Sunday, 31 January 2010

In My Mailbox 49

This meme 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.

For review:

My Worst Best Friend - Dyan Sheldon

“Promise me you’ll always be my best friend, Gracie,” said Savanna.
“No matter what happens. Promise. Promise. Promise.” I laughed. “Of course I will,” I promised.

It was a no-brainer. There was nothing that could ever end our friendship. We were soul sisters. We were cosmic twins and would be forever.

As least that’s what I thought then.

Thanks to Walker for a review copy of this book. I’m looking forward to it!

How to Train Your Dragon - Cressida Cowell

Can Hiccup pass the Dragon Initiation Programme with a toothless dragon AND fight the Sea Dragonus Maximus before it gobbles up every Viking on Berk?

It’s time for Hiccup to learn how to be a Hero.

This was a surprise from Hodder and it looks hilarious. I also got a really cool booklet and the movie trailer DVD.

Bought:

Nobody’s Girl - Sarra Manning

Life is hard for dreamers…

Plain, frumpy, dull as mud - that’s Bea. So when super-cool Ruby and her posse want to hang with her, it has to be practical joke. But an invitation to a girly holiday in Malaga with Ruby and co. seems like the real deal. Even better, Bea can get away from her annoying mum.

But after forty-eight hours in Spain, Bea is heading to Paris to find the father she’s never met. On the way she meets Toph, an American student backpacking around Europe, and as they search for her dad in the caf├ęs and boulevards of Paris, she loses her heart instead.

Is Bea Toph’s girl or the good girl her mum expects her to be? Or will this be the magical summer that Bea finally becomes her own girl?

I LOVE Sarra Manning’s books so when my sister spotted this in WH Smith’s, I nearly lost it with excitement.

Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen

Auden has always felt like the odd one out.

Since her parents’ divorce she’s shied away, studying lots and staying out of the party scene.

But now Auden’s realised there must be something more and, just like that, she changes everything. Moving to her dad’s house opens up a whole new world of beach parties, food fights - and simply having fun.

As she gets to know herself - and a secretive boy with dark, brooding eyes - can Auden begin to let go and finally feel like she truly belongs?

*Squee* Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jenny! (Can you tell I’m excited to read this one?)

The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove - Lauren Kate

All it takes is one fatal mistake.

What she wanted:
Natalie Hargrove wants one thing and one thing only - to be her high school’s Palmetto Princess. Among the other Southern Belles, a.k.a. Bambies, competing for the crown, she’s by far the most beautiful, and the most deserving. Or so she thinks.

The catch:
Her boyfriend, Mike King, is on the brink of losing Palmetto Prince to Nat’s nasty nemesis Justin Balmer. And let’s just say Natalie and Justin have a history so shady it could wither flowers. Sure, Natalie could share the throne with Justin - over her dead body.

The trick:
So Nat convinces Mike to help her play a naughty little prank on Justin…just to make him look bad. Little do they know, the plan is about to go terribly, terribly wrong.


The fatal flaw:
Natalie and Mike desperately try to cover up what happened to Justin. But blackmail and buried desire, dark secrets and even darker deeds slowly begin to tear them apart. Because fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.

Very excited for this one because I loved Fallen.

Some Girls Are - Courtney Summers

Climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome, an all-girl clique both feared and revered by the students at Hallowell High... until vicious rumours about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around.

Now Regina's been "frozen out" and her ex-best friends are out for revenge. If Regina was guilty, it would be one thing, but the rumours are far from the terrifying truth and the bullying is getting more intense by the day. She takes solace in the company of Michael Hayden, a misfit with a tragic past who she herself used to bully. Friendship doesn't come easily for these onetime enemies, and as Regina works hard to make amends for her past, she realizes Michael could be more than just a friend... if threats from the Fearsome Foursome don't break them both first.

Tensions grow and the abuse worsens as the final days of senior year march toward an explosive conclusion in this dark new tale from the author of Cracked Up To Be.

I've heard amazing thing after amazing thing about this book so I hope it meets my expectations.

Sophie

Friday, 29 January 2010

Featured on Friday: Pam Bachorz

Pam Bachorz lives just outside Washington, D.C. with her husband and their son. Candor is her first novel.

1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I do most of my writing in my study, surrounded by tall, tall built-in bookshelves that are stuffed with my favorites. They keep me company like old friends. I also like meeting writer friends at coffee shops to write--somehow it's harder to take "breaks" and surf the web when a writer you like and admire is tapping away across from you!

2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
As a teen, some of my favorite authors were L.M. Montgomery (a fave now and since I was 8 or 9), Lois Duncan, Mildred Ames, anybody who wrote for the Sunfire Romance series... I especially liked creepy stories with paranormal or sci fi elements. These days, I read YA almost exclusively and have so many favorites. One of my recent favorites is James Dashner's MAZE RUNNER.

3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (because it makes me laugh out loud and I still quote it, a year after reading it). And an anthology of the best-ever science fiction short stories.

4. Is there a novel that you wish you’d written? Why?
Well, gee, I think one hundred authors could have the same idea and produce one hundred entirely different books... so I can't say there's another book by another author that I wish I had written. Of course there are plenty of authors I admire. Right now I'm still swooning over Lev Grossman's THE MAGICIANS... the detail, the character development, the fact that I never wanted to skip a single word... (rare for me)

5. What inspired you to write Candor?
I've always been freaked out by brainwashing and mind control. Back when my family was living in a planned community in Florida, I was out walking the dog and the mosquito truck drove by. It sprayed the "harmless" citrus spray all over us and I thought, "what if this stuff had Prozac in it? what if it made everybody here happy and friendly?" From there I jumped to brainwashing through messages hidden in music... not too tough when you're living in a town that plays music OUTSIDE when you're in the downtown area!

6. The ending of Candor is heartbreaking; it made me cry! What made you end it in that way!
Once I thought of it... after many drafts... I felt like there was no other way it COULD end. I'm not a big fan of neat endings!

7. Most dystopias are set far in the future. Why did you choose to set Candor in the present?
I love writing stories that could be happening this very minute... that you can imagine you might be in the middle of, if your life had taken a different path.

8. Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I am currently revising DROUGHT, another book for teens that Egmont USA will be publishing. It's a dark fantasy set in the woods of upstate New York, this time with a girl for a main character.

Thank you very much, Pam! You can visit Pam on her website here and read my review of Candor here.

Sophie

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

My Love Lies Bleeding - Alyxandra Harvey

My Love Lies Bleeding - Alyxandra Harvey

Pages: 248
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 4th January 2010

Other Titles in the Series: Blood Feud (UK 05/07/10)

“They’re close,” she murmered. “Watching.”
“Run?” I suggested. “Like right now?”
She shook her head. “If we act like prey, they’ll act like predators.”

Solange has always known she is a vampire. And as the only female vampire ever born, not initiated, she is surrounded by danger on all sides - from other vampire tribes who want to take her blood into their lineage, and from the bounty hunters who are set on destroying her and her family.

When she is kidnapped, it’s up to her older brother, Nicholas, and best friend, Lucy, to save her.

But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with every look - what will be her own fate if she surrenders her heart to a vampire?

My Love Lies Bleeding is the addictive first book in what I’m sure is going to be a fantastic new vampire series.

For me, this book can be summed up in just two words: pure fun. I was giggling aloud to myself the entire way through; mostly at Lucy. She’s such a brilliant character! Equal parts mad, loyal, funny and caring. Whenever she said anything remotely serious, she added a funny line at the end and her comebacks to the Drake boys and Kieran were hilarious. The spilt narrative of My Love Lies Bleeding also allowed us to hear Solange’s side of the story. I didn’t connect with her as much as I did with Lucy as she was most definitely out-shouted by her and didn’t feel quite as alive (no pun intended!).

But as much as I loved the girls, the boys completely stole their crown. I’m a sucker for a vampire guy; it’s becoming a serious problem! All of Solange’s brothers are completely kickass and would do anything for their little sister. Nicholas, however, is by far my favourite. His seriousness, beauty and killer smile reminded me of a certain other vampire, which could explain why I like him so much! All of the boys provided many comic moments that just made me love My Love Lies Bleeding all the more.

When I began reading My Love Lies Bleeding I wasn’t too impressed with the vampire mythology; it seemed a little samey. As I read on, I realised just how different it actually is and soon came to love Solange’s, rather confusing, world. I loved all of the older Drake vamps wearing their period outfits and sitting in their parlours, having balls and eating blood-laced raspberry mousse.

I loved My Love Lies Bleeding and I’m excited to read the next instalment of the Drake Chronicles, Blood Feud, when it’s released in July.

Sophie

Monday, 25 January 2010

Signing Report: Maria V. Snyder

Last Thursday, Maria V. Snyder came to my local Waterstone’s and did a talk, reading, Q & A and signing. Naturally, I had to go along and meet her. Maria is completely lovely, really funny and very chatty. Here are some pictures of my signed books (sorry you can't read them properly, it was too dark for without a flash and the flash was too bright) and all of what I can remember of what Maria told us in her talk and in answers to questions:

- Poison Study took Maria 5 years to write.
- Now a book only takes between 4 and 6 months.
- She is a “seat of the pants” writer.

"Welcome to my Study Hall - today's lesson Poison!"

- Maria dreamt Inside Out from beginning to end, characters and plotline.
- She has a degree in Meteorology, which helped with the construction of the Stormdancer clan.
- Maria’s editor asked for the Glass trilogy because she felt that Opal was an interesting character and although Maria initially resisted, she was soon full of ides for the trilogy.



"Magic, murder and mayhem...Have you studied? I hope so."

- Short stories from the Study trilogy, Power Study and Ice Study are on Maria’s website.
- Maria would like to one day go back and write about the Commander and Valek set before Poison Study.
- She also wants to write more books in the Study trilogy one day.


"Good ahead play with fire - I won't tell!"


- Maria learnt about food tasting from her food taster husband for Poison Study.
- Maria learnt to horse ride for Magic Study.
- Maria learnt to blow glass for Fire Study.

"Caught in a riptide, which way would you go?"


- The UK covers of her books are her favourite.
- The image on the US Sea Glass is her editor’s Waterford Crystal starfish.
- Spy Glass will be released in the UK in October (I think) and Inside Out in December.

"The sea is full of treasure."


I had a fantastic time and I encourage you to go and meet Maria if you get a chance. You won’t regret it!

Sophie

Sunday, 24 January 2010

In My Mailbox 48

This meme 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.

For review:

Lex Trent Versus the Gods - Alex Bell

Cheats never prosper. At least that’s what everyone else would have you believe. But Lex Trent knows better. Lex knows that, with a bit of luck, the quickest route to success is a lie, swindle and cheat all the way to the top.

Unfortunately Lex has taken his scams a step too far… Rather than see his neck in a noose, he’s forced to go on the run in a world of irritable Gods, fearsome magicians and strange beasts.

But luck is still on his side, just.


The Gods’ favourite pastime is The Games… and Lex has just become one of the human playing pieces. With fame, glory and untold wealth at stake, Lex isn’t going to lose (especially as that so often means dying) - in fact, he fully intends to beat the Gods at their own game.

Thanks to Headline for a copy of this to review.

Bought:

Sea Glass - Maria V. Snyder (signed)

Her abilities remained hidden - until challenged by enemy forces.

Student glass magician Opal Cowan’s newfound skills to steal a magician’s strength make her too powerful.

Kept under house arrest, Opal dares defy her imprisonment to search for Ulrik, the man she thinks she loves. Thinks because she is sure another man - now her prisoner - has switched souls with Ulrick.

In hostile territory, without proof or allies, Opal isn’t sure whom to trust. And now everyone is after Opal’s special powers for their own deadly gain…

I managed to pick this up at Maria’s signing on Thursday, so I’m very excited to start the trilogy after hearing Maria read a section. A full signing report will be up Monday.

Undead Much? - Stacey Jay

Q: How many guys does it take to make your boyfriend wild with jealousy?
A: Only one, if he’s undead.


Megan Berry had a perfectly average new-sindress-and-boy-obsessed life - until her power to settle the Undead returned. Oh, and her best friend tried to kill her - and ruin homecoming - with a bunch of black magically raised zombies. At least she got a spot on the pom squad and a smoking’ boyfriend (Ethan). But now Megan is in deep fertilizer all over again. Why? Well, let’s see…

- Feral new super-strong zombies? Check.
- Cheerleader vs. pom squad turf war threatening the end of the half time as we know it? Check.
- An Undead psychic hottie (Cliff) who’s predicting a zombie apocalypse - and doing his best to tempt megan away from Ethan? Check.
- Earth-shattering secrets that could land Megan in Settler prison for life. Um…It wasn’t me!!

Everyone thinks Megan’s at fault for the new uber-zombie uprising. Looks like she’ll need the help of both Cliff and Ethan if she’s going to prove her innocence before it’s too late.

So excited for the one! I loved You Are So Undead to Me.

Sophie

Friday, 22 January 2010

Flyaway - Lucy Christopher

Today is my one year Blogoversary! (Ignore what is says in the button; it’s wrong!) I’d just like to say a huge, but quick, thank you to all my followers, those who’ve left comments and the authors and publishers who’ve sent me books to review. But mostly to the fantastic friends I’ve made this year. Thanks guys!

Flyaway - Lucy Christopher

Pages: 314
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 4th January 2010

Other Titles by this Author: Stolen (my review)

One cold winter morning, Dad gets sick - and goes into hospital.

It’s there I meet Harry, with his scruffy hair and firefly eyes. From his window we watch a wild swan on the frozen lake outside.

There’s something different about her, truly different. Almost magical.

Perhaps, if we can help her, everything else will begin to make sense.

Lucy Christopher’s sophomore novel, Flyaway, is just as breathtakingly beautiful as her first. Though in a very different way.

Flyaway is written in such fluid prose that it takes you right into the heart of Isla’s world. I felt like I was watching the swans with Isla and her dad, riding to the hospital with her in the middle of the night and sitting with her while she started to make the best school project in history. Lucy Christopher captured an air of sadness with her soft, subtle prose. But it is also a novel filled with hope and magic. Not Harry Potter magic, but the true magic of love, friendship and family.

Lucy is clearly a master of imagery. I knew this from some stunning scenes in Stolen, but she really cemented herself as a favourite after Flyaway. Some of the most stand out images for me are Isla and Harry teaching their swan to fly and when Isla’s Dad tells her the myth of the swansong. I won’t spoil it and tell you what it is, but it’s truly special and I still catch myself thinking about it over a week after finishing it.

The relationships in Flyaway are all understated and yet still compelling. I loved how Harry and Isla’s chance meeting grew into friendship and then to a sweet, innocence romance. They complimented each other perfectly. Harry’s bright, cheeky, confident outlook suits Isla’s focus and tendency to worry. Another of my favourite relationships in Flyaway is the one Isla and her dad share. She’s clearly the apple of his eye and she worships him right back. Their little traditions, shared love of birds and general connection make Isla one seriously lucky girl.

I loved Flyaway nearly as much as I did Stolen and with this novel Lucy Christopher has put herself firmly on my auto-buy list.

Sophie

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Thirteen Curses - Michelle Harrison

The Thirteen Curses - Michelle Harrison

Pages: 452
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 7th January 2010

Other Titles in this Series: The Thirteen Treasures (my review)

When fairies stole her brother, Red vowed to get him back.

Trapped in the fairy realm, Red must beg an audience with the fairy court. There, she strikes a bargain. her brother will be returned - but only if she can find the charms of Tanya’s bracelet, scattered in the human world.

Returning to Elvesden Manor, Red is assisted by Tanya and Fabian, a desperate hunt begins. Soon they make a shocking discovery. The charms are now cursed with the twisted qualities of the thirteen treasures they represent…and the longer they are missing, the worse the consequences will be.

Can Red, Tanya and Fabian find all the charms? And even if they do, will the fairies keep their promise?

The Thirteen Curses is the dark and edgy sequel to the spectacular, The Thirteen Treasures.

A supporting character from The Thirteen Treasures, Red, takes centre stage in the sequel. Red is a runaway and hid in Elvesden Manor and then saved Tanya’s life at the end of The Thirteen Treasures. We switch between Tanya and Red in alternate narration, one of my favourite formats to read. I loved learning more about the brave, daring and loyal Red and finding out, through flashback chapters, how she lived between her parents’ death and her time at Elvesden Manor.

I love novels about fairies so it’s no surprise that I loved The Thirteen Curses. Lots of the world-building was done during book one so Michelle Harrison was able to jump straight into the intricacies of Fairy an introducing new, exciting twists on the mythology we were introduced to in The Thirteen Treasures. I was really glad to be back in Fairy and I especially enjoyed the visit to the fairy Court. It’s so vibrant and lively! I’d love to go, provided I could leave unharmed, of course. I was also very pleased that Gredin and Raven made an appearance. They are extremely cool and I began to genuinely like them.

Another of the things that I enjoyed was finally discovering more about Fabian’s dad, the mysterious Warwick. We were told about his history with Fey and how his wife died. Red and Warwick also forger a wonderful connection during their time in Fairy. You really saw his fatherly side, he helped Red without question and his strength and bravery really came through in The Thirteen Curses.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Thirteen Curses and I can’t wait to read what I believe to be the last book in the series, The Thirteen Wards.

For my 2010 100+ Reading Challenge

Sophie

Monday, 18 January 2010

Splendour: A Luxe Novel - Anna Godbersen

Splendour: A Luxe Novel - Anna Godbersen

Pages: 391
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: 7th January 2010

Other Titles in this Series: The Luxe, Rumours, Envy (my review)

New York City, 1900

While the once revered Holland family recovers from scandal, the spirited Miss Diana Holland is seeking adventure abroad. But then a surprising clue about her father’s death is revealed and everything is thrown into question.

Meanwhile, the delectable Henry Schoonmaker has also left the city and bravely gone to war while his wife relishes her role as Manhattan royalty - until a real prince pays a visit and turns her fickle head.

As New York’s most dazzling stars chase dreams, cling to promises and tempt fate, society wonders: at exactly what price does a life of splendour come?

The gorgeous dresses, delicious scandal and sumptuous secrets of The Luxe series have enraptured me from beginning to end.

Anna Godbersen’s flowery and elegant prose is largely period appropriate and one of my favourite aspects of Splendour. It wraps you up and takes you to the tropical heat of Havana and the luxurious ballrooms of Manhattan. The old-fashioned feel of the novels was enhanced by the newspaper and book excerpts at the beginning of each chapter, detailing the lives of the New York socialites of 1900.

In some series the characters don’t grow or change as their stories move on. This is definitely not the case in The Luxe series and is especially evident in Splendour. Di is strong and independent, and still has the passion and impulsiveness that everyone loves her for. Elizabeth finally grew a backbone and Henry grew up. I think I loved him even more for that. I’ve cared about these characters for a while now and I’m quite sad that their stories have come to an end.

Even though I’ll miss Henry, Diana, Elizabeth and Teddy, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t make me want to scream at them at some points in Splendour! They made some very stupid and pretty annoying decisions that led to less than great situations. Needless to say, I didn’t get the ending that I wanted to one of my favourite series , but Anna Godbersen wrote an ending that suited her characters and, really, you can’t ask for more than that.

I loved every page of the frustrating and addictive Splendour and I’m looking forward to reading whatever Anna Godbersen writes next.

Sophie

Sunday, 17 January 2010

In My Mailbox 47

This meme 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.

For review:

Suspicion: A Private Novel - Kate Brian

Reed Brennan thought that a winter break in the islands with some of the Billings Girls, old and new, was just what she needed to recover from her traumatic last term at Easton. At first everything is perfect: relaxing, fun and elegant. But soon things take a more sinister turn and suddenly Reed finds herself in danger once more.

If Reed wants to survive her fateful vacation she must discover who is after her and why, before it’s too late…

This is book eleven in the series and I haven’t read and don’t own the rest of the series. Hopefully I’ll get round to them one day!

Everwild - Neal Shusterman

Between life and death, wilderness beckons…

The fate of Everlost is at stake. Nick wants to help the children reach the light at the end of the tunnel. But Mary Hightower wants to trap them in the Everlost. Allie has gone to search for her parents and joins a group of “skyjackers”. But, as her search takes her further away from Nick and closer to the Everwild, Allie uncovers a shocking secret…it seems that “skyjackers” are not actually dead…

In this riveting sequel to the imaginative, supernatural thriller, Everlost, there is a new dark force to be reckoned with.

I actually have the first book, Everlost, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ve got an incentive now, though!

The Puzzle Ring - Kate Forsyth

Hannah is almost thirteen when she discovers her family is cursed…

Desperate to break the dark spell and find her missing father, Hannah starts a treacherous journey back in time. If she can find all four pieces of a magical puzzle ring, her family will be reunited. But her quest takes her back to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots - a time when witches are burned at the stake and danger lurks everywhere.

Can Hannah put the puzzle ring together fast enough to save her family?

This is from Kate via Scholastic for Kate’s book tour in February. Thank you!

Bought:

Flyaway - Lucy Christopher

One cold winter morning, Dad gets sick - and goes into hospital.

It’s there I meet Harry, with his scruffy hair and firefly eyes. From his window we watch a wild swan on the frozen lake outside.

There’s something different about her, truly different. Almost magical.

Perhaps, if we can help her, everything else will begin to make sense.

I'm reading this at the moment and it's fabulous.

The Secret Year - Jennifer Hubbard

Colt was with Julia for a year, but nobody else knew about it. Julia lived on Black Mountain Road in a mansion - with servants - and had a country-club boyfriend to complete the package. Colt definitely didn’t come from Black Mountain, and no one would have understood why they were together. But it never mattered to them. Until Julia dies in an accident right before her senior year, and Colt is the only one who knows their secret. He tries to pretend that his life is the same as ever, but he’s haunted by memories of Julia. Things get worse after the journal she kept about their romance falls into his hands. Colt searches every entry for answers: Did Julia really love him? Was he somehow to blame for her death? But the ultimate question - one nobody can answer - is how he’s supposed to get over someone who was never really his to begin with.

Combining the intrigue of forbidden romance with the tension of strict class divisions, Jennifer R. Hubbard creates and unforgettable debut novel about love, loss, and the freedom that comes with figuring out who you really are.

I’ve already heard brilliant things about this so I’m looking forward to seeing if it lives up to my expectations.

Storm Glass - Maria V. Snyder

Untrained. Untested. Unleashed.

With her unique magical abilities, Opal has always felt unsure of her place at Sitia’s magic academy. But when the Stormdancer clan needs her help, Opal’s knowledge makes her the perfect choice - until the mission goes awry.

Pulling her powers in unfamiliar directions, Opal finds herself tapping into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. Now Opal must deal with plotters out to destroy the Stormdancer clan, as well as a traitor in the midst.

With danger and deception rising around her, will Opal’s untested abilities destroy her - or save them all?


I’m going to meet Maria in Crawley, my hometown, on Thursday so I thought I’d catch up on all her books so I could get them all signed! I’ll hopefully be able to get Sea Glass at the signing.

Sophie

Friday, 15 January 2010

Featured on Friday: Emily Gale

Emily Gale is a picture book writer and Girl, Aloud is her first YA novel, published by Chicken House. Emily lives in Melbourne, but is a Londoner at heart.

1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I have no routine whatsoever because I'm a full-time mum of two, and they both have an in-built tracker that lets them know if I've tried to sneak off to my room to write. I don't have a study or anywhere special like that, but I have a laptop so I tend to write in cafes at the weekend, or the library, or sometimes the local pub (not during a wild Friday night or anything like that). But from February I will have a whole day to myself. I can't quite believe it. Joy!

2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
I really loved Fay Weldon (eg. The Life And Loves of a She-Devil), Martin Amis (eg. The Rachel Papers) and lots of the classics like Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights, though I've changed my mind in later years about the latter. I read a lot of poetry, too, anything from Keats to Sylvia Plath. I fancied myself something of a poet. I was WRONG (*quickly hides teenage poetry book*.) Now I like lots of teen authors like Simmone Howell and Luisa Plaja, and I tend to switch regularly between teen and general fiction. I love Kate Grenville, Kate Long and Ian McEwan. Oh, so many!

3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
I get really stressed about questions like this, as if I'm actually going to the island and it's all real... OK, I'll choose Pride and Prejudice (can I also take the dvd box-set starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth? and a dvd player? and some kind of power source? no, too much?), An Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville, and Girl, 15, Charming But Insane by Sue Limb. Please don't really send me to the island with only three books.

4. Is there a novel that you wish you’d written? Why?
There are loads. I suffer from extreme novel envy. I know you're supposed to love thyself and thine own work but I could make a long list of books I wish I'd had in me. But this is completely counterbalanced by how happy I am as a reader when I discover a book like that.

5. Why did you decide to write about mental illness?
I'm interested in how mental illness is still perceived in such a different way to other illnesses, which makes sufferers have a much harder time when it comes to admitting to a problem or seeking treatment. I've had a few brushes with mild depression. When I was writing Girl, Aloud there were quite a few celebrities coming out as sufferers of Bi-polar disorder (Stephen Fry made a very interesting documentary about it, for example), so it was being talked about but I wanted to write about an ordinary family and how it might affect them, in particular how it would affect a teenager. But I didn't want to write an 'issues' book as such, and I also knew that I wanted the book to contain plenty of light humour, as I'm interested in how humour can play a part in our lives even when we're under enormous stress. Indeed it's often a coping mechanism.

6. Where did you get the idea of Kass's conversations with Simon Cowell from?
Well we often dream about a situation we're dreading, and the last thing on earth Kass wanted was to meet Simon Cowell, so I thought it would be funny if she not only met him in her dreams but ended up bonding with him. I really enjoyed writing those bits. Simon Cowell is such a strange character - he's kind of awful and smug but I really like him.

7. Have you ever auditioned for The X Factor (or anything like it)?
Never anything on that scale, but I did audition for the musical Grease - my sixth form college production not the West End! I would have liked to play one of the French Ladies but I got the part of Sandy, which was much less fun. I still have anxiety dreams about that performance, like dreaming I'm on stage in five minutes and I can't remember any of my lines or fit into my costume. So Kass's stage fright is something I identify with. I had terrible stage fright aged 11 during a poetry recital and had to be carted off stage. I didn't, however, pee myself, unlike poor Kass.

8. Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
My work-in-progress is about a girl who has absolutely no stage fright whatsoever - in fact she's more confident on stage than off. But her life changes when she dates a minor local celebrity, and being in the spotlight becomes more dangerous than thrilling. I'm weaving a bit of Alice in Wonderland into this story, but it's the same kind of feel as Girl, Aloud and I'm excited about it.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Sophie!


Thank you very much, Emily! You can visit Emily at her website here and read my review of Girl, Aloud here.

Sophie

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Fade Out: The Morganville Vampires - Rachel Caine

Fade Out: The Morganville Vampires - Rachel Caine

Pages: 345
Publisher: Alison and Busby
Release Date: 11th January 2010

Other Titles in the Series: Glass Houses (my review), The Dead Girls‘ Dance (my review), Midnight Alley (my review), Feast of Fools (my review), Lord of Misrule (my review), Carpe Corpus (my review)

Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, the resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedom, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again…

Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theatre company. But when one of Eve’s cast mates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. Claire and Eve soon realise that this film project, featuring the vampires themselves, is a whole lot bigger - and way more dangerous - than anyone suspected…

Oh, I do love The Morganville Vampires series! Fade Out was no exception.

After the ending of Carpe Corpus and all of the tied up plot lines it delivered, I was worried about how Rachel Caine would carry on Claire and the gang’s story in Fade Out. I really didn’t need to worry. There wasn’t very much action in the first half of the novel, but it didn’t feel slow and it was actually nice to see Claire, Shane, Michael and Eve in a semi-normal situation. Though in true Morganville style, the action and life threatening circumstances soon jumped back into the foreground.

The relationships between Claire and Shane and Michael and Ever are tried and tested in Fade Out. In fact, the dynamics betweens lots of the characters changed. some for the better, some for the worse. There was even a new character introduced; Kim. And I didn’t like her at all. Nor did many residents of Morganville.

I do have a problem with the Morganville series, though: it’s completely addictive. And because I love the books so much, I read them as soon as I get them and devour them far too quickly. Not even Rachel Caine’s ridiculously long chapters, sometimes up to fifty pages, can slow me down. I want this series to never end. I think I might have a problem…

After finishing Fade Out, I am, as ever, waiting impatiently for the next book in the series. Kiss of Death will be released in May

Sophie

Monday, 11 January 2010

Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Pages: 563
Publisher: Puffin
Release Date: 4th February 2010

In Ethan Wate’s hometown there lies the darkest of secrets…
There is a girl.

Slowly, she pulled the hood from her head…green eyes, black hair.
Lena Duchannes

There is a curse.
On the sixteenth moon, of the sixteenth year, the Book will take what it’s been promised.And no one can stop it.
In the end, there is a grave.

Lena and Ethan become bound together by a deep, powerful love. But Lena is cursed and, on her sixteenth birthday, her fate will be decided.
Ethan never even saw it coming.

Beautiful Creatures is a sprawling, Southern, epic tale of secrets, magic, mystery and love.

I adored this book. Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s writing is beautiful. It’s softness and lyrical quality gave Beautiful Creatures a compelling, Gothic atmosphere that enhanced the air of history, enchantment and mystery of Gaitlin. The stifling claustrophobia of a small town was captured gorgeously with characters like Mrs Lincoln, Mrs Snow and Mrs Asher and the stories and rumours spreading through the town like wildfire.

The American Civil War played a significant role in the plot of Beautiful Creatures and I enjoyed re-learning all about it as I was around twelve when I studied it in History. I think I might actually remember something about it this time! The way that it entwined with Ethan and Lena’s story was effortless and it helped to introduce the mythology seamlessly. The mythology itself was completely new to me and unlike anything that I’ve read about before. It’s complex and intricate and was gradually revealed throughout the novel.

But my favourite aspect of Beautiful Creatures (besides Ethan!) is the bucketfuls of mystery. Nothing was ever disclosed in full; we were drip-fed titbits of information that I tried to piece together. Only once or twice did I guess correctly! All of this led to an explosive final few chapters where everything fell into place, mysteries were solved and some rather shocking events unfolded.

After turning the last page of Beautiful Creatures thinking only, ’Wow!’, I’m very excited to see how Ethan and Lena’s story continues in book two, Beautiful Darkness.

Sophie

Sunday, 10 January 2010

In My Mailbox 46

This meme 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.

Bought:

Hunger: A Gone Novel - Michael Grant

An uneasy calm has settled over Perdido Beach. But soon fear explodes into desperation as starvation sets in and the mob look to place blame. For the ‘normals’ the buck must stop somewhere - with the ‘freaks’.

More and more kids are developing strange powers and, just as frighteningly, so are the animals in the FAYZ: talking coyotes, swimming bats and deadly worms with razor-sharp teeth are just the beginning.

For Sam Temple the strain of leadership is beginning to show and he’s got more than just dwindling rations and in-fighting to worry about - Caine is back with the psychotic whip hand, Drake, by his side.

And in the background lies the greatest danger of all - and he too needs to be fed.

I’ve been waiting to read this for so long! But the best bit about it is the orange-edged pages. So cool!

Monster Republic: The Divinity Project - Ben Horton

An explosion in a nuclear power plant.

Kids patched up with scavenged body parts and bionic implants.

A growing army of superhuman soldiers programmed for destruction.

Cameron Riley is about to discover that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

A sci-fi-ish sounding UK debut. What more could you want?

That’s it for this week as we’ve had ridiculous amounts of snow in the UK this week and the country has ground to a halt so that meant no post (and three snow days!).

Sophie

Friday, 8 January 2010

Featured on Friday: Keren David

Keren David is the 2010 debut author of When I Was Joe and it’s sequel, Almost True, which will be released in August this year. Keren lives and writes in London.

1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I quite often find myself writing between 10pm and midnight, when I've had the whole day to think about what to write and my children are in bed. In an ideal world I'd have a nice light study with a big desk and bookshelves - I'm sure I'd do my best writing there - but at the moment I have to make do with the dining table.

2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
When I was a teenager there weren't many YA books around, although I loved - and still love - SE Hinton's The Outsiders. I also liked Agatha Christie's crime novels, Georgette Heyer's historical romances, and classics like Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice. I've not read any Christie lately, but I still love all the others.

3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
Oh that's a really hard question. One might have to be a survival guide, but assuming they're there for entertainment then I'd take two big thick heavy classic novels to keep me going, probably Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) and Bleak House (Dickens). And Bridget Jones's Diary to make me laugh.

4. Is there a novel that you wish you’d written? Why?
I had a severe case of book envy recently when I read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Stunning writing.

5. Gang crime is a highly publicised topic in the UK at the moment that uninvolved people often don’t think about. Why did you decide to write about it?
I started off with the idea of writing about witness protection. I liked the idea of a teenager struggling with his identity. The crime was less important to me. But when I was writing there was a horrific spate of knife crime in London, some of it gang-related. Everything I read in the papers helped me understand Ty and the world he came from. It turned into a book about gangs and knife crime.

6. Where did you get all of your information on gangs, organised crime, witness protection and police procedures from?
My background is news journalism so I already knew quite a bit from years and years of reporting and news editing. I read the papers and I talked to a friend who is a criminal barrister and has worked with protected witnesses. For the sequel Almost True I consulted an old school friend who has been a police officer for 25 years about police procedure. I also read the Home Office guidelines on intimidated witnesses, and about as many actual cases as I could find, particularly that of Danielle Cable who had to take on a new identity when she was a teenager and witnessed her boyfriend being stabbed to death. Later on I read the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on knife crime. But some things I just made up.

7. Ty’s personality changed drastically with his new name and appearance. Why did you do this? Do you think that these factors have a substantial influence on behaviour?
The teenage years are a time when your identity is shifting and changing, when you believe in the ability to change yourself completely. Ty wasn't very happy or confident as Ty, and he falls in love with the idea that he can be someone different as Joe. The question really is how deep that change can go. On the surface Joe is cool and confident, underneath the old, scared, sensitive Ty is still there - and he's very traumatised so his grip on either identity is a bit shaky.

8. Will we learn more about Ty’s London life in Almost True?
Yes and also about his early life.

9. Are you working on anything at the moment? Can you tell us anything about it?
I'm at the very early stages of starting out on something new. It's very strange not writing as Ty and I miss him. The narrator is a girl - you wouldn't think that would be more difficult, but it is.

Thank you very much, Keren! You can visit Keren’s blog here and read my review of When I Was Joe here.

Sophie

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

When I Was Joe - Keren David

When I Was Joe - Keren David

Pages: 364
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Release Date: 7th January 2010

It’s one thing watching someone get killed.
It’s quite another talking about it.

But Ty does talk about it. He names some ruthless people and a petrol-bomb attack forces him and his mum into hiding under police protection.

Shy loser Ty gets a new name, a new look and a cool new image. Life as Joe is good. But the gangsters will stop at nothing to silence him. And then he meets a girl with a dangerous secret of her own.

A completely irresistible thriller by an exciting new writer.

Keren David’s thrilling debut novel, When I Was Joe, far surpassed my expectations. I loved it.

Ty/Joe has an engaging voice that pulls you into the depths of his story and instantly made me like and sympathise with him, even though I knew he wasn’t telling me everything. One of the most individual aspects of Ty’s character was how when he felt scared or intimated his speech slipped from normal English to East London gangster slang. It would probably make readers who aren’t familiar with how it sounds laugh, but this transition really highlighted how different the life Ty lived in London was. I actually would have liked to have seen a bit more of his previous life, actually.

The cast of supporting characters are just as vibrant and life-like as Ty is. Sisters Ellie and Claire are such opposites that you might no believe they were actually related! Ellie is loud, sporty and bossy, while Claire is shy, quiet and a little dorky, which is in fact likely to be the case for lots of sisters. Ashley is the type of girl who gives teen girls a bad name and I really hated her. I’m actually quite surprised at how strongly! Part way through When I Was Joe, I began to think that I’d judged her too harshly and that there was something more under the surface. I was wrong: she’s mean, manipulative and a bully.

But fantastic characters aside, my favourite aspect of When I Was Joe is all of the mysteries and unanswered questions. What really happened that night? What’s Claire hiding? Who planted the petrol bomb? Who’s trying to kill Ty and his Mum? Luckily, all of these questions were
answered by the end of the novel and I can’t remember any strings left untied, while enough was left hanging for me to be anxious to read the sequel.

Keren David has written an action-packed and suspense-filled novel that remains gritty and real. Ty’s story continues in Almost True later this year.

Sophie

Monday, 4 January 2010

My Totally Secret Diary - Dee Shulman

My Totally Secret Diary: Reality TV Nightmare - Dee Shulman

Pages: 128
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: 4th February 2010

Other Titles in the Series: On Stage in America

If you happen to pick up this books - PLEASE don’t show it to anybody. It is totally PRIVATE. And quite disheartening.

It tells the tragical story of a helpless innocent person (me) trying to live an ordinary private life with a very DIFFICULT mother.

But how can you live an ordinary private life if your difficult mother invites a TV crew to come film in your house???

How are you supposed to keep that a secret from everyone at school???!

My Totally Secret Diary: Reality TV Nightmare is the second graphic novel-style diary of 11-year-old Polly.

I really loved the format of Reality TV Nightmare. The diary entries were interspersed will full colour doodles, photographs of Polly’s friends and pictures from her magazines. Even her writing had spelling mistakes and crossings out. A completely authentic tween diary.

I felt so sorry for poor Polly, though. The eccentric and really annoying Vanilla, yep, Vanilla, and Polly’s selfish, self-centred Mum made Polly’s life a misery. I don’t think I would have lasted as long as she did without snapping!

This is a short, sweet and very funny diary perfect for young teen or tween girls. Pure fun!

Sophie


Sunday, 3 January 2010

In My Mailbox 45

This meme 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.

Bought:

The Worst of Me - Kate le Vann

Cassidy has been feeling unsettled and adrift, but things look up when she meets an older boy called Jonah. She loves spending time with him and his friends, flattered to be included in their discussions. Jonah is sweet and sensitive and she’s never felt so happy.

But then Cassidy hears disturbing news about Jonah which shakes her trust in him and makes her question her own judgement. If you love someone, how far should you go to overlook their faults?

A sharply insightful story about the sometimes painful process of growing up and thinking for yourself.

I love Kate le Vann’s books. They’re always very sweet and very sad.

My Love Lies Bleeding - Alyxandra Harvey

“They’re close,” she murmered. “Watching.”
“Run?” I suggested. “Like right now?”
She shook her head.
“If we act like prey, they’ll act like predators.”

Solange has always known she is a vampire. And as theonly female vampire ever born, not initiated, she is surrounded by danger on all sides - from other vampire tribes who want to take her blood into their lineage, and from the bounty hunters who are set on destroying her and her family.

When she is kidnapped, it’s up to her older brother, Nicholas, and best friend, Lucy, to save her.

But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with every look - what will be her own fate if she surrenders her heart to a vampire?

I’m really looking forward to read this. And it’ll go towards my debut reading challenge.

The Medusa Project: The Set-Up - Sophie McKenzie

Fourteen years ago, scientist William Fox implanted four babies with the Medusa gene - a gene for psychic abilities. But Fox died and the babies were hidden away for years.

Now they’re teenagers - and unaware that their psychic powers are about to kick in.

Cocky, charismatic Nico thinks his emerging telekinetic abilities will bring him money, power and the girl of his dreams. He’s about to find out just how wrong he is…

This sounds like an episode of Fringe, which I love, so I’m really looking forward to this.

New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion - Mark Cotta Vaz

Academy Award-nominated director Chris Weitz and his creative team have brought the second book in Stephenie Meyer’s riveting vampire romance saga to the big screen. Inside this deluxe visual companion, get an intimate look at the creation of the film.

With lavish, never-before-seen full-colour photographs, exclusive interviews with the cast and crew, and answers to questions about costume and set design, bestselling author Mark Cotta Vaz gives a special behind-the-scenes tour of the film millions have devoured. Inside you’ll get a glimpse into the director’s aesthetic inspiration, learn the secrets behind some the film’s most intense stunts, and learn just how a person can become a werewolf.

I actually got this for Christmas too but forgot to include it in last week’s IMM.

Sophie

Friday, 1 January 2010

Featured on Friday: Nina Malkin

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you enjoy the first Featured on Friday post of 2010 starring Nina Malkin...
Nina Malkin is the author of three books, one novella and a memoir. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and cats.

1. Is there a specific time or place that you do your best writing in?
I’ll write basically anywhere—in a closet, a refrigerator box—except a cute, trendy coffeehouse. Mostly I write at my desk, which is a slab of marble atop an old steel Singer sewing machine base. The wheel from the sewing machine spins when you pedal it — this may or not help the creative process, but it does tone the calves. Time-wise, I prefer to write in the morning, when the stuff that comes in dreams spills out.

2. Who were your favourite authors as a teenager? Are they different to your current favourites?
I read a lot of horror fiction when I was younger, Poe to King. Lately I’ve been in a crime phase—hard-boiled detective stuff (Hammett’s a favourite), true crime (just finished James Ellroy’s “My Dark Places”), pulp/noir—I recently got a collection of three Jim Thompson novels I’m eager to crack.

3. If you were only allowed to take three books to a desert island, what would they be?
Dang, I hate these desert island questions! How come they’re never dessert islands? Okay…the Bible, because it’s big and fat and I’ve never read it. Flannery O’Connor’s “The Complete Stories,” since I could read them over and over. Finally, a huge notebook with sketchbook quality paper so I might amuse myself with stories and drawings of my own.

4. Is there a novel that you wish you’d written? Why?
Sometimes I’ll come upon a clever turn of phrase, a metaphor or a pun and think, “Damn, wish I wrote that!” But I’ve never read a novel and wished it were mine. Novels are offspring, so coveting another author’s work would feel to me like kidnapping.

5. Swoon is very different from your previous books. What inspired you to write it?
My first two novels, 6X: The Uncensored Confessions and 6X: Loud, Fast, and Out of Control, were about rock ‘n’ roll, inspired by my music industry experiences. SWOON is a much more personal story. I’d been screwed over, bad, and obsessing about the worst way someone could betray a trust. SWOON arose from that. Which of course proves the old adage: Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stranger.

6. So many different myths and lores are present in Swoon. Where did you find them and then decide to mesh them all together?
Much like SWOON’s heroine Dice, when she was investigating demonic possession, I’d get an idea, then try to suss it out on the Internet. I didn’t do tons of research, though, for two reasons: I wanted the story to feel fresh and not reflect much of some myth or lore you’ve heard before. And because I really prefer to make stuff up!

7. I felt that the end of Swoon wasn’t the end for Sin and Dice at all. Will you continue their story?
I know there are further adventures of Sin and Dice, and I get so many requests for a sequel, but my publisher hasn’t commissioned one. I have no clue why—the book is in its seventh printing, so I imagine it’s “successful.” That said, I believe that readers are continuing the story in their thoughts, their dreams, their exchanges with me and with others. To those SWOONIES I say thank-you! And here’s a tip: Sin has been hounding me about this, and come the New Year he may start a blog…

Thank you very much, Nina! You can visit Nina on her website here and read my review of Swoon here.

Sophie