Book Of The Month - May

Each month we will take a look back at everything we have reviewed and each of us will pick a favourite!

Vicki's Pick

Despite the fact I've barely blogged this month due to stuff going on at home, I have read a fair bit. Still Picking this months book of the month was easy as it stood out a mile amongst everything else I read, and there were some good ones! I was blown away by this book.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults. Review Here


Lyndsey's Pick

This month, I have reviewed some pretty awesome books so unlike most months, this hasn't been an easy choice. In the end, after having a couple that were extremely hard to pick between, I have decided to go with Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson. This is a book unlike her others which are about faeries but just as good, if not better. Ultraviolet blew me away with its originality and mystery, with a twists I would have never seen coming in a million years!

Ultraviolet by R J Anderson

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

Book Review: Bite Club by Rachel Caine


Bite Club is the tenth book in bestselling series, The Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine. It was released on 2nd May by Allison and Busby and the book is 448 pages long.

Plot
Morganville, Texas, is a quiet college town where humans and vampires live in relative peace. But lately a great deal of blood is being spilled - not in a feeding frenzy, but for someone's twisted idea of entertainment.

What I thought
After discovering that vampires populate Morganville - and surviving a number of adventures with her new night-dwelling friends - college student Claire Danvers has come to realise that for the most part, the undead just want to live their lives.

But someone else wants them to get ready to rumble.

There's a new extreme sport being broadcast over the Internet: bare-knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against one another - or, worse, against humans. Tracking the signal leads Claire - accompanied by a loyal group of friends and frenemies - to discover that what started as an online brawl will soon threaten everyone in Morganville. And if they want to survive, they'll have to do a lot more than fight...


The Morganville Vampires is one of my all time favourite YA series and I was hooked from the very first book and I couldn’t wait for the tenth, Bite Club. Some would say that a series this big soon runs out of steam but that is definitely the case for Morganville. Rachel Caine is full of surprises and always seems to have something new and exciting up her sleeve.

Even though I knew about the release of this book a while ago, I didn’t read the synopsis for it. For some reason, it didn’t enter my head to connect the title, Bite Club to Fight Club. Once I got into the story though, I realised how much I loved the idea for this book. The residents of Morganville, both vampire and human, are sneaky and will do anything that they can get away with. The plot, however, was extremely predictable in some parts and this isn’t something I have had to say about a Rachel Caine book before. Bite Club certainly seems to be more about the action and excitement than the much loved mystery and suspense that I got from the other books in the series.

To mix things up a bit, we get some of the book from Shane’s point of view and this was something I loved. As much as I enjoy hearing things from how Claire sees them, it was nice to have a bit of a change this time around. Due to a large majority of the plot surrounding Shane and what he is getting up to, this was a clever way to let the audience know what was going on behind closed doors. I don’t think Bite Club would have been nearly as exciting as it was. Knowing what is happening to Shane and getting to experience his feelings with him was one of my favourite parts of the book as this is a side of him we have never really seen in full force before. Although I wouldn’t want to see different points of views if each book, it would be nice to see once in a while now.

Each new book in this series provides Claire, Shane, Michael and Eve with a host of new problems and this time, there are more than ever. Characters old and new are causing trouble all over Morganville but some aren’t who and what I first thought they were. As well as my favourite gang returning to sort out the mess in town, some other favourites showed their faces. Myrnin has been a favourite character of mine for quite some time now so I was glad to see him around much more in Bite Club. He is still as insane as ever but has some quite normal moments for a change. Myrnin is a character who never fails to make me laugh and always adds some humour to the insane town that is Morganville.

Unlike the majority of the other books in this series, Bite Club doesn’t leave us with a jaw dropping cliff-hanger. As much as these endings had annoyed me in the past, due to wanting to next book immediately, I was a little sad to see such an ok ending. A lot does happen though and some pretty big issues are resolved so I can understand why the ending was as tame as it was though. Hopefully, this wont be happening again though. I love the crazy endings where anything could happen in the next book.

The only real problem with this book is where it stands in the whole series. By now, a lot has happened and anyone thinking of starting with this book would be extremely confused, even with the small introduction chapter, explaining what Morganville is all about. Other than that though, having read the rest of the series, I loved it and cannot wait for book 11, Last Breath.

Book Review: Flawless by Lara Chapman

Flawless is the debut novel by Lara Chapman. It was published by Bloomsbury on 3rd May and the book is 272 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Plot
Sarah Burke is pretty close to being perfect. She’s gorgeous, a model student and has a great life with amazing friends but she has one problem. A big one. Her nose. Because of her best friend Kirsten though, Sarah doesn’t let it bother her too much and manages to get on with her life as a normal teenager…until new guy at school, Rock Conway, shows his face.

Rock is the closest to a perfect match that Sarah is ever going to see. He is everything that she has ever wanted in a guy: intelligent, into literature and extremely down to earth. Unfortunately, Kirsten also sees what a catch Rock is and decides she wants him for herself. Being the type of best friend she is, Sarah decides to help Kirsten get the guy of her own dreams but will she be able to hide her feelings from the one person who truly knows her?

What I thought
Until this book arrived on my doorstep, I hadn’t heard a thing about it. Upon first glances, this book immediately had me interested. The cover is white with a pair of striking blue eyes and soft pink lips along with the name of the book. You don’t see many YA books with a cover as simplistic as this so it made a nice change.

Sarah was a great character and one I found easy to relate to. Although I think her issue with herself could have been brought more up to date into a problem that more people can see themselves in, I liked that she wasn’t perfect. Her self doubt and issues with her appearance were justified and it wasn’t as though she kept going on about something which wasn’t a big issue at all. Another great thing about Sarah was the fact that she wasn’t ashamed of how smart she was. In books and films you sometimes hear of the smart kids being scared to show just how clever they are in fear of not being liked but this wasn’t the case for Sarah. It certainly wasn’t what she was scared of people not liking her for anyway. Sarah was so much funnier than I expected her to be but at the same time, she was strong and stood up for herself when she needed to. In short, Sarah was amazing and I loved her.

Due to Kirsten’s constant whining about Rock and what she was going to do, I didn’t love her but I guess that was the point really. That being said, she had many redeeming qualities and if it hadn’t have been for bugging Sarah to do certain things, I think I would have liked her a whole lot more. Kirsten is witty, quick and extremely funny even if she is a bit dim and slow in some senses. She really isn’t the brightest of girls but I think some of that is down to not believing in herself enough and this is where Sarah helps her out. Kirsten is also an amazing friend to Sarah and is always there for her and makes sure she sees how great she really is.

My only real problem with this book was Rock. Not him as a character but his name. I really, really hate stupid names in books and this is one of those cases unfortunately. Luckily though, his name didn’t make him instantly dislike him which I have had happen quite a few times before. I actually adored Rock. It is not very often that a YA book produces such a perfect package in the main male character for me. Rock is sweet and caring, which is something I don’t normally go for in books, but he manages to still have so much appeal at the same time. Rock is extremely intelligent and a big reader, so that was obviously a plus, and he is carefree and outspoken as well. Rock has so many amazing traits that I couldn’t have hated him if I tried. Rock was also unlike any other guy I have read about in a YA book so far. Although he is clearly into Kirsten, his whole life doesn’t revolve around their relationship. It was a lovely thing to see, especially as he made time for other people and other things.

The story is one that I think many teenage girls will be able to relate to and even teenage boys in a reversed situation. I know when I was at school, I had a massive thing for one of my friends’ boyfriends so I could definitely relate to what Sarah was feeling. Chapman wastes no time in getting right down to the point in this book and due to the introduction of Rock early on, it is quite fast paced. There was always something happening in one way or another. Also, not everything is about Sarah/ Rock/ Kirsten. There are many smaller things going on throughout which kept the book fresh and interesting. I think I would have gotten bored if it had been completely about the relationship and what was going to happen in the end, even though that part was fantastic.

One feature of Flawless which I really liked was the inclusion of things like Facebook. Although this will date the book on a whole, it does bring it bang up to date for right now and gives readers even more that they can relate to. Using popular aspects of real life like this makes it possible for readers to see themselves in the situations of the characters involved. Due to Sarah and Rock’s love for literature and poetry, this was something else which I loved about Flawless. It was lovely to read about other books within a book and see them so passionately spoken about. The fact that Sarah and Rock are so into this subject gave their characters so much more depth than the average teen character as they truly believed in their opinions regarding certain topics and texts and it was great to see them so enthusiastic.

Flawless is a retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac and although I haven’t read it, so cannot compare, I definitely want to read it now. Anyone who has read it though may probably get that little bit extra out of Flawless but still, it was a fantastic book and one that I enjoyed thoroughly. Highly recommended!

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 

Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults (from Goodreads.com)



This book is stunning, from the very first peak of it right through to the last word. Even pulling away the postage packaging left me awestruck at this beautiful book, with it's atmospheric hard covering and illustrations. Reading it is no let down either and while a short story at just over 200 pages, every single word made an impact and by the time I'd finished the last page I was an emotional mess. 


A Monster Calls is based on an idea by the late Siobhan Dowd. Having never read anything by either Dowd or Ness before (something I have now sworn to resolve)  I had no preconceptions about the book at all, nor any idea what it was about. I don't know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what I got. A dark, heart breaking tale of grief and loss, entwined with ancient mythology and a journey of facing the truth as well as your fears. It's powerful, stunning, achingly sad and genuinely spooky, because the monster in this story is one we could all face. 


Reviewing this book is difficult, because I really don't want to give anything away, not even a small detail for fear of taking away from someone else the experience I had while reading it. I can just urge you all to add it to your wishlist, pick it up from the library, anyone from age 10-100...just get hold of a copy. Recommended a million times over.





Published by Walker Uk May 2011
Many thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare


City of Fallen Angels (CoFA) is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. It was published on 7th April by Walker Books and it is 432 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Plot
Set two months after the events of City of Glass, Clary and Jace have begun to attempt to live their lives again. Finally taking her rightful place in the world of Shadowhunters, Clary begins training with Jace but it isn’t exactly going to plan. The young couple can barely keep their hands off of each other long enough to do any training at all.

At the same time, someone is committing murders all over New York City and the motive could be devastating for everyone. Valentine isn’t the only one who is able to come up with the deadliest plans and someone else, someone new, is out to cause a lot of chaos. If everything goes to plan, Clary and Jace’s relationship could be the strongest it ever has been or completely destroyed.

What I thought
The Mortal Instruments is one of my all time favourite YA series and I couldn’t wait for the fourth instalment. Unfortunately, I am going to go against the general view on this book here and say I didn’t love it. I liked it, it was ok, but not nearly as good as the first three books in the series. If you haven’t read all three previous books in this series so far, be prepared for some spoilers.

What I did love about this book though was the characterisation. Although Clary and Jace are the true main characters, I feel as though many others could easily be in the same position. That cannot be said for the other books in the series though and it seems like Cassandra Clare tried to shake things up a little bit this time around.

Clary is quite absent for the majority of the book and only really made an impact towards the end. During the time early on that she was around though, I did feel extremely sorry for her due to everything she had going on. Her life isn’t easy and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better for her, apart from the fact she finally has the boy she loves and has been fighting for all of this time. I don’t really have complaints about Clary but mainly because she wasn’t around enough for me to have any real thoughts about her. Previously, Clary has been a very strong female character but I see this fading slowly over time now. Yes, she can still kick ass but in the way she acts/ reacts is getting weaker all of the time. I really wanted Clary to stand up for herself more and to be a bit more pushy when it came to Jace.

I think so many people are going to get annoyed with me saying this but…I am so over Jace now. After how City of Glass ended, I was really hoping for Jace to have changed and also for his relationship with Clary to have changed. Although this is true in some respects, it isn’t in the way that matters. Jace’s attitude really annoyed me a lot and although I understood the way he was acting, I didn’t think it was entirely necessary to take the story this way. Cant Clary and Jace have some form of happiness for a little while at least? On the plus side though, Jace does change a little bit when around a certain someone and I really liked this aspect of the story but it just didn’t last long enough.

Simon is the character who I loved the most though this time. He has slowly been coming into his own over the course of the series but now, he isn’t just following in Clary’s footsteps anymore. Now, he has his own life and his own story happening. So many interesting and exciting things happen to Simon in CoFA and I think I would have been extremely happy if this book had been all about him. I certainly would have ended up liking it more. Simon is finally coming to terms more with being a vampire but probably because that is the least of his worries now. Simon is complex but interesting, easy to relate to and funny at the same time. How could anyone not like him?!

The plot, although it had new dimension in a sense, was very samey. There was a lot of angst between characters, old problems written in a different way and nothing really getting resolved. For me, the plot was neither nothing new or exciting and I was extremely let down by this. After this book had received so much pre-release hype, it didn’t live up to it. While I was reading CoFA, I was waiting for something completely amazing and heart stopping to happen but it just never came. Many other smaller things do happen throughout but nothing is ever as big or as extravagant as it could and should have been. Up until the very end of the book, the pacing is slow and drawn out and because of this, I wasn’t completely hooked at any point like I had been with the other books.

Overall, I wish this series had been left at the original three books that it was supposed to be. The ending of book three was perfect for me and I couldn’t imagine where the story was going to or could go. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this book at all but I just didn’t love it either. I’ll still be reading the last two books of the series though.

Book Review: Forget You by Jennifer Echols


Forget You is a contemporary YA novel by Jennifer Echols. It was released on 20th July 2010 by MTV Books and the book is 304 pages long.

Plot
Zoey has a lot she wants to forget. Her Dad’s affair with someone not that much older than her. Her Mum’s mental breakdown that only one person at school knows about. There is one thing she desperately wants to remember though. What happened during her car crash.

Zoey can’t remember the whole night before the car crash and certain people are acting pretty strange around her. Doug, the guy she always thought hated her is being way too nice and more than friendly towards her and she has no idea why., Then there is Brandon. The guy she thought was her boyfriend barely speaks to her and acts nothing like a boyfriend should. All Zoey remembers about the crash is Doug pulling her out and saving her. When her whole world comes crashing down around her, Zoey finds that the one person she would never have turned to is the one person she could rely on the most.

What I thought
After reading Going Too Far, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on another book by Jennifer Echols. With her newest being released in the summer and now on pre-order, I decided to go for Forget You, her most recent release.

I hate to say it but I really wanted to slap Zoey. I don’t think I have ever been so annoyed with a character for a long time now but others on the same line as her would be Ever Bloom and Bella Swan. Two female characters who annoy the hell out of me. After not acting like herself and sleeping with Brandon, the hot football player, she assumes he is her boyfriend, without even saying about this to him. It’s all she goes on about for the majority of the book and I really wanted to scream at her ‘He isn’t your boyfriend!’. What annoyed me the most about this is that how many girls just assume this after sleeping with someone? Especially someone who tells you all of his girl problems and how he likes to sleep around/ not be tied down? He obviously isn’t the boyfriend type so I don’t know why she thought this in the first place.

Even though she annoyed me, I still ended up feeling a bit sorry for Zoey. At the beginning of the book, it is clear that she is having quite a hard time, with her father getting a younger girl pregnant and her mother having a complete breakdown. I could understand why she acted out a bit and did a few crazy things which were very unlike her. Throughout the book, Zoey does change quite a lot and that was something I was glad to see. At the beginning she was pretty shallow, being all about being perfect in every sense but this doesn’t last too long.

Now Doug on the other hand, I absolutely loved. He doesn’t have the best reputation and no one really knows a whole lot about him. Mysterious bad boy at his best. I wanted to know more about him instantly. Even though he had the whole mysterious thing going, it was clear that he had a softer side, especially when it came to Zoey. Considering she didn’t treat him very well, I couldn’t understand this completely until the story began to expand. He slowly becomes a completely different person but one I loved just as much. He also isn’t perfect for Zoey which was different for a contemporary novel. He says the wrong things, does the wrong things and completely messes up at times but because of his faults and mistakes, I loved him even more. It made him more real.

The mystery of what actually happened the night of the crash was great. I was never altogether sure what had happened and even though I had a few guesses, it wasn’t revealed until quite near the end. The way Zoey pieces together what happened that night is paced just right. Nothing is revealed too quickly but little things are hinted at the whole way through. Not being able to remember something as big as being in a car crash must have been extremely scary so I could understand why she freaked out about not knowing. I would have been terrified if that had been me.

What I love most about Jennifer Echols’ books is how real they are. She doesn’t shy away from the fact that teenagers drink, they party and they have sex. The teenagers in her books are very real and easy to relate to because of this. Also, even though this is a YA novel, it is extremely steamy. I’m talking steamy to the point where I needed to cool down a little bit. For anyone who has read this book, I’m sure you will understand which part I am talking about. For those of you who haven’t, be excited for chapter 12. This being said, these scenes are done tastefully and without taking them too far. There was just the right amount of description and action happening and the chemistry was amazing.

So even though Zoey annoyed the hell out of me, this book is still all kinds of awesome. Never have I come across a YA author who is able to write teenagers so perfectly and is able to add in the reality of what they get up to without taking it too far. Each book I read by this author makes me love her even more and now, I can’t wait to get my hands on something else by her. Jennifer Echols’ writing is gripping, fresh and needed in the YA genre. You will not be able to put this book down!

Book Review: Blackwatch by Jenna Burtenshaw


Blackwatch is the second book in the Wintercraft series by Jenna Burtenshaw. The book is published by Headline with a release date of 14th April 2011. Blackwatch is 288 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.

Plot
Kate has escaped the clutches of the High Council and Silas has left Albion for the continent. But their lives are forever linked and as the veil weakens, causing Albion's skilled to fear for everyone's safety, Silas and Kate find themselves drawn together by the mysterious and corrupt Dalliah Grey.

What I thought
One thing I loved so much about the first book in this series, was the fact that it was much darker than other YA books and the setting certainly helped that. This time around, Jenna Burtenshaw steps up her game and goes even darker and even more sinister. It all starts with the cover really, which is black and red. Having a cover with such strong colours not only makes it stand out against other books but also makes you want to know more about the book.

Blackwatch is told from the POV of main characters, Kate and Silas, who find themselves in very different situations. Kate has been captured by The Skilled and is imprisoned in the underground with very few options to escape and Silas is on the run after the end of the previous book. I liked how I still got to find out what was happening with each character throughout and was anxiously waiting for the two of them to finally cross paths again. Unlike many books with multiple POV’s, the chapters don’t state which character is telling the story but as their voices are so distinct and strong, it is easy to follow.

Due to Kate’s circumstances at the beginning of the book, I was unsure about where the story was going to, and could, take her. Stuck in an impossible situation, Kate doesn’t really have much of a choice about what is going on and sees no way out of her predicament but obviously, the book would have been quite boring if she had been stuck underground the whole time! Seeing as Kate is not the kind of character to take things lying down, she finds a way out, along with some help, and off she goes on a massive adventure again. The bravery and determination that she showed was admirable and I wish I could have some of that in myself. Also, she isn’t stupid. Kate knows when things aren’t going her way and she knows when to say enough is enough!

Silas is still my favourite character of this series. He’s dark, brooding and very mysterious. He is also cold, uncaring and a bit heartless at times but I think this is an act more than anything else as he is able to show that he really cares during other moments. Over the course of both books so far, I still don’t feel like I know everything I should about him. While this would normally be a bad thing, I loved this about his character and the way that Burtenshaw has written him. Maybe if too much was revealed about him, I wouldn’t have a such strong attraction to him. Maybe the mystery would disappear and I would end up disappointed and I don’t want that to happen.

Blackwatch is a very quick paced book and at just under 300 pages long, it needed to be. There is always so much happening and it was hard to catch my breath while reading. There aren’t too many slower parts in this book but that just added to the excitement and intensity of the story. The story isn’t all about the excitement though. Burtenshaw builds a completely fascinating world full of things I have never seen in a book before. The ideas of The Skilled, the veil and other things are truly original and I couldn’t seem to get enough of learning more about them all. I can see that the third (and final) book in this series is going to just as amazing as the other two and the world created is full of amazing possibilities.

Blackwatch is a great second book from Jenna Burtenshaw and I can’t wait for her next book! Highly recommended.

Waiting on Wednesday: Dark Touch - Betrayal

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


Betrayal by Amy Meredith



A hot new boyfriend. Prom just round the corner. And not a demon in sight ...Things have never been better for Eve Evergold, Deepdene's kick-ass witch. But when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. An evil far greater than Eve has ever known is at work in Deepdene - and it's hell-bent on turning her closest friends against her. This time, it looks like Eve is going to have to face her demons alone...

Published: 2nd June by Red Fox (Random House)

When I started reading this series, I am going to be totally honest and say that I hated it. Then, I got the second book and things instantly got much, much better and now I am hooked! I can't wait to find out what is in store next for Eve and Deepdene!

Book Review: Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols


Going Too Far is a YA romance novel by Jennifer Echols. It was published by pocket books/ MTV books in 2009 and it is 245 pages long.

Plot
Meg hates the town she lives in. Every single thing about it and she can’t wait to get out of there. It isn’t long until she graduated high school and can finally move away to college. On the way though, Meg and some friends have a wild night on a train track and end up getting arrested, which results is spending the whole of Spring Break with the arresting police officer.

John is the complete opposite of Meg. He knows he is destined to stay in his home town forever and he knows he has a job to do. He is the arresting police officer. Although Meg doesn’t quite realise how wrong what she did was, John is determined to teach her a lesson she will never forget. The two collide from the very beginning and sparks are flying all over the place…just not the kind they both expected!

What I thought
So many book bloggers have said such amazing things about Jennifer Echols’ books and this one had been sitting on my TBR pile for quite some time. Not knowing what to read one night, this one seemed to call out to me and I am damn glad it did!

Although there are so many amazing things about this book, the main thing that stood out for me was the characterisation. Not only were the main characters, Meg and John extremely vivid but the minor characters like Tiffany and Will were also very well written. I felt as if I knew each character in this book, no matter how small their part was. Echols gives each character a very distinct voice which brings them into their own and not to be confused with anyone else.

Meg has a voice that I will not forget any time soon. From the moment she stepped onto the page, I loved her! I always get annoyed for teenagers being written in an unrealistic way in YA novels but that is not the case in Going Too Far. Meg was every bit the real teenager in my eyes, mainly because she acted quite like I did when I was around her age. I was impulsive, didn’t care what anyone else thought of me and generally did things to shock people. Even though she is brash, Meg is never annoying at any point. Some people may find her the kind of character you would want to slap some sense into but I just couldn’t feel like this, with certain aspects of her too much like myself. Meg does make some silly decisions in life but in her head, they are justified due to her strong will and determination and these were two of the things I loved the most about her.

John is the complete opposite to Meg but still as lovable. His personality is just as strong but in a different way. John thinks he knows exactly who he is and what he wants out of life, to protect and serve the town he grew up in. He has extremely strong morals and ideas about how life should be and how people should act in certain situations, which is where he is unlike Meg. John doesn’t really have a spontaneous bone in his body and because of this, he and Meg clash many times. Their relationship is far from easy and is not exactly a typical YA relationship. The tension slowly builds between Meg and John, resulting in amazing chemistry and passion.

There is much more to both of the main characters than meets the eye though and more than I have explained above. Both characters have their fair share of problems but they aren’t explored too much until further on in the book. The story is extremely well paced and the plot interesting and tense throughout. The pacing makes it possible to understand what both Meg and John are going through on many different levels, due to the shocks that are added in and the twists and turns that I would never have seen coming. While the story is exciting and unpredictable, it is also full of love and sadness. Echols’ writing is sharp and direct but extremely beautiful at the same time. She gives the story such depth and intensity and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I don’t know why but I was kind of expecting a nice romance but not much else, even though so many good things had been said about this book.

Even though this is the only book by Echols I have read so far, I immediately went and ordered another of her books after this one because I loved it that much. I think I have found an author who will quickly become one of my all time favourites.

Book Review: Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson


Plot
Once upon a time there was a girl who was special.

This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori - the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

What I thought
As some of you will know already, R.J. Anderson is one of my favourite authors. Her faerie books are what got me started reading other YA books and since then, I have been hooked. As soon as I saw a synopsis for this book, I was dying to read it. It sounded so different to her other books and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

The setting of Ultraviolet is something I have never seen done before. The majority of the book is set in a mental institution which makes for interesting reading. The characters which are found here all have a different ‘condition’ or problems, making them varied and quite colourful at the same time. Some of the slightly more outspoken of the bunch made the story comical when it really shouldn’t have been, although this was no bad thing. The people being treated know exactly what they are in there for and some of them just make a big joke about it which enabled a lighter feel in places.

Before I started this book, I had no idea what to expect. No one else I know had read it yet and I refused to read any reviews on Goodreads so nothing was spoilt for me. As you can see from the synopsis, it sounds like a mystery more than anything else but there is really so much more to it than that. At a particular point in the book, everything changes and all of the little pieces of the puzzle click into place. This was not something I was expecting at all and something that I would have never seen coming in a million years. It takes so much to truly shock me in books but R.J. Anderson managed the near impossible. I was speechless and sat staring at the pages with my jaw on the floor!

Although the story has quite a slow pace, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. After a traumatic experience, Alison needed time to figure out what was happening and for everything else about the story to unfold. I loved how different little details were explored and how the story unfolded. Just when I thought I knew what was happening, a surprise or two was thrown in and I was completely thrown off track. As well as the main mystery of what happened to Tori, the secondary characters provided nice distractions from what was going on with Alison. It broke the story up a little bit and made it so something was always happening.

Alison was a fantastic character and one I loved immediately, even under the strange circumstances. It is clear to see that she really has no idea what is going on and seeing how confused she was just made me empathise with her more. Being forced to do something you don’t want to do is bad enough but being put in a mental institution is terrible. Some of the staff comment on her violet outbursts and how unstable she is but wouldn’t you act out if you were put in the same situation. I would kick and scream as loudly as I could if that was me.

Early on, Alison describes her problems in great detail and they are beautifully written. Alison has a condition called synaesthesia which is where two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together. Some synaesthetes experience colour when they hear sounds or read words. Others experience tastes, smells, shapes or touches in almost any combination. As Alison described what was happening to her and what she experienced, I felt as though I could see and feel exactly what she was, putting me right in the middle of her story. While this was something that I had never even heard of before Anderson does an amazing job of making it understandable for anyone and something which is easy to follow. Due to her experiences synaesthesia, her world is colourful, intriguing and most of all, quite breathtaking. At the same time, I could understand her confusion, not knowing what it was she was living with.

As Alison is struggling with her time being an involuntary patient, a saviour arrives in the form of Sebastian Faraday. Faraday knows more than anyone else has about what Alison experiences which shocks her. He listens to her and doesn’t tell her she is crazy, unlike some other people. When no one else is really there for her, Faraday is and he doesn’t make assumptions about her. I would have liked for a little bit more from Faraday earlier on in the story but he more than made up for that absence later on. He was genuine and caring towards Alison and because of this, I couldn’t help but love him. The relationship between the two happens at a slow pace but if it hadn’t been like this, I wouldn’t have agreed with it so much. Their relationship is sweet and innocent but their story is heart-warming and beautiful as well. Within this, R.J. Anderson has created the most beautiful kiss in a YA novel ever written. Seriously, without describing it in its entirety, I don’t think I can do it the justice it deserves. It completely took my breath away.

If you haven’t read anything yet by this amazing author, start with Ultraviolet. You will not be disappointed. Every single little detail put into this story only added to the reasons why R.J. Anderson is one of my favourite authors. Her writing never fails to amaze me and she comes up with something different every time. One of my favourite books of the year and one not to be missed!

Book Review: The Making Of Us by Lisa Jewell

I’ve been a huge fan of Lisa Jewell for more than a decade and can distinctly remember reading my first book of hers. I was having a bit of a crap Christmas and was alone on Boxing Day. My Mum had bought me one of Lisa’s early novels, One Hit Wonder, so I picked it up to have a read. I remember finding myself so invested in her character's stories that they seemed completely and utterly real to me. It’s a quality I’ve found in Lisa’s writing ever since and new novel, The Making Of Us, is no different, if not even more so.

The Making Of Us is a story of many people, unconnected and completely different to begin until it’s revealed each has one thing in common. They share the same donor father. All are at complicated stages of their lives, Lydia, 29, has gone from rags to riches but is desperately lonely and struggling with her past, Dean, 21, has just become a father, but lost the baby's mother in tragic circumstances and is struggling to bond with his daughter, Robyn, the youngest at 18 has moved to London to study medicine, a path she was so sure of until she was on it. In alternating chapters we hear from each of them, as well as Maggie, whose close friend Daniel is terminally ill and has asked her for help to fulfil his dying wish.

Wow, this book is an emotional roller coaster right from the start. The plot is so brutally human and complex yet Lisa Jewell absolutely pulls it off. Once again her skill at creating completely believable, relatable and flawed characters is perfect. I love alternating viewpoints when done well, and in The Making Of Us all four narratives both stand out individually and intertwine to create a heart wrenching and uplifting tale of identity and family. Each chapter is titled with the name of the character we are hearing from, although I do think they have strong enough voices to let the reader differentiate anyway.

I loved all the characters in this book, though in particular Lydia who is so far away from myself in many ways yet surprisingly familiar too. I also really liked Dean, the young brother she discovers through a donor sibling registry, and the developing relationship between the two of them is gorgeous, awkward but touchingly beautiful all at once. What I always love about Jewell’s characters is how layered they are, and how she isn’t afraid to show their weak and at times pathetic sides-the ones we all have but hide from the world, making them all the more stronger for it. You get the feeling while reading that these people could be ones you pass every day.

The Making Of Us is at times very sad and touching, but also incredibly hopeful and positive for the future. By the end of the book you’ll feel you’ve experienced these peoples journey, you’ll be behind them all the way and will leave wishes them the best in their future. This is a novel not about a donor father and his dying wish, but one of identity, knowing yourself, finding a sense of belonging and the ties that bind people to each other. It’s compelling from start to finish and I was completely absorbed throughout. I’ve never been disappointed by Lisa Jewell’s work, and I certainly wasn’t by The Making Of Us. With each new book I think ‘this is the best yet’ and that’s how I felt after turning the last page. This is a book I highly recommend. 






Published by Century (UK) May 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review

Book Review: You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me by Jenny Downham was released in hardback on 2nd December by David Fickling books. The book is 416 pages long. The paperback is due for release on 7th July 2011. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy for review.

Plot
Ellie and Mikey come from completely different backgrounds. One family is quite well off and the other live in a flat on a council estate but one event will bring them together. When Mikey’s sister accuses Ellie’s brother of sexual assault, everyone’s lives are thrown into chaos. Mikey wants revenge for ruining his sister’s life and ruining everything their family had and plans to do this by messing around with Ellie. What Mikey isn’t expecting though is for Ellie to be so nice and for him to actually have a lot in common with her. How can two people with families that hate each other ever be together?

What I thought
This is the first of Jenny Downham’s books that I have read but knowing that a very good blogger friend loves her work, I jumped at the chance to review her newest novel.

What I loved about Mikey was the fact that he would do anything to protect his family and try to make them feel safe again. It clear from the very beginning that he was prepared to go to any length to make sure his sister, Karen felt safe again. As Karen’s court case gets closer, Mikey realises just how bad things have gotten with his family. His mother can’t cope and has turned to drinking in the day, Karen wont leave the house and then there is his little sister to look after. Another good thing about Mikey was that he was far from perfect, even though he really does want to the best out of life. He was flawed but those flaws were what made him so great. It was nice to see him go through such a journey and come out the other side a better man after everything that has happened.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think about Ellie at first. She is quite the innocent character, not having done anything crazy in her life. She is a very devoted sister and refuses to believe that her brother could have ever done the things that Karen is accusing him off. As the story carried on and Ellie got to know and spend more time with Mikey, I found myself really warming to her. Even though she was naive at times, the realisation that she was more than just a sister and a daughter was lovely to see. Mikey brings out both the best and worst in Ellie, making her realise that she is her own person and can really do anything she puts her mind to.

Even though Ellie and Mikey’s romance is a large part of the story, it never overpowered the larger, more important part of the plot. I was a little afraid that it would have been there is a nice, equal mix of both aspects. The importance of what every character is going through is stressed extremely well and Downham makes sure that the reader knows exactly how important the accusation is. Although it is a very touchy subject, I think You against Me was written wonderfully, with a sensitivity to characters on both sides. I was never totally sure until it was uncovered which side of the story between Karen and Tom was the truth. I liked how I was always made to keep guessing throughout and little things would make me change my ideas on this. One minute Tom was acting all nice and I really thought he was innocent and then within a couple of pages, Karen would do something to make me think that he wasn’t innocent after all.

Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. It is a compelling read with some serious messages and a heartfelt love story. I cant wait to read Jenny Downham’s other books now.

Book Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You by Ally Carter


I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You is the first book in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. It was released by Orchard Books on 6th May 2010 and the book is 320 pages long.

Plot
The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is unlike any other school you will have heard about…mainly because they don’t want you to know what goes on there. The Gallagher Academy is an all girls school for spies!

Cammie Morgan, daughter of the headmistress, can speak fourteen different language and has the ability to kill a man in 7 ways, amongst being able to do an array of other crazy things normal teenagers can’t do. The Gallagher Academy has trainer her and made her ready for living in the outside world as a spy but there is one thing they haven’t prepared her for. Being a normal teenage girl. When Cammie meets Josh in town, she doesn’t know how to handle her feelings for him. Sure, she can find out any tiny detail about his life but she can never tell him who she really is. Falling in love may be the riskiest thing Cammie has ever done!

What I thought
After winning the third book in this series from another blogger, I realised I should probably read the first book beforehand. Luckily, Vicki had a copy and lent me it. Now that my TBR pile is at a manageable level, I decided it was time to read some non review books.

I wasn’t really sure what to think when I started reading this book as I hadn’t heard much about the series in general so for once, I went into this one knowing nothing. As soon as I started reading it though, I realised I was in for a treat. The opening chapter grabbed my attention and I instantly wanted to know more about the Gallagher Academy and the girls that attended. What I loved most about the idea of the book was that it was overtaken by female characters. Usually in a spy book, I would expect a male to take the lead. Spy films have given us way too many male leads and not even close to enough kick ass females so I was really glad to see this happening in a whole series.

Cammie was a great character who has more baggage that I would have thought possible for a girl hiding away at spy school. Cammie, along with her friends, were witty and funny at the same time as being tough and extremely intelligent. I do wish that I had gotten to see Cammie in more of the action scenes instead of the majority of the book being about her relationship with Josh though. The interesting part about Cammie and Josh’s relationship was the fact that Cammie and her friends turned him into their own private mission, finding out everything they could about it. I don’t know that I would ever want to know everything about a guy though. Finding things out about them is half of the fun!

I think Ally Carter has written fantastic characters and it really does something great for female characters in the YA genre. These girls know how to handle themselves but they also want to have normal lives as teenagers too and I loved the mix of these qualities. Although the girl at this school get pretty much the same training to begin with, each character has their own, distinct personality, which I loved. Cammie’s friends are all very different and I think I would probably like each of them to get their own story. I don’t know if the rest of the series follows Cammie or not but I would love to see the other girls featured more.

The one thing I didn’t really like about this book was the pacing. While it got off to a good start, the pacing felt a little all over the place. The action scenes didn’t last nearly long enough and they were quite rushed for me. I would have loved for this part of the book to be explored more and with more detail. The addition of certain gadgets and tricks was fantastic but I don’t think they were used enough. Then, there is the relationship between Cammie and Josh. It didn’t feel very realistic to me because of how it ended up working. I didn’t think that a normal teenage relationship would have worked the way it did in the book or that a teenage guy would put up with what Cammie had to do just to be able to see Josh.

I did really enjoy this book a lot more than I thought I was going to but it wasn’t perfect. I have high hopes for the other books in the series though and I cant wait to see what crazy things are going to happen to and for the Gallagher Girls!

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It was released on 5th January 2009 by Scholastic and the book is 464 pages long. Lionsgate Entertainment has acquired worldwide distribution rights to a film adaptation of The Hunger Games which is due for release in 2012.


Plot
Set in the future, a terrifying reality TV show is about to take place. Twelve boys and twelve girls ( a boy and a girl from each district) will take part in a game designed to show the strongest and most determined of them all…in a fight to the death. The only way to win is to take out the other 21 players and bring home the much coveted title to their home district.

In District 12, sixteen year old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take the place of her little sister in the games. With only one entry, Katniss never thought this would happen but she knows what she has to do, even if it means coming to terms with dying. Survival for Katniss second nature though. Does she have what it takes and stands a chance of winning?

What I thought
I wish I could just write one word in this review. OMG! It is not often at all that I feel this way about a book but that is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about this book. When I started reading it at 11pm at night, I was only planning to read a couple of chapters. That turned into being awake until 3am and finishing the whole book. I could not put it down. Before, knowing all the hype surrounding this trilogy, I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to like it but thankfully, everyone seemed to be right in going crazy for it.

Katniss. What a fantastic female MC. I usually have an aversion to female MCs but how could I hate Katniss? The beginning of the book sees her do something so selfless and brave that I instantly liked her. I imagine me and my big sister in the same situation and I know she wouldn’t do that for me (Don’t take that wrong but she’s a bit of a wimp). Although I knew it was coming, it didn’t take anything away from the excitement and horror of what was happening. As the story gets into full swing, I only found myself liking Katniss more and more. There was so much more to her character than I originally thought and I loved finding out the other things about her and seeing how she reacted to the insanity that was being in the Capitol.

I wasn’t sure what I thought of Peeta, the other player from District 12, to begin with. He didn’t say much for a while but then as his character was revealed more, I could understand why he is so loved by other readers. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding Peeta and how the little things about him are revealed at a slow pace, due to him not being around for a good chunk of time. I can see the attraction between Peeta and Katniss although I was kind of hoping for another guy to be featured more and that was Gale. I am wondering now how much of a part he will play in the other two books in this trilogy and what problems he may cause. The relationship though, between Peeta and Katniss really adds another dimension to the brutal world that they are a part of. It adds a softness and tenderness to a story that would have otherwise been all about the action and tension of The Hunger Games.

So now onto the games themselves. I had ideas about how this was going to be before I read the book but it was not at all what I was expecting. YA novels are sometimes censored a little bit too much but this is where The Hunger Games stands out. The playing field of the games is truly terrifying and I would not wish being there on my worst enemy. The 24 contestants are placed into an arena where anything goes. It really is kill or be killed. Obviously, there are many deaths in this book but the ways in which they happen are creative and quite gruesome at times. Suzanne Collins does not hide from the fact that this is a battlefield and people will do anything it takes to stay alive. I loved the realness of this part of the book and I could feel my heart pounding at times when I knew something bad was about to happen.

I was not prepared at all for how emotional this book was going to be. Yes, I knew there was going to be a love interest for Katniss but that was not everything, for once. The friendships and alliances made throughout this book are really what it is all about. I guess I imaged this book to be all about the getting rid of other players in the games but not how it would feel to be there. I felt so much for some of the characters and not just the main ones. I loved Katniss and Peeta but there were other characters which caught my attention. I really liked that the story was not all about Katniss (even though the majority was). It is also about how other people cope and react in a situation such as this and what they are prepared to do in order to survive.

No wonder this amazing book is being made into a film. Think The Condemned for a younger audience with just as much action but with added romance and tenderness.

Book Review: Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater

Ballad: A gathering of faerie is the sequel to Lament by Maggie Stiefvater. It was released in the US in October 2009 and on 5th May 2011 in the UK by Scholastic. Ballad is 336 pages long.

Plot
James is an extremely talented musician and along with friend Dee, they go to a prestigious music school, Thornking Ash, to better their skills. James is finding life there a little too easy at times, not being able to make anything better out of what he can already do. He also finds that there isn't a bagpipe teacher there that can teach him anything apart from what he already knows. His English teacher, Mr Sullivan sees something special in James, apart from his over cockiness and cheek, and tries to persuade him to learn the piano too.

While Dee and James were close before, the events from last summer have put a barrier between them and things aren't the same anymore. Their friendship is struggling and James has no idea what to do, considering that he is in love with her.

James has also attracted the attentions of Nuala, a Leanan Sidhe. A Leanan Sidhe is a soul snatcher and a faerie muse. Nuala is deeply attracted to James' piping skills and like others in the past, she wants to take his life so tries to make him a deal. She will take years of his life in order to make him a better musician but he isn't interested. Nuala's life semi depends on her job and James is making it hard for her. No matter how many times that James tells her no, she sticks around, helping him anyway. As he and Dee grow further apart, James finds himself growing closer to Nuala and he knows it shouldn't be happening.

What I thought
Me being the silly girl that I am, read this book before Lament. I had both sitting on my bookcase, not in an order because I hadn't read them yet and picked this one up first. If you are going to read this then please do so in the right order or you will find yourself quite confused for a while.

The beginning of the book was quite confusing for me, as I hadn't read the previous book but for anyone who has, it will make complete sense. James and Dee are having problems since they came to Thornking Ash and they don't really talk much anymore. You know from the start of the book that Dee is desperate to talk to him but doesn't have the guts so she writes him a load of text messages that she never sends. I think this was useful is two ways. We get to see what is going on in Dee's mind without her overpowering the story but it was also a way to make the story extremely current and relatable to teenagers. Who hasn't written a message that they don't dare to send.

On the outside, James is arrogant and extremely cocky which were some of the things that I loved about him. He is also sarcastic, funny and makes jokes all of the time. While he does seem like a typical teenage boy a lot of the time, the nature of the story lets us see deeper into his personality and how much he cares about the people around him. There is so much about this character that makes you want to know more as you turn each page. The little things about James are what interested me the most. When something is bothering him or he wants to remember something, he writes little notes on his hand, although he doesn't always know what they mean. He comes across so realistically and this was why I could feel everything that he was going through.

As I hadn't read the first book, I didn't really see the attraction with Dee. This was mostly due to the fact that I didn't know a lot about her or understand where she was coming from. Reading the first book would have been a big help here and would have made her a bit more understandable. What I did learn about her though was that she wasn't really very nice. She uses James a lot throughout and even thinks about another guy when they finally kiss. Throughout the story, this is a bit of a will they, wont they thing going on and I was really hoping that she didn't end up with him.

Nuala was my second favourite character, next to James. She changes every 16 years so this name is one that she gave herself when she meets James. It becomes clear that she appears to be everything that he could ever want and that is part of the reason for the attraction between them both. Nuala originally starts off as the bad guy because she only really wants James for his talent but as she spends more time with him, she realises that she doesn't want to do her job anymore. She actually wants to be with him, even though she knows that it isn't possible. Nuala is extremely feisty and gives James just as much cheek and one liners as he gives to her, finally meeting his match. I think this was one of the things that he ends up really liking about her.

The story moves along at a really nice pace, with something always going on. It is also told from three points of view, James', Nuala's and Dee's (hers through text messages) and it was a great way of knowing how each of the main characters are feeling. Different things are happening to each of them at different times so this way a really interesting way of making the different parts fit together.

I really wish that I had read these books in the right order because it was quite confusing once I got into the story but I soon got over that. Maggie Stiefvater never fails to amaze me with each book of hers that I read!

Blog Tour: Review of A Small Free Kiss In The Dark + Interview with author Glenda Millard + Giveaway!

This complex and haunting exploration of life on the edge and what it takes to triumph over adversity is a story about the indomitable nature of hope. 

Two young boys, an old tramp, a beautiful teenage dancer, and the girl's baby-ragtag survivors of a sudden war-form a fragile family, hiding out in the ruins of an amusement park. As they scavenge for food, diapers, and baby formula, they must stay out of sight of vicious gangs and lawless solders. At first they rely on Billy, the only adult in the group. But as civil life deteriorates, Billy starts to fall apart. Skip, who is barely into his teens, must take over and lead them on a search for sanctuary. (From Goodreads.com)

A Small Free Kiss In The Dark may be a small book at just over 200 pages but packs a mighty punch. Set in a post-apocalyptic Australia, through it’s main characters it tells a raw and brutal story of humanity, survival and family.

Eleven-Year-old Skip is a street kid, after being neglected by his Dad and several foster homes he took his chances and ran away.  It’s here he befriends an old homeless man, Billy who with the best of his ability takes Skip under his wing and despite their hardships a routine is formed. That is until the bombs start falling and to survive, Skip and Billy must leave the city streets. On their journey they pick up two other lost souls- but what chance do any of them have when ordinary life was so tough for them?

Right from the beginning this is a story and cast of characters that will get right under your skin.  The relationship between Skip and Billy is touching without being overly sentimental and both are so well drawn and believable it’s impossible not to become involved with their story.  It’s the same with every character introduced in this book. They are so vividly real and their situations, both pre and post bombing, so absolutely human they leap from the page.

The setting of this book is a fascinating and clever concept. The contrast between the original purpose of the Theme Park, built for fun and frivolity, and the base for survival it now becomes is stark and shocking. I’ve often thought an empty Fun Fair would be strange and eerie, and Glenda Millard fully captures this atmosphere in her descriptions.

What stands out most in this book though is the nature of the human spirit. We see both the bad, through the violent atrocities of the unknown enemy and those whose survival instinct is to look out for themselves and the good. For the four misfits in this book, the best is brought out in them as they band together. For the first time in their lives they are a unit, a family. No longer ostracised from society, their strength comes in their ability to care for each other. It’s ironic that now we see the true potential of those previously written off, ignored and abandoned during peacetime.

A Small Free Kiss In The Dark is both sad and hopeful in equal measures. I found it an emotional and thought provoking book, beautifully written in Skip’s young voice which is captured with startling authenticity. While at times violent and shocking, it will appeal to mature younger readers of aged Eleven up to adults who will appreciate the complexities of human nature woven between it’s pages. If I had one complaint it could be that the book could have been a little longer and I’d have liked to know more about who the Enemy actually was and why this war was happening. One complaint aside, this is certainly a book I’d recommend highly.






Published by Templar  (UK) May 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.


Today as part of the UK Blog Tour For A small Kiss In The Dark we have a fantastic interview with Glenda Millard!

Hi Glenda please introduce yourself and your book, A Small Free Kiss In The Dark.



Hello and thanks for the invitation to tell you and your followers something about me and my writing. I must admit that when I saw the title of your blog site, I was a little nervous of what you might ask or say about A Small Free Kiss in the Dark! So I was much relieved to get your questions and to learn that you cried when you read the book. It seems you’re a bit of a softy after all!  You’ve given me the courage to type my answers in strawberry - I hope you like it.

I’m Glenda Millard. I live in Australia and have been married to the same man for 35 years. We have four adult children and I didn’t begin writing until they were teenagers. I write picture-books, chapter books for younger readers and novels for young adults

Can you tell us about the influences behind A Small Free Kiss In The Dark?

The two main influences for this story were newspaper articles. The first was about ‘freegans’ the name given to people who for economic or ethical reasons (or both) live on what other people discard - food, clothes, furnishings etc and even derelict buildings. The second was titled ‘ Urban Tribes’. I don’t remember much about the body of this piece. It was mainly the title that stuck in my mind and started me wondering what it would be like for a young homeless person who lived alone in a city. Once I started writing my story, there were other things that influenced what I wrote, including yet another newspaper article - this time about the State Library of Victoria.

A Small Free Kiss In The Dark is largely set at a fairground during war and terrible suffering. Was the contrast between the two deliberate?

Yes, absolutely. I wanted there to be contrasts right the way through, to create layer on layer of opposites;  despair and hope, past and future, darkness and light, ugliness and beauty, age and youth, fear and courage. I used Skip’s artistic sensibilities to enable him to appreciate brief glimpses of  physical beauty amongst the devastation of the war ravaged city. This, in part, is because he’s had such an awful past that he seeks to find beauty in the mundane. In many ways, the war has given him things he’s never had and desperately wants, family, acceptance even love. There are times when Skip feels old with the responsibility of keeping his ‘family’ together, and then there are moments of absolute freedom and childishness when he plays with his new little friend Max.  

Your book shows not only the bad, but the good brought out in people during war. Was this important to you?

Yes it was important. It’s easy to jump to conclusions - make assumptions on the basis of race, religion, status or even things as minor as what people wear or what type of car they drive. Often a person’s circumstances are beyond their control. This doesn’t always alter the way they think or act or behave. Sometimes it does - but not always for the worst. A number of the characters in A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, acted in unpredictable ways because of their circumstances. For example, the young, unnamed soldier and Tia, the dancer. But I think it was probably Billy whose changed circumstances most affected his behaviour for the better. He showed a more tender, caring and responsible side to himself than was evident before the war, when he resented even Skip’s intrusion into his solitary life.

I loved the main characters of Billy, Skip and Max. Where these characters based on anyone in particular?

Not really. I think most fictional characters are a compilation of characteristics, personalities and traits of people we’ve met or heard about or know personally. Right from the beginning I knew I wanted an adolescent boy, an old man, a very young child and a teenage dancer in my story. I thought Max was going to be a nuisance because he would hold the others back. I suppose in some ways he was. But I loved Max very much and I think I might have influenced Skip to do the same!
Names are important to me when I write. Skip named himself for all the reasons I wrote in the book. I wanted to give the little boy a name that would express how important he was to the story. I thought Max was the perfect name because in a way he was of maximum importance. Much of what happened was because they were trying to find Max’s mum and because he was such a major influence on Skip.  I chose Tia for the dancer’s name because she was always going to be the sad character. Tia/Tear - I think that’s called a homophone.

Can you tell us about the research involved in writing A Small Free Kiss In The Dark?

I rode a lot of carousels. That was excellent and it was also reassuring to have a valid reason for being a grown-up carousel-freak! The carousel of War and Peace is a real carousel at Luna Park in St Kilda, a coastal suburb of Melbourne, Victoria. I used to ride it when I was a little girl. This all came about because while  I was working for Social Security Department I realised that the girl I sat near was the daughter of a man who once taught me at high school - except he was no longer a teacher but a restorer of carousels. So of course I had to visit him in the shed where he did this amazing work.  I knew straight away that I’d have a carousel in one of my stories. In fact I actually wrote it into two stories. A Small Free Kiss in the Dark and a picture book that’s coming out next summer called Lightning Jack. A lot of serendipitous things happen to me. Here’s another one. The woman who is illustrating ‘Lightning Jack’ actually worked on the restoration of the carousel of War and Peace.  

I chose to set the story in places I knew well, so I could imagine what was unfolding. The Pennyweight Flat Cemetery is a real place close to where I was born and grew up.  I also made several visits to the beautiful domed building which houses the State Library of Victoria. I read about its history  and also articles about homeless people and I observe pavement artists at work whenever I’m in the city.

The dystopian /post apocalyptic novel is huge in YA right now. Why do you think this is?

Are they? I truly wasn’t aware of this. I thought it was all vampires and fallen angels and the like. I’m feeling slightly disappointed because I don’t like trends and fads in writing! But I’m sure that visual media such as movies and television plays a huge role in implanting ideas in our minds. With so many natural disasters occurring recently and ongoing conflicts in many countries, I suppose it is inevitable that writers are influenced by the images and wondering what it would be like to be directly affected by these events.

Can you recommend our readers some of your favourite YA novels?

Forgive me if these novels aren't strictly YA. My only excuse is that they are all books which could be read and understood and enjoyed by young adults, old adults and even by some people who are still on their way to becoming adults!  You see, I’m not particularly keen on categorising books by a target age group.

David Almond is high on my list of favourite writers. I read all his books and love them all but I think my absolute favourite is Heaven Eyes.

American author, Gerry Spinelli is another amazing writer. I found a copy of his book, ‘Milkweed’ in a sample bag at a conference I was attending. Once I’d read it I couldn’t get enough of Gerry’s books. My two favourites so far are ‘Star Girl’ and ‘Milkweed’.

I also love Kate DiCamillo’s books, particularly ‘Because of Winn Dixie’ and ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane’.

I must add Australian writer, Michael Gerard Bauer, to the list and in particular his moving YA novel, ‘The Running Man.’ I discovered this book on a shelf at a writer’s retreat where I was supposed to be writing a book of my own - mine had to wait until I’d finished Michael’s. It is a superb read although it is not dystopian or about vampires or fallen angels! However it does deal with the psychological impact of war on one of the characters.   

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a little about your journey as an author?

I grew up in a small rural town at a time when there was no career guidance for students. I have always loved reading and being read to and writing seemed to be a natural progression. At secondary school I wrote essays, poetry and short stories for the school magazine. However, it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to make a living by writing. My parents weren’t well off so at 15, when I was offered an office job, I accepted it and left school.  Later on I married, had four children and continued to work in office jobs. However when I was in my mid forties and my children were teenagers, the company I worked for was being sold and many jobs, including mine, looked certain to be lost. I needed a new skill so I enrolled in an evening course to learn marketing. I had absolutely no idea how to write the reports that were required as part of that course and wrote essays instead. The lecturer spoke to me one evening after class and suggested I might enjoy a creative writing class instead. I think I’m a slow learner because I still didn’t imagine that I could make any money from writing. My next job was for the Social Security Department. But while I was there I saw an advertisement in the paper for an evening class titled ‘Writing for Money’. So I enrolled. The classes went for 2 hours, once a week, for 6 weeks. The woman who ran them was a journalist and the classes focused on writing magazine and newspaper articles, not something I was particularly interested in. But towards the end of the course we students were given permission to write something of our own choosing.  I wrote a story about an oak tree, a pig and a farmer and handed it in for comment the following week.  Much to my surprise the lecturer suggested I sent it to a children’s publisher. The result of which was a contract for a picture book. I kept working for a number of years after that but I’m now a writer full time.

Finally do you have any advice for young aspiring authors out there?


Do write first and foremost because you love writing.
Don’t necessarily follow trends in writing.
Don’t put it off for any reason - write today, write now.

Thanks Glenda for taking the time to answer our questions
You’re most welcome. Thank you very much for inviting me to contribute to your blog.

Join Glenda for the next stop on her tour at Teenage Fiction For All Ages Tomorrow!

Giveaway!

Thanks to the kind people at Templar we have ONE copy of A Small Free Kiss In The Dark by Glenda Millard to giveaway.

Please enter by filling in the form below. Closes midnight May 9th 2011. Sorry UK entrants only. Winner will be chosen at random  and emailed for a postal address to pass on to the publishers. If we haven't heard back within 72 hours another winner will be chosen.

Good Luck!!

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