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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Blogoversary Time!

This is such a freaky post to write. Firstly, because I'm posting on a Tuesday and I don't really do that anymore. Secondly, because seriously, it feels weird to have been blogging for a whole year and to not even be the tiniest bit bored of it. I love blogging. I love my blog. Oh dear, I feel a soppy post coming on.

Actually, I have no idea how I should mark this milestone. So I'm just going to pick out some highlights.

These are some of my favourite things that have happened over the last year:
  • Reading Perfect Chemistry and finding out that my favourite book was a ROMANCE and the ensuing obsession with one Mexican badass. Let it be known that I did not read contemporary romances before I became a blogger (unless they were in some way related to fantasy or the paranormal).
  • Writing my review of Swoon (the Marmite book) and the still ongoing debate between the haters and the lovers. Tastes are a bizarre and fascinating thing!
  • Interviewing Ebony McKenna in person for Egmont Books. That was an absolute privilege!
  • The explosion of angel books that is happening in the YA world. For an angel fanatic this is like growing your own set of wings and waking up to look in the mirror and find out you have the prettiest halo this side of Heaven.
  • Adding these amazing writers to my list of favourites authors: Keren David, Gillian Phillip, Jaclyn Moriarty, Tabitha Suzuma
  • Making some wonderful online friends and then meeting them and finding out they are even more amazing and fun than I could have ever possibly imagined. Sammee, Lauren, Lynsey, Jo, Sophie, Jessica, Liz, Jenny and Carla, I am looking at you. Oh and I must not forget our 2011 debut authors Cat Clarke and Kaz Mahoney.
  • Making international online friends and learning about books that I might not ever have heard of. I adore Christina, Irena, Audrey and Juju! Thanks you guys!
  • The constant encouragment from writers (published or otherwise) to keep writing and be proud of it.
  • Being able to rave about the great books I've been reading.
  • But my absolute favourite thing that has happened because of blogging has to be meeting Caroline from Portrait of a Woman and the friendship that we share. Caroline (this is exceedingly soppy but hey) thanks for the brownies, the laughs and all the writing talk which as you know is often encrypted but you listen and share just the same.
So I wonder what the next year of blogging will bring?

And now, for one day only, I am opening up the floor. Do you have a burning question you wish to ask The Bookette? Now is your chance! Maybe you've just started a blog and you need some advice...ask away. Maybe you have a secret desire to know whether I am a morning or an evening person... 
I don't know! But people do wonder weird things. I know this because I do. So if you do have a question, leave it in the comments and unless it is something downright stalkerish, I will answer.

Happy First Blogoversary to The Bookette. (Oh yeah, that's me!) I love you guys!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Discussion: Summer Love Mondays 6 - Themes and Perspectives

For me, Summer is the season of reflection and change. There is this sort of time gap that comes every year and you fill it with reflections and aims and decisions. For me, it is the opposite of New Year's Eve when the whole of society tells us it is time to make resolutions and start anew. I always think it is silly to wait to the end of the year to change something. If you want to do something different, be someone different, then why wait? So New Year is a bit phony. I think it is more a marketing, consumerist thing which tells us to be thinner, prettier, healthier and if you join this health spa and pay a fortune then you will be part of the special people. It's nonsense of course but the best of us can be fooled by the machine. So where is this all going?

I think Summer is the real season of change. It always has been in my life. I think it is probably because the British education system is structured that way to give you a huge block of free time in the summer. Even though I am now the librarian rather than the student, I am still gifted with that space in time and so summer still means that for me.

All the books I read for this feature seem to echo this concept. Summer is a catalyst for change. Maybe it is because we shed layers of clothing, like a snake sheds its skin. Our bodies are exposed to the world in our Summer clothes and suddenly this makes us look more closely at what we look like yes but also who we are. During the months of Summer, we can grow in confidence, take a bigger risk and somehow ask bigger questions of ourselves.

Of course in many of the novels I read for this feature explored the themes of loss and grief. It is not that these books on summer romance are filled with death but that summer somehow opens the door to dealing with grief in a deeper way. For Rain, it was confronting a space that represented her mother's childhood, visiting a place that she would never be able to ask her mother about. For Anna in Twenty Boy Summer, it was confronting the fact that she was the only one who knew the truth about her relationship with Matt and so the extent of her grief was hidden from those who could share in it.

Despite the fact that there was a great sadness running through these novels, there were also moments of pure joy. There are stolen kisses on the beach, meeting someone who sees you the way no one else who knows you sees you, exploring a new and beautiful place. Honestly, these things do not happen every Summer. For some people they might not happen any Summer. But it is undeniable that the season of summer carries with it the sense of possiblity and potential that something magical may just happen.

Now I'm sitting here trying to think about this Summer and if anything has changed for me, and it is really difficult. There isn't enough distance there yet. But this Summer has been about writing for me. I've tried to structure writing into my day. It is becoming a habit but that isn't actually a consequence of this Summer. I was working on that long before. Yet I still can't think of this holiday without understanding it through writing. I can't understand it better than that.

The biggest change in my life is my sister and her husband have moved closer to home. 9 days ago my sister moved about 300 miles closer to me. Now I can drive for an hour and see her which was impossible before. She is actually feeling rather overwhelmed by all the change she is going through: new job, new house, new area. It is fair to say that big changes can be terrifying and yet sometimes it can be so rewarding. (Or I am one of the people benefiting most from her change.)

Who knew this post would end out being so hippy?!

So for discussion then, is there a season that represents change for you? Are you like me? Is Summer the catalyst for your decisions, where you decide to take a certain fork in the road of life? Have you made a crucial decision this Summer? Please share any thoughts at all.

And what about covers? Do you have a favourite?
Is there one that really represents the themes as well as the genre?

I love how The Summer I Turned Pretty really captures the sort of brightness of summer. It is almost neon. But I think the cover for Twenty Boy Summer says a lot more about the story that's inside.

Thanks to everyone who has commented on the reviews of this feature. You have all been so fabulous.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Review: Buffy The Vampire Slayer + UK GIVEAWAY

Authors: John Vornholt, Arthur Byron Cover, Alice Henderson
Release date: This edition September 2010 UK
Genre: TV Novelisation, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon Pulse

This book is chock full of Buffy wow factor. It was actually quite an odd reading experience because I wasn’t forming the character in my own imagination but rather watching an episode of Buffy in my mind. Sarah Michelle Geller kicking butt left, right and centre. It had me laughing out loud with the teen talk and I have to say this was just such a fun and retro cool book to read. It is a bind-up of three Buffy stories, so I’ll tell you a little about each.

In Coyote Moon the carnival comes to Sunnydale and Buffy, Willow and Xander decide to make the most of the opportunity to be teenage and free of school for just a little while longer. They decide to go wild. Okay, so they go on a few rides, eat some unhealthy snacks and try their hand at the side shows. But this is X and it is lives on the Hellmouth so obviously things are not as they seem. Buffy gets a prickly feeling of unease when she comes eye to eye with a pack of coyotes but it isn’t until she finds a dog collar in the litter bin that things really start to seem weird.

Full of everything you’d expect from The Slayer, Buffy goes hunting for the truth behind the weirdness that encapsulates the carnival. Reading this story really made me feel nostalgic and reminded me why Buffy really is AWESOME.

Night of the Living Rerun sees Buffy getting up close and personal with Samantha Kane – a Slayer from the time of the Salem Witch trials. There are strange goings on in Sunnydale as Buffy begins to dream about Samantha’s life in vivid detail. Xander, Willow and Giles are never far from the action as they try to help Buffy understand a prophecy that tells of the Master’s ascension.

I really enjoyed the historical aspect of Night of the Living Rerun. Seeing the experiences of a past Slayer added a depth to this story and an interesting twist. There are plenty of action scenes which include everything from mass zombie attacks to a rip in the space time continuum.

The third and final story in the bind-up is Portal Through Time which unsurprisingly has the theme of time travel. Victor – a vampire – has managed to create a device to go back in time and he plans to go and assassinate Buffy before she becomes the Slayer. Victor takes a couple of vampire goons with him on his mission but time travel and changing the course of history isn’t an easy thing to predict. Buffy is soon on to his plan and she is ready with her team of Scoobies to go back and save the day.

Overall, this is a fun read which may lack plausibility but makes up for it with great wit and humour. All three stories are very plot-driven so if you’re interested in deep character motivations then this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you love action scenes, witty dialogue and a huge dose of retro then Buffy The Vampire Slayer 1 is for you.

Thanks to the lovely peeps at Simon Pulse I have FIVE copies of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER 1 to giveaway.

To enter:
Complete the form below.
Open to UK entrants only.
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: Sunday 5th September 2010, midnight GMT
Good luck!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel

Author: Cassandra Clare

Release date: UK 6th September 2010
Genre: Steam punk, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
Magic is dangerous - but love is more dangerous still... When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Friendless and hunted, Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by - and torn between - two best friends, and quickly realizes that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

My expectations for Clockwork Angel could not have been higher. Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors ever! So I am pleased to say that returning to the world of the Shadowhunters was everything I hoped it would be and more.

The Infernal Devices series is set in Victorian London and the industrial landscape of the city was very much a part of the novel. Young Tessa boards a steamship from America and arrives in Southampton expecting to be greeted by her brother Nate. He is strangely absent and instead two older ladies convey her from the dock to their lodging house. Tessa knows nothing of the shadow world that lies just beneath the surface of Victorian London but she is suddenly pulled into it and cruelly abused.

Meanwhile two trainee Shadowhunters – Will and Jem – are trying to piece together a mystery that seems to begin with the strange and almost inhuman death of a mundane girl. Will is a scallywag and does everything he can to insult the Shadowhunters who are his makeshift family at the London Institute. Jem is a complete darling, sensitive, caring and fiercely loyal. They make a great team and reminded me in the most bizarre and brilliant way of a young Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. (Will being Holmes, Jem being Watson).

The two stories come crashing together when Will and Jem come to the rescue of Tessa. That is not to say that Tessa is weak, she is a very strong character, independent of thought, brave, resourceful but she knows very little of the Downworld and the creatures that the Nephilim (Shadowhunters) seek to keep in a state of balance. If you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments, you needn’t worry, Clockwork Angel will teach you everything you need to know about the Nephilim and the shadow world.

Clockwork Angel has all of Cassandra Clare’s trademark witticisms, her ability to make you love the darkest and most tormented character and a plot that you won’t know how it ends until you get there. I also loved the references to so many different novelists, playwrights and poets in this book. Tessa is a voracious reader and interprets many of the experiences she is awakened to in the shadow world through her knowledge of literature.

Although I am not a fan of steam punk (I have this unfathomable ability to not understand anything that relates to machines), I did love the industrial and mechanical backdrop to the story. It felt like a true novel of the city and not a sort of imposed reality which just illustrates further Cassandra Clare’s ability as a writer to make you a part of the story.

Overall, this is a superb story that has it all!

Oh and it is probably worth adding that I am Team Will...

Thank you to the amazingly wonderful people at Walker Books for sending me the book to review. They are the true descendants of Raziel.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Review: Strange Angels

Author: Lili St. Crow

Release date: UK 3rd September 2009
Genre: Paranormal Thriller / Urban Fantasy
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Quercus Books

Summary from Amazon:
Dru Anderson: Night Hunter. Knife Wielder. Heart Breaker. Dru can sense evil, which helps when she and her Dad are tracking down ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional reanimated corpse. It's a dangerous life, but it's the only one she knows. Then Dru's dad turns up dead and she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deadly game where every move she makes could be her last. Dru is more special than she realizes - and whatever killed her dad could be coming for her next. Can Dru stay alive long enough to fall for one - or both - of the guys hungry for her affections? Find out in the heart-stopping first book in a thrilling series.

I feel like a need to invent a new genre just for Strange Angels. It is so unlike any other paranormal book that I’ve ever read. It’s like extreme reading of the paranormal persuasion or something.

Dru Anderson is a girl who has spent her life travelling light. She has moved with her dad from place to place seeking out things that go bump in the night. She was his right hand woman. At the beginning of the novel, Dru is not exactly settling into her current place of abode in Dakota, when her dad goes out on a mission and doesn’t come back. She is alone and she is scared because she feels unprepared to deal with whatever killed her father.

Then there is Graves who sits in front of Dru in class and basically keeps his head down and tries to live under the radar. But the feisty Dru catches his attention and he cuts class just to be with her.

The plot of the story follows Dru as she tries to evade the supernatural forces that keep coming for her. She discovers that her knowledge of the Real World isn’t as comprehensive as she previously thought. And thus, she begins a painful, kick-butt education with Graves tagging along.

When I first started this book, I thought I would absolutely hate it. There is a zombie scene really early on and it completely grossed me out. I do not do gruesome, no sir. I also thought the book started in the wrong place. I’m reading a non-fiction book for my writing at the moment and it talks about novels starting in the wrong place and I really felt like this was what it meant. There was too much exposition. There is the dream, there is the prologue and then there is the scene at school. It made me lose interest.

However, something kept me reading even through the zombie scene and I guess that came down to character. Dru Anderson is crude, raw and uncompromising and I loved her. She kept me intrigued. Her voice was compelling because it was so different to other female characters in the paranormal genre. She was strong and a tactician. Her phrasing was blunt and to the point. It was so refreshing. She was the one in control and I couldn’t stop reading this raw account of life fighting the supernatural.

Usually I feel so frustrated reading paranormal books because they are all so similar and I think there is a certain amount of "dumbing down". But while I was reading this, I was wowed by the fresh approach, the unpredictable plot, the barely tangible love story that may or may not come to the for in future books and the challenging language.

Overall, I think it is pretty brilliant (zombies and all). I cannot wait to start Betrayals. I am so glad I already have a copy sitting on my shelf. If you are a fan of the paranormal but are a bit bored with the usual predictable storyline, then get your hands on a copy of Strange Angels. This is one novel that will leave you gasping for more.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Review: The Summer That Changed Everything [Summer Love Mondays]

Yesterday I had a mini-readathon because I had not even started The Summer That Changed Everything and I knew that I had to post the review today. One of the tricky things about setting aside a day of the week for a certain thing is that you have to be so organised.

Anyway, three hours of solid reading and I have finished the book in time!

Author: Ann Brashares
Genre: Summer Love, Realism, Contemporary YA Fiction
Release date: 4th March 2010
Target audience: 11+

The Summer That Changed Everything is a story about friendship, about self-discovery and about love lost and found. It is the story of three girls who are all very different but that had a deep childhood bond. Ama, Jo and Polly have drifted apart and the story begins as they graduate from the eighth grade and begin a summer that will change who they are forever. Ama is originally from Ghana. Her family moved to America when her sister Esi got into a prestigious college there. Jo is a popular girl who is spending the summer at her family's beach house. Jo's parents are well off as her dad is a surgeon. Polly is perhaps the most original member of the trio. She is very kooky and her mother isn't around very much. Polly is pretty lonely.

In the third grade, the three girls are each given tiny willow plants to nurture through the year for an assignment. Throughout the book, there are little snippets about willow trees -- sometimes facts, sometimes myths but the journey of the tree is just as fascinating as the journey of the girls.

The first few pages of this book completely confused me. I couldn't work out who was telling which bit of the story. The main narrative is in the third person. Then there are small pieces of each girl reflecting on their friendship. I just couldn't get my head around who was who and I was so close to giving up. I don't think it helped that I didn't enjoy another book written by the same author. Anyway, I read the beginning about three times and I'm really glad that I did because once I got the hang of it, I was captivated by the unfolding story of the three girls' summer.

I could see a little of myself in each of the girls. I always wanted to do well at school like Ama. I would have thought an F was the end of the world too. I wanted to have fun and be popular like Jo. I definitely have Polly's obsessive side and get totally caught up in whatever project I'm working on. Reading about how they all journeyed through the summer and confronted who they were was quite an emotional experience. I found this book to be a real tearjerker.

The place that each girl experiences summer is different for each girl. We read about the beach, the city and the outback. But essentially the journey is all about change and self-realisation. The complexity of the plot comes from weaving the three stories together yet it still stays true to the summer journey coming of age story.

The Summer That Changed Everything is a story of friendship more than summer love. Yet love is a theme, love of your parents, love of your friends, your family, but above all love of yourself. There is a little romance but only that which is important to the characters' discovery of who they are.

Overall, I feel like I went on a journey with this book. I went from thinking "how am I ever going to read this?" to "wow, what a story! I am so glad I read this." Brashares conveyed the message inside this story with subtlety and emotion and completely won me over.

Thanks to Random House Children's Books for sending me the book to review.

Next week...
... is the last Summer Love Monday. There won't be a review. There will be a discussion post which reflects on the covers, themes and questions that have been running through the novels reviewed in this feature.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Stuff you might like to know about

This is one of those bits and pieces posts where I tell you about various things in the blogosphere.

The Eternal Ones sample chapters

If you read my review of The Eternal Ones and think it might be your kind of book, you can have a little try before you buy with these sample chapters. The book was released in the UK last week by Penguin Razorbill. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter 1 - http://pdfcast.org/pdf/the-eternal-ones-sampler-1
Chapter 2 - http://pdfcast.org/pdf/the-eternal-ones-sampler-2
Chapter 3 - http://pdfcast.org/pdf/the-eternal-ones-sampler-3

You can even watch the trailer!

Out for Blood sample chapter

If you’ve read My Love Lies Bleeding and Blood Feud and can’t wait for the next book by Alyxandra Harvey, you can read the first chapter of Out for Blood which is out in the UK in November.

Follow this link: http://www.bloomsbury.com/outforblood

The Contemps has launched!

A group of YA authors including the wonderful Sarah Ockler have just launched the Contemps website. You can check it out here: http://thecontemps.com/and and follow them on twitter @YAContemps

There is also a challenge with some great prizes so check out the website to find out more.

 Any New Books...

This is probably my favourite email of the week. Antonio got in touch to tell me about a new service he has set up. I’m going to let him tell you about it:

“Our service is free, aimed at book lovers, and is called 'Any new books?'; it allows email subscribers to receive weekly updates about new books covering the subjects they selected (from 42 available categories). The books are hand-picked from a list of new releases for a given week. You can check it out here: http://anynewbooks.com/

Finding out about new books? Yes, please! So go and subscribe. It’s free so why not?!

 Bloomsbury authors on tour

Don’t miss your chance to see some great authors out and about in the UK!

Cathy MacPhail, author of Underworld, Roxy’s Baby and a whole host of other action-packed titles will be at Edinburgh Festival on Monday 23rd August at 10am. To book your tickets call 0845 373 5888 or visit the website www.edbookfest.co.uk

Simmone Howell is making a rare visit from her native Australia for two appearances at Edinburgh Festival. The author of Notes from the Teenage Underground and Everything Beautiful will be running a workshop on Tuesday 24th August at 6pm and talking about her writing on Wednesday 25th August at 10am. To book your tickets call 0845 373 5888 or visit the website www.edbookfest.co.uk

Ian Beck (Pastworld) will be joining Philip Reeve at Edinburgh Festival on Wednesday 25th August at 5pm to talk steampunk and much more. To book your tickets call 0845 373 5888 or visit the website www.edbookfest.co.uk

Gemma Malley (The Declaration, The Resistance, The Returners and The Legacy) and Sophie Mackenzie will be appearing at Edinbugh Festival on Thursday 26th August at 6:30pm. To book your tickets call 0845 373 5888 or visit the website www.edbookfest.co.uk

Lucy Jago will be at Montacute House, the National Trust property that inspire her book of the same name, on Saturday 28th August at 2pm. She will be signing copies of her book. If you can’t make it, but would like to reserve a signed copy call 01935 823 289

Jim Carrington (Inside My Head) will be on a panel alongside Alex Diaz and C.J. Skuse, chaired by Julia Green (Drawing with Light) at the Bath Festival of Children’s Literature on Thursday 30th September at 8:30pm. To book your tickets call 01225 463 362 or visit the website www.bathkidslitfest.co.uk

Mary Hooper (Fallen Grace) and Celia Rees (Witch Child and The Fool’s Girl) will be talking all things historical at Cheltenham Festival on Saturday 16th October at 6pm. To book your tickets call 0844 576 7979 or visit the website www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

Celia Rees will be running a workshop on writing for teenagers at Cheltenham Festival on Sunday 17th October at 10am. Place are limited. To book your tickets call 0844 576 7979 or visit the website www.cheltenhamfestivals.com

I think that’s everything! Hope there’s something here for everyone.
The Bookette

Friday, 20 August 2010

Review: An Ice Cold Grave

Author: Charlaine Harris

Release date: UK 2008
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Target audience: Adult (**sexual content)

Books in the Harper Connelly series:
Book 1 Grave Sight - review
Book 2 Grave Surprise - review

Summary from Amazon:
Harper Connelly was struck by lightning as a teenager, and now she can find the dead. In her third case, Harper and Tolliver, her stepbrother, are hired to find a missing grandson. But the truth is far worse than a single dead child, for numerous teenage boys, all unlikely runaways, have disappeared from Doraville, North Carolina. Harper soon finds the eight bodies, buried in the half-frozen ground, but then, still reeling from coming into contact with her first serial killer, she is attacked and injured. Now she and Tolliver have no choice but to stay in Doraville while she recovers, and as she reluctantly becomes part of the investigation, she learns more than she cares to about the dark mysteries and long-hidden secrets of the town: knowledge that makes her the most likely person to be next to end up in an ice-cold grave.

Review Book 3 An Ice Cold Grave:
An Ice Cold Grave sees Harper Connelly and her non-biological brother Tolliver travel to South Carolina for a new case. This time Harper has been hired by Sherriff Rockwell on behalf of several families who would like her to locate the bodies of their sons. Boys have been disappearing from the town of Doraville for five years. The previous Sheriff Abe Madden believed that the boys had run away. But now six boys have disappeared and not a trace of them has been found. Jeff McGraw has been missing for three months and his grandmother Twyla Cotton has been integral in raising the money to pay for Harper’s services. She is a firm believer in Harper’s ability.

This is the darkest novel of the series so far. Harper who usually regards her line of work very professionally and clinically becomes emotionally involved as she learns what the missing boys have been through. She soon locates the site of the graves and is overwhelmed by the imprint of fear and suffering that each boy leaves behind. An Ice Cold Grave is a most appropriate title for this book as it left me chilled to the bone after reading it. I was actually quite disturbed by the depth of the evil that Harper uncovers. It is the crime that only your most frightening nightmares can produce.

The author does work in a lighter element to the story through the changing connection between Harper and Tolliver. Their bond finds a new and welcome dimension in this book. It had me smiling.

Charlaine Harris really knows how to lay red herrings and create a great unexpected plot without cheating the reader. The identity of the murderer is so wrapped up in twists and turns that I had no idea who it was. Overall, this book has cemented my love for this series. I am quite sad that I only have one more instalment to go. Great characterisation, intriguing and well-established back story, chilling plot, all make this book unputdownable!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Review: The Eternal Ones

Author: Kirsten Miller

Release date: 19th August 2010
Genre: Paranormal / Urban Fantasy
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Penguin Razorbill

Summary from Amazon:
Haven Moore has always known she's different: there are the talents that can't be explained; the knowledge of places she's never been; and then there are the visions that overwhelm her - terrifying visions of a life that ended tragically two decades earlier and more than a thousand miles away in New York City. The citizens of Haven's rural, highly religious community, believe that she's been possessed by a demon. But this is no demon: it's reincarnation. Haven journeys all the way to Manhattan in search of clues about her past life and a decades-old murder. One wrong move could lead her into the clutches of the sinister villain at the center of a conspiracy much larger than she could have ever imagined. But if she makes the right choices, Haven will find the answers she's been seeking her entire life. This is an epic and thrilling romance set in the snake-handling churches of Appalachia, the dusty ruins of ancient Rome, and the grand mansions of Manhattan. The Eternal Ones tells the story of the first battle in a war between undying love and eternal evil.

The Eternal Ones is the story of Haven who lives in Snope City, East Tennessee. It’s a small community with some very narrow-minded views. It is almost like it jumped right out of the witch trial era and got transported through time. Haven has always been a little different. Her childhood was saturated with visions of a man named Ethan until she was eight years old. Lately those visions started returning and her grandmother is convinced that she is possessed by a demon, perhaps even Satan himself. Haven’s best friend Beau is also an outsider in the town.

But Haven is not possessed. She is seeing her past life as Constance who was a member of the Ouroboros Society back in the 1920s. The OS is an organisation that supports those who have been reincarnated. The most special are the eternal ones. Those that bring with them gifts from their earlier lives. The gifts were actually not very supernatural which was a refreshing twist the genre.

The most frustrating part of reading this book was the characters’ decisions. Haven in particular, did some quite bizarre and irrational things that were perhaps necessary for the storyline but not necessarily believable.

However, the great thing about the plot of this novel was that the twists were very confusing and let you be fooled about who was betraying Haven. I had actually worked out about half-way through the novel who was the person behind all the murders but what I didn’t know until the end was why. Although this book is naturally about things that have gone before, it didn’t feel slow or drawn out. The pace was just right.

The Eternal Ones was a book that grew on me. The more I read, the more I got into it. The mysteries of the Ouroboros Society were intriguing and I hope that we get to see the early days of the society in future books. A mysterious, engrossing and sweeping love story, The Eternal Ones will surely be enjoyed by fans of the paranormal genre.

Thank you to Penguin Razorbill for sending me the book to review.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Review: The Summer I Turned Pretty [Summer Love Mondays 4]

The British weather may not be bellowing SUMMER from its sky but I am having such a great break. More on that another time....
So this week I read The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Author: Jenny Han
Release date: 3rd June 2010 UK
Target audience: 12+


The Summer I Turned Pretty is a whole bunch of summer memories interweaved with the story of the most important summer for Belly. This is the summer when everything changes. She has blossomed into a young woman and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Belly spends every summer at the Beach House with her mum and her brother Stephen and their mum’s best friend Susannah and her sons Jeremiah and Conrad. Conrad is the eldest. He is two years older than Belly and she has always had a crush on him. He is the secret love of her life and she lives for every summer when she can live the dream of him. To Conrad, Belly has always been Stephen’s younger sister. It hurts her to be constantly left out of the three boys’ games and their summer adventures. She was always the annoying tag-along, the butt of their jokes and the one who had to work to be a part of the fun.

But this summer so many things are different. Stephen is not staying for the whole summer. He is going with their dad to look at colleges. Conrad is volatile, absorbed by his own thoughts. Jeremiah, well, he is still Jeremiah. But Belly? She meets the intriguing Cam and finally has a summer to share with someone who wants her there.

The Summer I Turned Pretty was completing absorbing and I admired Belly’s honest narrative. She knows that growing up she was a pain to her brother and his friends by whiny, telling-tales and cramping his style. But I loved her and actually being a younger sibling I could totally sympathise. I’m sure my sister would tell you that I was the most annoying sibling in the whole entire world when we were growing up. She would probably be right. I do have a younger brother but there’s a ten year gap between us so for a long time I was the baby. Jenny Han captured what it feels like to be the youngest, the one who still has so much to learn and the one who is waiting to be different, older, wiser, prettier. For me she also got to the heart of teenage angst about body image and the lack of control you have over your body changing.

So Summer in this novel felt like it was two conflicting experiences. On the one hand you have Belly living for these summers where she gets to idolise Conrad and have her imaginary romance. This is the side of the coin where she wants everything to stay the same. And on the other hand there is the knowledge that this final summer will be different, she has changed and everyone sees it so will she finally get the summer of her fantasies. The landscape of the beach is not as present in the novel as you’d expect. What is there is beautifully described but Belly almost avoids the traditional experience this summer as she explores her connection with Cam.

Although this novel is about summer romance, it is actually not a romantic story or at least it wasn’t for me. It was more about self-discovery about who you were, who you are and who you will be. Of all the summer love stories I’ve read so far, this one is the most realistic because it is the journey of Belly getting to this point and not just a moment that won’t be lived again. I really loved this one. I found it honest.

Thank you to Penguin Razorbill for sending me the book to review.

For today's little extra, I have a question for you: Do you have a favourite summer memory? One that will stay with you a lifetime?
I have been racking my brains trying to answer this one myself. I can't think of a single summer that transformed changed me into the person I am although I do have special memories from a whole host of summers.
There was the summer when I left school and went on holiday with my mum, my brother and my friend Alexandra. We stayed in a caravan. We got shockingly sun burnt (only time I've ever been that stupid) and had to stay wrapped up in cotton sheets for two days.
There was the summer I went to Minorca with my step-sister and had an amazing time. I was nursing a broken heart LOL so my dad sent us off on a holiday. I think I became a stronger person that summer. I decided I would be more independent. I would write more. I would just be me.
Probably my favourite summer was when I was much younger and my family (minus my dad) and my grandparents went to a holiday camp. I think it was Butlins but I'd have to check with mum to be sure. My grandad (who meant the whole world to me) won me this yellow monkey on a grabber machine thingy. Oh I love that monkey and I still have it. I spent most of the holiday in the pool with my sister who really is a mermaid. Actually my big sis is coming back home in the next two weeks for good. It is so exciting. Soon I will be able to just hop in the car and drive and be able to see her any time I want. Yay!
Share with me a summer memory in the comments (if you're not too shy).

Friday, 13 August 2010

Review: Candor

Author: Pam Bachorz

Release date: 2nd August 2010 UK
Genre: Dystopia/ Psychological Thriller
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
My name is Oscar and I am the perfect teenager. My girlfriend is the hottest girl in school. I get straight As. I am class president. But there is a terrible reason I am so perfect: the Messages. Oscar Banks lives in the pristine town of Candor. Son of the mayor, he is good-looking, smart and popular. And he knows something he's not supposed to - he knows about the brainwashing Messages embedded in the music that plays all over the town. But Oscar has found a way to burn counter-Messages that keep him real. Up to now, it's all worked perfectly. There's just one problem: Nia Silva, the newest Candor arrival. What will Oscar risk to keep the Nia he loves rather than watch her become a Candor automaton? Deeply chilling, "Candor" is a psychological thriller that will haunt readers with its vision of a world controlled by something worse than Big Brother.

Candor is a chilling story about mind control. Oscar Banks is the perfect teenage boy. He lives in Candor and is everything a Candor boy should be. His Dad is the town’s creator and has made his dream of a safe, crime-free, orderly place to live come true. You could say that it is a big conspiracy by the parents to control their children into becoming “moral, obedient” citizens but they too are being controlled. The only difference is that the parents choose to be controlled. The children are changed beyond recognition without their consent.

How is this achieved? Through subliminal messages. What an idea! It couldn’t be any more cool if it tried. I love the concept for this book.

The Messages are hidden in music. The music is so low that the brain doesn’t really register that it is hearing it. The Messages are absorbed by the subconscious mind and communicate certain rules to live by. This could be something as innocent as “Never litter. Keep Candor beautiful”. Or it could be something much more sinister. Either way the freedoms of the children are removed and so they do not do all the things that are what we perceive to be normal teenage behaviours.

Why do parents take their children to Candor? They want them to have successful lives. They might want to stop their child becoming obese, using drugs, becoming a criminal. They have the best of intentions.

This novel explores questions of morality, of civil liberties and of parental relationships. It is quite fascinating. I should tell you more about Oscar. He appears to be Candor-fied through and through but actually it is all an act. He knows about the Messages and is creating his own. He orders himself to remember the Messages and to stay independent in his thoughts. He helps new Candor children escape for a price. Oscar’s voice is immensely convincing. He thinks exactly as I imagine teenage boys do.

The plot is engrossing and the ending is ummm... well... spot on but I can’t say much more without ruining it for you. For those who love dystopia and novels which raise questions about contemporary society, this one is for you. A creepy novel that will make you shudder all the way through!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Review: The Unit

Author: Ninni Holmquist

Translator: Marliane Delargy
Release date: UK 2010, Sweden 2006
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: Adult (**sexual content)

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'.
The Unit is at once a painful book to read and yet remarkably absorbing. It is so believable that it horrified me. Once I finished reading it, I felt like a swimming pool inflatable with all the air let out, left to bob hopelessly under a darkened sky. The story (which is a first person narrative) tells us about Dorrit who has just turned fifty and is taken to the unit. Any woman who gets to the age of fifty and any man who gets to the age of sixty without having any dependents are classed as dispensible. This means that if they do not have any children or a partner to say that they are needed and loved then they are required to give themselves over to the unit. There are units all over Sweden.

When Dorrit arrives at the unit, she is angry and frightened but surprised by how much luxury they are given. The unit is a vast and considerable dome in which the residents have their own bedrooms and kitchenettes. There is a cinema, a library, a theatre, a garden that is constantly in bloom, a state of the art sports facility and multiple restaurants. Each resident is given the opportunity to spend their free time pursuing their own personal interest. Dorrit’s friend Majken is an artist and is planning an exhibition of her work in the unit’s gallery. The unit is highly civilised but in every possible place there are cameras and microphones. Everything that the residents do and say is observed and monitored.

Every month new dispensibles arrive and are given a welcome party. For the first four days in the unit, the residents are given free time to adjust and find their equilibrium. Then they go through a day of rigorous assessment. They go through every possible test, blood, tissue, DNA, and that is followed by a gruelling fitness test. The data is used by the scientists and researchers in the unit to assign experiments for the dispensables to take part in. Some of the experiments are risk free about measuring levels of fatigue after exercising for example, some of the experiments are psychological and some are quite frankly terrifying – like being used to test the effects gases used in chemical weapons.

The dispensible go through various stages in their time in the unit. Each person ends their days with their final donation. That is to say their vital organs are taken and given to a candidate in the outside world who needs them. The people in the outside world are the “needed”. They serve society in one way or another.

I could go on explaining how things work but this review would be dissertation length. The other defining thing about this society is that the oppression of women is illegal. I know that sounds like a wonderful thing but remember this book is dystopian and even something that should be empowering can be distorted and corrupt.

One of the things that really struck me about this book is that you could see that this concept had so much potential to actually happen. As people in our society age, we become burdened by the need to look after them. This book offers one way to eradicate that problem. It frightened me in its believability. If one chooses to live without a family, without a partner, one is effectively condemned to incarceration (leading to abuse and death) at a set date. What vile horror!

The other thing that struck me is that Dorrit comes to think of the way the unit treats them as humane. I was reading it thinking, yes, they do treat you well, but you need to ask why! The dispensible become institutionalised.

Overall, The Unit is powerful, beautifully written and conceptually amazing. Not an uplifting read but certainly a thought-provoking one.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Review: Twenty Boy Summer [Summer Love Mondays 3]

It is week three of Summer Love Mondays and I am back from my very relaxing cottage holiday. The weather was dry but overcast for much of it. I spent a lot of time reading. One of the books I read was Twenty Boy Summer and it was a gem of a book.

Author: Sarah Ockler

Release date: 2009
Genre: Summer Romance, Realism
Target audience: 12+
Twenty Boy Summer is a fragile, beautiful and touching story. Anna is best friends with siblings Matt and Frankie. They have grown up together and are inseparable. Anna has been in love with Matt since she was ten. On her fifteenth birthday they finally share a kiss and Anna’s heart is full to bursting with joy. Matt asks Anna not to tell Frankie. He wants to protect Frankie from getting hurt. For one month Matt and Anna sneak tiny moments together whenever they can. But then just before Matt and Frankie are due to go to California on holiday Matt tragically dies. The whole world falls off its axis for Frankie and her family. Anna is left keeping the secret and grieving for a boy that everyone believes was just her friend.

A year later, Frankie’s parents invite Anna to go to California with them for a holiday. Frankie on her road of supreme self-confidence devises a plan that this should be the best summer ever. It will be the summer of twenty boys and many firsts for Anna. But Anna has already fallen in love with Matt. How long can she keep the secret from Frankie?

Summer is so vividly described in this book that you can the salty crust of ocean spray from the Californian ocean waves. You can feel the cool, damp sand as your toes burrow beneath the surface, the scent of sun cream as people lay on the beach bronzing. This novel had a such a power to evoke the atmosphere of holiday and the potential that it holds for one to discover something new. When you are away from your normal daily life, somehow you can find a new perspective, resolve to make a change or just be more adventurous than you usually are.

As well as being about loss and friendship, this novel is also about summer romance. At the start of the trip Anna is apprehensive about Frankie’s idea for twenty potential male candidates for them to test drive. But once they get to Zanibar Bay, they meet Sam and Jake. Despite Anna’s fears that letting another boy in will erase her last memories of Matt, she can’t stop thinking about Sam from the Smoothie Shack.

This book had me reading through blurry eyes for much of it. I could feel Anna’s grief so painfully as she wrote in her journal or remembered a funny story about Matt. It also had me yearning for the ocean and those days where the sea can invigorate you into someone just a little braver or smarter or funnier. Twenty Boy Summer is a book that is perfect for all seasons, not just summer. It is simply beautiful.

Source: www.authorsnow.com
Sarah Ockler's Top Five Things to Love about Summer

1. Sitting around a campfire

2. Lying in the grass at night and watching for shooting stars

3. Ice cream cones that drip down over your fingers

4. Walking out of an air conditioned store into the warm summer air
5. Sitting on the beach with someone you love and listening to the ocean shush against the shore
Thanks for sharing Sarah! I completely agree with number 5. Listening to the sea rolling in would definitely make my list of Top 5.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Review: Time Riders: Day of the Predator

Author: Alex Scarrow

Release date: 5th August 2010
Genre: Science-Fiction, Adventure, Time Travel, YA
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 2029. But all three have been given a second chance – to work for an agency that no-one knows exists. Its purpose - to prevent time travel destroying history . . . When Maddy mistakenly opens a time window where and when she shouldn’t have, Liam is marooned sixty-five million years ago in the hunting ground of a deadly - and until now - undiscovered species of predator. Can Liam make contact with Maddy and Sal before he's torn to pieces by dinosaurs – and without endangering history so much that the world is overtaken by a terrifying new reality?
Time Riders: Day of the Predator is Alex Scarrow’s second action-packed time travel adventure. This time around Liam, Maddy and Sal receive an incomplete communication from the future detailing a contamination event. Time has been rewritten and the message states that is appears to be a result of the assassination of Edward Chan. The team agree that Liam and the new support unit must use a portal to go back to the suspected point of Chan’s assassination and assess the situation. The mission does not go to plan and as the title suggests poor Liam finds himself getting up close and personal with dinosaurs.

In this instalment there are many tantalising hints about the agency that recruited the team. Who are they? Will the team ever get to meet them? Or are they truly alone in battle to keep the true line of history unfolding? It is all very mysterious and keeps you constantly guessing.

Liam, Maddy and Sal all begin to show the qualities that made them stand out as perfect for their roles as the field office team. Liam is constantly thinking fast and outside of the box, using his intuition to make decisions. Maddy is thinking ahead in multiple moves like a chess player – every part the strategist. Sal is deciphering, monitoring, and fulfilling her duties as the team’s observer. Although it has to be said when time changes dramatically, she’d have to be an amoeba not to notice it.

As I was reading Day of the Predator, I felt like I was getting lots of glimmers of the future of the series. It was so exciting and also rather frustrating because I couldn’t help but want those secrets to be revealed now! The last twist in the book didn’t come as a surprise for me, Scarrow had given many hints in the first book for this but it did leave me with so many questions: How? Why? When? I know this is cryptic but you will have to read it if you want to know more. The next stop for Time Riders is Robin Hood. I am so so crazy to read it but it isn’t out until February 2011. I really hope there is a kick-butt Maid Marion!

Day of the Predator is a rip-roaring adventure. As the reader, you have to hold on tight as you are thrown out through the time portal and into new worlds and have to get your head around the huge concept that is time travel. I really love that this series explores really big questions surrounding our humanity, our rights, our freedoms and conspiracy theories. It is quite fascinating and mind-blowing if you let yourself think about it too much. But above all, this is just a huge ride on the wild side. Pure imaginative fun!

Thanks to Puffin Books for sending me the review copy.