Monday, 31 August 2009

News: Willow UK Cover


Piatkus are publishing Willow in the UK next April, and I just found the cover on Amazon. I love it! The yellow really stands out, and the text is so cool, especially the 'I'. I much prefer it to the US one, although that's cool too. What do you guys think?

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

From Amazon: When fourteen-year-old Viola is sent from her beloved Brooklyn to boarding school in Indiana for ninth grade, she overcomes her initial reservations as she makes friends with her roommates, goes on a real date, and uses the unsettling ghost she keeps seeing as the subject of a short film—her first.

Viola in Reel Life is the first book I've read by Adriana Trigiani, and it definitely won't be my last. Her witty writing had me laughing all the way through Viola's story, and I loved every minute of it.

Viola's adjustment to life in South Bend, Indiana fascinated me, and I was eager for her to fit in right from chapter one. The way she adapts and gives her new school a try really made me think about how I live my own life, and how new experiences can be good -- daunting, but worthwhile in the end. Suzanne, Marisol and Romy, the roommates she meets at The Prefect Academy For Girls, are exactly the type of friends I would have wanted in ninth grade. They're supportive, individual and, most importantly, unwaveringly loyal to each other. They bring Viola out of her snarky shell, and help her in her quest to become a successful filmmaker.

The boys in this book are both sweet and infuriating. Andrew, Viola's BFF from back home in Brooklyn, is brought to us through the use of IM messages, which manage to get his personality across surprisingly well. I hope he has a part in the rest of the series, as I really want to know what's going on in his head. First boyfriend Jared is one of those boys that seems great on the outside, but underneath, he's not all he's cracked up to be. I thought Viola's relationship was very realistic, and representative of a lot of first outings into the world of romance.

Trigiani has completely hooked me with this book, Viola's endearing Brooklyn background, and her ninth grade stint in Indiana. I heard that the next three books will all be from a different character's point of view, and I can't wait to find out what happens to this captivating group of girls, as they continue to experience new things and shape each other's lives.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

In My Mailbox #32: New Books This Week


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


Have I ever told you guys how much I love Amazon?! I'm sure I have, but if I haven't, well... I don't know what I'd do without it!


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Bought:



Intertwined by Gena Showalter (Looking forward to this one!)

Most sixteen-year-olds have friends. Aden Stone has four human souls living inside him: One can time-travel. One can raise the dead. One can tell the future. And one can possess another human. With no other family and a life spent in and out of institutions, Aden and the souls have become friends. But now they're causing him all kinds of trouble. Like, he'll blink and suddenly he's a younger Aden, reliving the past. One wrong move, and he'll change the future. Or he'll walk past a total stranger and know how and when she's going to die. He's so over it. All he wants is peace. And then he meets a girl who quiets the voices. Well, as long as he's near her. Why? Mary Ann Gray is his total opposite. He's a loner; she has friends. He doesn't care what anyone thinks; she tries to make everyone happy. And while he attracts the paranormal, she repels it. For her sake, he should stay away. But it's too late.... Somehow, they share an inexplicable bond of friendship. A bond about to be tested by a werewolf shape-shifter who wants Mary Ann for his own, and a vampire princess Aden can't resist. Two romances, both forbidden. Still, the four will enter a dark underworld of intrigue and danger but not everyone will come out alive....


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As You Wish by Jackson Pearce (Read it & loved it!)

Ever since Viola's boyfriend broke up with her, she has spent her days silently wishing—to have someone love her again and, more importantly, to belong again—until one day she inadvertently summons a young genie out of his world and into her own. He will remain until she makes three wishes. Jinn is anxious to return home, but Viola is terrified of wishing, afraid she will not wish for the right thing, the thing that will make her truly happy. As the two spend time together, the lines between master and servant begin to blur, and soon Jinn can't deny that he's falling for Viola. But it's only after Viola makes her first wish that she realizes she's in love with Jinn as well . . . and that if she wishes twice more, he will disappear from her life—and her world—forever. Jackson Pearce spins a magical tale about star-crossed lovers, what it means to belong . . . and how important it is to be careful what you wish for.



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Dark of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne (Book #3 in the Dark Guardian series.)

I've loved him forever, but he can never be mine. Brittany is determined to prove herself to the Dark Guardians. And yet she's been keeping a devastating secret: She hasn't experienced any of the intense, early signs of change that mark a Dark Guardian's transformation. The only intense feelings she has are for Connor—and she's kept that a secret, too. But she knows she'll never truly have Connor's love if she's not a Shifter like him. At the first full moon after her birthday, her greatest fear is realized: She doesn't transform. Brittany is so desperate to become a wolf that she'll go to extremes she never thought possible . . . and put all the Dark Guardians in incredible danger.




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Ghost Hunter
by Michelle Paver
(The last book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series!)

As winter approaches and Souls' Night draws near, the Eagle Owl Mage holds the clans in the grip of terror. To fulfill his destiny, Torak must seek his lair in the Mountain of Ghosts. He must defy demons and tokoroths, and find his way through the Gorge of the Hidden People. Wolf must overcome terrible grief. Renn must make an agonizing decision. And in the final battle against the Soul-Eater, Torak must face the most heart-rending choice of all.




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Rampant by Diana Peterfreund (How cool does this sound?!)

Forget everything you ever knew about unicorns . . . Real unicorns are venomous, man-eating monsters with huge fangs and razor-sharp horns. Fortunately, they've been extinct for a hundred and fifty years. Or not. Astrid had always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns. But when one of the monsters attacks her boyfriend—thereby ruining any chance of him taking her to the prom—Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries. However, at the cloisters all is not what it seems. Outside, the unicorns wait to attack. And within, Astrid faces other, unexpected threats: from the crumbling, bone-covered walls that vibrate with a terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to—perhaps most dangerously of all—her growing attraction to a handsome art student . . . an attraction that could jeopardize everything.



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Snap by Carol Snow (Sounds good, but don't really like the cover.)

Madison Sabatini thought she knew who she was: an almost-sophomore with a bright future. The newest photographer on her school paper. A shopaholic with great hair and a fabulous wardrobe. Then, in a flash, everything changed. Now she's stuck in Sandyland, a gloomy beach town in the middle of nowhere, living with her parents in a crappy hotel "suite." Instead of spending the summer with her friends at home, she's hanging out with pink-haired Delilah, an artist who works in a shop called Psychic Photo, and a skater boy named Duncan who's totally not her type. Except, maybe he is . . . Determined to make the best of things, Madison throws herself into her one passion: photography. But when strange figures start appearing in her pictures—people who weren't there when she snapped the shots, people who are later reported dead—she begins to question everything about who she is . . . and who she wishes she could be.



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For review:


Life Swap by Abby McDonald (Published as Sophomore Switch in the US. This has a different UK cover now, but I couldn't find an image of it so had to use this one.)

Take an administrative snafu, a bad break-up, and what shall heretofore be known as The Hot-Tub Incident , and you ve got two thoroughly unprepared sophomores on a semester abroad. For American party girl Tasha, an escape to tweedy Oxford may be a chance to ditch her recent fame as a tabloid temptress, but wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory is not her idea of a break. Meanwhile, the British half of the exchange, studious control-freak Emily, nurses an aching heart amid the bikinis and beer pong of U. C. Santa Barbara. Soon desperation has the girls texting each other tips on fitting in, finding love and figuring out who they really are. With an anthropologist s eye for cultural detail and a true ear for teen-speak, exciting new novelist Abigail McDonald crafts a very funny, fast-paced, poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

News: Cool New Covers!



I saw this over at Book Chick City's blog, and had to post it. How nice is this cover? It's definitely my favourite of the three. I love the style of this series, and all the rich, shadowy colours. Very cool.


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For any It Girl fans out there, Headline have released the UK cover for Devious, the ninth book in the series. They seem to get better and better, and whoever came up with this idea deserves some sort of cover award. I love them!


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And last but not least, self-published YA fantasy author Irven Keppen's second book in the Legends of Midralon series has just been released, and includes this brilliant cover. It makes me want to watch LoTR and Narnia, and, oh yeah, read the book!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler

From Amazon: Ivy and Tristan are meant to be together. Both stunningly attractive, brilliantly talented and very much in love, they think their happiness will last forever. When a terrible car accident shatters their world, killing Tristan and injuring Ivy, she must face life alone - or so she thinks. However, Tristan is watching over her as her guardian angel - so close she can feel his touch and hear his voice. And no one needs a guardian angel more than Ivy, because someone is trying to kill her. But if Tristan saves Ivy, his mission on earth will be finished, and he'll have to leave her behind. Will saving Ivy mean losing her forever?

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I thought I would. Several things irked me about the plot, and although there were brilliant elements to the story, I didn't think that it balanced out enough.

Ivy and Tristan's declaration of love was very rushed, and I felt that the intensity of their feelings for each other was quite unbelieveable. Had more time been spent on the characters getting to know each other, the relationship progression would have seemed a lot more natural and reasonable. Tristan's sickly sweet comments were too much sometimes, and I just wished he'd man up and grow a pair. Luckily, Ivy didn't hear most of his lovestruck ramblings, or she may have found herself getting over Tristan a lot quicker than she did.

The supporting friends and relatives were all well written, especially Ivy's brother Philip, who was without a doubt my favourite part of the book. I really hated Gregory, which, I hope, was the point. He was creepy and weird, and was well on his way to being arrested for stalking. I hoped Ivy would sense that something wasn't right with him a lot earlier than she did, and her lack of common sense frustrated me. Had her trusty angel Tristan not been on the scene to help her out, I have no idea what would have happened to her.

I loved the murder mystery element that was present throughout the book, and I had fun trying to guess how everything connected. The author successfully made me doubt several of the main characters, which I thought was a clever throw-you-off-the-scent way of testing loyalties and keeping the reader on their toes. Chandler had a good grasp on teenagers and their lifestyles, and really played on the all-consuming nature of first relationships.

Kissed by an Angel is an interesting twist on angels and guardians, and I think I would have liked it more had I read it as three separate volumes, which is how it was first released back in 1995. Chandler was way ahead of her time with this novel, and tapped into the world of supernatural romance long before Stephenie Meyer dreamt up a whole new genre. I'll definitely be checking out her other books, as they're good for an escapist read about things that go bump in the night.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

US Vs. UK: Life As We Knew It Covers

US // UK

I really like both of these covers, but I think the UK one just beats the US. I prefer the image of empty land to the girl walking, though I like the UK's title font more. I'm also a fan of taglines, so I love the 'Our world ends tonight' text -- I think it fits the cover well.

I wonder why they abbreviated the author's name on the UK edition? Very strange!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The It Girl: Adored by Cecily von Ziegesar

From Amazon: The eighth book in the addictive IT GIRL. Jenny Humphrey's time at Waverly Academy has had its ups and downs - from making enemies of the most popular girl at school to stealing her room mate's boyfriend. But now everything has changed - Jenny, Tinsley, Callie and Brett have put their differences behind them to jointly rule over Waverly Academy - but how long can peace last?

This series just gets better and better. Each book brings with it new scandal, gossip and hook-ups, with a surprising amount of character development, too. In Adored, it's Secret Santa time at Waverly, which is hilariously changed to Secret Satan. I cracked up reading this, mostly because of the outrageous gifts the students buy for each other; everything from candles to male strippers.

New boy Sebastian finds himself surrounded by the school's female population, and it's all thanks to a predictable bet with flame-haired Brett. He's a great new addition to the cast of rich socialites, and I hope he sticks around for the next book. With Easy Walsh nowhere to be seen, Sebastian would serve as a good replacement for the Nate of the It Girl world.

Adored ended on quite a cliffhanger, with the promise of a character shake-up for the ninth book in the series, Devious. As always, I'm counting down the days until I can get my hands on the next one, and I'm glad I only have to wait a few months. 'Addictive' is the only word I can use to describe this series, and I now definitely prefer it to Gossip Girl!

Waiting On Wednesday: Hex Hall

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

* Published by: Hyperion
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date:
March 2nd, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here.

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

No cover has been released for Hex Hall yet,so I've had to use my trusty question mark again. I think it sounds great - witches, faeries, shapeshifters... count me in!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Guest Blog: Jan Blazanin


Jan Blazanin: author of Fairest of Them All


My first glimmers of an idea for Fairest of Them All came from an article in the local paper about best friends who donated their hair to Locks of Love. Almost immediately, I imagined the story of a girl sacrificing her long, gorgeous hair to make a wig for her dear friend who had alopecia. How heart-warming!

Thank heavens my internal writer stopped me. No one--not even a hair stylist-- would read about a teen getting her hair cut and watching it grow out again. But the alopecia angle struck a chord with me, and I knew it was going to take me somewhere.

After a good deal of brainstorming, Oribella Bettencourt began to emerge. First I saw her hair—thick and wavy, honey and sunshine, falling to just below her shoulder blades. Losing such magnificent hair would be devastating. But to be engaging, the story needed much more.

The key, I decided, was in Oribella’s past. All I had to do was create it.

Putting Ori’s childhood together was relatively easy. I envisioned her as a girl whose mother had groomed her for stardom since Day One. That meant no play, no snacks, no sun, no friends, no boys. No anything that could damage Ori’s exquisite looks or distract her from her mother’s goals. In that environment, it was inevitable for Ori to grow up believing her appearance was the only meaningful part of herself.

Okay, that made sense. But why was Oribella’s success so critical to her mother Rhonda? An excellent question, and one my readers were sure to ask. Characters, like their flesh-and-blood counterparts, need reasons for what they do.

Now I had to look into Rhonda’s childhood. Something so traumatic and compelling must have happened when she was young that it changed the course of her life. Fine. Rhonda was abandoned by her glamorous mother Arianna and raised by her stoic grandparents. Because of that, she never outgrew the feeling that she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be worthwhile.

Good deal. Now why, exactly, did Arianna abandon her daughter? Oh-my-gosh, I had to know that, too!

Hmm. Arianna was a self-centered girl who felt she was too good for the Iowa farm where she grew up. Bored and restless, she took her parents’ car and their savings and ran away to California to find stardom. When she ran out of money and got pregnant, she took a bus home and had Rhonda. But Arianna wasn’t the motherly type, and a baby didn’t fit the glamorous life she had planned, so she left Rhonda behind.

Now why was Arianna so self-centered? I refused to go there. If I kept at it, I’d be writing the story of Oribella’s ancestors on the Mayflower.

But then I had a grasp of why Oribella believed Rhonda’s goals were her goals. I knew how Ori developed her chameleon-like ability to be whatever pageant judges wanted her to be. How she grew to be the perfect Stepford teen.

Once I knew what Oribella wanted most in life, I dangled it at her fingertips and snatched it out of reach, throwing her world into chaos. Ruining Ori’s life didn’t feel good—it never does—but without that catastrophe she wouldn’t have discovered the real, live person inside her beautiful shell.

Which, I hope, is a lot more interesting than watching hair grow.

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Thanks, Jan! :)

Monday, 24 August 2009

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

From Amazon: Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result.

Jumping Off Swings is told from the point of view of four teenagers, using alternating chapters. This is one of my absolute favourite narrative techniques, and is the main reason I read this book in the first place.

I really enjoyed Knowles' writing style, and her ability to make me care for every single character she presented. I sympathised with them, I understood their worries and, more than anything, I wanted them to be okay. Caleb's relationship with his mother, Liz, was a high point for me, as well as Corinne's devotion to Ellie. Strong, lasting friendships can be hard to come by, but if they can survive a life-changing event like the one Corinne and Ellie experience, it's more than likely they'll last for life.

The subject of teen pregnancy is handled well, and shines a spotlight on the ramifications of unprotected sex. For most girls, an unplanned pregnancy would be top of their list of worst nightmares, and I'm glad that it wasn't handled lightly here. Seeing it from Josh's male perspective was both interesting and unusual, and it's good to find out how a boy would react in this situation, as their feelings are often forgotten or glossed over. I'm a big fan of teenage realism, and Knowles definitely knows how to write her characters with truth and sincerity.

Although Jumping Off Swings has good protagonists and an emotional story, I felt like it was missing something. I enjoyed it, but it didn't have that spark, or that feeling you get when you know you've read something special. I think its importance lies within the messages it's trying to get across -- respect yourself, appreciate your friendships, and never let one bad desicion shape the rest of your life.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

In My Mailbox #31: New Books This Week


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

I got a lot of books this week, and I didn't have time to do my usual pic & description for each, so I've just done that for the books I received for review. All the others are linked to Amazon pages, if you want to see what they're about :)



For review:



Syren by Angie Sage (I haven't read the other books in this series, though I'm hoping to catch up with them one day.)

In the fifth book of this Magykal series, Septimus and his friends find themselves on an island whose secrets are as dark and dangerous as its inhabitants. Septimus Heap returns to the House of Foryx with Spit Fyre to pick up Jenna, Nicko, Snorri, and Beetle. But the journey home does not go well and when Septimus and his friends are caught in a storm, Spit Fyre crashes into the Rokk Lighthouse. They are rescued by the lighthouse keeper who is disturbingly sinister, and who has an equally sinister cat And all the while, Septimus is trying to fight the strange pull he's feeling to the Islands and its mysterious secrets.




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Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough (US ARC. Sounds great!)

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all.




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The Traitor Game by B. R. Collins (I'm so excited to read this, I hear it's very good. I much prefer this paperback cover, too!)

There was a folded bit of A4 paper wedged into the locker. It said MICHAEL THOMPSON. Michael slid it out, and flipped it open. It said I KNOW WHERE ARCASTER IS. That was when the bottom dropped out of everything. Michael and Francis are best friends at school, drawn together by their common secret - a complete obsession with creating, crafting, adding to and poring over their joint fantasy world, Evgard. Their friendship is put to the severest test when Michael, thinking that Francis has betrayed their world, takes the cold, deliberate decision not to help Francis when Francis is the victim of a brutal attack. Michael then has to see the consequences of his mistake, and confront his own weaknesses.



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A Trick of the Dark by B. R. Collins (Yay! This sounds brilliant!)

Zach and his sister Annis have been uprooted by their parents from their comfortable home to a remote and half-built barn in France. Zach is being removed from his 'bad-influence' friends, their parents are trying to salvage their marriage and still remain on speaking terms whilst the bitterness of their father's affair bubbles underneath the surface. And Annis - Annis just keeps going, keeping her head down, trying to keep it together. So far so normal. And then Zach, uncommunicative and contrary as ever these days, defies everything their parents have said and makes his way to the unsafe ruined building at the edge of their new garden, and leans up against the wall. The wall bulges, totters - and suddenly collapses on top of him. Annis, horrified, sees him crumpled on the ground. Desperate, she races towards him, not daring to think anything at all. She sees him, on the ground, broken, silent, not there any more. And then, unbelievably, he moves. Zach moves. Zach, in an extraordinary and instinctive decision, has broken his bond with his own soul, the essence of himself. By doing so he has cheated death. By doing so he has also cheated life. He is unable to touch any human person again. And the essence of himself, his 'other', his soul, is chasing, chasing him, determined to rejoin what should rightfully be together. Zach is on the run, from himself, whom he can never escape, from death, but also from the life that he can never enjoy again. Perhaps only a sister can help him now.


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Secret Society by Tom Dolby (US ARC. Thanks to Vincent from Enchanted Books for sending this to me -- I'm going to share my review with him on his blog. I'm really looking forward to reading this, it was my WoW pick a while ago!)

An eccentric new girl. A brooding socialite. The scion of one of New York’s wealthiest families. A promising filmmaker. As students at the exclusive Chadwick School, Phoebe, Lauren, Nick, and Patch already live in a world most teenagers only dream about. They didn’t ask to be Society members. But when three of them receive a mysterious text message promising success and fame beyond belief, they say yes to everything. Even to the harrowing initiation ceremony in a gritty warehouse downtown, and to the ankh-shaped tattoo they’re forced to get on the nape of their necks. Once they’re part of the Society, things begin falling into place for them. Week after week, their ambitions are fulfilled. It’s all perfect—until a body is found in Central Park with no distinguishing marks except for an ankh-shaped tattoo.


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The Hollow by Jessica Verday (Finished UK copy. This arrived with some goodies from JV's 'Get the Goods' promotion, which is very cool!)

Growing up in the town of Sleepy Hollow, the mystery and intrigue over Washington Irving's classic legend are all part of daily life for sixteen-year-old Abbey. But when her best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Abbey's world is suddenly turned upside down. While everyone is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead, Abbey refuses to believe that she is really gone. And when Abbey meets the gorgeous, but mysterious, Caspian at Kristen's memorial she starts to feel like she has something to hold on to for the first time since Kristen's disappearance. But when Abbey finds a diary hidden in Kristen's bedroom, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her disappearance or even her death? Hurt and angry at Kristen's betrayal, Abbey turns to Caspian for support...and uncovers a frightening truth about him that threatens both their emerging love and her sanity...


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Curse of the Tahiera
by Wendy Gillissen
(Adult fantasy. I thought this sounded quite good, so I said I'd give it a go!)

A journey through haunted forests, through dreams and time. A story of love, magic and the power of forgiveness.

Rom, a young Tzanatzi outcast and Yldich, a mysterious Einache shaman are on the trail of an ancient curse.

Will they save their people from destruction?





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Bought


Saturday, 22 August 2009

Ember Fury Giveaway: Winner!



Because I had some email entries for this giveaway, I picked the winner's name out of a hat (well, a bowl) again.

And the winner of Ember Fury is...

Jo from Ink & Paper!


Congrats, Jo, and thanks to everyone who entered! I should have another very cool giveaway soon, which is House of Night themed... :)

Friday, 21 August 2009

Legend by John Brindley

From Amazon: Seventeen-year-old Blake used to be a star runner. Now he's a has-been. On a school trip, he has the opportunity to secure the answer to his prayers - a specially created serum that will restore him to physical supremacy. But does he steal it or not? Before he knows, Blake is transported into another dimension where evolution has run wild and where he is perceived as a hero by the beautiful, enigmatic mermaid creature, Chimera. He escapes and returns to his own world - our world - to face the consequences of his alleged theft. Can he prove his innocence?

The premise of Legend is a good one. Animal testing, experiments and evolution are all subjects that could make a book brilliant but, unfortunately, I don't think it worked here.

My main problem with Legend was that it was just too strange, even for me. I like different ideas and angles, but I just couldn't fully appreciate what John Brindley was trying to do. I wanted to learn more about the people behind the greencoats, the reasons for the testing, and what the scientists hoped to achieve. Without more explanation, I was left with far too many questions, none of which were explored enough.

I was never bored with the book; I got through it quite quickly, but I can't say I enjoyed it as much as I wanted to. I didn't connect with any of the characters, and none of them really held my interest. The writing was okay, and the use of myths and legends was a clever idea, but by not being fully immersed in Blake's story, I didn't get the full impact of his decisions, or his loyalty to Chimera. Had the characters been more believeable and engaging, it would have made a big difference to the overall tone of the book.

I personally wasn't too keen on Legend, but I'm sure it will appeal to a lot of readers out there. If you like your stories mixed with the strange and weird, then this could be right up your street. I'll definitely read future books by this author, as his fantastic imagination is certainly something to remember.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

News: New UK Gossip Girl Cover


Today, Headline UK released the UK cover for the next original cast Gossip Girl book, I Will Always Love You. I'm really excited for this - I love me some GG, and Blair just so happens to be one of my favourite characters (after Chuck, of course).

I Will Always Love You is released in the UK on December 24th, and in the US on November 3rd. I can't wait!

US Vs. UK: The Hollow Covers

US // UK

I really like the US cover for The Hollow - I like the colours. The UK one is nice, but I don't think it stands out as much. It's good that the necklace is present on both; I haven't read the book yet, but I'm guessing it has some important significance to the story?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Grass by Cathy MacPhail

From Amazon: Leo knows the value of never grassing and that you never grass on your friends. Everybody, too, knows the gang leaders in town. And you don't grass on them. And then Leo is unlucky enough to witness the murder of one gang leader by another, a man called Armour. It will take bravery, luck and sheer daring to extricate himself from Armour's deadly web.

Grass is a quick read with a surprisingly mature theme. It covers murder, gangs and violence, and isn't what I expected from a book set in the UK. I know gang warfare is present everywhere, but it seems to be more prevalent in other countries. To think that this also goes on here in England is shocking, and not something I'd given much thought to before.

By accidentally witnessing a murder, Leo is tangled up in a life he doesn't want. He's bribed, blackmailed, and scared into doing things - and for what? So an adult won't end his life sixty years too early? It's an unpleasant scenario, but is one that instantly grips the reader, and leaves you wondering just how Leo will get out of this situation.

Leo's a typical teenage boy, and is an easy character to relate to. How many of us have seen things we shouldn't? It's just something that happens, though normally it doesn't lead to death threats and murders. Leo was my favourite character, and I thought the way he wanted to keep his fear to himself to protect his family was admirable. Armour, the gang leader, had the perfect mix of personalities: one minute he could be nice, the next he was manipulating Leo like it was nothing. He was a character I found hard to hate, and I think that's because of the glimpses into his family life.

Cathy MacPhail knows how to leave you questioning everything you know about right and wrong, and succeeded in presenting an ambiguous look at gangs and their motivation. I really liked her hard-hitting, gritty realism, as well as her knack for turning a simple concept into a much more complicated story of trust and bravery. I'll definitely be checking out more of her books!

Waiting On Wednesday: The Returners

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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The Returners by Gemma Malley

* Published by: Bloomsbury
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date:
February 1st, 2010 (UK)
* On Amazon: here.

From Amazon:
Will Hodge's life is a mess! His mother is dead, he has no friends and he thinks he is being followed by a strange group of people who tell him they know him. But Will can't remember them ...at first. And when he does he doesn't like what he can remember. While Will is struggling with unsettling memories, he learns that his past is a lot deeper than many people's, and he has to find out if he is strong enough to break links with the powerful hold that history has on him. This compelling novel, set in alternate future, challenges readers to consider the role we all have to play in making our society, and asks how much we are prepared to stand up for what's right.

I love Gemma Malley, and I can't wait for this to be released. Just like her previous books (The Declaration, The Resistance), it sounds like something different, something unusual. She likes setting her stories in the future, and I like reading them!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Author Interview: Cathy Brett

Thanks to Cathy Brett, UK debut author of Ember Fury, for answering all my questions!


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Which came first for you: drawing or writing?

Drawing. I was an illustrator long before I even thought of writing, but illustrating other people's books gave me the incentive to try it myself. I started with picture books, but was rubbish at it. My agent would probably tell you about how she kept saying, 'yeah, I like the pics but the story/voice/age-group isn't quite right yet'. I went back to her over and over again (becoming quite a nuisance!), until I realised I should stick to what I know. Duh! I've been teaching design to teenagers for over a decade, so it was a no-brainer! When I eventually started to write 'Ember', I did sketches of all the characters and key events at the same time, so now it always happens together - words and pics.

What was your Ember Fury publication process like?

It was quite a rollercoaster ride! In the beginning everything happened quite suddenly. My agent sent it out to publishers and a month later I had a two-book deal with Headline! It was astonishing! Then there was a pause while the initial editing process took place and, once we had the structure of the story sorted, I had a huge amount of work to do getting it finished. Sometimes it seemed to go on for ever - mainly because my editor and I wanted it to be perfect and spent hours making sure it looked amazing. When I look back on it all now, I enjoyed every exhausting, stressful minute!

One of my favourite parts of the book were the scenes set in WWII. Is that a period in history that particularly interests you?

Yes. My grandparents were on opposite sides during the War and I've always found this fascinating. I've been working on my Grannie's Wartime Memoir for years (illustrated, of course) and have boxes and boxes of photographs to refer to, but at the moment I think it's too personal a story and I've put it in a drawer until I can decide how to write it.

I have to ask: was Ned's family's dinner scene based on a real event? (I really hope not!)

Yes, it was! Although it happened after the War had ended, when British families still had rationing and shortages. Thumper was one of the rabbits that my dad and his younger brother looked after. One day Thumper disappeared, the hutch door was open... Dad says he didn't make the connection between the disappearance and the contents of the pie until years later!

Will we be seeing Ember & Co. in future books, or is their story self-contained?

I couldn't possibly abandon her! You probably noticed that Em mentions wanting to go to Art College and I have an idea that she'd probably get up to all sort of mischief there... so watch out for a crazy arty sequel in the future. Some of the other characters are still jumping around in my brain, so perhaps the odd spin-off too?

How long did it take you to create the graphic portion of the book?

As I mentioned, I create the pics alongside the text, so I guess Ember took two years in total - three or four solid months of that on the images. But I don't work full-time on one project and will be starting on new books, illustrating other people's and teaching at the same time

Graphic novels don't seem to be hugely popular in the YA fiction world - did you have any trouble pitching the idea?

I suspected I might, but I think we (me, my agent and my editor) had a feeling that the time was right for this sort of book. Teenagers are much more visually sophisticated these days and, even if you don't like comics, we all respond to cartoons and funky illustrations in movies, on t-shirts, in advertising - why not in novels too? Even so, I guess Headline were taking a pretty big risk with 'Ember' and I will always be grateful that they did.

You have a very stylish design when it comes to your art work. Were you taught to draw this way, or did it just come naturally?

I was taught all the traditional drawing techniques, which was a fantastic starting point to be able to develop my own style. But, if anything, the funky, humourous style I wanted to develop was rather frowned upon when I was at college - too frivilous! When I started out in the Fashion Bizz, my illustrations were influenced by the latest trends and I had to be versatile, working in whatever style the client wanted. More recently, I've been able to draw the way I want to, reflecting my own personality.

Can you tell us anything about your next book, Scarlett Dedd?

Only that it's been terrific fun to write and even more fun to illustrate! Scarlett and her weird friends make me chuckle every day!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and artists?

It's true what they say - stick to what you know and write from the heart. Keep trying and don't be put off by rejection - grow a thick skin and try something slightly different next time. For artists - draw, draw, draw, all the time. Have a sketchbook (A4 is best) and draw in it every day. Fill a book a month if you can. It's like being an athlete, you have to keep fit and exercise!


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Related links:

UK publisher's site: The B-Word
My review: Ember Fury by Cathy Brett

Monday, 17 August 2009

Fairest of Them All by Jan Blazanin

From Amazon: If life were a fairy tale, Oribella Bettencourt would have a "happily ever after" kind of future ahead of her. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a perfectly modern Princess Rapunzel, and Ori -- a model, dancer, and star of the beauty pageant circuit -- lands the part. But in this fairy tale, the beautiful princess wakes up to her worst nightmare -- when almost overnight, Ori begins to lose her hair....

Fairest of Them All is one of those books that I just couldn't put down. Ori's story hooked me right from the beginning, and I really connected with her as a character. The world of beauty pageants sounds like a pretty scary one, and I'm glad I have absolutely no interest in anything like that. The pressures of glitz and glamour would be too much for me, not to mention the constant self-doubt and esteem issues that inevitably arise.

The way Ori deals with her alopecia is nothing but inspiring, though less can be said for her mother's reactions. She's so obsessed that she looks past her daughter's pain and suffering, and instead focuses on herself. Ori makes new friends, finds herself liking old ones, and manages to create a new life outside of pageants and appearances. She goes through a complete personality change, and is all the better for it. I loved this aspect of the novel; that in the face of her worst nightmare, Ori still carries on with day to day life, and doesn't let anything hold her back. Sometimes change is a good thing, and Jan Blazanin does a brilliant job of conveying the importance of family and friendships, rather than careers and looks. It's a powerful message, and is one that I hope a lot of people will learn from.

I can't wait to see what Blazanin comes up with next. If it's anything like Fairest of Them All, it'll be a must-read for me.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

In My Mailbox #30: New Books This Week


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


Another great week. Even though the book isn't my favourite, I love the Breaking Dawn S.E. What can I say - The Twilight Saga makes me excited!


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Bought:




Violet on the Runway, Violet by Design, Violet in Private
by Melissa Walker
(Read #1, and really enjoyed it. I love MW!)

A wallflower in the spotlight can do one of two things: wilt, or blossom... Violet Greenfield's life changes forever when a lady in giant Chanel shades tells her she could be IT, the next Kate Moss-but taller, and without the PR problems. That's how Violet winds up with a business card in the front pocket of her jeans on her first day as a senior in high school. Angela Blythe from Tryst Models in New York City wants to put Violet on a plane and whisk her into the world of high-heeled boots and oversized sunglasses. Tall, skinny Violet, who's been P-L-A-I-N practically forever. And guess what? She's going.



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Prophecy of the Sisters
by Michelle Zink
(Finished copy - it's all shiny! Review here.)

This is the story of sixteen-year-old Lia Milthorpe's quest to discover her role and her twin sister's in a powerful prophecy that has affected twin sisters for generations. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers - about herself, about her family, and about the danger that goes from haunting her dreams to becoming her reality.









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Ruined by Paula Morris (Sounds good!)

Rebecca couldn't feel more out of place in New Orleans, where she comes to spend the year while her dad is traveling. She's staying in a creepy old house with her aunt. And at the snooty prep school, the filthy-rich girls treat Rebecca like she's invisible. Only gorgeous, unavailable Anton Grey seems to give Rebecca the time of day, but she wonders if he's got a hidden agenda. Then one night, in Lafayette Cemetery, Rebecca makes a friend. Sweet, mysterious Lisette is eager to talk to Rebecca, and to show her the nooks and crannies of the city. There's just one catch: Lisette is a ghost. A ghost with a deep, dark secret, and a serious score to settle. As Rebecca learns more from her ghost friend -- and as she slowly learns to trust Anton Grey -- she also uncovers startling truths about her own history. Will Rebecca be able to right the wrongs of the past, or has everything been ruined beyond repair?


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Breaking Dawn: Special Edition by Stephenie Meyer (YAY!)

This Special Edition of the #1 New York Times bestseller includes:
  • An exclusive Breaking Dawn concert series DVD, featuring a performance by Blue October's Justin Furstenfeld and a conversation between Stephenie Meyer and Justin Furstenfeld.
  • A reproduction of the personal, handwritten lyrics for My Never by Justin Furstenfeld.
  • A limited-edition, full-color Bella & Edward poster (on reverse side of book jacket).
  • And more!



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For review:






Al Capone Shines My Shoes
by Gennifer Choldenko
(Sounds fun!)

Moose's sister has got a place in the perfect school on the mainland, one that will help her deal with her autism. But there is one hitch. She got the place with the help of Al Capone and now it's payback time. Soon Moose is caught up in a terrible cycle of secrets and favours that threatens to destabilise his entire family in this nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat novel.





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H.I.V.E: Dreadnought by Mark Walden (I've never read any of these, but they sound cool!)

A renegade faction of the world's most powerful villains is intent on destroying G.L.O.V.E. (Global League Of Villainous Enterprises) and showing the world the true face of evil. The Disciples begin by hijacking Diabolus Darkdoom's Airborne command post, then they kidnap his son and his son's best friend. Unfortunately for them, Nigel Darkdoom (and Franz) also happen to be Otto's friends. Heading out to America, Otto, Wing et al embark on a perilous and highly unauthorised rescue operation. Cut off from the support of H.I.V.E. and on the run from American security forces the hunt for their friends leads to one of the US military's most secret facilities. It becomes clear that the Disciples are not all they appear and in a desperate race against time Otto must work out who his real friends are to prevent the Disciples from completing their true objective. Only Otto can save the world from domination by a sinister new world order but it might be that the price he has to pay is just too high. When it comes to the crunch will he be prepared to sacrifice himself?



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Fighting Ruben Wolfe
by Markus Zusak
(UK proof/ARC. I'm VERY excited to read this, I haven't been able to find it anywhere. It's released here in February 2010, and has a different cover to the one on the left.)

Cameron and Ruben Wolfe come from a family clinging to the ragged edge of the working class. To make money, the boys hook up with a sleazy fight promoter who sees something marketable in the untrained brothers¹ vulnerability. But the Wolfe brothers are fighting for more than tips and pay-off money. It soon becomes a fight for identity, for dignity, and for each other.






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Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley (Such a lovely looking book!)

Charlotte may have graduated Dead Ed but that's not the end of her story. Life, for Charlotte, was one bitter disappointment after another. And it seems death isn't going to be much different. Convinced that graduating Dead Ed was her route to the afterlife Charlotte is a little surprised to find she has to complete an internship! Answering the phones at a help centre for troubled teens isn't proving brilliantly exciting. Until Scarlet calls: a pedicure-gone-hideously-wrong has landed Petula in a coma and Scarlet thinks Charlotte is the only person who can help...






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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (UK proof/ARC. Released in the UK in February 2010. Woohoo!)

Gatlin
has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever. Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.




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Evermore by Alyson Noel (This arrived in a black box, complete with red packing materials, a Bookseller magazine flyer and Evermore fortune cookies. So cool!)

Seventeen-year-old Ever is the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her entire family. Living with her aunt in Southern California, she's plagued by the ability to hear the thoughts of those around her, and haunted by the ghost of her little sister. She tries to tune everyone out, shunning her old lifestyle as the pretty, popular cheerleader, but somehow she can't hide from Damen, the new guy at school. Stunningly handsome, clever and not a little bit intimidating, there's something about him that doesn't quite add up. Ever realises he's hiding something, but nothing could prepare her for the truth - especially when the truth involves past lives, murderous enemies, everlasting love and the secret of eternal youth.




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I won this in a giveaway over at Book Chick City (Thanks Carolyn!):




Hens Reunited
by Lucy Diamond
(Adult chick lit - sounds good!)

Katie, Georgia and Alice were at each other's hen nights but now the chickens have come home to roost: their marriages have fallen apart and their friendships have been tested to the limits. Control-freak Katie has become a commitment-phobe - there's no way she wants to get married again. Is there? Ambitious Georgia always puts her career first. If anyone gets hurt, it's their look-out - right? And faithful Alice wants to make a fresh start, but can't get over her cheating ex - and Georgia's betrayal. Hearts have been broken, and feathers ruffled ...can the hens ever be reunited?






Hope everyone had a great week!