Wednesday, 31 October 2012

October Review

Another insane reading month due to still being in a broken legged house bound state

Books read in October

Scarlet by AC. Gaughen (Did not finish)
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabriella Zevin
The Madness underneath by Maureen Johnson
A Month with April-May by Edyth Bulbring
Shift by Em Bailey
Blink Once by Cylin Busby
Hunted by Sophie McKenzie
Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles
A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton
The Returners by Gemma Malley
The Stuff of Nightmares by Malorie Blackman
The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
Double Cross by Sophie McKenzie
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick
A year without Autumn by Liz Kessler (Did not finish)
Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman (on audio not finished but may finish at some point)
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan
Speechless by Hannah Harrington
A Sea of Stars by Kate Maryon (Did not finish)
Painted Blind by Michelle Hansen (Did not finish)
Uses for boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Pantomine by Laura Lam
Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
Infinite Sky by CJ Flood
Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (Did not finish)
Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill
Undone by Cat Clarke
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
Black Spring by Alison Croggan (Did not finish)

Book of the month



I can't pick between Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill (Not the finished cover above as I can't find it but instead a picture of Darcy herself)  or Undone by Cat Clarke. Both amazing! Look out for them in early 2013



Book events this month
None as still house bound :(

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review: Revived by Cat Patrick


As romantic as Shiver...as intense as "Before I Fall". Revived is unmissable.

The world fades to nothing, and before I have the chance to think another thought...I'm dead.

My name is Daisy West and my whole life is a lie. I'm part of a programme to test a drug called Revive - a drug that brings people back from the dead. I have died five times. I've been Revived five times. With each revival comes a new name, a new town...a new life. But this time, I won't let myself die. This time, I've found a love that I can't let go of. This time, I'm going to make my life my own.


***

After reading Cat Patrick's forgotten I'd been excitedly waiting for Revived. While I didn't love this as much as forgotten I really did enjoy it.

Daisy has died many times since the age of 5. Each time she died she's had to pack up her life and move with the agents posing as her parents and start afresh. This has made it difficult for her to get close to any of her peers and made for quite a lonely life. After dying another time she moves again and meets Audrey and Matt and in the brother and sister pair she finds a set of best friends she has never had before and she quickly finds that that friendship is something she doesn't want to give up. I loved seeing Daisy develop those relationships for the first time and I loved the siblings she befriends.

As the story unfolds Daisy starts to question the morality behind the drug that has kept bringing her back from the dead time and time again. I really enjoyed finding out more behind the government agency that has been developing Revive and their reasons for doing so. The last section of the book has a really exciting twist as the story throws out several dark revelations about the drug and the people behind it.

All in all an exciting read which I very much enjoyed.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Review: Dead Time by Anne Cassidy



When Rose was twelve, her mother and stepfather went out for dinner and never came back. Now seventeen, she lives with her grandmother and goes to school in London. She’s always wondered about her stepbrother, Joshua, whom she only lived with briefly and who was also relocated after their parents’ disappearance. When Rose and Joshua meet again, they find they have much in common, including a desire to uncover the mystery surrounding their parents’ disappearance . . . and a mutual attraction to each other. But when Rose witnesses the murders of not one but two of her classmates, she must uncover who is behind these violent crimes. And when she and Joshua discover that a much larger conspiracy is underway, both of their lives will be in danger. From international bestseller Anne Cassidy, this first in a fastpaced and romantic new mystery series will keep readers guessing.

***

I've had Dead Time on my TBR pile for ages and wish I'd got round to it earlier.

The story is a fast paced crime thriller which follows the story of Rose a teenage girl whose mother disappeared 5 years previously. I can't tell you too much about the story line itself as I will spoil it for you but will say that the story will keep you guessing throughout.

For me the thing I enjoyed most was the relationship between Rose and her step brother, whose father went missing with Rose's mother. Are 5 years apa to two have been recently reunited. I love the way in which they interact together and also like seeing the different ways they went about dealing with the loss of their parents.

I liked Rose as a character. You get a real sense of just how lost she is since the disappearance of her mother. She's now living with a grandmother who disapproves of her and the choices she makes even though she isn't a wild child or tear away.

For me the things really kicked off in the last few chapters in the book where lots of things are set up for the rest of the series and blown wide open changing the world entirely for both Josh and Rose.

All in all a brilliant start to a series which has the potential to be very exciting. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

So I suck at audio books....

So about 6 weeks ago I was offered very kindly a couple of audio books for review from the lovely people at Audio Go. I was incredibly excited about it because not only were they a couple of book I love but also I thought it would something different for me to do whilst in the middle of broken leg recovery (which involves sitting in one spot from 7am - 10pm all day every day, not reccomended at all).

However apparently I suck at audio books. I just can't concentrate on them. I'll sit listening to them but find myself completely zoning out and missing bits and I don't know why. It's not the story because it was a book I loved and it isn't the quality of the recording because the bits I listened to were excellent.

So to cut a long story short if you like audio books Audio Go is  brilliant website for them and very easy to use and the quality of book is good however it really isn't the way to enjoy books for me!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Gareth P Jones



I live in a two bed flat with my wife and son. I don't really have a lot of room for well organised bookshelves. So mine tend to be in piles  around the house. This does make yourself vulnerable to that most dangerous of things - the book avalanche. This pile is a collection of books I was using to write Constable & Toop, my new book. It's a Victorian ghost story full of murders, intrigue and humour so there a few research books I used plus plots of the kinds of ghost stories written around the time, so I could attempt to get the language right.

 

There are always a lot of books on my bedside table. These are books I'm reading, have read or plan to read. Looking at this pile makes me realise how much of a scatter gun approach I have to literature. I'm not sure there's much to link any of these books.


The books that do make it on to the few shelves I have tend to be reference books. I realise that the internet can answer a lot of questions but there's something nice about finding the answers in a book. Also, some of these books are a great way to find inspiration by turning to a random page and seeing what you find. I've found ideas for a few stories this way 


We're down in my garage now. One day I'll have a bigger house and these can come upstairs but for the moment they have to hide out down in the cold. I've always been interested in anything to do with language. I was never taught grammar or punctuation at school but I've always been fascinated by it. So when I worked on Richard & Judy I got handed me a book called 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves' by Lynne Truss. This was before it became such a massive hit. I made a really nice little piece with Lynne about the confusion over apostrophes. A few months later the book became a massive hit all over the world - although I'm not sure I can take much of the credit. For years after that, every publisher sent me every book they had about words or language for years after. I love this collection. I can look up any phrase or language query and find the answer in one of these books.
 
 

And finally, all authors have collections of their own books. There are a few foreign editions on top. The Ninja Meerkats are accounting for a fair amount of space now but, as you can see, my new book, Constable & Toop is by far my thickest book. Which is odd because I had less time to write it than the others.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Blog Tour: Zombies do't cry



Top-10 YA Zombie Books Every Fan Should Read
By Rusty Fischer, author of Zombies Don’t Cry

The first zombie book I ever read, ever, the first time I ever knew you could write a book about zombies was Stacey Jay’s You Are So Undead to Me (see below). Which is, not surprisingly, on this list. But since then I have read so many great zombie books and even though I have ten whole slots to fill here, with the way zombie books are coming out these days, I know I could probably fill this list two or three times over. But, for now, here are the Top-10 YA Zombie Books Every Fan Should Read:



 You Are So Undead to Me by Stacey Jay: Like I said, this was THE first zombie book I ever read and it taught me, above all else, the power of a really good title!




Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry: My Dad once said about his favorite sports writer, “This guy writes about more than just sports; he tells the truth.” Replace “sports” with “zombies,” and that’s almost exactly how I recommend this book – and its author – to friends.



Never Slow Dance With a Zombie: By the great and powerful E. Van Lowe, this was one of the first zombie books I ever read and the first one that gave me permission to just straight up have fun.



Generation Dead by Daniel Waters: This was the first “serious” zombie book I ever read. It had such great plotting and characterization, and I really felt for the undead in this one.



Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan: This one has such an original idea for a story and is far removed from most of my favorite teen zombie books, where you can almost hear the lockers slamming and the gossip spreading as you read.




I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It by Adam Selzer: More than just a clever title, this book is a great zombie read and I love the cover because it really gives you the idea that, “Yeah, zombies and humans, this could work. Sort of...” If you like your YA zombie books smart, creepy and fun, you can’t go wrong here.



Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby: This is the second zombie book I ever read, and still one of my all-time favorites. (It doesn’t hurt that the author is an awesome sweet person, as well.) This book perfectly captures what I think of when I imagine YA supernatural: infinitely steeped in that young adult world of slamming lockers, prom queens, yearbook photos, BFFs, Mean Girls, the works.  



Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris: As an ex football player (okay, the JV team, but still…) and current zombie lover, this book really came out of left field to surprise and entertain me. Another great zombie book steeped in high school culture with a “race against time” plot!



Strange Angels by Lili St Crow: Okay, so technically this isn’t a zombie novel per se, but there are zombies so… I’m calling it. There is also some great characterization and surprises between the two main characters, who I defy you not to get hooked on!



Zombie Blondes by Brian James: I loved this book so much. It’s almost nothing like most of the zombie books I’ve read. It moves slowly, in an atmospheric, gothic way. What I remember most about the book, other than the zombies, is the main character describing the grimness of the house she lived in, which is to say the author’s writing sticks with me to this day.  


Okay, so, obviously I left a TON of good books on the cutting room floor. So help! If I left off your favorite, PLEASE remind me of it in the comments so I won’t sin again!

Yours in YA,

Rusty

About the Author

Rusty Fischer is the author of Zombies Don’t Cry, as well as several other popular zombie books, including Panty Raid at Zombie High, Detention of the Living Dead and the Reanimated Readz series of 99-cent living dead shorts.
          Rusty runs the popular website Zombies Don’t Blog @ www.zombiesdontblog.blogspot.com. At Zombies Don’t Blog you can read more about Rusty’s work, view his upcoming book covers and read – or download – completely FREE books & stories about… zombies!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Review: The List by Siobhan Vivan



An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.


***



I must admit I have every mixed feelings about this book. For most of it I must admit I wasn't all that impressed but I did think the last part was much better and it changed my mind about the book as a whole.

The List is the story of eight girls who appeared on The List at their school. Every year a list appears at their school naming the prettiest and ugliest girl in each grade and follows their story on the lead up to the prom. I really liked the idea of this book in theory but in reality I found the story quite cluttered with too many characters to follow meaning that you never really got to know any of them in any depth. I also thought that the girls themselves were quite stereotypical and didn't have enough depth to their characters to keep me interested.

The end of the book was better as you found out more about the list and why the person responsible for the list wrote it out and picked the people they did.

All in all not the book I hoped it would be and certainly didn't meet my expectations. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton






Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

Although a perfect fit for the paranormal romance genre, A WITCH IN WINTER avoids fangs, excessive body hair and submissive female leads, and tells the heart-wrenching story of a couple meant to be together, but being forced apart. Seth is utterly irresistible and Anna is an empowered, proactive young woman with unimaginable magic inside her. 


***

I really enjoyed a Witch in Winter and though it was a captivating and engaging read from the very first page until the last. I didn't want to put it down and needed to keep reading as I just wanted to know what happened next. I cannot wait to move onto book two very soon.

Anna is the new girl in Winter. She's not all that happy about having to move out of London and start again in a seaside village living in the creepiest house in the neighbourhood. Within a day she manages to upset the local popular girl are talking to her boyfriend and some of the locals are plain rude. Within the first week she persuades some of the girls from school to stay the night with her and they mess about trying out some spells found in an old book Anna's father unearths in their house. The weird thing is that it's apparent once Anna returns to school that the spell may have worked and that doesn't make her popular at all.

I loved several things about this book. Firstly. Loved Anna as a character and seeing the relationships she develops with the people around her. I enjoyed following her as she starts to discover more about who she is and where her powers come from and how she starts to find out more about her powers and what she can do with them. I loved Seth and thought he was totally gorgeous (why weren't teenage boys like him when I was 17). While Anna is understandably reluctant to get involved with him I loved it when she finally gave in to him and I cannot wait to see how their relationship develops in the next book. I loved the witchcraft element to the book and found the ideas really fascinating and enjoyed finding out more about this new world that Anna has just discovered. I also enjoyed the pace of the book the first section sets everything up and keeps you engaged as you start to find out about the world the book set in but the final section kicks off and is really exciting and fast paced.

All in all a book I really enjoyed. I cannot wait to read the next instalment!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review: The Paladin Prophecy by Mark Frost


Will West is careful to live life under the radar. At his parents' insistence, he's made sure to get mediocre grades and to stay in the middle of the pack on his cross-country team. Then Will slips up, accidentally scoring off the charts on a nationwide exam.

Now Will is being courted by an exclusive prep school . . . and is being followed by men driving black sedans. When Will suddenly loses his parents, he must flee to the school. There he begins to explore all that he's capable of--physical and mental feats that should be impossible--and learns that his abilities are connected to a struggle between titanic forces that has lasted for millennia.

Co-creator of the groundbreaking television series Twin Peaks, Mark Frost brings his unique vision to this sophisticated adventure, which combines mystery, heart-pounding action, and the supernatural.


***

The Paladin prophecy is an exciting new novel from the co author of Twin Peaks. It's fast paced and exciting with a brilliant lead character and lots of interesting ideas which I'm sure will make for an exciting series overall.

The paladin prophecy follows the story of Will West. Will has spent his life in the shadows actively not standing out amongst his peers until one day when he aces a test and offered a place as a prestigious academy. From that moment on things start to go strange for Will. He is chased by strange men and creatures and something isn't quite right with his parents. Will decides to escape and gets himself across the country to the school but he isn't even safe there.

I won't tell you too much about the storyline because I don't think I could do it justice as there are so many twists and turns and ideas thrown out there that I couldn't begin to tell you about it all without spoiling something. I will tell you however that you can tell that this book was written by one of Twin Peaks writers as it is weird and wonderful and sometimes whilst reading it I thought I was going slightly insane. I also loved Will West. I thought he was a brilliant character who I wanted to root for from the first to the last page. Loved his ways and I loved how he was with his new group of friends.

All in all an exciting and different read. Well worth a look. I'm very much looking forward to continuing on with the series.
 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Review: The Fox Inheritance by Mary E Pearson



Once there were three. Three friends who loved each other—Jenna, Locke, and Kara. And after a terrible accident destroyed their bodies, their three minds were kept alive, spinning in a digital netherworld. Even in that disembodied nightmare, they were still together. At least at first. When Jenna disappeared, Locke and Kara had to go on without her. Decades passed, and then centuries.
Two-hundred-and-sixty years later, they have been released at last. Given new, perfect bodies, Locke and Kara awaken to a world they know nothing about, where everyone they once knew and loved is long dead.
Everyone except Jenna Fox.

***

I loved Jenna Fox and have been waiting desperately for this book. Now I've read it I'm so not so sure it was worth the wait and anticipation.

Don't get me wrong I found it very easy to read this book because the writing style was good, as it was with Jenna Fox, meaning I found it to be a really quick page turner. However I just felt that the story itself didn't really need to be told. It follows the story of the two friends who were in the car with Jenna the night of her accident. Unlike Jenna who was rebuilt and spent the last 200 years or more alive they have only just been taken out of storage and put to new bodies and are being used as show models for the companies clients.

The story kicks off when Locke and Kara decide to escape and track down Jenna. One thing I really liked about this book was the character Dot they meet whilst on the run. I won't spoil the twist as I really liked it but I will say I loved her enthusiasm an I loved what her story had to say about what it means to be human.

The story itself for he on out lacked a bit for me. I wanted it to be exciting but really found that it wasn't all that exciting even during parts that should have been.

All in all I quite honestly do not think this was a sequel that needed to be written and I almost wished I hadn't read it.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Review: Geekhood by Andy Robb


If you haven't worked it out yet, girls don't do this. They don't come to the Hovel. They don't like goblins and dragons. They don't paint miniatures. They don't play role playing games or re-enact fictional battles. And they don't talk to Geeks like me especially if they're pretty. And this girl is pretty. What do you do if you're a fourteen-year-old Geek, and a Beautiful Girl has appeared in the midst of your geeky world? And she seems to like you... For Archie, the natural reaction would be to duck and cover ... run for the hills ... buy a new model elf... Anything but risk stepping into the Real World. But even Geeks have to put their heads above the parapet at some point. With his mum barely able to contain her excitement that her son is about to join the human race, and his step-father, Tony the Tosser, offering crass advice, it's time for Archie to embark on a daring Quest to win the Beautiful Girl's heart and shake off his Geekhood for good..

***

I really enjoyed reading Geekhood. I thought it was a brilliantly funny insight into the mind of a 14 geeky wargaming teenage boy.

I used to work in a shop like the Hovel so have seen the the boys (and men) that hang out in these places first hand and the description of them and their reaction to girls is spot on. Never in my life have before and since that job have I had to deal with stuttering and bizarrely weird boys dribbling over little chunks of metal that cost a small fortune and going off on one about a chunky rule book which they know intimately and this book perfectly encapsulated those boys and their conversations perfectly.

One thing I loved about this book was the way in which you get a real insight into Archie's mind through his inner dialogue which runs throughout the book. While he is a geek and proud the boy actually makes being a geek look quite cool. I liked seeing the way in which his mind works and the different relationships he builds with the people around him.

I loved the scenes with Archie and his gaming friends and their reactions to the presence of a girl in their midst when Sarah comes along. Seeing that first encounter with a girl was again completely spot on and really insightful.

All in all a fab read which I really enjoyed. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Anne Lyle

I've had a lot of books in my lifetime, but unfortunately I've moved house many, many times and had to shed books along the way. Some have remained with ex-partners, and new partners have then filled up my shelves with their books, and so on…it's a kind of meiotic process that lead to strange new genetic combinations! Sadly a lot of our books and bookshelves aren't easily accessible at the moment - my husband works from home as a non-fiction sales rep, so a good many of our own books have had to be packed away to make room for his stock, whilst others are on bookshelves wedged behind furniture - or, in one case, a bicycle! - which makes for terrible photos.

So, I've concentrated on the bookcases that are important to me as a writer. The first, of course, is my SF and fantasy collection, in the corner of the bedroom. This holds everything except the complete Terry Pratchett collection, which practically needs its own bookcase! It's a mixture of old favourites and new, and a few TBR titles on the top shelf - I mostly buy ebooks these days, purely to save space, though if I really love a book I may buy the dead trees edition as well. 
 
 

Because it's arranged alphabetically (apart from the TBR section at the very top), you can't quite see the battered paperback three-volume copy of The Lord of the Rings, which is probably the oldest book on there. You _can_ see the 1970s edition of the Deryni Chronicles by Katherine Kurtz, which I bought when I was an undergraduate, and my fairly comprehensive collection of Lynn Flewelling paperbacks (with a space kept for the final Nightrunner book, due out next year I believe). And yes, those are Argonath bookends from the Lord of the Rings DVD boxed set - sadly my cat has chewed their outstretched hands, so they're not exactly collectors' pieces any more!
 

Second is my main reference/research bookcase. This holds a bunch of writing books - again, not all I've ever bought, but the ones I currently feel are worth holding on to - and most of my historical research. The second shelf down is almost entirely Elizabethan stuff, from general social history, through specialist topics like the Elizabethan secret service, to biographies of famous individuals such as Sir Francis Walsingham and Sir Walter Raleigh. My favourite is probably "The A-Z of Elizabethan London", which is an annotated reprint of a map c.1570 - it's been invaluable in writing my historical fantasy series "Night's Masque". The layout of the main streets has changed so little that one can still use it to navigate from the reconstructed Globe on Bankside to the Tower of London (something I did once, to see how long it would take my characters to walk the route).

The lower shelves are a more mixed bag: ancient, medieval and early modern history; books about Venice (the middle book of my trilogy is mostly set there) and other Italian cities; the history of technology; and for some reason several books about sex in history! Well, perhaps not so surprising - it's one of those topics that tend to get skirted around in school history lessons, but as a writer it's as important to know what your characters' attitudes are to sex, as it is to know about dates of battles or the economic effects of the Black Death.
 
 

The third and final photo shows the bookcase that sits next to my desk, within easy reach when I'm at my computer. On the lower shelves are more reference books, this time with the emphasis on language: dictionaries, and books about linguistics. I've been interested in constructed languages since my teens (even before I read Tolkien), and they constitute a small but vital element in my books. Naturally I also need to know about the history of English and how it was used in Shakespeare's day, and then there are the random foreign and specialist dictionaries I've accumulated over the years.

The upper shelves are a mixture of business and pleasure. This is where I keep both my own "archive" copies of my novels and (on the shelf below) the spare author copies I'm saving for giveaways (not many left now!). As well as my books, you can see there are art materials - drawing pads and boxes of pens - and a box of Playmobil people (to go with the Playmobil pirate ships on my desk); a 6" figure of Spike from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"; and the obligatory writer's bottle of whisky (in my case, Glenkinchie 12-year-old single malt). Hanging from the righthand side of the shelves is my collection of convention badges, most prominently the one from this year's WorldCon. Hiding away in my study writing novels can be lonely, so I love to get out and meet other writers - and of course readers!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review: Betrayal by Gregg Olsen


In this action-packed thriller sequel to Envy, foreign exchange student Olivia Grant is stabbed to death after a party--and the prime suspect is her best friend. As twins Hayley and Taylor Ryan get pulled into the aftermath of this Amanda Knox-like crime, they realize nothing is what it seems. Could it be betrayal of the ultimate kind?
Betrayal features real-life crime-solving techniques, heart-stopping suspense, plenty of red herrings, hard-hitting ethical questions, and information about the Amanda Knox case that inspired the novel. As the crime unravels, so does the twins' past…and they must face off against a family member who may unexpectedly have carried out the worst betrayal of all.


***

Betrayal is the sequel to envy. The story focuses around the murder mystery following the death of a teenager in the town and picks up and develops storylines first mentioned in book one involving twins Taylor and Hayley Ryan

The main storyline following the murder mystery was much like book one. It was fast paced and gritty and had several twists and turns thrown in to keep you guessing from the first age until the last and picks up on the affect the murder has on the community at large rather well. However for me where the book was most interesting is where it looked at the story behind the twins and their talents in much more detail building on ideas from the first book. I am finding myself much more interested in them and the things they can do and wanting to know more about it.

I must admit all the continual pop culture references started to annoy me some what and felt really contrived in an attempt to make the writing younger and more in touch with teenagers when in fact I think long term it will actually just date the book for anyone reading in the future. I've been finding this is a common feature of books written by authors who mostly write for adults but try their hand at YA. I don't know about anyone else but I find it a bit condescending and patronising.

All in all an interesting story which was highly readable.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review: When it Happens by Susanne Colasanti

An off-the-wall love story told in two voices. Straight-laced Sara dreams of two things: getting into her first-choice university and finding true love. Rock-loving slacker Tobey also dreams of two things: winning Battle of the Bands – and winning Sara. He is determined to make her fall in love with him. Tobey's quirky wit and big blue eyes are hard for Sara to ignore. But can a scruffy rock-star wannabe ever win the heart of a girl who’s both beautiful and brainy? Sara and Tobey's intense connection will have you rooting for them from the very minute they meet!

***

I got this book a while back as I wanted to read more contemporary fiction and then left it on the shelf for ages. Why I did this to myself I have no idea because it was so good and I whizzed through it in a matter of hours.

When it happens is the story of Sara and Tobey and is split between their dual narrative. Sara is waiting for the perfect guy to come along and whisk her off her feet and doesn't want to settle for anything less while Tobey wants Sara to fall in love with him. The only problem is that Sara is dating David who really isn't that perfect guy she has been searching for.

I lived several things about this book. Firstly I loved both Sara and Tobey and loved seeing how their relationship develops and changes over the course of the book. I thought Tobey was particularly gorgeous in his guitar boy, arm pumping ways and I found myself loving him more and more as I got to know him. I loved the friendship between Sara and her best friends Maggie and Laila and loved how close they were. They are the kind of girls I wanted as best friends when I was 17 and never found and I just loved how supportive they were of each other without being bitchy. The story itself ticks along nicely. It isn't ground breaking and is probably quite predictable but it was really satisfying as a reader and I loved spending a few hours getting completely absorbed in it.

All in all a fabulous read which I enjoyed thoroughly.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Review: Breathe by Sarah Crossan


When oxygen levels plunge in a treeless world, a state lottery decides which lucky few will live inside the Pod. Everyone else will slowly suffocate. Years after the Switch, life inside the Pod has moved on. A poor Auxiliary class cannot afford the oxygen tax which supplies extra air for running, dancing and sports. The rich Premiums, by contrast, are healthy and strong. Anyone who opposes the regime is labelled a terrorist and ejected from the Pod to die. Sixteen-year-old Alina is part of the secret resistance, but when a mission goes wrong she is forced to escape from the Pod. With only two days of oxygen in her tank, she too faces the terrifying prospect of death by suffocation. Her only hope is to find the mythical Grove, a small enclave of trees protected by a hardcore band of rebels. Does it even exist, and if so, what or who are they protecting the trees from? A dystopian thriller about courage and freedom, with a love story at its heart.

***

I must admit that while I was intrigued by this book when I was first offered it for review I didn't immediately pounce on it. There are so many dystopian novels out there of various quality and I wasn't sure if I needed to get into yet another series. However I did finally start it and found myself telling myself off for not having done so sooner.

Put simply I really enjoyed Breathe and loved its take on a dystopian future.

There were several things I enjoyed about the book.

Firstly I loved the three different characters and seeing the world from their various points of view. Alina is tough and feisty and a member of the resistance, Quinn is cute and a member of the more privileged section of society who have money and therefore access to as much oxygen as he needs and Bea his best friend who desperately wants him to notice her and above all is fiercely loyal to those she loves. I loved them all in their different ways and enjoyed following them as the book went on.

The plotline and ideas behind the book were fascinating. The world is one where oxygen is in short supply after the collapse of society as we know it. Since the switch Richer people can afford oxygen tanks and therefore can carry on life as they lease whereas the poorer people in society have to restrict their activities so not to face punitive taxes for using more than their allocated quota of oxygen.

The story really kicks off once the three main characters end up leaving the pod they live in and go off into the wastelands. I won't give you any detail about what happens once they leave so not to spoil the book for you but I will say that I really enjoyed following their story and getting into the reasons why Alina in particular was a member of the resistance. I found there were some brilliant twists and turns thrown in and you meet some fantastic secondary characters.

All in all a book I really enjoyed.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Review: Unwholly by Neal Schusterman


Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa — and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp — people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live


***



I have been so disappointed of law with sequels which needn't have been written that only leave me feeling that the author is out to drag out and make as much as money as possible when the story's doesn't need to be told. I am very pleased to say this was not one of those books. I really enjoyed unwholly, thought it was a brilliant sequel to unwind and am hoping there's more to come.

To start I loved that the book started with its own little recap of all the key ideas, terms and people from book one so I could get my head back round all the things that I'd found out about but probably forgotten from book one. It meant that I found it really easy to slip back into the world without too much confusion.

I loved that unwholly was fast paced and just as harrowing as unwind. The ideas thrown about made you think as much as the ones in the first book and the cation was just as nasty in places. I enjoyed getting to now my favourite characters from book one again but I also loved the new ones that you met as the book went on.

A wonderful sequel to what is proving to be a strong series which I am thoroughly enjoying.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Review: Mystic City by Theo Lawrence

For fans of Matched, The Hunger Games, X-Men, and Blade Runner comes a tale of a magical city divided, a political rebellion ignited, and a love that was meant to last forever. Book One of the Mystic City Novels.

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself. 


***

Mystic city is a brilliantly engaging read. Think Romeo and Juliet meets X-Men in a dystopian future and you're part way there.

I found myself completely drawn into the world from the very first page. The story follows Aria, daughter of a mafia-esque character who rules over New York with his former rival who is the father of Aria's beloved fiancé Thomas. The only problem is Aria doesn't remember who Thomas is or much of the recent events going on round her. What I enjoyed particularly about this book is that you find yourself very much in the same position as Aria from page one and start to find out more about her world and the people around her at the same time she does.

The world the book is set in is divided between ordinary people and those people who are mystics as well as being divided by social class. The rich live high up in luxury while the poor and most of the mystics live lower down in a flooded city in basic and often squalid accommodation. Mystics are seen as a threat to society so have been forced to have their powers drained by the state and are very much an oppressed underclass. Things are trying to change as the mystics have a representative in Violet Brooks who is running for office up against the odds who wants to get more freedom for mystics and end the cruel practice of draining mystics of their power forcibly.

I thought the ideas behind the book were clever and I enjoyed the twists and turns thrown in although I must admit I did guess a few in advance which is unlike me. I loved some of the characters you meet along the way but special mention has the go to the swoon worthy and totally gorgeous Hunter who I loved from the moment he first sauntered onto the page. I won't tell you much more than that otherwise I'd spoil the book for you and I wouldn't want to do that as it is a cracking read.

All in all a book I really enjoyed and definitely worth seeking out a copy when you can.
 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Review: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony



After her mother died, Glory retreated into herself and her music. Her single father raised her as a piano prodigy, with a rigid schedule and the goal of playing sold-out shows across the globe. Now, as a teenager, Glory has disappeared. As we flash back to the events leading up to her disappearance, we see a girl on the precipice of disaster. Brilliant and lonely, Glory is drawn to an artistic new boy, Frank, who moves in next door. The farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness. Before long, Glory is unable to play anything but the song "Chopsticks."

But nothing is what it seems, and Glory's reality is not reality at all. In this stunningly moving novel told in photographs, pictures, and words, it's up to the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what has been madness all along....


***

Chopsticks is a brilliantly different read. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in the case of this book it's definitely true.

Chopsticks tells the story of young pianist Glory and the budding relationship she develops with the young and artist Frank, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Glory is in a troubled time in her life. Since the death of her mother she retreats into her music and her father pushes her to play professionally and go on a world tour even though Glory herself would rather not do it due in part to her relationship with Frank. As the tour goes on she starts to slip up and play chopsticks in the middle of her high-brow concerts. This starts of being a small problem which can be dismissed away but one day something snaps and it's all she can play before she is dragged off stage by her father and institutionalised.

This book is really interesting as it is told through a series of pictures instead of through prose. Those pictures give it a cinematic feel and leave a lot to interpretation for the reader and makes for a totally different reader experience to a traditional novel. Highly recommended for someone looking for something a little bit different. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Bookcase Showcase: Author Joan De La Haye



I have two bookshelves. One for all my fiction, which is starting to overflow and is two rows deep on all the rows, and the other is for my research books. I must admit I'm not big on non-fiction, which is why that bookshelf is not as full. I'm not even going to go into the books on my ebook reader, otherwise I'd have you here all day.



On my fiction shelf you'll find a lot of Stephen King and Anne Rice. I've also got all the Harry Potter books. You'll also find a lot of the classics like The Three Musketeers, which is probably my favourite book of all time, and Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. You'll also find quite a few books by South African authors like The Mall by SL Grey, Deadlands by Lily Herne, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie, and I'm busy reading Salamander Cotton by Richard Kunzmann. I've also got a bunch of signed books by authors like Jeffery Deaver, John Connolly, Peter Allison, and Robert Shearman.


My research bookshelf was actually built by my Grandfather over fifty years ago. It's rather special to me. On these shelves you'll find books like On Writing Horror, which has been an invaluable book, as has On Writing by Stephen King. Both those books should be read by any aspiring author especially one with an interest in horror. I've also got a copy of Gray's Anatomy, which I think is handy to have especially if you want to write about killing people. Other really helpful books are Scene of the Crime and Deadly Doses. I now know just how to poison someone and how to manipulate a crime scene. Very handy knowledge.
Then I've also got a bunch of books on serial killers. Quite a few of them were written by former South African profiler, Micki Pistorious. I've also got a copy of Ghosts of South Africa, which was an interesting read about all the haunted sites in South Africa. I really have to visit some of those places. It should be a scream. 



If anybody were to look at my bookshelves and they didn't know I was a horror and thriller writer they'd probably think I was a serial killer or psychopath in the process of plotting a murder. But I promise I'm not, really. I'm not!