January Wrap Up

I’ve decided to start doing a little wrap up post for the month, not just for books but just everything in general.

What I Read

I’m really pleased with the amount of books I read this month. 12 overall, although that includes finishing some I started last year. I’ve read a good mix of ARCs and books I got for Christmas, and even some non fiction too!

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

The Call by Peadar O Guilin

The It Girl: Don’t Tell the Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

Lumberjanes Volume One: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes Volume Two: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson

Dear Charlie by N. D. Gomes

Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond by Sam Hearn

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Write by Phil Daoust

Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens

The Yellow Room by Jess Valance

Book Post

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I was lucky enough to be sent some books from publishers and various people this month which I’m really excited to start reading. The Huntress is particularly gorgeous and deserves a phot0 all of its own!

Room Empty by Sarah Mussi

(Thanks Rock the Boat!)

The Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine

The Huntress by Sarah Driver

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Silver Stars and Dead of Night by Michael Grant

(Thanks Egmont!)

The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman

(Thanks Walker Books!)

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

(Thanks Vicki Berwick PR!)

Baker Street Academy: Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond by Sam Hearn

(Thanks Scholastic/Faye Rogers!)

What I Wrote:

I’m trying to write every day this year and I think the habit is sticking, which I’m really pleased about. I’ve been working on my WIP and nearly have the first draft done, and I also wrote a short story which I intend to submit to competitions.

Total word count: 19,665

What I watched:

TV

We finally finished watching Luke Cage on Netflix. It took me a little longer to get into this one than Daredevil and Jessica Jones, but once it got going I really loved it. Luke’s one of my favourite characters from the Marvel TV shows and his fight scenes were so much fun. We’ve now started watching Parks and Recreation from the beginning as I got another season for Christmas. I’m just in love with all the characters and it makes me laugh so much.

Films

We watched Aftershock, an Eli Roth horror film which I bought Nathan for Christmas and was a lot better than I was expecting. Also Casadaga, which he bought me for Christmas and was a lot worse than I was expecting. So you win some, you lose some. Dark Was the Night was an interesting monster movie, great beginning and end but I did get a little bored in the middle.

What I Did

Nathan and I celebrated an anniversary this month so we went out for an evening meal to celebrate, leaving Little Moore at home with my dad on baby sitting duties. It’s the first time we’ve done that since he was born, so nearly a year, which is pretty crazy. The food was incredible and it was nice to be just the two of us again. We definitely need to get out more!

What Little Moore Did

Little Moore is getting more mobile by the day. He’s now adept at commando style crawling, so we’ve got the stair gates in place and are constantly chasing him round and removing things from his path. He’s obsessed with our extension plug by the TV so we need to find a way to hide that.

On the Move

It’s been a little while coming, but Little Moore is now on the move.

He was pretty quick to start rolling over, and for a while it looked like he was going to be an early crawler, but he stayed stuck in the thrashing on the floor on his belly phase without going anywhere for quite a while.

He’s not crawling in the traditional sense – on his hands and knees – but more commando style, still on his belly and using he’s elbows and knees to go forward. It’s super cute and he’s getting faster each day.

Which brings us to…baby proofing.

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, and have made small attempts, but our house just looks like a death trap to me and I’m struggling to make it any safer. We finally put the stair gates up, which is one biggie out the way, and moved some ornaments and things high up. There’s now a large piece of cardboard covering the fireplace and my perfectly alphabetised DVDs have been pulled out and put back in a random order (nooooo!)

I think the problem is our house just isn’t designed for baby proofing. It’s open plan and we have a lot of stuff and nowhere to put it all. So our version of baby proofing is probably going to be very supervised play and a vigilant eye. I think it’s good to let him explore things for himself, as long as we’re they’re to keep it safe.

Book Review: Maresi (Maria Turtschaninoff)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 256

Release Date: January 5th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

Review:

I’d heard a lot about this book on Twitter and was really excited when I was offered a copy for review.

The book has quite a slow start – I felt like not much happened in the first hundred pages or so, aside from Jai’s arrival to the Red Abbey – but I really enjoyed that, which is unusual for me. I normally need more to hold my attention, but I just enjoyed the world building. Turtschaninoff’s writing is really beautiful, the descriptions flowing and vivid and I just wanted to soak up as much of the world as possible.

The relationships in the book were really special. I love a book that doesn’t focus on romance, and this book was all about the friendships between the girls and the Sisters. Maresi forms a close friendship with Jai, helping her to settle into the Abbey and reveal some of the terrible secrets of her past. She also has a special bond with the younger novices, helping out with them even though it’s not one of her duties. I loved Maresi’s compassion and her thirst for knowledge – the fact that she calls what is basically the Abbey library a ‘treasure room’ tells me we’d definitely get on!

When the action does come in, it’s fast paced and full of tension. The men from Jai’s past follow her to the island and the women must band together to stop the threat and save Jai. I loved how this was done at first – without spoiling anything, it was very original – but when the second threat came, it felt like they were a bit defeated by the men. For a book that felt very pro feminist this seemed a bit of a switch, as the women were totally at the mercy of the men. I think I was hoping for a bit more awesome women action there, although Maresi does come in and save the day in an interesting way.

One bit that stuck out to me was an interesting comment by one of the men, about how he was trying to help them and they only had themselves to blame for what was going to happen to them. It made me think of today’s rape culture and victim blaming and felt like a real reflection of life right now.

*Possible minor spoilery bit here but it’s something I really wanted to say*

The ending came too soon for me – I really wanted to see what happened to Maresi next. I felt strangely proud of her decision to leave the island, even though it felt like the easier choice was to stay there, where she had friends and love and food and safety. But what she said was right: it’s not enough to create one small safe place for women and hoard all the knowledge there, and I admired her decision to go out and do the good she could in the world.

I really enjoyed this book, with it’s gentle beginning and action packed ending, the gorgeous world it built and the amazing female friendships it focussed on, and I can’t wait to read the sequel and learn more about the Red Abbey and it’s origins.

4

Book Review: Baker Street Academy – Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond (Sam Hearn)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 126

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

John Watson has barely settled into his new school, Baker Street Academy, when his teacher announces a trip to one of London’s top museums, home to the world’s most famous jewel. But it’s been stolen! When police catch the thief it seems the case is closed. Can Sherlock Holmes uncover the mystery behind this extraordinary gem?

Review:

I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Sherlock fan, but I know of him, of course. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was younger and I’ve seen various adaptations too. But when this was pitched to me as a middle grade graphic novel of Sherlock and Watson in school, it sounded too fun to resist.

John Watson is the new kid at Baker Street Academy, but he soon finds friends in the mysterious and super smart Sherlock Holmes and confident Martha Hudson, and an enemy in James Moriarty. When a school trip to a museum ends in a heist, the trio set out to expose the thief and recover the famous stolen jewel.

I loved the style of the story, the way it’s pieced together through different media: John’s narration and blog entries, drawings and speech bubbles, news reports and school notices. It made the storytelling really varied and exciting. The art was spot on: it really captured the characters traits in their facial expressions and  brought the story to life.

While this is for younger readers, I felt there were little nods to older readers there too, with lots of Sherlock references that adults could enjoy even if the kids might not get them all. It was fun to see the characters in a different kind of setting, and I liked that Martha was part of the team too, not just Sherlock  and Watson. The mystery was interesting and actually had me fooled with its red herring, so I was very impressed by that! It’s a complex mystery but not so much that younger readers can’t get their heads around it.

This is a fast paced, fun and really visual story, and one that’s sure to entertain younger and older reader alike. A must read for any budding young detectives, especially ones with Sherlock fans for parents!

4

About the Author

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Follow the Tour

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Tour Schedule

Monday 23rd January

Book Lover Jo

Emma’s Bookery

Tuesday 24th January

Middle Grade Strikes Back

Kirstyes

Wednesday 25th January

Maia and a Little Moore

Mum Friendly

Thursday 26th January

Library Girl and Book Boy

Fiction Fascination

Friday 27th January

Big Book Little Book

An Awfully Big Adventure

Saturday 28th January

This Fleeting Dream

Serendipity Reviews

Sunday 29th January

Read Rant Review

Tales of Yesterday

Wing Jones Photo Tour

Today on the blog I’m super excited to be hosting a stop on the Wing Jones photo blog tour.

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

So without further ado, here is my photo and caption:

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As a proud Grisha fangirl, imagine my glee when lovely  Nina Douglas asked me to chair an event with Leigh Bardugo. I was SO nervous but Leigh was so charming and gracious and glamorous—we had so much fun. I still am grateful to everyone who came to that event! I’ve been lucky enough to chair lots of events since then, but my first event will always be dear in my heart. This event led to invitations to chair other events, and now I consider event chairing part of my job. I love it and feel very lucky that I get the opportunity to talk to so many amazing writers.

About Wing Jones

For fans of David Levithan, Jandy Nelson and Rainbow Rowell: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

You can buy a copy of Wing Jones from Waterstones, HiveAmazon or from you local bookshop.

About Katherine Webber

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

You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites or check out her website www.kwebberwrites.com

Book Review: Caraval (Stephanie Garber)

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

Publisher: Hodder & Staughton

Pages: 416

Release Date: January 31st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Before you enter the world of Caraval, you must remember that it’s all a game . . .

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their ruthless father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the legendary, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

Then, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation to Caraval finally arrives. So, Tella enlists a mysterious sailor’s help to whisk Scarlett away to this year’s show. But as soon as the trio arrives, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nonetheless soon becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with her sister, with Legend, and with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Review:

I heard a lot of people raving about this book before I read it, so my expectations were high and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I think the hype, plus my own reading struggles at the moment, worked against it as I struggled to get into it and didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped.

Still, this was a magical book, reminiscent of The Night Circus, which is one of my favourite books. There’s a twisting plot which kept surprising me, a creepy game where reality and fantasy blurred, and a magical setting where anything could happen.

When we first meet Scarlett she is living with her sister, Tella,and her father, one whom she loves and protects, the other who is harsh and unforgiving towards them both. When Legend, the Master of the magical game Caraval, sends her three tickets to the next show, Scarlett knows she can’t go as it’ll risk her engagement, which she sees as her ticket off the island and her way to protect herself and her sister from their father. But Tella and her new sailor friend Julian have other plans and Scarlett soon finds herself in Caraval, with a lot at stake if she doesn’t win the game.

There’s a ticking clock on Scarlett as Caraval only lasts 5 nights and she has to win before the end, or she’ll lose something very precious to her. She teams up with Julian, and obviously there’s a romance that blossoms between them. While this was predictable, I did enjoy watching their teasing/irritation with each other turn to genuine friendship and care. I also liked that, despite this, Scarlett’s loyalties still lay with her sister: if she’d ditched Tella for some guy she barely knew I wouldn’t have been very impressed.

There’s a dark tension running through the book, and you’re never quite sure what the real danger is. Scarlett is constantly being reminded that nothing in Caraval is real, that it’s all just for the game, but she finds a lot that suggests otherwise.

The ending was just one surprise after another and I can’t say I saw many of the twists coming. It was towards the end of the book that I really got into it and just had to know how it was going to finish. While the main story line does tie up nicely, there’s an epilogue which sets up a sequel nicely and now I can’t wait to read that either.

This is a real magical read and I can see why everyone is raving about it. Sure to be one of the most anticipated books of 2017, I’d definitely recommend giving it a read.

4

Book Review: The Call (Peadar Ó Guilín)

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Pages: 336

Release Date: September 1st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if you only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down…

Three minutes.
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they’ve been Called.

Two minutes.
Like all teenagers they know that they’ll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.

One minute.
And Nessa can’t run, her polio twisted legs mean she’ll never survive her Call will she?

Time’s up.

Review:

Oh my god, where to start with this one.

I heard a bit about this around Twitter last year, thought it sounded interesting and stuck it on my wishlist. When the in laws bought it for me for Christmas I decided it was going to be the first of my new books that I read. On reading the blurb, I thought it sounded kind of Hunger Games-esque, which is great as I loved that series.

I adored this book. I read it in two days, balancing the book when breastfeeding, taking extended lunch breaks at work so I could squeeze in another chapter. I moaned to Nathan when we got home that I didn’t want to make dinner or do adult things: I just wanted to finish it.

Ireland has been cut off from the rest of the world and are being punished for something their ancestors did years ago: banishing the Sidhe to the Grey Land. Now, all teenagers in Ireland will get the Call: they’ll vanish for 3 minutes and 4 seconds, and they’ll probably come back dead. Only 1 in 10 survive. Irish children are trained in special schools from the age of 10 to survive their call, but the Irish are still dying out. With odds like that, what chance does Nessa, with her polio twisted legs, have?

There’s been a lot of books that pit teenagers against certain death in the last few years, but this is easily one of the best in my opinion. I think that Ó Guilín really captured one of the most important elements in horror stories to me: inevitability. The chances of survival are so small. The Call can happen at any time and you’ll never be prepared for it, no matter how hard you train. So many times when characters were Called I just felt this sense of hoplessness because I was pretty sure they were about to die.

The Sidhe themselves are formidable villains. They’re beautiful creatures who take pleasure in the pain and fear they cause, and even when it’s caused to them: when the teenagers fight back they’re often applauded for good tactics or killing a Sidhe, which is just creepy. And then there’s what they do to the children. They all know not to let the Sidhe touch them, because the Sidhe take pleasure into morphing the children into what they call ‘beautiful’ creations. I won’t spoil any here but it’s really twisted and grim. Even those that survive don’t get a happily ever after: often they’ve been twisted by the Sidhe, or scarred by what they’ve seen in the Grey Land.

While we’re really following Nessa’s story, the book switches view point a lot, which is great as it means you get to see each characters Call and their time in the Grey Land. I loved Nessa as a protagonist: she has even worse odds than the rest of them, but she’s so determined to survive. I admired her spirit and I believed she could do it, not just because she was the main character and would probably survive, but because she was smart and wanted to live so much. I also liked the image she’d created for herself: cold and a bit aloof, because she didn’t want to get close to anyone who she knew would probably die. Despite this, she has a close friend in Megan, who breaks all the rules that Nessa keeps, and Anto, who worms his way into her thoughts even when she tries to keep him at bay.

I also loved the human villain of the book, Connor and his Knights. It was interesting to see him try and keep control of his group of elites when they started being Called and realised they were not the group of survivors they thought they were.

I can’t sing this books praises enough. It was everything I wanted it to be and even though I’ve just finished it, I want to read it again. I’m lending it to my sister and have a list of people to pass it on to next. If you’re looking for something twisted and grim, with unforgettable characters, then this is your book.

Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: The IT Girl – Don’t Tell the Bridesmaid (Katy Birchall)

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

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 304

Release Date: January 12th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Romance is in the air!

Preparations for the Wedding of the Century between Anna’s dad and super famous actress Helena Montaine is in full swing (all Anna needs to do is escape having to wear the biggest meringue of a bridesmaid dress that EVER existed.)

And not only that but Anna, her friends and her ACTUAL BOYFRIEND (definitely requires shouting), Connor, are about to go on a school trip in romantic Rome.

So as long as Anna can avoid doing something like falling face first in the Trevi Fountain, nothing could spoil this perfect pasta-filled moment. Could it?

Review:

Just before Christmas I got a lovely surprise from Egmont in the post: the new IT Girl book, plus the first two with their gorgeous new covers.

Anna is back and getting ready for the big day: her dad’s marriage to superstar Helena Montaine. But before that she needs to survive two weeks on a school trip in Rome without making a fool of herself.

Anna is just as goofy and fun as ever. She gets herself into stupid situations, and messes up normal ones with her clumsiness or by saying something…odd. But that’s why we love her and it wouldn’t be the same if she changed. There were some great laugh out loud moments: Anna’s the kind of character that you just want to be friends with. I struggled sometimes with her naivety but hey, I’m old and wise (not really) so I’ll put it down to that.

There’s a lot of romance talk in this book: not just the big wedding, but Anna’s soon to be step sister and her boyfriend have some problems, and Anna and Connor struggle being apart in Rome. Although I loved their pairing in the previous books, it just wasn’t there for me this time. Maybe it was the distance but I found myself shipping her and a certain other character, which I thought would never happen! I won’t say anymore but I was happy with the way everything turned out again.

This is a lovely addition to the It Girl series. It’s nice to read something lighthearted and funny because it’s not my usual kind of book. I love Anna’s nerdy realness and she’s a character I’ll treasure.

4

Book Review: Doctor Who Time Lord Fairy Tales (Justin Richards)

Publisher: Penguin Group UK

Pages: 260

Release Date: November 17th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

WE ARE ALL STORIES, IN THE END…

Fifteen tales of ancient wonder and mystery, passed down through generations of Time Lords.

Dark, beautiful and twisted, these stories are filled with nightmarish terrors and heroic triumphs, from across all of time and space.

Review:

This was a gift from Christmas 2015 and it got lost in the review pile all last year until I pulled it out and made sure I read it before the next influx of Christmas books.

I’m starting to think I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with fairy tales. I love the idea of them and the way they can capture my imagination, but after reading a fair few last year, I’m not sure how much I like reading them. I think it’s the style more than anything: they’re designed to be simplistic and have rather bland main characters, and when reading lots in a row it can feel a bit repetitive.

I tried to counter this feeling with Timelord Fairy Tales by reading one each night rather than binge reading them one after the other. I think this helped me to take my time with them and enjoy it a bit more.

The book kicked off with one of the best stories, though not necessarily one to read just before bed. The Garden of Statues was a creepy Weeping Angel story with a circular feel that I really liked. Definitely my favourite story. I also enjoyed The Scruffy Piper as a sci-fi retelling of the Pied Piper, and The Grief Collector intrigued me and I really wanted to read more of that story.

The others were all fairly standard fairy tale retellings. It was cool to see them with a Doctor Who twist but they didn’t blow me away to be honest. Still, it was a fun read and probably a great one for bigger Doctor Who fans than me!

3

Book Review: Wing Jones (Katherine Webber)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 384

Release Date: January 5th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

Review:

I heard so many people talking about this book at the end of last year and I jumped at a chance to get an early copy. Big thanks to the team at Walker Books for sending one out to me.

Wing has always looked up to her brother, but when he has an accident and ends up in a coma she starts running to cope with the feelings she’s unsure how to process. After struggling with her identity for years, with a grandmother from China and one from Ghana, she’s always struggled to fit in, but running offers her a way to make friends, help her family and find herself.

This was a really lovely read and I loved the focus on sibling relationship. In the beginning Wing looks up to Marcus and thinks he’s perfect, but after the accident she learns more about him and it puts their relationship to the test. I’m a big fan of sibling relationships in books as I find them so much more interesting than your usual romance stories. Saying that, there is a lovely romance story here too, which perfectly captures that first crush you have on someone you probably shouldn’t.

The characters in the this book were all wonderful. I loved Wing and was really rooting for her throughout the book, and my heart ached for everything she went through. Marcus was great as the perfect older brother in the beginning and it was interesting to see his character after the accident, although I won’t say too much on that in case of spoilers. Monica and Aaron both had lovely relationships with Wing as the sister of their boyfriend/best friend and the way they stuck together through everything was touching.

The ending felt a little rushed to me, although I don’t know if it’s just because I wanted to keep on reading Wing’s story. Overall a really great debut and I hope lots of people read it this year.

4