Saturday 23 June 2012

On Fifty Shades of Grey

I wasn't going to write anything about the erotic trilogy by E.L. James, mostly because I felt that it was outside the parameters of this blog, in which I prefer to focus on the fabulous world of YA. However, since making that decision, the first book in the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, has become one of the (if not THE) bestselling book of all time. But instead of offering a critique of the books, the likes of which you can find in multitudes across the world wide web, I thought I would offer a defence.

Working in a (huge) bookshop gives me a unique perspective, for as much as I could criticise and berate the appalling writing style, the repetitive (and frankly boring) use of phrases such as 'Oh My' and 'Holy Cow' and the ludricous plot, I get to meet the people who are buying them. The vast majority are giggling office girls, anxious to get hold of the books that EVERYBODY is talking about. They want to be part of the club, to join in with debates on who should play Christian Grey in the inevitable film and to be 'in' on the little jokes that pass like silly titters between colleagues at the water cooler. They are happy customers. They are excited customers, and it is a pleasure to sell the books to them. Mostly because I can guarantee that every single one of these readers will have a thoroughly great time. 

Hence my first defence: 

1. The books are undeniable fun.

If you have read the books with your glasses primed at the end of your nose, tutting away at each unnecessary adverb, you have missed the point. James did not write them to be a serious and realistic exploration into the devious mind of a sadist billionaire, she wrote them for fun. She wrote them with a giggle on her lips, and posted them on a website for other people to giggle at. They were never meant to be taken seriously, and it's not the author's fault that they have been. In fact, it's hardly the author's fault that they've been properly published. I highly doubt that was her original intention at all. She had an idea, she had a great time writing it up, and now millions of readers can have a great time reading them too. 

2. As a parody of the Twilight saga, they're actually quite funny.

I wrote an essay for my Masters degree on the influence of Twilight on the literary establishment, from the impact of their covers to the fact that the floodgates were opened to a multitude of YA writing. In the course of this essay I picked the books apart, and found them to be absolutely dreadful. The shallow submissiveness of Bella, the frankly creepy smothering nature of Edward, plus the weird development of their juvenile relationship to marriage and children across four novels. What E.L. James has done with the Fifty Shades trilogy, is pick apart the bare bones of the plot and the latent themes, and parody them. For Bella we have the virginal and oblivious Ana, and instead of a domineering boyfriend with a dark vampiric secret, we have the domineering Christian with a secret playroom. Entire scenes from the Twilight Saga have been lifted and transplanted to Fifty-land, and this is funny. Really funny. I don't care if you don't get it. I laughed. I really laughed, and I betcha E.L. James laughed too as she was writing it. Good for her!

3. People are reading books!

This view comes from my experience of being a children's bookseller, where I was constantly telling parents that it didn't matter what their children were reading, just the fact that they were reading anything at all is a brilliant thing. Parents would moan about their child only ever reading the Wimpy Kid books or Tintin, "how do I get them reading Dickens?" they would ask. In reply I would try and find a way of telling nervous parents that it didn't matter what their kids were reading. The point is to enjoy books. Everyday women (and awkwardly, some men) are coming into my book shop and buying the Fifty Shades trilogy, and I am willing to bet that for the vast majority of these customers, these are the first and only books they will be buying this year. Who honestly cares what they are reading? Isn't it just a great thing that they are in bookshops at all? Spending their dwindling after-tax salaries on paperback novels? And for every one of these customers that lazes on the beach with their once-a-year read, there will be another who will come back, and instead of picking up a Mills and Boon, may instead pick up the latest Booker prize winner, or the Costa winner at the very least. Guys! People who haven't set foot in a bookshop in years are reading! Let's embrace them no matter what they buy! 

4. Fantasy is Fantasy

One of the most annoying criticisms I've read of these books is that they defy feminism and set modern womankind back fifty years. Ana is a submissive little girl who is on a quest to 'fix' her kinky man, and consents to marriage as well as being manacled to a four poster and flogged. Have we learnt nothing by burning our bras sisters? As well as being trussed up my our underwired lingerie do we really desire to be trussed up in cable ties and handcuffs too? My response? They are fantasy! E.L. James knew she was writing fantasy (heck, Twilight was her starting point!), and the vast majority of her female readers recognise that they engaging in fantasy too. In exactly the same way that we all know that hobbits and vampires aren't real, we know that Christian Grey isn't real. I would argue that we all engage in fantasy precisely because we know that it isn't real. Fantasy allows us all to explore our secret desires without the ramifications of reality. Do I really want to be handcuffed to a bed and beaten with a riding crop? No. Do I want to imagine what it might be like? Yes. I am an ardent and proud feminist, and this means that in my liberation, I am allowed to do what the hell I like with my imagination. 

5. What does Bestseller really mean?

In the short run, it actually means that the publisher gets more money and freedom to publish other stuff. Which is a really, really good thing. It means that the next literary 'big-thing' may get an advance big enough to pursue his dreams. It means that the doors open slightly wider for other writers and novels. In the long run, the vast landscape of history, it doesn't really mean much. I haven't run a copy of the Da Vinci Code through my tills in months and months. I bet you've probably never even heard of the bestselling books of the Victorian age. Trilby anyone? The Sorrows of Satan by Marie Corelli? Basically, the success of a low-grade erotic novel isn't going to actually impact our lives in any meaningful way. It doesn't signify the decline of morals or the coming of the apocalypse. Trashy bestsellers have existed for centuries now, and we're all ok. Give it a few years and we'll have the next big thing, and nay-sayers will once again be predicting the end of the world and the decline of moral values. Give it a decade or two and you may have even forgotten that Fifty Shades of Grey existed. And everything will be fine. 

Comments welcomed and appreciated people!

Hugs and high fives (from a relatively twitchy palm),


Wednesday 20 June 2012

Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

In One Line:  Renaissance romance meets scooby doo!
Genre: historical mystery
The Gist:
Luca Vero is the local hot stud, forced to commit to a life of religious servitude (and celibacy!) due to being brought up in a monastry. But Luca is a bad boy, because he’s clever and likes numbers and stuff. After being accused of heresy, instead of being cast out into the renaissance wilderness, he is imployed by the Pope to investigate the rise of Satan across Italy. And his first job? To visit a abbey and find out what’s driving all the nuns cray cray. There he meets Isolde, a woman doomed to imprisonment in the abbey because of the terms of her father’s will and the malevolence of her brother. Is she the one who brought the devil to the nunnery? Or is there a perfectly rational explanation to it all? Zoinks!!!
The Cover:
I’ve actually had to do a little survey over this cover. The general consensus is that it is definitely not embarrassing, and yet, I feel a little cringey about it. I think it’s because I hate having the looks of characters thrust in my face. I like to imagine them and make them up in my head. These two cover models aren’t quite what I’d imagine, plus the blonde girl’s ringlets bother me. She looks a bit too preened for the fifteenth century, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t have hair rollers back then. Also, my friend Adrian says that the cover is missing a pitchfork. I’m inclined to agree with him.
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Guys! It’s Philippa Gregory!!! She is the reigning queen of Historical Fiction, and I adore her for it. I got so excited when I heard that this book was coming out, because I’ve read every tudor novel Gregory has ever written and LOVED THEM ALL. She manages to paint history in an engaging and emotional way, and when I actually was a Young Adult I lapped all her books up. Except that I was really picky about reading them in historical order, which I’m sure you all understand. 
  • Gregory knows her shizzle. And she doesn’t bombard you with factoids and exposition, which is such a relief, and proves that she is a master of historical writing. She gives you all the information you need to know so that the period references make sense, but you never feel overloaded or patronised.
  • Past dystopias? As you probably already know, the YA market is saturated with dystopian fiction, but what I figured out whilst reading this book is that dystopian dramas don’t have to just be set in the future, they can be set in the past as well. So many of the key issues in this book feature heavily in science fiction, showing that imperfect worlds can exist anywhere. 
  • Feminism! Isolde is a modern gal trapped in the renaissance, which basically means her life sucks. What’s especially uncanny about her position in this book is that she can’t see any way out for herself. Heroines of the modern or future age always manage to kick ass and strike back (a la Katniss) but Isolde is well and truly stuck. She can’t envision a world in which she could possibly be happy, and seeing as this is a historical novel, we know what her outcomes can only be: marriage, nunnery or burned as a witch. The fifteenth century well and truly sucks for women, and Gregory conveys this frustration perfectly. I just wish that Isolde had a chance to do something about it. 
  • Isolde’s best friend Ishraq. She rocks. She reminds me of Kalinda in The Good Wife, but with a long bow. This is a good thing. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • Guys, I have structure issues. Serious structure issues. Because from a narrative point of view, something really weird is going on with this book. After giving it some thought I’m even wondering if this is two novellas stuck together, or a pitch for a renaissance-set TV mystery mini-series (like the X-Files, but with the enlightenment?), because what we have here are two distinct episodes in one book. The major climax of the novel happens exactly half-way through, and then afterwards we get a whole new story, which isn’t nearly as heightened and scary as the first one. I just don’t understand what’s going on here. 
  • There’s lots of talky talk. Gregory’s characters sure like to chat... I think this is a problem of having a third person narrator. Instead of the narrator explaining everything, the characters do it instead, often in lengthy conversations. Luckily Gregory is skilled in dialogue, but sometimes I just wanted the characters to shut up so that we could get back to the action. 
  • About two thirds of the way through this novel I thought about drawing a graph. A graph that would relay the various ups and downs that occur throughout reading Changeling. Because sometimes I was completely on board and racing through, but as soon as a brilliant, fast-paced scene was over, we went to something slow and talky. The result is an oddly patchy reading experience. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
Oh, this is the first book that has properly failed in such a long time. And I blame that purely on the odd pacing of this novel. I’d hit a good patch and race through it, but then I’d hit a dry, talky talky patch and I’d put the book down and not pick it up again for a little bit. And then on my commute, I was more inclined to nap than to read. Sad times. 
Final Verdict:
This book is great fun, and there is huge potential for this to be an exciting series, but I can’t help but feel that Gregory is holding back. It worries me that as a successful ‘adult’ writer, she decided to turn to ‘YA’, because it makes me think that she’s purposely adjusted and reworked her style to fit in with what she ‘thinks’ YA writing should be. I may be totally wrong, in fact I hope I am, but having read her other books I know what the writer is capable of. This book has so much potential, but it doesn’t have the heart and soul that I’m used to finding in Gregory’s other books. It’s overly chaste, it doesn’t explore the politics or issues of the time deeply enough, and some of the dialogue seems deliberately simple. Also I’m not sure how ‘YA’ this book really is. Yes our two main characters are teenagers, but they don’t read as teenagers. There is nothing of the teen experience here. What was it like to be a teenager in renaissance Italy? From reading Changeling, I’m afraid that I just don’t know. 
Further Reading:
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
VIII by H.M. Castor
Witch Child by Celia Rees
To buy Changeling please click HERE!!!

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Letterbox Love no.4 - 19th June 2012

It's been a slightly slow couple of weeks on my doormat, possibly due to the recent Jubilee and resulting bank holidays. But here's a sneaky peek at what I have received, complete with blurbs and publication notes... 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of He Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
September is a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha. Her dad is fighting in a faraway war, her mum is always out at work, and September is stuck in a lonely, adventureless rut. So when the Green Wind arrives at her window and invites her to Fairyland, she accepts in a flash. (Mightn't you?)
But Fairyland is in crisis and confusion, crushed by the iron rule of the villainous Marquess - and September alone holds the key to restoring order. Well! She knows what a girl with a quest must do: she sets out to Fix Things.
With a book-loving dragon and a mysterious boy named Saturday by her side, September faces peril and pandemonium; loses her shadow, her shoe and her way - and finds a great deal more besides. But time is short, and time is ticking, and every story must have an ending. Can September save Fairyland? Can she even save herself?
Published by Corsair

The Things we Did for Love by Natasha Farrant
France: February, 1944
As war rages in Europe, Luc and Arianne fall passionately in love. But German forces are closing in around them and Luc, desperate to atone for his family's troubled past, is drawn into the dangerous world of the Resistance.
Arianne will do almost anything to keep Luc safe. But someone else has other plans - someone who also loves her, and will stop at nothing to get rid of his rival...
How far would you go for love?
Published by Faber and Faber

The Terrible Thing That Happened by Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne
This is the story of a boy who was ready to meet new people.
A boy who wanted to have new adventures.
And above all else, a boy who was proud to be different.
Published by Doubleday, August 2012

A special mention to my manager Jim, who upon hearing that I have started delving into the world of comics and graphic novels, has let me borrow these titles from his apparently vast collection!
Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Fables: Legends in Exile by Willingham, Medina, Leialoha and Hamilton
The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
Astonishing X-Men: Torn by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
Y - The Last Man: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr.
Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

So what do we think? Have any of you guys read any of these titles yet? What do you think? Comments in the doobree below please! 

Hugs and high fives,

Saturday 16 June 2012

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

In One Line:  Cinderella meets The Batchelor meets The Hunger Games (seriously!)
Genre: Dystopian Cupcake
The Gist:
In a society dominated by a rigorous caste system, America Singer (yes, that is our heroine’s name. Seriously.) is a Five, destined to a life of serving the upper classes through pursuit of the arts. Her family struggles, but not nearly as much as the family of her One True Love, Aspen, who is a Six and destined to always be a measly servant. But then the prince of the realm, Maxon, decides that he is in need of a wife, and the way things are done in this future-topia is for 35 girls to be upgraded in status and shipped off to the royal palace to partake in a televised process of selection. America is one of the Selected. So off she goes to the palace, to wear various pretty dresses and parade in front of the prince in the hope of one day becoming queen. But America doesn’t want that... or does she? 
The Cover:
I will admit something. When this book arrived I shoved it in my manager’s face and said “THIS IS THE GIRLIEST COVER I HAVE EVER SEEN.” To which he agreed, and then ran away. It is utterly unashamed, and I suppose I do have to give bonus points for that. One look at this cover and you know you’re not going to get a serious social critique. What you do know is that you are going to get lithe young girls wearing pretty dresses, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Yes, this cover is embarrassing, but if you are going to read this book then you’re going to have to just roll with it and embrace the tulle. 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Pretty dresses! Handsome princes! Forbidden romance with the lowly servant boy! OH MY!!!
  • It follows pretty much an identical plot-line to the Hunger Games.You may think that this is a bad thing, but I think it’s a good thing. Because if you like the idea of the Hunger Games, but disapprove of young people killing each other, then you will LOVE The Selection, because instead of blood and guts and death, there’s girly bitchiness and snide playground banter. This book essentially IS the Hunger Games, but with no violence and more frou frou. 
  • Our heroine is fiesty, and a victim to her heart, and sees the good in people. She’s a good role model. And she’ll blatantly be a fantastic princess. 
  • Did I mention that there are lots of pretty dresses?

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • IT IS SO SEXIST I FEEL LIKE A WANT TO SCREAM. Because the girls are chosen to be one of the Selected based on their looks, and then they are pampered and preened and stuffed in ball gowns and expected to do the every bidding of the handsome prince in the hope that perhaps they may get to marry him. KILL ME NOW. 
  • This book is so predictable I bet that you can guess exactly what happens the entire way through. And you’d be completely and utterly right. 
  • It’s so darn silly and I can’t possibly believe for a nano-second that this idea of a future world is possible. The politics of the society, which are kind-of explained throughout the book, are ridiculous and hugely unsophisticated. The world-building is abysmal, I mean, how can a society based so heavily on a ludicrous caste system that dictates your career for you possibly succeed? And where does the palace wealth come from? And where do they get all the materials for the pretty dresses? *makes emphatic hand gestures*
  • Cliffhanger alert. And not actual literary device kind of cliffhanger. The book just stops. The story actually has no ending. I thought I was missing pages at the end. This made me angry. Well, more angry. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
I hold my hands up. For all it’s bad points, this book passed. This is an incredibly easy and fluffy read and a nice distraction from life. I feel so ashamed. 
Final Verdict:
This book is a literary cupcake. Once in a while it makes for a delicious, guilty-pleasure treat, but this is not a book to base a diet on. Mostly because it is incredibly silly and appallingly sexist. I knew this as I was reading it. I promise you I did, and the ardent feminist part of my brain was screaming at me to put the book away and never speak of it again. And yet. AND YET. I couldn’t put it down. I ate it up in two sittings. Does this make me a bad person? A little bit, probably. So my parting words on the case are going to be: you’ll enjoy it this one, but please, for the love of humanity and womankind, do not for one second think that if a prince buys you a pair of jeans (and lets you wear them, but only on Saturdays) that means you are destined to be his queen. 
Further Reading:
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (read my review HERE!)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
To buy The Selection please click HERE!!!

Friday 15 June 2012

Review: Slated by Teri Terry

In One Line:  Girl gets memory wiped in dark vision of the near future.
Genre: British-dystopian drama
The Gist:
Kyla has been slated. Her memory has been wiped, and she’s just about to meet her brand new adoptive parents for the first time. She doesn’t know much about crossing roads, or washing up, and she has no idea what her own personality is. All she really knows is that she had to have done something pretty bad in her former life to be in the position she’s in now. But as Kyla slowly adjusts to her new world she begins to figure out that her circumstances aren’t as simple as they initially seem. Things are wrong. She is wrong, and as the puzzle pieces come together, Kyla realises that her past can still catch up with her.
The Cover:
Guys, I really like it. And there aren’t many covers that I’d openly declare as liking right now. But the face is right, the styling is right, and you’re under no illusion that what you’re getting is a dystopian thriller. But the close up face also prepares you for the level of intimacy you’ll end up having with the main character. It’s like those green eyes are actually saying ‘go on, read me. You know you want too...’ Isn’t it great when a book does that? Also, bonus points for it being gender-neutral. Any book cover that doesn’t feature a distressed thin girl in a pretty dress wins with me at the moment! 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • It was real emotional intimacy. This slice of science-fiction-lite works because you really feel for the main character, you understand her, and are with her 100% of the way. Terry understands that this is not a story about a near-futuristic society, but a story about a girl. This is why it works, and this is why you are hooked from the very beginning.
  • It doesn’t hit you over the head with the dystopia thing... and this is BRILLIANT. Because I hate getting bogged down in exposition. The fact that our main character has had her memory wiped means we learn about her society along with her. 
  • Plausibility. This is my favourite buzz-word when it comes to speculative fiction. I have to buy that it might possibly happen in order to buy into the book. I always use Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale as an example of this - it’s definitely dystopian science fiction, but every element of that novel is drawn from stuff that is actually happening in the world today. It’s the plausibility that makes it such a thrilling read. Terry has achieved that here. This is a near-future world that could happen and has ties to current psychiatric practices, the ‘problem’ of youth culture, and the functionality of our government. 
  • I kind of want to be Kyla. She’s different from the rest, in a way that makes her sort-of dangerous (we think). She has a super-hero quality to her, even though she doesn’t actually know what makes her special, and I love that. It leaves me expecting big and exciting things from the sequels - no pressure Teri! 
  • I love that good vs evil isn’t a black and white thing here. The fact that you have no idea who to trust, no idea if our heroine is actually a goodie or a baddie, makes this book all the more exciting. Just who is Kyla? Is she a terrorist? Is she just a girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are her doctors the bad guys? The Lorders? Well, no spoilers or anything, but don’t expect to get any answers any time soon. There is great subtlety in the writing, and I love that I have to constantly ask questions not only of the book, but of myself. 
  • Levos. The thing on your wrist that moniters your happy levels - what a brilliant, BRILLIANT idea. It made me shudder with ickiness at some points, but I really like it when that happens, as it means the writing is getting under my skin!
  • IT’S BRITISH. Mega fist-pump of joy for a book that represents! And it doesn’t try to be American or anything. It’s set in a UK we can all recognise and appreciate, although it’s pretty frustrating to know that the motorway traffic doesn’t get any better in the future. Sucks. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • CLIFFHANGER WARNING - ok, so it’s not a Patrick Ness or Lauren Oliver style cliffhanger, which leaves you screaming at the book for ending where it does, but I do feel that it’s fair to let you know that this is the first part of a trilogy, and leaves you wanting more. But apparently it’s impossible in this day and age for a great story to be told in one book. I get a little bit angry about this, but am not going to rant about it here. I just want you to be aware. In case you are angry about this trend in YA publishing too.
  • Ben. Oh, Ben. I want to love you. I feel like I probably should love you, but I don’t. Now, admittedly I understand that as a recently Slated lad, Ben’s instincts and urges are going to be a little different from the average teenage boy’s, but still, apparently his idea of a good time is having you sit on his knee for a cuddle. I just didn’t fancy him. Am hoping that the future novels will have a love interest with a bit more of a swoon factor. 
  • Running. This is a bit of a personal bad point. Basically I’ve started jogging, and I really enjoy it, but I don’t want to go out when it’s raining. And it’s been rainning a lot lately. So Kyla does an awful lot of running in the book, and she just made me feel really guilty about not going out as often as I should. Also I’m not sure that enough showering happens. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
Passed. Passed Passed. Short chapters keeps the storytelling paced well, and things move along quickly enough to keep me hooked. I wasn’t quite so sure about the last third of the book - this is where the ‘thriller’ element of the story really comes into it’s own. I found myself missing the more imtimate, emotional storytelling of the first parts. 
Final Verdict:
I’m going to get personal here folks. I suffer from depression and have seen psychiatrists for much of my life, and there were moments of this book that I really connected with from my own experience. So much so that I got a chilling curdle in my stomach at some points. Now of course I haven’t been slated, but Kyla’s experience of adjusting to an unsure world, whilst being unsure of yourself, is something I could identify with to a frankly scary degree. Her experience of group therapy and her meetings with Dr Lysander will resonate with anyone who has ever been on the therapist’s couch. But this is why the book works so well. The things Kyla feels and thinks about are spot on, and even though I couldn’t possibly fully comprehend what it’s like to be slated, I do feel that through the storytelling, I can understand it to a pretty thorough degree. That’s what good writing does folks. 
Further Reading:
Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (read my review HERE!)
Fracture by Megan Miranda
The Declaration by Gemma Malley
To buy Slated please click HERE!!!

Sunday 3 June 2012

Letterbox Love no.3 - 3rd June 2012

So it's been a couple of weeks since I did a Letterbox Love, and that's mostly because the week before last I received one book, so I didn't think it was worth it, but this week I've received LOADS!!! Here's a glance at what I've got to show you...

And now for a bit more info... (basically I just copy out the blurb on the back and tell you when you can buy it!)

Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid
Hephzi and Rebecca are sixteen-year-old twins. One beautiful. One disfigured.
Their father is terrifying and violent. Their mother is meek, submissive and cold.
The twins dream of a normal life filled with laughter and love. They both just want to be accepted.
But when one pays the ultimate price for breaking the rules,the other is alone for the first time in her life.
Can she escape? And will she ever reveal how her sister really died?
Publishes: OUT NOW from Penguin Razorbill

The Vampire of Highgate by Asa Bailey
Kathy is an innocent - an outsider - who longs to belong somewhere. Anywhere.
When Kathy starts having vivid dreams of her lost sister, Amber, she finds herself called from her New York home to London - Amber's last known whereabouts. Convinced that Amber's disappearance is entwined with the legend of the Highgate Vampire, Kathy begins a deadly search to uncover the truth about her family's past, little realising that she is being drawn in to the final resting place of London's most ancient and powerful vampire...
Publishes: OUT NOW from Hodder Children's Books

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Cas Lowood is no ordinary guy - he hunts dead people.
Dead people like Anna Dressed in Blood, a beautiful, murderous ghost entangled in curses and rage. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Cas knows he must destroy her, but as her tragic past is revealed, he starts to understand why Anna has killed everyone she's ever met. 
Everyone, that is, except Cas...
Publishes: July 2012 from Orchard Books

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to another pirate clan. But that only prompts the scorned clan to send an assassin after her. When Ananna faces him down one night, armed with magic she doesn't really know how to use, she accidentally activates a curse binding them together.
To break the curse, Ananna and the assassin must complete three impossible tasks - all while grappling with evil wizards, floating islands, haughty manticores, runaway nobility, strange magic... and the growing romantic tension between them.
Publishes: October 2012 from Strange Chemistry

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings
Being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be.
When 15 year old Julie Richardson and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.
After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to an arcane spell. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible - or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.
Publishes: October 2012 from Strange Chemistry

Blackwood by Gwenda Bond
On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just a story for tourists. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people right now, an unlikely pair of 17 year olds may be the only hope of bringing them back. 
Miranda, a misfit girl from the island's most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can't dodge is each other.
Publishes: September 2012 from Strange Chemistry

Shift by Kim Curran
When your average loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He's a 'shifter' - he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made.
At first, he thinks the power to Shift is pretty cool. But as his world quickly begins to unravel around him, he realises that each time he uses his power, it results in terrible, unforeseen consequences. In a world where anything can change with a single thought, Scott has to decide exactly where he stands. 
Publishes: September 2012 from Strange Chemistry

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
Meet Celaena Sardothien. Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, a seventeen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the Prince in a to-the-death tournament - fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she's about to discover her true destiny. 
But will her assassin's heart be melted?
Publishes: August 2012 from Bloomsbury

So what you you guys think?

Hugs and high fives,


Friday 1 June 2012

Contempo-May Reading List: Adult Young Adult Reads

These are the most outstanding books about teenagers that you won’t find in the teen section of your local bookstore. Books that writers and publishers don’t want to admit to being YA, or have classed as ‘adult’ in order to get the biggest readership. Some of the greatest writers of our time have written about that most awesome eras of existence, the teenage years, and here are the best. Perfect for YA readers that yearn for MORE or those looking for the Next Step in their reading. 

I remember reading this when I was probably a bit too young to read this. It features an awful lot of sexytimes that I remember being a more gross than titillating. And also thinking that boys were weird. There wasn't enough actual romance to get me hooked when I was a young teen, but looking back now it probably expresses quite deftly the thoughts that teenage boys have. Tell me now if I'm wrong!

This book haunted me a little when I was younger, and I ended up reading anything and everything by Margaret Atwood. I still hold her up as being one of my favourite writers of all time. This was because this book captured perfectly what I was going through in secondary school at the time, being bullied by my best friend. As paradoxical as that sounds, this book got it. And I truly felt that Atwood got me. 

One I'm going to admit I haven't read yet (SHOCK! HORROR!) but it's been on my shelves for ages and ages. And from what I've heard from other people who've actually read it, I have absolutely no idea why it's not a straight-up YA book. Go into a bookshop and you'll find it in the adult section. Mystery. The only reason I can think of is that the publishers got scared that younger people wouldn't be able to pronounce his name. Which is stupid, because I'm in my twenties and I still can't pronounce his name. 

This is one that I'm a bit too scared to read. One, because it's mean to be really sick and twisted, and two, because I think I'll enjoy it. From what I gather, there's a bit of murder, and a bit of incest. But it's still still about teens, the teenage experience and the workings of the teenage mind. So for me that qualifies it as adult YA. 

We all know that growing up sucks, but it especially sucks if you've been adopted by a crazy religious lady and you think you might be gay. Based on her actual life, this is Jeanette expressing her own personal, teenage experience. 

Ooooh this book gave me chills when I first read it! But it was the point of view that really interested me: first person plural - I remember being, like, woh. A group of boys look back on their teenage years and their obsession with the sisters that lived down the road. Creepy and wonderful. 

Another one I haven't read yet, and only became aware of because a film was made recently. But like Perks, I have no idea why this isn't something that belongs in the YA section in shops. If anyone can enlighten me, then please do! Otherwise, it's one that's been on my 'to read' list for ages and ages. Along with a million other titles!

So I've given you a load of literary gems so far, but we all know what I'm like, and I do like the odd guilty pleasure swoon every now and again. Admittedly, I've seen the film and not read the book, but essentially if it's by Mr Sparkes, it's blatantly going to be a teary romance. This one has a dying girl and a bad boy who sees the light. Can't go wrong really!

I read this one when I was seventeen and visiting Durham university, where I was eventually going to study. And I know it's had a bit of a bad rap since it exploded on to the scene with ridiculous accolades, but I loved it. I thought it was great. And I thought that here is a writer that understands what it's like to be a young person in a world I knew really well: North West London.

Pretty much essential reading for any young person, although I think I was a bit too old when I read it in the sixth form. I was always a goody-two-shoes (prefect, Head Girl etc) so I never really 'got' Holden Caulfield. But I am pretty much convinced that if this book were published today it would be classed YA in the bookshops. In fact, why the hell has Penguin/Puffin not done a YA edition of this yet? Blatantly missing a trick.

Other Notable Titles
Whilst thinking long and hard about this list, I came across titles that I technically couldn't include because of the rules of 'Contempo-May' (no supernatural, historical or sci-fi elements). But there are some books that I just HAVE to give a mention to, because they are awesome and deserve it. So there. 

As always, I want your comments and suggestions, so please leave them in the doobree below. Have I missed anything out? 

Hugs and high fives,