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Saturday, 30 April 2011

UK Debut Author Spotlight: Bryony Pearce

2011 is fast becoming an amazing year for new talent in the Young Adult market.

I'd like to introduce to you all Bryony Pearce author of Angel's Fury which will be released on 4th July.

Just in case you haven't heard about this book yet, here is the blurb from Amazon:

Every atrocity. Every war. Every act of vengeance. One fallen angel walks the earth to bring mankind to its destruction...Turning love into hate, forgiveness into blame, hope into despair. Through the fires of hell he will come to haunt one girl's dreams. But what if everything she ever dreamed was true? Every time Cassie Smith tries to sleep, she is plagued by visions of a death: A little girl called Zillah. A victim of the holocaust. In desperation Cassie is sent for treatment in an old manor house. There she meets other children just like her. Including Seth...Seth who looks so familiar. Her dream becomes nightmare. And then reality.

Here is a link to the book trailer:
And because the lovely Bryony is new to us, I asked her to share with us five things we should know about her:
1. I have two children, a girl aged five and a boy aged two, and am a full time Mum, so at the moment my writing fits in around the children in odd puzzle shaped pieces.

2. My very first story was about a fifty pence piece who wanted to be a pirate, I was seven … which just goes to show that you never can tell …

3. I’m probably the most stubborn person there is (or was until I met my daughter). In terms of getting published this has actually been a very good thing.

4. I never win anything. My father says all the McCarthy luck was used up by my Grandfather; a rear-gunner in a Lancaster for three and a half years (life expectancy six months), he was shot down over France then walked home.

5. Which meant that when I became a winner of Undiscovered Voices 2008, the shock couldn’t have been greater.

… And now I'm sure I’m siphoning off my children’s Pearce luck-allocation because last week I won a box of really excellent cake!

Thanks for introducing yourself Bryony! I am so looking forward to reading Angel's Fury.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Review: Hunting Lila

Author: Sarah Alderson

Release date: 4th August 2011 UK
Genre: Paranormal thriller
Target audience: 12+ / Adult crossover
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she's prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she's been in love with her brother's best friend, Alex, since forever. Or thereabouts. After a mugging on the streets of South London goes horribly wrong and exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they've found them. Trying to uncover the truth of why her mother was killed, and the real remit of The Unit, Lila becomes a pawn in a dangerous game. Struggling to keep her secrets in a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers -and her mother's killer is one of them...


Hunting Lila is a fantastic, thrilling paranormal debut from Sarah Alderson.

Lila Loveday is seventeen years old and living with her dad in London. The story opens in the middle of Lila being mugged. She turns the knife on her attackers and sends them packing. Lila has a secret. She can move objects with her mind. The incident leaves her shaken and terrified as she used her ability in public. So she steals her father’s credit card and takes the first flight out of Heathrow. Her destination is her brother’s - Jack - home in Southern California.

The other secret that Lila has been keeping is that she has been in love with her brother’s best friend Alex since she was nine years old.

Hunting Lila felt like a very British read. It was beautifully descriptive and not overly exaggerated. Sarah Alderson has taken the paranormal genre and made it classy! The opening scene is almost filmic in its description of the knife and I was immediately caught up in the drama of the story.

Lila is a funny, impulsive and self-deprecating character. It is impossible not to like her. She knows she is rather desperate when it comes to her obsession with Alex. He is five years older and imprinted on her memory as her knight in shining armour. The fact that she thinks her lusting after him is pathetic made me like her even more. As the reader you know that she won’t cease to exist if he doesn’t notice her, but you care about her enough to want him to notice her as a young woman. Alderson strikes the perfect balance of characterisation.

She also adds the ingredients of men in uniform with gorgeous muscles. I don’t think I need to say anymore but there is definitely something swoon worthy about Alex and Jack. Could it be their desire for revenge? Their internalised code of honour? Or their choice of transportation? I am not a shallow girl but I can appreciate the extensively toned physique and the tortured soul of a chivalrous guy. Perhaps you’re thinking that this novel is undoing years of feminism. You are wrong. Alderson can get away with such a heady portrayal of the guys because Lila is an independent thinker and an all action girl.

The plot of this story is well-paced and I really didn’t want to go to sleep because I was so gripped. I loved the fact that the setting for the story isn’t a school or a summer camp. It feels more mature. Alex and Jack both have their own apartments. They are in their early twenties. This book is every part a cross over title. It may even be a bit inspirational. Who wouldn’t want a super power? I know I do.

Do you ever have the desire to jump around when you finish a book? And squeal: Whoop! Whoop! That’s how I was at the end of Hunting Lila. It was just such a joy to read. It was a sassy and swoon-worthy read. A must have for fans of the paranormal!

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Book Challenge 2011

Monday, 25 April 2011

Irena's Review: Crusade

Author: Linda Press Wulf

Release date: 4th Jan 2011 UK
Genre: historical fiction/young adult
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury


Robert: Left on the steps of a church as a baby, Robert was often hungry but never stole food like the other orphans in town. Introverted and extraordinarily intelligent, he knew all the Latin prayers and hymns by heart by the time he was five years old.

Georgette: Her own mother died in childbirth, leaving Georgette with a father who, seventeen at the time, had neither experience nor aptitude as a nurturing parent, and a brother known in town as Le Fuer - The Spitfire - for his terrible temper.

Perhaps to replace something missing from their own lives, both Robert and Georgette are drawn to the news of a crusader, twelve or thirteen, no older than themselves, travelling down through France with thousands of followers - all, unbelievably, children too. Of those thousands, this is the incredible story of two. This is a story of hardship, loss and love.

Irena’s Review:

As the summary suggests perfectly, The Crusade is, foremost, a story of hardship, loss and love. It explores one's personal faith and closeness to God, juxtaposed with the mentality of a large group wanting something for the sake of a romantic ideal that is quite unreachable, and how an individual may become lost - or found - when faced with such an impossible ideal. It is also a story of growing up, of leaving innocence behind and walking into the embrace of experience. The transition can be hard, and even painful. It may even leave one disillusioned. Yet when one's personal faith is strong, one can survive any ordeal. That is the message of the book, in my opinion.

The novel focuses on two relevant events in history, one can say. The first one is the Children's Crusade that took place in 1212. There are several theories about this crusade. Some historians believe that children actually went on a crusade to the Holy Land; some suggest that the crusaders consisted of several groups of poor and disabled people. However, what all these theories share is that the crusaders came from France and Germany, both streams led by two "prophets" on each side and eventually, they merged. This novel takes place in France and explores the theory that children were the crusaders. As they were believed to be pure, it was supposed that their purity alone would defeat the Muslims once the children stepped on the ground of Jerusalem.

The story of the crusade is explored through two great characters: Georgette and Robert. Georgette is a teenage peasant girl, favoured by the local priest and thus educated beyond her status. She is learned, a thinker and a great helper at home. When a boy, Stephen, believed to be a prophet of God, passes her village with his followers, bent on defeating the Muslims in the Holy Land, Georgette sees a chance to put her deep devotion to God to some use. She is kind and full of hope. Robert, a foundling who became a priest's protégée, is a very erudite and intelligent young man. Feeling trapped within the walls of his monastery, he sees a chance of escape in the crusade. He is also envious of the prophet who, with no special knowledge, seems to have everything he desires, while Robert, learned and cultured, seems to have nothing. Robert must witness this crusade himself, so he joins the group, hoping he will finally find his purpose.

The journey is difficult and full of hardships. The crusaders are followed by famine, the cold and death. Despair is everywhere and by the end of their journey, both Georgette and Robert become disillusioned, realizing through certain occurrences that the crusade, as well as the prophet, is not what it appears to be. The hard experience crushes their innocence, but Georgette and Robert are strong individuals and their faith grows because of the experience.

The second important event I wanted to mention is not so much an event as it is a process - the development of heresy in France that takes place in the second portion of the novel. The heretics are not named, but I believed the novel explored the beginnings of what later became the Albigensian Crusade (a campaign of the Catholic Church to destroy the Cathar movement in Languedoc in the South of France). I may be wrong, but in any event, it was very interesting to read about these things. Today, it is completely natural that the Bible is translated into every language imaginable, but in the 13th century, this was seen as a heretic act, among other things. Georgette and Robert become involved with this new religion as well, which sends them on another important journey of discoveries. I must point out here that, at this point, the novel also stressed the importance of learning and knowledge and I think this is another great message it sends to the reader

I truly enjoyed the novel. I must say that at first, I thought it did not have a clear purpose, as if the author could not decide which historical events to explore and threw in two. But upon some deliberation, I see that it is all about the messages the novel provides, and about the journey of self-discovery that the two protagonists experience. There is tension, despair, hope and love. I can say that, all in all, I really enjoyed the novel. The historical points were well researched and incorporated into the text and I definitely had a fun reading experience.

Read for the Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

Becky says: Interesting review Irena. I felt the same way about a book I read recently. The author was exploring three very different themes - two relating to conflict. At first I thought that they would never pull it off but they did. If children were really sent on crusades (and considering people didn't live long lives back then, they probably did) I just find it so barbaric. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Both our thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending the book to review.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Upcoming Titles from Simon and Schuster

All year through Simon and Schuster publish exciting popular fiction titles. So I've picked out four books that are going to be published this year that I can't wait to read.

All summaries are from Goodreads and all links go there so you can add these to your wishlists...

Here they are:

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
28th April 2011
After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.
I confess I am over the whole dystopian trend but there is something about strong female heroines that appeals to me. Also the concept of the birthmark, I'm interested to see where the author takes it.
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
9th June 2011
Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.

Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.

She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.

Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Because sometimes it just has to be paranormal and this one sounds like a journey of supernatural discovery. In other words right up my street.

Rip Tide (Dark Life Book 2) by Kat Falls
4th August 2011
Return to the subsea frontier with Ty and Gemma! The mysteries of the deep are deadlier than ever when Ty'With time running out for his parents, Ty's desperation leads the two teenagers to the underwater underworld...and into an alliance with the outlaws of the Seablite Gang. But one mystery soon leads to another. How has an entire township disappered? Why is the local sealife suddenly so aggressive? And can the Seablite Gang be trusted...or are Ty and Gemma in deeper water than they realize?

I really enjoyed the first undersea adventure and I can't wait to see what happens next...

Emerald by Karen Wallace
4th August 2011
Emerald St. John is in trouble. She has been condemned to marry a man she hates. Her enemies are conspiring to have her pet bear Molly torn apart in the baiting pits, and the man she loves is far away on the high seas. And she has stumbled into a web of spies with a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth I. To save herself and the kingdom, she must beat the spies at their own game - which means transforming herself from a country girl into a Court lady. Can she do it in time?

You can't beat a bit of historical fiction and Emerald has a pet bear. Why not?! It sounds so dramatic!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Review: The 13 Secrets

Author: Michelle Harrison

Release date: 3rd Feb 2011 UK
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

Red is now living at Elvesden Manor under her real name, Rowan, and trying to put her past behind her. But staying on the straight and narrow isn't as easy as she had hoped...Hounded by fairy messengers who are trying to convince her to participate once more in the changeling trade, Rowan is haunted by dreams of the Hedgewitch's cottage and the chained-up Eldritch, who threatens revenge against her. Her past is about to catch up with her - can Tanya and Fabian prevent it consuming her altogether?


The Thirteen Secrets in the third and final instalment in Michelle Harrison’s Thirteen series set in the sinister, fantastical world of faeries and in a contemporary English countryside town.

This novel brings together the two stories that were weaved in the first two novels. Tanya is trying to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to have the second sight and a fey guardian. Rowan is trying to lead a normal life and leave the past behind her. But, of course, both girls have unfinished business with the faery world.

Rowan has been having terrifying nightmares. She is riddled with guilt over her decision to leave a fey man chained in the cellar of the Hedgewitch’s cottage. To compensate for her guilt and manage her fear, she has been using every defence against the faeries that she can think of. Since the events of the previous October, she has been fostered by Florence and has a home at Elvesden Manor. She is even going to school with Fabian and has realised that she wants to be a normal teenager. But through her dreams, she knows her past is about to catch up with her and place the people she cares about in grave danger.

Tanya has returned to Elvesden for the summer holiday. She is pleased to be back even though there have been changes in her absence. I liked that Tanya was happy to have Rowan as a part of the extended family and not resent her for being able to live with people that knew about the fey world. It would have been easy for her to be resentful and obnoxious but she is just glad her friend is no longer alone. Tanya is immensely likable – she is courageous, stubborn and caring.

This novel is full of action – think the drawing of battle lines. There are twists and turns, bluffs and double bluffs. Michelle Harrison kept me guessing about who was worthy of the characters’ trust until the very end. It made for gripping reading. The Thirteen Secrets is about just that: secrets. It explores how keeping the truth to yourself only leads to more lies and more trouble. The circus was a perfect representation of this idea. It made fey magic appear glamorous, made disguises seem desirable and portrayed the idea that seeing isn’t always believing. Talk about clever!

The Thirteen Secrets gives a fast paced, expertly plotted and magical end to the series. Harrison conveys everything troubling about the faery world and all the sinister dealings that the creatures dabble in. It is dark, twisty and unpredictable. I recommend this to readers who love faery stories not fairy stories. Great for girls and boys aged 9+.

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

Read for the British Books Challenge 2011

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review: Vanished Bind Up #1

Author: Meg Cabot (Jenny Carroll)

Release date: 3rd March 2011
Genre: Paranormal
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon Pulse

Summary from Amazon:

When Lightning Strikes When lightning strikes there can only be trouble - as Jessica Mastriani finds out when she is caught in a thunderstorm. But this trouble with a capital T - this trouble is serious. Because somehow, on that long walk home, Jess acquired a new talent. She can find missing people - dead or alive...Code Name Cassandra Since developing her psychic powers, Jess has discovered that not everyone wants to be found. And, right now, Jess is one of them. Because some very important people want to speak to her about her newfound powers - people who know just how a good power can be used for evil - and the wrong decision will lead Jess into deadly danger...


Vanished is a new bind up of the first two books in a paranormal series by Meg Cabot.

Jess Mastriani is a sixteen year old girl with issues. It just so happens that her issues are somewhat more complicated than most teens. When Lightning Strikes sees Jessica’s rather geeky existence take a turn for the paranormal when, you guessed it, she gets struck by lightning on her way home. Suddenly Jess has the strangest ability she can find missing people. She goes to bed the night of the lightning strike a fairly average teenager and she wakes up the next day knowing where two missing children are found.

Jess is such a great sassy tomboy. She doesn’t hold any prisoners where her tongue or fists are concerned. She stands up for the people she cares about which is the reason she is in detention pretty much indefinitely. At the beginning of the novel Jess is rather naive. She does guard her secret ability closely but she doesn’t think through the ramifications of her actions. Unless of course, those thought involve Rob Wilkins who is her comrade in the eternal damnation of detention and the object of her affection.

But life and love do not run smoothly for the heroine of When Lightning Strikes. It’s not long before the FBI know about Jessica’s little gift and want to use it for the good of the country. One more thing you should know about Jess is that she is a Townie. Rob is a Grit. You don’t cross the boundary unless you want your friends and your family to lock you up until you’re collecting your pension. Cue lots of high stakes drama!

Code Name Cassandra sees Jess getting to be much savvier where her ability is concerned. She goes to a Music Summer Camp to be a counsellor with Ruth. Seven weeks of crazy kids is everything that Jess is looking forward to but when she gets there things go anything but to plan.

Both novels in this bind up were brilliantly witty and engaging. I devoured the book and lost myself in Jessica’s drama. I adored Rob, who wouldn’t? Leather jacket? Check. Motorcycle? Check. Rebellious and possibly criminal streak? Check. What a guy! Meg Cabot has this really amazing ability to write quite bizarre stories in a really believable way so that the ending completely matters to you. I love it quite frankly. I need more from Jessica Mastriani. Vanished is not your deep brooding paranormal torment. It is fun, sassy and totally feel good. Whoop!

Thanks to Simon Pulse for sending the book to review.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Irena's Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove

Author: Lauren Kate

Release date: 6th Jan 2011 UK
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Random House Children’s Books


Natalie Hargrove would kill to be her high school's Palmetto Princess. But her boyfriend Mike King doesn't share her dream and risks losing the honor of Palmetto Prince to Natalie's nemesis, Justin Balmer. So she convinces Mike to help play a prank on Justin. . . one that goes terribly wrong. They tie him to the front of the church after a party-when they arrive the next morning, Justin is dead. From blackmail to buried desire, dark secrets to darker deeds, Natalie unravels. She never should've messed with fate. Fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove. Cruel Intentions meets Macbeth in this seductive, riveting tale of conscience and consequence.

Irena’s Review:

This novel is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. While not following the plot of Macbeth exactly, it incorporates all of the play's crucial elements - intrigues and plotting for a top place.

The story is set in a rich American Southern community; more precisely, in Palmetto high school. Natalie Hargrove, a popular and beautiful Palmetto girl, is, just like Lady Macbeth, a social climber, bent on being the best and envied. She wants to win the title of Palmetto Princess with her boyfriend Mike King as Palmetto Prince and this occupies her every thought.

She is an unpleasant, conceited girl, determined to put her poor past and embarrassing father behind and be truly accepted by the rich, but she is powerful, as she has the right looks and good connections, so there are always people ready to flock to her and help Natalie achieve her desideratum. Everything seems to work for Natalie according to her plan, but one evening, she comes up with a prank to defeat her boyfriend's greatest rival, Justin Balmer or simply J.B. - a prank that goes terribly wrong. It is when the true drama begins, as well as Natalie's unravelling.

The characters seem to be mainly one-dimensional and slightly bland, but Natalie, the protagonist, was well outlined and faithful to the person of Lady Macbeth. Natalie is not a good person. She does not care about consequences; she only cares about her goal, about herself. Yet she still appears human. There is a vulnerability about her that makes her very human, after all, and, although this is not excusable, she has good reasons for her cold, superior behaviour. She is obsessed with wealth and social status and it all stems from Natalie's deep insecurity because of the past.

I thought the high-school setting was not that good to create good plotting and vicious scheming, but it worked to a degree. Mostly, the plotting seemed bland and lacked the intensity shown in Macbeth, but it was fun to read about and, although I am familiar with the play, left me guessing. I believe, though, that it could have been made more intense, as at times, the plotting seemed more like high-school girls trying to appear 'badass'. The plot also moved a bit slow at first and then began to rush, making the most important events less important. A few additional chapters might have done the trick.

What I really liked, though, were the subtle references to the original that appear throughout the novel. They won't bother those not who are familiar with the play and will surely delight those who are. The ending is loyal to the original. I didn't get the feeling that justice was served, but the ending certainly offers closure.

All in all, this is a good take on adapting Macbeth for modern readers. It lacks some elements that would have made it better, but it is an entertaining read that might just make you want to brush up your knowledge about Macbeth. I definitely recommend it to fans of Lauren Kate's Fallen series.

Becky says: Great review Irena. I still think that this one is not my kind of thing. It is the high school setting and knowing what a Lady Macbeth character will be like and how spineless Macbeth is. It doesn’t inspire me to read this. But how great to have a novel that students will be able relate to and help them to further understand the play.

Both our thanks go to Random House Children’s Books for sending the book to review.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Event Summary: London Book Fair

On Tuesday I went along to the London Book Fair. I was expecting to be overwhelmed and I was but I also really enjoyed myself.

I was invited to enjoy tea and cake with the lovely Non and Pip from Catnip and Bounce Marketing. These two ladies are two of my favourite publishing people because they are so friendly and welcoming of blogger ideas. It was a real treat. They spoke to us a little bit about their upcoming titles:

Clash by Colin Mulhern – A UK debut!

The Deeping Secrets by Victor Watson – which is the second in a series of war time mysteries for the 9+ market. I’ve read the first book Paradise Barn and I really enjoyed it. The review is coming soon to The Bookette.

We also talked about some top secret stuff so you’ll have to wait for more on that...

The other thing we talked about was the current trends in YA. I know I am already sick of dystopian fiction. I think that happens when you’re a reviewer because you get everything and publicists are pushing it so much because it is expected to be BIG. But you’re already over it because you’ve read way too much of it.

So what’s the next big thing? It’s a difficult one to answer. I’d like it to be crime fiction for teens but that’s just me. I’d also like it to be fiction set in Australia because I happen to have a little addiction. Frankly, I haven’t got a clue but if anyone wants to share their wisdom then go for it.

After our meeting, I went off and wandered the book fair which is a completely overwhelming experience. There are just so many publishers. What really struck me as I wandered was the size of some publishers. Some stands were like the Titanic and other were little dinghys in the sea of publicity. I really made me think how important it is to support the smaller, less powerhouse publishers.

In the afternoon I got to attend the Reading Agency Reading Roadshow which was a showcase of new fiction for the coming months. I was there in work mode making notes of books that will be great for the school library. For instance, younger graphic novels which are age appropriate. Some manga is just too controversial for the primary school library.

There were ten publishers showcasing their books. Each publicity team had five minutes to talk about up to five titles. There was a bit of a timing issue, I have to say. The publishers at the beginning got much longer than five minutes and the publishers at the end were given just the five minutes which was a shame.

Here are some of the books that were spoken about:
All links go to Goodreads...

Bruised by Siobhan Parkinson - Hodder

He’s After Me by Chris Higgins – Hodder

Momentum by Saci Lloyd - Hodder

Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy by Andy Briggs – Faber (Andy was actually there and spoke about his new book himself. He was really funny. I get the feeling that this is going to be a big hit at school).

Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis – OUP

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick – Simon and Schuster

Sister, Missing by Sophie McKenzie – Simon and Schuster

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington – Orchard

Heist Society by Ally Carter – Orchard 9 (I’m treating myself to this when it is out in May)

Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardringe – Macmillan (Frances must be the most eccentric author ever! She spoke about all her books which I really want to read. I know my students love Fly By Night – her first book).

Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough – RHCB (Lindsay was there too! She talked about how she came to write the book. It sounds really scary but I know lots of you have been enjoying it).

One Dog and his Boy by Eva Ibbotson – Scholastic (I cannot wait to read this)

Six Words and a Wish by Karen McCombie – Scholastic (I just got this for review. It looks fun and girly. I’m thinking Cathy Cassidy fans will love it).

Duty Calls: Dunkirk by James Holland – Puffin

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond – Puffin

Swim the Fly by Don Calame – Bounce/ Templar (I have this one and I cannot wait to start it. I’m waiting for a sunny day to read it. Definitely a humourous summer read).

There is lots of exciting YA fiction coming out over the summer and into the autumn.

Which books top your wishlist right now?

Friday, 15 April 2011

Review: The 13 Curses

Author: Michelle Harrison

Release date: 7th Jan 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

The Thirteen Treasures have become the Thirteen Curses. When fairies stole her brother, Red vowed to get him back. Now trapped in the fairy realm, she begs an audience with the fairy court where she strikes a bargain. Her brother will be returned - but only if she can find the thirteen charms of Tanya's bracelet that have been scattered in the human world. Returning to Elvesden Manor, Red is assisted by Tanya and Fabian and a desperate hunt begins. Soon they make a shocking discovery. The charms now have twisted qualities of the thirteen treasures they represent...and the longer they are missing the worse the consequences will be. Can Red, Tanya and Fabian find all the charms? And even if they do, will the fairies keep their promise?


The 13 Curses is a story of adventure, friendship and discovery set in our world which happens to be riddled with Fey and all their dark and twisted magic.

This novel takes place in the half term following Tanya’s stay at Elvesden Manor in the Summer. It is the second novel in a series but can also be read as a standalone because the story is complete in itself.

The 13 Curses is a wonderful follow up to The 13 Treasures. It differs from the first book as it is really Red’s story. Tanya, Fabian and Warwick all feature but this it is in every way Red’s coming of age. We learn much more about her past and how she came to be involved in the “changeling” exchange business. Red is in rather a predicament at the beginning of the novel but her goal remains the same. She wants to be reunited with her baby brother James.

Red is a rather single-minded character. She has been hardened by the loss of her parents and the abduction of her brother. She’s lived on the streets and fended for herself. In The 13 Curses we understand how Red comes to be so tough and determined. We read many chapters which describe her past story - her experience in the children’s home, her discoveries of ways to avoid the fey and protect against their magic. We also learn of the burden she carried being born of the second sight and not being able to share the truth with anyone.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but I will say that Red, Tanya and Fabian have to overcome the 13 curses. In this way I felt Harrison evoked much of traditional children’s fantasy writing. I loved how the three characters had to solve the problems for themselves rather than be rescued by a knowledgeable adult. I also loved the fact that the problem solving all took place in a single location. It felt so much more believable than other novels where the child characters go off on a thousand mile journey across vast deserts etc. The setting is one of my favourite things about this series – it is so evocative of the fantastic and whimsical.

There was a great dynamic between Red, Tanya and Fabian. They were all distinctive and each had a personality was reflected through their dialogue. This series is very well-executed.

Overall, another great instalment of this fantastic adventure series. Pacey, exciting and full of faery menace, The 13 Curses will be loved by girls and boy from age 9+.

Read for the British Book Challenge 2011

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Review: Gone

Author: Lisa McMann

Release date: 1st Nov 2010 UK
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

Things should be great for Janie - she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she's totally in love with. But deep down she's panicking about how she's going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people's dreams is really starting to take its toll. Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time -and he's in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice she thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined.


Gone is the third novel in Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy about Dream Catcher Janie Hannagan.

This novel is slightly different from the previous two novels. It is less about Janie solving a mystery or catching someone’s dream and more about her dealing with her own internal conflict.

At the beginning of the novel Janie and her boyfriend Cabel are on holiday and they are trying to find some peace after the traumatic events in Fade. Janie is not used to the public knowing her business. She is a private person and after the trial, the whole town knows that she helped convict dangerous criminals. Even though much of the attention she receives is positive, it is still attention she would rather not have. Then there are the problems that she has been coping with all along – her particular ability and her alcoholic mother.

One of the things that I loved about this book is McMann’s exploration of the pressure and emotional strain a young person experiences when they have an addict for a parent. The author shows how much responsibility it places on the young person’s shoulders. Gone is more about real life problems than paranormal ones. Yes, Janie has the big decision to make about her life as a Dream Catcher in this book but I still feel it is every bit woven into the harsh reality of teenage life.

Gone explores the more vulnerable side of Janie. It touches on her close relationship with her best friend and is entrenched in her blossoming love for Cabel. He is such a great character and I am going to miss reading about his skateboarding ways. I still think the scene in Wake where he skateboards her home is one of my all-time favourites from any book. It was just so kooky.

Yet again I loved Lisa McMann’s style of writing. There are no wasted words. The prose is economic perfection. I’m not sure what else there is to say except that I hope Lisa McMann keeps writing in this genre and doesn’t go off and write books that are too scary for me to read. I am in awe of her skills as a writer and I expect I’ll be a fan for many years to come. The whole trilogy is tense, atmospheric and engaging. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Guest Post: Sun, sea and surf by Liz Kessler

Today I have the great pleasure of sharing with you a guest post from Liz Kessler as part of her blog tour for her new novel A Year Without Autumn. Even the title is beautiful!

Sun, sea and surf
by Liz Kessler

When my first book was published, I was living on a narrowboat on the Macclesfield Canal. The Tail of Emily Windsnap was the first of my series about a girl who accidentally finds out in a school swimming lesson that when she goes in water, she becomes a mermaid. So when people asked where I got my ideas to write about mermaids, I happily told them that living on a boat on the water gave me lots of inspiration.

Then one day, someone pointed out that most of the UK’s canals are quite dirty, and not likely to be the type of places where beautiful shimmery mermaids were to be found. Which only meant one thing: I’d have to move!

And that is how I ended up in St Ives.

No, not really. But the truth isn’t that far off. I’ve always loved the sea, and I’ve always loved boats. So writing about mermaids was always going to be on the agenda. For me, mermaids represent the possibilities that are out there, teasing the edges of our imagination. I love the fact that the sea covers over 70% of our planet, and yet we hardly know anything about it! And so, although no one can prove that mermaids exist – no one can prove that they don’t. And it’s that grey area of exciting question marks in the middle that excites me.

But it’s not just about the mermaids. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up in a seaside town, or because my zodiac sign is cancer the crab, or maybe I spent too much time in the paddling pool as a child – but being by the sea just makes me feel more alive.

So when a year’s travelling in a campervan led to St Ives in Cornwall, it didn’t take long for me to realise that I had found my new home. I don’t think anyone would take much convincing about how beautiful it is here. You just need to look at a couple of pics.

Living by the sea makes me feel as if I can breathe more easily. Looking out at a vast ocean where the next stop is thousands of miles away, it makes me feel connected to a wider world.

Walking along the coast path with my dog, spotting seals or even dolphins in the bay, makes my heart feel uplifted and calm at the same time. And it is the MOST inspiring place in the world to sit staring into space, getting ideas for your next book.

And in the summer, body boarding and surfing on beautiful waves – well, apart from writing, that is the best feeling in the world.

Who knows, perhaps I’m secretly a bit of a mermaid myself…

A Year Without Autumn is out now in hardback, published by Orion. Thanks so much for sharing your love of the sea with us Liz. I always think of the sea as a place of rejuvenation. It is my favourite place to go and pause and reflect on the beauty of life.
Find out more about the lovely Liz at her blog: http://lizkessler.blogspot.com/
and to find out more about her novels, check out her website: http://www.lizkessler.co.uk/

Monday, 11 April 2011

Guest Post: The Opposite of Amber Blog Tour

Today I am delighted to be the first stop on the lovely Gillian Philip's blog tour for her new contemporary novel The Opposite of Amber. You may have noticed a bit of a trend to guest posts her lately. I keep asking writers to tell us about their favourite British books. I'm hoping that you'll find some great recommendations to add to your BBC reading lists. Anyway, without further ado: Gillian, you know I'm a fan girl of yours, welcome to The Bookette!

Top 5 Teen Books

By Gillian Philip

Of all the tough topics...

I came late to teen books, because they didn’t exist in my day. Well, there were one or two (of which more later) but I’m way too old to have caught the wave of YA that today’s teens enjoy. Back in the mists of the seventies, we went straight from Enid Blyton to John Steinbeck, Jilly Cooper and Philip K. Dick (depending on one’s mood or inclination). It can’t have been quite so abrupt, but that’s how it felt.

I do, though, have the passion of the convert. Since discovering the YA shelves in my local Waterstones and decimating them, there’s been no genre I’ve found to match the sheer variety and quality of teen fiction. And I know that genre is the wrong word, since this market encompasses so many different genres itself, but please allow me that shorthand, because this is quite difficult enough. Five? Five?

Okay then...

Noughts and Crosses: Malorie Blackman

My first true YA love. I can still see it sitting there on the 3 for 2 table with its simple, uncompromising cover and that alarming, enticing warning Not For Younger Readers. The blurb appealed to my fascination for politics; I liked the name ‘Callum’; and so I bought it, and by the end of the first chapter was wholly in love with both the main characters, and enthralled by the rest of them.

My big mistake was reading the blurb on Book 2 before I’d finished Book 1. Something terrible was going to happen; I’d known it from early on, but that blurb confirmed it. So the awful fact is, I couldn’t finish it for months. I put it aside, keeping everyone nice and safe in my head, dreading the ending. When I did finally take a deep breath and finish it, I cried buckets, as I’d known I would. And then I went straight out and bought the rest of the series, and cried buckets over those, too.

This has remained a favourite that I still recommend to anyone who’ll listen. It isn’t just that I fell so much in love with the characters I couldn’t bear to let anything happen to them; it’s because the book is the most perfectly-executed exercise in empathy, in putting yourself in another’s shoes. I hate, loathe and detest being hit over the head with fictional ‘messages’, but that isn’t what Malorie Blackman does – and that’s why the ‘message’, so beautifully wrapped and intertwined in a fabulous story, stays with you.

I Am The Great Horse: Katherine Roberts

I loved horse and pony stories when I was young. As an adult I was crazy about Mary Renault, and especially her Alexander novels. Where but in teen fiction could I have found the perfect combination of both? You can’t imagine an ‘adult’ publisher giving this idea the nod – an epic war story/romance/mystery/adventure told by a horse? But it’s genius: clever, sophisticated and beautifully written. Bucephalas is one of the most fabulous characters I’ve encountered. His perspective on historical events is absolutely unique. You never stop believing in his voice, or in him; he tells a thrilling and fluid story, and he gives a vivid narration of the human lives who touch his, but you never forget he’s all horse, and war-horse at that. There’s sex, violence and murder, but how can any of it be gratuitous when it’s related by an alpha-stallion bred for war?

I wasn’t sure how this version of the story could end, and I was a little nervous as I approached it, but it’s perfect. Just perfect.

The Long Weekend: Savita Kalhan

I read this only recently, and I can’t tell you how fast I read it. Savita Kalhan’s first novel, it’s short, blade-sharp and utterly terrifying. The slow realisation that two boys have been picked up in a car that doesn’t belong to either of their fathers is ghastly but gripping. Events progress with an awful speed and inevitability, yet the pace is just right, pulling you in even as the sickening lump forms in your stomach. Sam, the hero, is the perfect blend of vulnerability and resourcefulness, but his weaker friend Lloyd has his own moments of heroism, too.

It beats a thousand public information films or tabloid scare stories. It’s Hansel and Gretel for the Xbox generation, and my children will be reading it as soon as they’re old enough to cope. Which, come to think of it, is about now.

When I Was Joe/Almost True: Keren David

I’m cheating and turning these two books into a one-volume virtual bumper edition. ‘Joe’s’ bravery is demonstrated on page one of book one; his fears, hopes, despair and his sense of a life spinning out of control all come later, as he goes on the run from dangerous criminals.

Ty – as he really is – has to reinvent himself, quite literally, and become Joe, a boy created by the Witness Protection programme. But despite the destruction of his old life, in some ways it’s a dream come true – what teenage boy hasn’t wanted to be someone else? Ty gets the chance, and the fact is, he likes being Joe. His reactions and coping mechanisms are cleverly probed by Keren David, who never lets her hero leave his old life behind entirely. The shadow of the crime he witnessed, and his part in it, hangs over him right till the end of the story...

...and indeed beyond. By book two, he’s no longer Joe, and someone has died in his place. That makes Almost True darker from the start, but I like it even better. As the former Ty begins to fall apart, he has to deal with discoveries about his own family. It’s gripping, and moving, and it’s never simplistic. A third volume is due, and I can’t wait.

Summer of my German Soldier : Bette Greene

I had to bring this one in. It’s years since I read it, but it was one of the few books available in my school library that would qualify for today’s ‘teen’ market.

I don’t remember very much of the plot, except for the heartbreaking ending – that’s still vivid. But I do remember the difficult, defiant heroine Patty, and I remember Anton, the beautiful eponymous soldier; and the hatred of the townsfolk, and what happens to Patty. Most of all I remember crying at the end, and going straight back to read it again. And again.

And really, isn’t that the best you can ask of a book?

It certainly is, Gillian. Thanks so much for sharing your favourites!

The Opposite of Amber is officially released on April 18th but it is available from Amazon now!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Review: The 13 Treasures

Author: Michelle Harrison

Release date: 5th Jan 2009
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:

While visiting her grandmother's house, an old photograph leads Tanya to an unsolved mystery. Fifty years ago a girl vanished in the woods nearby - a girl Tanya's grandmother will not speak of. Fabian, the caretaker's son, is tormented by the girl's disappearance. His grandfather was the last person to see her alive, and has lived under suspicion ever since. Together, Tanya and Fabian decide to find the truth. But Tanya has her own secret: the ability to see fairies. And, after disturbing an intruder in the night, it emerges that someone else shares her ability ...The manor's sinister history is about to repeat itself ...


The 13 Treasures is a wonderful fantasy story which mixes the sinister world of faeries with a contemporary English setting. It makes for a cracking read!

Tanya is gifted with the second sight. She can see the fey folk of the other world. But unfortunately for Tanya she is the only person who can, so you can understand why she feels frustrated when she gets the blame for their misdemeanours. Tanya is feeling isolated at the beginning of the book and also frightened. The faeries are sometimes cruel to her and her mother decides to send her off to stay at Elvesden Manor after the ceiling comes crashing down around Tanya in the middle of the night. Elvesden Manor is a large ancient house and is the home of Tanya’s grandmother and Tanya is far from happy about going to stay with her. She has never been welcomed by her grandmother and the manor’s caretaker Warwick. Plus there is Fabian, the annoying son of Warwick, who tends to latch on to Tanya and never give her any peace.

As soon as Tanya’s mother made the decision to send her away, I was hooked. I completely empathised with Tanya. Her feelings of injustice at being blamed for the faeries’ trouble just leapt off the page. The faeries and all the different finds of fey folk create an atmosphere of magical mystery as well as humour. Some of the creatures do dark and vile things. Others are not so clearly evil but all add to the fantastical flavour to the story.

The plotting of this book was so neat and tight. Harrison left clues and red-herrings all along the way which made a real need to read on. Think dark walks in the wood at midnight. It is enough to scare me before bedtime. I also want to mention the dialogue because the character voices were so clear and individual. It really was a pleasure to read.

The ending of this novel left me feeling completely satisfied. I felt as if Tanya came full circle and there was a secret joy in knowing that. I finally understand why my students love Michelle Harrison so much. She can really capture the imagination. The 13 Treasures is well-crafted, full of mystery and the sinister side of magic and distinctive characters. At times charming, at others funny, this book is one to recommend to every girl age 9 to 90. Actually, there is lots that boys will enjoy in there too! Think gruesome things that faeries do!

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me the book to review.
Read for the British Book Challenge 2011