Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Cover Reveal: Clockwork Prince - Cassandra Clare

Hi everyone! So, as you may have seen the cover of Cassandra Clare's upcoming release, Clockwork Prince, was exclusively revealed at BEA last week. It's been circulating the Internet since then so have a look below and let me know what you think.

I really like it, it fits in with Clockwork Angel really well! Yup, no complaints here - and I've been quite stroppy with covers lately so it's nice to see one I actually like the look of.


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So what do you guys think? Are you excited for Clockwork Prince?

Review: The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball - Risa Green

Published: September 14th 2010, Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 315 pages, paperback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): In a world where nothing is certain, a little magic couldn't hurt...right?

When Erin Channing's favorite aunt dies, Erin is bequeathed a pink crystal ball and a set of weird instructions. Granted, Aunt Kiki (aka Aunt Kooky) always lived "outside the box." But now Erin and her two best friends are convinced that the pink crystal ball holds the key to their future-or at least the key to getting dates...

Consider Your Fate to Be Sealed . . .

Absolute knowledge is not unlimited; let the planets be your guide to the number.

There are sixteen ways to die, but four of them you will never see.

The future belongs to you alone. Other voices will be disappointed.

One rotation is as far as you can see. Only uncertainty lies beyond.

My review: The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball is SUCH a sweet novel. Honestly, it had me smiling the whole way through - any middle grade fans are absolutely going to adore this one. This is the perfect summer read; lighthearted, funny with a host of lovely characters. Definitely think about picking this one up.

This is a quick read and suitable to read in a single sitting. The pacing is consistent throughout and I didn't find my attention dipping in the middle, as it often does with middle grade fiction. There is a little bit of a love story in this book but it doesn't overtake things and it's all very sweet, which I really liked. There is a lot more emphasis on Erin's relationship with her friends and I think that's much more important in middle grade novels, so yay for that!

The crystal ball that falls into Erin's possession after her aunt dies is what drives the plot forward and I loved the mystery that surrounded the set of directions that were left for Erin to figure out - it reminded me a little of 13 Little Blue Envelopes (Maureen Johnson) but I did actually prefer The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball as nothing felt very forced.

I was impressed with Green's writing and am sure she'll go on to do great things. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for her next book.

First line: 'Things about me that might, in some alternative universe, be interesting enough for the committee of tenth grade teafchers to pick me for the AP Art History trip to Italy...'

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

Monday, 30 May 2011

Interview: Andrea Seigel (The Kid Table)

So today I have Andrea Seigel here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her life as a writer and her newest novel, The Kid Table (which is great, by the way). Without further ado, on with the interview!



1. 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?

My average day consists of getting back into bed and attempting to write two relatively solid pages, which I used to be more consistent at before I broke the streak during my dad’s last year of his life. Then it was like what happened to me and running— the day I decided to skip my usual six-mile run was the day that began the end of me exercising altogether. With writing, I’m better. I haven’t stopped. But I have become less religious.

2. 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 at least half the people who’ve read me would probably argue that I don’t create relatable characters. I mean, they’re relatable to me, relatable to certain readers, but my main concern when creating a character isn’t that she’s your comforting best friend put down on paper. I’m more interested in starting out with some fear I have about myself or with the challenge of attempting a personal outlook that’s always been hard to explain. And from there I’m mostly concerned with turning an inner truth (as I know it) outward. But obviously not everyone shares the same psychology, so it’s not like every reader is going to see a certain point-of-view as one that’s recognizable.

3. For you, what is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

In the creative sense, it’s that I get to continually work on some kind of articulated worldview. In the practical sense, it’s that I get to stay home with my beautiful, beautiful dog. She kills me.

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

I don’t, but I bought my boyfriend the Kindle for Christmas and he tried his best to get me excited about it, about how the picture is really ink rearranging itself. But I like having a book as a physical object. In my head, electronic books all get squashed into the same entity because you can’t see the texture on a cover, you can’t feel how thick that book is, you can’t get attached to quirks of a font. Font is really important for me.

5. The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets your books apart from the pack?

Well, I guess that difference in Kid Table speaks for itself if you go on Goodreads and read the comments of some of the more frustrated YA readers. But my latest book is the only one that was officially released YA— the other two were adult trade, so they don’t really get that kind of response. You know, it’s really hard to answer this question without sounding like an asshole.

6. 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 used to watch TV while I wrote— especially reality TV— but over the past couple of years I’ve started preferring silence.

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

I’m not really a plotter in the sense that I intricately map out a story before writing, but I do always start with a specific idea that I know I want to get into. With my first book, it was “how do you explain suicidal feelings when you can’t really point to any one solid factor making you feel suicidal?” In the latest book, it was a question that actually appears in the Thanksgiving section: is it possible for anyone to ever know you better than you know yourself, or should we just be thankful for the rare true glimpses we actually get of each other?

8. How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

I’m not even sure. When I started on Twitter, I think I was much more a part of the book side of it because it was literary people who first announced my arrival, but then when followers who wanted writing-related stuff saw that my interest is really in telling blue jokes, we separated. I had some anxiety for a minute because my Twitter feed tends to alienate, like, the librarians and the YA adults that I probably should be courting if I want to do well in YA. But when it comes down to it, that’s just not where I’m at, personality-wise. Same with my blog. And I think Facebook just lets people from my high school know I have a book they could potentially buy and keeps them up to date on pictures of my dog.

9. Which authors do you think have most influenced your own writing style?

J.D. Salinger, Bret Easton Ellis, Shirley Jackson, Jincy Willett. I really love John Irving and wish I could write more like him, juggle a bigger narrative like he does.

10. What advice would you give to writers who want to make the leap from writing as a hobby to actively pursuing a career in writing?

Well, figure out if you’re any good. And if you are, in what way you’re good.

11. There is a lot of argument within the young adult market as to what is appropriate for teens to read. Where do you stand on this matter? Do you think teens should be protected from reading about taboo subjects or do you think they should have the freedom to choose their own reads?

When I was a teenager, a certain friend and I would go straight for the copy of The Joy Of Sex her parents had buried in the bottom of their dresser drawer every time they left the house. So, you know, you find your way to it. I also think that appropriateness is subjective and not very important. An accessible guidance figure in a teenager’s actual life is.

12. What books do you think we should be looking out for in 2011?

I haven’t been sent a single galley, so I couldn’t even tell you. Actually, I think Meg Rosoff’s new book There Is No Dog comes out this summer, and I haven’t read it, but everything she does is great, and so I already know it is too.

13. Thank you so much for your time, Andrea. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

I’m writing a new book, which is about teenagers, but I’m guessing it’s probably better if I can go back to adult trade. There’s a script I wrote that’s with the producer of Winter’s Bone, and I think we’re going out to directors with that soon. And my boyfriend and I are pitching TV shows together. A meeting with us is like meeting with Tweedle-low-energy and Tweedle-lower-energy.

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So, have any of you guys read The Kid Table, what did you think? It was great to speak to Andrea and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).

Review: TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code - Alex Scarrow

Published: February 3rd 2011, Puffin
Pages: 438 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book three. Book four (The Eternal War) is due out this August
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Liam O'Connor should have died at sea in 1912. Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010. Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026. But all three have been given a second chance - to work for an agency that no one knows exists. Its purpose: to prevent time travel destroying history...

My review: Despite having my initial reservations I'm really glad I decided to start this series. I love anything that features an altered history and the TimeRiders series is so clever in everything it does.

We see Liam and Maddy leading the pack in this installment and it's really nice to see how Liam has grown from the naive boy he was at the beginning of the series. I did like that Maddy was given a little more page time and she's really growing on me. I wish Sal hadn't faded into the background quite as much as she did in this book so hopefully we'll see her playing a more prominent role in the later installments in the series.

We see the story of Robin Hood explored in this book and I really did enjoy the story. Scarrow is such an exciting writer and the pace and tension in The Doomsday Code was excellent. I urge all of you to give this series a go - on the surface it really isn't my kind of thing at all but I'm so glad I decided to try it. Roll on book four!

First line: '"So, ladies and gentlemen," said the man, "this is what you all came to see."'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 13/20 (C)

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Lauren Kate Blog Tour for Passion!


Hi everyone - just to let you all know about the Lauren Kate blog tour that's coming up soon to promote Passion. I've been asked to take part and I'm really excited about my post, which is due on the 15th June, the last day of the tour. Things kick off over at Book Angel's Booktopia on June 2nd so make sure you head over there to check it out. For the full schedule check out the banner below (sorry the crappy quality, my laptop's having a crazy day!):

Blog Tour: Life: An Exploded Diagram - Mal Peet

Life: An Exploded Diagram is the latest novel from multiple award-winning author Mal Peet, who won the Carnegie Medal for Tamar and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize for Exposure.

The book is a coming-of-age love story, set in Norfolk in the 1960s against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It has already received great acclaim from Patrick Ness and Anthony McGowan, and Walker have created a book trailer which was revealed on 27th May on Wondrous Reads along with the first extract, but you can also watch the trailer here, below!

You can read the third extract here, and the fourth extract will be placed on Serendipity, tomorrow.

Check out the trailer below:



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At three o’clock Clem straightened up and faked a groan.
“’S no good. I gotta find somewhere for a leak.”
Goz didn’t lift his head. “Don’t let me stand in your way.”
Clem hurried for the hedge, stepping over rows, then glanced back, turned right and walked casually up the field.
She was not among the throng at either of the weighingstations. A tractor was pulling a laden trailer out of the field. Was that her, riding on the back of it? No, just a boy in a blue shirt. Clem stood, indecisive and achingly disappointed. She’d gone. Like a drunk surfacing from a stupor,
he realized that he was being looked at and that he knew most of the faces around him. Half the Millfields estate was here today. God, what was he thinking of?
“Orright, young Clem? Lost someone, hev yer?”
That nosy cow Mrs Parsons from Chaucer.
“No, I… No. I was just…”
He retreated hastily.
Halfway back he looked over to where their camp was and saw – could it be? – a soft flash of blue. Just beyond the trees. Two brush-strokes of blue and one of black where the leaf-shadow edged into the green-gold haze of wheat. Yes. His breath failed, briefly. He made his legs move, made himself take care where he set his feet, crossing the rows. When he next looked up, the vision had gone. Dismay made him gasp and swear. And hurry. He stumbled up and through the gap between two of the ash trees. Their dense shade was like a moment of night, and his eyes were baffled for an instant. But then there she was, sitting crosslegged but leaning back on her hands on the narrow berm of dandelion-freckled and daisy-splashed grass beyond the tree-line. The straw hat was on the ground beside her left knee. Her head was lifted away from him and her eyes were closed. She was smiling. She seemed to be listening to the frantic debate being conducted by a parliament of greenfinches in the branches overhead.
He would remember all these things long after they’d been blown away. Scraps of talk, sound, would drift back like flakes of burnt paper on a spiralling wind.

“You took your time.”
“I thought you’d gone…”
The chirrupy hissing of grasshoppers.

“Yeah. A levels. Art, English, History…”
Her comical grimace. “Brainy with it, then?”
A noisy exodus of skirling birds.

“…I dunno. Art school, probably.”
“Dirty devil. So you can look at girls sitting there in the
nude? I don’t know how they can do it…”
A whisper through the grain.
“No, not that. I want…”

“Are you any good at kissing?”

An intense silence, everything stilled, at the moment she took hold of his collar and pulled his face down.
The panicky thrill throughout his body with her mouth on his. Not knowing what to do with his hands, so keeping them pressed into the grass. Something, an ant perhaps, crawling on the stretched skin between his thumb and forefinger. Awkward twisting of his shoulders. Tongue? Hers doing it. Slithering into his mouth. Hot breath tasting of cigarette and strawberry juice and something else. Coarse distant laughter like a pheasant’s call from somewhere. Squirming to keep the hard thing in his jeans from touching her leg. Wanting the aching moment to go on and on and
on because he had no idea what she might expect him to do next.

And then a snappy rasp from behind them: Goz, with his back against a tree, lighting a ciggie.
“Funny sort of a widdle, comrade,” he said.
Clem pulled away from her, gasping, lost.



So, what do you think, folks? Make sure you check out the next extract tomorrow over at the lovely Viv's blog, Serendipity.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Giveaway: Passion - Lauren Kate *International*

Good morning everybody! Now, I posted last week about the series of giveaways I have planned to celebrate reaching 600 followers (YAY) and I'm here today with the first one. The prize for this giveaway is probably my favourite, I think it's pretty exciting! Are you a Lauren Kate fan? Well, then you'll probably be interested in winning a manuscript copy of Passion, right? Listen up then because that's the prize!

And here it is:


To be in with a chance of winning click here to enter!

Notes and rules:

- Open internationally - I will post absolutely anywhere so you are ALL included.

- It's not an absolute requirement but I would like it if the winner will review Passion on their blog (or Goodreads/Amazon if you don't have a blog), as this awesome book deserves all the reviews it can get - and it IS awesome, I promise!

- The giveaway will run for two weeks, ending on June 11th 2011 at midnight (London time). The winner will be announced here at Writing from the Tub on Sunday June 12th 2011.

- Please make sure you leave the correct email address as I will use this to contact you if you're the lucky winner. If I don't receive a response within 48 hours I will choose another winner.

- The only requirement is that you are a follower (new or existing) of Writing from the Tub, as this is a giveaway to thank my followers it's the only requirement. There's no extra entry nonsense, I'm not going to make you jump through hoops to enter but if you'd spread the word about this giveaway that would be lovely.

- Please note: this copy HAS been read once by me as it's a manuscript that Random House sent me to review. I've used a bookmark and there are no notes on the book at all, I haven't even taken it outside the house so the condition it's in in the photo is how it will be sent out.

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What are you waiting for? Click here to fill out the entry form and please do spread the word!

Mini reviews: The Hunt, Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon, Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean

So I like to try and stay up to date with the books I’m sent for review so I’ve decided to write a collection of mini reviews to be posted each week to help me keep up to date. This week I’m featuring mini reviews of The Hunt (Amy Meredith), Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon (Jonathan Stroud) and Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean (by Justin Somper).

The Hunt - Amy Meredith

Published: August 5th 2010, Random House
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Something is hunting. Something that will kill to get what it wants. And it isn't human. Eve knows that her supernatural powers are called for, but she'd rather focus on dating than demons and gorgeous Luke is, frankly, pretty distracting. He's already a friend - but could he be something more? Do Luke and Eve really have a future? And with demons on the hunt, will either of them live long enough to find out?

My review: I'll start this review by saying that I haven't read Shadows, the first installment in the series, so that could account for why I didn't particularly enjoy this one. There are a number of very positive reviews out there for this series so don't let me put you off - it just didn't work well for me but that doesn't mean you won't love it.

I just found the writing a little lacklustre in The Hunt (maybe it's because this series is written by two authors, I'm not sure - though they are both awesome separately so that's probably not the case). I didn't particularly care for any of the characters so it was hard for me to feel invested in the story. I felt very detached from the plot and the love story... well, I wasn't very impressed.

Everything just seemed a little half hearted and rushed and the novel seemed to pass by very quickly without very much action taking place. The Hunt seemed like a bit of a filler novel so I wasn't a fan, unfortunately.

Rating: D

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Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon - Jonathan Stroud

Published: October 14th 2010, Random House
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Bartimaeus, everyone's favorite (wise-cracking) djinni, is back in book four of this best-selling series. As alluded to in the footnotes throughout the series, Bartimaeus has served hundreds of magicians during his 5,010 year career.

Now, for the first time, fans will go back in time with the djinni, to Jerusalem and the court of King Solomon in 950s BC. Only in this adventure, it seems the great Bartimaeus has finally met his match. He'll have to contend with an unpleasant master and his sinister servant, and runs into just a "spot" of trouble with King Solomon's magic ring...

My review: If you're a fan of The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (by Michael Scott) then I'd definitely point you in the direction of Jonathan Stroud's books. The series' have a similar tone of story telling about them and both register pretty epic on the fantasy scale. What I would say (as a positive about this series) is that Jonathan Stroud's books have a little more humour in them, which is something I loved.

The dialogue is definitely the strongest part of The Ring of Solomon - the comedy used is fantastic and I guarantee you'll be laughing out loud by the end of this one. Bartimaeus is hilarious narrator, I'm a huge fan!

Another thing that's great about The Ring of Solomon is that you can read it as a standalone as well as part of the series - I haven't read any of the other books in the series and I didn't find myself tripping over anything that didn't make sense. Technically it's supposed to be a prequel but I think it's nice to have the option of just reading this one, without becoming tied into the rest of the series.

The sheer amount of research that clearly went into The Ring of Solomon is incredible and I was so impressed with Stroud's dedication to the story. I really enjoyed this one as a standalone, I'm not 100% sure I'll continue with the series right now but I would like to read more of Stroud's work at some point when I have a little less on my TBR pile!

Rating: B

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Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean - Justin Somper

Published: June 2005, Simon & Schuster
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Connor and Grace are twins, recently orphaned after their widowed father's death. Rather than being adopted by the town's busy-bodies, they decide to set sail for new pastures in their father's last single possession, his sailing boat. But a vicious storm sees their boat capsize and the twins separated. Two mysterious ships sail to their rescue - each picking up one twin before disappearing into the mist.

Connor wakes to find himself on a pirate ship and is soon being trained up with a cutlass. Meanwhile Grace finds herself locked in a darkened room, as the vampirates await nightfall... Determined to find each other, yet intrigued by their new shipmates, the twins are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their life...


My review: Okay, the first time I heard about the Vampirates series (shortly after I swore off paranormal romance and all things remotely related FOREVER) I have to admit I was a bit 'WTF?' about the whole thing. Pirate vampires. Okay. Fairies I can just about hold it together for. Sandmen? Starting to go a bit far for me. Pirate vampires. Off the scale. However, the whole thing seemed so completely mental that I knew I had to give the series a go (much like the William and Kate movie - SO bad it has to be amazing).

Okay - Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean is a great, entertaning read. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's amazing but it's certainly not bad at all. I did find myself ignoring the vampire side of things and choosing to believe our villains (although I am hesistant to call them villains because some of them are so damn charming) were just your run of the mill pillaging pirates. I don't know, I couldn't quite bring myself to commit to the story but this one was so much better than I thought it was going to be.

I imagine I would be quite obsessed with this series if I was a fan of the genre but, as it's probably the polar opposite of my ideal book, I'm not convinced I'll carry on with the Vampirates books. However - you just have to spend five minutes looking at the ratings on Goodreads to see just how popular this series is with its target audience!

Rating: B-

Friday, 27 May 2011

Favourite Covers: Double Takes

So I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers but I just can't help myself! My laptop is full of folders of pretty covers so I've decided to post a few of my favourites up - the theme for this post is double takes (covers that feature the same image or model)!



Dirty Laundry - Daniel Ehrenhaft
Cracked Up to Be - Courtney Summers (my favourite)
Leap of Faith - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
(Not exactly the same but very similar)


The Laughing Corpse - Laurell K. Hamilton
Parasite Positive - Scott Westerfeld (my favourite)


Return to Paradise - Simone Elkeles (my favourite)
Reaching Through Time - Lurlene McDaniel


Forbidden - Tabitha Suzuma
The Dark and Hollow Places - Carrie Ryan (my favourite)



Evermore - Alyson Noel
North of Beautiful - Justina Chen Headley
Selina Penaluna - Jan Page (my favourite)


The Mermaid's Mirror - L.K. Madison
Dreaming of Amelia - Jaclyn Moriarty (my favourite)


The First Desire - Nancy Reisman
Deadly Little Secret - Laurie Faria Stolarz (my favourite)


The Dark Divine - Bree Despain (my favourite)
No Humans Involved - Kelley Armstrong


Driftwood Summer - Patti Callahan Henry
No-One You Know - Michelle Richmond (my favourite)


Cum Laude - Cecily von Ziegesar
If I Stay - Gayle Forman (my favourite)

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So, that's it for this week - what do you think? Which is your favourite?

Review: Primeval: Fire and Water - Simon Guerrier

Published: January 6th 2011, Titan Books
Pages: 292 pages, paperback
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): When strange anomalies in time start to appear Professor Cutter and his team have to help track down and capture a multitude of dangerous prehistoric creatures from Earth's distant past and terrifying future...

In this brand new original never-seen-on-TV Primeval adventure, the team confront anomaly crises both in rain-swept London and on hot South African plains. At a safari park in South Africa, rangers are disappearing and strange creatures have been seen battling with lions and rhinos.

As the team investigate they are drawn into a dark conspiracy, which could have terrible consequences; while back at home in England, as torrential rain pours down over the city, an enormous anomaly opens up in East London.


My review: I reviewed one of the other Primeval titles earlier this year and I wasn't much of a fan - however, I thought I'd give one of the other books a go to see if things picked up. Did they? Unfortunately I'm not sure they did. I'm sure a lot of readers will love this series but it's just not for me.

I found the writing extremely awkward and this made it difficult to settle into the story. I found the dialogue to be really distracting, especially because it seemed as though the writer was trying to use any exclamation aside from 'said' - something that really grates on me.

I picked a random two pages (twenty two and twenty three) and found the following exclamations used (plus two uses of 'said'):

- Danny reminded him
- Lester muttered
- Lester asked
- Sophie explained
- Lester asked in clipped tones
- Sophie snapped
- Lester replied smoothly
- Sophie replied hotly
- Danny put in.

Do you see what I mean? It's a style issue and I know it could just be me but I found it really difficult to get into the flow of the dialogue when everything had to be broken up with constant exclamations. It did remind me a little of an exercise I had to do back in primary school, where we had to write a page of dialogue without using 'said'. I don't want to cause any offense but any writing that reminds me of an exercise aimed at a seven year old is not good in my book.

The storyline is a little reminiscent of Jurassic Park so I did enjoy those elements once I managed to ignore the awkward writing. The characters weren't at all three dimensional and I could barely remember their names. I just didn't enjoy this book. Maybe you will. If you've written a more positive review do let me know in the comments!

First line: '"Batsha sengathi yizibhanxa - they only eat us if we're stupid."'

Rating:
Plot: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 10/20 (D)

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Trailer Thursday: Flip, City of Fallen Angels, My Soul to Save

Hi everyone! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love book trailers. I think they’re absolutely fascinating and I love to see the different wants books are promoted through their trailers. I’m starting a weekly feature on a Thursday, where I’ll be bringing you a few trailers that I’ve found on my travels. Enjoy!

Flip - Martyn Bedford



City of Fallen Angels - Cassandra Clare



My Soul to Save - Rachel Vincent



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So what do you guys think about book trailers - do they ever influence your decision to read (or not read) a book?

Review: The Fallen - Thomas E. Sniegoski

Published: October 1st 2010, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 517 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book one. Book two is out now
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): On his eighteenth birthday, Aaron begins to hear strange voices and is convinced he is going insane. But having moved from foster home to foster home, Aaron doesn't know whom he can trust. He wants to confide in the cute girl from class, but fears she'll confirm he's crazy.

Then a mysterious man begins following Aaron. He knows about Aaron's troubled past and his new powers. And he has a message for Aaron: As the son of a mortal and an angel, Aaron has been chosen to redeem the Fallen.

Aaron tries to dismiss the news and resists his supernatural abilities. But he must accept his newfound heritage — and quickly. For the dark powers are gaining strength, and are hell-bent on destroying him...

My review: Based on the cover I did think The Fallen was going to be just one more paranormal romance about fallen angels etc etc. However, I'm pleased to report that this one does stand out from the pack a little, though unfortunately I do think the writing lets it down.

Aaron is a really likable lead - not at all how I thought he would be. He's sweet and human and isn't instantly tough, he just seems like a regular kid and I found it really easy to get to know and bond with him. His confusion over the voices he hears is really well written and I did feel for him, having nobody to turn to and feeling more and more suspicious of those around him.

I'm also happy that the love story didn't take over the book as it would in so many other paranormal stories so that was a big plus point for me. However, as I mentioned before I think the writing does let The Fallen down. The story has a lot of potential but I just don't think it was written as well as it could have been. It was very wordy and I think a lot of the slower paced sections could have been edited down a little to make the novel more concise and exciting.

I'm not really sure why The Fallen is made up of two books - the stories are somewhat separate but it definitely felt like one book and I haven't seen it marketed separately anywhere (let me know if I'm wrong about that). The book (counting it as one) is quite thick so it did take me a while to get through this one, especially because the story was a little slow to start.

I probably won't be picking up the next book in this series. I know a few other readers who loved this one but it didn't work for me. If you're already a fan of the fallen angel trend then I'd recommend this one to you but if you're beginning to tire of the paranormal genre then probably give this one a miss.

First line: 'The Tennessee night was screaming.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 13/20 (C)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen

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 What Happened by Goodbye by Sarah Dessen. So why am I so excited about it? Um, Sarah Dessen. Enough said.

Published: May 10th 2011, Penguin

Summary (from Goodreads): Another town. Another school. Another Mclean. Ever since her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean and her father have been fleeing their unhappy past. And Mclean's become a pro at reinventing herself with each move. But in Lakeview, Mclean finds herself putting down roots and making friends—in part, thanks to Dave, the most real person Mclean's ever met. Dave just may be falling in love with her, but can he see the person she really is? Does Mclean herself know?

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

Review: Inside Out - Maria V. Snyder

Published: January 1st 2011, Mira Ink
Pages: 315 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book one. Book two (Outside In) is out now
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Keep your head down. Don't get noticed. Or else. I'm Trella. I'm a scrub. A nobody. One of thousands who work the lower levels, keeping Inside clean for the Uppers. I've got one friend, do my job and try to avoid the Pop Cops.

So what if I occasionally use the pipes to sneak around the Upper levels? Not like it's all that dangerous - the only neck at risk is my own. Until I accidentally start a rebellion and become the go-to girl to lead a revolution...

My review: Wow, Snyder likes her world building, doesn't she? It seems like every one of her novels that I pick up is set in a new universe that she's clearly put so much time into crafting.

While I can't help but be impressed at the sheer amount of description of Trella's world, I do think it could have been spread a little more evenly through the book. I felt that there was so much description in the first third or so that I was begging for a bit of action to break things up a bit. However, once the pace picked up and the plot began to unfold I began to enjoy Inside Out a lot more.

It was lacking a little something, though. I didn't particularly bond with Trella so I didn't feel very invested in the story. Once I'd started I did want to continue to see what happened to Trella and the others (especially Riley, who I loved) but I'm not convinced I'll continue on with this series, not right away anyway.

There are so many positive reviews of Inside Out so I definitely seem to be in the minority with my thoughts. I did enjoy it and I'm sure dystopia fans will adore it - I just felt like the sparkle was missing.

First line: 'A vibration rippled through my body.'

Read if you liked…: The Declaration - Gemma Malley

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

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Exclusive Lauren Kate content: Arriane's Day Out and Passion trailer

Hello lovely readers! I've been sent part two of the extra special Lauren Kate content to help us pass the time until Passion's release date so I really wanted to share it with you. This one is brill and as my copy of Passion plopped onto my doormat a couple of days ago I'm even more excited!


5: Arriane’s Day Out


“Wide load! Coming through!”
Arriane wheeled a large red shopping cart down the housewares aisle of the Savannah Salvation Army thrift store. Her thin arms gripped the handlebar as she heaved the heavy cart forward. She’d already loaded it up with two polka-dotted lamp shades, a sofa’s worth of tacky pillows, nine plastic Halloween lanterns filled with long-expired candy, half a dozen cheap patterned dresses, a few shoe boxes full of bumper stickers, and a pair of neon-colored roller skates. So by this point it was difficult for Arriane, who stood scarcely five feet tall, to see where she was steering.
“Step aside, toots, unless you have no need for your toes. That’s right, I’m talking to you. And your toddler.”
“Arriane,” Roland said calmly. He was one aisle over, flipping through a milk crate crammed with dusty vinyl records. His pin-striped blazer was unbuttoned, showing a Pink Floyd T-shirt underneath. His thick dreadlocks hung down slightly over his dark eyes. “You really know how to keep a low profile, don’t you?”
“Hey!” Arriane sounded wounded as she tried to maneuver her shopping cart in a hairpin turn and wheeled down Roland’s aisle. She stopped in front of him and jabbed an electric-blue-painted fingernail into his chest. “I take my work here seriously, pal. We have a lot of goods to procure in just two days.”
Arriane’s words seemed to remind her of something that filled her with sudden joy. Her pastel blue eyes ignited and a wide grin spread across her face. She gripped Roland’s arm and shook him, causing her long black hair to tumble from its messy bun. It flowed down to her waist and shimmered as she cried, “Two days! Two days! Our Lucy’s coming back to us in two freaking days!”
Roland chuckled. “You’re cute when you’re excited.”
“Then I must be the mayor of Adorableville right now!” Arriane leaned against a rack of old stereo equipment and sighed a happy little sigh. “I live for her arrivals. I mean, not in the same way Daniel does, obviously. But I do feel a certain speck of delight at the prospect of seeing her again.” She rested her head on Roland’s shoulder. “Do you think she’ll have changed?”
Roland was back to flipping through the box of records. Every third or fourth one he tossed into Arriane’s shopping cart. “She’s had a whole other life, Arri. Of course she’ll have changed a little bit.”
Arriane threw down the Sly and the Family Stone album she’d been examining. “But she’ll still be our Lucinda—”
“That does seem to be the pattern,” Roland said, giving Arriane the are-you-crazy look she got from most people—including everyone else at the thrift store—but not usually from Roland. “At least, it’s been that way for the past several thousand years. Why would you even have to ask?”
“Dunno.” Arriane shrugged. “I passed Miss Sophia in the office at Sword and Cross. She was hauling around all these boxes of files, muttering about ‘preparations.’ Like everything had to be perfect or something. I don’t want Luce to show up and be disappointed. Maybe she’ll be different, really different this time. You know how I feel about change.”
She peered into her shopping cart. The tacky pillows she’d thrown into it in case this Luce, like the last Luce, could be cheered up with a raging pillow fight—suddenly, they just looked ugly and childish to Arriane. And the roller skates? When were they ever going to use roller skates at a reform school? What was she thinking? She’d gotten carried away. Again.
Roland tweaked Arriane’s nose. “At the risk of sounding banal, I say just be yourself. Luce will love you. She always does. And if all else fails,” he said, sifting though the booty Arriane had tossed into the cart, “there’s always your secret weapon.” He held up the small plastic bag of drinking straws with paper umbrellas glued onto them. “You should definitely bust out these guys.”
“You’re right. As usual.” Arriane smiled, patting Roland on the head. “I do throw a mean happy hour.” She slung her arm around his waist as the two of them wheeled the heavy cart down the aisle.
As they walked, Roland looked down at the shopping list he’d made on his BlackBerry. “We got the party music. We got the decorations for your room, and the duct tape—”
“How you go through so much duct tape is one of the great mysteries of the universe.”
“Anything else we need here before we go to the gourmet store?”
Arriane wrinkled her nose. “Gourmet store? But . . . Luce likes junk food.”
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” Roland said. “Cam asked me to pick him up some caviar, a pound of figs, a few other things.”
“Caviar? First of all, gag me. Second of all, what would Cam want with caviar? Wait a minute—”
She stopped short in the middle of the aisle, causing another shopper with a cartful of discount Christmas decorations to rear-end them. Arriane let the woman pass, then lowered her voice. “Cam’s not going to try to seduce Luce again, is he?”
Roland went back to pushing the cart. He was excellent at keeping mum when he needed to, and it always pissed Arriane off.
“Roland.” She wedged her black boot under the wheel of the shopping cart to stop it in its tracks. “Need I remind you of the disaster that was 1684? Not to mention the calamity Cam caused in 1515? And I know you remember what happened when he tried to hit on her in the year eleven-twent—”
“You also know I try to stay out of all the drama.”
“Yeah.” Arriane muttered. “And yet you’re always there in the heart of it.”
He rolled his eyes and tried to push past Arriane. She held her ground. “I’m sorry, but courtly Cam is my nightmare. I much prefer him snarling and foaming at the mouth like the devil dog he is.” Arriane panted like a rabid dog for a moment, but when it didn’t get a laugh out of Roland, she crossed her arms over her chest. “And speaking of how utterly horrible your numero uno cohort is over there on the dark side, when are you going to come back to us, Ro?”
Roland didn’t miss a beat. “When I can believe in the cause.”
“Okay, Monsieur Anarchy. So that’s like . . . never?”
“No,” he said, “that’s like, wait and see. We just have to wait and see.”
They were passing the thrift store’s gardening aisle, whose wares included a tangled green hose, a stack of chipped terra-cotta pots, some used doormats, and a generic late-model leaf blower. But it was the large vase of white silk peonies that made both Arriane and Roland stop.
Arriane sighed. She didn’t like to get too sentimental—there were angels like Gabbe to do that—but this was one of those things about Daniel and Luce that always kind of touched her.
At least once in every lifetime, Daniel gave Luce a huge bouquet of flowers. They were always, without fail, white peonies. There must have been a story behind it: Why peonies instead of tulips or gladiolas? Why white instead of red or pink? But even though some of the other angels speculated, Arriane realized that the specifics behind this tradition were not for her to know. She didn’t know from love, other than what she saw in Luce and Daniel, but she enjoyed the ceremony. And the way Luce always seemed more touched by this gesture than by anything else Daniel did.
Arriane and Roland looked at each other. Like they were thinking the same thing.
Or were they?
Why was Roland’s face twitching?
“Don’t buy those for him, Arri.”
“I would never buy those for him,” Arriane said. “They’re fake. It would totally defeat the purpose of the gesture. We have to get real ones, big huge beautiful real ones, in a crystal vase with a ribbon, and then only when the time is right. We never know if it’s going to come quickly or not. It could be weeks, months, before they get to that point—” She froze, eyeing Roland skeptically. “But you know all this. So why would you tell me not to get them? Roland—what do you know?”
“Nothing.” His face twitched again.
“Roland Jebediah Sparks the Third.”
“Nothing.” He put up his hands in supplication.
“Tell me—”
“Nothing to tell.”
“Do you want another Indian wingburn?” she threatened, grabbing on to the back of his neck and feeling around for his shoulder blade.
“Look,” Roland said, flicking her away. “You worry about Luce and I worry about Daniel. That’s the drill, that’s always been the drill—”
“Screw your drill,” she pouted, turning away from him to face a checkout attendant.
Arriane looked genuinely hurt, and if there was one thing Roland couldn’t stand, it was hurting her. He let out a long, deep breath. “Thing is, I just don’t know if Daniel’s going to go for all the same patterns this time around. Maybe he doesn’t want to do the peonies.”
“Why not?” Arriane asked, and Roland started to answer, but her expression changed into something sad. She held up a hand for him to stop. “It’s wearing Daniel out, isn’t it?”
Arriane rarely felt stupid, but she did now, standing in the middle of the thrift store with her cart overflowing with goofy props and practical jokes. It wasn’t that the whole thing was a game to her—but it was different for the rest of them than it was for Daniel.
Arriane had started thinking about when Luce . . . went away each lifetime like her friend was just trucking off to summer camp while Arriane had to stay home. Luce would be back. Things would be boring in the meantime without her, but she would always come back.
But for Daniel—
His heart broke. It must have broken a little more every time. How could he stand it? Maybe, she realized, he couldn’t. And he had been abnormally low in this life. Had Daniel’s punishment finally gotten to a point where it had broken not just his heart, but him?
What if it had? The really sad part was, it wouldn’t matter. Everyone knew that Daniel still had to go on living. Still had to fall in love with Luce. Just like the rest of them still had to watch, gently nudging the lovebirds toward their inevitable climax.
It wasn’t like Daniel could do anything about it, so why not keep up with the good and sweet and loving parts of their story? Why not give Luce the peonies?
“He doesn’t want to love her this time,” Roland finally said.
“That’s blasphemy.”
“That’s Daniel,” they both said at the same time.
“Well, what are we supposed to do?” Arriane asked.
“Stick within our territory. Provide the earthly goods they need when they need them. And you provide the comic relief.”
Arriane shot him a look, but Roland shook his head. “I’m serious.”
“Serious about joking?”
“Serious that you have a role to play.”
He tossed her a pink tutu from the clearance bin near the checkout line. Arriane fingered the thick tulle. She was still thinking about what it might mean for all of them if Daniel really resisted falling for Luce. If he somehow broke the cycle and they didn’t get together. But it gave her a really heavy feeling inside, like her heart was being dragged down to her feet.
In a matter of seconds, Arriane was tugging the tutu up over her jeans and pirouetting through the store. She bounded into a pair of sisters in matching muumuus, crashed into an easel advertising new linens, and nearly took out a display of candlesticks before Roland caught her in his arms. He twirled her around so the tutu flowed out around her tiny waist.
“You’re crazy,” he said.
“You love it,” Arriane responded dizzily.
“You know I do.” He smiled. “Come on, let’s pay for this stuff and get out of here. We have a lot to do before she gets here.”
Arriane nodded. A lot to do to make sure things were as they should be: Luce and Daniel, falling in love. With everyone around them holding out the hope that somehow, someday, she’d live through it.

Text © 2010 by Tinderbox Books, LLC and Lauren Kate.
Also, for those of you who haven't seen it yet have a look below to see the gorgeous new trailer for Passion. Eeee so exciting!



So there you have it, the trailer for Passion and some lovely extra content. There may also be a Passion giveaway on the cards come soon so keep an eye out for that...

Review: Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Published: October 28th 2010, Puffin
Pages: 503 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book two. Book three (Beautiful Chaos) is due out later this year
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

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.

My review: I read Beautiful Creatures, the first installment in the series, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Through my enjoyment of paranormal romance has seen a steep decline lately, I wanted to continue with this series as I enjoyed the first book so much.

The writing is definitely what drives Beautiful Darkness forwards and the descriptions of Gatlin are just fantastic. I find it so easy to completely visualise the town and I really enjoy reading anything about the setting. However, while the writing is beautiful when it comes to the description of Gatlin, I did find it was a little over emotional at points.

I've seen this mentioned in a few reviews and I have to agree - things do get a little 'Twilight' in this installment. Lena leaving Ethan for his own protection - emo. Emo, emo, emo and I don't like it. For me, the love story is not the central part of the story but things are really amped up in Beautiful Darkness and I think it began to ruin the book somewhat. In Beautiful Creatures I loved learning the mythology and history of the town but in Beautiful Darkness there is so much emphasis on the love story between Lena and Ethan I began to get bored.

The plot is a little slow at first but it does pick up towards the end and the ending is really exciting, I have to admit. For all my grumbling about the love story I will be checking out Beautiful Chaos - I can't resist the gorgeous writing, I just hope a little less emphasis is placed on Ethan and Lena's relationship.

First line: 'I used to think our town, buried in the South Carolina backwoods, stuck in the muddy bottom of the Santee River valley, was the middle of nowhere.'

Read if you liked…: Blood Magic - Tessa Gratton

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

Monday, 23 May 2011

Interview: Julia Karr (XVI)

So today I have Julia Karr here at Writing from the Tub, talking about her life as a writer and her debut novel, XVI. 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 XVI?

Answer: XVI is a YA dytopian thriller. Here's the blurb from my website: "In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."

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

Answer: Yes, I remember that moment quite well. I was at work when I got the email from my agent. I screamed. Jumped out of my chair and ran into a friend's office babbling hysterically that XVI was finally going to be a real book. Fortunately, she knew what I was talking about!

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

Answer: I don't own one, but am thinking about getting one. I will read just about anything, anywhere. I do love books, and have a ton of them. Sometimes, especially when moving - that's a real problem! So, I'd have to say, I think they are good things.

When reading for pleasure do you prefer to read standalones or series? Why?

Answer: I love series! I can never get enough of the characters and I want to read about them basically until they die! Many years ago I read The Three Musketeers. I didn't know it was just the first book in what is called the d'Artagnan Romances. Well, I found out about the other books and ended up tracking them all down and reading them. There are five books in all (depending on how they are printed, that number changes.) Anyway - I do love the series books!

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

Answer: I hope the fact that it is a book that raises questions and invites conversation. There are no easy answers in XVI. And, I feel like it is thought-provking and brings up real issues that should be looked at.

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?

Answer: I can't listen to music when I'm writing. I tend to give whatever I'm engrossed in my full attention. And, music is something that always grabs me. So, I'd never get anything written if I had music in the background. When I'm not writing, if I'm looking for writing inspiration I listen to groups that were popular when I was sixteen. It puts me in that frame of mind and gives me lots of memories to contemplate.

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

Answer: I'm a pantser when it comes to getting down the first draft. Lately I've been doing some plotting on a book I'm thinking of writing. So, maybe I'm a little of both.

Can you tell me a bit about your journey with XVI? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?

Answer: I joke about been a five-year overnight success story! I started XVI in November 2005. It sat for a month, then I did a quick edit and let it sit again for several months. I was working on another story with my critique group, but decided to have them look at XVI. After they did, I realized I needed to do a major rewrite - which I did. Then I started looking for an agent. (That was spring 2007.) I signed with my agent (Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary fame!) in spring, 2008. Based on input from an editor who was considering XVI, I did another major rewrite. The book sold to that editor in summer, 2009. My release date was January 6, 2011 - a little more than five years after I put the first words down!

How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

Answer: I think social media is important, but, the most important thing is to write a good book! I'd say that trumps everything.

What advice would you give to writers who want to make the leap from writing as a hobby to actively pursuing a career in writing?

Answer: Hopefully they are already writing every day and reading voraciously. That said - I think having critique partners is helpful. I found my crit partner on the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) discussion board & I think SCBWI is a good organization with a lot of very helpful regional chapters/events. Verla Kay's message board (at verlakay.com) is an awesome resource for children's writers. There is probably more good advice about writing for children (and awesome people!) on Verla's than anywhere else on the web.

Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?

Answer: It is important, but most especially for certain characters. I do think that the name can give the reader an advance look at who the character is going to be. I spend my fair share of time on name-meanings sites!

I love the cover art for XVI. Did you have much of a say in the design?

Answer: I had no say in the design at all. I was asked if I had any ideas, which I did. And my editor, my agent, and I all had a similar vision (think girl in danger with XVI showing on her wrist.) However, the design team at Penguin had other ideas. And, honestly - I love my cover!

What books do you think we should be looking out for in 2011?

Answer: Oh - so many good ones coming up! I'm part of The Elevensies (a group of 2011 debut authors) and also The Class of 2K11. I haven't had a chance to read too many of their books (darn!) but the ones I have are fabulous! Memento Nora by Angie Smibert is amazing! As is Illegal by Bettina Restrepo. And, of course, Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I'd say those two groups have the books to watch for!

Thank you so much for your time, Julia. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

Answer: Thanks so much for having me! Great questions and I love the opportunity to be on your blog. As far as other projects, I am currently working on the sequel to XVI and possibly a companion novel. Other than that, I have several YA's in various stages of completion.

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So, have any of you guys read XVI, what did you think? It was great to speak to Julia and I'd like to say a big thanks to her for stopping by :).

Review: Sequins, Stars and Spotlights - Sophia Bennett

*Please note this is the third book in the series so there may be minor spoilers for the first two books below*

Published: February 7th 2011, Chicken House
Pages: 323 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the third and final installment.
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Four girls have four dreams. Crow is on the way to becoming an international fashion designer. Jenny's been discovered by a Broadway composer. Edie still wants to go to Harvard. Nonie ...isn't really sure, but knows it's something fashion-related and wonderful. They're growing up and on the brink of glittering careers. So why are their lives so complicated? Why does success demand sacrifices, and which ones are they willing to make?

In this, the final book of "The Threads trilogy", Nonie discovers that life is just beginning. The girls have choices to make. Who will wait for fame? Who will emerge an outright star? Who will fall in love? And who will turn her back on all her dreams? This time the answers are in New York. It's a long way for Nonie to travel, especially with only one teeny-weeny wheelie bag. But for the sake of her friendships, Nonie will do whatever it takes.

My review: What a way to end the series! As I said in my review of Beads, Boys and Bangles - Threads is definitely one of my favourite YA series. Whenever I pick up one of the books I feel like I can snuggle down on my sofa and get lost in Nonie's extremely stylish world. I know I'm in for a good time when I open anything written by Sophia Bennett and she's definitely one of my go-tos when I need a little literary pick me up.

Sequins, Stars and Spotlights is a little bit longer than Beads, Boys and Bangles (sixty pages or so) and I do think this final book needed the extra word count to really end things properly. It's just such a wonderful way to end a brilliant series - all of the questions I needed answered were adequately dealt with but there was just enough left unsaid that I could draw a few of my own conclusions. Perfect!

Our favourite four girls just get better and better as this series progresses and we see them each have to make extremely difficult decisions in this book - I love how we always see such a human side of each of the girls and they're some of the most three dimensional and realistic teenage characters I've come across in a long time.

As always, Crow and Edie help shed some light on important issues that affect so many people in our world today - I love that Bennett manages to raise these issues without ever sounding preachy, they always have a reason for being raised in the book so nothing sounds forced. In this installment I thought the issues raised were particularly important and I really like that there's a little section at the back of the book that tells you what you can do to help. Lovely stuff.

Sequins, Stars and Spotlights is my favourite of the three books - though I do love them all. It's such a great end to the series and I challenge all of you to pick up this series now if you haven't yet. I promise you'll love it. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it'll remind you of all the things that make British YA fiction so great.

First line: 'I'm sitting in the back row of a mega-tent in Paris, surrounded by fashion students, buyers, editors and movie stars, and watching THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CATWALK SHOW I WILL EVER SEE IN MY LIFE.'

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

Sunday, 22 May 2011

In My Mailbox - 30


Hi everybody! Here’s my In My Mailbox for this week – I hope all of you had a great week and received lots of lovely books.

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.

Received for review:

Life: An Exploded Diagram - Mal Peet
Mad Love - Suzanne Selfors
Passion - Lauren Kate (ahhhhhhhhh!!!)
Write to be Published - Nicola Morgan (signed!)
Fallen Grace - Mary Hooper
Tiger's Curse - Colleen Houck
The Truth About Celia Frost - Paula Rawsthorne


Gifted/Bought:

All Unquiet Things - Anna Jarzab (bought)
Rosebush - Michelle Jaffe (gifted from the lovely Sarah at Sarah's Book Reviews)
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris (gifted from the lovely Sarah at Sarah's Book Reviews)


And here are a few pretty notebooks I bought this week:



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How about you guys? What did you get in your mailboxes this week?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

600 Followers Giveaway Preview...


So! Last week I hit 600 followers on my blog and I'm absolutely over the moon. When I started blogging last year I never dreamed anybody would be interested in reading what I had to say and it's such a brilliant feeling to know people actually drop by to have a look at my reviews. Just amazing!

You're all so wonderful and supportive and I can't thank you enough for following Writing from the Tub, it means so much to me. To say a big fat THANK YOU to all of you I'll be running a massive giveaway over the next couple of weeks to give away some brilliant bookish prizes.

The first giveaway will be up soon but here's a sneak preview of what's going to be up for grabs, just to whet your appetites...



Ooh, is that an ARC of Blood Magic? Yes, yes it is! Ah, but what's that book at the top? Can't quite make it out? Well, the grand prize for the giveaway is going to be...


Yup! A manuscript copy of Passion! And it's going to be international!

Thanks everyone - keep an eye out, this will be going up soon :)

Mini reviews: The Magician, The Sorceress, The Necromancer

So I like to try and stay up to date with the books I’m sent for review so I’ve decided to write a collection of mini reviews to be posted each week to help me keep up to date. This week I'm focusing on the three most recent releases in the Secrets of the Imortal Nicholas Flamel series so I'm all caught up and ready for the fifth release in the series, The Warlock. This week features mini reviews of The Magician, The Sorceress and The Necromancer (all by Michael Scott).

Please note: These reviews are of books tw0, three and four in the series so there could be possible spoilers if you're not up to date with the books. Be warned!

The Magician - Michael Scott

Published: June 2008, Random House
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenell is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Nicolo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He's after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenell. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year, their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophecy is becoming more and more clear.

It's time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there's only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel's old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world's only hope if they don't turn on each other first.

My review: If I had to sum up Michael Scott's Nicholas Flamel series in one word then it would definitely be epic - the action in these books is absolutely second to none and I urge any fantasy fans to snap this series up, I'm not even a fantasy fan but I can't help but be completely and utterly drawn in to Flamel's world.

The mythology in the series is definitely my favourite part and what keeps me moving on to the next installment - I love the inclusion of famous history characters and the amount of research Scott has put into each book is clear. The introduction of Machiavelli in The Magician was brilliant and, villain or not, he's an awesome character.

The descriptions of the Paris landscape are written so well and I continued to be impressed with Scott's writing style. In a series as plot heavy as this it could be easy for the writing to be overshadowed by the numerous characters and exciting twists and turns but that isn't the case at all. Another brilliant installment in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

Rating: B

*

The Sorceress - Michael Scott

Published: May 2009, Random House
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Nicholas Flamel's heart almost broke as he watched his beloved Paris crumble before him. The city was destroyed by Dee and Machiavelli, but Flamel played his own role in the destruction. Sophie and Josh Newman show every sign of being the twins of prophecy, and Flamel had to protect them and the pages from the Dark Elders.

But Nicholas grows weaker with each passing day. Perenelle is still trapped in Alcatraz, and now that Scatty has gone missing, the group is without protection. Except for Clarent—the twin sword to Excalibur. But Clarent’s power is unthinkable, its evil making it nearly impossible to use without its darkness seeping into the soul of whoever wields it.

If he hopes to defeat Dee, Nicholas must find an Elder who can teach Josh and Sophie the third elemental magic—Water Magic. The problem? The only one who can do that is Gilgamesh, and he is quite, quite insane.

My review: Unfortunately The Sorceress was a bit of a disappointment for me. I'm not sure what went wrong, as I really enjoyed the first two books in the series but the writing just didn't hold my attention in this one. However, the story did have the same high energy point that I've come to expect from Michael scott and there were some fantastic new characters included.

Gilgamesh was awesome and I have to agree with the summary, he is certainly quite, quite insane but that makes for excellent reading. The other character who impressed me in The Sorceress was Josh - he becomes 'Awakened' in this installment and I feel like it was a bit of a turning point for him. He's so much more likable that he was back in The Alchemyst and I've really enjoyed seeing him grow as a character as the story has developed.

However, aside from the addition of Gilgamesh and Josh's Awakening I really didn't enjoy The Sorceress as much as I hoped. I think Scott tried to cram too much into this book so not enough page time was given to the passages I really wanted more information on.

What's interesting is that I gave almost the same critique to the third installment in the Blue Bloods series. Obviously they're completely different genres and types of book but perhaps I'm just over critical of book three in a series - I do always expect each book in the series to be better than the last so maybe Scott set the bar so high with The Alchemyst and The Magician that feeling a little let down by The Sorceress is inevitable. That said, I did still want to give The Necromancer a go, as I'd enjoyed the rest of the series so much.

Rating: C

*

The Necromancer - Michael Scott

Published: May 25th 2010, Random House
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): San Francisco:
After fleeing to Ojai, then Paris, and escaping to London, Josh and Sophie Newman are finally home. And after everything they've seen and learned in the past week, they're both more confused than ever about their future. Neither of them has mastered the magics they'll need to protect themselves from the Dark Elders, they've lost Scatty, and they're still being pursued by Dr. John Dee. Most disturbing of all, however, is that now they must ask themselves, can they trust Nicholas Flamel? Can they trust anyone?

Alcatraz:
Dr. Dee underestimated Perenelle Flamel's power. Alcatraz could not hold her, Nereus was no match for her, and she was able to align herself with the most unlikely of allies. But she wasn't the only one being held on the island. Behind the prison's bars and protective sigils were a menagerie of monsters-an army for Dee to use in the final battle. And now Machiavelli has come to Alcatraz to loose those monsters on San Francisco.
Perenelle might be powerful, but each day she weakens, and even with Nicholas back at her side, a battle of this size could be too much for her. Nicholas and Perenelle must fight to protect the city, but the effort will probably kill them both.

London:
Having been unable to regain the two final pages of the Codex, Dee has failed his Elder and is now an outlaw-and the new prey of all the creatures formerly sent to hunt down Flamel.

But Dee has a plan. With the Codex and the creatures on Alcatraz, he can control the world. All he needs is the help of the Archons. But for his plan to work, he must raise the Mother of the Gods from the dead. For that, he'll have to train a necromancer. And the twins of legend will make the perfect pupils. . .

My review: Brilliant! After my rather negative review of The Sorceress I'm really pleased to announce that The Necromancer is right back up there with Scott's best writing - in fact, this installment is probably my favourite of the series thus far. Just great!

The Necromancer is a fair bit longer than the first three books and I definitely think it benefits from the increased length. By this stage in the story we've been introduced to so many characters and there are so many locations included that the extra pages really help to give the story of The Necromancer the space it deserves. Grant's writing is back to his normal high standard and I absolutely loved the descriptions of the three main locations in this one: Alcatraz, London and San Francisco.

I also liked that we saw more of Perenelle in this book. I love the chemistry between her and Nicholas so it was great to see her get more page time in The Necromancer. Josh and Sophie are great, as always, and I love looking back at how they both were at the beginning of the series (especially Josh!) to see how much they've grown as the books have progressed.

The ending of The Necromancer - ahhh! So frustrating. I cannot wait for The Warlock to be released so I can get my next Michael Scott fix! I know I'm always declaring myself as a hardcore contemporary fan who won't touch fantasy (any more) but I just can't help myself with this series - and you won't be able to either.

Rating: B