28 February 2010

In My Mailbox #32 + A winner is announced!

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren and this week I got two lovely chick lit reads from Headline (many thanks!):

Is there like a worldwide postal strike going on or something? Lately I just haven't been receiving my books, neither the ones that were sent for review nor the ones I ordered more than two weeks ago! Something fishy is going on, but I hope the books I've been waiting for forever will finally show up this week, fingers crossed!
* * * * *
It's also high time I announced the winner of my Air Kisses giveaway, which ended three days ago. I apologize for the delay, but I've just been veeery busy for the past three days, thus no blog posts, but I'm back on track now. Anyway, the winner of a shiny brand new copy of Air Kisses iiiiiiiis ... *drumroll, please*
Congratulations to Stella and many thanks to everyone who entered! Don't worry if you haven't won now though, there will be other great giveaways soon! :)

ps: Bookalicious Ramblings is currently featured as The Blog of the Week (see right sidebar) at the wonderful Wondrous Reads - thanks so much, Jenny! :)

25 February 2010

Review: SPLENDOR by Anna Godbersen ****

A spring turns into summer, Elizabeth relishes her new role as a young wife, while her sister, Diana, searches for adventure abroad. But when a surprising clue about their father's death comes to light, the Holland girls wonder at what cost a life of splendor comes.
Carolina Broad, society's newest darling, fans a flame from her past, oblivious to how it might burn her future. Penelope Schoonmaker is finally Manhattan royalty—but when a real prince visits the city, she covets a title that comes with a crown. Her husband, Henry, bravely went to war, only to discover that his father's rule extends well beyond New York's shores and that fighting for love may prove a losing battle.
In the dramatic conclusion to the bestselling Luxe series, New York's most dazzling socialites chase dreams, cling to promises, and tempt fate. As society watches what will become of the city's oldest families and newest fortunes, one question remains: Will its stars fade away or will they shine ever brighter?
I can't believe I've actually finished reading The Luxe series! I'm quite sad to have reached the end of the series, mostly because the books were fantastic, but partly also because I found the conclusion slightly unsatisfying ... Yes, the characters have come a long, long way since the beginning, but I was hoping that things would end on a slightly different note for some of them.

If you've read my reviews of The Luxe, Rumours and Envy (the first three installments in the series), then you remember how much I've enjoyed them. Sure, they weren't really masterpieces, but they were perfect escapism material with stories full of drama and the prose was oh so flowery and wonderful and the covers were beautiful and I couldn't be happier. I was wondering how it would all end and I have to say that I really enjoyed reading Splendour, it was gripping stuff, right until the last couple of chapters ... I suppose Lina's ending was okay, no complaints there, and I didn't see the Penelope twist coming, but I have to say I was slightly bothered by who she ended up with because while I was reading the books I grew to believe that this guy she ended up with after all had an unbreakable bond with another girl. They were meant to do absolutely everything to be together and then they just parted. Just like that. Huh? Hmmm ... As for the Holland sisters, I wasn't too keen on their ending either. I was happy for Elizabeth, but I would like to learn more about her new family, and as for Diana, she made a very brave choice and I'd like to learn more about her new life too.

As you can see above, I was hardly pleased by how it all ended. I just can't believe this is really it as there is still so much going on and so much of the story is left untold and I want more of it. Fingers crossed the author will return to these characters eventually and let us know what their lives are like a few years later, but she is apparently currently working on a new book/series called Bright Young Things (set in 1929 Long Island), which I will most definitely read as soon as it hits the shelves as I know Ms Godbersen can tell a magnificent story.

All in all, I personally may have been slightly disappointed by the conclusion of this series, but I still highly recommend these books and I do not regret reading them at all! The books were incredibly enjoyable and packed with drama and countless twists and I honestly cannot praise the beautiful writing enough! And don't even get me started on the covers - I'll discuss them below and I've already posted about the Splendour cover shoot here. Anyway, if you're thinking about reading these books, then I'd certainly suggest giving them a try, I really enjoyed this series!

overall rating:
plot: 3/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 5/5

ps: I'm sure we can all agree that the covers for this series are fantastic and absolutely beautiful - here they are in all their glory (my personal collection - click to enlarge):

I've always imagined each portays one of the four main characters and I'm guessing it could be Elizabeth, Penelope, Lina and Diana from left to right - what do you think? Lastly, feel free to vote for your favourite cover - I'm quite curious to see what everyone thinks! :)

Which cover is your favourite?

24 February 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: THE KARMA CLUB (feat. a trailer)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine and it enables us to highlight the upcoming released we're looking forward to!
My this week's pick is THE KARMA CLUB by Jessica Brody, which comes out in April in the US (hardcover) and in June 2010 in the UK (paperback). Here's a quick summary:
Madison Kasparkova always thought she understood how Karma works. It’s that mysterious, powerful force that brings harmony to the universe. You know—do good things and you will be rewarded, do something bad and Karma will make sure you get what’s coming to you. A sort of cosmic balancing act.
But when Mason Brooks, Maddy’s boyfriend of two years, gets caught tongue-wrestling with Miss Perfect Body Heather Campbell, and absolutely nothing happens to either of them—except that they wind up the hot new couple of Colonial High School, it seems like Karma has officially left Maddy in the lurch. That’s why Maddy and her best friends, Angie and Jade, decide to start the Karma Club—a secret, members-only organization whose sole purpose is to clean up the messes that the universe has been leaving behind. Whether they’re modifying Heather Campbell’s acne cream as part of “Operation Butterface,” or righting a few wrongs when it comes to Angie and Jade’s own slimy exes, they know they’re just doing what Karma should have done in the first place. They’re taking care of one another.
Sometimes, though, it isn’t wise to meddle with the universe. Because it turns out, when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. Now Maddy must find a way to balance her life for good, even as everything around her seems to be toppling to the ground.
Sounds rather cute, huh? Both the US and the UK covers have already been released - which one do you prefer? :)

The main reason why I decided to post about The Karma Club this week is because the trailer for the book has just been released and it looks great! I follow Jessica Brody on Twitter and she's been tweeting about it for weeks! I was really looking forward to seeing it and now I understand why the wait was so long - the trailer is like a mini clip from a film so obviously there was a lot of work to do, but it was all worth it as you can see below! :)

22 February 2010

Review: A MATCH MADE IN HIGH SCHOOL by Kristin Walker ****

When a mandatory course forces Fiona to “try the knot” with super-jock Todd Harding, she’s convinced life couldn't get any worse. Until her crush is paired with her arch enemy (otherwise known as Todd’s obscenely hot, slightly sadistic girlfriend). But that’s nothing compared to her best friend’s fate – a year with the very goofy, very big Johnny Mercer.
A series of hilarious pranks leave Fiona wondering: is there something her “best friend” hasn’t told her? Could there be more to Johnny Mercer than an awesome music collection? And most intriguing, could Todd Harding have a heart beneath his pretty-boy exterior?

Firstly, you may have noticed that I haven't used the standard cover picture this time (you can see that one here) and you might be wondering, "Wait, is that ... a cake?!" As a matter of fact, it is a cake indeed from the book launch thingy and I found this picture when I was browsing the author's blog and thought it would be fun to use - doesn't it look deliiiiiicious? Yummy, just looking at it makes me hungry, hehe!

Moving on to the actual book, which was simply adorable and hilarious! While reading it, I felt as if I was actually watching a Hollywood comedy (the book would make a great film), which means that I was often laughing out loud, but on the other hand I rolled my eyes at the cliches (even if they were twisted around a bit) and predictabilty and occassional cheesiness, but on the whole, I loved this book and it really cracked me up! :D

OK, so maybe I wasn't entirely convinced by the plot - the fake marriage course was an interesting idea and of course all the wrong people were paired up, which was hilarious, but I admit that Marcie's "secret" and Fiona's cheerleading and Johnny's role didn't really fly with me.
As far as characters go, Fiona the narrator (with the best names ever) was absolutely positively fantastic and luckily none of the characters annoyed me and they had dimension, some just weren't entirely believable - it's like they were trying to defy the stereotypes and but it didn't quite work. But like I said, no one annoyed me so that's good!

On the plus side, this book definitely stands out due to the hilarious narration. There were so many laugh-out-loud moments and the verbal fights between Princess Pisspants (aka Fiona) and Senor Shitslacks (aka Todd) were fantastic and oh so funny! They were like the perfect pair, who couldn't be more different and yet they have so much in common. I honestly loved their interactions!

The cover's great too and while the people on it may be completely random (they don't match the characters at all, but oh well), I like the fact that it's different and that it really stands out! It would definitely make me pick the book up in a bookshop!

Anyway, while I didn't completely adore the plot and some characters, I enjoyed this lovely book tremendously and I strongly recommend it, especially if you're looking for a light read or need some cheering up - this book is guaranteed to do the job! It sort of reminded me of Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway, which was also pure fun to read!

Lastly, I'd like to thank Jessica from Cover to Cover (who was in charge of PR) for contacting me about the book and to Kristin herself for sending me a copy! To find out more about the book, please visit the author's website, which is really well made and it even features a playlist for the book (yay for Creep by Radiohead).

overall rating:
plot: 3/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5

ps: On a slightly unrelated note, the wonderful
Park Avenue Princess needs some more followers in order to reach the magical 1000 when she will do a massive giveaway so head over there if you'd like to help her out. She is famous for her incredible giveaways (not just books) and if you say you were sent here by me, you and I will both get extra points for next contests. She is an amazing blogger indeed so please go help her get to 1000 followers! :)

20 February 2010

In My Mailbox #31

As always, IMM is hosted by The Story Siren.

I got two lovely ARCs this week:
I'd like to thank the wonderful Jessica from Cover to Cover, who helped this talented debut author with the publicity for the A Match Made in High School (read about her experience here) and she arranged for a copy to be sent to me - thanks so much, Jessica! I'm actually reading it at the moment and it's fantastic, absolutely hilarious! Look out for my review on Monday and do let me know if you've already reviewed it so I can add your review to my post. :)

I have several others fantastic blogs on the way, but they've been taking a while to arrive so I do hope they finally show up next week, I'm getting worried ...

Hope everyone had a great book week too! :)

ps: Just a reminder - there are still a few more days left to enter my giveaway and win a copy of the fantastic novel Air Kisses!

19 February 2010

Review: SPLIT BY A KISS by Luisa Plaja ****

Jo has never been one of the popular kids … until she moves to the USA. Suddenly the coolest girls at her new high school adopt her, and the hottest boy, Jake Matthews, notices her. But when Jake picks her as his partner in the kissing game Seven Minutes in Heaven, it’s not half as heavenly as she imagined!
Jo has a choice: should she carry on with Jake or guaranteed popularity - or should she tell him where to get off and risk losing her new friends…?
At this moment - Jo splits. She’s Josie the Cool - girlfriend of Jake, member of the in-crowd. But she’s also Jo the Nerd - rejected by the It girls, single … ordinary.
Will her two halves ever come together again?

Quick recap: This is the story of a 16-year-old Jo from the UK, who moves to Boston with her mother. She starts attending a new school and due to her accent and everything she attracts the attention of the popular girl (Chelsea, Kristi, Tori etc.). Trying to fit in, she finds herself at one of their parties kissing Jake, the hottest guy in the school, which may sound fantastic but to her it just doesn't feel right. She's torn on what to do - quite literary, and the book explores the two options and their consequences and so the story is split in two parts. When she slaps him, she becomes Jo the Nerd - her newfound cool friends shun her and so she becomes friends with Rachel and David, who may both be falling for her ... On the other hand, when she continues kissing him, she becomes Josie the Cool - she's dating the hottest guy around and her friend gives her a makeover, but suddenly she also has to deal with second and third bases, cleavage, nose job hints, backstabbing so-called friends and other things that come with the cool territory ... As it turns out, neither of the two options are perfect, but both Jo and Josie have made the best of their experiences, which helped them discover who they really. Luckily they both fancy the same guy, hehe.

Don't you sometimes wonder how different your life would be if you had reacted differently in a certain situation? Well, this adorable book (both inside & out) explores this question in a very interesting way, one that will definitely speak to teens in general since they're often faced with choosing between staying true to themselves (and risk becoming a misfit) or giving in to peer pressure to fit in with the popular kids. As Jo learns in the book, neither option is perfect and that the most important thing is finding yourself and being comfortable with who you are, which is far from easy when you're a teen, I remember that all too well, heh.

The book was really easy to read and I suppose that's also due to the fact that the narration is split between Jo and Josie so you just keep reading on because you want to find out what happens to them next. The writing was also great and I even laughed out loud at occassional funny remarks, which is something that I appreciate about books. The voices were believable both in teen speak as well as in terms of being British or American.

The characters are generally well-portrayed, but occassionally I felt that certain characters were perhaps slightly stereotypical at times, e.g. Jake, Chelsea, Kristi, but other than that this book boats a wonderful set of very believable characters as well as a gorgeous cover, which is always a plus!

Oh and everyone compares this novel to the film Sliding Doors, but it also reminds me of a book called The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (the author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, one of my favourite books ever), which explores a similar and also very fascinating concept of two split stories - it's an adult novel and I really, really enjoyed it too!

All in all, I think this is a great novel for teens (I'd say 12/13+?) since it really speaks to them and it tackles the problems they're dealing with in this confuuuusing period (friends, love, sex etc.) and it also carries a very positive message about discovering who you really are and being happy about that. Strongly recommended!

For those of you who may not know, Luisa (on top of being an amazing person) is also an editor of Chicklish (great site!) and also the author of Extreme Kissing. To learn more about her, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter. Oh and if anyone starts a Luisa Plaja Fan Club on Facebook or something, then please let me know and I'll be the first to join. :)

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 5/5

ps: Have you reviewed this book? Please let me know and I'll add your review!

pps: Luckily for those of us who loved this book, the sequel SWAPPED BY A KISS comes out iiiin 69 days and this time the story will mostly revolve around Jo's friends Rachel (the witch/goth) and her boyfriend David, but there will be plenty of room for our Jo too, hehe. Can't wait to read it, plus the cover is gorgeous again (click to enlarge), yay! Heres the synopsis:
Rachel hates her life and everyone in it - she even has suspicions that her on/off boyfriend David might not be entirely trustworthy. However, when David invites her to a music festival in England featuring their friend's band, she jumps at the chance for an overseas adventure. Hoping to surprise David, Rachel arrives at the festival early, where she runs into a nasty surprise of her own - she sees David kissing their friend Jo. Distraught, Rachel runs off, wishing she could leave her life behind...the next thing she knows, she's back with David. But not as herself...She's now in Jo's body! Can she keep the swap a secret from David until she can work out exactly what's going on and get her revenge? Over the course of a very weird weekend, Rachel puts herself in someone else's shoes and finds that her own maybe weren't as uncomfortable as she'd always thought. But can she ever be herself again?
ppps: I hit 200 followers today! I know it may not sound like much, but to me that's amazing! Thanks so much to all my current and future followers, you're awesome! :)


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17 February 2010


I've read Abby McDonald's first two books (The Popularity Rules and Life Swap - click for my reviews) and really enjoyed them and so I'm obviously looking forward to her future releases! Luckily, she has two books coming out this year: first it's the US edition of her YA novel Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots (the UK edition has been moved to 2011, boo) in April and then she has another chick lit book coming out in July - it's called The Liberation of Alice Love (the original title was A Good Girl's Guide to Deception, which I thought was fantastic!). The plot sounds great & quite intriguing (see below) and the cover is lovely too, yay! What more could a chick lit fan possibly ask for? :)
Will the real Alice Love please stand up?
Alice Love keeps her life (and boss, and family) running in perfect order, so when her bank card is declined, she thinks it's just a simple mistake. But it soon becomes clear that someone has emptied every penny from her bank account, spending her hard-earned savings on glamorous holidays, sexy lingerie, and a to-die-for wardrobe and leaving Alice with thousands of pounds worth of debt.
With her perfectly-organised world crumbling around her, Alice enlists the help of dashing fraud investigator Nathan, and sets about clearing her name. But as she unravels the intriguing paper trail, she makes a shocking discovery: her thief is closer to home than she imagined.
Following the clues from London to Rome and LA, Alice edges deeper into a seductive new world, where honesty might not be the best policy, rules are made to be broken, and the power of a gorgeous cocktail dress shouldn't be underestimated. Perhaps her alter-ego's reckless, extravagant lifestyle is the one Alice should have been leading all along...
But as her little white lies begin to stack up, how far will Alice go to find the truth?

ps: Oh and I was interviewed today by the lovely Ria from The Beaucoup Review - click here if you'd like to learn a few random things about yours truly or just visit Ria's awesome blog! She's a new blogger so show her some love. :)

16 February 2010

Review: PLAYING THE FIELD by Zoë Foster **** + GIVEAWAY!

Scroll down for more info on how to
win a copy of AIR KISSES!

"Jean Bennett knows as much about football as she does astrophysics. But when she moves to the bright lights of Sydney and falls in love with a star footballer, Josh Fox, she has to learn - fast. Thrown eyelashes first into the world of WAGs, Jean is way out of her league. She navigates her way through semi-finals, a gruelling social calendar and salacious scandals on Josh's arm, safe in the knowledge he belongs to her or so she thinks. But as her hair gets blonder, her heels higher and her tops lower, Jean begins to wonder who she's become."

I loooooved Zoë's debut novel Air Kisses and I've been waiting for a new book by her for months and I was over the moon when my copy arrived! My hopes for it were quite high, but while it doesn't quite give Air Kisses a run for its money, it was still a very enjoyable book - another light but entertaining hit by Ms Foster, as expected!

Plot-wise, not a lot happens, but just as I was thinking that the book is getting slightly predictable - bang - there was a small twist! I can't exactly say this book is boring when Jean's life suddenly gets turned upside down and she finds herself in a shiny world where she doesn't know what to believe and who to trust. One moment she was a simple girl working in a beautique, dreaming of being a jewellery designer and generally minding her own business, but the next moment she is swept of her feet by a high profile footballer and thus becomes one of the infamous WAGs. Sure, her life becomes more glamorous and exciting, but on the other hand she has to deal with Josh's crazy ex, rumours, annoying fans and other 'perks' that come with the territory. Remind me again, why would anyone want to be a WAG? Is it all worth it? I guess so since people (especially in the UK) seem to be fascinated by them. I can say I'm one of them, but it was still interesting to read about the lives of these WAGs - and Zoë should know what she's talking about since she was a WAG herself for nearly a decade.
I'm shocked to hear that the book hasn't been released in the UK yet when that WAG-obsessed nation would love this stuff, especially with the World Cup coming up and all when the WAGs will be all over the place! Fingers crossed one of the UK publishers has the sense to publish it asap, it would be a shame not to since it has so much potential there!

Oh and another thing while we're on the subject of plot - the book ends in a massive cliffhanger, grr! I read the last line and thought that surely this can't be the end?! Zoë, darling, I'm afraid we'll need a sequel here stat so I do hope you're already working on it? ;)

The best thing about this book is easily the writing itself! I've gushed about it before, but I honestly love the way Zoë writes, be it books, blogs or tweets, she just has this fantastic way with words and I can't get enough of it! It's very witty in a way and modern and yet very real (swearing included), and I think it really helps in bringing the characters to life so you can't help but take a shine to them! In this novel, I perhaps thought some characters were slightly underdeveloped (namely Josh and Tess) while my favourite character was probably Collette, Jean's sister, she cracked me up! Frank was also a nice side character and I was quite impressed by Cam until he let me down. (Oh and I loved the small cameo appereance by Hannah from Air Kisses!) But on the whole, the characters are a lovely bunch and the writing is fantastic, as always! Can't wait to see what Zoë comes up with next!

Sadly this book isn't available outside Australia yet (boo!), but if you'd still like to find out more about it, then click here and let Zoë introduce you to the book! She's also appeared on TV not once but twice to discuss the book so feel free to watch those! If you can't take take all the teasing anymore and desperately want to see what all the fuss about Zoë amazing writing is about, then scroll down and see how you can win a copy of her debut novel!

overall rating:
plot: 3/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 4/5


And now finally THE GIVEAWAY! I really enjoyed Air Kisses and I want you to enjoy it too sooooo I'll be giving away a shiny new copy of AIR KISSES, Zoë's brilliant first novel which was published in the UK by Allison & Busby. This contest thingy is open worldwide and it will end on 25th February at midnight. Here's what you have to do in order to enter:
  • you have to leave a comment saying you want to be entered;
  • you have to follow my blog;
  • for an extra entry, follow Zoë on Twitter (trust me, you won't regret it, hehe)
  • for extra two entries, tweet about this contest (provide link) or post on your sidebar.
The winner will be chosen with the help of random.org. Good luck! :)

14 February 2010

Interview: KATE FORSYTH, author of THE PUZZLE RING

Oh, I'm so happy I got a chance to participate in The Puzzle Ring blog tour! First I got to read this fantastic book (my review here) and then I could also interview the wonderful author of the book, Kate Forsyth!

I think the interview is very interesting (whether you've read the book or not) and I hope you'll enjoy it too! In it, Kate:
  • tells us more about puzzle rings,
  • explains all the puzzles and double meanings of the amazing cover,
  • mentions the potential sequel (yes, please!),
  • tells us more about how she comes up with names for her characters,
  • discusses her favourite and most difficult to write scenes,
  • reveals what she's currently working on!

Q: How did you come up with the idea of the puzzle ring and can you tell us more about it?

I first got the idea for ‘The Puzzle Ring’ reading a jewellery catalogue while bored waiting in a doctor’s surgery – which just goes to prove you can get ideas anywhere! The jewellery catalogue had a few short paragraphs detailing the history of puzzle rings. First invented in Arabia by a jealous king who wanted to know if his young & beautiful wife ever removed her wedding ring, puzzle rings were brought back to Europe by the crusaders in the 14th and 15th century. A cunningly forged ring made up of several interlocking loops, puzzle rings sit on the finger just like any other ring but once they are taken off, they fall apart and cannot be put back together again unless you know the secret to them – a code rather like doing a Rubiks cube. I found this tale quite fascinating, and thought at once what an interesting and unusual thematic structure it would give a quest story. When I got home I scribbled a note to myself in my Ideas notebook, but did nothing more with the idea. Then, when my book ‘The Gypsy Crown’ was bought by Scholastic in the UK, they asked if I had any other ideas for more books with a similar feel and I thought of my puzzle ring idea at once. Yet all I had was an idea, not a plot. I wondered to myself, WHY? Why would anyone need to go & search for a broken puzzle ring? Who and where and when and why? A few days later I was browsing in a crowded and cobwebby second hand book store when I saw a curious old chest shoved under a shelf. I sat down on a stool and dragged it out and opened it. The chest was full of old tattered books and papers, including one that caught my eyes at once. Entitled ‘The Book of Curses’ it had a medieval woodcut on the front cover showing a red winged devil and various gargoyles and imps flying above its head. I opened it up, and it fell naturally open to a chapter called ‘The Brahan Seer and the Seaforth Doom’, the story of a curse cast against the Mackenzies of Seaforth by a warlock in 17th century Scotland. It’s an amazing story, with a hag-stone through which the warlock could see the past and the future and far, far away and many other things impossible to see, and a curse cast as revenge for the warlock’s terrible death. I got up from that stool, clutching the book to my chest, seeing the whole tale of Hannah and the hag-stone and the curse cast against her family bright and vivid and whole in my mind’s eye. I went home and began writing the novel that very afternoon.

Q: The cover is beautiful and also very meaningful. I've seen people comment on it before they read the book so could you perhaps point out all the thing
s that are depicted on the cover and how they relate to the book?

I’m so glad you love the cover! I love it too. It was done by Zdenko Basic who does the most gorgeous work (you can see more here). There is so much in the cover its difficult to describe – particularly without giving away what happens in the book! In the very centre of the cover is a rose – the many different meanings of a rose are just one of the many puzzles that Hannah must figure out before she can find the puzzle ring, but its primarily a symbol for Eglantyne, the fairy princess who is burnt as a witch in the 16th century and so casts the curse on Hannah’s family. Eglantyne means rose, and Rose is Hannah’s middle name – or so she thinks. Surrounding the rose is a golden puzzle ring and then the title, which is overlaid on a compass rose. Surrounding the circle of the compass is a wall, representing the wall that surrounds the garden of Wintersloe Castle, with four symbols at each of the points of the compass. Hannah must travel to three of the four points of the compass to find the lost loops of the puzzle ring, her father having already found one at the first point. At the north point of the compass on the cover is an ancient yew tree with a doorway through it, at the eastern point is a wolf howling, at the southern point is a statue of a horned man, and at the western point are two grinning jack o’lanterns. Each of these four things appear in the book, and each have a symbolic meaning as well. There is also a toad, a very important toad. The cover is a puzzle in itself, laden with double meanings, just like all the codes and cryptic clues in the book.

Q: Will there ever be a sequel to The Puzzle Ring?

I’d love to write a sequel. Maybe even two, as the world I’ve created seems so rich and full of possibility (to me, at least!) I have a few ideas ...

Q: The characters have lovely names (e.g. Wintersloe, Eglantyne, Irata, Rosamund etc.) - how do you decide on them?

I spend a lot of time thinking of my names. I have lists of house names in my Ideas notebook, so that whenever I need to name a house or a place I have a reference I can go straight to. Wintersloe was not the original name for my beautiful old house – originally I called it Dunrosayn – which means castle of roses in Scottish Gaelic. But my sister, who is a writer too, was working on a novel set in Scotland at the same time and she had called her castle Dungorm (which means blue castle). So I decided to change it, but none of the names I had in any of my lists seemed right. I was staying with my parents-in-law in the country and I went out for a long tramp. Walking is one way that always helps me solve a problem when I’m writing. Anyway, I passed the most gorgeous house with a beautiful, big old garden and I stopped to have a look, and I saw it had a mossy old name on the wall by the gate. I lifted up a flowering branch to see the name, and saw it was called ‘Wintersloe’. I loved it at once. I thought about it all the way home. I knew that sloes grew on blackthorns, and that blackthorns were often used to make witches’ wands and also that the thorns that grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle was thought to be blackthorn. It just seemed perfect. That’s often how I find things. It’s just serendipity.

Q: What is your personal favourite scene in the book?
Oh, I have so many favourites. I love the scene where Hannah and Donovan climb the fairy hill and then the toad spits the hag-stone out at her feet. That was one of the very first images that came into my mind when I began ‘seeing’ the book. I love the scene where the toad leads her to her father’s room and she first discovers his notebook, filled with strange and cryptic poetry. I loved writing about Mary, Queen of Scots, and imagining the scene where the children first meet her. And I loved writing the character of the old fairy-cook Linnet, she’s one of my all-time favourite creations.

Q: Which one was the most difficult to write?

The most difficult scenes were at the end of Hannah and her friends’ adventures in the 16th century, when they had to find a way home. I really wanted to have a scene showing the defeat and capture of Mary, Queen of Scots, and how she had fallen from the most beautiful and powerful woman in the world to a humiliated and bedraggled prisoner – yet there was no reason for Hannah and her companions to be in Edinburgh at that time. They were trying to get home, they had to get back to a gateway to the Otherworld. I spent weeks searching through old books and on the internet for reference to a fairy gateway near Edinburgh, but found nothing. Eventually I reluctantly put the idea aside, and wrote the end of the book without that scene. I was travelling to Scotland with my family for a month to go to all the places that appear in the book, and to check my facts and generally to see and hear and smell and feel the Scottish landscape, and I wanted to have my first draft finished before I went. Anyway, on our very last night in Scotland, we were in Edinburgh and planned to go to Calton Hill for the Beltane celebrations, which I had never seen before. There were fire-eaters and people on stilts and fairies in wisps of gauze despite the freezing weather – and a Scottish storyteller. I love storytelling, I’m a member of the Australian Guild of Storytellers myself, and so of course I was eager to hear him speak. He told all the children gathered round the tale of the fairy boy of Leith, an old story about a boy who used to be a drummer for the Fair Folk and would pass through a great pair of gateways into, he said, “this very hill on which we sit”. I was absolutely electrified. All the hairs on my body stood upright. I knew the old tale, but in my version the boy simply says that the Fair Folk met under ‘the great hill between Edinburgh and Leith’. I had no idea that meant Calton Hill, one of the seven hills of Edinburgh itself. In that simple sentence, that Scottish storyteller delivered me the solution to my problem, which had been troubling me for months. I was able to have Hannah and her companions ride to Edinburgh to find the gateway in Calton Hill, and so be in Edinburgh at the time Mary, Queen of Scots, was captured. It was perfect! And another of those extraordinary serendipitous moments that made this book such a magical story to write.

Q: What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing the long-awaited sequel to my earlier YA fantasy, ‘The Starthorn Tree’. Called ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ it comes out in Australia in May. I’m also working on the third in the series, to be called ‘The Starkin Crown’.

Thanks for reading the interview! To find out more about the author and her other works, please visit her website. To learn more about The Puzzle Ring, check out other stops of the blog tour (The Bookette posted the schedule)! Yesterday, Kate was a guest blogger at Today's Adventure discussing her research methods, and tomorrow The Book Bug is posting an interview with her so be sure to check that out - I know I will!
If you'd like the read this wonderful book yourself, you can get a copy at Amazon UK or Book Depository (free worldwide delivery).

Lastly, I'd like to thank Kate for inviting me to be a part of this amazing blog tour and for giving me a chance to interview her! I'll definitely be reading more by her - as a matter of fact, I've just ordered my copy of The Gypsy Crown, yay!

13 February 2010

In My Mailbox #30

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren.
I only got two books this week, which I suppose isn't much, but I'm far from disappointed since they both look *and* sound absolutely fantastic and brilliant and woo! The covers are simply breathtaking!

First and foremost, I'd like to thank Ilana Fox for kindly having an ARC of her next book SPOTLIGHT sent my way! I bought & read The Making of Mia as soon as it came out in hardback and really enjoyed it! I've been looking forward to the Ms Fox's next book for aaages so you can imagine how excited I was to receive this! Look out for a review and an interview around the pub date, which is 29 April 2010!

Secondly, I pre-ordered THE LOVING KIND ages ago and now it finally arrived. I haven't read anything by Sarah Webb before, but this one sounds right down my alley too, plus the cover is also gorgeous, yay!

That's it for me this week, can't wait to see what everyone else got!

ps: Would you be interested in doing a blog button exchange? If so, then please look for more info here. :)

12 February 2010

Hey, want to do a blog button exchange? :)

As you may know, I've just acquired a shiny new three-column layout and with it also a couple of other things:
1 - two lovely buttons;
2 - more than enough space to feature other blog buttons.
And so I was wondering if any of you might be interested in a little blog button exchange? If you'd like to have your button featured on my sidebar, then please comment below saying that you've already posted one of *my* blog buttons (scroll down, the codes are on the left) on your sidebar and I'll add yours too. :)

10 February 2010


Aren't The Little Black Dress Books just the cutest things ever? :) I simply adore the covers and there are some very promising releases in 2010 - here's one of them, which comes out in April 2010:

by Allie Spencer
Can Laura prevent the bank (and her love life) from crashing and burning? Banking analyst Laura McGregor's electronic diary is full of things which definitely shouldn't be made public: musings on her lacklustre relationship with trader boyfriend Tom, disturbing irregularities in new boss Will's trading accounts, and the small matter of her attraction to gorgeous journalist Alex. So when the diary is accidentally uploaded on to the internet in blog form by clueless younger sister Mel, suddenly not only Laura, but her bank, is facing meltdown, and even worse, Laura suspects Alex of raiding it for a scoop. Fighting to convince the world's media to believe her over Alex is one thing, but can Laura win the battle with her heart?

ps: Oooh, great news - the author just posted the first chapter of this book on her blog & you can read it here! :)

9 February 2010

Review: THE PUZZLE RING by Kate Forsyth *****

Hannah is almost thirteen when she discovers her family is cursed…

Desperate to break the dark spell and find her missing father, Hannah starts a treacherous journey back in time. If she can find all four pieces of a magical puzzle ring, her family will be reunited. But her quest takes her back to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots - a time when witches are burned at the stake and danger lurks everywhere.

Can Hannah put the puzzle ring together fast enough to save her family?

I was contacted by the author to read this as part of the blog tour and although it's not something that I usually read (just mention fairies and I'll put the book down immediately, lol), but I must admit I was intrigued by this one, partly due to the cover and also because it just sounded so mysterious ... I'm so glad I was invited to take part in this blog tour as I really, really enjoyed this book!

It's a story of 12-year-old Australian girl Hannah, who travels to Scotland with her mother to visit the relatives she never knew existed! Furthermore, she learns that her family was cursed after her distant relative from the 16th century Lord Montgomery married a fairy called Eglantyne and had 'the puzzle ring' made for her; then one day he thought she cheated on him and he kicked her out and she cursed the family and broke apart the puzzle ring so that they will not be happy again until the four pieces of the puzzle ring are put together again ... Hannah learns that her father disappeared nearly 13 years ago when he was trying to break this curse so Hannah is determined to do the same. So after doing some research, she decides to travel back to the 16th century and try to find the missing pieces of the puzzle ring herself, armed with the hag stone and accompanied by her three friends, Donovan, Max and Scarlet. All four of them soon realize things are rather different in the 16th century and they find themselves in great danger ...

In short, I'd describe this book as "a fast-paced time-travelling adventure with a dash of history and magic"! I'm usually not a big fan of fantasy books and such, but in this case I think the magical elements just added that extra touch to the story and surprisingly didn't bother me at all, and that's saying something; I guess everything just felt right in this book.

The plot was great and well structured. I loved the mystery surrounding the castle and the father's disappearance and once the children visited the 16th century, there was nothing but nonstop action as they were searching for the missing pieces of the ring while trying to survive in that time.

I really enjoyed both the present day and the historical settings, which were wonderfully brought to life by the lovely writing, which really enabled me to imagine everything easily and get sucked into the story.

I can't complain about the characters either as I warmed to all of them, both the children and the adults alike (especially both Linnets and Angus). I was really rooting for the children to break the curse and defeat Irata so Hannah's family could be reunited again, but I wasn't too sure if they'd succeed based on all the troubles they were faced with.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and could hardly put it down so I'm sure children will enjoy it too. Not surprisingly, adults love it too, which you can see if you check out some other stops of this lovely book tour - The Bookette posted the whole schedule if you're interested! I'm scheduled for the 14th when I'll be posting an interview an interview with the author - and until then you can visit her lovely website and read more about The Puzzle Ring! Personally, I'd love to read more by her and I've already added The Gypsy Crown to my wishlist!

If you're from the UK, then you can easily get a copy at Amazon, otherwise I'd recommend Book Depository as they offer free delivery worldwide, woohoo! :)

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 4/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 5/5

7 February 2010

In My Mailbox #29 + A BLOG MAKEOVER!

Hello, kids - today we'll be discussing my shiny new books & my super duper new layout, how exciting is that?! :)

Firstly, I got some amazing books this week and here they are in all their glory:

PLAYING THE FIELD by Zoë Foster - Having adored Air Kisses, I've been wanting to read this one soooo badly, but since it has just been published in Australia, it isn't available on Amazon or Book Depository, boo. :( Thus I'd like to thank (like, a million times) the awesome Zoë and her publicist Kim for very kindly sending me this book and making me a veeeery happy bunny!

SWEET LITTLE LIES by Lauren Conrad - I bought the first book ages ago and still haven't read it, but I pre-ordered the second one nonetheless because it was so cheap that I just couldn't resist. Cute cover too!

PRINCESS FOR HIRE by Lindsey Leavitt - Another book that I pre-ordered a while ago! I went with the UK cover because it was three times cheaper than the US one and I have to admit I wasn't too sure about the UK cover at first, but it looks lovely in person and it's really growing on me!

Secondly, my blog has just received AN EXTREME MAKEOVER!!!
I've been wanting a three column layout for a while now and I had a general idea what I wanted my layout to look like so I contacted Rachel @ Parajunkee Design to help me out - and here's the result! Click here to see what my layout looked like before - yeah, talk about an upgrade of the year, huh? :) I think Rachel did an amazing, amazing job and I couldn't be more pleased with the final result - it's a million times better than I expected!
Rachel is so creative and I really can't recommend her enough! She's a book blogger herself and she offers 25 % discount for book bloggers and authors so she's really affordable and worth every single dime!
I contacted her saying I'd like to have a banner with three girls reading on a couch and each sort of personifying three genres I read most often: chick lit, historical and YA. She did the first draft incredibly fast and it was amazing, but then I still had like a million suggestions and ideas what could be changed and tweaked and whatnot. Trust me, I'm not the kind of person to say, "Just make my layout look pretty!", I pretty much commented on every colour and shape and came up with neverending ideas and suggestions, which probably drove poor Rachel crazy, lol. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I bet I was the customer from hell, but Rachel seriously did the most awesome job - not only did she carry out my ideas, she made them look even better! So I really just want to thank her for putting up with me and creating my favourite layout ever!
Phew, that was long and rambly as always, lol!

Anyway, I just wanted to say that Parajunkee is amazing and that I simply adore my new layout and I hope you like it too! :)

ps: Oh and I'm also in the process of creating my Goodreads account (it's nowhere near done and it's taking ages, I still have many more books to add and no time), but still feel free to have a look and follow me there or whatever: click here to visit my profile. I'm really new to it so excuse all the mess, I'll sort everything out soon! :)

4 February 2010

Review: FINDING MONSIEUR RIGHT by Muriel Zagha ****

"This is a tale of two cities, two girls and a life-altering swap.
Daisy's just landed the perfect job: spending a year in Paris writing about fashion. Swapping homes with French student Isabelle seems like the perfect arrangement. Sensible Isabelle, however, finds London bewildering. But all her assumptions about crazy English guys are overturned when she meets hunky gardener Tom.
Meanwhile, fun-loving Daisy discovers that Paris is the City of Love, and more than one Monsieur Right..."

I admit that the first thing that made me want to read the book was the cover! I've seen the title around, but it didn't really intrigue me until I saw the cover and then I read the plot description and I was hooked instantly - the book just sounded perfect! I had rather high hopes for it and I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed in the slightest - au contraire! ;)

The story follows two girls, Isabelle from France and Daisy from England, who decide to swap their flats for a year. The serious scholar Isabelle wants to move to England to work on her thesis about some mysterious British author and fashionista Daisy is very excited about moving to Paris so she can experience the fashion capital of the world first hand and document her observations on her blog. The two girls couldn't be more different so adjusting to their new lives and flats and friends is a bit of a culture shock at first, but they manage just fine eventually. While Daisy has a lot of fun working in fashion and meeting some suave French guys, Isabelle is far more productive and really wants to find the missing manuscript of The Splodge, but she doesn't know how much this mission will rock her world ...

Firstly, the plot - I loved it! Yes, it was a bit predictable at times and there were some loose ends, but I really enjoyed reading about the girls' very different experiences abroad. I liked how the chapters alternated between Isabelle and Daisy, and I don't think I was bored for a single second. I could honestly read the book in one sitting if I had the time. I'm not saying the plot is terribly thrilling, but I certainly found it very enjoyable. I loved reading about Daisy's relationships with the French guys and I was rather intrigued by Isabelle's literary mystery too! However, I thought the ending was slightly rushed (so much action resolved too quickly) and far-fetched (I didn't see "the twist" coming, but I didn't really like it anyway) and corny (especially the epilogue). But luckily that didn't spoil the book for me and I still really enjoyed it.

I have slightly mixed feelings about the characters too. My favourite character was probably Chrissie, the textbook gay friend, but he was just so much fun, I really enjoyed his scenes! I quite liked both Isabelle and Daisy too and I thought the goth band that Jules was in was fantastic too, loved them! Daisy's two loverboys were quite nice too, but on the other hand I wasn't particularly keen on Isabelle's friends in France, they were all so boring. I particulary dislike Clothaire, Isabelle's boyfriend, who was not only a massive idiot, but also rather one-dimensional and too easy to hate.

In her review, Leah mentioned that her least favourite thing about this book was the writing since the author wasn't a native speaker so I was expecting some strange sentences or something, but I honestly couldn't find anything. I thought the writing was superb and rich and I personally found it a lot better than e.g. Sophie Kinsella's writing, which is usually quite flat as far as richness of the language goes (even though her stories are superb), but I really cannot fault the writing here. Sure, some sentences of the French characters were a bit choppy, but I think that was the point, to illustrate that their English wasn't perfect and it makes sense. Other than that, if I hadn't known that the author wasn't born in England, I would never have guessed it myself.

Oh and as for the title - it may not be the best one ever since this book is so much more than just dealing with the search for Monsieur Right, but at least it's more original than the usual Life Swap (I've read two books with the same title - one by Abby McDonald and the other by Jane Green; both were great) and I suppose it nicely illustrates that the story takes place both in England and France.

All in all, this is escapism par excellence and I definitely recommend it if you're a chick lit fan or just looking for a lovely light read! It's a great debut and I can't wait to read more by this author!

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 4/5 | cover: 5/5

1 February 2010

Book Trailers: BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver

Hey, remember a book called Before I Fall, which I *loved* so much that it ended up being my second favourite book of 2009? Here's what it's about:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Trust me, the book is even better than it sounds! :)

Well, according to the lovely widget in my sidebar, the general public will be able to enjoy this amazing book in 29 days and now both the UK and the US trailers have been released - how exciting! Lauren posted them on her blog, but feel free to watch them below! The first one is the US one and the second one is the UK version - which one do you prefer?

And trust me, you want to read this book! Everyone who has read it so far has been amazed by it! I've read it online before and I already pre-ordered a finished copy on Book Depository! Has anyone else read it? Are you planning to? :)