Friday, 13 January 2017

BLOG TOUR: The White Tower Guest Post


Hello! Welcome to my stop in #TheWhiteTower blog tour! I have the lovely Cathryn on the blog today with a guest post for you guys about her Top 5 Books that fire up her imagination!

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I love a realist novel as much as the next person, especially when it’s written by Tolstoy (or Vasily Grossman). But there are times when you want a bit of literary diversison and a book that skews your assumptions about the world. Children can find plenty of alternative versions of the world they live in: for adults it is a little harder to find books which present the world in a different way and yet don’t topple into magical realism. I’m not going to mention Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as I presume everyone will know it (although I love it not for the talking cat or the cream that can make you fly, but for the portrait of Pontius Pilate and the notion that two millennia of Christianity was brought about by a migraine) but instead here are some of the books I’ve read that have made me think about the world a little differently.

1. The City and the City, China Mieville

The City & the City

I’ve only just started reading Mieville and, I can’t put The City and the City down. I’m not sure if it will add up to anything by the end, but the concept – two cities which don’t acknowledge the other in any way – and the nod to Bruno Schulz in its Eastern European flavour is giddy-making.

2. Metropole, Ferenc Karinthy

Metropole

Written in 1970, this Hungarian novel wasn’t translated into English until 2008. I’m a sucker for translated fiction and this one is deliciously unnerving and thought-provoking. A linguist travelling to a conference in Helsinki falls asleep on a plane and wakes up in the wrong city. Despite speaking several languages, he cannot communicate with anyone but the beautiful lift attendant of his hotel; nor can he fathom the customs of the country.

3. The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

The Rabbit Back Literature Society

Ella, the heroine of this Finnish novel, is chosen to become the tenth member of a prestigious writers’ group in the small town of Rabbit Back. Presided over by the enigmatic Laura White, membership involves playing ‘The Game’. This is an entirely surprising, anarchic, and touching novel.

4. The Adjacent, Christopher Priest

The Adjacent

I’ve picked this novel almost at random because every novel I have read by Christopher Priest has been wonderful. I find myself almost reading off the page, I’m so delighted at what he both explains and withholds. This one is about alternative realities. Yes please.

5. Journey by Moonlight, Antal Szerb

Journey by Moonlight

I love Antal Szerb, it really is that simple. Every word he’s ever written (and sadly there aren’t enough as he was a casualty of the Holocaust). A man takes a walk at night through the backstreets of Venice and Szerb insists that we accompany this accidental hero on his surprising and sometimes dangerous journey. One of those perfect novels.

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Thanks for a wonderful post, Cathryn! I cannot wait to dive into The White Tower!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


After reading Theology at Cambridge University, Cathryn Constable went on to
work in magazine journalism, writing for Vogue, W, Elle, The Independent, Tatler
and The Sunday Times, before realising her dream of writing stories for children.
Cathryn is married with three children and lives in London.

ABOUT THE BOOK



Alchemy meets dreamy reality in this new atmospheric adventure from the
author of the bestselling debut, The Wolf Princess.

The White Tower is the uplifting and magical story of Livy, a young girl lost in
throws of grief and forced to move schools. Struggling to cope with life, Livy
finds solace high up on the rooftop amongst the domes and spires of her new
home. With the perfect blend of science and dreamy reality, Constable paints a
rich and atmospheric story of a lonely girl coming to terms with the death of her
best friend and finding a way to let go of her pain.

Cathryn Constable’s debut novel, The Wolf Princess, was one of the bestselling
debuts of 2012. It swept the board with gorgeous reviews and was shortlisted for
the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and the Specsavers National Book Awards.

LINKS:

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Tour


Welcome to my stop in the exciting WING JONES PHOTO TOUR! I jumped at the chance to become a part of such a big project to promote one of my favourite books and Katherine Webber is just one of the loveliest people I've met. Her debut will touch many hearts, as it had with mine. It's a debut you don't want to miss you guys!

Wing Jones

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites.

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag #WJPhotoTour to see the latest photos!

Here is my instalment to the tour!


My third year of university, I had the opportunity to study abroad at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where I studied Chinese Literature and Language. I also met a boy named Kevin who was from Atlanta. I had no idea how much meeting Kevin would change my life—or how much it would influence my writing. I thought I’d never see him again after we finished studying in Hong Kong.

LINKS:

Hope you enjoyed that little snippet from Katie's journey! Keep your eyes peeled for the next photo stops and keep up with the tour using the #WJPhotoTour hashtag!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#YAXmasTour: Top Ten YA Reads of 2016


HELLO. Hi. Welcome.

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The lovely Virginie at Chouett is hosting an amazing Xmas Tour to promote YA - so I thought hey, why not? I love YA.

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It's that time of year again folks. This time last year I failed miserably to do a top 10 (or even a top 5) list of my favourite reads of the year. But I'm determined to up my blogging game for 2017 and what better way than to end 2016 with a list of the best books I've read throughout the year?! (Note: I'm listing books I've read throughout the year, some of these may be 2017 releases.)

It... was hard. I won't lie. And I feel awful about some of the books that aren't on this list because... Top 10 init. 

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Anyway... moving on. Let's get onto it.



Mafiosa (Blood for Blood, #3)

SURPRISE SURPRISE.

Who didn't see this coming? I've been yodelling about this series since it's birth and it's my favourite of all time. This is the final book in the Blood for Blood series which is a Romeo & Juliet inspired story with a mafia twist. The most exhilarating rollercoaster of a ride you'll ever experience, I can guarantee. It was my most anticipated read and it did not disappoint! Holy smokes. What a heartbreakingly beautiful ending. Perfection. My favourite book I've read this year. Love it.



Wing Jones


I was completely taken by surprise by this staggeringly good debut. Again, another 2017 release that I had the glorified chance to read early and it blew my mind. Such a beautifully written and heartwarming story with the most magical writing and cast of of characters. I love Wing Jones to the moon and back and am so thankful that such a book now exists in our lives. Come January, you must read it!



Caraval (Untitled, #1)

If you haven't been seeing my constant tweets and fangirling about this book then my friend, you are very much out of the loop. This is one of those books where I had 'that kinda feeling' where I knew instantly that this would be a book that I'll love. A story set in a magical circus-like world? SIGN ME UP. It also helps that I was given a gorgeous UK ARC from the lovely people at Hodder. It was an absolute blessing to have been able to read this in 2016 because... well, it's not out until 2017. It's such an enigmatic story, rich and vibrant in characters and writing and captured my heart. I even began doing fan art...



Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)

Can I just say, that this is one of the finest books I have EVER read in my time?! Just the insane amount of research it must have taken for this book - I can't imagine. The writing, the mystery and dark and brutal themes of this Jack the Ripper spun story set in Historical London was one of the biggest joys I've experienced. It constantly kept me guessing, teetering on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding and swooning over characters Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. Just wow. Atmospheric and gripping from page one which will leave you wanting more.



Unboxed

Though relatively short, this was one book I had to include in this list. It was just one of the most beautiful pieces ever written and in such a short span of pages and words, Non has introduced us to a new cast of characters with souls - realistic and flawed. Non is just a phenomenal writer whose books touch my heart. This book made me tear up so bad at the end - which is why it's on this list. So moving and emotional, I was invested since beginning to end. If you're ever looking for a quick read about meaningful friendship, love and loss - this is for you.



Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)


If you haven't heard or picked up this series yet then you are making some seriously bad life choices my friend. I've never been one for Sci-Fi space opera-y types of books but when I read Illuminae last year - I was left with my jaw dropped, completely floored by the incredible highly imaginative story and world. The follow up to Illuminae was perhaps one of the best reading experiences I've ever had because we're reading through documents and pictures rather than your usual words printed on paper in chronological order. It had my blood pumping, it had me roaring with laughter and gasp dramatically at the plot twists. This is just one of the greatest series ever invented. I can't fault this book at all.



Songs About a Girl


Did you honestly think I wouldn't include #boybandlit in this list? Heck, we're going with my favourite out of my endless collection. I was ecstatic when I found out that Songs About A Girl was an ACTUAL BOOK that would ACTUALLY EXIST because it had all the elements I was itching to read about. I loved everything about it and if you've ever been a fan of a band, then you can relate so much with Charlie. The best thing is -it's a series! I can't wait for the next masterpiece and return to my beloved characters.



Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)


Hands up if this wasn't on your most anticipated reads list for 2016? If you got your hand up then you're lying. I'm so glad I picked this up when the duology was complete because DAMN, Six of Crows ends on the worst cliffhanger! I got to enjoy it thoroughly. I happened to be going through a phase or slump where I couldn't get into anything I was reading. Like I lost that spark when reading - but Crooked Kingdom reignited it. I loved it. LOVED IT. It was brilliant and breathtaking and just screams TALENT. Because Leigh is a freaking fantasy EMPRESS. I was so satisfied by this duology and it's conclusion. Diverse, complex characters with charm. It was truly an honour to read it.



Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)

There have been some really great debuts this year! One of which is this pretty thing. This glorious bundle of happiness written by one of my favourite people EVER. Alwyn has taken the world by storm with her fantasy debut that is the first in a new series. This rich and highly imaginative world filled with a diverse cast, magic and middle-eastern themes had me falling head over heels in love. It's such a fantastic start and one I will never stop recommending.



Under Rose-Tainted Skies

And the award for the best YA book representing Mental Health goes to - Louise! I was absolutely blown away by this masterpiece of a story that explores agoraphobia and anxiety. All sorts. And it's written RIGHT. I have never read such an accurate representation of how mental health can affect ones life and Louise has nailed it with an honest and powerful voice. It's one of the best books out there and a bittersweet story about family, love and friendship as well as many other elements. Beautiful. Just beautiful.


AND THAT'S MY LIST.

I've read so many incredible stories this year and we still have a few more days to go! 2016 has been awful but in terms of book releases and news, it's been a real treat. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what 2017 brings!

What were your favourite books that you've read this year? Any on my list that has made yours too?

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year! Let's hope 2017 is one filled with love and happiness and peace.

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Thursday, 10 November 2016

REVIEW: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North

Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan NorthI received a copy of this book from the publisher for free, in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Author: Ryan North
Published by: Orbit on 10th November 2016
Genres: Fiction, Humour, Graphic Novel, Shakespeare Retelling
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle

Summary:


Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read. They were meant…to be played.

What if Romeo never met Juliet? What if Juliet got really buff instead of moping around all day? What if they teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits? This choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet—packed with fun puzzles, secrets, and quadrillions of possible storylines—lets you decide where the plot goes every time you read. You might play as Romeo, or as Juliet, or as both of them at the same time. You might even unlock additional playable characters!

That’s right. We figured out how to have unlockable characters in books.




This is different. Like really different. Not something I, myself, would pick up when I browse the shelves of bookshops but I sure as hell would appreciate it if I were to come across it and flicked through the pages. But I've been in a weird reading mood lately and wanted something a little less... traumatic.

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On first impressions, I was as confused as the terminator when he woke up butt-naked. My brain was working like clockwork, the cogs and gears clicking, trying to  piece together on how to actually READ this book. Naturally my mushy brain figured it out and I ended up following along with the story embedded inside. Now Romeo & Juliet is my favourite Shakespearean play, contrary to popular belief - it's tragic, dramatic and exciting. Hell, Leonardo Di'Caprio still plagues my mind with that opening scene of him on the beach. Hot damn. But we're not here to talk about him. Sorry.

So this was Romeo & Juliet - but far more entertaining, ridiculous and downright enjoyable. The reader, that's you, has the choice to decide where the story goes and how it ends. You get to choose (via multiple choice options) how the characters should react in certain scenarios and follow up on the instructed page to see how it unfurls. You get to play GOD.

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And this doesn't follow the original angsty trope from the play - no, you get options that makes you stare at it in absolute awe and think "seriously?" and after a few passing seconds, you'd reconsider rewriting the entire play and replace the soppy and angsty scenes with these ludicrous alternatives. Because why would you choose the option to accept poison that would slow your heartbeat enough to fake your death, when you could get a lethal tonic to end the sorry life of the guy who's responsible for the banishment of your beloved? I'm telling you, you'll burst a gut laughing because of how ridiculous it all sounds yet you envision it to be so much better than to what happens in canon storyline.

Even if you haven't read/never heard of Romeo & Juliet (to which, my friend I think you need medical assistance because you've been in that cave too long)  then I strongly advise you find yourselves a copy of this book and embrace the humour and the exquisite experience that it offers. It's certainly worth the time and indeed, the best thing to pick up if you need a good giggle. Snort with laughter if you must. Enjoy it. Wholly.

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A brilliant and hilarious take on the original Romeo & Juliet - a reading experience that you won't forget for a while. Fantastic idea and rather cool artwork. (I snorted a few times.)

Rating:
Silver Wreath

Friday, 14 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Finding Black Beauty Q&A


Welcome to my stop in the Finding Black Beauty blog tour!

Now usually I'd ramble on about several things but due to a wrist injury, I'm afraid I'll be keeping my commentary short and sweet! So, Black Beauty is one of my favourite classics which meant I was super willing to take part in this tour and host a Q&A with lovely author - Lou Kuenzler! Also, check out that cover!!! SUPER GORGEOUS.

Make sure to keep up with the rest of the tour and check out earlier posts hosted by other amazing bloggers!



Now onto the Q&A!

Shall we begin with my favourite introductory question? Tell us something we don't know about you!

I was born left handed but was forced to write with my right.  I think it explains a great deal about the way I engage with - and often get in a muddle over - the everyday world around me.  Things quite often just seem a little bit the wrong way round. But perhaps that is why I am a writer. Fiction is a great way to make sense of chaos.

You've written a variety of children books - what made you choose to write about a classic? Why Black Beauty?

I think revisiting classic books is a great way to engage contemporary readers with wonderful stories they might otherwise overlook. I hope children who read Finding Black Beauty and have not previously discovered Anna Sewell’s original will do so now.  I loved Black Beauty as a child, mostly for the sheer drama of the story.  It is about life and death - it is a book where things really matter.  I loved that.

On the topic of classics, is it something you read a lot of? Which is your favourite?

Truthfully, Black Beauty really was one of my favourite books as a child.  I was lucky enough to have a (small, fat, hairy) pony of my own. I read Anna’s Sewell’s classic many times - always pretending that Black Beauty could one day be mine.  I remember sitting in the back of the car, driving along the motorway, and jumping the hedges on the wonderful black horse in my mind.

For someone who rarely reads classics, which classics would you recommend?

Other than Black Beauty, it would have to be The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. That glorious moment when Lucy steps out of the back if the dusty World War II wardrobe into the snow and wonder of Narnia. It’s like a doorway right into C.S Lewis’s imagination … and then we get to have tea with a faun!

What is your writing process like? Do you plan beforehand or dive right in and plot as you go?

I do plan. I teach Writing For Children to adults at City Lit College in London. An analogy I often use with my students is that if you want to make a journey to Scotland, a little planning is going to stand you in good stead.  At least knowing you should head north is a good start. Train, bus or car?  Without these basic things, you will be in a terrible muddle very quickly.  Writing fiction is much the same.  You don’t want to end up going via Truro on a bicycle if you were heading for Aberdeen by plane. Strangely though, once the planning is in place, if you decide a detour to Truro is a good idea, that can often work out just fine!

Which authors inspire you the most? Which ones shaped you to be who you are today?

Gosh, I do think the writers we read nourish us and leave their mark. I love Jane Austen. I don’t know if she has actually shaped my writing (I should be so lucky!) but I do know that I marvel at her use of character to drive a plot.  
I was also lucky enough to do a writing workshop with David Almond very early in my career. He taught me never to underestimate children’s capacity for fiction - they are young, not stupid. This is such an important thing to remember. Always respect the reader.

Let's switch things up a little! If you could go on a writing retreat with 3 authors, who would you pick?

Oh - J K Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson and Judith Kerr - three fabulous women who, between them, know just about anything there is to know about telling stories for children. I hope someone brings cake ...

If you had the chance to co-write a book together with another author, who would it be? Why?

I was asked this recently in another blog and thought about picture books, so here I will turn my mind to longer fiction. I would love to collaborate with Jeremy Strong and do something for older teens (a bit of a departure for us both). I would love to trade jokes and build our combined but different humour into the heart of a really funny teen-mishap plot.

Is there a specific genre you'd like to write but just haven't had the chance to yet? (e.g. Thriller, Dystopia)

I would like to have a go at detective fiction. I love the idea of developing a plot around a series of clues false leads.

How do you feel about book-to-movie or book-to-theatre adaptations? Is it something you'd like to see happen with Finding Black Beauty?

Yes please! As a book lover, I always like to read the book before seeing the movie but there have been some great adaptations - alongside some absolute stinkers - but let’s not name names. I would love to see Finding Black Beauty made into a film or TV series: think Poldark meets Victoria with lots and galloping and great costumes!

Can you give us a little hint about your next book or work in progress?

I have a new very young picture book, My Digger Is Bigger, with gorgeous illustrations by Dan Taylor coming out with Scholastic next year. Meanwhile, for older readers, i am definitely thinking history and animals (but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait and see) ...


What advice would you give someone who wishes to write a retelling of a classic?

Make sure you love the original book - you are going to have to spend a lot of time with it! Then, don’t worry about it too much. Whatever you do, the original will still always be there for readers to enjoy.


Thanks so much for being on my blog Lou! Loved those answers and cannot wait to read Finding Black Beauty!

You guys should definitely check out her work. All links below!


Friday, 9 September 2016

Super Awkward Blog Tour: Review


Yesirrreeee.

It's finally time for me to shine. Well, not really. I'm here to spotlight a rather fabulous book I read recently and that I think you should all pick up too. Because AUTUMN is finally here! Or Fall - which I strongly prefer these days. Because leaves fall, y'know? And that's Autumn in a nutshell. That and pumpkin spiced flavoured stuff.

Look at me rambling.

I first met the lovely Beth Garrod on my BIRTHDAY. At the Scholastic Blogger's Feast. (ON MY BIRTHDAY. SERIOUSLY. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.) So I was totally going to join in on the #SuperAwkward blog tour so I can talk about Beth's brilliant book. She's so cool, despite the title of her debut. I think she's pretty great. 

Let's get onto my review so you can hear me rambling some more. Hopefully I wasn't too awkward... (I had to throw that in there.)

Super Awkward

Author: Beth Garrod
Published by: Scholastic on 1st September 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Awkward
Pages: 405
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

Summary:

I, Bella Fisher, am absolutely WINNING at FAILING at life. 
1. I once got my tongue stuck to a box of Calippos in a supermarket. 
2. I accidentally called my geography teacher Mum. Twice. He wasn't impressed. 
3. I'm a geek. And not in a geek-chic kind of way, but in a secretly-caring-about-failing-maths-and-science way. 
4. I always fail maths and science. 

So it figures that when I meet the FITTEST BOY IN THE WORLD, Zac, I'm doing solo star jumps. While dressed as a cereal box. 
(NOTE TO SELF, fancy dress = HE-WILL-NEVER-EVER-FANCY-ME dress.) 

Now I've got to somehow persuade Zac to come to prom with me while avoiding my evil ex and dealing with a secret so mega-awks I want to Ctrl-Z my brain... What could go wrong? 
Oh yeah, that's right. Absolutely everything.




So this was me at the end.

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Beth Garrod quite possibly has written one of the most accurate and entertaining stories of the year. Quite possibly one of my favourites! Quite possibly - the most relatable when it comes to awkwardness. Because believe it or not, I'm hella socially awkward. All kinds of awkward. I'm the type of person who mistakenly pours salt into their coffee instead of sugar.

(Spoiler: it's pretty gross.)

I've been suffering flu-ish hell as of late so reading Super Awkward was probably the best decision I had ever made. This book brought smiles to my face, it made me root for Bella Fisher, whom, despite her poor decisions at times, was perhaps one of the greatest and realistic characters I have ever read about. She is the inner child inside all adults. Not even joking. We've all got a Bella Fisher trait. I absolutely loved her! It's truly a shining element. Just following her mad adventures, her fangirling and awkwardness is enough to make any reader love her!

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Super Awkward is one of the most entertaining stories out there that can easily tackle dreadful slumps, hangovers and even the flu. (Speaking from experience.) Filled with fifty kinds of emotion - humour, fluttery butterfly gleeful feelings because FLUFF - all kinds of fun really. It's a heartwarming and light read, super quick and 100 percent enjoyable! I dare you not to love this book. I loved the characters, especially the favourite trio Bella, Rach and Tegan! I see so little of friendships being the spotlight in contemporary novels so it was great to see that the drama between the three friends and how they tackled the conflict wasn't a side-story plot. If that makes sense. 

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(I'm Castiel in this GIF.)

Honestly, this is the perfect read for any time of day, month, season, year but in this case - totally perfect to kick start the Fall season (yes, I used the US term because I can). If you ever find yourself in a foul mood or in need of a humourous and light read - Super Awkward is your go-to! The writing is brilliant and fluid, so enjoyable! I promise it'll bring you smiles. A truly wonderful and outstanding debut!

Also, we totally need a book two. Because I need Mr MIAGTM scenes and fluff. And more Luke doucheyness. More Bella Fisher awkwardness please. I can compare this book to the Faith series by Candy Harper which I ADORE. 

Get out there and read this book guys.

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Rating:
Silver Wreath

Thursday, 18 August 2016

YA Shot: Q&A with L.A. Weatherly


Hello! And WELCOME. Today is rather special as it's that time of year again where the fantastic #YAShot team are hosting another fun-packed Blog Tour! I've been partnered up with one of my long-term favourite author's - L.A. Weatherly (AKA Lee Weatherly) whose books I've been reading for YEARS. I couldn't be happier and more proud to be paired with such a successful and lovely woman! 

So, Lee and I conjured up a fun zombie-tastic Q&A for our post so without further ado, here we go. Hope you enjoy!


Let's start off a little differently... Tell us something we don't know about you!

OK, I’m actually insanely boring (which is in itself a fact about me that you may not know!), so I’m racking my brains for something vaguely interesting here…how’s this? I love jewellery and do silversmithing. I made a pair of cufflinks for my husband’s last birthday. Here’s a pic of the evidence:


(S: Amazing!! I am very VERY impressed Lee...)

From what age did you begin writing? What was the first piece you had written?

I began writing at a very early age – maybe six or so? The first piece that I can remember was about a horse and a fox who were best friends. I think the horse got sent to the glue factory. Clearly I was a morbid child. 



There's a Zombie Apocalypse and you get to choose your dream team! Which 5 of your OWN characters would you pick? Any particular reasons why?

Ooh, I LOVE this question! Well, obviously Alex from the Angel series needs to come; he’s an amazing shot and a great leader and just an all-around ideal person to have on your side in a zombie situation. I think Willlow from Angel also needs to be there – she can hotwire cars and her half-angel abilities would come in very handy. But we need more good shots. Let’s bring in Sam from Angel, as well; he took over the Angel Killer team when Alex was gone and is extremely competent. Amity from Broken Sky is a pilot, which could be really useful, plus she’s very kick-ass in her own right, so she should come along too. Much as I love the boys from Broken, Collie and Ingo, they’re both pilots and neither of them are really fighters in terms of wasting zombies…so I think, sadly, we’ll leave them behind and instead bring Kay Pierce, the devious astrologer. She’s completely ruthless and would do anything to survive. 


On the subject of Zombie Apocalypse... Who would most likely be the first to be eaten by a Zombie?

If I’m there with my dream team, then without question it would be me! Otherwise…hmm. Possibly Willow. She’s just too nice and might hesitate at a crucial moment. 


Moving on from Zombies... How about music playlists? Do you listen to music as you write? If so, do you have set playlists for each series?

I don’t often listen to music as I write (too distracting; writing is HARD), but yes, I love to create playlists for my books. It’s a great way to stay in the world of the story even when you’re not writing. For the Broken series, which takes place in a sort of distorted 1940s, this was especially fun – a mix of music from the era and more modern stuff. If you’re curious, you can check out my playlists for both Angel and Broken here (the Broken playlist is divided in three parts):

ANGEL series Playlists:



Research! Is it something you do when you write? Do/Would you ever travel for research purposes?

Oh, absolutely! I tend to write about things that I have little real-life knowledge of – shooting guns, fixing cars and flying Spitfires immediately spring to mind – so research is essential. Even though I’m writing fiction, it needs to feel true. In the pursuit of research, I’ve travelled across the US, gone to Mexico City, flown in a Spitfire (amazing!), and spoken to numerous experts. But research can be dangerously involving. The temptation is always to include more than your story actually needs. I think the key is to keep the story in mind and use research to flesh it out, rather than drive it.


Where is your ideal writing location?

I have a home office, which is my refuge. But sometimes it’s nice to sneak off to a cafĂ© and write there instead. 


Quite interested to see your answer for this one - Are you a plotter, or a pantser? Do you have to outline every single plot line, scene etc. or do you just go with the flow?

I’m a mix, I guess, though I come down much more firmly on the planning side. I do a LOT of preliminary thinking about the world, the storyline and the characters. I write loads of notes and do outlines; I block out scenes before I write them. I need to know my characters and have a rough story ‘shape’ before I can start writing. But at the same time, I tend to write big, epic books…and you just can’t plan everything. Inevitably, I learn a lot about the world and its characters as I go along. So I need the initial plan in order to ever have the confidence to get going, but quite often I also need to ditch elements of the plan to accommodate all the things I find out along the way. It’s frustrating, actually, given that I’m a bit of a control freak. But often I just have to listen to my intuition and my characters, and go where they lead me. 


(S: I think we've all had this particular Sheldon moment at some point during our writing process...)


Which of your series was your most favourite to write? Which was the most fun?

Thinking about this question, I find it interesting how ‘most fun’ and ‘favourite’ are very different things! I loved the Angel series, but I have to confess that the Broken series is my hands-down favourite so far. I adore the characters and the weird, distorted 1940s world. I’ve found it very challenging at times, but also extremely fulfilling. 

Most fun? Well, that would have to be a series I wrote under the pseudonym Titania Woods: Glitterwings Academy, for younger readers, about a school for fairies. Oh my gosh, SO much fun! During my events I wore fairy wings and a tiara and wafted a magic wand around. Life doesn’t get much better. 


Do you ever read back your own work after publication?

Not usually, until a fair amount of time has passed. Once something goes to print, the author has gone over it so many times that you’re not only sick of it, you genuinely have no idea whether it’s good or not. Reading my stuff when it’s just been published inevitably brings about, “Argh! I knew I should have changed that word!” Having said that, I recently reread the Angel series and was surprised at how much I still liked it. It was very cool to come across a line I’d forgotten about that I found absolutely hilarious. It’s sort of a surreal feeling to be laughing out loud at your own work. 


How about some writing tips? What advice would you give someone new to writing?

Follow your passion. Write your greatest truth. Write what you’d most like to read. And if you really want it, don’t give up. You have something of value to say.


Those were some AMAZING answers Lee! Thank you so much for being on my blog today and for being a great YA Shot partner! I hope the readers enjoyed this Q&A as much as we did. (I had lot's of fun hunting out suitable GIFs for certain parts...)

Also, a huge thank you to the INCREDIBLE YA Shot team who were happy to have me on board and included on this amazing project once again! You guys are superstars. Seriously.

Make sure to keep up to date with all the previous and upcoming posts by checking their Twitter! And if you haven't already, then buy tickets to the amazing #YAShot event taking place on October 22nd 2016! You can purchase tickets through their website. Hopefully I'll see you there!

All links below.

Until next time, my fellow minions.


LINKS:


Twitter:



ABOUT YA SHOT:

YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises the money and resources to run a year-long programme pairing libraries and schools for free author events to foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts. We believe in equal access to books and opportunities for all – YA Shot brings UKYA and UKMG authors together to pursue that goal, supporting libraries and young people across the country. At present, we’re a not-for-profit organisation but we’re seeking to become a charity.

YA Shot is a one-day annual festival based in the centre of Uxbridge (London). The 2016 festival will take place on Saturday 22nd October 2016. Around 70 authors are involved in a programme of workshop, panel and ‘in conversation’ events (plus book-signing sessions) in the Uxbridge Civic Centre, Waterstone’s Uxbridge and Uxbridge Library. There is also a programme of fantastic blogging and vlogging workshops. YA Shot is run in partnership with Hillingdon Borough Libraries and Waterstone’s Uxbridge.

YA Shot is incredibly grateful to have been awarded an Arts Council Grant for our inaugural year. YA Shot and its Libraries-Schools Programme is supported using public money and National Lottery funding by Arts Council England. Thanks to this grant the 2015 Libraries-Schools Programme will comprise a minimum of 35 events that will be free to host Libraries in the London Borough of Hillingdon and the local schools that will be invited in for these events. We will also provide a free copy of the relevant author’s book to both the host library and the school library for each event.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

BLOG TOUR: Infernal by Mark De Jager



Welcome to my stop in the fantastic #Infernal blog tour! I jumped at the chance to read and review Mark's book and take part in promoting his debut - now that day has finally arrived and I have my review to share and a great giveaway to host! 

Enjoy!


I received an ARC of the book from the publisher for free, in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect the content of my review in any form.

Author: Mark de Jager
Published by: Ebury Press/Del Rey on 11th August 2016
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Anti-Hero
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Links: Goodreads | Wordery | Hive | Kindle

Summary:

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.

As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.




If you thought I would miss out on the chance to read Mark de Jager's debut novel - then you thought wrong. Ever since I first heard about him conjuring up his own Fantasy novel, I placed it on my list of 'books I absolutely must read'. I'm a huge fan of his wife's - Liz de Jager - work as she writes YA Fantasy about sassy characters and mindblowing plots, so you could say I was incredibly curious as to see how differently both husband and wife write whilst living under the same roof. Surely their ideas would merge somewhere along the line?


Mark brings forth a new kind of anti-heroic Fantasy story, a new voice and style of writing that I'm always on the look out for. I was ecstatic and over the moon to see that the main character, Stratus, was a character of colour. YES. Diversity is always very much needed in Fantasy because it's the genre where I believe it lacks most. It was so refreshing to read an epic Fantasy tale that highlights elements such as diversity, friendship and self-discovery. The world is rich, highly imaginative and built up very nicely. I say we need a map to seal the deal.



Can we talk about characters? Because I believe it to be one of Mark's strongest points. Tatyana and Stratus are my favourite duo. They are your Kell & Lila from Victoria Schwab's Shades of Magic series. They're your Kit & Aiden from Liz de Jager's Blackhart Legacy series. They form such a great bond despite being from two very different backgrounds. Tatyana is the witty, sardonic and bold female companion and matched together with the dark, yet equally sarcastic Stratus, the narrative was a delight to read! It worked so well, a mixture of entertainment and a intense storyline. I loved seeing these two together in action and when an author succeeds in making the reader attached to their characters - then you know it's a damn good story.

I won't lie. This book probably is not for the faint-hearted or those who are quite sqeuamish. There's a lot of gore. And violence. And limbs. Ah yes. Lot's of those. But I lapped it all up. Call me psycho but dark fantasy's where the main character is some demon spawn without a memory kind of wins me over.


The plot flows at a steady pace, but it works. It may take a few pages to really get into it but you'll soon find yourself immersed and seeking to find out what happened to Stratus. And as you join him on his adventures, slowly discovering pieces and fragments of the answers he so desperately seeks, you'll be blown away by the ending. It. Was. SO. GREAT.

I eagerly anticipate the next book. Political conflict and bloody wars are my thing.

Did I mention how much I love Lucien? *clutches heart*

I'm so impressed by Mark's debut. Lovers of Fantasy need to read this. It really did exceed my expectations and took me by surprise! I can't wait to see what else he has up his sleeve...



Rating:
Silver Wreath


GIVEAWAY


The lovely team at Ebury Press have granted me 3 beautiful shiny hardbacks of Infernal to give away to THREE LUCKY WINNERS! So if you wish to enter, follow my Twitter and RT my pinned tweet!

Giveaway is open until 21st August 2016 and open to residents of UK & IRE. Winners will be announced on Twitter! Good luck!