Interview and Giveaway: No Angel by Helen Keeble

There’s something always a bit fun about paranormal stories, particularly in October!

No Angel by Helen Keeble17195830

Published: October 8th 2013 by HarperTeen
Genre: Young adult paranormal
Pages: 352
Buy it! Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Synopsis:

Rafael Angelos just got handed the greatest gift any teenage boy could ever dream of. Upon arriving at his new boarding school for senior year, he discovered that he is the ONLY male student. But what should have been a godsend isn’t exactly heaven on Earth.

Raffi’s about to learn that St. Mary’s is actually a hub for demons-and that he was summoned to the school by someone expecting him to save the day. Raffi knows he’s no angel-but it’s pretty hard to deny that there’s some higher plan at work when he wakes up one morning to discover a glowing circle around his head.

Helen Keeble’s debut novel, Fang Girl, has been praised for its pitch-perfect teen voice, and VOYA called it “refreshing and reminiscent of Louise Rennison’s Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series.” No Angel brings you angels and demons like you’ve never seen them-complete with the wry humor of Vladimir Tod, sinfully irreverent romance, and some hilariously demonic teenage dilemmas.

Interview with Helen Keeble about writing

1. Your first book, Fang Girl, was a paranormal comedy about a vampire fan girl who becomes a real vampire. Is No Angel a sequel?
No, they’re completely unrelated – no characters from Fang Girl show up in No Angel. There isn’t any mention of vampires in No Angel, and Fang Girl didn’t have any angels or demons in it, so the jury is out as to whether they’re even set in the same world. (Even I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one)

However, for those who enjoyed Fang Girl, I can promise that No Angel has the same sense of humor, including affectionate mockery of ridiculous paranormal romance tropes! Basically, what I do to vampires in Fang Girl, I do to angels in No Angel.

2. What was the hardest part of writing No Angel?
Working to a deadline! Because I had a two-book contract with HarperTeen (the first being Fang Girl), I actually had a deadline for No Angel before I’d written a single word, or even worked out what the story was going to be about! A very different experience from slowly writing Fang Girl in spare hours over the course of several years, with no-one but myself caring whether or not it was ever finished…

3. How did you become a writer?
The short answer is that I wrote a lot of stuff, and eventually got good enough (and lucky enough) to find someone that would pay me for it.

The longer answer is that I’ve always written for my own amusement, but never let anyone read it until I went to university and started writing fanfic based on a role-playing game called Legend of the Five Rings. It was a rather unusual fanfic community, because people generally used the game’s setting but invented their own original characters rather than writing stories about pre-existing characters (like Harry Potter or Twilight fanfic tends to do). It gave me a lot of practice in inventing imaginary people! I then slowly drifted into writing completely original stories, and was eventually lucky enough to be able to sell some to magazines. After a few successes with short stories, and in a fit of pique at the prevalence of both Twighlight-inspired novels in bookstores and Twilight-bashing articles in newspapers, I decided to try writing a novel… and that was Fang Girl!

So now, somewhat to my bemusement, I seem to have become a YA comedy author. I still blink at my own books sitting on my bookcase, amazed that they are really real.

4. Are you a full-time writer?
I wish! No, like most writers I have a day job – I’m an industrial software engineer. It is a very awesome career (where else do you get to play with oil rigs and nuclear power plants) but does mean I have to squeeze my writings into the evenings. I have a bad habit of forgetting to go to bed, so I’ll often be typing away at my laptop well into the small hours of the morning.

5. Fun fact about writing No Angel?
In order to keep track of where all my characters were at different times in the school day, I made timetables for them in Google Calendar… and then forgot to delete the calendars after I’d finished the book. I was greatly puzzled when Google started bombarding me with reminders to get to my history class.

6. Are you a pantser (just sit down and write) or a plotter (outline everything first)?
I used to be a total pantser (the first draft of Fang Girl was written in a month, for NaNoWriMo), but these days I’m more of a plotter. It’s something of a necessity when working to a deadline, with an editor who wants to make sure you’ve actually got a plan, and are not just going to kill all the characters in the last chapter out of despair.

7. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Apart from the day job, sleeping, and taking care of my family? I read everything I can get my hands on, especially fantasy and science fiction books. I’m also very into board games of all descriptions, from light family fun like Survive! and Kingdon Builder through to heavy strategic games like Tzol’kin or Puerto Rico. In any spare moments, I like to dabble in crafts – I recently learned to knit dolls and dolls’ clothes, and am now experimenting with making jewelry out of resin and plastic. If only there were more hours in the day!

8. What books make you laugh out loud?
I love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. They’re an amazing blend of so many different types of comedy: parody, political satire, character-driven, situational, wordplay, puns… even slapstick! He’s a master of messing with reader expectation to comic effect. I think my very favorite example of this in the entire series is the character in Thief of Time who’s dialogue is all “—-ing” this and “—-ing” that… but late in the book we find out (spoiler alert, look away now!) that all he’s doing is pausing and saying “ing”. Genius!

Other writers I can consistently rely on to make me giggle are Sarah Rees Brennan (though she’ll make you laugh in one paragraph and stomp on your heart in the next) and Louis McMaster Bujold (who also manages to mix high emotional stakes with very witty characters). I’m also very fond of the classic P. G. Wodehouse stories, although some of them have, erm, really not aged very well (why hello there, casual racism).

9. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on now?
I’m currently writing a YA dystopian comedy. No, really.  If anything is ripe for a parody, it’s the whole “THE GOVERNMENT CONTROLS X AND Y IS BANNED!!” genre! The working title is Escaping Utopia, and it’s set in an idyllic far-future society where there is no war or crime as everyone’s needs are perfectly fulfilled by government-issued androids called Soulmates. Unfortunately for one 16 year old boy, his brand-new Soulmate tries to kill him on sight. Hijinks ensue!

The story also features a grumpy girl revolutionary hacker, a ridiculous number of huge planet-shaking conspiracies, and a bubblegum-pink battle robot named Candi who just wants to be loved. Let’s just say I’m having a lot of fun with this one!

https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment/u/1/?ui=2&ik=aca2695382&view=att&th=141807f264a7b7db&attid=0.2&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&saduie=AG9B_P_S6mgdahaRg3UQlho0R7NS&sadet=1381159441072&sads=5bxFr4MMX7Zd7iFMGGQyiJ3p9IwAbout the Author:

Helen Keeble is not, and never has been, a vampire. She has however been a teenager. She grew up partly in America and partly in England, which has left her with an unidentifiable accent and a fondness for peanut butter crackers washed down with a nice cup of tea. She now lives in West Sussex, England, with her husband, daughter, two cats, and a variable number of fish. To the best of her knowledge, none of the fish are undead.

Her first novel, a YA vampire comedy called FANG GIRL, is out 11th Sept 2012, from HarperTeen. She also has another YA paranormal comedy novel (provisionally titled NO ANGEL) scheduled for Sept 2013.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway!

One winner (open internationally) can win a signed copy of No Angel! To enter, head on over to this rafflecopter! Good luck!

Review and Giveaway: The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite (The Selection, #2)The Elite by Kiera Cass

Published: April 23rd 2013 by HarperTeen
Format/Source: Paperback ARC from Goodreads’ giveaways for honest review
Genre: Young adult romance with dystopian elements
Series: Second in The Selection series, sequel to The Selection

Synopsis:

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

Review:

I was quite happy to have this book right after completing The Selection so I didn’t have any space between the two. The Elite takes place right where The Selection ends, with the girls having been whittled down to just six. The competition is still on and America is just as conflicted as in the first one on her decision of who to love.

I criticize books based on what they actually are. And The Elite is not meant as literature, and to be frank, I don’t think it’s really meant to be a solid story. It’s one of those guilty pleasure reads, where the premise is enough to have you keep going, to see how the love triangle ends, to see what happens next while making your eyes roll all at the same time. So my critiques of this book cannot be too harsh. It is what it is and it is a light, sometimes frustrating, and enjoyable read.

I kept reading this book to see if America would make a decision. And each chapter added a new revelation about either the history of Illea or some new event that made me want to immediately know the outcome. I was increasingly frustrated by America’s indecisiveness and lack of a spine…it seemed like any decision was open to be immediately changed by a single event. I am still not sure I really understand the presence of the dystopian elements. The rebel attacks, the increasing tension between the castes…I kept feeling like either more attention needs to be paid to that side of things or just leave it. The series is at its core a romance story. While that plot seems less ‘important’ than a government struggle, time and again the focus is brought back to the romance. The dystopian parts of the story are definitely political at their core, or so I felt.

All that said, I look forward to seeing how the story ends and will likely read the next one to see its conclusion. It’s a great poolside read!

My rating: 3/5

Giveaway!

In keeping up with the passing of ARCs, here is my giveaway of my ARC! This is open to the US only (sorry my last one was US and International and I can’t afford to have everyone be in international). It will run from today and will end July 18th. This giveaway is now  closed.  Again, the only way to enter the giveaway is by using rafflecopter, not by commenting. I’ve had a problem in the past with people commenting to enter the giveaway when it is not the way to do it. Typically I disable comments on giveaway posts to avoid that, but I’d love real comments on the review instead. Good luck!

Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Published: April 2012 by HarperTeen
Format/Source: Purchased Kindle eBookThe Selection (The Selection, #1)
Genre: Young adult romance with few dystopian elements

Synopsis:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Review:

So let me explain first why I read this book. I had seen a lot of buzz around the sequel, The Elite. I remember seeing The Selection around before but had never really felt compelled to read the book. I’ll admit, I was judging the book by its cover: a girl wearing a fancy dress and something about princesses? Meh, sounds like chick lit and not the kind I typically enjoy. But with the buzz around The Elite, I entered into a Goodreads’ giveaway for the sequel. I won it, but now in order to really review the sequel, I needed to read The Selection. I explain all this because I believe my initial impression of the book was partly true.

The Selection is at its core a light teen romance read. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have been grappling with a week-long gross cold and I don’t think I could have chosen to read a more perfect book to help me get through it. I can easily equate the book with the show The Bachelor (a comparison everyone makes) in that it’s entertaining, stupid, and embarrassing, and it quickly becomes your guilty pleasure. You can’t wait to see what happens next, you stay up late to read more, but you’re horribly ashamed that you like something like this. I mean, it’s about girls trying to become the prince’s love.

If you cannot stand love triangles, this is certainly not the book or series for you. It’s a non-stop love triangle that both frustrates and compels you to keep going. America is incredibly fickle, and yet you can completely understand her indecisiveness. It’s not forced, just frustrating.

I will say that I think the whole dystopian element is almost superfluous. It’s interesting, but it doesn’t seem to add anything to the story. I can only hope that it takes a more important role in the future. It’s interesting and I’d like to know more about what’s going on in this world, but the focus is so clearly on the romance that it really doesn’t seem needed.

If you’re looking for great literature, look elsewhere. For a light read that will likely become a guilty pleasure read, this is the perfect book.

My rating: 3/5