Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Wednesday, June 29, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
Ivy is now the beloved daughter of Ezra and Mother Snagsby, coffin makers, even if she does have to work rather like a maid. Their trade is roaring, and Ivy is as happy as a pig in clover. Especially when she escapes to the library to talk to the devastatingly sympathetic Miss Carnage.
But then Ivy guesses that all is not as it seems with her new parents, and discovers that she can pass into the world of the Clock Diamond. There, she sees her friend Rebecca, horribly sad and desperate.
Can Ivy save Rebecca, and what do a missing aristocrat, a forbidden love affair and a bullfrog have to do with her mission?
Last year, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia, I got the chance to read a super fun ARC for the first book in this series. So I couldn't wait to read more.
Ivy Pocket is a very resourceful twelve-year-old orphan who has odd remedies for just about every ailment. She's also the keeper of the Clock Diamond, which means she can see past, present and future visions. Plus she just found out she can also travel into another world. She has a sharp tongue, is very clever but can sometimes be quite clueless about what's right in front of her.
Oh, and she's now got parents.
The Snagsby couple make coffins for a living and have a pretty modest business. Although Ivy is expected to clean around the house, read somber poems to those on their deathbeds and her bedroom door is locked at night, she's still very happy to finally be part of a family. She's always keen to help, but manages to get distracted by other things.
When a woman approaches her and starts asking questions about her missing brother, Ivy starts digging around and finds a lot more than she bargained for. Because the Snagsby couple are at the centre of a pretty big secret, something that leads back to Ivy. Of course, when it comes to Ivy Pocket, there are always other problems at hand and now she's got a friend to rescue, some bizarre texts to learn from, a familiar pesky ghost to deal with, and another even more dangerous woman to dodge.
Can Ivy make it out unscathed, or will she be forced to accept that she can't always save the day?
OMG. This story is awesome! I was hooked as soon as I started. Seeing Ivy settled into a family was a lovely surprise that slowly soured when the secrets start to rise to the surface. The Snagsbys aren't very nice people and certainly take Ivy for granted. No matter what they do they can't outsmart her, which can be very frustrating for them and very entertaining for us.
Where in the first book her constant insults were often cringe-worthy, I loved them this time around. :)
Just like the first book, the strong female presence is very impressive. There are so many amazing, interesting women and girls. The level of cunning and manipulation featured in these female characters is balanced out by the generous and cleverness of others.
Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket is a charming and super fun book! It's zany and packed with so many intriguing mysteries that I didn't want to put it down. The comical dialogue, hilarious antics and Ivy's fibs kept me amused and laughing out loud throughout, but the story also takes some pretty dark and dangerous turns. A lot of new and old characters collide in this book, and most of them are greedy manipulators who want to take advantage of our brave heroine. Luckily, our Ivy Pocket doesn't scare easy and can pretty much get herself out of anything.
The illustrations add to the story. I love the cute, bright cover. And the book is just so darn pretty. Yep. I loved everything about it.
I honestly didn't think I could love the next installment more than the first, but I did!
Bring on the next Ivy Pocket adventure because after that ending, I seriously can't wait to see what happens next.
Somebody Stop Ivy Pocket, June 2016, ISBN 9781408858677, Bloomsbury Childrens
Saturday, 25 June 2016
Saturday, June 25, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
Nineteen minutes and eleven seconds separated us at birth. On the official documentation, he is older . . . Although it really has nothing to do with age. What it really means is that I am, and have always been, second.
Ben and Grace Walker are twins. Growing up in a sleepy coastal town it was inevitable they'd surf. Always close, they hung out more than most brothers and sisters, surfing together for hours as the sun melted into the sea. At seventeen, Ben is a rising surf star, the golden son and the boy all the girls fall in love with. Beside him, Grace feels like she is a mere reflection of his light. In their last year of school, the world beckons, full of possibility. For Grace, finishing exams and kissing Harley Matthews is just the beginning.
Then, one day, the unthinkable. The sun sets at noon and suddenly everything that was safe and predictable is lost. And everything unravels.
I received a lovely ARC of this book from Hachette Australia, and got stuck into it this week.
Grace and Ben Walker are twins. They live on the coast and are very close. The twins also love the ocean. Both of them are great surfers, but Ben is so good he's got sponsors and wins competitions. Grace has always lived in his shadow, coasted while he shone like a star.
When the new boy in school catches her eye, she can't believe someone isn't blinded by Ben's charisma and sees more in her than a small, skinny girl. After an awful incident happens to her best friend and seems to bring the group together, a horrifying tragedy strikes. Something that darkens Grace's world so much she loses herself when she was supposed to be concentrating on her last year of high school.
The fallout affects everyone, and threatens to drown all of them...
Wow. This book is heavy. It's written in a unique lyrical style, and I particularly loved the way the Australian way of life is captured so well you can pretty much feel it. The surfing scenes were also exciting, fun and very vivid. Oh, and be prepared to get hungry while reading this book because the Walker family makes some delicious meals.
This isn't an easy book to read because it starts out like an average YA--a group of friends who hang out together, love to joke around and are in their last year of school. Then before you realise what's happening, everything gets turned upside down and the reader totally wipes out.
I also have to admit that while I really liked Grace at the beginning, I had a hard time liking her as she loses total control of her life and does some very stupid things with drugs, alcohol and boys. But having said that, of course it made sense. Grace loses everything that made her life awesome, so not caring about anything or anyone makes total sense.
Breathing Under Water is such an emotional and heartbreaking book. It introduces the reader to happy, laidback teenage twins whose life shatters much too early. It's also a journey into how one teenager handles grief, while watching those she loves collapse around her. And how she needs to drown in sadness before being able to find even a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
I really enjoyed this story. And don't forget: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. ;)Breathing Under Water, July 2016, ISBN 9780733634857, Hachette Australia
Friday, 24 June 2016
Friday, June 24, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
Next stop: Reading Town.
Yep. That's right.
After two-weeks of proofreading--what I'm now calling KMH--I've finally reached The End. Yay!
And yes, I'm as happy as my Miitomo. :D
I can't believe this novel is finally done. I spent the beginning of the week fine-tuning and making the last few tweaks to the story before FINALLY calling it DONE. And now it's waiting for my daughter to (beta) read during her school holidays. I hope she likes it, because she's been wanting to read this story since it was nothing more than an idea and the beginning of the first chapter.
There are a few things that make this story a special-kinda accomplishment for me. The story idea came to me while listening to one of my most fave songs. I wrote it during NaNoWriMo. It was the story that got me out of my writing slump after several publishing-related knocks last year. There are a few biographical incidents weaved into the mostly fictional narrative. I included a bunch of historical 80s events in it. It's a straight-out coming of age love story with no supernatural elements at all.
Yeah. As you can probably tell, I'm really happy with how this book turned out. When my daughter reads it, I'll plan my next move... but for now, I'm super excited about finishing this project.
So, what's next? I need a serious mental break. Which is very convenient since hubby will have annual leave during the first week of July, and my daughter has a two-week winter break around the same time.
For now, I'm going to concentrate on reading (my review TBR pile is insane!) because I haven't read a single book for OVER TWO WEEKS. *gasp* I also want to take care of a few things I've put off while caught up in my revision frenzy. Yeah, there might be a to-do list involved. LOL.
I have to admit that I'm actually (really) excited about brainstorming and thinking about the project/s that I'd like to tackle next. There are a few ideas that have caught my attention, but I want to concentrate on dreaming about them and browsing for inspirational pics, etc. before committing to any. Plus, I'd love to explore a few short stories. It's been a long time since I've written a short story. Too long, actually.
So many possibilities. :)
I'm excited about putting my concentration on the writing and ideas, instead of the publishing side of things. I'm still not sure about what road I'm going to take when it comes to getting my stories out there, but that's something to consider some other day.
Anyway, I've got an ARC to read, so: See ya!
Friday, 3 June 2016
Friday, June 03, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I might have a bunch of review books to read, but today I grabbed my Paperwhite and read this one. I've been curious about this story for ages, and as soon as I started... well, I couldn't put it down.
Okiku is an old ghost. A lonely soul who has been around for hundreds of years and is documented in Japenese folklore. She might have died in a well, a victim intent on getting revenge, but she's now free to roam wherever she wants. And what she does is find the scum of the Earth who kill children and keep them trapped. She avenges the deaths of these innocent kids and helps release their trapped spirits.
And that's how Tark catches her eye. He's a teenager with strange tattoos on his arms, a father trying to find a better life for them, and a mother who's institutionalised because she keeps trying to kill him. He's also got a cousin called Callie. Okiku finds herself following these two kids and even keeps them safe from human monsters, as well as the demonic kind.
I loved this story! It's told in a very unique way: through the POV of the dead Okiku, as she watches and enacts her kind of justice. The imagery in this book is so cool. It's certainly creepy and delves deeply into the world of spirits, ghosts and demons. I enjoyed seeing her balance her own 'job' with helping Tark and Callie.
While there are some horrific things that happen in this book, I wasn't as freaked out as I thought I might be. But hey, I've been a horror fan for decades, so it takes a lot to scare me. Still, I definitely felt the creepy vibes here, and got a kick out of them!
I'm glad I've already got the companion book on my Kindle. :)
Thursday, 2 June 2016
Thursday, June 02, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
Can you believe it's June?! And what's even worse is that winter has finally arrived. I can no longer get away with wearing a tee during my morning walk, and that makes me sad. It's back to jackets, jumpers and raincoats. Ugh.
So, in last week's post I mentioned that I would spend this week reading through my WIP. But then, over the weekend I decided not to do that. To give myself more distance from the story, I decided to instead take this week off as well.
Then I ended up doing some tweaking: searching/replacing overused words, adding an ongoing thread for a forgotten character, and making sure to cross off all major points from my revision list.
When I do the read-thru, I really just want it to be about reading the story from start to finish to make sure everything makes sense. I'll be looking out for typos, missing words, and overall inconsistencies. Hopefully I won't find too much there, but when dealing with a historical, I probably will.
BTW, after the tweaks, the word count has once again crept into 100k territory. Oh well. I don't care. Whatever it takes to get the story across is cool with me. But I don't want to touch the ms at all until then.
Instead, I've been sorting through some random stuff, which includes trying to figure out what review book to read next. I HAVE SO MANY! O_o
Speaking of reviews, I read two AWESOME books last week:
I wanted to mention these two books because I LOVED both of them for completely different reasons. GoF is such a messed up, twisty tale about the power of obsessive female friendship set during the early 1990's. TLoDB is a beautiful tale of forbidden love between two starcrossed teenagers on-board a spaceship.
Like I said, very different stories but awesome in their own way. They're already on my Keeper Shelf. There's just something really special about reading a book you love so much that you keep thinking about it long after you're finished. Love that!
Anyway. That's about it for now. I just hope that the weather picks up a bit, because these dark and dreary rainy days totally suck.
Have a good week!
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Wednesday, June 01, 2016 Yolanda Sfetsos No comments
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Law has lived in Little Town, on the border with Old Country, all his life. He knows the rules: no going out after dark; no drinking; no litter; no fighting. You don't want to get on the wrong side of the people who run Little Town. When he meets Pavel Duda, a refugee from Old Country, the rules start to get broken. Then the bombs come, and the soldiers from Old Country, and Little Town changes for ever.
Sometimes, to keep the people you love safe, you have to do bad things. As Little Town's rules crumble, Charlie is sucked into a dangerous game. There's a gun, and a bad man, and his closest friend, and his dearest enemy.
Charlie Law wants to keep everyone happy, even if it kills him. And maybe it will ...
I received the hardback version of this book from Bloomsbury Australia, and thought the cover was both bright and disturbing. I mean, check out the bombs! :/
Regardless, it's a really nice book. I'm kinda fussy about hardbacks, and really liked the look of this one.
Charlie Law lives in Little Town with his parents. Little Town borders the Old Country, and the two don't get along. The Regime in Little Town is strict and delivers harsh penalties to those who steal or break curfew. Charlie's a good boy: he goes to school, likes to read and stays off the radar, but when refugees from Old Country move in next door and Charlie befriends Pavel Duda, he's determined to teach him the lingo and keep him safe. Because there are a lot of people eager to make the Duda family feel unwelcome.
Charlie's mother has asthma, so he's always eager to help by walking several miles to get her inhaler. But when Old Country decides to attack Little Town and then soldiers move in, Charlie makes a few decisions that lead him down a very dangerous path...
This is such a unique book. Even after reading the blurb I wasn't sure what the genre was, but once I got stuck into the story there was no denying that it's a dystopian book.
The people of Little Town aren't just in constant fear of what the neighbouring Old Country will do next, they're also oppressed by their own Regime. Everyone lives under the watchful eye of the Big Man, and anyone who breaks the rules either suffers the punishment or ends up owing him. Yeah, it's not a fair life.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together is an interesting, yet disturbing book. Interesting, because the friendship angle is done very well. Charlie is ferocious about helping his friend. And disturbing because the town is run by a man who knows how to keep people down, as well as put children in situations where they become indebted to him.
I also found the writing style to be as unique as Charlie's voice.
The Bombs That Brought Us Together, May 2016, ISBN 9781408855744, Bloomsbury Childrens