Saturday, 31 July 2010

GIVEAWAY: Win The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams! (UK only)


Thanks to the ever awesome Simon & Schuster UK, I have five (5) copies of The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams to give away. This book is such an important story, and is beautifully written. You can read my review here.


Here's more info from Amazon:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in her isolated community without ever questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters; without ever questioning the strict rules imposed by 'the Prophet who leads them. But now Kyra has started keeping secrets. She reads books that are forbidden and sneaks away to meet Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself, instead of having a husband chosen for her. Kyra knows that it's only a matter of time before her two secret loves are discovered. And when the Prophet decrees that she is to become the seventh wife of her sixty-year-old uncle, Kyra is forced to make a desperate choice. But saving herself means endangering everyone she's ever cared for. How far should she go for freedom?


Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: August 10th, 2010.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Winner's details will be passed on to the publisher.

Just fill in the form below, and you'll be entered! :)

Review: Time Train to the Blitz by Sophie McKenzie


Publisher: Usborne
Format: Paperback
Released: April 30th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

It all starts when a mysterious train appears in the park. Before they know what's happening, Joe and Scarlett are whisked away on a journey back in time. Magically transported to World War II they're given a mission: to save a young boy's life. But with bombs falling on London they find they are counting down to disaster...

Review:

A lot of my blog readers will probably know about my interest in all things WWII related, thanks to my love for books like The Book Thief, Once and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. I'll read stories aimed at any age group if they're about the war, which is why I was eager to read Time Train to the Blitz, though it's for around the 7+ age.

Sophie McKenzie was already one of my favourite UK authors before reading this book, but now I think there's absolutely nothing she can't do. She approaches Time Train to the Blitz with the utmost respect, and never glorifies any parts of the war. She tells a story of chance and danger, while showing the loss of innocence that occured during the years of 1939 - 1945. No child should ever have to deal with the death of their loved ones, never mind the fight for their own life, thought that's exactly what happened.

By using a clever excuse for time travel in the form of a mysterious train that just shows up unexpectedly, main characters Joe and Scarlett find themselves in the throes of The Blitz. London in 1941 is literally in ruins, with bombs likely to fall at any moment. There's more rubble than standing houses, and in the midst of it all is a boy called Alfie. Joe and Scarlett are the only people who can save his life, and they do their utmost to ensure he has all the help he needs.

McKenzie paints her characters in a courageous light, and shows that even children were aware of the casualties of war. Time Train to the Blitz is informative and educational and, though I wish it was longer than its 142 pages, I think it's the perfect length for a 7-year-old. It's not peppered with too many facts and figures, and instead shows The Blitz from a child's point of view, inviting the reader to ask many a question of their own. Great stuff.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Released: August 5th, 2010
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in her isolated community without ever questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters; without ever questioning the strict rules imposed by 'the Prophet who leads them. But now Kyra has started keeping secrets. She reads books that are forbidden and sneaks away to meet Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself, instead of having a husband chosen for her. Kyra knows that it's only a matter of time before her two secret loves are discovered. And when the Prophet decrees that she is to become the seventh wife of her sixty-year-old uncle, Kyra is forced to make a desperate choice. But saving herself means endangering everyone she's ever cared for. How far should she go for freedom?

Review:

The Chosen One is, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2010. It'll break your heart and make you feel grateful for your life all at the same time, while displaying a mental strength and determination like no other. It's a book you'll read in one sitting, not daring to look away for fear of what might happen to Kyra and her family.

Kyra's struggle is one of the more difficult things I've read about, thanks to her seemingly hopeless, bleak existence as part of a polygamist cult. She has no choices, no voice, and no way to break free of this life she doesn't want. A normal life is out of the question but, rather than stand still and watch everything happen around her, she decides to do something about it. Kyra's bravery and courage is so inspiring, and is easily my favourite part of the book. She stands up for what's right and what she believes in, and is willing to risk her life for her rightful freedom. She's amazing.

Beautifully written in a style that lends itself to a poetic description, The Chosen One explores far too many themes and issues to mention here. Love, hope and sacrifice all play a huge part in Kyra's story and, as you peel one layer away, you're instantly met with another. At times, the events unfolding were so tense that I found myself tempted to skip ahead a few pages, just so I could reassure myself that things would be okay. That's all Kyra's doing, and it's been a while since I've felt so attached to a main character. If I could have dived into the pages and saved her myself, I would have done.

Writing so realistically about a subject like this - a polygamist cult - is above and beyond what I expected from a YA novel. I didn't expect such a brutally honest insight into what life is like in communities like this, and it really has left me thinking, even a few months after first reading it. It shocked me to the core, made me appreciate everything I take for granted, and left me with a strong urge to read everything Carol Lynch Williams has ever written. Seriously, she's that good.

There's no way this review can do it justice, but I'll just say that The Chosen One is a fantastic, daring story, and is an absolute must-read. I very highly recommended it.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

US Vs. UK: Claire de Lune Covers

US // UK

I'm torn this week: I really like both covers. When I first saw the UK one, I wasn't keen, but it's grown on me. I think the red and black is very striking, and it uses the Zephyr font used for The Twilight Saga. Instant win in my opinion!

The US cover image is also eye-catching, and there's no way I'd walk past it in a shop. I'm not sure that either of them really scream werewolf though, at least not to me anyway. (Is that just me? Would you see these and automatically think "Ah yes, werewolves"?)

Do you have a preference?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

-----

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford

* Published by: Scholastic Press (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: September 1st, 2010 (US)

* On Amazon: here


Amazon summary:

The Sullivan sisters have a big problem. On Christmas Day their rich and imperious grandmother gathers the family and announces that she will soon die . . .and has cut the entire family out of her will. Since she is the source of almost all their income, this means they will soon be penniless.

Someone in the family has offended her deeply. If that person comes forward with a confession of her (or his) crime, submitted in writing to her lawyer by New Year's Day, she will reinstate the family in her will. Or at least consider it.

And so the confessions begin....


I LOVED Natalie's last book, How to Say Goodbye in Robot, so I can't wait for this one. She has awesome writing and characters, and Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters sounds like it will be just as good. I wonder what their secrets/confessions are? I don't know about you, but I'm intrigued!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Author Interview: Kat Falls

Kat Falls is the debut author of Dark Life - a fantastic story set under the sea, which is published in the UK on 5th August. My review will be up next week, but for now, here's the author herself to tell you more about her book. Thanks for answering my questions, Kat!

----------



Dark Life
is an unusual and exciting story. Where did the idea originate from?


I came up with the premise for Dark Life during a writing exercise. I’d set myself the task of combining three things that my son loved to read about into one story – the ocean, Old West pioneers, and the X-Men. Suddenly, the world of the story took shape in my mind and the plot came together fairly easily after that.

It seems difficult to fit into any one genre. Would you describe it as dystopian?

You could say the Topside in Dark Life is dystopian with its overcrowded stack-cities, but the story really takes place out on the ocean frontier, which is still a wilderness. The two genres that I intentionally mixed were science-fiction and the western. So I have pioneers, outlaws and other western tropes but the story is set in the future. Like a space-western… but underwater.

Why did you decide to have Ty narrate the story, rather than Gemma?

I did briefly consider having Gemma as the narrator because it’s easier as a writer to describe settings if the character is new to the environment. If the first-person narrator looks a room every day, he’s not going to think about its arrangement. But I really wanted to have a teenage boy as the narrator because for a while my son would only read books with male protagonists. (Hunger Games sure changed his mind on that issue.) While girls seem more willing to read about protagonists of either gender. I didn’t want to alienate half of my audience at the get go.

Also, Gemma’s reactions to the subsea world wouldn’t be that different from our reactions to it. So her thoughts wouldn’t be particularly surprising. While getting inside Ty’s head forced me to think like someone who has spent most of his life underwater. The things he doesn’t say, his feelings and reactions, often surprised me as I was writing and that’s always fun.

If you could choose, would you rather live topside or underwater?

Underwater, no question. I couldn’t live in a place without nature or wildlife.

Is there a particular dark gift you'd like to possess?

Being able to emit an electric shock could be useful in certain situations…

Do you have an educational background in marine science, or is it just an area that's always interested you?

No, I never formally studied marine biology. But I’ve always loved the ocean and love reading about all the amazing creatures that live in it. So I did lots of research – everything from marine life and geography to undersea architecture and future technology.

Who would be your ideal cast to play your characters in the optioned Dark Life movie?

No idea -- since the leads are fifteen and sadly, I can’t name a single actor in that age range.

Can you tell us anything about what we can expect from Dark Life's sequel?

Well… Benthic Territory and Ty are still struggling to gain more independence, while Gemma is desperately trying to feel at home subsea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come easily for her. Also, I explore the world a little more – namely, what’s happening on the ocean frontier’s surface.

----------


More info: Simon & Schuster Children's


Monday, 26 July 2010

GIVEAWAY: Win a Signed Copy of The Lighter Side of Life & Death by C. K. Kelly Martin! (Worldwide)



Thanks to C. K. Kelly Martin, I have one signed copy of her latest novel, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, to give away, along with a very cool t-shirt! You can read my review of the book here.


Here's more info from Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Mason Rice is having the night of his life. He's just delivered an incredible performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year, and lost his virginity to one of his best friends—the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. His dreams are coming true, and the future looks golden.

Unfortunately, Kat sees things very differently. Crossing the friendship line was a big mistake, and all she wants is to forget it and move on, even if that means forgetting Mason altogether. What's a guy to do? Well, if you're Mason, you hang your hopes on the first attractive twenty-three-year-old you cross paths with. At first Mason wonders if he's imagining the chemistry... until Colette invites him over to her apartment. Suddenly Mason's living in a whole new world.


Rules & info:
  • Open worldwide!
  • End date: August 9th, 2010.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.

Just fill in the form below, and you'll be entered! :)

Review: My Rocky Romance Diary by Liz Rettig


Publisher: Corgi Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: August 5th, 2010
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

Kelly Ann is all loved-up with her gorgeous soulmate, Chris, so there's no way she's going to let her attraction for the dark and dangerous new boy at school go any further. OK, so he rides a cool Harley Davidson motorbike, plays in a cool band and has dedicated a song to her. But she's not going to let that rock her relationship with Chris, is she? Besides, Kelly Ann has other things to worry about. Like being dragged through the mud by a rogue Great Dane, locked out of the house by an eight year old she's supposed to be babysitting and that YouTube video that shows her grappling with a half-naked guy in Pizza Express - 200,000 hits and counting in just twelve hours...

Review:

I've been a Liz Rettig fan since I first read My Desperate Love Diary in 2005, and have since read everything she's written. She's always been up there with Louise Rennison as the UK's best teen chick-lit writer, and My Rocky Romance Diary has cemented that status even further.

Above all else, this book is funny. Like, really funny. If you thought Kelly Ann's previous escapades were outrageous, just wait 'til you read this. Now that she's got a steady boyfriend, Chris, all sorts of problems present themselves. Fantasies about new boy Matt is at the top of the list which, as you've guessed, makes life very difficult for her and Chris. Matt is a bad boy to the core, equipped with an edgy dress sense and a Harley motorbike. He's enough to make any girl swoon, including Kelly Ann and the rest of the college student body.

My Rocky Romance Diary sees 17-year-old Kelly Ann have sex, experience jealousy and lust, and the unusual urge to live the single life for a while. Rettig uses her dry Scottish humour to her advantage, giving Kelly Ann some hilarious dialogue that had me laughing out loud. Although the tone of the book is as lighthearted as the rest of the series, you can definitely tell the characters are growing up. The teen problems we've been used to are now more mature, and probably a lot more realistic than you'd expect.

I've enjoyed this whole series, but My Rocky Romance Diary is head and shoulders above the rest. When I read teen chick-lit, this is exactly the kind I want - something fun, down to earth and capable of making me laugh. Now excuse me while I go and fly my Kelly Ann flag. Long live Liz Rettig!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

In My Mailbox #79: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!

This week was cool - lots of good surprise books arrived, and I also bought some from the one and only Amazon. I'm so glad they stock US imports! I didn't read much this week, I kind of had a break. I think it's done me good!

Anyway, here are this week's books, including a couple of duplicates:



For review:
  • Being Billy by Phil Earle (UK proof/ARC. Signed. Thanks Phil!)
  • Reckless by Cornelia Funke (Look at that cover!)
  • Jealousy by Lili St. Crow (I'm quoted in this one! Yay! Pic below..)



Bought:
  • Forget You by Jennifer Echols (I had to buy a lovely finished copy. My ARC review is here!)

As mentioned above, I noticed I was quoted inside Jealousy by Lili St. Crow. It's so cool, and I had no idea!



Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Review: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott


Publisher: Corgi Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: May 24th, 2007
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

Review:

Recently, I find I haven't read many openers of an existing series that have really made me desperate for the second book. Nothing has grabbed me enough, until a lovely publicist highly recommended I try Michael Scott's first book in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. I'm so glad I listened and, Corinne, if you're reading this: thank you!

I don't read a lot of YA fantasy, so I am in no way an expert of any kind. What I do read, like Harry Potter and Eragon, I choose carefully. Usually they have to include magic, dragons or, if I'm very lucky, both. The Alchemyst has magic, legends, a fight between good and evil and, get this: A VAMPIRE. With a difference. I think it was written just for me.

Scott's writing didn't wow me, and I'll admit I didn't think it was anything amazing. What I did like was how he incorporated many well-known myths and legends into his story, as well as numerous mentions of world events, and famous people and places. The 1666 Great Fire of London even played a part in this story, which is just beyond cool. It's like this fantastical fight has spanned generations and, unless you're involved, you won't know anything about it. I love things like that and, the next time I see a large number of cats following me, let's just say I know who I'll be calling.

Scott's characters were all easy to become invested in, although some stood out more than others. I actually thought main characters Sophie and Josh were the weakest of the lot, with Nicholas, Perenelle and Scathach owning the page. The numerous Elders, villains and creatures involved made The Alchemyst an exciting read, and I never once found myself losing concentration. A couple of sections required a little more attention than others, as there was a lot of history being explained, which came complete with new fantasy names to learn and events to remember. It didn't bore me though, and instead added a change of pace to the narrative.

As the first book in a series, The Alchemyst is pretty rock solid. It sets things up for book 2, The Magician, and ends on a mild cliffhanger. If it had been any worse, I'd have been heading to buy the next book straight away. I can't wait to find out what happens next, and I just hope I can get hold of The Magician soon. Until then, I will exercise some patience.



When you study for a PhD online, you'll be doing a lot of reading.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Review: Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan + Author Interview


Publisher: Strident
Format: Paperback
Released: June 15th, 2010
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

Josh has 25 minutes left to live. Lying alone in a pool of blood, Josh has not much time to think. Yesterday he stabbed his best mate, and now it has happened to him. But there are questions he cannot get out of his head. Like, how did he get into this mess? Will anyone find him in time? Will his girlfriend forgive him, and what really happened to his older brother? As his life slips away, the events of the last 24 hours start to look very different.

Review:

Dead Boy Talking is another YA book to explore teenage gang culture and knife crime. It looks at the before and after, and poses many questions relevant to today's society. I'll never fully understand why teens feel the need to fight and kill each other over something that could be resolved, but it happens, and it's a great shame.

Strachan's narrator, Josh, tells his story from two time frames: the 24 hours leading up to his stabbing, and what look to be his last 25 minutes after being left for dead. As you'd expect, it's emotional stuff, though it's all over very quickly. I would have liked a higher page count with more depth, and more chance to get to know everyone properly. It does work well as a short book too, and is definitely straight to the point. Seeing events unfold over a shorter period of time gives that sense of realism and, in the end I felt like I was there myself, counting down the minutes with Josh.

Dead Boy Talking is one of those books that should find its way on to school reading lists. Not as an example of social commentary, but rather as a lesson to anyone thinking about carrying, or using, a knife. If they read Strachan's take on things, I'm sure they'd at least think twice about what they were doing, as well as the consequences of their actions. Eventually all this real-life violence has to end, and I just hope it's soon.


-----


Q&A with Linda Strachan


Dead Boy Talking deals with knife crime, which is sadly becoming more prevalent in British society. Why did you choose to focus on this particular act of violence?

Knives are everywhere whether they are used for everyday reasons, in a kitchen or as tools, and young people carry knives for a variety of different reasons - perhaps for bravado or peer pressure as well as the small minority who carry them as weapons with criminal intent. But a knife attack can be sudden, unexpected and often deadly.I am sure many teenagers don't really believe that they will ever become the victim or that they would use the knife they carry. I wanted to look at how situations can develop and bad choices escalate the problem until the result is not what the young people in question had ever imagined.

Is Josh's story inspired by, or based on, any real-life events?

Not any one specific event but it was inspired by newspaper and TV reports of fatal stabbings. Reading and listening to these stories of teenagers having been stabbed and lying on their own until someone finds them became the first trigger for the story. I started to think about how it must have felt, and the line 'In 25 minutes I will be dead' became the first line of the book. It all followed from there.

Dead Boy Talking takes place over a 24-hour time frame, and successfully jumps between the past and present. As a writer, how difficult is it to maintain the plot momentum when using this style?

It seemed the natural way to tell the story. I wanted to let the reader understand why it had happened, to follow the characters in the time leading up to Josh lying there. In some ways it was easy to maintain the momentum because I kept going back to Josh and being reminded that time was running out.

Your previous book, Spider, also dealt with a very realistic event in the form of a car crash. Do you think realism in YA fiction is gaining popularity? If yes, why?

I think we all want different kinds of books at different times and sometimes we need escapism, but not all the time. Realism in YA fiction gives them a chance to experience dangerous situations, feel the excitement without putting themselves in danger. But you have to be very straight and honest, and to tell the story as it is, without putting adult opinions or warnings into it. I feel it is important not to underestimate the audience and not ever talk down to them. We all want to see ourselves somewhere in the books we read and realistic YA fiction gives young people that opportunity, to explore possible consequences of their actions, consequences that might have never occurred to them..

Can you tell us anything about your current project?

I am currently writing a book about how we perceive others, often making snap decisions based on what we see, what people wear or what we have heard about a person or a group of people, especially a group of young people. I wanted to look at how actions based on this kind of misconception can lead a to disaster.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

US Vs. UK: Infinite Days Covers

US // UK

Here's another great example of how different countries have such different book covers. The UK has gone for a dark gothic look, while the US has gone for a simpler, more story specific image. I don't know about you, but after so many black covers cropping up over the last couple of years, I'd now go for a lighter colour scheme every time.

I'm also not keen on the model/image used on the UK cover. While I prefer the font and love the pattern around the cover edges, the girl really does put me off. I think the US one poses more questions, and hints to the vampire plot more successfully.

Which one would find its way on to your bookshelf?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

The Avenger Blog Tour: Quick Q&A With P.C. Cast

P.C. Cast's new adult book, The Avenger, has just been published as the first title in Mills and Boon's Nocturne range, and P.C. is taking part in a blog tour of interviews in order to promote it. Here's my quick Q&A with here, along with some extras below! Thanks to P.C. for her time.


----------


What can House of Night fans expect from your new adult novel, The Avenger?

THE AVENGER is aimed at an adult audience, unlike the House of Night books which are all young adult. That being said, I dislike the idea that genres aren’t fluid. A good story is a good story, no matter the intended audience. I think my HoN fans who are not too young will love THE AVENGER, especially as it deals with Boudicca and her daughters – and in the HoN world it is Boudicca’s daughters who begin the Dark Daughters!

Can The Avenger be seen as a House of Night spin-off?

THE AVENGER isn’t really a HoN spinoff. What happened is that I was approached to write one of the Time Raiders novels for Nocturne because I am a military veteran (all of the authors of the Time Raiders series are). I was interested because the idea of vets writing with military heroines sounded fun, and then when I saw that Boudicca was one of the choices proposed for time travel I was intrigued as I had been researching her because I decided her daughters would begin the House of Night Dark Daughters. So I happily signed on!

After writing extensively for both YA and adult audiences, do you find that you now have a preference?

I’ve found that I enjoy going back and forth. It’s nice to write for adults and not have to worry about appropriate content, and it’s also nice to return to the intense coming of age issues that go along with YA.

Your books are always full of shocking plot twists and turns. Do you deliberately set out to put your fans through the emotional wringer?

Absolutely! The truth is that I put myself through an emotional wringer each time, too. If I laugh and cry and scream along with my readers, then I feel like I’m doing my job as an author.

Why do you think paranormal romance has become so popular with teenagers? Is it the bad boys, or the dangerous romance?

I think it’s the limitless possibilities paranormal worlds create. Who doesn’t want to believe in magic?

Who is your favourite bad boy from YA fiction?

Kalona. Definitely.

What genre would you like to write for that you haven't already?

I’d like to write a horror novel!

Would you like to write more adult novels for Mills and Boon's new Nocturne range?

Yes, definitely! I love the Nocturne line and have ideas for at least three more books for them.


----------




Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Review: Forget You by Jennifer Echols


Publisher: MTV Books
Format: Paperback
Released: July 20th, 2010
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four- year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. Feeling like her life is about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon. But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all—the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug—of all people— suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life—a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

Review:

I've been struggling with this review for a while, and it's all thanks to my mixed feelings about this book. I really enjoyed parts of it, like the character of Doug and the girl torn between two boys, though I had some problems with Zoey. I just couldn't seem to like her, and I thought the way she treated both Brandon and Doug made next to no sense. She wasn't in any way written badly, in fact that's Echols' extremely strong point: she's a fantastic writer. I just felt that, in this case, Forget You was lacking something.

As I've previously mentioned many times, Echols is a great talent in YA. Going Too Far and The Boys Next Door are both brilliant examples of fiction for teens, and her boys always stand out from the crowd. Forget You's Doug is no exception; I loved him. Echols also isn't afraid to write a steamy scene or two, and when I say steamy, I mean steamy. Page 211 (in the ARC) is like the hottest scene in YA, and just has to be mentioned. I'm not saying I went back and read it a few times or anything... *cough*. Though I know for a fact I'm not the only one!

The one thing that really irked me about Zoey was why she even bothered with Brandon at all. To put it nicely, he was a complete idiot. I get that she couldn't remember the whole night, but surely she could have figured out who was the good guy and who wasn't worth a second thought?! Zoey is my least favourite of Echols' female protagonists, though I did like her more towards the end of the book.

Echols gets teenagers, and she writes them as if her own teenage years are a not-so-distant memory. She gets the drama of relationships and big decisions, and for that reason alone I will read everything she ever writes. Although I don't think Forget You is up there with her best books, Echols has more than proved that she's here for the long haul, and I look forward to whatever she comes up with next.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Author Interview: Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin, author of new adult epic The Passage, toured the UK a couple of weeks ago. His lovely publicist Jon allowed me some interview time after the signing event in Manchester, where we talked about vampires (obviously), movies, and everything in between. Big thanks to Justin and Jon, and the nice people at Deansgate Waterstone's for letting us use their office!



-----


Wondrous Reads: For people who aren't familiar with The Passage, which is probably quite a few of my YA blog readers, how would you describe your book?

Justin Cronin: My book is based on this idea - what if all the vampires you read about in other books, and all the legends, movies and general abundance of vampire lore - like any legends, was based on a reality? What would that reality be? I invented a character with a job that I don't think actually exists - he's a paleovirologist, who goes looking for what he believes to be a virus existing in nature that produces the condition that's been turned into the legend of the vampire. So they will be different, but they'll have all the pieces, just in some way that does not involve magic essentially.

The vampires are the legend, with these people the reality, and the reality here is that 40 million people are victims of medical science gone bad. So these are not vampires, but rather the origin of the vampire legend. They're of course not very cuddly, they don't sparkle and they don't look like underwear models - and that's fine. Other people can write those stories, and bravo. The emphasis on my story is not on the brooding, melancholy inner lives of vampires, it's on the human beings - the survivors, who need to come to understand their enemy. That's the basis of my story, which unleashes chaos on the world.

WR: How do your vampires differ from the traditional undead that we're perhaps most familiar with?

JC: They're the same but different. For instance, there's the idea of the mirrors. That vampires don't show up in mirrors is one of the more difficult things to imagine, and as far as I know, that's not possible. What reality would that reflect? The Virals of The Passage - they go by the names Flyers, Glowsticks, Dracs and Smokes - you always name your enemies something to dehumanise them, you don't call them 'Fred'. When they see a reflection, it stops them in their tracks because they experience a moment of profound melancholy where they struggle to remember who they used to be. Hence, it is a good tool to use against one. It's not that their reflection isn't visible in mirrors, it's that it's too visible. So in the way that legends turn things around, the mirrors have a profound effect, but it's not that they can't be seen - it's that they have to look at themselves. And that's exactly what it's like when you get up in the morning, look in the mirror and realise you're middle-aged. I know where that comes from.

WR: I read somewhere that your daughter inspired either the character of Amy or the book itself. Is that right?

JC: My daughter basically dared me to write a book about a girl who saves the world. And because I'm a a dad, I said "okay fine". So we spent 3 months coming up with a basic outline - if she's going to save the world, let's have her save it from 40 million vampires, which is something I'd been thinking about for a while. We also came up with the basic plotline, and we did this with her riding her bike and me running next to her. And there you have it!

WR: What a good daughter! How long was the whole writing process? Years?

JC: It took a long time. I'm a pretty careful writer, I don't feel the need to hurry. I try to be productive and write something every day, but I don't think I need to race. A lot of books are written too fast, and I didn't want to write a book where the idea was better than the writing.

WR: So at which point did you realise it needed to be a trilogy?

JC: Right at the beginning. Once I was looking at the planned size of it, I knew I was going to do it as 3 stories. I had 3 story arcs in mind that were strong individually, but also strong sequentially. So it's 3 novels, but 1 uber novel. I think you'd have a richer experience reading them in order, but I also want them to have that standalone ability. I'm writing the second book at the moment, and each book will have a radical shift.

WR: Have you heard that reviews so far have likened The Passage to Stephen King's The Stand and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend?

JC: I've heard that, and I've also heard it likened to a book that I haven't read called Swan Song, which is another post-apocalyptic novel. I've also heard about The Road, which is a comparison I like, because they're very different but they have at their core the same human bond holding the story together.

My book is inadvertently having conversations with a million other books - even plays and poems, because I'm an English teacher. There are references from Shakespeare and Elizabethan poets to Dawn of the Dead and all the B-Movies I grew up watching. You don't need to know or care about these references, they're just like presents for people who want them. And that's because I was born in 1962 - I'm 47 years old, I've read every kind of book. I was raised reading science fiction, then became an English major and college teacher. I reference a broad range, and it's a fun thing to do.

WR: Speaking of Stephen King, I saw the episode of Good Morning America when he called you live on air. How amazing was that?!

JC: It was like ambush TV! I didn't know it was happening, and my surprise was completely genuine. Some people have accused me of being a good actor, but I'm not. It was really cool, and he's helped direct a lot of people to my book, which is a huge compliment.

WR: Your covers are very different in the US and UK. Do you have a preference?

JC: No, I actually like them both, and I'm not dodging the question. They're both aimed at different markets. We got the UK cover much earlier, and when I showed it to my US publisher, he said "That's great, but it is not right for the US". They wanted something more stately and mysterious. I wanted both covers to be beautiful, and they are. And the British one has that cool holographic look!

WR: I agree, the British cover is very cool and very creepy. Last question: are you excited about the prospect of a movie?

JC: Yes I am, because the people involved are so smart - the most talented people in Hollywood are involved. Ridley Scott has directed every kind of movie that's similar to The Passage in story, everything from horror to sci-fi to world building. The Passage is a multi-genre thing. He's worked in all those genres and has a great visual pallette with a great sense of spectacle.

WR: So is it definitely going ahead, or has it just been optioned?

JC: It's happening. The screenplay is almost done, and the guy they hired to do that is John Logan who wrote Gladiator for Ridley Scott. This is quite a team, and you have to be happy about that. We'll know a lot more by the end of summer, in terms of scheduling and where it's going to fall on the calendar. Again, it's a great compliment for the book that people of that caliber are involved. You don't do better.

It was a real wrestling match between a number of extremely big movie studios. There were 4 studios who wanted it - their resumes were very impressive, and I couldn't believe my luck. I had everyone's offer on the table, and I just had to pick one out. It was easy, honestly. Fox and Scott Free, Ridley Scott's production company, came in at the end.

WR: I'm sure it'll be amazing visually.

JC: It has that quality of spectacle. I didn't write it in those terms, but that's what they saw. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

WR: Well good luck with the book and the movie, and thank you very much for your time!

JC: My pleasure.


-----


More info: Enter The Passage.com / Orion (UK publisher)




Sunday, 18 July 2010

In My Mailbox #78: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!


Another great week for me! I received some books I've been really looking forward to, so I can't wait to get stuck in :)



For review:
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Losing It by Various Authors (New finished copy, because my proof had pages missing. Review here).



Bought:



Gift:

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (US ARC)

Rebecca Maizel, the lovely author of Infinite Days, sent me this ARC as well as some Infinite Days postcards (and dried lavender. Yay!). I read Firelight the day it arrived and absolutely LOVED IT. So much so that I haven't stopped talking about it yet! Thanks so much Rebecca!


I also got some other cool stuff this week. My friend Leanne sent me a signed bookplate that Michelle Zink asked her to pass on...



...and Lori from Pure Imagination sent me some Bree Tanner swag, along with some other YA book swag and signed bookmarks. I love bookmarks and stuff, so big thanks Lori!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Review: 100% Gleek - The Unofficial Guide to Glee by Evie Parker


Publisher: Bantam Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: July 1st, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

The perfect guide to the cynical, sweet and downright funny hit show, this companion book is packed with behind the scenes facts, set gossip and full colour photos - it's a must-read for all you Gleeks!

Review:

Okay, so: hands up if you're a Glee fan. Most of you? Thought so! It's definitely a show that's taken the world by storm, and who can blame it?! For the most part, it's fantastic, though it's weekly moral storylines could be toned down every now and then. Anyway, this isn't a review of the show, it's a review of 100% Gleek: The Unofficial Guide to Glee. While this book may be unofficial, it's still packed to the rafters with show, actor and character info, and is a must-buy for all fans of Ryan Murphy's addictive all-singing all-dancing display of talent.

Basically, anything you want to know about Glee, you'll find in this book. There are character and actor profiles for pretty much everyone (including the opposing schools), music guides for each episode, the lowdown on McKinley High's scandals, and a section on McKinley romances. There's even a huge fold-out poster included at the back, which I'm sure will adorn many a fan's wall.

As far as unofficial guides go, 100% Gleek is up there with the better ones. There are many pictures to stare at or, if you're a Puck fan like me, drool over - I do like a badass boy who has a secret good side. Some of the images could be better, as there are no official promo stills, only public photos of the cast, which I suppose is the only downside to an unofficial guide. Did you know that, in the Director's Cut of the Glee pilot episode, Mr. Schu gets an extra song? No, me neither. I'm off to see what else I can learn!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Review: Losing It by Various Authors


Publisher: Andersen Press
Format: Paperback
Released: July 8th, 2010
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Some of today's leading writers for teens are gathered here in a wonderful collection of original stories: some funny, some moving, some haunting but all revolving around the same subject - having sex for the first time! You never forget your first time and you'll never forget this book.

Review:

Losing It is an anthology of stories about virginity: losing it, discussing it and living it. Edited by the fantastic Keith Gray and including short stories written by some of the UK's best YA authors, including Jenny Valentine, Patrick Ness, Sophie McKenzie and Melvin Burgess, Losing It is an accomplishment for all involved.

Gone are the days of sex being a nightmarish taboo that no-one ever talks about, least of all parents and teachers. These days, teenagers are given sex education at school and parents are expected to have 'the talk' as soon as possible (often with cringeworthy consequences, might I add - if you've seen Eclipse, you'll know what I mean!). Teenagers are often said to be growing up faster now, and what better way to offer support than a book all about the pros and cons of losing your virginity.

Every scenario is covered in Losing It, from the girl who learns a valuable lesson from a relative, a boy who realises that being gay isn't anything to be ashamed of, and a girl who pays the ultimate price for her country's extreme views. I'm sure every reader will be able to identify with at least one of the characters and their story, even if it's only the guy who seemingly lies about an older conquest, or the girl who chooses to wait for the right person to come along. There really is something for everyone.

My personal favourite stories from the anthology are Different for Boys by Patrick Ness, The Way It Is by Sophie McKenzie, and The White Towel by Bali Rai. Just from reading these 3 short contributions, I laughed, gasped and very nearly cried. I never realised so much emotion could be found within 20 pages, but The White Towel soon disproved that. A few of the stories aren't as strong or as memorable as others, but are well worth reading all the same. As with all anthologies, it's a team effort, and each author brings something valuable to the pages of Losing It.

I think every teenager should read this, whether they're having sex, thinking about having sex or even just curious about when might be the right time. There's a lot to take away from this book, and I hope it will inspire others to write about these subjects in a similar way.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

US Vs. UK: Wintergirls Covers

US // UK

Laurie Halse Anderson posted the UK cover of Wintergirls on her blog last week, and I was pretty surprised by how different it is. It definitely gives a clear picture of what the book is about, and I like how it uses one of my favourite passages of writing to illustrate that.

I find the US cover haunting, which is also what I thought of the book. There's nothing scarier than seeing that face looking back at you, and knowing just what the characters go through. The US cover will always be my favourite, but I do like what the UK have done with it, and how they've chosen to express Lia's struggle with eating disorders.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Review: Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis


Publisher: Egmont UK
Format: Paperback
Re-Released: July 5th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

My Name is Zelah Green and I'm a cleanaholic. I spend most of my life running away from germs, dirt, and people. And I'm just about doing ok and then my stepmother packs me off to some kind of hospital to live with a load of strangers. It's stuck in the middle of nowhere. Great. There's Alice who's anorexic. Caro who cuts herself. Silent Sol who has the cutest smile. And then there's me.

Review:

When Zelah Green was originally released as Zelah Green: Queen of Clean, I paid little or no attention to it. I'm not entirely sure why, I just know I didn't give it a second glance. This new cover made me think twice, and I'm really glad I gave it a go. I loved the writing style and Zelah's personality, and am looking forward to reading book 2 as soon as possible.

Zelah has a form of OCD, which makes her jump on a step a certain number of times, wash her hands a certain way, and change her shoes on a particular step. These rituals have literally taken over her life, and lead her stepmother to ship her off to a kind of mental health hospital. There Zelah meets some brilliant friends and mentors, each with different problems of their own.

Although Zelah Green sounds like a serious read, it's actually quite funny. Zelah's voice is clever, hard to ignore and not easily forgotten. The way she deals with her rituals is often humorous, with her thoughts providing a great insight into her life and her past. The friends she meets at Forest Hill House, including Caro, Sol, and Lib, are all beautifully written, and are all supportive yet flawed characters. It reminded me of a Big Brother house, in a way, as each personality was so drastically different, and all forced to share the same space.

Zelah Green is a fantastic book, and one that I'd highly recommend. It's a quick read, but has so much more substance than you'd initially think. I think I'll be reading anything Vanessa Curtis writes, whether it be more stories of Zelah or something completely different.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Guest Post: Joanne Owen Talks Writing & Publishing

Joanne Owen is the author of Puppet Master and newly published The Alchemist and the Angel. She also works in children's marketing at a well-known UK publisher, and has a great background when it comes to working with books. I thought it would be really interesting to get an insight into both sides of the book world - both from a writing and publishing perspective. Thanks, Joanne!


Joanne Owen

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and was always a big reader. Favourites as a really young child were the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, especially Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood, and these still resonate with me now - I weave a lot of Central European folklore and fairytales into my novels. I used to make little books of short stories and poems and wrote through school but it wasn’t until I was in my mid twenties that I began to really, seriously consider writing a book.

After leaving university I developed parallel careers in the world of books; the first as a bookseller, buyer and now publishing ‘marketer’, and the second as a writer. I didn’t specifically make a big career decision to work in books; it just kind of happened after doing a (snappily titled!) degree in Archaeology and Anthropology with Social and Political Sciences, when my first job was bookselling. This showed me how publishers sell to shops, and the role informed, enthusiastic booksellers have in generating interest in particular books. I was Children’s Book Buyer for Borders head office by the time I came to write my first book, Puppet Master, and this was an exciting time. Many evenings were spent meeting other booksellers, publishers and authors at events and launches and generally absorbing myself in the world of children’s books.

While there’s a crossover between my life as a writer and publisher- it essentially comes down to having a passion for good writing and good books - my publishing ‘day job’ (I currently market children’s and YA books) is wholly different from writing my own books. There has to be a separation; firstly so there are no distractions from coming up with ideas and writing, and secondly to avoid any conflicts of interest e.g. I don’t write for the publisher I work for – that could lead to all sorts of awkwardness!

Being immersed in selling and marketing children’s and YA books has given me many insights I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and these are both useful and sobering. The most pertinent is an acute awareness of how many great books are published each year, and how few of these ‘break out’ and become bestsellers. While trying to make this happen is a concern of my marketing work, as a writer I have to distance myself from this. There’s no point getting hung up on whether your book might become one of those, or quickly trying to follow trends. I feel the writer’s job is to do just that: to get on with writing to the best of your ability. Leave worrying about which market you’re being published into to the publisher. While you might have some input into things like jacket design, it’s important for writers to recognise their publishers’ expertise and devotion to the process, from editing and producing to selling and marketing. I’ve been very fortunate in that my editor at Orion completely gets what I’m doing, which makes the editorial and re-writing process a pleasure.

Ultimately I’ve learned that while writing is a solitary activity, publishing involves a whole team and I feel very fortunate to be part of this process, both as writer and publisher.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Review: Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols


Publisher: Simon Pulse
Format: Paperback
Released: May 25th, 2010
Grade rating: C+ (Book #2: Endless Summer)


Amazon summary:

Two irresistible boys. One unforgettable summer.

Lori can't wait for her summer at the lake. She loves wakeboarding and hanging with her friends--including the two hotties next door. With the Vader brothers, she's always been just one of the guys. Now that she's turning sixteen, she wants to be seen as one of the girls, especially in the eyes of Sean, the older brother. But that's not going to happen--not if the younger brother, Adam, can help it. Lori plans to make Sean jealous by spending time with Adam. Adam has plans of his own for Lori. As the air heats up, so does this love triangle. Will Lori's romantic summer melt into one hot mess?

Review:

Endless Summer is a bind-up of both books in this series: The Boys Next Door and Endless Summer. The above summary is more for The Boys Next Door, which I already reviewed (and loved) here. Today I'm just talking about Endless Summer, which is a direct continuation of Lori's summer with the boys next door.

I really admire Jennifer Echols and her writing. I think she crafts realistic characters and situations, and puts so much effort into her work. I've loved everything I've previously read by her, though I was disappointed with Endless Summer. I know there were originally no plans for a sequel to The Boys Next Door, which kind of explains why the plot felt like it was all over the place.

The characters didn't seem at all like themselves, and instead morphed into jealous, needy people with, I have to say, some of the worst ideas ever thought of by someone with a brain. There were many times when I wanted to ask Lori and Adam what on earth they were thinking, because it just didn't make sense to me why they'd behave in that way. I think they went about things the wrong way, though I did understand their motives and how everything looked to them. I'm going to put it all down to their intense feelings for each other, and hope that it was merely a slip-up in their relationship.

There were still some elements left over from The Boys Next Door that I loved, like Lori's relationship with all the Vader boys, Adam's sexy charm and the suave hotness that was Sean. Their sharp tongues and quick-fire retorts were as present as ever, along with all the brotherly teasing and hijinks that I came to love in the first book.

As one volume, Endless Summer is 100% worth owning, and I can't recommend it enough. It includes The Boys Next Door, and that alone is worthy of the $9.99 price tag. I'm choosing to see Endless Summer as an added bonus, and though it isn't my favourite book by Echols, it's still a good addition to her backlog of novels. And while I'm here, I should mention her upcoming MTV release, that goes by the name of Forget You. It's good (not to mention smokin' HOTT), and you should all look out for it in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

In My Mailbox #77: New Books This Week

In My Mailbox idea from Kristi @ The Story Siren, and all links take you to Amazon. Click images for a bigger picture!

This week was pretty ace! On Monday I went to the Simon & Schuster offices with some other bloggers, to watch a book presentation and meet some of the S&S adult team and their authors. It was a really fun day, and it was great to see Carolyn from Book Chick City and Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time. *waves* Thanks S&S! Then on Tuesday I went to a Justin Cronin signing for The Passage, where I also got to interview him (hopefully that'll be posted next week). So all in all, it's been a fun but busy week!

Now for the books!



Bought:



For review:
  • Cathy's Ring by Jordan Weisman, Sean Stewart and Cathy Brigg
  • Torment by Lauren Kate (A proper UK proof/ARC!)
  • Fade by Lisa McMann (Already read this last year, my review is here).



From S&S event:






I'm really excited again, because I'm quoted on two new S&S books: the front of Dark Life by Kat Falls and the back of Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (along with Becky from The Bookette). I almost fell over when I saw them! I hope you all don't mind me mentioning it, 'cause if I can't share it with you guys, who can I share it with?!





Happy reading, everyone!