Saturday, February 28, 2009

In My Mailbox (II)

I've decided I will keep doing In My Mailbox (which is hosted by The Story Siren). It was good fun last week :)

This week's mailbox featured...

Chains - Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

Before I Die - Jenny Downham

Tessa has just months to live. Fighting back against hospital visits, endless tests, drugs with excruciating side-effects, Tessa compiles a list. It’s her To Do Before I Die list. And number one is Sex. Released from the constraints of ‘normal’ life, Tessa tastes new experiences to make her feel alive while her failing body struggles to keep up. Tessa’s feelings, her relationships with her father and brother, her estranged mother, her best friend, and her new boyfriend, all are painfully crystallised in the precious weeks before Tessa’s time finally runs out.

Bad Girls Don't Die - Katie Alender

When a family fight results in some tearful sisterly bonding, Alexis realizes that her life is creeping from dysfunction into danger. Kasey is acting stranger than ever: her blue eyes go green sometimes; she uses old-fashioned language; and she even loses track of chunks of time, claiming to know nothing about her strange behavior. Their old house is changing, too. Doors open and close by themselves; water boils on the unlit stove; and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough to see their breath in.

How To Ditch Your Fairy - Justine Larbalestier

Welcome to New Avalon, where everyone has a personal fairy. Though invisible to the naked eye, a personal fairy, like a specialized good luck charm, is vital to success. And in the case of the students at New Avalon Sports High, it might just determine whether you make the team, pass a class, or find that perfect outfit. But for 14-year-old Charlie, having a Parking Fairy is worse than having nothing at all—especially when the school bully carts her around like his own personal parking pass. Enter: The Plan. At first, teaming up with arch-enemy Fiorenza (who has an All-The-Boys-Like-You Fairy) seems like a great idea. But when Charlie unexpectedly gets her heart’s desire, it isn’t at all what she thought it would be like, and she’ll have resort to extraordinary measures to ditch her fairy. The question is: will Charlie herself survive the fairy ditching experiment?

Going Too Far - Jennifer Echols

All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....

Arrival - Charlotte McConaghy

It has been foretold. Two worlds will collide when six mortals from Earth enter Paragor through a portal.
They will face forces of terrifying darkness.
Their journey will become the stuff of legends.
It is time.

I've already finished How To Ditch Your Fairy and Bad Girls Don't Die. They were both great! And Bad Girls Don't Die was actually genuinely creepy (well I thought so at least), more on that in my review. Right now I've started on Arrival, with the author started writing when she was only 14!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Love The Cover, Justine Larbalestier

The new paperback cover for Justine Larbalestier's How To Dtich Your Fairy is officially awesome. I love the lettering and everything is just genuinely cool. Plus, the blue and purple is pretty :)

The image isn't exactly true to the story. But it's eyecatching and awesome regardless!

I just finished reading this book (with the original cover) the other day. I thought it was pretty awesome.. the Aussie YA Alliance is going to be doing some fun stuff with it because Justine is an Aussie author, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Interview With Laura Whitcomb, Author of The Fetch!

whitcombToday's author interview is with Laura Whitcomb, author of the YA novels A Certain Slant of Light and The Fetch. I just posted my review of The Fetch which you can read here. Laura was kind enough to talk about her new supernatural romance, The Fetch...

To begin with, can you tell us a little about your new book, The Fetch?

THE FETCH is a supernatural romance about Calder, who is a death escort or Fetch. He breaks his vows and leaves heaven to come to earth. He falls in love, but his leaving his post has caused an imbalance in heaven, on earth, and in the Land of Lost Souls (where the ghosts dwell.) Calder has to make things right.

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

What inspired you to write this story?

I was walking my Min Pin puppy in the park one day when the idea came to me that there were three very interesting characters in history that were all part of one chain of dramatic true events: Rasputin, the controversial holy man who was confidant to Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family; Anastasia, youngest daughter of Nicholas and famed for the rumor that she survived after her family was executed; and her brother Alexis, heir to the throne and a victim of hemophilia. I love writing the paranormal understory of a slice of history or a piece of well-known literature, so I decided to write a story about these three real people and offer the supernatural "what if . . . " version of their adventure.

Have you always been interested in Russian history/the Romanov family?

I've always been intrigued by the Romanovs and Rasputin, but I hadn't done much reading on the subject.

The Romanov Family

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

Yes. I read several books, watched three films and read parts of many other books. And I spent hours on the Internet finding little facts that were not in the other sources. I even emailed a history professor to ask a couple of tricky questions.

The Fetch had a very well developed plot line - how long did it take you to write?

I thought about the plot and took notes for a few months before I started really writing. The first draft of the novel took about 7 months. And rewriting went on for over a year with the help of my editor. (A not so well-kept secret about novelists -- most of the time we spend writing is rewriting.)

Did exploring death and the afterlife through The Fetch cause you to evaluate your own beliefs (or even consider your own mortality)?

I've thought about life and death and heaven and hell and God for decades. I've loved reading various authors like C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Madeleine L'Engle, and others, on the subject of the afterlife. It's not a frightening concept to me. I've known many people who are on the other side now. My gut instinct is that there is great good and much love in that place we try to, but can never truly, imagine.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

And finally, what can we look forward to from you in the future?

I am just starting now to work on a sequel to my first novel, A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT. I hope to write more about Calder and to continue creating supernatural understories about historical events or pieces of literature. And I imagine most of them will include romances. I so enjoy writing love stories.

Thanks so much Laura! You can read my review of The Fetch here! :)

Review: The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb

The Fetch by Laura Whitcomb, author of A Certain Slant of Light, is a 'supernatural romance'. It's about Calder who is a Fetch - he fetches the souls of the dead and escorts them to heaven. At one death scene he visits he falls for a women he sees there, and breaks all the rules by making the rash decision of going backwards through Heaven and occupying the body of a living person in pursuit of her.

While The Fetch is marketed as a supernatural romance, that is a bit of an over simplification. When Calder goes from Heaven to Earth he comes out during the chaos of the Russian Revolution, in Rasputin's body! So the book is a sort of cross between historical fiction and the supernatural. I really enjoyed this historical aspect of the novel. It was really interesting! Calder ends up taking Anastasia and Alexis Romanov all around the world so the book gives a look at the world during the early 20th Century.
'Time is not the same everywhere. On earth it is as constant as the planets pulling against one another in their dance around the sun, but in the Aisle of Unearthing time stops and starts, stretches, and flies forward depending on how many earthlings are dying at any given hour.'
It was a long book with a very well-developed plot line. When I first started reading it I thought it was just going to be a basic story - Calder goes to Earth, gets the girl, goes back. But it went much further past that and then further again! Fantastic!

The writing was beautiful and poetic. And the ideas explored were thought-provoking. I recommend you go have a read of The Fetch if you're at all into historical fiction, anything supernatural or just after a good read. I didn't think there was a great deal of romance in the book, so that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you like!

Also, for those who are interested in book design. The edges of the pages are all rough and uneven - Lemony Snicket style, I suppose to give the book an old/authentic look. I don't know?! It's fun though.

I give The Fetch 4/5 stars :) Also, I asked Laura Whitcomb some questions about the book and I'll be putting them up tonight, so check back!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays, February 24

I'm currently reading One Butt Cheek At A Time by Amber Kizer. It's written like a diary, with highschooler Gert Garibaldi ranting and raving and be all kinds of hilarious.

A synopsis:

Gert Garibaldi isn't one of those people who believe high school is the best part of life. She has a whole notebook full of rants about high school, and she's fully aware of how ridiculous the experience is, thank you very much. Gert just wants to survive the next three years, one butt cheek at a time, with her best friend, Adam, by her side - and maybe Luscious Luke attached to her lips. With a stapler. Or something. But muddling through isn't even as easy as it seems - there are geriatric parents to deal with, Homecoming festivities (admit it: those words just sent a little chill down your spine), crushes, ed (both sex and driving), and potential new boyfriends - for both Gert and Adam. Frank, funny, and totally unique, Gert's ready to pull on the Pants of Life and start dancing.

So, Teaser Tuesday! What's it all about?
  • Grab your current read
  • Let the book fall open to a random page
  • Share 2 "teaser" sentences from the page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • No spoilers! Just teasers :)
Let's examine a couple of other brilliant professionals I'm exposed to daily. Mr Casperelli, the track coach, and poet, who teaches my calculus class. Or more exactly, who breathes in the same room where I'm supposed to achieve calculus osmosis.
It is very VERY funny :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Interview With Laurie Faria Stolarz!

Our interview today is with Laurie Faria Stolarz who has written A LOT of YA books. Laurie's latest book is Deadly Little Secrets. You can find out more at Laurie's website :

To begin with, can you tell us a bit about your latest book, Deadly Little Secrets?

Up until three months ago, everything about sixteen-year-old Camelia's life had been fairly ordinary: decent grades; an okay relationship with her parents; and a pretty cool part-time job at an art studio downtown. But when Ben, the mysterious new guy, starts junior year at her high school, her life becomes far from ordinary.
Rumored to be somehow responsible for his ex-girlfriend's accidental death, Ben is immediately ostracized by everyone on campus. Except for Camelia. She's reluctant to believe he's trouble, even when her friends try to convince her otherwise. Instead she's inexplicably drawn to him, and to his touch. But soon, Camelia is receiving eerie phone calls and strange packages with threatening notes. Ben insists she’s in danger, and that he can help, but she’s not so sure she can trust him. She knows he's hiding something, and he's not the only one with a secret.

To view the book trailer:
To listen to a recording of me reading the first chapter:

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

As a child, I was making up stories before I could even write them down. I’d tell them to whomever was willing to listen, often passing them off as truth to elicit more of a dramatic effect. Then, when I could write, I’d create scripts for my dolls and make them act out the storylines. Telling stories – and then later writing them down – has always been a part of who I am.

What do you think makes a good story?

I think a story has the potential to be a good if it has the ability to make the reader feel something, whether that be anger, hatred, love, grief, joy, or something else.

How long does it take you to write each book?

About a year, from initial idea to final draft.

Who is your favourite character you've created?

Stacey Brown from my Blue is for Nightmares Series. She’s been with me the longest and so now, five books later, I feel a special bond with her. Plus, I love how she’s so relatable. There are extraordinary circumstances going on all around her – trying to save her friends from the likes of stalkers – and yet she still experiences the same things that teens go through every day, i.e. heartbreak, problems with parents, drama with friends, academics at school, etc., etc.
Camelia Hammond from my current Touch Series would have to be a close second favorite. I love how we get to see her extrasensory powers develop. With Stacey those powers are already pretty strong from the very first book. But for Camelia we get to see them unfold over time.

What book are you currently reading?

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway.

Do you hear from your readers much?

Yes, I get approximately 75 – 100 emails from readers per week. They all want to know when the next Touch Series or the next Blue is for Nightmares Series book is coming out. They also ask me for advice about writing.

And finally, what other great things can we look forward to from you in the future?

Deadly Little Lies, the second book in the Touch Series, will be out in December. Also, Black is for Beginnings, the fifth book in my bestselling Blue is for Nightmares series, will be out in the fall.

Thankyou so much Laurie for agreeing to be interviewed on Look At That Book! You can find all of Laurie Faria Stolarz's books here on amazon!

In My Mailbox, February 22

I don't usually do In My Mailbox (which is hosted by The Story Siren) but I got a lot of books in the mail this week and thought I'd share :)

This was in my mailbox:

Everything Is Fine - Ann Dee Ellis

One Butt Cheek At A Time - Amber Kizer
(it was signed, so cool!!)

The Fetch - Laura Whitcomb

The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren - Wendy Toliver
(Wendy signed it for me!!!)

And I won all of the Vampire Academy books in a competition! Yay!

Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead

Frostbite - Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss - Richelle Mead

Review: Across The Pond by Storyheart

Across The Pond is a YA novel by Storyheart that sees the main character, Fred shipped 'across the pond' to stay with family friends while his parents go on holiday. While there, Fred falls for Brit, who he is staying with. Together they get up to lots of fun in the USA, all while Fred is dutifully noting the differences in culture and language between their two countries for a school project.

It was a sweet, fun read. The relationship between Fred and Brit seemed genuine and was lovely to read about. I found myself finishing each chapter with a big grin on my face!

After a while I began to find the constant pointing out of word differences a little tedious (maybe it's because I'm Australian!) but all in all I had a great time reading Across The Pond and look forward to future adventures with Fred and Brit!

I rate Across The Pond 3.5/5 stars :) You can get it on amazon here and can also check out my interview with the author here. If you're looking to learn a bit about another culture, or just want a fun with read with a bit of romance, go check it out!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with YA Author, Zoe Marriott

Today's author interview is with Zoe Marriott, pictured on the right with her cocker spaniel, Finbar! Zoe is the author of the YA Fantasy novels The Swan Kingdom (2007) and Daughter of the Flames (2008). You can find Zoe online at

  • Have you always wanted to be an author?

  • Yep. Well, as soon as I knew what an author was, anyway. I know most little girls want to be ballerinas or a pop stars, and I did too - but I always wanted to be a ballerina who was also a writer. I can remember looking in the copyright page of of all my Roald Dahl books and writing down the addresses of the about nine years old.

  • Where do you find your inspiration for your stories?

  • From pretty much everything that happens to me. Mostly my own feelings. I think that's what makes a writer - there's an extra bit in the back of my head that's always working no matter what else is going on, filing things away, running images and ideas like a sort of constant show reel. It's a little tiring sometimes, and I wish I could switch it off, but without it there would be no stories. I can remember being in floods of tears over something - I mean really upset - and that little extra bit was going 'Ah, so this is what terrible grief feels like. Maybe we can use this in the next book'. It was sort of horrible, but those feelings did end up in Daughter of the Flames...

  • What was the road to publication for The Swan Kingdom like?

  • Wow, that is a great question. It actually began way before I started writing The Swan Kingdom. The first young adult book that I ever finished (when I was twenty) was called Blood Magic and it was rejected by every publisher in the UK. And two in Australia, just to finish off. But one of the publishers in the UK (Walker Books) had really liked it and the editor who eventually phoned me to tell me that they weren't going to offer me a contract for Blood Magic made a point of saying 'Please, please send me the next thing you write'. He kept in touch with me through email for the next year while I was writing The Swan Kingdom, just asking me 'How's it going?' every now and again. Finally, when the book was finished, I emailed it to him, and within a day he came back to me and said 'This is very, very good'. But it didn't end there! At that time the idea of fantasy aimed at girls was not really well-known in the UK, so the editor's boss wasn't sure about the book. They invited me to go to London and talk to them, and what they wanted was for me to put The Swan Kingdom aside and look at their guidelines for chapter books and write something else for them. Well, the editor had warned me this might happen, and so before I went I had prepared a speech, and when the Boss Lady said this to me, I said, 'Okay, but just let me tell you about the market for this book first...' And I talked to her for forty minutes about the US market and Tamora Pierce and Meg Cabot and Shannon Hale and Robin McKinley and how these authors were writing fantasy for girls and were bestsellers. And at the end of that time, she offered me a development fee to go away and do revisions on The Swan Kingdom. That was in November - I finished the revisions before Christmas - and I was offered a contract in February. But because they hadn't expected to offer me a contract, they had no space in their schedule to publish the book, and so I had to wait for two and a half years for The Swan Kingdom to be published. It felt like forever.

  • What do you think makes a good story?

  • That's one of the questions that I don't think anyone can answer completely. It's an emotional connection, I suppose - whether the characters reach out to the reader and make them care about them. Without that, the plot could be amazing but no one would care. The other day I was re-watching The Matrix and I thought to myself, 'I should be making notes here; this stuff is genius'. I don't mean the story itself, or the ideas, but the way that the reader is led into the character's world and the way the tension is ratcheted up and up until you're practically biting your nails and desperate not to lose anyone. That's what makes a good story. Just having to know what happens next because the characters seem so real to you.

  • Do you listen to music when you write?

  • Always. I usually make a playlist for each book that I write: for instance, the playlist for Daughter of the Flames was made up of songs from both Gladiator soundtracks, some music from Lord of the Rings, some from Master and Commander, and a bunch of songs I found on iTunes in the world music section. I also have other playlists to help with specific kinds of scenes. I have one called 'Fight' which has songs from Evanescence and Within Temptation and My Chemical Romance on it. The number one song I listen to when I need to feel sad is 'Memories' by Within Temptation. It's a perfect song to bring tears to my eyes.

  • Who is your favorite character you've created?

  • Oddly, it's never my principle characters! I love them, but because I live inside them for so long they kind of feel like parts of me. I love the cottars, Olwyn and Will, in The Swan Kingdom. They were incidental characters who I made up on the spur of the moment, and they feel completely real. But probably my real favourite is King Abheron in Daughter of the Flames. He's the villain, he's a monster, he's killed so many people...but to me he's the saddest character in the book. I don't want to give out spoilers, but a lot of people who have read the book have said they ended up crying for him.

  • What book are you currently reading?

  • Well, I've just finished Graceling by Kristin Cashore. It came out the other weekend here in the UK. It was great, and I read it straight through in about three hours. I book I have next to me now is 'The Writer's Journey' by Christopher Vogler. It's non-fiction, and it talks about how stories are put together, the Hero's Journey and the Hero with a Thousand faces. Honestly, it's kind of blowing my mind, and I'm only two chapters in!

  • What's your all time favorite book?

  • If I gave you the name of one book, it would probably be a lie, because it changes from day to day. I can give a list. I love the Abhorsen Books by Garth Nix and have re-read them about twenty times. I love The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold and re-read that at least once a year. I love Pride and Prejudice and still find something new in it each time I read it, although I read it for the first time when I was fourteen. I love Night Watch by Terry Pratchett and cry at the ending every time. The books I love are ones that you can keep forever.

  • What other great things can we look forward to from you in the future?

  • Well, the book I'm writing now is going to be pretty good, I think. I pitched it to my publisher as Cinderella meets The Count of Monte Cristo meets Memoirs of a Geisha. It's rich and dark and full of daring new things I haven't tried before. After that I'm going to write an indirect sequel to Daughter of the Flames, in which we go back to the country of Ruan about five years after the book finishes and see how the nation is rebuilding itself and how the Ruan and Sedorne are learning to live together. It will be my first story told from the POV of a male character, so I expect it to be very challenging.

  • And finally, any parting words of wisdom?

  • Oh, heck. Er... 'Life is not a gamble, it's a certainty.' There. Is that wise enough?

    Thankyou so much Zoe for agreeing to do an interview with Look At That Book! Both The Swan Kingdom and Daughter of the Flames are available now so you can head down to your local bookshop and pick one up :)