Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Review: Dangerous Girls - Abigail Haas

Published: August 1st 2013, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 320 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone...but with a sort of companion novel, Dangerous Boys, coming soon!

Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publishing house

Summary (from Goodreads): It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations. As

Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...

My review:
If you're after a sultry summer read that will knock you sideways with twists, turns and an unforgettable climax then look no further, Dangerous Girls is your perfect summer read.

Set in beautiful Aruba, Dangerous Girls is the story of a group of friends who are ready for the Spring Break of their lives... only instead of cocktails, adventure and a little romance on the side they find out nobody in the group is quite who they thought, when lies and deceit come together to a horrifying head and one of the group is found murdered in their villa.

Beginning with a transcript of the emergency services call the group make after the disappearance of their friend, Elise, Dangerous Girls hooks you in from the first sentence and digs its claws in deeper and deeper as you turn every page. I couldn't tear myself away and raced through it in two sittings, desperate to find out who the murderer was.

The book is told partially through flashbacks and partially through our protagonist Anna's internal monologues as she sits in a prison cell, waiting to be tried for the murder of her best friend, Elise. Despite protesting her innocence Anna's pleas fall on deaf ears and we discover more and more about the case as the book develops, from the bail hearings to the trial itself and the events that led up to the murder, told through flashbacks. Mixed narrative forms keep the fairly lengthy story feeling fast-paced and fresh, with television transcripts, newspaper articles and website features cropping up throughout the book. I'm a huge fan of mixed media like this and it works perfectly in Dangerous Girls to show the media circus not only in the story but also physically on the pages of the book.

There's a lot of food for thought in Dangerous Girls and I found myself questioning my own actions as I was reading. Anna's entire online presence is dissected and used against her as the murder case progresses - innocent blood-splattered Halloween outfits are twisted into something dark and menacing and messages and Tweets are scrutinised for any sinister meaning - what could people find if they searched through your social media profiles? I'm pretty sure there are enough suspect pictures of me to weave a pretty interesting tale!

I'm going to be purposely vague about the murder mystery element of Dangerous Girls because spoilers are going to be your worst enemy with this one - basically, the denouement is awesome and it will blow your mind. That is all I'm going to say about it.

Dangerous Girls is my read of the summer so far, the perfect blend of gorgeous scenery, mystery and unexpected turns at every point; you need this book in your life!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Book Trailer: All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill

Good morning to you, all of my lovely bookish chums!

I have a very, very special post for you all today and I'm so excited to finally share this with you. As many of you will know, Casey over at Dark Readers is absolutely incredible at putting together book trailers and her trailer for Cristin Terrill's upcoming All Our Yesterday is out today!

I've watched this trailer numerous times and I love it more every time - everybody involved did a fantastic job and it's made me so excited for the book, which you can get your hands on on August 1st. So, take a look below and let me know what you think. Awesome, right?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Dangerous Girls Blog Tour - Q&A with Abigail Haas

Morning all! Today's post is an interview with the lovely and very talented Abigail Haas, author of Dangerous Girls, one of my favourite reads of 2013 so far. My review is going to be going up early next week but anyone who follows me on Twitter must have seen me waxing lyrical about this book - I adored it.

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

Dangerous Girls is told by an eighteen year-old American girl, Anna, who stands accused of murdering her best friend during spring break in Aruba. As the trial unfolds, she struggles to clear her name, but nothing—and nobody—is as it seems...

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

My daily word-count is a pretty standard equation: total words left / time left to write them! This is my eighth novel, so I’ve managed to settle into a routine. I’ll spend my mornings dealing with social media, blog things, etc, at home, and then go set up camp in a local coffee shop to write for the afternoon. Living in LA means there’s a ton of great cafes to choose from—and plenty of great people-watching to keep me entertained.
In young adult fiction in particular, it’s important that readers bond with the characters - what do you think is the most important thing to get right when you're creating a character?

For me, it’s actually quite personal: once I figure out which part of my own life, or emotional experience I can build into the character, then they really click into focus. There’s always a moment near the start of the book when I really need to connect with the reader, to get them invested in the story that’s about to unfold, and I think the only way to do it is a real authentic, emotional connection. I change details and events, but I have to ground the character in something that’s true to me.

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

Well, hopefully it’s a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat kind of read! I tried to throw in plenty of unexpected twists and revelations you’ll never see coming, but also strip back the surface of the characters and delve deep into the darker side of their relationships. I hope readers will be thinking about it long after they turn the final page.

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 love building playlists for my books and characters. For Anna and Elise (her BFF), it was all about epic, haunting, dark songs: plenty of Florence and the Machine, Carina Round, Band of Horses. Also more upbeat tracks to reflect the mood when they first met: Ellie Goulding’s album is great.

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

It’s pretty much expected now that authors will be active online, which has its good side and bad. I love being able to chat directly with my readers, and see their excitement as they live-tweet reading a book. Doing blog features like this one also lets me pull back the curtain and show you all a little behind the scenes. On the other hand, it’s so easy to get sucked into social media and realize you haven’t written anything on your book today!

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

Oh, God, yes. The things I write about may be very different to my own teen experience (I was never on trial for murdering anyone!) but all the emotions are grounded directly in my own experience. I started writing novels when I was still a teenager, so I was able to tap into that period in my life from the start. My romantic comedy novels (written as Abby McDonald) are all coming-of-age stories, and even in these new darker, more thriller-style books, the characters still grapple with first love, new desire, and deciding what kind of people they’re going to be.

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?

Read everything. This idea of ‘appropriate’ is such a false construct to me—and it’s very telling that the idea of ‘appropriate teen reading’ usually involves straight, white, middle-class teens having very innocent adventures around first kisses and friend problems.

Don’t get me wrong: that was my teenage experience, and it’s a valid one to explore in literature. But teenagers aren’t one homogenous group; they’re a vast collection of young people with different lives and experiences. They have sex, they drink and experiment with drugs, they struggle with rape and abuse and violence—in the home, and from romantic partners. They have children, and abortions, and take responsibility for their families as carers; they deal with racism and homophobia and poverty.

Saying that there shouldn’t be reading material that reflects this complex, often-times dark reality—in addition to a more traditional view of ‘first kiss’ teenage life—is denying a huge swathe of modern teen experience, and risks alienating them from literature by censoring stories that ring true to their own lives.

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

I have a sort-of companion novel to Dangerous Girls that I’m working on right now, called (wait for it) Dangerous Boys. It’s not a sequel, but it’s another dark psychological thriller, with death and mystery and plenty of twisted relationships. That should be out next year!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Double Review: Zom-B City and Zom-B Angels - Darren Shan

Published: March 14th 2013 / June 20th 2013, Simon & Schuster
Yes, these are books three and four in the twelve part series
Acquired: Review copies were kindly sent from the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): 

Zom-B City - How many survived the zombie apocalypse?Where do the living hide in a city of the dead?

Who controls the streets of London?

B Smith is setting out to explore...

Zom-B Angels - After spending the last few months wandering around London--a city filled with the dead--B Smith has given up hope for any sign of normal human existence. But then B finds strange signs all over the city--a "Z" plus red arrows. Following them, B finds The Angels-- a group gathered in the hopes of combating the evil dead and the forces that introduced them. But all is not as it seems and it's up to B to find out: what battle are they truly waging?

My review: Any regular readers of Writing from the Tub will know what a huge Darren Shan fan I am and how much I've been loving the Zom-B series so far. I flew through the first two books and was so excited to receive copies of books three and four, which I read in succession, so this is going to be a double review of both Zom-B City and Zom-B Angels!

The Zom-B series just gets stronger and stronger with every book; we see the characters developing into three-dimensional beings you can't help but be charmed and intrigued by - or completely repulsed by, in some cases! The setting changes in each book and every time it's wonderfully brought to life and I feel completely immersed in the world. In Zom-B City the setting is Central London and there are so many subtle details that really made me feel as though I was travelling through a zombie-infected London alongside B, our protagonist. In Zom-B Angels the setting is a little more specific but still just as vivid; I genuinely don't know how Shan manages to produce book after book of such consistently great storytelling. There's been no low in the Zom-B series so far, NO LOW. It's incredible.

B is such a complex character who continues to grow and grow with every installment of the series. A quick look back at the beginning of Zom-B shows you just how far B has come already and I can't wait to see what new things are in store in the upcoming books. Although the central focus of the series is the zombie outbreak there are so many true to life issues that are tackled in the books and Shan manages to handle them delicately and with grace, in the midst of a blood-thirsty zombie series - it's quite a feat!

The Zom-B books are just so compelling; fresh and funny and unlike anything else that is being released for teens today. Shan doesn't shy away from the grotesque, whether it's a bloody-thirsty zombie attack or some home truths that we all may be guilty of from time to time, everything he says feels honest and I know teen readers will appreciate that he never patronises or talks down to them.

The mythology in Zom-B Angels puts such an interesting spin on things and has made me question everything I thought I knew up to this point; Shan has done a fantastic job at keeping the pace of the series up and slowly letting more and more information trickle through to help readers get an idea of the bigger picture. Maintaining action and adequate momentum for a spam of twelve books has got to be a huge challenge but the excitement, gore and mystery just builds and builds with every installment.

I cannot wait to get my hands on Zom-B Baby and see what horrors Shan comes up with next!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Killing Woods: The Ultimate Reading Slump Cure!

Reading slumps - every book lover's worst nightmare.

I've read a few brilliant books over the last few weeks, and while this can't ever be a bad thing, it does mean I've struggled to get inspired by a lot of the books I've picked up since. There are a few I've tried to get into but I can't find myself getting pulled into the story, no matter how hard I try or how well the book is written.

It started to get me a bit fed up after a while, as with the beautiful weather I've wanted nothing more than to sit in the garden with my head buried in a book but nothing seemed quite right.

That was until I opened my post on Monday afternoon and found this:


Cue Hallelujah Chorus.

I've been waiting for The Killing Woods with bated breath for months now but as the release date isn't until October I anticipated a much longer wait before I could devour the story. Lucky me!

So, sometimes, I think it just takes the right book to pull you out of a funk. I'm about half way through The Killing Woods now, have read every word while relaxing in the garden and think it's absolutely fantastic. I'm 100% gripped and involved in the story and it's exactly what I needed.

Phew. Take that, reading slump!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Guest Post: Philippa Gregory's dream cast for the Order of Darkness series!

Good morning everybody! I'm here today with an extra special post from the amazing Philippa Gregory, as part of her blog tour for her upcoming release, Stormbringers. Stormbringers is the second installment in the Order of Darkness series and I'm absolutely delighted to be part of the blog tour. Book one, Changeling, was my favourite YA read of last year and I cannot tell you how excited I am to be hosting *the* Philippa Gregory at Writing from the Tub today!

But that's quite enough from me; here's Philippa to tell you all about her dream cast for the Order of Darkness series.

I am very fond of the quartet in the Order of Darkness series. Thinking about which actors would bring these characters to life was a lot of fun. Here are my dream casting choices for Luca, Freize, Ishraq and Isolde.

Luca is the hero of the Order of Darkness series, so I wanted to get this just right. After much deliberation, I decided on Logan Lerman, best known for his role as Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Luca is a brave and intelligent character, setting out on a journey that will bring him to unknown places and put him in great peril, but he has also had a sad life, as he has lost his parents and his home, so whilst he is a handsome young man there is also a certain kind of childish fragility in him.  Logan has blue eyes, whereas Luca has hazel eyes, but I’m sure coloured contact lenses would work.

Logan Lerman
Freize is a few years older than Luca and protective of his ‘little lord’. He is broad shouldered and square jawed and has a remarkable gift with animals. I think 23 year old Alex Pettyfer would be great.  Not only does he physically fit Freize’s description, he also has an air of cheekiness which would capture Freize’s witty side. Luca and Freize are like brothers so it’s essential that the actors playing both characters work well together, and I think Logan and Alex would make a good team.

Alex Pettyfer

Ishraq is mysterious, incredibly feisty and not afraid to speak her own mind. She has been educated in medicine, science and philosophy.  She can also fight extremely well, able to use a longbow and knives and can take on male adversaries with ease. I envisage an actress like Selena Gomez or Vanessa Hudgens playing the part of Ishraq, as they both have caramel skin, dark eyes and hair and have a certain sassiness which reflects Ishraq’s confidence.

Selena Gomez
Vanessa Hudgens
Last, but by no means least, is Isolde, who was brought up by her father to inherit Lucretili Castle but is forced by her brother to become a Lady Abbess instead. She is incredibly beautiful, and there are a wealth of young blonde starlets to choose from to play her - but not many with Isolde’s blue eyes and so my choice for Isolde is a little left field - it’s Taylor Swift.  Blonde hair, gorgeous blue eyes, ethereal beauty and inner confidence. She might be a little busy with her music career but we might be able to persuade her. Another actress that I considered for the role is Willow Shields, who plays the role of Primrose Everdeen so well in The Hunger Games films. At only 13 years old though she is slightly too young, but in the future would definitely be a fantastic fit for Isolde.

Taylor Swift
Willow Shields

Well, there you have it folks, Philippa Gregory's dream casting for the Order of Darkness series. Obviously seeing Taylor Swift on the list made me do a little happy dance. Could I adore that girl any more? No, no I couldn't. And Logan Lerman as Luca? Perfect.

I want to say another huge thank you to Philippa for stopping by at Writing from the Tub; it's an absolute honour to host the final stop on her blog tour for Stormbringers!