Thursday, 30 April 2009

Ten things about me you didn't necessarily know before and maybe didn't want to

I hear your questions, your burning desire to know more. Who is the person behind that fascinating letter? you ask. It's about time I did an About Me post. (Yes, it's also about time I did a Series Spotlight post, being Thursday and all, but I'm finding it hard choosing a series. This was much more fun to write.)

So I present...

Ten Things About Me That You Didn't Necessarily Know Before And Maybe Didn't Want To
  1. I have a pair of orange neon shoes. They are hideous.

  2. When I told my mum I might start reviewing books, she laughed a lot. ‘Why not?’ I demanded. ‘You couldn’t even keep a book log,’ she pointed out. This is true but I wasn’t going to concede defeat. ‘I could if I WANTED to,’ I said. At primary school we had about half an hour reading to start off the day, reading anything we wanted. Then fifteen minutes to write in our book log our THOUGHTS and IMPRESSIONS. What might happen next. Er, how about I forego pointless exercise writing about what I think could happen next, and use the fifteen minutes READING MORE OF THE BOOK and finding out!? So I did. Then I mean really, what’s the point in writing about it after I’ve finished? I could be STARTING A NEW BOOK! I never wrote in my book log ever. My teacher never noticed. I’m actually not sure how my mum knew. I probably told her as a very smug ten year old.

  3. I’ve never drawn on my shoes. I feel I’ve missed an important rite of passage for every teenager. Everyone in teen lit seems to have a pair of beat-up converse that someone has drawn on. This must be where I’ve been going wrong all these years.

  4. I giggled a lot when I was sorting out the interview for Luisa Plaja. Not were we Extreme Emailing right up until I posted it, but I googled her name to see what else was out there and make sure that what I was posting hadn’t been done before. On the first page, I saw the same quote twice for two websites. It looked familiar. Did I write that? Maybe. I can’t remember. I click to check. Yes I did, and one of the websites is a bookseller website. My quote is listed under ‘what the critics say.’ This is so very cool, both that I’m quoted, and that I’m a ‘critic.’ I guess I am one, but you know, it’s cool to be referred to as one.

  5. My spell check tells me that my grammar above is wrong. It shouldn’t be ‘I’m a critic,’ but ‘I are a critic.’ I think I ARE A CRITIC should be my new tagline. It should also be on a T-shirt.

  6. It is no coincidence that there is a cup of tea in my profile photo. I love tea. My friend and I are almost single-handedly upholding the stereotype of English tea-drinkers. Though not from dainty teacups with doilies. Or with crumpets. Just the tea.

  7. I think maybe I’ll cover the neon shoes with fabric paint. It might make me look like a walking paint-pot explosion, but at least I could wear them.

  8. My grandparents owned a narrow boat. I grew up spending part of my holiday every year on the canals. I really recommend it. The feeling of lying on top of a narrow boat with a book and the sun so strong that it makes the paint you’re lying on almost too hot to touch and the sound of the motor chugging along and the very slow movement? One of my favourite things EVER.

  9. Also, I’ve never fallen in. My middle brother (the incredibly competitive one) has. This makes me happy. This in turn makes me a bad person :)

  10. When I was about eight, I learned the piano. One week, the teacher told me off for not practicing even though I had (probably not enough, but I DID.) A few weeks later, I didn’t practice. At all. In my lesson, she praised me and said she could tell I’d tried really hard with the piece. I was disgusted and from then on convinced that practicing achieved no result whatsoever. It was just a form of torture that parents and piano teachers dreamed up to keep kids out of the way. Needless to say, I am not a pianist today.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Book review - My Dating Disasters Diary by Liz Rettig

Releases in the UK on 7th May
Kelly Ann doesn't understand why all her friends are suddenly getting love-crazy. Personally, she'd prefer to play football or video games than talk about boys. But as everyone else is getting boyfriends/girlfriends and leaving less time for her, she decides that she needs to find a boy too. Unfortunately for her, all her attempts seem to land her in trouble. Fortunately for us, the trouble she lands in is pretty hilarious. As Kelly Ann goes from thinking love just makes people do stupid stuff to having her first crushes to attempted dates, she also meets a favourite celebrity, forgets she's wearing pants on her head, and goes on a mission to get herself expelled.

Apparently this is a prequel to Liz Rettig's other Kelly Ann books – My Now or Never Diary and My Desperate Love Diary. I hadn't read either of these, but as it was a prequel this didn’t cause any problems. I'm looking forward to reading more about Kelly Ann.

First off, Kelly Ann is a straight-talking, no-nonsense character. While quite often she's completely wrong about things, she's never afraid to speak her mind, and Liz Rettig has vocalised a young teen's fairly well. At times however, she seems a bit immature for fourteen. With best friends Liz, who is always trying to analyse her, and Chris, who recently seems to be acting differently towards her, Kelly Ann does get into hilarious scrapes.

By the end of the book, which spans a year, Kelly Ann has grown a lot. She's still interested in football and video games, but she's also interested in boys and 'girly' stuff. I liked that it wasn't a complete change, and either/or situation, that she changes while also remaining the same. Liz Rettig has created a fresh young voice in a story full of entertaining scrapes and misunderstandings. I think this will be a hit with many younger teens, for fans of similar books such as the Georgia Nicholson series.

'Why can't we read interesting stories for a change? Like ones that have plots where stuff actually happens without a hundred pages of description just to tell you it's raining. And then another hundred to tell you how the character feels about the fact that it's raining.' – page 46

This was exactly how I felt about English in secondary school, I think most teenagers will relate to feeling this at some time or another. It's a good example of how great Rettig is at catching a teenager's thoughts and putting them onto paper.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Retirement Rescue - The Swish of the Curtain

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown
- 1941
Pages – 308
In print? – Yes. Longwater books reprinted this in 2006
THEN – 4.5 stars out of 5
NOW – 4 stars out of 5

Jacket description:
When seven bored children discover an abandoned chapel in their home town, they decide to renovate it and to form the Blue Door Theratre Company. The talented and resourceful group soon discover that they are serious about their theatrical ambitions, but will their parents stand in their way?
This classic children’s novel remains a timeless inspiration to any young reader with a passion for the performing arts.

Seven children (all of whom have some special talent or other – singing, composing, dressmaking etc) set up their own theatre company. Yes, it’s more than a little unbelievable, but it’s also the sort of thing every child would have enjoyed. It’s also set in a time when such a thing is less hard to believe. The Swish of the Curtain is very quaint, old-fashioned but still charming and holds its appeal for children. The kids, especially nine-year-old Maddy, are some of the best characterised I’ve ever read, having an old-fashioned innocence along with extra maturity, especially when dealing with their nemesis Mrs Potter-Smith, head of the Women’s Institute. Mrs Potter-Smith (or ‘Smither-Pot,’ as Maddy refers to her) is constantly out to undermine the children’s plays because people enjoy them more than hers. Some critics have said that they talk as if they’re older than they should be, but Pamela Brown was only 14 herself when she wrote this. The Swish of the Curtain is definitely a children’s classic, and will appeal to many children today.

‘An answering thud was heard offstage, and Mrs Potter-Smith puffed on, wearing a Greek tunic, with primroses in her hair which she had “let down” for the occasion. She flung out her plump arms towards the audience, declaiming, “I am the Spirit of Spring!”
The ginger girl stuffed her hankie in her mouth, and Maddy whispered confidentially to Sandra, “Are we supposed to laugh?”’ – page 10-11

'“Personally, when I was eight, a really juicy murder appealed to me as much as anything,” Maddy told them.' – page 136

Friday, 24 April 2009

Book review - Gone by Michael Grant

Gone releases in the UK on 6th April.
In a second, all the adults disappear. Not just adults, but everyone 15 or over. Communications are down, emergency services are down, all the people who would normally be taking charge and explaining this crisis have disappeared. Kids are running scared. Some take care of others, others only look out for themselves. Some see it as a disaster, others see it as an opportunity for power. Sam and Astrid are thrown together, trying to work out how to escape the huge wall now trapping them in the town. Everything is spiralling out of control in a feud between the two schools of Perdido Beach. Time is running out fast. But for some, the craziness started six months ago, when they realised they could do things no-one should be able to.

Nowadays, I notice when a book is mediocre. I notice and think ‘huh. That was only ok.’ And I’m surprised. Either the standard of teen literature is shooting up, or I’m getting better at only picking up the good books thanks to great recommendations from all the wonderful reviewers out there (I think both are true)

So Gone was noticeably better than the average. And if the average is now very good, then that makes Gone very, very good. I couldn’t put it down. The children were well-characterised and interesting, acting very maturely. Which brings me to one of only two problems I had with the book; the children should have been up to 16, not 14. I appreciate that people mature quickly in a crisis, but these kids seemed over 14.

The second problem is that there are a few big questions which are only partially answered – hello, book two – so if you can’t stand cliff-hangers, you should wait until the second book is out before reading this one. Overall, not exactly massive problems. Other than that, I loved it. Sam is known as ‘school-bus Sam’ for the day he saved the bus going off the edge of a cliff, but since then he’s blended into the background at school. Kids remember this and turn to him once disaster strikes, but he’s not sure that he’s up to the challenge. I like that he’s not overconfident, that he has to learn how to pretend he knows what he’s doing. This is also his big chance in a way, because he’s fancied Astrid for ages and now they’ve somehow been thrown together.

But my favourite character was Quin. Quin is not brave, he doesn’t have any special abilities, he doesn’t know what to do. Quin is a regular guy, so when he compares himself to Sam, he’s inevitably ashamed. Not everyone can be the hero and not everyone has the guts to do the right thing. Quin embodies this in what could otherwise turn into a story just about extraordinary people.

Gone was great. The pacing was good – the chapters count down in days and hours to Sam’s fifteenth birthday, which adds a sense of urgency. The idea was interesting. I want to know why the wall came up, how exactly it happened, how they can escape. While the story resolved and some questions answered, some were not. A thrilling story and one that had me hooked from the start.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Series spotlight - Hollow Kingdom series by Clare B. Dunkle

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before and will be featured every Thursday. Today’s spotlight is the Hollow Kingdom series by Clare B. Dunkle. I haven’t read the third book, and wasn’t too impressed with the second, but the first is well worth your time and can stand alone perfectly.

The Hollow Kingdom
Kate and her sister Em go to stay with their Aunts after the death of their father. Hollow Hill is a place shrouded in mystery and legend. Goblins were said to have stolen girls from their homes, although their cousin assures them, ‘We live in the nineteenth century now. Not even Mrs Bigelow really believes her goblin tales.’ But someone his eye on the girls, and nothing will stop him. Not locked doors, nor the girls’ guardians, for goblins have strong magic. The only thing that seems to cause him trouble is Kate herself, for she is quite determined not to go and very resourceful when she needs to be.
This is a great adventure rich in folklore, history, and excitement. Kate is a strong heroine. I did find the second half of the book peculiar as it took unexpected jumps – chapters would begin ‘six months later,’ which confused me a bit, but in general, a great book.

Close Kin
Em is old enough to marry, but when her best friend Seylin tries to propose, she brushes him off absently. Seylin leaves, intent on searching out the elves and Em, realising, goes after him. Everyone is shocked to discover that a few elves still survive. They accept Seylin, but sooner or later the goblins and elves are going to collide, stirring up ancient grudges.
Not as great as the first book, Close Kin is still interesting. I think the main problem is that Em is not nearly as compelling a main character as Kate was. Sable the elf is much more interesting, but doesn’t get enough time. Close Kin is good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as it’s predecessor.

In the Coils of the Snake
(from the cover)
Miranda has waited her whole life to come to the goblin kingdom. Now she’s finally underground where she has always wanted to be, but she never imagined she would feel so lost. Her beloved Marak, the center of her world since childhood, has reached the end of his reign. But Marak didn’t raise a coward. He taught Miranda to be brave, intelligent, and proud—the ideal woman to take her place beside Catspaw, the new goblin King.Then a mysterious and highly magical elf lord brings his people back to their homeland, reigniting the age-old battle between goblins and elves. Miranda finds herself a prisoner. Caught between the two hostile rulers, she becomes their greatest reason for war—and possibly their only hope for a future.
I haven’t read this, don’t think I will. Unless someone tells me it’s brilliant (please tell me if it is). I loved the first book, but the second just lacked that sparkle, so I already was unsure about this when I found out that it’s about the next generation. I liked Kate as a heroine so much that I don’t really want to move a whole generation away from her.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Retirement Rescue - Prove Yourself A Hero

Prove Yourself a Hero by K. M. Peyton
Published - 1978
Pages – 173
In print? – No. But see if you see a copy secondhand, snatch it up.
THEN - 4.5 stars out of five
NOW - 4.5 stars out of five

This was my favourite re-read book for years. It’s definitely my most-travelled because it’s so small and light.

Jacket description:
One can never prepare to be kidnapped: to anticipate the terror, exhaustion and violence: or to understand the disorientation and imbalance that accompanies the return to freedom – if one is lucky.
Jonathan Meredith’s disappearance, apart from anything else, was annoying. It cost half a million pounds and mucked up a lot of arrangements, particularly his parents’. And for Jonathan, things would never be the same again.

You can tell this book is old – look at the use of ‘one’ and the colons! But, the writing doesn’t feel dated. In fact, reading it now gives the impression that it’s a book written recently, but SET in the past. Everyone has their strange favourite book-themes, mine is kidnapping. This book is special in that doesn’t just deal with the kidnapping – that takes up about half of the book – it also deals with the aftermath. Jonathan, the son of a business tycoon, is extremely claustrophobic, but he faces his capture and the prospect of death very maturely. This is as good a book as I remember it being when I first read it.

'He didn’t see how he was going to even notice if he lost consciousness, because there was so little to show for being alive, except the spreading pain of cramps which he would have been all too happy to forego. There was, curiously, no sense of time: time was only as long as he could breathe, and time was running out.' - Page 22

'He could see one solitary star between the clouds, and it’s unwinking eye transfixed him with this extraordinary sense of his own being, because shortly he wouldn’t be.' - Page 65

Monday, 20 April 2009

Awards time

Yep, it's that time again!

Jo has given me the You Don't Say Award for top commenters. I'm not even going to try to nominate people for this one, because I know I'll miss someone out. So if you have ever commented on this blog, then you're great. And if you've ever commented on this blog MORE THAN ONCE, you definitely win this award. Because it means YOU CAME BACK!!! And for that, I give you this Panda. Cherish him.


The Book Girl has announced that my blog is lovely! This award is for new blogs and new blogging friends. Isn't the button pretty? Because I'm lazy, I'm not going to follow the rules and award 15 new bloggers with this, but a couple of deserving newly-discovered bloggers are:

Jen from 50 for Jen
Jo of Ink and Paper fame

And just before posting this, Jo gave me yet another award, the Premio Dardos Award. Thanks Jo!

This is awarded for 'showing cultural values, ethics, great and fun writing skills, as well as individual values, through their creative writing.' I haven't written nearly as creatively as I could on About Books, but now I think maybe I could put more effort in. Like I could have fun subtitles for my reviews as Cecilia does. Or I could (try to) make my reviews as well-written and interesting as Adele's. I might at least go for coherance and try to give the impression that I think before I type (that would be Lenore, who makes relevance seem effortless.) Everything she posts is worth reading. So to you three, I pass on this award for being well-written and making your posts so much fun to read.

*I've just noticed that I never follow award rules. Maybe it's because I'm lazy and usually they demand me to pick (and link to) excessive amounts of blogs? Or maybe it's because I'm actually a rebel and like to shake things up? Take your pick.*

Operation Retirement Rescue

When Adele posted her wonderful idea of Operation Retirement Rescue last week, I loved it. It’s always good to appreciate old books, which is part of the reason why I started Series Spotlight.

Before May begins I would like you to post reviews for 1-2 YA titles that -
1) were published more than five years ago,
2) hold fond memories, and
3) post the icon somewhere in your review.

I'm extending this to mean books that I READ 5 years ago, not old ones that I've read recently. That means only books that I read when I was 13 or younger. I thought it might be interesting for people to see what I had back then. I've been through my bookshelves and written a list of everything still on there (ie - not in boxes or passed on to younger brothers) that I owned 5 years ago.

So, in roughly chronological order (earliest to latest) I give you

What Was on my Shelf 5 Years Ago That Still is Now:

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah
Prove Yourself a Hero by K. M. Peyton
Promise Song by Linda Holeman
Set of Sharon Creech books

Coram Boy by Jamila Gavin
The Wind Singer by William Nicholson
Wings over Delft by Aubrey Flegg
Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
Finding Cassie Crazy Jaclyn Moriarty

I'll be writing mini-reviews for as many as possible before May, except for ones I've already spotlighted. I'll also rate them because you know, probably not all of these books are as good now as they were to 5-years-younger-me. What was everyone else reading five years ago?

Friday, 17 April 2009

Interview with Luisa Plaja and GIVEAWAY!!!

*Update - the giveaway is now closed*

Extreme Kissing was inspired in part by the sport Extreme Ironing. What would be your ideal Extreme Ironing location if you could go anywhere?
I love this question! The truth is that I never iron anything, so ironing in my front room would be pretty extreme for me! But let's see... hmm, I think extreme ironing at Piccadilly Circus in London would be a challenge. It might not sound as exciting as ironing up a mountain or underwater, but there would be a lot of jostling going on, and some distracting people-watching. Or maybe I could iron while sitting on a lion in Trafalgar Square.

If you could pick anyone (fictional, dead, or real) to go Extreme Travelling with, who would it be?
Oh, another fun question! I'm going to give two answers to this one too. The real answer is my family - some of our holiday adventures would definitely count as Extreme Travel, even if it hasn't been deliberate. But if I had to Extreme Travel with a fictional character, I think it would be have to be Peter Petrelli from Heroes. I'm sure his Swiss Army Knife of special powers would come in useful on any extreme journey.

Would you say you’re more like Carlota or Bethany?
That's a hard one! I'm probably outwardly more of a Bethany, with an inner Carlota streak. I can be a huge worrier like Bets, but I can definitely be more impulsive like Lots at times. Of course, the truth is that I'm like both of them, but I'm ultimately like neither. And I could say the same for Jo and Josie from Split by a Kiss, even though Jo and I have definitely shared quite a few experiences.

The girls have several secrets that are revealed throughout the book. Are you good at keeping secrets?
I think I’m usually good at keeping other people's secrets. I'm often a bit rubbish with my own.

What’s your writing process like? What is a typical day for you, how many hours do you spend writing?
I don't really have a typical day because with young children every day is an extreme adventure! I mostly write at night, though, for as long as humanly possible, bearing in mind that I usually get woken up way too early in the morning.

Where is your favourite place to write?
I've tried different places - the library, cafes, the train - but really I write best sitting at my desk with music plugged into my ears.

How do you deal with writers block?
I'd like to say I haven't really had time for writer's block, because it's the truth. Every writing second is precious. Unfortunately, despite this, I have had moments when I've got completely stuck. The only way out for me is free-writing, otherwise known as 'taking the pressure off'. I let myself write anything at all for as long as I want to. Once I'm unstuck, I'll occasionally find that this process has produced things I can use in my work-in-progress. There are definitely a couple of paragraphs in Extreme Kissing that have been plucked from bouts of free-writing: the moment when Carlota first meets Bethany, for example. Oh, and I nearly forgot this one - the entire first draft of Extreme Kissing was written when I was stuck three-quarters of the way through Split by a Kiss. Writing 'the end' on Extreme Kissing gave me the confidence to go back and finish Split by a Kiss.

What book has had the biggest impact on you?
It's probably Masha by Mara Kay. It's a historical novel set in nineteenth century Russia and following a girl's life from the ages of 9 to 18, including so many ingredients I love: a fish-out-of-water main character, a coming-of-age storyline, a focus on female friendship. I first took it out of my local library when I was about 9 myself, and then I borrowed it repeatedly until I finally managed to buy my own copy when I was about 12. (It was already out of print by then, unfortunately, but I bought a battered copy from a library that was closing down.) I've since visited places featured in the book, which involved a fantastic trip to St Petersburg. And in my teens I wrote to the author several times, telling her I wanted to be a writer. She always replied and she was amazingly encouraging.

As well as writing, you’re very active on the Young Adult blogosphere, running the wonderful teen site Chicklish. Do you have time for any other hobbies?
Does reading count? Or sleeping? Or childcare? Or Facebook and writing forums? I'm not sure what else I do, but there must be something. It's definitely not ironing, anyway (extreme or otherwise!)

Are you working on another book right now?

Yes, I'm working on a sequel for Split by a Kiss.

Thankyou so much for stopping by Luisa! I never even considered Peter Petrelli as an Extreme Travelling companion, but now that you've put it in my head I think he's ideal!

And now, the giveaway!
Between them the wonderful publisher and author have given me five copies of Extreme Kissing to give away! Three of these are for UK residents, and two are for international readers. This means that wherever you live, you can enter!

All you have to do is tell me who you would like to go Extreme Travelling with. You MUST also tell me if you’re UK or INTERNATIONAL and leave me an email address or way to contact you if you win.

You can tell me in the comments (even if you’ve never commented on any blog before, mine will accept anonymous users, so don’t be shy!) OR if you’re uncomfortable with that, you can email me the information at bookshelfbabble(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk

Extra Entries, you ask?
+1 entry if you tell me how you found out about this giveaway
+1 entry for every person who tells me that they heard about this contest from you (this means the more you spread the word, the more entries you get)

The deadline for this contest is Wednesday 6th May

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Series spotlight - Blart series by Dominic Barker

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before and will be featured every Thursday. (Except for last Thursday, when I completely blanked. Woops!) Today’s spotlight is the Blart series by Dominic Barker.

Once again these are technically children’s books, and definitely more suited to younger readers.

These books are parodies on the fantasy-epic-quest genre. I honestly don’t know how I feel about the series. You might think that I must like it because I’m featuring it, but I’m trying to feature a wide range of series in this feature. Parts of the books are good (I wouldn’t feature a series I thought wasn’t well written) but parts are annoying.

Blart – The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Save The World
When the wise wizard comes to collect Blart for adventure, he’s surprised to find that Blart doesn’t want to go. Capablanca had studied for many years to find the first son of a first son of a first son (and so on) who is destined to be a hero. Unfortunately, Blart is ignorant, lazy, cowardly, and more interested in his pigs than anything else. But the quest awaits so he has no choice but to go and stop the evil Lord Zoltab from being released by his minions. They’re joined on the quest by bloodthirsty Beowulf, who is desperate to become a knight, Princess Lois, a sulky, rude Princess of the happiest Kingdom in the world, and Tungsten the dwarf, who is rather sensitive about his limited height.
This is clearly a parody of Lord of the Rings, but also other fantasy quest stories. Parts of the book are very amusing, but by making his antiheroes unpleasant and whiny, Dominic Barker has made them irritating to the audience too.

Blart II – The Boy Who Was Wanted Dead Or Alive – Or Both
The wizard Capablanca has made an embarrassing mistake. After capturing Lord Zoltab, he imprisoned him somewhere, then used a spell to erase his memory so that no-one can find him again. Unfortunately, they are suspected of having freed Lord Zoltab. The only way to disprove this is to produce him – which means they have to find him all over again. Joined once again by Beowulf and princess Lois and a new companion, Uther the enterprising merchant, they must rescue Pig the flying horse and find Lord Zoltab.
In some ways, this is better than the first book. Uther is a sleazy, money-grabbing character who isn’t above ripping off his fellow companions. There is also an amusing resulting in Blart wearing a dress and being serenaded.

Blart III – The Boy Who Set Sail on a Questionable Quest
(From Amazon)
Princess Lois has been kidnapped by Anatoly the Handsome, who wants to marry her. Cue 'damsel in distress' to be rescued by none other than our own heroic Blart. He sets out on the good ship The Golden Pig with Olaf the innocent - who believes what everyone says all the time - and Kupverstich the Strange - an explorer-come-scientist whose ingenious explanations for the natural world have one thing in common: they're all wrong. They must battle cut-throat pirates, a sixteen-tentacled octopus, escape the suffocating bureaucracy of Triplicat, where they are briefly marooned, not to mention evade the Guild of Assassins, who have a contract to kill Blart, in their selfless (well, almost) bid to rescue poor Lois. But will they make it in time?
I haven’t read this one and I’m not sure that I’m going to. I suspect that this book will be very like the others and there’s only so much fantasy satire I can take. On the other hand, it’s only £3.59 from Amazon at the moment, so I might. I’d like to find out what happens to Blart and Princess Lois next.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

So do Laaaaaaaaaaaa

I saw this on Lisa Yee's blog. Doesn't it make you want to go to the closest train station and dance? (Maybe that's just me)

It also reminds me of Extreme Kissing, where Carlotta and Bets get all the tourists at the London Eye dancing. Look at the crowd joining in!

Monday, 13 April 2009

I Splash You!

I've been nominated for the Splash award by Jo. Thanks!

The Rules:
1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post
4) Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom your received your Splash award.
6) Have F~U~N

I'm splashing:

Cecilia (for awesome giveaways. And giveaway rules. And general commenting awesomeness!)
Laina (for her two amazing blogs)
Yan (did you not see the April Fools contests she co-hosted with Carol?!)
Steph Su (posts WAY more than me. Enough said)
Chicklish (a great mixture of reviews on her blog)
Adele (again, puts me to shame with all the posting. Most of these people do actually. Also super-nice and has an interesting blog)
Lenore (as Aerin said, when I grow up I want to be Lenore!)
Amy (great blog)
Jenny (for interesting posts and great comments)
All of these bloggers impress me in one way or another, so consider yourselves soaked! (Jo, I'd splash you too if you hadn't got there first. Maybe we can have a waterfight)

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Book review - Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway

The day Audrey broke up with her boyfriend, he wrote The Song. A song about their breakup. The song is a huge success, suddenly his band the Do-Gooders are famous and everyone wants to know more about the mysterious Audrey. She’s thrust into the spotlight, even at school people are acting differently towards her, as though she’s an actual celebrity. But the thing is, Audrey doesn’t want to be famous. All she did was break up with her boyfriend and now it seems as if half the world hates her for it. What people forget is that they don’t know anything about her. Only her name.

Wow. This is one of those books that makes you happy. In fact, I think it could be the ultimate comfort read. It’s witty, fast-paced, has an interesting plot, and had me laughing out loud a lot. The star of Audrey, Wait is definitely Audrey herself. I don’t think I’ve ever read a more lively, funny, confident main character. (For liveliness equivalent, think Em in Finding Cassie Crazy) Audrey and her best friend Victoria have some great dialogue that makes me remember how great being sixteen was. It also makes me want to be friends with them. A lot.

Yes ok, the plot is a little far-fetched – I don’t think you’d get nearly as famous as Audrey does if someone wrote a song about you, but then again she avoids the press and that would make them far more interested in her. It’s also handled very cleverly. The plot and characters are a bit larger than life, but at the same time, the writing somehow makes it all seem realistic. Audrey handles her breakup and rise to fame surprisingly maturely. Her relationships, especially with ex-boyfriend Evan, are far more layered than I expected.

The biggest problem I had with the book though is the editing. I don’t know, maybe it’s because punctuation rules are different in the US and it got a little scrambled in the translation, but it seemed little someone let a little kid loose with the punctuation marks. Example:

‘totally humiliate the rest of us, who just want, to say how much we love, the music and how much it means, to us.’

Does that look right to anyone? Because it kept distracting me trying to work out if I was reading it wrong, but to me I don’t think that quote needs more than one comma.

Apart from the confusing punctuation thing though, I loved this book so much. I can’t really explain how good this book is, or find a quote because every time I look for one I want to copy a whole page. And then I keep on reading and forget I’m meant to be writing a review. Go and get yourself a copy right now!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

More contests!!

I know I haven't been around much lately, but I've been busy visiting family and reading City of Glass! Anyway, it seems that recently the amount of contests on the YA blogosphere has got way bigger. So because I haven't posted enough reviews lately, I've collected all of these contests for you instead. I'm sorry if I've missed yours out - it's non-intentional, but I'm mostly doing this by memory. If I have missed any out, please tell me in the comments and I'll update the post.

Yan and Carol are having daily giveaways for April Fools - ends 25th April

Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag has organised a huge giveaway for the release of Willow. You just have to buy the book to be in with the chance to win a ton! - ends 30th April

Elizabeth Scott is having an out-of-this-world contest for anyone who's bought Something, Maybe. Just send in proof and you could win a star! - ends 26th April

Lauren also has a copy of Shrinking Violet to give away - ends 30th April

Chelsea is giving away a signed copy of Wake - ends 15th April

Jenny at Books of Wonder is offering a copy of Looking for Alaska to one commenter - ends 13th April

The Epic Rat is going giveaway crazy with The Agency - ends 13th April - a choice of Wicked goodies - ends 17th April - and Girls in Trucks - ends 28th April. And on top of that, she's having a monthly contest to win a book of your choice!

Stella has a copy of Undone - ends 17th April

The Story Siren has ten copies of Sophomore Switch (US only) - ends 9th April -Something, Maybe (US only) - ends 10th April - and a signed copy of Fade - ends 5th May

Sharon (who loves books and cats) has a copy of me, my elf, and i - ends 21st April

Steph Su has Swim the Fly to give away (US and Canada only again) - ends 17th April

Luisa over at Chicklish is giving away a signed copy of Extreme Kissing every week - ends 24th April

And that's it my lovelies, but let me also tell you that Steph Su does a great weekly roundup of giveaways you might want to check out, and Laina has a blog devoted to gathering contest links at Book Contest Links which I highly recommend.

I'd also like to thank The Epic Rat for giving me the Sisterhood Award - or is it the FAMILYhood award now? When I started blogging I had no idea of how many good friends I'd make and I'm really grateful to each and every one of you lovely readers, commenters, and bloggers. I know, cheesy, but so true. I didn't think people would actually ever read what I was writing!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Book review - Flightsend by Linda Newbery

Charlie and her mum move out to the country to an old house, Flightsend. Her mum sees it as an exciting new start, Charlie sees it as a long bus ride from her friends. But her mother has made up her mind to enjoy this new life and Charlie hasn’t seen her so happy for a long time. She makes the best of it, but thinks her mum’s making a mistake. Instead, the house seems to be just what they need, and it is a summer of growth for both of them.

I’m sure critics all over the country will class Flightsend as ‘bittersweet.’ It’s a story of self-discovery and growth. It’s also about making sacrifices for the people you love. Admittedly there is not too much of a plot, but the characters are interesting and believable, relationships between them are complex. There is also rather a lot of unrequited love, although the book is more about moving on and coming to terms with this than it is about angst.

Despite the emotional complexity of the story, whenever I think about it I don’t have much to say. I read this a week ago and I’m still not entirely sure what I think. The cover is absolutely perfect. That’s exactly what I feel about the book, it’s like lazily lying in the grass in summertime. Flightsend wasn’t outstanding, but it was pleasant, contenting and comfortable, like lying in the sun.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Happy Release day!

For some reason, today is the official release day for a lot of great books:

Lock & Key (by Sarah Dessen) UK release
Seven Sorcerers (by Caro King) release
Willow (by Julia Hoban) US release
Extreme Kissing (by the amazing Luisa Plaja) release

So Happy Release Day ladies! Here is a virtual cake for you all.

Series spotlight - Midnighters by Scott Westerfeld

There are so many good books that have been out in the market for ages. Series Spotlight is to introduce readers to series they may not have heard of before and will be featured every Thursday. Today’s spotlight is the Midnighters series by Scott Westerfeld.

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Today I’m stealing synopsises (which looks like it shouldn’t be a word but my spellchecker tells me is right) from Amazon because I don’t have time to write them myself.
I love the idea for this series – every day at midnight there’s an hour which most people don’t get, but five teenagers do. They’re not alone in this secret hour though, they share it with monsters. The series are well plotted and full of action. Half of the characters are well developed and half seem a bit spare-party. Westerfeld makes good use of maths and physics in this series – the teenagers have special talents that help them understand such things, and use it to explain a lot. This makes it more believable but at times a bit too technical. Although they’re not the best written books I’ve read, the series is fast-paced and full of adventure.

The Secret Hour
Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma. Time freezes. Nobody moves. For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour - only they are free to move about the midnight time. These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School. Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica ...and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.
I haven’t actually read this yet. I know, these series spotlights are showing me just how bad I am at reading series in the right order! But it looks good and I will read it. Honest. I'm really interested to see Jessica meeting the other Midnighters, so I'll pick it up soon.

Touching Darkness
The Midnighters of Bixby, Oklahoma, know that their town is full of secrets - especially since they keep the biggest secret of all: knowledge of the secret hour. What they don't know is why earlier generations of Midnighters all disappeared, or why they are now the only Midnighters in town. As they learn more about the secret hour's twists and turns, they uncover terrifying mysteries woven into the very fabric of Bixby's history, and a conspiracy that touches both the midnight hour and the world of daylight. At the same time, the Midnighters' own secrets start to emerge, including some that were never meant to come to light, changing the fragile dynamics among the five. This time Jessica Day is not the only Midnighter in mortal danger. If the group can't find a way to overcome their differences, they could lose one of their own - forever.
This series is very clever, fast paced, and has an interesting plot. There is lots of tension between the Midnighters, too much some might say. The idea that people who have to put their lives in each other’s hands wouldn’t choose one another for friends and have very little in common is really interesting.

Blue Noon
The Midnighters now know much more about the secret history of Bixby and, with the halfling dead, the Grayfoots' link to the darklings has been severed. But the cost is high. Rex's horrific experience in the desert has left him damaged, painfully suspended between light and dark. Melissa's violation of Dess's mind and the shameful revelations of her past deeds have shattered the uneasy bond among the five teenagers. What they need now is some time to heal, but what they get is the surprise of their lives when the blue time arrives in the middle of the day. It seems the walls between the secret hour and real time are crumbling, and soon the dark creatures will break through to hunt after centuries of waiting. And as if that wasn't enough for Jessica to deal with, her little sister, Beth, is becoming more and more determined to crack the secret of midnight - a goal that could have consequences more dire than she can ever have imagined.
There is so much plot packed into this book! It’s a clever, interesting end to the series. The ‘eclipses’ of the blue hour in normal time make their lives even more dangerous and unpredictable. While the ending was interesting, I wasn’t completely happy with it – let’s just say that the life of one of the Midnighters is altered drastically.