Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Road Trip Wednesday - June's Best Book

This Week's Topic:
What's the best book you read in June?
 
My absolutely favourite read this month was Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly. This book is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside. Gosh, I love that cover and I love this book. LOVE IT!


Although Drea has Asperger and ADHD, it doesn't define her character and she was easy to relate too. Her voice is perfect, effortless and real, it caught me up from the first sentence.

Connecting with people and learning to be yourself, are two of the major themes of Harmonic Feedback and they’re handled brilliantly. Drea isn't the odd one out because she has aspergers, Naomi and Justin, have just as much trouble forming connections, they just hide it better. People learn to act normal, but we all have our strange quirks and ways of looking at the world and that’s a good thing. 

The  interactions between the three feel so believable. I was rooting for all of them to find their place, find themselves, and find each other too. I loved Drea and Justin’s romance and I loved Drea and Naomi’s friendship just as much, it twisted my heart.

I loved moments like this with Naomi. They felt close and warm. If I could put this moment between us in a box, I’d hide it under the bed and take it out whenever I could. And I’d throw out the incident at the mall and Scott. I wished this was enough for her. I wished I was enough for her.

Drea’s Mom was perfect too, or rather she wasn't perfect, nor was she absent or evil. She was real, with issues of her own, she loves Drea and worries about her. I haven’t liked a mother/daughter relationship so much since Saving Francesca

Finally a note on the music because music plays a huge role in bringing Drea, Justin and Naomi together. I am fairly mainstream with the music I listen to (I need someone like Drea to make me a tape!) and I barely recognized any of the bands mentioned in Harmonic Feedback. What I did recognize was the transformative nature of music and how it can change your mood, change your life, Tara Kelly describes it beautiful.


The only bad thing about Harmonic Feedback? It was the first book I bought on the iPad, and now is course I want a hard copy. So much for saving space and money.

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. To take part go and sign up here.

A rambling post about ALA, with pictures!

So I only made it to one day of ALA but it was brilliant none the less. There were books. There were people who love books. There were people who know the answer to are you Team Peeta or Team Gale? is "Peeta of course" not "which one is the vampire?"

I was nervous because I don't cope well with crowds, and I didn't really get how it all worked, and the Convention Centre is immense. But I met up with the lovely James of BookChic (check out his blogoversary posts if you haven't already) who explained how things worked, and that yes it was alright to take books. I did have visions of being arrested (you know like in that one BSC book, where they go to New York and Mary Anne takes a sample lipstick and security stop her. BSC scarred me far more, than Forever, ever could.)

Anyway, James also kindly lent me his copy of THE MOCKINGBIRDS by Daisy Whitney. So excited to read that one. He also told me who published most of the books I wanted. He was a regualr goldmine of information. Thanks James :-)

After I left James, I wandered over to Penguin to see if they had an ARCs of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS (they did and I'm so excited to read that too. I love Stephanie Perkins blog). The first thing I saw though, was RESTORING HARMONY by Joelle Anthony.


I was so excited to finally see this brilliant book in the wild. Isn't it pretty? It was the second most exciting event of the day. The first being. . .





. . finally getting to meet Elizabeth Scott (so great after the library debacle) and her knowing who I was before I introduced myself. Which shows an extremely impressive memory on her part! Here we are at the GRACE signing. I don't think I was too fan girly.




I also met Erin Bow, whose book, PlAIN KATE I've been dying for since way back here when it was my Waiting on Wednesday pick. I'm so excited to have gotten my hands on a copy. I started it on the metro home and it's wonderful. Taggle may be my new favourite fictional animal, after Bonegrinder, of course.


 Speaking of which there were no ARC's of ASCENDANT left, so sad, and only a display copy of REAL LIFE BOYFRIENDS by E. Lockhart. I was tempted to steal it, but thought of the baby (and Mary Ann) and refrained.  I can't really complain though as I came home with all these lovelies.


Sorry for the rambling and the over use of the word excited, but I was very excited. I spent my teenage years being too cool to get excited, so it's all coming out now! Normal service resumes tomorrow.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Book Review: The Beautiful Betweebn by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

If high school were a fairy-tale kingdom, Connelly Sternin would be Rapunzel, locked not in a tower by a wicked witch but in a high-rise apartment building by the SATs and college applications—and by the secrets she keeps. Connelly's few friends think that her parents are divorced—but they're not. Connelly's father died when she was two, and she doesn't know how.

If Connelly is the Rapunzel of her school, Jeremy Cole is the crown prince, son of a great and rich New York City family. So when he sits down next to her at lunch one day, Connelly couldn't be more surprised. But Jeremy has a tragic secret of his own, and Connelly is the only one he can turn to for help. Together they form a council of two, helping each other with their homework and sharing secrets. As the pair's friendship grows, Connelly learns that it's the truth, not the secrets, that one must guard and protect. And that between friends, the truth, however harsh, is also beautiful.



Review

I enjoyed this story very much. It is a beautifully told tale of friendship,  families and of secrets and lies.

I liked Connolly, and thought her comparisons of high school and her home life to fairy tales, were nicely woven throughout the novel.

Maybe the witch thought she was protecting Rapunzel, not punishing her. Maybe she thought that if Rapunzel was locked away, no one could ever hurt her. Maybe the witch kept Rapunzel; because she loved her, because she was scared that if other people could get to Rapunzel, they would hurt her. Any maybe Rapunzel didn't understand the witch; maybe she was angry at her - but maybe she loved her too.

Anyone who was a shy and imaginative child will be able to relate to her. Connolly's clearly going to grow up to be a writer! I also really enjoyed Connolly and Jeremy's growing friendship. Jeremy's little sister Kate was absolutely perfect, I adored her and loved the scenes she was in.

I did get the impression that this was a fairy tale retelling though.  I imagined the secrets to have some root in magic, so when I finished I was disappointed. Which isn't at all fair to the book because it's very good, but none the less it is how I felt. The Beautiful Between is a lovely story it just wasn't the story I thought I'd chosen.

Book Received as part of Around the World Tours

Friday, 18 June 2010

Football Friday


Finally netflicks got my next DVD of Supernatural to me, so I can get back to being terrified and crushing on Dean. I love Supernatural. It's is exactly my kind of thing; ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. Each episode is complete in itself, but it has the big story arch of their Mom's death keeping things moving. Plus it has the awesome, complex and utterly believable relationship between Dean and Sam. I am completely invested. Glee writers you should take notes

I'm listening to The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan and catching up with my other favorite pair of supernatural fighting brothers. Ah, Nick and Alan I love you. So far this book is proving just as brilliant as the first.  I love Mae's perspective and Jamie's one liners. I laughed so hard today I nearly fell off the treadmill.


I'm also reading The Post Mistress, shocker a non YA title. Which is just so beautiful, you want to wrap yourself up in the words.

If you have time you should check out this post by a Gay teen book blogger on LGBT lit, which I found from a link on Jo Knowles blog. During Banned Book Week I wrote about how much I hope in the future the baby will have access to any book he may need, so this libriairns response kind of made my blood boil.

Finally, maybe you could direct some good luck towards England, who are playing again today. No lucky goals for the other team this time please!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Road Trip Wednesday - When/Why did you start writing?

It's Road Trip Wednesday at YA Highway. This week's question is

When/why did you start writing?


The first story I remember writing was when I was eight.  Our teacher had, for some reason, asked us to write about tea. I can't imagine why. Maybe she meant the meal, and was expecting a nice tale about fish fingers and chips and family time. 

I wrote about a magic tea bag. 

When the blonde, eight year old heroine, of the tale poured hot water on it, the genie was released and she got three wishes. 

The first wish went horribly wrong, the second wish put everything right. Then Her Majesty The Queen arrived and decided the tea bag should be put in a glass case in Buckingham Palace. So the country had it, if we ever needed it. 

Even at eight I obviously had an eye for a sequel or potential series.

In the years that followed I wrote many stories about Princess and magic and heavily ripped off versions of books I loved. Then it just kind of petered out. I guess I got busy with exams and colleges and writing seemed something you left in childhood.

Until 2008, when we moved to Washington. I couldn't get a job and so started a blog, through which I meet the fabulous Joelle Anthony. One day, when I was whining about having nothing to do and needing a change she suggested I tried writing. So I did, because I'd always secretly wanted to.

I wrote the openings of several stories and got bored. I decided I had to at least finish one novel, even if it was dreadful. So I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote my truly dreadful fantasy novel. Then I immediately started Emma Undone, which had been nagging at me all through November.

I revised it and revised it and revised it and revised it some more. 

Until finally it is something I am proud of. Something I will let other people read.

Even if Emma never gets read published. I can't imagine I'll ever stop writing. I love it too much. It's become to much of who I am.

So when/why did you start writing?

Monday, 14 June 2010

A Day of Woe

Who takes a baby to a book signing? Yes that would be me, and yes, it did not go well.


I never intended to take him, but the family friendly football screening his Daddy was supposed to be going to with him, turned into a 400 strong gathering. They shipped in portaloos! Probably not the best environment for a baby. England fans can get a little excited, shall we say.


I probably should have resigned myself to not going but I'd as really looking forward to seeing, Elizabeth Scott, Jenny Han, Kristen Scott. Also, the baby, is a very good baby and has behaved impeccably at Diana Peterfreund's, Scott Westerfeld's, and Shannon Hale's signings. He was so good and charming at Shannon Hale's, that he had a photo with her and was cooed over by other attendees.

However, he was in no mood to be constrained in the pushchair on Saturday, and in no mood to nap either. So we made a sharp exit the Meeting Room in Bethesda Library before the Librarians pained grimace became something worse.*

Ah well, I thought, at least I can watch England score a glorious victory. 1-0, 2-0, 3-0? How much would we win by?

Alas, an even greater disappointment awaited me.

A draw.

A freaking draw!

With a country that doesn't even care about the game.

Really England, you make it very hard sometimes to be a fan. Very, very hard!

There was a glorious ray of light, in this storm cloud filled day, though. Behold David Beckham, in a 3-piece suit, no less. If there was ever a case for angels falling to earth here he is. Sigh!

Team David Always





*My apologies to the person I emailed about a signed book. I shall send you the book just minus the signed bit, sorry. So funny that I put that small print in, maybe I'm physic.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Interview with Elizabeth Scott

If you've read my review you'll know I found Grace by Elizabeth Scott a haunting and difficult read but one I highly recommend. This book sparked so many emotions in me, as well as a whole host of questions and Elizabeth Scott was kind enough to answer some. Enjoy.


What made you want to write this story and where did the idea come from?

I got the idea for from a dream. (I know!) In the dream, two people were sitting on a train--one of those old-fashioned, very fancy trains, but the train itself had become very worn down. And it was very hot. I still remember the girl in the dream--that would be Grace--thinking about how hot it was. And how scared she was that she was going to get caught. I woke up, thought, "Huh?" but wrote it all down and then fell back asleep, hoping for a nice dream about, oh, me and three weeks with nothing to do but read!

Instead I was back on the train. And this time the girl--and now I knew her name was Grace--wasn't alone. There was a guy about her age sitting next to her, and they knew each other but didn't know each other and they were both on the run from something. And then the guy looked at her and what Grace saw--I can't tell you because it's a huge spoiler for the book, sorry!---terrified her. And then he told her he knew what she was, said a word she didn't think she'd ever hear again. And then they just looked at each other.

I woke up again then, thought, "Nooooo! More!!" and got up and wrote everything down. And then it actually just sat for a while, stewing around in my brain while I tried to figure out why Grace was so scared of him and why the guy said what he did.

And then, one day, as I was folding socks (!), it all came together. I started taking notes furiously, and began writing the story that day.

Did you always know the story would be told by Grace? Was it hard to get inside her head?

I always knew the story would be told by Grace. I knew from the moment I had the dream--and no, it wasn't hard to get inside her head because I was telling her story. The biggest thing, for me--and the best part of writing--is that I get to tell all these stories that belong to other (albeit fictional!) people.

There are lines from the  poem, Forced March by Miklos Radnoti, quoted at the beginning of Grace, what made you want that as an epigraph? 

It is one of my favorite poems, and when I first started writing Grace, the lines that are quoted in the book just kept refraining over and over in my head. It's the first time I've ever quoted from another work in something I've done, but I just felt like those lines helped me define the entire story, so I wanted them in there.

I felt the setting of the train worked wonderfully well. Did you try different settings/modes of transport or was the train always an essential part of the story? 

The train was always part of the story--thanks to that dream!

 How do you switch between the tone of something like The Unwritten Rule to something like Grace?

I actually enjoy mixing it up--I like writing all kinds of things, and I'm lucky enough to be able to write lighter books like The Unwritten Rule and darker books like Grace. More than one person has noted, however, that loss runs throughout all my books and that, I think, is a very good--and true!--point.

I am very curious about the names you used in the novel Keran Berj, Jerusha and then Grace, Lilly, Liam, Kerr. Was there any meaning behind them?  

Yes, but I'm not really comfortable talking about it. I hope readers will think about why I named the characters the way I did and draw their own conclusions.

Of all your books and/or characters do you have a soft spot for any of them. 

Nope! I can't even read my own work--do this day, I have yet to read any of my books.

Any writing advice? 

Read. Read as much as you can, and read everything you can


What book are you recommending to everyone right now? 

You can check out what I've been reading over at Goodreads

***

Thanks so much to Elizabeth for taking the time to answer my questions.


Grace is published by Dutton on September 16th 2010. Pre-order it. It's a must read.


You can find my review here and you can find out more about Elizabeth at her blog

Monday, 7 June 2010

Book Review: Grace by Elizabeth Scott

Elizabeth Scott is one of the few authors who could make me read a book about a suicide bomber. And, more, look forward to the experience.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I opened the cover. It certainly wasn't what I got.

Grace is a morally ambiguous character. As is her traveling companion Kerr. I thought the lines would be more clear cut. That is would be white and black, good and bad, hero and tyrant. It isn't. Both sides in Grace commit terrible acts and believe their acts are justified because they are at war. Keran Berj has created a regime based on terror, he is a monster, and yet in their fight against him the People have become equally repugnant. They teach girls it is their sole purpose to die for the cause and take as many people with them as they can.


The best angels die pregnant. . . Keran Benj says this is inhuman but then Keran Benj hanged his own son for evil thoughts.

Both have resorted to treating people, both their own and the ones they fight as things.

Grace is a quiet book. There are no car chases, no explosions, and no countdowns to diffuse the bomb. And yet the book is tense. We travel with Grace and Kerr towards the border on a train that might be stopped at any moment. The soldiers on board have complete control and can treat the passengers as they wish. I wanted so badly for them to make it, for them both to be free.

As Grace's story unfolds, in flashbacks, and as she learns more about Kerr, and his desperation to start a new life, her view of the world changes. She begins to question things she has done and things she believes.

I see that everyone around us is not a thing. Not a sheep. I see that everyone is a person.
Everyone I see matters to someone.

This is a brave, honest and disturbing look at what happens when children are brought up to be afraid; brought up to think that others are less worthy; brought up to think that the only way to create change is through destruction. It forces you to not judge but to really think, to feel sympathy for characters who do terrible things.

Grace is marketed as a a dystopian novel, but it really isn't. Although the setting is not recognizable and the names give no clue as to what country we might be in, the world in this book is not some horrific future. It can be found in the past and it can be seen in the present. This isn't a world we can prevent: it's one we're living in. That is what makes Grace such a haunting and uncomfortable read.

It would make a great book club pick. Although I kept wanting to take a break while reading, I already want to read it again. And I really want to talk about it too.

Thanks to Elizabeth Scott for including me in the blog tour for this book.

Grace is published by September 16th by Dutton.


All quotes taken from uncorrected ARC

Friday, 4 June 2010

Football Friday



So Finally Friday shall now be Football Friday dedicated to recaps of England's wins (please, please!) as strive to win the world cup for the first time since 1966!

This is our year.

I can feel it!

ENGLAND (when it's football you have to shout!) play their first game next Saturday and they're  playing my adopted country the USA! I have my shirt, I'll be wearing it and hopefully making the second half but I won't be at kick off.

As much as I love the beautiful game, I love books more.

So while the baby and his Daddy are cheering England on.  I shall be a Bethesda Library at an event hosted by Politics and Prose to see three YA authors

Jenny Han

Kieran Scott

Elizabeth Scott

Anyone else going?

I am a little excited. Okay, I am a lot excited. I tend to not stay very sane about things I love. Although as I'm also very shy I  shall probably just mutter "hello I like your books" at them.

 I normally buy a book at the signing to giveaway on the blog but I  thought I'd do things in reverse (okay I didn't think it  I completely stole the idea from the awesome Daisy Whitney) and pick  the winner in advance so I can get their name in it. Which is much better, right?

So just fill in the form (are you impressed I created a form? I am!) telling me which book you'd like a signed copy  of, and more  importantly why.

Small print I absolutely promise to send you the book. I almost   guarantee it will be signed as I assume they'll do stock signing but I have a one year old, you never know what's going to happen. So I   may not make it but I'm 99% certain I will.

Contest ends Friday 11th June
It is open to USA, Canada and UK.
Sorry I can't make it international this time.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Happy Birthday Baby Boy


I normally only post about reading and writing here but I couldn't let today go unmarked.

This time last year I was sitting in a hospital bed unable to take my eyes off my newborn my son's face. I was falling in love while similoutanously wondering how in the world I was someone's mother.

You'd have thought nine months would have been enough time to wrap my head around the idea. Nope, one year later I still sometimes look at him and am amazed and awed that he is mine.

It's been a roller coaster year. No job in the world has a steeper learning curve than parenthood. We have survived though, and while there have been tears and bumps along the way most of the time we've been smiling.

Happy First Birthday Baby Boy. You make every day special and unique.


Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Road Trip Wednesday

It's Road Trip Wednesday at the YA Highway and the question this week is  -

What's the best book you've read this month?


Of course I'm going to cheat and so three books because picking one is just to hard!

1) Best book this month and also best book this year

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta. 

I know I've said it before (quite a few times) but she is hands down my favourite author writing today and The Piper's Son is just amazing, amazing! Get your hands on this book.









2) Book that I loved for it's perfect chemistry and sheer unputdownableness


Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

This one is fun, fun fun and hot, hot, hot. I loved it and I love the duel narration. Also I adore that cover!







3) Book that I CAN NOT get out of my head


Grace by Elizabeth Scott

This is one uncomfortable read, but it's gripping and haunting and should definitely be on your TBR list.










What was your best book of the month?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Review: Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin

Avery Hood is reeling from the loss of her parents--and the fact that she can't remember what happened to them even though she was there.

She's struggling to adjust to life without them, and to living with her grandmother, when she meets Ben, who isn't like any guy she's ever met before.

It turns out there's a reason why, and Ben's secret may hold the key to Avery finding out what happened to her parents...

But what if that secret changes everything she knows about--and feels for--Ben?
(from Goodreads)


Low Red Moon is an addictive read, I gulped it down in one sitting, staying up way past my bedtime to find out what happened. It is deliciously creepy in that tales around the campfire, shivers down the spine, I'll just check the doors locked, kind of way.

It's also a love story and a gorgeous, heart stopping, swoonworthy one too. Avery and Ben have so much chemistry, and their scenes together are so hot, I'm surprised the book didn't combust. They do have one of those instant connections but it's tempered by the fact that Avery herself questions if it's real or not and doubts wonders whether she can really trust Ben.

I loved Avery, as a character she is strong, determined and independent. Of course, I loved her relationship with Ben but I also liked her relationship with her estranged Grandmother, Reene. It added another dimension to the book. As does Avery's connection to the forest, which is almost a character in itself. I'm really interested to see how that plays out.

The ending is nail biting. I was only one step ahead of Avery in working things out, which meant I was gripping the book mentally shouting out her not do this, or that, or for crying out loud RUN!

If you loved Shiver, Beautiful Creatures or were Team Jacob you're going to love Low Red Moon.


Nothing to do with the story but I adored the cover of the book. I hope they keep it and I loved the little drawings of trees on chapter pages and at the bottom of each page. It's so pretty and it makes it feel a little like the story has been transcribed from folklore, or maybe that's me being made fanciful by lack of sleep.