Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Heist Society by Ally Carter (September 2011, Orchard, ISBN: 1408309556)

Review: Ally Carter, author of the popular Gallagher Girls series, turns her attention to a new series about a thief. A good thief who "repatriates" stolen art to their rightful owners.

At the beginning of the book, fifteen-year-old Katarina (Kat) Bishop has decided to leave the family business of thieving and has used her skills to secure a place at an exclusive boarding school where she can have a normal life. However it's not long before she's accused of destroying the headmaster's car and expelled. She's picked up at the school gates by her friend Hale (with an unknown first name) who is gorgeous and rich and there seems to be an unspoken thing between them which provides plenty of banter.

Kat's dad is being accused of stealing four paintings from a very unpleasant man, Taccone. Taccone wants his paintings back and will hurt Kat's dad if he doesn't get them. Kat's dad doesn't have the paintings but Taccone doesn't believe him so he gives Kat ten days to get his paintings or else...

Heist Society is about Kat getting a crew together and planning and executing an audacious heist in the world's most protected gallery, which happens to be in London.

Heist Society is a fun and breezy read, with stops in Vegas and major European cities before settling down in England. Kat is clever and a natural leader and Hale is glued to her side. As well as the two leads there are several other friends/thieves whom I hope to see in later books. One small thing - I'm not sure how many English boys would be called Hamish or Angus.

I really enjoyed the technical side to the heist and fans of Alias should enjoy this book.

I have had Ally Carter's books recommended to me by the older members of my children's reading group and I'm glad I've finally read one and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Uncommon Criminals.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Publishing Deal - Ingrid Jonach

News of a publishing deal for Ingrid Jonach with Strange Chemistry. Sounds fabulous. Excerpted from the Bookseller:
Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot, has signed world English rights in a one-book deal for debut When the World was Flat (and we were in love).

The novel, by Ingrid Jonach, tells the story of 16-year-old Lillie Hart and the mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith, who arrives in her small Nebraskan town. Tom and Lillie have been in love before—in a different dimension, and there is a powerful enemy who is determined they will never be together again, in this dimension or the next.

Read more about Ingrid at Strange Chemistry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (March 2012, Macmillan Children's Books, ISBN: 033053789X)

Review: All These Things I've Done is the first part in the Birthright trilogy. It's set in 2082/83 and is told in retrospect by the lead character Anya Ballantine. The world is stuttering along with rationing and some (currently) everyday items such as chocolate and caffeine are now banned.

At the time of the book Anya has just turned sixteen. She is the daughter of a deceased crime-lord and is the de-facto head of her little family. Her Nana is bedridden and soon to die, her older brother Leo was mentally disabled in the car crash that occurred when their mother was shot and their younger sister Natty is only twelve. Nana is the legal guardian but if/when she dies Leo will be in charge until Anya reaches eighteen.

Anya is trying to keep her head down and get through without attracting the attention of the authorities however things begin to go wrong when the unwanted advances of her boyfriend Gable turns him into her ex- and when he spreads rumours she spreads hot lasagne over his head. An attempt to smooth things over leads to Anya giving him some Ballantine Chocolate (for that was her father's business) however when Gable becomes very sick Anya ends up in a children's reformatory suspected of attempted murder.

Here enters the next problem for Anya. She has made friends with the new boy at school, Win, who just happens to be the son of the Assistant DA (who is working on being the DA). Win's father helps her and gets her released but wants her to not date his son.

Things do jog along for a while and though Anya and Win become an item the world does not come crashing down on them, at least not at first. Then life gets serious again, a death and some shootings put Anya's life and happiness on the line.

I loved All These Things I've Done though I read it with an increasing amount of dread as I waited for things to go wrong for Anya. Anya's a strong, determined character and a witty narrator and Win is almost too good to be true. I did wonder why his Dad didn't encourage the relationship so that he could spy on Anya and bring her criminal relatives down however his attitude is believable for an ambitious politician. The characters are well drawn and the future world created is described in enough but not graphic detail and I was intrigued by a comment from “future Anya” that “nobody was much interested in novels back then” and I wonder from when she's speaking and what that future is like.

Will Anya and Win be together, will Anya take over the running of the family “business” or can she be more like her mother, a crime scene investigator? Some answers perhaps will be in part two, Because It Is My Blood which is published in the US on 18 September 2012 (and hopefully not too much later than that in the UK).

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blog Tour: Kate Harrison - Playing with Fire

To celebrate the release of Soul Fire, the second part of the Soul Beach trilogy, I'm very pleased to welcome Kate Harrison back for another guest post.

In her first guest post she spoke about the thriller elements to her series and this time she tries to scare herself in the name of research!

Soul Beach, the first part of the trilogy has been a great success and I'll be tucking into Soul Fire very shortly.

Playing with Fire -

 why do we love to scare ourselves silly?

 I don’t make a habit of offering dating tips, but here’s one you might find useful: if you want to be a hit with your date, scare them!

Yes, research shows that we’re more likely to be attracted to someone if we’re a little bit frightened when we meet. I’m not suggesting you turn up in a Halloween mask carrying an axe. Better to go to a funfair or – as the researchers did – arrange to meet on a high bridge. The object of your desire will feel their pulse quicken – and that might well make them want to see you again.

Craving fear?

Fear is weird – why would we crave a feeling that should warn us against danger? Yet most of us do seek thrills – whether it’s watching a scary movie, or bungee-jumping into a ravine.

As a first-time thriller writer (my Soul Beach trilogy follows seven romantic comedies), it’s something I have a professional interest in. I want to keep readers on the edge of their seats. So, even though I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat myself, I’ve decided to try to terrify myself in the interests of research – to understand why we love fear.

Scare test 1: scary books

I recently unpacked a box of childhood books – and one of my most read was the Beaver Book of Horror – but now I tend to favour reading funny novels. So, as stage 1 of my experiment, I bought Kindle edition of Hold my Hand by my friend Serena Mackesy which has lots of reviews saying how frightening it is.

Result: I really loved it and kept reading but was actually too distracted by the terrific writing and setting to be properly scared. Plus, it’s a ghost story and I’m not convinced ghosts exist. So my results:
Fear Factor: 2/10
Fun Factor: 9/10

Scare test 2: scary movies

The first movie I remember really scaring me as an adult was Pacific Heights, about a crazy lodger. At the time, I was living in a shared house with a rather psychotic landlord… so, maybe one of the key factors is feeling that the cause of fear is close to home.

Result: That could explain why my randomised sample – Final Destination, The Walking Dead, Contagion – didn’t scare me at all. I am no longer in high school and I hope I’m unlikely to encounter zombies soon (though Brighton on a Saturday night does have its similarities).

I am Legend scared me a tiny bit – but only because I was worried about that poor dog. And with all of these movies or shows, the pleasure is undermined by the feeling that we’re being manipulated so obviously.

Fear Factor: 5/10
Fun Factor: 2/10

Scare test 3 – scary reality

The two scariest things that have happened to me in the last five years were – being mugged by a motorcyclist, and catching burglars in our flat while my boyfriend was away. But in both cases the fear came afterwards and I had no control of either situation.

So I decided to try something scary for pleasure: the correfoc – or fire run – in Barcelona is an event where thousands of people flock onto the city’s streets and squares, racing after devils and dragons that spew fireworks and firecrackers, while a deafening drum beat plays. Though locals are blasé, you can easily get burned –you just launch yourself into the crowd and hope for the best.

Result: I can’t say I totally loved it – running at people armed with firecrackers didn’t feel natural, or safe. But it did give me the biggest buzz - not just from the danger but also from the group experience.

Fear Factor 9/10
Fun Factor 7/10

Playing with fire

So, at the end of my non-scientific study, what are my conclusions? I understand more why the adrenalin rush is addictive – and I also realised fear is strongest for me when it’s close to home. Zombies don’t cut it.

Scientists suggest we might be programmed to enjoy fear for evolutionary reasons. Exploring and hunting has led to human progress so being rewarded for risk-taking makes sense.

Second-hand fear?

But when it comes to scary stories, I think it’s about wanting to experience fear second-hand, via the hero’s adventures – it’s why most thrillers end with some kind of positive outcome. We want the good guys to win so we can believe that we’ll win our real life battles too.

That’s certainly where I’m coming from in Soul Beach ­– I want my heroine to be braver and better than the rest. Though as I approach the end of the trilogy, I’m wondering if it’s realistic to have her win… I am genuinely scaring myself as I put her in more and more danger.

But outside my writing, I won’t be booking a bungee jump any time soon. Fear for me is a bit like the gym – so much better when it’s over!

Kate’s second instalment in the Soul Beach trilogy, Soul Fire, is out now, published by Orion.

Many thanks to Kate and Indigo for arranging this.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review: Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever by Lauren DeStefano (February 2012, Harper Voyager, ISBN: 0007457790)

Review: Fever is the second part of a trilogy and this review will contain spoilers for the first book, Wither.

Fever, the second part in The Chemical Garden trilogy, carries straight on from Wither and finds Rhine and Gabriel on the run from their luxurious prison in which Rhine was a reluctant bride and Gabriel her servant. They are aiming to get from Florida back to Rhine's home in Manhattan where she hopes her twin Rowan will be waiting for her.

Things go wrong almost immediately when the pair are captured in a scarlet district in an old fun fair and are forced to entertain paying customers and have opiates forced on them. Rhine's conviction that her ex-father-in-law Vaughn, who is experimenting to find the cure to the virus which is killing women at 20 and men at 25, will find her turns out to be true and another escape takes place.

Travelling northwards up the coast, Rhine and Gabriel and a young child they rescue meet more people who want something from them until finally they reach New York. But things have changed since Rhine was stolen...and her nemesis, Vaughn, is not far behind.

I have to say I found Fever a bit of a seedy read, gripping but seedy. The ratio of bad people to good is about 4:1 and Rhine's experiences range from performing in a brothel (with Gabriel) to being sexually molested by an elderly man and a horrendous and tense later section where she is experimented on. This is strong stuff, and I'm intrigued to see how it all works out in the next book: will there be a cure or will we leave Rhine with her life about to end? The romance element is quite unusual; Gabriel is not portrayed as a unrealistic hero, rather he is a normal person. He suffers from addiction, and often Rhine is the strong one and he does not feature in the last quarter of the book. Again I want to see what happens to them. Whereas Wither was set mainly in a mansion, Fever reveals the real world that Rhine has lived in and that Gabriel has never known before.

Fever is a beautifully written, page-turning read but one that may leave you wanting a hot shower. Unfortunately the final part, Sever, is not out until February 2013.

Friday, July 6, 2012

National Crime Writing Month Roundup

The Crime Writers' Association's Crime Writing Month (a loose term) finished yesterday with the announcement of many of the first set of  Dagger Award winners and long-lists for the second batch of  Dagger Awards.

I've focused on crime on this blog for the last month though didn't get through quite as much as I'd hoped.

My posts were:

The new Famous Five covers
Review of Slide by Jill Hathaway
Guest post by Helen Moss
Review of The Mystery of the Midnight Ghost by Helen Moss
Review of The Strange Case of Finley Jayne by Kady Cross
Review of Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham

As fictional crime is never far from my mind there's plenty more to come. Starting with guest posts from Kate Harrison and Caroline Lawrence plus reviews of their respective books, Soul Fire, and The Case of the Good-Looking Corpse in the near future...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham

Theodore Boone: The Accused by John Grisham (May 2012, Hodder & Stoughton , ISBN: 1444758470)

Review: Theodore Boone: The Accused is the third in the Theo series and takes place about four months after the first in the series, Theodore Boone. It returns to the case that Theo was following and getting involved in, in the first book: the trial of Pete Duffy for the murder of his wife. Theo's discovery of a witness forced a mistrial.

The retrial is about to begin but then there is a huge problem: Pete Duffy has disappeared. He can't be found and rumours start to fly that's he's skipped the country or jumped off a bridge.

Then Theo finds himself the target of a series of at first minor annoyances – a slashed tyre on his bike, items stolen from his school locker but then it becomes serious. Theo is accused of stealing some computers and phones from a down-town store and when the police check his locker there are some of the stolen items inside.

Theo's life becomes miserable. Everyone is talking about him, how the son of two lawyers is a thief. Theo protests his innocence and his family and friends support him but a trip to the Youth Court and worse, detention in a juvenile centre cannot be far away unless he finds out who hates him enough to frame him like this. Fortunately his uncle Ike, who has helped him before (in The Abduction) has an idea and Theo with the help of his friends, gets to the bottom of the matter.

The Accused is back to the standard of the first book thankfully, the second was a bit dull to be frank, and the tension doesn't let up in this one. Who and why are these horrible things happening to him? There is a strong moral message that if you are good, you will be found innocent and that your true friends will help you. The fact that the police don't immediately arrest Theo is slightly inexplicable as they don't seem to doubt that he's their "man". Being the son of two wealthy lawyers probably helps. I'm not altogether comfortable with some of the views expressed in this book. Theo describes a possible suspect for the burglary as "a quiet kid who seemed moody, often troubled, and who wore his hair a bit too long and listened to heavy metal". A couple of other things irked me: the fact that it's made clear that the Boone family eat out most nights and the parents share the cooking at home and yet the kitchen is still called Mrs Boone's, and this from a police officer who "..knew no woman would want the police or anyone else poking through their house".

Slightly old-fashioned views aside this is an exciting read aimed at a younger reader, I'd say quite a bit younger though than Theo's thirteen, but readers of any age should enjoy it.

As before, there are adult and children's editions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Published in July 2012

Here are some of the teenage/YA titles that are being published in the UK in July 2012. I will put a link to this post and previous and subsequent "monthly" lists in my sidebar. January's list is here, February's is here, March's is here, April's is here, May's is here and June's is here.

I have tried to identify all the British authors which I hope will be useful to those doing Kirsty's British Books Challenge at The Overflowing Library (please let me know of any errors or omissions).

This is still a work-in-progress so I'll continue to update it during the month.
David Almond - The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean (5th, Puffin, pb) British Author
Josephine Angelini - Starcrossed: Dreamless (5th, Macmillan Children's Books, pb)
Kit Berry - Shadows at Stonewylde (5th, Indigo, pb) British Author
Kendare Blake - Anna Dressed in Blood (5th, Orchard, pb)
M Beth Bloom - Drain You (24th, HarperCollins Childrens Book Group, pb)
Anna Carey - Once (20th, HarperCollins, pb)
Ally Carter - Uncommon Criminals (5th, Orchard, pb)
Deborah Cooke - Blazing The Trail (5th, NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY, pb)
Andrea Cremer - Bloodrose (5th, Atom pb)
Cath Crowley - Graffiti Moon (5th, Hodder Children's Books, pb)
Matt Dickinson - Mortal Chaos: Deep Oblivion (5th, OUP Oxford, pb) British Author
Simone Elkeles - Chain Reaction (5th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Daniel Finn - Call Down Thunder (5th, Macmillan Children's Books, HB) British Author
Fabio Geda - In the Sea there are Crocodiles (5th, David Fickling Books, pb)
Abby Grahame - Wentworth Hall (5th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Sarah Hammond - The Night Sky in My Head (1st, OUP Oxford, pb) British Author
Carrie Harris - Bad Taste in Boys (20th, Ember, pb)
Kate Harrison - Soul Fire (5th, Indigo, pb) BA
Rachel Hartman - Seraphina (19th, Doubleday Childrens, HB)
Alyxandra Harvey - Blood Moon (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb)
Jason Henderson - Alex Van Helsing: Voice of the Undead (24th, HarperCollins Childrens Book Group, pb)
Mary Hooper - Velvet (5th, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, pb) British Author
Tara Hudson - Arise (5th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb)
Ellie James - Shattered Dreams: A Midnight Dragonfly Novel (5th, Quercus, pb)
Victoria Lamb - Witchstruck (5th, Corgi Childrens, pb) British Author
Jillian Larkin - The Flappers: Ingenue (5th, Corgi Childrens, pb)
Rebecca Maizel - Stolen Night (5th, Macmillan Children's Books, pb)
Zoe Marriott - FrostFire (Daughter of the Flames) (5th, Walker, pb) British Author
Sophie McKenzie - Sister Missing (5th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb) British Author
Maile Meloy - The Apothecary (5th, Andersen, pb)
Stephenie Meyer - Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2 (24th, Atom, pb)
Cat Patrick - Revived (2nd, Electric Monkey, pb)
Kathleen Peacock - Deadly Hemlock (5th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer - Between the Lines (5th, Hodder & Stoughton, HB)
Willard Price - Elephant Adventure (5th, Red Fox, pb)
Louise Rennison - A Midsummer Tights Dream (5th, HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks, pb) British Author
Gillian Shields - Eternal (31st, HarperCollins Childrens Book Group, pb) British Author
Courtney Summers - This is not a Test (9th, St Martin's Griffin, pb)
Chrissy Teighery - Whisper (1st, Templar Publishing, pb)
Rachel Vincent - Before I Wake (6th, Mira Ink, pb)
Ruth Warburton - A Witch in Love (5th, Hodder Children's Books, pb) British Author
Scott Westerfeld - Goliath (5th, Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, pb)
Suzanne Weyn - Crimson Thread (5th, Scholastic, pb)