Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Book Club Picks #9 Dramarama

When Sadye Paulson gets accepted into a summer drama school, she is ecstatic! With her best friend, Demi, she enters the lives of other teenagers with the same dreams as her. However, drama school isn't all show-tunes and jazz hands. Sadye soon realises that being a theatre actor is more difficult than she thought, and a lot of her peers have more experience than she does. Sadye must work hard to show her teachers she is worthy of being there, but will her efforts be enough?

 As a huge musical theatre geek, this book seemed like it would be right up my street! Although I can't act to save my life, and my singing sounds like a cat being strangled,I do love listening to show-tunes, and have even seen a few West End shows and touring casts. I was therefore extremely happy when I discovered that February's book club book would be about a drama school!

The book follows Sarah Paulson, who under the advice of her best friend Douglas, a.k.a Demi, changes her name to Sadye. Sadye is extremely excited when she gets accepted into a summer drama programme, and is determined to show Morales, director of Broadway hit Oliver! what she's got. As Sadye hadn't had a lot of previous experience, I felt as if she was a little delusional, as she believed she would get all of the lead roles.I loved how she was brought back down to earth by her new friends,especially Nanette, who had previously been on Broadway. I loved how Nanette explained that being an actor isn't all glitz and glamour, and how pressured she felt by her family to get lead roles. I felt as if Sadye initially tried to place her roommates in a hierarchy, and didn't want to be on the bottom. Sadye seemed to be trying to push Candie to the bottom of her hierarchy, going so far as to bullying her for not being a great dancer.Although Sadye had her own weaknesses, she seemed to be trying to hide them by bringing Candie's to the foreground. Although I liked Sadye's enthusiasm, I didn't like that she felt the need to be mean to others in an attempt to make herself feel good.

Although the majority of the characters were white and heterosexual, there was a little diversity in the form of Demi, Lyle and Theo. I did however feel as if the majority of the diversity was packed into Demi, and as he was very flamboyant, he felt a little stereotypical. However I did adore Demi, and I felt as if Sadye treated him unfairly at times. I hated that she accused him for leading Lyle on when he had never done something like that before, and how her jealously caused arguments between them. I also found it unnecessary for Sadye to have a crush on Demi, as it was only mentioned in one paragraph towards the end of the book, and seemed to be completely random. I think I would have preferred if their relationship had remained 100% platonic.

Sadye was quite selfish for the majority of the book, especially when it came to Demi. I felt as if her unnecessary arguments with him led him to not trust her as much, and was reluctant to tell her his plans for the future in case she reacted badly. I mostly agreed with Demi in that Sadye was making her teachers notice her for all the wrong reasons, as she continued to pick fights with them when they were just doing their best to help her to improve. I felt as if Sadye never approached anything with an open mind, and instead of accepting constructive criticism, she was constantly criticising her teachers ways of teaching. I did however love that she redeemed herself with Demi, and sacrificed her happiness for his future.

One thing that was quite annoying for me was the lack of chapters. I always have to have chapters to give me a good idea of when it's okay to put the book down and go do something else. However, this book wasn't even split into parts, so it was difficult to decide when to stop reading. I didn't actually see a good reason for there to be no chapters, so I felt as if it would have made reading it a little easier for me if it had had chapters.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the epilogue! I felt as if it was unnecessary, and the book should have finished with the previous chapter. I felt as if the last chapter showed that sometimes things don't go how you thought they would, and sometimes you drift away from people who were once your friends. However, the epilogue seemed completely random, as it never actually gave us a time frame for when this was happening and was quite abrupt. Although I get that some authors like to leave an open ending for the reader to decide what happened next, I would have liked to have had a little more closure.

Although I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I was going to, it was still an interesting read. I loved all of the references to various musicals, songs and actors, and there was a couple of instances where a song would be mentioned and I would get it stuck in my head and start singing it! I felt as if most things were explained well enough for people who aren't into theatre to understand the references, but it did feel as if the book was written with fellow theatre geeks in mind. Although I am unsure if anyone who doesn't know the difference between a Tony award and Tony Hawk (points if you understood that reference!) would enjoy it this book, I think theatre lovers may like it.

Dramarama is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon Book Depository 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review on Dare to Fall

Pages: 325

Publisher: Ink Road

Goodreads Summary:

There's not much that MacKenzie Rivers is afraid of. In the small town of Windsor, Colorado, she is known for her easygoing, strong personality, some would even say she isn't afraid of anything. But MacKenzie knows that's not true. She's afraid of losing those closest to her. Recovering from a family tragedy, Kenzie is fully aware of just how big an impact death can have on those it leaves behind. Seeing its effects on other people is something she just can't quite handle. From now on, Kenzie is her own priority.

There are not many things that Jaden Hunter can make sense of. He doesn't understand why it was his parents who lost their lives last year. He doesn't understand why his friends don't crack jokes around him any more. He doesn't understand why his teachers still insist on letting him skip assignments. He doesn't understand why MacKenzie, the girl he was falling for last year, has suddenly distanced herself from him.

Too afraid to get wrapped up in Jaden's world as he deals with the tragic death of his parents, Kenzie has stayed away from him as best she can, until one night when they unexpectedly come face-to-face for the first time in months. As old feelings resurface and new memories are made, both MacKenzie and Jaden show each other how to appreciate the little things in life, the moments that are taken for granted. But will MacKenzie dare to fall for the one person she's so afraid of growing close to?

So I'll admit that it took me a while to decide if I wanted to sign up to this blog tour. Dare to Fall sounded like the type of cheesy contemporary romance that I usually hate, but the fact that the characters had gone through some sort of huge tragedy piqued my interest enough to give it a go! The book follows MacKenzie Rivers, a girl in her senior year of high school. Four years ago, MacKenzie experienced unimaginable grief when her baby sister was stillborn. When MacKenzie's mum starts drinking as a coping mechanism, MacKenzie feels lost and alone in her own grief. The only people who she knows would understand how she is feeling are twins Dani and Jaden Hunter, who lost their parents in a car crash. I felt as if this book dealt with grief in a raw and open way. Everyone copes with grief in different ways, and I loved how this was shown through the characters, such as MacKenzie's mum's drinking problem, and Dani cutting herself off from the outside world. I felt as if the book gave some good advice on how to cope with the loss of a loved one, such as opening up to others rather than keeping the emotions bottled up inside.

So the characters! I am continuing my trend of having a side character as my favourite, as I absolutely adored Kenzie's friend, Will. I loved how sweet he was, and how much he cared about Kenzie. I also loved that her best friends were both boys, and that there were no romantic feelings between them. I did have one problem with Will, which was how his sexuality seemed to be dismissed. We are told that the reason Kenzie has never dated Will is because he is gay, but apart from one homophobic comment, his sexuality is never brought up again. Now I love when there is a gay character who's plot doesn't revolve around the fact that they're gay, but I felt as if that wasn't what was happening here. There are practically no diverse characters in this book apart from Will, so I felt as if he was made to be gay for the sake of diversity. As Kenzie's other friend, Holden, never really has a love interest, and is described as never having a crush on the same person for long, I was hoping that something would happen between the two of them, but sadly I got my hopes up for nothing.

And now the romance, the part where I inevitably complain about how much I hated it, except, plot twist, I didn't actually hate it! One thing that I loved about the relationship between Kenzie and Jaden was that it wasn't the typically cliché instalove that I have come to loath. They had dated before the accident that had killed Jaden's parents, so this was more of a rekindling of their relationship. I loved how their relationship progressed slowly and naturally, and although there were a few cheesy moments, nothing made me want to roll my eyes. I initially thought Kenzie was quite mean for cutting Jaden and Dani out of her life at a time when they needed her the most, but I slowly started to see things from both perspectives.

So that plot twist! It's always difficult for me to talk about plot twists, as although I obviously don't want to spoil them, I also can't not mention them, especially when they are as shocking as this one! Although little hints were given that something wasn't quite right with Holden, I really didn't expect what had actually happened to him. The ending seemed bittersweet, as although things were starting to go in the right direction for Kenzie and Jaden, they were definitely going in the wrong direction for poor Holden. I was torn between feeling really sorry for him, and thinking how wrong it was for him to have kept his secret for so long. Really can someone please give that poor boy a hug?

I'm actually quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this book! Usually contemporary romance is a big no no for me, but I found the characters realistic, and there was enough going on outside of the romance to keep me interested. This is the first book I've read by Estelle Maskame, but it definitely won't be the last!

Dare to Fall is now available to purchase!

BlackandWhitePublishing| Amazon Book Depository 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review on Broken Branches

There is a curse in Ian Perkin's family. A curse that goes back over a century. After Ian's uncle and brother die in tragic ways, Ian decides to research his family tree in an attempt to see how far back the curse goes, and prove to his wife that it exists. Ian's obsession with the curse causes him to neglect his job and family, leaving him alone in the house after his wife takes their son away to live with her mother. Alone in the house, Ian starts to experience things he can't explain. What is the shadow lurking in his peripheral vision? Who is the small boy who comes to visit him once it gets dark? Will Ian be able to stop the curse from coming for his family, or is it already too late?

Sometimes you come across those books that you think you aren't going to enjoy before you even open them. It could be the cover or the blurb that just doesn't quite grab your attention, but there's just something about the book that makes you go into it with low expectations. This was my initial reaction to Broken Branches. Although Hideaway Fall have been lovely, and I adored the blogger pack I received from them, I wasn't really looking forward to receiving their first publication. When I started the book rather reluctantly almost a month after receiving it, I thought my first impression had been right. Apart from wanting to know more about what happened to Ian's brother, I wasn't really interested in Ian's mundane family life, and almost decided to give up a couple of chapters in. But then something changed. A change in tense to explain Ian's past, and from that point I was hooked! I needed to know more about this curse, what really happened to Uncle Stephen and what drove Stuart to commit suicide. I realised my first impression had been wrong, and I ended up not wanting to put the book down!

So more about the book itself. It follows Ian, a seemingly average man who works from home, has a nice house and lives with his wife, Rachel, and their small son, Harry. However, something a little more sinister lies beneath the surface, a family curse that goes back generations. I found the origin of the curse to be both sad and creepy, and it made me wonder if there really was a curse, or if the deaths in the family were just unfortunate coincidences. The story is told from two different timelines, one being told from the present, and the other from Ian's childhood. I found this to be initially confusing, as it took me a while to realise what was going on, and although the chapters usually alternated between what tense we were in, sometimes they broke this pattern, leading me to believe it was being told from Ian's childhood when it was actually from the present. I felt as if this could have easily been resolved by adding the date at the start of each chapter. I do realise some authors dislike doing this, as it dates their work, but I felt as if it wouldn't be a huge problem with this book, as we get a sense of it being in the modern world from the technology available. Although I did enjoy both timelines, I preferred reading about Ian's childhood, as I loved learning about what had happened to his family, and the reason why he stopped talking to them.

I felt sorry for Ian, as it was obvious that Stuart was the preferred child. Whereas on Stuart's sixteenth birthday he was told he would inherit the farm, Ian's birthday was ignored. I felt as if the only family member who treated him with kindness was his mother, and it was sad how Ian felt as if he didn't belong in his hometown anymore.

Parts of the story were told in a horror story type fashion, which I loved, and found to be quite creepy, particularly when Ian was in an empty house. I adored the imagery that went into creating a creepy and uneasy atmosphere, and I particularly loved how the tree was personified to make it seem more sinister.

Something that I thought worked brilliantly was how we were given frequent but subtle hints that something wasn't quite right with Ian's mental state, such as how he was obsessed with his family tree to the point that he neglected his job, and didn't even seem to care when he got fired. Although we get most of the story from Ian's point of view, I loved that we got to see Ian through Rachel's eyes. Ian is estranged from his family, but it is obvious that the deaths of his family members have caused a huge amount of stress and grief for him. We all deal with such raw emotions in different ways, and Ian's way is to throw himself into trying to prove that a family curse is real. Along with feeling sorry for Ian, I also felt sorry for Rachel. It was obvious that she just wanted to help her husband, but it was all becoming a little too much for her. The fact that she didn't believe in the curse at all showed just how bad Ian's current mental state was.

There are a few upsetting themes that I thought I would just quickly mention, including implied murder, depression, suicide, grief, and the deaths of children. There are a couple of death scenes that I found to be quite gruesome and shocking, with one being particularly heartbreaking, so either avoid this book or read with caution if you think any of these themes will cause you distress.

So the ending, oh my god. Obviously I don't want to spoil anything, but that was the plot twist to end all plot twists! It was completely shocking and unexpected, and gave us a little confirmation as to if supernatural occurrences were actually happening, or if it was all in Ian's head. I felt as if Ian's grief and depression were shown in a realistic way, and how sometimes we repress memories due to a high level of trauma.

I've learnt that sometimes my first impression of a book is completely wrong, as I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. It deals with grief, loss and depression in a real and flawless way, with an added bonus of supernatural elements. If, like me, Broken Branches isn't the type of book you would normally enjoy, then I would urge you to give it a go, as you might just be surprised!

Broken Branches is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Review on The Waking Land

When Elanna is five years old, she is kidnapped by King Antoine, an enemy of her father, and taken to live with him in Eren. Elanna grows up to love Antoine like a father, and is soon taught to see her own people as the enemy. However, fourteen years after Elanna was taken, King Antoine is murdered, and Elanna becomes the prime suspect. Elanna is forced to flee Eren, and return to the parents who never tried to rescue her. After discovering she is the Caveadear, a powerful sorceress who can control the land, Elanna must decide where her loyalties lie, and whether she'll show mercy, or seek revenge.

So as I've probably mentioned multiple times, fantasy is my all time favourite genre. After managing to tear my eyes away from the gorgeous cover for long enough to actually read the synopsis, I knew I had to read this one! It follows Elanna, a sorceress who has been kidnapped by the King. The book starts with a map, yes a map! I always get excited over seeing a map at the start of the book, as it always means that the protagonist is going to be going on some sort of epic adventure. After staring at the map for at least ten minutes, I was happy to discover that the book started with a prologue instead of going into back story later down the line. I feel that being in the heart of the story rather than a character telling a long winded back story is always more effective at getting the point across, and doesn't bore the reader. It immediately made me interested in Elanna's story, and wanting to find out what was going to happen to her.

Although the book started out in a promising way, I felt as if it progressed a little too slowly, and I did find it to be a little boring at times. There was a lot of travelling after the initial escape from Eren, which felt quite slow and tedious. It took me quite a while to get into the book because of this, and I was often only reading for ten minutes at a time before getting bored. I did however start to enjoy the book more once we started to learn more about Elanna's abilities. Although I have seen powers similar to Elanna's in other YA books, I loved that there was lore behind who she was, and I loved learning about Wildegarde and her ancestors. I also loved how she slowly learnt the extent of her powers. I particularly adored her powers towards the end of the book, as the walking trees reminded me of the Ent's from Lord of the Rings.

I was a little disappointed in the characters themselves, as I felt as if most of them lacked personality, and the fact that most of them appeared sporadically didn't do much to help me gain some sort of emotional attachment to them. Although the protagonist is rarely my favourite character in fantasy books, I think Elanna was my favourite simply because she was one of the few characters with a past, and I felt sorry for her for what she had to endure. With the exception of Rhia, I found the rest of the female characters dull. I did initially like Victoire, Elanna's best friend, but like some of the other characters, she disappeared for half of the book, and I'd lost interest in her by the time she returned. Although I did love the reveal of who Sophy really was, I again found her quite dull as a character.

I did like a couple of the male characters, particularly Finn. I loved the reveal of who he really was, and also his friendship with Jahan. I thought Finn was a sweet character, and he seemed one of the more realistic characters, as he had flaws such as running away from danger rather than laying down his life. Although I loved Jahan as a character, I found his relationship with Elanna a little uncomfortable. I knew from the moment he was introduced that he would be the love interest, and I found the romance between him and Elanna to be too cheesy and instalovey, with Elanna pretty much instantly being attracted to him. I found the whole wedding the land plot particularly weird, and didn't quite understand how that actually worked. One thing that I thought was unnecessary was the rumour than Jahan was in a romantic relationship with the prince who he had saved. As this turned out to be untrue, it felt a little as if it was queer baiting, and I felt as if this was the wrong way to go about making Elanna jealous, and believing Jahan was already taken. Aside from the romance, I thought Jahan was an interesting character, and I wanted to learn more about his past and the extent of his powers. I also want to briefly mention The Butcher, one of the main villains in the book. I loved how he was initially seen as a ruthless villain who was not above torturing people, but throughout the book we were given little hints that he wasn't as bad as he seemed. I loved that it was impossible to tell which side he would take, and I was quietly rooting for him to do the right thing and help Elanna.

I loved that Elanna was torn between Eren and Caeris, as she had a history of living in both. It was interesting to see that Elanna seemed to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, as although she was kidnapped and kept against her will, she soon sees her kidnapper as a fatherly figure. Elanna acted as a bridge between Eren and Caeris, and I loved how she slowly realised how everything she had been taught about Caeris was a lie, and how she helped both sides to co-exist by showing them how corrupt their Queen was. Although the action picked up towards the end of the book, I felt as if they won their cause far too easily. I loved that they won with little bloodshed, but it also felt a little like an anti climax with everyone deciding to surrender. I felt as if a little resistance would have made it more exciting, and would have given Elanna a bit more of a challenge.

There were several instances where the book completely confused me, particular in the first half. There were so many locations to keep track of, and I was constantly referring back to the map to find out where the characters were. I felt as if the map could have done with being extended slightly, as there were a few places mentioned that weren't actually on the map. I was also confused over some of the characters, particularly those who were mentioned several times, but who we never got to meet. I spent a good few chapters thinking that Finn was the prince who Jahan had saved, only later figuring out that Jahan's prince was a completely different character who we never got to meet. I also felt there were too many background characters who I easily lost track of.

I'm still a little torn about how I feel about this book, which will probably show in my rating. There were certain things that I loved, such as waking the ancestors and the trees and learning about Elanna's abilities, but I think the confusion over what was happening ruined it a little for me. As the world has been established now, I am wondering if I would enjoy the second book more, as hopefully there would be less info dumping. I am interested in the book enough to want to continue reading the series, but unfortunately it wasn't my favourite fantasy YA read.

The Waking Land is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Review on Strange Medicine

“Weird and wonderful stories for all that ails you.”

This book of eight short stories focuses on the strange, the weird, and occasionally the scary. From an invisible mime, to a man with no brain, there is something in this book for whatever ails you.

So short stories aren't usually my thing, and I find them difficult to review. Although my reviews don't necessarily follow a structure, I always discuss the characters, their motives and their personality. However, with short stories, this is almost impossible to do. Short stories serve the purpose of telling us a single line of narrative, with no subplots, no romantic ventures unless necessary to the plot, and little character development and world building. The stories in Strange Medicine are there to shock you, to make you feel uncomfortable and to overall weird you out. I adore anything out of the ordinary, and I felt as if a few of these stories had a bit of a Welcome to Nightvale vibe. I loved that non of the stories were interconnected, letting you read them in any order. I also loved that they were all different lengths, as a couple of times I had a limited time in which I could read, meaning I would choose to read one of the shorter ones, whereas once I was relaxed in bed for the night, I would choose the longer ones. The book is also short enough to read in one sitting, at just 141 pages.

I always feel as if I'm in danger of spoiling the stories when I try to share my opinions on the stories themselves, but I'm going to try to mention my favourites without being too spoilery. I adored Flock, the first story in the book. It is about a man called Anthony Tobias Bradshaw, who continues to go to work every day despite the business no longer existing. I loved that the story kept repeating his full name, and kept giving us little hints that something wasn't right, along with creating a sense of unease. I felt as if this story could easily have been a Welcome to Nightvale storyline, as it was based around a man completing tasks he thought were completely normal, while the other characters and the reader thought he was strange. I loved that his actions became progressively stranger, right up until the bizarre twist at the end.

Another story that I loved was the last one in the book, Shish. I think I probably loved this one so much as it reminded me of one of my favourite anime's, Parayste the maxim, but instead of having a hand being possessed by an alien, this story was about a young girl who finds a fish growing out of her shoulder. Although this story was probably the silliest, I also found it the creepiest, particularly the ending. Having multiple fishy heads looking at me would not be my idea of fun! I also adored Brain, a story about a professor who, after having a CT scan, discovers that he has no brain.

Although I adored most of these stories, there were a couple that were so weird that I didn't fully understand what was going on. I preferred the longer stories, as the extremely short ones, such as The Spy, made little sense to me. I'm not sure if it was just me who found some of the stories confusing and totally missing the point, or if other readers would feel the same.

I overall really enjoyed these stories! They are perfect for anyone who enjoys reading, but doesn't have the time for novels. Each story is short enough to read in about 15 minutes or less, so they're perfect for reading on the commute to work, or during your lunch break. I definitely prescribe this book for anyone who loves reading anything out of the ordinary!

Strange Medicine is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Goodnight, Boy Blog Tour: Get Ahead as an Author - Get a Dog

So today I have a guest post from Nikki Sheehan, author of "Goodnight Boy" on a subject I'm very passionate about, dogs!

 Dogs make the very best muses. I know because I wrote a book about a boy and a dog, with two of my own fur babies constantly by my side. Goodnight, Boy is written to and about a dog, and it explores how, even in the very worst circumstances, a dog will keep you going. Any authors reading this will know that I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that the badlands of 20,000 words into a first draft is a pretty bad place to find yourself. As is sitting down to the smell of freshly-sent editorial notes.

So here is a rundown of why, if you want to get ahead in publishing, you should most definitely get a dog.

1. Basics
The only indispensable rule I know for writing is that you must have your bum on a seat, and your fingers on the keyboard to produce anything. So, if, as a dog owner, you’re forced to spend more time at home, this is a good start. If you also have a dog keeping your toes warm (as Edith Wharton put it,
‘a heartbeat at my feet’), it really does discourage you from wandering off and doing housework.

2. Distractions
Talking of housework, once you’re a dog owner, I can guarantee you’ll spend less time on housework, redecorating and the general maintenance of what is normally seen as an acceptable standard of hygiene because keeping up with the mess dogs create is pretty much futile. One of my dogs sheds like a dandelion clock mid blow, 24 hours a day. This may sound like a negative, but actually time spent not hoovering can be diverted into words, paragraphs, chapters, and head stroking.

3. Hobbies
Forget hobbies. Writing takes time; for thinking, drafting, editing, and Twitter stalking writers more successful than yourself. So the last thing you need is an interesting pastime, such as badminton or medieval battle enactment. It won’t matter though, because, as a writer you get to experience any number of strange locations and events in your head. And, if you’re ever asked at a publishing party what else you do, just say you have a dog because a dog is a hobby, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees.

4. Health and fitness
There’s a syndrome, coined by the incomparable author Pip Jones, known as SAAD: Spreading Author Arse Disorder. Sedentary hours make SAAD pretty much inevitable, so you’re going to have to get some exercise in somehow. Dogs like walks even though they don’t have Fitbit buddies to impress. The longer and more frequent the better, and in absolutely any weather (unless they’re like one of mine, who is half cat, and won’t go out if showers are forecast). On walkies your dog will meet up with their mates and you’ll make friends with their owners too (think, park scene in 101

Dalmatians, but, in my experience, less romantic). If you’re lucky, these humans will be the sort who don’t mind you bouncing book ideas off them or moaning about writing. Even if they do, they’re a lot more polite about it than your family are. And when you’re not exploiting the personal generosity of strangers, you get to spend time walking alone listening to music and audio books (consuming other people’s books is part of the job) or just walking in silence, which sometimes allows you hear those really shy, difficult voices that lurk at the back of your brain.

5. Mental health
Being a writer can be wonderful but, contrary to popular belief, it’s probably not the way to
everlasting happiness. Granted, writing can be cathartic at times, but once you’ve catharted you have to live with the fact that other people, thousands of them, will be reading, judging, maybe even hurling across the room in disgust, the product of said catharsis. Fortunately, dogs probably can’t read – though, as the first draft of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was eaten by his dog, Max, you have to wonder. Generally speaking, however, your dog will not mind how bad your first draft is. They equally won’t care about reviews, prizes, foreign rights sales, or if you’re even any good or hopelessly derivative and commercially out of kilter. Dogs are all about here and now. And, as writers, if we can try to be more dog, and concentrate on the process rather than the product, I have a feeling that we’d not only be a lot happier, but better writers too.

6. Love
People worry about being lonely if they work from home, but I never feel alone. I work with fantastic colleagues who can’t talk to me. This means they can’t discuss the project they’re working on, ask

what’s for dinner, or chat about school. They never disagree with me, or storm off to their bedroom, and they don’t judge me when I get in a strop because Scrivener is stupid. (It is - fact). Dogs take tolerance and unconditional love to saintly levels, and like nothing better than to soothe the furrowed brow of the needy writer with a lick, a well-placed head on the lap, or a paw in the hand. They’re philosophers, therapists, personal trainers, and friends. And that’s why authors need dogs.

One last historical note; George Eliot’s publisher sent her a pug as part payment for one of her novels. A practice that, I hope my publisher will agree, should definitely be revived for 2017.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Review on If Birds Fly Back

When Linny sees Alvaro Herrera, a writer who disappeared three years ago, and who was presumed to be dead alive and kicking, she is eager to talk to him. Linny's older sister, Grace, left home with no explanation, and Linny is desperate to find her. Maybe if she can discover why Alvaro came back, she can find a way to bring Grace back too. However, her plans are thwarted when she meets Sebastian, a boy who has his own reasons for wanting to talk to Alvaro. Linny and Sebastian soon learn that they have both lost someone important to them, but will Alvaro really be able to help them both?

I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this book or not, as although the main plot sounded interesting, I could tell that romance would play a big part of it. The book follows Linny, a girl who's older sister, Grace, has left home with no explanation as to where she is going, or why she left. When Linny starts volunteering at a care home during the summer, she meets Alvaro Herrera, an eighty year old author who had gone missing for three years, and who everyone thought was dead. Linny wants to find out why missing people return, and believes that Alvaro will be able to help her.

I loved how each chapter alternated point of views between Linny and Sebastian, giving us a personal insight into the mind of each character. I loved how a few of the scenes were repeated so that we could see the same event from both characters viewpoint. I felt as if this worked well when one of the characters had information that the other didn't, which led them to experience certain events differently.

The main characters being POC was great, and I especially loved that both Alvaro and Sebastian were bilingual. I particularly loved Alvaro being bilingual, as forgetting certain words in English and finding them in Spanish gave us an early indication that something wasn't quite right with him. I felt that the lack of LGBT+ characters let the book down in terms of diversity, as all we had was the token LGBT+ friend, who was Linny's best friend's friend. I felt as if him not being straight was just the authors sad attempt at throwing a LGBT+ character into the book. The fact that Linny initially thought that Ray was dating her best friend Cass, but then apparently had an on off boyfriend that we never actually meet showed that little thought had gone into his character, as aside from being the only character who isn't heterosexual, his only other role seemed to be driving Linny to various places.

So of course I have to talk about the romance between Linny and Sebastian, which I'm actually a little conflicted on. I did find certain things adorable, even if they were incredibly cheesy, and felt as if they had come straight out of a Disney Channel Original movie. Although it was pretty much instalove, I felt as if their relationship developed in a natural way, and didn't move too quickly. However, one of my most hated ways of creating character conflict crept up, miscommunication. I couldn't understand why Linny would keep information from Sebastian that he would obviously want to know. Although her excuse was that she didn't want to hurt his feelings, I knew from the minute she decided not to tell him that it would create problems between them later on. I felt as if the book didn't really need so much drama between them, and it felt as if the author had just decided there needed to be conflict, rolled a dice and picked miscommunication. I did think that certain scenes made up for it from pure adorableness, such as the stars scene, but I also felt as if the scenes where they were intimate with each other focused too much on what was happening physically, rather than on the characters emotions.

The storyline involving Alvaro was heart breaking, and I found it really sad that he felt like he had to hide from the world so that people would remember him for what he was like before he had dementia. As someone who had a family member with dementia, I always find these types of story lines upsetting, and I felt sorry for both Alvaro and Sebastian. I was sad that Sebastian never got to tell Alvaro what he wanted to, but I also felt as if it was realistic, and had more of an impact than if he had told him. It did make me wonder if Alvaro knew who Sebastian was, and as everything else was solved, I loved that this was left open for interpretation.

I thought Linny's character development was great, and I loved how she started out wanting Grace to come home, and trying to find ways to bring her back, to eventually letting her go and accepting she was probably never coming back. I adored how we got a bit of Linny's screenplay that she had been writing at the end of her chapters, and I felt as if it gave a good insight to how she felt about Grace leaving. I loved the wings metaphor, and how Linny felt as if Grace had taken all the colour from the world with her, and how Linny eventually rediscovered colour without Grace.

Although I loved both Linny and Sebastian, I felt as if their personalities didn't really stand out from other contemporary YA characters. There are always those characters who you discover and fall in love with who end up being one of your all time favourite characters. Unfortunately I don't think Linny and Sebastian are unique enough for that, and sadly I will probably forget all about them in a few months. The only character who stood out for me was Alvaro, as I loved his unique personality, and I wanted things to get better for him. I feel as if we need more grandfatherly figures in YA novels, and although Alvaro had made some mistakes in his life, I loved that he tried to make up for them.

I found this book to be a fairly quick read, and I overall enjoyed the main plot, and felt as if it gave some important messages, particularly about following a career path you want, rather than doing what your parents want you to do. Although the romance wasn't really for me, I feel as if anyone who actually enjoys cute and cheesy teen romance would love it. I don't normally give books half ratings, but I think I would give this one a 3.5

If Birds Fly Back is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Monday, 26 June 2017

20 years of Harry Potter

 Oh my wizard god has it really been that long? I honestly feel ancient. So what kind of Harry Potter fan would I be if I didn't make a blog post for the 20th anniversary of Philosophers Stone? Ok so confession, I didn't get into Harry Potter the day it came out. At the time I was five years old and was probably more interested in making mud pies than reading books. It took a couple more years for me to get into the series, and I have to thank my year 4 teacher, Miss Ellis for that. I remember the first time I heard the words “Harry Potter” were from my mum. By that time I was seven, and I was slowly getting into books. I adored anything by Roald Dahl, my favourite being Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was also going through a phase of loving animals, particularly horses. Yes I was the weird horse girl for some time, but there was a series I adored called Animal Ark. I'm not sure if anyone will remember these books, but they revolved around a young girl called Mandy who's parents were vets, and they all had names like kittens in the kitchen and pony in the parlour. Thinking back to it, they weren't all that great, but I have them to thank for getting me started on my reading journey.

Anyway, back to Harry Potter. I remember thinking “Harry Potter” was the most boring name on earth. To me, it was as bad as being called John Smith. Because of this, I really wasn't interested in
 reading these books. I'd heard they were about magic, but how could a book about someone called Harry Potter be interesting? I continued to ignore all things Harry Potter, until year 4 English class. Now I adored English class, particularly because of Miss Ellis. I thought she was really cool and she had us reading The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson which I ended up loving. Miss Ellis was younger than the other teachers, around her mid 20's, so I think she was a little more down with the kids that the other teachers. Now I wasn't in Miss Ellis's form group, but I knew she was reading Harry Potter to her form group for half an hour every day at the end  of the school day. I didn't really care much about this, until the faithful day my form tutor was sick and there was no cover for him, so my class was merged into Miss Ellis's for the day. Miss Ellis decided to continue her form group as normal despite the extra students, which included the end of the day reading of Harry Potter. Despite her already being halfway through the book, I was completely hooked! I had been wrong, Harry Potter wasn't boring. Harry Potter was amazing.

So what was a kid to do when she wasn't in the awesome Harry Potter reading Miss Ellis's class? Well firstly, I was extremely jealous that some of my friends were getting read this amazing story every day. I think my friends in Miss Ellis's class were getting sick of me asking about Harry Potter. I couldn't just switch classes, so I did the only thing I could do. I picked up a copy of Philosophers Stone from my school library, and I started reading for myself. By this point, Prisoner of Azkaban
had come out, so I practically whizzed through the first three books, and waited patiently for book four. By year five, the movie adaptation of Philosophers Stone was coming out, and I think I was practically shitting myself with excitement. I originally planned to go see it with my mum, but my school arranged a school trip, so instead of forcing my mum to come with me I went along with the school. I was in awe of seeing everything I'd read come alive on the big screen. It was the first time I had watched a movie adaptation of a book I'd read, and I honestly thought it was the best thing in the world that I knew what was going to happen next. I think I annoyed my friend who hadn't read the books by telling her what was about to happen, and how something “scary” was coming up. I had to explain a few times that I hadn't seen the movie before, I'd just read the book.

So with all the reading and not really having many friends, the characters in Harry Potter practically became my best friends, particularly Hermione. Seeing a girl who was a bit of a nerd, loved reading as much as I did, but who was loved by her friends and helped to save the world was such an inspiration
to me. I went through junior school getting bullied, and only having one or two friends by year 5. I would often spend break times in the library with Harry rather than going outside. Every time a new book came out, I was ecstatic, and would practically lock myself in my room until I'd finished it. I remember reading Order of the Phoenix in two days because I knew there was a character death, and I didn't want it to be spoilt for me. I loved queuing up outside the book store at midnight, ready to be one of the first to grab the new Potter book.

These books definitely shaped my childhood, and even though I moved on from junior school to high school, where I practically left all my old friends behind and made new ones, the friends who I did bring with me were Harry, Ron and Hermione. I made a few friends who loved Harry Potter as much as me, and even into college I made Potter friends who went along with the movies to me. It is true that we do grow out of things as we get older, but Harry Potter is something that grew alongside me. When the movies came out, I was the same age as the actors, and as the books started to be published less frequently than every year, I ended up close to the age of the book characters too. I think I truly was the Harry Potter generation, and I'm so thankful that I had these slightly older characters to look up to. I think I still adore Harry Potter now as much as I did then, and I'm still constantly watching the movies and reading the books. I've even been to a Harry Potter convention and the studio tour! I've also had the opportunity of meeting a few amazing people, including some of the cast of Cursed Child, Warwick Davies, and Chris Rankin, the awesome and lovely actor who plays Percy Weasley who I get the opportunity to chat to twice a year at my local comic con!

I think I'll love Harry Potter for years to come. I honestly can't see myself ever “growing out of it”. Harry Potter is so much more than just a children's book series. As I grew up, the books grew up with me, and I think that's a magical thing that future generations won't be able to experience quite in the same way. When people ask me in forty years if I still like Harry Potter, my answer will be