Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Book Review - MATCHED by Ally Condie




Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow. (from Goodreads)



Due to the hype surrounding Matched, and the absolutely stunning cover (yes I always judge books by them) I was extremely excited to pick up a signed copy of ALA. 

Cassia's voice caught me straight away and I was swept up the excitement of her Match banquet. I couldn't read this book fast enough. I loved everything. The voice was perfect, the writing is astonishingly beautiful and the world building is outstanding; the society is terrifying in it's perfection and veneer of reasonableness.

This is such a beautiful book. There are scenes that are quietly heartbreaking and achingly romantic and emotions are expressed so wonderfully well. My copy has about twenty turned down pages, to mark passages I really loved. Matched is definitely one of my favourite books of the year and I need to re-read it to really appreciate it.


A word of warning though, if you are looking for a book to fill the void left by the end of The Hunger Games, this may not be for you, despite the dystopian tag.  Matched is more reminiscent of the coming of age/romance you might expect from Sarah Dessen. It is quiet, and it is beautiful, and it is well worth reading.


Here's a taste,


There is so much that I want. I feel it so much that I am water, a river of want, pooled in the shape of a girl named Cassia.


Matched by Ally Condie comes out tomorrow. I'm already counting down for Book 2.


ARC received at ALA




Thursday, 25 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

The Best kind of Turkey


Thanksgiving is another American thing I shall take back to England with me, along with PB&J sandwiches and pancakes, bacon and syrup.

Here are a few of the things I am thankful for -

my wonderful family

my gorgeous, happy, healthy baby

fabulous friends both old and new

my amazing critique group

the chance to live in America and travel to some wonderful places

books

blogs

my husband's amazing roast dinner and the fact he is right now baking a cake :)

the time to write

Everyone who reads and comments on this blog. I absolutely love it when a comment pops up in my inbox, so thank you for taking the time to connect with me here. I'm very grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving or Happy Thursday if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Interview with Stephanie Perkins


Today I am delighted to welcome Stephanie Perkins to the blog. Stephanie is the author of one of my Top Ten books of the year, Anna and the French Kiss. Reasons you absolutely, positively must read it, can be found here. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Hope you enjoy the answers.




1) What was the inspiration for Anna and the French Kiss?

The inspiration arrived in a dream—a beautiful boy with a French name and an English accent sitting on the steps of the Panthéon—and it was impossible to resist. Or, more accurately, THE BOY was impossible to resist.  My inspiration always starts with the boy!

2)  Étienne St. Clair is my new literary crush. He's just so. . . Étienneish! Who are your literary crushes and why?

Oh, MAN.  What an awesome question.  I like crushes with flaws.  Perfection is boring!  I love anyone Meg Cabot creates—Michael Moscovitz (The Princess Diaries series, hottest geek ever) and Jesse de Silva (The Mediator series, hottest ghost ever) are particular favorites.  Sarah Dessen has some super-sexy, flawed guys.  I especially love Wes (The Truth About Forever, sweet but tough) and Dexter (This Lullaby, cute and awkward).  Adam from Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went is such a REAL guy, and he has such a big heart.  I fell in love with Remus Lupin, because he was the first person to treat Neville with genuine kindness (rather than pity).  And Shrimp from Rachel Cohn's Gingerbread series is the most flawed of all, so I might even like him the most!


And then you hit Jane Austen, and the list never ends: Mr. Darcy, Henry Tilney, Wentworth, Col. Brandon . . .

3) Due to the gorgeous locations I can completely see Anna as a film. What would the theme song be?


Thank you!  As a cinema geek, I would love to see Anna turned into a film.  Her theme song is “Besoin De Rien” by The Hellboys, a French punk band. Not so much for the content—the title means “thanks for nothing,” ha!—but because it *feels* exciting and confusing.

4) Anna is a complete movie geek, she even has a blog, although sadly we never get to read any of her posts. What are your five must see movies?

(1) Trainspotting
(2) Amélie
(3) Pride & Prejudice (2005) — I know, I know.  I like the Colin Firth one, too!
(4) Rushmore
(5) Stranger Than Fiction

5) In her blurb Maureen Johnson advises us to date Anna and the French Kiss. Which I thought was a perfect way to sum up the book. What would your perfect date involve?

A swoony independent film, followed by dinner at my favorite French restaurant, followed by coffee in a late-night bookstore.


          ****


Thanks so much Stephanie, (don't you wish you could have dreams like Stephanie's, mine are always about my teeth falling out) 


Anna and the French Kiss is out on December 3rd. It would make an excellent Christmas present!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 3

One week to go and I have no words left. 

So instead I borrowed an idea from Nomes of InkCrush and am posting my visual inspiration for you to see.  I particularly love the last picture. It's just captures the last scene of the novel, which I can't wait to write, so perfectly. 

And in case it is the kind of thing that bugs you (things like this bug me) Ellie's hair is like the models in the last picture not the top picture, but the pose in the top one is very Ellie. Huh, look at that, I had some words left!

Happy Writing and Reading Everyone














All photos taken from Weheartit


Note I'm trying out the new comment system again. I really hope it works this time, fingers crossed. If you have any problems could you let me know? Thanks

Thursday, 18 November 2010

An Unexpected Treat

Yesterday, a friend called me to say she had an extra ticket to see Salman Rushdie talk about his new book Luka and the Fire of Life and was I interested in coming?

Um, YES!!

So we braved the horror that is traffic on Massachusetts Avenue and headed out, to a truly wonderful event. Salman Rushdie is an engaging speaker, he seemed utterly at home in front of the hundreds of people packed into the Synagogue and was entertaining and interesting. As my friend whispered, he'd make an excellent dinner party guest.

Yes we were quite far up

He told us how Luka and the Fire of Life was written for his younger son, who had asked for a book, because he had written Haroun and the Sea of Stories for his older son. The passages he read from the book were delightful, it seems a wonderful imaginative and magical book.

Below are some highlights of his talk and the Q&A session (from my memory and a couple of notes so not completely word for word accurate)

Mr Rushdie on Books

Man is the only story telling animal. Do porpoises have a purpose, do elephants elefanasize? Man alone burns for books.

and

Without the world of the imagination the real world would not exist.

Mr Rushdie on the effect of the fatwa 

Haroun and the Sea of Stories was the first book I wrote after the fatwa. And it is my funniest book. So I must conclude that the fatwa was very good for my sense of humour. Also I suddenly became very interested in happy endings.

Mr Rushdie on his writing process

I go from left to right, and from the top of the page to the bottom

and more seriously

I set a daily word count and I write until it is done. Working in advertising for many years taught me not to wait for inspiration. 

Mr Rushdie on writing for children

As someone very famous said (he couldn't remember who, maybe Philip Pullman) you do not write down to children, you write up to them. A child will not finish a boring book rather they will take Dorothy Parker's advice and hurl it across the room.

After the reading and the Q&A, we queued up to get our books signed. I just said thank you but my friend (who is brave) asked a question.


Me and Salmen Rushdie

 So my son now has a first edition signed copy of Luka and the Fire of Life. Which he won't be receiving quite yet due to his tendency to kiss and/or rip pages in books. Plus it has no pictures, I'm sure he'd hurl it across the room.

Note: Salman Rushdie was interviewed by Katy Kay, on the Diane Rehm show today. You can hear it here if you'd like to hear more about the book.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How did I miss this?

As I don't currently have an audio book for the car/kitchen (recommendations welcome) I've been catching up on podcasts I missed over the summer. I just listened to episode #93 of Books on the Nightstand, which I highly recommend, and Ann mentioned that Nancy's Mitford's Wigs on the Green as been re-issued.




How did I miss this????

I would blame NaNoWriMo but it came out in September.

I adore Nancy Mitford. The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate are two of my very favourite books. I've re-read them countless times and I just love them to pieces.


So I'm mystified that I missed this re-issuing, and thank you Ann for mentioning it. I've never read Wigs on the Green so I can't recommend it yet. It may be another The Pursuit of Love or it may be a Don't Tell Alfred (Nancy not at her best).

I do recommend that you buy the The Pursuit of Love though. It follows the fortunes of the wonderful Radlett family  who are "always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black waters of despair they loved or they loathed, they lived in a world of superlatives" The Radletts are based loosely, or maybe not so loosely on Nancy's family.

Here's it's nice new cover



Here's my edition. I think this looks very like Linda!




And here's the old Penguin cover that I rather like.




Any favourites and any other Nancy fans out there?

Sunday, 14 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 2





This week was road block week. I hit one, hard. Suddenly, I had no idea where to go next with my story.


So I:


wrote
deleted
wrote
deleted
ate chocolate
wrote
deleted
drank tea
wrote
deleted
decided to read blogs.


Which, it turns out, was a very serendipitous idea, because on YA Highway I found a post that could have been written just for me,  What Are Your Constellations by Lelia Austin.


I love how she compares stories to constellations


A constellation is a bunch of stars that happen to appear beside each other at a certain distance, a certain angle. And it would mean nothing if it weren’t for the lines. The invisible lines we draw between them to make them make sense, to make them into a picture, a story. It’s all about their relationships: both what we see in front of us, and what we make from seeing it.


and later 


One strong relationship can be beautiful, but most stories exist like webs, with lines woven through one thing and another and another, with stars playing their explosive part in all sorts of constellations at once.


That was the part that struck home with me. I'd been so busy writing the main relationship in the book, that I'd let the secondary characters fall away. 20,000+ words in, writing every day, I was sick of my main characters. So I started fleshing out my secondary characters and I'm back on track and half way through - yay!


How is everyone else doing? 


And did you read any wonderful quotes, inspiring blogs this week?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is a prison like no other. It's alive and it's malevolent. Legend holds that in all it's hundreds of years only one person has ever escaped - Sapphique. But Finn hopes to be next. Known among his friends as the starseer he has no memory of his early life, except in strange and unsettling dreams that come to him like fits.


Claudia, is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Her life holds every luxury, but she is as trapped as Finn, and as desperate for escape. For in the outside world the Protocol demands everyone behaves as if it were a bygone era, although contraband technology is rife.


When Claudia and Finn both find crystal keys, that allow them to communicate with each other, escape for both suddenly seems much for than a wistful dream.


I absolutely loved the premise of Incaceron. It's speculative fiction meets the Tudors, and it's very well done. Catherine Fisher has created a fascinating and totally believable world and she does a great job of bringing it to life. I adored all the details and lavish descriptions of both of the bleak inside of Incarceron, with its blinking red eyes and endless cells, and the beautiful outside world with its plots and intrigues.

The twin narrative also worked very well. Both Fin and Claudia are engaging characters who it is easy to care for and they are supported by a fantastic cast of characters. My favourites being Keiro, Finn's bad boy oath brother, Jarad, Claudia's tutor, and Claudia's father, whose forbidding exterior may mask a softer inside.

I can not wait for Book Two - Sapphique to see what happens next.

Monday, 8 November 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 1

It's the end of week one and I am on schedule with NaNo, despite the clocks going back so

Hoo-Ray!

 Today used to be a day I loved, ( an extra hour in bed!) but the baby didn't think that was such a good plan. He woke with a howl at 5.30, which was really 6.30, but for some reason the digits on the alarm clock held more sway over my mind. I spent today in a daze that even a Pumpkin Spice Latte couldn't break. Hopefully my 1666 words weren't to dreadful.

Anyway I have two questions.

1) Is it just me or does everyone eat more when it's cold and dark outside?

I swear I'm eating twice as much.

and

2) Do you read the genre you write?

I mean I'm sure we all read in our genre, but when you're actually writing, do you read in it? This month I'm trying to stay away from YA, on the advice of some famous writer (I can't remember who). It's seems quite a sensible idea. I mean when you are churning out first draft drivel (or maybe that's just me), curling up with a Melina Marchetta or Elizabeth Scott is just a recipe for ripping your manuscript to shreds!

 Instead I've been reading Sherlock Holmes, inspired by the new series, which has utterly charmed me.


The New Holmes and Watson - a perfect pairing!


If you haven't seen it yet, you must (especially if you're a Dr Who fan). The fabulous twist, brilliant cast, and excellent writing make this must watch TV. Of course, I expected no less of Steven Moffet - creator of Press Gang (best children's TV show ever) and writer of Blink (best Dr Who episode ever)



Yes I know he's no longer the Dr, but I prefer him to the new one!

Anyway I shall be back next week for my NaNo check in. Hope all of you who are participating are doing great and all those who aren't are reading great books!


Friday, 5 November 2010

And the Winners are. . .

The winner of the ARC of Anna and the French Kiss is Michelle M of See Michelle Read

The winner of a copy of Anna and the French Kiss (to be delivered to your door on the release date) is Nichole of Irresistible Reads.

Congratulations!

And thanks to all who entered.

Look out for another very awesome contest coming in December.

HAPPY FRIDAY!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Anna and the French Kiss Giveaway



I've written a couple of times about my deep love for Anna and the French Kiss and how happy I was to get an ARC of it at ALA. Now those lovely people at Dutton have sent me another ARC, so of course I'm going to share

AND

because I LOVE this book so much (I kind of want to hug it and pet it) I'm going to give away another copy, when it hits the shelves on the 2nd December.

Which means TWO chances to win today.

If you missed earlier raves and the Publishers Weekly Starred Review, here are five reasons to read Anna and the French Kiss.

1) Anna - she is just the best kind of heroine. Lovable, relatable, kind and funny, and then occasionally, she does something you always wanted to do and didn't quite dare. Plus she blogs!

2) Etienne St. Clare -  well if the name doesn't just floor you. Eitenne is also sweet, charming, nice, has great hair and a brilliant store of interesting stories (he doesn't just stand and smolder!). Plus he has a British accent, proving Brit guys are best :)

3) Paris - I felt like I'd revisited Paris after reading this. When you finish you will want to run out and learn French, whip up some macaroons and buy a poster of the Eiffel Tower to stick over your window so you can pretend you live there too.

4) Friendship - Anna and the French Kiss does such a great job on friendships, new friendships, old friendships, changing friendships, and friendships you wish were something more.

5) Kissing! - see the title. There are kisses in this book, the best kind, the kind that make you tingle.

So the contest

Prize One ARC of Anna and the French kiss by Stephanie Perkins (open internationally)

Prize Two Pre-ordered copy of Anna and the French Kiss (open anywhere The Book Depository ships)

To Enter


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