Sunday 22 December 2013

13 Books For 2013 (And Beyond)

It's almost Christmas! Hooray! And it's almost the end of 2013, too, so to round off the year on my blog, I thought I would share 8 books I've enjoyed over the last 12 months (it was so hard to choose!), and 5 books I can't wait to get my hands on when they're published in 2014 (again, so hard to narrow it down – I could have chosen 50!).

In no particular order, here they are:

A thrilling middle-grade adventure set in the mist-cloaked land of Anglavia, which is ruled by the wicked Agromond family. The hero, a flame-haired girl called Jemma, must fight the evil that surrounds her and bring light to the people of Anglavia once more. But the Agromonds are the family who brought Jemma up – and they will do anything to stop her. 

I read FLAME in just a couple of days, and absolutely adored it! Jemma is instantly likeable, and the various members of the Agromond clan are brilliantly sinister. My favourite characters, though, have to be Jemma's rats, Noodle and Pie. There are some heart-stopping moments involving these rodents that will have you on the edge of your seat! Oh, and you must follow them on Twitter – @NoodleandPie1. They are one of the best things on there!

It's 1941. For Peter, the war is a distant threat, until the night a fighter plane is shot down over the woods his dad used to look after before he went missing in action. When Peter goes to the crash site to hunt for souvenirs, he finds more than he bargained for: the enemy, in the form of an injured German airman. When Peter decides to help him, his actions have far-reaching consequences he could not have possibly predicted. 

I'm a big fan of Dan Smith's adult novels, so I was really excited when I heard that he was releasing a children's novel this year. This book is beautifully written with well-rounded characters and a moving plot line that leaves you asking questions long after you've finished reading. If you ask me, it has all the makings of a classic.

Mio only steals her grandfather's katana (an ornate Japanese sword) to jazz up a fancy dress costume, but her actions allow an ancient evil from another world to escape onto the streets of London. When a fearless warrior boy, Shinobu, arrives, Mio realises she must not only learn to use the katana's powers to fight the terror she has unleashed, but also to save the boy who's stolen her heart.

Even if I wasn't already a huge fan of Zoe's books, I would have picked this one up on the strength of the cover alone. It's absolutely gorgeous – and the writing inside is just as exquisite. It was vivid and visual and I couldn't put it down. I can easily see it being made into a film by a company like Studio Ghibli.

In West Grayer's world, everyone has an Alt – a cloned copy of themselves which, when they come of age, they must fight… to the death. With all her training, West thought she was prepared, but then a tragic accident leaves her doubting her own abilities. As she becomes both the hunter and the hunted, she must decide whether she deserves to live or die.

DUALED is cool, smart and utterly kick-ass, offering a chilling and all-too-plausible scenario for a chilling dystopian future. I loved the gritty urban setting and the breakneck pace, too. This is another book I could see being made into a film – I would LOVE to see this on the big screen! 

Foundling Rhodri has been blessed (or cursed, depending on your way of looking at it) with the ability to remember everything that happens to him. Struggling to fit in, he joins an elite cavalry unit where he begins to discover the truth about his past, and about himself.

As well as being one of the Nicest People in Writing (and fellow hound minion), Joanne Hall is an incredibly skilled writer. The world building in AoF is amazing, and while the book touches on some very serious issues – self harm, sexuality, gender identity – it never gets bogged down. This is a highly original coming-of age fantasy tale and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

In Darhan, when you make a vow, it's bound by magic and tied into a promise knot which you wear until the day you die. 15-year-old Raim has worn one since he was born, although he doesn't know why. But when he makes an Absolute Vow to become the protector of Prince Kareh, the promise bound into the knot is broken and Raim is outcast as a traitor. He's thrown into a desperate struggle to find out the truth behind the mysterious promise that has changed his life forever.

From the first sentence of THE OATHBREAKER'S SHADOW, I found myself immersed in Raim's world. The description is so vivid, you can almost feel the sand trickling through your fingers, and the heat of the desert sun pounding onto your head. A hugely original fantasy which has left me waiting impatiently for the next instalment!

All Merrin Grey wants to do is fly. But to do that, she would need to be a Super, and she's not. She's a half-super. A freak. A One. All she can do is hover. Then she meets Elias VanDyne, another One, and discovers that when she's with him, something incredible happens. Together, they can fly. But her happiness is short-lived when she discovers a terrible threat not only to her and Elias, but their families as well.

I ADORED this book. Merrin is an amazing character – feisty and independent with a wonderfully distinctive voice. Sometimes her stubbornness made me want to shake her, but at the same time, it only made me like her even more. This was one of those books that, when I was away from it, was constantly at the back of my mind. I'm now 2/3 of the way through the sequel, TWO, and the story just gets better and better!

Dalton Fly is a poison boy, tasting food for the rich residents of Highlions. One night, his friend Bennie meets a nasty end after the boys taste K poisoned wine, and Dalton finds himself on a search for answers with the help of aristocrat Scarlet Dropmore. But someone seems determined to stop them. Will Dalton find out what's going on before that someone finds him?

THE POISON BOY, which won the Times/Chicken House Prize in 2012, is a proper, old fashioned, rollicking adventure that whisks you breathlessly from start to finish. It's another book I read in just a few sittings and I was blown away by the quality of the writing and in particular the world building, which is just incredible. I don't think I've read anything quite like it before or since, and I can't wait to read more books from Fletcher Moss!

And 5 I'm excited about?

June 2014
DARK DAYS is a dystopian action-romance telling the story of Sia, who lives in a city divided into sectors. A clock counts down the days until a cyborg army breaks through her sector's walls, destroying everything and everyone inside. Sia has almost given up hope until she meets Mace, who makes her decide she wants to live…

I had the honour of beta-reading DARK DAYS for Kate, and I can't wait for it to officially be published! It's a brilliant, exciting novel, deftly written with just the right balance of action, adventure and romance. If you're a fan of Veronica Roth or Ally Condie, you will LOVE this.

February 2014

Ashley Price had to leave her old school and move in with her aunt and uncle after being badly bullied, but she's slowly putting her life back together with the help of her neighbour Brendan, a camera and the Mathletes. But when new kids Sofia and Vincent turn up at school, the fragile pieces of that world threaten to shatter.

This is another book I've been lucky enough to get an early look at. It has the same carefree style as Sarah Dessen (an all time favourite author of mine), yet it deals deftly with important issues – bullying, depression, jealousy, relationships and first sex. Just like Leigh-Ann's previous novels, it's addictively readable, and possibly my favourite one yet.

February 2014

Blurb from Amazon:

Kit is proud to be a Blackhart, now she's living with her unorthodox cousins and sharing their strange lives. Especially since their home-schooling includes spells, fighting enemy fae and using ancient weapons.But it's not until she rescues a rather handsome fae prince, fighting for his life on the edge of Blackhart Manor, that her training really kicks in. With her family away on various missions, Kit must protect Prince Thorn, rely on new friends and use her own unfamiliar magic to stay ahead of Thorn's enemies.As things go from bad to apocalyptic, fae battle fae in a war that threatens to spill into the human world. Then Kit pits herself against the Elder Gods themselves - it's that or lose everyone she's learnt to love.

I just received an ARC of this from Tor today, and will be reading it over Christmas. Liz is absolutely fab, and I'm so excited to get an early read of her debut novel. 

March 2014

Blurb from Amazon:
'His arms kept stretching, as if they were somehow getting longer. His fingers clenched in, then spread out again like claws. The shape of his head was changing impossibly too, the ears becoming pointed and growing upward, his jaw pushing and thrusting out...The wolf threw back its head and howled.' Cameron's life of shifting between the humanian and daemonic worlds is under threat and the magic that once protected him and his friends is failing. His best friends Morgan, a werewolf with an attitude, and Eve, ex-prisoner of a vicious weaver demon, discover that they aren't the only ones in danger: the very existence of their worlds is at stake. Two sinister figures want to destroy the Parallel -- the void in between worlds populated by a dark mixture of the humanian and daemonic -- and everyone in it. What will Cameron sacrifice to defeat the demons and save the Parallel? The nail-biting, claw-clenching, fur-raising sequel to Daemon Parallel.

I LOVED Daemon Parallel, so I can't wait to read this! And that cover is absolutely amazing.

May 2014

Blurb from Amazon: When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency at Deepdean School for Girls, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

This sounds like so much fun. I love stories set in schools, especially murder mysteries! I can see this being a curling-up-and-ignoring-the-world-for-a-whole-day-while-I-read-it kind of book. 

What are your favourite books of 2013? And which ones are you looking forward to? Share them in the comments – and have a very happy Christmas!

Saturday 14 December 2013

10 Things They Never Tell You (About Becoming A Published Author)

2013 is almost at an end, and I can quite honestly say that it's been one of the craziest, most exciting, most wonderful and, at times, most terrifying years of my life! In April, my first novel, ACID, was published by Corgi/Random House Children's Publishing. Since then it has been shortlisted for the North East Teen and Coventry Inspiration Simply the Book awards, and nominated for the Carnegie Medal. And quite a few people seem to quite like it. I've visited schools and libraries and talked to readers and writers of all ages. And somehow, in between, I've found time to write THE FEARLESS (which is out in 4 months, eeeek!).

This year has been nothing like I expected. Here are ten things no one ever tells you about becoming a published author:

  1. The week leading up to your book launch will be one of the most anxiety-ridden weeks of your entire life. People will say 'You must be so excited!', and instead of answering 'OMG no my book is out there and people are reading it and what if they haaaaaate it?' you'll manage to smile and say, 'Definitely!' (I apologise to my friends who actually got the honest answer to this question. I'm much calmer about it all now, I promise.)
  2. You will find it weird/excruciating/impossible to tell people you're "a writer", even though you now have a book out there to prove it (I still tell people I'm 'a library assistant who *cough*writes books*cough*').
  3. If you write for children, at least one person will ask you when you're going to start 'writing books for grownups'. (Actually, this applies to children's authors at any stage of their careers.)
  4. And several people will tell you, 'Oh, I could write a novel if I had time!'.
  5. People will also tell you they went into XYZ bookshop and couldn't find your book anywhere (thanks!).
  6. But other people will tell you they couldn't find your book so they told the bookshop staff they MUST get it in, or that it WAS there and they either bought it or, if they already had it, put it face out on the shelf for you (THANK YOU!).
  7. Building a support network of other writers is essential. As well as being able to moan to them about all the not so good/scary stuff without seeming ungrateful or diva-ish, and keeping each other away from Amazon/Goodreads, you'll have a group of people to celebrate all the good times (yours and theirs) with who really, really get it. I would have gone a little bit crazy without all my lovely writer friends this year, so again, THANK YOU.
  8. Every bit of good news (no matter how small), and every person who gets in touch to tell you they loved your book or writes a nice review, is like getting a million hugs all at once. 
  9. Nothing – but nothing – beats getting your first copies of your first novel in the post and seeing all those years of hard work in the form of a real, live book.
  10. Your first year of being a published author will be the craziest, most exciting, most wonderful and, at times, most terrifying years of your life… and you won't want to swap it for the world!
P.S. Voting for the Coventry Inspiration Simply the Book Award is now open – if you'd like to vote for ACID (*bats eyelashes*), you can do so here. Cheers!