Book Review: Variant by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells was published by Harper Teen (US) on 4th October and the book is 356 pages long. Thanks to a friend for providing me with a copy for review.

Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.

He was wrong.

Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.

Where breaking the rules equals death.

But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.

What I thought
Before being sent this book, I hadn't even heard of it. Once I read what it was about though, I couldn't wait to read it... even though it was set in a school.

Having this story told by Benson, the main character, was extremely refreshing. There aren't too many YA books that I can think of that are told from a male perspective and I loved the change. Many people who read my reviews know how much I hate a whiney female MC so to begin with, I was glad to know I wasn't going to get that with this book. Benson has had a pretty rough life, being in and out of foster care so he thought this scholarship was going to be his perfect getaway. He couldn't have been more wrong.

What I loved about Benson was that he was unlike any of the other students at school. They are all already set into their different groups and even though Benson knows he has to join one of them, he isn't happy about it and isn't afraid to let that be known. He is a very vocal character who fights for what he believes in and this shows his strength and determination well. Right from the beginning, I was routing for Benson and I desperately wanted to see him succeed. Not only is Benson strong but he appears to be quite fearless at the same time. No matter what was happening, he still had his goals in place and was determined to make them happen, even if there was the treat of death... more than once!

This new school that Benson finds himself now trapped in has a very specific way of life. There are strict rules enforced with insane punishments if you happen to disobey them. As I said earlier, the school's students have also set up groups: Society, Variant and Havoc. The Society people enforce every single rule and never do anything wrong – they believe following the rules is for the best. Havoc is the gang that can 'beat the crap out of anyone' and Variants are everyone else. The ones that don't want to play the game. I loved the way that the school was sectioned up and each group's reason for being the way that they were. The Variant and Society gangs are shown more than Havoc which was understandable, considering how the story goes, but I would have liked for it to be more well rounded.

This book is described as dystopian but I don't really agree with this label. I can see why it is I guess but the book is set in near enough modern day but it is really the twist that warrants the label. I obviously wont say what the twist is but it is MASSIVE! I wasn't expecting this at all and it seemed like it came out of no where all of a sudden. The way that the twist is written into the story was fantastic and no one will ever be able to see it coming I don't think. From here, the story really gets exciting, even though it was beforehand anyway. The action really starts here and a lot about the school is revealed. There is also a pretty big cliff-hanger which made me desperately want the next book straight away.

I was not expecting the genius that is Variant at all and I wish I had read it sooner. Well's writing is fresh, invigorating and damn exciting!

Book Review: The Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols

The Boys Next Door is the first book in the Endless Summer series by Jennifer Echols. It was published by Simon Pulse (US) on 15th July 2007 and the book is 317 pages long.

Lori lives for summertime on the lake. She spends all season wakeboarding, swimming, and hanging with her friends—including the two hotties in the house next door. With the Vader brothers, Lori's always been one of the guys.
But while Lori and the "baby" brother, Adam, are inseparable friends, she can't deny a secret crush on Sean, the older Vader boy. This year Sean's been paying Lori a lot of attention, and not in a brotherly way.
But just as Lori decides to prove to Sean she's girlfriend material, she realizes that her role as girlfriend to Adam may be even more important. And by trying so hard for the perfect summer romance, she could be going way overboard....

What I thought
I've loved both of the other two Jennifer Echols books that I have read so was excited with Keris Stainton said she'd send me this book after I sent her something else. I started it the day after it arrived and barely put it down.

As the book began though, I actually wasn't too sure if I was going to like it. I didn't really like the opening to the book so needless to say, it was quite hard to get in to. The opening introduces us to Lori, the female main character. It quickly becomes clear that Lori used to be a bit of a tomboy and she had just recently changed her whole image... to impress a boy. I don't think that this sends a very positive message to younger, more impressionable girls. Lori goes around wearing a bikini instead of her usual clothes and I really wish she hadn't, even though her job gave her enough reason to.

That aside though, Lori was a fantastic character. Not having any real experience in the boy department, she has no clue what she is really doing. Sean is older and all Lori has to go from is MTV, reality TV shows and girls magazines. Because of all of this, Lori is really funny in the ways that she tries to get Sean's attention. There is much more to Lori than just liking Sean though. She isn't full of herself or perfect and she has issues just like everyone else.

In order to get Sean's attention, his younger brother Adam and Lori come up with a pln to make him jealous. Obviously, the plan doesn’t go exactly as they think it will or this would have been an extremely boring book. I loved Adam right from the start. He is sexy, sweet and obviously not like his older brothers. Adam also has ADHD which made him really interesting to read about. Having ADHD meant that Adam had little mannerisms that were different from anyone else's and it also affected how he acted.

The actual plot of the book was quite confusing at times due to the many schemes and lies along the way. However, I did like how Lori and Adam got to know each other properly in their fake relationship and to slowly see them change around each other. I would have liked for there to have been a little less about making so many people jealous but I understand why it was done this way.

The chemistry between Adam and Lori was amazing. Even though they weren't really together, they certainly had a lot going on between them. I loved the bantr that they had going because of them living next door to each other for so long but also how comfortable they were with each other. Echol's other books are pretty damn steamy and the same can be said for this one although it has been tamed down in comparison.

The Boys Next Door was exactly the kind of romance I was looking for and I'm glad I had the next book, Endless Summer, waiting for me.

Book Review: Darkness Falls by Mia James

Darkness Falls is the second book in the A Ravenwood Mystery series by Mia James. It was published on 29th September by Indigo (Orion Imprint) and the book is 384 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

April Dunne is having a rough time. There are vampires in her school. Not Goths, or Emos in fancy dress. Dangerous, blood-sucking semi-immortals. They run the school. They pretend to be students at it. And they're using their influence to recruit smart, rich students - aka 'bleeders' - to their own cause. What is that cause? April isn't sure. But she knows they killed a rock star for it, and innocents who got too close to the truth. One of them almost killed her. But that's nothing to what's coming next. Gabriel, her kinda-boyfriend, is dying and unless April can find a cure then not only is she going to be boyfriendless, she's also going to lose one of her major allies in the school. And she really needs allies. Because it turns out April has an ability of her own, one that could prove lethal to the 'Suckers' who've taken over the school. If any of them figure out what she is, then losing her boyfriend will be the least of her problems ...

What I thought
To start with, I wasn't the biggest fan of the first book in this series 'By Midnight' but I did love the idea behind it so decided to give this one a shot with the hopes that it would get better.

Darkness Falls picks up right where By Midnight left off, following April and the bad things that have been happening around her. From here, I remembered how much April bugged me. Yes, she has had a hell of a lot to deal with so I could sympathise with her in that respect but overall, she's childish and selfish. Although her vampire boyfriend is dying... and because of her I might add... everything still has to be all about her or she throws a bit of a hissy fit. Because of her constant whining, I actually hated April and the sympathy I did feel to begin with quickly went away.

Then there are the people that April goes to school with. Caro, her best friend, I actually quite liked. She has a lot of common sense and is pretty rational considering everything that is happening. I probably liked her as much as I did because she's the complete opposite to April. Ben, a secondary love interest was another character that I liked but he wasn't featured nearly enough. To me, it seems that he does genuinely like April although there still may be an ulterior motive in there somewhere. Ben just seems like a lovely guy who would actually treat April right, unlike her boyfriend Gabriel.

The dialogue between characters, for the most part, was terrible. The popular clique at school, 'The Faces', come from money and not only do they act like stuck up snobs, they act and talk like 50 year old socialites. I dread to think how many times darling or honey were used in conversation in this book. The teenagers do not talk at all like normal teenagers though in certain ways, they do act their age.

For a large chunk of the book, nothing seems to really happen. There is a lot of running around, talking to different people, trying to figure out answers and while this was supposed to add to the mystery and build tension, I found it quite boring. Nothing really exciting happens for at least 200 pages so the pacing was completely wrong for me. I would have loved for something exciting to happen a bit earlier so it kept me interested.

As you can probably tell by now, I really didn't like this book and won't be carrying on with the series anymore. 

Book Review: Eve by Anna Carey

Eve by Anna Carey was published by Harper Collins (US) on 4th October and the book is 318 pages long. I received a copy of this for review!

Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

Sixteen years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth’s population, the world is a perilous place. Eighteen-year-old Eve has never been beyond the heavily guarded perimeter of her school, where she and two hundred other orphaned girls have been promised a future as the teachers and artists of the New America. But the night before graduation, Eve learns the shocking truth about her school’s real purpose—and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Arden, her former rival from school, and Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust . . . and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

What I thought
Dystopian YA books are a really big thing at the minute so I was really happy to get the beautiful US hardback of Eve for review as well as some other amazing books from the US.

Starting off in a girl's boarding school, I was a bit worried about where the plot was going to go. I definitely did not want to read another whole book set in a school! Once the whole reasoning of the school became apparent, I loved this aspect of Eve. If the world did ever turn out this way, as it does in this book, I could totally see this kind of thing happening and this made Eve quite scary. Anything that could actually happen freaks the hell out of me and that was exactly the case here.

Once Eve leaves the school though, things started to go downhill... and fast. Along with Arden, another girl from school, Eve is put into some crappy situations which she doesn't help at all! In matters of being free or being caught, Eve's reactions were extremely delayed even though Arden shouts at her to do something. Eve was pretty stupid at times and considering she's supposed to be the brightest girl in her year, I just didn't understand what she was doing.

Even though I had problem with Eve herself, the world building in this book was amazing. Anna Carey has really thought of ever single little detail in regards to how the world ended up like this, the cause of the problems and what could be done to fix them. The different aspects and areas of the world are described so vividly that I could really imagine myself there which is not necessarily a good thing. Some of the places that Eve finds herself in are quite disgusting and I would rather not be able to picture myself there.

The pacing of Eve was great!! Time is taken to explain the situation and then expands on this. The background information as extremely useful and I'm glad time was spend on this. Eve has times where a lot of things happen in a short space of time which makes it exciting but there are also some slower periods where you are able to catch your breath. There is a big build up towards the end and leaved on a pretty big cliffhanger which I loved.

I didn't completely love Eve but it was definitely a promising start to a new series and I can't wait to see what is in store next for Eve!

5 quick questions with Aimee Carter

Today we have the lovely Aimee Carter with us, author of The Goddess Test, to answer 5 quick questions! 

Please describe The Goddess Test in 3 words.

Mythology, loss, and love.

Not everyone is familiar with the story of Hades and Persephone, did you have to do much research while writing The Goddess Test?

Greek mythology is something I’ve studied in one form or another for most of my life, and though I’m no expert, I thoroughly enjoy it. However, I did read up on the myths while outlining the story, mostly to open myself up to other ideas that I could incorporate into the story.

What made you write about this story from Greek mythology and not another?

I didn’t consciously choose Greek mythology in any way. It was the myth itself that drew me in and gave me the initial ‘what if’ idea – what if Persephone left Hades and he was forced to find a new queen? That’s only part of the story though, and it took me a long time to put all of the pieces together.

If you could be a character from Greek mythology for a day, who would you choose to be why?

Probably either Hades or Aphrodite. Hades because it would be interesting to get a glimpse of the Underworld, and Aphrodite because – well, seriously, who wouldn’t want to be Aphrodite for a day?

If you were put in Kate's place, do you think you would pass the test?

I’m not sure. I’d like to think I would, but it’s one of those tests that you’d have to take in order to know whether you’d pass it.

Thanks so much Aimee! I loved The Goddess Test and you can find my review here!

5 quick questions with Rachel Vincent

Today we get to share with you the 5 quick questions I got to ask Rachel Vincent - author of the Soul Screamers series (one that Vicki and I both love!!)

Who would you like to see as the main cast if the Soul Screamers series got made into a movie/ TV adaptation?

Oh, I don’t know! That’s always hard to guess at, because people young enough to play the roles would be too old by the time a film sold, was cast, and was shot.

I'm sure you love all of your characters but who out of the Soul Screamers series is your absolute favourite?

Sabine is my favourite to write. She says whatever she’s thinking. That’s fun. Tod gets the most reaction from readers. But I love it when Kaylee is appreciated for who and what she is. She’s strong. Stronger than anyone really realizes yet. I love that about her.

What is your favourite book of all time and why

The Stand. Or Swan Song. I can’t decide. I love post-apocalyptic stories, and those two are the best. Huge cast. Good vs Evil themes. You can’t lose.

Which YA (human) character would you love to be and why

Which of my own characters? One of the ones we hardly see, because she’s never in danger. ;)

Which YA (non human) character would you love to be and why

None! My characters live dangerous lives!

Thanks so much Rachel! We can't wait for book 5!

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is a stand alone YA novel. It was published by Bloomsbury on 3rd October and the book is 472 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Broken, failing school and failing life. Andi has major problems since the death of her little brother and now, she only cares about music and it’s taking over her life. Leading an intervention, her father whisks Andi off to Paris to force her to sort things out but she gets a lot more than she bargained for. Hidden in the compartment of an old guitar, Andi finds a diary from the days of Revolutionary France.

Through her diary, Alexandrine tells her story of the Revolution. A poor street performer trying to save the life of someone she probably should never have met in the middle of a devastating war brings out something different in Andi. Although centuries apart, these two girls have much more in common than Andi thought possible and she finds herself fully immerged in the life of Alexandrine and the fate that awaits her.

What I thought
A few months ago, I went through a phase of wanting to read books set in Paris but there aren’t too many YA books like this out there. I was so happy when this book came through the door and I realised where it was set. Paris, both past and present.

Many of you will know that I study English at university but what you don’t know is that I actually wanted to study History but didn’t have the relevant grades to do it. I love reading books that have a lot of history in them and Revolution certainly had this element. As soon as Andi found the lost diary, I began to get really excited about where the story was heading. Alexandrine’s diary explores Parisian life before and during the Revolution and shows it from different sides. As Alexandrine comes from a poor family, we get to see how life was for the non-privileged people but as well, we get to see what was going on with the royal family at the time. The imagery of these times was extremely vivid and that made it possible to feel as though you were there, living Alexandrine’s life. You can also see just from the bibliography how much research has gone into this novel.

Not only does Revolution explore Paris during the Revolution but as Andi is forced to visit for a while, we also get to see Paris through her eyes, not that she explores much of it. The parts of Paris that she does manage to experience though made a real change from what is normally written about. In this book, tourist attractions aren’t relied on and instead, a more normal Paris is explored. Ok, so maybe one or two tourist attractions are mentioned but it would be hard to set a book here and not mention the Eiffel Tower so I didn’t mind that at all, especially when it has a big impact on the story. Overall though, I loved being able to hear about Paris from different points of view.

The music aspect that is woven throughout this whole book was completely perfect in my eyes. Andi’s obsession with/ love for music was so beautifully written and I could feel everything that she was in this aspect. Although Andi uses music as a way to escape her realities, it was still clear that she loved it very much. Her passion for the subject shines through in every sense possible, from the way she talks about different musicians to the way she plays her guitar. As the book is told from Andi’s POV and also that of Alexandrine, this was a good way to make it not all about the music but to let enough of it come through at the times it was needed. I loved the fact that this book had two massive themes running throughout and neither seemed to get in the way of the other. Instead, both are intertwined perfectly and work extremely well together.

I really liked Andi as a main character. She had so much depth to her because of many different things. The death of her brother, her passion and obsession with music, her fiery nature and stubbornness made her fantastic to read about and to get to know more as the book went on. The beginning of the book holds nothing back and doesn’t waste any time in explaining how messed up Andi is and I loved how she was never perfect, not even close to it at any point. Andi’s journey and her reactions to the situations she finds herself in only made her like her more because of how she coped with everything. Her life is far from easy and it was very interesting to watch her try to overcome her problems but also to see how much she was struggling at the same time.

Virgil isn’t your average love interest in a YA book and that was a great thing for me. He doesn’t play the largest parts in this story and that was really refreshing. A lot of the time now, relationships are the focal points and too easily do the heroine’s lives revolve around a boy so I was glad to see that in Revolution, this isn’t the case at all. The fact that he shares Andi’s passion was something that made it possible for her to not feel completely alone in a place she didn’t want to be in to start with. I don’t even think his character was completely needed to be honest but he was definitely a nice added bonus.

Revolution is pretty much my perfect book and definitely my book of the year so far. With the perfect mix of history, music, adventure and sweet romance, I couldn’t have asked for anything more with this one and I think it will be extremely hard to top!

Waiting on Wednesday: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

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

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Described by Richelle Mead as “utterly captivating,” Unearthly received outstanding reviews, garnered accolades from New York Times bestselling authors, and was named an Indie Next Pick. In this heart-wrenching sequel, Cynthia Hand expertly captures the all-consuming joy of first love—and the agony of loss. This beautifully woven tale will appeal to fans of Lauren Kate, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Aprilynne Pike.

Published: 2nd January 2012 by Egmont

Book Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

Die For Me is the debut author from Amy Plum. It was published by Atom on 5th May and the book is 352 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

After Kate Mercier’s parents die is a car accident, her and her sister uproot their lives, leaving their friends and memories behind, to move to Paris to live with their Grandparents. Grief stricken, Kate copes the only way she knows how; by hiding behind her books and loosing herself in Parisian art. That all changes though when she meets Vincent.

The charming and mysterious stranger who is also extremely handsome is the one person who manages to break down some of Kate’s walls, the walls stopping her from really experiencing life. As Kate and Vincent grow closer, she realises that something is not quite right about him. He is, infact, a revenant. He, along with a group of others, spend eternity sacrificing themselves over and over in order to save others. When Kate learns of this, she realises that being with Vincent will mean her life never being the same again. Can she handle the pressure that being with Vincent brings?

What I thought
This is another of the books that I read during my books set in Paris/ France phase. I didn’t actually realise that it was though until someone else pointed it out and then I knew I had to read it next. Paris is extremely well described and gave me the feeling that I had been there myself. Amy Plum’s descriptions flow easily between the difference of day and night in the city of love and I loved every minute of Kate’s being there. However, I do feel like sometimes, being in Paris was pushed aside in favour of Kate’s relationship with Vincent. I think I would have preferred if these two things have coincided and for the atmosphere of Paris to have had an effect of the two main characters.

I immediately liked Kate. With both of her parents dying, she had been through a hell of a lot at the beginning of the book and because of this, I felt really sorry for her. Kate is extremely grief stricken and doesn’t really know how to cope with life in general. She is a big reader though and immerses herself in a world of literature, which is pretty much how she escapes from dealing with her feelings and what is happening around her. As a character, even though she does hide away for a little bit, Kate is outspoken and strong which were two things I loved about her. Until Kate meets Vincent, she is pretty sure of herself which was a great thing to see, even if it is short lived.

Vincent, unfortunately, just didn’t hit all the right spots for me. While he is supposed to be insanely hot, it wasn’t described well enough to make me believe it. I did understand what Kate saw in him eventually but I didn’t get that first, initial attraction with him. I certainly didn’t have that instant book boy crush like I have had with others. The relationship build up between Kate and Vincent wasn’t long enough for them both to have the feelings that they were supposed to have for each other. Maybe more so on Kate’s part. Vincent, after all, has been around a hell of a long time so must be really lonely and I can understand that once he knew he liked Kate, his feelings were magnified. Although Kate insists on getting to know Vincent, this could have been given a bit more time and for their feelings to develop more and make the relationship more believable on the whole.

I loved the idea of revenants as this isn’t something that has been overdone in the YA genre or much at all for that matter. The idea behind revenants was well explained and while some may say that there was too much information given, I think it set the scene extremely well. As there are more books to come, there should be no need to go over much of this again. I also love the history aspects of the revenants. The concepts, history, dates, mythology as well as what other people think of zombies was particularly exciting and interesting for me. These aspects of the book explained a lot about feelings that other characters, mainly secondary characters, had and why they act the way that they do now.

Even though I did have some problems with this book, I couldn’t put it down. I still loved it and for a debut novel, it was pretty damn good. I am excited for anything else Amy Plum writes and will definitely be carrying on with this series.

Book Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

Forbidden is a standalone YA novel from Tabitha Suzuma. It was published on 27th May 2010 by Random House and the book is 432 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Maya is sixteen. She is very pretty and talented but doesn’t have much experience with boys. Infact, she has never even been kissed before.

Lochan is seventeen. He’s extremely intelligent and has a long, bright future ahead of him and could probably do whatever he wanted.

Maya and Lochan are in love. The problem is, they are brother and sister.

What I thought
Before reading this book, I had heard extremely mixed opinions due to the subject matter. I chose to only write a very short summary of the plot because it is so powerful that expanding it would just ruin the story for anyone who hasn’t read the book.

Tabitha Suzuma tackles an extremely taboo subject with Forbidden and I have to applaud her for that. Not many authors have the guts and courage to even attempt to talk about something like incest. Even though the incest was consensual, that doesn’t make it ok and Suzuma never forgets that. Even with this subject being at the forefront of the book, the writing is beautiful and heartfelt throughout.

Forbidden is told from a dual narrative. This made it easy to understand what both, Maya and Lochan (the main characters) were feeling. I was completely and utterly engrossed in their story and everything that had been through up to this point in their lives. Maya and Lochan come from a pretty broken family and have a mum who is never there, meaning they have to take charge and run the household. This alone must have been a great pressure on them both and I’m not sure how I would have coped with that or even if I would have been able to. The main thing about the dual narrative though is being able to see that the incest is completely consensual which is a very important aspect of this book.

Incest isn’t the only hard topic being written about here though. Forbidden also tackles subjects such as alcohol abuse, drugs and the pressures of school and what other people expect of you. Forbidden certainly isn’t an easy read by any means and infact, it is probably the hardest book I have ever read. That being said, everything Suzuma writes about is justified and fit the story perfectly. I think these other aspects were needed to show just how rough of a life Maya and Lochan were having at this time in their lives.

Throughout the book, I was waiting for there to be a huge twist and for Maya and Lochan to not actually be brother and sister. That never came though. Even though I knew what they were doing was wrong, I couldn’t help but route for them and for the both of them to have a happy ending in some way or another. Forbidden is an extremely emotional read and one that had me thinking about it for days afterwards. I actually read it over half a year ago and have only just been able to be in a place where I feel I can write a proper review of it. The ending of Forbidden made me cry so hard that I actually had trouble finishing the book because I couldn’t see the words on the page.

Obviously, due to the subject matter, this is not a book for younger readers but it is a book that addresses some serious issues in a beautiful and sensitive way. A fantastic book overall and from an insanely talented writer.

Blog Tour Interview: Ian Beck - Author of The Haunting Of Charity Delafield

Today we're asking Ian Beck some questions on his new book, The Haunting Of Charity Delafield.

Hi Ian and thanks for stopping by. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your latest book, The Haunting of Charity Delafield?
Oddly the real inspiration behind the book was a little drawing I made of a girl wearing a long bright red coat out walking in the snow. I had at first imagined that she was going to be a character in a picture book, because at that time (some years ago) I was mainly working in that area. The picture book never happened but both my editor and my agent liked her and reminded me about her now and then, and so she was eventually fetched out of limbo and I began to develop her story in a longer form. This began out of a game I used to play with my daughter Lily when she was younger, involving tiny little letters from faeries. After many false starts and abandoned drafts the letters never made it into the final version of the story, as so often happens things change radically as you write and re-wrte.

I love books set in Victorian times (as Charity Delafield is) Why do you think it makes such a fascinating period for stories?
We have inherited a huge and energetic imaginary world from the Victorians. Steam and fog and industry and progress are somehow all muddled together with lingering superstitious beliefs and nascent technologies. This makes for an irresistible world, well to me at any rate. I can’t help but be attracted to it. My early reading of H G Wells and of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and a later obsession with the Fantomas novels, which are set in late 19th century Paris have all fuelled my interest too. My novel Pastworld although set in the future, is about a massive theme park which attempts to recreate with scrupulous accuracy the Victorian London of the literary imagination. On a practical, story making level, it is easier for useful muddles mysteries and misunderstandings to take place in a world with no mobile communications technology.
I am hopelessly wedded to that period although not exclusively, I also have an obsession with London in World War 2 having grown up so closely to that war’s aftermath and I hope to feature that setting in a book soon.

There's a fairy tale quality to your book, and looking on Amazon this seems
to be a theme for you (in your illustrations too) Are you inspired by old
fairy tales? Do you have a favourite?
As a working illustrator and would be creative writing student at the City Literary Institute in London back in the very early 1970s I was introduced by a teacher to the work of Bruno Bettleheim which opened my eyes to the deep roots and uses of the Fairy Tale. They are marvellous and astonishing things and open to so many ways of retelling updating etc, because they deal with all the big and fundamental states of being, with love and loss, wealth and poverty, happiness and suffering, hunger fear and tragedy all condensed down into those marvellously compressed stories. If I do have a favourite it would be The Six Swan Brothers.

I'd love to read more about Silas and what happens for him next. Do you have
any plans to write about him?
As a matter of fact I do, I am hoping he will have his own story to explore, without going into too much detail, or giving anything away I would like to follow him on his journey and also examine his roots, he was after all a foundling, much to discover there I think.

You're also a well known illustrator. Why do you think illustrations are so
important to children's books, not just picture books?
My earliest reading memories are the things which have stayed in my mind tenaciously from when I was seven or eight. The little moments of magical revelation, which are most often a combination of the words and the illustrations working together. The instance that comes immediately to mind is Lucy’s first meeting with Mr Tumnus in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The narrative shock of being in that other world is deepened and enriched by the addition of the marvellous line drawing by Pauline Baynes. Mr Tumnus walking arm in arm with Lucy with the simply rendered soft layers of snow covering the ground and the trees and his umbrella and parcels. That scene is inextricably linked to the drawing which compliments and deepens the writing, each serves the other and the imagination is stimulated. I regret the lack of drawings or illustrations in most YA or adult texts. The additions of the simple black and white drawings I hope add something to the feel of Charity Delafield even if they only provide hints at the edge of the story.

We all have a favourite book from childhood, can you tell us about yours?
My maternal Grandmother was a very patient woman and she would read to me over and over again the original tiny little landscape shaped Thomas the Tank Engine Books, which were relatively new when I was two or three in the late 1940s, so I suppose they were a favourite then, but mainly I think for the sunlit world of the pictures. When I could read for myself I devoured everything without discrimination. I was especially fond of The Borrowers, (again marvellous illustrations by Diana Stanley) and later the Just William books by Richmal Crompton, (drawings by Thomas Henry) and as a teenager I happily discovered Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier which is still a favourite.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring young writers or illustrators?
When I left Art School in 1968 I wasted too much time not daring to show people my illustration work. I drifted about for a year and did little part time jobs and dreamed of being an illustrator. I should have just got on with it there and then, so my first piece of advice is don’t be shy get on with it.

I wrote at art school bits and pieces, chunks and fragments, none of them finished, partly out of idleness partly out of fear of failing. No one ever saw those attempts. I moved to London and eventually succeeded in being an illustrator, I was still starting off bits of novels and short stories, but nothing was ever properly finished. Eventually, many years down the line, I was commissioned to illustrate a story of my choice by a publisher. I chose a story by Colette. The publisher didn’t like the translation. ‘Haven’t you ever written anything’, he asked. I took a part finished story from my drawer and finished it. It was published and the confidence that gave me moved me on to write my first full length novel for Children, The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, Boy Adventurer, and then on further to write 5 other novels including The Haunting of Charity Delafield. My second piece of advice therefore is to actually finish things. Without the lump of clay that may be your first draft you have nothing to refine, shape mould, re-write and make work. Finishing things is the key.

Thanks Ian for taking the time to answer our questions!

I loved The Haunting Of Charity Delafield and will be reviewing it later today. In The mean time check out the trailer!

Book News: Lauren Kate cover reveal - Fallen in Love and Rapture

I'm sure many of you will have already seen the two new beautiful covers for Lauren Kate's books Fallen in Love and Rapture but just incase you haven't, here they are! I personally love both of them and I wasn't expecting to after not liking her last cover very much at all! 

What do you think of them??

Book Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Glow is the first book in the Sky Chasers series by Amy Kathleen Ryan. It was published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 7th October and the book is 400 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC for review.

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth's collapse, the ship's crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader's efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don't know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them...

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he's the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren't all from the outside.

What I thought
It is never a good thing when after the first few pages of a book, you already feel as though you aren’t going to like it. Right at the beginning, we meet main characters Waverly and Kieran who are best friends and a couple. Immediately, you can see that they are both obsessed with being the ‘best’ on their ship and that they would do nearly anything to keep up that appearance. While it is a good thing to strive for better in life, I didn’t agree with the fact that their whole lives were ran by this idea, even their relationship. Sometimes, I felt as though they were only together for the sake of it and weren’t into each other that much. Because of this, I had a hard time believing in their relationship from the beginning.

Glow is quite slow to start because there is so much to explain and understand about why the ship is there and why the people are on it in the first place. I would have liked for this part of the book to have been summed up a lot quicker and really get on with the story. After this though, the pace does pick up a lot and there is a lot going on. With a dual narrative between Waverly and Kieran, we get to see what is going on from both sides and I liked this. Without this, so much would have been missed out from the story and I would have felt disappointed not knowing what was going on from one person’s perspective.

One of the aspects of the book that did really interest me though was religion. Although this may be a bit much for some readers, I thought it was great. However, some parts were very preachy and this is the reason why I think it won’t be for everyone. That being said, I loved the fact that even though these two ships were in isolation, one managed to keep religion going, even though they hadn’t seen Earth or anyone else for a long, long time. It amazed me that even though this was the case, the leaders managed to keep such a strong idea running for such a long time without many problems. In contrast, the other ship does not follow the same ideas and I really enjoyed how different the sets of people were and what they both believed in.

Some parts of Glow were extremely hard for me to get through. While I can see why the author chose to go to such extreme measures, I think the one scene in particular was a little over the top and it nearly made me stop reading. After that scene was over though and things were explained a little more, it did make that part of the book fit in a lot better but I still had my problems with the whole idea in general. Obviously, I don’t want to say what exactly it was that I had a problem with but I’m sure for those of you who have read this book, you will know what I’m talking about.

Glow was a real mixed bag for me really. There were some aspects that I really liked but there was unfortunately, a lot more that I didn’t like. After not liking Across The Universe and now Glow, I think books set in space are just not for me!

Book Review: Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour is the début young adult novel by Morgan Matson. It was published by Simon and Schuster on 7th July and the book is 352 pages long.

After a terrible few months, life for Amy Curry isn't getting much better. Her mother has decided to move and somehow, Amy has to get their car across America from California to the East Coast. That wouldn't be that much of a problem if it weren't for one thing: since her father's death, Amy hasn't been able to drive. Knowing this, Amy's mother enlists the help of Roger, an old childhood friend to drive for her.

When Roger arrives though, Amy is more than shocked. He is gorgeous and not at all the boy she was thinking of. Not happy with the itinerary that Amy's mother has planned out for them, Amy and Roger decide to take a more 'scenic' route. As the two become closer on the road, Amy realises that this might just be one of the best times of her life and just the thing she needed to fix herself.

What I thought
Ever since I heard about the idea of this book, I wanted to read it. I love travelling and the idea of road tripping across America definitely appeals to me. For some reason though, it had kind of fallen off my radar but luckily, I swapped it with another blogger for another book and I finally got round to reading it. As soon as I started, I regretted not doing so earlier.

I think what made this book even more special than just the words was the little additions throughout. Amy makes notes along her journey and on some pages, photos, receipts etc. can be seen. As I really don't know that much about America and its particular States, I loved the fact that little bits of information were given at the beginning of each new destination like the state motto, facts and the size of the state. Without these little bits of information, each state could have been exactly the same as the next for all I knew. Amy and Roger also tried a lot of things that were specific to that State and this is something I know for sure that I would want to do should I ever get the chance to do something like this myself.

Next to the road trip aspect, I loved the slow building friendship between Amy and Roger. As their road trip isn't that long in regards to the time they spend together, there is none of this instant love rubbish. Due to their circumstances, you are able to see them as friends to begin with and to see their characters individually instead of them being ruled by a relationship. Each character has so many wonderful things about them but they both still have flaws which was something I appreciated. Amy and Roger have had a lot going on in their lives so have some quite big issues to deal with and it was nice to see them eventually confide in each other even though it was obvious they didn't want to talk about their problems.

Not only are Amy and Roger great but the secondary characters are as well. On their journey, Amy and Roger come across new people but also some of Roger's friends. The people that they meet along the way have quite a lot to do with how the story turns out at the end and I really liked the fact that these people who were barely mentioned at times, could have such a big impact. I did have two favourite secondary characters though and they were Lucien and Bronwyn. These two characters didn't necessarily have the biggest impacts on Amy and Roger but they were two of the most entertaining and the two that I would have wanted to know more about.

This book also has a big musical aspect going for it. As this is a road trip, there are playlists along the way according to where they are or where they are going. To be honest, although I had no idea of most of the songs on these lists, I loved reading through them to see what Amy and Roger were listening to on their adventure. After finishing the book, I even went on YouTube and looked up some of the songs just so I had a better picture in my head. This aspect of the book was great for me and although it wouldn't have bothered me if it wasn't there, I am bloody glad it was!

If, like me, you have been putting this book off I highly recommend that you pick it up immediately. I loved this book completely and would read anything by Morgan Matson based on this. 

Book Review: After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel

After Obsession is a standalone YA novel by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel. It was published by Bloomsbury on 5th September and the book is 320 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Aimee and Alan both have secrets that they want to keep hidden. Their pasts and special abilities make them different from everyone else. When Alan and his mother move to Maine, his and Aimee’s lives are thrown together. Strange things are happening to the people around them and they can’t help but to spill their secrets to each other, not realising just how alike they actually are. Aimee and Alan have the feeling that they’re being haunted but have no idea how to stop it.

It isn’t Aimee and Alan that is being haunted though, it’s a friend of Aimee’s and Alan’s cousin, Courtney. With her father missing, Courtney invites something dangerous and deadly into her life not realising it is about to take over everything that she is. Only Aimee and Alan can get rid of what is haunting her but they are running out of time to figure out how to do that before Courtney’s life is taken from her.

What I thought
I’m not really sure what I was expecting from this book but it definitely wasn’t what I got in the end.

Firstly, I have to mention the cover. I am a big fan of Carrie Jones’ ‘Need’ series and I was happy to see that the cover for After Obsession was very similar to the covers for her other books. The ‘Need’ books are in no way related to this one but the colour scheme is the same and it has the same kind of design feel to it. The reason why this was a good thing for me was because of how much I like books to match. Some books by authors don’t go together well on a shelf but After Obsession looks completely at home and in its rightful place next to Jones’ other books.

Just recently, I have been thinking that the YA genre needs a bit more originality. There are so many vampire, werewolf etc books out there now that I sometimes get a bit bored of reading about the same kind of things. Jones and Wedel definitely brought something unique and original to the table with After Obsession. It if hadn’t been for the strong image on the front cover, I would have thought that this book was about something completely different and not demon possession. I was so happy when I realised what the book was actually about as I hadn’t read anything like this ever before. Yes, we have had book with demons as main characters etc but nothing like this. The fact that a demon is trying to possess Courtney creeped the hell out of me. The writing style is so dark and scary that I was kind of glad that I read it in the day time. I think I would have been a little scared had I read it at night.

Sometimes having a book told from different characters can be a massive mistake but I thought it was perfect for After Obsession. Aimee and Alan have very different voices so even without their names on the first page of a chapter, you can easily tell who is telling the story. If this book hadn’t been told this way, I think we would have missed out on a lot of important things and not everything happens when Aimee and Alan are together. Infact, quite a lot happens when they are apart and I loved being able to find out things from each character. Also, this way of telling the story gave a lot of insight into both main characters’ pasts that we wouldn’t have gotten to know about otherwise.

Aimee was a wonderful main female character and she had so much going for her. Her troubled past and disjointed family make her such an interesting character because she has had to deal with a lot over the years and isn’t really sure of who she is. Because of her past, Aimee is a strong character and not afraid to fight for what she wants or what she thinks is right and I loved that about her. She is quite outspoken and doesn’t really let anyone tell her what to do and for the most part, she doesn’t care too much about what people think of her. From the whole story, you can see that Aimee is someone who cares a lot for her friends and would do anything for them which isn’t something you see all of the time in YA books anymore. Some female characters are too quick to dismiss their friends once a hot guy comes along.

As much as I liked Aimee, Alan was by far, my favourite of the two characters. Having a character of Native American background isn’t something we see often (or at all) in the YA genre so this was something really interesting to me. It was great to see how Native American culture was woven in with the main plot and also how it intertwined with Aimee and what she can do. Alan was really different from the other male characters in the book mainly because of coming from a different town, growing up within a different culture and liking completely different things. This really made Alan stand out to me as he wasn’t someone to follow the pack just to fit in and this was a great characteristic for him.

After Obsession had fantastic pacing. The story starts off quite slow, giving us time to really get to know the characters and what they have been through in the past but at the same time, the main plot is woven in with all of that. Little things were revealed throughout which lead up to an exciting and emotional ending. I did think that some things that happened were a little predictable and could tell early on that they were going to happen but I didn’t mind this at all. There were enough twists and shocks to make up for the predictability in places.

Overall, I loved this book so much and don’t have anything bad to say about it at all. Jones and Wedel make a great writing duo and would happily read anything from them again. Highly recommended!

Popular Posts

Follow by Email