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Friday, 31 December 2010

End of Year Survey: Part Two

I have been enjoying reading these posts on some of my favourite blogs so here I am participating in Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner's End of Year Survey.



Part One is here


Now on to Part Two:


1.  New favourite book blog you discovered in 2010?
There were so many. Top of the list has to be Caroline at Portrait of a Woman who is not just my blog friend but now a real life friend who even made me brownies when I was sad.


A special mention for Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read who writes such great, thoughtful reviews and has been helping me manage my review books. She has single-handedly brought sanity to my blogging and I am forever in her debt.


I also want to mention my book twin - Christina @ Confessions of a Book Addict. She has made me a huge fan of the Book Depo because her reviews are so enthusiastic and make me completely impatient for books to come out here.


2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010?
It was very early in 2010. My review for When I Was Joe by Keren David. I put a lot of my true self into the review and every word came from the heart.


3. Best discussion you had on your blog?
I'm not sure I had a "best discussion". The main thing I've discussed is not being able to cope with the number of review copies I receive and I am not sure that is constructive. But the most recent one (On the art of saying no thank you) did bring a solution to my blog as now Irena is guest reviewing for me and it is working out very well. (Irena do say if you wish to disagree).


4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog?
I really enjoyed reading Lenore's Reader Views post on plausibility in dystopian fiction. In fact her whole Dystopian August Month was awesome.


5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Meeting up with other book bloggers in person back in May. It was the most exciting experience to meet people who share so much in common with you. I even revealed my obsession with The Mentalist. I am so ashamed to confess this but I bought 8 books at our Blogger Meet Up and I still haven't read a single one. That is something I want to change next year. If I buy a book, I want to read it.


6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010?
Goodness... there were so many: interviewing Rick Riordan, being contacted by authors who have appreciated my reviews, being overwhelmed by blogger and author support for next year's British Books Challenge.



7. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.) ?
Strident Publishing... a small, but let's face it, outstanding publisher in the UK who deserve recognition for publishing fantastic British Young Adult fiction in a very competitive market. I love the Strident team!


Thanks to everyone who has made 2010 a great year for blogging.

Thanks to all the publishers who have invited me to events, sent me review copies and given me the opportunity to interview my favourite authors.

Thanks to the bloggers who comment here day after day and give me the motivation to keep blogging. 2011  @ The Bookette is for you guys!









End of Year Survey: Part One

I have been enjoying reading these posts on some of my favourite blogs so here I am participating in Jamie @ The Perpetual Page Turner's End of Year Survey.

Part One:

1. The Best Book of 2010?
Without a doubt Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. I love this book so much and it was published in the UK this year. Two other brilliant books that I can't live without of 2010 are When I Was Joe by Keren David and Firebrand by Gillian Philip.

2. Worst Book of 2010?
For me, it was My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares. I feel terrible saying this because it wasn't poorly written or anything but I just didn't enjoy the format, the lack of pace, the ending... I'm not entirely sure that I got the point of it. I know lots of other people loved though.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?
Torment by Lauren Kate... I loved Fallen but I just felt Torment lacked direction, there was too much teen speak and the whole thing frustrated me.

4. Most Surprising in a Good Way Book of 2010?
Time Riders by Alex Scarrow. Having a weird prejudice against time travel as a device for story-telling, I am totally converted after reading this book. Bring on the next one in the series. I am addicted people!

5. Book You Recommended Most to People in 2010?
Oh this is tough. Recommending books is my job. I guess it has to be Perfect Chemistry though. My twitter-craziness after finishing it surely would put it top of the list. I know I have also recommended my other two favourites (When I Was Joe and Firebrand) time and again whenever I see book people.

6. Best Series You Discovered in 2010?
Got to be The Last Survivors by Susan Pfeffer. How could I have waited so long to read them? Bloomin' brilliant in the most terrifying way possible. I still feel the need to stockpile just about everything.

7. Favourite New Authors Discovered in 2010?
Curtis Sittenfeld ... why had no one told me how brilliant Prep is? Lili St. Crow... loving the whole kick-butt heroine thing going on in Strange Angels. Lisa McMann... how awesome is her conciseness? (I could do with some lessons) Jaclyn Moriarty... every word she writes is pure gold.

8. Most Hilarious Read of 2010?
Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud... Genius in the funny stakes!

9. Most Thrilling Unputdownable Book read in 2010?
I refer to Question 6. It has to be Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer. I didn't want to go to the toilet because I was so invovled in that book. It will stay with me for a long long long time.

10. Book you most Anticipated in 2010?
Ooh there were two BIG ones for me. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan and Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan. Both were well worth the wait!

11. Favourite Cover of a Book you Read in 2010?
Candor by Pam Bachorz - The UK one!

12. Most Memorable Character in 2010?
Alex Fuentes! Duh!

13. Most Beautifully Written Book of 2010?
This one was such a difficult choice because I find so many styles of writing beauiful but I'm going with Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan because for me, it was lyrical.

14. Book that had the greatest impact upon you in 2010?
When I Was Joe by Keren David. That book spoke to me in a way that seems humanly impossible.

15. Book that you can't believe you waited until 2010 to read?
Life As We Knew It... I remember a colleague telling me it was brilliant over two years ago. I really need to learn to read a book when someone passionately tells me that I HAVE TO. I guess I don't like to be ordered around...

Part Two coming soon...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Review: The Replacement

Author: Brenna Yovanoff



Release date: 6th Jan 2011 UK
Genre: Paranormal / Horror / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster


Summary from Amazon:


Mackie Doyle is a replacement - a fairy child left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago, to replace the baby when it was stolen away by the fey. So though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie's real home is the fey world of tunnels and black, murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. Now, because his fey blood gives him fatal allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world. Mackie would give anything just to be normal, to live quietly amongst humans, practice his bass guitar and spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably back home to the fey underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem, where he must face down the dark creatures, rescue the child, and find his rightful place - in our world, or theirs.


Review:


The Replacement is a haunting, terrifying novel which explores the nature of humanity and the darkest creatures that live beneath the town of Gentry.


Mackie Doyle is not an ordinary boy. He lives in the town of Gentry but he is not one of the people. He is a replacement. Sixteen years ago a baby boy was stolen from a crib in the Doyle house and Mackie was left behind in the boy’s place.


From the very first chapter, the eerie and unnerving tone of the novel is unleashed. Mackie forgets that there is a blood drive at school and when he enters the canteen, the iron in the blood threatens to overwhelm him. Iron brings on a strange and debilitating sickness in Mackie. He knows he is different from his peers and he knows he must not show it for fear that the townsfolk will persecute him. The strange and sinister mysteries of the town are a recurring nightmare. Another baby has been stolen from a crib. Mackie tries to his best to blend in and not expose the true nature of what he is but his sickness is growing and his life is beginning to unravel.


Mackie was a very likeable character. Despite the fact that he perceives himself as part of the evil stirring in Gentry, as the reader I never felt that way about him. His desire to be human and accepted made me warm to him. I also really loved Roswell - Mackie’s best friend. He was dependable, logical and for me the central source of hope in the novel. I had this feeling, which I think Mackie shared, that as long as Roswell was there everything would be alright.


There were times reading The Replacement when I felt truly disturbed by the utterly gruesome horrors of the town. I am beginning to think this blog should be called Diary of a Wimpy Bookette because this book haunted me; the terrifying scenes followed me around even when I wasn’t reading. I have to say I was relieved when I finished it. But do not misunderstand me, for this book is well-written and well-plotted. It is just that the description of some of the monsters actually made me gag. This is the closest I will ever come to reading a horror novel.


The Replacement is full of foreboding, a swirling evil and an exploration of deep philosophical questions about the nature of who and what we are. It stands out for its utterly compelling, sinister edge but only read it if you are a braver reader than me. Let’s face it that wouldn’t be hard!


Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.
 

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Announcement: Rules of Attraction Blog Tour

The New Year is getting ever closer and so I have another announcement for exciting things to expect here. I am thrilled to be part of the UK blog tour for Rules of Attraction (the second book in Simone Elkeles's Perfect Chemistry series). If you haven't read Perfect Chemistry, I seriously think you need to reassess your reading priorities.

I am the first stop on the tour. Yes, little ol' me! I am so so excited. I got to interview Simone which has been one of my blog dreams since I read the first book.

If you follow this blog closely (you get a nice big cuddle) but you'll also know that I've already reviewed Rules of Attraction. What can I say? I have no patience where the awesomeness of Simone is concerned. So hop on over to this post to read my REVIEW.

But make sure you are back here on January 10th to read that dream QandA. Oh and if you are a huge fan of Alex and Carlos, you should definitely check out the other blogs on the tour. They all rock!

NB: Comments are disabled on this post because it is for info only.


Review: Tomorrow When the War Began

Author: John Marsden


Release date: Reprinted 2006, first published in Australia 1993, this UK ed 1995
Genre: Action / Dystopia?
Target audience: 12+


Summary from Amazon:
When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they're leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong--horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured--including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.


Tomorrow When the War Began, Book 1 Tomorrow Series


Review:


Tomorrow When the War Began is a compelling story about survival, friendship and choices. It is a novel full of action but it will take you to the heart of the question of what it means to be human.


Ellie is the narrator of the story. At the beginning of the novel Ellie and her best friend Corrie decide on a whim that they should go camping in the bush. It is as if they knew their childhood was about to be left behind and they needed one last hurrah of youthful indulgence. So Ellie and her friends go off on their adventure into Hell. Seven of them altogether and each character brings something meaningful to the story. Hell is not the realm of Satan but a part of the outback that is inaccessible to humans and has always held a mystery for Ellie. She is determined to descend Satan’s steps (huge steep boulders and rugged terrain) and reach the secret place that she has imagined lies beyond.


The camping is rather uneventful. Seven teens all feeling rather lazy after their physically challenging climb down can’t be bothered to stretch themselves any further so pretty much lay around all day. The five days pass and they all climb out of Hell and return home to find that everything has changed.


Ellie’s narrative had me hooked from the first page. She is painfully honest about her feelings and her reactions to the terror that she experiences. She documents the reactions of the others and you get to know each character. Homer is resourceful and becomes the leader. Robyn is controlled, brave and determined. Fi is shy and yet utterly loyal to her friends. Lee is a thinker. Kevin is a hothead. Corrie is a comforter.


This novel explores many of the moral issues surrounding war and from both the perspective of the invaders and the natives. Ellie conveys the battle of her conscience through her account of what happens and it really does give the reader food for thought. She talks about evil as a human construct which is fascinating.


Aside from the big questions that get you thinking, there is a gritty and page-turning plot. The fear that the teens face as they take risks to discover the fate of their families and collect the materials that are vital to their survival takes hold of you. I was with them every step of the way.


I have ordered the next book in the series because I really want to know what happens next. It was so refreshing to read a story set in the real world with a scenario that had the feeling of “this might just happen”.


A special thank you to Lauren @ I Was A Teenage Book Geek for lending me her copy of the book. She wrote the most awesome review which is why I wanted to read Tomorrow When the War Began. You should really check it out!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Guest Review: Leviathan

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Release date: 27th May 2010 UK
Genre: Steampunk
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary:
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way.taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.


Irena's Review:


The story of Leviathan begins with a real-life tragedy that was the cause for the beginning of World War I - Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria-Hungary, and his wife have just been assassinated in Sarajevo (Serbia) and their son, Aleksandar, must be protected immediately. The news spreads fast and European countries are at the ready for war. Young Alek, although not the rightful heir to his father's throne because Franz Ferdinand married a commoner, is suddenly in danger. Someone knows the boy is more important than the Austrian-Hungarian court would have everyone know - even Alek himself has been clueless until the murder of his parents.


To begin with, I must compliment Westerfeld for blending fact and fiction so well. Aleksandar was not a real person. The archduke and his wife had three children, all of which were not considered Franz Ferdinand's heirs, as their mother was a commoner. In this novel, Aleksandar is their only child and he is a completely believable character. He did not exist in actual history, but he truly lives in the novel and while I was reading the story, I completely forgot he was never real. His character is well outlined. He behaves very royally, is educated and intelligent, and possesses a bit of the royal arrogance, which is natural, as he was brought up as a nobleman. However, he is able to learn some humility and has a vulnerability to him that promises to make him a great leader, if he ever becomes one. I must say that, although I am a bit of a history freak, I was not bothered at all by the blending of history and fiction. It was extremely well done and in a beliavable way.


Aleksandar, as an Austrian, is also a Clanker. He and his countrymen rely on machines and are great mechanics. They travel around in big walking vehicles.


On the other side, we meet Darwinist (the English), who travel in fabricated creatures. An example of such a creature is the Leviathan, an aircraft that is basically a huge whale fuelled by hydrogen that the whale produces by itself. Leviathan is a living, breathing aircraft and Clankers hate Darwinist beasties, thinking them ungodly and a perversion of nature. Deryn Sharp is a Darwinist. She is a girl dressing up as a boy because this is the only way she can be a soldier. She is extremely brave, clever and talkative. She can handle any situation and for most of the time, she is more boy than girl, but over the course of the novel she begins to show that essentially, Deryn Sharp is a girl.


The story offers very interesting characters and a lot of adventure. This novel is truly packed with adventures and excitement, and there isn't a moment when something is not happening. This novel focuses on the pre-WW1 time. The archduke has just been murdered and war is imminent. As young Alek is in danger, he must be transported to a safe place, which is far from easy. On their way, this group of Clankers - Alek and his loyal companions - meet a group of Darwinist soldiers, with Deryn Sharp among them, and Alek's act of altruism threatens to put him in even greater danger. Alek and Deryn also learn that people should not be judged before one gets to know them. You cannot hate a person simply because he/she is a Clanker or a Darwinist. The adventures are definitely fun to read about. This is a very plot-driven novel, but it does offer some nice insight into the characters featuring in the story.


I truly like the premise - Clankers vs Darwinists. The author stayed faithful to the main events before WW1, yet fabricated them so that they fit the steampunk plot, which is essentially a clash between Clankers and Darwinists. It also provides an opportunity to think. I could easily understand the Clankers. They rely on machines and that is what we do, as well. The Darwinist, however, can manage nature. They turn living creatures into means of transportation, into walkie-talkies and so on. As I believe that nature should not be abused by means of unnecessary genetic experiments (e.g. cloning), I had a hard time liking the Darwinists at first. But then, the concept really grew on me and I think it's a great fantasy feature and definitely refreshing in the fantasy world. Just imagine - instead of travelling in a plane, you travel inside a living whale! In the real world, I would not want to travel inside a fabricated mammal, but fantasy-wise, it is a very thrilling idea. I love this author's imagination!


This is not my usual reading genre (I mean steampunk), but I enjoyed the novel nonetheless. It ends on a great cliff-hanger that offers a lot of new adventures and danger in the future of the characters and I am definitely tempted to read the sequel. Leviathan was more or less an introduction into what is coming, but it was a great read and if you like fantasy, history and steampunk, it is a perfect read for you. A truly gripping page-turner.
 
 
Becky says: As you know Irena, I did try to read this book but I just couldn't get into it. I did think the concept was a really interesting one but I think steampunk is not for me. I'm glad you stuck with it because it sounds like if you do "get" it, the novel is gripping and quite an imaginative feat. Both our thanks go to Simon and Schuster for sending the book to review.
 
And any UKers out there might be interested to know that Amazon are selling Leviathan for £1.99. I couldn't believe it when I clicked through to check the release date. Buy it now if you're going to! Here is the LINK.

Monday, 27 December 2010

In My Santa Sack 2010

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. I sure did!

I thought you might like to see the exciting books that I was lucky enough to find in my Santa Sack on Christmas morning.

So here they are:


All links go to Goodreads...

Top Row:
Genesis by Bernard Beckett
Frostbite (Vampire Academy) by Richelle Mead
Nobel Genes by Rune Micheals

Middle Row:
Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles
Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

Bottom Row:
Anna and the French Kiss by Suzanne Perkins
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
Splendour by Anna Godbersen

This post is inspired by The Story Siren's In My Mailbox meme.

So which book did you get this Christmas that you just can't wait to read?

Friday, 24 December 2010

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan



Release date: 26th October 2010 US
Genre: Romantic Comedy / Contemporary YA Fiction
Target audience: 12+
US Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf


Summary from Goodreads:


“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”


So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favourite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?


Review:


Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is a happy, feel-good novel full of Christmas cheer, humour and the sweet tender taste of possibilities. I read it in one go, beginning to end, and loved every second of it.


Dash is sixteen and has manoeuvred his parents into letting him spend Christmas alone. He finds Lily’s red notebook nestled beside one of his favourite authors on the shelves of a New York bookstore and being an inquisitive literary type, he takes up the first challenge.


Lily is sweet sixteen. She has never been kiss. Worse, she has never had a day’s rebellion in her life. She is the ultimate goodie-two-shoes and always sticks to her curfew, adores every Christmas tradition and really should be employed by Santa as his head elf. But she writes in the notebook and when she gets a response from Dash the story of their very different but equally interesting lives in the Big Apple begins to unfold.


The narrative voices are distinct and I loved them both equally. At first Dash seems like a bit of a pompous over-inflated dictionary on legs but I soon got through that verbose flamboyancy, I developed a genuine affection for the guy. Of course, as a reader and lover of words I could relate to Dash. But I don’t share his cynicism about Christmas. I would never revel in spending it alone. My company is really not all that entertaining to me. Christmas is all about family.


Lily is an innocent-if-a-little-bizarre-but-completely-adorable-character. I love her Christmas wonderment and the fact that it has never lost its magic for her. I think if given the chance most people would love to keep the childlike belief in Christmas magic alive. I also love that she is one of those people who is genuinely nice. Yes, she hasn’t seen much of the world but still her heart is pure gold.


This novel is every bit the romantic comedy. The: will they? Won’t they? story. Are they too different to be right for each other? Is there even such a thing as being right for someone? Then there is the absolute laugh out loud moments: the crazy expressions that they both use, Boomer and his general boomonicness and the slapstick routines. I couldn’t fail but to love it. Considering my favourite film is You’ve Got Mail, I can’t help but feel this is the perfect Christmas read for me. New York just stepped off the page and waltzed into my living room.


To love this book as much as me, I think you need to be a hopeless romantic, a believer in the Christmas spirit and be in the mood for a novel that will leave you feeling happy, elated and ready to don your Christmas antlers. I think I may have found a book that I have to read every Christmas. It was just so festive and sweet!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Announcement: The Replacement Blog Tour

The new year brings many things to The Bookette but none of them more scary than The Replacement Blog Tour.


You may be wondering how I got coerced into reading such a scary book ... All I can say is that I am very fond of one Simon and Schuster publicist and she promised me I would survive the experience. Actually, she whole-heartedly believed I would enjoy it! Was the mysterious but wonderful publicist correct? You will have to stay-tuned to this blog to find out. My review will be up next week.


My stop on the blog tour is January 6th and I will be sharing with you Brenna Yovanoff's playlist for The Replacement which I imagine to be terribly foreboding but we shall see. There are many other fabulous blogs on the tour as you can see. Enjoy if you do not tremble at the sight of creepy woods and the twitching of a curtain...










NB: I have disabled comments as this is an info only post!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Review: Spy Glass

Author: Maria V. Snyder



Release date: 17th September 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy / Adult
Target audience: Adult / YA Cross-over
UK Publisher: Mira Books

Summary from Amazon:

WARNING: This summary has spoilers for earlier books in the series.


An undercover mission leads to danger, adventure and an impossible choice. After siphoning her own blood magic in the showdown at Hubal, Opal Cowan has lost her powers. She can no longer create glass magic. More, she's immune to the effects of magic. Opal is now an outsider looking in, spying through the glass on those with the powers she once had, powers that make a difference in the world. Until spying through the glass becomes her new power. Suddenly, the beautiful pieces she makes flash in the presence of magic. And then she discovers that someone has stolen some of her blood - and that finding it might let her regain her powers. Or know it could be they are lost forever.

Storm Glass (Opal Cowan Book 1) Review here

Sea Glass (Opal Cowan Triology Book 2) here




Review:


This review will contain spoilers for books 1 and 2. You have been warned!


Spy Glass is an epic and addictive finale to the Opal Cowan series. From the first page I was hooked and I was reading it in every spare second I could find.


At the end of Sea Glass Opal makes a huge sacrifice for the greater good. So at the beginning of Spy Glass (which takes up where Sea Glass finishes) we see Opal trying to come to terms with her actions and the loss that she has endured. She also discovers an unexpected consequence of her sacrifice which is yet another thing she needs to decide whether or not to tell the council.


Opal is determined to be a master of her own destiny in this novel. She makes some distinctively tough choices and some of them would not find their way into a Young Adult novel in the UK. It is obvious to me after reading this why it is marketed as an adult novel here.


There are some interesting themes explored through the novel: freedom, power, corruption, love. There is also a huge emphasis on redemption and the difference between a character driven by an inner evil and one who is driven by a debilitating addiction. It is the first time I’ve seen this in a fantasy novel and it really intrigued me as a way to characterise the evil actions that one character does.


The plot of the whole series is meticulously crafted. I honestly cannot get my head around how a writer can foresee at the beginning of a series how all the subplots can tie into the main plot. It is incredible and Snyder really keeps the reader on her toes.


If you’ve had told me what would happen in the ending before I started reading the book, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen the way it did. But then as I got more and more into Spy Glass everything I wanted at the beginning had changed and so that I did want the ending the was revealed to me.


Spy Glass is a surprising twist in the tale of Opal Cowan. I would actually love to read more from this character or at least from her world. I am going to have to go and read the Study series now because I am rather addicted to Snyder’s plotting. It is thriller meets fantasy. Gripping, mysterious and highly satisfying!


Thank you to Mira Books for sending me the book to review.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Guest Review: Company of Angels

Author: Lili Wilkinson

Release date: 1st March 2010 UK
Genre: Historical Adventure
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Catnip Books

Summary:
A charismatic religious leader has come to the village. Stefan has convinced Gabriel that only children will be able to liberate the Holy Land from the Infidel. Together they raise an army and make the arduous journey over the Alps to the Mediterranean-Stefan's promise that the ocean will part before them urging them on. But the power of Stefan's promises dim as they suffer misadventures again and again. Gabriel must face his doubts and the questions that plague him. Who is Stefan? Is he really a holy prophet? Or has he doomed them all? And can they survive on faith alone?


Irena's Review:
Company of Angels, also known under the title Angel Fish, is a poignant story based on the 13th century Children's Crusade.


This book is based on loose facts and is a fictional account of the great events that might have happened in 1212. Historians are still not sure whether children actually went to the Holy Land to fight the Saracens or not. There are many theories and none of them confirmed, but the author opted for the one which supposes that a great army of children from France and Germany went on a holy crusade to restore Jerusalem back to Christians. This is a startling thought; the image of thousands of children struggling on their dangerous journey to a far-away place, suffering and dying in the hope that their mission might be victorious, is shocking and tragic, as well as breath-taking.


The story begins when Gabriel, a French peasant boy, meets the charismatic Stefan, who claims he has had a message from God and it is his duty to gather together children. Stefan, a fervent believer and the preacher type, believes that the pure souls of innocent children will kill the Saracens the moment their little feet touch the soil of Jerusalem. The impressionable Gabriel joins Stefan as his first follower, believing Stefan when he says that Gabriel, his first follower, is Stefan's alpha fish, a soaring bird - simply put, the hope of Christianity. Gabriel is very proud of his new extremely important position.


Soon, an army of two becomes an army of several thousand children and when they meet a German army of children on their way to Jerusalem, led by Nikolai, everything suddenly seems to be very possible.

The story is told from Gabriel's point of view and as Gabriel is a little boy, the language of the narrative is simple, but Gabriel's thoughts are very deep and show that his mind is mature and able to conjure up very thoughtful ideas. He is naive, yet also incredibly aware of himself. Gabriel believes in Stefan absolutely. The reader can see that Stefan is self-righteous and even hypocritical, saying one thing and doing another, but to Gabriel, this mission is everything and he puts his entire faith in Gabriel. When the army is met with a string of failures and many deaths, Gabriel is tempted to waver and even does once, but he picks himself up and continues the journey. His faith in Stefan, in the mission, is perfect. He sees himself as Stefan's alpha fish all the time and feels a great responsibility as Stefan's first follower. He genuinely believes that Stefan needs him.


One might say very fast that Gabriel's faith is blind and to a certain extent it is. To him, the mission is not even about God and Jerusalem. It is about Stefan and the magnificence that the man radiates, according to Gabriel. Yet, Gabriel is also a constant in this story and presents unwavering faith in this novel. The people around him keep changing their minds. One minute they believe, the next they doubt, then believe again and so on. But Gabriel is firm in his beliefs, no matter what, and I could truly appreciate this about his character. He is an amazing little boy.


The novel explores many things - the crusades, the ongoing conflict between Christianity and Islam, human faith, honest beliefs vs. hypocrisy and courage. It is a bitter sweet and strangely inspiring tale that leaves one thinking about it after they've finished reading the novel. The journey of the children was physically and emotionally overwhelming, but Gabriel is proof that you can achieve any goal if you believe in it enough, which is a very inspiring thought. Just in general, the word that best describes the novel in my eyes is inspiring.


The novel offers a detailed account of a great historical event that might have actually happened. The history is covered well, as is the emotional journey of the characters. I truly enjoyed the author's vision of the Children's Crusade, presenting it in realistic terms that leave a deep emotional impression.


The ending is bitter sweet, yet after what Gabriel went through, I can hardly imagine it otherwise. The final message is that one has to find happiness inside oneself, but sadly that is often very hard to accomplish.

Company of Angels is a great fictional historical tale based on real events, featuring a great hero. It is quite a journey and if you like historical fiction with some depth, this is the right journey for you.


Becky says: Wow Irena. I think this review is beautiful. It is so thoughtful and I love the consideration you have given to the different themes explored by the author. Thank you so much for being my guest reviewer. I am feeling rather honoured to have you helping out.

Both our thanks go to Catnip Books/ Bounce Marketing for sending the book for review.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

British Books Challenge 2011: FAQS

What is the British Books Challenge? The BBC is a year long reading challenge. More detail about the challenge can be found at THIS post.

Where do I sign up for the challenge?
To sign up, please go to THIS post.


Is there is a closing date to sign up for the challenge?
Yes, please sign up by January 31st 2011 if you wish to take part.


I post reviews on more than one blog. Can they count towards my challenge total?
Yes, for example, I am posting guest reviews from Irena on my blog but these are her reviews and count towards her challenge total. Please make sure you link your reviews on your sign up post.


I am an international entrant and sometimes I do not have time to write my reviews in English. Can I write them in my native language?
Of course. It would be helpful if there was a little summary in English so that I can comment but as long as you make sure the book's title is translated somewhere on your post then it is fine. I'm delighted that international bloggers are going to help promote British authors.

Do Irish authors count towards my challenge total?
No. Ireland is not part of the UK. The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Authors who live in any of these locations can count towards the challenge.

These authors are Irish and therefore cannot count towards the challenge:
John Boyne

Derek Landy
Michael Scott
Eoin Colfer
Sarah Rees Brennan
Siobhán Parkinson
Oisín McGann
Roddy Doyle
Kate Thompson

Carrie of Books and Movies is hosting an Ireland Challenge. So hop on over to her POST and find out about signing up if you are keen to read Irish authors in 2011.

How about authors who were say born in America (insert any other country here) but are currently living in the UK?
Yes, we are using the following criteria to decide whether an author can count towards the challenge:
  1. Authors who were born in the UK, live in the UK and are published in the UK
  2. Authors who were born overseas but are CURRENTLY living in the UK and their books were/are being published in the UK first
  3. Authors who were born in the UK are currently living overseas but their books are being published in the UK first
I know it can be tricky to work this out so if you are not sure, leave me the author's name in the comments or use the form below to submit a question and I will get back to you about whether we can include the author in the challenge.



Is there a list that I can use to check whether an author counts towards the challenge?
Thanks to Reading Teenage Fiction there is a list of all YA books being published in the UK in January. Karen has kindly identified the British authors. Visit her post HERE.

Do you have any suggestions of authors that we should try?
Check out my own list of books that I am going to read in 2011. That may be a good place to start! Otherwise my favourite British authors are Keren David, Gillian Philip, Marcus Sedgwick, Katherine Roberts, Michelle Paver, Joseph Delaney... the list goes on and on.

I do not have a blog but I would love to take part. Is there a way that I can take part?
I am considering setting up a blog for reviews to be added to by people who are not bloggers but who would still like to take part. Obviously this is a lot of work for me to manage and monitor so I want to see how much interest there would be in this option. So if you are interested, please say so in the comments, or you can email me: thebookette @ googlemail.com with BBC Non-Blogger Option in the subject and we'll take it from there.

I have a question that you haven't answered here. How can I contact you?
Use the I have a Question Form above and I will answer it!

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Bookette's Guide to ... Popular Books This Term

It is officially my Christmas Holidays. Yay! It has been a very long term and it is nice to finally have a little time for blogging. Anyway before I left work yesterday I printed a list of the most popular books by gender. A while back Christina @ Confessions of a Book Addict did a post about what her students have enjoyed reading and I thought it would be cool to do the same. So what follows is a list of books read by my students aged 9 - 13 since September. #1 being the most borrowed book etc...

The Boys:


  1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid Books 1 – 5 by Jeff Kinney
  2. Captain Underpants (the whole series) by Dav Pilkey
  3. Percy Jackson (the whole series) by Rick Riordan
  4. Skulduggery Pleasant: Dark Days by Derek Landy
  5. Striker: Sudden Death by Nick Hale
  6. The Devil and his Boy by Anthony Horowitz
  7. Young Samurai (the whole series) by Chris Bradford
  8. Farticus Maximus by Felice Arena
  9. Finding the Fox by Ali Sparkes
  10. When I Was Joe by Keren David
The Girls:


  1. Cherry Crush by Cathy Cassidy
  2. Dizzy by Cathy Cassidy
  3. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell
  4. Fangtastic! (My Sister's a Vampire) by Sienna Mercer
  5. Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy
  6. The Longest Whale Song by Jacqueline Wilson
  7. My Name is Mina by David Almond
  8. Allie Finkles Rules for Girls (whole series) by Meg Cabot
  9. Driftwood by Cathy Cassidy
  10. The Ashleys by Melissa de la Cruz
Funny books have definitely been the biggest request this half term. The power of the Wimpy Kid...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Review: Sea Glass

Author: Maris V. Snyder
Release date: 22nd January 2010
Genre: Fantasy / Adult
Target audience: Adult / YA Cross-over
UK Publisher: Mira Books

Summary from Goodreads:
Like the colorful pieces of sea glass washed up on shore, Opal has weathered rough waters and twisting currents. But instead of finding a tranquil eddy, Opal is caught in a riptide. Her unique glass messengers which allow instant communication over vast distances have become a vital part of Sitian society. Once used solely by the Councilors and magicians, other powerful factions are now vying for control. Control of the messengers equals control of Sitia. Unfortunately that also means control of Opal.

Storm Glass (Opal Cowan Book 1) Review here

Sea Glass (Opal Cowan Triology Book 2)

Review:
When I started reading Sea Glass, I realised that I had made a fatal error. I really needed to re-read Storm Glass to understand the book fully. It had been nearly a year since I read the first book in the Opal Cowan series and I know that I really enjoyed it. The trouble was I couldn't remember all of the characters. As this is high fantasy, I also had trouble remembering the important aspects of the world building.

For the first one hundred pages, I felt lost and bewildered about the plot, the characters, the setting. It was my fault. If I wasn't a blogger and under a schedule, I would have re-read the first book and then started this one. It just goes to show much blogging has changed the way I read and it is not always to my benefit.

Once I was beyond the first one hundred pages, things started to wake up in my memory and by the half way point, I was completely absorbed in the story and couldn't wait to turn the page.

This review cannot really be a review because even now I cannot remember what happened in the beginning. I do know that Opal's psyche takes a dark and angry twist in Sea Glass. She is no longer the innocent novice magician of the first book. The only discoveries in this book lead her to question the motives of her friends, her fellow magicians and the nature of her powers. She takes unnessary risks and cannot even trust her own judement. It is great character development.

Apart from my shockingly poor memory, there was one other thing that irritated me while reading this book. I felt that there was too much travel from one place to another. You know how being in a car journey is completely boring? Well so is reading about someone riding a horse somewhere, especially when it is a recurring part of the story. Opal is taken hostage here, gets dragged to prison here, escapes here etc. This is something that I find irritates me in many books. But in this novel, it was also the introduction of obstacle after obstacle.

I wanted to spend more time with Opal as a free magician exploring her magical potential and less time with her being tortured, captured and generally being abused.

Having said all that, the opposition, betrayals, problems are all part of the story and had me desperate to know what happened to Opal. The plot may have lots of "journeying" but it is also full of drama. It is so full of drama in fact, that as soon as I finished the book I started Spy Glass. I was desperate to find out what happened next. I am not one to make the same mistake twice. Can the same be said of Opal? You'll have to read the series to find out!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Guest Review: Bloodline

Author: Kate Cary


Release date: 4th October 2010 UK
Genre: vampire fiction/historical fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Egmont Books


Summary:
Thirty-five years have passed since the death of the Master. But now a new evil walks among the living. . . . When nineteen-year-old John Shaw returns from the trenches of World War I, he is haunted by nightmares-not only of the battlefield, but of the strange, cruel and impossible feats of his regiment's commander, Quincey Harker. Harker's ferocity knows no limits, and his strength is superhuman. At first John blames his bloody nightmares on trench fever. But when Harker appears in England and begins wooing John's sister, John must confront the truth-and stop Harker from continuing Dracula's bloodline.


Irena’s Review:


Bloodline is the first novel in a series that is a sequel to the famous novel by Bram Stoker, Dracula.


The story of the vampire Dracula ended in Stoker's novel - or perhaps not entirely, for Dracula did not leave this world without a powerful heritage in the form of his blood-thirsty progeny and they want to make the House of Dracula invincible once more.


Thirty-five years after the death of Dracula, Europe is engaged in the first world war and Mary Seward, the only child of Dr Seward, who is an important character in the original novel, is a nurse at the Purfleet Sanatorium, now a hospital for wounded soldiers. A soldier, John Shaw, is brought to her care and in him she recognises the neighbour boy from Carfax Abbey, now a grown man suffering from the trench fever. John Shaw speaks and does strange things due to this fever and in order to help him, Mary reads his journal that reveals great horrors comitted by John's superior, Captain Quincey Harker, the son of Mina and Jonathan Harker, who are also important characters from the original novel. When John recovers, an affection develops between him and Mary, but it is marred by the arrival of Quincey Harker to England and his wooing John's innocent younger sister, Lily.


When Lily, blindly enamoured of Quincey Harker, does a reckless thing for the sake of love, Mary and John learn the truth about Captain Harker from Mary's elderly father. Shocked by the truth, yet eager to save Lily, Mary and John embark on a dangerous journey, their one goal to face and destroy the vampires belonging to the bloodline of Dracula.


There are parallels between the original novel and this story, reminding the reader about what happened, yet taking a fresh approach to the timeless story about Dracula and those who fought to defeat him. Mary Seward and John Shaw are placed in the positions of Mina and Jonathan Harker, yet they face a greater danger, especially John, because evil is closer than they might have imagined. Mary is a strong, determined heroine. Although a bit too nosy for my taste, she possesses the ability to distinguish clearly between right and wrong. She has an instinct to recognise evil and is not blinded by it. I liked her independent spirit and determination very much. John, on the other hand, is much more pliable, which is also one his greatest deficits. He is a brave young man and a good soldier, but his determination is much weaker than Mary's. Lily, his younger sister, is an innocent and pure-hearted woman who is both sweet and able to burn with passion. I found her to be a very intriguing character. What she does in the end surprised me, but I cannot blame her because she acted very bravely, showing that true purity and innocence override any evil.


Then, there is the enigmatic Captain Quincey Harker, the villain of this story. Strangely, he is my favourite character of this novel because he is very multi-dimensional. He is evil and appreciates what he is, yet there is still a brooding quality about him and a certain vulnerability that make him intriguing.


I very much enjoyed the setting of the novel. It takes place during the first world war and the author's descriptions of the trenches were quite scary, yet realistic. I must also compliment the author on creating a very appropriate atmosphere for a vampire novel. It is a homage to Stoker. Cary also followed Stoker's way of narration, as this novel is written in the form of journal entries, letters and newspaper articles.


The story was very interesting and it read fast, but I am not without complaints. I felt that there was not enough character development in general and events, especially the ending, were too rushed, so consequently they lack a certain depth. Mary and John accept the truth about vampires too fast and John undergoes a colossal change that is not explained well enough. The final part that takes place in Transylvania was very tense, but it all happened - and ended - a bit too fast.


My two other complaints refer to the vampires in the story. One thing that bothered me is the ability of vampires to procreate. I suppose there is something intriguing about dhampirs, but the progeny of Dracula were normal humans at first and became vampires only once they were bitten. That, to me, made no sense, I'm afraid. The other thing that bothered me was a massive change in the personality of a character from the original novel. SPOILER: Mina Harker had a child by Dracula's son, Count Tepes - the child is Quincey Harker - and after Jonathan died, Mina married the father of her child and became a lusty, seductive, blood-thirsty vampire herself. This is too much against Mina's character, so I cannot accept it. END OF SPOILER. I would like to know how vampires can procreate, but this was never explained; I missed this piece of information and would have liked to see it used in the novel.


Despite my complaints, however, I enjoyed reading this novel very much and the way the story ended promises a very intense sequel that I will definitely seek to read. Bloodline is an interesting, bloody sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula and fans of the original, as well as of vampire literature in general, may find this novel to be a very enjoyable and dramatic read with some surprising revelations.


Becky says: Wow, what an in depth review Irena. I think you are the perfect person to read it critically with your knowledge of gothic literature. The novel sounds complex and very much set within the historical period. But it is a shame about the ending. I feel like I know so much more about Dracula now because I haven’t read it. I’m intrigued.


Both our thanks go to Egmont Books for sending the book for review.