Thursday 30 January 2014

Friday Feature: Author Interview with Nikki Sheehan

One of the most imaginative books of the year so far for me has been Who Framed Klaris Cliff?, by Nikki Sheehan. I was delighted to get the chance to interview her - particularly as I'm also lucky to be going to a brilliant OUP event tonight to celebrate the launch of WFKC and the equally wonderful Storm and Stone by Joss Stirling!

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

I’d love to imagine that Klaris will be read by a kid sprawling on their unmade bed, or lying in the long grass at the bottom of the garden, or sitting among the chaos of family life, totally lost in the story. Wouldn’t that be great?

2.  I think you have one of the most varied backgrounds of any debut author I can remember seeing, with your career including subtitling for The Simpsons, studying psychology, retraining as a journalist, writing for parenting magazines and co-founding a property blog! Have you always wanted to write a novel?

Yes, I always thought I would be a fiction writer, but I was very maƱana about it. The push I needed came when I had children and spent many many hours reading to them. I was either blown away by the books, or thought, meh, I could do this better. So I decided to give it a go.

3.  The announcement of OUP buying the UK/Commonwealth rights to Who Framed Klaris Cliff was first made in October 2012, about 15 months ago. How nervous have you been waiting for publication?

The thing about publishing is that it’s so sloooow that you sort of get used to it, and I haven’t felt too nervous. Fortunately some nice reviews have been coming in for the last few months so I no longer think that the publishers have made a terrible mistake and they’re going to rip up the contract and ask for their money back! I know that some people won’t like the book, but there’s nothing I can do about that, and as long as I please some of the people some of the time it will be worth it.

4.  The ending left me reeling - it's one of the few books for younger readers where I've been completely by surprised by what happened. What feedback did you get from beta readers/editors/agents? Were they as taken aback as I was?

I wrote it over a period of about a year and read chapters out every few weeks to my crit group, so I was able to see their faces and get instant feedback when I they heard the ending (imagine if they had gone, yeah, and?). Neither my agent nor my editor at OUP saw a synopsis, so I think they were like woah! In fact OUP thought it was a bit too woah, and I had to tone it down a little, but that was fine.

5.  I really liked the relationship between Joseph and his father. Who is your favourite fictional parent?

Obviously number one Good Parent has to be Atticus Fitch from To Kill a Mockingbird. He is the uber fictional parent; physically absent enough to let the kids get into trouble, but emotionally present and interesting in his own right. But I also like the really neglectful, self-indulgent parents because they force the characters to be independent and resourceful. For the category of Bad Dad, I think Cassandra Mortmain’s father, James, in I Capture the Castle, is a great example. He’s a tortured writer who hasn’t produced anything for ten years, forcing his adoring family into the depths of genteel poverty where they have to sell off the furniture to pay for food. It’s great stuff.

Two great picks! I love Atticus, while I Capture The Castle is one of my very favourites of all-time.

6.  Rocky and Joseph make each other do a couple of nasty forfeits during the course of the book (or at least try to!) Have you ever had to do an embarrassing forfeit, and can you share the details with us?

God, no. I hate anything like that. I’d run a mile. Well, maybe I’ve been involved in a few games of truth or dare, but that’s all I’m going to say.

I'm sure that's a very tactful answer to the question, but I can't help feeling there's something you're not telling us...

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

I’d ask Daphne du Maurier what the main character’s name is in Rebecca, and why she kept it secret - it’s maddening!

8.  Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what was the soundtrack to Klaris Cliff?

Unfortunately I can’t write with any music on, even classical, because it disturbs my rhythm. But I live in the town, so when I was writing Klaris I put headphones on and played countryside sound tracks from Youtube, which were mostly distant bird song, and the odd cow mooing or tractor putting along. However, the book does have a signature tune; the Mama Cass version of Dream a Little Dream of Me, which I used in the early chapters. It has the line, ‘Birds singing in the sycamore tree,’ which I had forgotten when I chose it, but it’s very relevant (you’ll have to read the book to find out why!)

Ooh, awesome song!

9.  If you could host a literary dinner party for six people (authors or characters) who would you invite?

Ooh, what a good question. OK, I’d have three of each. For the authors I’d go for Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood and Andy Stanton. And for the characters, I’d have Miss Haversham, Willy Wonka (if he brought pudding), and the lovely Auggie from Wonder.

Glad you liked the question, it's one of my favourites to ask as it always gets fascinating responses! Willy Wonka bringing the pudding sounds like a great plan.

10.  What's next for Nikki Sheehan?

Well, the next book is written, but I can’t say any more than it’s a bit strange, but as that seemed to work the last time I’m not worrying too much.

Sounds like a plan! Thanks so much for talking to me, Nikki - and see you tonight! 

Nikki can be found on Twitter and at her website.

Cover Reveal: Wonderland by Joanna Nadin

If there's one thing better than being asked to take part in a cover reveal - which is a seriously cool thing anyway - it's being asked to take part in a cover reveal for a book I've read and loved.

If there's one thing better than being asked to take part in a cover reveal for a book I've read and loved, it's being asked to take part in a cover reveal for a book I've read and loved with two of the best bloggers around, Laura from Sister Spooky and Jesse from Books 4 Teens!

So when Annalie from Walker got in touch with the three of us to suggest hosting a simultaneous cover release for Joanna Nadin's awesome looking new book Eden, and new covers for her previous brilliant novels Wonderland and Undertow, I was hugely excited, and sent an e-mail back trying to stake a claim to the fabulous Wonderland. Luckily, I got it.

Check out this beauty...

Wonderland (publishing September 2014)

“I wasn’t always like this. Diminished. A shadow. Once I was as bright as she was. People took notice, because she was with me. Stella.”
The arrival of Stella brings excitement and danger to Jude’s dull existence. For the first time, Jude can be who she wants to be. But as her life spirals out of control, Jude uncovers a terrifying truth about who Stella really is...

Be yourself, they say. Be whoever you want to be. Dad, Ed, Mr Hughes, Oprah bloody Winfrey. Like some crappy mantra. But they’re not the same thing. Not the same thing at all.

I look at my reflection in the rearview mirror. My hair packet-bleached and salt dirty, my eyes ringed in black, lips stained red. My hands on the steering wheel, white, the nail varnish chipped, weeks old. Then I look at the Point falling away in front of us. The wooden fence, broken from where we’ve climbed over it so many times. The ledge below, cigarette-strewn and soaked in lager. And the sea below that. A swirling, monstrous, beautiful thing. Alive.
Nausea rises in me again, bubbling up, insistent. I breathe in, pushing it, willing it back down again. I don’t know how we got here. How I got here. I don’t mean how I got to this place, the Point, but how I became the girl in the mirror. I don’t recognize myself. What I look like. What I’m doing.
I used to know who I was. Jude. Named after a song in the hope I’d stand out and shine. But I didn’t. Jude the ­Invisible. Jude the Obscure. Everything about me unremarkable. Nothing beautiful or striking, to make people say, You know, the girl with that hair, or those eyes. I was just the girl from the farm. The one with no mum. I knew what would happen when I woke up, when I went to school, when I came home. Who would talk to me. Who wouldn’t.
Until Stella. Now when I look in the mirror I see someone else staring back. I can’t see where I stop and Stella begins.
“We’ll be legend,” I say.
I watch Stella as she lights up a cigarette and drops the Zippo on the dash.
“Like Thelma and Louise,” she drawls. She takes a drag then passes it to me. “But without the headscarves or Brad Pitt or the heart-of-gold cop watching us die.”
And then I know she knows. And I know she won’t stop me. Because this is the only way.
“It’ll be very,” she says.
I take a long drag on the cigarette and, still watching myself in the mirror, exhale slowly. Shouldn’t be smoking, I think. But what difference does it make now? I pass it back to Stella. Then I let the handbrake off and the car rolls forward.

Firstly, isn't that extract awesome? Trust me, it gets even better from there...

And secondly, doesn't that cover look gorgeous, and fit so perfectly with the other two... what do you mean, you haven't seen the other two?

Oh, yeah. Head over to Sister Spooky RIGHT now to see Undertow's new look and read an extract, and then Books 4 Teens RIGHT AFTERWARDS to see the cover and read an extract from Joanna's newest book, Eden! (Or the other way around, of course.)

A massive thank you for inviting me to take part goes out to Joanna, and to Annalie at Walker! If you can tear yourself away from admiring these beautiful covers for long enough to hit Twitter, I highly recommend following @joannanadin and @walkerbooksUK

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Classic Childrens/YA: Anna from A Case For Books on The Worlds of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones

Really pleased to welcome Anna James of A Case For Books to the blog today for a post on one of the fantasy authors who've been on my 'to read' list for what seems like forever!

Number of books: 7; 6 novels and a book of 4 short stories. You can read them in chronological order or publication order but Jones recommends starting with Charmed Life, then The Lives of Christopher Chant and then the rest in any order you like.

Availability: HarperCollins reissued the series in paperback in 2008 so they’re widely available from bookshops. You can also buy the whole series as eBooks from Foyles here.

The Premise: Set in a parallel universe, or rather multiverse, the Chrestomanci series where magic is a part of everyday life. The nine-lived Chrestomanci is a powerful enchanter required to oversee and regulate magic in the Twelve Related Worlds from Chrestomanci Castle.

Why I Really Like It: Diana Wynne Jones is my favourite childhood writer and I’ve read almost all of the many books she published but this series stands out as particularly special. A fantasy series not just for fantasy readers, this is proper old-fashioned storytelling, you can easily read these books in one sitting. Fast paced, intelligent and completely entrancing it has everything you want - magic, mysterious enchanters, family mysteries, and the most wonderful array of characters. It doesn’t actually feature a ‘big bad’ of the series but the series is far more about characters overcoming obstacles through their humanity, not witchcraft (although magic obviously does feature). It’s about standing up for yourself and growing up.

The influence this series must have had on JK Rowling is undeniable - Dumbledore has definite notes of Chrestomanci and Cat of Harry as well as a plethora of other influences. Anyone who loves the detail of the magical world of Harry Potter will delight in this world. There’s an almost fairy tale feel to the stories with plenty of nods to folklore and myths. A wonderful blend of exciting plot, humour but also very moving moments. Despite winning awards, praise and writing prolifically, Jones is not a household name but if you haven’t heard of her, seek her out now and enjoy!

Best Books: Charmed Life and Witch Week.

Who It Will Appeal To: Fans of fantasy with edge and wit. If you like Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fforde or Susan Cooper.

 Others By The Same Author: Diana Wynne Jones wrote prolifically before her death a few years ago. She wrote books for all ages and her best known is probably Howl’s Moving Castle. My personal favourites, after the Chrestomanci series, are Archer’s Goon and The Dark Lord of Derkholm.

Anna can be found at A Case For Books, Go Book Yourself, and Twitter.

Monday 27 January 2014


Author: Tom Easton
Obtained: Received from another blogger
Why I Read It: I've seen several reviews, many of them really positive, but it was this one from Georgia at Books and Writers JNR - "I was giggling like a maniac for the most part, literally from the first page." - that convinced me to read it.
Genre: YA contemporary
Very highly recommended

Ben Fletcher is a pleasant and fairly quiet boy - so when the 17-year-old gets roped into taking part in the Great Trolley Robbery to grab some booze for a party, it's just his luck that he's the one who ends up getting assaulted by a lollipop lady and put on probation! Forced to keep a journal, give back to the victim of his crime, and take up an approved hobby, he reluctantly chooses knitting - only to find a real talent for it. Can he keep his new-found hobby a secret from his dad and his mates, get the girl of his dreams, and become a champion knitter?

I'd read a few reviews which said this was really funny, but these were clearly massive understatements. This is absolutely hilarious - thanks partly to the stunning voice of narrator Ben, and partly to the outstanding cast of characters. Everyone here - Ben himself, his parents, his school friends and the bullies who pick on them, the girl he fancies, the teachers, the old lady he helps as part of his probation, the rest of his knitting group, and so many more - are vividly realised and brilliant to read about. Perhaps even better are the relationships between them. Ben's home life isn't quite ideal - his parents constantly gross him out with double entendres and his mum is a stage musician who spends a fair bit of time on the road, while his dad is obsessed with things that Ben has no interest in and thinks Ben should be keener on football and cars. Despite this, the love his family has for each other shines through their issues and similarly, while his mates wind him up and get him into trouble, when it comes down to it they're really supportive. Ben is the stand-out, though. He's a fabulous narrator who it's very easy to sympathise with - especially when he gets roped into fiascos like the Great Trolley Robbery!

As well as the humour and superb characters, it's wonderfully plotted. The climatic knitting scene manages to be both staggeringly funny and suprisingly tense - not a way I'd imagined describing any scene involving knitting! Oh, one small warning - there's a fair bit of very strong language, and Ben is also editing a mate's 50 Shades of Graham book. Yes, that IS what it sounds like, although as you'd expect, it's never massively explicit. (It's also really, really funny. Myself and Luna's Little Library are desperately trying to persuade Tom he should write the full thing!)

Huge recommendation as a wonderful comedy. I can't wait for the sequel, An English Boy In New York!

Author: Caroline Carlson
Obtained: Bought for Kindle
Why I Read It: A week or two ago I had a TBR list which was nearly long enough to form a book itself. Then I read a review of Magic Marks The Spot on Nayuleska's blog, where it got her coveted 10E (That's E for Epic) rating. On the same day, I saw a 5-star review from Linda Lawlor, one of The Bookbag's best reviewers of children's books. Both Linda and Nayu have fairly similar tastes to me, so I decided anything which they both gave full marks to had to be worth trying.
Genre: MG historical fantasy
Very highly recommended

Hilary is delighted to be accepted into the Very Nearly Honourable League of Pirates - but devastated when they realise she's a girl and respond by sending her application on to Miss Pimm's Finishing School. Apparently the only thing that the League and her father Admiral Westfield agree on it's that the high seas are no place for a young lady. Hilary, though, has other ideas, and runs away from school. With a misfit crew and a gargoyle as a companion, can she find the kingdom's lost magic and prove herself a buccaneer?

As I said above, Linda and Nayu's reviews of this one had got me expecting great things from it. It definitely didn't disappoint! Hilary is a fabulous main character and as for the gargoyle - wow! He's a really lovely creation, not the jolliest around but he has a heart of gold, even if it's buried beneath a fair bit of cynicism. I was completely enchanted by their quest to find treasure, the twists and turns of the plot caught me by surprise, as did a romance between a pirate and a rather unlikely lady...

The documents scattered throughout the book really add to it, as well (although my only minor gripe is the print size for them!) The forms filled in by the pirates when they go out sailing, the letters exchanged between characters, and guides such as Treasure Hunting For Beginners are all brilliant.

There's also a fantastic ending which is satisfying in its own right and joins the next books from Tom Easton and Candy Harper at the top of my most wanted list. Oh, and the illustrations - both the interior ones and that AMAZING cover - are beautiful. Hugely recommended!

Author: Tom Avery
Obtained: Review copy for The Bookbag
Why I Read It: Trying to read more MG and it looked interesting.
Genre: MG contemporary
Highly recommended

Extremely moving story about a young girl grieving after her older brother's death is very well-written, while Kate Grove's superb illustrations really add to Avery's text.

Full review at The Bookbag.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Classic Children's/YA: Trebizon Series by Anne Digby

Number of books: 14, starting with First Term at Trebizon and ending with The Unforgettable Fifth at Trebizon

Availability: Out of print but the first ten are generally fairly easy to find cheaply second-hand. Also all fourteen are available at a nicely-priced £2.99 as ebooks. I have to say, though, the ebook covers are AWFUL. Especially for a series which had some gorgeous ones - my favourite editions being the ones in the same series as the book shown above.

EDIT: GLORIOUS DAY!! (7th September 2015) Egmont UK are bringing out new editions next year!! With better covers!!!

The Premise: The series follows the school career of Rebecca Mason at Trebizon, a Cornish boarding school. As well as friendship issues and romance, she has a talent for tennis and a knack for getting involved in some mysteries every now and again.

Why I Really Like It: This is a really interesting series because I think in many ways it marks a bridge between the older 'Girls' Own' type boarding school books and the more modern reads such as Carmen Reid's. In particular, there's much more romance here - particularly between Rebecca and her best friend Tish's brother Robbie - than in most books that came before this era, but in many other ways it's very reminiscent of the classic GO books. Most notably, perhaps, are the wonderfully described sports matches, with tennis and hockey playing a big part in various books. It's also got strong characters who develop well over the fourteen books (or less than that, in some cases - my childhood heart was pretty much broken when prefect Pippa Fellowes-Walker left midway through the series), interesting teachers (especially surfer Max!), and they're quick reads - perfect for when you just want something light and refreshing.

Best Books: I think the older ones are significantly better than the newer ones - there was a four and a half year gap between the tenth and eleventh and while I wouldn't say you should actively avoid the last four, they're less to my tastes than the brilliant first ten. Of those 10, the top few would probably be First Term... to see where it all began, Second Term... for the Tish/Sue election warfare and More Trouble... which has new girl Lucy Hubbard and the brilliant Greek bodyguard Papa (that's him glowering on the cover above!). Oh, and maybe Into The Fourth... for the wonderfully chilly Ingrid the Ice Queen.

Who It Will Appeal To: I think anyone who likes school stories will enjoy these ones.

Others By The Same Author: Digby was rather prolific in her heyday, with the Trebizon series, the Me, Jill Robinson series, A Horse Called September and The Big Swim of the Summer, amongst others, all being popular. It seems a little sad that the only ones of her books you're likely to stumble across in a new bookshop are her continuations of Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl series rather than ones featuring her own characters, but that's not to say they're not well worth reading in themselves.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Interview with Leila Sales

As anyone who's read my blog, seen my tweets, or even mentioned the word 'book' to me in the last few months knows, my absolute favourite books of 2013 were Love in Revolution by BR Collins and This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales. Having considered myself ultra-lucky when I got an interview with BR Collins recently, Leila agreeing to talk to me as well practically had me turning cartwheels!

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

I imagine girls like me, or at least girls like who I was as a teenager. Maybe girls who seem quiet and bookish, but who have a lot going on inside.

2. I have to say, I don't think I've seen such an overwhelmingly positive response on my Twitter timeline as I have for This Song Will Save Your Life to ANY book, certainly not for a long time. Where you surprised by just how much people have loved it?

Yes! Very much so. I’m surprised and delighted. I’ve heard from many readers who loved and were deeply affected by my previous books, but the Twitter response to THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE has surpassed what I saw for those other books. I had expected about the level of reader engagement here that I’d gotten for PAST PERFECT, and of course I’d hoped for slightly more (we writers always hope for something more than whatever we’ve achieved before!), but I hadn’t expected anything like this. It’s pretty amazing.

3. I mentioned in my review of This Song Will Save Your Life that there were a huge amount of wonderful lines which I'd have shared with readers, if I could narrow it down and wasn't afraid of spoiling it. What do you think is the most quotable book you've ever read?

I quote Dave Barry books a LOT. He is so funny and I’ve read his books so many times that I can quote a lot of lines from them.

Great pick, I'm a huge fan of Dave Barry!

4. This Song Will Save Your Life is one of the very rare books that made me cry on public transport. How emotionally affecting was it to write?

Thank you! I’m glad to hear that. Yes, there were a couple moments writing it when I felt overwhelmed by emotion, but by and large I don’t sit there writing and thinking to myself, “My God, this is so beautiful, this is so moving.” Usually I’m just sitting there thinking, “My God, this makes no sense, there is no way to make this believable.” Once I’m far removed from a book I can reread it and feel more deeply affected by it, but I need some distance from it to get there. Otherwise I’m reading it with more of an editorial eye, trying to improve it.

5. There are a huge amount of wonderful songs mentioned throughout the book. If pushed, could you pick your favourite three?

Ooh that’s tough. I will give you three songs that I love very much, though I can’t say that they’re my favorite three songs ever. They’re just the first ones I think of.
“This Old Heart of Mine,” by the Isley Brothers
“Rave On,” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets
“Pull Shapes,” by the Pipettes

6. You write for the fabulous Chocolate NYC blog, which has me nearly as jealous as your writing ability does... have you always been a chocolate fan?

Absolutely. When I was a kid my mother used to give me “breakfast after dessert,” which was a couple chocolate chips. Now that I am an adult, I sometimes start my day with chocolate chips even before I get to breakfast.

Sounds like a great way to wake up!

7. When not writing, you work as an editor at Viking Children's Books. Has your writing changed since you became an editor - do you pick up tips from working on other people's books, and apply them to your own?

My two jobs are closely connected and mutually beneficial. It helps me figure out solutions to problems in my manuscript when I help authors figure out how to address flaws in their own. Sometimes really fixating on a plot problem in your own writing is not going to help you solve it; you’re just going to run into the same brick wall over and over again. You have to be a little sneaky and creep up on plot problems from the side, and working with other authors on their manuscripts allows me to leave my own writing issues in the background, quietly simmering. You don’t have to be an editor to get those benefits, though. You can just read a lot of other writers’ work, and sometimes you’ll see that they have done things that give you ideas for what you want to do. That’s not too far off from what it’s like to be an editor.

8. On that subject, what's the one book published in the last few years which you'd most love to have been the editor for?

There are a lot—there have been so many fantastic kids’ books coming out recently. The first answer that comes to my mind is CHIME, by Franny Billingsley, so I’ll say that.

9. If you were hosting a literary dinner party, which six authors or characters would you invite?

This is really tricky. Like, do they have complicated dietary restrictions? Or would it be a potluck dinner? If it’s a potluck dinner than I’d invite the best cooks. A lot of my favorite characters are spotlight hogs, so they might not get along well at a dinner party—they’d all be competing to talk the most. So I’m just going to stick to inviting some of my best author friends: Rebecca Serle, Lauren Oliver, Jess Rothenberg, Courtney Sheinmel, and Jocelyn Davies. We’ve had dinner together before, and I adore them all to bits, so this seems like a guarantee of a good dinner party.

10. What's next for Leila Sales?

Editing more books, of course. There are some that I’m tremendously excited about coming out really soon, like HALF BAD, a debut and the start of a trilogy by Sally Green. It’s a YA novel about witches, but it’s not like any witch novel you’ve read before. I’m working on some writing projects of my own, but I don’t have anything concrete to say about them yet. And of course I’m going to eat more chocolate. That probably goes without saying.

Definitely! Thanks so much for talking to me, Leila.

Leila Sales ( is the author of the novels Mostly Good Girls, Past Perfect, and This Song Will Save Your LifeShe grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated with a degree in psychology from the University of Chicago. Much like the characters in This Song Will Save Your Life, Leila regularly stays up too late and listens to music too loud. When she’s not writing, she spends her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, chocolate, and the meaning of life. But mostly chocolate. Leila lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York, and works in children's book publishing. Follow her @LeilaSalesBooks

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Classic Children's/YA: Leah from Uncorked Thoughts on The Babysitters' Club

After a while without a Classic Children's/YA post, have got some really good ones lined up - starting with Leah from the brilliant Uncorked Thoughts blog today!

Number of books: Oh gosh. So many. The Babysitter’s Club was an absolutely massive series. There is 131 of the series, but Ann M. Martin also wrote The Babysitter Club: Specials, The Babysitter’s Club: Mysteries, The Babysitter’s Club: Little Sister and The Babysitter’s Club: Friends Forever. The ones that I’m talking about at the moment though is the straight series – they used to come in bumper packs of 3 books in 1. Heaven for a young bookworm!

Availability: Print copies are available via Amazon and The Book Depository. Amazon has a few of the books on Kindle too.

The Premise: “
The series is about a group of middle school students living in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. They run a business called the Baby-sitters Club that helps parents find babysitters from the club who are available for jobs by calling during their club meetings. The club starts out with four members Kristy Thomas, Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, and Stacey McGill, eventually expanding to ten. Most of the main characters are thirteen years old. When the club was founded (1986), the four members were in the seventh grade, but ten novels later (1988), they are promoted to the eighth grade. From there, they are frozen in time until the very end of the series (2000), in which they graduate from middle school.” – Wikipedia.

Why I Really Like It: Aw for so many reasons! Each book is narrated by a different babysitter so you never get bored of the same narrative voice and each character is similar to someone that you already know. I used to love imagining which babysitter I would be if I was in the books. It kept a young me occupied for hours. It was the very first series that I read and fell in love with (next to The Famous Five). Each girl was so relatable and I loved reading about their little adventures. They were short and sweet books and completely fun. Some of the events that I read about are still stuck in my head now. It makes me wonder if I’d be as into reading as I am now if my parents hadn’t bought me so many of these books!

Best Books: Yikes. Erm. I loved all of the books which featured Claudia mainly, and Dawn. They were my absolute favourite characters. I didn’t have a favourite book - there are far too many to pick between them!

Who It Will Appeal To: Contemporary lovers. They were quick and easy reads. I remember falling in love with the characters. The babysitting was merely what the gang of girls had in common – they went on many adventures.

Others By The Same Author: From searching through The Book Depository, there seems to be a couple that she did outside of the series: a series named Main Street. Here’s the link to Ann M. Martin’s Scholastic page with more info. 

Leah can be found on Twitter, and at her brilliant blog Uncorked Thoughts

Sunday 12 January 2014

YA Recommendations

Author: Joss Stirling
Obtained: Received from publishers OUP in exchange for consideration for a recommendation
Why I Read It: Review copy, requested as I loved Stirling's first two books.
Genre: YA contemporary thriller
Release date: 6th February 2014
Highly recommended

American student Raven Stone doesn't like it at her exclusive English boarding school. People are going missing, and return seeming very different. The teachers pick on her as a scholarship students, and her classmates hate her - one of them enough to send her death threats. Just as the mystery starts to deepen, two new boys arrive. Joe is friendly and charismatic, but it's Kieran's analytical brain which may be the clue to solving her problems. Although her problems may be bigger than either of them had realised...

This was a slow-burner in many ways, and while it didn't grab me with the immediacy of Stirling's wonderful Finding Sky, it got better and better as the book went on. I think part of my issue with it at the start was that neither lead is a particularly easy character to warm to - Raven is prickly and hot-tempered, while Kieran is extremely analytical and cool. (Although his Sherlock Holmes style deductions in his first scene are impressive!) However as the book, and their relationship progresses, they become much easier to like and I thought the romance was very well-written.

Also, it has a plot with several twists which was unpredictable and which had me glued to the book even before I'd warmed to the characters - a real rarity for me; normally I'm not that bothered about a novel unless at least a couple of the characters grab me early on. In this case, I was so desperate to find out what was happening that I raced through it anyway. It helps that Stirling's writing style is extremely easy to read and her books always rattle along at a cracking pace! Of course, this meant that once Kieran and Raven had found their way into my affections, I was even more involved. (Making the climax almost unbearably tense - I knew from reading her earlier books that I'd have my heart in my mouth by the end; I think I did so even more than previously here.) 

Highly recommended as a really good read for fans of teen contemporaries and/or mysteries. Oh, interestingly, while the proof cover proclaims it be a standalone, Joss Stirling's website says it's a new series - I'd definitely be interested in reading a follow-up!

Author: Katie Cotugno
Obtained: Borrowed from library
Why I Read It: Lots of really positive reviews floating around the blogosphere for this one!
Genre: YA contemporary
Release date: Already out
Highly recommended

Reena has always loved Sawyer, but  their eventual relationship is a messy one. Three years after he disappears from town, he returns to find Reena bringing up their baby. Can she let herself love him again?

I've been having a bit of a bad run when it comes to hugely hyped books recently, with many proving a bit disappointing (and the major exception to this was the wonderful This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales; in that case I somehow missed all the hype!) Because of that, I wasn't 100% sure whether I wanted to read this, but saw it at the library and couldn't resist. Thankfully, the hype here is pretty justified - Reena is an excellent narrator; I loved her friendship with Shelby and the brilliantly complex relationships both Reena and Sawyer had with their parents. I liked the love triangle (rare for me!) between Reena, Sawyer and Shelby's brother Aaron, with both guys having their strong points. (Although I'm not 100% sure Sawyer's were really strong enough to overlook how much of a jackass he was at times, which is holding this back from Very High Recommendation for me.)

I was a big fan of the alternating timeline here, showing Reena with baby Hannah and dealing with Sawyer's return to the town in the After parts, and Reena first crushing on Sawyer and then getting into a relationship with him in the Before parts. It's not a narrative technique I'm a big fan of, to be honest, but Cotugno gets it just right, and it's a really strong way of showing Reena's character development. Throw in a strong conclusion and this isn't quite up there with my top 2013 contemporaries (remember I read LOADS, this is my sixtieth to be released last year!) but it's not far off at all. Definitely looking forward to Cotugno's next.

Author: Louise Rozett
Obtained: Bought on Kindle
Why I Read It: I picked this up a couple of weeks ago (I have a feeling it was only 99p at some point) thinking it was another book with a similar premise that I'd started a while ago but never finished. I realised it wasn't and put it to one side, but when doing the spreadsheet I noticed really positive reviews from Queen ofContemporary and Fluttering Butterflies so gave it a go.
Genre: YA contemporary
Release date: Already out

Since Rose Zarelli's dad died, she's been angry all the time - especially at her brother, away at college, her best friend who's desperate to be a cheerleader, and her mother who barely talks to her. Her life becomes even more confusing when she kisses Jamie Forta, super-hot older guy whose girlfriend is also a cheerleader. Can she navigate the perils of high school?

I don't really feel I can answer my last question there, because while this is an engaging read with a good lead character, I thought it ended with very little resolved. The main thread of Jamie and Rose doesn't get much closure on it and there's various other strands not really tied off either. Despite this, it's still worth reading and I'm definitely going to be tracking down book 2, Confessions of An Almost Girlfriend, to see what happens next. The main reason for this is that Rose is a really good narrator, but I also enjoyed the chemistry between her and Jamie and I liked Jamie's friend Angelo, who has a really good heart despite sometimes not knowing the right thing to say.

Well worth reading despite the disappointing ending, for me. I'm looking forward to the next book.