Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Mystery and Mayhem Blog Tour: Guest post from author Susie Day

Susie Day: crime-fighting teams

Let’s Fight Crime - Together!

I do like a maverick. Kurt Wallander, Sarah Lund. Jackson Brodie, stumbling about pursued by quotations. Every stoic Dick Francis hero jockey. But deep down, what I really want from my mystery-solving nonsense is pals. A team. A found family; a partnership. What’s Starsky without his Hutch? Julian, Dick and Anne without George and Timmy?

Wells & Wong, Robin Stevens
Boarding schools! In the 1920s! With crime! This is my dream series: a clever blend of Girls’ Own children’s classics and Golden Age mysteries, utterly respectful of their source material while scratching at the multiple narrow-minded injustices of the era with a very modern fingernail. The awfulness of Head Detective Daisy and her eager deputy Hazel is a joyous take on a particular friendship dynamic, and the mysteries are good chewy fun.

The Three Investigators, Robert Arthur Jr
‘Presented’ by Alfred Hitchcock, Jupiter Jones and his mates Pete and Bob solve daft cases in the Californian sunshine, with the aid of a chauffeured car they won in a competition and their secret HQ in a junkyard, accessed by pressing one particular knot in the wood.  The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot has a clue that doesn’t make sense in it that drove my ten-year-old pedantic self into a proper tizzy. But I still reread it a hundred times.

The Marsh Road Mysteries, Elen Caldecott
Old friends Piotr, Minnie and Andrew plus the twins Flora and Sylvie work together - mostly - to solve crime in a small sleepy British town. Like Wells & Wong, these are a fine blend of familiar cosy tropes and a clear-sighted take on a harder-edged real world; in Diamonds & Daggers, Piotr’s father is accused of a theft and the prejudice behind the accusation is plain. Funny, warm and beautifully written.

The Mystery Squad, Martin Waddell, illustrated by T McKenna
Long out of print, but if you can find one secondhand, buy it immediately (then send it to me). Beans and friends solve mysteries by tracking clues and so do you, Choose Your Own Adventure-style - by spotting them in the illustrations or figuring them out from the text, and turning to the right page. Get it wrong and you have to start again! I am longing for someone to write a contemporary version of these. Wait. Can I write a contemporary version of these?

Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane, Dorothy L Sayers
*sighs* Peter is a titled, monocle-wearing, overeducated fop with a butler, and I ought to hate him - which is largely what Harriet thinks too, until he usefully helps her avoid hanging for murder. Sayers’ novels featuring only Peter are great. Those which feature Harriet too are magical.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

V for Violet Blog Tour: Guest Post by Alison Rattle.

Why I chose to set V for Violet in post-war early 1960s London

The teenage years are a time of massive change, both physically and mentally. It’s all about finding your place in the world and about finding yourself. Violet is a typical teenager and is confronting all the usual struggles and issues with family, friendships, first love and what to do with her life. But what makes things different for Violet is that she is doing all this in the early 1960s in a society that is itself struggling through massive changes and trying to find its own identity. What is happening within society is a reflection of everything Violet is going through. This is exactly why I chose the 1960s setting for V for Violet because it was such a fascinating and defining time in British history. And London in particular was at the centre of all the massive changes that were going on.

Violet was born at the exact moment Winston Churchill announced victory in Europe. So right on the cusp of the old and the new. She was part of the first generation not to experience war at first-hand. And by the early 1960s, she was part of the first generation of teenagers to be free from conscription. Suddenly, young people had the freedom and choices their parents could never have dreamed of. The world for these young people was full of hope and possibilities and excitement. A direct contrast to the lives of their parents who had lived through the war and lost sons, brothers and husbands and who were still struggling to recover. London itself had still not fully recovered. The physical evidence of the war could still be seen in the bomb sites on street corners and the demolished buildings and houses yet to be rebuilt. But rising out of the bleakness were new sounds in music, daring new fashions, a more liberal attitude towards sex and the feeling that life was exciting and was there to be grabbed and lived.  It was an intoxicating mix of the old and the new and Violet is caught in the middle of it all. Her parents are still grieving for a son they lost in the war, a brother Violet never knew and a hero she can never compete with, but whose photograph taunts her from the mantelpiece every day. Her best friend Jackie has embraced the new way of life and has found work in a factory where she is earning good money and has the freedom to spend it on new clothes and going out to dances. Violet is left behind working in her parents’ fish and chip shop. They are still stuck in the old ways and will not allow her to go out to work in a factory. They don’t understand this colourful, vibrant and daring new world. Violet is caught between the old and the new and is desperate to find her own way.

 It’s when she meets Beau, one of the new breed of Rocker boys, that Violet’s drab little life begins to change and she finds the courage to embrace her individuality and to seek out all the new possibilities that post-war London has to offer.

I like to think the 1960s London setting V for Violet is a character in its own right and although the decade began all grey, restricted and uncertain, it grew into a time of huge optimism and excitement for a better future, mirroring Violet’s (and any other teenagers) own journeys into adulthood.

V for Violet by Alison Rattle is out now, published by Hot Key Books

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Mystery and Mayhem

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

These are twelve brand-new short stories from twelve of the best children's crime writers writing today.

These creepy, hilarious, brain-boggling, heart-pounding mysteries feature daring, brilliant young detectives, and this anthology is a must for fans of crime fiction and detection, especially the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, The Roman Mysteries and The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow.

My thoughts
I looked forward to this book from the moment I first heard of it and once I got a copy I was so pleased as I really enjoyed the stories in it. The stand out ones for me had to be those by Susie Day, Harriet Whitehorn and Robin Stevens.

1) Emily and the detectives by Susie Day
This was a fab little story. I loved Emily as a character and her determination to not let Victorian sexist attitudes hold her back. I really want more stores about her as I could see her being a kiss ass main character of a brilliant series.

2) Rain on my parade by Elen Caldecott.
I've not read Elen's books before but I think Elen's series is one I'm going to have to puck up now based on that short story.

3)The mystery of the green room by Clementine Beaumais
This story waas really that was a bit dark.

4)The mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle by Caroline Lawrence
I really liked the characters in the one. Not so much the mystery because it made me sad.

5) Mel Foster and the Hound of the Baskerville by Julia Golding
Not really my sort of read as it has fantasy element to it

6) Dazzle, Dog Biscuits and Disaster by Kate Pankhurst
A nice enough little story which kept me guessing.

7) God's Eye by Frances Hardinge
I really enjoyed the historical detail in this story and again I'd love more from this character and world.

8) The Mystery of the Pineapple Plot by Helen Moss
This story was Ok but found myself skimming

9) The Murder of Monsieur Pierre by Harriet Whitehorn
Really loved this story. Another one where I want more stories with this character.

10) Safe-Keeping by Sally Nichols.
I really enjoyed this story.

11) The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls by Katherine Woodfine
I loved hearing from Lil in this story as you never hear from her directly in the clockwork sparrow series.

12) The Mystery of Room 12 by Robin Stevens }Really enjoyed this one
especially as it is very different from Robin's boarding school series

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The One we fell in love with by Paige Toon

Phoebe is caught between a rock and a hard place. Settle down and get married, or return to the French Alps to pursue her passion?

Eliza is in love with someone who is no longer hers. In fact, he probably never was… And her dream of becoming a musician seems to be spiralling down the drain.

Rose is out of a job and out of a boyfriend. To make matters worse, she’s been forced to move back in with her mother…

But these very different girls have one thing in common. Angus. The one they fell in love with…

My thoughts
Just fabulous. I love Paige Toon's books. I loved loads of things about it.

I loved the triplets as main characters. I don't think I've seen triplets used in a book before. It took a while for me to get my head around them but once I'd got there it worked well. I loved seeing the differences between them and was fascinated about what had gone wrong between them and needed to keep reading to find out more about what had happened as it was revealed in snippets over the course of the book.

Special mention has to go to Toby. By god he's sexy and I adored him. I'd gladly read a whole series of books about him.

I loved that this book has the messiest of situations the girls have to work through. The dilemma isn't every clear cut and makes you think about the way in which people find themselves in impossible situations which they had to try and work through both in a way that makes themselves happy but also in a way that doesn't upset those around them. It also made me think about what sometimes we give up for those we love.

As always with a Paige Toon book I loved the cameos of characters from previous books.

An awesome read. You'll love it if you loved Paige's previous books.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

BLOG TOUR: Lying about last summer by Sue Wallman

The story centres around a girl called Skye, who is sent to a camp for troubled teenagers after her sister dies in an accident. However, once she is at the camp she starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister.

My thoughts
I really enjoyed Sue Wallman's debut. It kept me guessing throughout with the mystery element as it is slowly unveiled what happened the previous summer. This meant I really struggled to put the book down and read it in one sitting. I loved that the teens are very real within the story and relateable complete with all their character quirks and flaws. I also loved that the book properly captured the feelings of guilt felt by Skye after her sister's death. This is definitely a book I'll be recommending to others.

Guest Post from Sue Wallman: Journey from draft to final printed copy

I started Lying About Last Summer after picking myself up from the hideous disappointment of my previous book not making it through an acquisitions process.

My writing group at the time consisted of four of us, so I had three people reading my chapters  and giving feedback. They were very supportive. I’ll always remember Emma Rea (who wrote Top Dog) telling us that she’d been thinking about writerly despair and she’d come to the conclusion that it was like an athlete with a sports injury. It was part of the job and it was always going to happen from time to time.

About halfway through my first draft, still in quite a bad writerly place, I went on a Bound Bound retreat (there was no time to write – it was more of an intensive bootcamp) and learned how to up my game in terms of editing and understanding plot and character. I also met a great group of writers.
I kept going until the manuscript was ready to send to my agent, Becky Bagnell. She came back with her usual optimism followed by tactful criticisms: “I think there are several places where the story could be strengthened…” I went away and became obsessed with the story, working on it whenever I could. Wherever I went, my laptop or a notebook came with me. 

After Becky decided it was ready to be submitted to a few editors, I won a manuscript critique in a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators raffle. It was with editor Natalie Doherty at Penguin Random House. I wanted her to say she thought it was the best book she’d ever read.
That didn’t happen. Instead she suggested things that she felt would make it better. Quite big things that would take time to fix. Like making Skye and Luisa sisters, rather than cousins. I’d read so many books about sisters and I’d wanted to do something different, but I could see that making them sisters might give the story more of an emotional punch.  I was flattened. But after discussing it with Becky, I knuckled down again. I felt like a character in a film montage, pushing myself to achieve something against the odds – except in a film you know it’s going to work out ok.

But then – A TWO-BOOK  DEAL with Scholastic! A fantastically enthusiastic editorial team. Lucy Rogers and Lena McCauley guided me through more edits – these were relatively minor. I upped the emotion further, made some things clearer and added a lot of rain at the end. 

On 19th March 2016 I saw the printed book in the Scholastic offices. Today – the day I’m writing this blogpost – I’ve seen the book in a bookshop, my local Waterstones, for the first time. In my daydreams I always thought these moments would be shrieky, but for me they weren’t. They were moments of quiet deep-down happiness.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing - if everything's planned out, you can never find the unexpected

My thoughts
I think this is my favourite Morgan Matson so far. I must admit to start I wasn't sure but as it went on I enjoyed it more and more and by the end I loved it entirely.

To start the main reason why I adored this book was Clark. Clark is gorgeous. he's one of those boys I dreamt for as a teen girl not because he's ridiculously gorgeous but because he's just so nice. I loved that boy more and more over the book.

I really liked Andie as a character. She's an interesting one. She quite efficient and a planner and to start with that makes her seem a little unrelatable but I actually think she softens over the course of the book especially as you start to understand why she's had to be the person she was because of the circumstances she's lived in for so many years.

I also loved the group of friends in this book. Yay for girl groups who are fab. I loved the friendships between the girls and while they weren't perfect they did really support each other. I also like seeing how different outside factors influenced that over the course of the book.

This is a long book for a YA contemp but once I got into it it didn't feel like it at all. I just loved Clark and wanted more and more of him

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Kill the Boyband by Goldy Moldavsky

Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn't supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band.

We didn't mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he's tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it's Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn't be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group.

We didn't mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn't. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that's what you do when you love a group so much it hurts.

How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell.

My thoughts
Urgh I'm not sure about this. Some bits I liked. Others not so much. If I was going to recommend a book about fangirls going mad over boybands I'd go for rockaholic or love song instead.

Right things I liked about this book. It was funny. really funny in a dark way. Some of the things that happen are over the top and ridiculous but they did make me chuckle as I read about them. I also liked that way in which they portrayed the ugly side of fame and the rubbish those in the spotlight must have to deal with every second of the day especially when they try to do anything at all normal.

I didn't like how far the book went. It just felt like things had gone a bit too far by the end and that bothered me. I disliked the representation of Apple. Apple is a big girl and it felt like a lot of the jokes were at her expense for being big and the fact that she was big was literally the only thing focused on about her.

It's very readable and I did enjoy it on the whole but there are certainly other boyband stories out there which I'd recommend over this.