Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Author Interview: Luisa Plaja

The lovely Luisa Plaja, UK author of two teen novels and mastermind behind the YA blog Chicklish, answered some questions for me, to coincide with the release of her new book Extreme Kissing.

She talks about differences in US and UK fiction, the blogging world, her books, snogging, and the all-important Buffy debate.



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Hi Luisa! Can you start by telling us how you got into writing teen/YA fiction?


I started writing for teenagers when I was a teenager myself. In those days [cue cheesy-movie wobbly fade] UK teen magazines published short stories and photo love stories, and I wrote both. I sold my first one when I was 14 - a handwritten, scrappy, illustrated story about a girl who got obsessed with fruit when she fell in love with the greengrocer's son. Writing these stories was great fun, and you could say I haven't really moved on from the themes of love, obsession and bananas. I like writing stories about identity and self-image, and about figuring out your place in the world as a girl in a so-called post-feminist society. And snogging.

When I was a teenager, I used to write regularly to my favourite authors, telling them I wanted to be a writer like them and asking for advice. I got some wonderful replies, but they all said the same (realistic) thing: you need a 'real' job; you can't make a living out of writing, and it's very difficult to get published. So I got lots of proper jobs, in wordy fields, and I almost gave up writing because I was sure having a novel published was an impossible dream. And then I wrote Split by a Kiss, and discovered the dream wasn't quite so impossible...

How long did it take you to get published? Was it a long process?

No, it all happened quickly and painlessly and I was swept off my feet and constantly pinching myself. (So, OK, there was some mild pain involved.) It took about two years for the book to come out after it was sold, though. Random House Children's Books are housed in a building that I used to press my nose against when I was younger. I used to wish I could go in and see what a real publisher's looked like. Well, I've been inside now, and you know what? It's as exciting as I thought it would be. There are books everywhere! The walls are practically made of books instead of bricks, and because they're children's books, it's all so colourful. *happy sigh*

Your debut novel, Split by a Kiss, saw main character Jo moving from the UK to the US. Was this based on a personal experience? If yes, what was the thing you found most different about America?

Yes, I've had quite a few Jo experiences! Well, really, I was Jo's mum. I went from London, where rented accommodation was usually furnished and I knew how everything worked, to Boston, where I had to start again completely, including renting a bed and accepting donations of cutlery from my colleagues. When I was looking for a place to live, I didn't even understand half of what the "real estate" agent was saying - it was a whole new vocabulary. Plus I wasn't remotely interested in the things that were supposed to impress me - I was just there mumbling like a Londoner, "But where are the shops? Where's the public transport? Is there a cinema in walking distance?" In the end, I settled in the heart of a medium-sized suburban Boston town (though they called it a city) which is roughly the setting for Split by a Kiss. (I changed the name of the town/city, but I kept the wonderful charity/thrift shop. And the ice rink!) The real estate person told me, "You'll like this city - it's really European and there's a theatre near the property." "Great, but is there a cinema?" I asked, and she gave me my thousandth alien stare that morning. (See Split by a Kiss for a full description of the 'alien stare'.) Anyway, she was right about the town, though I didn't fully appreciate its Europeanness until I saw other parts of the USA. And the theatre turned out to be a cinema after all. Go figure!

So, back to your question. I'm not sure what I found most different, apart from the linguistic differences that it was (and still is) one of my jobs to record. In general, I think there was an odd mix of complete familiarity - especially when I visited cities that are constantly on our screens, like New York and Los Angeles - and bizarre differences that would hit me when I least expected them. But I shouldn't have been surprised. It's a foreign country, after all!

Your new book, Extreme Kissing, has a great plot based around Extreme Travel. How did you come up with the idea?

I first read about Extreme Travel in an in-flight magazine, but it was talking about a grown-up kind of travel - like sticking a pin in a map of the world and flying to that country - things that wouldn't exactly be possible for Bets and Lots. (Though I guarantee that Lots would find a way!) It vaguely reminded me of the days out in London I had when I was in my teens. My friends and I used to buy Travelcards and then hop on random buses and trains and see where it took us. Invariably, though, it didn't take us anywhere very interesting, and we'd end up going round the Circle Line for hours or standing outside Elephant & Castle Tube going, "Now what?" I spiced things up a bit for Bets and Lots. The idea of using the magazine for challenges was born out of Carlota's magazine obsession. She thought magazines were the answer to everything... and, in a way, on Extreme Saturday, they were. When I wrote the book, I used my large pile of teen magazines for inspiration, so I went on my own kind of extreme journey at the same time as the girls.

Extreme Travel was also partly inspired by Extreme Ironing, an international sport where people iron their clothes in exciting places, such as up mountains and underwater. I love the idea of taking an ordinary activity and adding risk, although it did occur to me that ironing in your own house could be pretty risky too, depending on your attitude! Extreme Kissing (the novel, not the activity) is a lot about attitudes to risk-taking and safety, especially in relationships. And snogging.

Now that Extreme Kissing has been published, what's next for you? Are you working on anything at the moment?

I'm working on a sequel for Split by a Kiss, where there are major shakeups for many of the characters. But that's all I'm going to say at the moment, because I mistakenly think that makes me sound mysterious and interesting.

You run the UK teen fiction site Chicklish. What inspired you to do this?

I was talking to fabulous writer friend Keris Stainton one day about how and why teen fiction isn't as big in the UK as it is in the States. One of the differences is the wealth of online information about US titles compared with UK ones. We decided to try to redress the balance a bit, and we started Chicklish. The site's been going for three years and we now cover all types of teen fiction from all countries, with fabulous contributors including Alexandra Fouracres, Karen Saunders, teen reviewers Hannah and Sasha, and plenty of guest reviewers.

You obviously love teen fiction, can you tell us about some of your favourite books and authors?

I'm rubbish at this question as I love so many books and authors and I have so much trouble narrowing it down! I'm going to cop out totally and say: Check out Chicklish (oh, and Wondrous Reads!) for great recommendations! Hee hee. Sorry. But I will say that I've just finished reading Girl Meets Cake by Susie Day and it is brilliant.

US and UK teen fiction is very different, both in tone and style. Why do you think this is?

Ooh, interesting question. I wish I knew the answer. I think a major difference is in the market and the attitude to teen fiction - in the UK, it tends to be for younger teens, whereas in the US I've heard it targets readers through to their late teens and twenties. I think things might be changing, though. I see (and read) signs of change all the time, and I'm holding my breath for a possible Twilight-induced teen fiction revolution in the UK.

Do you think book blogs and sites like yours have a positive impact on authors and book sales? Is the internet the way forward in terms of publicity?

I don't know! The truth is, I love blogging about books and reading and commenting on other people's book blogs, and I'd do it anyway, whether it made a difference or not. But it would be nice if it did help to spread the word about how fabulous teen fiction is! When I finish reading a book I love, I always Google it to see what others have said and join in any possible discussions of it. Before book blogs, it was hard to find anything, and even now it's difficult to find much about certain UK titles - often the type of books I love most! You know, books that will probably never win awards but they touch hearts and make people laugh, and think, and realise that they're normal. Or rather, realise that there's no such thing as 'normal', and they should be happy about that! Those are the kinds of books I love reading - and writing, hopefully. Um... what was I saying? Basically, I love teen fiction and I think everyone should read it, so I'll promote it however I can!

Lastly, seeing as you're a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan like me, I just have to ask you one question: Angel or Spike?

Noooooooooo! Not *The* question! I can't answer this honestly or Amanda Ashby will never forgive me! And, if you know Amanda Ashby, that kind of gives it away... (She's the author of Zombie Queen of Newbury High, which is brilliant and recommended. More info: Amanda Ashby Blog.)

Let's just say that Angel and Spike both have their appeal, and clearly the Angel/Buffy combo is True Love Forever. But Spike... That utter devotion for Dru, and then for Buffy, the way he cares for Dawn, the striding about, the bad-boy passion... Nah, I'm not going to answer this. I love them both. :)

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Hmm... good answer, Luisa. It's difficult to choose between two of the most amazing vampires ever, but if I had to, I think I'd go with Angel! Though, if I wanted a laugh, I think I'd call Spike. Or maybe just visit his crypt. *shrug*

For more info on Luisa and her extreme love of teen fiction, visit her official site or her YA blog Chicklish. And for my thoughts on Split by a Kiss and Extreme Kissing, you can read my reviews here and here.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Hottie by Jonathan Bernstein

From Amazon: Alison Cole’s got it all: She’s gorgeous, dating a steamy surfer boy, and has just been crowned Beverly Hills High Freshman Class President. Then during a special “symmetry” surgery, a lightning bolt zaps her, and Alison instantly transforms into Hottie—that is, a totally sizzling superhero with the power to shoot fire from her fingers! Shunned as a Pyro-Freak, Alison must adopt dorky David Eels as her crime-fi ghting sidekick. But she doesn’t realize that a supervillain’s lurking. . . . Has Hottie met her match?

Publication date: Thursday 2nd April


Hottie is easy to read, funny and light. I read somewhere that it's a cross between Clueless and X-Men, and, for the most part, I agree.

I enjoyed the superhero aspect of the book, as I'm a fan of this genre. Plus, how cool would it be to be able to shoot fire from your fingers?!

Hottie starts off in a chick-lit style: lots of fashion references and high school drama. I laughed out loud several times, as some of the characters (especially best friends Kellyn and Dorinda) are just so false and bitchy. Their sarcasm, nastiness and utter stupidity was really fun to read, and reminded me very much of the spoilt rich clique from Mean Girls.

Alison was a character that took me a few chapters to warm to, as I didn't quite connect with her at first. However, once she had gained her superpowers and been alienated by her friends, I quickly became a fan. Betrayal in a friendship is something that I'm sure everyone encounters during their lifetime, and this is what made me initially start to sympathise with her.

David was my favourite character overall. He was your typical geek: into comics, not very acquainted with the female gender, and full of what would become useful superhero references. He comes out of his shell once he meets Alison, and together they save Beverly Hills from petty crooks and robberies.

The pacing of the book is very fast, and Jonathan Bernstein manages to fit a lot into three hundred and twenty pages. There were a couple of plot twists I didn't see coming, and one which I probably should have figured out. I would have liked to have read more about the development of David's feelings for Alison, as they progressed very quickly and effortlessly. Perhaps this is something we'll see more of in the sequel, which is due for release next year.

There's only one aspect of this book that I have a problem with, and that's the cover. I don't like it at all. I think it makes it look too comedic, and the bright pink is just horrible. I know the original cover had a cartoon image instead of a real girl, and I can't help but think that it would have suited the book better. Don't let the cover put you off though, as Hottie has a lot more to it than that. It's essentially about friendships, trust and finding your place in the world, with a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure.

I'll definitely be reading the sequel, and I look forward to seeing what the gang gets up to next.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

In My Mailbox #10: New Books This Week


In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all descriptions from Amazon.

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Killing God
by Kevin Brooks
(ARC)

Dawn Bundy is fifteen. She doesn’t fit in and she couldn’t care less. Dawn has other things on her mind. Her dad disappeared two years ago and it’s all God’s fault. When Dawn’s dad found God, it was the worst time ever. He thought he’d found the answer to everything. But that wasn’t the end of it...

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The Last Thing I Remember
by Andrew Klavan


Charlie West studies hard, stays focused and has just gotten the phone number of the prettiest girl in his class. He is thinking about joining the air force after graduation. He is a third degree black belt. He never gets in trouble. Until now. Charlie has woken up in a nightmare. He's strapped to a steel chair, and someone outside the door just ordered his death. . .

Even worse - he can’t remember a thing about how he got here.

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Set in Stone
by Linda Newbery
(for review)

When Samuel Godwin, a young and naive art tutor, accepts a job with the Farrow family at their majestic home, little does he expect to come across such a web of secrets and lies. His two tutees are as different as chalk and cheese - the beautiful younger sister Marianne, full of flightiness and nervous imagination, and Juliana, oddly sensible and controlled. Assisted by their elusive governess, Charlotte Agnew, Samuel begins to uncover slowly why Marianne is so emotionally fragile. But his discoveries lead to revenge and betrayal - and lives all around are turned upside down as life and death combat each other for supremacy.


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Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

Leesie Hunt has many rules: No kissing. No sex. No dating outside the Mormon faith.

When Michael Walden—a deep-sea diver who lost his parents in a violent hurricane—arrives in town, Leesie sees someone who needs her. They fall for one another, even though his dreams are tied to the depths of the ocean and hers to salvation above.

Will their intense chemistry be too strong to resist?

Leesie and Michael must make the hardest choice of their lives: whether to follow their beliefs or their hearts.

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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

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Not pictured: I also received a signed copy of I Am Not A Serial Killer from author Dan Wells, and a City of Glass bookplate signed by Cassandra Clare (thanks Adele - this pretty much made my week!).

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Off Topic: Twilight DVD Excitement


Two of my ordered Twilight movie DVDs arrived today, in what is possibly my most exciting mail day ever. I had to post about it, because, well, I've been waiting a long time for this (and the UK release isn't until April 6th... grrrr!). The Borders exclusive set is amazing, and the Canadian HMV one came with a free film cell and an extra third disc of extras! Woohoo!

I'd like to thank: Borders.com, my friend Sue for getting me the Canadian one, my postman, the US postal service, Summit for financing the movie, Catherine Hardwicke for directing, Robert Pattinson for being an amazing Edward... and I could go on. But I won't, because I'm now going to go and immerse myself in the world of Twilight. Happy dance!

Soundtrack Saturday: #5

This Soundtrack Saturday idea came from Adele at Persnickety Snark.

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For this Soundtrack Saturday, I've chosen a song that I think really fits Extreme Kissing by Luisa Plaja. It's fun and upbeat, and immediately made me think of Luisa's books (which are also very fun, and about boyfriends).


Boyfriend by Alphabeat


Friday, 27 March 2009

News: Wings and Hands & Teeth UK Covers

Amazon UK have added images for two upcoming releases in the UK: Wings by Aprilynne Pike and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. Both are very different to their original US covers, especially the one for Wings.



Do you like them? TFOHAT is pretty cool, but I'm not keen on Wings. I think it makes it look quite young. Anyway, the good news is that they're both published over here soon, in April (Wings) and July (TFOHAT) respectively.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

News: City of Glass on the Cover of The Bookseller

Cassandra Clare's City of Glass is on the cover of UK magazine The Bookseller! The new issue features the UK cover on the front, and advertising and publicity information inside.


This is a pretty big thing; even Stephenie Meyer has never made it onto the cover of this trade magazine. As soon as I saw it, I had to buy it. Hopefully this means Walker Books will be launching a huge publicity campaign for the book/series. I can't wait to see what they come up with!

Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott

From Amazon: Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the internet, and her mom is now the star of her own website.

Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents make Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants -- only what she wants may not be what she needs....

I really enjoyed this book; it's light, humorous, and a quick, fun read. It has everything an Elizabeth Scott fan has come to expect, and is a great addition to her ever-growing list of books.

The love triangle of sorts between Hannah, Josh and Finn is amusing and compelling, and although it's pretty obvious who Hannah will end up with, I still found myself unsure every now and then.

I liked all the family drama that Hannah is faced with, especially when it was related to her Mum, Candy, who spends most of her time half-naked in front of a computer screen. Although I found Hannah's relationship with her father to be slightly unrealistic, it didn't detract from the story in any way, and, if anything, made it that much more unusual.

Hannah is a sarcastic character, which I loved. Her witty remarks and biting comments had me laughing out loud at times, and her utter stupidity around boys (geode on the foot, anyone?) is something I'm sure a lot of readers can relate to.

If you're looking for an uplifting book that will leave a smile on your face, then Something, Maybe will do just that. Fans of Sarah Dessen are sure to appreciate the romance, and I can't wait to see what Scott comes up with next. Now, who's with me on Team Finn?

US Vs. UK: Wicked Lovely Covers

US // UK

I'm a big fan of the original UK hardback cover for Wicked Lovely. I think it fits the faerie story well, and the colours and swirly images really stand out. However, I also love the US one! The tone of the colours and the single image of the flower reminds me of Twilight, and the title font and design is brilliant.

What's interesting is that here in the UK, Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange (click here to see the original UK cover) have just been re-released in paperback, and now have the US covers. Fragile Eternity is due in May, and will also feature the same cover as the upcoming US hardback. I read that the series has been relaunched to attract the Stephenie Meyer crowd, and I think (and hope) it'll work!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Sprite Sisters: The Secret of the Towers by Sheridan Winn

From the publisher's site: The summer holidays bring excitement and adventure for the Sprite Sisters, who can each control an element of Fire, Water, Wind and Air. Together, they must discover the secret that Sprite Towers guards, before it falls into the wrong hands.

Although this book is written for younger readers, I still found myself enjoying it. Having read none of the previous books in the series, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to pick the story up so quickly and easily.

I liked all of the main characters, especially their names: Flame, Ash, Ariel and Marina. I also liked the idea of magic powers connected to the four elements, which isn't something I've encountered before. Their parents were also well written and were very British (polite and proper), which was nice to read. They reminded me of characters from The Famous Five series, which I read when I was younger.

At times, I found the writing style to be too simple, which I had a bit of trouble getting used to. I think the book is aimed at the 8-12 audience, so the style makes perfect sense in that respect.

I liked the mix of magic and fantasy, and would recommend this to younger fans of Harry Potter and Maximum Ride. It has elements of both, but is a fresh spin on powers and the supernatural. I'll definitely read the next book (The Ghost in the Tower, July 2009), as I'm now quite intrigued as to what happens next!

More Blog Awards!

The Epic Rat and Carrie nominated me for this Proximity award... thank you!

Rules:
This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY--nearness in space, time, and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to 8 bloggers who must choose 8 more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.

I'm passing this one on to some friends I've made since I started blogging:

* Luisa at Chicklish
* Steph at Steph Su Reads
* Thao at Serene Hours
* Sophie at So Many Books, So Little Time
* Ana at Young Adult Romance Reviews
* Korianne at Korianne Speaks
* Amy at Addicted to Books
* Allie at Just Listen Book Reviews

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Thanks to Robin, Karin, Cat, Cheryl/Amber, H and Yan for this one:

Rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award.
5. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

* Chicklish
* Steph Su Reads
* Serene Hours
* So Many Books, So Little Time
* Young Adult Romance Reviews
* Karin's Book Nook
* Persnickety Snark
* About Books
* TV & Book Addict
* The Book Obsession

+ all the many blogs I follow. I love reading them all!

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And lastly, thanks to Jill at Reading is Bliss, Taschima at Bloody Bookaholic and H at About Books for this very cool Zombie Chicken Award!

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...

* The Story Siren
* Teen Book Review
* Chicklish
* Bites (the funniest blog I've ever read!)
* YA Reads




Waiting On Wednesday: Perfect Fifths

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty

* Published by: Crown
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date: April 14th 2009 (US)
* On Amazon: here
.

From Amazon: Marcus and Jessica have both changed dramatically, yet their connection feels as familiar as ever. Is their reunion just a fluke or has fate orchestrated this collision of their lives once again?

Told partly from Marcus’s point of view, Perfect Fifths finally lets readers inside the mind of the one person who’s both troubled and titillated Jessica Darling for years. Expect nothing less than the satisfying conclusion fans have been waiting for, one perfect in its imperfection. . . .

I've been waiting for this ever since Fourth Comings was released, and I'm both excited and sad to find out how Jessica's story ends. Plus, part of this is told from Marcus's POV, which is just about the coolest thing Megan McCafferty could do.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Author Interview: Gillian Philip

Gillian Philip is the author of Crossing the Line, which is officially published in the UK by Bloomsbury on April 6th. Gillian lives in Scotland with her husband, children and many pets, and enjoyed answering these questions from a little clifftop cottage. She's also a Buffy fan, and is currently making her way through the Complete Collection DVD...

A big thanks to her for taking the time to answer my questions!


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Did you always intend to be a writer? How did you first get published?

I always wanted to be a writer, from when I was young... but I definitely went through a phase of denial! I wrote short stories for magazines, but I was intimidated by the sheer difficulty of getting published as a novelist, so I kept trying to do a (ahem) 'proper' job. Some of the jobs I took on were great fun, but they were never going to take the place of writing... so eventually, after my kids were born, I thought: it's now or never. Instead of retraining for another career, I made a decision to invest in writing - which meant paying for manuscript advice (which was invaluable) and simply slogging away at novel after novel despite rejections. And eventually, after a lot of rewriting and starting over, I received offers for two novels - Bad Faith was sold to Strident Publishing, and Bloomsbury took on Crossing the Line. Needless to say, I was over the moon...

Do you find it easy to write for the young adult audience?

As easy as writing for an adult audience - which is to say, not easy at all! I'm struggling with a new typescript at the moment because the characters are refusing to come alive yet. (Well, all but one - and he's the villain. Why does this always happen to me?) But I know that when they do come alive - and they will! - it'll be a whole lot easier and a lot more fun.

Can you tell us a bit about your new YA novel Crossing the Line?

Crossing the Line is the story of Nick Geddes, a boy who has been in a lot of trouble in the past. He's trying to change his life, but it's not proving easy - he's stranded in a kind of no-man's-land between his old gang on the one hand, and what he thinks of as the rest of the human race on the other. He's constantly having to look out for his eccentric sister Allie, and meanwhile he's in love with the sister of a boy who was murdered by his own gang. Everything comes to a head when a dangerous figure reappears from Nick's past.

Crossing the Line
touches on the subject of knife crime. Is this something that has personally affected you?

Not personally - so far, touch wood. What I find terrifying about the prevalence of knives is that I remember fights, feuds and bullying at school, and we seemed to accept it as part of life. Nowadays there's the added element of deadly weapons, and it's all too easy to imagine how swiftly a bad situation can degenerate into tragedy.

Did you do any research into similar real life events?

I didn't want to replicate a real-life murder, so beyond researching police, court and medical details, I didn't study particular events. I wrote the book before the recent epidemic of knife crime, but still there were often incidents in the news. I do vividly remember the killing of a promising young footballer, and I think that influenced my story, but the murder in Crossing the Line isn't based on any real event.

The story is told in two different time frames, before and after Aidan's death. Did you always plan to write it this way?

Well, as far as I ever plan anything, I suppose I planned the structure of Crossing the Line. But it was mostly a case of the storyline growing quite naturally. Nick was in my head, nagging me to tell his story. He began it in a certain place and time, but then his story unfolded as it did because I think he was trying to explain himself to me.

Why did you decide to write the story from Nick's point of view, rather than Allie's?

Nick was the one who told it to me! There was never really a choice, because Nick came into my head fully formed and raring to go. Funnily enough, I thought to begin with that Allie was a boy. I was corrected on that very quickly.

I love the cover image, because it says so much about the story. Did you help to design it? Are you happy with it?

I love it too! No, I had nothing to do with the cover design, but I was thrilled with it as soon as I saw it.

What are some of your favourite books and authors, YA or otherwise?

This is always a hard question! I love Malorie Blackman's Noughts & Crosses series, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials. Of books I've read more recently I really enjoyed Feasting the Wolf by Susan Price and Holes by Louis Sachar. I've always been a big fan of Ruth Rendell. Bernard Cornwell's Alfred series is terrific, and I'm in love with his Uhtred Ragnarsson... I'd better not list any more!

Could you tell us about your upcoming book, Darke Academy: Secret Lives?
(which, by the way, I'm really looking forward to!)

I'm writing the Darke Academy series in collaboration with Hothouse Fiction, who are responsible for the Darkside books (which I think are terrific). It's a whole new way of working for me, and I've enjoyed it - the editors at Hothouse develop an idea and I write a draft that we work on together. Anyway, my heroine Cassie wins a scholarship to the Darke Academy, and discovers it's a truly international school - not only does it have a very cosmopolitan student population, it actually moves to a new exotic city every term. There are darker reasons for this than educational ones, as Cassie soon discovers, and there are some pretty terrible secrets behind the elite group known as the Few. There have been deaths in the past that didn't seem entirely natural - and worryingly for Cassie, the last to die was a scholarship girl. It certainly brings a whole new meaning to the term student body...


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For more information on Gillian and her books, you can visit her official site here. And to read my review of Crossing the Line, click here.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Flightsend by Linda Newbery

From Amazon: Flightsend is Charlie's new home, whether she likes it or not. Her mother sees it as an end to all that's gone so tragically wrong, a chance for a fresh start. This first summer at Flightsend proves to be a turning point for both of them, a summer of startling self-discovery, a summer Charlie will never forget.

[This paperback edition is officially released in the UK on April 2nd].


Flightsend is one of those books that doesn't build up to any great earth-shattering event or revelation, but just tells the story of a girl and how she deals with everything that life throws at her.

Charlie and her mother, Kathy, are brilliant characters, and are so well written that it's sometimes hard to remember they're fictional. Kathy is still coming to terms with the loss of a stillborn baby, and Charlie is doing everything she can to support her. Their mother/daughter relationship is so touching, and is explored from all angles. To help her mother, Charlie is willing to leave her old life behind and move to a house in the middle of nowhere. If that's not love for a parent, I don't know what is.

Sean, Kathy's now ex-boyfriend, is another character I really enjoyed reading about. He's someone that, through no obligation or necessity, remains in Charlie's life as a friend and father figure. This shows that family doesn't have to be blood related, and that some bonds are just too strong to break.

Flightsend shows us that you can overcome anything, and that there's always life left ahead of you, no matter what terrible events may slow you down along the way. It shows the powerful link between a mother and a daughter, and the positive effect that a change of scenery can provide. It's about new beginnings and looking forward, and is an uplifting novel that embodies courage and determination.

I also love the beautiful cover, which perfectly captures the essence of the prose and story. It's bright and hopeful, and is bound to stand out on any bookshelf.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

In My Mailbox #9: New Books This Week


In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all descriptions from Amazon.

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Don't Ask
by Hilary Freeman


Lily believes her boyfriend Jack is perfect, but wonders why he won't talk about his past. Wouldn't it be fantastic, she thinks, if she could talk to his ex and fill in all gaps? Lily devises a way to do just that. But what begins as a bit of fun has unexpected - and disturbing - consequences...

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Flightsend
by Linda Newbery
(for review)

Flightsend is Charlie's new home, whether she likes it or not. Her mother sees it as an end to all that's gone so tragically wrong, a chance for a fresh start. Although Charlie believes that her mother is intent on making dangerous mistakes, she can only offer support - but who will support Charlie, with Sean cut out of their lives? And she's certain that the move to a remote, ramshackle cottage will just make things worse.

She couldn't be more wrong. This first summer at Flightsend proves to be a turning point for both of them, a summer of startling self-discovery, a summer Charlie will never forget.

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Frenemies by Alexa Young

What happens when two besties become full-blown worsties?

Avalon Greene rules the fashion scene at her sunny SoCal middle school with a diamond-clad fist, calling out classmates for their fashion-do's and most unfortunate clothes-pas. She's determined to host the social event of the season—a soiree in honor of her forever-friendship with Halley! Unfortunately, Halley's new look is one thing Avalon just can't celebrate. . . .

Halley Brandon is just back from art camp and can't wait to share her funky new style with her best friend, Avalon. But when Avalon cries fashion foul, Halley realizes her best friend's true colors may clash with her own. Has their ultra-fabulous friendship finally gone out of style?

From sharing custody of their puppy, Pucci, to drawing up a list of who gets which friends, Avalon and Halley discover what happens when you battle the person who knows everything about you—and isn't afraid to use your secrets to get what she wants.

Best friends. Worst enemies. Frenemies.


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Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (signed, thanks Beth!)

The undead can really screw up your senior year . . .

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

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Something, Maybe
by Elizabeth Scott
(Amazon UK got this really early... how'd that happen?)

Everyone thinks their parents are embarrassing, but Hannah knows she's got them all beat. Her dad made a fortune showcasing photos of pretty girls and his party lifestyle all over the Internet, and her mom was once one of her dad's girlfriends and is now the star of her own website. After getting the wrong kind of attention for way too long, Hannah has mastered the art of staying under the radar...and that's just how she likes it.

Of course, that doesn't help her get noticed by her crush. Hannah's sure that gorgeous, sensitive Josh is her soul mate. But trying to get him to notice her; wondering why she suddenly can't stop thinking about another guy, Finn; and dealing with her parents make Hannah feel like she's going crazy. Yet she's determined to make things work out the way she wants -- only what she wants may not be what she needs....



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Stargazer
by Claudia Gray
(Again, I don't know how Amazon UK got this so quickly, but woohoo!)

Evernight Academy: an exclusive boarding school for the most beautiful, dangerous students of all—vampires. Bianca, born to two vampires, has always been told her destiny is to become one of them.

But Bianca fell in love with Lucas—a vampire hunter sworn to destroy her kind. They were torn apart when his true identity was revealed, forcing him to flee the school.

Although they may be separated, Bianca and Lucas will not give each other up. She will risk anything for the chance to see him again, even if it means coming face-to-face with the vampire hunters of Black Cross—or deceiving the powerful vampires of Evernight. Bianca's secrets will force her to live a life of lies.

Yet Bianca isn't the only one keeping secrets. When Evernight is attacked by an evil force that seems to target her, she discovers the truth she thought she knew is only the beginning. . . .



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The Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine (adult, for review)

Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. The Wardens Association has been around pretty much forever. Some Wardens control fire, others control earth, water or wind - and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without them, humanity would be wiped off the face of the planet. But now Joanne is on the run from another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he is also on the run, having stolen three bottles of Djinn and become the most wanted man on earth. Joanne must find him, and find him fast, as some really bad weather is closing in...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Twilight: Director's Notebook by Catherine Hardwicke

From Amazon: This intimate full-colour 'notebook', designed to replicate the one director Catherine Hardwicke kept on and off the set, takes you through the creative process that went into making Stephenie Meyer's breathtaking novel come alive on screen.

I apologise for this rather biased review, but I'm a huge Twilight fan, so this book is pretty much like Christmas come early. If you're a fan of the movie, then the Director's Notebook is an essential purchase.

It literally has everything you could ever want to know about the behind the scenes stuff we never see, including storyboards, costume designs, script extracts, drawings and lots of never before seen on-set images. My personal highlight is this original watercolour drawing of Edward with "timeless" hair. Thank goodness they didn't go with that idea!

Although I feel like I could write a book like this myself (yep, that's how Twilight obsessed I am), it's brilliant to see all the new images and production notes. Well done, Catherine Hardwicke: you are officially one of my favourite people.

And to all you lucky bloggers that will be getting their movie DVD later tonight, I hope you enjoy it! I'm currently waiting for my US Borders exclusive edition to cross the pond, and am keeping my fingers crossed that it arrives before my UK copies do.

Extra: See more pages from the book here on Stephenie's official site.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Extreme Kissing by Luisa Plaja

From Amazon: Carlota and Bethany are best friends. Bethany is the sensible one with a long-term boyfriend, Carlota is the crazy one with a wild past and rebellious nature. Carlota comes up with a plan to put all their troubles behind them and go on a girls-only wild day out, with only their favourite magazine to guide them through the day. The magazine will take them everywhere they need to go - but will it help them to reveal the secrets they are keeping from each other?

Extreme Kissing is UK author Luisa Plaja's second book for teen girls. It's original and true to life, and is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers.

Bethany (Bets) and Carlota (Lots) are best friends, and together they share everything. Well... almost everything. When Carlota discovers a secret that could ruin Bethany's relationship with her boyfriend Declan, the pair head to London for some Extreme Travel.

Carlota and Bethany are realistic characters and, similar to Jo in Luisa's debut novel Split by a Kiss, they have numerous worries and problems that all teenage girls experience. I particularly like the fact that they both have different personalities (Carlota is outgoing, Bethany is shy), yet still have a strong friendship. It just shows that opposites do attract!

The male characters, Yves and Zac, are really quite swoonworthy. Especially Zac. They're exactly as you'd imagine teenage boys to be, and successfully provide the romantic element of the book.

The idea of Extreme Travel isn't something I've come across before, but it sounds fun! Especially using the pages of a magazine to create challenges (Eg. if you open it to a fashion page, you go clothes shopping). I can see hundreds of teen girls all over the UK adopting this as a new hobby, and I'm quite tempted myself!

Extreme Kissing is about lots of things: friendship, family, trust, love and choices. It's also about living life, and taking risks every now and then. I would highly recommend this to readers of Louise Rennison and Liz Rettig, and YA fiction fans in general, as I'm sure you will thoroughly enjoy this teen tale of extremes.

US Vs. UK: Glass Houses Covers

US // UK

I don't know which cover to choose this week. The Morganville Vampires covers are strange, I don't think they represent the story as well as they could. Book five, Lord of Misrule, is probably the best of all of them so far.

The UK covers glow in the dark, which is cool, but not something you can see from a picture. I like that there's a larger image of the house, and the Buffy font that has been used. The blue of the US cover is a bit too much, though the model is exactly how I would imagine the character of Eve. I'm undecided... help!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

News: The Hunger Games Movie Announced

EmpireOnline have posted some exciting news regarding The Hunger Games movie.

Lionsgate has announced that it will bring dystopia to a whole new movie audience, by picking up the movie rights to best-selling teen novel The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

Collins will adapt her own book for the screen and the follow up to the novel, Catching Fire, is due out in September 2009. The Hunger Games is slated for a 2011 release.


Collins will adapt her own book for the screen... this is going to rock!

Read the whole article here. Okay HG fans.. what are your thoughts on this? I'm excited and intrigued. I posted a film wishlist a while ago, and I'm happy to say that one third of my wish seems to be coming true! Now, which actors are right to play Katniss and Peeta?! Hmm...

Waiting On Wednesday: Fragile Eternity

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

* Published by: HarperCollins
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date: April 21st 2009 (US), 28th May 2009 (UK)
* On Amazon: here
.

From Amazon: Seth never expected he would want to settle down with anyone—but that was before Aislinn. She is everything he'd ever dreamed of, and he wants to be with her forever. Forever takes on new meaning, though, when your girlfriend is an immortal faery queen. Aislinn never expected to rule the very creatures who'd always terrified her—but that was before Keenan. He stole her mortality to make her a monarch, and now she faces challenges and enticements beyond any she'd ever imagined.

In Melissa Marr's third mesmerizing tale of Faerie, Seth and Aislinn struggle to stay true to themselves and each other in a milieu of shadowy rules and shifting allegiances, where old friends become new enemies and one wrong move could plunge the Earth into chaos.

I'm sure everyone is excited about this book, as Wicked Lovely is amazing. I love the cover of Fragile Eternity, and I can't wait 'til it arrives in my post box!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

News: Bloomsbury 247tales UK Writing Competition

Bloomsbury have launched a new online writing competition in the UK. It challenges children between the ages of 8 and 16 to write stories using 247 words or fewer. Each month, a theme will be set, and a Bloomsbury author will also write their own 247tale.

One winner will be chosen each month, and they will receive £75 worth of Bloomsbury books and have their story featured on the website. Ten runners-up will get a signed copy of the latest book from that month's featured author, as well as links to their stories.

Elen Caldecott has written the first 247tale, and you can read that here. For more information on the competition and how to enter, visit the 247tales site.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Crossing the Line by Gillian Philip

From the book jacket: Nick Geddes's life is a mess. His sister's boyfriend was killed in a school stabbing. His grandmother is decending into a world of her own, his mother has a 'god-slot' on local radio, and his father is drinking way too much. On top of all that, Nick is madly in love with Orla, the sister of the murdered boy. And Orla blames Nick...

Crossing the Line is a chilling read that touches on several themes and issues that are relevant in today's society.

Knife crime is something that is steadily getting more common, especially in the UK. It's frightening and shocking, and, unfortunately, hard to stop. To write about such a contemporary problem is what I liked most about this book, as it addresses a subject that currently affects a lot of people.

The story is told from Nick's perspective, and covers the time before and after the stabbing that cost Aidan Mahon his life. The alternating time frames was a brilliant idea, as we get to see the events which led to the crime, as well as the aftermath.

All the characters were easy to identify with, especially siblings Allie and Nick. They were both experiencing guilt in one way or another, and were both dealing with Aidan's death in very different ways. Their relationship was a brilliant part of the book, and really highlighted the importance of family, and how much we rely on them to keep us safe. To some degree, I even understood Kev, and his motives for killing Aidan. Family pressure and the desire to be seen as tough or untouchable can take a toll on people more than they realise, and this is something that was explored through the characters of Kev and his brother Mickey.

I also have to mention the cover of the book, which is clever and extremely eye-catching. The train is quite important to the story, and I love how the image printed in red represents blood on the blade of a knife. It's simple, yet manages to say so much.

Gillian Philip has written a book that should appeal to fans of Kevin Brooks and Rachel Ward, or to anyone who likes their fiction to be realistic and believable.