Thursday 20 July 2017

YALC Reading & What I'm Hoping To Do...

London Comic Con and YALC are nearly here again! From July 28 to July 30 it's going to be wall-to-wall authors, celebrities and stalls selling all manner of things, all equally hard to resist.

This year I decided to be at least semi-organized and I put together a reading list and a schedule for YALC panels and signings. Blank spaces are for when I intend to be celebrity stalking  spotting...

Reading Schedule

I've read seven of the thirteen titles I'd planned so far, although in not in the order I have in my schedule! Where I went wrong was trying to start with Strange the Dreamer, I had such a bad book-hangover afterwards I couldn't get into another book for two days. Back on track now though, and kicking myself for taking so long to read some of my chosen books. I'm going to try and get some mini reviews up of my YALC reads soon, my laptop has gone kaput though so typing everything on my teeny tiny tablet. In other words, bear with me!

If you're going to YALC or LFCC please do come and say hi! If I don't get my nerve up to post a photo on Instagram I'll be the one with pink hair and a green walking stick...

Monday 17 July 2017

Spooky Settings That Inspired Robyn Silver - Paula Harrison

Paula Harrison is back with the next book in the action packed 'Robyn Silver' adventure series. I absolutely loved The Midnight Chimes and The Darkest Dream is even better. The boldest, brightest new heroine has returned: and Robyn Silver’s life hasn’t got any quieter since defeating the evil vampire Pearl in The Midnight Chimes. She’s now a fully fledged Chime Child and monster-hunter-in-training alongside best friends Aiden and Nora. The three suddenly start seeing nightmares -  in the form of black beetles - appear around town. Who wants the people of Grimdean to be losing sleep - and why?
To celebrate the release of 'The Darkest Dream' here is a fantastic guest post from Paula Harrison about places that helped to inspire her. I don't need to say anything about the fact that this is actually a list of some of my favourite fictional places...

Five spooky settings in stories that helped inspire Robyn Silver: The Darkest Dream
One of my favourite parts of writing Robyn Silver was inventing the spooky settings. Some are classically spooky such as Grimdean House, a mansion with monsters imprisoned in the basement, secret tunnels inside the walls and a barn full of bats in the garden. Sometimes I enjoyed the thrill of turning a familiar place into a spooky setting, such as the time Robyn and Nora meet a monster at a park, skulking behind the swings. So here are some of my favourite spooky settings that helped inspire my writing.
Thornfield Hall
Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté is the classic gothic mansion. There are odd noises at night and strange laughter, and a suspicion that someone or something is haunting the corridors. Jane Eyre prides herself on being sensible but she can’t help being affected by the eeriness of Thornfield.
Willoughby Chase
The house in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken uses some of the same Gothic tropes as Thornfield Hall. The mansion is very grand and full of unexplored corners. It’s bitterly cold and wolves have migrated to England, making it incredibly dangerous for the characters to venture outside. This added peril and the bleakness of the winter makes Willoughby Chase a striking and memorable setting. Joan Aiken maintains a constant sense of threat both within the house and without.
Howl’s Moving Castle
The door to Howl’s castle, in the book by Diana Wynne Jones, is a portal that opens on to four different places. This idea is used to brilliant effect by the author. The main character, Sophie, feels trapped during early parts of the story but ends up regarding the place as her home.
The village of Huntercombe is where Will Stanton lives in The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. This ordinary English village, based on a place in Buckinghamshire, is the backdrop to a fight between the forces of the Light and the Dark. Susan Cooper is a master at building atmosphere and familiar places including roads (Oldway), the manor house and the church are used to build tension. The ordinariness of these settings makes each spooky scene feel more real.
Alderley Edge
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner is set in Cheshire around Alderley Edge. Garner chose to set the story in a real landscape and this gives the action even greater impact. The use of the mines in the story is a particular favourite for me, as Susan and Colin are trapped inside and have to find their way out without alerting the hundreds of goblins (the svart alfar) that live underground. But like The Dark is Rising, the eeriest moment is when the forces of evil besiege the farmhouse they’re staying in. The familiar setting makes action far more chilling.

About The Author

Paula Harrison is a best-selling children's author, with worldwide sales of over one million copies. Her books include The Rescue Princesses series. She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first.

Website | Twitter


Wednesday 12 July 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday #189 - The Glass Town Game

Can't Wait Wednesday is a new weekly meme hosted here to spotlight and talk about the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally, they're books that have yet to be released as well. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
This week's choice is -

The Glass Town Game - Catherynne M Valente
ISBN - 9781481476966
Publisher - Margaret K McElderry Books
Release date - September 5th, 2017

Charlotte and Emily must enter a fantasy world that they invented in order to rescue their siblings in this adventurous and fiercely intelligent novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Inside a small Yorkshire parsonage, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have invented a game called Glass Town, where their toy soldiers fight Napoleon and no one dies. This make-believe land helps the four escape from a harsh reality: Charlotte and Emily are being sent away to a dangerous boarding school, a school they might not return from. But on this Beastliest Day, the day Anne and Branwell walk their sisters to the train station, something incredible happens: the train whisks them all away to a real Glass Town, and the children trade the moors for a wonderland all their own.

This is their Glass Town, exactly like they envisioned it…almost. They certainly never gave Napoleon a fire-breathing porcelain rooster instead of a horse. And their soldiers can die; wars are fought over the potion that raises the dead, a potion Anne would very much like to bring back to England. But when Anne and Branwell are kidnapped, Charlotte and Emily must find a way to save their siblings. Can two English girls stand against Napoleon’s armies, especially now that he has a new weapon from the real world? And if he escapes Glass Town, will England ever be safe again?

Together the Brontë siblings must battle with a world of their own creation if they are to make it back to England alive in this magical celebration of authorship, creativity, and classic literature from award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente.

If you're a fan of Catherynne Valente, the Brontes, Tales of Glass Town, Angria & Gondal or all three then this is a no-brainer really. I grew up reading the Brontes and my love for Catherynne Valente's work is no secret so this book is at the top of my wishlist!

Saturday 8 July 2017

Stunt Double - Tamsin Cooke

Finn is a free-running black belt, with a talent for acting-but when his big break arrives, it's not the role he was expecting at all. 

Recruited as a stunt double, he's pushed to his limits-scaling walls at high speed, jumping from dizzying heights, and diving into rocky waters-all without any safety gear. He's determined to push himself, but as the stunts get more dangerous, the lines between movie and reality are really starting to blur, and it becomes clear that he'll be luckily to escape this shoot with his life.

'Sometimes real life can be more exciting than the movies' and Finn is about to discover this himself. After finally getting a speaking role in the same teen action movie as his former friend and now arch-nemesis Blake, Finn is horrified when he loses the part to a girl. He doesn't have to brood for long though as Agatha Novak, the famed but rather eccentric director, catches him somewhere he shouldn't be. Fast forward a couple of days, Finn is now Blake's stunt double and they're heading out to Papua New Guinea to film some of the more daring stunts.

What Finn, Blake, Anna and Mawi don't realize is that Novak has an alternative agenda and doesn't care what lengths she has to go to achieve it or who she hurts. Only after Anna is injured and most of the crew disappear do the teenagers start to notice that things aren't quite as they seem. Suddenly finding themselves in 'life or death' situations it would appear that real life is maybe about to get both more exciting and dangerous.

Stunt Double is a fantastic read, you never quite know who is in on the real reason for the cast and crew to be in Papua New Guinea and who isn't. Novak doesn't hold back on some pretty cruel ways of persuading the children to do what she wants, in fact some of it is really quite scary for a boy thousands of miles away from everything and everybody he knows. The reason for their current location was amazing, without giving anything away it really was something spectacular and something so unbelievable that it made it seem all the more real. 

Tamsin Cooke has written a real page-turner of an adventure story, with a great cast of characters both young and old. Although Finn and Mawi were definitely my favourites I had a soft spot for our batty director who thoroughly deserved everything she got for dragging children into an incredibly perilous adventure, although I think Finn was quite rightly in his element! If you're looking for an addictive read, full of action with a healthy dose of friendship, then Stunt Double is perfect. I can't wait to find out if we're going to see more of Finn as although this story is finished, there's a "what? what just happened? now that's a bit of a cliff-hanger!" moment and I sincerely hope his adventures as a Stunt Double continue.

Stunt Double - Tamsin Cooke
ISBN - 9780192749826
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Release date - July 6th, 2017
Find - Goodreads | Book Depository

On Finding Inspiration In A Car Park - Tamsin Cooke

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Stunt Double, the fantastic new novel by Tamsin Cooke. As this guest post goes to show, you really can find inspiration anywhere!

Finding inspiration in a car park!

Inspiration can strike absolutely anywhere – in dreams, while dog walking, from music or paintings, - you name it. Inspiration can even hit you when sitting in a car at the side of the road in the middle of an industrial estate!

I knew that I wanted to start a new story and this time I wanted to have a boy as the main character. But I didn’t have a solid idea. I’d been thinking about storylines involving travel or mistaken identity.

Then one evening, feeling hot, sweaty and rather irritable (although you probably didn’t need to know that), I sat watching the door to my teenage son’s free running club. He’d been having a fantastic time - running, vaulting, somersaulting, swinging – basically doing anything he could to get from one point to another in the fastest possible way. But now he was late and in a hurry.

At last, he emerged. He ran through the car park dodging vehicles, vaulted the wall and swung over the bonnet of our car.
‘Don’t you dare!’ I shouted before he could leap straight through the back open window.
He opened the door and flopped inside.

But I didn’t turn on the engine. Instead, I froze. My son had reminded me of a stunt performer. And it occurred to me – wouldn’t that be the most amazing job for a teenager? It’s full of risk, adventure, and glamour. Suddenly I remembered the Fall Guy – a television programme I watched as a child about an undercover
stuntman who captures criminals using his skills and knowledge of stunts. I used to love it.

‘Are we going then?’ asked the impatient teenager.
Still, I didn’t move.  It was a real ‘Eureka!’ moment.

When I get an idea for a story, images fly into my head. I conjure up scenes and they play out in my brain like an act from a movie.  At that moment, although sitting in the car in the industrial estate, in my mind I could see a bridge – the sort that splits into two parts allowing a ship to go through, like Tower Bridge in London. A boy was scrambling up one of the rising wings of the bridge. Running as hard as he could, the wing rose steeper and steeper. He grabbed onto the edge and pulled himself up, until he was perched on the ridge, ready to jump across.
‘Cut’ shouted the director.
Suddenly I noticed the wires connecting his body to a crane in case he fell. And there were camera crew filming his every move.

‘Mum, are we going?’ said my son, jolting me back to reality.
‘Would you like to be a stunt performer when you’re older?’ I said, turning on the engine.
‘What are you talking about?’ he asked.
‘Never mind.’

I drove home as fast as I could (not like a stunt driver I must add!) and started Googling stuntmen.  To my dismay, I discovered stunt performers have to be over the age of 18. Arggh! Then I realized this was going to be fiction. I could make it work. Plus being a teenage stunt double was no longer just exciting, it was illegal too!

Over the next few weeks, I scoured the Internet, researching movies and stunt performers. I talked to a director and met a real life stuntwoman  - who might be one of the coolest people in the world!  Every time I learnt something knew, another new idea sparked. The more I learned, the more inspired I became.  Scenes flew into my head and I frantically scribbled down the ideas.  I am a planner. I can’t just write and let a story evolve. Soon I had the whole story mapped out.

I condensed all of my ideas into a one-page synopsis and sent it off to my agent Anne Clarke who then sent it off to my publishers. To my utter joy, Oxford University Press said YES. For those of you old enough to remember the orange juice advert on TV, I felt like the man from Delmonte had said Yes!!! Just like movies are given the green light to start filming, I was given the green light to start writing.  Stunt Double was born!

Huge thanks to Tamsin for the fabulous guest post and don't forget to check out my review of this fantastic adventure story.


Thursday 6 July 2017

Sweet Little Lies - Caz Frears

What happens when the trust has gone?

Cat Kinsella was always a daddy's girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.

When Maryanne later disappears and Cat's father denies ever knowing her, Cat's relationship with him is changed forever.

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman's body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat's father runs.

When evidence links Alice to the still missing Maryanne, all Cat's fears about her father resurface. Could he really be a killer? Determined to confront the past and find out what really happened to Maryanne all those years ago, Cat begins to dig into the case. But the problem with looking into the past is that sometimes you might not like what you find. 

What do you do if you think your father may have murdered a seventeen-year-old girl? For Cat Kinsella, the answer is to cut herself off from her family and join the police force. 

At the tender age of eight Cat is on holiday with her family in Ireland when a local girl goes missing. Convinced her father had something to do with the disappearance she tries her best to destroy her relationship with him.  Eighteen years later though, a body turns up in London a stone's throw away from the pub Cat and her family lived in. The body is initially identified as Alice Lapaine but after appeals to the public it becomes apparent that it is actually Maryanne Doyle, the girl who vanished. Just how did she end up in London and where has she been all this time?

Cat, part of the team investigating the murder, knows she should come clean about knowing the victim but desperately wants to know if her father is capable of murder or if maybe she has misjudged him all these years. Still reeling from her involvement in a previous case Cat's boss wants her involvement to be minimal but naturally she ends up in the thick of it, risking her relationship with her sister who won't hear a bad word about their father.

For a debut novel, Sweet Little Lies is superb. The story is told both in the present in London and in Ireland eighteen years ago. The difference between the two Cats is considerable, whilst the younger Cat is confident, outgoing and safe in her relationship with her father, adult Cat is rather bitter, secretive and struggling with the fact that she may have got everything wrong. Not wanting to admit this she plunges deeper into the case, risking her career for wanting to prove a point.

Cats Frears has written a fantastic first novel, the writing kept me hooked from start to finish and unable to put the book down until I'd read the last word. The majority of the plot takes place either in the police station or with her colleagues, apart from the chapters involving her family (their Christmas celebration was spot on for a family who obviously don't get on very well) but this adds to the story. It was great to see the connections between Cat and her fellow officers, especially Steele, her boss who was taking an greater interest in Cat's mental health than she would have liked, and Parnell, an older male officer who was the acting boss on the case as well. Given her troubles with her father it was interesting to see her closeness with Parnell, the almost father-daughter relationship they were developing.

The best thing about Sweet Little Lies though? The plot. I had no idea where the story was going or who the guilty party was or what the reason for the murder was. You think you've worked it out and then the story zoomed in another direction. Was it the husband who had no idea who she really was? Was it the 'moron' brother who has grown up to be anything but moronic? Is it connected to Ireland or has Maryanne somehow managed to get involved in something completely unconnected, something that got her killed? All I can say is you probably won't work it out, not until the last few pages when you'll suddenly realize what's going on and want to know how did you miss the clues pointing to the culprit? It's something that Parnell himself was trying to work out when someone's identity was revealed so you won't be alone!

I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel, it's easy to see how it won the Search For A Bestseller competition and I really hope this isn't the last we're going to see of Cat and Parnell as I loved getting to know them. If you like police procedural stories with a twist then Sweet Little Lies is worth a read.

Huge thanks to Bonnier Zaffre and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of Sweet Little Lies.

Sweet Little Lies - Caz Frears
ISBN - 9781785763359
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release date - June 29th, 2017

Tuesday 4 July 2017

July New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the July 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on July 31st. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $22 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in July and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for lots of other chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Monday 3 July 2017

Dark Immolation - Christopher Husberg

There are rumours in Ashta - a new religion is rising, and Cinzia, the one-time Cantic priestess, has escaped the Holy Crucible. Fleeing from Navone, Cinzia travels with Knot, a man of many parts, and Astrid, the child-like vampire. They are gathering followers, but the murderous Nazaniin are still on their trail. 

Meanwhile, Winter is losing her grip on sanity, grappling with immense powers beyond her understanding. Where she goes, chaos and death follow.

I'm so glad I got to read the first two books of the Chaos Queen series together as it made a for a great reading experience. I'm not quite sure how patient I can be for the third installment but I'll have to be!

Our merry band of travelers are still traveling, but not together and definitely not merrily. There are storm clouds on the horizon and whether everyone left after the shocking events of Duskfall will still be alive by the end, remains to be seen. Believing Knot to be dead Winter enters into the service of the new Emperor, devastated by what she did and thinking herself doomed, not caring whether she lives or dies. The so-called Emperor Daval, possessed by Azael, continues his plans for world domination and drags his youngest daughter into his scheming.

At the same time, Knot's memories or sifts as they are known are becoming more unstable. Uncontrollable in some guises, such as Lathe, Astrid the child vampire is the only one who can contain him while the Prophetess, Jane, brings him back. The new (old) religion of Canta is gathering steam but also beleaguered by assassins, betrayed at nearly every turn with Cinzia still struggling with both her faith and the knowledge that her sister may have more contact with her Goddess than she does.

In Dark Immolation the world Christopher Husberg expands and we learn more about Canta, about psimancy and the incredible powers that these talented people have, and we spend more time in the Void with some characters, including one who everybody assumed was dead. Astrid goes on a journey to try and help Knot but by doing so places herself in great danger, with her past coming back to haunt her. There are daemons on the loose and you never quite know who is firmly on the side of good or evil.

The characters are, in my opinion, the best thing about Dark Immolation (and Duskfall, the first book). It's great to see the relationships developing between the various characters and although there are a lot of them, you never feel overwhelmed by the different points of view. There's some pretty great world-building in these books, with strong writing, well-developed characters, and a truly fascinating setting. I can't wait to read Blood Requiem, the third installment, but I'm not looking forward to the long wait until some time in 2018...

If you're a fan of George R. R. Martin or Robin Hobb then the Chaos Queen books are definitely worth investing in. Huge thanks to Titan for sending me a copy of Dark Immolation and for letting me take part in the blog tour. Check out the other stops for excerpts and reviews!

Dark Immolation (Chaos Queen #2) - Christopher Husberg
ISBN - 9781783299171
Publisher - Titan Books 
Release date - June 20th, 2017

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