Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A Tiger Tale by Holly Webb

‘I just keep thinking about him,’ Kate’s mum smiled. ‘The stupidest things. Like him always complaining that the tea wasn’t strong enough.’
Published by Scholastic in September 2014
Pages – 109
Summary
Kate loves her toy tiger, Amos. He was a present from Granddad, and holding him close makes Granddad seem less far away.
But she doesn’t expect Amos to turn into a real tiger! A big, comforting, friendly tiger who looks a bit like Granddad, and sounds like him too.
*******
I feel like I’ve been spoilt, as this is one of two reviews this week, for  books written by Holly Webb. If anyone can set me adrift on a sail boat to my childhood, it is most definitely Holly Webb. Her writing has a natural classical feel to it, with aromas of Enid Blyton escaping from each paragraph.
I adored this book, even though it did make me cry. In this beautifully, poignant tale, Kate is struggling to cope with the death of her beloved, Grandfather. She misses him so much and worries that her Mum will wipe out all traces of him from her life. Luckily she still has Amos to remember him by,  the toy tiger he once gave her. However, Kate’s grief filled mind is playing tricks on her and she is convinced that her Grandfather has sent a real life tiger to help her through her grieving process.
This book brought a lot of strong memories back for me. I can remember losing my great grandmother, who lived across the road from me when I was young. It reminded me how I kept all my grief to myself as I didn’t want to upset my parents or my grandmother by talking about it. In this book, we witness Kate doing the same. She doesn’t feel she has anyone to share her grief with. So she keeps it all bottled up, until eventually it all explodes out of her. She also struggles to see how she can ever be happy again, when she has lost someone so central to her life. It made me realise how important it is, for children to be able to talk about their loved ones that have passed. Even if a parent finds it hard to discuss with their child, they should always make sure there is someone there who could help the child learn how to grieve.
I think the author, has dealt with the difficult subject of death and bereavement extremely well. Although their were parts that made me feel sad, I don’t think this book came across as morbid or depressing. If anything, it felt enlightening to see a child learn how to cope and move on.
This book would be an ideal gift for a child who has recently lost someone they love deeply, as it gives the child  a starting point on being able to talk about it, open up and learn to carry on in life without them, but not having to forget about them.

Monday, 29 September 2014

11 Days To Go - The Maze Runner by James Dashner

There are only 11 days to go now until the release of the The Maze Runner movie. As part of the blog tour to celebrate this, I have written my review of the book below. The book has been republished with a new cover to tie in with the movie and is out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House)
 
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He began his new life standing up, surrounded by cold darkness and stale, dusty air.
Republished by Chicken House Books in 2014
Pages – 371
If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.
Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Everything is going to change.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.
Remember. Survive. Run
******
If I’m honest, I really struggled to get into this book. I found it really difficult to connect to a character who didn’t have a clue who he was or where he was from, finding himself in an unnatural environment.
However, due to the high amount of praise this story had already received, I persevered and  I am grateful that I did. Once you find your bearings in this book, you are caught up in a sinister, gripping and fast paced escape which sends your blood pressure through the roof. 
Thomas is a strong, independent character and right from the start, you get the feeling there is more to him than being just another newbie to the Glade. He has that Neo from The Matrix vibe running through him. He is special, but we only realise just how important he is on the arrival of Teresa, the only girl to ever enter the Maze.
Once this story really gets going, it sets off at a frightening pace. The Glader’s lives are under threat; everything they have ever known is about to disappear. There are extremely frightening encounters with Grievers, where I found myself holding my breath.
The book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, which leaves the story open to the sequels which have been written.
I think the best way I could describe this book is perhaps as a futuristic version of The Lord of the Flies. If you are looking for a new dystopian world to enter, then this book is definitely for you. Though you need to be prepared to cope with the uncertainty at the beginning of the book.
After reading it, I definitely want to see the movie and I will be queuing up like everyone else when it opens to see this fast paced thriller in real life action.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Write Way with Holly Webb

I am a huge fan of Holly Webb, so I was absolutely delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for A Tiger Tale. Thankfully, the lovely ladies at Scholastic, let me interview Holly, to find out all her writing secrets.
Holly Webb Best Colour credit Nigel Bird 2
1) A Tiger’s Tale is about to be published, can you tell us a little bit about it to whet our appetites?
Kate’s grandfather has died, and she is missing him terribly. He took her to school, chatted to her, cooked her cheese on toast. And he loved tigers just like she does. He gave her Amos, her toy tiger, and Kate is almost sure that Amos is more than just a toy.
2) Where did the idea for the book come from?
I’d noticed how many children at my sons’ school were being taken home by grandparents, and I wanted to write about the grandparent and grandchild bond. I also had much-loved toys in my head as a theme. Then one of my lovely readers sent me a photo of her handsome tigerish cat…
3) Being an experienced writer, do you find the process gets easier with each book you write?
Sometimes, but not usually. This book was very difficult to write, as it was so sad. I didn’t want it to be a miserable book, but at the same time, Kate is devastated. It was hard to balance that.
4) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
Yeeees. Somewhere between 1500 to 3000 words. But I often don’t get there! And I do a lot of reading which counts as work as well. So I tell myself.
5) Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
A bit of both. I usually start off by reading what I wrote the day before.
6) When is your ideal time to write? Morning, afternoon or evening?
I don’t have an ideal time. I don’t think I’m a lark or an owl, more a sort of sloth. I still write well in the evenings, though, as when I worked full-time as an editor, evenings were my writing time.
7) Which authors inspired you whilst growing up?
CS Lewis, I loved the Narnia books. Also Betsy Byars, Michelle Magorian, and I adored A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
8) What are you working on right now?
Lots of things! A book about a mouse that looks like a chocolate truffle. A series with some very greedy guinea pigs, and a book set during the Second World War that’s a sort of sequel to The Secret Garden.
9) What advice would you give unpublished authors?
Don’t stop writing, read and read, and never throw away any ideas.
A Tiger Tale
Summary
Kate loves her toy tiger, Amos.
He was  a present from Granddad, and holding him close makes Granddad seem less far away.
But she doesn’t expect Amos to turn into a real tiger! A big, comforting, friendly tiger who looks a bit like Granddad, and sounds like him too.
Author Biography
Holly was born and grew up in south-east London, but spent a lot of time on the Suffolk coast. As a child, she had two dogs, a cat, and at one point, nine gerbils (an accident). At about ten, Holly fell in love with stories from Ancient Greek myths, which led to studying Latin and Greek, and eventually to reading Classics at university. She worked for five years as a children's fiction editor, before deciding that writing was more fun, and easier to do from a sofa. Now living in Reading with her husband, three sons and one cat, Holly runs a Girl Guide group.
If you want to follow the blog tour for Holly Webb, then check out the dates and blogs below.
HW-BLOG-TOUR-200x680-01 (1)

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Spies in Disguise: Boy in a Tutu by Kate Scott

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I'm doomed. There's nowhere to go, nowhere to hide – I'm trapped like a rabbit in a cage.
She looms over me, her hands in plastic gloves. She's holding a bottle that has something foul-smelling in it. Any second now, that eye-watering gunk is going on my head. I lean as far back into the chair as I can go.
Published by Piccadilly Press in June 2014
Summary From Piccadilly Press
Joe and Sam put their spy skills to the test against a new villain, in a new mission and in . . . tutus?!
The only way to find out who is scheming to steal the World Cup memorabilia exhibition at the local leisure centre is to sign up for ballet lessons there. Joe and Sam land the lead roles in the end-of-term show – but Sam's playing the male lead, and Joe's the prima donna!  Can Joe hold it together (and Sam stop laughing) for long enough to find the clues and figure out who's really behind the next Great Robbery?
This is the second book in Kate Scott's Spies in Disguise series. Like the first book, Boy in Tights, it's lots of fun, with plenty of spy gadgets to intrigue and entertain. The
book is fast-paced and exciting, as well as being funny, especially when Joe (or Josie as he's now called) finds himself enrolled in a ballet class and having to wear a tutu because a leotard would be a bit too revealing. 
The characters are well-drawn, especially Joe and Sam who are embarking on the first spying mission of their very own. While the gadgets involved are ingenious, the plot seems a bit disappointingly weak here. Their spying mission doesn't really feel like something that spies would involve themselves in. Joe and Sam are tasked with preventing the theft of valuable football memorabilia from their local sports centre and there's no satisfactory explanation of why what is clearly police work is being handled by the security services. Maybe I'm being a bit nit-picky but this did spoil the book for me to some extent. 
However, a real spy mission crops up in the midst of it all and Joe and Sam, despite coming close to falling out, triumph in the end. 
The book is well worth reading if you don't mind the fact that it's more about detective work than the defence of the realm and I'm looking forward to the third in the series which, hopefully, will find Joe and Sam involved in a plot with a bit more of a secret service feel.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Run by Gregg Olsen

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Cash: $17.00 Dinner: My turn, spaghetti?
Days at this school: 155
Texts from Caleb: 15 so far
Plan: Find a Way to Tell Him the Truth
MY NAME IS RYLEE AND I AM A LIAR, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT I WAS RAISED TO BE
I hear the water running in the bathroom sink and I know my mother will bitch at me for leaving it on. Even thought I didn’t. I just got home from school. Mom has been critical of me, while praising my brother, Hayden – despite the fact he doesn’t do much to deserve it. If he remembers to flush the toilet after a late night pee, she practically does handstands the next morning. Mom has always been harder on me. She says that it’s because I have so much potential. Which really means that whatever I’ve done so far has disappointed her.
Published by Hot Key Books - May 2014
Pages – 245
Summary 
This is the story of 15 year-old Rylee’s’s desperate attempt to save her mum. She has come home from school to find her step-dad dead on the floor and the word ‘Run’ written in blood beside him. This is the moment Rylee has been trained for all her life, she instinctively knows that her mum is missing - abducted by the man who has been on their trail all her life.  But until now she’d had no idea he was an evil serial  killer. With no money and no idea whom she’s looking for, Rylee must try to outwit a murderer who always seems to be one step ahead of her – and who, she discovers, has a terrible link to herself.
*****
Reviewed by Elizabeth Dale
When I began to read this, I thought it was going to be another story about a family on the run from a criminal. But Run  is very different - for a start, Rylee is completely on her own, there is no-one she can turn to for help, especially not the police.  But she is tough and extremely resourceful and every step she takes is prompted by an unswerving  desire for deadly vengeance. 
This is a dark and sometimes unflinchingly brutal story - full of very clever twists and turns, and horrifying secrets from the past that shock Rylee to the core. As she discovers that her whole life has been one big lie, but not the lie she thought she had been living, as she learns more about the sadistic evilness of her mum’s captor, and the true, horrifying  motive for his attack, she becomes more determined than ever not only to find him before it’s too late but also to confront the mother who has deceived her at every stage of her life. 
This book is fast-paced and well-written, and Rylee is very much a heroine to admire, as she cleverly  manages to uncover more about the killer and all his previous possible  victims.  She is smart, feisty and spirited and It is easy for the reader to empathise with her. The other characters are well-drawn, as much as we see of them, but the book mainly focuses on Rylee. I had suspected as I read it that I knew how it would end, but I was wrong. It’s always great when a book surprises you to the final page, but I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the final twist. But that’s simply a matter of personal taste, and Run is certainly an edgy, riveting read that will shock and surprise you and keep you turning the page.

Extract from After by Anna Todd

With the publication of Wattpadd sensation, After by Anna Todd, imminent. I am pleased to be able to offer you a taster of what’s to come. Check out the extract below to whet your appetite.
Page – 13
The next morning Steph is not in her bed. I would like to get to know her, but that might be difficult if she’s never around. Maybe one of the two boys that she was with was her boyfriend? For her sake, I hope it was the blond one. 
Grabbing my toiletry bag, I make my way to the shower room. I can already tell that one of my least favorite things about dorm life is going to be the shower situation—I wish each of the rooms had their own bathrooms. It’s awkward, but at least they won’t be coed.
Or . . . I had assumed they wouldn’t be—wouldn’t everyone assume that? But when I reach the door, sure enough, there are two stick figures printed on the sign, one male and one female. Ugh. I can’t believe they let this kind of thing happen. I can’t believe I didn’t uncover it while I was researching WCU. 
Spotting an open shower stall, I skirt through the half-naked boys and girls quickly, pull the curtain closed tight, and undress, then hang my clothes on the rack outside by blindly poking one hand out of the curtain. The shower takes too long to get warm and the entire time I’m in there I’m paranoid that someone will pull back the thin curtain separating my naked body from the rest of the guys and girls out there. Everyone seems to be comfortable with half-naked bodies of both genders walking around; college life is strange so far, and it’s only the second day. 
The shower stall is tiny, lined with a small rack to hang my clothes on while I shower and barely enough room to stretch my arms in front of me. I find my mind drifting to Noah and my life back home. Distracted, I turn around and my elbow knocks into the rack, knocking my clothes to the wet floor. The shower pours onto them, completely soaking them. 
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I groan to myself, hastily cutting the water off and wrapping my towel around myself. I grab my pile of heavy, soaked clothes and rush down the hall, desperately hoping no one sees me. I reach my room and shove the key in, instantly relaxing when I push the door closed behind me. 
Until I turn around to see the rude, tattooed, brown-haired boy sprawled across Steph’s bed.
After (After #1)
Want to know more about the book?
Tessa Young is an 18 year old college student with a simple life, excellent grades, and a sweet boyfriend. She always has things planned out ahead of time, until she meets a rude boy named Harry, with too many tattoos and piercings who shatters her plans.
If you haven’t worked it out already, this is a One Direction fan fiction novel. Ideal for all the One Direction fans out there.
After Tour
Pre-order Links
Ebook links:
Kindle: amzn.to/1D9Yj6w
Google Play: bit.ly/1pgjfOW
Kobo: bit.ly/1uzvUDc
iTunes: bit.ly/X5Dd87
Paperback links:
Amazon: amzn.to/1Da0OWI
Waterstones: bit.ly/1oOrMt3
WHSmith: bit.ly/ZmpHPt
Foyles: bit.ly/1qYb27M

Friday, 19 September 2014

Childhood Daze with Kim Hood

As part of the Finding a Voice blog tour, I am pleased to welcome the author, Kim Hood, to the blog to talk about her reading habits as a child.
KimHood
As a child, as soon as I was able to read a chapter book on my own, my life was transformed.  I‘d liked picture books quite a bit, but I was in love with novels!  I didn’t just read stories, I was instantly transported into another place the minute my eyes scanned the first words.  The world around me dissolved and there I was in the story; I was the character in the book.  I could read anywhere—in the car, in the school yard surrounded by the usual noise of games and quarrels, trail after my mum in the grocery shop.  I’d be so far from the real world that I no longer heard anything but the voices of the characters, and it was only when someone was shouting or shaking me that I would remember where I actually was.
It wasn’t just the fantastical that drew me either.  I wanted to see life through other people’s eyes.   I was constantly questioning what would it be like if I were that person?   So I devoured stories of kids from different places, different times, different cultures and life circumstances to my own.  I especially loved the extreme emotions: sadness, passion, terror.
Those worlds were so real to me.  Even after finishing a book, the people and the places could dominate my life for weeks.  I’d pretend to be the characters, making up new stories and playing them out in my imagination.  Half of my memories of being a child are things from books and not my real experiences.  I only need to see the cover of a favourite book from my childhood to have the sights and feelings, and especially the characters, of the story flood my memory.
I’ve never lost my love affair with stories, but I suppose like all great romances the euphoria fades, and reading is never quite as magical as with the first books I read as a child.  With so many competing responsibilities, I don’t have the guilt free time I did then—to just think of nothing but the particular book-of-the-moment.  But it is more than that, I think.  Adults are not supposed to get lost in their imagination.  Certainly pretending to be book characters while cooking dinner is frowned upon, especially if it involves talking to other imaginary book characters—not that I do that, of course I don’t (much).
Luckily for me, I can still get away with living in my imagination.  I call it writing.  When I feel the urge to pretend, and talk to characters, I do it through the keyboard or the pen.  Jo and Chris and everyone else in Finding a Voice came out of pretending in my head.  The great thing about being an adult and pretending is that I have so many more experiences to draw on than I did as a child.  The emotions and experiences I craved as a child—I’ve lived those now and so I can spill them onto the page for others to explore.  Real life entwines with the imagination and the possibilities for stories are infinite.  
FindingAVoice
Finding a  Voice was published in August by O’Brien Press.
Summary
Jo could never have guessed that the friendship she so desperately craves would come in the shape of a severely disabled boy. He can’t even speak. Maybe it is because he can’t speak that she finds herself telling him how difficult it is living with her eccentric, mentally fragile mother.
Behind Chris’ lopsided grin and gigantic blue wheelchair is a real person — with a sense of humour, a tremendous stubborn streak and a secret he has kept from everyone.
For a while it seems life may actually get better. But as Jo finds out just how terrible life is for Chris, and as her own life spirals out of control, she becomes desperate to change things for both of them. In a dramatic turn of events, Jo makes a decision that could end in tragedy.
To find out more about Kim Hood:
 
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