Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Department 19: The Rising by Will Hill

"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:

Publication date: 29th March 2012

From Amazon UK

The pulse-pounding sequel to DEPARTMENT 19 – “The best action horror story I have ever read” according to Bookzoneforboys…





After the terrifying attack on Lindisfarne at the end of the first book, Jamie, Larissa and Kate are recovering at Department 19 headquarters, waiting for news of Dracula’s stolen ashes.

They won’t be waiting for long.

Vampire forces are gathering. Old enemies are getting too close. And Dracula… is rising.

Why I Can't Wait:

Department 19 - which, if you haven't read it, has just been released for £1 for World Book Day!! - was one of the best YA action thrillers I've read for a long time. Ever since I read the closing pages, with a staggering cliffhanger, I've been desperate to know what happens next! Only four weeks until we find out...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Give A Theme Song To

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

Since there was no way I could narrow down all the songs I liked that would fit books to just 10, I decided to focus on the Shine series of compilations. For those of you who weren't around in the late 90s, they were a superb series of compilation albums featuring the very best of Britpop and other similar music.

1. What Do You Want From Me - Monaco for Infinity - Sherrilyn Kenyon. The ultra-fast paced rock of Peter Hook, New Order bassist's, side project is perfect for the crazy - but very entertaining first book in the Chronicles of Nick series.

2. The Universal - Blur for The Reposession - Sam Hawksmoor. "No one here is alone, satellites in every home." I always had a love/hate relationship with Blur's music, but at their best they were amazing - and this was one of the very best. The sci-fi tinged lyrics fit perfectly with Hawksmoor's debut.

3. Staying Out For The Summer - Dodgy for Indigo Blues - Danielle Joseph. SOFTS has always been a summer anthem for me, and Indigo Blues is a perfect beach read. A great pairing.

4. Female of The Species - Space for Caster Chronicles - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Perfect as a theme song for Sarafine, who's most definitely more deadly than the male!

5. Might Be Stars - Wannadies for Guitar Girl - Sarra Manning. Marriage of a great song about setting out for rock stardom and a great book about setting out for rock stardom just has to happen.

6. Lovefool - Cardigans for Evernight - Claudia Gray. One of the best of the numerous paranormal spins on the tale of 2 lovers who should be at odds with each other definitely fits in well with the theme to the movie of the play that kicked that trope off, Romeo and Juliet.

7. Tubthumping - Chumbawumba for Clash - Colin Mulhern. This song, with its message of never giving in, fits cage-fighter Alex brilliantly.

8. Farewell To Twilight - Symposium for Torn - Cat Clarke. An underrated gem, Symposium's fabulous song with its "everything is over now" refrain definitely captures Alice's turmoil in this brilliant novel.

9. Bankrobber - Audioweb for Heist Society - Ally Carter. "Daddy was a bank robber" - (okay, "Daddy was a con man and art thief" probably fits better, but this is close enough.)

10. Ten Storey Love Song - Stone Roses for Skin Deep - Laura Jarratt. - One of the best ever love songs for my new favourite YA romance.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Monday Musings: March YA releases

Time for another preview of the month ahead! Some fantastic books coming out in March - some of which I've been lucky enough to get advance copies of. In those cases, links go to reviews on the Bookbag. Otherwise, they go to Goodreads.

March 1st

The Repossession by Sam Hawksmoor - I read this on New Year's Eve and have been waiting for it to be released so there are more people to talk to about it! Completely crazy and absolutely wonderful, this mixes up a girl with a psychic gift, a strange religious cult, and some fabulous sci-fi. One of my very favourite releaases of 2012 so far. Sam was also kind enough to be interviewed by me - check it out here.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews - I've read this one (thanks NetGalley!) Very, very funny, despite the subject matter of a girl with leukemia. It's also touching (even though the narrator Greg would completely deny this if you suggested it to him, and probably get Earl to windmill-kick you in the mouth to shut you up.) Can't wait for more from Andrews!

Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie - Another I've read - thanks to the Bookbag, this time! Intense romance which managed to hook me even though I didn't really like the two main characters. Very well written, really gripping.

Poison Heart by SB Hayes - Yet again, have read (thanks Bookbag!) This is very lucky, because if I hadn't, March 1st may make me explode with so many books being released. As it is, I can sit back and wait for other people to read this superb psychological thriller and hear what you all think about it.

Final Four by Paul Volponi - Haven't got this one yet but it looks fab! I love sports books and love basketball in particular. This tale of the NCAA tournament sounds wonderful.

Wonder by RJ Palacio - Reviews I've seen so far for this one - about a boy born with a facial deformity starting school for the first time - are as good as any I can remember seeing for a long, long time. If it's anywhere near as good as people are suggesting it is, it will be brilliant!

March 5th

Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt - AMAZING. Absolutely and totally wonderful, right up there with Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and The Sky Is Everywhere as one of my favourite contemporaries for years.

March 6th

Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler - This one - about a girl waking up after a car crash without any idea what happened to her - sounds completely intriguing.

March 13th

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter - When I got around to Gallagher Girls parts 3 and 4 - which I read in about a day combined - part of me was kicking myself for taking so long to get to them, but part of me was relieved because it meant I had less time to wait for the next book. This is one of my very favourite current series and am really looking forward to seeing what happens next to Cammie.

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig - New girl at exclusive prep school turns Robin Hood - sounds fun and lighthearted, looking forward to it.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday Special: Interview with Emma of Easy Reading and Damn Hard Writing

For my second blogger interview, I'm really pleased to be talking with Emma of the wonderful Easy Reading and Damn Hard Writing site. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Emma! I'd definitely encourage readers to check out her site once they've read this interview.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself - what do you do aside from reading and blogging?

Well, let’s see…. Reading is my passion, but my true calling is writing, and I’m currently working on a few short stories and a project that I hope will become my second full-length novel. (I wrote my first novel when I was fourteen, and it was TERRIBLE, so I’m hoping for better luck on this round. :D) I also enjoy watching television, listening to music, and crafting. This fall, I’ll be enrolling at university after taking a gap year, where I intend to major in Anthropology and/or Journalism. Does that answer your question?

Best of luck with all of that - I hope you really enjoy university!

2. What made you decide to start a blog?

I usually write fiction, and really, I originally started a blog as a way to break out of that mold a little. Also, over the last year I’ve fallen down a lot as a reader — I keep telling myself I don’t have time, that I should be writing/working, etc — and I find that blogging forces me to carve out time to read, and also helps me discover new books that I otherwise might never come across.

Definitely agree with that, I've read a huge amount more since I started blogging!

3. When I first stumbled on Easy Reading and Damn Hard Writing I assumed it was a new blog, but I quickly realised you'd moved over from Livejournal to Wordpress - any reason for the change?

I started out on Livejournal because it was the user interface I was most familiar with; I’ve been using LJ for years and it seemed like a good place to be. Most people/bloggers I know, however, use either Blogspot or Wordpress, and after trying both, I decided that I could do more with Wordpress than I could with LJ. Personally, I find that the WP system is less buggy than LJ’s.

4. What's your favourite TV or movie adaptation of a novel, and is there any that haven't been done yet that you'd love to see hit the screen?

Oh, this is a hard question for me… hmm… my favorite movie-based-off-of-a-book is definitely The Thief Lord. I felt like the moviemakers really got the essence of the original Funke book. As for ones that haven’t been done yet, I would love to see the Artemis Fowl series or Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon on the big screen.

I've never quite got round to reading The Demon's Lexicon or The Thief Lord but keep meaning to. Artemis Fowl would make a fab film or TV series!

5. I'd hope that most of my readers will take a look at Easy Reading and Damn Hard Writing when they finish reading this interview. Is there a post you're particularly proud of that you'd like to direct them towards?

Hmm… I would direct them to my Top Ten Books That I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Fantasy. I am very proud of it, and I feel that everyone should read a fantasy/sci-fi book at some point in their lives. :D

As a huge fantasy fan, agree! Great list - I particularly liked seeing the wonderful Hundred Thousand Kingdoms on there.

6. As a fellow Sherlock Holmes fan who, like you, devoured all of Conan Doyle's books when I was in my mid-teens, I frequently find myself drawn to other authors using the great detective. The results tend to be variable, to say the least! Have you ever read any of the non-Conan Doyle Sherlock books, and if so, what's your favourite?

The only non-Doyle stories that I have ever read are the shorts included in David Barr-Kirtley’s and John Joseph Adams The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I just have a hard time reading non-Doyle books—I guess I’m a bit of a purist that way. I do enjoy many of the film and television adaptations though, including the Guy Ritchie movies, the Granada series featuring Jeremy Brett, and the most recent BBC adaptation with Benedict Cumberbatch.

Agree on the adaptations being fabulous! My personal favourite non-Conan Doyle books are Tracy Revels' Shadowfall series, featuring a supernatural Holmes and a variety of villains from folklore - totally crazy but great fun.

7. I know you're a big Doctor Who fan - who's your favourite doctor, and why?

Ten was my first doctor, and I love him dearly, but Eleven is my favorite. He’s just so quirky.

Nine was my first 'real' doctor (I vaguely remember seeing bits when I was a kid but had never properly watched it before) and I thought he was brilliant - but Ten was even better, and Eleven better again.

8. Which YA character would you most like to see in the TARDIS if the Doctor was looking for a new companion?

Hmm, let’s see…. I think Artemis Fowl would be a fun companion, even though he would annoy the Doctor. Tessa Gray would also be a choice that I’d support; she’s smart and strong, and she’d probably love to go time travelling.

Having never read Cassandra Clare's books, I must be one of the only book bloggers around who isn't familiar with Tessa Gray - but agree Artemis would be a great companion!

9. Are there any YA books that you've read or reviewed which haven't been as successful as you'd have expected them to be?

Angelfall, by Susan Ee. It is absolutely phenomenal; if it weren’t a self-pub, I could easily see it being shelved alongside Cassandra Clare and Holly Black in a bookstore, and it would fit in just fine.

Sounds interesting, I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

10. What's your favourite thing about blogging, and is there anything you don't like?

My favorite thing about blogging is the community. You guys are so awesome :D I’ve gotten a lot of support as a new blogger, and I really appreciate it. Also, I just love writing reviews, talking about books and TV, and generally being able to geek out. I haven’t really come upon anything I DISlike yet—so far, it’s all been pretty awesome.

Agree about the fab community! Thanks so much for taking the time to give such fantastic answers.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Saturday Spotlight: The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin

Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally.

14-year old Sunni finds it bad enough that when she's trying to do some research on a famous Fausto Corvo painting in Blackhope Tower's Mariner's Chamber, she gets lumbered with her annoying stepbrother to look after. Add to that the presence of her classmate Blaise, a boy who's better at art than she is, and her day is looking depressing – and that's before Dean mysteriously vanishing when walking around the chamber's labyrinth.

You see, the Mariner's Chamber is a strange place which is famed for the appearance, centuries earlier, of skeletons into the locked room, and Sunni and Blaise quickly realise that Dean has disappeared into the painting they're studying. A rescue mission is launched, and most of the book takes place inside a strange land of a multitude of enchanted paintings, while we also see the police investigation trying to find out what has happened to the trio of vanished children.

Arcadia, the land they end up in, has its fair share of weird creatures, possible scoundrels, and dangerous places, but worse than any of them is the villain who sneaks into the painting just after them – Angus Bellini, cousin of their art teacher, who's determined to find three lost paintings of Corvo's which he's convinced are hidden inside Arcadia.

The book has a rapid pace and Flavin is definitely a talented writer who manages to capture the world of Arcadia and the three heroes really well. If there's a slight criticism, Bellini is something of a one-dimensional villain and this perhaps prevents the book being quite as exciting as it could be at times. On the other hand, the characters the three children meet in Arcadia, including Corvo's apprentice Marin and Lady Ishbel Blackhope, niece of 16th century adventurer Sir Innes Blackhope, who formerly owned the Tower, are much more interesting to read about. I particularly like the interaction between Blaise, Sunni and Marin – it's a sort of borderline love triangle, enough romance to whet the appetite of readers who enjoy that kind of thing but never taking anything away from the action.

I think that the majority of younger secondary school children and older primary school children would really enjoy this book, and anyone particularly interested in art will be absolutely fascinated by it. I'm not quite convinced that it will have the same appeal to the older end of the teenage age range but would encourage them to give it a try if they like the idea of enchanted paintings.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Friday Feature - Sam Hawksmoor Interview

One of my favourite books for ages is The Repossession, Sam Hawksmoor's somewhat crazy - but completely wonderful - sci-fi thriller. It's released next week, and he was kind enough to stop by for a chat.

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

Hmm, I don’t think in plurals. I wrote this for one particular girl who was keen to read the next chapters. She kept asking ‘What’s next?’ And she was very protective of Genie. To be honest that’s best situation a writer can ever hope for and it spurred me on. I just hope others find it the same experience for them.

2. I described the Repossession as "Totally crazy in the very best way." How on earth did you come up with such an incredibly original plot?

It’s simply about two kids who love each other and run away but fall into a terrible trap. But then again speaking as someone who grew up on repeats of old TV series and films such as ‘The Invaders’ and ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ it’s always those around you and the most familiar who will betray you. Rian and Genie live in a town where everyone has a terrible secret. It grew from there I think.

3. For me, one of the most chilling aspects of The Repossession is the location of Spurlake and the people who live there. (I'm keeping that vague because most people reading this interview won't have had a chance to get the book yet, obviously!) What's your favourite location in fiction?

For me Vancouver and the hinterland of B.C. are a continuing fascination. Doug Coupland’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ brings it vividly to life. Half our favourite movies are filmed in Vancouver (Twilight for example, Juno) and I wanted to set my story in B.C. where I have lived on and off for twenty years. It’s also about credibility. The American/Canadian West Coast is where all the new ideas and science is being developed and tested. This is story that just couldn’t work if it was set in England. It lacks the dramatic geography.

4. Speaking of Spurlake, I absolutely love the page about it on your website giving background information on the town. Was this your idea, or the publisher's?

Mine. I drove hundreds of kilometres up around the Fraser River last year and took pictures of the location. With luck I’ll get more up for the sequel The Hunting. There are many small towns just like Spurlake and if you stop the car and listen for just a second you’ll hear the sound of yet another chainsaw in action…

5. In addition to some brilliant stuff about The Repossession, your website also contains a bunch of reviews you've written of other YA books. Which would you particularly recommend to someone who needs a book to read while waiting for The Repossession to be published?

I just read ‘Dark Inside’ by Jeyn Roberts (Massive earthquake triggers a zombie virus) on the West Coast. ‘Ship Breaker’ by Paulo Bacigalupi (Surely the one writer who really knows what the future of the West will be like). The Droughtlanders by Carrie Mac (terrific climate change/ terrorist/ feuding brothers trilogy). But hey, if you read all those you won't have time for mine...

And that would DEFINITELY be a mistake! Grab the Repossession first, people. Then read those other books. (Great recommendations, though - have just picked up Dark Inside from the library so will look forward to reading it.)

6. No Twitter - seriously? How do you cope?

I just don’t get it. I don’t want to follow anyone or comment on every little thing that happens. ‘Gee I’m having a coffee and pastry in CafĂ© Nero right now…’

I can see how it fed the revolutions in Egypt and now Syria, but it also fed the flames of the riots in London last summer. Perhaps we don’t see just how dangerous it can be because for most people it is so ‘normal’. Nor can you retrieve something you wish you hadn’t said... Maybe I’m paranoid? I contribute reviews to an on-line magazine, but essentially I write and that keeps me pretty busy.

7. What advice would you give to someone looking to write a novel for teens?

Heroes can be boring. Don’t patronise. Super-powers are overrated. Teens feel things with a great intensity but that passion can also disappear really quickly. (Hence being dumped on facebook or twitter being the norm). Although they go around in packs, they are all individuals with secret dreams, just like everyone else.

8. Do you listen to music when writing? If so, what was the soundtrack
for the Repossession?

Well Repo was written a little while ago but The Pierces ‘13 Tales of Love’ and Bat for Lashes album figured large back then. But also tons of Mexican music that a friend brought back from holiday. I liked the passion and clash of sounds pumped out loud in the mountain home I was staying in. Can’t write in silence at all.

9. Would you ever consider collaborating on a novel? If so, who'd be your dream partner?

I’d really like to work on a graphic novel. Did an experiment with a young student artist a few years ago but we couldn’t publish it as it concerned a certain famous mouse escaping from a certain theme park with revolutionary intentions. They really do protect their copyright. It was a fun project though and I’d love to do that again. Maybe a Japanese artist. I’m a big fan of AnimĂ©.

Assuming it's the obvious mouse, sounds like a great project! A real shame we won't see it.

10. What's next for Sam Hawksmoor?

There are three novels waiting… First up the sequel to the Repossession called The Hunting coming out in August 2012. I put Genie and Rian through hell. Then an apocalyptic virus novel and a time travel one (not sure when yet) … working on something quite bleak at the moment to see where it might go. Probably ought to write something more cheerful after that… I stay busy…

Looking forward to them all, particularly the Hunting!

Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Sam.

The Repossession hits shelves on March 1st and gets a massive recommendation from me! Check out my full review on The Bookbag.

To whet your appetite for this brilliant book even more, a trailer was released yesterday! Check it out on Youtube here.

Putting Boys on the Ledge - Stephanie Rowe

(I received this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.)

Blueberry Walker is desperate to get to know hunky Heath Cavendish better, and acting in a play with the senior she has a crush on seems to be the perfect opportunity. Her friends warn her, though, that she needs to avoid showing her interest too strongly and put him on the Ledge to keep him interested. Also willing to help her learn more about boys is new friend Colin - but is he just being helpful, or does he want more?

This is predictable fluff, but with engaging enough characters to be really enjoyable reading. I loved Blue, I found her friends really fun as well, and while I could tell what was going to happen fairly early on I still enjoyed the short journey to get there. Given the length of this novella it's actually one I'd recommend really highly to teens who don't normally read much - I think the compactness of it, along with the realistic characters and breezy writing style would definitely give them a good experience. Plus, there's three more in the series to move on to after this one - I know I'll be checking out the others, I'm sure most people who read this will be keen to see what happens next to Blue's friends, who get a book each devoted to them.

Anywhere between a mild and strong recommendation depending on your feelings on short reads with a light touch.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Save If My House Was Going To Be Abducted By Aliens

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

Okay, I've thought long and hard about this one. I decided to pick, for the most part, books that hold sentimental value to me - any others could be replaced, but for various reasons these would be a massive loss.

The Chalet School in Exile by Elinor M Brent-Dyer - My auntie read this when she was a child, and put it in a box of books to be stored. Years later, I was going through the box with my Nain (grandmother) and found it and was immediately hooked. As well as being the best of the CS series which I loved reading when growing up, this has huge sentimental value due to the link with my Nain, who passed away last year.

Jennings Follows A Clue by Anthony Buckeridge - My favourite of the Jennings stories, in which the titular schoolboy and his best friend Darbishire set up a detective agency, with predictably hilarious results. Again, sentimental value here as my dad loves the series, and this book in particular.

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett - Pterry was the first author I ever met in real life, in a signing down in Exeter. This was the one he signed for me.

The Death of Superman by Dan Jurgens - I have an old copy of this lent to me years ago by someone who was a close friend at that time. Since then, we've drifted apart somewhat, and I haven't been in touch with him for 18 months or more. This book reminds me of happier times. (Plus, I'd be incredibly embarrassed if we got back in touch and I had to admit I'd let it be abducted by aliens!)

The Long Weekend by Savita Kalhan - Interviewing Savita just after reviewing this book for the Bookbag was what really got me hooked on blogging. I was stunned that the author of such a fabulous novel would take time to actually answer my questions.

Ballet for Drina, Drina's Dancing Year, Drina Dances in New York, Drina Goes On Tour and Drina Ballerina by Jean Estoril - Sentimental value as they were introduced to me back in primary school by my best friend at the time - who, 20 years later, is still one of my best friends. They're also the five best books in my favourite ever series, and they're out of print so would take some tracking down to replace.

I found that one quite emotional to write, which I wasn't expecting when I started it... great idea for a list!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Monday Musings: Book Review of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Note: I received this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Greg is trying to survive high school, and is doing rather well at it. He's got a wonderful tactic of just avoiding pretty much everyone - never getting close to any group of people, never alienating any group either, just coasting along on nodding terms with everyone. The exception is Earl, who he makes low-budget version of cult classic films with. His life is about to be changed, though, as his mother is determined that he should rekindle an old friendship with Rachel Kushner – who’s dying of leukemia.

Despite Greg’s protestations to the contrary in the early part of the narrative, at heart, this is a weepie. We find out early on that Rachel dies – but it’s easy to forget that as we’re caught up in the hilarity that ensues as Greg tries to juggle a friendship he’s being forced into, his movie-making, and his efforts to survive at school. Given the topic, it’s perhaps surprising that so much of it is deeply funny, but there’s no questioning the amount of laughs it provided me with. As well, Greg and Rachel are pleasant characters to spend some time with. The undoubted star, though, is Earl – Greg’s vertically challenged co-director of a host of films, violent, foul-mouthed, and likely to windmill-kick you in the head if you criticise him, but still showing more sense and empathy than our narrator can manage for most of the book. As we progress, though, Greg starts to grow up a bit and becomes a character really worth rooting for.

Oh, one more thing - the dialogue is amazing. Every conversation, especially those between Greg and Earl, is note-perfect and a joy to read as well as being really realistic. It’s also a really easy read – despite the subject – with short chapters which include ‘script’ type conversations and Greg’s lists as well as the traditional narrative part.

Strong recommendation for this one, as it pulls off the difficult task of being funny and moving really well. I’m keen to read Andrews’ next book already!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sunday Special: Interview with Jesse of Books 4 Teens

I've been thinking for months that I'd like to interview another blogger but have always been too nervous to ask anyone. I eventually plucked up the courage to approach Jesse of the wonderful Books 4 Teens and he accepted straight away - not sure why I was so worried!

Thanks to Jesse for such a fantastic interview, and if you have a book blog and would like to be considered for a place in this feature, please let me know either by e-mail to or by a tweet/DM to @yayeahyeah.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself - what do you do aside from reading
and blogging?

Most of my spare time is taken up by reading and blogging but in the remaining minutes (okay, maybe not minutes) I love musical theatre so whenever a musical I want to see roles into Bristol, the Bristol Hippodrome is where I’ll be! I’m also learning to play the piano (easy play music here I come) and I am just about to start the Open University openings module, Starting With Law (it looks fun :D)

I'm a fellow fan of musicals, although my attempts at the piano would NOT convince you of this - last time I played anything the general consensus was that I lost! I've done a module with the OU before and it was really interesting - good luck with yours!

2. Your blog Books 4 Teens recently hit its 2nd anniversary -
congratulations! Has there ever been a time when you felt like giving
up, or has it been plain sailing?

Thanks (it’s my longest running blog ever! :D) I’ve had a blog of some kind ever since I discovered WordPress about five years ago. I’ve blogged about TV, magic, celebrity fashion (don’t laugh) amongst other things and I stopped because I lost interest.

Books 4 Teens though is different, I found the community on Twitter quite early on when I started blogging and everyone’s so friendly and help is always on hand when you need it. So back to your question (rambling is a bad habit of mine) Books 4 Teens has been much more plain sailing and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Definitely agree with you on the fabulous Twitter community!

3. Is there anything you wish you'd known about blogging 2 years ago
when you first started?

Ooh! Good question. * thinks * If you want to try something out like a new feature and you want authors or anyone else to get involved don’t be scared to ask.

I’ve only put this into practice this last month and it’s resulted in something that I’m really excited about :D

4. I'm hoping that some of my readers will shoot over to Books 4 Teens
to check it out (preferably AFTER finishing reading this interview,
though!) Is there a post you're particularly proud of that you'd like
to direct them towards?

Oh, yes - wait till after reading this post (and then more of your fab blog ;) )

I don’t really have many discussion posts or posts that I could really say you must read this or that, but the post I’d say would be most useful (to bloggers anyway) is the post that explains how to backup a blog. It’s one of my most popular posts but I hope it was (and is) useful, the last thing any blogger wants is for their blog to go bye bye overnight with no way of retrieving it.

I remember reading that when you first posted it! Definitely one that bloggers should check out.

5. Is there any book you've reviewed in the last 2 years which you
really enjoyed, but which hasn't had the level of success amongst
readers you'd have expected?

I had to do a little search but I think Ready Player One by Ernest Cline fits the bill nicely, it was a really fascinating story set in a world which was so dire it was better to actually live in a simulated video game. (The book description sums it up way better than I could).

I only spotted it on a few blogs apart from mine when it was published and I haven’t heard much about it since.

I've seen it but never read it, will keep an eye out for it after that recommendation!

6. What's your favourite genre to read?

That’s a tough question to answer, I only read YA but I read very widely within it – I enjoy everything from paranormal romance to dystopia to contemporary and virtually anything in between so I can’t really pick one particular favourite :)

7. If you could interview any author (living or dead) for Books 4
Teens, who would you choose?

For me it would have to be C. S. Lewis – it was the Chronicles of Narnia or more specifically, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe which got me interested in reading when I was younger. I remember my primary school putting on a play of the book and our head teacher at the time sitting us in the canteen while he read us bits of the book in the lead up to the performance. I can actually even remember the performance – I think it must have been the biggest one my primary school did while I was there.

I was given the book the following Christmas – and still have it today (even though it’s seen better days!).

8. Do you have a favourite place to read books?

Not a favourite place as such but anywhere where it’s quiet – I read a lot in work (not during office hours of course lol) as there is absolutely no distractions between 7:30am and 8:30am and I read a lot in bed.

9. What's your favourite thing about blogging?

Meeting via Twitter all the other bloggers and publicists and getting to find out what books everyone is getting excited about. Not forgetting the times when you tell someone you haven’t read something yet and they convince you that you must! And it’s fab :D

10. Do you think you'll still be blogging 2 years down the line?

I hope so, I love my little blog, I love writing the posts and posting comments and I love all the interaction it brings!

Agreed, I love the interaction with other bloggers. (Like this interview!)

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Jesse!

Thanks for having me!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Saturday Spotlight: Book Review of Life, Death and Gold Leather Trousers by Fiona Foden

Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally.

Despite having not seen her uncle Jupe, the famous former rock star, for several years after he fell out with her mother, Clover is still devastated by his death. So when her parents split up the day after she turns thirteen, and her father runs off with a nude model, she doesn't think things can get any worse. Can she cope with the fallout of the split, look after kid sister Lily, and get to know cute fellow guitarist Riley better? Or will her rival Sophie Skelling's teeny crochet bikini tempt him away from her?

This was the first I'd heard of Fiona Foden - she's a debut YA author who's written five adult novels which have passed me by - but I certainly hope it's not the last. As a former editor of Bliss, More! and Just Seventeen, she clearly knows what teens are looking for and provides it in spades with some wonderfully warm characters and brilliantly realistic relationships between Clover and her parents, their new love interests, her kid sister Lily and her first crush Riley. Then, of course, there's rock star Jupe, a haunting presence - thankfully not in a supernatural way, but just because Clover keeps being reminded of him and wishing she'd been able to say goodbye to him.

Clover is an incredibly sympathetic character and I spent the entire book desperately hoping she'd be able to both come to terms with her grief over Jupe's death and her parents' divorce and see off the challenge of Sophie Skelling - who, to be fair, is also fleshed out a bit more than most love rivals in this genre are. I found this one really heartwarming and despite it being a tiny bit predictable at times absolutely loved the ending. Foden also deals with loss and with parents breaking up with a really deft touch - acknowledging how awful both can feel while providing readers going through similar experiences with hope for the future. High recommendation and while this reads perfectly well as a 'one and done', if there is a sequel at any point, I'll be the one at the front of the crowd frantically reaching for a copy.

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

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Friday Feature: Around the Blogs with Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan

This is the first in an occasional new feature, where I'm going to 'stalk' a book around some blogs! Hope you all like it.

My first choice is Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan.


I was keen to read this book from right back when I first heard of it, and it made it into my Top Ten Books I'm Excited To Read In 2012 post, where I said "Not usually that keen on ghost stories, but this sounds super atmospheric and generally amazing." (I should mention that this was part of Top Ten Tuesday, as hosted by the wonderful people at The Broke and The Bookish!)

Back in January, Undercover Reads showcased the super atmospheric trailer video.

Melanie at Books are Vital helped to spread the word about Daylight Saving by featuring it on Waiting on Wednesday, saying "But this, this! you people, sounds amazing." as did District YA, the Traveling Reader and YA Book Queen.

It was also one of many books featured by Bella at Cheezyfeet Books in her February preview and I also took the opportunity to give it a shout-out in my own February preview post, describing it as "an unusual, compelling and fantastically atmospheric read set in a wonderful location." (By this point, I'd been lucky enough to read it!)


Onto the reviews, then. Juxtabook described it as "so very, very good I'm going to sound like the author's mother."

Serendipity Reviews said "When I imagine how I would like a ghost story to be, then this is how I envisage it... Daylight Saving is the type of book I would imagine Susan Hill writing if she were now debuting as a YA author."

Sister Spooky, giving it 7.5/10, said about the main character's reluctance to get involved at Leisure World "Having had more than my fair share of awkward family holidays (oddly one at Centre Parcs) I know exactly how Daniel feels."

My own review was another really positive one, praising the way Hogan kept things "tense and fantastically atmospheric right the way through this novel."

Writer-On-Wheels praised Hogan for the "outstanding plot" but warned that "this isn't a book for younger, or quite sensitive readers" due to it being "very emotional, and very scary".

Sarah over at Feeling Fictional gave the book 4/5, and made a really perceptive comment about the location, saying "The setting is like an extra character in the story and nothing about it is quite what it first seems, instead of being a family friendly location it has quite a sinister feel to it."


Of course, once an author's finished writing a book, rather than put their feet up, they often get people like me begging them for interviews. Ed was kind enough to speak to me right here on YA Yeah Yeah, and there's another fabulous Q & A with him at The Review Diaries.

As well as these interviews, Ed gave Vivienne from Serendipity Reviews a list of books that inspired him, to kick off her new 'Inspire Me' feature. I loved this one, and will look forward to reading more of this brilliant feature idea in the future.

Sarah at Feeling Fictional is running a giveaway for a copy of the book! It's UK only and there are about 2 weeks left to enter - closing date 3rd March at 12:01 am. Good luck if you give it a go!

If you'd like to talk to Ed, he's very approachable and can be found on Twitter at @edhoganderby.

Have I missed anything out here? If there's another Daylight Saving blog post I haven't covered, please let me know in the comments so I can edit it in! Would also be really interested to hear whether you think this is a good feature idea.

If you have any requests for future books to feature in this - whether you're an author, publisher, publicist, or just a fan! - let me know in that comments section. Ideally, I'm looking for books which HAVEN'T had their own blog tour (because it would probably be repetitive!) and have a reasonable and manageable amount of reviews. So, more than just one or two, but not so many my brain would explode trying to collate them. (So John Green, Suzanne Collins and JK Rowling are OUT - I'm sure they'll live with the disappointment.)

Thursday Thoughts: Review of Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Mockingbird is the story of Caitlin, an 11-year old girl with Asperger's syndrome trying to recover from the death of her brother Devon in a school shooting. With her dad struggling to cope and Caitlin no longer having her brother to explain to her things she doesn't understand, the young narrator must seek closure on the tragedy herself.

I struggled to get into this one - Caitlin's narrative voice takes some getting used to. However, once I managed to get past that, I found this to be a well-written, thoughtful, and moving look at tragedy and at Asperger's syndrome. Watching the way Caitlin interacted with those around her, especially a young boy called Michael who she grew close to, the school bully Josh, who's the cousin of one of the boys who'd perpetrated the shooting, and her counsellor Mrs Brook. I also thought the way the other children - and even certain teachers - found Caitlin hard to deal with to be very realistic. There are also lots of parallels drawn with the fabulous To Kill A Mockingbird, with Caitlin taking after Scout and Devon taking after Jem - I really liked these, as a massive fan of Harper Lee's classic novel. The novel this is being compared to most is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but while that left me completely cold (I appreciate I'm in the minority there!), this was far more engaging, and from my limited experience of Asperger's, I felt Caitlin was a much more realistic character than Mark Haddon's Christopher.

There's a couple of things which stop this from being one of my very top reads so far this year, despite the buzz it has going around it. I thought the ending was a tad rushed, if anything - it's perhaps one of the very few recent books I'd say might benefit from being longer! This is partly because it’s covering so much ground. As a novel about grieving for a dead brother, coping with Asperger’s, and a community in mourning after a tragedy, it does everything well but I think an extra few chapters might have given it the space to do it all brilliantly. I also found Caitlin's character development to be a little faster than I would have expected in one particular area. (If that sentence makes little or no sense, blame it on my avowed dislike of spoilers!) Oh, and a minor grumble - Caitlin is 11. There's no way on earth the girl on the cover looks 11, I'd have guessed early teens. Not something that's likely to bother anyone, I just had to mention it.

Oh, if you're planning on getting this and you have a Kindle, hurry! It's just £2.63 in the UK and $4.14 in the US - definitely a bargain at those prices.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Bloglovin' is apparently a cool way to follow blogs. I have no real idea what I'm doing with it, but you could say something similar for most of my previous 200+ posts on here, and it's not like it's ever stopped me before.

Anyone used it? If so, any comments?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: In Honor by Jessi Kirby

"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:

Publication date: 8th May 2012

From Goodreads

Honor receives her brother's last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn's celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.

Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn's last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn's best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn't seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn. . . and ruggedly good looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn't. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn--but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?

Why I Can't Wait:

This sounds like a real weepie, and is getting some great early reviews on Goodreads. I'm definitely enjoying contemporary books a lot more this year than I have done for a while, so am keen to get my hands on this one.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little

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

Top 2 are there because they broke my heart several times over, leaving me in floods of tears for the closing chapters of each. Rest are in alphabetical order by author's surname.

1. Before I Die by Jenny Downham - This has me close to tears for the first half and in absolute floods for the last half.

2. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - Colossally heartbreaking.

3. A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis - For one scene in particular, which made me well up. Kat is another amazing character!

4. Torn by Cat Clarke - I found one chapter in particular, about the way a friendship can change, to be incredibly sad.

5. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - THAT ending. Which I still don't like, but it was definitely heart-breaking.

6. When I Was Joe by Keren David - THAT scene in Claire's bedroom. I could barely read it, it was so emotional.

7. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald - Gotta get this one in even though it's an adult book. Short but certainly not sweet, this is a gorgeously written but devastating portrait of the American Dream gone bad.

8. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - For Mia, and for her grandfather, one of my favourite ever minor characters.

9. Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - Because Amy is such a wonderful character and I felt so sorry for her.

10. Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid - This one isn't out for a bit but have read an ARC - will avoid anything like a spoiler, but you'll need a heart of stone not to be moved here!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Teaser Tuesday: King Dork by Frank Portman

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!

Meanwhile, Kyrsten and I make out in the gym at the homecoming dance while everyone stands around in a shocked, silent circle. Then she gets up on the stage and delivers this great speech to the student body, condemning them for their superficiality, insensitivity and racism (because maybe in the movie I could be black or Filipino or Native American and handicapped too).

From King Dork by Frank Portman.

Monday Musings: Book Review of A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler

Jenni is looking forward to spending some time with her friend Autumn on holiday. The two girls go to school together, but that can't match up to the fabulous week they have once a year at Riverside Village! Except... Jenni steps in an old lift, and when she gets out, everything is different. Somehow, she's moved forward in time a year, and the vivacious Autumn and her crazy family have been scarred by a tragedy. Can she work out what happened, and is there any way she can go back and change the past?

I was struggling with this one a little as it has something of a slow start, but kept with it, and am really glad I did. Once the story gets going properly, Kessler provides us with a heart-warming, thought-provoking and really well plotted look at the way one event can have a ripple effect on other people and at the nature of friendship. I was particularly impressed by Kessler's character development, both of Jenny as she frantically tries to work out what's happened and if she can put it right, and of the other characters as we see them a year later, marked by the effects of the tragedy. I also found it to be particularly pacy after the aforementioned slow start and was completely gripped as I wanted to see what would happen next and whether Jenni could save the day. Given the target audience, by the way, I was expecting the answer to this question to be rather predictable, but as I reached the end I can honestly say that I wasn’t sure what would happen and was desperate to find out.

Strong recommendation as a really good read with significantly more depth than I was expecting. I’ll definitely be checking out Kessler in the future!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Sunday Special: January in Review

This is hopefully a new monthly feature for me, as I look back on the books I read during the previous month.

Note explaining the length of this list – I was originally devastated when I found out the colleague who’d given me a lift to work for the past few years had been selfish enough to get a job, leaving me to face the bus in the morning. Thankfully, I soon realised that while this has totally messed up my finances, it’s left me with a lot of extra time for reading, and took full advantage of it in January!

I was originally planning on doing a top 10 or something similar, but there was just so much incredible stuff I read that I’d be leaving a brilliant book out even by picking 10, so instead, I’ll run through YA and MG in alphabetical order by author, and then announce my Books of the Month.

YA reads

Beat the Band by Don Calame – Staggeringly funny sequel to the excellent Swim The Fly, this is a raunchy comedy with a lot of heart.

Welcome Caller This Is Chloe by Shelley Corriell – I’m waiting to publish my full review until nearer release date, but quick summary – superb! Fabulous contemporary fiction with a wonderful narrator.

Tempest by Julie Cross – Mixed feelings on this one; I really enjoyed most of it but absolutely loathed the ending. Worth checking out for time travel fans, at least.

Night School by CJ Daugherty – Never got round to reviewing it. Interesting thriller which wasn’t completely successful in holding my attention but has a lot of potential as a series. I’ll be on board for book 2!

Saving Daisy by Phil Earle – Gut-wrenching contemporary drama with incredible characters and powerful writing.

Girl Meets Boy by Kelly Milner Halls (editor) – Fascinating concept for a collection of short stories is a superb introduction to some excellent authors.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han – This one didn’t really work for me; a shame as I’d been looking forward to it after reading tons of positive reviews for the series. Unfortunately, bratty narrator Belly was too irritating for me to enjoy it.

Poison Heart by SB Hayes - Incredibly compelling psychological thriller. Huge recommendation.

Department 19 by Will Hill – Think you’ve read every possible spin on the vampire genre? Think again! From Frankenstein’s Monster as one of the good guys to teen vampire Larissa, this features outstanding characters, an incredible plot, and a superb ending to set up book 2 in the series nicely. Absolutely stunning.

Daylight Saving by Edward Hogan – Chilling ghost story with a fabulous central pairing, adult author Hogan’s YA debut is fantastic. Definitely one to watch! (And he was kind enough to speak with me about the book as well.)

Indigo Blues by Danielle Joseph – Light and fluffy, this contemporary story is a perfect chilled out read. Danielle was kind enough to give me an interview about it.

Falling Fast by Sophie McKenzie – Somehow, despite me not liking the central characters that much – normally a deal-breaker for me – this intense romance really gripped me.

Fracture by Megan Miranda – Fabulous narrator and excellent supporting characters make Miranda’s debut novel a bit hit with me. Highly recommended.

Huge by Sasha Paley – This contemporary story about two girls at ‘fat camp’ who fall for the same boy didn’t really do it for me, but is worth checking out for major fans of contemporary YA.

This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees– Despite (or perhaps because of!) the unlikeable characters, this contemporary drama about big issues is gripping to the end. Rees, more famous for historical and supernatural fiction, shows her versatility as she deals with troubled young people in today’s world.

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi – Dystopian tale didn’t quite live up to the hype for me; I found the main characters unappealing and the world-building confusing. That said, there are enough strong points to make it well worth checking out if you’re a big fan of the genre.

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar – Sachar does the impossible and turns bridge into an interesting game to read about. Not one of my favourites of the month, but surprisingly exciting given the subject matter – and as always with Sachar, the laughs keep coming.

My Soul To Save by Rachel Vincent – I’m still not completely in love with the Soul Screamers series – Kaylee and Nash are a little bland as main characters – but Vincent’s world-building continues to be excellent, and most paranormal fans will really enjoy this one.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon - CRZ’s incredibly atmospheric thriller shows he’s one of the few authors around who can write fantastic novels for both adults and teens. (I’ve even seen people recommend this one for 9-12 year olds; they obviously know much braver 9-12 year olds than I do!!)

As good as the above books were, though, in the end, I had to choose a Book of the Month for January, and my YA pick is…

(Can I get some trumpets or something around here?)

Wereworld: Shadow of the Hawk by Curtis Jobling

The third in Jobling’s outstanding epic high fantasy series is the best yet. Despite a sprawling cast, Jobling keeps the action focused fast and furious, and develops his characters brilliantly while doing so. Whether it’s incredible excitement, political intrigue, or really well rounded heroes that you’re looking for, Wereworld has it in spades.

I also read a few MG books during the month.

The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford – Classic book for kids seems unsurprisingly dated by now but is a charmer anyway.

A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis – WOW! 12 year old Kat, a stunning central character in this amazing historical tale with added magic makes it a massive hit. On reading it, I was comfortably expecting it to be the best book I read all month, and was nearly right.

Over The Moon by G G Elliott – A pleasant enough, if rather predictable, story of football, fashion and makeovers.

Going Out With A Bang by Joel Snape and David Whittle – Reasonable, with contemporary humour that will definitely appeal to boys of the target age range.

But my MG Book of the Month goes to…

(Drumroll, please, anyone?)

A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis

As fabulous as the first in the Kat Stephenson series is, the second is better in every way. Great characters who develop wonderfully throughout the novel, a superb portrayal of Georgian England, and a stunning climax which had me nearly in tears make this a well-deserved Book of the Month.

What was the best book you read in January? I'd love to know in the comments section! If you've done a similar post, please feel free to leave a link so that I, and my readers, can check it out.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Saturday Spotlight - Ghost of a Chance by Rhiannon Lassiter

Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally.

Eva Chance is used to being ignored by her family, apart from her frail grandfather, who she adores. So she's barely even surprised when they don't set a place for her at a dinner party. But when nearly everyone is ignoring her she grows increasingly concerned – and that's when she realises she's dead. Can she solve the mystery of her murder before either malevolent ghosts or human criminals can do any more damage to her family, aided only by Kyra, who bullied her when she was alive, Kyra's brother Kyle, and a ghost called Maggie she may or may not be able to trust?

First things first, the characters here are very well-drawn. I liked the central trio of Eva, Kyra, and Kyle, and thought that Kyra in particular was very interesting as someone who was having to deal with guilt over the way she'd treated Eva before her death and fighting to prove to herself she wasn't a completely nasty person. I also really enjoyed Kyle, especially the way he interacted with his sister and with Eva, who he'd never really known before her death. I also thought the mystery aspect was really well handled and was racking my brains trying to work out who the human criminal was, and even if there was one, changing my mind continually as new developments occurred. The portrayal of the various supporting characters, most of whom were moderately unpleasant without anyone standing out as an obvious murderer, certainly added to the intrigue as well.

That said, I thought the supernatural part of the book was a bit hit and miss in places. I never felt completely drawn into the world of the spirits and found the start of the novel rather slow paced as Eva took so long to realise that she was a ghost. I also thought the two other teens were remarkably quick to accept the existence of ghosts, with Kyle's initial shock not lasting anywhere near as long as I'd have expected.

Once things started moving more quickly, though, and the House was opened up to the public with Ghost Walks taking place as Eva, Kyra and Kyle desperately tried to solve the mystery of Eva's death with more and more dangerous occurrences happening, I was really keen to find out what was going on and enjoyed the imaginative way Rhiannon Lassiter ended the novel. Recommendation to fans of both mysteries and supernatural novels.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Friday Feature: Interview with Edward Hogan

I got through a huge amount of books in January, many of which were absolutely superb. Perhaps one of the pleasantest surprises for me was the YA debut of adult author Edward Hogan, Daylight Saving - a chilling story with a great location and fantastic characters. I jumped at the chance of an interview, naturally.

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

That's a really interesting question. While I'm writing a first draft, I think mostly about my characters. It's only when I start redrafting that I start thinking about readers. My first reader is Emily, my other half, and her feedback is always very astute - she has great ideas. And then there's a small group of readers including my agent. With Daylight Saving, I thought a lot about the pace of the book, and my editing was really driven by wanting to cut out any wasted words. I wanted the book to be gripping. I think it's important to respect readers, and respect their time.

2. I loved the setting of Daylight Saving in the Leisure World Holiday Complex - although as someone who, like Daniel, isn't really sporty, I think I enjoyed reading about it significantly more than I would have actually liked being there! What gave you the idea for the setting?

I went on a very similar holiday when I was small (although the biggest drama was when I burned my tongue on some hot chocolate!). What was remarkable about the place we stayed was that it was embedded in Sherwood Forest! The forest is an eerie, beautiful place. It's also ancient, of course, full of the history and legend of England. But there we were, playing badminton!

3. And on a similar note, what's your favourite ever setting in a novel?

I have a terrible sense of direction; I can't read maps, so (with exceptions, of course), I tend to like novels that stay in one place, as opposed to odysseys and voyages. Annie Proulx's collection Close Range provides a sort of folk history of Wyoming. She writes brilliantly about how the people adapt their lives to the brutal landscape, and how it shapes their minds and the stories they tell. The collection includes 'Brokeback Mountain', and 'Bad Dirt', which is about the dangers of rodeo. It's an amazing, strange piece of work. Proulx quotes a retired Wyoming rancher at the start of the book, who says, "Reality's never been of much use out here." That about sums it up.

4. While Daylight Saving is your first YA book, you've written others for adults. What's the main difference between writing for adults and for teenagers?

I don't think there has to be that much difference. I've read a few YA novels recently that would certainly appeal to adults (Mal Peet's Life: An Exploded Diagram is an excellent example). I've noticed from being a teacher, that teenagers don't much like being patronised! The teenage years are a time of revolution and passion, and a time when we make decisions about who we are, and those things are always worth writing about seriously. The main difference for me, writing Daylight Saving, was that I decided to write a thriller, which was something I'd never done before. Hopefully it's got some twists and turns.

You don't need to worry on that score, Ed - it definitely has!

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

I love having the ideas. Weirdly, when I have a bit of a breakthrough with an idea, I immediately stand up from my desk and go and walk around. It's like a mini-celebration. It doesn't happen very often, unfortunately! In terms of the stuff I find hard, I can't complain, really. It's a great job. I often feel anxious when a book comes out, and it starts to get reviewed. It's quite exposing. But I know I'm lucky to be published, and to be reviewed at all, so you have to take it on the chin when someone doesn't like it.

6. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, was there a soundtrack for Daylight Saving?

I don't listen to music while I write, but the soundtrack question is very interesting. Unlike other novels, I had a little ritual with Daylight Saving. Every morning, before I started work, I listen to Pyramid Song by Radiohead. It just seemed to capture something of the weird, watery mood of the book. I understand it as a song about what happens when you die. It has a brilliant video, which you can see on youtube, but it's worth buying the song, too!

7. What are you reading at the moment?

I just read Tyme's End, by B R Collins, which is an excellent and very chilling novel. It has an usual and brilliantly handled structure, moving backwards in time to the horrific events that send shockwaves back through the rest of the story. A novel to read twice!

Sounds great, I'll keep an eye out for it!

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

Wow, what a brilliant question! Maybe I would ask Stephanie Meyer if she could lend me a tenner. Seriously, though, I'm just a beginner, so I have tons of questions. If it could be anyone, living or dead, I'd ask Muriel Spark about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The question would be something along the lines of: "How the heck did you manage that?!" An amazing and technically perfect book.

Fabulous choice, I loved that book!

9. If you could collaborate with another author on a novel, who would you choose and why?

I think it would have to be someone who writes funny stuff featuring teenage characters. The Canadian writer Miriam Toews fits that bill, although she's not a YA author (check out her books A Complicated Kindness, The Flying Troutmans and Irma Voth). One of the best teen novels I've read recently is Mermaids by Patty Dann. I don't even know if it's in print in the UK, but it's so funny and inventive, and the central characters - Charlotte and her mother - are brilliantly drawn. I bet it would be fun to work with Patty Dann.

I'll be sure to keep an eye out for both those authors, thanks for the recommendations!

10. What's next for Edward Hogan?

Well, my next YA book, The Helmstown Messengers, should be ready in 2013. It's set in a seaside town, and is about a girl called Frances, who has an unusual gift. It's another sort of mystery story, and I had a great time writing it.

That's about it, Jim! Thanks again for giving me some space on your blog!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Ed! I look forward to reading The Helmstown Messengers.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Book Review of A Witch In Winter by Ruth Warburton

Anna Winterson is a London girl through and through, so she's less than thrilled to be moving to the small fishing town of Winter. When she gets there, though, she starts to meet people, and invites some of her new friends to a sleepover in her spooky house. Finding an ancient book there, they laugh and joke as they cast a love spell for fun - but Anna has hitherto unknown powers, and her spell works all too well, causing Seth, the school's resident hunk, to fall in love with her and dump his girlfriend for her. Anna's now left fighting the hatred of the cool crowd at school, her guilt over accidentally messing with Seth's mind, and her feelings for Seth which she's trying not to give in to. As if that wasn't bad enough, her use of magic has caught the eye of some seriously powerful witches...

Wow - that's one of my longest plot summaries for a while and it doesn't come anywhere near close to giving away much of what's happening in this enchanting book. Full of hot romance, great action, and fabulous British dialogue, this is a stunning debut. While Anna is a fabulous narrator and Seth's an excellent love interest, the undoubted star of the book for me was the location of Winter itself, the kind of place where people whose parents had moved there 50 years ago would still be described as offcomers. It was perfectly described, and the scenes which saw harsh weather hit the coastal town felt thrillingly realistic and incredibly atmospheric. Throw in a good supporting cast - my favourite being Seth's grandfather, an old fisherman bemoaning the death of his industry - with a really nasty bunch of villains, and some absolutely outstanding action sequences, and this has got me desperately waiting for the next book in this trilogy.

One more thing - while I rarely comment on covers, I have to say that this one is simply spellbinding, and fits the story perfectly, capturing both Anna and the book's general atmosphere wonderfully well.

Strong recommendation, particularly to fans of magic and romance.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Croak by Gina Damico

"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:

Publication date: 20th March 2012

From Amazon

Sixteen-year-old Lex Bartleby has sucker-punched her last classmate. Fed up with her punkish, wild behavior, her parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than that of shoveling manure.

He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach her the family business.

Lex quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated entirely by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. Along with her infuriating yet intriguing partner Driggs and a rockstar crew of fellow Grim apprentices, Lex is soon zapping her Targets like a natural born Killer.

Yet her innate ability morphs into an unchecked desire for justice—or is it vengeance?—whenever she’s forced to Kill a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. So when people start to die—that is, people who aren’t supposed to be dying, people who have committed grievous crimes against the innocent—Lex’s curiosity is piqued. Her obsession grows as the bodies pile up, and a troubling question begins to swirl through her mind: if she succeeds in tracking down the murderer, will she stop the carnage—or will she ditch Croak and join in?

Why I Can't Wait:

Something about this one sounds really intriguing. Badly behaved girl turned grim reaper seems like it could be a lot of fun, and the mystery aspect of who the murderer is should add to it. Plus, Goodreads reviews are describing Lexi as super-snarky, which is always a plus in a main character!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Looking for Alaska by John Green

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 was right then, between when I asked about the labyrinth and when she answered me, that I realised the importance of curves, of the thousand times where girls' bodies ease from one place to another, from arc of the foot to ankle to calf, from calf to hip to waist to breast to neck to ski-slope nose to forehead to shoulder to the concave arc of the back to the butt to the etc. I'd noticed curves before, of course, but I had never quite apprehended their significance.

From: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Monday, 6 February 2012

Monday Musings - Review of Torn by Cat Clarke

When Jack Chambers approaches Alice King just after his sister Tara's funeral, he wants to talk to her about Tara. He needs to know more about his sister, and about the tragic night on which she died, and Alice - who'd shared a cabin with her on that fatal trip to the Scottish Highlands - is the obvious person to ask. Alice likes Jack, but she's not sure she should talk to him. Part of her wants to walk away. On the other hand, that might look suspicious... and Alice can't afford to look suspicious. Because she knows much more about the night that Tara died than Jack could ever have imagined.

This is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year so far for me, as I found it absolutely stunning. On reading Clarke's debut Entangled, I enjoyed her writing style but found it too predictable and the characters didn't engage me. Neither of those criticisms can be levelled at this book - there are twists and turns throughout, with several characters turning out to be very different from how they first appear, while her characterisation is superb. I particularly liked the way Clarke portrayed Tara, who continued to haunt Alice after her death, and loved the way that she was developed into much more than a stereotypical mean girl as we learnt about her. Alice herself, struggling to cope with the burden of her guilt, is a fantastic narrator, and the blossoming relationship between her and Jack is handled very well.

I love Clarke's writing style even more after reading this one - it's incredibly readable and just begs you to carry on for one more chapter - and another - and another. I'm definitely really looking forward to her next novel, and this is a massive recommendation.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Saturday Spotlight: Comin 2 gt u by Simon Packham

Saturday Spotlight is a new feature where I'm showcasing some of the books I've reviewed for The Bookbag by posting reviews here for the first time. I'm trying to use it to promote books which people may have missed originally.

Sam Tennant is reasonably happy at school, generally gets on alright with people, and doesn't have much to worry about – until he's murdered in the first chapter of this novel. Oh, not really murdered – his character in a game he plays online is killed. But then, the two who kill him refer to him by his real name instead of his computer persona, and he realises that virtual life has just become very nasty indeed.

What follows is a gripping, horrible, and yet totally believable description of an online and offline bullying campaign carried out against Sam by other Year 8 pupils as he tries desperately to identify the mysterious 'Emperor', who sets up a hate site against him and leads the nastiness. Desperately trying to stay strong in the face of their malice, he's left with just two friends, shy Abby and nerdy Stephen, as his dad is away from home, his mother's tied up with a difficult work case, and his dying grandfather has dark secrets of his own which he needs to share with Sam.

As someone with many friends who live hundreds, in some cases thousands, of miles away from me, I absolutely love the internet because it makes it so easy to keep in touch with people I'd otherwise have drifted apart from. As a secondary school teacher, I find the internet increasingly scary as I've seen the amount of our pupils who experience difficulties when they fall out with their peers and things are written on the internet, especially on social networking sites. I don't think it's necessarily easy for those people who grew up, as I did, before the internet was particularly popular, to realise the impact it can have on children's lives these days and from that point of view, I'd definitely recommend this to all parents and teachers as an example of just what can go wrong. It could also lead to some superb discussions in school as part of lessons.

Of course, while that's all very worthy, it wouldn't really matter if the book was boring to read – thankfully nothing could be further from the truth, as it will definitely hold the attention of young and old alike. I love the journal of his wartime memories that Sam's grandfather gives him to read, and thought the two storylines were tied together neatly in the end – although I have to confess, the ending seemed to be a bit too hasty in many ways, with one character's final actions seeming rather bizarre. Still, a minor drawback in what's otherwise a great read.