Friday, 30 September 2011

Struts & Frets Blog Tour: Book Extract + My Favourite Music!

Struts & Frets, a music-themed book by Jon Skovron, is now published in paperback in the UK by Amulet Books with an awesome new cover! I like books about characters who love music, because music is a big part of my life and I don't think there's enough YA centred around it. Struts & Frets is a brilliant, funny, heartfelt read that I would recommend to everyone. Read the following extract and see what you think!

You can also view the extract a little easier by clicking HERE.


So, because Struts & Frets is all about music, I thought I'd write about some of my favourite music. Like I mentioned earlier, music is a HUGE part of my life. I have a very eclectic taste and like a bit of everything, but my favourite genre is still "emo" or "emo hardcore" and rock from around 1998 onwards.

I love music because it fits every mood, it makes me happy and there's almost nothing better than seeing your favourite band play live. Anyway, before I continure rambling for longer than this blog post should be, here's a list of my top 5 (actually 6; I cheated) musical people and accompanying YouTube videos. I recommend all these bands/artists to everyone!

1. Jimmy Eat World

Jimmy Eat World have been my FAVOURITE EVER band since summer 2001, when I first heard 'A Praise Chorus' on a free Kerrang! CD. After that I heard 'Bleed American' and that was basically the song to end all songs. They were the first band I ever saw live at my very first gig on November 9th 2001, when I was 14, and I'll never forget it. Their lyrics frequently make me tear up, and I think I've listened to their records more than any other. I've seen them in Manchester 5 times so far, and I'm hoping they tour again soon!

2. Coheed and Cambria

CoCa are SO close to Jimmy Eat World, but they just fall slightly behind. They're absolutely amazing - both live and on record - and they will always remain one of my all-time favourites. Their music is a sci-fi story, with each concept album adding to it. Claudio's voice is so unique and mesmerising, and when I met him he hugged me and I got lost in his giant afro-type hair. If you've never heard them before, you are in for a treat! Oh and here's a little fact: I own 14 different t-shirts. Most people I know have seen me wear at least one.

3. Brand New

I really don't know where to start talking about Brand New. I discovered them around 2001, when 'Your Favorite Weapon' started showing up in shops around here. Jesse Lacey's lyrics are unbelievable, his voice is magical and their CDs always brighten up my day (I'm listening to them now, in fact). They're an intense band, but I truly believe they're one of a kind. I have tickets to see them again next year, time #5, and I'm counting down the days!

4. Snow Patrol

Ah, Snow Patrol. One of the most amazing bands ever. The lyrics, music, Gary Lightbody... I love all of it. They're also amazing live, and have a similar intensity to Brand New. I was late getting into Snow Patrol - it was in 2006 at my first full-time job (Music Zone head office), just as 'Chasing Cars' was ruling the airwaves. I never looked back, and 'Final Straw' is an album that will always be one of my favourites.

5. Florence and the Machine.

Some people will know that I have a small obsession with Flo. She's like a goddess, full stop. Her voice is immense, 'Cosmic Love' and 'Blinding' have been the soundtrack to my life for a good couple of years now, and I've had the pleasure of seeing her live once. My friend and I were genuinely rendered speechless during and after the show, and on the way home we could only mutter one syllable words like 'wow' and things I can't possibly post here. Everyone knows who Flo is now, which is amazing. She deserves every second of her success... roll on Halloween and album #2!

6. The National

I couldn't do a top music list without mentioning these guys, who happen to be one of my more recent discoveries (early 2010, I think). All I'll say on the subject is please, please buy 'High Violet'. It's one of the greatest compilations of songs ever recorded, and I'm in love with Matt's baritone voice. Their songs have started cropping up on numerous US TV shows (Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries etc..), so they're well on their way to cracking the mainstream market. I cannot wait to hear what they come up with next!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor! (UK only)

Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone is published in the UK today and, thanks to the nice ladies at Hodder Books, I have one (1) shiny finished copy to give away!

Here's what Amazon says it's all about:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please', she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Here's the trailer, and you can see more at the official UK website: Daughter of Smoke and

Follow the book on Twitter at @HodderBooks and @SmokeandBone.

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

Fill in the form below to enter, and good luck!

Monday, 26 September 2011

News: Christopher Paolini UK Tour!

Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle: Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and the forthcoming final title Inheritance, is touring the UK this week. Here are the details of when and where you can find him!

For more info, see the Random House Facebook page here.

Wednesday 28th September
Time: 18.00-20.00
Forbidden Planet event
Christopher will be signing new editions of Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr

Venue: Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JR
Further information, visit

Thursday 29th September
Time: 18.30
Waterstones’ Deansgate event
Christopher will be participating in an event for ticketed attendees. Christopher will participate in a signing event for non-ticketed attendees following the ticketed event. Tickets are £5 and can be purchased on Waterstones’ website.

Venue: Waterstone’s Deansgate, 91 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2BW
Purchase tickets on

Friday 30th September
Time: 17.30-18.15
Event at Bath Children’s Book Festival
Christopher will be participating in a ticketed event at the Bath Children’s Book Festival. Christopher’s event will be followed by a book signing. Event tickets cost £5.

Venue: Bath Children’s Book Festival
Purchase tickets on

Saturday 1st October
Time: 11.00 – Noon
Headline event at Brighton’s

Christopher will headline Brighton’s Fantasy Con at the Royal Albion Hotel. Christopher’s event will include an on-stage interview with Stephen Hunt from SFCrowsnest and will be followed by an audience Q&A. Christopher will be signing books following the stage event.

Venue: Royal Albion Hotel, 35 Old Steine, Brighton, Sussex, BN1 1NT
Ticketing information can be found on

Sunday, 25 September 2011

In My Mailbox #140: 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've been working a lot more than usual just recently and have had almost no time to read or blog. I'm hoping to get back to normal very soon, as I have some amazing looking books to catch up on! (Apologies to my fellow bloggers for the lack of comments - will be back soon!)

Here's what was in my mailbox this week:


For review:
This is a fantastic series. Lovely cover too.

I really enjoyed Elixir when I read it last year, and I hope this one is just as good!

This was a nice surprise finished copy. It looks brilliant!

Sounds good!

Marcus Sedgwick is amazing. That is all.

I like Cathy's books and am looking forward to this one!


I read the whole of this book yesterday and enjoyed every page. If you're a Titanic enthusiast, this is a book you need to own.

This is the biggest graphic novel I've ever seen, but I love it. It's HUGE!

Ellen Hopkins... what more can I say?!

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Pocket Books
Format: Paperback
Released: February 2nd, 2009 (new ed.)
Grade rating: A-

Amazon summary:

Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.


I've had The Perks of Being a Wallflower on my shelf for a couple of years now. Although it's been published here in the UK as an adult novel, I'm pretty sure it's YA, though I could be wrong. While some of the content is a little more adult than young adult's might be used to, it's all relevant to Charlie's story and the growing up he does between his freshman and sophomore years of high school.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower uses first person narrative by a male teenager using the alias of "Charlie", and is told in the form of letters written to an anonymous person. It chronicles his freshman year in a Pittsburgh high school: the friends he makes, the loves he experiences and the realisations he comes to. At the start of the book Charlie is a wallflower: he's quiet and introverted, and prefers to watch life rather than participate in it. His one and only friend committed suicide at the end of the last school year, so Charlie is truly alone when we meet him. He reads, he writes, he cries, he's overly sensitive (at times this irritated me) and is the kind of good guy every mother hopes their daughter will be friends with. It isn't until he meets brother and sister duo Patrick and Sam that he starts to come out of his shell, and his journey of self-discovery is a fascinating one.

I found this book to be quite simple, both in style and content, but still I couldn't put it down. Charlie's life makes for compulsive reading, even though he's only going through the mundane, everyday tasks that most of us also go through. He experiences drugs for the first time, he gets his first kiss, drives his first car, yet all this normal stuff seems somehow bigger, more important when it comes to him. He over-thinks, over-analyzes everything, but it works for him and he sticks with it. His teacher, Bill, shows a belief in him that so far he's only seen from his Aunt Helen, and plies him with an array of books to read. Charlie realises that friends can come from all directions, and that being intelligent doesn't have to mean that all other, more fun, aspects of life need to be neglected.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is set over the years of 1991 and 1992, when Nirvana were just making it big with 'Nevermind' and underground bands were at their best. There are many pop culture references to books, films and music, including Rocky Horror Picture Show, To Kill a Mockingbird and 'Asleep' by 80's Manchester band The Smiths. I love any book that references other media, whatever form it may take, and this was just one extra reason why I enjoyed it so much. I actually felt like I was back in 1991, listening to 'Asleep' on a mix tape with the car windows down as I drove through a Pittsburgh suburb. That would have been impossible as I was only four years old in 1991, but Stephen Chbosky somehow transported me back to a time and a place that I could never have known. I wanted to be there, in that car, with Charlie, Sam and Patrick, feeling infinite just as they did in that moment, when music was all they had and it transcended everything. What a magical, amazing feeling that is.

I never for one minute expected to like The Perks of Being a Wallflower as much as I did, and I've since told myself off for leaving it for so long. I can see why it's a coming of age classic and I sincerely hope that 2012's movie adaptation will do it justice. I feel like I have a new friend in Charlie who, like me, will always have a part of himself that fits into the wallflower category. I think I'll be re-reading this one very soon, and I urge you all to read it too.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Frogspell by C. J. Busby

Publisher: Templar
Format: Paperback
Released: September 1st, 2011
Grade rating: B+

Amazon summary:

Would-be wizard Max, his sister (who wants to be a knight), two humorous pet animal characters - Ferocious, a world-weary rat and Adolphus, an over-enthusiastic young dragon, encounter magic, double-dealing, Morgan le Fay's schemes to win the throne from Arthur, magical quests and more.


Frogspell is the first in a four-book series for younger readers set in the time of Camelot, King Arthur and Merlin. It's funny, kooky and full of endearing characters or all shapes, sizes and disguises, and I can't wait for the next one! I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did, but I've always liked Arthurian legends and adaptations like the TV show Merlin, so I think I was always destined to like this fresh new twist on things. Plus, there's a dragon!

Max and his sister Olivia are fab characters to introduce this story, along with their companions Adolphus the dragon and Ferocious the rat. They get into all kinds of muddles and scrapes when Max accidentally turns himself and Olivia into frogs (orange with green spots and purple with red spots, in case you wondering), thanks to a wayward magic spell that has less than its desired effect. Many adventures occur, including meetings with Lady Morgana and the wise wizard Merlin, as well as Ferocious meeting an oversized lake pike and Adolphus discovering that his flying is actually quite wonky. Basically all a day's work in Camelot!

Frogspell also features illustrations by David Wyatt at the start of each chapter, all of which add to the story and make it that much more magical. My personal favourite piece of art is from the chapter titled 'Kidnapped', flying away with Ferocious on his back a big frog between his claws. It's a brilliantly fun book and I'm very glad there are more on the way - I just hope they'll be as good as this one. Oh, and Ms. Busby: if Adolphus ever needs a new home, please send him over to me!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

In My Mailbox #139: 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 received some really exciting books in the post this week, including Diamonds and Doom! Yay! I also got addicted to Downton Abbey and watched Series 1 just in time for the new series starting tonight. All in all, it's been an excellent week!

Here's what was in my mailbox:


For review:
YAY!! I love love love this series, but I'm sad this is the end.

I read, reviewed and enjoyed this one when I first read it in hardback. Great music-themed book.

  • Pure by Julianna Baggott (UK proof/ARC)
I think this is now my third proof copy of Pure. Better read it soon.

  • Sweetly by Jackson Pearce (UK proof/ARC)
Looking forward to this one!

I had never heard of this until it arrived but it sounds right up my street.

Already read and reviewed this one, and of course loved it. I keep all the paperbacks too though.

Looking forward to finally getting to this one too.

This was a nice unexpected surprise!

Sounds fun!

I read this one almost 3 years ago and am glad to see it now published in the UK!

I already read this months ago and it's one of my favourite contemporaries of recent years. I, along with some other bloggers, am quoted in this proof too. Ace!


I love Sophie Kinsella's books but have never tried these ones. The boxset was £5 - bargain!

As I mentioned above, I got addicted to this show this week. The companion book is fantastic.

This looks like my kind of thing, and Pete Williamson has done the illustrations. Double cool!

Just had to complete the Raven Mysteries collection. :D

Happy reading everyone!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Review: Secrets at St Jude's - Party Girl by Carmen Reid

Publisher: Corgi Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: August 4th, 2011
Grade rating: B+

Amazon summary:

The pressure's on this term for the Upper Fifths... There are new boyfriends and new parents on the scene, as well as the dreaded summer exams. But will the girls still find time for fun, and for each other? You can bet on it! A fantastic series full of romance and friendship - and a hefty dose of chick-lit glamour. Boarding school never looked this good!


Party Girl is the sixth (yes, sixth - where has the time gone?!) instalment in Carmen Reid's fantastically fun St Jude's series aimed at teenage girls. I can only compare it to Enid Blyton's St. Clare's and Malory Towers series for a modern audience, which I hope is a compliment of the highest order. The boarding school setting and ensemble cast of brilliant characters make for incredibly easy, compelling reading, and it's the kind of series that I never want to end. Please keep writing, Carmen!

Party Girl deals with a lot of different themes and issues, most notably missing parents, progressing relationships and looming school exams. Reid's characters, Gina, Min, Niffy and Amy, develop more with each book, which I'm grateful for. Too often a series can fizzle out rather than get better with each new book, but that's not the case here. Every time I finish the girls' latest adventure, I think it's the best yet. Then I read the next one and immediately want to change my mind. There's just something about Reid's portrayal of teen life and everything it brings, whether it be boyfriend trouble, exam anxiety or friendship issues. I could read these books forever!

I seem to remember reading that Carmen Reid will be writing a couple more St Jude's books. I'm so, so happy about this as I'm in no way ready to leave Gina and Co. yet. I need to find out what happens with her and Dermot, and whether Min aces her exams. I did miss Niffy's trademark pranks in Party Girl, and I'm hoping they'll be back in full force in the next book. I'm pretty sure I always say this, but if you're a teenage girl and have enjoyed books by the likes of Louise Rennison in the past, you definitely need to read this series. It's consistently entertaining and always a pleasure to read. Long live St Jude's!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

GIVEAWAY: Win Signed Copies of Sister, Missing by Sophie McKenzie! (UK only)

Sister, Missing, the highly anticipated to Sophie's bestselling Girl, Missing, is published in the UK tomorrow and the lovely folks over at Simon & Schuster UK are very kindly letting me give away some signed copies! I have five (5) up for grabs, signed by Sophie herself. Here's more info about the series - no spoilers, of course:

Lauren has always known she was adopted but when a little research turns up the possibility that she was snatched from an American family as a baby, suddenly Lauren's life seems like a sham. How can she find her biological parents? And are her adoptive parents really responsible for kidnapping her? She manages to wangle a trip across the Atlantic where she runs away to try and find the truth. But the circumstances of her disappearance are murky and Lauren's kidnappers are still at large and willing to do anything to keep her silent...

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

To enter, just fill in the form below. Good luck!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Review: Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done by Sarah Mlynowski

Publisher: Orchard
Format: Paperback
Released: August 4th, 2011
Grade rating: B+

Amazon summary:

April and her best friend, Vi, are living by themselves. Of course, April's parents don't know that. They think she's living with Vi and Vi's mum. But it's not April's fault that her dad decided to move away in the middle of high school. So who could blame her for a little white lie? Or the other nine things that April (probably) shouldn't have done that year...


Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done is such a fun, realistic contemporary novel, and is one of the best I've read this year. Each character is engaging and different, and their interwoven stories all kept me reading well past my bedtime. I remember I was at work wishing I could go home and see what happened next - I haven't had that feeling for a while!

Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done is Sarah Mlynowski's second YA book to be published in the UK, and I hope to read Gimme A Call sometime soon. She has a great writing style and knows teenagers inside out, never compromising their realism or making them seem overly fictional. Her characters get into dodgy situations that teenagers are renowned for and, although the occasional event may seem too exaggerated, for the most part it's all on par with teenagers today.

April, the book's incredibly likeable main character, ends up living with her best friend Vi in her parent-less apartment with room for a new hot tub. April is dating Noah, who is an attractive, seemingly perfect boyfriend. You can imagine what their lives are like when they suddenly find themselves unsupervised and able to do whatever they want - teenage chaos ensues, and it's not always pretty. There are of course lots of laughs, and I still can't believe some of the stuff they got up to. This book is definitely very well titled!

I read Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done when I just wanted something light and quick to lose myself in. It was exactly that, with more drama and more character development than I originally thought. I won't hesitate to read new Mlynowski books in the future, as I really enjoyed this one and still feel a little bereft at having finished April's story. Check it out if you're a fan of straight-up modern contemporaries - you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

In My Mailbox #138: New Books This Week

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

I had another great week this week - I especially can't wait to read Mister Creecher and Liesl and Po. (I've had proof copies for a while but haven't got round to them!) Sadly I hardly got any reading done this week, but I blame work!

Here's what was in my mailbox:


For review:





  • Green Rider by Kristen Britain (This was free when I pre-ordered Christopher Paolini's Inheritance).

Happy reading!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Review: Scream Street #12 - Secret of the Changeling by Tommy Donbavand

Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Paperback
Released: July 7th, 2011
Grade rating: A-

Amazon summary:

Just as Luke, Resus and Cleo are working out how to return the fifth relic, a whole new problem presents itself: Eefa Everwell's toddler niece, Poppy, has been replaced by a changeling! And the real Poppy is being held captive in the fairy realm by the evil Crimson Queen...


After eleven books there's still one thing the Scream Street series hasn't covered: fairies. Luckily book twelve, Secret of the Changeling, is here to fix that, and it does so with Donbavand's usual mix of wacky humour. In fact, it almost ends up as a horror parody of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, except this time it's Snow Fright and her Seven Ninja Dwarves. Chuckle!

If you're currently wondering just how the fair folk have ended up in Scream Street, I'll tell you. Poppy, Eefa Everwell's young niece, is replaced by a fairie changeling and is whisked away and held captive by the Crimson Queen. The Crimson Queen is very much like Queen Jadis from Narnia, or at least I thought she was. Basically she's evil and dillusional - everything you could want in a fictional queen!

Luke, Resus and Cleo, Scream Street's finest heroes, set off to save little Poppy, and along the way they encounter many a strange thing. It wouldn't be realistic if they didn't! It's a mad book, of course, but it's funny, clever and exactly what you've come to expect from this series. I love it!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Format: Paperback
Released: August 4th, 2011
Grade rating: A-

Amazon summary:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she's prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she's been in love with her brother's best friend, Alex, since forever. After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they've found them. In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers -and her mother's killer is one of them...


I wasn't sure what to expect from Hunting Lila. I knew it was a paranormal thriller, but I didn't know how much would be paranormal and how much would be thriller. I certainly didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but I'm still thinking about it a fortnight later. There are certain characters (Alex, ahem) that just won't leave my head, and that's obviously testament to how well Alderson wrote them. Or maybe I just have a thing for fictional male characters called Alex?! Hmm, I think I'll stick with my first reason...

Hunting Lila is pretty much everything I could have wanted from a debut novel. I soon got over the fact there are no vampires (hehe) when I realised how quickly I'd been sucked in to the addictive story and Alderson's brilliant writing that accompanies it. I totally believed in every single thing that Lila said or did, and I loved the relationships she had with her brother Jack and his beat friend Alex. These characters had practically all grown up together, and their bond was like unbreakable steel. Nothing, not even shocking, life-changing revelations, could tear them apart or make them lose faith in each other, and that aspect of the characterisation was by far my favourite. They all seemed so genuine and real, which is something I hadn't seen for a while.

I mentioned earlier that Hunting Lila had a paranormal theme, and it does, though it's not the focus of the entire novel. It's also not one of those twists where you really have to stretch your imagination to make it believable, which was also a nice change. The non-stop action and fast pace helped keep the book moving at a good speed, and I can honestly say there are hardly any slow parts. Or if there are, they're of the excellent romantic kind!

Hunting Lila had plenty of romance, but the kind of romance (and boy) who sweeps you of your feet from its first appearance. The chemistry between Lila and Alex literally sizzled on the page, and the fact that Lila's feelings were seemingly unrequited made the tension even higher. I was on the edge of my seat for a good portion of the book, there was just so much going on and so much to take in. It was very, very exciting!

So far, I've recommended Hunting Lila to everyone I possibly can. It's a fine novel - one of the best of the year - and I can't wait to see what happens next. Alderson has hit the mark with this one, and I'm sure there's someone out there just waiting to award it best debut YA release of 2011. Read it as soon as possible!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wickedness Blog Tour: Deborah White Guest Post!

Wickedness is now out in the UK (hurrah!) and, if you don't yet know what it's all about, here's more information from the fantastic Templar Publishing:

Two flame-haired girls, both fourteen and living in London, but four hundred years apart. A powerful and charismatic man, an Egyptian mummy and twenty spells written in hieroglyphics on parchment. An emerald casket, a gold ring and a ropewalker. All are united by blood and by a devastating prophecy.


Deborah White

A day in the life of Deborah White

I wake up early. 6am. Have two cups of tea, a bowl of cereal and clear up after my ancient cat Martha, aka The Phantom Widdler. Then, without getting dressed or having a shower, I start work at my computer. Luckily, when the editor rings at eleven to ask whether the schedule she’s e-mailed me for Book Two is workable, she can’t see me. (A friend skyped me from Australia only last week…totally forgetting I could see what she was doing. Gross.) I tell the editor the schedule is very reasonable. (what a massive porky. I’ll never get the book finished by then, will I?) I keep writing, spurred on with the thought of that deadline…and massive amounts of coffee, even though I’m writing total rubbish. Lunchtime. Phew. I get a cup of tea and a sandwich and watch Bargain Hunt. NOW I have a shower and get dressed. Sweet smelling and confidant, I ring my agent. “What’s the longest anyone’s ever gone over deadline with a manuscript?” “Fifteen years,” he says. I feel much better. Even I will have Book Two finished way before then.

Now I get to do the fun bit. Edit. Back at the computer I re-read what I wrote in the morning and suck in my breath in horror at that cheesy sentence, that clunky paragraph. Zip…out it goes. And by the time I’ve finished, the thousand words I wrote this morning has been cut in half. Oh ******. Suddenly fifteen years seems reasonable.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kill All Enemies Blog Tour: Melvin Burgess Guest Post + Giveaway!

Kill All Enemies by the brilliant Melvin Burgess is now published in the UK, and to celebrate Melvin is participating in a UK blog tour! I'm really excited to be hosting a stop on this tour as I've been a big fan of Melvin's writing for years. Anyway, over to him...


The Tranmere Community Center
by Melvin Burgess

Doing my research for Kill All Enemies, I visited a great many institutions in the North West - mainly PRU’s but also other places. One of the first was the Tranmere Community Project in the Wirral. The Tranmere is a charitable organisation for young people who have “disengaged from learning.” In practise, that means they’ve been excluded from school.

Like nearly all places dealing with disengaged teenagers, the Tranmere operates on not enough money and without much support on all sorts of levels. A lot of people and organisations tend to regard these places not so much as organisations designed to help young people with specific needs, but as dumping grounds and rubbish bins. For instance, the number of young people they have to deal with varies throughout the year depending on what was going on locally. Numbers go up steeply just before exams or if there’s an Offsteding nearby. In other words, schools want the child there most of the time so they can get their hands on the funds that go along with each student they have on their books – but want to offload them when it might affect their performance in other ways.

Bully for the local schools – not so good for the young people being shuffled from pillar to post, not according to their needs, but to the needs of the school. But that’s life; it’s school eat PRU out there. Despite coming, like the children it serves, at the bottom of the pile, the Tranmere has an excellent reputation and was often dealing with some very difficult kids.

At the time when I visited them, over two years ago now, the Tranmere offered a variety of different activities, ranging from cookery – fairly basic from what I saw – and PE and various lessons. Nothing all that different there from many other plaes I saw. But one thing that was different were the PD sessions.

PD – Personal development. At first I wasn’t very impressed. It looked like games. A group would sit around the table and be given some really very simple tasks. You might talk about which animal you’d want to be at the zoo, or what your dreams were, if you could be anything you wanted. Another one was called, “The Roles you Play.” With all the different people we are in our lives, we take on a different role. You might be loving with one person, a loudmouth with another, thoughtful with yet another.

Nothing difficult about it. I rather suspected they might be just keeping the kids occupied – giving them something undemanding and easy to do to pan out their time.

But, then someone starts talking. “Why do you want to be a baby deer, Lisa?” can actually be the start of something very revealing. Lisa might be being bullied at home, or she might want to be loved, or she might just want to look cute to other people; but there will be reasons for that, and by starting from such an innocent and easy exercise, you can end talking about the issues that are central to your whole life. That can be incredibly revealing, partly to the leader of the group, but mainly, of course, to the young person.

The overall effect is summoned up in the name of the game – Personal development. The kids at the Tranmere were by and large not well educated, had few advantages in life – but their self awareness was off the page. It was really remarkable. They could talk abut relationships, motives, feelings, themselves, other people. They knew exactly how they worked, what made them kick off, what made them tick - what their psychology was. It was quite a revelation for me – poorly educated kids who talked like psychologists.

In fact, many of those young people had a head start in this sort of thing anyway. Most of them had shared their lives with some pretty difficult sorts themselves, and there is nothing like unpredictable people around to sharpen up your people-watching skills. A lot of those kids, in some ways, are half wild – it’s their biggest asset as well as their biggest disadvantage – and they can tell where you’re going before you know it yourself. I often think that one of the biggest problems the teachers have with young people from disadvantaged communities is that the teachers are so disadvantaged themselves - the kids are always three or four steps ahead. It’s like trying to put a fat old tabby in charge of twenty or thirty hungry young wildcats.

But the PD sessions focussed that strength, and turned that quick vision onto themselves. The result was a group some of the most astonishingly self aware young people I’ve ever met.

All very fascinating. Of course you need to know the details of how places work, but in the end, if you’re researching a novel, it’s all about the people. I fact, the whole idea of this particular book was the people. I wanted real stories told by real people; it was just a matter of finding them. Over the years I’ve found that the stuff you want is usually right there, lying on the surface. If you have to dig, it’s not usually gold. The gold is right there, at the front of people’s minds. It’s the things that they know best of all. The trouble is, they don’t always realise that that’s what you’re looking for.

So towards the end of the day I asked the staff if there was anyone they particularly remembered – someone who stuck in their minds. They knew at once what I was talking about. The faces lit up.

“That’ll be our Billie,” they said. (Not her real name, I should add …)

Phone calls were made and Billie came in to have a chat. I’ll be talking about her and her story tomorrow at The Book Zone (for boys).



Thanks to Puffin, I have one (1) copy of Kill All Enemies to give away.

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: September 15th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Books will be sent out by the publisher.

Just fill in the form below to enter. Good luck!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Velvet Blog Tour: Extract, Trailer and Giveaway!

To conclude Mary Hooper's blog tour stop here at Wondrous Reads, I have an extract for you to read as well as a really exciting giveaway!

Firstly, click HERE to read the extract. And here's the brilliant trailer:



Thanks to Bloomsbury UK, I have one (1) set of Mary's historical fiction novels to give away, including: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, Petals in the Ashes, The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose, At the House of the Magician, By Royal Command, The Betrayal, Fallen Grace and Velvet.

Rules & info:
  • Open to UK residents only.
  • End date: September 14th, 2011.
  • One entry per person.
  • You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter.
  • Books will be sent out by the publisher.

Just fill in the form below to enter. Good luck!

Velvet Blog Tour: Mary Hooper Author Interview!

Mary Hooper's new book, Velvet, is published in the UK this week and is all about an orphan and a medium in Victorian England. Mary Hooper writes brilliant historical fiction for teens, with my current favourite still being Fallen Grace. If you haven't yet read it, or anything by Mary, I highly recommend you do!

I'm very happy to welcome Mary to Wondrous Reads as part of her Velvet blog tour, and I hope you enjoy the interview!


Hello Mary! Where did your interest in history and historical fiction first come from?

Probably after reading WITCH CHILD (Celia Rees). It made me see that historical fiction could be just as gripping as modern fiction. Besides, I was running out of ideas for modern stuff.

Have you noticed a recent surge in YA historical fiction popularity?

I haven't any facts or figures, but I'd like to think so. Certainly I'm getting more reviews and more emails and letters than when I started.

How much research does each of your books require?

This is a "how long is a piece of string" type question! One could keep things simple, just put people in period clothes sort of thing, or go the whole hog and research so closely that it would take days to write a paragraph. I usually take the middle ground: try and extract the essence of whatever time I'm writing about, pick some real people, find a few things that actually happened, get the fictional characters' names right, discover what they were wearing and what jobs they had, and then get going. I love researching and could happily go on for days; it's the best bit.

Your new book, Velvet, is quite haunting and seems like a change for you. What inspired it?

The idea for VELVET came about as I was writing FALLEN GRACE. One is about death/funerals/undertakers, the next about contacting the dead. I do like my books to have an "edge".

Velvet also includes a medium, Madame Savoya. Was this a popular profession during the Victorian period?

Absolutely. "Speaking to spirits" started in 1844 when two sisters in the US said that they were being contacted by a ghost, and quickly spread to the UK. It became very fashionable to consult a medium, and got to the stage where even Queen Victoria was said to have used a oujia board. Arthur Conan Doyle - the writer of Sherlock Holmes - was also a keen believer.

What is it about the Victorian period that you find so fascinating?

I find all history fascinating! All those funny little quirks. Maybe Seventeenth Century even more so than Victorian.

Can you tell us what you're working on next?

I have just started a book about a milkmaid whose sweetheart disappears, leaving her with his little sister to look after. She goes to London to look for him and...but I haven't quite decided what happens next, just that it all goes horribly wrong. It is set in 1813, which is Regency, and also involves the "hulks" or prison ships, which were moored in the River Thames.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

In My Mailbox #137: 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 really looking forward to reading some of the books I got this week, especially The Snow Merchant. I received some very nice surprises - thanks to all the lovely UK publishers who sent books for review!

Here's what was in my mailbox:


For review:
I already have this in hardback but haven't read it yet. Sounds ace - yay dragons!

  • Lies by Michael Grant
I haven't even read Hunger yet. Woops.

This sounds brilliant and unusual. I'll be reading it soon!

I read and reviewed this in hardback and really enjoyed it. My review is here.

I like this series and have been looking forward to this vampire instalment for ages!

I haven't read any of the Monstrumologist books but I do have them all. Will try to get to them soon as I think I'd love them!

This sounds great!!


I bought this because I saw it at work and it's pretty much the cutest book I've ever seen!

Happy reading!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

UK Paperback Cover Reveal: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is published in paperback here in the UK on September 29th, and today I'm allowed to reveal the amazing cover! I loved the hardback cover, but I think this one is now my new favourite. It's simple but conveys so much - brilliant!

If you want to know more about the book, here's a summary from Annabel's official site:

Ten-year-old Jamie hasn’t cried since it happened. He knows he should have – Jasmine cried, Mum cried, Dad still cries. Roger didn’t, but then he is just a cat and didn’t know Rose that well, really. Everyone kept saying it would get better with time, but that’s just one of those lies that grown-ups tell in awkward situations. Five years on, it’s worse than ever: Dad drinks, Mum’s gone and Jamie’s left with questions that he must answer for himself.This is his story, an unflinchingly real yet heart-warming account of a young boy’s struggle to make sense of the loss that tore his family apart.

...And here's the brand new paperback cover!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments :)

Friday, 2 September 2011

Fury Blog Tour: Elizabeth Miles Talks Dream Movie Casting!

Fury was officially published in the UK yesterday (my review is here; it's an ace book!) and I'm very excited to be part of Elizabeth's blog tour. Thanks for writing such a fun post, Elizabeth! Check out Writing from the Tub tomorrow for the next blog tour stop.


Elizabeth Miles

Dream Fury movie casting

Eek! When I was asked to write a guest post about Fury dream movie casting, I have to admit that I was a little freaked out. I know I've said a few things here and there on this subject (for example, I love Elle Fanning; I think Emma Roberts could do a good Ty; I adore Emma Stone...), but the truth is that I am not sufficiently “tuned in” to who's who in the teen acting world to speak with authority on it.

Soooooo, I thought that instead, I could describe a little bit about what I would say to a casting director—striking physical characteristics and personality traits I would look for among potential candidates. I would love to hear from readers (of the book and of this blog post) about who they think fits these character descriptions. I'll keep a running list of suggestions I receive along the way and update everyone periodically.

I'm including some reference points (i.e. actual actors and actresses), but you'll see that I'm all over the place in terms of age-appropriateness.

Em: Tall. Fit. Unconventionally pretty. Dark hair. Depth. Like Anne Hathaway, a little bit? Or Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), if she had darker features, was taller, and was popular.

Chase: Attractive, in a studied way. Pulled together, clean-cut. Josh Hutcherson-ish, because I think he can also do anger well, as he did in The Kids Are All Right. Or Chuck Bass.

Zach: Hot without even trying. Ability to be a total asshole but still seem appealing. I picture a Josh Lucas/Alex Pettyfer type – annoyingly attractive.

Gabby: Blond and cute. (In Book Two she cites Reese Witherspoon as her idol.) Truly kind, sparkly eyes, bright smile. Kristen Bell would work here physically but she might have a bit too much bite, personality-wise. Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On.

JD: Angular. Tall, if a bit gangly. Smart. Quirky. Ability to look not-hideous in weird clothes. You know, Penn Badgley on Gossip Girl but less pretentious?

Drea: Dark hair, dark eyes. Beauty hidden underneath makeup and sarcasm. Kind of like Lizzy Caplan in Mean Girls.

The Furies: All must be the kind of girls you would look twice at.

Ty: Supermodel-esque—height, hair, eyes. Assertive. Confident. There's this one picture of Emma Roberts with kind-of auburn hair that made me think she could do it.

Ali: Voluptuous, blond-bombshell type. Described in the book as looking like Scarlett Johansson. Wide, toothy, pretty smile (think Julia Roberts). Amanda Seyfried? Hayden Panettiere? Blake Lively?That sort of thing.

Meg: Elfin. Bird-like features. Think early Winona Ryder. Or Elle Fanning.


Chase like Chuck Bass?! Err, YES PLEASE! Now that is definitely a dream movie cast. Hope you're reading this, Mr Ed Westwick...

What do you guys think? Do you have any suggestions?

For more information on Fury and Elizabeth, visit the following links: