Wednesday, 30 November 2011

December on the blog

During December I'm going to be featuring some of my favourite publishers and showcasing a selection of their most exciting and hotly anticipated upcoming reads for 2012.  I already have a wishlist of titles for next year a mile long and am incredibly psyched about some of the books we have to look forward to.

This feature will be starting tomorrow when I'll be focusing the spotlight on Bloomsbury and picking out an array of amazing titles to whet your appetite.  If you thought your wishlist was long now then wait until you see this lot!

Don't forget to stop by and share which books you're most looking forward to for 2012.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Review: Here Lies Bridget - Paige Harbison

Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison, published by Mira Ink on 17th June 2011 

Goodreads synopsis:
Bridget Duke is the uncontested ruler of her school. The meanest girl with the biggest secret insecurities. And when new girl Anna Judge arrives, things start to fall apart for Bridget: friends don’t worship as attentively, teachers don’t fall for her wide-eyed “who me?” look, expulsion looms ahead and the one boy she’s always loved—Liam Ward—can barely even look at her anymore.

When a desperate Bridget drives too fast and crashes her car, she ends up in limbo, facing everyone she’s wronged and walking a few uncomfortable miles in their shoes. Now she has only one chance to make a last impression. Though she might end up dead, she has one last shot at redemption and the chance to right the wrongs she’s inflicted on the people who mean the most to her.

And Bridget’s about to learn that, sometimes, saying you’re sorry just isn’t enough.…

‘Here Lies Bridget’ is the debut book from new YA author Paige Harbison, daughter of best-selling author Beth Harbison. I didn’t know much about it beforehand except that it was in the same vein as ‘Before I Fall’ and was about a teenage girl trying to make amends for her mistakes so that she could earn another shot at life.

The main problem I had with this book was the same complaint I felt at the end of ‘Before I Fall’. I just didn’t like the main character of Bridget, which meant that I found it difficult to empathise with the situation she was experiencing. Although she had admittedly grown on me slightly by the conclusion of the story, it was hard to feel any genuine sympathy for her and sadly, I didn’t wholly believe in the reversal of her character.

The first half of the book focuses on establishing Bridget as a figure who often evokes fear in the other students at her school. She’s disruptive in class and rude to her teachers, she makes snarky and belittling comments to the people who are supposed to be her friends, she shows no respect at all towards her step-mother and never ever thinks about the consequences of her actions. Although the book attempts to explain how Bridget has become like this, I still didn’t find that this made it any easier for me to connect to her and I never really fell in love with her personality.

I enjoyed the second half of the book more which involved an interesting concept whereby she gets to literally walk in other people’s shoes and share their experiences and feelings. This certainly helps to open her eyes to the way her behaviour has affected those around her.  I particularly liked the storyline with her step-mother which I thought was handled well and actually did leave me feeling quite emotional.

Although the content and subject matter of this story didn’t win me over, I nevertheless thought that Paige Harbison’s writing was sharp and intelligent and I shall keep a look out for future titles from her.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Review: Mortal Chaos - Matt Dickinson

Mortal Chaos by Matt Dickinson, published by Oxford University Press in February 2012 

Goodreads synopsis:
Butterfly effect: The scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever. Jamie and Will, bunking off school to go hunting. Kuni, trapped in an icy crevasse. Shelton, on a deadly mission for revenge. Bakili, under attack from bloodthirsty baboons. Tina, piloting flight 492 to Moscow. For them, and many others, things will never be the same again. Some will live. Many will die. All are connected. A heart-stopping adventure that will leave readers breathless.

'Mortal Chaos' is described as 'the book Jack Bauer would have read as a teenager'.  As a huge 24 fan, that was more than enough to pique my interest in this title.  This is the first book for teens and young adults written by Matt Dickinson, who has already successfully authored a series of high octane adult adventure novels. 

This title is the first in a new series which is inspired by Ray Bradbury's 1952 story 'A Sound of Thunder' (I need to go and read that now!).  I thought that the concept for the book was really interesting.  It's based on the idea that the beat of a butterfly's wings could cause a chain of events which cause reverberations as far reaching as the other side of the world.  Although this was a clever concept and I could see how the story was designed to work, it did fall a little bit flat for me at times in the way it was executed.

The book was made up of lots of stories which initially seemed completely unrelated but then gradually became more and more interconnected the further on I read until the point that you could clearly see how one small event could trigger a whole series of bigger catastrophes to happen.  The stories were extremely varied and included a young climber on Mount Everest, two boys out playing with a gun, a female pilot trying to get to work, a small boy trying to protect his family's crop, a family out enjoying their daughter's birthday and many more.  My main issue was that some elements of the stories were a lot more interesting than others and although the culmination of the book was high octane, it took a long time before anything gripping really seemed to happen.  This meant that some parts failed to keep my attention, although I enjoyed the moment when all the parts of the puzzle slotted into place and I could see how each person was going to be affected by events.  I personally would have liked to have seen more depth and description, as each scene seemed so short and brief that I didn't have sufficient time to develop a relationship with all the characters.

This is a book that would definitely appeal to both a male and female teen audience and if you're interested in the idea of the butterfly effect then this is an intriguing take on a fascinating concept.  Although I would have preferred a little more action throughout this was still an entertaining read and I'll be checking out the other books in the series as and when they're published.

Find out more about this book and many others by visiting the sites below:

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone that entered my UK giveaway to win a hardback copy of 'The Double Shadow' by Sally Gardner.  If you weren't successful this time then check back again soon when I'll be having another giveaway on the blog.

I'm pleased to announce that the winner is:
# Molly @ Reading is my cup of tea

Congratulations!  I will be contacting you soon by email to confirm your details.  I hope you enjoy the book and thank you once again to everyone that entered.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Review: Crossed - Ally Condie

Crossed by Ally Condie, published by Puffin on 24th November 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Rules are different outside the Society.

Chasing down an uncertain future, Cassia makes her way to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky-taken by the Society to his certain death-only to find that he has escaped into the majestic, but treacherous, canyons. On this wild frontier are glimmers of a different life and the enthralling promise of rebellion. But even as Cassia sacrifices everything to reunite with Ky, ingenious surprises from Xander may change the game once again.

Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's points of view, this hotly anticipated sequel to Matched will take them both to the edge of Society, where nothing is as expected and crosses and double crosses make their path more twisted than ever...

'Crossed' is the sequel to the fantastic 'Matched' by Ally Condie which has been one of my favourite dystopian books of the last few years.  The ending left me hanging, so I couldn't wait to get started on this one as soon as it arrived.  I have to admit that I was feverish with excitement because I'd been waiting for this book to be published for months and was dying to find out what was going to happen on the next step in Cassia's journey. 

After Ky is sent away to the Outer Provinces, Cassia is determined to find him so sets about leaving everything she loves behind - her family, friends and more importantly Xander, to track him down.  The narrative is split between Ky and Cassia who tell the story in alternate chapters, providing greater insight into both of their feelings and motivations.  I wasn't a huge fan of Ky in the first book, but I enjoyed getting the opportunity to find out more about his background and family history.  Although he is growing on me, I still love Xander and was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see more of him. 

My main problem with 'Crossed' is that the plot was very slow to progress.  I think it did suffer a little from middle book syndrome and it felt like there was much more to come but it was all being saved for the last book in the trilogy.  There are still a lot of unanswered questions, there was no real resolution to the Cassia, Ky and Xander love triangle and although more was gleaned about the the Society and the Rising, it wasn't enough to feel like a substantial step forward had been taken with the story.  Ally Condie is obviously keeping a lot up her sleeve!

I liked the fact that both characters were not only on a physical journey, but also a mental and emotional one.  Cassia discovers that her path and Ky's may not lead them in the same direction and has a lot of time to think about what she actually wants out of life and more importantly, who she wants to spend the rest of her life with. 

Some interesting secondary characters were introduced, such as Eli, who reminds Ky of Cassia's younger brother Bram and Indie, who Cassia journeys with to try and find Ky.  I loved Eli who may be young but is also incredibly brave and resilient and I liked finding out about the enigmatic Indie who there's a lot more to than meets the eye.

The third and concluding part of the trilogy is due to be published next year and although this book didn't quite meet my very high expectations, I have a feeling that the final part is still going to be amazing and will answer all those questions that I'm still puzzling about!   

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #48

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 

Fool's Silver (Mortal Kiss #2) by Alice Moss
Published on 5th January 2012by Bantam Children

A gorgeous boyfriend and a long summer in Winter Mill to look forward to - things are good for Faye McCarron. Then her friend Lucas disappears without a trace. But nobody seems to care - until two strangers arrive in town.
This is the sequel to 'Mortal Kiss' which was the debut offering from Alice Moss.  I loved the first book in the series and would definitely recommend it to those who like paranormal mysteries with romance added to the mix.  I also love this cover which is extremely eye-catching and will be rushing out to buy this one as soon as it's published.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Review: Mortal Kiss - Alice Moss

Mortal Kiss by Alice Moss, published by Bantam Children's Books on 28th January 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
In Faye McCarron’s sleepy New England town of Winter Mill, the snow has arrived a little ahead of season—September, to be exact. But Faye and her best friend Liz are too busy reporting for the school paper to give the sudden chill much thought, especially with two new boys, Lucas and Finn, heating things up. Mercy Morrow, a wealthy heiress, has baffled the community by moving into a remote old mansion in the woods, bringing her charismatic son Lucas with her. And while Finn may be a member of the Black Dogs, a motorcycle gang taking over the streets, Faye can’t help but be intruiged by his gruff, dangerous allure.

Soon, Faye and Liz realize that romance may be the least of their worries. A dead body has turned up in the woods, the Black Dogs are on the prowl, and the snow just won’t stop falling. As the temperature drops and Halloween approaches, the girls must discover the dark and menacing secret at the heart of Winter Mill—before it’s too late.

This is the first book in a new paranormal romance series by author Alice Moss.  I hadn't heard a lot about the title prior to reading it but the cover kept catching my eye in bookshops so eventually I caved and bought a copy.  I'm so glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it and am now looking forward to the sequel which is due to be published next year.  The book was originally published on Stardoll, an online gaming website and was so popular that it was soon after released in print. 

It reminded me a little bit of the Dark Touch series by Amy Meredith which I'm a big fan of.  The story centres around best friends Faye and Liz who have lived in the small town of Winter Mill all their lives.  Things start to get complicated when two new boys appear on the scene, biker boy Finn and rich new boy Lucas whose mother has relocated them to live in the town.  The two girls end up having to try and stop a terrible evil while also dealing with their own romantic issues.  I was a little dubious at the start about the friendship between Faye and Liz who are supposed to have been best friends forever but then seem to doubt each other very quickly whenever something goes wrong.  There are a lot of ups and downs between them but when it really matters they do come through for each other.  I preferred the character of Faye to the slightly more shallow Liz, although she grew on me as the story progressed. 

The freak weather at the beginning of the story, with heavy snow falling in Winter Mill during September, signals that something unusual and rather eerie is about to happen.  I felt a definite sense of unease as I was reading and couldn't help shivering, as if I too was experiencing the unsettling feeling shared by the characters. 

The two boys, Finn and Lucas, will probably divide readers but I personally loved bad boy Finn, who feels a strong attraction to Faye and who's hiding a big secret.  He initially cultivates the image of a tough biker who will only end up leading Faye into trouble, but he really has a heart of gold and will do anything to try and protect her.

The story was really fast-paced and exciting.  I was never quite sure what direction the plot was going to take next which meant that I didn't want to put this down until I'd read just one more chapter...and then maybe just another.  There were a lot of cliffhangers too which kept me in a perpetual state of suspense.  The mystery at the heart of the book was unpredictable and rather different from anything else in this genre and I enjoyed both the build-up to the big reveal and the resolution.  There were plenty of shocks and surprises throughout and some interesting plot threads were planted for the sequel, 'Fool's Silver' which I can't wait to read.  

Sunday, 20 November 2011

In My Mailbox #49

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for holding this meme every week.

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes. 

          All links go to Goodreads, where you can add the books to your wishlist if you like the look of  them.

Here are the books I got for review this week.  Some of these are 2012 releases but I'm hoping to get ahead with some of my reading before Christmas so will be getting started on these soon.

(The cover for this book is so pretty and the story sounds incredibly unique.  This is one I've been wanting to read for ages)

(I've already peeped at a few pages and I think I'm going to love it)

(An intriguing premise about selkies, the sea and magic)

(I've read some of Matt Haig's adult books before but this is his first story for children)

(This was sent to me by the author for review.  It sounds like a fun book!)

(Described as the book Jack Bauer would have read as a teenager)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Root - an interactive story from Guardian Teen Books

I've just heard about an exciting new project from Guardian Teen Books that I'll definitely be checking out!  Interactive fiction sounds like it could be the next best thing and this looks like a really interesting method of storytelling.

Guardian Teen Books has partnered with Random House for a new interactive, serialised story called Root - a fast-paced thriller set in the shadowy world of computer hacking and espionage. Every weekday for six weeks a new chapter will be released on the Guardian website.  The content will be directly influenced by readers’ contributions, such as their ideas for characters' personalities and skills.

The heroine Molly Root is a 15 year old computer genius whose friend Danny is killed after being caught stealing priceless data from a ruthless global corporation. Now she's in over her head. So far Molly Root's mission to get to the bottom of her best friend's murder has taken her on a perilous trail across London. Her key lead is a dodgy police detective - and her attempts to expose his shady contacts are testing her ingenuity to the limits.

As well as incorporating suggestions from readers, the story will also be brought to life via several social media platforms. For example, Guardian Teen Books' Twitter and Facebook accounts will be providing behind the scenes updates of how Molly is progressing, along with clips on Audioboo featuring the voicemails that Molly has discovered. This will be accompanied by onsite quizzes and photo puzzles on Flickr.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Blog Tour +Giveaway: The Double Shadow - Sally Gardner

I'm extremely pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Sally Gardner's incredible new book 'The Double Shadow'.  Highly original and inventive, this is a book which will quite literally take your breath away.

I have a wonderful guest post from Sally herself on Ezra Pound and the silenced voice of TS Eliot’s The Wasteland.

Without doubt, I have become fascinated with The Wasteland and found it to be a major inspiration when writing The Double Shadow. The images of bleakness, this world of snippets, fragments, filmic cuttings, ‘good night sweet ladies, good night’, disjointed images, disjointed memories – these most closely mirror the workings of the mind, of memory.

What is less well known about this epic feat of storytelling is the influence of another writer on the workings of TS Eliot's masterpiece. Step forward, raise a small voice, Ezra Pound.

Intellectually, Pound was one of the most generous men of his generation towards other poets and writers. We wouldn’t have The Wasteland in its current form without him. But he also had huge flaws in his personality - his support of ‘Il Duce’ (Mussolini), his anti-Semitism and racism have led him into the doldrums of neglect and ruined the heritage of his art.

I do not write this in defence of Pound, but in defence of his art. History has often allowed an individual's art despite their life, except in the case of Ezra Pound. My interest in him lies in the contribution he made to what I believe was one of the greatest poems of the last century, one that shaped the modern novel – Eliot’s The Wasteland, written the same year as Joyce's Ulysses. These two pillars are the washing line upon which 20th century novels were pegged.

Pound ended up in the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay after World War Two, arrested for Treason in 1945 and imprisoned in a cage in Pisa ("death cells"—a series of six-by-six-foot outdoor steel cages lit all night by floodlights). Here he was forced to face his prejudices and intellectual mistakes. One of the great poetic voices of the 1920s, he ended his days in silence, refusing to speak until the day he died.

For me it was the poem that became my main inspiration for the memory machine and I suppose in a way for the novel itself . It had all the ingredients that I needed to bake my novel with: sadness, humour, love, wit and wisdom.

Ezra Pascoe is the name of one of the main characters in my book, a silent acknowledgement for the role played by pound himself in the making of TS Elliot's The Wasteland.

To celebrate the release, the very lovely people at Indigo have provided a hardback copy of the book for me to giveaway.  This giveaway is only open to entrants within the UK at the request of the publisher. To enter just fill out the form below.  Good luck!

Giveaway rules.
  • There will be one winner.
  • Open to entrants with UK addresses only. International entrants may enter, provided they have a UK address to send the books to.
  • Please fill out the form completely - including email address 
  • You do not have to be a follower to enter but it's always appreciated
  • Deadline for entries will be on 23rd November 2011
  • Winner(s) will be drawn by
  • Winner(s) will be contacted via e-mail, and will be given 48 hours to response. Otherwise, a new winner will be drawn.
  • Any details will be deleted after use and will not be passed on to any third party.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Trailer: Unleashed - Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

Here's the utterly fabulous trailer for the first book in the Wolf Springs Chronicles by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie.  I am really loving the sound of this one and as I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book recently for review, I'm going to be starting it very soon!

Katelyn McBride's life changed in an instant when her mother died. Uprooted form her California home, Katelyn was shipped to the middle of nowhere, Arkansas, to her only living relative, her grandfather. And now she has to start over in Wolf Springs, a tiny village in the Ozark Mountains.

Like any small town, Wolf Springs has secrets. But the secrets hidden here are more sinister than Katelyn could ever imagine. It's a town with a history that reaches back centuries, spans continents, and conceals terrifying truths. And Katelyn McBride is about to change everything.

Broken families, ageless grudges, forced alliances, and love that blooms in the darkest night -- welcome to Wolf Springs.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Review: The Double Shadow - Sally Gardner

The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner, published by Indigo on 3rd November 2011 

Goodreads synopsis:
Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father's plan. Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted.

I'd previously read and enjoyed Sally Gardner's two historical novels, 'The Red Necklace' and 'The Silver Blade', so had been looking forward to her new offering immensely.  This book is very different to anything else she's written but in a good way.  Trust me, in a really good way!  I enjoyed it so much that even after having finished reading it over a week ago, I still can't stop thinking about it.  The plot is so detailed and complex that you'll want to pick it up and re-read it again as soon as you've finished.

What's so amazing about 'The Double Shadow' is the absolute uniqueness and originality of the story, which has sprung from an imagination that I'm seriously envious of.  It's totally different from anything else I've read that it really stands out from any other offering currently gracing the shelves in bookshops.  The plot and the characters are both multi-layered and as I was reading it, I continually felt that there was always something else waiting to be uncovered.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to Amaryllis Rubens around which most of the pivotal events of the story revolve.  Having been expelled from school following an incident with an older man, 16 year old Amaryllis returns home to live with her father.  Mixed-up and confused, she wants nothing more than her father's love and attention but he's more interested in spending time working on his invention - a memory machine housed within a picture palace in the grounds of Warlock Hall.  With the threat of war coming, he wants to use the machine to not only wipe away Amaryllis's bad memories but to also keep her safe and ensure that everything remains the same for her, even with war on the horizon.  The second half of the book deals with the aftermath of the memory machine being activated and the effect this has on not only the people trapped within the machine, but also on those who are left behind. 

I found 'The Double Shadow' to be endlessly fascinating.  The whole concept of the memory machine was incredible and the idea that someone could build something which could potentially create a three or four dimensional world in which only perfect memories could exist was amazing.  Although Amaryllis's father's intentions are good, a major issue in the book is the broken relationship between a father and daughter and how each can be so oblivious to the needs of the other that the very foundation of their bond is lost.  Each of them is so consumed with their own world that they isolate themselves and prevent the fragile link between the two of them from being repaired.  Another major relationship in the book is between Amaryllis and local boy Ezra and the gradual blossoming of the love between them was wonderful to behold.   

The book does deal with some heavy themes which makes it more suited to a slightly older teen audience, but it holds so much appeal that I will be recommending it to everyone!  It has an extremely clever narrative and Sally Gardner's writing is both sharp and insightful which made this book a joy to read.  The language used is also beautifully poetic at times and I literally savoured every word on the page of this wonderful story.  I'm in awe of Gardner's storytelling skills and envious of anyone getting to read this book for the very first time.  It's an experience you won't forget!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Blog Tour: The Haunting of Charity Delafield - Ian Beck

Today, I'm thrilled to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for 'The Haunting of Charity Delafield' which is a charming story about a little girl who comes to believe that anything is possible!  This is a gorgeous little book that you'll want to read curled up in a chair with a big mug of tea.

I'm delighted to welcome author Ian Beck who will be giving us an insight into his writing life, as well as talking about the inspiration behind the book and what projects he has planned next.

The transition from illustrator to author
I have always been a voracious reader. Even when I was a callow art student at the Brighton School of Art in the 1960s I was reading all the time and writing too as well as drawing. The pieces I wrote were just fragments really, little bits and pieces in imitation of the writers I admired. They were precious bits of story in the manner of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, and bits of imitation Ray Bradbury, Alain-Fournier and Vladimir Nabokov, all of whom I was, and still am, crazy about. None of the pieces were ever sustained or finished, and I certainly never told anyone much that I was writing at all or even had ambitions to write.

After I moved to London all my energy went on pursuing my career as an illustrator. I was eventually successful at it, and within a few years was working steadily as a freelance illustrator for magazines, newspapers and design groups. Occasionally I would start writing something, and again I never finished any of it. I took a creative writing class for a while at the City Literary Institute in Drury Lane but the whole tenor of the course was more to encourage self examination and instil an avant garde (for 1971) approach to text which was based on the theories of Nathalie Sarraute and Alain Robbe Grillet. I was looking for a way to understand conventional narrative and structure and this was not encouraged and I was effectively put off writing for a while. All of this is by way of saying that the transition from illustrating to writing was not a sudden overnight thing but a gradual building up over many years.

I was lucky enough in the early 1980s to meet and work with David Fickling who was then a youthful editor at Oxford University Press. I illustrated several books for him and eventually after his move to what is now Random House Children’s books he encouraged me to write my own text to illustrate which became The Teddy Robber (Doubleday 1989) during the making of that book I also worked for the first time with Annie Eaton. The Teddy Robber led on to me illustrating a whole series of picture books which I also wrote, and many of which are happily still in print. I was still ambitious to attempt a larger form, a longer story and with the death of one of my closest friends in 2003 my mind was concentrated. If I wanted to do it then I had to get on and do it before it was too late for me too, and that was when I wrote the first of the three Tom Trueheart books; (The Secret History of Tom Trueheart Boy Adventurer, Oxford University Press 2006). The other books since have all been enabled by actually finishing and then heavily rewriting that first book in 2004/5.

I am happy to say that 23 years later I am still working with Annie Eaton at RHCB she was my editor along with Natalie Doherty on the very recently published; The Haunting of Charity Delafield (The Bodley head 2011)

My process is I suppose like most other writer’s, simply to write the story. A deceptively simple task and I am sure that every writer has a different method of approaching it. I like to write a very free first draft. This will often differ from any synopsis that I may have made. I like to discover the story as I write it. After that it is the graft of editing and rewriting and it is that stage that I think the book is really made.

The inspiration behind 'Charity Delafield' and how the idea for the story came about
Charity began life as a watercolour drawing of a girl out in the snow in a bright red coat. Originally I had plans to make a picture book out of her, but that came to nothing. Both my agent and my editor at RHCB Annie Eaton liked her and they would occasionally prod my conscience about her. It was several years down the line that I realised that she might be a long story after all. There were many false starts before she settled into her stride. I wanted to include a house as a character in its own right. I know a particularly interesting one which features many of the long gloomy corridors that I have forced poor Charity to dream about. The house was added to the mix, as was the all important cat whose name I stole from a friend of mine whose best friend’s cat was actually called Mr Tompkins so I appropriated the name for Charity’s cat, and so on. The story progressed as things were added and taken away in turn and finally there came the day when after three complete drafts written over a long period she was finally finished.

Future projects as a writer and illustrator
I do have things in the pipeline, which I can only be very vague about at the moment for obvious reasons. One is a sequel to my YA novel Pastworld, another is an adventure story set in World War 2 London, another is a possible historical novel about a very precious substance, and I am keen to find out what happens to the character of Silas Jones from The Haunting of Charity Delafield I am eager to follow him and see where he leads. I very much enjoyed the process of making the illustrations for Philip Pullman’s version of Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp (Scholastic 2011) it would be nice to think that there was the possibility of another such collaboration somewhere in the future.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: Reckoning - Lili St. Crow

Reckoning by Lili St. Crow, published by Quercus on 27th October 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a fullfledged svetocha—rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires—the worst is yet to come. Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?

Dru Anderson’s not afraid of the dark.
But she should be.

There may be spoilers from previous books in the series.

This is the final installment in the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow.  This has long been one of my favourite series, combining both vampires and werewolves, as well as an extremely feisty and kick-ass heroine in the form of Dru Anderson, so I really tried to savour every second of  reading 'Reckoning'.  I have to say that having got very attached to all the characters, I did hope that certain things were going to happen and I had my own personal views about the way in which I wanted the storyline to unfold.  In some respects the book did meet my expectations but without giving anything away, I was a little bit unsatisfied with the ending. 

The book opens after Dru's successful rescue of Graves.  Now on the run from Sergej, most of the action takes place outside of the confines of the Schola Prima.  It was interesting to see Dru having to try and survive on her own for a while without all the protection she's been used to.  What I love about Dru is that she is a true survivor.  She's been through so much and yet she always seems to come out stronger on the other side.  She does find it incredibly difficult to let anyone help her though.  She believes she's ruined the lives of the people around her and what she sometimes fails to see is that they would do anything and be willing to sacrifice anything to keep her safe.  Part of Dru's journey has always been about learning to trust those closest to her and opening up enough to let people into her life and this is something that she's gradually managed to achieve throughout the series.   

The majority of the plot is concerned with tying up the two plot strands that have been prominent from book one.  The first is Dru's desire to get revenge on Sergej for her mother and father's death and the second is the love triangle between Dru, Christophe and Graves.  Those hoping for a face off between Dru and Sergej will certainly not be disappointed.  There's plenty of action, particularly in the second half of the book and there's enough excitement crammed into the story to keep you well and truly glued to your seat!

As for the love triangle, there's usually a clear divide between readers who love either the loyal figure of Graves who is like Dru's best friend, or those who prefer the brooding and handsome Christophe, who often appears at exactly the right moment to rescue Dru from another dangerous situation.  Knowing that, I feel like there wasn't necessarily a proper resolution to Dru's romantic entanglements.  The end of the book was very much left up to the reader's own interpretation, although there are some definite hints made about what might happen next.  It's a brave choice for Lili St. Crow to have made but I would have liked things to have been a little more clear cut rather that inferred. 

This has been a wonderful series and I really wish that the ride wasn't over!  The writing has been sharp, the plot has been gripping and the characters have led readers on an incredible journey full of ups and downs, action and excitement.  I will be eagerly waiting to see what Lili St. Crow writes next as she's definitely an author to watch! 

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #47

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 

Legend by Marie Lu
Published on 28th November 2011 by Puffin

Born into the slums of Los Angeles, fifteen-year old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. A mysterious boy with no recorded image or fingerprints. A boy who should no longer exist. A boy who watches over his family until one evening, when the plague patrols mark his family's door with an X--the sign of plague infection. A death sentence for any family too poor to afford the antidote. Desperate, Day has no choice; he must steal it.

Born to an elite family in Los Angeles' wealthy Ruby sector, fifteen-year old June is the Republic's most promising prodigy. A superintelligent girl destined for great things in the country's highest military circles. Obedient, passionate, and committed to her country--until the day her brother Metias is murdered while on patrol during a break-in at the plague hospital.

Only one person could be responsible.


And now it's June's mission to hunt him down.

The truth they'll uncover will become legend.

Dystopian fiction is one of my favourite genres and so I really like the sound of this new title from Puffin.  I've read some fantastic advance reviews of the book which sum it up as an addictive, pulse-pounding read, so it's definitely going on my wishlist!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Cover reveal: Fallen in Love and Rapture - Lauren Kate

Here's the beautiful final cover art for Lauren Kate's two new books, due to be published in 2012.  I have completely fallen in love with both of these and I can't wait to get my hands on them and see them prettying up my bookcases!

Unexpected. Unrequited. Forbidden. Eternal. Everyone has their own love story.

And in a twist of fate, four extraordinary love stories combine over the course of a romantic Valentine's Day in Medieval England. Miles and Shelby find love where they least expect it. Roland learns a painful lesson about finding-and losing love. Arianne pays the price for a love so fierce it burns. And for the first -and last- time, Daniel and Luce will spend a night together like none other.

Lauren Kate's 'Fallen in Love' is filled with love stories . . . the ones everyone has been waiting for.

The last installment of the Fallen series.  Will Luce and Daniel get their happy ever after?

Monday, 7 November 2011

Electric Monkey: New imprint from Egmont

I recently received a sampler from Egmont focusing on some of the titles which will be included within the launch of their new dedicated young adult imprint, Electric Monkey. 

Electric Monkey will launch in February 2012 and will be aimed at 12- to 15-year-olds.

The imprint will launch with three books for teenagers, including BZRK, a new series from Michael Grant, author of the Gone series, which will have a significant digital element including video games and an interactive website. Also on the launch list are Oliver Twisted by J D Sharpe and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

Egmont Press publisher Stella Paskins said the company will publish ten YA titles onto the list in its first six months with one or two titles each month thereafter. Backlisted titles will be added to the imprint as they are reprinted.

This is really exciting news!  I can't wait to get my hands on these releases and will be looking forward to seeing what else Electric Monkey will be publishing in the future.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

In My Mailbox #48

Thanks to Kristi at The Story Siren for holding this meme every week.

I love seeing what everybody else got in their mailboxes. 

          All links go to Goodreads, where you can add the books to your wishlist if you like the look of  them.

I got some really great books for review this week that I can't wait to read!  A lot of these were unexpected so it was very exciting opening all the parcels.
Crossed by Ally Condie
(I loved 'Matched' so I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel for months now!)

Tempest by Julie Cross
(I'm going to be taking part in the blog tour for this book which sounds awesome)

The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck
(This is a gorgeous finished copy of the book with a lovely gold edged cover)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
(I hadn't heard of this one before but it looks like it's had some rave reviews already)

Unleashed by Nancy Holder
(The cover is incredibly eye-catching.  I've bumped this one near to the top of my TBR pile)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Scorpio Races - Maggie Steifvater giveaway winner

Thank you to everyone that entered my international giveaway to win a proof copy of 'The Scorpio Races' by Maggie Steifvater.  If you weren't successful this time then check back again soon when I'll be having another giveaway on the blog. 
 I'm pleased to announce that the winner is:
#24 Laura H

Congratulations!  I will be contacting you soon by email to confirm your details.  I hope you enjoy the book and thank you once again to everyone that entered.

Review: The Haunting of Charity Delafield - Ian Beck

The Haunting of Charity Delafield by Ian Beck, published by Bodley Head on 3rd November 2011

Goodreads synopsis:
Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past. What she does know is that she is never to go outside unsupervised. And she is never to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from.

But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem.

‘The Haunting of Charity Delafield’ is a charming little book which would make the perfect Christmas present, with its gorgeous gold edged cover and pocket size - just right for slipping into someone's Christmas stocking.  Although aimed at a slightly younger audience, the story is so exquisite that I think older readers will be won over by it too. 

It tells the story of Charity Delafield who lives in a big house with her father, servants and adorable cat Mr Tompkins.  Apart from the kindly servants who look after Charity like she is their own daughter, Mr Tompkins is her only friend and companion and has a habit of frequently sneaking onto her bed at night.  He's so adorable that I wish I had a cat just like him!  Charity has been protected and cosseted all her life and has no real knowledge of life outside her small world.  She doesn't see or play with other children and isn't even allowed to explore the whole of the house, most of which is kept locked up.  When she's told by her father that she's going to be sent away to a boarding school, Charity is understandably upset but this sets in motion a chain of events which leads to her eventually finding out the truth about her family and the mysterious disappearance of her mother when she was a baby. 

I really loved this delightful story which I can see myself picking up to read again and again. It’s fairly short so ideal for frequent re-reads but is packed full of charm and is a simply wonderful little book.  I loved the character of Charity and the servants who look after her.  They're always slipping her squares of chocolate or steaming mugs of hot chocolate and they treat her like she's their own.  I also liked Silas Jones, the kind-hearted chimney sweep's boy who befriends Charity and helps her to unravel the long-buried secret about her mother.  It's sad to think that she's never had a friend before but in Silas she finds someone her own age who she can have fun with and their friendship blossoms throughout the book. 

The plot actually took an unexpected turn in the second half and I was surprised by the direction which the story ended up taking.  However, there's a lovely fairytale quality about the book and this worked well with the second-half of the story which leads Charity on a real magical adventure, beyond the realms of anything she could have dreamt of. 

The ending was beautifully written and in my opinion, absolutely perfect. If you like happy endings then you’ll love this one!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #46

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly awaited upcoming releases.  Head on over there to take part or to check out all the other fabulous books that people are looking forward to reading! 

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Published on 1st May 2012 by Gollancz

Bitterblue is a companion book to both Graceling and Fire and takes place in the seven kingdoms eight years after Graceling. This third book will tie all three books together in some way. Bitterblue is the sixteen-year-old protagonist, and Katsa, Po, Giddon, Helda, and other characters from Graceling will be part of the fabric of the book.
I'm on tenterhooks waiting for this one!  I'm a huge fan of Kristin Cashore and I loved both 'Graceling' and 'Fire' so I'm expecting 'Bitterblue' to be just as amazing!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Trailer: The Haunting of Charity of Delafield - Ian Beck

'The Haunting of Charity Delafield' by Ian Beck is a charming story about a little girl who discovers a secret about her family which will change her life forever. My review will be up this week but in the meantime, here's the mouth-watering trailer for the book which was actually designed by Ian's son, Laurence Beck.

Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father. With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past. What she does know is that she is NEVER to go outside unsupervised. And she is NEVER to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from.

But Charity has a secret. All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house. Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor. It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises things are not quite what they seem.
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