyed the 4th and 5th in this series, however I found it was a brilliant end to the series.

9 - Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

I discovered Jessica Shirvington this year and loved everything she has written. Between the Lives was my absolute favorite though, it made me laugh and cry.

10 - Just One Night by Gayle Forman

Although it is really a novella, I am sneaking Just One Night in because it was just the most perfect end to all the questions I had after Just One Day/Just One Year.

I'm looking forward to 2015 which will hopefully be a year for more reading and one which I become a better blogger.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Hachette YA Bloggers Night

I was so privileged to be one of the bloggers to attend the Hachette Bloggers YA Night a few weeks ago. It took place in the beautiful Hachette HQ in Sydney, and as my first visit to a publishers offices I wasn't disappointed. They had a beautiful set out including  chandeliers made out of book pages.

In Australia there aren't many opportunities for books and book events, so this was definitely a highlight of the year for me, and also for the other bloggers that were there. Hachette were so great, making the event special by having great food, prizes and even a photobooth which was super cool.

The event started by introducing us to their YA website 'Date a Book', which has overgone a (for lack of a better work) 'makeover'. Their website includes the really cute idea: 'Date of the Month', a monthly book recommendation. I love their new website, and I am super keen to see how Hachette continue to develop it. You can find DAB here:

                      Website                Facebook            Twitter           Instagram

Their told us about their current favorite books:

Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Eleanor and Park
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

And Hachette's Upcoming Releases which included:

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Upside Down by Lia Riley
The Here and Now by Ann Brasheres

The 100 Society by Carla Sprandbery
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
A song for Ella Grey by David Almand

Laini Taylor was the guest author. She talked to us about writing and her books. Laini said that if you want to be a writer you shouldn't have a back up plan, because writing takes everything. I had never hear an author say this before, but I loved how strongly she spoke and how dedicated she is to her writing. She also told us that finishing her trilogy with "Dreams of God's and Monsters' she sat down and wrote for 23 hours straight, after missing a few deadlines. So crazy.

During the Q&A section, I asked her about how she came up with her names, and although I was expecting a fairly short answer, she spoke elaborately about the amount of research that went into it. For example, looking at different languages, and names that have meanings, like Karou meaning hope. But she found languages that basically no one in western societies knows of, and used certain words as names. I was surprised how much effort went into the seemingly simple tasks of naming characters. We also found out that she wrote DoSaB after struggling with a novel about ballerinas being forced to be soldiers, which she laughed at but I secretly loved the sound of it!

We all rushed to get out books signed by Laini, and had our fangirl moments getting photos with her. At the end we also received an awesome good bags. I also received one of the prizes for tweeting throughout the night. We trended 5th in Australia, which was cool to show people the importance of YA literature (as so many people these days disregard it). All in all it was one of the best nights of the year. Thank you so much to Ashley and everyone at the Hachette publishers team for the amazing night!

Photobooth fun with JoySunny and Francoise
'You had me at chapter one'

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Review: Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Title: Solitaire
Author: Alice Oseman
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Review copy from Harper Collins, thank you so much!
Pages: 392
This book saved my life because:  Solitaire is blunt and realistic story about life. Alice Oseman writes with such emotional depth about what friendship, family and life is really like.

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.

This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers

Wow. I don't even know where to start with this book. It really blew me away. When I first heard about this book from Harper Collins YA, I thought it would be a cute book about a blogger at school, who maybe played solitaire or something. I was wrong. So wrong. This is such an amazing book I am not sure I know how to describe it or why I love it but I will try.

Can I just take a side note to talk about how cool Alice Oseman is. She is 19 which is the same age as me, and has written a book. So crazy. I started and finished this book in one night, stayed up super late because it was so amazing. I tweeted her, and had a cool conversation with her. I am not sure if this is just me, but I think it is great to know the authors you are reading are nice. Pretty much most are anyway, but I find it make you want to read their books more and appreciate them - it adds to the whole experience of reading a book.

Alice Oseman writes with such emotional depth to tell the captivating story of Tori, a girl who finds life hard. She finds it hard to make friends and isn't really happy. It was such an interesting point of view. I think what I loved most about Tori was that she wasn't a typical contemporary novel character. She was often sad and didn't know what to do, but she didn't tell anyone. She wasn't fine, but she couldn't find the words to tell anyone. She find it hard to let people in, and make the commitment to be friends. I found this refreshing, as I (and I assume most people) understand what it is like when you tell everyone you are fine, but you really aren't. Although Tori was different, she was really relatable. Not just for this, but for all references to things like Harry Potter, Justin Timberlake etc. which were so cool. She also had this amazing relationship with her brother, who also doesn't have the easiest life. He gives Tori great advice, and perseveres through his own life battles.

"I don't understand why you can't accept things like this. If you can't accept things you don't understand, then you'll have to live out your life in your own head"

In the background, but still essential to the story (I found that it was more in the background because I was enticed more by the relationships Tori had with her friends and family), was the concept of Solitaire. Solitaire is a mystery throughout the book, events and pranks going on at her school that know one knows who is doing them or what Solitaire really is. While it did carry the plot line, I wasn't super curious about it because I cared about other things that were happening. Like Michael (ohmygosh Michael!). It was still a super cool part of the book though and I did love what happened in the end.

Michael: I'd better meet you at Hogwarts then
Tori: Or Neverland

I really, really loved Michael Holden. He is totally not the average teen novel guy. At first, I didn't get him and though he was weird. But I think that is kind of the point. But as the book went on I just loved him more and more. He doesn't care what other people care about him, but cares for the people who are in his life. He has such perseverance. The friendship he has with Tori is literally the best thing. They have these amazing converstations about life and friendship and even reading and Harry Potter. Tori isn't even a reader but I think she understands how we all feel.

"When you watch a film, you're sort of an outsider looking in. With a book - you're right there. You are inside. You are the main character."

I really can't praise this book enough. Seriously, go read it now. I have so much love for this book and its characters.

xx Viv

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Heavenly Fire
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 733
This book saved my life because: It redeemed the second half of the Mortal Instruments,
a great wrap up to the series.

Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris - but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee - even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned...

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!

In all honesty, I was kind of over The Mortal Instruments by the time I got to this book, the conclusion to the series. I was a major, major fan of the series around about the time I was getting into YA (early teens), and when Cassandra Clare announced a 4th book (soon to turn into another 3 books), I was over the moon. And then came City of Fallen Angels, and Lost Souls. Which almost put me off the series entirely. What was a perfect trilogy, I thought, was practically ruined by these next two books. I was talking to Keely from My Spin on Books blog, and we were both saying that this would be the last Cassandra Clare book we would read.

However, then I read the book, and my opinion was completely changed.

I loved this book. I think it was such a well-written conclusion, the only thing that I think was that the length was a bit long. But apart from that I think Clare did an amazing job of finishing off the series.

One of the reasons that I was worried about that I didn't need to was the death/sadness that was anticipated on this book. Everyone knows that Cassandra Clare has a bit of a reputation for enjoying putting her characters through hard times. And this book was heralded with 'six characters you know by name will die'. Which had everyone pretty scared. But I was presently surprised by the lighter tone in this book. The last two were very dark, and despite the destruction occurring in the Shadowhunter world, I still found this to be a much happier book. Maybe because Jace and Clary weren't going through their usual struggles (well they still were, but nowhere near as bad).

There was also lots of humorous banter that was great, which also added to my enjoyment of the book. I was laughing so hard even in the few pages. I especially enjoyed jokes that referred to their previous struggles, like:

“You're pining," said Jace.
Alec shrugged. "Look who's talking. 'oh I love her. Oh, she's my sister. Oh why, why, why—” 

which I thought was just great, practically a summary of the first three books

Another reason why this book was so great was that it intertwined the past (The Infernal Devices/TID), the future (the Dark Artifices/TDA) with the present (The Mortal Instruments/TMI). Her other two series integrate in this book so well, and it made me want to read the Dark Artifices series. Although I did find it a bit odd that Emma, who is getting her own series, is featured quite a bit in COHF and gets her own POV, I still enjoyed reading her sections. It was also good in showing giving a bit of background and insight into the next story, making me quite keen to read it.

But also really cool in a weird way was the continuation of the Infernal Devices storyline. It was so crazy when characters from both series would meet. I especially loved the Brother Zachariah/Jem jokes:

“Brother Zachariah,” Isabelle said. “Months January through December of the Hot Silent Brothers Calendar. ”

But also I felt like the slightly confusing ending of TID was concluded a bit more in this series. I feel like it will also be continued more in TDA, at least I really hope so.

The one main thing that I thought could have improved this book was the length. I know it is important to take the time needed to finish up a series, but I feel like this still could have been achieved in a shorter book. There were just some areas that dragged on for a bit.

However, I still thought this was an amazing conclusion to the series and has changed my view of Cassandra Clare completely. I am really looking forward to reading The Dark Artifices and seeing what Emma Cairstairs gets up to.

xx Viv