Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Keeping the Home Fires Burning... by Mary Hooper #CountdownYA

Once again, I am very happy to be taking part in multi-blog, multi-author blog tour, Countdown to 7th May, that has been organised by Jim from YA Yeah Yeah. Taking part in this blog tour are bloggers paired with authors who have books being published on the 7th of May. 

I am super thrilled to have been paired up with Mary Hooper, the amazing author of historical novels Poppy and the sequel being published on the 7th of May by Bloomsbury, Poppy in the Field. I absolutely adored Poppy and I'm dying to read more of Poppy's adventures during World War I. Mary Hooper is here today talking about the journey that women like Poppy took during WWI. 

To find out more about Poppy in the Field, or Mary Hooper, please do visit the following websites:

Keeping the home fires burning...
Women in First World War
by Mary Hooper

In 1914, at the beginning of the Great War, the major role for girls and women was to support and encourage their men-folk as they went off to fight. As the famous song says, they had to keep “the home fires burning”.  A famous poster of the time shows newly recruited soldiers bravely marching away while a woman, her children beside her, gazes into the distance. Women of Britain say “Go!” the poster declares.

As 1914 came to a close, however, the girls and women of Britain decided that it wasn't enough for them to sit quietly at home and wait for things to be resolved, they wanted to wade right in and do their bit. Even those brave and determined women who had been campaigning to get the vote put this ultimate goal to one side to concentrate on helping the war effort.

At first this help was just women forming “comforts groups” to knit balaclavas, scarfs and gloves to be sent to the Front, but soon groups of (mostly well-to-do) women banded together to offer scores of different services (first aid, emergency feeding centres, rest for convalescent officers, and so on). It took a while before the all-male Army establishment would accept women in these new roles: Newly-qualified Edinburgh surgeon Elsie Inglis was told that her help wasn't wanted at the Front, thank you very much, and she should “Go home and sit still.”

As the war continued and more and more men left their jobs to go and fight, ordinary women left their traditional positions as maids, cleaners and mother’s helps and began to prove that they could do most jobs just as well as a man. Once the source of many jokes, it soon became the norm to see female bus-conductors, railway porters, window cleaners and, in 1915, the first policewomen in the streets. Women also took uncongenial and wearying work in munitions factories and taught themselves to drive, thus freeing up more men to go and fight.  

The number of casualties was unprecedented and a great many volunteer nurses were needed so – after a brief training period – girls like POPPY were given jobs in military hospitals both in this country and in France. Sixteen and seventeen-year-old girls lied about their ages to join up and found themselves in the thick of things: bandaging, packing wounds, de-lousing men who’d been in the trenches, taking round bed-pans and dealing with toes turned black by frostbite. Those young girls, who may not even have spoken to boys their own age before the War started, had to grow up very quickly. During the major battles on French or Belgian soil, so many men needed treatment that the field hospitals were snowed under: lines and lines of injured men on stretchers waited to be seen by doctors, and some of the more qualified nurses found themselves working as surgeons and actually having to amputate smashed-up limbs.

As the War went on, unprecedented numbers of women took on occupations that would have been unimaginable just a few years before. For the first time, girls and women had the freedom to choose what they wanted to do: they could “keep the home fires burning” and be in charge of their own destinies as well.

Poppy in the Field by Mary Hooper is being published by Bloomsbury on the 7th of May! 

REVIEW: Poppy In the Field by Mary Hooper (Poppy, #2) #CountdownYA

I absolutely loved the first book in this duology, Poppy, and was hugely, incredibly excited to find out how the story would end in this fantastic sequel, Poppy in the Field by Mary Hooper! It's being published by Bloomsbury on the 7th of May, and honestly? It's well worth reading.

I think what I loved so much about Poppy and about Poppy in the Field is that Mary Hooper has this fantastic way of weaving in great amounts of historical detail into an interesting narrative without the story feeling in any way educational or bogged down.  Everything flows very naturally and it's all incredibly fascinating.  That's what I felt when I was reading both books. But I also really cared for Poppy and her friends and family. And about the men who she comes across in her job as a voluntary nurse during World War I. Some of these men only come briefly into the story but all of the soldiers ended up having an impact on the story.

And then there's the romance element.  Despite the tag line on this book - 'Heartbreak on the front line' - I think another one of my favourite elements of these two stories is that there is a romantic aspect to the story, but Poppy's own experiences in the war effort, her relationships with the other nurses and telling the stories of women in WWI and of the soldiers' experiences and the different medical advances that take place, for me anyway, are at the forefront of these two books. And there is also a very satisfying and sweet and rather subtle romance as well.

The rest of this review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Poppy. If you have not yet read that book, and would like to, perhaps it would be best if you stopped reading now.

Poppy in the Field begins shortly after the dramatic ending of Poppy in which Poppy has found out that her sweetheart, Freddie de Vere, is now engaged to another woman and will be getting married very shortly. Poppy decides very suddenly to put her name down to volunteer as a nurse on the front line in an attempt to get over her broken heart. She knows it will be much more dangerous and difficult working overseas but she feels like this is a necessary change and she likes the idea of being useful during the war.

Unfortunately for Poppy, at the start, things don't go as well as she'd like.  She's assigned to a difficult ward Sister who gives her very little responsibility and the other nurses are unfriendly and stand-offish. Together with her broken heart, Poppy must muddle through.  And I loved seeing how well Poppy picks herself up following adversity.

Just as in the previous book, Poppy finds herself with some other nurse friends and endearing herself to her soldier patients. There are letters to her mother, her brother, the family friend who is supporting Poppy financially as a nurse and letters to Poppy's friend, Matthews. New characters are introduced in the form of American nurses, Dot and Tilly and old faces return such as Doctor Michael Archer.

And throughout we have Poppy Pearson, this strong, capable young woman taking things in her stride and doing the best she can. As I said above, I really love how much historical detail there is in this book without it ever feeling like it's crammed packed with history. It's just happens naturally in Poppy's conversations with those around her and we get a great glimpse of what the war was like in 1916.

I loved Poppy as a character. I loved her courage and tenacity. I loved her friendships and how professional she is as a volunteer nurse. I loved that she was heartbroken but still carried on as usual and eventually moves on. Poppy in the Field was a wonderful conclusion to Poppy's story and I really urge you to read it!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Kelly from The Book Faerie's Nook (Celebrating British Bloggers)

I hope you've enjoyed the return of Celebrating British Bloggers! I know that I have. This week I return with another interview with a book blogger I met at the Mira Ink blogger event in March. This time, let me proudly introduce you to Kelly from The Book Faerie's Nook! Over to you, Kelly...

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

Hi I'm Kelly, I'm 19 years old and from Feltham, Middlesex. I'm a sales assistant at EAST in Kingston and left college last year after studying English Language and Literature and Performing Arts. My blog, The Book Faerie's Nook, is where I post my own writing, book related events/news, reviews and features. 

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

I decided to start up a blog when applying for university last year. Because I wanted to study English and Creative Writing I needed a portfolio of my work. I also wanted to be able to share my work, and then my blog was born. Originally it didn't really have a name, just my initials KH with a simple logo I had made and had a very simplistic design, which was fine for what I wanted it for. It is only recently that I have given my blog an identity with a name and design, lol.

I've always loved books and reading. My Grandad used to make up Wind In The Willow's stories for me and I used to make my dad read me Thomas the tank engine books when I was little, he'd always skip sections to get to the end quicker although I was none the wiser! It was only after my Nan died that I became an avid reader, finding comfort in books. I loved the way I could dive into a book (the Study series) and escape the real world. From that I fell in love and just carried on reading.

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

How important it is to give your blog a clear identity and name from the very start! Also how important getting your blog noticed becomes.

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

Nowadays I'm either at work or asleep, lol, but I used to be part of a Musical Theatre group and do shows 3 or 4 times a year. I also used to play the flute up to grade 3.

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

My writing is probably what I would like my blog to be best known for, that's why I started it. But I also want it to be something my readers can get involved in and want to keep up to date with what's going on.

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

Because I've only recently given my blog attention again and started getting involved in things, my best experience would be getting the chance to attend the book bloggers event at Mira Ink to meet other bloggers and Maria V Snyder.

What is your biggest struggle as a book blogger? 

Finding the time and content to blog. Because I work full time I can sometimes have weeks where it has been so hectic that I'm exhausted by the time I get in so don't have the energy to read which gives me nothing to blog about. :(

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

This is a no brainier. It's Poison Study by Maria V Snyder. I started reading it on a Friday evening and by 3am Saturday morning I was finished. No other books have come close to being my favorite or have made me fall in love like Poison Study!

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

The Fallen Series by Lauren Kate, although by the end of this year everyone will know about it. I'd also really like Maria V. Snyder's books to become more known as the looks and questions I get when I say what my favorite book/author is gets very annoying. 

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

I haven't found any through blogging, however I found the currant book series I'm reading, Caledonia Fae by India Drummond, through FreeBooksy, a company that email you deals for free books daily based on what you like.

Name your top 5 UK book bloggers!

Unfortunately because I've only just started I don't have a top 5 just yet :(

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

Been there, done that ;) lol. Maria V Snyder.

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

That's a tricky one, I don't really know. I guess the constant will they won't they, but then I love that at the same time.

And finally, who is your ultimate book crush?

Valek from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. Hands down!

Thank you so much, Kelly!

What do you think of Kelly's answers? Do you love Valek and Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder? Do you love/hate the will they/won't they? Do you find it hard to juggle that work / blogging balance? Let Kelly know in comments!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mini-reviews: Girls in YA (Othergirl by Nicole Burstein, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed)

I've read quite a few books already in 2015 and I've noticed that quite a few of them have had the word 'GIRL' in their titles. And as I'm already slightly behind on my reviews, I thought it would be best if I grouped all my GIRL books together and review them together! (Already reviewed: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. Review to come: Gypsy Girl by Kathryn James!)

Othergirl by Nicole Burstein 

I had such high hopes for Othergirl by Nicole Burstein.  I was under the impression it was a story about superheroes and friendship.  But unfortunately, I wasn't really feeling the friendship between the main character, Louise, and her secret superhero best friend, Erica.  For me, their friendship felt very one-sided with Louise putting in more of the effort and Erica basking in what Louise did for her and being generally ungrateful for it. Quite often within the narrative, Louise will bring up some aspect of their friendship that feels unfair or one-sided but very rarely calls Erica on it.  In fact, I felt that way about all the major story lines brought up in this book.

I liked the super heroes (and one in particular Amazing Clara was mentioned a fair deal) but I didn't feel as though I came away from the story knowing much more than surface information about them. The problems in the friendship between Louise and Erica are brought up but not really dealt with. Neither is the mini-romantic element between Louise and another character.  Mostly I just wanted more from this book.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

So many people raved about Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell when it first came out that I did two things immediately. The first is that I bought the book and the second is that I avoided reading the book until I felt like the hype had died down a little. There's nothing worse, I feel, than reading a book when the pressure is high to LOVE a book.

And now that I have read it, I think I'll always been wondering if my feelings towards the book have been affected in some way by all of the hype surrounding it? I don't know. What I do know is that I enjoyed Fangirl. I did, quite a bit. I didn't love it. I still prefer Eleanor and Park. But I liked a lot of the concepts to this story. I enjoyed the fact that the main character writes fan fiction and we see her experiences of adjusting to university life and having a roommate and her uni courses more clearly than most 'new adult' books. I liked seeing her explore new relationships and friendships. I didn't particularly feel emotionally invested in her relationships with her sister or with Levi but the other aspects of Cath's story kept me interested. Especially her writing journey.

And while I didn't fall for Levi in the same way I fell for Park, I loved that the main romantic scene in the book is the two characters falling for each other whilst reading aloud from The Outsiders by SE Hinton!  I'm really glad that I finally read this book, even if it didn't wow me in the same way it has for other readers.

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya Ahmed is a very different book to what I'd normally read. It is very much an 'issues book' as the main thrust of the story involves forced marriage. While I found some parts of the book felt like a learning exercise and therefore didn't feel like natural to the story, other parts were very emotional. This book tells the story of 16 year old Zeba and how her and family went on holiday back to Pakistan and while there, her parents force her into remaining there for the purpose of marrying a wealthy cousin.

It's a pretty heart-breaking turn of events.  Whilst in Pakistan, Zeba does have allies though. She stays with her grandmother, Nannyma, and becomes friends with another British girl, Sehar, who has also been forced into marriage amongst the family. I think one of the most interesting aspects aside from the forced marriage, is how much Zeba learns about gender roles and about power throughout her struggles in Pakistan.  Overall, an interesting and thought-provoking read, one that I'm very happy to have read!

Have you read any books lately with GIRL in the title?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

REVIEW: Urban Legends by Helen Grant (Forbidden Spaces #3)

Urban Legends by Helen Grant is the third and final book in the Forbidden Spaces trilogy that began with Silent Saturday and Demons of Ghent. This series has been about a teenage girl, Veerle, and about her on/off relationship with Kris, and about the complicated dynamics of her family. It's been about urban exploration and about Veerle and Kris's run-ins with serial killers.

It's all very tense and thrilling but also emotional. I was so very excited to read the conclusion to this trilogy and my heart was in my mouth at several points as I was really, truly worried about the outcomes of these two amazing characters.  Helen Grant gave us a very tense story with Urban Legends but also one filled with heart-breaking scenes and plenty of surprises!

The rest of the review may (and probably does!) contain spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy. Proceed with caution.

Urban Legends follows shortly on from the end of Demons of Ghent with Veerle moving back to the small village where she lived with her mother. She's re-enrolled in school and is hoping to keep her head down, study, and get her diploma after failing the previous year. She's still sort of seeing Bram, even though he's still living in Ghent, and Veerle has promised her dad that she wouldn't see Kris.

As with the previous two books, Veerle's narration is interspersed with short, slightly disturbing chapters from the perspective of the serial killer which gives the reader an indication of what might be happening next. In Urban Legends, there is also a third perspective from a group of urban explorers who gather in abandoned buildings and locations in order to tell each other urban legends and scary stories but this group of storytellers is being picked off one by one. And soon, all three of these of these threads begin to overlap.

I really loved this story.  I'm so emotionally invested in Veerle's life and in her relationship with Kris that I was actually desperate to read this story and to find out once and for all. I felt like in the previous two books in this trilogy there was at least one parent figure around most times. But in Urban Legends, Veerle is now 18 and technically an adult. She's living alone and relies only on herself to keep safe and protected. And that made it scarier for me.

The tag line on this book is 'No one is safe' and I felt very aware of that fact whilst I was reading.  It really does feel like nobody is safe. And I worried. Something happened quite early on in this book that made me do this weird, wailing 'Nooooooo! That didn't happen, right? Surely not.' and had me furiously reading ahead to make sure that that really did not just happen. But all the stakes are raised in this book. The body count is much higher and we have a killer on our hands who will stop at nothing to take out the two people getting in his way: Veerle and Kris.

And then there's Veerle and Kris. They've been through so much together and yet they aren't together.  It's hard for them both and the reader can see how really difficult it is for them to navigate around the obstacles standing in their way: a current boyfriend, the ghost of an ex-girlfriend. My heart ached throughout for these two.

Urban Legends was an exciting end to the trilogy. There was heart-stopping action, surprises that shocked me, this intense relationship, plenty of creepy abandoned buildings and plenty of atmosphere. Fantastic ending, one that I really recommend. If you haven't discovered the Forbidden Spaces trilogy, what are you waiting for?!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Underrated UKYA authors #UKYADay

I struggled with what sort of angle that I wanted to discuss for Lucy's #UKYADay but in the end, I thought that I would write about something that I've discussed before on this blog: underrated YA and to give some recommendations of books that I think more people should be reading! Hope to see lots of amazing UKYA posts today and do check out all the amazing things that Lucy has organised throughout the day.

If you're interested in UKYA, do check out the British Books Challenge.

Helen Grant

Helen Grant is the author of many YA books but I've only really read her Forbidden Spaces trilogy: Silent Saturday, Demons of Ghent and Urban Legends. All three of these books are set in the Flemish speaking parts of Belgium and I adore them. They're tense and pacey thrillers that encorporate urban legends, serial killers, and the legends of customs of Belgium.  I think it's fantastic to see a different perspective within these books and I highly recommend the entire trilogy!

Lydia Syson

There was once a time where I was intimidated by most historical fictional novels. And then A World Between Us came along with its awesome cover and I thought I'd give it a chance. It was about the Spanish civil war and I was intrigued by how little I knew of this particular time period, so I gave it a go. And Lydia Syson definitely helped change my mind about my feelings towards historical novels. She's coming out with her third book next month (Liberty's Fire) and I'm so very excited. With each of her books so far (A World Between Us and That Burning Summer) she's pulled me into a new historical period and really brought things to life with great characters and situations and I really would like more people to have read her books.

Liz Bankes

A lot of the authors on this list write more serious books. I definitely favour the gritty, issues books. The books that leave me feeling emotional or heart-broken. They are the sort of books that I gravitate towards. And while I would definitely say that Liz Bankes writes books that are emotional, I find them to be emotional in different ways. Her books (Irresistible, Undeniable, Unstoppable) are funny and romantic and sexy. While still being emotional, of course. I love her books, I'd love for you to fall in love with them as well.

Phil Earle

As well as being the author of absolutely amazing books for teenagers and young people (Being Billy, Saving Daisy, Heroic, The Bubble Wrap Boy, Demolition Dad) I also think that Phil Earle is one of the nicest people in publishing. I first came across Phil just before his debut book, Being Billy, was published and I'm so glad that I did. Being Billy is incredible. It had been a long time since I'd read a book that affected me as much as that book did. It felt very real to me, very important and it hit very close to home in ways that I've never really spoken about before. And I've loved every book of his that I've read to date. These are books filled with so much heart.

Louisa Reid

I've only actually read one book by Louisa Reid so far but it was so incredible that I'm going to stick it on this list anyway! I read Lies Like Love and it is such an amazing, emotional story that it has remained with me long after I finished reading the book. It was dark and intense and beautiful and hopeful and I look forward to reading Louisa's previous book, Black Heart Blue.

Which UKYA authors would you like to see more people reading and talking about?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Sibling relationships (Mini reviews: Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver and I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson)

Two of my favourite recent films has been both Frozen and Big Hero 6. Both films explored sibling relationships and had this relationship at the heart of the story. The relationship between two sisters in Frozen and the story between brothers in Big Hero 6.

I really love this.  And this is definitely something that I'd like to see more of.  I think sibling relationships can be incredibly complicated and emotional and powerful. They can, of course, also be a great source of difficulty and I'd love to see both the positive and negative aspects of these close relationships in everything: films, television and books. Mostly books because that is the entertainment I choose to indulge in the most.

Having a brother myself and being the mother of two boys, I find sisters to be a confusing and intriguing concept but I'm interested in reading more! I've recently read two books that I thought had sibling relationships at the heart of their stories and really wanted to talk more about them today.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

The first book I wanted to talk about is the latest YA book by Lauren Oliver. With Vanishing Girls, Lauren Oliver returns the emotional contemporary story like she did with Before I Fall. And with Vanishing Girls, at the heart of the story is this somewhat broken relationship between two sisters, Dara and Nick, after they've been involved in a car accident.  They used to be the best of friends... but something happened just before the accident that leaves a gaping hole in Dara and Nick's relationships. And Nick thinks that that something might involve the disappearance of a local girl and she begins to investigate both the events leading up to the car accident and this missing local girl.  

Vanishing Girls was an intense read. I loved the complicated emotions that Nick feels about her sister and how much she misses what they used to have together.  I absolutely loved how the story enfolded and I thought that the partial setting of a water park was fantastic. Really enjoyed this one, one of my favourite books of the year so far! 

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

And then there's the second book by Jandy Nelson. In her first book, The Sky Is Everywhere, there was a pretty powerful sense of sisters as the main character is grieving the sudden death of her older sister, but in I'll Give You the Sun, we have a brilliant relationship between two twins: Noah and Jude.

In I'll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson tells us this story from the perspectives of both twins after tragedy has struck and pulls them apart. What I loved so much about this book is that it really shows how much the people who love and care about you the most have the power to hurt you the most as well.  It's pretty clear how much both Noah and Jude are struggling between themselves for the attention of their mother and how much art shapes them both.  I found it incredibly heartbreaking to see how much this sibling rivalry threatens their family and how both of the grief and hurt manifests itself.  What a beautiful book!

Have you read any great books recently which featured a really interesting sibling relationship?

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

REVIEW: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the Rage by Courtney Summers was such a powerful, emotional novel.  I knew that it would be based on the author and based on the subject matter.  Everything that I've read by Courtney Summers previous to this has felt very brutally honest and I think Courtney Summers has an amazing talent of writing emotion into every word of her stories and All the Rage is no exception.

I went through such a gamut of emotions reading All the Rage ... sadness, anger, heaviness, hope, but most of all I felt rage. Rage at the situations in this book and rage that there are still communities in which the events of All the Rage would be all too familiar. All the Rage is an amazing story, one that shines a light on rape culture and its consequences and I feel like this is a very important novel.

All the Rage tells the story not only of our main character, Romy Grey, but also the story of a community and the importance of gender, privilege and reputation are and the way in which these differences mean that young women like Romy who don't have family connections or a respectable reputation are subject to abuse and shame and struggle amongst a community that will not protect or support them.

This book plunges the reader into a very dark place right at the start of the novel and at times throughout the book this book gets darker and bleaker.  Because Romy is a girl who speaks a difficult truth about the sheriff's son and it is overlooked by people in a position to help her.  Her truth is overlooked and that causes so many other consequences in this community especially when another girl goes missing after a party.

This book can be so difficult to read at times as the reader witnesses all of the injustices big and small that Romy faces from other students, from adults, from the sheriff.  This whole book made my stomach clench at the horrible things Romy faces and absolute fury that things like this can and do happen but I also felt hope, especially in relation to Romy's friendship with someone she works with at the diner at the edge of town.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers is an honest, unflinching, emotional story and it reinforces Courtney Summers' place on my list of all-time favourite authors.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Author Spotlight: Siobhan Curham

Siobhan Curham is an award-winning novelist, motivational speaker and life coach.
She has written books for adults, young adults and children – both fiction and non-fiction – and has publishing deals in the UK, France and Germany. Her YA series, Shipwrecked, is currently being developed for television.

Siobhan is currently working on a non-fiction book called True Face: Be Real. Be Fearless. Be You! to be published by Faber & Faber in 2015.

Her new YA novel, Dark of the Moon, the second in the Shipwrecked series, was published by Egmont in June 2014.

The above is (part of!) Siobhan Curham's official bio that can be found on her website!  Do find out more about Siobhan Curham and her many books (including books for adults) on the following websites:

Of course, recently you've probably heard Siobhan Curham's name in connection with Zoe Sugg and that whole situation.  But I first heard about Siobhan's stories when she self-published her first novel for young adults, Dear Dylan.  I think I saw a review of it over on Chicklish (still one of my favourite websites ever, even if it is no longer running!) and I was intrigued by it.  The title and author of the book stayed with me.

Dear Dylan

So when the book was picked up by a traditional publishing house and sold to Egmont, I was incredibly happy for her, even though I didn't know much about her or the book.  I did get a copy of it for review, but it came at a time when I felt pulled in too many directions and one of my guest reviewers very kindly reviewed it for me.  And she liked it.  I still would like to find the time one of the days to go revisit Dear Dylan and give it my full attention. It's a story told entirely in emails between a teenage girl and (supposedly) the celebrity she really looks up to. I like that this book is about friendship and finding those ways to get through difficult times.  It sounds like an interesting book.

Finding Cherokee Brown and Finding Your Inner Cherokee

But it wasn't until Finding Cherokee Brown that I really sat up and took notice of Siobhan Curham and her writing.  I read Finding Cherokee Brown and I felt incredibly connected and emotionally invested in a character and her story line.  Reading Finding Cherokee Brown actually helped me as well. I struggle with my self-confidence and the idea that's brought up in the book about a girl who makes up an alternative persona who is everything that she wants to be sounded like such a good idea that sometimes in situations where I felt uncomfortable or where my anxiety might creep in, I'd sometimes think of what my alternate-Michelle would look like.

Which is kind of why I was so happy that Siobhan Curham wrote and distributed Finding Your Inner Cherokee for free during anti-bullying week.  The main character in Finding Cherokee Brown is bullied and in Finding Your Inner Cherokee, Siobhan really pulled together her own experiences of being bullied with her life coaching and writing for teenagers to put together a short non-fiction guide to help teens and young people regain their confidence after bullying.  I won't lie, reading some of this book made me cry because almost 15 years after my own bullying experiences and I still needed to hear some things and I realised that I hadn't quite gotten over how painful my own experiences with bullying was.  It was an eye-opener. And I thought Finding Your Inner Cherokee was a really important and worthwhile project to have done.

Shipwrecked and Dark of the Moon

But then, Siobhan Curham has also written Shipwrecked and Dark of the Moon which I think are very different.  They're kind of a Lost meets Gossip Girl as a bunch of teenagers get stranded on a deserted island.  I believe they've been optioned but ...again, I haven't yet read them.  They look really fun and adventurous but I just haven't gotten around to them.  I think that's just me though. These books came out with Electric Monkey and I will read them. I will.

True Face

Siobhan's latest project is another non-fiction book called True Face. It's published this month by Faber and it's a book about identity and image and a guide to being your true self in the age of social media and the pressures on teenage girls to be perfect.  Just like with Finding Your Inner Cherokee, I find myself reading this book and feeling very emotional. Like even though I'm in my 30s and feel reasonably more okay with myself and who I am, there is still always more that I could be more okay with.  And Siobhan does a great job of walking through certain things and finding great exercises to do and great case studies to inspire. It's a wonderful thing, and I hope True Face really helps people out there.  

Have you read any books by Siobhan Curham? Do you now want to?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Sarah from A Bit Behind On Books (Celebrating British Bloggers)

Hello and welcome back to another edition of Celebrating British Bloggers! This is a feature I used to run awhile back to help introduce other book bloggers in the UK to one another. I decided to start this feature up again after meeting several very lovely people at a recent event hosted by MiraInk! 

Sarah is one of the bloggers that I met and she's wonderful. I now follow her on Twitter and her blog and I really suggest that you do the same! Let her know in comments what you think of her answers...

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

My name's Sarah, I'm an MA Professional Writing student, wannabe author, who lives in the Backwater of Nowhere, Devon. I blog about YA mostly, but whatever I read I'll write about. 'Behind on Books' was made because I always feel like I'm 'behind' on the latest, hottest, coolest, must have reads. But there are so many books in the world, how are you ever gonna catch up? 

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

I started a blog because it sounded like fun. I had no idea what I was doing and I generally fumbled around with, poked at, kicked Wordpress until I got it to (sort of) work for me. I found that as I was reading more, I wanted somewhere to talk about it, even if I was talking only to myself. Just somewhere, anywhere, to get all the fangirling out of my system. 

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

Uh, maybe it's less about blogging, and more about keeping calm around ALL THE BOOKS on NetGalley. Everyone does it. I did it. And my ratio is still RIDICULOUS!

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

I write! I know, I spend half my gorydamn life staring at a screen. I've said this before, but I'd love for a computer screen that was matte like on my Kindle. It would sure save my already failing eyesight! I also like to eat. And watch stuff on Netflix. 

..I do venture outside sometimes too. I have a dog.. so he makes sure I see daylight at least once a day. Actually, that's not true. Sometimes I don't walk him til dark.. 

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


It sounds simple. But I've been asked why I take the stance I do, especially when I want to be a published author myself. But I look at it this way; If I have something to say about a book, and I'm gonna say it. I would want people to be honest about MY books, too. I DO NOT advocate flaming or any kind of hating on books/authors. Every book has a redeeming quality. I think it just comes down to 'fit'. Like trying on a pair of jeans (and we all know how hard it is to find the right fight, yeah?) sometimes they'll go on, but maybe pinch at the side, or be too tight at the ankle. Maybe they don't fit at all... but that doesn't make them a BAD pair of jeans. 

...My analogies often get out of hand. I think that's what I'm more likely to be remembered for. 

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

Recently? Going to the MIRA Ink offices in London and meeting a ton of new people.. heck, I hadn't met ANY bloggers before that. AND getting to meet Maria Snyder too? Such a great evening. A dream.

What is your biggest struggle as a book blogger? 

Probably the same as many bloggers. Time. It's hard trying to keep on top of my posts, especially between working and studying.. and sometimes I read too fast for my own good! I literally cannot keep up with myself

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

I can't do it! Don't make me! ARGH! Ok.. I'll try.. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (with Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy a close second!!)

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

Oh, well I will champion the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown until my last breath. SO GOOD! 

And I think maybe Megan Miranda.. I don't see her books popping up that often in the blogosphere and she always brings something different to a story.

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

I think blogging has given me the push I needed to read some authors whereas I might have either not discovered them, or bypassed them.

Stephanie Perkins, for instance. (I know.. a CRIME, but I'm a Perkins fangirl now through and through) And Veronica Rossi's 'Under the Never Sky' series wasn't really on my radar at all until I saw one of my blogger pals raving about it.. They were right. It was an awesome read. 

Name your top 5 UK book bloggers!

Oop! Busted! Ugh.. *cough* 

See, I don't necessarily check where bloggers come from. Sure, you can usually tell once you've read some of their posts, their about page, etc. But it's not really a factor for me. Of course I support UK book bloggers! 100%!!

I'm still exploring blogs and bloggers that are a little closer to home (as in, actually residing in this country!) and making more of an effort to use my Bloglivin' feed because I find a much lower UK presence on wordpress. Maybe it's just me.. 

Maybe I suck at finding you all! Irk! Soz.

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

Tick this one of the list, eh? Maria V Syder was definitely up there for me. It meant a lot to meet her. But I'd also love to get the chance to meet Richelle Mead, Jennifer L Armentrout, OH and J R Ward..  

..and, a bit of a wildcard, I would absolutely lose my shit if I was in the same room as Salman Rushdie..

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

Hm, that's a hard one. My gut instinct is to say I'd like to see more attention to detail. And that sounds harsh. But what I mean is, I've noticed in some of the books I haven't enjoyed as much as I thought I would, or those that just didn't 'fit' (yep, we're back to jeans) it's usually because my 'continuity obsessed' brain couldn't let something go.

You know, like when you watch a film and go 'hey, he was holding that in his left hand, and now it's in the right?'

Also, and I think this applies more to fantasy type titles, I get obsessive over descriptions of things that aren't followed through, or that don't make scientific/historical sense. I need to believe this mad mutant ability and how it works, or whatever. Just a little attention to detail and BLAMMO I'm locked in and I'll forgive the author any amount of craziness. 

It's picky, pedantic stuff that I know I'm guilty of in my own writing.. But it's just the way I read. And I can't help but notice it.

And finally, who is your ultimate book crush?

Valek (Study series, Maria Snyder). Hands down, no competition.

BUT runners up prizes (because it's the taking part that counts) go to Wrath from J R Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and Dimitri from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. 

A special ribbon to Etienne St Clair from Anna and the French Kiss.. 

A personlised key ring for Roar from Under the Never Sky

...Oh, and then there's Eric Northman from Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series.

But Valek. He wins all the prizes twice over.

Thank you so much, Sarah

Is Valek your ultimate crush? Is Jane Eyre your favourite? Would you like to be known for your honesty? Do you struggle with having enough time or with Netgalley? Let Sarah know in comments!

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Gerbils, Hurdles and Ski Boots by Cat Clarke (Love Libraries)

Love Libraries is a new semi-regular feature on Fluttering Butterflies and it's all about our love for libraries and librarians.

I'm really pleased to have one of my favourite authors here on the blog today taking part in this new feature! Cat Clarke is the author of many wonderful books including Torn, Undone, A Kiss in the Dark, Falling and Entangled. Her new book is being published in July so do look out for that. If you would like to know more about Cat Clarke or her books, do visit the following websites:

My mum and I used to go to the library after school once a week. It was a stocky, imposing building with worn stone steps leading up to huge front door. It was one of my favourite places in the world.

First stop was always children’s fiction. I was a miniature Terminator, my laser eyes scanning for shiny new spines until BEEP BEEP BEEP JUDY BLUME ALERT! A new Judy Blume book was always a special occasion. I would pluck it from the shelf with my grubby little fingers before anyone else could swoop in and claim my prize. 

Next stop: checking in on Mum, who by this point would have a pile of six or seven hardbacks she’d found on the latest releases shelf. We would enter into negotiations over how long it was before we had to go home. She’d say ten minutes, I’d say twenty. We always ended up settling on fifteen.

Third and final stop: non-fiction. This is where the gerbils, hurdles and ski boots come in. I would pick a few books off the shelf, sit on the floor and read.* For some reason, the three books I kept on returning to again and again were a book about owning and caring for gerbils, a book about athletics, and one about skiing. The last two were brilliant books published by Usborne. (Side note: One of the proudest moments of my life was snagging a job writing Usborne books many, many years later. I like to think my encyclopaedic knowledge of athletics and skiing had something to do with this stroke of good fortune).

The book about gerbils turned out to be particularly useful. After months of careful research, my mum took me to the pet shop to get two gerbils of my very own. Thanks to my hours spent in the library, I managed not to kill Chip and Dale. The gerbils, for their part, managed to bite the skin between my fingers on only a semi-regular basis.

I’d like to say that after poring over the books about athletics and skiing turned me into a sports superstar, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I always liked reading about things rather than actually doing them. But if I had wanted to become a sporty goddess, I had all the facts at my fingertips: different types of ski boots, the ins and outs of mogul skiing, how to hurdle. I knew it all. And some of that information still lurks in my brain, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

I loved that library. I’m planning to go back and visit it in a few months – for the first time in twenty years. Fingers crossed they’ll have a new Judy Blume ready and waiting for me.

Love your library and it will love you back. And if you need any out-of-date advice about ski boots, give me a shout.

*There are library scenes in most of my books, mostly because I think libraries are bloody awesome. In The Lost of the Found (out in July), the main character, Faith, visits her local library and sits on the floor of the non-fiction section to read. I wonder where I got that idea from.

Cat Clarke is the UKYA author of several YA books including Entangled, Torn, Undone, Falling and A Kiss in the Dark. Her latest, The Lost and the Found, is being published by Quercus on 2nd July! It sounds fantastic.