Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Review: If I Die by Rachel Vincent

A huge thank you to Mira Ink for sending me a copy to review.

Be warned there are spoilers below, so I recommend reading the book first.

The entire school's talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr. Beck. Everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee's no ordinary high-school junior. She's a banshee—she screams when someone dies. 
But the next scream might be for Kaylee. 
Yeah—it's a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee's going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine, her boyfriend's needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr. Beck…before he discovers they aren't quite human, either. 
But Kaylee's borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life. 

This book is without a doubt the best book in the Soul Screamers series. This has always been a series that I’ve loved reading, but has never been an ‘I must get the latest book now’ kind of one. Yeah, that just changed after reading this – the next book simply cannot come fast enough.

The biggest thing that struck me was how much Kaylee had matured over the course of the last few books, and really hit home in this book. She started out as a typical teenager, and she has really grown and matured into such an incredibly strong character. I was amazed at how she handled the news of her impending demise, everyone else seemed convinced she should be freaking out, and I loved her monologues about yes it was terrifying and crap, and she really didn’t want it to happen, but it was, so that was that. I wanted to stand up and applaud after each of these.

Whilst every book leaves our intrepid band of supernatural teenagers in terrible danger, this one felt even more terrifying, because after all, how do you cheat death when there are no loopholes?

It was really fascinating to see how each of the other characters dealt with the news of Kaylee’s time limit, and it brought out the best in some, and the worst in others. Particularly in Nash and Tod.

I love, as ever, Rachel’s writing. Her books have always been a pleasure to read, excellently written, with relatable characters and humour by the bucket load. But this has to be one of her best works so far. She tackles subjects like teenage sex and hormonal outbursts with humour, and gravity and it’s exceptionally handled. With some fabulously steamy scenes that had my pulse racing, without taking it too far.

I adore this love triangle that kind of defies the idea of love triangles. Tod has always been at the back of the crowd for Kaylee, he’s been there for her when she’s needed him, he’s stood up for her and protected her, and it has become more and more obvious over the last few books that he cares for her deeply, but he hasn’t done anything about it. He hasn’t told her, or put her under pressure, or made her choose, or been downright obnoxious and irritating as you so often can find with love triangles. He has simply been there for her, and I’ve loved that. I also loved the moments when Kaylee started to realise about his feelings. And I most definitely loved the payoff. If ever a boy was deserving of a happy ending – of getting the girl he loves, of getting his dying wish, it’s Tod. I have loved him from the first book, so to see him take centre stage as the guy on the white charger there to protect Kaylee, after Nash’s irritating whinging, was fantastic. I literally cannot wait for June and the next book to see how this plays out.

So June cannot come fast enough and I cannot recommend this book enough. If you’ve enjoyed this series in the past, you will love this latest instalment, and if you haven’t read any of the Soul Screamer’s series, why on earth not – get to it, they’re fab!

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Books I'm Squeeing About in March

A quick note - Timeless by Gail Carriger was included in my 'Books I'm Squeeing about in February' post, and the release date has since been pushed to March 1st, so as I've already talked about it in February it isn't included in this post, but is still very much a must buy!

February has been a crazy, crazy month with not all that much time for reading for me, which has been tragic. But I’ve still managed to cram in a few new fabulous books (as well as a couple of comfort re-reads) and I cannot wait to launch into the new books that are gracing our shelves in March, although most of them seem determined to do it on the first of the month… So without further ado, here are the books I’ll be squeeing about in March…

Faery Tales and Nightmares is a collection of short stories. 

Current Table of Contents: 
"Where Nightmares Walk" 
"Winter's Kiss" (Fairy Tales) 
"Transition" (Vampires) 
"Love Struck" (Selchies) 
"Stopping Time" (WL World) 
"Old Habits" (WL World) 
"The Art of Waiting" 
"Flesh for Comfort" 
"The Sleeping Girl and the Sumer King" (WL World-ish, the short story that started the series) 
"Cotton Candy Skies" (WL World) 
"Unexpected Family" (WL World) 
"Merely Mortal" (WL World)

A new anthology of short stories from one of my favourite fey authors is on the horizon, and I cannot wait. They will mostly be more excursions in the ‘Wicked, Lovely’ world, with a few new ones thrown into the mix. I’m overly excited about her latest novel, but for now, an anthology of dark and twisted short stories is just the Marr infusion I need.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
 Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . 

 Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. 

Do I even need to tell you again how excited I am for this book to be released? A fantastic new debut from an exceptionally promising author, Vixen is the gossip girl of the 1920s a scandalous mix of love, jazz, booze and speakeasies into one big fabulous book. I absolutely adored it.

You can read my review here.

Meet Itch - an accidental, accident-prone hero. Science is his weapon. Elements are his gadgets. This is Alex Rider with Geek-Power! Itchingham Lofte - known as Itch - is fourteen, and loves science - especially chemistry. He's also an element-hunter: he's decided to collect all the elements in the periodic table. Which has some interesting and rather destructive results in his bedroom . . .Then, Itch makes a discovery. A new element, never seen before. At first no one believes him - but soon, someone hears about the strange new rock and wants it for himself. And Itch is in serious danger . . .

A book with a science geek as its hero? A fabulous funny debut from Simon Mayo is just that. A book that he originally wrote for his science obsessed son, Itch is a fantastic book full of thrills, laughs and exceptionally cool gadgets, complete with the science behind them. An unexpectedly fabulous new book.

I’m pushing aside the memory of my nightmare, 
pushing aside thoughts of Alex, 
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school, 
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

The sequel to Delirium has been one of my most anticipated reads of this year. Ever since I first plunged into the new and frightening world that Lauren Oliver created, I couldn’t wait to go back, and with an ending like the one she left with, I’m desperate to find out what happens next…

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man. 
He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . . 

This new debut dystopian novel from Lissa Price has one of the most terrifying concepts I’ve come across this year – renting out your body, your mind, to an Ender? It’s full of electrifying possibilities, horrifying situations and a world that has fallen apart at the seams.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: Starters by Lissa Price

Huge thanks to Random House Children's Books for sending me a copy to review.

Release Date: 15th March 2012

Callie lost her parents when the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between the ages of twenty and sixty. She and her little brother, Tyler, go on the run, living as squatters with their friend Michael and fighting off renegades who would kill them for a cookie. Callie's only hope is Prime Destinations, a disturbing place in Beverly Hills run by a mysterious figure known as the Old Man. 
He hires teens to rent their bodies to Enders—seniors who want to be young again. Callie, desperate for the money that will keep her, Tyler, and Michael alive, agrees to be a donor. But the neurochip they place in Callie's head malfunctions and she wakes up in the life of her renter, living in her mansion, driving her cars, and going out with a senator's grandson. It feels almost like a fairy tale, until Callie discovers that her renter intends to do more than party—and that Prime Destinations' plans are more evil than Callie could ever have imagined. . .

I was left feeling a bit mixed after reading this book – there were some really great aspects, and some really not so great ones kind of jumbled together. I’m going to start with what peeved me and end on the good notes of what I liked, because I did really like this book, it just had quite a few flaws that I found difficult to get round.

I had several problems with the book that meant that I failed to truly engage with the story.
Firstly, the world building. This has so much potential but so much is left unexplained, and instead of making it mysterious and edgy it just left me irritated. All we know is that people live to 200, everyone between the ages of 20 and 60 are dead and were wiped out in the spore wars, and old people are evil. That’s it. There is no explanation, nothing, and I think I would have found the story a lot more convincing if there had actually been some concise explanations. I don’t need everything spelled out, but a little bit would be good. There were just too many plot holes that weren’t even tackled due to the lack of world explanations – for example why on earth are all old people made out to be evil with no backing or explanations? Why are children victimised and herded up? Why aren’t young people allowed to get jobs? None of these things really made sense and I felt a bit cheated by that.

Then we have the love triangle, which felt incredible forced and fake. It feels like it’s obligatory these days for a book to have a love triangle in it. This one had one half that was barely a half and a boy that she had an instantaneous connection with. I wouldn’t have been nearly so peeved if the two boys had served a function other than being a love interest, but that was it. However, by the end of the book it did suddenly all make sense and I stopped being so grumpy about the romance. I won’t explain further than that because I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, but going into it, if you feel peeved by the love triangle, stick with it, there is a very good reason for it.

And then we have our heroine Callie who just seemed to drift through the book. There was no sense of urgency to engage me, no desperation or anything. She just seems to float along without really truly connecting or acting until very late on in the novel.

I think the reason I was so peeved with the above points is because this book had the potential to be an absolutely fantastic book. I mean look at that premise, the idea that you can have someone else rent your body is terrifying, and I don’t think that was really examined properly in the book. Thinking about the idea was enough to give me chills, but they were absent throughout the book, because there wasn’t that ick factor, the horror of it wasn’t thoroughly explored, and only really touched on at the end.

The writing was really good though, Price is definitely going to be an author to watch, I just wasn't as taken with this particular book as I thought Id be.

However, despite the problems I did still really enjoy this book. As I said, it’s a brilliant concept, and parts of it are executed brilliantly. I was really rooting for Callie by the end, and once the plot got going it really went for it.
I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next, and whether we get any development on the issues I’ve shared above, so when the sequel ‘Enders’ comes out I will be desperate to see how it plays out.

Don’t let my problems put you off reading it though, as I’ve said before, these are just my personal peeves whilst reading, and I’m curious to see how other people react and what they make of the book – so let me know if you agree or disagree!

This book is a good debut into the dystopian genre, and I found it to be a really interesting read. However there were a few issues that marred the experience for me, but ultimately I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the sequel ‘Enders’.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Review: My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent

Trying to work things out with Nash—her maybe boyfriend—is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can't just pretend nothing happened. But "complicated" doesn't even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back. 
See, Sabine isn't just an ordinary girl. She's a 
mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people's fears—and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives. 
And Sabine isn't above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever—and 
whoever—she wants.

I’m going to straight out say that this wasn’t my favourite book in the Soul Screamers series – it was still fantastic, a brilliant example of good writing, engaging characters and a plot that boggles the mind with its creative twists, but it just wasn’t as good for me as some of the others.
In fact I’m noticing that the odd numbered books in this series are my favourites, whilst the even numbers don’t quite hit it for me.

I think the biggest problem for me personally is that normally I sympathise/empathise/relate to/all of the above to at least one of the characters in a book – and I suppose I did with Tod, but he played such a minor role in comparison that I don’t think that quite counts.

I became so frustrated with Kaylee for her unbending attitude and ability to make a decision. I became frustrated with Nash on every level for everything. After the events of the last book it’s going to take a huge amount of something to make me see him even close to the way I used to prior to his addiction.

And then there’s Sabine, who for the most part I loved, but some of the things she did just crossed the line beyond even remotely ok that I then became frustrated with her.

Don’t get me wrong, I still loved them, and did feel for them, laugh with them, etc. It was just that a lot of their interactions really frustrated me and I actually didn’t have any side that I was on, I didn’t want any of them to win! I think that in part that was because I could see all the sides to the story – and that is an incredible skill on Ms Vincent’s part. I could see why everyone was frustrated and angry, but at the same time the way they each tried to deal with it rubbed me up completely the wrong way.

A lot of that is explained when all the pieces of the puzzle click into place at the end, but I still struggled with some moments and decisions of the characters.

Of all of them I think I liked Sabine the most, which is weird… But she really does take crossing the line to a whole new level. At the same time I was kind of on Kaylee’s side, except that the prize they were fighting over was a boy that after the events of the last book I kind of felt that both of them deserved better.

Which I suppose brings us round to my real dislike in the book, which was Nash. I adored him in books one and two, but book three completely turned me off him and he didn’t manage to redeem himself at all in this book. I could understand where he was coming from with being alone and Kaylee not being there for him, but at the same time I was on her side as to why she hadn’t been there for him. It felt to me that he had done nothing but look despondent and apologise to her. He hadn’t tried to talk it out or start to build their relationship back up, he just backed off and had late night bedroom sessions with Sabine. It just didn’t sit right with me.

It didn’t feel like he was fighting for his relationship actively, he was passive, and self-involved, and playing the victim. And that Kaylee could even want to take him back made my mind boggle.

But as I said at the start, none of this affected my enjoyment of the book, I still really love this series and thought it was a great instalment, and I continue to love Ms Vincent’s writing. I love that the characters to develop, that they grow and change and make bad decisions as well as good decisions. 

I loved the introduction of Sabine, who strangely, as I’ve said, I really kind of liked for all her terrible ways. And I’m glad that all the bad stuff that happened in the previous book wasn’t just swept under the rug – it was messy and involving and completely teenage high school, and I loved seeing how they tried to deal with it all, to patch up and keep going. I love the mythology and that this series deals with supernatural creatures that are rarely given their own books – to have such a diverse and intriguing set of characters is one of my favourite aspects of this series.

So in all, not my favourite in the series but still a fantastic book, and I’m so looking forward to seeing where this goes – and to seeing more of everyone’s favourite Reaper, who remains to this day my favourite character in this series.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. 
Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. 

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This book is stunningly beautiful.

I’ve spent a long time after finishing it thinking about what I wanted to say in my review. So much of it has already been said before in the numerous reviews out there that talk about how beautiful, how heartbreaking, how tragic this book is, and I feel like I’m just going to repeat all of that, but here goes.

I loved this book. I loved Hazel. Her strength, her quiet determination to try to just keep going each day, her humour, her realistic outlook – it was pitched absolutely perfectly. She was such an incredible character and was the perfect narrator to take us through. At moments I was laughing out loud.
“Congratulations! You’re a woman! NOW DIE.”
And then I would be sobbing my heart out because it was so unfair and horrible and downright depressing, and yet Green manages to keep the story as a compelling a beautiful piece of artwork, instead of some morbid look at cancer children.

I adored Augustus, he was such a fantastic character, and the two of them bounced off each other and created some beautifully funny, poignant and touching scenes. They made such a fantastic pair, the humour, the realistic outlook on life, the downright tragic moments. It was written so beautifully

That’s one of the things I love most about Green’s books. His writing is so unbelievably beautiful. I can’t even put into words how stunning it is. I first found it in ‘Looking for Alaska’ and I wondered if that was a one off, or whether this book would speak to me in the same way, and it really really does. It’s so incredibly beautiful, and it was for his writing that I originally picked up this book. Not for the story – I’m more of a fantasy kind of girl – but his prose.
Although once I started reading I couldn’t help but fall in love with the story.

At the same time Green has made it very accessible and relatable even to those who aren’t cancer sufferers. I have chronic pain syndrome, something that makes me similarly have good and bad days, try out a plethora of new and exciting medications to ease the pain, and provokes a reaction in friends not unlike the reaction Hazel experiences. Whilst I am in no way comparing my own experiences to those of Hazels, I still found some of her thoughts and sentiments about those things to really strike home in a way that I truly wasn’t expecting from this book. It suddenly made it feel more personal in a way that I wasn’t prepared for. And I was impressed. When I went into the book I almost expected it to be some sort of cloying preaching book about cancer that I, as someone with no experience of it personally or in my family, wouldn’t really connect with. Whereas in reality it was a touching book that brought so much to the table, and allowed me to identify with it in ways that I wouldn’t have expected.

And I cried. God how I cried. It was inevitable and yet utterly heart breaking, and despite the fact that it was a book, and despite the fact that I had only known these characters for a couple of hours, it touched me and provoked emotional responses in me that I didn’t expect to have.

I loved this book. I cannot recommend it enough. It is beautiful, and heart breaking, and took my breath away. And stayed with me long after I turned the last page.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Review: Hunting Lila by Sarah Alderson

17-year-old Lila has two secrets she's prepared to take to the grave. The first is that she can move things just by looking at them. The second is that she's been in love with her brother's best friend, Alex, since forever. After a mugging exposes her unique ability, Lila decides to run to the only people she can trust - her brother and Alex. They live in Southern California where they work for a secret organisation called The Unit, and Lila discovers that the two of them are hunting down the men who murdered her mother five years before. And that they've found them. In a world where nothing and no one is quite as they seem, Lila quickly realises that she is not alone - there are others out there just like her - people with special powers -and her mother's killer is one of them…

So I read this book on a recommendation because of the romance at the novel’s heart, and I did really enjoy it, but it elicited quite a mixed reaction from me whilst reading.

Let me first say that I did really enjoy the book, it was a really good concept and a great plot with some swoon worthy moments, and some brilliant twists and turns, however whilst really enjoying it, on closer inspection there were quite a few things that also really irritated me.

Let’s start with Lila. She had the potential to be smart, funny and strong – she has this awesome power that gets the story of to a fantastic start, and then it kind of peters out. Literally the first half of the novel is Lila getting increasingly frustrated with her brother, swooning over her life long love Alex, and getting grumpy. That’s it. There’s no action, there is plot development but it’s hidden underneath so many layers of Lila making eyes at Alex and doing pretty much anything to get his attention that it’s virtually non-existent.

Don’t get me wrong, I like romance, I am fully on board with all swooning. But when I learn very little about a character other than she really, really, really really really likes this guy and it’s tragic because he only ever sees her as his best friend’s little sister, and she would literally consider twisting her ankle to get close to him, I do get a little irate.

Yet I kept reading. It was still compelling, still intriguing (partly from wondering when Lila would get her damn act together) and I still wanted to find out what happened.

As I said, half way through suddenly we get action, and it’s this thrilling chase with betrayal and confessions and kisses and it’s really good. I enjoyed finding out more about the psys, and to fill in some of the blanks and the backstory, but again, I kind of felt that some of the twists were a bit predictable. I wanted them to be jaw dropping, fantastic things, but they fell into the usual format.

I’ve now discovered there is going to be a second book, and I’m more excited about that than this one. It felt like by the end of this book we finally got to see a bit of the actual Lila creeping in, and I want to get to know her, not the boy obsessed one. I really want to see where this develops and goes to, because it really is a fantastic premise and it has the potential to be an absolutely stunning series, I just wasn’t too fussed on some of the choices made in this first book.

So to sum up, I loved the premise of the book, and it was intriguing enough to keep me reading, but I really wasn’t all that fussed on the elements of Lila that were emphasised or the complete lack of any action or plot development or any kind in the first half of the book. I do still recommend it, for anyone who likes young adult urban fantasy with the super psychic powers twist, and I’m really excited about the second book.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Author Q & A with Lauren deStefano

Today is the day a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting - the release of the second book in 'The Chemical Garden' trilogy 'Fever' in the UK.
To celebrate, Lauren was kind enough to do a quick interview with us about the book, her writing, and what we can anticipate from her next.

“Today is the release for the second book in the 'Chemical Garden' trilogy 'Fever' - can you tell us a little bit about it?”

If I had to re-write the jacket blurb for Fever, it would say, "Rhine and Gabriel have escaped. But they shouldn't be too smug about it." And then there would be a photo of me grinning maniacally, and when you turned the first page, an evil cackling would fill the room, and you'd have no idea where it came from. It would be me, though.

“How did you find going back to the characters for a second book, was it
harder or easier than the first book?”

It was infinitely harder. When I wrote Wither, there was no promise that it would sell, and I had fun with it, not expecting any sort of reaction. By the time I got to writing Fever, I was well aware of my audience. It took some adapting. I also had the difficult task of answering the question readers had at the end of Wither: So now what?

“Which has been your favourite character or relationship to write? (if
you can pick one!)”

Cecily or Vaughn. They've both been very challenging and not at all what I would have expected. At the start, I thought Cecily would be more of a villain and that Vaughn would be relatively benign. But
they had other ideas.

“What has been your favourite part of the writing and publishing

The reader responses!

“Has writing always been something you wanted to do? And how did you make the jump from wanting to write and writing for yourself to becoming a full
time writer?”

I've always loved to tell stories, and I began writing them down when I was very young. It would be several years before I realized the people around me didn't all do the same thing. I still can't imagine what it's like for people who don't have characters running amok in their skulls. Mine are rather fond of breaking my fancy valuables and the like. By the time I was in middle school, it became abundantly clear that I'm not really good at anything, so the plan became to get published or die trying. I never expected the overwhelming good fortune that's been brought to me by my agent and my publisher here in the US, and all of my publishers overseas. I still feel like maybe I'm actually in a coma somewhere dreaming it all up.

“Do you have a specific routine or writing process? Times of day or music
that help you to write?” 

I am victim to the whims and fancies of my brain. I never set a schedule because then writing begins to feel like a chore. It must be done arbitrarily. I'll be watching TV or trying to sleep or clicking about on the computer, and I'll be stricken with the need to DO something. That's when I start writing furiously, and it's glorious and angels are singing and the trees are alive with the sunlight and birds, and the whole universe makes sense. That, or I'll write when I get an email from my agent in all caps demanding to know where my next project is. Actually, it's usually that last thing I said.

“Do you have some favourite books or authors that have inspired you?”

It's hard to pinpoint a favorite book, but I'd say my biggest inspirations are T.S. Eliot, Nabokov and Eugenidies.

“Do you secretly have a favourite book in the trilogy?”

Oh, it's no secret. My favorite is the third. I say the third book because it really ties the entire series together, and by the time I got to writing it, I knew my characters inside and out. I hope the readers will love it as much as I do.

“What are you working on at the moment?”

Secrets and scandals.

“Will you be doing any tours or signings in the US and UK in the

Things are still being worked out! My tours for Fever so far are in the US.

You can purchase 'Fever' and the first in the series 'Wither' from Amazon and book stores today!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Review: Flappers:Vixen by Jillian Larkin

Release Date: 1st March 2012

A huge thank you to Random House Children’s Books for sending me an early copy to review.

Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.
 Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?
 Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . . 
 Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . . 
 From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes.

It’s official, there are not enough books about flappers. Although ‘Vixen’ is such an awesome one, I may just keep re-reading it in the absence of any other fab 1920s books. Ever since watching the ‘Vampire Diaries’ episode where there are flashbacks to Chicago in the 1920s I’ve been desperate to read some good books set there, and Random House must have heard my wishes, because what did they send my way last weekend, but the fabulous d├ębut by Jillian Larkin and the first book in a brilliant new trilogy.

It was a fantastic book, with a style that reminded me strongly of Gossip Girl (which is no bad thing) and three fresh and distinctive heroines to guide us through the roaring twenties – jazz, booze, boys and speakeasies.

Having three narrators gives a brilliant scope to really explore the different aspects of the elite of Chicago. We have Gloria, straight A student and model ‘good girl’ as she discovers there’s more to life and a whole world out there beyond the four walls of her families mansion and the diamond rock on her engagement finger. I loved watching her try to balance the new dark and rebellious side with the life she already had, and for the most part succeeding – and the thrills and people that came along with it.

Then we have Clara, the bad girl turned good. I absolutely adored Clara she was funny, sassy and had a better idea of the world outside compared to the other two. I loved watching her grow into herself and discover a balance between her wild side and the good girl she was trying to crush down. In fact her story was perhaps the most intriguing as we discovered her past and watched her battle her demons to carve out a new life for herself.

And then we have Lorraine, who I will say I wasn’t all that fussed on. She was incredibly well written, and I found her utterly fascinating, but completely broken. She is the bad girl who has completely fallen onto the wrong side of the tracks – needy, petty and jealous I still felt for her, and she is still redeemable, but she left an unpleasant taste in my mouth every time she fell a little further.

The book explores the constraints of the time, the social dos and don’ts and was utterly fascinating. A brilliant blend of humour, heart wrenching emotion and fabulous characters, I loved it.

The research that must have gone into the book to produce such a vivid and detailed world is utterly mind boggling, but it’s so completely worth it as you are pulled straight into the world and experience every little detail.

I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book of the series and find out what happens next.  I fell in love with the characters (yes even Lorraine) and their stories were taken on such complex journeys with such surprising and fantastic conclusions in this book that I’m so excited to find out where Larkin takes us next.

Its’ an exceptionally strong debut from an author to watch out for, and a stunning new series for the rebel flapper girl in all of us.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Release Day: Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen

So today is the release day for one of my favourite books of the year so far 'Scarlet' by A.C. Gaughen.
This book is absolutely awesome, a brilliant re-construction of the tale of Robin Hood, with some fantastic characters an a fresh plot.
It's an incredible debut novel, and one of my top picks of the month, so go and pick up your copy now!

And if you're not yet convinced, go and read my spoiler free review now!

Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

American Title: Sea Hearts

With huge thanks to Random House Children's Books for sending me a copy to review

Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen.
But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment.

This book was such a gorgeously haunting story that it’s stayed with me long after I finished reading it.

The writing is haunting and vivid, and creates such an atmospheric piece, similar to the feeling I felt whilst reading ‘The Scorpio Races’ by Maggie Stiefvater. It takes its time, slowly drawing out the tales over the span of several generations, but focusing around the intentions of Misskaella.

It was incredibly well done, because Lanagan takes her time to develop Misskaella into a sympathetic character that you cannot help but feel for, then branch out and show how others have treated her affects her attitude to those around her. It’s a tragic tale of human nature and the ability each person has to hurt others – but in this case, the repercussions when the person on the receiving end has the last laugh.

And just when you start to forget that she was once human and hurt and torn apart by others cruel words towards her, Lanagan twists it back and packs another gut wrenching punch that reminds you just how human and fragile she was at heart.

It’s a mixture of tales all rolled into one, all coming back to focus on the Seal Wives, the tragedy of Rollrock Island and Miskaella’s handiwork at getting her own back. We see the story from several view points; different generations at different times as we are led down the path of destruction with the Rollrock men, the slow, creeping rot that sets into the island, and the exploration of the island as a world of its own, the isolation of the setting as they cut themselves off further from the world.

We see boys grow up and turn into husbands and fall into the same patterns as those before them. We see women treated as objects of desire and ownership rather than people, and the slow rebuilding of a civilisation brought to the brink of destruction by those enchanted by the seal women.

Despite being a quick reader this book took me quite a while to get into and finish – the writing was quite dense and weighty, and despite only being just over three hundred pages long felt like a novel twice the length. That isn’t a criticism or point against it at all, it was just interesting to note how long I spent immersed in the world, and how much I enjoyed it.

I will admit that towards the end I did just want to finish it, because it is such a haunting and melancholy story that I did feel quite morose after several days dipping into the world, and wanted to move onto something lighter. But as I said, it was such a beautiful book that it outweighed any of the negatives.

It was an utterly heart breaking and moving piece of work that completely surprised me. It wasn’t what I expected at all, and yet it turned into one of the best reads so far this year. Moving, atmospheric and poignant – a look at how the actions of one person can shape people’s lives for generations.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Daylight Saving Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all those who entered - I wish I had a copy to give to each of you!
However I can only pick one, so using random generator the winner is:

Ms Boyce!

Please could you contact me at with your address and I will get that sent out to you as soon as possible.

Do please go and support Ed by getting a copy of the book those of you that didn't win - it really is a fantastic read!

Thank you again to everyone who entered, and please do check back, I will be having more giveaways at the start of March for some awesome new books coming out then!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Midnight in Austenland Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to those who entered the 'Midnight in Austenland' Giveaway.

The winner, picked using random generator, is Maggie Parsons! Please email me with your details and I'll get the books sent out to you first thing on Monday!

Thank you again for entering. I also have a giveaway running for Ed Hogan's latest book 'Daylight Saving' so don't forget to check it out!
Check back in a few weeks time for more book giveaways!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Author Q & A with Ed Hogan

Today marks the release of yet another awesome young adult book 'Daylight Saving' by Ed Hogan - a brilliant ghost story and thriller all rolled into one with some incredibly strong characters. It's one of my top picks for February, and marks Ed's first foray into young adult. To celebrate the occasion Ed was kind enough to answer some questions about the book, his writing, and what we can read from him next.

"Your first Young Adult book 'Daylight Saving' is out today, can you tell us a little bit about it and how the story came about?"

Well, I tend to wake up very early in the morning, and spend half-an-hour writing down whatever comes into my head.  One morning, I started to think about a family holiday we took - at a sort of leisure village - when I was a kid.  I really liked sports, so I had a good time, but I started to wonder how it would be for someone who didn't like sports.  I started thinking about such a boy (Daniel, in the book), and wrote a scene where he sees a girl swimming in the lake at the leisure village.  When she gets out of the water, Daniel notices that she has cuts and bruises, and that her watch is ticking backwards.  He also quickly learns that Lexi - for that is the girl's name - is a very funny and clever and strong young woman .  I just took that scene and went from there, really.  I've always been very interested in time, and that's one of the major themes of the book, I reckon.

"You've written adult novels prior to this release, how did you find the transition into the realm of Young Adult?"

I'd been reading a lot of YA stuff before I wrote Daylight Saving, and I'd been so impressed by the vibrant originality in the books.  People like B.R. Collins, Patrick Ness, and Mal Peet manage to put together extremely compelling stories that move very quickly but still contain these huge intellectual ideas.  I really loved writing Daylight Saving.  As well as being my first YA book, it was the first time I'd tried to write a thriller.  Handling a plot like that, with twists and turns, was a new thing for me.  I hope I did okay!

"And is it somewhere you like? Can we hope for more young adult books from you in the future?"

Yes!  My second YA book is called The Helmstown Messengers, and it should be published in 2013, all being well. It's set by the sea-side, and is about a man and a girl who share a strange gift. That's as much as I'm giving away at the moment!

"What drew you to writing? Is it something you've always wanted to do?"

Totally.  It took me a while to realise that it was something I could do as profession, but I suppose I've always been writing stories.  It used to be a very private thing, and I've always found it a great comfort.  People often say that reading and writing is an escape, and I understand that, but it's also something that has helped me to confront difficult things, rather than run away from them.

"And how did you make that jump from wanting to write to becoming a full time published writer?"

I'm not sure I'll ever be a full-time writer!  I still have a day job, and that's quite important to me.  It's good to get out of the house, and to meet people (so I can write about them!!)  In terms of the route to getting published, I did an MA in Creative Writing, which was very useful training.  The MA was partly funded by a literary agency called David Higham Associates.  They liked a short story I'd written (about a teenager, actually), so they gave me some money to do the course.  I met my very brilliant agent, Veronique, because of the bursary.  She sold my first book, Blackmoor, in 2008.

"Do you have any habits or rituals that come with writing? Music or times of day that are most productive for you?"

The earlier the better.  I usually get about three hours in before I go to my day job.  I haven't really worked out the best system for writing, yet.  One thing that works for me is carrying a little notebook.  I find that I have lots of my ideas when I'm walking to the train station.  When I get home, I try to turn the notes into little scenes, which I write down on index cards, and put in a small box.  I don't listen to music because I find it very hard to do two things at once (my brain capacity is quite small!)  I do, however, often take little breaks to mess around on the guitar.  I'm not very good.

"What's been the most exciting part of the writing and publishing process for you?"

The most exciting part is always the writing.  The first week of writing Daylight Saving was just brilliant.  I knew I'd got a decent idea, and I just walked around the flat, and around town, with my notebook, making up little scenes and getting a hold on these two characters, Daniel and Lexi.  I really loved writing Lexi.  She's had some traumatic experiences, but she never allows herself to be a victim.

"And what has been the most challenging?"

The challenge for new writers, I think, is finding time.  At the very start, you have to write when most of your friends are socialising, so that requires some willpower.  You sometimes have to accept that you won't have much money for a while, either.  Holidays are out of the question!  But that's actually fine, if you love what you do.  My friend Daniel describes writers as 'off-peak people', which is about right.

"What are you working on at the moment?"

With the help of my editor, Mara, I am revising The Helmstown Messengers.  I'm also doing some early research for the third YA book.  My second novel for adults, The Hunger Trace, is out in paperback next month, so I'm doing things to plug that, too (like mentioning it in Q+As!)

"And finally, will you be doing a tour or signings in the future?"

I'm definitely going to be doing some events in schools, and I'll be visiting some bookshops to sign stock.

'Daylight Saving' is available now from Amazon and all book stores, go forth and buy!

And enter the book giveaway I currently have open for a copy of Daylight Saving now!

You can read my spoiler free review here!