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Cover Recreating

My seven year old daughter, Lucy,  has as much a thing about book covers as I have. She's quite often found in front of my book shelves purring over a pretty cover, as well as her own. 

So when Luisa Plaja's latest book popped through the letterbox a few days ago, she instantly fell in love. In fact she thought it was for her full stop and I had to wrestle it out of her hands. It was the little Hama bead people on the front she was so taken with, and today she decided to recreate them herself with Aqua beads (we don't have the other type..yet) 

Here's the result. I think she did a pretty good job.. don't you? 

Maybe this could be a theme *off to see what other covers we can recreate with play doh, pipe cleaners and sequins*  Suggestions below ... :D

Kiss date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja is out February 2nd. I'll be reading and reviewing it next week.

Talking Series-ly; When one book MAY be enough...

Something which has been bugging me for a while is the sheer amount of series/trilogies about in YA fiction. You know when you come across an amazing sounding book which has you drooling in anticipation, only to get to the end of the synopsis and see 'First In A Brand New Series'? It's been causing my heart to sink a little bit recently.

I'm not going to lie, I've LOVED certain series in the past. I've religiously collected each book as it's published and get all swoony at a completed set prettily adorning my book shelves. But the truth is, my shelves are FULL of half completed series and it bothers me. I can't physically keep up with some (most) of them and despite still acquiring the latest release, I'm that far behind with a few I doubt I'll ever feel motivated to pick it back up. And some don't even keep to trilogy's...we're talking 4, 5 books behind and there's still no end in sight! I've tried the 'read a series in a month/week' thing but as someone who get's bored easily this doesn't work.  

Just some of the unfinished series I own

It takes a great deal of commitment to stick to a series, and maybe the problem is I have a bit of an issue with commitment. Example: I've been blogging here over two years now...that's longer than I've kept a job EVER! (although my current one is coming up to that) I get bored and move on. Or maybe it's just that last year I started to feel a bit cheated by series. After loving first books, I was disappointed with quite a few sequels. And it annoyed me. It makes me question whether I truly loved that first book as much as I thought, maybe I'm doing the looking through rosy specs thing. 

Or maybe, like the job thing it's just down to not finding the right series for you. I was ready to denounce ALL series a couple of weeks ago, and then I read two amazing sequels that proved some series are worth sticking with (Hallowed by Cynthia Hand and A Million Suns by Beth Revis if you're interested) I would've missed those if I'd decided to wipe series completely off my reading radar. And what about series like The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Sweet Valley High (because I can not imagine my teen years without Elizabeth and Jessica no matter how terrible I think they were in retrospect) We grow up with our favourite series by our bedside and the characters become our friends, are constants when nothing else is.

So I've come to the eventual conclusion that right now, there's just far too many and trying to get in on all of them is neither practical nor possible. I'm not ready to shut the door on series books yet, but I'll picking much more wisely from now on and guiltlessly abandoning those that let me down. What I want more of this year is amazing stand alone novels, to enjoy a brief and enjoyable fling with without all the commitment. 

What about you...are you a series-oholic? Do you find it hard to keep up with them? Or are you too a bit sick of reading a book and having to wait another year for the rest of the series?

Book review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

I’m not going to lie. In the last couple of months I’ve become a little disillusioned with both Paranormal YA and sequels. The books tended to be so samey, the sequels disappointing. However seeing as how I loved Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly last year, I was willing to give second book Hallowed a chance. Am I pleased I did? You bet ya I am.

Warning: Possible spoilers for Unearthly. If you’ve already read that then you’re safe

Hallowed picks up just weeks after Unearthly ended. Clara is coming to terms with the fact she appears to have failed her purpose and struggling to make sense of it. But when she starts getting a new vision, it becomes apparent she’s going to lose someone she loves and her purpose isn’t over yet. Clara realises there’s much she still needs to learn, both about herself, her mother and the black wings whose threatening presence is always in the background.

So yeah, I was a little sceptical going into this one. In my recent experience, sequels rarely live up to the amazingness of the first book but Hallowed so did. Something about Cynthia Hand’s writing is just so addictive. Once in, I can’t get out; I get completely lost in the story and reading her books is an absolute pleasure.

What I love about this particular series though is how the focus isn’t just on the main characters but their whole family and wider circle of friends. Sure Clara is the main player, but her strength comes from those around her. In this book we find out much, much more about her mother Maggie and other angel-bloods. I really like the world Hand has created which is complex, mysterious and exciting. Things quite often turn out to be not quite as they seem, and Clara’s brother Jeremy in particular starts displaying some interesting traits. I’ve a feeling he’s going to really surprise us in the next book, which as yet is unnamed. Angela also intrigues me. There’s definitely more to her and in Hallowed it feels like foundations are being laid for a big reveal yet to come. 

I can’t talk about this series without mentioning Tucker and Christian. I have to hand it to the author, she’s managed to take the predictable and annoying love triangle cliché and keep me interested. Very interested. In Unearthly I was firmly team Tucker. In Hallowed, I’m not so sure. I want to still be team Tucker, but man does Christian come into his own here. Now I know the love triangle thing can be a bone of contention, but you know…if it’s done well I love it. And Cynthia Hand does do it well.

While Hallowed isn’t the most action packed novel you’ll read, it is a book of revelations, revealed secrets and intrigue. It’s left me wanting to know more and eager for book three. It also reduced me to tears at one point. Sad just doesn’t come into it. A heartbreaking situation is written with such delicacy and emotion I could barely see the words through my brimming eyes. 

My one regret about Hallowed is that Wendy is reduced to a sideline character and I missed the normalcy of her relationship with Clara and her wicked sense of humour. I felt of all things, Clara could have done with a bit more Wendy in her life in this book. It’s a shame that the truly human character in this series becomes less important than the angelic ones.

Wendy niggle aside, Hallowed was an amazing, emotional and captivating book and has smashed my run of disappointing sequels. This is without doubt one of the best YA series out there and one I’d recommend without any hesitation. 

Published by Egmont (UK) January 2012
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Blog Tour: Cynthia Hand's Seven Tips for Writers

Today is our stop on Cynthia Hand's UK blog tour to celebrate the release of Hallowed (Book 2 in the Unearthly series). Over to Cynthia...

Cynthia Hand's Seven Tips For Writers...

1. Write. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of people out there who call themselves writers who simply don’t write (which is good for me, competition-wise, hee hee). I did this for a long time. It’s romantic to call yourself a writer, to “wear the black beret,” as I call it, and look like an intellectual artsy type. What is not romantic is to sit down every day all alone and sweat and stare at the screen and painstakingly put your words to the page. But that’s what you have to do, to truly become a writer. Write! 

2. Write every day. Your brain is like a muscle that you exercise. If you give it a writerly work-out every day, writing will get easier and easier. I’ve been doing this writing thing for a long time, but even I get mentally flabby if I let too much time go by between writing sessions. I operate best when I take some time to write every day. 

3. Set a goal for yourself. When I was first writing Unearthly, my goal was to write EVERY DAY NO MATTER WHAT until I had my book finished. I shot for 1,000 words a day, which is around 3 or 4 double-spaced pages. Some days I hit that goal easily, and wrote 2,500 words, and some days I got busy with something else and wrote 100 words. But that’s okay because I held fast to my WRITE EVERY DAY rule.  

So often I meet people who want to be writers, but they are overwhelmed at the idea of writing a 300 page (or 400, in my case) novel. I always tell them, if you just wrote 250 words a day, (that’s one page) you could have a novel in a year. 

4. Write about what you love. I know it’s tempting to write toward the trends. You hear that the next big thing in publishing is going to be aliens, so that’s what you should write, right?  

Nope. Not unless you happen to be fascinated with/in love with the idea of aliens. Write about what you love. If you don’t love aliens, your work is not going to be very passionate, and that will hurt you in two ways: a) it’s really hard to write a book, and if you don’t love it, chances are you won’t finish it, and b) even if you miraculously pull off a book about aliens, unless the real fire is there, chances are it’s not going to be very good. Which means you probably won’t get it published, and if you do get it published, or self-publish it, then it probably won’t sell too well. Put your heart in your work, and you are so much more likely to succeed. 

And another thing: usually by the time you hear about a trend in fiction, that boat is sailing. Meaning, unless you write your aliens novel really, really fast, by the time you finish your novel all the publishers will already be super saturated with alien books and it will be very difficult to sell. So write what you love. 

5. Read. This too is a no-brainer, but I think it should be said. And said again: read. Not only will reading be another kind of work-out for all those little neurons in your brain, but reading will tell you what the current climate of publishing is. It will show you what’s being done, so you can gauge how your own story might be different, and how it might be the same, which will be essential if you have to write up a comparable titles section in a query. (Read both in the genre you want to write in and outside of it, so you don’t get tunnel vision.) The year I wrote Unearthly I read over 70 young adult books. I wanted to know my market. This was wonderful fun, because the books were awesome, and I came to quickly understand what I wanted my own book to be about and how I wanted it to pull away from what was already on the shelves. It also introduced me to a bunch of amazing and talented authors. Read, read, read! Because seriously, if you don’t love to read, you probably don’t have any business being a writer. 

6. Study. This is a step a lot of would-be writers skip, or don’t know that they should focus on. They think if they just read books, that should be enough. To this I say: remember that writing is an art. When a person wants to be a great painter, yes, they look at other people’s paintings. But they also STUDY: technique, theory, history. They grow, not only in their ability to put paint on a canvas, but in their knowledge of the craft. That’s what writers need, too: knowledge of the craft.  

Now, by study, I don’t mean that you have to get a formal education in writing. I did, and it was very helpful, but I don’t believe you need a university to study writing. By study I mean: read books about craft. There are a lot out there, and some of them aren’t any good, but there are several great ones. I have a writer’s library bookshelf on my Goodreads page where I keep a list of these books. Also, as study, join a crit group or a writing workshop. You can learn so much simply from watching others struggle to do the same thing you’re trying to do. Do exercises. Go to conferences. Go to readings. Ask questions. Consider yourself a student of writing like a beginning flutist considers himself a student of music. 

7. Play. Have fun! Writing is magic. It’s fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you miss out on the fun of spending the day with your characters, the joy of coming up with a new, fresh way to say something, the sheer awesomeness of discovering your story. So allow yourself to experiment, and try new things, new genres, new perspectives. Writing is work but it can also be play.

Find Cynthia: 

On Facebook: Cynthia Hand
On Twitter: @CynthiaHand

Checkout the rest of the blog tour (which has some AMAZINGLY posts!) Details below

Read my review of Unearthly

Check back tomorrow for my review of Hallowed (which by the way is awesome!)

Book review: The Future Of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

It’s 1996. You’re about to log onto the Internet for the very first time.  The World Wide Web is about to be opened up to you…exciting right? Imagine though if that very first time you were faced with a strange website called Facebook, and even stranger it seems to be you updating it…well your future self that is.

That’s exactly what happens when Emma receives her first desktop from her Dad. Confused at first she calls in Josh, life long neighbour and friend to take a look. At first he’s convinced someone’s playing a prank…until they discover Emma’s friends list and realise he also has a page. As it dawns that this is themselves, fifteen years in their future, they both feel very different about what they see. While Josh can’t believe he’s married to the most popular girl in school, Emma’s concerned by her clearly miserable and lonely life. When she realises decisions she makes now can affect the future according to Facebook she becomes obsessed. But knowing the future is a dangerous thing. Changing it might be even worse.

This book appealed on so many levels I just had to get a copy as soon as it was released. I was a teen when the Internet first arrived in homes and schools and can distinctly remember loading up cd-roms and painfully waiting for dial up pages to load. The Future Of Us was certainly a nostalgia trip for me, even down to the fashions, TV shows and Discmans.

The idea of coming across Facebook before it was even invented and seeing your future life played out was genius. Who wouldn’t be tempted by that? Emma and Josh’s perplexity at the things they were posting about in the future was hilarious. If someone had described Facebook to me fifteen years ago I’d probably have thought it sounded ridiculous too.

Aside from the nostalgia I was also intrigued by the time slip element in this book. Emma becomes obsessed with changing her future and then checking its implications on Facebook and I thought this would be fascinating. Unfortunately I think a massive opportunity was missed here to make this book brilliant. The idea is fantastic, the execution is disappointing and the authors just don’t explore things enough. It’s all very surface, I wanted to know so much more. Why did this happen? What are the far-reaching repercussions? What do the characters learn from it all? The opportunity to change your future is unbelievably fascinating but sadly, all Emma comes across in being interested in is which guy she ends up with.

I also felt I just didn’t connect with either of the characters. The book is told from both Josh and Emma’s viewpoint and is written by two authors. I’ve no idea which parts where written by whom, whether they each wrote a character or contributed to both so I don’t think the issue was down to two styles not meshing. I think it’s down to a lack of depth and detailing. By the end I had no idea why this pair were as connected as they were. I also wonder how teens today will relate to this book; after all it’s aimed at them yet the most enjoyable part of it for me was the 90’s nostalgia. I’m not convinced they’ll truly get it.

If you take The Future Of Us as a piece of easy, fluffy story telling then it’s an enjoyable read. I can’t deny I flew through it in a couple of hours. If you start scratching the surface though then you realise there’s a lot of faults. Not least the ease with which Emma accepts Facebook in the first place and understands it’s from her own future. I found this an easy and entertaining enough read, but ultimately unsatisfying. I rated this book as three stars on goodreads when I finished reading it, now as I write my review I realise it has pretty big flaws and think I was possibly a little generous. If you find yourself with a copy of The Future Of Us I’d say as a quick easy read it does the job. On the other hand I wouldn’t recommend this as a must read and overall it was a disappointment.

Published January 2012 by Simon & Schuster Children's books (UK)

Book Review: Reckoning (Strange Angels #5) by Lili St. Crow

Reckoning is the fifth and final book in the Strange Angels series by Lili St. Crow. It was published on 27th October 2011 by Quercus and the book is 304 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy for review.

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealous djamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full fledged svetocharare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires—the worst is yet to come. Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice? 
Dru Anderson’s not afraid of the dark. 

But she should be.

What I thought
As one of my favourite YA series, I am really sad to see Strange Angels come to an end. Lili St. Crow has given us 5 books that stand out so much compared with other series and they do not go on for longer than was needed.

In true Strange Angels style, Reckoning starts as it means to go on – full of action and intensity. Because of the nature of the plot, Dru is most definitely oneEven of the strongest and bravest girls in YA. Even though she kicks ass most of the time, it was nice to see a different side to her this time around. After other books of hard times, no wonder she finally started to break down. Preparing to face off with the king of vampires would do that to me (and anyone) as well! I loved seeing the contrast from her tough chick persona. If I had been in her situation though I would have been sat in the corner crying like a baby and refusing to move. Some of the scenes in Reckoning are extremely hard hitting and very emotional. I really wasn't expecting this book, even as it is the last in the series, to make me well up and nearly cry.

Reckoning is set in various locations due to the vampires being after Dru. The fact that the characters are on the run for quite some time makes for many interesting and exciting situations. I don't want to give anything away about these but I will just say that everything and anything happens in this book. The plot focuses on Dru getting her revenge on Sergej for the pain and upset he has caused her over the course of the series. As this is the main storyline in the book, it comes with a lot of action. As Dru was on her journey to do what she set out to do, I was hooked! I couldn't read fast enough to find out how the final showdown between her and Sergej would work out. I was pretty sure it was going to go in her favour but you really never know with Lili St. Crow.

Due to the plot sending Dru all over the damn place, many of my favourite character were missing for quite a large amount of the time. Christophe isn't around nearly enough. Dru and Graves didn't get enough one on one time and poor Dib barely gets a look in. I also really missed the friendship between Dru and Nat. There was a serious lack of female characters and it's not often I say that at all. The one thing I will say though about the lack of use of the other characters is that it really made Dru shine. It showed that she really is a surviver and that she can do things all on her own (even if she has no choice in the matter).

My one major disappointment with Reckoning though is the ending, which was a complete cop out in my eyes. I don't want to say too much though apart from that I think it ruined the end of the series. For anyone who has already read this book, I'm sure you will know what I am talking about. Nothing is really defined clearly enough and everything really is left for the reader to decide. I wanted concrete answers from the last book in a series but that wasn't what I got at all. Apart from that though, I did really enjoy this book because it was such a roller-coaster of emotions.

I really am sad to see this series end but I will be watching Lili St. Crow for what she does next. After enjoying this series so much, I will definitely buy anything that she writes now.

Busting The Newbie Blues 2012

Busting The Newbie Blues is an event organised by Small Review which I discovered over on one of my favourite blogs Daisy Chain Books. The aim is to provide support to new bloggers by sharing our own experiences and to encourage blogger interaction. Find out more and discover the blogs taking part here

When Did You Start Your Book Blog?

I started this blog back in September 2009. I posted up a couple of reviews that same day then didn't come back for a while. At the time I didn't have a clue about other blogs, followers or any of the book blogging world. My main motive for starting the blog was after seeing a quote from a book review I'd written for a UK consumer website credited to them rather than me directly. I decided then to start my own book review site but it wasn't until January 2010 when I came back and really got going.

Do you ever still feel like a newbie?

All the time! Despite being at this for over two years, I feel like its a constantly evolving thing and sometimes it's difficult to keep up. The book blogging community was still fairly small when I joined, or at least here in the UK it was but particularly in the last year it seems to have exploded and sometimes I feel I've been left behind. 

What has been your biggest challenge so far? Did you make any mistakes new bloggers can learn from?

I think the biggest challenge I've faced was over the last couple of months of 2011 where I became disillusioned with blogging and almost gave up. The problem was, my blog had turned into something I never intended it to be. My original aim for blogging was to talk about the thing I loved, reading, and make friends/enjoy discussions with people who have similar interests. I feel towards the second half of last year this blog had turned into something pretty soulless. Yes there were lots of reviews, but it was pretty much post and run. Done out of obligation than anything else. My review pile was ridiculous and I wasn't reading what I wanted, when I wanted which was depressing me and it all felt so clinical. In short, I wasn't blogging for me anymore. 

Anyway, I gave myself a good talking to and decided that yes I did want to continue blogging, but more in the way I did in 2010. Who cares if there isn't a post everyday? And judging by the declining comments my readers obviously preferred the blog with an eclectic mix of books I felt passionate about and personal posts when I wrote what I wanted and not what I thought publishers and other readers wanted. This year I'm taking a far more relaxed approach and it's paying off dividends. I feel excited about reading again. What I want for this year is to get back in touch with the blogging community and have more interaction. That's what I loved to begin with and that's what I've missed.

So in short my advice to newbies would be to stay true to yourself. Blog for you and not what you think other's may want you to blog about. Enjoy blogging and don't let the TBR pile, follower counts and stats get you down. 

What did you find most discouraging as a new blogger? How did you deal with this?

I honestly don't think I did feel that discouraged about anything. In fact I'd say I felt very supported and encouraged. I still to this day hate the fact I live so far away from London where a lot of UK events take place and bloggers regularly meet up. I wish I could do more of that but there's not a lot I can do about it. 

What did you find most encouraging?

This is easy...COMMENTS! The fact that people took the time to come and comment on my reviews/posts. Encouraging others through comments is my big thing to do this year. 

If you could go back in time and speak with your newbie self, what five bits of wisdom would you tell yourself?

Follower counts don't matter.

Review books are not the be all and end all, they can be a curse.

Be true to your blogging self

Don't make blogging/reading a chore.This is a hobby NOT a job

Twitter will be both your best friend and worst enemy. Use it wisely

What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?

The blogs I like best have well thought out reviews, discussion posts and features and speak with an individual voice. I also love blogs that don't just focus on the 'big books of the moment'- there's nothing more boring than seeing the same book reviewed on every blog at the same time. I've tried to replicate this in the past and it's definitely something I plan to work on this year.

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve seen? Do you try to avoid this?

Constant competitions where you have to follow to be involved. It's obvious when a blog has a huge follower count due to their giveaways rather than content. I may have fallen victim to this in the beginning but quickly saw it for what it was. 

Black backgrounds with white text. Sorry if this is your design, but I find it so difficult to read! So, ermm, don't. I like clean, clear and crisp. I remember going a bit overboard decorating my blog with fancy designs and loads of widgets when I first started but at the end of the day, if it's an assault on the eyes, people aren't going to read it. Simple and easy to navigate works best for me.

How did you bring your blog to the attention of so many people? 

In the first instant, probably by commenting and visiting lots of other blogs. By joining a couple of meme's -  it definitely got my blog out there. I don't do In My Mailbox anymore, but it was a fantastic way to find other blogs, comment and let people find you. Finally I'd say Twitter. A lot of my traffic comes from there and I've also found some fantastic blogs through it. Which brings me back to a point I made above. I LOVE twitter and being able to have book related discussions, finding out what's going on in the publishing world and with favourite authors. however it does have a downside. It's a stealer of time. Many a day has past when I've not done anything I needed to, blog or otherwise, because I've wasted it on twitter. 

When and how did you get your first ARC (or first few ARCs)?

I can't remember what my first ARC was. The first review request I ever had was actually from an author (and I thoroughly enjoyed her book). I'd probably been blogging two or three months before publishers started getting in touch. I've only contacted publishers directly to request books for review a handful of times. Most of my ARC's are pitched to me by publishers who contact me by email or sent out as surprises from regular contacts. Review books are a double edged sword. I love getting them, and some surprise books have turned out to be my favourites which I probably wouldn't have heard of before. But on the other hand, the TBR carries on growing and feelings of guilt and obligation can creep in. I accept far fewer review books than I did this time last year and feel much happier for it. This probably isn't the most informative post on how to get ARC's because my approach is to wait and see what comes along. If you have an e-reader, then netgalley's probably the place to be, but even then it's easy to go all kid in a candy shop and end up with an intimidating to read pile. And of course there's thousands of free books at the library.

So there you go. I think what I've learned by writing this (and reading a few other posts) is that blogging is constantly changing, we all love comments and interaction and blogging should most definitely be fun. What do you think?

Book Review: This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees

I’m a massive fan of Celia Rees’s historical novels and Witch Child sits firmly on my ‘favourites of all time’ shelf. When I first read the synopsis for her latest novel, This is Not Forgiveness, I felt a little pang of disappointment as I’d been so looking forward to another fantastic historical read. However this was quickly followed by excitement and I was eager to give something different a go.

This Is Not Forgiveness is a tense psychological thriller told from alternating viewpoints of the three main characters, Jamie, Caro and Rob. When gorgeous and unobtainable Caro starts showing an interest in Jamie, he can’t believe his luck. He’s heard the rumours about her, particularly from his sister Martha who hates the girl with a passion, but he doesn’t care. He can’t help but be attracted to her impulsive and dangerous attitude.

But over the summer Jamie comes to realise there’s more to Caro than anyone even realised. Caro’s deeply political beliefs are becoming increasingly extremist, which Jamie feels less and less comfortable with. And that’s not his only worry. His older brother, Rob, who was injured out of the army in an explosion in Afghanistan, is falling apart; drinking heavily and becoming angry and violent. Separately, Caro and Rob are enough to keep Jamie awake at night, but when the two come together no one could have predicted the outcome.

Saying this book is different to anything I’ve read by this author before is an understatement. Firstly it’s set very much in modern times and Celia Rees proves she has as much a handle on the youth of today as she does on those in her historical novels. Her tiny observations and detailing are rich and evoke clear images making her characters both main and minor very real.

The book starts with the ending, which I wasn’t immediately aware of and prompted a little bit of confusion, as did the switching narrative. It took me a few chapters to fully get into the stride of this book and understand which viewpoint I was actually hearing from. Once I did though I couldn’t stop reading. It isn’t an easy book at all. The characters in this book are flawed and damaged, the themes are political and the ending is as desperate a climax as the lead up to it. It’s thought provoking and very much a story of our times.

This Is Not Forgiveness is at times shocking and uncomfortable reading and isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste. Personally I thought it was a compelling, edgy thriller that left me thinking about its themes once I finished the last page. While it doesn’t quite match up to Rees’s historical novels for me, it does nothing to waiver my admiration for this author. I do hope for more historical from Celia Rees, but I also look forward to seeing what else she may come up with eagerly. 

Published by Bloomsbury February 2012 (PB) Kindle version available for download now.
thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Blog Tour: 5 quick questions with Maria V. Snyder

As part of the blog tour for Maria V. Snyder's newest book, Touch of Power, I got to ask her 5 quick questions! I reviewed the book earlier on today so please check it out!

1. Who would you like to see as the main cast if Touch of Power got made into a movie/ TV adaptation?

I don't know!  I'm out of the loop as far as the current crop of young actors and actresses.  I only watch a few TV shows and a handful of movies since I'm so busy with writing and my family.  Perhaps your readers would like to suggest people?  

2. What is your favourite book of all time and why?

Frederick, by Leo Lionni.  It’s a children’s picture book that my mother read to me when I was little, but I’ll never forget it.  It’s about a family of field mice getting ready for the winter.  While the mice work hard to gather enough food for the long winter, Frederick is sitting around doing nothing as if he’s being lazy – he claims he’s harvesting the sunshine and taking in the colours.  Later when the mice get bored in the winter then Frederick entertains them all with descriptions of the warm sun and summer colours.  As a chronic daydreamer, I could really relate to Frederick!

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

I would like to be Lessa from the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffery.  She gets to ride and communicate with a dragon – how cool is that?

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

Grimalkin the cat from Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series.  He's fun and has the ability to disappear during dangerous situations – handy!

5. Some authors do certain things while they write like listen to music etc. Do you have to do anything like this while you write?

Yes.  I need to have music on – mostly pop, rock and classical – songs I've listened to a thousand times so it doesn't distract me.  I also need a hot cup of tea. 

Thanks Maria for dropping by

Touch Of Power by Maria V. Snyder was published by Mira Ink (UK) December 2011

Blog Tour: Book review - Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power is the first book in the new Avry of Kazan series by Maria V. Snyder. It was published by Mira on 20th December 2011 and the book is 400 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan assumes their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honoured for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Territories, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life....

What I thought
Although I have other books by this author, I have yet to read them – which now I think is very unfortunate. As soon as the emailed arrived about this book though, I got excited. It sounded completely different than the other books I have been reading recently and I was desperate for something else.

Touch of Power begins full of excitement, instantly hooking me into the story. Avry, the main character, is a healer. While this should be a good thing, it isn't. People hate healers, blaming them for the plague and the state the world is currently in. The is a price on the head of any healer which means Avry is constantly on the run. At the point where the book starts, Avry is staying with a family who have an extremely sick child. She knows she shouldn't use her powers to heal the child but Avry can't help herself. Unfortunately, while the family are grateful, they have no problem ratting her out. After being captured, being prepared to die, Avry is rescued by a group of travellers who want her to use her power to heal a Prince, whom she hates.

From here, I understood just how much of an amazing character Avry was. Although she had just been rescued and saved from death, she refuses to go along with what the travellers want. She hates the Prince in question and flat out refuses to heal him, no matter what. Avry is feisty, strong and extremely clever, knowing that she is only being used. As she spends more time with the group of travellers, being dragged around for miles and miles, she gets more used to them, getting to know them. Finally, she finds friends in Loren, Quain, Flea and Belen. She teaches them things in return for being taught how to fight and how to handle a set of daggers. The only person she cannot bring herself to like, or even stand, is Kerrick.

I really didn't like Kerrick for the majority of this book. Even as the main male character, I hated him. He was rude, arrogant and especially mean to Avry. Unlike the others in his group, he showed no respect for Avry whatsoever and expected her to do what he wanted without even as much as a good reason. Or even saying please. Avry had no problem showing her hatred for Kerrick either and I loved her for that. As the story went on though, I found myself liking him more and more and I really didn't want to. There were tiny little moments where I could see something change in him and I could see why he acted in certain ways and the reasons behind his toughness.

Not only is there a whole range of fantastic characters to get to know and love but also a very serious side to the story. With the fifteen kingdoms in trouble, there is a lot about the politics of the realm but it is never too much. I quite enjoyed learning about the different power struggles, the ways in which people thought they could make everything better and also wondering to myself who I think would be best in charge of everything. Once there were different rulers of different parts of the land but due to the current situation, things went from bad to worse and with Prince Ryne unable to move, Tohon has taken it upon himself to rule everything.

The parts of the story concerning Tohon were amazing. He is the epitome of evil and one of the best bad guys I have read about in a long time. Not wanting to ruin the story, I will say that Tohon has powers of his own and these make him into the great bad guy that he really is. There was something about this character that made my skin crawl, that made me want to hit him over the head with something and knock him out. Still, I loved him. He made the book a lot more interesting and a lot more exciting, even with so much going on already.

As well as a lot of excitement, there are also a few mysteries to be solved. Secrets are hidden all over the place in this book and I loved being kept waiting for answers, while being impatient for them at the same time. Avry has been on the run for years and has no idea what has become of most of her family. Why does she hate Prince Ryne so much? Why is Kerrick the way he is? What was the real cause of the plague and why are healers hated so much? Maria V. Snyder really throws in everything possible to make this an amazing book. There is love, death, hatred and passion as well as intrigue and mystery. I loved every single page of this one!!

Royal Mail Celebrates Roald Giveaway!

I've been asked to let you know about Royal Mail's new stamps celebrating Roald Dahl...

Royal Mail is celebrating one of the nation’s best-loved children’s authors, Roald Dahl, with its first stamp issue of 2012.

The presentation pack of six stamps celebrates six of Dahl’s most famous books that children and adults alike came to know and love, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits and Matilda.

The stamps themselves recreate the magic of the Dahl books, using the beautiful illustrations of Quentin Blake.

For the launch, Royal Mail Stamps is running a competition on its Facebook page,, to win Roald Dahl's Scrumdiddlyumptious Story Collection featuring seven of his best-loved books, a pop-up book of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a Roald Dahl presentation pack.

I also have FIVE presentation packs to giveaway...and they are gorgeous! To be in with a chance just fill out the form below and let me know your favourite Roald Dahl book in the comments below. Contest closes midnight 24th January, open to UK residents only. Winners will be notified by email.

Book review: Torn by Cat Clarke

Torn is the second novel by Cat Clarke. It was published by Quercus on 22nd December 2011 and the book is 384 pages long.

Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt.

Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…

Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.

Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever...

What I thought
I LOVED Cat Clarke's début novel, Entangled so when I found out about her next release, I couldn't wait to read that either.

Cat Clarke has an amazing ability to get into the head of teenage girls and write exactly what they are feeling/ have felt at some point or another. School is not an easy place for any teenager and girls especially can be really bitchy and cruel. The teenagers in Torn are real – beyond belief. What I love so much about Clarke's writing is that she isn't afraid to say exactly how things and she doesn't shy away from real issues. In this book, the issue tackled is bullying and how people deal with being bulled/ what the bullies themselves deal with. It isn't very often that you see the story of things like this from both sides and I liked being able to form a complete opinion about the people in questions.

As the main character, I really liked Alice. I probably shouldn't have though. Alice is pretty damn messed up, not only because of what happens on that school trip but also other things that have happened in her life. Because of this, I couldn't help but empathise with her, slightly understand why she was feeling a certain way or why she would think certain things. I could completely feel Alice's guilt over what happened and why she was so undecided about how to feel in regards to what happened.

Other characters were just as good. From Cass, Polly and Rae who are in on everything with Alice to Tara, the bully. Tara is where the different sides of characters comes in. While I really wanted to smack Tara round the face (multiple times) but then a few minutes later, I kind of wanted to hug her. Really, who has the ability to write about the biggest bitch in the world that you also want to hug?! I'm sure if Tara had been in my school though I wouldn't have wanted to hug her, much like 99% of the other girls she did go to school with.

As for the story, it was gripping, thrilling and pretty damn nasty at times but I loved that. It takes no time at all for the story to get going, diving right into what happened on that school trip. Part way through, I was really disappointed and thought that everything had been explained way too early but then I realised just how much more there was to it. It wasn't just about what happened on that trip. It was about what happens after, what happened before and everything in-between. There are plenty of twists to keep you guessing and wanting to read as fast as possible to figure out what is really going on.

Torn reminded me of a mix between I Know What You Did Last Summer and Jawbreaker – two great films all mashed together in one book! While I didn't like it quite as much as I did Entangled, it is still bloody good!!

Dave Cousin's Fifteen Days Without A Head Blog Tour

Today it's our stop on Dave Cousin's Fifteen Days Without a Head blog tour to celebrate publication of his book of the same name. Over to you Dave:

A Day in the Life of an Author – Photo Story! 

7:30 Get up, feed the cats. Make tea. 

8:00 Shower 

8:30 Get dressed to face arctic conditions in my attic workroom. 

9:00 Check e-mail and schedule for the day. 

9:30 Writing (in my special Word Wig and Cap of Inspiration) 

11:00 “Whose round is it?” Make tea. 

11:15 Writing not going so well. I knew I shouldn’t have removed the Word Wig. 

11:30 Book delivery saves me from further torment. Martha does a quick check for illegal substances. 

12:00 Lunch with author friends from The Edge. More tea. (left to right: me, Katy Dale, Sara Grant, Bryony Pearce, Miriam Halahmy) 

1:00 Off to do a school author visit, loaded up with props. 

5:00 Back for a well-earned cuppa. 

5:30 Check e-mail and update website. 

8:00 Catch train into London for book launch. 

12:00 The end of another exhausting day in the life of an author. Bed.


Two brothers. One cartoon dog. And a load of trouble.

Meet Laurence, fifteen years old and six feet tall. Very soon, he'll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio. Meet Jay, his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he's a dog. He'll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way. Today is Tuesday and the next fifteen days will change the boys' lives for ever.

Published January 2012 by Oxford University Press

Check HERE for my review of this brilliantly funny and touching book!


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