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Friday, 30 July 2010

Review: Time Riders

Author: Alex Scarrow
Release date: 4th February 2010 UK
Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure / Time Travel
Target audience: 10+

Summary from Amazon:
Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912. Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010. Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026. Yet moments before death, someone mysteriously appeared and said, ‘Take my hand . . .’ But Liam, Maddy and Sal aren’t rescued. They are recruited by an agency that no one knows exists, with only one purpose – to fix broken history. Because time travel is here, and there are those who would go back in time and change the past. That’s why the TimeRiders exist: to protect us. To stop time travel from destroying the world . . .

It is hard to believe that Time Riders is Alex Scarrow's debut Young Adult novel. It is a story of adventure, action and science fiction. But most importantly, it is a novel about a team of three very different kids who are offered the chance of escaping death's clutches. Time Riders are hand picked to keep us safe from the people who want to corrupt time and change the course of history forever. I used to think that time travel was not my thing although I do love Dr Who. Suddenly, my thoughts on time travel are completely discarded after reading this book. I have realised that time travel books are addictive!

Foster  -- a mysterious figure -- appears moments before each of the potential team members are about to die. He offers them a future but not exactly a life. The three main characters are: Liam - an Irish 16 year old who worked aboard the titanic, Maddy - an 18 year old girl from 2010, New York, and Sal - a 13 year old girl from 2026, Mumbai. Foster brings them to a time bubble in 2001 where they he trains them to protect time from being corrupted. 

The characterisation in this book was thoroughly convincing. Each character has distinct traits which make them individual. Liam has his Irish sayings and dialect. Maddy is the leader and the one who is expected to take responsibility. Sal writes a diary which shows us her fears and her identity as the youngest of the group. Then there is the support unit who I am very attached to and don't which to say any more about in case of spoilers.

Scarrow does well to interweave the history of time travel into the plot so that we are not overwhelmed with boring details. We are constantly involved in the dynamic of the team as their relationship grows and the fast pace of the action as events unfold. Moving between the past, the present and the future is not at all disorientating. If anything, it increases the tension for the reader and makes you want to read on.

What this book has is hard to put into words. It is the magic that makes a new series unputdownable. Percy Jackson has this magic. The Wardstone Chronicles has this magic. It is the hero's journey to save the world from evil. It is the developing friendship between Liam, Maddy and Sal. Time Riders has the quintessential ingredient that makes you crave the next book and be willing to queue at midnight for it. This series is going to be MASSIVE! And if you haven't heard this already, Puffin have confirmed a nine book deal for the Time Riders series. This is music to my ears because I want more, more, more. It was that good! Seriously, boys, girls, young, old: everyone will love this book.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Illustrations: Eep!

Last week I reviewed Eep! by Joke van Leeuwen. A few people commented that they would like to have seen some of the illustrations in the novel and so I have been given special permission by Bounce Marketing and Gecko Press to share a few with you.

pg. 9 "Just for a second, Warren thought an angel had fallen from the sky, but of course he knew it wasn't an agel, because angels had arms".

pg. 22 "she improved leaps and bounds, each leap and each bound lasting a little longer. Soon she could flap a metre high, fluttering from one wall to the other."
pg. 53 "He would say to Lottie, 'I don't have time for you right now,' when, in fact, Lottie could have saved him time by being useful in all sorts of ways."

Aren't they just charming?! I hope you all enjoyed.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Review: Fade

Author: Lisa McMann
Release date: 5th August 2010
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody's talking. When Janie taps into a classmate's violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open - but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie's in way over her head, and Cabe's shocking behaviour has grave consequences for them both. And if that isn't bad enough, Janie has discovered Martha Stubin's journals, and what she learns through them chills her to the bone. For not only is her fate as a Dream Catcher sealed, but what's to come is so much darker than she'd ever feared...It seems that some nightmares never end...

Fade continues Janie's story as she tries to master some of her tools as a Dream Catcher. This story felt more sinister than Wake. It is less about the angst of teenage life and more about abuses of power. The story begins when Janie and Cabel are assigned a new mission by the Captain. The police have had a tip off that there is a sexual predator stalking the classrooms of Fieldridge High. The story is truly disturbing as the police have reason to believe that this person is a teacher at the school and is using their position to manipulate and corner their prey. Janie is willing to take on the new assignment even if it means she will be used as bait.

The novel is hugely effective in making the reader uncomfortable as Janie waits and watches and records her suspicions as evidence. There is a huge sense of foreboding as Janie follows her hunches and actively seeks out ways to get the predator to idenitfy him or her self. Cabel shares the reader's hestitancy. He feels that Janie is being put at too great a risk. He had my full sympathy. There are moments in this novel that I was completely repulsed - such is its power.

Stylistically, I again loved McMann's very concise choice of words. It is the compact telling of the story which creates such a dramatic and frightening impact. But also moved me too because McMann can equally communicate emotion. I particularly loved this description:

'He kisses her.
She kisses him.
They kiss.'

© Lisa McMann, 2009, pg. 29

It couldn't be any more simple and yet it has such power to make your heart melt.

Overall, Fade is another brilliant story from Lisa McMann. It is thrilling, dark and tightly written. The more I read of Janie and Cabel, the more I want to read. I cannot recommend this series enough to fans of paranormal mysteries. Fade twists and turns and ultimately consumed me. A fabulous book!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me the review copy.

I am super excited for the final instalment Gone which publishes in the UK in November.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Dead Boy Talking Winners announced!

I am pleased to announce the names of the five Dead Boy Talking winners.

The three UK winners are:
Vivian W
Ann M
Devon W

The two international winners are:
Michelle M
Audrey B

I am about to email you all to confirm this and request a postal address.

Many thanks to everyone who entered and to Strident Publishing for the prizes.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Review: Star Crossed [Summer Love Mondays 1]

Welcome to the first post of my new seasonal feature in honour of my first wedding anniversary. On July 26th me and hubby will have been married for a whole year. I guess you could say I feel I'm feeling a little romantic. Each Monday between now and August 30th I will be reviewing a YA title that embodies the theme of summer romance. There may also be some fun extras in each post.
Today's Summer Love Monday features Star Crossed the first book in the Sweethearts series by Jo Cotterill.
Release date: 27th May 2010
Target audience: 10+
Star Crossed is a story of first love and friendship. Fliss and her friends Mari and Victoria have enrolled in a summer theatre company and the play they will perform at the end of the summer is Romeo and Juliet. Fliss is an adorable character who is extraordinarily shy. Mari is a very confident girl who doesn't know when to hold her tongue. Victoria is a little more sensitive and also I think a little ditsy. They are all super excited to be in the play but none more so than Fliss who loves Romeo and Juliet and has read it many times. Mari and Victoria encourage Fliss to audition for the part of Juliet. It is her dream role but she doesn't really feel confident enough to put herself forward. Especially when the pushy and melodramatic Samantha is determined to bag herself the best role whatever the consequences. Fliss avoids conflict at all costs. But is she willing to let the chance to audition for the play's leading lady pass her by?

Fliss's shyness extends beyond avoiding conflict and not standing up for herself. It also stops her from speaking to the boy that makes her heart flutter and her cheeks blush. Tom Mayerling is a boy that all the girls think is handsome. Unfortunately, that includes the brash Samantha and she is ready to put her paws all over him and brand him with a red hot iron stating that he is her property.
Star Crossed is a wonderful sweet novel for tween readers. It is a fun and engaging read which explores a painfully shy character. For girls who are about to step over the threshold of looking at a boy and seeing a boy to looking at a boy and seeing a heart-fluttering potential boyfriend, this is the perfect story. The pace moved rapidly through the scenes both in terms of the novel and the play itself. I did feel the dialogue may have been a bit too careful. Yes this is for younger readers but I think they are much more streetwise than the author portrayed at times. However, that does mean that you could buy this book for a friend's daughter and not worry about inappropriate content.
Summer in this novel is decidedly English. It rains. There is stormy weather. But there are also sunny days where the girls lie back and enjoy ice cream. The romance was heart-warming and had some beautifully atmospheric and dramatic moments.
Overall, an entertaining story about first love, growing into your own skin and friendship. Fun and swiftly paced, I think this will appeal to fans of Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries series. This is a book I would have been besotted with at the age of eleven.
Thank you to Random House for sending me the book to review.
And today's fun little extra...
Jo Cotterill's Top 5 Things to Love about Summer

1. Strawberries and cream

2. Flowers in my garden

3. Reading in a hammock

4. Wimbledon (I've never been but I love watching it on TV!)

5. Being able to throw on three items of clothing and be ready to go out!

Thanks Jo!

Followers, Friends, Bloggers!
I need one more teen summer romance book to review for this feature so I would love to see some ideas in the comments. An oldie but a goodie would be perfect!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

I went to the shops and I bought...

...an adult book.

Yes, you read that right. I bought an adult book of my own free will. Actually it is the second one in less than a week. I have been trying to resist this book...

...But it sounds so good!

Real this blurb and see:

The Unit by Ninni Holmquist

Summary from Amazon:
When Dorrit Wegner turned fifty, the government transferred her to a state-of-the-art facility where she can live out her days in comfort. Her apartment is furnished to her tastes, her meals expertly served, and all at the very reasonable non-negotiable price of one cardiopulmonary system. Once an outsider without family, derided by a society bent on productivity, Dorrit finds within The Unit the company of kindred spirits and a dignity conferred by 'use' in medical tests. But when Dorrit also finds love, her peaceful submission is blown apart and she must fight to escape before her 'final donation'.

I cannot wait to get inside the pages of this book. I hope this is a positive endeavour.

A Question for you:
What was the last adult book you bought? And if you don't usually buy adult books what made you decide to give it a try?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Charlaine Harris Winner announced!

Congratulations to Vivien B!

You were entrant #103 and were selected by Random.Org to be the winner of the signed copy of Grave Sight.

Vivien, I am about to log in and send you an email.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Don't forget to enter my contest to win a copy of Dead Boy Talking! You have until July 26th to enter.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Random House Blogger Brunch

I'm sure you have all seen the posts swirling around the Blogosphere about a very exciting event that took place on Saturday 17th at the Random House Offices in Ealing.

I was one of the lucky bloggers who got to go along and I'm writing this post as a huge THANK YOU to the wonderful publicists who gave up their Saturday morning to treat us.

I arrived with my friends Sammee of I Want To Read That, Sarah of Sarah's Reviews and of course my all-event-buddy Caroline of Portrait of a Woman. I was in charge of the directions and much to my amazement I did not get us lost.

When we arrived, we were taken by Lauren B and Kelly T to the board room in the basement of the offices. We each took a seat and were offered drinks and nibblies.

The other bloggers who came along were:
Carly of Writing from the Tub
Lynsey of Narratively Speaking
Lauren J of I Was A Teenage Book Geek
Nayuleska of Nayu's Reading corner - read her post here
Liz of My Favourite Books - read her post here
And... the lovely debut author Kaz Mahoney who is running the Writing Summer Camp which I am taking part in. Her website is here.

Each of the publicists took turns to tell us about their up and coming titles. There was much oohing and ahhing from the bloggers.

After one round of what I like to think of as "Book Intros" we had a chance to mingle and I sneakily hopped, skipped and jumped my way over to a proof copy of Jonathan Stroud's new Bartimaeus The Ring of Soloman. I think I squealed and gave myself away but luckily we were told any book in the room was "up for grabs" so it was okay. And now I am the proud owner of said book and am full to the brim of over-excited glee.

Then we sat back down for more "Book Intros" and even heard some top secret news about titles for 2011. It occurs to me now that Random House have such a wide variety of Young Adult titles. They seem to publish in all genres and of course they publish Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma so in my mind are also very forward-thinking and ground-breaking in their acquistions.
Next up was a tour of the offices, Corinne guided our group around showing us where she works and also where the editoral department is housed. The lovely ladies at Random House also let us have the pick of their shelves and take home any title we wanted from their backlist. They were extraordinarily generous and I'm not quite sure we have earned it yet so I tried to be fairly restrained.

Nayuleska is chatting to Lauren B in front of her desk and her inspiration board.

After our tour, it was back downstairs for a photo opportunity and goodbyes.

From left to right: Rosi (Publicity Assistant), Clare (Publicity Director), Kelly (Press Officer), Corinne (Interim Deputy Publicity Director) and Lauren (Senior Press Officer)

Thank you ladies!!!

There are so many exciting books that Random House have coming out in the next year but I am going to feature the three that I am most excited about.

Firstly, Trash by Andy Mulligan

Summary from Amazon:
Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael's world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It's a bag of clues. It's a bag of hope. It's a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking, fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. It's three street-boys against the world...

Release date: 2nd September 2010

Secondly, Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne

Summary from Amazon:
Noah Barleywater left home in the early morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields. Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest. Before long he come across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop. It is a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it's a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey - a journey that will change his life. And it could change yours too.

Release date: 30th September 2010

And last but by no means least! (The cover hasn't been released yet)

The Ring of Soloman by Jonathan Stroud

Summary from Amazon:
Fans of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus books will devour this book - a cracking adventure brimming with magic, intrigue and a treasure trove of characters that the reader can't help but fall for. We find everyone's favourite irascibly insolent djinni serving at the court of King Solomon in 950 BC Jerusalem, where he is causing his customary chaos and must help a girl assassin sent by the Queen of Sheba steal the all-powerful ring of Solomon. The comic relief is perfectly timed, the dialogue sharp and snappy and the fiendishly clever plot perfectly handled with Jonathan's trademark flair and command of language. Thrills, chills and a danger-spiked finale - this is one of the publishing events of the year.

Release date: 14th October 2010

The other books that I took home (all links go to Amazon):
Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin
The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan
A Note of Madness by Tabitha Suzuma
Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
Before I Die by Jenny Downham
Hear the Dead Cry by Charlie Price

Thanks again ladies!

A question for you: Why is it do you think that we were all women? Both bloggers and publicists?
Are men just not into YA?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Review: Eep!

Author: Joke van Leeuwen
Translator: Bill Nagelkerke
Release date: 1st July 2010
Genre: Magical Realism, MG
Target audience: 9+

Summary from Gecko Press:
One day Warren sees something strange lying under a bush. He doesn’t know whether it is a bird in the form of a girl, or a girl in the form of a bird.

He takes the creature home. His wife Tina wants to keep it and raise it as her own child. But it has wings…

Eep! is a most enigmatic tale. It is the story of child who is not quite a girl and not quite a bird. She is both and yet she is even more than that. Warren is out doing his usual bird-watching when he finds her lying underneath a bush. He takes her home and his wife is just as mesmerised by her as he is. So they keep her and raise her as their own.
Eep! is a really difficult book for me to summarise without giving away its special secrets. But I will say this: if you had wings, wouldn't flight be built into your very nature? If you could soar, wouldn't you leap into the sky and let your wings unfurl?

Beyond a summary, I think this is the type of book that you read and take from it whatever you bring. Does that make sense? It taps into your own interpretation of family, of love and of freedom. For me it had many hidden layers. I have to say I'm not sure if they were just my self-imposed interpretation rather than the heart of the story. For example, at the beginning of the story I felt the bird-girl's wings were a metaphor for disability. The parents hide them instead of embracing that which makes the bird-girl unique and special. I have no idea if that is what the author intended, but it is what I found through my reading. I think everyone's interpretation of the bird-girl's story will be thoroughly individual.

The illustrations in this story are quirky and endearing. They really convey the different emotions of the characters and the bizarre nature of our fears and our day dreams.

Eep! is a really short read at just 151 pages. It is sweet, funny and enlightening. The layers that I found when reading this book were subtle and poignant. I hope other people will read it and find there own journey just like the bird-girl. An enchanting and charismatic tale.

Thank you to Bounce Marketing for the review copy.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Review: The Sky is Everywhere

Author: Jandy Nelson
Release date: 7th June 2010 UK (debut novel)
Genre: Realism / Issues / Contemporary Teen Life
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, with a nearly magical grin. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...

The Sky is Everywhere is a soulful, touching, heartbreaking and acutely truthful story of a girl who is grieving for her dead sister. Lennie's world is broken into a million pieces after the sudden death of her older sister Bailey. They were two rings on a finger, the two shells of a clam, two arrows shot from the same bow. Lennie's life is suddenly transformed by a huge absence. Every day is a day that Bailey will never see. The pain of Lennie's grief is raw and believeable. She finds it difficult to talk about her loss with her family and feels that the only other person who can understand her grief is Bailey's boyfriend Toby. Through their grief they find a physical connection which leads to them kissing, Lennie is left burning with shame and guilt because she has betrayed her sister. But there is also another boy in this story -- Joe Fontaine -- who makes Lennie's heart leap with his trumpet playing and her legs turn to jelly with his long eyelashes. This new found love also burdens Lennie because surely she should not be able to feel such joy in a world that is devoid of Bailey?

The story mesmerised me from start to finish. It was the sort of book that you just fall straight into and are their holding Lennie's hand from the very beginning. You feel crumpled up like the scraps of paper she writes on and raw like skin that has been scratched over and over. Immediately you connect with her and want to help her to find a way through the pain. Then there is Gram who is a rather eccentric and exceptionally talented gardener. And Uncle Big who has the strangest moustache that I have ever read about and also an addiction to asking women to marry him. They are an adorably odd family all fighting to find a ray of light to guide them through their grief.

One of the wonderful things about this book is the interweaving of poetry and prose. Lennie writes her feelings and questions and anguish on to anything she can get her hands on -- sweets wrappers, her shoes, a tree trunk. It is these moments of concise and direct emotion that really moved me and wrapped me up in their bittersweet truth. The happiness of the memory. The Agony of knowing you are never going to see the person again.

Despite the sadness and pain that marks this story, there is still a warmth from the love that Lennie experiences. First love after such great a loss tastes like just picked strawberries -- so unbelievably sweet and juicy. This is such a remarkable book. It draws grief in a truthful light. It made me sob out my sorrow but it also made me smile because there is always hope, you only have to look at the sky.

Thanks to Walker Books for sending me the book to review.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Review: Firebrand

Author: Gillian Philip
Release date: 13th August 2010
Genre: Fantasy / Historical fantasy
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Strident Publishing:

It’s the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sidhe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world - until their queen, Kate NicNicven, determines to destroy it.

Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sidhe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil.

But even the Veil’s power can’t protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin…

Firebrand is so vast in its magnitude that I almost find it impossible to summarise. It has a longevity in its nature which mirrors the lives of the Sithe people that populate its pages. It has a brutality in its heart for the narrator Seth does not have a childhood structured with affection. He is an outcast. A child of his father's lover who unceremoniously drops him at his father's feet and expects him to take care of him. His father Griogair treats him with a raw contempt. Yet Seth idolises him and longs for his father's approval, love and respect. Sadly, he does not find affection in his father's arms. Seth is almost feral and at the very least a wild boy. When the first born son of Griogair returns home to the dun, Seth despises him.  Conal has everything that Seth desires but mainly the unconditional love of their father. Yet Conal casts his almost lion-tamer magic over Seth and soon he worships the ground that Conal walks on. In fact Conal is the one person that Seth would do anything for. He would kill for him. He would die for him.

The Sithe people live in a world that is not unlike the world of the full-mortals. It is a place of beautiful sky, breathtaking lochs and embodies the sublime awe of nature. The Sithe are hardly witches in the sense that we imagine them to be. Their special ability is to see into the minds of others and communicate with them. They also live for centuries. The Sithe have a special light in their eyes and so do the fantastical creatures that share their world. Beyond the veil live the full-mortals. It is the late sixteenth century there and the village people live an almost savage existence. It is a time when witch trials are gaining a violent fervour and the innocent are persceuted and tortured into confessing sins they have not committed.

Seth is forced to leave the relative safety of the Sithe world and exist in the world of the full-mortals. He despises them for their lack of dignity and their inability to think for themselves. He is also demoralised by the disease and illness that kills the full-mortals both young and old.

There are so many things about this book that make me crazy with love and quite frankly in adoration of it. Firstly, it is beautifully written. The Sithe world was so visible to me that I could almost reach out and touch it in my mind. Secondly, the plot kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. I loved that the author doesn't give you want you want. It is a journey that you go on with Seth. You share his blood, his sweat, his tears. You feel every slash of his knife. You hear every sound from the raven's laughter to the horses' whickering.
But most importantly, you cannot help but simply adore Seth. He is fierce and angry and arrogant and raw and soft all at the same time. He melted my heart and made me want to reach out and cuddle him, soothe him, love him. I feel like a literary adulterer. Suddenly I am sharing my love for a Mexican badass with a Sithe warrior. What can I say? Seth has captivated me.

Firebrand has made its way on to my best books of 2010 list. In fact it has made it on to my best ever fantasy books list. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It takes you to the wilds of Scotland and makes you smell the air and feel rugged ground beneath your feet. The story wraps around your heart and makes you ache for the characters. They become a whole family that you want to adopt. Gillian Philip is a breath-taking writer who has taken a genre that is swimming with the mediocre and given it an awe-inspiring transformation and I worship her for it. The passion I feel for this book is just bursting out of me. You must all go and buy it!

Thank you to Strident Publishing for sending me the book to review. I am forever in their debt.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Guest Post from PC Cast and Mills and Boon Nocturne

Today, I am sharing with you a letter from PC Cast which will appear in the front of her new book The Avenger. This book is one of four titles in the Time Raiders series being published by Mills and Boon Nocturne.

So without further ado, here is the letter reproduced with special permission from the publisher. My thanks to Nocturne for this privilege.

Inspiration for The Avenger

One of the many reasons I enjoyed writing THE AVENGER so much was that the main setting, ancient Briton, 60 AD, was a serendipitous research coincidence. Sounds weird, huh? Well, here’s what happened: At around the same time I was contacted about being involved in the RomVets Time Raiders project I was working on the first of my HOUSE OF NIGHT young adult books. In the HoN novels there is a school organization called the Dark Daughters, and this group figures predominately in the plot of the series. It’s supposed to be a club led by the best and the brightest of House of Night vampyre fledglings, young women who were being groomed to become High Priestesses of the vampyre goddess, Nyx. So I needed to have a super cool foundation for the group. I’m of Celtic descent, and have always been fascinated by the history of my ancestors. Because of that I decided to give the Dark Daughters Celtic roots, which meant I needed to research exceptional women in the history of the Celts. That research led me to the Iceni Queen, Boudicca. From the very beginning I was intrigued by her story – that her husband passed the torque of royalty to her at his death, and that she was a well respected leader. Then a Roman tax collector decided to flex his muscle and show Boudicca who was really in charge of the Iceni. He had her publically whipped and ordered her two young daughters raped.

The story intrigued as well as horrified me.

I remember not being able to read fast enough to find out what happened to Boudicca, and cheering as she united the Celts and actually kicked some Roman ass for a while.

History reports what happened to the Queen of the Iceni, and I’ll leave that story to my fictionalized, but basically historical accurate rendering in THE AVENGER. What history isn’t as clear about is what happened to the queen’s two daughters. I decided they disappeared from human history because they were Marked to begin the Change that led them to be powerful vampyre High Priestess, so revered that they began an organization that was to live long after they had passed to their Goddess’s verdant meadows, the Dark Daughters.

And just as I decided that, Lindsay McKenna and Merline Lovelace contacted me with an interesting paranormal romance series idea…where military heroines have to go back in time to retrieve lost pieces of a medallion…to save the world…and out of the historical time period choices I had to send my heroine back to was ancient Briton, 60 AD, and Queen Boudicca.

How could I say anything but yes! Yes! Yes!

Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.

House of Night fans will find out more about the origin of the Dark Daughters and Boudicca’s two girls in THE FLEDGING HANDBOOK, an illustrated companion to the House of Night, which will be released early fall of 2010.

© P C Cast, The Avenger, 2010
I am really looking forward to giving this House of Night inspired novel a go. Keep your eyes peeled for my review.
You can also watch a video of P C Cast talking about the series here.
More information about Nocture here.
NB: I have disable comments on this post as it is for information only.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Review: Girl, 16 Five Star Fiasco

Author: Sue Limb
Release date: 7th June 2010
Genre: Contemporary Teen Life / YA / Realism / Humour
Target audience: 11+

Summary from Amazon:
The teenage world of Jess Jordon is looking characteristically chaotic: Mum has joined an online dating programme and has recruited Jess as advisor, while Jess' best friend Flora has a rich new boyfriend who Jess can't possibly keep up with. Then Jess' own boyfriend, Fred, does something unbelievably treacherous and spineless. Jess is becoming completely fed up with the male sex, and is beginning to think that the only reliable form of male is e-mail ...Never mind, there's Valentine's Day to look forward to. Fred is sure to make amends then. Isn't he? Full of Sue Limb's very funny take on teenage life and problems, fans of "Girl, 15" will be thrilled to have available a new Fred and Jess story. It's only when you've stopped laughing that you realise that, in addition to writing with wit and warmth, Sue Limb has also dealt effortlessly with bigger and important themes of friendship and loyalty.

Girl, 16 Five Star Fiasco is the first book that I have read by Sue Limb. This is certainly not the sort of novel that I would usually read but I was in the mood for something really light-hearted and full of humour and this is exactly what I got. Girl, 16 Five Star Fiasco is the story of Jess and her plan to put on a dinner / dance charity event for Oxfam. It read like an honest episode of a teenager's life with all the dramas that feel catastrophic but are actually not as fatal as they appear to be.

Jess and Fred are the "laugh-a-minute" couple. I got the feeling from this book that it took them a while to get together (in the earlier books in the series) but now they are and Jess loves Fred's naturally comical nature. Except that there is always a fine line about when it is appropriate to be funny and when it is necessary to be serious. Jess increasingly feels like Fred doesn't get this. They are planning a special charity event but all they've managed to do is set a date, time, book a venue and design the tickets. Time is ticking by and they have sold lots of tickets but they haven't secured caterers or a band. The stress of possible failure weighs heavily on Jess's mind and she begins to snap at Fred for his organisational shortcomings. I felt really sorry for Fred because Jess kept wanting him to take some repsonsibility and yet she wasn't managing to do that herself. She kept popping around her friend's house and then agrees to go away for the weekend prior to the big event.

Fred is reluctant to go on the seaside trip but Jess insists. Unfortunately the weekend doesn't become the relaxing break from her troubles that she planned. Fred isn't so comfortable around strangers and Jess expects too much off him. Both their characters are humourously crafted by Limb. You kind of love both of them but wish one of them would step up and take charge. Jess also has a very modern home life. Her mum experimenting with internet dating and this creates some laugh out loud moments and was definitely my favourite aspect of the story.

Overall, this light-hearted tale of teenage drama and family life was a very funny and enjoyable read. I want to buy the whole series for the school library because I think the girls will love it. For me, it authentically captured the teenage voice and viewpoint. Just a great fun and easy book to read!

Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Review: Arthur and the Meanies

Author/ Illustrator: Jan Fearnley
Release date: 5th July 2010 UK
Genre: Illustrated book
Target audience: 5+

Summary from Amazon:
How do you play with an elephant? Well, if you're Tiger, Cheetah, Monkey and Peacock, you don't. Tiger growls that Arthur is too heavy for hopping, and Cheetah is very unkind when Arthur asks to hold the string on his beautiful new kite. But when it starts to rain, suddenly everybody wants to be Arthur's friend - as long as he will do as he's told and shelter them from the storm. This is a beautifully crafted picture book that is complete with a gentle and satisfying moral.

Arthur and the Meanies is a beautifully illstrated picture book which is full of vibrant colours. It tells the story of Arthur the Elephant who wants to play but sadly the mean Tiger, Cheetah, Peacock and Monkies don't want to play with him. Arthur feels left out but luckily he finds Duck and Frog and they cannot wait to play with him.

The text and the illustrations work in great harmony together. The story is brought to life through the changing emotions that are communicated by the animals' expressions. In fact all the faces of the animals are delightfully individual and appealing. The illustrations are alive and very contemporary. Fearnley uses a mixture of textures, patterns, water colour and collage to great effect. Every page offers a new and exciting scene as Arthur searches for a friend.

I really love the moral in this story too. It teaches children that people will be mean and hurt their feelings. But a new friend can be found around every corner. Arthur chooses to stick up for himself and consequently ends out hurting the feelings of the mean animals. But through Arthur's journey children learn that forgiveness is important and so is learning from your mistakes.

Arthur and the Meanies would make a beautiful gift for any child age 5 and up.

Thanks to Egmont books for sending me a copy to review.

NB: This is my first review of a picture book. I still have lots to learn. I would love some advice on how I can improve in the comments.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Talking Pictures Event Summary

On Tuesday 6th July I attended an event for librarians at the Random House offices in Pimlico. It hosted by Books For Keeps (a children's book review magazine).
The event was focused on illustrated books and I decided to go along because I need to develop more knowledge in this area. I actually took my mum with me because she works with younger readers and is intrigued by all these different author events that I go to. We arrived for a 6pm start and there was half an hour of mingling, talking to the publicists, editors and designers at Random House whilst enjoying their refreshments. Promptly at 6.30, we went into their presentation suite and listened to Rosemary Stones from Books for Keeps talk about the collaborative nature of picture/ illustrated books.
Rosemary introduced four author/illustrators and each of them spoke about their work.

First up was Chris Wormell - he has been working with Random House for over ten years. Chris uses many different techniques in his books  - lino cuts, watercolour and pastels. Chris taught himself to be an illustrator and I think that is so cool. His recent book One Smart Fish comes out in paperback in January. I love this image so much. One smart fish plays chess against all the other fish in the ocean.

Our next author/ illustrator was Mini Grey. Mini's first book was Egg Drop which was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Her new book -- Three by the Sea -- which is about an unconventional family (a mouse, a cat and a dog) is out in hardback in September.

Librarians, publishing people and illustration students all listen intently to Mini's story of how she came to be a children's illustrator. She began by explaining how she came to have the name Mini. A funny tale!

Our third author / illustrator was Sue Hendra. Sue has been illustrating for since 1994 but she was very open about the fact that in recent years her work had dried up. After speaking to a very ummm... blunt agent, Sue was told her style was "outdated" and "old-fashioned". So Sue went back to the drawing board (no pun intended) and started looking for a fresh style. All her hard work has paid off because she will have a new and very contemporary picture book published by Random House in May 2011. It is called Wanda and the Alien and I can only describe it as FUNKY!

And finally, Random House have very recently picked up a brand new, never been seen before author/ illustrator. Her name is Nadia Shireen and she has literally just finished her MA. Her debut picture book is Good Little Wolf and it will be published in June 2011 by Jonathan Cape - a Random House imprint. Nadia said her feet hadn't touched the ground since her degree show but that she was really excited. I loved the few illustrations that we were shown from her book. Definitely a name to watch out for!

After the presentation we had more time to mingle, eat cup cakes and chat to the authors. It was a great introduction into the world of children's illustrated books and served to show me how much I still have to learn.

Review: Uglies

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Release date: 4th March 2010 UK (this edition)
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Goodreads:
Playing on every teen’s passionate desire to look as good as everybody else, Scott Westerfeld (Midnighters) projects a future world in which a compulsory operation at sixteen wipes out physical differences and makes everyone pretty by conforming to an ideal standard of beauty. The "New Pretties" are then free to play and party, while the younger "Uglies" look on enviously and spend the time before their own transformations in plotting mischievous tricks against their elders. Tally Youngblood is one of the most daring of the Uglies, and her imaginative tricks have gotten her in trouble with the menacing department of Special Circumstances. She has yearned to be pretty, but since her best friend Shay ran away to the rumored rebel settlement of recalcitrant Uglies called The Smoke, Tally has been troubled.

After reading Uglies, I had a nightmare in which I was forced to watch my dad have his eyes gouged out. How very King Lear of me! Perhaps then, this shows the depth of construction of Scott Westerfeld's the dystopian world in Uglies.

A future when we are all turned "pretty" at 16 would certainly have its fans. Like Tally Youngblood, who is waiting for the day when she gets to turn pretty. In fact there is nothing Tally wants more in the whole world than to undergo her operation to be "normalised" and made physically perfect. Her friend Peris has already been turned and Tally feels isolated from everyone else as she waits for the day she will be transformed into one of the Pretties and begin her life in New Pretty Town. Then Tally meets Shay - another fifteen year old girl who is also left behind waiting for the operation - and they develop a close friendship. They share their subversive knowledge of Ugly tricks and challenge the boundaries that are imposed on all the yet-to-be-turned Uglies. Yet Shay is hiding something from Tally, she knows that some Uglies choose not to turn Pretty. Tally thinks Shay is insane to even contemplate the idea. But then Shay takes Tally to the Rusties' ruins outside of the town and tells her that she has actually met someone who hasn't turned. Tally isn't sure whether to believe Shay. All Tally wants to do is stay out of trouble and make sure that she gets her chance to be Pretty.

The concept for this book is so fantastically clever. The idea that physical equality can be medically imposed is enough to blow up a few of my neurons. For all its great idealism, being a Pretty doesn't seem like a particularly stimulating way to live. If anything, it sounds like a way to play at being a person rather than actually getting on with being one. All the Pretties seem to do is go to parties and get drunk. But this what Tally wants because she is indoctrinated by her society to believe that is what everyone should desire. Uglies believe that once the operation is complete people do not feel need to feel jealous of others and so the nation can live in harmony. They are educated in their schools about the near-fatal collaspe of human civilisation because of its greed and selfishness. The Pretty operation changes all that. It gave people equality...

The plot in this novel intrigued me and really held my attention. I found the beginning a little hard to get into because I was repulsed by the idea of a belly sensor. I have no idea why. It just freaks me out. Anyway, once I got past my phobia of that phrase, I became complelely immersed in Tally's story and loved every step of her journey. The characterisation of Tally was utterly convincing. She just wanted to be like everyone else. She didn't want to spend her life ostracised from all her pretty friends . And above all, she wanted to look Pretty.

The questions that this book raises about identity and self-perception are fascinating. There was so much meaning associated with the terms ugly and pretty and so throughout reading this book I felt contemplative. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Uglies embodies everything that a dystopian novel should be. A darkly riveting and thought-provoking read.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

GIVEAWAY: Dead Boy Talking

Thanks to the lovely and frankly genius people at Strident Publishing I have FIVE copies of Dead Boy Talking by Linda Strachan to give away.

Here is the blurb from the publisher's website:

Josh has twenty five minutes left to live.

Yesterday he stabbed his best mate and now it’s happened to him. Lying alone in a pool of blood Josh hasn’t much time to think, but there are things he can’t get out of his head.

Where is his girlfriend, Skye? What happened to his missing brother? And how did he get involved with the gang? As his life slips away the events of the last twenty four hours start to look very different…
I have the books here already waiting for five lucky winners. If you would like to know more about the book, then you can check out my review.
There will be three UK winners and two international winners. So this contest is open to everyone.
To enter:
Complete the form below.
You do not have to be a follower of The Bookette to enter.

Please note under 16s must get parent / guardian permission before entering and provide their email address rather than their own. Check my Contest Policy for further information.

Closing date: Monday 26th July 2010, midnight GMT

Good luck!

THIS CONTEST HAS NOW CLOSED. The winners' names can be found here.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

I just pre-ordered...

Firebrand (Rebel Angels Book 1) by Gillian Philip

I have a proof of this and I am reading it at the moment. I'm up to page 26. I am already weak at the knees because Gillian's writing is so poetic. Thursday evening Gillian tweeted me the cover and so I wanted to post it here. I love it. It is so evocative. Just look at Seth's face and SWOON!

Anyway, this morning and I logged on and pre-ordered a finished copy from Amazon. I need to have a first-edition finished copy of this book. I just KNOW it is going to be huge!

Firebrand is released by Strident Publishing on August 13th 2010.

Here is the blurb for those of you who are unfamiliar with this epic book:
It’s the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars in the full-mortal world. But the Sidhe are at peace, hidden behind the Veil that protects their world - until their queen, Kate NicNicven, determines to destroy it.

Seth MacGregor is the half-feral son of a Sidhe nobleman. When his father is assassinated, and Seth is exiled with his brother Conal to the full-mortal world, they vow not only to survive, but to return to reclaim their fortress and save the Veil.

But even the Veil’s power can’t protect the brothers when the brutal witch-hunts begin…
Source: Strident Publishing
Now why are you all still here? You should be on Amazon or the Book Depository pre-ordering this book!
My review will be up next week some time for those of you who like a little more detail.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Guest Post: Angelology by Lauren Kate

Well, today I am super-crazy-dance-happy to share with you a guest post from Lauren Kate author of Fallen (out now) and Torment (released October 2010). As you know, I am an angel girl and so what else could I ask Lauren to tell us about? This post is so fascinating!

Fallen is out now in paperback!


One of the hardest things about writing Fallen was knowing when to stop researching and when to start writing. There was just so much information to absorb—and so much of it was riveting, but so much of it was also contradictory. Just when I thought I’d found the answer to a simple question—Aha! So it took the angels nine days to fall to Hell after they were kicked out of Heaven!—I’d crack open another book that claimed the fall took just from sunrise to sunset of one day, and another that claimed the angels fell for a thousand years.

At the time, I was working with a biblical scholar at the University of California at Davis. I sat down with her and explained my predicament. There were so many wildly varying accounts about almost everything having to do with angels. They’re sexless; they’re all men; there are men and women, too. They fell before man was created; they fell during the time of Noah’s Arc, they fell when Jesus was alive. This list of seven makes up the list of arc angels; no, it’s this list of seven angels. They’re solely spiritual or they’re physically embodied. They can or cannot die.

With book after book telling me something quite different, how would I ever know which was the definitive story?

The professor laughed at me and shrugged. “You’ll never find “definitive” anything in angelology. You have to pick and choose the bits you like. Create your own mythology. What do you think Milton did?”

Pick and choose? Could I really?

After sleeping on this, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Of course that was what Milton had done with Paradise Lost. And Dante with the Inferno. And Tony Kushner with his brilliant Angels in America (which I just watched last night).

I was beginning to realize that so much of what we think of angels today does not come from a definitive biblical or historical source: From the fluffy white wings we see on greeting cards, to the pure intentions referred to when we bring angels into metaphors (Sheryl’s not just nice, she’s a perfect angel), to the guardian roles they play on TV shows like Highway to Heaven—all of these things are cultural connotations synthesized from countless books, poetry, and music that make up our current angelology.

Which meant, if I was going to enter into this tradition of angel lore, it was up to me to piece together a mythology that worked for my story and my characters. I remember it was nerve-wracking at first—to flat out dismiss some sources and adhere to others, just because they suited me—but the further I get in the series, the more comfortable it’s become to perfect my personal angel mythology. By now, I love the freedom and the creativity this affords me. The world in the Fallen series seems to grow stronger and more tightly woven with every book I write.

© Lauren Kate, 2010
Thank you so much for sharing this Lauren. I cannot wait to find out more about your unique angel mythology.
I am quite wishing right now that I was an angel myth scholar and not a children's librarian but we can't have it all, can we?!
If you haven't already visited the Fallen website, you should really check it out. Here is the link.
In case you haven't been to the cineam to see Eclipse yet (like me), here is the Fallen trailer that Random House are screening:

Discussion: Do you have a favourite aspect/ myth about angels?