Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Review

Another month has flown by. It has been a busy one for me workwise so I've not read as much as I normally would. I have managed to read a lot of awesome books though.

Books Read
Lottery Boy by Michael Byrne (4 stars)
Hook's Daughter by Heidi Schultz (4 stars)
Under my Skin by James Dawson (4 stars)
The Beloved by Alison Rattle (5 stars)
Monster by CJ Skuse (5 stars)
Remix by Non Pratt (5 stars)
Gypsy Girl by Kathryn James (3 stars)
Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (5 stars)
Geek Drama by Holly Smale (4 stars)
Pea's Book of Holidays by Susie Day (5 stars)
Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally (3 stars)
Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nichols (3 stars)
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (4 stars)

Book of the month

I literally cannot choose this month. Three of the books I read I adored for different reasons

Firstly I managed to get my hands on a very early copy of Monster by CJ Skuse and I loved it entirely. Really exciting teen thriller which I couldn't put down. My favourite CJ yet and I can't wait for more people to read it.

Next up is Remix by Non Pratt. I knew I was going to adore because it is Non's. I wasn't wrong. I read it in one greedy gulp and adored every page.

Finally I managed to get my hands on a copy of open road summer after hearing no end of wonderful things about it. It is perfect and I adored it.

Events attended.

I was lucky enough to go to the UKYA Blog awards. I nominated for four awards (and a fifth with Bookish Brits). I didn't win but had a brilliant evening regardless seeing all my lovely blogging friends and authors and publicists who attend. Quite honestly, while I would have loved to win, the fact that bloggers are being recognised in this way made me feel like it really didn't matter who won particularly and I was so pleased to see different bloggers whom I have become firm friends with over the last five years win because you could see how much it meant to them. I honestly hope it happens again next year because it has been one of my nicest nights out in a long while.

On the Blog

Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan
The Beneath by SC Ransom
Violet and the Hidden Treasure
Under my skin by James Dawson
The Beloved by Alison Rattle
Hook's Daughter by Heidi Schulz

Blog Tours
Oska Pollock Playlist 
Jessica's Ghost Blog Tour
Crow Moon Blog Tour
Love Bomb Blog Tour

Other Stuff
Why we can't live without books World Book Day post
Can't wait to read

On April's TBR pile
I have a nice little pile of review books waiting for me to get stuck in
The game of Love and Death by Martha Brockleburgh
Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson
Better Left Buried by Emma Haughton
Nest by Esther Ehrlich
Mindwalker by AJ Steiger
Minus me by Ingelin Rossland
Conversion by Katherine Howe
Phoenix Rising by Bryony Pearce
Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow

Violet and the Hidden Treasure Blog Tour: Win a set of Violet Books

I am delighted to host a stop on the Violet and the Hidden Treasure Blog Tour and very excited indeed to offer my readers the chance to win a copy of Violet and the Hidden and a copy of Violet and the Pearl of the Orient.

I love the Violet Books. They hook me from the first page with the mystery element and I love how the stories are illustrated all the way through.

To enter either leave me a comment below with a way to contact you or tweet me @overflowingklc to let me know you want to enter with "I want to win a set of Violet books"

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Hook's daughter by Heidi Schulz

It's not easy being the daughter of Captain Hook. Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of following in his footsteps - but her grandfather sends her to finishing school instead. When her father meets his unfortunate end, Jocelyn sails to Neverland to avenge his death. But she hadn't bargained on ticking crocodiles, lazy pirates and a troublemaking boy called Peter Pan.

My thoughts
I'm not into fantasy books at all but from a very early age I have always had a soft spot for Peter Pan. If I had to pick one fantasy world to visit Neverland would probably be it. I've also always had a soft spot for the pirates in the story. 

This book therefore was a perfect read for me. It is utterly charming catching that neverland magic perfectly. I loved having a new story set in that world and it totally hooked me from that point of view.

The story is focused on Hook's daughter. She is a brilliant new character from the outset when she is trying to fit in at finishing school and not doing very well at it at all. I enjoyed getting to know this feisty young girl and seeing her come into her own whilst taking on the role of Captain of Hook's ship and seeking revenge for his death. 

All in all a fabulously charming read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Beloved by Alison Rattle

Escape from a bullying mother takes one young woman to an even more dangerous place.

Alice Angel has known only a life of rules, restriction and punishments as she strays from the rigid path of Victorian proprietary that her mother has set out for her. A constant disappointment to all but her doting father, she longs for the day that she might break free from the stifling atmosphere of her mother's rule.

After a chance encounter with a charming stranger, and a final incident with her family that sees her condemned to the madhouse, Alice sees her opportunity to run and grasps it with both hands. She escapes to join the Agapemonites in their Abode of Love, where ex-Reverend Henry Prince rules his isolated colony of women as their Beloved. Prince ignites a passion in Alice that she never knew existed, and she dares to think she might be free at last.

But as Alice becomes more deeply drawn into the life of Prince's strange religious sect, secrets are revealed that seem to hint at a darker nature lurking behind the man's charm. Instead of freedom, is Alice in fact more trapped, alone and in danger than ever before?

My thoughts
Alison Rattle hooked me with her first book. Her books are a perfect example of what I want Historical Fiction to do and be. This book is no exception.

The beloved is the story of Alice. Alice's mother is horrible and treats her poorly. Once her father dies her mother decides to put Alice into a lunatic asylum. Alice decides to run away and finds herself joining a religious cult led by a strange man and made up of lots of women.

The entire story about the cult is deeply unsettling when you see the situation in which the women live in under Prince's rule. The abuse they suffer both psychologically and physically is really chilling and made me distinctly uncomfortable as I read along.

For me what made this book fantastic is the rich historical detail. I love how you can see that Alison really knows her stuff and does her research. I know with complete certainty that if I give any of her books to any of my students that what they will learn from it won't teach them things that are completely incorrect unlike some other historical fiction.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Can't wait to read

I'm back with another list of books I can't wait to read. I tend to write this list by scrolling through my goodreads wishlist and seeing what new covers have popped up and this month loads of them have appeared. Some of these are quite new finds whereas others I've had my eye on for a good long while.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (released March 2015)

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live? 

I have only just discovered Emery Lord's debut and I adored it. I am now so so excited about getting my hands on a copy of this soon.

The Boy most likely to by Huntley Fitzpatrick (released June 2015)

Surprises abound and sparks ignite in the highly anticipated, utterly romantic companion to My Life Next Door

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
- find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
- need a liver transplant
- drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
- well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.

And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more.

I loved my life next door. I wasn't a fan of the book that followed it but I am hoping that because this is a companion to the book I loved that I will also love this. Fingers crossed.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine (released June 2015)

You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!

Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villians to justice…

I have heard nothing but good things about this book and as a consequence I am dying to read it because it sounds right up my street

One by Sarah Crossan (released September 2015)

 Tippi and Grace share everything—clothes, friends . . . even their body. Writing in free verse, Sarah Crossan tells the sensitive and moving story of conjoined twin sisters, which will find fans in readers of Gayle Forman, Jodi Picoult, and Jandy Nelson.

Tippi and Grace. Grace and Tippi. For them, it’s normal to step into the same skirt. To hook their arms around each other for balance. To fall asleep listening to the other breathing. To share. And to keep some things private. The two sixteen-year-old girls have two heads, two hearts, and each has two arms, but at the belly, they join. And they are happy, never wanting to risk the dangerous separation surgery.

But the girls’ body is beginning to fight against them. And soon they will have to face the impossible choice they have avoided for their entire lives.

I don't generally like books in verse but I do like Sarah Crossan and the ideas behind the story really interest me so looking forward to giving this a try. 

The Sun in her eyes by Paige Toon (released May 2015)

Before your mother died, she asked me to tell you something …'
When Amber Church was three, her mother was killed in a car accident. A stranger was at the scene and now, nearly thirty years later, she's desperate to talk to Amber.
Living in London and not-so-happily married to Ned, Amber is greeted one morning by two pieces of news: she's to be made redundant from her City job and her beloved father, across the world in Australia where she grew up, has been felled by a stroke. She takes the first plane out to be by his side, leaving Ned uncertain as to when she will return. Reunited with her old friends, Amber is forced to confront her feelings for Ethan Lockwood, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she fell for as a young girl.
And then Amber receives a letter that changes everything …

I don't read a lot of adult books but I do love Paige's books. I cannot wait for this one. 

The Next together by Lauren James (released September 2015)

How many times can you lose the person you love?

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about reincarnation and the timelessness of first love from a talented young writer.

Teenagers Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different...

In 1745, during the siege of Carlisle, in 1854 on the way to the Crimea, in 2019 and 2039 as first scientists and then students uncovering and rediscovering a dangerous plot, and in multiple timescales between, they are thrown together, with no memory of having met one another before, only an irresistible instinct that they must be with one another against all odds – even while the epic events unfolding all around seem sure to tear them apart.

I've heard loads of things about how awesome this is but quite honestly just the cover sold it to me.

The rest of us just live here by Patrick Ness (released August 2014)

What if you’re not the one who’s so often the hero in YA fiction; who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death? What if you were like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again. Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life. Even if your best friend might just be the God of mountain lions...

Another Patrick Ness. That is all I need to know 

Air by Lisa Glass (released June 2015)

Being in a relationship with one of the hottest and most talented male surfers on the circuit is a dream come true… right?

Iris and Zeke get to travel to the most beautiful beaches in the world, competing in major surf competitions. Life should be perfect, but when Zeke is suspended from a surf tour in Hawaii, it’s clear there is some deep trouble in paradise. And then there’s Zeke’s romantic past: at every turn Iris is confronted by his old flames and his hordes of female fans.

Returning to Newquay, Iris finds that at home things have also changed. Her friends have moved on with their lives, and they sense Iris is keeping something – something bad – from them.

What really happened in Hawaii? Why was Zeke kicked off the circuit? And what secret is tearing Iris and Zeke’s relationship apart?

I loved the first book in this series. I cannot wait to read this.

That's it for this month. Which of these books are you excited to read?

Friday, 20 March 2015

Under my skin by James Dawson

Meet Molly Sue. Once she's under your skin there's no getting rid of her...

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally's about as shy and retiring as they come - but all that's about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour - and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back - hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head - or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue's. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl - in fact, she's mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue... and before long she's going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody 'under your skin'.

My thoughts
I am always excited when a new book by James Dawson appears in my life. I love his characters. I love the messages he has to say in addition to the overall plot. They are always fast paced and exciting meaning I often find myself unable to put them down. Under my skin is no exception.

Quite frankly this book scared the crap out of me. It probably doesn't help that I am in crazed dizziness / fevered state because of a bug but I can definitely see me having very bizarre nightmares about it tattoos taking me over. The more I think about it the more creeped out I get. I think it is all to do with that idea of another entity taking over and taking control of your body without your permission that really gets to me especially when you see everyone around Sally thinking it is just her going nuts and trying to make excuses for her behaviour.

As usual from James the dialogue and characterisation is spot on. I wanted to root for Sally from the first page and also enjoyed meeting the whole cast of different character. Mary Sue herself frightens me beyond belief and is brilliantly done in her evil ways. I also loved that the themes addressed about feminism and not being a homophobic arsehole are brilliantly poignant.

Yet another James Dawson title that begs to be made into a teen horror film. I for one will read anything this man has written even if I think it means I'm not going to be able to sleep at night.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Violet and the Hidden Treasure by Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moore

Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making...Violet has spent her Easter holiday exploring India with Godmother Celeste, including visiting Celeste's good friend the Maharajah and meeting his very special parrot. And when she returns home, only to get a visit from the Maharajah's butler, asking her to look after the parrot, Violet couldn't be more surprised (and her cat Pudding couldn't be less pleased…). But as Violet discovers, the parrot holds the key to the Maharajah's fortune, and someone is trying to parrot-nap her! Can she discover who the culprit is before they succeed? Violet is on the case… With a beautiful hardback package complete with two colour illustrations throughout by emerging talent, Becka Moore, everyone is bound to fall in love with Violet and the colourful characters that make up her world.

 I love this series entirely. I don't read huge amounts of MG titles but those I do often find I adore and this series is just awesome. The stories themselves read like a Enid Blyton mystery novel (except more diverse and less racist) and therefore charm my inner Blyton reading child  entirely from the moment I start them. The stories keep you guessing right through to the end and I love all the characters you need along the way. 

I love love love the illustrations that are included in this book. They really add to the story and are beautifully done. I wish more MG and YA titles included illustrations. Also the pictures also include maps and a who's who at the start of the book which is all kinds of fabulous.

Just perfect reads for anyone over the age of 7.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Love Bomb Blog Tour: Author Guest Post

He Walks in Hottiness Like a Panther

Before I became a writer, I taught English at a secondary school and sixth form college for many years. I always loved reading with my classes, but found it curious that students who would merrily leap around the classroom reciting Shakespeare would then declare that they ‘hated poetry’. Teenagers should love poetry! It’s a snapshot of intense emotional feeling, a bit like many teens’ Instagram messages. As I write this, I can’t stop my mind from planning a lesson using lines of poetry, images and Instagram – once a teacher, always a teacher – which is probably why I included some of my favourite lines of poetry in Love Bomb.

Betty, Love Bomb’s love-struck narrator, has a best friend, Bill, who owns a copy of ‘The Greatest Love Poems of All Time’.  As Betty has just fallen head over heels in love with ‘hot vampire’ Toby she decides this book will help her to become ‘an expert on love’. Bill cherry picks lines of poetry for Betty and then explains them to her. Here’s Betty and Bill getting to grips with Byron:

‘What does She walks in beauty like the night mean?’
‘Read the next line.’
Of cloudless climes and starry skies.’
‘That’s by Byron-’
‘And he’s saying that there are no clouds in the sky and there are a lot of stars. She’s as beautiful as a perfect starry night.’
‘Has she got freckles?’
‘You have no soul, Betty.’

Writing these scenes was a lot of fun. I had to choose quotations that were out of copyright and that fitted neatly in with the plot; I spent many indulgent hours flicking through my poetry books and searching online. When Bill shares the lines with Betty, I had to make sure he didn’t sound too much like a thirty eight-year-old English teacher and it was important that each line of poetry could have a double meaning for Betty.

One quotation from Yeats is written on Betty’s arm: ‘I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’ Could any line of poetry better sum up the deliciously terrifying experience of declaring your love for the first time? As a writer, I particularly enjoy this quotation because it also describes how it feels to share your work with others. The first time I ever showed my writing to anyone else was at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. As I waited for my first one-to-one appointment with an editor, clutching my opening chapters of Flirty Dancing, I was mentally preparing myself for a good trampling.

On the 12th March, Love Bomb will be published and once again I will be revealing ‘my dreams’ to readers. I hope they enjoy the poetry Bill chooses for Betty and that the words whispered from the past ring as true and clear for my readers as they do for me. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Beneath by SC Ransom

It’s an ordinary school day, but Lily is about to step into a nightmare. The girl rushing out of the Tube tunnel tells a crazy story about an underground community and a charismatic leader with an evil plan. How can Lily trust her? It’s only when Lily finds herself in the labyrinth beneath London that she learns the horrific truth – about the Farmer, the Crop and about herself.

My thoughts
I wasn't too sure what to expect from this book when Nosy Crow kindly sent it to me and had no real expectations for it having never read anything by the author before. I was treated to an exciting and fast paced read which hooked me from the first page. It was a really nice mix of contemporary and dystopian which worked well. It had some really clever ideas which are quite frightening when you think about them too hard about how our world could turn out in the future. Well worth a look.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan

Perfect Valentine's reading for fans of Geek Girl and Louise Rennison.

Betty Plum has never been in love. She's never even kissed a boy. But when H.O.T. Toby starts school it's like Betty has been hit with a thousand of Cupid's arrows. It's like a bomb has exploded – a love bomb!

More than ever Betty wishes her mum hadn't died when Betty was a baby. She really needs her mum here to ask her advice. And that's when she finds hidden letters for just these moments. Letters about what your first kiss should feel like and what real love is all about …

Is Betty ready to fall in love? Will she finally have her first kiss?

I am really struggling with series at the moment but I adore companion novels entirely. This series is one that found its way to me quite unassumingly and I loved book one as soon as I read the first few chapters. I was very excited therefore to get my hands on this one.

For me I struggled with this book to start with. Betty is almost a little too well done and I found her incredibly irritating from the off. The voice is so well done I had her pictured in my head clearly as one of my very irritating year 10 girls. However as I stuck with her I found myself starting to soften to her and by the end I had very much warmed to her. The story itself was very sweet and had a lot to save about families and their importance and I loved that the story featured Betty reading letters written by her mother when Betty was a baby before she then died.

Definitely worth a look.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

A story of survival, subterfuge, espionage and identity.

Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking – one white, one black – is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it’s an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When Delia is killed in a tragic accident, Rhoda is determined to make that dream come true. She moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo.

Em and Teo have adapted to scratching a living in a strange land, and feel at home here; but their parents’ legacy of flight and the ability to pilot a plane places them in an elite circle of people watched carefully by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves inextricably entangled in the crisis — and they are called on to help.

My thoughts
I love really awesome historical fiction but equally can be incredibly critical if I think a book doesn't do justice to the time period it is set in. With Elizabeth Wein I always know I am in for a treat and that the history is going to be spot on so I was delighted to have the opportunity in February half term to meet her and get a copy of this book.

I particularly love history set during this time period and I love finding out more about it. This book added to what little I knew about Abyssinia in the interwar years and I found myself utterly fascinated as it filled in another piece in the puzzle in my knowledge of what was going on during those years as I pretty much only knew the area was invaded by the Italians at some point. 
I loved the main characters and their story. The detail included made them feel real and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all those things that Elizabeth had mentioned when talking about her research for the book and the things she had drawn from her own life and people she had met when writing it.
All in all a prime example of how historical fiction should be done. Definitely worth a look.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Crow Moon Blog Tour: Author Guest Post

The poetry of the Greenworld
By Anna McKerrow

In Crow Moon, the UK is split into the Greenworld – Devon and Cornwall, an eco-pagan community run by witches – and the Redworld, which is everywhere else and is corrupt, polluted and controlled by criminals. The Greenworld is still a relatively new community, and like many new nation states, utopias and/or ideological communities, it has a set of rules – or tenets, as it likes to call them: a manifesto based on its agrarian, goddess-loving principles:

·         Save it, hive it, share it
·         We are called the Greenworld as green is the colour of life, regeneration and purity.
·         Knowledge comes from the earth more than any book. Listen to the songs of the trees, the beat of the soil, the caress of the wind on wheat if you would be wise.
·         The moment is all we have and the one thing we cannot keep.
·         Love the land; share its bounty; grow with love; harvest well.
·         And it was not in our name that the Redworld burned.
·         Community, family, covenstead. All one and none separate.
·         War is not for the Greenworld. We leave war to those that have not found peace.
·         Respect Nature, for She has no respect for you.
·         A quilt is a web of time, a document of the Greenworld, stitching life to life, season to season, memory to eternity.

The Greenworld also has a set of holy books and cultural texts that promote the values of the society, though it is also most fond of a number of historic Celtic texts like The Mabinogion and The Tain, as well as the poetry about Irish mythology by WB Yeats. The Greenworld texts are Tenets and Sayings of the Greenworld, Greenworld Prayers and Songs and A Guide to Reflective Greenworld Journaling (schools edition), containing verses to be sung at particular festivals, or readings suitable for funerals, handfastings (weddings) and other events. For instance:

Song for Samhain
This is the night when the dark is thin.
Welcome, ancestors! Enter in.
The fire is lit, the table set.
You have passed and we, not yet.
Brighid bless the Samhain fire;
Flame of creation in the funeral pyre,
Crows dance in the dark, shadows in flight:
Goddess bless us all on Samhain night.

I added this element of the Greenworld for a number of reasons. First, to pay homage to the wealth of poetry that exists in the contemporary pagan world. It commemorates the passing of the seasons and the recognition of the wide pantheon of gods and goddesses from different historical cultures. I also start Crow Moon with Zia, Danny’s mother and the village witch, conducting a full moon ritual with her village community in which she repeats a section of Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner’s  Drawing Down the Moon, an established piece of traditional Wiccan ritual and a lovely piece of poetry in its own right. Poetry is also particularly integral in druidic practice, as is song and all creativity, and is common across all pagan practice that I have found, so it seemed appropriate that the Greenworld would incorporate it too.

The tenets and the songs also served to give a sense of richness to the Greenworld culture; they provided a way for me to give readers more of a sense of how Danny and the other characters lived and thought, without having to write the community’s concepts into the story in a teachery kind of way. Also, it foregrounds the community as one that is heavily ideologically driven, and starts to make us think about the pros and cons of what that means for the people that live there. I mean, I’d live in the Greenworld if it existed, probably, but to be honest sometimes it might be a bit… boring. And utopias have a nasty habit of being a little bit intolerant of anything other than their idea of perfection, sometimes.

I also enjoyed writing all the tenets and the little chants and songs in particular, being a poet as well. It’s fun! And lastly, the patron goddess of the Greenworld is Brighid, Celtic goddess of poetry and fiery creative inspiration among other things, so I couldn’t really not have any poetry in there. I don’t think She would have been happy if I didn’t.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Jessica's Ghost Blog Tour: Thoughts on a Challenging Read ....

Thoughts on a ‘challenging’ read…

You know how, when you pick up a book and read the blurb on the back, there are certain words which act as flashing red lights warning you that this one’s not for you? For my son, it’s any mention of the word ‘vampires’; my Dad found it impossible to read a book that contained dragons or elves, while for my wife, phrases like The Galactic Federation is under threat… mean it will be put quietly to one side. It’s not that any of these are bad books, just that we all have our preferences.
For me, the warning words are things like urban, gritty, hard-hitting or, the real give-away, challenging. They tell me that the story inside will probably cover things like bullying, alcoholic parents, sexual abuse, the gang culture… and that reading it is likely to bring on a serious case of the glums. While hugely admiring the authors (and readers) who cover these topics, I avoid them myself. I am far too liable to succumb to the glums already, without books like these dragging me down.
So what, I ask myself, am I doing producing a book – Jessica’s Ghost – which has clinical depression as one of its themes? I wish I knew. But that was the way the story came out. I remember, when I realised that was what the story was about, I very nearly abandoned it. I’m a guy who likes to write comedy and fantasy. I write stories about boys trying to cope with having a watch that can stop time or sudden possession of a machine that can fly…
And yet…
The thing is that, unlike alcoholism or gang violence, I do know something about depression. I know how it feels, I know a bit about what causes it and, more importantly, I know a bit about how to deal with it. Even so, it was a tricky story to write.
With ‘challenging’ topics like this, it is all too easy to get preachy and pretentious – to rattle off statistics, and to moralise to a particular solution. This is, after all, an ‘important’ topic and there is serious advice one must give… Most of my re-writes involved taking out all that stuff and reminding myself that my only priority was to tell a decent story.
The topic also left me uncertain which age group to aim at. I usually write for the 8-11 age group, but this story seemed to involve going up an age bracket, and I found myself hovering uncertainly between MG and YA. The finished book still has a foot in both camps. It has the careful vocabulary that will allow it to go in most MG libraries, but the story remains clearly YA. I am not, of course, the first person to face this dilemma and, browsing through this website recently, I found Keris Stainton, in a similar situation, describing her book as ‘clean teen’. A clever phrase, I thought.
David Fickling, owner of the dfb publishing imprint, wrote the blurb for the jacket, and you will find no mention of ‘depression’ there. He was shrewd enough to know that, ultimately, it’s not what the book is about. Jessica’s Ghost is about kindness and friendship, and the process of self-discovery that enables any of us to cope with the loneliness of the human condition.
A statement, now I come to think of it, that sounds every bit as pretentious as anything I’d find in a ‘challenging’ book…
Ah, well.