Sunday, 30 March 2014

Blog Tour: Zom-B Mission - Darren Shan

Hey everybody! I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for the latest installment in Darren Shan's Zom-B series. I'm a huge fan of the series, and of Shan's writing as a whole, so it's a massive honour to give you all a sneak peek of the book, which was released on March 27th.




Then...
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Becky Smith’s father was a bully and a racist. She lived a double life under his reign. For instance her best friend, Vinyl, was black, so she could never talk about him at home. Her favourite teacher, Mr Burke, was of mixed race, so she had to pretend to dislike him.

B never stood up to her abusive father. It was easier to play along and act as if she was racist too. She didn’t think any harm could come of it. Until the day of the zombie uprising. As she was trying to escape from her school, her dad screamed at her to throw a black boy to a pack of advancing zombies to stall them. Accustomed to doing whatever he told her, she obeyed.

Horrified by what she had done, B at last told her father what she truly thought of him and fled. When she was turned into a zombie soon after, part of her was glad. It meant she wouldn’t have to live with her shame and guilt.

But B had been injected with a secret vaccine when she was a child. It gave her the ability to fight the zombie gene and regain her senses. Death was not the end for Miss Smith.

After a spell of captivity in an underground complex run by the army, B escaped and wound her way across London. She found temporary shelter with an artist who lived in an old brewery on Brick Lane. Later she crossed paths with the homicidal clown, Mr Dowling, and Owl Man, a bizarre- looking individual with the largest eyes she had ever seen.

B was eventually offered refuge by Dr Oystein, a century-old zombie who was leading the fight to restore order to the world. He claimed to be a servant of God, given a heavenly mandate to combat the forces of darkness. He had assembled a team of con- scious, revitalised zombies and christened them Angels. 

*

Piqued your interest? Yeah, I thought so. So...what are you waiting for? Off you pop to catch up on this unmissable series.

Darren Shan is appearing at Cambridge Literary Festival on Saturday 5th April at 4pm. The Festival runs 1st-6th April, for the full programme visit www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

Tickets: www.adcticketing.com, 01223 300085, or in person at ADC Theatre, Park Street, Cambridge CB5 8AS

Friday, 28 March 2014

Darren Shan's Zom-B Mission Blog Tour!

Hey everyone,

Just a quick one to let you know that on Sunday I'll be featuring an extract from the latest installment in Darren Shan's Zom-B series, as part of the blog tour for Zom-B Mission.

The tour starts today over at my dear pal Sophie's blog and continues until April 5th. I've posted a copy of the banner below so you don't need to miss a post on the tour :).


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Guest Post: The Hunger Games vs. Divergent

Hi guys,

I've got something a little bit different for you today - a guest post from fellow blogger, Elizabeth Eckhart. Elizabeth has written me a brilliant post where she compares and contrasts The Hunger Games and Divergent. If you enjoy the post and want to hear more from Elizabeth you can follow her here on Twitter.

(Possible spoilers for THG and Divergent - so proceed with caution if you haven't read any of the books!)

Comparison and Contrast of Hunger Games and Divergent

Though the Hunger Games and Divergent series share similarities, they remain distinct in the realm of dystopian fiction due to a few integral differences. For example, the Hunger Games trilogy is told from the first-person viewpoint of the main character, Katniss Everdeen. For the most part, this perspective served the series well, lending readers an up close and personal view of the struggles and challenges Katniss battles both internally and externally. However, many critics have noted the last book of the trilogy begins to flounder. Because Katniss is emotionally and physically withdrawn in the third book, and we see the world through her eyes, readers lack the opportunity to experience many battle and action scenes simply because she is physically not in them. In this way, at least, the reader becomes just as removed from the overall battle as Katniss is. 
 
The Divergent series also employs first person point of view, but with a twist. Author Veronica Roth uses the technique of dual narrators, through characters Tris and Four, to relate events. Although a neat idea in the beginning, this technique soon experiences some drawbacks. First, though Roth claims to have intended the primary character to always be Tris, Four begins to push her towards the back seat when he takes over narration. Secondly, it is often hard to distinguish who is speaking, due to Roth’s very similar narrating voices, and it quickly becomes unclear as to whether we are reading events from the point of view of Tris or Four. 
 
Both series develop strong and well-rounded female protagonists as well. Katniss varies from Tris in that Tris sees a lot more action in the Divergent series, readily taking on daredevil tasks. Katniss, on the other hand, though brave, does not seek out conflict and wild adventure. She is thrown into the Hunger Games without a choice. However, though Tris sees a lot more action, she is also is beaten down at times and physically suffers frequently, whereas Katniss always remains the undisputed victor. 
 
Though both series also do excellent jobs with developing their protagonists, both seem to lack a bit in secondary character development. For example, in the Hunger Games, the love triangle is resolved by Katniss settling with the remaining suitor, while the other leaves. Therefore, no real choice to make is put upon Katniss. We are never are shown Gale’s true feelings and this contributes to the lack of a strong, resolved ending.

In the Divergent series, secondary characters that could have been more developed include Christina, Al, and Peter (who will hopefully feel more present in the film version releasing this weekend). Developing these characters could have added many new dimensions to the plot, and possibly helped it conclude with a more riveting ending. Even the character of Four is at times a bit stereotypical. Though he does not always publicly acknowledge Tris, she still remains enamored with him despite his typical bad boy behavior. 
 
Overall, dystopian fiction is a strong seller in the young adult fiction realm and those that have enjoyed both the Hunger Games and Divergent series might want to check out a few other well-written books. Recommended among this genre is Marie Lu’s Legend series, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game has already made the jump to film, and is now streamable from Hulu and DirecTV (visit their homepage for more info) and lucky for dystopian fans, The Giver is finally making it to the big screen too!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Wicked We Have Done - Sarah Harian

Published: March 18th 2014, Headline
Pages: 272 pages, ebook
Series/standalone: This is book one in the Chaos Theory series
Acquired: Via Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads): Once a sinner, always a sinner...

Twenty-two-year-old Evalyn Ibarra had taken the normality of her life for granted, until the moment everything changed. Now, convicted of a horrifying crime, she will be one of the first to experience a new kind of punishment.

In the darkness of the Compass Room - an experimental prison - the morality of convicts will be tested, and they will be punished according to their performance. In order to stay alive, Evalyn must relive the events of the fateful day that has brought her here.

Consumed by her own struggle, she never expects to make friends amongst her fellow inmates, let alone fall in love. But in this new and terrifying world, such allegiances are dangerous - because no one will escape unharmed.


My review:

Story: So, there are going to be a lot of Hunger Games references in reviews of this one so I'm going to mention it now and get it out the way! There are a couple of similarities between the two stories and they're all linked to the Compass Room, which is like a Hunger Games-style prison, where inmates are tested and judged based on their reactions - those whose brain patterns suggest they aren't 'pure of mind' are killed. In my opinion, though, that's where the similarities end and this is really a unique story.

This technically falls into the category of new adult, rather than young adult, and it was great to see something so different dubbed as new adult. It makes a brilliant change from the whole 'good girl falls for troubled bad boy' cliche and I hope new adult continues to get more and more diverse.

Sorry - I haven't really talked about the story yet, have I?

The Wicked We Have Done ticks along at a nice pace and there is a bit of time to set things up and introduce each character at the beginning of the story - though when the action starts it really starts and I found well and truly gripped from the second third all the way to the end. The resolution at the end of the book is satisfactory and I think this could also work well as a standalone, though I'm excited for the next installment!

I did find the world building a little lacking; I couldn't place whether this was set in the future, or an alternate present and I'd liked to have known a bit more about the background of the Compass Rooms but hopefully that will be explored in the next book.

Writing: Harian's writing is sharp and Evalyn's voice is really well-defined but The Wicked We Have Done is definitely driven by the plot rather than the writing. Because the story is so attention-grabbing it's difficult for the writing to be anything more than a vehicle for the action. That said, the writing is clear, enjoyable and very clean - even though the edition I read was a proof, which is always awesome.

Characters: Harian has created some brilliantly evil characters! I do love reading about a good villain and there are certainly a few to choose from in this book. All of the characters are, of course, very flawed but Harian did a great job at creating flawed characters who managed to be extremely likeable, despite the horrific crimes they have committed.

Final thoughts: An intense, violent, rip-roaring novel that shows there's a lot more to new adult that bad boy and good girl star-crossed lovers.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Blog Tour: The Wicked We Have Done - Sarah Harian

Today I'm really excited to bring you guys a guest post from Sarah Harian, debut author of The Wicked We Have Done, which was released on March 18th and has a huge huge buzz surrounding it. If you haven't managed to get your hands on this one yet then make sure you do - it's fantastic! It's an action-packed thriller that will creep you out and make you think long after you've finished the story.

I could not adore this guest post any more, seriously! References to Lost AND Toni Morrison? Dear lord, it's love. So now I'll hand you over so the ever so lovely Sarah Harian:

I had a lot of influence when writing The Wicked We Have Done. It was the book that wrote itself at the time in my life when all of my fandoms seemed to interlink. I was re-watching LOST with one of my best friends because she hadn’t seen it. The Hunger Games movie was about to come out. I had also rekindled my love for Serenity and Firefly. Of course, this made for an interesting combo in terms of inspiration. 
I’ve always had a thing for wilderness. Nature has a huge influence on me personally, and it always ends up as one of the settings or the core setting in all of my projects. I knew that was going to be the case for The Wicked We Have Done the second that the novel began to form in my head. I was also hung up on the idea of finding personal redemption in the place where a character least expected it. I wanted my characters to be trapped within the wild, and under insane circumstances, be forced to work together in order to find escape. Throughout the process of their escape, I wanted them to uncover something about humanity.
Up until this point, I’d always written about good characters—people who were morally just and wanted to make their lives and the world a better place. Starting this book, I was just understanding what constituted a good antihero. An antihero could be someone who deviated from the path of a hero in certain ways, such as Mal Reynolds from Firefly or Quentin Coldwater from The Magicians. Or an antihero could be even darker and more villainous, like Dexter Morgan or Tom Ripley. 
I wanted to make not just one character an antihero, but all of them. I wanted all of them to be so terribly flawed that they were hated by mainstream society and slated as evil. So I decided to make the wilderness that these characters were trapped in a prison—a prison that was a character in itself, judging every inmate inside and deciding whether or not they deserved to live. I wanted the sins of the characters to define them, but at the same time, I wanted my readers rooting for them too.  
After several revisions and rewrites, The Wicked We Have Done turned into what it is now—a novel about screwed-up people surviving in the wild and seeking redemption. It was inspired by my fandoms, but also my desire to incorporate things that I’d always been obsessed with, such as nature, and things I newly became interested in, like antiheroes. 
I’m happy to say that this book became something that I always wanted to read but never could find. From the scary to the surreal to the swoony, it’s a mesh of everything I love. I have succeeded in following the great words of Toni Morrison: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
The Wicked We Have Done is now available in eBook priced £2.49


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

2014 Carnegie Shortlist Announced

So, the shortlist is out! Have you had a chance to look at it yet? If not, never fear, here are the shortlisted books:

- All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry (Templar)

- The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (Puffin)

- The Child's Elephant by Rachel Campbell-Johnston (David Fickling Books)

- Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper (Bodley Head)

- Blood Family by Anne Fine (Double Day)

- Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Faber & Faber)

- Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (Anderson Press)

- The Wall by William Sutcliffe (Bloomsbury)

As you can see there's a nice range of titles on the list, though the Carnegie press release did point out that half of the titles on the list deal with issues of kidnapping and captivity, which is interesting! What do you guys make of that?

I was really sad to see some of my favourite reads of 2013 not on the list but completely over the moon to discover my absolute favourite book of 2013 made it to the shortlist. YES! Is it any surprise that I want The Bunker Diary to win? Surely not; I've only been banging on about it for almost a year.

It's time for Kevin Brooks to win, it really is. This is a phenomenal book and deserves to be acknowledged as such. Basically, Kevin Brooks is to the Carnegie Medal what Leo is to the Oscars. Come on now, The Bunker Diary to win!

For full details about the shortlist and the prize itself, you can have a gander on the Carnegie Greenaway website.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Latest YALC News!

Hey guys!

I don't usually post press releases up here but recently I got a release about the upcoming YALC so I wanted to let you guys know who the latest authors are who will be at the convention. Have any of you got your tickets yet? I'm hoping to get mine soon; can't wait!

So, anyway, onto the info that you've been waiting for:

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman and the London Film and Comic Convention are delighted to announce the second raft of names attending the UK’s first ever Young Adult Literature convention (YALC).
First to be announced today was Sally Green, who has been enjoying a huge media buzz, finding herself billed as the next JK Rowling after Penguin paid a six figure advance for her novel Half Bad and two follow up novels, and movie rights were snapped up by the team who brought Twilight to the big screen. Also added to the line-up is Fast Show comic Charlie Higson, whose Young Bond novels have sold over a million copies in the UK alone not to mention the success of his zombie series The Enemy. Another writer known for exploring the gory side of the supernatural, Department 19 author Will Hill, also joins the growing list of authors appearing at YALC 2014
The hugely popular and bestselling US author Holly Black, best known for her collaboration with Tony DiTerlizzi  The Spiderwick Chronicles will be joining the line-up as part of a visit to the UKJoining her are two multi award-winning authors who have both won Carnegie Medals for their teen novels, Sally Gardner and Meg Rosoff, as well as Roald Dahl Funny Prize shortlisted Geek Girl author Holly Smale. Completing the list of names announced today is Jonathan Stroud, the author of the worldwide multi-million copy sellingBartimaeus series and new face Isobel Harrop, whose illustrated journal was snapped up to be published by Hot Key Books when she was just 18 years old.
YALC will form a highlight of Malorie Blackman’s campaign as the Waterstones Children’s Laureate. It will take place at the London Film and Comic Con (LFCC), at Earl’s Court, London on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 July 2014. YALC will bring together all the UK’s YA publishers to provide a host of author events in a dedicated Book Zone, with talks, workshops, signings, a book sales area and publisher stands promoting new and upcoming titles. Blackman will act as a curator for the two-day convention, uniting authors and publishers throughout the UK community. 2014’s YALC event will be the first time a large scale public convention around YA books has taken place in the UK, and its setting among the fans of cultish film and TV will set books at the heart of entertainment for teens and young people.
The full list of names announced today:
                     Holly Black
                     Isobel Harrop
                     Charlie Higson
                     Will Hill
                     Sally Gardner
                     Sally Green
                     Meg Rosoff
                     Holly Smale
                     Jonathan Stroud

Previously announced:
                     Malorie Blackman
                     James Dawson
                     Matt Haig
                     Derek Landy
                     Sophie McKenzie
                     Patrick Ness
                     Natasha Ngan
                     Darren Shan
                     Ruth Warburton 

(*Press release supplied by Booktrust)


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Deeper - Robin York

Published: March 6th 2014, Piatkus (£8.99)
Pages: 368 pages, paperback
Standalone/series?: This is book one in the Caroline & West series. Book two, Harder, is due out later this year
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): When Caroline Piasecki's ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn't look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear; hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defence and punches her ex to the ground. 

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he's shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger - even after promising her dad she'll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they're 'just friends,' their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself - and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper.


My review:

Story: Deeper is the story of Caroline Piasecki, a college student trying to put her life back together after her ex-boyfriend leaks sex pictures of her on revenge porn websites. That's quite a premise, right? Yup. Deeper gets to the nitty gritty right from the first page and delivers a hard-hitting opening that grabbed my attention. 

While not always pleasant to read, Deeper tackles the growing issue of revenge porn and helps readers to realise exactly how life-shattering this horrendous invasion of privacy can be. We see Caroline's life come completely undone in the aftermath of the photos being leaked and I'm glad York shows that this isn't an issue that will go away overnight - Caroline spends the entire novel trying to make the pictures disappear and we see not only how the pictures impact her life, but also how their impact the lives of her friends and family.

Of course, the other main storyline in Deeper is the complex and frustrating relationship between Caroline and West, a bad boy so bad I'm sure he'll have his own Facebook fan page soon. One thing that I felt a little let down about is that the revenge porn element of the story quickly took a back seat once things started hotting up between Caroline and West. I get that this is primarily a love story so their relationship will always be the priority but I would have liked to have seen a little more about how Caroline tackled the issue of the photos. Although, I do need to bear in mind that this only book one in a series so, of course, we're not going to see everything neatly tied up and resolved this time around.

Writing: The writing is a really strong part of Deeper and I think without this the story could have fallen really flat. However, York's writing style kept me engaged throughout what is, in NA terms, a fairly lengthy novel, and I didn't lose interest at any point.

The use of dual narrative works really well here and West's voice is clearly defined and well-written - without West's chapters I don't think I would have warmed to him as a character so writing part of the novel from his perspective was an excellent device.

Although the writing throughout the novel is strong, there are a few places where York's talent particularly shines through, and those are, unfortunately, the most uncomfortable to read. After reading insults and hideously sexist comments on the photos of her that have been posted online, Caroline cannot forget the awful words she's read and these voices follow her everywhere she goes.

She might be on a night out with friends, or deciding what to wear for the day, or thinking about her feelings for West, and suddenly a barrage of hateful, sexual comments will flare up in her mind and these sections show some really powerful writing that provoked a strong reaction in me. For me, the proof of a great writer is one who can make me feel something and I really did feel for Caroline in these moments.

Characters: The characterisation in Deeper is handled really well and I grew to really care about Caroline as a person as the novel progressed. She's always been known as a 'good girl' but online drama she's the centre of us forces her to be more true to who she really is, and I loved her determination and sense of self. She really does go on a difficult journey throughout Deeper and by the end of the story she's a very different, much stronger person than she was at the beginning.

West, by his very nature, is an enigma. I found myself constantly shocked by his behaviour and the way he spoke to Caroline, on occasion. However, as the story progressed and we learned more and more of his backstory I began to understand him more and realised why he had such towering walls up to stop anybody getting close to him.

What I liked most about Caroline and West's relationship is that they kept their individual identities, even as their feelings for each other began to grow. Too often in novels I find myself frustrated that couples merge into one amalgamation but these two really do live their own lives, as well as their life together, which was refreshing to read. I'm not going to talk much about the ending but I found the way both characters acted completely inspiring - I think this could work just as well as a standalone novel as it does in a series but with that said, I'm keen to get my hands on Harder when it's released later this year.

Final thoughts: I know, little old me eagerly awaiting the release of a NA sequel - doesn't that show you that Deeper is something special?



Friday, 7 March 2014

The BIGGEST news of the year, FO SHO.

(To read the actual announcement hop on over to Project UKYA: http://projectukya.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/blog-takeover-sarah-benwell-with.html)

Let me tell you about my friend, Sarah.

In short, she is one of the most incredible writers on the planet and an even better friend. One other thing? HER BOOK IS BEING PUBLISHED BY RANDOM HOUSE, YO!

Her writing will make you laugh and cry and feel every emotion under the sun. It's beautiful and honest and, oh dear lord, I'm so jealous you guys get to enjoy this book for the first time. I've cried more times than I can count while reading it and I'm so honoured and lucky that I get to be part of a writing group that got to see this amazing work grow and develop from the seed of an idea to the wonderful finished product.

I don't even know how to articulate how happy I am about this announcement! Roll on the release date, is all I can say. Guys, you're going to cry your eyes out over this one.