Monday 28 February 2011

Poetic Ponders (3)

During this year studying English Literature and Creative Writing, I’ve developed a new appreciation for poetry. With this in mind, I thought that I’d start a new weekly feature on So Many Books, So Little Time in which I share with you my favourite poems. They may be ones I discover on my course or ones I’ve loved for a long time.

Hopefully some of you will join me in sharing some awesome poems.

Continuities – Walt Whitman (1855)

Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form--no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space--ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold--the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring's invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.

Unlike the poems of the previous two weeks, I discovered this poem through a book; The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. It’s a beautiful and moving poem that reminds me of Noah and Allie’s story every time I read it. It’s absolutely stunning.


Tuesday 22 February 2011

Across the Universe - Beth Revis

Across the Universe – Beth Revis

Pages: 398 (ARC)
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Release Date: 3rd March 2011

From Goodreads: A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Across the Universe is a mind-blowing sci-fi tale of epic proportions, and I loved it to bits.

One of the first things of many about Across the Universe that made me smile was that it’s written in dual narrative; my favourite form. I loved seeing life on Godspeed from two characters in such opposing situations; the ultimate outsider and the ultimate insider. The snippets of frozen Amy and Elder before Amy were fascinating in comparison to later in the novel, so much so that I almost want to re-read it to get the full effect!

The first chapter, as most people have already seen, completely draws you in by throwing you head-first into Amy’s world. So many mysteries and questions were set up that it would have been impossible not to carry on reading. And while the world she begins the novel in doesn’t seem that different to ours, but the one she wakes up in most certainly is. It’s a miniature replication of earth with a city, a hospital, gardens and homes, but there is only one race, one language with a strange dialect and no religions. There is also a subtle scheme of slang running through the novel by those who live on Godspeed which really adds reality to Across the Universe that contends with the ridiculously sophisticated developments in technology and genetics that our scientists could only dream of.

But with this, there are also some serious downsides. There is the crushing power of Elder and the attempted murders on the frozen people, the utterly disturbing and unnatural Season and the empty Feeders. As well as that, all of the things we take for granted on Earth – the sky, rain, clouds, fresh air, throw-away materials and, ultimately, freedom – are not available for those who live, work and die on Godspeed.

All in all, I loved Across the Universe. I think it could be one of my favourites that I’ve read so far this year and I’m VERY excited for the sequel.

For my 2011 Debut Author Challenge

A huge thank you to Puffin for sending me a copy to review.


Monday 21 February 2011

Poetic Ponders (2)

During this year studying English Literature and Creative Writing, I’ve developed a new appreciation for poetry. With this in mind, I thought that I’d start a new weekly feature on So Many Books, So Little Time in which I share with you my favourite poems. They may be ones I discover on my course or ones I’ve loved for a long time.

Hopefully some of you will join me in sharing some awesome poems.

London – William Blake (1794)

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

For A-level English Lit. I studied Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience and he quickly became one of my favourite poets and you’re very likely to see me featuring a lot more of his poems in the future.


Other poetic ponders: Once Upon a Bookcase

Friday 18 February 2011

Featured on Friday: Miriam Halahmy

A huge thank you to the fabulous Sara for the beautiful button.

I have the pleasure of welcoming Miriam Halahmy to So Many Books, So Little TIme today in anticipation of her YA debut, Hidden, which will be released next month by Meadowside Books.

Miriam is a London born author and poet who also runs writing workshops. She is married with three children.

"My debut Y.A. novel, HIDDEN, (Meadowside Fiction) will be published on March 31st 2011. I am an author and poet. My stories and poems for adults and young people have been included in anthologies, read on radio and performed on stage. I have been married into an Iraqi family for many years and they have provided some of the inspiration for my novel. I live in North London but Hayling Island where my novel is set was our family home for many years.
HIDDEN tackles the complex issues of immigration and human-rights laws, through the eyes of teenage Alix. It is a coming-of-age novel dealing with courage, prejudice, judgement and the difficulty of sorting right from wrong.

Fourteen year old Alix lives at the bottom of Hayling Island, near the beach. It is a quiet backwater, far removed from the international politics of war, terrorism and refugees. Alix has never given a thought to asylum seekers, she has enough problems of her own; Dad has a new life that doesn’t include her, Grandpas is dead and Mum is helpless and needy.

Then one day on the beach Alix pulls a drowning man out of the incoming tide; a refugee escaping certain death in Iraq. Alone, helpless and desperate not to be deported, Mohammed’s destiny lies in Alix’s hands. However, hiding an injured refugee is fraught with difficulties. Faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life, what will Alix do and who can she trust?

My parents lived on Hayling for many years and my husband and I have always loved going down to visit the Island. As a writer I have often thought that Hayling would be a great place to set a novel. The Island has many beautiful and mysterious corners. One day I was walking on the beach and wondered, What if a couple of teenagers saw a man, a refugee, thrown out of a boat into the sea? What would they do? That was it; the story was born.

But as I was writing HIDDEN, more ideas occurred to me and I wrote two more novels centred on Hayling. A minor character in the previous book becomes the major character in the next, so each novel is stand alone. The next two titles, ILLEGAL and STUFFED, will be published by Meadowside in 2012.

Writing HIDDEN has given me the opportunity to explore the experiences of asylum seekers through fiction. I have worked with asylum seekers in different settings and all of the people I have met have been through a truly horrible time. But the media tends to show a very negative image of refugees and asylum seekers. My hope is that through getting to know my characters young people might be prepared to find out more about the plight of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK and make up their own minds.

I very much enjoyed all the extra research I did for this book, on immigration and human rights laws, individual testimonies and contemporary Iraq. My husband and his family told me a lot about ordinary everyday life in Iraq which I felt was so important to show in my book. Most people only think of Iraq as a place where bombs go off but there is so much more to find out about this wonderful and historic country. Stories about the date palms could fill a book alone.

I also enjoyed visiting Hayling Island to extend my knowledge of the area and I have met so many interesting people, including two people who showed me two ‘little ships’ which left Hayling to rescue British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940. I refer to this in the novel.

When I cross the bridge from the mainland to the Island I feel myself completely relax and the blue sea spreads out all around me. Read HIDDEN and then go and visit the Island and see the places where the book is set. You’ll have a great time!"

Thank you so much, Miriam! You can visit Miriam at her website here.


Wednesday 16 February 2011

The Queen's Lady - Eve Edwards

The Queen’s Lady – Eve Edwards

Pages: 324
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Release Date: 3rd February 2011

Other Titles in this Series: The Other Countess

Surrey, England, 1584
 When Lady Jane Rievaulx begins service to the Queen at Richmond Palace, she is thrilled at the court’s newest arrival...Master James Lacey.

Despite her previous courtship with his older brother, James is the man she truly loves. And for his part, he cannot deny his fascination with her. However, James is setting sail on a treacherous journey to the Americas, seeking absolution for what he sees as past sins.

But when Lady Jane is forced into a terrible situation by her own family, there is only one man to save her. Will Master James return to his lady – before it’s too late?

The Other Countess was one of last summer’s highlights for me so I was incredibly anxious to get my hands on The Queen’s Lady. And I loved it just as much!

As a sort of sequel to The Other Countess, a secondary character, Lady Jane, became the focus of the story. We caught up with her about a year after the end of The Other Countess and the horrible situation she was left in. I really grew to like her in the first book so I was glad to learn more about her. We also got the chance to catch up with Will and Ellie which is lovely as I always enjoy seeing how characters lives have progressed after I’ve turned the last pages of a book.

The hatred for Jane’s dad and brother, Henry, that began for me in The Other Countess only increased in The Queen’s Lady. Their utter disregard for her feelings when it comes to her marriage and the way it would affect the family business blew my mind. I know that in the 1500s women, especially women of rank, had very little say in these decisions, but I still found it impossible to believe when surrounded by wholly supportive figures such as Milly’s dad. And then came the blackmail and I was left speechless, especially with the blaringly obvious connection between James and Jane that would always have prevented her from loving anyone else.

But I think that my favourite scenes in the novel were the ones that involved the brilliant Diego. I hated the way he was persecuted for the colour of his skin. It worried me that the views of the 1500s are not all that different to the views that some people still hold now, over 500 years later. His utter bemusement at some of the things that the English did was hilarious and his reaction to their cavalier attitude toward the Native Americans was probably the most human of them all. And then you have the camaraderie between him and James that soon turned into an unbreakable friendship. I love the way that both men broke the formality of their ranks when they were together.

As you can probably tell, I loved The Queen’s Lady and from the glimpses of Kit we got, I’m going to love The Rogue’s Princess too.

For my British Books Challenge 2011, YA Historical Fiction Challenge

A huge thank you to Puffin for sending me a copy to review.


Monday 14 February 2011

Poetic Ponders (1)

I would like to thank the awesome Sara for this beautiful button.

During this year studying English Literature and Creative Writing, I’ve developed a new appreciation for poetry. With this in mind, I thought that I’d start a new weekly feature on So Many Books, So Little Time in which I share with you my favourite poems. They may be ones I discover on my course or ones I’ve loved for a long time.

Hopefully some of you will join me in sharing some awesome poems and let me know in the comments if you like my new feature and/or would like to take part yourself.

Love After Love – Derek Walcott (1990)

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

I studied this poem briefly at GCSE and fell in love with it and its meaning. Hope you enjoyed it!


Thursday 10 February 2011

The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen – Julie Kagawa

Pages: 358
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 3rd February 2011

Other Titles in this Series: The Iron King, The Iron Daughter

My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who’s sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I’m not sure anyone will survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

The final book in The Iron Fey trilogy had a lot to live up to. But Julie Kagawa did not disappoint me.

Meghan’s growth throughout the trilogy has been realistic and inspiring and she only continued to develop in The Iron Queen. I loved how she was so determined to learn how to fight. She didn’t want to be the damsel in distress relying on Ash and Puck anymore; instead she wanted to stand up for what she believed in properly. How she learnt to master her powers and discover new ones was so far removed from the helpless Meghan we were introduced to three books. Julie Kagawa really demonstrated the effect that her year in Faery had had on her.

But Meghan was not the only character that changed throughout the trilogy: Ash went under a radical transformation. He softened and opened up himself to Meghan and his feelings for her in incredibly romantic and heartbreaking ways. Their dedication to each other is unimaginable to me but although I think that Meghan and Ash are completely perfect for each other, I think I almost preferred the will-they-won’t-they of The Iron King and The Iron Daughter for some reason I can’t quite pinpoint.

I’ve mentioned Julie Kagawa’s utterly captivating writing style in my reviews for the previous two books in the trilogy already, but it’s just so outstanding that I have to mention it again. Her descriptions of character, place and emotion are second to none. I became so completely involved with Meghan’s life that when I started crying near the end of the novel even though I had a friend sitting on my bed playing music and singing along I wasn’t even surprised.

I’ve adored every page of this trilogy so I’m beyond excited to read Ash’s story in The Iron Knight.

You can also read my interview with Julie here.


Tuesday 8 February 2011

Giveaway: Signed copy of The Lost Hero (CLOSED)

Thanks to the fabulous Jenny of Wondrous Reads, I have a signed copy of The Lost Hero to give away to a lucky UK reader.

From Goodreads: Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper. His best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids”, as Leo puts it. What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea — except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

To enter:
+1 Leave a comment with your name and email address of email me at (required)
+2 Follow my blog
+2 Spread the word via twitter, facebook etc.

Deadline: Tuesday 15th February, 12:00pm GMT

Good luck!