Monday, December 31, 2012

Final MFB Blogpost - What We've Enjoyed in 2012 & The Future

As we've been saying for a few months now, My Favourite Books will shut its doors today, 31st December 2012.

It has been an incredible ride for both Sarah, Mark and myself.  We've made some terrific friends along the way and met some great debut, mid-list and stratospherically well known authors.  Our knowledge of the publishing world has exploded and we've come to know a great many editors and publicity and marketing people (including other folk who look after artwork and digital files and audio etc within the publishing industry) and let me tell you: these people aren't in it for the money, they are in it for the love of stories and reading, even if publishers at the end of the day have to make money.  We are grateful to all of them for giving three bloggers the chance to meet them and review their books.  It's been a rather splendid seven years!

As today is our final blogpost, we've decided to offer you a handful of our favourite titles we've read in 2012 - a quick stipulation here: it's books we've read this year, which means they may not have been published this year.

Sarah’s Best Books of 2012

2012 was a bit of a slow-grower for me in terms of books. I despaired of ever finding something I loved but then February hit and I was off.

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan
This is a breathtaking book and one that utilises different points-of-view beautifully. I started the book full of sympathy for Misskaella who’s largely ignored by her family and the rest of the community of Rollrock. She takes her revenge in an unflinching fashion. However, after the last chapter I had tears in my eyes and went back to read the beginning again. Such beautiful writing.

The Wood Queen/Falling to Ash by Karen Mahoney
Mistress of Urban Fantasy a.k.a Karen Mahoney gave us two wonderful books this year. One let me be a part of my much-loved world of Ironbridge again and the other heralded a new series about Moth the teenage vampire. I adored both of them and will not choose a favourite – do you hear? Falling to Ash made me think of super heroes and I loved the tough yet vulnerable Moth. The Wood Queen developed the intriguing storyline beautifully. The dialogue in both was razor-sharp. It’s my list so they’re going in on an equal footing of love. So there.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Kami speaks to a boy in her head but one day he turns up in her village. Jared and Kami fight to understand the mystery of Sorry-in-the-Vale and of each other. It’s Gothic and spooky all wrapped up with SRB’s brilliant dialogue. Yum.

Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones
I made the classic error of reading this in pdf form from the publisher then, realising it was far too early to review, put it to one side. All I could remember was that it was ghostly, Victorian and I loved it. I re-read so I could actually write something coherent but basically it’s wonderful.

Unrest by Michelle Harrison
Speaking of ghosts this was a seriously scary book with a great male protagonist. His voice just pulls you in and I wanted to know what had happened to him and how he was going to turn things around. This book seriously put the frighteners on me in the middle of the day. Terrifying.

Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Jeane has a stunning voice and even though at times I hated her, I always loved her too. She’s pretty much an emancipated teen with a self-absorbed family who has carved out a career for herself through social networking and blogging. Michael hates her too, or does he love her? Funny, awkward and a hundred percent brilliant.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
I’ve just read and reviewed this so I don’t have the benefit of a few months to be able to think about what it meant to me. It’s all still very immediate but this story of two broken teens who attempt not to mend each other is both addictive and beautiful – it crept up on me in a good way.

Angel Dust by Sarah Mussi
I’m not a big one for angel books but this really got me. An angel whose job it is to collect souls tries to save just one. She finds herself in a pact with a helpful man and eventually discovers that she needs to rethink her priorities. I’m feeling a bit tearful just remembering it. Beautiful. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Mark's Favourite Titles of 2012

Shieldwall by Justin Hill

I really enjoyed the rich and evocative language used in Shieldwall, and taken with the great action and Hill's consistent attention to detail, this is was a fantastic and immersive read.

Outpost by Adam Baker

Outpost surprised me several times and steadfastly refused to conform to my expectations. It's an exciting end-of-the-world thriller and well worth investing in.

Know No Fear by Dan Abnett

The combination of a fresh and cleverly constructed narrative, tight and explosive action sequences made KNF stand out as one of my favourite books in the Horus Heresy series.

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

This was a terrifically fun book to read, well paced and offering a fresh and well realised setting and mythology as the backdrop for a kick ass adventure.

The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme

I had expected good things from Nick Kyme, having read and enjoyed his Space Marine / 40K series (The Tome of Fire) but TGB surpassed my expectations. Nick delivered a solid, well crafted fantasy that was a pleasure to read from start to finish, well grounded in the rich background of the Warhammer setting but simultaneously independent and eminently accessible to newcomers. 

Double Dead by Chuck Wendig

An absolute blast and the most fun I'd had with a book for some time. I loved the vampiric main character -a likeable bastard- and wound up reading this in a day.  

Liz's Favourite Books of 2012 

Itch by Simon Mayo

Oh I did so love Itch.  Fun, quite adult MG novel for younger readers (but also for older folk) with a great main character and lots of shenanigans and also: science and adventure and bad surfing.  As I'm clueless to most famous people, I had no idea who Simon Mayo was when we were shown the info about ITCH at the beginning of the year at Random House. I was smitten by the idea of the story and the image of this boy carrying rocks around.  So I went in and read this without having a clue and it was plain good writing and good storytelling.

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey 

Folklore and legend combined with some truly great writing by Karen Healey has this book firmly in my "never let it out of my sight" bookshelf.  I can't gush enough about this book and the author - it genuinely ticks all the boxes for me and her voice is so clear and vivid.  Really, do everything you can to get a copy of this to read.

Dead Scared by SJ Bolton 

SJ Bolton is a nice lady.  I've now met her a few times and I've realised the ability to scare and frighten the living crap out of you has nothing to do with how NICE an author can be in real life.  A SJ Bolton book guarantees you a good read.  Every single one of her books is ace.  And scary.  And I love each one of them.  So basically, this recommendation is about Dead Scared but it is more about recommending everything this lady has ever written and will write.  Because she is honestly that good a crime writer.  You will not be disappointed.

The Hum and The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

Beautiful, haunting, evocative, rich...magical.  Bah.  I don't need to say more.  Buy it, read it and utterly fall in love with these strong flawed characters he's created. This is urban fantasy / magical realism writing at its utmost best.

The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp & Sara Ogilvie 

Picture books lie close to my heart.  I have no kids to pass them along to or to read them to but that doesn't stop me from buying them and thoroughly falling in love with them.  The Worst Princess is definitely one of my faves for this year.  Deliciously subversive with its tongue firmly in cheek, I do think TWP is a great title for all ages, and especially for the mums and dads reading it, because basically: girls and boys should be allowed to do what they want and not conform to gender roles!

Fire City by Bali Rai

I am a big old fan-girl of Bali Rai's writing.  He's a born storyteller and its evident from all his books how much fun he has when writing.  In Fire City, Bali gives us something he's not done before, a semi-fantasy/post-apocalyptic novel rich in world-building and depth.  Even if this doesn't sound like your kind of reading, do pick up any of Bali's other books.  You'll be in for a real treat.

Blood and Feathers by Lou Morgan

Another great contemporary urban fantasy with super strong characterisation and a bit of a wicked sense of humour.  The first in a series from Lou, this is a well researched, dark and gripping novel that will leave you wanting for more.

Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne 

Ridiculously well written, HSB, made me grin, laugh, cry and swear.  Basically, I acted a bit odd whilst reading it and then I had to tell everyone about it.  My only criticism about this is aimed at me: next time, just read the bloody book and don't put it off.  And to you: if you've seen it around, mentioned all over the show and you think it's over-hyped...and it's made you cautious: really, give it a try.  It's an accomplished debut that made a lot of people sit up and take notice.

Honorary mention:  Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt - beautiful, strange, eerie, this feels like an old old fairy tale or fable retelling, but it isn't.  I loved it, thought it was really well written, but I just wish there was more of it.  More of the story, the characters and more of the writing.  I suppose this means I should re-read it.  If you're in the mood for something dark and strange and wonderful and a bit melancholy, definitely try Keturah and Lord Death.


That's our recommendations for 2012 from Team MFB.

We'd like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the publishers who decided to take a chance on us these past few years, for sending us books for review, inviting us to meet their authors and for trusting us to become part of their publishing campaigns and for valuing our opinion to help spread the word on so many fantastic books.  Personally, I'd like to say thanks to the publishers MFB started out with: Bloomsbury Kids, Simon and Schuster Kids and also Random House Kids but also Gollancz and Orion Kids.  Without you guys taking a chance on us all those many years ago, we would never have been able to build the reputation we pride ourselves on having.

This really is a tough blogpost to write without falling over into the emo-side of things but as I'm sure you guys'll understand as I waffle along a little bit more! Also, a huge big thanks goes out to all our blogging pals.  We have made a vast amount of friends within the blogging community and it's been amazing to see how fledgling sites have grown from cautious newbie beginners to confident and charming blogs where their voices are strong and vibrant. I am really proud to be the "blogging godmother" - you guys make us proud.  Please don't stop anytime soon because you know, we still need to know what's coming up so we can buy 'em!

And lastly, to all of you guys, our readers and commenters: thanks for hanging out with us over the years.  We really do hope you've had fun reading our reviews and that some of what we've waffled on about convinced you to buy one or two of the titles we've reviewed.

And so, it is with tears in our combined eyes that we say goodbye to you all.  Please do follow us on twitter - Liz = @LizUK / Sarah = @Esssjay / Mark = @Gergaroth - because we will still be around and we will still be talking books, movies, and utter nonsense.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Books I've read but not yet reviewed..

... even though I've been meaning to.

The Leaping by Tom Fletcher

Jack finished university three years ago, but he's still stuck in a dead-end job in a sinister call-centre in Manchester. When the beautiful (and rich) Jennifer comes into his life he thinks he has finally found his ticket out of there. Trouble is that his boss is interested in Jennifer as well, and there's something strangely bestial about him... So when Jennifer buys Fell House, a mysterious old mansion out in remote Cumbria, a house party on a legendary scale seems like the perfect escape for them and their housemates. But as the party spins out of control on a seemingly neverending night, they must face up to the terrifying possibility that not all their guests may be human - and some of them want to feed.

I picked a copy of The Leaping up earlier this year during a random jaunt to Waterstones to feed an itch for some horror flavoured at that time. Jack and his housemates work at a grubby call centre- they're quite a mixed bag, bound together by a mutual hatred for their dead-end jobs and the dream of finding Something Better. The creepiness starts off slowly, and builds towards creating a claustrophobic and unsettling vibe; even a stark and rolling countryside becomes something sinister in Fletcher's hands. I really enjoyed this- it starts off innocently enough but quickly snowballs into a sordid and savage fever dream. Recommended.

Department 19: The Rising by Will HillDepartment 19: The Rising by Will Hill

After the terrifying attack on Lindisfarne at the end of the first book [our review here!], Jamie, Larissa and Kate are recovering at Department 19 headquarters, waiting for news of Dracula’s stolen ashes. 
They won’t be waiting for long. There are only 91 days to Zero Hour.
Vampire forces are gathering. Old enemies are getting too close. And Dracula… is rising.
Ah, Department 19. As fast and furious as its predecessor, if not more so. This time Jamie and the rest of the Dept 19 crew are working to a deadline to try prevent Dracula from rising and assuming his full and terrible power. The Rising is a chunky beast, but you don't notice it once things get going- the action and pace is unrelenting The pages fly by as Jamie and his friends have to deal with their own troubles over and above while trying to stop the world's most powerful vampire from plunging the world into a bloodsoaked darkness. The Rising was a fun and exhilarating read, complete with lashings of gore (and a fantastic scene where Hill turns a Hollywood cliche on its head). You will need to have read Department 19 to really appreciate it though, although that's no hardship. 
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind. There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on middling terms with demons.
His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary. One such sacrifice was his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake - it's not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself.

Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal's unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.

In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival - created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one that may also win coconuts - and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.

What really made this pop for me was the distinctive voice that came through in the writing. Wry and laced with a wonderful black humour, it hooked me from the first page and didn't let me go until the last. Cabal isn't a nice guy (the cover blurb refers to him having 'the moral conscience of anthrax' - brilliant!) and he stays that way throughout, which is as gratifying as it is fun. I highly recommend taking Cabal for a spin - I'm certainly going to be picking up the others in the series.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last Loot of 2012 - MFB Style

Each year, at the end of the year, I have an annual blowout online and in shops in advance of the new year and gearing up for reading in 20whatever it is.

This year though, the blowout's tinged with a bit of sadness purely because this is the last year I'm doing it, using MFB as an excuse.  From now onwards, my only excuse for buying far too many books one person with only one set of eyes and brain and can read is: I have a book problem.  To illustrate this, I've decided to show you pictures of the books that I've bought and received as gifts in the past week alone.  This is not bragging, it's more an admittance of being spoiled rotten.

These are the "from me to me purchases" - please do not judge me by my random DVD purchases included in the pic.  Tom Hardy FTW, what can I say?  Wildwood has been on my radar for ages - I've recommended it to loads of friends, not having actually read it myself and yet every single one of them said how much they enjoyed it.  The rest of the titles were reaped from various "best of" and "highly recommended" lists across the interwebs.

These were purchased at Waterstones Canary Wharf before we headed off to see The Hobbit.  The two Secret titles are great purchases and the NY one came highly recommended by the one bookseller when we told her we were planning to visit NY this year.  I've read Falling Kingdoms since purchasing these and I must say it's a fun, light, easy to get into, entry-level fantasy for younger readers.  I had a few issues with it, but it won't stop me from buying the sequels.

The lovely Lynsey Newton arranged a UKYA Blogger Secret Santa - both Sarah and I took part in it and these are the items I received from my Secret Santa.  Some great titles I'm looking forward to reading.

These two titles, along with Citadel by Kate Mosse, was part of my pressies from Mark this year.  They are rather splendid and both sound fantastic!

Yesterday, Mark and I met up with Sarah and her hubby for our annual (and final) MFB Xmas lunch.  We went to Honest Burger (delicious and highly recommended tiny restaurant) and immediately swapped presents.  Sarah got me an amazing poppet - Dream's Poppet  - which I was ecstatic about, but as she was worried the poppet would not arrive in time, she also bought me some "emergency" book presents.  From Sarah: Necromancing the Stone / Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Robert Kirk / The White Forest and also a set of moleskines which I'm truly happy with.  The other titles in this pic I bought at Forbidden Planet.  The Immortals of Meluha by Amish looks like a great read.  And I just had to get City of Dark Magic as it is (obviously) set in Prague.

Super special treat from the boys and girls at Head of Zeus - The Grim Company - and it came wrapped and everything, in time for Xmas.  How lovely? Also, the story sounds fantastic!

This is today's purchases from Foyles.  Sorrowline by Niel Bushnell has been on my radar for some time now.  It looks great.  Sweet Venom by Terra Lynn Childs - TLC is one of my fave authors.  She just writes so well.  Maria V Snyder is a favourite too, so I had to get this.  The Secret of Lost Things - I sadly had to get this as a second hand copy as nowhere I went to had copies in stock.  Just look it up.  You'll understand why I had to have it.  And The Dogs of Winter - based on a real story, about a boy who spent 2 years or so living with a pack of dogs in Moscow, is the perfect reading in chilly weather.

I'm now fully booked up for some time and in 2013 have resolved to dig into the boxes in storage and read some old favourites and new ones I've just never had the chance to get to.

Hopefully some of these books I've pictured may be of interest to some of you! A mixture of adult and YA and younger fiction to grace your shelves is never a bad thing.  If there's one thing I hope readers of MFB take away from this blog is that you should give all kinds of fiction, for all ages, a try because good writing isn't exclusive to adult or literary fiction and you should read voraciously, across borders.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay


I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

It's a shame that my last review for MFB will probably be a burbling mess but there, it is what it is. I had a mini spree and got a few books for my Kindle. This was one of them and I started it first because - well, you have read the first paragraph of that synopsis, right? Nastya hasn't been to school for a couple of years but is determined to get through high school. She wants to do this in the easiest way possible and for her that's by not talking to anyone and having little to do with her family. The first few days let her settle into a pattern of moving silently through her days and running at nights. However, Josh is difficult to ignore. Everyone tries to but on the rare occasions he does engage anyone, they do as he says and have a healthy amount of respect for him. On one of her runs she finds herself outside his garage which is more of a workshop where he makes his beautiful furniture and slowly, minutely, their lives become intertwined.

Told in the first person, alternating between Josh and Nastya, the reader is slowly drawn into the lives of these two damaged people. Little-by-little their stories are unearthed and we find out the reasons behind their current behaviour. As they become friends we see that they are both conflicted with their feelings for each other. Honestly, I think this is one of the most beguiling, creeps-up-on-you and bewitching books I've read in a while. I was torn between wanting to know Nastya's full story and knowing that I may be horrified when it was revealed. Josh is just as intriguing. His scars might not be on the outside but they're just as deep. They adjust to each other reluctantly but you know that there will come a point when it's time to get real and both of them are doing a lot of pretending.

Apart from the main characters I was massively impressed by the secondary ones especially Josh's friend Drew who could have been a major idiot but is so cleverly written that I really felt for the cad-with-a-heart. Even his sister Sarah who could have just been a cheerleader-queen-bee type has moments of redemption. I wanted Drew to be happy as much as I wanted it for Josh and Nastya. What else can I say about this surprising and wonderful book? The writing is beautiful, the dialogue makes you catch your breath at times. Also, the last line? Best last line ever. It's long for its genre and a bit of a slow-grower but it steals up on you and takes over your life. I was bereft when I finished and moped around the house flinging books to one side and wailing, "I have nothing to read," for a few days afterwards which tells me everything I need to know about a book. It's being published by Atria Books in June but you can buy it on Kindle now. I think I'm going to have to buy a physical copy just so I can look at it. 

Loved it. 

So, that wasn't too incoherent for my last ever MFB review was it? Just pleased I could finish with a wonderful book. Thanks all (she says, trying not to get emo), it's been a blast. I've really appreciated all the comments and all you wonderful bloggers on Twitter some of whom I've had the chance to meet at events. It's a great community and one I've been proud to be part of.

Also, a huge thanks to Liz and Mark who let me become part of Team MFB and coaxed me through my first, stuttering reviews. You took a chance on me and I'm enormously grateful for your support. I've learnt loads, laughed loads and found two brilliant friends. See you in the cafe at Foyles. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Books I've read and enjoyed but not had a chance to review

There are a few of them: 

Shift by Kim E Curran is one of my faves of 2012 although I've not reviewed it - mostly because it's hard for me to review friends' books with clarity and without seeming biased.  It was super-hard doing Tanya Byrne's book but I decided that Shift by Kim needed a shout out from MFB for being a really fun, Fringe-lite, YA.  

When 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He s a Shifter. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands...

Kim's writing is easy on the eye and by this I mean it keeps you paging, which is crucial.  Scott is a nice kid, occasionally a bit dumb, mostly a boy just interested in getting along until one night when he does something a bit weird and his life changes irrevocably.  There is no going back.  I liked the science, it made sense to me.  You got the bigger implications behind Scott's abilities and what could potentially be done with it, even if it takes him a bit to catch up. The pacing is pretty damn decent too - there are enough pauses to let you catch your breath before we're off again.  

I'd recommend Shift to readers who want something with more padding around the edges - it's an intelligent, fast paced, contemporary YA that deals with identity, realities and choices.  There's a decent science fiction slant so for readers who like that kind of thing or who wonder about it, this is the perfect book.  It really is Fringe-lite, as Mark said when we spoke about it.  And it's satisfying - I cannot wait to see the sequels.  A big recommend from me - especially for reluctant readers too.  It's not a big book, but it's not tiny either and it reads in a very cinematic way - something I thoroughly enjoy. 

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards 

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in.

Jarra invents a fake background for herself – as a normal child of Military parents – and joins a class of norms that is on Earth to excavate the ruins of the old cities. When an ancient skyscraper collapses, burying another research team, Jarra’s role in their rescue puts her in the spotlight. No hiding at back of class now. To make life more complicated, she finds herself falling in love with one of her classmates – a norm from another planet. Somehow, she has to keep the deception going.

A freak solar storm strikes the atmosphere, and the class is ordered to portal off-world for safety – no problem for a real child of military parents, but fatal for Jarra. The storm is so bad that the crews of the orbiting solar arrays have to escape to planet below: the first landing from space in 600 years. And one is on collision course with their shelter.

One thing - there are several - that Ms. Edwards excels in here is her world-building and scene setting.  It felt, initially, quite exposition heavy, but it needed it in order for us to grasp Jarra's life and how things have both advanced, changed and yet, become worse in some instances, rather than better.  Earth Girl is big writing, covering bigger themes than you may anticipate - things like prejudice, for sure, and definitely handling preconceived ideas about people from the other planets and how they have evolved.  I did however lose interest occasionally due to the minutiae of Jarra's student-life as an archaeologist on planet Earth - which is awful, I know, because I love all things  archaeology and questy, but it felt heavy in some places and I would have appreciated more time with Jarra and her new friends and getting to figure out what was going on in their heads.  But ultimately, the reason why we're so focussed on Earth as it was before is to hold it up to the reader to show us how badly things can go wrong and have gone wrong in the past.  

Although I enjoyed Earth Girl and would recommend it as a entry-level science fiction novel, I would caution wary readers to perhaps dip into it first, if you have the chance, to see if it will work for you.  Ms. Edwards writes really well, really well, but it's not yet consistent and I found myself not warming to Jarra as much as I would have liked, but that could be because I'm not fond of characters who are very Hermione and a bit know-it-all.  If you're prepared to overlook this, you are in for a solid strong bit of storytelling - it's layered and thoughtful and I for one am looking forward to seeing what else Ms. Edwards will be coming up with in the future.  (Insert eyes here to show that Liz Is Always Watching).

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart 

Frankie Landau-Banks has gone from geeky to gorgeous over the course of the summer, and she can hardly believe it when Matthew Livingston, the senior she worshipped from afar the year before, seems interested. But being Matthew's girlfriend comes with a lot of things Frankie didn't expect. She feels uncertain navigating the complicated politics of his social circle, and uneasy with the antics of his friends, which often seem to exclude her. Worst of all, she senses that he's not letting her all the way into his life--that, because she is a girl, he will never see her as an equal.

Then Frankie discovers that Matthew is a member of the school's exclusive--and male-only--secret society. At first she only spies on them out of curiosity. But as her desire to prove herself every bit as capable as Matthew's male conspirators grows, she finds herself getting wrapped up in the society's business of sneaking and pranking, without any of the boys suspecting a thing.

With Frankie pulling the strings, anything is possible.

I grabbed the above write up from the Teens Read Too site. 

This is one of the most difficult books I've read, hence no review / thoughts until now.  It's written in an oddly distant way and seems both timeless and old worldy and a bit affected and yet, I don't think it could have worked being written in any other way.  Frankie's character is not the most likeable protag I've ever met.  In fact, for some part of the book she comes across as a complete nutjob as she becomes utterly obsessed on getting one over on the male orientated society of the private school she belongs to.  I approved of the getting one over, but not so much of her ways, and yet, again - it makes complete sense when you consider who Frankie really is - a deeply complex, interesting, flawed character who makes the right decisions, for the right way, and yet it all goes badly wrong yet right.  I'm sorry - months after reading this book I'm still not sure what I thought of it.  I think that if you have the chance to read it - it will drag out those grey brain cells we aren't really used to exercising when reading complacent books about teen romances - and it will make you think and hate it and love it.  The majority of reviews I've seen for TDHOFLB is one of conflict with stuff the reader both loved and loathed.  Some books are just like that.  It's not at all my fave title of the year, yet it's the one that made me most uncomfortable and thinky.  And that is not at all a bad thing. 

Jade Tiger by Jenn Reese 

Shan Westfall—half-Chinese, half-American, one hundred percent kung fu badass—is on a mission to recover five mystical jade animals before they fall into the wrong hands.
Over 15 years ago, Shan’s mother led a secret society of female martial artists sworn to protect the statues. When the Jade Circle lost four of the five statues during a murderous attack on their sanctuary, 12-year-old Shan’s destiny was sealed. It was she who carried the remaining tiger statue all the way to America; she who felt it clawing at her with the need to recover the crane, snake, leopard and dragon. The Circle was destroyed that night, and Shan hasn’t seen her mother since.
Shan has grown up under the tiger’s unforgiving influence and the shadow of her mother’s legacy. Her quest to recover the statues takes her to upstate New York and Ian Dashall, a geeky but brave archaeology professor, and then on to France and England with Ian at her side. Finally, on a secret island off the coast of Hong Kong, Shan overcomes torture, betrayal and deadly tigers in order to battle the man who destroyed the Jade Circle.
But even as she faces off with him, she loses hope. How can she possibly succeed where her mother had failed?
Bah, I loved this book so much.  It took me far too long to get to it and once I did get to it, I tore through it mega-quick.  The writing is pacey, the action sequences and the martial arts are well done.  There is witty repartee and our heroine is rather splendid and wry and sweet and I was rooting for her from the start. It contains all the stuff I like - and Jenn didn't even know I existed when she wrote it! - martial arts, a geeky archaeologist, a kick ass heroine, mystical items of value...all the things that makes my heart happy.  But more than that, it's brought together in some pretty tight writing.  I don't think it's readily available in the UK (I ordered mine in from Book Depository) but it's definitely something I'd recommend buying in to read when you're in the mood for some fun reading.  Earlier this week I saw the girls over at the Booksmugglers review Jenn's Above World (book 1) and it made me super happy to see that they loved it. Jenn's definitely a writer to keep an eye out for, in my opinion! 

Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore 

Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal.  She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business.  Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister.  Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less norman than it normally is.  Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbour cowboy is in her face. 

Rosemary Clement-Moore is one of my fave writers.  I will buy her books, without even know what they're about.  Her writing works for me that much.  Texas Gothic is sweet and charming and sexy and just swoony.  The title really does say it all - TEXAS GOTHIC - hot cowboys, dances, ghosts, shenanigans.  The girls over at The Booksmugglers did such a good write-up about this one.  What I also like about RCM's writing is how her sense of humour comes out in her writing and her characters feel vivid and alive.  I really do not ask for more, well, tied in with good storytelling, which she does.  She debuted in the UK with The Splendour Falls but it's not her first set of books she's done.  Check out her website here

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 

A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska, The Snow Child was a bestseller on hardback publication, and went on to establish itself as one of the key literary debuts of 2012, and was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick.

Alaska, the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on a fresh start in a remote homestead, but the wilderness is a stark place, and Mabel is haunted by the baby she lost many years before. When a little girl appears mysteriously on their land, each is filled with wonder, but also foreboding: is she what she seems, and can they find room in their hearts for her?

I'm not good with hype.  I walk away from books with too much hype because 9 / 10 cases they disappoint.  However, I would urge you not to walk away from The Snow Child because the hype isn't just hype - it's truth.  

One of the most beautiful books I've ever read, when Sam at Headline sent me a proof I was blown away.  I read the opening chapter at work and was immediately worried.  The main character goes to a very dark place, basically trying to kill herself, but she stops just short of doing it.  I thought to myself: am I doing right reading this? It's not what I really am expecting.  But I continued reading it.  Then I lent it to Kate who loved it with all her heart.  And I've personally not been able to review it because by the time I wanted to, everyone was shouting about it.  And I was worried my voice would be drowned.  So instead I made sure that everyone I came across, booksellers and unsuspecting people lurking in bookshops, had to buy a copy.  But now, I want to just say, that if there is one book you buy this year, for yourself or for others, let it be The Snow Child.  It's not just beautifully written, it's also a story of true love, courage and succeeding in the face of incredible odds.  It's a fable, a fairy tale, and it will break your heart, quietly get under your skin, and ultimately make your heart soar.  Because that's what good storytelling does. 


These are a handful of the titles I've not fully reviewed but really wanted to share with you guys because they made me think and wonder and possibly cry and question things.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

ACID Cover Reveal

I'm so pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Emma Pass's novel coming from Random House next year.  It sounds like my kinda book:

From the back cover:

ACID - the most brutal police force in history.
They rule with an iron fist.
They see everything. They know everything.
They locked me away for life.

My crime?
They say I murdered my parents.
I was fifteen years old.

My name is Jenna Strong. 

The art is by Larry Rostant whose artwork has graced many a great science fiction and fantasy and urban fantasy novel. 

And here it is, in all its delicious glory:

Click to embiggen 
Wishing Emma well with this, I've already pre-ordered it.  But! Do check out her blog where she'll be giving you the chance to win a signed proof / ARC.