Friday, July 03, 2015

Interview with Cat Clarke, author of The Lost and the Found

Hello and welcome back to Fluttering Butterflies! Can you please tell us something about yourself and your new book, The Lost and the Found? 

Hello! It’s so lovely to be back here! Thank you so much for having me. I’m Cat, writer of UKYA and avid consumer of cheese. The Lost and the Found is about a seventeen year-old-girl called Faith, whose abducted sister reappears after thirteen years. I like to think of it as a story that starts with a happy ending and then things move on from there…

One of my favourite aspects of the book is the mentions that the media plays a part in reporting (or not reporting) missing children. Was this something important for you to get across in this book? 

For me, that’s what the book is really all about. It was something I was very interested in exploring – the types of stories that the media chooses to latch onto, and those that it chooses to ignore. It’s awful to see stories about missing teenagers or children consigned to a couple of lines on page 23 of a newspaper, simply because their faces don’t fit or their story isn’t quite ‘acceptable’ to a mainstream audience.

Confession/brag time: Faith and Michel spend lots of time whipping up delicious macarons. What is the best/worst thing you've ever baked/cooked yourself? What's your specialty?

Food is my favourite topic of conversation.  The best thing I ever cooked was very recently, actually! Turkish-spiced chicken with a hot green relish. The recipe is from an amazing cookbook called A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry. I’m salivating just thinking about that relish. I’m making it again tomorrow! The worst thing I ever made was a gluten-free Victoria sponge for my wife’s birthday. Actually, the end result wasn’t entirely revolting, but it took three attempts to get sponges that weren’t as flat as a pancake. In the process I managed to drop two eggs on the floor, burn my arm, phone a friend in a complete panic AND cry. Suffice to say, baking is NOT my strong point.

In fact, Michel was one of my favourite characters! I loved his and Faith's relationship and it was great to see his position in the modern structure of this family. Talk to me about diversity and representation! 

Thank you! Faith’s parents are divorced, and her dad lives with Michel, a Frenchman. Faith’s dad is bisexual, and Michel is gay. Michel is probably my favourite character in the book, and not just because he’s a master macaron-maker. Diversity is so important. For me it’s just about reflecting the society we live in. I think it’s important to include LGBT parents as well as LGBT teenagers in YA fiction, because it reflects the family situation of lots of young people, and it shows that LGBT kids grow up to be adults too! It sounds obvious, but if we don’t see these adults in YA fiction it’s almost like they don’t exist.

Usually in author interviews with authors who have written books with a darker plot line, I'd ask what the toughest scene was to write. But for The Lost and the Found, was it harder to hold back from telling us about the darkness Laurel had faced? Was that a conscious decision to spare readers from the traumas she had faced?

The story is told from Faith’s point of view, and she herself is spared most of the details of the trauma Laurel has suffered so it wasn’t a conscious decision to spare readers. The most important thing has to be what’s right for the book.

I quite liked this easy connection that Faith and Laurel had right from the start. Who are you favourite literary sisters?

I love reading about sisters! Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls is a fascinating and brilliantly dark exploration of the bond between sisters. A new favourite is Sarah Crossan’s One, an astonishing book about conjoined twins. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.

If you had £1000 to spend in a shopping spree, where would you go and what would you buy?

I would buy a super comfortable battered old leather armchair, and ban anyone else from sitting on it. Or a super comfortable battered old leather jacket, and ban anyone else from wearing it. And I would probably save some of the money because I’m boring like that. Wait. Scratch that. I’d buy £1000 worth of cheese (and biscuits and assorted chutneys) and host a magnificent cheesefest. Will someone give me £1000 please? 

If one stumbled upon it, from a writerly perspective, what would your internet history tell us? 

Alas I can’t tell you about my current internet history because it would give you all kinds of spoilers about my next book. Oh, and it would also show you that I spend far too much time on social media when I should be writing said book.

The Lost and the Found was one of my most highly anticipated UKYA books published this year, what book(s) are you most looking forward to reading this year? 

I’m SO looking forward to ALL OF THE ABOVE by James Dawson, THE DEAD HOUSE by Dawn Kurtagich, AM I NORMAL YET? by Holly Bourne and COUNTING STARS by Keris Stainton. I have a feeling this is going to be a bumper year for UKYA!

REVIEW: The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke

I have been very much looking forward to reading The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke! She is a definite favourite author of mine and I went into reading her new book expecting something very emotional and that is definitely what I got from this book!

The Lost and the Found is a story about a girl who was lost ... she's abducted from her family and then returns 13 years later.  It was very much a story about families and about sisters and about missing children. I loved the exploration of the media portrayal in particular and how not every missing child has the same response.

The Lost and the Found is the story of missing Laurel Logan. How she was abducted 13 years ago and that returns to them after a very long time.  The story is told from the perspective of Faith, Laurel's younger sister and she is a wonderful narrator. Really showing the reader how difficult it was at times to live in Laurel's shadow and how difficult it was to transition into having a sister and sharing their family after such a long time.

My favourite aspect of the book is Faith and Laurel's relationship. That instant connection. That bond between the girls even though they've been separated for such a long time, it felt easy for them to become sisters. Faith takes it upon herself to let Laurel shine for awhile, to do things she would rather not because Laurel requested it.  I loved them together. They're not perfect or without conflict, but I really believed in their relationship.

I also really loved Faith's family. In particular, her father's partner, Michel.  I loved Faith and Michel's relationship and Michel was by far my favourite character. I loved that Faith had somebody like Michel in her life to talk to and be open with who isn't so intrinsically linked to Laurel's abduction. Plus he's French and makes macarons. Also, plus points for having both same sex parental figures and also a bisexual man.  Both need more representation in YA and I'm glad that Cat Clarke included both.

At the heart of this book, there is this underlying tension and I felt quite unsettled while reading that Laurel wasn't telling us everything. I was quite glad that a lot of her experiences while she was away were glossed over (and just because we didn't hear the gruesome details doesn't mean that the reader won't come away unsympathetic to her.)  But I also mean that Laurel's secrets put me on edge and I found it really interesting to go on this journey with Faith and Laurel.

The Lost and the Found was surprisingly emotional. In that, I didn't realise until that last page just how emotionally invested I was in this story, in these characters and in this relationship between Faith and Laurel!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

UKYA Published in July

Half the year is officially over! But don't worry, there's plenty of super exciting UKYA releases this month and later on in the year. SOOOO MUCH to look forward to.

From this list, I'm most looking forward to Frail Human Heart! And Stone Rider and Lorali and Birdy. Which books are you most looking forward to reading this month?!


Too Close To Home by Aoife Walsh

Think this book might actually be middle grade? I'm not sure. I have it on my TBR shelf to tackle soon, so I'm including it. Published 2nd July!

Chicken House

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

I've already read and reviewed this and shared an extract recently. Very fun story about teenage pregnancy and parenthood. Published 2nd of July!

Harper Collins

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine

I am such a huge fan of Jenny Valentine and have since read this book via Netgalley and loved it. What a great story about art and secrets and family. Definitely keep an eye out for this one!


Way Down Dark by James Smythe

Two very dark sounding books this month.  Both sound very interesting and I shall be delving in soon... 

Hot Key Books

Birdy by Jess Vallance

Two amazing books from Hot Key Books this month. I am definitely looking forward to Laura Dockrill's first foray into YA after her incredibly Darcy Burdock books and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about Birdy. And following Jess Vallance on Twitter is hilarious. Both books published 2nd July.


The Dark Light by Julia Bell

This book is published the 16th July and sounds really interesting. About an LGBT relationship in the midst of a cult setting.


Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

Stone Rider will also be published on 16th July and it sounds amazing. My copy says a cross between The Hunger Games and The Road. I'm intrigued!


The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke

Always a good month when there's a new Cat Clarke published! The Bookish Brits and I are reading this book for the July book club. Do join us. (And come back tomorrow as I will be reviewing this book AND interviewing Cat Clarke)

Random House

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson 

I've luckily already read both of these books and they are both wonderful.  Published today.

Simon and Schuster

I Knew You Were Trouble by Paige Toon

Three very gorgeous books from Simon and Schuster this month.  The Potion Diaries and All My Secrets are being published today and I Knew You Were Trouble later on this month, the 30th. I'm definitely looking forward to a new Sophie McKenzie and more Jessie Jefferson adventures...


Deep Water by Lu Hersey

Deep Water is quite a fun story incorporating Cornish myths and legends and was published yesterday, 1st July.


Frail Human Heart by Zoe Marriott

Ahhhh! I think this is the book I'm absolutely most excited to read. The conclusion to the Name of the Blade trilogy. *bites fingernails*

Which book(s) are you most looking forward to reading in July?!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

British Books Challenge - Link your July reviews

6 months of the year have already passed. I'm just going to let that sit there for a moment.

Now that we've recovered, on with business! I'm always super impressed with everyone's commitment to reading books for this challenge. Keep up the good work!  June's prize pack was hosted by the lovely people at Bloomsbury, and using a random number generator the winner has been chosen... 

Sofia from The Reading Fangirl
(for her review of Air by Lisa Glass)

Huge congrats Sofia! You have one week to email me with your postal address so that I may your details on to my contact at Bloomsbury.

Now onto July! The lovely Hot Key Books has stepped forward and offered a copy of Lorali by Laura Dockrill and Being A Girl by Hayley Long. Both look amazing, what a great pair of books.  Thank you, Hot Key Books!  Now get reading...

Important Information:

  • Please make sure you sign up for the challenge before you start linking your reviews, I will delete links from people who aren't registered. You can sign up HERE if you haven't already.
  • When you add your link to the Mr. Linky below please make sure you link directly to your review, not just to your blog (invalid links will be deleted)
  • Books must have been read in 2015 to count towards the challenge so those books you read in December but reviewed in January don't count!
  • Also, please make sure that the reviews you link are for books written by British Authors - they can be born in Britain (living here or abroad) or they can be adopted British Authors (who were born elsewhere and now live here) but if they don't fit into one of those categories then they don't count. (as above invalid links will be deleted and won't get you an entry into the prize pack). Please note that Britain includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, I'm afraid authors from Southern Ireland don't count.
  • If you need ideas for books by British Authors check out the FAQ page for lots of suggestions. You don't have to choose books from these lists though - they are just to give you ideas if you need help!

Link Your Reviews:

Now for the important part, make sure you link all of your reviews using the Mr. Linky form below. In the Your Name field please include your blog name, the title of the book and the author. Make sure the link takes me directly to your review or your entry won't count and will be deleted from the list.

For example: Remix by Non Pratt (Fluttering Butterflies)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June wrap-up

AHHHHHH. It's now the last day of June and I am in DENIAL. Surely not.  I've had an interesting month.  It's been GREAT in terms of reading but TERRIBLE in terms of blogging. I've really given up the blogging lately and I feel really bad about it. Hopefully that will return slowly throughout the month of July? I'm not hopeful, but we'll see.  Here's how I did in June...

Books read in June:

1. My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood (4 stars)
2. Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine (5 stars)
3. End Game by Alan Gibbons (3 stars)
4. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (5 stars)
5. Remix by Non Pratt (5 stars)
6. In Another Life by Laura Jarratt (4 stars)
7. The Baby by Lisa Drakeford (4 stars)
8. In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll (4 stars)
9. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (3 stars)
10. House of Windows by Alexia Casale (5 stars)
11. One by Sarah Crossan (4 stars)
12. The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (4 stars)
13. The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson (4 stars)
14. Being A Girl by Hayley Long (4 stars)
15. The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (4 stars)
16. The Next Together by Lauren James (4 stars)
17. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson (5 stars)
18. Deep Water by Lu Hersey (3 stars)
19. Only We Know by Simon Packham (2 stars)

Total read in June: 19

Total in 2015: 89

I decided at the end of May to only read books by British authors during the month of June and I did (with the exception of The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle who is an Irish author living in Ireland, but so many people count her as being British that I decided to sneak it in) It has been an absolutely incredible month of reading for me. So many five star or amazing books: Remix by Non Pratt, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, House of Windows by Alexia Casale, Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine, The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson which I finally read! So many.

Too many amazing books read this month that I cannot bring myself to choose my favourite of the month!

British Books Challenge and UKYA in 2015:

Celebrating British Bloggers

Thank you to both Caragh and Samina for taking part in Celebrating British Bloggers this past month.  I have one interview that will go up in July but nothing planned afterwards so I think that'll possibly be it for the near future. It's been a fun run though, hasn't it?

Books reviewed in June:

The Stars Don't Rise by Rachel Vincent
Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young
My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood
Mini reviews: Two Boys Kissing, How They Met and Every Day by David Levithan
Jessica's Ghost by Andrew Norriss
Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Finding Jennifer Jones by Anne Cassidy
When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway
The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

Considering my review-writing-slump that I'm in now I think this is an amazing collection of reviews to be published in June! I've quite surprised myself.

Other posts in June:

Diversity Matters: Being Mixed Race as a Teenager
Favourite Fictional Redheads
Cover Reveal: Inferno by Catherine Doyle
Diversity Matters: Economic Differences
Interview with Catherine Johnson, author of The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford Extract Blog Tour

What I've Been Watching Lately

I've been quite enjoying writing this series of posts 'Diversity Matters' only I'd quite like it to have its own blog button/graphic and I don't know where to start. Any ideas or suggestions?

Booktube videos in June:

May Book Haul
British Books Challenge | May
Reading Outside My Comfort Zone
LGBT YA Round-Up 1
British Books Challenge | June Part 1
My Life In Books Tag
Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt | Review

May Book Club: Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman and When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan
Michelle's Bookish Wishes

Lots of booktube videos this month! It's getting to the point where I don't quite know what to film or talk about now. So if you have any requests for future videos, I'd love to hear from you!

Progress in my reading challenges in June

LGBT Challenge in 2015:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Remix by Non Pratt
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Only We Know by Simon Packham

Total for June: 6

Total for 2015: 20

Not bad on the LGBT reading this month. Most of these books featured secondary LGBT characters except for The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson.

British Books Challenge 2015:

My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood
Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine
End Game by Alan Gibbons
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Remix by Non Pratt
In Another Life by Laura Jarratt
The Baby by Lisa Drakeford
In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
House of Windows by Alexia Casale
One by Sarah Crossan
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson
Being A Girl by Hayley Long
The Next Together by Lauren James
The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Deep Water by Lu Hersey
Only We Know by Simon Packham

Total for June: 18

Today for 2015: 50

Obviously quite a lot this month for the British Books Challenge! It really has been an amazing reading month for me.  Again favourites include Fire Colour One, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Remix, House of Windows, and The Art of Being Normal!

What was your favourite book(s) read in June?

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford Extract Blog Tour

I'm really happy today to be kicking off this fun extract tour surrounding the debut UKYA book, The Baby by Lisa Drakeford!  The Baby is a really fun book that surrounds 5 people at a 17th birthday party and the very unexpected events after a baby being born.  What I love so much about the book is that the birth of this baby ties these characters all together but Lisa Drakeford really allows all 5 characters to shine and tell their own stories. 

This blog tour extract will share snippets of each of these five characters and I really hope you enjoy it.  I thought The Baby was a really interesting book - that covered teen pregnancy and parenthood as well as bullying and domestic violence. It was a surprising range of content in this gloriously brightly coloured book!

For today's extract, I bring you Olivia...

They make their way up the stairs. They stand by the bathroom door – there’s another low moan. They look at each other.

‘Who is it?’

Olivia shrugs. ‘Dunno, but I’ve not seen Nicola in ages. I’m worried about her. I wonder if it’s her.’

‘Nicola, is that you?’ Ben calls.

Another moan, almost a growl. Olivia’s heart thuds. She sees Alice looking anxious through the open bedroom door.

‘Nicola – can you open the door? Let me in babe.’

There’s no reply.

‘Nicola!’ She raps sharply.

Still nothing apart from that low moaning again. It prickles the back of her neck.

‘We’re going to have to break in,’ she mutters to Ben. Best not think about her parents.

Ben squares his shoulders and jerks his weight against the door. It doesn’t budge. He shoves against the wood again and still it doesn’t move. But the moaning has notched up a level. It’s got to be Nicola behind the door. And Olivia is supposed to be her best friend. What on earth is she doing in there?

‘Here, let me help.’ She says.

‘After three.’

Ben and Olivia heave their bodies against the door at the same time and at last there’s a splintering sound. After their second thrust, the thin wooden panel breaks and the lock gives way.

They jostle their way into the small, hot room and peer at the sight before them.

It’s not one they’re expecting.

It is Nicola in there. But not the Nicola they’re used to seeing. This Nicola is on all fours, her head and shoulders over the bath. Her bum high. Moaning and wailing now.

At first Olivia thinks she’s being sick. Throwing up in the bath.

But like the growl earlier, there’s something animal-like about her position. This is so much more than drunken vomiting.

Olivia kneels down next to the quivering figure. ‘Nic . . . Nic, you OK?’

Nicola shakes her head. Her cheeks are flushed high and there’s a slick of sweat on her skin.

She turns to her oldest friend. ‘It hurts. It feels like I’m dying.’


REVIEW: The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford was an interesting read that covered lots of topics that I found fascinating.  Each of the five characters' stories were really interesting and I thought it was great how each character's story really builds on the overall theme of teen pregnancy/parenthood whilst also giving each character time to shine in their own right.

I found the structure of the novel to be quite unusual. There are five narrators in this book each of the five being people who have attended this 17th birthday party in which one of the guests unexpectedly (even to her!) gives birth to a baby. The rest of the story is the aftermath of this big surprise.

There is Olivia, the birthday girl. Alice, Olivia's little sister. Ben, Olivia's gay best friend. Nicola, the new mother (and Olivia's best friend.) Jonty, the father (and Olivia's boyfriend.) You can kind of see how there might be some conflict as the father of the baby is the boyfriend of someone else. And that there'd be obvious fall-out between the two best friends.  But what I liked about this book is that while this book is quite slim, there was quite a lot packed into it.  The exploration of these complicated relationships. Nicola (and Jonty) dealing with the fact that they are now teenage parents and what that means for their lives and futures.

Through the eyes of Nicola and Jonty we can see some of the reactions that other people have towards teenage parents which is quite sobering.  There is a lot of stigma and negativity surrounding teen parents which can be quite sad to read about.  For me, there was a bit of a disconnect between me and most of these characters, however, Nicola's adventures of being a new parent and caring for a newborn made tears come to my eyes. I knew exactly the frustration and fatigue and helplessness she felt as she tried so desperately to soothe a colicky baby in the middle of the night.

But I also found Alice and Ben's story lines very interesting in that they are involved in Nicola and her baby's lives and give support but they also share and we get to explore some of their own life problems.  Alice with her difficulty in finding friends and being different and Ben and his search for love. But it was definitely the domestic violence aspect of Jonty and Olivia that made me really intrigued by this novel. I found it an interesting topic to explore and I quite liked seeing Jonty's character development from the beginning to end.

The Baby was something a bit different and I really liked that!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Interview with Catherine Johnson, author of The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo

Today I'm very happy to have the very lovely Catherine Johnson on my blog talking about books historical fiction and diversity and her latest book, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, which is publishing 2nd July from Corgi.  I've been looking forward to reading this book for quite some time so I'm really happy both to have already read it but also to have Catherine on the blog too!

To find out more about Catherine Johnson or The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo, do visit the following websites:

Hello and welcome to Fluttering Butterflies! Could you please introduce yourself and your book, The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo.

Hello! I am Catherine Johnson, the woman with the most boring first name/second name combination in children's books. I have been a writing for a long time, (I used to have a career making films and videos but that was a million years ago) and I've written lots of books mostly YA, people might know Sawbones. But I also write for film and TV - including Holby City - and a film called Bullet Boy.  

The Curious Incident of The Lady Caraboo is a story about lies and love and was inspired by the true story of Mary Wilcox, a cobblers daughter from Devon who passed herself off as a Princess from the South Seas.

 It's about as close to a romance as I've ever got. But it's mostly about lies - who we are and who we'd rather be.

What struck me the most about this book is everyone's reactions to Caraboo. Why do you think there was this fascination with cultures and people of colour in a distant way but such a different reaction to the idea of her being a poor local?

Although the village where the story is set, Almondsbury, is not far from Bristol, the idea of a lost Princess was probably the most exciting thing that had happened in living memory. And a major part of why people believed that Caraboo was real was that Mrs Worrall, the local lady of the manor, wanted her to be real. I think, from my reading, that Mrs Worrall was bored out of her mind. She was an intelligent woman, born in America, who loved anthropology but because of the time she had no outlet for her interest.  It must have been a coup for her having such an interesting house guest, being able to invite professors and experts (which the real Mrs Worrall did) and be at the centre of a real cause celebre. 

I do love that this book is about a person of colour set in a historical time period and that Princess Caraboo is proudly on the cover - both of these being representations I don't see very much of. What are your thoughts on the levels of diversity portrayed in YA fiction in recent times? 

I do think there is more diversity now - especially in regards to sexuality - and I think authors and publishers are making an effort, but there is still a long way to go. I would like to see more authors from different backgrounds, not just race but class too, being published and promoted. Of course the books need to be good but I do think this is vital to get a range of different stories out there. But if we are going to get publishers to respond and publish more widely we need readers to read more diversely too! Part of the push for change we've had in recent years has come from readers and bloggers. So lets have more of everything, please and open minds everywhere!

At one point Caraboo says something along the lines of 'and weren't stories more rewarding than life?' What are some of your favourite books and stories? 

There are so many! One of my all time favourites is Susan Price's Sterkarm Handshake which is historical and science fictiony and brilliant. Also Holes by Louis Sachar, which is utterly brilliantly plotted and it never gets tired.  Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is a big favourite and also Pao by Kerry Young, a book set in Jamaica in the first half of the Twentieth Century. But the one  that just breaks my heart every time I read it is The Long Song by Andrea Levy. That book is absolutely brilliant, tour de force of point of view as well as a view of history we hardly ever see. There are about a million other books too.....

Mary Wilcox and Princess Caraboo are based on actual events in history! Can you share with us any other incredibly fascinating lesser-known, real-life historical women? 

Women and minorities are always hidden in history. The poorer and less powerful - and women of colour are always at the  bottom of the heap - rarely have their stories told, but there are some and plenty of lives ripe for folding into stories. Here are a few;

Nanny of the Maroons, a real folk hero. She lived in the early 17th century and was kidnapped into slavery as a child in Ghana and bought to Jamaica. She endured terrible and inhumane treatment and ran away into the hills, where she organised free settlements of runaway slaves in the mountains and carried out raids on the British. The town that bears her name still exists.

Adelaide Hall, an American born singer, who was part of the Harlem renaissance who lived the greater part of her life in the UK. In 1941 she was the highest paid entertainer in Britain. I almost wrote a novel based in wartime Soho, she'd have definitely have had a walk on in that...

One last thing. Where I used to live in Hackney was a big old house, long since divided into flats. This was the Ayahs home, a home for Indian nannies employed by British families on the long voyage back from India but then abandoned in London without any money and unable to get home. This went on well into the 20th century. It's really worth finding out more just about where you live...

In fact, historical YA isn't something that I know a great deal about, do you have any recommendations or suggestions? 

YES! Lots. I belong to a brilliant joint blog called the History Girls which features writers like Celia Rees (Witch Child, Pirates!), Mary Hoffman (David, Stravaganza) Penny Dolan (A Boy Called Mouse) Tanya Landman (Apache, Buffalo Soldier) and Lydia Syson (Liberty's Fire, A World Between Us) - there are many more on there too. Another one I would recommend is Jamila Gavin's classic Coram Boy or any of Mary Hooper's work - Newes From The Dead, The House of The Magician, Poppy. Every one of those books is utterly brilliant.

I kind of love the fact that Mary creates Princess Caraboo into a person that she'd like to be and makes her own sort of Princess Rules. What would at the top of your own list of Princess rules?

Princess rules! What a great idea... 

1. Everyone to have their own pony and/or swimming pool although not a pony in a swimming pool....

2. I would like my own dedicated wool shop just like the new one in Stoke Newington High Street. I am a demon knitter. I used to have a stall in Portobello market when I was a student.

All libraries to have extended opening hours and all the books I want in whenever I visit.

4. Plenty of custard. I am partial to custard.

There are so many lying liars in your book! Do you have any favourite literary liars?

Lies make stories -and I love a good unreliable narrator like Cadence in E. Lockhart's We Were Liars too. But I'm going to recommend an absolutely stunning non fiction book here stuffed full of the most professional liars of the 19th and twentieth century. I love stories of Con men and grifters - The Sting is a brilliant film, do watch it - and that film was based on a really fascinating book - a non fiction academic study by a linguist in 20th century America who was studying criminal slang. That sounds dry but the book really isn't. David Maurer, the author, interviewed all of the con men of the late 19th and early 20th century for his book, The Big Con, and it is totally absorbing.

And finally, The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo was one of my most anticipated UKYA reads in 2015. What are you most looking forward to reading? 

That's so blush making! I hope it didn't disappoint.... I am a big fan of Sarra Manning's books, YA and adult. I think she's doing a historical next, set in  WW2, and I cannot wait. And I am looking forward to the next Malorie Blackman. Now she's retired from laureating I do hope she'll have plenty of writing time to finish the sequel to Boys Don't Cry...

REVIEW: The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson

I'd really been looking forward to reading The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo by Catherine Johnson for awhile now.  So I was very happy to get a copy sent to me and jumped in straight away.

And I really liked this story.  It's based on a true story of an actual young woman called Mary Willcox who managed to convince a wealthy family that she was a princess from the South Seas and that makes this story even more fascinating to me.  I know that Catherine Johnson did change some aspects of the story but I still think the original basis of what happened to Mary Willcox to be incredibly interesting.  As is this book! I really didn't know what was going to happen throughout the story and I was really intrigued from the moment I started reading.

The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo has sort of a harrowing beginning. As we see poor Mary Willcox in bad shape and she is further attacked by some men and in that moment she decides that things will be different from now on.  And that's what happens.

She pretends to be this different person, this princess from Java. And it becomes quite an elaborate lie that is spun as Caraboo manages to convince this local wealthy family, the Worralls,  that she is in fact royalty and they take her in for several months. An entire language is created as well as a religion and a style of dress and mannerisms that Caraboo creates herself. At times both Caraboo (and surely the reader!) are sort of preparing for this lie to be caught out and for Caraboo to be sent packing ... but things carry on for a very surprising length of time.

I really liked the character of Caraboo that Mary Willcox pretends that she is.  Caraboo becomes this fierce warrior princess who hunts and climbs and does what she likes. It really felt like she had decided not to be held back by her gender or her (lack of) wealth and just decided to become this person she and society had never allowed her to become until one day when she just makes that decision and a transformation happens.

As well as being incredibly interested and invested in Caraboo's character and how she gets on, I was also really fascinated to see the changes within this family that Caraboo is staying with and the different reactions they all have to Caraboo's intrusion into their lives. There is Mrs Worrall, who seems to relish the attention as well as the fact that she is at the centre of a scientific investigation and has scientists of the day from phrenologists to electricity experts, coming into her house and that she is able to participate in something larger than her in her every day life.

And then there are the Worrall children: flighty Cassandra and skeptical Fred who in turns befriend and question Caraboo's sincerity and actions. Cassandra and Fred really shouldn't be likeable characters. They are both overly privileged and entitled and yet still, I found myself warming to both characters a great deal.  I liked that Cassandra and Caraboo formed this friendship and that Fred seemed to struggle with his relationships with women after a comment made to him by a prostitute. I also loved the juxtaposition of Cassandra's love affair with that of the reluctant growing of feelings that happens for Caraboo.

I thought Lady Caraboo's story was an incredibly fascinating story. It felt like a story of choices and love and about being the person who most want to be. I loved this glimpse into a POC historical figure and time period and I was swept away by the circumstances of Caraboo's life. Really enjoyed this one!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

REVIEW: Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

If I'm really honest, I requested Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway for two reasons: the first, I've loved previous Robin Benway stories I'd read, and the second, the cover looks quite cute and romantic.  I didn't actually know that the story was about a kidnapping at all until I opened it in my Kindle and started reading.  (Because let's face it: that cover design is selling me romance, not child kidnapping!)

I'm not entirely sure if that knowledge would have made much of a difference.  It's still another great, emotional story from a wonderful writer. And while I'm not overly fond of the missing child story line, I think I still would have wanted to go on this journey.

Emmy and Oliver were two really wonderful characters. Though I flew through this story very quickly and it didn't feel very long, it felt like Robin Benway really packed a lot into this book.  I loved both Emmy and Oliver individually and also together. I loved their relationships with their respective families and I loved Emmy's relationships with her two best friends.

Emmy and Oliver is a story about two childhood best friends. But their paths separate when, after a messy divorce, Oliver's dad kidnaps him and Oliver doesn't return for another ten years.  I love that what this story does is tell both the titular characters' stories but also paints this picture of not only broken families but a fractured community.

All these years later, Emmy is a very different person. She still holds onto her memories of Oliver but she's also feeling very suffocated both by her parents over protection and about the expectations her family and friends make of her.  Emmy's dream is to move to San Diego and pursue her interest in surfing but she has had to hide both of these things from everyone she cares about.

And at the same time, Oliver returns and his whole life is different. For ten years, he's believed one thing only to be told that the opposite is true and he doesn't know how to fit into the missing shapes that his disappearance ten years ago caused. And it seems that Emmy and Oliver kind of need each other the most, to have someone they can both be honest about their feelings with.

I really loved this book.  I loved seeing both Emmy and Oliver develop throughout this story.  Not just their love story, but themselves as individuals. I loved seeing the different dynamics within both sets of families and the different ways everyone has reacted to trauma. I love how Emmy and Oliver both had to fight for their voices to be heard.  There was some absolutely amazing dialogue and it surprised me how very quickly I began to become so very emotionally invested in all of the characters who play a part in this story.

Emmy and Oliver was an amazing, emotional story and I'm so glad to have read it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Diversity Matters: Economic differences

I've written a couple of posts already about why diversity matters in terms of race representation, but when I originally started writing 'Diversity Matters' I really wanted it to be a series of posts about different types of diversity. Including sexuality, religion, ability, culture, and more.  The post I've always put off writing is this one.  Why I think different economic backgrounds matter and why this topic is personal to me.

When I started reading YA, the majority of the books I'd read (in the beginning) were all very similar. They were books about white, straight, Christian, middle to upper class families and the things the main character struggled with (issue books aside!) were usually boys or grades or the idea of 'perfection'.  And while I did enjoy these stories, I could only enjoy them up to a certain point before I started asking the questions 'where are all the poor people in these stories? why don't they exist in this world?' Because that is definitely how I grew up.

My dad was in university studying pre-law when he enlisted in Vietnam. He spent three tours out there and came back with a lot of physical and mental injuries because of his experiences.  His physical injuries meant that it was near impossible for him to maintain a job and even now, decades later, he experiences severe and chronic pain. He lives mostly on the disability benefits provided by the US government based on his veteran status.  Growing up, his disability benefit fluctuated and for many years there was no possible way that this allowance would stretch to providing for a family of four.

My mother dropped out of high school without any qualifications and throughout the time she lived with us as a family, she mostly did unskilled work in factories that operated on a seasonal basis. She also worked as a cleaner, waitress, carer, lunch lady. She worked in convenience stores and petrol stations and fast food. Absolutely anything.

But still, we struggled. There was times when I was really, really ill and we couldn't afford to visit a proper doctor and my mom and I waited for an entire day for a volunteer nurse/doctor to see us at a nearby walk-in clinic.  Going to the dentist was a luxury we couldn't afford. There were times we were on food stamps. My brother and I always qualified for the free school lunches and subsidised field trips.  At our worst, we had to call in for the local food bank to deliver boxes of food to cover us for several months at a time.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't aware of money and how much things cost. I remember writing a mini-essay in 2nd grade about the costs of Halloween and the effect that Halloween had on our family (and other families like mine!) But the children I went to school with didn't have these same concerns or thoughts. And I was picked on for not having designer jeans or shoes. I didn't have cool hair styles or glasses, I couldn't afford to go on certain trips or do fun activities like some of my friends. When we celebrated birthdays and Christmases (which wasn't always), our gifts normally veered towards the practical.

I look back now and realise the very different experience that I had growing up to that of some of my friends.  Without the worry of food and shelter, these other children were able to thrive and develop their interests in hobbies and schooling and dream of the lives they'd lead at university and beyond and my setting was stuck on just surviving. During this time, I couldn't see a way out of this existence I was born into.  I couldn't picture any other life other than one struggling from month to month, just barely getting by.

And that's where I think different representations of economic backgrounds are important in literature, especially for teens.  To let them know not only do their stories matter but that there is more to this world beyond the microcosm of a lower economic bracket.

And, luckily, there are writers out there doing great stuff in this area, authors that I wish I could have read as a teenager: Keren David and Melvin Burgess and Phil Earle and Dave Cousins amongst others.  That do write about characters that I feel familiar with on a personal level.

And I've been reading some interesting stories over the past few months regarding characters and families living in poorer conditions or on on council estates.  Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle was a great story about gangs and how the main character had a way off the estate and into something better.  Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre was an interesting story of a family in crisis and some of the consequences of that.  Even historical books such as Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson showed us a glimpse of different economic backgrounds during a French revolution that was fascinating and other modern day writers like Sophie McKenzie with Split Second showed us what a near-future dystopian London setting in which austerity cuts have affected the lives of many including one of the main characters.

So I'd like more of that, please.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

REVIEW: When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan

I really enjoyed When Mr Dog Bites by Brian Conaghan. I started reading it last year when I received a hardback copy of this book for review and I loved Dylan's voice in particular. But for some reason, I put the book down and didn't return to it. Until now, when in an attempt to read more UKYA and more diverse books, I thought that I would pick this book up again and give it another go. I'm really glad that I did.

When Mr Dog Bites is Dylan Mint's story. He's a 16 year old boy living in Glasgow with his mother and he has Tourette's. At a doctor's appointment, Dylan overhears his mum and doctor saying that Dylan has a year left to live. With this new, scary knowledge Dylan decides to make a bucket list. He has just three things on his list.

1) He'd like to have sex. Particularly with Michelle Molloy a girl at his school.
2) He wants to make sure his best friend, Amir, has friends and isn't all alone after Dylan dies.
3) He'd like his father home from the army.

It isn't easy completing these tasks at all. He's up against his own physiology with the first (what girl is going to like it when she offensive things at her?), battling racism in the second and fighting the impossible with the third. But throughout this story, I was really rooting for Dylan. He had amazing presence and voice in this book and I couldn't help but be very emotionally involved in this story.

There were a few things especially that I loved about this book:

The first is the way in which language is used throughout. Dylan adopts some Cockney rhyming terminology and also fuses different types of language into his own unique style and it really made me happy. He also lives in Glasgow and his accent comes through when he's speaking and there was some phrases where I could guess the meaning but had never come across before. This of course is separate from his outbursts of swearing. He deliberately chooses his own language but it cannot be helped what he shouts out from time to time. Prepare yourselves for lots of swearing and offensive language in this book!

Another thing I really liked about the book is that it paints a much clearer picture of what it might be like both to have Tourette's but also what it might be like to attend a special school like Dylan, Amir and Michelle attend. All three face different types of abuse but we also get to see them as individuals and learn their stories and I thought all three were fantastic. With Dylan, I'm sure I had plenty of preconceived misconceptions about what Tourette's is and he helped me become better educated and sympathetic. There were times, especially when he felt very down about his doomed love life, that I really felt for him and began to realise how very difficult it is to do or have things that other people take for granted.

But of course the thing I loved the most about When Mr Dog Bites are the relationships. Dylan's friendship with Amir. His interactions with Michelle. The way he treats the poor taxi man. But especially Dylan's relationship with his mother. There's something really sweet but also incredibly realistic about their relationship. It isn't cheesy or overdone but it just felt so believeable.

I absolutely loved this book and I'm really glad to have read it!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Samina from Escapism From Reality (Celebrating British Bloggers)

Hello and welcome to another edition of Celebrating British Bloggers in which I ask a bunch of awesome bloggers some tough questions about books and blogging!

Today I'm very excited to have Samina from Escapism From Reality on the blog. Samina is super, super lovely and very supportive and if you are not already following her blog or her on Twitter then I don't know what you're doing with your life.

Firstly, can you tell me something about yourself and your blog?

My name is Samina but around my blog and social media I’m known as Escapist or escapismfanatic. My blog is called Escapism From Reality.

How did you begin being a book blogger? What is it about books that makes you excited to talk about books on your blog?

Funny you ask me that. I had seen lots of bookworms like me in GoodReads starting their own blogs left and right but it never inspired me to start blogging. Until one fine morning when I was visiting my family in India, fed up with their constant nagging to stop reading 24x7 (*as if I’d do that*) I decided that I had had enough and wanted my space. Henceforth Escapism From Reality was born, a way to escape my real life and immerse myself in the world that words and pages create. It is also a nod to my love for fantasy books.

Long winded answer aside, I’ve always loved stories. Even when I was in school, my friends would be frantically studying for exams and I’ll be burning the midnight oil reading the moth ridden almost 50 year old, forgotten library copy of The Hardy Boys. I love that without having to leave my seat I am able to visit so many worlds and experience countless lives.  I am fascinated by the skill of authors who are able to invoke so many feelings out of me for people who don’t even exist. 

What would you like to have known about book blogging before you got started that you didn't know beforehand?

I’d have loved to have a better idea about how big the blogging world was. At first it all seemed like a lonely business but the now I know it is HUGE with not just book blogs but everything from fashion to living. 

When you're not reading or blogging, what do you do with yourself?

I’m a huge manga fan. I love Shoujo manga and my university days were spent watching hours of anime and reading numerous volumes of manga. Now when I’m going through reading slumps I give myself a break my indulging in Asian drama binge. I adore Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese dramas. They are awesome and are like crack. They keep making you click the ‘Next Episode’ button again and again. To top it all off there soundtrack is to die for. I have more drama music in my phone than regular music. I urge everyone to atleast try and watch a few episode before passing it up.

What type of things do you champion on your blog? What would you like your blog to be known for?

To be honest, I don’t champion a particular topic on my blog. Blogging for me has always been about me and my books but I occasionally have rants about feminism, diversity and homophobia.  I can be pretty mean when I want to be, so I try to keep it to the minimum. My latest rant was about New Adult books and how annoying they have become these days. 

I've never had high ambitions for my blog but I’d like my reader to know that I always give my honest opinion on every book I read. I don’t particularly focus on YA or Na or adult. I have a mixture of Adult, New Adult, YA, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal and even contemporary. Basically what ever catches my fancy.

What has been the best experience of being a book blogger so far?

It has to be all the wonderful people I have managed to meet who love books as much as I do. I know this may be a clich├ęd answer but for me who does not have a lot of friends who read as much as I do, talking to people who read and love books and fangirl with them has been the best part of being part of the blogging/reviewing community.

What is your biggest struggle as a book blogger?

Finding time! I struggle to find time to write reviews and publish post. I like writing them but finding time for that is a pain. I work full time and provide 24x7 on call, keeps me away a lot.  Plus I’m a lazy creature who sometimes doesn't want to do anything but just lie in bed and read anything on a whim.

You can do it, what is your absolute favourite book?

Now that is a very hard question to ask a book blogger and we have not one but many favourite books. It’s like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. But if I have to answer, my absolute favourite, bestest book in the world is not one book but a series of books by Illona Andrews called Kate Daniels. It is an urban fantasy series about a mercenary with secrets of her own. Vampires and shape shifters abound in this post-apocalyptic world from hell where magic rein and technology is in ruins. I love this series to bits even if the ugly covers are a real put off.

What books or authors or series would you like more people to be aware of?

Oh. Oh. Oh. Where do I start? I’d say The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke was beautiful and poignant and I do think that book need more attention. Another favourite of mine is the Pantomime series by Laura Lam. It is a series which embraces all the topics I feel strongly about like gender identity, sexuality, social stigma, different forms of love with an extra added dash of fantasy. It is a wonderfully executed and well thought story and I cannot wait for the last book. Best of all it is UKYA too.

Have you discovered any books or authors through blogging that you might not have otherwise?

Too many to name! However the most recent on will be Seed by Lisa Heathfield. I say the book on NetGalley but the cover made me reluctant to pick it up until I saw a fellow UK book blogger raving about it. Seeing her enthusiasm spurred me into starting the book and I have to tell you, I was transfixed. I love the book blogging community.

Name your top 5 UK book bloggers!

There just too many to name. I think each and every one is of them is awesome in their own way.

If you could meet your favourite author, who would it be?

I’m meeting Sarah J Maas in May which will be a dream come true. I adore her Throne of Glass series but her new book A Court of Thorn and Roses absolutely blew me away.  I’m taking all my books to sign, some on my shelf and some in storage. Yes, I have books put away in storage as I have no space and I let them go and I have multiple copies of her books. 

However, what would I not give to meet J K Rowling who opened my young mind to the wonders of imaginations and fantasy where anything I dreamt could come true.

Oh yes, I’d love to meet Ilona Andrews too. I’ll probably scream like a fan girl and might swoon if I could talk to them.

There are a few more but as you can see, the list is steadily growing, so I’ll stop now.

What would you like to see more or less of in the books you read?

Hmm, I don’t know to be honest. I find the books which I know I’ll like and I’m in the mood to read. That is why I don’t DNF many books.

And finally, who is your ultimate book crush?

No! I really can’t answer that. It’s like asking a king who is his favourite concubine. Hang on, it is exactly like that. I have too many to name. I keep adding more and more to my book boyfriend list. The Darkling from The Grisha Trilogy is most definitely one of them. Dark, dangerous and evil. That’s how I like them. I loved that he was evil to the very end.

Thank you for these wonderful answers, Samina! The Darkling is quite intriguing.

Let Samina and I know your thoughts on her responses in comments! Agree or disagree?