Saturday, 31 October 2009
This week, I've mostly been pining for the books that haven't arrived due to this postal strike we're having. Luckily, two did arrive to alleviate my misery.
Maybe I'm under the influence of all these Halloween posts I've been reading in the blogosphere, but this week is a spooky one...
The Babysitter - R.L. Stine
Summary from Amazon: From the minute that Jenny accepts the Hagen baby-sitting job, she knows she has made a terrible mistake.
First there is the dark and gloomy Hagen house, filling her with dread and horror. Then the crank phone calls start.
When she finds a threatening note in her bag, she realizes that this isn't a harmless game.
Like many girls our age, my sister and I spent our teenage years slightly obsessed with Point Horror books. A little scary and a whole lot trashy, we couldn't get enough of them. Luckily, R.L. Stine and a host of others were on hand to feed the addiction. The Babysitter was one of my absolute favourites, so it's a no-brainer choice for a Time Travel Tuesday reread.
The Waking: Dreams of the Dead - Thomas Randall
Summary from Amazon: Sixteen-year-old Kara Foster is an outsider in Japan, but is doing her best to fit at the private school where her father is teaching English for the year. Fortunately she’s befriended by Sakura, a fellow outsider struggling to make sense of her sister’s unsolved murder some months ago. No one seems to care about the beautiful girl who was so brutally murdered, and the other students go on as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Kara begins to have nightmares, and soon other students in the school turn up dead, viciously attacked by someone . . . or something. Is Sakura getting back at those she thinks are responsible for her sister’s death? Or has her dead sister come back to take revenge for herself?
This one was a previous W0W pick of mine, and I'm mostly excited about the setting and potential eerieness. Inexplicable truth: stories are scarier if they're set in Japan. I've even bought myself a box of strawberry Pocky to eat while I'm reading it.
My other big news of the week is that I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. I'm not entirely sure why, since I'm majorly busy this month and don't have much of an idea what I'm going to write, but that's part of the fun I guess. Who else is doing it?
Friday, 30 October 2009
During a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven, Jake chooses Jo as his kissing partner. She should be thrilled, but something’s just not right. ‘Something’ in the form of Jake’s wandering hands and less-than-chivalrous attitude. Jo’s torn: part of her wants to tell Jake where to get off, but that would mean kissing goodbye to her newfound popularity. The other half of her wants to enjoy the fun while she can.
So she splits. Literally. Jo the Nerd, Josie the Cool. One girl: two stories.
Warning: cute book alert! Anyone who visits here regularly will know that I tend to go for speculative fiction in a big way, preferably with a side order of apocalypse. The fact is, all that doom and gloom takes its toll on a girl. Sometimes, we all need a book that will make us smile. Enter Split by a Kiss. We may even need a book that will make us snort out loud on the bus so that other people stare. Again, Split by a Kiss.
As every British teenager knows, when it comes to high school Americans do it better. Of course they do. In Britain, it’s all packed lunches, GCSE coursework and dodgy uniforms. Americans have prom. Americans can drive themselves to school. Plus, what American teenage girl has to wear a shirt and tie five days a week? For Jo, moving to America is an opportunity to exchange her boring everyday British life with the stuff of movies. Or so she thinks. And for the reader who gets to go with her… well, it’s a riot.
The standout aspect of Split by a Kiss is definitely its structure. When our protagonist splits, we follow Josie the Cool and Jo the Nerd through two different versions of the same story. This means we get to experience the same events from different perspectives: the parties that Josie’s invited to but Jo is left out of, the different ways that Jo and Josie spend the same snowy day. The most magical part of all: we’re given one perfect guy for Jo to fall for, but two different journeys to get her there.
Split by a Kiss may be Fun with a capital F, but there’s a whole lot of real life in there too. We’ve all met the intelligent girl who dumbs herself down to fit in with the in-crowd or get the attention of some boy who probably isn’t all that interesting anyway. Rather than go in all heavy-handed with the ‘be yourself’ stuff, Split by a Kiss really gets that it’s as hard to fit in with the nerds as it is with the in-crowd. Also, best incentive ever for chucking out the labels and just being yourself: if you’re off simpering after the wrong guy, you might miss out on your big love scene with the right one.
Whether you’re a fan of light-hearted romantic comedies or a cynical devotee of all things dark, Split by a Kiss is the kind of book that’ll give you a serious case of the warm fuzzies. It’s charming, hilarious and frankly irresistible. Just beware of the snorting.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
This week I'm waiting on...
The Clearing by Heather Davis
Summary from Goodreads: Amy, a sixteen-year-old recovering from an abusive relationship, moves to the country to start a new life with her aunt–all she wants is for everything to be different.
In the clearing at the back of Aunt Mae’s property, she makes an amazing discovery—Henry, a boy stuck in the endless summer of 1944. Henry and his world become Amy’s refuge and she begins to learn that some moments are worth savoring.
But when the past and present come crashing together, both of them must find the courage to face what is meant to be, even if it means losing each other forever.
Oooh, check out that premise. I'm on a time travel kick at the moment, so this is completely fascinating me. Time travel plus a story of possibly doomed love? Equals instant wishlisting.
Now all I need is directions to a bookstore where it's already April 2010, when this one's out.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
In September, I posted about Charlotte Sometimes, citing it as possibly the first time travel story I ever read. Wrong! Less than a week later, a post at Rhiannon Hart's blog reminded me that I read Playing Beatie Bow when I was at least a year younger. It also made me realise I had to read it again. There'd always been something about the book that had eluded me, and I wanted to see what it was.
Playing Beatie Bow is the story of Abigail Kirk, who travels back in time from her home in 1980s Sydney to the same area a century earlier. In her own time, Abigail is a somewhat self-centred fourteen-year-old who has never recovered from her father leaving the family to live with another woman - not even enough to acknowledge her own mother's suffering. While watching her neighbour's children play a scary game called 'Beatie Bow' one day, Abigail encounters a little shorn-headed girl who seems transfixed by the game but won't talk to anyone. When Abigail tries to talk her, she runs - and when Abigail gives chase, she finds herself in a world she doesn't recognise. She's lost, one hundred years back in time, and little girl is Beatie Bow herself.
At eight or nine, Playing Beatie Bow was the darkest story I'd ever read. I was more drawn to the title character herself than protagonist Abigail, who was probably slightly too old for me to relate to. The mere fact that Beatie's hair had been shaved off while she was suffering from a near-fatal fever was deliciously eerie, and I was thrilled by idea of a ghostly playground game played at dusk. Abigail's journey was definitely fascinating, as she's effectively detained in the 1880s by Beatie's Granny, who has the Gift and believes Abigail to be 'the Stranger' of her visions. What I really didn't get was Abigail's sudden infatuation with Beatie's older brother, Judah. There I was, happily reading about Abigail's life in the 1880s, and suddenly people are k-i-s-s-i-n-g? Where did that come from?
Rereading Playing Beatie Bow this week, I've had a very different experience. This book is about love more than anything else. I connected with Abigail at once: the stubborn fourteen-year-old who, years after being abandoned by her father, is horrified at the prospect that her mother might take him back. She's scornful of her mother's apparently blind love, and indignant at the suggestion that she's being selfish. She steps back in time right afer they've had a blazing row about it. Yes, into the 1880s, but more importantly into a situation where she learns what love is for herself - how wonderful and tangled and complicated it can be. It's a coming of age story. Once Abigail knows what love is, she can stop being the spoilt child and return home to her mother as a young woman.
What hasn't changed for me is the richly detailed 1880s Sydney setting and the nightmarish quality of Abigail's experience there. Ruth Park has created a dangerous and vivid world, with the kind of tight plotting that sees everything come beautifully together in the last uplifting passages.
Verdict: If you haven't read this one yet, you're missing out. If you have read it, ask yourself whether it's time for a reread. This one will haunt you.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
First up, the Superior Scribbler award from Jessica at Shut Up! I'm Reading. Thanks Jessica! I love that the scribbler in the picture is a lefty like me. Here's the rules:
1. Each Superior Scribbler, must in turn, pass the Award on to 5 most-deserving bloggy buds.
2. Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and name of the blog from whom he/she has received the Award.
3. Each Superior Scribbler must display the Award on his/her blog and link to this post which explains the Award.
Here's my five:
Jo @ Once Upon a Bookcase
Becky @ The Bookette
Jenny @ Wondrous Reads
Sophie @ So Many Books, So Little Time
Sammee @ I Want To Read That
You may notice there's a UK theme going on there. Well, what can I say? These are all shining examples of why Brit bloggers rock.
Next, this is the Honest Scrap award. It is for those bloggers who write from the heart. The rules are to pass it along to seven bloggers and then list 10 honest things about yourself.
I got this one four times in the last week or so, from Becky at The Bookette, Arielle at B.A.M. Book Reviews, Jo at Once Upon a Bookcase and Pixie at Page Turners. I am thrilled about that, because it represents something I definitely aspire to.
I would like to pass this award to:
Aimee @ My Fluttering Heart
Steph Su @ Steph Su Reads
Juju @ Tales of Whimsy
Brizmus @ Brizmus Blogs Books
Rhiannon Hart @ well, herself
Ceri @ Not In The Pink
Katie @ Read What You Know
I'm sure some of you have been awarded this one already, but if you have, well, I want you to have it from me.
Now, on to the ten honest things about myself...
1) I may be addicted to buying books. Blogging has made it worse, but I don't want to stop.
2) Secretly, I think I'm like a female version of Chandler from Friends. People who know me think I'm Rachel. That hurts.
3) My favourite movies ever are The Hunger, and the LiLo version of The Parent Trap.
4) I love being left-handed. When I encounter another lefty, I feel like I have a bond with them.
5) I'm addicted to trying chocolate bars and sweets that aren't generally available in UK. My favourites are peanut butter M&Ms, Violet Crumbles, Pocky, and musk flavoured Lifesavers.
6) I love amusement parks, and there's genuinely no rollercoaster too scary for me.
7) I have two Masters degrees, one in creative writing and one in modern literature.
8) I rule at Tetris. Seriously. I'm so good, I scare myself.
9) My sweetheart and I have matching tattoos of a swallow, tiny stars and cherry blossoms. Mine hurt like hell, but it is so cute.
10) If I think nobody can hear, I hum when I eat. Only if it's something good though.
Finally, I got the One Lovely Blog award from Adrienne at An Addicted Book Reader and also from Andrea of Buried In Books. Thank you so much, Adrienne and Andrea!
Here are the rules: Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Okay, this is tricky. Why? Because I don't think I have 'newly discovered' fifteen blogs recently. So I am going to award this to the ones I have newly discovered, and add to it as I find more. These aren't necessarily new bloggers, but they're new(ish) to me...
Staysi @ Lost In Ink
Miss Cindy @ Simple Life and Reading
Carla @ The Crooked Shelf
Sara @ The Hiding Spot
Jessica @ Shut Up! I'm Reading
To be continued...
The Dresskeeper - Mary Naylus
Summary from Amazon: When Picky's Mum forces her to look after Gran, who has dementia, Picky is accidentally transported back to the year 1685, where a man in a wig insists she is someone called Amelia and tries to kill her. Managing to get the dress off just in time, Picky returns to the present with the dress covered in blood. Who is Amelia? Is she dead? Will wearing the other dresses in the chest take Picky back in time too? And does she dare put herself in danger again?
You may have seen some of the many wonderful reviews of this book posted this week by my fellow UK bloggers. I have now read it, but I'm saving my review for nearer the publication date. If you just can't wait to hear more about The Dresskeeper, check out the publisher's website here or The Bookette's interview with author Mary Naylus right here.
Playing Beatie Bow - Ruth Park
Summary from book jacket: The game is called Beatie Bow and the children play it for the thrill of scaring themselves.
But when Abigail is drawn in, the game is quickly transformed into an extraordinary, sometimes horrifying, adventure as she finds herself transported to a place that is foreign yet strangely familiar.
I read this as a child, and was recently reminded of it by an IMM at Rhiannon Hart's blog. I think I was about nine or ten when I read it, and although I adored the time travel aspect the romance kind of blindsided me. So I thought this would be good to reread now I'm all worldly and stuff.
Crashed - Robin Wasserman
Summary from author's website:
Before the accident, Lia Kahn was happy.
Before the accident, Lia Kahn was loved.
Before, Lia was a lot of things: Normal. Alive. Human.
Lia no longer lives in before. Six months after the crash that killed her, six months after being reborn, Lia has finally accepted her new reality. She is a machine, a mech, and she belongs with her own kind. It’s a wild, carefree life, without rules and without fear. Because there’s nothing to fear when you have nothing left to lose.
But when a voice from her past cries out for revenge, everything changes. Lia is forced to choose: between her old life and her new one. Between humans and mechs. Between sacrificing the girl she used to be and saving the boy she used to love.
Even if it means he’ll hate her forever.
Okay, first, if you haven't read Skinned yet, what are you waiting for? It's awesome. Crashed is the second in the series and technically it's not out in the UK yet, but this is a gift from my amazing other half (which makes us sound like a circus act, but whatever). Why say it with flowers when you can say it with sci-fi?
So, what did everyone else get?
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Rebellious and handsome Dane Madousin doesn't think he has a shot at making the cut to the second year. He's pretty sure his influential father will pull him from the school the moment he can, but he's determined to make the most of it while it lasts. For Aerin Renning, acceptance into Academy 7 is more than just an opportunity for academic success. It's a matter of life and death. Life, if she manages to conceal her true identity and remain at the school. As good as death, if they find out she doesn't belong there at all. Worse, if they find out where she does belong, and send her back there.
It's imperative that Aerin keeps her true identity a secret. But when she meets Dane, initial rivalry soon turns into a deep bond. Suddenly, it's not so easy to hide any more...
Observation: there really aren't enough YA titles set on other planets. Sure, we're starting to be spoilt for choice when it comes to dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, and that is a Good Thing. But there's more to sci-fi than this world gone bad. Generation ships, hyperspace, bio domes - where are they? And don't point me to the actual sci-fi section, I don't want to be there. I like my sci-fi soft or social, and that's why the YA variety appeals to me. It's just that there's a whole universe out there to be explored, and I want to call shotgun.
So, when I heard that Academy 7 is set in a world where interplanetary travel is a way of life, I was all over it. I'd very nearly missed the fact that this is a sci-fi title: the summary isn't overly space-y, and the cover doesn't give much away either. This puzzled me at first - the opening is all control panels and distress signals, but in actual fact this isn't a story about space travel. It's a story about Aerin and Dane, who just happen to live in a universe where you can pilot your own spaceship home from school for the holidays. It's not hardcore sci-fi, and I have no idea how the planet-hopping is meant to be possible, but I don't care. It's fun.
Still, it's safe to say that this book would appeal more to YA readers looking to dabble in a little sci-fi, than sci-fi readers looking to dabble in YA fiction. It's a character-driven romance, first and foremost, with great chemistry between the two leads.
However, there's definitely a point to this novel being set in the universe Osterlund has chosen, beyond the fact that space travel is a hoot. Where Academy 7 really excels is in its sympathetic portrayal of a girl who has escaped from unimaginable brutality and just wants to be allowed to make a life for herself in a free society - a society which has its own agenda for choosing which dictatorships to intervene in and which to stay out of. The reader is given an opportunity to think about Aerin's predicament outside of any pre-conceived ideas they may have about foreign policy in their own world. So, while the romance of Academy 7 could just as easily have been set on 21st-century Earth, Osterlund has found an interesting way to give readers a little perspective on some pressing issues us Earthlings grapple with. It's smooth, and I like it.
Academy 7 is a great introduction to the genre for anyone who doesn't want to jump straight in to hardcore sci-fi. The romance is sweet, and Osterlund has definitely established a universe with plenty of potential for a sequel. Romance fans will find this an unusual and touching read.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
This week I'm waiting on...
Inside Out - Maria V. Snyder
Keep Your Head Down. Don't Get Noticed. Or Else.
I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. One of thousands who work in the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops. The Trava family who rules our world from their spacious Upper levels wants us to be docile and obedient, like sheep. To insure we behave, they send the Pop Cops to police us.
So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous--the only neck at risk is my own.
Until a lower level prophet claims a Gateway to Outside exists. And guess who he wants to steal into the Upper levels to get the proof? You’re right. Me. I alone know every single duct, pipe, corridor, shortcut, hole and ladder of Inside. It’s suicide plain and simple. But guess who can’t let a challenge like that go unanswered? Right again. Me.
I should have just said no...
Yay! Dys-to-pi-a. The d-word itself is enough to send me into a frenzy of anticipation about this one, but also: I've only read the summary, and I like the protagonist already. Plus, Pop Cops? I don't know what distinguishes those from regular cops, but I'm sure looking forward to finding out.
(You can tell I'm super-excited about Inside Out, because writing about it is sending my grammar all squiffy.) Current e.t.a. Spring 2010.
Guess who just can't wait for this one? Right again. Me.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
The summer after I turned eleven, a strange thing happened. I left primary school in July, a somewhat shy and studious kid with a subscription to Horse and Pony magazine who could never quite manage to keep her fringe out of her eyes. In September I started senior school a different girl: salon haircut, mascara, determined to be outgoing if it killed me. This is what I like to call ‘the Jessica Wakefield effect’.
See, over the summer holiday, I’d discovered Sweet Valley High. From the first page, I was hooked. The Californian setting, the beautiful Wakefield twins, the cheesy cover artwork… What, quite frankly, wasn’t to love about it? Just one thing troubled me. Elizabeth, studious and shy - the good twin. Jessica, irresponsible and flirtatious - and a hundred and thirty seven times more fun. Together, they were awesome. But I wasn’t a twin. Studious and shy? That was me. I was an Elizabeth. And even at eleven, I could work out that Elizabeth without a Jessica was… well, Enid Rollins. And who wanted to be her? Not me. When I got to high school, I was going have fun. (Paste obligatory eighties makeover montage here).
As it turned out, I barely needed to reread the first three pages of Double Love, which basically go like the first three pages of any SVH book: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are identical twins, with blonde hair, eyes the colour of the Pacific Ocean, and perfect size 6 figures (take that, size zero enthusiasts!) but their personalities are oh-so-different. Then the plot kicks in. Elizabeth is in unrequited love with Todd Wilkins, the star of Sweet Valley High’s basketball team. Jessica thinks he’s pretty hot too, so decides to work a little mischief (read: sacrifice all sense of personal dignity) to snag him for herself. So far, so nostalgic. But on page 129, tragedy strikes.
Not for the characters: for me. When Todd gives Jessica the brush-off, she’s so incensed, she tells Liz he jumped her. Did I read that right? Here’s Jessica Wakefield, my own personal role-model, getting revenge on a guy by pretending she had to literally fight him off. Uh, I don’t know about Sweet Valley, but where I come from that's called Jessica making a false accusation of assault. Lucky for Todd, that doesn’t seem to be a crime in Sweet Valley, because Liz chooses to punish him for the alleged crime by snapping at him when he talks to her. So that’s alright then. Except, it really isn’t.
I was prepared not to adore Double Love as much this time round. I was prepared for dubious gender stereotyping, conveyor-belt storylining, and saccharine romance. Hey, that's what I was hoping for. What I wasn’t prepared for was the biggest shocker of all: Jessica Wakefield is not cool. Not even in a post-modern ironic kind of a way. And despite how fun the rest of it is, I can't get past that.
Verdict: For the second week running, I’ve trashed my own teenage memories. Sometimes life’s like that. However, I also heard recently that Diablo Cody, writer of Juno, is going to be penning the script for the upcoming silver screen version of SVH. Suprisingly, I’m still excited. So here’s the thing, folks, and this may be the last time I ever write the following words: if you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favour and wait for the movie. Or, you know, skip straight to book #2, Secrets. I haven't read it for a while, but I remember it being awesome.
Monday, 19 October 2009
Congrats Sara! I've emailed you already to request your shipping details.
(If you don't fit the age or location category, you may want to turn away now, because you'll be wishing you did, trust me!)
WANTED:BOOK EDITORS AND MUSIC EDITORS FOR SPINEBREAKERS.CO.UK
Calling all creative whizzes, book heads, musos and budding writers. We are recruiting a team of 13-18 year olds to become the next line up of music and books editors for Penguin’s online community, www.Spinebreakers.co.uk, run by teens for teens.
Spinebreakers launched in 2007 and is now crammed full of creative content inspired by books, contributed by 13-18 year olds. The website is backed by publisher Penguin but the content of the site is totally in the hands of the young editors.
The past editors have had brilliant experiences interviewing famous authors like Nick Hornby, being the first to hear and review brand new music from Island records, sitting on the first ever Orange Prize for Fiction Youth Panel, attending the Underage Festival, speaking at events, and letting the world know their opinions when it came to books. We are now looking to recruit a second generation of editors: this is your chance to fill their footsteps, gain some amazing experiences and be a part of something unique.
- Receive tonnes of free books
- Get to listen and review some of the hottest new music around
- Work with industry professionals
- Meet and interview famous authors and musicians
- Explore imaginative topics around books and writing
- Unleash your creativity
- Get something totally amazing on your CV
- Have all travel expenses covered
“I have to say my involvement with Spinebreakers has helped me a great deal, not only it's given me the confidence to stand out within a crowd, public speaking, writing articles, but it has also given me the opportunity to be on BBC Radio 4, which I'm really proud of.” Osman Diallo (ex-Spinebreakers Editor, aged 20)
If you have a passion for books, music, reading, writing, drawing, filming – anything creative – then we want to hear from you.
The editors will receive a half-day workshop at a youth marketing agency in London. You need to be:
- Available on 26th October 2009
- Within commuting distance of London (for Books Editors only)
- Able to attend monthly meetings at Penguin in Central London
- Able to commit to creating monthly content
To apply, we want you to show us what you can do. Send us your favourite piece of writing you’ve done – it could be a short story, book or album review, rant or feature. Plus we want you to tell us in 100 words or less why you should become one of our teen editors. And, don’t forget to state if you’d rather be a books or music editor. Send the info to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send your submissions to reach us no later than 22nd OCTOBER 2009
Please visit www.spinebreakers.co.uk to find out more about the site and to apply to become an editor. email@example.com
Can’t wait to hear from you!
Sunday, 18 October 2009
Numbers - Rachel Ward
Since the day her mother died, Jem has known about the numbers. When she looks in someone's eyes, she can see the date they will die.
Life is hard, until she meets a boy called Spider. Suddenly her world seems brighter.
But on a trip to London, Jem foresees a chain of events that will shatter their lives forever...
I've been meaning to pick this one up for a while. It's by a Brit author, I absolutely love the premise, and it's not due for release in the US until February 2010. I've got the UK cover, which is pretty nice, but you can check out the amazing US cover here. There's a sequel in the works too.
Siberia - Ann Halam
Summary from Goodreads: SIBERIA is a state of mind. When Sloe was tiny, her Papa disappeared and she and her mama went to live in a prison camp in the snowy North, in a time and place when there are no more wild animals. Mama's crime; teaching science, and her dedication to the hope that the lost animal species can be reborn. To Sloe, Mama's secret work is magic, as enchanting as Mama's tales of a bright city across the ice where the sun always shines and one day they will be free.
Years later Sloe is sent to prison school and Mama disappears. But her Mama has bequeathed Sloe six tiny animals - like creatures from a fairy tale. These tiny, magical creatures hold the secret to life itself. At 13, and with only the Lindquists for company, Sloe sets off on an epic 1000 mile journey embracing breathtaking adventure, danger and hardships in her quest to be reunited with her mother. In a moving and totally absorbing novel, Sloe evolves into a heroine equal to anything amidst this dazzling combination of science, adventure, fantasy and fairy tale.
I've only read one book by Ann Halam, Dr Franklin's Island, which is by turns brilliant, disturbing, and downright weird. I'm ready for some more of that. Plus, the reviews I've read of this one say: dystopia. Ding ding ding.
The Game of Triumphs - Laura Powell
Summary from Amazon: Fifteen-year-old Cat has unwittingly entered a dangerous world. The Arcanum. There, an ancient and deadly card game is played out in familiar, and unfamiliar, surroundings. As the influence of the Game Masters, the mysterious quartet of figures who control the destiny of the players, casts its shadow over Cat’s life, and as her travels inside the worlds of the Arcanum reveal tantalising glimpses of her family’s past, she finds her initial reluctance to engage in the dangerous complexities of the Game is waning...
Since I've been blogging, I've been picking up nearly all my book recommendations from other bloggers. Awesome. I'm never lost for something to read, and my TBR pile is steadily growing. Except that, since most bloggers aren't from the UK, I risk missing out on some excellent UK titles that way. So from now on, I'm going to make more of an effort to keep up with what's out in UK bookstores. I really like the sound of this one from Laura Powell. It's the first in a series too.
Also, I have had a super blogging week. On Friday I was the featured blogger over at Steph Su Reads, one of my absolute favourite blogs, so as you can imagine I was pretty excited. Thanks Steph! Plus I had some really great 'just wanted to say hi' type emails this week, which is always good. Finally, my Incarceron contest ended yesterday. I'll be randomly selecting a winner later on today. Thanks to everyone who entered!
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Elspeth Gordie is a Misfit. Her mutation goes deeper than anyone knows, and she’s desperate to evade detection. Orphaned when the Council burned her parents for sedition, she’s sent to Obernewtyn - a secluded institution in the mountains where it’s claimed those with afflictions like hers can be cured. But once she arrives there, it becomes clear that visits the institution’s sinister doctor aren’t curing the other misfits. They’re sending them past the brink of insanity. And if they discover her own secret, she could be next.
Obernewtyn takes strands of all my favourite genres, and weaves them into a seamless original creation that’s part post-apocalyptic novel, part dystopia, and part fantasy. It’s pitched somewhere in between, moving fluidly between all, and as a result gets away with defying the rules I’d expect any one-genre novel to abide by. It sets its own rules, and compels the reader to follow. Example: protagonist Elspeth Gordie communicates with animals, and I didn’t once roll my eyes or scowl in disbelief. On the contrary, I relished the fact that while the human society in Obernewtyn had managed to contain and eradicate the types of knowledge that threatened it, the cat Maruman has memories of the Great White passed down through generations of his kind.
The world that Carmody has created is a fascinating and vivid one. Bleak landscapes where yellow vapours come hissing up from the black earth; the cold stone construction of Obernewtyn itself; Carmody builds her world in terms that engage all of the senses. Rarely have I finished a book with such strong impressions of what it would sound like, smell like and feel like to live in its world. Although it’s also a future version of ours, it’s largely unrecognisable. The widespread mistrust of Beforetime inventions means that travel is by horse and cart, and there is very little in the way of technology. Those who are seen as a threat to the ruling Council are burned to death, and oldtime books are forbidden. It’s a time of superstition, where old-fashioned agrarian society meets post-apocalyptic terrain.
I have to confess, I found Elspeth rather difficult to relate to at first. She’s closed-off, desperate to keep anyone from finding out the true extent of her Misfit powers, and this makes her an initially inscrutable protagonist. Although I got to know her world in rich detail, I didn’t get much of a sense of who Elspeth was until half-way through the book, when she began to open up to Dameon and Matthew, two of her fellow misfits at Obernewtyn. From that point, I quickly warmed to her. She’s a product of a society that crushes the individual under the weight of the fear it induces, and every small step she took towards defying that society felt like a personal triumph. My favourite scene is one where she discovers a collection of oldtime books, and marvels at the skill the priests who scribed them must have had to achieve such perfect style. The words and pictures are irrelevant to her - Basic Computer Progamming isn’t much use in a world without machines - but she appreciates the beautifully coloured diagrams. At that point, I felt that she was looking back at me down the centuries, at my advanced and yet equally destructive society. It’s a haunting moment. By the time the action really kicks off, we’d definitely bonded.
Although initially slow-moving, Obernewtyn is a book with impact. It’s not something that achieves ‘perfect read’ status for me, because of my initial sense of detachment from Elspeth as narrator, but there are moments of perfection. I felt that Carmody really hit her stride in the second half of the book, and I’d definitely pick up book two, The Farseekers, on this promise. I do want to return to this world, and to discover if the whisper of romance at the end of this one comes to anything. Anyone who enjoys post-apocalyptic novels, fantasy or dystopia should check Obernewtyn out.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
This week I'm waiting on...
Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony
Summary from author's website: The year is 2041, and for Molly McClure, her life is pretty much the same as it’s always been. She was only six when the Collapse of ’31 happened, ending life as the world’s population knew it. When she is forced to leave the comfort of her home and small island in British Columbia to travel down to Oregon, Molly discovers how hard the Collapse has been on the rest of the world.
What starts out as a quick trip to the U.S. to convince her grandfather to return to Canada and be the island’s doctor, turns into a rescue mission, a test of Molly’s strengths, ingenuity, and sheer determination. Will a farm girl like Molly survive in this upturned world? Will she be able to return with her grandpa in time for him to help her ailing mother? And just how much will she have to compromise to succeed in getting back to B.C.?
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm hearing 'post-apocalyptic'. I love post-apocalyptic. I'm already intrigued about exactly how the Collapse has changed the world, and what Molly is going to find when she ventures out there. Plus, 2031 is really pretty close, which means the premise has that 'we could live to see this happen' thing going on. Also, that cover is incredibly beautiful.
No news of a UK release date yet, but US release is set for May 2010. Preferably, I'd like the UK one to be sooner. Much sooner.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
I was fourteen when copies of Judy Blume’s Forever began to circulate among the girls in my class, who all seemed to have decided at the same time that they wanted to read this book now. Never one to be left behind, I decided I’d have to read it too. I wasn’t sure why, but hey - I’d enjoyed Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. My BFF, ever loyal, promised I could borrow her library copy before it was due back, in exchange for my mortal soul (or the latest Francine Pascal, whichever). And then she clued me in: Forever was a book about 'doing it'. Okaaay. Did I want to read a book about doing it? Not especially. But everybody else was doing it - I mean, reading about doing it - so I figured I should.
What I found was a novel that somehow managed to tread a perfectly fine line in its depiction of heroine Katherine’s first love: always frank, never straying into transparently preachy or worryingly irresponsible. It answered all the questions that I didn’t want to ask my mother, in pretty much the way that my mother would have wanted them answered. It also clarified for me that at fourteen, I did not want to be Katherine. Not for quite some time. If ever.
So, the reread. Here's the thing: it wasn't what I expected. I was surprised to find that I just don’t like the dynamic of Katherine and Michael’s relationship, and that's a major stumbling block. Michael is the more experienced of the two, and although he does pretty well at respecting Katherine’s initial decision to wait until she’s ready, he does eventually start to pester her a little - and on one occasion pesters into going further than she says she wants to. Katherine is certainly not portrayed as regretting what happens, and I’m inclined to think that the pestering / relenting is really about expected gender roles in the seventies, when Forever was written. Still, I just don’t like it. And since it’s hard to love this book without investing in the love between Katherine and Michael, the reread fell flat for me.
On the other hand, there are some awesome aspects of Forever that I'd completely forgotten about. Katherine's genius little sister, a talented artist and chef, is definitely my favourite character. I also loved the fact that Katherine's grandmother sends her a bunch of informational leaflets about staying safe and making responsible decisions. And yep, Katherine and Michael meet at a fondue party. A goddamn fondue party. How seventies is that?
Verdict: Yep, I feel let down. But it's my own fault. If Forever has a message, it's that your first love probably won't last forever, and probably shouldn't. No matter how sure you may be that this is the one, you're going to grow and change and meet other
Sunday, 11 October 2009
Fire - Kristin Cashore
Summary from Goodreads: Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored-- fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green-- and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.
Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.
Graceling was the first book I reviewed, and I adored it. I gave it five doodle-hearts, and then handed it to my mother to read. She's the one who lucked out earlier this week when I picked up Fire while in the middle of reading three other books, she finished it in twenty-four hours, and she says it's even better than Graceling.
Split by a Kiss - Luisa Plaja
Summary from book cover: Jo has never been one of the popular kids... until she moves to the USA. Suddenly the coolest girls at her new high school adopt her, and the hottest boy, Jake Matthews, notices her. But when Jake picks her as his partner in the kissing game Seven Minutes in Heaven, it's not half as heavenly as she imagined!
Jo has a choice: should she carry on with Jake for guaranteed popularity - or should she tell him where to get off and risk losing her new friends...?
At this moment - Jo splits. She's Josie the Cool - girlfriend of Jake, member of the in-crowd. But she's also Jo the Nerd - rejected by the It girls, single... ordinary. Will her two halves ever come together again?
I think this sounds so cute! Kind of like Mean Girls meets Sliding Doors, maybe? I've only read the first few pages so far, and I've laughed out loud already.
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow
Summary from Goodreads: Marcus, a.k.a w1n5t0n, is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works, and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school's intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco.
In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they are mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
I read the beginning of this one some time ago, and have been meaning to pick it up. Then I saw on Misty's blog that it's available to download for free at the author's website. (Edit: link to Cory Doctorow's donation for schools program here.) Awesome much? So thanks to Misty for the heads up.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
Eli has isolated himself from the rest of the family, blaming himself for the loss of his brother. His younger sister watches Mary Poppins every day, and talks in an English accent. His older sister helps out in the ominous yellow room, but doesn’t stay there any longer than she has to. The food supply is dwindling. Eli’s father has a plan to ensure they survive down there for the next nine years, but at what cost?
I love a post-apocalyptic novel, so a story set inside a nuclear shelter was always going to appeal to me. Living underground, growing vegetables under fluorescent bulbs, scanning radio stations for signs of life - I love that stuff. But the first thing I want to say about The Compound is this: even if you don’t like sci-fi, don’t write this one off. It’s a story about survival, and whether survival for its own sake is enough. When you know the door to the outside world is on timelock for nine more years and the food will only last for eight, how far will you go? It’s also about family relationships: how twisted they can be, how much we need them, and how they can be saved even when they seem to be past saving. I spent most of this book trying to stop my jaw from literally dropping open, and the rest with tears in my eyes. The Compound is one of the most disturbing and tense books I’ve read in a long time. It’s also one of the very best.
Confession time: I don’t gravitate towards books with male protagonists. If a book has a great premise but a male narrator, I tend to assume I’ll enjoy the story but won’t come to care about the main character. It’s my number one #readerfail, and The Compound was having none of it. Yes, this book has a just-can’t-put-it-down storyline, but it also has a male teen protagonist that I could genuinely relate to. Since he entered the compound and lost his identical twin, Eli hasn’t let another person touch him. He’s grown his hair to hide behind, and retreated into himself. Through Eli, Bodeen actually showed me what it might be like to be a boy. To have sisters whose behave in those indecipherable ways that girls do. To have an alpha-male father you can never be strong enough or smart enough to truly impress. To cultivate toughness and aloofness, to hold onto it for years, and then finally to take the terrifying first steps towards letting it go and actually letting yourself feel love.
I read The Compound in the space of twenty-four hours, in every spare moment I could find. I read it on the bus to work, and missed my stop. I read it at lunchtime, because suddenly eating didn’t seem so important to me anymore. Why? Because from the first page, the stakes in this novel are as high as they could possibly be. Pretty early on, it’s clear that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to Eli and his family. There’s much worse in store for them. Things they might have to do to survive that don’t even bear thinking about. Truths the reader wills them to stumble upon but knows will throw them into turmoil.
Bodeen is a master of suspense, keeping the reader hanging until they almost can’t take it any more - and that’s when she really delivers. The payoff is huge: a twisting, gut-wrenching, page-turning frenzy of action and revelation. Sure, some may feel that the ending of this book becomes a little too cinematic for their tastes. And yes, the author employs a horror movie touch here, a thriller set-piece there - but it all worked for me, simply because she pitches everything just right. Plus, and this is key: she never loses sight of Eli's emotional journey. Not for a second.
I finished this book on the bus home from work, and it was all I could do not to turn to the guy next to me, say ‘Read this,’ and hand the book to him. So that’s what I’m saying to you: read this. Just read it.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
This week I'm waiting on...
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Summary from Goodreads: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.
I love what-happens-after-you-die books. I'm not sure what genre they fall under, and it probably varies, but I tend to secretly think of them as the ultimate in speculative fiction. The world-building, the way the author constructs the 'rules' of their vision of the life-after-death existence... Maybe it's just me.
Everything I've heard about Before I Fall tells me this is also a book that has a real impact on the reader. Another joy of what-happens-after-you-die books: that whole 'if this were true, what implications does it have for my own life?' thing.
Plus, I love the idea of living one day over and over till you get it right. Can't can't can't wait for this one.
Monday, 5 October 2009
Blood and Chocolate is a classic. Before Twilight came along and sparked an explosion in YA supernatural-romance titles, Annette Curtis Klause’s story of a werewolf girl falling for a human boy had readers moved, enthralled and completely under its spell.
(A quick word here to anyone who has seen the movie but not the book: pretend you never did. Wipe it from your mind. They’re not the same story.)
Vivian Gandillon is a loup-garoux, a wolf-girl. She lives in Maryland surrounded by her pack and by meat-people. That’s humans to us. To the werewolf community, they’re an extremely forbidden but tantalising snack. When Vivian falls in love with Aiden, a meat-boy, she draws the disapproval of the pack - who think she should find a mate of her own kind. What Vivian wants is someone who’ll accept her for all of who she is. Someone who’ll love her as human and wolf. As Vivian becomes sure that Aiden can be trusted with her secret, she makes a decision that puts her heart on the line - and her pack in danger.
Vivian is the kind of girl you wouldn’t take home to meet your mother. The kind of girl who’d rip you to shreds for looking at her boyfriend the wrong way. She’s passionate, dangerous, and possesses an intense physicality that’s rare in YA protagonists. Book-challenging ‘concerned parents’ would have a field day with her. She’s one of my favourite characters in any book, ever. Why? Because she’s so richly, perfectly imagined. The animal lust, the urge to mark her territory, the fact that she misses being able to go out and ‘kill something’ with her late father. She’s controversial, but she’s entirely convincing. She also knows she’s beautiful, and she’s free from that characteristically human-girl need to convince others she doesn’t. Is she an ideal role model? No. She’s just a perfect, flawed, unforgettable character who’ll touch your heart. And that’s what it’s all about, right?
Blood and Chocolate is a true coming-of-age story. Annette Curtis Klause’s depiction of the werewolf pack is detailed and complete, and provides the perfect environment for Vivian’s inner conflict. The ending strikes a chord every time I read it. Some of the reviews I’ve read express concern that the novel is too graphic for a YA audience, and it has been challenged on those grounds. As I see it, everything in this novel is necessary for the story. Every word. And they’re the kind of words that will get into your bones.
Verdict: This isn’t just a book, it’s an experience. Not one to be missed.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
Academy 7 - Anne Osterlund
Summary from Amazon: With a past too terrible to speak of, and a bleak, lonely future ahead of her, Aerin Renning is shocked to find she has earned a place at the most exclusive school in the universe. Aerin excels at Academy 7 in all but debate, where Dane Madousin—son of one of the most powerful men in the Alliance— consistently outtalks her. Fortunately Aerin consistently outwits him at sparring.
They are at the top of their class until Dane jeopardizes everything and Aerin is unintentionally dragged down with him. When the pair is given a joint punishment, an unexpected friendship—and romance—begins to form. But Dane and Aerin both harbor dangerous secrets, and the two are linked in ways neither of them could ever have imagined. . . .
Set in a universe with interplanetary travel and slave planets… of course I want to read this. You just don’t get much interplanetary travel in YA fiction, and adult space opera stuff gives me migraines, so I’m hoping this will be the perfect soft sci-fi option.
Sugar Rush - Julie Burchill
Synopsis from Barnes and Noble: When Kim has to transfer from her posh school to Ravendene Comprehensive, the notoriously violent local school, she's scared -- but then she meets Maria Sweet, better known as Sugar. Sugar is beautiful and wild, the queen bee of Ravendene, and Kim falls under her spell.
They're gorgeous party girls, envied and admired by everyone. But as Kim leaves her good-girl past far behind, she realizes she's falling in love -- with her best friend.
I loved the TV series ‘Sugar Rush’ (starring the girl who plays the ghost in ‘Being Human’) so I figured I’d check this one out. Plus, I’m hopefully relocating pretty soon to Brighton, where this book is set. So this is my equivalent of reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil before visiting Savannah. Kind of.
The Compound - S.A. Bodeen
Summary from publishers’ website: Eli and his family have lived in the underground Compound for six years. The world they knew is gone, and they’ve become accustomed to their new life. Accustomed, but not happy. No amount of luxury can stifle the dull routine of living in the same place, with only his two sisters, only his father and mother, doing the same thing day after day after day.
As problems with their carefully planned existence threaten to destroy their sanctuary—and their sanity—Eli can’t help but wonder if he’d rather take his chances outside. Eli’s father built the Compound to keep them safe. But are they safe—really?
I’ve been wanting to read this for ages, and now - at last! - it’s out in paperback. It sounds like exactly the kind of dark, tense read I enjoy. Because I can only take so much light-hearted reading, if you know what I mean.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Throwdown Thursday is a meme started by Kate at The Neverending Shelf. This is a weekly thing where we tackle books with similar characters, covers, themes, etc. to determine which one rocks more. And it is up to YOU to determine the winner!
Last week, I put two of my favourite Victorian-Gothic YA tales head to head. The winner was…
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.
This week, I’m throwing down two books by the same author. Why? Because I just can’t decide what’s better:
Maggie Stiefvater writing about fairies?
Or Maggie Stiefvater writing about werewolves?