Sunday, 3 October 2010


I know I've been remiss in the past months, but not having time to write full reviews, I'd still like to share a couple of great books I've read recently. Reviews should be coming soon:

Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (In my opinion, there are too many werewolf books. There are not enough werewolf books as good as this one. Listen to a sample chapter here)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (Even if the non-ending is completely frustrating, it's definitely a series to keep an eye on. Read some sample chapters here)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Book review - Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty

In their words:
The first time I saw her I knew that my Amelia was a ghost.
Amelia and Riley have transferred to Ashbury High for their final year, and the whole school is completely obsessed with them. Glamorous, gifted and totally devoted to one another, they seem to be perfect. But there’s more to them than beauty and talent. Riley and Amelia have secrets. And everyone at Ashbury is about to find out that the past has a very long shadow...’

In other words:
It’s a ghost story. It’s a story about love, illusions, black holes, and Irish convicts. It’s a story about endings and beginnings. It’s a story about the last school year of a group of clever, witty, over-dramatic, endearing teenagers.

To me, Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing is special. Really truly unusual, even next to other teenage books. Why? Because she creates characters that come across as effortlessly genuine. They face real problems with varying capabilities, they’re individual, and they’re likeable. Other authors manage to write about teens well enough to convince you that they’re real. Very few can make you feel as though for the entire story, you’re eavesdropping on a real group of teens that you might overhear on a bus or at a school or cafe.

So now you know. I adore her characters and in this book they’re no different. There are some new ones to the Ashbury-Brookfield series and there are some returning characters (Lydia, Seb and Tony to name a few!). Regardless, I think if you were new to the stories then you’d still be able to follow it all perfectly. It’s a standalone that links in to the others, but you don’t need to have read them.

I was a bit worried starting the book because I’d found her last one (The Spell Book of Listen Taylor) very hard-going. Thankfully I didn’t need to be at all. In fact, I thought it was up to the same standard as Finding Cassie Crazy (though I should mention it’s much longer weighing in at over 500 pages!). It’s cleverly written in the shape of exam essays, meeting minutes and online conversations, with themes and seemingly unconnected details and multiple point-of-views all blending to create a gem of a book. Put that way, it sounds kind of like high literature. And it could be. This should be read in schools and then maybe more people would read. But that’s by the by because what really matters is that it is a book that teens will love.

Pages: 578
Publication date: 2nd April 2010
AKA: Ghosts of Ashbury High (US)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Book review - Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

In their words:
'Auden has always felt like the odd one out. Since her parents’ divorce she’s shied away, studying lots and staying out of the party scene. But now Auden’s realised there must be something more and, just like that, she changes everything. Moving to her dad’s house opens up a whole new world of beach parties, food fights – and simply having fun. As she starts to get to know herself – and a secretive boy with dark, brooding eyes – can Auden begin to let go and finally feel like she truly belongs?'

In other words:
Auden’s grown up pretty much all work and no play, but the summer before university she has nothing to work towards – she’s already been accepted to her preferred uni, but in the meantime, has a summer to kill. Staying with her dad in a small town, she gets to know the teenage population. For Auden, who’s more at home behind a textbook, this summer is all about learning to let go.

Sarah Dessen’s books tend to follow not exactly the same formula, but similar themes. Family, friendship, love, and the main character is on a journey of self-discovery and growing up. She’s a master at writing books not only for teens, but books about teens. Each book, though similar, brings a new character with authentic issues and an authentic story.

So where does Along for the Ride fit into this strong repertoire? In my opinion it’s solidly in the middle. Auden is a character easy to relate to – she’s a product of her parents and her upbringing, slowly learning how to become her own person. The cast of characters are interesting – those who you’d least expect it of seem to be the most insightful. I did have a quibble: everyone in the town is essentially good – there are those with faults, but these are usually people from Auden’s past.

Eli is an interesting love interest, but I actually didn’t feel that I got to know him. Similarly, he was just too nice; going so far out of his way for a stranger reads as a little bit unlikely to me. Maybe I’m just too cynical. This small issue aside, I’m constantly amazed at Sarah Dessen’s ability to weave a story from almost mundane events and little action. She manages to do so without ever letting the story become stagnant or dull.

So where does it rate? I’d put it on a par with Lock & Key. A solid new read for any Sarah Dessen fans (especially as you will recognise cameos of characters from previous books). If you haven’t read anything by Sarah Dessen before then this is still worth reading, but my advice is to get yourself a copy of The Truth about Forever to read – one of my favourite contemporary books for teens. These books lean more towards a female readership, but I'm sure lads could enjoy them too.

Pages: 424
Category: Contemporary teen fiction

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Book review - Dark Life by Kat Falls

In their words:
'When the oceans rose, entire continents were swallowed up by the rising water. Now humans live packed into high rises on small tracts of land, while those willing to forge new frontiers settle deep beneath the waves. Ty has lived under the sea his entire life, helping his family to farm the ocean floor. But when outlaws attack, Ty finds himself in a fight to save the only home he has ever known. Joined by Gemma, a girl from Topside who is looking for her missing brother, Ty ventures into the frontier’s rough underworld – and discovers some very dark secrets. Secrets which threaten to destroy everything ...'

In other words:
Dark Life is set in a future in which Global Warming has swallowed up most of the land. Some people cling to the small remaining patches of land in ever-increasing sky-scrapers. Others take to the seas.
The science of this is mostly glossed over; people breathe in ‘liquigen’ just before leaving air. This allows them to breathe and also appears to alleviate effects of water pressure. In short, anyone can go underwater. The dangers arrive with what is an alien environment.

Dark Life actually manages to make a life under the sea sound tempting. In a world we know so well, the sea is a whole new frontier. Complete with some underworld pirates, an unsympathetic government and a group of children with strange secrets, it is a clever, exciting and compelling read. There is a relatable and diverse cast of children and teens, fighting to protect the homes that their parents have worked so hard to create. I loved the government cover-up aspect and the elements of mystery, though some parts are predictable.

I loved this world that Kat Falls has created and hope she’ll revisit it soon. With its unusual setting, interesting characters, layers of secrets and surprising powers, Dark Life is a book I would heartily recommend. It’s accessible to young teens while not alienating older readers. It actually makes me wish I’d been born under the sea myself a little bit!

Pages: 304
Publication date: 29th April 2010

Category: Slightly futuristic dystopia

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for providing me with a review copy.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Top 100 Poll

Adele of Persnickety Snark is compiling a list of the top 100 YA books of all time. Go here to find out more and vote for your favourites.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Book review - Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

In their words:
Brittany Ellis seems to have it all; wealthy parents, the perfect boyfriend and the “right” group of friends. But when Brittany is forced to become lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the wrong side of town, her perfect life starts to unravel. Alex is a bad boy, and he knows it, so when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it.
But as Alex and Brittany grow closer, sparks begin to fly and they both realise that sometimes appearances can be deceptive. Will their emerging feelings be enough to keep them together when the world is determined to tear them apart?

In other words:
Perfect Chemistry is most definitely a story that has been told before – that of the age-old star crossed lovers –in this case, rich white girl meets poor Latin-American boy. As to whether it offers something new? Possibly.

In terms of plot it was predictable, even formulaic, but where this book shines is the characters. Brittany and her family are believably flawed, Alex and his fellow gang-members are realistically conflicted. At the start of the book both are carefully maintaining their reputations, but as the story progresses each realises that the other is far more than the facade that they present to the world. Chemistry teacher Mrs Peterson completely steals the show despite relatively little page-time.

I did find it overlong – towards the end I was rushing my reading, hoping for the conclusion to come sooner. Though the last third of the book drags on, the epilogue redeems this somewhat. Slightly too much angst and a little too formula driven, still the message of the book is one which will never, I believe, grow old.

Pages: 357
Guidance: Contains some violence and sex
Category: Modern life

Publication date: 1st April 2010

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy.

Perfect Chemistry has the best book trailer I’ve seen to date

Friday, 26 February 2010

Giveaway - Dark Life by Kat Falls

The lovely Simon and Schuster UK have donated two advance copies of Dark Life by Kat Falls for a giveaway! I really enjoyed this book - my review will not be going up until closer to the publication date, but I can tell you that it is positive!

The synopsis:
‘When the oceans rose, entire continents were swallowed up by the rising water. Now humans live packed into high rises on small tracts of land, while those willing to forge new frontiers settle deep beneath the waves. Ty has lived under the sea his entire life, helping his family to farm the ocean floor. But when outlaws attack, Ty finds himself in a fight to save the only home he has ever known. Joined by Gemma, a girl from Topside who is looking for her missing brother, Ty ventures into the frontier’s rough underworld – and discovers some very dark secrets. Secrets which threaten to destroy everything ...’

I'm afraid that this competition is only open to UK readers. For all of you international people, I'm sorry but I do believe that my next giveaway will be open to you.

UK readers, you have a chance to win one of two advance copies of Dark Life; all you have to do is comment below telling me in ten words or less what you'd like best about living under the ocean. I'll pick my favourite answer and that person will win one book, the other will be selected randomly. You will get an extra entry if you Follow this blog (please remember to tell me in the comments). You don't need a google account to comment, but please leave an email address so that I can contact you.

Alternatively, if you're not comfortable with commenting, you can email your entry to me at bookshelfbabble(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)uk.

This giveaway will close on the 15th March.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Book review - The Splendour Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore

In their words:
'Sylvie Davies is a ballerina who can’t dance. A broken leg ended her career, but what broke her heart was her father’s death, and what’s breaking her spirit is her mother’s remarriage. Still reeling, Sylvie is shipped off to stay with relatives in the back of beyond. Or so she thinks, in fact she ends up in a town rich with her family’s history ... and as it turns out her family has a lot more history than Sylvie ever knew. More unnerving, though, are the two guys she can’t stop thinking about. Shawn Maddox, the resident golden boy, is the expected choice. But handsome, mysterious Rhys has a hold on her that she doesn’t quite understand. Then Sylvie starts seeing things – a girl by the lake and a man with dark unseeing eyes peering in through the window ... Sylvie’s lost nearly everything – is she starting to lose her mind as well?'

In other words:
Ex-ballerina is sent to the country, where she finds out that her dad has buried a long family history. Paranormal adventures ensue.

I’m not usually one for ghost stories, but for The Splendour Falls I have to make an exception. It’s creepy without being scary and more importantly, the creepiness comes without a sacrifice of the plot. The supernatural aspect seems to take a backseat to the characters – it’s very present throughout the story, but the characters are just as, if not more, interesting.

While a little predictable in some places, and sporting a couple of characters who seem to have come straight out of a formula machine, The Splendour Falls still manages to be original. I loved the idea that the supernatural can be BAD. Many books nowadays like to give characters supernatural powers, but this one explored the idea of the balance of nature.

The Splendour Falls is a compulsive read, an entertaining, almost Gothic novel, with an interesting cast of characters and an exciting mystery element. I really enjoyed it, though I’m not enamoured of the cover.

Pages: 528
Category: Modern-day Paranormal

Thank you to Random House for providing me with a review copy.