Thursday, 30 September 2010
Magic or Madness opens with fifteen year old Reason Cansino bound for the home of her estranged grandmother. It's one of the most perfect opening chapters you could wish for, telling the reader everything they need to know about who this girl is and what her life has been until now. Raised by her mother Sarafina, their life has been defined by running away: escaping one place and seeking out the next, leaving everything behind them. They've been running from her grandmother, Esmerelda. The witch. Only now Sarafina is gone, and Reason is being sent to live with her. She's already planning her escape, of course. As the story unfolds, we accompany Reason to the witch's house, unsure what lies in store for her - and us - there. And then Reason opens a door. On the other side, New York. And winter. And magic.
Set in both Sydney, Australia and New York City, Magic or Madness is a book with two distinct accents. Chapters set in Sydney use Aussie slang and spellings; the New York based ones, on the other hand, are all-American. Not only does this add a little extra authenticity to the narrative voice - which itself switches between Reason's candid first person and a third-person perspective when she's not around - but Larbalestier has also thought to include a pretty cute glossary of cultural terms that readers might not be familiar with. Neither variation is marginalised, and they flow into each other seamlessly. Together with the novel's multi-racial, stereotype-defying cast of main players, Magic or Madness gives us the sense that this story is an inclusive one: there's somebody for every reader to instantly relate to.
Probably the most remarkable thing about Magic or Madness is Justine Larbalestier's portrayal of magic itself. Central to the tale's impact, it's not something I would wish to spoil for you, but I will say that in this series Justine Larbalestier has made the very notion of magic her own. It has logic; it keeps to its own rules and it makes sense. And from our first wondrous encounter with it to the dark revelations of the story's final chapters, it's utterly fascinating. Through Reason and her two new friends, American Jay-Tee and Australian Tom, we witness the very different ways that this brand of magic can be channelled. For Reason, magic is about numbers and patterns, and there's a undeniable beauty in the way she relates to them. For dancer Jay-Tee, it's more rooted in physicality, and for Tom - refreshingly enough - it's all about fashion design. For all them, it holds the same joy and the same terrible danger. The stakes are high.
Magic or Madness is a hugely imaginative novel. It's the kind of book I want to take apart, piece by piece, to find out what it's made of. It's heartbreaking and beautiful and impossibly clever. Like the darker fairytales of childhood, it's bleak and strangely comforting all at the same time. While the two subsequent books in the trilogy never quite captured my heart in the way Magic or Madness has, they're both worth a look - and I should probably warn you that if you read this one you will want to know what happens next. It's a keeper.
Out: March 16th 2006, US
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
But Marcie's not the only thing set to rip Patch and Nora apart. When Nora begins to see visions of her dead father, her desire to find out the truth about his murder is reignited. Before she knows it, a sinister clue is leading her right into the path of danger.
For me, Becca Fitzpatrick's debut novel Hush, Hush was all about the chemistry between the romantic leads, nice girl Nora and fallen angel Patch. While Patch himself didn't impress me - he's arrogant, rude and infuriating, for starters - his banter with Nora did. It seemed wholly believable that she'd find herself drawn to this bad boy, and that he might even be good for her. In Crescendo, however, their romance takes an unexpected turn. Patch and Nora vs. the world is traded for Patch and Nora vs. each other as secrets of colossal proportions threaten to destroy their relationship forever. Fabulous side effect of this situation? Nora grows a backbone. After all, a girl can only take so much. We might have expected her to stay at home moping, but in fact she's putting herself out there and even getting up to a little mischief.
Best of all, she's getting up to this mischief with the help of her exuberant BFF Vee. Now, Vee is probably the kind of character that readers will either love or loathe, but as far as I'm concerned she's a complete and utter scene-stealer. She's fiercely loyal, she's no pushover, and she thinks about food about ninety percent of the time. Plus, she's absolutely hilarious and brightens up every page she appears on. At the other end of the girl power spectrum we have Marcie Millar, who readers will remember as Nora's enemy from Hush, Hush - and who has a greater role to play in Crescendo. While we do gradually get a sense that there's far more to Marcie than it might initially appear, she's most notable as the character you'll love to hate. Seriously, this girl is the trashiest female character I've ever encountered in a YA novel, and she's actually kind of shocking! Finally, we're introduced to shady new boy Scott, a childhood friend of Nora's who has mystery written all over him. The focus may be firmly on Nora and Patch, but this cast of vivid and fascinating secondary characters make a big impression in their own right.
What also makes a big impression in Crescendo is Becca Fitzpatrick's incredible ability to really build that atmosphere. From the urban setting to the constant sense of danger lurking in the shadows, this instalment is imbued with a noirish quality that lends it considerable style. Even though it's summer in Nora's world, Crescendo is the kind of book that would ideally be read whilst curled up on the sofa with a thunderstorm raging outside. And there's a good reason for all this atmosphere, because Crescendo is full to the brim with mystery. Despite the fact that this is only book two in the trilogy, we also get pay-off - in the form of revelations that had this reader's jaw literally dropping open. It's pretty exciting stuff, and promises a mindblowing conclusion in the third and final book when it arrives.
Crescendo is dark, full of intrigue, and a little edgier than the first book in the trilogy (courtesy of Marcie Millar). It's a little bit mean and moody, and full of surprises. Fans of Hush, Hush will not be disappointed.
Out: 14th October 2010, UK / 19th October 2010, US
A big thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for providing a review copy.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Wuthering Heights – Charlotte Bronte
When I was taking my GCSEs, my English teacher made the class read a sample of a number of classic novels. The Mayor of Casterbridge was one (ugh, pass), Pride & Prejudice was another (looked at it but couldn’t get on with the author’s style – two years later, I adored it) and Wuthering Heights was a third. The book was A5 size and red hard-backed. The type was tiny but something about it caught my attention and I took it home to read. I finished it in one sitting.
You can read my review of My So-Called Haunting here.
Monday, 27 September 2010
In Torment, we trade the heady atmosphere of the Georgia heat for the beautiful California coast. The narrative picks us up where Fallen left off, whisks us away from the familiar and sets us down in a whole new setting. Where Fallen saw Luce resident at the oppressive Sword and Cross reform school, in Torment she's packed off to the luxurious Shoreline, where the 'gifted' - nephilim - students follow their own special curriculum, and breakfast orders are served on the terrace. Despite the initial sense of disorientation, this relocation gives Luce - and the reader - a whole new environment to explore. There are new teachers in the form of Francesca and Simon, fallen angels from opposing factions who are also an item. And there are also new classmates for Luce, most notably her spirited tough-cookie of a roommate, Shelby, and dependable Miles, who is sweet as hell. As one half of an almost mythological love story among nephilim, Luce is not only counted among the 'gifted' and enrolled in their classes - she's also something of a curiosity, and not entirely comfortable with it.
What she's also not entirely comfortable with is Daniel's absence. Because after delivering her to Shoreline, he makes himself scarce for reasons he can't quite explain to Luce - after all, if she hears about anything relating to their past from him, she'll spontaneously combust. She has to discover the truth for herself, and that's easier said that done. As in Fallen, Luce's progress in uncovering secrets is often slow - and for me, her attempts to find out about her past lives are both the most fascinating part of Torment, and the most frustrating. While Luce does discover her own ingenious way of looking into her history, it's also highly dangerous, and she's only ever able to uncover tiny morsels of tantalising buried past at a time. Not knowing that outside Shoreline, deadly Outcasts are gunning for her, she does seem to have developed an exasperating habit of straying into the path of trouble. But when nobody will tell her what the heck is going on, who can blame the girl?
As you read Torment, it's clear that this is but one chapter in what's shaping up to be an epic story. The grand scale; the sense that even the tiniest detail may later prove to be of the utmost importance; the fact that every time one of our questions is answered we find ourselves compelled to ask another. The secondary characters lend a little quirkiness and humour to proceedings, although with a cast this large it's sometimes a little difficult to keep track of which is which - and what side of the celestial war they're fighting for. I'd recommend this to all those dedicated fans of YA paranormal romance who appreciate a tantalising slow-burner of a storyline - this one has an explosive conclusion, and will leave readers desperate to find out what happens next.
Out: 30th September 2010, UK
Thanks to Random House for providing a review copy of this book.
Saturday, 25 September 2010
So I created I Was A Teenage Book Geek. I wrote a few reviews, and followed a few of the more interesting blogs I'd found. Then the first Sunday rolled around, and suddenly my reader was filled with a collection of posts all with the same title: In My Mailbox. I'd bought books that week too, so I joined right in and posted my link over at The Story Siren. I discovered new blogs that week, and other bloggers visited mine for the first time. I also drooled a little at the selections of books others had received, but I considered that a good thing. In My Mailbox seemed like something of a meeting place for this community I'd just discovered, and I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Kristi at The Story Siren intends it to be.
However, along the way, I've realised that not everyone feels the same. I've heard it suggested that IMM promotes jealousy and competition among book bloggers. That seeing people post huge lists of ARCs they've been sent that week smacks of boasting. That some take issue with bloggers who seem to receive tons of 'free' books for review while not buying many. And even that some people don't deserve the books they get.
Now, personally, I couldn't care less how many review copies other people receive. I follow some bloggers who seem to get an entire shelf full of books every week, and I read their IMM's with a mixture of awe and fascination. When I started blogging I didn't even consider the possibility that I'd ever be sent books for review - most of the people who received them in their IMM posts at the time seemed to be US bloggers, and I'm from the little ol' UK. I didn't think twice about it. But since by some happy turn of events I do now receive review books, I take my role as reviewer seriously. I try to be as conscientious as I can. But a whole shelf full of books in a week is a whole lot of conscientiousness. I admire people who review five or six books a week, but I don't have the time for that. I try not to accept more than I can read.
But what I do care about is the potential tackiness of my own IMM posts. Over recent months, I've begun to receive more review books. Since I don't like to let my TBR pile get too out of control I've tried to curb my own book buying to balance it out. (Because seriously, the TBR can get way out of control, and I think it's generally best to take action before it grows teeth and attacks the neighbour's labradoodle, y'know?) The problem with this is, my IMM posts begin to look like I don't buy many books any more. Which means, they're sometimes full of review books. So... yes, I can concede that it might look like I'm a show off.
I'm considering dropping my own IMM posts, but I'd like to get some second opinions before I make up my mind. What's your view? Do you like or loathe IMM? Is it the great weekly community-building event we think it is, or is it something that makes us bloggers look bad to the non-bloggers who read our posts? Am I stressing over nothing? All words of wisdom welcome here.
Friday, 24 September 2010
When Skye comes to stay with her aunt in London, things really get tricky. Not only is she falling fast for school hottie Nico, but she's also made friends with Dontay... who just so happens to have recently died. One boy needs her help, and the other seems to be interested in something more - but do both spell trouble?
My So-Called Haunting is the follow-up to Brit author Tamsyn Murray's fabulous first novel, My So-Called Afterlife. It's a companion novel rather than a direct sequel, which means that although we're hanging out with a different main character, there's a few familiar faces and a welcome return to ghost hangout The Church of the Dearly Departed.
Skye is your average teenager. She goes to school, she feels like a loser, and when she comes home she squabbles with the centuries-old ghost who haunts the place. Having seen ghosts her entire life, Skye is fairly easy-going about her 'gift', but there's a dark side to it too - such as being the only person on the bus each morning who sees the ghost of a woman repeatedly throwing herself off a bridge. Creepy, right? Though clairvoyance runs in her family, her mum doesn't possess it, and this puts a certain emotional distance between them. There's also some actual distance, since her mum is working overseas for a year and Skye's come down from Scotland to live in London with her equally clairvoyant aunt and her aunt's boyfriend Jeremy (if you've read MSCA, you'll recognise them). Although it's Skye's story, cantankerous spirit Mary Drover definitely steals the show - always on hand to accuse Skye of dressing like a strumpet or lament the unnaturalness of modern technology, she's like a really really old grandparent who just happens to be able to walk through walls.
While Skye narrates events with plenty of wry humour (the best kind) the tone is a perhaps a smidgen more serious than My So-Called Afterlife. Murray tackles the topical theme of gang culture as Skye befriends ghost boy Dontay, who was recently murdered and hasn't yet been able to move on. Dontay's story develops in a way that will undoubtedly convey a positive message to tweens and younger teens, although older readers might find the approach slightly simplistic. But where My So-Called Haunting really excels is in the romance between Skye and her (impossibly handsome, swoonworthy and mysterious) crush Nico. Although it starts out much as your regular paranormal YA romance, it soon heads off in a far more unexpected direction. It's twisty and entertaining and somehow far more real than all that 'instant soulmates' stuff you want to believe in but never quite can. When it comes to romance, this book has smarts, and that is a very good thing.
My So-Called Haunting is overflowing with wicked fun ghostly goodness. It's the kind of book you'll find yourself giggling out loud at, and quite possibly trying to pass off a few of Skye's witty asides as your own. If you like your ghost stories more snarky than scary, you'll like this.
Out: September 24th 2010, UK
Thanks to Piccadilly for providing a review copy of this book.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.
But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
In Blood Ransom, we get to find out what happens to Rachel and Theo some time after the events of Blood Ties. Was it always your intention to write a sequel?
I loved writing Blood Ties so much (it's my favourite of the teenage books I've written so far) and I always hoped I'd be able to go back and revisit the characters. However I wanted to wait until I had a proper story to tell - there's nothing worse than a sequel that falls flat - as I didn't want to let down any of the people who enjoyed Blood Ties.
Both Blood Ties and Girl, Missing combine thrilling, edge-of-your-seat action with complex and convincing characters. What comes first when you're writing, character or plot? How do you come up with your ideas?
Mmmn, that's very tricky to answer. Different books start in different ways. Blood Ties basically began because I was interested in human cloning and started wondering what it would like to be teenager discovering you were a clone. Rachel and Theo grew out of that - but the story of Blood Ties grew with them, so I guess the character and the plot emerged simultaneously!
Blood Ties addresses the issue of body image and self perception in a really positive way. Is it important to you that your books have a positive message for your readers?
I don't think about having any kind of 'message' when I write, though it’s probably inevitable that some of my own values and interests come out in my writing. I know how easy it is to feel bad about yourself for all sorts of reasons and in Blood Ties I loved showing how it’s possible to start feeling better by becoming more self-aware, by facing fears and by starting to connect with other people. I was drawn to Rachel, particularly, because she begins Blood Ties feeling so insecure and gains strength and confidence through the story.
In Blood Ties and Blood Ransom, we're drawn into the strange and fascinating world of illegal genetic engineering. How did you set about researching this subject?
I'm not a scientist, so my research into the technicalities of human cloning was fairly limited. I was more interested in researching the range of views on the morality and emotional impact of creating and being a human clone. Most of my work on that front was carried out online.
As clones, Rachel and Theo both encounter other versions of themselves along the way - characters they share blood ties with, but who are also incredibly different from them. What are the challenges in creating characters who are linked in this way?
Everything led on from my premise that a clone is like an identical twin - genetically the same, but able to be different in all other respects. The time and place and circumstances of any individual's early years is crucial to their development. In other words, nurture matters as well as nature. With Elijah and Theo, for instance, I was keen to show that Elijah had made certain choices that Theo didn't have to choose for himself.
Your novels often explore questions of identity, and situations where characters find their identities in doubt. What draws you to this subject?
I don't know why I'm so often drawn to characters facing challenges to their identity, but trying to work out who we are and why we're here seem to be big issues that affect us all one way or another!
What are you working on next? Can we expect to hear anything more from Rachel and Theo in the future?
I don't know if I'll write more about Rachel and Theo in the future. I don't have any plans to at present. Right now I'm focusing on The Medusa Project, my series of books about a group of teenagers with psychic abilities who are forced to work together as a crime-fighting unit. The Set-Up, The Hostage and The Rescue are the titles published so far and there should be at least three more books in the series.
Thanks so much for taking time out to answer my questions, Sophie!
Want to know more about Blood Ransom? Stop by So Many Books, So Little Time to check out an exclusive extract tomorrow.
You can find my review of Blood Ties here.
Monday, 20 September 2010
Sunday, 19 September 2010
A bookstore. My lunch hour. Enter Me, 'just browsing'. Also enter brand new shiny books just inviting me to snap them up.
Imaginary Angel On My Left Shoulder: But Lauren, you made yourself a promise. A sacred oath. No more books while there are so many waiting for you at home.
Me: Hmmm, you're right. Buying any more would be book gluttony. And conspicuous consumption. I can exercise some willpower here. Bye bye for now, new books.
Evening. My desk. Enter Me, 'just browsing' an online store for brand new shiny books to add to my wishlist.
Imaginary Devil On My Right Shoulder: Y'know, 'pre-ordering' isn't exactly 'buying'.
Me: Um, I'm not sure about that. It feels like cheating.
Imaginary Angel: It IS cheating. Be strong, Lauren. You can do this.
Imaginary Devil: Cheating, schmeating. These books are not out until NEXT YEAR, goody-two-wings. Her TBR pile will be long-read by then.
Me: Hell yeah! I'll have this one, and this one, and this one -
Imaginary Angel: But -
Me: Shut it, feather-brain. I'm a pre-order machine. Ain't no stopping me now.
The moral of this? I didn't technically buy any new books this week, but I'm not exactly guilt-free. The forces of darkness win again. But I do have lots of yummy new books for review.... (All links go to Goodreads.com)
Friday, 17 September 2010
But when he discovers his father isn't dead, Theo is desperate to find him. Hot on the trail of his father's whereabouts, the clues lead him to shy outcast Rachel - the daughter of one of his dad's former colleagues at the controversial genetic research centre where he worked. As he draws closer to the truth, little does Theo realise that dangerous enemies lurk in the shadows, and that he and Rachel will soon be staring death in the face.
Blood Ties is a title I've often skimmed over on bookstore shelves, overlooking it in the mistaken belief that YA thrillers don't really appeal to me. But after initially opening it to check out the first few chapters and finding myself glued to the story in every spare moment I had over the next two days, I'm enlightened. With vivid and believable characters, breathtaking action and themes that sci-fi fans are sure to appreciate, Blood Ties is pure brilliance.
Uncomfortable in her own skin, unlikely heroine Rachel is overweight, unpopular, and - according to her school's queen bee and her own self perception - not particularly attractive. Having always felt that her parents compared her unfavourably to her sister Rebecca, who died before she was born, she seems to believe all the negative things that other people say about her. She shares the narrative with Theo, an outgoing and confident boy who at first seems out of her league. Unlike many YA novels, Blood Ties doesn't expect us to believe that this good looking guy takes one look at the awkward social outcast and somehow instantly sees what everyone else can't. While Rachel's starting to develop romantic feelings for him, he's only interested in tracking down the father he's never known. Just as it's starting to look as though Rachel's feelings are going to get majorly hurt, the plot takes off running - and Rachel has to forget her self-doubt and step up to become the person she always had the potential to be.
Because when Theo makes contact with Rachel, he unwittingly propels them both into the dangerous and shadowy world of illegal genetic engineering. It's a world where they find them pursued by not one but two dangerous enemies - RAGE, an organisation that opposes genetic engineering and will use any methods necessary to stop it, and self-serving scientist Elijah, whose experiments hold the key to the novel's central mystery. Theo and Rachel find themselves battling for their lives in a breathless tale of loyalty and adventure that sees them sharing a bond they never could have expected.
But while genetic engineering is something that most people won't have personal experience of, Blood Ties is nonetheless a book that will truly speak to readers. It's about identity: about what makes us who we are and how much control we have over who we'll become. Are we shaped by our parents' influence? Are we who others tell us we are? Or are we just a bunch of cells destined to fulfil the legacy of our genes? These are coming-of-age questions, and ones that most readers will have struggled with themselves at some point. Don't get me wrong, this book is first and foremost a wicked fast thriller - but it's also that rare gem, a YA thriller with substance and satisfying character development.
Blood Ties is a rollercoaster ride of a book. It's got the balance between characterisation and story just right, and literally gripped me from start to finish with its twisty plot and fascinating subject matter. Perfectly paced, it explores themes of identity and self-perception from the thick of the action. It's clever and thoughtful and thrilling and once you pick it up, you won't want to put it down again.
Out: July 7th 2008, UK
A big thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for providing a review copy of this book.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Summary from Amazon.com: A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Wait, did someone say space travel? They did? Then I am saying hell yeah!
Quite honestly, I don't know where to begin with this one. There are so many, many reasons for my excitement about it that it has all just merged into a giant ball of bookish anticipation. I would pretty much read any YA book set three hundred years in the future / set on a spaceship / involving cryonic suspension (my very favourite kind of suspension! woot!) and this book will have ALL of those things. It's almost too thrilling to contemplate.
And yet... I am contemplating it. Daily. To the extent that I frequently find myself humming the song 'Across the Universe' (in the style of the Fiona Apple cover version, naturally). This is going to be big, right?
Across the Universe launches on January 11th 2011 in the US, and March 3rd 2011 in the UK.
Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.
Monday, 13 September 2010
While I usually prefer a first-person narrative, Charlie Higson's zombie horror The Enemy is very much an ensemble piece - and that's part of what makes it so frightening. This isn't the story of one character's nightmare future: it's a story that both male and female teens can find a version of themselves reflected in. There are characters here from all walks of life - from the kids who have found shelter at a downmarket grocery store because it's the one their parents shopped at, to those who have already spent years having leadership qualities instilled in them at expensive boarding schools. Their lives before adults started turning into zombies were worlds apart, but now they're all facing the same horror... and it's pretty obvious none of them can survive alone. So when a small group of survivors are visited by a strangely-dressed boy who tells them there is a safe place left in the city, they figure they've got nothing to lose in setting off through the zombie-infested streets in the hope that it's true - and that some of them will make it there alive.
Without a single protagonist we can count on to triumph against the odds, there's a real sense that any of these characters can die at any time - and many of them do. The world Charlie Higson has created is a dangerous one, and he doesn't let the reader forget it for a second. Because unlike the majority of undead creatures you'll find in recent young adult fiction, Higson's zombies are hardcore. They're decomposing, they eat human flesh and they're scary as hell. I'm not especially squeamish, but even I found myself fighting nausea at several of The Enemy's more stomach-churning episodes. The best / worst part? These zombies are all that the survivors have left of their parents' generation. Our young characters even refer to the undead as Mothers and Fathers - they're running scared of the very people who should be protecting them from danger, and that's both dark and poignant in itself.
If all this is sounding pretty terrifying, that's because it is. But strangely, there's an element of wish fulfilment in this terrible scenario that somehow also makes The Enemy... fun. With all sense of authority gone, those aged fourteen and under now have free run of London. Hiding out in a supermarket, shopping for free in one of the city's most famous department stores, and even getting to explore Buckingham Palace - the possibilities are endless, as long as they can avoid becoming a zombie's lunch. For those determined to restore some sense of order to society, there's also the possiblity of creating a brave new world - but they'll have to convince the less law-abiding peers first, and that's a whole other battle in itself.
The Enemy is a gripping new take on a horror staple. It's a book that reimagines the familiar theme of zombie apocaplyse for a YA audience - and ends up being all the scarier for it. While action tends to take a front seat, there's enough character development to satisfy those who can't survive on plot alone... as long as they like it with a side order of oozing gore. Chilling.
Out: now, UK
Thanks to Puffin for providing a review copy of this book.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
I've tried my hardest to choose book titles that really represent me in some way, but also to select the titles of books I enjoyed. It's trickier than it looks!
In high school I was: Almost True (Keren David)
I say 'almost'. I was also a little bit of a try-hard wannabe. Oh well.
People might be surprised I'm: Wildthorn (Jane Eagland)
I will never be: Accomplice (Eireann Corrigan)
I'm nobody's sidekick.
My fantasy job is: Empress of the World (Sara Ryan)
At the end of a long day I need: Restoring Harmony (Joelle Anthony)
I hate it when: Of All The Stupid Things (Alexandra Diaz)
Wilful stupidity annoys me more than almost anything else in the world. Why would anyone go around acting like an airhead / using their fists to solve conflict / perpetuating ignorance when they could aspire to be witty, intelligent and articulate? I don't get it.
Wish I had: A Most Improper Magick (Stephanie Burgis)
My family reunions are: Posse (Kate Welshman)
I've had three family reunions this year: two funerals, and one wedding. They've all made me realise just how much my family love each other, and how accepting we are. I love that the generation below me are growing up in a diverse family where they have such a range of role models to choose from. That is win.
At a party you'd find me: Sisters Red (Jackson Pearce)
I've never been to: The Line (Teri Hall)
A happy day includes: Pink (Lili Wilkinson)
Motto I live by: The Sky Always Hears Me, And The Hills Don't Mind (Kirstin Cronn-Mills)
On my bucket list: Speak (Laurie Halse Anderson)
In my next life I want to be: The Ordinary Princess (M.M. Kaye)
A little wish-fulfilment never hurt anybody. :P
I'm tagging everyone who wants to join in, so if you're going to make your own attempt at this, feel free to link to it in the comments.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
(Also, with our bookshelves overflowing, I'm going under some serious pressure to give some of the ones I've already read to the charity shop before I go stocking up on new ones. Boo!)
Burning Secrets - Clare Chambers
In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
While the depiction of the social divisions at Ava's new school is occasionally familiar (think mean girls nicknamed 'the pastels' by the resident misfits, and some serious Regina George / Janis Ian dynamics), Wilkinson brings every one of her huge cast of characters vividly to life. From Ava's infuriatingly obnoxious girlfriend Chloe, to her new friend Alexis, whose pastel exterior conceals a few geeky secrets of her own, these are characters you can't dismiss as all bad or hail as all good. From the stage crew freaks to the in crowd, each individual has their own special blend of personal qualities, quirks and motivation - and that's what makes the lessons Ava learns so very convincing. They're as complex and multi-layered as the real people all around us. Pink is a book that says sorting and labelling people - even yourself - into narrow restrictive categories is entirely bogus, and definitely not the key to happiness.
I don't usually tend to discuss cover art in my reviews, but I really can't review Pink without commenting on the oh-so-pretty pastel pink cover - complete with raised pastel pink images of objects that relate to Ava's journey. I'm a fan of pink covers in general - it's my favourite colour, and the fact that some readers will instantly dismiss pink books as frivolous or shallow or 'girly' (like that's a bad thing) makes me feel a little bit defensive for them. Judging a book by its cover is one of the themes Lili Wilkinson addresses in Pink, so it's interesting to consider that some people who would really benefit from reading it might never pick it up because they've done just that. It's also good to be reminded that picking a book up because it's pink is every bit as judgemental, in a different way. While Pink does explore themes of femininity and feminism and sexuality and gender identity, it's a book that I think everyone should read, regardless of what gender or sexuality they identify as.
In Pink, Lili Wilkinson has created a narrative of deceptively thoughtful brilliance: a story that thoroughly entertains the reader while exploring key questions of identity in terms that are both intelligent and accessible. With its smart, witty and intimate voice, Pink is a shining example of everything that's good about the best contemporary YA fiction. It's a book that asks big questions but thankfully doesn't offer trite answers. I adore it, and I'll be telling everyone who'll listen to get themselves a copy. Stat.
Out: this edition, 1st August 2010, UK
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Congratulations to Tina and Kelly, who were numbers 51 and 7 respectively out of a total of 127 entrants. Your chosen books will be on the way to you both later this week.
Thanks to everyone who entered, and an extra big thanks to those who tweeted about the contest and added it to their sidebars. Y'all are AWESOME.
Monday, 6 September 2010
In the previous book, Shadows, Eve found herself torn between the two hot new guys in town -minister's son and player Luke, and the seemingly more sensitive Mal. In The Hunt, Mal's out of the picture and Luke has become a (somewhat flirtatious) good friend, hanging out with Eve and her cheerleader BFF Jess like a third musketeer. Because while Luke seems to attract an endless stream of female admirers, he's not a player in the negative sense of the word. He isn't on an ego trip and he doesn't treat anyone badly - as Eve points out, he just genuinely likes a LOT of girls. Our focus is firmly on the supernatural mystery that the trio are busy uncovering, but it's plain to see that the electricity between Eve and Luke is definitely still there. The result is a light-hearted, will-they-won't-they vibe that'll keep readers interested without bogging the action down with any emotional melodramas.
The story in this instalment is pretty standard fare, as a spate of attacks on residents of Eve's exclusive town in the Hamptons soon has her suspecting supernatural origins. It's exactly the kind of plot you'd find in an classic episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Charmed, but as with those shows what stands out is the spin that the Dark Touch characters put on it. They're full of snappy, sassy dialogue and self-referential humour to ensure that the reader keeps smiling while they're turning those pages. While there's not a huge amount of character development, we do begin to get a stronger idea of the different qualities that Eve, Jess and Luke each bring to proceedings - and it's becoming clear that although Eve's the one with the magic powers, the real strength of these three lies in their friendship. The plot is twisty enough to keep us guessing... although the smarter cookies out there will probably still solve the mystery a split second before Eve does.
The Hunt is another feisty and super fun instalment in what's shaping up to be an excellent supernatural series. It's witty, energetic and upbeat - and definitely one for Buffy fans. In my opinion, Dark Touch deserves way more buzz than it's getting. Demontastic.
Out: August 5th 2010, UK
Thanks to Random House UK for the review copy.
Saturday, 4 September 2010
All links go to Goodreads.com
Mistress of the Storm - M.L. Welsh
First, I have to say that this cover is utterly beautiful in real life, and the way it appears onscreen really doesn't do it justice. The jacket copy describes it as 'A wind-swept, salt-sprayed novel that will whisk you away...' and as someone who would rather be at the beach than any other place on earth, I'm already beguiled. Thanks to the author for this one.
My So-Called Haunting - Tamsyn Murray
Yay! I'm super excited to read this one, because Tamsyn Murray's first book - My So-Called Afterlife - was cute and funny and basically awesome. (Review here). Thanks to Piccadilly for this one.
The Haunted - Jessica Verday
This is the sequel to 2009's The Hollow, which I really loved (review here). I adore Verday's beautifully descriptive style, and the way that she draws on Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in the telling of this series. It feels like I've been looking forward to this one a *long* time.
Whisper My Name - Jane Eagland
I read Jane Eagland's first novel Wildthorn a few weeks ago, and thought it was pretty amazing. True, I haven't gotten around to reviewing it yet, but I will definitely do so at some point. In the meantime, I couldn't resist this one.
In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Part coming-of-age story, part high school satire, Elliot Allagash is one of the cleverest books I've read in a long time. Absurd, exhilirating and sometimes just plain odd, this tale of one boy's pact with the devil has had some mixed reviews - but I have no idea why. It's genius.
We see events through the eyes of resigned loser, Seymour, but it's Elliot Allagash himself who really steals the show. The only son of an impossibly rich widower, Elliot is keenly aware that his money makes him hugely powerful. As a human being, he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He's ruthless, manipulative and utterly without empathy for his peers. But as a character, he's fascinating. For Elliot, life is all about cheating. From fixing the results of a school election to enacting overblown revenge on anyone who dares to slight him, it's like sport to him. He disects the world around him with a cold detachment, exploiting his opponents' weaknesses and revelling in his own cleverness.
Which is why, from the moment that Elliot tells Seymour - the most unpopular boy at Glendale Prep - that he can make him king of the school, we know it's not out of the goodness of his heart. And yet, there's something so clever about Elliot's methods that it's impossible not to feel at least a little impressed by them. Besides, there's an element of wish-fulfilment here for the reader too: who doesn't want the likeable loser to seize power from the hands of those who ignore and torment him? Simon Rich weaves a tale as enticing as it is entertaining, spiked with potent dark humour and just a dash of poignancy. Occasionally we have to suspend our disbelief a little further than is comfortable, but it's worth it - and easy when you're having fun. While drawing lightly on familiar tales of genies and Faustian Bargains, Rich tells his story with a fresh voice and with his own brand of endearingly quirky symbolism.
Elliot Allagash is unusual, hilarious, and deceptively smart. I'm not in the least bit surprised that there's a movie adaptation in the pipeline, but I would recommend checking it out now in novel form for something deliciously different.
Out: August 5th 2010, UK / May 25th 2010, US
Thanks to Serpent's Tail for providing a review copy of this book.
Thursday, 2 September 2010
In my generation, there are lots of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans. I don't think this is prophesied anywhere, but it's a basic fact. I am one of them. Thanks to the phenomenally successful tv series, the books, the merchandise and the original movie (well, maybe less so the movie), it's indisputable: Buffy rules.
But while I've seen every episode, played the card game and even bought some of the scripts in book form, I'd never actually read a Buffy novel. So when I heard about this bind up of the first three titles, I knew I had to check them out. And I'm so glad I did, because these novels have everything we fans loved about the tv series - and with the added bonus that they're completely different stories.
Of the three novels here, my favourite is easily Coyote Moon. Set in the summertime when the Carnival is in town, it's the kind of story that gives you the creeps. Between the humor, the air of subtle danger that the Carnival brings to proceedings, and the new twist on a familiar legend, it has all the ingredients of a classic Buffy episode. Night of the Living Rerun is probably my least favourite - a tale of past lives that lost my attention in places and was occasionally hard to follow. The final novel, Portal Through Time, is the most epic of the three. Buffy - along with Xander, Willow and her watcher Giles - travel back in time to defeat a vampire plot to kill previous Slayers. It's fascinating and fun, and we even get a couple of cameos from other favourite characters. It's a story that would have had to run over a few episodes of the tv show, or be simplified a LOT - but in novel form, it's a satisfying helping of Buffy awesomeness.
The most impressive thing about this bind up is that all of the three authors - John Vornholt, Arthur Byron Cover and Alice Henderson - have faithfully recreated the essence of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but also given us three very different stories. They're fresh and intriguing in their own right. I'm not sure how they'll read to someone who has never seen the tv series at all, but I suspect that anyone who has caught even one or two episodes will find themselves easily able to imagine the actors speaking the smart and witty dialogue their characters are given in these novels. My only minor issue is that hardcore Buffy fans will probably want to work out where exactly these stories 'fit' in terms of the chronology of the tv episodes. Each novel does seem to link to what was happening in the tv series at a particular point, but rather than following directly on from each other they jump around a little along the timeline. However, this doesn't make them any less enjoyable.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1 pretty much rocks. It's full of 'Grrr' and 'Argghh' and more wiggins than you can shake a pointy stick at. Buffy fans will love it. Those who aren't yet Buffy fans should follow my sage advice: go watch season one, marvel in the greatness, then read this.
Out: September 2nd 2010, UK
Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK for providing a review copy of this book.
GIVEAWAY! I have FIVE copies of Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1 to give away, thanks to the fantastic Simon and Schuster UK.
- Contest is open to UK entrants only, and prizes will be sent out direct from the S&S UK.
- There will be five winners, of one book each, chosen at random using an online randomizer.
- Entrants must be aged 13 or over.
- Entrants aged under 16 must have permission from their parent or guardian, and must provide an email address for their parent or guardian - not their own!
- Contest closes at midnight GMT on the 9th September 2010.
- Winners will be chosen, announced and contacted by email on the 10th September 2010. If no response is received after 48 hours an alternative winner will be chosen.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
To celebrate the upcoming release of Crescendo, the stunning sequel to international bestseller Hush, Hush, UK publishers Simon & Schuster are unveiling an exclusive blog tour! The tour will take place from the 29th September – 15th October, and stop at the following venues:
29th September - Book Chick City
An exclusive Q&A with Becca Fitzpatrick
4th October - The Bookette
A never-before-seen flashback extract from Crescendo
5th October - Once Upon A Bookcase
A never-before-seen flashback extract from Crescendo featuring Patch & Nora!
6th October – I Was A Teenage Book Geek
SPECIAL FEATURE: “You know you’re obsessed with Hush, Hush when…”
7th October – Book Geeks
Competition to win copies of Crescendo!
8th October - So Many Books So Little Time
Exclusive audio extract from the Hush, Hush audiobook
9th October - Daisy Chain Books
Discussion post: Crescendo playlist
The second leg of the tour will commence at Wondrous Reads, who will celebrate the release of Crescendo with a week dedicated to all-things-Patch, including US vs. UK, an interview with designer James Porto, review, signed goodies to be won, and many more super secret Hush, Hush related material!
Each stop on the tour will reveal an exclusive question and answer with Becca Fitzpatrick, so make sure to follow us every step of the way for your chance to snap up all the sneak peeks and potential prizes! Each blog will also be reviewing Crescendo in the run up to the tour, so keep your eyes peeled to hear what your favourite bloggers thought of this amazing book.
Simon & Schuster will also be celebrating on their Twitter page (@simonkids_UK), giving away exclusive early copies (!!!!) of Crescendo and updating you on all the tour action, tweeting reviews and posts as they come in. We’ll also be following Becca Fitzpatrick through her entire UK tour (more details on that to come later).
If you're as excited about all that as I am (which is VERY!), please help spread the word about the CRESCENDO UK BLOG TOUR using the tour banner on your blogs and websites! See you there!