Friday, 31 May 2013

May review

I must admit May has been a weird month for me reading wise. I've been really tired as work has been busy so my reading has really suffered. I also am in a bit of a funny mood where I haven't felt like reviewing anything at all so I've been reading stuff I bought myself and purposely not reviewed it to give myself a break.

Read in May
86) The Elite by Kiera Cass
87) The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell (British Books Challenge)
88) Gilt by Katherine Longshore
89) Spy Society by Robin Benway
90) The Summer I became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
91) The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey
92) The Originals by Cat Patrick
93) The Moon and More by Sara Dessen
94) Dead Silence by Kim Derting
95) Dusk by Eve Edwards (British Books Challenge)
96) Gloss by Marilyn Kaye
97) Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

As anyone who vaguely knows my reading habits can tell you this has been a really slow month for me

Book events attended

Book of the month
Quite honestly I can't say anything I've read at all this month has particularly wowed me in any way. I think this is half my problem at the moment (If any publishers out there have anything that would fit the wow bill do let me know! PS I am out of UKYA and I need some desperately)

If I had to pick it'd probably be Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas which I literally finished today mainly because I think it is going to be one I have to think about for a good while to come

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Review: Girl with the Iron touch by Kady Cross

In 1897 London, something not quite human is about to awaken

When mechanical genius Emily is kidnapped by rogue automatons, Finley Jayne and her fellow misfits fear the worst. What's left of their archenemy, The Machinist, hungers to be resurrected, and Emily must transplant his consciousness into one of his automatons—or forfeit her friends' lives.

With Griffin being mysteriously tormented by the Aether, the young duke's sanity is close to the breaking point. Seeking help, Finley turns to Jack Dandy, but trusting the master criminal is as dangerous as controlling her dark side. When Jack kisses her, Finley must finally confront her true feelings for him...and for Griffin.

Meanwhile, Sam is searching everywhere for Emily, from Whitechapel's desolate alleyways to Mayfair's elegant mansions. He would walk into hell for her, but the choice she must make will test them more than they could imagine.

To save those she cares about, Emily must confront The Machinist's ultimate creation—an automaton more human than machine. And if she's to have any chance at triumphing, she must summon a strength even she doesn't know she has...

My Thoughts
A deliberately short review as I don't want to spoil this book / series for others.

In short I loved it. I've been a fan of this series from the start and this instalment was no exception. I love the setting and the characters. This particular instalment was as action packed and exciting at the previous ones and it meant I read it quickly as I couldn't put it down. I really love Finley and griffin and spent most of book rooting for them.

As before the Britishisms and some of the language used annoyed me because they really aren't in keeping with the time period which didn't spoil the book as such but more irritated me from time to time.

All in all a fab series which I would recommend.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Review: Return to paradise by Simone Elkeles

Caleb Becker left Paradise eight months ago, taking with him the secret he promised to take to his grave. If the truth got out, it would ruin everything.

Maggie Armstrong tried to be strong after Caleb broke her heart and disappeared. Somehow, she managed to move on. She's determined to make a new life for herself.

But then Caleb and Maggie are forced together on a summer trip. They try ignoring their passion for each other, but buried feelings resurface. Caleb must face the truth about the night of Maggie's accident, or the secret that destroyed their relationship will forever stand between them

My thoughts
Return to paradise is the sequel to Leaving Paradise set a few months after the events of book one. In the intervening time Caleb has left paradise, his family and Maggie. Things haven't been good for him and he soon finds himself in trouble and to avoid a prison sentence he goes a group touring America to share experiences of how being involved in drink driving has changed their lives. A group which Maggie is also part of.

I must say I really enjoyed this instalment of the book. For me it was all about Caleb and Maggie falling in love all over again as well as him coming to terms with his recent experiences after he covered up the truth of what really happened the night Maggie was hit and the fall out that resulted as a consequences. I must say however I wasn't a huge Maggie fan in this book. I found her to bit on her high horse at times which I didn't like. I did however love Caleb and all his bad boyness all wrapped up in one. I thought he was really sweet especially when you see the inner turmoil he has about taking what he wants and doing what is best for everyone around him.

A satisfying conclusion to the series which I did enjoy.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

My Thoughts
Quite honestly I don't have huge amounts to say about this book

Me being me I loved the historical setting and found myself completely fascinated by the glimpse into the world in 1918 which was gripped by the Spanish influenza pandemic. The pictures dotted through the story really added to this for me and I couldn't get enough of finding out about the insane cures and ideas people had about the disease alongside the sheer terror the threat of the influenza put into people. I also enjoyed learning about the toll war had on ordinary people on the homefront and seeing the different ways in which they had to adapt to help get their country through the war. The story also made a few poignant comments about shell shock and the impact it had in men serving and how so misunderstood those men were.

I loved the main character Mary Shelley and loved how quirky see was especially for her time in the way she was into fixing and mending things and learning about science. It made a really refreshing change.

However the thing that didn't do it for me was the spiritual side of the story. Yes it was creepy and well written but I really didn't buy into it. Yes I know its a book and often things written aren't true / proven but in this case I just couldn't suspend belief enough to enjoy it. This meant that all the mystery around the spirits was lost on me.

Not a bad read and I'm sure others will love it and while I did enjoy elements I highly doubt I'll be rereading anytime soon. 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review: Follow me Down by Tanya Byrne

The sensationally good Tanya Byrne returns with her new novel - a dark, compulsive tale of obsession and betrayal.

When sixteen-year old Adamma Okonma, a Nigerian diplomat's daughter, arrives at exclusive Croften College in Wiltshire, she is immediately drawn to beautiful, impetuous, unpredictable Scarlett Milton. Adamma and Scarlett become inseperable - until Adamma falls for Scarlett's boyfriend Dominic. Soon the battle lines are drawn and Adamma is shunned by Scarlett and her priviledged peers. But then Scarlett goes missing and everything takes a darker turn. As Adamma begins to uncover a series of ugly scandals at the school, she realises there was more than one person who wanted Scarlett to disappear and indeed that Croften has its own disturbing secrets to hide..

My Thoughts
Follow me down is a cracking read which will hook you from the very first page and won't let me go until you're done. If you dare to have audacity to put it down it'll niggle at you continually and beg to be picked up until you give in and devour it in one greedy go.

This review is deliberately short for two reasons. Firstly because I'm still now 24 hours on after finishing mulling it over in my mind and coming to terms with what I read and I think this will continue to go on for a few days to come. Quiet honestly I don't think I have the words to do justice to all those feelings just yet. Secondly I fear that if I gush or say too much I won't be able to rein myself in and I'll end up spoiling things for others. So please be sure in the knowledge that I loved this book from the very start.

This book follows the story of Adamma as she arrives at her new boarding school. She is the daughter of a Nigerian diplomat and has been moved to England for his new job. The story is told in two timelines some chapters from before and others after an event. As you go through you find yourself piecing the story together to make one whole and connected narrative and blimey it is a thinker. The are so many twists and parts of the story that keep you guessing that I found I couldn't second guess where the story was going and was constantly surprised about where it went meaning I quite literally couldn't put the book down. I loved the characters and how well they were done and I loved the whole variety of relationships developed as the book went on and seeing the comparison between them. The ending was brilliant and as I said earlier will stick with me for a while to come. I'm actually on the verge of wanting to reread straight away so I see everything again with that more informed brain in gear.

All in all you've got to pity the books I read next as they are never going to live up to Follow me down. 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Originals Blog Tour: Q&A with Cat Patrick

Q&A with Cat Patrick

Tell us a little about your new book, The Originals.
The Originals is the story of the first human clones. They are three identical sixteen-year-old girls, and because human cloning is illegal, they hide their existence by living as one person named Elizabeth Best. The way they do that is to split their days in thirds, with one clone attending school in the morning; the second handling classes in the afternoon; and the third being in charge of afterschool commitments like their part time job, college course, and cheerleading. The system works well until two of the clones fall for two different boys, which is an issue if you’re supposed to be just one person. Like my previous two books, in addition to the teen romance aspects, The Originals offers a bit of a mystery to round out the story.

Where and when do you write?
I’m most functional in the morning, so I get up early and write until I need to pick up my twins from preschool. I also generally write on Saturdays. I work in my home office in silence, usually with a crunchy snack to keep me alert. (I read something once about how the act of chewing crunchy things can wake you up. Or maybe I dreamed it when I was asleep on my keyboard.)

If you could have a super power, what would it be and why?
I would manipulate the wind. Growing up in a windy place, strong gusts make me feel powerful and energetic. I would protect suburbia from villains, one dust devil at a time.

Where do your ideas come from for a book?
The idea store on Main Street.Or, everywhere. I spoke recently at a high school where one of the students aspired to be a professional yo-yo…uh…artist? Performer?Expert? In any event, that stuck in my brain, and maybe it’ll find its way into a character dossier at some point. I think getting inspired is often as simple as paying attention.

How long does it take to write a book?
It varies. It took me three months to write the first draft of Forgotten, but in a way, I needed to write it that quickly to keep the rules of London Lane’s forward memory straight. The book I’m working on now took me a year to finish the first draft, and it’s still not where I want it to be.

How do you get over writer’s block?
The best way to deal with writer’s block it is to focus on something else for a while, and come back to your work with a clear head. I also hear juggling works.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be and who would you like with you?
I’m going to cheat and say a few places—and the place dictates the people. I’d love to be on a beach with my family. In Ireland for the first time with my dad.In Paris with my French-speaking girlfriend.In London with my publicist—because I’d love to travel there and connect with readers.I love traveling; the list could go on for days.

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
I don’t have pets, but I consider myself a little of both. I realize that is extremely noncommittal, which is probably why I don’t have pets.

Ketchup or mustard on a hotdog?
Ketchup.Or mustard.Or ketchup.I love condiments.

If you could meet Teen Cat Patrick, what advice/encouragement/secret about the future would you tell her?
Don’t be so hard on the person in the mirror. And step away from the hairspray.

Would you rather have your life narrated by Morgan Freeman in real time, or scored by John Williams?
I have serious love for Morgan Freeman, but I have to go with the John Williams score. I hear music in my head all the time anyway: It might as well be really great music.

What are three things you'd grab in the event of a house fire?
·         My family
·         A little box with birth certificates and passports and things
·         The computer, where my writing and photos are stored

What’s next for you?
Just Like Fate, which I co-wrote with Suzanne Young (The Program) comes out in August.  It’s about how the choices we make can change our paths in life: Suzanne and I wrote the same main character after she has to make a critical decision. Beyond that, I’m hard at work on my next novel. I hope to share more details about that one in the coming months.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Review: Everything is fine by Cathy Brett

Things haven't been going so well for fifteen-year-old Esther Armstrong. With her brother Max - her closest ally - absent, she's forced to face everything alone, not least her parents' heated arguments. As the summer holidays stretch endlessly ahead, she's desperate for something, anything, to divert her attention.

Then she finds some letters hidden in the walls of her family home, sent by a soldier to his sweetheart from the trenches of WWI. Esther is consumed by the mystery of these lovers - not very much older than herself - and what became of them. Perhaps in piecing together the jigsaw of someone else's life, Esther can work out how to reassemble her own, and how to make everything fine again...

This is a novel about growing up, moving on and the strength of a family.

My Thoughts
I've heard nothing but good things about Cathy Brett's books and while they are aimed at a slightly younger audience than the books I usually read I was keen to give them a go. As soon as I saw the cover for this one with the hints of a World War One theme the history geek in me had to pick it up instantly.

This book is essentially the story of Esther and her life as she currently sees it. Esther lives in a seaside town and is missing her elder brother who currently isn't at home and the story switches between Esther's narratives and letters to her elder brother Max as well as snippets from a series of letters Esther finds. In addition to this the book had a series of pictures dotted all the way through. I really loved the format of this book as it mixed it up a lot and I think for younger readers the variety would certainly help to engage interest. Esther is a fab character to follow. She is a strong character without being arrogant and just brilliantly normal as teenagers go. I really felt this book captured her really well as you really get an insight into what life is like living in a seaside village for a teenager who is dealing with a whole host of things all at once. I really loved seeing how her own personal story developed particularly the way she dealt with the absence of her elder brother.

The history geek inside of me went nuts over the historical side of the story. I would say too much but Esther finds a series of letters from a solider to his sweetheart behind her fireplace and these letters completely draw Esther in. She becomes fascinated with the tale that unfolds in front of her in the letters and devotes time and energy into finding out more about the people named in them. I loved this little touch and equally got drawn into her search for answers.

Overall this is certainly a book I will be recommending in the future widely but particularly to my students because of the historical side to the story. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Review: Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die -- of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target.

When his own parents died of not-so-natural causes at the age of eleven, Boy Nobody found himself under the control of The Program, a shadowy government organization that uses brainwashed kids as counter-espionage operatives. But somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the boy he once was, the boy who wants normal things (like a real home, his parents back), a boy who wants out. And he just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's next mission.

My Thoughts

What an action packed and interesting read. Really edgy with some really gripping ideas to keep you hooked throughout.

Boy nobody is a teenage spy. Picked up by a government organisation and brainwashed after the death of his parents and used to carry out hits on unsuspecting victims who don't seem to notice a new teenage boy enter their family home posing as a new friend of their son or daughter.

What I really liked about this book, besides from the fact it was fast paced and exciting was the thinking behind it. Lots of the ideas and morals thrown up throughout the course of the book really made me think about the story as a whole and the situation the young teenage character had been forced into whether he liked it or not. The ideas around government power and the way in which they use such power for a 'greater good' were so powerful. The particular mission this book is based around really lends itself to debating such ideas with yourself and I really enjoyed it for that.

A perfect read for boys in particular although girls will like it too ... I'm more thinking of those reluctant boy readers who need something good recommended and pushed into their hands. Well worth a look

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Review: The Drowning by Rachel Ward

What happens if you've done something terrible? But you can't remember what. And you don't know how to put it right ...When Carl opens his eyes on the banks of a lake, his brother is being zipped into a body bag. What happened in the water? He can't remember And when he glimpses a beautiful girl he thinks he recognizes, she runs away. Suddenly he knows he must find her - because together they must face the truth before it drowns them.

My Thoughts
A really quick little review for this fab little book which I enjoyed thoroughly.

The drowning is a really creepy thriller which starts dramatically with the main character being dragged out of a lake and waking up with no memory about what happened to the dead boy and traumatised girl found with him. What I really liked about this book was that because the main character doesn't often remember everything about what has gone on you find yourself uncovering things along with him. I really liked this as an idea as it kept me guessing about what was actually happening and what was in his head especially when some of the creepy stuff happens where it looks like he is seeing some kind of ghost.

Definitely worth a look because it is compelling and creepy from the first to the last page. A really brilliant story.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Review: Close my eyes by Sophie McKenzie

It's been eight years since Gen Loxley lost her daughter, Beth: eight years of grief in which nothing's really moved forward, for all that her husband, Art, wills it to. Gen, once a writer of novels, has settled in to a life of half-hearted teaching, while Art makes his name and their fortune - and pressures her into trying IVF once again. For Gen, it seems a cruel act of replacement; life without Beth is unthinkable, unbearable - but still it goes on. And then a woman arrives on Gen's doorstep, saying the very thing she longs to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was spirited away as a healthy child, and is out there, waiting to be found...So why is Art reluctant to get involved? To save his wife from further hurt? Or something much more sinister? What is the truth about Beth Loxley?

My Thoughts
  I will admit upfront I don't read a lot of books written for grown ups. My brain just can't handle it. This therefore means on the rare occasion I do read one and it holds my interest it has to have something special about it. That said I have read a lot of Sophie McKenzie and enjoyed them all and for me this book was a typical example of her work: fast paced with lots of twists and a storyline which hooks you from the first page.

I won't tell you too much about the storyline as there is so much that goes on that whatever I say will spoil the story for you. However I will say you will get completely drawn in by Gen's story and find yourself staying up late at night to read more and more as you'll need to know what happens next. Quite honestly I finished this in one sitting as I was incapable of putting it down. The whole thing was put together really well and I found myself constantly surprised about the latest revelation.

One thing I do need to talk about is the last chapter. Oh my word what a way to end a book! It left me stunned, was totally unexpected and really made me think about all kinds of things I can't discuss for fear of spoiling it. I shall be pushing my copy on someone else to read ASAP just so I can discuss it with them!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Review: You Don't Know Me by Sophia Bennett

It was all so good. Sasha and Rose. Best friends in a band, singing together. Right up to the finals of Killer Act when the judges tell them one of them must go Suddenly their friendship is put to the ultimate test. On TV in front of millions. Two girls. One huge mistake. Can they ever forgive each other?

My Thoughts

After enjoying The Look by Sophia Bennett last year I was desperately excited to get my hands on a copy of this book and when I finally did I wasn't disappointed. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.

You don't know me is a book about friendship and betrayal set within an XFactor esque style contest. I must admit the very fact it had this link did make me pause and wonder if it was the book for me but actually it was awesome. You start the book by meeting four ordinary friends. They spend the majority of their free time messing around together doing daft things and one afternoon the daft thing they do is write and perform a song which they record on a camera phone. The phone goes missing and the next thing they know they are entered into a song contest and gained hundreds of votes rapidly propelling them into the top 10 most popular acts in the competition. They think it is all a bit of a laugh until they a invited to perform live in front of judges and told to drop one of their members because she doesn't have the right look even though she has more talent than the rest of the group.

The main story looks at the decision the girls in the group have to make and why they decide to make it and then looks at the fallout as a consequence. What I liked about this book was it said a lot about true friendship and what it means to be loyal to another person. It also had a brilliant message about such reality tv singing contests and the way in which they treat the participants in order to boost ratings and make money for the people running the shows. I also loved seeing the role that social media had within the book and the way in which it just heightened all the issues the girls were facing because of the input of hundreds of thousands of strangers. Quite honestly I was completely fascinated by this aspect all the way through and it made me think about the role it plays in society and how it isn't always a good thing.

I can't tell you about the ending even though I want to rave on about it for ages but I can say I loved it. It suited the book completely and was just so brilliantly awesome and a perfect way to end it. Loved it!

All in all a brilliant read and and has left me wanting to read more from the marvellous Sophia Bennett.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Review: Acid by Emma Pass

2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID – the most brutal, controlling police force in history – rule supreme. No throwaway comment or muttered dissent goes unnoticed – or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a bloody crime she struggles to remember.

The only female inmate in a violent high-security prison, Jenna has learned to survive by any means necessary. And when a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID – and to uncover the truth about what really happened on that dark night two years ago

My thoughts
I loved acid! What a cracking story and kick-ass heroine. I couldn't read it quickly enough and was hooked from page one.

Acid is set in a future Britain and is the story of Jenna Strong. Jenna is 17 and has just broken out of a high security prison that she was put into for murdering her parents. Throughout the course of the book you get an insight into a corrupt totalitarian world where the people are watched every minute of every day and any slight disoriented is punished harshly.

I loved several things about this book.

Firstly I loved Jenna. She is a feisty led who no one messes with. At 17 she has been through so much and come out the other side so much tougher for it. Any one that tries to mess with her finds out to their peril how far she is willing to go to survive. That said underneath it all she has a really tender edge which comes out more and more as you get to know her over the course of the book. I loved seeing how she develops a relationship with Max and the lengths she is willing to go to help him.

I loved the world set up in this story. The state is this all seeing all knowing and corrupt big brother and the more you get into the story the more corrupt you find it is. I loved getting under the skin of the world and seeing how everything wasn't quite how it seemed on the outside and I really enjoyed uncovering all the secrets all with Jenna.

I loved that this book was set in the UK. So often the big dystopian series that are being published of late are US based and I loved that this was set in the UK. Certainly something I want more of please

A fab story, a kick-ass heroine and nail biting read set in an all too realistic world which will keep you on the edge of your seat from the first to the last page.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Review: Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler

It was supposed to be the summer of her life. Instead, 17-year-old Lucy finds her best friend Harper shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did it come to this? Lucy Gosling is the drummer in Crush, a rock band formed by five London schoolgirls that has just won the UK semi-final of an international talent contest. But when the band lands in Hollywood for the big final, things are not quite as they seem. The band's lead singer, Harper, has just one thing on her mind - using sex, drugs and rock and roll, not to mention Crush itself, to win back her bad-news ex-boyfriend. Lucy must decide whether she's playing to Harper's tune, or setting the rhythm for the rest of the band 

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed drummer girl and I found I quite literally couldn't put it down.

Drummer girl is about a British girl group who have just won a huge international talent contest and starts quite dramatically with Lucy finding her best friend Harper dead in the swimming pool in their LA home. The story then rewinds back as you follow their story through the talent contest as they are flown out to LA to compete and charts all the highs and lows of the girls as they find their feet in the world of show business and learn that things aren't quite as glamorous as they might seem from the outside.

For me this book was reminiscent of Sarra Manning's Guitar Girl in its storyline in so many ways: ordinary teenagers plunged into the spot light as part of a group which shoots quickly to fame followed by the story of how they deal with that fame. The writing is good and it kept me page turning and because the story started with the ending I spent much of the book trying to work out whodunit murder she wrote style. I liked the girls and seeing the different ways in which fame effected them and the book had a brilliant moral about the fickle nature of fame.

An enjoyable read which is perfect for teenage girls who also love music.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Blog Tour: You don't know me by Sophia Bennett


by Sophia Bennett


It’s hard work, this character naming thing. You’re racing along, really into the story, and your narrator bumps into a kooky old friend/nemesis/ghost, and suddenly you have to stop and wonder what they’re called. And it matters, it really does, because as readers we all bring big associations to the names of our favourite characters. If Bella Swan had been called Trisha McMillan, it wouldn’t have been quite the same. If Holly Golightly had been Mavis Dingle … would Audrey Hepburn ever have played the part?

My two favourite authors for character naming are JK Rowling (natch) and Derek Landy. They’ve both written long series, crammed with thrilling, death-defying creatures and kick-ass heroes and heroines, and they’ve come up with something amazing and perfect every time. Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore, Voldemort, Dobby … Skulduggery, Valkyrie, Tanith Low, China Sorrows, Ghastly Bespoke. Derek even gave himself the task if thinking up given and taken names. 

Sometimes, we can mispronounce a character’s name in our heads for years. In Ballet Shoes, I was never sure if Petrova was PETrova or PetROVa. In Threads, I called my narrator NOnie, but many readers think of her as NONnie. Which is why in The Look I called the girls Ted and Ava: keep it simple was my motto. However, in Poland lots of people associate the name Ted with the recent film of that title, which isn’t appropriate at all.

I often get surnames from the local roads in Wandsworth. They were usually named after people, after all, so really I’m just recycling them. First names are much harder. Quite often, I steal names from girls I meet during school visits (I do warn them about this), or people from my past. In You Don’t Know Me I had to think of band names too. Here’s the story behind some of the most important ones:

Manic Pixie Dream Girls I have my fabulous writing friends, Keris and Luisa from Chicklish, to thank for this one. They both read way more than I do and they were having an intellectual discussion about chick-lit criticism, in which this term popped up. A manic pixie dream girl (see Wikipedia – I didn’t make it up, promise) is one of those girls in books or films who’s a bit kooky and mysterious, and whom the hero wants to find out more about, or possibly become. Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl is one. So is practically every Jennifer Aniston character since Friends. Also most of John Green’s heroines until Hazel in The Fault in our Stars. The idea of it annoys me slightly: although I’m fond of Jerry Spinelli, I prefer it when kooky girls are solid and real, not someone else’s dream. It’s a feminist thing of mine. But the name …. Manic Pixie Dream Girl … I loved it and I had to use it somewhere. So I gave it to a band. It is, however, a mistake, by the way. They would rather be the Powerpuff Girls.

Call of Duty are the Dream Girls’ nemesis. Throughout the writing process they were called the Nazi Zombies and nobody from my lovely, polite publishers questioned me on this. But it turned out that nobody from my lovely, polite publishers had boys at home who were into gaming, unlike me, so they didn’t know it was a famous video game and merely thought I was weird. However, we quickly realised that many, many non-gamers would be offended, and I offered to change the name to Call of Duty, the war game series that makes Nazi Zombies after all. It suits the band well: they wear show-off military jackets and play loud indie rock. If I ever do have a rock band (won’t happen), I think they’ll be Call of Duty, too.

Sasha, the narrator, is named after one of my old friends from school, who was dark and very pretty and looked a bit like the girl in a catalogue picture who helped inspire Sasha’s character. (You can see this picture – of a girl listening to music on a beach – on my mood board in the ‘Cover Story’ post of this blog tour, if you’re interested.) In real life, we all called Sasha ‘Squish’ at school. This doesn’t happen to Sasha in the book. Fortunately.

Rose is called Rose because it’s a name I’ve always loved. I might well have called a daughter of mine Rose. And also it’s the second name of Lily Allen’s younger sister, Teddy – who unknowingly donated her first name to Ted in The Look. This Rose is called Rose Ireland because one of the people who inspired her was Janet Devlin from 2011’s X-Factor (who got knocked out too soon, I thought), who was Irish. I was trying to think of a good Irish surname, but Ireland was easier and in the end it just stuck. Rose was originally Colleen in early drafts. #geekybennettfact

Nell is a lovely girl and I’ve got lots of Eleanors in my life. Nells simply have to be kind, happy souls, I think. And Tradescant is the name of a famous old Cornish gardening family. I used it for a previous unpublished detective novel and loved it so much I recycled here.

Jodie is cynical and spiky. I think her name comes a little bit from Jodie Foster, who’s played lots of feisty characters in films over the years. Anyway, she was always just Jodie to me. I think she got her name first.

Dan. Oh God. Naming boys in books. It’s got to be good, easy to pronounce, something that you find slightly sexy (or very sexy) but that hasn’t been used a trillion times before. In the band, Dan’s known as Brian for various reasons to do with stars and guitars. If I met him, I’d definitely refer to him as Brian.

Ed. See Dan, above. Known as Pops in the band.

Raj, the drummer in Call of Duty, is named pure and simply after Raj in Big Bang Theory, which is one of my favourite TV shows. Easy. Could have done that with the other two, but I couldn’t have a romantic hero called Leonard. Or Sheldon. Sorry, Joss Whedon. You are a TV writing god, but … no.

Cat, the bassist in Call of Duty. Ed says at one point that she doesn’t need a nickname: ‘Cat’ suits her. He’s right.

Roxanne Wills, the famous singer, was originally going to be called something else as well – I forget what – but I think I realised half way through that her name was incredibly similar to one I was already using. This happens to me all the time when I’m writing. In Threads, my copy editor had to point out that I had three characters called Henry. (Two were intentional, the third was not.) Anyway, Roxanne needed a name that stood out and I think the ‘x’ gives it that. It also reminds me of the Police song and anything that reminds me of Sting has got to be good.

Elliot, my favourite nerd, was going to be named after a boy with an unusual name at my sons’ school, but I thought he might notice one day so I changed it. Now he’s named after my old screenwriting tutor, Elliot Grove, who founded the Raindance Film Festival. Originally, Elliot had quite a small part in the book, but as I wrote, it got bigger and bigger. I love him now. He may be a hacker, and not entirely legal, all the time, but he’s a good guy. I nearly had him going out with Nell by the end, but there just wasn’t space for another relationship. I’d like to think they got it together later, though …

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple

High school is hard when you're invisible.

Fiona McClean hates her family, has had to move to a new school and seems to be completely invisible to the boy she likes. So far so normal, right? But Fiona really is invisible. She doesn't even know what colour her own hair is.

Born into a world where Cold War anti-radiation pills have caused genetic mutations, Fiona is forced to work for her mind-controlling mobster father as the world's most effective thief. When her father announces she must become a murdering assassin, Fiona and her telekinetic mother make a break for freedom. Running to a small Arizonian town, Fiona finds that playing at 'normal life' with a mother on the edge, a brother she can't trust, and a boy who drives her crazy is as impossible as escaping her father.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed transparent. It was a really original and interesting read which kept me thoroughly entertained from the first page until the last.

Transparent is set in a world where some humans had gained a whole variety of abilities as a result of anti radiation drugs taken by the generation before them. These abilities are wide and varied and incredibly cool. Fiona is one of those people who have an ability. She happens to be invisible, a pretty cool ability apart from the fact that her mobster father wants to use it to help him commit a variety of crimes. Fiona and her mother decide one day that they've been asked to be involved in one job too far and go on the run away from her father to start afresh elsewhere. Unfortunately when you are the only invisible girl around with a famous father you find out very quickly you won't get far without being recognised.

I enjoyed several thins about this book. The dialogue was fab and I loved the main character Fiona. I loved getting behind her and rooted for her from page one. I loved the relationships developed throughout the course of the story and I loved what the book had to say about prejudices and being your own person. I loved the whole host of secondary characters you meet throughout the story and enjoyed getting to ow them all. I won't go into too much detail about the storyline itself as I don't want to spoil it for any one but I must say I loved the action and how the book played out by the end.

X-men meets heroes with a kickass heroine who you will love and an exciting storyline which will hook your from the first page.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Review: If you find me by Emily Murdoch


A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey's younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won't let her go ... a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn't spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

My thoughts
Oh what a fab book. Utterly brilliant, completely heartbreaking and totally addictive to the point where to don't want to put it down.

I've heard good things about this book for a while which meant I was excited to finally get round to reading it and I was thrilled to see it lived up to all the hype. I was hooked from the first page and found as a story it just got stronger and more compelling as it went on. I honestly can't recommend it enough.

For me this book was all about the relationship between Carey and her younger sister Jenessa. The two have just been taken into their father's home after their mother finally decided she couldn't cope anymore after raising them in a caravan in the woods away from civilisation for several years. During that time Carey was forced to grow up fast and look after her sister and do all kinds of things to ensure they survived as a family. Suddenly the sisters find they have to adapt to a more normal way of living and while having home comforts is a dream it doesn't make the adjustment easy. Seeing the way the girls are together and the way they rely upon one another during such a change is fascinating. I loved seeing how they settled into the new world and the challenges they faced in doing so.

What I really liked about this book and what made it so powerful was that as the story went on you started to find out more about the life the girls had lived before and really started to understand the terrible things they had been forced to suffer whilst in that caravan away from civilisation. Much of what was revealed was utterly heart-breaking and really made me feel for them all the more.

All in all a fantastic book which I would highly recommend. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bookcase Showcase: Author Emily Murdoch

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today! 

So here we are, hanging out between two of my bookshelves, talking – what else? – BOOKS.
The bookshelf above contains books I donated to a high school student here in the United States, whose senior project involves distributing books to children who can’t afford books of their own.
I’m a bibliophile, no different than many of you who love books. Some of these books are my all-time favorites, and I’ll admit my heart crumpled at the thought of bidding any of them farewell. They deserve a good home where they’re loved and treasured, I told myself with a sniffle, as the plain brown box deposited in the mail became their wings out into the world.   
Because who can imagine being a child (or adult!) and not reading The Diary of Anne Frank, or Esperanza Rising, or insert your favorite book here? I can’t. Nor can I imagine a childhood without books. 
As for my real shelves …
Even more so as a published author, I have a hard time answering who my favorite authors are, or what I’m currently reading. I angst over forgetting an author, or leaving others out. All I can say is, there are so many worthy, talented authors out there for us to discover. I believe in the librarian’s credo, that there’s a book for every person – many, many books over the course of a lifetime – waiting to delight us, move us, shake us, remind us of the magic we discovered long, long ago.

Happy reading, everyone! Long live books!