Saturday, 30 April 2011

Saturday Sample: Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar

Again, my new feature where I post the opening few lines of one of my favourite books. I'd love it if you want to join in, do the same on your blog, and leave me a comment here with a link!


Ever wondered what the lives of the chosen ones are really like? Well, I'm going to tell you, because I'm one of them. I'm not talking about beautiful models or actors or musical prodigies or mathematical geniuses. I'm talking about the people who are born to it - those of us who have everything anyone could possibly wish for and who take it all completely for granted...

Our shit still stinks, but you can't smell it because the bathroom is sprayed hourly by the maid with a refreshing scent made exclusively for us by French perfumers.

It's a luxe life, but someone's got to live it.

Why I love it:

I have a weakness for trashy stuff done well and the first few novels in the Gossip Girl series are very trashy but very very well done. You can almost certainly judge from the above few sentences whether you'll like this or absolutely hate it - the sarcastic narrative style makes it a huge winner for me. Warning, language may offend parents as you can see from the extract!

I still have yet to forgive the producers of the TV series for slaughtering the books though!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Friday Feature: Interview with Peter Gill

I was lucky enough to score an interview with Peter Gill, author of the fabulous and jam-packed with facts 42 - see my review here.

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

Neurones, mostly neurones. Different as we think we all are, millions of people’s brains around the world possess a customised set of nerve cells attuned to go: 'Would you look at that! There's that number 42 again'. It’s just brilliant. Life uses up 3.7 billion years carelessly selecting for evolutionary advantage and as a direct result we get the celebrity integer. Almost as if someone was having a joke.

What gave you the idea for 42? (I'm assuming the Hitchhiker's Guide featured quite heavily when you thought of it, obviously - but was there a particular moment which made you think that you wanted to write a whole book?)

The idea went ping while I was reading Harry Potter. Like all right-thinking people I saw that Rowling had chosen page 42 to let the lad in on the news he’s actually a wizard. This was obviously highly significant and a book was needed. Suddenly, ten years later, I got started. As Mr Simpson said: ‘If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing tomorrow’.

You have possibly the best Twitter name in existence with 42nd_Tweet - how important do you think it is for an author today to reach out to their fans via Twitter, or similar sites?

Thank you for the kind compliment but CAPSLOCK_HOLMES has to be one amongst many more inspirational handles. It is an extremely interesting question though — stats out this week show readers increasingly loving Kindle ebooks (other Kindles are available) being sold at one pound or dollar. Or free. At these prices there tends not to be enough the money returned (barring runaway best-sellers) to pay for the professional input and promotional spends that have in the past brought new authors to the attention of readers. Catch-22*. Will the new great authors only break through by virtue of also being the new great self-publicists? Very unlikely and almost certainly highly undesirable. It’s just such a shame that Douglas Adams isn’t here to explain over a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster or six the details of how the new world of Gutenberg II is going to shape up.

What's your favourite of the Douglas Adams TV, film and radio adaptations out there?

Absolutely the radio: first, second and third. The 25 year old Douglas Adams wrote The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy to be heard. If in parallel universe 42 Douglas Adams has written the novel before the radio script I can’t believe it is so fantastically, differently, creative and it won’t have gained such a presence in their consciousness.

What's your very favourite 42 related piece of trivia?

I don’t have a favourite 42 but I remember very well discovering a non-trivial incidence that allowed the inclusion of a fascinating piece of American history. I’d been working on a piece about the ‘Roswell Triangle’, this being a fictitional area of dry land I was intent on comparing for entertainment purposes with the Bermuda Triangle. I was more than surprised to stumble across the fact that the biggest disaster in American nautical history (more deaths than the Titanic) had actually taken place in my Roswell Triangle. The paddlesteamer Sultana had exploded on the Mississippi at the end of the Civil War. There was no link with 42 but I just wanted to learn more about the story so I got sent, from the US, the only book written about the Sultana. The author described how she was seriously overloaded with returning troops when a botched boiler repair had failed soon after leaving Memphis late at night. The explosion caused a fire that quickly burned the superstructure down to the watermark, forcing men into the cold spring meltwaters. 1800 people drowned in the darkness. The Sultana had just passed Sunken Island 42.

How long did it take you to write 42, and how difficult was it to find a publisher?

I was lucky, I wrote on spec, enclosing a few pages of worked ideas, to one publisher and two days later was chuffed to receive an affirmative email from the genial Simon Petherick at Beautiful Books. Then I had five months.

Do you read to relax and if so, what do you enjoy reading? Have books played a big part in your life?

I’ve always read and read although I’ve always wished I did so faster. When quite young I remember my universe being bounded by the paltry two library tickets a week we were permitted back then. I’ve read very many individual good books but some of the authors whose writing consistently speaks to me (remembering of course that often a favourite meat turns to poison elsewhere) are — in travel writing: Raban and Twain, in autobiography: Feynmann and Leigh Fermor, in science: McPhee, in humour: Wodehouse, Twain and Waugh the Elder. I could list many more.

If you were asked to write a seventh book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy, would you give it a go? If not, are there any authors out there you think could tackle the job? (I've skipped Eoin Colfer's sixth personally but heard mixed reviews...)

I think very much not. Arguably the only defining characteristic of all the greats is their originality and Beethoven’s 10th Symphony will never exist — no matter how many white-hot composers were invited to assemble some notes in the style of Ludwig van B, and so I can only admire Eoin Colfer’s courage.

If you had one wish, what would it be?

To be able to pass it on to the person who needed it most.

What's next for Peter Gill?

I’ll be writing more books: some humorous non-fiction like 42, and at least one serious non-fiction title. I’ll start tomorrow.

Retro Review: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome

Engaging from the very first page as narrator Jerome tells us of his shocking realisation that he has every disease ever discovered except for housemaid’s knee…

‘’I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight. Why hadn’t I got housemaid’s knee? Why this invidious reservation? After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less selfish, and determined to do without housemaid’s knee.’’

… this is a truly fantastic book. Darting here and there from his main objective of telling us about a journey he, Harris, George and his dog Montmorency took up the Thames, JKJ informs us of the river’s history, of his friends’ problems with sea trips, old men trying to show him tombs… all of it is hilarious. One of the most surprising things about the book is how fresh it seems more than a century after publication. The language used is extremely accessible to today’s readers (apart from a few of Jerome’s more lyrical passages, which I have a soft spot for anyway although I know many people think they’re the weakest part of the book) and the situations the trio find themselves in will be immediately recognisable to anyone who’s struggled with confusing railway station layouts, practical jokers at parties, and people who have a rather over-inflated sense of their own singing talent, amongst others.

(By the way, to those of you worried about Jerome’s disease collection, a doctor found him to be something of a hypochondriac, giving him the following prescription:

‘’1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.
1 ten-mile walk every morning.
1 bed at 11 sharp every night.
And don’t stuff up your head with things you don’t understand.’’

Huge recommendation to all.

Wonderfully, it's available free at Project Gutenberg here.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Hollow by Jessica Verday

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 really had been a lifetime ago. Hers."

Taken from The Hollow by Jessica Verday.

Amazon Description

Growing up in the town of Sleepy Hollow, the mystery and intrigue over Washington Irving's classic legend are all part of daily life for sixteen-year-old Abbey. But when her best friend, Kristen, vanishes at the bridge near Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Abbey's world is suddenly turned upside down. While everyone is all too quick to accept that Kristen is dead, Abbey refuses to believe that she is really gone. And when Abbey meets the gorgeous, but mysterious, Caspian at Kristen's memorial she starts to feel like she has something to hold on to for the first time since Kristen's disappearance. But when Abbey finds a diary hidden in Kristen's bedroom, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her best friend. How could Kristen have kept silent about so much? And could this secret have led to her disappearance or even her death? Hurt and angry at Kristen's betrayal, Abbey turns to Caspian for support...and uncovers a frightening truth about him that threatens both their emerging love and her sanity...

I've actually read book 2 of this already, breaking one of my cardinal rules of reading and going out of order because I wanted to review it so desperately. Review of that one is here - am halfway through this, which is just as brilliant!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Monday Musings: Review of Don't Ask by Hilary Freeman

Lily thinks of herself as being about a 6 out of 10 on the scale of ‘’hideous gargoyle to Brad Pitt’’ and she knows her boyfriend Jack is an 8. So why would he want to be with her? Despite him seeming to be the perfect boy she’s convinced there’s something in his past and only gets more suspicious when he keeps clamming up about it. So when she finds his ex-girlfriend on a social networking site it seems like a great idea to create a fake profile and make friends with her. Is it worth telling this many lies just to find the truth?

Oh, wow. Words cannot begin to express how gripping this was. It’s clear from almost the opening page that things went wrong for Lily, as she wearily states in her narration ‘’I’ll make no excuses for what I’ve done, except to state that I simply couldn’t help myself’’. Finding out exactly how her friendship with Alex developed and what the consequences of a snap decision to make friends with her was incredible, though, with a couple of really unexpected twists.

I thought that the ‘friendship’ between Lily and Alex, the relationship between her and Jack, and the way she started to drift apart from former best friend Katie were all handled brilliantly and realistically. I also found Lily herself to be a fascinating central character – she’s clearly done something which is completely dishonest, but it’s easy to see just how she gets swept along. Additionally, her voice was developed really well and I felt totally drawn into her character despite not necessarily liking her.

In addition to the superb characterisation and the gripping plot Freeman does a fantastic job of showing teens just how easy it is for someone on a social networking site to pretend to be someone else – a worthy point which never feels like she’s preaching to the reader, but which may make a few kids think twice before accepting strangers on these things.

Massive recommendation here as one of my favourite teen books of the year so far.

Sunday Summary: 24th April

Time for another Sunday summary, with the FIVE best things I’ve found on the web this week!

There's a fantastic review here of How Green Was My Valley, the Welsh classic which is one of my favourite ever novels. Great work from Angiegirl!

In a shocking change from my normal 'link to something Kody Keplinger's written' tactic, I'm linking to a guest post the fantastic Steph Su made on Kody's blog. Examining what she's learnt about feminism and femininity from YA fiction, she provides some thought-provoking points. Not sure I agree with all of them, particularly the one about boyish names, but well worth taking a look at.

Over at the Pewter Wolf, a fantastic guest post by Colin Mulhern, author of the amazing sounding Clash, on discovering YA fiction. Plus, a giveaway of Clash open only to UK entrants! (Be quick; closing date's tomorrow!)

Great post by Lale here on comfort reading, what makes a good comfort book, and her own favourites. Mine personally would be Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher, anything by Cathy Hopkins, and the Abbey Girls series by Elsie J Oxenham.

I'm reading, and really enjoying, Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby on my iPod via the Kindle app at the moment so loved the interview with her at I Eat Words.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Sunday Supplement: Review of Notes From The Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell

Gem, only child of arty mother Bev and an absent haiku-obsessed father always found fitting in difficult until the mysterious Lo turned up at school. The trio of her, Lo and Mira have been inseparable for a while now but as they plan their summer project – an Andy Warhol inspired underground film – she starts to feel pushed out by the other two. Can she deal with exams, romance co-worker Dodgy, save her friendship with Mira and Lo and cope with her father’s reappearance?

Huge commendation to Simmone Howell for managing to portray some of the best adult characters I’ve seen in ages in a teen novel – Gem’s mother Bev, her godmother Sharon, who’s also the school counselor, and her reappearing father are all brilliantly depicted, as is the way Gem’s relationships with them change over the course of the book. For a film buff like myself, there’s also some fantastic stuff about non-mainstream films which has given me a good few recommendations to check out. The ending was also really well done, with the final scenes so well portrayed I could visualise them (in grainy black and white filmed with an ‘arty’ style!)

There were other parts of the book which I felt were something of a letdown – Gem’s two friends Mira and Lo were fairly two-dimensional, seeming to just be obsessed with being cooler than everyone around them, and because of this I never felt particularly bothered about whether their friendship would recover or not. Gem herself is something of an acquired taste; originally I found her fairly unsympathetic but as we get to know her better and see her change I grew to really like her.

Despite being set in Australia, the attitudes and interests of the teens will be just as familiar to American and British young adults and Howell does a great job of making it clear the book is set Down Under with her dialogue without it ever getting too obscure for those of us whose experience of the country is generally limited to watching Neighbours to follow. I think that a lot of indie film fans will absolutely adore this one and it’s worth at least a look for most readers. It definitely has me interested in checking out her next novel, Everything Beautiful.

Saturday Sample: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Again, my new feature where I post the opening few lines of one of my favourite books. I'd love it if you want to join in, do the same on your blog, and leave me a comment here with a link!


I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best suit in the little blue cloth my mother used to tie round her hair when she did the house, and I am going from the Valley.

Why I love it:

Llewellyn is wonderfully, breathtakingly, gorgeously lyrical in his writing and this is a virtuoso coming of age story. Full of excitement, romance, tragedy, and always capturing the Welsh mining community in the Victorian era perfectly, this is one of my very favourite books of all time.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Folk Music Friday: 10 songs from rising stars

I'm throwing in an off-topic post for the first time - please skip if you have no interest in folk music! It's not going to be a regular thing or anything...

Ten songs from ten of my favourite newish acts - which I've taken to mean 2 albums or less, with one exception at the end. No order.

Susannah - Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts - My favourite act on a folk scene that's crowded with talent, Kat and Jamie are a stunning duo who play fantastically well (particularly Jamie's amazing percussive guitar playing) and sing beautifully. Hancock Award winning Fleetwood Fair is a superb song as well but this retelling of the classic "Oh Susanna" is my favourite of theirs.

Oceana's Lullaby - Niamh Boadle - Self-penned song by the amazing Niamh, who is fantastic both when performing by herself and when acting as lead singer/step dancer/multi-instrumentalist/chief peacemaker of the outstanding Tri, keeping the equally talented Ciaran Algar and Neal Pointon from tearing each other apart. I find Niamh consistently excellent but this just about gets the nod as my favourite because I love the chorus.

Fairy Boy - Lucy Ward - Derby's Lucy Ward is a strong contender for the most charismatic performer around today, and has a simply spine-tingling voice. Her acapella version of this tale is simply breathtaking.

Lowlands Away - Maz O'Connor - One of my favourite traditional songs and Maz has a beautiful voice. Having seen her live she's wonderful.

Caledonia - Ruth Notman - The only person on my list I haven't seen live - she doesn't play that often - I have both of Notman's albums and they're amazing. This is my favourite, a cover of the Dougie MacLean ballad, but they're all great.

Cousin Jack - Barlow Cree - The Show of Hands song is one of my very favourite folk numbers; Open Mic winners at last year's Shrewsbury Folk Festival Barlow Cree blew me away when they performed it. I love these guys - both fantastically talented.

Ploughboy's Dream - Hannah James and Sam Sweeney - A hugely dubious inclusion; they only have one album out as a duo but played together previously for nearly a decade as half of Kerfuffle. Still, my list, and I like them too much to leave out. Hannah has a very sweet voice and is great on the accordion and Sam's violin playing on the track is fantastic.

Lily of Barbary - 4Square - Pete Scrowther's song of a boy taken by pirates who grows up to become a successful merchant is outstanding lyrically, and the energy-packed young quartet 4Square are one of the best live acts on the folk scene. Stunning cover.

Wild Mountain Thyme - OK Brandy - This is a childhood favourite of mine and their performance of it (again at Shrewsbury Folk Festival last year!) was amazing. Another talented young bunch.

Past Caring - Jackie Oates - Breaking my rule here as Jackie's got three albums out but she's too fantastic not to mention. For a long time Lavender's Blue from her first album was my favourite of hers, but this one from the 2010 album Hyperboreans is even better - sad, mournful, totally beautiful, and she plays the shruti box superbly.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Friday Five: Boys' Own Classics

As much as I love current YA fiction, growing up in the 80's I read a lot more 'classic' children's tales than contemporary authors. The below five were my very favourite Boys Own authors - let me know if you've ever read any, and what you thought!

Note: I would ALWAYS recommend starting from the first book in each series but have provided my favourite for each one just out of interest.

5. Adventure Series by Willard Price - 19 year old Hal Hunt and his 13 year old brother Roger take a year out from education to collect rare animals for their father. While re-reading these hasn't done them any favours - there are some incredible scenes, including one in Cannibal Adventure when Hal's allies slaughter a rival tribe with Hal barely seeming to care - they were a good read growing up and still have superb descriptions of unusual wildlife.

First book: Amazon Adventure

Favourite book: Underwater Adventure, if only for the ridiculousness of the plot. (Villain SK Inkham is hired by the captain of the ship the boys are travelling on, reveals himself to be a villain early on, threatens to kill them all, and they STILL don't think it would be a good idea to lock him up or anything like that...)

4. The Three Investigators by Robert Arthur - My favourite child detective stories, the trio of the plump former child star Jupiter Jones and his right-hand men Pete and Bob were great heroes, and the junkyard that Jupe's uncle and aunt owned provided a memorable setting for their detective agency, with plenty of hidden ways to get into their offices. The plots are always intriguing and the action is genuinely tense and exciting compared to many similar series. Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in the earlier stories are good fun as well.

First book: The Secret of Terror Castle

Favourite book: The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot
- The boys try to track down a message from a dead man which has been split into seven parts and given to seven parrots.

3. Billy Bunter by Frank Richards - Incredibly - and probably due to some of the language used by Bunter himself at times, which has been described as "not suitable for a family newspaper" the Bunter novels are now out of print. A sad fate for fantastic boarding school comedy featuring heroes - Remove From Captain Harry Wharton, the perceptive Nabob Hurree Jamset Ram Singh and the rest of their famous five, villains - any number of bullies including prefect Loder and American wannabe entrepeneur Fisher T Fish, and of course, the obese, grasping, forever 'waiting for a postal order' Bunter himself.

First book: Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School

Favourite book: Billy Bunter in Brazil
- Bunter manages to talk himself into an invite to Lord Mauleverer's plantation in Brazil. When Bunter, the schoolboy earl, and Wharton and co. reach the plantation they find Mauleverer's cousin Brian has disappeared leaving only a brief message - but eventually track him down despite run-ins with a bandit. Hugely exciting and very funny.

2. William by Richmal Crompton - Still brilliant nearly 90 years after the first book was published, the perpetual 11 year old who gets into huge amounts of trouble, usually with the best of intentions, is an absolutely superb central character. The other inhabitants of his village are wonderfully portrayed, especially self-made sauce millionaires the Botts and their spoilt daughter Violet Elizabeth, perpetually chasing William and threatening to ''thcream and thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick'', and despite the constant age of the characters the books take in changes in the village and the world as they progress, with the war years being particular favourites of mine.

First book: Just William

Favourite book: William Does His Bit
- perhaps the best of the many wonderful collections, with William The Fire Man - featuring William and his friends the Outlaws setting up their own fire squad in the war years - being particularly brilliantly plotted.

The second book More William is available FREE in the UK on Kindle here and is definitely worth checking out if you haven't come across Crompton before.

1. Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge - Fossilised Fish-hooks, it couldn't be anything else! The stories of the bold, fearless, and always well-meaning JCT Jennings, his mild mannered best friend CEJ Darbishire, and masters such as the benevolent Mr Carter and the rather testier Old Wilkie, whose heart of gold was kept very well hidden for the most part, have enchanted me since I was tiny and my father first read them to me. Despite the language being dated, the 25 books are all wonderful - a brilliant portrayal of boarding school life full of hilarious plots and fantastic characters.

First book: Jennings Goes To School

Favourite book: Jennings at Large
- Despite being the only book NOT set at Linbury, for the most part, I have a real soft spot for this one as a holiday camping expedition is followed by Jennings visiting his absent-minded Aunt Angela - a wonderful recurring character, meets a girl called Emma Sparrow, and becoming enlisted into the fight to save an animal sanctuary.

Review: Firebrand by Gillian Philip

Note: Gillian Philip was kind enough to provide me with a copy of Firebrand in exchange for a fair and honest review - many thanks Gillian!)

Seth MacGregor is a Sithe. For the uninitiated amongst you, that means a fairy - but if you've avoided tales of the Fair Folk over the past decade, fairies these days tend to not be your standard pink Tinkerbell clones. Seth and his brother Conal are about as far from the old stereotype as could be possible, shown in a tremendous opening scene in which Seth prepares to shoot his older brother and a girl to kill them mercifully before they're hanged for being witches.

That scene takes place in our world, but we're quickly taken back to Seth's childhood to see how he got to this stage... and what a tale it is. Full of political intrigue, a wonderful blossoming of the brotherly love between Conal and Seth, and brutal 'justice' being meted out, Gillian Philip does a fantastic job of showing us how Seth grows up and becomes the 'half-feral' narrator of this story.

I really enjoyed the setting of the world beyond the Veil but Philip is equally as talented when it comes to recreating the full-mortal world of Scotland in the 16th century with religious fervour whipped up to a frenzy. The best world-building, however, would still bore me completely without some fine characters and a great plot but Philip definitely doesn’t disappoint on that score either – Seth himself, his brother, and the queen who exiles them, Kate NicNiven, are really well-developed characters but there are a host of others who are beautifully portrayed even if they’re only around for a handful of pages. My personal favourites, Ma Sinclair, an old lady who claims to have a bit of the Sithe blood in her, and Malcolm MacKinnon, the voice of reason as a priest incites a crowd against Conal and Seth, both come from the part of the story when they’re in exile, but it’s the kind of book where everyone will fall in love with Seth and at least one other character. (I defy anyone NOT to develop a crush on Seth, despite him being aggressive, full of fury, and capable of incredible violence – he’s a truly brilliant central character.)

I appreciate I've said virtually nothing about the plot here but really, this is one where you'll thank me for letting you find out what happens for yourself - just prepare for bloodshed, tears, cheers and heartbreak.

An excellent start to what should be a superb series, I can’t wait for the next book in the Rebel Angels trilogy, Bloodstone, as Seth’s story continues…

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Faking Faith by Josie Bloss

"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:

After a humiliating "sexting" incident involving a hot and popular senior, seventeen-yearold Dylan has become a social outcast—harassed, ignored, and estranged from her two best friends.

When Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's fascinated by their old-fashioned conversation themes, like practicing submission to one's future husband. Blogging as Faith, her devout alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the group's queen bee. But growing closer to Abigail (and her intriguing older brother) forces Dylan to choose: keep living a lie or come clean and face the consequences.

Why I can't wait to read it:

After loving Hilary Freeman's Don't Ask, I'm getting really interested in books featuring characters pretending to be something they're not over the internet. The addition of religion into the mix makes this look unique and fun - I just wish it was out before November!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Dynamic Duos

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND fill out Mr. Linky.
If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind is a chance for you to go back through the archives and chose a past TTT that you want to do, or maybe even redo! The best part is that the linky is going to be like a grab bag! You won’t know what it is until you get there!

Top 10 Dynamic Duos

My favourite pairings in books. Romantic, heroic, friendly… you name it, I think I got it in there. No order other than as they came to me.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle (and continued by many others) – The Holmes and Watson dynamic is just awesome. I have a real soft spot for Nigel Bruce’s performance as the doctor in the film series, despite him dumbing down Watson to the level of a sweet old duffer, but the books are far superior because they show them as a pair of partners who help each other to achieve success that neither of them could have managed on their own – as good a detective as Holmes is, having Watson to back him up is integral to a lot of the better stories because he can rely on him utterly.

Link and Ridley in the Caster Chronicles (Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – I love the main pairing of Ethan and Lena, but Ethan’s best friend Link is one of my favourite ever supporting characters and Lena’s cousin Ridley is just awesome. I’ll avoid going into details about them so’s not to spoil the books for those of you yet to read them (seriously?! Come on, go buy them!) but the interaction between them is fantastic

Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald – My favourite tragic love pairing ever.

Romeo and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – My second favourite tragic love pairing ever.

Ty and his love interest from When I Was Joe by Keren David – Outstanding development of the relationship between these two, in one of the most powerful novels of the last few years. Avoiding stating who the love interest is because it’s spoilery.

Hermione Grainger and Ron Weasley from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – Yeah, Harry’s a decent enough hero, but come on, it’s all about the way the relationship between Hermione and Ron develops over the seven books! (Oh, and apparently there’s some villainous guy they need to beat; I was busy paying attention to the angst personally.)

Judith Dunbar and Loveday Carey-Lewis from Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher
– One of my very favourite coming of age novels, while both of these girls have several relationships it’s the beautifully depicted friendship between the pair, who meet as outsiders at a boarding school in the Thirties, which keeps me reading this rather long story over and over again. The TV version – which featured Keira Knightley in an early role as the teenage Judith – is a horrendous adaptation which plays much too fast and loose with the book, but is quite a good TV drama in its own right if you can get past this.

Eleanor of Aquitaine and Geoffrey of Anjou from Devil’s Consort by Anne O’Brien – Eleanor has several lovers during the course of the book and they’re all interesting characters – however I thought the contrast between her first husband, the pious Louis, and the thunderous Geoffrey made the chemistry between her and Geoffrey really sizzle.

Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe from the Dalziel and Pascoe series by Reginald Hill – Again, the TV adaptations don’t do them justice! As much as I like Warren Clarke as Dalziel, the books are far better – some of the most satisfying police procedurals around, mainly due to the way the dynamic between bluff Yorkshireman Dalziel and the sensitive graduate Pascoe develops throughout.

Scout Finch and Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The best portrayal of a father I’ve ever read. I’ve seen descriptions of Atticus which say that he is ‘too perfect’ but they seem to be missing the point – Scout’s telling the story of what she saw through the eyes of a child, she naturally idolized Atticus. As did I, reading the book. A breathtaking novel.

Teaser Tuesdays: Click by Various Authors

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!

Their eyes met and it was like bumper cars. But it was only Min who got knocked off course.

Click, by various authors in aid of Amnesty International, was a superb read and this was my very favourite chapter. Unfortunately it seems to be out of print but is well worth tracking down at a library if you can!

Monday Musings: Review of 42 by Peter Gill

A common question about Douglas Adams’ famous Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is just why Adams chose the number 42 as the answer to life, the universe and everything. In a charming trivia book, author Peter Gill takes 50 pages or so to look into the story of the book and the author and another 250 to find occurrences of 42 in the worlds of sport, crime, science and a wide range of other fields.

Everyone will have their own personal favourite facts and figures from this excellent collection – my vote for the most interesting just about goes to the bit about the alumni of Chicago’s Forty-Two Gang and former leader Sam Giancana’s links to JFK and Fidel Castro. Intrigued? You should be…

There are several points at which Gill plays rather fast and loose with the number – notably when talking about cricket, with the quote ‘’The first law prevents the use of 42 fielders, or less specifically all numbers over eleven.’’ Thanks to a bright and breezy writing style, he gets away with this – if he’d been more ruthless about cutting it down to actual 42’s, we’d have lost out on learning about the Polynesian game of kirikiti so I can forgive him for it. Similarly, 4.2 and the football score 4-2 are considered fair game and when it’s used as an excuse to inform us that Geoff Hurst unveiled a statue in Baku to Tofic Bahkramov, the Azerbaijani – NOT Russian! – linesman who gave the goal in that famous World Cup Final, that’s fine by me. Especially since I’ve managed to get at least three pub quiz questions written from that fact.

While the majority of the book is equally likely to appeal to you whether you’re a fanatical fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide or a total novice, the last 50 pages and the appendix ‘’The 42 explanations’’ can be enjoyed by everyone but are likely to be the part which pushes this into ‘must-read’ territory for fervent fans of Douglas Adams. We have here plenty on the author and the book, most notably the thank you letter he wrote to the author of the book which inspired him, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, which is absolutely fascinating to read, and a list of possible explanations for the choice, my favourite of which I will resist spoiling for you (but it relates to a classic song featured in a Doris Day musical…)

Very high recommendation.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sunday Supplement: Review of HIVE by Mark Walden

Otto Malpense is one of the newest students at the Higher Institute of Villainous Education, better known as HIVE. So is his new friend Wing. As you’d expect, neither of them are keen to stay there – although this is less to do with moral scruples than with the thought of wasting six years studying how to be evil when they consider they’re rather good at it already, thank you very much. A plot to escape is hatched…

HIVE is one of those series I’ve seen in bookshops a lot but never got round to reading before. Having picked this first novel up from the library, I found it fairly enjoyable – I’m not racing to order the follow-up, but it’s readable enough. The good points – Walden writes action scenes and dialogue well, the finale is genuinely exciting, and the book rattles along at a decent pace as the children are exposed to a variety of classes such as Tactical Education, Stealth and Evasion and Biotechnology. I also thought the development of the friendship between Otto and Wing worked well. There’s also a number of laugh out loud lines, my personal favourite being ‘’Friends, as they say, may come and go, but high powered laser-beam weapons were forever.’’

On the less appealing side, the majority of characters are on the two-dimensional side, worst offenders being the two girls Otto and Wing grow friendly with, Laura and Shelby, while the explanation for the school’s existence never seemed particularly convincing – it’s been founded because even supervillains don’t want complete chaos, apparently. The book’s probably one that will appeal to younger readers who are less worried about well-rounded people and just want a decent action adventure. The fact that you get to cheer for ‘villains’ may well be an added pleasure! For what it is, well worth a try and the teaser at the end as to someone's true motivations means that if I see book 2 in the library I’ll probably give that one a go.

Sunday Summary: 17th April

Time for another Sunday summary, with the SIX best things I’ve found on the web this week!

I swear I should just have a Kody Keplinger space in this feature because she ALWAYS writes a piece that's so good I have to include it! This one is a typically excellent look at "slut shaming" and the use of language, especially in high school.

Nicole has some interesting thoughts on reviewing and rating books. Well worth a read!

Great feature article on BUOYR about how blogging has changed the way Nina reads. I'm tempted to avoid linking it because she already has so many more followers than me that I'm jealous, but I think if I do that ARGH may cry. And I couldn't make ARGH cry; he's awesome. So go check it out!

Fantastic interview with Hannah Moskowitz on Electrifying Reviews and the chance to win her book, the amazing looking Invincible Summer. Like Hannah, I love F Scott Fitzgerald and The Year Of Secret Assignments (known in the UK as Finding Cassie Crazy) by Jaclyn Moriarty. Big thanks to Alex for a fantastic interview!

I wouldn't normally put in two interviews but this is also too awesome to miss out on - a great interview with the gang from Splash of our Worlds as part of La Femme Readers' blogger fame meme! I have to admit I'd never read Splash of our Worlds but loved the interview and since reading it have checked out the superb site.

Bargain of the week goes to Errant by Diana Peterfreund, the standalone novelette set in her unicornverse which I originally read in Tricia Telep's Kiss Me Deadly collection. It's just 70p in the UK for Kindle and $1.13 in the US! While I've read and loved a couple of her Secret Society Girl books this was my first introduction into her unicorn stories and I thought it was fantastic - huge recommendation to all.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Saturday Sample: Don't Ask by Hilary Freeman

Again, my new feature where I post the opening few lines of one of my favourite books. I'd love it if you want to join in, do the same on your blog, and leave me a comment here with a link!


Jack was perfect. And that was the problem.

I knew I should have been congratulating myself on being the luckiest girl in the world, on winning the boyfriend lottery, but instead I couldn't help wondering: if Jack was perfect, then what was wrong with him?

You see, I know very well that no one is perfect, least of all me. A perfect girlfriend wouldn't have done what I've done. A perfect girlfriend wouldn't even have thought of it.

Why I love it:

Have just finished this one but it's already one of my very favourite books of the year - narrator Lily, who creates a fake profile on a social networking site to befriend her boyfriend's ex and find out more about him is a fantastic central character and this is an amazing story of friendship, love, and whether knowing the truth is always a good thing. Huge recommendation - full review to follow in a few days.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Review of The Radleys by Matt Haig

Just read this and wanted to get a review up ASAP rather than waiting for Monday Musings. This will inevitably mean I don't have one for Monday, but...

Rowan Radley is a freak who has to wear factor 60 sunblock. Clara is wasting away as she tries to turn vegan. Their parents are a normal suburban couple – aren’t they? When a bully tries to take advantage of Clara in a secluded field, he finds he’s bitten off rather more than he can chew – and she’s bitten off rather more than he can survive without. Who do you call when you need a body to be buried? Abstainers Peter and Helen haven’t had to deal with this sort of thing since they gave up drinking human blood – so in a moment of desperation they turn to Will, Peter’s brother, who’s rather more of a traditional vampire. Things are about to get messy…

Matt Haig’s central concept for this novel – being marketed as a ‘crossover’ to appeal to older teens and adults – is rather fantastic. The humour of the first few chapters as the reader quickly works out what the family are a long time before Haig’s two teenage characters are told is terrific and Will makes a splendidly monstrous vampire in comparison to the more civilised Peter and Helen. There’s also a pair of great coming of age stories here as Clara and Rowan develop once they realise their true nature and the scenes with one or both of the youngsters in are by far the strongest. A memorable bunch of supporting characters including the head of the police force in charge of tracking down vampires and a grieving father round this one out nicely. Oh, and the quotes from the ‘’Abstainer’s Handbook’’ are superb!

That said, I have to just about hold back from giving it the full 5 star recommendation – the ending seemed oddly anticlimactic to me, which soured me a little on the novel. Regardless, for most of its length this is a thrilling ride with some memorable characters and one that I’d be happy to pick up again and reread in the future. Big thumbs up to the pacing, by the way, with short, sharp and punchy chapters right the way through.

I believe Alfonso Cuaron has the rights to the book and is looking at a big-screen adaptation – huge potential on that side as this could really appeal to vampire fans who are fed up of Twilight, with Will really making a stand for more macho blood drinkers everywhere!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Friday Feature: Interview with Leah Clifford

Leah Clifford, author of A Touch Mortal, was recently awesome enough to grant some wishes on Twitter. Happening to be online while she was doing this, I got in with a cheeky interview request which she granted me - I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

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

I see an awesome coffee shop, full of all of us just hanging out and talking books. To me that's the best thing in the world.

In a contest on your website last month you gave away a huge amount of stuff ranging from signed books to jewelery. Then you granted wishes on Twitter (including mine to get this interview - thanks!) You're also currently running an 'Assortment of Awesome' competition which has staggeringly good prizes. Are you the most generous person EVER, or does it just seem that way?

The giveaways and wish granting is just my way of giving back. The support I've been shown even before the book came out has been immeasurable. I've been cheered on, lifted up when I had down moments, given smiles and random tweets and facebook messages when I needed them most. I don't forget that. I try to match you guys awesome for awesome! :)

Speaking of those wishes, what was your favourite wish to grant?

Someone asked for a stuffed snake with quotes from A Touch Mortal on it. It was just so out there random and fun, and the snake in the garden of Eden feel to it had me laughing with Eden being my main character's name. HAD to grant it. Still trying to find a stuffed snake...

And, on the same theme, if you could have one wish granted by any author, what would it be?

This one stumped me. I've been staring at it and thinking for about an hour. I think if I could have one wish granted by an author it'd be to have lunch with Libba Bray. I've seen her in vlogs and interviews and she's just hysterical and I think we'd have fun!

How long did it take you to get A Touch of Mortal published? Did you ever feel it wouldn't happen?

To write the book and get an agent took me almost exactly a year. All told from touching fingers to keys to hitting shelves it was almost exactly three years. There were times I didn't even know if I'd finish the BOOK, let alone get it published. Once again, it goes back to supportive friends and people urging me on. I couldn't have done it without them!

Which other current authors do you enjoy reading?

Well, I just finished The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan, which I've been dying for! I'm eagerly awaiting Forever by Maggie Stiefvater. There's also Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz that I'm super excited to read which comes out at the end of April! Another book I read lately and loved was Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves. I'm reading Bleeding Violet by her next.

If you could be a character in any book ever, who would you be and why?

Aw man. See, characters have stories written about them because they have issues. Major problems. And the books *I* like are the ones that are epically freaking tragic and terrible. I guess if I had to answer, I'd say Nobody Owens from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book because it'd be nice to know the secrets of the dead while I was still alive.

You're a member of the YA Rebels. For those readers who don't know about the group, can you fill them in on the authors involved and what the group does?

The Rebels are a group of seven YA Writers--Gretchen McNeil (POSSESS 8/23/11), Hannah Moskowitz (INVINCIBLE SUMMER 4/19/11), Victoria Schwab (THE NEAR WITCH 8/2/11), Me (A TOUCH MORTAL 2/22/11), Jen Hayley (Repped by Alyssa Henkin), Scott Tracey (WITCH EYES 9/8/11) and Karsten Knight (WILDEFIRE 7/26/11) who are all at different stages in the publishing process and give a glimpse behind the curtain. We vlog every other week on everything from the writing process to taboo topics in YA (sex, drugs, language). We're also hugely open to suggestions on vlog topics, so if you have a question you want answered or a topic you want to know more about, leave us a comment on our channel!

If you can tell us without giving too much away, who's your favourite character in A Touch Mortal?

Kristen's such a scene stealer, so she always amuses me, but I think my favorite might be Jarrod. Sometimes he comes across as a jerk, but he's doing his best to hold the group together. He's got walls, but he's honest and loyal. He's complicated under the surface. There are sides of him I'm really looking forward to delving into as the trilogy moves forward.

What's next for Leah Clifford?

Right now I'm working on edits for the second book in the trilogy. (The title and cover are still under wraps!) It's a more psychological book than the first and definitely sexier. I can't wait to get it out to you guys and see what you think!

Many thanks for such a fantastic interview, Leah! All the best for the future.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Review of Yesterday's Treasures by Richard Denning

Many thanks go to Richard Denning for providing me with my copy of YT in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Set shortly after the events of Tomorrow’s Guardian which saw young hero Tom accept his mantle as a Walker who could travel through time, and rescue several others with similar gifts, Yesterday’s Treasures sees Tom and his friends searching for the legendary Crown of Knossos. Up against them are their old enemies from the Twisted Reality, and even the Directorate may have their own reasons for wanting the Crown…

That paragraph above probably makes very little sense if you haven’t read TG, so if you haven’t, go get that book first! Then come back here…

Like the first in the series, I really enjoyed Yesterday’s Treasures. Denning’s writing is very accessible to readers, he fleshes out his characters well – there’s certainly more ‘shades of grey’ here than could be found in the first book which was far more of a straightforward goodies/baddies kind of novel – and he does a great job of capturing the voices of people from different time periods. (I particularly like the interaction between modern schoolboy Tom and former 17th century servant girl Mary, who continually calls him ‘Master’ despite his efforts to get her to stop.)

That said there were a couple of things which I thought let the book down at times – the tagline ‘‘Former friends make the deadliest of foes’’ commits the cardinal sin of giving too much away as we’re waiting for one of Tom’s allies to betray him. Denning does, to be fair, do a pretty good job of building up several characters as the possible traitor but it still felt like we were finding out too much about the novel before reading it.

I will also cheerfully admit to having problems following complicated time travel at times and one reason I enjoyed Tomorrow’s Guardian so much was that it was blissfully UNcomplicated – concentrating strongly on the action parts and much less on the mechanics of time travel and the usual ‘’what if I meet myself’’ questions was a great decision by Denning in my opinion. This is noticeably more complicated and that lessened my enjoyment at times (but to be fair I’m sure most older primary-school kids will be better at keeping up to speed than I am, as I’ve said, I struggle with complex stuff!)

With those slight concerns I would happily give this a good recommendation – it’s exciting, it’s got a great cast, it tells an interesting story and the character development shows a lot of progression from the first in the series.

If you like the sound of the book but aren’t 100% sure whether to try it or not I’d strongly encourage checking out Richard’s superb website where you can read the first five chapters for free!

There’s also a long extract from the start of the first in the series, Tomorrow’s Guardian available - great to see an author with so much confidence in his work that he’s willing to let people have a decent sized chunk as a taster.

Finally, Richard was kind enough to do an interview for this blog which you can find here if you'd like to learn more about him and his books.

Waiting on Wednesday:

"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:

The Monstrumologist: Isle of Blood by Rick Yancey (unfortunately not out til September and no cover yet!)

From Amazon:

Will Henry is an orphan, and assistant to a doctor with a most unusual specialty: monster hunting. Working by the doctor's side, Will must help fight back against creatures from the darkest myths and legends in human history to protect the people of the world.

Why I can't wait to read it:

I thought Yancey's first Monstrumologist book, The Terror Beneath, was a fun read with some pacing issues as it was too slow for me in the middle. It did put him on my radar as an author to watch out for, though, and I thought the follow-up, Curse of the Wendigo, was awesome. Will Henry's a brilliant main character and the Monstrumologist himself, Dr Warthrop, is superb, plus Yancey does a fantastic job of creating an eerie Victorian atmosphere. Definitely one of my most-looked forward to at the moment!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tuesday Talk: Interview with Ali McNamara

It continually surprises the heck out of me that authors are actually willing to not just READ my inane rambling questions, but also provide some rather wonderful answers to them. Today's victim/subject is Ali McNamara, who wrote the laugh out loud From Notting Hill With Love Actually - check out my review.

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

Happy contented smiling faces, hopefully engrossed in my stories!

If you had no budget constraints and were casting a movie version of From Notting Hill With Love... Actually, who would be your picks to play the leads?

It’s always been Anne Hathaway for Scarlett. But I’ve recently decided Bradley Cooper would make a great Sean! (Can I be on set please for the scene where Sean emerges from the shower!)

Your lead character Scarlett doesn't seem keen on action/thriller/horror type movies and sticks to rom-coms. Do you have the same taste or is there anything in your DVD collection that would make her run away screaming?

No, Scarlett is pretty much me when it comes to movie choices I’m afraid! Although there are some very bad rom-coms out there too that make you want to run from the cinema screaming!

Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead, I'm feeling generous!) Not an author - but a screen writer, it would be Richard Curtis every time!

I think one of the most memorable scenes in the book is the Star Wars themed wedding! Please tell me that's not based on a real one... assuming it isn't, have you ever been to any unusual marriage ceremonies?

It wasn’t based on real one when I wrote it, I completely made it up. However... since then I discovered through Facebook a friend did go to a Star Wars themed wedding & I’ve seen the photos to prove it!

How long have you been writing for, and did you find it difficult
getting published?

I’ve been writing for nine years now. And yes it was an extremely long and tortuous journey getting my first novel published, with so many rejections I was almost ready to give up. But it was worth it all in the end when I got my wonderful agent and then almost a year after that my great publishers. But it took exactly four years from writing ‘From Notting Hill with Love...Actually’ to actually seeing it in the shops.

If you could be the main character in any movie, who would it be?

This is a fab question... and after a lot of thought I’m going to go for Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movies. If I was going to play a part I’d want it to be where I was kicking some butt, not waiting in the corner to be rescued ;-)

Do you listen to music when you're writing? If so, what was your soundtrack when writing FNHWLA?

Very boring answer but I have to write in silence, or I can’t concentrate properly. But I love all types of music and have a very eclectic mix on my Ipod. From Take That to the Beatles, U2 to Pink.

What's next for Ali McNamara?

My new book ‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’ comes out in November. It’s based on a real island - Great Blasket off the West Coast of Ireland.

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn't expect any sort of inheritance - let alone a small island! Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn't been lived on for years, but according to Molly's will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit. It's a big shock. And she's even more shocked to hear she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy must leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, she meets confident, charming Conor and sensible, stubborn Dermot - but who will make her feel really at home?

And I’m just starting to write my third novel due out in 2012. The stories just keep coming...

Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to me, Ali - I look forward to Breakfast at Darcy's and to your third novel!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Like To See Made Into Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers’ answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND fill out Mr. Linky.
If you can't come up with ten, don't worry about it---post as many as you can!

I had a top ten of my own planned for today but saw some of the posts about this one and couldn't resist joining it - congratulations to the Broke and the Bookish for an awesome choice, and you should definitely head over there to check it out if you haven't already.

Top Ten Books I'd Like To See Made Into Movies/TV Series

1. The Sky Is Everywhere - Jandy Nelson

It's well known that I'm a massive fan of Nelson's 2010 novel and would probably need at least three boxes of tissues if it made it to the screen, it's such a heartbreaker. I'd happily take that risk! An amazing story which I think would translate really well to the silver screen.

2. Wereworld - Curtis Jobling

High fantasy at its very best, Wereworld is crying out for a TV series! This is a book which I think could hook the entire family in if it was adapted, action-packed enough for the gore-loving kids but deep enough for adults to enjoy just as much.

3. Devil's Consort - Anne O'Brien

An outstanding piece of historical fiction, I'd love to see a big budget adaptation of this.

4. Dreaming of Amelia/Ghosts of Ashbury High - Jaclyn Moriarty

This is almost certainly completely unfilmable due to the narrative style which bounces between e-mails, exam answers, transcripts, blog entries and the contents of a scholarship file. Any director who proved me wrong and managed an adaptation which was one tenth as entertaining as the book would immediately become one of my favourites.

5. Star Crossed series - Bonnie Hearn Hill

I can totally see Star Crossed doing really well as a kids' TV series. It's frothy, enjoyable, and just generally really cool.

6. The Long Weekend - Savita Kalhan

Yes, I know I get TLW in everywhere as well as The Sky Is Everywhere, but there's a reason. The plotting here is superb and as a cautionary tale this would really wake teens and tweens up to the dangers of not being on your guard in a way that us teachers, however much we talk about them, can never hope to.

7. The Dark Elite series - Chloe Neill

Neill writes the best dialogue around today in my opinion, and would love to see this done as a TV series in the style of Buffy. Could be huge, I'm telling you!

8. Gossip Girl - Cecily von Ziegesar

Yes, I know it's been done! However I gave up because it was so ridiculously far away from the books. I would love, love, LOVE to see an actual faithful adaptation of the original novel.

9. Gallagher Girls series - Ally Carter

Cool girls, spies, action, and comedy - what's not to love? Again, possibly one that would work better as a TV series than a movie, but either way could be really entertaining.

10. Dragon's Path - Daniel Abraham

Have just reviewed this epic fantasy for The Bookbag and loved it. It's one that would be amazing on the big screen with the right actors, featuring complex character development but also some huge set pieces.

Teaser Tuesday: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

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!

"Ye mun find them yourself, Robert Poste's child. I have my task to do and my watch to keep, and I cannot run here and there to fetch newspapers for a capsy wennet."

Nearly 80 years after it was first published, Cold Comfort Farm remains one of the funniest novels of the 20th century. Gibbons' hilarious parody of DH Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Mary Webb and other authors writing 'rural' novels has quotable moments on nearly ever page.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Monday Musings: Review of You Against Me by Jenny Downham

Karyn liked Tom. So much so that she went round to his house looking sexy. But no-one really knows what that led to. Now she’s claiming he raped her, Karyn’s brother Mikey wants to kill him, and Tom’s sister Ellie’s world’s falling apart over the allegation. And then Mikey and Ellie meet and things get REALLY complicated. So begins an intense, and complicated, look at loyalty, love and the quest for the truth...

I picked this up because Downham’s Before I Die is one of my favourite books of the past decade. While this didn’t hit me quite as hard as that superb novel did, she’s an author I’d definitely consider to be one of the very best of today’s many excellent YA writers. She builds suspense really well here as it takes a long time until we find out the truth about the night of the possible rape, causing me to race through a fairly long book in less than a day because I was so desperate to find out what happened.

There’s also some marvelous characterisation – I really like both Ellie and Mikey who are very realistic, both doing some stupid but understandable things, as Ellie’s faced with a father who’s refusal to even imagine Tom could be guilty is quite scary, while Mikey has to try and look after Karyn, who won’t go outside, their mother who’s turned to drink, and kid sister Holly. Karyn and Tom themselves were rather more mysterious but in many ways had to be to keep the mystery up, while minor character Gillian – a policewoman assigned to Karyn – stood out for me as a fairly rare sympathetic authority figure in modern YA. Dialogue is another really strong point, with all of the characters having distinctive voices which suited them perfectly.

It’s not perfect as a novel – the writing is, perhaps because of the difference in subjects, far less lyrical than Before I Die was, and without wanting to give anything away about the ending I felt it was a little bit underwhelming. Also, the themes mean I’d be slightly uncomfortable recommending it to younger teens to be honest. However, it’s a very good read.which confirms Downham’s place as a fantastic author.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sunday Summary: 10th April

Time for another Sunday summary, with the SIX best things I’ve found on the web this week!

While I’ve switched from reading the Guardian to the ridiculously brilliantly priced i at just 20p a day, the Graniaud still provides some brilliant articles. This one, by author Patrick Ness on the best ‘unsuitable’ books for teenagers, is a case in point. And totally agree with number 1 as I read it when I was in my mid-20’s and REALLY hated the narrator.

Even though I’m not a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s werewolf books, there’s a great review here of Shiver by my friend Amanda, a new blogger who I’m sure will be one to follow.

Jaw-dropping story here by Larry at Storyfix about an ‘opportunity’ which I think most authors would probably be wise to miss…

Audrey at Holes in My Brain has a great post previewing upcoming movies as part of her week-long ‘Movies in My Brain’ event. It includes HP7 part 2 and Breaking Dawn part 1 so there’s actually some link to YA fiction there as well, so I can justify shoving it in. Great trailers!

Great interview with Lipstick Laws author Amy Holder over at A Good Addiction – well worth checking out!

And finally - although it seems to be for US residents only - an even BIGGER bargain than last week – Aprilynne Pike is GIVING AWAY her novel Wings as a free download! Check Page Turners’ Blog for the full details, let those of us who don’t live in the States know what it’s like please! Hurry though, it’s only available for another 4 days.

Hope you find something of interest amongst those six, everyone.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Saturday Sample: Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril

Again, my new feature where I post the opening few lines of one of my favourite books. I'd love it if you want to join in, do the same on your blog, and leave me a comment here with a link!


"Drina danced for the first time when she was five years old. Really danced, that is. Before that she had been aware of music as something to move to and had often been found by her grandmother moving her arms and swaying her thin little body in time to a compelling rhythm."

Why I love it:

The first book in probably my favourite ever Girls Own series, one of the very few series I can think of where each and every book is staggeringly high-quality. A great starting point for anyone who thinks they'd enjoy a ballet series to jump on board.

Friday Feature: Mia Castile Interview

Really excited to present here an interview with debut author Mia Castile!

Mia's first novel, The Ocean, will be released on April 26th and having read the first chapter on her website I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

Many thanks to Mia for doing this interview.

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

I see a variety of readers, young and old, boys and girls; boys who can relate to my lead male characters and maybe find some inspiration in them. Girls who realize they aren’t the only one who have those emotions, fears or dreams. I also envision Adults who might gain insight into what kids are going through these days.

I love the trailer for the Ocean! How important do you think an active web presence with things like trailers and Twitter feeds is these days for an author?

I think an active web presence is crucial for an author these days. I feel that if we as authors don’t take advantage of every opportunity to reach our audience, then we miss out on the big picture of why we do this to begin with. We write to inspire, and allow the reader to escape, we also write in the hope that the reader will care as much about our characters as we do. I would be heartbroken if my readers felt like they didn’t connect with me. Twitter and Facebook enable a closeness and realness that wasn’t there before.

It's a really sunny day, do you sit inside writing or sneak off and do something else? If you sneak off, what do you do?

I love sunny days. I would probably pack a tote bag, and go for a walk with the kids to our neighborhood park. I’d let them play while I either read a book, or worked on my laptop.

The playlist for The Ocean on your website is great - will we see a similar one for Generations? Did you listen to any of the same artists when writing both books?

For some reason Boys Like Girls always ends up on my playlists. Yes, you will see the playlist for Generations. There is always a playlist for the story I am working on, music is a big driving force for me. Generations’ playlist also features artist like Switchfoot and Augustana. I really enjoy that kind of music when I’m writing. I also look for Bands that aren’t as well known so there might be a few that you haven’t heard of that are indie.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am reading Am I right or Am I right by an Australian Author named Barry Jonsberg. It is laugh out loud witty and funny. You should definitely check it out if you’re in the mood for a light hearted read.

I know from your website you've lived in Indianapolis all your life - if you could move anywhere, where would it be?

This is a tough question. If I were to choose I would say someplace warm, winters here can be brutal, Someplace metropolis, and someplace where I could uproot my entire family, cousins and all, and take them with me. Do you know anyplace like that?

If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. I would probably enjoy having a conversation with him about that poem. I’d love to ask him to describe the day and what was going on in his life that inspired that poem.

What's your favourite colour?

I have a rainbow of favorite colors. In order of favorites: Park bench Green, pale lavender, butter yellow, bright white, and crimson red.

Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead, I'm feeling generous!)

I am currently collaborating with my partner Kristina Caden from Entwined Publishing on a secret project that we are hoping to release later this year.

What's next for Mia Castile?

Generations will be released this fall. It will be my debut Paranormal Romance novel. I am also currently working on a project called Gods of Detroit; it is an Urban fantasy. It has been a lot of fun researching for this novel, and incorporating old folklore with a new twist.

Definitely sounds like one to look out for! Wishing you lots of success with The Ocean and Generations, can't wait to get my hands on them!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Amanda's Guest Review of The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Very excited today to present my first ever guest review, which the fantastic Amanda has kindly written for me. If you enjoy it, check out her blog!

In a Young Adult book market currently experiencing a glut of paranormal themed books “The Body Finder” is a breath of fresh air! Don’t misunderstand me – my reading material of choice is generally paranormal romance or urban fantasy – but too often I read books with different covers, different authors but the same old story tropes tirelessly trotted out. “The Body Finder” is different.

The book follows the story of Violet Ambrose who has the ability to sense the bodies of those, both human and animal, who have died unnatural deaths and the echoes these murders leave on the killer – whether the killer is a cat who has just eaten a mouse or a man who has just killed a teenage girl. And that’s where the story begins. Violet’s town is the hunting ground of a serial killer, the murders are getting closer and closer to home and the echoes of the murdered girls are calling to Violet. I’ll stop there before I give away any spoilers.

This is the first novel written by Kimberly Derting and it’s a great beginning. Her writing style is engaging and her main character, Violet, is well developed and likable. Of course there’s teenage angst aplenty as Violet discovers, much to her chagrin that she has fallen in love with her best friend Jay. What is a girl to do? On top of that she’s also dealing with the killer stalking her town.

I loved the way in which Derting described Violet’s ability and the way in which a person’s echo was as unique as the person themselves. I also liked the fact that Violet wasn’t struggling alone with her ability but had a close and loving family –and boyfriend – that knew about her unique talent and were there to support her.
The book is written in third person and is told from the perspective of Violet.

Interspersed with these chapters, however, is the voice of the killer and Derting does an outstanding job of detailing his genuinely disturbing thoughts and the way in which he views his victims. This added a genuinely tense element to the book.

However, while the book was a great read it wasn’t flawless. It took a while for the action to start and I must admit to getting a little impatient and was tempted to skip ahead – but I didn’t! There was also the developing relationship between Violet and Jay. While I loved how they were slowly discovering each other anew it did rather push the murder mystery to the side. Considering the nature of the crimes it didn’t sit well with me that such a powerfully written and horrifying crime should take a back seat to anything. The ending, while dramatic, was also rather contrived. Violet is, by this point in the novel, under police guard and her friend abandon her in a conveniently isolated part of the school? Seriously!
However, these minor moans aside this book was a great read. I’m just about to read the follow up: Desires of the Dead and am looking forward to seeing where Derting takes our heroine next.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

"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:

Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part,Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention.

Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. And Lissa never sees her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling, coming.

Why I can't wait to read it:

I've still not got round to reading KK's debut novel, The DUFF, but have seen enough reviews to be confident in her storytelling ability. I'm also a massive fan of her superb blog posts and when you throw in the awesomeness of the above plot summary I'm totally sold on this one. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore

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!

Mine today is a reread, taken from the first book of Robert Muchamore's fantastic CHERUB series, The Recruit (Currently a bargain £1.99 at, by the way!)

"Uncle Ron had turned up when James was a toddler. It was like having a loud, smelly rug in the flat."

Monday, 4 April 2011

Monday Musings - Review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Imagine a world without love... Where romance was dead, parents felt no affection for their children, and Romeo and Juliet was studied as a cautionary tale. Lena's world has nearly reached that stage. The cure has been found for amor deliria nervosa, and is given to all children when they reach the age of 18. After her mother's suicide for love Lena is desperate to reach that age and receive the cure. She knows things will change - she's seen the effect it has on those who go through it and the way it makes them all calmer - but she's ready to welcome it. And then she meets a boy, and her views on love are turned completely upside down. But with the date of the cure so close, can she possibly do anything about her new feelings?

There's no question at all that Delirium is beautifully written and that Lena is a fantastic main character who develops really well as she falls in love for the first time and finds her world changed completely. I also absolutely adored the extracts from the anti-love propaganda which started each chapter and found the novel a highly entertaining read. That said, my main problem with the book is that the society itself seems so ridiculously unlikely. Why ban love? There are vague attempts to justify this with comments about the damage it did to people and the problems it caused, but there never seems to be a strong reason for why the majority of society would be happy to go along with this. Having said that, Oliver's writing is so engaging that I didn't really take much notice of how implausible it was until I got to the end and thought about it a bit - and that ending completely blew me away, a really stunning finale.

Overall this is perhaps just below the very cream of the crop but is a strong recommendation and very unlikely to disappoint any fans of dystopian fiction or romance against the odds. I look forward to reading the rest of the series!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sunday Summary 3rd April

Here we go again, with the SIX best things I’ve found on the web this week!

Hay Festival line-up looks absolutely amazing and I’m waiting eagerly for tickets to go on sale to the general public! The events I’m most interested in are Caroline Lawrence talking about the Western Mysteries, Cerys Matthews with poetry and songs on Welsh legends, CHERUB author Robert Muchamore discussing his new series, the ‘dream team’ of Darren Shan and Charlie Higson doing a joint talk, and the fabulous Keren David pairing with Peter Cocks to talk about flawed heroes, plot twists and danger.

UK residents – there’s a great competition for 13-18 year olds to enter at Penguin’s fantastic Spinebreakers site. Write a poem with the theme of ‘Cursed Lovers’ by using song titles! Entries to be judged by the superb Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, authors of the amazing Caster Chronicles, and there’s a year’s supply of Divine chocolate to be won! Closing date is the end of April.

I loved reading Richard Denning’s blog post on how he researched history when writing The Amber Treasure, which is set deep in the Dark Ages. While The Amber Treasure is still on my to-read list, having read The Last Seal and Tomorrow’s Guardian and loved both I’m in awe of the amount of preparation Richard does to get things right in his superb books.

Even though I don’t read that much adult fiction compared to the amount of YA I get through, The Wolf Letters by Will Schaefer looks superb! Great review on The Tales Compendium.

Bloody Bookaholic has a fantastic selection of covers for the coming month! I LOVE the ones for Boyfriends with Girlfriends and Abandon in particular – what’s your favourite?

I normally just pick five but here’s an extra – bargain of the week goes to The Recruit, first in Robert Muchamore’s action packed CHERUB series which is just £1.99 on – I’ve read some dissenting views on CHERUB but personally find them to be hugely exciting and would definitely recommend taking a look at that price.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Saturday Sampler: I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

Something new I'm going to try - posting up the first few sentences of one of my favourite books every Saturday. (Feel free to join in if you have a blog of your own and link in the comments section!)

Today's choice; I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith.

"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it, the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea-cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left."

Why I love it:
Narrator Cassandra Mortmain is one of my favourite ever main characters and this is a superb coming of age story as she and her family struggle to survive in their crumbling castle, waiting for her father to overcome his writer's block and produce a follow-up to his one success, Jacob's Ladder. Then, the Cotton brothers, two wealthy Americans, arrive on the scene providing the opportunity for a romance...

Utterly gorgeous, this is a massive recommendation and I should really get round to doing a full review at some point.

BTW, while I normally think films can't come close to the books they're adapted from, simply stunning central performances from Romola Garai as Cassandra and Bill Nighy and Tara Fitzgerald as her father and stepmother make the 2000's movie a must-see as well.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Friday Feature: Interview with Anne O'Brien

I'm hugely excited to bring you an interview with Anne O'Brien, author of two of my favourite historical novels of recent years, The Virgin Widow and Devil's Consort. Both books are highly recommend for YA's and adults who love history and great characters.

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

My readers are women.
Although this is not intentional when I write, I know my novels, with a female protagonist and an element of romance, appeal primarily to women. After saying that, my husband has read both Virgin Widow and Devil’s Consort and enjoyed them both. Perhaps he is biased. He read them both to the end – he didn’t cheat and skip over the pages as far as I could tell.
I do not see any particular age range in my readers. I have had conversations with readers from sixteen to eighty.

As I've stated before when reviewing your novels, I think the extras such as the author Q & A, further reading suggestions, and historical details on your characters really add to them. One of my favourites for Devil's Consort is the 'Questions for Your Reading Group'. Do you think many of your readers will take part in reading groups?

I hope my novels will be adopted by reading groups. I have been invited to visit a number of them - they have become so widespread and give such pleasure, and an opportunity to read books you would not normally choose to read. I know of some groups that have read Virgin Widow. The best comment of all for me to hear? I don’t normally read historical fiction - but I enjoyed this one.

What are you reading at the moment?

I recently read Emma Donoghue’s Room. She was a new author to me so decided to read more. I came across Slammerkin – historical again sent in 18th Century London. I am finding it to be a page turner.
At the same time – I often have two books at the same time, depending on my mood - I am reading Sebastian Foulks’ A Week in December. I have been hooked on his writing since picking up Birdsong many years ago.

Why is Devil's Consort being released as Queen Defiant in the USA?

Difficult to say really. My original title, Devil’s Consort, is based on Eleanor’s relationship with Henry Plantagenet and a conversation between the two of them in the novel. My UK editors MIRA stuck with it, my US editors NAL decided to change it to Queen Defiant.

If you could ask any other author any question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

It would have to be Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights is always in the news, and there has been the recent new adaptation on BBC Radio 3. And the question? Where did her ideas for such a rampantly emotional, passionate novel come from? The themes of mental cruelty and obsessive love and heartbreak seem to be so far outside her very narrow experience. It was an amazing achievement - and her only published novel. A conversation with Emily Bronte to discover how she constructed such a powerful story would be remarkable.

If you could live in any place and any time period in history, where and when would it be?

Although I think on balance I prefer living today - I don’t do discomfort very well – I have always had a sneaking longing to experience life in a Roman villa. I have visited many – such as the splendid site at Fishbourne on the south coast. One of the first historical sites I remember visiting as a child was the city of Bath with its spectacular Roman baths. I think a small villa just outside the town would have suited me very well. I like the idea of the under-floor heating, the mosaic floors, the open courtyards, the piped water source and the plastered, painted walls. I could imagine living very comfortably there in a little Roman luxury. Even the food and wine sound attractive – although I would have to draw the line at the stuffed dormice.

How much research do you do before writing one of your books?

I begin with some very general reading to set the scene; how my characters lived, what they ate and wore, their leisure pursuits and as far as it is possible to determine, what they thought about the events that determined their lives. From there I turn to specifics, the lives of the characters at the centre of the novel. So I read biographies, diaries, contemporary literature, anything I come across relevant to the period.

Once I have a plan of the life of my leading characters, I list the scenes which will bring some element of tension or excitement or emotion into the story. I also make a list of areas which can be omitted, or given a mere passing reference, to keep up the pace of the story. (I am an inveterate list maker!) Some events just don’t fit and it’s just as important to recognize these as it is the explosively important ones - although sometimes it surprises me when the scenes I’ve thrown out demand to be included when I begin writing.

I do not complete all my research before I begin writing. I become too impatient to see how my characters will develop. I need to make a start on creating my hero and heroine and the secondary subjects very early in the process. For this reason my research is ongoing – and when my characters surprise me, my research also leads me into areas I had not at first considered. I think it is important to keep an open mind and to some extent allow the story to dictate its own direction.

Looking at the top 10 books you list as your favourites in the Devil's Consort, they're mainly historical fiction or novels written many years ago. Are there any current authors writing contemporary fiction you particularly enjoy?

I admire and enjoy the following:
Jodi Picoult for her superbly crafted arguments that lead you to question all your own prejudices and those of society.
Joanna Trollope for her ability to make riveting drama and emotion out of everyday lives.
Rose Tremain – I simply enjoy her novels and wait for the next to be published.
Anne Tyler for her sly peek into American life.
Joanne Harris - I have had some happy moments with her novels, with their mix of fact and fantasy and otherworldly powers.
Henning Mankel: when I want a good, engaging whodunit – I’m a Wallander fan.

Have you ever thought about collaborating with another author on a
novel? If so, who would be your dream writing partner? (Alive or dead,
I'm feeling generous!)

I haven’t! And I couldn’t! And the fault would be mine!

I find writing a very private occupation and a very personal one. I often make choices from instinct – a ‘gut feeling.’ I don’t collaborate easily: I think I’m very possessive about my writing. I think I would even argue the toss with Shakespeare.

Now, if my writing partner was dead and I was ‘ghost writing’ their memories of an exciting life , that would be another matter. What a godsend Eleanor of Aquitaine would have been. As long as she let me make the final decisions ...

What's next for Anne O'Brien?

I am writing the first novel in a serious of four under the heading of Wives and Mistresses, covering the period of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. This first one, King’s Concubine, plots the career of Alice Perrers, the notorious lover of Edward III’s later years. She had a vicious reputation, which I think was not wholly undeserved - Alice was not a victim of circumstance. After admitting that, I decided that she could not be all bad, and it would be interesting to make her into a heroine, even if a somewhat unconventional one. Some of her talents for which she was damned in the fourteenth century would be highly praised today. She was an excellent businesswoman. I am enjoying the challenge of writing about her.

For more on Devil’s Consort and eventually on Alice Perrers, do visit my website and Facebook page, and you can follow me on twitter:

Thanks so much for the interview Anne! Really enjoyed finding out more about your work and as a fellow fan of Jodi Picoult I'll make sure I check out some of the other authors you recommended. Can't wait for Wives and Mistresses!