Saturday, 27 February 2010

Finnikin of the Rock




Beautiful, brutal, sweeping, magical, heartbreaking, romantic and downright fabulous. I loved this book. I know I say that a lot but I have a lot of love to go round! And there are different types of love. This is the long term - I will love you forever, re-read you and recommend you - type. I'll be back with a more thoughtful review about why you should read this. But for now, if you buy one book this weekend, make it FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK by Melina Marchetta.

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Week

Yeah, I really need to get a better title for this weekly, round up thing. Unfortunately titles are my downfall. Which is bad, because one of Roddy Doyle's Rules of Writing, in the Guardian's TEN RULES FOR WRITING FICTION was,

"Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it."

Maybe if I don't start the new novel, until it has a name, it will be a smoother experience. Of course, EU has had a name for over three months now, and it's still not right. Ah well, maybe I'll just take Neil Gaiman's advice to heart:

"The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter."

I've also been following the Common Sense debate. If you haven't, Publishers Weekly have an article explaining about it, Common Sense Raises Issue at B&N Meg Cabot also wrote about it, Are you there God? Margret's not okay for Tweens and because she is Meg Cabot she points out exactly why it's not a great guide, in a nice but firm and funny way.

Luckily, the baby is way too young, for me to need to worry about what he reads. Although, I must admit having not grown up with the American classic Goodnight Moon, I find some bits slightly freaky. Goodnight nobody? Goodnight noises everywhere? and what's up with that bowl full of mush? Not to mention the old lady rocking away in the corner.

Finally, if you are in need of a laugh, and doesn't a laugh always start the weekend well? Go check out Forever Young Adult and in particular their review of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld - genius!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Review - How To Ditch Your Fairy

How To Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier


Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment? From the author of the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy, this is a delightful story of fairies, friendships, and figuring out how to make your own magic. 

I'd had this one on my TBR list for ages. I love Justine's blog, and the premise of this story is just fantastic. If I got to have a fairy, I'd definitely go with the sleep fairy (no matter how much sleep you get you feel like you had 8 hours - bliss!).

I finally downloaded the audiobook, and it is the perfect book to listen too. Kate Atkinson does an amazing job. I'm not sure I'd have liked the book as much if I'd read it. Hearing the story, made me feel more connected to Charlie, and it made her longing to be rid of her fairy much easier to understand (Living in DC a parking fairy doesn't sound too bad!). Listening made it far easier to get into the made up words too. The tone Kate spoke them in really helped.

The main story is, the classic, be careful what you wish for. I liked the other themes touched on too, especially the insulated state most of us live in, believing are country or city is the centre of the universe. 

How To Ditch Your Fairy is a fun read and I really enjoyed it. I'll certainly being picking up more books by Justine. I'm curious to see if they all feature made up language. I have this image of her and Scott Westerfeld (author of Uglies and Leviathan, which also feature made up words) saying their wedding vows in a completely fictional language!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Cover Wars - Wings

The Book - Wings by Aprilynne Pike

USA


I love this cover. It's beautiful and fits well with the slow, slightly dreamy feel of the book. Although I didn't realize that the wings, were in fact petals, until after I'd finished the book.

UK


I do think this cover is very pretty, and obviously the flower fits more with the story but it just reminds me of Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.  I expect to open up the book and read Feed me Seymour!

So for me the USA is the winner this week.

So what do you think UK or USA? If you'd read the books which do you think is a better match? If you haven't which would would make you pick the book up?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Review - When Mike kissed Emma

When Mike Kissed Emma by Christine Marciniak



Emma Landon has a plan: she's going to be in the high school musical and sing the most romantic song possible to her boyfriend. She's not looking for the lead, just a decent part where she and Trevor can dance together on stage. The plan starts to unravel when she gets the starring role, and playing opposite her is not her perfect boyfriend, but the school loner, Biker Mike. When Mike kisses Emma at the school dance, everything changes. Emma must figure out what is more important-the way things look or something deeper. (from Goodreads)





My thoughts

You know when you've had a rough day and you just want to curl up on the sofa and devour a whole bar of chocolate, but you can't because of that pesky diet? Well, When Mike Kissed Emma, is the perfect alternative.

When Mike Kissed Emma revolves round rehearsals for The Sound of Music, and Christine Marciniak captures the tedium of rehearsing a play, perfectly. There is a lot of standing about waiting. Which is great for gossiping or sneaking off to dark corners! She also uses lines from the play as chapter headings, which I loved. As well as identifying and contrasting her characters with characters from the play.

Emma is a great character. Her narration of events is fast paced and funny. I liked her struggle to stay true to herself and keep her friends. The high school pressure to fit in, and to think the same as everyone else, comes across well and I loved that Emma resisted it. Not just in relation to Mike, but to what she should wear and where she should sit too.

This book was a fast, fun and adorable read. Perfect for the end of a hard day when you don't want to think too hard,

Book received as part of  Around the World Tours

Sunday, 21 February 2010

My Reading, Writing Week

It's been a busy week. My husband has been back in the UK, so the baby and I have been home alone. Even so I have managed to do some reading, some writing and even made it to Ally Carter's book signing at Politics and Prose. Unfortunately I had to go to the 10:30 am one, so it was me and a school party of eleven year olds, which was a little strange to say the least!

It was fun though. The girls were so excited to see Ally and they had lots of questions about Cammie and the next Gallagher Girls book. I picked up my copy of Heist Society, which I devoured. Seriously, I think Ally Carter may be a master thief on the side!

I'm also half way through Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta. It's just incredible. I can't say how much I love this book. It's just - wow!

On the writing front, I got a very thorough critique back. EU is going into it's fifth round of edits, although it feels like it's five billionth. I'm planning quite a large overhaul. There is both too much, and not enough going on. I just need to decide what I want to keep and what themes I want to bring out.

So that's my reading. writing week. How was yours?

In My Mailbox 4

This week I got Heist Society by Ally Carter.


When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre...to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria...to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in history-or at least her family's (very crooked) history.


IMM is hosted by The Story Siren.

What did you get this week?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Book Review: The Secret Year

Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend.When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

I really enjoyed this book and was very invested in Colt's story. His voice, his guilt, and his grief all feel very real.

He and Julia are both complex characters. Sometimes I felt that they would have been perfect for each other, if circumstances had been different, and sometimes that they'd never have worked. The times we see them together were among my favourites in the novel. Their attraction is electric, but because we only see them through Cole's memories or Julia's diary entries, there is also, always, a sadness there.

The writing is low key and straightforward but the tension Jennifer Hubbard creates is brilliant. Not just between Colt and everyone he is hiding his secret from, but between Julia's world on Black Mountain and Colt's on the flat and between other characters (who I won't name because it will spoil things)

I'm very much looking forward to Jennifer Hubbard's next novel.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Cover Wars - Wake

Gone, the final book in Lisa McMann's Dream catchers series, came out last week. So I thought we'd have the first book of the trilogy for cover wars.

The Book: Wake by Lisa McMann

USA



I love this cover. I love it's stark simplicity. It gives me chills just looking at it and it fits so perfectly with the book.

UK



I like this cover. It is cute and quirky but it kind of reminds me of the UK Sarah Dessen covers. Which would totally lull the reader into a false sense of security. Wake is nothing like a Sarah Dessen novel!

So what do you think UK or USA? If you'd read the books which do you think is a better match? If you haven't which would would make you pick the book up? 

Sunday, 14 February 2010

In My Mailbox

 Just one book In my Mailbox this week. It was delivered as Snowopocolypse was beginning. Thank you UPS!!!




At the age of nine, Finnikin is warned by the gods that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save the royal house of his homeland, Lumatere.

And so he stands on the rock of three wonders with his childhood friend Prince Balthazar and the prince's cousin, Lucian, and together they mix their blood. And Lumatere is safe.

Until the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered in the palace. And an imposter king takes the throne.
And a curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps.

But ten years later Finnikin is led to another rock to meet the young novice, Evanjalin. A girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light...


I'm only a quarter of the way through this but I have no hesitation in recommending it.  It's beautiful and brutal and has the kind of compelling characters you'd expect from a Melina Marchetta book.

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren.

What did you get this week?

Happy Valentine's Day




To celebrate the day of lurve here are some of my favourite YA romances.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret  Stohl

Ethan and Lena's romance is just gorgeous and meltingly romanctic. It also features some heart stopping kisses.

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

I love slow progression of Gemma and Kartik's relationship. They have some achingly beautiful and incredibly hot moments together too.


The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Macy and Wes. This one is understated, built on friendship and so sweet.


Something Maybe by Elizabeth Scott


I love how Hannah is completely blind to Finn's appeal and how he shows he cares by bugging her to get her car fixed and buying her candy bars.  And because it's Elizabeth Scott there are some great kissing scenes and the last scene just makes me melt.


For more romantic YA reads check out The Most Romantic Young Adult Reads of All Time at Flashlight Worthy.

Also be sure to check Heidi R Kling's blog to see which couple won The Smoochies. I'm dying to know.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Where do you get your ideas?

I know many writers hate this question but I love it (maybe because I haven't been asked it one hundred times in interviews) I know exactly where all my ideas have come from and I find it fascinating to hear what inspired other people.

At first my ideas came from reading or watching something and asking what if? Lately though setting seems to be inspiring me more and more. Which is strange as I really struggle with writing memorable settings. At the moment I have several ideas swirling that are set during snowstorms, wonder why that is!

I also have a great idea inspired by a trip to the beach last year and more specifically a beach cabin with a pink plastic flamingo outside surround by a shrine of shells and torches.

Not to mention the mystery set at the run down amusement park near us. The place has a old style carousal - I mean how can you not use that in a book?

Then there's the book I really want to dump the WIP for (I won't critique partners I promise!). That all started one late night when I was up with the baby and looking out over the moon drenched roofs.

So (if you don't loathe the question)  tell me where you get your ideas.

Cover Wars - The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Book: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This was one of my favouirte reads of 2009 and one of the four that gave me nightmares. It's out in paperback this week, rocking a new cover. So I thought in celebration we'd see which cover is best UK or USA.

USA





I just love this cover. I'm not normally a fan of seeing the main characters face but I think they cast this one perfectly. That girl is Mary. I love her hair and the freaky forest behind her too.


UK



I do like this cover, it's super dramatic but it's very Twilightish and The Forest of Hands and Teeth is not a Twilightish book. I do love the companion they've done for The Dead Tossed Waves though, very cool.

My verdict: USA hands down this week.

What do you think?

Monday, 8 February 2010

In My Mailbox



Seventeen-year-old Colt has been sneaking out at night to meet Julia, a girl from an upper-class neighborhood unlike his own. They’ve never told anyone else about their relationship: not their family or friends, and especially not Julia’s boyfriend.When Julia dies suddenly, Colt tries to cope with her death while pretending that he never even knew her. He discovers a journal she left behind. But he is not prepared for the truths he discovers about their intense relationship, nor to pay the price for the secrets he’s kept.

Received as part of our hosted by Around the World Tours



During her senior year in a Catholic school in Sydney, Australia, seventeen-year-old Josie meets and must contend with the father she has never known.

Bought. I have a slight love affair going on with her other book Saving Francesca. So I'm kind of nervous about this one.

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren. What did you get?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Awards!

I have received some lovely awards lately.

Thanks to Jemi of Just Jemi for the Happiness 101 Award. I have to list 10 things that make me happy.



1) My family
2) My friends.
3) My fellow bloggers and their blogs.
4) BOOKS!
5) Writing
6) Books shops - especially Politics and Prose
7) cupcakes - especially from gerogetwon cupcake
8) Skinny cinnamon dolce lattes
9) Modern Family, Chuck and Lost!
10) Living in the USA


Thanks to Kim for the Kreativ Blogger award. I'm supposed to list 7 thigs you don't know about me but I think I'll remain a woman of mystery!



Thanks to Greenwoman for the Sunshine Award. What a lovely award to get.



And Thanks to Mary of Writer's butt does not apply to me for the One Lovely Blog Award.




I'm meant to pass the awards on but I'm not going to. Not because I object in anyway to awards or receiving them. It's lovely, and thank you very much for thinking of me. But I read such a small pool of blogs that I'd be giving them to the same people over and over. Which might get a tad tiresome.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Links

If you're waiting for snowpocalypse 2 to begin here are some links to keep you amused. If you are somewhere warm and sunny I'm jealous and don't like you but you may also enjoy the links.

Jennifer Hubbard author of The Secret Year (which I'm currently reading and it's amazing) on how to critique. This is really useful advice for us beginning writers. She also has a great post on how to receive critiques too.

Agent Michael Bourret is interviewed over at Joelle Anthony's blog. Always interesting to hear from agents. Although he wouldn't tell what happens in client Lisa McMann's Gone - spoil sport!

Ellen Hopkins has a beautiful post on What a book is Worth - thank to Elizabeth Scott for that link. It's a post I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

and if you're in the mood for laughs you can't go wrong with Sarah Rees Brennan's guest post on Justine Larbalestier's blog. Although behind all the funny she makes an important point too, which I completely agree with. Social commentary through comedy, my favourite kind!

Everything can go!

I am heading into my fifth and (oh please!) last round of edits on EU* I've read a lot about editing, a lot! I know you must be ruthless, I know you must kill your darlings, I know nothing is scared.

But

I always thought one thing was, the seed. The original idea that started the whole book growing in my head. The what if?

Turns out it isn't. Keeping it has been the thing that's been nagging at me. The reason I knew EU just wasn't quite right. But I couldn't see it because it was where the book began. Without it how could I have a book?

Then as I plotted out the story arc again. I asked is this necessary? And as soon as I asked the question, I realised it wasn't, it isn't, so it's gone.

Let's hope I called it right this time and my beat readers don't feel an essential element is missing! Of course if I they do I can always put it back in. Which is the beauty of writing, eveything can be undone.

* no it isn't a book about the European Union!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Cover Wars - The Boyfriend List

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart







                                      The New USA                               The UK


I'm cheating slightly this week because the UK cover is very similar to the old USA cover. The frog is in a different position and the font is a lot cuter, but it's more or less the same.  I've been dying to talk about these new covers though, so go with me.

The Ruby Oliver books hold a special place in my heart. After Twilight they were the first YA books I read and they hooked me on YA. I adore E. Lockhart's writing. It's so funny, it's deceptively simple and she coveys so much of what's going on underneath with just a single line rather than epic internal monologues.  Basically I want to grow up to write like E.

Anyway the covers.

It was the cover of The Boyfriend List that made me pick it out from all the YA titles on display. That frog was just so damn cute.  The covers kept getting better too. Book two The Boy Book had a penguin (my favourite animal) and book three The Treasure Map of Boys had a marshmallow snowman.  Does it get much better than a marshmallow snowman? Wouldn't you die of happiness if that was your cover?



But the frog, penguin and snowman have gone.

They've been replaced by a very pretty girl (very irritating in the middle of a series). The new covers are lovely and I do like them. They also match well with the paperback version of E. Lockhart's other book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.

But

that first day in the bookstore I wouldn't have picked them up.

And

I just don't think they capture the spirit of the books as well. That funny, quirkiness that I love about Ruby and her family.

Plus

I always imagined Ruby to look like a better dressed version of Velma from Scooby Doo. The smart, funny girl, whose always the best friend. Except in Ruby's case she totally got the guy (or guys). The girl on the cover though, is totally a Daphne.




What do you think? Which do you prefer?




Monday, 1 February 2010

I want that book!

Books hitting the shelves in February that I have been longing for! Sadly I can't buy them all.

Decisions, decisions!

Any advice?

January Roundup

I read six books this month which puts me well on track for reading 50 books this year - yay! Four of those were by debut authors so I'm also doing great on the 2010 Debut Author Challenge too

Three of those books have become firm favourites, they are books I want to jump and down and shout read this read this now about.  They are my 2010 Perfect You and Saving Francesca.  I haven't reviewed them yet because I was lucky enough to get ARC's, so I'm waiting for nearer the release date, but make a note of them on or better yet pre-order them!

They are



Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony - Molly struggles to reunite her family. This is a heroine you will fall in love with. I kind of want to live in Molly's world (except I'd survive for all of three seconds!).

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins - Reform school for witches, laughs to rival Meg Cabot and Archer Cross *swoons*

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy - female empowerment, secret societies (you know how I love secret societies!), the funniest date scene, I nearly fell off the bed laughing (actually I nearly fell out of bed laughing several times during this book). Funny and inspiring you don't want to miss this one!

What books are you recommending from your January reads?