Thursday 28 March 2013

Author Interview: Maggie Stiefvater

(Photo Credit: Robert Severi)
You have been hugely successful as a writer. Has your success been a surprised to you?

Well, a surprise would indicate that I had expectations! I think expectations are always a dangerous sort of thing to have in a creative career, because so much of it is out of your control. After all, it's hard to predict if your creations will resonate in an audience's mind like you hope. And hard to predict economy shifts and industry shifts and a thousand other things that affect a book's success.

But I will admit that I'd always hoped to be a successful commercial author. Even when I was a tiny little black-hearted child, that was what I hoped. So I feel very fortunate.

Was writing always something you imagined yourself doing?

I really don't remember a time when I wasn't writing, although I clearly remember a time when my writing was absolutely dreadful. I wrote this senseless fantasy full of unicorns when I was 10 or so, and I rewrote it 11 times. I don't know why it just didn't occur to me that it was entirely dreadful beyond repair.

Was it a conscious decision for you to write YA?

Somewhere along the way, I got the advice to write the books I love to read, and YA was what I was loving. It's only now that I've written quite a bit for YA that it has occurred to me that I could maybe write for younger or older audiences.

What is your favourite aspect of being a writer? And the most challenging?

My favorite part is when I get to the part of the manuscript where it all clicks. It's very rare as a writer that you get to have the same experience a reader has, but there's a part in every novel where all of the character development comes together and as I write the scenes, it feels as if I'm reading them as a reader as well. The most challenging part . . . is getting to that place where it clicks. Especially when I'm on a tight deadline or when I'm tired or traveling. Or all three.

What is a typical writing day like for you? Do you have any ‘must-haves’ before you can sit down and write?

Really, the only thing typical about a writing day for me is that I must have my headphones on or my speakers blaring, playing the music I've chosen for each book. I can write happily in any environment (people can often find me tucked away in the corner of a conference or hotel, typing away) so long as I have music.

You create the most wonderful trailers for each of your books! Have music and art always been important to you?

Ah, thanks! Yes. As a teen, I used to have weekly crises as I imagined having to choose between my art, writing, and music. Which should I pursue? I thought I had to abandon two in order to be successful at any of them. My teen self would be delighted by how I get to do all of them now.

Do you have playlists for each of your books?

I do. They're on the website:, on each book's page.

Are there any YA books you can recommend? Maybe something you read recently that just blew you away?

Code Name Verity was my favorite YA of last year. All of my recent favorites can be found here:

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I think part of being Maggie is that I am strange enough that no one is surprised by anything I say. I don't think my editor was remotely shocked by the news that I was racing cars this year.

And finally, what’s next for you?

I'm working on the rest of the Raven Cycle (it's four books), and I'm working on a collaborative middle grade project with Scholastic, and I'm working on editing the third faerie book. Also I have a secret project that I'm kicking around to see if it kicks back. Oh, and I've just begun to work on the trailer for The Dream Thieves. I'm itching to get back into the studio again.
Thanks Maggie!

You can find out more about Maggie and her books at her website or by visiting the Scholastic Website.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

I want to read that...

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

From Goodreads: Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Having read and loved Something Like Normal I am seriously looking forward to this one!

It's published September by Bloomsbury USA.

Monday 25 March 2013

Dear Zoe by Philip Beard

From Goodreads:  Philip Beard’s stunning debut novel is fifteen-year-old Tess DeNunzio’s letter to her sister, Zoe, lost to a hit-and-run driver on a day when it seemed that nothing mattered but the tragedies playing out in New York and Washington. Dear Zoe is a remarkable study of grief, adolescence, and healing with a pitch-perfect narrator who is at once sharp and naïve, world- worried and self-centered, funny and heartbreakingly honest. Tess begins her letter to Zoe as a means of figuring out her own life, her place in the world, but the result is a novel of rare power and grace that tells us much about ours.

There are some books you just fall in love with and can’t quite put your finger on why. This is definitely one of those books. I actually read it in 2011 and haven’t written the review until now – I just wasn’t convinced I could do the book the justice it deserves.

The story is written by Tess, as a letter to her sister Zoe, who is killed in a hit and run. It looks at her struggle to deal with the events of that day and is absolutely stunning. Philip Beard does an amazing job of getting into the head of a grieving 15 year old girl, and creates some wonderful characters for her to interact with.

I loved her mother and step-father and completely understood why Tess feels the way she does – especially her decision to go and stay with her father. I also adored her father – someone who, in theory, might not have been the person you rated all that highly – but in actuality is the best person to help Tess. The same with Jimmy - who she develops a relationship with – he treats her with so much care and respect and is exactly what she needs to get herself back to the place she need to be.

The author also does a brilliant job of bringing Zoe to the forefront of the story – making her as real to the reader as she is to Tess and her family. It creates a raw and completely heartfelt story you can't help but be affected by.

Absolutely brilliant!

Monday 18 March 2013

Cover Wars: Wildwood (Wildwood Blog Tour)

Hardback Cover / Paperback Cover

I think both of these have a very similar feel and I absolutely love the illustrations! The series is illustrated by the author's wife,  Carson Ellis and I really do love the design.  It takes me back to my childhood and reminds me of Narnia and all those other magical stories I read that transported me into a different world.  You get a strong sense from the cover what kind of story is contained inside.

I'm slightly torn between the covers though as I do really like them both!  I love the title design on the Hardback (the way it curves across the page like a banner) and the symmetrical feel of the cover.  But I absolutely love the children holding hands on the Paperback cover!  It makes me want to take the adventure with them.

So in conclusion I think they are both gorgeous!   Below is the cover for the second book in the series - Under Wildwood -  and I think when compared the Hardback design for Wildwood matches Under Wildwood just that little bit better.

What do you think?

If you want to find out more about Wildwood check out the Colin Meloy Channel on the Canongate website, the Wildwood Chronicles Website and if you fancy seeing more of Carson Eliis' illustrations/work she has a website you can check out.

And make sure you check out the rest of the tour:) Serendipity Reviews has the first chapter of Under Wiildwood which you can read here. The next stop on the tour is next week over at The Overflowing Library.  See the banner on my sidebar for more details.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Diary of a Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja

For Review: Curious Fox
Publihsed: 14 March 2013

From Goodreads: The mall is the heart of the fifteen-year-old Molly's suburban town. Most teens hang around with friends there, get their first job there, and experience their first kiss there. And Molly? She actually lives there, in the complex's residential wing, where she navigates the dramas of teenage life, falling out with her friends and falling for the dark, mysterious boy-next-door.

But is living in a massive shopping centre as much fun as it sounds? Well, yes... and no. Find out the whole truth in Molly's private diary!

I was really excited to hear Curious Fox were publishing this.  I remembered it from Fiction Express - a website for stories written as weekly instalments where the readers can vote on the direction of the story - and being a massive fan of Luisa Plaja's previous books I couldn't wait to get reading!

I loved Molly. Honestly, from the moment the book began I didn't want to put it down. She's so funny - sweet, nice, a bit sassy, but also kind of awkward (in an endearing and relatable way!) and just has the ability to really make you laugh out loud!   In fact I loved all the characters - her brother Jamie, his friend Adam, Jewel and Jasper (REALLY loved Jasper!). I didn't warm quite as quickly to Wendy and Ameera but I did come to like them both by the end of the story.

I loved the romance element of the book - Luisa Plaja always does a brilliant job there! I always seem to love her boy characters! Plus there's lots of other stuff going on with all the characters -  making it a fun and gripping read.  I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen and how it would all pan out.

Full of Luisa Plaja charm! It had everything I have come to expect from one of her novels - loved it!

For more information about the stories origins check out Lusia Plaja's website and this guest post over at Girl Hearts Books.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Cover Wars: Code Name Verity

UK Paperback  / US Paperback / US Hardback

This is the US paperback showing on Amazon for Code Name Verity (middle picture) and I have to say I love it. I'm not sure why exactly, but there is just something about it that really catches my eye. I think it may be the way the title goes across the middle and the image has a definite WWII feel!   I also quite like the UK one - it doesn't catch my eye as much as the new US one - but I much prefer it to the US Hardback.

What do you think?

Thursday 7 March 2013

Cherokee’s Literary Heroines (Finding Cherokee Brown Blog Tour)

As part of the Blog Tour for Finding Cherokee Brown, Siobhan Curham has stopped by with Cherokee's Literary Heroines!

Cherokee’s Literary Heroines

Finding Cherokee Brown is about a teenage girl who decides to write a book about her life in the hope that it will make her become the type of heroine she loves to read about – and in so doing, help her stand up to her bullies. Here are some of her favourite literary heroines, some of whom feature in the book, some of whom I’d imagine she’d love – and the reasons why . . .

Anne Frank

Anne Frank is a major influence upon Cherokee. In the novel she talks about how reading Anne Frank’s diary was the first time she realised the power of books to really make you stop and think about life. And it is this that indirectly leads her to start writing her own book. In one scene, near the beginning of the book, Cherokee is having a terrible time being taunted by the school bullies and she thinks to herself: ‘Don’t let them beat you, Anne Frank wouldn’t let them beat her. She didn’t even let the Nazis beat her. Not where it counted, in her head.’ This is a crucial turning point for Cherokee and shows how much strength and inspiration she draws from her literary heroine, Anne Frank.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House on the Prairie is another of Cherokee’s favourite books, and its author Laura Ingalls Wilder another literary inspiration. She loves the sense of freedom and adventure Laura Ingalls Wilder writes about. At one point in the book, when Cherokee is describing how awful her first day at high school was, she refers to Little House on the Prairie, saying: ‘I’d been sitting in our classroom, faking smiles like I had a twitch, while thinking, Oh God, why couldn’t I have been born in 1867 to a pioneer family in the American Midwest and only have to worry about making it through the next winter rather than seven long years at high school?’ The irony is that she will discover later on that her roots aren’t all that far from Wilder’s at all.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

At the start of Finding Cherokee Brown, Cherokee dreams of becoming a ‘kickass literary heroine’. Although she doesn’t refer to The Hunger Games, I’m sure she would love Katniss for her courage and incredible hunting skills, and I’m sure reading about Katniss would be a real inspiration to her.

Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Although this book is for adults, if Cherokee read it I’m sure she would be rooting for Lisbeth and would really admire her for the way in which she fights back against her attacker. When Cherokee gets her new haircut I did have an image of Lisbeth Salander in mind when I was writing the description.
Thanks Siobhan!

I think Katniss Everdeen is awesome enough to be everyones literary heroine, right?

Make sure to check out the rest of the tour - see my sidebar for details:)

Tuesday 5 March 2013

I want to read that...

Demonosity by Amanda Ashby

From Goodreads: An ancient myth + a mean girl + a reluctant warrior = a lively take on good vs. evil

The Black Rose--a powerful ancient force--has been let loose and has taken up residence in Celeste Gibson, popular girl at Cassidy Carter-Lewis' high school. Thomas Delacroix is the spirit of a fourteenth-century knight who is devoted to protecting the Black Rose, but he needs a contemporary living being to take on the challenge. That's where Cassidy comes in. She's a quirky high school junior who just wants to dress in her vintage clothes, hang out with her best friend, and take care of her father, who is recovering from surgery. She's the last person who would ever volunteer for such a task, but no one actually asked her. Now, like it or not, she finds herself training before dawn and battling demons at parties, the mall, and even at school. But hey, no one ever said high school was going to be easy. . .

Having loved both Zombie Queen of Newbury High and Fairy Bad Day I am really looking forward to this!

It's published 15 August 2013.

Monday 4 March 2013

BLOODMIX by Jane Cuff

For Review: Jane Cuff
Published: 17 September 2012

From Amazon: Draygon Lord of the Barren Lands waited for the day a Bloodmix would draw their first breath.

Told by their grandad that their parents have gone missing, twelve year old April and ten year old Ken, return home with the one person they believe they can trust.

Both are in danger, one is being hunted.

When I was given the opportunity to read and review BLOODMIX I jumped at the chance. We stock Jane Cuff's other books in the book store I work in and I always hear so many good things from the children reading them - I was excited to read one for myself.

A blend of fantasy and adventure, with a dash of creep factor added to the mix, and you have a really great story. Jane Cuff has a really accessible writing style that makes it easy to get lost in the story. The mix of fantasy and adventure works really well too - and would be the perfect introduction for children who haven't read many fantasy books before. All of the fantasy elements are grounded by the characters and their fun banter - the whole story comes across as one big adventure and I have to say I really enjoyed it!

There is a whole host of wonderful characters, and this is where the book really excels. Ken and April have a good brother and sister relationship going. April's friend Dorma is likeable straight away (despite her horrible living arrangements!) and Sorrel is just plain awesome! And, as I said previously, all the characters have some great banter - which helps to lighten some of the darker moments - as well as creating some genuine laugh out loud moments that still bring a smile to my face now!

While I would still place this comfortably in the 9-12 year age bracket, I feel I should mention that there were definitely some creepy moments in the story! Myleck and Jezebel really are quite sinister but I have the feeling most readers (especially the boy readers!) will relish that. The ending is great too - bringing enough closure to make this feel a standalone story but leaving it open to continue - which I hope the author does. I'd definitely pick up the next book!

A really enjoyable read with a great message hidden within the story - I will certainly be reading more books by Jane Cuff.


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