Shaun's Deathday List
So maybe you've heard that I have this little book out called THE DEATHDAY LETTER. It's a book about a world where, the day before you die, you get a letter informing you so. Think of it like a 24 hour warning.
Anyway, Jenny thought it'd be fun for me to do a guest post where I described what I'd do if I got a deathday letter.
The first thing I'd do is ring my job and call out dead. They're nice and all but, if I've got 24 hours to live, I'm not spending it helping people put toner in their fax machines.
The second thing I'd do is call all my out of state friends and family and get them on airplanes to me. I thought about maybe taking a trip somewhere, but unless I'm planning on jumping out of it, I wouldn't want to spend any of my last day on an airplane. It's not like I'm worried about getting sick or anything, but none of my last few hours on earth should be spent with some crazy person drooling on my shoulder while I'm forced to watch Katherine Heigl's latest theatrical effort to induce mass suicide. Seriously. Her movies aren't RomComs, they're VomComs in that they make me want to vomit.
After that, I'd devote approximately one hour to tracking down one of my exes and punching him right in the nose, after which I'd spend approximately ten minutes laughing and five minutes feeling somewhat guilty.
I'd mostly wait until the end to gorge on all my favorite foods. Hanging out in the bathroom with indigestion is the LAST thing anyone wants to do on their last day. Strike that. The last thing anyone wants to do on their last day is be stuck in traffic, so I'd make sure that if I went anywhere, I'd go by helicopter. One with big windows so that I could randomly moon strangers old enough to be my grandparents.
When my friends and family finally arrived, I'd take them all to Disney. I'd cut every line for every ride and even make my roller coaster hating friends go on them. More than likely I'd get drunk and throw up on Mickey Mouse, but he'd probably deserve it. That mouse has shifty eyes.
After Disney, I'd call up the writers for Lost and thank them for nothing. I'd call the writers of Glee and thank them for a great first season. I'd stalk Joss Whedon on the phone for a while. And I'd go to a bookstore and read the last pages of as many books as I could in one hour.
When the day began to come to a close, I'd gather everyone in a restaurant...preferably one that cooked with a lot of bacon...and we'd spend my last few hours eating and talking and laughing.
Because at the end of the day, that's how I want to leave this world: surrounded by the people who make me laugh.
If you had one day to live, how would YOU spend it?
Thanks for having me!
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
Released: July 1st, 2010
Grade rating: A-
Billi Sangreal is a Knight Templar and has thrown herself utterly into their brutal regime, shutting herself off from everyone and everything. But when Billi finds herself at the heart of a savage werewolf attack, she knows their target – a young girl – must be rescued at all costs. For this is no ordinary girl. Vasilisa is an avatar with an uncontrollable force within – and it’s not just the werewolves who want her. The Dark Goddess wants to sacrifice Vasilisa and use her powers to unleash unimaginable catastrophes and devastation. Can Billi protect Vasilisa from the ancient goddess – and at the same time stop her from destroying the world?
I've been a bit of a Sarwat Chadda fan ever since I read Devil's Kiss about a year ago, and immediately fell in love with Billi SanGreal and the Knights Templar. The whole concept of the Knights Templar fascinates me, and gives a whole new meaning to the concept of a kick-ass teenage warrior.
Dark Goddess picks up a few months after the events of Devil's Kiss, and centres around a powerful little girl, a group of male Bogatyr warriors, the horrible goddess Baba Yaga and a fierce pack of female Russian Polenitsy werewolves. The action is pretty much non-stop, with intense battles hiding around every corner. True to her calling, Billi steps up and deals with whatever the world throws at her, and is prepared to sacrifice even those closest to her for the greater good.
Dark Goddess is rooted in Russian lore and mythology, which is something I knew nothing about before reading it. I'm so impressed with Chadda's research and attention to detail, as it made the story all the more realistic. Including the famous Romanov family was a cool move, because who doesn't love learning about a Russian Royal Family? Tsarevich Ivan Alexeivich Romanov is hot stuff and, along with Billi, is a bright shining light in this book. I think I'm actually a little bit in love with him, which, y'know, isn't good 'cause he's not real. Oh well, one more fictional boy to add to my wish list....
What could have been improved? Not a lot, really. Maybe a few less long Russian names to remember, and a quicker pace in the odd chapter, but that's about it. Oh, and I wouldn't have said no to a few more vampire attacks (or ghuls, as they're known). So far Chadda has written about angels, vampires, werewolves, goddesses... there really is something for everyone in this series.
As it is, this latest Templar mission is addictive on the hard-to-put-down side of things, and Buffy fans should lap it up. Another bonus is that it can be read as a standalone novel, with all references to Devil's Kiss explained in a way that makes this possible (one spoiler is included, though you'd probably figure it out quite early on in the first book anyway). I'm really hoping there will be another book in this series, though I don't know where that stands at the moment. Fingers crossed and, as Billi would say, Deus vult.
DARK GODDESS is a story I’ve been planning since 1994, when I first came across stories of an ancient Russian witch. The story came out of my love of history, mythology, Russian fairytales and the desire to give my two daughters a heroine that kicked ass EXTREMELY HARD!
I spent about a year of solid research, as well as utilizing all the background knowledge I’d acquired over the years, to write this book (and is probably why the publication date got moved back!). Research adds depth to your story. You don’t see it because you’re writing a tale, not a thesis, but it’s there, making the roots of what you’re saying deeper and stronger.
London is my home city so it was a given that Billi’s first adventure, DEVIL’S KISS, would be here. The city has close links with the Templars, the Temple Church still stands here, almost 900 years after it was built. It was very easy to imagine the order still at work, in the city’s old ancient alleyways. My background was in construction and I’ve worked on a lot of old buildings and, while I did projects for the Ministry of Defence, secret ones too.
I love cities. London’s been occupied from Roman times and a lot of the streets still follow the original routes laid down by the Romans. There’s layer after layer of stories and for a writer it gives you incredibly fertile ground. We’ve got the Templars, The Great Fire, Black Death and Jack the Ripper. The old Tower of London was a place of beheadings and the foulest of murders. The city is filled with ghosts.
I couldn’t ask for a better setting to kick off the series.
DARK GODDESS moves the action to Russia. This presented a brand new challenge and a whole lot of opportunities. The biggest challenge was to make my writing of Moscow and Russia generally as live and lived in as my writing of London. Not easy. The only way to get that authenticity was to go out there and walk the streets, visit the buildings and look into the history. One of the things I’m most pleased with is that by seeing Moscow for myself, a whole new version of the story was created. But I had a lot of help to do it. The city is huge and I’d have been totally lost trying to work it out myself. A guy called Alan Steel runs a tour company called Russian Gateway and he really turned the trip around by organizing a guide and detailed itinerary so I saw what I wanted, and also places that I would have missed, but greatly enhanced the entire story. Plus he did all the Russian translations! A lot of the authenticity of the setting is down to his help.
The city is rich with legends and sights and characters, I could have written a trilogy just set in that one city. By moving Billi to Russia I took her out of her comfort zone and you really get her sense of alienation now she’s out of London. The rules are different. The players are different. She can’t fall back on the Templars.
Having established the new setting I continued on my research of Russian mythology. The name that came up again and again was the witch, Baba Yaga. She’s a hideous, mysterious creature, an old pagan goddess that was made into a fairytale witch during the rise of Christianity. She is a cannibal with iron teeth and a belly-full of hate. I wanted her to reclaim her ancient and terrifying divinity. I wanted to get back to the roots of her power and why people should be afraid of her. She is incredibly old, incredibly wise and incredibly evil. I was lucky enough to visit the caves in Dordogne while writing the first scene where we meet Baba Yaga. These caves have paintings and carvings that are 14,000 years old, from the last Ice Age. This, I realised, was when Baba Yaga had first come amongst mankind. Once I had seen her home, I knew so much more about her. There were paintings of long-horned cattle, of small horses, of mammoths. They’re all gone now, but Baba Yaga would have remembered them and when Europe was one vast forest. What must she feel now, seeing the dense clouds of pollution? The smog? The forests gone and replaced by concrete and steel?
Anger? Oh yes. Great anger indeed.
As well as visiting places I read a lot of female-centric mythology. The writer Angela Carter wrote a collection of short stories centred around werewolves. Werewolves are very feminine. The moon is connected to female deities, like Hecate, the queen of witches. The Amazons’ legendary weapon was a lunar axe, and of course the moon cycle is strongly connected to female physiology. Then, in an amazing piece of luck, I discovered the original legends of the Amazons placed them in southern Russia. In an instant I was able to connect them to Baba Yaga. She was the goddess to the Amazons, and she taught her priestesses how to change shape. They were the first werewolves.
Another writer who’s been a huge influence is Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She wrote ‘Women Who Run with Wolves’ and in it she delves into a lot of fairytales and myths, discovering the power of the female figures that, over the centuries, have become passive, sanitized, dependent on men and denied access to their original power. This is something I feel very strongly about. No doubt sparked by having daughters I’m not that impressed by the role of the ‘classic’ female heroine in literature. Sitting around waiting for some guy to sort out their lives. That it all ends happily ever after at the wedding altar. I prefer the old, ancient heroines. Reading Estes and the works of Robert Graves I rediscovered the more fearsome aspects of the old heroines. The cunning of Penelope. The fury of Athene. Blood-thirsty Morrigan. Of Kali who dances on the corpses of the dead and defends the world from evil. Billi is, in her own way, an old-school heroine. Very old school.
They are terrifying and powerful. They are not to be treated lightly. They are beholden to no man. Baba Yaga is one of these dark goddesses, and so is Billi SanGreal.
Sarwat has very kindly offered to give away a signed copy of Dark Goddess to one lucky UK reader. As always, you don't have to follow my blog to enter, but you do have to have a UK mailing address. Fill in the form below to enter!
End date: July 7th, 2010.
Monday, 28 June 2010
Thanks to Tricia at Media Muscle, I have one (1) copy of Greek: Double Date to give away. It's the first book from Harlequin Teen based on the hit TV show, and sounds perfect for fans of both the show and YA fiction.
Here's more info from Amazon:
Two dates—same night! Major oops. When Casey Cartwright's brother begs her to be nerdy Dale Kettlewell's date to the sure-to-be-boring Honors Engineering Awards, Casey says yes. Even though Dale is totally not her type… and might have a crush on her. Ugh. But it's a nice thing to do, and Casey's always been the "nice" girl.
But now, that night conflicts with the biggest event of the semester, the All-Greek formal. Casey already has a date lined up: hot transfer student Rob Howell. He's her plan to get over her sexy-slacker ex, Cappie. And even nice girls get to be bad sometimes, right?
What to do? With a little help from BFF Ashleigh, unwanted advice from frenemy Rebecca Logan and even a push from Cappie, what Casey does may surprise even herself….
Rules & info:
- Open worldwide.
- End date: July 6th, 2010.
- One entry per person.
- You don't have to follow my blog to enter.
Just fill in the form below, and you'll be entered! :)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: July 8th, 2010
Grade rating: B/B+
Jess Hall's dad is the new general manager at Porchester Park, and is moving Jess, her brother and pet cat into a staff apartment there. Jess is dreading the move, until she learns the apartments are strictly A-list only and soon to be populated by actors, musicians, models and millionaires...But fraternising with the stars isn't all it's cracked up to be, and soon Jess is wishing for a return to real-life - but can she admit to her friends that the gilded cage isn't quite as golden as she'd anticipated?
Now, don't be alarmed, but this is the first Cathy Hopkins book I've ever read. I know, I know - how can I call myself a YA blogger and lover of children's books? My only explanation is that I've never got around to trying any of her titles, and never knew which to start with. I think the first in the Million Dollar Mates series was a great place to start, and I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read it.
The cover of Million Dollar Mates suggests - at least to me - a fun, flighty read with plenty of girly talk and best friends doing their thing. While it does indeed include all this, it's also a lot deeper and serious than I thought it would be. It deals with the loss of a parent and a separated family, a big house move to a posh place, and themes of guilt and grieving. Hopkins tackles all these issues with a great attitude, and instead of weighing the book down, they add an unexpected air of maturity to the plot.
Jess is a cool character, who handles the move to Porchester Park as well as anyone would, with a couple of angsty meltdowns along the way. She makes new friends and reconnects with her dad, while pursuing her crush, Tom, at the same time. Her best friend Pia is a secondary character with a spark to her, and I enjoyed reading about their friendship. It reminded me of friends I had when I was 14, which is always a fun topic to reminisce about! I can't not mention the boys, of course. Tom or JJ... who will she choose? That little unresolved teaser has left me desperately wanting the next book in the series, because I do have a favourite of the two. I won't say who, though, so you can decide for yourself when you read it.
I would have liked a bit more depth to the other characters in Million Dollar Mates; Jess's dad and brother Charlie in particular. I think they fell to the wayside slightly, which is perfectly understandable when other central characters steal the limelight. Maybe we'll hear more from them as the series progresses, along with Porchester Park's imminent new arrivals. I think things will get very interesting in Paparazzi Princess, which is due for publication in January 2011.
Million Dollar Mates impressed me, and was a great introduction to the world of Cathy Hopkins. I think all teenage girls will take something away from it, whether it's how to deal with the loss of a family member, how to hook your crush or what not to do with a cat trapped in a summerhouse. It's a perfect read for this hot British summer we're having, and I look forward to getting back to Porchester Park next year!
Sunday, 27 June 2010
I had another great week for books. I received some exciting surprises in the mail, a couple of which are duplicate copies. I'll probably give my UK edition of The Dark Divine away in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out. :)
Now onto the books!
- Arthur and the Meanies by Jan Fearnley (I'm going to give this to the primary school where my sister works).
- Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan
- The Further Adventues of Sherlock Holmes: Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen
- Angel by L. A. Weatherly (UK proof/ARC)
- Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
- Invisible Fiends: Mr. Mumbles by Barry Hutchison
- She's So Dead To Us by Kieran Scott (Yay!)
- Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis
- Zelah Green: One More Little Problem by Vanessa Curtis
- Adventures of Julius Chancer: The Rainbow Orchid Vol. 2 by Garen Ewing
- Zoey Zeta & the Sisters of Power by Robert Simon and Tomomi Sarafov
- The Medusa Project: The Rescue by Sophie McKenzie
- White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick (A lovely finished hardcover with a great interior design!)
- Greek: Double Date by Marsha Warner
- Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins
- Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready (I read this a couple of months ago and loved it. Review coming in late August).
- No and Me by Delphine de Vigan (I really liked this too, and I'm quoted on the press release. Yay! I might give this one away as well. Review here).
Saturday, 26 June 2010
I don't know about you guys, but I love looking forward to new titles coming up. It's not always easy to find out what's due to be published, which is why I thought I'd do a series of UK publisher spotlights. These posts will tell you about upcoming 2010 books, and will include a synopsis and cover image when available (all descriptions and images are from the lovely Sam!).
This week's spotlight is Headline, one of my personal favourite publishers and home to series such as Gossip Girl and It Girl. Some of this info is very early, so not all cover art is available, but here's what they've got coming up in 2010 and 2011...
by Tonya Hurley
Published 8th July 2010, price £9.99
Before she can rest in peace, Charlotte Usher must return to the tragic site of her death: High School.
On the brink of Dead Ed graduation, Charlotte and her fellow classmates learn they have one last mission to complete before gaining entrance to the much-anticipated afterlife: Observe one designated teen with an unexplained problem and help said-troubled teen by Prom.
For the life of her, Charlotte can't imagine why she has been assigned to help Damen, last year's Homecoming King and her former fatal crush. To make matters worse, her boyfriend Eric is sent to look after her best (breathing) friend Scarlet, who has since ditched her goth girl image for a girlier look that turns more heads than just her boyfriend Damen's.
Charlotte would die (again) for love. But when her only chance at an afterlife means having to face the dreaded, all-too-familiar pains of being invisible, it may be too much for her to handle.
by Tonya Hurley
Published 5th August 2010, price £6.99
-----Charlotte may have graduated Dead Ed but that's not the end of her story
Life, for Charlotte, was one bitter disappointment after another. And it seems death isn't going to be much different. Convinced that graduating Dead Ed was her route to the afterlife Charlotte is a little surprised to find she has to complete an internship!
Answering the phones at a help centre for troubled teens isn't proving brilliantly exciting. Until Scarlet calls: a pedicure-gone-hideously-wrong has landed Petula in a coma and Scarlet thinks Charlotte is the only person who can help...
Glee: The Beginning
Published 5th August 2010, price £6.99
CALLING ALL GLEEKS! Get more of your favourite characters in this official Glee prequel!
All great performances deserve a warm-up! Enroll early at McKinley High to find out what went on before New Directions was even a glimmer in Mr Schuester’s eye. When did Rachel first decide Finn was more than just a jock? When did Puck and Quinn start their secret romance? And how did the fledgling Glee Club function without a fearless leader? Hint: It wasn’t exactly a perfect melody.
Break out the gold stars and refill the slushies: it’s time to find out what happened to all your favourite characters before the show-mance began
These novels contain additional storylines to those featured in the hit TV show.
by Cathy Brett
Published 2nd September 2010, price £6.99
You're dead Scarlett...
Previously a poor taste jibe from school frenemies, now a statement of fact.
Scarlett is absolutely mortified (in more ways than one) to discover that she's accidentally killed herself while trying to get out of a school trip. Even worse, she's taken her entire family with her.
Life as a ghost is pretty dull - if only some of her friends were dead too...
Cathy Brett has been scribbling stuff for more than twenty years - as a fashion illustrator, as a jet-setting spotter of global trends and as a consultant to the behemoths of the British high street. She now lectures in design and unashamedly plunders her students' lives for sensational storylines and characters.
Homelander: The Truth of the Matter
by Andrew Klavan
Published 30th September 2010, price £6.99
'You're a better man than you think...Find Waterman.' are the words that have been keeping Charlie West going ever since his nightmare started. Wanted for murder and implicated in terrorist plots Charlie is on the run from everyone - completely unable to remember what actually happened...
But now he's found Waterman will he finally learn the truth and manage to clear his own name?
This is the third action-packed installment of Klavan's Homelander Series.
by Kimberly Derting
Published 11th November 2010, price £6.99
Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies – or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world...and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift, but now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer – and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling in love, Violet is getting closer to discovering a killer...and becoming his prey herself.Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies – or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world...and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift, but now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer – and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling in love, Violet is getting closer to discovering a killer...and becoming his prey herself.
by Dan Wells
Published 6th January 2011, price £6.99
Sixteen-year-old John Wayne Cleaver has always known he’s different, but not because he only has one friend (and doesn’t much like him) and not because he regularly helps out in his mother’s mortuary. He’s different because he recognizes the classic signs of an incipient serial killer in his own personality, and he’s created a rigid set of rules to follow to keep his darker nature, the one he calls Mr Monster in check.
But John discovers it’s the personality traits he so fears that put him in the best position to save the people of his town from a series of horrific and disturbing killers...
Lex Trent 2
by Alex Bell
Glee: Foreign Exchange
Desires of the Dead
by Kimberley Derting
by Jenna Burtenshaw
Young, Loaded & Fabulous: Too Cruel for School
by Kate Kingsley
by Andrew Hammond (brother of Richard Hammond!)
The CRYPT series is about a covert team of teenage government operatives who specialise in paranormal investigations
Friday, 25 June 2010
Released: June 7th, 2010
Grade rating: A
Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant's body in a rich lady's coffin. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace's life. But Grace doesn't know that yet...
This is the first book I've read by Mary Hooper, though she has been on my radar for quite a while. For some reason I've just never been drawn to her stories and, had I not received a review copy of Fallen Grace, I'm quite sure I wouldn't have picked it up. It's reasons like this - being introduced to new authors and genres - that make me glad to be a blogger, and I'd like to say a big thanks to Bloomsbury for prompting me to read such a brilliant author.
Fallen Grace is set in England in the 1800s, which I believe is the Victorian era. I'll admit I'm not too good on my own country's historical periods, though thanks to books like this, I'm finally learning all about them. For this reason, I found Fallen Grace to be very educational, and I loved learning about the state of London and the way people lived. For example, I never knew that the whole country went into mourning when a member of the Royal Family died, or that so many horribly kept workhouses existed. Being poor was obviously worse than I thought it was.
What I loved most about Fallen Grace was Hooper's way of describing people, surroundings and London's general way of life. Time and time again the imagery was so vivid that I felt like I'd been transported back to the 1860s, with no shoes on my feet and a suffocating fog sweeping the city. When an author can truly make me believe in their writing like that, I know they're something special.
Hooper's characters were cleverly mastered and richly layered, and all as vividly realised as the city they inhabited. Grace was loving and selfless, even though she was dealing with something no-one should ever have to face. Lily was more simple and easily led, though she proved loyal and more intelligent than she seemed. Even the bad guys were written in such a way that I couldn't help but feel sorry for their sorry state of affairs, yet relieved at their outcome. I imagine they all took a long time to bring to life, and the effort and time spent on each individual story really showed in the writing.
At this moment in time, I honestly don't have a bad thing to say about Fallen Grace. It's opened my eyes to the historical YA genre, and has reminded me that it's good to branch out and try new authors and books. Mary Hooper is a fantastic writer, and I'll be reading more by her as soon as possible.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
Thanks to Random House Children's Books, I have one (1) set of Joseph Delaney's Spook's series to give away, which includes all 7 books published so far.
You can currently read book 1, The Spook's Apprentice, online using the widget below. It will update every 3 weeks, though I think the first section expires tomorrow. There's also a cool video trailer you can check out!
Here's more info from Amazon:
This is a terrifying series about a young boy training to be an exorcist. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County, the horror begins.
Rules & info:
- Open to UK residents only.
- End date: July 4th, 2010.
- One entry per person.
- You don't have to follow my blog to enter.
Just fill in the form below, and you'll be entered! :)
Apologies to fans of the US cover, but I really don't like it. I don't find the chosen models visually appealing in any way, and though I like the green eyes, I just don't think the overall effect works. I do prefer the title font, though - it's edgier and possibly more suited to a story about vampires.
The UK cover is simple and eye-catching, and uses my favourite single image design. For some reason I find this really effective, as the covers never seem cluttered or like they're trying too hard. The title font isn't my favourite, but I think it compliments the striking image well.
Which would you rather have on your shelves?
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Released: June 7th, 2010
Grade rating: B
The teenage world of Jess Jordon is looking characteristically chaotic: Mum has joined an online dating programme and has recruited Jess as advisor, while Jess's best friend Flora has a rich new boyfriend who Jess can't possibly keep up with. Then Jess's own boyfriend, Fred, does something unbelievably treacherous and spineless. Jess is becoming completely fed up with the male sex, and is beginning to think that the only reliable form of male is e-mail... Never mind, there's Valentine's Day to look forward to. Fred is sure to make amends then. Isn't he?
Sue Limb is a very, very funny woman. In fact, she's almost as funny as Louise Rennison who, to me, is the undisputed Queen of YA Humour. Limb's books have a similar lighthearted feel, and make light of all the worst and most embarrassing moments of being a teenager.
Girl, 16: Five Star Fiasco is the fifth book in the Jess Jordan series, and is the first I've read. I think these books can be read as standalone titles, as I had no problem picking the series up from book 5. It mentions some previous goings-on that sound hilarious, so I think I will go back and read the rest at some point. Perhaps that's the reason I didn't enjoy this one more, as I haven't followed these characters through their last couple of teen years.
Limb's characters are quirky and fun, though not without their teen drama. There's relationship angst, parental problems and an identity crisis or two - basically everything you'd expect a 16-year-old to go through. Jess has a great individual voice, and is well on her way to becoming a comedian. I also really like her mum and dad, and boyfriend Fred, though he does cross over to the idiot side about halfway through the book.
Jess and her dad start writing a story called 'Lord of the Wrongs', and each write a section before sending it back to the other person. The extracts are some of the funniest things I've ever read, and as soon as I got to the part with Donald the snail and his motor attachment (not to mention SnailNav), I was cracking up laughing. Really, it's brilliant stuff, and I just wish there had been more from this story. Jess's dad stops writing it quite abruptly, then it's just sort of forgotten, which is a shame. I could have read much more!
I'm looking forward to reading more by Sue Limb, as her writing brightens up my day. I'll be sure to check out the rest of the Jess Jordan books, as well as the Zoe & Chloe series, of which I've read the latest instalment. They are a lot of fun!
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Released: June 10th, 2010
Grade rating: B+
It's almost Valentine's Day at Waverly Academy, and love is in the air...and in everyone's inboxes. Each year, The Waverly Computer Society runs Perfect Match, an online personality survey that pairs up Waverly Owls with their supposed soul mates. Now the campus is overrun with peculiar pairings, odd couples, and mischief makers hoping to play Cupid for a day. In this final dramatic It Girl novel, the Waverly Owls ponder an age-old question: is all really fair in love and war?
Classic is the tenth and final novel in the It Girl series, and is a great end to what is definitely one of my all-time favourite series. There's all the usual drama I've become accustomed to, as well as brilliantly funny dialogue (Heath Ferro should be immortalised forever), new scandals and a look at the many Waverly relationships.
Classic sees Jenny Humphrey's last semester of her first year at Waverly, and as usual nothing runs smoothly. Valentine's Day brings brings with a whole host of stress amongst the students, thanks to the school's 'Perfect Match' survey. People are partnered with who the computer thinks is their perfect match, and though some people are happy, others are miffed by who they're supposed to be with. As you can imagine, this creates some serious havoc for the Waverly girls, and I loved every page of it.
Relationships, both romantic and platonic, are tested in Classic, which is par for the course when it comes to Jenny and her super-hot, super-rich friends. Tinsley and Brett devise a diabolical plan to take down a fellow student, Callie is stuck in the middle of the most frustrating love triangle with Easy and Brandon, and Jenny finds out just what it's like to be lied to. Honestly, if I were any of these girls, I would have upped and moved by now, probably to a convent somewhere. How they've stuck through 10 books of tumultuous relationships, bitch fights and drug-induced clinches is beyond me, but somehow they have. Well done, girls - you made it through the year!
I'm sad this series has now finished, and I'm really going to miss it. It's in no way a literary classic, but I absolutely love it. It's like Gossip Girl but better, and I think it's quite unusual for a spin-off series to outshine its source. It Girl has, though, and kudos to Ziegesar's ghost writer. Whoever you are, you've managed to entertain me for 10 books, and for that I thank you.
Long live Waverly!
Monday, 21 June 2010
Thanks to everyone for entering, and to the publishers for offering copies!
Inga A. / Jo J. / Sarah / Jeremy H. / Sarah H. / Mel R. / Denice C. / Elaine S. / Jessica L. / Ron P. / Sarah F. / Suan W. / Julie P. / Katrina S. / Emma R. / Suzanne S. / Cassandra / Karen C. / Lindsay S. / Rebecca T. / Dwayne H. / Katie D. / Clover / Alanna / Asamum
[Because I had such a huge response to this giveaway, the lovely publishers offered to give 25 copies away rather than the original 2. Thanks Quercus!)
I got to London at around midday, got some food and mooched about for a bit before heading to the hotel to interview Scott Westerfeld and Sarah Rees Brennan. I was pretty scared of getting lost, but thanks to some good directions and my handy BlackBerry GPS, I found it in plenty of time. I met Kat from Simon & Schuster there, and we had a chat until Scott and Sarah came down. I love Kat, which is a fact I feel should be widely known!
Scott and Sarah were both absolutely lovely, and I interviewed them for half an hour each. Scott showed me some exciting art (on his insanely cool iPad) from his upcoming book Behemoth, and I still managed to construct sentences throughout my excitement (I LOVE Leviathan). I was quite proud of myself. The art was fantastic, and I can't wait to see it in the book. He also showed me some art from a future Leviathan project, details of which will be revealed in my interview!
Sarah was completely mental but so funny and friendly. She has the BEST stories, and just kept coming up with them. I fear my interview was quite bad, as I basically just laughed all the way through it. She let me in on a few spoilers for book #3, and also explained why she switched from Team Jacob to Team Edward. Huzzah! Sarah stayed and chatted to me afterwards as well, but I didn't record any of that. It mostly consisted of a Team Gale/Team Peeta debate, of which I'm ashamed to say I didn't win (I'm Team Gale). I know I said it already (many times), but BIG thanks to Scott and Sarah for letting me interview them. It was very, very cool.
After the interviews, Jeanette from Write Away.org let me tag along with her to the Oxo Tower, where the S&S children's trade dinner was taking place later that night. The Oxo Tower is right next to the Thames, so I finally got to see the river. It was raining at the time though, so it all just looked grey and, well, wet. More on the Thames later.
The Oxo Tower was super posh, and I must admit I felt a bit nervous. I'm not usually one for posh restaurants, but it turned out to be a really good night! I think there were 15 of us there: members of the amazing S&S children's team (helloooo!), people from newspapers and magazines, Scott Westerfeld and his wife Justine Larbalestier, Sarah Rees Brennan, Jeanette and myself. I ended up sat opposite Caroline Horn from The Bookseller, and next to Sarah Rees Brennan, which, you've guessed it, kept me laughing for most of the night.
The food was interesting, and mostly new to me. I'm not an adventurous eater (I'm rather picky, actually), but I found out that I hate pea soup and love sea bass. It was quite a productive night, me thinks. After food we all swapped around and got to talk to different people. Scott sat next to me for a while, and left me in charge of his trusty iPad. I guarded it with my life, seriously. That thing has everything on it. Then he introduced me to Justine, who was so nice, friendly and intelligent. I could have talked to her for a lot longer than I did! It was also great to finally meet everyone from the S&S team, and they were all brilliant.
After that it was back to the tube and to Kat's house, where I got my hands on an ARC of Cassie Clare's Clockwork Angel (*squee*), saw a finished copy of the UK edition of Kieran Scott's She's So Dead to Us and had a long overdue sleep, ready for a VERY early morning on Tuesday...
Yep, by early morning I mean 6.20am. 6.20!!! I told my mum I got up at that time, and she laughed at me until she realised I wasn't joking. Kat introduced me to my first red London bus, where I learnt not to say anything, as the driver doesn't say anything to you. Random, but true. After leaving Kat at a tube stop I can't remember, I went to Euston station, had some food, IM'd Carla (from The Crooked Shelf - she'll be mentioned a lot), then headed off to the Puffin offices for a meeting with my friend Sarah.
Sarah is an editor at Puffin, and is just the nicest person ever. We had a good chat over a can of 7up, and she gave me copies of Ally Condie's Matched, Pittacus Lore's I Am Number Four and Morris Gleitzman's Grace. I was SO SO excited, as I'm sure Sarah could tell you. I *almost* started reading Matched right there and then, but I managed to control myself. Thanks Sarah, and lovely to see you again!
After leaving the Puffin offices, it was time to go and meet Carla at Euston station. I gave her a copy of Matched and iBoy by Kevin Brooks, which I got the impression she liked, seeing as she jumped up and down. Then she spied Clockwork Angel in my bag and that was that. Believe me, 'excited' is not the word to use to describe that particular moment in time. Cassie Clare had told her to take a pic with the book at Blackfriars Bridge, which, after bumping in to H from Headline (*waves*), is where we headed off to next.
It was a really nice walk along the Thames, even though my hayfever decided to be the worst its been for years. Sigh. Anyway, we found Blackfriars Bridge, took many pictures (Carla and the Bridge is above), and probably scared some perfectly normal Londoners wondering who the crazy northern girls were. I've never laughed so much as I did walking back along the Thames, and you can read more about that in Carla's London post. One pizza later and we were headed for Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Covenant launch event!
We were pretty lost looking for Shortwave Cinema, which is when luck struck and we bumped into Kat, jumped in a cab (hailed by Cab Queen Carla), and arrived at the cinema safe and sound. Trisha Telep of Murder One/editor fame greeted us, sold some books and was generally her cool self. Some of my other friends - Leanne, Laura and Becca - arrived, so we had a bit of a YA appreciation thing going on until Sarah arrived. She signed books for ages, and the event was a great success. She then read from book #3, and answered some questions, before settling down to watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in the cinema section of the venue. Robert Downey Jr., pink hair and crime was her excuse for picking this film, and I have to say it was a good choice. Loved it!
Carla and I then went back to our nice hotel ("There's marble on the walls instead of mould", she said), stared at all our books and watched some of the Italian Job on TV. Then came sleep, after some arguments about the lights and a few (alleged) insults from me...
We got up pretty early again (8am ish, I think), and made our way to the Random House offices in Ealing. It was a longer tube journey than I'm used to, though I got to see parts of London I'd never been near before. By this time our bags were pretty heavy, though that got worse. We ate on the way, and I found out that Greggs shops in London do NOT have meat and potato pasties. What's all that about?!
We were greeted at Random House by the lovely Lauren, who introduced us to the children's publicity team, water and a plate of pastries. Yum yum. The publicists went through the rest of their 2010 list with us, gave us some new reading material and generally just chatted about books. I loved meeting them all, apart from Lauren who I already know.
After an hour, we were then taken next door to the Transworld offices, where we had a meeting with Lynsey and Ben about their autumn adult list. They've got some really good stuff coming out, some of which has a crossover appeal (like Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld), so keep your eyes out for their upcoming releases. I was also introduced to the term 'Bonk Buster', which is just hilarious. And very fitting for the type of books it's applied to. Then it was back to the Random House offices to meet with 3 very nice editors, who let us ramble on for quite a while. They told us about some 2011 publications, one of which Carla got very excited about (Tessa Gratton's Blood Magic). We left with many exciting books, including John Boyne's new one, Noah Barleywater Runs Away, which made me do some kind of happy dance.
After leaving RHCB we got some food, then headed to Foyles, which is the best bookshop in London. There we saw Lauren from RHCB again, who was there while Joseph Delaney, author of the Spooks series, signed some stock. He very kindly signed a book for me, and we had a quick chat about where he was from (A fellow northener, yay!). We then went for pizza in Covent Garden, and back to Euston station with our ridiculously heavy bags for our 8.40pm train home to Manchester.
It was my best London trip yet, and I just want to thank Kat and the S&S team for inviting me to the dinner in the first place. I was already planning to go to Sarah's launch event on the Tuesday, but I never imagined I'd get to interview her and Scott beforehand. I'm a very happy blogger. :D
Here are a few more pics of people, places and swag... (click on the images to make them bigger!)
Sunday, 20 June 2010
The only way I can describe this past week is: AMAZING. I went to London for 3 days, to interview authors, attend a trade dinner, go to Sarah Rees Brennan's launch event, and visit some publishers. I still can't believe the week I had, and the books I came back with. I'll be posting a London report on Monday, if any of you guys are interested in what I got up to! :)
Here are the books I got this week:
- The Deathday Letter by Shaun David Hutchinson
- So Many Boys: A Naughty List Novel by Suzanne Young
- The Spook's Secret by Joseph Delaney (Bought in London after I met Joseph and he signed a copy for me).
- Dear Dylan by Siobhan Curham (Thanks Siobhan!)
- Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding (UK proof/ARC. Not YA, but looks SO good!)
- White Cat by Holly Black (Finished copy - very nice!)
- The Alchemist and the Angel by Joanne Owen (I got a really nice hardcover edition, with some beautiful illustrations. Thanks, N!)
- Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (UK proof/ARC)
- Annexed by Sharon Dogar (UK proof/ARC. So excited to read this!)
- The Necromancer by Michael Scott (UK proof/ARC)
- Midnighters: The Secret Hour by Scott Westerfeld
- The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
- Dark Goddess by Sarwat Chadda
- The Dream Thief by Catherine Webb
- The Liberation of Alice Love by Abby McDonald (Not teen, but I love Abby's writing!)
- iBoy by Kevin Brooks
- Witch Breed by Alan Gibbons
From London, for review:
- I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (UK proof/ARC. It's a really nice hardback in a slipcase!)
- Matched by Ally Condie (UK proof/ARC)
- Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (UK proof/ARC)
- Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (Already have the HB but it's huge, so going to try the paperback!)
- Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde (UK proof/ARC)
- Mistress of the Storm by M. L. Welsh
- Trash by Andy Mulligan (UK proof/ARC. Came packaged in a brown paper bag!)
- Grace by Morris Gleitzman (AU edition. Published here in February).
- Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne (UK proof/ARC)
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Publisher: Red Fox
Released: May 27th, 2010
Grade rating: B-
Fliss isn't exactly outgoing. But on stage she really comes alive. And this summer, she's playing Juliet opposite her dream Romeo - Tom Mayerling. If only she could tell him how she feels! But unless Fliss finds some inner confidence, she's going to miss her chance with Tom. Because someone else has her eyes on Fliss' role - and her leading man...
Star Crossed is the first book in the Sweet Hearts series, which is perfect for younger teen readers, particularly those who are fans of girly fiction by the likes of Luisa Plaja, Liz Rettig and Carmen Reid. It's a quick, enjoyable read set against the backdrop of a Romeo and Juliet theatre production, and is one of those books that sunny summer days were invented for.
Fliss, Tom and Samantha were the most memorable characters for me, though I didn't get as invested in Fliss and Tom's romantic chemistry as much as I'd have liked. Fliss was a character I could relate to through her shy nature and inability to stand up for herself, and I was glad to see that she had evolved quite a lot by the end of the book. Cotterill addresses themes of confidence and believing in yourself, which I think is important for a lot of teenagers to read about. I know I certainly struggled with that in the past, as I'm sure many other teens do, and realising you're not alone is a great lesson to learn.
I really didn't like Fliss's mum, Jeanette, who was one of the most loathsome parental characters I've come across recently. She in no way supported Fliss in her dream of being an actress, not even at secondary school level. I think parents should support their children in whatever they do and, though that doesn't always happen in real life, I still think it's a good message to put out there. I don't like reading about parents who constantly put their children down, and that's the problem I had here, minor though it was.
Star Crossed is definitely on the lighter side of teen fiction. It doesn't delve into too much mature territory, and instead chooses to focus on relatable topics that won't be hard for most teenagers to tap into. Family life, first crushes and classmate enemies are all on the cards for readers of this book, and I think we can expect similar things from the next instalment, Strictly Friends. When I need a feel-good read, I know what I'll be turning to.
Friday, 18 June 2010
How long did it take for The Tension of Opposites to go from an idea to a finished copy on store shelves?
Are you sure you want to know the answer to this? I started writing the book in the summer of 2007 – the first draft took 3-4 months to complete. I landed my agent, Alyssa Eisner Henkin, with a slush pile query in May of 2008. And then I hit the hard part . . . revision. With Alyssa’s brilliant guidance, I revised for six months, but the book still wasn’t working. In January of 2009, I deleted all but five chapters and started over. It was hard, but important. The freedom of starting over helped everything to gel together in just the right way. In June of 2009, The Tension of Opposites was pitched to editors and I had three offers in three weeks! The book his shelves on May 25, 2010 – so the short answer to your question is about three years.
Is Tessa and Noelle's story based on any real-life experiences?
Yes, though I would use the term “inspired” instead of “based on”. When I was a young child (3 or 4), I was nearly kidnapped during a burglary-gone-wrong. My mother and I came home from shopping one day, this was before remote garage openers, and found a man in our garage. He took my mother inside, leaving me in the still-running car, and ransacked the house. When he was ready to leave, he piled all of the loot in the car where I still sat, and proceeded to drive away with me. My mother stopped him, luckily, and we were both fine. Comparing my story to others makes me feel like the term “almost kidnapped” is a bit dramatic, as this man was not there specifically for me. But, it’s really the only terminology that fits.
Did you ever find the harrowing subject matter difficult to write about?
Sometimes, when I was really in Noelle’s head, it became difficult. I had to think about what she went through to get the scenes with her right. The journal entries were probably the most difficult emotionally because they were written from her perspective.
Why did you choose to tell the story from best friend Tessa's point of view, rather than Noelle's?
Dirty Little Secret: I tried to write this book from Noelle’s point of view. But she wouldn’t talk to me. Tessa was all up in my face, telling and showing me all sorts of things, but I kept pushing her aside, thinking this book had to be written from the kidnapped-and-returned girl’s perspective. After several attempts to pull Noelle out of the dark, I left her alone and focused on Tessa. Thankfully, that was all Noelle needed to trust me and open up.
What kind of research did you need in order to write The Tension of Opposites? Did you speak to any real life survivors of a similar trauma?
I did a lot of online research about the emotional effects of a kidnapping. I thoroughly researched the Stockholm Syndrome, where a kidnapped victim begins to relate to their kidnapper as a means of survival. I also watched several interviews with Shawn Hornbeck, a young man who was kidnapped at the age of eleven, lived four years with his kidnapper less than an hour from his family, and was finally found and returned to his home at the age of fifteen. His story was the true inspiration for this book. The interviews he did with TLC and 48 Hours were excellent for me to gain insight to the struggle of a kidnap victim.
Did the cover design or image go through any drastic changes along the way?
The two images on the cover have remained the same from the first version. A few things were tweaked along the way – the font style, the placement of the text, and the overall tone of the colors. I was lucky that Egmont was open to any suggestions I offered. At one point, my agent and I asked if we could see a version with the girl, who was originally cast in a dark sepia tint, to be brightened. The change made a huge difference, and I’m glad it stuck.
Is The Tension of Opposites a standalone novel, or will you revisit the characters in the future?
For now, The Tension of Opposites is a standalone.
Can you tell us anything about your next project?
I am currently working on book 2 of my 2-book deal with Egmont USA. That’s about all I can say for now. (Because you never know how much I’ll have to delete during revision!)
- Kristina's site: Kristina Mcbride.com
- Kristina's Twitter: @McBrideKristina
- US publisher's site: Egmont USA
- My review: The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride