Friday, 31 July 2009

Featured on Friday: Y.S. Lee

Welcome to a new feature here at So Many Books, So Little Time. Every Friday I will be featuring an author and asking them a few questions. My fist featured author is Ying Lee.

Y.S. Lee’s debut novel The Agency: A Spy in the House was released this April by Walker Books and will be released in the US in September.

1. Can you tell us a bit about A Spy in the House?
A Spy in the House is the first novel in the Agency series, a trilogy set in Victorian London. Its heroine is Mary Quinn, a smart, feisty 17-year-old with a criminal past and an uncertain future. Mary is rescued from the gallows, trained as an undercover agent, and sent on her first assignment, into the house of a rich merchant suspected of smuggling. The world of The Agency, a secret all-female intelligence force, is dark and dangerous - far from the "tea and scones" stereotype of historical fiction.

2. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I’m one of those coffee-shop people, tapping away at a laptop with a mug of black coffee slowly going cold beside me. And I have to finish my day’s work by about 8 or 9 pm, to let my brain spin down before going to bed – the images are so vivid, and I have so many ideas shooting off in strange directions, that I can’t sleep if I work late.

3. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
As a teenager, I was very suspicious of YA fiction. The examples I read were weirdly didactic and very emotionally self-absorbed, and I didn’t believe in the characters at all. (I should probably have asked around; I’m sure there was a wonderful librarian who knew all about the genre and could have guided me, but I didn’t. Sigh.) So I read classics (JANE EYRE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, most of Jane Austen) and wrote terrible poetry that was just as self-absorbed as the YA novels I disliked.My current favourites are often still classics – my all-time favourite novel, which I re-read every couple of years, is MIDDLEMARCH (by George Eliot). I find something new every time I read it. And I love contemporary British fiction: Zadie Smith, Jane Gardam, Beryl Bainbridge. Philip Hensher’s THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY recently delighted and awed me.

4. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
1. MIDDLEMARCH, of course.2. Is it cheating to say the complete works of Shakespeare? It could, technically, be one volume.3. And something I’ve always planned to tackle, since I’d have lots of time on a desert island: Proust’s A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU. Yes, that’s made me sound like a terrible and pretentious stereotype, but it’s really what I’d choose.

5. What did you do in the way of research for A Spy in the House?
Much of the research happened well before I even thought of writing a novel. I spent years reading Victorian novels and researching nineteenth-century culture (my PhD subject), so when I decided to write fiction, I was already immersed in the period. But there was lots of concrete research to do. I read articles and books (academic, non-academic, contemporary, Victorian), went to museums and art galleries, studied maps, and walked obsessively around London. I love research, so all this was really fun.

6. Why did you choose Victorian London as your setting?
I loved the challenge of re-imagining a city that still exists, but has also been partly torn down and paved over. And I was interested in the Victorian London you don’t often read about: the grimy, unattractive, badly ventilated, way-too-densely populated, poverty-stricken aspects of urban life. As may be obvious to someone who’s read SPY, I find slick glamour a bit dull.

7. I loved that the agency was ran secretly from the inside of a girls school. Where did you get the idea from?
Thank you! I have no idea where the idea came from – just the crevices of my insomniac brain, I guess.

8. Can you tell us anything about the next in the Agency trilogy, The Body at the Tower?
I’d love to. In The Body at the Tower (to be published in April 2010), Mary goes to work on a construction site to investigate a possible murder. She’s disguised as a 12-year-old boy – something she finds deeply uncomfortable, since as a homeless child she dressed as a boy to avoid rape. She’s not really ready to confront her past like this. And to make things worse, all the workers are suspicious of her. It’s hard for her to imagine how she’ll ever discover anything – especially with James Easton back from India and on the scene…

Thank you very much, Ying! You can visit Ying at her website here and read my review of The Spy in the House here.

Sophie

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Fab New Blogger and Font Colours

I've recently discovered a very cool blog called The Undercover Book Lover that I think you should all check out. Reggie writes fab reviews of some really great books.

Reggie also told me that the red font that I use on my blog is really hard to read with the black background. If you agree it would be great if you could let me know in the comments so that I know if I need to change it.

EDIT: Is this any better? I really miss the red though :(

Thanks,
Sophie

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Shadow Kiss: A Vampire Academy Novel - Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss: A Vampire Academy Novel - Richelle Mead

Pages: 443
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: 13th November 2008

Other Titles in the Series: Vampire Academy (my review), Frostbite (my review), Blood Promise (25/08/09)

What if following her heart means Rose could lose her best friend forever?

Rose Hathaway knows it is forbidden to love another guardian. Her best friend, Lissa - the last Dragomir princess - must always come first. Unfortunately, when it comes the gorgeous Dimitri Belikov, some rules are meant to be broken…

But since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn’t been feeling right. Something dark has begun to grow in her mind, and ghostly shadows warn of a terrible evil drawing nearer to the Academy’s iron gates. And now that Lissa and Rose’s sworn enemy, Victor Dashkov, is on trial for his freedom, tensions in the Moroi world are higher than ever.

Lying to Lissa about Dimitri is one thing, but suddenly there’s way more than friendship at stake. The immortal undead are on the prowl, and they want vengeance for the lives that Rose has stolen. In a heart-stopping battle to rival her worst nightmares, Rose will have to choose between life, love, and the two people who matter most…but will her choice mean that only one can survive?

Wow! Shadow Kiss was fantastically amazing. It’s hard to put into words how much I loved it.

I was very worried about Rose in Shadow Kiss. Everything that was effecting her became steadily worse and I was just waiting for her to finally snap. This feeling only intensified as we learned more about Anna and the nature of her relationship with St. Vladimir and it’s similarities to Rose and Lissa’s.

Something that struck me repeatedly in Shadow Kiss was how oblivious Lissa was to how Rose and Dimitri felt about each other and also how unwilling Rose was to tell her. Rose’s need to protect those she loves trumps every other aspect of her life, right down to not telling her best friend about the guy she loves just in case it gets out somehow. She is the type of person that would lay down their life for someone but also seems terrified of letting anybody in.

But the ending. Oh my god, the ending. I was left reeling, in complete and utter shock. The Ravenous Reader told me that Shadow Kiss tore her heart out. I wasn’t quite prepared for how right she was. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since and I still can’t get my head around it. It totally blew me away.

I am literally aching for Blood Promise now. Roll on August!

Sophie

Monday, 27 July 2009

Frostbite: A Vampire Academy Novel - Richelle Mead

Frostbite: A Vampire Academy Novel - Richelle Mead

Pages: 327
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: 28th August 2008

Other Titles in the Series: Vampire Academy (my review), Shadow Kiss, Blood Promise (25/08/09)

When love and jealously collide on the slopes, winter break turns deadly…

Rose Hathaway’s got serious guy trouble. Her gorgeous tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason has a huge crush on her, and she keeps get stuck in her best friend Lissa’s head while she’s making out with her boyfriend, Christian.

Then a massive Strigoi attack puts St. Vladimir’s on high alert, and the Academy crawls with Guardians - including the legendary Jeanine Hathaway…Rose’s formidable, long-absent mother. The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy’s not taking any risks. This year, St. Vlad’s holiday ski trip is mandatory.

But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only provide the illusion of safety. When three students run away to strike back against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. Only this time, Rose - and her heart - are in more danger than she ever could have imagined…

The Vampire Academy series had become one of my favourites. Frostbite was as addictive as a Moroi bite (Sorry, couldn't help it!).

I love the element of forbidden romance in Frostbite. It’s something that I thoroughly enjoy reading about. The tension that coats the novel makes it utterly compulsive. I wanted to read it all in one sitting so that I could find out if Rose and Dimitri got any closer to getting together, but unfortunately I had to go to college. Education is so inconvenient. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book where the girl and the guy resist each other for so long. Part of me is irritated but the rest absolutely loves it!

The atmosphere of Frostbite was drenched in the feeling of impending danger. It created so much suspense that I was constantly expecting the Strigoi to jump out and attack Rose and Lissa. That suspense created such a sense of unease that I was hanging on every single word.

All of the settings really enhanced the story and atmosphere of Frostbite. The isolation of the Academy in the middle of the forests of Montana made it even more intimidating and seem even harder to escape. The snowy ski resort that the Academy visited made me believe that anything could happen in that beautiful and romantic setting. It also made me want to go skiing, despite my severe lack of co-ordination. Books are powerful things, I tell you.

I absolutely love this series, it just keeps on getting better. I highly recommend it.

Sophie

Sunday, 26 July 2009

In My Mailbox 26

This was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. If you want more information check out their blogs. All summaries are from the book jackets.

Twenty Boy Summer - Sarah Ockler

“Don’t worry, Anna, I’ll tell her okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it.”
“Okay.”
“Promise me? Promise you won’t say anything?”
“Don’t worry.” I laughed. “It’s our secret, right?”

According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna light-heartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie - she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it means to truly love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

I am so excited to read this. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about it.

Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock

When you don’t talk,
there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Harsh words indeed, from Brian nelson of all people. But D.J. Schwenk can’t help admitting to herself that maybe he’s right. Because it’s obvious that no one is talking about why D.J.’s best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Or why her mom has two jobs and a big secret, or why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home nowadays. And certainly no one is talking about how D.J.’s dad would go ballistic on her if she tried out for the football team. There’s definitely a lot not being said. And that’s not even mentioning the many reasons that Brian Nelson is so out of D.J.’s league.

When you don’t talk,
there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.

Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

This sounds like a perfect summer read.

Strange Angels - Lili St. Crow

Dad? Zombie.
Mom? Long gone.
Me? Well, that’s the scary part.

The Real World is a frightening place. Just ask sixteen-year-old orphan Dru Anderson, a tough girl who has taken down her fair share of bad guys. She’s armed, dangerous, and ready to kill first and ask questions later. So it’s gonna take her a while to figure out who she can trust…
Dru Anderson has been ‘strange’ for as long as she can remember, travelling from town to town with her father to hunt the things that go bump in the night. It’s a weird life, but a good one - until it all explodes in an icy, broken-down Dakota town, when a hungry zombie busts through her kitchen door. Alone, terrified, and trapped, Dru’s going to need every inch of her wit and training to stay alive. The monsters have decided to hunt back - and this time, Dru’s on their menu. Chance of survival? Slim to none.

This sounds right up my alley!

Before, After, and Somebody in Between - Jeannine Garsee (signed)

And my third brilliant thought of the day is: I am so-o-o freaking screwed!

Before the end of homeroom on her first day of tenth grade, Martha Kawalski knows she’s in trouble. The school’s toughest girl, Chardonnay, has already threatened her life, and things at home aren’t much better. Fresh out of rehab, Martha’s mom has moved them into her new boyfriend’s run-down two-family house in the ghetto. But here, as Martha watches her mom’s willpower dissolve, her dreams of college and playing the cello slip away.

Then, in an almost Cinderella-like twist, Martha gets a chance to start over and reinvent herself. Enter Mr Brinkman: a wealthy lawyer who invites Martha into his home. But even as the Brinkmans make Martha feel like one of the family, she knows they can’t be as perfect as they seem. After all, in the real world, fairy tale endings don’t last forever…

I won this in a contest from Carol at Bookluver Carol Reviews and Jeannine Garsee signed a copy and sent it to me. So thanks both of you, I’m looking forward to reading it.

I also got:

The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells
Frankenstein - Marry Shelley

I have to read those over the summer for English Literature.

Sophie

Friday, 24 July 2009

Prophecy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink

Prophecy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink

Pages: 343
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: 6th August 2009

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters-
One good…
One evil…
Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, they find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents’ deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don’t know who they can trust. They just know they can’t trust each other.
Michelle Zink takes readers on an unforgettable journey in her page-turning debut novel.

Prophecy of the Sisters is Michelle Zink’s beautifully written debut novel that’s full of mystery and magic.

The pace of Prophecy of the Sisters isn’t particularly fast but the mystery of the prophecy and the need to put all of the pieces together keeps the story moving. I never managed to guess anything correctly; it was full of surprises, twists and turns.

I loved the characters in Prophecy of the Sisters. Lia was strong, brave and clever and Alice was unnerving and some of the things that she did to Lia and Henry were horrible. But I loved Henry. He was wise, intelligent and much older than his ten years. His loyalty to his father and Lia was both heartbreaking and admirable. Henry was by far my favourite character. James may also have been a contender if we had learnt a little bit more about him. He remained a bit of a mystery.

I really enjoyed Prophecy of the Sisters and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the trilogy.

Sophie

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Kiss of Life - Daniel Waters

Kiss of Life - Daniel Waters

Pages: 416
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 6th July 2009

Other Titles in This Series: Generation Dead

When Phoebe’s best friend Adam takes a bullet for her, it proves everyone right - Adam is in love with her. And now that he’s come back to life, Phoebe’s more important than ever. A zombie can come back from death faster if they’re loved - and kissed…which means Phoebe has to say goodbye to Tommy Williams, the other zombie in her life.

While coaxing Adam back to reality and fending off Tommy’s advances. Phoebe tries to carry on as normal. But what’s normal when teenagers are rising from the dead and scores of others want nothing more than to send them back to their graves? And does having a zombie boyfriend make Phoebe a target too?

Kiss of Life is the fabulous sequel to Generation Dead. I’d been waiting to read this for a long time, but it was definitely worth the wait.

We heard from more characters that just Phoebe in Kiss of Life. It was great to read from other perspectives, especially from the zombies - sorry, differently biotic. I loved how their thought processes reflected their physical state. This was especially nice in Adam’s case as I loved watching how he developed and slowly came back to life.

Whether you like the characters or not, they are all very vivid and realistic. Daniel Waters used the characters to convey an extreme and uncomfortable level of prejudice between the living and the dead. It was kind of shocking in the way that lots of people pretend that prejudice doesn’t exist. It kind of brought it home really. Some of the things that the living did to the zombies disgusted me and even made me feel slightly sick.

There was a very strong message behind Kiss of Life that Tommy wrote about in one of his blog posts for mysocalledundeath.com. I can’t remember the exact quote but it was along the lines of that tolerance is not enough and that complete acceptance will be the only thing that will make the zombies safe. It struck me just how true this is and how it resounds in our world.

I love this series and I think (and hope!) that there will be another book to carry on the stories o Adam, Phoebe and Tommy.

Sophie

Monday, 20 July 2009

City of Ghosts - Bali Rai

City of Ghosts - Bali Rai

Pages: 387
Puiblisher: Doubleday
Release Date: 2nd July 2009

Other Titles by This Author: What's Your Problem?, The Crew, Rani and Sukh, The Last Taboo, (Un)arranged Marriage, The Whisper, Soccer Squad series

‘With us or against us!’ yelled Pritam. ‘You decide…Let me show you what it means to be a revolutionary!’ he whispered.
Before anyone else could move, Pritam began to rain down blow after blow. The guard’s head caved in…Only when there was nothing left but a mess of blood and bits of bone did Pritam let up. ‘One down,’ he spat, his face slick with gore. He turned and ran for the door, wiping away the blood, eager to find his next victim. Jeevan stood and looked at the guard. Two contradictory voices fought for space inside his head. Follow your family; they are all you have, said the voice he most wanted to follow. But then the other voice caught him and held him back. ‘What have I become?’ he asked himself.

1919. Amritsar is a city on the brink of revolution.

Innocent citizens, trying to escape ghosts from the past, are swept up in the riots, violence and tension. They are unaware that, as the fight for Amritsar reaches a terrifying climax, their lives will be changed for ever…

It took me a while to get into City of Ghosts, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down.

Hearing Bissen’s story was my favourite part of City of Ghosts. He was kind, brave, charming and definitely y favourite character. His story also surprised me. Having studied World War I many times in history at school I was surprised to learn that one third of our soldiers were Indian. I don’t remember learning anything about that. It made me wonder what other major things were left out of our curriculum.

I had heard of the Amritsar massacre before but never really knew what it was all about until I read City of Ghosts. Seeing the events from the eyes if characters directly involved in the revolution made it horribly real. But what I felt was the worst was how Hans Raj and Pritam manipulated Jeevan to do what they wanted him to do. It was scary how much influence a person can have over you once they know you well enough.

Despite the horrors of war that this novel centred around, it wasn’t depressing at all. The love stories that were told and Heera’s magic lightened the mood and helped to balance out the backgrounds of World War I and revolutionary Amritsar to create a beautifully moving story.

I really enjoyed City of Ghosts and I’m definitely going to search out some more of Bali Rai’s books.

Sophie

Sunday, 19 July 2009

In My Mailbox 25

This was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. If you want more information check out their blogs. All summaries are from the book jackets.

Everlost - Neal Shusterman

Somewhere in between life and death is…everlost.

Nick and Allie don’t survive the crash, and now they are stuck in limbo, in a strange netherworld known as Everlost, where dark shadows lurk and lost souls run wild. Nick and Allie aren’t ready to rest in peace just yet. They want their lives back. But can they escape this strange world called Everlost?

In this imaginative, supernatural thriller, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie-in between

Prophecy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink

An ancient prophecy divides two sisters-

One good…
One evil…

Who will prevail?

Twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just become orphans. They have also become enemies. As they discover their roles in a prophecy that has turned generations of sisters against each other, they find themselves entangled in a mystery that involves a tattoo-like mark, their parents’ deaths, a boy, a book, and a lifetime of secrets.

Lia and Alice don’t know who they can trust. They just know they can’t trust each other.

Michelle Zink takes readers on an unforgettable journey in her page-turning debut novel.

I got two great books this week that I can’t wait to dive into.

Sophie

Friday, 17 July 2009

Need - Carrie Jones

Need - Carrie Jones

Pages: 306
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 23rd December 2008

Other Titles by this Author: Girl, Hero; Love (and other uses for duct tape); Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend

Pain shoots through my head. Fireworks. Explosions. All inside my brain. The white world goes dark and I know what’s about to happen.

Zara White suspects there’s a freaky guy semi-stalking her. And it’s true, she hasn’t exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane…but Zara’s pretty sure her mom just can’t deal with her right now.

She couldn’t be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara’s overactive imagination. In fact, he’s still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There’s something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you’d have to fear.

Need is a brilliant novel that fantasy lovers everywhere will absolutely love.

The phobias as chapter names were really cool and really hard to say! They made it more Zara’s story as phobias are a large part of her personality. Another thing about the beginning of the book was that I couldn’t decide whether to like Nick or Ian. It didn’t take long for me to make my mind up though! Zara’s gripes about the cold and the snow was also very funny to read.

My favourite character was definitely Betty. She was strong and brave with a potty mouth and unlike any grandmother I’ve ever met. Although I realised that she was different, I didn’t expect what was revealed about her. Nick I suspected, but Betty and then Devyn! Carrie Jones just kept on surprising me.

In nearly all fantasy books there are warring magical creatures. There are the fierce, protective good ones and the evil, devious bad ones. Need was no exception but had a bit of a twist. The choice of good creatures was very typical but the evil were not what I expected them to be. They were a mystery at first which compelled me to keep reading just so that I could find out a little about them.

Need was a fantastic book and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Carrie Jones.

Sophie

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side - Beth Fantaskey

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side - Beth Fantaskey

Pages: 351
Publisher: Harcourt Mifflin
Release Date: February 2009

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica’s senior year “Get-a-Life” plan.

Enter a bizarre new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu who claims Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth and he’s her long lost fiancĂ©e. He’s arrogant, officious, embarrassingly overprotective, and well, incredibly hot.

Armed with a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica tries to imagine the transition from an average American teenager to a glam European vampire princess. But just when things start to heat up with Lucius, a devious cheerleader sets her sights on him.

Soon Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war - and save Lucius’s soul from eternal damnation. All of which leaves her to wonder: Wouldn’t life be easier if she could just fall for a nice mortal boy?

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is Beth Fantaskey’s stunningly addictive debut.

Lucius is a fascinating character. In the beginning I found him hard and serious which made him difficult to figure out and get to know. His seriousness and formality made him seem very out of place, though it’s contrast with the other characters also made him very funny. I also liked (most of the time) how Lucius grew and changed and how we got to see this first hand in his letters to his Uncle Vasile. However, there was still lots of mystery surrounding him, I felt that he was holding something back which preventing me from fully understanding him.

The raw power and real danger of the vampires was clearly demonstrated in Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. I liked how Lucius put all of the humans on edge as a powerful and dangerous vampire should and that they reacted to him accordingly. The fact that Jess rejected the idea of vampires until she was presented with undeniable evidence was a very realistic reaction to something so seemingly impossible.

One of my favourite elements of Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is Jess herself. She is just a regular girl trying to get through high school whose world is turned upside down by a gorgeous and intimidating Romanian vampire prince. As well as changing her life, he changes her too. Lucius helps Jess to embrace her curves (I love it when the heroines aren’t tiny!) and her ‘presence’. He helped her to grow up and realise that not everything can be explained by science and logic. I really loved that her maturation was gradual and she sometimes relapsed; she is a teenager after all!

I loved Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side and I really hope that Beth Fantaskey writes a sequel. Until then I’m eagerly awaiting her second novel, Jekyll Loves Hyde, which comes out next Spring.

Sophie

Monday, 13 July 2009

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad - Hayley Long

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad - Hayley Long

Pages: 230
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 3rd July 2009

Other Titles by This Author: The World of Elli Jones, Fire and Water, Vinyl Demand, Killburn Hoodoo

Am I jealous that my best friend has a boyfriend? Does that mean I’m tragic??? Is my current hair colour (melody deep plum) better than that dodgy custard colour I tried out last week? Perhaps I should go out with Gareth Stingecombe - even though I don’t fancy him the least tiniest bit. If I don’t fancy Gareth Stingecombe the tiniest bit, why am I obsessing about his manly thighs?

This is a book about all the important questions in life. It’s definitely not about sitting in my wardrobe or having a mental disturbance of any kind…

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad is Hayley Long’s fantastic new novel. I definitely wasn’t expecting what I got.

I loved the idea behind this book. It’s Lottie’s Extended Personal Writing English coursework filled with pictures, drawings and lots of other very cool things. I wish my coursework was as cool as that! The extra bits were really great additions that completely made the book for me.

At some points I found Lottie to be a bit annoying. She was quite often rude and pretty self-involved, like a lot of teenagers actually! Regardless of that she was incredibly funny. The moments when her mouth ran away with her were pure brilliance and really made me giggle, however I did feel that Hayley Long was slightly copying the Georgia Nicolson books at some points. She is a really great character.

I expected Lottie Biggs is Not Mad to be a light, funny read but it actually had a lot more depth to it than that. There were lots of complex issues and touchy subjects that were broached through Lottie’s coursework (well, it’s more of a diary really) that aren‘t often explored in YA books. Opinions were expressed on these areas without being preachy and in a way that teens and younger teens will respond to.

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad is a great book that will appeal to fans of Susan Juby’s Alice series. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel Lottie Biggs is Not Experienced.

Sophie

Guys, I need your help...

Okay, I have to write an essay for English over the summer about how children's literature rocks the socks off of adult books. But I can't think of that many children's classics that I can use. (My English teacher won't let me use modern authors because he won't have read them and can't mark them. How annoying, I had some great ideas!)

Please help me! These are the ones I've got so far:

Skellig - David Almond
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
The Wizard of Oz - Frank L. Baum

If you've got any suggestions please leave a comment!

Thanks,
Sophie

Sunday, 12 July 2009

In My Mailbox 24

This was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. If you want more information check out their blogs. All summaries are from the book jackets.

Blue Moon: The Immortals - Alyson Noel

Just as Ever is learning everything she can about her new abilities as an immortal, initiated into the dark, seductive world by her beloved Damen, something terrible is happening to him. As Ever’s powers increase, Damen’s begin to fade after he is stricken by a mysterious illness that threatens his memory, his identity, his life.

Desperate to save him, Ever travels to the mystical dimension of Summerland, where she uncovers not only the secrets of Damen’s past - the brutal, tortured history he hoped to keep hidden - but also an ancient text revealing the workings of time. With the approaching blue moon heralding her only window for travel, Ever is forced to decide between turning back the clock and saving her family from the accident that claimed them - or staying in the present and saving Damen, who grows weaker by the day…

I loved Evermore so I’m really excited to get stuck into this.

City of Ghosts - Bali Rai

‘With us or against us!’ yelled Pritam. ‘You decide…Let me show you what it means to be a revolutionary!’ he whispered.
Before anyone else could move, Pritam began to rain down blow after blow. The guard’s head caved in…Only when there was nothing left but a mess of blood and bits of bone did Pritam let up.
‘One down,’ he spat, his face slick with gore.
He turned and ran for the door, wiping away the blood, eager to find his next victim. Jeevan stood and looked at the guard. Two contradictory voices fought for space inside his head. Follow your family; they are all you have, said the voice he most wanted to follow. But then the other voice caught him and held him back.
‘What have I become?’ he asked himself.

1919. Amritsar is a city on the brink of revolution.

Innocent citizens, trying to escape ghosts from the past, are swept up in the riots, violence and tension. They are unaware that, as the fight for Amritsar reaches a terrifying climax, their lives will be changed for ever…

Thanks to Ruth from Random House for this. I absolutely love the cover of this book.

Sophie

Friday, 10 July 2009

Fairest of Them All - Jan Blazanin

Fairest of Them All - Jan Blazanin

Pages: 262
Publisher: MTV Books
Release Date: 18th May 2009

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess with shining, golden hair…

If life were a fairy tale, Oribella Bettencourt would have a “happily ever after” kind of future ahead of her. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a perfectly modern Princess Rapunzel, and Ori - a model, dancer, and a star of the beauty pageant circuit - lands the part. And why shouldn’t she? With her hard-working, self-sacrificing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised…and then there’s her hair. Breathtakingly lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn’t have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? She’s on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of.

But in this fairy tale, the beautiful princess wakes up to her worst nightmare - when almost overnight, Ori begins to lose her hair…

Jan Blazanin’s debut novel, Fairest of Them All, is the great story of a girl who survives her whole world crashing down around her.

Beauty pageants aren’t a big deal here in England so I began Fairest of Them All knowing almost nothing about them. I was kind of shocked at what goes into entering one. It’s like another world full of hairspray, spades of make-up and haute couture dresses! That as well as Ori’s dancing, modelling and acting made me realise why she didn’t really have a life outside of her career. I felt a bit sorry for her.

This began to change as Ori went through alopecia. She was extremely brave and very strong. It helped her to really get to know herself again and finally allowed her to make friends. I also loved what she realised about the industry she so desperately wanted to be at the top of. The stress and pressure must have been enormous.

One of the only things that I didn’t like about Fairest of Them All was Ori’s mum. I really didn’t like her at all. I was a little horrified at how she reacted to Ori’s diagnosis, probably because I could never imagine my mum reacting in the same way. She did manage to redeem herself slightly at the end, however. I even started to understand what she acted the way she did.

I really enjoyed Fairest of Them All and I’m looking forward to reading more of Jan Blazanin’s novels in the future.

Sophie

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Pages: 288
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 6th August 2009

You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and first love - who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah’s voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening - and what he discover changes his life…

Forever.

Thirteen Reasons Why is Jay Asher’s stunning debut novel that is everything and nothing like I expected it to be.

I went into this novel expecting It to be gut-wrenchingly sad and quite difficult to read, and it was sad, but I loved it nonetheless. It was utterly addictive. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a depressing story, it was full of hope that someone could make a difference to another person. Both Hannah and Clay’s stories were beautifully written.

The tapes were like a timeline of how Hannah reached suicide. They interweaved and followed on from each other in a way that allowed me to really get to know Hannah and her thirteen reasons why. But it was Clay whom I really liked. He was just a normal guy whose life was changed forever in a single night. I loved how he learned from Hannah’s story and began to start over immediately.

The effect of the tapes on Clay is likely to reflect a little in the readers of Thirteen Reasons Why as well. It brought to mind all the times when somebody was upset and I’d walked straight past and how the simple act of reaching out to somebody could affect them so dramatically. I have to admit, that scared me a little. So did the realisation that you’ll never truly know the influence you have over the lives of others. It really made me think.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an amazing novel that every teenager, and adult, should read.

Sophie

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

City of Glass - Cassandra Clare

City of Glass - Cassandra Clare

Pages: 492
Publisher: Walker Books
Release Date: 6th July 2009

Other Titles in the Series: City of Bones, City of Ashes (joint review)

Amid the chaos of war, the Shadowhunters must decide to fight with the vampires, werewolves and other Downworlders - or against them. Meanwhile, Jace and Clary have their own decision to make: should they pursue the love they know is forbidden?

City of Glass is a stunning end to a phenomenal trilogy. It has become my favourite series.

Wow, pretty much sums up how I feel about The Mortal Instruments trilogy. I’ve been trying to think of a clever, more articulate way to express how much I enjoyed City of Glass but I just can’t. I tried my best to savour this book and stretch it out for as long possible, but it was hard. I’m surprised I managed to make it last three days! When I wasn’t reading it, I remained consumed by the characters and the plot.

Cassandra Clare makes you feel every emotion possible in City of Glass. I laughed, I cried, and I even stopped breathing a couple of times! It’s a perfect ending. I loved how the characters weren’t compromised in order to achieve the ending that Cassandra Clare wanted. They stayed true to themselves throughout, which is what I think makes them so likeable and gives me the ability to care about them so much.

I raced through City of Bones and City of Ashes so Cassandra Clare’s descriptive skills really packed a punch for me whilst I was reading this. The way the demons were described in minute detail made me shudder and the images of Alicante completely captured my imagination. I really love her writing style and her use of imagery.

I cannot wait to read The Clockwork Princess, the first in Cassandra Clare’s prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, next year.

Sophie

Monday, 6 July 2009

That Summer - Sarah Dessen

That Summer - Sarah Dessen

Pages: 212
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 2nd July 2009

Other Titles by This Author: Dreamland (my review), Someone Like You, Last Chance, This Lullaby, The Truth About Forever, Just Listen, Lock and Key (my review), Along for the Ride

For fifteen-year-old Haven this is the summer where everything changes.

Dad is remarrying. Her sister Ashley is planning a wedding of her own. They’re both moving on, but Haven is lost in memories of a time when her life was happy and her family was whole.

And then Ashley’s ex, the charming and funny Sumner Lee, arrives in town. He reminds Haven of carefree days gone by, and she can’t help but wonder - has fate brought this person back from her past to change her future?

That Summer is another fantastic book from Sarah Dessen. In my eyes, she can do no wrong.

The style of her writing is familiar and comfortable. There are no sharp twists or turns, only subtle surprises. But despite this, they never get boring and her formula of a lost girl finding her way with good friends and a boy, always works. And there is always a boy. But in That Summer the boy, Sumner, isn’t what I expected him to be. I really liked that; it was very different to her usual MO.

Another thing about Sarah Dessen’s books that are likely to make them among the favourites of teen girls everywhere are her protagonists. Each of her girls has a part of every girl in them. Readers can relate to their problems and emotions and forge a very connection with them. I especially related to That Summer’s Haven. Her feelings about her parents divorce and the way that she felt the need to remain loyal to mum and not really mention her dad’s new wife resonated with me. Sadly, I think this is likely to be true for lots of teens.

I also understand Haven’s need to be wild and destructive. Years of pressure, stress and unspoken thoughts building up until she’s ready to burst. And then when she does, she’s told that she’s selfish and being awkward. She’s a fabulous character and one of my favourites.

Sarah Dessen is one of my all time favourite authors and I literally count the days until I can devour her latest offering. I can’t wait until Along for the Ride is released in the UK. Does anyone know when that will be?

Sophie

Sunday, 5 July 2009

In My Mailbox 23

This was started by the fabulous Kristi who was inspired by Alea. If you want more information check out their blogs. All summaries are from the book jackets.

Fairest of Them All - Jan Blazanin (signed)

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess with shining, golden hair…

If life were a fairy tale, Oribella Bettencourt would have a “happily ever after” kind of future ahead of her. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a perfectly modern Princess Rapunzel, and Ori - a model, dancer, and a star of the beauty pageant circuit - lands the part. And why shouldn’t she? With her hard-working, self-sacrificing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised…and then there’s her hair. Breathtakingly lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn’t have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? She’s on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of.

But in this fairy tale, the beautiful princess wakes up to her worst nightmare - when almost overnight, Ori begins to lose her hair…

Thank you to Jan for sending me this and signing it. It looks great!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan

In Mary’s world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent.

And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future - between the one she loves and the one who loves her.

And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?

This has finally been released in the UK so I can see what all the fuss was about!

Lottie Biggs is Not Mad - Hayley Long

Am I jealous that my best friend has a boyfriend? Does that mean I’m tragic??? Is my current hair colour (melody deep plum) better than that dodgy custard colour I tried out last week? Perhaps I should go out with Gareth Stingecombe - even though I don’t fancy him the least tiniest bit. If I don’t fancy Gareth Stingecombe the tiniest bit, why am I obsessing about his manly thighs?

This is a book about all the important questions in life. It’s definitely not about sitting in my wardrobe or having a mental disturbance of any kind…

Thanks to Hayley’s agent, Hayley, for sending me this. It sounds like such a fun book.

Tender Morsels - Margo Lanagan

“You are pure-hearted and lovely, and you have never done a moment’s wrong. But you are a living creature, born to make a real life, however it cracks you heart.”

Liga raises her two daughters in the safe haven of an alternate reality, a personal heaven granted by magic as a refuge from her earthly suffering.

But the real world cannot be denied forever and when the barrier between the two worlds begins to break down, Liga’s fiery daughter, Urdda, steps across it…

This unforgettable novel is sure to shock and amaze. Constantly shifting from beauty to horror, darkness to light, Tender Morsels will take you to the very edge.

This sounds very weird and I think that it might be adult, but I’ll give it go anyway. Even though I absolutely hate the cover!

Sophie

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Signing Report: Louise Rennison

Today my sister and I went up to Bluewater to meet Louise Rennison on her Pants for the Memories tour. We queued up for an hour and 45 minutes and there was about two hundred people there! Louise is really lovely and completely nutty. She signed all ten books in the Georgia Nicolson series and talked to us despite the queue.

Sorry about the really dark picture with Amy's hand in it. They wouldn't stay in place!

Sophie

Friday, 3 July 2009

The Last Days - Scott Westerfeld

The Last Days - Scott Westerfeld

Pages: 254
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: 2nd August 2007

Other Titles by this Author: Uglies (my review), Pretties (my review), Specials (my review), Extras (my review), Parasite Positive (my review), The Midnighters Trilogy

Something evil is bubbling under New York. People are going crazy and vampires stalk the streets. For Pearl, Moz and Zahler, life goes on and all that matters is their new band. As the city reels under a mysterious epidemic, the three combine their talents with a vampire lead singer and a drummer whose fractured mind can see the coming darkness. Will their music stave off the growing danger? Or summon it?

Set against the gritty apocalypse that began in Parasite Positive, The Last Days is about five teenagers who find themselves creating the soundtrack for the end of the world.

The Last Days is the fantastic companion novel to Parasite Positive. I absolutely loved it.

I was blown away by Moz, Pearl, Zahler, Alana Ray and Minerva’s passion for music. Having not a musical bone in my body, I could only admire their love and dedication for the music that they were creating. I loved that they believed that they could do anything, even save the world, through playing their guitars, keyboards and singing their hearts out. Music is an amazing and very powerful thing and did everything that they hoped it would.

All of the characters were very different, but my favourite was Alana Ray. Her logical thoughts and immense self-control really clashed with the condition that made her nervous and jittery, but an excellent drummer. But what I loved most was how Alana Ray saw music. She saw ripples and waves of colour that merged and folded into shapes, revealing what’s hidden under New York City’s surface. The other characters that I really liked were Zahler and his funny vocabulary - ‘fool’, ‘fexcellent’ and ‘fawesome’ and the reappearance of Cal, Lace and Dr Prolix from Parasite Positive.

In Parasite Positive we heard from a carrier of the parasite and the outside view of the Peeps but in The Last Days we hear from the Peeps themselves. The differences between what is seen and what actually goes on inside their heads. It just demonstrated that however much we think we know about someone, we’ll never completely understand somebody else.

I've loved all of Scott Westerfeld’s novels and The Last Days was no exception. I highly recommend all of his fabulous books.

Sophie

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Bride's Farewell - Meg Rosoff

The Bride’s Farewell - Meg Rosoff

Pages: 185
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 3rd September 2009

Other Titles by This Author: How I Live Now, Just in Case, What I Was

On the morning of her wedding, Pell Ridley creeps out of bed in the dark, kisses her sisters goodbye and flees - determined to escape a future that offers nothing but hard work and sorrow.
The road ahead is rich with longing, silence and secrets, and each encounter leads closer to the untold story of her past.

And then she meets a hunter - infuriating, mysterious and cold. His fate appears to be strangely entwined with her own. Will he help her to find what she seeks? Or must she continue to search the earth, searching for love and lost things…

I was a little disappointed with The Bride’s Farewell. Meg Rosoff’s previous three novels blew me away, but this just didn’t.

Pell is a strong, independent heroine who knows her own mind. She knows what she wants and how to get it, which is what I like about her. But Pell also has a subtlety and charm that makes her a well-rounded character and very easy to like.

One of the reasons that I didn’t like The Bride’s Farewell as much as I thought I would may be down to my lack of enthusiasm for horses. Horses are a central part of this novel and you can tell that Meg Rosoff has lots of love and respect for them. But, personally, I’m not really that fussed.

But like I’ve come to expect from Meg Rosoff, The Bride’s Farewell is a beautifully written story of love in all it’s guises that is completely different to all of her previous novels. I never know what to expect from her books and I know that’ll I’ll never not want to find out what she’s written about next.

This is a charming tale that’s perfect for lover’s of horses and subtle romance.

Sophie