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Thursday, 28 October 2010

The UK YA Book Blog List

Hello everyone,

All day I have been updating links on The Bookette.

I have created a new page for the UK YA Book Blog List. The current link list in my sidebar is going to be deleted. There are so many new UK blogs popping up that I felt it was about time that the list had its own page.

If you haven't posted for a couple of months, I haven't added your blog in the new list. I am trying to keep it up to date.

Everyone else please check out the new page. I am asking bloggers to write a line for me about what they review. Hopefully this will help point authors, publicists and fellow bloggers in the right direction if they are looking for someone to review something specific.

You can email your line to: thebookette @ googlemail.com
You can tweet it to me: @the_bookette
You can leave it in the comments but make sure I know which blog you belong to and I would say no more than 50 words. Just a brief outline of what you like to review.

If you are not on the list and want to be, get in touch via email or twitter (details above). Or conversely, if you are on the list and don't want to be, then get in touch and I'll take you off.

Happy blogging!


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Author Interview: Kimberly Derting

I am very excited to have an author interview with Kimberly Derting on my blog to share with you today.  Kimberly's debut novel The Body Finder is released in the UK on November 11th 2010. It is a fabulous and creeping paranormal YA novel and you can read my full review here. Without further ado on to the interview:

The Bookette: So thinking about the sinister tone of The Body Finder, my first question is: How different was the experience of writing the chapters that tell us Violet’s story and writing the chapters that follow the man with dark and hideous intentions? Is it difficult to switch between the two narrative tones?

Kimberly Derting: Without sounding too twisted, I LOVED writing from the killer’s perspective, so switching wasn’t difficult at all. In fact, when I’d get to the point that it was time to get “inside his head” again, I’d get kind of excited. Okay, yes, that sounded entirely too twisted, didn’t it???

The Bookette: Erm... Well yes Kimberly that does sound a little disturbing. But I understand that switching perspectives can also be very liberating because you get to think of your own story a fresh. Thinking about Violet, I found her to be a hugely likeable character (if a little stubborn) and a great representation of a teenage girl. Did you make a conscious choice to write about a strong, independent minded character?

Kimberly Derting: Absolutely! One thing I hate—in real life and in literature—is the simpering girl who cowers in the corner, always looking for someone to save her. And having been a teen girl myself (and having raised one), I know that teens tend to be a little impulsive and strong-willed. I know, shocking, right? :)

The Bookette: Impulsive and strong-willed...I am not sure that I have grown out of that phase yet. Jay was such an enchanting male lead. I found him rather adorable. I’m interested to know if you wanted to explore how healthy teenage relationships develop – i.e. from a friendship?

Kimberly Derting: I love how you picked up on these things! I’m a huge fan of romance in the books I read, but when I was writing The Body Finder, I’d been reading so many books where girl-meets-guy and BAM…instant love connection! That’s all fine and well, but I wanted to do something different, something sweeter that maybe the main character wouldn’t see coming. And what could be better than a best friend-turned-love interest?

The Bookette: I agree! It makes me all goofy thinking about Violet and Jay. Awwww...
Another aspect of The Body Finder which I found convincing and a refreshing change in Young Adult fiction was the relationship between Violet and her parents. Not only are they very present in the novel but they also know her secret. Is a positive family model something that you wanted to explore through the novel? What are your thoughts on the portrayal of the family in general in YA fiction?

Kimberly Derting: I’ve actually heard from a lot of readers who liked this, which really surprised me, because I just created the family I would want if I had a secret like Violet’s. I mean, there’s no rule stating that the parents have to be dead or negligent, right? Why couldn’t they be understanding and loving? Why couldn’t they be around to help her deal with her feelings and her fears?

That said, I think there’s plenty of room for those other families too because, how boring would it be if every book we read was exactly the same as the rest???

The Bookette: That's really interesting. At my creative writing class we are told every week to "get rid of the parents" in order to give the child character more freedom. Certainly this is food for thought.
The Body Finder is your debut. Are there any writers who inspired you to begin writing? Or are there any writers that you aspire to be like?

Kimberly Derting: Growing up, I read a lot (no, I mean a lot!) of Stephen King, mostly because that’s what my mom had lying around the house. He was my first—and most influential—inspiration for my writing. In my option, he’s probably the greatest story-teller of our time.

The Bookette: I confess I haven't read any Stephen King novels. I have read On Writing which revolutionised my attitude towards trying to write a book. I actually get on with now! 
And finally, I have a little question that I like to ask every writer. (It comes from an addiction to drinking copious amounts of tea). Do you have a favourite biscuit, if so, which one and why?

Kimberly Derting: Hey, I drink copious amount of tea too! And if I remember right, what you call biscuits, we call “cookies” so I’m going to say chocolate chip. The real ones, though, straight from the oven. Second favourite, shortbread...because, really, they go better with my tea! Thanks a lot, now I’m craving biscuits…and tea! :)

Thank you so much for taking part Kimberly. You're right I did indeed mean cookies and it is lovely to meet another fan of the good ol'cuppa tea.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sample Chapter: Matched

Today I am delighted to share with you on behalf of Penguin Razorbill the first chapter of Matched by Ally Condie. I hope you enjoy!

Matched is out in UK bookshops on December 2nd 2010.

Matched Chap1

Monday, 25 October 2010

Review: The Long Weekend

Author: Savita Kalhan
Release Date: 2nd October 2008
Genre: Thriller
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Andersen Press

Summary from Amazon:
Sam knows that he and his friend Lloyd made a colossal mistake when they accepted the ride home. They have ended up in a dark mansion in the middle of nowhere with man who means to harm them. But Sam doesn't know how to get them out. They were trapped, then separated. Now they are alone. Will either of them get out alive? This gripping and hypnotic thriller will have you reading late into the night...

The Long Weekend is an uncompromising thriller which will chill you to the bone and have you breathlessly turning page after page.

Sam has recently started at yet another new school. This time he is hoping to stay put and after a week he makes an exciting friend in Lloyd. They arrange to go to one of their houses after school on Friday. The only trouble is that they can’t remember which set of parents are meant to be collecting them. They wait in the rain outside school for ages until a luxury car pulls up. Lloyd gets in and Sam follows but neither of them think to check with the other that they know the driver. So the car drives off and they sit in the back being highly impressed with the gismos and gadgets of the Mercedes. But eventually the penny drops and Sam considers that the man in the front seat isn’t Lloyd’s dad after all.

What follows is a terrifying experience for both boys and the reader. The man takes them to a mansion house and there is no way out. Why they are there is a complete mystery to them and the novel continues along this very sinister path.

I was absolutely petrified reading this book. It is every child’s nightmare – the storyline that is not the book. The Long Weekend effortlessly pulls you into the story. The narrative is told simply but it is so effective. We see the story through Sam’s eyes yet it is told in the third person. It is as if the reader is there holding his hand the whole way through, crying when he cries, paralysed by fear when he is. I was desperate to read on but I was also afraid to. Kalhan’s debut novel seems to me to be incredibly brave because the story is unflinchingly dark and powerful for that reason.

Both Sam and Lloyd are likeable and distinctive characters. We are naturally sympathetic towards Sam as he is the voice we hear. We are perhaps slightly removed from Lloyd but this is important for the story. I say no more on that for fear of spoilers.

My recommendation: You absolutely should read this book. You will never get in a car without checking you know the driver again. But you should read it under these conditions: Safely tucked up at home, in broad daylight with someone to hold your hand when you want to scream. A real frightener so if sinister thrillers are your thing, The Long Weekend is undoubtedly for you.

Thank you to Savita Kalhan for inviting me to review her book.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Discussion: On the art of saying No [thank you]

This isn't the easiest post to write. Especially knowing that lots of people new to blogging may read it and think that I am rather ungrateful.

But I exercise my right to freedom of expression and I want to talk about the art of saying no. Let's face it. Saying no is not an easy thing to do. There are times in life when we are presented with choices and even the most determined of mind are tempted to say yes to something they know will do more harm than good.

Thankfully, saying yes to a review request will not endanger your health. It may endanger your sanity if you are a worrier like me and always aim to please. [Note this does not mean compromising by writing a lovely review when you thought the book was mediocre at best]. It means feeling that you need to have read and reviewed the book by release date. [Which is frankly impossible]. I miss the freedom of reading whatever I feel like. Don't misunderstand me, I do love being a reviewer for publishing houses. I guess in a rather vain way it makes me feel like my opinion is valued. The problem is more to do with the art of saying no.

How does one know when it is the right word?

I am at the point now where I am saying yes because I want to do one or two publicists a favour rather than actually read the book. As you can imagine this does not lead to me being a very happy Bookette because I am reading way outside of my comfort zone. I am also carrying a huge amount of guilt about the books that I haven't reviewed from months ago. Now most publicists do not mind at all if you don't read everything they send you. They appreciate your honesty when you say a book doesn't appeal to you. They say thank you when you email a review even if it is not a glowing recommendation of that title. But even if you are asked once where a review has got to you can't help feeling like you didn't hand your homework in on time.

What to do people?

The obvious answer is to learn the art of saying no. It is learning to politely ask to only be sent certain genres. (The ones you like obviously). But I believe it is time to go a step further and asked to be removed from some lists because at the heart of this is a girl who has a job, is trying to write a book and wants to read whatever she feels like and not what is due for release next week.

So tell me, what are your thoughts on this?

When you receive a review book do you email the publicist and let them know it has arrived safely and the date you expect to post the review? And how do you even know when it will be posted unless you are a blogger with a military ethic?

Please help!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Review: Torment

Author: Lauren Kate
Release date: 30th September 2010 UK
Genre: Paranormal Romance / Angel Fiction/ YA
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
In Torment fallen angel Daniel and his mortal love Lucinda think they are safe but evil forces are massing against them. As Luce learns more about her past, and discovers that the lives she’s already lived hold the key to her future happiness; she starts to wonder if Daniel has told her the whole truth. What if his version of events isn’t the way things happened? What if that means that she’s really meant to be with someone else?

Torment is pure escapism. It is a journey through truth, lies, the past and being at the heart of making your own choices.

The book spans about three weeks in time. Following on from the end of Fallen, Daniel and Cam are pursing the handshake with angel fervour. Luce is safely stowed away at a new school for the long-diluted descendents of angels and a few mortal scholarship students. The school was an intriguing setting for the book and the characters that Luce meets there all bring life to the story.

In Torment Luce is battling with her frustration that Daniel repeatedly keeps her in the dark. Not knowing the truth of their past lives togther, she finds that trusting him is beyond her. Blind faith is not in her repetoire. For all those who like to moan about young adult heroines being lamb-like and dependent on their male lead I think you will find Luce's refusal to follow instructions rather refreshing.

Sadly, I have very mixed feelings about this novel. I still haven't really resolved them. On the one hand there is the fact that if you just read this book at face value and enjoy it for the story it is, then it is an enjoyable way to pass time on the tube. For me at times this was my reading experience. On the other hand, the quality of the writing left me rather disappointed. It is peppered with "teen speak" which made me cringe. It was almost as if it wanted to be a book written in the first person rather than the third. I could have suspended my disbelief if the whole book had been written from a very teen-esque viewpoint. But I understand that the brevity of the concept would make this very difficult.

The highlight for me was the exploration of the relationship between angels and demons. I liked the fact that God and Satan were reinvented to fit the mythology without the story feeling like a religious text. I also thought the imagery and description of the the contrast between the two angelic fractions was beautiful and evocative. I am interested to see how much further Lauren Kate goes with the leaders of the two "tribes". The novel also got me thinking about Satan in a new light. My whole understanding of angelic mythology comes from Paradise Lost and it got me wondering about the other possible motives for a character like Lucifer to lead a rebellion. Fascinating stuff when you delve into the layers.

Torment didn't reach the addictiveness of Fallen for me. But then perhaps my expectations were too high? It was a great escape and at the heart of the story is a brilliant concept. I guess I just didn't respond so well to the way it was told. I'm definitely going to read Passion though. The angelic representation is enough to make me want a little more.

Thank you to Random House Children's Books for the review copy.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Info: Ripley's Believe It Or Not Half Term Event

This half term kids can become a secret agent on a trail around the crazy Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum in Piccadilly Circus, London.

The event is based around a new fiction series that Ripley's are launching called RBI (Ripley’s Bureau of Investigation) centered around 7 agents with amazing abilities they have to solve mysteries all over the world linking to the amazing and unbelievable, finding out if these mysteries are true. The books are aimed at 6 to 10 year olds. Sounds to me like a fab way to get boys into reading.  There will be an RBI trail around the museum where kids answer multiple choice questions on each of the exhibits and learn more about the books the exhibits are featured in.
Further Info:

Where: London’s Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, 1 Piccadilly Circus

Times: 10 til midnight every day

Cost: The promotion itself is free, but entry to the museum is £19.95 for a child, £25.95 an adult and £81.95 for a family ticket.

Date: The event will be running from Saturday 23rd to Sunday 31st

The contact info is the museum number: +44 (0)20 3238 0022 and the museum website: http://www.ripleyslondon.com/
[This post is for info only]

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Review: The Loon on the Moon

Author: Chae Strathie

Illustrator: Emily Golden
Release date: 5th July 2010 UK Paperback
Genre: Picture Book
Target audience: 4+

Summary from Amazon:
This is the Loon who lives on the moon. Every night he collects children's dreams to make the moon glow. But then one night the light of the moon goes out, and the Loon must go in search of new dreams... Full of whimsy and wonder, this beautiful picture book is a celebration of the power of stories and the magic of dreams - perfect for sharing at bedtime.

The Loon on the Moon is a quirky, bright and charming picture book which is ideal for a bedtime story. The Loon lives on the moon and every night he uses his Loonzoomer to gather up all the marvellous dreams of children on Earth and then uses their dreams power his big engine which powers the light bulbs that make the moon shine in the sky.

But sadly, one night the children run out of dreams and then the worried Loon has to go searching for dreams from the magical creatures living on other planets.

This book has two beautiful aspects to it. The first is all about the whimsical quality of dreams and by reading the story at bedtime children will undoubtedly have their imaginations set alight. The second is about the planets of the solar system. The Loon visits each of them and so the story can be used to get children thinking about life on other planets and imagining who might live there, what they look like and how they like to spend their time there. I think it is the perfect picture book for encouraging story writing.

The text is lyrical and rhythmic. It has a magical feel to it. The creatures that live on the other planets all have bizarre names which will delight children. The illustrations are equally charming and they have a dream-like colouring to them. The Moptops from Mars were my favourite illustrated characters.

Overall, The Loon on the Moon is a brilliantly written and illustrated picture book. I highly recommend this one for every littlies book shelf.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Event Summary and Info: International Translation Day

It seems like forever since I attended the International Translation Day conference at Free the Word in Farringdon. In reality it was just over two weeks ago. I have been under the weather hence the general lack of blogging since this event.

The ordinary course of my working life does not bring me into the field of translation or translated literature. So why then was I attending a conference in which I was one of the few people in the audience who knew nothing about it? Because my fair readers, I am trying to change that! I am planning a project - Young Cultural Creators - the theme is literature in translation. I will be working with twelve students across the 8 - 12 year old age range. Our aims are to use literature as a stimulus for creativity. We will also be getting out of school and into local creative spaces - i.e. museums, libraries, archives, galleries. Exciting stuff!

Who chose the theme for said project? Moi! Why did I want to explore the theme of translation? Because children should have access to literature from other cultures and thus enrich their own.

So I attended the conference and in the evening was joined by the lovely Caroline from Portrait of a Woman. The final seminar was hosted by Book Trust and was the launch of National Children's Book Week (a post about that another time perhaps).

So these are some of the things that came out of a day full of seminars and from the perspective of someone who knew nothing about the translation industry.

Translated Literature is important because:
  • We want to be able to read great books from around the world
  • It enables us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves
  • It is a process of cooperation
  • In a world of discord, conflict and anxiety literature can cross this divide and encourage unity and understanding
English Pen - the organisation who set up the conference - have working on a Global Translation Initiative to identify some of the key problem areas in the translated literature industry. They conducted an international survey and the findings are still being analysed but they gave a short summary of their initial interpretations. Firstly, the biggest barrier to the publication of translated literature is the cost. 77% of the respondents cited cost as being the problem.

There was also a huge issue of perception that readers are not interested in reading translated literature. Of course, this is a fallacy. I am interested in translated literature. Remember The Unit! That was such an amazing book.  Caroline is a champion of translated literature and Steig Larsson has taken the best seller list by storm. I conclude that this myth about perception is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are many organisations in the UK working to change attitudes towards translated fiction. In London there are lots of projects with universities and schools to try to encourage students to continue studying a language into GCSE, A Level and First Degrees. One of the largest problems in England is that studying a language is optional and so very few students choose to study it further.

Some of the actitvites / ideas being used to promote translation in schools are:
  • Language Ambassasors
  • Interpreting Workshops
  • Film Festivals
  • Subtitling activities
  • Manga Workshops
  • Cultural references in Video Games
  • Bringing Translation Professionals in to host talks/ workshops
  • Parents telling stories in cultural heritage languages and using these for translation
There are certainly lots of ideas to start thinking about here. One of the things that came out of the Book Trust panel was that translation is two fold. The first level being the translation of the words. The second being the translation of culture. This is definitely something I will be taking with me into the planning for Young Cultural Creators.

And finally, Caroline and I discussed between ourselves the fact that there is such an emphasis on translating "literary fiction" for children. Why can't it be just great stories that all children will enjoy? Why does it have to be literary? By adding this word into the field of translation are we doing a disservice to our young people? Should they only be allowed to read translated fiction if it is going to be of the highest literary merit? Because yes they will read books like this but they more often than not will choose an addictive page turner any day of the week.

It's interesting,  no?!

Have a read of Caroline's post here

Links to organisations working in the translated literature field:
English pen
Literature Across Frontiers
Winged Chariot
Outside In
Free the World
British Centre for Literary Translation
Book Trust

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Guest Post: The Familiars Halloween Blog Tour

A post to you direct from the authors of The Familiars! Enjoy!

We are also having a special Familiars-themed Halloween Scavenger Hunt! At each stop along the blog tour, we will be asking a trivia question from our book. After you fill in your answer, the letter that falls in the place of the * can be placed in the corresponding number of the larger puzzle. So for example, since this is question number 14, the letter that lands in the space where the * is can be filled in where the 14 is in the larger puzzle. The larger puzzle will form yet another clue, and anyone who answers it correctly will be entered into a drawing for an autographed book as well as a few other Halloween treats!

Be sure to visit The Familiars blog at thefamiliars.blogspot.com to find links to all other blog stops and find out where to send in your answers! All entries must be entered by November 15
14. On the Bridge of Betrayal, Gilbert is paranoid that Aldwyn and Skylar are going to steal his

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ _*_ ___ ___

Hint: Chapter Eleven, Page 223

11 5 18 8 15 1 9 7 19 14 23 2 25 16 10 12 20

__ __ __ __ __ __ ' __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __
17 3 22 6 21 4 24 13

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

www.thefamiliars.com  (official website)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0djEE4OzdQ (book trailer)

Happy Halloween everyone!

Andrew and Adam

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Review: Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Release date: 14th October 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
Target audience: 10+

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

The Ring of Solomon is a hilarious wild, action-packed ride with the one and only Bartimaeus of Uruk. It is fantasy. It is humour. It is comic genius!

The year is 950 BC. Bartimaeus is summoned to Jerusalem by the magician Khaba. He is a cruel master and is in service with sixteen other magicians to King Solomon. Each magician has a host of otherworldly beings to do their bidding and fulfil the orders of the King. In his enforced slavery Bartimaeus and his fellow djinn are ordered to build a temple without their trademark magic to speed the process along. If this is your first encounter with Bartimaeus, let us for now say that he does not take too kindly to being enslaved by power-hungry and imbecile humans.

Meanwhile across the desert, a young assassin – Asmira of the Hereditary Guard – is sent on a mission by her leader the Queen of Sheba (cue sniggering). Asmira has been waiting for this moment since her childhood. Her one and only desire is to do the bidding of her beloved Queen. And so the paths of Bartimaeus and Asmira are destined to cross as she travels to Jerusalem to assassinate King Solomon.

I think I should begin by saying that The Ring of Solomon is a prequel novel to the Bartimaeus series. You don’t need to have read any of those books to read this one as it stands alone as a complete story in itself and can be enjoyed as such. I heartily recommend the Bartimaeus series to you though because like this book, it is extraordinarily funny and addictive.

Bartimaeus is a fourth level djinni. He exists in the other place as a spirit, an essence. But he can be summoned to the human world and enslaved by magicians who bind him and others like him to their will. If you are thinking of attempting this, I advise serious caution. If you are not 100% precise in your terms of summoning, then undoubtedly Bartimaeus will swallow you whole and have a happy indigestion when he returns back home. Djinn in their nature are highly dangerous. Magicians know that they are self-interested at best, ruthless killers, torturers and maimers at worst. But then again, who can blame them? Jonathan Stroud’s writing whilst being incredibly funny does explore the issue of slavery and indoctrination in a subtle and unobtrusive way. (Although Bartimaeus isn’t known for his tact and diplomacy).

This review could go on forever as I discuss layer after layer of The Ring of Solomon. But I am going to try to restrain myself and give you the most basic reasons of why you should read this book. Firstly, it has the wittiest dialogue that you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading. Read this in public places and you will experience a certain laughter induced humiliation. Secondly, it has a beautiful subversive quality which adds to the humour. Bartimaeus has no respect for his master or frankly any human and this anti-establishment tone is something that kids of all ages, from ten to ninety, can relate to. Thirdly, it is just a great story with a great plot, great pace and above all, the most inventive characterisation you’ll ever have the fortune to read. So yeah...I’m quite a fan.

Incidentally, if you like Percy Jackson...you’ll love this!

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

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Review: The Beasties

Author: Jenny Nimmo
Illustrator: Gwen Millward
Release date: 4th October 2010 UK paperback
Genre: Picture Book
Target audience: 5+

Summary from Amazon:
On a starry, starry night Daisy hears a growl that makes her heart go pit-a-pat. It sounds like a story...Every night a new tale drifts up to Daisy - tales of robbers, shipwrecks and lost princesses. Until one night everything goes very quiet. Daisy very slowly looks under the bed to find...Three storytelling beasties! This is a lovingly crafted picture book about the power of imagination and the comfort of storytelling.

The Beasties is a sweet picture book for bed times. The story is about Daisy who hears noises at night and is frightened by them. But each night the strange noises bring not something to be afraid of but a story. There are three mini stories inside the story itself.

There is a lovely homely feel to this picture book which would be comforting to young listeners who are read this by their parents. If you have a child who is afraid of monsters under the bed or the strange clicking noises that houses make, then this is a perfect book to help ease their fears and encourage them to get a good night's sleep. It is also a great story to encourage children to become their own storytellers and use their imaginations.

The illustrations are pencil and watercolour and the bright patterns of the story world evoke magical places that will help children to have wonderfully vivid dreams. There is also an interesting contrast between the illustrations that are Daisy in real life - they are bolder and Daisy herself is very much at the forefront. The illustrations of the story worlds are much more delicate and in pastel shades. All are expertly crafted.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of areas of the The Beasties that I felt could be improved. The first is that the book is a little long and I think it lost a little rhythm because of this. I also think that some of the text is not well placed on the page or easily readable because of the font style and colour. The ease of being able to read a picture book aloud is so important.

Overall, an imaginative story which will help littlies have sweet dreams.

Thank you to Egmont Books for sending me the review copy.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Giveaway Winner: Blood Ties/Blood Ransom

I am delighted to announce the winner of the two book giveaway for Blood Ties / Blood Ransom by the wonderful Sophie McKenzie.

The winner is: K Willingham

K you will receive an email from me shortly.

A special thank you to the lovely people at Simon and Schuster for inviting me to host this contest.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Review: Finding Sky

Author: Joss Stirling

Release date: 7th October 2010
Genre: Paranormal / Supernatural / YA
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
You have half our gifts, I have the other . . . When English girl Sky, catches a glimpse of bad boy Zed in her new American high school, she can't get him out of her head. He talks to her with his thoughts. He reads her mind. He is the boy she will love for ever. Dark shadows stalk her past but a new evil threatens her future. Sky must face the dark even if it means losing her heart.

Finding Sky was a simply absorbing read shaped by a beautiful setting and endearing characters.

The story begins with Sky Bright arriving at her new home in Colorado, America with her adoptive parents Sally and Simon. They left England for the opportunity to work at a new art centre in Wrickenridge. Sky is nervous about starting over. Her life in Richmond was settled and now she is afraid to be singled out as the British girl at her new school. Sky soon realises that high school in America is not that different from the UK. There are social groupings but they are not nearly as exaggerated as cheerleading films make out and she soon makes a good friend in Tina. But there is one social group that exists on the edge of school society: the bad boys. Zed Benedict is perhaps the most dangerous of this species and unfortunately for Sky he has the oddest ability to speak directly into her mind. She can’t get him out of her head but she knows he is trouble with a capital T.

The outline for this book suggests it sits firmly within the current teen trend for the paranormal. But actually, it really holds its own. I loved reading this book and constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next. It all comes down to character. Sky has been traumatised by sinister events in her childhood. She was in foster care for four years before she was adopted and there is a depth of inner turmoil that really made me feel for her. I also loved that she was small and that she had a quirky way of understanding the people around her. She sort of characterises people into comic book characters. It was a really fun twist. Zed is in some ways an even more interesting character. There is so much that he hides from the outside world and that obviously weighs heavily on his shoulders.

There is a great chemistry between Sky and Zed which makes you want them to find a way through Sky’s emotional barriers. Sky is very rational about her feelings and a realist. It made a great change from the usual girl who runs after a guy no matter what they’ve said or done scenario. There was also a brilliant use of humour in Finding Sky. I loved the great one liners that Zed kept pulling out of the bag. He is another male lead in YA fiction who will inspire much swooning.

The one and only aspect of this book that I felt was not as fully developed as it could have been is the characterisation of the villains. Obviously, I do not wish to spoil the story but I just felt they were overly simplified and one-dimensional. They lacked layers to their identities and this made it difficult for me to suspend my disbelief.

Overall though, Finding Sky is such an enjoyable and compelling read. I will undoubtedly be reading more books from Joss Stirling. I loved the witty tone and depth of soul to the main characters in this book. An exciting UK debut!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Review: Linger

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Release date: UK 21st July 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance, YA
Target audience: 12+

Summary from Amazon:
In SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in LINGER, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping dangerous secrets. For Sam, it means grappling with his werewolf past ... and figuring out a way to survive the future. But just when they manage to find happiness, Grace finds herself changing in ways she could never have expected...

Warning: Spoilers for Shiver in this review

Oh, Linger, you have left me with a broken heart. How witheringly sad can one book possibly be? I mean that in the best possible way. Linger is like the twisting branches of a Yew tree. It just weaves you into its story of tender love and broken dreams.

Sam returned to Grace and there should have been peace for love’s young dream in the town of Mercy Falls. But the weather is changing and with it brings the revelation of the new wolves that Beck initiated into the pack. Sam is the leader now and he must find a way to cope with the cyclical loss of his family and the responsibility of keeping them safe.

Linger is told through a four person split narrative which works remarkably well. I think it takes real skill as a writer to keep moving perspectives and yet manage to keep the overall flow and tone of the book so that the transition is seamless. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing reads like the ripples of water on a lake. It is so lyrical and embodies the earthy quality of the woods where the wolves of Mercy Falls live.

When I first began reading Linger, I thought I had completely forgotten Shiver because I had no idea where Cole had come from. I asked my adorable friend Caroline from Portrait of a Woman and she reassured me that he was a new character and so I was relieved! After a while Cole’s journey to Mercy Falls became clear to me and as the layers of his character uncoiled like the sharp membrane of an onion, I discovered that I am quite a fan of Cole. I do love characters that kiss the dark side and have a tormented soul.

At the heart of this book there is obviously the change from human to wolf. There is still so much that Grace, Sam, Isabel and Cole do not understand about the disease. As I took a moment to pause in my reading, I had the bizarre notion that the change from man to beast was a metaphor for insanity. It seemed to me that the willingness to give yourself up to an animal state was a way of saying goodbye to all that makes you human: your identity, your thoughts, your self-worth.

However you interpret the condition of transformation, you cannot fail to see anything other than a beauty in the love that is written between the pages of Linger. It is soft and gentle and yet agonisingly painful. Such an amazing book!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Blog Tour: Crescendo Extract

Today I am delighted to bring you an exclusive Crescendo extract as part of the UK blog tour.

At the mention of the devil’s angels, the hairs on my arms rose.

He snapped his head back toward the forest, straining his neck. “The angel!” he whispered in a panic. “The angel is coming!”

His mouth twisted into distorted shapes, and it looked like he was fighting for control of his own body. He arched back violently, and his hood was flung all the way off. I was still clutching the cape, but I felt my hands reflexively slacken. I stared at the man with a gasp of surprise caught in my throat.
© Becca Fitzpatrick 2010

If you missed the first stop of the tour, hop on over to Book Chick City and read a fabulous interview with Becca Fitzpatrick.

Tomorrow the lovely Jo has an exclusive Nora and Patch flashback extract at Once Upon a Book Case.

If that isn't enough to get you crazy for the UK Crescendo release on 14th October, you can read my review here and go angel mad! Enjoy!
Thanks to the lovely people at Simon Pulse for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Review: Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud

Author: Andrew Lane

Release date: 4th June 2010
Genre: Murder Mystery, Crime, Historical Fiction
Target audience: 10+

Summary from Amazon:
The year is 1868, and Sherlock Holmes is fourteen. His life is that of a perfectly ordinary army officer’s son: boarding school, good manners, a classical education – the backbone of the British Empire. But all that is about to change. With his father suddenly posted to India, and his mother mysteriously ‘unwell’, Sherlock is sent to stay with his eccentric uncle and aunt in their vast house in Hampshire. So begins a summer that leads Sherlock to uncover his first murder, a kidnap, corruption and a brilliantly sinister villain of exquisitely malign intent . . .

Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud is a quirky, action-packed read which is just what you expect to find in a novel that explores a character of such high esteem in British literature.

This is Sherlock Holmes as you’ve never seen him before and it makes entertaining reading. The story begins with Sherlock at Deepdene School waiting to be collected by his father to return home to London for the summer holidays. Unfortunately, he is summoned to the Headmaster’s study to be told that alternative arrangements for his holiday have been made. His older brother Mycroft is there to deliver this depressing news. Poor Sherlock is going to stay with his Uncle Sherrinford for the duration of the school break. Sherlock is far from happy about this news but as a true Brit, he has perfected the stiff upper lip and effectively gets on with it. He arrives at Holmes Manor and meets his aunt and uncle. The news gets worse for poor Sherlock when he discovers his brother recommended that he have a tutor for the summer – Amyus Crowe.

Sherlock now thinks his summer is doomed to be boring but then two twists of fate turn his fortune. The first, he makes a friend in Matty Arnatt – a boy who has witnessed a shocking death. The second, his tutor is the farthest from his experience of schooling than he could ever imagine, and so begins the real story about uncovering a bizarre mysterious death.

The novel explores how Sherlock learns to use the skills of deduction and observation. His tutor encourages a logical way of thinking and often Sherlock remembers phrases that Mycroft has told him and these help him piece together the mystery.

Reading this novel I was struck by the number of facts that the author managed to cram in. Young Sherlock seemed to me to be very much a book for boys with its attention to the minute detail and the almost obsession with logical thinking. Yet I know girls have enjoyed this book because they have told me and were so enthused by it that I decided to read it.

I really enjoyed the beginning and the ending because it was shaped with humour. I found the middle rather slow and yet it was full of action scenes. Again, I think this is because it is aimed at boys. I always switch off during battles (both if I am reading or if I am watching a film) and so I doubt this is a weakness of the book. I suspect it is the reverse really.

I commend Andrew Lane for the plotting of the crime. I was clueless as to what was behind the murders. Thank goodness Young Sherlock could use his logic and deduction to work it out for me. At the end of Death Cloud we are left with one mystery unresolved. There is certainly more to come from this crime sleuth in training. This book is undoubtedly a hit. There is great characterisation and great friendships which connect you with the gruesome story and keep you reading on.

NB: An interesting thing that happened yesterday at school. A student returned this book after only having it out for one day. I asked him if he didn’t it. He said he didn’t understand it. The prologue confused him. He thought Matty had turned into Sherlock. So he decided to give up on it. This just goes to illustrate the point: never include a prologue unless it is a matter of life and death. Just get on and tell the story.