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27 Jun 2012

RTW - Best Book of June

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What was the best book you read in June?
It was a slow reading month for this time around but I managed to get through The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Jennifer E.Smith), Mockinjay (Suzanne Collins), and The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor).  Out of these three I'll have to go with...
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. 
I'll get to the full review in the near future but for now I'll just sum up what I loved about the book:
The concept of Wonderland is both unique and familiar.  Beddor is giving the impression that Wonderland is actually real and while he tries to seperate the characters and the world from Carroll's book, he still gives them the nonsensical traits that we have come to know.  Wonderland is still ridiculous at times and I like that Beddor didn't diverge completely from the world Carroll created. 
Each character is fascinating and bizarre.  The Mad Hatter becomes Hatter Madigan, a fierce soldier whose hat can be the most deadliest weapon.  He's not as loony as The Mad Hatter but there are times when he does seem a little unstable.  Alyss (AKA Alice) is still just as curious and odd with her ponderings and perception of things.  Her imagination still plays a key role in everything around her, being a powerful ability in Wonderland.  And Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are actually General Doppelganger.  He can split into Generals Doppel and Ganger.  I loved seeing how Beddor created his own idea of the characters to show how Carroll may have drawn inspiration for the ones in his book. 
It's a fantastic read so if you find it, grab it!
Come join us on YA Highway! Let us know what your favourite book of the month is.

26 Jun 2012

TTT- You Remind Me of Someone...

Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish so come along and join in the fun!  This week, we've been asked to name:
The Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

Now, I may be cheating or not here but I've added in a couple TV characters because when I read this the first person who popped into my head was:

1) Rosie Webster (Coronation Street)
Rosie is a character on Coronation, one of the (too many) soap operas we unfortunately have in the UK.  As a character Rosie is shallow, caring solely about her looks and body and going around sleeping with any guy she sets her eyes on.  She's OTT, dumb, and dreams of fame, money, and glory.  Now, she didn't sleep around and preferred committed relationships but my former housemate R could have been her twin.  She was quite vain, appearance obsessed, and like Rosie Webster has had a few tarty outfits in the past.  We're talking tops that hang just below her boobs.  R was the type to take a thousand new pictures of herself each day purely for facebook.  Everything about her was fake.  She wore fake nails, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, and slapped on make-up just for coming down for a tea.  Now, I wear make-up myself and I'm into fashion and beauty but R took it to shallow levels just like Rosie Webster.  Appearances were everything and it wasn't just looking good in beauty and make-up.  R insisted on wearing heels everywhere.  Flats were disgraceful and she preferred style over comfort.  I tell you something, it ruined her feet! Jeans were for commoners and I quote: 'only peasants ride the bus and the train'.  She really looked down on people who travelled like this.  No lie! This is what she was really like.  A fascinating subject for a writer!

2) Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

I'm sure everyone knows the uber-intelligent student who always knew everything and did everything right in their studies.  There was a girl like Hermione in my year at high school and college.  Since starting with us in year seven I quickly found out that there was nothing she couldn't do.  A was in all the top sets in her classes with the straight A/A* grade.  Foreign languages came easily to her, she was fantastic in art, could touch type like it came naturally, understood maths and, overall, excelled in everything.   Like Hermione she did tend to be a little bossy and if our tutor wasn't here or late she would frequently take over the class, taking the register and marching around as if observing the rest of her classmates if they were getting a bit rowdy and silly.  She did also take over in drama classes, telling our usual group what to do, how to act, and directing it all herself.  But she grew out of that eventually.  I think as she grew older she chilled out a bit more and stopped the bossy act.  Because then you could see that she was actually a lovely and polite person. 

3 & 4) Bianca Piper (The Duff)
I think Bianca is the first character who I could really relate to.  I always felt like I was the Duff in my circle of friends who had everything I wanted at that age.  One friend had a great chest, another had a slim body, another had respect, and one had a great social life outside of school.  I saw my friends be the girl many boys wanted to date, have a lot of boyfriends, or got on with more people and in Bianca I saw that same cynical teenager I became.  Envious, very insecure, and positive that my appearance wasn't going to get me anyone.  It started years and years of body insecurities that are still there to this day.  I completely saw myself in Bianca minus the relationship.  I did have a couple of boyfriends during high school and sixth form but nothing like the relationship Bianca had with Wesley.  In the end we both got our perfect guys although mine is nothing like Wesley (thank goodness!).

I might cheat and say Bianca's relationship with Wesley also reminds me of my other housemate C.  Unlike R, C was not confident about herself.  She came from a crappy home life where her parents were on the brink of divorce and her sisters were nasty and manipulative to her.  She always felt ugly and couldn't bring herself to have any self-worth.  The start of university was also the start of abusive relationships.  Her first cheated on her.  Multiple times.  Finally she got over him and found who I think was her Toby.  G seemed lovely.  He was there for her during her bad times (and there were quite a lot of those).  But she dumped him wanting time to herself and immediately hooked up with a guy who was ten years older than her.  That was probably the worst relationship she had.  Like Bianca it was all about sex.  This guy would take C out but he would never commit to the relationship.  He didn't want to be her boyfriend and while she was angry at this, she continued to let him use her for sex.  It almost drove her to suicide.  It completely broke her and unfortunately she didn't get the happy ending Bianca did.  The guy didn't want to know, just wanted sex, and it took her months to finally realise that, give up, and move on.

5) Mandarin Ramey (Like Mandarin)
Mandarin reminded me of M back in high school.  M was one of my closest friends who I idolised.  She was the goth girl with an odd nature and a string of boyfriends and guys who crushed on her.  At school she was the girl with the long black hair, pale face and goth attire.  She was confident, wild, and was free to do whatever she wanted.  And I guess I did want to be like her.  But like Grace I soon learnt that this real life Mandarin was actually pretty screwed up.  As my friends and I grew older we started to really see what M was like.  She slept around and constantly had pregnancy scares.  She took instant dislike to any young girls who liked the boys she knew, being nasty to them.  Her reasons were to show them that life sucked and it was shit.  Her whole view of the world, people, and life was negative.  She skipped classes, didn't bother with homework, couldn't care less about exams even though she constantly whined that nothing was going right and wanted to make something of herself.  Surprise, surprise, none of us talk to her now.  She pushed everyone away and disappeared.  What's becoming of her? Who knows? The one thing we do unfortunately know is that it won't be something that's changing her life for the better.

6) Simon Lewis (The Mortal Instruments)
In The Mortal Instruments Simon is the underdog best friend with the crush on the main girl but invisible because of that hot brooding supernatural boy.  Well, there was never any hot supernatural guy and love triangle but my close friend E reminds me a lot of Simon when I look back.  E was geeky with a snarky sense of humour.  Sporty but dorky and someone who I had a real laugh with.  He was genuine and kind and a great friend.  Definitely would make the nice guy best friend in a book.

7) Chandler Bing (Friends)
Out of all the male Friends characters I always crushed on Chandler Bing.  Chandler was the dorky, sarcastic and hilarious character who never really thought much of himself.  He always made me laugh and this how Pete makes me feel.  Since I met him he has made me laugh and feel good about myself.   He makes jokes, sometimes inappropriate, and can be dorky and childish.  I apparently am a neat freak and organise everything.  Look, it just makes sense to organise the DVD by genre and also have franchises in the order they came out! But I always said I wanted to find my Chandler.  The one who I knew was the one I wanted to be with, who made me laugh, and could share my own silliness with.  And I've found him!

8) Monica Geller (Friends)
Okay, I'm Monica.  I'm small, sometimes shrill and have to be dragged kicking and screaming away from tidying.  I freak out if clothes are sprawled on the floor and can NOT sleep in a messy bedroom.  I hate mess, I'm tidying constantly, and I obsessively organise things in certain orders.  God help Pete if he messes up the DVD collection! My worst obsession is the duvet and sheets.  The tag always has to be facing the bottom of the bed and this stripy sheet I have for it... I won't rest until those stripes are perfectly straight.  And I do tend to be competitive.  When I was younger I won an award: Win At All Costs.  I wasn't entirely sure what it meant and the person said I was just prepared to win... to the point where I may have killed somebody to do so.  Oh dear.

9) Lena Kaligaris (The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants)

Although S was a lot more confident and not reserved, Lena reminds me of S just because of her art skills.  Most of us in the group were quite arty but S was always the most talented.  She had the talent, the passion, and sure enough went on to study art at university.  So every time I watch or when I read The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants I always think of S and her love for art.

10) Phoebe Buffay (Friends)

Could I possibly cheat and list another character that makes me think of M? Now M had her dark side but when I keep thinking back I also remember how extremely weird and quirky she could be.  There was always something haunting her but there was also a funny side to her that we all laughed at.  She could say and do odd things at times and mostly lived in her own little world.  Luckily she didn't go around school strumming a guitar and singing 'Smelly cat' but I bet if she could play and had the lyrical brains, she probably would. 
Any characters remind you of someone or yourself?

25 Jun 2012

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

I came into this series quite late.  Literally last month where I bought this and the sequel and read them back to back.  The one problem with doing that is I've been through this amazing journey and met interesting and kick ass characters...

And now I have a whole year to wait for the final book. *Le sigh*

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Divergent.  Tris has to be my favourite female character by far.  I loved her and thought her a realistic, well-rounded heroine.  You can see how much she changes through the course of the novel.  She starts of as a quiet Abnegation girl.  Quiet, reserved, and doesn't really say what she thinks.  She's confused and not entirely sure where she fits.  She hasn't figured out who she is a person yet and she makes the choice that sends her onto that path.  Tris learns she is Divergent - someone who can fit into more than one faction - but goes ahead with moving to Dauntless where I think she really comes out of her shell.  Slowly, we see a daring, fearless, and brave girl who learns to fight and stand up for herself.  Someone who is ready to prove she is worthy.  Now and again she has Abnegation qualities coming through, unable to fit into just one faction but these different characteristics of hers mesh well.  Her Dauntless bravery, her Abnegation selflessness and her Erudite curiosity that leads her to discovering truths and betrayal, something she is determined to fight against.

Is she tough all the time? No.  She's vulnerable and becomes top by learning and focusing.  The pressure of her initiation gets to her and she does react to the deaths around her.  It shocks her, almost destroys her, but she collects herself and keeps going.  I did love how Roth gave insight into her emotions.  The way her mind would work, gathering in the deaths she would see and give herself a certain amount of time to mourn and react emotionally before telling herself to stop and keep going.  I admired Tris so much.

All characters I loved.  Peter, especially, made me react the most.  His character brought out so much hatred in me I wanted to reach into the pages and just punch him.  Roth created a very unlikeable villain there who makes you react as a reader.  That's a sign of a good character in my opinion.  He talked the talked and walked the walked.  He wasn't just a jerk with a razor sharp tongue who would cower at the mere thought of a fight, he was actually pretty dangerous, violent, and psychotic. 

I'm usually wary about relationships in books now because I've read so many romances that really just irritated me.  If anything, romance and relationships are something I'm very critical off.  But Four and Tris I really liked.  It was a slow development, moving from respect and admiration to falling in like with each other and attraction.  They worked well together, clicked instantly, and there was little drama.  It wasn't perfect because even Tris had her doubts but it was drama that was quickly resolved and they were honest with their feelings.  It did not become the focus of the plot like so many other romances do.

The whole setting was intriguing and I had my suspicions and ponders.  The factions are made to ensure peace in the world where everyone knows who they are and what their purpose in life is.  But slowly it's beginning to get corrupted and Tris starts to realise that this is not a perfect system and factions are turning against each other, specifically Erudite and Abnegation.  Yet there's something more going on than factions simply disliking each other.  There's a secret buried deep down and you're flipping the pages to find out.  Tris' journey and development isn't the only think hooking you in.  I do wish I could have maybe seen a little more from Erudite and Abnegation because I was curious about seeing how the other factions lived but I think in the end that would have steered away from the plot too much.  Divergent was nicely focused and paced well with Tris leading the plot the whole way.  A terrific debut and a must read for fantasy and dystopian lovers!

Next week, I'll be reviewing the sequel: Insurgent.

23 Jun 2012

News to Novels #22

Being 22 I thought all that silly teenage stuff would be in the past.  But recently I've had a friend who has brought back all those high school frustrations where I'm messed around, dealing with their mood swings, and wondering if the friendship is all worth it.  And it got me reminiscing about teenage life.  So this week I wanted to track down general teenage articles.  More character inspiration articles.  Girls talking about teenage life, what it feels like to be pressurised and what they've witnessed happening around them, spoilt teenagers, connecting to teenagers of the past and becoming a parental adviser.  These will certainly help when I get down to that contemporary YA project I've been mentally planning but I hope they'd be helpful for you as well. 

Binge-drinking, underage sex, drugs and even thoughts of suicide: Inside the secret life of teenage girls
Today's teenage girls come under pressure to grow up faster than ever before. Last month the Home Secretary ordered a review into whether girls are being sexualities through fashion, music and computer games, but how many parents are aware of the social and sexual pressures their daughters face? The latest disturbing statistics show that more than 60 per cent of girls have had sex under the age of 16. Meanwhile, online experts CyberSentinel says that 17 hours of the average teenage week are spent browsing the web for topics such as diets, cosmetic surgery and soft pornography, or chatting on social networking sites and MSN instant messenger, where a quarter of girls regularly talk to strangers. They are alarming statistics for any parent, but what do the girls themselves have to say? With the permission of their parents, RACHEL PORTER asked seven girls, aged 12 to 14, what it's really like being on the cusp of adulthood in Britain today...

Two cars he's too young to drive, a jet ski, and £20,000 blown on his birthday ... is this Britain's most spoilt teenager?
The economic downturn hasn't affected plans for Jordan Smith's forthcoming 17th birthday one iota.  Despite being a plain old carpentry student, the teenager is anticipating a lavish celebration in May, with his doting mother Suzanne Dickenson proudly admitting that she has spent £20,000 on gifts.  'I'm buying him a new, customised Vauxhall Corsa,' she says, 'and I've promised him a shopping trip to New York afterwards. I'm also going to build a log cabin next to our house. It will be good for him to have somewhere private to hang out.'

How to be a good parent: a teenager's guide
Dealing with moody teenagers is a problem all parents experience. But now a 16-year-old student is here to help. Ellie Ward, who prefers to be known by her pseudonym Jelly Ellie, has just landed a publishing deal for her parenting book How Teenagers Think.
Here, Ellie, who lives in Surrey with her parents, Louise, 38, an accountant, and Peter, 43, an IT contractor, tells Femail what parents are doing wrong...

Teenager who was bullied for being 'fat and ugly' has last laugh as she reaches final in modelling contest
A teenager told yesterday how she triumphed over school bullies who branded her 'fat' and drove her to bulimia - after making the finals of a national modelling contest.  Pretty brunette Emily Cooper, 19, was bullied remorselessly in school by gangs of girls both in the playground and on social networking site Bebo.

The red leather diary: Journal from a lost world
After discovering a discarded diary, writer Lily Koppel unlocked the life of a teenager growing up in New York in the 1930s – and tracked her down in the 21st century.

21 Jun 2012

ROW80: Annnnnd Time's Up!

This has actually come as a surprise to me because I was sure this round of ROW80 finished in July.  But it actually ends today.  Oops.  I started off with two goals:

 1) Finish the next round of editing for Beast Inside.  Aim for the end of May.

2) Complete JuNoWriMo. One month and a 50,000 word target. I managed NaNo so I'm confident that I can do it again.

I didn't finish the edits for Beast Inside.  I stopped when JuNoWriMo started so I could concentrate on that but I got quite a few chapters edited at least.  Better that than nothing at all.  And I'm currently at 34K at the mo .  All my chores are sorted out so I have more time to sit and write.  I hope to make the 50K for Sunday even though it won't be finished.  There's still plenty more to write.  Too much actually. 

This was my first time doing ROW80.  So will I make the next round? I think I might skip it.  I do love the challenge and keeping note of my progress but it has meant another day blogging and with JuNo and Camp NaNo in August, I don't want to blog for the majority of the week.  Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are enough for me I think with three days dedicated to a lot more writing.  And there's always so much to do on a Sunday that I have to quickly squeeze the tiny update in.  I'll leave it but I won't say no to it in the future.  If I feel like I need a good kicking and motivation I'll go for it but I'll leave out this round.

I'd like to thank Juliana for introducing me to it! It has been fantastic in goal keeping and if you have more time on your hands than I do I really recommend it.  Check out the website for more information.  And also, be sure to check out everyone's progress!

20 Jun 2012

RTW - Graduation or Adult Orientation?

(I'm probably quite early for posting this but I need to get a lot of writing done after work tonight.)

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
How did you spend/how will you spend the summer after graduation?

I graduated from university last summer in July.  Probably the biggest turning point of my life because with that graduation came adulthood.  There wasn't any more classes to attend.  There weren't any colleges to apply for.  This was it.  Jobs, bills, and responsibilities. 

The Englishhood.
I'd moved out of my family's home in 2009.  I was in rented accommodation but it didn't feel like I was really in my own place.  I still went back in the holidays and it was only temporary.  But this time there was a flat.  A permanent home that I'd painted, ordered new furniture for and was taking care off now.  It was going to be me, my boyfriend, and our cat.  Our own home together.


Some people spend the summer celebrating or getting everything ready for their Masters degree.  Some travelled.  A lot of my friends were lucky because they were off home to live with their parents or had more studying to do.  So they could afford to celebrate and go on holiday or not worry about finding a graduate job. 

That summer I just had worries and an insight into real life. 

Jobs are difficult to get right now in the UK.  There were no graduate jobs when I left and if there were they wanted more specific degrees.  English was actually not a desired degree.  It was too flexible.  I couldn't get jobs in bars and shops because I was over qualified and they knew it wasn't where I wanted to be.  The degree put them off.  Peter (the bf) and I were on job seekers allowance.  Sixty quid a week for the both of us to live off and people who had no idea how to help us because they had no experience dealing with graduates.  Something they actually confessed. 

I really grew up that summer.  Learnt that university wouldn't guarantee that I could walk into any job.  And I find that teachers and adults poorly prepare us for that.  Quite a lot of my friends from university still don't have a job and it's been almost a year since we graduated.  Some have only just got the job they wanted.  I've learnt to deal with other responsibilities.  Bills, sorting out direct debits, getting appointments made, remembering those appointments etc.  I've experienced living with little cash.  I run the home, keeping it tidy and clean.  I invite family over for tea and cook for them now.

I see some of my friends now who either live with their families and did so during university, whose parents have bought them a car, who are going on for a Masters and aren't worrying about careers just yet and they don't seem to understand the value of money, responsibilities, and living on their own.  In the past I've been unable to go out or travel down to London to see everyone again.  I simply didn't have the cash or the car to do so and sometimes I haven't been quite sure that they've understood that. 

I spent the summer after graduation becoming an adult and probably experiencing the best things I could ever go through.  I was shoved straight into real life and it was tough at first but I got through it. I'm working, Pete is working, and slowly things that I thought we could never afford (like driving lessons and a holiday) could possibly come into our life now. 

I think these lessons could also help me when writing and when the time comes to query.  It took me three months to get a job and it could take even longer to get published.  If I can keep going for one experience I can certainly keep going for this one.  I think in the end we all get what we desire.  Sometimes it just takes a bit longer with a few struggles and obstacles on the way.

Now... I shall stop talking like a wise grown up and go watch some Demon Headmaster while I write about teenagers going through a dark phase in their witchy lives. =P

19 Jun 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: Summer's TBR

This week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish which I really recommend if you're looking for some good new books to add to your TBR.  The questions are normally book related and I always come away with more books for my TBR pile.  People just make them sound so good!  So today the question is:
Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

Robin Hood.

The Legend Begins Anew.

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Stephen R. Lawhead's latest work conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare yourself for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.

The undead can really screw up your senior year ...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

They'll chase you. They'll rip you open. They'll feed on you...When the sickness came, every parent, policeman, politician - every adult - fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they're fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city - down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground - the grown-ups lie in wait. But can they make it there - alive?

It's 1996 and very few high school students have ever used the internet. Facebook will not be invented until several years in the future. Emma just got a computer and an America Online CD. She and her best friend Josh power it up and log on - and discover themselves on Facebook in 2011. Everybody wonders what they'll be like fifteen years in the future. Josh and Emma are about to find out.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I'm pushing aside the memory of my nightmare,
pushing aside thoughts of Alex,
pushing aside thoughts of Hana and my old school,
like Raven taught me to do.
The old life is dead.
But the old Lena is dead too.
I buried her.
I left her beyond a fence,
behind a wall of smoke and flame.

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that enter-ing the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. 

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City -- whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Times bestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.

Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.

And they're my Top Ten books for this summer. :) Anything you think I should add? Has anyone read any of these books?

Add your Top Tens here!

18 Jun 2012

Review: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

It's hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin.

When they're united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town.

Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin's unique beauty hides a girl who's troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

Definitely could relate to the good girl in total awe of the wild, confident one.  People like Mandarin and the girls I knew were the idols for shy girls like me and I could relate.  It's an easy thing for a timid girl to be obsessed with or idolise so the whole concept is realistic.  It doesn't matter what a super star you are at school and how good you behave.  Sometime when you see that wildness in someone else who doesn't seem to care or worry, you envy it.  And that envy turns to something that you want as well. 

The voice was always Grace's and not once did the author seem to poke through to speak instead of their MC.  In previous books I've read the narration can sometimes sound a little too formal for me and I can never find the character's personality anywhere but Like Mandarin had a strong voice.  Grace wasn't a passive character and she moved the story.  She developed but didn't develop into a whole different character.  Grace isn't the type of character who goes off the rails and gets into serious trouble.  She takes Mandarin's wildness and uses to it start gaining some confidence and taste the freedom that she wants so overall she can make the ultimate decision: stay or go? While Grace comes out of her shell, she learns to be confident in her own ideas and views.  She's not afraid to live but she learns to not be afraid to speak up for things she doesn't want.

I did wonder if this book would be the good girl turns bad until she comes to her senses and ditches the bad girl.  I had a huge big fight in my head at the end with Mandarin really flipping out.  The book surprised me.  In a positive way actually with a sort of bittersweet ending for both of the girls and you do wonder if it really is the ending.  What else could happen between them? Mandarin isn't completely out of Grace's life and you also wonder about Mandarin.  What's the next step in her journey? If the narration wasn't first person I would have loved to get into Mandarin's head.  The world and society around her have affected her and she's not just a bad girl who mouths off.  She's angry and observant of the society around her and she doesn't like it.  She has something to say about it.

Overall, a fantastic read.  I devoured it quickly and can't wait to get stuck into Wanderlove. I do think the mother was probably the reason for four stars, seeing her as OTT at times but that's just a minor thing that I wasn't a fan off.  I'd still reread this book and read more from the author.

17 Jun 2012

Row80 Check-in 17/06/2012

Word count target for this week: 30,000

Word count: 30,101

It's been slow writing and I think I kinda know why.  I'm 30K in and I'm still developing things.  I have one of those WiPs that doesn't seem to have an ending anywhere in the near future.  I know what will need to be scrapped in the edits. 

I'm finally starting to get to the middle now.  I'll now have more focus on the witchy aspects, moving away from the teenage issues, and get the party started.  Finally. 

And maybe, I'll come to the ending? If it has one...

I want to reach 50,000 next week.  Because this draft sure as hell isn't going to be 50K and I'll need the extra week to properly finish it off.  And I'll need to tighten the plot up too otherwise I definitely won't finish it for JuNoWriMo.  I don't want to just reach 50,000 and be done with it.  I want to go all to the way to end.

How's everyone else doing with their projects? Add your progress here!

16 Jun 2012

News to Novels #21

This week I've been searching aliens, UFOs, and government conspiracies, all for the sci-fi writers out there.  It all started after reading this article and I had to find more:

Missile or UFO? Thousands of people in Jordan and Israel witness spinning 'Catherine Wheel' in the sky
Thousands of people in Israel, Turkey and Jordan got the shock of their lives yesterday, as they watched a spinning 'UFO' performing cartwheels in the sky.  Police in these countries - as well as in Cyprus and Lebanon - were flooded with phone calls by panicked residents, as the white, gleaming light danced high up in the atmosphere.  Theories abounded over what this could be - a failing missile test, a satellite breaking up in our atmosphere, or a visit from an alien spacecraft.

Was all alien life sucked into a black hole after 'white dwarf hypernova' star explosion... and could it wipe us out too?
The lack of evidence proving the existence of aliens is known to scientists as the ‘Great Silence’.  They have long been baffled how- despite years of searching – there has been no confirmation of life beyond our planet.  But now some astronomers believe the answer may lie in the destructive force of exploding stars – and claim ET may simply have been wiped out.

Are we looking in the wrong place for ET? Scientists suggest 'footprints' on moon could be best place to look for alien life
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence - SETI - project looks for alien life in a one, main specific way - scanning for radio signals deliberately beamed towards earth from distant stars.  But two astronomers suggest that we may be missing evidence much closer to home.  Two scientists at Arizona State University have suggested that alien life may have 'left traces on the moon in the form of an artifact or surface modification of lunar features' - and that alien 'footprints' on the moon would last far longer than radio signals.

Astronomer discovers 18 giant alien planets the size of Jupiter orbiting massive dying stars outside our own solar system
A patient astronomer has discovered 18 massive new alien planets orbiting dying giant stars outside our solar system. It is a finding that could help scientists better understand the origins of our own sun and the planets that orbit it.  This is the second-largest batch of such planets ever found -- and increases the number of known alien bodies orbiting massive stars by 50 percent.  California Institute of Technology Professor John Johnson and his team of astronomers spent nearly 10 years staring at 300 solar systems, searching for a tell-tale wobble caused by the gravitational pull from planets.

Stunned onlookers watch as mysterious orange UFOs swoop across Britain's skies
Darting silently in formation, the mysterious glowing orbs light up the night sky.  Some say these orange lights even weave in between each other with the precision of a synchronised flying team from some far corner of the universe.  Clusters of more than 100 have been spotted across Britain and even Holland, leaving onlookers with an eerie sense that, for all the mystifying beauty of the strange objects, they may have just witnessed an armada of invading UFOs.

13 Jun 2012

Road Trip Wednesday - A Writer Away

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere, where would you go & who would you bring?

I answered something this back in January, choosing lakeside lodges.  Let's call them my affordable writer's retreat.  Something that I'd be most likely to go on due to money and travel.  But I'm going to dream big for this post.  I've searched around the internet for gorgeous locations abroad and picked my five favourite places.  So if millions ever come my way, I'm packing my bags and heading off to any one of these countries:
It looks absolutely stunning.  I love the little balconies.  They'd be perfect for those warm nights, writing away under the stars and surrounded by tranquility.  There are hills all around which again would be perfect because I could never write in a busy city.  I'd want to explore the shops and sights. 
This one is a one bedroom villa, private swimming pool, market and restaurants are about 10-15 minutes walk and the place and has connections with the mythology of Jason and the Argonauts.  Awesome! And beautiful.  I think Greece has to be next on my list of places to visit after Italy. 

I fell in love with Santorini since watching The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.  The buildings and architecture are fantastic and everything looks so clean and bright with so much history. 

4) Gite Ty Ker Breiz 2, Callac, Brittany
Callac is a market town and these pictures remind of a lot of the market towns and village suburbs around Yorkshire which would also make me feel right at home. 

I've always been interested in visiting German towns and villages.  They look so historic and this particular villa looks amazing.  Lovely inside. :) So wouldn't mind waking up in this house

And they're my five top getaway locations.  I think the boyfriend and I should start saving now..

12 Jun 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: Beach Reads

Today's top ten Tuesdays wants to know our beach read recommendations.  If I'm on a beach I'd personally go for fun reads that I can just get hooked on, turning the pages as I soak up the sun and relax in the warmth.

So my top ten books would be:

1) The Duff by Kody Keplinger
2) Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard
3) Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
4) Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell
5) The Forbidden Game Trilogy by L J Smith
6) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
7) The Princess Bride by William Goldman
8) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
9) The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares
10) Fear Street collectors's edition #6: Summer Horror by RL Stine

The reason I've chosen these books are because they were all very quick, easy reads for me.  I just disappeared straight into their worlds, flicking the pages until I reached the end and was abruptly brought back into reality.  I've also added in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight because even though I wasn't a fan of it, I do think it would be perfect for anyone who wants to relax with a nice, simple YA romance novel.  It's another easy read, perfect for those hot sunny days when you don't really want to dive into a long novel with a thousand and one sub-plots, tons and tons of characters, and mysteries to solve.  And for those who want a little bit of a scary summer, RL Stine's Summer Horror collection from his Fear Street series is perfect for those quiet, hot nights.

I wanted to cheat and add in Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard but I haven't got round to reading it yet.  I'm basing it entirely on the blurb which sounds like it would be perfect to read during the summer.  It's what I'm actually saving it for.  Once summer and the holidays get here I'm diving into the book to really get the feel of the adventure.

Anything you'd recommend? :) Have a look at everyone else's suggestions here.

11 Jun 2012

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Sparks are igniting, flames are spreading and the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol-- a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fuelled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel of the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before... and surprising readers at every turn.

I thought this was a gripping sequel.  It took off just after the events of The Hunger Games and showed us new aspects of the Capitol's obsession with the games.  The feasts, the tours, and interviews.  It's still the sick celebration we came to know in the first book.  Collins has continued to show a disturbed and brutal society who just don't understand what the effects are for the winners and the families of those who died.  Well, don't understand or don't want to.  Either way, the Capitol continue to shock me with their attitude and celebration of these games. 

It was nice to see Katniss finally letting her rebellious side out.  She was coming across as quite passive, letting others rebel against the capitol but I guess that was understandable.  She's only 16 and everyone she loves could be killed by President Snow if she continues.  She's only a young girl in the end.  But I was still pleased to see her turn around and go 'screw it'.  She tried her hardest to make it look like she's not causing a revolution but it still didn't make President Snow decide to spare her and her loved ones.  She realised that he had already decided the fate of her and her loved ones so it was time to give up pleasing him and fight back.  I like it when she takes on some authority and decides how she will act herself.  Sometimes I find Katniss being used by others too much and going along with what they say so it was nice to see some decision making from her.

What I could do without is the love triangle.  I'm just really tired of them in general and I think I would have liked to have seen Katniss, Peeta, and Gale develop as good, close friends who start working together to start a revolution.  The whole 'starcrossed lovers' idea just seems like a way to get Peeta and Katniss together in the first place and the continuation of this pretence just went OTT when it came to the new Hunger Games.  Katniss really is just jumping from one boy to the next and then changing her mind again.  It's just not working for me.

The scenes where Gale, Peeta, Haymitch, and Katniss start training together.  I loved that and I want to see more of that overall.  I think what those four need right now is to be a team together because all I see are characters at each other's throats.  A rebellion is no use when the protesting team can't even get on with one another.  I also kept imaging their training scenes to be like this which made it all the more awesome in my head.  Maybe I can petition for that song to be in the film?

I liked seeing a new arena and the dangers that lurked there.  I think this arena was more terrifying and threatening than the one in the first book.  This time around there was constant danger, not just from the contestants.  As for deaths - again, just as tragic.  We start to see President Snow hitting Katniss where it hurts as he starts targeting the people close to her.  A truly sad scene and I know I'm going to be tearing up in the cinema when I go to watch it.  As for the games, it was awful reading about young teenagers get killed but in this one it's just as bad.  This time around these are tributes who have families.  Who have young children waiting for their parents to come home but instead watch them die on live television.  Elderly tributes who you know have no chance but enter the games to give the other past winners from their a district a chance to live. 

I'm looking forward to seeing where the rebellion leads in the final book.

10 Jun 2012

ROW80 Check In 10/06/2012

Another week, another check in for ROW80.  Last week I wanted to reach 20K of my draft by today.

Word count: 20,210

After reaching 20K earlier in the week, I've slowed down since then.  I think I burned myself out a little, trying to get as much writing done as possible that first few days and needed the little breaks once in a while.  I thought I could maybe get away with them if I've already written up to 20K.  And I also wanted to take the time to get a few holiday chores done before work starts again and the chaos of the last term begins. 

I'm happy where things are leading in this draft.  I like it a whole lot more than the first draft for Beast Inside which I thought was absolutely horrendous when I finished.  I like the characters, I know them better than I did when I first started planning the novel at the beginning of university, and I know what their sub-plots are and how they'll develop with them. 

The sub-plots also have lead to a few surprise turns that I think works well for each character's development and stories.  I'm actually pairing up a couple of characters which fits well into what they're experiencing at school.  I normally avoid romance if I'm writing anything with supernatural elements because I always think it'll just get in the way for the characters but this time I'm making an exception.  It works, it doesn't steer away from the plot, and it'll give whole new sides to the characters. 

Next week's target: 30,000

Don't forget to check out how everyone else is doing.  Just click here to read everyone's progress!

9 Jun 2012

News to Novels #20

Today's trip to the York Dungeon had me curious about other horrible histories of England.  I've been searching the internet and digging into the past on any creepy characters and terrifying tales that could make for an interesting novel.

She poisoned 21 people including her own mother, children and husbands. So why has no-one heard of Britain's FIRST serial killer, Mary Ann Cotton?
I pull up outside a house in the Durham mining village of West Auckland to find an anonymous-looking place: a slim, three-storey family home distinguished from its neighbours only by its pretty, blue-grey paint. There are no clues as to its gruesome past. Even its original house number has been changed, perhaps from fear that the evil that was perpetrated here could pass down through successive generations of residents. This is the home in which Britain’s first serial killer, Mary Ann Cotton, claimed her final victim. It is the house in which she was arrested and then taken away to be incarcerated, before eventually being executed at Durham Jail in March 1873.

Lady Highwaymen
Two women of the road who used the reverse disguise, dressing as men, were Mary Frith and Lady Caroline Ferrers.

Jonathan Wild
Jonathan Wild was a London magistrate and the most renowned thief taker in the land. He had a system though, and a thoroughly corrupt one too. Wild controlled an enormous syndicate of organised thieves. Those which had returned from the colonies for prior crimes were in a difficult position, work-wise. Jonathan Wild would recruit them and once they'd dabbled in criminal activity, he had them over a barrel. As former convicts they would be unable to give evidence against him in court, leaving him free to openly blackmail them. His protection racket operated under the legitimate umbrella of his social standing in the community - the upright citizen, the businessman, the magistrate. Wild attempted to become a freeman of the City of London (but failed) and was often seen patrolling the streets carrying a short silver staff as a badge of authority.

Thomas Neill Cream
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Thomas Neill Cream emigrated to Canada when he was four years old. Moving to America, he qualified as a doctor. In 1881 he was jailed for life in Chicago after having been convicted of killing Daniel Stott, his mistress’s husband, with strychnine. Stott’s gravestone inscription reads, “Daniel Stott Died June 12, 1881 Aged 61 Years Poisoned By His Wife & Cream”.

6 Jun 2012

RTW - Best Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic:
Best Book You Read in May

It's hard to choose because I read quite a few wonderful books last month.  I finished reading Stardust in the beginning of May but that was a disappointment.  And I got through Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins), Like Mandarin (Kirsten Hubbard), Divergent and the sequel Insurgent (Veronica Roth).

While I thought the sequel was fantastic and action packed I'm going to have to go with Divergent.  It was the first glimpse into this dystopian Chicago and Tris' development in this was better than in Insurgent.  I loved seeing this uncomfortable, reserved Abnegation girl just let herself go and strive to be the Dauntless she wants to be.  It's such a difference seeing her in her old faction to her new one and I loved that.  Her character felt free and we could finally get a glimpse into her real personality, something she was keeping back before the choosing ceremony and a little at the beginning of her Dauntless training.

I loved the developing relationship between Four and Tris.  It was gradual and they saw each other as equal.  Four believed in her and Tris admired him. 

And Peter... god, I wanted to punch him in the face.  He was a dangerous villain.  Perfect.  Not someone who can talk the talk but can't walk the walk.  If he wanted something he was going to get it.  Roth made me absolutely loathe this antagonist and I was desperate to see him get what he deserves.

A fantastic read.

Join in with us on RTW at YA Highway!