Monday, 31 January 2011

Blog Tour: The Crowmaster by Barry Hutchison Review + Author Interview


Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
Released: February 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

After Kyle's ordeal at school, his mother packs him off to the safety of the countryside, where there will be no temptation to use his powers, and he can forget the bad things - like the fact that his dad is a monster determined to destroy the world. But here's the thing about the countryside: it's full of nature, and nature sometimes has claws. Followed by a spindly figure in the woods and attacked by crows, Kyle is about to discover that NOWHERE is safe from the invisible fiends…

Review:

I don't think I've ever read a book more suitable for teenage boys than this one (and girls too, of course!). There's blood, guts, gore, continual scares and not an ounce of romance in sight. Don't get me wrong, I like my romance as much as the next girl, but sometimes I like a bit of good old-fashioned horror too. I'm a fan of old school monster movies, and The Crowmaster reminded me of just that. A lot of the thrills and chills were the result of tension building, while numerous deaths provided an ick-factor perfect for readers into action and gruesome ends.

The Crowmaster is the third book in the Invisible Fiends series, and is the first I've read so far. I wondered if I'd be able to follow it without being confused, and I was able to, very easily in fact. Hutchison does reference events previously seen in Mr Mumbles and Raggy Maggie, but he does so by providing a quick explanation too. Because of that I think each book in this series could probably be read as a standalone title, which will surely benefit reluctant readers and those who don't want to have to read a whole series.

Saying that, I'm going to go back and read Mr Mumbles and Raggy Maggie. I want to know what Kyle got up to and where his strange powers originated from. Kyle is one of those characters who doesn't seem to be afraid of much. Even though he's constanstly having to deal with monsters manifesting right in front of him, or family members being found in bloody puddles on the floor, he takes it all in his stride and sets out to save the world from people usually reserved for fictional horror films. At times Kyle's escapes can seem a bit convenient, but maybe time and luck is just on his side.

The Crowmaster isn't short of action or suspense, and it makes for a terrifying, compelling read. I read it straight through with a quick break for sleep, and am now wondering what took me so long to pick up one of these books. A fast-paced plot, memorable characters and smooth writing make it one definitely worth looking out for, but just make sure you don't read it when you're in the house on your own. You never do know what, or who, could be lurking in the shadows...


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Author Interview: Barry Hutchison


Did you have an invisible friend when you were younger? If yes, was it as creepy as those that Kyle encounters?

Everyone sort of assumes that I must have had, but I didn't. My older sister did, though, and that was part of the inspiration for the series. She's eight years older than me, and had outgrown her imaginary friend before I came along, but I remember my mum telling me the story one day. My sister's imaginary friend was a little girl called Caddie. I used the name for the villain in book 2 - Caddie is the demented little girl who carries Raggy Maggie around with her.

In my parents' house is an air vent, about twenty centimetres high by about thirty-five across. It's part of the heating system for the house. My sister used to believe that Caddie was wedged into this air vent, with her face pressed right up against the metal bars. So she could fit in the narrow space, Caddie's arms and legs had been broken, and so she was essentially this folded up little girl who whispered instructions to my then-five-year-old sister.

She was mental my sister.

Personally, I think the image of this whispering child, with her skeleton essentially snapped in half, is way creepier than anything in the Invisible Fiends book so far. Note I said "so far"...

Which is your favourite fiend so far: Mr Mumbles, Raggy Maggie or the Crowmaster?

"Favourite" is an odd word when it comes to choosing between psychotic would-be serial killers, don't you think? I mean, I wouldn't want to go down the pub with any of them. Especially Raggy Maggie, because all my mates would laugh. Until she stabbed them in the neck, at least.

I think when it comes to blood-chilling scares, Caddie and Raggy Maggie stand out. Mr Mumbles and the Crowmaster are both terrifying and revolting in equal measures, but - for me - Caddie and Raggy Maggie win hands down in the "I just pooped my pants" stakes. When I was writing that book I used to find myself getting more and more unsettled every time Caddie made Raggy Maggie "talk". After the "Red Room" chapter I had to go and take a walk outside because I'd creeped myself out so much writing Caddie's dialogue.

So they're the scariest, I think, but I'm actually quite attached to Mr Mumbles (not in a romantic sense) as a character. He's the only one who has any history with Kyle (the hero of the books), and I almost felt bad doing what I did to him at the end of the first book. Plus, he had a nice hat. So, yeah, let's say Mr Mumbles is my favourite.

How many Invisible Fiends books do you plan to write?

Six. There have always been six planned. The prologue at the start of the other books actually comes from about the halfway point of book six, so I had to plan a lot of the series out in meticulous detail to know exactly what was going to happen in that scene. After the prologue in each book, the story jumps back to a previous time. So, after the prologue in book one, the next page says "Thirty-four days earlier..." and then we jump back thirty-four days to when Mr Mumbles first appears. Book four is "Three days earlier..." and after the prologue in book six the story jumps back just a few hours, then builds up to that scene and beyond.

So, each book is essentially counting down to the events depicted in the prologue. And I'm not giving anything away when I say that the prologue features THE END OF THE WORLD! That deserved block capitals, and you know it.

Have you always been a fan of the horror genre? What started you off?


To be completely honest, I've never been a big fan of horror. When I was a kid I was scared of pretty much everything in the world. I was scared of dogs, cats, birds, goldfish, being outside, being inside, being high up, being low down... I went through about the first ten years of life utterly convinced something was going to kill me horribly at any moment.

Living in such a perpetual state of terror, the last thing I needed was to add fuel to the fire by reading horror stories. As I grew up, I managed to train myself not to be scared of things - it was an actual conscious process of giving myself a good talking to every time I got scared of something I shouldn't have been scared of.

Nowadays I don't read a lot of horror because I don't find most of it scary. I learned to overcome all the worst horrors my imagination could throw at me when I was younger, so now nothing really comes close to creeping me out, whether it be in books, films or whatever. Except Raggy Maggie, obviously. And I did have to sleep with the light on for weeks after writing Book 4...

What can we expect from book 4, Doc Mortis?

Book 4 is, I think, my favourite of the series so far. It's a bit of a change of pace, in that Kyle finds himself stranded in the Darkest Corners (the Hell-like dimension where forgotten imaginary friends go) where he has no special abilities, and no Ameena to help fight his battles. It's darker than the others - much darker - but I actually think it has more of a heart to it than the other books. My editor actually had a wee tear in her eye during the final scenes.

Those looking for action and horror and things going "WAAARGH!" will be in for a treat, but I like to think there's much more to this one than just more scares and black humour. There's more emotional depth, and Kyle himself undergoes some fairly major character changes, which will have repercussions for the rest of the series. Doc Mortis himself is also - by far - the creepiest, most disturbing character yet. He's enough to give Raggy Maggie nightmares.


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Read the prologue and first chapter of The Crowmaster here!

HarperCollins Children's Books.co.uk / @HarperCollinsCh
Barry Hutchison.com / @barryhutchison

Sunday, 30 January 2011

In My Mailbox #106: 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 in books rocked for many reasons. I received some books I've been dying to read, books I wasn't familiar with but that sound great, and some lovely surprises. I also bought quite a few as well... this is the only bad side to working in a book shop. Ha!


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For review:

This wasn't sent for review as such, more so I could just see what the UK edition is like. It's lovely! I already read and reviewed the US edition last year (link here), and it's published in the UK in March.

Can't wait to read this. I loved My Soul to Take!

I couldn't attend the Random House blogger 'do last weekend, so my friends there sent me an ace goody bag, including this book. Sounds like an interesting one!

These came as part of a Mills & Boon goody mag, to mark the launch of their new RIVA imprint. Not my usual read, but I'll give them a go.

Short stories about vampires. Erm, YAY!

This sounds like a good read - lots of short stories by an acclaimed author.

I'm so so excited to read this. I feel like I've been waiting for it to be published for ages... I remember talking to my friend about it last June while walking through London. Where has the time gone?! Anyway, woot! Nancy Holder rocks. So do vampires.

This audio book randomly arrived from Atom, which was a nice surprise. I'll give it a listen when I'm caught up with the series.

Long Lankin sounds creepy and scary and brilliant. Really looking forward to reading it.

My friend said this is like Narnia meets Harry Potter meets Garth Nix. To me that = awesome. Can't wait to get stuck in!

I hadn't heard of this till earlier in the week. I have no idea why, because it sounds rather good!

I haven't been accepting self-published books to review recently, but these sounded too good to miss. Thanks, Georgia!

I really liked the first Glee book, and I hope this one is as good.

This was a complete surprise from Sam, and it's signed too. It looks so cool - the cover kind of folds out. I'm sure I'll enjoy this one. Cheers Sam!

This is another book that feels like it's been ages in the making. The Reformed Vampire Support Group was a fun read, and I'm looking forward to this kind-of sequel. Oh, and it has a great new cover design!

I've heard very good things about this book. Looking forward to it.




Random House also sent me a hardback Emerald Atlas notebook. LOVE. IT.


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Bought:

I haven't read any books in this series yet, but I have to buy them when they come out so I can get the US editions at a decent price. I love the covers!

I bought a US hardcover. Just because it's so nice.

I've read some brilliant reviews for this, and I'm hoping I like it as much as my blogging friends did.

Saw this at work and the cover made me want it. Sounds cool eh?

My friend Kat recommended this one, and she always knows what she's talking about when it comes to books (and TV). The film trailer intrigued me, and I hear it's kind of dystopian?!

I have the hardback of this already, but the new paperback was only £1 and I think my dad might read it too.

This is an adult vampire series I've been meaning to try for ages. I hope I like it!

I've read the first 7 books in this series, and I hadn't realised I was so behind. I soon sorted that out. These books are for younger readers, but they're ace. I really love them!


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Gift:
A very lovely friend sent me this US copy of 13 Treasures. It's one of my all-time favourite series, and I've wanted this hardcover edition of the first book ever since it was published last year. The cover is absolutely beautiful. THANK YOU, lovely friend. You made my day!



Hope you guys all had a great week, and happy reading! :)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

News: Covers, Trailers and Website Launches

Scorpia Rising, the last book in Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, is published in the UK on March 31st, and the cover art was revealed last month. Pretty cool, eh? You can find more information at http://www.alexrider.com and http://www.anthonyhorowitz.com.




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Here is the trailer for House of Night: Awakened by P.C. and Kristin Cast, which is out now!




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Mira Ink is a brilliant new imprint in the UK, which publishes YA books by Rachel Vincent, Maria V. Snyder, Gena Showalter and Julie Kagawa. I'm excited about all of their titles (which have previously been published by Harlequin Teen in the US), and am already loving the Soul Screamers series. Check out their new site below!



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Walker Books UK have launched their Undercover campaign, which will see 4 lead YA titles chosen over 3 of this year's seasons. These books have all been chosen to cater for different readers with different tastes, and each book tackles issues that teens and adults are dealing with. Long Reach by Peter Cocks is the first book published as part of this campaign, and you can see the trailer at the Undercover website. Enjoy!



From the website:
Every month we'll be publishing a new YA title and talking about it on the Undercover blog. All of the titles we've chosen are thought-provoking, life-changing, controversial and debate-inspiring. They truly capture the moment.

Each book is utterly engaging, keeping you turning the pages whether an action packed thriller, a rip-roaring adventure or a love story of a lifetime.

We'll be making thrilling book trailers for a lot of the books, and you can see them here or on our Walker youtube channel. We'll be posting exclusive behind the scenes content, from book extracts to author interviews and music playlists, and above all want YOU to get involved and tell us what you think about the books.

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Rick Riordan's second book in the Kane Chronicles series now has a title: The Throne of Fire. It's published in the UK by Puffin in May 2011, alongside the paperback of book 1, The Red Pyramid. Check out the first preview chapter at http://www.kanechronicles.co.uk!


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I think everyone has seen this cover by now, but here is the US cover for Passion by Lauren Kate. I love it!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Review: The Thirteen Secrets by Michelle Harrison


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Released: February 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

Red is now living at Elvesden Manor under her real name, Rowan, and trying to put her past behind her. But staying on the straight and narrow isn't as easy as she had hoped... Hounded by fairy messengers who are trying to convince her to participate once more in the changeling trade, Rowan is haunted by dreams of the Hedgewitch's cottage and the chained-up Eldritch, who threatens revenge against her. Her past is about to catch up with her - can Tanya and Fabian prevent it consuming her altogether?

Review:

Guys, I'm finding it hard to put into words how much I love this series. Up until December 2009, I hadn't read any of it, and now look at me: I'm a complete Michelle Harrison fangirl. The 13 series is the perfect mix of fairies, mystery and friendship and, although my usual last-book-in-a-series anxiety reared its ugly head, I needn't have worried. Harrison absolutely delivers with this final instalment, and she goes above and beyond what I was expecting. Honestly, this woman can do no wrong.

Over my year-long wait for The Thirteen Secrets (I know, right? Publishers are mean!), I'd had a lot of time to ponder the plot and where things could go from the end of The Thirteen Curses. I had no idea what would happen, and to say I was surprised is an understatement. I was sat in bed, book in hand, audibly saying things like "Yes!", "Really?!" and "No way!". That's how much I wasn't expecting what went down at Elvesden Manor, and wow did it get me excited. If you read it, you'll know what I mean!

It was great to see familiar faces reappear in The Thirteen Secrets, not to mention a whole host of new people that I fell in love with. Harrison was never afraid to put her characters in realistic situations, not all of them good or necessarily what I wanted, but realistic all the same. I fist-punched the air when Brunswick the goblin appeared in the woods, and when the tea caddy brownie used his walking stick for something other then walking. Oh, and when Gredin, Raven and the Mizhog arrived on the scene? Yep, I was in faery heaven. These are all characters I've grown to love over this series, and I'm really glad they weren't left out of this somewhat epic battle between good and evil. They're as much a part of the story as Tanya and Rowan, and Harrison does them all justice.

The Thirteen Secrets is the darkest book yet, and has matured just like I expect its target audience has. There's violence and scary situations; gone are the light moments of The Thirteen Treasures, and instead we have a family that is truly in danger. It's not a matter of ending up in the faery courts now, it's all about life and death. That's not a direction I ever thought this series would take, but it works. After all, the fey world isn't always one of sunshine and rainbows, and Harrison depicts this through the way she spins her final story.

Once again I've been deliberately sparse when it comes to information about the plot, because I want you to be surprised like I was. There's nothing better than going into a book anticipating one thing and getting another, and it makes the reading experience all the better for it. I will say that this series is up there with my favourites - The Twilight Saga, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia - and I think a reread is imminent. If you're looking for brilliantly written, imaginitive British fiction, then you need look no further. I guarantee you will find something to love with this series, whether it be the setting, the endearing human characters or the fascinating fey creatures. Cheers to you, Michelle Harrison, and thank you for such a wonderful end to a wonderful series!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Trailer Reveal: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher + Giveaway!


Orion are publishing My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by British debut author Annabel Pitcher on March 1st, and today a number of bloggers are taking part in the great unveiling of the brilliant trailer. I was lucky enough to read this book last year, and let me just say that it's fantastic. It's definitely a must-read for 2011, that's for sure. It made me laugh and cry, and it's so beautifully written. How it's a debut novel, I don't know!

In addition to the trailer I also have an introductory video from Annabel herself, along with a giveaway to win a signed proof copy of the book. I hope you love this trailer as much as I do!





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Giveaway

The lovely people at Orion have very kindly offered to give away one (1) proof copy of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, signed by Annabel Pitcher. Fill in the form below to enter, answering the following question:

At the end of the trailer, what does Jamie draw?


Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only!
  • End date: February 3rd, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Book will be sent out by the publisher.


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: What Happened to Goodbye

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

* Published by: Puffin (UK), Viking (US)
* Format: Paperback (UK), Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: June 2nd, 2011 (UK), May 10th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon UK:

Mclean never lets herself get too attached . . . After the scandal of her mother’s affair, Mclean and her dad chose life on the road. But since losing her family and home, Mclean has lost herself too; she’s been Eliza, then Lizbet, then Beth - changing her name as often as she changes towns. Until now. Her new neighbour, Dave, is like no one she’s met before. Is it finally time to stop reinventing? Or will Mclean turn her back on the new life she loves, without even saying goodbye?

I don't think I have to ramble on about how excited I am about this book, as I'm sure the whole blogosphere is counting down the days with me. I'll just say that I love everything Sarah Dessen has written, and I think she's the best when it comes to contemporary YA. It seems far too long since Along for the Ride was published, even though it was only this time last year in the UK. That's just Dessen for you... she leaves you wanting more!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney


Publisher: Corgi Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: January 20th, 2010
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Freak.That's what they call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood at Ironbridge High School. A horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child left Donna branded with iron tattoos that cover her hands and arms - and magically enhanced strength, that she now does all she can to hide.Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, Donna finally accepts her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie - the dark elves. Aided by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout, Donna must save her best friend's life - and that means betraying one of the world's greatest secrets and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.

Review:

I think 2011 might just have to be called the year of Awesome UK Debut Novels. Karen Mahoney is just one more example of what we have to offer, and I'm so glad she got this book published. It's a great mix of dark fantasy and romance, and has already spurned arguments over which boy is better: Navin or Xan. Character debates are a good sign for books and, for that reason alone, I think Ms. Mahoney is well on her way to having a fanclub or two. It's also a book written by a UK author that has a US setting - something that, from experience, doesn't always work. Does it work here? Yes it does!

I went into The Iron Witch without knowing too much about it. I knew it was about wood elves and magic, but that's about as far as my knowledge went. Almost every page seemed to reveal a new plot twist or well-kept secret, and I'm grateful that I wasn't expecting any of it. The story unfolded at a riveting pace, and I couldn't even consider putting it down for the first 130 pages or so. I thought things tailed off a bit after that, but I was still captivated - I just had to know more about the wood elves and Donna's role in their plan.

Donna Underwood is an understated character, in that I didn't realise how much I liked her until I finished the book. She has low self-esteem due to circumstances explained in the book, but she doesn't let that stop her. I think as she faces more danger and sees her bravery firsthand, she understands that other people don't see her the way she sees herself, and that she doesn't have to put herself down so much. I thought that was a really good message for readers, even though Donna's situation is a little more out there than you'd find in real life.

The boys in Donna's life are what I've been dying to talk about here. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a good love triangle /unrequited love, and in The Iron Witch you pretty much get both (there's definitely something building between these three!). Navin is Donna's dependent, funny best friend, and he's a cool guy. However, GIVE ME MORE XAN. I might be slightly biased because his name reminds me of a certain TV character I worship, but on top of that he's half-human half-something-I-won't-say, as well as being incredibly easy on the eyes, chivalrous and basically everything I want in a boy. He inspires the sighs, put it that way.

I'd previously never read a book about wood elves and alchemy, so The Iron Witch immediately got points for that, before I'd even turned the first page. Mahoney has researched everything she's written about in great detail, and her love of the subject shines through in her work. Her writing is contemporary and her characters believable, which makes a world of difference when reading urban fantasy of any kind. I really enjoyed The Iron Witch, and I'm very much looking forward to The Wood Queen. I want to know more about Xan's background and the wood elves, not to mention what will happen with the alchemists. Xan's history is something I felt was missing from this book, but I understand that maybe there wasn't time to delve deeper into his complicated character. Or maybe it was a clever ploy to leave us all wanting more...

The Iron Witch has managed to present original ideas in what is a crowded genre, and that's something worth noting. It's perfect for fans of all things magic, fey and urban, or just readers looking for a good story to escape into. It gets a big thumbs up from me!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Review: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White


Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
Released: January 6th, 2011
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

Sixteen-year-old Evie has always taken comfort in the fact that she is normal, even though her best friend is a mermaid and her ex-boyfriend is a lunatic – and a faery. In a world where paranormals are monitored and controlled, Evie works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency because of her unique ability to see through glamours. But someone – or something – starts killing vampires, werewolves and other paranormals, and Evie must figure out what’s happening before they all disappear.

Review:

I LOVED this book. I really did. In fact, I loved it so much that I've been thinking about it for four days. I've read a couple of other books since I finished it, and each time I found my thoughts wandering back to Evie, Reth and Lend. I can't help it: this book has stolen my paranormal-loving heart!

Before reading it, I had no idea it was so heavy on the faeries. I knew there was a faery guy in it, but I thought he'd just be a fleeting character used to stir up some romantic trouble between Evie and mysterious new arrival Lend. I have been seriously faerie obsessed over the last couple of months, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons why Paranormalcy is my new favourite read. Reth, the faery man in question, and the Faery Realm feature quite prominently, and I could not get enough. Seriously, I thought my birthday had come early, bringing with it a fun book featuring all my favourite paranormals in one place!

Evie works for the IPCA - International Paranormal Containment Agency. She bags and tags paranormals (werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, etc.), before they're then retrieved and protected from people who would otherwise kill them. By protected, I mean that some of them end up working for the IPCA, much to their horror. It's a clever set-up and one that, while not entirely original, had me turning the pages at lightning-quick speed.

Evie herself is what I would describe as a bouncy character: she's fun, quippy and like a small ball of paranormal-hunting sunshine. She also has an air of Buffy Summers about her which, y'know, makes her automatically awesome. It was her dialogue that reminded me of the one and only legendary slayer, and I'd bet money on Kiersten White being a fan of the show (Are you, Kiersten? Please let me know!). While being a well-written, believable protagonist, Evie did have an unbelievably annoying trait: using the word 'bleep' in place of swearing. It irritated me so much, and every time I saw it I just wanted to swear myself. I eventually got used to it, but it wasn't my favourite part of the book. Of course, I blame Lish, Evie's best friend, for starting that particular habit. Those darn mermaids!

The two main men in Evie's life, Reth the faery and Lend the new boy at IPCA, are both brilliantly addictive characters. I'd happily run away with either of them, though I think Reth just wins in the attractive stakes. It's the faery thing; what can I say, I did warn you! Lend is mysterious and sweet, while Reth is basically a jackass. But a strangely endearing jackass, obviously. He's no good for Evie, but oh how I wanted them to engage in some after-hours forbidden smooching. I willed it to happen, but it never did. *cries*

Paranormalcy went in a direction I never expected it to, and I loved every minute of it. Strong characters, a world of paranormals and an exciting yet surprising plot had me utterly hooked, and I can't wait to read the sequel, Supernaturally. As far as I'm concerned, publication day can't come soon enough.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cool Covers: The UK Edition

There are literally hundreds of new YA/children's books being published in the UK this year and, from what I've seen so far, the cover art is brilliant (some of it is jaw-droppingly good, too). Here are some of my favorite upcoming covers, brought to you by a variety of publishing houses throughout the year.

What do you guys reckon? Do you approve?








In My Mailbox #105: 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 book week was had by me! It was my 2-year blogoversary, I read some great books (Hellooo Paranormalcy!), and I received some fab review titles in the post which I can't wait to read. I did get a couple of duplicate proofs which will all be going to a good home - thanks to the lovely folks at Puffin for those!

Here are this week's new additions:


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For review:
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre (US ARC. This sounds amazing!)
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Such a beautiful finished copy!)
  • Grace by Morris Gleitzman (I loved this book!)

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Bought:


Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: Entangled by Cat Clarke


Publisher: Quercus
Format: Paperback
Released: January 6th, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper - and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she's tried to forget. There's falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there's something missing. As hard as she's trying to remember, is there something she just can't see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here?

Review:

Entangled was one of my most anticipated books of 2010. I know Cat Clarke pretty well through Twitter and we met up in London last year, so I know she's a cool dude. I was quite nervous about reading her book, as I always am when I read stuff written by my friends. I always wonder what to say if I hate it, how much to say if I love it, and what other people will think if I give it a glowing review. I can honestly say that Entangled is a brilliant book well worth everyone's time and attention, and it's so deserving of a place on British bookshelves.

We first meet Grace Carlyle as she wakes up in a strange place, not knowing why she's there or what's happened. That in itself is a scary start, made even creepier by the secrecy surrounding Ethan, her captor. All we get is a very vivid description of his physical attributes, along with an explanation of how he and Grace came to meet. It's gripping stuff right from the get-go, and that's even before we're treated to the story of Grace's last year or so. Cat Clarke expertly weaves the past with the present, with all of her time jumps effortlessly joining together to make one big addictive story.

Enter Sal and Nat, Grace's best friend and boyfriend, respectively. We meet Nat when Grace does, and so begins their somewhat frustrating relationship. It's deep and truly like an all-consuming romance, which is something I'm sure most of us are familiar with. It perfectly showcases that can't-get-him-out-of-my-head I-need-to-be-with-him kind of feeling which, if you've experienced it, you'll know can burn out quite easily. Running alongside Grace's romantic relationship with Nat is her friendship with Sal. They've been friends for ages, and are so close they're practically family. Their loyalty to each other is tested numerous times throughout the story, as is the way with teenage friendships: they're the most important thing at the time, but they can quite easily be torn apart.

Entangled is brilliantly written, and has a very realistic tang to it. There's swearing, sex and family disagreements, which is exactly what you'd expect from a 17-year-old. Clarke doesn't skirt around any of the more mature teenage happenings, and instead writes them with a sense of understanding and experience. I love authors who tell it like it is, and that's exactly what Entangled showcases. It's realistic to a T, and I only wish there was more fiction like this.

Where Entangled didn't quite work for me was the ending. At first I just didn't get it at all. I sat there in a confused daze, before retracing my steps and rereading the last 30 pages. It helped, and I think I'm now pretty much right with my thoughts (thanks for clarifying, Cat!). When it comes to psychological thrillers, I personally have a hard time wrapping my head round more complicated conclusions. I'm not saying Entangled's end was overly complicated, but it was for me at the time. Whether I read too fast and missed something the first time, I'm not sure, I just know I didn't get it. Everything was great up until then, and I think if I read it again I'd have no problems, as I now know what I'm looking for.

Entangled is one of the first YA British debuts of 2011, and I really hope it's a sign of things to come. Cat Clarke has done herself proud with her twisted story of how everything can change in an instant, and how sometimes there's no way to avoid it. Life follows uneven paths, and you never know if meeting someone on a bus will change your life. For Grace it's the start of something new, though you'll have to read her story to find out how it all plays out. Go on, you won't regret it.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Signed Copies of Being Billy by Phil Earle! (UK only)


Thanks to the lovely Phil Earle, I have three (3) signed copies of Being Billy up for grabs. If you're not familiar with this great debut, here's my review and an interview with Phil, along with more info from Amazon:

Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did. Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else. Can he?

Complete the form below to enter. Good luck! :)


Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only!
  • End date: January 27th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Book will be sent out by the author.


Author Interview: Phil Earle (Being Billy)

Phil Earle is the UK debut author of Being Billy, which was published by Puffin on January 6th. He also works in publishing, originates from up north, names his kids after really cool literary characters and is never far from a YA book. Oh, and he's a really nice guy... look him up!

[Thanks to Puffin for the picture of me and Phil at his Being Billy launch party!]

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Hello, Mr. Earle. Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hello Jenny! Er, stuff about me... Well, I'm a thirty-six year old dad of three, who works for a children's publisher by day and writes once my kids are in bed, or when I'm on the bus home from the office.

I suppose the other stuff worth mentioning is that before publishing I worked as a carer in a children's home, as a dramatherapist in a therapeutic community, and as a kids bookseller for Ottakar's. I'm also a bit of a YA nutter who cant really see the point in reading much else....

Now, you not only work in children's publishing (for my favourite publishing house, I might add), but you've also written a book. What's it about?

I suppose you could pitch 'Being Billy' as a coming of age story with a difference, about a fifteen year old lad who's spent most of his life in care. By the time we meet him he's not only been rejected by his birth mother, but also by an adoptive family who took him in at the age of 11. He's angry, violent, messed up - he's stood on the edge of the precipice, and the story follows him as decides which way to jump.

Have you found that working in publishing has helped you as an author? If yes, how?

It definitely has. My job demands that I read a lot, (mostly unedited manuscripts that are being offered to us), and when you do that you learn over time what works and what doesn't, how to pace your story, how to make each and every one of your characters integral to your plot.
Practicing your writing is obviously vital if you want to improve, but to me, copious amounts of reading is just as important. I've never had a single creative writing lesson in my life, but feel that all the books I've read have served the same purpose. Does that make sense?
Working in publishing also helped me understand the 'game' of getting published too. You know, how to make your writing sound attractive to agents and editors, knowing which are the best to approach with certain types of fiction.

I'm particularly fascinated by your background in working with children. Am I right in thinking it was the inspiration for Billy's story?

Yep, absolutely. I was really naive when I started working in the kids home. I was 21, straight out of Uni, and only three years older than some of the kids I was looking after. The thing that shocked me most about life there was to do with adoption. In my mind, once a child was adopted that was the happy ending to the fairytale. What I didn't realise was that many, many adoptions break down, often because the child has spent too long living in a home. For years they thought living with eight other kids and a constantly changing rosta of carers to be normal, so when they are faced with two parents and maybe one sibling? Well they often can't cope, neither can their new parents, and they end up back in the home that they started in. This was the inspiration for Billy's story. Being loved and being part of a family should be the most fundamental thing for any kid, so how on earth do you see the world, or feel about yourself, when by the age of eleven, you've been told TWICE that you aren't wanted. It's fifteen years since I worked there, but I've never been able to let go of how how must make you feel. That's why I wrote it down.

Why should we read Being Billy?

So I can afford to feed my three angelic children....

Oh and also because Billy isn't your average literary hero. When you first meet him he doesn't seem to be heroic at all. He's violent, foul-mouthed and incapable of trusting anyone. But as a writer that's the best thing about him. What I desperately wanted to do was slowly reveal why he behaves as he does, to dig away at his bravado, and show him in his true colours, not as the kid you'd cross the road to avoid, but as a hero in the truest sense. I wanted to be true to the kids to the kids I'd worked with. They'd taken so many kinds of beatings in their lives, but they had more guts, determination and heart than many of us who had a 'normal' upbringing. They deserve to be heard.....

What's the best Phil Earle: Author moment you've had so far? Signing books, perhaps? Talking to school children?

There are two big highlights amongst many.

I have a terrible blackberry addiction, and it was incredible to wake one morning to find an email from Morris Gleitzman, telling me he'd not only read, but enjoyed 'Being Billy'. That was a special moment and it's brilliant to see his quote and others from authors I look up to, on the back of the book. The second highlight was my first school event a few weeks ago, talking to sixty boys. To hold their attention for an hour, and to see them really engaged with Billy's story? That's a moment I'll carry around for a long time.

Which 2011 book releases are you excited about?

Oh blimey, that's a loaded question. I must mention many Simon and Schuster titles!
There's a book called 'Milo and the Re-Start Button' which is a bit special. Kind of like an emotional 'Wimpy Kid', and I cant wait to read Sophie Mckenzie's 'Sister, Missing', the sequel to 'Girl, Missing'. Sophie is a fabulous storyteller.

As for other publishers stuff, the new Morris Gleitzman, 'Grace', sounds brilliant (I nabbed an Australian copy from my editor!) and there's also a debut by Annabel Pitcher called 'My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece' which is bloomin' marvellous. We'd tried to buy it on submission but fell short, cue much howling and wailing from everyone in the office...

We share some favourite authors, like Morris Gleitzman and Kevin Brooks. Besides those two geniuses, who else should YA readers make sure they have on their radar?

The people that made me want to write are S.E. Hinton (everyone should read 'The Outsiders'), David Almond (obviously), David Klass ('You Don't Know Me' was a massive inspiration but is now out of print in the UK!) and of course Markus Zusak (my signed copy of 'The Book Thief' is a prized possession).

Other big favourites are Keith Gray, who to me is the most under-rated YA author writing today, and Siobhan Dowd, whose four books are simply flawless. I was lucky enough to know her when I worked at Random House. She had an unbelievable talent.

And lastly, what can we expect from you in the future?

Well, book two is almost drafted out and ready to be pulled apart by my fair editor.
It's not a sequel to 'Being Billy', but it centres around Daisy, a girl who Billy meets in his story. I've spent the last eleven months pretending to be a fifteen year old girl. it's been...interesting, and certainly a challenge. I suppose you could say it's a prequel, but hopefully not in a Star Wars kind of way. That would be terrible....


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Related links:

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Dork Diaries - Pop Star

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Dork Diaries: Pop Star by Rachel Renee Russell

* Published by: Simon & Schuster (UK), Aladdin (US)
* Format: Paperback (UK), Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: June 9th, 2011 (UK), June 7th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon UK:

Ever since she started at her posh private school Nikki Maxwell has been doing everything she can to keep everyone from learning the truth - that she's there on scholarship in exchange for her Dad working as the school's exterminator. But now it looks like her secret might be about to come out and Nikki's willing to go to any zany and wacky length to prevent that from happening. And when a major talent competition is announced with a school scholarship being the top prize the timing seems perfect! Now Nikki can have fun singing and dancing with her friends and compete to finally stop worrying about ruining what little reputation she has if people find out that she only attends Westchester because of her dad's embarrassing job. But as usual for Nikki nothing is ever as simple as it seems...

I love this series. It's so funny and light, and is perfect for reading between all my YA. I laugh out loud at Rachel Renee Russell's writing and illustrations, and Nikki Maxwell is a brilliant character. I look forward to these books being published, cos they're basically just ace. 5 months to go!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Neversuch House by Elliot Skell! (UK only)


I ended up with 2 copies of Neversuch House last week, so I thought I'd give my spare copy away. It's published on February 3rd by Simon & Schuster, and here's what it's about:

Neversuch House is home to the very unusual Halibut family. Spanning generations, the Halibuts all live together totally isolated from the outside world, never needing - or wanting - to step outside the walls of Neversuch, with every whim being catered for by a mass of servants. But when twelve-year-old Omnia Halibut sees a hooded figure emerging from the woods by the Wall, she can't help but wonder who the man is and why he is skulking around the House. And as Omnia sets out to discover the truth she triggers a chain of events that threatens to destroy Neversuch House forever. For the House is steeped in secrets, secrets that some people want to remain hidden, and, as Omnia tries to unravel the mysteries of Neversuch House, someone is watching her, and they will do anything to stop her from revealing the truth... [From Amazon.co.uk].

If you want to be in with a chance of winning a copy, fill in the form below. It looks like a great read!


Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only!
  • End date: January 25th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Book will be sent out by me.


Review: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen


Publisher: Puffin Razorbill
Format: Paperback
Released: January 6th, 2011
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

It’s 1929 and Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey have escaped their small Midwestern town to chase big dreams and even bigger secrets. Amongst the glittering metropolis of New York City, they meet Astrid Donal, a flapper who has everything she could ever want, except for the one thing Letty and Cordelia have to offer—true friendship. Set in the dizzying summer before the market crash, against the vast lawns of the glamorous Long Island mansions and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, three girls will find scandal, intrigue, and romance...

Review:

Bright Young Things contains one of my favourite ever YA prologues. I read those 3 pages and was immediately hooked. I mean, after a declaration like that final sentence, how could I not be?! The book started off well, but I thought it was a bit slow in the middle, before picking up pace again for the last 80 pages or so. This is a problem I had with The Luxe series too - Godbersen's writing didn't hold my attention for the whole of the fairly long page count. I can't put my finger on why, which is frustrating, but I hope some of you know what I mean.

I found Bright Young Things to be better than The Luxe, and certainly better than Rumors, which are the only books of Godbersen's I've previously read. The characters in this book, Letty, Cordelia and Astrid, captured my imagination more, and I preferred their personalities. Letty was my favourite, with Astrid coming in second. Each girl is, to a certain degree, innocent and untouched, though all 3 of them are deluded into thinking the bright lights of New York hold the answers to all their problems. They soon find out different, thanks to men of a questionable nature and finally learning the realities of financing their own lives.

As with Godbersen's previous books, Bright Young Things features a historical setting, dashing romance and protagonists you both loathe as well as sympathise with. I didn't particularly warm to Cordelia and her ridiculously easy quest to find her father; I thought she was self-centred and blinded by the glitz and glamour of New York's elite. She paled in comparison to shy, naive Letty and headstrong Astrid. There was no shortage of male characters peppering the pages of this book, though none of them really stood out. Charlie was a complete idiot, and the less said about Thom the better. That just leaves Grady, who was probably the best of the lot. I hope we see more of him in future books.

Bright Young Things is a good start to this new series set in the roaring 20s, and I'm looking forward to learning what happens to each of the girls, as was prophecised in the genius prologue. I have my suspicions, of course, but I'm rarely right when I try to guess things. I'll just have to be patient and wait for Beautiful Days, which is published later in the year.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Blog News: My 2 Year Blogoversary!


So today it is exactly 2 years since I started this blog. As is always the way, my anniversary crept up on me and I forgot all about it. I was obviously having too much fun actually blogging ;)

I'll do a giveaway or something at the end of the month, but for now I just want to say thanks to everyone who reads, follows, and comments on my blog, and thanks to the incredibly generous publishers who provide me with amazing review copies, invite me to fun events and basically just support everything I do. So a big THANK YOU to all of you!

I'd still be doing this even if I only had 10 visits a week, because I honestly love it. I've read some fantastic books and made some lovely friends over the last 2 years - readers, bloggers, authors and even publishers - and I can't think of anything better to do with my time, except for watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Bet you all saw that coming, eh?) Anyway, here's to many more years at Wondrous Reads. I shall raise a glass of Ribena in your honour, dear blog. :D

Review: Being Billy by Phil Earle


Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback
Released: January 6th, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn’t forgotten what they did. Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy’s angry – with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy’s concerned, he’s on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can’t keep him out of trouble. But he isn’t being difficult on purpose. Billy’s just being Billy. He can’t be anything else. Can he?

Review:

Being Billy is another book to add to the 'Great Debuts of 2011' list. The fact that it's by a lovely British author is even better, as it really shows the amount of talent emerging over here. I am continually surprised at the high standard of fiction making its way onto UK bookshelves, and it's books like this that are paving the way for authors to write about personal experiences and things close to their hearts.

Being Billy will most probably move you to tears. It takes a lot for a book to make me cry, and I read this thinking I'd be immune. Ha! I wasn't, not by a long shot. Billy's voice grabbed me and didn't let go, and his situation was heartbreaking. On the surface he deals with his life in care homes quite well, but underneath all that he's a lost, angry teenage boy. He has no-one to look up to or model himself on, until he meets Ronnie. Ronnie is Billy's senior care worker and the authority figure he desperately needs, and together they start to figure things out. It's not an easy road, but they do it.

Billy hates care homes, care workers (or 'Scummers', as he calls them), schools, the system. Pretty much everything. That is, everything except his younger brother and sister, Lizzie and Louie. His relationship with them is so lovely to read, and through them you see Billy's true self: his vulnerability, his caring side and the realisation that he is still capable of love. Aside from when he's around his family, Billy is happiest when he's with his new friend, Daisy, a girl also in the system. Their relationship is so realistic and genuine; it's just like a real friendship should be. As we all know, you take the good with the bad, and friendships grow stronger. That's exactly what happens with Billy and Daisy, and it's brilliant to read.

Before reading Being Billy, I wasn't at all familiar with care homes or what goes on in them. It's not an environment I've ever found myself in, and it's not somewhere I'd personally ever like to work. Phil Earle worked there himself when he was younger, and has drawn on his own experiences to write this book. Thanks to his descriptions and scene setting, I felt like I'd actually been there myself. I could see the lonely-looking buildings and suffocating walls as if they were right in front of me, and that's always hard for me to do as a reader. As far as I know, Billy himself isn't based on any one real person, but the reality is that there really are children like him, facing these terrible lives and growing up on their own. It's an important story that needed to be told, and I'm so glad it was.

I know Being Billy sounds like a serious book, and it is, but it's one full of hope and belief. It isn't a story you see a lot in YA, but it's one that should be told, remembered and learnt from. Add to that the great writing along with the shiny bright green cover and you really can't go wrong. Even if this isn't your usual reading material, give it a go. It might just knock your socks off.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

In My Mailbox #104: 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!


I had a brilliant week this week. Aside from receiving some fab books in the post, I was also given some in person. On Thursday, I went down to London for the day, to visit my favourite people at the Simon & Schuster offices and to attend Phil Earle's Being Billy launch party. I'll most likely write a report of my day next week, as I have cool pics and info to share from Phil's fantastic night. Anyway, I got to S&S and was greeted with hugs, swag and exciting US ARCs. Oh, the fun!! Big thanks to K, as always. ;)

This week, I think my postmen kind of hated me. When the regular dude delivered a few packages today, he even said "More for you. You're keeping me in a job". Ha, just doing my bit for the postal service. Here's what I ended up with this week:


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For review:

This sounds like an interesting thriller. It's not a genre I read a lot of, so I'm looking forward to it.

I can't wait to read this. And check out the eyes on the cover!

This sounds like something I'll like, and again I really like the cover. It looks like fantasy fairytale.

Sounds funny!

I can't wait to read this. A top secret person acquired a proof copy for me, and I can't thank said person enough. It's about vampires. Yay!

Such a nice finished copy, and I'm sure I'll reading it soon. It sounds like a great read.

Read this and loved it.

Read this today too. Lovely 5+ story with great artwork!

This is for the S&S blogger event I'm attending next month, as Craig is going to be there. It's adult crime, but I think I'll give it a go.

I think both me and my mum will like this one. The Victorian era is always interesting.

Evil fairies! Sounds hilarious.

  • Grace by Morris Gleitzman
I love Morris Gleitzman. I'm not overly keen on this UK cover, but I'm sure the story will be brilliant as always.

I'm not sure why this series has suddenly turned paranormal, but who cares?! Sounds good, and I do like this series.

I'm really looking forward to reading this. Not sure how long I'll be able to resist!

Now does this look creepy or what? This copy was couriered to my house and arrived at 7.30 in the morning. Mum wasn't too impressed, but I quite like being woken up by creepy crowmasters.

  • Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready (US ARC)
YAY!! YAY!! That is all.

I saw the UK cover for this and it is PRETTY.

Again I say YAY! 40 pages in and so far I like. A lot.

  • Choker by Elizabeth Woods (US ARC)
I can't wait to read this either. It's high on my TBR pile, even though the UK publication now isn't until January 2012.


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Bought:

Look at the shininess! It looks, and sounds, rather good.

I read the first page of this and it was deliciously dark. Can't wait to read it all.

Yay for Elizabeth! She's great, and her books are fun.

Has anyone else besides Crooked Carla read this series? I really like it...

I have the US editions of the rest of this series, and I always have to have my books match!

I read this months ago when Phil sent me a signed proof, but how could I go to his launch party and not buy a finished copy?! He signed this one for me too.. thanks mate!

I need to catch up with this series. I love the US editions cos they're hardback and have a poster on the inside cover. Very cool.


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Gift:

My mum bought me this after I saw it on Cat's blog, Beyond Books. I have a feeling I'll love it!



Happy reading, everyone!