Friday, 19 September 2014

Book Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini.

Product details:
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books.
Paperback, 384 pages.
Release date: August 28th 2014.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

It sucks to be Lily Proctor. Her mom is going insane, her love life is a conundrum and worst of all, she suffers from debilitating allergies – allergies that ensure she can’t live a normal life and do normal teenage-girl things – allergies that are getting worse by the day - and are slowly killing her. It’s not all bad though, because Lily has Tristan; her best friend and long-time crush who recently has become something more. Lily’s not quite sure what’s going on between her and Tristan – but let’s just say that there has been kissing. Then again, Tristan kisses everyone. He’s not exactly the type to commit. Lily thinks that she might just be the girl to change Tristan’s love them and leave them ways, but she’s wrong, and when he betrays her – publicly and terribly – Lily is done. She wants out of her no-good life; she wants out of this world.

 And, what do you know? Lily gets her wish. Also, you know what they say about wishes, right? 

 The world that Lily finds herself in is Salem, Massachusetts, the same place Lily has lived all her life, only it’s not the Salem Lily knows: for one, in this world, the whole city of Salem is enclosed by huge city walls. Oh, and there is a castle. A castle where Lily belongs. The people of this world see Lily and they treat her like a lady, they treat her like a Queen. That’s because Lily’s other self, Lilian, is the all-powerful ruler of this strange, parallel world where witches rule, chaos reigns and magic is currency. And just like her other self, Lily is a witch: she’s also all-powerful. In this world, what made her weak in her own world, now makes her strong. Allergies and annoying boys called Tristan, be gone.

 Or maybe not. 

Because there’s a Tristan in this world too. And there’s a Rowan – Rowan Fall – a boy who knows Lily better than she knows herself. Soon, Lily learns that Lilian is not a revered leader, but a cruel mistress who is seemingly intent on the reckless destruction of her people. This new world is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Lily wants out of here too – but first she finds herself as a major player in a rebel plot to overthrow Lillian, because Lily’s powers are manifesting, and her crush on the enigmatic and often-prone-to-mood-swings Rowan – that’s growing by the day too. But, with Rowan’s past – and all his secrets – is that really a good idea? 

An expertly woven tale that seamlessly blends romance and science with witchcraft, Trial by Fire, the first in Starcrossed author Josephine Angelini’s Worldwalker series, is an engagingly told, captivating story that is a perfect mix of fairy tale, fantasy and paranormal fiction. The world-building in this book is epic in scale, and is beautifully and flawlessly done in a story that is unique and imaginative throughout.

 That said, I found Trial by Fire a little predictable in places. I have heard people talking about a cliffhanger ending in relation to this one, but I didn’t find the ending cliffhanger at all. A cliffhanger ending should be shocking and twisty and leave you mouth-agape in bewilderment as to what happens next. I think a lot of people got 'cliffhanger' from the end of this book, but it just didn't happen for me. I knew Trial by Fire would end just how it did right from the start. Maybe I have read too many of these first-in-a-series YA books? Or maybe I am tiring of YA just a little. On both of those counts, that may be the case, but I will say that while I found this to be a very enjoyable read, I would like to have seen a few more surprises in this one though, and maybe a twist or two. I guess the ending felt a little rushed, and didn’t totally work for me, although apart from that, Trial by Fire is pretty perfectly formed, and it’s safe to say that Angelini has another blockbuster hit on her hands. Trial by Fire is a fun, engaging and exciting read, and it will be loved by many the world over.

 What I would like to see in book two:

 -More Lillian (I think there may be a method to her madness, after all). 

 - More world-jumping/sliding or whatever we’re calling it – into different worlds. (Fun!) 

 - Less science (because while the ideas are all very interesting, my eyes glaze over at the mention of science. Sad, but true). 

 - More romance (there’s slow-burn, and then there’s SLOWww-BURNnn….know what I mean? A little more sizzle, please!) 

 - A shocking, evil twist (I had a culprit in mind for a shocking, evil twist in this book and it DID NOT HAPPEN –but it would have been fun. Also, it may have been a little too predictable. Or maybe it will still happen.)

 - An answer to my question about Rowan. I won’t say what my question is here for fear of posting a spoiler, but, I’m intrigued and I hope there is an answer to my question and that it isn’t just left unexplained. I know, I’m being annoying now by not saying what my question is! 

Trail of Tears the second instalment in Josephine Angelini’s Worldwalker series releases in 2015.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Discussion: Youtube Superstars & YA Book Deals.

So, maybe you've heard that Zoe Sugg a.k.a Zoella is releasing a book? 


Girl Online by Zoe Sugg || Release date: November 2014

I had no idea GirlOnline would take off the way it has - I can't believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much! - and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes...

Penny has a secret.

Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family - and the panic attacks she's suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love - and capturing every moment of it on her blog.

But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny's cover - and her closest friendship - forever.


If you haven't heard of Zoella before then take a look here and here. Yeah, she's pretty huge in the Youtubing and blogging world, and now she's venturing into YA.

Just as an aside, her boyfriend, Alfie Deyes (together they are known as 'Zalfie' and are all kinds of cute) is author of  'The Pointless Book' which is currently #1 in Sunday Times General | Paperbacks bestsellers. It's also a #1 bestseller on Amazon. These kids have got it made!

So, what do you think of it all?

I first found Zoella through her YouTube 'haul' videos and she seems like a genuinely nice girl. (I also discovered the wonder that is Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer through one of her videos, so thanks for that!) I've read some of her blog posts and she's got a friendly, engaging writing style, well suited to both blogging and YA.  Her book sounds like fun - and I'm sure it'll be a big, big seller.

Will you be reading?

I ask because whe I tweeted about Zoe's book deal, responses were, um, mixed. It seems that some people are not so happy that Zoe's newfound fame has resulted in a book deal. I see their point: I mean, yeah, OK, maybe she got a book deal because she's got an already established audience: her book is going to be on a lot of Teen Christmas lists this year. Also, it's releasing in November, just in time for the Christmas market. Ka-ching!

I guess that's the way of publishing nowadays: the book publishing business in in not-such-a-great state, and if publishers can bet on a sure winner, then, they are going to roll with it.  Penguin, Zoe's publisher, approached her regarding the book deal, by the way --we're not dealing with a 'slush pile' find here!

However, Zoe herself has mentioned in the past that she's always wanted to write a book - I think I remember her mentioning that when she was in school, she used to rush home every day to spend time on her WIP.  You can't argue with that, and I think this is a dream come true for her.

So, maybe it's not all about the money (for Zoe).

So, then, why the snark? Fame or no fame, doesn't Zoe have the same right to a YA book deal as everyone else?

Of course there are those who say that she won't actually be writing the book herself...(just one of the responses I got when I tweeted about the deal!)

So, what do you think about it all?

And will you be reading Girl Online?     

p.s: Cute cover! 
p.p.s: I've seen that of late some beauty bloggers are talking more and more about books. Hmmmm....wonder why that is! Watch this space, indeed. 

Reviewed by Arianne: Eternal Night by Carina Adly MacKenzie.

Product details:
Publisher: Paper Lantern Lit.
eBook, 319 pages.
Release date: August 26th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: YA
Reviewed by: Arianne.

There are gods among us...

Six young gods are hiding in plain sight among mortals, living secretly in cities across the world. From lavish penthouse soirees to pulsing underground clubs, for them, the party literally never ends. Until now.

On a hot June morning, the body of a beautiful girl is found floating in the rooftop pool of the Jefferson Hotel, her white-ink tattoos revealing the story of a life much longer than seems possible. Only the immortals know the truth: Nadia was the goddess of hope. Now she’s gone, and the world as they know it is ending. The Hudson River has turned blood red. Storms rage overhead. Mania is rapidly spreading across the globe.

It is up to the remaining gods—Lola, Dean, Weston, Mark, Nike and Peitha—to put aside centuries of betrayal and heartbreak, and stop the mysterious source of darkness that is taking over… before the sun sets forever.

Carina Adly MacKenzie, writer for The CW's hit series "The Originals," has penned a steamy, romantic, and ultimately redemptive story of forgotten gods, the persistence of hope, and the power of love to save us.

There is only one way I can describe Eternal Night, and that is as Gossip Girl meets Revenge meets Percy Jackson. (I know, I wouldn't have been able to picture it before I read this book, either.) It’s a tense, glamourous and cinematic take on the classic apocalyptic scenario: the countdown to the end of the word has begun and there are only six people who stand a chance of saving it.

Mark, Nike, Lola, Dean, Weston and Peitha are relics of a different era: immortals no longer at the core of human devotion, hidden in the underground clubs, side streets and black-tie events of the twenty-first century. They make for such a strong cast, it’s impossible not to find a favourite character or three when you’re reading this book. Weston, a god of communication, masquerades as a singer-songwriter superstar with OCD issues. Dean, closely tied with Dionysus, the god of wine, has got a good heart and a serious drinking problem. Peitha was probably my least favourite character simply because her viewpoint is so detached from the others – she’s a kind of Daenerys Targaryen addition, starting out far away but clearly headed for the climactic battle, only less compelling and nowhere near as memorable. Thankfully, my favourite character by far was Lola. Feisty, optimistic and warm, she’s the kind of character who’ll be adored by every kind of reader.

And of course, romance is at the very heart of this book’s priorities. It's everywhere - there's even an LGBT romance - and it’s almost no surprise that I simply can’t choose between my favourite romantic storylines here. Mark and Nike are absolutely brilliant together. A god of war and the goddess of victory? It’s fantastic! They have real history and their relationship is tense and passionate – each is as strong and stubborn as the other – as well as tender and genuine – it’s clear that nobody understands them the way they understand each other. Lola and Jude, on the other hand, are sweeter and more cautious, yet there’s chemistry and humour there, too. I found myself rooting for them right from the beginning.

Unfortunately, one of the issues I had with the book stemmed from MacKenzie’s characterisation and treatment of Jude. In a way, he answers the call for more diversity in books as he’s blind and shows that characters with disabilities can be just as engaging and crush-worthy as able-bodied characters. Yet the way he’s written by MacKenzie speaks of inaccuracy, lack of realism, little or no research, and let’s face it, laziness. There are several instances where he’s described as responding to Lola’s facial expressions or movements, even when she’s not talking and he’s on the other side of the room. Um, what? I have no problem with characters being perceptive but that’s just ridiculous. And, as always when a blind character becomes involved with mythology, he’s given psychic ‘second sight’ powers.  Could you be any more predictable? Isn’t there any other way for someone with visual impairment to be involved with a high stakes action story, or must authors forever resort to frankly sickening clich├ęs? This also applies to instances of misogyny in the book and the writing style, which was full of brand names and just didn’t feel as original as the book’s premise warranted.

Speaking of high stakes, I think it’s important to mention that the plot of Eternal Night is occasionally a little threadbare. It may have something to do with the fact that the characters continue to attend parties and agonise over their beautiful clothes even when the world is ending right outside the window. However, what little plot does exist is excellent and totally electrifying; the pieces fall into place like a puzzle. I read the book in one sitting and I can’t wait to read more from the series.

In short: Eternal Night is one of the most sensational books I’ve read all year. It’s dramatic, stylish and utterly addictive. It wasn’t perfect but it gets a really high four stars from me.


Monday, 15 September 2014

I have a question about The Secret Place by Tana French.

Lately I've been loving anything crime/mystery/thriller, and one book that keeps on popping up in my recommendations is The Secret Place by Tana French.  It sounds right up my street and I really want to read it.


Goodreads tells me that The Secret Place is #5 in a series.

If you've read The Secret Place (and the rest of the books in the series) can you tell me if The Secret Place can be read as a standalone novel? I've read in some places that in can (while others mention that there are recurring characters and some spoilers for previous books in the series in this one).

Typically, I would start at #1 in the series, but something about this book really appeals to me and I want to read it ASAP.  I don't think I have the patience to read four other books before I dive right in, and also, while I love mysteries and thrillers, usually gritty crime is not really my thing. Here, I love that the setting is a posh boarding school --and the mystery sounds like a really good one with lots of twists and turns.

The Secret Place by Tana French || Release date: August 2014

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.


Sounds good, right?

If you've written a (spoiler-free) review of The Secret Place, feel free to leave your link in comments.

A Trick of the Mind Blog Tour: Penny Hancock talks Plotting the Perfect Crime Novel.

A Trick of the Mind by Penny Hancock || Release date: September 11th 2014

Have you committed a crime ...or are you the victim of one?

Driving down to the cottage in Southwold she's newly inherited from her Aunty May, Ellie senses she is on the edge of something new. The life she's always dreamed of living as a successful artist seems as though it is about to begin. So excited is she that she barely notices when the car bumps against something on the road.

That evening Ellie hears a news flash on the radio. A man was seriously injured in a hit and run on the very road she was driving down that evening. Then Ellie remembers the thump she heard. Could she have been responsible for putting a man in hospital? Unable to hold the doubts at bay, she decides to visit the victim to lay her mind to rest, little knowing that the consequences of this decision will change her life forever.


Guest Post: Penny Hancock talks Plotting the Perfect Crime Novel 

Plotting the perfect crime novel is like plotting the perfect crime- if you could do it you wouldn’t divulge your secrets! However, as someone who doesn’t plot my novels in advance, I’m happy to give a few hints and tips about what I do instead. This involves drafting, and redrafting, and drafting again.

Since my novels are psychological thrillers rather than classic crime, I usually start with a premise-‘What if…?’

What if a middle-aged woman is so obsessed with recapturing her first teenage love she incarcerates a teenage boy who comes to her door?
(This is the premise for Tideline)
What if a woman is so insecure she enslaves the woman who she’s employed to help in her home with her elderly father? (This is the premise for The Darkening Hour.)
What if  a young woman is so convinced she is the cause of a hit and run she seeks out the victim to put her mind at rest, who then starts to manipulate her?
(A Trick of the Mind).

After this, I still don’t plot. Instead, I work on my characters until I can hear their voices, and I decide where they come from and live and work. I also give them relationships and internal conflicts. (They want something, but an obstacle prevents them from achieving it.)

For me, location is crucial. I believe it has a powerful effect on who we are, especially the place where we grew up.  So I choose a setting, and, in particular, a house for my main character to live in, or to feel strongly about, and then I put them in their situation, and see what unfolds.

The first draft is where I let my characters drift freeform, where I watch them deal with their conflict, and relate to the other characters. It’s in the next draft, after I’ve read the first, I begin to see the patterns, the turning points, and how the story is going to unfold.

I also identify where there is going to be a twist.

Oddly, although I don’t plot I do have an end in mind. I love endings, but feel they are sometimes inadequate, either too vague or too pat, so I like to work on them and to feel they leave the readers with the satisfaction that things have been tied up, but also with some unanswered questions and discussion points:
·         What is going to happen after the story in the book has finished?
·         Do we sympathise with the things he/ she did, even if they were morally questionable?
·         How would I have reacted in that situation?

 I hope my endings leave a reader both satisfied but craving more.

In the following drafts I do the ‘colouring in’ and checking – that the plot twists make sense, that there is consistency and that the allusions and imagery work but aren’t too laboured.

Most of all, I try to enjoy it, after all writing is creative and a privilege and you only do it if you love it.


Follow Penny on Twitter @pennyhancock

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