Finding Sky - Joss Stirling

Title: Finding Sky

Author: Joss Stirling

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Release Date: October 2010

Category: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance

Source: Sent to me for review by OUP

Paperback: 308 pages

Summary from Amazon:
You have half our gifts, i have the other . . . When English girl Sky, catches a glimpse of bad boy Zed in her new American high school, she can't get him out of her head. He talks to her with his thoughts. He reads her mind. He is the boy she will love for ever. Dark shadows stalk her past but a new evil threatens her future. Sky must face the dark even if it means losing her heart.

I have to admit that when I first received the book, I anticipated not liking it, thinking it would be yet another cliché in the paranormal romance genre. Oh boy was I wrong. I was hooked from the first chapter and read it in one sitting. I absolutely love being surprised by a book, and this one is no exception.

The story is told from the point of view of Sky who has been abandoned in a parking lot when she was six years old. She obviously had a terrible life before settling in with the Brights at ten years old. You get this feeling of a dark shadow hovering over Sky's personality but you don't know until the last part of the book what it exactly is. She is a very interesting character moving to a new city in another country where she has to be someone new - again. I know that it sounds a bit familiar, but it really feels new. She is quite immediately attracted to Zed who is the school bad boy, but she doesn't feel like he's her soul mate or that they are the two halves of the same whole etc. She feels attracted to him at first and that's it. She does obsess a little about him too in a harmless stalking kind of way, as any teen would do. (I have come to realise that there is nothing more dangerous in this world today than a teenage girl with a crush...)

I like the characters, both main ones and secondary, there is a nice balance between them and they are all very well described and original in their own way. I like to have a feeling that the world doesn't revolve around 'jocks', 'cheerleaders' and 'nerds' and that the ones in the middle are actually the most interesting to read about. The world isn't black and white, you'd be surprised at what the shades of grey have to offer.
The adult characters are pretty cool as well, they are not perfect but not the impersonation of an evil egotistical demon either and they are pretty interesting from the arty Brights to the outdoorsy-sporty Benedicts.

The paranormal aspect is pretty ace. One of my biggest pet peeves in this genre is the coherence of the paranormal element with the story as well as in general. Here, it makes sense though it is not something we encounter a lot (you know, like vampires and shapeshifters). It raises enough interest and fascination without having to explain the whole history and biology behind it all. There is a lot of action and I loved the paranormal related events. 
The romance is good! Which you never hear me say (or read me write rather?) often. I felt exactly the same emotions I experienced when I read my very first paranormal romance: I was curious, I empathised with the characters and mainly thought "awww" the whole time.

The writing is very good, absolutely flawless, it creeps on you from the first pages and you feel like you can't put the book down before finishing it, and when you're done, you will patiently wait for an eventual sequel to get your fix. There are quite a lot of references to popular culture in it and it really helps feel connected to the story and the characters. The setting is very important to the story and there are quite a few descriptions of the mountains. I really wish I could go there, it seems like a terrific place. 

All in all, Finding Sky brings you the best from the paranormal romance genre, without relaying too much on the boring incredible beauty of its characters, the eternal timeless forever and ever romance (yawn) or some hardly coherent paranormal powers. A perfect balance for an amazing story. fans of the genre will definitely love this new addition and non-fans could definitely fall for this story. I can't wait to read other books by Joss Stirling, she definitely rocks my paranormal socks!

Thanks to Liz and Oxford University Press for sending me this!!

Writer Event - Terry Pratchett (Chiswick Book Festival)

Hey everyone!

Last week I went to an event organised by the Chiswick Book Festival (link here) in honour of the release of I Shall Wear Midnight (Sept. 2010) written by Sir Terry Pratchett.

I was first introduced to the work of Terry Pratchett when I was at University. I was working on the school's satirical newspaper (the one and only Breadcrumb and Democracy) and one of the other editors of the newspaper was a huge fan. He used to quote him in most of his essays and it became a practical joke. I knew a lot about Pratchett without having read any of his books. Then I read Good Omens and was introduced to the awesomeness of both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

I was really excited to hear him talk and get a book signed (for my friend and myself!) but I have to admit that the talk was rather short (well you would like to hear him talk for hours, wouldn't you!) and the Church where it was taking place was so packed that I could hardly hear anything. So here is a tiny report of what I could manage to hear and some pictures!

There are more than 30 novels in the Discworld series and the Tiffany Aching storyline has, for now, four books:
- The Wee Free Men (2003)
- A Hat Full of Sky (2004)
- Wintersmith (2006)
- I Shall Wear Midnight (2010)

Writing Children's Books for Adults:
Terry Pratchett started writing the story of Tiffany Aching seven years ago and has now made his character age and become an adult. I Shall Wear Midnight is what you would call a children's book for adults since there are adult/tough themes inside.
When he explained his concern to his editor, he/she answered that if he took a look at the YA books published recently, he'd see that the large majority of them are full of serious issues and themes and that basically, youngsters nowadays can take it.
The only difference between writing for adults and writing for children, Terry Pratchett was told, is red hot sex. And he's really bad at writing these things (so he claims - jokingly saying that people blame his wife!). Now when anyone asks him the difference between writing for adults and writing for children, he answers "red hot sex".
He says that for him there are absolutely no differences in the writing process between his books because fantasy is uni-age. Anyone can read fantasy from very young to very old and even though they might not read exactly the same thing, they will certainly enjoy it just as much.
Many journalists pointed out that there were a lot of real things and serious issues in I Shall Wear Midnight. "Why, yes of course" answered Terry Pratchett. He said that the presence of serious themes didn't take out the comical aspect of the novel since the contrary of serious is not serious and the contrary of funny is not funny, so you can write about a serious subject and still be funny (it sounds way funnier when he says it :) ).

How He Writes:
Terry Pratchett has no idea how he writes. He feels that a blank page is perfect because nothing has come to spoil it yet.
For Nation, for instance, the story felt like a disease. He had had the idea years before but he considered it bad timing to write it at that moment because the Tsunami had just happened and he felt uneasy about the whole thing. He said that it was a disease because it took all of him for more than six months. He had had the idea for a long time and had even researched the subject and it all suddenly came back to him. He said he had never put so much in a book.
Some parts of I Shall Wear Midnight also mean a lot.
There were a few questions on writing from the public, and Terry Pratchett explained that it was very important to understand characters and know where they come from to write. He also talks about the importance of increasing one's own experience of the world (travelling in places and also figuratively in history/future, people, economic/social circumstances...) but also make a place where "the ideas are light".

How He Started:
He said that school never taught him to like reading and education (I have to agree on this one, I only became a consistent reader only after I left school). Schools should teach children to become adults, but that's hardly what they do according to Terry Pratchett. He has no faith in the education system.

When he was younger he found a small job in a library and started reading all the comedy authors of all styles. He read Punch magazine with all the different kinds of humour, satire in English language. He was inspired by all of them.
By reading, he 'caught' vocabulary and started asking himself the good questions like "What kind of sound does blue make?" and wrote The Colour of Magic (first Discworld book) which is mainly a gag book.

On Humour:
There was a question from someone in the public (I am going to put the person's intervention because I was highly shocked and it will explain Terry's answer: the young woman asked how he managed to write funny lines because (wait for it) when she wrote it was a sort of Lord of The Rings for girls and it wasn't funny at all - I am not even kidding). He stressed the difference between wit and humour where humour comes from interaction or a misunderstanding in the book. You don't need to think about it, humour comes naturally.
Humour is also about understanding different circumstances (youth, working classes, poor people, etc...). He said that a great book to understand these different circumstances was Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851). The book is set in roughly the same time as Charles Dickens books and presents a world so incredible that you wouldn't even imagine it, almost like a fantasy world.

That's it I'm afraid! It was an amazing event and Terry Pratchett is very funny and dedicated to reading, writing and sharing with people. He wanted to spend more time with us so it really was a pleasure to see someone so viscerally passionate about his work.

Scarlett Dedd - Cathy Brett

Title: Scarlett Dedd

Author: Cathy Brett

Publisher: Headline

Release Date: September 2010

Category: Young Adult/Graphic Novel

Source: Sent to me for review by Headline

Paperback: 270 pages

Summary from Amazon:
You're dead Scarlett...

Previously a poor taste jibe from school frenemies, now a statement of fact. 
Scarlett is absolutely mortified (in more ways than one) to discover that she's accidentally killed herself while trying to get out of a school trip. Even worse, she's taken her entire family with her.
Life as a ghost is pretty dull - if only some of her friends were dead too...


Before, there were books with boring straight lines and the odd illustration or two. Then, there was Cathy Brett! I haven't been able to look at a book the same way ever since I finished Scarlett Dedd. Cathy Brett has more than maximise the use of that weird medium that is a book to create something absolutely awesome. 

The story revolves around zombie-looking Scarlett Dedd (yes, she already heard the dead Dedd joke, no need to say it again). She is a teenager (aka self-centered, lacking confidence and mainly not very bright), and, to avoid a class trip to France (which is understandable), she accidentally kills herself and all her family. Yes, indeed, it is entirely accidental.
She becomes a ghost and gradually comes to term with her new state and abilities. Her only problem is how alone she feels. She would really like one of her friends Rip, JP, Taz or the hot broody Psycho to hang out with her. Wait, when you think about it, there might be a solution for that...

I was unsure what I would find in this book as it is slightly unique, not entirely a novel and not entirely a graphic novel either. But whichever it is, I love it!
The characters are all amazingly hilarious and true to form. I can see real teenagers who hang out doing hardly anything interesting but thinking it might change the world (and make them super famous and rich in the process). I feel that it is the strongest point: all the characters have a very distinct personality and it is simply fascinating to read about them. 

I am loving the whole ghost situation, how they talk to each other and what they can or can't do. There are spooky moments but the general tone of the book is more on the comical side of the force.

The illustrations are amazing. Not only do they add a visual image (duh!) to the text, but they actually insert themselves in the text, and the text itself becomes an illustration at times. It is really fascinating since you hardly realize that the book is part text part illustrations at the end, it becomes Scarlett's story.

This is an absolutely brilliant (graphic) novel. It will appeal to older readers as well as younger (fans of the Goosebumps series in particular) and it is definitely an original experience especially if you are not a regular fan of classical graphic novels/comic books. I can't wait to read Cathy Brett's other book Ember Fury!!

Italian Book News - The Hunger Games


*deep breath*

I have just come across the Italian cover of The Hunger Games and it is literally breathtaking! I am in love :)

Here it is, in its full gorgeousness:

The eyes? The colours? I absolutely can't take my eyes off of it!

Catching Fire will be out in a couple of months, I can't wait to see what they'll do!

What do you think? 

I would have picked up the book in a second and the darkness coming out of it does fit the tone of some scenes in the book.

Zelah Green - Vanessa Curtis

Title: Zelah Green

Author: Vanessa Curtis

Publisher: Egmont

Release Date: 2009

Category: Young Adult

Source: Bought in Waterstones

Paperback: 246 pages

Summary from Goodreads
My Name is Zelah Green and I'm a cleanaholic. I spend most of my life running away from germs, dirt, and people. And I'm just about doing ok and then my stepmother packs me off to some kind of hospital to live with a load of strangers. It's stuck in the middle of nowhere. Great. There's Alice who's anorexic. Caro who cuts herself. Silent Sol who has the cutest smile. And then there's me. 


Zelah Green suffers from OCD and can't stand to be in the vicinity of dirt and germs. Her routines in the morning are well organised. She washes her left hand thirty-one times, then her right hand thirty-one times, all sorts of other things, then she has to jump more than a hundred times on the first step of the stairs. She has to sit on a paper in a public space, she doesn't touch things unless she is doing so with a tissue. 
Contrary to what you may think in your head right now, she is doing fine. She even has a friend who helps her out with her routines. People might think that she is not okay and that she needs serious professional help, but Zelah thinks she is doing fine. Her father disappears one day, and she is left alone with her stepmother she despises (and the feeling is mutual). Her stepmother decides to send her to the hospital because she can't cope with her "little problem". 

Zelah is an amazing character to read about. Vanessa Curtis created a very original and clear voice. It was a truly fascinated journey to spend in Zelah's head. Aside from her OCD, she is a regular teenager and I loved her personality. I especially liked the fact that she puts different earrings to match her moods.
When she goes in a special institution to "treat" her OCD, Zelah meets different teenagers with issues just like herself. There is an anorexic girl, one who takes too many pills, another who cuts and then a very cute boy who doesn't speak. All these characters had very interesting personalities as well. I found that the way their issues were presented was very sensitive and not judgmental or glossed over.
It was also great to get to see how all of them interacted with each other and created their own terms of their relationships and helped each other out in ways that no adult or doctors ever could. I really liked Caro and Lib, they were both very funny characters.

Zelah's family story is unveiled throughout the book and it was heart-breaking to see Zelah lose her childhood illusions over their family. It mustn't have been easy for her every day, but  she really was trying her best.
The "treatment" Zelah receives is very original but respectful of what she would feel inside. There were some very funny moments to read!

The book is a short sweet read that will leave you wanting to know more about Zelah and her new friends. A must-read if you want to understand what goes on in the head of someone suffering from OCD. I can't wait to read the second book Zelah Green, One More Little Problem!

Guest Post on The Book on the Hill - French Friday

Hello everyone!

Just to let you know that today I will be posting on Charlotte's lovely blog The Book on the Hill for her French Friday feature (link here)! 

If you are a Sarah Dessen fan you might want to check it out!
And if you are not a Sarah Dessen fan, you should be ashamed of yourself!

If you would like to guest post yourself for the French Friday feature, don't hesitate to contact Charlotte, she is looking for guest posts!

Have a lovely Friday!

x Caroline

Entangled - Cat Clarke

Title: Entangled

Author: Cat Clarke

Publisher: Quercus

Release Date: January 2011

Category: Young Adult
Source: Received for review from Quercus
ARC: 372 pages

Summary from Goodreads:

Grace meets enigmatic Ethan the night she's planning to kill herself. The next morning she wakes up in a strange room with a table, chair, pens and paper. There's nothing to do but write, and as she writes, Grace remembers the things she's tried so hard to forget. 

The hazy memories lead Grace into a dark place where friendship, heartbreak and betrayal tangle together...


I shared with you my excitement for this book a little over a month ago when I saw the beautifully gorgeous cover. And now I am going to share my excitement for the story!

We begin the story with Grace, she is locked in a room and she doesn't know where she is and/or if she'll ever get out. That is the only information we are given about her. The first sentence propels us directly into the action wondering why Grace wanted to commit suicide in the first place and why has she now been kidnapped. 
In her room, there is only a bed and a table with paper and pens. The only thing she can do is write, thus giving the reader an insight into her head. We go back in time as she scribbles the words on the page about her past and as she tells us what happens with her mysterious kidnapper Ethan.

As she writes, we realise that Grace is not the easiest person to love or to care for. Even though she is bright and has good results at school, she is stuck into a very self-destructive spiral (alcohol, one-night stands, cutting...) and doesn't let others help nor see she is suffering. Grace has very bad relations with her (mostly absent) mother and her best friend Sal is there for her only up to a certain point. She meets Nat and he seems perfect (gentle, caring, interesting) but Grace is constantly thinking that she doesn't deserve someone that good. 

I won't dwell on the kidnapping part, but the story is mainly about Grace and about all the events building up throughout the years leading her to want to put an end to her life. It is about how she has been consistently let down by everyone, including herself. She functions as a human being but she is very far from being happy, she has been cutting herself for years and getting drunk and going out with many boys/men regularly.

This is what I liked the most about the book, it is about someone you wouldn't want as the hero of a book. Someone you probably wouldn't care for, had you seen her in the street. But you realise that there is so much more to her than meets the eye. Grace is worth reading about and her voice is so unique and yet so universal that you will not want to forget her.

The book is written in Grace's point of view in the present tense, it is very haunting because we don't know how it might end. The dialogues and situations in the book are very real. If I go out on Saturday night I will probably see girls doing the same things Grace does in the book, the same if I listen to some high school girls talking on the bus. Cat Clarke creates characters very realistic in their personalities and actions. I could picture them talking in my mind the whole time, I didn't for one second read it as a moralistic tale written by an adult pretending to be a teenager. The story is very down-to-earth and realistic and yet it keeps the reader captivated the whole time. I couldn't put the book down before finishing it and I have been thinking about Grace ever since, wanting to hold her in my arms and simply listen to her.

To tell you the truth, this story resonated in me more profoundly because I had a friend in high school who was in the exact same position as Grace (self-destructive spiral for the same reasons) and nothing could stop her from dealing with the pain this way. Like Grace, she didn't really know why but it wasn't hurting so much when she was cutting, and she always said she was in control. It is not an issue easy to raise or to try to fix. But it is worth trying. If you care enough to look, then you will see the scars, and not only the visible ones. It is a very profound story and as Grace is a very complex character we come to discover at the same time as she discovers herself, the different layers of the book unfold progressively. 

I should probably add that the book is also hilarious! Grace's voice is very clear and distinctive and she has the funniest retorts. You will be surprised to laugh out loud regularly while reading this book. And even though the subject is quite dark, the book is not depressing, on the contrary, there is a positive note. 

I really loved this book. Cat Clarke writes on such a sensitive subject with a very original approach and an endearing voice. You will not forget Grace. At times I was laughing out loud and at others I was moved to tears. Cat is a very promising new addition to the young adult genre.

Due to some explicit content, I wouldn't advise it to younger teenage readers without informing them.

Thanks to Quercus for sending me this book!

Raised By Wolves - Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Raised by Wolves
(Book 1 of series)

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Quercus

Category: Young Adult
Release Date: September 2010
Source: Received from UK Book Tours
Paperback: 417 pages

Summary from Amazon:
Pack life is about order, but Bryn is about to push all the limits, with hair-raising results. At the age of four, Bryn watched a rabid werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by Callum, the alpha of his pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule. Little fazes her. But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum's orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage. Terrifying memories of the attack on her parents come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences. A thrilling new YA adventure, with an electrifying link between a tough heroine and an exciting boy-were at its heart, Raised by Wolves will leave you howling for more.


What a cool book!

Bryn has been raised by a pack of werewolves ever since she was a little girl. She is human and was saved from being killed by a Rabid (werewolf without a pack) by the Alpha of the pack, Callum. The members of the pack didn't accept her too well at the beginning, and she isn't making it easy for them when she starts being older, but they all act very protective of her since there are so few female members of the pack.
She was raised by Ali (human woman who came to live with the pack) and her husband (who is a werewolf), as well as Callum who acts half as a fatherly figure, half as the Alpha of the pack. Her best friend is Devon, a werewolf her age. She is basically unhappy with her life, and whines a lot, but she goes on with it without questioning much. Until one day she meets Chase, and everything changes.

Bryn is amazing! She has quite a temper and doesn't let herself get chewed out by all these over-protective werewolves around her. Her feisty personality is simply hilarious and especially when she is interacting with Callum.
Her best friend, Devon, is a ......... [wait for it] ............ metrosexual werewolf!!! And this is one of the funniest things I have ever read in a werewolf book and I laughed for ten minutes. He is awesome! He wears designer clothes, likes musicals and has the best personality.
Later in the book, you will meet Lake, one of the very rare female werewolves, and I love this character so much, I absolutely cannot wait for the next book in the series.
This book is very character-driven so they all have a certain depth to their personalities (not only the main characters) which is really interesting to read. Except Chase which you aren't able to learn much about, you get a glimpse of what it is like to live in a werewolf pack.

The whole werewolf myth is not as fully explored as I expected in this book (mostly because it centers on Bryn's struggle) but I suspect it will be in later books. The second one, Trial By Fire, will come out summer 2011.
One of the main themes of the book is about gender and how it affects one's role in society. The werewolves pack are very male-driven and the scarcity of females (werewolves or humans for that matter) make them very protective. As if the women were, somehow, their properties. Bryn fights this all along the novel and it was fascinating to read how male werewolves would not understand what Bryn's deal actually was, unable to put themselves in her shoes. The story of Lake also illustrates this point and I really can't wait to read more about her (which I think you understood by now!).

It is a great read, you can't turn the pages fast enough to know what will happen next, and you will laugh out loud many times at the situations or what the characters say. There is some romance in there as well, so all is not lost for the hopeless romantic in you. 

This book is amazing and I can definitely predict a kick-ass series! I would recommend it to all werewolves and urban fantasy fans, especially if you liked Rachel Vincent's Shifters series don't hesitate to check this book out, you will not regret it! And if you are not a fan of the genre, it is a great book to start!

Thanks to Lynsey and Quercus for organising the book tour!

Happy Roald Dahl Day to you guys!