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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Review: Booom!

Author: Alan Macdonald

Release date: 15th August 2011
Genre: Comic adventure
Target audience: Independent readers (7+)
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury


Booom! is a wonderfully funny and exciting tale set in the stone age.

Iggy is one of the Urks. He lives in the Valley of the Urks with the rest of the tribe. His uncle, Hammerhead, is the tribe’s chief. When Old Grumbly begins to spew out smoke and make the earth shake, the tribe decide that someone must climb to the top of the mountain and speak to the ancestors. That someone, of course, must be the chief and he decides that his nephew Iggy should go with him.

Meanwhile there are some vindictive Urks plotting against Hammerhead. Borg and his mean son Snark travel to the Nonecks territory to strike a bargain with them. Their aim is to usurp Hammerhead and rule the tribe. But negotiating with the Nonecks is not an easy business.  

There is both great characterisation and plot in this novel. Iggy’s character is smart, he is a thinker and unlike the other Urks, he questions the world around him. In this story he wants to know why some things float and why some things sink. He’s a problem solver and the perfect Urk to figure out what is going on with Old Grumbly. I liked the shape of the story with the tension building as each new obstacle was presented.

Booom! has a fun energetic narrative. I really enjoyed the humour and the face moving plot. Newly independent readers will love the silliness, the setting and the adventure. I’m sure that parents reading this to developing readers at bedtime will also appreciate the great writing and an all round fantastic story. Recommended!

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

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Winner of the Dark Inside Giveaway

Hi Everyone,

I'm pleased to announce that Random.org selected Michele Helene as the winner of the Dark Inside giveaway. Congratulations Michele! I'm going to send you an email to organise getting the book out to you.

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Review: The Warrior Heir

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Release date: 1st September 2011 UK
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Indigo: an Orion imprint


The Warrior Heir is a fantasy story which is set in the contemporary world. It is a hero’s journey tale full of adventure and mystery.

Jack is sixteen and since he had heart surgery as a child, he has been dependent on medicine to keep him alive. Jack has never forgotten to take his medicine but on the day of the soccer team tryouts, he does just that and his ordinary small town life suddenly begins to change. Jack is one of the Weirlind. He was born a wizard but his wizard’s stone was missing – this is what enables the gifted to manifest their powers. The fierce Dr Longbranch replaced his stone but she had her own ambitions in mind. Jack is hidden in the town of Trinity until he inadvertently unleashes his magic. The power surge is detected by those who would harm him and thus he is in mortal danger. But who is after him and why is a mystery he has to discover.

This book was very much a traditional fantasy – the world of the Weirlind was reminiscent of medieval England with the addition of magic and enchantments. There were so many charming details – the clothing for example – which made the story come to life. I particularly liked the mythology and history that the author weaved into the story giving the fantasy an original twist.

However, the plot was very slow to get moving. I don’t think it was helped by an overly long prologue and the style in which the story is told. The use of description sometimes interfered with the rhythm of the dialogue. In the end I found myself skipping sentences; this was not problematic as I could still follow the story perfectly.  

Jack is an everyman sort of character. There isn’t necessarily anything distinctive about him – except perhaps his kindness and self-control. I found it difficult to really care about what happened to him in the beginning. But as the story went on, I began to like him through his relationship with his two best friends. I kept reading because I wanted to know what was special about him.

I think this book will have a real appeal for boys – there are sword-fights aplenty, soccer games and loyal friendships. Come to think of it The Warrior Heir will be popular with girls too. Chima adds a feisty heroine into the mix and the sparks really fly! I think it will appeal to fans of Eragon and the myths of King Arthur. An enjoyable fantasy.

Thank you to Indigo for sending the book to review.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Review: Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery

Author: Keren David

Release date: 4th August 2011 UK
Genre: Contemporary YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Frances Lincoln


Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery is a contemporary tale of teen life and all the comic, disastrous traumas that go hand in hand with that. Oh, and it’s also about winning the lottery and has a lot more substance than you might expect from the cover.

Lia is your typical sixteen year old British teenage girl. She goes to school, has great friends, argues with her mother and is, at times, irritatingly selfish. At the beginning of the story she is so annoying. She has what I like to think of as teenage tunnel vision. It’s all about me, me, me! And yet, I was cringing reading this book because I can see a little of my own teenage self in her. I would never have stolen money from my mum’s purse but I certainly remember thinking that I was hard done by and that my sister was always being treated differently from me. I’m sure if you ask my sister, she’ll say exactly the same. You’ve got to love sibling rivalry.

On the night that Lia wins the lottery, her mum loses her patience and tells her to get out. So Lia doesn’t get the chance to tell her family that she’s won the lottery. Perhaps she doesn’t really try but it doesn’t take long for her millionaire status to come to light. Lia faces all the problems you’d expect her to face after going from rags to riches in one night. She falls out with her friends. She becomes the victim of a mean Facebook page. Her parents want her to make some serious decisions. All Lia really wants is to get to know the mysterious Raf.

It’s no secret that I love Keren David’s writing. I was nervous starting this book that I just wouldn’t get it. Teen girl books are so not my thing. But as soon as I started it, I realised it had all the Keren hallmarks. The tone of the writing is so Keren. The subject matter is too. On one level it is a fun story about winning the lottery. But look just a little deeper and you’ll see that it’s also about the influence of money and frankly the ridiculousness of it. I think we often forget that humans invented money. It’s not a fossil fuel. All you hear on the news is about national debts, how we need to cut spending, austerity measures. But this is what I don’t get - we could just print more. So when you think about it money is completely stupid. Look at how lucky we are in the UK - we have a NHS, we have free education, we have a welfare state. Then look at all the other countries around the world that are facing famine, poverty disease. Could it be more mind-boggling? I love how Lia addresses these issues in her quest to deal with her new found wealth without ever coming across as preachy.

Lia’s Guide touches on lots of other issues too – teen sex, bullying, drinking - but what I think this book shows brilliantly is that at sixteen there really are very few of us who know what we want to do with life. I think Lia’s gran has it right when she says “just muddle through”. This is by no means a message book but if teens take that away after reading it, then their worries will be that little be less burdensome.

Lia’s Guide to Winning the Lottery felt like effortless reading. I loved all the fallen angel references Keren! (If you want to know what I mean, you'll have to read that book). It is face-paced, funny and full of barmy Britishness. A great pick me up over these dark Wintry nights. Lia's Guide has a real feel good factor.

Thank you to Frances Lincoln for sending the book to review.
Read for the British Books Challenge.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How cool is this short?

So today we have a never seen before type of post at The Bookette.

A short film!

Personally, I know nothing about short films. But I do know that this one is very cool!

It is directed by a friend of mine who, like me, is a writer in progress. Andrew Harmer is a multi-talented guy, a plot genius and all round lovely person so I thought it would be awesome to give him a bloggy spotlight.

Enough talk for now, watch the film. You'll have to hop on this link to Youtube because Blogger is not excepting the Embed Code [grrrrrr!] Here is Beat It: http://youtu.be/aP6JIA0JtBE
Cool, huh?

I asked Andrew to give me a bit of background to the creation of such a masterpiece. Here is what he said:
The film was part of entertaining:tv initiative to develop new talent.

For me the short came from my love of old western films, specifically the gun fight shoot-outs. I wanted to twist that showdown into a modern urban environment but without the guns. The idea originally was a battle between two beat-boxers but then I fell upon the idea of the sounds physically affecting the other competitor. The idea then naturally developed into beat-boxer versus body locker.

Well Andrew, it was a funky idea indeed and I hope all my readers agree.

If you are in awe over this two minute spectacular, check out more shorts at Andrew's website: http://www.andrewharmer.com/

Monday, 14 November 2011

Irena's Review: Tempest Rising

Author: Tracy Deebs
Release date: 4th July 2011
Genre: fantasy/ mermaids/ young adult
Target audience: 12+
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Tempest Maguire wants nothing more than to surf the killer waves near her California home; continue her steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mark; and take care of her brothers and surfer dad. But Tempest is half mermaid, and as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she will have to decide whether to remain on land or give herself to the ocean like her mother. The pull of the water becomes as insistent as her attraction to Kai, a gorgeous surfer whose uncanny abilities hint at an otherworldly identity as well. And when Tempest does finally give in to the water's temptation and enters a fantastical underwater world, she finds that a larger destiny awaits her-and that the entire ocean's future hangs in the balance.

Rising Tempest was the first novel about mermaids I read (excluding the bitter sweet fairy-tale by Hans Christian Andersen, 'The Little Mermaid'). I am happy to report that the reading experience didn't disappoint.

Tempest Maguire has been drawn to the sea her whole life. She is a very talented surfer, has a surfer dad and surfer friends, not to mention an on-and-off surfer boyfriend. Everything in Tempest's life is connected to surfing the waves and to the mystical pull of the sea. But Tempest is also afraid that the sea will claim her and take her away from everything and everyone she knows and loves, for Tempest is the daughter of a mermaid and destined to become one herself, a destiny Tempest desperately tries to avoid. One day, when she has a surfing accident, things change dramatically for Tempest and when she meets Kai, a mysterious surfer she is instantly attracted to, she knows she must make the final choice.

Deebs paints a vivid picture of Tempest's life on land and at sea. The reader is always aware of Tempest's feelings, her struggles and her desires. She is a normal teenage girl, on the tomboy-ish side, having to deal with extraordinary difficulties. She is a beautifully outlined character, with obvious personal traits and very reasonable doubts. It is easy to understand why she resents her mother and why she cannot accept her alter ego - that of being a mermaid. It is also clear why Tempest loves the sea and why a part of her would like to be claimed by the water. Deebs' language is lyrical and descriptive, as well as clear, which greatly assists the reader in picturing the characters and their worlds.

The underwater world of mermaids, selkies and powerful mythical sea witches is truly beautiful and attractive. I am not much familiar with any mythology related to the sea or underwater life, but I can still claim that Deebs created a great world. I loved the ways of the merpeople and other sea creatures, involving their looks, powers and the true importance of a mermaid's tail, one of my favorite aspects of the mermaid mythology. One might imagine that their world is only bright and beautiful, but the author created a strong darkness to balance the beauty. The nemesis in the novel is a truly frightening creature, well crafted and intriguing to contemplate.

There is a lot of action in the novel and it is very intense, as well as not always for the faint-hearted. Again, there is a balance, as there are just as many fun and romantic moments, as well as some delightful, intimate family moments. Family is of importance in this novel.

For me, the novel was a great read. I was slightly disappointed by the ending because after the great and well-measured pacing that allowed the characters and the action to evolved, the ending, or rather Tempest's decision, seemed rushed. It might have been better to leave it for the sequel. However, the stage is set and the possible future events very promising, indeed. I am very much looking forward to the next installment.

This is a novel perfect for lovers of fantasy. It features romance, humour and action, with a spice of drama and an abundance of fantastical creatures. It certainly takes 'The Little Mermaid' to a whole new level, which you will enjoy immensely.

Becky says: Thanks for the review Irena. I tried to give this one a go myself but I found that the voice just didn’t feel comfortable for me. I’m really glad you enjoyed it and that it complimented your love of the Little Mermaid fairytale.
Both our thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending the book to review.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Review: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Release date: 15th September 2011, hardback
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Harville Secker

The Night Circus is a complex tale of love. It is a fantasy story but somehow that description doesn’t fit the book. It is rather a story of enchantment, of dazzle but not of illusion. And yet it is a story of dreams or the beauty of being a dreamer. So yes, complicated, and not at all easy to describe.

There is no single main character. The story follows multiple characters that are each tied to the whole. If there is a main character, I guess you might say it is the circus itself. But the circus is not independent of the characters and so they are at once all the major players in the story and simultaneously at mercy of the hand that fate deals.

At a push, I might say that the two main characters are Celia and Marco. Celia is the daughter of a famous illusionist. Except that his illusions are not illusions, Prospero has the power to enchant. Marco is a boy, plucked from an orphanage by the mysterious Mr A H. They are children in the early parts of the novel but they soon grow up and are shaped by their mentors and readied for a game. They are bound by magic to compete in game where they are ignorant of the rules or goal. They do not know how a winner will be decided and they do not know how to score points. For a long while, they do not even know that the other is their opponent.

And that is the extent to which I can describe the plot of the book. Now I’m going to attempt to describe my experience of reading it. There were times when I thought I would not finish it. The switching of viewpoints was most disorientating and the lack of connecting strongly to any character left me detached from the events. Yes, the circus is glorious, majestic even, but without a character to truly anchor the reader, you are floating through a sea of impressions. The other difficulty I had in suspending my disbelief was that the story switched forward and back through time, the chapters began in a very descriptive distant manner and the storyteller’s voice was very present. However, I think it was meant to be this way. The telling of the story deliberately mimicked the experience of dreaming. The circus is the Circus of Dreams. And so, we move chaotically through time. We see characters and don’t really know them.

This insight didn’t dawn on me until the very end of the book. I felt that there was a strange loss of grip on the story, as if it was disintegrating from my mind. It was the exact feeling that you get when you wake up and want to hold on to a dream but it slips from your mind anyway. I personally found it an unsatisfying feeling. The true lovers of this book will be the Dreamers who do not look to understand everything but simply enjoy the experience of being immersed in the circus and never want to know more. They will be happy to be a part of the exotic and the intangible and find that simply being there is enough to satisfy them for an eternity. I am not that reader but they are undoubtedly out there and will take The Night Circus book to the heart of their waking dreams.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Irena's Review: Crusade: The Cursed Ones

Author: Nancy Holder and Debbie Vigue

Release date: 3rd February 2011
Genre: Vampire Fiction/ Paranormal / YA
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Simon Pulse

For the past two years, Jenn has lived and trained at Spain's Sacred Heart Academy Against the Cursed Ones. She is among the few who have pledged to defend humanity or die trying. But the vampires are gaining power, and the battle has only just begun. Forced to return home after death takes a member of her family, Jenn discovers that San Francisco is now a vampire strong-hold. As a lone hunter apart from her team, Jenn is isolated - and at risk. She craves the company of her fighting partner, Antonio: his protection, his reassurance, his touch. But a relationship with Antonio comes with its own dangers, and the more they share of themselves, the more Jenn stands to lose. Then Jenn is betrayed by one who was once bound to protect her, causing her to doubt all she had held as true. To survive, Jenn must find the courage to trust herself - and her heart.

Crusade: The Cursed Ones is an exciting, action-packed story about humans trying to survive in a world that has been overtaken by vampires. Some humans choose to follow the vampires, but there are some who choose to fight them and one such group of people involves a peculiar team of vampire slayers from Spain, where there is an academy specifically to educate and train such outstanding and brave individuals.

Fans of classical vampires will surely be delighted by this novel, as the vampires present in it, with only a few rare exceptions, are openly bloodthirsty, ruthless, vicious and cruel. They have no humanity, for they are immortal monsters, well aware of the fact. The vampires have set up a new form of tyranny that resembles past forms of tyranny in human history. To survive, humanity must adapt, but that is no guarantee, so - reluctantly - the human world must rely on hunters to save them.

The main characters of the novel belong to an elite team of hunters. Jenn, the protagonist, is an American teenager who desperately wants to leave her mark, but she doubts herself constantly and never feels she is good enough to belong to the team of hunters. She is on a mission to save her sister before a powerful vampire turns her into one of their own. Antonio is a "good" vampire. Turned while he was training to be a priest, his soul remains uncorrupted and the reason for it remains a mystery so far. He is involved with Jenn romantically, but their relationship is far from comfortable. Eriko, a Japanese girl, is the Hunter, the one who leads the team and inherits mystical powers. Jamie, a hot-headed Irishman, hater of anything supernatural, often provides the team with tension, but he is unwavering on the path to their goal. Holgar, a Danish werewolf, is nice, incredibly patient and strong. And finally, there is Skye, a quite powerful English Wiccan witch with her own dark secret that threatens to bite back.

I truly enjoyed the action. It was well written, intense and did not spare anyone, as blood-thirsty vampires do not spare humans. I was often on the edge of my seat, but also extremely satisfied by the way things turned out for certain humans and vampires. It somehow all seemed realistic. Life is unpredictable and happy endings are not a guarantee, which is exactly the tone of the novel. The world taken over by vampires was well written and outlined, and it did have the claustrophobic feel of an impending apocalypse. The way the novel ended definitely promises a very exciting and suspenseful sequel. Things are not entirely resolved; instead, the plot only thickens.

I did, however, have a few issues with the novel, and they mostly relate to the characters and their relationships. As much as the action was fun, I have to confess that, most times, I did not care very much about most of the characters, as they are, all in all, quite one-dimensional and at times even annoying. This may well change in the sequel, as major changes are at hand, but for now, they are not overly impressive. For example, Jenn's and Antonio's relationship has no basis and for the most part, it seems they are more miserable together than not (for reasons I cannot reveal in this review). Some character qualities are overly stressed, and some downplayed.

I hope that changes in the sequel, as all in all, Crusade: The Cursed Ones is an entertaining vampire novel with lots of action. It is a good read for fans of blood-thirsty vampire fiction.

Becky says: Irena this one sounds like a full-throttle vampire novel with lots of blood-thirsty characters. It’s a shame that you didn’t connect to them as much as you’d have liked but I can’t say I find that surprising when they’ve got their fans out and are ravishing us mere humans. Great review.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending the book to review.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Celebrating British Authors @ Fluttering Butterflies

I guess it was about this time last year when I was seriously thinking about hosting the British Books Challenge after a nudge from a fellow blogger. I thought it was really important to support British authors and our YA literature industry. I've found it harder than I expected. Largely because I have to read for work, for book clubs and to futher my own writing. But luckily the responsbility did not rest entirely on my shoulders. There have been some amazing bloggers who have taken the challenge and run with it. None more so than Michelle @ Fluttering Butterflies. She has dedicated the whole of November to a special feature: CELEBRATING BRITISH AUTHORS.

We are only on Day 6 and already she has guest posts, giveaways and beautifully written reviews and she has written a great post recommending some of her favourite teen British books: http://www.flutteringbutterflies.com/2011/11/some-of-my-favourite-books-by-british.html
Have a read if you want some ideas of books to help you complete the challenge. It reminded me that I really need to get a copy of Boys Don't Cry by Malorie Blackman and her review of 0.4 by Mike Lancaster reminded me why I bought it in the first place.

Thanks for the morale boost Michelle. Your month has given me a burst of enthusiasm just when I needed it.

Go and celebrate British talent everyone!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

BBC: November Review Link Up

Well, October was an all round quiet month for blogging and reading. It's because I've been focusing on writing.

The two British books that I read are:

But I've been doing other things too: golf (I'm terrible), ballroom dancing (I'm okay but I'm no Strictly contender) and I've been watching TV, specifically: Terra Nova, Downton Abbey, Merlin, Rookie Blue (I'm excellent at that).

Thank you to all the people that have shown an interest in taking over the British Book Challenge in 2012. More details to come in December...

UPDATE: The winner of Velvet is Clover @ Fluttering Butterflies. Congrats Michelle, I'm going to tweet you.

The prize for November is Lifted by Hilary Freeman.

Okay so time to add your November links. Wow, we only have two months to go!