Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Raven Mysteries: Flood and Fang by Marcus Sedgwick

From Amazon: Meet the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand. Edgar is alarmed when he sees a nasty looking black tail slinking under the castle walls. But his warnings to the inhabitants of the castle go unheeded, and as the lower storeys of the castle begin mysteriously to flood, and kitchen maids continue to go missing, the family come ever closer to the owner of the black tail...

Flood and Fang is one big bundle of fun from start to finish, and it's my new favourite book in the 8-12 age range. I've lost count of how many times I had to put it down because I was laughing so much, but lets just say it was a lot!

The Raven Mysteries is narrated by Edgar, an old raven watching over the mismatched Otherhand family. His thoughts are blunt and hilarious, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading his observations on life in the castle. His open hatred of little Cudweed's pet monkey, Fellah, is a constant source of humour, as is his distaste for toddler twins Buzz and Fizz.

The odd characters and gothic setting is reminiscent of The Addams Family, with children Solstice and Cudweed being like modern day incarnations of Wednesday and Pugsley. I was an Addams Family fan when I was younger, and I think this is one of the reasons why I loved Flood and Fang so much -- there's something endearing about absurd but comical characters, and Marcus Sedgwick has created a whole lovable family of them. The illustrations accompanying the text, drawn by Pete Williamson, are also fantastic. They capture the Otherhand family perfectly, and compliment the story more than I thought they would.

Although Flood and Fang isn't aimed at my age group, I absolutely loved it. I read it very quickly in one sitting, and started book two (Ghosts and Gadgets) straight away. I laughed my head off for the majority of the book, and completely lost myself in the crazy world of Edgar and the castle's inhabitants. Whether you're 12 or 22, this book is a pleasure to read, and deserves to be a huge seller in the 8-12 section. I can't wait for Lunatics and Luck to be released next year, and I'll definitely be rushing out to buy a copy.

Waiting On Wednesday: Nobody's Girl

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning

* Published by: Hodder
* Format: Paperback
* Release Date:
February 4th, 2010 (UK)
* On Amazon: here

From Amazon: Bea thinks she's the most boring seventeen-year-old in the world. She's not pretty or popular or funny, unlike her mother who had Bea when she was 17. The only glamorous thing about Bea is the French father who left before she was born and lives in Paris. She yearns for la vie Parisienne every moment of her dull existence. So when Ruby Davies, the leader of her school's most elite clique picks Bea as her new best friend and asks her to go on holiday with them, she's wary but delighted. If nothing else it's two weeks away from her over-protective mother . But when the gang arrive in Spain, Bea is crushed to realise that Ruby and her posse have simply been using her. Bea wreaks vengeance on her so-called friends, and plans to decamp to Paris to find her father. But when she falls asleep on the train and wakes up in Bilbao, she meets a group of American students who are backpacking around Europe and bonds with them straight away, especially the gorgeous Toph, who helps heal Bea's hurting heart. And though Bea has a shock in store when they finally get to Paris, the 'City of Lovers ' really works it magic on Bea and Toph, who spend a week wandering the sun-dappled streets of Paris, talking, holding hands and falling in love. When it comes time to
go home to confront her Mum about her mysterious father, the new version of Bea is determined that she'll never go back to her old, boring way of life - she's no longer Nobody's Girl; she belongs to herself and to Toph... But with an ocean between them, will he wait for her?.

I love all Sarra Manning's books, and I can't wait for this one! I think she's the closest thing the UK has to Sarah Dessen, which is what I tell all my customers at work. Her Diary of a Crush trilogy is still my favourite, and I'm hoping Nobody's Girl will be just as good.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Cover Feature: Eyes Like Stars - With Lisa Mantchev

The cover for Eyes Like Stars is another one of my favourites. I love the colours and the artwork, and it's definitely a book that will stand out in stores. Author Lisa Mantchev has very kindly taken the time to write a few thoughts on the cover, which are posted below. Thanks, Lisa!

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Cover Feature: Eyes Like Stars

Author: Lisa Mantchev
Cover photographer: Jason Chan
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Release dates: July 7th, 2009 (US)







Lisa's Thoughts on the Cover
:


Shaking hands. That's what I remember most about spotting an email from my publisher with "Cover Art" in the subject line. That, and it seemed to take forever to open and download that email. My browser might have even timed out... the seconds passed and sweat popped out all over my forehead, and I thought I might be sick...

Then the preliminary art loaded in. The first version had Bertie, mostly complete but without the medallion's chain around her neck. The fairies were roughed in as balls of light. The curtains weren't quite rendered yet.

But I LOVED it. I might have cried with joy and relief. To this day, I thank my Fairy CoverMother for sprinkling good fortune on my head. I thank the art department at F&F, and I feel very, very lucky to have Jason Chan as a cover artist. He's a talented guy, and he so perfectly captured the essence of the book that there isn't a single thing about that art that I would change.

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  • To read an interview with artist Jason Chan on Lisa's site, click here.

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

From Amazon: On the morning of her wedding, Pell Ridley creeps out of bed in the dark, kisses her sisters goodbye and flees - determined to escape a future that offers nothing but hard work and sorrow. She takes the only thing that truly belongs to her: Jack, a white horse. The road ahead is rich with longing, silence and secrets, and each encounter leads her closer to the untold story of her past. Then Pell meets a hunter, infuriating, mysterious and cold. Will he help her to find what she seeks?

It's been a few days since I finished The Bride's Farewell, and I'm still not entirely sure what I thought of it. While I liked the writing and the general tone of the book, I found it too slow and had trouble fully immersing myself in the story.

Pell was one of the highlights for me; she was a strong female character who knew what she wanted and went after it. Whether she ultimately made the right decision is a point that can be argued, as her running away upset the balance of her family and friends. Her brother, Bean, was also a character I enjoyed getting to know, and I just wish he could have had a bigger role in Pell's story.

I've heard many fantastic things about Rosoff's writing and imagination, and I have to say that I was disappointed with both this time around. Her writing didn't grab me, and I thought that her ideas for this particular novel were never fully realised. It was almost like the book was on a long journey that suddenly ended, without a conclusion or a point being reached, which was a shame as I think so much more could have been done with the story.

I'm not sure if I'll read any more books by this author, though I may give her another chance. It wouldn't be fair to judge her work from one book, and it was just unfortunate that this one wasn't for me.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

In My Mailbox #36: New Books This Week


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


Due to postal strikes, I didn't think I'd get much in the mail this week, but luckily most of it arrived on Saturday. Yay!


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For review:



The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric (This sounds very unusual, and it has a lovely cover!)

It's the beginning of the 20th century; the age of scientific progress. But for Venice the future looks bleak. A conference of scientists assembles to address the problems, among whose delegates are the parents of eleven-year-old Teodora. Within days of her arrival, she is subsumed into the secret life of Venice: a world in which salty-tongued mermaids run subversive printing presses, ghosts good and bad patrol the streets and librarians turn fluidly into cats. A battle against forces determined to destroy the city once and for all quickly ensues. Only Teo, the undrowned child who survived a tragic accident as a baby, can go 'between-the-linings' to subvert evil and restore order.




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Scat by Carl Hiaasen (Sounds funny! The hardback is so nice and bright, it looks great on my book pile).

When Mrs Starch, the most feared biology teacher in Florida, goes missing during a school trip to the Black Vine Swamp, her class is secretly relieved. The school principal tries to cover it up as a 'family emergency', but Nick and Marta just aren't convinced. They think it's much more likely to have something to do with Smoke, the local troublemaker - whose run-ins with Mrs Starch are infamous - and decide to do some investigating of their own. But there's more going on in Black Vine Swamp than either one of them could guess. And Nick and Marta must see off an eccentric eco-avenger, a stuffed rat named Chelsea, a crooked oil prospector, a singing substitute teacher, and an angry Florida panther before they really begin to see the big picture.



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Gossip Girl the Carlyles: Love the One You're With by Cecily von Ziegesar (Everyone knows I love these books, so YAY!)

The fourth book in the deliciously naughty GOSSIP GIRL: THE CARLYLES series

Serena, Nate and Blair kept us all entertained with their less than pure behaviour but Gossip Girl was the true star of the show and now she's back with all the juicy secrets about the scandalous behaviour of Manhattan new comers Owen, Avery and Baby Carlyle. The triplets may be from small town Nantucket but they're taking full advantage of the opportunities the big city has to offer...





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Legends of Midralon: Devin & the Empire of Wolves by Irven Keppen (Can't wait to read this!)

The legend of every famous general begins with one split-second decision made in the heat of battle! For a timid young boy named Devin, that decision was to use his enchanted horn and challenge the powerful Warlock Meldrim, forcing the warlock to pursue him away from the battle of Freegate. Devin's bold move saved the day and allowed the outnumbered armies fighting the Silent King to continue their assault on his dark tower. Now, Devin is fleeing for his life, pursued by the vengeful warlock and legions of ferocious Nooben warriors. His flight will take him across the war torn lands of Midralon, through the dreaded Darkwood Forest and across the mysterious Plains of Nasich. On his journey, he must evade the murderous Meldrim and other deadly perils, including a fearsome horde of creatures known as the Swarm! To overcome these obstacles and survive, Devin must discover the inner strength to become the general everyone believes him to be!


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Medina Hill by Trilby Kent (This arrived for November's blog tour, which I'm really looking forward to).

In the grimy London of 1935, eleven-year-old Dominic Walker has lost his voice. His mother is sick and his father’s unemployed. Rescue comes in the form of his Uncle Roo, who arrives to take him and his young sister, Marlo, to Cornwall. There, in a boarding house populated by eccentric residents, Marlo, who keeps a death grip on her copy of The New Art of Cooking, and Dominic, armed with Incredible Adventures for Boys: Colonel Lawrence and the Revolt in the Desert, find a way of life unlike any they have known. Dominic’s passion for Lawrence of Arabia is tested when he finds himself embroiled in a village uprising against a band of travelers who face expulsion. In defending the vulnerable, Dominic learns what it truly means to have a voice.



Bought

+
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore (Thanks to Liz for sending me this lovely book!)


Hope everyone had a great week!


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Ruined & Strange Angels Giveaways: Winners!



Thanks to everyone who entered these two giveaways, and thanks to Random.org, here are the winners:

  • Ruined winners: mel u, heatherzilla, xollinzolox, bridget3420 & barbrafl.
  • Strange Angels winners: Kay & The Book Pixie.

I'm emailing you all, and if you could send me your mailing addresses, I'll pass them along to the publicist (Ruined), or forward the books on myself (Strange Angels).

Thanks guys! :)

Friday, 25 September 2009

NERDS by Michael Buckley

From Amazon: Here is a terrific new series featuring five unpopular students who run a spy network from inside their elementary school. With the help of cutting-edge science, their afflictions are enhanced and transformed into incredible abilities. Working as a team, they become the latest members of an elite organization whose origins are shrouded in mystery and have included such members as Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman and Bill Gates. The latest incarnation of N.E.R.D.S. must battle an array of James Bond - style villains, each with an evil plan more diabolical than the last.

NERDS (National Espionage, Rescue and Defense Society) is a brilliantly fun book that younger readers will love. It includes action, adventure, and a group of trained eleven-year-old spies with an array of super cool powers and skills.

Each character has a codename and an upgraded power, for example: little Gluestick loves glue, and has the ability to stick to anything he chooses. It may sound daft at first, but it's a valued advantage to the members of NERDS, and helps them out of many a sticky situation (sorry, couldn't resist). Together the group fight the evils of elementary school, as well as the dangerous masterminds hellbent on taking over and destroying the world.

NERDS is full of humour and lively characters, and is a lighthearted read for people of all ages; not just its target market of the 8-12 age range. The artwork included in the book provides a great visual for the reader, and definitely helps when imagining the oddball spies and their many adversaries. I was easily caught up in the fast-paced story, and by the end of the book, I was quite tempted to join NERDS myself, though unfortunately I don't think I'm the right age. I hope those readers who haven't yet reached (or even thought about) their twenties will have better luck than me!

Thursday, 24 September 2009

GIVEAWAY: Win Hero.com & Villain.net books! (UK only)


Thanks to Galactus, I have one (1) copy of Hero.com: Crisis Point and one (1) copy of Villain.net: Power Surge by Andy Briggs to give away.


Crisis Point:

The Hero Foundation is a shadow of its former self and Lord Eon - the most terrible supervillain ever - is still at large. Worse, he has hatched a plan to tear apart time. Toby and his superhero friends should be able to stop him . . . but Pete has woken from his coma a different person and Lorna has disappeared. In the titanic struggle that will follow, friendships will be tested and superhero powers strained to the limit as time runs out for the world . . . literally . . .


Power Surge:

Schoolboy supervillain, Jake Hunter, has taken his seat on the Council of Evil. Now he will live his dream - exact revenge on the cruel world. But the cruel world has other plans, and they come in the shape of the Hero Foundation. Jake's not scared of the Hero Foundation. He even has a plan to turn it to the dark side. Until it gets a new member - Jake's own sister. Is he really so villainous as try to get her out of the way?


For more information on these books, visit their microsite at Which side are you on? , where you can also enter to win Playsatation 3 with £100 of Play.com vouchers.

To enter, just email your name and address to buffy_chosen@hotmail.com, by Thursday October 8th. This giveaway is open to UK residents only.

US Vs. UK: Just Listen Covers

US // UK


It's been a while since I US/UK'd a Sarah Dessen titles, and seeing as the covers are always so drastically different, I thought it was time I featured another one of her books.

Although I do like both covers, I think my overall favourite is the UK one. I find it more eye-catching, and I love the little drawings that represent different aspects of the story (guitar etc...). I'm also not keen on covers that have the model's head missing, as they often look off. Does anyone know why they insist on doing that so much?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Spider by Linda Strachan

From Amazon: A hard-hitting, provocative novel about teenage love, loyalty and fast cars. Spider is on his last warning. If he's caught joyriding again he'll be sent down, no questions asked. He's trying to stick to the straight and narrow but his girlfriend Deanna and mate Andy reckon he should risk one last run.

Spider
is a short book with an important message: don't take life for granted, because you never know how quickly it can end. Most of the book takes place on the night of a car crash, a crash caused by delinquent Spider and his affinity for stealing cars.

Spider and his friends Deanna and Andy are lucky to survive, and their near-death experience teaches each of them the value of love and friendship. It also proves that a life of crime isn't the right path to choose and, given the chance, can be avoided. I thought this was a fantastic way to show teenagers that things can always be changed, and that nothing is set in stone. Although the page count wasn't huge, I felt like I got to know the characters well enough, and sympathised with Spider's circumstance. It can't be easy to watch your life slowly spin out of control, and know that there's no-one readily available to help you get back on the right track. This situation and its solution is what Linda Strachan highlights, and she does so in a very positive way.

Spider
is a gritty, realistic look at life as a teenager, and all the ramifications that inevitably accompany a bad decision. If you're a fan of Kevin Brooks, Cathy MacPhail or Gillian Philip, give this one a go -- it's definitely worth a quick read.


Waiting On Wednesday: The Mark

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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The Mark by Jen Nadol

* Published by: Bloomsbury
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date:
January 19th, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a light glow reminiscent of candlelight. The only time she pointed it out taught her she shouldn’t do it again. For years, the mark has followed Cassie, its rare appearances odd, but insignificant. Until the day she watches a man die. As she revisits each occurrence of the mark, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today. Now armed with a slight understanding of the mark, Cassie begins to search for it. Even as she hides her secret, Cassie mines her philosophy class, her memories, and even her new boyfriend for answers about the faint glowing mark. But many questions remain. How does it work? Why her? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?

I think this sounds brilliant, and I love the cover. It must be such a hard decision to decide whether or not to tell someone that their life is about to end, and I can't wait to see how Cassie deals with it.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Secret Society by Tom Dolby

From Amazon: 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.

I've always been fascinated by secret societies and New York life, so a book combining the two was always going to be high on my radar. Tom Dolby has combined secrets, lies and high society life to form a book shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Secret Society features a plethora of characters -- some that I liked, and some that I could easily leave. Phoebe, Patch (love this name) and Nick were my favourites, with their stories being the most interesting to follow. I'm not saying the other characters weren't good, they just didn't stick in my mind as much as these three did.

Another part of Secret Society that I really enjoyed was the society itself, complete with creepy founders and a compulsory ankh tattoo. The influence the society has on people's lives is shocking, not to mention scary. Imagine not being able to go anywhere or do anything without somebody else knowing: it would be a nightmare. There's always a price to pay in situations like this, and in this case, freedom and privacy quickly bit the dust. Patch probably dealt with it in the best way, as he defied warnings and faced the society head-on. Whether that will come back to haunt him is anyone's guess, but i'm betting his immediate future won't be plain sailing.

The book's slower pace occasionally frustrated me, though it was the perfect way to create suspense. It slowly but surely reached a satisfying conclusion, and successfully set the scene for a sequel. I'm looking forward to delving deeper into the dangerous world of the society, and just hope that any future installments will pick up the pace a bit.



*Also posted as a guest review over at Enchanted Books*

Monday, 21 September 2009

News: Hush, Hush Mini Trailer

S&S US have just released a new mini trailer for Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush, which is released on October 13th. This had made me even more excited to buy a lovely finished copy. :)

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

From Amazon: Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. The list he used to pick his targets. Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Every now and then, a book comes along that completely and utterly floors you. Hate List is one of those books.

The emotions swirling through Jennifer Brown's pages are complicated and indescribable and, like the characters, leave a path of destruction in their wake. There's no easy way to navigate Val's life with her, and while she struggles to overcome grief, guilt and an overbearing darkness, so do you. There's no fun and games to be had, no light, fluffy romance to distract from the tragedy at hand: it's all real, no-expense-spared desolation.

School shootings are not an uncommon occurence these days, and Brown has done a fantastic job of exploring the aftermath of such an event. To lose someone you love is hard enough, but to lose them to someone else's hand is probably the worst thing that could ever happen. To know there was nothing you could do, no way to stop it, no way to know... it's unthinkable. And to be left behind to deal with the fallout, well, how do you even contemplate moving on? All these angles are explored in Hate List, and no stone is left unturned. Through the use of newspaper reports, we get to know the students that were murdered or injured, and each one of them is remembered in their own way. The narrative jumps from the day of the shooting to the present, and each chapter gets harder to read as you get closer to the shooting itself. Although you know what's coming, it still isn't any easier to read; in fact, it's nothing short of horrifying.

Seeing everything through Val's eyes is a rollercoaster of twists and turns, and her inability to forgive herself echoes throughout every decision she makes. Whether she was indeed the catalyst for Nick opening fire on an unsuspecting school is something we'll never know, but, with the help of unlikely friends and a loyal psychiatrist, she realises that it can't hold her back forever. Everyone deserves a second chance, and that's exactly what Val sets out to earn.

Hate List is an amazing debut novel, and is one that I think should be required reading on every school curriculum. It'll teach you about right, wrong, forgiveness, self-worth, and the importance of moving on. It's powerful, powerful stuff.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

In My Mailbox #35: New Books This Week


In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren.

I had another great week this week, and can't wait to read all these! Click the titles to visit the book's Amazon page.



Bought



For review



Happy reading, everyone! :)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce

From Amazon: 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.

As You Wish is a really fun, enjoyable book that I'm sure a lot of people are going to love. It's full of brilliant down to earth characters, sweet romance and something new in the supernatural world: genies.

Viola is about as genuine as characters get, with hang-ups and fears that the majority of the population can easily relate to. We all know that breakups are tough, but when the boy in question turns out to be gay, that opens a whole other door to heartache and misery. Luckily, super swoony Jinn is on hand to take Viola's mind off things, and to help her in her seemingly neverending healing process.

Their romantic relationship develops quickly but realistically, and is met with much trepidation on behalf of both characters. They certainly suit each other, and I'm glad their whirlwind attraction wasn't unbelievable or overly clichéd. I thought Viola had one flaw, and that was her constant fixation with belonging and fitting in. I got it the first five times she said it, and didn't really need it repeating several times a chapter. Still, it's not a major complaint, just more of an irritation on my behalf.

I've never read a book that features genies before, which is one of the reasons why I was so excited to read As You Wish. It's always good to have something different, and Jackson Pearce pulls it off very well; so well you wouldn't guess it was a debut novel. We could all learn from her messages about acceptance and self-esteem and, of course, who doesn't want an attractive genie available at the drop of a hat? Not me, that's for sure: send him in so I can wish for a sequel!

Friday, 18 September 2009

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle

From Amazon: David Dahlgren, a high-school senior, finds solace in running with the track team; he’s a fast runner, and he enjoys the camaraderie. But team events become a source of tension when he develops a crush on one of his teammates, Sean. Scared to admit his feelings, David does everything he can to suppress them: he dates a girl, keeps his distance from his best friend who has become openly gay, and snaps a rubber band on his wrist every time he has “inappropriate” urges. Before long, Sean expresses the thoughts David has been trying to hide, and everything changes for the better. Or so it seems.

David Inside Out is an emotional, well-written book that I couldn't put down. Lee Bantle really made me feel for his characters and the life-changing decisions they're met with, and I was left with a better understanding of just how difficult it is to be a gay teenager in this day and age.

Thankfully, homosexuality is accepted these days, and the majority of people don't think twice about having gay friends or acquaintances. However, high school can still be a cruel place, and this is made apparant in David Inside Out. David is part of the track team, and is getting to grips with his own emerging sexuality. By having a fling with teammate Sean, he opens the door to vulnerability and ridicule, and is faced with the decision to come out to his family and friends. I can't even imagine how difficult this would be for someone to deal with, and the fact that David can overcome all the negative comments and snide remarks is testament to his incredibly strong character.

Bantle does a brilliant job of conveying teenage confusion and uncertainty, and David Inside Out is a book that I'm sure a lot of teenagers, gay or straight, will relate to. Experimentation is a natural part of life, which is why I think David's brief relationship with Kick fits his story well. By testing his compatibility with a girl, he ultimately makes the decison to be himself, and faces the truths that have held him back for so long.

Everyone should find their place in the world and be happy with themselves, and that's the message that I took away from this story. Whether you're gay, straight or bisexual, there will always be people out there who try to put you down, and for whatever reason it might be, you have to overcome it. Be proud of who you are, and stick to what you feel -- after all, it'd be a boring world if we were all the same.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Off Topic: New Moon Trailer #3



As a Twilight obsessee, I'm very interested to hear what everyone - fans and non-fans - think of the new New Moon movie trailer. Do you like the Volturi? What about KStew's acting? Edward's (fake?) physique?

Me? I'm incredibly excited, and can't wait 'til November 20th. No surprise there, eh? :-)

US Vs. UK: Devil's Kiss Covers

US // UK

I like both these covers, but I prefer the UK one this week. I love the image of the bridge (which is also used on Sergei Lukyanenko's The Last Watch paperback), and the red of the cross. It's very eye-catching. Although it's not the one I'd buy, I do think the US one represents the story more, and it's good to see Billi get some cover time.

Which would end up on your bookshelf?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Boom! by Mark Haddon

From Amazon: From the moment that Jim and his best friend Charlie bug the staff room and overhear two of their teachers speaking to each other in a secret language, they know there's an adventure on its way. But what does 'spudvetch' mean, and why do Mr Kidd's eyes flicker with fluorescent blue light when Charlie says it to him? Perhaps Kidd and Pearce are bank robbers talking in code. Perhaps they're spies. Perhaps they're aliens. Whatever they are, Jimbo and Charlie are determined to find out.

I went into Boom! without knowing anything about it (I just liked the orange cover, it's very eye-catching), and was pleasantly surprised by the fun story I ended up reading. The synopsis on the inside cover doesn't give anything away, and is delightfully cryptic. I'm glad I didn't know what to expect beforehand, as I'm sure the plot ambiguity added to my overall enjoyment of the book.

Mark Haddon has a great way of writing, and his sense of humour has definitely made me want to read more of his books. Several lines in Boom! had me laughing like a lunatic, and his characters all had fantastic personalities and quirks. From crazy mothers to drifting dads, there's a character or two that everyone will be able to recognise from their own lives.

The story moved at a fast-paced speed, and before I knew it, I had unfortunately reached the end. Everything was resolved, all was well, and Jimbo and Charlie had gone on their merry way. Boom! is an adventure story with a sprinkling of sci-fi, and is an amusing, lively tale for all ages. As you can see, I don't want to give any more of the plot away, so that you can read it like I did: with no expectations and only a cool cover to draw you in.

Waiting on Wednesday: Gone

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Gone by Lisa McMann

* Published by: Simon Pulse
* Format: Hardcover
* Release Date:
February 9th, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here.

The third and final book in the paranormal teen series that includes The New York Times bestseller Wake and Fade.

I can't wait to read this, and find out how everything turns out for Janie and Cabel. I love this series, and will be sad to see it end. Hopefully it will go out with a bang!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Author Interview: Malorie Blackman

Thanks to RHCB for arranging this interview, and to Malorie Blackman for taking the time to answer my questions!

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Is there a particular event that inspired Noughts & Crosses?

A number of events inspired Noughts & Crosses actually; events taken directly from my own childhood, a number of real-life situations that happened to friends and family, things I’d seen and heard about and things I learnt for myself and from others. Inspiration can be taken from anywhere and everywhere if you’re open to it. The Stephen Lawrence case in the 1990s was just one of the catalysts that made me sit down and put a number of those events together into a story.

Did you always intend to end Noughts & Crosses with Callum’s shock decision?

I usually plan and plot my books meticulously before I start writing, but with the Noughts and Crosses series, I wanted the characters to dominate, not the plot. So I had a rough outline of the plot in my head but spent ages really getting to know all my characters so that I’d know how they’d react in any situation (though they still managed to surprise me during the course of writing the book). When I started writing Noughts & Crosses I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to end but by the time I got to the middle of writing the book, I could tell which way the wind was blowing! It was still a very hard ending to write though because I’d grown so attached to Callum. I wrote that ending with tears in my eyes.

Did you find it difficult to write about and address Jude’s terrorism in later books?

Jude was more chilling than difficult to write about. The outcome of his relationship with Cara in Knife Edge sent a chill down my spine as I was writing it and the way he was so utterly convinced that his world view was the right world view made it challenging to always make him a believable character rather than just a cartoon baddy. Part of writing is about being empathetic to the views of others, even if you violently disagree with that view.

You cover a lot of important social topics, such as racism and acceptance. Did you ever think your intended teen audience might struggle with these mature themes?

No. I never for a moment thought that teenagers would struggle with any of the issues presented in the book. I knew some adults might though! I wrote the book knowing it was just the kind of book I would’ve loved to have read as a teenager and the letters, emails and comments I’ve received over the years from teenagers have been nothing but positive.

What prompted the US title change from Noughts & Crosses to Black & White?

In Britain, Nought & Crosses has connotations – it’s the game no one plays past childhood because no one ever wins it, plus nought is another word for zero or nothing and cross can have certain religious implications, so I thought that reflected what I was trying to say in the book. Usually I really struggle with titles for my books but this one came to me before I’d even written a single word. In America, they call the game Noughts and Crosses, Tic-Tac-Toe so the title didn’t have the same meaning over there. The US publishers decided therefore to change the paperback title to Black & White to be more representative of what they felt the book was about I suppose. (The US hardback was called Naughts and Crosses)

Why did you choose to write a fourth book in the series, rather than end it with Checkmate?

I was going to end the series with Checkmate but one of the minor characters in that story, Tobey Durbridge, kept whispering his story into my ear so that I knew I wouldn’t be able to write anything else until I’d told his story first. That’s how Double Cross came about.

Will you be revisiting the world of noughts and crosses in the future, or is that story finished?

No one else from that world is currently whispering in my ear so I think the Noughts and Crosses series is finished now. But then, that’s what I said at the end of Checkmate!

What effect have your book’s success had on your life?

I’ve met some really interesting people because of the book so that’s been fantastic, eg. when the Royal Shakespeare Company produced my book as a play adapted and directed by the wonderful Dominic Cooke. So the best thing about it has been the emails and letters I’ve received from people who have enjoyed the book or the series and the wonderful people I’ve met directly because of the story. And what’s been particularly amazing, are the letters and emails I’ve received from all around the world, not just from Britain.



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Related links:

Malorie's site: Malorie Blackman.co.uk
UK publisher's site: Random House

Monday, 14 September 2009

Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan

From Amazon: Out of the blue, Ruthie has fallen in love with the boy next door, Marcus. He's suddenly grown up and made her heart go thwang, and Ruthie has no idea what to do about it. Then new girl, Jenna, shows up at school, and Ruthie realizes she has to do something, and fast. Jenna is perfect, from her perfectly straight hair to her perfectly manicured toes. Marcus has noticed her, too, and worse, Jenna has noticed him right back. Ruthie knows she has to call her aunt, New York's "Goddess of Love." If Aunt Marty, romance columnist and woman of the world, can't turn Ruthie into a perfect girl, no one can... but she might also turn Ruthie's entire world upside down.

I really like Mary Hogan's books; they're short, fun and to the point. Although Perfect Girl's description puts a lot of emphasis on turning into a perfect person, there's not actually much focus on that in the book, and instead it's more about family and accepting yourself as you are.

Perfect Girl has quite a simple plot, but it's one that works well. The romance is sweet, the family relationships are realistic, and the small town life is endearing. I didn't feel like I got to know the characters well enough, although I did have a favourite: the mysterious old Mr. Arthur. He reminded me of a sweet old Grandad, and he provided some much needed company for Ruthie and her mother. Aunt Marty was also a well-rounded character, with hidden problems of her own to work through. I liked how she was supposed to have the perfect life, when in actual fact she was experiencing set backs just like everyone else.

Hogan's writing was humourous and enjoyable, and she's definitely got the knack when it comes to writing for teenagers. I finished this book with a smile on my face, just like I did when I read her previous novel The Serious Kiss, and am looking forward to seeing what this author comes up with next. Whatever it is, I'm sure it'll be an uplifting read that people of all ages will find themselves relating to.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

In My Mailbox #34: New Books This Week


In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren.

I haven't got time to do my usual cover image and synopsis this week, so I've just linked to each book on Amazon. It's been a crazy but cool week!


Bought

For review

From friends
(thanks Carolyn and Luisa!)

Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Troy High by Shana Norris

From Amazon: Homer’s Iliad, the classic tale of love and revenge, is shrewdly retold for teens in Troy High. Narrated by Cassie, a shy outsider who fears that an epic high school rivalry is about to go up in flames, the story follows the Trojans and Spartans as they declare war on the football field. The Trojans and Spartans pull wicked pranks on each other as homecoming approaches, and the Spartans’ wildcard football star, Ackley, promises to take down the Trojans’ offensive line. But the stakes are raised when Cassie is forced to choose between the boy she loves (a Spartan) and loyalty to her family and school.

As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew Troy High would be my kind of book. It has everything I love: humour, relatable characters, high school rivalries and romance.

Cassie is a brilliant character who, along with her best friend Greg, is caught up in the rivalry between Troy High (Trojans) and Lacede High (Spartans). Her older brothers, Hunter and Perry, are both heavily involved in the football side of things, with new girl Elena labelled a traitor for switching sides when she moves schools. I loved every single character in Troy High, and by the end of the book, I felt like I was reading about people I knew. The romantic element was well written and realistic, and I was fully invested in Cassie's feelings for Greg.

The tricks and pranks the two schools play on each other were hilarious, and most of them reminded me of something you'd see in a teen movie. I'm glad we don't have these team competitions over here, as I don't think I (or the teachers) would have liked chickens running around my school!

Before reading Troy High, I didn't know too much about Homer's Iliad. I'd seen the Troy movie, but that's about as far as my knowledge stretched. Norris's author notes at the end of the book fascinated me, and I'm now quite tempted to look into the original story further. It just goes to show that all stories can be retold and revamped for a new generation, and still retain that spark that made them so popular in the first place. Troy High is a highly enjoyable book, with an underlying historical element running throughout. It's like Troy meets Friday Night Lights, which, in my opinion, is reason enough to read it!



*For more information, visit www.abramsbooks.co.uk*

Thursday, 10 September 2009

GIVEAWAY: Win 2 Copies of Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow!


Thanks to the lovely people at Quercus, I have two (2) copies of Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels to give away.

From Amazon: Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.) Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her?

  • This giveaway is open worldwide - anyone, from anywhere, can enter.
  • One entry per person
  • No blog following necessary

Just leave a comment on this post, telling me who your favourite vampire or werewolf is (or other supernatural creature if you don't like either!), by Thursday 24th September. Please also leave a contact email address! :)

Thanks, and good luck!

US Vs. UK: Wake Covers

US // UK

When I first saw the new UK cover for Wake, I really didn't like it. Maybe it's because I've stared at the US one so much, or because the style is so different - who knows? However, after looking at this one for a couple of weeks, it has definitely grown on me. The yellow is eye-catching, and the illustrations set it aside from the rest of the YA covers out there.

My favourite of the two is still the US one, because it's kind of haunting, just like the book. I can't wait for it to be released over here, it seems to have taken forever!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Guest Blog: Lili St. Crow


Lili St. Crow: author of Strange Angels


A Screen To Sink Your Fangs Into


Hello, everyone, and thank you for inviting me to Wondrous Reads. It's a pleasure to be here.

I get asked about vampires a lot. (It must be part of the job description.) What I think they mean, what the current fascination with them means, if I think they really exist—you get the idea.

My answers run along the lines of: "It's complex," "What do you mean by 'current' fascination?" and "Well, yes. Of course. But not in the way you think."

People have been fascinated with vampires for a very long time. In ancient Greece we had the lamia, Chinese vampires have been around for probably longer. It seems that as long as human beings have been aware of the physical processes of life stopping and decomposition taking over, they've been telling stories about those past the border of death wanting to sip the energy of the living. It's a great concept. Specific enough to be terrifying, and unspecific enough to have a million different permutations.

Bram Stoker didn't invent the vampire. He did, however, tap a vein of Victorian and imperial British uneasiness about female sexuality, contamination, disease, and "foreign" elements. Anne Rice didn't invent the vampire, but she did turn him into a rock star, raising questions of celebrity, sexuality, and friendship—not to mention religion. Everyone who tells a vampire story reinvents this most ancient of shapeshifters. The vampire is an almost-blank screen on which we project a number of our deepest fears and fantasies. The metaphor of sucking blood has so many layers, it's not even funny.

And vampires nowadays seem particularly attractive not just to adults, but to teens.

The very idea of the extended childhood/adolescence we call "teenage years" is a relatively recent invention, and it is fraught with all sorts of emotional peril. No wonder teens are fascinated with vampires. When you're navigating the shark-infested waters of constructing an identity, not to mention peer groups and pressure, you look for buoys. The vampire is a perpetual outsider, and even well-adjusted teens often feel the same loneliness. In many ways, the teenager and the vampire seem, well, meant for each other.

I see two core attractions for teenagers in the modern idea of the vampire. The first is defining, and the second is specialness.

Teenagers in the process of constructing their identities have a number of problems. One of the most difficult is defining themselves. Definition can happen in opposition—I will never be like my parents, for example—or with belonging, being part of a specific group. The vampire is a perennial outsider (how many fictional bloodsuckers are lonely?) who is at the same time a part of a very small select group (those who suck blood or its equivalent to prolong their existence.) The romance of the vampire can either be that he's a loner or that he's part of a select few. It's having your cake and eating it too, with the extra frisson of snappy capes-and-evening wear fashion sense. Not to mention the several layers of symbolism inherent in bloodsucking.

The second core attraction, what I call specialness, is slightly different. Readers are invited to share in the vampire's uniqueness, either through the vampire's eyes (as in the Vampire Academy series) or as an onlooker who the vampire has chosen in some way, as in the Twilight books. The almost ironically-named Bella Swan of the Twilight series is an ideal vehicle for a wish-fulfillment projection of specialness.

Through the vampire's eyes we can enjoy our own sense of uniqueness, a sense that teenagers fight for on a daily basis even as they're swimming in the current of peer conformity. If we view the vampire from the site of the "chosen" protagonist, we get a sense of forgiveness as well. We would all like to think that there's someone out there who will love us even when we're clumsy, dweeby, weak, dorky, or even just plain unappealing. It's a bonus if that person is an ultra-wealthy, handsome, sexy-tragic predator whose soft feelings are reserved only for us.

And then, of course, there's what I see as a third major contributing factor—the fact that modern vampires are downright sexy. Power, consent, contamination, and a thousand other touchy issues centering on that most dangerous of adult playgrounds, the one modern advertising plumbs endlessly to sell ideas and products to teens (including the idea and product of "being a teenager," as if there was just one approved way to do it) are reflected in the different variations of the modern vampire. The bloodsucker becomes a way to test-drive different fantasies and attitudes about sex, power, consent, and the body; a body that is in the teenager's case rapidly changing in varying ways. When a teen feels that their own body is unfamiliar territory, who better to turn to for test-drive fantasies and ready-made attitudes than a similar shapeshifter?

In fiction, vampires are dangerous and disturbing. But reading about them means the reader is in control, can choose how far and deep to go into the fantasy. During a time in their lives when most people probably feel acutely helpless—caught between school and peers, parents and teachers, cool and uncool, with a changing body and hormones revving—the control of deciding just how far you can go into a fantasy is welcome.

The wonder isn't that vampires are so popular. The wonder is that they aren't more popular.

The attraction doesn't stop with wish-fulfillment and social adjustment. I happen to think that the vampire metaphor is a very good one for delivering certain lessons. People who "sponge" off others mentally or emotionally—or even financially—are a danger, and teens can be a vulnerable group. Once you realize that someone is an emotional vampire, or "draining you dry," having a name to put on the behavior and the implicit assumption that you don't have to put up with it is halfway to solving the problem. I'm not advocating putting a stake through the heart of the friend that perpetually owes you ten bucks, but I am saying that once you recognize someone as a vampire of whatever sort you have the option of getting on your garlic and getting out your cross. Vampires can teach us to protect ourselves, a lesson each teen needs desperately.

Like any broadly-useful tool, the vampire metaphor mutates over time. Also, like any tool, it can be used or misused. It's not the vampire's fault, really. The type of shape we see projected on the vampire screen tells us more about ourselves than it ever will about the screen. When you're a teenager, confused or adrift in a world full of conflicting messages, the figure of the vampire can be like sonar—a way to externalize and examine things, so they don't seem so overwhelming. Turning the screen to see the different type of vampires is just as useful as trying new clothes and makeup, searching for the look that is yours alone. You have to know what doesn't work sometimes before you have a hope of finding something that does.

Dead or not, the vampire provides that useful service for us. I truly do suspect the bloodsucking undead will never really die.

And I, for one, can't wait to see what that shapeshifter will do next.