Posted by: Natalie Hatch | July 15, 2012

Winters Light by MJ Hearle

I have tried to find this book around town and finally got hold of a copy. I loved the first book Winters Shadow, and wasn’t disappointed with the next part of the saga. Though I would have liked the book to keep going, there are still answers I need and Michael hasn’t finished the story yet. But that’s okay, I’ll just have to wait for the next book. Oh and the cover doesn’t disappoint does it? How does MJ get such great covers?

So Winter is about to graduate, Blake is still gone, her heart’s broken. Life’s trying to go back to normal after the whirlwind  that was Winter’s Shadow, but Winter can’t seem to get herself back to normal. How can she, knowing that Blake is enduring endless pain, etc etc and she can’t save him from it?  When two Demories show up at her high school graduation and ttack her Winter’s thrown straight back into the dire world the Blake tried to protect her from.

I can’t give more information without spoilers, however I can tell you that I did get sucked back into Winter’s world, I found myself even understanding Sam and though I didn’t like him in the first book I did warm to him in this part of the tale. I found the twists and turns of Light to be good, they kept me hooked, however it took a bit to get back into this story, once I did I was glad I stuck around.

Can’t wait for the next one coming out next year.

 

Posted by: Natalie Hatch | January 2, 2012

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby

Who here has not at one time or other snuck a peak at those trashy, awful gossip magazine just to get a glimpse of some hotter than hot star? I’m guilty, guilty, guilty. It’s not that I’m addicted to gossipy magazines for their glitz and glamour shots of stars in the latest outfits. No, no, no! I read them for the articles I assure you! It has nothing to do with that sneaky little feeling of pleasure I get from knowing what such and such looks like without makeup, and how what’s her name has now developed cellulite… nope, not me. I’m above all of those things.

But, if for pure research I do every now and again snatch the latest mag from the grocery counter and search quickly for those tabloid centrefolds of the latest celebrity in compromising positions/outfits/dancing/pimples/dimples/cellulite, then well it’s research. Pure and simple, research.

Allison Rushby’s latest novel “Shooting Stars” is set in Hollywood, featuring life from the other side of the camera. Paparrazzi get such a bad rap all over the world, but what do you think it’s like to be one. To be on the other side of the lens and have to stalk the ‘rich and beautiful’ in order to make your way in the world?

Shooting Stars gives you a glimpse into that world, and the magazine addict in me was more than satisfied at the end of the book. Of course there’s a hint of romance in here, you can’t have glitz and glamour without romance, but this book is much more than that.

Jo’s the youngest paparrazzi (zo) on the block, who can get into places other “zo’s” can’t. She’s trying to save up to send herself through photography school, to be a real photographer and not just some ‘hack’ zo who stalks the restaurants and gyms of L.A. in search of a quick shot at stars. And all she needs is that ‘one’ shot, the shot that will make her career, get her the money she needs and she’s done with the life of hiding behind garbage cans, etc. It just so happens that Ned Hartnett (super-hot-megastar-babe-magnet) would be the shot she needs. Unfortunately he’s gone into hiding, and Jo’s offered the best chance any paparrazzi could get, an all exclusive ticket to the ‘health retreat’ (insert rehab clinic) where he’ll be staying. All she has to do is pass herself off as another trouble teen, win Ned’s trust and get the shot. Sounds simple? What could go wrong?

Shooting Stars is published by Walker & Co. There are no paranormal elements here, just pure, unadulterated gossipy goodness. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, totally different from the things I’ve been reading lately, but I couldn’t help get caught up in Jo’s world and seeing if she’d follow through with her desire to just get the shot. It’s coming out in Feb.2012, so keep your eyes peeled.

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | November 6, 2011

Shades of London: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a morbid fascination with Jack the Ripper. I’ve seen more movies and read more books on him than I can count. I’ve even done a Jack the Ripper tour in London, twice! Maybe fascination is an understatement …

Anyway, you can imagine my excitement when I came across Maureen Johnson’s new novel, The Name of the Star, as I traipsed through my favourite independent bookstore. *inserting shameless plug for http://www.blackcatbooks.com.au/ here*

The Name of the Star, if you haven’t already worked out from my earlier ramblings, focuses on a series of copycat Ripper murders. Caught in the middle is fresh off the plane, Louisiana teen Rory Deveaux; who’s arrived in London to start her year as an exchange student at Wexford. Wexford – which just happens to be located in Whitechapel –  is right in the heart of Ripper territory, and soon everyone known to Rory is consumed by Rippermania. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Rory is the only witness to the new Ripper, even though her friend Jazza was right there with her. Now she’s being tracked by the Shades of London, London’s new secret ghost police, and being taunted by the Ripper. Can she – and the Shades – stop him before she becomes his next victim?

The best way I can describe this book is ‘deliciously creepy’. I’m not usually into thrillers, and I especially avoid anything ghost related, but I loved this book. It’s unique, it’s enthralling, it’s edge of the seat, keep the pages turning, scare the pants off you thrilling!

Oh, and there’s humour too; especially as we watch Rory adapt to life in London, which is very different from her small town life back home in Louisiana. My favourite line? ‘Welsh is an actual, currently used language … It sounds like Wizard.’ In fact, Rory’s so entertaining and such a wonderful character, that we happily follow her on her naive journey into London’s spooky underworld, no questions asked. And if you’re looking for romance, well there’s some of that too. His name is Jerome, and you’ll get to read all about him in the book.

So, if you’re into YA thrillers with a historical twist and more than a hint of supernatural, this is your book!

For more information, you can visit the author’s webpage at http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/books/the-name-of-the-star/ 

Happy reading! :)

.

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | November 2, 2011

All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield

RULE NUMBER ONE: I will not turn out like my mother.

Mim wants to be anywhere but home – in a dead suburb and with a mother who won’t get off the couch. She’s set herself rules to live by, but she’s starting to break them. In nine days she’ll turn seventeen. What she doesn’t know is that her life is about to change forever. And when it does, the same things will look entirely different.

As an avid reader of YA fiction, I have two words to sum up this book – AMAZING & ENTHRALLING!

This book is so well written that I was pulled into Mim’s life on the first page and instantly felt like I belonged there. The author has an amazing YA voice that resonates with the reader and her characterisation is so strong that the characters stay with you long after the story is finished.

You can’t help but feel for Mim – with her unfortunate circumstances and determination to be more than what she is. After all, a good girl who goes a little bad to help the family drug business – even though she’s spent a lifetime trying to stay out of it – is definitely fodder for a disaster waiting to happen. Add in the crush of her life – Jordan Mullen – to complicate matters and you’ll soon see why I love this book so much.

But despite all Mim’s mistakes and heartbreak, you feel her pain and cheer her on – desperately hoping she’ll succeed and break free of the world, and the people she so despises.

All I Ever Wanted is a thrilling and heartbreaking, coming of age novel that is so real, it’ll grip you from the start and stay with you for a lifetime. And if you want my final opinon (which is kind of the point of this whole thing), you must all go out and find yourselves a copy to read immediately.

For more information visit Text Publishing: http://textpublishing.com.au/books-and-authors/book/all-i-ever-wanted/ or the author’s webpage: http://vikkiwakefield.com/

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | October 15, 2011

Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby

Okay, finally – amongst the madness of reality – I’ve finished reading Fairy Bad Day by Amanda Ashby. And like all Amanda Ashby books, it’s awesome!

This is just a little sneak peek of what’s waiting for you in the pages … Emma – a student of Burtonwood Academy – has her heart set on following in her mother’s footsteps and being a famous dragon slayer. Unfortunately, destiny – or rather the Principal of Burtonwood and her far-too-cute nemesis Curtis – have other plans and she’s given the humiliating designation of fairy slayer.

Convinced they’ve made a mistake – seriously, who slays fairies! - Emma sets out to prove everyone wrong and change her designation before it’s made official on induction day. With only weeks to go, Emma’s determined to show she’s the true dragon slayer of Burtonwood – and if it means taking Curtis out to achieve it, well so be it.

That is until a darkhel, the most evil of all fairies, sets its sights on the pure one – whose blood will strengthen its power and make it invincible - and Emma’s the only one who can stop it. And what happens when you come face to face with a killer fairy? Well, it’s set to be a Fairy Bad Day!

Once again, Amanda’s humour and quirky creativity sets the scene for an entertaining YA novel that keeps you turning the pages. The characters are realistic, likeable and have enough inner conflict and turmoil to draw you into their story and keep you enthralled until the very last page.

But, what I love the most about Amanda’s books are her ideas and they way she adapts traditionally ‘scary’ ideas (um, zombies and slayers anyone?) and turns them into humourous YA novels that could really be about any teenager in the western world.

Sure, we’re not all zombie queens and fairy slayers but it’s the ‘real’ issues; relationships, family dramas, friends, loyalty, conflict with teachers etc., that make her books so entertaining. When you’re reading them, you really want the characters – despite all of their flaws – to triumph.

And you’ll never, ever think of skittles the same way again. Want to know why? Well – go, buy and read Fairy Bad Day! Go on, you’ll love it! :)

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | October 11, 2011

Announcing the winner of the Amanda Ashby giveaway …

A decision has been made on the winner of the Amanda Ashby book giveaway and it’s … Sonia! Comment number 4. Sonia, we’ll be in touch very soon to discuss your prize! Congratulations! And thanks to all who entered. Keep checking back here at WLYA for more reviews on the best YA books. :)

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | September 26, 2011

Extra special Amanda Ashby book giveaway for WLYA readers …

In addition to her interview on We Love YA, Amanda Ashby is giving one very special We Love YA reader the chance to win a copy of either Zombie Queen of Newbury High or Fairy Bad Day.

That’s right, the lucky winner will be able to choose which book they prefer, and she’ll even sign it for you! (NB: The signed copy is only available to residents within Australia. If you’re from overseas, you’re still welcome to enter – your book will come via the Book Depository.)

How do you enter? Well, it’s simple. Answer the following question by commenting below on the WLYA blog and Amanda will judge the best response. If your response is the lucky one chosen, then the book is all yours!

Amanda Ashby’s question is: Since I seemed to mention television quite a lot in my interview, I’d love to hear what your favourite tv shows are and why you love them so much.

Entries close at midnight on the 3rd October 2011, so get writing! And feel free to share this competition with anyone who loves YA books.

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | September 26, 2011

Introducing Amanda Ashby …

WLYA: Amanda, thank you so much for joining us here at We Love YA. Tell us about your inspiration for your books.

 AA: Sometimes I find it hard to pinpoint where my books actually come from though in the case of Zombie Queen of Newbury High, I wrote that because at the time there were so many vampire books out there and I was looking for something different. I decided on zombies purely because they make me laugh and so I sat down with my husband and began to brainstorm. I got the title first and then I just kind of played with it until I had a plot! Fairy Bad Day was actually quite similar—the title came first and then I had to figure out all the nitty-gritty!

For my upcoming junior fiction series, Sophie’s Mixed-Up, they were definitely inspired by my love of old TV shows like The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Bewitched! I’ve actually discovered that I have a secret addiction to invisible friends and I find the idea of having someone invisible standing in the room highly addictive. Hopefully I will get it out of my system soon but it does seem to be a theme that is following me around!

WLYA: What were you like as a teenager? Do your characters reflect this?

AA: I was quite sporty and was convinced that I was going to marry Simon LeBon from Duran Duran. I also loved television and reading and distinctly remember feeling very invisible, to the point where I would say something and no one would laugh and then someone else would repeat what I’d just said and everyone would be rolling around on the ground in hysterics. It was pretty horrible at the time but of course feeling alienated and invisible as a teenager is fodder for the writer in me!!! As for whether my characters reflect this, I think they do to a certain degree, but of course the joys of being a writer is that I can make my characters a lot braver than I could ever be!!!

WLYA: If you could go back in time and give your teenage self one piece of advice, what would it be?

AA: I would probably say, ‘Sweetie, I know you think that those white court shoes are nice but they’re not!!!’ Though, comedy aside, I would probably tell myself that everyone feels as invisible and alienated as I did!

WLYA: What is your writing life like?  

AA: Messy! I long to be a neat writer who has charts and Post-it notes carefully placed around my desk but unfortunately I tend to work in chaos. I re-write scenes over and over again and I change my mind on things at every single turn so because of that I often walk around half-dazed, or slightly annoyed! In fact my husband is so sick of me coming up for air and saying ‘I’ve got it, I’ve finally got it’ only to repeat it the following day that he no longer bothers to ask what it is I’ve got it, or why I didn’t already have it!

I’ve also got two children in primary school and turns out that their friends have been telling them that normal mothers don’t feed their kids backed beans and fish fingers every night of the week, so I have to pull myself out of the writer’s fog to hang out with them as well!!!

WLYA: What exciting things are coming up for you?

AA: I’ve got four books due out in the next eighteen months so it’s going to be a pretty exciting time for me!  My junior fiction series is called Sophie’s Mixed-Up Magic and is about a girl who gets turned into a djinn the day before she starts sixth grade. All three books are coming out quite close together, which is very exciting! I’ve also go a slightly darker YA called Demonosity, which will hopefully be out at the beginning of 2013. This is about a girl who has to guard an ancient alchemist treasure from two demon knights. One of them is good, one of them is bad but problem is that she has no idea, which is which. Out of all the books that I’ve written, Demonosity is definitely my favourite, so I’m extra excited about its release!!!

WLYA: What is the best advice you would give a budding YA writer?

AA: Find your voice! Right now YA is a really hot market and it seems like every man and his dog is writing them (which is fine by me because I love reading them). However, the only way you’re going to stand out in a crowded market is to really understand what kind of writer you are and what kind of stories you really want to tell. So don’t try and mimic anyone else or write about vampires/zombies/angels/dystopian-disasters just because that’s what you see in the stores. Write about the story that really reflects you as a person or a writer and it will go a long way to helping you fulfil your writing dreams!

WLYA: A lot of authors recommend joining a writers’ group as a way to improve your craft. What’s your opinion on this?

AA: There are many ways to improve your craft and I think it’s really up to an individual what works best for them. I went to a writing group once many moons ago and as soon as someone stood up and started to read a poem, I knew it wasn’t for me. Also, no one in that group was chasing publication in a serious way and even though I was a complete newbie, I always knew that I wanted to write books and that I wanted those books to be published. So I guess if you’re going to join a group, then find out a bit about them. Do their goals/skills align with what you’re looking for? After all, what’s the point of getting feedback on your junior fiction tractorbot book when everyone in your group is writing haiku?

 However, don’t despair because there are many great resources out there. Writing courses, online workshops, conferences, how-to books, joining writing associations, finding critique partners, entering competitions, submitting your work to agents/editors are some of the many ways you can become a better writer so don’t be afraid to search things out and find out what suits you best! Oh and for the record I’m totally thinking that tractorbots could be the new Harry Potter!

WLYA: What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?

AA: Well, it gives me a lot more time to stuff around on the Internet, which is obviously very important!!!! But seriously, for me it’s a dream come true. After I finished school I never had any career goals at all and so I went to University and did journalism and English in the hope I would figure it out, but nope, still nothing! And it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that I decided to write a book. After that I was hooked and since then this is the only thing that I’ve ever felt driven to do, so the idea that I’m allowed to is just wonderful. Plus, it makes reading books a tax deduction! Woot!

WLYA: How often do you get to connect with your YA audience?

AA: I don’t do much face-to-face stuff but I do spend more than my fair share of time on places like Twitter and Facebook so I do get to chat to readers that way (and by chat I mean compare notes on why Spice Girls are still the best band ever!!!!)

WLYA: What are you reading at the moment?  

AA: I’m reading The Lab by Jack Heath! After hearing him speak recently I felt compelled to go and grab his first book and I’m totally hooked!!! I’ve also just finished Eona by Alison Goodman, which is completely amazing. It’s the follow up to Eon and I think that any fans of The Hunger Games will love these books!

WLYA: What do you like to do in your spare time?

AA: When I’m not writing and running around after my two ridiculously energetic children I like to read and watch television. A lot of television!!!

When she’s not writing, watching lots of TV or chasing after her children, you can find Amanda at www.amandaashby.com. Make sure you drop by and visit sometime. :)

Posted by: Debbie Kahl | September 21, 2011

Zombie Queen of Newbury High by Amanda Ashby …

As those of you who follow me on Twitter would know, I recently volunteered at the fabulous CYA Conference here in Brisbane (www.cyaconference.com) – and was lucky enough to spend the weekend with an amazing group of Children and Young Adult authors.

One such author is the wonderful Amanda Ashby who (I must admit) I knew nothing about prior to the conference. Well okay, I had seen her latest novel Fairy Bad Day in Kmart and was quite smitten with the cover but, as fairy slayers aren’t usually my thing, I left it on the shelf. Luckily for me, I met Amanda and sat in on her session at the conference – Why TV is a writer’s best friend – and have been hooked on her humour ever since. So much so, that I bought both her books – Zombie Queen of Newbury High and Fairy Bad Day – and (excuse the really bad and semi-intentional zombie pun) devoured them in one sitting.

In Zombie Queen of Newbury High we meet Mia – a quiet, unpopular, Buffy watching teen, who spends most of her time trying to impress Rob – the super hot football star she’s sort of dating. It’s so serious that he’s asked her asked her to be his prom date. And everything was great until Samantha – the cheerleading goddess and Miss Popularity – sets her sights on Rob and slowly destroys Mia’s plans for a perfect prom.

So, with prom only days away, a desperate Mia will do anything to keep Rob’s attention clearly focused on her – and with the help of her bestie Candice, she visits a ‘natural medicine’ store commonly frequented by the hypochondriac Candice and buys a love spell. Unfortunately, Mia has no idea that the ‘love spell’ she releases during the senior assembly is really an ancient zombie curse.

Enter Chase, the quiet, new guy at school with a HUGE secret, who calmly informs her that instead of infecting Rob with love, she’s infected the entire senior class and faculty with a four stage Zombie virus, which should reach its climax at prom. Oh, and she’s now their queen. Which, as appealing as that is for every little girl inside us who’s dreamed of being a princess, really means that you’re just the first course on their new human flesh menu.

Together Mia and Chase have to work together as a team to prevent the outbreak of the zombie curse at Newbury High, while Mia has to avoid smelling like chicken to all those with the curse, as they try to fatten her up with random gifts of food.

Zombie Queen is a truly entertaining YA book that keeps you engrossed from the beginning to end. As you know, I only review and recommend books that I love. And I loved this book! The characters, the humour, and its originality are what will keep you turning the pages. Seriously, it’s like you walk into an American high school and become a part of this story.

Incidentally, when she’s not eating chocolate or slaying fairies, you can find Amanda at http://www.amandaashby.com/

Oh, just in case you want to know how Zombie Queen actually ends? Well I could tell you … but that’d spoil it. You’ll just have to go buy it and find out for yourself! :)

And make sure you don’t miss my interview with Amanda and the review of Fairy Bad Day, coming soon to We Love YA.

Posted by: Natalie Hatch | August 22, 2011

The Apothecary by Meloy Maile

A mysterious apothecary.

A magic book.

A missing scientist.

An impossible plan.  

It’s 1952 and the Scott family has moved unexpectedly from Los Angeles to London. Janie feels uncomfortable in her strange new school, until the local apothecary promises her a remedy for homesickness. But the real cure is meeting the apothecary’s son Benjamin, a curiously defiant boy who dreams of becoming a spy.  

Benjamin’s father is no ordinary apothecary, and when he’s kidnapped, Benjamin and Janie find themselves entrusted with his sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia. And it seems that Russian spies are intent on getting their hands on it. 

What secrets does the book contain? Who is the Chinese chemist Jin Lo? And can they trust a skinny pickpocket called Pip to help them?

Discovering transformative elixirs they never imagined could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous quest to save the apothecary and prevent an impending nuclear disaster.

 

Extract

I rose to the second-storey windows, and then the third. I looked down at myself and saw a smooth, round red-feathered stomach. I was a robin! But there seemed to be something wrong with my wings.

Benjamin and Pip circled overhead, calling out to me, and I fluttered clumsily towards them. I started to think about what I should do to get to where they were, but as soon as I started analysing all the necessary motions, I felt myself fall.

The ground came dizzyingly close, and the children below shouted, “Fly! Fly away!”

I heard a panicked call from the skylark. I willed myself to be near him, stopped thinking, and shot up into the air. The children cheered.

I had sometimes, before that day, had dreams about flying, but dreams had nothing on the real thing. We soared high over the streets of the East End, and the people looked tiny below. We could see where the bombs had fallen in the war, and where they had left buildings untouched. Pip wheeled and hovered and then dived with rocket speed towards the ground before soaring up again with a gleeful, birdlike laugh.

To start with it took me a chapter or two before I was pulled into this novel. I did love the way the author incorporated science into the fantastical world of the Apothecary. Janie took a bit to get used to, at first I didn’t quite like her but once you get into the story you understand her better and her story arc improves, until at the end you really feel for her and think that things might turn out really bad… but I won’t spoil the rest of the story, have a read you’ll understand what I’m talking about.  Janie’s world is turned upside down and she must decide who she can trust. The pace is fairly fast once you get into the story, the world building is great, you really get a feel for it. It’s available in September from Text Publishing (thanks to Steph and the crew for the early read). Meloy has several other novels and short story collections however this is her first Young Adult novel as such.

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