Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Special Post: Vortex by Julie Cross

So, like loads of other people, I absolutely loved Tempest by Julie Cross. Full of intrigue, action and suspense, sweet romance and double-crossing, Tempest  was one of my favourite reads of 2012. And to get everyone in the mood to run out and read the highly anticipated sequel, Vortex, I have a few little extras for you all! Oh yes, we are talking diary entries, playlists, deleted scenes...and the first chapter of Vortex itself!

Read and enjoy...and let me know what you think!

Also, be sure to check out My Kinda Book  for more behind the scenes content on all your favourite books :)

First Chapter of Vortex

Jackson's Diary Entry

Deleted Scene

Holly's Diary

Vortex Playlist

Check back soon for my review of Vortex.



Friday, 4 January 2013

Sick Lit or Simply Sick Reporting?

Like a lot of people, the article by the Daily Mail yesterday was brought to my attention. It was mentioned by an author I follow on Twitter and like the curious numpty that I am, couldn't help but track down said article and have a gander. And I almost wish I hadn't. Almost - because as much as I hated reading such utter stupidity, now I have an opportunity to speak out. 

I read a lot. I'm a book blogger, a writer, and have been an avid reader from a very early age. I've read classics. I've read YA. I've read crime. I've read historical. I've read romance and science fiction and war accounts and even a book by Snookie (loved it, but that's not the point). When it comes to books, I have a voracious appetite. And even though they weren't huge readers themselves, I owe a lot of that appetite to my parents. The rule was, if I could read it, I could have it. I enjoyed the usual kid stuff - Enid Blyton's The Barney Mysteries was one of my favourites, as were R.L. Stine books from the Goosebumps series. And by eleven I was reading Stephen King.

That will horrify some people. And yes, I suppose it is shocking. But I could read it. And I enjoyed it. And no, just to put some minds at rest, I did not turn out to be homicidal in my later years, nor did I walk around dressed as a clown pulling the arms off children.

So yes, I love books. That point has been made, I think. But I have never heard the genre 'sick-lit' until now. And even the term is sickening to me. 

According to the Daily Mail's article, publishers are desperately seeking the new trend for kids. It's no great secret that over that last five years or so, book sales have shot up remarkably. Books like Harry Potter and Twilight have given books back some of the press they so deserve, and most importantly, got kids reading again. New genres are coming out of the woodwork with YA having a new, trendy and sexy facelift. Dystopian are giving a cool edge to science fiction. For the first time, being a book geek is something to be loud and proud about. 

Vampires have been done to death (so not true - read The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda or Dinner With a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs for a fresh take on our loveable blood-suckers), werewolves are like, so passé  So what's next? Dying kids? Perfect. We'll rake the cash in with that one, mates. 

And I kid you not, that is the tone of said DM article. The DM are horrified and so concerned for our teens because of these naughty, naughty publishers. A few books targeted by this article were The Fault  In Our Stars by John Green, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Before I Die by Jenny Downham. And the problem the DM has with these books? They are glamorising death of kids for kids. 

I remember exactly how I felt when I read 13 Reasons Why and Before I Die. They both shocked me. They both affected me. They were both difficult to read. Why? Because they made me feel, which, if you have read any of my reviews, is something I treasure with books. If you can make me cry, get me angry, provoke a laugh or a smile, make me scared with your words? You're doing something seriously right. 

13 Reasons Why is a book about a girl who leaves behind thirteen cassette tapes explaining why she killed herself. According to the DM, "While the media stops short of reporting even the most basic facts of suicide for fear of encouraging copycat behaviour, publishers are commissioning entire works of fiction on the subject." This has lead to fears that by writing about suicide or self-harming, our teens and influential minds will be led astray and more likely to take a leisurely stroll down that path too. Do you know what Jay Asher has done by writing this book? He has given a voice to a subject that, while, taboo, is very real. 

As for Jenny Downham and Before I Die, she gives her protagonist the chance to seize life before it is taken from her - to experience what she wants and just live

I have read a lot of contemporary fiction lately, and do you know what I have noticed? More and more authors are getting braver. It wasn't so long ago that your book would have been burned for swearing or if your characters have premarital sex or heaven forbid have a sip of alcohol. But now the teens in these books are swearing. The F-Bomb drops, knickers come off and they get pissed. Why? It's what teenagers do. It's what I did (but we won't get into that...) and it's what they will continue to do. Granted, it's not all they do, and not all of them do it, but the point is they do do it. And anyone who says otherwise is just kidding themselves. 

Do you know what else they do? 

They die. 

They get awful illnesses. They kill themselves. They hurt themselves. 

Death, as they say, is just another part of life.

And yet we are supposed to pretend it doesn't happen in our books? Shame authors who have the bravery to write about it? 

Sadly I have not read The Fault in Our Stars, but a very good friend of mine and a fellow book addict has. This is what she had to say on the book:

"The Fault In Our Stars is a beautiful and moving novel about two teenagers who fall in love while they're both battling cancer. It's so honest and real but never strays into mawkishness. Yes it made me sob but it was healthy, cathartic sobbing and sometimes we need that, no matter what age we are. There is a lot of humour in the book too, it's really well balanced with the light-hearted moments and the devastating ones and that's what makes it so true to life. It's one of those novels that really makes you view the world a little differently and it makes you think about the legacy that you're leaving to the people around you."

Sounds a tad different to this, doesn't it? :

"Diagnosed with stage four thyroid cancer at the age of 13, Hazel spends most of her time tethered to an oxygen tank and is running out of hope.
When she is attracted to a fellow cancer sufferer, she has to weigh up if she has enough time to fall for him before she dies."

Which is what the DM had to say about the book. Doesn't even sound like they read it. 

And so this book that is described as beautiful and funny and honest and real is potentially damaging to our young people? 

What about The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas or The Book Thief? Both these books take place during Nazi Germany and both can be found in the children section in bookshops. I can honestly think of no worse time humanity has seen than the Second World War. Concentration camps saw just what humans are capable of doing to one another. So do I think that any book that even mentions Nazis or war or concentration camps should be pulled from our shelves and tossed on a bonfire? No. Because ignorance does not protect us. In fact it does the opposite. We need to talk about the hard stuff to be able to appreciate the good. And because it happens. It happens

Saving June by Heather Harrington was one of my absolute favourite books last year. This time it was about the people left behind and how they cope. But it was about suicide, so it must be bad, right?

And how about Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? That is one of the most powerful books ever written. Yes, it's about rape. But that's not all it's about. It's about gaining the strength to rebuild yourself and to trust the people around you again and to carry on. Ah, right. Rape. We're not supposed to talk about that either. Whoops.

To Kill a Mockingbird. I guarantee every single person has heard of it. It features a rape case and racism. Burn it.

Guess we should get rid of Romeo and Juliet whilst we're at it, eh? All that suicide. Messy business. Can't have people reading about that.

So publishers are trying to find their next goldmine. Because vampires are so overdone. 

Let me say something about those bloody vampires.

But before I do, let me say I did enjoy them, I still do enjoy them, and I will continue to read them. 

If we're about to point fingers about whose book is most damaging, get you're fecking finger away from the people honest enough to write the truth. In my opinion, not that it's really worth much, but if I was to look closely at the YA market I would say it was the ruddy vampires who are more damaging. The DM said they are clearly fantasy like it makes it okay. But how is it okay to make our teenagers believe that some of these boyfriend figures are what they should want and lust after? Many are controlling to the point of obsessive. And no, that is not an admirable character trait. One YA fantasy book even had the object of affection struggle to decide whether or not to kill the girl or kiss her. 

And everyone knows Fifty Shades of Grey started as Twilight fanfic. Just sayin'. 

Yes, authors have a responsibility when they write for children. And again, let me say, I do enjoy these 'fantasy' books. And no, I don't particularly think they are harmful to our young readers. But to say that a book about someone with cancer who has the audacity to want to live before they die is? Come on. Seriously. 

To be honest, I started this blog post enraged. Every time I thought of that article I felt sick to my stomach. Now I just feel sad. 

The article ends urging parents to check what the book their teen is reading is about. Which in a way is great - there's nothing better than a good book chat. But to censor your teen? Not cool. And as for this: 'Let's hope publishers do have young people's interests at heart - and they are not selling books by sensationalising children's suffering.'

Really? *scornful look*

I just hope parents who read the article don't start believing what is written, that these books have a potential damaging affect on those who read them. Books have an amazing ability to heal you, even the sad ones. 

Let me end this blog post by saying that all the pics are linked to their pages on Amazon. Where you can buy them. And love them. Bugger what the DM says. 


Thursday, 3 January 2013

Ending The Year With Books

To anyone who knows me, Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Not because of the cheer or the food or the presents or even the telly. But because of the books. At Christmas I get to go mad and stock pile all the books I've been desperate to get...boxes and boxes of them. 

This Christmas saw the same - me going mad, scouring the sales for hidden bargains and new words to devour. But this year, not one paperback was purchased. 
I've been a heavy Kindle user for over a year now, but mostly for convenience, not preference. I travel a lot for work and it's simply easier to carry one small device, than several large and heavy physical books. Not to mention for digital review books. 
But when my awesome husband got me the new Kindle Fire HD (and Amazon gift voucher) for Christmas, I seriously got my ebook on. 

 I honestly didn't think I would read so much on the Kindle Fire. I thought it would be too much like staring at a computer screen and get one of my fabulous headaches. Instead, I have found it to be great to read on. The screen isn't harsh on my eyes, it's super easy (probably too easy - damn you, Amazon) to access the Kindle store. Instead of the ads bothering me, which if I'm honest, they do unless it's a book one, I love seeing new recommendations...although how long this will be a good thing, I'm not sure. I'm not one for resisting book temptations...

It's a little sad, but the biggest appeal is that now my covers are in full blown colour. It's what I always missed with ebooks. When I'm reading a paperback, sometimes I need a breather. Just a second to process, or to savour what I've just read, maybe to put off something I don't want to happen. Usually I close the book, stare at the cover a bit then dive back in. I couldn't do that with ebooks...until now. Now when I turn on my beautiful new tablet my books are there in technicolour, waiting for me to slip back into their world. And I love it.

 So the theme this year seems to be Contemporary. And I'm loving it. As a die hard YA fan, I didn't think there would be a genre to tempt me away so fully, but Contemporary has gone and done it. But don't worry, YA, there will always be room in my heart (and Kindle) for both of you.

 Also, just how is it possible I've gone this long without Daemon? No seriously, how is it possible? Obsidian has been on my recommended page for as long as I can remember, and it was always a, yeah I'll get it eventually, book. Cor blimey...I don't think five seconds had gone by at the end of that book before I had the second in the series downloaded!

Another new, but not new, discovery, is the Archers of Avalon series. I'm not too far into the first book yet but so far I'm really enjoying it :)

But my absolute gem out of all my Christmas books has got to be Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. I adored Slammed and Point of Retreat, so as soon as I spotted Hopeless I knew I had to have it. And my goodness, seriously. It's just one of those books. The kind that grips you and weaves into your subconscious and just simply entrances you. I loved it. Haven't read it? Get it now. NOW.

So that's how I spent my Christmas Holidays. Nose deep in my Kindle Fire. With brief surfacing for air and to watch Harry Potter.

I hope you all had an amazing holiday, and an even better start to the year. I set myself a 200 book challenge for 2013 on Goodreads, so I'd best get cracking!



Sorry About The Wait...

Hi all!

I just wanted to say that regular posting will be commencing soon. I've been neglecting my poor blog for too long and it's time to get back to it!

Things have been crazy the last few months with work and the holiday season. A lot is changing for me and I can't believe it's only the third day of the year.

Anway, more to come soon before I start on a ramble!


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