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Monday, 31 January 2011

Irena's Review: The Ice Cream Con

Author: Jimmy Docherty
Release date: 7th Jan 2008
Genre:  children's fiction/crime/adventure/comedy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Chicken House

When Jake Drake gets mugged twice in ten minutes, he comes up with a plan to con the criminals on his estate. With the help of his closet pals, he starts a rumour about a new gangster in town - the Big Baresi, the biggest gangster that never was. The con works, but not for long, as events start snow-balling out of control. Soon Jake and his gang are in trouble. Big trouble. Facing total meltdown, and stuck with a freezer full of diamonds every bad guy wants a scoop of.


What do you do when you don't have a lot of money and all the money you have gets stolen when you are mugged twice in ten minutes? Jake Drake, the victim of this scenario, knows the perfect solution: revenge, of course!
Twelve-year-old Jake Drake lives wih his grandmother on the Lochrannoch estate in Glasgow that's teeming with petty thieves and dangerous gangsters. The neighbourhood is known to the police, but that's of no use because the policemen are corrupt. When Jake gets mugged by two tough girls who work for an even tougher local gangster, taking all of his grandmother's food money for the week, Jake decides that he has had it. Together with his friends, he designs a plan to get his money back and teach the bullies a lesson along the way. They invent a new gangster in town, the Big Baresi, and spread rumours about how powerful and dangerous the new crime boss is. The local crime lords take the bait, but when a stash of stolen diamonds gets missing and everyone begins to believe the Big Baresi did it, which makes the crime lords determined to find the man and kill him, the kids are suddenly in more trouble than they had anticipated.

A real and dangerous adventure begins. The children must clear Baresi's name to extricate themselves from the situation, but this is very difficult to do when you are only twelve, not particularly tough and with two dangerous crime lords after you, which makes the children very nervous, but eager to finish the game. The children in this novel, with Jake as their leader, are more or less typical twelve-year-olds, but instead of just hanging around the estate, they have to fight crime lords and corrupt policemen.

The whole adventure is both tense and humorous. Dangerous and funny things happen one after another, creating a fun and dynamic read. The children are pushed into doing a lot of things, which includes stealing an ice-cream truck and a van of sumo suits. The adventure is also a bit far-fetched, as one can hardly imagine a group of twelve-year-old boys (and a girl) accomplishing all of those things and defeating dangerous and experienced crime lords. But once you can accept the fact that a bit of disbelief makes the whole adventure more exciting, you can simply enjoy yourself while cheering for the children to succeed.
I enjoyed the setting, which is Glasgow. I liked the characters, which were dynamic and entertaining, each in their own way. I enjoyed the novel as a whole, but I believe that essentially, this is a book meant for teenage boys. Girls can read it, of course, but I think that this book can be truly enjoyed by boys. It's not the sort of action adventure story that can be enjoyed by both genders. I think that only boys can truly appreciate it.
All in all, this is a very fun and adventurous read, tackling ordinary children in an extraordinary situation that spices up their every-day.
Becky says: Irena, it is interesting that you think it will appeal more to boys than girls. Certainly the boys at my school love humour but there are some girls who love it too. I'd be interested to hear their verdict. I have to say it sounds bizarre in a brilliantly comic kind of way. What a great review!
Both our thanks go to Chicken House for sending the book for review.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Upcoming Titles from Chicken House

I was very lucky to attend the Chicken House Big Breakfast last week. It was a fabulous event where the amazing Barry Cunningham showcased some brilliant new Chicken House titles for 2011.

So without further ado, here they are:
(All text in italics from the publisher's website) 

Muncle Trogg by Janet Foxley
Giants live on top of Mount Grumble, hidden from humans below. But not all of them are giant-like. Muncle Trogg is so small that he’s laughed at by the others for being human-sized. Fed up, he decides to take a look at the Smallings that he’s meant to look like. But what he discovers is very surprising!

Winner of The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2010.

An affectionate and charming upside down fairytale, this is the magical story of the residents of Misty Mountain and the tiny giant who saves the day.

Exciting and laugh-out-loud funny, and filled with joyful illustrations.

First in a series of adventures starring Muncle, Emily and Snarg, the dragon.

Perfect for readers aged 7+

Rockoholic by C.J. Skuse
Jody loves Jackson Gatlin. At his only UK rock concert, she’s right at the front. But when she's caught in the crush and carried back stage she has more than concussion to contend with. Throw in a menacing manager, a super-wired super-star, and a curly-wurly, and she finds herself taking home more than just a poster. It’s the accidental kidnapping of the decade. But what happens if you’ve a rock-god in your garage who doesn’t want to leave? Jody’s stuck between a rock-idol and a hard place!

From the pen of C.J. Skuse, author of last year’s super cool debut Pretty Bad Things, comes a tale of rock star obsession gone nuts. Hilariously and sharply explores the fantasy and reality of celebrity obsession through a teenager’s eyes. C. J. Skuse has been billed as the new Nick Hornby for teens.

Released March 2011.

You can read Irena's review of Rockoholic HERE.

Six Days by Philip Webb
For Cass, the life of a 'scav' is all she’s ever known – scavenging what’s left of London in search of a precious relic no-one, not even her new Russian masters, has ever seen.
But when two survivors from another time show up, claiming they hold the key to the whereabouts of the missing ‘artefact’, scavving will never be the same again. They have six days to find it before their world will come to an end.

A gripping post-apocalyptical adventure set in the ruins of London about a desperate race to find a relic of extraordinary power. Spectacular science-fiction debut from Philip Webb.

For ages 11+

Released July 2011

Other new titles this year will include:

Dreamer Ballerina by Sarah Rubin

Numbers 3: Infinity by Rachel Ward

Ravenwood by Andrew Peters (I've already reviewed this one. You can read my thoughts HERE)

Threads: Sequins, Stars and Spotlights by Sophia Bennett

Wolven: Bad Wolf Rising by Di Toft

Wood Angel by Erin Bow

Oh and there is a zombie book coming in the autumn which Barry Cunningham is very excited about! I can tell you that it sounded very scary indeed so I turned down a very early proof but no doubt about it. This book will be big!

Thank you very much to the publicity team at Chicken House for inviting me to the event and introducing me to all their wonderful authors.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #4

Each week Irena @ This Miss Loves To Read hosts Friday is for Fairy-Tales.

It is an opportunity to share a love of the fairy-tale genre throughout the blogosphere and discuss your favourite character, your childhood memories, new authors and all time favourites. You can find out more by visiting her POST.
Ever since I read Marcus Sedgwick’s Blood Red Snow White, I have wanted to read Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales. If you’ve read Blood Red, you’ll understand why. If you haven’t, then I suggest you add it to your wish list. I never realised how poetic fairy-tales could be until I read it.

So I am going to read one of Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome each week and then share it with you here.

Post 1: The Hut in the Forest, The Silver Dish and the Transparent Apple
Post 2: Sadko
Post 3: Frost

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship is a difficult tale to retell because there are so many characters. It is a story about a simple boy who is ignored by his parents. He is sweet and innocent and referred the whole way through the story as the Fool of the World. There is a distinct moral in this tale and it is about valuing everyone whatever their skills or gifts. The Fool is underestimated by his parents, his brothers and the great Tsar. But of course, this is a fairytale and the Fool triumphs over everyone through the help of his friends that he meets and travels with in his flying ship. It is another happily ever after tale where the Fool gets to marry the Princess and have her undying love.

This is the first Russian tale that spoke of God. There is a mysterious presence in the story and it seems that this presence gifts the Fool with the Flying Ship because of his blind faith in the old man who shares a meal with him.

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship has certainly given me food for thought. I really liked how all the unusual characters – The Eater, The Drinker, The Listener and more – had something special about them which may have been confused by someone other than the Fool on first sight. It makes me think of the wise fools that Shakespeare wrote about. This is a fairytale with many layers, I think.

Here is an illustration from the book of the Fool with his friends in the Flying Ship:

Hopefully you can just about make it out.

Next week's story is Baba Yaga ...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Trailer Premiere: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the online premiere for the trailer of a wonderful debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

The author is Annabel Pitcher, here she is with a short introduction especially for readers of The Bookette:

And now, I am pleased to present the most beautiful trailer:

Proof Giveaway

The lovely publicity team at Orion Books have also asked me to giveaway a signed proof copy of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece to celebrate the trailer premiere.

To enter:
  • You must be a UK resident
  • Complete the form below
  • You do not need to be a follower of this blog to enter
  • If under 16, please provide email address of parent/ guardian -  read my contest policy for more information
  • Closing date Wednesday 2nd February 2011
CONTEST NOW CLOSED. Winner announced here

Many thanks to Orion Books for inviting me to be part of the online premiere.

I hope you'll all join me in wishing Annabel every success with the release of My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece in March.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Winner of The Lost Hero

I'm pleased to announce the winner of the signed copy of The Lost Hero courtesy of Just So for Puffin books:

Elizabeth Aldred So I didn't hear from Elizabeth so Random.org selected another winner.

Congratulations to:

Lisa Jackson

I have sent you an email. Keeping my fingers crossed that you reply.
Thanks to everyone who entered.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Irena's Review: Rockoholic

Author: C J Skuse

Release date: 7th March 2010 UK
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Chicken House


Jody loves Jackson Gatlin. At his only UK rock concert, she's right at the front. But when she's caught in the crush and carried back stage she has more than concussion to contend with. Throw in a menacing manager, a super-wired super-star, and a curly-wurly, and she finds herself taking home more than just a poster. It's the accidental kidnapping of the decade. But what happens if you've a rock-god in your garage who doesn't want to leave? Jody's stuck between a rock-idol and a hard place!

I have two words for this novel: incredibly fun. Apart from being incredibly fun and crazy at times (in a good way), the novel presents some of the issues of being a teenager and growing up, which can be hard when your dad left your mom (and consequently, you and your sister), your mom thinks you're on drugs and the only man you'll ever love (or so you think) is a celebrity that does not know you exist.

We all have or likes and obsessions, but the main point is that they are our own, not that we copy other people. It's important to be your own person, to keep good people by your side and find a way to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the vibe I felt while reading the novel.

Jody is an average teenager. She has problems, a mom who just doesn't understand, a best friend (who may be gay, but she can't be sure) and a huge celebrity crush. Her favourite band is The Regulators, a punk-rock phenomenon from America, and she loves the lead singer, Jackson Gatlin. She really loves him - she knows everything about him and she even became a vegetarian because he doesn't eat meat, and she tries to make herself like Stephen King books because his novels are another thing that Jackson loves and so, consequently, Jody must love them, too. Haven't we all gone through a similar phase when we were teenagers?

But things change for Jody when she accidentally kidnaps Jackson towards the end of the band's concert in Wales. She knows she shouldn't, but all Jody wants is one perfect day with Jackson, just as she has envisaged it so many times in her mind. Her best friend Mac is sucked into the madness, but stays by Jody's side reluctantly because that is what best friends do. Jody and Mac must hide Jackson somewhere and although there are many complications attached to this feat, Jody is thrilled to be so near Jackson, even if it means cleaning after him when he throws up on himself in their garage turned into a sound-proof music room. Yet, Jody soon realises that reality is very different from her dreams and Jackson is definitely not the man she has been obsessing about for so long. In fact, Jackson is obnoxious and Jody's world begins to fall apart.

This novel went into a completely unexpected direction. In all honesty, I expected a typical, predictable, slightly bizarre love story between Jody and Jackson, but the novel took a completely different and delightful turn, and I absolutely loved it. This is definitely a story about growing up and about discovering yourself. This relates to three characters in the novel - Jody, Jackson and Mac. They all go through several challenges that change their views on life. There is a love story, too, but it is simple, ordinary and sweet, and it is real. Your real boyfriend/girlfriend will always be better than your dream partner - because they are real; it's this simple. They can actually give you what you want and need, and this is another thing that Jody learns over the course of the novel. We must all have our dreams and ideals, but in the end we must settle for reality. Not because that's the only option we have, but because reality is great and we deserve it.

I loved the characters of Jody, Jackson and Mac. Jody is a confused teenager who is mourning the loss of her beloved grandfather who was just like her. She has family issues and all she wants is some approval and love, so she puts all her strength into Jackson. During the course of the novel, she learns to appreciate herself and what she has. Jackson is a major rock star, the "it" celebrity, the man that everyone wants. In fact, certain individuals want him so much they would kill him if he tried to do something a person of his standing is not supposed to do. He is pampered, prone to hallucinations and likes to boss people around. Fame weighs heavily on his shoulders and once he finds himself at Jody's house, he becomes determined to change that, which leads to an unexpected and delightful twist. Mac is Jody's best friend. He likes musicals, so Jody thinks he's gay, but Mac has a lot to offer. He is Jody's shelter and he would do anything for her. He puts up with a lot of her crazy things for a very good reason, Jody just doesn't know it because she's been blinded by Jackson.

The story flowed very smoothly and was dynamic. Jody is a great narrator and makes the novel a gripping read. My one complaint refers to detailed descriptions of bodily fluids leaving one's body, if you catch my meaning, and I confess, I'm squeamish about fluids that leave the human body through the mouth or the rectum. I can't help it, so naturally, I would complain about detailed description of it. However, this does not ruin the story in the slightest. I really loved the ending and although it was a slightly vague one, it answered all of my questions and made me smile.

This was a truly fun and different read and I truly recommend the novel. Be prepared: you will want to listen to a lot of rock music while reading this novel. But, I think this can only be a good thing.
Becky says: Irena, this sounds hilarious, daft and completely brilliant. I cannot wait to read it myself. Thank you to the wonderful people at Chicken House for sending us the book to review.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Review: The Dead of Night

Author: John Marsden

Release date: first published in Australia 1994, this US reprinted edition 2006
Genre: Action / Dystopia?
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: This edition Scholastic US

Summary from Amazon:
A few months after the first fighter jets landed in their own backyard, Ellie and her five terrified but defiant friends struggle to survive amid a baffling conflict. Their families are unreachable; the mountains are now their home. When two of them fall behind enemy lines, Ellie knows what must happen next: a rescue mission. Homer, the strongest and most unpredictable among them, is the one to take charge. While others have their doubts about his abilities, Homer has no choice but to prove them wrong - or risk losing everything to the enemy.

Tomorrow When the War Began, Book 1 Tomorrow Series Review here

The Dead of the Night, Book 2 Tomorrow Series


WARNING: This review has a slight spoiler for the first novel in the series.

The Dead of the Night sees us return to Hell with Ellie and her friends as they struggle to come to terms with the great loss they endured at the end of Tomorrow When the War Began. It is a story about moral choices, about finding the courage to put yourself at risk time and again and most importantly, it is about endurance.

Ellie, Homer, Lee, Robyn, Fi and Chris all return to Hell. At first they are all lost to their shock and anger that the enemy managed to damage them so cruelly. The time comes when sitting around and wondering about the unmentionable fear in their hearts gets too much and they decide to take action. These six teens are transformed from high school kids into freedom fighters. The days of worrying about assignments are over. Now they worry about weapons, strategy and deciding on effective targets for their night time operations. The war is really just beginning for them as they journey deeper into the dark truth of what it means to go behind enemy lines.

Marsden continues to tell the tale of these teens through Ellie’s viewpoint. She records their story with a painful accuracy so much so that the others are rather resentful of her honesty at the beginning. Yet it is the friendship and love between the group that keeps them going.

In The Dead of Night the invading army begin to clear out the natives’ homes and prepare them for the settlers to move into. It also sees our teens find a band of adults who are free from the enemy’s grip. At first Ellie and the others feel relief at finding a group of adults. They think that they can now give the responsibility over to the people who are supposed to make big decisions. But it isn’t age that matters in times of war; it is having a leader who makes the right choices.

This novel is just as gripping as the first in the series. Truly, a page turner The Dead of Night has been yet again gasping for the next book in the Tomorrow series. I can’t help but ask myself at the end of finishing this book this question: What type of person can find the courage to kill someone in cold blood? Could I ever be such a person? This is the moral question at the heart of this book and it really has the power to make you think.

Read for the Aussie YA Challenge 2011

Friday, 21 January 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #3

Each week Irena @ This Miss Loves To Read hosts Friday is for Fairy-Tales.

It is an opportunity to share a love of the fairy-tale genre throughout the blogosphere and discuss your favourite character, your childhood memories, new authors and all time favourites. You can find out more by visiting her POST.

Ever since I read Marcus Sedgwick’s Blood Red Snow White, I have wanted to read Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales. If you’ve read Blood Red, you’ll understand why. If you haven’t, then I suggest you add it to your wish list. I never realised how poetic fairy-tales could be until I read it.

So I am going to read one of Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome each week and then share it with you here.

Post 1: The Hut in the Forest, The Silver Dish and the Transparent Apple
Post 2: Sadko


There was once a man who had a lovely wife and together they had a daughter called Martha. Sadly, his first wife died and so after a few years he married a new wife. Together they had two more daughters.

The new wife was a cross old woman and she was very cruel to Martha. She scolded her and would beat her and made her work hard from sun up to sun down. Martha would make clothes and mend them, cook food for the family and scrub the house clean. Her sisters were lazy and they learnt to be cruel to Martha and take after their mother.

Years went by and the step-mother realised that her two ugly daughters would never find a husband while Martha lived at home because she was very pretty. So the step-mother hatched a plan. She told her husband it was time for Martha to be married and that he should take her to meet her bridegroom in the forest.

The next day the old man and Martha set out to meet her bridegroom. Martha had a tiny hope that it would be Fedor Ivanovitch who lived in the village and had kind eyes. But of course they were not heading to the village; they travelled on the sledge into the forest. Martha’s father left her their like his mean wife had instructed. He drove the cart home with sadness in his heart. But he was powerless to stop his cruel wife because he was terrified of her.

Martha did as she was told and waited for her bridegroom to come. She heard the crackling and creaking of Frost as he swung from tree to tree in the forest. She shivered in her thin blue dress and the cold crept up her hand and her arms. He asked Martha again and again if she was cold. But she replied that she was warm. She spoke kindly and sweetly to Frost and he took pity on sweet pretty Martha and placed furs around her shoulders and kept her safe and warm.

The next day her father returned to the forest expecting to find Martha dead. He was delighted to find she was safe and well and took her back home. The cruel step-mother was very angry that Martha had survived and had come home with a box of gifts given to her by Frost. So the step-mother sent her own two daughters out into the forest to wait for their own bridegrooms. They wore thick furs and at first were not cold. But they argued and they moaned and their furs slipped off letting the cold get to their chests. Soon Frost came along and they both said hurtful cruel things to him and so he left them to the ice cold grip of the forest.

The next day the old man returned to collect his two daughters. He found them both dead. He took their bodies back to the house and the step-mother was filled with rage. She blamed their father for their deaths. But he let her rage and shout and then told her that it was all her own fault because she had taught them to be cruel not kind.

More time passed and Fedor Ivanovitch proposed marriage to kind-hearted Martha. So of course Martha and Fedor lived happily ever after and they had the kindest, prettiest children in the whole village.

My thoughts:
I found Frost a really amusing read. There is something really satisfying about seeing the cruel and the selfish get their comeuppance in a fairy tale. It is the sort of simple resolution that wouldn’t make it into a novel and I think that is joy of reading them. Does anyone else feel this?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bits and Pieces around the blogosphere

This is one of those posts where I tell you lots of random snippets from around the blogosphere.

  1. Walker Books have officially launched their new UNDERCOVER imprint and have a cool new blog which talks about their exciting new titles. Be sure to stop by and check it out.
  2. ATOM have a once in a lifetime contest to meet Stephanie Meyer. So all you Edward/ Jacob fans should visit her UK site to find out more. 
  3. UK book bloggers who have a little addiction to contests should put this blog on their radar. The lovely Jodie and friends are working hard to list all contests open to UK entrants @ UK Book Giveaways.
  4. Four fab YA British writers have started a team crime reads blog. Check out Keren David, Gillian Philip, Anne Cassidy and Linda Strachan blogging about new books, crime related posts and generally being awesome @ Crime Reading.
  5. I went to the shops and bought this book completely on impulse: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl.
Here is the summary from Goodreads:
London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

And the cover:
I have never seen a popart cover for a historical novel before. I think it is so cool. The front is all foil effect. The back has a glossy finish.

Any one read it?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

UK Giveaway: Win a signed copy of The Lost Hero

Thanks to the lovely people at Just So for Puffin Books, I have one SIGNED copy of The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan to giveaway.

The contest is open to UK entrants only.

Want to know more about the book? You can read my review HERE or read the first two chapters HERE.

To enter:
Complete the form below.

Open to UK entrants only.

You do not have to be a follower of The Bookette to enter.

Please note:
  • Under 16s must get parent / guardian permission before entering and provide their email address rather than their own. Check my Contest Policy for further information.
  • I will need to pass the winner's postal address to the representative of Just So for Puffin.
Closing date:
24th January 2011, midnight GMT

CONTEST closed. Winner annouced HERE

Monday, 17 January 2011

Irena's Review: The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin

Author: Alan Shea

Release date: 3rd March 2008 UK
Genre: Historical Fiction
Target audience: 10+
UK Publisher: Chicken House

Twelve-year old Alice is growing up in a grey world of old bombsites, in post war London. It's a tough life made harder by her difficult step-dad. Alice's escape is her imagination, which always brightens her day. But when a new boy called Reggie starts school, her mind begins playing tricks on her. She seems oddly drawn to him and whenever they are together the world becomes a more exciting and colourful place. A place where imagination appears to become real: where a bubble-gum machine can suddenly explode into a thousand coloured balls, a handful of fireworks become the greatest show ever, and a row on the lake becomes a terrifying adventure. It seems that together, they can do extraordinary things, but what is their story, and how will it end?

This is a story about Alice Makin, a twelve-year old girl growing up in post-war London, coping with ordinary, as well as slightly extraordinary problems. It is also a story about her friend Reggie, the boy she meets at school after she tries to save him from the local bullies, the Spicer brothers. In its essence, The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin shows the ups and downs of growing up, of coping with life and with the transition from innocence to experience. Most importantly, it is a story about friendship and family.

Alice is a witty, active girl with a great, slightly over-active imagination. She lives with her mother and stepfather, and while her mom loves her and tries to give Alice as much as she can during those hard times after the end of the Second World War, Alice's stepfather is quite a mean man, picking on Alice and trying to make her life miserable. Alice is a fighter, though, and she won't allow herself to be trampled by the likes of her stepdad Alfie. She spends her days with her neighbours and friends, mostly Reggie. But once she starts hanging out with Reggie, strange things begin to happen, both lovely and scary, and Alice is very confused, yet determined to get to the bottom of the strange matter.

The novel offers some delightful characters. Alice is only a little girl, yet she is full of fire and has a strong, determined spirit. Reggie is more quiet and shy, but with Alice he is open and there is a connection between them that might entail more than meets the eye. Norman, their friend, keeps pretending to be a soldier on a mission of destroying Nazis in England, seeing Nazis everywhere he goes. It is only a game; it is only a way to live in a post-war world. All the children try their best to cope and be happy. I loved reading about these children. I felt a lot of sympathy for them and they managed to endear themselves to me, for which I must definitely compliment the author, as he created very likeable and life-like children with moving, intriguing stories. My favourite part was the friendship between Alice and Reggie. Their relationship has its ups and downs, and it felt like a genuine relationship to me, very natural and realistic.

The story is narrated from Alice's point of view and I think the author really captured a child's essence well. It really felt as if a twelve-year-old child had been narrating the story. I loved seeing Alice's world through her eyes, as she sees it in a vivid, colourful way.

The plot is delightful and offers comfort as well as tension to the reader. I was shocked by a major revelation, but in a good way, as I think the characters involved in the revelation deserved that sort of happiness. At the heart of the novel is the story of Alice and her family, as well as the story of Reggie and his mysterious background. There is a supernatural element that is a minor element of the story, but it definitely makes for a delightful bonus. A pinch of magic to spice up one's day!

My one complaint is about the ending. There was a conclusion and it is a happy ending, which brought a smile to my face, but I would like to know what happens to Alice and Reggie after that point. Still, it is only a minor complaint.

All in all, the novel was a quick, warm read that left me with a comfortable feeling. If you believe in the child in yourself, I recommend this novel to you. You will not be disappointed.
Becky says: Aww... what a lovely review Irena. It sounds like you were rather attached to the characters. I always want to know every detail about a character's story even when the novel is finished. That is the reason I love a great epilogue. I like to know they lived happily ever after.
Both our thanks go to Chicken House for sending the book to review.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Review: If I Could Fly

Author: Jill Hucklesby

Release date: 3rd January 2010
Genre: Dystopia / Mystery
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Egmont Books

Summary from Amazon:
Tender and deeply moving, "If I Could Fly" is an unputdownable novel with real heart. It will keep you guessing until the final page. Calypso Summer. Yeah, that really is my name. 'A girl with such a name is on a journey. She will have adventures,' my mother used to murmur in my ear. And I now I am on a journey. I'm running from something terrible - but I don't know what. It's like my brain has blocked it out. For now, I'm learning to survive: to break the System and not get caught. I've found a friend I can trust. Next stop, freedom. Somehow, somewhere..."If I Could Fly" is a story you'll never forget.

If I Could Fly is an eccentric, surreal story set in a future where England is subject to the controlling power of the state and it eats away at peoples personal freedoms.

Calypso Summer is thirteen and on the run. She cannot remember who she is running from or why but running she is. The first chapter of If I Could Fly is stream of consciousness. It is both poetic and yet alienating as the writing is unfamiliar. The whole novel is told in the first person present tense which makes Caly’s story a vibrant burst of life.

The England Caly lives in has been transformed by a dangerous virus that has swept through the countryside. The State claims that it is spread by wild animals. A great culling has begun to exterminate the wild creatures and people are being rounded up and quarantined. Caly’s home life is in some ways very similar to other teens today. She goes to school, does her homework and loves her mother. Yet there are sinister differences too. Young People are counted in and out of the estate by a guard who mans the gates.

Caly finds a release with a group of free runners called the Feathers. She idolises the leader and learns the techniques of free running from him but also the need to ask questions, to have rebellious thoughts. But this is all memory from before Caly runs. It is what happens to Caly running that is the real coming of age story.

There is beautiful writing in this novel and an intriguing back story. Caly’s mum is Thai and her dad is British. The Thai heritage that Hucklesbury weaved into the story was my favourite aspect of the novel. I loved the imagery and the gentle introduction of the Thai culture.

Unfortunately there is one aspect of the novel that left me feeling dissatisfied and that was the twist. I feel cheated by it. For me it left me with so many questions about the society, the virus, the FISTS and although that wasn’t the point of the novel, I wanted it to be. The answer that I was presented with left me disappointed. I can see that the ending relates to the novel being a surreal and almost fluid exploration of character but it wasn’t really for me.

Having said all that, there is plenty to delight the reader in If I Could Fly: the style of the writing, the friendships and the back story. An elegant, slightly dystopian, kaleidoscopically surreal coming-of-age story, If I Could Fly will appeal to readers who like their books to be out of the mainstream.

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

Read for the British Books Challenge 2011

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #2

Each week Irena @ This Miss Loves To Read hosts Friday is for Fairy-Tales.

It is an opportunity to share a love of the fairy-tale genre throughout the blogosphere and discuss your favourite character, your childhood memories, new authors and all time favourites. You can find out more by visiting her POST.

Ever since I read Marcus Sedgwick’s Blood Red Snow White, I have wanted to read Arthur Ransome’s Old Peter’s Russian Tales. If you’ve read Blood Red, you’ll understand why. If you haven’t, then I suggest you add it to your wish list. I never realised how poetic fairy-tales could be until I read it.

So I am going to read one of Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome each week and then share it with you here.

Last Week I told you about The Hut in the Forest and The Tale of the Silver Saucer and the Transparent Apple. As people did not like my cliff-hanger ending, I will relent and summarise the whole fairy-tale even the ending you’ve been warned!


Sadko was a young man who lived in Novgorod. He was a poor boy because his father had died and he was left with no money. The only thing he owned was his dulcimer which he loved to play.

Sadko was a handsome boy but because he was poor the pretty girls of Novgorod were not interested in him. They only wanted him to play his dulcimer at their parties so that they could dance with the rich young men. Sadko didn’t mind though because he loved to play his dulcimer to the river Volkhov.

Sadko would spend many nights playing his beautiful music to the river and singing about how the river was more beautiful than any maidens.

One night Sadko was by the shore in Novgorod and the sailors asked him to watch their nets while they made merry. Sadko was happy to do this in return for a little fish. So he sat and played his dulcimer and sang about the beautiful river Volkhov. A strange whirlpool began to emerge and soon the Tsar of the Sea stood towering over Sadko.

The Tsar offered Sadko a great treasure if he threw out a net. But in return he must go to the sea palace and play his dulcimer for the Tsar. So Sadko threw out the net and as he reeled it in, he found it held a coffer. Inside the coffer were beautiful coloured stones. He took the coffer and used it to begin trading as a merchant. Sadko’s wealth grew and he travelled far and wide making his fortune.

Now the girls of Novgorod all thought Sadko was the most wonderful catch and they all wished to marry him. But Sadko stayed true to his love of the river and his heart never wavered.

Finally one day whilst traversing the Caspian Sea the ship Sadko sailed on came to a sudden stop. The sailors were suspicious of witchcraft and drew lots to throw a man overboard. Sadko drew the short straw but he remembered his promise to the Tsar and dived willingly into the deep dark sea. He travelled to the bottom of the ocean and entered the great green timber palace of the Tsar. Though it took him many years to keep his promise, he played his dulcimer for the Tsar.

The Tsar danced and the sea rocked great waves over the towns and cities. Then after he was tired the Tsar told Sadko that he must meet his thirty daughters and marry one of them. Sadko said his heart belonged to Volkhov but in kindness to the Tsar he met the king’s daughters. His heart was still strong until he met the thirtieth daughter and then he saw that she was as beautiful as the river. Of course, she was the river Volkhov and so they married.

That night Sadko woke from his sleep and his bride felt cold as ice. He had returned to the town of Novrogod. There are many tales of what happened next but Old Peter believes Sadko decided to return to the bottom of the sea to be with his beloved Volkhov. And so do I.

Sadko was a sweet fairy-tale about staying true to your heart and making the best of your situation. I really loved how the tale could offer an explanation for tsunamis and the great storms that brew over the sea.

The next story is called Frost. So I am hoping it has that real icy feel of Russian winter!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

2011 Anne McCaffrey Reading Challenge

The wonderful, adorable and frankly intellectual Caroline @ Portrait of a Woman is hosting the Anne McCaffrey Reading Challenge 2011.

Here is me officially signing up for this challenge.

Why?  I hear you cry!

Literary heritage
Female Literary heritage no less
Fantasy and Sci-fi - my favourite genres
I have never read a book by this intimidatingly prolific author so I am doing something about that.

The challenge is super easy. You set your own goal somewhere between 2 and 25 books to read and review. A more thorough explanation can be found HERE.

So my goal is to read 3 novels by Anne McCaffrey.

  1. To Ride Pegasus (Talents Series)
  2. ...
Thanks to Caroline for hosting such a refreshingly different challenge.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Review: Waves

Author: Sharon Dogar

Release date: UK April 2008
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Chicken House

Summary from the Publisher’s website:
Charley died in the waves last summer. Almost. Now she’s in a coma, neither dead nor alive.

On returning to the beach, her younger brother Hal finds it hard to shake off her presence. Thoughts of Charley begin crowding his mind, revealing strange places and violent emotions. Thoughts that Hal comes to realise are not entirely his own. As Hal digs deeper into the mystery of her accident, he discovers the truth of what happened.

Veined with thrilling mystery and tinged with the super-sensory, a compelling coming-of-age story about first love and tragic loss.


Waves is a contemporary story about family, heartbreaking loss and first love.

Hal and his family spend every summer in their big sea-front house in Cornwall. It is a house that belongs to everyone and no one. It is a house full of shimmering summer memories. But this summer, the house is full of grief and sadness because this is the first time the family have spent the summer without Charley.

The story of brother and sister – Hal and Charley – is told through a dual narrative which moves between Then (the summer before) and Now (the summer without Charley). Hal’s story is one of grief, anger and guilt. However hard Hal tries to shut out the pain of Charley’s voice and the memories of her, he never quite manages it. Charley’s story is one that weaves through her journey from last summer until the unconscious place she exists in now – she is in a coma back in an Oxford hospital – remembering the sweet tingles of first love and the dark shadow that twists anxiety inside her.

Dogar’s writing is poetic and just as rhythmic as the tides that she describes. The setting is a contrast between the wild, bright, golden beach and the twisted, dark shadowy woods. It reflects the two tides of the story – the tender discovery of first love and the sinister foreboding truth which is waiting to be unravelled.

The narrative moves comfortably between Hal and Charley. And yet both voices are convincingly individual. I preferred Hal for the simple fact that he was so self-deprecating. He knew he was a follower rather than a leader. But he was fine with that. He stayed true to himself as the plot twisted and turned. Charley is like a gale force wind blowing through a town whipping life into everything and everyone as she goes.

Waves plays with language and the sounds of words so elegantly. It is a dream to read. It is emotive and tantalisingly evocative of the seaside setting. It is a contemporary story of a family grieving but it is also a tense, suspenseful and unnerving read which explores secrets, lies and the beauty of childhood. Fans of Before I Fall and Twenty Boy Summer will love this book. I certainly did.

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me the book to review.

Read for the British Books Challenge 2011

Monday, 10 January 2011

Rules of Attraction Blog Tour: Author Interview

Today is an extraordinarily exciting day for The Bookette because I am lucky enough to host the first stop on The Rules of Attraction UK Blog Tour. I am a huge fan of Simone Elkeles so it was a huge squealing moment when the lovely people at Simon and Schuster invited me to do the interview segment. So without further ado, here is my author interview with SIMONE ELKELES. Enjoy!
Becky: Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction both explore the effect of gang culture on teens. What inspired you to write about this issue?

Simone: Fairfield (the setting for Perfect Chemistry) is based off of a high school next to where I grew up. There is a large Latino community on one side of the tracks (yes, there are literally train tracks separating the two sides) and a very wealthy community with people living in mansions on Lake Michigan on the other side. When I heard that suburban gangs in the area were on the rise, I wanted to explore what it would be like for someone from one side of the town to fall for someone on the other side. I do love exploring love stories that have cultures clashing. Once I started researching suburban gangs (which are very different than city gangs), it was eye-opening. I didn’t know how much honor and loyalty to family and community are tied into gang affiliation, especially in the Latino gang culture. Some of the kids in gangs I interviewed have seen more violence, death, drug trafficking and crime than anyone should see in their lifetime. They live not knowing if they’ll survive another day, and some don’t even care. I’ve met really good kids who are stuck in bad situations. They want to get out and live a clean, gang-free life, but don’t know how or don’t think there’s another way to live. My heart goes out to those kids. That part of it makes me want to write about boys like Alex, Carlos, and Luis Fuentes.

Becky: The power of the gang over Alex and then later Carlos is completely convincing. Did you carry out any research into gang culture? Since writing the books have you met any gang members and if so what was that experience like?

Simone: I interviewed suburban gang members as well as police officers and gang detectives who work in the toughest, deadliest parts of Chicago. When I have book discussions at juvenile detention centers, the boys always share tidbits of information with me that I’ve used in my books. I went on a “ride along” with the gang detectives in Chicago and got to talk to some gang members. It was a surreal experience and I actually had to be fitted with a bulletproof vest and was instructed to act like a detective myself (without the guns that my “partners” wore). When I see the lives these kids are living, I am more motivated than ever to write a story that might inspire someone else to get out of that lifestyle. I have fans that are gang members. They’re actually surprised I didn’t grow up in the streets like them, because they say I portray the reality of their lives. They relate to Alex and Carlos on so many levels. I’ve had more than a few fans say that my books have inspired them to clean up their lives and get out of their gangs.

Becky: Wow, I can't imagine how scary but also powerful such an experience would be.

Love across a cultural divide is at the heart of both books. It is a concept that has inspired many writers and filmmakers. Did you draw on any literary or cultural references when writing? Are there any novelists that inspired your writing?

Simone: I didn’t draw on any specific literature for my book. I hated reading as a teen and didn’t enjoy the classics we were forced to read in school, but that’s what really inspires me. I try to write stories that I would have wanted to read as a teen. My father was Israeli and my husband is Israeli, so I’ve lived with someone from a different culture my entire life (I was born and raised in America). I am fascinated with different cultures and how they clash – I live it every day, ha ha! I think it will be a theme I use for a long time. I did love the play West Side Story, but I hated the ending! I love happy endings!

Becky: I love happy endings too. I always want to perfect idealised ending. Yay! One of my favourite aspects of your writing is the use of Mexican Spanish in the dialogue. I feel it makes the characters more convincing and increases their sex appeal. I wonder are you bilingual? If not, how do you go about ensuring the authenticity of the translation?

Simone: I am not bilingual, which does tend to be a problem! I have a friend who helps me with all the Spanish words in my books and makes sure I’m not accidentally making Alex call Brittany a “fat cow” instead of “beautiful girl.” I also talk to teens who tell me Spanish slang. Lastly, I have the dean of the Spanish department at Loyola University in Chicago go over the entire manuscript and help me. There is definitely the risk that I’ve gotten something wrong, and that scares me but I really have to trust my sources. I wish I didn’t have to rely on others for the Spanish in my books, but I do. I wish I were fluent in Spanish, especially because so many of my fans are fluent in Spanish. (I took French in high school and college.)

Becky: I would love to be fluent in another languge too. I think about all the books that I can't read because I only understand English.

I am so excited to read the third and final book in the series Chain Reaction. I know I am not alone in this. What can we expect from Luis as a character? Will we get to see more of Alex and Carlos?

Simone: I’m so excited to be working on Chain Reaction because Luis is so different from his brothers. Alex is a good guy pretending to be a bad boy, while Carlos is a bad boy with a good heart. Luis is the complete opposite; he’s a funny, great guy with big dreams and no gang affiliation - yet! Of course, this means I have no choice but to turn his life inside out and make him turn to the dark side! (Just when he thinks he’s got life all figured out, Luis learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life.)

To answer your other question: Yes! Alex, Brittany, Carlos, Kiara, and a few other characters from the past will be making cameo appearances.

Becky: Oh my goodness. I am in love with Luis already. My heart is fluttering wildly at the thought of the cruel things that may happen to him. CAN. NOT. WAIT!

Do you have a favourite cover from the series, if so which one and why?

Simone: I think the Perfect Chemistry cover will always be my favourite because I worked on that book on-and-off for five years and had a little input on the cover (I rejected my publisher’s first attempt). I call Perfect Chemistry “the book of my heart” because I put so much into those characters Alex and Brittany were more like my friends instead of fictional characters (sounds creepy, I know) by the end. It was so exciting to finally see the cover on the book that I worked so hard for. Plus, I love the raw emotion and sensuality of Alex and Brittany in that sweet embrace where he’s cradling her face – every girl wants to be adored like that. The cover tells a story, and the Perfect Chemistry cover is just...PERFECT.

Becky: Isn't it just?! Although I love the water on Rules of Attraction and the cover for Chain Reaction is so err... steamy!

I’m sure all of my UK fans who are reading this interview will also want to know: will there be a UK book signing in the future?

Simone: I hope so! I would love to meet my UK fans! There’s nothing scheduled yet, though. However, if any of my fans want to interact with me, I’m great about answering questions on my Facebook Fan Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Simone-Elkeles-Fan-Page/101698336559632 and my Twitter account (@SimoneElkeles).

Becky: Let's hope something is scheduled soon.

And finally, as a very English lady I do love a cup of tea. I ask every writer when I get the chance to tell me if they have a favourite biscuit (I think in the US, you call them cookies) and if so, which one?

Simone: I love tea, and would definitely like to treat you to a cup or two if I get to the UK for a tour! Okay, to be honest I like all cookies (and pretty much anything else sweet or coated with sugar)! I’d probably eat crap if it was coated with sugar. I’m not a huge fan of nuts or raisins in my cookies, but if it’s the only sweet thing around I’ll devour it. Chocolate chip cookies are probably my favourite – with white and milk chocolate pieces mixed together inside. And I like my cookies soft and would prefer to eat them directly from the oven. The only problem is, I can never stop with just one. . . or two. . . or three. . .and so on.

Thanks so much for the interview and for helping me give a shout out to all my fans in the UK!

~Simone Elkeles

Becky: No, Simone. Thank YOU for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly and for writing the best books EVER!
I also want to say a huge THANK YOU to Kat at S&S for making this possible. You are just brilliant!
For another who still has yet to read my reviews of Perfect Chemistry go HERE and Rules of Attraction go HERE.