I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.
City of Bones: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Mimi O'Connor, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st August 2013
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie with this official companion book. This fan favorite features full-color photos from the set, designers’ sketches, interviews with the cast and crew, and more!
Since getting this book I keep picking it up again and again to discover more about the wonderful world that Cassandra Clare has created. There is so much packed into this guide that if you love the books and have enjoyed the film then you really need to add this title to your collection.
Everything you would want in a movie companion is here. There are fantastic full glossy photos of all the cast, pictures of behind the scenes, interviews with Cassandra Clare herself and interesting insights into the making of the film. The book is literally packed with so much interesting information that you'll constantly find something new to grab your attention.
It must be incredible seeing a story you've written come to life before your eyes and the companion provides a unique insight into this. I enjoyed finding out about the problems encountered in the making of the film, as well as what the author felt about the whole process.
If you love The Mortal Instruments then I would highly recommend this book which is the perfect movie companion for fans of the series.
Today I have Josin L. McQuien on A Dream of Books, as part of my Writer's Nook feature. Josin's debut novel 'Arclight' was published by Electric Monkey on 5th August 2013. You'll be able to read my review and find out what I thought of it very soon.
Writer's Nook explores a writer's space and the objects they like to have around them for inspiration, pleasure or just general enjoyment.
A writer’s nook is a great idea, in theory, but it’s the kind of thing that gets looked at more than it gets used. The closest thing I have is a kitchen table, where my (ancient and sticker-encrusted) desktop sits. My laptop’s on a plain glass desk in my bedroom, and the netbook lands where it lands.
This is going to sound so boring, but there’s really nothing special to the space, at all. No photos, no good luck charms, just the computer. I can’t stand having things around my hands while I’m working. I’ll make an exception for pages, if I’m editing, and maybe a bottle of water, but even that’s iffy. I’m too prone to spilling things on my keyboard. (I’m on my fourth one with the desktop.)
The actual most important thing in my writing space is the USB drive. That way, I can take my files and move to my laptop or netbook and get away from the kitchen table – which I do all the time. I’ll move from room to room, chair to chair, and even sit on the floor now and then.
I’m a “cocoon writer,” meaning that I can’t have noise, or even music while I’m writing. It interferes with me being to process my thoughts. My poor dogs are probably tired of being sent out of the room for trying to get my attention while I’m working.
However, if I were to build my own writer’s nook, it would probably be a separate building, like a garden shed, with dimmer-lights so I can control the amount of glare on my screen, and a door I can close to make sure everyone stays outside while I’m working. I’d have a fan for “white noise” to cut the distractions, and it would be cold. I live in Texas, where the summer heat will put you to sleep; I think better when it’s freezing. ABSOLUTELY NO INTERNET ACCESS. It’s a miracle any books ever get written with so much wi-fi swimming around to grab my attention without notice. It’s not exactly exotic or glamorous, but I’ll happily settle for functional.
The Kissing Booth by Beth Reekles, published by Corgi on 22nd April 2013
Meet Rochelle Evans: pretty, popular - and never been kissed.
Meet Noah Flynn: badass, volatile - and a total player.
When Elle decides to run a kissing booth at the school's Spring Carnival, she locks lips with Noah and her life is turned upside down. Her head says to keep away, but her heart wants to draw closer - this romance seems far from fairy tale and headed for heartbreak. But will Elle get her happily ever after?
'The Kissing Booth' is the debut novel of eighteen year old Beth Reekles, who became an internet sensation on Wattpad and then landed her first publishing deal. This is incredibly impressive for someone so young and made me even more intrigued to see what her writing would be like.
The story itself centres around Rochelle, or Elle as she likes to be called. She's never been kissed and never had a boyfriend but all that is about to change when she and her best friend Lee decide to hold a kissing booth. Elle has two central relationships in the book. The first is with Lee who she has known since they were born and who is like her other half. I really liked their friendship which is purely platonic and it was refreshing not to have this complicated by romantic feelings on either of their parts. Elle and Lee can often read each others minds and do nearly everything together. The other relationship is with Lee's older brother Noah Flynn who she has had always had a huge crush on.
I liked Noah and there was a lot to make me feel weak in the knees about him but I did think that his behaviour was slightly questionable at times. He's a hothead and often can't control his temper and I thought that he came across as far too aggressive and controlling when it comes to Elle. He's protective of her which I didn't mind but he has a tendency to take things too far and I couldn't help feeling that he should have been more trusting where she is concerned. Elle's relationship with Noah moves pretty fast and I felt it was quite rushed at times. As this is a fairly long book, I thought it could have been developed more rather than everything happening at once.
I also have to agree with the other comments I've read about the setting of this book. As the author is British I feel like she should have perhaps set her story in the UK or if she was determined to go for a US setting then she needed to have nailed some of their phrases and culture more accurately.
All that aside, this was still a really enjoyable story which I feel fits into the young-adult genre more than the new-adult niche. I was impressed with Beth Reekles writing and it will be interesting to see how she develops as an author in the future.
Casting Shadows by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 4th July 2013
Goodreads synopsis: Flynn is making every effort to stay in control of his hot temper, while River feels more content than she's ever been. Together the two of them make big plans for the future, but powerful secrets lurk in the shadows, ready to threaten their happiness.
This was another enjoyable instalment in the series about River and Flynn. The two teenagers are now living together with River's Dad at the commune. Things seem to be much better with Flynn's temper until secrets are revealed which may upset all their future plans.
It seemed inevitable that something was going to happen to get in the way of their happiness. They've had so many ups and downs and have always managed to sort things out but this time it may be the end of the line for them. I think teens will love this book because the romance between River and Flynn is intense but not completely romanticised. There are real problems and obstacles for them to overcome and they are still trying to get River's family to completely accept them being together.
I still like Flynn but my feelings about him have changed as the series has progressed. I do think he overreacts quite a lot and even when he has a grip on his temper he can still fly off the handle over non-consequential things. It always seems to be River who has to suffer and I'm almost at the point now where I think she could be happier without him.
The next book (and the last one) in the series is called 'Defy the Stars'. It will be intriguing to see if a happy ending is on the cards or not for the teen lovers.
Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess, published by Quercus on 4th July 2013
Goodreads synopsis: Pia is living the dream: fresh out of college and sharing a house in Brooklyn with her best friends. So why is everything so complicated?
A drunken indiscretion has led to the loss of her boring office job, while her love life is a dizzy mess of accidental hook-ups and heartbreak...
Her parents don't trust her and, if she doesn't sort her life out soon, they're going to make her move back in with them...
But all that's nothing compared to the kind of trouble she's about to face.
This is the first book in a new series by Gemma Burgess about a group of girlfriends in their twenties living together in New York and trying to adjust to adulthood. Each of them are trying to carve out their own path while also figuring out who they are and what they really want out of life. There's unemployed Pia who is attempting to stretch her wings away from her parents and get over a broken heart, as well as bookworm Coco (who was my favourite), crazy Angie, uptight Madeleine and in-control and ambitious Julia.
The opening story in the series is told from the point of view of Pia who can't seem to hold down a job and keeps getting herself into trouble by partying too hard. It took me a little while to actually warm to her as she makes quite a lot of questionable decisions but I liked the way that she always looks out for her friends and she is always there for them, as they are there for her in times of need. I admired the way she tries to turn her life around and her determination not to give into her parents, even when that may have been the easiest route to take.
There actually isn't a huge amount of romance throughout the book as it focuses mainly on the relationship and friendships between all of the girls. That's good though because it makes such a refreshing change. Each of the girls is so different and they have really unique personalities that it was fun getting to know them all along the way.
This is a New Adult book but to me, it seems to fit in nicely to the niche which exists between NA and YA. It's definitely not for much younger readers though as there's a lot of adult themes and content.
Fresh and hip, this series is like Sex and the City but with younger characters. The next book in the series is set to be about Angie and will be published in 2014. I'm looking forward to finding out what they'll all get up to next.
Today I have a great giveaway for all my lovely blog readers for a £50 Amazon giftcard. This is open to international entrants. I love filling up my Amazon basket with lots of books and you should be able to choose a great selection of titles with this.
Forever Too Far by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st August 2013
Goodreads synopsis: Rush promised her forever... but promises can be broken.
Torn between his love for his family and his love for Blaire, Rush has to find a way to save one without losing the other. In the end one has to be more important. Letting go isn’t easy.
Blaire believed in her fairytale... but no one can live in a fantasy.
Her love for Rush and desire to have a family keep her believing that they can find a way for this to work. Until she has to make the right decision for her and the baby. Even if it breaks her heart.
Can they find the forever that they both want or has it all just gone... too far?
'Forever Too Far' was in my opinion the perfect end to Rush and Blaire's story. I couldn't have asked for more. Abbi Glines delivered some of the most achingly romantic scenes I've ever read and if you were still in any doubt about whether or not these two should be together, then you won't be by the end of the book.
Rush has changed so much since the series began. At the start he was really only interested in himself. He was shallow, arrogant, rich and dare I say it, obnoxious. Meeting and falling in love with Blaire has turned him into a man who is prepared to do whatever it takes to look after his family, a man who knows where his priorities lie and who will stop at nothing to give the people he loves everything they ever dreamt of.
I really liked the fact that we got to see Rush's father Dean and the lifestyle that he leads. It definitely gave me more of an insight into how Rush was brought up and the sort of environment he would have been around. I understood more about how this would have fed into his character and personality and it gave me additional admiration for how he has turned himself around and become a proper family man.
I don't want to give anything away about the plot but there was one scene near the end where he does something so utterly wonderful for Blaire that it made me go weak at the knees. Abbi Glines is definitely the Queen of Romance because she writes moments so beautiful and touching that you wish it was happening to you.
There were some great new characters introduced in the book which I'm eager to find out more about. I believe Abbi is writing future titles centred around some of these couples which is exciting to hear. Rush and Blaire's story may be over but I cannot wait to discover who will be following next in their footsteps.
Cruel Summer by James Dawson, published by Indigo on 1st August 2013
Goodreads synopsis: A year after Janey’s suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them. However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer. Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…
Fiendishly clever plot twists made this book impossible to put down. I spent most of my time reading it literally on the edge of my seat, palms sweating and nails being bitten down to the quick! If you haven't discovered author James Dawson yet then I recommend you go out and get yourself a copy of this title immediately.
The story is about five school friends on holiday together in a Spanish villa. There's Ryan and Katie, Katie's ex-boyfriend Ben, Greg and his sister Alisha and Greg's new girlfriend Erin. They should be enjoying sun, sea and sand but then someone turns up who claims to have evidence that their friend Janey was murdered and everything starts to spiral horribly out of control.
This book felt like a cross-between the film Scream and the TV show Harper's Island which I loved. Everyone seemed to have a secret to hide and a motive for wanting to commit murder. One of the characters, Ryan, who narrates part of the story, imagines him and his friends being part of a TV show so there are lots of bits which are clichés of horror films. I thought that was a nice way of paying homage to what has obviously served as inspiration for the story, while at the same time providing plenty of original plot twists.
The second-half of the book was particularly tense, gripping and exciting with lots of red herrings and devilish twists and turns to throw the reader off the scent. Although I did eventually guess who the killer was, I didn't have a clue about their motive or the extent they were willing to go to in pursuit of their ultimate goal.
I was a big fan of James Dawson's debut novel 'Hollow Pike' but he's outdone himself with his second novel. This is the perfect read for a hot and sultry summer where murder is most definitely on the menu.
Soul Storm by Kate Harrison, published by Indigo on 1st August 2013
Goodreads synopsis: Someone is stalking Alice Forster. She's sure it's her sister's murderer, but her parents think she's cracking under the stress of Meggie's death. Only in the virtual world of Soul Beach - an online paradise for the young, the beautiful and the dead - can Alice feel truly free. But there's trouble in paradise . . .
Clouds are gathering.
A storm is brewing.
The killer is about to strike.
'Soul Storm' is the final part of the trilogy about Ali's determination to find her sister Meggie's killer. I felt like I'd been waiting for this book for such a long time and because of that I had to resist the temptation to take a sneak peek at the ending to find out who the killer was. This only made me read faster as I was so impatient to get to the final big reveal.
It's testament to Kate Harrison's writing that I continually changed my mind about who I thought could have been responsible for all the deaths that happened throughout the series and especially that of Meggie. I'd pretty much convinced myself that one particular person was responsible for everything only to have myself proved totally wrong. At one point or another I was pretty much suspicious of everyone but that only made reading the book so much more thrilling. I adored the element of suspense surrounding the killer's true identity and I think Kate Harrison managed to squeeze every single drop of tension out of the storyline.
There is a sense of danger lurking around every corner as Ali thinks she's being followed and watched by someone. I didn't like her being alone with anyone in case they turned out to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Although she does seem quite reckless at times, I can understand her determination to get to the bottom of things once and for all. Only then can she put her sister's death to rest and move on with her own life.
There wasn't quite so much of the Beach and it's residents in this instalment and I have to say that I wasn't completely satisfied with the conclusion of the Ali/Danny storyline but overall it has been intriguing having the cyber world as another plot strand.
Kate Harrison has very adeptly made the transition to the Young adult genre. I hope she has plenty more YA stories planned for the future because I definitely want to read more.
I'm taking part in the #MurderOnTheBeach blog tour which is celebrating the release of 'Soul Storm' by Kate Harrison and 'Cruel Summer' by James Dawson. I have a great guest post today from Kate Harrison where she talks about being a bookish butterfly or an author with a theme.
I have a very short attention span. I could blame the internet, but the truth is, I’ve always been a bit of a butterfly, floating between different ideas and genres.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a list of what I’ve written over the last couple of years:
Three YA thrillers in the creepy, ‘Facebook for the dead’ trilogy, Soul Beach
A romantic comedy novel about women on a fitness boot camp
A book about mystery shopping
Lots of short stories, including one about being mugged in Barcelona and one about meeting all your exes on a train
A diet book
This makes me a bit of a nightmare for publishers. It’s easy to sell an author who sticks to one thing – the dark, moody writer of scary books, or the happy-go-lucky writer of comedies. But someone like me is very hard to pigeonhole…
It’s made me wonder about my own sanity, too. Am I a lightweight? Then I went to a brilliant workshop by author Julie Cohen, who asked us to think about the central themes we always return to. Stories might change – but her point was that the themes we write about recur again and again in our books.
She gave us some great examples: Jane Austen’s work might seem to be about love and money – but deeper down, it’s more about status and pride.
I played around with themes of my own. Maybe I wrote about destiny versus free will? No, that’s not true in my diet book or The Boot Camp.
What about justice? It’s a very strong theme for me especially in the Soul Beach books – I want to set things right, to give the good people and the villains what they deserve. I remember feeling that right from when I was a young child.
But the quest for justice doesn’t really fit my comedies, or my cookbook!
And then it hit me: my theme is self-discovery. In every book I’ve ever written, the characters are on a journey of transformation – discovering who they really are and what they’re on earth to do. In my comedies, they have to make some fairly disastrous mistakes before they work out what they should be doing in life. And in my diet book and cookbook, it’s me going through the self-discovery process of shedding weight and working out what to eat to keep it off.
The most obvious example probably is Alice in the Soul Beach books, trying to uncover her sister’s killer and in the process, discovering her own strengths…
You could say YA books are about more about growing up than self-discovery. But I’m not sure any of us should ever want to ‘grow up’ completely – life’s about changing and adapting and discovering what makes us – and those around us - happy. And that’s what I’m going to keep on writing about.
Now, back to my ideas list. I wonder what my publishers would make of a book about a dieting space alien who falls in love with a cupcake-baking serial killer…
Check out all the other stops on the blog tour for more from Kate Harrison and James Dawson.
Never Too Far by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st August 2013 Goodreads synopsis: He had held a secret that destroyed her world.
Everything she had known was no longer true.
Blaire couldn’t stop loving him but she knew she could never forgive him. Now, she was back home and learning to live again. Moving on with life… until something happened to send her world spinning once again. What do you do when the one person you can never trust again is the one that you need to trust so desperately?
'Fallen Too Far' was one of the best books I've read this year so when I finally got my hands on the sequel 'Never Too Far' I didn't hesitate to put my current read aside and pick up this one instead. I find myself saying the same things about Abbi Glines's books again and again but her stories just blow me away and I can't get enough of her writing. This is yet another five star read which is packed full of drama, angst and heartbreak.
I love the fact that the book has a dual narrative so we get to finally hear things from Rush's perspective. He is absolutely head over heels in love with Blaire but after making a big mistake he has to try and make things up to her and convince her that he won't always put his family before her. I wasn't completely sold on the character of Rush the first time around but he won me over with his obvious determination to step up and make things right, as well as the way in which when Blaire's around (and even when she isn't) she's the only person he can think about. She drives him crazy, in a good way and she seems to have the ability to always bring the best out in him.
I also adored the way in which he is super protective about Blaire and wants to look after her and keep her safe. He gets possessive and jealous when she is around other men but I think that's sweet and is one of his qualities which is very attractive. I don't want to give anything away but he also finally makes clear his intentions towards her and one particular chapter in the book just made me melt into a puddle.
As well as the main couple, Woods has suddenly become one of my favourite characters in the series. I hope we get to see even more of him in the future. I also thought that Bethy and Jace's relationship was really sweet and I would quite like to see a story just about them as well.
Hot, sexy and romantic with scenes to get you extremely hot under the collar, Abbi Glines has done it yet again with this amazing story about a couple who are destined to be together. I hope they get the happy ending they deserve in the final instalment 'Forever Too Far'.
Little White Lies by Katie Dale, published by Simon and Schuster on 1st August 2013
Goodreads synopsis: The first time Lou meets tall, dark, and handsome Christian, she knows he's hiding something. Why does he clam up every time she asks about his past? Why doesn't he have any family photos and why does he dye his blond hair black?
Then suddenly his terrible secret is unveiled to the world - and it seems everything he's ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in terrible danger? But Christian isn't the only one keeping secrets. For what if their chance meeting was no accident at all ...?
As lie follows lie, nothing is as it seems, and soon Lou finds herself ensnared in a web of deceit, her loyalties torn, her emotions in tatters as she faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: should she shatter the lives of those she holds dearest, or betray the guy who, against all odds, she's fallen in love with?
UK author Katie Dale's second novel is equally as strong and compelling as her first. It throws up difficult questions about love and loyalty which got me to question what I would do in the same situation.
Lou is starting a new life at university when she meets Christian. He seems very secretive and doesn't like to talk about himself. She seems determined to get to the bottom of who he really is but when the truth is unravelled whose side will she be on? The story follows the two of them as their lives literally collide with explosive and shocking results.
The first half of the book introduces the main characters - Lou and the gorgeous but mysterious Christian. The second half takes everything you thought you knew about them and turns it on it's head, with some shocking revelations and lots of surprising twists and turns. Things are no longer black and white and the characters have some interesting choices to make about their futures.
I guessed one of the plot twists from some of the clues which were provided quite early on but another was a major surprise. I enjoyed that element of the book - that not everything is just laid out for the reader and you're made to work to get to the bottom of things. I always felt like the ground was shifting beneath my feet as, along with Lou, I attempted to solve the puzzle.
'Little White Lies' had an intriguing and gripping plot with an emotional intensity which really hits you head on. I'm looking forward to seeing what subject Katie Dale will turn her hand to next as she seems a very versatile author who isn't afraid of confronting difficult topics.
Young people with a talent for spinning an adventurous yarn are being invited to take part in a unique writing challenge by bestselling novelist Michelle Paver.
To mark the release of her new book, Gods and Warriors: The Burning Shadow, the award-winning children’s author is launching ‘Write for the Gods’, a short story contest offering youngsters of all ages the chance to show off their storytelling skills and scoop some money-can’t-buy prizes.
Wannabe writers should submit their own original tale of up to 450 words. The ten most imaginative and exciting stories – as selected by Michelle herself – will be published online as part of an official Write for the Gods page on social media platform Tumblr, and appear on the new Gods and Warriors website.
Winning entrants will also receive signed copies of The Burning Shadow, as well as a copy of the first book in the Gods and Warriors series, The Outsiders.
Taking part is simple. Just visit www.writeforthegods.tumblr.com where you will find some opening lines written by Michelle to get your entry started, along with step by step instructions for sending in your finished story. Two winners will be unveiled every week until 23 August 2013.
If you’re stuck for a brainwave, Michelle’s top writing tips should come in handy:
1. Ask yourself: who is my main character? What do they like, hate or fear? Most importantly, what do they want? To escape a lion? Pass a test? Get to safety?
2. Next, ask: what gets in their way of achieving their aim? An enemy? A blizzard? Self doubt? Putting an obstacle in your character’s way, then deciding how they deal with it, will give you the basis of a story.
3. Now make your story real. If it’s set in a forest, take a walk in one and pretend to be your character. Take notes on whatever strikes you, using all five senses.
4. Then, start writing. Just get something down. (You can either write on paper first, or straight onto a computer, whatever feels right for you.)
5. Now read your story through as if you were a new reader. Is anything unclear? A bit boring, wordy or unnecessary? Change it! You can rewrite anything. It’s your story. You’re in charge.
6. Finally, reading your story out loud can really help, especially in writing natural-sounding dialogue.
Today on Writer's Nook I'd like to welcome Sarah Alderson, whose new book 'The Sound' is published by Simon and Schuster on 1st August. Writer's Nook explores a writer's space and the objects they like to have around them for inspiration, pleasure or just general enjoyment.
From London to Bali via India and California
I am from London but now I live in Bali in Indonesia. I wrote Hunting Lila while I still lived in London and worked full time for a non-profit. I would write it on a borrowed laptop in my bed after my daughter was asleep!
I wrote the sequel Losing Lila on Patnem beach in Goa, India. I would sit drinking chai and with my toes buried in the sand. It was heaven.
I started Fated sitting at the kitchen table of the legendary author T.C Boyle (a family friend). His house in Montecito, California (where Oprah lives) is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed.
Now we’re settled in Bali and I write at my desk in my studio. It overlooks our garden and the rice paddies beyond. My husband and I share the desk which is a piece of reclaimed Tamarind wood that we found on the side of the road and had sanded and polished. I love it – it’s about 10 feet long.
One wall of the studio is painted with blackboard paint. I use it to plot out books and screenplays.
I write up to 6000 words a day and I have a bad back so my chair is the most important piece of furniture I own. I found this squashy, spinny leather chair in the only real furniture store in Bali and dragged it off the showroom floor. It has not let me down.
On my desk
- A cup of coffee
- A bottle of coconut water (at a safe distance – I knocked one over about six months ago and fried my computer)
- A photograph of my daughter
- A photograph of the three of us.
- A stack of my books!
- Two bookends – both picked up at Brooklyn Flea Market. One says ‘Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’ and the other is of Brooklyn Bridge (I love Brooklyn and NY!).
- A wooden artist’s model that my husband has annotated and drawn all over – it was an anniversary present.
- A stack of recycled scrap paper – for notes and to do lists
- A jar of pens (I’m always running out)
- Bug spray (there are lots of mosquitos around at night)
On the walls
- Photographs of my niece and nephews
- Framed pictures I’ve drawn
- A painting I bought from a year 12 Balinese student at Green School. The Balinese are very talented artists so I’m hoping one day it will be worth gazillions. J
- Notes from my daughter
- Post it notes with quotes from books and the Buddha including my favourite: ‘This too will pass.’