Sunday, 29 April 2012

Letterbox Love Intro

So I’m sure by now most people know about the latest blogging scandal revolving around plagiarism and a very respected YA book blogger. I’m not going to go into all the details because frankly I don’t want to get involved or bring someone else’s drama to my blog. All I wanted to say on the matter is that from now on I won’t be taking part in that bloggers meme In My Mailbox, partly because of what’s been going on and wanting to keep my blog out of it, but mainly because an awesome new meme has been thought up by a few of my fellow UK book bloggers.

Letterbox Love was thought up over Twitter very recently by Kirsty, Laura, Carly, Lynsey, Emma and Leanne (if I’ve missed anyone involved out let me know and I’ll give credit where it’s due!) Basically Letterbox Love will be a new meme for UK based book bloggers to showcase the book’s that they’ve received each week. I love the name and the idea and figured it was about time we had something like this with other meme’s like In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday sounding very American. As soon as I heard about it I knew it was a feature that I would love to take part in to help showcase UK books, publishers and British authors as well as books from the US. The linky and host and button for Letterbox Love is still under discussion as this is a really new idea, but I’m looking forward to the meme getting into full swing and wish the girls all the success in the world with it! I for one think it’s a brilliant idea and will be taking part when I can. Anyway now that all that need to be said stuff has been said let’s get on to what were all here for, the books!

 Review Books


Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen
Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott
Deadly Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Poison Princess by Kresley Cole (ARC)
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
Between the Lines by Samantha van Leer and Jodi Picoult (Proof Copy, recently read and enjoyed this one)
The Circle by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg
Until I Die by Amy Plum
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (LOVED! Look out for my review coming 1st May on release day!)
Adorkable by Sarra Manning

 Bought


White Wedding by Milly Johnson
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (AAAHHHH! *dies*)

So that’s everything that I got through my letterbox over the past two weeks! It’s been a very very awesome past two weeks for books and I’ve been very lucky to receive some of my most anticipated books of the year like Insurgent, Between the Lines, Bitterblue and Until I Die all in one go! My biggest dilemma is which of these awesome books to read next!? Big thank you’s to all of the lovely publishing people who have sent me review books and to my poor postman for lugging them all to me *looks sheepish* if you’ve read or are looking forward to any of the books I got feel free to let me know what you thought about them or request reviews and such in the comments. And if you decided to do a Letterbox Love, Book Haul, IMM, Mailbox Monday or whatever else featuring the books you got this week leave me a link as I’d love to check out your books too! ^_^

 Happy reading for another week everyone!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Review for The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Mira Ink
Release Date: 4th May 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Vampires, Dystopian, Horror, Paranormal Romance
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review

Amazon Summary:
"My Vampire Creator Told Me This: Sometime in your life, Allison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. The question is not if it will happen, but when. Do you understand? I didn't then, not really. I DO NOW. In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity. Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who killed her mother and keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked - and given the ultimate choice. Die...or become one of the monsters. Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must work with her vampire creator and learn the rules of being immortal. Including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad. When Allison is separated from her creator, she flees into the unknown, the world outside her vampire city, beyond the wall. There she joins a ragged band of humans who don't know what she is, seeking a legend - a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike."

Review 
When I heard the synopsis for The Immortal Rules I mentally took my hat off and tipped it to Julie Kagawa. It is SUCH a genius idea to write a book about a vampire apocalypse bringing together two of the most popular genre’s around at the minute and meshing them together into something new and unique. The fact that Kagawa has managed to bring something exciting and fresh to two already overflowing genre’s was brilliant and I was excited to read a book focusing on my two favourite genre’s without it being just another copycat.

The premise of this book is fantastic and I found a world mixed with vampires, rabids (hybrid zombie-like creatures) and humans to be an interesting one. Right from the beginning the book goes into the rules of this future world and how it came to be this way and I thought the history behind how this society came about was very plausible and believable. I loved that the vampires were bad, and the rabids were terrifying, and that humans are desperate and afraid. At this books heart is the story of what it means to be human in a world where being human is the hardest thing to be.

The Immortal Rules is a true horror story for teens. There’s bloodshed, death, and tragedy and I loved that Julie Kagawa wasn’t afraid to take this book where other YA authors are afraid to. She doesn’t water down the horrors that her characters face and constantly puts them in difficult situations really challenging and developing them as they have to choose between right and wrong and question their beliefs. Julie’s not afraid to be brutal and hard on her characters if the story requires it and so I was constantly at the edge of my seat so afraid for my favourite characters hoping that they’d make it to the end of the book in one piece.

As for our heroine Allie I thought that she was a complex and interesting character to read about. My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more of this book to have been from Allie’s point of view as a human simply because I found the idea of a human living in a vampire ruling city so different to read about and the beginning of the story was one of my favourite parts of the book because of this.

Despite all the blood and gore and all of that awesome stuff there is also a dash of romance for good measure but unlike a lot of vampire stories it doesn’t dominate the entire book. This is not a love story although it does have an interesting and at time complicated budding relationship between Allie and Zeke which will satisfy paranormal romance fans.

Overall The Immortal Rules is a near perfect vampire story with lots of blood and biting like they used to make in the good old days! If like me you thought that you were so over the vampire genre The Immortal Rules will make you think again.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Review for Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne
Publisher: Headline
Release Date: 10th May 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Contemporary, Mental Health, Fiction, Debut
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review

Amazon Summary:
"They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who sigh on the six o'clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. Who I could have been. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever shake off my mistakes or if I'll just carry them around with me forever like a bunch of red balloons Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge."

Review
I adore teen thrillers particularly those that deal with mental health, a subject that is close to my heart, so I was really eager to read Heart-Shaped Bruise and had high expectations from the beginning. I was only a few pages in when I actually said out loud to myself “THIS is going to be a good book.” And I’m pleased to say that my early judgement was spot on.

Tanya Byrne, wow, I cannot believe that this is her debut novel. This is one of the most well written books that I’ve read this year. From the first page I was totally swept into this story because DAMN can this lady write! Serious born writer here folks! This book is chock full of such gorgeous lyrical prose. Tanya’s writing, from a troubled young girl’s perspective, was so truthful and raw that my heart would skip a beat at the beauty of a sentence or my gut would clench at the brutal honesty of a phrase. I love when an author connects with me in such a powerful way with their writing and I found myself jotting down meaningful quotes and reading moving sections aloud to my family I was that touched by Emily Koll’s voice and from this debut alone I already know that I will continue to read anything that Tanya Byrne writes in the future without hesitation, I loved her writing that much.

Despite all of the terrible things that Emily did that slowly get revealed throughout the book I couldn’t not like her. Although I didn’t agree with her actions I understood them, I understood how she came to be the way that she was and I was surprised that I came to feel that way about someone who could have easily been unlikeable. I also felt so many things towards the antagonist in this book, at least through Emily’s eyes, Juliet. From an outsiders perspective I felt sympathy for Juliet but when I was reading through Emily’s point of view I felt Em’s anger and hatred towards her too. Heart-Shaped Bruise is ultimately a role reversal story where the bad guy is our heroine and the victim is our villain. This book fills in all those shades of grey in what makes a person like Emily the way they are and do the things that she does, and makes you understand what leads a normal person to make bad choices.

Heart-Shaped Bruise is the kind of book that will have you up to the early hours racing to the end. I read this book in two sittings and was constantly thinking about it in between and after reading it. If you’re a fan of teen thrillers, gritty and hard-hitting storylines, or simply just well written thought provoking books then Heart-Shaped Bruise is a must read.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Review for All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Release Date: 29th March 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Mystery, Thriller, Romance
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Bought

Amazon Summary:
"Sixteen year-old Anya's parents have been murdered because her father was the head of a notorious underworld gang. Now she is determined to keep herself and her siblings away from that world. But her father’s relatives aren't so keen to let them go. When Anya’s violent ex-boyfriend is poisoned with contaminated chocolate - chocolate that is produced illegally by Anya’s criminal family - she is arrested for attempted murder. Disconcertingly, it is the new D.A. in town who releases her from jail, but her freedom comes with conditions. The D.A. is the father of Win, a boy at school to whom Anya feels irresistibly drawn. Win’s father won’t risk having his political ambitions jeopardised by his son seeing a member of a crime family. She is to stay away with him. Anya knows she risks her freedom and the safety of her brother and sister by seeing Win again. Neither the D.A. nor the underworld will allow it. But the feeling between them is so strong that she may be unable to resist him..."

Review
What first drew me to All These Things I’ve Done is that unlike a lot of dystopian reads this book is set in the near future, 2083 to be exact, a time that a lot of teen readers could very well live to and so it brought the issues in this book that much closer to home.

The future in All These Things I’ve Done isn’t an apocalyptic one as such in that the word isn’t coming to an end or that it’s a drastically different place to the one we know. It’s more of a world on the cusp of devastation with shortages in water and therefore certain foods and materials. There are some obvious changes from the world we know for instance coffee, chocolate and heck anything with caffeine in it is illegal. There are no swimming pools or lakes or rivers, water is rationed out in timed meters for showers at home, nobody smokes because cigarettes are hard to come by what with not having enough water to grow the tabaco, and alcohol doesn’t have an age permit mainly because nobody sees it as a big deal it’s dehydrating and in a world where water supplies are low nobody wants that. So whilst the world isn’t strictly in chaos it’s a world that’s struggling and very soon could be.

This book reads like part dystopian/mystery/thriller/contemporary. It felt like a more realistic dystopian and read like a contemporary book about your average girl trying to make ends meet. Anya isn’t a heroine who sparks rebellion and stands in the centre of an uprising. Instead she is a normal girl living in a world that whilst is very different to our own is just the norm for her. Anya’s world is one infested with crime, daughter of the city’s most infamous crime boss, Anya’s day to day life is highly dangerous and not far into the story a lot of strange things start occurring the most prominent being poison in a chocolate supply that her family manufacture which leads us into the mystery/thriller aspect of the book as we see what it’s like to come from a high stakes mafia family. All These Things I’ve Done has a lot of different sides to it and so is consistently interesting to read.

There were so many warm and likeable characters in this book. I quickly fell in love with Anya’s eccentric but wonderful family particularly Leo, Anya’s older brother, and their wise and lovely Nana, not to mention the adorable Natty, Anya’s younger sister. This book had a big theme about the importance of family and looking after your own and I loved the closeness that the Balanchine family shared. Then there’s also Scarlet and Win and Mr Kipling… I could talk about each of these characters and what I loved about them all day but I guess all you really need to know is that this book is chock full of amazing characters and their personalities and relationships with one another where what I loved most about this book.

Despite loving all of the character I feel like Anya deserves a paragraph all to herself. I seriously LOVED Anya as our heroine she’s honestly the best protagonist I’ve come across in a long time. She’s smart and funny and bad ass and is the sort of person who has a hard shell and a soft centre. She was strong and tough when she needed to be but we also saw her softer side when it came to her friends and family. Anya is unflinchingly loyal and the way she cared for her siblings and nana were really admirable and I loved her personality.

Overall All These Things I’ve Done was an amazing book. With themes of doing what you want with your life VS what is expected of you and staying true to your beliefs and who you are as a person, I think it has a fantastic message for teens and is something that is really relatable. I loved pretty much everything about this book and found it to be a near perfect read.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Review for Fever by Lauren DeStefano

WARNING
This is the second book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy. Although this review will contain NO spoilers from Fever by talking about the plot there may be unintentional spoilers from the first book in the series.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 16th February 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Romance
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review

Amazon Summary:
"For 17-year-old Rhine Ellery, a daring escape from a suffocating polygamous marriage is only the beginning…

Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary."

Review
Last year I absolutely fell in love with DeStefano’s debut Wither and have been pining for Fever ever since. The covers to this series are absolutely stunning and I like that they give a little hint as to what you can expect to happen in the book. In Fever’s case we have a wooden horse, a tarot card and a spaced out looking Rhine in a golden dress which ties in perfectly with what you can expect at the beginning of this book.

Fever begins directly where Wither left off. Rhine and Gabriel have escaped Vaughn’s sadistic mansion of corpses and experiments but before long they are thrown into another dangerous situation when they find themselves trespassing on to a twisted carnival full of prostitutes and drugs. The ringmistress, also known as Madame, takes an instant liking to Rhine because of her unique beauty and resemblance to her late daughter and so makes Rhine and Gabriel her star attraction known as “The Lovebirds”. Rhine soon learns that the world of the carnival is just as dangerous and disturbing as the life she left behind but with guards with guns patrolling the tents and Vaughn, Madame, and The Gatherers desperate to own Rhine will she and Gabriel be able to get out alive in their pursuit to reach Manhattan?

I thought that Fever had a much faster pace than Wither. There is never a dull moment as Rhine flits from one danger to the next in her quest to reach her home in Manhattan and reunite with her twin brother Rowan. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and wasn’t sure what was worse living a lie as Linden’s wife? Or acting as Madams puppet in her Carnival? Both lifestyles are equally as shocking and horrendous and I love that about Lauren DeStefano’s books, how she doesn’t shy away from tough topics. Whereas in book one we got to look at life as a bride this book takes a look into life as a prostitute which was as equally harrowing yet fascinating to read about. Although controversial topics, I think they add an extra layer of horror to the books and because of that make this future in particular one of the bleakest and cruellest I’ve read in dystopian fiction.

As with Wither DeStefano’s writing was completely absorbing. She has a way of describing what’s going on and how Rhine’s feeling that makes the world seem so vivid like your actually there. Rhine was also as strong and brilliant as ever and I loved the introduction of some new characters especially Maddie a brave and eccentric little girl who ends up accompanying Rhine and Gabriel on their journey.

The only thing that lets this series down for me is the romance. Even after two books I feel like I don’t really know Gabriel. His personality reads a bit flat and undeveloped to me and for this reason I can’t fully support him and Rhine as a couple, I can’t help but feel that a heroine as wonderful and bright as Rhine deserves a better hero.

Fever has a seriously great ending. In the last few chapters epic, crazy, scary thing happens after epic, crazy, scary thing and I absolutely raced to get to the end. There’s an interesting cliff hanger to this book which makes me excited to see what Lauren DeStefano pulls out of the bag in the final book to this trilogy. If you loved Wither I don’t think that Fever will disappoint you. I loved this book just as much as the first and am pleased to say that it didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome at all.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Review for Fateful by Claudia Gray

Fateful by Claudia Gray
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 29th March 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, SteamPunk, Romance
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Source: Received from the publisher for review

Amazon Summary:
"A tragic tale about falling in love on the world’s most infamous ill-fated sea voyage as heroine, Tess, discovers darker secrets that lie beneath the doomed crossing… and a hidden brotherhood that threaten to tear her lover from her forever.

The RMS Titanic is the most luxurious ship ever built, but for eighteen-year-old Tess Davies it’s a prison. Travelling as a maid for the family she has served for years, Tess is trapped in their employ amid painful memories and family secrets.

When she meets Alec, a handsome upper class passenger, Tess falls helplessly in love. But Alec has secrets of his own… and soon Tess is entangled in a dangerous game. A sinister brotherhood that will do anything to induct Alec into their mystical order has followed him onboard. And Tess is now their most powerful pawn.

Tess and Alec fight the dark forces threatening to tear them apart, never realising that they will have to face an even greater peril before the journey is over…"

Review
When I first heard the synopsis for Fateful I thought a book about the Titanic with werewolves was going to go either way. It would either be absolutely fantastic or just plain ridiculous. So I was surprised to find after reading this book that I fell straight down the middle and had mixed feelings about it.

The main thing that I found with Fateful is that it read like two completely different stories. There’s the historical fiction side, which I loved, that gives an in-depth look at a young servant girl named Tess’s time on board the Titanic, making plans to escape the ghastly family she works for to start a new life once the ship docks in America. One thing Tess isn’t banking on is falling for the rich and respected heir to a fortune Alec Marlowe. And just as I was enjoying this gorgeous blossoming romance between opposing society members that you just know is going to end in tragedy one way or another BAM the werewolves would come along and jolt me out of that story line and vice versa. I did however enjoy both aspects of the story, but the problem? I just didn’t feel like they worked well together. So much so that at times it felt like I was reading two separate books at once. The werewolves and the Titanic just didn’t complement each other at all and I found that some scenes with the wolves were in bad taste and overall gave the book a fun and entertaining feel which just didn’t sit well with the sense of foreboding and impending doom of the tragedy that was the Titanic.

That being said I did like this book it’s fun, enjoyable and exciting- things I never thought I’d say about a book about the Titanic but there you go! I did feel like the fun of having werewolves on board the ship did take away from the seriousness of the situation. I went into Fateful expecting an epic weepy romance but really didn’t get that from it at all. In short I would have preferred if Claudia wrote this as two separate books, a historical romance on the Titanic, and a historical- or even modern- paranormal featuring the werewolves.

One thing that I did love about this book was the characters. I thought Tess made a fantastic and courageous heroine and I loved reading about her growing relationship with Alec. I loved Alec’s complete disregard for the rules of society and how he treated everybody equally and with respect. I also loved a lot of the secondary characters like Irene, Myriam, George and Ned who make up Tess’s friends and are all so warm and hugely likeable. Each character has a different place in society and I loved reading about each of their journeys and experiences on the Titanic.

Overall I found Fateful to be a bit of an odd combination but enjoyable all the same. If anything it has the fact that it’s like nothing else out there going for it. If you like your steampunk and don’t take it too seriously then you may very well enjoy this book.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Review for The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: February 16th 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age, Summer
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Source: Bought

Goodreads Summary:
"Colby and Bev have a long-standing pact: graduate, hit the road with Bev's band, and then spend the year wandering around Europe. But moments after the tour kicks off, Bev makes a shocking announcement: she's abandoning their plans - and Colby - to start college in the fall.

But the show must go on and The Disenchantments weave through the Pacific Northwest, playing in small towns and dingy venues, while roadie- Colby struggles to deal with Bev's already-growing distance and the most important question of all: what's next?"

Review
The Disenchantments had everything you could want in a contemporary story. There’s a summer roadtrip, travel, music, art and best of all a loveable male protagonist who’s been in love with his long term BFF Bev practically forever. A roadtrip touring with Bev’s awful yet alluring girl band The Disenchantments before jetting off across Europe on the trip they’ve been planning since they were kids seems to Colby like the perfect time for him and Bev to finally become more than friends, but unfortunately for Colby, Bev has other ideas. Bev is wild and untameable and is becoming more and more distant. At this amazing point in their lives that they’ve been so excited for Bev seems to be pulling away from Colby, and then as the final kick in the crotch lands the bombshell that she’s not planning on going to Europe with him after all and oh did she forget to mention? She’s also starting college in the fall. As a result Colby’s left not only without a plan for the summer but for the rest of his life, is stuck as designated driver on a tour with the worst girl band in history Bev included (awkward much?) all the while trying to figure out what other secrets Bev’s been keeping, what lies she’s told and most importantly why she’s pulling away from their friendship. And so begins a coming of age story from a male point of view on finding your place in the world and the all-important heart wrenching goodbyes that come along with change. The sick to the stomach feeling of letting go of the railing and free falling into the unknown. Of letting go of what you are to become what you might be.

I absolutely loved this book. A contemporary summer coming of age story told from a guy’s perspective is a rare book indeed and I loved Colby’s voice. Despite being a guy I think that both sexes can relate to Colby. He’s just graduated from high school and is on the brink of the rest of his life, he thinks he has it all planned out and then BAM life happens and John Lennon’s quote “life happens when you are busy making plans” has never been truer. I could totally relate to Colby’s feelings of feeling like you’re the only person in the world without a plan, who doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and being scared senseless because of it. I think we can all relate to Colby’s friendship problems and unrequited love and every single person definitely knows how terrifying it is to be venturing out into the world on your own for the first time, to grow up, and that’s why I think this book will be a hit with absolutely anyone who reads it.

Despite having a male narrative this book is far from short of female characters in fact Colby’s travelling with three of them Bev, Meg and Alexa who make up the musically awful but hugely likeable The Disenchantments. In the beginning Bev really grated on my nerves I couldn’t understand why she was being this way with Colby but towards the end as we get to know the secrets Bev’s been hiding and learn how she’s feeling I could forgive her for that a little- but not entirely- what can I say? I really love Colby and felt very protective of him. Dumb Bev. ANYWAY Meg and Alexa the kooky sisters by far made up for Bev’s sucky behaviour. I loved them both so much! They're definitely the sort of girls I would be friends with in real life and their bright and eccentric personalities made them a joy to read about.

The way Nina LaCour writes is sharp and witty and some parts of the book where just SO fun and full of life where as other parts were gritty and raw, her way with words even made me tear up on occasion. Basically Nina’s writing hits you on a straight line from the page to your heart like the best kind of stories always do.

The Disenchantments is a book that made me feel ALL THE THINGS! This story has everything you could want in a contemporary novel and is essential reading for fans of the genre.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

In My Mailbox!

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren

Review Books


The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa (Already read and LOVED this one!)
Unrest by Michelle Harrison
The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting
Changeling by Philippa Gregory (ARC)
The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo (ARC)
Ghost Flower by Michele Jaffe
The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty (ARC)


Bought


A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (Recently watched and loved the first season of the show so I just had to buy the book!)
The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber
Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

These are the books that I've received and bought in the past few weeks. I'm excited for all of these but particularly Unrest, Changeling, The Out of Office Girl, Skin Deep and Welcome To Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop Of Dreams and can see myself getting to them ASAP! The Immortal Rules was a fantastic read and I'll be taking part on the blog tour and posting my review on that soon so stay tuned for that! As always HUGE thank you’s to all of the lovely publishing people who have sent me these books to review. If you’ve read any of the books I got and want to leave me a comment letting me know what you thought please do and make sure you leave me a link to what you got in your mailbox. Here’s to another week of fantastic reading ahead!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Review for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter

On Friday 6th April 2012, only 6 days after opening day, I was one of the first people to go to The Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter. For those of you outside the UK or for anyone who simply doesn’t know Warner Bros have opened the studio’s that they filmed the Harry Potter films in to the public for the first time. The tour itself consists of the actual sets, props, costumes etc. that were used in the films, along with behind the scene’s secrets being revealed for the very first time on how the films were made, a chance for you to try Butterbeer, Chocolate Frogs and numerous other Wizard sweets and treats, go crazy in the gift shop that sells legit Harry Potter merchandise and even take a ride on a broom and/or the Weasley’s car! Me, my friend Rachel and her sister Beth booked our tickets wayyy back before Christmas in 2011 so needless to say this is something we’d been excited about for a very long time! I had a fantastic time and thought I’d share my experience and a little bit about what you can expect and generally just talk about if it’s worth a visit and the price to give you an honest opinion if you’re thinking about going.

outside the studio

Firstly the studio itself is just outside London in Watford. At first we got a little bit lost as there are no signs for the tour until you’re literally only a few minutes away. However we called the tours customer service for help and they were brilliant in giving us directions from where we were (turns out ten minutes away, typical huh? Fun Fact: Whilst waiting they spew you with random Harry Potter trivia, nice one!) Anyway we soon found the place and in the end it wasn’t hard what with the HUGE Harry Potter posters on the outside and all. Then we did all the boring stuff like collecting our tickets and that really impressed me there wasn’t a long queue at all and they seemed to move everything along really quickly which was a bonus. A word of warning you have to have booked your tickets in advance they don’t sell tickets at the studio and you actually won’t be allowed into the car park unless you have your booking confirmation. A standard adult ticket is £28 or for diehard fans like myself you can pay an extra £10 more for a souvenir guidebook and a digital guide which is basically a mini tablet and headphone set that you can listen to as you go around the tour that gives you extra info, this isn’t something you get to keep though so bare that in mind. I went for the Guidebook/Digital Guide ticket and to be honest if I was to go again I probably wouldn’t bother. As a total fan girl I was running around like a loon and couldn’t really be bothered with listening to the extra’s so that was a bit of a waste of money and you can always buy the Guidebook there which again is alright but basically shows you everything you see on the tour with nothing new to offer and is a keep sake more than anything.

When you go into the building you have an allotted time as to when your tour will begin. What I really loved though was instead of waiting in one long queue for ages you could stop in the café to get a bite to eat or visit the gift shop until it’s your turn. And then when you do queue up for your slot it doesn’t take long at all I think we were waiting for around 15 minutes if that and there are plenty of props and pictures around to get the tour going already.

waiting to go in!
The tour itself begins with a screening in a cinema talking a little bit about the making of Harry Potter and then includes a message from Dan (Harry Potter) Rupert (Ron Weasley) and Emma (Hermione Granger) basically introducing the tour and saying this is their second home, the place that they grew up, which I thought was a really nice touch and really amps up the excitement in the room to bursting point. Brilliantly, when the clip finishes, the screen lifts up to reveal the door to the famous Great Hall. The tour guide gives a true to story “Welcome to Hogwarts!” and then the doors open and you step into the Great Hall itself.

door to the Great Hall
The Great Hall was a highlight of the tour for me and a brilliant way to kick things off. You don’t have a tour guide for the whole of the tour just this first section as he tells you a little bit about what you can expect from your visit and the general rules. Fun Fact: Our tour guide was asking some little kids at the front the names of the Hogwarts houses, they seemed like the shy kind and they weren’t really biting so I holla out from the back “Ravenclaw!!” (my favourite house) and had the embarrassing moment where everyone turned to look at me and the tour guide looked kind of bewildered, what can I say? I was excited! A similar situation also happened when he asked what everyone’s favourite moment in the Great Hall was, again tough crowd, although I do think someone mentioned the Yule Ball so I belted out from the back again “When Mcgonagall duelled off with Snape!” yeah…

inside the Great Hall

Anyway I’m not going to tell you about every single part of the tour because we’d be here forever. The tour takes around 3 hours to look around in general and heck I’m 900 and something words in and I’ve only reached the beginning! I will however tell you about the parts that stood out to me.


The Great Hall
The rest of the tour is self-guided a nice touch as there’s nothing worse than being ushered along by a tour guide. Heck I would probably grab hold of the nearest prop and refuse to be moved until I was finished looking (who am I kidding? I would have refused to move at all and would hide out and live there if I could! “This isn’t a concrete block this is HOGWARTS!” Yes I was THAT girl the one that the people who work there really earned their money with that day.) The whole tour was fantastic but here are some of my highlights in no particular order.

where it all began...

The outdoor section was AMAZING! Privet Drive, Godric's Hollow, The Hogwarts Bridge, The Knight Bus, Hagrid’s Motorbike, The Weasley’s car, The Riddle Grave, the huge Chess pieces and Butterbeer all at the same time?! Yes please! My other favourite part was walking down Diagon Alley which is an actual street! The Great Hall, Diagon Alley and the outdoor area are defiantly the parts that make you feel most like your actually in the Harry Potter Universe and I loved that feeling more than anything else.

Knight Bus

Diagon Alley

Props and set wise my favourite pieces were the Yule Ball ice sculpture which was just absolutely stunning in real life.

so pretty! Yule Ball ice sculpture 

Neville’s cardigan, that his gran knit him, that he challenged Lord Voldemort in, do I need to say anything else about THAT Cardigan!?

THE CARDIGAN!!!

The Invisibility Cloak actually has a lot of detail to it and is designed beautifully which you don’t get to see in the films, what with it, you know, being invisible most of the time.

Cloak of invisibility 


so awesome! Tom Riddle's Diary
Dumbledore’s office was an incredible set and again made me feel like I was actually in Hogwarts. As did Snapes potion room which was suitably creepy and dark. I loved seeing some of
the smaller props like the Horcruxes, The Philosophers Stone, Neville’s remembrall, the golden snitch etc. And I found a nice touch was that some of the sets had things that were moving on their own just like magic! The Burrow had to be my favourite for that with Mrs Weasley’s washing up and knitting going by themselves! There were so many impressive props but the thing that actually made me gasp out loud was the Hogwarts Castle model something you don’t get to see until right at the very end of the tour. It’s huge and beautiful, and you can just see how much work and love and care went into it. It absolutely just took my breath away; in a word it was magnificent. And I loved how the lighting changed from night, to dawn, to day, to dusk so you could see Hogwarts in all its glory. It was just so impressive and definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip.

just a small part of Hogwarts model

After finishing the tour the last section ideally leads out straight into the gift shop where you can buy SO MANY THINGS!!! And if you’re a crazed fan girl like me can actually end up spending a fortune! You can buy anything from the Harry Potter sweets, to Wands – literally any character you can think of they have their wands available to buy, to the books and DVD’s, to cuddly toy Headwigs and Buckbeaks and Unicorns, to outfits and costumes, to mugs and keyrings and stationary there is everything you could think of. I spent just over £70 on The Marauder's Map, a The Marauder's Map mug which says “I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up To No Good” on it which I love, a Time Turner Keyring, A Chocolate Frog, and a Pink Pygmy Puff cuddly toy. But I could of easily spent so much more if I didn’t stop myself I really wanted the Elder Wand but alas I already have Hermione’s wand which Rachel brought me back from The Harry Potter resort in Florida so I called it a day right there. I’d say the things are fairly priced considering, I mean of course they’re overpriced, but at places like this what isn’t? Basically I think they could have charged a lot more if they wanted and Rachel and Beth told me that some things were actually cheaper over here than the resort in Orlando so considering I didn’t think it was too bad personally, as an ultimate fan girl, but parents of children wanting a chocolate frog for £7 each might disagree! What I like about the tour though is that you can pay a standard ticket price which for an adult at £28 I think is really good and you can build on your experience from there, parking is free, you can bring your own food and drink, so if I wanted I could have spent £28 on a ticket and came away happy after a wonderful day, how much you spend on top of that is entirely up to you.

stuff of dreams!



Dobby!
My only regret about the trip is that I didn’t get to have a go at flying on a broom. When queuing you can expect to wait an hour and at the time of day we went we just didn’t have that spare time to wait before the studio closed. I think a lot of people who visit at a later time will have that problem as the flying is right in the middle of the studio you can’t really judge how much time you’ll have left to look at everything else. I personally think it would have been better to place the flying separately like the gift shop as something to do either whilst you’re waiting if you get there early or something to do after, that way you’re not worrying about time or what else you have left to see. Despite the hours wait though it did look fun you get a good few minutes riding over London and Hogwarts in a cape and can of course buy pictures at the end. It was really fun to see that adults were just as eager to have a go at flying as the kids!


never realised Helena is so tiny!

So that was pretty much my experience visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter and already I want to go again! If you’ve made it to the end of this mammoth review I salute you! I wanted to try and edit it down but there was just so much that I wanted to talk about and I hope you found it helpful. For more information about the tour you can visit their website here. Please note that I am not in any way affiliated with the tour and this review is simply an honest opinion from a huge fan of everything Harry Potter.If you’ve been to visit the tour let me know what you thought and if you’re planning on going I hope you have as much fun as I did!


P.S This!
me (left) and Rachel (right)

and this!

I SAT WHERE RON WEASLEY SAT A MERE FEW DAYS BEFORE!!!!!!!!!!!!! *cough* that is all.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Explanation For Unexpected Blog Hiatus and What’s Been Going On With Me

So for those of you who follow me on Twitter you may have seen my tweets about my Grandad. But for those of you who don’t know I decided to do this post with a little bit about why I’ve been MIA from the blog this past month. Basically my Grandad was taken into hospital and doctor’s told us he probably wouldn’t make it through the night. He was put on open order and we expected to lose him that night. My Grandad’s a total trooper though and made it through, however he’s not out of the woods yet and is still in hospital in a critical condition. Honestly, it could go either way at any time, and so my whole family has been on edge in a sort of limbo just waiting for something to happen. That horribly anxious limbo place actually made me quite poorly both mentally and physically and for a while I wasn’t doing that great myself which is why I haven’t been blogging.

In the last week or so I’ve been feeling a lot better and although the situation hasn’t changed we’re all just trying to get on as normally as we can. And so here I am easing myself back into my blogging which is something that I’ve really missed. I’ve never spent this long away from the blog before in my near 2 years of blogging and it actually surprised me with just how much I missed it so here I am. Although I’m trying to get back to normal please understand that if my Grandad takes a turn for the worst I might disappear again or my posts might not be as regular.

That being said though for now I’m back and on a permanent base I’m not going anywhere so no need to worry about that! I might just be a little scattered because of my personal life. I have got some exciting things coming up for you guys which I’m going to list below I’ve had a few requests on Twitter as to what people want to see first (I have a lot of catching up to do!) So if you really want to see something sooner rather than later put your requests for me in the comments.

• Review on the Harry Potter Studio’s Tour in London (Requested)
• The Hunger Games Movie Review
• Reviews for
The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour (Requested)
Fateful by Claudia Gray (Requested)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Requested)
Fever by Lauren DeStefano
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad
A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin
Touch of Power by Maria V Snyder
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Right I think that’s about it, which is exciting I was actually kind of dreading writing this post but felt like I owed you guys an explanation. I’m excited that I can get on to the fun stuff now and start talking about books again. Oh also on a fun side note I’m tinkering around with the idea of doing some Vlogs mainly for In My Mailbox but maybe some other things too so hopefully I can figure that out because it’s something I’ve been wanting to venture into for a while now. Anyway that’s it big thank you’s to everyone for being so understanding you guys are the best! And even bigger thank you’s for those who have sent me lovely tweets and well wishes on Twitter it really means a lot. I’ll be back with some booky stuff soon and remember to get those requests in either in the comments or you can tweet me them @JessHeartsBooks again for anyone who follows me on Twitter I was formally known as @Chicgeekrambles but changed it to the blog name just to make me easier to find on there I guess and to stop any confusion. Right I really am going to shut up now, love you guys, speak soon!
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