Book News

Diary of a Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.

Long time readers of my blog will know that I’ve been a huge fan of the interactive digital books being put out by Fiction Express. They started out by publishing YA novels, I reviewed them as the chapters went live – you can see my thoughts here. Since then they’ve gone on to publish books aimed at schools, and are continuing to tell wonderful stories interactively.

New publisher Curious Fox will be publishing four of the YA novels as complete books, they started last month with Sharon Gosling’s The Diamond Thief (previously Rémy Brunel and the Ocean of Light) and still to come are Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf in April, and The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross in May.

Today however, the focus is entirely on Luisa Plaja’s brilliant Diary of a Mall Girl as it is published today.

DOAMG

From the back of the book:
The mall is the heart of the fifteen-year-old Molly’s suburban town. Most teens hang around with friends there, get their first job there, and experience their first kiss there. And Molly? She actually lives there, in the complex’s residential wing.

But living in a massive shopping centre isn’t as much fun as it sounds. That is, until mysterious twins Jewel and Jasper move into the flat upstairs. Suddenly life is a lot more exciting – and complicated. Will Molly get what she wants, or will it all come crashing down?

Find out the whole truth in Molly’s private diary!

I really enjoyed returning to Molly’s story, and spending time in the mall again with her. This book is so much fun, I found myself laughing lots as I read. There are also some truly brilliant cringey moments, the kind that make you remember your own similar experiences as a teen. One of the things I really love about Luisa’s books are the characters she creates, they’re wonderfully vivid – you really get the feeling that you’ve spent time with them. If you’re looking for a fun YA contemporary read then I’d say you would be fully satisfied by Diary of a Mall Girl.

To celebrate the publication of Diary of a Mall Girl there are a number of exciting things happening, you can see all of the details on Luisa’s website here.

Book Review

Book Review : Kiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja.

Lex Murphy and her friends have complicated relationships. If only there was a way to avoid all the dating/hating drama…

When Lex fills a cool new computer game with characters based on herself and her classmates, she makes some ‘wishful thinking’ adjustments to the profiles. Finally, everyone can be perfectly matched and happy, at least on screen. Love, Life, Looks – it’s all under Lex’s in a harmless game,

After all, these changes can’t come true… can they?

From the moment I saw the cover to this book I knew I had to read it as soon as I could, whilst I’m not remotely a pink person the little computer characters and generally pixelated look of it really appealed to my inner geek. Then there was the synopsis, the idea that Lex could influence real life via a computer game, an intriguing concept. I thought I had a bit of an inkling of what to expect from this book, my expectations were met and exceeded my far.

I loved the plot of this book, Lex is made to go on a film-making course over half term – she sees it as a punishment but her headteacher sees it as an opportunity for her to reach her full potential. Along with her on the course are her friends, and her ex-boyfriend and Lex’s former best friend who masterminded the break up. Lex’s friend George shows her a computer game Life, Love, Looks that his dad is testing, they build characters for everyone on the course and then Lex starts to have fun making alterations to them so that the digital versions match up better with her ideal situation.

This wouldn’t be a great contemporary story if there wasn’t some brilliant romantic tension, and this book certainly ticks that box. Lex is still lusting after Matt, her ex-boyfriend, but is increasingly aware of her fellow always in trouble student Drew. He seems to have ideas about Lex, but she’s too hung up on Matt to really consider him… well maybe. Whilst Lex is trying to work out her feelings, her next door neighbour and close friend George is trying his hardest to get Jess to notice him despite her opinion that high school boys are all far too immature.

The characters within this book are brilliant, I found myself comparing them to some of the people I was at school with. These characters are all so real, the way they talk to one another and relate to one another really rings true. I loved the way that so many of the characters had hidden depths, it was a real pleasure getting to know them all better. Lex is a great leading lady, whilst at times I found her view of things difficult to agree with felt I could understand her really well. I loved Drew too, he’s the kind of male character I know the teen me would love because the grown up me still does!

It’s really hard to explain why I loved this book so much without spoiling the reading experience. I was really enjoying it and then reached a point where for me it went from being a great book to being an absolutely brilliant one. When I finished it I marvelled at the cleverness of the book, and how it evolved over the course of just under 300 pages. It’s a week now since I finished it, and my thoughts still keep returning to it.

I think this book will be a really valuable read for all teenagers, it’s prompted me to start a list of books that my future library must own. I know I’m going to be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen.

Kiss Date Love Hate is published in paperback and eBook by Corgi in the UK from 2nd February 2012. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Fiction Express Mondays : Chapter 11.

I can’t believe it’s already time to talk about the final chapters of the four brilliant Fiction Express books. I will discuss some of the things that happen in the chapters so be warned that if you haven’t read the chapters yet there are spoilers ahead.

Diary of A Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.
The final chapter opened with plenty of giggles as Molly ended up covering herself and Jasper in red paint. I loved the discussion between the two of them, I could picture it so clearly. Art Boy’s reveal took me completely by surprise, and I cheered when Molly dumped the paint over him (I also laughed a lot when his name was revealed). I felt more and more content as I read the chapter, seeing all the pieces falling into place at last for Molly both with Jasper and with Wendy and Ameera. I thought that everything tied together really well.

Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf.
This chapter certainly started with the same sort of tension I’ve come to expect, the decision for Becker to go and diffuse the bomb seemed the most logical but the wait to see if he was successful was most definitely stressful. I was so relieved when Dr Kirby arrived, though that was so short lived! I never expected him to be part of the whole situation, I was surprised by how utterly let down I felt! I was thrilled to be able to cheer for the heroism of Jetho once more, and his and Shadow-Estelle’s final decision left me misty-eyed. I really liked the ending, it certainly felt fitting for the story.

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross.
The final chapter began by focussing on Taja, and once more explored her vulnerability. I liked the way that even though it was the final chapter the world building continued, I found it interesting seeing how Alba varied from the other two differing groups of Constants. The reveal of the vote was as devastating as I expected, as was the discovery of Taja’s fate. I was so pleased that Timur was finally defeated, as was only right. The final pages of Roxy’s story were incredibly emotional and the last page left me in floods of tears, particularly that killer last line.

The Last Symbol by Rebecca Morton.
The chapter started with the reveal that it was Aster and a group of Officials who disturbed Miko’s initiation, Aster’s actions only reinforced my idea that I disliked him. A lot. The rapid pace of Aster’s attempted coup interspersed with the Blues thinking Miko had betrayed them had me trying to read faster and faster so I could find out what happens. I loved that Drina came to Miko’s rescue, and that he and his mother worked together to navigate the computer. I really liked Miko’s plan, I only wish I could carry on reading and see how the rebuilding of their society worked.

It has been an amazing 11 weeks, reading and voting on these four wonderful books. They’ve made me laugh and cry, and at times feel nervous about clicking through to read the next page. I’d like to thank Fiction Express for the idea of weekly eFiction and the four authors for writing stories that have made me spend each week looking forward to the next chapters!

Book Review

Fiction Express Mondays : Chapter 10.

Voting has closed over at the Fiction Express website so it’s time for me to share my thoughts about the new chapters. Please be aware I discuss some of the things that happen in the chapters and the voting choices so if you haven’t read the chapters yet there are spoilers ahead.

Diary of A Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.
This week’s chapter opened with Molly kissing Liam, unsurprisingly they quickly realised this was poor timing. I loved seeing Jamie’s protective side again in this chapter, the discussion between him and Molly was really lovely and made me wish once more that I’d had an older brother when I was growing up. I was pleased to see Molly finally standing up to Wendy, it felt like it had been coming for a good while. I thought it was interesting that Jewel’s reaction to being outed was so different to Jasper, it’s nice that someone isn’t angry with Molly. I was really entertained by the end of the chapter, it’s really very unfortunate the way Jasper keeps getting trapped in confined spaces!

Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf.
The chapter this week started quite sadly, with the death of Shadow-Carl. The result of the vote was kept until partway into the chapter – once our bunch of adventurers were reunited with some of the rogue blackshirts the decision was made that they would go to the armoury and then on to Barbara’s office. I think the Super Shadow is a truly scary creation, I’m very glad I’m reading this rather than watching it – I’d definitely need a cushion to hide behind. I was completely shocked by Sandor’s revelation that he has a girlfriend waiting back at home, I was sure he and Estelle were going to get together. The final vote is pretty tough I think, I really hope the winning choice allows them to escape in one piece!

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross.
This week saw Taja volunteering to return to Alba with Yash and pretend to be Roxanne, so that Cyrus and Roxanne could go to the Soterion. I liked the development of Taja in this chapter, I find her a really intriguing character. I was saddened by the reveal that Roxanne has entered her death month, though not entirely surprised. I loved the way Cyrus and Roxanne managed to persuade more of the Albans to defect to their cause, I like the idea of a band of rebels! When I got to the vote I couldn’t believe what I was having to decide, I realised though that it was so hard because I cared so much about all of the characters which can never be a bad thing.

The Last Symbol by Rebecca Morton.
The chapter started with Miko going to see Prophate in person, and realising that he was on a one way trip. The scene where Miko and Aster entered the Enhancement School was horrible and just confirmed for me yet again how evil Propate is. The insight Miko gets into what happens to the enhanced is pretty unpleasant. The result of the vote meant that Jamese took the decision to warn all of the co-conspirators, I was so frustrated when it was revealed that Prophate was yet again one step ahead. The reunion of Drina and Jamese followed by the reveal of Prophate’s true identity really built the tension for the end of the chapter, I truly have no idea how this is all going to be resolved!

My choices for next week’s final chapters are:

  • Diary of a Mall Girl – Molly should find a light switch, make sure Jasper’s OK and talk to him as they wait for the return of Art Boy.
  • Soul Shadows – They should let Becker try to defuse the bomb.
  • The Soterion Mission – Timur’s javelin should kill Sammy.
  • The Last Symbol – Xenon and a group of the enhanced should be standing there.

What do you think? How did you vote for the final time?

Book Review

Fiction Express Mondays : Chapter 9.

Voting has closed over at the Fiction Express website so it’s time for me to share my thoughts about the new chapters. Please be aware I discuss some of the things that happen in the chapters and the voting choices so if you haven’t read the chapters yet there are spoilers ahead.

Diary of A Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.
Last week’s vote sent Molly to do her work experience at Jasper’s mum’s music school, a choice that saw her upset Wendy again and miss out on the chance to interview Art By for the law firm’s magazine. We finally got to hear the whole story behind Jewel and Jasper’s mysterious family, I found that I really felt for both of them, and their mum. My heart sank when Ameera managed to drop Molly in it with Jasper, it had all been going so well that I’d forgotten she knew who the mysterious dad was. With just two chapters to go I hope everything gets sorted!

Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf.
The chapter this week starts with Soul-Carl mentioning a potentially nasty side effect of touching a newly formed shadow, I knew it was going to play a part in this week’s chapter. Estelle’s decision to follow Robert’s plan felt a little sudden, but then I think this probably went well with the amount of pressure she’s faced in such a short amount of time. I felt really let down when it turned out Robert had lied, I’d really hoped there was light at the end of the tunnel for Estelle and Sandor. Like Estelle I found Derek’s end pretty satisfying and Jethro made me cheer for the second week in a row. Things are all starting to feel a bit desperate, I can’t begin to work out how Estelle and Sandor are going to get free for good!

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross.
Timur’s discovery that within Alba there were Constants willing to work with Zeds seemed to appeal to his power hungry psyche, I loved how quickly he could see himself as a god. I thought the discussion between Roxanne and Cyrus about why they were on the mission was quite poignant, these quieter moments are a lovely contrast to the harder parts of the story. I liked that we finally got to find out about the third book and how this added to their discussion, what a set of books to have! The twist when they finally reached Alba was a real surprise though when I thought about it it went well with what had come before. It feels like everything’s building up well for a great final couple of chapters.

The Last Symbol by Rebecca Morton.
The vote meant that Drina didn’t stick with the story Tyron had cooked up, instead telling the truth leading to him being enhanced. There were plenty of twists and turns this week, and Miko had to make some really difficult choices. I liked the way he was starting to think about the bigger picture and trying to push through his own agenda without Prophate realising it. I really don’t know which way the vote will go this week but I think Miko’s going to have a hard time regardless of which option wins.

Time for me to be honest, I spent all of yesterday thinking there was something I needed to do, I remembered at about 10.15 this morning that it was read and vote. So I missed the boat this week, but here’s how I would have voted:

  • Diary of a Mall Girl – Molly should make excuses, leave Liam and go to confront Art Boy.
  • Soul Shadows – They should use the ventilation duct to go to the electrical room, switch off the electrified fence, then escape to the roof, climb over the fence and escape.
  • The Soterion Mission – Yash and his archers should try to sneak Roxanne and Cyrus to the mouth of the Soterion cave without anyone noticing.
  • The Last Symbol – Jamese should pass on Miko’s message to all of the people on the list she gave to Miko.

What do you think? How did you vote? How do you think the stories will end?

Book Review

Fiction Express Mondays : Chapter 8.

Voting has closed over at the Fiction Express website so it’s time for me to share my thoughts about the new chapters. Please be aware I discuss some of the things that happen in the chapters and the voting choices so if you haven’t read the chapters yet there are spoilers ahead.

Diary of A Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.
The chapter this week continued on at Liam’s party. There was no grand revelation by Ameera, instead the vote saw Liam finding Molly and Jasper hidden away together. This came after Wendy had locked them in the attic so they could sort out whatever it was that was wrong between them – I liked that they decided to start afresh and actually appeared to be on the same page about their fledgling relationship. The chapter was full of more romantic wranglings with different characters’ feelings changing rapidly. It seems that things have the potential to stabilise now – I wonder which pairing will have another change of heart! Molly’s mum’s slightly erratic behaviour returned to the fore in this chapter, for once I’d actually guessed right what was going on. I liked Molly’s ideas for taking revenge on her mum’s former employers – it was nice to see her being so protective of her mother. Overall this was another thoroughly enjoyable chapter.

Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf.
The readers last week went for the fairly bold choice of allowing Shadow-Carl to change the mast so that it emitted the friendly radiation. My delight at his success was unfortunately short-lived when the Blackshirts arrived to stop them. I was pleased to discover that the police weren’t in on it, but I was unsurprised when Derek revealed that he had intercepted them – I really felt Estelle’s frustration with the situation. When the solution came in the shape of the brilliantly named Jethro I wanted to cheer. I love the way the reader still feels so unsure about who to trust in this story, I think it allows us to get a better idea of how Estelle and Sandor must feel. When I got to the decision for where next week’s chapter should go I honestly did not know which option to pick.

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross.
The decision was made that our friendly bunch of Constants should try to make their way across the bridge. I liked Roxanne’s plan for how to deal with Jumshid, and when it was revealed later that it was inspired by Peter Pan I liked it even more. Whilst it was right that Jumshid should be defeated I was a little sad to see him go, he was by far the most likeable of the Zeds. I continued to enjoy the way everything keeps going wrong for the Zeds, Timur seems to be suffering loss after loss. I’m a big fan of storytelling, so I really enjoyed that scene, particularly Roxanne’s realisation of what fiction is for. The ending of the chapter came as a bit of a surprise, but then it wouldn’t do for the Constants to have it too easy for long now would it?

The Last Symbol by Rebecca Morton.
The readers clearly had had enough of Hedley, they voted for him to die and Drina to return to Zenith to try and help Miko. I liked that she chose to be on his side, I’m all for sibling loyalty and support (plus as an older sister myself I know that this is how I would react). Poor Miko is in a horrible position, I liked the way he was trying to find a solution that suited everybody – I’m sure it’s this strength of character that caused him to be given the symbol in the first place. I began the chapter disliking Prophate for being so manipulative, as the chapter progressed I just thought he was more and more evil. Tyron continues to be hugely unpleasant, I liked watching Drina fool him, I only hope it pays off.

My choices for next week’s chapters are:

  • Diary of a Mall Girl – Molly should go to her mum’s old law firm.
  • Soul Shadows – Estelle should trust Robert Mitchell and agree to his plan.
  • The Soterion Mission – Timur should learn that within Alba there exists a group of citizens willing to work with anyone, even Zeds, prepared to help them unlock the secrets of the Soterion.
  • The Last Symbol – Drina should stick with the story she planned with Tyron.

What do you think? How did you vote?

Book Review

Fiction Express Mondays : Chapter 7.

Voting has closed over at the Fiction Express website so it’s time for me to share my thoughts about the new chapters. Please be aware I discuss some of the things that happen in the chapters and the voting choices so if you haven’t read the chapters yet there are spoilers ahead.

Diary of A Mall Girl by Luisa Plaja.
Last week’s voters decided that Molly and Ameera should get away with their snooping, this meant they got plenty of time to discover some of Jewel’s secrets. I had got a few ideas about the secrets she and Jasper were hiding, I wasn’t all that surprised to discover I was completely wrong. I really liked that whilst we got to find out more about Jewel we’ve still been left wondering, now that I know a bit about her I’m really looking forward to finding out even more. I was pleased to see that Jamie and Liam have made up, I got the feeling that the party sounded too good to be true and the vote makes me think I might be right. I can’t wait to see what is going to go wrong next for Molly!

Soul Shadows by Alex Woolf.
Estelle started the chapter this week faced with the difficult choice we had had to vote on. I was really pleased to see her choose to attack Derek both because it was what I had voted for and because it allowed for another fast paced action sequence. I liked the way Estelle kept her promise to Shadow-Estelle even though it put her and Sandor at greater risk, I thought this fitted well with her character. I am interested by the appearance of the police but I’m currently feeling a little suspicious of them, I think I’ve watched and read too many things where the police turn out to be part of the conspiracy! I’m looking forward to finding out whether I’m right or wrong next week.

The Soterion Mission by Stewart Ross.
This week’s chapter opened with Cyrus and Taja being rescued by Sammy, a young dissident. Their escape kept me on the edge of my seat – especially when Ozlam caught them. I was pleased to see Roxanne safe and reunited with them, but not as much as I was thrilled by Navid’s return to the group. I thought Sammy was an interesting addition to the group, he provided some answers to questions I’d had lurking at the back of my brain, like how big a supply of insulated gate handles the Children of Gova had. I liked that it was more Zeds that Giv had seen, the disastrous campaign Timur’s Zeds mounted against them made me smile – I appear to be taking great delight in how wrong things keep going for the bad guys! I’m looking forward to the result of this week’s vote, every option seemed full of potential peril.

The Last Symbol by Rebecca Morton.
The vote last week saw Lok being handed over to the Officials, but poor Miko was thwarted in his attempts to get to him and warn him that he was now carrying a tracker. Drina came back to the forefront of this chapter, I like how her story is getting more and more entwined with Miko’s. I hope that the siblings will end up working together in the chapters to come. After being disturbed by Prophate last week the new reveals in this week’s chapter continued to be unsettling, the potential he has to blackmail Miko left me feeling very uneasy. I loved the reveal of the Blues standing behind Drina and Hedley, it felt like it served the smug Hedley right! I liked the discussions at the end of the chapter, I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcome of them next week.

After plenty of thought here’s how I voted at the end of chapter 7:

  • Diary of a Mall Girl – Molly’s major lowlight should be Ameera accidentally letting slip to Jewel that she knows her secret.
  • Soul Shadows – Estelle and Sandor should use the remote and attempt to control the shadow army.
  • The Soterion Mission – The Constants should try to cross the damaged bridge, although they may get shot.
  • The Last Symbol – Marsha should decide to allow Lok to speak to Drina and try to persuade her to join the Blues.

What do you think? How did you vote?