Book of the Month: July 2017

It’s that time again. Well, technically it’s past that time, I’ve been crazy busy the last week and haven’t had much time to blog but as they say; better late than never.

July’s Book of the Month is written by an author I used to read when I was younger. She’s truly an amazing writer so I was thrilled when I came across a trilogy she’d written during the years I hadn’t been reading as much (turns out boarding school takes up a lot of time). The author whom I speak of is none other than Meg Cabot. I’m sure many of you will have at least heard of, if not read, The Princess Diaries series. Like many before and after me I loved those books but I also fell in love with two of Cabot’s other series: The Mediator series and 1-800-Missing series. We’re going to start doing a ‘throw-back’ blog post collection so I’m sure you’ll hear more about those two gems in the future.

But for now, back to the present, the Book of the Month for July 2017 is…

Abandon, by Meg Cabot

The Abandon trilogy was every bit as good as the Meg Cabot books I have read with an added edge of darkness that left a tingling in my veins (no joke. It’s when the feelings are so strong you can physically feel them in your body; the butterflies when you’re nervous, the electricity under your skin, the stabbing in your chest when the terror creeps into your heart. When a book makes you feel like that, when you’re so excited to read it you can’t help but grin like a madman, then you’ve hit the jackpot.) That’s what it was like for me once I started reading Abandon. Just to give you a little taste…

‘Anything can happen in the blink of an eye…So who cares what happened to Persephone? Compared to what happened to me, that was nothing.

Persephone’s lucky, actually. Because her mom showed up to bail her out.

No one’s coming to rescue me.

So take my advice: Whatever you do – Don’t blink.’

In case you hadn’t guessed from the extract Abandon is a inspired by the myth of Hades and Persephone, Hades being the god of the underworld and Persephone being the woman he abducted. Like all other Cabot books I’ve read Abandon has a kick ass female protagonist but unlike some of her other books Pierce Oliviera doesn’t start that way, at least not on the outside. Of course, the magic of reading is that we get access to the character’s head, and underneath it all, Pierce Oliviera is fierce, loyal and very, very scared. A year ago Pierce died and went to the underworld. She escaped. Now the guy that tried to keep her there is back and he’s not happy.

I can’t write about this book without mentioning the motifs. One of the reasons I love the Abandon series so much are the motifs that Cabot threads throughout the trilogy. Phrases and themes are beautifully woven into the books. You don’t always notice when a book is missing good motifs but when they are there it’s heaven. (Ironic given the subject of the book). The motifs in the Abandon series make the story rich and complete, they bring everything together and ground you throughout the story. I don’t know how else to describe it other than to say it was beautiful. So I guess you better go read it and find out for yourselves.

 

YALC: Comic Con for Book Nerds

Question:

What do you get if you put a whole load of young adult authors, agents, publishers, books, freebies, goodies, sweets, microphones and hundreds of people who like to read all in one place?

Answer: 

YALC!

So this Sunday my partner in crime (AKA: Sasha, AKA: Sashimi, AKA: Alexandra, AKA: Alejandra, AKA: Grandma) and I headed to London for the Young Adults Literature Conference (AKA: YALC, an acronym which, by the way, I love and Sasha hates. What’s that saying about everyone being entitled to their own opinion even if it’s wrong…)

After watching the new Power Rangers film the evening before we got up in the middle of the night (AKA 7:00am) to start our journey. Two and a half hours later a very nice man working at the London Comic Con and Film Festival (of which YALC is a subdivision) directed us to the right gate which turned out to be the wrong gate so then another very nice man directed us to the right gate which was, in fact, the right gate so we were only five minutes late. And what fun is a day out if you don’t start off by being late?

After getting the lay of the land (AKA: learning where everything is so I don’t get anxious and have kittens from being in a new place) we snuck in late to the Publishing 101 talk. This was a wonderful chat about how to get published run by some lovely agents, one of which I realised half way through I had sent a submission query to when I was fifteen (queue blushing cheeks from minor hero worship and a recollection of my embarrassing childhood shenanigans. Needless to say I got a gentle rejection letter. Now, I say embarrassing and I do find myself a bit embarrassed when I think about it because in hindsight I can see that the book I sent off was no where near ready to be seen by agents but embarrassment often implies regret but I feel it’s important to point out that the two don’t always come hand in hand. I don’t regret sending my work to some agents when I was fifteen because it was something I felt I needed and wanted to do at the time. Maybe it was naive but that’s okay because you can’t go on to be experienced unless you’ve been naive first. And I actually got some really good advice from a couple of the agencies (but that’s for another time, I’m getting sidetracked and I have probably just broken a cardinal law of grammar by using brackets within a brackets.)

Publishing 101 was great we followed it on with Publishing 102 which looked at the other side of the coin: how to get a job in publishing. For my fellow boat rockers out there you will be pleased to here that a job in publishing is not dependent on a University Degree. In fact, even if it was that needn’t stop you trying. Wouldn’t be rocking the boat very much if we just sat back and did that would we?

The publishing talks were followed by a peanut butter and jelly toastie which, for the sake of your stomach, tastebuds and sanity I advise you never to try. Sasha got the better deal with a ham and cheese toastie (but alas, lactose intolerance) It did, however, provide the sustenance to keep us going for the rest of the day.

We had a mosey round the book stalls (did you know Anthony Horowitz has written a new Alex Rider novel?) before heading over to the stage to watch a panel called ‘Life Advice’ chaired by Chelsey Pippin with Hannah Witton (Author of Doing It, Sara Barnard (Author of A Quiet Kind of Thunder) and Holly Bourne (Author of the Spinster club series). I hadn’t heard of any of these authors before the panel but they were great speakers who had everyone laughing whilst also giving some very sage advice, which, of course, we mustn’t take. My favourite part had to be when they introduced us to The Wormtail Test. This is a way to find out whether a relationship is healthy or not. Take the film The Notebook for example. When Ryan Gosling hangs from a ferris wheel threatening to kill himself unless you date him then it’s romantic, if Wormtail did it… not so much. I went out and bought Hannah Witton’s book Doing It today and I can’t wait to read it.

After the panel talk we attended a writing workshop lead by Katy Cannon (Author of And Then We Ran). She got us writing pitches for a works in progress and gave some really great advice on how to condense a full length novel into one sentence. Then we outlined two book ideas in ten minutes. The first went like this:

A young offender named Timothy is trying to leave the country with his dog Stewarpt (the ‘P’ is silent). They head to Blackpool to see the illuminations before they go. Whilst there, Stewarpt is dognapped by the Prime Minister who takes him back to 10 Downing Street where Stewarpt enters into a fight for his freedom with the Downing Street Cat, Larry. Timothy heads to the Houses of Parliament to rescue his dog, on his arrival the Prime Minster sees how courageous and good-hearted Timothy is for risking arrest to save his dog and excuses him of his crimes. Timothy and Stewarpt are reunited and free to go wherever they like without fear of prosecution. The End.

The workshop was followed by a panel talk with Patrick Ness, yes I said Patrick Ness! But I’ll let Sasha tell you about that one…

Ta ta for now,

Charlie (AKA: boat rocker in the making) x

Book of the Month: June 2017

June’s Book of the Month featured briefly in yesterdays post ‘Holiday Reading Bonanza‘. I wasn’t expecting much when I bought it and had in fact passed over it numerous times thinking it was just another Supernatural YA with a frustrating love triangle. I guess I should remember that the reason there are so many of these is because the premise works. That doesn’t mean it can’t get a bit tiresome when you feel like you’re reading the same story just with different characters. If, however, the writing is good and the story is fresh then you may have to let go of your prejudice against love triangles and give it a chance.

Thanks to the Kindle’s sample function I was able to test out the book to get a feel for the writing before I purchased it. The second I finished the sample I was pressing ‘buy’ and diving right back in.

So, with no further adieu, June’s Book of the Month is…

Born at Midnight by C.C Hunter 

Thinking she’s being exiled to a summer camp for troubled kids Kylie is in for a bit of shock when she realises the most troubling thing about said kids is that they are not human. For me, the greatest hook in this book (hehe, that rhymed, uh sorry, back to business) is that nobody knows what Kylie is. It isn’t a flat out ‘oh you’re a vampire now, here’s some blood, hop on board the Vamp Train to Transylvania’. No, there’s a real mystery (or ten) thread through each book in the series and you have no choice but to keep reading until the mystery is solved. Be forewarned that you are likely to figure out the mystery before Kylie does but I think that adds to the fun. That way I get to sound like a madman shouting at the book like you do when you’re watching a horror film and you know that ‘she shouldn’t open that door’.

The second thing I loved about this book was Hunter’s characters. So often I’ll read a book and I’ll connect with the main character and maybe his/her closest friend and that’s about it. I found myself falling in love with every character Hunter created. Even the bad guys. They were so well written that I wouldn’t be surprised to see them walking down the street and waving at me like an old friend. Okay, so maybe I would be a tad surprised… but the point is they were so much more than names on a page, which makes everything that happens to them and everything they do that much more engaging. They brought Shadow Falls to life and made it a place I never want to leave. Thankfully Hunter has written a lot of books so as of yet I haven’t had to.

‘ “If you’re going to tell me that I’m going to start howling at the moon, eating people’s cats, and will spend the rest of my life having to get waxed if I want to wear a bathing suit, then I don’t think I can handle it, either. I like cats and I tried waxing once, and that hurt like a son of a gun.” She dropped her hand between her legs, remembering…’

Born at Midnight, C.C. Hunter

Holiday Reading Bonanza!

Last night, after a five hour flight delay which led to befriending a little Spanish girl, attempting to translate irate adults of both English and Spanish nationalities, having some ‘good banter’ with an old Dutch lady who exploded a bag of salad by sitting on it and my butt becoming well aquatinted with Girona airport’s floor, I finally made it home.

So of course the first thing I want to do is write a blog post about the books I read whilst I was away. I figure others will be going on their summer holidays soon and if you are anything like me then you will need a bucket load of books to keep you occupied. I’ve decided to list all the books I read whilst in Spain with a few words description and a rating out of five (we’ll go the main stream route of 1 being not so great and 5 being freaking awesome). So here goes…

What’s a soulmate? Lindsey Ouimet… 3.5 stars

YA romance, standalone. Set in a world where only those who have found their soulmate see in colour. Interesting premise, I liked pretty much everything about this book. 3.5 might be too harsh but it just didn’t have me hooked or yearning for more.

Faith Series Nikki Bolvair…3 stars

This is a reverse harem (romance with one girl and three or more guys) series. I liked the characters a lot and the story wasn’t bad but it felt a bit all over the place at times. The premise has a lot of promise and parts of it left me thinking OMG no way! I wished the writing was tighter. It didn’t quite live up to some of the other RH series I’ve read such as The Ghost Bird Academy Series.

Openly Straight Bill Konigsberg… 4.5 stars

The only thing I want to say about this book is that if you read it make sure you are emotionally prepared. I loved it but oh my, it covers a variety of LGBT issues and it’s both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time.

Honestly Ben Bill Konigsberg… 4.5 stars

Sequel/Companion book to Openly Straight. The same sentiment applies, if possible even more so. Both these books are extremely well written.

When To Fear The Living (Book 3 in The Veil Diaries series) B.L Brunnemer… 2.5 stars

I read the first two books in this series faster than you can blink and fell in love with everything about them so I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out. I hate to say it but, I was disappointed. There wasn’t nearly as much drive and for the first half of the book I was bored. However, the second half of the book picked up and the end was more like the first two books in the series.

Prep School Confidential Kara Taylor… 3 stars

I thought I liked this book so I guess I did enjoy it but after I finished it I wasn’t desperate to read the next one. I think its main downfall was the characters, the only character I could connect with was the protagonist and everyone else felt a bit two dimensional.

Hex Hall Series Rachel Hawkins… 4.5 stars

Three book series, loved every one of them. Great plot, great characters, great voice. If you like supernatural teens then this is pretty damn good.

Black and Green (Ghost Bird Academy Series) C.L. Stone… 4 stars

I love this series. There’s no two ways about it. I went back and reread the first ten books before this one came out and I loved them all the second time around as well. Stone changed the format a bit in terms of narrators for this book and I wasn’t sure I’d like it but it worked pretty well and I can see how it’s going to work going forward. I shall be awaiting book number 12…

Shadow Falls Series C.C. Hunter… 5 stars

Oh my did I fall in love with Shadow Falls (a camp for troubled teens aka supernaturals.) Despite wishing that she had a different name I also fell in love with Kylie, the main character. To top it off I am besotted with pretty much every other character at Shadow Falls. There are six books in this series and I read them all in less than a week. There’s danger, drama, romance, ghosts, vampires, werewolves and… strange lizards? I passed on this series a few times, putting it down as a ‘maybe’ on my reading list which just goes to show you can’t always tell what a book is made out of from the blurb. If you read one book from this list then let it be the first in the Shadow Falls Series (Born at Midnight)

Shadow Falls: After Dark C.C. Hunter… 4.5 stars

There’s more! If, like me, you read Shadow Falls and have withdrawal symptoms from the supernatural school and its people then Shadow Falls: After Dark is a great cure. I’m half way through the third, and final, book and Hunter has not let me down. Although I don’t love it quite as much as the first series it’s still really well written and I’ve barely put it down.

 

Okay, there you go, a complete round up of the books I read whilst lying on a beach in Spain (or in my air-conditioned bedroom… hey sometimes the sun is too much!) Hopefully if you were looking for something to read then this has helped out. If you weren’t looking for something to read then I hope you enjoyed my grumblings and gushing.

 

 

 

Book of the Month: May 2017

It’s the last day of May which means it’s time for me to choose my favourite book from the past four weeks. I have to admit that this month’s choice was pretty easy as I ended up reading a rather large number of less than average books. I blame it on Kindle Unlimited. It turns out a book habit like mine can get rather expensive so I opted to do a free trail of Kindle Unlimited where you pay a monthly subscription and then get access to hundreds of books. Unfortunately the young adult selection provided is rather shocking. I gave up before the end of the month and bought a book that I knew would not disappoint. And I mean, not to toot my own horn or anything, but boy was I right.

So, drum roll please… Dum, DUM, DUM!

May’s Book of the Month is… Bad Blood (The Naturals Book 4) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Yeah, I know, the cover photo kind of gave it away, shush)

Ever since I heard that Jennifer Lynn Barnes was writing a series about genius kids who hunted serial killers for the FBI I was hooked. Then I read the first book and I was a goner. Somehow it was even better than I imagined (and I have a pretty healthy imagination on me). Think Criminal Minds but with teenagers.

There are five teens on the team each with a natural ability they can use to help catch serial killers; Sloane is a straight up genius with a shit tonne of emotional baggage and a brain that doesn’t understand how to process it. Michael can read emotions, an ability he gained thanks to an abusive father. Lia is a pathological liar who no one can lie to, she can spot a lie from a mile away but no one can call out hers. Dean is a natural profiler, he can get into the head of the killer a trick which can come in pretty handy when you’re chasing them. Oh and he’s the son of a serial killer that their FBI mentors put away. Then there is Cassie, the latest addition to the team and the book’s narrator. Cassie is also a profiler although she tends to get into the mind of the victim, making her and Dean the perfect team, well, once she’s knocked down his walls that is.

Cassie is an awesome protagonist. There’s no two ways about it. She’s spunky and fun, reckless and protective, strong and so very vulnerable. Throughout the series she’s pulled through a web of emotional and physical torment and the final book Bad Blood brings this all to a wonderful and devastating end.

So here’s a little taster of Barnes gorgeous writing:

“I love you.” [He] lifted the words from my mind. “Today, tomorrow, covered in blood, haunted and waking up in the middle of the night screaming – I love you.” 

So what are you waiting for, stop reading this and start reading The Naturals!

 

Acting Earnest

I’m back! Apologies for my absence these past few weeks I’m afraid I’ve been busier than a bee. I was lucky enough to get a role in the ensemble for a community production of The Importance of Being Earnest at South Hill Park. We had three weeks of rehearsals before we hit the stage for seven performances in five days so it was all a bit hectic! I tend to stay off the stage and behind the computer screen but on occasion I like to act. This was the first play I’ve done since I left school and I had an amazing time. Everyone at South Hill Park was super friendly and made me feel so welcome.

Lady Bracknell was played by Gwen Taylor which made the whole experience even more exciting. Gwen was lovely to work with and so supportive of me as I took to the stage for the first time. Alastair Whatley, the director, created a wonderful interpretation of the play and had us doing crazy things like raves and carrying people across stage. All the actors did a fantastic job bringing Oscar Wilde’s words to life that I was still chuckling away three weeks in.

Acting in the play was great fun but I guess it’s the writer in me that kept being drawn to the script, listening back stage, waiting for my favourite lines to be spoken. I decided early on that my favourite part of the whole play is Algernon’s response to Jack announcing he is going to be christened:

“JACK: Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing.

ALGERNON: Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous your venturing on it now. It might make you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten that some one very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a severe chill.”

For those of you who don’t know the play the person that was ‘very nearly carried off this week’ is Jack’s fictional younger brother. A character he made up only to then kill off when he became an inconvenience. The hilarity ensues when, just after Jack informs everyone that his ‘brother’ is dead, Algernon walks in claiming to be said brother. The extract above is not only funny because of the ridiculous suggestion that one might be made ill as a result of being christened but because of what follows. A technique named the ‘call back’. The ‘call back’ is when a joke that was made earlier is brought up again, later in the show. If you watch any talk show or comedian you’ll see this happen all the time and it never fails to get a laugh. You’d have to talk to a psychologist to figure out why we find it funny, all I know is that when Algernon reminds Jack that he is ‘closely connected’ with someone who was ‘very nearly carried off’ the joke is familiar, yet fresh and down right hilarious. Wilde, of course, adds to the humour through the complexity of the story and the fact that not only is Algernon’s excuse for Jack needing to be careful about getting christened completely fictional but he himself is posing as the very person who nearly died.

The story is a beautifully organised mess that remains relevant and funny to this day and I am honoured to have been a part of the production.

Book of the Month: April 2017

The astute among you will have no doubt twigged what this post is about. Each month I am going to do a post about the book I enjoyed most from said month. Given that I go through about twenty books a month this isn’t going to be an easy task. In fact I’m going to break the rules from the off set as this April’s ‘Book of the Month’ is a series. I’m sorry, I just couldn’t choose.

Okay, ahem, drum roll please. (Exaggerated pause for dramatic effect to send you guys insane)

And… This month’s ‘Book of the Month’ is…

The Savant Series by Joss Stirling!

The series consists of six books in total which I read in ten days. That may seem like a short amount of time in which to read six books but I must admit I did little else. I have fallen in love with the Savant world. Each book, although they are all linked, is narrated by a different character. At first I wasn’t sure I’d like this as I grow so attached to the characters in my books that I just want to read more about them but Stirling does a wonderful job at linking back to the characters in previous books so you never feel like you’ve let someone behind. What you get, instead, is to meet six fiery and passionate girls. Each with their own personality so striking and imperfect that you can’t help but connect with them.

The stories all follow the same premise of seeking the main characters ‘soulfinder’ (a person who shares the other half of their savant gifts) and yet Stirling somehow makes sure it never feels repetitive. They have the perfect combination of romance and drama; kidnappings scattered with first kisses. One of the things I love about the series is that the relationships are never smooth sailing. Despite the ‘soulfinder’ connection it isn’t always love at first sight and although there are the same ups and downs across all the books the individuality of the characters and their issues break through to stop the stories being too predictable.

To top it all off Stirling’s writing is beautiful but don’t take my word for it, here’s a sentence from the first book in the series ‘Finding Sky’ :

“Mist drifted off the mountain slopes, cutting the sunlit summits off from the dark green base like an eraser rubbing out a picture.”

If you like what you’ve read then click here to find more about the Savant Series.

Enjoy your adventures with Sky, Phoenix, Crystal, Misty, Angel and Summer. (I couldn’t finish the post without sharing the characters’ names, I’m a little bit in awe of Stirling’s naming abilities.)