Monday 28 February 2011

I want to read that...

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

From Goodreads: Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

I adore Alyxandra Harvey's Drake Chronicles so I am really looking forward to this one!

It's published June (US) and July (UK).

Saturday 26 February 2011

In My Mailbox (80)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren


Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting
This series sounds so good!

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (proof)
er..Squeeeee!  I loved If I Stay so I can't wait to read this one.

Evercrossed by Elizabeth Chandler
I need to read the first one in this series - they sound amazing!

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
I love the cover for this one - and it sounds awesome!

Virals by Kathy Reichs
This sounds great!  I have high expectations for it:)

The Taker by by Alma Katsu
I read an extract of this one on the author's website and can't wait to read the rest.

Mermaid by by Carolyn Turgeon
I hadn't heard of this one before but it sounds really good.

Thank you to the publishers who have sent books for review:)


Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer
I'm reading this as part of the contempts challenge - and have already heard some great things about it.

Lucas by Kevin Brooks
Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks
The Road of the Dead by Kevin Brooks
I loved iBoy and am really looking forward to reading more.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
I love the sound of this one:)  It looks like it could be great fun.

Hope you all had a good week:)

Thursday 24 February 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Blog Tour)

For Review: Puffin (Razor Bill) Published 3 March 2011
From Goodreads: A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

This is one of those books that I just had to read - as soon as it hit my radar I knew I wanted to read it.  Did it live up to those expectations?  Hell yes!

Across the Universe has on of the most gripping openings I have read for a long time.  The first chapter is amazing and I steamed through the first 100 pages without even realising it.  It really sets the scene and builds up the characters.  The following 300 pages increase the intensity - I literally couldn't put this book down.  I had to know what was going on!

I really loved the author's writing - how she alternates the story between Amy and Elder, her descriptions and dialogue.  It so pleasant to read, and it made the story really flow.  I really enjoyed seeing this 'world' through Amy's eyes and then seeing it contrasted through Elder's - how he has not known any different and then his realisation that things are not right.

The characters in this are just brilliant.  I loved Amy straight away.  She's forced to make a very difficult decision at the beginning of the book and I really admired her choice.  I also liked her determination to find out the truth and protect her parents.  It would have been easy for her to cower and hide but she doesn't - I had to admire her for that.  Elder comes across as kind and sweet - but lonely -  so it was easy to understand why he would be drawn to Amy.  I thought they had good chemistry and were actually quite similar.

There is a really good mystery element to this too.  I had no idea who was behind it all and the revelation at the end was a bit of a shock.  In hindsight though - the signs really were there!  But on top of all that we slowly discover all the lies that everyone on the ship have been told - and find out what is really going on.  I can't wait to see where things go from here and am eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Sneak Peek: In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda

YA Cover / Adult Cover

From Goodreads: One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, and don't steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn't there. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. In a book that takes a true story and shapes it into a beautiful piece of fiction, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah's remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum aged fifteen. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of dangerous border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, find help from an Italian family and meet Fabio Geda, with whom he became friends. The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah's engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda's subtly simple storytelling. In Geda's hands, Enaiatollah's journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.

This sounds soooo good! It's published in July 2011, but for those of you who can't wait that long here is a sneak peek for you to enjoy:)

In The Sea There Are Crocodiles Extract

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Review & Interview: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (Blog Tour)

For Review: Mira Ink.  Published January 2011
From Goodreads: Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

I have been looking forward to reading this one for ages.  I kept reading great reviews for it so as soon as I heard it was being published in the UK I knew I had to read it straight away.

The story is centered around Meghan.  Her father disappeared when she was young and her mother has now remarried.  She doesn't really fit in at school, her mother and step-father seem oblivious to her, but she dotes on her baby brother Ethan.  But when he begins acting strange,  Meghan's whole life is turned upside down and she learns the truth of who she really is...

I really liked Meghan.  I thought she was easy to relate to and I like how determined she is.   As for Puck and Ash - I loved them both and no I cannot decide who I like the best!  Puck is fun and I loved his humour, whereas Ash is very mysterious and brooding - I found myself very intrigued by him!  And I adored Grimalkin - for me he pretty much stole every scene he was in!

I also really loved the mythology and the idea behind the faery world.  It felt unique and original and I really enjoyed discovering it all alongside Meghan.  So much happens in the book - I thought it all  felt rather epic actually - and I really enjoyed the ending.  It sets up the next book perfectly!

I went into this one expecting more of a paranormal book but (for me at least) it was more fantasy - not a bad thing - it just made it different then I was expecting.  It kind of reminded me of a cross between the films The Princess Bride and Labyrinth but with faeries!  I really liked that it was dark but also had humour in it, and Julie Kagawa has a very descriptive writing style that makes the faery world come alive.

I'm really looking forward to reading  The Iron Daughter.  I have a few suspicions for what I think may happen in future installments so I am very excited to find out if I am right!  And, of course,  I'm eagerly awaiting more Ash and Puck!


As part of her UK blog tour, Julie Kagawa kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions...

How did you come up with the idea for the Iron Fey series?
Faeries, the old, ancient fey, not the glittery winged sprites, have always fascinated me. But I wanted to write a book that was different than other faery books. So I began thinking: what are the fey afraid of? The answer, in most ancient mythos, is iron. Faeries can’t stand the touch of iron and steel. So, what if there was a new type of fey that had evolved with progress over the years? What if they weren’t only immune to iron, their existence was slowly poisoning and corrupting the lands of the traditional fey? And I realized we already have “monsters” in machines: gremlins, bugs, viruses, ect. And from that thought, the Iron fey were born.

How many books are planned? And can you give us any hints for what's in store for the characters?
There are four books in the Iron Fey series. And no hints from me, lol! That would just be spoilery, and who wants that? ;-)

I really loved Puck and Ash! Do you have a favourite character from the series?
I have to say my favourite character is Ash, because I have a thing for dark, brooding bad boys who can wield pointy weapons. But Grimalkin runs a very, very close second.

What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any 'must haves' before you can sit down to write?
I try to write at least 1000-1200 words a day. And I must have caffeine while writing, otherwise I turn into a snarling, cranky monster and all my characters die.

Are there any YA books you can recommend? Perhaps something you read recently that really blew you away?
I love Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (mostly because of a certain dark assassin). I just finished Firelight by Sophie Jordan and really enjoyed it. And I devour anything by Neil Gaiman, who is my author hero.

Thanks Julie! I loved Grimalkin too:)

To find out more about The Iron King and for information on forthcoming releases from Mira Ink you can visit their website

Also, Mira Ink and the Sunday Express have teamed up to give away 1,000 free eBooks of The Iron King - see here for details.

Monday 21 February 2011

I want to read that....

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

From Goodreads:  From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

I love the sound of this! Sounds like it could be really funny:)

It's published (in the US) May 2011 by Scholastic Press.

Sunday 20 February 2011

In My Mailbox (78) & (79)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren


Forsaken by Jana Oliver
I am reading this one right now and wow!  Loving it:)

Night Star by Alyson Noel
Can't wait to find out what happen next for Ever and Damon:)

Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin
I love the look of this one - definitely my kind of book I think:)

You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin
This looks so good!  And completely different from anything else I've read.  Looking forward to it:)

Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth by Chris Priestley
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley
I love the new covers for these and they sound great!

The Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip
This sounds awesome and I've heard great things about her books.

The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew
Sounds scary!  But great:)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume 3 by Christopher Golden, Nancy Holder, Kirsten Beyer
Buffy! Enough said!

Ominous by Kate Brian
I like the look of this series.  Anyone know if I can start with this one?

Rosebush by Michelle Jaffe
This looks gorgeous - love the cover! 

I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
I adore Lois Duncan!  SO pleased they are re-releasing her books.

Red Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
... er squeeeee!  I sooooo want to read this!  And watch the film!

A massive thank you to all the publishers who sent books for review:)


Soulless by Gail Carriger Soulless
Changeless by Gail Carriger
Blameless by Gail Carriger
3 for £5?  Yep so there:)  I've been hearing great things about these!

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
I've  wanted to read this for ages.  Really looking forward to it:)

The Autumn Palace by Ebony McKenna
I really enjoyed the first in the series.  Can't wait to get stuck into this one:)

Shadowspell by Jenna Black
How much to I love the covers to this series!  Soooo pretty!

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann
I've heard such great things about this book and I loved Wake.

Hope you all had a great week:)

Saturday 19 February 2011

Cover Wars: Graveminder by Melissa Marr

I'm not sure I can choose this week - I really like them both.  I love the colours for the UK one - it reminds me a bit of a stain glass window - and I love the blurry image and font on the US one. Hmmm...

UK   /   US

Here is the synopsis:

From Goodreads:  The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn’t a funeral that Maylene didn’t attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place—and the man—she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D—a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.

Which do you prefer? 

Friday 18 February 2011

Author Interview: Sybil Nelson

Sybil Nelson is the author of the marvelous Priscilla the Great.  You can read my review for it here.  Sybil kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions...

What was the inspiration behind Priscilla The Great?
I wanted to create a character with a strong voice and the ability to take on the world. I wanted to show that girls don’t always have to be the one to be saved or wait for the boys to have all the adventures. From the start, Priscilla was always a take charge kind of girl, but the wonderful thing about her is that she is still a girl. She may prefer a Marvel comic book over the latest issue of Glamour magazine but she still has a feminine side. She’s fun, she sassy, and she’s adorable. She’s just one hot little girl.

I loved Priscilla! She has such a great voice! How did you come up with her character?
I was a high school math teacher for 9 years and Priscilla is a combination of two of my students. Her personality is based on a quirky fourteen year old girl named Helen who would come to class every day and tell me about some weird thing that could only happen to her. Priscilla looks like another student of mine named Ellen. You can actually see her in the book trailer I made.

Do you have a favourite scene from the book that you can share with us?
I think my favorite scene has to do with Priscilla’s twin little brothers Charlie and Chester. They are hilarious little trouble makers. When they help Priss catch Stefanie in a lie it’s laugh out loud funny. I really don’t know how in the world I came up with that chapter! I actually have a collection of short stories all about the devil twins called Twins Shorts. You can buy it for 99 cents (74 pence) at Amazon. A close second is when Priscilla tricks Kyle into buying her feminine products. It still makes me smile when I read it.

I'm really looking forward to the next book. Can you tell us more about it?
In the next book, the Sumner family is in hiding. We learn more about the Selliwood institute and what Colonel Selliwood has planned as they try to defeat him through several clandestine missions. We get to know more about Marco and Katya who were introduced at the end of book 1. Also, Josh’s vision of what Tai does to Priscilla comes true. The funniest scene in book 2, in my opinion, involves Priss’ father and the lingerie department at Walmart. Don’t miss it!

How many books do you plan for the series?
There are five books total right now. I also have ideas for a three book series for Tai, a five book series for the twins and a two book series for Josh. Those are only ideas right now. Nothing has been written for those yet.

What is your favourite aspect of being a writer? And the most challenging?
My favorite aspect is bringing to life all these ideas and characters in my head. I could literally hear Priscilla having conversations in my mind and she just wouldn’t shut up until I started writing. The most challenging I think is promotion. It’s hard getting the word out about my book. I’m basically doing it all alone which is even more difficult because I’m currently working on a PhD in Biostatistics and trying to take care of my husband and two kids. I’m hoping that word about Priscilla the Great will spread and that it will catch on. My agent sold the movie rights to the series last year and they just modified it to a TV show option instead. I’m hoping that the TV show will get picked up and that Priscilla will become as popular as she deserves to be.

Did you always intend on becoming a writer?
I think my love of writing emerged from my love of books. I was absolutely addicted to books as a child. I loved falling into a story and surrounding myself in the characters. I wanted to create worlds like that as well. There are so many untold stories out there and I wanted to tell them. Unfortunately, when I went to university, I got discouraged in my writing. I ended up switching from an English and Journalism major to a math and music major. I got back into writing when I became a teacher. My students inspired me.

What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any 'must haves' before you can sit down to write?
Typically, I wake up around 7 and make breakfast for my family. My little girls and I like to have a dance party in the kitchen while I cook. Then I try to do something educational with my five and three year olds, maybe work some math problems or read a book. Then I leave my kids with my husband as I go off to school. I’m in class for three or four hours occasionally taking out my writing notebook and jotting down ideas for my next book in between solving math problems. After class I usually tutor a high school student in math. On most days when I get home it’s my husband’s turn to go to work. On other days, he is off and we get to spend the evening together. In either case, after I check email and try to do some book promotion stuff online, it’s time to make dinner which calls for another dance party with the girls. (yeah, there’s a lot of dancing in my house.) After the kids go to bed, I put in a couple of hours doing math work and then it’s time to work on my writing. My ‘must have’ for writing is a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate M&M’s. They really hit the spot. I also have soundtracks for each book I write that get me in the mood for that book. I usually write until I’ve listened to the specific playlist in its entirety.

At about midnight, it’s time for more online book promotion which usually involves seeking out fabulous bloggers like yourself! When I tire of that, I take out a book and read until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore.

Who are some of your favourite authors? Are there any books you would recommend?
I have a very varied taste in literature. Every phase in my life is marked by a different genre of books. I went through a Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club phase when I was little, then I went through a VC Andrews and Harlequin teen romance phase, and then I was completely addicted to English literature and read the complete works of Jane Austen and Shakespeare one summer. My favorite book in high school was Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. A really good book for younger readers is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I actually taught at the high school she attended in South Carolina USA. I guess I really must have loved that book!

I love Michael Crichton, Tom Wolfe, Jaqueline Woodson, and I absolutely adore Phillippa Gregory. I thought The Constant Princess was amazing and romantic. And I couldn’t stop reading The Other Boleyn Girl.

Right now I’m going through a YA phase, probably because that’s the genre I write. I’m reading the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter, I enjoyed Matched by Ally Condie, I loved Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. “Priscilla” actually wrote a blog about why she must marry Percy Jackson. Oh, I also love Meg Cabot. I thought Avalon High was so clever. And I like her Heather Wells series. If I could be as prolific as Meg Cabot, it would be a dream come true.

Okay, I better stop now. As you can see, I read a lot. I could keep going for pages about my favorite books.

Thanks Sybil!  I LOVE the scene where Kyle is tricked into buying that stuff!  And Priscilla's brothers are ace! 

If you haven't read it yet you can check out Priscilla's guest post here where she tells us her ten top reasons why she should marry Percy Jackson!

And don't forget to check out her website here:)

Thursday 17 February 2011

Guest Post: Priscilla Summer aka Priscilla the Great

Priscilla, from Priscilla the Great is here to... well I'll let her explain...

Top Ten Reasons Why I Have to Marry Percy Jackson

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long but I finally read Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan. Maybe it’s because I have the movie on my Netflicks queue and if there is a movie out that was originally a book, my dad makes me read the book before I’m allowed to see it. Parents and their rules. It’s almost as bad as their No-Roasting-Your-Baby-Brothers rule even when they totally deserve it.

Anyway, I loved the book. What is more, is that I am now completely head over heels in love with Percy Jackson. He may even take the place of Ryan Reynolds. Wait, maybe I’ll just have different categories for real boys and fictional boys. Yeah, that’ll work.

So here it goes. The top ten reasons why Percy and I belong together.

1. First of all, there’s the obvious. Percy controls the water and I can shoot fire out of my fingers. He will really come in handy when I accidently set fire to the couch or something.

2. Then there’s the name thing. Percy, Prissy, Percy, Prissy. Can our names get anymore similar? Prissy Jackson just sounds right.

3. Neither one of us are the best student in school. Yeah, we could both use a little help with the book smarts. But we’re awesome at using our powers.

4. Percy is not allowed to fly because Zeus might kill him. Well, I have an invisible jet. Come take a ride with me, Percy. Zeus will never know!

5. We’re both not completely human. He’s the son of a god and a human. I inherited some genetically engineered advancements.

6. We’re both goal oriented people. He’s on a mission to find Zeus’ lightning bolt. I’m on a mission to find out where I really come from.

7. We’re both heroes! He’s like a real hero in the true mythological sense. I’m like a superhero because I kick some serious bad guy butt.

8. We’re both super creative in battle. When he uses reverse psychology or whatever to defeat Crusty (Procrustes) at the water bed place was kind of how I used a “Prissy Fit” to defeat Specimen Delta!

9. We both have awesome sidekicks that will totally get along. I can already imagine Tai trying to study Annabeth’s baseball cap and trying to recreate it.

10. We’re the same age so I won’t have the same legal issues that I might with Ryan Reynolds. Sorry, Ryan. I still love you though.

So there you have it. Ten perfectly logical reasons why I should marry Percy Jackson. Go ahead and give me a call, Percy. I’ll be waiting.

To see if you agree, read Priscilla the Great today!

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Priscilla The Great by Sybil Nelson

For Review: Sybil Nelson.  Published December 2010
From Goodreads:  Meet Priscilla Sumner, an ordinary seventh grader with extraordinary gifts. As if middle school isn’t hard enough, not only does Priscilla have to fight pimples and bullies, but genetically enhanced assassins trying to kill her and her family. Armed with wit, strength, and a genius best friend, Priscilla must defeat the Selliwood Institute, an organization dead set on turning children into killing machines.

Add an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle and expect a smoking page-turner!

How much do I love this book? The story follows Priscilla, who unexpectedly discovers she is able to shoot fire from her fingertips.   Now,  if only she could control this power - and the other gifts she seems to be developing - because she's going to need them...

Priscilla is just completely ace! I adored her voice - she is so witty, snarky and fun I couldn’t help but like her (loved the Prissy fits!). Her friend Tai is the best sidekick – beyond intelligent but relatable too. And Kyle is so adorable and cute!  I really love his relationship with Priscilla.   Her family are great as well.   Her (Christina Aguilera loving) brother Josh is really sweet and I loved how their relationship develops,  her younger twin brothers are completely mad (and ewww I can live without the snot wars!) and her father is totally overprotective but in a good, fun way.  But I think I loved her mum the best!  She kind of reminded me of a grown up Max from the TV series Dark Angel!

The book is really well paced and exciting throughout.  I finished it really quickly and could easily have read another 200 pages!  I loved all the science and background information of the Selliwood Institute and why Priscilla can do what she can.  It's believable without being too complicated (for me at least).  I also really liked the strong sense of family portrayed in the book.  It was really nice seeing the family work together, especially once everything is out in the open.

Aimed at middle grade (tweens) this can easily be enjoyed by older readers.  I loved it and am (well) out of my teens. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest in the series when they are released, especially since this one ends with a cliffhanger!  A good one though!  Great fun and highly recommended!


You can order a signed copy of Priscilla the Great through the author's website (here) which can be sent internationally.  It's also available at (in paperback & Kindle) and (Kindle).

Priscilla has her own website here where you can read extracts from the books in the series, watch the trailer etc.

Also, check back tomorrow for a guest post from Priscilla herself where she gives us the Top Ten reasons why she should marry Percy Jackson!

And on Friday Sybil Nelson will be stopping by to answer a few of my questions.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Author Interview: Phil Earle

Phil Earle is the author of Being Billy, which was published by Puffin on 6 January 2011.  You can read my review for it here.  Phil kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions...

What prompted you to write Being Billy?
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but in the mid 1990's I worked as a care worker in a couple of children's homes. The kids I looked after ranged from babies to teenagers, and it's fair to say their stories left a deep impression on me.

It was heartbreaking to see so many of them struggle to find either long-term fostering or adoptive homes. Many of them felt like prisoners in the system and found themselves institutionalised by their time in care.

By the time opportunities came up for them to be part of a 'normal' family set-up, they were often unable to adapt and found the placements dissolving within months.

It was this predicament that influenced Billy's story. For the past ten years I've been unable to shake how it must feel to be rejected by two different sets of parents by the age of ten. I mean, how would that make you see the world, or indeed yourself?

I adored both Billy and Ronnie. What were the influences behind their characters?
When I first started writing the book I hadn't planned for Ronnie to be such a big part of it, or for his and Billy's relationship to play out the way it does. I found that as the draft developed, Ronnie featured more and more, and the more I wrote about him, the more I liked him.

He was inspired by other guys that I worked with in the homes. A lot of ex-military folk worked there. Maybe it was something about the regimented, ordered way of life in a home that attracted them, perhaps it wasn't dissimilar to their first careers in the forces.

As the book took shape, I loved the fact that Billy and Ronnie were actually a lot more similar than either of them had realised, in many ways they are the flip side of the same coin.....

Billy is a mad old mash-up of many children that I met over the years. His story isn't the same as any of theirs, but his anger, spirit and resilience certainly is. They were extraordinary and I feel lucky to have known them.

The book really packs an emotional punch and made me cry buckets! What was the easiest/hardest part for you to write?
I don't know whether to feel gratified or guilty that the book has caused so many tears. I didn't set out to write a tear-jerker, I just wanted to be as honest about these children's lives as I could, and the truth is, their lives are emotional.

A difficult part was the 'review' scene, where Billy is sat in a meeting with carers and social workers, who are planning out his next year for him. It was difficult to find a balance where the social workers aren't shown as one dimensional characters. Every time I had dealings with them I found them to be dedicated and committed, but as the story is seen through Billy's eyes, it had to be his truth I was telling. It was a hard balancing act.

The scenes I loved writing most were the boxing scenes with Billy and the Colonel. I grew up addicted to films like Rocky and The Karate Kid (guilty pleasures, both) so it gave me a real buzz to get stuck into some sparring!

I can't not mention the separation scene as well, when the twins are finally taken away. I knew it was going to be one of the big emotional peaks, and it certainly turned out to be one for me as well as people reading it now.

I loved how authentic Billy's voice was. How did you set about achieving this?
I don't know really. I'm new to writing, and didn't do a lot of planning before getting stuck into a first draft. I wrote a loose two page synopsis before starting, but didn't make myself stick to it. If I started to veer off I just went with it.

I think the important thing is that I wrote quickly, every day practically, until the first draft was done. When you're writing every day, it's a lot easier to stay inside your characters head. Leave it a week and you have to read back what you've previously done to make sure it's consistent.

What inspired you to become a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
I didn't know I wanted to write until I was 26 years old (I'm now 36). I can remember where I was when I made the decision, as I was working as a bookseller for Ottakar's in Putney. I was sat listening to Celia Rees talking to a class of kids in the shop and an idea came to me. I was so inspired by the way she talked that I thought I'd give it a whirl.

As a kid I barely read. I played a lot of sport and loved being in plays, but reading was mostly comics and terrible novelisations of films like 'Predator' (how embarrassing). Comics definitely helped though as it's such a pure form of story-telling, you cant afford to waste a single word.

Was it a conscious decision to write YA?
Not at first. The first story I had a go at was for 8-12 year olds, a mixture of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton called 'Cotton Bud', about a kid whose parents were so over-protective that they literally wrapped him in cotton wool. Friends and family were really impressed and supportive. Agents and editors? Not quite as enthusiastic, and rightly so!

Billy was the second book I tried to write, and as I'd read so much YA over the years it felt like the natural place to go.

I understand you are a big fan of children's books. Are there any books or authors you would highly recommend?
I find it difficult to read outside of children's books now. In part because I work for a children's publishers, but also because it's the the genre that excites me most.

It's hard to pinpoint any one book or author, but I am a huge fan of Kevin Brooks (Martyn Pig and iBoy in particular), S.E. Hinton (everyone should be bought a copy of 'The Outsiders'), Keith Gray is a brilliant storyteller, as are Jenny Downham and Siobhan Dowd. It's a brilliant time to be reading YA.....

What's next for you?
I'm going to spend as much time over the next few months as I can talking to schools about 'Billy" (I love doing school events) and have just finished writing about Daisy, who appears in 'Being Billy'.

It's not a sequel - it explains how she gets to where she is when she meets Billy, so it's a prequel if anything.

Anyone who has enjoyed 'Being Billy' will appreciate the references in it, but new readers will hopefully get hooked independently....well, at least I hope they will!

Thanks Phil!  I'm really looking forward to reading Daisy's story:)

Monday 14 February 2011

Being Billy by Phil Earle

For Review: Puffin.  Published January 2011
From Goodreads: Faces flashed before my eyes. And for every face there was a time that they had let me down. Each punch that landed was revenge, my chance to tell them I hadn't forgotten what they did.

Eight years in a care home makes Billy Finn a professional lifer. And Billy's angry - with the system, the social workers, and the mother that gave him away. As far as Billy's concerned, he's on his own. His little brother and sister keep him going, though they can't keep him out of trouble. But he isn't being difficult on purpose. Billy's just being Billy. He can't be anything else. Can he?

This really is such a great book! I apologise in advance for my (rather) gushing review but I really did love it.

The story follows Billy, a boy who has been in care for the past 8 years, a 'lifer' as he calls it.  He's angry with everyone - the only meaning in his life are his younger brother and sister.  Then one night he runs into a girl called Daisy and they develop a friendship.  As he starts to open up to her he begins to learn that people do care...and that he cares too...

Phil Earle's writing in this is spot on and the voice he gives to Billy is remarkably authentic.  Not only did I absolutely adore his character but his story made me reconsider all the things I take for granted - having a home, having parents who have always been there for me, knowing that I am loved by them - there are just so many things that just are that I haven't really thought it might not be the case for everybody.  No,  that's not completely true.  I think I know that's the case but by making Billy so real, it makes it heartbreaking to realise that there are many, many kids out there just like him.

So I admit I cried A LOT reading this but please believe me when I say there is humour present too.  I loved how Billy is constantly trying to wind Ronnie up!  But Billy's story really struck a cord with me.  I can't even begin to understand what it must be like - to essentially be rejected not once but twice, and all before you are 15 years old.  To be told:  yes you are wanted and then no, sorry you are not.  Back to care you go.  It made me really sad (and angry) but I also began to understand why this might happen.  How do you go from living in care  - where everything is decided for you, with  a bunch of other kids and people who look after you on shifts and then go home to their 'real' family - to being part of a family where suddenly you are supposed to fit in and make all these choices, to really believe that someone cares?  I wondered if that's why Billy calls himself a lifer?  Because he knows he will never have anything else?

I loved taking Billy's journey with him.  At the start he's angry with everyone - constantly lashing out and refusing to let anyone close.  His lifeline is his brother and sister and you really see how different he is with them, how caring and vulnerable.  The addition of Daisy in his life seems to change all that anger and their friendship seems to open him up and make a real difference.  I also loved his relationship with Ronnie and how that changes and develops over the course of the novel.  If I had to criticise, there was one aspect of the story that felt a little too coincidental for my liking, but at the same time it did get Billy to the place he needs to be.  The pay-off made it worth it so to speak!

What I really enjoyed about this book, as well as everything I mentioned above, was how all the characters felt real.  Ronnie, Daisy, Billy's brother and sister, his mother -  I felt completely invested in all of them.  I think Phil Earle's experience working in a care home really added to this novel by giving us insight into not just Billy but also in the characters that surround him.  A truly awesome debut and I'm really looking forward to reading more by this author.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Low Red Moon by Ivy Devlin

For Review: Bloomsbury.  Published 3 February 2011
From Goodreads: 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?

Having already been recommended this one I was excited to read it.  It also looks stunning:  the cover is a lovely (shiny)  red and the inside has little tree designs at the bottom of each page and at the beginning of each chapter.  Also,  the word 'moon' is always printed in red, which for some reason I just loved!

The story follows Avery.  Her parents have been brutally murdered and despite being found with her parents bodies she has no recollection of what happened that night - except that she saw a flash of silver. Forced to live with her grandmother Renee, someone she hasn't spoken to in a while, she finds herself completely lost.  When she meets the new boy Ben, she feels an instant attraction.  But when she see his eyes flash silver she begins to doubt whether she can really trust him...

I loved Avery from the start.  You can really feel her grief for her parents and how lost she feels.  I also liked how she seemed content to be her own person and not worry about 'fitting in'.  Despite the relationship between her and Ben starting very quickly and being quiet intense I really liked it.  I liked that he came across as mysterious but kind, and I thought the two has really good chemistry. 

The mystery element - who murdered her parents - was my favourite aspect of the story.  I loved how Avery remembered bits and pieces - and how this made her doubt who she should trust.  I had no idea who was going to be responsible and the final reveal was definitely a shock.  And quite scary too!

I also liked the writing. It felt very atmospheric, and creepy.  The author does a great job in amalgamating all the story elements together.  Avery's loss feels very real, the mystery very clever and the paranormal aspect fitted in and didn't feel out of place.  I thought it all meshed very well.  The only thing I would say is that there were times when I had to re-read certain passages to understand what was going on.  I got a little confused and muddled - but as I did read this one late at night it could have just been me!

I get the impression that this may be the first in a series.  I certainly hope so - I really like the world created and would love to catch up with the characters.

Friday 11 February 2011

I want to read that...

Love Story by Jennifer Echols

From Goodreads:

Erin Blackwell is headed to college in New York City to study creative writing and earn a living as a romance novelist. Her grandmother has other plans: she approves of the college, but she wants Erin to major in business and then come back home to Kentucky to run the family’s famous racehorse farm. There is no way Erin will agree. Studying in New York and writing her way into a career is her escape from the farm and the family tragedy that happened there. So Erin’s grandmother decides Erin really will live life as a starving artist. She takes Erin’s future job running the farm, her inheritance, even her college tuition, and gives them all to Hunter Allen.

Hunter has lived on the farm for years. He’s Erin’s age, he’s the stable boy, and he’s the romantic dream of every girl in her high school. But he was involved in the family tragedy. Erin has always given him a wide berth. And he’s a slick opportunist. She’s furious that he fooled her grandmother into giving him Erin’s birthright and sending him to Erin’s college.

At least she’s free of him in her creative writing class. So she pens a story that has haunted her lately, in which the horse farm heiress at the very first Kentucky Derby starts a forbidden affair with the lowly stable boy. Unfortunately for her, the day she’s sharing this story with her New York classmates, Hunter walks in. He’s switching to her class. And after reading about himself in Erin’s story, he writes his own sexy assignments that lure Erin into dangerous fantasies about what could have been between them, and what might be.

I love, love, love Jennifer Echols so I am sooooooooooo looking forward to this one!  It's published July 2011.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Gladiator: Fight For Freedom. Extract & Trailer

From Goodreads: It's Rome, 61 BC. Recruited as a gladiator, young Marcus Cornelius Primus faces a new life of brutal training, governed by strict rules, as he learns the skills of an elite warrior. But Marcus cannot simply forget his past. His father lies murdered by soldiers and his mother has been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Marcus is determined to find his father's old commander, Pompeius the Great, to seek justice for his family and set his mother free. Yet, unbeknown to him, Marcus is hiding a life-threatening secret. And if the Romans discover it, there will be no escape...

I think this sounds great! It's Simon Scarrow's first Young Adult novel and I've heard it brilliant!

Check out the trailer below:

And if that's not enough to tempt you - here is the first chapter for you to read:)

Gladiator CHAPTER ONE Extract[1]

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

For Review: Bantam Press. Published November 2010
From Goodreads:  When New York City jewelry designer Garet James stumbles into a strange antiques shop in her neighborhood, her life is about to be turned upside down. John Dee, the enigmatic shopkeeper, commissions her to open a vintage silver box for a generous sum of money. Oddly, the symbol of a swan on the box exactly matches the ring given to her by her deceased mother. Garet can’t believe her luck and this eerie coincidence until she opens the box and otherworldly things start happening. . . .

That evening, the precious silver box is stolen. When Garet begins to investigate, she learns that she has been pulled into a prophecy that is hundreds of years old, and opening the box has unleashed an evil force onto the streets of Manhattan and the world at large. Gradually, Garet pieces together her true identity—one that her deceased mother desperately tried to protect her from. Generations of women in Garet’s family, including her beloved mother, suffered and died at the hands of this prevailing evil. Does Garet possess the power to reclaim the box and defeat this devastating force?

On her journey, she will meet the fey folk who walk unnoticed among humans and a sexy vampire who also happens to be a hedge fund manager that she can’t stop thinking about. But the fairies reveal a desire to overpower mere humans and the seductive vampire has the power to steal the life from her body. Whom can Garet trust to guide her? Using her newfound powers and sharp wit, Garet will muster everything she’s got to shut down the evil taking over her friends, family, New York City, and the world.

Black Swan Rising is the first in a planned trilogy that promises to be a great series.  It also has great cross-over appeal to YA readers.  It follows Garet, a jewelry designer who stumbles across an antiques shop.  Inside she meets a mysterious man who asks her to help him open a silver box.  Intrigued she accepts his offer but finds that not all is what it seems.  In fact,  there is a whole world she didn't know existed...and somehow she is part of it...

I really enjoyed reading this book.  The pace is different to most YA books I read, where you find yourself thrown straight into the action.  Instead this one started gradually - full of description and creating a strong foundation for the series.  I loved how it was written.  You can really see the literary roots in the authors writing (Lee Carroll is a pseudonym for Carol Goodman and Lee Slonimsky) giving this an elegant, classy feel.  It was also incredibly atmospheric and I found myself really getting lost in it.

I loved the characters.  Garet was a great narrator of the story.  Slightly too trusting perhaps but I instantly liked her and found her past very intriguing.  You got more and more information as the story progressed, and with it you saw Garet go from strength to strength.   Her friends Jay and Becky were well fleshed out and I hope they appear more in the next installment.  Oberon and Will Hughes were awesome!  I couldn't work out whether I should trust either and I'm still not sure.  As for Lol - my favourite character by far!

I can't wait to see what happens next and am eagerly anticipating  The Watchtower when it's released later this year.  I also really fancy picking up some other books by Carol Goodman!

Monday 7 February 2011

Book Trailer of the Month: February

Shimmer by Alyson Noel

I really like how pretty this trailer is! Also, it makes the books sound ace:)  It's published March 2011.

Sunday 6 February 2011

In My Mailbox (76) & (77)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren


Awakened by PC and Kristen Cast (Audio book)
I love audio books!  I really need to catch up with this series!

Wood Angel by Erin Bow
Rockoholic by C J Skuse
Plus a Curly Wurly bar - awesome! - which isn't in the photo because..yes..I ate it!  Both books look fab and I've heard awesome things about Rockoholic.

Glee: Foreign Exchange by Sophia Lowell

The 10pm Question by Kate de Goldi
This sounds ace!  Looking forward to reading it. (opps just realised it's missing from the picture - I knew I'd forget one.)

Milo and the Restart Button by Alan Silberberg
This looks sooooo good!

My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent (Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!)
I love the UK covers for this series and I can't wait to read this one - more Nash:)

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!)
I.Can't.Wait.To.Read.This!  Looks soooooooo good! Fancy a taster - check out the first chapter & trailer here.

I was really lucky to be invited to a Simon & Schuster event on Thursday.  Such a fab event!  Massive thanks to the S&S team and the authors who came:) And it was lovely to catch up with everyone who came:) *waves*

I also picked up these lovelies:

Raising Demons by Rachel Hawkins (Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!)
13 Secrets by Michelle Harrison (I loved 13 Treasures so looking forward to this!)
Daughters of Darkness by Virginia Andrews (sounds great!)
Dark Secrets 3: The Back Door of Midnight by Elizabeth Chandler (sounds awesome!)
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (I've heard great things about this one)
The Cursed Ones by Nancy Holder & Debbie Viguie (Vampires! Looks great!)
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Zombies! Love Zombies:) )
Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen (looks really good - and it's Zombies!  See above!)


Awakening by Kelley Armstrong

Song Quest by Katherine Roberts (Squee! - I loved this book! You can read my review here)
Incareron by Cathering Fisher (I've wanted to read this for ages!)
Priviliged by Zoey Dean (Looks like it could be good)
I found these three in a charity shop! Most impressed!

TimeRiders: The Doomsday Code by Alex Scarrow
I love this series!

Mortal Kiss by Alice Moss
I really like the look of this.  I've heard mixed reviews so am interested to see what I think.

Hope you all had a great week:)

Friday 4 February 2011

Win a signed copy of More Bloody Horowitz by Anthony Horowitz (UK only)

From Goodreads: From Anthony Horowitz, the bestselling author of "Alex Rider" and "The Power of Five", comes a collection of ten macabre tales...It may look like a book of innocent fables for nice, well-mannered boys and girls, but beneath the cosy exterior, this is Anthony Horowitz at his most wicked...Stories of ultimate revenge, from freshly sold human meat, and reality TV where death is the penalty, to a car that leads its driver to his death at an abattoir, and a snake-charmer's human curse - all told with dark humour and gruesome relish. This title is from award-winning author Anthony Horowitz, author of "Alex Rider" and "The Power of Five" - high-profile publicity opportunities through the year. The author features prominent horror-writing reputation through the highly popular, long-running TV series "Midsomer Murders". This title presents an old-fashioned cover look that belies the gruesome interior: makes for a great marketing story.

Sound good? Well thanks to Just So I have one signed copy to giveaway!

The contest is open to UK only.
Closing date is 11 February 2011
You don't need to be a follower of my blog to enter.
I will need to forward the winner's details on to my contact with Just So - so please only enter if you are happy for me to do so.

Just fill in the form below - Good Luck:)

This giveaway is now closed.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

For Review: Hodder & Stoughton.  Published 3 February 2011
From Goodreads: Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver was one of my favourite reads of 2010.  It was one of those books that I had high expectations for and it still managed to exceed them.  Delirium was exactly the same!  I absolutely loved it!

Lauren Oliver has such a beautiful writing style.  She managed to have me completely invested in the characters and story.  I adored Lena, and it is through her that the story is told as a first person narrative, which works brilliantly.  To start with Lena is convinced that the cure will be her salvation and she counts the days - waiting for the time when she will be safe.  Her friend Hana seems less convinced and it is during one of their runs together that Lena meets Alex.  Slowly the two develop a friendship which blossoms into more - and as their relationship progresses so do the cracks in Lena's wholehearted belief that the cure will save her.  Instead everything she has believed in - everything she was told - slowly unravels until there is only one truth left...

The relationship between Alex and Lena was lovely!  I loved that he was the one to see her first and how honest he was with her.  It felt sweet and gentle as opposed to the really intense romances we often get in Young Adult Fiction.  I also enjoyed how her friendship with Hana went through many changes throughout the story, and I loved Gracie! 

I don't know how to sum up how much I loved this book!  I loved how it was written, and although the pace at the beginning of the story may be too slow for some readers, I found it gave the story a gentle intensity.  It felt as if I were there with Lena every time she discovered something new to shatter what she had always been told.  You could feel her fear underneath her wonder - was she sick? Would she die?  How could how she felt be wrong?  There was just something so sinister and creepy about the idea that people could believe so strongly that what they were being forced to do was the right thing!  That a world without love, without desire could ever be a better alternative.

The ending of this makes Pandemonium an absolute must read!  It completely blew me away!  If I could have read Pandemonium the minute I had finished Delirium I would!  I really, really loved it!

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Across the Universe: Sneak Peek and Trailer

From Goodreads:
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone--one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship--tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

I am soooooo looking forward to reading this book!  It sounds amazing and I love the trailer. 

You can also check out the UK Facebook Page and become a fan - there will be an exciting competition happening there soon!

And for those of you desperate for a sneak peek you can check out the first chapter below:

Across the Universe Extract


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