Sunday, 31 January 2010

In My Mailbox #54: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon.



I had a crazy week for review books this week, hardly any of which I was expecting. I'm excited to read them all - they all look brilliant! None of the books I'd bought from Amazon arrived in time for IMM, but hopefully they'll be here next week.


For review:


Bought


I also got a great surprise when I opened a package from Keren David, author of When I Was Joe. This is one of my favourite books, so I'm really excited to have a signed copy. Thanks, Keren!




And lastly, Michelle Harrison, author of The 13 Treasures series, sent me some signed bookplates to stick in my books. She sent some extra ones for me to give away on here, so look out for those soon! Happy reading everyone, and I hope you all have a great week! :)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Review: How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford


Publisher: Scholastic US
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 1st, 2009
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

Review:

How to Say Goodbye in Robot is a bittersweet, heartbreaking depiction of a true, all-consuming platonic love. There are no smouldering sidelong glances or cringeworthy desires to have sex, instead there's just complete and utter trust and adoration between two people who share more than a physical attraction.

Jonah and Bea are far from perfect. They have flaws, they make mistakes, and they fight. Aside from all this, they always go back to one another, and know that they have one person in the world they can count on. It's a beautiful relationship, and their connection is made all the more realistic through transcripts of a midnight radio show that the pair listen to daily. The wide range of people who ring into the show are fascinating yet somewhat unbelievable, and have their personalities exaggerated for the purpose of kookiness. They're still fun to get to know though, especially Myrna and Larry, two of my favourite radio Night Lighters.

Jonah uncovers something quite shocking early on in the book, and though it may seem far-fetched at first, it becomes more plausible as his situation is better explained. His revelation is both the beginning and the end of a lot of different things, and I couldn't help but wish it had remained a deeply buried secret. The sub-plot focusing on Bea's stable-but-not parents is interesting but unnecessary. Standiford could have carried this book on Jonah and Bea alone, without focusing on other, less important conflicts. It does add extra depth to the characters, but it's not a particularly memorable part of the story.

I loved How to Say Goodbye in Robot. I devoured it in one sitting, laughed in all the right places, and cried at the end. Jonah and Bea are powerful characters with so much love for each other that it's hard to remember they're just friends. But they are. And they're the best kind.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Review: Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak


Publisher: Definitions
Format: Paperback
Released: January 28th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

Keep it clean, fellas. Fair fight. Okay. Do it. Don't go down. If you go down, get up. The bell, the fists, the fight. It begins, and the first round is death. The second round is the coffin. The third is the funeral. The Wolfe brothers know how to fight - they've been fighting all their lives. Now there's more at stake than just winning.

Review:

The fantastic Mr. Zusak is back, with a long-awaited UK reprint of his early novel Fighting Ruben Wolfe, which was first published in Australia in the year 2000. It's not quite in the same league as The Book Thief, but his excellent writing and characterisation still shines through in true Zusak style.

Brothers Cameron and Ruben Wolfe head up this gritty tale of family and fighting, and show just what determination and a sense of pride can achieve. When their father loses his job and starts struggling to pay the bills, the brothers know they have to do something. An underground boxing ring provides the perfect way to make quick cash, and vent some anger at the same time.

Zusak's depiction of the Wolfe family is so realistic it's hard to remember you're reading about fictional people. They face the prospect of going on the dole, vicious rumours about their daughter's sexual promiscuity and the worrying need for more money. It's refreshing to read about everyday problems like these, rather than exaggerated situations that are impossible to relate to. I don't know whether any of these plot lines stem from personal experience on the author's behalf, but whatever the reason for their inclusion, I'm just glad they're there.

Ruben's fight scenes, though quite harrowing, are action-packed and suspenseful. They'll no doubt be a big hit with the boys, and will give girls an insight into a very male-orientated sport. The same can be said for the male narration. It's such a nice change to be in a guy's head, and to see what they really think about girls, school and life in general.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe is a story about pride, strength and that unbreakable bond between two brothers. It takes a simple premise and gives it depth and emotion, while never straying from the authenticity of the situation. I only wish it was longer, which would have allowed for more development and more time with the Wolfe family. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel, Getting the Girl, will be released here one day, as I need another new Zusak fix as soon as possible.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

GIVEAWAY: Win Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (UK only) - NOW CLOSED!


Puffin UK are publishing Sarah Dessen's Along for the Ride on February 4th, and have very kindly offered me five (5) copies to give away.

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: February 4th, 2010.
  • One entry per person.
  • You don't have to follow my blog to enter.

I know some people don't like to leave their email addresses on blogs, so to enter, just submit your name and email address on the form below. Good luck!

US Vs. UK: The Demon King Covers

US // UK

I like both of these covers, but my favourite is the US one. It's so eye-catching and well designed, and the actual cover is shiny and foiled. I do like the UK one, but I don't think it would grab me as much.

This is yet another example of the same book being aimed at different markets. In the US, The Demon King is YA fantasy, but over here it's being published as adult fantasy. I think it's really interesting how different countries can take the same text and sell it to an older age group. The same thing happened with Graceling and Fire, and doesn't seem to have done them any harm.

Which cover do you prefer? And do you think it will do well in an adult market?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May & June

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway

* Published by: Razorbill (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date:
August 3rd, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here

Goodreads summary:
Three sisters, three extraordinary, life-changing powers! Three sisters share a magical, unshakeable bond in this witty high-concept novel from the critically acclaimed author of Audrey, Wait! Around the time of their parents’ divorce, sisters April, May, and June recover special powers from childhood—powers that come in handy navigating the hell that is high school. Powers that help them cope with the hardest year of their lives. But could they have a greater purpose? April, the oldest and a bit of a worrier, can see the future. Middle-child May can literally disappear. And baby June reads minds—everyone’s but her own. When April gets a vision of disaster, the girls come together to save the day and reconcile their strained family. They realize that no matter what happens, powers or no powers, they’ll always have each other. Because there’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.

How cool does this sound?! I've heard great things about Robin Benway, and even though I haven't yet read Audrey, Wait!, I think I'm going to love her writing and ideas. Plus, this cover alone is worth owning!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Review: The Secret Year by Jennifer R. Hubbard


Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: Hardcover
Released: January 7th, 2010
Grade rating: D


Amazon summary:

Colt and Julia were secretly together for an entire year, and no one—not even Julia’s boyfriend— knew. They had nothing in common, with Julia in her country club world on Black Mountain and Colt from down on the flats, but it never mattered. Until Julia dies in a car accident, and Colt learns the price of secrecy. He can’t mourn Julia openly, and he’s tormented that he might have played a part in her death. When Julia’s journal ends up in his hands, Colt relives their year together at the same time that he’s desperately trying to forget her. But how do you get over someone who was never yours in the first place?

Review:

I was really excited to read The Secret Year, but unfortunately, it just wasn't the book for me. I found it quite difficult to get through, and struggled to form any kind of attachment to the characters. The premise is fantastic, and I can't fault that at all. It's unusual and intriguing, and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. To live with any kind of secret is difficult, but to have a whole year that essentially only exists to two people is unimaginable.

Hubbard definitely had the idea for a brilliant story, but I personally didn't gel with any of it. I didn't see why Colt and Julia liked each other as, besides sex, they didn't really interact a lot. Their relationship was very much on the physical side, and I didn't think it was enough to explain why these two very different people felt so strongly towards each other. Their chemistry was lacking, and I didn't particularly like either one of them.

The whole time I was reading this book, I was just waiting for it to go somewhere, for something to happen. I found the pacing too slow, and the story never really got going. I expected Julia's notes to be more interesting, but all she talked about was her boyfriend that she didn't really like, and schools she wanted to go to in the future. There were no revelatory bombshells in her words, which was a shame, as I think that would have turned the book around.

This is a great example of how reading is subjective. I've read nothing but good reviews of The Secret Year, and I really hope my own dislike of the book won't put anyone off giving it a try. Hubbard has her ideas in the right place, and I think she'll only get better as she continues writing. I'll definitely give her next book a chance, and hopefully I'll like it a bit more than this one.

Author Interview: Sarah Jane Stratford

Sarah Jane Stratford is the debut author of adult novel The Midnight Guardian, which sees vampires up against the Nazis in WWII. Thanks, Sarah!

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How did you go from being a history student in York to writing your first adult novel?

I've always loved stories, which is really why I love history. But the actual telling of stories ultimately held the most appeal, so it seemed only natural to start writing fake history. I had already done so in screenplays and some other projects and have finally done so in long form. It keeps me out of trouble.

Is the Second World War a particular point of interest for you? Did you have to do a lot of research into the event, or was it based on existing knowledge?

I knew a fair bit about it already from extensive reading, study, and a peculiar interest in war films. It’s such a horrible time and yet so full of fascinating stories that it had always drawn me. I did more research as I was working on the book, but mostly just let the story guide me.

I've never encountered a story that sees vampires against Nazis. Was there a clear moment when this idea came to you?

I felt like Brigit, my heroine, was so strong and present that she had me spinning out her story long before I knew what was happening. I guess it came from a fascination with resistance movements and grew from there. I was deeply interested in the power of the two groups. Vampires – so strong and smart and effectively immortal. Nazis – powerful and felt themselves immortal. So each assume godlike qualities and are rightly considered as monsters from those outside their tiny circle of benevolence. I wondered what might happen if these two factions stood openly against each other. Once I started playing with the idea, I had to run with it.

The Millennials are very old, very powerful, vampires. Did you mix their mythology with any contemporary vampire lore, or did you set out to create a purely original breed?

I wanted to encompass some aspects of traditional and contemporary lore, since everything tends to build from what came before. My most immediate influence was the universe created by Joss Whedon for Buffy, which is part of why I was so thrilled when Marti Noxon wrote a beautiful blurb for the book. So that was my main springboard in thinking about who these vampires were and how they live. But of course, I also wanted to make them original, inherent to this specific world.

The Midnight Guardian jumps between several different time frames. When writing the book, did you focus on one singular time period, or did you write it in the published chronology?

I knew from the outset that I would be delving into three emotionally intertwining stories and one of my biggest early thrills was seeing how perfectly they all fell into place. I do recognize that some people find it a bit confusing, but for Brigit and me, it came down to history. The past continually informs the present, so it was only right that Brigit and Eamon look back to past both recent and distant as a way of comprehending the present. It was tricky to do, but hugely rewarding.

With the recent influx of vampire literature, both in the adult and YA genres, did you ever worry about the critical reception that The Midnight Guardian would receive?

I wrote the book in a vacuum – it was just me and the characters and story – but as we drew nearer to publication, of course I had some concerns that people might not welcome a new vampire story in the mix. I hoped and am happy to see that readers are accepting and enjoying the Millennials and their own unique world.

Are you planning to write more books about the Millennials? If so, do you have any news or series information you can share?

I am! I'm doing revisions on the sequel now, which picks up shortly after The Midnight Guardian left off and continues with the war. This story focuses on Mors – he's a lot of fun to spend time with!


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Related links:

Monday, 25 January 2010

Review: My Love Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B-


Amazon summary:

The Blakes are rather different to your usual neighbours. They are vampires and some of the members of the family date back to the twelfth century. One of the children, Solange, is the only born female vampire known and, as such, she poses a direct threat to the vampire queen. Her best friend Lucy is human, and when Solange is kidnapped Lucy and Solange's brother, Nicholas, set out to save her. Lucy soon discovers that she would like to be more than just friends with Nicholas. But how does one go about dating a vampire? Meanwhile, Solange finds an unlikely ally in Kieran, a vampire slayer on the hunt for his father's killer.

Review:

My Love Lies Bleeding is one of those series books that sets things up nicely, but often fails to be as good as future instalments. At times it felt very rushed, and there was never any doubt that more Drake stories would follow. I've found that this can happen a lot with a series, and although it's not necessarily a bad thing, it does sometimes make for a lesser reading experience.

The new vampire mythology and various groups of hunters was something that particularly interested me, and I took an instant liking to the Helios-Ra, a group of trained vampire assassins. While they were certainly nothing new in the world of the fanged, they were written with a certain edge that made them stand out. The idea of a vampire hierarchy with princesses and queens was also used well, and isn't something I've seen much of in YA bit lit.

The Drake family themselves were fairly easy to relate to, though I had trouble with the name Solange. It didn't seem to fit her character and, to be honest, I hated it. What I didn't hate, however, were her seven vampire brothers. Seven attractive, super-skilled vampires, you say? Yes, you heard me right. And they rocked! Nicholas was the obvious favourite, with smooth talker Logan coming in a close second.

The ending of My Love Lies Bleeding was over pretty fast, with less explanation and more action. It did set up the sequel well, and there are plenty of directions that the plot can take in book two. I'm hoping for more dual narrative, a bigger spotlight on my favourite female character Lucy, and a big bad hellbent on destroying the Drake family once and for all.

When reading this book, I kept telling myself to remember that Eclipse is better than Twilight. With that in mind, I think things are definitely looking up for the Drakes. Bring on Blood Feud!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

In My Mailbox #53: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon.




I had a good (but big) week this week! I had another trip to London and the Puffin offices, which was amazing as always. A report of my day will be coming soon, as I also went to a signing and an interview. Click the following titles to view their Amazon pages/summaries.


For review:


Bought:


From friends:
^ Thanks Carla!

^ Thanks Luisa!


Hope everyone has a great week!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Review: The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh


Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

It's 1347 and fifteen-year-old Will, an orphan boy, lives at Crowfield Abbey. Sent into the forest to gather wood, he rescues instead, a creature from a trap - a hob, who shares with Will a terrible secret. Somewhere in the forest behind the abbey where he lives,is a grave. And buried deep in the snow is an angel. But how can an angel die? What has it to do with the monks of the Abbey? When two hooded strangers arrive at Crowfield asking questions about the angel's grave, Will is drawn into a world of dangerous old magic...

Review:

Pat Walsh's atmospheric debut offering is a historical fantasy with a magical twist. Gone are the expected swords and battles, and in their place are mysterious angels and loveable hobs.

A hob is a fay creature, with similar physical attributes to that of a fox. They can hold conversations as well as the next human, and prove quite useful when unravelling age-old mysteries of angels buried in nearby forests. Brother Walter is a lovely little guy, and due to my enthusiasm for tiny creatures, I fell in love with him straight away. He was by far my favourite character, though Brother Snail came a close second. I had a bit of trouble connecting with William, just because he didn't present himself as a particularly endearing character. I liked him more as I got to know him, but he didn't leave a strong impression on me.

The setting of The Crowfield Curse is fairly unusual for a YA book, and isn't something I remember coming across before. An isolated abbey makes for an intriguing place of residence for the monks, and provides a sense of isolation that makes the story seem that much more ominous.

The arrival of two strangers sees life at Crowfield Abbey take a turn for the creepy, and William uncovers a local legend of sorts. With the help of Brother Walter and Brother Snail, a fascinating history unfolds, and that's when the story really finds its feet. Up until that point, things move along at a fairly slow pace, while Walsh sets everything up with the utmost attention to detail.

1347 is an interesting time period to explore, and this is one of The Crowfield Curse's most appealing elements. Walsh took a chance on an almost forgotten time, and I think it more than paid off. I can't wait for the sequel and the return of the fay creatures, and I just hope Brother Walter keeps himself out of trouble!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Review: Auslander by Paul Dowswell


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. Then German soldiers take him away to be measured and assessed. They decide that Peter is racially valuable. He is Volksdeutscher: of German blood. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and acceptably proportioned head, he looks just like the boy on the Hitler-Jugend poster. Someone important will want to adopt Peter. They do. Professor Kaltenbach is very pleased to welcome such a fine Aryan specimen to his household. People will be envious. But Peter is not quite the specimen they think. He is forming his own ideas about what he is seeing, what he is told. Peter doesn't want to be a Nazi, and so he is going to take a very dangerous risk. The most dangerous risk he could possibly choose to take in Berlin in 1942.

Review:

I'm a big fan of fiction set in and around the Second World War. I don't know what it is that fascinates me, all I know is that it's a particular point of interest, and has been the subject of some of my favourite books. Auslander is a great addition to war fiction, and though it's not up there with The Book Thief or The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, it's most definitely worth a read.

By reading the first page alone, you can tell Dowswell has done his homework. His attention to detail is almost flawless, as is his ability to paint a clear picture of wartime Germany and its surrounding areas. Warsaw in 1941 is a scary place to be, and that's where Peter's story starts. From there, he's sent to a family in Germany, introduced to Nazi propaganda, and deemed an auslander -- a foreigner. He also stumbles across proof of medical experiements being tested on jews, and becomes tangled up in a dangerous web of lies and deceit. It's all for a good cause, but it doesn't do him any favours as a respected member of the Hitler Youth.

I can't even imagine what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII. Most of their choices were stripped away, and they lived in a constant fear of being bombed or killed because their hair wasn't the right colour. With Auslander, Dowswell tries to show that fear and uncertainty and, for the most part, he manages to. I personally wanted to see more of the Hitler Youth, and how that affected the children and teenagers enlisted. I also would have liked a first person narrative, so I could have read how Peter was feeling, and how everything was really affecting him. Without being in his head, I did have some trouble warming to him, and by the end of the novel, I still wasn't fully convinced.

The Reiter family, who were my favourite characters, reminded me very much of Hans and Rosa Huberman from The Book Thief. Compassionate and selfless, they put others first, even if it meant dying themselves. There's no better message to convey than that of acceptance and equality, and that's what I've taken away from Auslander. The pace could have been faster, and the characters easier to identify with, but in the end, it's all about Peter's story. And what an important story it is.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

GIVEAWAY: Win a copy of Marked (HoN) SIGNED by P.C. & Kristin Cast! (Worldwide) - NOW CLOSED!


I never host giveaways for reaching certain follower numbers, but because 500 is pretty amazing (I still can't believe it!), and because I've had a good week, I'm going to do it just this once. I've been saving this book since August, I think, as other giveaways etc.. got in the way. It's a UK paperback copy of Marked, the first book in the House of Night series, and is signed by both authors.

Here's Amazon's synopsis:

When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny - with a little help from her new vampire friends.


Rules & info:

  • This giveaway is open worldwide.
  • Only one entry per person, please!
  • You don't have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Just leave a comment on this post, with a contact email address, and you'll be entered into the giveaway. (Or if you're a blogger and don't want to leave an email, a blog address is fine).
  • End date: Thursday 4th February.

Good luck, and thanks once again to everyone who has ever taken the time to visit/read/follow/comment on my blog. You are all ace! (And yes, I have kept my other signed HoN books, this isn't the only one!)

Edit: If the comment form doesn't work for you, just send me an email, and I'll add your name into the big hat (or bowl) at the end.

US Vs. UK: The 13 Treasures Covers

US // UK


I think I should apologise to Simon & Schuster UK because, this week, my vote is going to the US cover. I absolutely LOVE it. For me, it really captures the magic of Michelle's story, and I think the swirly font, unusual artwork and array of bright colours is responsible for that.

I do like the UK cover, mostly because the bracelet shown is a huge part of the story. The red makes it stand out, and always makes me think of the character Red, who is an important part of the series. I have to have the upcoming US cover, so I've pre-ordered a copy. I think it's going to look great on my bookshelf!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Fallout

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Fallout by Ellen Hopkins

* Published by: Margaret K. McElderry (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date:
September 14th, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here

I can't find a synopsis for Fallout anywhere, so I don't know too much about it. It's the sequel to the amazing Crank and Glass, and is told by Kristina's children. Ellen Hopkins talks more about it on her site, on the Fallout book page.

I'm so excited for this book. After reading the other two last week, I've discovered a new love for verse novels and Ellen Hopkins. I also love the cover.. I think it's my favourite of the series. It's so striking.


Edit: Thanks to Lenore for finding the summary on Shelf Awareness!

It moves from the story of Kristina Snow, who became addicted to crystal meth (aka crank, "the monster") in Crank, and whose story continued with Glass, to the next generation. Hunter, Autumn and Summer--three of Kristina Snow's five children--live with different guardians and go by different last names. What they share is an absent mother whose real love for the past 20 years has been crank. The novel shifts among their three narratives and incorporates news items that also shed light on their family history--one riddled with the ravages of addiction.

Sounds amazing, eh?

UK News: Beautiful Creatures Sample Chapters & Literary Lovers Poll

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl's fantastic debut novel Beautiful Creatures is published in the UK on 4th February, and to celebrate, Puffin have three chapter samplers for everyone to read.

Amazon summary: In Ethan Wate’s hometown there lies the darkest of secrets . . . There is a girl. Slowly, she pulled the hood from her head. Green eyes, black hair. Lena Duchannes. There is a curse. On the Sixteenth Moon, the Sixteenth Year, the Book will take what it’s been promised. And no one can stop it. In the end, there is a grave. Lena and Ethan become bound together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided. Ethan never even saw it coming.

Click the following links to meet Lena & Ethan:

* Beautiful Creatures chapter sampler #1

* Beautiful Creatures chapter sampler #2

* Beautiful Creatures chapter sampler #3




Puffin have also launched a new poll, where you can vote for your favourite literary lovers. Edward & Bella are included, as are other famous couples such as Romeo & Juliet and Mr. Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet.

The poll is open to UK residents aged 13 - 18, and is open for voting until 12th February 2010. Who do you think will win? My money's on a certain vampire and his clumsy lady friend...

Click here to visit the Spinebreakers site and cast your vote!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Review: The Thirteen Curses by Michelle Harrison


Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format: Paperback
Released: January 7th, 2010
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

The Thirteen Treasures have become the Thirteen Curses. When fairies stole her brother, Red vowed to get him back. Now trapped in the fairy realm, she begs an audience with the fairy court where she strikes a bargain. Her brother will be returned - but only if she can find the thirteen charms of Tanya's bracelet that have been scattered in the human world. Returning to Elvesden Manor, Red is assisted by Tanya and Fabian and a desperate hunt begins. Soon they make a shocking discovery. The charms now have twisted qualities of the thirteen treasures they represent...and the longer they are missing the worse the consequences will be. Can Red, Tanya and Fabian find all the charms? And even if they do, will the fairies keep their promise?

Review:

Fairies! Goblins! Witches! Welcome to The Thirteen Curses.

After reading Michelle Harrison's fantastic debut novel The Thirteen Treasures, I was so excited to get stuck into The Thirteen Curses. Having now read both books, I'd go so far as to say that Harrison is up there with my favourite UK authors, and is now in the good company of Marcus Sedgwick, Sarra Manning and Lucy Christopher. Seriously, she's that good.

The Thirteen Curses is so hard to put down it's almost impossible, and aside from some convenient plotting and the occasional clunky chapter, I have no qualms with it at all. I could never fault the brilliant writing, imagination or magic of the fey characters, and it's quite clear why these books are held in such high regard.

Without spoiling anything about the previous book, The Thirteen Curses picks up almost exactly where it left off, and takes you on an enchanting adventure through fairie realms, scary forests and history itself. All your favourite characters, both human and fairie, come back for more, and there are even a few new creatures for you to meet. Red and Tanya share MC duties, with Warwick and Fabian having more to do and less of a sidekick role.

When I'd finished the first book in the series, Brunswick the goblin was my favourite character. Now, the little tea caddy brownie is my number one dude. He can brandish his walking stick like it's a required skill among the little people, and he just sounds so cute and grumpy. I want one!

I don't know what else to say other than that you need to read these books. They're the most enjoyment I've had in a long time, and are just a great escape from everything going on around you. Hats off to you, Michelle Harrison. You rock.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 1st, 2009
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

The year is 1914 and Europe, armed with futuristic machines and biotechnology, is on the precipice of war. Prince Aleksandar is fleeing for his life, having discovered that his parents have been assassinated and that he is now a target for the Clanker Powers, a group determined to take over the globe with their mechanical machinery. They will stop at nothing to get what they want, so Alek knows his only choice is to keep on running. When he meets Deryn Sharpe, an orphan girl who has disguised herself as a boy so she can to join the British Air Service, they form an uneasy, but necessary, alliance. But the pair will soon discover that their emerging friendship will dramatically change their lives and the entire course of the Great World War...

Review:

I'm still a bit excited about Leviathan, so I'm going to have to begin by saying that I loved it. It really is an accomplishment, and as a first time reader of Westerfeld, I think I picked the right book to start with. It's lavishly illustrated by Keith Thompson, and some of the images are just amazing. They make the world come to life, and complement the writing brilliantly.

It's been quite a while since I've been so drawn to a story, but Westerfeld effortlessly pulled me in with his tale of Clanker machines and Darwinist fabricated species. I've never read steampunk before, but now that I have, I get why it's such a popular genre. There's so much scope and history to play with, not to mention the fantastical inventions and machinery that are woven into real events and important moments in world history.

Alek and Deryn are two very different teenagers, thrown together during the First World War. Alek's a reluctant heir to an empire, while Deryn is masquerading as a boy just so she can fly in the British Air Service. Both are headstrong, brave and determined, and both are instrumental in the outcome of the war. I must admit that I enjoyed Alek's narrative more than Deryn's. It flowed easier, and his journey across the country was marginally more interesting than her time aboard the Leviathan aircraft. Westerfeld's decision to tell two stories from two perspectives was quite a genius move -- when you have characters that good, there's never a doubt that they can hold their own.

The action in Leviathan is non-stop, with one threat or another always lurking around the corner. Whether it be German Clanker machines hot on their tail, or the fear of being kicked out of the air service, things are never quiet for Alek and Deryn, and they never take anything lightly. I honestly can't think of a better introduction to Scott Westerfeld, and all I'm wondering is: when can I get my hands on a copy of Behemoth?

In My Mailbox #52: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon.


Today is not only IMM day, it's also my one year blogoversary! This day last year, I was just about to start Wondrous Reads, and I'm still not entirely sure why I had the idea. I was just reading so many good books, and I wanted to talk about them! So, thanks to everyone who has followed, commented, or just stopped by and read a review -- it's been a great year for my blog, and I hope the next one will be just as fun! Hi to all the friends I've made too, you all rock!

Anyway, onto my IMM... I had a meeting with Random House on Friday, so I have to thank them for a fair few of these, including the best surprise EVER! (Luisa Plaja's new book!).




For review:

& thanks to my friend for sending me

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Review: Monster Republic - The Divinity Project by Ben Horton


Publisher: Corgi
Format: Paperback
Released: January 1st, 2010
Grade rating: C


Amazon summary:

An explosion in a nuclear power plant. Kids patched up with scavenged body parts and bionic implants. A growing army of superhuman soldiers programmed for destruction. 'No', whispered Cameron to the monster in the glass. And he watched it shaking its hideous head. 'That's not me. You're not me'.

Review:

I was pretty excited when I heard that this book was like Terminator meets X-Men. What a premise! Luckily, Monster Republic delivered the non-stop action promised, and moved along at a very quick speed. As a bonus, Random House have included a few pages of art at the back, which made imagining the characters and settings that much easier.

Cameron is a normal teenage boy, with the usual mix of secondary school friends, and the hots for a girl in his year. He's not a character that stood out to me at first, but all that changed when he woke up after surviving an explosion at a power plant. He became a leader, a warrior, and someone to be feared. Cameron's new life as part-machine, part-boy struck me as a metaphor for growing up, with his new responsibilities and decision making teaching him some valuable life lessons.

Rora, a fellow member of the Monster Republic for rejects, is a good match for Cameron, and takes him under her wing. She comes across as the leader of the group, and risks a lot when she decides to trust Cameron. Carla, a mish-mash of machine parts and students, plays the main villain well, even though she coincidentally always turns up at the right place at the right time.

Monster Republic didn't hook me immediately, and it took me quite a while to warm to it. I felt detached from most of the characters, which I think is down to me not being able to easily empathise with their situation. I did enjoy all the action scenes, and the story itself was fantastic, but for me it just had that special ingredient missing.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins


Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback
Released: October 4th, 2004
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

Kristina Georgia Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina -- she's fearless. Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul -- her life.

Review:

Reading Crank is like reading a painstakingly honest diary, complete with thoughts, confessions and firsthand accounts that are never sugarcoated. It's gritty, raw and powerful, and left me feeling incredibly grateful for my lack of interest in illegal substances.

Kristina's story shocked me, enthralled me, and educated me. It left me reeling in certain places, and wishing I could skip over pages in others. Nothing is glossed over, nothing is forgotten, and everything is real.

To be so dependent on a drug must be one of the scariest things anyone can go through, and Hopkins writes about it in beautiful, stark verse. I'll admit that it took me a while to get used to the style of writing, as it's not a technique I'm accustomed to. It did nothing but impress me though, and I can't wait to read more by this author, so I can once again be subject to such a clever talent.

After reading Crank, I can't help but wonder about some of the choices Kristina made. Why was she sent to visit her known drug-addict of a father? Why didn't she say no to crystal meth? What made her change her behaviour so drastically? These are all things I wanted to know but never found out, even though they're all pretty important pieces of a complicated puzzle.

Read Crank if you want to learn more about drug addiction. Read it if you want to experience a different side of life, or if you just want to discover a new writing talent. I can guarantee that it will take you on a journey you won't forget in a hurry.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

News: UK Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2010

Today, the shortlist nominations for the UK's Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2010 were announced. There are some fantastic books on the list, and all are fiction titles written for 7 - 13 year olds.


Here's the shortlist:

1. Flyaway by Lucy Christopher (Chicken House)
2. The Great Hamster Massacre by Katie Davies (Simon & Schuster)
3. The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester (Macmillan)
4. Seven Sorcerers by Caro King (Quercus)
5. Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (Puffin)
6. The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt (David Fickling Books)
7. Desperate Measures by Laura Summers (Piccadilly Press)
8. Superhuman: Meteorite Strike by A.G Taylor (Usborne)
9. The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh (Chicken House)


The winner will be announced on February 10th, at an evening reception held at Waterstone's Piccadilly in London. The winning author will also get a cash prize, as well as increased sales.

I'd just like to say a HUGE congratulations to Lucy Christopher for being shortlisted, as she's amazing and Flyaway is a brilliant book. I'm also really excited that Love, Aubrey has been recognised, because I love that book too!

Good luck to all the shortlisted authors!

US Vs. UK: Magic Under Glass Covers

US // UK

This week's choice is an easy one for me, as I love the UK cover for Magic Under Glass. In my opinion, it looks nicer than the US one and, from what I've heard, tells more of the story.

I don't like the layout of the US cover. I think the title text takes a lot away from the image, which on its own is lovely. Bloomsbury UK have gone for a completely different look, and I think it's definitely paid off. Which would you choose?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Restoring Harmony

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

* Published by: Putnam Juvenile (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date:
May 13th, 2010 (US)
* On Amazon: here.

Goodreads summary: The year is 2041, and Molly McClure was only six when the Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population knew it. When she is forced to leave the comfort of her small B.C. island to travel down to Oregon, Molly discovers how hard the Collapse has been on the rest of the world. What starts out as a quick trip to the U.S. to convince her grandfather to return to Canada and be the island’s doctor, becomes a rescue mission. How much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back home?

I'd buy this book based on the cover alone, so the fact that it sounds pretty amazing is just a bonus. I love dystopian novels, and I'm anxiously awaiting this!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Review: When I Was Joe by Keren David


Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Format: Paperback
Released: January 7th, 2010
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he s named, and he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty has a new name, a new look and a cool new image life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them from hiding. Joe s cracking under extreme pressure, and then he meets a girl with dark secrets of her own.

Review:

When I Was Joe isn't an easy book to read, based on the harrowing and all-too-realistic subject matter. It's honest and raw without being unbelievable or over-exaggerated, and packs a punch that'll leave you mulling it over for days

Main character Ty, who, after being placed in the witness protection programme, is forced to change his name to Joe, is a very strong character. He's instantly likeable, and this bodes well when it comes to sympathising with him and his unfortunate situation. Even after he becomes Joe and his personality changes, he's still a typical teenager with everyday, mundane issues to deal with. He never lets anyone in, and deals with his isolation remarkably well.

His budding friendship with successful paraplegic Ellie is both comforting and worrying. There's always the chance he'll get a bit too close to her and slip up, revealing his real name or previous life. It's like he's constantly walking on eggshells that can never, ever be broken or disturbed. Living with such fear and secrecy is hard and demanding, and author Keren David never fails to hammer that point home.

Though the rest of the characters are all well-written and engaging, none of them stand out quite like Ty. It's the only complaint I have about this novel, which just goes to show that nothing is perfect. Maybe it's because they're not as endearing, or perhaps it's because Ty overshadows everything going on around him. He successfully carries the whole novel, and even if he was the only character featured in the story, I don't think it would have made a difference. Ty's mum Nicki is a particular highlight, and her struggles with her new life are often heartbreaking. She knows her old life could be lost forever and, armed with that knowledge, she tries to carry on moving forward to the best of her ability.

Knife crime is a frightening violence that is rife in many parts of the UK, and is something that just can't be ignored. While all cases might not be as extreme as Ty's, it does happen, and innocent people's lives are ruined, altered and forever changed. Keren David addresses this issue with the utmost severity, and never glorifies life as a main witness to a crime. Without books like these, people could very easily forget what's happening right under their noses; even as close to home as the school their child attends. For that reason alone, When I Was Joe should be read, enjoyed and learned from by everyone. It's never too late to pay attention.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Review: Flyaway by Lucy Christopher


Publisher:
Chicken House
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010
Grade rating: A+


Amazon summary:

While visiting her father in hospital, thirteen-year-old Isla meets Harry, the first boy to understand her and her love of the outdoors. But Harry is ill, and as his health fails, Isla is determined to help him in the only way she knows how. Together they watch a lone swan struggling to fly on the lake outside Harry's window. Isla believes that if she can help the damaged swan, somehow she can help Harry. And in doing so, she embarks upon a breathtakingly magical journey of her own.

Review:

Flyaway is only Lucy Christopher's second book, but already it feels like I've been reading her words for years. It's completely different to her debut novel, Stolen, but is just as good, if not better. This story is told by Isla, a teenage girl with a love for all types of birds. When her father is taken to hospital, it's there she meets a boy called Harry Brambling. Isla and Harry discover a swan out on the lake, and before they know it, everything changes.

Isla is an engaging narrator, with a warm personality and a selfless nature. She's supportive when her family needs her, she's encouraging to her sick father, and she's the anchor that ensures Harry keeps hold of the cheeky sparkle in his eyes. Like Isla's father, Harry's not well himself, though you'd never be able to tell from his high spirits and positive attitude. The friendship that forms is so lovely and innocent, and is a refreshing change from all the supercharged teenage hormones I've become so accustomed to.

Accompanying Isla and Harry throughout the book is a lone swan that has become detached from its flock. It might not be able to talk or interact like a human can, but it's just as important as the other characters. It has the ability to just be, and to guide and offer comfort when it's needed most. It's described so vividly that I almost believed it could be sat outside in my own tiny fish pond, bobbing for goldfish and tormenting the frogs. I never had any interest in swans before reading Flyaway, but now I want to experience their magic for myself.

There are a few short dream sequences throughout Isla's tale, and while they do fit into what's happening in the real world, I felt that a couple of them interrupted the flow of writing and unnecessarily complicated things. The last venture into Isla's imagination is so poignant and touching, and really made me think things were going to turn out differently than they did. I'm glad I was wrong!

Flyaway is chock-full of beautiful imagery, realistic plot threads and short chapters that will tug at your heartstrings. It's a story about family, friendship, and overcoming the many obstacles that life will inevitably present. I just wish it had a higher page count, because I could have carried on reading it for days.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

In My Mailbox #51: New Books This Week

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




I had a really good book week this week, and all look fantastic! Due to massive amounts of snow falling in the UK, most of the books I've bought didn't arrive, but at least that's something to look forward to next week. :) My laptop is being really slow today, so I've just linked to Amazon pages rather than post a synopsis with each. Click the book title to find out more!



For review:

  • No and Me by Delphine de Vigan (UK proof/ARC)
  • Flyaway by Lucy Christopher (Woohoo!)


Bought:

  • We by John Dickinson


Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Review: Betrayals by Lili St. Crow


Publisher:
Quercus
Format: Paperback
Released: November 4th, 2009
Grade rating: C+


Amazon summary:

The second novel in the Strange Angels series continues with Dru neatly tucked away in a Schola that's more like a prison than a secret training facility. But a traitor in the Order wants Dru dead and she can't trust anyone except for Graves. Too bad he's being kept busy with a new crew of wulfen teens and doesn't have time for her. Will Dru survive long enough to find out who is really after her?

Review:

Betrayals picks up where Strange Angels left off, and plunges Dru straight back into danger. It's just as fast paced as its predecessor, with enough fight scenes to make you think you're watching an action movie.

I like the story and supernatural theme of this series, but I can't seem to connect with the characters. Dru isn't very personable and is quite closed off, and I think that's what's giving me a hard time with her. I understand that she's been abandoned, betrayed, and generally treated badly during her life, but despite all that, I don't seem to have any strong feelings for her one way or the other. Maybe it's just me, but her character seems a little bit flat.

Graves really comes into his own in this book, and stops relying on Dru so much. He gets some friends, a stable place to stay, and a life of his own. Along with his pack of wulfen roommates, he's my favourite part of Betrayals, and gives Christophe a run for his money in the knight-in-shining-armour sweepstakes.

If I liked Dru more, I have no doubt that this would be one of my favourite series. The vampire and werewolf mythology will always make me excited for the next instalment, as will Christophe and Graves. St. Crow has some very strong male characters, and she uses them so well that I can easily look past my detachment from Dru. These books are lightning-fast reads that end up being hard to put down, and I hope they continue to improve as the series progresses.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Review: Calamity Jack by Shannon & Dean Hale


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

Jack thinks of himself as a criminal mastermind with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, a trickster... maybe even a thief? But, of course, he's not out for himself he's trying to take the burden off his hardworking mum's shoulders. She'd understand, right? He hopes she might even be proud. Then, one day, Jack chooses a target a little more... 'giant' than the usual, and as one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk, his troubles really begin. But with help from Rapunzel and other eccentric friends, Jack just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of the people who live there... whilst catapulting them and the reader into another fantastical adventure.

Review:

I'll be honest here: besides Whedonverse ventures and the odd vampire-themed movie tie-in, I don't do graphic novels. They've never been something that particularly interested me, and I've never actively sought out one that didn't involve Buffy Summers, a stake or the name Richard Matheson. Queue my surprise when I read Calamity Jack, a gangsta retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, and actually enjoyed it. I mean serious must-read-again enjoyment. Weird, eh?

Calamity Jack is funny. The writing is witty, quippy and clever, and isn't far from those Whedonverse adventures I'm so used to. Granted, there isn't a vampire in sight, but there are pixies, giants and screaming brownies. Oh, and some kick-ass artwork to boot.

Calamity Jack is, for lack of a better description, a Hale-fest. Husband-and-wife team Shannon and Dean are responsible for the writing, while Nathan Hale (no relation) brings the characters and beanstalks to life. His artwork is really good, and makes the whole book that much more fun to read.

As with most graphic novels I've previously read, they inevitably end too soon, and usually without enough story or character development. That's my only complaint here, though it's a pretty minor niggle, and is something that I was expecting. I would have liked more Jack/Rapunzel, and more from little pixie Pru, though I can see why the depth and detail I'm used to perhaps wasn't possible in this instance. I'm now going to change the habit of a lifetime and find myself a copy of Rapunzel's Revenge. If it's even half as good as Calamity Jack, then I'm in for a treat.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

News: UK Vampire Academy Covers & Release Dates

Puffin UK have re-jacketed Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series, and I think they look a lot better than the original covers. They're more stylised, and they have a certain air of vampire danger to them. I could only find good images of Blood Promise (#4) and Spirit Bound (#5), but here they are:




What do you guys think?

If you're in the UK, Shadow Kiss and Blood Promise are published on February 4th, with Spirit Bound landing on May 18th.

US Vs. UK: Hex Hall Covers

US // UK


I like both these covers for Hex Hall, though I think I just prefer the UK one. It reminds me of the poster/DVD cover of teen horror flick The Craft, and I love that the shadows represent the supernatural sides of the girls.

That's not to say I don't like the US cover, because I do. It also plays on reflections and dual images, and I think it works well. When I look at it, I can't help thinking of Salem the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Which is your favourite?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: My So-Called Afterlife

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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My So-Called Afterlife by Tamsyn Murray

* Published by: Piccadilly Press (UK)
* Format: Paperback (UK)
* Release Date:
February 26th, 2010 (UK)
* On Amazon: here.

Amazon summary: Meet Lucy Shaw. She's not your average fifteen year old - for a start, she's dead. And as if being a ghost wasn't bad enough, she's also trapped haunting the men's toilets on Carnaby Street. So when a lighting engineer called Jeremy walks in and she realises he can see and hear her, she isn't about to let him walk out of her afterlife. Not least until he's updated her on what's happening in her beloved soaps. With Jeremy's help, Lucy escapes the toilet and is soon meeting up with other ghosts, including the perpetually enraged Hep and the snogtastic Ryan. But when Jeremy suggests Lucy track down the man who murdered her, things go downhill. Can Lucy face up to the events of that terrible night? And what will it cost her if she does? A wonderful debut novel which, as well as being laugh-out-loud funny, is full of insights, compassion, and love.

I'm really looking forward to reading this one. It sounds funny and unusual, and the synopsis reminds me of the TV show Dead Like Me.