Friday, 30 September 2011

Best of the Bunch #September 2011


It's that time of the month again: to decide which of all the books I read in September was the Best of the Bunch.

And the winner of the Best of the Bunch Award September 2011 is...

*dramatic pause*

POD by Stephen Wallenfels

POD's - strange alien spheres hover menacingly in the sky, zapping anyone who ventures outside.

Josh is 15 and stuck in his house with his OCD dad. They're running out of food... Megs is 12, alone and trapped in a multi-storey carpark. The hotel next door is under the control of dangerous security staff, but Megs has something they want, and they'll do anything to get it...

When the aliens invade, the real enemy becomes humanity itself.

What would you do to survive?

I had a hard time this month chosing between POD and We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton but I think what clinched it was the fact that, although We Can Be Heroes was amazing, I could actually bring myself to put it down in order to fulfil the daily functions of life. POD, on the other hand, once I'd picked it up I just couldn't put it down, it was a proper one-sitting book that just had me hooked from one page to the next.

POD is the definition of brilliant science fiction: putting humans in an extreme situation and seeing how they react. It's a real exploration of the survival instinct and the teen protagonists have some of the strongest voices I have ever read. Whether you like science fiction or not this is definitely one to put at the top of your TBR pile! You can read my full review here.

Congratulations Stephen Wallenfels!

Please share your Best of the Bunch award by adding your link below.


Thursday, 29 September 2011

New YA Releases - October 2011

Here's a look ahead at what's got me excited in the world of YA fiction for October 2011. Let me know if you'll be reading any of these!

*please note I don't read hardbacks (with the odd exception) so although some of these have been out in hardback for a while they will be on this list as they are now coming out in paperback or on Kindle*

Extent: 320 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Pub Date: 6th October 2011
Format: Paperback

For the first six months, Peter's life in Phoenix was pretty normal. Hanging out with his friends, frustrating his parents, sleeping through school. Then he found out the world was ending. The Shackleton Co-operative is planning to exterminate the rest of humanity - and they're going to use "Tabitha" to do it. But who is Tabitha? What's really going on inside the Shackleton Building? And why does Peter's dad's name keep turning up in the search for answers? As Peter and his friends struggle to contact the outside world, they're going to find out just how far Shackleton is willing to go to make sure the secrets of Phoenix stay hidden. And the clock is still ticking. There are 88 days until the end of the world.

Extent: 304 pages
Publisher: Templar
Pub Date: 1st October 2011
Format: Paperback

This sequel to The Blackhope Enigma is imbued with alchemy and intrigue. During what seems like an ordinary museum visit, tour guide Throgmorton lures Sunni and Blaise through a painted doorway into eighteenth-century London. When Throgmorton demands secret information from the pair about their Blackhope escapades, they attempt to flee, encountering body snatchers, art thieves and forgers in this gripping time-travel adventure.

Extent: 656 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub Date: 3rd October 2011
Format: Hardback

Septimus is on the threshold of his fourteenth birthday, which falls on the shortest day of the year. While everyone celebrates and the Castle is lit with the traditional candles, Septimus has greater concerns on his mind. He has finally reached the period in his Apprenticeship known as Darke Week. During this crucial time, he hopes to undertake the very dangerous mission of restoring Alther from Banishment, following the attempted invasion of the Castle of Syren. But while this preoccupies him, other Darke things are afoot in the Castle.

Extent: 336 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub Date: 4th October 2011
Format: Kindle

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

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

Extent: 400 pages
Publisher: Macmillan
Pub Date: 7th October 2011
Format: Paperback

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you'd been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

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

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

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

Glow is the most riveting series debut since The Hunger Games, and promises to thrill and challenge readers of all ages.

Extent: 576 pages
Publisher: Puffin
Pub Date: 6th October 2011
Format: Paperback

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up on a school bus holding hands with a girl. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper. His best friend is a kid named Leo, and they’re all students in the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids”, as Leo puts it. What he did to end up here, Jason has no idea — except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret. Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, and her vivid nightmares reveal that he’s in terrible danger. Now her boyfriend doesn’t recognize her, and when a freak storm and strange creatures attack during a school field trip, she, Jason, and Leo are whisked away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood. What is going on?

Leo has a way with tools. His new cabin at Camp Half-Blood is filled with them. Seriously, the place beats Wilderness School hands down, with its weapons training, monsters, and fine-looking girls. What’s troubling is the curse everyone keeps talking about, and that a camper’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist they are all—including Leo—related to a god.

Extent: 320 pages
Publisher: Puffin
Pub Date: 6th October 2011
Format: Paperback

London, 1976: a summer of chaos, punk, love ...and the boy they called Billy the Kid. It was the summer of so many things. Heat and violence, love and hate, heaven and hell. It was the time I met William Bonney - the boy from Belfast known as Billy the Kid. I've kept William's secrets for a long time, but now things have changed and I have to tell the truth. But I can't begin until I've told you about Curtis Ray. Hip, cool, rebellious Curtis Ray. Without Curtis, there wouldn't be a story to tell. It's the story of our band, of life and death ...and everything in between. This characteristically gripping novel from award-winning author Kevin Brooks will rock you to the core.

Extent: 400 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
Pub Date: 6th October 2011
Format: Paperback

In a future land once known as Britain, nomad tribes are preparing to fight a terrifying enemy - the first-ever mobile city. Before London can launch itself, young engineer Fever Crumb must journey to the wastelands of the North. She seeks the ancient birthplace of the Scriven mutants. In the chaotic weeks before battle begins, Fever finds a mysterious black pyramid. The extraordinary secrets it contains will change her world forever. The seventh awe-inspiring adventure in the World of Mortal Engines series by a superb writer at the height of his powers.

Extent: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pub Date: 4th October 2011
Format: Kindle

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

He was wrong.

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

Where breaking the rules equals death.

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

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Review: Kit-in-the-Candlestick - Nixie Turner

*DON'T MISS*
Extent: eBook (228 KB)
Publisher: Self Published
Pub Date: 21st May 2011

When Mopsa discovers the secret that lead to the death of her father, she runs away and finds herself late at night in the doorway of a mysterious shop on one of York’s ancient streets. She tries the door handle and tumbles inside, only to find herself banished to the strange and inhospitable land of Lethe.

Pursued by hidden enemies, and in a desperate race against time, she attempts to discover the whereabouts of a missing girl and unlock the magic within her amethyst necklace. On her journey, she meets Tom, a boy as lost as she is, and together they try and find their way home.

Kit-in-the-Candlestick is a fantasy novel for older children and young adults with magic, mystery and romance.


I love it when I come across a self published book like this. What you get is what you get. You know there hasn’t been some big shot editor focused on brand image that has told the author what to cut, what to add and what to change. What you get on the page of a self published book is exactly what the author alone envisaged and when the book is as well-crafted as Kit-in-the-Candlestick, you know the outcome is entirely based on story-telling talent.

I love the characters in this book, they are the kind of big round charismatic characters that sit very easily in your imagination; the good guys are warm and friendly while the bad are threatening and malicious. The story’s heroine, Mopsa, not only has an ace name but is also very easy to sympathise with, she is naturally inquisitive and emotionally strong. Her personal journey is a real asset to this story. She starts the book in the shadow of her over-protective mother but as she is plunged into the unknown she gets to know herself better by fending for herself, making decisions, taking her life into her own hands and eventually defeating her own demons. Mopsa experiences a lot of life on her adventure and has to deal with a lot of new emotions and fears which in the end turn her into a much tougher person.

I think another fantastic aspect of Kit-in-the-Candlestick is that it is paced so well. At no point does it start to feel ploddy or too fast you have to turn back a few pages to study what just happened. Each chapter develops the plot and throughout there is a sense that the story is building towards a big WHY. You don’t know where you are, Mopsa doesn’t have a clue either but the mysteries of this almost Narnian parallel world gradually peel back and the best part is that I couldn’t guess what was going to be the answer. At no point did it become predictable, the plot sort of twists its way through the book, keeping you on your toes, keeping you guessing, the answers unbearably just beyond your fingertips. Then, at the end, all the threads of guesswork are neatly sown together in one of those endings that are just so satisfying that you end up grinning like an idiot and knowing there was no better way to put it.

Kit-in-the-Candlestick is quite simply a really well written story, pitched perfectly for younger teens. It takes you to exciting new places through the eyes of a fantastic heroine on a whirlwind adventure. It has the old magic feel of an Narnian story mixed with the unnerving lost feeling of Alice In Wonderland, you’re not quite sure what’s going to be around the next corner but you know that everything happens for a reason. I thoroughly recommend it!


Monday, 26 September 2011

Review: Timeriders: Day of the Predator - Alex Scarrow

*DON'T MISS*
Extent: 448 pages
Publisher: Puffin
Pub Date: 5th August 2010

Liam O'Connor should have died at sea in 1912.

Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.

Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2029.

But all three have been given a second chance - to work for an agency that no-one knows exists. Its purpose - to prevent time travel destroying history . . .

When Maddy mistakenly opens a time window where and when she shouldn't have, Liam is marooned sixty-five million years ago in the hunting ground of a deadly - and until now - undiscovered species of predator.

Can Liam make contact with Maddy and Sal before he's torn to pieces by dinosaurs - and without endangering history so much that the world is overtaken by a terrifying new reality?


There are a few books for which I refuse to read the blurb. I don’t want to be in any way prepared for what’s going to happen within the pages, I want to enjoy the full effect of the mystery and often the terror that lurks within. On the second book, the TimeRiders series has entered that list of books and that list also has another accolade: they are the most gripping, well told stories I have, do or ever will read.

Many sequels just plod along in the same ilk as their predecessors, the characters doing the same kind of things with the same kind of bad guys and the same kind of situations. After loving the first TimeRiders books I am so pleased to find that book 2 has done exactly what I crave in a sequel: something completely different! The kids are on their own now, stuck in their two day time bubble without a clue as to what will happen next – and that is just how I felt as a reader, I was nervous too, scared, my imagination pitching me all manner of horrific world-ending scenarios. So clever was it of Alex Scarrow, then, to throw his readers into a world-beginning scenario, or at least the first cycle of evolution on the planet. I think, whereas book 1 is about what happens when you mess with time, Day of the Predator takes you on a journey to try to comprehend the massiveness of Earth’s history, the massiveness of time itself and how arrogant humans are to think they know even the tiniest part of it. It’s genius to create an “enemy” in a species that has no record on Earth. I’ve recently been watching a load of dinosaur documentaries on the BBC, and in the last decade alone there have been dozens of new discoveries. It is probably quite likely that if you were to be transported millions of years into the past, almost every species you came across would be unknown to humans. It just gives you a real sense of what we don’t know and that is terrifying and a brilliant premise to a gripping story.

I am fairly rapidly coming to the conclusion that Alex Scarrow is some kind of story-telling genius, he taps into our greatest fears as humans, the unknown, and then he thinks of everything – every situation, every outcome, every potential time contaminant – and puts it on a plate for you to chew over. He must be a very philosophical person and he’s certainly turned me into a philosopher – never do I ask so many “what if” questions then when I’m reading a TimeRiders book. And it’s not just the big details it’s the little ones that really plug the holes in your suspension of disbelief, like using significant dates in history to cover up potential time contamination: only ever do something risky if you know there is going to be an earthquake later that day that will destroy all records and everyone you spoke to. It introduces some really interesting human moments amongst the action with moral dilemmas and wonderfully subtle characters development, the testing and building of relationships.

The author thinking of everything is a real asset to these stories, giving them a frightening level of realism, and exploring the fact that we know nothing makes for a fantastic sequel. Terrifying, gripping, touching, amazing.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Wishlist Diet #12

*The Wishlist Diet is part of the In My Mailbox meme hosted by The Story Siren*

To Read:


The Achemyst by Michael Scott
The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi

To Review:


TimeRiders: Day of the Predator by Alex Scarrow
Kit-in-the-Candlestick by Nixie Turner

I read The Alchemyst AGES ago and now there are about a hundred books in this series so I thought I'd better re-read it and start catching up... My other book this week is The 10pm Question and I've heard a lot of good things about it so I'm really looking forward to this one.

So, what's in your IMM this week?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Interview: Elisa Ludwig

I am incredibly pleased to welcome Elisa Ludwig, author of June of Rock and the soon to be published Pretty Crooked to my blog today. After I read June of Rock I was just bursting to find out more, to dig into the story behind the story and find out more about Elisa so I went down on my knees and begged for an interview and I am very happy to say she obliged!

If you'd like to read my review of June of Rock you can find it here. Enjoy!


How would you describe June of Rock in a tweet (140 characters)?

Ooh, that's a good exercise. How about this?: Freshly dumped, aspiring drummer June Dixon heads off to all-girls rock camp for the summer. The only problem? She hates girls.

How did the story of June of Rock come to you?

When I first started hearing about the girl rock camp phenomenon here in the US, I knew I wanted to use that setting for a YA novel. In my own life, my summers at an arts camp and a pre-college painting program were wonderful, formative experiences with intense relationships that really helped me crystallize my identity. But a novel needs conflict, so I thought about what sort of challenges would make that summer away as difficult as it is enriching.

June is a very strong character, how do you go about creating a voice like hers?

As a writer I'm definitely inspired first and foremost by character and voice. In June's case, it just sort of flowed. This was one of my earliest attempts at writing YA, and I think she was just the first teen voice in my head. I later went back and made her more defensive and difficult in some parts, and more generous and (hopefully) likable in others.

The story is so authentic, I’m absolutely convinced you are some kind of rock guru. Is this true?

Well, that's very flattering, but sadly I am no guru. I used to play mostly classical piano when I was a kid but quit at around June's age. However, I was always a huge music nerd and it was a major part of my life, especially as a teenager. Going to shows and listening to (dating myself) CDs opened up my limited suburban point of view and it was also a way to connect with other kids pre-internet (again, dating myself). I'm really fascinated by how, for a lot of young people, what kind of music you like can be your whole identity, so that was another inspiration for this book. These days, I'm way less engaged with music on a daily basis, but my husband is a DJ (and a lot like Micah in his eclectic music tastes) so I get lots of ideas from him.

What are your writing habits? Are you the kind of writer who plans everything or are you a seat-of-your-pants writer?

I am, by nature, a total pantser, mainly because the character is always in my head first. However, writing Pretty Crooked, which is much more action-driven than June of Rock, taught me that a detailed outline can take a lot of angst out of the process. I still don't enjoy outlining and figuring everything out up-front but I'm always glad to have a road map once I'm in the thick of it.

What’s the most challenging and rewarding aspects of writing for teens?

The most challenging aspect is finding fresh stories. Since I prefer to write contemporary books, it can be tricky to come up with something that feels new for readers. I'm always trying to figure out, how can I NOT write about high school? The most rewarding, hands down, is being able to connect with readers for whom reading means so much. I was at a conference recently and the writer Gary Paulsen said something to the effect of "Don't bother writing for adults". I wouldn't limit myself quite that much because I want adults to enjoy my YA books, too, but his point is that kids are your very best audience. I'm really, really excited about the prospect of meeting with more teens as my books get out there and finding out about their lives.

How would you compare the experience of self publishing June of Rock to the experience of getting Pretty Crooked published by HarperCollins? Which do you prefer?

Both are totally new to me and totally exciting. I only decided to self-publish June of Rock after I had the deal for Pretty Crooked (and the two books that will follow it). I figured I would just put it out there and see if readers would a) find it, and b) get something out of it. Right now, because I have my official debut with Pretty Crooked in March, I'm sort of just letting (or hoping to let) June of Rock catch on with word of mouth. So the process is pretty laid-back. For Pretty Crooked, it's been much more of a team effort, working with my fabulous editor Claudia Gabel, the cover designers, the copy editors, and soon, the publicist, etc. So you feel more secure in that a whole bunch of people have vetted this thing and are helping you send it out into the world.

If you had room on your bookshelf for only 3 books, what would they be?

Oh man. I'm going to just stick with YA here, to make this a tiny bit easier. I would say Feed by M.T. Anderson, An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King.

Apart from June of Rock, what is your top teen fiction recommendation from 2011?

I am so far behind on 2011 reading it's not even funny, but I enjoyed Moonglass by Jessi Kirby quite a bit.

Can you tell us a bit about your next book, Pretty Crooked?

Pretty Crooked is the story of Willa Fox, who moves to a very wealthy community with her mom, and falls in with the elite crowd right away. Only later does she realize these girls are bullying the scholarship kids at their school. Disturbed by their behavior, and wanting to take a stand, she decides to go Robin Hood on them, and steals from the rich kids to give (secretly) to the poorer ones, ultimately risking everything to try to do what she thinks is right. Of course, there's a little romance mixed in there as well.


And there you have it! A huge thanks to Elisa for providing really interesting answers to my questions, as well as some new YA recommendations for my ever expanding wishlist...

If you'd like to know more about Elisa Ludwig and her books then do visit her website at www.elisaludwig.com or follow her on Twitter on @ElisaLudwigYA. June of Rock is available to download now - and I highly recommend that you do! - from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Review: The Crimson Shard - Teresa Flavin

*NEW*
Extent: 304 pages
Publisher: Templar
Pub Date: 1st October 2011
Prequel(s): The Blackhope Enigma

This sequel to The Blackhope Enigma is imbued with alchemy and intrigue. During what seems like an ordinary museum visit, tour guide Throgmorton lures Sunni and Blaise through a painted doorway into eighteenth-century London. When Throgmorton demands secret information from the pair about their Blackhope escapades, they attempt to flee, encountering body snatchers, art thieves and forgers in this gripping time-travel adventure.


I love it when a sequel does something very different from its predecessor, testing familiar characters with strange situations and adding more dimensions to the world you thought you knew. I am so pleased to say that this is exactly what Teresa Flavin has done with The Crimson Shard. The Blackhope Enigma was akin to Narnia with Sunni and Blaise being sucked into a painted world but The Crimson Shard takes you on a time travel adventure to 18th century London although, of course, there are still magical paintings…

What I really like about The Crimson Shard, is that it takes the thriving genre of time travel but gives it a wonderfully original twist. It is written not so much as science fiction but as fantasy with a magical painted door the portal through time. And it’s not just the glamorous side of the 18th century that the reader sees but Teresa really digs into the gritty and sometimes darker side of the times with its nightsneaks, trickery and poor hygiene. It’s this kind of detail that gives the book its realism and makes Sunni and Blaise’s situation all the more desperate. I also really enjoy Teresa’s characters. She writes a pretty mean bad guy, the kind that lurks through the book like a threatening undercurrent, and her good guys are always endearing and almost theatrical which only increases their charm. Sunni and Blaise also develop through the sequel, their relationship becomes stronger and Teresa writes so subtly as they become emotionally dependent on one another. It’s touching and shy, just like young attraction should be, rather than brash and in your face.

I think my favourite aspect of all is that art to Teresa’s books is rather like music is to a film – it creates a wonderful, palpable atmosphere and really adds a fourth dimension to the story. As you read, it feels like you are turning the pages of an illustrated book but apart from the odd pencil sketch – which is definitely another of my favourite aspects – the book consists of just plain old lines of black text (not that there is anything wrong with that!). The colours and artistry are just so easily conjured up in my mind that it really doesn’t seem like plain old lines of black text at all. It’s almost as if the story has been painted rather than written with the layers of mystery like layers on a huge landscape painting that are gradually washed off to reveal the book’s secrets. Reading one of Teresa’s books is such an enjoyable and magical experience and I really hope that I get to read more of them long into the future!


Monday, 19 September 2011

Review: Snow White and the Alien - Artemis Hunt

*NEW*
Extent: ebook (433 KB)
Publisher: Self Published
Pub Date: 21st August 2011

Rude. Opinionated. Dirty. Bug crazy.

That's how folks describe 16-year-old Snow White, who is more interested in studying insects than her own beautiful, anemic face. When her bipolar stepmother sets a price on her heart, which she'd like served with baby potatoes and Chianti, Snow White has no choice. She must say goodbye to the only people who have ever loved her – her three-chinned nanny, who feels like a pillow, and her childhood friend, Tom, who has spent his life wearing a thick, fleshy armor to fend off her princessy barbs.

Snow White must outwit every studly huntsman, assassin, city guard and robber baron sent to bring her back, preferably dead, before she reaches Lapland.

20-year-old Aein is a one-winged cripple from another planet. Passionate, ridiculed, headstrong, and considered hideous in his gossamer, aerial world, he desires nothing more than to prove to his royal family that flight and beauty are overrated. He gets his one chance when he is selected to go to Earth, disguised as a 'Crawler' – who appears to us as a phenomenally handsome human youth. His mission: to pave our world for colonization and, later . . . annihilation.

The first native he stumbles upon is the fugitive Snow White.

Snow White and Aein must choose their allegiances, and fight a forbidden, growing love for each other before their worlds explosively collide.


I have to admit the title of this book made it pretty hard for me to resist, it’s one that really makes you wonder what the hell is going on in the book and it is far too tempting not to find out what it’s really all about. I have to say, I’m pretty glad that I did.

I guess the first thing I imagined was a mad re-telling, bordering on a farce, of the fairytale of Snow White and although it starts out this way, it soon becomes something a lot more epic in its own right. Snow White and the Alien is definitely a story that veers more towards the original fairytale, paying tribute more to the Grimm brothers rather than Disney, with often very dark and gruesome moments. It can be pretty graphic at times with themes such as sexual assault and cannibalism but this actually lends itself to the more macabre origins of fairytales, the versions you wouldn’t tell your children at bedtime. There are also cameos from other fairytale characters such as the grown up Hansel and his cannibal sister, Gretel. At first I was a bit confused as to why Gretel was a cannibal but a big part in the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel is that the witch enslaves them in preparation for eating them and in the original French version the twins slash the throat of their captor. It’s all pretty gruesome when you wash away that Disney layer!

What does remain, however, from both the old and the updated fairytales, is the sense of heroism and the journey the characters go through. Both the heroes, Snow White and Aein (the alien) begin the story as fairly helpless entities, constantly being trodden down by other characters but as the story builds, their potential for heroism becomes fulfilled. They go from being scared and superficial to taking control of their situations, learning to be courageous and seeing through the physical beauty of each other to find the person they love within, no matter what their form. I just love the way this story builds, becoming more and more epic. It moves gracefully from a fantasy to a sci-fi novel, ending a very different story to the one that began the book. There’s a real sense of the universe getting bigger and bigger, from a fairytale castle in Bavaria to an all out alien invasion. Just writing that sentence makes me think “this cannot possibly work as a story” but actually it does and it does make sense when you turn the last page even though you try to convince yourself that it can’t. Fantasy, at least the once-upon-a-time variety, and science fiction are just poles apart but Artemis Hunt has taken two opposing stories, skilfully melded them together and created a story that actually makes sense in a non-farcical way. I have to hand it to her, that’s quite an achievement and I’d like to see Disney try to make an adaptation of that!


Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Wishlist Diet #11

*The Wishlist Diet is part of the In My Mailbox meme hosted by The Story Siren*

To Read:


TimeRiders: Day of the Predator by Alex Scarrow
Kit-in-the-Candlestick by Nixie Turner

To Review:


Snow White and the Alien by Artemis Hunt
The Crimson Shard by Teresa Flavin

So, I didn't manage to read the second TimeRiders book last week :-( so it's going on this week's diet along with my October Self Publishing Spotlight book, Kit-in-the-Candlestick by Nixie Turner.  Very exciting!

The Crimson Shard blog tour is coming up in early October so my review of the book will be going up this week. The Crimson Shard is the sequel to the fantastic The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin and you can read my review of the first book here. Also going up this week will be my review of Snow White and the Alien by Artemis Hunt.

Lastly, keep an eye out this Friday for my first author interview with Elisa Ludwig, author of the rocktastic June of Rock. You can read my review of the book here.

So, what's in your IMM this week?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Review: POD - Stephen Wallenfels

*NEW*
Extent: 304 pages
Publisher: Templar
Pub Date: 1st September 2011

POD's - strange alien spheres hover menacingly in the sky, zapping anyone who ventures outside.

Josh is 15 and stuck in his house with his OCD dad. They're running out of food... Megs is 12, alone and trapped in a multi-storey carpark. The hotel next door is under the control of dangerous security staff, but Megs has something they want, and they'll do anything to get it...

When the aliens invade, the real enemy becomes humanity itself.

What would you do to survive?


Many people describe a book they read as “unputdownable” or “a real page turner” – what they really mean is that the story was so engaging it was hard to put down but of course they did in order to fulfil the basic functions of life. With POD by Stephen Wallenfels, I want to say this book was unputdownable and I really mean it. I started reading it one afternoon and I didn’t stop until I hit the last page. I had no dinner, I forgot all my chores and I ignored everybody’s attempts at conversation and it is all the fault of Stephen Wallenfels’ characters.

The books that really stick with me and make me pick them up time and time again are the books where the author has truly mastered the art of “voice”. There are characters and there are great characters, but the truly brilliant characters are the ones that make you see through their eyes, the ones that make your own heart pound when they are scared, the ones that make you cry when they hit the wall of despair and the ones that make you smile uncontrollably when it all turns out alright. There are not many books whose characters have made me react physically to them but POD definitely has those characters, very rarely do I actually feel myself slip into a book but with POD I did just that. It just has such a great power, and I think that this power is what makes science fiction a very special genre. It’s not all about spaceships and talking robots, think about all the dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction that’s flying around at the moment, they are sci-fi too. It’s about exploring human nature by putting it in extreme situations and this is essentially what Stephen Wallenfels has done in POD. He has created two incredibly realistic characters with very strong voices and plunged them into a survival situation to see what they would do. They react in different ways because they have different personalities but it is the strength of their personalities that make their reactions so realistic and it really feels like the author is documenting the survival instinct not just experimenting with it because you know instinctively that no matter how horrific things get this is probably exactly what would happen. This is what makes it so terrifying and darkly intriguing.

And this is why I literally could not put it down. I just didn’t have it in me to leave Megs and Josh hanging mid-story, playing hell with my imagination. I had to get to the resolution, I had to know what happened to them and if it turned out alright or not. It felt like they were real people and if I left them that would make me heartless, like I was putting a gun to their heads and making them stand there for hours thinking about what was about to happen to them. So, I kept reading all evening and into the night and if you read this book – which by the way is something you should definitely do – I challenge you to do any different. In fact, get it and cancel everything for that day because nothing is worth doing once you start reading POD.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Review: June of Rock - Elisa Ludwig

*DON'T MISS*
Extent: ebook (214 KB)
Publisher: Self Published (KDP)
Pub Date: 21st July 2011

Fresh out of 10th grade and freshly dumped by her dreamboat music nerd boyfriend Micah, June Dixon is headed to Camp Decibelle for the summer. The girls-only rock camp sounds like the perfect destination for a budding drummer with a respectfully punk attitude — except for the “girls-only” part. Once at Decibelle, June is thrown in among her fellow campers, a hodgepodge of indie wannabes, aggro-folkheads and metal sleazoids. All of them are aiming for superstardom, starting with the camp’s Battle of the Axes competition. Learning to keep a beat and start a band is tough enough but June must also contend with the dueling egos (and rhythms) of her bossy bandmate Jess, Jess’s disgruntled best friend from home M3, and a bitchy drummer whose rumored uncle is June’s hero, legendary songwriter Lee Rooney. And then there’s the puzzling case of Brice Mills, the famous-in-his-own-right counselor who’s supposed to be coaching June’s band but seems to have taken an unusual interest in June herself. Sassy, fun and packed full of pop culture references, June of Rock is a love letter to both girl power and the power of music.


I’ve got two words for this book: rock on!

I knew I’d have an affinity with this book when I started reading it as I was a teen girl drummer, just like June, and always found myself torn between being ultra cool and ultra weird. Having read June of Rock, however, I now really want to pick up my sticks again! June has such a wonderful, strong voice and is the perfect heroine with plenty of flaws but you love her anyway. She starts the book in a pretty bad way and throughout the story makes some pretty stupid choices but you still end up cheering her on because actually she’s really likeable and has a magnetic rock attitude that is sadly lacking from the many swooning teen heroines of today.

It is so refreshing to read a book about music and there is such a passion for it that comes across to the reader. I have increased my vocabulary by at least 200 words and know more about rock music now than I could ever be bothered to find out before. I’ve also learnt a heck of a lot about rockers themselves and I think that’s what I really like about this book. Elisa Ludwig sets out to prove that rockers are not just scary, society-hating people with experimental hair, they are exactly the same as any other music-lover in their passion for music, and it’s a real attribute to their personalities. June goes from being almost emo at the start of the book – resentful and distrustful of people and often aggressive – to a true rock star – learning what it means to be in a band, to get along with people and thrive on artistic differences. Once June lets go of the fact that people don’t have to be exactly the same as her to be her friend and embraces the multiple personalities that you find in a rock band, only then does she hit rock stardom. There’s such a wonderful sense of June thinking she knows exactly what she’s going to get out of Camp Decibelle but she comes away almost enlightened, dropping all the superficial desires of walking out on stage as part of the greatest rock band in history and instead finding the heart of rock.

Refreshing is definitely the word for this book and Elisa Ludwig has created an incredibly authentic journey through rock as well as an incredibly authentic journey through life. I’ve experienced firsthand the excitement and anxiety of going to music camps, all the challenges and transitions that you go through as a person, so I can definitely vouch for the realism of June of Rock. It was so good to go through all that again with such a great character and I really hope this is not the last I’ll read from Elisa Ludwig.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Review: We Can Be Heroes - Catherine Bruton

*NEW*
Extent: 400 pages
Publisher: Egmont
Pub Date: 1st August 2011

My dad was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. But the stuff in this book isn't about that. It's about the summer my mum went away. The summer that me and Jed and Priti tried to catch a suicide bomber and prevent an honour killing. There's stuff about how we built a tree house and joined the bomb squad; how I found my dad and Jed lost his; and how we both lost our mums then found them again. So it's not really about 9/11 but, then again, none of those things would have happened if it hadn't been for that day. So I guess it's all back to front, sort of...


I read this in the build up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and it did everything to remind me how I should feel about those terrible events, how I need to fight intolerance with tolerance, hatred with friendship and prejudice with open mindedness. I know I’m sounding a bit preachy now but this is honestly how I felt after reading this book, it’s a real affirmation.

Some authors are just so adept at getting inside the head of a kid and talking through their mouths and Catherine Bruton has definitely earned that accolade, it’s almost as if she taped 11-13 year olds and transcribed their dialogue, it is that pitch perfect. Ben makes a really endearing character to walk through this story with and I love the way his imagination mostly takes place in the form of doodles and cartoon strips. I think my favourite character, however, has to be Priti with her verbal diarrhoea and lack of restraint in what she says. She’s a real say-as-you-find character that both Ben and his cousin Jed really need to work through their problems. Boys tend to bottle up their feelings but with Priti around this is just not allowed so she is really an undercover therapist for the other characters.

Perhaps the most effective aspect of the book is the way that on the surface there’s a real sense of pre-teen adventure but simmering below are a lot of pretty hardcore and relevant issues, most notably hostility towards Muslims. I really appreciate the sharp contrast between the explicit racism of the older characters (Ben’s uncle and grandfather) and the unabashed acceptance of the younger characters. Ben never comments on Priti’s background, he gets to know her and her family as he would any other person and accepts them as his friends without any judgement. His uncle and grandfather, however, immediately dig a racist trench to wage a war of prejudice before they have even made the effort to know their neighbours. The mad thing is, Ben is the one that of all of them should be prejudiced but is exactly the opposite. It’s awful to think that this goes on in Britain but you know it does and Catherine Bruton really smacks you round the face with it. Better to confront it in a book for teens than do the British thing and ignore it.

We Can Be Heroes is such an effective and enjoyable book written incredibly well in a style that completely avoids forcing an opinion on the reader. Catherine Bruton simply puts the situation out there for you to react to it in your own way, although she’ll make you squirm with shame along the way. She has so successfully captured the realities of these issues that it’s hard not to worry but makes me grateful that I was brought up to be like Ben. There are so many different reactions to racism in the book – violence, dismissal, encouragement – but I have to say I like Priti’s reaction the best: to outwit it. She definitely has the most mature attitude despite the fact that she’s the youngest character!


Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Wishlist Diet #10

*The Wishlist Diet is part of the In My Mailbox meme hosted by The Story Siren*

To Read:


TimeRiders: Day of the Predator by Alex Scarrow
The Crimson Shard by Teresa Flavin
Snow White and the Alien by Artemis Hunt

To Review:


We Can Be Heroes by Catherine Bruton
June of Rock by Elisa Ludwig
POD by Stephen Wallenfels

Well, I thought it was time to get back to the TimeRiders this week, so I'm going to read the second book in the series, Day of the Predator. I'll also be reading The Crimson Shard in preparation for my first ever blog tour with Teresa Flavin at the start of October, big woot! Finally, this week I'll also be reading Snow White and the Alien which just sounds plain mad but intriguing nonetheless!

To review, completely by accident I will be posting my review of We Can Be Heroes, which is very topical considering what day it is today. Also to look out for on my blog this week will be fantastic June of Rock and the gripping POD...

So, what's in your mailbox this week?