Thursday, 31 March 2011

Review: Click Here - Denise Vega

Published: April 2006, Little, Brown
Pages: 211 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the first installment
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Imagine if all your personal thoughts about crushes, fears, enemies, and even kissing practice ended up on the internet for everyone to read! That's what happens to Erin Swift when her secret blog lands on the school Web site. As if navigating the treacherous waters of seventh grade weren't enough!

Writing with warm, knowing humour, first-time novelist Denise Vega perfectly captures life from a seventh grade girl's point of view.

My review: So I mentioned in my review of Undiscovered Gyrl that I was hoping to read more books that centred about blogs - that reminded me that I still needed to review Click Here, which I actually read a little while ago. While Click Here does centre around a blog, it's probably the polar opposite to the dirty, edgy story of Undiscovered Gyrl. Click Here is a story as sweet and innocent as they come and I did really enjoy it.

It's a middle grade novel, so a little younger than I usually read but it was well written and I was impressed with Vega's characterisation of Erin and her classmates, who were all really well formed. Erin was a sweet protagonist and I really, really felt for her when the action kicks off in the last quarter of the novel - nightmare!

I wasn't so sure about Jilly, to be honest. We all had a friend like her when we were teenagers, a girl who is boy crazy and will drop her friends in a second to get a milkshake with the boy she likes. Frustrating, to say the least. As Jilly gets more and more boy crazy and Erin gets more and more irritated... well, you can see where the tension comes from in Click Here. I loved that Vega tackled this issue because, while it's often talked about in middle grade fiction, I think it's particularly well handled here.

This is such a fun read and I know any young teenage girl would absolutely adore it. It's a great story about growing up and friendship - definitely recommended for younger teens.

First line: 'This is the totally secret and private home page of Erin Penelope Swift.'

Read if you liked…: Cherry Crush - Cathy Cassidy

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

Alternative cover:

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Review: Mouthing the Words - Camilla Gibb

Published: 2002, Vintage
Pages: 238 pages, paperback
Series?: No, standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): By turns harrowing and hilarious, Thelma's story follows her bumpy progress from the rural English village of Little Slaughter to Canada to a law degree at Oxford. Along the way she encounters many potential parents and even makes some friends, but it is with the companions of her fertile imagination - with the scaredy-baby Janawee, moody and timid Ginniger, and big, strong, stoic Heroin - that Thelma escapes, and at the same time complicates, her life's crueler realities.

The shadows they cast cannot dull Thelma's humor or spirit, however. Nor do they diminish the deft wit and breathtaking powers of observation that distinguish this debut of a new literary talent.


My review: For me, Mouthing the Words read like a gloriously British version of The Bell Jar, which is one of my all time favourites so that's high praise, trust me. While Gibb's debut novel won't necessarily leave you with a smile on your face I can promise you'll feel as though you've been on Thelma's journey alongside her and what a journey it is. She has a strained relationship with her parents, to say the least, and struggles to fit in, wherever she is.

A lot of controversial issues are dealt with in Mouthing the Words and at first I was worried it was going to be a little heavy going but it does maintain a sense of humour and a lightness that I wasn't expecting. There's a frankness about Thelma that I really warmed to and it's impossible not to like her, though she is a complex personality.

Mouthing the Words is a quick read, easily manageable in a single sitting and I think it's probably best read that way - Thelma's narrative is so engaging that it's difficult to turn away from this one, especially once Thelma returns to England and begins her studies at Oxford. For me, that's where the book really picked up the pace and drew me in. The other girls who live with Thelma are brilliant, unforgettable characters and I'd love to see a film adaptation of Mouthing the Words, just to see them brought to life.

The story is written in the first person present, which is not something I've seen done particularly well, on the whole. However, it suits Mouthing the Words perfectly and I was so impressed with Gibb's writing, which is subtle but beautiful at all times. It's really hard to believe that this is a debut novel - everything about it feels so accomplished, from the story to the realism of the characters. Just wonderful.

First line: 'This is where the man called our father comes from: he is sitting in a barn with his brothers Garreth and Timothy on a rainy April afternoon in the Cotswolds.'

Read if you liked…: Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen

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

Alternative covers:

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Review: My Soul to Save - Rachel Vincent

Published: February 18th 2011, Mira
Pages: 362 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the second installment. Book three (My Soul to Keep) is due out this April
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls for a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld — a consequence they can’t possibly understand. Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk...

My review: Earlier in the year I received the first installment in the Soul Screamers series and really enjoyed it. After the huge cliffhanger at the end of My Soul to Take I was really excited to read My Soul to Save and I know so many of you were too. This series has definitely made a big splash in the YA world and I can see why - the story is unique, the writing exciting and the romantic scenes are scorching.

My Soul to Save has a different tone to My Soul to Take and I wasn't quite as convinced by it, unfortunately. I did definitely enjoy this one but it was a little more action-based rather than driven by the plot, which is something I loved about the first book. My other quibble is that we didn't get to see the characters develop much beyond what we saw in My Soul to Take. I do like Kaylee and her relationship with Nash but I'd still like to get to know a little more about them both. For me they just came across a little lifeless.

Where I felt let down by Kaylee and Nash I really loved Addison - she's a new character who we're introduced to in chapter one and I think she's brilliant. I won't give away too much about her situation but it's certainly a difficult one - she becomes the centre of the story as Kaylee and Tod fight to save her. Exciting stuff!

While I did criticise the action earlier on in this review I have to admit it was really well written - the pace in the action scenes was perfect and Vincent's sentence structure is fantastic. I just wish Vincent had spent a little more time on the story in this installment as I don't think My Soul to Save quite lived up to the hype of the first book - I am still keen to read the third book in the series to learn a little more about Kaylee and co.

If you've read this one let me know what you think - did you enjoy it more or less than My Soul to Take?

First line: 'Addison Page had the world at her feet.'

Read if you liked…: Paranormalcy - Kiersten White

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

Alternative covers:


Monday, 28 March 2011

Review: Firelight - Sophie Jordan

Published: March 3rd 2011, Oxford
Pages: 270 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, Vanish is due out later this year
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.


My review: Firelight is the first in a new paranormal YA series that I promise will grip you from the outset. The opening scene of Firelight is memorable (to say the least) and the ending will leave you desperate for more. Vanish, the second in the series, comes out later this year and I guarantee leagues of paranormal fans will be counting down the days to find out what happens to Jacinda and co.

Something I found interesting about Firelight is that I didn't particularly bond with any of the characters - none of them are very likeable and all are very much flawed, though that's what I think helps to make them realistic. It was difficult at times to feel invested in a story where I didn't care for the characters but the writing was so beautiful I couldn't stop reading.

The pride dynamic in Firelight was fascinating to read about and I loved learning more about the relationships between different characters - especially twin sisters, Jacina and Tamra. Now, I think Tamra gets a lot of bad press in numerous reviews I've read of Firelight but something about her charmed me. Sure, she's certainly not the most likeable girl by any stretch of the imagination but, for me, she was one of the most realistic characters in the story.

My only real problem with Firelight is that I just felt it was more of the same. I think the paranormal market is so overly saturated at the moment that nothing feels like a fresh story any more. Whether it's werewolves, vampires, fairies or, in this case, dragons - from page one I can guess pretty much the entire story, which is a shame as I like being shocked. The only real surprise in Firelight was the ending, which I have to admit I didn't see coming at all.

If you're already a paranormal fan I'm sure you'll really love Firelight and if not, well, I'm not convinced that it will rock your world, though it is an interesting and well-written read.

First line: 'Gazing out at the quiet lake, I know the risk is worth it.'

Read if you liked…: Claire de Lune - Christine Johnson

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

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Review: Undiscovered Gyrl - Allison Burnett

Published: August 11th 2009, Vintage
Pages: 293 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely. Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion.

Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor.


Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie's fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.


Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humour, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit


My review:
I bought Undiscovered Gyrl in Florida a couple of years ago and I'm still not sure what it was that drew me to it. The spine isn't particularly noticeable but something made me pick it up and I'm so, so glad I did. It's an absolutely fantastic novel that I adored reading - there aren't many reviews out there for it but that definitely needs to change. If you enjoy contemporary YA and aren't afraid of the controversial then you need this novel in your life.

The story's described as a modern version of Lolita and I think that's a fair comparison. After deferring from university, Katie decides to spend a year 'finding herself' and keeping a blog to detail how she spends her year. While most YA novels of this type would see the protagonist meet a nice Indie boy and have an epiphany about 'who they really are', Katie's main priorities are to party and have sex with a middle aged college professer. Awesome.

I know we're supposed to be politically correct these days but I can't resist novels like this. Katie drinks, smokes, has reckless sex and swears like a trooper but I couldn't help but warm to her. She's such an interesting character on so many levels - we all have a friend like Katie, beautiful and wild but sweet with it.

It really interesting to read a book written as a blog as I haven't come across one before. Katie reacts to her followers and responds to her comments - I loved the style and I'm keen to check out more books written in blog form, especially as a blogger myself! Katie's narrative is engaging and the pace doesn't let up - this girl leads one interesting life, that's for sure.

Undiscovered Gyrl isn't one for you if you're easily offended but if you like your YA with a bit of spice then definitely pick this up - it's brilliant. Oh, and the ending will completely BLOW YOUR MIND (that's all I'm saying). Weeks after finishing the story I'm still pondering it! Really, really highly recommended.

First line: 'Last April when I decided to defer college for a year my friends said I was insane, but I'm not.'

Read if you liked…: Girl - Blake Nelson

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 18/20

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Review: Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance - Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin

Published: March 7th 2011, Bloomsbury
Pages: 229 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by Bloomsbury

Summary (from Goodreads): Teen TV celebrities Jenna and Jonah make more money in a month than most people do in a lifetime. They can't stand to be in the same room as each other, but to boost the TV ratings their agents make them a 'real life' couple. Then the deception is uncovered by the paparazzi, and Charlie and Fielding have to disappear to weather the media storm.

My review: So I was instantly excited about Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance. The cover, the synopsis, the title - everything just screamed out to me that this would be a chilled out, fun read that I was sure to enjoy. And I did enjoy it, maybe not quite as much as I initially thought I would but this is definitely a story worth checking out.

Jenna and Jonah are interchangeable with pretty much any teen TV star out there at the moment (my initial thoughts were Miley Cyrus and Zac Efron) and it was definitely a nice change to read about fictional teenage celebrities who aren't basking in the warm glow of the limelight. Both Jenna and Jonah are begining to tire of their squeaky clean image and TV show contracts that forbid to do everything from go to Disney World to eat chocolate ice cream. Their agents and managers have persuaded them to act like a real life couple and so that's what they've been doing for the last few years but the cracks are beginning to show.

I do think a slight problem I had with this one is that I could absolutely guarantee exactly what the ending would be after reading the first couple of pages. There are no surprises here, no twists or turns and no complicated sub plots, which is fine if you're looking for a simple, easy read.

My other issue is that the second half(-ish) of the book centres around the two of them performing a Shakespeare play. That's all well and good, I love Shakespeare but I think a lot of the story is pinned on the reader already having a background knowledge of this particular play. It is a popular play but I'm sure a lot of readers won't have read it and I do think this could present a few problems. I think a few jokes or references may be lost so I don't think it was a wise decision to put so much emphasis on Jenna and Jonah's story being mirrored by the characters they are portraying.

That said, the story ticks along at a nice pace and it is a quick read - I finished it in a couple of sittings. Jenna and Jonah were relatively well fleshed out and I did like hearing about them and their lives, rather than the characters they portray on TV. However, I would have liked to have known a bit more about Jenna's history with her family, as this is touched on but then never mentioned again, which I found a little disappointing.

If you're a fan of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (etc etc) then I'd recommend this one for you - it's not quite as good, in my opinion but definitely worth a read. I'm not sure this book will bring any new fans to the genre but still, I liked it.

First line: 'I will never like a boy like Fielding Withers (and, yes, I know I used the work "like" twice in one sentence, but meaning different things).'

Read if you liked…: Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

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

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Review: Pink - Lili Wilkinson

Published: August 1st 2009, Allen & Unwin
Pages: 288 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): "The pink jumper was practically glowing in my grey bedroom. It was like a tiny bit of Dorothy's Oz in boring old black-and-white Kansas. Pink was for girls."

Ava Simpson is trying on a whole new image. Stripping the black dye from her hair, she heads off to the Billy Hughes School for Academic Excellence, leaving her uber-cool girlfriend, Chloe, behind.


Ava is quickly taken under the wing of perky, popular Alexis who insists that: a) she's a perfect match for handsome Ethan; and b) she absolutely must audition for the school musical.


But while she's busy trying to fit in -- with Chloe, with Alexis and her Pastel friends, even with the misfits in the stage crew -- Ava fails to notice that her shiny reinvented life is far more fragile than she imagined.

My review: A novel like Pink is my absolute favourite kind - a standalone contemporary YA that's a little bit edgy. Brilliant. Before I started reading it I did think it would be a little fluffy and cutesy for me but I had it all wrong. Pink is a tough talking coming of age story that centres around Ava - a girl who has already come out and was never confused about her sexuality, until now, that is.

Determined to start finally being herself and living the life she always fantasised about, Ava convinces her parents to let her attend the prestigious private school, Billy Hughes. Once she gets there she's befriended by perfect, perky Alexis and the rest of the Pastels but things still don't feel quite right. Wherever she is, Alexis never feels like she really fits in - she sees a little bit of herself in Chloe (dressed all in black with a sarcastic comment to mark every occasion), the Pastels and even the stage crew freaks she ends up bundled together with when her school musical audition doesn't go quite to plan.

I think every one of us has felt like Ava at some point - like you don't really fit in, like you don't know who you really are, like you're afraid to be truly yourself. It's such a huge part of growing up and something often written about in YA fiction but rarely as well as it's written about in Pink. This book was such a huge surprise for me - I thought I'd enjoy it but then it would just sit and gather dust on my bookshelf and I'd forget all about it. I absolutely fell in love with the story from page one and am still talking about to anyone who'll listen two weeks later. Brilliant.

Okay so stereotyping is bad etc etc but Wilkinson writes the archetypal social groups of high school perfectly. We have the Pastels, your run of the mill Mean Girls and the stage crew freaks who are the epitomy of geeks - but the best kind. Modern slang and colloquialisms are heavy throughout Pink, especially when it comes to the stage crew freaks (I don't think I've ever seen so many 'fail' references in one place) and it really comes across how well Wilkinson knows her target audience.

Each characters has clearly been lovingly developed and although we're introduced to a lot of different sudents very quickly, I didn't get them mixed up at all (well, maybe with some of the B-list Pastels but that's the point really, isn't it?). I have to say that Dennis was definitely my favourite character, I just wanted to give him a big hug and ruffle his hair.

I'm pretty sure that any fans of contemporary YA will love Pink and I'd happily recommend it to anyone. It's a relatively quick read at a little under 300 pages so give it a whirl!

First line: '"You're leaving?"'

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Review: Matched - Ally Condie

Published: December 2nd 2010, Puffin
Pages: 366 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, the second installment (Crossed) is due out at the end of 2011
Acquired: Through UK Book Tours and a review copy sent from Puffin

Summary (from Goodreads): Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

My review: Now I know that dystopian YA is beginning to saturate the YA market and I have to admit that my interest in the genre is beginning to wane, simply because I've read so many similar stories lately. While Matched is a great read (and was one of the earlier dystopian novels I read - apologies for the delay with this review) I don't think it's quite up there with Delirium and The Hunger Games (to name a couple of my favourites).

Initially Cassia did grate on me slightly - she seemed a little one dimensional but it quickly became clear there was a lot more to her than I first thought. Once Cassia realised she had been lied to by the society and that free will exists things really got interesting. Her character flourished as the story unwound and I can't wait to see the rest of her journey unfold across the next books in the series.

As you may well have been able to predict from the summary of the book there is a love triangle in Matched. Of course there is - it's becoming a YA standard, isn't it? Is it something I like? No, not really. It just always seems so obvious who the heroine is going to choose from the outset that there's no tension - I should point out that's obviously not the case in all YA (Unearthly springs to mind as a great example) and although I know who I think Cassia should be with, I'm not convinced that's the way things are going to pan out.

Matched did make me sit back and think about the situation the characters are in - I can't even imagine how it would feel to make no choices of my own; to have my husband picked for me, my job, the number of kids I'll have. Awful. I was so glad when Cassia began to question things and make her own decisions - girl power, hooray!

The first few chapters of Matched are really brilliant and I became absolutely absorbed in Cassia's world. The Matching Banquet scene is so well written, I fell in love with Condie's writing. Her prose is lyrical and beautiful - great stuff. However, I did think the story lagged a little in the middle and I think a couple of chapters could have been cut out to really make the story the best it could be. The action did pick up again towards the end of the novel and I did really like the ending - a great set up for Crossed, which I'll definitely be checking out.

Matched is a good book but it's not one I'd choose above other YA dytopian out there - the romance is heavy and it was just a little fluffy for me. If you like your love triangles though I'm sure you'll love this one. It's definitely worth a read but it's not one that you necessarily need to bump up to the top of your TBR list.

First line: 'Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night?'

Read if you liked…: Delirium - Lauren Oliver, Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

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

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Review: The Toymaker - Jeremy De Quidt

Published: January 1st 2010, Random House
Series?: No, this one’s a standalone (hurrah!)
Acquired: Picked up at the Random House Blogger Brunch

Summary (from Goodreads): What good is a toy that will wind down? What if you could put a heart in one? A real heart. One that beat and beat and didn't stop. What couldn't you do if you could make a toy like that?

From the moment Mathias becomes the owner of a mysterious piece of paper, he is in terrible danger. Entangled in devious plots and pursued by the sinister Doctor Leiter and his devilish toys, Mathias finds himself on a quest to uncover a deadly secret.

My review: The Toymaker has been sitting on my shelf for a few months now and, for whatever reason, I kept putting other books ahead of it on my TBR list. At a recent event another blogger told me The Toymaker was the scariest book she’d ever read and, for me, that decided it. I knew I had to check it out.

The Toymaker puzzled me, though I did really enjoy it. I wasn’t sure quite where it fitted into the marketplace – it’s marketed and listed as a book for children but there was some content that I definitely don’t think is suitable for kids. There are some elements of horror, yes, but I think they were perfectly written to shock and scare younger readers without going too far.

However, there was quite a lot of action and violence and I think some of this could be inappropriate for younger readers. Then again, the plot was quite linear and the characters a little simply developed so I don’t think this one would be too popular with older readers. I don’t know, I was just a little confused about who exactly the target audience is for the book.

I did found we were introduced to quite a few villains in The Toymaker who flitted in and out of the story so it did get a little confusing and none of them (apart from big baddie, Doctor Leiter) were really given much attention in terms of developing their character. I had a couple of issues with our heroes in the book as well – for me Koenig’s purpose just wasn’t made clear at all and I wish we could have learned a bit more about his backstory. Mathias and Katta, however, are both given a lot of attention and I felt like Katta was a great character. We got to hear a lot about her backstory and I grew to be really fond of her, especially once I learned about her accident.

One of the things I really liked about The Toymaker is that none of the characters are stereotypes. We have no absolute hero – Koenig is flawed, Katta certainly is and even Mathias has his problems. It was refreshing to read about realistic people – even if their situation was really extraordinary.

The Toymaker isn’t a happy story. There are no comedic elements and I doubt you’ll crack a smile from beginning to end. You won’t finish this book feeling uplifted (I felt a bit like I needed to scrub under my fingernails) but it will definitely have an impact on you. It stayed with me for a long time after reading and honestly, I think that’s the mark of a great story.

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

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cover reveal: Crossed - Ally Condie


So the cover for Crossed, the sequel to last year's release, Matched, has finally been released! What do you guys think of it? I think it's pretty, I'd probably be drawn to it if I saw it on display but I'm not blown away. I like the text and simplicity of the design but there's something about the model's pose I'm not crazy about. I don't know, I like it but I don't love it.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

In My Mailbox - 25

Hello all! Here’s my In My Mailbox for this week – I hope you all had a good book week and received lots of lovely book shaped packages. I haven't taken part in IMM for a couple of weeks so this is a selection of some of the brill books I've either received for review or bought myself.

In case you haven't taken part before, In My Mailbox is a weekly post hosted by Kristi who's over at the awesome blog, The Story Siren.

Over the last couple of weeks I received:


Blood on my Hands - Todd Strasser (received for review from Walker)
Long Reach - Peter Cocks (received for review from Walker)
Flip - Martyn Bedford (received for review from Walker)
Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough (received for review from Random House)
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer (received for review from Penguin)
Ondine - Ebony McKenna (received for review from Egmont)
The Fool's Girl - Celia Rees (received for review from Bloomsbury)
The Liar Society - Lisa and Laura Roecker (purchased myself)
Chime - Franny Billingsley (received for review from Bloomsbury)
The Shadowing: Hunted - Adam Slater (received for review from Egmont)
My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece - Annabel Pitcher (purchased myself)

Thanks so much to all of the brilliant publishers who have kindly sent me review copies over the last couple of weeks - you're all fab :).

Hope you all had a good week bookwise - let me know!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

News - Louise Rennison, Long Reach, a writing competition from Bloomsbury and some prize winners!

Hi everybody! It's the weekend, hooray. What are you all up to? I'm having a bit of a quiet one - spending today designing jewellery for Petite Boutique (my new company - more info on it soon) and heading out on Sunday to buy some one off vintage pieces, fingers crossed! Anyway, I've got a quite of lot of news to share today...

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Firstly, any aspiring writers out there take note, Bloomsbury are launching a writing competition that may just be your big break:

247tales.com
is an online writing competition from Bloomsbury that challenges young writers to create stories using only 247 words or less. Launched in 2009 the competition has proved very popular, with more stories being entered month on month. In 2010 there were over 100 entries each month showing there is a lot of potential in our young writers.

In 2011, the competition is back with a new look website, thrilling stories and inspiring topics. Each month a different Bloomsbury author will pen a 247tale on a given theme. It is then over to the UK’s budding young writers aged between 10 and 16 to create their own miniature masterpiece. One winner will be chosen each month and they will have their 247tale featured on the website as well winning a selection of books and a framed copy of their story. Ten runners-up will get a signed copy of the latest book from that month's featured author, and their story will appear in the 247Library section of the website.

The competition launches at 2:47pm on World Book Day (Thursday 3rd March) with a 247tale from new author Jim Carrington on the theme of The Money. Rules and details of how to enter are on the site - www.247tales.com. This year the site has been re-launched in a blog format to encourage entrants to comment on the work, talk about short stories and become part of a 247tales community.

Authors taking part in 2011 are Celia Rees, Angie Sage, Cathy MacPhail, Alyxandra Harvey, Irfan Master, B.R. Collins and Isobelle Carmody.

How exciting! Will any of you guys be entering? I say, go for it!

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How many of you are fans of Louise Rennison? I thought so. Is it even possible to grow up in the UK without reading her fantastic Georgia Nicholson series? I don't think so, it's like a rite of passage.

Louise is back a new series, ‘How to Make Any Twit Fall in Love With You’, which has been written especially written for World Book day will be published over ten days in ten installments (starting from March 3rd so head over the website and catch up!)

The series will see teen heroine Georgia Nicolson and her cousin Tallulah (of Withering Tights fame!) dive head into the fabbity fab world of boys and teenage mayhem once more.

Click here to read the series and let me know what you think - I'm loving it so far!

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I'm sure most of you have already heard of Long Reach by Peter Cocks because of all the brilliant reviews on the blogs but if not then it's definitely one that should be on your radar.

The Undercover team at Walker have hit the streets of London to give out 2000 limited edition copies of the book as part of the celebrations for World Book Day. Click here for more information and to see pictures from the event - I'm very jealous!

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Finally, over the last two weeks I've had two giveaways running for a signed copy of More Bloody Horowitz and a signed copy of The Lost Hero.

I've randomly selected a winner for each contest from the entries I received and I'm pleased to announced the winners are:

More Bloody Horowitz - Hannah from My Book Journey
The Lost Hero - Fiona H.

Congrats ladies!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Giveaway: The Hating Game - Talli Roland

Hi everybody! I'm here today with a giveaway for you all. The lovely Talli Roland has kindly offered a copy of her debut novel, The Hating Game, to one lucky entrant!

I read The Hating Game last year and loved it, click here to read my review. It's a brilliant story and such a fun read. In case you haven't heard about the book yet then check out the summary below.

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy.

After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £50,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes.

Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?


Click here to enter but do have a read of the rules first :).

Rules:

- This one is a UK only giveaway so I'm sorry to my international readers but I'll you another international giveaway soon, promise!

- The contest will run from today (11/3/11) until next Friday (18/3/11) and will close at midnight (London time)

- I'll email the winner to notify them so please make sure the email address you leave is correct

- If I don't receive a response from the winner in 72 hours I'll choose another winner

- Please check out the privacy policy at the top of the page if you have any concerns about Internet safety and data protection.

- Following is appreciated but not essential by any means

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Interview: Beth Revis (Across the Universe)


So today I have the brilliant Beth Revis here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her debut release, Across the Universe. It's a brilliant book and I really do recommend it - I adored it. Without further ado, on with the interview!


In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about Across the Universe?

Across the Universe is a muder mystery…in space! It’s about Amy, a girl from the near future who’s cryogenically frozen for a centuries-long space journey. When she’s woken up fifty years too early, though, she has to figure out who’s pulling the plug of the other frozens before someone unplugs—and kills—her parents.

Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?

What I’m doing on any given day depends 100% on what stage I’m at while writing. I just finished drafting the second book, so my days were filled with 10-hour writing marathons where I barely came up for air. Now that I’m done, though, I’m taking a break from writing to catch up on online things, update my website, work on promo material, etc. I definitely don’t do a write-a-certain-amount-per-day thing…that’s never worked for me, and I do much better in long, panicked, near-deadline marathons.

In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?

I think the most important thing is for the writer to have empathy. Not sympathy—empathy. We have to understand the good and the bad about any situation or person. If you can look at the emotions honestly and understand, if not sympathize, then you can create a character that will connect to readers.

Across the Universe is your first novel – can you describe how you felt in the moment when you first heard that it had been accepted for publication?

I was ridiculously ecstatic…and then I threw up. Which is not at all glamorous, but after writing for so long without success, when I finally heard that it had officially sold, I gave myself stress-induced gastroenteritis and wound up in the hospital!

Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?

I own an Entourage Edge, a “dual-screen” e-reader, that I use to critique manuscripts. I love that I can take a digital document and hand-write on it with the Edge. I’m also flirting heavily with purchasing an e-reader for fun reading, especially since I had a hard time packing enough books in my recent travels.

What sort of research did you have to do for Across the Universe, in terms of cryogenics and genetics? How did you go about doing this?

I basically figured out what I wanted—cryogenic freezing, for example—then did enough research to figure out why we don’t have that now. With cryogenics, we don’t have it yet because we’ve not figured out how to make cell walls not burst during the freezing process (think freezer burn). Then I just invented something to solve the problem—the “blue goo” Amy’s injected with before the freezing process.

You’ve received so much praise for Across the Universe as a whole but particularly for the first chapter (which is stunning, by the way). Did you set out to purposely write such a hard hitting opening chapter?

Nope! That was originally Chapter 4. But my crit readers (who I adore) kept saying how much they liked Chapter 4, and how nothing really happened in Chapter 1-3. So I cut the first three chapters and made that be my Chapter 1.

The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets Across the Universe apart from the pack?

I think because it is a true sci fi—set in space, on a space ship, in the far future. It’s not a dystopic Earth, which is common in YA sci fi. I hope that there’s more space YA sci fi in the future!

Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write?

I tend to listen to music that I don’t pay attention to—I will, for example, listen to the same song on repeat all day long while writing. I like the sound, but don’t want to be distracted by the music. For Across the Universe, I listened rather a lot to the namesake Beatles song, as well as “Fact/Fiction” by Mads Larger.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

Pantser! I’ve outlined before…but once I know how the story ends through the outline, I don’t care that much about writing the story, so outlines kill books for me. Now, I write completely blind. I have no idea how the story will end until I’m actually at the end!

I saw you have a Stephen King quote on your website so I take it you’re a fan. What’s your favourite one of his books and why?

Misery is one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read—I think it’s a combo of the utter psychosis of the antagonist and the utter helplessly of the protagonist. I also quite liked On Writing, which remains one of the few writing books I’ve bothered with.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Beth. Before you go, could you tell us what’s next for you?

I’ve just finished a round of edits on the second book of the Across the Universe trilogy entitled A MILLION SUNS. After that I’m writing the last book, entitled…. Well, I can’t tell you yet. But it’s got a great title, if I do say so myself! :D



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So, have any of you guys read Across the Universe, what did you think? I loved it and can't wait for A Million Suns. It was great to speak to Beth and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).

Review: Love in Mid Air - Kim Wright

Published: 2011, Allen and Unwin
Pages: 312 pages, paperback
Series?: No
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): A chance encounter with a stranger in an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly, Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the church.

As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find--and follow--her own path to happiness.

My review: I have to admit that when I received a copy of Love in Mid Air to review, I already thought I knew exactly what would happen. I thought it would be standard chick lit – beautiful but unconfident woman bumps into gorgeous, rich, successful man who falls head over heels for her and all’s well that ends well. However, what I got was something unexpected and something much more real.

Our heroine Elyse is trundling along with her life, seemingly happy but not really living to her full potential. She feels as though things are becoming stale between herself and her husband but does nothing about it until she meets a stranger on a plane who changes her life.

After spending years saying ‘no’ to any opportunity for excitement, Elyse begins to say ‘yes’ and embarks on a journey that will change her life forever. But will it be for the best or is Elyse chasing an unrealistic dream?

What I really enjoyed about Love in Mid Air is that it isn’t predictable and it isn’t as shiny and perfect as a lot of chick lit. Things don’t just fall into place for Elyse and she doesn’t get everything handed to her on a plate. There are some uncomfortable moments in the book (not just with Elyse but with all of the women involved) and it was a real change to read something that felt true to life.

I’ve been increasingly reluctant to read chick lit recently, purely based on the fact I was sick of reading unrealistic stories about perfect women who end up with perfect men without a care in the world. I’m pleased to say that Love in Mid Air is a real breath of fresh air (overuse of the word ‘air’ there, sorry) and the story is definitely so much more than the chick lit package of the book suggests.

First line: ‘I wasn’t meant to sit beside him.’

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

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

News: New Artemis Fowl covers!

I know I'm a few days late with this one but I've just had a look at the launch of the new covers of the Artemis Fowl series - wow, how exciting! The writer Eoin Colfer plus a horde of fans gathered in Picadilly Circus on March 4th to unveil the new covers on one of the huge bilboards! It's a brilliant video so do check it out and let me know what you think of the covers. Personally I think they're great. I love the old covers too but I think these will help win the series a new army of fans!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

News: Abandon - Meg Cabot

So Meg Cabot, overlord of YA fiction, has a new book coming out in April 2011 - Abandon. It's the first in a trilogy and sounds really fascinating, a little different from what she normally writes but I'm really excited about it.

I've got a trailer (below) to share with you all and for an exlusive sneak peak visit Meg's website - after reading the excerpt from the book I'm even more excited about Abandon's release. Yay for Meg Cabot. Will she ever released anything that isn't perfect? I doubt it.



Summary (from author's website): She knows what it's like to die. Now Death wants her back.

Seventeen-year-old Pierce knows what happens to us when we die.
That's how she met John Hayden, the mysterious stranger who's made returning to normal life—or at least life as Pierce knew it before the accident—next to impossible. Though she thought she escaped him—starting a new school in a whole new place—it turns out she was wrong. He finds her.

What does John want from her? Pierce thinks she knows... just like she knows he's no guardian angel, and his dark world isn't exactly heaven. But she can't stay away from him, either, especially since he's always there when she least expects it, but exactly when she needs him most.
But if she lets herself fall any further, she might find herself back in the place she fears the most.

And when Pierce discovers the shocking truth, that’s exactly where John sweeps her: The Underworld.

Character Interview: Tamra - Firelight


Hello everybody! Today I've got a character interview with Tamra from the fab Firelight by Sophie Jordan. I don't know about you guys but I definitely thought Tamra was one of the most interesting characters in the story so it was great to get a little insight into her personality beyond what we see in the book.

Without further ado, I'll hand over to Tamra:


1. Who would play you in a movie of your life?

Me? I never imagined such a thing. No one usually looks at me. I’m there, in the room, but they never see me... it would be nice for someone to play me that really stands out and shines (for a change). Maybe AnnaSophia Robb. She’s lovely, and there’s an energy about her that draws you in.

2. What theme song would you choose to describe your relationship with your sister, Jacinda?

Hmm, Dave Matthews’s Sisters.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years time? Ten years?

Hopefully, far away from the pride. I want to live in a city. I’ll be a college graduate. Maybe have a boyfriend, and later, a husband. I want a career. Something I’m good at ... something I can feel accomplished doing. That would be nice for a change. To be accomplished at something and for people to recognize that. A really nice change. Of course, I still want Jacinda in my life, too ... I just don’t know if that’s possible in this vision of my future.
4. What's the best thing about being a twin? How about the worst thing?

It was nice growing up and always having a sister that was my best friend, who knew me as well as I knew myself. Sometimes I think she knew me even better. Only when that closeness fades, when we drift apart for reasons neither one of us can control, it hurts. It hurts a lot.
5. What would you say to address claims that you can be manipulative and self centred? Is there any truth to the rumours or are you simply misunderstood?
I guess I’m self-centered. But aren’t we all? I want to follow my dreams like everyone else. Only for me to follow my dreams, means Jacinda can’t follow hers. I hate that, but what am I supposed to do? Quit on myself? Return to the pride where I’m invisible? Or worse than invisible. Where I’m worthless. Something broken and disgusting. Girls don’t want to be my friend. And boys don’t want me. Period. All I can say is: try taking a walk in my shoes and see how much you like it.

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Thanks for stopping by, Sophie! So, have any of you read Firelight? Has your opinion of Tamra changed at all after reading her answers?

Make sure you check out tomorrow's stop on the tour, where Sophie will be visiting Leanna over at Daisy Chain Book Reviews to discuss her dream movie cast!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Blog Tour: Detour 2 Death - J.R. Turner

I have to start by saying a HUGE sorry to J.R. Turner as I completely scheduled this stop for the wrong day - it's totally my fault so a big SORRY!

Anyway, I have the lovely J.R. Turner here today to celebrate the release of her new book, Detour 2 Death. The book's already received some fantastic reviews and I'm really excited about reading it for myself. There's also a competition to win an e-copy of the first book in the series, so leave a comment at the end of this post to be in with a chance of winning!

And now I'll hand over to our lovely guest author:


Thank you so very much for having me as a guest on your blog, Carly!

I’m excited to share that Detour 2 Death has now gone live in ebook at Omnilit: https://www.omnilit.com/product-detour2death-514754-241.html The coolest part of writing Detour 2 Death was playing with the different attitudes about life and death, the natural and the supernatural, and the mysteries of the human heart—Kaylee’s to be precise.

I didn’t intend to delve into the complexities of a relationship where abuse happens. Davey is such a great character, so loyal to Kaylee and her very best friend as they were growing up. Now that they’re getting older, that friendship is taking on a more romantic angle. When Kaylee enters Feverland, the place his coma has locked his primitive self, she finds a wildly moody version of Davey—one who reacts violently when angered.

So here I have this teenage girl I absolutely adore being abused by a hero I absolutely adore. The situation left me fearing what my fans would think. On the other hand, it read as real to me, the way our subconscious selves can be sort of primitive and highly emotional, but our conscious selves curb those instincts with logic, insight, compassion, and understanding. What would any of us be like if we were freed from the constraints of our waking minds?

In the end, Kaylee didn’t have to just battle three reapers and two versions of Davey to survive this novel, she had to battle the growing awareness of the nature of her love for her best friend, and the archangel who has taken a distinct interest in her—Raphael. These elements are gaining strength and will continue to grow over the course of the series.

Thanks so much for having me here, Carly, to share my series with your readers. I’d very much love to offer a free electronic download of the first book, DFF: Dead Friends Forever, to a reader selected from the comments.


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Summary: There are worse things than death, but not at Marsden Memorial hospital.

Kaylee Hensler knows her best friend Davey is on the brink of death. She knows this because she’s a psychic. When she flees the girl’s reformatory to get to him, she has no idea the special sort of hell waiting for her.


Reapers are collectors and they come in many forms. In Feverland, the world created by Davey’s sickness, the red reaper goes by the name of Molok, an ancient evil with deep roots. In Shadowland, the dark side of the hospital, a black reaper promises torture and torment to lost souls. The white reaper is the most fearsome, giving Kaylee three days before he collects both her and Davey’s souls.


Kaylee has one secret weapon, one she doesn’t fully understand. Her abilities will be tested, her loyalty betrayed, and her love misplaced. No one escapes Death.

J.R. Turner Bio: Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.jennifer-turner.com to learn more!

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So remember to leave a comment below this post to be in with a chance of winning a copy of Dead Friends Forever - do make sure you leave a way for me to contact you if you win!

Review: Low Red Moon - Ivy Devlin

Published: February 7th 2011, Bloomsbury
Pages: 244 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope!
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by Bloomsbury (also received a copy through Good Golly Miss Holly's blog tours)

Summary (from Goodreads): The only thing Avery Hood can remember about the night her parents died is that she saw silver—deadly silver, moving inhumanly fast. As much as she wants to remember who killed them, she can't, and there's nothing left to do but try to piece her life back together.

Then Avery meets the new boy in school—Ben, mysterious and beautiful, with whom she feels a connection like nothing she's ever experienced.

When Ben reveals he's a werewolf, Avery still trusts him—at first. Then she sees that sometimes his eyes flash inhuman silver. And she learns that she's not the only one who can't remember the night her parents died. Part murder mystery, part grief narrative, and part heart-stopping, headlong romance, Low Red Moon is a must-read for teen paranormal fans.

As breathless as Twilight and as spooky as Shiver, this is a book to be devoured in one sitting—by an acclaimed YA author making her paranormal debut under the pseudonym Ivy Devlin.

My review: Hooray! A paranormal standalone! Now, you all know I’m not the hugest paranormal romance fan in the world (understatement) but I was promised Low Red Moon is much more about plot and characters than it is about the sexy, stereotypical hero (who may or may not sparkle) and the heroine who falls for him. On that promise I decided to give this one a try and they were absolutely right.

Of course, romance is an integral part of almost any YA novel so it was present in Low Red Moon. Avery and Ben are instantly attracted to each other, which did have me sighing in a frustrated and ‘here we go again’ manner but there was something charming about their relationship that I found to be truer to life than a lot of paranormal romance pairings. Phew!

The murder mystery element of Low Red Moon is something I loved and I think it’s what makes the book so great – it’s not something commonly found in YA fiction so it was nice to see something a little different being explored.

Avery is a really great protagonist – I clicked with her immediately and really wanted her to find happiness. The sadness in her narrative when she talks about her parents is brilliantly written and I genuinely felt for her. Her inner monologues definitely help to give the book a certain depth which I really enjoyed.

Oh, also I have to stop and do a little squeal about the writer behind the pseudonym Ivy Devlin – eeeeeee! Exciting!

Anyway, back to business. The whole ‘As breathless as Twilight and as spooky as Shiver’ claim really grated on me. Generally I hate these comparisons anyway as they are so rarely correct and normally just leave me disappointed. To be honest, comparing a book to Twilight is enough to make me sling it across the room in a rage and, although I loved Shiver, I think the ‘spooky’ elements of Low Red Moon were much more developed. In fact, are there any ‘spooky’ moments in Shiver? I don’t recall anyway. Plus, ‘spooky’ is just a bad word to use to describe the chilling, unsettling moments in Low Red Moon. Rant over.

I really did enjoy Low Red Moon and it surprised me – a well written paranormal romance with a love story that didn’t leave me frustrated and angry, could it be? Though, when you look at who the writer is it isn’t really a surprise, is it?

First line: ‘I was covered in blood when the police found me.’

Read if you liked…: 13 to Life – Shannon Delany

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 16/20 (B+)

Alternative covers:

Sunday, 6 March 2011

My foray into the business world!

So as it's Sunday usually I would post an In My Mailbox right about now but instead I'm wanted to tell you a little bit about my exciting news (IMM will be back next week).

I'm starting a business!

Well, not on my own. Me and my boyfriend's sister have been talking about it for a little while so we've decided to go for it. We're going to be making jewellery, hair accessories, pillows/cushions and lots of other pretty little bits. I've been making my own jewellery for a while and I've always wanted to run my own business so it's all very exciting!

Yesterday we visited a local vintage fair and picked up loads of stock for one off vintage pieces and we're just in the process of drawing up some designs and ordering in some stock to get started with. We're hoping to launch Petite Boutique (that's our name!) in April-ish so keep your eyes peeled for more information!

We'll be selling from our own website, then feature pieces on Etsy/Folksy etc to get started. My lovely boyfriend is setting up our website and handling all the technical business, leaving us to get on with sticking roses and pearls on every available service.

So what with getting my novel ready to be sent off and starting up a business (along with holding down a day job, looking after the puppy and trying to maintain some sort of social life) I may not be posting as much as usual. Looking back over 2011 so far I've been posting twice or three times a day - there's no way I can keep that up so I'll be dropping back to 5-7 posts a week, hopefully that'll leave me more time for visiting on other blogs as well!

Anyway, I'll leave you wish a couple of pictures of the bits and bobs we picked up yesterday - fingers crossed it all goes well!




Saturday, 5 March 2011

So, I finished my novel

Well, some of you may have noticed that I scheduled this post to go up earlier but didn't actually write it so forgive the big 'TO DO' scrawled in the title earlier in the day!

Anyway, I finished my novel! Hooray! At long last I found a project I wanted to stick with and I'm so excited to finally be finished on something I genuinely believe in. I started writing The Seven Gates of Hell in November '10 for NaNoWriMo. I hit 50k after twenty six days but then put the novel aside for a little while to get fresh perspective on it. I picked it up again part way through February and last week finally wrapped things up. At the moment it stands at 63k but I know there's at least 10k I want to add in during the rewrites.

I won't say too much about the plot obviously but it's based slightly on an urban legend a friend told me a few years ago while I was at college. At the time I told him I'd write a novel about it one day but it wasn't until last year that I actually decided to write the story. It was a relatively painless experience to be honest and I definitely found it so much easier than other novels I've tried. I'm ridiculously excited to get cracking with the rewrites and get it ready to be sent off to agents!

I'm hoping to send it off around August/September-ish so fingers crossed I'll stay on track and have things ready for then - wish me luck and thanks so much for all of your support, it's really helped me stay motivated. You're all absolutely brilliant. BIG hugs.

xxx

Friday, 4 March 2011

Review: Mortlock - Jon Mayhew

Published: January 4th 2011, Bloomsbury
Pages: 375 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and nominated for the 2011 Branford Boase Award Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror meets Indiana Jones. Mortlock is macabre, darkly humorous, masterfully written and ... brilliant. A superlative adventure peppered with deadly thrills and traditional death rhymes

Summary (from the book itself): Josie is a knife thrower in a magician’s stage act. Alfie is an undertaker’s assistant. They are both orphans and they have never met, but they are about to be given a clue to the secret of their shared past. A past which has come to seek them out.

And while they flee for their lives, they must unravel the burning mysteries surrounding the legacy that threatens to consume them.


My review: Well, this book certainly starts with a bang! Mortlock will have you gripped from the outset and won’t let go until you’ve finishing scouring the final page. It’s a fast paced, high energy romp that is sure to delight both girls and boys who like real characters and great story telling.

The Goodreads summary that states the book is ‘Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror meets Indiana Jones’ is absolutely spot on – for once I agree with the comparison and it isn’t disappointing. This is definitely one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year and Mayhew is an absolute master at using sentence structure to increase the pace of the story – fantastic.

There is a lot of mystery involved in Mortlock and I loved finding clues and answers at the same time as the characters – I well and truly felt as though I was on the journey with them and it was great to see both Josie and Alfie grow as characters as the story progressed.

Mortlock is fantastically creepy and I loved it for that – it didn’t try to gloss over any of the unpleasant moments and I think a lot of readers (especially boys!) will really love this book. The cover is a brilliant representation of the story inside, particularly the Carrie-esque hand reaching up from the ground. I love the black edging of the pages as well – I’m a sucker for little details like that.

I will be honest and say I wasn’t 100% sure I would enjoy Mortlock before I started reading it but after the first scene (which is brilliant) I couldn’t put it down. It’s completely outside of my comfort zone (cheerleaders and pretty boys, please) but I’m now a huge fan of Jon Mayhew’s and am eagerly awaiting his future releases!

First line: ‘Sebastian Mortlock felt a wriggling invasion between his toes.’

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

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Cover Reveals: Supernaturally, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and Sweet Venom

So in the last few days there have been so many cover reveals so I thought I'd post three of my favourites up to share with you. I've got Kiersten White's Supernaturally cover, the UK cover of Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs. I'm really excited about all of these boo Let me know what you think!

Supernaturally - Kiersten White


Amy and Roger's Epic Detour - Morgan Matson


Sweet Venom - Tera Lynn Childs

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Personally I think all three are great but I think Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is my favourite - I love the US cover for this one too. Which one is your favourite? Do you prefer the US or UK cover of Amy and Roger's Epic Detour?

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Wither - Lauren DeStefano

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 'Wither' by Lauren DeStefano. Wow - this one sounds pretty intense, just take a look at the synopsis below if you haven't heard about it yet. I have really high hopes for 'Wither' so I hope it doesn't disappoint! Plus, check out the gorgeous cover.

Publication date: March 22nd 2011
Published by
: Simon & Schuster

Summary (from Goodreads): What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.


So what books can't you wait for? What's your pick this week?

Guest Post: Chris Priestley

So today's the day - I've got the fantastic Chris Priestley here today at Writing from the Tub as part of his blog tour for World Book Day. I'm an absolutely huge fan so this is so exciting for me - if you've never read any of Chris' amazing short story collections then you really do have to, I promise you'll love them!

Today Chris is talking about the appeal of the horror genre so without further ado, I'll hand over to the man himself.



'I have a suspicion that horror is one of the oldest genres in fiction. Just as I can imagine our hunter-gatherer forebears coming home and telling a funny story I can easily see, as night fell and the clan was gathered around the fire, that scary tales were told.

Horror has always been part of myth and religion. If religion is an attempt to make sense of the world, then maybe horror is an acceptance that we cannot know everything – that there will always be areas of impenetrable darkness.

Certainly folk tales and fairy stories often contained large doses of horror. Anyone concerned about the effect of horror on the young should go and have a look at any of the pre-Disneyfied stories of the Brothers Grimm.

I deliberately began Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror with a walk through a wood, because I wanted to make use of that fairytale opening. The stories themselves are set not so much in the real Victorian or Edwardian era, but in the world of Victorian and Edwardian ghost stories.

Some genres seem like literary constructs: completely a product of writing. But horror, like love, is there in the world. I don’t mean that vampires or zombies are there, but the dread that produces these nightmares certainly is. Fear is ever present.

But whilst it is obvious why people want to read love stories, it is less clear why people want to frighten themselves unnecessarily, whether through books, movies or hurling themselves into a ravine with a length of elastic attached to their ankles.

We seem to enjoy scaring ourselves. Maybe we want to test ourselves; to see how we would cope with real fear. Of course this is utterly spurious. We know we aren’t really going to hit the ground. We know it’s only a story.

But even so. Maybe we just need to push that button every now and then to make sure it still works. Maybe through horror stories we get a chance to leap headlong into the dark – in the comforting knowledge that we have elastic tied to our ankles.'



So there we have it - do you agree with what Chris said about the horror genre? I definitely do, there's just something about being scared that I'm drawn to, what do you think?

If you enjoyed today's post then make sure you pop over to see the lovely Jenny at Wondrous Reads tomorrow, when Chris will be vsiting her blog. And check out the trailer below to accompany the tour - creepy, right?


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Guest Post: Jason Ancona - Debugging Tori Redding


Hello all! Today I've got the lovely Jason Ancona here to talk about his writing process, as part of the blog tour for Debugging Tori Redding. The next stop on the tour is with Stephany over at Read-A-Holic so do check that out tomorrow if you have a moment.

So, without further ado I'll hand over to Jason...

'After I decide on which idea I want to write, I'll start fleshing out the characters, trying to figure out who they are and what they want. I'll also explore themes and character arcs, unless it's an action/adventure/mystery story like Covert Youth Agency. For that, I worked on creating a puzzle, breaking it apart, and piecing it back together.

The next step I take is to list major beats and possible plotlines. I allow myself a lot of wiggle room, writing down everything I can think of, knowing that a good chunk will get weeded out. Once I have the bones of the story--the frame to fill the guts with--I'll start outlining. After several weeks of revising the outline, I'll actually start writing.

Oftentimes the story takes a new direction, which I'll allow to play out, even if it derails the structure I set up. Some writers are adamant about sticking to the outline, and for good reason. If you drift off too far, you may have a hard time weaving in various plotlines so that they come together at the end. And in a way that doesn't seem forced.

After I finish my first draft, which I continually rewrite as I go along, I'll do a hardcore second draft, trying to improve grammar and prose. Then I'll give it to a fellow writer to edit. Once I get their notes, I'll go back and do a third draft for a final polish.

During the writing process, I feed my caffeine addiction with low sugar energy drinks. And reward myself with chunks of dark chocolate--a very important part.'


Thanks for stopping by, Jason!