Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Mini Review Madness: The Donut Diaries, Heist Society, About a Girl, Sugarcoated, An Act of Love

Happy hump day all! For today's Mini Review Madness post I'm going to be looking at the following books:

The Donut Diaries - Dermot Milligan
Heist Society - Ally Carter
About a Girl - Joanne Horniman
Sugarcoated - Catherine Forde
An Act of Love - Alan Gibbons

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The Donut Diaries - Dermot Milligan

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from back cover of the book): Today's donut count is four. I have to keep count because my mum is threatening to send me to Camp Fatso if I don't shape up. And she's making me go to a demon nutritionist to sort out my diet. So this is my donut diary, where I write down what I've eaten and my feelings - aaarrgggh yuck!

As if I don't have enough to deal with, what with starting Big School next week. (Note to self: Don't call it Big School!)

Mini review: The obvious comparison to The Donut Diaries is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series so fans of Jeff Kinney's books will love this one - I'd recommend it particularly for younger boy readers, who are about to make the transition to senior school.

The Donut Diaries is funny and sweet in equal measure and I thoroughly enjoyed it - though it did fill me with the urge to nip down to my local Krispy Kreme and chow down on an Original Glazed!

Heist Society - Ally Carter

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Mini review: This is the first one of Ally Carter's books I've read and I enjoyed it - it was a quick, fun read and I'll definitely be looking into more of her books in the future. Kat is such a likeable character that I couldn't help but side with her, whether her actions were questionable are not.

Heist Society is a very strong start to this new series and I'm excited to read the rest of the series when I get my hands on the books.

About a Girl - Joanne Horniman

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): A spellbinding, dreamy love story between two young women that unfolds like a series of paintings.

'I remember when we lay together for the first time and I closed my eyes and felt the crackle of her dark hair between my fingers. She was all warmth and sparking light. When I was with her, my skin sighed that the center of the world was precisely here.'

Anna is afraid she must be unlovable—until she meets Flynn. Together, the girls swim, eat banana cake, laugh, and love. Some days Flynn is unreachable; other days she's at Anna's door—but when Anna discovers Flynn's secret, she wonders if she knows her at all. This beautifully crafted novel explores the tension between the tender moments that pull people together and the secrets that push them apart.

Mini review: I absolutely loved About a Girl and highly recommend it to any of you who love your YA beautifully written and touching. Flynn and Anna were both such well written characters, with flaws and weaknesses that made them so human, which is always the key, I think, when it comes to creating realistic characters.

About a Girl is subtle and moving and absolutely addictive - I flew through it in a single afternoon. Sinply gorgeous!

Sugarcoated - Catherine Forde

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Cloddy is stuck in her dad’s optician’s shop working for little to nothing every Saturday, bored out of her brain in the middle of Greenwood Shopping Center—or Deadsville as she prefers to call it. One Saturday she closes the shop to get some peace and quiet to eat her lunch, but as she’s picking at her food, a trio of youths skulk out of Gluehead Alley down the side of her dad’s shop.

Out of nowhere a massive hand gushing blood is splayed across the window of the shop. And then a head is thumped against the window. Neither the victim nor attackers see Cloddy, but she sees everything. Afraid for her life, she decides not to tell anyone what she’s seen.

Who wants to think about such things anyway when there’s gorgeous Stefan to think about? Stefan who is cool and charming and has plenty of cash. Stefan who has come out of nowhere and sweeps her off her feet. Stefan who wouldn’t normally look at a girl like Cloddy, let alone make her his girlfriend. At her most vulnerable time he’ll look after her—or will he?

Mini review: Oh, I was so disappointed with Sugarcoated. I had such high hopes for it but it just didn't deliver. The writing was no way near as tight as I expected, Cloddy was a little bit drippy for my liking and the whole story was just a tad lacklustre. Very surprising but, unfortunately, not in a good way.

An Act of Love - Alan Gibbons

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Childhood friends Chris and Imran celebrate the Millenium as inseparable blood brothers, they are both seven years old. But by 2011 their lives have taken very different paths. One has joined the Army and served in Afghanistan, the other is a potential jihad recruit. They are no longer friends, and there are bitter wounds between them which remain unhealed.

Will their childhood bond be strong enough to overcome an extremist plot? In a highly-charged, honest and life affirming story, told in flashback from both Chris and Imran's viewpoint, Alan Gibbon's cleverly explores the very real issue of terrorism that affects everyone today.

Mini review: Alan Gibbons has done it again - but then, is it any surprise? He's back with another stellar offering, which tackles controversial subject matter (as always) but is sensitively handled and puts a fresh spin on things.

The narrative style in An Act of Love is what makes it such a compelling novel. I loved seeing things from both Chris and Imran's viewpoints and I think Gibbons did a great job making each voice unique and realistic. Bravo - another belter!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Mini Review Madness: White Cat, Fallen Grace, Flip, Momentum, The Cursed Ones, The Damned

Hi everyone! I realised I didn't post an introduction to Mini Review Madness so this is how it goes; I have so many books stacked up ready to review that I read earlier in the year that I just haven't had time to sit down and review, so I'm trying to catch up before the end of 2011. I really want to start 2012 afresh with nothing backed up so fingers crossed I'll manage to get through everything.
For today's installment of Mini Review Madness I'm going to be looking at the following titles:

White Cat - Holly Black
Fallen Grace - Mary Hooper
Flip - Martyn Bedford
Momentum - Saci Lloyd
The Cursed Ones - Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie
The Damned - Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

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White Cat - Holly Black

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Mini review: Unfortunately I wasn't a huge fan of White Cat and I did find it a bit slow going, which is a shame as I think it has such a strong premise. I didn't particularly bond with any of the characters, particularly Cassel, which made it difficult to root for anybody to succeed. It is a relatively quick read, though, so if you're a fan of this sort of thing then it's worth giving it a go - reivews of this one are generally positive with fans of the genre.

Fallen Grace - Mary Hooper

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Grace Parkes has just had to do a terrible thing. Having given birth to an illegitimate child, she has travelled to the famed Brookwood Cemetery to place her small infant's body in a rich lady's coffin. Following the advice of a kindly midwife, this is the only way that Grace can think of to give something at least to the little baby who died at birth, and to avoid the ignominy of a pauper's grave. Distraught and weeping, Grace meets two people at the cemetery: Mrs Emmeline Unwin and Mr James Solent. These two characters will have a profound affect upon Grace's life.

But Grace doesn't know that yet. For now, she has to suppress her grief and get on with the business of living: scraping together enough pennies selling watercress for rent and food; looking after her older sister, who is incapable of caring for herself; thwarting the manipulative and conscience-free Unwin family, who are as capable of running a lucrative funeral business as they are of defrauding a young woman of her fortune.

A stunning evocation of life in Victorian London, with vivid and accurate depictions, ranging from the deprivation that the truly poor suffered to the unthinking luxuries enjoyed by the rich: all bound up with a pacy and thrilling plot, as Grace races to unravel the fraud about to be perpetrated against her and her sister.

Mini review: Hooper's writing here is just beautiful and I loved Fallen Grace, which is a big deal for me as I'm not generally a fan of historical fiction. It was just impossible not to be pulled into Grace's world and Hooper really did get it spot on, the way she evoked the spirit of Victorian London through the tiniest of details was fantastic.

Flip - Martyn Bedford

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Ever wake up in someone else's body? Fourteen-year-old Alex Gray wakes up one morning to discover he's not in his own bedroom. More surprising is that he doesn't recognize his hands, or his legs...When he looks in the mirror he gets the shock of his life! How is it possible that Alex has become another boy - a boy who everyone calls Philip? And how have six whole months passed overnight?

Mini review: I really enjoyed Flip and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to both boys and girls who are fans of YA. The premise is truly unique and Bedford is a fresh new voice in YA fiction, I'm really excited to see what he does next.

It was such a nice change to read something that isn't a flat out contemporary (even though I love them) or a paranormal romance so if you're looking for something a little different definitely try Flip.

Momentum - Saci Lloyd

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): London, the near future. Energy wars are flaring across the globe - oil prices have gone crazy, regular power cuts are a daily occurrence. The cruel Kossak soldiers prowl the streets, keeping the Outsiders - the poor, the disenfranchised - in check.

Hunter is a Citizen: one of the privileged of society, but with his passion for free running and his rebel friend Leo he cannot help but be fascinated by the Outsiders. So when he meets Outsider Uma, he is quickly drawn into their world - and into an electrifying and dangerous race to protect everything they hold dear.

Mini review: Momentum has such an interesting premise and it's executed brilliantly. The subject matter is particularly relevant, which just made me get even more drawn into the story.

Saci Lloyd is such an exciting writer, with both Momentum and the Carbon Diaries series and I'll definitely be keeping an eye on what she does next as I'm quickly becoming a huge fan of her work.

The Cursed Ones - Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): The Cursed Ones, or vampires, have made their presence known to mankind. They promised to help bring peace to the world but then declared war on humanity. The identity of their leader is unknown. Most people are too afraid or unwillingly to take a stand against them. Others, like eighteen-year-old Jenn Leitner, train secretly to become vampire fighters and risk everything in the process. Alongside her is fellow Hunter, Antonio de la Cruz.

But Antonio has a secret - he is a vampire fighting on the side of humanity. Jenn must battle with her hatred of all things vampire, and her love for Antonio. For together only they can bring light into the darkness the vampires have drawn over the face of the planet…

Mini review: I was disappointed with The Cursed Ones as I think it could have been so much stronger and I did have high hopes for it. I was let down by the protagonist, Jenn, as her priorities were just a little bit ridiculous; it seemed all she cared about was her potential love interest (I won't give anything away but, yeah, it's pretty darn obvious from the outset), rather than the impending destruction of everything she knows and loves. Not a winner for me.

The Damned - Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): There is a fine line between love and sacrifice…

Antonio would do anything for his beloved fighting partner Jenn. He protects her, even suppresses his vampire cravings to be with her. Together, they defend humanity against the Cursed Ones. But tensions threaten to fracture their hunting team and his loyalty—his love—is called into question.

Jenn, the newly appointed Hunter, aches for revenge against the Cursed One who converted her sister. And with an even more sinister power on the rise, she must overcome her personal vendettas to lead her team into battle.

Antonio and Jenn need each other to survive, but evil lurks at every turn. With humanity’s fate hanging in the balance, they must face down the darkness…or die trying.

Mini review: Following on from The Curse Ones, I did enjoy The Damned a little more than the first installment but I'm still not convinced by this series. The writing was quite clunky in places and I had to often double back and reread sentences to get them clear in my head; this did take me away from the story and meant I couldn't lose myself in Jenn and Antonio's world. Unfortunately the cover art is the best thing about this book.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Mini Review Madness: Mist, Ultraviolet, Forbidden, The Iron Queen and My Soul to Steal

Hi all - today marks the first installment of Mini Review Madness, where I'm aiming to get through as many outstanding reviews as possible to give myself a clean slate for 2012.

Today's post features mini reviews of:

Mist - Kathryn James
Ultraviolet - R J Anderson
Forbidden (The Demon Trappers series) - Jana Oliver
The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa
My Soul to Steal - Rachel Vincent

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Mist - Kathryn James

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Midnight: a mist-haunted wood with a bad reputation. A sweet sixteen party, and 13 year old Nell is trying to keep her sister, spoilt birthday-girl Gwen, out of trouble. No chance. Trouble finds Gwen and drags her through the mist. Only Nell guesses who’s behind the kidnap - the boy she hoped was her friend, the cute but mysterious Evan River.

All those fairy stories Nell’s grandmother told her about girls being stolen by fairy folk are true. The Elven are beautiful as starlight, fierce as wolves, and cold as ice. And they want their world back. The fight has been raging for centuries. Nell’s grandmother should know, she’s a Watcher, the ones responsible for imprisoning the Elven in isolated iron-bound camps in Siberia. Only Evan, his fanatical older brother Fen, and a handful of Elven children are still free.

Fen, hellbent on revenge, keeps Gwen in their wolf-guarded stronghold deep in the mist. The price for her safe return? The release of all the Elven – but the Watchers will never agree. Only Nell can save Gwen.

Time is twisted through the mist: if Nell stops longer than a night and day, a hundred years will hit her as soon as she returns and she’ll be old and withered before she’s even lived. The clock is ticking.

Mini review: Mist both intrigued and surprised me. I love the cover art (it looks stunning in real life) and the story was fascinating, though for a slightly younger age range than I tend to read. Younger readers will adore this one and there's a very sweet love story that's sure to please any romance fan.

Ultraviolet - R J Anderson

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): “Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her.”

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she’s confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori’s body has not been found, and Alison can't explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated—into nothing.

But that's impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind—like her mother always feared she would. For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood—until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison’s case.

Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her—and that she’s capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

Mini review: What a great summary! The story really does live up to the cover and blurb and if you give Ultraviolet a go I promise you won't be disappointed. Set mainly in a mental institution, I really loved the setting and host of characters in Ultraviolet - think Girl, Interrupted with a supernatural element.

Forbidden - Jana Oliver

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Riley's beginning to think being a demon trapper isn't all it's cracked up to be. Her dad's been stolen by a necromancer, her boyfriend's gone all weird and she's getting warm and fuzzy feelings for someone who's seriously bad news.

It's tempting to give it all up and try to be normal, but that's not an option. Because the demons have plans for Riley. And they're not the only ones.

Mini review: I did read Forbidden as a standalone novel, as I didn't have the first book in the series to hand when I receive this one for review so do bear that in mind.

I was left a little non-plussed by Forbidden, the pace was certainly exciting and the book well written but I didn't feel much of a pull to any of the characters in particular - the reviews for this on Goodreads are overwhelmingly positive but, for me, I won't be going back to read the first in the series.

The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): My name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who's sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I'm not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

Mini review: The third book in Kagawa's Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen picks up shortly after The Iron Daughter ends and we're plunged right back in the thick of the action from the action.

This is a pacy read that is sure to satisfy existing fans of the series; the tension is brilliant and we see Megan develop even further as a character. Although I didn't initially warm to her in the earlier installments I really did find myself rooting for her this time around.

My Soul to Steal - Rachel Vincent

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Trying to work things out with Nash—her maybe boyfriend—is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can’t just pretend nothing happened. But “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back.

See, Sabine isn’t just an ordinary girl. She’s a mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people’s fears—and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives.

And Sabine isn’t above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever—and whoever—she wants.

Mini review: The main strength in the Soul Screamers series is definitely Kaylee; unlike a lot of heroines about at the moment I genuinely do find myself willing her to succeed and I think she's a well-rounded, very human character.

That said, I do think this series is beginning to get a little tired so I'm not sure I'll be continuing with it. Fans of the genre will love this one but, for me, I think it's time to bow out.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Trailer Thursday: This Is Not Forgiveness - Celia Rees

Morning all! Hope you're all having a lovely, relaxing weekend. I finished NaNoWriMo on Friday night so I've had a really chilled out weekend, which has been brill.

I wanted to post up the awesome book trailer for Celia Rees' upcoming book 'This Is Not Forgiveness', which is due out on February 2nd 2012.

I'm so excited about this one; the trailer is great, the summary is fab and I've always been a fan of Celia Rees. What's not to love?



Summary (provided by Bloomsbury): This is not historical fiction. This is not a safe read. This is not Celia Rees as you’ve ever seen her before.

Bestselling Celia Rees is known for writing tales of high adventure set in the past. This exciting departure is a psychological drama that sees her tackling subjects of political terrorism, extremism and the effects of post traumatic stress disorder on soldiers.

Everyone says that Caro is bad news, but Jamie can’t help himself. He thinks of her night and day and can’t believe that she wants to be his girlfriend. Gorgeous, impulsive and unconventional, she is totally different to all the other girls he knows. His sister, Martha, hates her. Jamie doesn’t know why, but there’s no way he’s going to take any notice of her warnings to stay away from Caro.

As Jamie falls deeper and deeper under her spell, he realises there is much more to Caro than he first thought. She disappears for days on end, she has small scars on her wrists, she talks about revolutions and taking action, and then there are the rumours he hears about the other men in her life.

Always in the background is Rob, Jamie’s older brother, back from Afghanistan and traumatised after having his leg smashed to bits there. Jamie wants to help him, but Rob seems to be living in a world of his own and is increasingly difficult to reach. With Caro, the summer should have been perfect . . . but that isn’t how things work out in real life and Jamie is going to find out the hard way.

*

What do you think about the trailer? Does it make you excited about This Is Not Forgiveness?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Debut Author Challenge 2012

It's that time of year again - I'm signing up for The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge! I'm making the DAC the only challenge I'm going to sign up for for 2012. I know it's going to be a busy year so I really want to focus on kicking ass in this challenge. I read so many wonderful debuts this year and I'm really excited to get cracking on the stack of 2012 debuts I already have lined up.


In case any of you haven't entered a Debut Author Challenge before or haven't come across this one yet here's some more information taken from The Story Siren:

CHALLENGE OBJECTIVE:
  • To read & review a minimum of twelve young adult or middle grade debut novels between the dates of January 1, 2012 – January 31, 2013.*

*The 2013 extension is so that December Debuts can be read and count toward the challenge.

RULES & GUIDELINES:

  • You must have a Blog to post your reviews or be a member of Goodreads.
  • Your blog must be written in English.
  • Deadline to join is May 31, 2012.

BOOK GUIDELINES:

  • Must be a young adult or middle grade title.
  • Must be the author’s YA or MG debut, released in 2012.
  • If an author has a previous novel published for adults or children, they can still qualify for the challenge.
  • If an author has a previous YA or MG title, they do not qualify for the challenge.
There are a ridiculous amount of debuts I want to try and read next year but this is my list for now, I'll add to it as I buy or receive more books throughout the year:

  1. 172 Hours on the Moon - Johan Harstad
  2. Fracture - Megan Miranda
  3. Mortal Chaos - Matt Dickinson
  4. Night School - C.J. Daughtery
  5. Someone Else's Life - Katie Dale
  6. Tempest - Julie Cross
  7. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin
  8. the Weight of Water - Sarah Crossan
  9. The Witch of Turlingham Academy - Ellie Bosworth
  10. Wonder - R.J. Palacio
  11. The Other Life - Susanne Winnacker
  12. Cinder - Marissa Meyer
  13. Never Eighteen - Megan Bostic
  14. The Catastrophic History of You and Me - Jess Rothenberg
  15. Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters - Meredith Zeitlin
  16. Katana - Cole Gibsen
  17. Croak - Gina Damico
  18. A Breath of Eyre - Eve Marie Mont
  19. Hollow Pike - James Dawson
  20. Oliver Twisted - JD Sharpe
  21. Starters - Lissa Price
  22. Struck - Jennifer Bosworth
  23. Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi
  24. Vixen - Jillian Larkin
I think twenty four is a good number to start with; it works out as two per month which is completely doable. I'd love to hit fifty by the end of the challenge but we'll see...

If you want to sign up for the challenge or just learn a bit more about it head over to Kristi's blog here. If you're only going to sign up for one reading challenge in 2012 I really do recommend this one; it's always lots of fun and I guarantee you'll stumble across some truly brilliant books!Link

Monday, 14 November 2011

Trailer: The Hunger Games

I've seen a few people on Twitter stressing that they haven't been able to find the full Hunger Games trailer so I thought I'd post it up here in case any of you haven't seen it yet.

I actually think it looks pretty awesome, I do have a few reservations and I really, really hope things don't go too Twilight but, based on the trailer, I'm quite excited! I think Lenny Kravitz as Cinna is a stroke of genius and I think Rue looks awesome. I'm still not 100% convinced by Josh Hutcherson but we'll see! Oh, also, was I the only one who's clearly been saying 'Mellark' wrong this whole time?!

Ha, and one last thing - the music at the end totally makes me think of The X-Files. Anyone else? No? Bueller?

Let me know what you think, guys!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Week Two Update and Soundtrack (Better than Me - Hinder)

Hello lovelies! I've been a bit quiet over the last few days, mostly because I've been having a mini breakdown about how busy I am. I definitely need to cut back on a few things as I actually cannot remember the last time I sat down and watched a film or a TV show or anything without having to multi task and sort through emails or blog or work at the same time. And that sucks because I'm essentially very, very lazy.

I've got so many emails backed up that the thought of it makes me want to cry and I'm still really busy for the rest of the YEAR, or at least that's how it feels. I think I have one free weekend between now and 2012. And that, I'm telling you now, will be spent in bed - alternating between napping and watching cartoons.

But before I go off into an all out whinge about responsibilities I wanted to update you all about my progress with NaNoWriMo 2011. Oh, and one last thing about being busy, I'm probably not going to be posting up anything non-NaNo related until after I've finished. Just so you know. However, in December reviews will be back big time, as I've set myself a massive challenge to review as many books as possible before the end of the year. But more on that later.

My current word count (at the time of writing this) is 28,043 words, which I'm really chuffed with. My goal for the end of this weekend is 32,000 words and I'm pretty convinced I'll make it. I'd love to surpass it but I think that's a bit unrealistic so 32,000 remains my goal.

I'm not sure what happened but things have just slotted into place and the words are flowing out faster than I can type them. And when I read it back it's actually not crap. What a novelty! It's the end of week two and I'm still in love with my plot, which I'm taking to be a good sign. The only thing I have realised is that the word count is going to be pretty lengthy by the time I've finished the whole thing, I think. The story's roughly split into about 10 parts and I'm just between the second and third parts at the moment. Hmm. Actually, maybe not too lengthy. I reckon it could end up being about 100k, which I suppose is fairly long for what it is.

I think the thing that really made things click into place was changing the tense - I mentioned this in a previous blog post and a couple of bloggers and writers confirmed my thoughts that first person present was worth a bash. I'd never written in it before but as soon as I started everything just felt so much more natural with this story. Awesome! So I want to say a huge thank you to the lovely people who suggested I go for it - it worked!

The song I want to feature today as part of the soundtrack for Under the Influence is 'Better than Me' by Hinder. For me, it's the perfect writing song; it's got a beautiful melody, it's not so overpowering it distracts from my writing and it's SO overdramatic and emo, which always helps me get into my groove.

Ha, also. As much as I love this song, it definitely has Remus Lupin/Sirius Black slash fiction themetune written all over it. ALL OVER IT. At this point I should probably confirm that my NaNo project does not include Harry Potter fanfiction, as much as I spent the age of 14-16 being all over that shit.

Sorry. Do ignore that tangent up there.

There's a really specific point in the story that makes me think of this song and I'm not there yet but I was plotting out the scene earlier so it's been in my mind today. It's almost the ending of the story and the point where everything gets a little bit emo. In fact, maybe it actually IS the ending, I haven't decided yet which way I'm going to go with the ending.

Anyway, I absolutely love Hinder and continue to force them on as many people as possible. Huskyyy voice ftw. If you haven't heard them before (even if you have) have a listen below but, be warned, it will conjure up old feelings of a love lost... Probably. Don't blame me if you drink yourself into oblivion and drunk text your ex after listening to this song.

Oh, also, I've put up the lyrics video to this, rather than the official video - mostly because the official video goes off on some weird 'cooking up some meth' tangent and I can't take it seriously at ALL. But, really, drugs are bad.



Happy Sunday everybody, love you all. Especially you.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Blog Tour: The Haunting of Charity Delafield - Ian Beck

Hello everybody! Happy Friday - hope you all have lovely plans for the weekend.

I'm here today with a gorgeous guest post from the one and only Ian Beck, author of the truly beautiful The Haunting of Charity Delafield. Ian's here today to talk about his average writing day; I love hearing all about the writing process from various authors and, I have to say, I think Ian's average day sounds pretty awesome!



As I have got older I tend to get up earlier. So around seven I am straight down to the kitchen to make coffee, which is very important. The rich oily smell of the fresh coffee is an essential thing and I stand happily over the chugging machine and breathe it in as it flows. After breakfast I cross the seventy feet or so of garden to my shed, which I refer to, pretentiously harking back to a romantic vision of a non existent Old Russia, as my Dacha. I am very fond of this little mint green building and feel very happy when I am inside it and things can begin.

I switch on the machine and do all the procrastinating things. First I check emails. Sometimes there are knotty questions in overnight from translators asking me to define various phrases.

Recently a Spanish translator asked me exactly what was meant by ‘pitch black’, as he understood it ‘pitch’ was a toss or throw, a place to play football, or a bid to sell something. It is then as you try to explain the allusion to road surfaces and tar and pitch that you realise yet again the infinite richness of our language. Then I set off on my regular morning website trawl, starting always with the wonderful Jeffrey Wells’ Hollywood Elsewhere. A glimpse or two at twitter and then usually a phone call to my closest friend, illustrator Mick Brownfield for our doubly procrastinating water cooler chat which might be, (invariably is) about an obscure British film of the 1950s, sections of which either of us have suddenly found on youtube. I might then add something to my blog. This is usually book related, and most likely connected to an aspect of illustration, decorative art, or the movies. I recently added a post about the Rex Whistler murals in the Tate Britain restaurant, and another on Clouds in Films.

Then after this period which I excuse myself for by claiming is ‘commuter time’ I actually get on with it. The writing starts. This is like entering a waking dream. You consciously cross a threshold and once more you are back in the world you have imagined and which has waited patiently for you to come back so it can move on again. This world is peopled with characters you have mostly made up, but who share certain tics and preoccupations with yourself and with people you know. I am at my happiest humming along improvising through the scenes as the ideas grow and multiply. That time when it all really does seem possible, first draft time. During that happy period which can last anything between six months to a year, there is the occasional presenting to agent and editor. It is really only at that stage that I start keeping a hand written word count and try to keep to an average per day although that is not in any way fixed.

Also, when in the mid flow stage other ideas, connected but not an actual part of the scene I am working on will present themselves and I have to jot them on to post- it notes quickly before they fade. Then they are stuck on to the wall near my desk. At the end of a long drafting spell there will be a whole collection of random phrases sitting strangely together all on luminous pink or yellow and saying things like, ‘remember the ice maiden, see things from her side too’, or ‘sweeps boy falls down into Charity’s room’.

When the first draft is done it is followed by the inevitable redrafting, rewriting and the editing process. I’m often happier editing, it is a task which I set to without demur, indeed sometimes with relish. I have great faith and belief in both my agent and editor(s). I enjoy solving the problems that the freely written narrative has at first thrown up. I am capable of ruthless hacking back, like a fierce gardener let loose with a sharp pair of shears, or worse, a murderer creeping up behind my now unwanted characters and despatching them painlessly but ruthlessly. I do wonder sometimes if those excised characters wait in limbo for their chance. Perhaps one day they will all demand to be assembled in a story of their own, an odd mix that would be.

I enjoy the process of going backwards and forwards through the text, checking, cutting and fixing, putting all those doors in all those alleyways.

I do draw and paint in the Dacha as well, I have a writing side and a drawing side, but my pure illustration work is now almost non existent, my last big job was illustrating Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp for Philip Pullman, which was just recently published.

I work fairly conventional office hours, stopping to cook supper most days at around five thirty. My wife Emma gets in at around seven which is when we will eat. Before I had the Dacha I would often carry on working late in the evenings, the machine sat there somehow blinking at me and urging me to get on. Now I can lock it all away until the whole process starts again the next day.

The added extra bonus about working out in the Dacha is that I am now part of the garden as well as the house. I notice the bird life and the subtle changes in weather and light. I watch the squirrels hurrying about in the apple tree outside the Dacha door, or hear them run across the roof. I can hear the flocks of bright green wild parakeets too that shriek and flutter through the suburban gardens.

Last winter I sat happily working one afternoon during a heavy snow fall and it was so quiet and so beautiful, exactly like being inside one of those glass snow globes.

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Sounds like absolute bliss, don't you agree?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Soundtrack (The One That Got Away - Katy Perry)

I only heard this song a few days ago after I'd already started writing Under the Influence but it went straight onto the playlist for my NaNo novel. Word for word it pretty much plays out the entire plot of my novel - creepy when that happens, isn't it?

I've been a little bit vague about the plot of Under the Influence but, basically, yeah, it's all about 'the one that got away' and what my main character would do if she got to go back to the day they first met and have a second chance to do it all over again.



Inspiring lyrics: In another life
I would make you stay
So I don't have to say
You were the one that got away

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Soundtrack (About A Girl - The Academy Is...)

Hello everybody! I just wanted to post up another song that I've been listening to over and over while writing my NaNoWriMo novel. This time it's one of my all-time favourite songs by one of my favourite bands ever: About A Girl by The Academy Is...

I am absolutely in love with this song. Big time. I listen to it all the time when I'm writing but it's never quite fitted in with a plot line. Until now. Because I think this song fits in with the tone and mood of Under the Influence perfectly. And there's nothing like the dulcet tones of William Beckett to help me get inspired. Jesus Christ, that boy is handsome. I am well aware he weighs about five stone and can resemble a pre-teen girl at certain angles. Still, I would.

Listening to this song and watching the video over and over ad nauseum has really helped me get into the mindset of my male lead. I've been doing a lot of work on my characterisation over the last few days and I feel like I 'get' Toby now, so to speak.

The video for this song inspires me just as much as the song itself and definitely applies a little bit to my story. William Beckett has the whole 'malnourished, slouchy Indie boy' thing down to a T and that's how I see my male lead...just not quite so mal-nourished and not quite so pre-teen girl. The mannerisms and the slight awkwardness and the hair and the really nice teeth, that part.

If you've ever had a crush on somebody who never even knew you existed, if you ever spent your days day-dreaming about the moment they would finally come to their senses and notice you, if you ever tried to hide those feelings in some lame attempt at self-preservation; this is the song for you, my dears.

Plus, there's a bit in the video where William Beckett bites his lip and it makes me feel a bit funny. In a good way.



Inspiring lyrics: Last night I knew what to say but you weren't there to hear it
These lines so well-rehearsed, tongue-tied and overloaded
You never notice

Monday, 7 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Soundtrack (Hey, Soul Sister - Train)

I think I have probably played Hey, Soul Sister at least twenty times a day, every single day this year. I kid you not. Seriously. I have got it bad for this song and my love for it is NOT waning. I play it when I'm happy, I play it when I'm sad, I play it in the shower, when I'm driving, when I'm cleaning, when I'm cooking. Literally, all frigging day long.

And I absolutely CANNOT be unhappy while this song is playing. Neither can you. No one can. If you're having a shit day or feel a bit down in the dumps put Hey, Soul Sister on. I 100% guarantee you will be dancing by the end of it. Put it on now, do it! Click the video at the bottom of this post, turn the volume up and dance around. This is the kind of song that, when I sing it, I'm not in my bedroom singing into my hairbrush, I'm performing at the bloody final of X Factor and I'm kicking ass.

I've been posting up a few moody, serious songs over the last few days that are on my playlist for Under the Influence so I thought this would balance it out nicely. My main goal for this year's NaNoWriMo novel is to keep it 100% light hearted and fun at all times. Hey, Soul Sister is the perfect song to sum up the tone of my novel and the love story, which is the central theme because, really, all you need is love, right? Right.



Inspiring lyrics: I can be myself now finally
In fact, there's nothing I can't be
I want the world to see you'll be with me

Sunday, 6 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Soundtrack (Need You Now - Lady Antebellum)

So I'm here today with another song that's been inspiring me while writing my NaNo novel: Need You Now by Lady Antebellum.

Okay, so I have to just start off by saying that I'm seriously impressed at how emotional and romantic Lady Antebellum manage to make this song, when at the end of the day it's actually just about drunk dialling someone for a booty call. Really, it is, though. None of my drunk dials have ever been quite so eloquent so props to them for that.

Anyway, this song fits in perfect with Under the Influence, as there's a lot of yearning and a lot of pining and a lot of drunk texting. I did want to tell the story from the point of view of both my female and male lead, which is what first made me bang this song on my playlist. Then I realised a dual narrative wouldn't work and I dropped the male voice. Still, the song certainly sums up some of what goes on in the story so yay for that.

I haven't quite reached the point in the story yet where the inspiration from this song comes into play but I was doing a bit of plotting earlier and outlined those scenes. I'm excited about writing them - I do love a bit of drunken emo regret about the past.

Another thing, I just really like Lady Antebellum. I think they're fab. They're not reallllly the sort of music I listen to a lot but, yeah, I love them.



Inspiring lyrics: And I wonder if I ever cross your mind
For me it happens all the time

Saturday, 5 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Soundtrack (The Weakness In Me - Joan Armatrading)

Now, I am all about listening to music while I write. I barely ever write in silence and I make playlist after playlist when I'm planning and writing a novel. Honestly, I have playlist mania. You need a playlist for any occasion, I've got one, I swear down.

Over the last few days I've been putting together the soundtrack to my NaNo so I wanted to start posting up a few of the songs that have been inspiring me and helping me write. One of the main themes I'm exploring in Under the Influence is a lost love, missed opportunities and 'the one that got away' so there's a lot of longing and nostalgia and all nice things like that.

One of the songs that best encompasses the feeling of the story is the one below, The Weakness In Me by Joan Armatrading. I absolutely adore Joan Armatrading with a PASSION. I saw her live a few days ago and it will always be one of the best performances I've ever seen. Every single one of her songs inspires me and I think she's one of the most talented women in the world. Ever. I love her a whole lot.

So if you haven't heard this song before (actually, even if you have) check it out below. I can never, ever listen to it without getting a little teary-eyed, I think it's absolutely beautiful and there's something about the simplicity and honesty of the lyrics that I just love. Love, love, love.

I said in an earlier post about NaNoWriMo I've been finding it quite tough getting into my protagonist's head but listening to this song really helps me get into her frame of mind so yay fror that. Oh, and sorry it's not the official video - I couldn't find one on Youtube :(.



Inspiring lyrics: You make me stay when I should not
Are you so strong, or is all the weakness in me?

Do you guys write with music playing? If so, what songs are you listening to while writing your NaNo novels?

Friday, 4 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Days Two - Four

So I just wanted to post a little catch up to let you guys know where I've been for the last few days and how I've been getting on with my NaNoWriMo project. I'm at 6700 words at the moment, which is just about what I should be at.

NaNo day 2: Wrote 1700 words by hand in a coffee shop in Bath. Worked out a few kinks in the plot. Celebrated by binge drinking cocktails as it was mojito Wednesday at my favourite bar. Favourite bar, favourite drink - rude not to.

NaNo day 3: Thursday was spent being smug about not being hungover, apologising for various drunk texts that were sent and napping. Thursday evening was spent typing up Wednesday's words and having a very lovely dinner cooked for me and the boyfriend by some uni pals. Well needed rest day.

NaNo day 4: Today I am getting my ass in gear. I've been so busy this week that I've barely had a minute to myself to sit down and do any writing. It's been lovely catching up with everyone but I really like a need a bit of down time to curl up with my laptop and bash out a few chapters. I'm not doing anything for the rest of today so my plan is to get to 10,000 words.

NaNo days 5 and 6: This weekend I'm venturing to the NORTH for a family party to celebrate my cousin turning 30. She lives in a little village just outside Leeds and it is MILES away from Bath. Not looking forward to spending four+ hours in the car on Saturday and Sunday but it'll be awesome to see everyone.

My boyfriend's staying at home to look after the dogs so I've got a hotel room to myself on Saturday night. Win. I'm taking my laptop with me and the plan is to write a couple of thousand words once I get back from the party. We'll see... Perhaps they will be tipsy words. I think a bit of drunk writing is exactly what this project needs.

I'm due back in Bath by mid-afternoon on Sunday so I should be able to get my 2000 words done, no problem. I would really, desperately like to spend Sunday doing nothing except recuperating, watching crappy TV and painting my nails but, alas, I have words to write and reviews to schedule and about a million emails to respond to.

Target for end of week one: 14,000 words


Plan for week two:

Monday (day 7): Free as a bird, words will be written - hopefully 2500 of them

Tuesday (day 8): I have a personal training session so my evening will be taken up with sit ups and press ups and squats and lunges and general perspiring. I'm planning for 1500 words just to keep me on track.

Wednesday (day 9): Night out in Bristol with the boyfriend to see one of my favvvvourite bands ever, The Naked and Famous. I'm beyond excited. I love them a lot and they provide the theme tune to Reckless (novel number two) so it's always a joy to see them live. I'm not going to lie, I doubt I'll be able to do any writing so I'm not scheduling anything in for this day!
Thursday (day 10): Another personal training session - more jack knifes and stretching and entry to a world of pain. My plan is to work my ass off in my spare couple of hours and get 3000 words done to make up for being out on Wednesday

Friday (day 11): Aaaand breathe. I have Friday afternoon and evening and then the WHOLE weekend gloriously free for blogging and writing. This is going to be the first time in months I've had three whole evenings to myself and I intend to make the most of it. I'll be writing and reading and editing and running like the wind. I'm also planning on staying in my pyjamas at all times. My goal for today is another 3000 words.

Saturday (day 12): Between blogging and reviewing and relaxing I'm really, really hoping to knuckle done and write 4000 words.

Sunday (day 13): Like Saturday, I really want to make the most of having a whole day to myself and write as much as possible. I'm aiming for 4000; I'd love to try for more but I've got a ridiculous amount of emails to deal with. Sad face.

Target for end of week two: 32,000 words (not putting pressure on myself or anything)

So there you have it - fingers crossed I'll stick to my schedule and stay on track. Do you give yourself a schedule to stick to or do you just write as and when you can?

NaNoWriMo 2011: Characters

The main struggle I've had so far with my NaNo novel is getting to grips with the narrative voice. I'm writing in first person past and I'm seriously thinking about changing it to first person present, though I barely ever write in the present tense. There's something not quite right at the moment and I think a change in tense might help. I also think it'll bring a sense of immediacy to the story that could work quite nicely. I may try it later and see how the scene works out.

As I went into NaNo so unprepared I haven't had any time to sit back and work on my plot or characters or, well, anything really. My two main characters don't even have concrete names yet and I've found it really hard to bond with them so far. I spent so long fitting the characters from Reckless into different short stories and half written novels that, when I start writing Reckless, I knew them so well I never had to think about what they would say or do in any situation, I just knew. Working with a whole set of brand new characters has been quite tough and when I get a bit of spare time I really want to work on getting to know them a little better.

(The main reason I didn't get much writing done this week... Curse you, two for one cocktails)

This is the first time since Tuesday that I've even switched my laptop on so I'm looking forward to trying to get a chapter or so written tonight, before yet another busy couple of days. Roll on next weekend when I'll actually have a bit of time to write!

How are you all doing? What are your word counts looking like? What have you found particularly easy/challenging so far? Let me know!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day One

So, day one is done and dusted! How did we all do? How do you feel? Exhausted? Exhilirated?

I feel in a bit of a daze. My brain today has mostly just been 'novel novel novel' and not much else. I even went for a run for the THIRD day on the trot to clear my head and try and get some plot points ironed out. My mind is blown.

Basically, I have my plot. And I love it. I am utterly obsessed with it. At this stage I pretty much think it's the best plot anybody EVER has ever come up with. Yeah, remind me of that in a couple of weeks when I'm slinging my laptop across the room and punching things.

I made it to 4000 words today. This pleases me greatly. But then again I need to get ahead while I can because, typically, November is a reallllly busy month for me so most of my evenings and weekends are already busy - annoying! Although, not annoying because they mostly involve hanging out with my uni chums and family and blogger pals and best friends so it's all good.

Also, big shout out to Lynsey from Narratively Speaking for being generally awesome and blatantly the best writing buddy ever. And understanding the constant need for sexytimes. THERE WILL BE MANY.

Anyway, I think NaNo is already sending me a bit mental but it's making me very happy indeed.

Oh, but pretty much all of what I wrote today is utter turd but I think I just needed to write myself into it. I even went back and edited one section - thank you Viv for trying to stop me but it was futile. But from now on there will be NO MORE EDITING.

I'm just reaching my stride now and things aren't sounding so crap so thank God for that. I'm planning on spending tomorrow afternoon in Bath doing lots of writing by hand, of all things. I did want to take my laptop with me but as I'm going straight out tomorrow evening for 'quiet' cocktails and tapas I thought it probably wouldn't end well. I'm also going to go and buy a bra and maybe some rings but that's not relevant at all. First I will write my words.

I'm also really enjoying slipping in as many Lost references as possible into this novel. Bonus points for my pals I send it out to if you get them. You will. They're not massively subtle.

4 8 15 16 23 42.

Anyway, I'm definitely going to go now and try and squeeze out another 2000 words.

So I will leave you with this song, which has become the official theme song for my novel:

Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me



Lyrics of the day:

"Have you ever thought just maybe, you belong with me?"

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Good luck WriMos, God speed!

Blog Tour: The Double Shadow - Sally Gardner

Hello everybody! I'm here today as I'm the first stop on Sally Gardner's blog tour for her awwwesome new book, The Double Shadow. I've been a big fan of Sally's for a while now and I'm really excited to be part of this tour - I just know you're all going to love The Double Shadow, it's quite something!

Sally's guest post today focuses on the differences between writing in the city and country, something I found extremely interesting to hear about - as you all know I'm a country girl through and through.



Double Shadows: the city and the country: the great writing contrast

Where London provides the cultural inspiration, Suffolk provides the peace.

Temporarily living in by the sea has been lovely. I've taken to writing poetry inspired by the landscapes, long walks help me think up stories, and I’ve taken up two new vices: alcohol and cigarettes as there’s no one around to see me here.

I think London brings in networks of ideas like a satellite dish, rather than the gentle flow of ideas I get here. The hecticness of London affects the density and cadence of my work. In Suffolk there’s a slightly calmer flow to my writing.

The key, though, is that I can write anywhere - a trick I learned when raising three children while beginning my career. Kitchen table, garden shed, etc. In London the stories are everywhere already – in backstreets, lives and simple observations. It’s a city like a cloak – I love wearing it. London also provides the best cemeteries for character name inspiration.

In Suffolk, the sea and sky provide a huge landscape for dreaming and invention, and there is a great magic to the sea and being touch with nature. I never thought I could cope in the countryside (bad coffee and shops that shut at 4pm!) but have I surprised myself by falling in love with it.


I want to say a massive thanks to Sally and Indigo (who are publishing The Double Shadow) for inviting me to take part in the tour and make sure you pop over to Thoughts from the Hearthfire on Thursday for stop number two!