Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Review: The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier

Published: Originally, 1956. Vintage Children's Classics reprint, 02/08/2012
Pages: 205 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from the back cover)Having lost their parents in the chaos of war, Ruth, Edek and Bronia are left alone to fend for themselves and hide from the Nazis amid the rubble and ruins of their city. 

They meet a ragged orphan boy, Jan, who treasures a paperknife - a silver sword - which was entrusted to him by an escaped prisoner of war. 

The three children realise that the escapee was their father, the silver sword a message that he is alive and searching for them. Together with Jan they begin a dangerous journey across the battlefields of Europe to find their parents.

My memories (written before rereading): The first time I read The Silver Sword was back in 1997, as part of English literature classes when I was in year five at school. My school put a lot of emphasis on English literature and creative writing, which was more than fine by me, as you can imagine.

By the time I reached this age I was beginning to discover my own tastes and preferences and I'd decided before we even started that a 'war' book as not my kind of thing. It sounded boyish and boring and, to be honest, my main priority in life at ten years old was reading about ponies, specifically of the Brumby persuasion (anyone else adore the Silver Brumby series? Just me?).

However, by the time we were a few pages into the book I was captivated. I loved the story, the characters and the action and I flew through the book in my spare time, unable to wait for my next class to hear what happened next. I remember crying at least twice during the book, which caused me much embarrassment in the classroom. Though, as I recall, a fair few of us were blubbing by the end.

My review (written after rereading): Well, I can absolutely see why Vintage chose this one to be one of their launch titles. What a stunning, stunning book! I did have fond memories of this one from my childhood but the story had so much more of an impact on me this time round. I think my increased knowledge of history definitely helped me appreciate the story even more and I definitely won't leave it another fifteen years before I read The Silver Sword again.

The writing is simple but beautiful and it's so easy to see how Serraillier's wonderful story became a classic. You get such a wonderful sense of every character so soon after being introduced to them and I don't think I've ever rooted for characters so much in my life - it was reaching Viola and Todd proportions, people!

I'm a really big fan of using literature to teach children and this would fit in so seamlessly with any studies about the Second World War; it combines the history with the reality of how the war impacted the people involved and, while difficult to read at times, I couldn't tear my eyes away.

This is a book that will make you heart break and soar within the turn of a page and, whether or not you read this book as a child, I urge you to pick up a copy when it's released in August. You will absolutely not be disappointed but you will more than likely shed a few tears. I know I did.

First line: 'This is the story of a Polish family, and of what happened to them during the Second World War and immediately afterwards.'

Read if you liked…: Empire of the Sun - J. G. Ballard, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne

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

Monday, 30 July 2012

Vintage Children's Classics: Release Week Schedule

This week Writing from the Tub is focusing on the release of the Vintage Children's Classics list, which is launching this Thursday, August 2nd 2012. I've been lucky enough to be sent a few of the titles that are part of the launch list and I've had so much run rereading some of my childhood favourites, as well as a classic I hadn't had the change to read before.

Throughout this week I'll be bringing you information about the list, as well as reviews and a discussion post about the branding of the collection, which I've been so impressed by. To let you know what's coming up this week here's the schedule:

  • Tuesday 31st July: Review of The Silver Sword, compared with my childhood memories of reading this book
  • Wednesday 1st August: Discussion post about the branding and cover design of the list
  • Thursday 2nd August: Release day! A spotlight on the World of Stories website and the wonderful accompanying video
  • Friday 3rd August: Review of Emil and the Detectives

For more information about the list, please have a read of the press release below.

(Press release supplied by Vintage)

Vintage Classics is delighted to announce the launch of a brand new series of Children’s Classics

Presenting twenty beautifully designed titles of old favourites and contemporary classics

Published 2nd August 2012 (available in paperback and ebook).

This summer, Vintage Classics, an imprint of The Random House Group, will launch a new list of children’s classics which can be enjoyed by all the family. Vintage Children’s Classics will be a beautiful and affordable series of books intended to inspire and nurture a life-long love of reading in children and adults alike.

The launch list of twenty titles will feature perennial favourites such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island alongside much-loved contemporary classics exclusive to Random House including The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.

Boyne commented: Books become classics when generation after generation can read them and experience the same emotional charge as their first readers. The children's classics that we return to as adults are the ones that feel every bit as good as they did when we first experienced the pleasures of reading, with stories that excite and move us and characters who feel the most alive.

After undertaking extensive research among 8 to 12 year olds, and the adults who buy books for them, Vintage has come up with the ultimate ingredients for a new series of children’s classics – from the cover design and back cover copy, to the extra content inside.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Children's Literature in the Olympic Opening Ceremony

So I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people reading this watched last night's brilliant Olympic Opening Ceremony; by the look of it on Twitter every single person I follow was getting involved!

I'm writing a longer post about the Opening Ceremony on my personal blog, Life from the Tub, but I just wanted to talk quickly about how bloody happy I am that literature played such a strong part in the proceeding last night! HELL FRICKING YES!

When the camera panned around to show JK Rowling I pretty much lost my shit. I gasped. I actually gasped out loud. Possibly a slight overreaction but I was just so excited to see her there. She utterly deserved it and she read beautifully.

I'm so glad that Danny Boyle included so many wonderful books that I'm sure we all read and loved in our childhoods - and now! Harry Potter (is there anything cooler than a 60ft Voldemort?), Mary Poppins, Peter Man, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (that Childcatcher was wonderfully creepy) et al. 

Thank you, Danny Boyle, on behalf of all book lovers, thank you so much.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Cover Reveal: Days of Blood and Starlight (UK) - Laini Taylor

On Wednesday afternoon I was lucky enough to be sent the UK cover of Laini Taylor's Days of Blood and Starlight, the follow up to last year's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. DoSaB was one of my top reads of 2011 and I absolutely cannot wait for Days of Blood and Starlight. The cover is BEAUTIFUL and they're going to look perfect side by side.

What do you guys think of it? Let me know in the comments!

In case you haven't had a chance to see it yet, here it is:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Giveaway Winner: ARC of Broken by A. E. Rought

I just want to give a massive thank you to everybody who entered the competition to win an ARC of Broken by A. E. Rought. I'm glad everybody loved the cover as much as I do; I really can't wait for this one!

I've randomly selected the winner of the competition with Randomiser and the winner is...

Catherine at The Book Parade

Congratulations, Catherine! You should have an email from me confirming you're the winner shortly, so please let me know your address as soon as possible, so I can forward it through to Strange Chemistry so they can arrange for your copy to be sent out. Please note that copies will not be available for a few weeks, though it will be sent as soon as it's available.

Thank you to everybody who entered and I hope you all enjoy reading the book once it's released.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Guest Post: Keith Austin's Writing Method

I've got Keith Austin here at Writing from the Tub today to talk about his writing process, particularly looking at how he wrote Grymm, his young adult novel which is out now, published by Random House.

I'm reading Grymm at the moment and I'm really, really loving it. It's such a creepy, unsettling read but in a brilliant way. I definitely recommend it and do look out for my review, which will be coming as soon as I finish the book.

I'm always fascinated to hear how each writer approaches the craft of writing so I really enjoyed reading this post; I hope you guys do, too!

Grymm was the first time I had ever taken time off work to do nothing but write. Before that any extra-curricular writing was squeezed into the spaces not taken up by my day job as a journalist.

As such, it seemed that a writing pattern needed to be established, and who better to get advice from than the great Stephen King. If anyone knows how to write then it would be him.

And so to On Writing, King’s memoir-cum-How-To book in which he advises that it’s best to treat this writing lark as, well, not a lark. It’s a job, he says, and it needs to be approached as such.

I took his advice: my partner created a writing den in the garden shed and I took myself off there every morning on the dot of 9am. I worked until 1pm, took an hour – and only an hour, mister - for lunch and then kept going until 6pm. A good, solid seven hours of work a day.

And it worked; the words poured out and within a month I had 20,000 words of an adult horror/thriller called Skink on screen. I say again: twenty thousand words.

And they were … rubbish. Twenty thousand words of stilted, straight-jacketed, cliched tosh.

I threw them away, hit delete, started again.

This time I woke up when my eyes opened, usually around 9.30am (I was, after all, off work), got dressed, threw a lazy leg over the bicycle and coasted down to the various cafes that abound in the Bondi beach suburb where I lived.

There was the Lamrock, right on the main parade opposite the beach – and where, one day, the guy who would become Cleaver Flay walked past – there was the Blue Orange café where a waitress with an octopus tattoo served me, and Gertrude & Alice, the wonderful secondhand bookshop-cum-café where the bulk of Grymm was eventually written.

In these places I would make notes, watch the world go by, write a few pages or just a few paragraphs. Then it was home, lock myself in the shed sometime in the early afternoon, and write until, basically, I was finished. Three months later I had the first draft of what was to become Grymm. That was nine years ago.

The process hasn’t changed much since then except that, now, the great majority of a book is written in longhand in a lined A4 notebook (as this is) in cafes and pubs (as this is). It’s as if my mind craves the noise, the hubbub. I am finding it increasingly difficult to write fiction straight into a laptop. Journalism, yes, but not fiction.

My second manuscript for Random House UK was written in a café in Bondi Junction in Australia and in various pubs in East London and the small Berkshire village where my partner’s parents live.

Of course, back at the ‘office’, wherever that might be, I still have to type the thing in, and that’s when the second draft happens. That’s when I refine (or decipher) the arcane scribblings that other people call handwriting. This process takes a little longer as, despite more than 30 years in journalism, I still only type with two fingers.

This has also made me wonder if I prefer to write in a notebook because I can write faster than I can type and I need to get this stuff out of my head and on to paper as fast as I can think it.

And when I do sit down to type it in, a 1000-word excerpt can easily turn into 1500 words or 500 words depending on whether I like it and can riff off an idea or an image, or whether I wonder what idiot wrote that.

What is sure, though, is that I have to work to music – and not any old music. It has to be Roxy Music, the band started by Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno in 1972 and whose music I have listened to ever since.

The last Roxy album came out in 1982 so there’s no ‘new stuff’ to listen to. Which is the point. It’s music I know so well that it becomes background noise for the majority of the time – the equivalent of the café/pub hubbub, I suppose.

And then, on occasion when I look up, startled, from my make-believe world, the music is familiar, undemanding, not needy in the way that new music can often be.

When starting, though, I select shuffle on the iPod or iTunes and always start with the same song. And when Bryan Ferry croons “Blue sunset and grey lagoons…” I know it’s time to write.

GRYMM by Keith Austin is published by Red Fox/Random House UK and is out now.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Reckless Update

Over the last couple of months I've made some major changes to Reckless. Well, planned to make some major changes; I'm just beginning to implement them now.

I joined a writing group earlier in the year and, honestly, this has made such a huge change to my writing. I haven't been part of a regular writing group since I graduated university, though I do exchange bits and pieces with friends to workshop every now and then. Honestly, if anybody out there is looking to improve their writing then do go and find a writing group online or in your area - they are so much fun and really do make such a difference. My writing group, recently dubbed the YAvengers (I'm working on the capes), is made up of a great mix of people, all of our novels are completely different but we've gelled so well and I look forward to our monthly meetings so much.

My main issue with Reckless is the pacing, as I've known since I wrote the first draft this time last year it was completely off. It meanders in places, then feels too rushed towards the end. There is so much story I want to get on the pages but I know I need to get the pacing absolutely perfect. Particularly with the beginning, it felt too slow and there was definitely too much info-dumping - basically, a classic case of writing myself into the story. I knew it needed a complete overhaul but I couldn't quite figure out the best way to do this, without losing the information I needed to be included. Luckily, my wonderful writing group came to the rescue and suggested a brilliant solution, which I'm working on now. It's only a relatively small change but has completely changed the pace of the first few chapters and has cut a chunk of 10,000 or so words out, which I desperately needed!

I'm planning on entering Reckless into a competition that closes next week, so I'm going to spend the weekend polishing my new first 5000 words and crying over my synopsis, which is basically a synopsis of DOOM because it causes me that much pain. Whether I get into the shortlist or not, having this deadline has been great for getting me in gear to rewrite my beginning, so I'm really pleased about that.

I'm going to be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo throughout August, though I'm only going to be editing so not officially taking part. I'm hoping to rewrite the entire manuscript by the time I go to Vegas on September 1st - hopefully I'll manage, as it would be great to fly off and have something huge to celebrate at the same time. I wrote the first draft of Reckless as part of the August Camp NaNoWriMo last year, so I thought it'd be nice to have pretty much finished almost a year to the day after finishing the first draft. We shall see, though. I've kept August pretty free, to give me as much time as possible to write, though most of my weekends are already full. I've got Segway rally racing on the first weekend, my mum's birthday on the third weekend and my university reunion over the bank holiday weekend. Luckily I work part time, though, so should be able to get some serious words produced during the afternoons.

I say I'm 'rewriting' but, really, I'm starting from scratch. There are so many scenes I want to add in and so many I need to take out that I'm basically starting from scratch. I'm so excited about telling the new and improved story; I've been doing a lot of work on my plot over the last few months and chatting over things with my writing group has helped me work through so many problems and figure out the strengths and weaknesses in my writing. I also definitely need to work on my visual descriptions as they're distinctly lacking from this version. Description is one of my big weaknesses, so this is a great opportunity to work on that.

I've also been working on an epic research and planning scrapbook for Reckless, which I'll show you guys as it develops. I was definitely in danger of spending more time sticking in pretty pictures and decorating the margins than working on the book, so I need to keep that in check...

Hopefully posting more regular updates on here will help me, as well, as I always work harder when I know I have to face up and admit to my woeful lack of progress. I'll try and check in once a week, though we all know how great I am at sticking to deadlines when it comes to blogging!

If any writer friends out there are interested in having a look at parts of Reckless for me, do let me know as I'd be grateful for your help!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Cover Reveal: Zom-B Underground - Darren Shan

Morning all. Just in case you hadn't seen this yet I wanted to post up the cover for Darren Shan's Zom-B Underground, which is due out next year.

As you all know I'm a huge horror fan so I'm so excited about this. I'm an absolutely massive fan of Darren Shan's work and I can't wait to get my hands on the first book in the series, Zom-B. There are a few reviews floating around and they're making me so impatient!

Anyway, let me know what you think of the cover for the second installation. I love it - it's a proper horror cover and will appeal to both boys and girls (girl horror fans, at least). It ticks all the boxes and I just know what's inside will be brilliant, too.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Broken - A. E. Rought

Happy hump day everybody! It's Wednesday afternoon, there are still two more working days before the weekend and the weather is horrendous. It's not the happiest of afternoons but hopefully this post will brighten up your day just a tad.

I've got the details on another one of Strange Chemistry's upcoming releases, Broken, and it sounds absolutely fantastic. I'm a huge fan of Frankenstein and I love reimaginings so, let me tell you, I cannot ruddy wait for January 2013. SO FAR AWAY. Before I give you the summary, however, just take a look at the cover:

What do you think? I love it. I think it's haunting and beautiful and I love the title font. It's great. If you saw my post about the Strange Chemistry covers a couple of months ago you'll already know I'm a big fan of their cover designs and Broken is definitely one of their best yet.

So if the cover has you intrigued, here's a little more about the book itself:

Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry’s boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetary and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she’s intrigued despite herself. He’s an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely…familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel’s. The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there’s something very wrong with Alex Franks.

And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks’ estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

Broken will be simultaneously released in paper and ebook versions in all English-speaking territories in January 2013 but if you can't wait until next year (I certainly can't, damn it!) Strange Chemistry have been kind enough to let me give an ARC of Broken away to one of you! This giveaway is UK only but any US/Canadian readers can hop over to any of the US/Canadian blogs on the list at the end of this post to enter one of their giveaways.

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment on this post letting me know you'd like to be included and leave either your email address or Twitter handle (if you'd rather not give out your email) so I can contact you if you win. After the contest closes on the 25/07/2012 I'll randomly select one entry as the winner and notify them via Twitter/email.

The ARCs won't be printed for a few weeks yet but I'll pass the winner's address details onto Strange Chemistry so the book can be sent out asap!

In case all of the above didn't have you excited to read Broken I've also got a little snippet to share with you all that will hopefully give you a hint as to what you can expect from the book:


A heavy breath escapes me, and if he wasn’t holding me so close, I might melt and pour from this dress.

Alex clings to me like I may honestly be a fairytale princess and when he lets go, I’m going to disappear. He pulls off one glove, tingles following his bare hand as it glides over the curve of my back, up my neck to tangle in my curls. He guides my head to his chest. Thunder rumbles in his heartbeat, and his electric surge slicks over my skin like warm oil.

Neither of us speak. Words have less meaning than time in his arms.

“There’s so much I want to say,” he whispers in my ear. I press my fingers to his lips. My heart jolts when Alex kisses them. Then he curls them in his gloved hand and holds my hand pressed above his heart. “Feel that? It doesn’t beat for me, Emma.”

Phew. Bit of a long post today, thanks for sticking with me, folks! Finally, there are a few other lovely blogs taking part in today's cover reveal so do check them out when you have a spare moment:

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Big ask to do me a *huge* favour...

Morning all,

This is completely non-book related but I was hoping a few of you might consider doing me a huge, massive favour. It'll only take a couple of minutes and I'd really, really appreciate it.

My lovely 82 year old nan is part of the Golden Oldies group, which is a nation-wide social group for older people, with singing sessions, exercise sessions and generally a place to hang out and socialise. She goes a couple of times a week and adores it and I can see how happy it makes her, she told me the other day she loves because it helped her realise she can still dance, something she loves to do.

Why I'm asking for your help is because the Goldies are in the running to receive an award at the 2012 National Lottery Awards and they need everybody's help to try and get into the final three, so they will be featured on the final ceremony, which is to be screened on BBC1.

To vote for the Goldies please click here and vote for the 'Jubilee Time After Time' project. All you have to do is put in your email address and I would love, love, love to see the Goldies get into the final. You can also vote on 08448369685 but calls are 5p per minute from a BT landline and more from other networks/mobiles, whereas voting online is free.

Thanks in advance guys, it really means a lot.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Review: Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian - Eoin Colfer

*Non-spoiler alert: There aren't any actual spoilers in this review - though there is a small quotation from page three of the novel; it is marked in the review where it begins*

Published: July 10th 2012, Puffin
Pages: 306 pages, hardback
Series?: Yes, this is the final book in the Artemis Fowl series
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from the back cover): Opal Koboi, power-crazed pixie, is plotting to exterminate mankind and become fairy queen.

If she succeeds, the spirits of long-dead fairy warriors will rise from the earth, inhabit the nearest available bodies and wreak mass destruction. But what happens if those nearest bodies include crows, or deer, or badgers - or two curious little boys by the names of Myles and Beckett Fowl?

Yes, it's true. Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl's four-year-old brothers could be involved in destroying the human race. Can Artemis and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police stop Opal and prevent the end of the world?

My review: Well, it's finally here: the release day of Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian, the final installment in Eoin Colfer's beloved series. For over a decade children and adults alike have fallen in love with the world Colfer has created for one of the most memorable characters in children's literature - Artemis Fowl. It's always a bit of a nervous moment, isn't it, reading the final book in such a treasured series? It could go so very, very wrong but I'm happy to report that when it comes to this series, Colfer has got things so very, very right.

Artemis is back, smarter and funnier than ever before. He's back on top form, with some of the best dialogue I've read in a long while. Artemis is such a complex character, with so many layers and sides to his personality. He's truly interesting to read about and I'm sure there isn't a reader around who isn't always absolutely rooting for him - despite his sometimes questionable behaviour! But isn't that what makes him such a great character? I'm not always such a huge fan of series but, with books like the Artemis Fowl stories, it's such a wonderful opportunity to really get to know the characters, to watch them grow and grow with them on their journey.

As always, Colfer gives some truly laugh out loud moments in The Last Guardian, which do lighten the tone of what is surely one of the most intense Artemis Fowl books in the series. One of my personal favourite scenes is one of the first in the book, which sees Artemis undergo a therapy session with Doctor Argon, the gnome psychiatrist. I just wanted to share a little passage (from page three) with you, in case you were on the fence about whether or not to pick up a copy of this one:

'From the Case Notes of Doctor Jerbal Argon, Psych Brotherhood:

1. Artemis Fowl, once self-proclaimed teenage criminal mastermind, now prefers the term juvenile genius. Apparently he has changed. (Note to self: harrumph.)

2. For the past six months Artemis has been undergoing weekly therapy sessions at my clinic in Haven City in an attempt to overcome a severe case of Atlantis Complex, a psychological condition that he developed as a result of meddling in fairy magic. (Serves him right, silly Mud Boy.)

3. Remember to submit outrageous bill to Lower Elements Police...

...5. Discuss my theory of relativity with Artemis. Could make more a very interesting chapter in my v-book: Foiling Fowl: Outsmarting the Smarty-Pants. (Publishers love the title: cha-ching!)'

I love just the humour Colfer manages to inject into every situation. It makes his books so much fun to read and I'm sure is a big part of the reason his books are read so widely and by so many different people, young and old.

We see our hero, Artemis, embark on the greatest journey so far; he is tested to his absolute limits, with the fate of humanity resting on his shoulders. Who ever thought the anti-hero we saw in book one would ever be the one fighting to save the planet? It just goes to show how much Artemis has developed and grown since the earlier books in the series - don't worry, though, he hasn't lost his edge.

I'm not going to talk much about the later events in the book, as I know everybody will want this review to be completely spoiler free, though I will say that it was a fantastic ending. Exciting, heartbreaking and warming in equal measure - I'm convinced that fans of the series will be so happy with how Colfer chose to end the series. It's perfect - and real - and that's what counts. Let me know if you make it all the way through with dry eyes - I'll be shocked!

This is simply an unmissable story, absolutely one of the most-hyped books of the year and it thoroughly deserves every bit of buzz it's been getting. Colfer has created one of the most magical and memorable series that I'm sure any of us has had the joy of discovering and I hope this wonderful finale delivers everything all of you hope - do let me know what you think once you've had the chance to read it.

First line: The Beserkers lay arranged in a spiral under the rune stone, looping down, down into the earth - boots out, heads in as the spell demanded.

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

Friday, 6 July 2012

Book Trailer Releases - The Forsaken and Seraphina

As you all know I'm a big book trailer fan and I've been sent links to a couple over the last week or so that I really wanted to share with you all, in case you haven't had a chance to watch them yet.

The first up is the trailer for Lisa M Stasse's debut YA novel, The Forsaken. I received a copy of this one last week and I'm only a few chapters in but I'm really loving it so far. It's exciting, fast-paced and definitely one that's difficult to put down.

This trailer is one of the best I've seen, hands down. I always prefer trailers where we get to see a bit of action, rather than just quotes from the book with a bit of a drippy voice-over in the background. If I hadn't heard of The Forsaken before seeing the trailer I would absolutely want to find out more. It gives you just enough information without revealing too much and I think this is really going to boost the buzz for this book (alliteration FTW).

Last (but not least) is the trailer for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I love the production values in this one, the actress is just a tad K-Stew for my tastes and the voice-over at the end nearly made me snort cinnamon porridge out of my nose but I do think it works. Similar to the trailer for The Forsaken, it gives us enough to make us intrigued about the story but not so much that the story is ruined, which is great.

What do you think? Which one of these is your favourite? Would either of these trailers make you want to (or not want to) pick up the book?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

From the Review Pile (5) - All These Things I've Done - Gabrielle Zevin

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.

This week I want to highlight All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin. I was so excited when I received my copy last year (eek - last YEAR, I'm so behind it's not even funny) but I haven't been in quite the right mood to pick it up yet. The cover is great and I've heard a lot of wonderful things about what's inside the cover so hopefully I'll get round to it soon!

Summary (from Goodreads): In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Discussion Post: Do Title Changes Bother You?

This post was born after I received a copy of Before I Die by Jenny Downham at the RHCP Blogger Brunch...Before I Die is a title I'm very familiar with but the copy I was given was of the newly titled Now is Good, renamed to tie in with the movie adaptation. This got me thinking about title changes and whether or not I think they're a good idea.

Basically, I think they're a bad idea. Title changes for a film tie in or a reissue don't bother me so much but when a book is released at the same time in different countries with a different title? Yeah, that really grates on me. It makes things unnecessarily confusing and doesn't really seem to achieve anything other than piss readers off. I know the reasoning behind it is that a title might do well in one country but not in another but, really, I think if you've chosen a title that would be so unpopular in one country it might affect your sales it's probably worth considering a title that's universally appealing.

I think in a market as saturated at the YA market currently is, branding is a huge key to success and different titles (usually accompanied by a different cover) definitely don't help to build a universally recognisable brand. For me, personally, there is such a huge choice of books available that having to spend time online checking whether Cryers Cross and The Missing are the same book or not is going to grate on me. When two titles are completely different all it says to me is that the publisher doesn't have a clear view of what the book really is, what's it about, who it's aimed at, the tone it sets. Most of my favourite books have titles that are so perfect, such a brilliant fit for the book, that they could never be called anything else and I think the cover and title are just as important at creating a sense of identity for a book as the story itself, when it comes to marketing and sales, at least.

I was chatting to a few people on Twitter about this last week and with the help of the lovely Jenny from Wondrous Reads, Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies, Sammee from I Want to Read that, Daniela Sacerdoti (@DaniSacerdoti) and Sarah Pollock (@SarahcPollock) I've compiled a list of YA books that have been released with more than one title:

  • Finding Violet Park/Me, the Missing & the Dead (UK/US) - Jenny Valentine
  • Smoulder/The Space Between (UK/US) - Brenna Yovanoff
  • Wood Angel/Plain Kate (UK/US) by Erin Bow (WTF? These titles are SO different!)
  • Mockingjay/Il Canto Della Rivolta (The Rebellion Song) (UK/Italy) - Suzanne Collins
  • Cryer's Cross/The Missing (US/UK) - Lisa McMann
  • Dreamless/Hades (UK/Sweden) - Josephine Angelini
  • The Gathering Dark/Shadow & Bone (UK/US) - Leigh Bardugo
  • Hearts at Stake/My Love Lies Bleeding (US/UK) - Alyxandra Harvey 
  • Willow/Scarred (US/UK) - Julia Hoban
  • Demonglass/Raising Demons (US/UK) - Rachel Hawkins
  • A Northern Light/A Gathering Light (US/UK) - Jennifer Donnelly 
  • Now is Good/Before I Die (Movie tie-in) - Jenny Downham
  • Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)/Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done (US/UK) - Sarah Mlynowski

Maybe I'm the only one bothered by this. What do you think? Does it put you off when a book is released with a different title or don't you mind? Have you ever been caught out by title changes and thought the book was a new release from the author? Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear your opinions.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review: Now is Good/Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Published: April 1st 2012, David Fickling Books (originally published 2007)
Pages: 327 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

My review: Yes, I'm ridiculously late to the party by reviewing this one five years after everybody else, I know. I received a copy of the newly titled Now is Good (to tie in with the film) at the Random House Blogger Brunch a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I still haven't posted my review of this one.

The main thing that struck me about Now is Good is how beautiful Downham's writing style is. Like Laini Taylor and Lauren Oliver, she has such a delicate, lyrical flow that it is impossible not to be moved by. It fitted in perfectly with the tone of the book and Tessa having such a vulnerable voice definitely made the story more powerful.

Tessa is such an interesting character. A sixteen year old girl who knows she has a matter of weeks left alive must be difficult to write but Downham does it perfectly. She's angry, she's upset, she's defiant and she's so strong, determined to get check off every item on her To Do Before I Die list, whatever the cost. We see her tearing her room apart and destroying her belongings, we see her losing her virginity (in the opening pages, no less - what a way to start a novel!), we see her at her darkest times and we see her emerge from all of that as a realistic, memorable character who I don't think will ever be forgotten.

Now is Good is difficult to read in places. Reading about a sixteen year old preparing to die is never going to be a particularly enjoyable experience but there are moments of joy and light and laughter in this story, which stops it being too depressing and leaves you feel uplifted instead of just sad. Although you will feel sad, that's inevitable. I would have shed a tear at the ending (which was just fantastic), if it wasn't for my boyfriend choosing that moment to throw a pillow at my head in an immature bid for attention. Douche bag.

What I loved most about Now is Good is that it's real. Real to the point that sometimes you question Tessa's actions, sometimes you feel angry with her and even more often you feel angry with her family and friends, especially her mother. But I'd rather read a book that makes me angry but rings true than something with a Hollywood ending that loses its authenticity in a bid to make everybody happy. Tessa's mother and Zoe were both very interesting and, although I didn't particularly warm up to Zoe, I really did feel for Tessa's mother, who was hopeless but still charming.

I was a little dubious when I heard about the film adaptation but we were shown the trailer at the Random House Blogger Brunch and it's great, it really looks as though they've done a great job so I can't wait to see it. What do you think about the film adaptation? Are you excited or do you think they should have left the book alone? Will you be going to see it?

First line: 'I wish I had a boyfriend.'

Read if you liked…: Wonder - R. J. Palacio

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

Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend - Sarra Manning

Published: February 2nd 2012, Transworld
Pages: 524 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Hope Delafield hasn’t always had an easy life.

She has red hair and a temper to match, as her mother is constantly reminding her. She can’t wear heels, is terrified of heights and being a primary school teacher isn’t exactly the job she dreamed of doing, especially when her class are stuck on the two times table.

At least Hope has Jack, and Jack is the God of boyfriends. He’s sweet, kind, funny, has a killer smile, a cool job on a fashion magazine and he’s pretty (but in a manly way). Hope knew that Jack was The One ever since their first kiss after the Youth Club Disco and thirteen years later, they’re still totally in love. Totally. They’re even officially pre-engaged. And then Hope catches Jack kissing her best friend Susie…

Does true love forgive and forget? Or does it get mad… and get even?

My review: The lovely Michelle over at Fluttering Butterflies posted about this one a few weeks ago and it inspired me to pick up my copy and see what her post was all about. She'd asked readers what they thought they would do in Hope's situation and reading everybody's answers was fascinating. Nine Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend (Nine Uses, from now on) definitely throws up a lot of questions and that's one of the things I like about it, there's so much potential for discussion and I think everybody will come away from the book with a different opinion about the situation, which is great.

I've read a few reviews that criticise Hope's behaviour throughout the book, that say she should have been more ballsy, less like a doormat, tried to get even and should never have wanted Jack back. Okay, the way I see it, it's easy to sit there and say how somebody should act, it's easy to say you want a strong female lead who doesn't let a man treat her like crap etc etc. Those are great ideals. But, unfortunately, the vast majority of the time they are unrealistic. If your boyfriend of over a decade, the man you love, the man you've built a home with cheats on you with your best friend, I'm pretty sure you're not going to get over it in an afternoon and display exemplary behaviour at all times. I'm pretty sure you're going to eat your weight in carbs, wallow in self-pity and and wonder what the hell you did to make him leave you, which is precisely what Hope does.

What I loved is how realistic Hope acted. I loved that she doubted herself, blamed herself at first but then slowly began to snap out of that mindset as she gradually tried to get over the relationship. I like that it was gradual, slow process, not just an overnight job like we've seen in countless movies. Sure, her behaviour can be frustrating but so are real people and I think Manning did a brilliant job at showing the various stages Hope goes through in her quest to get over the breakdown of her relationship.

A couple of things that did throw me were the title and blurb, which I thought were quite misleading. I'm still not sure what the title has to do with the story, except for the fact there is an ex-boyfriend involved. The whole 'Nine Uses' element seems completely redundant, as it's not something touched on in the story at all...unless I totally missed something. Did I? Was there a whole 'Nine Uses' sub-plot that completely passed me by? Similarly, I think the blurb was a bit off as well, particularly the teaser at the end of it that talks about true love getting mad and getting even. I went into the book thinking it would be about Hope getting revenge on Jack and Susie for betraying her but it's not something that happens at all. It just struck me as a little odd that the book was set up in the summary as being something it's not at all. These are more issues I had with the marketing side of things rather than the writing itself, which was great, as it always is with Sarra Manning.

Have any of you guys read this one? If so, what did you think? How do you think you would react in Hope's situation? Did you warm to Hope or were you frustrated by her behaviour? Let me know in the comments!

First line: 'It was obvious it wasn't the first time that Hope's boyfriend and her best friend had kissed.'

Read if you liked…: Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

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

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Announcement Time

Hello everybody!

You may have seen on Twitter the other day I said there'd be an announcement here at Writing from the Tub today. So here it is...

No, I'm not giving up blogging, for those of you who asked (I was flattered by your concern!)

In fact, quite the opposite.

Joining Writing from the Tub, I've just started a second blog, Life from the Tub.

I've wanted to write more personal posts for a long time so instead I've decided to start a lifestyle-ish blog, which will give me a chance to write about my other hobbies, things I get up to and other bits of news that don't quite fit on this blog.

I'm not going to cut back on blogging here or anything, in fact I plan to blog even more as I think this change will help me stay more organised. I'm going to add more posts about my writing onto Writing from the Tub, to make it more of an even book/writing split.

So I would absolutely love it if you paid Life from the Tub a visit and, if you want to keep up to date with posts, subscribe via email...because GFC is dead, which is annoying.

Thank you all again for your continued support of me and my blogging, I absolutely wouldn't be where I am without all each and every person who reads this blog. You are all fab xxx