Saturday, 30 October 2010

Review: Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs - Ron Koertge

Published: March 9th 2010, Candlewick Press

Pages: 170 pages, hardback

Acquired: Sent for review by Candlewick Press

Summary (from Goodreads): Fourteen-year-old Kevin Boland has a passion for playing baseball, a knack for writing poetry — and a cute girlfriend named Mira who’s not much interested in either. But then, Kevin doesn’t exactly share Mira’s newfound fervor for all things green. So when Kevin signs up for open mike night at Bungalow Books and meets Amy, a girl who knows a sonnet from a sestina and can match his emails verse for verse, things start to get sticky.

Should he stay with Mira? Or risk spoiling his friendship with Amy by asking her out? Ron Koertge, master of snappy dialogue and a deft poet, offers a fast-paced, sympathetic story that interweaves two narrative voices with humor and warmth.

My review: Now I think verse novels are a bit like Marmite – I personally adore them but I know other readers who aren’t fans. I started with Ellen Hopkins, then Sonya Sones and now Ron Koertge. I’ve loved each verse novel I’ve read and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs certainly made the grade.

It’s a brilliantly crafted story, slow burning without being boring and the poetry itself is genius. We see a whole host of different poetry styles here and Koertge gives us a bit of a masterclass in verse – he writes each style perfectly. This is clearly a writer who knows his craft inside out.

Kevin is a likeable guy (and it was nice to read a YA novel narrated by a male character) and his poetry gives us a great but subtle insight into his character. Mira is slightly questionable but she’s meant to be and it works well. One moment I felt for her, the next morning I was rolling my eyes at her idiotic comments. Amy was a great addition; a little quirky but still relatable – I liked her. I was rooting for her and Kevin to get together for the whole story but Koertge gives nothing away until the final moments of the novel.

If you haven’t yet tried a verse novel I’d suggest Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs as a great starting point. The poetry isn’t too complex and the story is strong. Though, I should mention this is actually a sequel but I think it works brilliantly as a standalone novel.

First line: 'I come in tired
from baseball practice, and Dad catches me
guzzling OJ right out of the carton.'

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (C)

Friday, 29 October 2010

Review: Boys Don't Cry - Malorie Blackman

Published: October 28th 2010, Random House

Pages: 226 pages, paperback
Acquired: Sent for review by Random House

Summary (from Goodreads): This is the explosively page-turning new novel for teenagers from the author of the award-winning "Noughts and Crosses" sequence. You're about to receive your A-level results and then a future of university and journalism awaits. But the day they're due to arrive your old girlfriend Melanie turns up unexpectedly... with a baby...

You assume Melanie's helping a friend, until she nips out to buy some essentials, leaving you literally holding the baby... Malorie's dramatic new novel will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the final page.


My review: Well I have to be honest right now and confess that Boys Don’t Cry is the first Malorie Blackman novel I’ve ever read. I know – scandalous. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about her books and, on Tinie Tempah's recommendation I’m now definitely a member of the fan club. Boys Don’t Cry is an absolutely fantastic story about love, growing up and accepting who you are.

I think it’s one of the most incredibly diverse novels I’ve read for a very long time. My case in point – after I finished the book I passed it on to my eighty year old grandmother. She reappeared two hours later and couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved the book. I’d lend this to my boyfriend, my best friend and anybody who’s ever been unsure of themselves. Simply brilliant.

It’s impossible not to feel for Dante – he’s left holding the baby, his future dreams of attending university and becoming a journalist seem impossible and it suddenly dawns on him that he is no longer his main priority. He has a baby. A baby who he has to raise on his own. That’s a hard thing for anybody to deal with and the thing I liked most is how realistic Blackman makes the story.

Dante doesn’t fall into the role of doting father overnight and he doesn’t magically wake up and know exactly how to act around Emma. I’m glad he struggles, I’m glad he feels lost and doubts himself because it makes him much more relatable and much more whole as a character.

Adam is a wonderful supporting character and his subplot is a fantastic addition to the story. The drama comes so out of the blue that it really made me sit up and pay attention – brilliant.

The whole novel is so carefully crafted; I don’t feel as though any words were wasted. The language is concise, careful and extremely easy to read so it’s the plot and characters that we focus on. There are funny moments in Boys Don’t Cry, hardships for each character to face and some genuinely heart warming passages that make this one of my favourite books of 2010. Fact.

Read if you liked...: And Baby Makes Two – Dyan Sheldon (though Dante is the complete antithesis of Lana, I have to say)

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Like Mandarin - Kirsten Hubbard

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read. This week I've chosen 'Like Mandarin' by Kirsten Hubbard. I first read about this one a few months ago and I'm completely intrigued by it - the synopsis is so fascinating and I love the cover. It just sounds like a really unique read and I seriously can't wait to get a copy.

Sadly this one isn't out until March 8th 2011 - I may have to preorder it!

Published: March 8th 2011, Delacorte Press
Summary (from Goodreads): "I want to be beautiful like you, I thought, as if Mandarin were listening.

I want apricot skin and Pocahontas hair and eyes the color of tea. I want to be confident and detached and effortlessly sensual, and if promiscuity is part of the package, I will gladly follow your lead. All I know is I'm so tired of being inside my body.

I would give anything to be like Mandarin."

~

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their badlands town.

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

Sounds great, right? What's your pick this week?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

In My Mailbox - 18

So I realised I hadn't done an IMM post in two months - crazy! I've had a bit of a quiet week this week, which is lucky as my TBR pile is literally out of control. In case you haven't taken part before, In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi who's over at the awesome The Story Siren.

This week I received:

Inside My Head - Jim Carrington
Need - Carrie Jones
Captivate - Carrie Jones
Entice - Carrie Jones
Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Inside My Head - Jim Carrington

Published: April 5th 2010, Bloomsbury
Acquired: Sent for review by Bloomsbury

Summary (from Goodreads): This cleverly constructed narrative consists of three points of view: of Gary, constantly victimised by the school bully in a nasty, name-calling and vindictive way; the bully's friend, David and a new girl to the school, Zoe. All viewpoints are revealing.

Gary reveals the painful and often unsuccessful attempts by a young man to control his anger under great provocation - and his inability to communicate. David is someone who is uncomfortable with the bullying but doesn't dare to do anything about it - until the end. Zoe is a young woman who can see Gary through different eyes and is independent, freethinking and brave. Also featured in this title are rampaging tractors, shotguns and cheese puffs.


Need - Carrie Jones

Published: December 23rd 2008, Bloomsbury
Acquired: Sent for review by Bloomsbury

Summary (from Goodreads): Zara White suspects there's a freaky guy semi-stalking her. She's also obsessed with phobias. And it's true, she hasn't exactly been herself since her stepfather died. But exiling her to shivery Maine to live with her grandmother? That seems a bit extreme. The move is supposed to help her stay sane...but Zara's pretty sure her mom just can't deal with her right now.

She couldn't be more wrong. Turns out the semi-stalker is not a figment of Zara's overactive imagination. In fact, he's still following her, leaving behind an eerie trail of gold dust. There's something not right - not human - in this sleepy Maine town, and all signs point to Zara.

In this creepy, compelling breakout novel, Carrie Jones delivers romance, suspense, and a creature you never thought you'd have to fear.


Captivate - Carrie Jones

Published: January 5th 2010, Bloomsbury
Acquired: Sent for review by Bloomsbury

Summary (from Goodreads): Zara and her friends knew they hadn't solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king's needs grow deeper every day he's stuck in captivity, while his control over his people gets weaker. It's made him vulnerable. And now there's a new king in town.

A turf war is imminent, since the new pixie king, Astley, is moving in quickly. Nick nearly killed him in the woods on day one, but Zara came to his rescue. Astley swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he's one of the good guys. Nick isn't buying it, though Zara isn't as sure -- despite herself, she wants to trust the new king. But it's a lot more than her relationship with Nick that is at stake. It's her life -- and his.


Entice - Carrie Jones

Published: January 4th 2011 (UK release date), Bloomsbury
Acquired: Sent for review by Bloomsbury

Summary (from Goodreads): Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that's not quite how things have worked out.

For starters, well, Nick is dead. Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla?

And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't just turned. She's Astley's queen
.

Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles

Published: January 1st 2008, Walker
Acquired: Received through UK Book Tours

Summary (from Goodreads): When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created “perfect” life is about to unravel before her eyes. She’s forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, and he is about to threaten everything she's worked so hard for—her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend, and the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it.

So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But soon Alex realizes Brittany is a real person with real problems, and suddenly the bet he made in arrogance turns into something much more.

In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart.

So looks like I had a bit of a Bloomsbury-fest this week. What did you receive in your mailbox?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Review: Scarred - Julia Hoban

*Note: Yes, this is Willow by Julia Hoban. Scarred is just the UK name*

Published: April 2nd 2009, Dial

Pages: 310 pages, paperback

Acquired: Sent for review by Piatkus
Summary (from Goodreads): Seven months ago, on a rainy March night, sixteen year- old Willow’s parents died in a horrible car accident. Willow was driving. Now her older brother barely speaks to her, her new classmates know her as the killer orphan girl, and Willow is blocking the pain by secretly cutting herself. But when one boy—one sensitive, soulful boy—discovers Willow’s secret, it sparks an intense relationship that turns the “safe” world Willow has created for herself upside down.

Told in an extraordinary fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.


My review: Okay, so I’d say the only really negative review I’ve posted up to this date was for Fabulous Terrible by Sophie Talbot (fabulous it was not, I can assure you). I do always feel a little unsure before posting a negative review – I’ve posted in the past and received a whole host of bitchy emails because I haven’t liked somebody’s favourite book. But if I held back on what I really thought in case I hurt someone’s feelings what kind of blogger would I be? Exactly. A bad one. It does put me off when I visit someone’s site and see nothing but 5* reviews. So, even though some people might not like it, I’m always honest about the books I’ve read.

So, let me preface this review by saying I understand 100% the severity of the subject matter in Scarred and it’s probably because I understand it so well that this book made me so angry. By writing a negative review of Scarred I’m not, in any way, making any comments about self harming or anybody who is affected by it. Please, please do not fill up my inbox with angry emails saying that because I didn’t like this book I hate anybody who self harms... Or whose parents have died. I’m well aware that Goodreads is filled to the brim with glowing reviews of this book and most of you absolutely adored this book, so I am sorry for hating on a book you love but this is my opinion.

Right, so, where do I even begin? I actually don’t know where to start. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I’m not exactly the biggest fan of Scarred but it would be nice to start the review with something positive. Well, the back cover of my copy states that Scarred is ‘Reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides and Before I Die’. That’s nice, isn’t it? It’s also a total lie and a huge insult to two fantastic books but I’m trying to stay positive, at least for this paragraph.

This is the only book I’ve ever read that I can come right out and say I actually hate. For me it has absolutely no redeeming features, nothing going for it. Honestly, I don’t know how it even made it to publication. Not only are the characters hateful (more on that later) and the writing disjointed and awkward but I found so many spelling and grammatical errors it was ridiculous – I started underlining them all but by the time I’d reached twenty or so I gave up. I’ve never read a book so filled with errors and, if I had been enjoying the story, I think it really would have ruined my reading experience.

Unfortunately my reading experience was ruined when I first cracked the spine. My main issue with Scarred is probably Willow. She’s just so unlikeable. She’s gone through a huge trauma and I’m well aware that would have some impact on your personality but, really, the girl is hateful. I’ve never come across a protagonist so self-involved, self-deprecating and, to be put bluntly, whiny. So whiny. I would have respected her a lot more if she’d held her head high, acknowledged that she’s in a devastating period of her life but tried to move on. But no. Oh, no, no, no, not our Willow. Instead, she becomes so self-obsessed that she comes out with little gems like this:

‘Cathy buries her head in Isabelle’s hair and gives her a kiss. It’s a natural gesture, but Willow wonders if she’s doing it just to avoid looking at her.’

No, bitch, I’m pretty sure that’s just a mother kissing her daughter. Of course, in Willow’s head a mother expressing love for her daughter is a bloody great ruse so she doesn’t have to look at her. Really? REALLY? Honestly, at that point I gave up trying to find anything good in this book. At some points I almost thought the whole thing was a joke. How could I possibly take a character like that seriously?

But in Scarred we don’t only have Willow to deal with. Oh, no. We also have the originally named Guy, Willow’s love interest (I trap you in bookshelves because it’s romantic/I’ve known you for five minutes but I really, really do love you) and her brother David, who sits in the dark and cries a lot. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on David actually. His grief is written a lot more subtly and, for me, that worked much better than Willow’s insane Bella Swan ‘I killed my parents’ melodrama. No, Willow, we established right at the beginning you didn’t murder your parents.

I want to address the cutting itself. This is what made me go from rolling my eyes to being genuinely angry. I’m sorry if some people found the self harming a realistic portrayal but for me and my personal experiences, it just didn’t work. I felt absolutely no sympathy for the girl. She spends the entire book talking about how she’s cutting so deep because she has nothing to live for and wants to die. Well, that’s clearly a lie. If you want to read a much more realistic and delicate portrayal of self harming then I’d point you in the direction of Entangled by Cat Clarke. Much better. Less whining.

There are so many books about teenage ‘issues’ floating around out there that, personally, I just don’t think the market has space for a book like Scarred. It doesn’t make the cut (ho ho ho, what a funny joke I accidentally just made. I’m leaving it in) when there are absolutely stunning books like Wintergirls, Speak, Breathing Underwater and Girl Interrupted that write so sensitively and unassumingly about these issues.

First line: ‘Maybe it’s just a scratch.’

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Cover: 2/5 (though I do quite like the US cover)
Total: 9/20 (D)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Review: A Year in Girl Hell: Crushed - Meredith Costain

Published: 2009, Hardie Grant Egmont

Pages: 137 pages, paperback

Acquired: Sent for review by Hardie Grant Egmont

Summary (from back cover): ‘It’s the first year of high school and everything’s changing. One of my besties is in a different class and the other has started hanging out with the shiny people. I’m torn between sticking with my old friends or getting the shinies to like me. But there’s a gorgeous boy in the cool group that I can’t stop thinking about. Will I fit in or be Lexi the Loser forever? High school is shaping up to be hell!’

My review: I’ll start by saying that Crushed is a middle grade novel, which is slightly outside my comfort zone as I generally review older fiction. However, as soon as I got past the first couple of chapters I remembered why middle grade fiction can be so fun if written right – which Crushed is.

When Lexi starts high school she's excited to be with her best friends Mia and Alysha but when Mia's put into a different class and Alysha starts hanging out with the cool kids, Lexi has to decide whether to stay true to herself (and save her friendship with Mia and new girl Michi) or to stick with Alyssa and try to make it as one of the shinies.

The characters are relatable and the awkward social situations are something we all went through at high school. The struggle to fit in, trying to impress that one particular boy – who hasn’t been there? It made a refreshing change to read about normal girls doing normal teenage things and it was nice to switch off for an hour and step into Lexi’s shoes and learn more about her and her friends.

Michi was my favourite character. I think she definitely has a lot of potential to come into her own in the later instalments of the series – which I can’t wait to get my hands on, by the way. This book ended on such a cliff hanger that I’d suggest going straight from one book to the next to avoid a squeal of frustration when you realise you’ve hit the end of Crushed.

First line: ‘Lexi, can you hurry up, please?’

Read if you liked...: The Clique – Lisi Harrison

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 15/20 (B)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Entice - Carrie Jones

Hello all - I'm here today to talk a bit about the upcoming release from Carrie Jones; Entice. If you've read Need and Captivate (the first two titles in the series) you'll understand why everyone's so excited about Entice - if not, I suggest you catch up in preparation for January 4th 2011, which is when Entice will hit the shelves here in the UK.

For more information on the series visit the Facebook page here and Carrie's website here. Some more exciting news - you can actually read a sneak peek of Entice on Bloomsbury's website so if you really can't wait for January 4th head over there now and check out chapter one by clicking here. Very exciting, I can assure you!

I've posted the summary underneath the cover art (gorgeous, isn't it?), as it does contain potential spoilers so if you haven't read the first two books in the series avert your eyes.


Summary (from Goodreads): Zara and Nick are soul mates, meant to be together forever. But that's not quite how things have worked out.

For starters, well, Nick is dead. Supposedly, he's been taken to a mythic place for warriors known as Valhalla, so Zara and her friends might be able to get him back. But it's taking time, and meanwhile a group of evil pixies is devastating Bedford, with more teens going missing every day. An all-out war seems imminent, and the good guys need all the warriors they can find. But how to get to Valhalla?

And even if Zara and her friends discover the way, there's that other small problem: Zara's been pixie kissed. When she finds Nick, will he even want to go with her? Especially since she hasn't just turned. She's Astley's queen.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: You Against Me - Jenny Downham

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read. This week my pick is You Against Me by Jenny Downham (published by the fab Random House). I think everybody in the blogging world fell in love with Downham's beautiful writing in Before I Die and I've been promised You Against Me is just as brilliant, if not better.

My copy is staring at me from the bookshelf so I may just have to dive in to it right now! Keep an eye out as my review will be up soon - it looks fantastic.


Published: December 2nd 2010
By: David Fickling Books

Summary (from Goodreads):
If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother's been accused of a terrible crime and you're the main witness, then you banish all doubt and defend him. Isn't that what families do?

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her at a party, his world of work and girls begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the crime, but says he didn't do it, her world of revision, exams and fitting in at a new school begins to unravel.

When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. Brave and unflinching, this is a novel of extraordinary skillfulness and almost unbearable tension. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it's a book about love - for one's family and for another.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010


Hello everyone!

So this is going to be my first year doing NaNo and I wanted to see who else in the blogging community is taking part. In case you didn't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. The goal is to write 50,000 words within the month - sounds slightly intimidating, yes, but I'm hoping I can do it.

I had decided to write the YA novel I've been planning/researching for months but yesterday changed my mind and decided to focus on a YA horror based on 'the seven gates of hell' urban legend. I love horror but I've only written short stories before so this'll be a big change for me. It feels a lot fresher than my original idea though so I think it'd be the best one for NaNo - I'm definitely going to get cracking on the straight YA novel later on though.

Normally I take my time with writing and spend far too long procrastinating and 'researching' on the Internet but NaNo should help me to snap out of that and concentrate - after all, 1500 words a day (approx.) really isn't so much, I did it pretty much every day for three years for uni so I just need to get back into the swing of things...hopefully.

I think knowing a few other people who are taking part would really help me stay on track and keep me focused so anyone who wants a writing buddy, give me a shout and we'll keep each other going! My username is tinklechacha (don't ask) so do stop by and say hi and hopefully we can keep each other motivated :).

For more info on NaNo you can visit the website here. I only signed up this week so it's not too late to take part - I'm pretty sure you won't regret it!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Review: Gone - Michael Grant

Published: July 1st 2008, Harper Teen

Pages: 560 pages, hardback

Acquired: Sent for review by Egmont

Summary (from Goodreads): In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television.

No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened.
Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless.

And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else...


What I liked: Gone is one of those books that had been sitting on my bookshelf for months, gathering dust, being sadly ignored. I’d picked it up a few times, read the first few pages, been mildly impressed but then moved on to something else.

Eventually I realised I had to just sit down and get going with it. I’d read so many positive reviews of the series that I felt I was missing out but whenever I tried I just couldn’t get into it. I nearly gave up but after being struck down with food poisoning this week (never reheat out of date salmon) I spent the last two bedridden days with my head buried in Gone. Finally.

It’s a brilliant book, it really is and deserves all the praise it’s received. I was worried it would be another overhyped supernatural teen book but Gone is worlds away from that. Grant’s writing is superb – he doesn’t get bogged down with complex sentence structure and hyperbolic waves of description. Instead the language is snappy, straight to the point and does nothing to detract from the stellar plot.

One of the most interesting things Grant tackles is how each character handles the situation. The kids in Gone (none older than 14) are thrust into a completely alien situation that really does bring out the best and worst in each person. Some shine through as absolute stars (I’m looking at you Mother Mary) and some take advantage of the situation and become the bad guys, the criminals, the killers (yes, Orc and co., that was aimed at you).

There are books where the writing is what sucks you in and books where it’s the plot that captures your attention. In Gone it’s definitely the plot. It’s so strong, so well researched and there’s not a plot hole in sight (from what I could see, anyway). The characters are instantly likeable (who doesn’t have a soft spot for Edilio and MacDonald’s Alfred? Oh, and Computer Jack and Mary – see, they’re all awesome) and the villains are fantastic. So hateable, so corrupt but with so much depth. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of affection for Diana and Caine but the true villain in Gone is the twisted, psychopath Drake. Terrifying.

Talking coyotes, flying snakes, some horrific monster in a mine shaft – this is a novel that requires you to suspend your disbelief somewhat and any trace of bad writing could easily break the spell and make you realise that Gone is completely implausible and you are just sitting at home reading a book. However, I was there with Sam, Astrid and co. through thick and thin, through all the twists and turns and, after taking a few hours to digest this wonderful book, I’m ready to tackle the next in the series, Hunger.

What I didn’t like: Gone is quite a hefty book and at 560 pages it does look a little intimidating (absolutely love the coloured pages though), which may be why I put it back on the shelf so many times. The beginning is a little slow and, for me, it did take me a while to get into the story so if you’re about to start reading Gone, don’t be like me and give up on page 20 because you’ll be missing out on a fantastic read.

First line: ‘One minute the teacher was talking about the civil war.’

Read if you liked...: Lord of the Flies – Willian Golding, Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Friday, 15 October 2010

Reading Challenge!

So a couple of days ago I rearranged my bookshelves into some kind of order and realised my TBR pile is ridiculous. Literally, ridiculous. So I've formed a plan of action and am setting myself a big fat reading challenge to last between now and the end of the year. We've got about ten weeks left of 2010 so I'm going to try and read as many books as I can from my TBR pile between now and December 31st.

The lists below are the books I want to read, books I need to finish reading and books I've already finished and need to review. Every book I read will be reviewed up on the blog. Each week I'm going to come back to this post and cross off the books I've read. Hopefully I'll manage to keep on track so come the New Year my TBR pile will be a bit more manageable!

Key: Italics mean the book has now been read. Bold means the book has now been read and reviewed on the blog.

Wish me luck :)!

To Read:

1. Hunger - Michael Grant
2. Lies - Michael Grant
3. Masquerade - Melissa de la Cruz
4. Revelations - Melissa de la Cruz
5. The Ask and the Answer - Patrick Ness
6. Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness
7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Book 2 - Jeff Kinney
8. Diary of a Wimpy Kiod: Book 3 - Jeff Kinney
9. Split by a Kiss - Luisa Plaja
10. Swapped by a Kiss - Luisa Plaja
11. Pretties - Scott Westerfeld
12. Specials - Scott Westerfeld
13. Extras - Scott Westerfeld
14. Raised By Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes
15. Dear Dylan - Siobhan Curham
16. Crash Test Love - Ted Michael
17. The Heroic Life of Al Capsella - J. Clarke
18. Beads, Boys and Bangles - Sophia Bennett
19. Numbers - Rachel Ward
20. Numbers 2 - Rachel Ward
21. Give, 16: Five-Star Fiasco - Sue Limb
22. The Other Girl - Sarah Miller
23. Emma and the Vampires - Wayne Josephson
24. Almost True - Keren David
25. That's Life, Samara Brooks - Daniel Ehrenhaft
26. The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin - Josh Berk
27. Never Slow Dance with a Zombie - E. Van Lowe
28. Move - Conor Kostick
29. Zoo City - Lauren Beukes
30. My Worst Best Friend - Dyan Sheldon
31. Outside In - Chrissie Keighery
32. Candor - Pam Bachorz
33. Crushed - Meredith Costain
34. Vegan Virgin Valentine - Carolyn Mackler
35. All we Know of Love - Nora Baskin
36. The Dark Divine - Bree Despain
37. Vibes - Amy Kathleen Ryan
38. You Against Me - Jenny Downham
39. Mistress of the Storm - Melanie Welsh
40. The Dead - Charlie Higson
41. Cherry Crush - Cathy Cassidy
42. Infinite Days - Rebecca Maizel
43. Jekel Loves Hyde - Beth Fantaskey
44. Zen and Xander Undone - Amy Kathleen Ryan
45. Hate List - Jennifer Brown
46. My Love Lies Bleeding - Alyxandra Harvey
47. Blood Feud - Alyxandra Harvey
48. Out for Blood - Alyxandra Harvey
49. Airhead - Meg Cabot
50. Being Nikki - Meg Cabot
51. Runaway - Meg Cabot
52. The Mediator - Meg Cabot
53. The Mediator: Book 2 - Meg Cabot
54. The Mediator: Book 3 - Meg Cabot
55. The Mediator: Book 4 - Meg Cabot
56. Sin Tropez - Aita Ighodaro
57. Reckless - Cornielia Funke
58. Accomplice - Eireann Corrigan

To Finish Reading:

1. Concrete Operational - Richard Galbraith
2. The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
3. Half Brother - Kenneth Oppel

Already Read/Need to Review:

1. Linger - Maggie Stiefvater
2. Scarred - Julia Hoban
3. Rules of Attraction - Simone Elkeles
4. Rich and Mad - William Nicholson
5. Gone - Michael Grant
6. Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots - Abby McDonald
7. When I Was Joe - Keren David
8. Rage: A Love Story - Julie Anne Peters
9. Noah Barleywater Runs Away - John Boyne
10. The Ring of Solomon - Jonathan Stroud
11. (Re)cycler - Lauren McLaughlin
12. Life on the Refrigerator Door - Alice Kuipers
13. Air Kisses - Zoe Foster
14. Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
15. Boys Don't Cry - Malorie Blackman
16. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk - David Sedaris

Total: 77

Read: 39/77
Read and reviewed: 8/77

Left to read: 30/77

*Updated 21/11/10*

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Review: Torment - Lauren Kate

Published: September 30th 2010, Delacorte Press
Bold
Pages: 401 pages, paperback

Acquired: Sent for review by Random House

Summary (from Goodreads): How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her.

At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives. Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything.

What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else?

What I liked: So firstly I have to just say that the thing I love most about Torment is the stunning cover – yes, yes, story and characters and plot are important and luckily they’re fantastic too but I literally couldn’t stop staring at this cover when I first received an ARC of Torment. Beautiful. I can’t wait to see the cover of the next installment.

Luce and co are back in Torment but this time we’ve moved from Sword & Cross to a new school, where Daniel believes she will be safe from the Shadows that have always followed her. At her new school Luce makes some new Nephilim friends, Nephilim being the children of fallen angel and human parents.

The friends Luce makes really help drive the novel forwards, just as her old friends did in Fallen, Francesca and Miles are my two particular favourites – especially Miles J. Luce comes into her own in Torment, proving that she can be both endearing and funny, as well as being so much stronger than I ever gave her credit for in Fallen.

Lauren Kate is the queen of romantic prose and she’s back and better than ever in Torment – some of her descriptive passages are so beautiful I had to read them over and over again. I’d love to quote some here so I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet.

What I didn’t like: Well, fangirls go ahead and shoot me but I’m still not crazy about Daniel, even after his epic declarations of love throughout Torment. There’s just something that doesn’t sit quite right with me – and I think Luce should be with somebody else. There’s Cam, there’s Miles... I just feel that if she was one of my friends, I’d shake her a little bit and encourage her to look outside the Daniel-shaped box she’s fixated on.

First line: ‘Daniel stared out at the bay.’

Read if you liked...: Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Review: Mini Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella

Published: September 21st 2010, Bantam Press

Pages: Paperback, 396 pages

Acquired: Sent for review by Bantam Press

Summary (from Goodreads): Nothing comes between Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) and her bargains. Neither act of God nor budget crunch can shatter her dreams of wall-to-wall Prada. Every milestone in her well-shopped life (travel, long-lost sister, marriage, pregnancy) inspires new vistas to explore in the name of retail therapy. But now she faces her greatest little challenge yet: Becky’s two-year-old daughter, Minnie. While motherhood has been everything Becky dreamed it would be—Baby Dior, Little Marc Jacobs, and Dolce & Gabbana for toddlers—adorable Minnie is wreaking havoc everywhere she goes, from Harrods to her own christening. Her favorite word is “MINE!” and her penchant for Balenciaga bags, Chanel sunglasses, and online purchases has no rival under age five. Becky is at her wits end. On top of this, she and her husband Luke are still living with her parents. Thankfully it appears house buying attempt number four is a go! Until a huge financial crisis causes panic everywhere, and nobody wants to shop—not Becky’s personal shopping clientele, not her friends, nobody. And with Luke in the doldrums, it’s time for Becky to step in—with a party: A surprise birthday party for Luke (on a budget) is the perfect antidote to everyone’s woes. At first. Will Becky manage to keep the party of the year a surprise? Can she hire jugglers, fire-eaters, and acrobats at a discount? Will enlisting the help of Luke’s unflappable assistant to convince him to have another baby realize her dream of matching pom-poms? Will Minnie find a new outlet for her energetic and spirited nature (perhaps one with sixty percent markdowns)? She is, after all, a chip off the old shopping block. And everyone knows a committed shopper always finds a way.

My review: So, who doesn’t love Becky Bloomwood (well, Brandon)? I started reading the Shopaholic series many moons ago and I still can’t resist picking up each new installment. I stopped reading Chick Lit a while ago but the Shopaholic series is the one set of books I can’t seem to shake.

Becky’s back in Mini Shopaholic and this time she’s got her daughter Minnie in tow. Completely adorable and wonderfully written, Minnie is a great addition to the Brandon clan – unfortunately, she’s picked up her mother’s bad habits and has already formed quite an affinity for shopping. Poor Luke – now he has two Bloomwood girls to support.

Becky is as likeable and entertaining as ever and, although she’s definitely improved since the first book, her Achilles heel of shopping is still alive and kicking. There’s plenty to keep you interested in Mini Shopaholic and the added dimension of Minnie is a welcome one.


However, I think of the Shopaholic books as a pair of warm, comfy bed socks – they’re not exactly cutting edge but you wouldn’t trade them for anything. While Kinsella isn’t stretching any boundaries with this new novel, I still loved snuggling up in bed with my old friend Becky and hearing about her latest escapades. Keep them coming , please!
First line: ‘Dear Mrs Brandon, we were delighted to meet you and Minnie yesterday.’

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Monday, 11 October 2010

New Releases: October 11-17th

So it's quite an exciting week for book releases! Beautiful Darkness and Enchanting Ivy are two I'm definitely really looking forward to. I've just started Beautiful Darkness and I absolutely adore it so far - look out for the review coming soon.

So, in no particular order, here are the details on four of this week's new releases - feast your eyes people!

Meanicures by Catherine Clark


Published: October 12th 2010
Publisher: Egmont USA

Summary (from Goodreads): When three best friends get together, the first thing they talk about these days is always the mean girls in their lives. They decide to banish their enemies by holding a ceremony and burning slips of paper with the mean girls' names on them.

But soon afterwards, they discover themselves becoming mean, and they must find a way--with a little help from the owner of their local beauty shop--to reverse the ceremony and revert to the sweet (mostly), kind (if slightly imperfect) personalities. Catherine Clark's first middle-grade novel is a humorous look at the mysterious--and wonderful--nature of friendship.

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst

Published: October 12th 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Summary (from Goodreads): What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.

When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.

The Second Base Club – Greg Trine


Published: October 12th 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co

Summary (from Goodreads): Elroy’s got one thing on his mind: girls. In an effort to get to second base, he offers to tutor the hot new girl in math, forms a band with his two best friend (okay, so he gets a face full of tomato for his efforts) and joins the wrestling team.

He’s a little vague on the whole bases thing, but the jocks have a club dedicated to getting there with every girl they can. And now that he’s a jock (sort of), maybe Elroy will find out for himself what it means to be a member of the Second Base Club.



Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl


Published: October 12th 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown

Summary (from Goodreads): Ethan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.

Sometimes life-ending.

Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Review: Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

*Now, I HATE spoilers, I really really do but this review is FULL of them so I’m going to warn you before you even start – do not read this review unless you want to know the ending of Mockingjay and all the details in between! SPOILERS below!*

Published: August 24th 2010, Scholastic

Pages: Paperback, 455 pages

Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans -- except Katniss.


The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay -- no matter what the personal cost.

My review: Well, what a fantastic way to end The Hunger Games series! I’d heard so many mixed reviews about Mockingjay – it seemed to completely divide opinion but, personally, I think it was executed perfectly.

The pace of Mockingjay is completely different from the other two books in the series and, while we’re used to physical pain and drama in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, Katniss’ torment is much more psychological in this installment, which I think helps to make the book extremely powerful.

Everybody’s favourite characters are back (except Cinna – I believed right until the very end that he’d have been spared and would make a final appearance, sadly not) and although they don’t all make it – I think the deaths are an integral part of the story.

I love the way Collins is so matter of fact about the death and fighting in this book. In the previous two Katniss reacted a lot more to the deaths of her friends and the other tributes. However, in Mockingjay she takes it in her stride. We can see how far she’s come from the young girl stepping in for her sister in the first book. She’s hardened to the blood and gore of war and nothing will stop her reaching her goal – to kill President Snow.

Mockingjay feels like a boiling kettle – it starts off slowly simmering and we learn more about District 13 and the rebels’ plot to overthrow Snow. Then, in part two, the water begins to heat up and we see the training begin, the propos start to roll out and Peeta makes his grand return. Finally, in the relatively short final part, everything boils over in the explosive penultimate chapters and the vast majority of the action takes place within 10-20 pages.

I did feel a bit put out when Katniss woke up in the hospital after the parachutes went off and I realised we weren’t going to hear about the rest of the war – I thought we were in for at least another chapter or two of fighting but it all fell into place quite quickly and I’m glad Collins chose a different direction. It definitely kept me on my toes.

By far my favourite chapters were the last couple – I loved finding out what happened to Katniss and co after the rebellion was over and, although I was a bit gutted about Prim, I have to say the return of Buttercup made me cry my first tears of the book (though I was close to crying when Finnick met his demise). Sad, sad sad.

After Buttercup made me shed a few tears, they didn’t show any signs of stopping and I did weep continually until I’d finished, especially at the last line, which was a true stroke of genius. Although I never really saw the whole ‘love triangle’ element I was pleased Katniss and Peeta ended up together. For me, it was clear from the beginning who she would choose and I never felt as though there was anything other than a brother/sister relationship between her and Gale. Okay, maybe they kissed a couple of times but, as Katniss says herself, it was much more a pity kiss.

So this isn’t a proper review, I know. But as I said with The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, there are so many reviews out there this is more a collection of my thoughts about the story with no real structure. Let me know your thoughts! There’s so much to discuss about this one, I’d love to hear what you all though, especially if you didn’t enjoy it as much as the others.

First line: ‘I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.’

Final thoughts: A perfect way to end an unforgettable series. Spectacular.

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Kelly Oram: Being Jamie Baker

Hi everyone!

I’m here today to talk about Kelly Oram’s debut novel, ‘Being Jamie Baker’ and a contest she’s running on her blog.

Every week in November the lovely Kelly will be giving away a signed copy of her book and all you have to do to be entered is follow her blog/Twitter/Facebook/Goodreads. It’s all being chosen randomly so head over to Kelly’s blog now for more details.

Make sure you visit the official ‘Being Jamie Baker’ site as well for more info and some extra goodies! While you’re there you can check out the awesome book trailer for ‘Being Jamie Baker’ and click here to read the first chapter in full – after reading it myself I’m definitely excited about this one!

Summary (from Goodreads): "Most superhero stories start with a meteor shower or a nasty insect bite, but mine actually starts with a kiss..."

An accident that should end in tragedy instead gives seventeen-year-old Jamie Baker a slew of uncontrollable superhuman abilities.

To keep her secret safe Jamie socially exiles herself, earning the title of Rocklin High’s resident ice queen. But during a supercharged encounter with star quarterback Ryan Miller she literally kisses anonymity goodbye. Now the annoyingly irresistible Ryan will stop at nothing to melt the heart of the ice queen and find out what makes her so special.

Unfortunately, Ryan is not the only person on to her secret. Will Jamie learn to contain her unstable powers before being discovered by the media or turned into a government lab rat?

More importantly, can she throw Ryan Miller off her trail before falling in love with him?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours - Tynga's Reviews

So today as part of Everybody Needs Good Neighbours I have the lovely Tynga from Tynga's reviews. Click the name to visit her blog and any paranormal fans must stop by and visit!

*

What’s the story behind your blog name? Were you just looking for something standard that hadn’t already been taken or did you put a lot of thought into it?

Actually, I didn’t put much thought into it because I never thought so many people would end up on reading my blog lol. I’ve played World of Warcraft for about 5 years and Tynga was my character name. All of my online friend were using that name even in voice chat so it quickly became my official online name. That’s how Tynga’s Reviews was born! lol

Have you ever reviewed a book without actually reading it – be honest?

Never. And I don’t do speed reading either. I read for the fun of it, and my blog/my reviews is a way to share my excitement for a specific book with the world. I might not review as many books a week as some other bloggers, but I feel comfortable with how I do things at Tynga’s Review =)

What’s your favorite book of the year and the most disappointing book of the year so far and why?

Umm, that’s a rather tricky question. I wasn’t particularly disappointed by any books this year, but there are quite a few I loved! Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is in really close competition with Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead and Alpha by Rachel Vincent (which I had the chance to read earlier).

Are followers important to you? Are you always aware of how many you have and do you ever set goals of how many followers you’d like to have or are you more relaxed?

I check regularly how many followers I have, but it’s more out of curiosity. I have to admit when I was getting close to 1000 I was anxious to reach that huge milestone but I’m not one to campaign for followers. You don’t have to be a followers to enter my giveaways (unless it’s a follower giveaway, which makes sense right? Lol ) or anything. I’m just hoping that people following my blog do it because they want to =)

Do you write fiction yourself and, if so, what do you write and is it with the aim of being published or just for fun?

I once made a lame attempt at writing something but stopped after 20 pages or so because it was so bad lol. English isn’t my main language and writing reviews is already challenging enough, I’ll let the professional write the books and I’ll stick to reviewing them ^^

Are you one of these super organized people who writes their ahead of time and schedules them for the week or do you just post as and when you have time to write things?

I would say I sit in the middle. I’m an organization freak when I’m working on an event with authors. For example, when Abigail (from All Things Urban Fantasy) and I were working on the Paranormal Summer Fest (held in June 2010), we had tons of Docs, tables and schedules with all the information, we started contacting authors and publisher months before the event and everything was very organized. When it comes to regular day-to-day blogging, sometimes I have a week of posts set in advance, while other days I have absolutely nothing. I guess it depends what mood I’m in!

What’s your day job? Why do you do what you do? What’s your dream job?

I am a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease, surgery and transplant. What’s a lab tech you gonna ask me? Well we have a very wide range of expertise that runs from simple phlebotomy (gathering blood samples) to hematology (science that studies blood cells), biochemistry, bacteriology, DNA, Blood Bank, autopsies, and so much more. Pretty much any test, involving body fluid, a doctor asks for, is executed by a lab technician.

Is blogging something you share with real life friends or is it something you keep private?

My friends and family knows I am blogging, but none of them visit my blog mostly because they don’t speak English.

What kind of covers appeal to you? Do you like subtle, unimposing covers or do you prefer them garish and glittery? What are a few of your favourite covers?

Umm, I don’t really look for specific elements in a cover, it’s all about they way I feel when I look at it. I’m really about the WOW factor, but it doesn’t mean the cover have to be flashy, if it makes any sense?

For example, I love Fallen by Lauren Kate’s cover, Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, Alpha by Rachel Vincent, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, the UK edition of Fire by Kristin Cashore. I think they are all different, but they all have something amazing!

What are your pet peeves about other book blogs? No naming names please (well, unless you want to!) but what are the little things over bloggers do that really grate on you?

Is this the question where I put my foot and my mouth and other bloggers throw rocks at me? Lol One of my biggest pet peeve are the gazillion entries giveaways. I simply don’t enter them. You know, I don’t want to spend the next 30 mins entering your giveaway. Another thing is, while I love memes, it’s killing me when I log on Friday and that my reader is full of those Blog Hop and what’s the name of the other one? Anyway, I skip those all together. Sorry if you like em lol

Do you ever vlog? If so, what made you start doing it and do you prefer it to regular blogging?

I started doing vlog a few weeks ago for my In My Mailbox post. I decided to give it a try because I though it was a great way for my readers to get a good feeling of who Tynga really is and I got such an enthusiastic response that I now do it regularly =)

Have you met up with any other book review bloggers? If so, which blogs do they run and where/why did you meet up with them?

I haven’t yet mostly because I’m from Quebec, Canada and most bloggers are from the States, but I might meet with some Montreal bloggers soon for some book shopping!

Do you do your own graphics for you blog? If not, where do you get your backgrounds etc from? Are you good at HTML or do you find the whole thing a bit of a pain? (Me trying to configure the three column HTML is not a pretty sight)

I’m actually very HTML friendly, I’ve designed my whole blog and all graphics (except my background) I’ve made myself. I always loved playing with Photoshop and HTML coding even though I never took any classes.

Do you normally request books you want to review or do you wait to be approached? How long had you been blogging before you requested a book/were approached about reviewing a book?

I wasn’t very aware of the blogging « rules » when I started blogging and I tried to request copies way to early (which was about 2 months after I started). I managed to get one response back then, but the others all ignored me and I now know why ^^ You need to offer them a readingship so sending you a review copy is interesting for the publisher. So after being ignored like that, I worked very hard on my blog and didn’t request anything until a had something like 300 followers. As of now, I have built relationship with a few publisher from which I request copies and there are a few publicity companies contacting me regularly asking me to review X and Y book.

What are your other passions besides books?

I am a HUGE Hockey fan. I work 4 to midnight so I can’t always watch the games on TV but I always listen to them on the radio, and I try to go to a few games live each year. I also like Photography, I draw and paint a bit as well.

What exciting things do you have coming up on your blog we can look out for?

I am currently working with Angela from Dark Faery Tales on an event scheduled for December. I don’t want to give you details just yet, but it will involve 15 authors from the paranormal genre =)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Review: Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Published: 2009, Scholastic

Acquired: Sent to me by the lovely Nayuleska (click the name to visit her awesome blog)

Pages: 472 pages, paperback

Summary (from Goodreads): Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

My review: Yes, yes, I'm still behind, seeing as it's Catching Fire I'm reviewing rather than Mockingjay but I'm getting there! So, Katniss and co are back in the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy and I have to say Catching Fire blew me away, even after the brilliance of the first book. My standards for this book were so high but Collins' stunning writing and perfect story telling shine through once again – another winner.

So the majority of talk I've heard about this series definitely centres around the love rivalry between Peeta and Gale, with heroine Katniss at the centre. Though it seems to be all anyone can talk about on the Internet, I haven't really seen too much of the love triangle yet – I'm hoping we'll see a bit more of that in Mockingjay as I do love a bit of romance.

I was so pleased to see the second round of the games in Catching Fire. Honestly, the way Collins writes about the arena and the other tributes stuck with me long after I'd finished reading the book – it's absolutely mesmerising. The changes to the games and the arena in this novel were gladly received and I'm glad Collins changed things up – rather than resting on the already established rules laid out in the first book. It definitely helps to hold the reader's attention.

My only criticism comes with the book's ending. Not that I didn't like it because I did – it just seemed slightly rushed and it was easy to miss important details upon the first read. I had to go back and reread the last few chapters to understand exactly what had happened. It seemed to flash by so fast that I'd reached the end of the novel without really knowing how we'd reached that point. Once I'd gone back and reread the ending, though, everything fell perfectly into place and I'm excited about diving in with Mockingjay!

First line: 'I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Guest Post: Kim Culbertson - Songs for a Teenage Nomad

Hi everyone! As promised here's the guest post from the lovely Kim Culbertson, about how music plays a role in her writing. She's the author of Songs for a Teenage Nomad, which I reviewed yesterday. If you're a music fan make sure you check it out!



Music reminds me.

When I hear OMD’s “If You Leave” suddenly I’m back at that eighth grade dance - the one where the brown-eyed boy asked me to dance, the one where I wore the lime green Bongo mini-skirt (I’m noticing these skirts seem to be making their way back from the eighties all of a sudden!). Or if it’s Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” I’m back in my high school gym, gearing up for another basketball game, my shoes squeaking on the slick gym floor. Or if it’s the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes,” I’m at a college party, awkwardly making my way through the throng of bodies in the dim living room of someone’s off-campus house. Or Jack Johnson’s On and On CD – then I’m holding my tiny daughter in my arms six years ago, rocking her in a slant of afternoon light.

Music reminds me.

Music reminding me became the basis for Calle’s story in my novel Songs for a Teenage Nomad. Some people collect baseball cards or stamps or stickers – Calle collects songs. They remind her. She has been in 14 schools in eight years and 12 different cities. Music is her constant. It’s the roadmap of her past.

I think we all have a soundtrack, that personal playlist that accumulates as we go through life. And it lets us remember in a visceral, immediate way.

I love to listen to music when I write and I tend to lean on two sources: Pandora and my dear friend Kirsten. With Pandora, I have all my favorites: Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan, Ingrid Michaelson, Ben Lee, Counting Crows, Jack Johnson, Paul Simon, Joshua Radin, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, to name a few. I’m a singer-songwriter type of girl.

My friend Kirsten gives me a new mix every few months, usually indie stuff that she finds and compiles for me and I just listen over and over and over. Sometimes, I hear stuff that inspires me, a tune or a line or a theme. Mostly, though, I just like the way it moves through me while I write, the way it provides a gentle pulse. Now, I have songs that I hear, and I remember my fingers flying across the keys as I typed away on a book.

That’s the great thing about music. It always reminds me.

*

Thanks Kim! Now, what do you guys think about music in books and, if you write yourselves, do you listen to music when you write? What kind of thing do you listen to?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad - Kim Culbertson

Published: September 2010, Sourcebooks

Acquired: Sent for review by Sourcebooks

Pages: 240 pages, paperback

Summary (from Goodreads): After living in twelve places in eight years with her drifting mother, fourteen-year-old Calle Smith finds herself in Andreas Bay, California, at the start of ninth grade. Fearful of putting down roots anywhere, but armed with her song journal, she moves to her own sound track through a world that bounces her between the school drama crowd, a mysterious loner, and an unlikely boy who will become her first love. But it's the troubling truth she uncovers about her father that forces Calle to face the toughest choice of her young life.

My review: I've always been interested in the link between music and writing. It's something I spent quite a lot of time looking into at university and it still fascinates me now. Some writers are so inspired by music that they simply couldn't write without it, others have to write in complete silence and find music distracting.

Kim Culbertson, author of Songs for a Teenage Nomad, is one of those writers who clearly loves music and is so inspired by it that songs have managed to wind their way into the very essence of this novel. Not that I'm complaining mind. I adore music and, thus, was extremely excited about this book.

I know a lot of people advise never naming songs or musicians in novels, as it can date a book but the choice of songs and artists in this novel definitely doesn't do this. We have Dylan, Phish and Sarah McLachlan all featured seamlessly alongside Everclear, Avril Lavigne and They Might be Giants. For me, the choice of music is great. All of the songs Culbertson chooses have that wonderful ability to transport the reader to a certain moment, a certain emotion, that really helps us live the story alongside Calle.

Songs for a Teenage Nomad is an interesting book, to say the least. There's the musical element for starters, then the story itself. Calle has been moved around from city to city every since she was born and her song journal is the only real constant in her life. She tries to avoid making friends in each new place she settles, knowing it won't be long before she and her mother are on the move again. However, with this latest move Calle can't help but be drawn in by a certain boy and that is where the excitement begins.

The only negatives here is that, while the story is strong and the characters well developed, the inclusion of so many songs feels a little gimmicky at times and does threaten to overshadow the rest of the book. I feel a lot of people picking up this book will be doing so because of the musical element, rather than feeling drawn in by the premise. I'm not 100% if this is a bad thing or not, as it does help the book to stand out but I do wonder if I'd have picked up this book, had it been the same story without the inclusion of the music.

First line: 'Inside my dreams sit a song, way back in the shadows.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

*Check back tomorrow for Kim Culberton's guest post about how she uses music in her writing*