Sunday, 4 October 2015

Letterbox Love #107

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated.

I forgot to post last Sunday so this is the last two weeks of review books!

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses, Jenny Hale (e-proof)

An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas…and the rush of falling in love under the Mistletoe.

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an entire designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of becoming a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

Another comfy Christmas read for me! Thanks NetGalley and Bookouture.

Make a Christmas Wish, Julia Williams (e-proof)

What's your secret wish this Christmas?

Last Christmas, when Livvy as knocked down in the supermarket car park she certainly wasn’t ready to be dead! For months now she's floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.

And she's not ready to go just yet! She's furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she's worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.

This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take the gift she's been given to create the perfect family Christmas?

Nope, definitely not another Christmas book… Thanks NetGalley and Avon!

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, Jennifer E Smith (e-proof)

One night. A life-changing decision. And a list…

Of course Clare made a list. She creates lists for everything. That’s just how she is.

But tonight is Clare and Aidan’s last night before college and this list will decide their future, together or apart.

It takes them on a rollercoaster ride through their past – from the first hello in science class to the first conversation at a pizza joint, their first kiss at the beach and their first dance in a darkened gymnasium – all the way up to tonight.

A night of laughs, fresh hurts, last-minute kisses and an inevitable goodbye.

But will it be goodbye forever or goodbye for now?

I loved this! I devoured it in about two hours. Thanks Headline and NetGalley.

The Crossover, Kwame Alexander (paperback)

“A bolt of lightning on my kicks…
          The court is sizzling.
                   My Sweat is drizzling.
Stop all that quivering.
             Cuz tonight I’m delivering.”

Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They're kings of the court, star players for their school.

But when Jordan meets a girl, the twins’ tight-knit bond is tested – are the rules of the game about to be broken?

I’m not usually a fan of sport novels, but I was sent the first few pages by the publisher and I fell in love with the feel of the novel as it's in verse! Thanks Andersen Press!

Did I Mention I Need You?, Estelle Maskame (paperback)

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrother…and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren’t over each other. But can they resist temptation?

In Did I Mention I Need You?, the second volume of Estelle Maskame’s phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, Tyler and Eden must face up to their feelings and decide what to do next. Is their love strong enough to face the challenges that lie ahead?

YAY! Reading this immediately! Thanks Black and White Publishing!

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend, Michelle Cuevas (proof)

Jacques Papier thinks that everyone hates him.

After all, teachers ignore him when he raises his hand, nobody ever picks him for sports teams, and his sister, Fleur, keeps having to remind their parents to set a place for him at the dinner table.

But then Jacques discovers an uncomfortable truth: He is NOT Fleur’s brother, he’s her imaginary friend!

And so begins Jacques’ quest for identity…what do you do when you realise that the only reason you exist is because of someone else’s imagination?

The whimsical “autobiography” of an imaginary friend who doesn’t know he’s imaginary – perfect for fans of Toy Story, The Imaginary and Moone Boy.

This sounds like so much fun! Thanks S&S!


Friday, 2 October 2015

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, Jennifer E Smith

Pages: 256
Publisher: Headline
Release Date: 1st September 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

One night. A life-changing decision. And a list…

Of course Clare made a list. She creates lists for everything. That’s just how she is.

But tonight is Clare and Aidan’s last night before college and this list will decide their future, together or apart.

It takes them on a rollercoaster ride through their past – from the first hello in science class to the first conversation at a pizza joint, their first kiss at the beach and their first dance in a darkened gymnasium – all the way up to tonight.

A night of laughs, fresh hurts, last-minute kisses and an inevitable goodbye.

But will it be goodbye forever or goodbye for now?

I devoured Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between in a few short hours. It's romantic, funny and bittersweet and I couldn’t stop reading.

Told over the space of the final twelve hours before Clare and Aidan go off the college on opposite sides of the country, they have a big decision to make and not long to make it: should they break up or try and make it work? Clare takes them on what she strongly emphasises isn’t a scavenger hunt but is a journey through their relationship landmarks in their town: the places of their first kiss, first dance, first conversation. It’s lovely to see them reflect on their falling for each other and the way that Smith entwines those events with the pressure of their decision, saying goodbye to their friends who are still around and generally saying goodbye to being a kid is very bittersweet and nostalgic.

As Clare and Aidan explored their relationship, I fell in love with them. They’re sweet, genuine, imperfect and wonderful to read about. Clare is practical and relies on logic and her parents are a second chance forever love, Aidan is loud and impulsive and his parents are disappointed that he didn’t get into Harvard. They complement each other. I loved how their differing experiences and examples gave them their views on love and the possibility of their relationship surviving college. It brought up some really interesting questions: is it worth risking our friendship? What if it’s too hard? Is it only worth it if it’s hard? First love doesn’t always last forever, but sometimes it does, and what if theirs will?

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is another romantic and thoughtful look at first love and I loved it.

Thanks to Headline and NetGalley for the review copy.


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Favourites: September 2015

Jenny Downham, Katherine Rundell and Annabel Pitcher at Waterstone’s Piccadilly
At the beginning of the month, Piccadilly hosted an event with these three Waterstone’s Children’s Prize winners, hosted by the lovely Phil Earle. It was a brilliant event. All four lovely authors were engaging, interesting and I love the way they interacted with each other as well as with Phil and the audience. They also read from each other’s novels instead of their own which was fun and refreshing. There was a huge group of bloggers, publishers and other authors at this event so it was the perfect catch-up opportunity and a chance to go out for dinner with a few of my favourites.

Oli Sykes liked my Instagram picture
Feel completely free to judge me on this one, but I posted a picture of the new Bring Me the Horizon album, That’s the Spirit, on Instagram when it arrived on release day and Oli Sykes, the frontman, LIKED MY PICTURE. I have an undying crush on this fine, tattooed young man so, naturally, I freaked out like a 13-year-old fangirl, screenshotted the notification, texted several people and posted it on Facebook. #noshame

The 100
Oh man, why did it take me so long to watch this?! I’m doing the Amazon Prime trial at the moment so I could watch Outlander (which I devoured in only a few days…) and decided to take advantage of it and watch season 1 of The 100 too. I AM IN LOVE. It was nothing at all like I expected, but in a good way, and I love the set-up of the world, the characters (Clarke and Bellamy *heart eyes*) and the fact that a bunch of delinquent kids are clearly better at forming a decent society than adults. LOVE.

An evening with Jandy Nelson
Waterstone’s Piccadilly have been on a roll with wonderful events lately! Jandy led a lovely evening talking about the process behind I’ll Give You the Sun – she wrote it completely in the dark! Writing Jude and Noah’s stories completely separately and then entwining them. She showed us pictures of inspirations and her adventures in research stone carving and cooking (for book three), answers lots of questions and did a very special reading. She brought Jim from YA Yeah Yeah up to read with her – it was rather brilliant.

How was your September?


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Blog Tour: Scott Westerfeld, Deborah Biancotti and Margo Lanagan's Top YA from their Teens

Today I have a fantastic post from one of my favourite authors, Scott Westerfeld, and his partners in crime for Zeroes, Deborah Biancotti and Margo Lanagan on their favourite YA from when they were young adults.

YA wasn't a clearly defined thing when we were growing up, so we had to make do with what we could find.

Deborah Biancotti

I read Tanith Lee's The Birthgrave as a teen and loved its imaginative visual world and weird mysticism. The story of a woman who wears a mask because she's so hideous (she thinks) and who goes on a quest across a damaged and occasionally brutal landscape, The Birthgrave defined the next decade of reading for me.

One of the few high school-prescribed books that I actually enjoyed was To Kill a Mockingbird. That opening sequence is stamped on my brain. I loved Scout, but most importantly, I loved her dad, and the sense of justice they both shared. And yes, I'm afraid of reading the "new" Harper Lee release in case all my memories are ruined.

Margo Lanagan

Paul Zindel, The Pigman. Two teens, Lorraine and John, accidentally befriend lonely old Mr Pignati, who charms them with his openhearted hospitality and his eccentric house and habits. Their friendship grows until by a series of naive bad decisions, they damage and destroy everything he holds dear. Wikipedia tells me that this book is often set for schools, but I’m glad I never had to ruin it by writing tedious essays about its themes—I just enjoyed the two entirely believable narrators and the fun they had on the way to the slow car crash of the climax.

Mervyn Peake, the Gormenghast trilogy. A big, weird, baroque monster-work about Titus Groan, heir to Gormenghast, a fantastical, mouldering stronghold inhabited by the Groans and their grotesque entourage. Go read the opening paragraph—it’s online in a million places—for a taste of the mad Gothic overwriting that Peake sustains for three hefty volumes. I loved immersing myself in the swamp of this prose when I was thirteen or fourteen.

Scott Westerfeld

Joanna Russ, "We Who Are About To . . ." is a (non-YA) novel about survivors of a starship crash on an unknown planet. You'd think this would be pretty standard science fiction stuff: survival, problem solving, eventual rescue! The problem is, one of the characters doesn't want to be in that kind of story. She figures that life on this unknown planet, cut off from the rest of humanity except for a handful of people she despises, isn't really worth living. The others won't let her give up, so she kills them one by one. This novel taught me that no direction is too weird for a story to go in.

Harlan Ellison, Dangerous Visions. Not a novel and not YA, this anthology of stories was way beyond of the usual range of science fiction in the 1960s. The stories dealt with sexuality, class, and social sciences, and were often written in experimental styles. But they all made perfect sense to me, and made me want to write about Big Ideas in Unusual Ways, using the classic tropes of SF. (For an example of stories in the anthology, you can probably dig up Samuel R. Delany's "Aye, and Gomorrah . . . " on the internet, a tale about third-sex space workers.)

Thank you so much! I’ve definitely added some books to my wishlist…


Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Blast from the Past: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Originally published in 1886 by Longmans, Green & Co.

My edition: the beautiful Penguin English Library paperback which is a bind up of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Bottle Imp

What’s it about?
‘All human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil: and Edward Hyde, alone in the ranks of mankind, was pure evil’

The story of respectable Dr Jekyll’s strange association with ‘damnable young man’ Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog-bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde’s true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity’s basest capacity for evil.

Why now?
Two reasons: 1) I DNFed my original choice for this month’s classics – Far From the Madding Crowd – because it was all sheep and fields and I didn’t care. 2) I’m really looking forward to the new ITV adaptation coming in October and had planned to read this before I watched it anyway.

The verdict:
I feel like the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is one that I've never not known. It’s a classic, of course, but it's also very commonly referenced in pop culture, and so I didn’t really know what to expect from the original novella.

Being only 75 pages long, the story of Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde and his subsequent reign of terror was a little more succinct than I was expecting. There was only one murder that we actually experienced and the story isn’t actually told by Jekyll, but by his friend and lawyer, Mr Utterson. It’s more of a mystery than the horror I thought it was. From the beginning, we’re introduced to the idea of the monstrous Hyde and the mystery surrounding him and most of the story is actually Utterson and his and Jekyll’s friend, Lanyon, trying to figure out his connection to Jekyll.

The air of mystery set against the dark, grimy and foggy backdrop of Victorian London creates a wonderfully tense atmosphere and it was that feel of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde than I actually enjoyed the most. There’s something about people trudging around the dark backstreets of Victorian Soho that sets a certain tone – this was written only two years before the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper across the city. It’s not until the final chapter that we find out the truth about how Hyde was unleashed on the world and it was so interesting to see how much the original has been expanded and developed over the years while still retaining the integrity of the original. I do think that knowing the story from all of the adaptations and general knowledge of the story lessened the impact of reading this novella, but I'm very glad I did it.

I really love the exploration of good and evil in humanity. It would be easy to get lost in the fantastical and the science in this story but it has a real human element to it. I like the idea that Hyde is born out of all of Jekyll’s basest instincts which has been warped with none of the other parts of you that provide morals, emotions or fear of consequences. What’s even more interesting to me is that Hyde’s presence doesn’t eliminate those things from Jekyll – it’s very clear how this presented an early understanding of split personality disorder. It's made me incredibly curious and I’ll definitely be reading up on it. Man, I wish I got to study this at school or university…

Robert Louis Stevenson’s prose is incredibly accessible while still retaining the mark of his time. It’s smart, snappy and engaging; I really do recommending picking it up, even if you’re merely curious to see what the has been changed from the original tale.

Still not convinced?
- There’s a new 10-part adaptation coming in October (written by Charlie Higson of The Enemy series fame) and it looks EXCELLENT. Here’s the trailer:

- This is a story that everyone knows, without even realising that they do, so it’s interesting to read the original source.
- Perfectly dark and gloomy for the when the nights are drawing in…