Wednesday, 27 July 2011

In My Mailbox: July Part 1

Hi folks!

I haven't done an IMM in a couple of weeks, and have developed a hefty pile of books that I would like to share with you all. So am splitting the feature into two parts, the second to follow by the end of the week (hopefully!).

So here we go... six books complete with blurbs and release dates! 

The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean by David Almond
Billy Dean is a secret child, growing up in the dark heart of Blinkbonny. He has a beautiful young mother and a father who arrives at night carrying the scent of incense and cigarettes. His world is just a bed, some pictures of the Holy Island and a single locked door, but his father fills his dreams with mysterious tales and dreadful warnings.
When his father disappears, Billy's mum brings him out into the world, and he learns the dreadful truth of what happened in Blinkbonny on the day he was born. Gradually he finds he has the gift of helping to rebuild what has been broken. But there is one figure who is beyond healing, who comes looking for Billy himself and is determined on a kind of reckoning.
David Almond's extraordinary first novel for adults is the story of a child, born of sin, who emerges into a post-industrial, almost apocalyptic world where the force of his innocence is tested to the extreme. 
Released: 1st September 2011

Love, Inc. by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout
Zahra, Kali and Syd would never have met if their parents' marriages hadn't fallen apart. But when the three girls collide in group counselling, they discover they have something else in common: they've each been triple-timed by the same wicked charmer, Eric, aka Rico, aka Rick. Talk about eye-opening therapy. Now all three girls have one mission: to show that cheater the error of his ways.
Project Payback is such a success, the girls soon have clients lining up for their consulting services. Is your boyfriend acting shady? Dying to know if your crush is into you? Need matchmaking expertise?
Look no further than Love, Inc. 
Released: 26th September 2011

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver
On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost.
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice - until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone. That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable. Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
Released: September 2011

Sister, Missing by Sophie McKenzie
It's two years after the events of Girl, Missing and life for sixteen-year-old Lauren is not getting any easier, as exam pressure and a recent family tragedy take their toll. Lauren's birth mother takes Lauren and her two sisters on holiday in the hope that some time together will help, but a few days into the holiday one of the sisters disappears, under circumstances very similar to those in which Lauren was taken years before. Can Lauren save her sister, and stop the nightmare happening all over again?
Released: 15th September 2011

Girl Parts by John M. Cusick
David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David's parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat 'dissociative disorder,' he can't get enough of luscious, redheaded Rose - and he can't get is soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Severed from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up to her, knowing that she isn't real. With Charlie's help, the ideal 'companion' is about to become her own best friend. 
Released: Out Now

A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Rose is about to wake up...
After sixty years of cryogenic sleep, Rose Fitzroy is woken with a kiss. Her world is barely recognisable and all the people she loves are dead. As she begins to find her way, she must come to terms with her dreams and memories and embrace a new world... before an unstoppable assassin can snatch her new life from her. 
Released: August 2011

Ok, so how exciting are those books, right?! I've got a lot of reading ahead of me... catch me later in the week for Part 2 of my amazing In My Mailbox for July!!!

Hugs and High Fives,


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Triple Review Bonanza!!! Sunday 24th July 2011

It's a stunning Sunday, and I'm in one of those moods where I just can't move much. Saying that, I haven't moved much for the last three days, having been almost entirely eaten by my Hypersomnia. Don't even want to count the hours that I've been asleep, it would be far too depressing. On the bright side, I finally have an appointment with The Neurologist for Wednesday. Rather excited about this, as hopefully it will lead to some answers!

Anyways, on to Super Review Sunday!

First up is a great new read from a fantastic UK YA novelist, Keren David:

In this, David's third novel, we follow our marvellous anti-heroine Lia, whose obnoxious, self-centred teenisms make her a delight to read. She wins 8 million on the lottery, and her life changes forever. Alongside this she pursues a relationship with the mysterious Raf, tortured-soul/possible-vampire. Lia's musings on whether or not Raf is a supernatural being are absolutely hilarious, and the evolution of the true story behind his old-school demeanour and pale skin is really touching.

David packs a lot into this little novel, and the pace is perfectly timed. She also manages to tackle deep themes with a light touch, in fact sometimes I wonder if she's delved a little too deep. There's a great sub-plot surrounding Lia's friend Shazia's exploration of Islam, but I found Lia's own seeking out of the Imam in Shazia's mosque a little hard to believe. Using modern Islam to juxtapose Lia's lottery win, however, is a very intelligent way of tackling a real issue for the gamut of young people currently looking for deeper meaning in the world.

So now for my only Big Problem with the book, and it was a moment that really caught me by surprise. I actually found myself gasping "Lia! No!" at the pages. Those who don't want a spoiler, look away now. The issue is unprotected sex. Now I'm the first person to object against preachiness in YA, but I was really surprised that David chose to go to this particular place. Technically, we find out later, the sex isn't unprotected, but it was still enough to shock. Could get a whole debate started here... but I think it's time to move on.

Lia's Guide To Winning The Lottery will make a perfect Summer read, and I love the way it made me ponder what I would do if I won the lottery. Give half to charity and invest the rest... of course...!


Review No. 2 of this fine Sunny Sunday....

What a totally awesome read!!! Think that's all I need to say really.

Ok... will give you a bit more...

I just love how MJ gives us intelli-geeks some paranormal fantasy fun without feeling like we're sinking into sinister depths of silliness. But what really scares me is how our American author manages to capture London so brilliantly. She gets EVERYTHING right. Well... nearly everything... our heroine sits down to watch the BBC News at 7.30 one evening, and there I am, yelling at the book, going NO THAT'S WHEN EASTENDERS IS ON!!! So, Radio Times issue aside, we have this brilliant depiction of modern London from the point of view of a girl from the American South. And then Jack the Ripper crops up!!! Ingenious, totally thrilling, and MJ's trademark wit shines through.

I mean, where else are you going to get Zombie Spice Girls? With Posh featuring as a 'bone' accessory?!

Only issue with this book, is that it managed to end at precisely the point where I'm so into it that I just want More More More. So hungry for Book 2 of the Shades of London series that it hurts.


And now for something completely different... but not so different if you're a mega Margaret Atwood / Angela Carter fan like me!

Gentle, poetic prose leads you into the ghastly world of Rhine, trapped in an idilic mansion with two other sister-wives in a world where women die at 20 and men at 25. I was reminded so much of the Bluebeard stories as I read this, although here it's not Rhine's husband Linden who is the problem, but his father Vaughn, who we're led to believe has a torture chamber in the basement, designed to help him find the cure to whatever is killing all the young people. This is a dangerous and sinister world, one that seems ultimately tragic whatever way you look at at: either Rhine accepts her fate and has the children Linden wants, or she escapes and dies anyway in a few short years.

There are odd plot-holes here and there: I never could figure out why Rhine doesn't tell Linden the truth about his father, or why the orphan attendants aren't also pulled up to have children in this dying world. There is also the issue of where all the wealth and technology comes from in this decaying planet. But none of these problems detracted from the heart of the story, and the testimony of Rhine herself, clever and beautiful and trapped in a futile world.

Another first awaiting a sequel, but one I am really looking forward to. What a stunning debut talent Lauren DeStefano is, and I can't wait to see how this story progresses and develops.


Well folks, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and please let me know your comments!


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

You're going to have to trust me on this one from the outset, because the initial pitch isn't promising. I shall demonstrate by relaying a conversation I had with one of my best friends last weekend in Cambridge, who shall be known henceforth as Dr Alice:
Me: Alice, you like horses, don't you? (Alice is in fact a fine competitor in Eventing, a sport I don't really understand, except for the fact that it involves horses and is quite posh)
Dr Alice: Yes...
Me: Well I'm reading this book that you might like. It's about horses...
Dr Alice: Really? Tell me more...
Me: Well, when I say horses, what I really mean to say is magical carnivorous water horses... who race on a beach...
Dr Alice: [imagine open mouthed baffled expression here]
Needless to say that this expression was similar to mine when I was first told about the book by my lovely sales rep from the publisher, Scholastic. 

Every November the water horses emerge from the sea on to the remote island of Thisby seeking blood, and every year locals and tourists alike come down to the beach to watch them, perhaps catch one, and possibly enter themselves in the Scorpio Races, a bloody race in which the winner receives a vast amount of riches. Many try, and many die, either thrown off their horse and trampled underfoot, dragged beneath the waves as their steed charges back home, or eaten. Yes... eaten. There is nothing these horses like more than fresh meat. Sean and Puck both have their reasons to enter the race, and both want to win. They also find in each other kindred spirits, and slowly fall in love.  

There wasn't much about this book that I didn't like. The main characters fall in love a little slowly for my liking, and there weren't enough scenes of them together, but I understand Stiefvater's reasons for keeping them apart. For this isn't meant to be a love story between people, it's a love story between horses. The relationships between Sean and Corr, and between Puck and Dove, are truly beautiful and surprisingly gripping. 

Stiefvater revels in displaying unconventional, yet inevitable love. She does this to some degree in her other novels (whether with werewolves or faeries) but it is in The Scorpio Races that her confidence really shines. Her characters barely speak (especially to each other!) but she knows how they move, how they feel and how they touch. Scenes that in any other novel would seem tame are positively charged with sexual energy: there's a moment where Sean holds Puck's wrist, feeling her pulse after she rides his horse Corr, and needless to say my pulse was racing quite a bit too...

But what's truly amazing about this novel is the world that Stiefvater creates. It is so convincing I often found myself asking 'Where is it?! I want to go!!!' Thisby is part England, part Ireland, part eastern seaboard (I have visited Maine and Nova Scotia, and these could easily be locations). Sometimes I imagined characters with Cornish accents, sometimes Welsh, sometimes something else entirely (Puck was almost always consistently Irish sounding to me). As well as being an 'Other Place', Thisby is set in an 'Other Time'. Maybe Victorian, maybe post-war, maybe now. It is a world of quaint independent shops (butchers and bakers and tea rooms!), pagan festivals and old-school patriarchal values. This is a world where Water Horses are not only real, they are incredibly plausible. 

This is a novel that should be impossible to pull off. It is rooted in obscure myth, set in a strange alternate-England of olde, and features a romance more Victorian than modern. Oh, and did I mention the flesh-eating water horses? It shouldn't work. And yet it does. It really does. It is fine, intelligent escapism that makes me yearn for simple things, like bicycles and beaches (and quiet boys who know how to saddles from their spurs...). 

The Scorpio Races comes out in October, and I'd urge you all to read it!
(Alice will be receiving my proof copy in the post shortly...)

Sunday, 3 July 2011

In My Mailbox - Sunday 3rd July

I wasn't going to do an In My Mailbox because I'm on holiday, but then I popped into work because I got a message saying my in tray was clogged with packages! These are the goodies I picked up. I also got a second copy of Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star, so obviously I'm really very special.

Ruby Redford: Look Into My Eyes by Lauren Child
Technically this wasn't a package I picked up in the post, because it was in a goodie bag I received at the superb launch party. This book doesn't come with a blurb, but it IS a spin off from the Clarice Bean novels. In those novels, Clarice is obsessed with reading the Ruby Redfort books, and now they are REAL!!! It's all very meta... 
This book also has proper actual code puzzles throughout, devised by the excellent mathematician Professor Marcus du Sautoy of Oxford University. 
I've read the first 50 pages (on my way home from the party) and it's like reading a mash-up of The Incredibles, Richie Rich and Harriet the Spy. I also know for a fact, because Lauren Child said so, that the 80s TV show Hart to Hart was a massive influence. Truefact. 
You'll  be able to buy a finished copy (with a GREAT front cover) in October 2011

Kill All Enemies by Melvin Burgess
Ever felt like you just don't fit in?
Everyone says fourteen year old Billie is nothing but trouble. A fighter. A danger to her family and friends. But her care worker sees someone different.
Her classmate Rob is big, strong. He can take care of himself and his brother. But his violent stepdad sees someone to humiliate.
And Chris is struggling at school. He just doesn't want to be there. But his dad sees a useless no-hoper.
Billie, Rob and Chris each have a story to tell but there are two sides to every story, and the question is... who do you believe?
Hard-hitting, shocking and powerful, and on the shelves of bookshops from the 1st September

Stealing Phoenix by Joss Stirling
Catch a thief, and lose your heart.
Phoenix is a thief, Yves is a genius. Two different worlds, one amazing love story.
On bookshop shelves from September 2011

Bloodstone by Gillian Philip
(proof cover is really shiny black, and my camera didn't like it! )
For centuries, Seth and Conal have hunted for the Bloodstone Kate wants, without success. Homesick, and determined to ensure their clann's safety, they've also made secret forays across the Veil. One of these illicit crossings has violent consequences that will devastate both their close family and, eventually, their entire clann.
In the otherworld, Jed Cameron - a feral, fullmortal young thief - becomes entangled with the strange and dangerous Finn MacAngus and her shadowy uncles. When he is dragged accidentally into the world of the Sithe, it's nothing he can't handle - but that's before time warps around him, and the danger reaches out to threaten his infant brother.
In the collision of two worlds, conflict and tragedy are inevitable - especially when treachery comes fro the most shocking of quarters. 
The sequel to Firebrand, and on shelves... actually it doesn't say when. Probably soon...!

Corsets and Clockwork - 13 Steampunk Romances, edited by Trisha Telep
When good hearts battle evil, resistance is automated. From magical outcasts to kindred spirits, feisty heroines to genius inventors, to war zones and supernatural rituals, idealistic young heroes skulk through the dangerous streets of the soot-choked city of industry, while lovelorn humanity trembles on the brink, all soft flesh and corsets in a sharp world of blood-sucking machines and technomagical desire.
But you can still find your true love - piece by spring-loaded, electro-magnetic, super-charged piece - if only you keep listening for the tick, tick, tick.
This was a guilty pleasure purchase, and is out now!

Who knows what more goodies I will receive when I go back to work on July 11th...