Saturday, 30 April 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick! (UK only)


To celebrate the publication of the paperback edition of Crescendo, I have 3 (three) copies to give away courtesy of Simon & Schuster UK. Crescendo is the sequel to international bestseller Hush, Hush, and you can read a slightly spoilery series summary on Amazon here.


To enter, all you have to do is fill in the form below. Good luck!

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: May 10th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Books will be sent out by the publisher


Friday, 29 April 2011

Blog Tour: Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent Review + Quick Q&A!




Publisher:
Tundra Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: March 22nd, 2011
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

Corlie Roux’s farm life in South Africa is not easy: the Transvaal is beautiful, but it is also a harsh place where the heat can be so intense that the very raindrops sizzle. When her beloved father dies, she is left with a mother who is as devoted to her sons as she is cruel to her daughter. Despite this, Corlie finds solace in her friend, Sipho, and in Africa itself and in the stories she conjures for her brothers. But Corlie’s world is about to vanish: the British are invading and driving Boer families like hers from their farms. Some escape into the bush to fight the enemy. The unlucky ones are rounded up and sent to internment camps. Will Corlie’s resilience and devotion to her country sustain her through the suffering and squalor she finds in the camp at Kroonstad? That may depend on a soldier from faraway Canada and on inner resources Corlie never dreamed she had…

Review:

The Anglo-Boer War is another part of history I knew next to nothing about before reading this book. I'd briefly heard it mentioned a few times in the past, but I couldn't have told you what happened or when it took place. Now, thanks to Trilby Kent and Stones for My Father, I have some knowledge of this war that began in 1899 and ended in 1902. This is why I love historical novels: they teach me about periods in history I otherwise wouldn't know a thing about.

Stones for My Father is about Corlie Roux, a Boa girl living with her mother and brothers on a farm in South Africa. Her mother doesn't like her, and regularly speaks to her as if she'd rather she wasn't there at all. I like this aspect of the book, the focus on Corlie's family, as it really brings her to life and makes her a real person rather than an unnamed girl caught up in a war. Her attachment to her brother Gertie is lovely to read about, as is her friendship with local boy Sipho. As Corlie uncovers secrets of her past, and we uncover them with her, it becomes even more apparant that her life is as far from easy as it can get.

Although I do enjoy Trilby Kent's writing - it's brilliant and so rich with historical detail - I can't help but find her novels a bit slow going at first. Stones for My Father took me a long while to get into, though I think perhaps it's because I'm learning so much new information for the first time. I'm not very good at remembering historical accuracies (unless they're to do with the Titanic or WWII), and it can end up as a bit of an effort, rather than enjoyment. Still, I'm very glad I read books like this, as I feel like I'm educating myself through a form I love: YA fiction.

Overall, Stones for My Father is an interesting, thoughtful novel about a time in history that I don't think is talked about enough. I much preferred it to Kent's debut book, Medina Hill, and it's clear she has a love for the subjects she writes about. Her enthusiasm for history is genuinely infectious, and for that reason I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.


~


Author Interview: Quick Q&A with Trilby Kent


Stones for My Father
is quite an unusual book. What made you write it?

I suppose the thing that's most unusual about it is the setting and historical context - South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War - which admittedly hasn't formed the basis for many YA novels. It's surprising, really, as the war was by far the most devastating of its time and so many things that we associate with later wars - guerilla fighting, concentration camps, trench warfare, etc. - actually made their first appearance in that conflict. It provoked passionate feelings all around the world and proved to be a catalyst not just for the people of South Africa but for many leading personalities of the day: Churchill saw action there, along with Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle.

As if all that's not fascinating enough, I also had a personal investment in exploring this period: my mother is South African and counts among her ancestors the Boer hero Danie Theron.

What research, if any, did you need to do in order to tell Corlie's story?


A year before I began writing the novel I spent some time in the Free State, where my mother's aunt and uncle had a farm. Actually visiting that part of the country - well off the tourist track, and in many ways unchanged from previous generations - was an invaluable experience. Subsequently, I did quite a bit of reading around the subject, from Thomas Pakenham's 'The Boer War' to personal accounts that have been made accessible online, as well as exploring photographic collections and music from the war years.

Do you have another YA historical novel planned? Can you tell us anything about it?


I've had a few ideas for the next YA novel, which will probably also be historical but may break a few conventions along the way. At the moment, though, I'm writing a novel set in a boarding school on an island in the North Sea in the early 1950s. I have about 20,000 words to go - and undoubtedly several rewrites after that!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Author Interview: Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush series)

Last year Becca toured the UK for Crescendo's hardback publication, and I was lucky enough to hang out with her at various events. We also managed to squeeze in an audio interview which I've saved for today, because today is the day that Crescendo is published in paperback in the UK! It's shiny and lovely, and let's just say I am a *big* fan of the cover. ;)

This in-person interview is from the beginning of November 2010, when Silence was still called 'Tempest'. I've changed it in my interview to avoid confusion, but originally it was referred to as that. I don't know about you, but I like the new title much better! (And don't forget the cover is being released this Monday May 2nd!!)

As always, thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster UK and Becca for making these cool things happen. Even though she's a busy, busy lady, she always makes time for me - she's amazing! She's back in the UK later in the year, so make sure you go and see her somewhere!


-----





Wondrous Reads: How has your life changed since the publication of
Hush, Hush back in 2009?

Becca Fitzpatrick: Wow, it's like completely different. In a good way. Obviously no author can predict how their book's going to do, so I was just happy to get published. I really didn't know what would come after. I'm definitely busier, I get to visit countries I've never visited before and I know more people than I ever thought I'd meet in an entire lifetime. I've met so many cool people through this. That's definitely a blessing of being published. I also write Monday - Friday for two hours an evening, which is not enough!

WR: Did you think your books would ever be this popular?

BF: No! I received a hundred rejections letters over five years and one of the questions I get now is: did I ever want to give up? Of course I did, but I was determined to be published and have a small group of fans. I was in no way prepared for how successful Hush, Hush would be and how many people would fall in love with Patch and Nora's story. Nobody can predict that, and I was amazed.

WR: So how do you manage all your fanmail and stuff? I know you get loads! [I run a fanpage for Becca on Facebook, and lots of emails come to me, which I dutifully forward to Becca!]

BF: It used to be where I would answer every single one of them, back when Hush, Hush was first published. I was really dedicated about that. But now I don't know - I can receive up to three hundred a day, and there's just no way I can respond to that. So there's an inner conflict: do I just respond to ten a day, none a day? I've taken the stand that I just respond to as many as I can and don't beat myself up over it. I do my best, and I'm sorry to anyone who's emailed and hasn't got a response!

WR: I'm sure everyone understands! Speaking of responses, have you had any hate mail about the end of Crescendo?

BF: No bad ones yet, which I thought I would, especially after our conversation.

WR: I haven't sent you mine yet. :-)

BF: Okay. It's coming soon, right? Ha. I've had a few people joke it was a mean ending, but I haven't had anyone threaten to come to my home and burn it down.

WR: I'm glad to hear it! And that's actually one of my questions. Why did you end it like that?! Why?!

BF: I wasn't planning on ending it that way, I was planning to end it the same way as Hush, Hush - tying everything up and having a sweet reunion between Patch and Nora. As often happens, I was sitting there writing a little further. Once I'd written those last few paragraphs - and if you've read Crescendo, you'll know what I'm talking about - I kind of smiled in surprise because it was something I didn't see coming. My editor ended up loving it and wanted to leave it in. I'm happy I did, and I'm hoping readers will speculate about what's in store for Patch and Nora.

WR: You know, I always thought it was only going to be two books. How did you end up with a third?

BF: I always thought it would just be one book! I wrote Hush, Hush as a standalone and my agent sold it as two books. So I wrote the sequel and planned to end it there, but of course I'd written those last couple of paragraphs and that was really when we decided to do a third book.

WR: Well, yay for Silence! How far are you at the moment?

BF: I have a little under two hundred pages written, so I better get cracking when I'm home!

WR: So after this series, what will you write next?

BF: I do have a couple of ideas at the back of my mind, all of them at this point are young adult romances. One of them isn't as supernatural as the other books I've written and only has a small supernatural twist, so it will be heavier on romance and characters. That'll be a change for me as my other books are very plot-driven.

WR: So will it be more contemporary?

BF: No... historical!

WR: That sounds great! Get writing it dude. Off topic slightly: do you think blogs and fansites have helped with the Hush, Hush series' popularity?

BF: Oh my gosh, tremendously. There's no way you can even argue that. Especially bloggers who know their way around and have been doing this for a while *ahem* Wondrous Reads. It is really fantastic because it's a way for authors to have huge exposure. More people visit your sites than are visiting my site, and you all have such a diverse group of readers. It's a huge help, and so appreciated.

WR: It's good to hear you say that. Yay for the blogosphere! And now on to one of my favourite topics... your covers! Which is your favourite, Hush, Hush or Crescendo?

BF: My safe answer is I like the US version of Hush, Hush better but the UK version of Crescendo better. Overall favourite cover is Hush, Hush. It's hard to top it, it really is.

WR: I was actually just going to ask what it's like to have, in my opinion, the best book cover in YA history?

BF: Well I owe that to James Porto and the model - it's nothing to do with me! I just feel really lucky, but all cheering and applause goes to them.

WR: Do you want to see both Patch and Nora on the Silence cover?

BF: I do, that was my request. They had the photoshoot a couple of weeks ago and I have not seen anything. I'd tell you if I had. I did request they both be on the cover, but just because an author makes a request doesn't mean it'll happen. I think my publisher will think the same way though. It makes sense.

WR: I hope so too. Can you tell us anything about Silence? Anything at all?

BF: The difference with Silence is that you know from the offset who the bad guy is, whereas in Hush, Hush and Crescendo I make you guess. Patch and Nora get to team up for the first time, and they finally work together to overcome the villain. I won't say who that is, but if you've read Crescendo you'll know who I'm talking about!


-----




[Me and Becca!]

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Gallagher Girls #4 + Tote Bag! (UK only)


Thanks to Orchard Books, I have five (5) sets of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series goodies to give away, including the brand new fourth book, Only the Good Spy Young, and a tote bag. The book is officially published in the UK on May 5th, and here's what Amazon has to say about it:

Cammie 'The Chameleon' knows by now that even she can't hide from danger. But when she discovers that one of her most-trusted allies is a rogue double-agent, Cammie questions her trust in her classmates, her teachers - and her own heart...


To enter, all you have to do is fill in the form below. Good luck!

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: May 5th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Prizes will be sent out by the publisher


Dead Beautiful Blog Tour: US Vs. UK Covers


-----


US // UK

Although these covers are similar, I do have a favourite: the UK one. The deep green is a lovely colour for the background, and I think the model used looks better - more sinister somehow. I haven't read the book yet so I've got no idea if she's supposed to look like that, but that's my first impression. I also like the light shining around her, and the flying entities - butterflies? Moths? Extremely well-shaped fairies?

After saying all that, I do really like the old-looking archway on the US cover and, of the two, the US font is my favourite. I think it would have worked better if the model had been looking directly at the camera, as I think her pose slightly detracts from the overall effect. I wouldn't necessarily have said Dead Beautiful was a paranormal book from that cover alone, but from the UK I think I would have done. It's interesting, because they are very similar in style and theme.

Which do you guys prefer?

~

You can follow the rest of the blog tour until May 6th, with the next stop over at Reading Zone tomorrow.

Dead Beautiful is published in the UK by Usborne on May 1st. Make sure you check it out!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Review: One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson


Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Hardcover
Released: May 2nd, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

All Hal had ever wanted was a dog But a dog would damage the expensive carpets in Hal's glamorous home, and his rich, neglectful parents refuse to consider one. Then they discover Easy Pets, a convenient dog-rental agency. Terrier Fleck arrives on Hal's birthday, but when Hal discovers that his dog must be returned, he runs away - along with a group of pedigree breeds joyfully escaping from Easy Pets.

Review:

I have a confession to make: before reading One Dog and His Boy I hadn't read, and didn't own, a single book by Eva Ibbotson. Her books have honestly never appealed to me, and it was only because I was sent a proof copy of this for review that I ever thought of picking it up. I'm not usually one for stories about animals (I only really like cats), so this was right out of my comfort zone. However, I'm really, really glad I read it, and I see now why Eva Ibbotson is one of Britain's most-loved children's authors. Sadly she passed away last year, and One Dog and His Boy was the last book she completed. She certainly went out in style, that's for sure.

One Dog and His Boy is such a lovely book, and is very near perfect. I can see readers of all ages falling in love with Hal and Fleck, just like I did, and it's all because of the writing and uplifting story. Basically, Hal has always wanted a dog, but his too-busy, too-house-proud parents won't ever let him have one. So they do the unthinkable: they hire Fleck for a weekend, and then return him. Hal is absolutely heartbroken, and sets off to get Fleck back from the Easy Pets dog rental business. They're accompanied by a girl called Pippa and four other dogs: Otto, Honey, Francine and Li-Chee.

What follows is a story of determination, love and the everlasting bond between one dog and his boy. Each dog has their own story, and each is resolved at the end. That was actually my favourite part of the book, and I'll admit it left me a bit choked up. I got to the end and just wanted to turn back to the beginning and read it again, just so I could stay with these characters - both human and canine - for a little longer. I even liked the two nasty hellhounds, Darth and Terminator, who try and chase our heroic group across a field. Aside from their genius names, it transpires that even they can be kind, compassionate dogs. Obviously they're not as cool as Fleck and Co., though!

Reading One Dog and His Boy gave me a new appreciation for my own dog, who I think I should probably spend more time with (Watch out, Spud!). I'm also now a fan of Eva Ibbotson, and will be hunting down more of her books very soon. I think everyone would enjoy One Dog and His Boy, along with its simple but brilliant drawings by Sharon Rentta. I'll be buying the hardcover for my collection, as I have no doubt that this is one I'll want to re-read!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre


Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover
Released: April 12th, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups - Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning.

Review:

This is the first Ann Aguirre book I've read, and I'm quite sure it won't be my last. It's a post-apocalyptic dystopian-type zombie thriller with two fantastic main characters and worldbuilding that doesn't disappoint.

Deuce is a huntress in an underground Enclave, where she lives after a plague destroys civilisation and the world has drastically changed. We're introduced to her post-apocalypse, and soon become privy to the information that she has never been topside. She's spent her whole life as a brat underground, and because of this she can't read or write well, but she's a badass when it comes to hunting and protecting people from the freaks - zombie-type flesh-eaters who exist in the tunnels. They're never actually referred to as 'zombies', but that's the closest thing I can think of to describe them. They seem more intelligent than your average run of the mill walking dead, which leads me to believe that they might be an evolved species. Whatever they are, they're something to be feared and fought which, luckily, Deuce is more than capable of doing.

She gets paired with Fade, a boy in the same enclave and, in the wake of several deaths in the enclave, before she knows it her whole world is changing. She's still a huntress, yes, but nothing goes to plan. Let's just say that she and Fade end up in a very different environment, surrounded by freaks and doing their best to stay alive. Their relationship progresses - they're friends first above all else - in a slow and innocent way, due to both of their somewhat sheltered upbringings.

I enjoyed the first half of Enclave more than the second half, as it's more dystopian, with the introduction to Deuce's world being nothing short of fascinating. Once the novel shifts and reaches its second section, the whole narrative takes an unexpected turn: new, less interesting characters are introduced, there's a fresh, more mundane setting and its direction becomes less clear. I haven't got a clue where the story is going, which is quite unusual at the end of the first book in a series. It's like I read two different books featuring the same characters, and I actually wish the whole of Enclave had taken place in its first location. It was the best part of the whole book for me, though I did still enjoy the remainder of Deuce's story.

Enclave's sequel, Outpost, is due to hit shelves in Fall 2012, which seems like a heck of a long way away. I for one am really looking forward to finding out what happens to Deuce and Fade who, by the way, have the coolest names ever. I think this Razorland series is a great start to what I hope will be a long YA career for Ann Aguirre, filled with many hungry freaks, hunting knives and dark apocalypses.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

In My Mailbox #118: 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, in a word, awesome.I got lots of exciting (and unexpected!) books in the post for review, and my copy of Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler finally arrived. I also read some ace books this week, including The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish, Enclave by Ann Aguirre and One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson. I enjoyed them all!

Here are the books new to my shelves this week:




For review:
I have a feeling that this is going to be amazing. The lovely Phil Earle told me so, and when he tells me something's good, I believe him. I'm looking forward to reading it. It's a beautiful book - really heavy page stock and illustrated inside. I think Siobhan Dowd would have liked it.

I read this ages ago when I got a proof copy and loved it, and now I have a very shiny finished copy for my collection. I'll be posting my review in the next couple of weeks.

I haven't heard a lot about this one, but it sounds good.

Can't wait to read this one! Yay!

Does anyone know who actually wrote this series? I haven't read the first two yet, but now I have a good excuse to get caught up.

This is a lovely finished copy of what sounds like a very creepy book. Here's hoping it scares me!

I haven't read the first book yet, but I think I'll try this one anyway. It randomly showed up on Saturday - nice surprise and a great cover!

This sounds fun!

I read this the other month and enjoyed it. Once again, this is a nice finished copy.

  • Wild by Aprilynne Pike
I haven't yet read Spells, and I wasn't expecting Wild (or Illusions to you US folk) at all. I'm going to get caught up very soon!

The cover is beautiful, the book sounds ace. Can't wait to read it.


~



Bought:
  • Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler
I looooved Hunger. That's all I need to say, right?


~



Won
I won this over at A&C Book Junkies. Thanks ladies! I'm hoping I'll be able to get hold of this book somehow, even though it's only being published in Canada (I think). If anyone can help me (ahem, Cat, are you there?!), please let me know!




Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Review: Stunt Bunny - Tour Troubles by Tamsyn Murray


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


Amazon summary:

Harriet Houdini: Stunt Bunny is back in action, this time as the star of Superpets Live! With visions of posh hotels, meeting adoring fans and performing her famous bunny-backflips in front of live audiences, Harriet can't wait for the tour of Superpets. But evil Miranda wants her opera-singing poodle, Doodle, to be the headline act...whatever it takes. So Harriet's going to need all her Stunt Bunny tricks to make sure she remains the star of the show!

Review:

As I've mentioned before, books for this age group isn't my forte - I'm mostly YA with some middle grade thrown in. However, there are a handful of series for younger readers that I enjoy, with Stunt Bunny being one of them. I really liked the first book, Showbiz Sensation, which was a mix of humour, exciting adventure and lovely illustrations. Tour Troubles is more of the same, thanks to Tamsyn Murray's ability to write from the POV of a famous somersaulting bunny. Honestly, I can't even entertain the idea of children not liking this; it's just so fun!

This time around, Harriet is sent on tour with the Superpets TV show, of which she's the star. Miranda and Doodle the singing poodle are, once again, not too happy about this, and concoct all sorts of nasty plans to get rid of Harriet. Talk about jealousy in the animal community! You don't see Trevor's tumbling terrapins or hedgehog dance group Spike-tacular vying for the spotlight - it's not the done thing. Poor little Harriet handles it all very well of course, and more than lives up to her Houdini namesake in the process!

I find it pretty impressive that Tamsyn Murray divides her time between writing YA and 5+ fiction, as I'm sure swapping narrators and age groups would confuse the heck out of me. Instead she very distinctly manages both of her series, my favourite being this one with a cute, independent and slightly hyperactive bunny. I'm looking forward to more Harriet adventures in Rabbit Racer, due for publication in August. I wonder what sticky situations she'll find herself in next?!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman


Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Trade paperback
Released: April 28th, 2011
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

If you had a second chance at first love . . . would you take it? It’s been three years since Adam’s love saved Mia after the accident that annihilated life as she knew it . . . and three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Julliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future—and each other.

Review:

You know when you read a book that blows you away, and it doesn't really demand a sequel but you get an amazing one anyway? Well, that's Where She Went for you. If I Stay in no way needed a sequel, an explanation of what happened next, but here it is in all its glory. I'm not sure why I ever thought I was happy not knowing what happened to Mia and Adam's story, but I'm glad Gayle Forman knew something I clearly didn't. She's a clever lady.

Mia and Adam are meant to be together. They just are. They're supposed to get married and have children, and do everything they'd planned before Mia's earth shattering accident. Right? You'd think so, but that's not how the novel opens. It's three years in the future, Mia's just graduated and is preparing to tour the world playing the cello, Adam is in a super famous band and, here's the kicker, THEY'RE NOT TOGETHER. They're not even in contact; in fact, they haven't seen each other for ages. They live in completely different places. Talk about a heartbreaking start to a book - how could this happen?

A chance meeting in New York sees Mia and Adam embark on a night of questions and answers, of truth and lies, all the while framed by the backdrop of the city that never sleeps. They evaluate, pick their past actions apart, and come to a conclusion. I'm not saying what that conclusion is, just that it's there. It's present. If you're like me, it'll probably make you sob into your blanket while you desperately try to keep your eyes open and clear, wanting, no, NEEDING, to know what happens next. What's on the cards for these two people you've fallen head over heels in love with?

Where She Went is realistic and raw, showcasing the knowledge that people aren't perfect. Not even awesome fictional people who play guitar and make their girlfriends keep breathing. It shatters the illusion of an ideal world, and makes you realise that life is what you make it. I honestly didn't think Gayle Forman could write another book even nearly as good as If I Stay, but I was so wrong. Have faith in this woman, 'cos she will not let you down. She'll make you cry, but she'll do it in an epic way.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Wintercraft: Blackwatch Blog Tour - Jenna Burtenshaw Guest Post!

Blackwatch, the sequel to Wintercraft, is now published in the UK, and I'm very happy to be part of Jenna's blog tour. For more information on her and her books, do visit the book website at www.wintercraft.co.uk. There you'll find lots of cool stuff, including trailers, sample chapters, character profiles and loads more!


~

Jenna Burtenshaw



Darkness and Light (And The Shadows Inbetween).

One of the best aspects of writing is getting to know the characters that live in the world that is being created. Some of them reveal all of their secrets at once, others take a lot longer to show what is really going on beneath the face they first show to the world, but every single one of them carries a lifetime of experiences just waiting to be explored.

I don’t think there is such a thing as a simple character. It should not be easy to slot people into boxes labelled ‘good’ or ‘evil’, because people are not like that in real life. Everyone has different layers to their personality. How they are perceived by others relies heavily upon the aspect of that personality they choose to display most of at a particular time, as well as the preconceptions of the person meeting (or reading about) them.

In the Wintercraft stories, everyone keeps secrets. Everyone is hiding something from the people around them and they all have good strong reasons for the choices they make and the actions they take. Some of those secrets only come to light later in the series but, along the way, it is up to the reader to judge the characters’ actions and decide if they are friend or foe.

When I first started writing about Kate, for example, I knew she was a good person with the potential for a darker side, thanks to her family history. She is the character in peril at the very beginning of the story. We want her to get away from the wardens, help her uncle and save the day. All we know about her at that point is that she is in a terrifying situation, she is concerned for the wellbeing of others, and so we want her to escape. We want Da’ru Marr to fail because she is threatening Kate and her methods for getting what she wants often cause other people to suffer. It does not matter that her motives for sacrificing the few in order to protect the many could be seen as positive attributes in different circumstances; she is against the character we want to like from the beginning, so we dislike her. She becomes the ‘bad guy’ and we feel her eventual fate is well deserved. But is it?

What if the story had been written from Da’ru’s point of view? She may not be a selfless woman – far from it – but her actions could be made to appear heroic. She is on the brink of giving Albion the edge in a war that has already cost too many lives, only to be challenged by a girl who has only been using the veil for a few days and a man who carries a serious grudge. From Da’ru’s perspective, she is acting in defence of her country. Silas Dane is a traitor and Kate is the enemy. If Da’ru’s story had been told instead of Kate’s and it was spun in a certain way, we may have been able to root for her instead. I always try to look at characters from both directions. Every one of them could be someone’s hero and someone’s villain. There is no pure darkness and pure light.

Silas Dane is the perfect example of this. He can be vicious and merciless. He ruins lives and takes lives, but despite all that, there is something about him that is likeable. He appears to be cold and heartless in the beginning, but as he reveals about himself and his past, it becomes easier to forgive the behaviour that appeared so terrible when he first arrived. All I had to do was let him tell his story and he overturned any expectations I had of him in the beginning. He began to feel more like a person than a ‘villain’. I hope readers can see that too.

I have spent a long time thinking about the people of Albion, mapping out their lives and throwing them into situations just to see how they will react, but there is one piece of the puzzle that no one can predict or control. The key ingredient to any character will always be the person who is reading the story. Every person filters what they read in very different ways. One reader may like attributes in a character that other people will loathe, and they will usually identify more with someone who shares their values and morals than one that does not. That is all part of the magic of books. The characters reveal aspects of themselves through their actions, but it is the reader whose imagination fits it all together and makes them come alive.

There is a place in my heart for all of my characters; from the insane and murderous Kalen, to Kate Winters and Silas Dane themselves. I don’t believe that anyone in the story set out to be good or evil. In their own minds, what they are doing is completely justified, no matter what the consequences. The question is: can they convince the reader that their motives are true? If they can, they will be the hero, if not, the reader will turn against them, and some of the most interesting characters in fiction fall somewhere inbetween.

Every character is the product of what their lives have made them. They are all someone’s son or someone’s daughter. But are any of them truly good or truly bad? That is for you to decide.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: The Unwanteds

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

* Published by: Aladdin (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: August 30th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com:

Quill prevails when the strong survive. Using this notion as the core of their society, the people of Quill partake in a yearly ceremony, wherein children at the age of thirteen are divided into three categories--the Wanteds, the Necessaries, and the Unwanteds. Wanted children will move on to schooling and training to join the Quillitary and fufill their roles in maintaining an efficient life for all, while Necessaries will take on farm work and similar duties. Any child who has shown a propensity toward emotion or creativity is deemed Unwanted, and sent for elimination. Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret--behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime, where every Unwanted child has been welcomed by a man named Mr. Today. Artime is a special place full of art, music, theater, and magic, where each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation. But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

I'm a big fan of Lisa McMann - I've loved pretty much all her YA books, especially Fade and Cryer's Cross. I'm really excited to read her first foray into MG fiction, and I hope it will be as good as her previous releases. I'm guessing it will be very different in style and writing, but from the above (long) synopsis, I think it sounds brilliant. Needless to say I have this one pre-ordered and am eagerly awaiting August!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Review: Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian


Publisher: Push
Format: Hardcover
Released: September 1st, 2010
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things. But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you wants to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out. Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.

Review:

Not That Kind of Girl is a brilliantly written, empowering contemporary novel from an author completely new to me. I'd heard of Siobhan Vivian before when another of her books, Same Difference, was published, but hadn't yet read anything by her. I'm glad I've finally joined the Siobhan fanclub though, as this was well worth a read.

Natalie was an interesting character, as she often acted as she thought she should, rather than how she wanted to. She was a great role model and perfect student, and had the respect of her peers and teachers throughout the school. She also had a rock-solid friendship with best friend Autumn, and thought the boys of her school were degrading, sexist idiots. Which some of them were, that's for sure. She stood up to all of them and did what she thought was right, which I think is an important thing for any girl to do.

The themes and issues explored in Not That Kind of Girl gave me food for thought, that's for sure. I'm not an active supporter of feminism, but after reading this book I kind of wish I was. I never really think of how women are objectified and used, because it's just something that's always present in the media, but I now understand how important it is for people to speak out and draw attention to how people are treated.

Choice also played a big part in Natalie's story, and Vivian never shied away from depicting a 17-year-old girl's life accurately and realistically. Natalie made some bad decisions, yes, but she also came out of herself and started doing things she wanted to, not things she thought were expected of her. A boy, Connor, helped her with this, and their relationship was fantastic to read. There wasn't as much romance as I thought there would be, but I don't think it detracted anything from the story, and what there was more than made up for it!

I ordered Same Difference when I was only halfway through this book, which should give some indication of how much I was enjoying it. If you're a fan of contemporary YA then you really should read Not That Kind of Girl. It gave me lots to think about, and I can't wait to read more by this author!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare


Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Trade paperback
Released: April 7th, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

Contains spoilers for City of Bones/Ashes/Glass!

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and – most importantly of all – she can finally call Jace her boyfriend. But nothing comes without a price. Someone is murdering the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine's Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. And when Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Review:

Like thousands of other readers, I have been anticipating City of Fallen Angels for months, ever since I first heard that it was being written. I was excited, and also skeptical. Not because I thought Cassie wouldn't write a good book (is that even possible?!), but because I loved City of Glass and its resolution so much. It's 2 years since I read it, and I spent a large chunk of that time thinking it was the last Mortal Instruments book, and that that was how everything would end. Full stop. So yes, I was nervous when City of Fallen Angels showed up at my house, and I didn't start it straight away - I waited almost 2 weeks. I really don't know why, because it was fantastic. I needn't have worried at all!

There's no easy way to talk about this book at length without spoiling things, so I'm going to try and keep this fairly short. You all know the drill: the Shadowhunters are back, Clary and Jace are still in the midst of a drama-filled relationship, and there is more evil afoot. What that evil is will remain a mystery in this review because there's no way I'm divulging such important and, frankly, gobsmackingly shocking information. There's a lot going on in this book, but it's all relevant and, as always, well-written thanks to Cassie's lovely writing and fondness of similes. How she comes up with some of them, I'll never know, but they don't half paint a good picture!

Like Stephenie Meyer once said, The Mortal Instruments is a story world I love to live in. Honestly, I could stay there for weeks and not get bored. It includes everything I love: vampires, demons, romance, hot blonde boys, drama and an intricate, well thought-out world. In this instance, I did wish for more Alec and Magnus (LOVE them!), as they didn't appear until around halfway through. I came away with a newfound appreciation for Simon, though, as well as a reminder that Isabelle is one tough lady. However, I did spend quite a lot of the book kind of sat there with a puzzled expression on my face, and this was in relation to the epic couple that is Jace and Clary. You'll know what I mean if you've read it and, well, if you haven't, let's just say that some peculiar plot twists present themselves.

I ended up really loving City of Fallen Angels, though I'm quite happy to admit that if City of Glass had turned out to be the final end to this story, I wouldn't have minded. For me it wasn't a continuation that was absolutely necessary, but it's one that I'm now glad has happened. So, while this book wasn't quite as good as its predecessor, it's a must-read for fans of the series or just fans of the paranormal genre (If you haven't read City of Bones yet, go and get it. Now!). I can't wait for City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire, and I'm already busy speculating as to what will happen next. I think that's a sign of an epic series, which is exactly what this is. I've been reading it for almost 4 years now (since it was first published with different UK covers), and it's well up there with my favourite books ever. Also, my wait for City of Fallen Angels has taught me to never doubt Cassie Clare. She will never disappoint!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

In My Mailbox #117: 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 so exciting for me, as you'll see below. On top of buying and receiving some awesome-looking books, the Twilight Saga guide was FINALLY published. It's amazing. Seriously. If you're a fan of the series, you HAVE to get it!

Here's what was new this week:






For review:
I already have a copy of this, so I'll probably give this one away at some point. Sounds good!

I remember reading reviews of this on a few US blogs, and the general consensus was that it was a great read. Thanks to Loretta for this!

I can't wait to read this one. It's by an Aussie author and sounds brilliant!

I've never read anything by Karen McCombie, but I'm looking forward to starting.

Yay! This is one of my most anticipated 2011 debuts, and it's from S&S UK. It sounds ace, so I'm going to bump it up the TBR pile.

Another Aussie book I'd never heard of, but which sounds really good. Thanks to Libby for offering to send me a copy!

This is Loretta's new book, due out in September. Again, thanks Loretta!

Look at the beauty of this book - I posted an extra pic up there ^. This is an exclusive edition of the paperback, with screen printed red edges. It will only be available in UK Waterstone's stores from May, so look out for it. It's so eye-catching! I bought the hardcover of The Passage when it was first published last year, but have yet to read it because it's signed. So big thanks to Orion for this - I can now read it!

Another duplicate. Will give it away soon!

This is another one I only heard about a couple of weeks ago, and it randomly turned up yesterday. Sounds fun.

Yay yay yay! There's a story that goes along with this further down the page. EXCITED.


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Bought:
I have a proof of this, but had to buy a shiny hardback. It was only just over £5 too... bargain!

I've been hearing mixed things about this one, but I like the sound of it and the cover is lovely. Faeries and steampunk, apparently...

It's set in WWII. Enough said.

I needed a book that was buy 1 get 1 half price, to go along with the Twilight guide. This was pretty much the only one I didn't have, and it sounds ace.

I buy the US editions of these. Love the covers!

YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!

I've been hearing amazing things about this one from other bloggers, and I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be my first Caletti book.

Again, I saved lots of money on this one at work, so thought I'd buy it while I could. Now to read Rivers of London...

I have never read a single DWJ book. I saw this at work (I love you WHSmith), and there were vouchers for money off children's books. I thought I'd give it a go!


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Okay, so this week S&S sent me a brand new paperback copy of Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick. I'd be excited about that anyway as I love this series (and Becca), but this one is extra extra special and awesome. My review is quoted on the front cover!!! I found out about this when I visited the S&S offices in January and was given a cover sheet thing, and I almost fell off my chair. S&S Kat will confirm this - I was gobsmacked. Anyway, I finally have a copy (it's published on April 28th in the UK), and I still can't believe it. I think this is definitely my biggest blogging achievement so far, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to match it. Thanks S&S! :D



Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

US Vs. UK: Amy & Roger's Epic Detour Covers

US // UK

This is another one of those weeks where I just can't choose between covers. I love that they both fit the book so well, and both show elements from the story. I think the UK one does so that better, what with all the little pictures relating to Amy and Roger's road trip. It reminds me of Sarah Dessen's UK covers, and how they have objects and clues within the cover illustrations. I love it.

Both also look incredibly summery, which is perfect for the contemporary genre. I haven't actually seen the UK cover in person yet, but I'm sure it will look just as nice as the US one does. I like that there are no models on the cover of our edition, as there's no unfortunate head-chopping and we can all imagine what Roger's arms look like for ourselves ;)

So, yeah. I haven't a clue which one to pick. I think I'll end up owning and keeping them both - I could never part with my US hardcover, but I just know I'm going to get the shiny happy UK version. Yay for Amy and Roger!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Guest Post: C. J. Skuse on Music that Inspired Rockoholic + UK Giveaway!

C. J. Skuse is the UK author of 2010's Pretty Bad Things and 2011's Rockoholic. She works in children's publishing, and is ever so slightly obsessed with music (like me). There wasn't any doubt about what I wanted this guest post to be about, so here it is: the music that inspired Rockoholic. Cheers, C. J.!


~

C. J. Skuse




INSPIRATION SONGS FOR ‘ROCKOHOLIC


1. I'M WITH YOU - Avril Lavigne

I remember this song coming in very handy when writing the scene near the end with Mac and Jody. I think Avril Lavigne is a great songstress and this is such a powerful song.




2. BROWN EYED GIRL - Van Morrison

Van Morrison is a running theme in the book, being the only un-rock song that Jody opens her mind to, all because of Mackenzie. She’s his ‘brown–eyed girl,’ see?




3. OH MY GOD - Ida Maria

This song seems to sum Jody up to me!




4. AMERICAN IDIOT - Green Day

Jackson springs to mind when I hear this song, because he kind of is one, although he doesn’t mean it. I always try to see some good in my characters. Also, I went to see Green Day in concert while writing this book and I decided that’s what I wanted this book to be – a Green Day concert in words.




5. RUNAWAY TRAIN - Soul Asylum

The line in this song ‘You were there like a blow torch burning, I was a key who could use a little turning’ reminds me of Jody and Jackson’s relationship.




6. DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER - Oasis

Oasis was playing a lot when I was writing. Wonderwall, Rock and Roll Star and Don’t Look Back… were all very useful and I like how this song references Sally Dinkley, the nosey journalist.




7. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - Saliva

I really saw Jackson come alive on stage in his first appearance in the book when I hear this song.




8. DEAD! - My Chemical Romance

This song was very much in mind when I was thinking about the song ‘Bedlam’ by The Regulators, which Jody plays at her grandad’s funeral.




9. BLACK - Pearl Jam

Some of the most gorgeous song lyrics ever written are in this song, and they are referenced at the start of the book. They sum up Mac’s feelings about Jody and in turn Jody’s feelings about Jackson.




10. DISENCHANTED - My Chemical Romance

I think of Jackson when I hear this song, because that’s what he is ultimately. He’s disenchanted life in the band, and though he doesn’t want to end his own life, he knows he wants a way out.




10. HOPE THERE'S SOMEONE - Antony and the Johnsons

I use this song whenever I want to cry-write, or rather create a scene where serious stuff happens. I sued this song at the end and during Cree’s big turning-point scene, also near the end.




~


Giveaway!

I have two (2) signed copies of Rockoholic to give away, thanks to the lovely Ms. Skuse. It's easy to enter: just fill in the form below. Good luck!


Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: April 24th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Books will be sent out by me.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Review: Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon


Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover
Released: June 15th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

Charlie is the freak. Gloria is the freak magnet. They're pretty much destined to meet. And when they do, sparks fly... for Charlie. Gloria, well, she just thinks he's like every other freak who feels compelled to talk to her, although a little better-looking than most. While Charlie has his head in the clouds, Gloria's got hers in a book: her Freak Folio—a record of every weirdo who's talked to her in the last year (it's a big book). But never before has she felt the pull to get to know one of them better. Until now.

Review:

Freak Magnet isn't at all how I expected it to be. I thought it would be a lighthearted, fun contemporary romance and, while it was all of those things, it was also a lot deeper and serious than I thought it would be. Ultimately it's about hope and surviving what life throws at you, whether it's loss or illness or simply feeling like an outcast.

Auseon has a brilliant grasp of teenage vocabulary, and often made me laugh out loud with quick one-liners from Charlie, or sarcastic retorts from Gloria. The humour used was right up my street, as was Charlie's small obsession with Superman. The guy wore a Superman costume under his regular clothes... can you get much cooler than that?! I don't think you can. He has a cape and everything!

Speaking of Charlie, he's a lovely guy. He's innocently honest (perhaps TOO honest!), and so thoughtful and kind that it's hard not to fall completely in love with him. He cares for his unwell mother while holding down school and a job, and at night he stargazes with a telescope he bought by mowing hundreds of lawns. He's like my perfect guy imagined and put onto a page, complete with an extensive knowledge of the Man of Steel. I want one!

Gloria took me a little longer to warm to, but by the end of the book I loved her. She's still dealing with the loss of a family member, and meets Charlie purely by chance. She is a freak magnet, after all. When these two meet, it's like some kind of fate. They help each other more than they know, and provide much-needed comfort and support. The secondary characters - Charlie's friends and Gloria's sister - are also great to read about, and each has their own story that fits in seamlessly.

I love novels told from two perspectives through dual narration, and Freak Magnet is now firmly on my list of must-read contemporaries. I wish there could have been a little more romance, but hey, that's not the most important thing to Charlie and Gloria. I liked that, because it was realistic and allowed for a beautiful friendship to develop. If I ever meet a boy who wears a Superman costume under his shirt, you can bet I'll be flagging him down on a crowded street. Some things have just got to be done.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Bitter End

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

* Published by: Little, Brown (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: May 10th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com:

When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole -- a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her -- she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate . . . someone who truly loves and understands her. At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her close friend Zack, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all her time with another boy? As the months pass, though, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose -- between her "true love" and herself.

I loved Jennifer's debut novel, Hate List, and I can't wait to read more by her. Luckily there's not long to go before this one hits shelves, and I have had my copy pre-ordered for a while. The summary reminds me of Deb Caletti's Stay, though I haven't yet read that one either. Jealousy and threatening behaviour happens, and I'm glad that people aren't worried to write about it in a realistic way. I hope it's as good as Hate List!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Review: Viola in the Spotlight by Adriana Trigiani


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Released: March 31st, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Viola Chesterton is back home in her native New York after a year in the Middle-of-Nowhere at boarding school. All Viola wants to do is spend the summer doing with her best friends, Andrew and Caitlin. But she should know by now that things don't always go according to plan and, with Andrew being shipped off to summer camp by his parents and Caitlin swept up in her first real romance, Viola finds herself feeling lonely in her home town for the first time. Once again Viola turns to her love of film and theatre for solace as she helps out backstage at the Broadway show. And when she persuades her roommates from the Prefect Academy to come to New York for the opening night, things finally start to look up for Viola.

Review:

This series is fast becoming one of my favourites for teenage girls. It's so easy to get lost in Viola's story and surroundings, and thanks to that I read this one straight through in one sitting. Trigiani's writing is fun and contemporary, with media references littered throughout. Theatre, music, films - you name it, it's here. It makes it that much more realistic, which is never a bad thing in YA fiction.

I really loved the first book in this series, Viola in Reel Life, and I'm so glad that Viola in the Spotlight lived up to my expectations. It did take me a few chapters to get myself reacquainted with everyone but, once I got back into the swing of things, I didn't feel like it had been over a year since I read about these lovely characters. They feel like old friends to me now, and I like every single one of them. Trigiani's story of high school hardships, first loves and friendship is something that all teenagers will relate to, and even I find myself getting nostalgic for my school days!

In Viola in the Spotlight, Viola has completed her year at Prefect Academy in South Bend, Indiana, and is now back in New York. Boy trouble has inevitably followed her, and being reunited with her BFFAA Andrew isn't all she thought it would be. She needs her boarding school friends to help get her life back on track, and luckily her Grand's Broadway play is the perfect place for a meeting. NYC is one of my favourite settings to read about, as it just seems so glamorous and unbelievable. From descriptions of the sweeping skyline to Brownstone houses, nothing is left out, and it made me want to visit the city even more. I want to see these famous landmarks with my own eyes, but until then I'm glad I get to imagine it in such vivid detail.

Viola in the Spotlight is an enjoyable read from start to finish, with more depth than I originally thought. Along with that feeling of excitement for life and all the possibilities it brings, there are also sad and incredibly poignant moments that Viola and her friends find themselves facing. Also, there's a bit of a surprise at the end of this one. I saw it coming, but still, I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. This series is fiction for teen girls at its best, and I can honestly say that each book is a joy to read. I can't wait for the next one!