Book Review: Spot the Difference (Juno Dawson)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 128

Release Date: March 3rd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Avery has always suffered at the hands of the bullies, so when she’s given a seemingly-miraculous opportunity to join the ‘A-list’ she grabs at it with both hands. But appearances can be deceiving, and soon Avery’s not so sure she likes this new version of herself. And it’s only by overcoming her fears that she can learn the true meaning of being comfortable in your own skin.

Review:

I won a copy of this book from the author in a Twitter competition but this does not affect my review.

I’ve read a couple of books by Juno Dawson before (Say Her Name and All of the Above) and am always amazed at her ability to write as a teenage girl. I know it’s the job of a YA writer to do but no one does it like Dawson. She really deserves the Queen of Teen title!

This a short book for World Book Day and I read it in one sitting. It’s really enjoyable and Dawson showcases her talent at creating an amazing believable teenage character in just a few short chapters. Avery said so many things I thought as a teenage girl (only sightly updated as I’m old now…).

This is a classic, discovering who your real friends are story, and kind of Mean Girls-esque. I thought the plot was a little predictable but it’s written so well that you don’t even care. It’s a great read for anyone but I’d really recommend it for teens suffering with skin problems.

4

Tommy V Cancer Blog Tour Schedule

If you’ve been around Twitter and the internet a bit lately then you might have heard of Tommy V Cancer.

Tommy Donbavand is author to at least 100 children’s books and he is currently battling throat cancer. He’s been blogging about his journey here. You’d be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way, be it themselves, a relative or a friend.

Because of his cancer, Tommy has had to cancel or postpone a lot of his school visits, which is where a large portion of his income comes from. To try and ease these financial worries so Tommy can focus on treatment and recovery, some lovely bloggers have decided to organise a huge blog tour. This will help promote Tommy’s work and his current situation. There’s opportunities to donate on his website or become a Patron and pledge an amount each month to receive exclusive written content from Tommy.

A huge number of bloggers and vloggers volunteered to be involved in this, which just shows how amazing and supportive the blogging community is. The blog tour schedule is below and I hope you’ll check back here on the 4th June for my post!

Tommy Tour 4

 

Book Review: You Know Me Well (David Levithan and Nina LaCour)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Pages: 256

Release Date: June 2nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Review:

This was a really lovely book about love and friendship and all the trials and heartache that come with it.

I loved the friendship that sprang up between Kate and Mark. It was so organic and it just sang of real life: I’ve had similar situations before where someone you’ve known vaguely for a while has suddenly become so important to you through a chance encounter. I loved that it was a book about a boy-girl friendship rather than a boy-girl falling in love story. I also loved that it prioritised the friendship between LGBTQ people rather than the relationships. I think, whoever you’re attracted to, friendships can be just as important, if not more important, than romantic interests that come and go.

Mark’s heartache is one that I think most people can relate to. Loving someone who doesn’t love you back isn’t a new theme, but this one was written expertly and just tugged at your heartstrings. Kate’s story, on the other hand, is a little bit more unusual relationship wise, but I think her fears about college and her changing life are perfect for young adults who, no matter what age they are, always seem to be facing some kind of change or big life decision. The friendship between them was beautiful and I just wanted to read more of it.

The two writers work really well together and provide distinct voices for the characters as they alternate narration between chapters. I enjoyed the ending, as it wasn’t too cutesy/perfect, but still felt happy and hopeful. The last chapter or so felt a little cheesy and didn’t read too smoothly for me: it felt like some kind of grand monologue at the end of a film and it was a little jarring.

This is a really sweet story and its great to see an LGBT book that isn’t about coming out or coming to terms with sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, those books can be great and are important, especially for struggling young adults, but I also think it’s important to read about young people who are confident with their sexuality.

4

Book Review: Hatter M, Volume 1 (Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, Ben Templesmith)

Publisher: Automatic Pictures

Pages: 176

Release Date: October 16th 2008

Summary (from Goodreads):

Put to rest any delusions or disinformation you have of the tea guzzling madman of faux literary history and prepare to expand your consciousness as the saga of Hatter Madigan and his relentless search for the lost Princess of Wonderland unfolds on these pages.

In Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan was ordered by Queen Genevieve to take Princess Alyss and leave Wonderland after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd. But while escaping through the Pool of Tears (the portal connecting Wonderland to our world), crushing centrifugal force pulled them apart, and Alyss was lost. In this geographic parallel adventure, Hatter finds himself in Paris, France in the year 1859 shockingly separated from the child he had been sworn to protect.

Unbeknownst to Hatter, Alyss had exited a puddle in London, England. Lost and alone, she was befriended by an aspiring author to whom she told the surreal, violent, heartbreaking story of her young life only to see it published as the nonsensical children’s fairytale Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. But Carrol had got it all wrong.He even misspelled her name! Alyss had trusted Lewis Carrol to tell the truth so that Hatter would find her and bring her home. Instead, Hatter must endure a non-stop quest, crisscrossing the globe for 13 years in search of the lost Princess. While formidable with blades, a moment must be taken to introduce his signature weapon, the Hat. Woven and blocked from a material not available in any realm except the origins of wonder, the Hat, when hurled by his expert hand, instantly unfolds into a circle of blades to attack or defend.

The mad odyssey begins here…

Review:

I loved Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars books when I was a teen and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get round to reading the spin off graphic novels.

The great thing about this is that it feels like a natural spin off rather than one that’s been forced in. The graphic novels follow the missing years when Alyss grew up in Oxford and Hatter jumped through the Pool of Tears again and again to try and find her.

This is the first in the series and covers some familiar ground, as well as some new. If you’ve read the books then you’ll remember that Hatter first lands in Paris and begins his quest to find Alyss there. We see this at the beginning of the novel and then track his adventures from there.

One of my favourite parts was a flashback to the day Queen Redd stormed the palace and murdered Queen Genevieve. This was such a key moment in the books and it was great to see it drawn out. I also loved getting to know Hatter  Madigan more as he’s an amazing character and doesn’t get enough limelight in the books!

I wasn’t too sure about the drawing style. Most of the time it was really beautiful, kind of ephemeral and ghostly. However, as the writing was often quite sparse and relied on the illustrations to move the story forward. This didn’t quite do it for me sometimes and I wasn’t always sure what was going on during some of the action sequences.

This is really great for fans of The Looking Glass Wars books, or for any Alice in Wonderland fans too, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

4

My Week in Writing #2

Weekly goal: 7 hours of writing time – 1 hour per day

Monday – After last week’s disaster with Little Moore’s bedtime, he went off without a fuss and I did half an hour editing and half an hour of writing exercises.

Tuesday – I was really not motivated today and couldn’t face editing, but I did get an hour of writing exercises in instead.

Wednesday – Half an hour writing exercises complete. Meant to do some editing but didn’t so slap on the wrist for me.

Thursday – I was a bit naughty and didn’t time when I was working, but I did do a lot of writing exercises in a cafe for about 3 hours on and off, so we’ll call that an hours work 🙂

Friday – Again, I didn’t do any timing. I found it a bit difficult as I was grabbing bits of time here and there, but I did do some good planning exercises from my writing book so I was pleased with the progress.

Saturday – Less pleased with the work today. I only did a small amount, definitely not an hours worth of work. I seem to get more lax the more the week goes on – I need to keep the motivation up!

Sunday – Big fail today, spent most of the day with the family and feeling a bit crap so only got a little done.

I did a lot of writing exercises this week, and they’re all from Get Started in Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens. This was a Mother’s Day present, along with some other writing books and I’ve wanted it for ages. It felt a bit odd doing these exercises at first, as I’ve not done this kind of thing since uni, but it’s good to get the creative juices flowing and look at my writing in a different way.

The exercises are also helping me to work through my problems with the WIP at the moment, mainly plotting troubles and just a lack of planning. I’m hoping by the end of the book I’ll have another draft done, one that I’m a lot happier with.

This has been a better week for writing than last week. I’m hoping as the habit grows, I’ll keep getting better and doing more work each week. We’re away for a few days next week so I’m worried I won’t get my work done on those two days, but we shall see!

Book Review: Civil War (Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, Morry Hollowell)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Pages: 208

Release Date: April 11th 2007

Summary (from Goodreads):

The landscape of the Marvel Universe is changing, and it’s time to choose: Whose side are you on? A conflict has been brewing from more than a year, threatening to pit friend against friend, brother against brother – and all it will take is a single misstep to cost thousands their lives and ignite the fuse.

Review:

I started this about 2 years ago but never finished (I found my bookmark in there halfway through). I wanted to read the book before going to see the film so restarted it and read it in a day.

As I read the book and went to see the film within days of each other I’m inevitably going to be comparing the two. I have to say, the book is so much better than the film! I did enjoy the film a lot but it wasn’t really the Civil War story line which I was expecting.

I love huge Marvel events and seeing different groups of superheroes interact with each other, and Civil War does this on an epic scale.

When a group of C list superheroes accidentally cause an explosion resulting in a lot of civilian casualties, public opinion turns against those with super powers and calls for a control on them. This splits the heroes into two groups: those who believe they should work for the government and those who think they should remain free agents. What I love about the conflict is that there’s not really a right or wrong side: I kind of agreed with both, though I leaned more towards Captain America and his views on freedom.

There’s so many heroes that get involved, and that means some epics fight scenes. It’s great to see people who normally fight alongside each other go head to head. The reason I preferred the book so much to the film was that the stakes just seemed so much higher: someone gets killed, someone else reveals their closely guarded secret identity and the good guys even fight alongside villains. It’s so tense and action packed and I loved all the conflict.

The only downside was the ending. Although I understand one side’s reasons for standing down, it was kind of disappointing to see them give in. The destruction they caused by fighting each other was awful but I wanted to see it through to the end anyway!

I really enjoyed this and it’s made me want to read more Marvel books, as I haven’t read any for a while. It might be time to revisit Marvel Zombies again!

4

Book Review: The Fire Sermon (Francesca Haig)

Publisher: HarperVoyager

Pages: 432

Release Date: July 30th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

What would you do if you had to leave everything you knew behind?

If what made you perfect also made you an outcast?

If your twin, once your only friend, was now your worst enemy?
Since the blast that reshaped the earth, only twins are born. The imperfect one of each pair is branded at birth and sent away. Twins share nothing but the moment of their death: when one dies, so does the other. But Cass and her twin Zach cannot be separated.

In this scorched and broken world, Cass’s bond with her brother may be the most dangerous thing of all.

Review:

Despite this taking forever to read (think I had a little bit of a reading slump) I really enjoyed this book.

The idea of everyone being born with a twin, one Alpha and one Omega, destined to die at the same time, was really fascinating. I liked the idea of twins being used against each other politically: it’s such a powerful bargaining chip.

The book started off a bit slow for me: it felt like there was a lot of back story and info-dumping and I just wanted to skip ahead a bit and get to the real action. But once it got going it was great. I loved Cass’ view on the twins situation, and it didn’t feel too unbelievable either. Her’s and Zach’s upbringing together, rather than separated, gave that strong bond between them which influenced her feelings towards twins, instead of her just being ‘special’ etc. And until she pointed out that when fighting Alphas, Omegas were dying somewhere too, I hadn’t even thought of that.

I called the plot twist a little before it happened, but it kept me guessing for most of the book so I can’t complain. The climax was still surprising, although I felt it was a little bit dragged out and could have ended with a bit more of a bang.

The pacing of the book felt a bit off – everything was just a bit slow, and there was so much travelling it sometimes all blurred together. It made it a struggle to read sometimes: once I did it was great, but the idea of going back to it wasn’t always appealing, which was a shame. It’s made me struggle with what rating to give it: I started off on 4 as it was really interesting, but I’ve knocked a star off for not gripping me enough. Still, I’m looking forward to the sequel and hope that captures me more.

3

My Week in Writing

After writing a post about it and feeling oh so motivated, my week in writing did not start well.

Weekly goal: 11 hours writing time.That’s 1 hour per day when Nathan is working mornings and 2 hours when he works evenings/is off work.

Monday – Little Moore was not enjoying the heat and I spent all night trying to get him to sleep. By the time he’d finally gone off (midnight-ish) I was exhausted and had only got 15 minutes in.

Tuesday – Very fussy baby for the morning, and in the evening I was naughty and played the Battlestar Galactica board game instead of writing, so I’m going to need to make up for that.

Wednesday – Despite what it becoming Little Moore’s usual fussiness at bedtime, I managed to get an hour in. It was a day off though so I should have done two…

Thursday – I was bright eyed and bush tailed and got an hour done in the morning while Little Moore and Mr Moore were still in bed.

Friday – I got a good 24 minutes in before the little one woke up. I also finished my first draft of the short story I’m writing, so that was very exciting. Then the evening was a fail as I was overcome with a massive cold :/

Saturday – Zero. Having a cold and guests round are my excuses but I’m disappointed I didn’t get anything done. I think finishing my draft worked against me as well because I didn’t have that drive to go upstairs and finish something. I need to decide what I’m doing next.

Sunday – I got my hour in, despite the cold and a fussy baby after bath time. I started working through some old notes and editing my current WIP (whilst cursing past-me for not writing legible/intelligent notes)

So my writing week didn’t go very well all in all. I don’t like failing at anything and I kind of don’t want to publish this and admit I did bad. But hopefully it’ll encourage me to do better next week.

I’m going to adjust my weekly goal slightly to an hour a day for the whole week and see how that goes. I was maybe a little ambitious before, so I’m going to start off small and aim to increase when I’ve gotten into good habits.

To end on a positive, I finished the first draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a while. I think forcing an hours work of actual writing definitely helped me finish this off. I’ll be writing a post about this one in a few weeks time so keep an eye out!

Book Review: In the Dark, In the Woods (Eliza Waas)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Quercus Children’s Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: April 21st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

Review:

Wow. This book was just awesome.

It’s been a while since I haven’t been able to put a book down, but this was definitely one of them. I read it as an eARC on my phone, which I tend to read while feeding Little Moore, and I found myself looking forward to each feed just so I could get stuck back into it!

After enjoying Seed by Lisa Heathfield last year, I was really looking forward to another book featuring a religious cult, and this did not disappoint.

We see the story from Castley Cresswell’s point of view, a young girl with a father who speaks the word of God. She and her siblings are isolated from everyone else, and have only recently started going to high school after being found out by the authorities. Their fathers rules the home, using the fear of God to manipulate and control the siblings.

Castley has been raised to believe her and her siblings are destined to marry each other and live in heaven, and that everything to do with modern life and the outside world are sin, but now she slowly begins to question these beliefs, and the words of her father.

I liked the gradual realisation that happened within Castley – it made the story more credible than if she’d just decided sudden;y to disregard everything she’s been taught her whole life. It must be hard to question these things when you’ve known nothing else, but as she makes a friend in school, a new world of possibilities is opened up to her. After learning that the author was raised in a very strict religion herself, you can see why she wanted to tell this story, and I think her personal feelings of isolation really come through in Castley.

This is a really chilling read with plenty of page turning moments that meant I never wanted to put it down. The ending is tense and, while it resolves itself well, I really just want to read on with the Cresswell’s story, as I love the siblings so much (especially Caspar – I can see why Castley wants to protect him so much!) I’d love it if Waas continued this story, but I think I’d also read just about anything from her now.

4

Choosing to Write

One of my resolutions this year was to write a little something every day.

Well…that hasn’t happened. It was probably a little ambitious, considering everything that’s happened (moving house again, having the Little Moore and all the lack of time that comes from him) but I don’t want to give up on it completely. It’s tempting with resolutions to give up once you’ve stumbled a bit, but I’m determined to keep going, and write every day I can from now on, or as close as I can get.

I read a post recently from Indigo’s Dragon author Sofi Croft about how she makes time to write (check it out here) and one point in particular got me thinking. Sofi said she chooses to write, and I think that’s a key point. I have so many other things I want/need to be doing, and if I really want to write then I need to prioritise writing over some of those activities. Obviously some things come first and have to be done: looking after the Little Moore is top of the agenda, plus things like cooking and bits of housework. But there’s plenty of other things I do that could be sacrificed for writing, like watching TV or reading.

Along with choosing to write, I need goals too. If I just say ‘do some writing’ I know it might not get done, or I might do a bare minimum amount. But if I set a target to reach, whether it’s daily or weekly, it’s more likely to get done. I used to do this by word counts, when I was finishing my WIP, but now I’m on the editing stage I don’t think that’s the best idea.

My partner mentioned an article he read about setting an amount of time to work – say two hours – and then recording when you’re working to make sure that gets done. You only record the time you’re working, so if you start internet browsing or take a phone call, then you mark the time and don’t start recording again until you’re actually working.

Nathan spoke about using sticky notes and writing down the times that you stop and start, but I’ve decided to use the stop watch on my phone instead, and pause it every time I’m not working.

I think this will help me get the work in, and show me that I can fit in bits of work here and there. I know in an ideal world I’d like to have hours and hours to sit down in my study, but with a baby to look after, the reality is that I’ll have to squeeze it in whenever and wherever I can.

I’m also going to do a small post once a week to record my progress and talk a little bit about writing each week. I’ve set a goal of one hour of work on Nathan’s working days, and two hours when he’s not. I had originally wanted to aim higher but it’s just not going to happen when baby duty calls!

I’ve tried this method for the past two days and got my hour in both times, which has equalled roughly 2000 words a day on the short story I’m working on. This is a bit of a secret project at the moment – hiding it from Nathan and he reads my blog – so I won’t go into details yet. But it’s something I’ve not tried before and I’m enjoying this way of writing a lot.

I’ve laid all this out and am publishing it mostly to just give me the motivation to stick to it. Fingers crossed it works!