Friday, 30 April 2010

Review: Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda


Publisher: Amazon Encore
Format: Paperback
Released: April 27th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

A loner in his all-white high school, Chinese-born Xing (pronounced “Shing”) is a wallflower longing for acceptance. His isolation is intensified by his increasingly awkward and undeniable crush on his only friend, the beautiful and brilliant Naomi Lee. Xing’s quiet adolescent existence is rattled when a series of disappearances rock his high school and fear ripples through the blue collar community in which he lives. Amidst the chaos surrounding him, only Xing, alone on the sidelines of life, takes notice of some peculiar sightings around town. He begins to investigate with the hope that if he can help put an end to the disappearances, he will finally win the acceptance for which he has longed. However, as Xing draws closer to unveiling the identity of the abductor, he senses a noose of suspicion tightening around his own neck. While Xing races to solve the mystery and clear his name, Crossing hurtles readers towards a chilling climax.

Review:

Crossing is a debut novel that deals with a multitude of themes and issues, and I don't know what to start with first. It's a contemporary social commentary on high schools and their students, as well as a chilling whodunnit crime thriller that literally made me shudder. Newspaper clippings and news items are interspersed throughout the novel, which makes it that much more realistic, and I really enjoyed that extra look into the events unfolding.

Xing is a loner in school. He's quiet, reserved, and only opens up to his best friend Naomi. He's ignored and taunted for his less than perfect English language skills, and is one of those people who blends into any given background. To anyone who knows him, he's a thoughtful, caring boy with problems and regrets of his own, who just wants to be accepted for who he is and where he comes from.

Through Xing and his Chinese heritage, Crossing confronts bullying, and our perceptions of people around us. It delves into how we see things, and how we can have completely the wrong idea about someone, just by judging their appearance or mannerisms. It all goes back to the age-old lesson of treating our peers with respect, and not writing someone off before you get a chance to know them. It also shows what bullying can do to a family, and the extreme consequences of not thinking before you act.

Crossing comes to a fantastic conclusion, and one that I honestly didn't see coming. I'd be lying if I said it ended the way I wanted it to, because it didn't. It completely shocked me actually, because of the way certain characters acted, and the things they said to Xing. There are certain times in life when you find out who your friends are, and Xing unfortunately learns that at the most crucial moment of his existence. With so much going on in Crossing, it can occasionally feel too busy, as if it's trying to say too much at the same time. For example, it can suddenly shift focus from the student murders to something unrelated and, as a result, the narrative gets choppy, and loses some of its well-gained momentum.

Crossing is an important novel, and one that I think everyone should try. Fukuda has written a brilliantly grisly tale, and has provided me with one of the best debuts I've read this year. I can't wait to see what he writes next!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

US Vs. UK: The Named Covers

US // UK

Natasa suggested I compare The Named by Marianne Curley, because of the lovely new cover due for release in the UK soon (and in the US, according to Amazon.com). I *think* the one on the left is the old US one, though I did have some trouble finding it, so let me know if it's wrong!

I really just want to get your thoughts on the new cover, because it's a departure from previous cover designs for this book. I really like it, and it's lovely in person, but my main concern is that it's yet another black cover. As far as black covers go, I don't think this one will have any trouble standing out, because of the silver foil and the eye-catching image.

I don't mind the US cover either, and am wondering if that too is nicer in person, maybe with a foiled title or something cool like that. I think it makes the book seem mysterious and a bit haunting, which it kind of is. It's a great book!

Anyway, new UK wins for me this week. How about you?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Withering Tights


Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

* Published by: HarperCollins (UK)
* Format: Hardcover (UK)
* Release Date: July 8th, 2010 (UK)

* On Amazon: here


Amazon summary:
Hilarious new series from Queen of Teen -- laugh your tights off at the (VERY) amateur dramatic antics of Talullah and her bonkers mates. Boys, snogging and bad acting guaranteed! Picture the scene: Dother Hall performing arts college somewhere Up North, surrounded by rolling dales, bearded cheesemaking villagers (male and female) and wildlife of the squirrely-type. On the whole, it's not quite the showbiz experience Tallulah was expecting! But once her mates turn up and they start their 'FAME! I'm gonna liiiiive foreeeeeever, I'm gonna fill my tiiiiights' summer course things are bound to perk up. Especially when the boys arrive. (When DO the boys arrive?) Six weeks of parent-free freedom. BOY freedom. Freedom of expression! cos it's the THEATRE dahling, theatre!!

I CAN'T WAIT for this book! The Georgia Nicolson series is one of my all-time favourites, and this is the first year for a long time that there hasn't been a new Georgia book. This new series sounds like it might just fill that void, and of course it sounds HILARIOUS.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

News: House of Night - Burned Trailer & First Chapter

To celebrate the release of House of Night: Burned by P.C. & Kristin Cast, the trailer and first chapter have been made available online.

Summary: [WARNING - SERIES SPOILERS] Things have turned black at the House of Night. Zoey Redbird’s soul has shattered. With everything she’s ever stood for falling apart, and a broken heart making her want to stay in the Otherworld forever, Zoey’s fading fast. It’s seeming more and more doubtful that she will be able pull herself back together in time to rejoin her friends and set the world to rights. As the only living person who can reach her, Stark must find a way to get to her. But how? He will have to die to do so, the Vampire High Council stipulates. And then Zoey will give up for sure. There are only 7 days left…

Below is the trailer, and if you like the song featured, you can download it here. You can also read the first chapter online here.



Review: Angel Star by Jennifer Murgia


Publisher: Lands Atlantic Publishing
Format: Paperback
Released: May 18th, 2010
Grade rating: C+/B-


Amazon summary:

Seventeen-year-old Teagan McNeel falls for captivating Garreth Adams and soon discovers that her crush has an eight-point star etched into the palm of his right hand-the mark of an angel. But where there is light, dark follows, and she and Garreth suddenly find themselves vulnerable to a dark angel's malicious plan that could threaten not only her life, but the lives of everyone she knows.

Review:

I've got a bit of a love/hate thing going on with Angel Star. There were parts of the story I really enjoyed, and other parts that made me want to stop reading in frustration. I did read it in one sitting, though, so I think that counts for something.

I'll start with the good first - the angels. I love me some paranormal YA, and I don't think that'll be a big surprise to anyone. I'm a big fan of Hush, Hush and Fallen, and thanks to them, I have an interest in angels, whether they be of the fallen, earth-bound or evil kind. There's something about these celestial beings that fascinates me, and I'm probably going to have to blame that on their wings. They sound beautiful and haunting, and something I would give an arm and a leg to see in real life.

Murgia's angels are of the beautiful variety, and are assigned to humans as Guardians. Of course, there's the odd evil one out there, and that particular personality trait falls to Hadrian, twin brother of Lucifer. The mythology of Angel Star is very interesting, and is different to the other YA angel books I mentioned above. Light and dark features a lot, with Garreth and Hadrian representing each side of the spectrum. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the angel plot, and it is something I'd like to read more about. For me, the problems lie with the rushed introduction and noticeable similarities to other books (if you read it, you'll see what I mean).

If Angel Star would have been written as a 400-page series opener, I think everything would have been fine. The first 30 pages could have been dragged out, and the events unfolding would have been more believable. I really struggled with Teagen's character, because of how fast she accepts her fate, Garreth's revelation and the truth about her destiny. Huge life-changing moments like these should come with time, ensuring at least some semblance of realism. As it is, everything progresses far too fast, and before you know it there are declarations of love all over the place, after only three or four days of Teagen and Garreth knowing each other. I'm pretty good at accepting that in paranormal YA, but this time it didn't work for me.

I realise that a lot of my problems with Angel Star are just personal preferences with how YA romance is handled, and I hope my review has succeeded in nicely explaining why I'm on the fence about this one. It's by no means the worst book I've ever read, but neither is it up there with the best.

Monday, 26 April 2010

News: Vampire Academy #5 Teasers & UK Triskellion Competition

Here's a quick round-up of some cool news I've received over the last week or so that you guys might be interested in...


Penguin Australia have just kicked off a teaser campaign for Vampire Academy book #5, Spirit Bound. They'll be previewing 7 important quotes from the book, the first of which you can see here. A new clip will premiere every 3 days, so keep checking back!

They've also just launched Penguin Paranormal Facebook Group, which will feature Vampire Academy, as well as other titles. Join here.




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Walker Books UK are holding a cool Triskellion UK competition, to mark the release of the final book in the trilogy. From the email:

In the Triskellion books you can join twins Rachel and Adam in the search for the Triskellion amulets, brought to Earth millions of years ago by visitors from outer space. But there is still one Triskellion out there!

Enter the Triskellion Quest, watch the video clues and collect the amulets for your chance to win an iPod touch, iTunes vouchers and a signed set of books. Plus, get bonus content! Complete the Quest successfully and you’ll receive an exclusive Amulet Finder certificate and a free eBook download of Triskellion, Book 1*

You can check out the cool Triskellion TV advert on Nickelodeon from 6 – 19 April; take a sneak peek here and if you like it, pass it on to your friends! Want to become a fan? Join our Facebook fan page here and get cool downloads, breaking news and extra behind the scenes content. Plus, for a limited time only** you can download the iphone app for the first in the trilogy, Triskellion, for free here.

Good luck in your quest!

*Terms and conditions apply. Closing date 14/5/2010
**Closing date 14/5/2010

Review: The Snowball Effect by Holly Nicole Hoxter


Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Released: March 23rd, 2010
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

Lainey Pike can tell you everything you need to know about the people in her family just by letting you know how they died. Her reckless stepfather drove his motorcycle off the highway and caused the biggest traffic jam in years. Her long-suffering grandmother lived through cancer and a heart attack before finally succumbing to a stroke. And Lainey's mother—well, Lainey's mother hanged herself in the basement just days after Lainey's high school graduation. Now Lainey's five-year-old brother is an orphan and her estranged older sister is moving back home to be his guardian. Meanwhile, Lainey's boyfriend is thinking about having a family of their own, and her best friends are always asking the wrong sorts of questions and giving advice Lainey doesn't want to hear. As she tries to pull away from everything familiar, Lainey meets an intriguing new guy who, through a series of Slurpees, burgers, and snowballs, helps her to make peace with a parent she never understood.

Review:

From just reading the above summary, The Snowball Effect probably sounds like quite a depressing book about death, suicide and other such depressing parts of life. While it does touch on the deaths of Lainey's immediate family members, it's more about surviving what life throws at you, and appreciating what, and who, you have left.

Hoxter's writing is engaging and easy to become engrossed in, though it's her characters that are the true stars of the story. After Lainey's mum dies, older sister Vallery comes to live with Lainey and her younger brother Collin, who suffers from behavioural problems. Lainey's long-term boyfriend, Riley, is also in the mix, and he's the kind of guy I think anyone would be lucky to have. They end up forming a really tight family unit, and learning to trust and depend on each other. Hoxter writes each character with such care and precision that you're left feeling as if they could be your own family, friends and neighbours, rather than fictional people born from someone's imagination.

I don't have many problems with The Snowball Effect, besides the way Lainey treats Riley. As soon as new boy Eric comes into the picture, she seems to forget about the years she's spent with Riley, as well as everything he's done for her and her family, and treats him horribly. I know everyone makes mistakes, and the grieving process can affect people in different ways, but I just didn't understand why Lainey would be so rash with her strong, loving relationship. It didn't seem to fit with her overall personality - why build a life with someone to forget them because of a chance meeting with a stranger? It didn't make sense to me, but it does serve its purpose, as you'll find out later in the book.

I enjoyed The Snowball Effect; it's a good, solid debut to add to the list of 2010 releases. I'm not a fan of the cover at all, but that's besides the point. Don't let it put you off, though, because the content is so much better than what you might originally think, and Lainey is a character you'll definitely learn to love.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

In My Mailbox #66: New Books This Week

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

Click for a bigger pic!

I had a great week this week! I got some amazing gifts, quite a few signed books, and some that I've already read this week and really enjoyed. I went to a Melvin Burgess/William Nicholson event on Wednesday with Keris Stainton, which consisted of a 'Sex in Teen Lit' talk and a signing. It was really good - very interesting and funny. I bought a new copy of Doing It to get signed, and also got my copies of Junk, Rich and Mad and Della Says: OMG! signed (Thanks for this last one, Keris!).


For review:
  • Now by Morris Gleitzman (Yay!)

Bought:
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer (US paperback with a new chapter!)

Gifts:

Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Vampire Week: A Recap



So Vampire Week here at Wondrous Reads is now over *sniffle*, but here's a recap of posts in case you missed any. Big thanks again to Carolyn at Book Chick City for designing the lovely banner, and thanks to everyone that stopped by and read posts, commented, or complained about my Stefan over Damon preference... ;)


Reviews


Guest post


Interview


Other


See you all next time, and happy hunting! I mean, err, reading. Grr Argh :)

Vampire Week: My Top 5 Vampires



I couldn't end my vampire week without telling you all about my favourite members of the fang gang. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 daylight-dodgers!


1. Spike - Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel

Spike is the baddest of the bad when it comes to vampires... until he falls for Buffy, that is. He called Riley such genius names as "Captain Cardboard", and referred to humans as "happy meals with legs", all while keeping his hair a radiant shade of peroxide and making sure his prize leather duster jacket stayed in tip-top condition. He consistently had some of the best dialogue on the show, and puts most other movie/TV vampires to shame. Played by the extremely talented James Marsters for seven years, Spike set the bar high when it came to vampire standards, and for that we have Master Joss Whedon to thank.

Best quote: [After Buffy asks for a 5 word or less explanation for why he's lurking outside her house] "Out. For. A. Walk. [pause] Bitch". - BtVS Season 5, episode 5, ' No Place Like Home'.

Favourite moment: Far too many to choose from, but his hand gesture to Xander in 'Hush' stands out!

~

2. Angel - Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Angel

Ahh, Angel. Just saying his name makes me sigh with extreme vampire love... you'd think I'd have gotten over him by now, but I haven't. He made famous the brooding wistful look, that hair (you know what I'm talking about) and the tortured vampire who wants to do good. Sure, there were others like him before Master Joss created him, but Angel did it better. MUCH better. David Boreanaz succeeded in making a whole load of ladies fall head over heels in love with him, and can you blame them? He rocked those tight leather trousers when he was playing big bad Angelus. *Wistfully stares at David Boreanaz calendar*

Best quote: [To Buffy] "I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop".- BtVS Season 2, episode 13, 'Surprise'.

Favourite moment: In the Buffy Season 3 finale, 'Graduation Day Part 2', when Buffy forces him to feed on her. It was oh so wrong, but it looked AMAZING.

~

3. Edward Cullen - The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer

You may think Edward is my favourite vampire, and I can see why you'd think that: after all, I do spend a hefty portion of my day talking/thinking about him. As fantastic as he is, he can never beat the Buffy boys, who will forever own my vampire lovin' heart. Unlike a lot of people, I have no problems with Edward's stalkerish ways, and really my only complaint is that he chose Bella. Did he not know I was just an ocean and a fictional world away? I love Edward's hair (thanks, Robert Pattinson, for doing it incredible movie justice), his chivalry and his sparkle-in-the-sun ways. When he says "Marry me, Bella", I just want to shout "YES!" right back to him.

Best quote: [To Jacob] "But if you ever bring her back damaged again — and I don't care whose fault it is; I don't care if she merely trips, or if a meteor falls out of the sky and hits her in the head — if you return her to me in less than the perfect condition that I left her in, you will be running with three legs. Do you understand that, mongrel?" - Eclipse, Chapter 15, 'Wager'.

Favourite moment: Saving Bella from Tyler's van in Twilight, Chapter 3, 'Phenomenon'. This is the moment when I fell unconditionally and irrevocably... okay, I'll stop now.

~

4. Stefan Salvatore - The Vampire Diaries (TV show)

I have yet to read the Vampire Diaries books by L.J. Smith, but I have them all waiting for me. I know, I know, what kind of a vampire fan am I?! I'm late getting to the books, but I have been religiously watching the show every week, and have well and truly fallen for chiseled, beautifully groomed Stefan (and Paul Wesley, of course). I'm also quite fond of his brother, Damon, and I often find myself debating between the two. At the moment, Stefan's winning, and my favourite moment mentioned below helped him take the lead. He's one of those broody, protective, tortured vamps, not unlike my man Angel. I've now given up resisting their charms, as it's clearly no use any more.

Best quote: [To Elena] "Do you want to know what i would write? I met a girl, we talked and it was epic. Then the sun came up and reality set in. Well this is reality, right here". - Season 1, Episode 2, 'The Night of the Comet'.

Favourite moment: In Season 1, episode 12, 'Unpleasantville', he briefly dances with Elena, then kisses her and raises one eyebrow. When I saw this, I audibly swooned.

~

5. Selene - Underworld movies

You may have noticed that Selene (portrayed by Kate Beckinsale) is the only female vampire in my list. That's mainly because I tried to not make it an essay on Whedon-y goodness, and also because the male vampires tend to spend more time in my head. That's not to say female vamps don't kick ass, though, because they do. Leather-clad Selene is proof of that, and if anyone needs to take down a lycan or two, they should definitely call her (Cullens, are you listening?). She rocks the vampire life like it's a gift, she doesn't whine and her fangs look cool. I'm a fan.

Best quote: [Selene: "Lycans are allergic to silver. We have to get the bullets out quickly, or they end up dying on us during questioning". Michael: "What happens to them afterward"?]
Selene: "We put the bullets back in". - Underworld

Favourite moment: Any of her action scenes sit well with me, but I do love it when she jumps off a very high roof, and still manages to land on her feet. It's a skill I often wish I possessed.

Vampire Week: Review - Killing Kiss by Sam Stone




Publisher: The House of Murky Depths
Format: Paperback
Released: September 12th, 2008
Grade rating: A-


Summary from back cover:

He's looking for a girl; not just any girl, and dark-haired, brown-eyed Carolyn is the one. But does Gabriele Caccini, a student at Manchester University, really know what he wants? When a beautiful blonde comes into his life, he starts to question his motives and emotions; even a seventeenth-century vampire can do that. Alone in the modern world, Gabriele reflects on the origins of his immortality, and questions why it is he who should have the vampire gene, when over four hundred women have not survived his killing kiss...

Review:

I had never heard of this book before last week, and I honestly didn't know what I'd think of it. I agreed to review it because it's about vampires, and no matter how hard I try, I can never say no to that. As soon as I started reading it, I was hooked, and didn't put it down until I'd got to the end. I absolutely loved it! A bit more action in the occasional slow section would have made it even better, but it didn't really suffer because of its slower plot pace.

The thing that really stands out when reading Killing Kiss is Sam Stone's fantastic writing and thorough characterisation. I haven't seen writing this good for a while, and as for the characters, they're so deep and layered they could almost be real. I feel like I know Italian-born Gabriele inside out; it's like there isn't anything I'm missing, or any extra information that could help me understand him further. He's one of the most fascinating vampires I've ever read about, and that's partially because of the way Stone delves into his entire 400-year history. His entire life is explained in great detail, with the first person narrative allowing his thoughts and feelings to take centre stage.

One other aspect of Killing Kiss that I loved was the setting. It's set in Manchester, around the Deansgate area, which isn't too far from where I live. In fact, I was there a few days ago, though sadly I didn't meet any vampires! I've never read a vampire novel set this close to home, and it was great to recognise the places and landmarks mentioned.

The vampire mythology is slightly different to other books I've read, and I like that Stone put her own spin on things. Gabriele flies, he can camouflage himself, and turning someone into a vampire very rarely works. He feeds once a year to avoid detection and, unfortunately, has been without a mate for most of his life. His story focuses on how he survives by himself, and just how lonely an existence being a creature of the night can be.

Killing Kiss is a brilliant, intricate story, with a loveable heroine and a fresh take on the vampire legend. I'm really glad it's the first in a trilogy, as that means I'll get to spend more time with Italy's finest!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Vampire Week: A Guide to Fanged Fiction



There are so many vampire books out there these days that it can be hard to know what to choose next. I've compiled a small list of fanged fiction, both new and old adult and YA titles, that I personally have read or own. Hopefully you'll be able to find something new to try! :)

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Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Publisher: Far too many to list, including - Little, Brown (UK) / CreateSpace (US)
Read if: You want to see where it all started!
Movie adaptation: There are a lot, including - Dracula | Bram Stoker's Dracula
More info: Wikipedia

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Title: I Am Legend
Author: Richard Matheson
Publisher: Gollancz (UK) / Tor Books (US)
Read if: You're looking for a really good vampire story with a fantastic premise.
Movie adaptation: The Last Man on Earth | The Omega Man | I Am Legend
More info: Wikipedia

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Title: Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton
Publisher: Headline (UK) / Berkley (US)
Read if: You're a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
More info: Laurell K. Hamilton.org

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Title: The Drake Chronicles series
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publisher: Bloomsbury (UK) / Walker (US)
Read if: You want to meet 7 hot vampire brothers.
More info: Alyxandra Harvey.com

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Title: Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publisher: Quercus (UK) / St. Martin's Griffin (US)
Read if: You like your vampires a little more creepy.
Movie adaptation: Let the Right One In
More info: Wikipedia

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Title: My Swordhand is Singing
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Publisher: Orion Children's (UK) / Laurel Leaf (US)
Read if: You're a fan of historical fiction, or different kinds of vampires.
More info: Marcus Sedgwick.com

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Title: House of Night series
Author: P.C. & Kristin Cast
Publisher: Atom (UK) / St. Martin's Griffin (US)
Read if: You like YA series such as Twilight and Vampire Academy.
More info: House of Night Series.com

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Title: The Vampire Diaries
Author: L.J. Smith
Publisher: Hodder (UK) / HarperTeen (US)
Read if: You love the TV show.
TV adaptation: The Vampire Diaries
More info: LJaneSmith.net

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Title: Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder (UK) / Pocket (US)
Read if: You lean more towards the horror genre.
TV/Movie adaptation: Salem's Lot (movie) | Salem's Lot (TV)
More info: Wikipedia

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Title: The Midnight Guardian
Author: Sarah Jane Stratford
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (US)
Read if: You like your vampires mixed with WWII.
More info: Sarah Jane Stratford.com

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Title: Vampirates series
Author: Justin Somper
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's (UK) / Little, Brown (US)
Read if: The idea of vampire pirates sounds awesome!
More info: Vampirates.co.uk

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Title: The Saga of Darren Shan series
Author: Darren Shan
Publisher: HarperCollins (UK) / Little, Brown (US)
Read if: You want some new mythology and a younger main character.
Movie adaptation: Cirque du Freak
More info: Darren Shan.com

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Title: The Vampire Chronicles
Author: Anne Rice
Publisher: Sphere (UK) / Ballantine Books (US)
Read if: You like your vampires on the tortured and romantic side.
Movie adaptation: Interview with the Vampire | Queen of the Damned
More info: Anne Rice.com

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Title: Blue Bloods series
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Atom (UK) / Hyperion (US)
Read if: You're looking for an addictive new series to sink your teeth into!
More info: Melissa de la Cruz.com

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Title: 30 Days of Night original novels
Author: Various
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (UK) / Pocket Star (US)
Read if: You want a book with brutal vampires and no romance.
Movie adaptation: 30 Days of Night
More info: Wikipedia

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Title: The Morganville Vampires series
Author: Rachel Caine
Publisher: Allison & Busby (UK) / Signed (US)
Read if: A town run by vampires intrigues you!
More info: Rachel Caine.com

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Title: The Twilight Saga
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publisher: Atom (UK) / Little, Brown (US)
Read if: You like romance, action and Edward Cullen!
Movie adaptation: Twilight | New Moon | Eclipse
More info: Stephenie Meyer.com

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Title: Vampire Academy series
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Puffin (UK) / Razorbill (US)
Read if: You want an original plot with seriously kick-ass characters.
More info: Vampire Academy Books.com

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Title: Southern Vampire Mysteries series
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Gollancz (UK) / Ace (US)
Read if: You liked Twilight and want something similar.
TV adaptation: True Blood
More info: Charlaine Harris.com

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Title: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series
Author: Heather Brewer
Publisher: Speak (US)
Read if: You prefer your vampires more on the humorous side.
More info: Heather Brewer.com

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Title: Evernight series
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: HarperCollins (UK) / HarperTeen (US)
Read if: YA is your genre of choice.
More info: Claudia Gray.com

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Title: Vampire Kisses series
Author: Ellen Schreiber
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (US)
Read if: You like romance, YA and vamps with a side of goth.
More info: Ellen Schreiber.com

Vampire Week: Review - Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton




Publisher: Headline
Format: Paperback
Released: May 14th, 2009 (UK reprint)
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me the Executioner. What I call them isn’t repeatable. Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I’ve seen their victims. I carry the scars... But now a serial killer is murdering vampires – and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer.

Review:

I'm very late to the Laurell K. Hamilton party, and I'm not quite sure what took me so long to start this series. I've read some bad reviews of the later books over the years, and was also initially put off by the amount of books in the series so far. Despite all this, I'm really glad I read Guilty Pleasures, and I just wish I'd got to it sooner!

I really liked the character of Anita Blake, and she reminded me of Buffy, though not quite as kick-ass. Mentally she was one of the strongest people I've read about, and didn't even let 1000-year-old vampire master Nikolaos scare her away. Her initial meetings with vampire Jean-Claude were fun, sarcasm-filled interactions, and I'm guessing he might be a major love interest in future books.

While I got into the beginning of the book quickly, I thought it got quite slow during the middle section. Anita was focused on finding the person responsible for killing vampires, and there wasn't a lot of action to speak of. I also really didn't like the wererats -- werewolves and other shapeshifters I can handle, but giant rats? I just couldn't wrap my head around it. The last 100 pages or so were fantastic, and full of edge-of-your-seat undead action. I couldn't read the end quick enough, and there were some shocking plot twists that I didn't see coming.

I now see why the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series is so popular, and I'm definitely going to continue reading. The world Hamilton created, which sees vampires as a part of society, was thought-provoking and strangely realistic, and I can't wait to see what Anita will be up against next.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Vampire Week: Review - Vampires: The Complete Guide to Vampire Mythology by Charlotte Montague




Publisher: Sphere
Format: Hardcover
Released: March 4th, 2010
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

In the West the vampire myth is widely thought to have been based on the life of Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century Wallachian warrior-prince whose devotion to cruelty and killing made the lives of his subjects miserable, bloody and short. However, bloodsuckers of all shapes and sizes feature in many cultures. VAMPIRES explores these diverse myths and legends, their impact upon popular culture and the possible explanations behind such phenomena.

Review:

Vampires is a lavishly illustrated look at vampire myths and legends, spanning hundreds of years and many different countries and cultures. Author Charlotte Montague has clearly meticulously researched the subject, and I can only imagine the time it must have taken her to accumulate all the relevant material.

It's a veritable source of information where vampires are concerned, and begins with an introduction into the undead, both in myth and the media. From there, it goes on to explore the origin of vampires, before moving on to myths and legends. I found the 'Myths and Legends' section fascinating, and especially enjoyed learning about the Chupacabra, which is an urban legend focusing on a "goat-eating beast". I'd never heard of a Chupacabra before, but it sounds pretty terrifying. Any creature that is said to run around like a one metre high dinosaur with long back legs and short front ones is sure to haunt anyone's dreams!

Vampires also has a section titled 'Vampire Devotees', which profiles people who actively pursue the vampire lifestyle, such as Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bathory. It's interesting to find out about the real side of vampirism, though it might take a little bit more to convince me that the undead really do roam the earth.

Next up is the last section, and probably my favourite, 'Vampires of the Imagination'. It covers everything from Bram Stoker's Dracula, modern vampire fiction, vampire novels, and vampires on screen, in movies and in music. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel get a couple of dedicated pages, as does True Blood and Twilight. While I do love this whole section, I think it could have been more in-depth. A lot of YA fiction, like The Morganville Vampires, Vampire Academy and Blue Bloods series, was missing, and I think they're important players in today's slew of vampire novels. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (which, by the way, is one of the best vampire books ever written) did get a big mention, though, so I can't complain too much.

Overall, Vampires is a fantastic tome of vampire lore, and is one I think any fan of the fanged will enjoy. I'm hoping Charlotte Montague might want to delve into vampires in entertainment in more detail one day, and if she does, I'll be first in line to pick up a copy!

Vampire Week: Author Interview - Richelle Mead




On Saturday 20th February, at the Eternal Twilight 3 UK convention, Puffin presented me with the amazing opportunity to meet and interview Richelle Mead in person. She talked about everything from her publication process to upcoming book Spirit Bound, and even told me a little bit about the 6-book Vampire Academy spin-off series. Read on to find out more, but make sure you're sitting comfortably... it's quite long!

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[After many hello's and thank you's had been exchanged, Richelle (who, by the way, has the loveliest hair colour!) and I sat in my hotel room and talked books!]


Wondrous Reads: Okay, let's get started... Has your education had a big effect on your writing?

Richelle Mead: Not as big as people tend to think. I didn't major in English or anything like that, but I certainly took a lot of liberal arts classes that gave me some background rather than content matter. I learned to write more just by reading -- you read good writing and it helps you to pick it up.

WR: Weren't you a teacher as well?

RM: Very very briefly, yes!

WR: How long for?

RM: 6 months. I was writing while I was getting my teaching degree, and then my books sold well, I had my first job and I decided to quit teaching.

WR: How did you go about getting your books published? Did you go through an agent?

RM: Yes. For fiction, you pretty much have to go through an agent, or the publishers won't take it.

WR: Was it a quick process?

RM: Not that quick, but quicker than most. I never know how to answer that - people ask me was it easy but it's not easy for anyone. I was luckier than most.

WR: Well, we're very glad you got published! I've always wondered though, does writing 3 different series get confusing?

RM: Not confusing, just demanding because there's never enough time. I have to turn over a new 100,000 word manuscript every 2-3 months, and then I'm always editing the previous book while writing the next book. It's time more than anything.

WR: Is it a rush?

RM: Very much so.

WR: How do you get a balance - do you just not have a social life for 3 months?

RM: I have a social life but I work at weekends, there's no boss to tell me you can't have that day off or anything. I still get out and see people, but you've got to stay on track as an author. Some people think you can take time off when you want, and go out and enjoy yourself for a day, but the books don't get published if I decide not to get on with them.

WR: So which books do you prefer writing? Do you have a favourite?

RM: I like writing them all... they're all different. Some parts are harder in one series and easier in another. I enjoy it.

WR: What music, if any, do you like to listen to, and does any in particular inspire you?

RM: No, I'm not one of those authors who listens to music while I write, or has any particular inspiration. I'm old, I listen to a lot of 80s music - I never seem to have the radio on any more.

WR: Which 80s music?

RM: Oh, all of it - the cheesy bands were great.

WR: And still are! One question I have to ask you, have you always been a vampire fan, and do you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

RM: I never disliked vampires, but I didn't love them either. I was already writing about paranormal creatures before Vampire Academy, so they were kind of the next stage. I like Buffy, but I didn't watch it while it was on, I was never a die-hard fan - I watched the first couple of seasons.

WR: What do you think about the recent surge in vampire popularity?

RM: It's good, but people seem to think us vampire authors all hate each other, and people slam Twilight a lot. That's something I don't like - we're all contemporaries, and people read vampire books and look for others, so it's helped everyone's careers.

WR: Do you read other YA vampire books, like House of Night and Morganville Vampires?

RM: Morganville I do read sometimes, I'm a fan of Rachel Caine and I like her books. As a general rule, I avoid all the vampire stuff - I've never read Twilight or House of Night. When you write about vampires, you don't really want to read about them. It's not that they're going to influence me and I'm going to start writing Edward, I just don't want that in my head.

WR: A lot of authors say that when you write YA, you don't read YA, so that's interesting to know. When you started writing the Vampire Academy series, did you have it all planned out, or did you go one book at a time?

RM: It was planned. I can't be one of those authors without a plan and who makes it up as they go along. I know how each book is going to end, and a lot of the sub-plots are created along the way as I write. All the big plots and moments are planned - I always knew how the series would end.

WR: But you didn't have the last chapter written way in advance, like J. K. Rowling?

RM: Does she write them first?

WR: She had the very last chapter locked in a safe for years, apparently.

RM: No, I write the last chapter when I get to the last chapter.

WR: Has there ever been part of a Vampire Academy book you wish you could have re-written after publication?

RM: Nothing significant. As an author you always want to keep revising and revising, because I do write them so fast - to me there's never enough time to fully polish them, and that's what I wish for. I see flaws that I think one more round of editing could have fixed, but there's nothing traumatic I did to a character that I regret. I stand by it all, all the good and bad parts.

WR: So how long is the process between you writing a book, and it being published as a hard copy?

RM: Like I said, I have to write the first manuscript in 2/3 months, editing with the publisher takes about 4 months, then probably another 3 months when the book is turned into a book, y'know, it's printed and produced. There's a whole business side to publishing people don't know about, like there's someone at Penguin who works with Barnes & Noble, someone who works with Borders, who works with Amazon. They all have to communicate with each other during that lead time, because the books don't magically appear on the shelves - they talk orders and that's what the last few months are spent doing. Everyone's prepping for release, and then it shows up on the shelves. My books tend to run about 9 months - some authors can turn it over in 6 months, and some take a year.

WR: How far are you with Spirit Bound?

RM: Oh it's done, it's in pre-production now.

WR: In the editing process you mentioned, how much does the editor change?

RM: Each book is different, you know the editor doesn't change anything without my consent. And at the same time, something the editor hates doesn't go through either - we're very much a team. They may say this part could be cleaned up and you can change this, and I might agree to change one bit but not another bit. It's a group process.

WR: Do you have any say in your book covers?

RM: No, no. I have never had a cover I've hated so much. I like some better than others, but as an author you learn to pick your battles. I have had very good covers - I have known others who burst into tears when they see their covers, and vent at their publishers. I haven't had a cover that bad.

WR: Which is your favourite Vampire Academy cover?

RM: Blood Promise.

WR: Same here. Do you like the new UK ones?

RM: Yes they're very nice, they look much nicer in person. I can't see them properly when people send me digital images.

WR: When you've finished the Vampire Academy series, would you consider revisiting the character's lives in short story format?

RM: After this, there will be another 6 book cycle - there's going to be a spin-off. I mean we're not going to leave them, there will be more, but about a different character. Occasionally short stories will show up, but I really dislike short stories. It's a very different writing style than a novel, people don't know that and I don't have the short story mindset. But one is coming out in an anthology, it's about Lissa's parents. I'm not a fan of how that turned out, because I just don't like my short story style. Other people may like it, though.

WR: I like the story you wrote for the Immortal anthology.

RM: Yeah, people like that one, but I didn't like that either. Short stories have a very small word count, and to me you need a lot more to tell a story.

WR: You mean there's not enough time for development?

RM: It's very plot-orientated, a short story, whereas in a novel you can build characters. Maybe if I do more short stories, which I'm intending to decline now, there could be. But with the next 6 books, we'll see more people anyway.

WR: Can you say anything about the spin-off series?

RM: It'll be characters people already know, the only character I'm giving up, that's in there, is Sydney. The rest, you'll know who lives or dies when the current books stop, and I can't give that away.

WR: On the subject of future books, is there anything you can tell us about Spirit Bound? Is it a big Dimitri book?

RM: Oh, everyone's in there, it's a continuing story so it's all the usual characters. Spirit Bound is action-packed, and there are no tragic 'I'm going to cry' moments in it. Hopefully that'll cheer people up, because I know books 3 and 4 largely, and 2, upset a lot of people. There's nothing quite that traumatic in Spirit Bound, but there are a lot of 'OMG I can't believe that just happened' moments.

WR: One of my friends read Shadow Kiss, and she was in tears.

RM: You could have a support club, so many people cried over it.

WR: So which is your favourite Vampire Academy book?

RM: Shadow Kiss.

WR: I agree with you on that one! And going totally off-topic, what's your biggest dream?

RM: I'm living it. I'm happy with my career, if anything I'd probably want to finish these series and write 2 series. So that's my dream - most people would want to be putting out more books, but the schedule's too hectic at the moment, so I'd like to focus on my 2 series, to make sure I was writing the most best books that I can.

WR: Do you just want to carry on writing forever now?

RM: That's the plan. We all have bills to pay, and I enjoy my job. It's still a job, I think people have a much more glamorous image of an author, but it's a lot of work.

WR: Does going on tour like this set you back a lot?

RM: Well, the deadlines don't change. The deadlines don't move because I tour, so it falls back on me for time management, to deal with the loss. I can't write - partially it's time, and partially it's exhaustion - I can't write while I tour. So this is 8 days out of the cycle of book six, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it is. I mean, touring's great, it does its part, and so I'm very happy to do it.

WR: You must be like Superwoman!

RM: Well, y'know, it's just time management.

WR: I suppose you're used to it now, after doing it for so long?

RM: You fall into a certain rhythm after a while, and people ask me, are you enjoying the UK. And I am, but after a certain point, I could almost be in any city, because it's such a hectic cycle. You go from signing to signing, and I forget that I'm in another country. I could be in Miami or New York, y'know. It's a busy schedule.

WR: Do you enjoy meeting all your fans though?

RM: I do, that's the best part.

WR: And travelling around?

RM: I don't enjoy the travelling. This is luxurious, to be based out of London here. When I tour in the US, I'm in a different city every day, and there are so many travel hassles. The travelling is miserable, and then that signing I do every night is gold. I've never had a signing I disliked, and I really enjoy them. You hear about authors who resent their signings, but I've never been like that.

WR: You sell a lot of books at events though, and get to meet your fans.

RM: You do. So many people come with books they already own, but then they hear about other ones, so it spreads that way. Word of mouth is really what does it.

WR: Talking about word of mouth, do you think the internet has helped, like blogging and reviewing? Has that helped with your sales?

RM: Yeah, absolutely. The internet is just a whole new world for writers. I don't know if you guys have seen The Shining - y'know, the Jack Nicholson author who's locked away in his office - that's gone. We're all writers connected to each other, we're connected to our readers and social networking is just great for spreading the word.

WR: Like Twitter?

RM: Twitter's fantastic.

WR: I agree! Just going back to your writing for a sec, do you have a set time and place where you have to write, or does it all change?

RM: I try to write in the day, if only to sync up with my husband, so I can see him at night. I have to write in quiet settings - I prefer my office, I don't like to change it. So like I said, no music. I can't go to a coffee shop, because I'll people watch, rather than write. So I do like that routine every day.

WR: I have one more question: if you could be any character from any of your books, who would you be and why?

RM: I don't think I'd want to be any of them, their lives are so hard. I'm always fascinated that Georgina, who's in my Succubus series, shapeshifts. How cool would that be to not have to get ready every morning?

WR: Very cool! And that was that last of my questions, so thank you very much Richelle!

RM: No problem, I'm just glad we got through everything!


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More info: Richelle Mead.com | Puffin UK