HOME             ABOUT             REVIEWS             BOOK LISTS             CONTACT             LINKS

Pages

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

Author: Morgan Matson
Release date: 7th July 2011 UK
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Realism YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Summary from Amazon:
Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move all the way across the country and needs Amy to drive their car from California to the East Coast. There's just one problem: since the death of her father, Amy hasn't been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute...and dealing with some baggage of his own. Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father's death were not part of Amy's plans for the road trip. But then neither was driving on the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado Mountains, visiting diners, dingy motels and Graceland. But as they drive, and she grows closer to Roger, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you need the most - - and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.

Review:

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is a heart-warming, quirky, and touching story. It is part romance, part journey story, part finding yourself when you’re lost novel.

Amy’s story really begins with the loss of her dad. She is grieving and for the past three months has stopped living because of her loss. Her mother decides to relocate their family in a bid for a fresh start. So at the beginning of the story, Amy has been living alone at home in California for a month. Now her mum wants her to bring the family car to Connecticut where they’ll have a new home and start their new life.

Amy is feeling hugely resentful towards her mother for leaving her. She also feels like her mum should be able to make everything better but of course she can’t. Bereavement isn’t something you can just undo. Amy knows she has been hiding from the world but she isn’t ready to face her friends or family or even a stranger yet. But Roger is forced upon her. Organised by her mother, Roger is recruited to drive Amy the many thousands of miles to her new life. An unexpected and unwelcome travelling companion, Amy dreads the journey ahead of them, but Roger is not at all what Amy expects him to be.

Roger, like Amy, has never been on a road trip and suddenly it seems he has been handed a gift. Roger is a little too fond of famous explorers and loves history. He is on his very own quest. We watch Roger transform before Amy’s eyes. This novel explores in depth their two characters and you can’t help but love them.

One of the things that amazed me about this story was the playlists. Being someone who doesn’t really listen to music, I was dumbfounded by the number of songs Matson refers to and also rather inspired to try listening to some of them. It seems that a true part of the road trip experience is listening to music which captures your mood or the place you’re passing through. Not a concept I’ve ever embraced before but I’m certainly keen to give it a go this summer.

Roger didn’t convert me to the fast food chain but I am really looking forward to trying some American pie. I have made myself a promise to try a different one every day when I am in the USA. I’m also going to ask for the locals recommendations on the menu – thank you Amy for this worthy piece of advice. You see Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is a great guide for life. Any time you’re looking for answers, it is the perfect book to read. Amy and Roger set out to have one small detour but they experience a great adventure.  I never expected to love this book as much as I do but it really speaks to the heart of human existence and reminds you that life is about living and really what more can you ask from a book.
Thank you to Simon and  Schuster for sending the book to review.
Read for the Debut Author Challenge 2011.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Guest Post: We're All Wizards Now by Julie Bertagna

Today I am delighted to welcome Julie Bertagna to The Bookette. Julie's guest post is perfect timing for me. After spending Friday and Saturday with lots of other school librarians, the question that I'm still musing on is how I can integrate new technology in the library and engage young people with the tools they are already familiar and experts in. The final instalment of Julie's incredibly visionary series - AURORA - has just been released. To read my review of the first title Exodus, click HERE.

We’re All Wizards Now 
by Julie Bertagna

My Gran hated telephones. They unnerved her. ‘Is that really you, Julie?’ she’d demand, as if she couldn’t believe my voice was travelling down a phoneline from Glasgow, all across the gusty Ayrshire moors, right into her ear.

For my grandparents and all the previous generations in human history, the everyday technology we take for granted would seem like the most incredible wizardry. Messages that leap silently through the air from person to person like magic spells? A genie in your car who gets you where you want to be (well, most of the time)? Mail that flies across the world in seconds? Thousands of songs kept in a tiny box in your pocket?

It’s a kind of magic. E-magic.

Just ten years ago, when I began writing Exodus (the first book of my trilogy set in a flooded world of the future) no one had mobile phones, i-pods or satnavs. There was no Facebook or Twitter. No smartphones or e-books. People had only begun to use e-mail. How did we survive?! Nowadays I have a mild panic attack if I leave the house without my i-pod and mobile phone...

But the e-revolution was seeping into our lives. And I was writing about a very changed world, a hundred years from now, when our technology has advanced, then become history, swept away in global floods. In a world devastated by climate change, humanity has divided into those living luxuriously in towering ‘sky cities’, safe from the floods, immersed in a highly-developed technology - and desperate refugees surviving hard, primitive existences at the mercy of a storm-ravaged Earth.

Mara, a 15 year old girl on a drowning island in the Atlantic, finds the key to survival via an old cyberwizz (a kind of palm-computer) which takes her into the Weave, the beautiful ruins of a virtual reality - now abandoned by the flooded world. There she finds Fox, the avatar of a boy who lives in a sky city. He changes her life and leads Mara towards a destiny she could never have imagined. Zenith and Aurora show how technology, the crucial connection between Mara and Fox, ultimately re-invents the fate of the whole world.

It was strange writing fiction about things that were changing so fast in real time. No one was talking about climate change when Exodus was published, but by the time I’d written Zenith it was front page news. Now there have been millions of victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods - the effects of a warming world - and the techno-revolution has transformed millions of other lives.

All of that seeped into my writing. In Aurora, technology has galloped onwards. For the sky people it’s become a part of their own circuitry, embedded inside them. The cities have almost become living organisms powered by sun, sea and winds with a grungy bio-architecture that fuels and feeds off itself. Ideas for ‘living towers’ sparked my imagination.

The key to the future is surely new green/bio technologies that can help feed us, give us fuels and ways to live that won’t wreck our planet, and might even solve global warming and its effects: read my Earthspace blog for some amazing ideas.

Humans are the most destructive creatures on the planet - and the most ingenious. So as we hurtle into the future, armed with all our technological wizardry, let’s see just how brilliant we really can be...
Thanks Julie. I think we all need to be reminded now and then that we have the potential to do wondrous things.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Irena's Review: The Truth about Celia Frost

Author: Paul Rawthorne
Release date: 1st August 2011
Genre: Thriller
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Usborne


Summary:
Celia Frost is a freak. At least that's what everyone thinks. Her life is ruled by a rare disorder that means she could bleed to death from the slightest cut,confining her to a gloomy bubble of safety. No friends. No fun. No life. But when a knife attack on Celia has unexpected consequences, her mum reacts strangely. Suddenly they're on the run. Why is her mum so scared? Someone out there knows - and when they find Celia, she's going to wish the truth was alie. A buried secret; a gripping manhunt; a dangerous deceit: what is the truth about Celia Frost?

Irena's Review:
The Truth about Celia Frost is an intriguing and gripping thriller that explores ethical questions and makes one wonder if, in order to achieve something good, bad things can be excused and forgotten.

Celia Frost, a fourteen-year-old girl with striking red hair, has spent her entire life worrying about not cutting herself on anything sharp. She has a disorder that may cause her to bleed to death because of a tiny cut. She feels imprisoned and her mom makes them move to a different place every few months. After fourteen years of moving around and staying isolated from people, Celia just wants to be normal and not seen as a freak. She wants to wear friends and not worry about bleeding to death. But one day, when she receives her first cut and does not die, Celia is shocked, but also begins to think. She wants to know the truth and she wants to know why her mom won't answer any of her logical questions. As Celia begins her quest to discover the truth about her condition, someone else is determined to find her. After all the hiding and safety precautions, Celia suddenly finds herself in the middle of danger.

This was a very suspenseful and thrilling read. Discovering the truth about Celia was definitely an exciting, as well as a shocking journey that made me think about certain ethical issues. Reading about the person trying to find Celia was very intense. The author definitely created a proper atmosphere for a thriller. There is a shocking mystery, and a very intense atmosphere. Celia is a great heroine for such a novel. She is young and inexperienced, yearning to be normal. When she gets her chance at normalcy and begins to break free, evenfinding her very first best friend in a boy named Sol, her life begins to fall apart. In many ways, Celia is a normal teenager with typical teenage problems: she can't see eye to eye with her mom. But in many ways, Celia is extraordinary. Celia and her mother don't fight about normal family things.Celia is not a normal teenager; she is very special and who she is makes her both very vulnerable and dangerous.

I love the way this novel is organized. It begins with an intense eventthat is a shocker. Then, the reader gets the chance to see Celia evolve, experience her first happy moments with a friend and learning some things for the first time, like swimming. But in the background, there is always the reminder that Celia is a wanted girl and someone is going at great lengths to find her. A chapter describing Celia having fun with Sol is followed by a chapter describing her pursuer finding clues and coming closer to her. Then, the climax happens and the tension persists until almost the last page. I loved that.

The characters are enjoyable, although some are stock characters. But what I truly enjoyed was the issue of ethics. I cannot say anything specific about it, but the book definitely puts to mind the way scientists behave in a god-like manner nowadays, doing things that cannot be excused. At the heart of the novel is the question: can bad things be overlooked for the sake of a greater good? I think this issue was really well explored. So, this novel does not only provide the reader with entertainment; it also tackles a serious issue and makes one think.

I liked the ending, but I still had a question or two at the end of the book, so perhaps the ending could do with a bit more work. However, I loved theway everything fell into place.

This is a highly enjoyable thriller that offers both excitement and foodfor thought. Definitely recommended for lovers of thrillers, and for readers who like a good drama that makes them question things.

Becky says: What an engaging review, Irena. Even without you revealing the nature of the ethical dilemma explored, I can see that this is a book which makes you question values and choices. In my mind that is what all great books do: they make you think and have a dialogue with the story unfolding before you. Glad you enjoyed it.
Both our thanks go to Usborne for sending the book to review.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Review: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth



Release date: 28th April 2011 UK
Genre: Dystopia
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: HarperCollins


Summary from Amazon:


One choice can transform you. Pass initiation. Do not fail…


Thrilling urban dystopian fiction debut from exciting young author.


In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s world, society is divided into five factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) – each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a “perfect society.” At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives.


On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family’s group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance with a super-hot boy, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly “perfect society.” To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.


Review:


Divergent is an addictive, thrilling novel set in a Chicago of the future. Let’s just start by saying I enjoyed this book so much!


Beatrice is raised in the Faction of Abnegation. The city of Chicago is divided into five Factions each with a different set of beliefs. In essence each faction value one virtue over another. For Abnegation that virtue is selflessness. But when each person reaches the age of sixteen, they can choose to transfer to a different Faction. A choice which will mean they will be cut off from their family forever. The Faction becomes the family of the member and they leave their old life behind.


Beatrice faces this choice. She finds it impossible to follow the selfless ways of Abnegation. She asks questions when the selfless choice is to listen. At school she is mesmerised by the crazy pursuits of the Dauntless. They value bravery over the other possible virtues. But Beatrice is not alone in making her choice. There is an aptitude test which will identify which Faction she belongs in to help her make her decision. But as in life sometimes there is more than one possible answer.


Beatrice’s story grabbed me from the very first page. The problem of the choice was a great hook to get the reader involved in the story. The stakes are set impossibly high: does she choose herself or her family? Once she makes her choice, the story becomes a thrilling chase to the end. There is violence and brutality. There is propaganda and deceit. The society which began with such strong ideals about how to create a fair and equal world for its people begins to break down. If you believe in one virtue over another, there is so much room for prejudice and a belief in your own superiority for choosing that virtue.


The friends that Beatrice made along her journey were also well characterised. I loved the way that Christina had no filter. She would just say whatever popped into her head. Those Candor folks do love their honesty. I keep wondering what my own Faction would be. I think it might be Amity but I guess I’ll have to wait and see as we didn’t get to see so much of them. How can any review not mention Four? I just adored his character. You know how I love those tortured souls.


I have several questions which I hope will be answered in future books. But the main one is this: Is the fence to keep the Factions in or some other dark force out? Either way, I am really eager to read the next book. I haven’t been in a dystopian mood lately but Divergent was as much a thrilling adventure as it was an exploration of a corrupted future society. I highly recommend it!


Thank you to HarperCollins for sending the book to review.


Read for the Debut Author Challenge 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #16

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.
Click HERE for link to Posts 1 – 10 of this feature.



Post 12 - The Golden Fish


The Three Men of Power – Evening, Midnight and Sunrise
This tale is every bit a fairytale of heroism.

It begins with a King who has three wonderful daughters. He builds an underground kingdom for them to live in and protect them from ever being taken from him.
But one day the three princesses read a book which tells of the beautiful sky, a glorious garden and the flowers there. They beg their father to let them see the garden and after a while he agrees. He organises for his soldiers to stand guard around the garden and his maid servants to protect the girls. But even this does not protect them from a great monster. A fierce wind funnels through the garden damaging nothing but whipping up the three princesses inside it and carrying them away.
The King sends his soldiers to look for his daughters in case the wind should set them upon the ground but the soldiers find nothing. The same for his servants and so the King asks his people if any are brave enough to search for his daughters. Three brothers answer the King’s call. They are the men of power. Three sons who were born all in one night. They are Evening, Midnight and Sunrise.


The three men are bogatirs – the strongest of men and the most powerful and they set out to save the princesses. The youngest brother Sunrise is the one who achieves the feat. He is almost herculean in power.


My thoughts:
This fairytale really reminds me of something but I can’t think what. Perhaps it is a Greek myth. Has it triggered a connection for anyone? Anyway, it is much much longer than I’ve suggested in my summary. There is the part where Sunrise proves himself to be the strongest of the brothers and also the cleverest. It really is charming this one.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Review: Ill Wind

Author: Rachel Caine



Release date: 2008 UK this paperback edition
Genre: Paranormal
Target audience: Adult (explicit sexual content and strong language)
UK Publisher: Allison and Busby


Summary from Amazon:


Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden. The Wardens Association has been around pretty much forever. Some Wardens control fire, others control earth, water or wind - and the most powerful can control more than one element. Without them, humanity would be wiped off the face of the planet. But now Joanne is on the run from another kind of storm: accusations of corruption and murder. Her only hope is Lewis, the most powerful Warden. Unfortunately, he is also on the run, having stolen three bottles of Djinn and become the most wanted man on earth. Joanne must find him, and find him fast, as some really bad weather is closing in...


Review:


Do you ever have days when you wake up thinking: I’m really in the mood to read about someone who wields the weather? No. Really? I do. I often wake up in the certain mood for a genre or random paranormal ability. So anyway, this is how I come to be reading adult fantasy and in particular Ill Wind, the first book in Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series.


Joanne is the main character in the novel and she is a weather warden. A person who has the ability to harness or manipulate the weather. Lightning, hail, rain, these are her forte and she has the power to do untold damage with them. At the beginning of the story, we meet Joanne in her classic car tearing away from the scene of a crime. She is literally being chased by a storm and the people in control of the organisation she works for want to bring her in for questioning.


Joanne is the driving force for the book. She is the type of character that is a bit arrogant and a loose cannon. She has a sharp wit. She also has a strong conscience and as the story develops, you realise she has been through a horrific experience.


The first half of the book takes place pretty much in her beloved car and Joanne has many flashbacks to key incidents in her past. Simultaneously she is trying to dispel the weather working against her and protect the innocent civilians who are at risk from the storm. At times I was a little bored with the lack of actual progress. I am not one for stories that are about literal journeys from one place to another. Plus there is the obvious hindrance to the telling of the story because if you only have one character in a scene, then you can’t really have much dialogue. I’m the type of reader who adores dialogue and doesn’t go in for big action scenes. Luckily Joanne’s voice is so strong that you feel you are the one having a conversation with her.


The other thing that I found alienating in Ill Wind was the “meteorology” speak. Yes, I wanted to read about someone who could wield the weather. But I’m not sure I needed quite that much detail. At times it felt like reading jargon rather than actually moving the story along.


The latter half of the book is much better because Joanne picks up a hitch hiker and voila, there is chemistry and dialogue. The romantic side of the story was definitely the best thing about this novel. That and the ending. I loved how Rachel Caine gives a decisive and powerful finale to Ill Wind. She didn’t take the easy route out. So I really felt rewarded by reading to the end. I definitely will read the next book in the series and see how I get on. If it doesn’t begin with a car chase, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. Oh and if anyone would like to share a recommendation about a novel with a weather wielding character, please do!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Audrey's Awesome Awktopus Summer of YA Challenge

This week I actually spent time reading blogs. Yes, you read that right. I read your posts and I commented on them. It is a miracle. I found the time. Granted I did not read more than 100 pages last week but really, sometimes there are other things to do.

So anyway, I found this challenge through Rebecca Books blog. It looked great so I went to the host blog and whoa... how fab is Audrey's blog?! Holes in My Brain... I can relate...

So this is me signing up to the:

Awesome Awktopus Summer of YA Literature Challenge

There are ten mini-challenges to complete over the summer and you can pick which ones you'd like to do.

Go to Audrey's blog for full details and the RULES.

These are my picks:

3. Read that book. Yes, you know, that book. The one that you’ve been meaning to get around for forever and that is just staring at you forlornly on your shelf. The one you’ve been setting aside for ages because something just a tad sparklier has come your way and you’re like “yes, I’ll read that next” but never do.
So I did try to read the book that I marked for this but I couldn't get beyond chapter 5. I've given up on it. So now I need to pick another one I've been avoiding.


4. Read ONE classic.
I read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


5. Read 2 books for one of those other challenges that you signed up for and realised you actually haven’t gotten very far into completing it.
Anne McCaffrey, here I come. I haven't read a single book yet. *Sorry Caroline. I will, this is me renewing my promise*

6. Read the book you’ve been avoiding because of hype. Anna and the French Kiss—I know you’ve been putting it off… but trust ME, it’s as good as they say it is.

Looks like it's Anna and the French Kiss. I did pretty much beg for it as a Christmas present.

7. Read a book published before year 2000.
MapHead by Lesley Howarth, first published in 1994 people...

8. Read 3 stand-alone books by the same author. These books can NOT be part of a series!
I'm thinking Jennifer Echols or Sarah Dessen. We shall see...

9. Read a summer-related book. Self-explantory. You can be the judge of this, but try to make sure the book takes place during the summer.
Spray by Harry Edge. I have had this for a whole year and not started it. Shocking.

10. Buy a book for yourself as a prize for something.
I can do that!

I'm giving myself two extra tasks as I'm opting out of Audrey's #1 and #2.
1a. Read 3 sequels. I loved the first books in the series but haven't got around to the second or third
The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards, Jealously by Lili St Crow and Frostbite by Richelle Mead

2a. Read 3 books that were Christmas presents.
Nobel Genes by Rune Michaels,  Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore

I love a good challenge. Thanks Audrey!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Irena's Review: Wood Angel

Author: Erin Bow

Release date: 7th March 2011
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Chicken House

Summary:

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her "witch-blade": a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square. For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate's father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The towns people are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he'll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what's more, he'll grant her heart's wish. It's a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever --and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

Irena’s Review:

Wood Angel, previously titled Plain Kate, tells the story of a young girl simply trying to belong and live a good life, but superstitions and someone's bad intentions thwart her simple dream.

Kate Carver, known mostly as Plain Kate, lives in a small village in the (quite probably) Russian countryside. As a wood-carver's only beloved child, she was taught to carve from her early childhood and that was an easy task for her father, as Kate is a prodigious carver. After her father's death, she loses everything, so she has to rely on the goodness of the villagers to survive. She sleeps in the drawers of her father's former stall and spends her days in the company of her cat Taggle, earning money with carving. Some villagers accept her, but most are suspicious of her amazing talent, believing her to be a witch. When bad things begin to happen in and around the village, Kate is blamed and, eager to escape and live a normal life elsewhere, she makes a dangerous deal with a real witch, Linay. She gives him her shadow in return for her heart's wish, but she doesn't know that by giving up her shadow, she committed herself to danger and darkness, as Linay's intentions are far from noble.

The characters in the novel are, simply put, great. Kate is a brave, independent young girl who has had to fend for herself almost her entire life. She was brought up by herself and by the goodwill of some good, unprejudiced villagers. She is a master carver, which is both her talent and her curse. All Kate wants is to carve and to truly belong somewhere. When it seems she will finally get her wish, her decision to give up her shadow comes back to haunt her and those around her. In the story, Kate meets a group of Roamers, who are like Gypsies. Some interesting characters can be found among the Roamers, and they are bound to a tragic story that involves Kate as well. Kate also befriends a girl close to her age, Drina, who has her own fears and secrets to keep. The two girls team up to help Kate, but their plan backfires tragically and their friendship is put to a severe test.

As for Linay, the villain of the book, he is quite an intriguing character. He is a villain, but also an anti-hero, in the sense that he does all the wrong things to bring about justice. His motivations are sad and his means to make things right very scary and dark. His relationship with Kate is intriguing. They have a strange hate-friendship bond that intrigued me. I must also mention Taggle, Kate's very special cat. This cat is a central character in the book, with his very own, curious personality and I must say that he was incredibly fun to read about. It would be wonderful to own a cat like Taggle.

The setting of the story is truly wonderful. I am almost sure that the setting is Russian, as Russian words are mentioned, and references are made to the mythology. The atmosphere is very magical, but magic is a part of that world, not something that is separate, which makes the magic very natural, albeit undesired by most people that appear in the novel. The mythology is well incorporated into the story and the author put her own, interesting and dark spin on it. All these elements make this story an intriguing fairy-tale for adults. The language is beautiful and quite lyrical; the words flow smoothly.

The suspense in the story does not lie in a string of intense events following each other, but in the atmosphere that the author creates. To me, it was all in the melancholy, Russian, mysterious setting and in the characters' perception of things, which, for me, is the best kind of suspense – atmospheric suspense, as I like to call it.

The ending was quite sad and perhaps a tad (too) tragic, but after some thinking, it's actually perfect. I can't imagine a better way for the matters in the book to resolve. Most importantly, the story does end on a positive note and there is definitely a strong glimmer of hope.

All in all, this was a delightful read that had quite a few melancholy and dark moments, but those are the components of a typical Slavic fairy-tale. This is a unique fairy-tale for adults, and a story about acceptance and courage.

Becky says: Fantastic review Irena. I love how passionate you are about this book. I’m so glad I sent you this one. It seems that you thoroughly enjoyed it. I am very intrigued by the villain. I do love anti-heroes. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Intriguing that Wood Angel had some traditional fairy-tale aspects.

Both out thanks to Chicken House for sending the book to review.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Announcement: Amy and Roger's Epic BLOG tour

I am delighted to be a part of an upcoming blog tour for Morgan Matson's debut novel Amy and Roger's Epic Detour. I'll confess that I am not a lover of journeys. I think sitting in a car is the most boring thing on earth. So I'm really hoping that this book is going to transform my thinking and that I'll learn that life isn't all about the destination. I'll be going on an American road trip of my own this summer so it is about time I embraced the concept.


Check back here on  Thursday 7th July for an exclusive look at Morgan Matson's very own road trip. I'm hoping to feel inspired.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Questions about chapter length and word count

I don't often talk about my own writing on here but I have been musing about chapter length and word count and so I thought I'd post about it.

I'm writing a book for 9+ readers. It's a sci-fi novel. I've written a complete first draft which came in at 42000 words.

I've been editing. Today I worked on Chapter 9. I randomly decided to see how many words I'd cut from the first 9 chapters. I was really surprised when it turned out that I had only cut 219 words. I have cut a lot more than that but as I rework certain parts of the structure, I have had to add in scenes etc. I'm confident that I'm not adding in unnecessary information. So for those in the know, I have a question: Is a novel of around 40000 words a comfortable length for the 9+ market?

The second query I have is regarding chapter length. Should chapters be of a consistent length? Would it be unadvisable to have a chapter that is say longer than the others by about 300 words? Or is it ok for chapter length to vary throughout an individual novel? Is there an ideal chapter length for 9+ readers?

And a final question, should an aspiring writer have an online presence? Is a blog like this one appropriate for that purpose? Or should it be more focused on the process of writing? If you have any links to articles on this issue, please share them. We are going to be talking about this issue on my writing course in a couple of weeks.

If you have an aspiring writer blog, feel welcome to link it in the comments.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fairy-Tale Friday: From Russia with Love #15

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.

Click HERE for link to Posts 1 – 10 of this feature.
Post 12 - The Golden Fish
Post 14 - The Firebird, The Horse of Power and the PrincessVasilissa

The Hunter and his Wife
Oh me, oh my... This is a cautionary tale for a wife if ever there was one. It made me chuckle and it is short so I can tell it to you.
There was once a wife who used to bother her husband with questions all day long. It made him rather fed up so he often spent time in the forest hunting with his two dogs.  One day he came upon a fire of burning logs and wrapped around them was a snake. The snake asked the old man to help him escape and on the snake’s advice, the old man leaned out with his rifle and the snake crawled along it and got free. As a reward the snake gave the man the power to hear all the speech of the animals, but there was a condition, he must never tell a soul for if he did, he would die.
The old man lay down to rest and one of his dogs stayed to watch him. The other went home to watch over the house because there were often thieves roaming in the night. The old man learned all this from the conversation between the dogs.
In the morning, the dog who stayed with his master asked how it was at the house for his brother dog. His brother told the story of the wife’s cruelty. She had given him a burned crust for his dinner and beaten him until his ribs broke. The old man upon hearing this was furious. He returned home and confronted his wife. She confessed but wanted to know how he knew this. He refused to tell her and on and on she asked.
The old man was resigned to telling her and accepting his death. He went and lay down by the chicken coop and heard the cockerel laughing at him. The cockerel had thirty wives and he managed them all. The husband was rallied by this and he beat his wife until she learned not to ask questions and so the old man lived a long life.

My thoughts:
What can I say? I do not condone beating your wife under any circumstances. Perhaps a less harsh punishment would have been to sew her lips together or maybe move out?
Grisly, but rather entertaining...

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: TroubleTwisters

Authors: Garth Nix and Sean Williams



Release date: 6th June 2011
Genre: Fantasy
Target audience: 9+
UK Publisher: Egmont


Summary from Amazon:


Twin siblings Jack and Jaide discover they are pivotal to a secret supernatural organisation that protects the earth from marauding Evil! Portland might seem like a quiet coastal town, and their grandmother is perhaps no dottier than anyone else's, but it soon becomes apparent that the strange things going on around them are anything BUT ordinary. It's all very well discovering that you suddenly have magical powers, but when you don't know exactly what they are, or how to use them, then facing impending peril doesn't seem like a very good idea at all...


Review:


TroubleTwisters is an exciting fantasy adventure.


Jaide and Jack are twins. At the beginning of the story they are waiting for their dad to return home. He is late and they are worried. When he does finally arrive, the trouble begins because the twins accidently drop his suitcase and what they find inside sets in motion a chain reaction. They are about to have a most bizarre experience which literally bends walls. In the chaos of the magic, their father accidently destroys their house and so Jaide and Jack have to go and live with their unfamiliar Grandma. She is mysteriously known as Grandma X.


Jaide and Jack are not happy about the move. They think their Grandma is mighty strange and her house is equally unusual. Grandma X lives in the small town of Portland. But it isn’t any Portland, you’ve ever seen before. The fantastical element of this story is the nature of what it means to be a TroubleTwister. It is a path fraught with danger and an otherworldly dark side.


This novel will definitely appeal to the tween market. In fact the concept may appeal to big kids everywhere. Who doesn’t want to discover they have a secret heritage and a magical power? It is a universal theme about discovering your true identity and as a consequence having a huge responsibility upon your shoulders.


There is a lot of action in this story. Jack and Jaide must overcome obstacle after obstacle and they must also empower themselves with knowledge. I really liked the fact that they were unlocking the truth on their journey. They were not easily gifted it by other knowing characters.


Having said that, I do feel that this novel was weighted down by description. I am not objective about this issue right now because my writing teacher keeps telling us novels for this age group should be 66% dialogue and 33% description. TroubleTwisters didn’t fit that format. I felt particularly at the beginning the story didn’t get moving quickly enough. There was description when I thought there needn’t have been. But as I say, I am being trained to think this way. I also wanted a bit more magic from the twins. I wanted them to find some joy in their powers but the novel lacked this element for me. If we all want magic powers, then when we find out we have them, wouldn’t we be just a little bit thrilled? Perhaps the authors wished to dispel this notion that being “special” was a good thing. Certainly if it takes you away from your parents, it would seem like a heavy burden.


Overall, TroubleTwisters is an action-packed tale of two twins battling the dark side and learning about their magical identities. The ending was my favourite aspect of the novel. The authors leave us with a sense of foreboding for the next book in the series. You really get the feeling that there is a huge twist about to come. An adventurous read for young fantasy fans.


Thank you to Egmont Books for sending the book to review.

Read for the 2011 Aussie YA Challenge.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Irena's review: Zelah Green: One More Little Problem

Author: Vanessa Curtis
Release date: 5th July 2010
Genre: Realism / Issues /YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Egmont

Summary:

Warm, winning and real, Zelah Green is back! My name is Zelah Green and I'm aCleanaholic. It's the summer hols and I'm on major Flirt Alert. I've joined mysortaspace.com and ever since I've been getting emails from loads of boys. Boys are Dirt Alert AND Germ Alert. Don't even talk to me about kissing...The rest of my life's a bit rubbish too. That's because: my dad is moping about the house missing hisgirlfriend; my ex-best friend still isn't speaking to me; my grumpy weirdo Satanist friend has turned up to stay; my cleaning rituals are taking up way too much time; and, most importantly, the guy I really like, Sol, has disappeared off the face of the earth.

Irena’s review:

This is the sequel to Zelah Green and you can read my review of the first book about Zelah HERE.

Zelah Green is a girl with OCD. She is a cleanaholic, but she has had therapy, so she is doing better, which she is happy to report at the beginning of the novel. She still has issues with germs and dirt, and she can't hug her own father because hugs scream major Germ Alert in Zelah's world. However, she has reduced her obsessive rituals considerably and is even thinking about starting dating and patching things up with her former best friend Fran.

But things soon become difficult for Zelah. Her father's girlfriend goes on a holiday, which leaves Zelah's dad moping around the house all miserable, causing a lot of worries and stress for Zelah. Suddenly, troubles begin to round in on Zelah from all corners. Caro, a "friend" from the institution for troubled teens where Zelah spent some time in the first book, comes knocking on her door, asking for a place to stay. Caro tends to cut herself and listen to loud metal music, as well as producing a lot of dirt, which freaks out Zelah. Then, boys actually begin to ask her out, which is way more serious than just thinking about it. Dad is hiding something, Fran comes back into her life and then, there is the boy, Sol, that Zelah loves, but will probably never see again. All the stress propels Zelah back into the dangerous labyrinth of her old obsessive habits.

I truly loved the first book and I was happy to read about Zelah again. She is a troubled teenager who only wishes to be normal. She wants to be able to hug her dad and kiss a boy she likes, which she cannot do because of her OCD. She yearns to be accepted by her friends, or at least her two friends that she has in her life, but this goal is pretty elusive. She is confronted with too much responsibilities and that does not help her in the slightest. Zelah is definitely a very sympathetic heroine. It is hard not to like her. Zelah's story is enjoyable. It is sad and painful at times, as Zelah has to overcome several obstacles.

The focus of the novel is also on Caro. Zelah's strange friend Caro is a seriously troubled girl who believes no one understands her, which prompts her to engage in violent fits of rage and she even cuts herself, as this is her way of coping with issues, just as Zelah's is to obsess over germs and dirt. These troubled teens are not only a figment of one author's imagination; such teen sexist and Curtis handles the problematic really well, pointing to the problems, as well as to the fact that they always stem from a serious matter that has to be handled properly. Such teenagers (and people in general) use such extreme ways to ask for help, because they don't see another way to say they need it because they are in psychological pain. The theme of the Zelah Green novels isdefinitely very enlightening and intriguing.

Zelah's voice is very entertaining and it also has the ability to touch the reader. Zelah is a great heroine and I loved to return to her story and to the story of her family and friends through her eyes. Her ups and downs kept me turning the pages.

My only problem (which was not such a big issue for me in the first novel) is the pacing of the story, which is too fast. Especially the finale, which features a few very important and powerful events, rushed by, making those events almost random, something they most certainly are not. I wish a few pages had been added and the pacing more tame, so that I could better savour certain moments.

However, those who loved the first novel will certainly enjoy Zelah Green: One More Little Problem. Zelah's story is one you will not forget.

Becky says: Great review Irena. You obviously really enjoy reading about Zelah’s life and how she overcomes her problems. I think perhaps as an adult reader you prefer a slower pace but that perhaps teens love to feel like they are speeding through the book. What do you think?

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

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Author Interview: Sean Williams and Garth Nix

I interviewed not one but two authors! Please welcome Sean Williams and Garth Nix to The Bookette. Welcome to England chaps!

The Bookette: I guess the first question I need to ask is: How does it work writing in a team? Who came up with the idea? What have you learnt from the experience?

SW: Garth and I have been friends a long time and bouncing ideas off each other almost from the beginning. It quickly becomes hard to remember who came up with what, and when--although I do seem to recall that it was Garth who suggested the title about two years ago, and that we should write about twins. From there, the ideas came thick and fast.

GN:  As with all books, there are lots and lots of small ideas that get moulded together into the story. We spent quite a long time (over various sessions in various places) just kicking different ideas around, choosing some and throwing others back, and at the same time began to work out the story that would use those ideas. From there, we worked together to develop a very detailed chapter outline for the first book, and a somewhat less detailed outline for the other books.

The Bookette: TroubleTwisters is the first in a series. How many books will there be in total? Have you mapped out the whole series or are you both more organic in style?

SW: We have mapped out (and sold) five Troubletwisters books and are currently working on book three. I like to know where we’re heading before starting out on the journey. We have a definite shape to the series and, while the details might change along the way, we know where Jack and Jaide will be at the end of book five.

GN: Things always change in the execution, but the skeleton remains the same. That sounds rather grim doesn’t it? But what I mean is that while many of the details may change, events may be re-arranged, new characters arrive or whatever, the final manuscript bears a close family resemblance to the original outline.

The Bookette: I get the sense that the idea of twins is going to be particularly important to the series. Do either of you have twins in the family? Are there any specific writing challenges when characterising twins?

SW: I am not a twin and don’t have any blood relatives who are twins, but I knew twins at school and have a couple of pairs in my extended family. They are a constant source of fascination for me: my Books of the Cataclysm series revolves around the fate of mirror twins--twins who are identical but reversed, right down to their internal organs--and many of my science fiction novels deal with duplication in various ways.

GN: I’m not as fascinated by twins as Sean! But I do have twin nephews, and I have friends who are twins. I think twins are very interesting for the way that they are incredibly close but also want to differentiate themselves, so they attract and repel at the same time.

The Bookette: TroubleTwisters is set in the coastal town of Portland. The setting plays a really significant role in the book. But I never really understood if it was an imaginary town in Australia. You are, I think, purposely vague about the actual location. Why did you make that choice?

SW: There is at least one real Portland in Australia, and I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up, but this Portland isn’t based on that one, and isn’t intended to be anywhere in Australia, specifically. There are Portlands all over the world, famous and not so famous, but none of them as strange and dangerous as the one Grandma X watches over.

GN:  The town is intentionally a little coastal town that could be anywhere. It has the features of a number of different coastal towns we know, both in Australia, the UK and the USA. The intention is that it should feel like a real town, that could be in the same country as the reader – wherever they are – but not any one recognisable town.

The Bookette: Sean, am I right in thinking you usually write adult sci-fi novels? Why the change to children’s fiction? Do you approach writing for differently for a younger audience?

SW: It’s true that prior to TT my publications in the UK have been entirely adult SF--my first novel Metal Fatigue, the Evergence and Astropolis space opera series, and some of my recent Star Wars tie-ins. But in Australia I’ve published two series for children (The Fixers and The Broken Land) and another for young adults (The Books of the Change) so I see this as a continuation of something I already do than branching out in a new direction. And it’s something I enjoy doing very much. Instead of writing differently, I write for a different version of me--the one who grew up reading Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Ursula le Guin, etc, and has never stopped loving that kind of book.

The Bookette: Garth, I am very excited to see on Goodreads that you’re writing another book in the Old Kingdom series. Can you give me any hints about what we can expect to see in Clariel?

GN: Clariel is set about 600 years before the events of SABRIEL, when the Old Kingdom is very peaceful and quiet. It tells the story of a young woman, Clariel, who we eventually meet again in LIRAEL as the ancient necromancer Chlorr of the Mask.

My next book, however, which will be out in 2012, is A CONFUSION OF PRINCES. This is a Young Adult science fiction adventure, a coming of age and a “becoming human” story about a prince in a galactic empire.

The Bookette: I am participating in a reading challenge to read more fiction written by Australian authors. So far, I have been reading lots of Jaclyn Moriarty and John Marsden. Could you both recommend some other titles for me to try? I’d like to try an Aussie coming-of-age story if you have any ideas.

GN: I was Jaclyn Moriarty’s agent, back in the day when I was at Curtis Brown Australia, so I approve of your choice there! Other YA authors to look for would include Markus Zusak (his Fighting Reuben Wolf books and The Messenger as well as the international megahit The Book Thief), Michael Gerard Bauer’s Ishmael books, the Pagan books by Catherine Jinks, Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn series, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar . . . there are lots and lots of good Australian authors to look out for.

SW: And we like to claim Scott Westerfeld, too, since he lives here half the time!

The Bookette: And finally, I like to ask this of all the authors that I have the privilege of interviewing. Do you have a favourite type of biscuit? We Brits do love the good old cup of tea with a biscuit to dunk.

SW: So do Australians! And without seeming too parochial, I hope, I would have to pick Tim Tams as my favourite biscuit, with Arnott’s Lemon Crisp coming second.

GN: I am aware of how much Brits like their biscuits ever since my packet of biscuits was stealthily taken from me on a train by an editor who shall remain nameless (initials SP, works for Egmont). Funnily enough, I don’t like Tim Tams or chocolate biscuits in general. In terms of British biscuits, the Hobnob would be my favourite. My favourite Australian biscuit would probably be a tie between a Monte Carlo and a Gingernut.
The Bookette: Thanks so much for answering my questions. Best of luck for your UK tour!
TroubleTwisters is out in the UK now!