Thursday, 31 May 2012

From the Review Pile (2) - Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake

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.
Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake  
I'm so excited for Anna Dressed in Blood. The cover's great, the synopsis is awesome and I've read some really brilliant reviews for it. I've heard it's genuinely scary and I'm always up for some horror so fingers crossed I'll love this one when I do get round to reading it.
Summary (from Goodreads): Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review: Adorkable - Sarra Manning

Published: May 24th 2012, Atom
Pages: 387 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Jeane Smith is seventeen and has turned her self-styled dorkiness into an art form, a lifestyle choice and a profitable website and consultancy business. She writes a style column for a Japanese teen magazine and came number seven in The Guardian's 30 People Under 30 Who Are Changing The World. 

And yet, in spite of the accolades, hundreds of Internet friendships and a cool boyfriend, she feels inexplicably lonely, a situation made infinitely worse when Michael Lee, the most mass-market, popular and predictably all-rounded boy at school tells Jeane of his suspicion that Jeane's boyfriend is secretly seeing his girlfriend. Michael and Jeane have NOTHING in common - she is cool and individual; he is the golden boy in an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. So why can't she stop talking to him?

My review: Ever since I first fell in love with Dylan and Edie between the pages of J17 I've been a huge fan of Sarra Manning. I still have my frayed little paperbacks of the Diary of the Crush books that I got free with the magazine and I've bought and read pretty much every single thing she's had published since then. When I met her at the Atom blogger event last year and we talked Toddlers and Tiaras I definitely unlocked a life goal achievement. In short, I'm a big fan.

I've been waiting for Adorkable to be released ever since it first came on my radar last year, I pre-ordered my copy months ago and dived into the story as soon as it clattered through my letter box. Now, I devoured Adorkable in a matter of hours and found myself laughing out loud one moment, then full on crying the next. Yes, another one to add to the list of books that made me cry and smudge my eyeliner.

Jeane is one of the most unique characters I've come across in YA fiction for a long time. She's original and quirky (I abhor the work 'quirky' with every fibre of my being, just so you know) to the point that she probably should be annoying but she was flawed and likeable enough that I couldn't help but warm to her. She admits that she's so desperate to stand out that she shuns anything popular and mainstream and it was her honesty that made me root for her. Also, her snark. There are so many layers to Jeane that she's definitely a realistic character. At first it seems as though she has everything but as we learn more about her family, her past and her present situation, we begin to realise that she's actual a very fragile, very lonely girl who needs somebody to look out for her.

Michael and Jeane's relationship was one of the highlights of Adorkable. They fight like enemies but can't keep their hands off of each other. The sexual tension was fantastic and I love that Manning didn't shy away from sex scenes - THANK YOU for the sexytimes. Finally, an actual depiction of sex that doesn't make me want to sling the book across the room because it's so cringe/poorly written/Fifty Shades of Shit. It was great to see Jeane and Michael getting to know each other as Adorkable progressed and I like that their relationship wasn't plain sailing from beginning to end, they have highs and lows just like any other fledgling relationship. I thought Michael's chapters were great, especially when we got to read his thoughts into Jeane's look and Adorkable lifestyle - I thought his reaction was much more realistic than if he'd accepted everything right off the bat and hadn't cared about what his friends thought of Jeane's neon tights and grey rinse. He's a teenage boy, yo.

There are so many references to social media, bands and designers that teens are going to eat this one up. I'm not sure that the pop culture references will date Adorkable, either, which is good. I loved the roller derby references big time! Every single one led to me losing a big chunk of my afternoon to watching roller derby compliation videos on Youtube, which, to be honest, is not a bad way to spend two hours.

The message in Adorkable is loud and clear: Be yourself, not anybody else. Embrace who you are and keep your integrity. It's a great motto for anybody and I think this will have a particularly positive effect on teens as it isn't preachy but perfectly integrated into Jeane's story. The way Jeane develops throughout the novel is brilliant and I adored the ending - obviously I won't give anything away but I think it was the perfect way to end a fantastic story.

To be honest, the only downside of Adorkable is that I know scores of girls are sure to declare themselves as being 'JUST LIKE JEANE BECAUSE I'M SO QUIRKY OMGZZZ' all over Twitter and Tumblr, which makes me want to die a little inside. None of us are like Jeane, as Jeane is like none of us. Surely that's the real Adorkable message, right?

First line: We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.

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

Monday, 28 May 2012

Berlin, baby!

Hi folks!

Just to let you know I'm heading off to Berlin tomorrow morning a few days for an anniversary break with my lovely boyfriend. We went to Berlin just as we became a couple so it's always a nice place for us to go back to :).

We're back on Friday but I'm taking a couple of days off from blogging after that to catch up so I should resume normal service next week, though I have a few bits and bobs coming up this week, including reviews of The Hunt and Adorkable.

I hope you all have a great week and I'll catch up with you all when I get back x

Friday, 25 May 2012

Review: Unrest - Michelle Harrison

Published: April 26th 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 375 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless - but to Elliott they’re terrifying.

Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again - and it wants Ophelia, too...

My review: To celebrate the release of Unrest I, along with a few other bloggers, was invited up to London for a ghost walk with members of S&S and the lovely author herself, Michelle Harrison. It was such a fun event and I had an awesome time so I just want to say a huge thank you to S&S and Michelle for inviting me.

    There aren’t enough ghost stories in the world of YA at the moment so I was so excited to get my hands on a copy of Unrest. I was hoping for shadows skittering across the page in a glint of light, moments where I had to hold my breath and a general feeling of ‘how the hell are they going to get out of this one?’. Unrest completely delivered on all counts and Harrison’s latest novel is a lovely little ghost story that stayed with me much longer than I initially thought it would.

    When I finished reading Unrest I was wholly satisfied and moved onto my next read (The Hunt, if anyone’s interested), content that I’d just had a thoroughly pleasant reading experience. However, I found myself thinking about Unrest quite a lot over the next few days, which just goes to show this is an insidiously powerful story, the way the best ghost stories are.

    Stepping things up a notch from the Thirteen Treasures series, it’s clear from the outset that Harrison’s style is perfect for the YA age range and I can’t wait to see what she does next. We dive straight into the action in Unrest, with one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in a long while, filled with genuine scares and some wonderful turns of phrase that really did creep me out. The structure of Unrest felt like a classic horror movie, with the pace dipping and rising in all the right places. By the end of the story everything is so frantic it’s impossible to look away; I read the book in a single sitting and, for me, that’s the optimum way to enjoy any scary story.

    I bonded with Elliott from page one and was rooting for him the whole way through his journey. When we learned about the accident that has led to his lack of sleep and haunting visitors I cared even more, so Harrison did a great job of creating a character that readers will really warm too. It did take me a little longer to warm up to Ophelia and I found her difficult to trust but she’s certainly an interesting character that I won’t forget in a hurry, which is infinitely more important that just being ‘likeable’.

    The subplot and mystery of the ghost who used to live in Elliott’s flat was my favourite part of Unrest. It wasn’t given much page time but it didn’t need it, Harrison is a master of succinct writing and I love that she doesn’t waste words. Unrest is quite a lengthy book and could have got a little stale if the prose was overwritten but Harrison kept the language simple and the action ongoing, which kept me entertained for the whole 375 pages.

    I haven’t read a modern YA novel like Unrest, I’ve seen a couple of mild comparisons to Anna Dressed in Blood but I haven’t read it yet (I’ve just started, though, and it’s great so far!) so I can’t comment on that. Either way, I really enjoyed Unrest and look forward to reading Harrison’s next YA offering.

First line: It started the way it always did.

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Cover Reveal Extravaganza: Strange Chemistry

Now, I love a good book cover. I also love a bad book cover. I just love book covers. I like swooning over the good ones, laughing over the bad ones (Hades, I’m looking at you) and WTFing over the downright bizarre.

You may have noticed fabulous new YA imprint Strange Chemistry (birthed from the loins of Angry Robot, who I love and you jolly well should too) have released the cover art for their first five books, which are all due out later this year. Instead of posting up one cover at a time I thought I’d have a Strange Chemistry cover reveal extravaganza, like one joyful YA cover orgy of glory (assonance FTW, thank you please).

How amazing is this cover, seriously? It's beauuutiful.
 The Assassin's Curse - Cassandra Rose Clarke

I love this cover so damn much. I love the air, the eye make up, the snake. It's gorgeous and I would absolutely pick this book up if I saw it in a book shop.
 Blackwood - Gwenda Bond

This reminds me of a poster for some bad ass action film my boyfriend will force me to watch against my will...but that I'll end up loving anyway!
 Shift - Kim Curran

I love that because the protagonist is a 'jeans and T-shirt kind of girl' (as Amanda said on the SC website) that's how she's portrayed on the cover, not as a sad girl in a floaty dress because that's what's 'in' at the moment.
 Poltergeeks - Sean Cummings

Could this be any more old school Sci fi? Amazing!
Katya's World - Jonathan L. Howard


So there we have it. A whole host of lovely covers – feast your eyes, people. Which one is your favourite? I’m torn between The Assassin's Curse and Blackwood. I love that the covers all seem to fit in really well with their respective novels, rather than the whole ‘sad girl, nice dress, draped across something’ habit that is driving me batshit at the moment. And look how different they all are. Brilliant. Strange Chemistry, you truly are a breath of fresh air when it comes to cover design!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Review: New Girl - Paige Harbison

Published: May 4th 2012, Mira
Pages: 314 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher (US paperback purchased myself as well, because I'm a hoarder)

Summary (from Goodreads): A contemporary young-adult retelling inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

They call me 'New Girl'...

Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed—because of her.

Becca Normandy—that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault.

Except for Max Holloway—the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend…but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be.

And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

My review: Paige Harbison’s debut, Here Lies Bridget, was one of my favourite reads of last year. I adored her style, her realistically flawed characters and the way her writing had the ability to have me laughing one paragraph and weeping pathetically the next. When I was offered the chance to review her latest offering, New Girl, I jumped at the chance, naturally.

New Girl is a retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s classic romantic thriller, Rebecca. I’m sure you’ll all agree with me when I say that Rebecca is, without doubt, one of the greatest novels of all time. I absolutely adore the story and the novel is right at the top of my top ten list, tied only with The Bell Jar.

But I’m getting sidetracked.

I was intrigued to see what Harbison did with New Girl, given that Rebecca is such a beloved novel. It was definitely a bold move on her part, bolder still that she reimagined it as a YA, complete with drinking and pretty boys. See, that last sentence is one of the reasons why I love this writer. Not many people would have the balls or the skills to pull that off but Harbison does it with style, grace and some brilliant one liners. Some of you may be put off by the Rebecca retelling but don’t be – it’s subtly done and with clear love for the original, which I think is always the key with reimaginings.

New Girl is one that can appeal to so many different readers. Contemporary fans (like me) will eat this one up but it’s also a great story for you paranormal fans out there. I don’t think it matters whether you’ve read Rebecca or not as the story stands out on its own, I just think knowledge of the original will enhance your enjoyment of New Girl but it certainly isn’t necessary, which is great.

Becca is, to put it mildly, a massive bitch. I’m sure a lot of readers will probably hate her but I thought she was pretty awesome. I do love a good bitchy character. Okay, she isn’t very likeable and definitely has a nasty streak but at least she feels like a real person. I’d much rather read about characters who might not always be pleasant but are realistic, rather than 2D characters who are filled with rainbow and unicorn farts and never put a foot wrong. Lame. Bring on the bitches, I say. Harbison is a pro at creating characters who have a tendency to err on the side of full on biatch but you can’t help liking, it happened in Here Lies Bridget and again in New Girl.

Our protagonist in New Girl is a great reimagining of our heroine in Rebecca. She’s meek and mild to a point but knows when to stand her ground and stick up for herself. Girlfriend ain’t no pushover. Her relationship with Max was great; I loved the mystery and angst and stolen glances and all that lovely teen drama. I’d really like to see New Girl as a Lying Game/Pretty Little Liars style TV show with a single season run. YES. (TV execs, make this happen. We need more single season TV shows, please, to avoid the RAGE that spills forth when a favourite gets axed right on a cliffhanger – WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!)

If, like me, you’re beyond excited that we’ve finally a teeny tiny bit of sunshine and are already preparing a pitcher of Pimms for the next time the sun deigns to shine on us then you need New Girl in your life. I can vouch for the fact it is best enjoyed while sunbathing and sipping a hideously bright coloured cocktail. And I’m pretty sure I said almost the exact same thing in my review for Here Lies Bridget. Paige Harbison is clearly to blame for my drunk reading habit. Originally I wrote ‘drunk reading problem’ but deleted that shit because it sure as hell isn’t a problem. More like a gift.

First line: The panoramic view outside the windows of the bus showed a world that wasn't mine.

Read if you liked…: Vicious Little Darlings - Katherine Easer


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

Monday, 21 May 2012

Review: Changeling - Philippa Gregory

Published: 24th May 2012, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 260 pages, ARC
Series?: Yes, this is book one in the Order of Darkness series
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Dark myths, medieval secrets, intrigue, and romance populate the pages of the first-ever teen series from #1 bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl

Italy, 1453. Seventeen-year-old Luca Vero is brilliant, gorgeous—and accused of heresy. Cast out of his religious order for using the new science to question old superstitious beliefs, Luca is recruited into a secret sect: The Order of the Dragon, commissioned by Pope Nicholas V to investigate evil and danger in its many forms, and strange occurrences across Europe, in this year—the end of days.    

Isolde is a seventeen-year-old girl shut up in a nunnery so she can’t inherit any of her father’s estate. As the nuns walk in their sleep and see strange visions, Isolde is accused of witchcraft—and Luca is sent to investigate her, but finds himself plotting her escape.   

Despite their vows, despite themselves, love grows between Luca and Isolde as they travel across Europe with their faithful companions, Freize and Ishraq. The four young people encounter werewolves, alchemists, witches, and death-dancers as they head toward a real-life historical figure who holds the boundaries of Christendom and the secrets of the Order of the Dragon.    

The first in a series, this epic and richly detailed drama is grounded in historical communities and their mythic beliefs. It includes a medieval map of Europe that will track their journey; and the interior will include relevant decorative elements as well as an interior line illustration. And look for a QR code that links to a note from the author with additional, detailed information about the setting and the history that informed the writing. With Philippa Gregory’s trademark touch, this novel deftly brings the past—and its salacious scandals—vividly and disturbingly to life.

My review: When I was lucky enough to be invited up to London to meet Philippa Gregory and have a sneak preview of Changeling a couple of months ago I was pretty darn excited, I’ll tell you that for free. I hadn’t read any of Philippa’s books before and while it was tempting to dive into her backlist after meeting the lady herself I decided to hold off and make Changeling the first of hers that I read. I’m not the world’s biggest historical fan but Philippa was so inspiring to speak to and I’ve constantly heard such wonderful things about her novels over the years that I was beyond thrilled when my copy arrived last month.

I’m not generally a huge fan of books that are massively hyped up before release as I find they inevitably disappoint but, for once, the hype and buzz is absolutely deserved. Changeling is one of the most intriguing and well written novels that I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time and I cannot wait for all of you to read it, as I know you’re going to absolutely love it. I think Philippa Gregory may have single handedly turned me into a bit of a historical fan – bet you never thought you’d read those words, folks. No, there are no bitchy blonde cheerleaders or house parties between the pages but I fell in love with the sharp dialogue, memorable characters and beautiful visuals that Gregory creates in Changeling.

The first thing I want to talk about is the humour, as I never expected this book to be so funny. I genuinely laughed out loud more than once and Freize is one of the most comedic characters I’ve come across in a while. His relationship with Luca was one of my favourite elements of the story – they reminded me a little of Jon Snow and Sam Tarly in the Game of Thrones series but Freize and Ishraq's relationship is definitely one to watch in future books, I think those two could make an excellent team. Freize was far and away my favourite character; he’s smart, hilarious but also sweet, especially as the book moves into the last third and we see the goodness and kindness in him, when most characters display their bad side.

To prove my point that Freize is a comedy genius, I want to share my favourite quotation, taken from page 174 of the UK proof:

'Never eaten anything that couldn't be speared on the tip of a dagger,' Freize offered from the doorway.
'Enough,' Luca advised this most interfering servant.
'Or sucked it up,' Freize said. He paused for a moment, to explain more clearly. 'If soup.'
"'If soup!'" Luca turned on him wrathfully. "'If soup!" For God's sake, be silent. No, better still, wait in the kitchen.'
'Keeping the door,' Freize said, motioning that his work was essential. 'Keeping the door from intruders.'
'God knows, I would rather have an intruder, I would rather have a band of brigands burst in, than have you commenting on everything that takes place.'

Freize shook his head in remorse and once again folded lower lip over upper lip to indicate his future silence. 'Like the grave,' he said to Luca. 'You go on. Doing well: probing but respectful. Don't mind me.'

Even though I was completely engrossed in the story, I couldn’t help but make some technical notes about the sheer perfection that is Gregory’s pacing. She used snappy, short sentences to increase the pace in the action scenes and long, flowing paragraphs of gorgeous description during the more sedate moments. Anyone who knows me knows I do appreciate a well paced novel! Little things, and all that.

I touched on this earlier on in this post but I just want to mention again how visual Changeling is. There are so many scenes and locations that I saw so clearly in my mind and I think it’s a huge strength of Gregory’s that she gives us just the right amount of description to set the scene but pulls back enough to let the reader add in their own little details about the setting. I would love to see this on the big screen, there are so many elements that I know would work brilliantly, so fingers crossed for that.

Even though Changeling is the first book in a series I didn’t feel like we were left with a huge cliffhanger that was written purely to entice us into buying the next book. Although it’s clear that the overall story arc isn’t over, there are two wonderful stories in Changeling that make it a self-contained novel that could be picked up as a standalone. I’ll absolutely be racing to get the next book in the series but it was nice to read the first installment without feeling as though I was short changed by the ending.

Changeling is a breath of fresh air among the stacks of dystopia and paranormal series that are still dominating the YA marketplace. Books like this are exactly what we need more of: Engaging from beginning to end, wonderfully written and penned by an author who clearly adores her craft and knows her story and characters inside out.

First line:
'The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a handgun going off in his face.'

Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 18/20 (A)

Friday, 18 May 2012

Interview: Julie Kagawa (The Immortal Rules)

Julie Kagawa is, for sure, one of the first ladies of paranormal YA. Everything she releases turns to gold and this pleases me greatly because everything I’ve read on her twitter and blog lends me to believe she is a lovely, lovely lady. It’s great when that happens, isn’t it?

Anyway, the first installment in her new series, The Immortal Rules, is out now and kicking up a storm in the world of YA. I’ve read fantastic review after fantastic review so, even though I’m not the world’s biggest paranormal fan, I’m excited to give this one a go. Plus, I’ve been promised actual vampires, rather than sparklers so, yay.

Julie was awesome enough to take the time to answer a few of my questions as part of her blog tour to promote The Immortal Rules so here you go, lads and ladies:

1.      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?

Average depends on whether or not I turn off the internet. J When I leave it on, I sometimes get distracted by the goings-on on Twitter. In general, though, I try and get at least 1,000 words per day. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less, but that’s what I shoot for. If I’m doing something like NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), that jumps up to 1,667 words per day. And the business side of writing can make that number less sometimes… I love doing signings and marketing and interviews, but all of them take time away from the word count thing.

2.      What sort of research did you have to do for The Immortal Rules? How did you go about doing this?

A lot of research went into The Immortal Rules.  This was the real world, albeit a futuristic, vampire infested world, but the real world nonetheless, and things had to make sense.  A large part of my research involved watching the entire season of The Discovery Channel's Life After People, to see how long it would take buildings and other structures to fall apart.  I researched what would happen to dams, power plants, bridges, ect. if there were no humans around to take care of them.  What would happen to the wildlife?  What would happen to normal pets?  How long would it take for the plant life to retake everything?  Do guns fire underwater?  Lots of questions, and lots of research, but it was essential to make the world of The Immortal Rules even remotely believable.

3.      Which scene did you find most difficult to write in The Immortal Rules?

The most difficult scene to write was probably the stay at the Archer farm.  I knew something had to go down, something big, for the repercussions between Allie and another character to happen.

4.      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?

I think that characters have to be real and relatable, even when they’re full of super-natural awesomeness. They have to have the kinds of problems that readers can understand and empathize with. Without that, the “big” problems (crazy army of poisonous Fey marching on your homeland, perhaps) seem less important, somehow. Characters also need to be flawed. How boring would it be to read about someone who had tons of power, no relatable problems, and was Mr. or Ms. Perfect?

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

The lure of the internet. I spend a lot of time on Twitter and reading blogs. Some days I pull the plug on my modem so I can’t give in to temptation, but on the days I don’t, I lose writing time messing around online.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

From the Review Pile (1) - Slated - Teri Terry

What’s that I hear you cry, a new meme? Well, yes, indeedy. I’m not a big one for memes, really. In my early blogging days I was all over that shit; Teaser Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday, On my Wishlist, IMM. I’m telling you, there was a meme, I was on it. However, I began to realise that meme after meme does not a good blog make, it just makes it look as though you seriously lack imagination. Sure, I’m all for people doing memes but nothing aggravates me more than a blog that is just memes. Break it up with a review once in a while, that’s all I’m saying. But then, each to their own and all that. Meme overkill is just not for me.

That sure is a confusing introduction considering this is a post about a new meme I’m joining in with. But I am attempting to make a point, which is that I think memes are great, when used in moderation. As I evolved as a blogger I cut out more and more of the memes I took part in and eventually phased them out all together, pretty much. I do my own themed posts once a week (or once a month, if I’m feeling lazy), like My Favourite Covers and things like that, so I guess they’re personal memes. Kind of.

However, I saw the lovely Raimy from Readaraptor retweet something the other day that Steph at Stepping Out of the Page had tweeted about a new meme she’s started. I liked the sound of it so checked it out and lo and behold, this is, for sure, the perfect meme for me.

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.

I’m hoping to take part in From the Review Pile every week but, well, I’m happy to hold my hands up here and say I’m not the most reliable of gals when it comes to routine, so we’ll see. I’m also planning to join in with Letterbox Love every so often but I think that’ll be once a month, rather than weekly. Again, we shall see.

And now, before I can digress any further, here is my first From the Review Pile:

Slated - Teri Terry

I'm so intrigued by Slated and I've loved reading all the reviews of it that have been popping up over the blogosphere. It's a debut, it's British and it sounds like a wonderfully dark dystopia, I can't wait to read it! The tone and memory loss elements remind me a little of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, though obviously the content is very different - is there any truth in that, anyone who's read both books?

Summary (from Goodreads): Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist, and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth? 

For more information about Slated you can visit the Slated Goodreads page or Slated website. For more details about the author, Teri Terry, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Interview: Paige Harbison - New Girl

Good evening my dears! This one's a little late in the day but I've got a brill Q&A for you with the gorgeous author of New Girl (and Here Lies Bridget - one of my faves from last year), Paige Harbison.

It would be so easy to hate Paige - she's super talented, ridiculously successful at only twenty one and has awesome hair. However, she writes kick ass books and is lovely, which makes hating her an impossibility. I'm a big fan of her books and an even bigger fan of the fact she fully appreciated my drunk tweeting about how alcohol enhanced my reading experience of Here Lies Bridget last year.

My review of New Girl should be up in the next week or so (it was great, by the way) but until then, here's a little interview with the lady herself:

1. Do you own a Kindle or other e-reader? What’s your opinion on them?

I do, actually! I own a Kindle Fire. I was totally not interested in them at first. I love books and I love how they look. I think they’re the one kind of thing you can have an abundance of that will never make your home look cluttered. So, that said, I really like collecting pretty books and putting them on my shelf. But after receiving one for Christmas, I have to admit…it’s pretty awesome. I’m irresponsible with my money, however, so I’m likely to re-buy a pretty book just to have it on my shelf…=)

2. What reading for pleasure do you prefer to read standalones or series? Why?

I like both equally. I like to read series’ because it gives you a chance to really get to know characters. Also, if you love the world of the book, it’s fun to live in it for as long as you can. I recently read The Magnolia League, and I’m glad it’s a series because I love sitting out by the pool and reading this hoodoo-filled story set in sleepy, creepy Savannah, GA. Standalones I like because you know it will get resolved by the end. An example of this is Pretty Little Liars. To me, that series just strings along a plot that could have been narrowed down to one very satisfying book.

3. 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 do sometimes, yes. In fact in the book I’m working on now, I’m considering having a playlist to go with the book. My mother—Beth Harbison—did this with her most recent book, Always Something There To Remind Me. I helped her come up with the perfect songs for the story, and I think it’s really fun. It can really set the mood for the reader. As for while I’m writing, I don’t keep music on in the background all the time. But whenever I write party scenes, hook-up scenes, or fun scenes, I put on music and sometimes mention the song I am listening to and envisioning with the scene.

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

I find that I do not, and in fact cannot plot. I actually only just realized this the other day. I think in books like mine, which are fuelled by the actions of teenagers—mostly girls—it fits that I don’t plan it all out. Things just happen. I write a conversation between two girls, I sense that one starts to get offended or jealous or angry, and then she acts on it. I think I write like people think. This leads to my characters making mistakes and taking false steps, but I think it’s more human that way. I definitely try to come up with a plot that is made up of some number of points I intend to hit, but how I get there is totally up to the characters as they go.

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

I think it’s definitely important. As a reader, when I see someone tweeting (or whatever) about some book they are just obsessing over, I get intrigued. As a writer, I like being able to interact and have a relationship with my readers.

Trailer Tuesday: Body Blow, Girl Meets Boy and Daylight Saving

I've also been a big fan of book trailers and I'm always spending far too many hours on Youtube watching the latest releases. I love that a trailer can completely change my mind about a book and convince me to pick up something I might never have noticed before.

As far as I'm concerned, great book trailers can do wonders for the reputation of a book. And the bad ones? Well, they're just fun to watch.

I haven't posted up any trailers for a while now so I want to share with you three of my favourites that I've come across lately. Body Blow and Daylight Saving have the usual slick production values that come with any Walker book trailer and I love the simplicity of the Girl Meets Boy trailer, it's short and to the point and proves that simple trailers can still be effective.

Body Blow - Peter Cocks

Girls Meets Boy - edited by Kelly Milner Halls

Daylight Saving - Edward Hogan

So what do you guys think? Which one of these is your favourite? Do any of them make you want to read (or not read) the book?

Monday, 14 May 2012

New Blog Discoveries (1)

Happy Monday, folks. How are you all feeling? Tired, grumpy, confused as to where the hell the weekend went? Well, hopefully today’s post will cheer you all up and make your Monday morning a little more entertaining.

I’ve been meaning to write a post for a little while now about some great new blogs I’ve discovered over the last few weeks. I should clarify that these aren’t necessarily blogs that are new to the blogosphere, just new to me. I am one for living in a bit of a hole and missing out on things so I’m definitely a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to seeking out new blogs. That’s something I’ve been rectifying recently though so I wanted to share some of my favourite new discoveries:

ChooseYA: I'm a big fan of Lucy's lovely blog, which I have been reading for a few weeks now. It's not a particularly new blog (which has been up and running since October 2011) but for some reason I missed out until I discovered ChooseYA through the Insurgent UK campaign. 

I love the variety of different posts and that there's always something new and fun to read. Lucy's reviews are really well written and she looks at a great range of books, including lots of contemporary - YAY!

Marian Vere's Blog: I discovered this blog a couple of days ago after a retweet about writing the perfect synopsis and I have spent farrr too much time reading all the awesome writing tips. I started off reading this post, then this post (which I agree with SO hard, by the way) and then approximately a gazillion other posts that made me look at Reckless (the manuscript I'm currently working on) in so many new ways.

Any aspiring writers out there should absolutely check out Marian's blog - it is fantastically written and super helpful. Even though she's a women's fiction writer I found that so much of her advice can be applied to tonnes of different genres. Lovely stuff.


So there you have it, ChooseYA and Marian Vere's Blog are a couple of my favourite new discoveries in the world of blogging. How about you? What sites have you discovered lately?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Blog Tour: The Hunt - Andrew Fukuda

A very good morning to all of you, indeed. It’s Sunday! What are you doing with yourselves? Going to the gym? Baking up a storm? Running the younglings to and fro? Or maybe you’re like me and have a long, leisurely day of doing absolutely naff all planned. Although, I am in the midst of an epic blogging frenzy so not quite naff all, though certainly nothing physically strenuous.

I’ve got Andrew Fukuda here with me today, who was kind enough to answer a few of my burning questions about his debut novel, The Hunt. Now, I’ve been waxing lyrical about The Hunt on Twitter for a while now and if you’ve picked up a copy you’ll know why. Honestly, it’s one of the most exhilarating and unique novels I’ve read this year and I’m so excited to see where Andrew’s career goes from here, as I’m certain we’re going to be hearing a lot more about him over the coming years.

I’ll save the rest for my review but, until then: Thank you, literature overlords, for answering my prayers and letting *actual* vampires make a comeback. Not vampires that sparkle but actual, ‘I’m going to soil myself in terror’ vampires. About bloody time, pun very much intended.

And now I’ll hand you over to Andrew Fukuda, vampire saviour:

  1.    Hi, Andrew! In case any readers haven’t come across The Hunt yet, can you tell me a little bit about the storyline?

Gene, the last human alive in a world taken over by vampire-like creatures who lust for the taste of human blood and flesh, must hide his humanness in order to survive. When he is selected to participate in a hunt for other humans, he is thrust into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing.

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?

Early on in the manuscript, I write at least 1000 quality words a day. Usually that amounts to about four hours of work, although it can take as long as six hours, and on rarer occasions, two hours. Once the story starts coming into its own, I try to write 2000 words a day.

3.    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?

The approach should be to first really know the character before writing down a word. If you try to flesh out a character by pushing around the words in your manuscript, or merely inserting “character” lines or paragraphs, the result will likely come out less than desired. You can dress a scarecrow all you want, add all the accessories, but it’s still a scarecrow. It’s not living, dynamic, breathing. The character has to start in your head; and only after you’ve mentally walked in his/her skin, when they are so real and alive you instinctively know how they like their eggs cooked, are you ready to write.  And when you tell that person’s story – as honestly as you can – the character will naturally flow out of you and onto the pages. He’ll walk and breathe and laugh and cry in 3D.

4.    The YA book market is a competitive place, what do you think sets The Hunt apart from the pack?

The protagonist is a male which is quite unusual, especially considering the vampire(-esque) genre. And I’ve flipped the usual convention on its head: instead of a minority of vampires living surreptitious lives amidst human society, in The Hunt only a small cluster of humans survive in a world of vampire-like creatures.

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?

The Hunt is set in a stark, bleak world where vampires have overtaken the earth and humans have been driven to virtual extinction. To put me in the mood, I listened to songs that were raw and relatively stripped-down, and which were lyrically filled with angst. The theme of darkness and light is one which percolates throughout The Hunt, and songs which were similarly themed (either lyrically or tonally) found their way onto my playlist. Post-grunge bands whose works are heavily infused with spirituality, such as Skillet and Switchfoot, really got me in the right mood, and I felt quite indebted to them.

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

I’m as pure a pantser writer as they come – the ghost of James Dean hovers over my keyboard. This is especially true when it comes to action scenes. Because I like to keep the action raw and visceral, I often throw my protagonist into predicaments from which even I’m not sure how he’s going to escape. Sometimes, I paint him into such a terrible corner, I can see him turning to me and saying, “Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to get out of this?”
But I’m finding – as is the case with many authors writing sequels in a trilogy – that with book two and three, I’m evolving more into a plotter. With tight deadlines looming, there’s no time for mistakes.

7.    Can you tell me a bit about your journey with The Hunt? 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?
It took me about a year to write The Hunt. As the story came into its own, it really sucked me in and I was writing at a pretty fast pace the last month or two. I spent a few weeks on revisions, then out went the query letter to several agents. Two weeks later, I had seven offers of representation. Two months later, St. Martin’s Press bought the book at auction. While I was still in a cloud of disbelief, my foreign rights agent called me with the wonderful news that Simon & Schuster (UK) bought the UK rights in a pre-empt. It all happened is such a mad, exciting flurry!

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

Hmmm… I don’t think I’m the best person to ask. My blogging and Facebook usage is quite sparse, actually. I formed a Twitter account at my publisher’s and agent’s behest, but have been using it less to promote The Hunt and more to connect with other authors.

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

Let me count the ways! Hmm… there’re too many to count! But let me give you one. My editor keeps taking out similes in my manuscript – she tells me I have too many, and she’s right. I blame this on my English teacher in secondary school who used to scream “Similes! I want more similes!”

10.    What did you hope to accomplish by writing The Hunt? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?
I hoped to tell a riveting story that would appeal to both genders, to the young and old, across cultures. A universal page-turner, in other words. A tall challenge! And I didn’t know how to do it! So I simply wrote from the heart, telling Gene’s story as honestly and purely as I could.  I was left with a story that – even after many revisions and re-reads – still got my heart pounding. But it was also one which blurred many of the genre conventions, and I was faced with a very real temptation to add a few tropes to make the work more accessible. I thought about heightening the romance, or having the protagonist make more “acceptable” choices, or filling the book with more world-building information (as is the case with most dystopian YA books but which, for reasons too complex to go into here, wouldn’t have tonally worked in The Hunt).

But shaping the book to fit convention would have undermined and compromised the vision and tone of The Hunt. I stuck to my guns, and I’m glad I did. From early reviews, it seems that discerning readers – young and old, male and female! – have really bought into these calculated risks.   

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

My teenage years certainly influenced The Hunt. Like most, my adolescence swung like a pendulum between the extremes of self-discovery and self-forfeiture, the latter of which happened whenever I was peer-squeezed into one of those false molds society expects you to fit into.  So much of Gene’s existence – shaving his arms and legs, repressing laughter – metaphorically captures the way teens are often forced to act and think in socially-acceptable ways. As one reviewer put it, Gene’s existence “captures the excruciating experience of high school, where it feels as if every gesture receives close scrutiny by the entire student body.” I like that.

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

I’m working on book two and three of the The Hunt trilogy. Book 2 – which is titled The Prey – is almost finished. My editor is delighted in it! I’m just now beginning to plot out Book 3. Thanks for this interview, it’s been a lot of fun!