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Friday, 26 February 2010

Stuff I want you to know about...

This is one of those mixture posts where I tell you about a few random things!

London (or nearby) YA people!
Firstly, I want YA bloggers living in or around London (or those willing to travel) to hop on over to Once Upon A Book Case. Jo has been picking my frazzled brain about a bloggers meet up. I decided I'm not going to the General Book Bloggers one. I don't want to be going home from London late at night. Hey people, safety first! So anyway she has more info on her post and some YA authors have shown an interest so you really should check it out HERE. Come on! Surely you want to know if I'm secretly a mutant bird kid posing as a librarian. This will be your opportunity to find out.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
Next week is a hugely big week for me. It is book week at my school and my chance to wow everyone with my super-librarianess. (Or at least enthuse everyone about books for a whole week). So I'm actually going to be crazy busy and probably not going to have much free time. I don't think I'll have time to read as many posts and leave comments. What I will be doing at the end of the week is telling you all about my week's highlights. And just maybe I'll be having a special contest to share the bookish love with you all too. I'll miss you guys but I will schedule a few posts so you won't know I'm gone. If anyone is interested in the work that is involved in planning a book week, leave me a comment and I'll do a post about that too. I guess you'll only be interested if you're thinking about becoming a school librarian.

Welcome to some UK YA Newbies!
It is always nice to have new bloggers join our community. I want to draw your attention to some new UK people and to give a huge Bookette wave to these newbies! "Hi guys! If you ever have a question, don't be afraid to ask! I once got an email telling me that I'm actually really nice. I don't know why this person thought I would not be." If you haven't checked out these blogs, please do:

Ryan @ Empire of Books
Rhiana @ Rhiana Reads
Kirsty @ The Book Mogul
Iman @ Overbooked
Sarah @ Sarah's Reviews 

The Online Book Bloggers Conference
I finally signed up for it. Yes, I paid about £13.50 and if I learn one thing I'll be happy. Of course, I'll share that one thing with you. I am in no way endorsing this thing. I am just taking a chance on it. Here is the link again if you're interested: http://www.romanceinthebackseat.com/bbpcon.html If you have a question that relates to international blogging specifically, let me know. I will pass on your query on to the organiser.

And finally, a question!
What do you think of The Bookette visually? I'm thinking I might save up and get a proper design for the blog. Any recommedations for blog designers and a rough estimate of cost? Or do you love me just the way I am LOL?

I'll miss you guys next week but I'll still be here for IMM. Do not despair!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Review: Fang (Maximum Ride Book 6)

Author: James Patterson
Genre: Action / Thriller ??? (suggestions please!)
Release date: 4th February 2010 UK
Target Audience: 10+

This is the first time I've reviewed part of this series on my blog. I think it is only fair that I give you five reasons why I'm a Maximum Ride addict.

Five reasons to love Maximum Ride:
1) Mutant bird kids with attitude. Hello beautiful bird wings and a huge chip on the shoulder. Max and her flock are 98% human 2% bird.
2) Mutant bird kids kick some serious evil scientist ass! Max is our leader and yay she is a girl! She doesn't wash enough, brush here hair enough and she can't cook. But she is super strong and the bird-kid equivalent of a Ferrari. She has a huge problem with authority and anyone in a white coat. Go Maximum!
3) Fang - who does not love Fang? He's your silent, lacking emotional facial expressions, second-in-command and mysterious type. He even has a blog. Go Fang! (My absolute favourite character).
4) Cliffhanger chapter endings every time. It makes this series impossible to put down. Like seriously, my hands just refuse to stop turning pages.
5) All out action. You can barely take a breath reading these books because the action is not-stop.

Yep, it is true. I'm a mutant bird kid addict!!! I want my own flock. Applicants apply below!

Now, in the interests of balance. It is only fair that I give you five reasons to not read this series.

Five reasons to hate Maximum Ride with a passion:
1) No description. I mean these books are seriously lacking in the description department.  When I was reading the first few pages of The Angel Experiment, my mind was like "what is this nonsense?" It takes a while to get the hang of reading without the pretty writing.
2) No peace. Every time part of the story is resolved it is swiftly followed by another crisis. Bad guys with guns, scary mutants that are not bird kids, evil scientist dudes. You get the picture. There is not time to just sit and love the characters.
3) Repetition. Each book is the same. Nothing really changes. It is the same plot over and over and over.
4) Angel. She is so annoying with her little "I should be the leader complex". I find it frustrating. She is no angel people.
5) Unanswered questions. For Max and for the reader. I just want to know how exactly Max is meant to save the world! I'm pretty sure she does too.

Warning: This review is a bit out there crazy-wise!

Now for the all important review of Fang:
Did I mention that he is my favourite character? Oh, I did. Okay so any book which is titled with his name has got my undying attention. This book finds the flock in Africa trying to publicise the humanitarian crisis in Chad. Of course, who happens to be there waiting for them? Yes, you guessed it! Another evil scientist. Bad, bad scientist wants to do more experiments on Max and the flock to speed up their genetic advancement. What does Max do? She tells the mad man where he can put his needle and gets the hell out of there. Go Max!

But there is a more sinister problem in this book. That nutty doctor has created Max's perfect mate: Dylan. One hunky blond mutant bird kid. But the flock were a one-off, weren't they? Scary stuff. Trouble is, this Dylan is hot! Poor Max, he has been made to fit her perfectly. So what does she do? Avoids him like the plague. And Fang? Of course, she loves Fang. HELLO! How could she not be in utter, complete, turn your mutant wings upside down LOVE with him? Then there is the tiny little problem of the prophetic Angel saying quite categorically that Fang will be the first to die and it will be soon. Hell NO! NO! NO! Did I mention that he was my favourite character?!

This book is an action-packed, rollercoaster with lots of the usual mysterious and dark scienitifc goings-on. Of course, it has humour. Max has such a great voice. I love reading the story from her stubborn and determined perspective. I don't want to tell you what happens. If you love this series like I do, once you've read the first few chapters you'll be completely absorbed. I will tell you that I actually cried at the end. I cried at Maximum Ride. I bow my head in shame. What can I say? I'm total mutant bird kid addict. I'm very attached to these characters. Yes, of course this is an appalling written series but it is action-packed and really entertaining. Read Fang if you've loved the other books!


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Captivate

This meme is hosted by the lovely Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm waiting on:

Captivate by Carrie Jones
Released by Bloomsbury UK on April 5th 2010.

I reviewed Need just a couple of weeks ago. You can read it here. I really enjoyed it so now I cannot wait for the UK release of the sequel.

Here's the blurb from Bloomsbury.com:


A sequel to the US paranormal smash hit Need, which has teens everywhere thinking about pixies in a very different way . . .



Zara and her friends knew they hadn’t solved the pixie problem for good. Far from it. The king’s needs grow deeper every day he’s stuck in captivity, while his control over his people becomes weaker. It’s made him vulnerable. And now there’s a new king in town.

A turf war is imminent. The new pixie king is moving in quickly. He swears that he and Zara are destined to be together, that he’s one of the good guys. Zara isn’t so sure. Despite herself, she wants to trust the new king, but there’s a lot more than her relationship with boyfriend Nick at stake. It’s her life – and his.

Also, you can read Chapter 1 here.

I love it when the sequel comes out so soon after the first book. It's awesome!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Spider Contest

Hey guys! Here I am with another awesome contest courtesy of the wonderful people at Strident Publishing.

I have one copy of Spider by Linda Strachan to giveaway.
(I haven't even read this one myself but I think it is against the rules to enter your own contest.) This is certainly going on to my wishlist. Brilliant premise!

Summary from Amazon.co.uk:
To enter the contest:
A hard-hitting, provocative novel about teenage love, loyalty and fast cars. Spider is an adrenaline-fuelled ride - a glimpse into a life spinning out of control. Spider is on his last warning. If he's caught joyriding again he'll be sent down, no questions asked. He's trying to stick to the straight and narrow but his girlfriend Deanna and mate Andy reckon he should risk one last run.


Please complete the form below.
As I am hosting this contest on behalf of Strident, I will need to forward the postal details of the winner to them.
Please remember to check the Contest and Giveaways Policy for further guidelines.
•Open internationally
•Closing date: Tuesday 9th March 2010 midnight GMT


UPDATE:

If the form is not working for you, enter by emailing me (thebookette @ googlemail.com) with the following info:

First Name
Surname
Email Address (or if you're under 16, provide an email address for a parent / guardian)
State if you are under 16
Confirm that if you are the winner I can pass the info to Strident.

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Song Quest Campaign

Song Quest is the first book in the Echorium Sequence by Katherine Roberts. It was first published by Element in 1999, then by Chicken House in 2000 in the UK and the following year by Scholastic in the US.

Song Quest is a wonderful fantasy novel which I simply adore. It was the book that made me fall in love with Young Adult Literature. I am devastated that it is now out of print. I know my students would love it. Thus, I am campaigning to get the novel back in print.

Here is the book summary from the author's website:
When a ship is wrecked on the Isle of Echoes, novice Singer Rialle hears the cries of the fish-tailed merlee, who are being hunted by the mainlanders. She is sent with a Singer delegation across the sea to the Karch, where she discovers her rival, the runaway Kherron, has been tricked by the Khizpriest into helping the enemy. Only by working together can the two young Singers rescue the merlee and return to the Echorium to break the power of the dark crystal.

Song Quest was the first ever winner of the Branford Boase Award back in 2000. Other prestigious winners include, Meg Rosoff - How I Live Now, Siobhan Dowd - Pure Swift Cry and Jenny Downham - Before I Die

Here is a quote from one of the judges from the original press release in 2000:
‘I thought it was an utterly magical book. Katherine Roberts invents a very detailed imaginary world, there are so many deft, exciting and original touches. I raced through it, occasionally moved to tears.’ The judge was Jacqueline Wilson, who is now the patron of The Brandford Boase Award. 

There are 15 five star reviews of this book on Amazon. 

My own review of Song Quest is here.

This wonderful novel is currently touring other UK blogs. Here are links to their reviews:
April 2010 - I Want To Read That
May 2010 - The Book Bug
May 2010 - Gal Novelty

I recently hosted a cover design contest for bloggers to give Song Quest a fresh new look and the chance to win a signed copy of the second book in the Echorium Sequence - Crystal Mark. The design entries I received are here. The winner was announced here

Please help me to get the novel back in print by:
  • Buying one of the few copies available through Amazon Market place
  • Writing a review of the book
  • Reading and commenting on the reviews from other bloggers and readers
  • Entering the cover design contest
  • Checking out Katherine's website and following her blog
  • Linking to this post or mentioning this campaign on your blog
  • Emailing me  (thebookette @ googlemail.com) with other ideas of ways to promote this campaign
Thanks to everyone for their support!
The Bookette

Review: Restoring Harmony

Author: Joëlle Anthony
Release date: 13th May 2010 US
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Penguin USA:
The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.


Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

Review:
Restoring Harmony is a different kind of dystopia. This book gave me no fear of an impending doom. It almost showed me an idyllic scene of a future which returned human society to subsitence living. But I'm misleading you, 2041 does not mean life amid a rural countryside. We have not stepped into Lark Rise or Candleford (for those non-British readers this is an period drama adaptation of a novel by Flora Thompson which details the life in a English Hamlet and neighbouring town). Post-collapse America proves to be a tough existence for all those people not blessed to be part of the aristocracy. The oil has run out. There is nothing to fuel cars. Travel is a test of extreme survival. Enter our spirited 16 year old heroine Molly who has to journey from her small Canadian island to Portland, Oregon having barely any money and not being of legal age to cross the border. The journey tests Molly both emotionally and physically.

Molly is a brilliant narrator who is easy to love from the first page. She has lived on a farm with her family all her life and it is clear that her heart belongs there with the people and places that she loves. Molly's journey is not a naive girl's adventure but a necessity for her mother's health. Along her journey she meets the lovely Spill, a man of mystery who offers the hand of friendship. His presence brings a tender aspect to the novel and certainly gave me the dream of hope for both of their survival.

The plot obviously involved much moving from one destination to another; however, it was swift and gripping. For once, I enjoyed the experience of travel with a character. Molly's resourcefulness really made her journey a pleasure to read about and I really could not put the book down. Her voice is so easy to adore.

Overall, Restoring Harmony is an unusually easy dystopia to read. There are undoubtedly hardships and injustices in this novel. A future in which all the power resides with governments and organised crime agenices is perhaps one we should all fear. Yet there is a beautiful feeling in this book that people are returning to the land, to nuture the world in order to survive. It is an idea that I'm quite enamoured with. This is a wonderful story of survival, of friendship, of family and love. A brilliant read!


NB: A special thanks to Joelle for allowing me to borrow her ARC.
Also, just want you all to know that there is a much more articulate review of this brilliant book @ I Was A Teenage Book Geek. Lauren is not only one of my favourite bloggers but a dytopian expert and she says all you need to know about this book much better than I can.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Blogger Pay it Forward

A good while back Jill @ The O.W.L posted about this little gifting scheme. I asked to take part as I love sharing bloggy love.

What happens?
I write this post. I need three people to comment saying they would like to take part. I send you a little gift (not a book because that would be heavy to send anywhere in the world). Soon after you receive the gift, you write a post just like this one and pass on gifts to three other people. I have been a bit slow in doing this.

Shimples! (Who else is addicted to the meerkat advert?)

So the first three commentators saying they wish to take part will be sent the gifts. Once you've commented, please email me with an address to post the gift to (under 16s check with parent / guardian first please). You can live around the corner or on the other side of the world. This Blogger Pay it Forward is international.

Any questions? I'm hoping this post makes sense but I'm not convinced.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Review: Magic Under Glass

Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Release date: 1st February 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 12+

Review:
Summary from Bloomsbury.com:
Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act – singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life.



In Parry’s world, however, buried secrets stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry’s involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport.


When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton’s stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

There is an elegant feel to Magic Under Glass as if it should be a delightful piece of art that should be cared for and admired. Nimira, a "trouser" girl, is employed by the debonair Hollins to perform with his automaton pianist. As I think of this now, I feel a little sad that this adventurous and brave young woman is employed to accompany a machine. She comes from a different land and in a way, she too is a curiosity like the automaton to be gawped at and not really admired for her musical ability. This novel takes us into a realm of mystery and magic, of cultural differences, prejudice, power and ultimately of love. The automaton is not a machine but an enchantment which imprisons Erris, a fairy.
 
Magic Under Glass drew me in with Nimira's strong voice. She commands the book and is at its very heart. A character who is not living in her native land and has lost so much, her family and her home, yet she is emotionally strong and it is that strength that is vital to this story. I'm sure if I had been one of the girls Hollins employed to sing with the automaton, I would have been out of the door before his mechanical eyes even blinked. I am accursed with the power of an overactive imagination. Luckily, it is Nimira who narrates this story and not me and so as I read with her, I found myself falling for the mystery that was Erris. Nimira really is a character to aspire to be like.
 
The plot of this novel is fairly simple but it is the way that it is conveyed that makes this book so gloriously beautiful. The description is wonderful. The only part of the writing which I found a little stiff was the argument scene between Nimira and Hollins. The dialogue felt unnatural and pained but only in this small part of the book.
 
Overall, Magic Under Glass is an elegant magical tale which takes us on a journey of love and teaches us to stand up for what we believe in. A beautiful debut novel that will be enjoyed by fans of fantasy, historical fantasy and love stories. Highly recommended!
 
NB: Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me the book to review.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Bad Faith Contest Winner

I am pleased to announce that the winner of Bad Faith by Gillian Philip is Sarah of Sarah's Reviews.

Sarah, I'm going to send you an email shortly.

Thanks to everyone who entered. More contests on the way soon!

A big thanks to Strident Publishing for asking me to host this contest too!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fool's Girl

This week I am waiting for a historical adventure:

The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees
Released 5th April 2010 in the UK, Bloomsbury

Summary from Amazon:
Violetta and Feste have come to London to rescue the holy relics taken from the church in Illyria by the evil Malvolio. Their journey has been long and their adventures many, but it is not until they meet the playwright William Shakespeare that they get to tell the entire story from beginning to end! But where will this remarkable tale ultimately lead Violetta and her companion? And will they manage to save themselves, and the relics from the very evil intentions of Malvolio?

You can read the first chapter here.

I love the premise for this. Any book that includes the remarkable Mr Shakespeare is a must. Thanks to Emma @ Bloomsbury for telling me all about this book. I can't wait to read it.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Review: Need

Author: Carrie Jones
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Urban Fantasy
Release date: 1st February 2010
Target audience: 11+

Review:
Summary from Amazon:
Zara collects phobias the way other high school girls collect Facebook friends. It's little wonder, since she's had a fairly rough life. Her father left when she was a baby, her stepfather just died and her mother's almost given up - in fact, she's sent her to live with her grandmother in cold and sleepy Maine to 'keep Zara safe'. Zara doesn't think she's in danger; she thinks her mother just can't cope. Zara's wrong. The man she sees everywhere - the tall, creepy guy who points at her from the side of the road - is not a figment of her imagination. He's a pixie. But not the cute, sweet kind with little wings. Maine's got a whole assortment of unbelievable creatures. And they seem to need something - something from Zara...
Need was the perfect read for me while I was feeling under the weather with my cold. Zara's story is told in such an easy to follow way that even my fuzzy, snotty brain could enjoy it. The story opens with Zara on her way to Maine to live with her gran. Her mum is willing to try anything to help Zara come to terms with the death of her step-dad and try to begin to open the empty shell that Zara has become. Arriving in Maine, life begins to turn from monochrome to colour as Zara begins to allow herself to connect with humanity. Fear of loss has the power to paralyse any person if they let it.

Zara is an eccentric and rather adorable character. She chants phobias in order to calm and conquer her fears. There are just so many things that people are afraid of and I love that Zara considers so many of them as logical. She also volunteers for Amnesty International and it was great to have a heroine who looks beyond her own life and considers the suffering of others. At her new school in Maine Zara finds friendship with Issie and Devyn. More importantly, she meets the very hot and athletic Nick and speedy Ian. Of course no teen book would be complete without the beautiful snide bully and in Need that character is Megan.

The plot of Need raced along absorbing me in both the detail of the supernatural creatures but also the teen angst of falling in love and starting over. It wasn't particularly original but that didn't bother me at all. I enjoyed the fact that what I wanted to happen did happen. There was a comfort in the predictablity. Any fans of YA paranormal romances should enjoy this book and pixies are a refreshing change from vampires.

Overall, I really enjoyed Need and cannot wait for the UK publication of Captivate. This book filled my need of comfort reading while I was a virus infested mess. Great quirky characters, a simple and gripping plot, hot supernatural creatures are the perfect remedy for fans of this genre. Highly recommended!


Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me the book to review.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Charlaine Harris UK Tour

I thought this would be all over the blogosphere by now but apparently not...

The lovely Kate @Waterstones tweeted Charlaine Harris UK Book Tour dates!

I am going to this one with hubby where there will be a talk and a signing:

An Evening with Charlaine Harris
A Touch of Dead: A Sookie Stackhouse Collection
The Prince Charles Cinema, 7 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BY
Tuesday, 9 March 2010, 6:30PM - 10.30 PM
Tickets £8 available from The Prince Charles Cinema in person, or box office 020 7494 3654
 
But there are two more:
 
A Touch of Dead: A Sookie Stackhouse Collection
WATERSTONE'S NOTTINGHAM BRIDLE
Wednesday, 10 March 2010, 12:00PM - 2:00PM
 
Grave Secret
WATERSTONE'S MANCHESTER DEANSG
Wednesday, 10 March 2010, 7:00PM

More information can be found on here.

I am so excited! I feel a Charlaine Harris readathon coming on. Let me know if you're going to be at the London event.

Review: The Midnight Guardian

Author: Sarah Jane Stratford
Genre: Historical Fantasy / Vampire Fiction
Release date: October 2009
Target audience: Adult


Summary from Amazon:
Although it is not the vampire way to interfere with human politics, they remember the destruction of the first World War. Their food supply was badly depleted, leading to a vampire famine, and a devastating vampire war. When London's vampire tribunal senses that Hitler is paving the way for another human war, they are determined to break the spine of the Nazis before much more damage is done. But as they delve deep into Hitler's war machine, they discover that the Nazis are more monstrous than they ever imagined, and that they are more encumbered by their inhumanity than they ever thought.

Review:
The Midnight Guardian certainly has an intriguing premise. Set amid the Second World War, the vampires of Britain elect to interfere with the affairs of the humans in the hope of turning the tide in favour of England and its allies. There are some captivating parts to this novel, in particular the depth of the vampire's history and the background to their condition. Also, the way each vampires uses its different abilities to seduce their prey was fascinating and simlutaneously creepy. Despite the original premise and well-depicted landscape to this novel, I found it really hard to read because of the manner in which the story unfolds. Each chapter moves back or forward in time telling part of the story. It alternates between revealing the vampires' past, their decisions during the conflict and then the immediate story of Brigit. This stopped me connecting with the story because at the end of each chapter, you left one time and space and moved to another. It left me with no feeling of wanting to read on. So I spent more than a week reading this book desperately trying to let it capture my attention but it never quite succeeded.

Brigit is the main character whose journey we experience through the novel. She is a millenial vampire from whence the title of the book comes and thus has the added protection of age. Vampires who have not yet crossed the 1000 year threshold are more vulnerable to attack. Brigit is an interesting character who struggles to contain her rage. Throughout the novel we are allowed into Brigit's thoughts and reflections upon the humans she meets and this cold and derisive voice was at times hard to relate to. I think of other vampires in fiction and the ones that I most relate to are those that wish they were human.

The plot moves slowly as we move through the alternating time periods and locations. The parts when Brigit are on the train from Berlin are particularly slow. This perhaps echoes her frustration that the journey seems to be never-ending. I shared this frustration. I wanted to get to the action, to understand what the vampires hoped to achieve in Berlin. I'm not sure I even understood this by the end of the novel and I think Brigit felt the same.

Overall, I did like this book. There was a depth to the world Stratford depicted. For me the main failing of the book was in its method of telling. I would rather have journeyed with Brigit in chronological order beginning with the tribunal and ending with the end. (I don't want to give it away). I really did want to love this book. It has my absolute favourite cover. I tried to love it but I failed.


Monday, 8 February 2010

Authors - Home and Away (1)

Welcome to the first edition of a new feature at The Bookette: Authors - Home and Away. Contrasting the lives of authors from the UK with authors abroad. The inspiration for this feature came from Australian author Kate Forsyth who is one of my guinea pigs today and also from my love of the Australian soap Home and Away. I am seriously addicted to it.

The authors:
Home: Alex Bell, an established UK author who is debuting in the YA arena this month
Away: Kate Forsyth, an Australian author who has written many fantasy books which are published around the world

Alex Bell's UK YA Debut Novel: Lex Trent Versus The Gods - Just released on February 4th 2010

Law student Lex Trent’s world is inhabited by fearsome magicians, ageing crones and a menagerie of Gods and Goddesses. And while Lex is seemingly dedicated to his legal studies he’s always enjoyed a challenge – which is why he leads a double life as the notorious cat burglar ‘The Shadowman’ who has been (luckily) evading capture for years.



But Lex’s luck is about to run out because the Goddess of Fortune has selected him to be her player in the highly dangerous Games. Losing is not an option for Lex (particularly as it so often involves dying) but can he really win each of the perilous rounds? Given that the reward for doing so is money, fame and glory – all things that Lex is quite keen on – he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure he will... and he’s certainly got good experience of cheating.

Kate Forsyth's The Puzzle Ring is currently on blog tour and you can read my review here and find all the links to purchase a copy.

Hannah Rose Brown is twelve years old when she finds out that her family is cursed. Desperate to find the truth about her father's disappearance, she travels to her ancestral home in Scotland, and discover a chain of dark secrets that plunge her into different worlds, timeframes and dangers.




Home
I hand over to Alex so she can share her life here in the UK with us.

1. Me looking smug at my local Waterstones, with Lex Trent hot off the press.

2. About to go for a walk with my harlequin Great Dane, Moose, where she will be admired by all who see her.

3. Moose coming with me to the front gate to fetch the post.

4. My rickety old writing desk, positively overflowing with weird, ghoulish things for me to amuse myself with when the writing grinds to a halt!

Away
Kate's turn to show us how life is on the other side of the world.

1. My desk with my computer (showing my website www.kateforsyth.com.au ) with a view of the garden. That’s my dog Jessie. She’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback. My sister owns her mum, and my father owns her grandmother – so Jessie is the grand-daughter of the dog my father I had when I was a kid. I have a lot of animals in my books, perhaps because my father was a vet.

2. My bookcase, which runs along the wall on the left side of my desk. You will notice books with intriguing titles like ‘An Encyclopaedia of Fairies’, ‘Fire Burn: Tales of Witchery’, ‘Folk Tales and Fairy Lore of Scotland’, ‘The Malleus Maleficarium’, ‘The Book of Curses’ and ‘A History of Torture’. I remember once a curious neighbour coming to visit and seeing my reference library – she was quite shocked! Yet I believe a writer is only ever as good as their library ...

3. This is the bookcase of my own work, in all the various languages and editions. 24 books, in 12 languages ... the poster is of my picture book, ‘I Am’ which I wrote for my second son, Tim. I love it because it captures a true moment in his childhood – sword in hand, imagining himself a knight of the days of yore ...one day I’ll buy the original

4. My reading chair, my gargoyle and my cat ...

5. A closer view of my garden. I love my garden, and spend quite a bit of time in it, pulling out weeds, squishing bugs and generally getting dirty ... its very grounding for someone who spends all day with her head in the clouds.

6. I get a lovely view of the harbour and ocean from my desk. I live near Manly, one of Australia’s most famous beaches, and our views from our kitchen and our bedroom are fabulous. My study has only a glimpse but it is still enough to lift my heart on a sunny day. You will also see our (very new) pool – any day now we’ll get the landscaping done. I hope.

7. A close-up of the sundial in my garden. I included this because I have always loved sundials – ever since I read Edward Eager’s book ‘The Time Garden’. Has anyone else read this? I have a sundial in the garden in ‘The Puzzle Ring’ – it reads ‘Today is Yesterday ‘s Tomorrow’ which is another way of saying ‘Seize the day...’ My life philosophy.

Me again:
Hope you've all been following Kate's blog tour. Yesterday's stop was at one of my favourite blogs, hop on over to I Was A Teenage Book Geek to hear Kate's thoughts on time travel novels. Tomorrow take a trip to Cleverly Inked to read what I expect will be another shining review.

So this is the start of a new feature. I hope that with a bit more thinking and discussion Authors - Home and Away will evolve. Any thoughts on how it can develop? I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Review: Mission Telemark

Author: Amanda Mitchison
Illustrator: Richard Collingridge
Release date:
Genre: Spy fiction / Wartime Adventure
Target audience: 10+

Summary from Amazon:
Norway, December 1942.



Following the German occupation of the power plant at Vemork in southern Norway, the British government has become aware that Hitler is trying to find a way to use the heavy water it produces to make a nuclear weapon. One mission to destroy the power plant has already failed and time is running out. Now the Allies' fate rests in the hands of four teenagers - Jakob, Freddie, Ase and Lars - who must survive for weeks in the freezing conditions of the Hardanger Plateau before they launch a sabotage attempt that will decide the course of the war.


Stuck-in paper inserts bring to life the wartime experiences of these special Special Agents, from digging snow holes and butchering reindeer, to combat knives and behaviour under torture.
Review:
The book: Mission Telemark. The characters: Ase, Fred, Jakob and Lars. The year: 1942. The plot: Four fluent Norweigan speaking teens are recruited by a senior officer in the British Army to complete a secret mission. Chance of survival: Minimal.
 
Mission Telemark had me gripped from the very first page. I became completely absorbed reading Ase and Jakob's log of their mission. The story is told from their two perspectives. Ase is a champion gymnast and her small physique is perfect for sneaking into Nazi strongholds undetected. Her account in the log is comical and kept making me giggle. Jakob is the leader of the mission. His character is outwardly calm and controlled and he is very intuitive. Jakob's parts of the story are interspersed with his drawings which are the most beautiful illustrations and really add something special to the fabulous narrative.
 
I must not leave out Fred and Lars. Clumsy, uncoordinated but extraordinarily intelligent, Fred is physically the weakest member of the group. However, he is vital to the mission because he has a photographic memory and has the role of communicator with HQ. Lars is a very insular character. He has witnessed dark events in the war and his story slowly unfolds throughout Jakob and Ase's account.
 
The four recruits must pull together to complete the vital task they have been set. Their mission is fraught with danger both from the Nazis and from the environment which they have to navigate. They experience true hardship and the author does not try to make trivialise the hellish conditions faced by our soldiers during the Second World War. Instead she lightens the story with thoughts of chocolate and the natural joys of childhood.
 
The book was full of fascinating details about the war, about the equipment the soldiers were issued with and about the chemistry behind the weapons. There are no James Bond gadgets here. The author stayed true to the time period and I felt like I journeyed into the life of a British spy by reading this book.
 
I surprised myself by how much I loved Mission Telemark. I am not into spy novels but I do love historical fiction. There was just so much to enjoy through the characterisation and the format of the book. This book will appeal to all ages. It will appeal to fans of war stories, of historical fiction and of spy stories. It will appeal to those who just love a good adventure. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I've already ordered a copy for the school library because I know some boys who will love it just as much as I do. A fabulous wartime adventure!
 
 
 
NB: Amanda Mitchison is a UK 2010 debut novelist. I am so lucky to be finding all these amazing new authors that I would not have read otherwise if it wasn't my personal mission to read as many UK debuts as I can this year. Thank you so much to Walker Books for allowing me to review Mission Telemark.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Firebrand

Last week I reviewed Bad Faith by Gillian Philip. It was such a great book and I was delighted that Keith from Strident Publishing emailed me after reading my review to tell me about Gillian's next book Firebrand. It is the first in the four part Rebel Angels series. I just had to make it my WOW this week. I wanted to do it last week but life got in the way. No cover design for the book yet but you can guarantee that as soon as there is one, I'll be shouting it from the rooftops.

Author: Gillian Phillip
Released August 2010 UK, Strident Publishing

Firebrand summary from Strident Publishing:
Seth MacGregor is the half-feral, bastard son of a Sidhe nobleman. It’s the last decade of the sixteenth century: a time of religious wars and witch-hunts in the full- mortal world. But the Sidhe are at peace - until their queen, Kate McNiven, determines to destroy the protecting veil. When his father Griogair 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 its powers can’t protect the brothers when the witch-hunts begin…

I am just so excited for this book. I can't put it into words!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by the lovely Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Bad Faith Contest

I have the absolute pleasure of hosting this contest on behalf of Strident Publishing.

Last week I reviewed Bad Faith by Gillian Philip; it is an amazingly dark, complex and powerful dystopian novel. I am so delighted that Keith at Strident has offered to giveaway a copy of the book to one of my lucky followers.

Here is the book summary from Amazon:
MURDEROUSLY SINISTER DYSTOPIAN SATIRE. Life's easy for Cassandra. The privileged daughter of a cleric, she's been protected from the extremist gangs who enfore the One Church's will. Her boyfriend Ming is a bad influence, fo course, with infidel parents who are constantly in trouble with the religious authorities. But Cass has no intention of letting their different backgrounds drive them apart. Then they stumble across a corpse. Who killed him? How did his body end up in their secret childhood haunt? And is this man's death connected to other, older murders? As the political atmosphere grows feverish, Cass realises she and Ming face extreme danger.
Keith has also very kindly said that he will happily send those people who just adore the cover of Bad Faith an A3 poster of the book cover. Email requests to him: keith@stridentpublishing.co.uk

 
To enter the contest:
Please complete the form below.
As I am hosting this contest on behalf of Strident, I will need to forward the postal details of the winner to them.
Please remember to check the Contest and Giveaways Policy for further guidelines.
  • Open internationally
  • Closing date: Tuesday 16th February 2010 midnight GMT 

Monday, 1 February 2010

Review: The Puzzle Ring [BLOG TOUR and SCHEDULE]

Today at The Bookette I have the privilege of being the first stop on the UK blog tour of Kate Forsyth's book The Puzzle Ring.

Book: The Puzzle Ring
Released: 1st June 2009 UK Scholastic
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 10+

Summary from Goodreads.com:
Hannah Rose Brown is twelve years old when she finds out that her family is cursed. Desperate to find the truth about her father's disappearance, she travels to her ancestral home in Scotland, and discover a chain of dark secrets that plunge her into different worlds, timeframes and dangers.

Review:
The Puzzle Ring is written in the vein of great traditional fantasies. In the information that came with the book, it was likened to the Chronicles of Narnia and I certainly think it has that daring magical adventure feel to it. Hannah is living in Australia with her mum Roz when a mysterious letter arrives addressed to the Countess of Wintersloe. Roz soon admits that back in Scotland Hannah would in fact have the title of Lady. Her father was a Lord but he disappeared the night after her birth. Hannah begs her mum to take her back to Scotland. She is excited by the possibility of a big adventure. And thus our story begins as we return with Hannah to the land of her father and journey into the mystery of The Puzzle Ring.

I wish I had read this book back when I was ten years old. I think I would have read it again and again. Hannah is a great heroine who is determined to break the family curse. The story is brimming over with tradtional tales of Celtic mythology, of fireside stories and magical dreams. I most certainly would love (even now) to suddenly discover I am actually a Scottish Lady and am the heir to a castle or grand house. I spent most of my childhood dreaming of magical adventures like this. Many characters in this story had a great appeal. Donovan for his rebellious streak and love of nature and wildlife. Angus for his sixteenth century ways. Linnet for her courage. Roz for reminding me of my sister and her love of all things science. There is a character for everyone in this book.

The scenes that take place in the time of Mary Queen of Scots were thoroughly entertaining and this is where Max became a comic genius for me. I kept laughing out loud at his gruesome facts. I think he must have swallowed a Horrible Histories book and this makes the book have a real appeal for boys too.

Overall, The Puzzle Ring is a mysterious and magical adventure. It called to the child within me and made me feel ten again. Forsyth expertly played on the fears of the target audience as the characters tell stories around the fire. This is a wonderful epic fantasy which will take you on a journey into the past and into the Otherworld. It reminded me of my childhood dreams and I will be buying a copy of this for the school library. I am convinced it will be a hit with the 10-12 age group.


Many thanks to Scholastic for sending me the book to review and to Kate for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
The Puzzle Ring can be purchased from The Book Depository or Amazon.
You can find out more about Kate Forsyth on her website.

The Puzzle Ring Tour Schedule
Here is the tour schedule, be sure to stop by all these fantastic blogs to hear their thoughts on the book:

1st Feb - The Bookette You are here!
2nd Feb - What Kate Did Next Kate chats about juggling writing and motherhood
3rd Feb  - Chicklish Find out five things you didn't know about Kate
4th Feb - Once Upon a Bookcase Find out why The Puzzle Ring is set in Scotland
5th Feb - Chicklish Author interview
6th Feb - I Was A Teenage Book Geek Review
7th Feb - I Was A Teenage Book Geek Reviews of time travel books (I need to read this!)
8th Feb - The Bookette Pop back here for my first ever Authors: Home and Away Feature
9th Feb - Tales of Whimsy Character Interview with Hannah
9th Feb Bookalicious Ramblings Review
10th Feb - Nayu's Reading Corner Review and a video of Kate reading
11th Feb - Ejly- Literate Mother Technologist Review / guest blog
12th Feb - So Many Books, So Little Time Reviews of Kate's top YA books of 2009
13th Feb - Ultimate Book Hound Writer's Bookshelf
14th Feb - Bookalicious Ramblings  Interview
15th Feb - The Book Bug Review / Interview
16th Feb - Alan Baxter - The Word Review
17th Feb - I Want To Read That Review / Interview
18th Feb - The Story Siren Review / Interview
19th Feb - Wondrous Reads Review
20th Feb - Chick Lit A day in the life of Kate Forsyth
21st Feb - Steph Bowe Review / Interview
22nd Feb -  Me and My Big Mouth Kate interviewed by kids
23rd Feb Tales of Whimsy Juju does her magic

For some of these wonderful bloggers, it is their first time partcipating in a blog tour so please show your support by leaving lots of great comments!