Thursday, 31 December 2009

Wondrous Reads Top 10 Books of 2009

I posted my Top 10 Book Covers of 2009 yesterday, so here are my top 10 book picks of the year. This list took me about a week to finalise, as there were just too many titles to choose from!

10. Out of the Blue by Val Rutt

9. Genesis by Bernard Beckett

8. The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison

7. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

5. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

4. Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

1. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

2010 is already looking like a fantastic year, and I can't wait to read the books coming out. Happy reading, everyone!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Wondrous Reads Top 10 Book Covers of 2009

I LOVE book covers, and they can often end up close to works of art. Here are my top 10 covers from 2009:

10. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

9. The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric

8. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

6. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

5. The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

4. Fire by Kristin Cashore

3. Pastworld by Ian Beck

2. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

1. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Here's to more great book covers in 2010!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

News: Maria V. Snyder in London!

Maria V. Snyder, author of the Study and Glass series, will be at Murder One in London on January 18th, 2010. The event will comprise of a signing, Q&A, then a film screening of Maria's choice at a local cinema. All the details are below! (I'm going to try and attend this, so maybe I'll see some of you there!)


Ring in the New Year with Murder One Film Club and the first great fantasy-romance film night of 2010!

Murder One presents an evening with Maria V. Snyder on Monday, January 18th. The bestselling author of the fabulous Study series will be signing the UK edition of her latest book Sea Glass (the second installment in her Glass series)*, followed by a Q&A and screening of her film pick Hero (starring Jet Li)**.

Signing starts at 6:30pm (doors open at 6pm: refreshments and snacks available); film starts at approx. 7:45pm at our new venue (a REAL cinema this time!):

Shortwave Cinema
10 Bermondsey Square
0207 357 6845

(They are located just over Tower Bridge in South London, not far from London Bridge [Northern line] or Bermondsey [Jubilee line: this is the closest] underground stations.

Ticket price is the copy of the book (available in the UK on January 8th), or if you already have the previously published US edition of Sea Glass, any book of your choice of equivalent cost.

Please email for more information.

The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

From Amazon: Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It's a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways... which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like...

In The Lonely Hearts Club, Elizabeth Eulberg focuses on the strength of friendship, and how that will always be more important than a high school boyfriend who, more than likely, you won't remember in a few years. She's written a fun, lighthearted book that I'm sure hundreds of teenage girls will relate to. After all, who hasn't been hurt by a boy you thought was the one?

Penny Lane Bloom has her heart broken by her childhood sweetheart, and swears off boys for good. Her new outlook on life leads to the creation of The Lonely Hearts Club -- a club that soon grows in popularity and includes a good portion of McKinley High's female population. It's a genius idea and, as I mentioned above, encourages Penny and her friends to turn to each other, rather than their latest guy who's only after one thing. It's like attack of solidarity and sisterhood, and it's a fantastic message to girls everywhere. Hoes over bros, indeed.

Penny's Beatles-obsessed parents are a fantastic addition to the character list, and their tendency to be slightly embarrassing is a constant source of humour. I think I related to them the most, because I know what it's like to love something as much as they love The Beatles. A true love of music, books or a TV show, or whatever it might be, is the best feeling in the world. It can take over your life, yes, but you never get that much enjoyment from anything else. At least, I don't. (Special thanks go to Joss Whedon and Stephenie Meyer for my obsessions!)

Everything that Penny, Tracy and Diane learn about friendship, love and boys is made possible through joining The Lonely Hearts Club. Lifelong bonds are formed, and they come away with the knowledge that it's alright to do things for themselves.

The Lonely Hearts Club
is a great read for fans of intelligent, realistic fiction, and Eulberg's writing is brilliant. I can't wait to read whatever she writes next, and I hope it'll be just as good as her debut offering.

Monday, 28 December 2009

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

From Amazon: Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held. The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes...

I read The Dark Divine without knowing anything about the story, the characters, or what I was in store for. All I'd read was the description on the inside cover and, just like the first half of the book, it gave nothing away. I was intrigued to say the least.

The first half of the book sets things up nicely, and introduces us to Grace Divine, her overly perfect brother Jude, and the mysterious Daniel Kalbi. I instantly warmed to the Divine family, and loved the way they supported and bounced off one another. Grace is a great female lead, and has a strong sense of loyalty and independence that I find many YA characters lacking. Daniel has to be one of the most frustrating bad boys I've come across -- I just couldn't figure him out. I knew there was something off about him, but could I guess what? No, I couldn't, and I think that more than added to my enjoyment of the book. It was almost like every page had the ability to uncover a new secret, and I couldn't wait to find out what it was.

I'm not going to even mention what the sinister secret is, as it's definitely something you need to discover at the same time as Grace. I'll just say that I think it's brilliant, and the mythology and lore crafted into the legend is fascinating, and different to anything I've read previously. If you let the story unfold as it should, I think you'll be just as surprised as I was when I finally found out what was going on. Stay away from spoilers, you won't regret it.

The Dark Divine is a compelling, addictive debut, and I absolutely loved it. All the time I was reading it, and even when writing this review, I was excited, and I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. It effortlessly stands out in the sea of supernatural YA fiction, and Bree Despain should be very proud of herself. Now, where can I find me a Daniel...?

Author Interview: Quick Q&A With Derek Landy

I was recently asked to participate in Derek Landy's (author of the Skulduggery Pleasant/Scepter of the Ancients series) mini blog tour. I of course said yes - who wouldn't?! Thanks to John for arranging it all!


How has Skulduggery's success changed your life?

My life has changed utterly since Skulduggery. He has allowed me to buy my own house, stop working on the family farm, and basically live the life I’ve always dreamed of living. My family is thrilled about everything that’s happened, and you can especially see it in my parents’ faces. For years, I was the kid they had to worry about, the kid who refused to focus in school, who got kicked out of college, who spent his days dreaming... And now, suddenly, I’m the one whose dreams have come true. For months after I got the news that Harper Collins wanted to publish the book, I’d walk into the kitchen and my parents would instantly break out into the biggest smiles I’d ever seen.

Stephanie and Skulduggery make a brilliant team. Did you always intend for a 12-year-old girl and a dead skeleton to be your main characters, and what was their inspiration?

Skulduggery arrived in my head one night, told me exactly who he was and what he expected of me. I have no idea where he came from, because writing a book about a living skeleton was not in my plans…! The first thing I did when I came up with him was write a conversation between him and someone else, about what it’s like being dead, and what he misses about being alive. For whatever reason, the person he was talking to was a girl. Initially she was 14, but I made her a little younger because I wanted her to grow into her teenage years as a sorcerer, not discover magic halfway through.

I think the books would be drastically different if Skulduggery’s partner had been a boy. The friendship and the banter wouldn’t work so well, because the boy would probably feel that he had to prove himself to his mentor, whereas Stephanie has never felt the need to prove herself. She naturally assumes she is Skulduggery’s equal…!

Stephanie, or Valkyrie as she later becomes, is the only character based on a real person. I wanted her to be strong, and funny, and smart, and capable, so I based her on my best friend.

Do you have any input into the design of your book covers? Which is your favourite?

I have a few different types of covers, because sometimes different countries need different approaches. My favourite covers are the Ireland/UK/Australia covers, which I think are amazing.

Before Tom Percival, the artist, begins, I’ll send him a physical description of each of the characters. He’ll come up with an idea, sketch it out, and send it to me. I tell him whether I like it, what I like about it, what I think needs to be changed, and he goes off and reworks it. Then he’ll send me another sketch, and that’s usually pretty much perfect. I approve it and he disappears again, then weeks later he’ll send an almost-finished drawing for any last minute changes.

My favourite cover is still the first, but I’ve just received the cover for Book Four, Dark Days, and that’s definitely my second favourite…!


Thanks for answering my questions, Derek! Below is a list of other blogs participating in Derek's mini-interview tour, along with a link to his new personal blog.

Read other questions and answers at the following blogs/sites: Essex Library Teen Space, Green Bean Teen Queen, Library Lounge Lizard, and Read Kiddo Read.

You can also visit Derek's new personal blog, and find out all the latest news on Skulduggery's worldwide goings-on: Derek Landy Blogs Under Duress.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

In My Mailbox #49: New Books This Week

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

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas, and got some cool bookish presents :) I didn't get any books, because no-one knows what I've got and what I haven't. I bought some of these from work (Borders) on the last day on Tuesday, and I did get a really good delivery from Amazon, which made me pretty excited on Xmas Eve! So, onto my last IMM of 2009...

For review:

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson


  • Fallen by Lauren Kate (finished US copy)

Happy reading!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.


Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald

* Published by: Candlewick (US), Walker (UK)
* Format: Hardcover (US), paperback (UK)
* Release Date:
April 13th, 2010 (US), July 5th, 2010 (UK)
* On Amazon: here.

From Amazon:
Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?

I absolutely loved Abby's debut novel, Life Swap/Sophomore Switch, so I can't wait for this one. It sounds like a really fun summer story, and it has a great cover!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Struts & Frets by Jon Skovron

From Amazon: Music is in Sammy's blood. His grandfather was a jazz musician and Sammy's band could be huge one day - if they don't self-destruct first. Winning the upcoming Battle of the Bands would reassure Sammy that his life's dream could be a reality. But practices are hard to schedule when Sammy's grandfather is sick and getting worse, his mother is too busy to help either of them and his best friend may want to be his girlfriend. When everything in his life seems to be headed for major catastrophe, will his music be enough to keep him together?

Struts & Frets is the story of Sammy, a teenage boy with an intense love of music. As a music fan myself, I know how important one song or one album can be, and how music can define life-changing moments. Struts & Frets emphasises the importance of music and lyrics, and explores friendships that form because of a shared interest.

Sammy literally lives and breathes music, and it's all he wants to do in life. His mum isn't overly supportive of his aspirations, though his tight group of friends are. They get him, understand him, and accept him for who he is. Jen5, his best friend turned love interest, is like his creative equal: she paints, she's individual, and she understand what it means to be passionate about something. She brings Sammy out of himself, and is the perfect compliment to his character.

This book is told from a male perspective, which is such a change from other YA I'm used to reading. Although boys are obviously different and, at times, can be as indecipherable as a foreign language, it's good to know that they go through the same things we do. They worry about what people think, they have relationship issues and, from time to time, they have trouble cracking the code that is women. Who knew, eh?

Struts & Frets has a strong cast of characters, unbreakable friendships and a realistic, ordinary romantic relationship. It's all about trust, family and, of course, music. It's about one boy's self-acceptance and belief in himself, and finding the knowledge that no dream is worth giving up on. It does lack some depth throughout the first half, though plenty of family drama suitably shakes up the direction of things, and makes it a novel that's quite hard to put down.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

From Amazon: When Cassie was little her grandmother would tell her stories about the Arctic. Cassie is older now and has no time for fairytales and talking animals, or lies about her dead mother. Living with her father at the Arctic research centre, she is determined to become a leading scientist and researcher. But when Cassie comes face to face with a mysterious polar bear, one that defies all scientific fact or knowledge, she begins to realise that the fairytales could actually be true.

Ice is a magical, compelling story that is perfect for reading in the middle of a snow-filled winter. It draws you in to Cassie's world, and takes you on a journey through an Arctic different to how you or I have ever imagined it.

When I first started reading Ice, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'm not usually a fan of fairytale retellings and, to be honest, the thought of a talking polar bear left me more than a little skeptical. I gave it a go, in true open-minded-YA-reader style, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Because I wasn't familiar with the old story, it didn't feel like a retelling, and I ended up growing quite attached to the bear and his human ways.

Sarah Beth Durst's writing is very polished and easy to read, with characters and locations that immediately come to life on the page. I loved the mixture of animals that showed up in the latter half of the book, and their dedication to helping Cassie on her journey was brilliant. I found Bear to be quite an odd fellow at times, but I think in his own little way, he really did love Cassie. He risked everything for her, which has to count for something in the grand scheme of things.

If you want to lose yourself in a fantasy world of myths, legends and Narnian-like animals, then buy yourself a copy of Ice. I'm not well versed in the ways of fairytales, but even I enjoyed this one!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

In My Mailbox #48: New Books This Week

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

This week was an excellent week for books. Even though I didn't buy any (I know - wow!), I received some very exciting titles in the post. Yay!

For review:


Prospera also sent me a finished copy of The Dresskeeper, with my quote on the back. Yay! I originally ordered it from Amazon, but they sent me a review copy by mistake!

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Thirteen Treasures by Michelle Harrison

From Amazon: While visiting her grandmother's house, an old photograph leads Tanya to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby - a girl Tanya's grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker's son, is tormented by the girl's disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. But Tanya has her own secret: the ability to see fairies...

I haven't been this excited about a book for quite a while. The Thirteen Treasures is absolutely fantastic, and I can't believe it took me so long to read it.

Michelle Harrison's writing is brilliant, and I now see why she won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. It's quite rare for a book to appeal to me on every level possible, but this one managed it. I loved the characters, the setting, the mystery and the extensive faerie mythology. I was hooked from the first paragraph, and didn't want to put it down for anything.

The quaint-sounding Tickey End is a great location for this adventure to unfold, and I could easily imagine faeries roaming the vividly described woods and surrounding areas. The faeries themselves were fascinating, and I loved the different types that Tanya encountered. My stand-out favourite would have to be Brunswick, an ugly little goblin with a kind heart and thoughts for someone other than himself. I've always been drawn to little creatures, and as soon as he appeared on the page, I was firmly on his side.

As a main character, Tanya was everything I'd hoped for. She was endearing and likeable, and didn't have any irritating qualities or traits. She was trusting and helpful to those around her, and always treated the faeries with respect. Her loyalty and friendship to Fabian was sweet and innocent, and his unwavering dedication to her really shone through at the end of the story. Without him, things would have turned out very differently.

The Thirteen Treasures is a magical, enchanting read, and I can't wait to read The Thirteen Curses. It's about as perfect as a debut novel gets, and is a book that should be on everyone's radar.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

US Vs. UK: Hearts at Stake/My Love Lies Bleeding Covers

US // UK

Here's another US/UK comparison that has both a different cover and a different title. I'm not sure why the titles have been changed, though as far as that goes, I prefer the UK one.

As for the covers, I think I like both equally. The US one is very eye-catching and, on a first glance, stands out more than the UK's darker tone. However, the UK covers is very nice in person, and I do like the heart of blood on the girl's neck. With it being a book about vampires, I'd obviously buy either cover -- I'm not fussy when it comes to the undead!

Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Waiting on Wednesday: The Island

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.


The Island by Sarah Singleton

* Published by: Simon & Schuster (UK)
* Format: Paperback (UK)
* Release Date:
April 1st, 2010 (UK)
* On Amazon: here.

From Amazon: Otto, Jen and Charlotte have planned the trip of a lifetime to India for their gap year, before going their separate ways to university. For Charlotte, it's an opportunity to get involved in an environmental project and finally feel like she's doing something worthwhile; for Otto, it's the perfect opportunity to take some real photos to help his career as a photojournalistic; for Jen, it's the realisation of a lifelong dream. But when Otto discovers the body of a girl on the beach, things take a sinister turn as he finds himself a prime suspect in her murder. Together Otto, Charlotte and Jen start to unravel the mystery behind the girl's death. Can they discover the truth and clear Otto's name and even if they do will they be able to handle what they find as their dreams of paradise crumble around them...

How cool does this sound? Hopefully this will be the book to make Sarah Singleton more widely known... she certainly deserves to be!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Author Interview: Lauren Kate

I'm very excited to have had the opportunity to interview Lauren Kate, author of Fallen. Thanks to my other favourite Lauren for arranging it!


Was your Fallen publication process a difficult one?

I was lucky enough to have met my agent beforehand. He was my boss at my first job as an editorial assistant at a publishing house. I talked to him about the concept for Fallen and he was able to sell it to Random House based on the first five chapters that I wrote. After the publisher bought it, I pretty much raced to finish the rest of the manuscript!

Did you have to do a lot of research into angel mythology, or did you take it from your own knowledge of the subject?

I’ve always been interested in biblical narratives, so I had a lot of fun doing the research. And boy, was there a lot of angelology research to be found! Actually, the hardest part about writing Fallen was knowing when to stop doing the research and when to start writing. Because it’s literally one of the oldest topics in the world, each new source I found conflicted with the one I’d just read. Eventually, I had to convince myself that it was okay to pick and choose bits of history that suited my project, to come up with my own mythology for the series.

Is the Sword & Cross reform school based on a real place, or is it purely fictional?

I’ve started using the term Frankenstein-fictional for many of the things in my books. It’s not based on any one real place, but is more an amalgamation of every place that’s ever interested me. The cemetery in the school, for example, has elements taken from the Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, some taken from the Jewish Cemetery in Prague, and some taken from the Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans. There’s an old revolutionary war fort out at the edge of Savannah and I had that geographical location in mind when I wrote Sword and Cross, though of course, I changed and embellished the details a lot.

Luce is a very strong female character, and I found myself relating to her very quickly. Does her independence and personality in any way reflect your own?

I think one of my defining characteristics might be stubbornness. I don’t give up easily on things that I want, and most of the time I like to do the opposite of what’s expected of me. It was very important to me that Luce be strong and self-possessed, even when she needs to lean on others. I’ve never been able to relate to protagonists who waited around for something to happen to them. Which is why Luce makes such a project out of understanding Daniel in Fallen. In Torment, she has a very different type of project, which has been a lot of fun to write.

Daniel and Cam are both brilliant YA bad boys. Who is your favourite, and why?

I definitely go back and forth. What I love about Daniel is the fact that he knows Luce better than anyone in the world (because he’s been with her for…thousands of years!), he knows her better than she knows herself, even. I think about this when I get frustrated with Daniel for being distant or rude to her. He always has her best interest in mind long term. Plus, you know, he’s beautiful.

But I also love Cam’s forwardness and the way he challenges Luce. He keeps her on her toes in a very different way than Daniel does. In a weird way, it’s Cam more than Daniel who is based on my husband (who’d just proposed to me when I started writing Fallen). I love that your question suggests that there is more than one type of bad boy! So many nuances to adore…

What were your initial thoughts on the book cover?

Stunned speechless. I thought it was gorgeous, and so rich, a real entrance into another world. It just popped up in an email from my editor one day and a second after opening it, I had “fallen” for it. I found out later that the publisher went through rounds and rounds of other covers after this one, and eventually polled a bunch of teens for their favourite. I had no idea there was ever any other option! They ended up sticking with the original, which I’m very glad about.

Can you tell us anything about Torment, the second book in the series?

I’m having so much fun writing Torment that it’s hard for me not to spill everything right now so I can say, “Aren’t you excited? Won’t this be great?” But my publisher would probably have my head. So in lieu of that, I’ll reveal just three things:

1. As Luce learns more about her past, she comes into a host of powers she never knew she had—and they might involve the shadows.
2. After the second book comes out, a prequel (which will span thousands of years!) will follow before the final book in the series.
3. Even though, of course, Daniel is Luce’s one-and-only, a very interesting new male character is introduced in Torment that offers him some stiff competition.


Related links:

Lauren's site: Lauren Kate
US Fallen site: Fallen
UK publisher's site: Random House
My review: Fallen by Lauren Kate

Monday, 14 December 2009

Fallen by Lauren Kate

From Amazon: What if the person you were meant to be with could never be yours? 17-year-old Lucinda falls in love with a gorgeous, intelligent boy, Daniel, at her new school, the grim, foreboding Sword & Cross ...only to find out that Daniel is a fallen angel, and that they have spent lifetimes finding and losing one another as good & evil forces plot to keep them apart. Some angels are destined to fall...

I'm going to start this review by saying that I really, really enjoyed Fallen. Although it's a bit slow to start with, it moves along at a steady pace and is written so well that I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Angels never fail to interest me, and after looking forward to this book for a fair few months, I'm glad to say that it didn't disappoint.

My favourite part of Fallen was Lauren Kate's writing. All the time I was reading it, I was genuinely excited about the words on the page, and the style used. It was snappy and fresh, and I really hope Lauren can keep the same high standards for the next three books in the series.

Character-wise, I thought Luce was brilliant. She was intelligent and independent, and I really wanted to be friends with her myself. Bad boys Daniel and Cam were also fantastic, and I can't wait to hear more from them. For once in my life, I don't have a clear love-triangle-boy favourite, which is unusual. Daniel and Cam both have their charms, and although one may be more evil than the other, it's still not enough to sway my vote in a certain direction.

The plot kept me guessing for most of the book, and the unexpected twist at the end rounded things off nicely. I have no complaints about the story or pacing, as I do like slower books that build up to a great ending. Good character development is important, and if that means sacrificing action scenes on every page, then I'm all for it.

Fallen is a strong start to this series, and I really can't wait for Torment. It's very aptly titled, don't you think?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

In My Mailbox #47: New Books This Week

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

I got quite a selection this week, and I'm looking forward to reading them all! I had a great week overall, as I saw FrankMusik and Florence & the Machine live, and met the lovely Sophia Bennett on Wednesday (event report coming soon). Yay! Click on the book titles to read a summary on Amazon...

For review:


And now I'll leave you with a picture of Florence & the Machine, live at Manchester Apollo on December 10th 2009 . It's possibly the best concert I've ever been to - I haven't decided yet!