Archive for November, 2012

Monday to Friday Man

Alice Peterson

What do you do if you’re 34, single and recovering from being jilted two weeks before your wedding day? This is the dilemma Gilly Brown finds herself in. While friends are marrying, having children and moving into the depths of the countryside, Gilly finds herself alone in London and holding on to her fractured family with their tragic past. It’s time to meet new people.
So, she decides to get a Monday to Friday lodger, and after a succession of alarming interviews finally finds the perfect one in the shape of handsome reality television producer Jack Baker. Gilly falls for Jack’s charm and is transported into an exciting social whirlwind of parties, dining out and glamour. When Jack is introduced to Gilly’s family and friends, it’s only the attractive and eccentric Guy, the newest recruit to her dog-walking group, who isn’t quite so convinced about Jack’s intentions. As Guy watches them grow closer, his suspicions of Jack and his feelings for Gilly deepen. Is Jack so perfect after all… and what exactly does he get up to at the weekends?

Due to the absolute bargain price for this on Amazon, along with it’s title and description, it was an easy ‘click to add to basket’ moment! This is a fun and easy to read chick-lit offering which I read over just a few evenings.
Gilly is a very likeable character. She is still getting over the shock of being jilted and trying to make a new life for herself that isn’t dependent on being with that ‘special other person’ the whole time. Her dog walking friends that she meets in the park every day, although an eclectic and sometimes unusual bunch are a constant in her life and she derives much from catching up with them each day and chatting through her life’s woes. They are a bit like an extended family.

I loved the concept of the ‘Monday to Friday Man’, the lodger who will stay with Gilly in her spare room in Central London during the week and disappear back to his/her other life at the weekends. It probably happens in real life already, but I hadn’t come across it before. The angst of putting her profile on the website and wondering who was going to show up for an interview was funny and the times of sharing with her friends showed the depth of her character which was well developed by the author. Of course she ends up getting more than she bargained for with very attractive and dynamic producer Jack, who sweeps her off her feet and helps bring her back to life a bit, but who is also rather cagey about the rest of his life and is clearly hiding something.

Woven in and out of this story are flashbacks to Gilly’s childhood and an insight into why the current family dynamics are as they are today. Gilly has a twin that she is close to and who is married with children. She visits often and through the flashbacks we can see the pain that they have suffered over the years due to a traumatic family situation and how it’s contributed to them becoming the people that they are today.

However it’s not Jack that ends up being the friend she can confide in and share with, it’s Guy, the slightly eccentric fellow dog-walker that joins their group in the park and who she hits it off with. Guy is off limits though, engaged to a fiancé who is travelling the world at the moment. They have a lovely, easy and relaxed friendship. Guy is a true friend to her, and sees the best in her and the potential in her and this understandably causes quite a bit of internal conflict as she is seeing Jack and enjoying the attention and glitzy lifestyle that he offers her.

This story is fairly predictable. It was easy to see where it was going and how it was likely to end up but that didn’t matter really. I enjoyed the characters, and the relationships and it was a lovely story.

A really easy and enjoyable read, giving you that nice feel good factor at the end.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 374
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Easy

Tammara Webber
A girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion. A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal. Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?
When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night–but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

As I sit here attempting to gather my thoughts into some sort of coherent order, my heart is racing and my stomach is squirming. Either I’m reacting to the forth cup of strong coffee I’ve just finished consuming, or it is the echo’s of emotions I experienced last night. Regardless of the trigger, the blame for my current condition can be placed solely on Tammara Webber and her contemporary romance novel, Easy.

I’m sorry to admit that Easy had been a resident of my kindle for some time before I pushed it to the top of my TBR pile at the praise of Kerri from Read and Repeat and the dogged pestering “read it, read it , read it” of Pruedence The Library Mouse. Deciding to put the nagging to rest, I dutifully promised to read it next.

I settled down to bed with the plan to read a few chapters before going to sleep, before I’d fully comprehended what had happened, I found myself staggering up to bed just a few short hours before my ridiculously bouncy children were due to bound in to my room to mark the start of our day. Without meaning to I’d read Easy in one, highly addictive, sitting.

Despite being floored when her boyfriend of three years, the boy she followed to university, dumps her in order to sow his wild oats, does Jacqueline sit around in her sweats, consuming ice cream and moping? Well, yes probably! But after two weeks of avoiding the no good, pretty boy and their shared Economics class, Jacqueline knows that it is time to pull herself together and get her priorities in order. Her lecture recommends a tutor; her best friend recommends a rebound fling.

Suddenly everywhere she goes she bumps in to mysterious, artistic Lucas. The man who saved her from a vicious assault and who has the ability to make her heart (and mine!) beat faster with just a look. Although that’s nothing compared to what the boy can do when he uses his mouth. Honestly *tuts* go wash your dirty mind! What I meant is that Lucas had some of the most swoon worthy, butterfly in stomach inducing lines. For example:

“So I don’t want you to feel pressured. Or overpowered. But I do, absolutely, want to kiss you right now. Badly.”

*swoons*

The electricity between Jacqueline and Lucas sizzles off of the page. While not graphic or gratuitous there is no fading to black when it comes to the sexual content.

While Lucas undoubtedly makes her breath catch and her blood simmer, deep down Jacqueline knows that the academic slacker, usually found sketching in his pad rather than paying attention to their lecturer, is the opposite of the boys she is usually attracted to.

On the other hand, smart, witty Landon, is just her type. Communicating via email alone, her teacher assigned tutor, is completely off limits, but oh so tempting. His flirty emails had me grinning from ear to ear as he not only helps Jacqueline recover her Economics grade from failure but also her confidence.

While her grades are soon back on track Jacqueline finds her love life not so easily remedied. Torn between the developing relationships with these two very different, but equally compelling men and the reappearance of her ex who’s just realized that the grass isn’t always greener. This girl has man trouble with a capital T.

One of my favourite elements of the book was Jacqueline’s character development into a confident, independent young woman. At the start of Easy we meet a young woman who has made some questionable decisions and allowed her life to be influenced by her relationship at the expense of her education and her personal safety. Following on from her attack, particularly when her attacker turns stalker,Jacqueline could have easily found herself relying on Lucas and his protective nature. Instead, with a little nudge from her friends,Jacqueline takes control of her life and take steps to ensure she is never that vulnerable again.

Verdict: I absolutely loved Easy. Although it contained some very serious and adult themes it is definitely a book that I would re-read when in need of something feel good, comfortable and stomach squeezing. Despite owning a copy of the independently published eBook I have every intention of purchasing the traditionally published paperback from Razorbill.

Warning: This book is most suited to the older YA/New Adult reader as it contains scenes of violence, attempted rape and alcohol consumption in addition to consensual sexual activity.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: May 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age: YA/ New Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Cheese ‘n Ham Melts and other Strange Questions: An Interview With Lauren Child (Part 2)

Part two of Izzy and Daisy’s interview with author Lauren Child
Everyone knows that Clarice Bean is exceptionordinarily keen about the Ruby Redfort books. Now in her own starring role, this genius code-cracker and daring detective, along with her sidekick butler, Hitch, work for a secret crime-busting organization called Spectrum. Ruby gets into lots of scrapes with evil villains, like being trapped in a giant hourglass or held over a flaming volcano, but shes always ice-cool in a crisis. Just take a classic screwball comedy, add heaps of breathtaking action, and multiply it by Lauren Childs writing genius, and what have you got? Only the most exciting middle-grade series since, like, ever

Ruby Redfort is a spy thriller/mystery. Did you read a lot of mystery books as a child?
You know what, my sister read a lot of mystery books. She was a massive reader, she still is. I didn’t read a lot of mystery books but I did watch a lot of mystery things on TV. When I was younger it was Scooby Doo! and as I got older more drama things and now I read a lot of mystery as an adult. But my sister was the one who was passionate about it.

Where did you get the idea for Ruby Redfort’s gadgets?
I watched such a lot of James Bond films when I was a child and the ones that I really loved the most were the ones that were disguised as something. So I thought James Bond has disguised his as things a man might carry in his pocket and so I thought what would a school kid carry. So I thought her watch, which has got a cartoon face on it, Daisy: The toaster? Yeh the toaster, normal domestic objects in your kitchen and then things like her sneakers.
I wanted things that she could have and no one would ask any questions.

If you could choose one, which gadget would you like in real life?
I think that I would choose the rescue watch because it’s there to do lots and lots of different things and it would always be on your wrist. In each book it will do something different.

The Ruby Redfort books are a series that Clarice Bean talks about. Are we reading them at the same time as Clarice Bean?
You see that’s a very strange and weird question!
I did think about this a lot because I list all of the titles, don’t I (indicating a Clarice bean Book) and I did think why don’t I write each one that she talks about. Then I realized that I’d written extracts from that book and when I started writing Ruby Redfort, I didn’t want them to be quite so silly as they are in this book ( indicates Don’t look Now Clarice Bean). So I thought what I’m going to do? Because they are written by Patricia F Maplin and my publisher didn’t think it would be a very good idea to write Patricia F Maplin on the cover, then nobody would know they were written by me.

Clarice Bean might be reading them now, so might be if I write another Clarice Bean, it might that she will be reading Look In To My Eyes. Because Ruby Redfort is older now, she’s thirteen. In Clarice Bean she’s eleven.
So yeh, it’s a very weird thing.

How does it feel to see your characters on the TV screen?
I worked on the show the whole way through. So I would go in there two days a week and I looked at all the scripts and I would do the dialogue for the characters. So I worked very closely with the designer and I would draw things for them, so I was kind of aware of how things were going to come out but you never know until the last minute if it is really going to be lovely or not.
I was very fussy about the voices; I wanted the voices to be children’s voices and the right kind of voices. I was involved but it was still a lovely feeling to actually see it. You don’t quite know until the very last minute if it is going to be something to be proud of. I was very excited to see it.

Following on from the Charlie and Lola TV show, some books have been published that haven’t been written by you, how does it feel?
It’s strange. When we were making the show we would have big meetings about what would make a good story for the show. I was very sure that they had to be about the little things that would happen to a four year old. So they can’t be made things like going off to Disney land because they don’t do that in their normal life.
Most of the show is set in their house and often inside their bedrooms so they need to be about brushing their teeth or about having to have a bath, about very, very simple things.

Then the script writers would go and write them and I would sit there ( motions crossing out ) and go NO they cant say that, they have to say this. I did have a lot of control, but it is still strange when you see the original Charlie and Lola books, of which I have written four and all the other ones have come from the Charlie and Lola TV(program), so it is quiet odd to see my name on them.

In the Clarice Bean books Ruby Redfort is being made it to a film. Is that going to happen?
I hope that it might one day. It is a very long thing because it involves someone investing lots and lots of money, so they have to be very, very sure that it is going to work.
So I think the more books I write, the more books I sell, the more likely it is that it will happen. But at the moment we all hope it will

A question from one of our followers on Facebook: What is your favorite sandwich?
Oh well that can change minute to minute but at the moment I’m quite the fan of the ham and cheese melt.

Izzy’s Thoughts
Meeting Lauren Child? It felt AMAZING
She was very smiley, friendly and happy. She always answered the questions in quite a lot of detail. It was great fun and I loved it. It’s not every day you get to interview Lauren Child and I still think about it A LOT!

Daisy’s Thoughts
After queuing for a long time the wait was finally over. Armed with our Clarice Bean and Ruby Redfort books we went forward. and got to meet Lauren Child herself!!! she was very friendly and chatty. She told us everything about her books and we interviewed her for ages. We found out lots about her books that we didn’t know. Definitely worth the wait ! !
It was a memorable day, hopefully the first of many author interviews for me…..

A massive thanks is owed to Lauren, her publicity team at Harper Collins Children’s Books and the fantastic events team at Waterstone’s Guilford. To learn even more about Lauren and her work visit her website here!

Interview by Izzy(8) and Daisy(11)

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Self Published Sunday: Interview with author Michael Faricy

Mike Faricy writes suspenseful crime tales populated by unforgettable, whacky characters. His books are filled with the sort of oddballs and flakes we’re all curious about but wisely prefer to keep at a distance. No one in his books will be saving the world from terrorism, international banking conspiracies or government coups. The situations his characters find themselves in are largely due to their own bad decisions, but then bad decisions make for interesting tales. Mike lives with his wife in St. Paul, Minnesota and Dublin, Ireland. He’s worked in a bank, in sales, run a business or two and if none of that offends you he also plays the bagpipes.

Hi Mike, thanks for joining us. Can you tell us about your latest book?

Thanks for having me it’s a pleasure to finally be able to sit down with you. My latest book is entitled Bombshell. It’s a crime fiction tale, the fourth in a series I write featuring Dev Haskell, Private Investigator. The story takes place in the world of roller derby. Dev becomes the envy of every guy with a heartbeat when he’s hired to provide security for a visiting women’s roller derby team. He envisions himself standing guard in the shower room, but before he knows what’s happened he’s suddenly under arrest and found guilty before he’s even been charged. He has an attorney who drinks too much, a beautiful friend with a bad attitude, a feisty team of females ready to kill him – and no answers. It’s vintage, fast paced Dev Haskell action, crime fiction with a sense of humor and even some romance.

What/who inspired you as a reader?

I love page turners. I love the sort of books where you want to put the coffee on around ten at night just so you can stay up and finish the final ninety pages. An awful lot of authors have inspired me. Like a lot of crime fiction readers, I don’t just read books here and there. I land on an author and then seem to consume everything they’ve written. Certainly Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen and Michael Connelly when it comes to sheer enjoyable, page turning tales. I would have to include William Kent Krueger and John Sanford for a bit of local Minnesota flavor. I really liked Robert B. Parker and Ed McBain for their tight, dialogue driven, fast paced tales. Both Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride write great tales with the occasional crazy something thrown in.

What research did you do for Bombshell?

I mentioned Bombshell is set in the word of roller derby. Not only did I do some research on the sport itself, just getting the terminology down, the positions, how the teams are organized and things of that nature. I got really interested in the players persona, the uniforms, the names of teams and team members. I registered the various skaters names I use in Bombshell on the official Roller Derby web site. The cover shot was taken by Wendy Doscher-Smith, a photographer out of Miami. The model on the cover is actually a real roller derby star by the name of Pinky Gomez who skates for Miami’s Vice City Rollers.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on another Dev Haskell tale titled Tutti Frutti. With any luck it should be out right around the first of the year. I’ve got two more Dev tales following on the heels of Tutti Frutti. I’ve also done a novella entitled Irish Dukes in the Fight Card series. These are a series of 1950’s noir boxing novellas written by different authors under the pseudonym Jack Tunney. They are all set in the 1950’s and the protagonist has to have come from St. Vincent’s Home for Boy in Chicago where he learned life’s lessons in the boxing ring under the guidance of Father Tim. It was a change of pace, a lot of fun and an honor to be asked to join the team of distinguished contributors. I enjoyed it so much I’ve got a couple of proposal ideas for another novella in the series.

What is your writing process?

It’s pretty simple, I sit down in front of the keyboard and start tapping keys. I don’t work from an outline or a rough draft. I just start typing so no one is more surprised than me at the end of any given day to see what plot turns and twists have developed. I usually write approximately ten pages a day, the following day I read yesterday’s work out loud and do some light editing. Yeah I know, amazing there might be any editing needed. Anyway, that process, the editing, may take about two and a half hours, when I’ve finished I’m pretty well back in the flow of the tale and create another ten pages. I begin editing first thing in the morning. I break for maybe thirty minutes for lunch. I usually do not take phone calls, run errands or go for walks. In the off hours I’m subconsciously going over a variety of plot turns and twists. Since I live in both St. Paul and Dublin this probably makes me the dullest guy in two towns.

What prompted you to self publish Bombshell?

All my books are self published. I used to mail fifty or sixty query letters out, groveling to publishers in the hopes they might consider my book. You rarely if ever send a manuscript or even three chapters. What you do send is a one page letter in a very specific format. The letter is three paragraphs, the first two detail your soon to be award winning book. The third paragraph is a sentence or two describing your wonderful self, you enclose a self addressed stamped envelope with your query letter so publishers don’t have to spend money to tell you no. Like I said, I used to send fifty to sixty query letters out promoting my latest work of genius, as a result I think I led the league in rejections. One day I had one of my query letters returned to me, I had addressed it to one of the big six publishers in New York. Across the front of the envelope in purple ink was stamped Return to Sender. On the back of my unopened envelope was a hand written note that read ‘This does not fit our needs at this time’. They never even opened the envelope. A dim light went on inside my thick skull, Mike Faricy from St. Paul, Minnesota doesn’t have a snowballs chance with these guys. Fortunately today there is another option that is not only more viable it’s more profitable, self publishing. I haven’t looked back. That said, if that New York publisher who returned my unopened envelope ever phoned I’d crawl across a busy street to sit down and at least talk with them.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Yeah, start writing. Do a short story, a novel, an article, but start writing. While you’re doing that develop some thick skin and find people who will give you honest feedback. Do not go to friends and family and put them on the spot by asking them to read whatever you wrote. You’ll get replies like, ‘Great”, “Go for it”, “A best seller!”. You can tell yourself that. What you need are people to say it drags here, this doesn’t make sense, I don’t like this. You may not have to follow their suggestions, in fact you don’t have to at all, but you do have to listen. Constantly work to get the best possible work out there, I see typos all the time in NY Times best sellers. I strive to do better than that, a lot better. The beauty of self publishing and e-books is when you are made aware of a problem you can usually fix it, right now. The real key is to not have any problems to begin with.

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a kid my two favorite books were Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and George the Pig. I especially liked George because he didn’t share his birthday cake with his friends. He ate the whole thing himself, if I recall it had pink frosting, lots of pink frosting and on the last page he exploded.

Just for fun paper, audio or e-book?

Good points to all although the vast majority of reading I do today is e-book. It’s just too convenient, I can download a book at midnight. I can adjust type size. If I travel my Kindle has upwards of 1500 books on it and is virtually weightless. I can easily gift an e-book to a friend or fan in seconds, anywhere in the world. I must have close to 1500 books on my shelves at home, but I rarely take one off the shelf to read, that said I still love to see them there. As for audio, my problem is when listening to an audio book I get so involved in the book I miss my exit when driving, or end up late for an appointment because I lost track of time, so I really have to closely monitor myself.

Dysfunctional. bumbling, crazy babe-magnet Dev Haskell, P.I., becomes the envy of every guy with a heartbeat when he’s hired to watch over a team of gorgeous English roller derby stars. Though he’d rather be standing guard in the shower room, he suddenly finds himself under arrest and found guilty before he’s even charged. He’s got an attorney who drinks too much, a beautiful woman with a bad attitude, a feisty team of females ready to kill him – and no answers. Bombshell is another fast-paced, engrossing suspense thriller from Minnesota’s master of the bizarre, Mike Faricy

Thanks so much for letting me join you today. Bombshell, along with all my books are available on Amazon, please check them out. I’m on face book at both Mike Faricy and Mike Faricy Books. Don’t miss the Dev Haskell page on face book, there’s a lot of fun things popping up there. You can follow me on twitter, @mikefaricybooks. Please visit my website at www.mikefaricy.com or feel free to email me at [email protected] Please pick up a copy of Bombshell here enjoy the read and don’t forget to tell 2-300 of your closest friends.
Many thanks and all the best,

Michael Faricy

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Pandora’s Star

Peter F Hamilton

It is AD 2380 and humanity has colonized over six hundred planets, all interlinked by wormholes. With Earth at its centre, the Intersolar Commonwealth has grown into a quiet, wealthy society, where rejuvenation allows its citizens to live for centuries.
When astronomer Dudley Bose observes a star over a thousand light years away vanish, imprisoned inside a vast force field of immense size, the Commonwealth is anxious to discover what actually happened. As conventional wormholes can’t reach that far, they must build the first faster-than-light starship. Captained by Wilson Kime, an ex-NASA astronaut a little too eager to relive his glory day the Second Chance sets off on its historic voyage of discovery.
But someone or something out there must have had a very good reason for sealing off an entire star system. And if the Second Chance does manage to find a way in, what might then be let out?

Pandora’s Star is the first of five (at the time of writing) large novels set in Hamilton’s Commonwealth universe. The first two of which are known collectively as the Commonwealth Saga, the other three (set centuries later) known as The Void Trilogy.

The book begins with the spectacular public unveiling of Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs’ experimental wormhole technology when they play a prank on the first manned mission to Mars in 2050, almost instantly making NASA and its space program redundant.

Fast-forward three centuries, and humanity lives in a peaceful society spread over hundreds of worlds – each one having at least one wormhole station through which you can take trains between worlds, or in some cases simply walk through. As there is no shortage of resources or new planets to colonise, there have been no wars for generations.

People are effectively immortal as the technology exists to return their bodies to their 20s as they grow old. Most people also have implants recording their entire mind, so that they are killed (the book calls this “bodyloss”) in an accident or murdered, they can be “relifed” into a new cloned body in a matter of months, with all their memories and personality intact.

The religious consequences of this “relife” process are glossed over, though Hamilton’s earlier Confederation trilogy examined eternal human souls in great depth, so perhaps it is for the best that this was not repeated here.

Instead, the practical considerations are well thought through. Can someone legally commit murder if the victim can be brought back to life? How do you punish someone who is effectively immortal? One of the characters, Paula Myo is an investigator in such a case and with this we really get a sense of how a society could work with such possibilities, even though all of this is unrelated to the main plot of the book.

In fact, much of the book is spent in careful world building, making this future civilisation feel very real. There are a lot of story threads following an ensemble cast of dozens, making it sometimes a little difficult to keep up with what is going on, though there is a handy list of the main characters at the front of the book to remind you.

As to the main story, it is a mystery story for the first half of the book. What is inside the giant forcefield so far away? Who built it? Why was it built? Should humanity be poking around with it? There’s a lot of politics involved in getting a project off the ground to go and find out and I found myself itching for the mission to get going and almost frustrated during these chapters, as indeed some of the characters clearly felt. However, the eventual payoff is spectacular.

Verdict: A long and very complex novel, though well worth it both for an incredibly well-realised future society and fascinating multi-threaded plotting.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Pan Books
Publication Date:2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 1144
Genre:Space Opera,Speculative Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British author
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Undeadly

Michele Vail

The day I turned 16, my boyfriend-to-be died. I brought him back to life. Then things got a little weird…
Molly Bartolucci wants to blend in, date hottie Rick and keep her zombie-raising abilities on the down-low. Then the god Anubis chooses her to become a reaper-and she accidentally undoes the work of another reaper, Rath. Within days, she’s shipped off to the Nekyia Academy, an elite school that trains the best necromancers in the world. And her personal reaping tutor? Rath. Who seems to hate her guts.
Rath will be watching closely to be sure she completes her first assignment-reaping Rick, the boy who should have died. The boy she still wants to be with. To make matters worse, students at the academy start turning up catatonic, and accusations fly-against Molly. The only way out of this mess? To go through hell. Literally

In Molly’s world the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians are not so ancient. Following the betrayal of some of his reapers and the earth shattering war in the underworld which followed, the god Anubis took the five magical powers reserved for reapers and gifted them to five prominent and noble families. Each power, associated with a different part of the soul, allowing them to control a different element of the dead. Over the generations, the bloodlines have become diluted and the ability’s of these Necromancers wide spread.

Molly’s ability, to create and control zombies, is the most common. A gift she shares with her sister and at least three other people in her school. Rather than make her special, all these gifts ensure is that she spends her evenings and weekends working at her fathers Zombie emporium, where for a price anyone can cheat death and have their relative immortalized as a zombie.

Undeadly is told from Molly’s first person perspective, interspersed with diary entries, essays and quotes from “famous necromancing” texts. I initially found it difficult to connect with Molly, her use of teen speak, slang and abbreviations really grated on my nerves and as an old biddy in her thirties, I found myself re-reading passages in order to “translate” what was being said. However within a few chapters I managed to connect with the rhythm of her voice to the extent that I found myself giggling along in places.

I really enjoyed the ancient Egyptian mythology that Vail used as the foundation of the world building in Undeadly. It was an original and interesting addition to the YA paranormal genre

Undeadly didn’t live up to my expectations, inspired by a somewhat misleading blurb. I envisioned an antagonistic relationship between Molly and Rath, who’s strong emotions could either lead to passion or something more sinister – ultimately Molly’s interactions with her reaping tutor received very little page time. The blub prophesied that Molly would have to “go through hell” to correct her mistakes, but the reckoning when it came was a very small proportion of the book and anti climatic.

Undeadly was a fast read, exceptionally so, to the extent that I found myself checking Goodreads to confirm that the book really was 272 pages long, as it felt much shorter. I can’t help feeling that the book could have been and should have been longer, that the author could have made much more of the character interactions, the strange goings on at Nekyia, and the repercussions of Molly’s interference with Rick.

While I suspect that the author will explore the repercussions of Molly’s actions and Molly and Rath’s connection in future installments of the Reaper diary’s, she certainly ends the book with an almighty cliffhanger, I find myself unsatisfied. Undeadly felt unfinished, almost like reading part one of a novel not the completed first book in a series.

Verdict: Undeadly didn’t quiet live up to my expectations but was different enough for me to consider reading the, yet to be published, sequel.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Paranormal
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author
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Noisy Neighbours and Snipping with Scissors: An Interview With Lauren Child (Part 1)

Thanks to those lovely book sellers at Waterstone’s Guildford, Daisy(11) and Izzy (8)recently got the opportunity to interview, awesome author, Lauren Child.

It’s not easy to concentrate at school when mysterious things are happening all around you. In fact, Clarice Bean is starting to feel just like her favorite heroine: Ruby Redfort, schoolgirl detective. Clarice and her utterly best friend, Betty Moody, are planning to ace their book project about Ruby and win the class prize, until Betty disappears into thin air, and horrible teacher Mrs. Wilberton teams Clarice up with the naughtiest boy in school. Will her new partner ruin everything? Will Betty ever come back? And what on earth happened to the silver trophy everyone’s hoping to win? Lauren Child brings her trademark wacky wit and eccentric visual energy to a full-length, fastpaced Clarice Bean episode that will charm even the most capricious reader

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?
In Clarice Bean the picture book there is a boy who shouts a lot and he is the neighbor of Clarice Bean and he was my neighbor while I was writing the book. So he was someone who was actually outside of my window.

So from everywhere really and some things just pop in to my head and I don’t know where they come from.

Where did you get the inspiration to use different fonts and textiles?
I’ve just always been very keen on textiles and I don’t know why but when I was a child I used to love going to peoples houses and looking at how they decorated, what colours they used and everything. So I have always been interested in that.

And fonts, well I think that they are just beautiful things. The fact that they have all been designed differently for different things. Whether it’s advertising or a book, they all have different uses and I think that they are very nice to use in illustration to bring out the character of your character. Clarice Bean’s font is very different from her brothers font, Milo’s font. Because he is younger it is much more babyish. It show’s you immediately the differences between them.

Which of your characters is the most fun to write?
I Like writing about all of them. You have to feel strongly about your characters. I have loved writing about Charlie and Lola, I still do so I probably am going to do more.But Clarice Bean is my favorite, because I can write as her. I can write about the things that meant a lot to me when I was a child. It’s also fun to write about Ruby Redfort as well because it is a completely different thing, imagining yourself as someone completely different.

How long does it take to write a Lauren Child book?
It depends on the book and often I’m doing lots and lots of different things at the same time so that can make things take longer. This Ruby Redford, the first one (indicates Look In To My Eyes), took about two years but I was doing other things and I had to set the scene- Who were her friends?What was her family like?-I had to do everything from scratch, this (indicates Take Your Last Breath) only took a year to write because I knew all of those things already.

Clarice Bean (indicates books), these took a long time to write but that was because I was working on a television show which took up a lot of time so I (pauses) I think that there is a two year gap between each Clarice Bean. I was working on them the whole time with lots of stopping and starting.

When I do a picture book it’s usually six months.

What do you use to draw your illustrations?
I use pencil, just a normal pencil. But what I often do is enlarge things then. So I scan things. I cut things out. I do lots of cutting and pasting. And I, I did that really because. Um (pauses) You see lots of illustrators who are really amazing at knowing exactly where they want things to go.There is an illustrator called Chris Riddell and I remember watching him draw and he seems to know exactly how the picture is going to be just from his head. I know Quentin Blake, I’ve seen him draw and he plots things first so he knows what the picture is going to look like and then he draws it. I just do it as I’m going along which means I often make mistakes, and I don’t quite know how its going to be so I draw every single thing separately and then snip it out with my scissors, and then arrange it on the bit of paper.

Was it intentional for Clarice Bean to age with her readers?
I wasn’t really expecting to do that when I started. I mean, she starts off in the picture books about seven years old and I chose that age because I remember thinking that it was a really lovely age to be and I quite enjoyed being seven.

Then when I started doing the novels I though that it would be quiet nice for her to talk about things that were more complicated as you got older and things are perhaps less one way or the other. You start to realise that (pauses), like in Spells Trouble, I don’t know if you have read that Clarice Bean (Daisy indicates her copy of the book on the table) Oh! *laughs* sorry, I do know you’ve read this! So in that one she starts to realise that it is not always clear what the wrong thing and the right thing is **spoiler for book excluded from transcript** The black and white starts to go, and you realise that you have to go with your gut feeling. So it seemed right that she should get older.

There is something a bit sad in Don’t Look Now, because she is dealing with people leaving you and that feeling that things change. As you get older things really change. I hope that it feels happier at the end. Just because things change it doesn’t mean that things can’t change for the better.

It wasn’t intentional, but it just seemed right because I wanted to write about things that effect people more your age (indicating Daisy 11) as well as your age (indicating Izzy 8).

You have written lots of stories for young children through to teenagers. Why didn’t you stick to just one age range?
Because it is really fun trying something different and I like doing each thing as much as the other. I’ve done some Charlie and Lola board books which were really fun because it’s like a challenge to make the shortest, simplest book that someone is going to enjoy, and do the pictures and that’s a lovely thing to do. But I also love writing stuff that is complicated like this (points to Clarice Bean) and thinking about writing for young teenagers.
There are lots of different sides to reading and I like to try new things. There are many more things that I would like to do.

Who is your favourite author?
My favourite author of children’s books? Any one?
Anyone
Oh that’s very hard. I think (pauses) Well my favorite illustrator is Quentin Blake and in the end I have always loved him the most. Although I love many, many illustrators. He’s probably my most favourite.

My favorite children’s author (pauses) they were around when I was a child and you can still get their books now, actually I’ve got one here (pulls book out of bag) because I was talking about this book the other day. The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars, and she’s a wonderful, wonderful writer, so I still love her books. I think they are amazing.

And grown up books, well again there are so many people, but there’s an author called Rose Tremain, she’s written a lot of books but my favourite one of hers is called Restoration. Although it’s set in history around the reign of king Charles II, a long long time ago, you see lots of things in common with your own life.

Come back next week to read the part two of Daisy and Izzy’s interview with Lauren child. In the mean time you can discover more about Lauren and her work by clicking here to visit her website and learn about Guildford Waterstone’s upcoming book events by visiting their events page here.

Interview by Daisy (11) and Izzy (8)

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Becoming Jane Eyre

Shelia Kohler

The year is 1846. In a cold parsonage on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, a family seems cursed with disaster. A mother and two children dead. A father sick, without fortune, and hardened by the loss of his two most beloved family members. A son destroyed by alcohol and opiates. And three strong, intelligent young women, reduced to poverty and spinsterhood, with nothing to save them from their fate. Nothing, that is, except their remarkable literary talent. So unfolds the story of the Brontë sisters. At its centre are Charlotte and the writing of Jane Eyre. Delicately unraveling the connections between one of fiction’s most indelible heroines and the remarkable woman who created her, Sheila Kohler’s Becoming Jane Eyre will appeal to fans of historical fiction and, of course, the millions of readers who adore Jane Eyre.

This story is the fictionalised interpretation of biographical events in the life of Charlotte Bronte. I didn’t know much about the family other than the obvious; they wrote wonderful books! So it was of interest to me to learn more about them and it is always fascinating to see how their own lives have affected the authors writing and that is definitely highlighted in this novel. The only thing, of course, is that you have to remember that this is someone else’s ideas about the characters thoughts and feelings and not those of Charlotte herself. Shelia’s writing really draws you in and her interpretation of what happened in Charlottes life, how it affected that and how it shows up in Jane Eyre pulls you in and is incredibly plausible.

We begin Charlotte’s story as she starts writing the novel, her pen scratching on the paper as her father lies unable to move waiting to see if he will recover from an operation to restore his sight. As Charlotte nurses him she reflects on her life thus far and finds it in herself to write as she never has before.

Shelia takes us on a voyage through Charlotte’s life and as Charlotte spent a lot of time at home this gives a fascinating exploration of family relationships, especially difficult ones. It is clear that Bramwell is the favourite of the family, especially his father. Bramwell has had all the chances, privileges and opportunities and yet wastes his life and his talent on drink and drugs. How difficult must this have been for his talented and yet ignored sisters. Even more so as they have to care for him and clear up his mess, often literally.

Caring for her father whilst feeling he despises her is an incredible burden for Charlotte. He did not care for her when she was young, when her Mother died or when she was being looked after by another woman who only cared for Bramwell. His distance and discouragement make it even harder for her to write and yet his illness gives her this opportunity that produces literary gold.
That her Father did nothing for her or her sisters also highlights the plight of women in that society. The suffocation that must have been felt by Charlotte and her sisters as they are chastised and criticised must have been immense. In particular as they were writing women and authorship was a man’s world, to say the least. As Shelia points out later in the novel it must have been so degrading for Charlotte to have been called ‘Jane Eyre’ by Thackery himself. In addition how devastating it was for Charlotte to have her manuscript rejected when her two sisters had works accepted, even more so as she considers herself the better writer.

Charlotte has had some independence and life experience at school and as a teacher. She falls for, and is led on by, her Master. He is a married man and as a reader you become increasingly aware of how dependent girls were in the men in their lives for survival, either at home or in the workplace, being a Governess must have been a particularly difficult role sometimes. The Master’s treatment of Charlotte and her passion for him seems to have greatly informed her writing of Jane Eyre.

Through the whole novel there is a darker edgier side shown to Charlotte’s life and it clearly demonstrates her possible inspiration; lovers rejection, fires, secrets in the attic. This is when it became easy to forget this is a kind of fiction, not all factual. But as these events are documented in Charlotte’s life, drawing the parallels is easy.

Towards the end of the story there are some big events in Charlotte’s life that get somewhat skimmed over; the death of her two sisters and Charlotte’s own marriage almost form an epilogue to the main body of the story.

Verdict: I thought this was a beautifully written story with an enthralling take on the life of a woman behind one of the greatest stories ever written.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: August 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 241/410KB
Genre: Historical fiction, Biographical
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge:
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Guest Post: Rachel’s Writing Tips

We are delighted to welcome author Rachel Roberts as she shares her story telling expertise.

Since so many of you have asked for tips to create your own stories, Attila, Raider, and I thought we’d share some writing secrets! Whether you’re a writer starting with a blank page, a painter staring at a canvass or a sculptor shaping a lump of clay, creating is a process. It takes time, practice, and patience to bring your vision to life. Creativity can be hard work but it’s always worth the effort. The important thing is to have fun!

WAIT! Don’t write – yet: You have to prepare first. Make some decisions about what kind of story you want to tell – action, adventure, fantasy, mystery – and who your characters are. But where do you get ideas?

You need input to get output: 
To get your imagination flowing, start by doing something you like. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to music, walk in the forest – any experience that makes you feel inspired and ready to create.

Be open to ideas: 
As a writer, part of your job to observe. Ideas- big and small- will come if you pay attention to the world around you. Maybe your cat did something so amazing that it gives you an idea for a magical creature, or your BFF had an interesting comment that made you think, or a ray of sunlight shining through a maple tree looked like a cloud of golden fairy dust. The more you study the real world, the truer and realer your own world and characters will feel.

Be ready to catch ideas: 
If you don’t grab that idea when it pops into your mind it, it might get lost. Carry a notebook so you’re always prepared to jot things down. Soon you’ll have a lot of cool stuff to help create your story. Some ideas you’ll love and others you won’t, but that’s okay. You never know what will help build your story. Plus, when you feel stuck during writing, you can always go back to your notebook and find ideas to get you moving again.

The Big Idea: 
You’ve immersed yourself in great stories, you have a collection of cool ideas, you’re inspired, excited – now what? Here’s what I do:

1. Write A Story Summary: 
A story summary helps you answer the question, “Hey, what’s your story about?” This will help you keep the big picture in mind as you start designing the beginning, middle, and end to your story. You can also use this summary for sales copy when you are ready to post your book online or print it. Here’s some examples of the Avalon book summaries:

Circles in the Stream:
Three very different teenage girls are all drawn to a secret place deep in the woods. There they discover a portal to another world through which strange and wondrous animals have emerged, searching desperately for the magic that will keep them alive. The animals are peaceful and good, but what follows them through the portal is pure evil. Emily, Adriane, and Kara have been chosen by magical beings called Fairimentals to protect the magical animals, though they don’t know why. To save them and their world, the three girls must begin a quest to find the lost home of legendary magic, Avalon…or to perish trying.

Secret of the Unicorn:
The problems in the magical world of Aldenmor are getting worse. Many new creatures are arriving in Ravenswood through the portal and they report that the Fairy Glen, home of the Fairimentals, has vanished. A frightened and terribly wounded unicorn is among the new refugees to Ravenswood. Can Emily communicate with her to offer help? The future of the magic web depends upon the dark secret the unicorn carries.

2. Create Character Bios: 
Write a short bio for each of your lead characters, including stats like age, hair color, eyes, height, likes and dislikes. Don’t worry about selecting names. I always use placeholders (any name I can think of) until the perfect name comes to me.

3. Build Your World: 
Write a short description of the places in your story. Is it a fantasy world? Is it a zoo? Is it a mall? An old, spooky house? Know your environments to make your world feel real.
Keep your notes handy because as you start to write your story, you might want to update, expand or change these 3 things.

Okay, now that you have the basics it’s time to start writing and start creating your own world.

Your fellow writer mage,
Rachel

Three very different young teens, Emily, the shy one, Adriane, the outsider, and Kara, the power shopper, are all drawn to a secret place deep in the woods where they discover a portal to another world. Wondrous animals have emerged from the portal, desperately seeking the magic that will keep them alive. Though the animals are peaceful and good, what follows them through the portal is twisted and evil and bent on destroying them all.
The Fairimentals have chosen these three fourteen-year-olds to protect the magical animals. To save them and their world, the girls must overcome their differences and band together. They begin a perilous quest to discover Avalon, the lost, legendary home of magic, little knowing the terrible dangers they will face along the way.

To find out more about the series and to read Rachel’s blog visit the Avalon website(here).
The Avalon series is available now as a Kindle download from Amazon.

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Circles in the Stream ( Avalon #1)

Rachel Roberts

Three very different young teens, Emily, the shy one, Adriane, the outsider, and Kara, the power shopper, are all drawn to a secret place deep in the woods where they discover a portal to another world. Wondrous animals have emerged from the portal, desperately seeking the magic that will keep them alive. Though the animals are peaceful and good, what follows them through the portal is twisted and evil and bent on destroying them all.
The Fairimentals have chosen these three fourteen-year-olds to protect the magical animals. To save them and their world, the girls must overcome their differences and band together. They begin a perilous quest to discover Avalon, the lost, legendary home of magic, little knowing the terrible dangers they will face along the way.

I was quite excited to read this book as it was the first review book that I have read with my daughter Willow. She is seven years old and really loves books but struggles with reading herself. This means that the books that we share together have become all the more special, I want her to continue with her love affair with stories and not become disengaged with reading. This as it turns out was the perfect book for this.

We read a couple of chapters of the book a night before bedtime and nearly every night you could almost guarantee that there would be tears as she was desperate to find out more. There were times when she became quite worried about what would happen to the characters and I did wonder whether she would want to carry reading but that really wasn’t the case. That she did want to carry on reading is testament to how well written the characters are in the story. We both got to know them well and both want to find out what will happen to them in subsequent books. As an adult there were bits that I found stretched the realms of imagination, but at the end of the day this is a fantasy book so it wasn’t too much of an issue. Willow had no issue with this at all and as she is closer to the age demographic of this book I think her opinion is the one that matters.

This isn’t a book that I would have chosen to pick up had I not known it was something that Willow would enjoy, animals feature heavily, and animal books really aren’t my thing. I am glad that I did though. Whilst it probably isn’t something that I would choose to read on my own it has been perfect reading material for the two of us and has definitely been among the better bedtime stories we’ve read.

Verdict: Willow’s verdict of the book was that it was really, really good (said at the top of her voice!). Some really interesting things happened and her favourite character was Adrianne as she was really funny. My verdict is that the book was surprisingly gripping, enjoyable with some very well drawn characters. I am actually looking forward to bedtime reading whilst we complete the rest of the books.

Reviewed by Alison and Willow

Publisher: Seven Seas
Publication Date: March 2008
Format: eBook
Pages: 216
Genre: Fantasy
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Provided by publicist
Challenge:None

Check back tomorrow when Avalon author Rachel Roberts will be sharing her writing tips

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