Saturday, 30 June 2012

June Book Haul

Basically, I'm too disorganised to do a weekly post for Letterbox Love of IMM about the books I've bought and received for review so, yes, a monthly effort I can stick to.

Seeing as it's the last day of the month (pinch, punch for tomorrow) it's worked out kind of perfectly. Here are the books that have come into my possession throughout the month of June:

Books received/bought in June

Purchased by me: Bad Taste in Boys, Reunited, You are Here, The Downside of Being Charlie, This is Not a Test and Chime (more on that below!) 

The reason I bought the new paperback of Chime - I'm quoted on the back cover! YAY! Thank you to The Book Smugglers for tweeting about this or I'd have missed it completely.

 Received at the Random House Blogger Brunch: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Now is Good, Muddle and Win, Never Fall Down and Time Between Us

 Surprises received from publishers: Turf (yay), Rapture (double yay), The Night Sky in my Head, God Save the Queen, Spy for the Queen of Scots, Neptune's Tears, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hades (was it really a wise move sending this to me, considering my review of the cover and Halo?) and Why We Broke Up (which looks *amazing*)
  Received for review: Grave Mercy, Pushing the Limits, Grymm (looks brilliant!), Losing Lila and Seraphina

 Received for review: Torn, The Forsaken, Emma <3 LA, Blood Moon, Saving June and Black Heart Blue

 And my copy of The Forsaken was signed by the lovely author, Lisa M Stasse, who sent me a copy all the way from the US. Massive thank you, Lisa, I'm on chapter four and completely engrossed!

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So that's my book haul for June. I didn't get a chance to buy too many books this month because the ones I did buy were mostly US imports so a tad pricey. What did you guys get this month? Anything I should order a copy of that you see missing?

Friday, 29 June 2012

Review: Bleeding Hearts - Alyxandra Harvey



Published: October 1st 2011, Bloomsbury
Pages: 289 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book four in the series
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads)As vampires from all over the world descend on the Drake farm for the Blood Moon gathering, security is ramped up. Lucy has been temporarily banned, for her own safety--and to allow Solange some time to adjust to her new existence. But their enemies realize how much Lucy means to the family, and plan to abduct her to use her for leverage against the new royal family. Instead, Lucy's cousin Christabel is kidnapped by mistake--and Connor Drake immediately heads off in pursuit, but isn't in time to prevent Christabel's infection by the Hel Blar. He can't save her human life, but he can still try to save her new "vampire" life, and is willing to put his own life on the line for the girl he has grown to care so much about. Can he save Christabel, the Blood Moon, and his mother's newly forged Vampire Alliance?


My review: So I’m not exactly famed for being a fan of paranormal romance novels. In fact, you could say I’m quite the opposite of a fan. Even so, I’ve always been vocal about my love of the Drake Chronicles, penned by the amazing Alyxandra Harvey. This is one of the only paranormal romances series that I read and, more than that, it’s definitely one of my favourite series ever. I’m pleased to report that I loved Bleeding Hearts just as much as the other three books in the series and am already raring to get started on Blood Moon, which happily clattered through my letter box a couple of weeks ago.

All of your favourite characters are back in this installment, including the Drake brothers we all know and love. How has Harvey managed to create so many swoonworthy male characters without making any of them stereotypical, two dimensional or annoying? Seriously, she’s a marvel. Each one of the Drake brothers is a strong character in his own right and I feel like I know them all so well, even though this is only book four in the series. Nicholas is still my favourite, obviously, but I really developed a bit of a soft spot for Connor in Bleeding Hearts.

One of the things I love most about Harvey’s books is that it’s so easy to put them down and pick them up without forgetting a single detail. I stopped reading Bleeding Hearts for a couple of weeks because of my trip to Berlin etc but when I started it again I settled back into the story instantly, without any need to flick back and reread the last few chapters I’d read. To me, that says a hell of a lot about the strength of her characters and her storytelling, as I genuinely think the characters she’s created (Nicholas and Lucy, in particular) are some of the most memorable out there at the moment.

The tension is ramped up in Bleeding Hearts more than it has been in any of the Drake Chronicles so far. We’re in the thick of things right from the word go and the whole novel builds to a final climactic scene that is so exciting I actually felt a bit knackered by the time I’d finished the book. Everything is so visual with such subtle description that I felt completely immersed in the Drake world – we have got to see a series of film adaptations soon, surely? The series gets my vote for the next big YA franchise!

Before reading Bleeding Hearts I’d heard a lot about the cliffhanger at the end of the book. Obviously I’m not going to give anything away so I’ll just say this – it’s truly evil and I’m so glad I have my copy of Blood Moon to hand to put me out of my misery asap!

I love that each of the books has its own self-contained story and can be read as a standalone in its own right but the central story arc of the series is so strong I doubt anybody could read just one book out of the series without needing to devour the rest. Harvey’s writing style is so current and so Whedon-esque she’s absolutely one of my favourite YA writers, particularly for her cracking dialogue that is always completely spot on, managing to feel current but timeless at the same time. Ahk, the only downside is that I always come away from her books with major writing envy.

If you haven’t met Alyxandra Harvey at an event yet do take the time to go and see her – I’ve been lucky enough to meet her twice and she’s one of the funniest, loveliest writers I’ve met so go, go, go! I realise this has turned into more of a rave than a review but, honestly, I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to deconstruct the technical side of things to encourage you to read it. Basically – a gazillion hottie brothers that are all reminiscent of a young Johnny Depp, do you really need more of a reason? Just in case you do, the Drake brothers aren’t the only treat in store, you’ll also discover the best example of vampire mythology I’ve come across, hilarious one liners and absolutely unforgettable characters; that’s a promise.

First line: '"The fact that we have to fetch our baby sister home because she's out later than we are is just sad," Quinn grumbled.'



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


Thursday, 28 June 2012

From the Review Pile (4) - 172 Hours on the Moon - Johan Harstad



Click the lovely graphic above to visit the brill Stepping Out of the Page

From Stepping Out of the Page: From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday. The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or anybook that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

2012 has been a busy year at Writing from the Tub in terms of review copies and a combination of focusing on my own writing and a lot of real life busy-ness has meant I haven’t been getting through new releases as quickly as I’d like. There are so many wonderful books on my shelves that I’ve been sent by publishers that are waiting to be read, so I’m looking forward to using From the Review Pile as a way to give them a bit of coverage and publicity while I’m working my way to them.
172 Hours on the Moon - Johan Harstad
I've been promised 172 Hours on the Moon is a creepy, atmospheric sci-fi novel, what's not to like? I watched Prometheus at the cinema a couple of weeks ago so I've been looking for a sci-fi book with a retro feel to read - I think this just might be it!


Summary (from Goodreads): It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.


Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.


Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.


Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.


It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the desolate surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Think you're the UK's biggest Harry Potter fan?


Happy hump day everybody, how are you all? We're halfway through the working week, hooray!

I'm sure you've seen lots of people tweeting about this but I wanted to share the amazing competition Bloomsbury are hosting to find the UK's biggest Harry Potter fan. The press release and details are below but before you read the requirements of entry make sure you check out the brilliant video, which I've watched about five times and am still not bored of.

The prize for this contest is ridiculous! A leather-bound anniversary copy of the first book? A trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? INSANE. Take it from me, if any of you haven't visited Florida to go then you must, it's really something. The photos scattered through this post are some of the ones I took last time I was in Florida, hopefully they'll inspire you to go and visit!


Also, have many of you been to the Harry Potter studio tour? I want to go BADLY. Is it awesome? Tell me it's awesome! I should totally go, right?



From an idea born on a train journey, to its creation in a small cafe in Edinburgh Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the book that started a global phenomenon.  Rejected by many publishers and with an initial hardback print run of 500 copies, it has now sold over 90 million copies worldwide. It is the book that put Harry’s destiny in motion and created a whole new generation of readers. It is hard to think now that before 1997 none of us knew about Hogwarts, Quidditch or Voldemort (who was voted as the favourite literary villain in a recent Bloomsbury poll).

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone Bloomsbury is launching a nationwide competition to find the UK’s biggest HARRY POTTER fan.

Bloomsbury is inviting fans to write a letter of no more than 50 words explaining why they love HARRY POTTER. We are looking for the most creative, clever and entertaining reasons and, while the word limit is set to a strict 50 words, entrants are encouraged to draw, doodle and make their letters as elaborate as possible.


HARRY POTTER fans can only enter by visiting a local bookshop or library and posting their letter in the specially designed postboxes. Over 1800 bookshops and libraries have already signed up to take part. The competition will run from Tuesday 26th June to Tuesday 31st July 2012 after which we will name the UK and Ireland’s biggest HARRY POTTER fan. The winner and runners up will be announced on Saturday 1st September.*

The competition is an ideal opportunity for fans to show how much they love HARRY POTTER as well as supporting their local bookshop or library. Details of how to enter and a list of participating bookshops and libraries can be found on the website: www.bloomsbury.com/harrypottercompetition


*The winner will receive a family holiday to experience the magic and excitement of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ only at Universal Orlando® Resort and a leather-bound, signed, dedicated and numbered 15th Anniversary Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The limited number 15th Anniversary Editions are exclusive to the competition and cannot be purchased elsewhere. Fourteen runners-up will also each receive a leather-bound, signed, dedicated and numbered 15th Anniversary Edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

RHCP Summer Blogger's Brunch

So two weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the RHCP Summer Blogger's Brunch, at the lovely Random House offices in Pimlico. This was my...fifth brunch (I think) and I came away with the same sense of excitement and enthusiasm for their books that I always do.

I know I say this every time but I'm so impressed with the diverse line of books that Random House are bringing out over the next year or so. There really is something for everybody and I'm really chuffed at how many contemporary novels they have coming out - yay!

We had a great presentation by two of the RH cover designers and it was great to see all of the stages involved to bring readers a completed cover. We also got to chat to two of the lovely ladies who are bringing the Vintage Children's Classics range to the shelf - which is going to be amazing! I love classic children's stories and I think the list they've come up with is just fantastic and the covers are beautiful, I really can't wait to see them for real. I was lucky enough to get a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in my goodie bag so I'll definitely be dipping into that soon.

Lastly, we all got to meet Laura Dockrill, whose MG series about Darcy Burdock is due out early next year. Laura treated us to a reading from book one and, honestly, it's hilarious. With a background in performance poetry Laura absolutely brought her protagonist to life and I'm so, so excited to read these books. They're going to be fab!

Anyway, as always I'm completely desperate for pretty much every single book Random House are bringing out over the next year but I just wanted to highlight a few titles I'm particularly excited about:

Never Fall Down - Patricia McCormick (due out 02/08/2012)

I know I'm going to be a mess by the end of the this one. Tissues at the ready, folks.



The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket - John Boyne (02/08/2012)

As you've probably gathered from my past reviews, I'm a huge fan of John Boyne. He always manages to reduce me to tears and I'm sure Barnaby Brocket won't be any exception. We saw some early artwork for this one at the January 2012 brunch and it looks lovely, I really can't wait for it!



The Paladin Prophecy - Mark Frost (27/09/2012)

When I read that Mark Frost was the author I did a bit of a double take...then assumed it must be a different Mark Frost. But no! Half of the creative genius behind Twin Peaks has written a YA novel. Bloody hell! All I need is for Damon Lindelof to bring out a series and I'll actually explode from sheer joy. Guys, you have no idea, seriously. I can't even articulate my thoughts to express how excited I am that Mark Frost has written a YA novel. It's the dream, folks.



Red Rain - R. L. Stine (11/10/2012)

Oh dear lord, I love R. L. Stine. I spent my childhood years devouring everything he brought out, I still have my (almost entirely complete) collection of Goosebumps books on display in my writing room and he will always be right at the top of my list of authors who made my childhood. I'm a huge horror fan, as you all know, and I don't think there's a single author out there (besides Stephen King) who has cemented by love of horror as much as this man. And he's only bringing out a new book! That looks amazing! Ahhhh. I'm so excited. SO excited. This is, hands down, the 2012 book I'm most excited about. I am OFF THE CHARTS excited.



The Feathered Man - Jeremy de Quidt (01/11/2012)

I read and reviewed de Quidt's The Toymaker last year and I really enjoyed it. I think it's a hugely underrated novel and I'm so intrigued by The Feathered Man, so roll on November! De Quidt writes just the kind of scary stories that I like - creepy rather than gory, the kind of insidious ideas that wrap themselves around you in the dark and won't let go.



Such Wicked Intent - Kenneth Oppel (02/08/2012)

Half Brother is still one of my favourite reads of the last few years and I'm only part way through This Dark Endeavour but I already love it. I studied Frankenstein for my A-levels and it'll always have a little spot close to my heart so I love this origin story.



Boys Don't Cry II - Malorie Blackman (2013)

I adored Boys Don't Cry and I've been hoping for a sequel ever since so I can't wait for this one. Malorie Blackman is absolutely one of the best British writers out there at the moment and I can't wait to see how she continues with the story in the sequel.

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Trust me, there are so many other wonderful books that Random House are bringing out shortly so the above is just a snapshot of those I'm most excited about.

I want to say a huge thank you to the whole Random House team who gave up their Saturday morning to chat to us and provide us with tea, cake and brilliant goodie bags - you SPOIL us so! Another big thanks to Laura Dockrill, who was sweet and charming and generally lovely to meet.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Interview: Gill Lewis (White Dolphin)


Hi everybody! I'm joined today by Gill Lewis (a fellow Bath Spa alum, woop!), who kindly offered to answer a few of my questions about her writing process and her latest book, White Dolphin.

Without further ado, I'll hand you over to Gill...


1.      Hi, Gill! In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about White Dolphin?
 
Hi there! Yes…White Dolphin is a story of Kara’s search to find the truth behind the disappearance of her mother, set against her determination to save the reef in the bay of her home town from commercial scallop dredgers. When Kara sees a white dolphin in the bay, she believes it is a sign from her mother, a sign that her mother is out there somewhere waiting for her. However, when she finds the dolphin stranded on the beach and in need of help, Kara finds that friendship comes from least expected places.
 
2.      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?
 
There is never an ‘average day’, although I do have to set strict time aside to write or research. I find I’m most creative between 9am and 1pm. If I have a strict deadline looming then I work after lunch until school pick up time. I usually use the afternoons and evenings to catch up on emails and other non-writing stuff.
When I’m working on a new fresh draft, it takes me about an hour to sink back into the story, then another half hour to get a cup of coffee and put some washing on, and then at about 10.30am I start to write. I’ve tried to eliminate this seemingly wasted hour and a half, but have found that I can’t…I think I need it to ‘see’ the story in my head. I’m an incredibly slow writer and find that if I give myself word count deadlines then I tend to panic. Instead, I try to visualise a scene and write that scene. I probably average about 1000 words on a good day.
 
 
3.      What sort of research did you have to do for White Dolphin? How did you go about doing this?
 
I did LOTS of research. Like many authors, I find I have to do hours of research, often just to make one sentence authentic. For White Dolphin, I read books on dolphins and a fabulous book on the threats facing our oceans called The Unnatural History of the Sea. I’ve watched documentaries including, The Cove, about dolphin slaughter in Japan. I’ve talked to fishermen, and staff of Finding Sanctuary, a group advising about Marine Protected Areas around the UK. I’ve learnt to sail a dinghy…(and found to my disappointment that I wasn’t a natural, but it all added to the flavour of some scenes). I’ve watched a mock-up of a dolphin rescue. I’ve been on boat trips to watch wild dolphins. I’ve researched boat-building techniques. I’ve spoken to vets who work for the Marine Life Rescue. I’ve interviewed young people with cerebral palsy, including a young sailor also trialling for the Paralympic swimming squad.  I also wrote the whole story with a tide timetable next to me, to make sure there was continuity in the scenes with the state of the tide.

4.      The children’s and YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets White Dolphin apart from the pack?

It is a competitive place and there are fantastic books and authors out there. It’s important to have lots of choice and a wide range of genres of stories for young people to choose from. I hope that readers of my books enjoy not only the wildlife story, but the human story behind it too.
 
5.      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’m not one of those writers!!! I get distracted too easily and need a quiet space in which to write. However, I do associate characters and scenes with certain songs and will play the song in the car as I’m driving, to work out a scene in my head.
 
 
6.      Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?

Hmm! Somewhere in the middle. I have a rough idea of the beginning and end, and know a few key major happenings on the way, but otherwise I just write and see which characters turn up. I liken it to booking a bus journey, knowing where I’m going and some of the stop-off points, but I don’t know who’s going to join me on the journey, or what I’ll see out of the window. Writing the story by this method does mean a lot of re-writing to re-structure plot, but I like to think it keeps the story fresh and spontaneous for me too.  
 
7.      Can you tell me a bit about your journey with White Dolphin? 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?

White Dolphin originally started as a story for younger readers about a girl who could understand the dynamics of dolphin ‘speech’. However, the more I researched, I became fascinated by marine conservation and decided that dolphins didn’t need to be given magical properties at all. They were fascinating in their own right. The idea began swirling in my mind for several months and the idea was accepted as part of a two book deal with Sky Hawk. The first draft took about five months to write, but then I realised I had taken a wrong turn in the story and needed to re-write about the last two thirds of the story completely. However, it was only by going wrong, that I discovered the story I wanted to write. The first draft to acceptance took about nine months.
 
8.      You studied creative writing at Bath Spa University (like me – YAY); what was the most important thing you took away from the course and what advice would you give to anybody thinking about studying creative writing at university?

For me, the most important thing I learned was how to edit. Before I started the course, I thought editing was a quick spellcheck, but now I realise it means looking at your work, being ruthless, cutting out whole chapters, bringing in new characters…etc. It was also great to be in a nucleus of talented writers too and to feel for the first time that writing could be more than just a hobby. Studying creative writing at Bath Spa also gave me the discipline to put time aside for writing…something very difficult to do in many people’s busy lives.
 
9.      How important do you think social media (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/blogging) is in today’s market for a writer?

I don’t know, is the honest answer. I suppose you have to think want you want it to do. I like twitter because it keeps me in contact with other writers and the publishing world. I’m not sure if it raises my profile, but it’s fun and doesn’t take too much time. I have Facebook, but I don’t use it that much. I keep in contact with personal friends and writers I have met. I don’t write much about myself on Facebook. I know many authors have a Facebook author page. My books are marketed at 9-12 year olds, so there are probably fewer users of Facebook in that age range. 
I think an author website is important. It seems to be the first port of call for readers, teachers, and librarians etc to contact the author. It can give useful information on news and events, although I have to admit I’m hopeless at keeping mine updated
Blogging…yes I think this is probably useful and also something I find very difficult to keep up with.
 
 
10.   What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?

Eating biscuits and drinking vast volumes of coffee.
 
11.  Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?

Names are important and they have to be right. Some names just pop into my head, yet others, I agonise over. In White Dolphin, Kara’s name means ‘love’ in Cornish. This was very important, as it is love that binds her with her mother and father. Even the non-human characters, I have to think about. The boat in White Dolphin is called Moana from the Maori name for ocean. The osprey in Sky Hawk is named Iris, after her leg ring bears the letters RS, which sounds like ‘Iris’ if you say the letters quickly together. Iris is also the Greek name of the Goddess of the wind and sky.
 
12. What did you hope to accomplish by writing White Dolphin? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?

That’s a difficult question. I don’t think I ever write with an accomplishment in mind (other than finishing the story!) but I suppose it is a story about things that I care passionately about, and I hope that comes across to the reader. I would love readers to enjoy the story and also come away with an awareness of the threats facing our oceans
 
13.  Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Ah ha! Time! We all need a little more time! I have three children; and so spend non-writing time with them. My one hobby is swimming. I love it because it is like mental yoga…I can completely relax my mind. Rather bravely or stupidly, I have signed up for a 10km swim down the River Dart. I’m hoping for some dolphins to give me a lift.
 
14.   Thank you so much for your time, Gill. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?

I love the book I’m currently writing. The subject matter of the story is something that I feel very strongly about, but I feel a bit jinxed if I talk about it, so I’ll wait until my editor has seen it first!
 

Monday, 18 June 2012

The best Fifty Shades of Grey video

Because I haven't had a chance to write my event report of the RHCP brunch and FSOG was talked about a lot on Saturday, I bring you this gem. I adore the 3 Golden Sisters anyway but I've just watched this and it made me so damn happy, I just love them.

Enjoy!


(Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkHIAIEZDC4&feature=player_embedded)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey Memes - 1

So I did it. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. What I have to say about the book definitely doesn't qualify as a review, as I knew I would detest it before I started reading so my opinion certainly isn't fair or balanced. I'm going to attempt to write some sort of a 'review' but I haven't quite geared up to it yet so here is a meme that more accurately displays how I felt after the first two hundred or so pages.

At first I was like...


But then I was like...

(Meme created over at http://builder.cheezburger.com/builder/rage)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

From the Review Pile (3) - The Intern - Dillon Khan

  



 


Click the lovely graphic above to visit the brill Stepping Out of the Page

From Stepping Out of the Page: From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday. The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

2012 has been a busy year at Writing from the Tub in terms of review copies and a combination of focusing on my own writing and a lot of real life busy-ness has meant I haven’t been getting through new releases as quickly as I’d like. There are so many wonderful books on my shelves that I’ve been sent by publishers that are waiting to be read, so I’m looking forward to using From the Review Pile as a way to give them a bit of coverage and publicity while I’m working my way to them.
 
The Intern - Dillon Khan
 
The Intern
 
It's not too often I see contemporary YA written from a male protagonist's perspective so I'm really interested to read The Intern, partly because of the different perspective and partly because the plot reminds me a little of a more modern, fictional version of But Enough About Me, which is one of my favourite ever books.
 
Summary (from Goodreads): When Jay Merchant lands an internship for the best job in music television, he is given a backstage pass to the biggest gig of his life. The velvet rope to the biggest VIP parties and hottest celebrities has been lifted and now he's got to capture it on camera. But with only six months to turn his intern dream into a real job, does he have what it takes? It's time to face the music...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Favourite Covers: Swords

As you all know I'm a massive fan of book covers and I regularly post up lists of my favourites that fit into certain themes. I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but, pshhh, we all do. It's impossible not to notice a gorgeous cover when browsing the shelves of a book store and a great cover design can definitely do wonders for a book.

This week the theme is swords! Well, swords/daggers/katanas etc, if I'm being super correct.

Katana - Cole Gibsen

Scarlet - A. C. Gaughen

Lament - Maggie Stiefvater

City of Glass - Cassandra Clare

Graceling - Kristin Cashore

Angelfire - Courtney Allison Moulton

Spy Glass - Maria V. Snyder

Fairy Bad Day - Amanda Ashby

Steel - Carrie Vaughn
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Which one of these is your favourite? I think Katana and Graceling are mine, both are books I need to hurry up and read! Are there any you think I've missed? Let me know!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Interview: Diana Hendry (The Seeing)

Hi everybody! How are you all this morning? I've got Diana Hendry here with me today for an interview, as she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I reviewed her latest release, The Seeing, a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet then I really do recommend it; it's one my favourite 2012 releases so far!



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?

Well, this book has had so many drafts that there hasn’t really been an ‘average day’.  One of the things I do that really helps me, is to write for an hour before breakfast – say between 7 a.m and 8 a.m.  This means I get a feeling of having accomplished something (even if I tear it up afterwards) before the day really gets going. 

If what I’m writing goes well, I probably carry on from about 10 (I go for a swim some mornings between 8 – 9) until 1 or two.  Sometimes I do an extra hour or two late afternoon.  It’s really pretty varied.

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?

No!  I love music, of all sorts, but not when I’m writing.  There’s a rhythm to language and I don’t want it disturbed by the rhythm of music.  I don’t really like anyone else in the house!

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

A plotter?  Sometimes, as with The Seeing, I have a strong idea about the ending.  I’m not naturally a plottter but I’m very pleased if I get one.  Seomtimes I plot from chapter to chapter.  It’s quite exciting just to see where the story is taking me.

Can you tell me a bit about your journey with The Seeing? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the finished article?

My journey?  Ye gods, Carly, do you want a life story?  I was haunted by the idea of a left-over Nazi when I was a child.  The book has taken about six years to write.  Yes, I know that’s ridiculous and it’s a very short book, but that’s how it goes.

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

I think the publishers would tell me it’s very important.  I don’t do Twitter and you won’t find me on Facebook.  That’s because a) I’m quite a private person and b) it would take up too much of my time when I’d rather be writing or playing the piano or talking to friends or almost anything.

Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?
Yes.  I’m not sure there’s a process ...mostly I just try out a few names.  I’ve got a dictionary with a long list of names and sometimes I used that.  Or, for a second name, I scan the books on my shelves until I find one that I think fits.  I think a name for a characters can tell you a lot.  I don’t think Lizzie, Natalie and Philip tell you much though ... I like the name Lizzie.  I think from the memory of a story about Lizzie Dripping.  I don’t know any Natalies.  Philip/pip – well, I had been re-reading Great Expectations ...

What did you hope to accomplish by writing The Seeing? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?

I don’t know really.  I would like to have written an adult novel, and The Seeing sort of began that way.  So I probably haven’t accomplished what I set out to do.  Maybe that’s a good thing.? No, I don’t think it is!  I’ve sort of surprised myself with The Seeing – and that is a good feeling.

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?

I think they should be free to read whatever they like.  And how could anyone stop them anyway? 

Thank you so much for your time, Diana. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?
Thanks for your interest Carly.  Well, I’ve rather gone back to writing poems at the moment. I’ve done a libretto for an composer which is a re-telling of The Pied Piper of Hamlyn.  It’s for a choir in Switzerland who will be singing it next year.  It’s the first time I’ve done anything like that and I really enjoyed it.  Random House have re-issued my three Harvey Angell books – now and again, well quite often really, I think about writing a fourth.  I’ve a notion that Aunt Agatha might get kidnapped.  But it’s only a notion.

*

I want to say another huge thank you to Diana for stopping by and just give one more shout out to The Seeing - you won't be disappointed by it, I promise.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Review: The Hunt - Andrew Fukuda

Published: May 10th 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 293 pages, ARC
Series?: Yes, this is book one.
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):
Against all odds, 17-year-old Gene has survived in a world where humans have been eaten to near extinction by the general population. The only remaining humans, or hepers as they are known, are housed in domes on the savannah and studied at the nearby Heper Institute. Every decade there is a government sponsored hunt. When Gene is selected to be one of the combatants he must learn the art of the hunt but also elude his fellow competitors whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.

My review: My feelings towards vampires are very up and down. On one hand, I cannot begin to express how sick I am of vampire/human romances, Twilight rewrites (Twilight itself, for that matter) and, really, any book that portrays vampires as anything other than bloodthirsty killers. On the other hand, however, the Drake Chronicles is the only paranormal series I read and I adore it. I was also a big fan of Matt Haig's The Radleys, so it's not all negativity as far as vampires are concerned. Thankfully, The Hunt is definitely on the side of The Radleys and The Drake Chronicles and is absolutely one of the best vampires books in the world of YA.

Finally, vampires are scary again! I've been waiting a long time for a writer to really shake up the new 'vampires are sexy and make great boyfriends' stereotype and Andrew Fukuda answered my plea. The vampires (or 'people') in The Hunt are terrifying and genuinely gave me chills, which is exactly how it should be. They're ruthless, cunning and filled with a bloodlust so intense they lose all sense of reason the second a human (or 'heper') is in the vicinity...which makes things a little difficult for Gene, a human disguising himself as a vampire in an attempt to survive in a future where vampires are the norm and humans are all but extinct.

I'm not going to talk much about the plot here, as it would be very easy to give away spoilers and there are so many twists and turns that you really need to go into this one as blind as possible. I loved that I couldn't predict anything that was going to happen and there were some genuine surprises, which kept me interested the whole way through.

The Hunt is a truly unique novel and a refreshing change to the vampires that have become so popular lately. I'm so happy to see Fukuda restoring vampires back to the way they should be, about time! I love his style, his simplicity and his frantic, immediate pace of storytelling. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for his future releases and I'm convinced he has a huge career ahead of him. Any fans of creepy reads of those of you who want to try something a bit different - definitely pick this one up, I loved it!

First line: There used to be more of us.

Rating:

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

Friday, 1 June 2012

Interview: Hilary Graham (Reunited)

Hi all! I've got the lovely Hilary Graham here with me today, telling us all a little more about her writing process and debut YA novel, Reunited, which is due out in the US on June 12th, published by Simon & Schuster. Fear not, fellow Brits and non-US types, The Book Depository and Amazon will let you pre-order or buy Reunited complete with free delivery, so there's no excuse not to get your hands on what looks to be one of the best contemporaries of 2012.

I've been excited about this one for so damn long and I can't wait to get my hands on a copy once June 12th hits. I blogged about this over six months ago, in my 2011 'Debuts I can't wait for in 2012' post and I'm still eagerly awaiting it.


Hi, Hilary! In case any readers haven’t read the book yet, can you tell me a little bit about Reunited?

REUNITED’s a contemporary Young Adult novel. The tag-line is:

1 concert

2,000 miles

3 Ex-best friends

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?

I’m a pretty disciplined person, so I’ve never found a need to set strict rules for myself. Sometimes, I’ll have a goal in mind to finish a chapter by the end of the day (or week) but I always try to be compassionate with myself if I fail to meet that goal. Sometimes it’s a 3,000 word day. Sometimes, you work on one paragraph for two days straight. Sigh.

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 am not one of those people who can listen to music while I write. Ideally, I’d prefer to write while hermetically sealed in a noise-proof room. But I do listen to music (all kinds) when I work out or drive in my car, and I usually create a “soundtrack” for whatever I’m working on, to keep me in the mood of that piece.

But in the case of REUNITED, it was different, since the band in the book (Level3) plays such a huge role in the story. Each chapter opens with excerpts of Level3’s lyrics and their songs are often playing in the background of a scene. And as I was writing these lyrics, a funny thing happened. I found myself also writing the melodies to these songs and then singing them to myself (out loud or just in my head).

Now, I’m getting to live out my rock star fantasies because (with the help of some very talented musician friends) because I’m professionally producing two of Level3’s songs—“Heyday” and “Parade.” The songs will be available for download on my website as we get nearer to REUNITED’s release date (June 12, 2012). I’m also making a Level3 music video, which will be accessible on Facebook to everyone who “likes” my author page.

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

I’m a Plotter with Pantster tendencies. I ALWAYS outline my fiction, though in the past, I have written screenplays without outlines. As I’ve matured as a writer, I’ve learned that it’s crucial for me to know where I’m going plot-wise before delving into a screenplay or a novel. That being said, I view my outlines as malleable things and use them with the assumption that there will be changes. A strong structure also gives me freedom to explore my characters and plot without worrying that I might go off the rails. Some of the best moments in my work are the result of discoveries I’ve made along the way.

What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?

Two words: the internet.

Do you think your teenage years have influenced you as a writer? If so, how?

Totally! My teen years were probably a lot like most people’s—simultaneously amazing and horrible. But I do seem to gravitate toward “teen world” in my writing, and I draw a lot from my own experiences. For example, I also had a traumatizing friendship breakup during my freshman year of high school, just like Alice, Summer, & Tiernan in REUNITED. It also helps that I have lots of friends I’ve known since childhood, and we tend to reminisce about high school a lot. Maybe even a little more than we should. ;)

What books do you think we should be looking out for over the next few months?

You mean, there are other books coming out besides REUNITED? ;) First off, you must read ALL of the Apocalypsies’ books.

Also--Jessi Kirby’s IN HONOR (May 2012) Susane Colasanti’s KEEP HOLDING ON (June 2012), anything by Sarah Dessen

Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

What free time? Kidding. I like to hike, camp, do yoga, go to the movies, play with my son, hang out with friends, cook, and of course, read.

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

Right now I’m writing a script for the Disney Channel movie. There’s no guarantee it’ll end up on TV, but if it does, I’ll be sure to let you know…


Brilliant; I absolutely can't wait for this one! For more information about Hilary and Reunited be sure to check her bio, links and book summary below.

Biography:
Hilary Weisman Graham is an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and novelist.

She lives in rural New Hampshire with her husband and son, roughly thirty minutes away from the nearest grocery store.

Links:

Website: http://www.hilarygraham.com

Blog: http://hilarywgraham.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HilaryWeismanGraham

Twitter: @HilaryGraham

US folks, you can pre-order Reunited from the following links:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/reunited-hilary-weisman-graham/1101900403?ean=9781442439849

http://www.amazon.com/Reunited-Hilary-Weisman-Graham/dp/144243984X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321630047&sr=8-1

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781442439849

Reunited synopsis:

Coming from Simon & Schuster - June 12, 2012

1 Concert

2,000 Miles

3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van know as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?