My Dream Reading Space

As an avid reader, I read anywhere and everywhere I can – curled up on the sofa, on my lunch break at work, while cleaning my teeth – anywhere I can squeeze some reading time in! It’s not always ideal, but when you gotta read, you gotta read…

I can’t pretend I don’t wish I had my own special space, just for reading. It’s something I daydream about, and when someone from Arhaus got in touch about a post inspired by their website the cogs started whirring in my mind immediately! I had great fun browsing their site for the perfect pieces for my dream reading space (if only I had somewhere to put it all!)

Continue reading “My Dream Reading Space”

Finding the Time to Read

I’m currently getting ready to move to a new house (tres exciting!) which is a lot closer to where I work – a little late now I’m about to start maternity leave but hey! For the last six months I’ve been doing The Commute of Hell: train from Wolverton to Coventry, then bus to the other side of Coventry to my place of work, then repeat on the way home, often with a lot of waiting around time involved. On a good day my travelling time is about 3.5 hours, on a bad day it’s pushing 5.

The point of this isn’t how lame it is to travel so much every day – though it’s crazy lame, trust me. I haven’t liked the travelling and with pregnancy it’s been super hard, but there’s been one positive: I’ve had so much time to read! I haven’t always used it wisely. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay awake on the train, but I’ve been making a real effort this year to use it as reading time.

Now that’s coming to an end, I have mixed feelings. It’ll be so nice to have my evenings back again, and to spend less time on horrible public transport, but I’m worried about finding time to read. I know I don’t do it at home as much as I used to – there’s always something else that needs doing.

I also realise that with the little Moore on the way, there’s going to be a lot less me time and a lot more baby time, which will probably equal a lot less reading time.

So my overall point is: how do you find time to read? I realise reading several books a week may no longer be possible, but I’d still like to squeeze one or two in there. So how do you all find time to read??

Book Review: Flesh and Blood (Simon Cheshire)

 

Publisher: Stripes

Pages: 336

Release Date: March 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

I must record the facts that have led me to where I am now. So that, when someone reads this, they understand. Sam Hunter’s neighbours are pillars of the community, the most influential people in town. But they’re liars too. The Greenhills are hiding something and Sam’s determined to find out what it is. As his investigation unfolds, he realizes the lies reach further than he ever imagined – is there anyone he can trust? Uncovering the horror is one thing …escaping is another.

Review:

I am just adoring all the books in the Red Eye series. I’ve read two so far and gave them 4 and 5 stars, and this book did not disappoint. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and finally received it as an early birthday/cheering up present from my partner. It got bumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

I’d say it started a little slow for me, with more of a mystery feel to it than a horror at first. I had no idea where it was going to go, and was guessing constantly – vampires? zombies? insane murderers? – but never guessed right!

The story is told in first person through Sam’s eyes, almost like a report of events, and he occasionally foreshadows events with comments along the lines of “If only we’d known…perhaps I could have stopped it…” etc. While I did enjoy his perspective of events and the honesty with which it was told, there was a part of me that thought, “well, things can’t be that bad if he’s been able to survive everything and write it all down.” How wrong I was.

The story really turns into horror when Sam and his friends enter Bierce Priory and discover the secret the Greenhills are hiding. I won’t ruin it here, but some of it was truly horrific and I think I read faster so I didn’t have to dwell on some of the awful things. It was truly grim.

I really felt a sense of hopelessness towards the end: every time I thought of something Sam could do to get out of the mess, that path was blocked and it became more and more obvious that the Greenhill’s influence was too wide to escape. The ending (again, trying not to spoil anything) was oddly numbing. When I finally realised why Sam was able to write down his account of events, and what was in store for him, it was his calm acceptance of it that creeped me out more than anything else. He was resigned to his fate, his senses dulled a little by drugs, but he knew there was no chance now of escape. This felt more awful than if the author had gone on to describe what the Greenhill’s had in store for him.

This is another horror hit from the Red Eye series and I really can’t wait to read another from them. Anyone looking for a creepy, spine chilling read should check out this book and the others in the series.

 

My Verdict:

 
 
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!




If you enjoyed this, check out the other books in the Red Eye series:
Frozen Charlotte and Sleepless

 

Top Five… Female Protagonists

In honour of International Women’s Day last week, I’ve decided this week’s Top Five will be dedicated to my favourite and most inspirational women in YA fiction. There’s a lot to choose from so this was a particularly hard one to narrow down!

5.

Rachel (Animorph series)
K. A. Applegate
Rachel is the ultimate tough girl/Xena: Warrior Princess. She finds herself one of Earth’s last hopes in a secret invasion and she kicks butt. I love the darker side of her character as she revels in the violence and danger, but also the vulnerabilities she can show and the fierce love she has for her sisters.
4.

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)
J. K. Rowling
Not only is Hermione brave and has a good hand in saving the wizarding world, she is smart with it and saves Harry and Ron’s skins plenty of times along their journey. She’s passionate about charitable causes (remember the Elf Liberation Front?) and she knows who she is, even if others don’t like it.
3.
Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games series)
Suzanne Collins
She’s become a bit of an idol lately (helped by the amazing portrayal by Jennifer Lawrence). She’s strong, brave and makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her little sister. She heads a revolution and manages to go through atrocities without becoming a monster herself.
2.

Rialle (The Echorium Sequence)
Katherine Roberts
I’ve always loved Rialle, and one of the things I love most is how vulnerable she is and how she grows in the first book. She might cry easily and be afraid a lot but that doesn’t mean she’s not a strong women, and it doesn’t stop her from saving her friends. She risks herself to stop her home and friends being destroyed and you can’t help but love her.
And the winner is…
1.
Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials)
Philip Pullman
Lyra was my inspiration growing up. She’s a little wild, headstrong and fiercely loyal and it was such a pleasure to follow her story. She doesn’t let anyone stop her from doing what she wants to and what she needs to. She’s another who makes great sacrifices to herself for the greater good, and the pain of that made me love her all the more.

Which women in books have inspired you?

Book Review: The Token: A Breed Apart (Natasha Rogue)

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

Publisher: Fido Publishing
Pages: 301
Release Date: 2nd December 2014
 

Summary (From Goodreads):

Callie Michaels isn’t pretty or popular, but her singing more than makes up for all she lacks. And as long as she focuses on what’s really important, she can survive high school. But how can she focus with all the drama? Between her best friend’s odd issues and a daily dose of weirdness from the social elite, she’s starting to wonder if she’s the only normal one around.

Just as her life begins spiralling out of control, the answer comes to her in a dream. In exchange for a token of blood, a demon will give her everything she desires. She says “yes.” From that point on, she finds herself changing, becoming something far from normal. Something dangerous.

No one is what they seem—least of all her. While the supernatural creatures around her struggle to maintain their humanity, Callie slowly loses hers. She doesn’t even know what’s important anymore. Friendship, the future, love? And is there anyone who can make her care?


Review:

I started off really enjoying this book: the writing is strong, the characterisation is excellent and I really felt connected to Callie, the main character as she approached old friend and long time crush James. Sadly though, I found the book started off a lot stronger than it ended and I lost interest in the plot fairly quickly.

This book has everything from demons to magi to (were)panthers (apparently the were implies half human, which they are not. Although they spend most of their time as human…) I’m not opposed to the idea of werepanthers – I’ve watched a lot of True Blood and I loved their werepanther story line – but this one just irritated me more than anything. It felt too much like another weird paranormal romance where people from different species can love each other despite their differences, and I’m just not interested.

The Breed – the not-so-humans who turn into giant cats and such – are far too careless when they talk and give themselves away so easily I’m surprised Callie’s never guessed their true nature before. And they are constantly fighting for dominance and staking their claims over girls, which also really irritated me. I understood the animal mentality of it but it felt a bit too close to the kind of 50 Shades of Grey/dominance thing that’s in a lot of terrible romance/erotica novels these days (harsh comparison I know, but that’s what springs to mind).

The ‘bad guy’ in the book is constantly changing – James, Amy, Nick, Tammy – and while this could have been a good move to keep things exciting it just didn’t work. Somehow through all of it I knew the point was that the demon was the evil one, not anyone else and that just got rid of any tension that should have been building.

While I didn’t enjoy the plot, as I said, the writing was very good and I did make it to the end of the book. It might not be for me but I can see it being right up someone else’s street, hence the rating below.

My Verdict:

3

UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour: Interview with Rachel Ward

The UKYA Extravaganza is a (sold out) event at Birmingham High Street Waterstones, organised by Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass. Today is my turn on the UKYA Extravanganza Blog Tour, which has been going since the start of February and will be ending next week, after the event itself.

On my blog today we have Rachel Ward, author of the Numbers trilogy and The Drowning and Water Born which we’ll talk a little about below.

So without further ado, here we go:


Hi Rachel, it’s great to have you hear on my blog today. You’re my first ever author interview and it’s even more special because it’s for the UKYA Extravaganza blog tour! I’m going to kick off by asking what you think is so important about UKYA?


Thanks so much for having me on your blog – I’m honoured to be your first author interview! When I started out ‘YA’ wasn’t really a thing, or at least it was just a thing in the USA. Over the last couple of years UKYA has definitely become a force to be reckoned with. It feels like a real community of writers, readers, bloggers, librarians and publishers and it’s a lovely thing to be part of. Writing in the UK is really strong and the UKYA label helps to promote that.

 

What are you most looking forward to about the UKYA Extravaganza event?


I’m ridiculously excited about the Extravaganza! It’s a chance to catch up with some old friends and to meet a lot of people – writers, bloggers, readers – that I’ve only ‘met’ on Twitter or Facebook. I think it’s going to be intense, fun and exhausting!

 

If you had to pick a book/series to encourage someone new to read UKYA, what would you choose and why?


Ooh, that’s so tricky. There are so many to choose from. The only YA (if that’s what it is) book I read before writing Numbers was Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I’d recommend the His Dark Materials series to anyone. I’d also recommend anything by Kevin Brooks.

 

I recently read and reviewed your books The Drowning and Water Born, which both have water playing a rather sinister part in the story. What’s your relationship like with water?


Well, I used to be a keen swimmer, but I haven’t been to the local pool since I started writing Water Born! I only realised very recently that my relationship with water is probably clouded by falling backwards into a paddling pool and almost drowning when I was a tot. It’s one of my earliest memories. However I love swimming, so I should really get back to the pool …

 

There’s a big time gap between the events in The Drowning and Water Born. What made you want to write about Carl and Neisha again much later in their life, and why did you choose to do it from their daughter’s point of view?


I love writing sequels which skip to the next generation. It allows me to explore an idea from a different character’s perspective and I love finding out how life has worked out for my teenage characters as they become adults. I picked Nic for Water Born as I always have a teenager as my central character, and I was interested to see her view of her parents.

 

Is Water Born the end of Carl and Rob’s story, or can we expect to see a third book in the series?


Water Born is the end of the line for Carl and Rob.


If not can you say anything about what you’re working on at the moment?


I’m working on a detective story/thriller in space at the moment. I’m very excited about it. It’s got potential to be a really cracking story. I hope I can do it justice. I’ve done the first draft and now I’m playing with the plot and characters in a second draft.


Did you always want to be a writer or were there any other ambitions you harboured when you were younger?


Not at all. When I was younger I wanted to be a farmer or an estate agent. I only started writing in my mid-thirties on a whim really, to see if I could do it.


Do you find it easy when you’re writing a story or do you have to discipline yourself to get it all out on paper (or the screen, I guess)?


I’ve been a full-time writer for three years, and, to be honest, writing was easier when I had a day job. Although I was much more stressed and unpleasant to live with, I didn’t have any trouble settling down to write. I used to do 45 minutes every morning before waking everyone else up and going to work. Now that I’ve got more time, I have to set myself word targets e.g. 1000 words a day, in order to make progress. It’s also not easy translating the ideas in my head onto paper. The process of putting something into words is surprisingly frustrating, but fascinating.



I know you probably get this one a lot, but what advice would you give to an aspiring author?
A book takes a long time to write, so you’ve got to write about something you’re really interested in and with characters that you care about. Try and write every day. Have a notebook with you or make notes on your phone and write down descriptions of people or scenes you see when you are out and about. You never know when they’ll come in handy. Don’t be too obsessed about writing – have other things in your life too – and enjoy it!


And a few quick fire questions to round off with:

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield partly as research for my book and also because I saw him speak last year and he was awesome. Before that I read ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ by Kate Saunders which I thought was wonderful.

Favourite book as a child?

I didn’t read as a mid-late teen, but my favourite book before I stopped reading was ‘Fly-by-night’ by K.M. Peyton. As a little child, I loved the Noggin the Nog books and ‘The Land of Green Ginger’.

Favourite writing drink and snack?

Coffee (either decaf or half and half) from my lovely coffee machine in the morning. Maybe a chocolaty treat to go with. Diet Coke in the afternoon with a sneaky Popchip or two. I was vegan for January and swapped chocolate for almonds and carrot sticks. I should probably do that again.


5 desert island books?
 
This is the hardest question! Why are you torturing me like this? Okay.
1. The notebook I kept as a sort of diary when my children were little, which records cute/horrific things they did or said, plus first words, etc.
2. The Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary because I could learn new words or use random words as a starter for stories, plus one of the compilers was my sister and I’m very proud of her
3. The complete works of Shakespeare. I’ve never got on with Shakespeare, but I suspect I’m missing out. Being on a desert island might give me the time to study him and try and appreciate him more.
4. A compendium of detective stories 5. Another compendium of great UKYA!

Favourite place to read?

I read in bed before I go to sleep. I’m very good at falling asleep, although I have the annoying habit of waking super-early, so sometimes it takes me a long time to get through a book. The sign that I’m really gripped by a book is when I find time to read during the day, curled up on the sofa with my dog or tucked into bed with a microwavable owl.

Any hidden talents?

Well, it’s not very hidden because I keep telling people about it, but I started painting last year and I’m really enjoying it. I also take lots of photographs of Bath when I’m out and about with my dog, Misty, and tweet them (@RachelWardbooks).

What fictional world would you love to live in?

 

I’d be very happy to live on the island in ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson for a while. I’m also fond (at least in theory) of cold, snowy places, so I’d like to spend time in the world of ‘The Tenderness of Wolves’ or ‘The Snow Child’ although I think the reality would be pretty harsh.
Thank you so much to Rachel for being here today, and to Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass for organising the UKYA Extravaganza. I can’t wait to see everyone at the event next week!
 
If you’d like to follow the blog tour or catch up on any posts you might have missed, all the bloggers and authors can be found in the picture below.
 
 

Top Five… Book Titles

I’ve spoken a fair bit about buying books because I love their covers, so this week’s Top Five is books I’ve bought because of their titles. Along with the cover, the title is often one of the first things we see of a book, and a grabbing title can make the difference between picking a book up or moving on to the next one.
 
5.
 
2118745
The Knife of Never Letting Go
(Patrick Ness)
This immediately makes me ask ‘Why can’t you let go of the knife?’ Although it turned out to be far from what I thought it would be (I was guessing it was some kind of magical, possessing knife and I was very wrong) but the story was amazing and lived up to it’s interesting title.
 
4.

Memoirs of a Dangerous Alien

 

Memoirs of a Dangerous Alien
(Maggie Prince)
This is a golden oldie and has always been a favourite of mine. Again, it didn’t go how I expected it to (apparently I like that in my titles) but it was still a title that made me stop and think ‘I want to read that’ and add it to my wishlist.

 

3.
John Dies at the End
(David Wong)
This is moving away from my usual YA a little – I borrowed this one from my boyfriend – but as soon as I heard the title I knew I wanted to read it. Who gives away a major plot point and spoiler in their title? A genius, that’s who (a little gushing, I know, but it’s a very grabbing title).
2.
 

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 
(Ransom Riggs)
I’ll admit to being intrigued by the cover and the use of the strange photographs, but I just love the title for this book as well. It instantly says intrigue and makes me want to read it. I admit, the story didn’t go how I expected it to, but I still loved it.
And the winner is…
 

 

 


 
1.
 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
(Catherynne M Valente)
I don’t think anything can top that title.
This popped up on Amazon when I was buying something else and I added it to my basket immediately: it deserved that for being so epically titled. The others in the series are similarly named but this was the first that caught my eye. It also happens to be a very good book, so check it out 😉
I’d love to hear any other awesomely titled books that you’d recommend!

Book Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter (Melinda Salisbury)

Publisher: Scholastic UK

Pages: 336

Release Date: 5th February 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.

She’s the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favour of a doomed love?

Review:

I was lucky enough to receive this book from the author (through a competition on Twitter) Along with a copy of the book, I got a signed proof copy and some other lovely bits and pieces too.

I am drawn in instantly by the cover (the colours are just beautiful) and by the idea as well: the quote on the proof copy reads ‘I am the perfect weapon. I kill with a single touch.‘ Along with some hype that’s gone on around it on Twitter I was all set to read and love this book.

And that is exactly what I did.

Twylla, the protagonist, is well rounded in a way that I haven’t seen in many books lately. While being likeable and believable, she has real emotions and flaws that hold her back and have a major impact on her life and how she’s living it. It’s interesting to watch her develop over the book and eventually start taking some control for herself. I hope that in the sequels, (which I can’t wait for) we’ll see her growing into herself more.

The world creation is beautifully done. There’s a lot of information to take in but it’s drip fed slowly and steadily, with little reminders throughout the book so you never forget what world you’re in and what the rules are. Speaking of which – and without giving too much away – I admire a writer who can create and then break rules in the way that’s done here. It makes for great twists and turns in the book and really shows how clever you can be with your own world if you know what you’re doing.

What really made the world feel real and rounded was the mythos: the religion, the Gods, the fairytales. It’s just enough information to bring the world to life. I was really intrigued by the idea of ‘Sin Eating’ and would love to hear more about it. Twylla’s mother as the Sin Eater was an excellent character who both repelled and fascinated me.

I’ll admit to being the teensiest bit irritated by the love triangle that formed, not because it wasn’t believable and intense and everything, but because it feels like love triangles are almost mandatory in YA novels at the moment. But that’s only the briefest if niggles: it’s integral to the plot and has its own series of twists and turns. I love that, like Twylla, both contenders for her heart are deeply flawed and neither is the obvious choice or knight in shining armour that you might expect.

I’d say it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year (I know it’s only February but I’ve read a fair amount and only one other got five star). If you like a beautifully crafted world full of its own mythos, with an deep and intricate plot then this is for you. It stands well alone as a novel as well as the first in a series and it’s definitely one to read immediately.

My Verdict:

Copy of an art exhibit
Check out my soundtrack for The Sin Eater’s Daughter here

UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour

 I am extremely excited to say that I am going to be taking part in the UKYA Extravaganza blog tour this year.

As a newbie to blogging still, this will be my first blog tour and also the first book related event I’ll be attending as a blogger. I feel incredibly lucky that this amazing event is happening just around the corner from me in Birmingham. I believe it sold out the day the tickets went on sale, so there’s definitely demand for this kind of event in our area.

The event sees 35 authors all gather in one place for a magical day of Q&As, book signings and a chance to meet the people behind the stories we love. Below is a list of all the authors ‘officially’ attending (I believe there may be some ‘unofficially’ attending as well).

 

But before the event we have the blog tour, with a blogger assigned to each author right up until the event itself, and a write up to follow afterwards.
I have been paired with the “new and exciting” Rachel Ward who wrote the Numbers series, which has won multiple awards, and more recently The Drowning and Water Born which I shall be reviewing on this site soon. Our slot is on the 22nd Fenruary so there’s a while to wait yet.
But, in the meantime here is a list of all the bloggers and authors on the tour. If you want to keep up with everything going on then take my lead and follow the blogs so you don’t miss a thing!

 

Book Review: The 100 (Kass Morgan)

Details:

Publisher: Little Brown

Pages: 336

Release Date: 18th March 2014
Blurb:

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents — considered expendable by society — are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor’s son, came to Earth for the girl he loves — but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.

Review:

I’ll admit I only heard about this book because I saw adverts for the TV show on E4. I was intrigued by the idea and am a stickler for reading a book before watching a TV show/film, so here we are.

I found the multiple P.O.Vs a little confusing in the beginning, as it felt like quite a rush of character information. Because of the nature of the names as well (Glass, Clarke etc) I wasn’t always sure who was male or female and struggled to keep up, but I soon warmed to it.

I’m a bit of a space story fan – Battlestar Galactica is my secret nerdy(ist) passion – so I was glad that (minor spoiler) one of the 100 actually stays on the ship and we see what life is like on there. It’s interesting to see the kind of daily struggles of living permanently in space: artificial food, timed water allowances and the rarity of ‘Earthmade’ goods.

It was more of a slow burner than I’d anticipated after seeing the TV adverts, and a lot of story is told in flashbacks to months and years earlier in the narrators’ lives. I thought this would be a bit irritating but I enjoyed seeing how they got to where they are, and have their past secrets be slowly revealed like this, rather than in a clumpy dialogue confession or something.

And boy are there a lot of secrets! Some you might be able to guess at, others may take you a little more by surprise, but everyone seems to be hiding multiple things. And everyone thinks their’s is the biggest and most important secret of all, which I did get a little tired of hearing sometimes. Their is a tendency towards big, dramatic statements which I found a bit jarring to the narrative and think they could have easily been left out.

The focus on the love stories also irritated me a little: I do enjoy a good love story, but this seemed one of those situations where you’d put things like that on hold a little, you know, when you’re returning to Earth after 300 odd years. And while I liked Clarke as a character, I found the boy’s views of her got very irritating: there were too many occasions where she looked more beautiful than ever watching a sunset or sniffing a flower.

I’d say this is a gentle read, and I expect more of the action will occur in the following two books (one which I shall be reading, the other is out in March). It’s a good background start to a trilogy and really builds its world against some interesting characters. I look forward to reading the next one, and I hope you will look forward to reading this one.

 

My Verdict:

 4