Thursday, 30 June 2016

South Bank YA Book Club - The August Read Vote

With just over a week to go before I have to sit in front of a room of people and chat/discuss I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson (which I am thoroughly enjoying, you guys! Can't wait to get over my nerves and chat to those of you who are coming and then discuss in review blog post and maybe Bookish Brits video!), Rachel from the South Bank Centre just popped me an email, announcing that the vote for what I will be reading/discussing in August YA Book Club on 20th August is up and running!

Now, as these YA Book Clubs are in connection with South Bank's Festival of Love so love is important. August's theme is "Love This Town". Interesting theme and with the three books up for the vote, they might intrigue and surprise you.

So, onto the choices for August's read! Your choices are...




I warned you these choices might surprise you. I love them, myself (and before you ask, I know for a fact these were chosen before Brexit so there is nothing political about these choices!) 

Now, the 20th August is a bit away so I don't have time to panic as of yet, but I wanted you guys to now the choices and to start voting (or scaring the authors of Twitter/Facebook, going "Have you seen what's happening with your book!?")

If you want to vote, click on https://southbankcentre.typeform.com/to/d0fFjL and vote! Not sure how long this vote is going to last for so VOTE VOTE VOTE!!! 

Like with I'll Give You The Sun, once 20th August has come and gone, I will be discussing/reviewing the winning book on my blog and, hopefully, on Bookish Brits so if you can't come to the event, you know I will be talking about the winning read! 

Wanna know more info about the YA Book Club, or wanna grab a ticket for either 9th July or 20th August, go to http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/young-adult-book-club-97784 or follow South Bank Centre on Twitter (@southbankcentre) or follow the hashtag #FestivalOfLove

Anyway, off to finish I'll Give You The Sun and see you next weekend! Hopefully smiling and not crying in the corner... 

The Witch's Kiss - Music To Evoke Tone

I am excited to kick of The Witch's Kiss blog tour! How exciting! Never been the first in a blog tour before, to my knowledge! Anyway, today, I want to welcome the authors (and sisters) Elizabeth and Katharine Corr! 

Now, for those of us who don't know what The Witch's Kiss is about, here is me trying to explain it...

Meredith (Merry) is fed up. Fed up feeling invisible at school. Fed up with her feuding family. Fed up with magic shooting out of her fingers every time she's stressed. So when she meets Jack, she falls for him and falls hard. Only sweet, sensitive Jack is possessed. Well, periodically possessed with a centuries old curse. Will true love's kiss save the day? Or is Meredith not only losing her heart, but about to lose her life as well? 

Does that wet your appetite? Well, if you (like me) are on the hunt for new music, both Elizabeth and Katharine kindly created a playlist of songs that evoke the tone and mood of this story. Now, I would embed the songs into the post, but I won't as Katharine did all the links (so you better click and listen to them, you lovely people) and I wanted to show you the cover of the book (as it looks pretty cool and thorny...)

So, before I go further, I would like to thank Katharine and Elizabeth for taking time out for writing this post and to Vicki for asking if I wanted to be involved in this tour. So, with them out of the way, I  will hand it over to Katharine and Elizabeth - take it away!


*


Here’s the thing: neither of us can actually write with any noise going on at all. It’s like we have to channel our (stereotypical) inner librarians: there must be ABSOLUTE SILENCE in the work place. Which is too bad, because we both love music of all types. Our protagonist in The Witch’s Kiss, Merry, also sings (badly) and listens to music – actually, singing turns out to be pretty important in her world…

So, we’ve tried to pull together a brief list of some of the songs that really evoke, for us, the mood of the story and the goings-on within. 

This song explores both the headlong rush of feeling that you’re suddenly getting to be a grown up, and the fear that somehow you’re not quite doing it right… The lyrics of the first verse sum up what’s going through Merry’s head in the first bit of the novel: Now that you are here, suddenly you fear you’ve lost control…Do you like the person you’ve become?

The background (and the centre, in a way) to our story is the version of Sleeping Beauty we created, called The King of Hearts in the novel. Key lyrics here are those of the chorus, which rather echo the King of Hearts’ activities: …running round leaving scars, collecting your jar of hearts, and tearing love apart…

The vocals here are wonderfully eerie, tying into the fairy-tale atmosphere we’re trying to evoke. Also, we think the lyrics capture how Jack, our Sleeping Beauty, might be feeling: the monsters running wild inside of me, I’m faded…so lost, I’m faded. After all – he has been asleep for a seriously long time…

Merry knows she shouldn’t get close to Jack, but still. That’s why this song works:  Nothing could kill me like you do. You're going straight to my head…I pick my poison and it's you. And poison is pretty common in fairy tales: poisoned apples, sleeping potions, black thorns exuding deadly venom… 

The relationship between Merry and her brother Leo is such an important part of The Witch’s Kiss, at least as important as the romantic relationship. Fix You expresses Leo’s desire to help his sister, even when he knows there may not be much he can actually do: Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you. 

Another older song, but we love how it describes the pain and isolation of love going wrong, as it so often does: I don’t know your thoughts these days; we’re strangers in an empty space. I don’t understand your heart; it’s easier to be apart.

We always wanted to write Merry as a forceful & determined hero: some kind of Buffy/Maleficent genetic mash-up. And this, with its awesome bass line, is the song for that moment where the hero finally gets her stuff together: All systems go, the sun hasn’t died, deep in my bones, straight from inside, I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones, enough to make my system blow…


This would be perfect for the closing credits if The Witch’s Kiss ever gets made into a film: with every broken bone, I swear I lived. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Books And Their Theme Songs - Volume 34

Two months of reading - one full of crime and the other of easy, fun reads. Including a big ass book or two. Now the end of these two months is over, which means one thing on this blog - READING MUSIC TIME!!! I hope you guys like and if you like any song, please support the artist and go buy it!

THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando
"Sunlight" by Natalie Imbruglia and "Fear" by All Saints (Not unavailable at time of writing this post)


LYING ABOUT LAST SUMMER by Sue Wallman
"The Heroine" by Unwoman, "Clipping" by MuteMath and "Hurricane" by Natalie Imbruglia


CHASING THE STARS by Malorie Blackman
"Under the Stars" by Morning Parade

That's it! See you in August for another "Books and their Theme Songs" post!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Books/Series I Should Reread...

Seeing as I am in a bit of a blogging blitz, I thought writing a blog about books and series I would love to reread one day...

Like I said in my "Books I Really Should Start..." post, I have a ton of books in my TBR pile and on my kindle. But I always have that urge, every now and then, to go back to my favourite reads. Plus, there are some that I have read once and I want to go back into that world. We all have that feeling, right? Return to a world/characters in a book that we love?

So, I thought I would pick a few and write them up. Maybe, one day, I would actually reread them! You never know... But, am going to pick a few and have them in no order. So, let's get started!

THE OLD KINGDOM SERIES by Garth Nix
I love Garth Nix and I love this series. Whenever I fear I'm going to fall into a reading slump or I am in a reading slump, I always dive towards Sabriel. I adore that world and the characters. But I reread Sabriel so often, it would be wonderful to actually read the other books. It's been so long - plus, with Goldenhand coming out later this year, it would be great to read something - anything! - before that publication.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins
I had ideas to reread Mockingjay to co-inside with the EU referendum. Whether I do or not is anyone's guess (as I am writing this at the beginning of May 2016), but I always kinda wanted to return to this world since I watched the movies. It would be interesting to refresh my memory over what was in the books (as I haven't return to the books since before the first movie came out). I might not want to read the epilogue of Mockingjay (as I have told you a ton of times that I dislike THAT epilogue).

FANGIRL & CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell
I quite liked reading these last year, and it would be nice to read these without the hype/pressure of "It's Rainbow Rowell, therefore I must love it. Or else!". Out of the two, I would prefer to read Carry On. I had such a blast with Carry On so it would be lovely to return to Watford. And it would be interesting to Fangirl as it was a very different kind of book for me...

MIRROR DREAMS by Catherine Webb
This was always my first book of call when I needed a reread when I was a teen (as well as Sabriel), and I haven't read this in quite a while. It's a lazy reason, and with this being out of print (I think it is... Don't hold me to that!), maybe reading this will make me understand why I got obsessed with this book as a teen!


HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman
It's been so long since I read this series. I dip in and out of Northern Lights, but I was meant to reread the trilogy last year (but oh, reading slump! How you destroy me!). Or just Subtle Knife. But with the BBC planning to turn this trilogy into a TV series (please don't screw it up, BBC! I trust you, but PLEASE DON'T MESS THIS UP!), maybe it's time to get my hands on my hardbacks and reenter this world of daemons, witches, talking polar bears and the evil Mrs Coulter (one of the most fascinating characters I have ever read)...


THE TWILIGHT SAGA & THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer
This series gets a lot of stick. I have said in the past that, without this series, I don't believe YA would exist so quickly. Twilight gave YA as we know it a good kick up the arse. So, after over ten years, does it stand the test of time? This is why I want to reread this series. Yes, I read Life and Death last year, but it would be cool for me to return to Bella and Edward and read all 4 books (though it will pain me to read Eclipse. But, I will reread New Moon and that [and Twilight] are the my fave of the series)...

As for The Host... well... I think all Stephenie Meyer readers say this is her best book and I agree. Would be great if there was a sequel. But with Stephenie going to be busy with the film adaptation of Anna Dressed in Blood, looks like I will have to do a reread instead...


HARRY POTTER & THE CASUAL VACANCY by JK Rowling
Of course I'm going to say Harry Potter! Yes, I reread the whole series last year. But I always like reread Potter. I always discover new things when I reread. I would say I would reread Goblet of Fire. And I remember really enjoying The Casual Vacancy. As I haven't watched the BBC adaptation  (seriously! I have no idea how I missed it. It's on my Sky+ box and ready to go!), it would be very cool to read then watch (or visa versa) and compare.

But Potter. Yes. I am going to reread a Potter book in the next 12 months (and I am not including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts textbook or script and Tales of Beedle the Bard...)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Let's Talk Tomorrow...

You might be aware that tomorrow is an important day for the UK. Now, I want to touch on this super quickly but am not going to be boring and tell you who the vote for.

Also, if you are too young to vote or not a UK citizen, you don't need to read this. Carry on as you are.

Ok, let's talk. About this EU referendum. Now, I know some of you are confused on this and I fear some of you are reading this, saying "Tell me who to vote for?" and I won't do that. I am not going to force my opinions on you.

However, to those of you who can vote and decide not to vote, this is where I kinda want to talk. So, bear with me.

As you guys are fully aware, I am very suspicious over the government and politics in general. I actually wrote a blog post about my fears prior to the General Election last year (you can read that here! Or, if you don't want to read that, my blog post of sex education [probably one of my favourite/hair-pulling blog post I have ever written/researched] might be more up your street). But in that post, I said I know how lucky I am to vote.

This is something I am going to repeat. I know how lucky I am to vote on this. Hell, I am lucky to have a vote, period. I know that in some countries, people can't vote because of their gender, their sexual preference, their government isn't a government but is either a dictatorship, beyond corrupt or the government doesn't care about the suffering of their own people. I get this. I do. I don't want people to think I don't understand how lucky and privileged I am to vote.

But I also know how most of you feel. You feel like your voices aren't being heard. That some politicians - some, not all - aren't listening to us.

That is why us voting is important. This is our voice. This is our chance to be heard.

Now, here's is my problem. I am scared that this vote, this decision, will have long term repercussions. If we remain in or vote out, there will repercussions for all of us. Not for us now, but for future generations.

To those of you who aren't going to vote - which is your decision and your right to do so - I would say please reconsider. This is such an important vote - probably more important than last year's general elections - that not voting is a very risky move. Do you really want someone else deciding not only your future but the future of your country?

If you decide to still not vote, can I ask you one small favour? If you decide not to vote, can you please then not moan/whine/have a tantrum over the decision in the coming weeks/months/years/etc? You didn't vote, therefore you don't have the right to complain about the decision made.

Sorry for this blog post. I just want to get this out of my system as... well... I'm a little apprehensive of what's to come.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Series I Really Should Start...

We know what it's like. We have so many books to read and yet, somehow, we don't have time to read them. If only Hermione's Time Turner existed... Think of all the reading we can do!

But I am no exception. I have a ton of books and, somehow, I seem to buy books or ebooks that are the start of series and I just don't start them! I have LOADS of unstarted series that you all shout and scream about on Twitter/Facebook/Instragram/Goodreads/etc that I should read and... I don't. I am going to tell you guys a few of these unstarted series and I hope you can forgive me and don't judge me.

CHAOS WALKING trilogy by Patrick Ness
I sense you judging me on this first truth. I haven't read this series. I do own The Knife of Never Letting Go and I have every intention to read this. I have read More Than This, A Monster Calls and The Rest of Us Just Live Here and I am very excited that Patrick is show runner for Doctor Who spinoff, Class. So, why haven't I read this? Fear, mainly. You guys love this series so much, I fear I won't like it. Plus, this isn't the easiest book to get into. I tried to read a few pages a year or two ago and stumbled a bit over how it was written. It's one of those series that demands your attention, and I can't give the book the attention it deserves just yet... Hopefully soon...

NOUGHTS AND CROSSES by Malorie Blackman
I have the first book in this series on my kindle. And I have read An Eye for an Eye and Callum and I know I will like this series. But when it comes to actually reading the series, I seem to doubt myself over this book. What if this book, which I know will be awesome, isn't awesome for me? What if I'm the odd one out and dislikes the story? So, fear is my main reason here...

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore
I have all three of these on my kindle - all from a sale. This seems to be a series I am pretty confident I will enjoy. It's grown up fantasy, which is right up my street. So why haven't I start reading this yet? Because it's on my kindle. I buy these books (and Noughts and Crosses) on my kindle and then I forget I bought them so, when am in the mood for fantasy, I go to my TBR shelves instead of looking on my Kindle. This has the change, and I am making plans to go to my kindle at least once a month to read something on it. And Graceling or Fire will be one of the books I hope to read within the next 12 months...

THE BONE SEASON by Samantha Shannon
I won a signed copy the first book in the series (this was after I bought this on sale on my kindle), got the second as a proof from the publisher and am eyeing up the eNovella, On The Merits of Unnaturalness (but won't buy till I actually read this series). For a very long time, I stayed away from this series as it was hailed as "the next Harry Potter" and anything that is hailed as "the next" always has me suspicious over it. But curiosity has got the better of me. I have heard the world building is really good and am curious over this.

RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard
This seems to have split you guys right down the middle. Some of you guys (who I trust) really love this book and some of you (again, who I trust) really dislike this book. And while I have read and talked to people over this book, I am curious on my reaction. I wanted to know if I will enjoy this and tweet my excitement, if I will throw this across the room, raging against the characters or go "Ok, this is not what I was expecting but ok...". I always find that those types of reads surprise me the most. But I have held off because of the mixed reactions... we shall see...

And lastly...

GAME OF THRONES by George RR Martin & OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon
Do I really need to explain myself on these two?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

TommyVCancer - Target: Nobody


So, today is my day on TommyVCancer tour, and here, we are trying to kick cancer arse (the first and probably last time you hear me type that word. I don't like swearing on my blog, but with cancer, I'll make a exception...)


So, today, I am here to talk to you about Fangs: Vampire Spy. Well, not the series as a whole, but Target: Nobody.

In Target: Nobody, super agent Fangs Enigma and sidekick, Puppy Brown, are on the case when, at an award ceremony, MP1's (that's Monster's Protection, 1st Division) Professor Hubert Cubit (or Cube... well, what else do you call someone with an actual cube head?) is kidnapped. Throw in Fangs's dad, Claret Enigma, skeleton hencemen, an angry ghost, an actual cat and mouse spy team and the world's fastest hamsters, will our duo save the day in the nick of time...?


Now, am going to admit this, it was the words "world's fastest hamsters" that made me grab this book . No idea why, but that was what sold this book for me. And until I got my copy and started reading, I had no idea this was the fourth book in this series... oooops! 

But this was such fun! I had such a blast reading it! Every time I picked it up, I couldn't help smiling - it was that entertaining! Perfect for middle grade readers as it poked fun at James Bond with all the spying and the sassy one liners and comedy horror - Sorry, but a ghost needing hamsters for his evil plot! 



A fun, very entertaining read - can't wait to investigate the series further!



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ACTUALLY, while you are still here, I wanna chat to you about something. As part of this tour, a bunch of super lovely people (publishers, authors, bloggers, agents, etc) are donating some super awesome stuff to help this tour. This tour is to help Tommy and his family while he fights cancer and best way you can do that is either buy/read one of his books/series or donating directly. 


Or, you can enter this. A bunch of bloggers are doing competitions (myself include) and each contest is for a special prize. This contest is for a middle grade mystery pack from Harper Collins. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

South Bank YA Book Club - The July Read Vote

As you guys know, I was asked by those lovely people at the South Bank Centre to moderate two YA Book Clubs over the course of the summer. And I knew that the books would be voted for by you guys. 

Well, the vote for the first Book Club (9th July) has been revealed and I am beyond delighted with the choices. I saw a rough list and went "All are wonderful reads that I know I will sink my teeth into reading and discussing!" And now, you can vote on which book the Book Club will read and discuss! You guys are spoilt for choice! 

Now, the books chosen were picked because (according to the South Bank) these "great reads cover themes such as Modern Love, Digital Love, Love as Social Action and Art & Love." (Did I forgot to say that this co-insides with South Bank's Festival of Love?)

The choices are...




I told you guys they were good. I haven't read any of these (and I call myself a book blogger. THE SCANDAL OF IT!!!) but I know that whatever is chosen, I will devour, either squeal in delight or sob into my Twitter feed and I will find a ton of discussion to talk about. 

Anyway, like I said earlier, you guys can vote of the book I (and others) will discuss at the book club. All you have to do is click https://southbankcentre.typeform.com/to/pwRv5n, click on your choice and click vote.

Now, if you can't make it to the book club on the 9th, I will be writing a post about the winning book and, if something really jumps out at me, I might try and do a discussion video for the Bookish Brits. We shall see...

eBook Review - Another Together

An eNovella? About characters I adore? And this will tie me over till second book in series comes out later this year? AND IT'S FREE!?

Oh, Lauren James, you are spoiling us!

As you guys are aware, I loved The Next Together. It was one of my favourite reads of last year and I am very excited to see where Lauren goes next in The Last Beginning. So, when I saw this on my Twitter feed, I downloaded it without thinking about it and squeezed it in when I could.

It's Winter, 1940. The war is on, codebreakers are working hard to break the Nazi's enigma machine and there's a killer on the loose at Bletchley Park? Can this life's Kitty and Matthew catch the killer before they strike again?

If you're a fan of the series, you will really like this. It was fast, fun and you just get catch up in the story of not just Kitty and Matthew trying to stop a killer, but their relationship and reincarnation.

If you're new to Lauren's world, this might be a good place to start. You focus on these characters and the elements that Lauren touches on within The Next Together and The Last Beginning, hopefully, but without giving too much away or overwhelming you. Plus, as this is a free novella, you can try out Lauren's writing style and see if you click. If you do, great. If not, at least you haven't wasted money on it.

The only thing that bothered me is that I wished it was a little longer. I forgot how much I missed these character and I just wanted to spent more time with them. But I fear some of you might think the mystery is a bit weak (I disagree - I thought the mystery worked well against the backdrop of the story and its location).

All I have to say now is "Bring on Last Beginning"! Or more novellas set with these characters. I don't care which!

Monday, 13 June 2016

Walker Books's #InkSlingersPicnic

This weekend just gone, I was invited to Walker Books for their #InkSlingersPicnic blogger event. And as you guys know, I always love a good blogger event and, barring a few other publishers, I love Walker Books so I had to go. I HAD TO GO! They tempted me with delicious books, cupcakes and a chance to meet up with other bloggers/vloggers. IT'S BEEN SO LONG, YOU GUYS!

So after meeting up with Michelle (Tales of Yesterday) and Virginie (Chouett) near Tottenham Court Road (SO CLOSE TO CURSED CHILD!!!), we made our way to Walker. After meeting a bunch of other bloggers and vloggers (who are WAY cooler than me on this whole blogging thing), we went inside Walker, said hi to everyone else and got shown some wonderful new releases that Walker will be publishing throughout the rest of the year.

Now, I'm not going to mention all - that will take FAR too long. So, please forgive me but am going to mention a few and will point you to a few of my and other people's tweets.

Three authors were at the event and each spoke of their releases. And I'm sure one of these will be perfect for you.

The first was Siobhan Curham. You might have heard of her - she was the editorial consultant on Zoella's Girl Online and author of books such as Shipwrecked, Dear Dylan and True Face. Her latest, Moonlight Dreamers, follows four friends who, meeting by chance, form Moonlight Dreamers and each girl has to become herself with each other's help, while tackling issues such as racism, bullying, sexuality, bereavement. These girls aren't like anyone else - and nor do they want to be. Fans of Girl Online will devour this book and be desperate for the sequel...

The second was Zoe Marriott. Yes, you know who she is as I rave about her books that I have read (still got two to read at the moment!). Her newest will be out in September and it's called Barefoot On The Wind. Set around 100 years after Shadows on the Moon, everyone is Hana's village know to stay away from the forest. Hana knows that better than most. But when her father goes missing, Hana doesn't hesitant. Into the dark forest she goes, and what she finds isn't what she expected. Described as a feminist reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, this is one that I think fantasy fans will be itching to read. I know I am...

Third and final was Lauren James who talked about the final book in her The Next Together duology: The Last Beginning. Sixteen years ago, Katherine and Matthew (our leads from The Next Together) vanished without a trace. Now, Clove wants to find them. But where do you start, when it looks like the couple were reincarnated in key moments in history? Who are Kate and Matt? And who is Ella, a girl who appears wherever Clove goes? Time travel, mystery, love (both straight and gay), this book ticks all the boxes for me. And if you don't know this series, there is a free novella out now (which I am reviewing in a few days time, actually), Another Together, that is perfect for you guys to start with...

Ok, now we have those out of the way, let's chat about a few other books/series you guys might want to investigate.

A few years ago, Walker published the Pellinor series (The Gift, The Riddle, The Crow and The Singing). So now that a prequel to this series, The Bone Queen, has been published, Walker are republishing the series with new editions. Now, I have read The Gift so many years ago, but I can't remember a thing about it. Now I have it on my kindle, I think this will be perfect for me and for those of you who love authors such as Garth Nix, Trudi Caravan and Lord of the Rings.

Here I Stand is something that, as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted it. Endorsed by Amnesty International, this collection of short stories and poems explore the freedoms and rights we enjoy in the 21st century - and those for which we still need to fight (such as racism, freedom of speech, gender equality, surveillance and identity to name a few). And with contributors ranging from Neil Gaiman, Sarah Crossan, Sita Brahmachari, Matt Haig and Chris Riddell to name but a few, this book is perfect to start a conversation, a debate, a change in view...

My Lady Jane: The Not Entirely True Story is as mad as a box of frogs. No, seriously, I mean it. When I first saw the cover in my info pack, my first thought was "Well, this looks like something I will avoid like the plague. It's a bit... girly", but once Walker got talking about it, I got excited. This book is barking, and perfect for me! Imagine the story of the Tudors retold by Monty Python and throw in some shapeshifter and you get the idea. After Henry VIII turns into a lion (making him the Lion King! LION KING!!!), Lady Jane Grey is pushed into a marriage with a total stranger - who might be a shapeshifter who turns into a horse - she finds herself caught up in a plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of the throne and forcing her to be Queen. Like that can go wrong... right?

Beck is also one that you might want to keep an eye out for. This story follows a mixed race Beck who is shipped to Canada at the time of the Great Depression. Faced with cruelty and hardship, Beck travels to find comfort and encouragement, eventually finding Grace... It's hard to talk about this book as I think this will be a book that will shock and move you. Started by Mal Peet and finished by Meg Rosoff (who promised her friend to finish the near complete manuscript before he died), this book will stay with you long after you turn the final page...

And final (I can go on, but am going to stop with this), we have The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan. This will be the first book from Walker's new imprint, Walker Studios. In it, we have beautiful art from Shaun inspired and based on the Grimms' Fairy Tales. With forewords by Neil Gaiman and fairy-tale scholar (you can be a scholar in fairy tales!? Boy, am I in the wrong job!) Jack Zipes, this looks like a feast for the eyes.

I could go on with books - The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd (and illustrated by Levi Pinfold) sounds enchanting and the Mango and Bambang series sound perfect for young readers aged 6 and up, and let's not get into the beautiful collectors edition of A Monster Calls, which will have exclusive content from not only Patrick Ness and Jim Kay but also from the actors and director if the upcoming movie (we rematched the trailer and I got a little teary eyed).

Walker looks like it's going to publish a nice mix of books for the next few months. I can't wait to get my reading under way!

Thank you to Walker for hosting a wonderful event with cupcake, authors and me shout of shock/delight when I saw Where's Wally colouring books (I kid you not! I grew up with Where's Wally?), my horror when I discovered Jill Murphy's classic Five Minutes Peace is having it's 30th anniversary (meaning I am a year older than this book! I GREW UP WITH THIS BOOK, PEOPLE! AND IT'S NEARLY MY AGE!!!) and having nearly everyone gasping in horror when I said I still hadn't read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (so much so, one of the editors [whose name I completely forgot but who is a hoot!] grab a spare copy and threw it into my hands, going "Now you have no excuse...")

Friday, 10 June 2016

If Losing It Had A Soundtrack...

As you guys know, I am a fan of music and like to discover new music. So when Laura from Riot Communications asked if I wanted to be involved in this blog tour, I jumped at it. Books and music together. 

So, today, I want you to welcome Jamie Scallion to the blog. Not only was Jamie a lead singer of the cult band, Officer Kicks, and is one third of a songwriting/production (that has worked with Florence and the Machine, The Script and Jamie Cullen to name a few), Jamie is the author of The Rock 'N' Roll Diaries series. And the third book in the series, Losing It, has just come out. 

While Jamie co-writes the soundtrack for each book (with The Script and hit songwriter/producer, James Barry) - you can check out the music here - I wanted to know if Jamie wrote this book with a soundtrack in mind or songs he listened to while writing. I got this list (with the title If Losing It Had A Soundtrack) and I can't wait to show you the list and the Spotify (tried to embed it - didn't work. So, go to https://open.spotify.com/user/scallion/playlist/7p6YqZNk8GK6VKNh3nZ0qF and enjoy the music!)

Before I hand you to Jamie, I just want to thank Jamie for writing this post and creating this playlist and thank Laura for asking if I wanted to take part in this tour. So, over to you now, Jamie! 


The Rat – The Walkmen
In plain speak, this is a banger. From the long intro opening and frantic drum fills, to the opening lyric: “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favour.” This song is bombastic, angry, filthy and I have loved it for years. 

Golden Brown – The Stranglers
It’s all about that harpsichord! Whimsical, frenetic and other worldly. It’s a song that I’ve listened to all my life. It follows no formula and it meanders but that’s its unique charm.

The Eton Rifles – The Jam
Lyrically I think this song is a master class on how to write a protest song. It bristles with malcontent and anger. 

Babies – Pulp
I think Pulp were my favourite Britpop act. I suppose I’m drawn to teen angst and kitchen sink lyrical content. I love a narrative and this is the perfect example of a great twist at the end. “I only went with her coz she looks like you.”  Jarvis Cocker’s vocal delivery is perfect. No one else could get away with it. 

Freakin’ Out – Graham Coxon
The riff, the riff, the riff.

Straight Outta Compton – NWA
So good I can’t comment on it, so let’s not.

Bubbles – Biffy Clyro
Great metaphor in the chorus. Great riffs running all the way through. The build is wicked. Biffy are awesome live. 

Pushing The Senses – Feeder
It’s all about the vibe. High tempo, unbelievably hooky guitars. Love this tune when I’m about to go out.

Club Foot – Kasabian
When this came out all those years ago it was so refreshing. Feels so vivid.

Inhaler – Foals
“Sticks and stones don’t break my bones” is a fantastic opening lyric to a song and coupled with the pumping vibe it really gets me.

AKA What a Life – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
The intro to this song gets me every time. It’s a psychedelic sky ride. The best song Noel has written since Oasis in my humble opinion. Imagine Liam singing this!

Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight 
You can’t go wrong with a big old emotive ballad. 

Satellites – The RockAteers
You can’t go wrong with another big old emotive power ballad.

Take Me to Church – Hozier
I heard this song a while back and like everyone I felt it was such a refreshing piece of artistry. The lyrics, the voice, the piano. It’s a thunderbolt.

Ramble On – Led Zeppelin
If Led Zeppelin wrote a three-minute pop song…

Hit & Run – CRSH
I think the vocalist of this outfit has the best voice in the country. 

Eyes Wide Shut – Gotye
Love what Gotye does with melodies. He goes places songwriters rarely go and I love it. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Audiobook Review - Chasing The Stars

So, here we are. My first Malorie Blackman novel - well, audiobook. But you, dear readers, know what I mean. This is my first novel - not short story - and this was given to me by Leanne at Midas PR (on behalf of Audible.co.uk). This came from an email chat where I asked for a few audiobooks as part of last month's Murder Month and I said I would need something when the murders get too much. Leanne mentioned a few upcoming titles and I instantly locked on Chasing The Stars and got quite excited when Leanne went "Ok, let me grab you a credit so you can preorder this". 

Inspired by the Shakespeare play, Othello, Chasing the Stars follows Olivia and her twin brother, Aidan, alone on a spaceship after a virus wiped out the whole crew - including their parents - and are trying desperately to return to Earth. On the way, they see something. A human settlement on a hostile planet under fire. Vee tries her best to save the humans, but only saved 22. 

One of the 22 is Nathan. As soon as they see each other, both Nathan and Vee begin to fall for each other hard and dangerously fast. But things take dark and murderous turn. Secrets, lies, jealousy, murder. Sometimes love won't save the day... 

Before I go any further, I must stress one word in my write up. Inspired. This novel is inspired by Othello. I have to state this as I believe some of you guys who know Othello inside out will read this and will be very surprised over the differences between the book and the play. 

I enjoyed myself with this audiobook. I liked it, but I know that this is one of those stories that will split you. You will like it or loathe it. 

Let' start with why I liked it. I got hooked in within the first few chapters as things were thrown at you. It got my attention and once everyone met, I enjoyed seeing how they interacted, and the events that followed. The mysterious "accidents" and the claustrophobic atmosphere of being on a spaceship and someone causing these accidents... the tension was delicious for me (and I love a good mystery - hey, maybe I could have put this story as one of my Murder Month reads...!)

The characters - Vee and Nathan - were the main driving force of the story for me. Within a few chapters, I had to know what happened to them next. I believe that because this book was duel chapters (Vee would read one, Nathan would read the second and back&forth we go) and the narrators of the audiobook (Georgina Campbell and Matthew Morgan) helped me with this. Both made me warm to the leads instantly and make me both like them and, at times, want to shake them and say (as Nathan's mother said to him) "My hand is itching to give you an attitude adjustment slap". Both are flawed and damaged characters and when the plot turned dark and their relationship goes south, we saw Vee consumed with jealousy and self doubt whereas with Nathan, we saw his pride get hurt and his unwillingness to see things from Vee's point of view. And they not wanting to communicate - oh, the amount of times I would mentally shout at my iPod "Talk! Communicate! You need to talk to each other about this!"... I don't read books often that, when a relationship disintegrates, it's both people in the relationships who are at fault. It usually one person who "ruins" it and the other is the innocent party. So, reading this was oddly refreshing for me. 

However (I didn't want to say but), this book isn't perfect and I know some of you guys will dislike this book for 2 or 3 reasons. 

The first is side characters. Now, I love a good side character. Just given a small nugget of information and they become a person. They feel real. But, this doesn't feel like it happened. This book focuses so much of Vee and Nathan that other characters don't really get room to breath. There's only one minor character that I thought was written well and that was Nathan's friend, Anjuli, and that was because I had an instant reaction to her and I saw her very clearly in my mind. But other characters, important characters such as Aidan (Vee's twin brother) and Catherine (Nathan's mother), didn't feel fleshed out. They felt a little flat, and these characters (along with one or two others) really needed to be fleshed out more. 

The second reason is the insta-love element. There is no getting away from it. Vee and Nathan's relationship is very insta-love and some of you guys are gonna hate it. I never saw it as insta-love but two very damaged souls (Vee being alone on a spaceship for 3 years after watching the whole crew dying and Nathan being a slave and suffering physical and mental abuse, and both desperate for love) meeting and falling into an intense relationship that flares into life before dying and turning into something toxic and hideous. I enjoyed this, but I know some of you won't. You will scream at their instant connect and fume over them going "This is happening too fast" thoughts... 

The third thing is a mix of plot and ending. Now, I admit I don't know much about Othello, so I went into this story blind. But I found the twists in the plot a little weak and predictable. I didn't get all the plot twists, mind, - there was one I didn't see coming, but once it was revealed, I was surprised I didn't see it sooner. But there was one that I saw coming almost from the start and was surprised no one else saw it! I don't believe this is the author's fault, but I wish there was more twists and mystery to hide the truth. 

The same goes with the ending. The ending isn't concrete enough for my tastes. I don't mind endings like Chasing the Stars had, but in this case, I feel like I needed something more. 

I enjoyed this, but I feel that this will divide readers... But I am excited to read Noughts and Crosses, which is sitting on my Kindle as I type... 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Computer Games Vs Nature

Today, I would like to welcome Jeff Gardiner to the blog. His novel, Pica, follows Luke, who prefers the world of computer games than the world around him. But when enigmatic loner Luke enters his world, Luke begins to get caught on a path that might change his very existence... 

I just want to thank Jeff for wanting to pop on the blog and wanting to chat about computer games vs nature. Now, let me throw it to Jeff! 

Computer Games v Nature by Jeff Gardiner

In my new YA fantasy novel, Pica, teenager Luke begins the novel obsessed with violent computer games and hating anything to do with ‘boring’ nature. His favourite game, ‘Organik Apokalypse’, allows him to fulfil certain self-obsessed fantasies. Flying towards a planet he notices how its rainforests are teeming with an abundance of creatures:
An eco-system of such incredible biodiversity deserved just one response. I pressed the button to release a monstrous tongue of napalm flame. 
Trees blazed into an inferno immediately: miles of forest wiped out in a single blow. Creatures stampeded in swathes. Clouds of birds erupted into the air, fleeing the conflagration; some already ablaze or singed. Then I carefully aimed two nuclear missiles with such accuracy that they blew away all visible greenery, and using heat-seeking weaponry I chased and finished off the dwindling flocks of birds – picking off stragglers one by one. I waited until the entire landscape to each horizon became a black desert of ash before landing my ship.
In place of the rainforest Luke builds a gigantic city – a megalopolis.
What once had been jungle, river, and plains was now filled with shining towers and concrete blocks. Cities soon joined together to make mega-regions, until the entire planet became a mass of concrete; one giant urban conurbation ready to be filled with humans who would bow down to me as the master of their world.
At first, Luke is an angry teenager, reflected in the game he’s addicted to. There’s an interesting debate here. Do violent computer games inspire further violence in their players, or can playing them become a cathartic experience, helping to express anger vicariously? The answer to this probably depends on the individual, to be honest. It harks back to the arguments about heavy metal songs inspiring suicide (or not), and whether violent movies spark off copycat killing sprees. It’s my opinion that those individuals had psychological problems that could have been set off by anything. To blame a piece of art seems na├»ve to say the least, and I’m not a great fan of censorship.
As a teacher and parent, however, I would argue that children are susceptible and more easily influenced, so there should be age restrictions on some games. It seems, from my experience talking to younger teenagers, that many of them play on games and watch films that are certified 18 anyway. I guess that comes down to parenting, which I have no intention of commenting on. I’m still learning how to be a good parent, myself. 
I have played games like Grand Theft Auto, which made me smirk and giggle inanely for a few hours, but I have to be honest that I also began to feel a bit guilty about the morality of killing mindlessly and stealing cars. I’m okay because I can differentiate between fantasy and reality while understanding what is acceptable behaviour in public. But can everyone else? Can all children? Something deep inside me still sits uncomfortably. 
In our Western culture we are becoming horribly dependent upon modern technology. I worry about my children and what experts call ‘screen time’. How many hours each day should children be allowed to spend behind a screen? How will it affect their health and mindset? It’s something I’m sure all parents worry about.

In Pica, Luke hates country walks, and he’s not too impressed when his parents take him on a ramble in a local stretch of outstanding natural beauty where they are excited about identifying a rare flower:
Watching my parents stroll off hand in hand, I waited until they were out of sight, then I stepped over towards where the precious orchid displayed its colours in the midst of the browned grass. Standing directly over it, I undid my flies and directed my spray of streaming yellow liquid over its blossom and leaves. The orchid immediately flattened as several petals dropped off. 
‘Not so pretty now, eh?’
As a child myself, my parents took me for lots of walks in the countryside: forests, lakes and hills. These walks inspired me to take an interest in birds, wildlife and the world around me. There’s nothing quite like a walk in the rugged outdoors. 
So Pica is my response to young people who tell me that nature is ‘boring’. No it isn’t. Our planet is awe-inspiring and filled with ancient mystery. Humans used to live close to nature and their lives fitted around the rhythms and patterns of the natural world. There must be ancient magic and secrets that have been lost over time. Pica is set in the modern world and it explores the idea that we can rediscover those ancient mysteries. Luke’s life is blown apart when he realises what amazing secrets are contained within nature…
His enigmatic friend, Guy, shows Luke some amazing creatures and aspects of the natural world, which gradually convince Luke that perhaps nature is worth exploring. At one point he says to Guy:
‘I didn’t realise such amazing things happen all around us every day.’
As a teacher and author who visits schools, it concerns me that many teenagers take little interest in the natural world. When I talk of the sense of wonder experienced when walking in the Lake District, or the feeling of awe I’ve felt when diving, or touring through the wilds of Kenya, it’s often met with indifference. How many children and families visit the countryside or go on walking holidays these days? I live close to downs and a huge forest, but I often get blank looks when I mention them.

The times when I most feel alive are when I’m walking in a forest, on a hillside or by a lake. It’s difficult to explain to someone else the thrill of seeing a murmuration of starlings, or of sailing on the ocean alongside a breaching whale, but these moments affect you in ways you can’t easily express. Scientists are realising that contact with nature and wildlife can benefit mental health by inducing a feeling of positivity about our own existence and place within the natural world. You want magic and secrets? Things to blow your mind? Get away from those screens and go and experience nature first-hand. I guarantee you won’t regret it.