30 December 2012


Until a few years ago, I had been lucky enough not to experience a close family death. At least not at an age where I could understand what was happening. 

G is for Grief

Then one night my sister called telling me my grandfather had fallen down the stairs and was in a bad way. I was concerned, but my grandps had always been so strong willed that I expected him to outlive everyone else. Early the next morning I had the call to say he'd passed away. But I just couldn't believe it. It was like he'd gone away and might come back at any time. Being told he was gone wasn't enough for it to fully sink into my brain. Rather than something I could grasp onto, death was the absence of something. Or someone.

The days running up to the funeral blurred into one, filled with endless tasks of cooking, cleaning and sitting around my nan's kitchen table. Anything to pass the time and forget for a short while. During those grey rainy days, whilst I tried to come to terms with what had happened, I also felt a horrible sense of guilt that I wasn't grieving properly. Was I sad enough? Why couldn't I cry? Unlike my other family members who were outwardly expressing their grief, I hadn't seen my grandpy fall, or seen him at the hospital afterwards. I had nothing concrete to attach to the idea that he was gone. I couldn't express something that wasn't real for me. It was only at his funeral as we buried the coffin that things really hit home for me.

Even now, years later, I still miss my gramps. The man who was the life and soul of any party. And who put up with me at age 7 telling him to get changed out of his paint splattered clothes when a 'boyfriend' was coming to visit. The hole that is his absense hasn't gone. It's merely covered over. Like a booby trapped hole in the woods, hidden under a fragile layer of leaves and twigs. You can't see it, but one day when you least expect it, you'll fall in.

In The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Kvothe describes four doors to cope with bereavement, which I think we can all relate to in some small way: sleep, forgetting, madness and death.
After my family was killed, I wandered deep into the forest and slept. My body demanded it, and my mind used the first door to dull the pain. The wound was covered until the proper time for healing could come. In self-defense, a good portion of my mind simply stopped working - went to sleep, if you will.
While my mind slept, many painful parts of the previous day were ushered through the second door. Not completely. I did not forget what had happened, but the memory was dulled, as if seen through thick gauze. If I wanted to, I could have brought to memory the faces of the dead, the memories of the man with the black eyes. But I did not want to remember. I pushed those thoughts away and let them gather dust in a seldom-used corner of my mind.
I dreamed, not of blood, glassy eyes, and the smell of burning hair, but of gentler things. And slowly the wound began to grow numb... 

Writing about the death of a loved one, even if fictionalised, can be difficult. And as a reader, the death of a character in a book can also be a big deal. So much so that you can feel some of the grief of losing them. But regardless of how the other characters grieve for the one they've lost - whether they cry, scream or merely carry on like normal - that expression of grief will be as individual as the character and their story. 

Have there been any books that have moved you?

28 December 2012


Author: Megan Miranda
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury
UK Release date: 14th February 2013
Read via NetGalley

Mallory's life is falling apart. Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can't remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear ...When Mallory's parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There's the hand that touches her shoulder when she's drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory's name is on their lips. Her past can be forgotten but it's never gone. Can Mallory live with that? (Goodreads)

I love Megan Miranda's writing style, and having read Fracture and now Hysteria, she has now become one of my favourite YA authors. There is something very natural and flowing about the writing, and I find her books very easy to read. I'm not the quickest of readers but I tore through the pages of Hysteria and finished it in less than 2 days (which is pretty fast for me). This is not only down to the writing, but also the gripping story.

All we know at the start is that someone died in Mallory's kitchen and she has obviously undergone a very traumatic experience. But we don't know the full story, so I was left guessing and speculating about whether Mallory was actually to blame and who might have died. My curiosity was certainly piqued, especially as Mallory's narrative showed how her mother feared her and certain people hated her. And although Mallory moves to boarding school to escape everything that happened, things still seemed to follow her. Her time at school was very creepy and chilling, and I was left with that spine tingling feeling of being watched. With so many strange things happening I was constantly suspicious of what other characters might be up to, if they were lying and whether Mallory was being haunted by a real ghost.

Mallory herself wasn't the most stable of characters; she was suspicious, paranoid and tense. But I still liked her. She tried to look out for other people but struggled to cope with the grief and mysterious goings-on. Through her memories I could also tell that she was a very loyal friend, and althoguh she wasn't the most outgoing bubbly person around, she was definfitely someone I would want to be friends with.

I would definitely recommend reading Megan Miranda's books, and as a standalone, Hysteria is perfect if you like a little bit of horror and tense chilling mystery. Hysteria is a creepy and mysterious thriller.

Rating: 4*

26 December 2012


In order to pick out my 5 favourite reads of this year, I've very strictly had to pick only books that were released this year. Even so, it's been really hard to whittle my list down, as there have been so many good reads, but I've managed to pick one for five different sub genres within YA.

Dystopian - Breathe by Sarah Crossan
Published by Bloomsbury, October 2012

It's been hard to pick a favourite dystopian because this genre has bloomed. But I picked Breathe because the story is completely immersed in a ruined futuristic world which is so easily imaginable it's scary.

The world is dead. The survivors live under the protection of Breathe, the corporation that found a way to manufacture oxygen-rich air.
Alina has been stealing for a long time. She's a little jittery, but not terrified. All she knows is that she's never been caught before. If she's careful, it'll be easy. If she's careful.
Quinn should be worried about Alina and a bit afraid for himself, too, but even though this is dangerous, it's also the most interesting thing to happen to him in ages. It isn't every day that the girl of your dreams asks you to rescue her.
Bea wants to tell him that none of this is fair; they'd planned a trip together, the two of them, and she'd hoped he'd discover her out here, not another girl.
And as they walk into the Outlands with two days' worth of oxygen in their tanks, everything they believe will be shattered. Will they be able to make it back? Will they want to?

You can find my review here.

Paranormal - Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Published by Simon & Schuster, January 2012

As the plot counted down Nicki's remaining time before she is taken back to the underworld, the tension grew and grew. A very gripping story.

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath. Now she's returned--to her old life, her family, her boyfriend--before she's banished back to the underworld . . . this time forever. She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.
Nikki longs to spend these precious months forgetting the Everneath and trying to reconnect with her boyfriend, Jack, the person most devastated by her disappearance--and the one person she loves more than anything. But there's just one problem: Cole, the smoldering
immortal who enticed her to the Everneath in the first place, has followed Nikki home. Cole wants to take over the throne in the underworld and is convinced Nikki is the key to making it happen. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back, this time as his queen.
As Nikki's time on the Surface draws to a close and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she is forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's queen.

You can find my review here.

Science Fiction - Partials by Dan Wells
Published by Harper Collins, February 2012

I loved this book because of the post-apocolyptic setting and the strange partials that Kira is off to hunt. Nothing in this books is what it seems though.

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials--engineered organic beings identical to humans--has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.
Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them--connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

You can find my review here.

Fantasy - Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House Children's Publishers, July 2012

Rachel Hartman's debut features a brilliant fantasy setting and a female protagonist with a secret. Such a great read!

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

You can find my review here.

Contemporary - Whisper by Chrissie Keighery
Published by Templar, July 2012

I loved the unique perspective of this book, as it shows how Demi copes with becoming deaf and trying to deal with all the usual teenage issues and communicating with everyone around her.

Fifteen-year-old Demi's world is shattered when she is left profoundly deaf by a sudden illness. Everything is different now, and Demi must learn to adapt to a new school, new friends and even learn a whole new language.

Whisper is a coming-of-age tale, about discovering who you are and where you fit in life. About friendships and first love and, most of all, learning to love the person you are.

You can find my review here.

What have been your favourite books this year?

23 December 2012


This post could seriously go on forever, because as we all know families can be complex things. You (generally) can't choose your family, and even though they can be frustrating and annoying at times, you can't help but love them. 

F is for Family

I think family is particularly poignant at this time of year, as we flock to our family to exchange gifts, spend some time together, and probably have a bit of an argument too. As I live in London, away from my family in Cardiff, I really miss them. Especially my little nephew Jacob. So for birthdays or major holidays, like Christmas, I always go back to visit. And today I was rewarded with seeing my other half Dani, spend time with Jacob playing some alien-shooting computer game. During their game playing, Jacob turned to Dani to say thank you for playing with him. Dani replied by saying he enjoyed playing games together. And, bless his little heart, Jacob replied with "I love you, I do." Some times just the smallest of gestures or words can mean so much, and often just being around family is enough. Family can reassure us, comfort us in times of need, and make us laugh, or cry. They can be the people we hate most in the world, or the people we would do anything, including die, for.

But however we interact with our family, you cannot deny that they can have a hugely profound impact on who we are. As we grow up they help us learn new things and guide our understanding of the world and the way it works, such as morals or religion. To the same extent, they can also have a negative impact, teaching us bad habits and behaviour. Almost every fictional book will touch on family in some way for these very reasons.

What fascinates me about the YA genre is that more often than not, the protagonist's family is broken up, missing, abusive or dead. There aren't many happy families at the start of a YA story. Is this a reflection on modern family life, or does it make a protagonist's story more difficult and interesting?

But regardless of whether there are family members in the picture they can show us the truth behind a character. Is the protagonist bitter because of their upbringing, spoilt, or loyal? Take The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Anyone who has read or seen The Hunger Games can't deny that Katniss' loyalty and protection of her sister is truly admirable. Katniss doesn't display the same feelings for her mother, but that's because their home life isn't that straightforward.
I was terrified. I suppose that now my mother was locked in some dark world of sadness, but at the time, all I know was that I had lost not only a father, but a mother as well. At eleven years old, with Prim just seven, I took over as head of the family. There was no choice. I bought our food at the market  and cooked it as best I could and tried to keep Prim and myself looking presentable. Because if it had become known that my mother could no longer care for us, the district would have taken us away from her and placed us in the community home. I'd grown up seeing those kids at school. The sadness, the marks of angry hands on their faces, the hopelessness that curled their shoulders forward. I could never let that happen to Prim. Sweet, tiny Prim who cried when I cried before she even knew the reason, who brushed and plaited my mother's hair before we left for school, who still polished my father's shaving mirror each night because he'd hated the layer of coal dust that settled on everything in the Seam. The community home would crush her like a bug. So I kept our predicament a secret.

What does family mean to you? 

19 December 2012


Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Atom
UK Release date: February 2012
Genre: Dystopian fantasy

Worlds kept them apart. Destiny brought them together. Aria has lived her whole life in the protected dome of Reverie. Her entire world confined to its spaces, she's never thought to dream of what lies beyond its doors. So when her mother goes missing, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland long enough to find her are slim. Then Aria meets an outsider named Perry. He's searching for someone too. He's also wild - a savage - but might be her best hope at staying alive. If they can survive, they are each other's best hope for finding answers. (Goodreads)

When I first started reading Under the Never Sky, I thought I had made a big mistake. I’d been looking forward to reading the book for ages, and then when I started I was thrown into this strange futuristic world where the teenagers spoke with strange and silly futuristic slang and wore eye pieces to go into simulated environments. I didn’t think I could stomach a whole book like that. But then I realised that Under the Never Sky combines a future dystopian society with fantasy and paranormal elements. I just loved the way it felt like a fantasy story or something plucked from history despite it being set in a future alternative world; the savage outsiders still lived off the land by farming and hunting for food, lived by old fashioned ‘tribe’ rules, and in most cases shunned and feared modern technology like the eye pieces.

I loved how the characters changed and developed over the story. Aria was very vulnerable when she was first outside the pod. She didn’t know how to cope and struggled with the basic survival instincts. She was also very wary of Perry because he was different and, to her, a savage. Likewise Perry, with his heightened senses couldn’t stand the smell of Aria. But very slowly they both started changing; Aria adapting to the new environment and appreciating the caring, softer qualities of Perry, and Perry beginning to see Aria as a woman rather than a useless child.

One of the big reasons that Perry was so endearing to me, is that he was so caring of his nephew Talon. He looked after him like a brother or son, despite the tension between him and his brother Vale. His refusal to give up looking for him showed that he was caring and protective – perfect qualities to balance out a man that can also fight off predators and hunt for food!

To start with their was a lot of unease, wariness and resentment between the Aria and Perry. But as things started changing, there was obviously chemistry between them. As each did something little to help the other, you could see their feelings grow. I just adored this slowly blossoming ro-mance and felt they were perfect for each other despite the reasons Perry felt they couldn’t ever be together.

With Perry and Aria travelling across the land to get her eye piece fixed, there were plenty of opportunities for danger, fighting, hardships and little bonding moments. The cannibalistic tribe scared me, but in contrast the compound was like a little safe haven filled with historical artefacts and antiquities. Althought the time there was slower in pace, it certainly allowed for Perry and Aria to get to know each other better.

Under the Never Sky is wonderfully written by Veronica Rossi, with a beautifully crafted world that combines dystopian, paranormal and fantasy elements to create a gripping adventure of rom-ance and self discovery.

Rating: 5*

18 December 2012


The purpose of my weekly trailer teasers is to highlight some fab books (and/or their related movies). First up in this week's trailer is for Maria V. Snyder's latest book. It is the second in the series, but I love the look of the trailer, and I love Maria's writing. I'm seriously thinking of starting reading this series... are you?

Scent of Magic will be published by Mira Ink on 18th December 2012. Put it on your Christmas present list!

Hunted, Killed—Survived?

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.

Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.

War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.


Next up is the trailer for the amazing Mystic City by Theo Lawrence. This book has elements of the venetian canals, Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet - a must read! This book was published in October 2012 by Corgi, so you can already go get yourself a copy!

Aria Rose, youngest scion of one of Mystic City's two ruling rival families, finds herself betrothed to Thomas Foster, the son of her parents' sworn enemies. The union of the two will end the generations-long political feud—and unite all those living in the Aeries, the privileged upper reaches of the city, against the banished mystics who dwell below in the Depths. But Aria doesn't remember falling in love with Thomas; in fact, she wakes one day with huge gaps in her memory. And she can't conceive why her parents would have agreed to unite with the Fosters in the first place. Only when Aria meets Hunter, a gorgeous rebel mystic from the Depths, does she start to have glimmers of recollection—and to understand that he holds the key to unlocking her past. The choices she makes can save or doom the city—including herself.

16 December 2012


Due to recent events in America, this post touches on some potentially contentious and sensitive areas. I make no judgment on specific events or people, but merely offer a discourse and discussion. However feel free to make your own opinions and add your comments.

E is for Evil

First off I have to say that evil is a rather vague concept in the sense that it isn't quantifiable. We can measure lots of things - we can count the exact number of eggs in a basket, or measure the height of a bookshelf. But morality doesn't have a measure. Different people might have different moral standards or different understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Different cultures will perceive good and bad behaviour in different ways. Okay, so generally most of us believe killing others would be at the top of a scale of evil. But what if someone kills to protect themselves, for example if their house was being robbed? We would naturally take this to mean that they aren't intrinsically evil just acting out of self defence. They would be considered different from someone who broke into another person's house and killed them.

But in this latter case should we judge the act to be evil or the person who committed it as evil? What if the person committing the crime has mental health problems, such that they can't rationalise their own behaviour? Too often we are quick to judge a person based on the acts they have committed without any understanding of their background, upbringing, psychological wellbeing and so on. A person doesn't exist in a vaccuum. Not only might someone have a genetic predisposition to react in certain ways, but the environment around them will also affect how they think and behave in the future.

There is plenty of research to show that 'villains' are made not born. Children exposed to physical or mental abuse, drug abuse, poverty, alcoholism, or neglect will certainly be affected in adulthood by these experiences. For example, men who were neglected and abused as children have a higher risk of growing up to be abusers themselves. In some cases, the victim can become the villain.

When writing, creating a suitably evil antagonist can be a very difficult task. Based on what I've already said, I think a realistic villain has to have a backstory and some sort of reasoning to why they are the way they are. I'm not sure this happens enough in books though - trying to find a book on my shelves featuring a villain with a past was quite a difficult task. Often, the villains are bad just because they are bad. But I don't think this is sufficient. I want to know the history of the bad guy, I want to hate him and pity him at the same time. I want to understand him (or her).

This is one of the reasons why I love Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. The characters in this story are gritty and scary. Each of them has an interlude telling their backstory, going some way to explaining their 'breaking' point or past abuses. Trying not to give too many spoilers, this is a snippet of Harriet's story:
He meant for it to hurt. I saw it in his eyes.
I pulled my hand free.
"That settles that," he said.
Then I went into the kitchen.
I went to the blender. It was old, an Oster two-speed with the beehive base and the heavy glass pitcher.
I picked it up by the handle, and I marched back into the living room.
Walter had slumped back down in his chair. He looked up at me as I stood there.
"What are you doing with that?" he asked.
And I bashed it over his head.
The characters created aren't just mean and evil; they are more than that. They felt real and invoked real feelings in me. They made me hate them, feel sorry for them, and what to go back in time to help them. But isn't that what any person is? A complex being with a past, that can elicit strong emotions through their actions and behaviour, whether they are evil or not.

What do you think makes a good book villain?

13 December 2012


Author: Cat Clarke
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Quercus
UK Release date: December 2011
Genre: YA, thriller

Four girls. One dead body. A whole lot of guilt.
Alice King isn’t expecting the holiday of a lifetime when she sets off with her classmates on a trip to the Scottish wilderness, but she’s not exactly prepared for an experience beyond her darkest nightmares…
Alice and her best friend Cass are stuck in a cabin with Polly, the social outcast, and Rae, the moody emo-girl. Then there’s Tara – queen of mean. Powerful, beautiful and cruel, she likes nothing better than putting people down.
Cass decides it’s time to teach Tara a lesson she’ll never forget. And so begins a series of events that will change the lives of these girls forever... (Goodreads)

Having read Entangled, I was really excited to start Torn. I just adore Cat Clarke’s writing style and Torn wasn't a disappointment. It’s so fluid and natural, that reading Alice’s story was like reading it straight from her head, with every little detail, fear and thought put across as if it was real and happening right there and then. Even though the story deals with de-ath and grief, it’s done in a way that is gripping, terrifying and yet interesting. Every character reacts differently; some internalise the grief and let it overwhelm them, some use it to their advantage and others are consumed by guilt.

The plot was infused with a palpable sense of dread, guilt and suspense. At the start its obvious something had gone wrong on the girls’ trip to Scotland, but it took a while to get the full story. When I found out what happened I really felt Alice’s dread and paranoia, and the occasional shocking chapter ending kept me hooked. Despite how well the story was written the plot was pretty straight forward, so even though I expected something spectacular to happen at the end, it didn't. However I think the focus of the story was meant to be more on the after effects of the trip and the emotional journey Alice goes through.

I’m in two minds about Alice’s part in the plot. On one hand I felt bad for her because she got caught up in events that weren’t her doing and were beyond her control. But whilst I could understand why she kept quiet, there was also something morally wrong about it. The dilemma of what to do and how to respond in a terrible situation like Alice’s was certainly thought provoking and suspenseful.

I also have to say that I love the way Cat Clarke writes characters. Not perfect characters, but ones with flaws, like real people. Alice is not as confident or as brave as she would like to be, she isn’t popular and she’s self conscious about her weight. But I liked these things about Alice, because I could relate to them. At some points, yes I wanted to shake Alice out of her fear, but I could also completely sympathise with her. Her inner monologue perfectly betrayed all her inner most thoughts, feelings, fears and doubts.

Torn is a thought provoking, heart-in-mouth story of one girl’s emotional journey following the death of a classmate.

Rating: 4*

11 December 2012


The purpose of my weekly trailer teasers is to highlight some fab books (and/or their related movies). Two of this week's trailers are January releases and look so good. And the final book came out back in September, but you must check out the stunning trailer for it.

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell will be published by Random House Children's Publishers. The paperback will be out on 3rd January 2013.

They slowed as they reached the gate; two stone columns, each with its own crumbling angel perched on top. The angels held up a rusty, wrought-iron arch that read, in curling, serpentine letters: SHIVERTON HALL.

Arthur Bannister has been unexpectedly accepted into Shiverton Hall, which, as it turns out, is an incredibly spooky school, full of surprises. And it is just as well that Shiverton Hall has made its offer, because Arthur had a horrible time at his previous school, and was desperate to leave. Timely indeed . . .

But Arthur has no time to worry about the strange coincidence. He is too busy trying to make head or tail of Shiverton Hall, dogged as it is by tales of curses and bad fortune. At least there are a few friendly faces: George, who shows him around; also Penny and Jake. But not all the faces are friendly. There are the bullying Forge triplets for starters. And then there is the acid tongue of the headmistress, Professor Long-Pitt, who seems to go out of her way to make Arthur's life a misery.

Luckily Arthur has his new friends to cheer him up. Although there are some friends that you don't want to have at all, as Arthur is soon to find out.


Confessions of an Angry Girl by Louise Rozett, will be published by MIRA Ink on 4th January 2013.

Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make…

1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is nowenraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)
(Sorry. That was rude.)


Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr was published by Harper Collins in September 2012. I loved reading this mix of paranormal and fantasy YA. I hadn't seen the trailer until this week, but I had to feature it because it's so professionally done (and I love the music!).

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures--if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting to the death is the only way to try to live.

All Mallory knows of The City is that her father--and every other witch there--fled it for a life in exile in the human world. Instead of a typical teenage life full of friends and maybe even a little romance, Mallory scans quiet streets for threats, hides herself away, and trains to be lethal. She knows it's only a matter of time until a daimon finds her and her father, so she readies herself for the inevitable. While Mallory possesses little knowledge of The City, every inhabitant of The City knows of her. There are plans for Mallory, and soon she, too, will be drawn into the decadence and danger that is the Carnival of Souls.

9 December 2012


This week's installment of my quest to delve into the human psyche and behaviour, looks at the exciting emotion of desire.

D is for Desire

Perhaps to some people's delight or to other's disappointment, I'm going to keep this post PG13. It's not that I'm a prude (I could find plenty of lusty examples in my favourite Sookie Stackhouse books), but I want to look at the different ways desire and attraction happens.

When I first saw my current partner Dani, I was walking up the road to the piercing studio. He was stood outside chatting to someone else. In that instant, everyone and everything else disappeared. There was only him. With his wild, long black hair, green eyes surrounded by eyeliner, and tailored black clothes I fell for him instantly. His confident demeanour made me so nervous, and despite offering to hold my hand during the piercing I was too scared that he would notice my sweaty palms to say yes. And whilst having a piercing makes me nervous, it was nothing compared to being in the same room as Dani, this stranger that I wanted to know and wanted to like me. After meeting him that day, I just had to find a reason to go back to the piercing studio to see him again. I even called up to check he was working (of course under the pretence that I wanted to check what time they closed). When I went back a second time, I ended up staying for coffee. I could hardly talk, was ridiculously nervous and I couldn't stop looking at him (and quickly looking away if he looked back at me). I must have looked like a love struck teen. But that was over six years ago.

A wonderful example of instantaneous attraction and longing is from Mystic City by Theo Lawrence. With undercurrents of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (the ultimate love at first sight story), I can really relate to how Aria feels when she meets Hunter, the mysterious rebel mystic.

He stands. Simply looking at him makes my heart beat faster. I want to stay, but there is nothing that ties him to me. We really are strangers. The thought makes my insides ache.
"Goodbye, Aria," he says, and though he's determined, I can tell he's pained.
I sit still, frozen with sadness. Even though he's telling me goodbye, the way he say my name feels like the warmest hello I've ever received.

Despite these thrilling love at first sight moments where your heart starts pounding in your chest as soon as you meet this other person, it was easier to find examples in YA of desire and romance that grow slowly over time. Perhaps this seems more realistic and believable because you're not just falling for exterior, physical qualities but also for the other person's personality. But there is also a sense of building tension and excitement, and that will-they-won't-they fall for each other question. Slowly blossoming chemistry makes me want to read on, and see what happens.

In Veronica Rossi's Under the Never Sky, I love how Perry and Aria don't get on at all to start. It's only time and getting to know each other better that fuels their feelings for each other little by little.
When they stepped into the close space of the elevator, Aria's scent flooded into his nose, a combination of violets and sweat and pride and power. He felt it all like a surge of strength inside him. He breathed again and soared with his feet on the ground. Perry couldn't stop himself from putting his hand on the small of her back. Told himself he'd do this just once. The he'd stay away.
She looked up at him. Her face was flushed. Strands of her dark hair clung to her sweated neck. Roar was with them, and a good thing too. He'd never been as tempted by her, by the warm muscle he felt behind the palm of his hand.

(Can I just say, the fact that the two examples I wanted to use were of female characters with the same name, was a total coincidence. But somehow poignant.)

When it comes to attraction, there is no right or wrong. Sometimes you fall for someone quickly and the feelings last through thick and thin. Sometimes the attraction is merely temporary and can't be sustained once you find out what that person is really like. And sometimes you don't even realise you're falling for them. But no matter how it happens, attraction and desire is exciting, nerve wracking, thrilling, and just a little bit scary.

Which do you prefer to read about? Instant attraction or slow growing chemistry?

6 December 2012


Author: Kiersten White
Series: Yes, #3
UK Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
UK Release date: 2nd August 2012
Genre: Paranormal YA
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review

Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.
The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands.
So much for normal.

Throughout the Paranormalcy series, Kiersten White’s writing has been sassy, fun and engaging, and Endlessly is no different. There was a palpable sense of urgency and pace following the whole story, with plenty of action, suspenseful chapter endings, mishaps and mayhem.

Evie is a great young protagonist. She has a well defined and distinct voice and personality, full of snarkiness, with and sarcasm. She is a strong but caring and compassionate young girl which means she has plenty of dilemmas throughout the series and in Endlessly. And of course after so many run-ins with the faeries, she will need to be really brave in this book in order to face the faeries in all their wrath and glory.

Evie also has a fantastic trio of men surrounding her, each very different and distinct. Lend is completely adorable and lovable even when their relationship is put to the test (which it was on several occasions); Reth is the mysterious fairy, full of charm; and Jack is still a bit of an enigma – can he be trusted or not? Each is wary of the others, but as Evie has to rely on them all so much, this caused plenty of witty banter and dialogue between to get thrown about.

The ending to the three book series wasn’t a disappointment. Right up until the end there were questions, doubts and surprises. The ending wasn’t what I expected or would have predicted to happen when I started reading the first book, but I think there was a certain harmony and synchronicity to the ending, so that everything seemed to fall into place. I also liked that there was closure on certain elements and yet still a sense of hope and opportunity for Evie.

Endlessly is a great end to a fun, spunky series, rounding off Evie’s adventures with a bang!

Rating: 4*

4 December 2012


Although the purpose of my weekly trailer teasers is to highlight some fab books, I've decided this week to also highlight an author and her writing tips. (Because it's a fab little video!)

First up is Maggie Stiefvater's This is Your Life on Writing, which she did in response to a fan's question about life and college: 


Having finally gotten around to reading Cat Clarke's Torn (which I loved), I can't wait to read her latest book Undone, the paperback of which which will be published by Quercus on 31st January 2013.

Jem Halliday is in love with her gay best friend. Not exactly ideal, but she's learning to live with it.

Then the unspeakable happens. Kai is outed online ... and he kills himself.

Jem knows nothing she can say or do will bring him back. But she wants to know who was responsible. And she wants to take them down.

A searing story of love, revenge and betrayal from a bestselling author.

And finally I also wanted to show the trailer for The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd, which will be published by on 29th January 2013 by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen. I love that this book is based on H.G. Wells story - I can't wait to read!

In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.

2 December 2012


This week's installment of my A - Z in human behaviour and people watching, stems from a few too many trips to my local coffee shop. This post is a little different from the previous ones as it's mostly based on my observations in a particular setting, but stick with me. Hopefully you'll find some nugget of truth or inspiration hidden in there somewhere.

C is for Coffee shops

Over the past few weekends whilst I've visited my regularly coffee shop, I've sipped my coffee and nosily watched the other people around me. And I couldn't help but notice particular types of drinkers.

The Techno Single
You'll recognise the techno single by the ubiquitous white headphones, laptop and phone. This drinker will have settled themselves near an electrical socket and most often in the comfiest seat. They will be in for the long haul so don't expect to get that comfy seat from them. They are also very keen to protect the space around them, and will pile their coat and bags up on the surrounding seats to prevent anyone else from getting too close. Despite the long hours they spend in the coffee shop, you'll rarely see a full cup of coffee in front of them. They're far too busy tapping away on their phone or computer to actually get a drink.

The Couple
Particularly prominent in new relationships or younger couples, you'll find these pairs deeply absorbed in each other's words or actions. Leaning over the table towards each other, they'll feed each other food, sip from each other's mugs, and find different ways to touch each other. For the couple, they are happy in their own little world, sharing little smiles between themselves. For the observer, it can be a little sickly sweet. Look at your own peril.

The Friends
The group of friends will create their own little space by pulling chairs or tables together and huddling around. Other members of the group will lean in over their steaming mugs as they listen to the next piece of interesting information from their companion. Volume won't be a concern as they chat, gossip and laugh together, getting increasingly louder as the conversation gets more interesting. 

The Student
Surrounded by books, the student will have their head in their hand as they contemplate the matter before them. They may be scribbling away in a notebook, or staring into space whilst they tap their pen in deep concentration. They'll have the table to themselves and their books, but there won't be a spare chair around them because the group of friends will have already taken them all.

But what does this have to do with writing, I hear you say. Well, to some degree, not much. They're just my observations. But to another degree these small observations can help bring our writing to life.

How many films feature cafe or diner scenes as part of their story? It's actually quite a lot. Think of the opening scene of Pulp Fiction, or Jim Carey's testing of his God-like powers in Bruce Almighty. OK, so these might be rather extreme examples, but even in these seemingly mundane places, things can happen. Unusual events that change the whole story or maybe it's something that just tells us a bit more about the protagonist. Does the hero stare into his coffee because he can't stop thinking about the girl he should have kissed? Are the couple one table over staring at each other shyly because they are on their first date or are they best friends that just haven't admitted their feelings for each other?

When it comes to writing (and acting) even the smallest of things can stick in your mind or make an impact on you. For me, I think Maggie Stiefvater is the perfect author of those random little moments and places. In The Wolves of Mercy Falls series I loved all the intimate and very real moments that Grace and Sam shared, whether it was in the bookstore, car or diner. In this example from Linger, I love how the awkwardness between Sam and Isabel comes across in their behaviour in Kenny's diner.
While she was gone, Isabel and I sat in a kind of uneasy silence filled by a Motown song playing overhead and the clattering of plates in the kitchen. I studied the shape of the salt shaker's warped shadow across the container of sugar packets. Isabel examined the chunky cuff of her sweater and the way it rested on the table. Finally, she said, "You made another bird thing."
I picked up the crane that I'd folded out of my napkin while I was waiting. It was lumpy and imperfect because the napkin hadn't been quite square. "Yeah."
Whilst I may have chosen a rather strange way to do it, the point I'm trying to illustrate is that you can find inspiration anywhere no matter how mundane or unexpected. So when you're next buying a coffee, take a look around and see what is lurking beneath the surface.

But before you go, tell me, which type of coffee drinker are you? :D

30 November 2012


Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Yes, #1
UK Publisher: Orchard
UK Release date: July 2012
Genre: YA Paranormal

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay. When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. (Goodreads)

First off, I loved Anna Dressed in Blood. It was a gripping and haunting ghost story. Beautifully written it had me engrossed from page 1. I just adored Kendare Blake's writing style which was easy to  read, flowed naturally and was wonderfully captivating.

Cas was a brilliant protagonist. From the first person perspective, his distinctive voice and witty personality shone through. I loved his sense of humour and purpose, and I enjoyed seeing him change from the 'loner' that doesn't want to get close to anyone to actually needing the friends he had made. For his age, Cas was quiet mature and grounded and I think his character benefitted from not being a typical sulky teenager. Instead he had a sense of motivation, and a really great relationship with his mum, whom I adored.

As soon as I heard about Anna through the ominous letter covered in blood, I couldn’t help but think of her as some evil, wretched ghost (that looked like the girl off the film Ring) and that couldn’t be reasoned with thereby needing to be completely banished. I wasn’t disappointed (Anna was a force to be reckoned with) but she was also so much more. To then have the unusual interplay between Cas and Anna was so unexpected and well done that it felt completely natural and brilliant.

The secondary characters, Thomas and Carmel were well developed, each of their personalities bouncing off each other to create humorous but very natural feeling dialogue exchanges. Together with Cas there were an unexpected ragtag group: the ghost-hunter, the witch, and the popular girl. Considering Cas kept proclaiming he worked alone, the support he had from them was unexpected but it worked so well.

Looking back there was foreshadowing in the plot that could have helped me guess the ending. But I was so caught up in the tense action, the gory horror and fast paced plot, that I didn’t pause for even a second to try to interpret the clues. I just enjoyed the story for what it was. There were certainly a few moments that had me on the edge of the seat with tingles running down my spine.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a creepy, fast paced horror thriller, with wonderfully written characters and dialogue and a ghost story to match any horror film.

Rating: 5*

28 November 2012


A little while ago I had the great fortune of winning a competition to go on a creative writing workshop with Picador, which I attended last week.

The Notebook session was led by Suzi Feay, literary editor, journalist and teacher of Feature Writing at Brunel University. And it certainly got the creative juices flowing. After sharing with the group what stopped us from writing, we took part in a series of different writing exercises to encourage imagination and pull out our own experiences, skills, fears and likes. We then put these together to create the starting blocks of a story. This was my favourite activity, and is based on an activity developed by Scarlett Thomas, a writer and teacher at University of Kent, Cantebury. I loved how you can use your own knowledge and past to create something new and interesting.

Some key tips Suzi reminded the group of was to keep your writing fun (if it's not fun, why write?), have self belief, and use your own experiences to enrich your writing. I particularly liked the idea discussed of sending away your inner critic whilst you write your first draft, but bringing them back when you edit your writing.

When the Picador team were asked what they look for when reading a manuscript, the key element that all of the staff mentioned was the energy created in, and the reaction to, the story. A book should engage the reader, get them excited, and start them talking with others about the story. A distinctive voice, an exciting plot, and the ability to invoke some sort of feeling or emotion in the reader were also highlighted as important when reading a new manuscript.

For me the session has re-inspired me to write. At the moment, it is just to write and start getting back into the feel of it. Soon I will start putting the little hints and tips I've gained into practice and hopefully I'll have a finished draft of my already-started dystopian short story in the near future!

Notebook sessions will be creative workshops run by Pan Macmillan authors, editors, illustrators and literary experts, and give both new and experienced writers the chance to take part in motivating exercises and ask questions of authors, editors and writing/publishing experts. Keep your eye 

You can find more information on Picador and Suzi here:

27 November 2012


The purpose of my weekly trailer teasers is to highlight some fab books (and/or their related movies). Here are this week's trailers:

First up, isn't actually the trailer for a book, but I couldn't resist showing you. It is actually a trailer showing the behind the scenes of how the cover for The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa was made. It will be published by Mira Ink in January 2013. It's absolutely amazing what some people can do on Photoshop. Take a look:

Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Yesterday, the trailer A.E. Rought's Broken was unveiled (thanks to The Pewter Wolf for bringing it to my attention). Based on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, this looks set to be an interesting modern retelling. It will be published by Strange Chemistry on 8th January 2013.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.


Having just read this next book, I was excited to excited to hear that the book trailer for Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black, was revealed on MTV's Hollywood Crush blog last week. Dance of Shadows will be published by Bloomsbury in February 2013.

One step into passion. Two steps into danger. Three steps and there's no going back...

Vanessa Adler isn't so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It's been a part of life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family's gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister's destiny. She has no choice.

But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, one in which the school's dancers - prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline - become pawns in a world of darkness...
For extracts from Margaret's diary, fabulous giveaways and inside information about the book, become a Facebook fan today!

You can read my review for Dance of Shadows here, or you can watch the trailer below.

25 November 2012


This week's installment of my quest to delve into the human psyche and behaviour, has been a bit of a struggle. I wasn't sure what to pick; should it be Babies, Bullying, or Breakups? I wanted something a little inspiring and positive. So after a lot of indecision, I decided to go with Bravery.

B is for Bravery

When I'm reading, I love the moments where one character nobly sacrifices themselves for another in a grand display of selflessness, fearlessness and love. I can't help but weep at their courage in the face of danger and even death.

Unfortunately I couldn't think of any times I'd seen someone in London do anything remotely brave like this. Rude, obnoxious, selfish - yes. But not brave. And then earlier this week, we were talking in work about violence in the city and some of the awful things that have happened to people on London transport. Then out of the blue, one work colleague talked very openly and candidly about how she had been raped many years ago. I was both shocked and on the verge of tears as she told us that no one would stop to help her after the crime. However she spoke with pride of joining other women in court to help give evidence and put the attackers behind bars. Since that time, she said she made sure she stood for other people when they were in trouble. Her honesty made me appreciate that she hadn't let her attackers torment her after the crime; she didn't feel sorry for herself or and let them keep her down. Instead she picked herself up, got on with her life, and became even more determined to prevent others from suffering at the hands of violence.

Since hearing this story, I've realised that bravery isn't always something you can see. Sometimes bravery is just getting up in the morning and getting on with your life without self pity. But with a fierce determination.

When I think of bravery in books, Neville Longbottom jumps out at me. I still get goosebumps and shivers when I think of Neville in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and how he stood up to Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. At the risk of losing his friends, he did what he thought was right. It was such a small action, but there so much more behind it: the courage and determination of a rather shy young boy. This small action of Neville's even had a pivotal role in the house competition at the end of the story, showing us just how much little acts of courage can make a big difference.
"There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."
Bravery doesn't have to be something big or grand. It doesn't have to be life-saving. It can be something small, something you believe in. But it should have meaning to the reader, and to you.

What does bravery mean to you?

24 November 2012


Earlier this week I was very lucky to be invited to the Pan MacMillan Children's Book offices in London, for a live google chat with Alyson Noël, to celebrate her latest book Echo. It was published in the UK earlier this week by Pan Macmillan.

Echo is the second book in Alyson's Soul Seekers series, which is about a young girl named Daire finding.

She inherited a magical destiny—and a mission to stop a powerful family of dark sorcerers. She never expected to fall in love with one of them.
There’s still so much Daire Santos has to learn about being the last Soul Seeker….and about herself. As her magical training becomes more intense, so does her relationship with Dace. But when she learns that his connection to the evil Richter family goes far deeper than she ever imagined, she begins to question if love really can conquer all.
Dace is painfully aware that he wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the Richters’ dark magic—and now his brother Cade is determined to use his love for Daire against him. Dace is willing to sacrifice anything to protect the girl he loves —including his own life. But will Daire allow it? And what if defeating Cade costs not only his life, but his soul too?

I found the live chat amazing fun (you can watch it below), and found Alyson to be such a lovely lovely person! in case you don't want to watch the full video, I thought I would share a few interesting facts about the Soul Seekers series and Alyson:

  • Alyson took a 3 day course in shamanism, venturing into the lower world and finding her spirit animal, as part of her research for the series.
  • Alyson is extremely dedicated, and writes seven days a week.
  • Based on her fascination with twins, Alyson included twin brothers Dace and Cade in her latest series. They are polar opposites of each other; one being good, the other evil. Alyson picked these names because the letters of both their names can be re-arranged to create the other. 
  • Alyson uses the 'Blake Synder' method when writing, using a beat sheet to structure the key plot points of her story.