Friday, 18 May 2018

Book Review - Darkest Night

Title: Darkest Night
Author: Will Hill
Series: Department 19 (Book 5)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 4th June 2015
ISBN13: 9780007505906


The brave men and women of Department 19 have fought Dracula at every turn, but now Zero Hour has passed and the ancient vampire is at full strength.
Inside Department 19, the Operators are exhausted and fractured. Jamie, Larissa, Matt and Kate are each struggling with their own demons. When the friends need each other most, they are further apart than ever.
Outside the Department, the world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined.
A final battle looms between the forces of darkness and the last, massed ranks of those who stand against it. A battle that will define the future of humanity. A battle that simply cannot be lost…

My Review

I love the Department 19 series, have followed it since the start. I met Will Hill at YALC in London a few years ago and he signed the first book for me and was really nice and approachable. I then met him again last year at the same convention and I got another Department 19 book signed (which made a change as his new book ‘After the Fire’ had just come out so everyone was getting that signed – also another great book, check out my review here) Will asked me if I had read this book yet and I had to confess that I hadn’t, with all my coursework for my Open University degree I haven’t read as much over the last couple of years, but I promised him it was a priority and that I would definitely review it when I was done. (I kept my promise Will, sorry it took so long though).
I have had this book by my side for a long time, I would have it on the side table in the living room, then carry it upstairs to bed to read before going to sleep but it never really happened. I would end up doing coursework or being too tired to read. But I was still desperate to find out what happens to Jamie and his friends.
Then the best idea occurred to me – my husband wanted to go and watch the football the other week and I usually go with him as it’s just the odd game, but I usually take something with me in case I get bored. Well the tables in the pub are too small to spread out my coursework – so I took this book. Best idea I have ever had! In the 90 minutes +20 minute break, I managed to read the first 160 pages. I was so absorbed in the book, I didn’t even notice everyone cheer when Chelsea scored a goal – and that includes my husband and his mate sitting right next to me. Everything around me just disappeared as I was fully submerged in the world of Department 19.
As it has been a while since I have read the others in the series it took me a few minutes to remember who everyone was and what was going on, but I soon found my feet and it was like reuniting with old friends. And now I had started reading, I had to keep going, I put off my coursework assignment that evening and read more when I got home. I squeezed in another hour the next day when I should have been doing housework, and by the next weekend I had finished all 731 pages.
Although the book was quite long, it never felt like I was having to trawl through it, the words just flew off the page and wrapped themselves around me and carried me along, everything was relevant, everything kept you engaged, everything made you want to read more. There are a number of storylines going on at the same time, but the transition between them is smooth and clear – luckily because I am easily confused! But I knew exactly what was going on in each one.
So Zero Hour has passed and Dracula is back – and oh boy is he back with a bang. He wants the world to know he means business and what better way to do that than create utter carnage and mayhem. The officers in Department 19 are stretched to their limits, relationships are breaking down and missions are becoming more dangerous. I really liked the twists in the story, without giving away spoilers – Larissa’s decisions made me want to cry but I also understood her motives and I really liked her development as a character. Jamie has some serious issues and sometimes you just want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it, but overall you can’t help but like him. But my favourite character has to be Valentin – so smooth, so self-assured, and so mysterious!
If you are at all squeamish then parts of the book may make you want to turn away, there is quite a lot of blood and gore and Will Hill doesn’t mince his words – he just says it straight, but in doing so it doesn’t seem unnecessary. I hate it when people put blood and violence in just for effect – but in this book it feels real, it makes everything that much more believable and helps you to empathise with the characters – understand exactly what they are up against.
This book really emphasised why I love Will Hill as an author, he is an amazing storyteller whose characters and worlds come to life around you.  Everything seems believable, every situation will have you wanting to know more and feeling like you are standing next to Jamie and the Department 19 officers, waiting for instructions, ready to work alongside them and fight Dracula. This is a world that will stay with me for a long time and one that I know I will go back to again.
However I am cross with Will Hill for one of those deaths at the end – why did you have to do that!? Actually made me scream ‘No!!!’ when it happened. How could you Will, how could you? – I’m not going to say who though because that would give it away.
Overall an epic conclusion to an amazing series. I can’t wait to see what Will brings out next. Definitely worth a read – I highly recommend.

My Rating

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Book Review - Barefoot on the Wind

Title: Barefoot on the Wind
Author: Zoe Marriott
Publisher: Walker Books; 01 edition
Release Date: 1 Sept. 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1406333374

A magical retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a fairytale Japan. A companion title to Zoë Marriott’s critically acclaimed Shadows on the Moon. There is a monster in the forest... Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects..

My Review
When I was much younger I read ‘The Swan Kingdon’ and ‘Daughter of the Flame’ and really enjoyed them, I still have them on my bookshelves today. At YALC in London last summer Zoe Marriott was on the guest list, remembering how much I enjoyed those other books I knew I wanted to meet her. As I’ve been a bit out of the loop with YA releases the last couple of years as I’ve mainly been reading old classics for my English degree, I wasn’t aware that Zoe had any other books out. When I got to the convention I saw posters for this book ‘Barefoot on the Wind’ and another called ‘Shadows of the Moon’. They sounded so good, I love things to do with Fairy-tale retellings so I was desperate to get a copy, however by the time I got to the book stall at the convention both of these books were sold out – the supplier had underestimated their popularity. I was gutted, but I still had the other two original books with me so I queued up and got them signed. (Zoe by the way was absolutely lovely and a pleasure to talk to) I promised I would get hold of the books and read them and then write reviews, so once back I ordered the books from the library and waited eagerly for them to arrive.
This one arrived first and I dived in as soon as I could. Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by a forest, no one ever goes into the forest as there are rumours of a beast lurking within. Every now and then someone disappears and is said to have been captured and taken away by the beast. When Hana’s father is the next victim, she swears to put an end to it all once and for all. But nothing is ever as it first seems and Hana faces more than just a simple beast, and the beast himself is nothing like she expected.
The world in which this book is set is amazing, the imagery Marriott uses really lifts the small village off the page, I felt like I was walking down the dirt tracks by Hana’s side, playing in the river, going out hunting. I could picture everything and it was beautiful yet slightly ominous at the same time.
Obviously, knowing the story of Beauty and the Beast, there were some points that were going to be obvious and I was waiting for them to happen, but even the most obvious events were transformed into something exciting with Marriott’s own little twist to make you stop and think, nothing is as you expect.
Hana is a great character, strong, determined, and feisty and I felt myself connect to her and her story, the beast was also something else. The man is a gentle and calming spirit, he feels a connection to the earth around him and seems so helpful. How can a beast lurk within?
This book will sweep you into a world of magic and wonder, excitement and adventure and will leave you wanting to know what happens next.
An excellent read that I highly recommend.

My Rating

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Book Review - After the Fire

Title: After the Fire
Author: Will Hill
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Jun. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1474924153

The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?

My Review

I’ve been a fan of Will Hill for years, I loved his Department 19 series and Ive met him a couple of times at the London Young Adult Literature Convention. He was on the guest list again last year so I queued up again to meet him. I didn’t know he had a new book out so we had a chat. He was pleased to see a Department 19 fan amongst the new fans and he signed one of my old books, but we also discussed ‘After the Fire’, he told me what it was about and I was very intrigued. So as soon as I got back I ordered it from the library to read.
I did actually read this back in September but hadn’t managed to get round to writing the review until now. However the book was really good and it’s stuck with me so it shouldn’t be too hard to write a review after a couple of months. I never normally get behind on reviews but life has been hectic lately.
Will Hill has created a small community, a place inside a fence. Those inside are aware of the outside world, but don’t speak of it and only one select person ventures out each month to collect supplies. Everything inside The Fence is controlled by Father John, he tells them when to worship, what work to do, who to talk to and who to love. He is there to show them the ‘true path’, a way to salvation.
Moonbeam has grown up inside The Fence, it is all she has ever known, but over the years she has seen things change. Now she is outside of the Fence, and her whole world has changed, but how did it get to this? What started the fire? And What was really going on behind closed doors?
The book switches between the present where Moonbeam is in a hospital facility, recovering from the Fire and everything else that led up to it and the past, where you learn all about life inside the Fence, the other inhabitants and the events that go on behind closed doors.
The book is very raw and has a sense of danger about it, but it’s the sort of book that you just can’t put down. You have to know every detail of what has been happening and what will happen next. Moonbeam is a bit of a mystery throughout, but Will Hill gives you just enough information to keep you hooked and wanting to know more. You feel like you are learning the truth of the past with Moonbeam, everything she is discovering and recounting you are there beside her, feeling the shock, the excitement, the betrayal – everything. It really submerges you into the story and makes you need to keep reading. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has hooked me as much as this one, but it seriously had me clutching the book in my hands at every available moment.
There are moments in the book that will have you smiling but there are also some harrowing moments that will leave you thinking and just make you take a deep breath but Hill finds a perfect mix of the two that makes this book just so beautiful.
It’s one that I will definitely never forget, it makes you question things about life but also realise just how amazing life can be.
I would definitely recommend this book, it’s such a powerful read and one that you will want to share.
May not be suitable for younger readers due to some mature content.

My Rating

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

30th Anniversary of The Princess Bride - Inconcievable!!!

Celebrate 30 years of The Princess Bride
Fall in love all over again as the most beloved fantasy movie returns...

Based on the original fantasy novel by William Goldman, this has now also become a beloved movie with fans worldwide.  

It’s been 30 years since Buttercup and Wesley stole our hearts in one of the most unforgettable and much loved movies THE PRINCESS BRIDE and to celebrate it will be shown 
in cinemas 
for one day only 
Monday 23rd October 2017.

The tale of a kindly grandfather reading an extraordinary fairy story to his sick grandson has become a cult classic.

Directed by Rob Reiner and with an all-star cast including Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Mel Smith & Peter Cook, and written by Academy Award® winning screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy, Misery, Heat)

THE PRINCESS BRIDE is a classic fairy tale; full of swashbuckling swordplay, giants, pirates, an evil prince and a beautiful princess... all woven into the love story to end all love stories.

Also available will be the 30th Anniversary Edition DVD & Blu-ray, out on the 23rd October including the original theatrical poster and all new sumptuous artwork. This two-disc edition features 82minutes of extras on the DVD and 141minutes on the Blu-ray - including featurettes, cast interviews, audio commentaries, the original comprehensive documentary ‘As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride’ plus galleries and trailers. 

You can also get hold of the novel, published in paperback by Bloomsbury 
ISBN: 9780747590583

Watch a trailer for the film here:

When I was asked to do a post promoting the 30th Anniversary I was very excited and said yes straight away. Sometimes the oldest stories really are the best. So whether you are an old fan or someone discovering the story for the first time, sit back and enjoy it and treasure a story that will last for all time.
Whether you decide to go to the cinema or pick up a copy of the DVD, or even snuggle down with the original novel, however you immerse yourself, enjoy it 'As You Wish'. 

A huge thank you to the promoters of this campaign for my free copy of the book and Anniversary edition of the DVD. 

Comment below telling me of your favourite moments from the book or film. Share and celebrate this wonderful story.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Book Promo - Swan Song

Book synopsis

When iconic ballerina Beatrice Duvall died, a nation mourned – and a legacy was born. Sixteen years later, her daughter Ava comes to London to take part in a high-profile tribute to Beatrice, and to learn about the mother she never knew.
There’s just one snag: the tribute is a ballet, Swan Lake. Which is infinitely painful for Ava, because she can’t dance. Won’t dance. Not since she quit the Royal Ballet School last year and walked away from everything that defined her.
But this is London, colourful and crazy, and with actor Seb at her side, there’s so much to discover. Like Theatreland razzmatazz and rooftop picnics and flamingo parties. And a whole load of truths Ava never knew about her mother – and herself.
When the time comes to take the stage, will Ava step out of the shadow cast by her mother’s pedestal? And who will be waiting for her there, in the bright lights?
A coming-of-age novel about family and first love, in the city of hopes and dreams.

Book link

Author bio

Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess. ‘Write, Charlotte,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.

Thirty-odd years later, Charlotte writes the kind of books she loves to read: romances. She lives in a village of Greater Manchester with her husband and two children, and when she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, baking up a storm or embarking on a DIY project. She recently achieved a lifetime ambition of creating a home library for her ever-increasing collection of books. She pretends not to notice that the shelves are rather wonky.

Mini interview

What is the inspiration for the story?
A kaleidoscope of ideas… Memories of performing on stage. The years I lived in Kensington, London. The many shows I’ve seen in the West End. A backstage tour of the Royal Opera House. The public reaction to Princess Diana’s death. My own experience of losing my mother.
What draws you to this genre?
Young adult: the time of life that most signifies discovery and sensation and freedom. Dreaming big; confronting reality. Being trendy; being quirky and out of step. Messing up gloriously; succeeding epically. First crush, first kiss, first love. Making memories that will last a lifetime.
Why do you write?
Because writing makes the blood sing in my veins; it makes me feel alive; it defines me. Because I’m a bibliophile, and the only thing better than having a book in my hand is having my own book in my hand. Because I want to entertain, inspire – and leave a legacy for my children.

Author links

Book extract

The Tube from Turnham Green is quiet, until we reach Earl’s Court, where it starts filling up. By the time we get to Victoria I’m in a scrum spilling out onto the platform. I find the Victoria Line platform and shoe-horn myself into a carriage; Seb would be proud of my elbow action.
At Oxford Circus I’m carried by a sea of shoppers up the escalators, across the foyer and up some steps to the street level. I’ve managed to come out the right exit, opposite the flagship Topshop. The massive store calls to me. Now that’s where to buy a dress for the tribute. Simple and trendy. I dread to think what Thisbe’s wardrobe department contact is going to make me. Something showbiz, I guess: long and loud and sparkly. Ugh.
But I don’t want to offend Thisbe, who’s called in a favour, apparently, to get me a dress sewn so quickly. So, with a sigh, I turn my back on Topshop and trudge down Argyll Street. When I see the Palladium, like a classical temple with massive columns, my mood lifts. At least I’m getting to visit one of London’s most historic theatres, where anyone who’s anyone has performed over the years, from Elvis Presley to Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald, Elton to Adele – even The Muppets have taken to this stage. I wonder: will I get to stand on the stage?
Nope, is the answer. I don’t even see the auditorium. A security guard shows me from the foyer down into the underbelly of the theatre, to a small, windowless room made even smaller by its many contents: two dressmaker’s dummies, a hanging rail of costumes, shelves of fabric and haberdashery, and a desk for the sewing machine. I barely have time to make a mental comparison of this room and the wardrobe department at the Royal Opera House – in a big room overlooking the Piazza and flooded with light – before a girl springs out from behind one of the dummies and hugs me.
Hugs me?
Thankfully, it’s brief. She steps back and beams. I smile back automatically, and in a second I take her in: round, rosy face, electric-blue eyes, dark wavy hair. She’s a little older than me, maybe twenty, and wearing stylish jeans and a really unusual shirt covered with little embroidered seahorses.
“You’re Cara Cavendish?” I say, daring to hope that maybe my dress won’t end up being horrendously glitzy after all.
“The one and only,” she says cheerfully. “And you’re Ava-who-needs-a-dress. Thisbe explained. Sit, sit…” She pulls out a little stool from under the desk and I perch on it.
Cara walks around me in a circle, eying me up and down. “Easy-peasy,” she declares. “Dancers’ forms are so simple to dress.”
“Oh,” I say. “I’m not a dancer.”
She completes her circuit and leans on the desk, looking curiously at me. “But you’re Beatrice Duvall’s daughter,” she says.
The name gives me a jolt, but I manage to reply evenly: “That doesn’t make me a dancer.”
“’Course not,” says Cara. “I mean, my mum was an architect, and look at me! But I heard you were training to be a dancer like your mother. With the Royal Ballet.”
“I was. I… stopped.”
“Oh. Why was that then?”
I frown at Cara. She smiles back at me.
“Did Thisbe put you up to this?” I ask.
“Up to what?”
“All the questions.”
“Oh, no. That’s just me. My brother’s always telling me I’m blunt, because I don’t go in for all that evasive British crap – ignoring the elephant in the room. Better to lay it all out there and say, ‘My mum’s dead, and it sucks.’ You know?”
“Not really,” I reply honestly. I’ve never said those words in my life.
Cara nods like I’ve said something profound. Then, to my relief, she claps her hands and says, “Let’s talk dresses.”
After a quick-fire round of questions designed to establish my style, Cara hands me a scrapbook in which she’s pasted cuttings, photos and drawings of formal dresses, and she talks me through cuts, lengths, necks, sleeves and fabrics. Somewhere around the midi dress page I begin to come undone.
“What is it?” she says.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Something,” she says. “You look like you’re about to have a panic attack. Is it claustrophobia? This room is a little dinky.”
“It’s not that. It’s...”
She waits expectantly. I gesture to the scrapbook.
“It’s just all a bit real, suddenly, looking at these dresses. I mean, I’ve got to wear one and stand on a stage at the Royal Opera House in front of people. Lots of people.”
“Ah,” she says. “Yeah, I’d be a wreck doing that. But you’ve performed on stage before, right?”
“Sure. Plenty of times. But this isn’t a performance. I have to be myself. I mean…”
“You mean you have to be your mother’s daughter. And your mother was the legendary Beatrice Duvall.”
Startled, I nod. She gets it. I don’t even know this girl, but she gets it.
“So,” Cara says, plucking the scrapbook off my lap and leafing through the pages, “what you need, besides the strength to get on that stage, is a really kick-ass dress. A dress that makes you feel tall and powerful and goddam beautiful, like nothing can touch you while you’re wearing it. Ah-ha. Here. This one. What do you think?”
The dress illustration jumps right off the page. It’s bold, it’s simple, it’s glamorous, it shouts “designer”: a strapless bodice with criss-crossing satin ribbons and a flowing skirt with chiffon overskirt ending just on the knee.
“Wow,” I say. “You can make that? In time?”
She grins. “Hell yeah.”
“And you think I can pull that off?”
Her grin widens. “Hell yeah.”

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Book Review - Forever Geek

Title: Forever Geek
Author: Holly Smale
Series: Geek Girl  (Book 6)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 27 July 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0007574667

My name is Harriet Manners and I’ll be a geek forever…
Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.
Modelling isn’t a sure-fire route to popularity. Neither is making endless lists. The people you love don’t expect you to transform into someone else. Statistically, you are more likely to not meet your Australian ex-boyfriend in Australia than bump into him there.
So on the trip of a lifetime Down Under Harriet’s to-do lists are gone and it’s Nat’s time to shine! Yet with nearly-not-quite-boyfriend Jasper back home, Harriet’s completely unprepared to see supermodel ex Nick. Is the fashion world about to turn ugly for GEEK GIRL?
It’s time for Harriet to face the future. Time to work out where her heart lies. To learn how to let go…

My Review
I love the Geek Girl books and couldn't wait to find out where it went and how it all ends. I put off reading this for a while as I knew it was the last in the series and I didn't want it to be over. I did however read it about a month ago and have been meaning to review it ever since, so I'm hoping I can do it justice from memory.
The book continues pretty much where book 5 left off, Harriet is travelling to Australia but this time she won't be on her own, she is going with her best friend Nat and her awesome grandma Bunty. You know it's going to be an exciting trip but there is one thing making Harriet more nervous than usual - her ex Nick is from Australia and yes it's a big country but knowing her luck they are bound to run into each other - but is Harriet ready for that?
I loved that Nat was along for the trip, I think she's a great character and I love that we got to see more of her and see Harriet and her friendship grow, change and adapt. 
I won't include many spoilers but the scene in the hedge maze photo shoot was lovely and really stuck in my mind. The imagery and expressive writing really made it come alive off the page. 
This book shows Harriet finally growing up and coming to terms with what she wants and what she expects, both from herself and from those around her. There are loads of cool facts and funny scenarios and every bit of charm that we have come to love from Harriet. If a series has to end, I'm glad it ended like this. Totally refreshing, moving, funny and sad, it really was a wonderful installment in Harriet's life.
If you haven't read the series, start at the beginning and work your way through, you certainly won't regret it.

My Rating

Book Review - The Dark Prophecy

Title: The Dark Prophecy
Author: Rick Riordan
Series: The Trials of Apollo (Book 2)
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 2 May 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0141363950

The god Apollo, cast down to earth and trapped in the form of a gawky teenage boy as punishment, must set off on the second of his harrowing (and hilarious) trials.
 He and his companions seek the ancient oracles - restoring them is the only way for Apollo to reclaim his place on Mount Olympus - but this is easier said than done.
 Somewhere in the American Midwest is a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again . . . if it doesn't kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo's way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate - a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame.
 To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of a now-mortal goddess, a bronze dragon, and some familiar demigod faces from Camp Half-Blood. With them by his side, can Apollo face down the greatest challenge of his four thousand years of existence?

My Review
I have been a fan of the Percy Jackson world for years and always look out for the next installment. I wasn't blown away by book 1 (The Hidden Oracle) but I enjoyed it and thought it had good premise so I was looking forward to seeing where Apollo would end up next.
Apollo is supposed to be egotistical and rather irritating but I found he started to grate on me a bit, I wanted to tell him to be quiet and focus on those around him for once. If he wasn't so cocky things would get done a lot quicker. He also tells a lot of bad jokes and stories that i don't find funny, they just annoyed me. However, there were parts of the book that I really enjoyed, I loved the secret hideout and those inside, a whole hidden society - though limited and low on numbers, the characters all had different and interesting personalities. The inclusion of the Griffins was awesome, i found myself wanting to pet one and maybe fly one if it would let me. 
I enjoyed learning more about Meg's background, it was nice for the focus to shift to her and it does make you feel for her, she is a strong character and I would like to see more of her. I also enjoyed that the focus shifted away from Apollo and onto Leo and Calypso, they make a great couple and in a way I love that their relationship isn't easy, they have arguments and spats and don't always want to be with each other yet they seem to be able to work things out. It makes it more realistic. 
There were a lot of exciting moments in the book that have you turning the pages quickly, and overall the book is enjoyable, but I do wish Apolllo would grow up a bit or maybe take more of a back seat - however as the series is the 'trails of Apollo' I doubt that will happen, but at least he will always have his friends there to save his skin. 
I will definitely keep reading the series out of curiosity but it doesn't match up to the original Percy Jackson's

My Rating

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

London Film and Comic Convention with YALC!

Every year London is host to LFCC - the London Film and Comic Convention and for the last 4 years it has also hosted YALC - Young Adult Literature Convention, this is an awesome opportunity to meet authors, publishers, book sellers and other book geeks!
I didn't think I would be able to go this year as we are having our hours cut at work and just overall my husband and I are short of money. However this year the convention also fell on the same week as my 1 year wedding anniversary and my best friend - being the truly awesome person she is - bought us tickets as an anniversary present! So we got to go on the Saturday (29th July)
We always dress up when we go to these things so we had to come up with a costume. We wanted to stay more on the book character side as we knew we would spend more time in the YALC part than the comicon itself. One of my favourite book series is the Skulduggery Pleasant books by Derek Landy, and my husband has just finished reading the series for the first time and loved them too, so we decided to go as Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain.
Here we are dressed up: -
There was a stand advertising the new book in the series - Resurrection- (which is awesome by the way) so we had our photo taken by it, disappointingly Derek Landy himself wasn't there - we had hoped he would be as he has been at all the previous 3, but we tweeted him our photo and he said we were 'cool' so I'm happy!

Once there I had a few authors I wanted to see, unfortunately due to my University course I haven't read as much over the last couple of years so some of the authors I hadn't heard of and out of the 7 I wanted to see only 3 were there on Saturday, the others were spread over Friday and Sunday.

However first up was an author I had wanted to meet for years. I had been invited to the book launch of her very first book back in 2013 but I couldn't get out of work and I had been regretting it ever since. So now after her 6th book in the series! I finally got to meet her. It is of course, the lovely - Holly Smale!!!! She was due to arrive at 11 and we started to queue at about 10:30, I was at the front of the queue, and my wonderful husband went to buy me the 'Sunny Side Up' special novella as it was the only one I didn't have and I wanted a full set. He got back just in time, and Holly was kind enough to sign all 8 of her books. and then she also posed for a photo

I took my Valkyrie costume off and replaced it with my Geek Girl glasses for the photo.
Holly was really nice and willing to talk. She asked me if I had any questions about her series and like a total idiot I froze and couldn't think of anything. I just told her that I loved her books, that they made me laugh out loud and that I would be looking forward to her next project.
Of course for the rest of the day I thought of about 30 questions I could have asked her, but never mind, maybe next time.

We then spent some time exploring the comicon - it was hot and very crowded. There were loads of fab costumes, I saw captain Jack, Baymax from Big Hero 6, some Daleks, a few Doctor Who's, many superheroes and lots of others. There were stalls selling loads of realy cool and very geeky things, but it was so busy!
I was carrying a backpack with me, containing all the books I wanted to get signed that day -13 in total so by this point I was flagging. We headed back up to YALC where is was calmer and cooler and had a lunch break.
We met up with my best friend and her boyfriend, dressed up as Yoda and a character from Avatar - they looked fab, but stupidly I didn't get a photo of them.
We explored the stalls, picked up some free bookmarks, badges, bags and even a mug from one. There was a Harry Potter stall and I managed to solve the potions riddle from the first book and one a gold star and lollipop for my efforts along with the knowledge that I was just as clever and logical as Hermione! I was so proud. My friend couldn't solve it and the ladies at the stall said not many people had managed to do it - so GO ME!

After lunch I met Will Hill - I saw him a few years ago when I first started reading his Department 19 series, now I have read all but the newest one I wanted to see him again and tell him how awesome I thought they were. Unfortunately I only own book 1 & 2 and couldn't afford to buy the rest before I went, so he just signed book 2 for me (i did the first one last time). However he was glad that I liked his series and was still  a fan, he had just released a new book which is what most people were getting signed, so it was refreshing to still see a Department 19 book he said. He was very nice and we had a good chat. I didn't manage to get a picture with him, but I'm glad I met him again. Now I want to read the last book in the series even more, so look out for the review in the coming few weeks.

We then wandered round a bit more, said goodbye to my friend as she had to leave and then headed back upstairs. It was 3pm by this time and we were both knackered (having been up since 5am!) so we decided to head to Zoe Marriotts table and start queuing. We were an hour early so we took the chance to sit down and relax a little bit, putting down our bags and taking off our shoes. We got talking to some other fans in the queue and I bumped into one of my other friends so we had a chat.

I was a bit disappointed because the book stands had sold out of all of Zoe Marriotts new books so I couldn't get one, however I had an old copy of 'The Swan Kingdom' and 'Daughter of the Flame' that I had read years ago and I still think they are beautiful covers so I had taken them with me.
At just after 4 o'clock I met Zoe and she was so friendly. She was astounded that I still had her original books and said how much she had loved the covers and was sad when the publishers changed them. I said how much I enjoyed her work and that I was looking forward to reading her new stuff. We then took a photo together
She was so nice and happy to talk, I am definitely going to be reading her other books and I hope to see her again sometime in the future.
After that we decided to leave and make our way home, exhausted but very happy.
Next year I think I will take a wheelie suitcase to carry my books - a lot fo people there had done that and after carrying the wait of 13 books on my back all day I was exhausted and in pain, so I will definitely follow their example next time - and maybe then I can take even more books!

Have any of you been to YALC?
Who did you meet?
Who would you like to see in the future?


Book Review - The Prince of Mist

Title: The Prince of Mist
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Phoenix
Release Date: 27th May 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1444000443

In 1943, Max Carver's father - a watchmaker and inventor - decides to move his family to a small town on the coast, to an abandoned house that holds many secrets and stories of its own. Behind the house Max discovers an overgrown garden surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. In the centre is a large statue of a clown set in another six-pointed star.
As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: Max’s sister Alicia has disturbing dreams while his other sister, Irina, hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe. With his new friend Roland, Max also discovers the wreck of a boat that sank many years ago in a terrible storm. Everyone on board perished except for one man - an engineer who built the lighthouse at the end of the beach.
As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of a legendary figure called the Prince of Mist begins to emerge...

My Review
This was the only book by Zafon that I hadn't read so when i spotted it on the library shelf I had to grab it. It's a fairly short book at just over 200 pages. In fact I read it in one sitting. Made all the more readable by Zafon's amazing stroy-telling powers and mysterious events that keep you hooked throughout.
When Max and his family move to a small beach-side cottage he isn't sure what to make of it, especially when he finds a strange blocked off garden with some creepy statues, one of a clown and the others as circus performers, even stranger Max swears he sees one of them move. As events around the beach front start to get even stranger the secrets of the old lighthouse keeper start to emerge. The Prince of Mist was a story, a cloaked man would grant you anything your heart desires if you just ask. What they don't know is that the wish comes with a price and if you don't fulfill your end then he will come back for you. But it's all just stories, right? Max, with his sister and his new friend Roland must discover just what happened all those years ago with the sunken ship and why the lighthouse keeper is so nervous, and just what could the Prince of Mist want after all these years.
The story has a romance element between Roland and Alicia but it isn't forced, it seems very natural and I like the couple together, the mystery will keep you hooked to the end and you won't see the twist coming. There are some spooky moments but mostly it's just exciting and will keep you turning the pages. I had finished it before I knew it, the ending is very satisfying if not a little sad, and as always I wanted more.
This one is aimed at younger readers and is the perfect introduction to his works.

My Rating

Book Review - Marina

Title: Marina
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: W&N
Release Date: 26th September 2013 
ISBN-13: 978-0297856474

In May 1980, fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in the old quarter of Barcelona. For seven days and nights no one knows his whereabouts. . . .
His story begins in the heart of old Barcelona, when he meets Marina and her father Germán Blau, a portrait painter. Marina takes Oscar to a cemetery to watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the fourth Sunday of each month. At 10 a.m. precisely a coach pulled by black horses appears. From it descends a woman dressed in black, her face shrouded, wearing gloves, holding a single rose. She walks over to a gravestone that bears no name, only the mysterious emblem of a black butterfly with open wings.
When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her they begin a journey that will take them to the heights of a forgotten, post-war Barcelona, a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons; and a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.

My Review
I think that Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of the greatest writers ever, I have read all of his books and I just can't get enough, he is a master story-teller, able to weave a whole world around you and capture you within the story. I am always swept away by him, there is something almost poetic about his writing, it just flows off the page and really captivates me.
This was one of the last books by him that I had to read and whilst I was waiting for the next book in the series I was reading to come out, I thought I would fill my time with this. I expected it to last me a few days at least but I read it in 2 sittings, starting it in my lunchbreak one day then finishing it all the next afternoon. I just didn't want to stop reading, it was addictive.
Oscar is captivated by the old mansion house and it's strange occupants, a young girl called Marina and her father German Blau. He discovers that they are actually very nice people and he develops a crush on Marina. When she tells him of a mysterious old woman who visits the graveyard every month, on her own, cloaked in black Oscar is intrigued, but as they start to investigate her past, they uncover more than they bargained for. Dodgy dealings, dark secrets and creepy experiments. Soon the two of them are fighting for their lives and the truth. 
I loved Marina as a character, she's very fiery and has a great sense of humour, yet she also has a vulnerability that makes her very likeable. Oscar is almost the opposite, he's a bit thoughtless and rushes headfirst into situations, but he's also goofy and rather sweet. 
Once again Zafon delivered a top class story, with enough chills and thrills to keep you hooked. The living dummies in the shed made my skin crawl, but I couldn't stop reading. 
A little bit scary for younger readers, but overall another fantastic book.
If you haven't read his books, I highly recommend him. The Shadow of the Wind is truly spectacular.

My Rating