Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January Review

I have never done a month in review post on my blog but I thought I'd try it out and see how it goes ...

Books read in January
BZRK by Michael Grant
Oliver Twisted by JD Sharpe
The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Desert Angel by Charlie Price
Slide by Jill Hathaway
The truth about forever by Sarah Dessen
Hollow Pike by James Dawson
The Fault in our stars by John Green
12 minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld
Starters by Lissa Price
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jessica Rothenberg
Legend by Marie Lu
Daylight Saving by Ed Hogan
The Look by Sophia Bennett
Every other day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Choker by Elizabeth Wood
Dark Storm by Sarah Singleton

Favourite Books read in January



Hollow Pike by James Dawson.
I literally devoured this book in the space of a few hours. I loved every page and cannot praise it highly enough

(Close runners up would have been Chris Edge's 12 minutes to Midnight and that John Green book everyone is talking about!)

Favourite Book released in January


The Court Painter's Apprentice by Richard Knight

I will admit I love Catnip who publish this book. All their books are fantastic, well written and just plain awesome. This is no exception.

(close runner up would have been Phil Earle's Saving Daisy)

Bookish highlights of the month

Going down to London to the RHCB Bloggers Brunch and just as excitingly meeting Non (Catnip's editor) for book chat with several of my favourite blogging people afterwards.

Getting the British Books Challenge off to a flying start (sign ups are still open if you want to join in)

Strangley enough I would also say a highlight for me was dropping In My Mailbox as a feature. I do still love it and looking at everyone's posts but I've found that I've been losing my entire life to blogging and dropping IMM has given me my weekends back and means I can schedule well in advance which suits my working hours quite nicely.

So onto February ... I have a very very exciting prize pack available for February British Books Challengers and will be picking the winner for the January Prize Pack winner tomorrow so add any last links you have asap.

Please also note that if I go a bit AWOL over the next few weeks it's because I am in the middle of marking GCSE scripts for one of the exam boards to really tight deadlines so I might not appear again until half term!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Review: Night School by CJ Daugherty

Night School by CJ Daugherty
Published by Atom



Allie Sheridan's world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she's just been arrested.

Again.

This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers.

But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Its rules are strangely archaic. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there's the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch.

When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what's really going on at Cimmeria Academy.


***

Night school is one of those books I wanted from day one just because of the cover. Turns out the bit inside is pretty awesome too.

Night School revolves around the story of Allie. She's been bad ever since the incident with her brother acting out in anyway she can. Her parent's have finally had enough and shipped her off to boarding school. This boarding school isn't like the ones you hear about. It is super strict, yet the staff go by their first names. It runs in the summer and has more secrets than you can shake a stick at. Allie starts out determined to hate it but actually she starts to find that things aren't all that bad and that she actually is quite liking the change.

The thing that got me the most with this book is that you spend a lot of time knowing that something is going on but not being completely quite sure about what that something might be. All you know is that someone isn't quite telling you truth which means you are never sure who to trust all the way through the book. I'm not going to tell you what's going on (even if I could I'm not fully sure myself yet) but I was so pleased to see this wasn't yet another vampire book which I think readers could assume it might be from the title

Apart from Allie, who I loved as a character, I think I loved Carter the most as a character. He is so mysterious in the way he treats Allie at first but also a bit of a hero at the same time. I can't wait to see more him in the future.

When events and revelations kicked off boy did they kick off. The actions scenes were pacey with lots of things happening in a bit of a whirlwind leaving you a bit breathless at times. The scenes at the summer ball were really surprising (I would have never guessed how events unfolded) and so many story arcs have been opened up. I was left at the end with the feeling that not many of my questions had been answered but also the need to know even more. I certainly hope book 2 starts to answer some of the questions for me.

All in all a brilliantly enjoyable read. I shall look forward to book 2 eagerly

READ IT FOR THE BRITISH BOOKS CHALLENGE

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Phil Earle

We’ve three alcoves in our house that are rammed full of books.
Two which house the humdrum, run-of-the-mill novels that are apparently very good for adults to read. Apart from a few choice authors, I can’t say I pay that much attention to them.

This is the only bookcase that counts in our house.


The one with the good stuff in it.
The one where the kids and YA novels live.
It used to be bigger, until our third child was born, then I lost a shelf to jigsaws and games. A sad day it was, as I chopped out books that in reality I wanted to keep.

It’s still a collection I’m proud of, a mass of dog-eared proofs from my time working for Ottakar’s Bookstores, first editions that I had signed, and a number of titles that I’ve been lucky enough to work on whilst at Random House and Simon and Schuster.




I thought I’d show you the first books that appear, the “A’s”, as that’s where Mr Almond lives. Without ‘Skellig’ I would never have started writing for young adults. I re-read it frequently, just to remind myself how good it is.


I’m lucky enough to have a signed first edition as well.  A treasured possession.



Further along the top shelf are Kevin Brooks’ books, another reason I write for teens. When I first read ‘Martyn Pig’ it was a revelation. I couldn’t believe the risks he took as a writer. It’s a bravery I try really hard to capture in my books, but I have a long way to go to match the great man…



The award for the most battered and loved book on my shelves is definitely ‘You Don’t Know Me’ by David Klass. One of the best first person YA narratives I’ve ever read. I was lucky enough to meet him when I was a bookseller. A lovely lovely guy, who scribbled this in my proof…



One of the things I’m proudest of in terms of work, was being a small part of the David Fickling Books team. David is an incredible editor, with a hit rate unmatched by anyone else in publishing. To be allowed to read ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, ‘Before I Die’ and ‘Solace of the Road’ by Siobhan Dowd, before they were released was a huge honour. David also produces gorgeous proofs, and I’ve squirreled them away on the shelves.




It’s impossible to say which is my favourite book on the shelves. It changes with every passing day, but if I had to save one book from a fire, I think it would be my HB copy of ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak.


I absolutely love that book and to work on it was a ridiculous pleasure.
We were lucky enough to meet him when he came over, and I can’t help looking at the signed title page without a huge stupid grin on my face




Hope this has been interesting, cheers for bearing with me…

Friday, 27 January 2012

Review: Seizure by Kathy Reichs

Seizure by Kathy Reichs
Series: Virals #2
Published by RCHB



Ever since Tory Brennan and her friends rescued Cooper, a kidnapped wolf pup with a rare strain of canine parvovirus, they've turned from regular kids into a crime-solving pack. But now the very place that brought them together - the Loggerhead Island Research Institute - is out of funding and will have to shut down. That is, unless the Virals can figure out a way to save it.

So when Tory learns of an old Charleston legend about a famous she-pirate, Anne Bonney, whose fortune was never found, she can't believe her luck - buried treasure is exactly what she needs to save the Institute on Loggerhead! Trouble is, she and her friends aren't the only ones looking for it. And this time, the Virals' special powers may not be enough to dig them out of trouble . . .


***
Seizure is the second book is the Virals series. It was simple and easy read which meant I didn't need to concentrate all that much to follow the plot and could therefore read through it really quickly despite its huge size.

The virals are a group of teenagers who have abilities caused by being infected with some crazy wolf / supernatural DNA. In this book they are still getting to grips with what they can do and what it means for them to have their powers.

The group is led by Tory who is a headstrong tomboy. I find myself relating to her quite well as she is quite clearly happy to be considered one of the boys and quite happily leads them in whatever quest they are following.

The storyline of this book followed the viral's quest to find the long lost treasure of Anne Bonney, a pirate who lived in around the area. I quite liked the storyline (even though it was a bit cheesy) as they links to history and the use of historical documents was really good. A brilliant way to get youngsters excited in old manuscripts and the history around them.

My only complaint is this book did seem a bit contrived and quite predictable. I do wonder how long the series is going to be strung out for and hope it isn't one of those series which isn't strung out as long as possible as part of a money making scheme.

All in all a book worth the time and effort to read and especially good if you want something light hearted, pacey and engaging with likable characters.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Published by Simon and Schuster




Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

***

The unbecoming of Mara Dyer was uniquely different read and the main thing I liked about it was throughout 90% of the book you weren't quite sure what was going on.

At the very start of the book Mara is involved in an accident which kills three of her best friends and leaves her in a very fragile state. To try to help her recover the family decide to move across the country to start afresh somewhere new.

After the move Mara is faced with the usual "new girl at high school" problems of fitting in. She runs foul of the local popular girl and struggles to make friends as a consequence. One of the only people to pay attention to her is Noah, the mysterious hot boy at school which makes her even more unpopular even though his attentions aren't all that appreciated.

Mara's new life is strange. Things happen to her and she see things that aren't really there. She appears to be seeing her dead friends and quite rightly she starts to think she is going completely mad because she knows logically that these things can't be happening but she also knows that they are completely real to her when they are. I actually really liked this about the book as it keeps you guessing about what type of book it actually is and what in fact is actually going on all the way through.

I must say towards the end of the book things to become a lot clearer and the explanations for how things turn out is nicely done and not something I would have guessed. While tying up the first book nicely it does set the scene for the rest of the series quite nicely and has left me wanting more.

All in all an interesting and unique read which I enjoyed. I'm looking forward to seeing where the series goes next.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Random House Bloggers Brunch

On saturday I was lucky enough to go the the RHCB Bloggers Brunch. As always it was a fantastic morning because of all the exciting future releases they teased us with and because it was another chance to see all my lovely blogging friends.

Now I was going to do a whole break down of all the exciting books they teased us with but in my truly chaotic I lost the piece of paper somewhere between London and Cromer with all the titles and details on. So instead I am going to give you a heads up on the titles they spoke about which I am most excited about

Wonder by RJ Palacio



I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? 


I actually read this one back over Christmas and it is fantastic. I would recommend it to everyone.

Starters by Lissa Price


HER WORLD IS CHANGED FOREVER

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man.

He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined.
. . .


I finished this one this week and I loved it. I can't wait for Enders, the sequel, to see what happens next.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth


Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.


I can't wait for this one as it looks excellent

Witch Struck by Victoria Lamb


Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.


Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret.


Thrilling and fast-paced, this is the first unputdownable story in a bewitching new series


The Historian in me is very very excited about this one!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Review: The future of us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Published by Simon and Schuster



It's 1996 and less than half of all American high school students have ever used the Internet. Facebook will not be invented for several more years. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD-ROM with 100 free hours. When she and her best friend Josh log on to AOL they discover themselves on Facebook... fifteen years in the future. Everybody wonders what life has in store for them.
Josh and Emma are about to find out.


***
I'm the first to admit when I started this book I wasn't a Jay Asher fan. I hated 13 reasons why but I loved this book.

The story follows Emma and Josh. Emma gets a computer and on her first time online she opens up facebook featuring herself 15 years in the future. At first they think it is a joke but as they delve deeper and as their day to day actions change details in the future things start to get more complicated. They both start to ponder about what they should know about their future and how much they ought to influence their future by changes they make in their day to day life.

I loved the idea of this book mainly because I think 16 year old me would have loved a glimpse at my life now via facebook. As someone who remembers life before the Internet I thought the story was spot on ... night sat by your landline waiting for a phone call and then the excitement of your first computer even though in comparison they were agonisingly slow.

I loved Josh as a character and thought he was really sweet in his teenage way. I did struggle to warm to Emma in the same way because I found her to be a little bit shallow in the way she viewed the world.

The only thing I didn't like is how distraught the pair got about children / not having children as things changed on facebook. I don't necessarily think having a family is the be-all-and-end-all for most teenagers nor is it a sign "you've made it".

All in all a book with an original idea that I really enjoyed.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A bit of a rant ....

I'm not one for ranting on the whole. I like a quite life but there's something about blogging that has been winding me up of late and I need to get it out ...

As you well know some bloggers get free books. Some of us get a lot of free books and I know 99.9% of us are very excited to receive them and grateful for every one that turns up at our door. I personally have read such a range of titles that I would have never otherwise read if I hadn't had them for review and discovered some real gems. I read a hell of a lot and try my hardest to review whatever I have as quickly as I can (well as quickly as one would expect with a job like mine). There are times however when I get a book which isn't really me and even then I'll give it a go and if it still isn't me I'll pass it onto another blogger who has mentioned they would like to read it or take it into school for the library or one of kids I teach would love reading. Either way I am always grateful for whatever I receive.

However lately I have been getting really annoyed with people's attitudes towards what essentially are freebies. I went to an author event last year where we were given goodies bags and whilst stood in the signing queue heard a girl moan very loudly "Oh God I'd never read that what the hell am I going to do with it" in front of the staff who had organised the goodie bags and the publicists who had provided the contents. I've seen similar comments in IMM where the person has basically bitched about receiving books they didn't want and not just this isn't really my sort of thing comment. (please don't mistake me for moaning about people who write a bad review - that it something totally different and something I do myself and expect others to do too. The people I am ranting about haven't even opened the first page)

I also get really annoyed about people who start blogs just for books. I certainly didn't do that (I won't lie and say that it isn't nice because in all honestly it is epic and I love it). They post IMM showing hundreds of books (well maybe not hundreds) that they have received from publishers but then they never review any of them and just fill their blog with memes.  This is then made worse because I then see them on twitter and the such like asking for even more books. One of my blogging friends made a good point in saying if you've set up a book blog just to get free books you clearly don't get the point of book blogging or how much time and effort is put in by bloggers, authors and publicists alike.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that books are precious and not everyone gets them for free. Proofs actually cost the publishing house a lot more to produce than finished copies because the print run is much smaller (which is why we don't always get them in the UK). You are not entitled to free books because you have set up a blog. You receive them because the publishing houses know you put the time and effort in to promote books and trust that you'll do your best to review what you can of what they send you to help to generate enthusiasm and buzz about their titles and reading in general.

Rant over!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Sara Grant




Like many writers, I’m a bibliophile. I buy more books than I could ever possibly read. I try to limit myself to buying another book only when I’ve finished reading one, but with my lack of self discipline and so many truly amazing books getting published...it’s a losing battle.



I recently turned the guest bedroom in my three-bedroom flat into a library with floor to ceiling bookshelves, but I’m already doubling stacking books. I’ve banished my husband’s sports biographies and collections of crime thrillers to one shelf.

Most of the books in my bookshelf are young adult novels or related to research for future books. I like to read in the age range and genre I’m writing. I think it’s important to know what’s out there. I’ve spent a few years obsessed with dystopian novels. I do try to mix in other genres, age ranges (including adult fiction) and nonfiction. I pick up hot-off-the presses hardbacks and classics that have yet to make it on my reading list. After all you never know what will inspire you.

I have a special shelf for all the books I’ve purchased that are waiting, begging to be read. As you can see from the photo, I have about fifty books lined up – and this doesn’t include the ones on my Kindle. 



Another shelf is packed with the books I have created and edited in my role as senior commissioning editor at Working Partners. I’ve worked on everything from Rainbow Magic to Confessions of a First Daughter to a series we pitched as James Bond meets David Beckham called Striker. At Working Partners we develop the idea, create the storylines and find people to write the books. It’s been amazing to work on such a diverse range of projects.

I have one shelf dedicated to my friends’ novels. I was lucky enough to attend Goldsmiths College’s masters program in creative and life writing. A number of tutors and fellow classmates now have written wonderful novels. What a thrill it is to buy and read their books.

This bookshelf also is filling up with books written by my friends in the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Many of them have been featured in Undiscovered Voices anthologies. My friend and children’s book editor Sara O’Connor and I created this anthology to help unagented and unpublished members ‘get discovered’. We worked with SCBWI British Isles and Working Partners to make it happen. I’m very proud of this initiative. From the first two Undiscovered Voices anthologies, 13 of the 24 selected authors have had their novels contracted for publication and most have signed with agents. It’s how I got my agent and ultimately my first book deal and I want to continue to help other writers achieve their dreams of publication. We are hard at work our third Undiscovered Voices anthology (www.undiscoveredvoices.com). I’ve left plenty of room for Undiscovered Voices 2012 success stories.

So....enough of this writing, I need to get reading!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Review: Saving Daisy by Phil Earle

Saving Daisy by Phil Earle
Published by Puffin



 Losing love, fighting guilt, seeking hope.

Daisy’s mum is gone. Her dad refuses to talk about it and as far as Daisy’s concerned, it’s all her fault…

Saving Daisy is a powerful and moving story that follows the life of Daisy Houghton who first featured in Phil Earle’s critically acclaimed debut, Being Billy.
As Daisy struggles with misplaced guilt over her mother’s death, she turns to extreme and violent measures and soon her life starts spiralling out of control. This leads to tragedy and suddenly Daisy finds herself left all alone. But sometimes the kindness of a stranger can turn things around. A stranger who desperately wants to save Daisy – if she’ll only let herself be saved.


***

Saving Daisy is one of the books I have been looking forward to for month now and I am pleased to say it lived up to all expectations and I enjoyed it as much, if not more than, I enjoyed Being Billy.

The thing I loved about this book the most was Daisy. She is so brilliantly raw and realistic. I could see so much of her in kids I teach. She's this fragile bundle of emotional damage wrapped up in an overwhelming amount of guilt. As you follow her through all the various things she goes through your heart goes out to her and you just want to pick her up take her home and wrap her in blankets, feed her chocolate and tell her everything will be ok.

Daisy's life turns upside down after the accident, which she feels completely responsible for, and leaves her totally alone. After a stint in hospital she ends up in a home for other teenagers with issues. The characters you meet are larger than life and the way in which they react to and interact with Daisy are brilliantly entertaining to read about.

Once at the home Daisy meets Ade and she slowly becomes the adult that finally starts to get through and starts to help saving Daisy from herself and finally starts to bring her round to the idea that all the things she blames herself were not actually her fault. I loved that she had real insight to help Daisy having lived a turbulent younger life herself.

A brilliant read with a main character which your heart goes out to. A real emotional ride which touches you and tears you between feeling heartbroken for daisy through to feeling warm and fuzzy inside for her as things finally work out. Highly recommended.


READ IT FOR THE BRITISH BOOKS CHALLENGE 2012

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Review: Darkness Falls by Cate Tieran

Darkness Falls by Cate Tieran
Published by Hodder



I'm still here. Still immortal. The eagerly anticipated sequel to Immortal Beloved, the deeply alluring gothic romance.

Reyn: the thorn in my side, nightmare of my past, destroyer of my family, constant irritant of my now . . . and the one whose fevered kisses I had relived over and over as I lay exhausted and unable to sleep.

And yet night after night, he--who has kicked down hundreds of doors--had not brought himself to knock on mine.

Are you dizzy from being flung into my world like this? I feel the same way every morning when I open my eyes to find I'm still me, still here


***
Darkness Falls is the sequel to Immortal beloved and a completely different read from book one.

The thing I love about this series is Nasty's narrative. The way she is written is so entertain and actually really comical in places as she talks away to herself about the things going on around her.

I enjoyed the first part of the book finding out more about River and her commune and Nasty's place in it but I actually loved it even more once Nasty got out and back with Incy and she glams right up in all her gorgeous clothes and really lives it up. I loved getting that insight into the girl she used to be.

As with the first book I love getting the glimpses into Nasty's past through the flashbacks.

It's not until Incy and Nasty spend a bit of time together that you start to see that things aren't all that right with Incy. You get to see the dark side of him that is hinted at at the very start of the series in more detail and that's when things start to really kick off.

The last section where every thing comes to a head is where all the action is and was the part where I literally couldn't put the book down because I needed to know what happened next.

The ending of the book was really sweet setting up the story ready to go into the final book. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens in the last instalment.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Published by Penguin


Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future. 


***
Cinder is a retelling of the fairytale Cinderella and does it's own interesting take on the story we all know so well.

Cinder is a cyborg. She was adopted at a young age by her father who since died and left her under the guardianship of her stepmother who treats her like a slave and home and expects her to work long hours as a mechanic to bring funds into the family home whilst her sisters don't have to lift a finger.

I really loved Cinder as a character and the spirit she had. I thought she was both clever and witty and I loved seeing how she was quite happy to get on with her life and deal with the rubbish that was thrown her way as she is considered to be a second class citizen. I loved how she was totally underwhelmed when she met the Prince who came to her to get a job done and I loved seeing their relationship develop over the course of the book.

The storyline involving the plague that was devastating the city was really interesting when you saw just how utterly helpless the city was and how scared people were in the face of all the problems. It also helped to develop the relationship between Cinder and her sister Peony which is something I actually loved about this book.

I must say I did guess the twist pretty soon on as I think the way the story was written it was obvious things were going to turn out how they did.

A huge story arc set up and a huge cliffhanger... hoping there is a sequel to tie the story as I was left a little bit unsatisfied as it felt like not all that many of the questions the book posed were answered.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Review: Smoulder by Brenna Yovanoff

Smoulder by Brenna Yovanoff
Published by Simon and Schuster



Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be. 


***
I don't think I could sum up this book even if I tried or compare it to anything else on the YA market. It is really uniquely strange in a twisted and quirky way. If you love Dark fiction you will be hooked.

From the outset this book is so weird. The setting of pandemonium is really quirky and the character are are half demons and act like it. There is no holding back at all when they do all the horrible things you'd expect half demons to do to one another

The main story follows Daphne as she goes out into the world to find her brother Obie. On the way she meets Truman and from there on out they go together to try and to get to the bottom of his disappearance.

My favourite thing about this book was the demon baby with metal teeth. She was both alarmingly odd and wonderfully cute and by far my favourite character.

I really struggled with the split narrative on this one. I understood where I was when Daphne was speaking but got totally confused when it switched to the third person following Truman. I actually felt for me it spoiled those sections for me and stopped me fully engaging in the story.

I did enjoy the pace of this book once the story got going and especially towards the end but did wish things had happened a bit sooner.

So while I don't think this was totally the book for me I do think if you are into the genre you will love it.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Review: Fated by Sarah Alderson

Fated by Sarah Alderson
Published by Simon and Schuster


 What happens when you discover you aren't who you thought you were? And that the person you love is the person who will betray you? If your fate is already determined, can you fight it?

When Evie Tremain discovers that she’s the last in a long line of Demon slayers and that she’s being hunted by an elite band of assassins –Shapeshifters, Vampires and Mixen demons amongst them – she knows she can’t run. They’ll find her wherever she goes. Instead she must learn to stand and fight.

But when the half-human, half-Shadow Warrior Lucas Gray - is sent to spy on Evie and then ordered to kill her before she can fulfil a dangerous prophecy, their fates become inextricably linked. The war that has raged for one thousand years between humans and demons is about to reach a devastating and inevitable conclusion. Either one or both of them will die before this war ends.

If your life becomes bound to another’s, what will it take to sever it?


***

My initial reaction when I started this book was WOW. So completely different from Sarah's first book and yet full of all of the things that made me love Hunting Lila.

From the very first page the pace of this book is awesome. The story jumps straight into the action and doesn't let up until the very end. I loved this as it meant I didn't have a second to get bored which meant I just wanted to keep reading page after page until I got to the very end as I just needed to know what was going to happen next.

I also loved that this book was very much a novel in itself. What I mean by that is often with a "first-in-the-series" book you get lots of backstory and setting up of the series but often not much happens. This certainly wasn't the case and while you were left wanting more as a reader I was happy that I had got somewhere and some way into the story and that at least some of the questions I had whirling around my head were at least partially answered.

Fated is a bit like a take on Buffy at first glance. A Teenage girl called Evie is destined to save humans against the demons ... sorry Unhumans ... who is sent a mentor to watch over her and train her so she can become the ultimate Unhuman killer. She is kick-ass and sassy and quite happy to speak her own mind and of course there is a gorgeous boy involved who isn't quite what he seems. Don't get me wrong it isn't a blatant rip off and the story does it's own thing in a variety of different ways. I liked the most (History Geek alert) how Evie's extended family tree was interwoven into the backstory. I also enjoyed Sarah's take on the Unhumans that were after Evie and how they were her own unique take on the average demons you come across in novels.

Another thing I love about Sarah's books so far is how she writes her characters. Evie is instantly someone you can get behind and warm to as you follow her story. I love how she is trying her best to get by in a world where she really hasn't been given a break without whinging but by doing something practical to get herself sorted. I also loved Lucas as a character because he was both gorgeously hot (wait to you get to 'that' scene) but I also seeing how conflicted he was in the way he lived his life.

All in all this novel was a brilliant read with interesting characters, engaging ideas and a fantastically pacey storyline which will make you want to carry on reading page after page. Bring on the rest of the series!!!


READ IT FOR THE BRITISH BOOKS CHALLENGE 2012

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Cate Tieran

Today it's the turn of author Cate Tieran on bookcase showcase



This is the bookcase in my office. You can see some of my collection of Dorothy Dainty children's books from the early 1900s (top right). Top left we have my Barbara Hambly books--a great fantasy writer whose writing has been very influential for me.  Some favorite romances, lower right. Self-help/psychology books, lower left--helping me understand the human mind and emotions.  Bottom shelf, photos of my kids and a picture of my dad from the 1930s. Books on New Orleans, my hometown. Little clay animals made by me and my brother when we were little, supplemented by little clay animals made by my younger daughter when she was little.


 
This is a glass-fronted barrister bookcase that was my grandfather's, from the early 1900s. He was a judge in New Orleans and had two of these bookcases in his law office. I have one and my brother has one.  This holds weird medical books, my Barbara Pym novels, and a bunch of travel books. On the bottom shelf are Russian history books and some novels in Russian from when I was in college. 

 
This is the messy hall bookcase. It's 80% children's books, many from my childhood and some from my kids' childhoods. The other 20% are a few mystery/spy novels and some of my husband's guitar or motorcycle or sailing books.

 
This is the other end of the messy hall bookcase. (Yes, the floor is brick. Kind of weird.). On the very bottom shelf is a set of The Books of Knowledge from 1913. They're really cool to read through--had bits of everything and reflected the world at that time.  On the shelf right above that is a set of the Childcraft books from the 1960s. I read these over and over when I was little.  I've moved and packed and carted these books around my whole life. A house with no books is a sad, desolate place.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Review: India Dark by Kirsty Murray

India Dark by Kirsty Murray
Published by Templar



Melbourne, Australia, 1909: faced with the prospect of employment in either the match factory or the jam factory, 13-year old Poesy Swift auditions for a children’s theatre company that specialises in popular music-hall songs.

Before she knows it, she’s on a two-year tour through Asia. At first it’s all an adventure, but by the time they reach south India, many of them have been disciplined by the manager and their performances hide enormous turmoil backstage. At the end of their last show, all but two of the children turn on their minders and go on strike, then walk out into the hot Madras night.


***

India dark is a nice little novel set in a historical setting which was an engaging read and would be perfect to give youngsters a real feel for the British Empire around the turn of the century.

The story follows Poesy and Tilly two girls who are part of a travelling act who are enroute to America performing along the way to any audience that will have them.

The thing I really enjoyed about this book the most was that you got a real sense of period from it and a real feeling of life in the far reaches of the British Empire at the turn of the century. I loved the bit where the cholera outbreaks came along and the feeling of sheer helplessness that ensued in that time as they really didn't know to do to sort it.

The main storyline when the scandal hits the troop is really interesting and got me thinking when you saw the way in which it was dealt with.

I must say the only thing I didn't like about this book was the split narrative because I felt the two girl's voice's weren't distinctive enough which meant I lost track of who I was listening to which was very confusing.

All in all a satisfying little read which was enjoyable and interesting.