Thursday, 27 September 2012

Trailer Thursday: Lovecraft Middle School: Professor Gargoyle - Charles Gilman

Oh dear lord, I need this weekend to hurry up and arrive already. I'm definitely coming down with a horrible cold and I've had a super busy week so I can't wait for Friday afternoon so I can get my head down and freelance all weekend long, phew!

Anyway, I wanted to share the book trailer for Professor Gargoyle, the first Lovecraft Middle School novel. I received a copy of this one today and it looks great - the holographic cover is fab and the physical quality of the book is stunning. But then, that's exactly what I'd expect from Quirk Books, the folks who brought us Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

If the title of this one and the potential for a world of wonderful Lovecraft references hasn't sold you on it yet then do watch the trailer below and let me know what you think in the comments.


Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Cover Reveal: Undone - Cat Clarke

The lovely, talented, all around wonderful lady, Cat Clarke, has some bloody great luck with covers, doesn't she? Just like with Entangled and Torn, the folks at Quercus have done a brilliant job with the cover art for Undone, her upcoming release.

It's not due out until January 2013 and, oh dear lord, I am so excited to read it. I've adored Cat's previous two releases and I have complete and utter faith that Undone is going to blow me away. That cover! That blurb! Ahhh January seems but a distant dream. Plus, we have that pesky apocalypse to navigate first...

Anyway, in case any of you having seen it floating around Twitter and the blogs, here is the cover for Undone. Let me know what you think in the comments!


Friday, 21 September 2012

Cover Reveal: The Holders - Julianna Scott


Morning all - it's Friday, we made it, another weekend! Hooray!

As you may (or may not) have seen the cover of The Holders by Julianna Scott has just been released. It's been doing the rounds on Twitter and various blogs but, just in case you haven't seen it, here it is:


What do you think? I love it, as I have all of the Strange Chemistry covers. I really like that each of their covers is so different and really relates to the book, rather than buying into any trends. They feel timeless, and that's a huge strength. Now we just have to wait for the release date... Boo!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Guest Post: Sarah Rees Brennan (Soundtrack to Unspoken)


Half way through the working week... I don't know about you guys but I'm seriously ready for the weekend already! Anyway, to get you all through this rather dreary day I've got a lovely guest post from Sarah Rees Brennan about her latest release, Unspoken.

I've been sent a great feature about the playlist for the book, so do have a read below. What an awesome playlist, don't you think? Relient K, Taylor Swift and Switchfoot in one place? Yes please. And now I'll hand you over to the fab Sarah Rees Brennan:



Well, when I was asked for a soundtrack, I was much dismayed, because I actually have already put up a soundtrack for Unspoken, which everyone is very welcome to come listen to here.

But actually Unspoken, the story of a sassy girl reporter who a) has to solve the mystery of the dark deeds in the woods and how they are linked to the sinister family in the Gothic manor, and b) has to solve the mystery of why her imaginary friend is suddenly a real guy, has a lot of songs I associate with it. Because it is a book full of feelings, and also because I always listen to a ton of music. The heck with sitting in beautiful peace in a white tower: I get my best work done bopping around the house listening to Taylor Swift.

So here are the songs playlisted, and then at the end, I add some special songs just for YOU GUYS!

'We should get jerseys, cause we make a good team' – Must Have Done Something Right, by Relient K

(Kami Glass, girl reporter, and her determined creation of teams, and teamwork! Every girl reporter needs a street team.)

'The more she ignores me the more I adore her' – Just The Girl, by the Click Five

(Kami's BFF Angela Montgomery Hates The World.)

'It isn’t hard to love your scars, because that’s everywhere you’ve been' – Be My Only, by FM Radio

(Jared Lynburn, imaginary friend, Gothic hero, human disaster. Do not let him get attached. Even if you are an inanimate object such as a book or house.)

'I'm not perfect, but I keep trying
’Cause that's what I said I would do from the start' – Perfect, by Hedley

(Ash Lynburn, Jared's cousin, conscientious soul, and the effort he puts in trying to be something he’s not.)

'All the boys wanna catch me, but I’m just playing' - Supergirl , by Saving Jane

(Holly Prescott, the school's cheerful femme fatale, and the one the investigative team go to when they need someone to vamp! But also the other girls, too, now and then, when they’re on a roll.)

'I got it all figured out
I got no worries that I’m worried about – Good To Be Me, by Uncle Kracker'

(Angela's brother Rusty Montgomery, his life philosophy. I thought it would be fun to have someone in the sinister Gothic manor who was both incorrigibly lazy and good-humoured.)

'Are you gonna be like your father was and his father was?
Do you have to carry what they've handed down?
No, this is not your legacy, this is not your destiny' – Family Tree, by Matthew West

(There’s a reason the series is called the Lynburn Legacy, and that’s because the Glass-Lynburn-Montgomery-Prescott Legacy was unwieldy. Everyone’s got a family, and terrible secrets that they don’t know—or even worse, they do—and there is always the spectre of history repeating itself. But Jared and Ash Lynburn, the golden boys from the Gothic manor full of secrets, fear their own histories more than most.)

'I’ve been keeping my mind wide open, yeah,
Oh your love is a symphony
All around me, running through me' – Your Love Is A Song, by Switchfoot

(I know, I know, it’s a religious song, shame on me! But a story about an imaginary friend necessarily involves love of the invisible and yet surrounding. Plus love of the dead but not forgotten, love and faith, what love means: love is a theme.)

'Half of my heart’s got a real good imagination, half of my heart’s got you' – Half of my Heart, John Mayer and Taylor Swift

(It expresses some of the characters' uncertainty about love, about how to define it, about the power of imagination. Also it expresses my endless devotion to Taylor Swift.)

'Wherever you go
If my heart was a house, you’d be home' -- If My Heart Was A House, by Owl City

(The series is a lot about home, and what makes a home: a manor, a town, another person, you yourself.)

'If you wanna slow down,

We can slow down together' – Stay Here Forever, Jewel

(Specifics would be a spoiler. But I read the song as about the push and pull of a relationship, and the potential ease of it. Okay, and Ash Lynburn, the dreamiest boy in dreamyville. [Note: the little English town where the characters live is called Sorry-in-the-Vale. For some reason nobody else liked dreamyville...])

'Finally I'm worth it, though I'm not perfect' – Best of Me, by the Letter Black

(This is a song about co-dependence, baby, and born romantics. Memo: my born romantics are almost always boys, and this almost always goes badly for them. There's something both alarming and seductive about being all wrapped up in someone: you should fight it as well as be drawn to it, I think.)

She never let on how insane it was
In that tiny kind of scary house
By the woods – Black Dove, by Tori Amos

(The song for the Gothic novel, the woods and the house and two fears: the fear that someone is trying to kill you, and the fear of madness.)

What about gold beneath the sea?
What about when buildings fall? What about that midnight phone call,
The one that wakes you from your peace?
Well, I am not in need. – What About Everything, by Carbon Leaf

(The theme song for the series, really: people are scared a lot, and running to each other’s rescue a lot through strange surroundings. Some of them are very damaged. But they’re strong people, too: they learn to be able to trust in their own strength.)

AND NOW FOR YOUR DELECTATION... THE SONGS I WAS TOO EMBARRASSED TO INCLUDE ON MY PLAYLIST! I hope you will keep this just between us.

I kept seeing girls in YA having their first kiss... with boys who seemed to have been smoochin' all over Europe. So I thought it would be fun to have Jared Lynburn: suspected murderer, voted most likely to burn down the school, tried to beat up the hockey team, never been kissed.

'Oh, no, I do not hook up/I fall deep' - Kelly Clarkson, I Do Not Hook Up (Don't look at me like that okay just don't we all have our secret shame.)

Adventures can be scary and terrible things can happen, but I also think adventures should be fun: that there should be some sense of racing adrenalin and humour, and with all the imaginary friend-ing and crime-solving, there has to be a commitment to doing things that other people think are mad.

'All I really wanna do is keep it crazy for now/Don't wanna grow up don't wanna give up don't wanna slow down' - Crazy For Now, Jason Jones (I have a country music problem, OK?)

I like this song because it asks a question without making it a certainty: do soulmates exist? What would having a soulmate be like? How do you decide a certain kind of love is the real thing?

I'll keep waiting till we meet/What if we were made for each other? - What If, Colbie Caillat (and the reason I am embarrassed about this one is that it is SO SAPPY. I am a big sap. Sappy sap sap. I am like a tree I am so full of it)

I want a girl with a mind like a diamond/I want a girl who knows what's best - Short Skirt Long Jacket, Cake. (I am just embarrassed because I listen to this song SO MUCH. Ladies who take charge are one of my favourite things.

Does the world really need another love song?/Another you don't know how much I miss you when you're gone - Another Love Song, Uncle Kracker. (Country music, man. I am a slave 4 it.)

And that one's because, well, I wanted to write about romantic love, but of course there are a lot of romances around. I really wanted to write one that felt different, that felt genuinely difficult, that explored the idea of love in its many forms and asked hard questions about what it would really be like. To borrow a phrase from a favourite TV show, Veronica Mars(http://sarahreesbrennan.com/2012/08/veronica-mars-is-smarter-than-everybody/) , 'they don't write love songs about the ones that come easy.'

*

I just want to say a huge thank you to Sarah for taking the time to visit Writing from the Tub!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Review: Zom-B - Darren Shan


Published: September 27th 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 217 pages, hardback
Series?: Yes, this is book one of a whopping twelve part series. Book two (Zom-B Underground) is due out in 2013.
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Zom-B is a radical new series about a zombie apocalypse, told in the first person by one of its victims. The series combines classic Shan action with a fiendishly twisting plot and hard-hitting and thought-provoking moral questions dealing with racism, abuse of power and more. This is challenging material, which will captivate existing Shan fans and bring in many new ones. As Darren says, "It's a big, sprawling, vicious tale...a grisly piece of escapism, and a barbed look at the world in which we live. Each book in the series is short, fast-paced and bloody. A high body-count is guaranteed!"

My review: Once again, Shan has hit a home run and proved that he truly is the master of YA horror. I had exceedingly high hopes for Zom-B and I’m pleased to say that Shan completely outdid himself with this one.

I’ve been lamenting the lack of horror in YA for years, especially after the paranormal romance boom meant classic creepy creatures were being turned from monsters into love interests. Thankfully, though, we have incredibly writers like Darren Shan (and Chris Priestley, Jonathan Maberry and Andrew Fukuda, among others) holding up the fort and producing stellar horror stories.

One thing Shan has never shied away from is gore and this is entirely true of Zom-B. The opening scene made me gag a little bit and there were certain descriptions and turns of phrase later on in the book that made me wince…in a good way. I should probably pretend to be responsible and say this might not be suitable for younger readers because of the content blah blah blah but it’s a brilliant, entertaining and well-written story so, really, I wouldn’t want any keen readers to have to miss out on this because of a little bloodshed.

While Zom-B is about, well, zombies (obviously), it also has a very intriguing subplot about B’s racist father. B, our protagonist, is torn between familial loyalty and wanting to do the right thing and it’s so interesting to watch B's character development and journey from beginning to end, as B is certainly a very different person by the end of the novel.

One of Shan’s strengths is the way he is able to depict teenagers so realistically. His teenage voice is always spot on and it never feels forced, as though it’s an adult trying to sound like a teenager. The characters in Zom-B are particularly strong and I thought B’s narrative voice was spot on. Unrealistic voice is something I’ve had a few issues with in some of the latest YA I’ve read, so it was lovely to settle back into something familiar and entertaining, like Shan’s writing style.

Something you may have read about in other reviews is the twisting and turning plot of Zom-B. There are a couple of huge twists in the story and, no, I’m not going to give you a single hint. To be honest, it’s silly to try and even figure out the twists because they’re all absolute blinders that I guarantee you will not see coming. I certainly didn’t and I loved that I had no idea what the final reveal was going to be. What I will say, though, is that it was ridiculously smart and made me look at everything in a completely different light.

Well played, Mr Shan, well played indeed.

First line: 'It was the darkest, most wretched hour of the night when the dead came back to life and spread like a plague of monstrous locusts through the village of Pallaskenry.'


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

Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: Butter - Erin Jade Lange


Published: September 18th 2012, Bloomsbury (Um, my copy arrived from Amazon on the 13th, super early!)
Pages: 316 pages, hardback
Series/standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): A lonely obese boy everyone calls "Butter" is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn't go through with his plans?


My review: I pre-ordered Butter the day it became available on Amazon. As it's not out in the UK yet I had to go for the American hardback, the price of which made me gulp a bit. I didn't care, however, as after reading the synopsis for Butter I knew it would be one of those novels I had to have and had to have RIGHT AWAY. I waited impatiently for months. And months. Then I got an email from Amazon saying it would be dispatched two weeks earlier and was due to reach me in a couple of days. I did a little body pop of joy. Then it arrived. And I devoured it.

Butter isn't a book you can enjoy, per se, but I loved it. It was addictive, moving, well-written and impossible to ignore. It demands attention, from the cover to the synopsis and then the story itself. This isn't a happy story; it's dark and twisted and, at points, quite sickening. There are moments of comedy but it's sarcastic, biting comedy that just adds to the darkness of the story.

This book exploits the morbid curiosity that dwells within so many of us. Despite the fact I was reading about a teenage boy self-destructing to the point of suicide, it didn’t cross my mind to stop reading; I had to find out what happened, I had to find out whether he went through with it. I think Lange did a brilliant job at capturing a sense of mob mentality within the population of Butter’s school. I’ve seen people in a couple of reviews saying it was unrealistic, that there’s no way that would happen; I didn’t have a problem picturing it at all, unfortunately. We see the dark side of human nature in Butter, from the protagonist to his parents to his classmates. I thought it was interesting that Lange didn’t make Butter a target for bullies; the fact his size means he’s gone beyond that to people feeling too sorry for him to pick on him really stood out to me.

While Butter might not be bullied outright, bullying is an underlying theme in this novel. He might not have things thrown at him in the hallway but the bullying explored here is more insidious, disguising itself as friendship and support. And, to me, that’s the most dangerous type of bullying. Bullying can manifest itself in so many different ways and we see a lot of these touched on in Butter, including the different relationship Butter has with his mother and father. I think the way his parents react to his size so differently was wonderfully done and what I imagine to be so realistic.

I’m not going to discuss the ending here because obviously it’s such a crucial part of the story but I’ll be interested to see what people thought of it. If you have read Butter I really want to hear what you thought about the ending – please don’t post any spoilers in the comments but do drop me a message on Twitter because I need to talk about this book with someone!

In conclusion: Butter arrived at my house at approximately midday. By 4pm that afternoon I had finished it. So, take from that what you will. Also, there’s nothing like this book to make you inspired to do your 30 Day Shred workout, I can tell you!


First line: 'You think I eat a lot now?'

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

Friday, 14 September 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin


***Spoiler warning - There are spoilers in this review, not detailed ones but definitely relationship spoilers and hints about the ‘mystery’ in the plot so don’t continue unless you’ve already read the book or don’t care about finding out the plot, because it is discussed. I also muse the things I don't want to be in the sequel, which also contain spoilers for what happens in this installment ***


Published: March 1st 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 452 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the first installment
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher (US hardback also purchased)


Summary (from Goodreads): Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger. She wakes from a coma in hospital with no memory of how she got there or of the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her best friends and her boyfriend, yet left her mysteriously unharmed. The doctors suggest that starting over in a new city, a new school, would be good for her and just to let the memories gradually come back on their own.

But Mara’s new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and when she suddenly begins to see other people’s deaths right before they happen, Mara wonders whether she’s going crazy! And if dealing with all this wasn’t enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen can’t seem to leave her alone… but as her life unravels around her, Mara can’t help but wonder if Noah has another agenda altogether…

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is built on relationships. And it felt as though the romantic one was the least important, which I wanted to hug Hodkin for. Particularly towards the end of the book, Mara does have intense feelings for Noah but she doesn’t cut out her family and friends for him. And he doesn’t expect her to, which is even better.

Mara’s relationships with those around her were my favourite part of the book. I loved the connection between her and her older brother, Daniel. He was one of the strongest characters and I really got a clear picture of him in my head, pretty much from the outset; I really hope we see more of him in the second instalment.

The ending of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has been talked about a lot across the blogs and review sites and I have to agree, it is a major cliff hanger that lets us know what the focus is going to be in the second book. I liked the ending, though. It did raise a lot of questions but just as many were answered leading up to that point, so I was satisfied. Although I really can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel to find out what the hell is going on.

These are the things are really hope aren’t in the sequel:

A ‘sassy’ female character who also has the same ‘powers’ as Noah and Mara
Anything at all linked to angels

Just those things. That is all. Because I love that this is actually paranormal but still reads quite like a contemporary. There is an all-encompassing love story and it is a little quick off the ground but I like that Hodkin does make it clear Mara’s initial attraction to Noah is lust and not love. It’s only after they spend time together and get to know each other that Mara’s feelings deepen, which I appreciated. Of course, it wasn’t quite at the realistic speed you would find outside a novel but with the story’s fast pace and limited time frame I understand why the love story panned out the way it did.

When Mara and Noah do first start to get closer I did start to get a bit worried things were going to descend into a standard paranormal romance relationship of doom but, luckily, that didn’t happen. Things got a little bit over the top from both Noah and Mara at points but then the mysteries of the plot would take over and their relationship would be put on the backburner, which saved things from getting a bit too predictable romance-wise.

I did like Noah as a character, though I didn’t love him. He was bad boy enough to be intriguing but had depth beyond the standard bad boy love interest. I liked the way he didn’t try to change Mara, or take over her life, or watch her sleep… Though, there does seem to be a bit of a trend of late for English male leads in US novels. That’s all well and good as I love spot of home grown hotness but they seem to be come with two accents and speech patterns: Dick van Dyke or Royal Prince. Noah definitely falls into the Royal Prince school of speech and unfortunately it did take me out of the story every time I came across a turn of phrase that sounded disjointed and, well, the sort of unrealistic ‘fake posh’ that always makes me chuckle when I see it on TV. But, yes, just a small quibble as I did like him a lot more than most paranormal romance heroes, that’s for sure.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer wasn’t quite the book I thought it’d be. Not that it disappointed me, just that I thought it was going to be less paranormal than it actually was. Surprisingly, though, I did enjoy the paranormal elements and, for once, the love story didn’t make me throw up in my mouth. Which is a major plus. Kudos, Michelle Hodkin, I can’t wait for book two.

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

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Review: This Is So Not Happening - Kieran Scott

Published: August 30th 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 316 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is the third and final installment
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): After their long summer apart, Ally and Jake were hoping for a drama free senior year. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like things will work out that way...again. — It turns out that Chloe is pregnant and says that Jake is the father. Hammond is pissed at his best friend, but mostly can't believe that Ally would stay with Jake. But Ally is tired of being apart from Jake and is willing to make it work. But that is easier said than done when Jake starts blowing Ally off to go to doctor's appointments with Chloe and Ally joins the school play and meets a new cute guy.

But as graduation approaches, things get more complicated as new secrets come out and Ally realizes maybe Jake isn't the guy she thought he was. After everything they've been through can Ally and Jake get out of Orchard Hill with their relationship intact?


My review: We need more series like this in the world of YA. If I only had one sentence to sum up the He’s So/She’s So series that’s it. I’ve been a huge fan of these books ever since I received a review copy of She’s So Dead to Us and I’m genuinely sad this is the last book, though I’m glad the series ended so perfectly.

There’s a lot I could go into in this review, as I do think this is one of the best contemporary series out there, but instead I’m going to focus on the characters, who I think are the strongest element of the books. The cast Scott has created are so compelling she could put them in any situation and I’d pick up the books, regardless of the storyline.

Scott's characters are flawed and human and that's one of the reasons why I love this series so much. They're not perfect, they aren't one-dimensional archetypes. They act and talk and think like real teenagers who do make bad decisions and completely screw up on occasion. It's so refreshing to read about characters trying to clear up the mess left from an almighty shit storm they've advertently (or inadvertently) created.

We particularly see the exploration of mistakes and how to right past wrongs in this instalment. Here the stakes are higher than ever before and it’s a difficult and trying time for many of the characters within the Orchard Hill world. We see a very different side to Jake but, again, despite the fact he does act like a complete douche bag more than once, we get his motivation, we know that behind his fa├žade is pain and confusion and fear and it’s because Scott’s writing helps us realise this that we understand what Jake is going through and see him as a whole person, rather than just a stereotypical perfect hero.

It’s not just Jake who goes through a huge journey in This Is So Not Happening but Ally and Chloe, too. I was never a particularly huge fan of Chloe (one of the only characters in the series who did feel a bit stereotypical as the ‘girl who has everything) but this installment completely changed my opinion of her. We see her fall from grace and, with the pedestal she was on in the first two books, it’s a long way to fall. As the story went on, though, I did find myself getting more and more endeared to her and I think changing a reader’s opinion of a character is the mark of a brilliant storyteller.

Honestly, I could read so many more installments of this series without getting bored and, although I will miss it, I’m glad Scott made the decision to end it where she did. I think it’s always better to end on a high than drag the story out over a few more books, just because it’s a popular series. We see that happen all too often in the world of YA but I’m pleased to see less and less contemporary series going in this direction.


Read if you liked…: The Ruby Oliver books – E. Lockhart

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

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

News: Random House launches TotallyRandom


Hi folks,

I just wanted to share some news I received from the lovely Random House Children's Publishers about their new website, Totally Random Books. The site has been created for their YA readers and has so much great content - book trailers, author blogs and book reviews written by readers. Click here to take a look at the site and have a read of the press release below (provided by RHCP) for more information.

TotallyRandom books, a new website aimed at teen and YA readers, launches today by Random House Children’s Publishers (RHCP). Over the past 3 years RHCP has built an active teen community via Facebook and teen mailing lists and the new site provides a platform to grow this community, connecting readers from some of RHCP’s most successful teen brands including Lauren Kate, Christopher Paolini and Malorie Blackman, and introducing them to up and coming teen and YA authors.

The design and content of the site has been shaped by two surveys run by the Consumer Insight team using the RHCP teen mailing list. From the surveys, RHCP now has a group of over 200 TotallyRandom VIPs who receive exclusive previews. A key element of the site is discoverability – the second survey was entirely focused on how teenagers talk about books. RHCP are using the most popular terms that teens used as signposts across the site which will help users to engage with and discover books relevant to them. The site was designed and built in-house by Simon Wilkes in the group digital team.

The site launches with a feature on Jenny Downham before the forthcoming release of the Now is Good film adaptation of her YA novel, Before I Die.

Suzanne Riley, Digital Marketing Manager, comments ‘The launch of our new TotallyRandom books website gives us a fantastic hub to connect and build our existing teen and YA book-loving communities that already exist on social media. It will allow us to introduce fans of existing YA brands to new authors, as well as featuring exclusive and user-generated content. The design and functionality of TotallyRandom has been shaped by consumer insight work with a teen reader panel, which we hope will lead to strong levels of engagement and discoverability across the site. We are now exploring opportunities to work with partner sites to engage new readers, and we will continue to shape content and features based on regular feedback from our users.’

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs


Published: June 7th 2011, Quirk
Pages: 348 pages, hardback
Series?: Yes, this is book one. Book two is due out in 2013
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. 

It all waits to be discovered in "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. 

As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here--one of whom was his own grandfather--were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow--impossible though it seems--they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

My review: It's impossible to pick up Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and not feel something when you look at the cover. For me, it made me desperate to devour the story inside. I know I've been tricked by brilliant covers more than once but I was convinced I would love this one. For once, I was right. Hooray!

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is one of the most unique novels I've read in such a long time. It has a real classic feel to it and it felt like I was reading an old horror novel, rather than a new release, which is something I really enjoyed. The tension from the outset is palpable and, although the novel isn't a horror, it does definitely borrow from elements from the genre. The shadows lurking on the periphery of the story, the children who are slightly...off, the isolated island - it all comes together and create a truly unforgettable story that I urge all of you to pick up.

The writing is tight and well-edited and, despite the relative long length for a YA novel, I didn't find myself getting bored at any point. I read this one in a few sittings (after reading the beginning, loving it but then having to pack it away when we redecorated earlier in the year) and the pace dipped up and down perfectly. There's a lot to get through here and the story does require you to suspend your disbelief somewhat but I had no issues with any of the more fantastical elements, as the world Riggs creates is so easy to get lost in.

My only real criticism is with the love story, which didn't grab me at all. As it so often the case with horror novels (or novels with horrific elements), I don't think a love story was necessary and the book would have worked just as well without it. Of course, it may become more important in the sequel but, in this installment at least, all it did was creep me out a little. That's a small niggle, though, as I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully presented, wonderfully written novel.

First line: I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary, when extraordinary things began to happen.

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

Monday, 10 September 2012

(Sort of) Review: Why We Broke Up - Daniel Handler


*In the interest of full disclosure - I did not finish this book. I read the first 100 pages and it was such a huge slog that I didn't continue. As I didn't finish the novel I don't think it's fair to really call this as review because, who knows, maybe it really improved and picked up towards the end. Take what you will from this post but don't take it as a complete review as I didn't read the entire thing*

Published: August 6th 2012, Electric Monkey
Pages: 354 pages, ARC
Series/standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

My review: Oh, I was so disappointed by Why We Broke Up. Ever since I first read the synopsis on Goodreads I was desperate to read it. It sounded completely up my street, I love epistolary novels and the idea of including artwork in YA books is something I usually enjoy (like in Happyface, which is still one of my favourites). When I received a review copy from Electric Monkey I was so excited to get started on it but, unfortunately, it just wasn't for me.

Immediately I was struck by the writing style, which felt awkward and clunky. It seemed as though every word had been too carefully considered. The magic had been lost from the words and it felt overwritten, like the scriptwriters from Dawson's Creek had decided to write a YA novel ('I'm mad at the world, Joey, I'm a teenager').

I think one of the issues is that there's no tension, there are no real stakes here. We know Ed and Min have broken up, we know they're over, we know they're not going to get back together. Of course, I didn't read the whole book so I don't know what the ending is but I'm fairly sure it's going to include Min coming to terms with the break up, delivering one final blow and disappearing off into the sunset with a new guy who is much more her type... Am I right? Well, maybe not but that's the impression I got from the first 100 pages.

One thing I will say, though, is that it's definitely an interesting premise. The idea is great and I think it could have shone as a fantastic novel if the writing style had been more realistic. It just didn't believe in Min's character, I didn't believe she was a young girl. I was very aware that I was reading a novel, that I was reading a novel written by somebody who was trying to write in the style of a teenage girl and that is what made Why We Broke Up so difficult to enjoy.

I wanted to love this one, I really did. The idea is great, the artwork is lovely but I couldn't get into it. Every page was a slog so, sadly, I stopped reading after 100 pages.

First line: 'In a sec you'll hear a thunk.'

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 11/20 (D)