31 March 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: LAST NIGHT AT CHATEAU MARMONT

I got back from Sardinia a couple of days ago (ooh, it was lovely), but I've been so busy with real life ever since that I've hardly had time to be online! I feel completely out of the loop and I really must catch up this weekend!

Anyway, this week I'm waiting on Lauren Weisberger's next book and I've been waiting to post about it ever since I first heard about it ages ago, but I was just waiting for the cover to be released, which it was a few days ago. I don't find the cover particularly mindblowing (I mean, it's alright), but I looove the sound of the book and cannot wait to read it - it's out in paperback (yay!) in May in the US and in June in the UK!

LAST NIGHT AT CHATEAU MARMONT
by Lauren Weisberger
Two college sweethearts are living a happy, rather ordinary life in New York but there's a slight twist – she's the breadwinner, supporting her musician boyfriend. Until the tables are turned when he's discovered by a Sony exec and their worlds are turned upside down.
Soon they are holidaying in the Hamptons, adorning the cover of Vanity Fair and attending every glitzy party in town – all the while his career is reaching new, dizzying heights. But the trappings of this elite lifestyle mean our heroine must face the wrath of the US press. Scorned for having a less-than-perfectly-honed LA body and brutalised for being 'ordinary' things couldn't get any worse…
Then news erupts that her best friend, who's been her confidante through these months of misery, has sold her innermost secrets to the press and her life spirals out of control.
She finds solace in a secret support group: The Civilian Ex-Wives and Girlfriends of Celebrities Group – a place to gossip, lubricated with lashings of shared experiences and strong cocktails. As this sassy group right the wrongs of their past relationships, our heroine must decide if she's going to sink or swim.

ps: This is your last chance to win one out of five copies of DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE by Tara Hyland - the giveaway ends April 1st! Click here to enter!

29 March 2010

Cover Win / Fail #1

As some of you already know, I'm a huge cover junkie. I'll be the first to admit that I judge a book by its cover and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing ... What I appreciate about beautiful covers is that someone put a lot of effort and thought into it and made it irresistable - I often have the urge to buy certain books just because the covers are a work of art, even if I don't like the story, I just want to stare at the cover, heh. On the other hand, if a cover is (in my humble opinion) poorly designed or boring or just plain unappealing, then I don't feel guilty at all about disregarding a certain book. Because honestly, I *buy* most of my books and if I'm going to spend my money on something, then at least make it worth my while - I want the whole package. Is that weird? I know it's shallow, but I don't feel too guilty about it. :)

I know some people only care about the story inside, but to me the covers are immensly important too and I always comment on them soooo I thought I'd dedicate a new feature here just to the covers. I've decided to call it Cover Win/Fail - it'll be posted sporadically (basically whenever I feel like it :p) and in it, I'll highlight two covers, one that I love and the other that I don't love. Is that wrong, to diss other people's work just like that? I do feel a bit iffy about that, but I mean no harm, no offence, it's all just MY PERSONAL OPINION and please do let me know if you disagree with my choices; other points of view are always welcome.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my two choices:


_

Cover WIN: Encore Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
This is a sequel to Very Valentine (which I won on Novelicious, yay!) and I'm head over heels in love with this cover, it's too pretty for words. Some people don't really like drawn covers, but I'm a huge fan of them so you'll be seeing a lot of them here. And what's not to love about this cover? Pretty colours, lovely font, cute drawing - we have a winner! I'm not crazy about the plot itself, but I'd frame the colour, ha! Gorgeous!

Cover FAIL: I'm So Happy for You by Lucinda Rosenfeld
This one makes me shudder! As I said, I like covers with drawings on them because that tells me that someone put a lot of effort into it, but what I do not appreciate are covers with horrible stock images and normal font on them, eurgh. I really dislike the *orange* dress - who wears dresses like that? And even if a hideous dress like this plays an important part in the story (which I hope it doesn't), I'm sure it didn't have to be reflected on the cover if the publishers wanted this book to sell. So yeah, I dislike the style and the colour of the dress and simple font - it's too boring and unappealing and I'm afraid it wouldn't interest me in reading the back cover to see what it's about.

So what do you think of this new feature, is it too controversial? :) Do you agreee/disagree?

27 March 2010

In My Mailbox #36

Hiya and welcome to another installment of IMM, hosted by The Story Siren!

Well, this is a scheduled post (written on Thursday evening) and if everything went according to the plan, then I'm in/on/at (?) Sardinia at the moment, which sounds lovely, but sadly it also means that I won't be able to check out everyone's IMMs - yeah, I'll miss that, I'm silly like that. ;) So please excuse the lack of comments and everything, but I'll be sure to catch up as soon as I get back!

Anyway, I got three books before I left:



BOYCOTTS & BARFLIES by Victoria Michaels and THE UNIDENTIFIED REDHEAD by Alice Clayton were sent for review by the lovely people at Omnific Publishing. I love the cover for B&B and the Redhead sounds like a fun read so I can't wait to read these!

I bought BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS by Lucy Silag mostly because I adore the covers for this series. Well, the plot sounds great too, but the covers sealed the deal, hehe.

Hope you're all having a great weekend! :)

25 March 2010

Review: FROZEN IN TIME by Ali Sparkes ****

1956 - Freddy and Polly have always known their father is a genius. So they've never minded helping him with his experiments. Even when that means being put into cryonic suspension-having their hearts frozen until their father wakes them up again. They know it will only be for an hour or two, so there's nothing to worry about ...
2009 - Ben and Rachel have resigned themselves to a long, boring summer. Then they find the hidden underground vault in the garden-and inside it two frozen figures, a boy and a girl. And as if that isn't spooky enough, when Rachel accidentally presses a button, something unbelievable happens...
Can Polly and Freddy adapt to the twenty-first century? Will their bodies survive having been in suspension for so long? And most important of all, what happened to their father - and why did he leave them frozen in time?

The first time I heard about this book was after it won the Blue Peter Book of the Year award a few weeks ago. I think the news was all over Twitter and once I read the synopsis, I was immediately hooked. I sometimes wonder how people from decades or even centuries ago would cope with living in our mad and hectic world. I haven't come across many books on this subject so I decided to give this one a go.

It's a story of two tweens, Ben and Rachel, whose parents are away (working as a circus act on a ship) so the two are spending their boring summer in Darkwood House with the brilliant uncle Jerome and they're extremely bored. Once it finally stops raining, they go out in the garden and discover an underground vault. They later learn it was a bomb shelter built in 1955 and in it they discover two sleeping children. When they wake up, they introduce themselves as Freddy and Polly Emerson and it turns out they've been in cryonic suspension, i.e. frozen in time for 53 years, since 1956! As it turns out, they are Ben and Rachel's great aunt and uncle who also lived in the same house and when they disappeared, everyone thought their genuis scientist father murdered them and fled the country as he was never found. The children are determined to find out what happened to Mr Emerson along with the help of their uncle Jerome and an old police officer Percy who worked on that case. But the children are soon left alone and they've no idea that what they're researching can be very dangerous and then Freddy and Polly start experiencing the same symptoms as the experiement rats did before they died ...

Frozen in Time is a fast-paced middle grade adventure. The premise is quite original and intriguing; there's danger and excitement and double agents and spies and mystery, but it's also quite funny in places when the two children from the 1950s try to learn about the life in the 21st century. The writing is quite simple, but I suppose it's just right for the target audience. The characters were wonderful too and I can't fault the cover either, it fits the story and I quite like the silhouettes as opposed to the actual drawings.

All in all, this is a lovely old-fashioned meets modern Famous Five mystery that younger teens will love! Speaking of Famous Five, they actually get a mention as one of the books appears in the story, plus the children resemble the characters too - two girls (one very domestic and Anne-like), two boys and even a dog try to solve a mystery on their own while the parents are away. I loooved this sort of thin when I was 10 or 12 or so and while those stories may seem old fashioned to young readers today, Frozen in Time has the same feel but is more modern while also maintining that charming old-fashion feel to it with the 1950s children who appear to have stepped right out of the Famous Five novels. Oh and don't forget to watch the book trailer here! :)

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

ps: On a side note, I'll be MIA in the blogosphere in the next few days. I'm going on a short trip for the weekend (no comps) so sadly I'll be unable to check everyone's blogs and comment during that time. :( I do have a couple of posts scheduled (including an IMM) so be sure to check back for those, and I'll catch up with everyone's posts when I get back on Tuesday! :)

24 March 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: CUM LAUDE by Cecily von Ziegesar

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
This week I'm waiting on Cecily on Ziegesar's supposedly first adult novel called Cum Laude (explanation here).
Cecily von Ziegesar is famous for being the author of the Gossip Girl series, which I haven't read, but I watched the first two seasons of the TV show and quite enjoyed it actually (in a 'guily pleasure' kind of way, hehe).
Anyway, this new series sounds seems fun too, as you can see below. I can't make up my mind about the cover, I suppose I like it. Can't wait to see the final version though!


CUM LAUDE
by Cecily von Ziegesar
[1 June 2010]

Dexter College is a small liberal arts college in the quiet town of Home, Maine. But it won’t stay quiet for long with this new group of freshmen. There’s Shipley—blond, and beautiful, the object of envy and more than a little lust. Her edgy roommate, Eliza, has an attitude and a mouth to match. There’s Tom, the artist/jock, and Nick, his pot-smoking roommate. Adam, the introvert, lives at home with his parents and not-so-little sister. And finally there’s the requisite older guy who never quite left school...

Cum Laude is a witty, intimate, and unconventional take on the coming-of-age story. College is about more than just cramming and keg parties. It’s about doing things you’d never imagine yourself doing because you’re madly in love, stuck in the middle of nowhere, and may have just taken a mind-altering substance.

With Gossip Girl, Cecily von Ziegesar created a publishing and television sensation intended for young people, but embraced with equal fervor by adults. Her novels, praised for their humor, insight, and warmth—have sold more than six million copies. Now von Ziegesar embraces her sizable eligible-to-vote audience with an adult novel that grabs the reader from word one.

ps: Don't forget to enter my DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE contest if you haven't already!
Speaking of contests, you can win a copy SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready over @ The YA Book Queen - but hurry up, this international contest ends tomorrow, March 25th! Good luck! :)

22 March 2010

Review: HOUSE RULES by Jodi Picoult ***

Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject -- in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right.
But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's -- not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect -- can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family feel the spotlight shining directly on them.
For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?
Emotionally powerful from beginning to end, House Rules looks at what it means to be different in our society, how autism affects a family, and how our legal system works well for people who communicate a certain way -- and fails those who don't.

I've read most of Jodi Picoult's books and I like to say she's one of my favourite authors so naturally I was excited to read her latest offering too. I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for it, but after seeing reviews everywhere, I just couldn't resist it. I found the first half of the book absolutely gripping and I just couldn't put it down; I just wanted to read on and on as I really wanted to know what actually happened on that day. But then the obligatory Picoult courtroom scenes came and the book really slowed down. I kept reading as I was expecting some major twist in the end, but little did I know that the only thing this novel had in store for me was The Lamest Twist in the History of Plot Twists, which was quite an unpleasant surprise since Ms Picoult is famous for her shocking plot twists. And here, there wasn't even a twist, just the final explanation which just made me roll my eyes. I just kept thinking, "Is *that* even possible? Wouldn't a medical examiner have spotted that? Why didn't they just *ask* Jacob what actually happened?" So yeah, this book sadly went from a very promising opening to a rather disappointing conclusion.

While I did enjoy reading it, especially the first half or so, I thought the book was far too long and full of fillers. Ms Picoult has a trademark writing style, which is lovely and full of metaphors and I would recognize it immediately, even if I didn't know something was written by her. I can't fault it and Picoult definitely knows how to write, but now I feel that she always uses the same techniques, plus to me it feels like all her characters have a similar narrative voice so I find it difficult to tell them apart without being told who's narrating the story (there are always multiple narrators), which obviously affects the characterization as well. I wasn't particularly annoyed by any of the characters in this book, but sadly I didn't really connect to them either. They were basically just the standard Picoult characters: the child with an issue, the mother who will do anything for that child, the resentful sibling, the distant significant other, the lawyer, the detective, the prosecutor, the judge and yadda yadda, so basically nothing new really.

Picoult tackles a topical issue in each of her novels and this time she picked Asperger's Syndrome, "a highly-functional form of autism". At first I found the subject fascinating and it was interesting to see the world through the eyes of an Aspie, but after hearing the definition of Asperger's Syndrome and all the symptoms for like the twentieth time, I did feel slightly beaten over the head with the subject of autism and I think I could probably recite the definition in my sleep, which is slightly annoying.

As for the covers, I posted both the UK and US ones above. I can't say I'm a fan of either (too much green *shudder*), but in this case the UK one is definitely the winner - well, at least it's relevant to the story (the rainbow quilt plays an importan part), whereas the US one feels completely random. I've no idea what a small child is doing on the cover since Jacob, the main character, is supposed to be 18?

One last thing, and this is slightly off-topic, but I'm afraid I'm not a fan of Ms Picoult's use of sexist language. I've noticed it in several of her works actually and I'm quite surprised that she still uses the male pronoun to specify the indefinite pronoun, which is a pet peeve of mine; e.g. (p. 466 of my ARC):

"So someone with Asperger's might be smart?"
"Someone with Asperger's might even have a genius level IQ. However, when it comes to small talk, he'll be completely inept. He has to be taught social interactions [...]"
&
"A person with Asperger's desperately wants to fit in but simply can't understand social behaviour [...] He won't be able to read gestures or facial expressions [...] He won't be able to intrepret a non-verbal clue [...]"

Sadly, these are not lone examples; they appear all over the place and it really ticks me off so I'd like to take a moment and invite everyone to read this excellent article on Why Sexist Language Matters. Thank you and I hope I'm not the only one who feels so strongly about this issue? :)

All in all, I admit I was slightly disappointed with the latest Picoult offering, which is quite the opposite of how I felt about her previous novel, Handle with Care, which I gobbled up in one day. I'm afraid that despite a very promising and gripping opening I can't rate this one among my personal Picoult favourites (The Pact, Mercy, My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes etc.), but I expect her 2011 novel, Sing You Home, will turn out far better - I can't wait for it!

If you're not familiar with the Picoult phenomenom yet, then I wouldn't really suggest you start with this novel as I personally don't think it shows the best of what Picoult can do. But don't be discouraged by my review - despite all the compaints I had, I enjoyed reading this novel so definitely give it a try if you're a Picoult fan, it might tickle your fancy more than mine, who knows. :) Watch the official trailer below to learn more about the book!

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


20 March 2010

In My Mailbox #35

Hello there and welcome to another installment of In My Mailbox, which is hosted by The Story Siren. I received some lovely books this week and here they are in all their glory:



I randomly came across THE QUEEN MUST DIE by K. A. S. Quinn and both the cover and the plot really intrigued me so I just ordered it. It seems like a great historical YA book and I don't think I've seen any reviews of this, but it seems exciting!

I've been eyeing WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED by Judy Blundell for ages and one day I just decided to buy it. I've heard great things about it so I can't wait to read it!

I haven't even heard of FROZEN IN TIME by Ali Sparkes until it won the Blue Peter award a few weeks ago. I ordered it as soon as I read the synopsis after it received the award and ordered it immediately. I'll discuss why in my review, which will probably be up soon since I'm planning to read this next.

MY SINGLE FRIEND by Jane Costello was a lovely surprise from Simon & Schuster UK - thank you! The book is out on 15 April and it sounds great, plus the author just won of the RNA awards, woohoo!

That's it from me, what did you get? :)

ps: Quick contest reminders!

18 March 2010

Interview: TARA HYLAND, the author of Daughters of Fortune + GIVEAWAY - Win one of FIVE copies!

Scroll down to see how you can be
one of the FIVE people who will win
a trade paperback copy
of this fantastic debut!


Some of you may remember how much I enjoyed Tara Hyland's debut novel DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE and for those of you who missed it, you can read my review here.
Now comes the good news: I got to interview the author (yay!), which is fantastic as I'm fascinated by authors and I love asking them questions, it's such an honour!
Want even more good news? The book is officially out today (HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, TARA!) so feel free to grab your copy!
And now without further ado, here is the interview, in which Tara provides some fascinating answers about her inspiration, reserach, deleted characters, her gorgeous covers, publishing advice, her next book and more ... Read on!

1. On your website, you say you wanted to write the kind of book you enjoy reading with a strong storyline and an escapist edge - you did an excellent job at that, but how did you get the inspiration to feature three daughters of a fashion mogul? Are they based on any real people?
I came up with the idea for Daughters of Fortune when I was reading another book actually, which was also about siblings fighting over a fashion business, but it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, so I decided to have a go at coming up with my own. I was actually going to set the book around a jewellery dynasty to begin with, as Tiffany & Co used to be one of my clients when I worked in finance, but then another author used a jewellery business, so I settled on fashion instead.
In terms of the characters, from the beginning I wanted all three girls to be very different, each with their own issues, but all equally compelling. I originally just thought of them in terms of a few words - very ambitious, driven Elizabeth; gentle, naive Caitlin, who inadvertently becomes a rival to Elizabeth; and damaged, wild child Amber. From there, it was about coming up with plausible reasons why they were so different, even though they are related, as I wanted them to feel believable. While none of the girls are based on real people, when I was writing the novel, there was quite a lot in the media on Kate Moss / Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse / Blake Fielder, which echoed the Amber and Johnny relationship. But that was just a coincidence - I'd already written them in as characters. I suppose it's quite a familiar story - the girl who is so in love with a guy that she doesn't realise how bad he is for her, even though everyone else can see it.

2. The story starts in the 1970s and ends in the 2000s and tackles both business and fashion so I imagine you must've done quite a bit of research. What research methods did you use and what were some of the most fascinating things you discovered during your research?
Yes - there was an awful lot of research involved! - on the changing times and locations, as well as the business and fashion. In terms of the business side, I worked in finance for the best part of a decade, and I had mainly retail clients, so that was just from general knowledge. I've also been lucky to do a lot of travelling in my life, so I've visited many of the locations mentioned; for example, my husband spent a year in Tokyo back in 1997/98, and I went to visit him a couple of times, so I know Japan quite well. On the fashion side, I also read a couple of books: The House of Gucci by Sara Gay Forden, which gave me a feel for the rivalries within a family-run fashion house, and How Fashion Works by Gavin Waddell, which helped with the details of Caitlin's fashion course. And the rest was just down to imagination!
The most interesting thing I found out during my research was about Belleville, the artistic area where my Paris scenes are set. Originally I was going to use Saint Germain, but it felt a bit passé. As I looked into the art scene in Paris, I stumbled across Belleville in an article online, and it seemed like a much more alternative, cutting-edge place - especially in the early nineties, when that part of the books is set.

3. On your website, you also talk about how you got published and you also say you had to make the book far shorter than it originally was. Can you reveal any of the scenes that were deleted?
Yes - the book got a lot shorter! The first draft that I sent into my agent, back in January 2008, was 220,000 words long, and he said that he wouldn't submit it to publishers until it was cut to 150,000 words - that meant losing a whole 30% of the manuscript! One of the big things that I cut out was a character called Rupert, who provided the basis for a love rivalry between Elizabeth and Caitlin (Elizabeth was in love with him, but he preferred Caitlin, who then preferred Lucien - yes, it was quite complicated, and it was probably a good thing that it went!)

4. Which five words would you use to describe your book?
Fashion, glamour, secrets, wealth, passion.

5. How did the gorgeous UK and US covers come about? Did you have any say in them? Can you share any interesting stories on how the covers were designed?
The UK cover was originally quite different. I saw a first draft in July 2009, and it had a white background, with three blank-faced girls, full-length on the cover, strolling side-on off the page. Apparently they were meant to be the three daughters in the novel, strutting down a catwalk. I hated it! The girls on the cover all looked the same, almost like mannequins, which seemed weird, as everyone always comments on how the three main characters are so different, especially in the way they look and dress. It looked more like a cover for a book about modelling. So I wrote a long email saying how much I disliked it, and that for me it didn't capture the spirit of the book - and then found out that no one agreed with me! I felt very much like the lone voice of dissent, and honestly, I really didn't think anything was going to change. Then two months later, I received a new draft of the cover - and it was the one you see today! I couldn't believe how different it was! I was quite amazed (and grateful) that my publishers had listened to my concerns and gone away and totally reworked the design. And now it looks wonderful!
The US cover was a lot more straightforward. The one you see is pretty much the same as the first draft. They wanted a Gossip Girl feel, and also to capture the idea of upper class Englishness, and I think that's what they've done perfectly.

6. If your book was turned into a film, which actresses and actors would you ideally like to see playing your main characters?
Ooo - I like this question! Mainly because I love movies / TV almost as much as books! There's quite a big cast of characters in my book, so I'll just go with the three sisters:
Elizabeth - I always imagine Katherine Heigl's body, as Elizabeth's meant to be statuesque, with Sarah Michelle Gellar's head (the way she is in Cruel Intentions, quite bitchy and sharp!)
Caitlin - A shorter Liv Tyler (I always imagine Caitlin is about 5'6, whereas Liv Tyler is 5'10)
Amber - if she ever turned to acting, Avril Lavinge!

7. As a debut author, what have you learned on the road to getting published and what advice would you give to aspiring novelists?
I've learnt that everything in the world of publishing takes time! I originally contacted my agent in March 2007 (you can read the full story on my website, www.tarahyland.com), and it took another eighteen months to get the manuscript ready for submission to publishers, and another sixteen months from there to actually seeing the book published! But, even though it's been a long path to publication, it's also been an amazing experience, and I hope that I get to be a novelist for the rest of my life.
My advice to aspiring novelists would be to seek out feedback on their work - get a friend, relative or someone in your writing group (basically, anyone who is going to give you honest, constructive feedback) to read your manuscript before sending it off. It's so easy to get too close to your manuscript, so that you can't see the wood for the trees, and an outsider can often spot problems that you can't. My editors invariably come up with concerns and ideas which I would never think of. Even now, I'm looking at reviews on my first novel, seeing what people say, and trying to think how I can improve my next book, while still keeping the elements people liked about Daughters of Fortune. So far, Book 2 is 10% shorter and has less characters! Those points may sound familiar, Bookalicious...

8. The rumour has it that you've finished your second book - can you give us some details on what it's about and when it will be published?
I've just handed in the first draft of my second book (early March 2010), and it should be out this time next year, so spring 2011. My agent and editors saw a reasonably detailed synopsis last year, before I started writing, but I still haven't heard what they think of the full manuscript, so it's a nerve-wracking time! It's about a mother who abandons her daughter for fame and fortune, and the consequences of her actions on both their lives. It takes in the golden age of Hollywood, which was such a glamorous, dark period. There's also a big mystery running from page one of the book, although the story is still character-driven. Here's my synopsis (although my publishers haven't seen it as yet, or said they liked the book, so it may change!)

An unwanted child: San Francisco, 1958. On a dark December night, a baby girl is left at the Sisters of Charity Orphanage on Telegraph Hill.
A mysterious suicide: One year later, movie star Frances Fitzgerald takes her own life. Her husband, wealthy businessman Maximilian Stanhope, is rumoured to know more about her death than he’s letting on, but nothing is ever proved.
A terrible secret: What is the connection between these two events? That’s what Frances’ daughter, Eavan, wants to find out. Abandoned by her mother when she is just seven years old, her childhood is filled with hardship and loss. Even though as a young woman she finds professional success as a journalist, on a personal level she struggles to trust those around her. Unable to commit to the man she loves, Eavan becomes convinced that uncovering the secret behind her mother’s death is the only way to lay her demons to rest. But finding out the truth may end up tearing her apart.

9. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Just a big thank you to Bookalicious Ramblings for reviewing Daughters of Fortune. And I hope that readers enjoy the book.

***
Thanks so much for your time and brilliant answers, Tara! Oh, it's a rather safe bet that this book will be a great hit with the readers! And I cannot wait for the next book - it sounds fantastic!

Other reviews of DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE: Chicklit Reviews, Chicklit Club, Girlie Gossip.

Lastly, make sure you watch the video below to learn more about this book straight from the author! To learn more about Tara Hyland, visit her website or her publisher page for more videos & info.



So you say you want to read this book? Well, here's your chance to win a copy!
  • There will be FIVE winners and each gets a trade paperback copy of this brilliant book.
  • To be entered, just leave a comment and tell me why you want to read this book. :)
  • You don't have to be a follower to be entered.
  • The contest is open INTERNATIONALLY and it ends on April 1st.
Here's how you can get more entries:
+ 2 if you're a follower of this blog;
+ 1 for following Tara on Twitter: @TaraHyland;
+ 1 for following Simon & Schuster UK on Twitter: @simonschusterUK (they're kindly sponsoring this giveaway);
+ 2 for tweeting about this contest or retweeing this tweet (provide link);
+ 2 for mentioning the contest in your sidebar;
+ 5 for posting about this contest on your blog with the picture of the cover and a video of Tara.

I need to get a hang of the Google Docs thingy, but until then I'll have to do this the old fashioned way, sorry. Good luck, everyone! :)

16 March 2010

Waiting On Wednesday + Did YOU win a copy of BEFORE I FALL?

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine and it's meant for posting about the upcoming releases we're looking forward to.

Last week I posted a YA duo so this week I've decided to combine two chick lit reads that I can't wait to read. These two don't really have a similar theme, but what they have in common (apart from the genre) is that they both sound great and look lovely - what's not to love? :) So here are my this week's picks ...


SINGLE IN THE CITY
by Michele Gorman
[24 June 2010]
It’s official. Hannah has left her friends and family in the US behind and is following her dream. To live in London. Unfortunately she's completely unprepared for what's in store.
She’s going to find:
1. Her dream guy. A prince or Hugh Grant would be nice. Or does she have to settle for her half-naked Australian housemate or an "English gentleman" with terrible hygiene habits?
2. Her dream job. Something fantastic in fashion. So how has she ended up being the mini-me for an evil party planner who doesn’t even trust her to arrange the paperclips?
3. Her dream friends. But everyone in London seems to have known each other for years and Hannah’s having trouble getting to know nice people. Who’s she going to have fun with? Dream life? Should Hannah just dream on?
Maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper to just get a new haircut. Was she mad to move 3,000 miles away from everyone she knows? Will she ever find love and her perfect life in England?


JUST LOOK AT ME NOW
by Nell Dixon

[5 August 2010]
Tia's top beauty tip: apply heavy make-up carefully to prevent any cracks from showing...
Life is fabulous for Tia Carpenter. She has it all, money, looks, a great job as the beauty expert at stylish Platinum magazine and, at last, the attention of her unrequited high school love, Josh Banks.
But Tia has a secret – back at school she was Barbara Baker, overweight, crooked teeth, frizzy hair and no fashion sense. Cosmetic dentistry, losing seven stones in weight and a complete makeover later, Tia has successfully erased her past life as Big Barb, tub of lard, until the day Juliet Gold, the bane of her teenage existence, arrives to work at the magazine.
Juliet always got everything she ever wanted, and now she wants both Tia’s job and Josh. Tia will have to use every makeover trick she’s ever learned to stop Juliet from uncovering her past and stealing her man.
Ooh, don't they sound fantastic! I can't wait to get my hands on these perfect summer reads! :)

Lastly, I believe it's high time I announced the winner of my BEFORE I FALL contest, which ended last week. Sorry for taking so long, but these entries take quite a while to count and check (note to self: look into Google Docs, apparently that's a good solution to this problem, heh). Anyway, as it turns out, 39 people entered this contest and altogether there were 214 entries, yay! Thanks SO much for everyone who entered! I'd love to give a copy of this fantastic book to each one of you fabulous people, but sadly there can be only one winner - random.org picked number 118, which belongs to ... REBECCA @ Lost in Books! Congrats to the winner of a hardcover copy & some signed swag, I'll be emailing you shortly! As for others, please don't despair and stay tuned for some other great giveaways in the near future! :)

15 March 2010

Review: I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND by Cora Harrison ***

It is a truth uniersally acknowledged that a single girl in possession of a journal must write all her secrets in it ...

When shy Jenny Cooper goes to stay with her cousin Jane Austen, she knows nothing of the world of beautiful dresses, dances, secrets, gossip, and romance that Jane inhabits. At fifteen, Jane is already a sharp observer of the customs of courtship. So when Jenny falls utterly in love with Captain Thomas Williams, who better than Jane to help her win the heart of this dashing man? But is that even possible? After all, Jenny’s been harboring a most desperate secret. Should it become known, it would bring scandal not only to her, but also to the wonderful Austen family. What’s a poor orphan girl to do?

In this delicious dance between truth and fiction, Cora Harrison has crafted Jenny’s secret diary by reading everything Jane Austen wrote as a child and an adult, and by researching biographies, critical studies, and family letters. Jenny’s diary makes the past spring vividly to life and provides insight into the entire Austen family—especially the beloved Jane.


A quick note before I begin - the US edition above isn't out yet, but I decided to post both covers as they're both lovely and yet so different. Which one do you prefer? Personally I like the US one, but I absolutely adore the UK cover and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it at Frankfurt (report here) and that's the cover I'll be rating at the end of my review.

Quite frankly, I don't think I would've read/bought this book if it weren't for the cover. I must confess that while being an admirer of Ms Austen's works, I'm not really the biggest Austen fan and I haven't re-re-read her works and I'm not all that familiar with her life story so this book gave me some insight. It's not really about Jane though, she's just a side character, but the main story is told mainly through the diary entries of Jenny Cooper, Jane's 16-year-old orphan friend who lives with them in Steventon.

The story takes place in 1791 and in the opening scene, Jenny commits a terrible offence by braving the streets of Southampton in the middle of the night in order to post a letter addressed to Jane's mother, informing her that Jane (aged 15) is terribly ill at boarding school (you can read about this here). Thus Jenny may have saved Jane's life, but this scandalous act has a great effect on Jenny's life later on, mainly because she met Captain Thomas Williams on that fateful night.
After that, Jenny and Jane were pulled out of that dreadful boarding school and went to live with the Austen family in Steventon. There Jenny meets all of Jane's numerous siblings (including the disabled brother George who is not allowed to live with the family), develops a crush or two, attends her first few balls in wonderful gowns, learns the language of the fan and falls head over heels in love with a dashing man ... There are a few twists and turns, but you know there's a happy ending in store. :)

This was a truly lovely and romantic little book and I rather enjoyed it. I had great fun reading about the life in the 18th century when the world was oh so different and this book sort of makes you want to experience it first hand, le sigh. While I enjoyed reading about Jenny's love troubles, I found myself far more touched by the sub-story of Jane's brother George and how Jenny and Jane tried to help him and didn't shun him just because he was disabled.

I quite enjoyed this book and I really can't fault it, but it just didn't amaze me. It was an incredibly and a very romantic read, but I felt I didn't get to know the characters well enough (perhaps that's due to the fact that everyone was so ... rigid back then?) and the writing could've been more flowerly or old-fashioned for a diary that was written in the 18th century.

What makes this book even more adorable are the oh so pretty illustrations that are featured all through the diary. They were meant to be Jenny's sketches of things that she talked about in her diary, but actually they were done by Susan Hellard and I thought they were the perfect addition to this lovely novel. I've posted a few examples below (click to enlarge) - aren't these just the cutest things ever? :)


I expect most people who will be reading this are fans of Austen's work and are probably wondering what this book has to do with her. Well, as it turns out, a lot of it is actually based on real events and people - if you want to know more, please read the author's note on what is fact what is fiction, but I have to say I found the book to be a wonderful mix of both.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and while I was not amazed by it, I'd still recommend it to all the Austen fans or to anyone who enjoys a lovely romantic read. Quite frankly, I think it's worth owning just because it's so darn cute! :)

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

13 March 2010

In My Mailbox #34

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren in which bloggers post about the books we've received in the past week. Here's what was in *my* mailbox this week:



LITTLE DARLINGS by Jacqueline Wilson - Yeah, I just decided to take a picture of the whole book jacket because I think it's great and very eye-catching and I love it! I may have mentioned before that I have a bit of a soft spot for Ms Wilson so obviously I had to pre-order her new book and now it's finally arrived, yay!

I also finally got my copy of BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver. Readers of this blog already now that I've read this book months ago (it's actually the only book I've ever read on a comp) and it was soooo good that I just had to get a copy so I did (I pre-ordered it ages ago).

The last three books came in a surprise package from the lovely people at Headline (thanks so much!) and so I got:
THE PERFECT LIE by Emily Barr - Haven't read anything by this author yet, but I've heard great things about her books so I'm excited to give her a try!
DESIRE by Luise Bagshawe - Same as above, haven't read anything by LB yet, but looking forward to! This is just another ARC and the finished cover is lovely!
TOP TIPS FOR LIFE by Kate Reardon - This appears to be non-fiction, but it seems pretty cute and useful!

What did *you* get? I can't wait to find out! :)

ps: Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Before I Fall contest! I'm afraid I've been rather busy lately and sadly haven't had time to do all the entries and everything, but I promise to sort everything out in the next couple of days so the winner should be announced soon, just bear with me! :)

Hope you're having a great weekend, everyone!

11 March 2010

Review: DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE by Tara Hyland ****

William Melville's daughters are heiresses to the world's most exclusive fashion dynasty. Beautiful and rich, they are envied by all. But behind the glittering facade of their lives, each girl hides a dark secret that threatens to tear their family apart.
Smart, ambitious Elizabeth knows how to manipulate every man she meets, except the one who counts: her father.
Gentle, naive Caitlin, the illegitimate child, struggling to fit into a world of privilege while staying true to herself.
Stunning, spoilt Amber, the party girl with a weakness for bad boys; more fragile than anyone realises.
As each of them seeks to carve out her own destiny, Elizabeth, Caitlin and Amber face difficult choices, which will take them in wildly different directions. But as old wounds resurface and threaten to destroy the foundations of the Melville empire, their paths will cross again. Because the simple truth is that, no matter how far you go, you cannot escape the claims of family.
If you're anything like me and you tend to judge a book by the cover, then you're probably already in love with this book, just like I was when I first saw it (and it's even more beautiful in real life), even though I generally don't favour anything blue, but this one is just stunning. If on top of being a fan of the cover art you're also interested in a good bonkbuster, then this is definitely the book for you! It's a massive thing with nearly 600 pages, but it was so good and engrossing that I sped through them in less than two days and now I'm slightly sad that it's over as I got really attached to the three main characters and I want to know what happens to them next!

This impressive debut tells the story of three daughters of a fashion magnate, William Melville. The opening scene takes place in 1974 and explains how William and Katie (Caitilin's mother) fell in love and why their affair ended and they never spoke again. Then we get to know the three girls who are at the centre of this story: Elizabeth and Amber (the legitimate daughters) and Caitlin. We see how Caitlin joins the family after Katie's death and then we follow the girls during their teenage and school years in 1990s and afterwards in 2000s when they're trying to lead their own lives as more of less successful young women. The trio couldn't be more different, but what they all have in common is that despite the fact that they could've enjoyed the luxurious life, they all want to be independent and prove to both the world and their father what they're really worth so they develop their own careers in fashion design, business and modelling. Throughout the book, we witness their private and professional ups and downs, and though they may have had their fair share of indifferences and haven't quite been the closest of sisters, they know how to step together and unite forces when a war is declared on their fashion empire.

As I said, the book is massive in the typical bonkbuster fashion, but it's still a rather quick read and I honestly cannot fault. While I think it could've been shorter and some side characters could perhaps be eliminated, I still enjoyed every single page. The prose is rich and elegant and thus matches both the setting and the cover perfectly while it also sucks the reader in. Ms Hyland can definitely write and I'd definitely like to read more by her! The rumour has it that she's already working on her second novel, whoop!

While the plot was a bit slow at first, it was never boring - how could it be with the glamurous lives that these girls lead! I also expected fashion to play a more dominant part in the book as a whole, but it was really more about business than clothes as such and thus this book provides a great behind-the-scenes look for fashion empires. Apart from those rather sophisticated themes, these book also features all the typical ingredients of a bonkbuster: rich people, sex, scandals, betrayal, scheming, drugs, cheating etc. Perfect escapism!

As a typical bonkbuster, this book features a loooot of characters, but I found them very well portrayed, especially the main ones really jumped of the page. I felt like I really got to know them (despite the third person narration) and I was sad to let them go at the end of the book so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel.

All in all, I wasn't exactly blown away by this book, but it was a damn enjoyable and engrossing read! Really, the pages were just turning themselves and it was all over before I even knew it!

The book is officially released on March 18th, when I'll also be posting an interview with the author. If you can't wait that long, you can find out more about the book and the author here or read the prologue here. If you find it tickles your fancy, then you can pre-order your copy at Amazon or Book Depository.

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

10 March 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: A double dose of YA reality chicks!

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine and it's used for listing the exciting upcoming releases.
Today I'll also be doing a double post since two of the books I'm looking forward to tackle the same subject, i.e. REALITY SHOWS. Surprisingly, I'm not a fan of reality TV at all, but I still find myself drawn to these books, lol. Yep, I already have both LA Candy books to read along with The Real Real, fingers crossed I'll get round to them in 2010, heh!
Anyway, I came across two other book about girls who become stars of reality TV and here they are:

REALITY CHECK by Jen Calonita
[14 June 2010]
Sixteen-year-olds Charlie, Keiran, Brooke, and Hallie have just been signed up for their own reality television show. They can't even believe it. "You'll be The Hills meets The Secret Life of the American Teenager," the Armani-suited executive tells them, "and the hottest thing on our network." How could they say no?
But soon enough, cameras following them everywhere and interfering producers surreptitiously scripting their lives start to affect the four best friends' relationship. Brooke seems to want all the screen time. Keiran is abruptly written out of the show-and consequently the group's friendship-when she doesn't rate well. As soon as Charlie realizes what's going on, she figures out the perfect way to give the studio and her home audience a much-needed reality check.
Because friends don't let friends do reality shows.
How cute does this sound and look? What are everyone's thoughts on this cover? I've heard mixed responses so far, but I actually quite like it!


WATCH ME by Lauren Barnholdt
[6 July 2010]
Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.
Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn't panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally's got bigger issues -- like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night "episode" with a certain housemate . . .
As the cover says, this is a re-release of the author's work entitled REALITY CHICK and I actually used the summary for that edition as it emphasises the subject of reality TV more. Both the cover and the title have been changed for the re-release and I have to say the change has been a definite upgrade, although I quite liked the previous title.

Can't wait to get my hands on these books! What are you waiting on? :)

ps: What are your thoughts on Hilary Duff writing YA novels? (Sarah Dessen tweeted: "Writing YA is the new black!" - LOL!) Will you read it? I honestly don't care about Hilary Duff, I don't think I've seen a single thing she was in, but I probably won't be able to resist the hype this book will very likely be subjected to and I'll probably give it a chance, heh.

pps: Don't forget - my BEFORE I FALL contest ends today, on the 10th! You only have until midnight so go enter now if you haven't already! :)

8 March 2010

Review: VERY LeFREAK by Rachel Cohn ****

Very LeFreak has a problem: she’s a crazed technology addict. Very can’t get enough of her iPhone, laptop, IMs, text messages, whatever. If there’s any chance the incoming message, call, text, or photo might be from her supersecret online crush, she’s going to answer, no matter what. Nothing is too important: sleep, friends in mid-conversation, class, a meeting with the dean about academic probation. Soon enough, though, this obsession costs Very everything and everyone. Can she learn to block out the noise so she can finally hear her heart?
Rachel Cohn makes her Knopf solo debut with this funny, touching, and surely recognizable story about a girl and the technology habit that threatens everything.

The main reason why I bought the book and gave this book a chance was the awesome book trailer, which I loved. I expected to love this book so I was quite surprised when I just couldn't get into it at first ... I found the first part of the book rather boring and I didn't really like any of the characters and I kept thinking, "Whoa, this Very chick's got some serious issues." I was very close to giving up on this book, but I knew that if I gave up on it, then I'd never pick it up again and I thought that maybe writing a bad review once it a while would do me good. Buuuuut in the second part, the book really picked up and I ended up loving it! Why? Read on. ;)

When we first meet Very (real name Veronica), she spends all her time connected to various devices and she's obsessed with El Virus, her online buddy/crush who's been completely MIA for a couple of weeks and Very can't wait to hear from him. She also does some stupid things so her friends (Jennifer aka Lavinia) and Bryan are really worried about her. Thus they make her give up all her gadgets for a couple of weeks. Very is coping more or less successfully with her predicament when all of a sudden she finds out that Bryan deleted all the stuff on her laptop ... Very gets *very, very* angry and a very naked attack ensues aaaaand our Very ends up at ESCAPE, which stands for Emergency Services for Computer-Addicted Persons Everywhere, which marks the second part of the book.

From here on, we eventually get to meet the real Very and get to the bottom of her issues. At ESCAPE, Very makes some new friends and gets into needlepoint and bedazzling and clothes washing and basically discovers that life without technology isn't all that bad. During her sessions with the counsellor Keisha, Very also openly discusses growing up all over the place with a very liberal mother and why she feels guilty for her death, about not knowing her father, about her sexuality, about being hurt and hurting people etc. I felt that Very really grew as a character and I loved how she really tried to be a better person and strived to resist the temptations both of the people and technology variety. But just when she's about to complete her recovery, two very important people in her life show up and Very has to choose which path she will take. There were quite a exciting few twists & turns in the end, but I was happy with Very's choice.

I wasn't too fond of the third person narration, but the narrative voice was fantastic so I could easily overlook that minor flaw (which is totally personal preference). The plot isn't exactly gripping (at least not until the end), but the great narration and character development make this book really easy to read once you get into it. Also, I find it quite funny how I went from being quite irritated by Very to really liking her (as well as Lavinia and Aunt Edith) and rooting for her in the end! I thought she was a great character and I love how she grew throughout the story.

Lastly, there are three things I want to say:
  • the trailer is great, but the book has so much more to offer;
  • if you're participating in the GLBT Challenge, then you might want to add this book to your list - just saying ;)
  • I can't get the Le Freak song out of my head now, haha! "Oooh, freak out! Le freak, c'est chic!" :)

overall rating:

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

ps: I've no idea what's with all the four star reviews lately, but coincidentally I've just been reading great books! :)

6 March 2010

In My Mailbox #33

Hey, everyone, and welcome to another installment of IMM (hosted by TSS). I'm happy to say that some of the books I've been waiting for have finally arrived, yay! Here are the lovely books I received in the past week - a great mix of chick lit, YA and historical books:



Firstly, DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE by Tara Hyland - I've been excited about this book ever since I first heard of it and now it's finally arrived and it looks even more stunning in person! So elegant and posh, I love it! I'd like to thank Tara and Ally from S&S for sending me this for review, I cannot wait to read this one!

I also bought a hardcover copy of I WAS JANE AUSTEN'S BEST FRIEND by Corra Harrison, which looks adorable both inside and out - the cover so pretty and it even has all these cute illustrations inside, yay!

I ordered THE GYPSY CROWN by Kate Forsyth after I read & loved The Puzzle Ring, which made me want to read more by this wonderful author so I bought this one. It also has a great cover and I hope it's just as good as The Puzzle Ring!

I pre-ordered LOVE LETTERS by Katie Fforde a while ago as it sounded like a great read, but I was waiting for the paperback to come out. I've heard great things about Ms Fforde's books but I haven't read any myself so I hope Love Letters is a good one to start!

THE COUNTERFEIT GUEST by Rose Melikan is the sequel to The Blackstone Key (gorgeous cover!), which I bought ages ago, but still haven't read as I'm waiting for all three books to come out in paperback. This historical series sounds fantastic though and I really can't wait to start reading it!

That's it from me! Can't we to see what everyone else got! Isn't IMM like the best meme ever? :) Have a great weekend, everyone!

4 March 2010

CELEBUTANTES by Ruthanna Hopper and Amanda Goldberg ****

What would you do if you were born on Oscar night into Hollywood royalty? If you went to Vanity Fair parties rather than birthday parties? And if your life felt like a glamourous movie - but you were only an extra in it, playing boyfriendless, jobless hopeful no. 310?
Meet Lola Santisi. She's an Actorholic. Stuck in a pattern of dating beautiful actors then as soon as she's got over the dazzle of their teeth and the rockhard abs, realising they're just as self-obsessed as the last one. She's gone cold-turkey, and resolved to plough her energy into helping her friends instead. Julian, Lola's BGF (best gay friend), is a designer on the up. But he'll be down and out if he can't get someone to wear his designs on Oscar night so persuades Lola to become his Hollywood Ambassador. Lola's best friend Kate, is an ambitious young agent desperate to sign a big name. Together with their other friend, Cricket, a ditzy actress aspiring to play something other than a coma victims on ER, they must navigate through celebrity-hell if they're ever going to make it to the red carpet ...
I've had this book for like two years and I've nearly given up on reading it after I came across several bad reviews. But then one day I just felt like reading this particular book - I guess I was just in the mood for something light and fluffy and this book was just what the doctor ordered! It was actually far better than I expected from the negative reviews and I ended up really enjoying it!

The book revolves around the Oscars - the opening scene takes place after the ceremony and then it goes back to document the week before this opening scene to explain how things ended up the way they did. The story is narrated by Lola Santisi, a 26-year-old failed actress and wannabe fashion designer. She was born into Hollywood Royalty as her father is a producer and she's completely used to being surrounded by the biggest film stars and fashion designers. Her current objective during the week before the Oscars is to help her designer friend Julian find a film star who will wear his dress on the red carpet and thus make him famous, otherwise he'll be out of business and she'll be jobless again. Finding a star to wear a Julian Tennant dress is proving to be harder than it sounds, especially since film stars are known to change their minds every two seconds, plus her enemy Adrienne Hunt is trying to sabotage her every step of the way and she's trying to recover from her break up as well as struggling to resist falling for yet another actor. Lola may make a few mistakes along the way, but she's determined to succeed no matter what it takes.

Not surprisingly, there is a looooot of name dropping in this novel - it feels like every possible film star and designer or any kind of celebrity gets a mention in one way or another, either these people actually appear in the book or they're just mentioned in passing. I personally didn't mind this at all, but I know some people get annoyed with name dropping. Really, this book is all about Hollywood and its excess and craziness. I can't deny that it is indeed very shallow, but sometimes it's just nice to read a book where the main problem is who will wear which dress down the red carpet - perfect escapism from the real life problems!

The plot wasn't terribly exciting, but it wasn't boring either. The characters seemed slightly one-dimensional at times, especially Olivia, diva extraordinaire who refers to herself in the third person and comes up with the craziest requests that her team have to deal with, but she really provided several plot twists with her demands about Julian's dress. Lola was a great character though - yes, quite shallow, but you can't really blame her since she was born into this kind of world. Nonetheless, she was determined and funny and really less spoilt and selfish that I would've expected so I grew quite fond of her.

I think this book could've been quite annoying if it wasn't so well written. I really enjoyed the simple yet contemporary and oh so funny narrative, which I found very appropriate for this kind of a novel - it actually reminded me of Air Kisses, which was modern and witty too.

All in all, this is pure fluff, but it makes for great entertainment so I'd certainly recommend it if you're into books about the lives of the rich and the famous, if you're fascinated by Hollywood or you're just looking for a light read. There's an Angelica Huston quote on the back cover that I think describes the book really well - it says: "Fashion, film stars and great fun!" I couldn't agree more. :)

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

ps: The main reason why I wanted to read this book were actually the promos for it posted on YouTube. My favourite one features Lola herself (see below) and there are three more featuring Lola's friends Julian and Cricket and Kate. The videos are great and fun to watch, but there's just one problem - these scenes either didn't happen in the book or they were described differently in the book. For example, I've no idea why they used the Willow Fox scene in the video below - Willow was just mentioned in passing (and there was no climaxing in the book, lol) whereas Olivia, the main diva of the book, provided more than enough material to film. Sooo I'm slightly puzzled by that, but on the plus side, at least the videos are fun and contain no spoilers - honestly, watch them, they're great!

3 March 2010

Waiting On Wednesday: BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS

In my review of Splendour, I mentioned that the author of brilliant The Luxe series is already working on a new series called Bright Young Things - well, now the GORGEOUS cover and the amazing summary have been released (thanks, Goodreads!) and I could not possibly be more excited!!! Honestly, I adore everything about the cover (gorgeous model, perfect font - Ms Godbersen seriously gets the best covers EVER) and the summary sounds fantastic too and I love the characters' names and the time it is set in and everything!
Talk about PERFECTION! I need this book in my life NOW, but sadly it doesn't come out until 26 October 2010, boo! I can't wait that long!


Bright Young Things is the first in an epic four-book series about three teenage girls finding their way in the glittering metropolis of New York City and the glamorous mansions of Long Island.
It’s 1929 and Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey have escaped their small Midwestern town to chase big dreams and even bigger secrets. In New York, they meet Astrid Donal, a flapper who has everything she could ever want, except for the one thing Letty and Cordelia have to offer—true friendship.
Set in the dizzying summer before the market crash, against the vast lawns of the East End and on the blindingly lit stages of Broadway, the three girls will find romance, intrigue, and adventure.
Just as The Luxe books brought the Gilded Age to readers of Gossip Girl, Bright Young Things will bring the Jazz Age to bestselling author Anna Godbersen’s devoted fans and to new readers alike.

2 March 2010

Interview: LAUREN OLIVER + Win a copy of BEFORE I FALL!

Today is a big day: March 2nd in the official publication day for BEFORE I FALL, an incredible YA debut by Lauren Oliver. The blogoshere has been gushing about it for months so if you haven't heard about it, you must've been living under a rock and you really need to get with a program - trust me, you do not want to miss this amazing book - scroll down to see how YOU can win a brand new copy of BEFORE I FALL along with some signed bookmarks!

Here's a quick plot summary:
"Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn’t.
On a rainy February night, Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But instead of seeing a tunnel of light, she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the same day. Forced to live through the same events – the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party – she struggles to alter the outcome, but wakes up again on the day of the crash.
What follows is the story of a girl who comes of age in a matter of days. Who discovers, through heartbreaking insights, the consequences of her every action. Of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live
. And who falls in love . . . a little too late."
I got a chance to read it online (legally) on a HarperCollins site a few months ago. I wasn't supposed to review it, but the book affected me so much that I just could not resist, I had to get it all out of my system. I described it as a book with "NICELY COMPLEX PLOT, WELL STRUCTURED, WONDERFUL CHARACTERS, BEAUTIFUL WRITING, THOUGHT PROVOKING, EMOTIONAL - ALL IN ALL, AN OUTSTANDING DEBUT!" You can read the whole review here and this book honestly moved me so much that it ended up being my second favourite book of 2009 and virtually *everyone* who has read the book so far has been amazed by it - it's just the kind of a novel that really makes you think and stays with you forever.

Oh and guess what - the foreign rights for this book have already been sold to FOURTEEN countries even before this book was officially published. Yes, that's how good it is! :)

Both the UK and the US trailers have been released - they're both great so click here to watch them!

The woman we have to thank for this incredibly powerful book is LAUREN OLIVER (visit her official site), who is not only so very talented but also unbelievably nice! I was lucky enough to interview her and please find her answers below!

Let's start with the standard question: What was the inspiration for Before I Fall? It's such an original book so I do wonder how you came up with the idea for it!
Thanks! The idea for Before I Fall came from a bunch of different places. I used to spend a lot of time trying to imagine, in as much detail as possible, a “perfect” day: the kind of day I wouldn’t mind reliving forever. So I’ve always had that question in my mind. Additionally, I’ve always been interested in the mean girl phenomena and in themes of change and redemption—and ultimately, even though Before I Fall has a very strong narrative structure, I do see it as a character-driven book about change.

How long did it take to write the book? I imagine it must've taken a while since the story is so complex. Were there any particular scenes you were struggling with? How did you get published in the end?
You know, I was working from an extremely solid and intricate outline, and generating the outline was certainly the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process, I would say. The actual writing of the book only took about five-six months. It was surprisingly easy, actually, as was the publishing process; I believe my agent managed to get us a deal within a few days.
However, before people start throwing shoes at me, I will say this was not my first attempt at publication. I had previously completed two adult novels, neither of which was ever sold.

Can you tell us more about this "universe" (for the lack of a better word) where Sam finds herself reliving the last day of her life seven more times?
[SPOILER ALERT! PLEASE DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK YET.]
Hmm. I mean, in some ways I envisioned it as kind of a limbo. She is able to effect changes in the lives of the people around her, and so alter the legacy she will be leaving behind, but ultimately she is still penned in by the ultimate circumstances of her death. I guess you could say that that—that event, that death—is the concrete limit, the axiom on which her other actions must be based. That’s why, for me, there was never a question of allowing her to live on at the end.

Which five words would you use to describe Before I Fall?
Redemptive; realistic; hopeful; sad. That’s only four but I think they are sufficient.

How did you decide on the title? Did you have any alternative titles in mind?
Originally we called the book IF I SHOULD FALL, but we felt it was somewhat too ephemeral and also very similar to IF I STAY, a book that was being released at the time. But it took us about 500 titles to get from IF I SHOULD FALL to BEFORE I FALL, if you can believe it! I'm terrible at titling. :)

Would you change anything about the book now if you could go back? Is there anything you wish you could've written differently?
There is much I would change on a line-by-line level. I feel I've already grown and developed as a writer, and there are certain phrases in the book that don't feel quite right to me anymore. But on the whole, no; I'm happy with the book's overall structure and content. I'm not one for regret, in any context!

The book will undoubtedly be a massive hit and I wouldn't be surprised at all if it were turned into a film. Should that happen, who would you like to see starring in it?
Oof. I don’t know! I can only hope your predictions for the book’s success are correct. I actually can see Kristen Stewart playing Sam, and I’m not just saying that because she starred in Twilight! And I could completely see Dakota Fanning playing Lindsay; she looks just like the way I envisioned Lindsay in my hed.

What was the best and the worst thing you've heard/read about Before I Fall so far (in terms of reviews etc.)?
The best thing I’ve heard was that the book has caused a girl to reconcile with her mother, from whom she was semi-estranged; also, a blogger told me that the book helped her grieve the loss of a younger family member. People have been generous so far in terms of criticism, but probably what most aggravates me is when people think that I’ve included a superfluous quantity of drinking and drugs. We really did drink that much in high school! I was just trying to depict my experiences realistically. And besides, the whole point of the book is how unfulfilling those moments can be, and how what really brings happiness are moments of true connection and sharing.

What you working on now?
I am editing my second book, DELIRIUM, which will be released in early 2011. It’s very different from Before I Fall, a kind of dystopian Romeo-and-Juliet story, and I am very, very excited about it.
* * * * *
To celebrate this awesome day, I'm also hosting a CONTEST!
One lucky winner will win a hardcover copy of BEFORE I FALL and some *signed* swag! Here's what you have to do in order to be entered into this contest:
  • you have to leave a comment telling me WHY you'd like to win/read this book (+1)
  • you have to be a follower of my blog through Google Friend Connect (+1)

Those who are more determined and want to have more chance of winning can get more entries by:
  • following Lauren on Twitter: @OliverBooks (+1)
  • tweeting about this contes (provide link) OR simply re-tweeting my tweet (+2)
  • posting about this contest on your blog sidebar (+2)
  • dedicating a whole post to this contest (+3) along with one of the trailers (+5)

The contest is open WORLDWIDE and closes on March 10th at midnight your time.

ps: If you don't win, you can always get your own copy at Amazon US/UK or at Book Depository (free worldwide delivery, woo)!

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