Thursday, 30 April 2015

April review

This month has been epic reading wise. So many awesome books

Books read
All that glitters by Holly Smale (4 stars)
Better left buried by Emma Haughton (3 stars)
Dog Ears by Anne Booth (4 stars)
Written in the stars by Ali Harris (4 stars)
The Start of me and you by Emery Lord (4 stars)
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally (3 stars)
The rest of us just live here by Patrick Ness (4 stars)
Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson (4 stars)
Being a girl by Hayley Long (5 stars)
Demolition Dad by Phil Earle (5 stars)
It's all about love by Steve Camden (4 stars)
Lorali by Laura Dockrill (5 stars)
One by Sarah Crossan (5 stars)
Poppy in the Field by Mary Hooper (4 stars)
Read me like a book by Liz Kessler (4 stars)
House of Windows by Alexia Casale (4 stars)
One small act of kindness by Lucy Dillon (4 stars)

Book of the Month



This month it has to be One by Sarah Crossan. It was an extraordinary read which absolutely blew me away

Events attended

Early this month I went off to Nicole's Burstein's book launch for Other Girl. It was a fab event and so lovely to support Nicole and her wonderful book

Hotkey Brunch
I was lucky enough to get invite to Hot Key's Blogger Brunch. I got huge pile of books to bring home which I have been steadily working through and have all been awesome which I'll be reviewing over the next few months closer to publication dates. I always love a hot key event because they always have loads of authors there and a huge range of awesome titles that I am always dying to read and this time was no exception.


On the Blog
This month has been really quiet on the blog. I've been reading loads of summer releases so not had much to write about that was actually released this month.

Reviews
I wrote a few reviews this month
I'll give you the sun by Jandy Nelson 
Othergirl by Nicole Burstein
An island of our own by Sally Nichols
Seed by Lisa Heathfield
Liberating Earth (reviewed by my husband)
Oakfield by David J Rodgers (reviewed by my husband)

Blog Tours
Seed guest post by Lisa Heathfield
If you were me guest post
Other stuff

On May's TBR pile 
I have loads of fab books to read this month which I cannot wait to get to
The Crowham Martyrs by Jan McLoughin
The one safe place by Tania Unsworth
The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
Twenty boy summer by Sarah Ockler
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
As red as blood by Salla Simukka
Almost Grace by Rosie Rowell
Birdy by Jess Wallace
The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward
Paperweight by Meg Haston
In a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware
The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Monday, 27 April 2015

Can't wait to read

Another month. Another list of books I cannot wait for.

Asking for it by Louise O'Neill


I know nothing about this book. I want it purely because it is written by Louise.

Darkest Night by Will Hill
The brave men and women of Department 19 have fought Dracula at every turn, but now Zero Hour has passed and the ancient vampire is at full strength.  Inside Department 19, the Operators are exhausted and fractured. Jamie, Larissa, Matt and Kate are each struggling with their own demons. When the friends need each other most, they are further apart than ever.  Outside the Department, the world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined.  A final battle looms between the forces of darkness and the last, massed ranks of those who stand against it. A battle that will define the future of humanity. A battle that simply cannot be lost...

I love this series. There aren't many series that I actively still follow because I suck at series and waiting time between books unless they are awesome. I cannot wait to get my hands on this.

Lorali by Laura Dockrill



Colourful, raw, brave, rich and fantastical - this mermaid tale is not for the faint-hearted.

Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn't exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.

Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human.

But along with Lorali's arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory's bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?

  
I love Laura Dockrill. She is literally one of the nicest people I think I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. I'll read anything she writes.

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine





A teenage girl will soon discover, there are some things which burn even brighter than fire. Iris’s father Ernest is at the end of his life. Her best friend Thurston seems like a distant memory to her. Her mother has declared war. She means to get her hands on Ernest’s priceless art collection so that she can afford to live the high life. But Ernest has other ideas.  There are things he wants Iris to know. Things he can tell her and things that must wait till he’s gone. What she does after that is up to her. 

It's been a long time since I've read a Jenny Valentine. I cannot wait to read this because I remember her books as being awesome.

 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Oakfield by David J Rodgers



Oakfield by David J Rodgers




Monsters lurk in quiet places.
Annabella Spaulding has inherited an extraordinary property from her estranged grandfather. A man she hasn’t seen since she was a child. Taking her husband and family there she seeks to heal the painful rifts between them. When owners of a local mine show an unhealthy interest in the property, it becomes worryingly apparent her grandfather may not have died naturally. There is a great secret bound within the house, and digging through the clues to discover the truth they risk tearing down the walls between our reality and a monstrous other....

I stumbled upon this title totally by accident but was immediately drawn to it as it appeared to contain overt Lovecraftian influences, in that regard I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  That said I’m confident that this book would be entirely accessible to you even if you had no grounding in the works of H.P.Lovecraft (1890-1937).

Oakfield begins at a gentle pace setting the scene of an isolated West Country inheritance.   Initially things seem mildly amiss but gradually it becomes apparent that something is very wrong in the local community and the protagonists by degrees find themselves almost under siege by both locals and an intangible supernatural presence.

The pace of the book is just right, setting the scene perfectly while introducing both the characters and setting before then drawing the reader deeper into the unfolding mystery.  Towards the end of the book the escalating feeling of dread is relentless.

The cross-genre style of the book is a little unusual combining bleak sanity-shredding horror with high-octane action, almost a Tarantino/Lovecraft hybrid (and I’m guessing those two have never been previously described together).  This leads to some scenes being a little graphic in terms of violence and sexual content.

The setting of the book is perhaps unusual in that it is set in the distant future but as the geographical location is so provincial it really feels like it has a contemporary background.  Therefore on the occasion when some futuristic reference is made relating to world politics or technology it can seem a little jarring.  However this title is apparently one of a number the author has set in the same period so actually this may not prove a problem for the author’s regular readers.

My only very minor complaint was the unknown fate of a character who is led to temporary sanctuary toward the end of the book, it wasn’t really clear at the end exactly what became of that person.  If I ever have the opportunity to meet the author I shall have to ask him.
All in all though it is truly a brilliant read, the pages (in keeping with the supernatural theme) literally turned themselves.  I will most assuredly keep my eyes open for other titles by this author.

Anyone interested in the roots of this story should find a copy H.P.Lovecraft’s short story “Whisperer in the Darkness” (1931).  As I was familiar with this title there was a clear light-bulb moment when the story fell into place and I grasped more clearly exactly what was going on.

Although self-published this title can be purchased either through Amazon or direct from Lulu

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

If you were me Blog Tour: Author Guest Post



One Story, Two Narrators
Sam Hepburn
Until I wrote If You Were Me I had never written a book using dual narratives and it was an interesting challenge, made easier in a way because the two main characters were so very different. Dan Abbott is English, fourteen years old and the only child of a London plumber . He is good hearted but a tiny bit dodgy – he has been known to unlock stolen phones for an older friend. He doesn’t try very hard at school and he has no idea what he wants to do with his life. He has a happy, contented homelife, although things were difficult when he was little and his father did a short prison sentence for selling stolen goods.

Aliya is also fourteen but from Afghanistan. Her doctor father was killed in a Taliban bomb explosion and the shock and grief have plunged her mother into a deep depression. She has a younger sister Mina, who is four and an older brother Behrouz who worked as an interpreter for the British troops. Aliya is clever and determined. She works hard at school and has her heart set on becoming an engineer so she can help to rebuild her war ravaged country. Since her father’s death she has looked after her mother and taken over more and more of the household chores, including the cooking and looking after Mina.

When the Taliban put Behrouz on a death list Aiya’s family seek asylum in the UK. Soon after they arrive Behrouz is badly injured in a bomb explosion and accused of being a terrorist. Aliya sets out to prove his innocence and Dan, who she meets when he helps his dad with a plumbing job in her flat, decides to help her.

Some dual narratives describe the same scenes from two different points of view. I decided not to do that, so the chronology is continuous with Dan and Aliya picking up the story where the other one leaves off. This allowed me to have moments where the readers know what one of them sees or thinks but are left to guess what is going on in the mind of the other. This was very important for the story which hinges on the themes of doubt, trust and loyalty. Aliya wonders again and again why an English boy who she hardly knows should be so convinced of her brother’s innocence and so willing to help her, and Dan is constantly on edge in case she finds out his terrible secret.

The other big challenge was getting the right voice for each of the characters. Obviously when Aliya is thinking in Pashto ( her first language) her thoughts are fluent. But when she is speaking English to Dan I needed to create a voice for her which made it clear that this was not her first language. To find that voice I listened to the speeches of Malala Yousafzai, the Pashtun girl who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education. I also read her book I am Malala and when I did author visits in schools I talked to Pashto speakers and asked their advice.

With Dan it was easier. I have a 17 year old son and house that has been full of London based teenagers for a long time so I am used to the way they speak and to some extent the way they think. So if you read If You Were Me book I hope you find the voices of Dan and Aliya convincing and I also hope that you enjoy this story of two very different young people flung together by extraordinary events.
If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)
Follow Sam on Twitter: @Sam_Osman_Books and find out more at www.samhepburnbooks.com

Friday, 17 April 2015

Seed Blog Tour: My Road to Publication by Lisa Heathfield



My Road to Publication



They say that every published writer has at least one book in their bottom drawer. The one that didn't make it. I'm sure that there are exceptions to this, but I'm not one of them! SEED isn't my first book - I've got another one, tucked away. It's one I still have faith in, but it wasn't quite good enough to get onto the shelves.

     The great thing about my first book not getting picked up, was that I could write SEED without any expectation on my shoulder. That's definitely how my writing spirit prefers to work. I was free to write Pearl's story and if I didn't do it justice, then I would get on with the next one.

     Luckily, though, fate steered me in the direction of Veronique Baxter - an agent at The David Higham Agency. She read the first three chapters 'in one big gulp' and asked to see the rest. I couldn't believe that Veronique might want to take me on - she has incredible authors on her list, including the mighty Michael Morpurgo! I can't describe what it felt like when she said that she wanted to represent me. Getting an agent is a writer's dream - getting Veronique felt like I'd won the lottery!

     The next stop was editorial input from both Veronique and Laura West (also at David Higham), as we got SEED into shape to go out on submission. Then Veronique sent it out to publishers and we held our breath.

     One thing I didn't realise before I ventured into this inner sanctum of the book world, was quite how much breath-holding goes on. There are many weeks of nervous waiting and obsessive checking of your email's inbox. I was more realistic this time round though, having seen my first book stumble at the submission process. So I enjoyed it more - knowing that whatever the outcome, I was in a position where editors at top publishing houses were even reading my novel.

     There were rejections, of course, but two publishers were interested. It was a crazy situation to be able to choose. Stephanie Kuehn swung it for me. Electric Monkey, the YA imprint at Egmont, published her incredible novel, CHARM AND STRANGE and I couldn't pass up on the honour of being alongside her!

     When I went to Egmont for the first time, I felt like I was stepping on hallowed ground. Books have always had a slightly mystical quality for me and it was dizzying knowing that this was one of the places where some books started. Ali Dougal, my editor, was so warm and enthusiastic. And Lucy Pearse had even made me a seed cake! When I saw that Ali had written her notes by hand, I knew that she'd be the perfect editor for me.

     People ask whether I mind the editorial process - but I genuinely love it. I see it as an opportunity to spend more time with characters that I love and to get to know them even better. And working with such a brilliant editor as Ali was a complete privilege. 

     There's a saying that lightning doesn't strike in the same place twice, but it appears that luck certainly does. When Ali went on maternity leave, I couldn't believe it when she was replaced by the fantastic Lindsey Heaven, who is equally wonderful.

     With the editing complete, we now waited to see if anyone would buy the foreign rights. SEED sold to seven countries and it's extraordinary to think that my little book will be translated into all these different languages and be read by people in places I can only dream of going to.

    Next step was something I'd been really looking forward to - the UK cover! The designer, Ben Hughes, had a true connection to the book and what he came up with was astonishing. SEED's cover is beyond anything I could have hoped for. It's beautiful, unique and compelling and, as the lovely Abi Elphinstone said, it's like a disco on a book! I know how incredibly lucky I am - I think that Ben is a genius.

     The months building up to publication have felt like a dream and by the time this is on Kirsty's blog, SEED will be on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. I don't think I'll ever believe it. How can I be an author of a real, live book?! The whole experience is definitely a testament that if you truly wish for something, and work to achieve it, anything can come true.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Review: Liberating Earth




“The human race had every opportunity. We blew it, darling”

Take two Cousins from Faction Paradox.  Give them a world – the Earth, for example – and give them the power to change that world’s history as they see fit.  Then stand back and watch what happens…  Just what would happen if a couple of Cousins used our planet as their personal game board?  As they create one alternative reality after another, twisting history and reality into knots, only one outcome is sure: whoever wins, the human race loses.

For those who have not heard of it Faction Paradox started life as a spin-off of the BBCs popular science fiction show Doctor Who.  Originally conceived prior to the new series returning to our screens, Faction Paradox has now distanced itself from its origins and continues to be a franchise is its own right.  The premise of the series is that a vast war rages through time and space between two matched powers – The Great Houses (aka Time Lords) and an undefined Enemy.  The Faction Paradox are a third group who then use this conflict as an opportunity to promote their own interests.

This latest Faction Paradox collection is a series of short stories, the whole collection written exclusively by women, this shows as predominately strong women are the main protagonists.  The stories themselves have a linking narrative whereby the history of Earth is manipulated over and over to create new realities.  Each short story details one of the alternate Earths.  The stories/authors are as follows:

Dreamer in the Dark - E.H. Timms
Annie's Arms - Xanna Chown
The Mountains are Higher at Home - Juliet Kemp
Judy's War - Rachael Redhead
Red Rover Red Rover - "Q"
The Vikingr Mystique - Dorothy Ail
Life of Julia - Tansy Rayner Roberts
Project Thunderbird - Kelly Hale
Playing for Time - Kate Orman

The stories vary in style and tone, since each is set on a completely different earth to our own.  Individual stories are set in the past, present and future – and range between romance, comedy, horror and obviously science fiction.

Overall the quality of the individual stories is very high.  My personal favourite being “Dreamer in the Dark” depicting a world populated by medusa-like aliens where the human race are forced to be blindfolded at all times and are therefore reduced to a slave race.  “The Mountains are Higher at Home” is also a very strong story, an emotional tale of a warden species come to Earth to protect humanity from its own environmental devastation.  If I had any criticism of the collection I’d say that although the stories are themselves excellent, the linking narrative while well-written does not really hold them together.  Overall though a brilliant short-story collection.

If a printed copy of this title is purchased direct from the publisher Obverse Books http://obversebooks.co.uk/ then a free download of the electronic version of the book is also provided.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Seed by Lisa Heathfield



Seed loves you. Seed will never let you go.

Fifteen-year-old Pearl has lived her whole life protected within the small community at Seed, where they worship Nature and idolise their leader, Papa S. When some outsiders arrive, everything changes. Pearl experiences feelings that she never knew existed and begins to realise that there is darkness at the heart of Seed. A darkness from which she must escape, before it's too late.


This isn't really a review of Seed. I don't want to review this for fear of spoiling it. I came to this book only knowing that it was about a girl who is part of a cult. I actually think knowing only the very basic premise meant I was surprised all the way through and needed to keep reading to find out what happened next.

This book is dark and creepy and with leave you chilled by the end. I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable as the story progressed. This book is a real example of how YA can really take you to that dark place and it isn't all fluffy unicorns like some non YA readers seem to believe.

I urge to find the time to pick up this superbly stunning book. I for one am already dying to read the sequel. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

An Island of our own by Sally Nichols




Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family's wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or write, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead them to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they're not the only ones after the treasure...

This novel made me kick myself that I hadn't read any Sally Nichols before. I don't even know I haven't but I'm certainly going to make it a priority to read more in the future. This book was utterly charming throughout and I found myself absolutely captivated by the story of the siblings as they go on their treasure hunt to find their inheritance. The characterisation was stop and the story was so engrossing I read this is one very greedy sitting. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Othergirl by Nicole Burstein


Louise and Erica have been best friends since forever. They're closer than sisters and depend on each other for almost everything. Just one problem: Erica has superpowers.

When Erica isn't doing loop-the-loops in the sky or burning things with her heat pulse powers, she needs Louise to hold her non-super life together. After all, the girls still have homework, parents and boys to figure out. But being a superhero's BFF is not easy, especially as trouble has a way of seeking them out. Soon Louise discovers that Erica might be able to survive explosions and fly faster than a speeding bullet, but she can't win every fight by herself.

Life isn't a comic book - it's even crazier than that



Othergirl has been on my radar for a long while. I've followed Nicole on Twitter for a long time and I was so excited when I heard she had her book deal I've always enjoyed her humour and geeky take on life and her personality shines through in this book. I adored every page and cannot wait to read more from Nicole in the future.

Othergirl is the story of Louise BFF to Superhero Erica. I adored Louise. She is just so normal and there is so much about her I could relate to. She's a worrier regularly found sat at home fretting over how things are going whilst her BFF is out being a superhero. She's sensible and practical. Whilst Erica is off with her head in the clouds thinking about joining the Vigils, Louise is worrying that her friend isn't doing her homework and the impact that'll have on her GCSE performance. She is the one patching up Erica's superhero costume in the evenings and spending her free time at school in the school library. She knits. I love that she knits. I love that girl and wish she'd been my BFF when I was a teen.

I love the relationship between the girls. They are so very different but it works and I loved seeing how the relationship worked and how they balanced one another out. I also adored Louise's friend Toby who was such an incredibly cute geeky boy.

I read this book in a matter of hours because the storyline was well paced and exciting and I foud myself unable to put the book down because I needed to know what was going to happen next. The superhero element made it a really exciting read. I loved how original the ideas in the story were taking traditional and frankly sexist ideas about female superheroes and challenging them.

All in all a book I adored. Nicole is an author who has found herself onto my autobuy list with this awesome debut novel.