Sunday, 30 October 2011

In My Mailbox #144 & #145: New Books This Week + Blog Update!


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

I was at the Eternal Twilight 6 convention last week so didn't get to do my IMM. I did however receive some brilliant books in the post and I can't wait to get to them!

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I've been a bit quiet recently on the blog and that's because I've been doing a lot of overtime at work for the past 2 months. I'm finding I just haven't got as much time to read and write reviews, which is kind of annoying, but I'm hoping I'll be back to normal once my work hours settle down a bit. Also, I'm taking a quick break from YA to read Game of Thrones, as I've had it for months and really want to read it. I'm halfway through which means I've still got 400 pages to go. I love it, but wow is it a long book! Anyway, sorry for my absence and I really do hope to be back to normal soon. As you can see from the last fortnight's worth of review books, I've got a LOT of good stuff to read! As I'm sure all my fellow bloggers know, sometimes real life just gets in the way. It sucks, but hey, that's how it is.

Here's what I've got to look forward to in the coming weeks:


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For review:
  • Fracture by Megan Miranda (UK proof/ARC)

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Bought:





Have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Review: Perfect by Ellen Hopkins


Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Format: Hardcover
Released: September 13th, 2011
Grade rating: A


Amazon summary:

Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there. A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins’s Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up—and grow into our own selves. Because everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go?

Review:

I can honestly say that I don't think there will ever be an Ellen Hopkins book I don't love. This woman is one of my favourite storytellers, and I think her books are among the most important I've read. I know she's not everyone's cup of tea, whether it be because of her verse style or mature content, but I think she's amazing. Perfect is yet another example of the high calibre of her novels, and it was well worth the wait.

Perfect is a companion novel to Impulse, and runs parallel to Conner's story. Perfect focuses on four very different characters: Cara, Conner's sister, Kendra, Sean and Andre. Their lives are all linked in one way or another, whether it be through family, friends or romantic relationships, and each is experiencing some kind of struggle with perfection. For Kendra it's a fight with eating disorders, and for Sean it's an addiction to steroids to make his sports performance better. These teenagers are all going through stuff no teenager should have to deal with, and that's where this book really stands out. Hopkins once again shows that she doesn't care about censorship of sensitive subjects: she'll tell it how it is, with realism and a candid voice, and hope that her readers will get it and be helped by it.

Perfect isn't always an easy read. Bad things happen to characters you like, sometimes through no fault of their own, sometimes at the hands of others. It's an eye-opening story of perfection and perceptions and, like every other Ellen Hopkins book, it stayed with me for days after turning the final page. The conclusion especially is somewhat haunting, and those of you who've read Impulse will know what I'm talking about. I knew what was coming, but still I hoped something would happen to alter the narrative. Reading the same events from other people's perspective was an unusual way to learn more about Conner, but it worked so well. Everyone is so fleshed out and real, I was sad to get to the end and have to leave them. That, my friends, is the power of a Hopkins novel!

What else can I say, other than buy this book and every other book written by this author. Read them, learn from them and keep them pride of place on your bookshelf. I really believe they'll be some of the most important books I read and I'm sure they've already helped me in everyday life, in the way I see people and how I respond to issues and problems. I can't wait for Ellen's next book!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Scream Street Blog Tour: Exclusive Scream Street Story Chapter 2!




As part of the Scream Street blog tour to mark the end of the series and final book Flame of the Dragon (sob!), author Tommy Donbavand has written an exclusive short story that will be shared out between 13 blogs over 13 days. You can read the first part on Tommy's blog by clicking here, and the third part will be available at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books tomorrow.

Here's chapter 2 for you all - enjoy!


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Chapter Two

The Argument


Resus peered down the barrel of a very realistic sniper rifle as it protruded from the pages of Luke’s computer games magazine. “Identify yourself!” barked the paper soldier. “Name, rank and number!”

“This isn’t good,” Resus croaked.

Beside him, Luke continued beating at the zombies’ arms which reached out of his TV set, grasping for flesh. “Brains! BRAINS!”

“Cleo!” he yelled. “Get out of here while you still can!” What appeared to be a foot was beginning to stretch out of her notebook.

The mummy stood up and sighed. “You two are hopeless,” she said. Calmly putting her notebook and its emerging foot aside, she produced a magic wand from her bandages and waved it, muttering a spell under her breath. The yellow star at the end of the wand flashed. Instantly the US soldier and his rifle sank back into the glossy paper of the magazine, the zombies retreated into their game and the foot vanished.

The boys slumped onto the bed, struggling to catch their breath.

“That was you?” gasped Resus. “You made those things attack us?”

“I didn’t make them attack you,” said Cleo. “They were just doing what came naturally. If you weren’t both obsessed with violent games, you’d have been perfectly safe.”

“You can’t blame this on us!” snapped Luke. “What is that thing?” He reached for the magic wand.

Cleo quickly pushed the wand out of sight. “It’s ... for my project.”

Luke shook his head and started to pick up the broken pieces of lamp. “I might have known.”

“Hang on,” said Resus. “What project?”

Cleo sat down in the armchair again and opened her notebook. “Nothing to do with you.”

“Oh, so now you’re keeping secrets as well as trying to kill us?”

“I didn’t try to kill you!” Cleo insisted.

“All right,” said Resus. “Maybe you didn’t, but you conjured up some monsters to do it for you!”

“They weren’t monsters,” said Cleo. “They were characters.” She picked up her pen and started to write again.

“Don’t ignore me!” cried Resus, snatching the notebook from the mummy’s hands.

Cleo jumped up and grabbed the notebook, pulling it towards her. “Give that back!”

“Guys, stop it,” said Luke.

Resus ignored him and continued to glare at Cleo. “Why should I give it back?” he growled, pulling the book back towards himself.

“Because it’s private!” snarled Cleo, pulling the notebook in her direction.

“Listen to me!” Luke said firmly.

Resus tugged at the book again. “So, you are keeping secrets from us.”

“No!” shouted Cleo. “It’s just got nothing to do with you.”

“What’s so special about it?” yelled Resus. “Is it details of your next plan to try and bump us both off?”

“Of course not!” hissed Cleo through gritted teeth. “Don’t be an idiot!”

“Stop it!” shouted Luke. “Cleo, just tell him what you’re doing.”

“All right,” said Cleo. “If it will stop him acting like a baby.” She fixed Resus with a furious stare. “I’m writing a novel.”


~



Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mantelpiece Musings Blog Tour: Annabel Pitcher's Playlist for Jas!



If you haven't yet read Annabel Pitcher's debut novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, then you're really missing out. It's one of my favourite books of 2011, and Annabel is one of those lovely people you wish you could steal and talk to on a daily basis. Both her and her book are brilliant, and I urge you all to pick up a copy!




To celebrate the UK release of the paperback, Orion have put together a cool little blog tour, and I was lucky enough to get the music side of things. As you can see, Annabel - and character Jas - has excellent music taste. It's impossible to go wrong when my second favourite Offspring song is included, as well as some songs from up north where I'm from. What do you think? Did any of your favourites make the list?

Thanks for the post, Annabel!


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Annabel Pitcher


Jas’ iPod…


Below are the songs that feature in the ‘most played’ list on Jas’s iPod. Some of them are loud and angry, some of them are soft and sad, and a couple are just so feel-good that they make you want to get up and dance around the room. Some remind Jas of Leo, and one of the songs makes Jas think of Jamie. Some are her parents’ favourites that Jas listens to whenever she feels a bit sentimental, and a couple were played at Rose’s funeral and help her feel close to her sister. Every single song on this list is worth listening to (Jas has great taste in music – far better than me). Click through them all and see if you can guess which song is which...


  • You really got me – The Kinks
  • London calling – The Clash
  • Ever fallen in love – Buzzcocks
  • Hero – Nickleback
  • Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
  • The Libertines – Can’t stand me now
  • Teenage kicks – The Undertones
  • Losing my religion – REM
  • Holiday in Cambodia – The Dead Kennedys
  • Take me Out – Franz Ferdinand
  • All the small things – Blink 182
  • Fat Lip – Sum 41
  • Life on Mars – David Bowie
  • That’s Entertainment – The Jam
  • Walk Away – Franz Ferdinand
  • When I Come Around – Greenday
  • Rancid – Ruby Soho
  • Want You bad – The Offspring
  • Time of Your life – Greenday
  • Stand by Me – Pennywise
  • Wanna be sedated – The Ramones
  • I don’t wanna miss a thing - Aerosmith
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Greenday
  • I wanna be your boyfriend – The Ramones
  • Please, please, please let me get what I want – The Smiths
  • We are all we have – The Casualties
  • Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
  • Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
  • Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye – Leonard Cohen
  • Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve
  • Anarchy in the UK – Sex Pistols


Sunday, 16 October 2011

In My Mailbox #143: 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 ace week this week... can't wait to read all my new books! I'm away at a Twilight convention next weekend (yay!) so there will be no IMM, but I'll add it to the week after.

Here's what was in my mailbox this week:


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For review:

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Bought:





Happy reading!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Review: A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard


Publisher: Templar
Format: Paperback
Released: May 1st, 2011
Grade rating: B-


Amazon summary:

Skip's an outsider. He's never fitted in. So he takes to the streets. Life there may be hard, but it's better than the one he's left behind, especially when he teams up with Billy, an old homeless man. Then come the bombs which bring little Max and Tia, the sad dancer with a tiny baby. Scavenging for food, living on love and imagination, Skip's fragile new family tries to hold out as war grips the city, but too soon tragedy strikes when Tia dies. Max, Billy, Skip and the baby move on, to an old farm where they try to find new hope.

Review:

I don't know what I was expecting from A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, but it wasn't what I got. What I got was a touching story of family and courage set amongst a post-apocalyptic backdrop of war and desolation. It's a short book, but it's one of those that doesn't need hundreds of pages to get its point across. Millard's writing is sharp and succinct, which suits Skip and his story perfectly. Skip's a simple soul, and after being abandoned by his father and numerous foster homes, he lives on the street. It's not until war ravages the streets where he resides that he meets anyone he can call a family, and for him the war brings with it something beautiful.

Skip meets Billy soon after the bombs fall, and together they do their best to stay alive. Along the way they also find a small boy who's lost his mother, as well as a young girl, Tia, with a baby they name Sixpence. Billy is the strength and knowledge of the story, he's an old man so he's seen everything and lived through a lot. He passes his wisdom onto Skip as the story progresses, and Skip in turn becomes a wise boy who I'm sure is destined for great things. He forms a bond with Billy that becomes like that between a father and son, and he also treats Max as if he were his own brother. These unlikely survivors all find solace in each other's company, and they create their own sense of family. It's a lovely thing to read about, and it's what has stood out most about this book.

Although I liked all the characters and what they stood for, I still feel like something is missing from A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. Maybe it's that the war was never explained, so I never knew why these people were on the run. I'd like to say it didn't matter to me, but it did. I'm a great lover of detail and backstory, and that's where I think this book was lacking. It gets top marks for being character driven, but it wasn't enough for me. I was, however, very impressed with Millard's writing, and I'm actually really looking forward to reading more by her. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark is a short novel I'm sure a lot of people will love, it just didn't hit the right spot for me. Do give it a go, though, as it's an uplifting, hopeful story with a main character you can't help but root for.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: Shatter Me

Waiting on Wednesday idea from Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

* Published by: HarperCollins (US)
* Format: Hardcover (US)
* Release Date: November 15th, 2011 (US)
* On Amazon: here


Summary from Amazon.com:

"You can't touch me," I whisper.

I'm lying, is what I don't tell him.

He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him.

But things happen when people touch me.

Strange things.

Bad things.

No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.

But Juliette has plans on her own.

After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.



This sounds really OMG-good. I want to know why Juliette's touch is fatal. I want to know what her plans are and why she's had a lifetime of without freedom and I want to know NOW. Plus, Carla tells me it's amazing, which from her is very high praise indeed. Can't wait to read it!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Review: Stitch Head by Guy Bass


Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Format: Paperback
Released: August 1st, 2011
Grade rating: A-


Amazon summary:

In the maze-like dungeons of Castle Grotteskew, the frightfully insane Professor Erasmus conducts his bizarre experiments on living things. His very first creation has been long forgotten - a small, almost-human creature, known only as Stitch Head. Poor Stitch Head has spent years vying for attention amongst a menagerie of freakish monsters. When a travelling circus ringmaster, Fulbert Freakfinder, promises to make him a star, Stitch Head wonders whether there is another life for him. But first he has to catch the professor's latest creation - a monstrous three-armed creature that's just smashed its way to freedom...

Review:

Stitch Head is a new gothic children's novel similar in style to The Raven Mysteries and Undead Ed, and is the first book by Guy Bass that I've read. It's funny and kooky, while at the same time heartfelt without being mushy. It's also full of monsters, castles and mad scientists - what more could you want?!

Stitch Head is about a tiny boy who was Professor Erasmus's first ever creation. Erasmus makes all kinds of monsters with multiple limbs or missing eyes, and he does all this within the walls of Castle Grotteskew in the town of Grubbers Nubbin (population: 665). Poor little Stitch Head has been forgotten by the professor, so spends all his time roaming the castle ensuring that no new monsters eat anyone. Nothing changes for him until Fulbert Freakfinder's Travelling Carnival of Unnatural Wonders arrives in town and offers to make him unforgettable. Things don't go quite to plan, though, and Stitch Head finds himself on a very big adventure for a boy his size!

I loved this book right from page one. Stitch Head is a character right up my street: he's flawed, tiny and very, very brave. I felt really sorry for him and his loneliness within Castle Grotteskew, and I was glad when he made friends with a new creation called Creature. Over the course of this book, Stitch Head realises how important friendship is and how forty years of being a cobweb magnet doesn't mean he can't go out and almost-live. Aww!

My favourite children's illustrator, Pete Williamson, is a huge part of this book, and he makes Stitch Head and the other characters and settings come alive. He's made Stitch Head look like a cute, tiny boy that gets clothing tips from Dennis the Menace, while Castle Grotteskew looks super gothic as it looms over the town. He and Guy Bass make a great team, so much so that I'm very much looking forward to the next Stitch Head book. This series is definitely one for fans of The Raven Mysteries and Scream Street - it's dark, monstrous fun!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Between Blog Tour: Jessica Warman Guest Post!


Jessica Warman's Between is now published in the UK, and Jessica has written a great guest post for me as part of the blog tour. In case you don't know what the book is about, here's a summary from egmont.co.uk:

Only the good die young. Right?

Elizabeth Valchar has it all: friends, money, beauty, a cute boyfriend and assured popularity. But on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, she is found drowned next to her parents’ boat.

Everyone thinks it was a tragic accident – teens drinking on a boat, a misstep leading to a watery death. But Liz is still here after death, and she doesn’t know why. There are gaps in her memory.

Her only company Alex, a boy killed by a car a year earlier, Liz sets out to piece together her life.

But their small coastal town is hiding many secrets – about families, boyfriends and friendship. Plus, Alex hates Liz for being mean when they were alive. Was she as squeaky clean as she thinks she was? Could it be that she herself is hiding the biggest secret of all?

Can Liz discover the truth? And if she does, who can she tell?

An engrossing, compelling thriller that peels back the layers of small-town life to expose true, ugly, cruel human nature.


Hope you enjoy, and thanks again to Jessica!


~

Jessica Warman

As I’ve gotten older (I’m thirty), I find myself reflecting on the past quite a bit, thinking of how things might have turned out differently if I’d made different choices. The question of regret is interesting and complex to me, because so often life is such a gray area when it comes the validity of our choices.

Here’s a specific example for you: I began my college career at a prestigious private university, where I’d been given a full scholarship. For some reason, I couldn’t get comfortable there. In hindsight, I don’t really understand why. I had good friends, and we had plenty of fun times in that first semester. I enjoyed my classes. I had a boyfriend. Everything was good – but for some reason, I decided to leave. To my parents’ immense disappointment, I transferred to a large (non-prestigious, academically unremarkable) state school, where I didn’t have a scholarship.

The first time I stepped into my new dorm room at that new school, my roommate was sitting on the floor playing a video game (Tony Hawk Pro Skater) with a boy who, I would later learn, lived just a few doors down the hall from us. He turned around to look at me – the new girl – and I’m not kidding you at all: the moment I saw his face, I felt a jolt of something go through my body. It was the first time in my life that I’d met someone and felt instantly connected to them. I was a goner.

Two years later, I married that boy. This year we will celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary.

A few months ago, my husband and I took a road trip and stopped to visit the school where I spent my first semester. I was astonished to realize that it was beautiful in pretty much every way: a gorgeous campus in an intimate setting in a lovely small town. And I’d had a full scholarship! What in the world ever motivated me to leave?

It was an odd feeling that day at my old school, as I walked around campus, considering all the ways my life might have turned out differently if I’d stayed. Even my husband said to me, “you’d have to be crazy to transfer from this place.” And he’s right. I still don’t really understand why I left. All I know is that, if I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have met him. Our two daughters would not exist. Everything would be different. It was strange to consider that idea, the possibility that there was a whole other life waiting in the wings for me, depending on what I chose. To be clear, I don’t regret any of my decisions; but what if things had unfolded differently? What if I’d never met my husband, or had a terrible time at my new school? Would I have spent the last 12 years wondering why the hell I ever chose to leave that beautiful little campus behind, regretting my decision to do so?

I think it comes down to this: it’s not productive to regret choices we made, when we had no possible way of predicting their outcome. We’re all doing the best we can, struggling together to keep our lives full and organized and satisfying. It’s not always easy. Life is full of missteps for everyone, no matter how prepared we might try to be. A bad decision (or many bad decisions) doesn’t necessarily make someone a bad person.

When I think about the things in my life that I truly regret – the things that eat away at me sometimes – there is one common thread weaving them all together. I regret the times in my life when I chose anger over compassion, cruelty over kindness, or my own self-interest over a greater good. What’s most interesting to me about this is that I regret these actions regardless of their consequences. It’s not a matter of thinking, “If I’d been kinder, the situation would have had a better outcome.” It’s only: I should have been kinder. Period. End of thought.

I think this is an important theme in BETWEEN, because Liz’s life is full of regrets. But when you examine her poor choices, you aren’t necessarily meant to come away from the book thinking, “well, if she’d been nicer, everything would have turned out differently.” The outcome isn’t really the point; it’s her actions that matter. At any given time, all we have is this moment. Nobody can predict the way our lives will unfold; even the most careful planning can be thwarted in a split second. What’s important, I think, is to be able to look back on life and say, “I did my best to be kind to others.” If I’m able to do that, I don’t think there is much room for regret.


Sunday, 9 October 2011

In My Mailbox #142: 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 book week this week, with lots of surprise parcels and some pretty cool purchases.The rest of my week was less good, but that's another story. I'm glad to finally be back into my reading!

Here's what was in my mailbox this week:


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For review:
Sounds good!

I'm quoted in the inside cover of this one. SO EXCITED!

I really want to start the Percy series, so I might just do that soon!

This one sounds intriguing..

Not sure this is my thing but I'll give it a go!

Hmm.

The first book in this series was okay, but I didn't love it.

Sounds funny!

I've been meaning to read this for ages. Yay!

Again not sure about this one but it's worth a try!


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Bought:
I bought the red cover edition that's exclusive to WHSmith (where I work) and the Waterstone's exclusive because it's signed and numbered and has an extra chapter from Patch's POV.

I asked for fantasy recs on Twitter last week, and Kirsty at The Overflowing Library recommended this one. Looks good!

I LOVED the first book in this series. Can't wait to read this one!


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Gift:
I couldn't go to Laini's launch event in London last Monday so my friends at Hodder sent me a signed copy of the book. YAAAY!

My friend Amanda saw this pretty cheap so got me a copy as she knows I collect Narnia books. It's a nice hardback special edition one. :D





Hope you all have a great week and read some good books!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Midwinterblood 7 Event Blog Trail: Marcus Sedgwick Guest Post!


I don't really think Marcus Sedgwick needs an introduction, so I'll just say this: if you've never read one of his books, please do so soon. He's one of the best authors to come out of the UK!

This week (yesterday, if I'm being specific) sees the publication of his new book, Midwinterblood, and to celebrate there have been real-life events going on all through England. The last leg of this is taking place on 7 blogs, and I am today's stop. Marcus has written a great post for me about - what else?! - vampires!

As a little extra from the lovely Orion publishers, you can visit an exclusive URL HERE to be taken to a secret page on Marcus's website, where you'll be able to find additional content - a book extract, perhaps... Enjoy!


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Marcus Sedgwick



It’s true. Years ago I was amazed to discover that vampires were known to the Vikings, at least, if their sagas are to be believed. In a couple of them, the Eyrbyggja Saga for example, the bodies of those slain rise from the dead, causing havoc, slaughtering animals and men, and blood flows.

Some readers interpret these revenants as ghosts, but what, after all, is the difference between a ghost and a vampire? Not such a great deal. Both are spirits who, for whatever reason, come back after death, and the main difference is the association of blood drinking on the part of the vampire, the lack of corporeality on the part of the ghost. And yet, go back in time, and vampires, at least in the original folklore, are very rarely described as drinking blood, and the main difference seems to be more to do with where you lived, not what the revenant actually was. Eastern Europe has a strong vampire tradition, England does not. What we have here is ghosts. And yet, we dealt with ghosts in exactly the same ways that our Transylvanian cousin dealt with vampires: a stake through the chest, or mouth for example. Or better yet, both. To the superstitious mind, both of these frights, the vampire and the ghost, are just people trying to come back, with unfinished business to conclude with the living. And so are the viking vampires: often the victim of a domestic quarrel, the aggrieved party return after death to try and claim what they believe to be theirs: in the case of Midwinterblood, two children, twin brother and sister, whose uncle returns after death, claiming them as his own.


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Don't forget to visit the secret link HERE, and visit marcussedgwick.com for more info on the man himself!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

US Vs. UK: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Covers

US // UK

I'm rather fond of both of these covers, though the UK wins it for me. I've seen our cover in person and at first I wasn't too sure about it, but then I saw it again at the Hodder offices and I couldn't stop saying "Ooh" as I stared at it in wonder. It's like its shininess cast a spell on me! Now I really do love it, the whole design and effect it gives off; plus it has a pretty ace back cover quote from Patrick Rothfuss! Anyway, I digress.

The US cover seems nice enough (haven't seen this one in real life - is it shiny? Foiled?), but something about it just seems a little off. Not sure what exactly, though I think it could be the eye mask. Also I'm not overly keen on the title font - I think the UK font is much cooler. That could well be something to do with the UK book being a crossover title (shelved in the adult section!) and the US one being YA. I think both these covers suit the target audience perfectly, and I would actually be happy to own either.

So, how about you? Do you have a favourite, something you particularly like about either cover? Let me know!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Review: Reel Life Starring Us by Lisa Greenwald


Publisher: Amulet Books
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 1st, 2011
Grade rating: B/B+


Amazon summary:

Rockwood Hills junior high is known for its competitive academics and for the close-knit cliques that rule the school. When new girl Dina gets the opportunity to do a video project with queen bee Chelsea, she thinks this is her ticket to a great new social life. But Chelsea's own life has bigger problems than Dina can imagine - and the new girl might just get caught in the middle.

Review:

Reel Life Starring Us is the first of Lisa Greenwald's books I've read and also just happens to be the best MG book for girls I've read in ages. It's set during Chelsea and Dina's eighth grade year, includes lots of handy film tips and techniques and is all about being yourself and accepting others for who they are. Honestly, it's got great messages for teenage girls - every school library should have a copy!

The book is narrated by our two main characters, Chelsea and Dina. Now Chelsea is the rich, superficial popular girl with horrible friends, while Dina is the new girl trying to fit in in her new school. Dina was popular at her old school, but at Rockwood Hills she's seen as weird and a bit too out there. She carries a camera and videos stuff, and this little hobby is what gets her paired with Chelsea for a class project. Instead of switching partners like she wants to, Chelsea continues to work with Dina and soon changes her tune. She realises that her friends aren't nice people to be around, and that Dina is actually a lot cooler than she seems. After a family secret is brought into the limelight by her so-called friends, Chelsea really reassesses her friendships and makes some conscious changes to her school life.

Both of these girls are written so well and I'm sure every teenage reader will see a little of themselves in them, or at the very least someone they know. Changing friendships and eye-opening situations are things everyone goes through in school, so in that respect Dina and Chelsea are absolutely no different. I do think some of their problems are a bit trivial to be given so much attention, but then again everything can seem magnified when you're 13 and finding out who you are.

I enjoyed Reel Life Starring Us, for all of its important messages and its realistic portrayal of middle school. The mean clique were slightly too over the top for me at times, but without them the story would be a lot different. I think teen girls will love this story of acceptance and understanding, and it certainly won't be the last of Lisa Greenwald's books that I read.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Review: The Raven Mysteries - Diamonds and Doom by Marcus Sedgwick


Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 6th, 2011
Grade rating: B+/A-


Amazon summary:

Join the wonderfully weird Otherhand family and their faithful guardian, Edgar the raven, and discover the dark secrets of Castle Otherhand. In the sixth of the Raven Mysteries, all manner of disaster descends on Castle Otherhand; weirdness abounds, the family are on the verge of being thrown out of their own home, and there's still no sign of the fabled treasure of the Otherhand. Worse still, there's no sign of Edgar, either. So will it be diamonds or doom for the Otherhands?

Review:

Well, this is it. The time has come. Marcus Sedgwick's ridiculously funny, mental tales of the Otherhand family have reached their end. I'm sad, as I knew I would be, but I'm also glad I can now go back and re-read the whole series. I'm also extremely excited about Marcus's new children's series next year, which will see both him and illustrator Pete Williamson reunited once again. I can't wait!

Anyway, I must go back to Castle Otherhand for a moment. Diamonds and Doom is, I'm happy to say, the most nutty, mad instalment yet. And what a way to end the series! There are strange monsters roaming the hallways, vortexes, magic spells, people turning to stone, Rob the new little raven and even a helping of prehistoric creatures. Basically everything you never thought you'd see in a Raven Mysteries novel! Each character handles the madness well, of course, with Solstice uttering many a "gasp!" and Cudweed being braver than usual. Even Lord Valevine seems genuinely worried, until it all becomes apparent that he just doesn't want to have to stop conducting his useless experiments. All in all, it's an Otherhand adventure like no other!

Pete Williamson's fantastic illustrations are on top form as per usual, with my favourite from this book being Edgar the raven in his holiday clothes standing in front of his suitcases. Hehe! I also learnt even more about the Otherhand family from the small nuggets of information at the start of each chapter, and I now know that Nanny Lumber scares fish and that a poor little mouse once got singed in a castle fire. How awful!

If you ever just want to read something wacky and laugh-out-loud funny, please, please pick up the Raven Mysteries series. It starts with Flood and Fang, spans six books and is my all-time favourite series for younger readers. I can give it no higher praise than that, but I think that's probably acceptable. As Edgar, and now young Rob, would say: Futhork!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Dark Inside Blog Tour: Jeyn Roberts Guest Post!


Dark Inside has been out in UK bookshops for a good few weeks now, but in case you've missed it, here's more information from Amazon.co.uk:

Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to some people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known all her life; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost!

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen - now it's our turn!



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Jeyn Roberts


A Writer's Early Career


Hi everyone! I’m Jeyn Roberts and I’m the author of Dark Inside.
I’ve been asked to do a guest post on a writer’s early career. Being that every writer’s experience is different, I’ll just go with mine. I’ve been very lucky to have met a wonderful amount of people over the years who have helped me towards the quest for publication. Without them, I’d probably never have gotten where I am today.
I went the school route. Not everyone does and not everyone has to. But that’s the way I wanted to go. I was in my second year of university and heading towards a psychology degree when I took a Creative Writing class. I was hooked. I applied for the degree program at UBC and was accepted. From then on I went to Bath Spa University in England to do my Masters.
There are a lot of different opinions on studying Creative Writing. I personally loved it. Being a writer, we often fall in love with our words. Belonging to a good critique group can be invaluable. Learning to give and receive criticism can be an incredible learning experience. It also opens the doors to meeting a lot of industry people. It was there that I learned a lot about the publishing industry.
I was in South Korea when I wrote Dark Inside. I loved my job there, teaching English to High School students. Funny enough, the first time my agent rang, I was in the middle of teaching a class. My kids loved it! Teacher bad! So I turned off the phone. When I returned to my desk later and saw the email, I was horrified. I’d hung up on an agent!
I was still in Korea when we sent my novel to publishers. It was a very stressful time. I was in a very different time zone and had to stay up till three in the morning when it was afternoon in New York. Of course once I accepted the deals, I couldn’t sleep! I was too excited.
I’ve been very lucky over the past year. I’ve met some great teenagers who have been with me on Facebook through this journey. They’re all writers too. They’ve been great for giving me valuable feedback on my writing. I’m very lucky to have them.
My journey has been long but completely worth it. And I’d to share some of the advice I’ve learned over the years. Never give up. Writing is very subjective and a rejection doesn’t always mean your writing is bad. There could be a million other reasons why. Keep writing. And if the first book doesn’t get any interest, write another one. And then another one. You can only get better. Be open to criticism. As I said in the beginning, we are often too close to our own stories to see what might be wrong. Having other eyes is a great way to improve. Learn everything you can about the publishing industry. There are great websites that offer advice.
And keep reading because that’s the best part. So many stories, such little time.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Olympian Week Day 5: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan Extract!


Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune is published in the UK on October 4th, and there's a blog tour to celebrate this momentous day. Each blogger will be honouring a different Greek god or goddess, and for today's blog tour stop I'm paying tribute to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

I'm sure you all know how popular the two Percy Jackson series are so I won't bore you about that, but I'll just say what a great thing Rick has done for reading and learning difficulties. You can find out more about that subject over at The Book Zone, which was Day 1 of the blog tour.


Photo credit: Marty Umans.


I hope you're all excited about The Son of Neptune - if you are, here's an extract to keep you going those last couple of days until you can go and grab a copy. Enjoy!


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Extract

Percy stumbled away from the gorgon, almost falling off the edge of the hill.
It was the smiley one – Beano.
Okay, her name wasn’t really Beano. As near as Percy could figure, he was dyslexic, because words got twisted around when he tried to read. The first time he saw the gorgon posing as a Bargain Mart greeter with a big green button that read: WELCOME! MY NAME IS STHENO!, he thought it said BEANO.
She was still wearing her green Bargain Mart employee vest over a flower‐print
dress. If you just looked at her body, you might think she was somebody’s dumpy old grandmother – until you looked down and realized she had rooster feet. Or you looked up and saw bronze boar tusks sticking out the sides of her mouth. Her eyes glowed red and her hair was a writhing nest of bright green snakes.
The most horrible thing about her? She was still holding her big silver platter of free samples: Crispy Cheese n’ Wieners. Her platter was dented up from all the times Percy had killed her, but those little samples looked perfectly fine. Stheno just kept gathering them up and toting them across California so she could offer Percy a snack before she killed him. Percy didn’t know why, but if he ever needed a suit of armor he was going to make it out of Crispy Cheese n’ Wieners. That stuff was indestructible.
“Try one?” Stheno offered. Percy fended her off with his sword. “Where’s your sister?” “Oh, put the sword away,” Stheno chided. “You know by now even
Celestial bronze can’t kill us for long. Have a Cheese n’ Wiener! They’re on sale this week, and I’d hate to kill you on an empty stomach.”
“Stheno!” The second gorgon appeared on Percy’s right so fast he didn’t have time to react. Fortunately she was too busy glaring at her sister to pay him much attention. “I told you to sneak up on him and kill him!”
Stheno’s smile wavered. “But Euryale . . .” She said the name so it rhymed with ‘Muriel.’ “Can’t I give him a sample first?”
“No, you imbecile!” Euryale turned toward Percy and bared her fangs.
Except for her hair, which was a nest of coral snakes instead of green vipers, she looked exactly like her sister. Her Bargain Mart vest, her flowery dress, even her tusks were decorated with ‘50% off’ stickers. Her name badge read: Hello! My name is DIE, DEMIGOD SCUM!
“You’ve led us quite a chase, Percy Jackson,” Euryale said. “But now you’re trapped, and we’ll have our revenge!”
“The Cheese n’ Wieners are only $2.99,” Stheno added helpfully. “Grocery department, aisle three.”
Euryale snarled. “Stheno, the Bargain Mart was a front! You’re going native! Now put down that ridiculous tray and help me kill this demigod. Or have you forgotten he’s the one who vaporized Medusa?”
Percy stepped back. Six more inches, and he’d be tumbling through thin air. “Look, ladies, we’ve been through this. I don’t even remember killing Medusa. I don’t remember anything! Can’t we just call a truce and talk about your weekly specials?”
Stheno gave her sister a pouty look, which was hard to do with giant bronze tusks. “Can we?”
“No!” Euryale’s red eyes bored into Percy. “I don’t care what you remember, son of the sea god. I can smell Medusa’s blood on you. It’s faint, yes, several years old, but you were the last one to defeat her. She still has not returned from Tartarus. It’s your fault!”
Percy didn’t really get that. The whole ‘monster‐dying‐then‐returning‐ from‐Tartarus’ concept gave him a headache. Of course so did the idea that ballpoint pens could turn into swords, or that monsters could disguise themselves with something called the Mist, or that Percy was the son of a
barnacle‐encrusted god from five thousand years ago. But he did believe it. Even though his memory was erased, he knew he was a demigod the same way he knew his name was Percy Jackson. From his very first conversation with Lupa the wolf, he’d accepted that this crazy messed‐up world of gods and monsters was his reality. Which pretty much sucked for him.
“How about we call it a draw?” he said. “I can’t kill you. You can’t kill me. If you’re Medusa’s sisters – like the Medusa who turned people to stone ‐‐ shouldn’t I be petrified by now?”
“Heroes!” Euryale said with disgust. “They always bring that up, just like our mother! ‘Why can’t you turn people to stone? Your sister can turn people to stone.’ Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, boy! That was Medusa’s curse alone. She was the most hideous one in the family. She got all the luck!”
Stheno looked hurt. “Mother said I was the most hideous.”
“Quiet!” Euryale snapped. “As for you, Percy Jackson, it’s true you bear the mark of Achilles. That makes you a little tougher to kill. But don’t worry. We’ll find a way.”
“The mark of what?”
“Achilles,” Stheno said cheerfully. “Oh, he was gorgeous! Dipped in the River Styx as a child, you know, so he was invulnerable except for a tiny spot on his ankle. That’s what happened to you, dear. Someone must’ve dumped you in the Styx and made your skin like iron, but not to worry. Heroes like you always have a weak spot. We just have to find it and then we can kill you. Won’t that be lovely? Have a Cheese n’ Wiener!”
Percy tried to think. He didn’t remember any dip in the Styx. Then again he didn’t remember much of anything. His skin didn’t feel like iron, but it explained how he’d held out so long against the gorgons.
Maybe if he just fell down the mountain . . . would he survive? He didn’t want to risk it – not without something to slow the fall, or a sled, or . . .
He looked at Stheno’s large silver platter of free samples. Hmm . . . “Reconsidering?” Stheno asked. “Very wise, dear. I added some gorgon’s
blood to these, so your death will be quick and painless.” Percy’s throat constricted. “You added your blood to the Cheese N’
Wieners?” “Just a little.” Stheno smiled. “A little nick on the arm, but you’re sweet to
be concerned. The blood from our right side can cure anything, you know, but blood from our left side is deadly ‐‐”
“You dimwit!” Euryale screeched. “You’re not supposed to tell him that! He won’t eat the wieners if you tell him they’re poisoned!”
Stheno looked stunned. “He won’t? But I said it’s quick and painless.”
“Never mind!” Euryale’s fingernails grew into claws. “We’ll kill him the hard way – just keep slashing until we find the weak spot. Once we defeat Percy Jackson, we’ll be more famous than Medusa! Our patron will reward us greatly!”
Percy gripped his sword. He’d have to time his move perfectly ‐‐ a few seconds of confusion,grab the platter with his left hand . . .
Keep them talking, he thought. “Before you slash me to bits,” he said, “who’s this patron you mentioned?”
Euryale sneered. “The goddess Gaea, of course! The one who brought us back from oblivion! You won’t live long enough to meet her, but your friends below will soon face her wrath. Even now, her armies are marching south. At the Feast of Fortune, she’ll awaken, and the demigods will be cut down like – like ‐‐”
“Like our low prices at Bargain Mart!” Stheno suggested. “Gah!” Euryale stormed toward her sister. Percy took the opening. He grabbed Stheno’s platter, scattering poisoned Cheese n’ Wieners, and
slashed Riptide across Euryale’s waist, cutting her in half. He raised the platter, and Stheno found herself facing her own greasy
reflection. “Medusa!” she screamed.
Her sister Euryale had crumbled to dust, but she was already starting to re‐form, like a snowman un‐melting in reverse.
“Stheno, you fool!” she gurgled as her half‐made face rose from the mound of dust. “That’s just your reflection! Get him!”
Percy slammed the metal tray on top of Stheno’s head and she passed out
cold.
He put the platter over his butt, said a silent prayer to whatever Roman god oversaw stupid sledding tricks, and jumped off the side of the hill.



Extract from THE SON OF NEPTUNE – HEROES OF OLYMPUS, BOOK TWO by Rick Riordan

Published by Puffin Books on October 4th 2011

© Copyright Rick Riordan, 2011



THE GREEK GODS ARE ALIVE AND KICKING IN THE TWENTY‐FIRST CENTURY



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Puffin have also set up an amazing competition for schools, called Hunt for a Half-Blood Hero. This competition offers school students the chance to win the chance to have Rick streamed live into a school assembly, as well as a class trip to their local Sea Life Centre. Pretty cool, right? If you or anyone you know would like to take part in this competition, you can find more information HERE.


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Make sure you check out Day 6 of Olympus Week which will be over at My Favourite Books tomorrow, where they will be celebrating Poseidon day with a guest post from Rick himself. Definitely not one to miss!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

In My Mailbox #141: 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 an amazing week this week! I spent two days in London, met Christopher Paolini 3 times, visited various publisher friends and received many exciting books. It'll be hard to top this week for a while! I'm also glad to say I think I'm finally out of my reading slump. This calls for a Snoopy Dance a la Xander Harris!

Here's what was in my mailbox (and my trusty S&S tote bag) this week:


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For review:
This sounds funny and is illustrated by the brilliant Pete Williamson!

  • Eve by Anna Carey
Love the sound of this!

I am a HUGE Gemma Malley fan. Can't wait to read this.

I've heard really good things about this one.

I've been waiting for this for AGES. I'm sure it will be hilarious!

I enjoyed the first book in this series and am looking forward to the sequel.

I think this is a dystopian thriller. Sounds good and great cover!

I had heard nothing about this until Hodder gave me a copy. Looks intriguing.

Duplicate copy which will be going to a good home.

  • Fever by Lauren DeStefano (US ARC)
I still need to read Wither!

Another series I enjoy - hope this one's as good.

This will also be going to a good home as I have a US hardback already.

A lovely paperback edition of this brilliant book. And I'm quoted on the inside back cover!

This sounds GREAT!

Another book about Titanic. Really looking forward to reading it.

Reading this at the moment and really enjoying it. I love Lisa McMann.

Sounds ace!

  • Advent by James Treadwell (UK proof/ARC)
This is another I'd heard nothing about, but it sounds SO GOOD.

If the book is as good as the cover, I think I'm in for a treat!

Sam at Headline basically sold this to me in 2 sentences. She's good, she is. It's a pretty proof copy too.


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Bought:
This came in at work and ended up costing me about £6. Not bad at all.

I went to The Cinema Store in London and found these two gems. They're both AMAZING.

Something about this book just keeps calling to me, and I think it's the overall look of it. Basically I just need this book on my bookshelf.

It's The Inbetweeners. It's hilarious. What more can I say?






Happy reading, everyone!