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Book Review: Forsaken. The Demon Trappers by Jana Oliver

Forsaken is the first book in The Demon Trappers series (set to be a trilogy at the minute) by Jana Oliver. It was published by Macmillan on 7th January and it is 448 pages long. Thanks to MyKindaBook.com for the competition to win this.

Plot
Following in her father’s footsteps, Riley is training to be a Demon Trapper. Don’t get that mistaken with Demon Hunter though, they are two completely different things! Riley is not like her father though, who is one of the best in the business. She’s still in training and she is the only girl, which makes life extremely hard on her. People’s expectations of her and extremely high and as she struggles to just keep up, things take a turn for the worst.

Riley doesn’t need any more complications in her life but then she ends up with three and they are all super hot. Beck is one of her father’s best friends who Riley used to have a major crush on. Simon is another trainee Demon Trapper. Ori is…well, Ori is a bit of a mystery and Riley has no idea who he really is. Any normal teenager would love to be surrounded by these guys but not Riley. She also has the entire Demon world after her…and they know her name!

What I thought
Just before I won this book, I already had it in my Amazon basket because I was dying to read it. Once I had picked it up, I couldn’t put it down, reading it at every spare minute I got. In the morning before work, on the bus to work and even at work. Forsaken is one of those books that has you from the very first page and doesn’t let go until the very end…or in my case, even after putting the book down. I ended up speaking about my love for this book all night on Twitter and was telling anyone who would listen about it!

Riley kicked ass. She has a strong personality, knows what she wants in life and is a demon trapper. She also doesn’t let anyone walk all over her and will do whatever she has to in order to get what she wants. She is confident as well as beautiful and has a lot going for her, even if a lot of people don’t think she does. It’s about time we got more female MCs in YA books because I am bored of whiney and annoying ones. If I was to pick one YA female character that I wanted to be friends with, Riley is it. I’m sure being her friend would be a lot of fun, though dangerous, but I know she would always have my back. Just the kind of girl she is. The poor girl has been through a lot though. Both of her parents are dead and she is pretty much on her own, apart from Beck but I will get to him later. Considering everything that happens, I think she deals with it all pretty well, especially when she tried to look stronger than she actually is.

I instantly fell in love with Denver Beck aka Beck. Even before the other guys appeared, there was no doubt in my mind which team I was on. Even when the others did show up, my view on Beck never changed. It would take a hell of a lot to change my mind on this and unless Jana Oliver has something insane up her sleeve, I don’t see that happening throughout the series. You see, the thing about Beck is that he isn’t very nice to Riley. Regular readers of my reviews know how much I love the bad boy and the guy who is the hardest to get. This was one of the biggest things that drew me towards Beck. Other things about him: Demon Trapper, blonde, has a Georgia drawl and a series attitude. Sounds yummy right?! Beck also has some major problems. He drinks a lot and doesn’t ever seem to let anyone in, apart from Riley’s Dad. There was so much about Beck that made me want to give him a hug, even though I know he would be the kind of guy to just shrug it off. Anyway, I think you all get the point that I think he’s hot but he is also more than that. When things are going badly for Riley, Beck is there for her, even though he doesn’t want to be. Well, he keeps trying to tell himself that anyway! I can’t wait for the next book to see what Beck will get up to.

Simon was far too nice for me but I can see why Riley liked him so much. Considering all of the insane things going on in the world and in her life, Riley definitely needed some stability and Simon was it for her. He is a sweet, religious guy who obviously cares a lot for Riley but I didn’t sense one little bit of bad boy in him. Definitely not my kind of guy. Even though I didn’t totally like him, I did like seeing him with Riley and I thought that he did her a lot of good, knowing that he would always be there if she needed him and now I am curious to know what will happen with their relationship, especially after the way the book ended.

The blurb on the back of the book is a little misleading when it comes to Ori. He is described as ‘the strikingly sexy stranger who keeps turning up to save her life’ but doesn’t really turn up until way over half way through. Because of this, I was waiting and waiting for guy #3 to appear but it took so long that I wasn’t really that bothered about him by that point. Even so, he was very mysterious and I didn’t get to find out an awful lot about him, which I would say is a big advantage. I want to know more about him and what he is doing always saving Riley. Surely he has some ulterior motives?

Jana Oliver has a fantastic imagination. Not only did she create a whole new world, but a range of insane (and one very cute sounding) demons. Her world is one in which I would probably sit in a corner and cry. You wouldn’t see me going to mess with the demons on my own. Maybe if both Riley AND Beck were with me and even then, I’d be hiding in the back. The demons aren’t the only scary things though. The world is in a pretty sorry state with the economy not being what it used to and dead people being made into slaves. With all of this going on, Forsaken is an adrenaline rush. It’s exciting, fast paced, mysterious and original. It also made me giggle from the very first page. This is a book that has everything I could possibly want and I really didn’t want it to end.

In the past, I have had US copies of a book first (without even knowing that’s what they were) and have eventually bought the UK copies. With this book, the day after reading it, I bought the US version because I loved it that much. I have never done that after already having to UK copy so that is one way of telling you just how much I loved this book. The US version does have some small differences so it was interesting to see what had been altered.

Forsaken is easily my favourite book of the year so far. A must read!

Book review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Reviewed by Vicki)

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.


Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming. (from Goodreads.com)
Space. Not something I’ve ever really felt that drawn to in a book if I’m honest, but for some reason Across The Universe by Beth Revis really appealed to me.  When an early copy came up on UK book tours I signed up immediately and wow, I wasn’t disappointed!


I know Lyndsey said in her review earlier today that she found the book slow to start. Well I have to disagree. I was hooked right from the very start. We begin with Amy making the agonising decision of whether to be cryogenically frozen along with her parents and set off for a new life, on a new planet, 300 years away. Immediately the weight of such a decision plus the horrifying reality of actually being frozen gripped me. It’s far from pleasant and Beth Revis conveyed Amy’s fear and anxiety perfectly, it was so intense!


The book then switches to Elder’s point of view and continues in alternating chapters throughout. Duel Narrative is one of my favourites when it works well, and in Across The Universe it does. Very. Through switching voices we get an all round picture of life on the ship and the pace is kept speedy and fresh. It’s with Elder, who was born aboard the ship several generation after take off that we learn about the dynamics of the ship and the society that has built within it. Then we see a contrast through Amy, who has been awoken 150 years into the voyage and struggles with the cultures and behaviours of a society who have only known life in space. One ritual that has developed is the mating season, and like Amy I found this horrifying. I should warn that in this section no holes are bared, it’s primal and graphic and includes an attempted rape.  For this reason I wouldn’t recommend Across the Universe to younger readers under 14 years old.


At the heart of the story is a murder mystery. This starts out quite tense but ended up being perhaps the weakest element in the book. I worked out pretty early on what was going on. However it was the themes of racial discrimination, dictatorship and leadership, which really made this story for me. It wasn’t something I was expecting to find in this book and was scarily very similar to issues here on earth. While I did guess who was responsible, the journey there was still extremely worthwhile and there were some real ‘OMG’ moments throughout.


The ending sets the scene firmly for a sequel and as I finished the last page I was desperate for more. I became fully immersed in the world Beth Revis created and adored her writing style. I liked and related to both Amy and Elder very much and loved hearing from both sides. There’s definitely a blossoming romance between the two, which while it doesn’t fully take off in this book, a subtle chemistry adds to the story beautifully. Across The Universe ended up being so much more than I expected and one of the best books I read last year. If you think you don’t like sci-fi I’d urge you to still give it a chance. It’s so much more than a book about space, being part murder mystery, part romance and part dystopia too…you won’t be disappointed. I raced through Across the Universe with lightening speed, couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the next instalment expected some time in 2012!







Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Reviewed by Lyndsey)


Across the Universe is the debut novel from Beth Revis. It was published by Penguin on 3rd March and the book is 416 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.

Plot
On the spaceship ‘Godspeed’ seventeen year old Amy has been cryogenically frozen, along with her parents. The trip is supposed to take 300 years with the destination being a new planet but things don’t quite work out that way. 250 years into the journey, Amy is accidentally woken up from her frozen state and she finds herself forced to live on a strange ship with even stranger people and rules.

What was originally thought to be an accident turns out that someone on the ship tried to kill her, along with others who were frozen. Her parents are still safely frozen but for how long? Will they end up like some of the other frozen passengers who didn’t survive being woken up or will Amy be able to figure out what is really going on? In order to do that, she needs the help of Elder, who is training to be the new leader of the ship. He seems like he is just as much in the dark as she is but together, they could do so much more than figure out a mystery!

What I thought
Across the Universe is told in dual narrative form by main characters, Amy and Elder. I really enjoyed being able to see the story from two different perspectives as the characters had completely different lives.

Elder is different from the other people on the ship. Even though he is training to be leader, he has many questions about the way in which things are run. In order to become a good leader, Elder knows that he must learn everything he can about the running of the ship but also why things are done in certain ways and Eldest doesn’t like this. The fact that Elder was so inquisitive was one of the reasons that made me like him so much. He could see that there was more going on than what he was being told and was determined to find out what those things were.

I felt so sorry for Amy, more than I have done for a character in a book for a long time. After being cryogenically frozen and then woken up by accident, Amy finds herself all alone on the ship. Not only is she all alone, but she is in a completely different world compared to being on Earth before being frozen. I cant imagine how hard that must have been for her, especially feeling like there is no one she can talk to or trust. Amy is also a red head like me so I had to like her for that! Considering everything that she had been through, I thought she dealt with it all extremely well. There is no way I would have been as strong and brave as she was.

While Across the Universe is beautifully written, it was so slow to start for me. So slow as in 17 chapters. As I had heard so many amazing things about this book, I was determined to carry on, no matter how insane I was going with it. I’m not really sure why I disliked it so much to begin with though, maybe I just wasn’t feeling it that day or maybe it was the whole being set in space thing. Thankfully, after chapter 17, things got a whole lot better. The plot really began to show promise at this point and I realised just how much mystery there was and what a strange world Beth Revis had created. The world building is intricate and well detailed but it is also explained extremely well so you can really get a feel of what it is like being on that ship.

Across the Universe has one hell of an ending and that really redeemed this book after the slow start for me. The whole book has a lot of built up tension and it all comes down to one massive cliff-hanger. I was literally gasping at some of the things that were being revealed and couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. Because of this, I will definitely be wanting to read the next book in the series. I am so glad that I carried on with this book and gave it a real chance. I would have missed out on something fantastic otherwise.






Find out what Vicki thought about Across The Universe later today!

'So I Say Thank You For The Books...' Featuring Beth Revis


'So I Say Thank You For The Books...' is a regular feature where we invite Authors and book bloggers to share with us who or what inspired their love of books.


Find out more and how to get involved HERE


Today we're welcoming Beth Revis, whose debut YA novel Across The Universe hits UK shelves on the 3rd March. 


Find out how what we both thought of this book in our reviews later today.

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I am definitely a reader type of writer. As a child, I obsessively read everything I could, even the backs of the cereal boxes and tubes of toothpaste. A few books, of course, stand out more than any other.

A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle first opened my eyes to the different kinds of stories you can find in books—not just the typical story of babysitters or twins in Sweet Valley (though I read enough of those) but books where people weren’t people, and sometimes you do have to go out into the dark and stormy night to save the people you love.

CS Lewis’s CHRONICLES OF NARNIA were the first books where I realized there was more to the story than just the words on the page, and that affected me greatly for the rest of my life. It made me a stronger reader, looking for meaning in stories, and it made me a stronger writer, making me more aware of the importance of words.

I discovered Robin McKinley when I was in high school, and I have read THE HERO AND THE CROWN nearly every year since I was seventeen. There’s a passage in there, when Aerin returns to Tor and Arlbeth after battling the dragon, that I consider to be among the most perfect prose ever written. That book taught me that language itself can be beautiful and good.

And finally, I have to give credit to Agatha Christie. I ate her books up as a kid, and one story, the play THE MOUSETRAP really affected me and my desire to write a mystery, to layer in clues for the reader to find, and to cast about red herrings and guns on the mantelpiece.

Books are amazing, beautiful, astounding things—and I owe much to them all!


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A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Published by Penguin 3rd March 2011 in the UK

For information and updates like the Across the Universe UK facebook page HERE
Visit Beth at her website Here
Follow Beth on twitter @BethRevis


Book Review: Annexed by Sharon Dogar

Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her? 

In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view.  What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her?   Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together.   To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day?   What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution?  Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting. 

As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them? 

Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps.  He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants. (From Goodreads.com)

Like millions of others, when I read Anne Franks Diary at age Thirteen it changed something inside me and affected me like no other book since. I still remember how I felt when I’d finished it, how powerful, heart breaking, horrifying and inspirational I found it. When I first heard about Sharon Dogar’s novel, Annexed, told from the point of Peter Van Pels who spent 2 years hiding in the attic along with Anne I was curious. I wanted to read it but was nervous. How would a fictionalised account of a real person who endured such horrific difficulties come across? Would the author be sensitive and do justice to these people? The book was already causing controversy and I wondered how I would feel about it.

The answer to those questions is that in my opinion Annexed is a stunning and completely respectful novel. Split into two parts, the first is told in a loose diary that chronicles the two years spent in hiding. While the format is that of a diary, with dates given before entries, it comes across as more of a story than a recording of someone’s life. I think this is the right approach, as Sharon Dogar doesn’t portray her interpretation of Peter as fact. We can’t know what Peter felt, but she imagines him very well and his voice is astoundingly believable. We feel his frustration, the claustrophobia and fear in every word. The book has been accused of being overtly sexualised and I have to disagree. Peter is sixteen when he goes into hiding and thinks about the girl he loved outside, worries about never making love. This sounds completely realistic to me. We know that from initial dislike a relationship developes between Peter and Anne and of course this is something he thinks about. They are living in such close confinement that surely their feelings are intensified and the author gets this across without being distasteful or disrespectful. 

The second part of the book covers the period between capture on the 4th August 1944 and Peter’s death in spring 1945 where the diary format is lost completely and becomes an entirely fictional account of his time at Auschwitz based on survivor accounts and the author's imagination. Of course this is the most shocking and harrowing part of the book, despite knowing what is going to happen it never looses impact.  The writing in this section is stunning and powerful as Peter recalls the past while on the cusp of death in an almost dreamlike state. I cried and couldn’t sleep afterwards thinking about how truly horrific the world can and has been. And this is why this book deserves to be read and Sharon Dogar was right to create it. To make sure we never forget.

Annexed is a brave, powerful and heart-breaking novel and I can only applaud the author for taking on such a difficult subject and making it work. It should be read by every teenager as they study this period of history at school, and in some ways I believe it will give a greater understanding and be more accessible, particularly to boys, than Anne’s original diary. Some people believe that by fictionalising real life people from the not so distant past is wrong. I however think it keeps the memory alive and every now and then we need a book like this to remind us. As expected, a very difficult book to read but without doubt one that should be.

Published by Andersen Press September 2010
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

So I Say Thank You For The Books...featuring Richard Denning


'So I Say Thank You For The Books...' is a regular feature were we invite authors and book bloggers to share with us who or what inspired their love of books.


Today we have a post by Richard Denning, author of Tomorrow's Guardian as part of his blog tour.
Over to you Richard...

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If there is one person who I must thank for switching me onto the wonder of books and of reading, it would have to be my mother, Margaret. Before I could read it was she that would read to me and it was she that also taught me how to read. So my mother got me reading but I think it was my uncle, Jeremy who really sparked my imagination. We would go and stay for weekends at a house he had in High Wycombe. All I recall from those visits to his house was that it was located on an incredibly steep street and that the room I slept in seemed, to a six or seven year old boy, to be simply full of books. I think it was in fact only his spare room, and probably just where he would store things he had no other place for, but for me it was a joy. It was there that I first discovered books which I never even knew existed. Over the next few years it became for me almost a treasure trove ready for the plunder.

It was indeed in my uncle's spare room that I first read The Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit and to this day they remain my favourite books. If life is full of stress, I only have to read the opening chapters of either and I am swept off to a different world. Other favourite authors are Bernard Cornwell and his historical fiction books and Terry Pratchett and his brilliant discworld novels. Both of these author's books have for 20+ years have been mandatory reading for me. There have been a host of other great books of course: Raymond Feist and David Eddings fantasy series, George Macdonald Frazer's well researched and enthralling Flashman books, Wilbur Smith's Egyptian saga and Steven Saylor's Roman Mysteries being high points also. Lately I have enjoyed discovering the works of Helen Hollick and I am currently reading her Harold the King Novel which is excellent.

There are two other people I must include in this post and these are the people with whom I have most shared the books I am reading. My father, John, like me is a keen historical fiction fan whilst my wife, Jane enjoys science fiction and fantasy. Together we have devoured the same books, discussed the plots and looked forward together to the sequels.

It is these people above all others who have inspired my love of reading and in turn nurtured and encouraged me as a writer. Indeed, this blog is part of a book tour which celebrates the release of a new edition, in paperback, of my teen time travel novel Tomorrow's Guardian.

In Tomorrow's Guardian, schoolboy Tom Oakley discovers he can travel through time. This might sound like an exciting talent but he soon finds that the world is full of individuals who want to use his abilities to their own aims - some for profit, some to protect the world and others to bend history to their will. Tom's families are obliterated and he must now make the impossible choice: save them or save the world. Tomorrow's Guardian : Time Travel sounds like fun until you try it.


Richard Denning
www.richarddenning.co.uk

Tomorrow's Guardian Paperback - Follow the book tour: http://www.richarddenning.co.uk/blog_tour.html

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Are you interested in taking part in 'So I say Thank you For The Books..'? You can find more information and contact details here.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking The Spine and allows us to spotlight upcoming books we are eagerly anticipating.

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4) by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

UK Release: 5th April (Walker Books UK)

Book News

A few bits and bobs of news to share with you today:

The final book in the Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Darkest Mercy, hits the shelves next week.





To celebrate Harpercollins are hosting a live chat and q&a session with Melissa Marr on the 24th February 2011 @ 1am UK time (or 23rd February @ 5pm PST/8pm EST for overseas readers) 


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Looking for something to entertain the kids (of any age!) this half term? Well if your in London why not drop in at The Gruffalo's Red Nose Day fundraising Party? Here's the details from MacMillan children's books:

Do Something Funny For Money!
Come to The Gruffalo’s Red Nose Day Fundraising Party

o       The Gruffalo’s Deep Dark Wood comes to the North Atrium at Westfield London, W12 7SL

o       Wednesday 23 February 2011, with FREE activities from 10am until 5pm

o       Two Gruffalo Shows with a reading of The Gruffalo book by special guest, TV presenter, Edith Bowman at 13:00

o       Plus, fabulous prizes for the best Gruffalo costume and the scariest ‘Grrrrrrrrrrr!’

o       Celebrate Red Nose Day and raise money for Comic Relief with The Gruffalo Red Nose Day Book, a special edition Gruffalo sticker activity book out on 18 February 2011 priced £2.99. At least £2 from the sale of every book will go directly to Comic Relief.

o       Red Nose Day is on 18 March 2011

Dust off your Gruffalo outfit and practise your growling! Macmillan Children’s Books is delighted to announce that the nation’s favourite monster, The Gruffalo, will be hosting a Red Nose Day fundraising party in his Deep Dark Wood in the North Atrium at Westfield, London on Wednesday 23 February and EVERYONE is invited!

There will be games and activities from 10am until 5pm and two Gruffalo shows with a reading of The Gruffalo book by special guest, TV presenter, Edith Bowman. Plus fabulous prizes for the best Gruffalo costume and the scariest ‘Grrrrrrr!’

The Gruffalo Shows will be at 1pm and 4pm and are completely FREE. But there’s limited space so make sure you collect your show tickets early from The Gruffalo’s Deep Dark Wood to ensure a good position in the golden circle! (Only 200 golden circle tickets are available for each show).

If you can't get down to the event and still want to be involved, check out http://www.gruffalo.com/RND/ or head over to Amazon to buy your copy of The Gruffalo Red Nose Day Book for just £2.99 *with at least £2 going to Comic relief

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Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

The UK cover of Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey has been released...what do you think?

UK COVER
Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

US Cover
I do like it, it's got a very gothic feel and I've been looking forward to some historical fiction from Harvey after thoroughly enjoying flashbacks to the French Revolution in Book 2 of The Drake Chronicles, Out For Blood. It does remind me of Lauren Kate's covers a lot (which i also love) and I'm a big fan of the US cover shown to the right. I think US wins it here but only just.

Haunting Violet is released in the UK July 2011 by Bloomsbury. To keep up to date with Alyx visit: www.facebook.com/myloveliesbleeding 

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More News From Bloomsbury:

Author Chris Priestly will be taking part in a blog tour to celebrate World Book Day next week. Here's the full tour details:


Book Review: My Sister Lives On the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher


Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all. (From Amazon.co.uk)

Wow. My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece is one of the most powerful books I’ve read in a long time. Right from the most brutally honest opening chapter, which works only because of the author’s ability to capture her young narrator’s voice so perfectly, I was sucked in and throughout the next 240 pages felt every emotion possible.

Told from the perspective of ten-year-old Jamie, the beauty of this book comes from his simplistic and naïve view of the world. Jamie’s sister, Rose, was killed by a terrorist bomb in London five years previously and his family has all but fallen apart in the aftermath. His mother has moved out and his father’s become dependant on alcohol to cope with his grief. His elder sister Jas, Rose’s twin sister, is doing her best to keep home life together but she’s only fifteen and has problems of her own. So when their father announces they are moving from London to the Lake District everyone is hopeful of a fresh start. But Jamie soon realises that things aren’t going to be much different in the new town as the family’s grief follows them.

I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to grab hold of Jamie and hug him tightly throughout. The neglect both emotionally and physically from parents, so consumed with grief it’s eating them up, broke my heart. It also made me angry, yes they’d lost one child but what about the one’s who were living? Yet Jamie’s naïve and childlike understanding, desperate need to protect and continued belief in his parent’s stops you in your tracks and makes you think. And that’s Jamie all through the book. He sees things without the complexities grown-ups do. His ponderings may be simplistic, but they are enough to shame an adult.

While the book is told entirely from Jamie’s point of view, we also get to know Jas, the sister who has lived in her dead twin’s shadow all these years, quite well. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt pride in a character in a book before, but that’s what I felt for Jas. The relationship between her and Jamie is touchingly beautiful and tender, with Jas taking on an almost maternal role. Then there’s Sunya, the only child at school who talks to Jamie, who without saying anything seems to understand him, who also brings out the more mischievous and playful side to him. I loved her. Jamie’s dilemma between loyalty to his new friend and fear of his father’s racism is again heartbreaking and thought provoking.

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece is an acutely raw and honest account of a family torn apart by grief. Pitcher doesn’t shy away from the truth, nor sugarcoat it in anyway. Issues such as terrorism, racism, bullying and alcoholism make it a shocking, brave and extremely current novel and intensely thought provoking. It’s also at times very funny and between the tears, shock, heartache and anger I also laughed, smiled and felt extremely hopeful. This is a book aimed at children, and despite the difficult themes it remains suitable for readers aged over 11-12 years. In fact I think this is a book that children should read, along with their parents or teachers and then discussed. There’s a lot to take from it for any age group. I think this book is also going to have a huge crossover appeal in much the same way The Book Thief or The Curious Incident Of the Dog In The Night-time did and will also be very much appreciated by adults.

Annabel Pitchers debut novel is one of those absolutely perfect books, one which is not only very, very good but also grabs hold of you then remains with you long after you’ve turned the last page. One of the most beautifully written and touching books I’ve read, I can not recommend it highly enough and struggle to in anyway do it justice with my review. This is a book and an author to watch out for. 






Published in the UK by Orion Children's Books March 2011
Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance readers copy for review.






Guest Post: Julia Kagawa + Exclusive Giveaway!



'So I Say Thank You For The Books...' is a regular feature were we invite Authors and book bloggers to share with us who or what inspired their love of books.


Find out more and how to get involved HERE

This week we're excited to introduce Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron Fey series (which having read the first book, The Iron king, I highly recommend!)

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The earliest memory I have with books was my mom reading out loud to me and my sisters every night.  We would all sit on the couch as she read a favorite bedtime story or, as we got a little older, a chapter of a chosen book.  I remember waiting eagerly for bedtime so we could hear more about the story, and once I even snuck the book away to peek ahead myself.  Mom was more amused then angry, but I remember feeling I could not wait for evening to know how the story ended. 

Another early memory is myself as a toddler, when my dad brought me a “listen-and-read-along” record player.  I would listen to that plastic record player, reading along as it told the same story, on repeat, for hours and hours.  Or so Mom informed me later as an adult.  Apparently I drove her nuts with that thing, listening to the same book, at full volume, over and over, until she fantasized about hurling it out the window.

So, thank you to my parents, for taking the time to install the love of reading in me, however much trouble it caused.  My teachers were not quite as enamored, as I hid novels behind my textbooks during Math and wrote stories when I was supposed to be taking notes.  But though you lamented my complete and utter lack of interest in numbers and social studies, you still encouraged me to dream.  Thank you.  

My name is Meghan Chase. In less than twenty-four hours I'll be sixteen. Countless stories, songs and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset. I don't think it will be that way for me. Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school...or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical fairy king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face...and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart. 


The Iron King (book 1 in The Iron Fey series) was published in the UK by Mira Ink February 2011 and will be followed by The Iron daughter in April '11 and The Iron Queen in July '11 

You can read my review here 

Find out more about The Iron fey series and Mira Ink's other books here

Visit Julie's website here or follow her on twitter @JKagawa

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Giveaway!!!!

We have one stunning, not-for-sale Hardback edition of The Iron King (courtesy of Mira Ink) to giveaway to one lucky winner (I'm so jealous! I want it myself!)


Unfortunatly this giveaway is open to the UK only. Closes midnight GMT on 28th February. Winner will be chosen at random and notified by email. Please provide mailing address within 48 hours or the contest will be redrawn and another winner chosen.


Goodluck!





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