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Saturday, 31 October 2009

In My Mailbox (#7)

This great meme is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren and she was inspired by Alea, Pop Culture Junkie.

So this week I have some great books but they are a complete mixed bag. I'm posting this a little early because tomorrow is the first day of NaNoWriMo and I want to try to limit my distractions.

For review:

Random Magic by Sasha Soren
Yes, my book for the blog tour arrived and I was so excited and relieved to finally have it in my hands. I'm up to Chapter 5. 
You can read my author interview with Sasha here.
I also posted some fun extras here. The review will follow soon.

Bought new:

Hush Hush By Becca Fitzpatrick
At last, I have it. I cannot wait to read it! I shall never part with it. I  adore angel fiction.
Amazon says:
A sacred oath, a fallen angel, a forbidden love...This darkly romantic story features our heroine, Nora Grey, a seemingly normal teenage girl with her own shadowy connection to the Nephilim, and super-alluring bad boy, Patch, now her deskmate in biology class. Together they find themselves at the centre of a centuries-old feud between a fallen angel and a Nephilim...Forced to sit next to Patch in science class, Nora attempts to resist his flirting, though gradually falls for him against her better judgment. Meanwhile creepy things are going on with a mysterious stalker following her car, breaking into her house and attacking her best friend, Vi. Nora suspects Patch, but there are other suspects too - not least a new boy who has transferred from a different college after being wrongly accused of murdering his girlfriend. And he seems to have taken a shine to Nora...Love certainly is dangerous...and someone is going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice for it.

The Roar by Emma Clayton

Amazon says:
Twelve-year old twins, Mika and Ellie, live in a future behind a wall - safe from the plague animals beyond. Or so they've been told. But when one of them disappears, and the other takes part in a sinister virtual reality game, they begin to discover their concrete world is built on lies. Determined to find each other again, they go in search of the truth. And as a strange sound in their heads grows to a roar, they find out that children and the planet have never mattered more.

Bought from the used book store:

Leaving Poppy by Kate Cann
Amazon says:
Amber's family think she's gone to Cornwall on holiday, but really she's left home. She's forging a new life - new housemates, new job and (with a little luck) new boyfriend. She feels bad because her mother and Poppy need her, but she's got to make the break, get out of their clutches... Then Amber falls ill and her family come to look after her. Something in the house responds to Poppy's presence, something malign and threatening. When Poppy moves into the attic, it gets even stronger, until evil seems to permeate everywhere and Amber thinks she might never be able to escape... A chilling and absorbing novel from a brilliant storyteller.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
I saw a revew of this on a blog but I can't remember which one. Anyway, it was a really interesting review so when I saw it I thought oooh, I should buy that!
Amazon says:
17 year old Tyler is totally enjoying his position as high school Alpha male, after years of being 'the geek'. But then Bethany Milbury - rich, blonde, beautiful and the girl Tyler wants - is the victim in a teenage sex scandal, and somehow Tyler is nailed as the prime suspect. Tyler knows he had nothing to do with it, but when everyone - including his hard-nosed father - believes he did, Tyler starts to spiral into a nightmarish, paranoid state of mind. He is desperate to find a way out of the mess he's in... Will he have the courage not to take the easy option?

So this is what's in my mailbox, what's in yours? Are you signed up to NaNoWriMo? Feeling optimistic?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Shiver contest winner!

Thank you to everyone who entered. I so wish I could give everyone a signed copy of this amazing book but sadly I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage if I did.
So the winner, as picked out of my tea cosy hat by my wonderful husband, is Emily of http://whatbookisthat.blogspot.com/
Congratulations, Emily. I've emailed you directly.

Don't forget if you haven't entered my other contest, you only have until Saturday 31st October Midnight UK time. You can enter here

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Review: Untamed (House of Night Book 4)

Author: P.C. and Kristin Cast
Release date: 2008
Genre: Urban fantasy / Vampire fiction
Target audience: 15+

The House of Night Series
Book 1: Marked
Book 2: Betrayed
Book 3: Chosen

WARNING: Contains spoilers

Amazon says:
A week ago Zoey had a group of special friends, three boyfriends and a (kinda) clear conscience. Now she has none of the above. Luckily ice-queen Aphrodite is showing signs of melting and ex-roomie Stevie Rae isn't as dead as she'd thought. Though Stevie's now hanging out in tunnels with freaks - gross. If she can get them to listen, Zoey will need all her friends as events take a frightening turn at the House of Night school for vampyres. Shocking true intentions are about to come to light, loyalties will be tested and an ancient evil is about to rise again. Some days being special just doesn't seem all that ...- Not suitable for younger readers -

Untamed, book four in the House of Night series, begins where Chosen ended. Zoey is struggling to face up to her momentus mistakes - particularly in relation to the fact that she attempted to date (sort of) three guys at once. So naturally, another potential love interest - Stark - makes an entrance in this book. His story is a very intriguing one and I can't wait to find out how he develops in the next book.

I am now at the point in the series where I'm immune to the annoying teen speak. I just laugh and read out the phrasing to my husband when I come across something ludicrous and then carry on. The plot moves swiftly and I have to confess I really didn't want to put this book down. Zoey's Cherokee Grandma features a little more in this book and we are introduced to Sister Mary Angela (a Benedictine Nun). Both add an interesting dimension to an otherwise very teen populated landscape. Aphrodite is officially my favourite character of the series. We also learn a little more about the Sons of Erebus in Untamed.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading it. This book was far less raunchy than the previous novels in the series as Zoey has to deal with the fall out from her previous exploits. Yes, there are lots of annoying things about these books. But there are also some good things - fun characterisation and a gripping plot line. I can't wait to read Hunted and I hear that Tempted is different from the previous books because it is written from more than one perspective.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Random Magic: Exciting Extras

Sasha Soren tell's us a little more about the world she has created in Random Magic:

Everyone who’s read the book says that the world of Random Magic is so colorful and vivid that they can actually almost see the world right in front of them, as if it were a movie.

It was definitely written that way, since that world actually is a lot more magical and overwhelming than our own world. Everything would be more powerful and startling, including something as basic as the colors surrounding Henry and Winnie as they search for Alice.

But a lot of the colors in Random Magic aren’t just there for decoration, but actually have some particular significance.
The color of gold is associated, obviously, with wealth and splendor. It’s also the preferred color for a great deal of coveted mythical things, including golden apples, or the golden fleece of Greek myth.

Gold was used to enclose the remains Egyptian pharaohs as they rested in their uneasy tombs for all eternity.
What’s interesting about gold is how often the blessing of possessing vast amounts of gold also comes with a curse. Or the fact that gold is lavishly displayed, but first has to be unearthed through hardship and physical labor.
What’s also interesting is how often objects are gold-plated; giving off the appearance of something valuable, but really being far less valuable.
Or, as in the phrase, “gilding the lily,” in adding a totally needless layer of perfection to something which is already perfect.

of these related thoughts come into play with the scenes of the Floating City; a city that’s seemingly flawless and, literally, golden – but, of course, things aren’t always what they seem to be.

The gold might itself be real, and valuable, but there are some things in the world which not even a city of gold could ever buy.

Hey, me again! For a little fun interaction, here is a quick quiz which identifies your Random Magic alter ego. Mine was Nevermore. I could not believe it! Apparently, I am amoral and wildly attractive. Sasha and I had a little chuckle over this. She thought I'd be one of the Nine Muses. Go figure. Anyway, tell me in the comments who your Random Magic alter ego is and the accuracy of it.

Which Random Magic character are you? »

CONTEST ALERT: For any international people who would love to get their hands on a copy of Random Magic. Hop over to La femme Readers as she is hosting a contest. You have until November 2nd to enter. The link is here. Best of luck!

Random Magic - Author Interview: Sasha Soren

Random Magic

Due for release January 2010

Author: Sasha Soren, http://www.sashasoren.com/

October 5th was an exciting day for me. I received an email from Sasha Soren, author of Random Magic, asking if I’d like to take part in a blog tour for her book. I haven’t been blogging long so it was a really sweet surprise and I practically bit her hand off. Sadly, my copy of Random Magic hasn’t arrived yet. I’m sure you’re all fed up with us UK bloggers moaning about our postal strikes so I won’t say anymore on that. My review will follow soon (fingers crossed). My blog tour sister Meri, has written a review and she is more than happy to share it with my followers so check out her very artistic blog here.

So instead of a review, here is my author interview with Sasha. I suggest you get a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate before settling down to read it. Sasha’s answers are so insightful into the life of being a writer but they are also very long. She said she could make it shorter but I really wanted to share everything with you. I know there are lots of budding writers out there and no doubt we can all learn from Sasha’s experiences. So all that’s left for me to say is many, many thanks to Sasha for being a super cool blog tour organiser and for spending so much time thinking about the answers to my questions.

The Interview:

The Bookette: I'm always fascinated by the actual process of writing a novel. It takes so much self-discipline, I imagine. Where do you feel most inspired to write?

Sasha: Writing a novel does take a huge amount of self-discipline, that’s quite true.

It just demands so much focused attention, over such an extended period of time, that you can’t be lazy and decide, well, I’d rather do something easier today – you have to stick with it, even when you don’t feel particularly inspired. You just do it.

As to where I feel most inspired to write, there are sort of two answers to the question.

I do get a lot of inspiration while traveling, or otherwise being in motion, but just quietly mulling random things over in my mind. A train ride, bus ride, ferry or boat ride in a new city, particularly, are all really useful for sparking all kinds of new thoughts, because you’re surrounded by so many different, fresh inputs from the world around you. So, when it comes to the thinking and mental planning for a story, then being in motion is helpful. Especially if you’re on a train, just sort of watching the landscape go by, it’s like a film, just for you. If you’re in a meditative frame of mind, then you suddenly start to see images and fragments of story ideas start to flicker in front of your eyes, as if they’re superimposed on the landscape.

Also, let’s face it, if you’re stuck riding between point A and point B, what else is there to do but think, anyway? You’re your own captive audience. You can listen to music on your headphones, sure, but at some point, the music and the moving, not-quite-at-rest images start to collide, and, yes, out of the visual blur, you actually start conjuring things. If you’re listening to a sad song, it might be a gloomy story, or, if you’re listening to something quirky and cheerful, might start dreaming about some sunny little story, but if you listen long enough, stories show up in your head, even if it’s just a fragment of a story.

You can try it, yourself, next time you’re in motion – let’s say you’re on a train, or a bus, or a plane, or a boat and so on; when you look out the window and see something that interests you, try to start imagining how some particular object might relate to a story. You can see the object, but don’t know the back story. Well, you can make up a back story! Quite often, I do that just to pass the time, but you also never know where a new idea will originate, and most of the time, they’ve showed up while I was busy thinking of something else.

That’s the other answer to your question, actually, about where I feel most inspired to write.

It’s a place, but not a geographical place, it’s a certain state of consciousness, somewhere between being fully awake and fully asleep. Having waking dreams, let’s say. It’s very hard to describe, because it’s a state of consciousness, and, so, not easy to just show you a photograph and say, “Here, this is what I mean.” But if you love music, then it’s that point in time when you start to hear the music as part of your own heartbeat. Or, if you love film, it’s where you gasp out loud or hold your breath, because your emotions are genuinely engaged in this shadow story flickering in front of your eyes. Or, if you love reading, it’s the point where you lose track of time, and forget that you’re reading ink on a page in some particular set of characters, and can hear the character’s voices inside your head, or get a chill reading some tense scene, or laugh out loud to yourself and startle your company, and so on.

It’s that particular place. That’s where the stories come from.

That’s really where you start moving from conscious thought about how you’re writing some particular scene, to where you’re seeing it so vividly in your head that you become almost just an onlooker, transcribing something you see. The only difficulty is that it’s hard to reach that place, and the way there isn’t always the same path.

The Bookette: Do you devote a set amount of time to writing each day or is it more of a case of when you feel like it?

Sasha: Actually, it’s both and neither. No, I don’t set any particular word goal for a particular day.

But, no, also don’t just write when I feel like it. Anyone who just writes when they feel like it will never get anything done, because you have to lure inspiration down to come sit on your shoulder and keep you company and make nosy suggestions and tell you when you’re talking rubbish.

And the only way you can do that is if you actually put in the work to get words on paper when you don’t feel in the least inspired.

On the other hand, you’re quite right in observing that in some cases, you might write when you feel like it.

When you’ve gotten past putting words down, adding some new piece of the story, and then you’ve been working for a few hours, sometimes, out of nowhere, the writing suddenly comes much more quickly, it’s easier, as if someone’s opened a tap and the thoughts come spilling down.

So, yes, in that sense, you’d write because you feel it. There were several scenes in Random Magic that just came very fast and almost in complete sections, as if I was just writing as quickly as I could, to catch an actual conversation, or take photographic impressions of a real place.

That’s a rare occurrence, but when it happens, it’s like you’re just writing under some kind of creative fever, forgetting to eat and sleep and anything else, because you’re just engulfed in the story, trying to capture all of it before it vanishes again.

When that happens, though, it’s usually because you’ve been thinking about the story, and working words out on paper, and jotting down some notes about where the path is going, and how to get there.

So, you have to put in an effort to continue the story, even if you have no idea what’s going to happen, or what the characters are going to do next, and feel totally blah and like maybe you should have had the common sense to do something far easier than writing, like maybe go be a lion tamer somewhere.

But, then, when inspiration does take over your hands, it’s like pure ecstasy.

Interestingly, there’s actually a recognized phenomena that’s very similar to this: Religious or spiritual ecstasy, which is a kind of altered state of consciousness. Saints, shamans, yogis, have all been able to enter a particular state of awareness, through the mediums of fasting, prayer, chanting, dancing (as in whirling dervishes), or even drugs (peyote, and so on).

That’s what we were discussing just a little earlier, that there is a place you go to, but it’s not geographical, and that the path that gets you there is always changing.

Now, it’s not necessary to use any or all of these means that more spiritually-focused folks use. You can reach the same place just by letting your mind search for it. You don’t need drink, or drugs, or chants, or anything outside yourself, just the willingness to go along with following some particular thought or impression.

It’s the same series of doors, though. That’s really sort of what the experience is like, and what all of those more non-worldly people are all trying to find: They’re just looking for the door that opens out, and lets them cross over into a frame of mind, where visions are clearer, and time loses its sovereignty over the mind.

Now, that can be a religious or spiritual ecstasy, where the human being communes with the divine, or it can be a creative ecstasy, which is essentially the same thing, just with a slightly different purpose.

For mystics, they might bring back startling realizations or universal truths or just a feeling of being at peace with the world.

For a writer – or any other creative person, actually – they’re also looking to manifest those realizations or truths or other sensations or insights in a tangible form, in our own world. To put it a different way, it’s sort of like sending postcards back from the other side, you know, “Wish you were here.” And then when the workaday world intrudes once more, you have these postcards waiting for you, which you sent to yourself. That’s what you’ve brought back with you. It sounds a bit mad, but it’s easy to explain, in a basic way, by saying it’s almost like being drunk.

Well, nearly everyone’s been drunk at some point in their lives. Now, remember what that felt like, how time slipped away, or how the sounds you heard sounded like they were coming through cotton wool, and how everything seemed slightly removed.

Well, it’s a bit like that – your body is there, but your head’s just…elsewhere. You don’t have to drink to find that particular place, that’s an unfortunate myth about writers, which is parodied in the book. It probably doesn’t hurt to be a little naturally spaced-out, though, because then you can drop into a dream-like state far more easily. If you daydream, for example, it’s quite like that, only magnified.

Aha, but to return to your original question: No, don’t have any particular set goal to write every day. No, don’t only write when I feel like it.

However, yes, do definitely experience both of those things when setting off on a new project. Then, yes, you definitely do stick with advancing the story, piece by piece.

Maybe you might not set some particular exact word count, but you do push yourself to always be writing something new, some additional piece of the story. Every single day, rain or shine, inspiration or no inspiration, you just sit there and scribble and fret and add a line and then erase it, but never stop until the whole story is finally there in front of you. And, yes, during the process, you just pray for inspiration to come pay a visit. Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t.

But you definitely won’t finish your story if you just wait for inspiration to strike. She’s very ornery, and usually shows up just when you’ve wiped yourself out trying to work out some really tricky bit and have no idea what happens – and voila. She finally shows up and wonders why you’re about to drop on your face in exhaustion just when the big show is just about to heat up.

Inspiration is a bit like that one party guest who never shows up until well past midnight, snogs all the guests, and then falls asleep in your bathtub with your last bottle of wine and a traffic cone which has been mysteriously acquired at some point during the evening, only no one quite remembers where it came from.

So, in effect, she never shows up just when you expect, or does what you expect her to do, but when and if she does show up, well, it’ll be an interesting party.

So. Like that.

Figuratively, of course, this is just the characterization of inspiration. Literally, of course, in the book, because in the book she’s not a figment of imagination but actually exists, in that particular world, this is how she literally might greet you at the door of one of her outlandish parties.

And, for folks who’ve read the book, this probably sounds awfully familiar and now you know just where the personification of that particular character came from.

The comedy party hat, no idea where that materialized from, but, then, at parties like that, well -- no one ever does, really.

Yet in the morning, there always seems to be one…and someone’s wearing it…while snoozing in the bathtub, because this seemed like a good idea at the time...

Chaotic process, writing, really. On the inside of your head, anyway. That’s why the party metaphor made absolute sense.

Someone’s always – figuratively – waking up all fuzzy-headed, tangled halfway up, halfway down in a drapery or under a table. Tsk, tsk.

The Bookette: Which writers have most influenced you and your writing?

Sasha: Other writers aren’t so much a direct influence, as life, itself.

Fiction is usually sort of restricted, in the sense that, even though the story could be a wild story, it still does have to make a certain kind of sense. Also, in a work of fiction, there might’ve been thousands of ways a particular story might have unwound, but it unwinds in one particular way. What I mean is that, while you’re writing a story, you start with a very open story. You might write about anything, anyone, any time, any place, your choices are virtually limitless. But, as you go along constructing the story, you have to make choices, because if you’re going to write a coherent story, you have to make logical paths for readers to follow. Your characters do have to sort of stay in character. They might suddenly do something seemingly out of character, but there’s usually a clear path the reader can follow, to understand just why a character suddenly did something that they might not otherwise have done.

Also, as you go along, you start to narrow down possibilities, because when you’re building a plot, events all have to make sense within a particular framework.

For example: This happens because that happened in the chapter just prior. This character does such-and-such as a response to something that’s just happened. Or might happen. Or might not happen. But all of these things are set down, and happen in just one way.

So, even though fiction can be about nearly anything you can think of or imagine, but the logic has to be self-contained within one particular book. But in real life – oh, anything can and often does happen. Logic, sometimes, goes right out the window.

So, it’s much more interesting to use life, not any particular book or series of books, as a source of fuel. So much more can happen.

I don’t think that you necessarily have to write down something just as it happened, otherwise you’d be writing non-fiction, or an article in a newspaper. But I do think that if you want to understand how life works, you have to observe life, not someone’s rendition of it. If you want to understand how people work, then observe people, not characters in a book.

Although, interestingly, you can also learn about human beings through characters in books. But normally because the writer was making some observation about the way we live our lives, through some particular character – and that character is just a reflection of something that writer has observed in life. But life is the source of the fuel.

For example, in Random Magic, would say that if you wanted to see some of the characters symbolically, then:

Winnie would be an exploration of courage. Also, would say, she’s an exploration of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. She’s bravery personified.

Callie would be an exploration of the mystery of creative ability, its source and why it’s necessary, she illustrates the power of being able to create.

The Red Queen, in contrast, would be an exploration of the human being’s ability to destroy.

Effie would be an exploration of why music is a source of comfort and happiness to us; music is not strictly something we need to survive, like air or food or shelter, yet there’s some mystery about music in that it feeds our soul.

Do we really need music? No. But can you imagine a world without music?

And so on.

So, yes, reading other writers is really a wonderful experience, and you can visit all sorts of worlds – geographical places, or dazzling cities of unusual thoughts, or philosophical explorations of ideas, all kinds of fascinating things, and this is why books are so valuable, and why we should be thankful that we can unlock some particular story because we know a specific language and can understand all the thoughts a writer has to share with us.

Also, when you read a lot, you pick up all the tools you need as a writer; you learn grammar, spelling, how to construct a story, how to write dialogue so that it’s believable and sounds natural, and so on. But as an influence, fiction really isn’t as powerful as drawing from your own life, because, to paraphrase someone whose name I’ve totally forgotten at the moment, and shame on me: Fiction has to make sense. Life doesn’t. Aha, Google. Thank you, modern technology: The quote is attributed to writer Tom Clancy. Another modern mystery solved. But, to continue…

So, drawing from fiction is sort of like enjoying a pantomime of fire, or standing in front of a painting of fire. But life is the actual fire.

The Bookette: I strangely associate Alice in Wonderland with my sister. I remember that she entered a fancy dress competition as the Queen of Hearts when we were kids. Was it your favourite book as a child?


The Bookette: I am still excitedly waiting for Random Magic to arrive in the mail. What should I expect to enjoy most about your book?

I have no idea how to answer this question, because no one’s asked me this sort of question before in exactly this way. I think it’s because I just assume and hope that every person who reads the book will find whatever they’re able to find in the book, by adding their own experiences into the story.

I feel like the experience of reading a book is like plugging in to a huge web of shared thoughts, in a way. You know, I hear a character and visualize them one way, whereas you hear them and visualize them another way. I hope and expect that something will happen in the story, and you hope and expect something else.

It’s the same book, but people experience it in their own unique way. But all of these variations can all be correct. It’s as if you’re standing in a gallery, looking at a series of still life paintings. Now, let’s say this still life has one apple, and one orange, and a bowl, but 100 artists were invited to illustrate this still life. Well, you might see a pleasant watercolor, or a disjointed, frantic oil painting, or a quirky fabric assemblage in multi-colored felt, or some experimental sort who invites you to take a bit of the steel apple and write down your response on a little paper which is attached to a wire apple tree in the center of the exhibit, or an edgy sort who’s left nothing on the table but a moldering apple core to express the futile nihilism of it all. So, of course, there you are. Same exact basic text to read from, but hundreds of different translations of the same basic work.

As for my own intentions, though, if you’re just curious:

There are funny parts in the book, and if you’re having a bad day, I hope they make you laugh to yourself and feel better, because a good laugh can really feel good and make the day so much better.

There are surreal parts in the book, and I hope they make a skewed kind of sense, and alter your way of looking at things slightly, so that it’s like looking into a funhouse mirror.

There are artistic parts in the book, and I hope you find them vivid and colorful and pleasant and wonderful to imagine, as if someone just tripped a light switch, and suddenly you see the entire world in Technicolor.

There are subtle and simple parts in the book, and I hope that it gives you vision to see the magic in ordinary things, because magic does exist, and it’s not always where you expect to find it.

There are literary parts in the book, and I hope that as a fellow book-lover, you’ll get a giggle out of some of the references and oddball literary folks who show up along the way.

There are adventurous parts in the book, and I hope that you have a quick, sneaking desire to run off somewhere and go be a pirate.

Or join a circus. Or just try something you’ve never tried before, going with the general principle: Oh, well, I’ve always wanted to try this, and so -- what the hell, today’s the day.

There are playful and goofy parts in the book, and I hope they let you realize, for yourself, that sometimes it’s totally okay to be silly, just because you feel like it, and that you have a right to enjoy your life, because we all only go around once, so what say?

There are emotional parts in the book, and I hope they move you as much as they moved me when that particular part of the story came to me.

There are darker parts of the book, and hopefully they make you bite your nails and hope that everything will be okay.

There are philosophical parts in the book, and I hope that you find them to be interesting, and make you think, “Hmmm, how do I feel about this?” and find your own answers.

There are deeper spiritual parts in the book, and I hope that you feel like you’d like to put the book aside for a moment, and have a cup of tea and a think to yourself about how you feel about a lot of the things that are important to you in your own life.

There are parts of the book that hopefully are convincing explorations about why courage, loyalty, love, friendship, and faith are important, and I hope that you already have all of these things in your life, and tell people who are important to you that they’ve brought something valuable and irreplaceable into your life and you’re grateful for it.

I’d be very happy if you enjoyed coming along on a totally wild adventure, and were puzzled and delighted and bemused and thoughtful, and, essentially, were able to take a detour right out of life for a few hours, and go right along with Winnie and Henry and believe that you can also accomplish the impossible.

I’d be very pleased if you closed the cover on the last page with a smile on your face, and were glad you decided to take the trip. I don’t expect that these are all the things you’ll find to enjoy in the book, but it’s my hope that you do. Safe journey there, and safe journey back, and hope you enjoyed every moment you spent there.

So, yes, that’s my wish for you. All of these things. And everything else you find along the way.

More information about Random Magic can be found at www.sashasoren.com

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Review: Witch and Wizard

Author: James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Release date: 8th October 2009 UK
Genre: Dystopia / Fantasy
Target audience: YA

Amazon says:
The world is changing - the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now kids are disappearing. For fifteen-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside-down when they are hauled out of bed one night, separated from their parents, and thrown into a secret compound for no reason they can comprehend. The new government is clearly trying to suppress Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Being a Normal Teenager. Imprisoned together and condemned to death, Wisty and Whit begin exhibiting strange abilities and powers they never dreamed of. Maybe there is a reason they were singled out. Can this newly discovered witch and a wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents - and maybe the world?

I am a huge fan of James Patterson's Maximum Ride series so I was really excited when I read a review of Witch and Wizard on Emilee's blog Penutlimate Page. Emilee commented that this book is more of an introduction to the series. I completely agree with her. Patterson uses it to set up the landscape of the world and the overall premise for the series. I'm not sure if I have now adjusted to Patterson's lack of description as a style or whether Charbonnet has influenced this novel in the use of descriptive detail. Either way, it worked for me.

Whit and Witsy are rudely awakened by soldiers who arrest them as they have both been identified as seriously dangerous criminals. The One Who is The One has set up a New Order. There are now strict orders to live by. Whit and Wisty have found themselves living in a dictatorship because they were ignorant of the changes happening to their society. Patterson has a strong message in this novel: be politically aware! The New Order society is ruled by science and rationale. Creativity, individuality and magic are being eradicated. "Magical" children are persecuted, arrested and executed. It is dark reading.

Wisty is an amusing and easy to like rebel with a satirical voice. Whit is more controlled but equally determined to survive torture and imprisonment. The story alternates between the two voices. The characterisation is good if a little predictable.

I have to say I found the ending disappointing. I had been reading all about how Whit and Wisty refuse to submit to the will of The One Who is The One and then suddenly the story cuts off almost mid-ending. A total cliffhanger. Where is the ending Mr Patterson? The book felt unfinished to me but I am sure there are exciting things to come in this series.

Overall, I liked it. Actually I really enjoyed it but the ending really did feel incomplete. I guess this did guarantee one thing: I will definitely buy the next book. A must read for fans of James Patterson and fans of dystopias may enjoy it, just don't expect much content. It was a quick read and definitely not in the league of Suzanne Collins or Patrick Ness.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Author interview: Mary Naylus

My first ever author interview, how exciting!

Mary Naylus, author of The Dresskeeper very kindly answered my questions. You can read my review of her enchanting debut novel here. November 27th is when The Dresskeeper is released in the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Naturally, you can pre-order it from Amazon or the publisher's website here. (Prospera offer free postage to anywhere in the world which is pretty cool in my book!)

Here's a little bit about the book from Amazon:
When Picky's Mum forces her to look after Gran, who has dementia, Picky is accidentally transported back to the year 1685, where a man in a wig insists she is someone called Amelia and tries to kill her. Managing to get the dress off just in time, Picky returns to the present with the dress covered in blood. Who is Amelia? Is she dead? Will wearing the other dresses in the chest take Picky back in time too? And does she dare put herself in danger again?

The Interview:

The Bookette: I found The Dresskeeper to be full of humour. Did you always intend for Picky to have a comical narrative?

Mary: Yes, I have a teenage daughter myself and she and her friends inspired Picky with their jokey natures and quirky comments – as well as their laziness too! A million inventive excuses for inaction.

The Bookette: I really liked the quote from Samuel Johnson at the start of the book. Have you always been interested in the history of London? What made you decide upon the 17th century as Picky's time travel destination?

Mary: No matter how long one lives in London, there is always something new to discover. I adore London and become quite defensive of those who don’t share my love, hence the Samuel Johnson quote at the front of the book. The quote also ties in nicely with the time travel, and with Picky’s hesitation at remaining in the future.

I chose the 1600s because it is actually a time period people don’t explore a lot in fiction, and it is pre-Jane Austen and Dickens, so young YA readers have the opportunity to explore an historical time period that is new to them. It is also interesting in terms of the relative freedom teenagers had during that time (scoundrels aside, of course). I was also interested in 1685 because it was a time of relative political and religious inactivity, whilst encompassing many famous identities (Wren and Newton for example).

The Bookette: Picky's description of the shocking living conditions for the poor in the 17th century were simultaneously tragic and amusing. How did you go about achieving this balance?

Mary: Mostly by putting myself in the situation and imaging how my own daughters would react to the living conditions and issues such as slavery. It would be quite confronting to any of us to deal with those issues having grown up in a relatively liberal democracy, but it is important to remember that in terms of time travel, the people we meet are just living their lives, and in most lives there is some element of humour.

The Bookette: Tell me about the day you found out your first novel was going to be published. Where were you and how did you feel?

Mary: It was a long process and lots of disappointments but it’s great to finally see all that work being appreciated by people.

The Bookette: And since then, how has your life changed?

Mary: To be honest, I am still writing everyday as before, only this time working on The Plaguemaker.

The Bookette: So you are already working on your second novel, The Plaguemaker. In what ways will this book be similar to The Dresskeeper?

Mary: Although the main protagonist is slightly older, it is still historical in the sense that Blessie makes discoveries about the past, although she herself does not time travel like Picky. Blessie is also in a single-parent family, although in her case her mother has died and her father cannot (understandably) get over it. It is different in that it has a ghostly element and the history dates back a bit further.

The Bookette: Many of my fellow bloggers are aspiring writers. What three pieces of advice can you share with them to help them achieve their dream?

Mary: I suppose to just go for it, write one whole book, and then continue to edit until you are happy with it. From what I can gather from fellow writers, many people don’t realise that you have to edit your own book many times before it is perfect.

Mary, thank you so much for participating in this interview. We wish you every success with the release of The Dresskeeper and I can't wait for your next novel. It sounds fascinating.
Wonderful followers, any advice on how I can improve my interview questions? Please leave me a comment with any points for improvement. 

And for those of you who just cannot wait until November 27th, here are the first three chapters of The Dresskeeper for you to enjoy. Thanks to Prospera Publishing for sharing them with me and a big thanks also to Sammee at I want to read that because I stole the embed code from her amazing blog.

Dress Keeper by Mary Naylus Chapters

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

My Second Blog Award

Thank you so much to La Coccinelle @ The Lady Bug Reads for giving me this award. It was so kind of you.

The Heartfelt Award

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside.

Rules: Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link your nominees within your post. Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

I'm going to pass this lovely award on to the following fabulous bloggers:

Sammee @ http://iwanttoreadthat.blogspot.com/

The Book Bug @ http://thebookbugbooksfortweensandteens.blogspot.com/

Jenny @ Wondrous Reads

I just adore reading your blogs.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

My First Award

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to receive my first ever award from The Bookologist. It was the Honest Scrap Award and it filled me with cheerfulness to think another blogger could see I wrote from the heart. Then to my amazement I was awarded the same award twice more by Sammee @ http://iwanttoreadthat.blogspot.com/ and Jo at http://onceuponabookcase.blogspot.com . I couldn’t believe it. I have no excuse for not posting this sooner. It has just been the time factor.

This is the Honest Scrap award. It is for those bloggers who write from the heart. The rules are to pass it along to seven bloggers and then list 10 honest things about myself. Here are those deserving of this honour, bloggers who write from the heart and touch me because of it:

Nina@ http://jadorehappyendings.blogspot.com/

Juju @ http://www.talesofwhimsy.com/

Lauren @ http://laurenscrammedbookshelf.blogspot.com/

Jenn @ http://booksatmidnight.blogspot.com/

Lauren @ http://iwasateenagebookgeek.blogspot.com/

Reggie @ http://theundercoverbooklover.blogspot.com/

La Coccinelle @ http://theladybugreads.blogspot.com/

If you wonderful people have already received this award, it doesn’t surprise me. Just goes to show that we all see the truth in your blogs.

So 10 honest things about myself:

1) I am a worrier. I worry about the most ridiculous things like the fact that my copy of Random Magic hasn’t arrived yet and I’m not going to read it in time for my stop on the blog tour. Sasha Soren has been consoling me. I didn’t realise I was sending panicky emails to the author. I thought I was in touch with the marketing person at the publisher. How embarrassing! Thankfully Sasha is so wonderful and thought the whole thing was very amusing.
2) I sing all the time. Not proper songs just random things that I make up on the spot. My sister found this extremely annoying when we were kids.
3) I always try to finish a book even if I absolutely hate it. I can only remember not finishing two books. They are Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Duchess by Amanda Foreman. I think they are frankly hideous.
4) My favourite colour is purple.
5) At school, I hated PE. I used to get my Mum to write me a note excusing me from everything except swimming.
6) I love dancing. My Mum forced me to do ballet lessons until I was 11 and I rebelliously refused.
7) I love jumpers and feeling all snugly in warm winter clothes.
8) I hate injustice, racism and deceit.
9) I’m an idealist. I believe the world can be a better place.
10) I like doing things that make other people happy. They make me feel good and happy too.


Monday, 19 October 2009

Review: The Dresskeeper

Author: Mary Naylus

Release date: 30th November 2009 UK
Genre: Historical fiction
Target audience: 12+

Amazon says:
When Picky's Mum forces her to look after Gran, who has dementia, Picky is accidentally transported back to the year 1685, where a man in a wig insists she is someone called Amelia and tries to kill her. Managing to get the dress off just in time, Picky returns to the present with the dress covered in blood. Who is Amelia? Is she dead? Will wearing the other dresses in the chest take Picky back in time too? And does she dare put herself in danger again?

As a rule, I do not read novels that involve time travel. I prefer novels to be set fully in the historical period that the author wishes to explore. I have no idea where this prejudice emerged from but it is part of my identity as a reader. However, having just finished The Dresskeeper I have had my foolish dislike of this device eradicated. Naylus uses the time travel device expertly and it allows her to have her very contemporary protagonist explore 17th century London. Picky Robson was a convincing teenager whose comical voice hooked me in from the very first chapter. Penelope - known as Picky by her family - has a painfully negative body image and an amusing take on the world around her. She dislikes the vain and shallow Demon Worshippers at school but like the other students, she does not have the courage to stand up to them. The bullying she faces is treated with care and humour by Naylus.

I really liked the fact that Picky was a teenage carer, looking after her Grandma on weekends. I'm sure young people in similar postitions of responsibility will relate to Picky's frustration, resentment and guilty feelings concerning her role as a carer.  This is by no means a heavy novel although it explores important issues in the life of its narrator. Picky tells the story in such an amusing way that I often chuckled at her particular world view. As a School Librarian myself, I was tickled by Picky's suspicion that Mrs Hamperton spent her weekends cataloguing her underwear drawer. I had to laugh out loud.

The historical landscape of 17th century London is charmingly described with all Picky's usual eloquence as having "crap in the streets". The appalling living conditions of the poor, small pox, the issue of the slave trade and arranged marriages are all woven into a riveting narrative. Picky is a determined heroine who is out to save the life of her 17th century alter-ego, Amelia. She is certainly not Sherlock Holmes but perseveres admirably.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The characterisation of Picky is superb and the novel moves at a great pace. The plot is interesting and the mystery of the murderer kept me guessing until the very end. The modern voice will appeal to fans of authors like Meg Cabot. The beautiful dresses and depiction of 17th century London will appeal to fans of historical fiction. The Dressmaker is thoroughly entertainly, enthralling and amusing. I really enjoyed reading it and am impressed by the quality Naylus's first novel.