Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Panic - Lauren Oliver

Title: Panic - Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Series: N/A
Service: Via Bookbridgr
Release Date: 06/03/2014
Pages: 343
Format: Paperback

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What do you fear most?

Would you face that fear for someone you loved?

Or perhaps for a wealth beyond your wildest dreams?

Welcome to Panic

A legendary game played by graduating seniors in the no-hope town of Carp, where the stakes are high and the payoff even higher. A game in which competitors will face their greatest fears - and hop to live to defeat them.

We all have something to play for.

Give us a few words…
Why do you say that?

I've heard of Lauren Oliver due to her Delirium trilogy however it never appealed to me. So when I read the blurb for Panic a few months ago, I was excited to discover it was by the same author.

Panic is a game played by all graduating seniors in the hopes that they will win a large pot of money to help them get out of the sleepy town of Carp, New York. Judges are selected at random and help set up the tasks where contenders face their fears. But not everyone plays fair and the game itself can become rather sinister but it is a tradition that refuses to die out.

The books chapters alternate between two of the main characters, Heather and Dodge. Both of them come from similar backgrounds and yet they are very different characters. Their reasons for joining Panic and the way they take on the tasks are interesting. The characters of Natalie and Bishop add sparks of friendship and romance. Although the characters were likeable I felt that I couldn't fully feel for any of them. Something just fell a little flat for me, especially with Natalie and Bishop. Things were hinted at but never really cleared up which left me feeling a little unsatisfied.

An aspect I did enjoy was that this was less focused on romance than many other contemporary novels that I have read. Although there was romance, I was glad to see that it took more of a backseat and was balanced with friendship, family and life in general. I thought the balance was struck well adding to my reasons to recommend Panic.

As far as the plot of the book goes, I really enjoyed it. Panic keeps your heart in your throat for the entire book. There are secrets and motives
twisted all over the place and you are kept guessing about who you can trust and whether any of the friendships formed are real. Oliver does a fantastic job of drawing out suspense so that readers feel the heart racing palpitations that the characters go through. I lost count of the times I realised I was holding my breath only to release it after a test was over.

The ending of the book was slightly lacklustre in my opinion but not disappointing. I just felt there needed to be something more climactic to finish off the book.

I would highly recommend Panic to anyone brave enough to take on the challenge because, just like the game, once you are in you won't be able to pull out…

Saturday, 31 January 2015

On The Map: New York 14/15 (Part 3)

Another early start, and fuelling ourselves on grilled cheese sandwiches, we made our way to Grand Central Terminal. Now, I had heard a lot about this station and just how gorgeous it was but it didn't really hit me until we got into it. 

After that we took the subway to the north entrance of Central Park and swung by the cathedral of St. John the Divine. We trekked more than half way through the park before deciding to branch off and visit the American Museum of Natural History.

The museum had a mass amount of exhibits ranging from biodiversity to American history. We weaved along with other people taking in the massive whale and all the dinosaur bones, soaking up all the information. It's surprising just how many hours you can while away there!

We stopped at Tiffany's wanting to revel in a shop that is known around the world for the iconic blue colour and high class jewellery. They still had their tree up, decorated in lights and little blue boxes and every member of staff was very helpful and friendly. Sai and I both decided to buy something small knowing we probably weren't going to get another chance to visit. 

We waited until later that night before going up to the Top of the Rock. Surprisingly it was nowhere near as cold as the statue and ESB but the view, in my opinion, was ten times better. New York is often called the city that doesn't sleep and yet we had yet to really see that. Up on the observation deck the was no doubting why it had the nickname. The entire city stays lit up and the movement doesn't stop. If I had it my way, I don't think I would have left the deck. 

The next day we found ourselves back at Central Park and decided to take a short carriage ride around the bottom half. The guy who drove the carriage was lovely and pointed out different places including the ice rink and Lady Gaga's apartment. As we went around it began to snow which was unbelievable. He told us we were lucky and we knew that we were!

Later on that that night we went to watch Les Miserables at the Imperial theatre. It was an absolutely fantastic show with Ramin Karimloo giving an amazing performance!

With our last day in New York we couldn't call ourselves book bloggers without heading out to The Strand, boasting 18 miles of books, we always knew we would visit. I was so excited when I saw the red banner. I have never seen so many books tucked away in a shop. We spent a couple of hours browsing the aisles and heading upstairs to look at the rare books before making a couple of purchases and then heading over to IHOP for lunch. 

The week in New York was probably one of the most amazing weeks I've had in my life. Even though we didn't cross everything off the list we definitely packed a lot in for the week. Plus it give an excuse to go back and visit again!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Me And Mr J - Rachel McIntyre

Title: Me And Mr J - Rachel McIntyre
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Series: N/A
Service: NetGalley
Release Date: 05/02/2015
Pages: 309
Format: E book

Rating: ★★★

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Fifteen year old Lara finds her soulmate. There's just one problem - he's her teacher.

Lara's life has changed radically since her father lost his job. As the eldest, Lara tries to keep upbeat, and the one outlet for all her problems is her diary where she can be open about how dire everything is at home, and worse, the fact that she's being horrifically bullied at school.

And then a shining light comes out of the darkness - the new young MALE teacher, Mr Jagger. The one person who takes Lara seriously and notices her potential. The one person who is kind to her. The one person who she falls madly and hopelessly in love with. The one person who cannot reciprocate her feelings… can he?

Give us a few words…
Why do you say that?

The diary of 15 year old Lara Titliss explains her world to us pretty clearly. Her father has lost his job and after her mother refused to move them, so Lara could continue at her school, they have hit on hard times. If that wasn't bad enough Lara gets bullied at school for various reasons including her red hair, her scholarship position and her surname. When her English teacher goes on maternity leave she, along with the rest of the school, can't believe their eyes when the replacement is the young and gorgeous Mr Jagger.

I wanted to pick up this book to see how the student/teacher relationship was approached and I think Rachel McIntyre did a superb job!

My heart goes out to Lara throughout the entire book. She works a paper round in order to lessen her family's financial burden and keeps her head down at school to get good grades and yet the bullying is relentless and at times causes her to despair. When Mr Jagger turns up and asks for her help on a talent show she is more than happy to oblige as a way to get away from the bullies at lunch and break time, plus he is gorgeous.

The progression of their relationship was perfect for me. The fact that he stepped away from Lara after the talent show due to a quiet word from the headmistress was realistic and this showed a teacher trying to be just that, a teacher.

I thoroughly enjoyed the end of this book, when Lara writes a letter to Ben, updating us all on her life a year or so after the aftermath of their relationship. My only issue with this book was how young Lara could seem at times, younger that 15, but the epilogue made her sound more mature and like she had grown from the events that had occurred in her life.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a contemporary novel that pulls at your heart before breaking it with a dramatic ending.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

On The Map: New York 14/15 (Part 2)

We made the decision to miss Times Square for the ball drop not wanting to get crushed by the hoards of people and ignoring the ever growing call for the bathroom. Instead we decided to head up to the Empire State Building. Another round of security and we snaked through a short history of the building before getting into a lift and rocketing up several floors.

Heading out onto the deck I was hit by just how cold it was and I kept my hands firmly in my pocket for the most part as we jostled around taking in the view of the city. I knew the New York was packed with buildings but I don't think I really appreciated just how much until I was up there. I used the binoculars to look out over the city and was shocked to see just how far off the Statue of Liberty was having just visited the day before!

We dived through the gift shop and picked up a few things for family and friends before hitting the streets of New York again. 

Being massive Avengers fans we decided to visit Discovery Times Square that had a current Avengers exhibition. You are inducted into S.H.I.E.L.D and go through various stations that revolve around a specific member of the Avengers. We tested our strength against Captain America, checked our DNA against the Hulk and got to control Iron Man's arm. 

We curled back up at the hotel and brought in the new year with a lot of food and cake and being able to hear the roar from Times Square from outside the window. 

The next day we got out early to visit Madame Tussaurds and I am still baffled by why we were so enthralled by wax figures!

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the floors of Macy's and trying on various items of clothing before picking up a few bits. 

A day on our feet pretending to know celebrities and shopping led to two very tired sisters and we decided to call an end to the day early and rest up for the last few days we had for the trip.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

On The Map: New York 14/15 (Part 1)

After many years of dreaming and over a year of saving I bundled myself into a car with my sister to get to Heathrow airport. Just three days after Christmas and rather than laying in bed coming down from the Christmas high I was settling myself onto an early flight that would last just under 8 hours and bring me to New York City.

Having given fingerprints and photographs over to the US government, we collected our luggage hopped into a taxi and let the feeling sink in. Having never travelled without my parents it was a surreal experience to be so far away without them. But as the familiar sight of the New York skyline rose into view any anxious feeling soon disappeared. After about 20 minutes we arrived at the hotel and settled in and being late in the afternoon we decided a little walk around the place would be good to get our bearings.

The hotel reception provided some maps and figuring out the grid/block system that rules New York was not as difficult as I had originally imagined. The tourist in me took hold and we headed straight into Times Square to see the lights and the people that were around.

With a week to spend there we decided to try and pack in as much as possible.

Bryant Park was close by and with the shine of Christmas lights we were easily drawn in. I have probably never come across such a picturesque scene in my life. Although the park is relatively smaller compared to others in the city it was filled to the brim with people milling around. Wooden stalls had been erected and housed everything from decorations to macarons and even puppets! A massive white marquee played host to people who wanted to stop for more sophisticated dining compared to the food stalls that were littered around the fountain.

We joined the many people huddled under the huge Christmas tree to get pictures with the red and blue glow before pushing our way through the crowds to see what was on offer. As we made our way around we came across an ice rink, surprisingly empty, and learnt that during the summer the entire park looks nothing like the winter wonderland that we had stumbled into.

A trip to New York would not have been complete for me without seeing the Statue of Liberty. We were lucky enough to book crown access and so when we got on the subway and realised that we may be late to pick up our tickets it was safe to say I had a small panic.

The ferry over to the island saw me lose feeling in my face and hands but that first sighting of the statue made it worth it. After going through a security check we made our way into the building and were told not to miss the museum. We took the left up the stairs and were met with a ginormous copper replica of the face of Lady Liberty. As we pushed on through the museum it was interesting to learn her entire history. They displayed the ideas behind it, the funding and the engineering. A lady so large would of course have a history to match. 

We finished up at the museum and began to ascend the 377 steps that would take us to the top of the statue. The stairs were narrow and winding and even through the dizziness began to make me feel slightly ill it was worth it. Once we go to the crown we looked out across the water and could even see the tablet and touch held in the hands of the statue. 

Climbing back down the stairs was a bit of a task but was eventually done. We boarded the ferry to get back to Battery Park and were greeted by a circle of people watching dancers show off their skills and slotted ourselves in to watch the backflips and sharp footwork. 

With the days ticking away we went back to the hotel to rest up and ready ourselves for the next day of adventure...