Thursday, 30 June 2011

Review: Six Words and a Wish by Karen McCombie


Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback
Released: May 5th, 2011
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

Ever since Jem's sister Gracie ran away from home, Jem's wondered whether she's to blame. Something she said to Gracie before he disappearance is preying on her mind - Jem couldn't be the reason behind her vanishing, could she But one summer, a series of strangely spooky coincidences make Jem wonder if there's more to Gracie's disappearance than she thought... Can Jem find out the real story behind Gracie going? And will her big sister ever come home?

Review:

Six Words and a Wish is a great book for teen girls, especially those who like Cathy Cassidy and Cathy Hopkins. It's about family and friendship, and is emotional, dark and light all at the same time. Jem's sister, Gracie, went missing a couple of years ago, and no-one has heard from her since the note she left for her parents on the day she disappeared. Jem's parents haven't stopped thinking about her, and Jem hasn't stopped feeling guilty about a wish she made the day before Gracie left. Several Gracie-themed coincidences make Jem think her sister's not that far away at all, and she might just be right.

Six Words and a Wish is a lovely book, in part because of how Jem's family life is portrayed. Her dad's a happy clown, her mum owns a cafe and her dog is old and dippy. They're one of the happiest families I've read about in a long time and I really like that. It's not all doom and gloom in this book, though there's always that feeling of unease when Gracie's disappearance is addressed.

Friendship is also a big part of Six Words and a Wish, with Jem's best friend Iris being more family than friend. I identified with Iris so much, as i too am a hypochondriac. It was fun seeing how daft she (and I!) sounds, with creaking knees and phantom pains all over the place. Jem and Iris also make a few new friends when they join a band, one of which could turn out to be more than a friend for Jem. I hope there's a sequel so I can find out!

Definitely give this book a try if you like the authors I mentioned above, and especially if you want to meet a fictional family who define the word kooky. It's a quick, enjoyable read with wide appeal - what are you waiting for?!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Review: Flawless by Lara Chapman


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Released: May 3rd, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She has killer blue eyes, gorgeous blonde hair and impeccable school grades. She has just one tiny flaw - her nose! But even that's not so bad as Sarah has the bestest friend and big goals for print journalism fame. On the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into Sarah's journalism class and rocks her world. The problem is, her best friend, Kristen, falls for him too, and when Rock and Kristen stand together, it's like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her attract Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do - she agrees. What was she thinking?

Review:

I started Flawless knowing next to nothing about it, except what was written on the hot-pink back cover. What I ended up with was a funny, sharp story of love, friendship and the acceptance of flaws. Everybody has them, and in most cases there's nothing that can be done to change them. In Sarah's case, she has a big nose. A HUGE snozzle, like a beak in fact (her words not mine). She's lived with it most of her life, enduring taunts and stares with the help of her best friend Kristen. She's happy as she is, and deflects any and all nose-job hints from her mother. That is, until gorgeous guy Rock arrives in town and skips straight over Sarah in favour of Kristen.

What follows is a test of character. Sarah helps Kristen win Rock over, even at the expense of her own happiness. She considers changing her appearance to please her peers (and one boy in particular), but she soon realises that beauty is only skin deep and that, yes, every single person is flawed in one way or another. True friendship and love will look past physical flaws, which is one of the many messages debut author Lara Chapman brings to the table. She really got me thinking about how differences and quirkiness can change someone's perception of another person, not to mention how hurtful bullying can be. Whether it be a simple hand gesture or snide barb as someone walks past, all bullying is heard and noticed by its victim. Some people can survive it, as Sarah does, but we all know that some people can't.

Flawless features the kind of friendship I love: long-standing, devoted and loyal. Sarah and Kristen could easily be sisters, even deeper than that, and I couldn't get enough of it. If Kristen needed help, Sarah was there. If Sarah was taunted, Kristen stood up to her classmates and told them to back off. Whatever the other needed, they got it. Everyone needs a friendship like this in their life, whether it feels necessary or not. There are some things only a best friend can understand, and Chapman portrays that here perfectly.

Although much of Flawless is based around romance and new boy Rock, it isn't the most important part of the novel. All kinds of relationships, including that of a mother and a daughter, are given equal page time, and one never seems more important than the other. I actually could have done with less observations about how hot Rock is and how he's the most amazing spectacle ever to walk on school grounds, as I think his personality is his best attribute, again showing that a pretty face doesn't always mean a pretty person.

Flawless surprised me, and wasn't at all the fluffy Mean Girls-esque high school commentary I thought it would be. It's witty and relevant, making it a great read for secondary school students experiencing these things for themselves. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Lara Chapman writes next - whatever it is, I hope it's as charming as Flawless!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Reckless Blog Tour: Cornelia Funke Talks Movies + UK Giveaway!


Cornelia Funke


RECKLESS: THE DREAM MOVIE

Reckless is a taut and darkly romantic modern fairytale written by Cornelia Funke in collaboration with the highly acclaimed film writer and producer Lionel Wigram. Having first met to discuss a film treatment for another project, the two began playing with ideas and fell in love with the world and characters that became Reckless. The result: an intensely visual narrative, beautifully told in Funke’s trademark style


Cornelia Funke:

“I am often asked whether Lionel and I wrote Reckless with a movie in mind. The answer is No and Yes.

A book should always and first of all be a book, even when a successful Hollywood producer is involved in its creation. That was part of the fun for Lionel, as he didn’t have to think about budgets or casting or whether hanging a palace from the ceiling of a cave might be too expensive. We could crawl into our characters’ heads and hearts – something that’s nearly impossible in a movie script and is mostly the task of the actor. So, No: first of all it was a book that was meant to be a book.

On the other hand, both Lionel and I are as passionate about movies as we are about books and every story we tell we see in our heads like a movie. Even when I wasn’t working with Lionel I always saw movie scenes while I was writing, never just black and white illustrations (as you might expect of an illustrator). So, Yes: there was always the idea of a Reckless movie, which we both hope we’ll make one day. As I sometimes say to Lionel: I got my toy with the book. Now I want him to have the toy he loves to play with – a big, wonderful, epic movie!

Never before has it been more exciting to create a world not only on the page but on the big screen. There are so many possibilities now, so many incredibly skillful concept artists, set and costume designers and all the miracles CGI can do. I still remember the moment when I saw the mines of Moria (from Lord of the Rings) on a screen and thought: ‘Wow! Yes, of course! That’s what they have to look like!’ My imagination hadn’t managed to paint them as grand as that for me when I read the book.

Lionel has created many of those ‘Wow’ moments in the movies he’s produced, whether in Harry Potter and all its breathtaking screen magic or in nineteenth-century London coming to life in the Sherlock Holmes movie. We can’t wait to make that kind of magic with Reckless. So, once again, Yes: while we were plotting and creating this new world behind the mirror, we sometimes looked at each other and said, ‘Can you imagine how wonderful it will be to walk onto that set? To see the palace of the King of Goyl hanging from the ceiling of its cave? Or the island of the Fairies drifting on the lake? Or Vena? Or the Thorn Castle?’ Sometimes we wished we could start right away – to do both at the same time; find the worlds and build the sets. That’s part of the magic of our collaboration: that both ways of storytelling are present, words and images, book and screen.

Nevertheless, we haven’t started doing the movie yet. There is still so much to find out about in the books. We have just finished the fourth draft of book two, and have met some new characters who will be vastly important to our story. Maybe we’ll get a glimpse of them in the first movie, as storytelling works so differently on screen. We will start discussing book three later this year and we both can’t wait to explore what that book will unveil about the world we found behind the mirror; and about Jacob and Fox and all the other characters we learned to love or hate. We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll write the script ourselves. At the moment we would say: let’s collaborate with a great scriptwriter who looks at our world with fresh eyes and finds corners we haven’t even noticed. But let’s see.

We definitely haven’t cast the characters yet. Neither of us has any famous faces in our heads when we see Jacob or Will or Fox … or the King of the Goyl. We prefer to imagine them without an actor’s name attached, and we both agree that even while working on a script it would be better not to have any actors in mind at that point. I am sure there will be many suggestions from our readers once we start developing the movie, but for now we love the fact that Jacob Reckless wears thousands of faces in thousands of heads.

It will be very exciting, though, to one day find the right face for him on the screen.

~


Thanks to Chicken House I have one (1) copy of Reckless to give away, which also includes a signed bookplate.

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: June 7th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Book will be sent out by the publisher.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The Queen Must Die Blog Tour: Guest Post & Extract!

The Queen Must Die by K.A.S. Quinn is now out in paperback in the UK, and today I'm kicking off the blog tour. Hope you enjoy this guest post and extract!


~


K.A.S. Quinn




I think reality is over-rated

I write because I love to read. Anything. The owner’s manual for my old CD player, War and Peace, the back of the cornflakes box. Anything. I have a bad case of readeritis, but it was worse when I was younger. At the age of 11 I read so much, I thought it might be terminal.
Making the move from reader to writer seemed natural, but still terrifying. When I finally got up the courage to write a book, I wrote it for the best reader I could find; and that was me, as an eleven-year-old.

I did succeed in writing a book that both the 11-year-old me and the grown-up me would want to read: The Queen Must Die. It’s not for everybody; in fact you might as well shoot me now, as there are NO vampires , not on even on a single page. It is, though, filled with everything I like: the New York City of here-and-now, London circa 1851 - lots of good history and weird fantasy – two girls who form a fantastic friendship – and a boy who learns girls aren’t as ghastly as he thinks.

The prologue is about reality and imagination. I have trouble sometimes separating the two, and the main character, Katie, is struggling with this as well. Katie is a New Yorker. Her mother is a minor celebrity, her life is pretty comfortable. But Katie is lonely, and then she begins to have these visions. I think Katie is very lucky, because her visions are of the Victorians. I’m mad about the Victorians. And madness is the question in the prologue. As Katie asks herself: “Am I going insane?”


~


Extract

The Visions

Was she going insane? The visions were appearing
with greater clarity and ever more frequency. Just
yesterday, Katie had turned the corner to find a tall man in
a black silk top hat. He seemed to be searching for someone
amid the chaos of the 86th Street subway station. He
was deathly pale, with creased, almost dusty skin – his
pallor emphasized by his strange close-fitting black
garments. The only colour about him was his eyes. They
glittered green in the sun as he reeled around and strode
towards Katie, raising his walking stick as if to strike her.
He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Instead, the
word ‘SEEK’ formed in the air before him, floating above
his head like the message of a sky-writer. And then he was
gone – disappearing through the steam of the subway.

He wasn’t the first. There was the girl with the grey eyes
and serious face. Katie had thought she might just be some
new neighbour. But then Katie had noticed the long
starched skirts, the high, buttoned leather boots and the
ridiculous fur muff. She too spoke in these silent smoke
signals. ‘I will serve,’ she declared, looking so kind and
grave that Katie longed to hear her voice. Afterwards came
a series of children. The one in rags, the tiny urchin girl, so
pretty and so timid – ‘I will sacrifice’ hung over her like a
pall. Such a frightened child, but Katie could never quite
reach her. And then there was the small smug boy in velvet
shorts and a ruffled shirt. Katie recoiled from his message:
‘I will slay.’ These children, these visions, whatever they
were, they weren’t just in the wrong neighbourhood; they
seemed to be in the wrong time. They had something to
say, but Katie didn’t know what, or why. She tried to shake
it off, shrug her shoulders and ignore it all, the way New
Yorkers blank the freaks and weirdos of life. But today’s
episode had changed everything.

Walking home from school, she’d come face to face with
a small plump woman in fancy dress – pink satin swept off
the shoulders with six inches of silver lace and an abundance
of diamonds. The little lady’s pigeon eyes twinkled
with pleasure as she talked and laughed with someone
directly behind Katie. But when Katie turned around all
she could see was a businessman talking on a cellphone.
‘Not another vision,’ Katie thought, her stomach lurching
upwards. ‘There must be a rational explanation for this.
Was it performance art? A carnival? A commercial?’ Katie
scanned the streets for a camera.

Suddenly the little woman’s eyes bulged. Her mouth
opened in a silent scream as she backed away and slid
down the side of the building. Katie ran towards her, and
then took a step back. A bright crimson stain was spreading
over the bodice of the small woman’s pink dress. The
woman held her arms out, as if pleading for aid, and then
her eyes rolled back in her head. She slumped; lifeless in a
heap of satin and blood. ‘Help,’ Katie cried, ‘help!’ The
passers-by looked briefly at Katie and, deciding she was just
another crazy person in the street, turned away. They kept
walking, talking, drinking coffee out of paper cups and
looking at their watches. One man, reading the newspaper,
actually stepped through the woman and the growing pool
of blood. And then the woman was gone, the sidewalk
clean where there had been gore. Katie’s legs buckled,
she’d have to sit down – right there on the sidewalk. She
wiped her forehead. This habit of seeing things. This was
not good. She’d have to tell someone, but who?

~

Stop by Books 4 Teens to continue the blog tour, and find out more about The Queen Must Die over at Atlantic Books.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

In My Mailbox #127: 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 didn't think I'd be getting many books this week, but then I had two huge deliveries which included lots of cool-looking surprises! I also went to see Glee Live this week which was so, so good. I saw Darren Criss on stage, people: my life is almost complete!!


And here are the books I got this week:

~





For review:
This one sounds fun!

I've never read a Karin Slaughter book but I might give this one a go one day.

Such a lovely book - a hardback proof! I need to get cracking and read I Am Number Four.

These sounds like great books for younger readers.

I'm interested to read this one as it sounds like an exciting thriller!

Second copy. Will be going to the local school library. :)

I think this one could be really funny, and I do occasionally read adult rom-coms. Another complete surprise in the post!

My friendly neighbourhood book fairy sent me this as I've never read them and I like fantastical creatures. Thanks K, you rock!

I love the sound of this one. Yay Egmont!

This is the fourth book in the Young, Loaded and Fabulous series. It's like a UK Gossip Girl which is ace!

Never heard of this one but it sounds good!

Another one I've never heard of. Think this could be one for my mum.

Melvin Burgess!!! That is all.

I still need to read Firebrand, which I hear is amazing. I'm so very behind!


~



Bought:
Everyone has been raving about this. I hope it lives up to the hype!

I'm quoted in this and Curtis mentions me and my blog in the acknowledgements. Wow!!

I just bought this to complete my collection, even though I'm pretty behind on this series. I'll read it eventually, I'm sure.



Happy reading everyone!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

US Vs. UK: Bloodlines Covers

US // UK

While I loved and preferred the US Vampire Academy photo covers to the red British re-designs, with Bloodlines it's the other way round. I think the US cover is ok, but it's not my favourite - I'm not overly keen on the model/pose they've used. I get Richelle's books in hardback though, so it's the one I'll end up owning. I like the title font and the colours but overall I don't think it's up to the standard of the Vampire Academy series.

The UK cover was recently revealed and it's really grown on me. At first I thought it was too plain and simple, but now I see it's quite intricate and pretty. I like that the font has stayed the same to create a new Mead brand, and I think the white background works well. I don't know what either of these will look like in real life but I think the UK one might look nicer. Our cover also has the strapline 'Love and loyalty run deeper than blood', which means it gets an extra point. UK wins for me!

What do you guys think?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Review: Girl (Nearly) 16 - Absolute Torture by Sue Limb


Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Released: January 4th, 2010 (new ed.)
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

Jess's mum has finally capitulated and arranged a trip to see Jess's dad. But this is so the wrong moment: Jess has just got it together with Fred, and in an incredibly romantic way he has scraped money together to get them both tickets to the hottest music festival... but instead Jess is going on a road trip with her mum and her grandmother (and her grandfather, but he doesn't quite count as he is ashes in an urn). Jess is keen to keep in touch with Fred by text while she is away, but after a while he just stops responding. And her best friend Flora is now going to the exact same music festival Jess was supposed to go to! Jess can't help her paranoia about Fred working overtime. If Jess isn't careful, her worries are going to completely spoil her much-wanted visit to her dad. But when she gets there, it turns out that everybody has a surprise for each other. Needless to say, some work out better than others...

Review:

Girl (Nearly) 16: Absolute Torture is the third of Sue Limb's books I've read and it might just be my favourite. I continually laughed out loud while reading, and not many authors can make me do that. Aside from Louise Rennison, I'm happy to say that Sue Limb is my queen of contemporary British fiction. Her books are nothing short of hilarious!

In Absolute Torture, Jess Jordan finds herself dragged on holiday to St Ives with her mum and ancient granny. The plan is to visit her dad and scatter her grandfather's ashes along the way, but of course nothing goes to plan. Jess gets plenty of shocks in this story, as did I, though for once I did predict one or two things before they transpired. (Hurrah!)

Fred, Jess's equally funny and dashing boyfriend, features in Absolute Torture a lot, and I would have no complaints if he ever got his own book. Limb's excellent at writing boys as well as girls, and as a result Fred is almost as as funny as Jess. I wish these two were real and had achieved their dream of being stand-up comedians. I'd go and see their shows every night!

Absolute Torture has everything: realistic characters, murder-obsessed grannys, mothers wary of men and laughs aplenty. I read it in one sitting, while simultaneously cursing Sue Limb for making my sides hurt and congratulating her on being so entertaining. Teenage girls need to read this series; actually, they need to read everything this author has written. Not since Georgia Nicolson has a character made me laugh so much, and I am now desperate to read the other books in the series. The saga of Jess Jordan is very highly recommended - you'll be laughing for days!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Review: Swim the Fly by Don Calame


Publisher: Templar
Format: Paperback
Released: May 9th, 2011
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

Fifteen-year-old Matt Gratton and his two best friends, Coop and Sean, always set themselves a summertime goal. This year's? To see a real-live naked girl for the first time. But this mission impossible starts to look easy in comparison to Matt's other challenge: to swim the 100-yard butterfly and impress the gorgeous Kelly West.

Review:

I have one word for this book: hilarious! I was in my bed reading it and at one point I was laughing so much that I scared my cat away. And she's a tough cat. If you're wondering, it was Chapter 12 that tickled me so much. I couldn't believe what I was reading, it was so embarrassing and brilliant. Genius.

So, 3 15-year-old boys - Matt, Sean and Coop - make a pact to see a girl naked by the end of the summer. (You already know this isn't going to end well, right?) Matt also volunteers to swim the [butter]fly for his team, all in the hopes of impressing a cute girl. Boys + pacts + girls = American Pie, and we all know how that turned out. Have we learnt nothing from Jim and Stifler?! Swim the Fly is like a younger version of that film (which I love very much) crossed with the The Inbetweeners. There's nothing else I can liken it to, and hopefully that comparison will give you a good idea of what awaits you on these pages.

It's quite rare for me to read a YA book narrated by a boy; they seem few and far between. I love getting an insight into the mind of a teenage boy, and I kinda wish I'd have read Swim the Fly when I was 15 - I would have teased my boy friends non-stop! Just when I thought Matt couldn't possibly get himself into another tricky situation, along came a dress or a pool party. I think bad luck just followed him around, until he met Ulf the swim teacher. That dude was mental, but he knew what he was talking about!

Swim the Fly is the funniest book I've read for a long time, and one of only a handful to make me laugh without being able to stop. It's mostly about friendship, but you'll find some girls and swimming in there too. My only niggle is that I think it could have done with being a bit shorter. I was getting restless by the end of the 300+ pages, but as always I'm sure other readers won't even notice, or care, about the page count. Oh, and it's not for the faint of heart or younger readers, nor is it for people susceptible to hiccups from laughing too much. You have been warned!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Dust and Decay

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

-----

Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry

* Published by: Simon & Schuster (UK & US)
* Format: Paperback (UK), Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: September 29th, 2011 (UK), August 30th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.co.uk:

***Contains a couple of small Rot and Ruin spoilers!***

Six months have passed since the terrifying battle with Charlie Pink-eye and the Motor City Hammer in the zombie-infested mountains of the Rot & Ruin. It's also six months since Benny Imura and Nix Riley saw something in the air that changed their lives. Now, after months of rigorous training with Benny's zombie-hunter brother Tom, Benny and Nix are ready to leave their home forever and search for a better future. Lilah the Lost Girl and Benny's best friend Lou Chong are going with them. Sounds easy; sounds wonderful. Except that everything that can go wrong does. Before they can even leave there is a shocking zombie attack in town. And as soon as they step into the Rot & Ruin they are pursued by the living dead, wild animals, insane murderers and the horrors of Gameland. Because in the great Rot & Ruin everything wants to kill you. Everything. And not everyone in Benny's small band of travellers will make it out alive.

I read the first book in this series, Rot and Ruin, earlier this year and loved it (review here). Like serious OMG-I-can't-put-this-book-down love. I've never been a big fan of zombies in general (in books or films) but this one rocked my socks off - it's the best zombie book I've read! Maberry's world is bleak and desolate, but his characters literally jump off the page. I can't wait to see what he's got in store for Benny and Tom, and I just hope it's even half as good as Rot and Ruin.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Review: The Medusa Project - Double-Cross by Sophie McKenzie


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback
Released: June 9th, 2011
Grade rating: B+


Amazon summary:

Narrated by Nico, Double-Cross is full of telekinetic action as the Medusa Project team arrive in Sydney, Australia, for another exciting mission - and come face-to-face with two more Medusa teens: Cal, a boy who can fly, and Amy, a girl who can shapeshift...but who is double-crossing who?

Review:

I've been reading the Medusa Project series since the first book was published and I can't believe we're on the fifth one already! Double-Cross is the penultimate book in the series, and I think it's the most exciting instalment yet. There are so many revelations in this book, most of them pretty shocking. After the group travel to Sydney, Australia, Nico finally finds some information on his birth father, Geri Paterson's involvement in the project becomes crystal clear and there are even one or two new Medusa teens thrown in for good measure. Phew!

The new characters are great additions to the already large cast of characters and, even though I do love Nico, Ketty, Ed and Dylan, I think it's about time we got some new people to shake things up. Amy is Ed's younger sister who can shapeshift to look like anyone she wants (cool, eh?) and Cal is a boy they meet in Sydney with a clever knack for flying. Yes, actual flying. That comes in handy, let me tell you. Just when I thought Nico and Co. were doomed for good, in swoops Cal and swoops them off to safety. It's exciting stuff!

Nico is probably my favourite of all the Medusa narartors, so I'm glad this book returned to his POV. He acts like an idiot in this book though, and his jealousy over Ketty gets the best of him. I'm not sure I'm too fond of that side of him, but I can't wait to see what it means for their relationship in the next book. I think things could be very bumpy for them unless Nico gets his act together. I hope they come through it okay though, because I've been shipping those two from the start. Fingers crossed...

Double-Cross is possibly the most revelatory book in this series so far, and that's saying something. Although I didn't think the characterisation was as strong this time, I think the plot was at its best. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough, though now I wish I'd waited a bit longer to read it. The sixth and final book, Hit Squad, hits shelves in March 2012, and I am already holding my breath in anticipation. How will it all end? Will the Medusa kids get happy endings? I'll have to wait and see!

Monday, 20 June 2011

News: Amy & Roger's Epic UK Blog Tour!


Amy & Roger's Epic Detour is published in the UK on July 7th, and Simon & Schuster have put together a really fun blog tour to celebrate this amazing book. You can read my review here - I loved it, it's one of the best contemporary novels I've ever read. And it has a road trip!

Here's all the blog tour details, and click underneath the horizontal banner to be taken to an exclusive Spotify playlist with a selection of 12 tracks from Amy and Roger's actual playlists. Enjoy!


If you have Spotify, click HERE to listen to the playlist!


Sunday, 19 June 2011

In My Mailbox #126: New Books This Week


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

Another great week for books! The rest of my June pre-orders arrived, as well as some exciting surprises in the post. I'm looking forward to reading all of them - I can honestly say that every single one looks or sounds brilliant!


~




For review:
I haven't read the first in this series but I've good things!

This sounds really creepy and dark. Looking forward to it.

I haven't the read the first (Mercy) in this series either, but I do have it. I'll rectify that soon.

YAY!!! What a great surprise. Can't wait to dig in to this one.

  • Edda by Conor Kostick
A second copy which will be going to a good home. Great cover, eh?

I'm reading this at the moment and enjoying it, though I do have a few problems with the timeline and show continuity.

This sounds good and quite similar to Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall.

Hot cowboys! Texas! I'm in.

I really like this series and was even more excited to get this one as I noticed I'm quoted on the back and on the inside cover. SO COOL.


I hear this one is good for fans of Gossip Girl. Which I am. :D


~



Bought:
This sounds amazing and I love the cover. So pretty and velvety!

Another one that sounds like it'll be a great read. Dystopian too!

I thought this was a contemporary, but I've recently heard other things. I'm interested to see what it's actually about. Lovely cover too.




Happy reading and have a great week!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Review: Pretty Twisted by Gina Blaxill


Publisher: Macmillan
Format: Paperback
Released: May 6th, 2011
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

Jonathan and Ros meet online at a time when things are going sour for Jonathan. His stunning girlfriend, Freya, is away at college and they are growing apart - consequently, he is struggling with his own sense of identity. Ros is also experiencing some problems - one of her friends is dating an older man whose strange behaviour gives Ros cause for concern. Meanwhile, the local news has been reporting some kidnappings of teenage girls. So when Freya dumps Jonathan, then seems to disappear off the face of the earth, he enlists Ros' (somewhat reluctant) help in tracking down the girl he still loves.

Review:

Pretty Twisted is Gina Blaxill's debut novel, and it's a great way to start. It's fast-paced, intriguing, compelling and, yes, pretty twisted!

I'll be honest here, I did expect this book to be more shocking than it was. Does anyone remember The Hole, that brilliant, super-twisty film that was genuinely OMG-worthy? I thought it would be like that. The whole time, I was waiting for a big twist to hit me, so I could exclaim and wave my hands around in a "No way! Really?!" fashion. While the plot is clever to a point, I thought the ending was missing something. I think I just expected more, which is entirely my own fault and probably nothing to do with the book.

Ros and Jono are realistic characters, and I liked both of them. Jono is caught up in his girlfriend, while Ros is caught up in her friendship with Jono. They spin themselves into a tangled web when it emerges that Jono's girlfriend, Freya, is missing, and everything changes in an instant. They help each other and provide much needed support throughout the hunt for Freya, and both emerge on the other side as stronger people.

Blaxill covers a lot in Pretty Twisted, including the dangers of meeting strangers over the Internet. We all know this is stupid and not recommended to teenagers, and I wish Ros's father had taken a stronger interest in her actions and whereabouts. So, teens: don't do what Ros does. But if you have to, make sure you take an adult!

I enjoyed Pretty Twisted; it was one of those books that made me wish I could stay off work and finish it. Although the story didn't play out - or shock me - as much as I thought it would, it still kept me glued to the pages. I'll definitely be following Blaxill's writing career from now on, as this is a very promising start.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

News: Saving Daisy by Phil Earle - Cover & Exclusive Prologue!

The lovely Phil Earle, author of Being Billy, recently revealed the jacket for his second book, Saving Daisy. So here it is... what do you think? When I first saw it, I wasn't too keen on the model they'd used for Daisy. However, she's now grown on me, and I also love the bright red colour and that the design matches Being Billy. Oh, and there's a Morris Gleitzman quote on the back. It doesn't get much better than that!





Saving Daisy
isn't published until 2012 (Sob! Earlo fans - form an orderly queue behind me...) but Phil has given me exclusive permission to post the prologue. I don't know about you, but after reading this little snippet I wanted to read the rest of the book straight away. Talk about intriguing!

My name is Daisy Houghton.

I’m fourteen years old.

Six months ago I killed my dad.

It wasn’t pre-meditated or bloody. I didn’t even have to lay a hand on him.

Speaking to him was enough.

He didn’t know what was coming. How could he? All he was doing was protecting me. Doing what any parent would do.

I should have realised though. Seen the danger in what I was doing. That what I had to tell him was too great for anyone to carry.

If only I’d kept my mouth shut. If I had done, he’d still be around, and I’d be at home.

Instead I’m here.

In a room with plastic windows and a bed that’s bolted to the floor.

It’s not prison, but that’s where I deserve to be.

I know what you’re thinking by the way.

Where’s your mum? Why aren’t you home with her?

That’s the problem.

I killed her too.

Don't forget to check Saving Daisy out next year! And for more info, visit Phil's website or follow him on Twitter:

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Wildwood

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Wildwood by Colin Meloy

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


Info from Goodreads:

The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.


I don't know much about this book other than that it's a fantasy, it's middle grade and it's written by the lead singer of The Decemberists. (How cool is that?!) What actually caught my eye - besides the cover - is how I've read a few people calling it the 'American Narnia'. I love Narnia (I'd quite like to live there), I like middle grade books (especially fantasy) and The Decemberists are rather good at that music thing they do. Let's hope his writing rocks too!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand


Publisher: Egmont
Format: Paperback
Released: May 2nd, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

Clara has known she is part-angel since she turned fourteen two years ago. But only now, through fragmented visions of a terrifying bush fire, is her Purpose - the crucial rite of passage for every part-angel - becoming clear to her. When Clara meets Christian, the boy in her visions, he is everything she could wish for - so why does she also have feelings for her enigmatic classmate, Tucker? Clara discovers that her Purpose is only a small part of a titanic struggle between angels and their destructive counterparts, the Black Wings. And when the fire of her vision erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save?

Review:

I was a bit reluctant to read Unearthly after I heard that it was yet another book about angels. I've read quite a few recently and only one or two have stood out. I should have never worried about Unearthly, though, because it's brilliant. Seriously, it's like discovering a breath of fresh paranormal air after being trapped in a heavy fog for a couple of years. The writing is fantastic and I really couldn't tell that Cynthia Hand is a debut author; her prose is utterly compelling and her ideas manage to be original even with the abundance of angel novels I mentioned earlier. It's quite a long novel clocking in at just over four hundred pages, but the pages almost turn themselves. Can you tell yet how much I enjoyed it?!

Clara was a fascinating character and I loved how we found out about her purpose when she did. She's known she's part-angel for a couple of years, but she doesn't know everything about their heritage and the do's and dont's of the angel world. When she first found out about her purpose - when she gets a strange vision of a boy in a burning forest - her whole family upped and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or the "boonies" as it's referred to. That's how important an angel#s purpose is. Clara made a few friends in Jackson Hole pretty quickly: Wendy and her twin brother Tucker, mysterious girl Angela and Christian, the boy from her vision. Jackson Hole was the kind of place where boys (Tucker) dressed like cowboys and drove trucks like farmers. I like cowboy boys, and I am not above admitting that I swooned a few times. Tucker was like my ideal boy, so I was on his team from the start. The checkered shirts get me every time!

I thought the secondary characters were well-rounded and likeable, but I never really warmed to Angela. I get why she was important, and she was, but I thought Wendy was a much better friend who seemed to get left by the wayside. I couldn't help wondering if she was merely there as a way for Tucker to be in Clara's life, but I'm going to wait and see what pans out with her in the second book. You might have guessed that Unearthly is home to a love triangle, but don't let that put you off: it was a great one. I rooted for one boy right from the start, and I was happy with where his story took him. That's all I'm going to say about that, as there was always a clear winner for me. Whether or not I was right is something you'll have to find out for yourselves!

Hand's angel mythology got me hooked from the start, and I thought the whole thing was fascinating. These angels were different to any angels I've read about before, which really made the novel stand out. I'm still thinking about it now, about the wings and actual flying that took place throughout the course of Clara's story. I'm hoping we'll find out even more angel mythology in the next book in the series, as it was definitely the strong point of this one. It set it apart from the crowd and kept me interested and guessing all the way through the book.

Unearthly had a great setting, enthralling characters and one heck of an open ending. I have no idea what Cynthia Hand has planned for future books, but I think we'll see a lot more love triangle drama and some nasty angels on the scene. I'm so glad I read this book, and I think yu would be too. It's a must-read for fans of the paranormal - whether it be angels, vampires or werewolves - and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different. Roll on book two!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


Publisher: Mira Ink
Format: Paperback
Released: January 21st, 2011
Grade rating: C


Amazon summary:

My name is Meghan Chase. In less than twenty-four hours I'll be sixteen. Countless stories, songs and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset. I don't think it will be that way for me. Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school...or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical fairy king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face...and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Review:

I wanted to love The Iron King, I really did. For the last year all I've heard is how amazing it is and how it's the best book of 2010. Unfortunately I think my expectations were too high, and to say I'm disappointed is a bit of an understatement. I'm a big fan of all things faerie, but this book just didn't do anything for me. I can honestly say I didn't form a bond with any of the characters, and most of the time I felt detached from everything going on. It could be that I read it at the wrong time, but I'm not sure. I'm a bit confused as to why I seem to be the only person who didn't like it, so maybe it is me after all. Who knows.

It took me a while to get through this book, and I even put it down for a week and read some other stuff. I came back to it at around page 240, and what I read from then onwards I did start to enjoy. As Ash appeared more and Meghan stopped making daft decisions, I thought the pace picked up and things improved. For that reason I will still be reading the sequel, as I have a feeling I might like it more than this one.

I had no problems with Kagawa's writing, which flowed nicely and was peppered with some beautiful descriptions of the Nevernever. The importance of iron was also an interesting addition to faerie lore, and of course I liked Grimalkin. Who doesn't love a talking cat?! Ash and Puck were fun characters too, though I haven't been left with an allegiance to either of them. Usually I'm first in line to pick a team (Hands off Edward and Reth, guys!), but this time I don't really care either way. I think Ash probably just beats Puck, but that's because he has that whole tall-dark-and-handsome thing going on.

Sadly The Iron King wasn't for me, though I did give it a good chance and I finished it, as I do with every book I start. I'm genuinely sad I didn't enjoy it more than I did but, like I said, I'll still give The Iron Queen a go. I'm not one to judge a whole series by the first book, and hopefully I'll like the next instalment more. Wish me luck.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

In My Mailbox #125: 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'm very late posting this week's IMM because I was out late seeing Take That last night and had a blog tour to post today. Anyway, here it is! I've wanted to see Take That with Robbie since I was 5 or 6 years old in 1993, and this was the first time they've all toured together since 1995 I think. One more thing I can tick off the life to do list! They were AMAZING.


Now onto the books!

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For review:
I really like B. R. Collins' books so I hope this new one is good!

I've never read any of Mary's books so I'm looking forward to giving this one a go.

I read the trade paperback last year, and Walker have quoted me in the paperback along with some other UK bloggers. Very cool! My review is here.

Never heard of this one before but it sounds good.

  • Epic by Conor Kostick
  • Saga by Conor Kostick
  • Edda by Conor Kostick
This is another series I'd never heard of before this week. It sounds brilliant though, and I love the covers, especially Edda!

I already have a copy of this so this one will be going to a good home. Sounds like a hard-hitting read.

Half-mermaid! Cool!

I just finished this and enjoyed it. It's kind of a detective story with a great MC.

Looking forward to reading this!

I'm noticing a bit of a trend with YA books about heart transplants. I got another for review last week!

This is my third copy of this (hardcover, proof, paperback) so I really will have to read it soon. I think it will be good but a bit sad.

Love the sound of this one!

Great cover - very Arthurian. Hope it's a good read.


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Bought:
This was £5 and is similar to the Vampires book I have. I can never resist a book about supernatural creatures, although wolves aren't my favourite. ;)

I love the cover and sound of this one. I first heard about the US edition over at Steph's blog.

I never bought the hardcover of this so waited for the cool paperback (with lots of blogger quotes on the back!).

Saw this for £4 yesterday and thought why not!

I think I've already mentioned my teeny tiny (ha!) obsession with the Game of Thrones TV show. I LOVE IT. Can't wait to read the books, I'm so so excited. And this is a nice US boxset which means I don't have to crease the nicely bound spines. :D



Hope you all had a great week! Happy reading!

Immortal War Blog Tour: 10 Ways to Know You're Obsessed with Vampirates


Justin Somper's sixth and final Vampirates book, Immortal War, was published in the UK last week, and there's a blog tour to celebrate! The full listing of blogs and dates can be found here, and the tour ends on June 16th. Hope you've been enjoying it so far!

I think most people who know me know I'm obsessed with vampires. Pirates on their own, not so much (unless he's called Jack Sparrow), but if you put them both together then I'm on board. Vampirates is one of the coolest mash-ups I've ever heard of, so well done Justin - my vampire loving self approves! Here's 10 reasons you know you're obsessed. How many can YOU tick off?


~



10 Ways to Know You're Obsessed with Vampirates

  • You've legally changed your name to Lady Lola Lockwood.
  • You dress like a vampire pirate. Every day.
  • You're going to name your first child Grace or Connor Tempest depending which one arrives first. They'll be the greatest pirates who ever lived, with auburn hair and bright green eyes.
  • You refer to Justin Somper as 'The Captain'.
  • You vehemently refuse to see any of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Unless it has 'Vamp' in the title, you're just not interested.
  • You have a tattoo of your favourite Vampirates book cover. (Not recommended: your parents still haven't forgiven you!)
  • You practise swordfighting for an hour a day. You need to be prepared for when you meet Sidorio.
  • You attend Twilight movie premieres with a home-made banner saying 'Team Lorcan'. Your mission: to show every sparkly vampire fan what they're missing.
  • Instead of doing geography homework, you use the time to perfect your map reading skills. One day you'll sail on the high seas...
  • You part-own a boat. It took a *lot* of paying for!

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Find more info on Captain Somper and his vampirates at the following links:

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Review: The Taming of Lilah May by Vanessa Curtis


Publisher: Frances Lincoln
Format: Paperback
Released: May 12th, 2011
Grade rating: B


Amazon summary:

Lilah's Anger Diary, March 26th Anger levels: 11/10 I'm Lilah May and I'm ANGRY. So angry that I'm about to be excluded from school, my parents can't control me, and only one person in the world understands me. And that's my best friend, Bindi. I haven't always been this way. It all started with my brother Jay. And what no one realises is that it's all my fault.

Review:

I went into The Taming of Lilah May expecting it to be a fun, quick read. It was the cover that gave me that impression, which I now know wasn't entirely accurate. It's a great book, but not one I would necessarily call fun. It's serious and sad, yet still laced with the kind of humour that I immediately associate with Vanessa Curtis. This book actually affected me more than I thought it would, which was a surprise. A good one though.

Lilah is angry, but I'm not going to say why. I don't want to ruin the book for anyone, because how everything develops is best experienced from a spoiler-free standpoint. I will say that this book is about family and friendship, and hurt and guilt. It looks at the way one wrong action or sentence can change the course of lives forever, and how, once set in motion, certain actions are very hard to take back.

I think Lilah is one of those characters that will appeal to people, that will worm her way into their hearts. She's witty and so very angry, with her own 'Lilah-isms' made up to help her cope. My personal favourite is 'groo', a word I'm quite tempted to add to my every day vocabulary. It defines Lilah and her fun mindset, most of which is buried deep under her anger and despair.

I'm looking forward to more from Lilah and Vanessa Curtis, as she has a clever way of making her books a delightful mix of serious plots and edgy, contemporary dialogue. I wouldn't object to a longer page count either. I always find myself wanting to read on!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Author Interview: Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray)

Ruta Sepetys is the debut author of Between Shades of Gray, which was published in April. It's set in World War II and is about a young girl, Lina, caught up in the Baltic deportations that took place. I loved the book (it's my second favourite of the year so far!), so big thanks to Ruta for answering my questions!

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Can you tell me a bit about the extensive research you did in order to write Between Shades of Gray?

I took two trips to Lithuania while writing the book. During the first trip I outlined the general idea of the story. I took the second trip when I had started writing, but needed more clarity on the experience in Siberia. On that second trip, I met with historians, survivors, psychologists and conducted days of interviews. I also met members from a group of Lithuanians who had been deported to the Arctic. Their story of survival was just incredible. I was so moved by these people and just had to incorporate their experience into the book.

Why did you choose to write this story?

History holds secrets. But secrets can be painful and secrets can be destructive. When I was in Lithuania meeting with family members they told me that they had burned all of the photos of my family, because they couldn’t let anyone know they were related to my grandfather. And so many people in the Baltics had experienced the terror of Stalin but had never spoken of it for fear of the consequences. The stories of Soviet occupation and Stalin are rarely discussed. And it occurred to me, there are so many heroes that we’ve never had the chance to meet or hear about. We’ve never been able to celebrate their bravery or console their regret. They’re nameless and faceless. So I was inspired to write the book to honor the many people who were deported to Siberia by Stalin.

Did you ever think any of the content would be too harrowing for YA readers?

No, I think teens are incredibly adept at processing emotional complexities within a narrative. I find that adults are having a harder time with the sadness and injustice described in the story. Writing the book pulled me through the wringer emotionally. Every day I was left pondering questions like “What does it take to bear the unbearable? And “Who Survives? Would I survive?” I was left in awe of these people who managed to use suffering as a great teacher and somehow while everyone around them was dying, their will to live burned like fire.

What do you hope readers will take away from Lina's story?

I hope readers feel that through examining these tragic parts of history and learning from mistakes of the past we create hope for a more just future. These three small countries have taught us a large lesson about the miracles that are hope and courage and how to speak when your voice has been extinguished. And most of all - an affirmation of the force of life and power of love.

Although Between Shades of Gray is a story of evil and desperation, it is ultimately about hope. Did you set out to write it that way?

I set out to capture an authenticity of emotion and setting and unfortunately, that included a lot of horror and desperation. It was difficult because I was trying to address the search for self in the face of death. I owe the balance of hope in the book to my editor, Tamra Tuller. Many of her revision suggestions centered around amplifying the sense of hope. I enjoy bleak stories so my first drafts tend to be pretty depressing. My editor was fantastic, her suggestions added incredible dimension to the story but allowed me to retain the dark atmosphere I felt was critical to remain authentic.

I have a big interest in WWII, but I knew nothing about this side of it until I read Between Shades of Gray. Why do you think the Baltic deportations aren't as well-known as other parts of the war?

Discussions about postwar reorganization took place at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences in 1945. During those discussions, Stalin persuaded the Western allies to leave the Baltics under Soviet control – and they agreed. So the Baltics remained Soviet occupied until 1990. During that fifty-year occupation, those who experienced Stalin’s terror or deportation couldn’t speak of it. If they did, they would have been punished or arrested by the Soviet secret police. So the story went dormant.

You spoke to some real-life survivors over the course of your research, and as someone with personal ties to this story, was it ever difficult for you to learn more about your own history?

It was difficult to learn that I had been so ignorant. I had no idea, for example, that some of my grandfather’s extended family had been deported to Siberia. As I learned about their experience it occurred to me that all of the freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen perhaps came at the expense of my extended family members.

What are you writing next? Do you have any plans to return to WWII in the future?

I’m currently working on another historical fiction novel for Penguin that I’m really excited about. It’s set in New Orleans in the ‘50’s. After I finish the book I will start on another WWII story.

Thank you so much for having me here at Wondrous Reads!

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Related links:
  • UK publisher's: Site