Monday, 31 January 2011

Review: Koh Tabu by Ann Kelley

Originally published on The Bookbag - thanks go to the publishers for sending me a copy.

Bonnie MacDonald is thrilled to be going to a beautiful tropical island with the rest of the Amelia Earhart Cadets, especially as the only adult present will be the incredibly glamorous Layla Campbell, nicknamed the Duchess, who treats them all like adults. But the dream holiday becomes a nightmare - after landing on the wrong island despite dire warnings from the boatman who took them there, a storm kills him and one of Bonnie's friends and wrecks the boat, leaving them trapped with no-one knowing where they are. With the Duchess shining rather less brightly as she’s revealed to be practically useless in the face of danger, it's left to Bonnie and her friend Jas to try and keep the remaining girls alive and find a way to be rescued.

This is a truly spine-chilling story, mainly because it always seems completely believable. It's set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War - the girls are the children of soldiers based in Thailand - and as well as being stranded on the island, the survivors have to cope with not knowing whether their parents are alive after they see explosions in the distance. With this in mind, the disintegration of the recently widowed Mrs Campbell seems utterly plausible, as does the way Bonnie and some of the other girls are forced to take responsibility for themselves so quickly.

I don't think I can honestly say I particularly liked Bonnie - a couple of decisions she makes have horrendous consequences, and one in particular will cause a wide range of reactions from teenagers and adults reading, ranging from those who will completely agree with it and those who will be absolutely horrified by it - but I've rarely felt a narrator was so well-drawn. Even when she's considering some steps which would appear absolutely ridiculous in the hands of a lesser author, I was still convinced it was completely the right thought process for her character as Ann Kelley describes her. The character development of Bonnie is excellent, and the descriptions throughout the book are superb, especially those of the plants and animals of the island.

This is one of the few recent books – or few compared to the total amount I read, at least - which has completely held my attention from beginning to end as I raced through it, desperate to find out what happened to everyone. It’s also very thought-provoking indeed – I still can’t work out whether I think Bonnie was right to make the decision I referred to above, and I’d imagine it’s likely to provoke some interesting discussions between readers. This is an extremely high recommendation – with the warning attached that it’s not something I’d give to young or easily scared teens, especially if you’re ever planning on taking them on a boat trip or to an island!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Lia's Guide To Winning The Lottery by Keren David

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

From Amazon:

Money can’t buy you love. But it can buy many other very nice things. Lia’s mum is a nag, her sister’s a pain and she’s getting nowhere in pursuit of the potentially paranormal Raf. Then she wins £8 million in the lottery, and suddenly everything is different. But will Lia’s fortune create more problems than it solves? Everyone dreams of winning the lottery - but what’s it really like? Find out in this hilarious story by Keren David, whose acclaimed debut novel, When I Was Joe, was Highly Commended for the Booktrust Teenage Prize.

Why I'm waiting for it: Keren David caught my attention with her superb two-part series released at the start and end of last year, When I Was Joe and follow up Almost True. WIWJ was one of my very favourites of the year, featuring huge excitement, a fantastic central pairing of Ty, who was in the witness protection scheme, and love interest Claire, with some big problems of her own. Almost True continued Ty's story and rounded it off really well. They were intense and gripping reads which have got me interested in reading anything else KD releases - and the plot to this one looks fantastic!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Nathan was right. David Gilmour got sadness down in four notes."

Loving this book so far!

Review: Ostrich Boys - Keith Gray

Kenny, Sim, Blake and Ross have always been a foursome. Inseperable, they've taken on bullies, teachers, and even their families, standing up for each other. But now Ross is dead, and they'll never be a quartet again. Except for this one last trip... because his remaining friends have got his ashes, and are taking him to Ross in Scotland, a place he always wanted to visit. The group set out to travel 261 miles from Cleethorpes to Ross without anyone realising what they're doing, but the journey throws up some questions about just how strong their friendship really is.

This is, as you'd expect from the summary, a sweet and touching book, but it's also surprisingly funny given the content. Keith Gray's brisk descriptive style hides some rather deeper dialogue as the boys end up considering the true meaning of friendship and just why they're doing this, in between some hilarious moments while they try to cope with lost train tickets, cashflow problems, and three Scottish girls who may distract them from their actual aim. And then things take a darker turn, as they have to deal with the suggestion that maybe the accident in which Ross lost his life wasn't such an accident after all. Could their best friend really have done the unthinkable and killed himself?

The book states on the back cover 'Not suitable for younger readers' and in many ways the warning is a real shame. Yes, it's a difficult topic, and perhaps not something you'd want pre-teens picking up without a thought as to whether they were mature enough to handle it. But the blanket 'not suitable' isn't giving much credit to anyone as there's plenty of 11 and 12 year olds who I think would find this both enjoyable and thought-provoking, and perhaps a subject like this isn't one that should be completely avoided. I would have no hesitation in recommending it to a 10 - 13 year old if I felt they had an appropriate adult to turn to if they needed to ask questions about it.

Strong recommendation, particularly to fans of Jenny Valentine and Kevin Brooks.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

This book was provided to me by the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review - thanks!

Bridget Duke, daughter of a famous celebrity, is the undisputed queen of her school. Popular, wanted by the boys and feared or adored by the girls, she barely even notices the trail of destruction she leaves behind her as friends, teachers and even her stepmother end up being hurt by her actions. So when Bridget's in a car accident, and ends up in limbo, she's sent into the shoes of those she's wronged to see the effect she's had on them. Can she redeem herself?

Bridget is a horrific but entertaining character who, as expected from the preview of the book, is taken aback when she sees her behaviour through the eyes of the other people. The second half of the book, especially, is an enjoyable, fast-paced and light read, if seriously on the mawkish side for much of the time. The first half of the book, as we're taken back to the events which led up to the car accident and which saw Bridget upset so many people, could probably have been shorter - it takes us nearly half of the book to end up in limbo, perhaps too long. Conversely, Bridget's journey to forgiveness seemed to be happening at warp speed, as she renounced her wicked former ways incredibly quickly and I'd like the second part of the book to have more depth to it.

The overall tone of the book is very much that of a teen version of 'A Christmas Carol' and it's got a strong moral message which makes it one I hope a lot of teens will read. Particularly those who take after the title character, anything that gets girls like her to think about the consequences of their actions must be worth picking up!

Recommendation to borrow, at least.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

From Amazon

In the time before time, Satan ruled the molten Earth, worshipped by his demons. One demon turned against him and imprisoned Satan deep in the bowels of the earth. When Satan escaped, as punishment, the demon's heart was torn from his chest and his body hidden deep in the polar ice. Only Satan knows where he lies. The heart is hidden elsewhere. If the two are brought together, the demon will be reborn and darkness will reign. Edgy Taylor sees demons when nobody else can. Edgy thinks he is insane and expects to be carried off any minute. He is a prime collector, wandering the streets of London collecting dog muck for the tannery. The only thing Edgy is good at is setting and solving riddles, and evading his brutal and abusive master. One night, when his master seems genuinely intent on killing Edgy, Professor Envry Janus intervenes. Envry takes him to the Royal Society of Daemonology where Edgy will now live. It is here, though, that Edgy discovers chance had nothing to do with their meeting, and that he holds the key to a deadly demon prophecy.

Why I'm waiting for it: Mayhew's Mortlock was a deliciously atmospheric Victorian thriller with echoes of Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman and fantastic folk song lyrics of murder and death scattered throughout. A brilliant read which has me interested in anything he does from now on. The plot to this one sounds amazing and I can't wait to get my hands on it.

If you like the sound of it, I'm reviewing it for the Bookbag so it will be up there probably extremely quickly after I get my hands on it - and there's an interview with Jon Mayhew himself coming up fairly soon on this very blog!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Kiss Of Life - Daniel Waters

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Third week I've done this and for once I've managed to do exactly two sentences!

"What matters is that we're all thinking beings, and if we are thinking beings we ought to be able to find some common ground somewhere. Maybe if people can see us playing, three beating hearts and a dead guy, it will inspire a little more tolerance in the country."

This is the second book of the fantastic Generation Dead series - highly recommended!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Author Interview - Curtis Jobling

I'm incredibly excited to be interviewing Curtis Jobling, author of the superb Wereworld, on the blog today! Huge thank you to him for doing this at extremely short notice. You can check out my 5 star review of Wereworld at The Bookbag

YYY. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?

CJL I imagine lovers of fantasy and horror, first and foremost. While I realise there’s an age recommendation for the book, I like to think of that as a cinema rating, a PG or 12 certification if you will. Don’t get me wrong, younger, more capable readers should have a hoot reading Rise of the Wolf, but I very much imagine the novel will appeal to older audiences, lovers of fantasy literature of all ages. Ultimately I wrote it for myself, and it’s the kind of book I’d pick up to read.

YYY. Okay, this is the big question for me - I've read that you have a 2 book deal for Wereworld but am so in love with the world you've created that I'm hoping for lots more in the future! Are you planning on writing more books about Drew, or at least others set in Lyssia?

Most certainly. When it was pitched initially to Puffin it was with the vision that it would be a long serial of books, and that’s what I’ve always had in my head. 3,4 and 5 are loosely outlined in my noggin, and as soon as we know how the first books have been received I’d love to get back to Lyssia (and beyond!) to write more of Drew’s adventures. The world itself has such a vast scope that I can envisage other characters having books of their own, but I don’t want to be jumping the gun!

YYY: Best news I’ve heard so far in 2011!

YYY:What's your favourite werewolf movie? (And, if I can sneak in a sub-question, any chance of seeing Drew on screen in the future?)

My favourite is probably still An American Werewolf in London. I love the mix of horror and comedy that Landis achieved in the movie, and it still has the most memorable transformation scenes committed to film. As for a big screen version of Wereworld, I guess if folk come knocking it’s something we can talk about! ;-) Again, though, I want to concentrate on making the books the best they can possibly be. If I can make a success of the novels then other things could fall into place as a result. As I work in film and television already there’s always a degree of crossover in my work, and I’m probably guilty of writing in a cinematic style as it is.

YYY: Agree with you on AAWIL, although I may be one of the few people with a soft spot for An American Werewolf in Paris…

YYY:In the acknowledgements for Wereworld: Rise Of The Wolf you mention that you're a keen role-playing gamer. How much of Wereworld was influenced by your experiences gaming?

I think my storytelling is influenced by the fact that I used to run a lot of games in my youth, and I always got a kick out of surprising the players with the twists and turns of an adventure. I never ran “ready written” games, they were always scenarios of my own invention, so that’s where I cut my chops as a writer. They were often epic quest adventures, so the fact that Wereworld takes on that form should come as no surprise to the guys I gamed with down the years.

YYY: If you could be any Werelord, what animal would you choose?

It’s got to be the werewolf, hasn’t it? Still the coolest beast on the block. I’d suggest another of the Werelords from the first book but fear I’d be spoiling the appearance of the character!

YYY: Do you listen to music when you're writing? If so, what was your soundtrack when writing Wereworld: Rise Of The Wolf?

I do tend to have music on in the background when I write, or often the radio. As large parts of Rise of the Wolf were written at night when the kids were in bed, I had the company of Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie on the radio, but I’d often pop my own music on as well; Arcade Fire, Laura Marling, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Low Anthem, The Avett Brothers, that kind of thing. I’m becoming a bit of a folky/Americana fan in my advancing years, and find that kind of music the perfect accompaniment while writing.

YYY: You have a great online presence with a fantastic website and a very active Twitter account. How important do you think communication with readers is to authors today?

When I was younger the only way of reaching an author was to appear at a signing, and even then the most one could realistically hope for was a stolen question that could be briefly answered. The online community is a great way of reaching out to authors and creatives, and is the kind of thing I’d have loved to have been able to exploit when I was starting out. I’ve run a blog for many years now ( which has a great deal of my artwork on as well as various ramblings. With the release of the novel I’ll be putting more frequent updates on there to let folk know what I’m up to. There’s also a wonderful Official Wereworld fans page on Facebook and an Official Puffin Wereworld site with all kinds of good stuff on for fans of the books to explore:

YYY: Somewhat embarrassingly, I've just realised that my review of the book contains the word 'incredible' four times in seven lines. Are there any words you're prone to over-using in your writing?

You should ask my editor, Shannon Park, what I’m most guilty of – ‘instinctively’ makes far too many appearances. I have to be mindful of avoiding the ‘repeated word’ in my manuscripts, and was delighted to hear from Shannon that she’s an 1/8th of the way through reading the first draft of book two and (to her astonishment) there’s no sign of a repeated word yet! My lovely better half, Emma, also acts as an editor with my work early on, polishing up the various grammatical errors I make along the way. This is usually on account of me ‘spilling’ the story out as I’m writing and missing silly things in a rush to tell the tale.

YYY: What are you reading at the moment?

I’m about to pick up the second book of Joe Abercrombie’s awesome fantasy series, The First Law. The other book that I’m a huge fan of and regularly read is of the comic variety: The Walking Dead. Thought the recent Darabont TV adaption was simply stunning, but you can’t beat the source material.

YYY: What's next for Curtis Jobling?

I have a new kids show going to air on CBeebies later this year, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, of which we’re making 52 episodes. That’s looking terrific and I’m very excited about it. I’ve also got a number of other shows in various stages of development with broadcasters and studios around the globe. I’m hoping to get back to more writing as soon as possible – I was working on the manuscript for another, younger fantasy novel when Puffin picked up Rise of the Wolf, and had to put that down to work on the second Wereworld book, so I’m getting back to that right now.

YYY: A huge thank you for doing this interview, Curtis, and the very best of wishes for Wereworld in the future and for all of your other projects.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Review: If A Tree Falls At Lunch Break - Gennifer Choldenko

Struggling with an eating disorder, rows between her parents. and the loss of her best friend to the clique of school bullies, Kirsten feels like the only person she can trust is her genius younger sister Kippy.

Forced by his mother to move away from his old school and the bad crowd his cousin goes around with, Walker is trying to fit in at a new private school. When the pair meet, everything will end up changing.

I was expecting something light, frothy and comic from the cover to this book, but was surprised by how many issues it touched on and really enjoyed author Gennifer Choldenko's deft handling of them. Racism, snobbery, eating disorders, relationship problems, bullying, and theft are all touched on in greater or lesser detail and it's a realistic view of them for the most part. It's helped by likeable lead characters Kirsten and Walker, and I enjoyed the contrast between Kirsten telling her story in the first-person and the third person narration focusing on Walker. Short chapters, many lasting just a few pages, make it an appealing book for younger readers to pick up and read a bit at a time, while more confident readers will race through it thanks to Choldenko's fun writing style.

A special mention for Kirsten's mother as an especially interesting character - while I hated her for much of the book as she tried to convince Kirsten to fall in with the popular girls who were clearly EVIL, when everything was revealed I could see what she was going through and why she perhaps wasn't in a position to give great advice.

I also loved the book's ending - satisfying yet thought-provoking, leaving a lot of questions still to be answered about where the characters would go from here.

Recommended to older MG or YA readers, particularly fans of Louis Sachar.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Author Interview - Savita Kalhan

I'm incredibly pleased to present my first ever author interview, with the wonderful Savita Kalhan, author of one of my favourite books of last year The Long Weekend. Many thanks to Savita for taking part.

SK: Hello, thank you for inviting me here!

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, what do you see?

SK: I see lots of hands with their heads buried within the covers of my book! I didn’t mean that to sound corny – or macabre! What I love is that such a diverse group of people have enjoyed my book. I’ve had emails from kids, teens and adults, parents and a few grandparents who have all read and loved The Long Weekend.

2. What book would you recommend to people who enjoyed The Long Weekend while they're eagerly waiting for your next novel?

SK: One book that has really stood out for me is I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti. It’s just been released as a YA title, and I would really recommend it. I’ve just read Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick and loved it, so I’ve bought White Crow to read next. I also really enjoyed Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman is also on my bedside table, waiting to be read. I enjoy Anne Cassidy – she has a new book coming out soon, which I’m eagerly awaiting. Cat Clarke’s Entangled has just arrived...

3. What books inspired you when you were a teenager?

SK: When I was a teenager I read avidly – everything I could lay my hands on, which was basically the entire contents of Wycombe Library! I wasn’t selective. I read the whole Crime section, but I also read all the fantasy epics, contemporary novels, and world classics. Coming from a very traditional Indian background turned me into a complete a book junkie – it was one of the few activities that was actively encouraged! Lord of the Rings was a big favourite, but I also loved the Classics – Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Zola, Flaubert...

4. I know you've got a really active web presence with a great website and frequent Twitter updates - how important do you think it is in this day and age for YA authors to communicate with their fans over the internet?

SK: I hadn’t realised until last year how important it is! The best advice someone gave me was to have a good website and maintain a presence on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I’ve followed it and it’s been brilliant! It’s a great way to keep in touch with your readers. As a writer you must remember that if you don’t let people know about your book, then no one will hear of it!

5. What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

SK: To read as much as they can – novels, but also about the publishing industry and how it works. To talk to other published authors because their advice is invaluable. To find a good agent who will fight your corner. To have their work critiqued by people who are able to be perfectly honest about their work. I could go on for hours, but the final thing I would add here is - never stop writing.

6. I recommended The Long Weekend on The Bookbag partly because of the importance of the message about 'stranger danger', and also suggested parents/guardians should read it - while it's a compelling thriller in its own right, do you feel the book has a role to play in getting children and adults discussing the topic?

SK: Oh yes, definitely. Kids are aware of stranger-danger, but often they don’t fully understand what it might mean. The Long Weekend is written with a style and pace that reaches even the reluctant reader; it’s absorbing and engrossing, and I think its impact in imparting a message to teens is far greater than a school talk on stranger-danger. Parents who have read the book have immediately wanted their kids to read it. It may raise awkward questions, but I feel they are questions that should be addressed and discussed.

7. What do you enjoy most about writing? What would you rather not do at all?

SK: I love writing! I love being inside someone else’s head, speaking with their voice, following them wherever the story takes them. I don’t mind going back through a story and rewriting scenes if it’s needed. The part I really dislike is the copy-editing and proof-reading because it forces you to look at words rather than read the story. It’s boring, but entirely necessary. My problem is that I find I get caught up in reading the book and end up missing typos!

8. Do you listen to music when you're writing? If so, what was your
soundtrack when writing The Long Weekend?

SK: I tend not to really listen to music when I’m writing – I find the story is making enough noise in my head! With The Long Weekend the jingle-jangle of keys was something I heard too much of! I sometimes put Classic FM on in the background because it’s not too intrusive.

9. What are you reading now?

SK: At the moment I’m reading Siobhan Dowd’s Solace of the Road. I’m way behind and I’m trying to catch up, but the piles of to-be-read-books just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger... And as I try not to read YA when I’m writing, I’m frequently falling behind. I need a good long holiday with a large suitcase of books and no excess baggage charges!

10. What's next for Savita Kalhan?

Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will be another book or two. I’ve just finished writing a great thriller about a boy who wakes up in hospital with no recollection of how he got there, or who he is!. So watch this space...

I can't wait! Many thanks once again, Savita, for taking the time to do such a fantastic interview.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Waiting On Wednesday - Please Sir by Jack Sheffield

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

A rare non-YA post for me but I'm hugely happy to see that the fifth of Jack Sheffield's Ragley books is out soon. I nearly said excited but Sheffield's not really a writer to get excited over (NOT a criticism!) - more one to welcome back into your life like a much missed old friend. His tales of a village primary school are heartwarming, sweet and nostalgic for England in the late 70's and early 80's, featuring a rich cast of comic characters (including my particular favourite the singing cowboy Deke Ramsbottom) and beautiful descriptions of village life at the time. They're some of my favourite books to reread because even knowing what happens, Sheffield's writing style is so gentle and engaging that I get caught up in them afresh every time - so a new book is a definite treat!

Probably of far more interested to adults than YA's but younger readers who enjoy a mellow read should take a look as well.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Wereworld: Rise of The Wolf by Curtis Jobling

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Only one sentence from me but it's an awesome one from the absolutely outstanding Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling.

"Up until the abduction he'd felt he had the higher ground, morally speaking, although now he was the first to admit that he may have stepped over a line."

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Feature: Around The Internet

This is either a fun feature where I scour the best of the last week or so around the internet to find some great links for my readers, or a shameless attempt to keep up my record of posting every day since starting the blog without writing anything original. You decide!

Books Into Movies
- Inspired by tweets from Holly Black (@hollyblack) and Cassie Clare (@cassieclare) Gallagher Girls author Ally Carter (@OfficiallyAlly) wrote this fantastic blog post on the process of turning a book into a movie and just how much control an author gets over the film. Fascinating.

City Of Ashes book trailer pics - Speaking of Cassie Clare, did you know they're shooting the City of Ashes book trailer at the moment? If you didn't you've missed some great pics - Mundie Moms have come to your rescue with a slideshow, though!

Book Reviews This Week - Linking to a list of links as part of a list of links seems kinda weird. But Jesse Owen (@jesserowen) has done such an incredible job of putting together a huge list of book reviews that there's no way I could leave it out of this post.

On Writing and Publishing - The amazingly talented Diana Peterfreund (@dpeterfreund) has put together a list of her previous posts on writing and publishing. I've only had the chance to read four or five of them but they're crammed full of superb advice to anyone trying or hoping to write something that'll be published.

Chat - I LOVED Friday's book blogger chat at Hale and Salvatore. Monday it's on again, 5:30 - 6:40, but this time at Call Me Crazy. would be great to meet some readers!

Any great stuff from the net this week that I've missed? Tell me about it in the comments section!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Review: Everything I Was - Corinne Demas

Note: I read this via NetGalley - thanks to the publishers for making it available to me for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Irene's family have always been well off. Living in an Upper West Side Penthouse, she's used to attending an all-girls prep school and taking lavish family vacations. So when her father suddenly loses her job and they have to move to the countryside to live with her grandfather, how will she cope?

I spent most of the time when I was reading Everything I Was waiting for something big to happen and being slightly surprised when nothing incredibly major did. Eventually, I realised I was approaching it the wrong way. It's a slice of life, a rather charming coming of age novel, which reads much more like something that would have been published 20 or 30 years ago than the majority of today's books do. Irene is a sweet main character, her new friends Meg and Jim and her grandfather are lovely, and there's just enough conflict with her parents to keep things interesting without even getting away from the realistic feel. There's a little bit of sweet, gentle romance, some beautiful scenes between Meg and her grandfather as she gets to know him better, and I love the book's setting in the countryside and the descriptions of the area. One small criticism - the cover REALLY doesn't fit in with the rest of the book, the girl looks far older and more mature than thirteen year old Irene and it was partly responsible for me expecting more to be happening in the book than I actually got.

It's a leisurely, peaceful read which is a nice change in pace from some of the action-filled stuff I've been reading recently and I'm definitely interested in tracking down more stuff by Corinne Demas. It won't be for everyone, but I'd recommend it to tweens and younger teens, especially fans of authors like Paula Danziger and Ann M Martin.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Review: Mortlock - Jon Mayhew

Reposting a review originally done for (and therefore the book was provided to me by the publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review) as Mortlock was released in paperback this week in the UK.

Abyssinia, 1820. Three Englishmen search for the Amarant, a mythical flower with the power over life and death, in a strange desert oasis. On finding the flower surrounded by decaying faces, they realize that it is cursed, and take a blood oath never to remove it.

London, 1854. 13 year old knife thrower Josie performs with her guardian the Great Cardamom, an especially gifted magician who we quickly learn is Chrimes, the coward of the original three Englishmen. Their relatively peaceful existence is shattered when three macabre Aunts (note the capital letter, never a good sign…) descend on them, and Cardamom instructs Josie, with his dying breath, to find the twin brother he'd never told her about and destroy the Amarant.

From there, it's a relatively straightforward jaunt to find her twin brother – working as an undertaker's mute, and with a rather spooky, if somewhat limited, power over the dead, and to vow that they'll destroy the mythical Amarant. That's where the fun really begins, as we follow their quest to do so, chased by the Aunts – really werebird-like creatures known as Ghuls – and aided by the usual ragtag collection of helpers found in most fantasy novels of this type.

For about ninety per cent of its length, this book, especially for a debut effort, is really rather stunning. It's brilliantly paced, Josie is a very likeable heroine, and her relationship with her brother Alfie – who she initially regards as little more than an annoyance – develops believably and sweetly as they are forced to rely on each other. The villains – those gruesome Aunts and their master Lord Corvis – are also excellent, and wouldn't look out of place in a Roald Dahl story. Memorable locations include the villains' stronghold, a bizarre circus, and a mysterious graveyard. Add to that the amazing atmosphere, helped by the insertion of old English ballads such as Salisbury Plain and The Cruel Brother in between chapters, and you have a surefire winner.

And yet… as I said, nine tenths of it is superb, and the book as a whole is well worth reading and a definite recommendation – but the long-awaited climax is, to put it bluntly, rather anti-climatic. The stage is set in the aforementioned graveyard for a massive confrontation between heroes and villains, and with remarkable suddenness, it ends. A slight disappointment there, but despite finishing on a somewhat low note, for me, with the abruptness of that finale, I really should stress that the book's good points far outweigh the bad, and I'll be eagerly awaiting the next book by Jon Mayhew which is out in a few months.

High recommendation for fans of Philip Pullman, Roald Dahl, and people who like the macabre.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review: Populazzi - Elise Allen

Note - I read this book via NetGalley. Thanks to the publishers Harcourt children's Books for providing it to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Cara Leonard has always wanted to be one of the in crowd. One of the Populazzi. But when people remember you wetting your pants on the first day of kindergarten, it's hard to reinvent yourself. At least until you move across the city of Philadelphia. With a clean slate, and help from her oldest friend Claudia, Cara sets out to climb to the top of her new school's social ladder. Who cares if it means stepping on some boys' hearts as she moves up? It sounds like it's going to be so easy... but you know that it won't all go according to plan.

Let's face it, if you're reading a book with this premise, you're not expecting great literature. You're expecting bitchy girls, hot boys, and catty cliques. Populazzi absolutely has all of that in spades. The characters are larger than life but generally entertaining - with the exception of Cara's stepfather, who's just TOO horrific for me not to conclude that her mother is a grade A cow for not divorcing him years ago. In fact, when we first got to find out about his nastier side, I was half expecting this to turn into a very different book and was glad it didn't.

But while the parts about Cara's home life didn't ring true to me, everything else - the majority of the book - certainly did. I loved the way she tried to manipulate people even though it clearly wasn't part of her normal personality, I loved the social structure of the school, which author Elise Allen got completely spot on. I loved the way that just when I was thinking it was a predictable read there were a few curveballs thrown in to keep things fresh. And I loved the ending which was sweet but certainly didn't wave away all of Cara's problems.

Despite being reasonably long, this was a quick read for me because it was so pacy, things kept happening and I was glued to finding out how Cara got on in her quest for social success. Elise Allen's writing style is extremely readable and I'll look forward to her next book. Oh, and a special mention for minor character Robert, a fanatical Star Wars geek, who I kept hoping would pop up again - and thankfully I wasn't disappointed!

Recommendation to fans of Meg Cabot and Cecily Von Ziegesar.

YA Oscar Winner - Best Action - Striker: Sudden Death by Nick Hale

One of the most action-packed books of the year, for me, was the impressive first entry into the Striker series following former international footballer Steve Bastin's teenage son Jake as he investigates a series of mysterious deaths. Perfect for youngsters who enjoy football, this is one that will get reluctant readers drawn in.

My full review, reposted below, was first published on (and was provided to me via The Bookbag by the publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Jake Bastin, son of famous former footballer Steve, thought his life was difficult enough even before his father enters negotiations to join St Petersburg’s newest football team as manager. But when the agent his dad’s discussing the move with collapses of a suspected heart attack, things get far more complicated – because Jake is convinced he was actually poisoned, and can’t understand why his dad seems happy to go along with a cover up. As the pair move to St Petersburg, the bodies start piling up, and Jake goes from having to fight to control his temper, to fight to save his life. With no way of knowing if he can trust anyone, even his own father, can the youngster stand up to criminals who are happy to kill to get what they want?

From reading the blurb about this book, I was expecting half Alex Rider, half Mark Fox (main character in a Michael Hardcastle series of football books in the late seventies and early eighties.) What we actually get is much more action-orientated than I was expecting, with Jake’s own football prowess taking a definite back seat to his growth as an action hero. Still, that’s certainly not a criticism – just an observation – and this fast moving thriller had me hooked from start to finish! Jake is a brilliant hero, likeable and well-developed, and the other characters are really interestingly drawn. I had no idea, when I was two thirds of the way through, who would turn out to be a good guy and who would turn out to be a criminal, but the eventual explanations made perfect sense and tied things up nicely.

Author Nick Hale has got a clear, crisp, writing style and fits a huge amount of action into the book with lots of cliffhangers – I found it practically impossible to put down and I’m sure most teenage boys, the main target audience, will be equally gripped! I was also impressed that the violence was reasonably restrained in the way it’s described – despite the deaths and fight scenes, there’s nothing much here I’d be hesitant about passing on to a young secondary school pupil. I hope this is the start of a long-running series and would highly recommend it to fans of Anthony Horowitz, Robert Muchamore, and Mal Peet. The second in the series, Close Range, is out now, and I have it on my to be read pile so will try to review it once I get around to it.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Waiting On Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

My "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.

When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love... or something else?

(Summary from

Elite Manhattan prep school sounds Gossip Girl-ish, and hey, I loved my Gossip Girl - at least the first few of the series. As if that wasn't enough, Kristi at The Story Siren said "I loved it. I love love love loved. it." and her recommendation's good enough for me.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Review: Pimpernelles Book 1: The Pale Assassin - Patricia Elliott

With France in the grip of the Revolution, aristocrats certainly aren't safe there - especially when their brothers have been involved in trying to rescue the royal family. Eugenie de Boncoeur is forced to flee her sheltered life to try and escape from both the revolutionary mob and the mysterious pale assassin.

Okay, first comment on this book is that I love the cover - mysterious shadowy figure in the background, beautiful girl at the front, ornate building - awesome, and immediately made me feel like I was transported to 18th century France. The writing kept me there, with Elliott setting the scene really well in the first few chapters and providing really good background information to compensate for my lack of any real knowledge on the Revolution.

And then she carried on setting the scene in the next few chapters. And the few after that. And the few after that...

At some point reasonably early on in a novel, things need to happen, yeah? And they just didn't, for far too long. We had lots and lots of worried aristocrats plotting, and Eugenie hiding away and being scared by the poor people revolting... but just not much actual action until quite late on in the book. When we DID get the action, to be fair, it was really good and Eugenie was a likeable heroine who used her quick wits to good effect. I just wish we hadn't taken so long to get there in the first place. Characters are pretty good generally with Hortense, Eugenie's governess, being particularly interesting.

While I wasn't overly impressed, to be honest - I think I'd have enjoyed it more if it was 100 or so pages less - and would almost certainly not reread the book, the ending was very enjoyable and it's got me really interested in reading book 2, The Traitor's Smile. So it's not a particularly high recommendation as a book but it may well be the start of a really good series, if you see what I mean.

Mild recommendation to fans of Celia Rees and Libba Bray, and anyone wanting to find out more about the French Revolution.

Teaser Tuesday - Pimpernelles 1: The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

It seemed very quiet suddenly, the crackling of the fire, the music and voices, too far away to fill Madame de Stael's vast boudoir.

Then he spoke again, more quietly. "The truth is, you cannot go home. We have no home anymore."

Monday, 3 January 2011

Top 10 Current YA Series

I started writing a post about books I was looking forward to this year then realised the majority of them were the next instalment of various series, so changed it slightly to become my 10 favourite current series – plus five honourable mentions. Click on links, where present, to take you to my reviews, either here or on the Bookbag. I hope you enjoy reading it and would love feedback – what’s YOUR favourite YA series currently being written?

1. Caster Chronicles (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness) – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

I fell in love with Gatlin, the setting for these amazing books, and with narrator Ethan from the moment I opened Beautiful Creatures. Ethan was briefly my favourite male character in all of paranormal YA fantasy – and then Link came into the book and took his place. Link is the most awesome sidekick in the history of the universe. He’s breathtakingly loyal to the point of complete insanity, won’t give up on Ethan and Lena when everyone else in school hates them, and has some interesting romance in his own life. Tearing myself away from Link for a second, the books in general are both amazing – the first is ultra-romantic while the second is more of a hero’s journey type book – the background of the Caster world is developed brilliantly and I love Garcia and Stohl’s writing style. The as yet unnamed book 3 will have me dropping everything to read it.

2. The Ashbury/Brookfied Series (Feeling Sorry For Celia, Finding Cassie Crazy, Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, Dreaming of Amelia) – Jaclyn Moriarty

I’m breaking, or at least bending, two rules here. Firstly, it’s not really a series as such, more a set of stand-alone novels set in the same two schools with some characters recurring – but that’s close enough. Secondly, I’m not 100% sure it’s a current series – no details that I can find about the next book. However, I’m ignoring them, because gosh darn it, these books are AWESOME! Apart from Becoming Bindy Mackenzie which for some reason I’m not that keen on. But Feeling Sorry For Celia is funny, Finding Cassie Crazy is amazing, and Dreaming of Amelia was my “OMG this is teh book of the year” pick for 2010 until the last few days when it got beaten out as I read The Sky Is Everywhere. They’re told in a variety of ways, including letters, exam questions, and extracts from notebooks and journals and are just basically hilarious as well as being brilliantly plotted. Please say there’s a number 5 coming, JM!

3. Gone (Gone, Hunger, Lies) – Michael Grant

Somehow I’d never read these until I picked up the first book in a 3 for 2 offer last week. Halfway through that book I ordered Hunger. When it didn’t turn up the next day (Grr! At Amazon Prime) I got Hunger AND Lies on my Kindle (yay for Amazon Kindle!) and read them in a bit over a day. I don’t normally read sci-fi but this series has got me completely hooked – multi-layered characters, intriguing society rebuilding, and lots of action. Amazing stuff.

4. Gallagher Girls (I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have To Kill You, Cross My Heart and Hope To Spy, Don’t Judge A Girl By Her Cover, Only The Good Spy Young) - Ally Carter

Okay, I officially suck at keeping up with series. I picked up Gallagher Girls 1 back in September, read it and loved it, meant to get book Cross My Heart... and somehow didn’t because I got insanely busy and didn’t have time to read much and then forgot about it and next time I look there’s a fifth being written? Argh, gotta catch up – I love the first one so much! Really imaginative spy/school story, the way Ally drops in little bits to root the Gallagher Academy in history (Amelia Earhart was a pupil, naturally) is great, and there’s a sweet romance in book 1.

5. The Hollow (The Hollow, The Haunted) – Jessica Verday

It’s kind of insane to put something this high up without having actually read the first book in the trilogy but I loved the sound of The Haunted so much that I pounced on it to review it for the Bookbag and it was unbelievably amazing. Love love love the romance here and the setting in Sleepy Hollow is amazing, and Verday is fantastic at describing her settings and the perfumes Abbey creates. Great atmosphere, as well – Sleepy Hollow is probably behind only Gatlin as my favourite setting for a series. Definitely need to read The Hollow and can’t wait for book 3.

6. The Dark Elite (Firespell) – Chloe Neill

I can’t wait for Hexbound which is about to be released! Firespell was mainly scene-setting for the series but I still absolutely loved it because Neill’s dialogue is, as I’ve said on here several times already, phenomenal. Snappy and realistic, it’s like Gossip Girl meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Looking forward to Hexbound a LOT.

7. Fallen (Fallen, Torment) – Lauren Kate

Hugely ambitious fallen angel fantasy which features a ton of compelling characters. I was amazed that many of the major characters from Fallen had fairly minor roles in Torment but the new ones in that book are also fantastic so it clearly worked. Loving this one.

8. Soul Screamers (My Soul To Take, My Soul To Save, My Soul To Keep) – Rachel Vincent

Again, I came to this one stupidly late, recently reviewing My Soul To Take for the Bookbag. Fun fun fun, a great new addition to paranormal YA fiction, and I love the mythology Vincent has built up.

9. Fins (Forgive My Fins) - Tera Lynn Childs

Mermaid rock! Or at least Tera’s do. Ultra-cute romance in Forgive My Fins with a really sweet couple – although the third person in the love triangle is in the way and needs to MOVE! Second one sounds intriguing.

10. The Dark Divine (The Dark Divine) – Bree Despain

Werewolves are awesome, but the main thing I love about Despain’s writing is the religious parts – despite not being religious myself, it’s wonderful to see a Christian family portrayed realistically rather than either as saints or hypocrites.

Honourable mentions (in alphabetical order by surname of author.)

Hourglass Institute (Tomorrow’s Guardian) – Richard Denning – fun time travel.

Spiritwalker (Cold Magic) – Kate Elliott – Epic icepunk, more adult than YA but still recommended.

Striker (Sudden Death) – Nick Hale – Football + spies = great result for an appealing action series for younger teens.

Mortlock (Mortlock) – Jon Mayhew – Atmospheric Victorian fantasy.

Monstrumologist (The Terror Beneath, Curse of the Wendigo) – Rick Yancey – gruesome but awesome tales of a 19th century monster hunter and his young apprentice.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Review: Wish - Alexandra Bullen

Olivia and her parents have moved to San Francisco seeking a fresh start after the death of her twin sister Violet. With the family falling apart due to their grief, Olivia is in no condition to get on with her life – until she gets a magic dress that grants a wish, and she’s able to bring her sister back as a ghost. With Violet’s help, can she settle in properly and gain the cute guy she wants?

This was simultaneously lighter and more moving than I was expecting. I thought that Violet was a really great character and also was delighted to see a group of rich kids who WEREN’T vile and nasty, especially Calla, Olivia’s rival for skater boy Soren’s affections, who started out seeming like she’d be a typical snobbish girl from one of these books but was actually really likeable and sweet. It’s well written and actually had a plot which had some genuine surprises in it – I realised halfway through the book that I had no idea how everything would be resolved and thought the ending Alexandra Bullen came up with was extremely touching and sweet, especially since Olivia had to decide to try and work some things out WITHOUT using the extra wishes she was given.

It’s not perfect – Olivia is a rather bland main character, although that’s obviously intentional to play up the contrast with her sister and it’s good to see the way Violet manages to encourage her to be more outgoing and to take more risks. Also, the rules of Violet’s ghostliness seem rather hit and miss – at one point she passes through objects and is unable to touch them, but at another she picks up Olivia’s car keys and presses them into her hand. Overall, though, this is an impressive debut and it’s sensationally good for a freebie. (Non-Kindle users can, I THINK, still download it for PC if they install Kindle for PC first – worth doing.)

Recommended to fans of Tera Lynn Childs, Rachel Hawkins and similar authors.

The sequel, Wishful Thinking, is out now, I believe.

You can get the Kindle edition of Wish FREE here if you're in the UK or here if you're in the US. - Sorry, offer has now ended!

YA Oscar Winner - Best Dialogue - Firespell by Chloe Neill

My favourite dialogue of the year came from Firespell, by Chloe Neill, where the teens sounded perfect throughout the book. My full review, reposted below, was first published on (and was provided to me via The Bookbag by the publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Lily Parker is sent to boarding school in Chicago when her parents get the opportunity to do some prestigious research work in Germany. She was expecting bitchy classmates, and she gets them – but she wasn’t prepared for her suitemate, Scout, who stays out late at night and reappears covered in bruises, a school full of secret hiding places, a principal who knows her parents and seems to have an entirely wrong idea about their work – or a mysterious group of supernatural teens called the Dark Elite.

This book is pretty much setting the scene for the series, as Scout fairly quickly ends up having to reveal the existence of the Elite to Lily, and the new girl gets dragged into a battle against the mysterious Reapers, who try to steal energy from depressed teens. This is the kind of supernatural teen fiction which has been done many, many times recently, and it’s certainly showing the influence of forerunners such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The biggest inspiration, though, seems to be the Gossip Girl series, namechecked several times in this novel, and the snappy, sarcasm-laden dialogue is very reminiscent of that series.

It’s that dialogue which had me glued to this book – I thought that after a quick start, the action slowed down a fair bit as the Elite revealed things to Lily, and the book worked superbly as the start to a series but maybe not quite so satisfyingly as a story in its own right. But with speech like this and some brilliant characters, Chloe Neill could have ditched the plot completely and still had me smiling right the way through. Lily and Scout are a fantastic central pairing of cool, wisecracking heroines, their friend Lesley and the catty ‘brat pack’ have some great lines and far better developed characters than the typical supporting cast in a book of this genre, and principal Marceline Foley is an intriguing authority figure. It’s also refreshing to have a supernatural series which doesn’t have as much obvious romance as the likes of Twilight and Fallen, as much as I love both of those books. There’s the obligatory hot boys – and there’s clearly some drama to come between one of them and Lily – but the love action is definitely taking a backseat to the dramatic battle between good and evil here.

I had this on four and a half stars because I think there could have been a bit more story and a bit less scene-setting – but flicking back and reading some more of the fantastic ripostes between the teens, I can’t resist boosting it to the full five. A great start to what will hopefully be a brilliant series, highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

YA Oscars 2010

This is inspired by a similar post I read yesterday on a blog but I can’t remember which one it was because I read tons and didn’t bookmark it… if anyone wants to suggest what it might have been, leave a link so that I can give proper credit!

I’m limiting it to one award per novel, so as spread some credit between the massive number of awesome books out there.

Most of these books were originally reviewed for The Bookbag and links have been given to my reviews there – just click on the title.

Best Female Character in a Leading Role: Wynter Moorehawke (The Rebel Prince, by Celine Kiernan) – I love Wynter because she’s an incredibly strong woman in a realistic relationship and who, throughout the amazing Moorehawke trilogy, has developed into a brilliant character.

Best Male Character in a Leading Role: Sam (The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan) – Sam is an absolutely wonderful main character because he’s strong, resourceful, and brave despite being scared half to death for most of the novel.

Best Female Character in a Supporting Role: Layla Campbell (Koh Tabu by Ann Kelley) – Stranded on an island looking after a group of girls and knowing their parents may be dead and there might not be anyone coming to rescue them, glamorous Mrs Campbell completely falls apart. A stunning portrayal through the eyes of narrator Bonnie, who’d previously admired the older woman but is left to cope with her breakdown.

Best Male Character in a Supporting Role: Link (Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl) – Link is AMAZING. Caught up in stuff which is way over his head but too loyal to even think about doing anything other than supporting Ethan, whatever it takes. I love the chemistry between him and Ridley, as well.

Best Novel: The Sky Is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson) – I can’t praise this one enough. Breathtaking, as I keep telling everyone. A gorgeous book from the moment you open it and see the poems main character Lennie writes until you read the last words.

Best Author: Jaclyn Moriarty (Dreaming of Amelia, also published as Ghosts of Ashbury High) – I love JM at her most imaginative, and this is definitely her most imaginative! She shifts from exam answers to journal entries to poetry and remains utterly convincing and driving the plot whenever she’s doing it.

Best Scene: Ty walking into Claire’s room (When I Was Joe by Keren David) – I have to be very careful not to spoil anything here, so I’ll just say that this has made more of an impact on me than any other individual scene I’ve read for years. Hard to read due to the realism but incredibly well written.

Best Non-Fiction: The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare (Doug Stewart) - In turns thrilling, funny and surprisingly tender account of a forger in the 18th century.

Best Dialogue: Firespell: The Dark Elite (Chloe Neill) - Yeah, there happens to be a pretty great plot, but the way Neill writes dialogue she could have had her characters sit around discussing the weather for 300 pages and I’d still have been hooked.

Best Action: Sudden Death (Nick Hale) – What I was expecting to be a mixture of football and spy-stuff was actually a completely thrilling and engaging action story as footballer Steve Bastin’s son Jake is plunged into a vicious world where no-one, even his father, can be trusted, and the bodies keep piling up.

Best Historical Fiction: The Fool’s Girl (Celia Rees) – Rees plunges us back in time to Shakespeare’s world and produces a fantastic, exciting story which is both a sequel to Twelfth Night and the tale of how the original was written.

Craziest: Infinity (Sherrilyn Kenyon) – I had several criticisms of Infinity but had to balance them out by saying it was REALLY good fun, if completely insane. Reads as if it’s a video game written down.

Anyone agree/disagree/want to suggest categories I've left out? Would love to hear from you!

Retro Review: The Great Gatsby

A rare non-YA book for me to feature here, but Gatsby is so fantastic that it's worth recommending to all.

''No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.''

The above sentence is probably my favourite sentence in all of literature, although this book’s final sentence pushes it close. Gatsby, for readers who haven’t had the pleasure of encountering this classic novel before, is a story told by Nick Carraway, a young bachelor learning the bond business in New York City in 1922. But it’s not Nick’s story – it’s the story of Jay Gatsby, the mysterious young man who throws famously lavish parties, and of Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan, who Gatsby loved and thought he’d lost. As Nick observes helplessly, the title character obsessively pursues the girl despite her marriage to the obnoxious Tom, and events reach a tragic conclusion.

While I can read books properly first time around, I have a habit of skim-reading books when reading them for the 2nd or 3rd time, focusing on my favourite passages and skipping bits here and there. Gatsby is one of the very few exceptions to this. Despite having read it perhaps 8 or 9 times now, every time I pick it up I’m drawn so completely back into the world of the Jazz Age that I read it word for word. Oh, it helps that it’s incredibly short for its classic status – weighing in at somewhat under 200 pages, depending on your edition – but I honestly don’t think there’s a word out of place in the book. Gatsby is a beguiling main figure, Nick a perfect narrator – staunch and loyal, and unable to fully understand the passionate love Gatsby bears for Daisy – and Tom is a vile buffoon who provides a perfect villain. Fitzgerald’s descriptions have a way of transporting you fully into the place he’s writing about, whether it’s a massive party hosted by Gatsby or a well-fanned Forty-second Street cellar, and the quality of his writing is perfect.

If I could recommend just one classic book to readers young and old, in the hope they would fall in love with it, it would be this one every time. Highest possible recommendation to all.

Note: While I haven't been too keen on either of the adaptations I've seen of it previously, I live in hope that Baz Luhrmann's version, set to star Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, can actually go some way to doing it justice.