Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Teaser Tuesday - Ondine by Ebony McKenna

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 from the fabulous Ondine by Ebony McKenna.

"Shouldnt you tell Mrs Howser you're leaving?" Melody asked.

"Pfft. She's the psychic one, why should I bother?"

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hayley Long Interview

Hayley Long, author of the superb Lottie Biggs series, was kind enough to stop by and answer some questions for me. Hope you enjoy it!

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

Me. The truth is I write primarily to entertain myself. And what I write comes from the heart and I believe in it absolutely. The quirky fonts, the daft illustrations, the jokes, the cultural references, the recognisable everyday scenarios and characters… they’re all there because that’s what engages me. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s a real buzz to get messages from my readers – it feels a bit like being in a club with other people who share the same sense of humour and points of interest as I do. But more than anything I like to write and it’s important that I focus on the creative act of something I care deeply about. I could easily spend hours on twitter and facebook but then I wouldn’t get anything written.

2. I know you’ve written books for adults as well as the Lottie Biggs series for teens – which do you prefer, and are there major differences in the way you approach writing them?

I’ve enjoyed writing everything I’ve written. But I have to admit that writing for teens probably has the edge. For these reasons:

- The final word count doesn’t have to be so high so it’s a lot less daunting.

- I can do fun visual things like throw in silly pictures or suddenly switch to

size 72 font (Blogger's note: Hayley actually put this in size 72 font but I'm somehow not able to do this on the blog. I'm assuming this is me being dumb and will try to edit once I post... fingers crossed!)

or maybe just put one word on an entire page….


Also, it’s fun writing about teenagers because – although they may not realise this but I think they do - they are often very very entertaining.

3. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been waiting to ask this question – are you a Gavin and Stacey fan? I can almost hear Nessa’s voice when I read Lottie sometimes!

Oh! Gwen! Make me an omelette!


Yes, yes, I LOVE Gavin and Stacey. Although, LOTTIE BIGGS CAME FIRST. I’d written several drafts of Lottie Biggs is Not Mad before I even began watching Gavin and Stacey. And yes, you can hear Nessa I suppose – but only because loads of people sound like her in Cardiff. Or should I say The Diff?

Either ways, I loves The Diff, I do.

4. Lottie’s list of her ten favourite Welsh people on MyKindaBook is great – how many of the non-fictional entries in it would be in your own top ten as well? Anyone in your top ten who’d surprise us?

Well thank you, I’m glad you liked Lottie’s Welsh list, I’ll pass that compliment on to her…

As for my own list, Shirley Bassey WOULD DEFINITELY be on it! Because, like Lottie says, she’s a proper legend, isn’t she. There’s no other singer like her and I don’t think there ever will be again. And also, it would be rude and disrespectful not to have her in any list of Top Ten Welsh People.

Who else? I’d have Cerys Matthews from Catatonia in my Top Ten too. I absolutely loved Catatonia in the 90s and saw them play loads. Cerys is a feisty girl with a great voice and she can play the guitar. I admire that.

Rhod Gilbert, the comedian. To be honest with you, I don’t actually find him all that funny but… er… well… I think I sort of fancy him a bit….

Oh and Dylan Thomas, the poet. YES I KNOW that there are plenty of other writers who have come out of Wales but really, Under Milk Wood is beautiful. And anyone who wrote the words…

‘The ship's clock in the bar says half past eleven. Half past eleven is opening time. The hands of the clock have stayed still at half past eleven for fifty years. It is always opening time in the Sailors Arms.’

… truly deserves to be remembered.

And finally, I’d choose my friend Kirsty who is from Mold in North Wales – just down the road from Wrexham. So that’s five people I’ve picked. So that’s a Top Five Favourite Welsh People then.

5. As a resident of Wrexham with a friend who has a shop in the Butchers’ Market you have no idea how thrilled I was to see Lottie turn up there in book three! Have you spent much time in the town yourself? Any favourite places?

Hahaha, I LOVE that your friend has a shop in the Butchers’ Market! Which one is it? (Blogger's note: The fantastic Mad4Movies, which sells DVDs and BBluRays at superb prices.)

I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever visited Wrexham twice. The first time I went with my husband because there was actually a possibility that he might have taken a job there – but then he didn’t, so that was the end of that. We went by train up from Cardiff and the train ride was beautiful. And I liked Wrexham too. Mind you, I like absolutely anywhere if it’s in Wales. My favourite place actually was the Butchers’ Market. It’s got a nice atmosphere and it has one of those cafés that looks like it serves you extremely strong tea in a chipped mug.

That was the inspiration for the Good Friends Café in Lottie Biggs is Not Tragic. And then the second time I visited I had a fun weekend break in the town – so essentially I was a tourist! I bet Wrexham doesn’t receive too many of them! But, actually, I was secretly sizing the place up as a partial setting for the third Lottie book. The people in Wrexham are lovely. Very friendly. I hope the football team gets back into the football league where it belongs. (Blogger's note (yet again; sorry!) - me too, although I think we've got a really good chance this year - but then again I say that EVERY year...)

6. I love Winnie the chinchilla! Do you have any pets of your own?

Yes, I have a little black rabbit called Irma the Bunny. She’s lovely. For six months of the year she lives in the garden and for the other six months – when it’s cold – she lives in my front room as a house bunny. I was all set to give Lottie Biggs a pet rabbit but then one day I went to Pets at Home to buy Irma some food and I saw a really ancient white-haired chinchilla called Winnie in the pet adoption centre. I wanted to take Winnie home with me but, actually, you need a lot of space for a chinchilla because they need a massive cage and they aren’t all that easy to look after – you have to know what you’re doing. So instead I just added Winnie to the cast of Lottie Biggs is Not Desperate and gave him to Lottie Biggs.

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

I’d bring William Shakespeare back to life and I’d sit down with him – probably in a tavern over a glass of cloudy ale – and I’d say, ‘Now be honest with me, William, who REALLY wrote those plays?’ Because it sure as heck wasn’t an uneducated glove-maker’s son from Stratford-upon-Avon. This just wouldn't have been possible in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

8. Do you listen to music when you write, and if so what’s on the
soundtrack to the Lottie Biggs series?

Nope. Absolutely can’t do it. I love music and still have loads of vinyl left over from the days when I used to DJ in Cardiff with my friend Kirsty – that’s the one from Mold – but I just find it too distracting while I’m writing. I can cope with a bit of classical music playing in the background but that’s about it.

Music always features in my stories though. I don’t consciously choose something. It just sort of presents itself. Lottie Biggs became a fan of Jimi Hendrix because of his song ‘Manic Depression’ and then in the second book, Carole King popped up. It doesn’t worry me that most kids probably don’t know who these people are. They’re respected musicians who will sound good forever.

And it’s fun to discover new stuff through reading I think. The book I’m working on at the moment features several iconic American singers. I daren’t discuss it yet though in case I jinx it in some way…

9.Is there any book you’d recommend to readers who’d enjoyed the
Lottie Biggs series?

For me, the most fantastic teen book ever is The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4. I read that book when I was 12 and I honestly think it changed my life. It certainly made me laugh a lot. I remember thinking it was so funny and so outrageously rude but really, it just captures that difficult teenage experience perfectly. And Sue Townsend, the author, is so brilliant at observing the bizarre little details of life that many of her characters and situations are instantly recognisable. I’ve never been a big one for fantasy. I think real life is frequently fantastical and weird enough. Sue Townsend always illustrates this.

10. What's next for Hayley Long?

What indeed? Well, it’s time to move on from Lottie. I’m in the middle of a new novel. I’ve got some new characters. They live in London. They’re teenagers. Hopefully anyone who liked Lottie will like this too. Yes they will. Of course they will! Anyway, it’s coming from the heart again! I really can’t tell you any more than that I’m afraid. It’s all still at that stage where it’s just between me and my keyboard.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions, Hayley, and very best of luck with the new novel!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Loved But Never Wrote A Review For

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - I spent 3 hours or so trying to write a review for this and gave up. I still can't decide whether I liked it or not. Incredibly powerful book but I go up and down over whether the ending was amazing or amazingly bad. Still, anything to get me thinking that hard should probably be reviewed.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - I read this about 3 years ago and it was absolutely incredible. I want to review it but would need to reread it first to make sure I did it justice. Anyone who wants a really thoughtful dystopian should try this one.

3. Hey Dollface by Deborah Hautzig - A stunning story of two girls trying to figure out in just what way they like each other. Short but unbelievably powerful for its length. Hautzig's Second Star To The Right, on the subject of eating disorders, is also wonderful.

4. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher - Read this just before I started blogging, maybe a couple of months before. I think if I'd read it just that few months later I'd definitely have reviewed it. Incredible book, completely devastating in parts. Couldn't honestly say I enjoyed it, due to the subject matter, but a very powerful read.

5. Chalet School series by Elinor M Brent-Dyer - The one series I grew up reading again and again. I loved these at the time but find some of them hard to read now; especially with the quality rather tailing off towards the end. Having said that, some of the early ones - notably The Chalet School in Exile - rank amongst the very best of children's fiction prior to the YA boom, in my opinion.

6. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Astounding. I read this on recommendation from one of my year 11's who claimed it was the most beautifully written book of all time. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but it wouldn't be out of my top 5. As a sign of how good this is, I read Zafon's The Angel's Game, which would probably make it into my top 20 of all time, and was actually disappointed with it because it pales in comparison with Shadow.

7. Funland by Richard Laymon - Have never really enjoyed horror much, but went through a spell about 15 years ago of reading everything by Laymon I could get my hands on. This tale of the youths of a town standing up to the homeless people they see as threats, with things getting out of control very quickly, is classic RL - scholocky, crazy, and wonderfully entertaining.

8. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier - My English teacher at school recommended Robert Cormier to me and I tried four or five of his books, finding them either woeful or wonderful. This was definitely wonderful and unflinching in its portrayal of bullying and mob rule in a private Catholic school in America. The sequel is nearly as brilliant.

9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - The only book I studied at school that I actually liked; that said I liked it so much that it made up for all of the rest. A true classic with one of the greatest heroes of all time in narrator Scout's father Atticus, and a wonderfully evocative portrait of small town America. Southern Gothic at its absolute finest.

10. Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge - While I probably read the Chalet School series more when growing up, these hold a special place in my heart because they're my dad's favourite books and he used to read them to me all the time. Colossally funny even all these years later, I still enjoy rereading them and was incredibly pleased when I tracked down a signed copy of one for my dad's birthday last year.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Save The Monstrumologist - Oh, Wait, It's Been Saved...

William James Henry always claimed was born in the year of our Lord 1876.

He passed away, in a nondescript nursing facility, in 2007. The observant amongst you will note that at the time of his death, he professed that he was 131 years old. Two mysteries, then. How had he lived so long? And how had he ended up a shadow of a man, who would do nothing but repeat his name and year of birth, before falling silent.

Those of us who've read the Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey have been waiting some time to find out the answer to both. While I'm yet to get my hands on the Isle of Blood, and therefore can't say if it answers question one, I have a strange feeling that it may be left open, as it was at the end of the prologue to Curse of the Wendigo, with just a suggestion that may or may not be true.

Sadly, we appear to have a premature answer to question two.

So, what vile force send Will Henry prematurely into retirement? What foul creature could take a man who, even as a young boy, fought valiantly by the side of Dr Pellinore Warthrop, and reduce him to someone capable of just a couple of sentences? A rogue Anthropophagi? A vampire or zombie, determined to make light of Warthrop's belief that they were nothing but bogeymen to scare children with?

No, the terrible creature which appears to have dealt a mortal blow to the Monstrumologist himself, and to have left his assistant in this state, is that two-headed beast with the Latin name of Simonnus et Schusterrus.

Or, as you may have heard of it, Simon & Schuster. Yet, I hear my readers cry, surely this cannot be? Did not Simon and Schuster raise the Monstrumologist and his assistant? Were they not helped out into the world by the polycephalic colossus?

Indeed they were. But, having given the world two such people, Simon and Schuster have decided to take them back. Announcing after book 3, the Isle of Blood, there will be no more of Henry and Warthrop's tales to thrill, delight, and educate younger readers about life in the nineteenth century, they have instead chosen to adopt a replacement, the perhaps better-looking - but nowhere near so captivating - Hilary Duff.

Hey, if you were in Will Henry's situation, wouldn't you be somewhat lost for words as well?

But wait...

As typing this call for arms, I hear good tidings! A group of the species known as bloggerus bookitus - the common book blogger, like me - were able to band together to shelter the Doctor and Will. On seeing the amount of these small, but fearless, creatures who were willing to stand up to it, Simonnus et Schusterrus reconsidered its decision and welcomed the Monstrumologist back to its nest.

A fairytale ending, indeed.

If you'd like to thank the creature for sparing the Monstrumologist and his young assistant, could you take a couple of minutes and head over to Stephanie Reads where you can find out how to say thanks to Simon and Schuster AND get an entry into an international giveaway of signed copies of the first three books in the series!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Review of Bloodstone by Gillian Philip

Please note, I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Usual spoiler warning for book 1, Firebrand, applies here.

Seth and Conal MacGregor have spent so long hunting for the Bloodstone for Kate NicNiven, their queen, that they're reached the present day in our world (after Firebrand took place in sixteenth century Scotland.) They still haven't found it, though, but they have got themselves involved with some wonderful new characters, notably sullen teenager Finn, who's unaware of her Sithe heritage but about to find out with far-reaching consequences. Returning to the realm of the fairies with her in tow, and two others, the MacGregor boys are about to find even more trouble.

Seth burst onto the scene in Firebrand as an incredible narrator, full of youthful rebellion and fury, and while four centuries or so have passed, he's still the same flawed but lovable hero. Add to that Conal, calmer but just as wonderful, and great new characters like the surly Finn, and this is a surefire winner. The narration is mainly by Seth but parts are done by Jed, the human son of a woman Seth has a relationship with, and his voice brings an interesting new twist to things.

It's an epic, sprawling, plot, as befits a series which has so far spanned four hundred plus years over just two books, and similarly to its predecessor sees betrayal and revenge as major topics. It's incredibly difficult to know who to trust and that makes the book a really tense read.

Special praise for the ending, which was incredibly striking and felt, in many ways, nearly unbearably final. However, with two books to go in the Rebel Angels series, it's clearly not. I have no idea where Gillian Philip will take us from here - but I have every confidence that it will be an incredible journey finding out!

High recommendation, and this series is definitely one which adults will enjoy just as much as teens.

Further reading suggestion: Another excellent book about humans interacting with strange creatures from another realm is Cold Tom by Sally Prue, a fantastic retelling of the folk tale Tam Lin.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Heist Society by Ally Carter

"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:

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre...to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie travelled to Austria...to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own - scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind.

But now her dad's life is on the line, and Kat must go back to the world she tried so hard to escape...

Why I can't wait to read it:

Okay, Ally Carter created some of the coolest teen characters around with her Gallagher Girls in the books of that name. Now she's doing a teenage criminal? Just try and keep me away!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Loving today's topic, a fantastic way to plug some books which for whatever reason haven't got quite as much attention as they deserve!

All links are to my own reviews on either this site or TheBookbag.

The Last Seal by Richard Denning - Superb historical fantasy with really well developed central characters and a fascinating mixture of a demon and the Great Fire of London.

For The Record by Ellie Irving - Wonderfully quirky story full of the best kind of English eccentrics trying to save their Jersey village from the bulldozers.

Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K Jerome - Despite it being acknowledged as a classic, I think this is underrated because people don't necessarily realise how easy it is to read. Jerome's crisp prose and sparkling dialogue, with the humour which runs through the book, make this as wonderful today over a century after its initial publication as it was when it first came out. (Probably, at least, I wasn't around to know for sure!)

Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf - Curtis Jobling - I have no idea why this isn't the publishing sensation of the year. Epic high fantasy which features an astoundingly wonderful world of lycanthropes and a thrilling story.

The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan - One of the most terrifying thrillers of the past few years is aimed at young kids who will NEVER forget the 'stranger danger' message after reading this. Give it to your children - and then be prepared to calm them down at night!

Moorehawke Trilogy by Celine Kiernan - This captivating series of fantasy, political intrigue, and romance, is breathtakingly good. One of the best trilogies for ages.

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur - Cheeky inclusion, it's not particularly big as it's not out for another 2 days. Having read a review copy, I can confidently predict this is the only time it will EVER feature in a list of underrated books because as coming of age tales go this is sensational. Hugely moving with a phenomenal cast and should win a ton of prizes if there's any justice in the world.

Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad by Hayley Long - What starts off as a fun 'slice of life' style teen novel quickly becomes a much darker book as Lottie realises she's suffering from a mental disorder. Brilliantly, staggeringly, life-affirmingly superb.

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew
- If Roald Dahl had written a Gothic fantasy influenced by old English folk ballads, this would have been it. Great stuff, and it helped me win my friend £5 on a quiz machine last week with a question about sacred flower the Amarant. Proof that reading fiction really does pay off!

The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo - Given how good, and how popular, Nimmo's Children of the Red King series is, I'm amazed this exciting prequel hasn't made more of a splash.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Review of Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad by Hayley Long

Lottie Biggs is about to turn 15. She has a job which she doesn’t mind, as Head Saturday Girl at shoe shop Sole Mates, a fantastic best friend in the ultra-cool Goose, and a crush on the divine Mad Alien (or Neil Adam, as his name reads slightly less-excitingly forwards.) All that her and Goose are thinking about at the moment (except for Neil) is getting their GCSE’s so they can get out of the boring suburb of Cardiff they live in. Things are about to change for Lottie, though…

I was enjoying this one right from the first few pages – Lottie is an exceptionally warm narrator, reminiscent of a teenage Nessa from hit sit-com Gavin and Stacey in some ways (they’re both Welsh and they both have fantastic dialogue, I may be stretching the comparison a little bit but it’s there in my mind so I’m leaving it!) As a sample, I give you her thoughts on Shakespeare’s famous ‘’Sonnet CXXX’’ (My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun…)

‘’When I read this, two things immediately became apparent to me. Firstly, William Shakespeare may have written a lot of stuff that is widely admired, but his spelling is disastrous and, secondly, anybody who looks like this has no business being rude about the personal appearance of anybody else.’’

The first half of the book rocks along in this kind of style – wonderfully narrated, with quirky characters, and a fast-moving plot – but it’s the second part, in which Lottie starts to realise that she’s having some rather serious mental health problems, which completely blew me away. The tone of the book changes to a much darker one, although it’s still funny enough to keep it in ‘easy read’ territory, and the way she and the people around her come to terms with her illness is handled beautifully. Every moment of her struggle with a malady which is never really specifically revaled seems completely real and this is potentially a book which will be incredibly helpful to teens struggling with similar issues as a stepping stone towards recognising that there is support available.

Also of note, the setout of the book is fantastic – with illustrations by Lottie all over the narrative, which takes the form of her creative writing coursework in English. Having said, this, the one slight quibble I have is that both the cover and the blurb seem to be aiming at the younger end of the teenage years while I’d say this was actually more suited to older teens and adults given the subject matter.

Absolutely massive recommendation as brilliantly, staggeringly, life-affirmingly superb.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Thursday Thoughts: Review of Star Makers: Polly Plays Her Part by Anne-Marie Conway

This is the second in the Star Makers series, fairly major spoilers for the original Phoebe Finds Her Voice included. You have been warned!

Polly Conway is having to deal with rather a lot at the moment. Her mum has got a fabulous new job – but it’s in Spain! That leaves Polly to live with her dad, her new stepmother who she can’t stand, and her baby brother who’s just annoying. Depressed by the problems in her life, she ignores her dad’s rules and turns to the friend2friend website to find comfort. As she gets increasingly addicted to the site, she starts to lose focus on the important things in her life – including her family and the Star Makers’ new production.

Minor gripe to start off with – this is book 2 in the series and follows on from book 1 in which, as far as I can tell, Polly was bullying her now best friend Phoebe. There’s nothing obvious to state it’s the second in the sequence and I have to admit I’d have given it a miss and waited to read the first one if I’d realised.

That said, I’m still glad I picked this one up from the library as it’s a breezy read with some surprisingly well-developed characters compared to most books aimed at this age range. I really liked Polly’s stepmother Diane in particular, as she tried to get to know Polly better and help her settle in despite her ingratitude, and found Polly herself a great narrator – some of her actions were infuriating but in a completely realistic way.

Full marks to Anne-Marie Conway as well for the way in which she handled the friend2friend storyline – I thought I knew exactly what would happen here but I was significantly off target with my guess. I’ll avoid any spoilers, but thought it added a lot to the book to show a rather less publicised danger on the internet.

Finally, I thought it was really refreshing to find a book which had such well-rounded supporting characters. The clownish Monty, the supportive Phoebe, and the rest of the drama group all seemed very well developed and I look forward to reading more of their stories.

High recommendation to its target audience of girls in or approaching their early teens.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

"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 Good Reads:

Taylor's family might not be the closest-knit – everyone is a little too busy and overscheduled – but for the most part, they get along fine. Then they get news that changes everything: Her father has pancreatic cancer, and it's stage four – meaning that there is basically nothing to be done. Her parents decide that the family will spend his last months together at their old summerhouse in the Pocono Mountains.

Crammed into a place much smaller and more rustic than they are used to, they begin to get to know each other again. And Taylor discovers that the people she thought she had left behind haven't actually gone anywhere. Her former summer best friend is suddenly around, as is her first boyfriend. . . and he's much cuter at seventeen than he was at twelve.

As the summer progresses, the Edwards become more of a family, and closer than they've ever been before. But all of them very aware that they're battling a ticking clock. Sometimes, though, there is just enough time to get a second chance – with family, with friends, and with love

Why I can't wait to read it:

Matson's Amy and Roger's Epic Detour may have been the find of the year for me and I've been eagerly anticipating her next novel even without seeing a plot summary. Now I've read the summary I really can't wait for it - sounds like a massive tearjerker.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Trends

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

Today's is an awesome topic; trends you'd like to see more or less of in fiction. I've gone for 5 of each.

LESS: Paranormal romance. I actually LIKE paranormal romance quite a lot, but the experiences I've had recently going into bookshops looking for YA novels and finding dozens of shelves of paranormal with barely anything else make me want to scream.

I still like: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl - Shakes things up with the girl being the supernatural one and has LINK, the coolest supporting character ever.

MORE: Mermaids. Okay, they technically count as paranormal romance, but at least they're nowhere near as overdone as werewolves, vampires or fairies.

Example: Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs - An absolute blast, huge fun to read and brilliant world-building.

LESS: Vampires - I know they come under paranormal romance but they get their own category because sweet LORD, they're overdone. Cool bloodsuckers (even sparkly ones) are fine, but enough already, people!

I still like: By Midnight by Mia James - With an interesting take on the vamp mythos and wonderful descriptions of London, this is worth checking out even if you ARE bored of the fanged ones.

MORE: Strange and scary monsters - Ditch the romance, ditch the usual suspects, give me some yetis, kraken, lamia, and so on, and you've got me interested in the paranormal again.

Example: The Monstrumologist: Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey - After a good start to the series with The Terror Beneath, Yancey hit gold with the 2nd in the sequence. Ultra-bloody and seriously exciting, this is a great book which will have young teenage boys reading faster than ever before - and then desperately checking Amazon to see whether book 3, the Isle of Blood, is out yet. (2 months or so to go as we speak.)

LESS: Series which go on and on and on... Gossip Girl, I'm looking at YOU in particular, but hardly the only offender. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels for adults have also hit the stage where it seems to be "lather, rinse, repeat" on the plots far too often.

I still like: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Man From Hell by Barrie Roberts - Even though the Further Adventures are hit and miss in quality, and as a series I honestly think they could have done with choosing the best three or four of Conan Doyle's many imitators rather than releasing over a dozen, Titan have found a couple of real gems to republish. Chief amongst them is The Man From Hell - by far my favourite non-ACD Holmes story, very Hound of the Baskervilles-ish and really authentic sounding.

MORE: Reboots! I would absolutely love to see more of the classics given a fresh spin with modern day settings. I find this type of storytelling really interesting in the hands of a talented author.

Example: Tarzan by Andy Briggs - The jungle wild man in modern day Africa. Fantastic, whether or not you've read the original.

LESS: Rich kids hanging out in New York or other major cities. I loved Gossip Girl but as mentioned above, it paled quickly, and most of the imitators have done nothing for me.

I still like: Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar - Okay, I've said twice that it paled quickly, but the first one was AWESOME - practically defining 'guilty pleasure'. Ultra-trashy, completely in your face, but never less than riotously entertaining.

MORE: Foreign cultures (as in not British or American) - I'm loving some of the books I've been reading set in Asia recently, in particular.

Example: A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master - Wonderful novel which does a great job of portraying India in 1947 as Partition draws near.

LESS: Dystopian future. It works really well occasionally but there's just been too much I've read recently which has left me totally cold.

I still like: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I still haven't made my mind up as to whether I like Mockingjay, but the first in this trilogy is outstanding.

MORE: British villages and small towns. I've loved these kind of books since first reading Miss Read's fantastic Thrush Green and Fairacre series for adults, and it's great to see a few kids' books of a similar nature.

Example: For The Record by Ellie Irving - British strangeness at its finest. Completely adorable characters.