Saturday, October 03, 2015

Esther Ehrlich (Awesome Women)

I'm honoured today to have Esther Ehrlich, the author of Nest, on my blog answering some tough questions about women and fictional characters and role models.

Nest is one of the books that kicked off the new publishing imprint, Rock the Boat. I think Rock the Boat have a fantastic list so far and that Nest looks like a wonderful middle grade novel about friendship and adventure and birds and more difficult situations!  It was published in July, get your hands on a copy!

To find out more about Nest or Esther Ehrlich, please do visit the following websites:

Can you tell me a little something about yourself?

I was born and raised in Boston, a place I love and miss. Now I live right on the edge of a huge regional park in the San Francisco Bay Area and wrote NEST at my desk that looks out into the trees branches. When we’re not having a drought, Wildcat Creek flows through our back yard. I live with my husband (and, yes, best friend) and our two teenagers.

Writing and publishing my first novel has been an amazing ride!

Did you have a role model growing up?

I had a teacher in 6th grade who made a huge impression on me. She spoke her mind, had very strong opinions, wore old-fashioned clothes, and introduced us to the concept of “sex role stereotyping.” And she loved, loved, loved books! She turned a corner of our classroom into a living room and used to read to us while we lounged around on pillows… She actually came to my launch party for NEST in my hometown. When we saw each other after so many years, we both burst into tears!

Who do you look up to now?

One person I’ve admired for a long time is Meryl Streep. She’s amazingly smart, capable, and creative. I think she has that rare gift of being able to imagine herself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is a hugely important quality, I think, for actors and writers. And everyone else. Without it, we can’t make sense of each other or of the world; we can’t make change happen.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Hard to believe, but when I was really young, I said I wanted to be a “farmer’s wife.” I didn’t realize that I could just be the farmer! I liked the idea of raising animals and working outside and making jars of pickles and tomato sauce to put away for the winter.

Tell me something about the women in your life who have been an influence on you?

My mom grew up very poor and had a pretty rough childhood, but she was extremely curious, creative, and determined to find her way in the world. As a teenager, she studied on her own at a public library and won a nationwide contest that paid for her education at an elite college. She was a poet and a deeply loving, tender, flawed, strong woman.

Who is your favourite fictional character? And why?

One favourite! Oh no! I choose Charlotte. She was one inspired, kind, brave, creative woman (spider!)

Is there a fictional character that reminds you of you?  And if you could choose to be best friends with a fictional character, who would it be?

Chirp in NEST reminds me of me, in some ways. And I like her, which is a good sign.

I can’t land on just one character that I’d choose as a best friend. For me to love a book, I need to feel deeply connected to at least one character and I love a lot of books!

What were you like as a teenager and how did you cope with all the changes that occurred?

That’s a tough question. Thinking back, my teenage years are a bit of a blur. My mom was really ill and I think I felt pressure to not add to the stress in our family, so I actually was pretty tame.

Which book would you say that every teenager should read and why? 

I’d say every teenager should read whatever books grab hold of him/her and won’t let go. I wouldn’t try to force anything, including my version of a must-read book, on a teenager! Reading is such a subjective experience. Choosing a book is so personal.

If you had any advice for yourself as a teenager, what would you say? 

This is just the beginning of your big, wide, rambling life…

Of the issues and concerns that women are faced with today, what's the area you most like reading/writing  about?

Real relationships. Not the pre-packaged, prettied-up variety. Brave, strong connections that push against what we expect and what is expected of us.

Thanks very much for the chance to answer these engaging questions!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Exclusive artwork: Railhead by Philip Reeve

Come with me, Zen Starling, she had said. The girl in the red coat. But how did she know his name? 
The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains criss-cross the galaxy in a heartbeat. 
Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. 
So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor's train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people - and to steal their stuff. 
But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him.

To celebrate the publication of Railhead by Philip Reeve, OUP have commissioned several other artists to create their own interpretations of the caracters or cityscapes. Railhead is a new, exciting sci-fi adventure story and it's been amazing to see how other artists imagine this world that Philip Reeve has created.

Today, I have the absolute pleasure to be sharing with you another exclusive piece of artwork inspired by Railhead.  

Cleave Cityscape by Jonathan Edwards

I absolutely love this. Do find out more about the artist, Jonathan Edwards at his website.

Railhead by Philip Reeve is published on 1st October by OUP.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

#YAShot Readathon Review Link-up

As I'm sure you all know by now, the #YAShot readathon starts tomorrow! I'm putting this up early in case anyone was desperate to start early. I know I was! Do check out for more information about YAShot, to buy tickets, check out the programme and follow along with the YAShot Blog/Vlog Tour!

Reminder, the YAShot Readathon runs between the 28 September - 28 October.

Here, again, is a list of all the books by authors attending YAShot. There are almost 200 books to choose from!

This readathon isn't about speed-reading through as many as you can (though I'm sure that would be nice, especially in terms of clearing our never ending TBR piles!) but about reading and reviewing/talking about these books.

Reviewing books can mean anything: writing reviews on your blog, Goodreads etc. Tweeting your thoughts about a YAShot book read during the readathon. Uploading a video review or mini-reviews of more than one YAShot book. Sharing a photo and your thoughts on Instagram or Facebook. While longer, more in-depth discussions of books are great, don't put yourself under too much pressure here. We're all about low-pressure reading during this readathon!

Do collect all your links in which you talk about the book you're reading for the readathon and add them to the link-up below. Please only add links that will take me specifically to your reviews, any links that do not do this will sadly be deleted. The more links you add, the more chances you have of winning prizes at the end of the event. All prizes will be signed books by YAShot authors.

Open to anyone, anywhere, whether you are attending YAShot or not.

Most importantly? Have fun.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Interview with Laura Jarratt #YAShot

Hugely excited today to be taking part in the #YAShot blog and vlog tour again, this time with another of my favourite authors, Laura Jarratt!

Skin Deep really made me sit up and take notice of Laura Jarratt and since then I've always eagerly awaited anything else by her. I especially loved the exploration of identity in her first two novels. But here we are discussing YA Shot and libraries and getting published!

To find out more about Laura Jarratt and her books, do visit the following links:

                      To find out more about YA Shot, check out

Hello and welcome to Fluttering Butterflies! Could you please introduce yourself and your books? 

Hi, and thank you for having me. I’m Laura and I write YA fiction – romance/thriller is probably the best way to describe my published books, although I’m not really bothered by labels. ‘Teen fiction’ is enough of a category for me.

I’m never very interested in authors’ personal lives but for those who are, I’m married with an eight-year-old stepson and a two-year-old daughter. We’ve got two RSPCA rescue cats, which belong to my daughter, Orlaith. My family is of Irish descent and my husband’s family are a mix of Welsh and English. After twenty years working in comprehensives, I recently moved into the special education sector and I’m now a Headteacher at a school for children with physical, medical and other complex needs. It’s a great job and I’m lucky to be in a position where I enjoy what I do.

You'll be chairing a panel at YAShot called 'Crime and Punishment: fictional wrongdoing and human rights' which sounds really intriguing. What can we expect from this panel and who do you think might find it interesting?

You’ve got a real range of writers on this panel, and a real mix of books in their catalogues. One question I will be asking is whether fictional wrongdoing should always be punished – I expect some interesting answers to that one! I haven’t met any of the others yet but my experience of these things is that we all tend to have very different personalities too, so that should make for a lively debate. My job is to make sure everyone gets to talk and throw some questions into the mix if we stall.

I think it should appeal to all lovers of YA fiction because the books we’ve written are so different that there’ll be something for all readers. Audience participation is always great so come with any questions you want answered.

What other panels or authors are you looking forward to seeing or meeting at YAShot?

I’m hoping we arrive in time to see Playing with Time: Historical fiction and historical settings. And I also want to catch Trigger Warning: Exploring sensitive issues in ethical ways. Which reminds me – I really must find time to ask my husband if there’s anything he’s particularly interested in. I’m dragging him along with me at it’s our anniversary the day after and we’re having some away time in the Cotswolds, so we’ve got to shoot off up there at 5pm. It means I don’t get time to hang out with the other writers afterwards but my family always comes first. Hopefully I’ll find some time to catch up with a few people and say hi to some of the bloggers

YAShot is an event celebrating libraries! What do libraries mean to you?

When I was a kid, we lived in a council house in a very deprived urban area. My mother was a single parent and worked really hard in her job to keep up a decent standard of living. She took me into Manchester city centre every week when I was small to buy me a book and she was the one who taught me to read. Until I was eight, there was no library within easy reach and I was a very fast reader. When a library finally opened near the shopping precinct, she enrolled me in their opening week. I got dropped off at the library on Saturday mornings while she did her shopping and I’d spend the morning browsing the books, fiction and non-fiction. Reading gave me a window into different worlds and the library expanded my horizons even further.

All kids need access to a library and the ones who need it most are the kids whose parents can’t afford books for them.

You've had 4 YA novels published so far, what were your biggest obstacles to overcome with each of these books? 

With Skin Deep, which was my favourite of all of them to write, it was getting used to working with an editor. One of the reasons I signed with Egmont was because I find Stella Paskins great to work with on shaping a book, but there is definitely a process to get used to in working with your editor and building the relationship is really important.

The hardest thing about By Any Other Name was actually meeting the deadline. I had real trouble getting through the word count because I was in a new relationship (I did marry him eventually so he was worth the disruption to my writing) and operating outside my normal writing routine. Structurally it was quite difficult to get the balance right too. We were aiming for a faster pace than with Skin Deep because the book leans much more towards ‘thriller’ and I find that really hard to judge – which is where Stella comes in.

Writing Louder Than Words was lovely because I was off on maternity leave but I did try to be too clever and it didn’t come off so I ended up having to do a monster edit to chop out sections where I’d had Rafi write from ActionX’s perspective. It seemed like a good idea at the time from the point of view of her wanting to be a writer but what I really ended up doing was killing the tension.

I thought I’d found my writing pattern after three books but In Another Life destroyed that view. I just could not write this book in sequence so I ended up writing the first quarter and then the last quarter, and then going back and filling in the middle. It’s because I don’t plot before I write and I hit a panic zone at 25k with this book, which was only dispelled by writing the end so I knew where I was going. I’m fairly pleased with how it came out in the end though, but it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be – I still have some pangs for the book I wanted to write in the first instance.

Can you tell us a little something about your experience in getting an agent and having your first book published?

I didn’t go the usual route and submit. Actually, technically, I did do that at first but with another book and I got nowhere. But while that was going on, I was writing my second unpublished book on a website called Authonomy. It’s where I first came across Stella Paskins because I won a review on my first 10k. While I had my work up there, my agent spotted it and contacted me. We didn’t go out to publishers with that book (Freefalling) as she thought it was too hard to sell commercially but I’d already had another fledgling idea, which became Skin Deep, and she signed me after seeing the first 20k of that. I finished it and she took it out to publishers. Ultimately I had two publishers offering and we went with Egmont. I was actually co-agented initially by Ariella Feiner and Simon Trewin while Ariella (who was then Simon’s assistant) was setting her own list up. Having his name behind us helped editors take us seriously  - he’s a lovely chap and gave me some really good advice about getting the final draft ready to go out for submission.

You are definitely one of my favourite UKYA authors. Who are your favourite UKYA authors or books at the moment?

That’s a really hard question. I don’t read nearly as much YA as I used to. Two reasons really: firstly I have a full time job and a two year old to look after, as well as writing, so my reading time is much more limited than it was; secondly, I’m more into adult fiction at the moment. I guess I’m looking for something amazing to sweep me off my feet in YA. I have high hopes for Jenny Downham’s third novel Unbecoming, but I don’t have time to do it justice at present so I’m waiting for a holiday to read it. At first I thought the pre-release information was uncomfortably like an adult book I’m working on so I was relieved to read more about it and find it’s very different.

In all honesty, I want to find a ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ in UKYA soon. I think we need to up our game and write more of the kind of books that stand the test of time and become classics, those books you still remember twenty years later. You don’t get many of them, of course, but I really feel they’re much too scarce at the moment.

What has been the best experience when interacting with your readers?

I rarely get out to do events because I work full time in term time and it’s not the kind of job where I can take time off so I don’t get to do book tours. My favourite events are school audiences outside of school buildings, like book awards or the Edinburgh book festival. I’m happiest talking to teens and I love doing Q&A sessions with them because they always ask something interesting I wasn’t expecting.  If pushed to declare a favourite, it would be the Portsmouth Book Award – it was a great set-up and I got to talk to fans and hear what they thought of the books.

And finally, can you give us any clues as to what you're working on at the moment?

I’m writing something for the adult market at the moment – a reading group-type novel about a woman investigating the decades-old death of a child who is haunting her.

The YA novel I’m writing next is moving away from thrillers. I want to do something with a bigger concept – a love story on a grander scale, that questions one of the great mysteries of life. There’s no guarantee I can pull it off but I’m giving it a go. I am concerned I’m not good enough to write it though!

Thank you so much, Laura!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Interview with Keren David #YAShot

You guys, YA Shot is almost here and I am super, super excited. It really is going to be the most epic day ever. 71 UKYA and UKMG authors all in one space, doing workshops and panels and signings and imagine all the flailing and the bookish conversations that will be had. YA Shot is a celebration of libraries and a year-long literacy programme that will include author visits and support for teenagers and young people who most need a little extra help. And for that reason, I'm more than happy to be involved with YA Shot, both on the day and with the Blog and Vlog tour.  I also have to give a big shout-out to Alexia Casale for doing an amazing job organising this whole thing. She's a superstar.

Today, on the YA Shot blog tour I am here with one of my favourite UKYA authors, Keren David. She's no stranger to Fluttering Butterflies and I've read and loved all of her books. Here is my review of her debut, When I Was Joe, and here is my review of her latest, This Is Not A Love Story. Check out my interview in which we talk writing essentials, fangirl-ing over authors, book recommendations and more.

To find out more about Keren David, do visit the following webites:

To find out more about YA Shot, check out

Hello and welcome to Fluttering Butterflies, could you please introduce yourself and your books? 

Hello, thank you for hosting me on your lovely blog.  I took up writing YA books in 2008, after a long career in journalism, and my first book When I Was Joe, about a boy in witness protection, was published in 2010. That book became the first in a trilogy and I've also written three standalone books -  Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, which I'm currently adapting into a musical, Salvage, about two siblings reunited after 12 years apart and my latest, This is Not a Love Story

At YA Shot, you'll be taking part in a panel entitled 'Crime and Punishment: Fictional wrongdoing and human rights' What can we expect from this panel and who do you think might be interested?

I am so intrigued by this panel, because I have absolutely no idea what it's going to be about, it'll all depend how our chair, Laura Jarratt decides to steer it. The other two writers on the panel are the awesomely talented Cat Clarke and Emma Haughton, and they both have crime novels out, but my latest book is more about the rules -  social, religious, cultural, legal - of love and relationships.  But then I have written a lot about crime in the past. So, it could be about anything, but most probably sex and violence, and I think that might interest just about anyone. 

Who are you most excited to meet at YAShot or are there any authors you'd fangirl over?

I am so excited about YAShot because so many author friends will be there, and usually we only meet on  Twitter or Facebook. I'll be fan-girling Tim Bowler, who I have wanted to meet forever,and also the amazing Alexia Casale for taking on the enormous task of organising YAShot, and creating such a brilliant event. 

What are your earliest or fondest reading or library memories?

My dad used to take me to the library at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City every week and I have very fond memories of browsing the shelves there -  often taking out books that were old favourites. Then at secondary school I managed to skip a lot of assemblies and RE lessons, because I was Jewish, so the library was a calm, quiet oasis in the school day. I'd read the newspaper while the rest of my class were singing hymns. 

What would you say you've learnt during or after the publication of each of your novels? (about any research done, the publishing industry, your writing process etc)

Book 1 (When I was Joe): I can write a book. It doesn't have to be autobiographical. 

Book 2 (Almost True): I can write another book. I can't do news editing at the same time though. 

Book 3 (Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery): Sometimes you can do too much research. 

Book 4 (Another Life): You can write a trilogy without having planned it as a trilogy. 

Book 5 (Salvage): Don't forget to put dialogue in your book.

Book 6 (This is Not a Love Story): Sometimes writing about your own world is more difficult that imaging yourself into someone else's.

What are some of your writing essentials?

A power point -  my laptop battery has died. And the laptop is about to die too. 

Tea. Sometimes chocolate.


Ideally I need somewhere with no internet, or where I don't know the internet password.

I love that YAShot is filled with such an amazing array of UKYA/UKMG authors. Who are some of your favourite authors recently or what are some of your favourite books?

One by Sarah Crossan is extraordinarily good.  I'd never read a book in verse before, and I was blown away by it. 

When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman is a book which keeps you thinking long after you turn the last page.

I adored Susie Day's Pea books, and I was so happy to see the linked follow-up The Secrets of Sam and Sam

Helen Grant's Forbidden Spaces trilogy is fabulous, and I loved the final book, Urban Spaces, which came out earlier this year.

I could go on and on.....

And finally, can you tell us anything about your upcoming book, Cuckoo?! 

Cuckoo is due to come out August 2016, and it's about a boy called Jake who has a career as a  child actor, a brother who doesn't speak and a father who suffers from stress.  

Thank you so much, Keren! Hugely looking forward to your panel at YAShot AND reading your new book!  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

REVIEW: Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis

Really happy today to be taking part in the blog tour for Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis! Really loved both of these books and the time slip and romance aspects to the story. Huge thank you to Chicken House for sending me these two books and I highly recommend both! Today I'm sharing my reviews of each of these books but do check out the other stops on the blog tour for other fun things!

Darkmere by Helen Maslin

I absolutely loved Darkmere by Helen Maslin! I'd followed the author on Twitter for quite some time and because she's lovely I was, at first, a little bit nervous to start this book for that reason. There was no need to worry as I absolutely loved it. I thought Darkmere was really pacey and addictive as well as being quite emotional. 

Darkmere tells the story of two girls separated in time by hundreds of years. The first, Kate, in the modern day has been invited to spend the summer at a remote castle alongside the beach. Good-looking, popular Leo has invited Kate and some other friends to stay in this castle he has just inherited. Kate fancies Leo so says yes, despite the differences in their wealth and social standing. Darkmere isn't at all what she imagined it would be and soon she finds herself interested in the local legends of the castle and of the ghost who is said to haunt it.  This is where Elinor comes in who tells us her story in the 1800s and how her own social standing and romantic prospects are called into question and how she eventually ends up at Darkmere.

I really loved both Kate and Elinor's perspectives in telling the story. I was hugely invested in both of these main characters and I found myself pulled easily into their stories and was rooting for them throughout, even when it became more obvious that Elinor's story becomes more tragic. What I loved about both of these story lines was that they are both hugely interesting and as the end of their chapters loomed little tidbits of exciting things were mentioned that left me hugely intrigued by what would happen next. There is quite a bit of surprise and twists to the story that kept me entertained and hooked.  

Another favourite aspect to the story is the setting on the English coast line and discovering Darkmere's history with smuggling and how that aspect of the story unfolds as a bit of a surprise. I lapped every detail of this part of the story and now having finished the story I'm quite excited to learn more! Elements of historical fiction don't always grab at me the way the historical bits of Darkmere did, so I was quite surprised by this. 

The romance elements to both of these stories ends up being a little bit dark and in a way, doomed and I loved that type of love story.  Leo definitely isn't all that he seems, however I still found myself being slightly won over by him anyway. There was something appealing about him anyway. And also the other characters who come along on this summer get away. It's always nice to see that first impressions aren't always the best at showing a person's true character!

I absolutely loved Darkmere and I highly recommend it! Dark, addictive, romantic and very fast-paced. This is definitely a book to look out for.

Helen Maslin

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis was another hugely fun read. I have to admit that I didn't know very much about the story before I decided to dive into the book.  And you know what? Crow Mountain was hugely interesting and something that felt a little bit different as I was reading. 

Crow Mountain has two time lines, a story set in the modern day and another set in the 1800s as settlers are moving west.  Both characters in each of the story lines share many similarities. They both end up stranded in the Montana wilderness, both fall in love and their stories end up being a little bit more intertwined than you'd think.  

In the modern day, we are introduced to Hope, a teenage girl who is in Montana on holiday with her mother. She is a little bit shy and reserved and more than a little intimidated by her bossy mother who does her best to mould Hope into a miniature version of herself, even though Hope has different interests and dreams to that of her mother. And there is also Emily, a girl who has promised in marriage to a man she's never met in San Francisco and shipped off from England to settle. Hundreds of years separate Hope and Emily but their destinies are linked.

Again, historical elements to a YA book are not story lines that grab my attention normally. However, I absolutely loved the historical parts of Crow Mountain.  While travelling to San Francisco, Emily's carriage is destroyed and she becomes the only survivor in the midst of the Montana wilderness. Soon, she is rescued by horse trader, Nate, and lives with him for some time, slowly learning to become self-sufficient and accustomed to living in a very different environment to the one she has been brought up in. What I loved about Emily's story was witnessing her gradual changes from somebody who apologises for her the space she takes up in the world to that of a woman who can hold her own. I also found it really fascinating to hear of her experiences with the Native Americans in the area, the detail about the railroad expansion in the west, and also the fate of the bison.  

I think I was less enthralled by Hope's story in the present. Her mother, Meredith, takes on a bit of a caricature role and I didn't feel as invested in Cal's story or the reasons why he is persecuted by his community or the police. However, I did quite like Hope and the ways in which she eventually stands up for herself.  I think perhaps if there were more page time for Hope and Cal, I would have eventually loved them more. However I think that Emily and Nate stole the show for me! 

As for the romance, I really loved Emily and Nate. It wasn't always great between the two of them, Nate makes choices I didn't agree with that take away Emily's choices for her own destiny but he makes up for that later on. The two of them were just not what I expected. Nate wasn't what I expected. And as I said, I loved seeing Emily's transformation and that was very much down to Nate pushing her into becoming more independent. The ending felt a little bit rushed and I think could have done with a bit more time to develop fully. 

I wasn't quite sure where or how the two stories were ever going to meet and it really is in that last third of the novel that things start coming together and making sense. The ending is explosive and surprising and emotional. It plays a little bit with readers' emotions, but I also found myself swept away in the events that occur and hoping for the best. 

Crow Mountain was a lovely story about breaking free from expectations, striking out on your own, being independent and taking risks with your heart. 

Lucy Inglis

Darkmere by Helen Maslin and Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis are out now and published by Chicken House. For more information visit 

Monday, September 14, 2015

#YAShot Readathon Sign-Ups and TBR

You guys have heard about #YAShot - right?  It's happening on the 28th October in Uxbridge and it is a one day event in which *71* YA and MG authors are coming together for an entire day of amazing panels, workshops and signings. Ticket sales will help to host a year-long programme of author visits in libraries and schools where it will be much needed. I love that this event is showcasing the amazing talent of UKYA and UKMG authors, helping out libraries and also disadvantaged teens and young people.

It's going to be epic, you guys. I seriously suggest purchasing tickets and coming along. I will be there (doing a workshop!) and I seriously cannot wait. Check out the programme or the blog/vlog tour to better whet your appetite for the really incredible event.
And because I'm so excited and because there are SO many wonderful authors in attendance, I thought it would be fun to host a YAShot readathon. There are a bunch of books that I own already that I really must read, I've checked out a bunch more from the library and I have yet another list of books I'd really like to read between now and the 28th October.  

So, would you like to join me in this readathon? I sure hope that you will.  Check out this (mostly accurate!) list of YAShot books that you can read for the readathon.

The rules:

Anyone can enter from anywhere in the world. You don't need to be attending YAshot to join in with the readathon. Just write a blog post, create a blog page, upload a video on YouTube, tweet, instagram or Facebook your intention to to take part in the YAShot readathon. Enter that specific link to the sign-up page. Read and review at least one book by an author in attendance at #YAShot between the 28th September and 28th October and add that to a review link-up page. For every eligible review linked, you will be in for a chance of winning signed books by YAShot authors! (do let me know if you have a preference for which book or author!) 

Books I'd like to read during the readathon:

I honestly don't expect to get through ALL of these books, but I thought it'd be fun to share with you the possibilities of what I could read, if I so wish. 

First off, my physical books that I already own.

All of the Above by James Dawson
The Secret Fire by CJ Daughtery and Carina Rozenfeld
The Black North by Nigel McDowell
Tall Tales from Pitch End by Nigel McDowell
Monster by CJ Skuse
Too Close To Home by Aoife Walsh
Seed by Lisa Heathfield
The Almost King by Lucy Saxon
Banished by Liz de Jager
Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
The Novice by Taran Matharu

Not pictured:

All About Pumpkin by Natasha Farrant
The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll


Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow
Pea's Book of Best Friends by Susie Day

Library books:

And here are some library books that I've picked up recently. Mostly because I like the idea of reading library books for an event that is celebrating libraries.

Cowgirl by G.R. Gemin
River Boy by Tim Bowler
Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls
The D'evil Diaries by Tatum Flynn
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

So those are the books *I'm* planning to read. Will you be joining me in this readathon? What will you be reading?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Extract: Dark Room by Tom Becker #RedEye

Have you guys heard of the Red Eye series of YA horror books from Stripes Publishing? I've been a huge fan of these books this year. I love the range of topics and the way in which these books scare in very different ways. I'm not a massive reader of horror stories but I feel like it's always fun to dip into a genre that I don't read every now and again just to shake things up with my reading.

And I just really love this series so far. As I said, there are different authors, different approaches, different topics. But all with these great, scary stories. The latest that's been published is Dark Room by Tom Becker. I have started reading it and what I have read I've really enjoyed but other things are going on right now which is why I haven't quite finished it. I will share with you the product description and also a fab extract to give you a good taste of what this book is like! Hope you enjoy.

When Darla and her feckless dad, Hopper, move to Saffron Hills, Darla hopes it'll be a new start for the both of them. But she stands no chance of fitting in with the image-obsessed in-crowd at her new school. Then one of her classmates is brutally killed when taking a photo of herself. A murder Darla herself predicted in a bloody vision. When more teens die in a similar fashion it appears that a serial killer is on the loose - the 'Selfie Slayer'. Darla alone is convinced that the murderer might not be flesh and blood...

Dark Room by Tom Becker Extract

As Darla stared at the paintings, the bell above the gallery door rang out again.

“Annie?” Darla called out. “Is that you?”

No reply.

Darla peered around the dividing wall back towards the front of the gallery, but there was no one there. Maybe whoever it was had seen there was no one behind the counter and left. Or maybe whoever it was just didn’t want Darla to see them.

“Hello?” she said. “Is anybody there?”

The lights went out, plunging the gallery into darkness.

Darla froze, waiting to hear someone’s voice call out. But no sound disturbed the shadows. Lights went out all the time, she told herself, it didn’t have to mean that something was wrong. So why was her heart racing in her chest? Darla slipped into the adjoining alcove only to be confronted by the mirror Annie had shattered. Tiny fragments of her own face stared back at her.

As Darla looked into the broken glass, she felt herself being swallowed up by a mind that wasn’t her own. She was transported from one darkened room to another, where a girl with bright blond hair and a white tank top was slumped lifelessly in a chair. Her head was bowed, hiding her face. She let out a groan of pain, and Darla looked down and saw a knife in her own hand, blood on its blade…

A sudden sound wrenched her back to the present. Footsteps, soft as a breath. There was someone in the gallery with Darla. And they were trying very hard not to be heard. Had the person watching her in the mall followed her here? What did they want with her?

“Annie,” Darla whispered to herself. “Where are you?”

The footsteps were drawing nearer. Darla edged along the wall, drawing further back into the gallery. In the next alcove, the oversize doll’s house sat in the middle of the room. Darla crept over to it and opened up the front, pulling her knees up to her chest and squashing herself inside. In the darkness it would be almost impossible to see her without looking closely through one of the windows. It would have to be enough.

Darla waited. Seconds stretched out into minutes. The gallery remained silent.

And then she heard a floorboard creak.

Peering out through the dollhouse window Darla could just make out a figure moving stealthily around the alcove, little more than a shadowy outline in the darkness. With careful, even steps they circled the dollhouse. A hunter’s stealthy tread.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

REVIEW: Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson

I really enjoyed Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson. It was interesting and different and it went places that I didn't expect. I didn't know all that much about the book before I picked it up and I kind of liked that too.

Dreamland is the story of Dea Donahue, this teenage girl who lives with her mother and has this unusual gift of being able to enter other people's dreams.  Her mother tells Dea there are three rules to dream walking. 1) Don't interfere with the dreams. 2) Don't be seen. 3) Don't walk the same person's dream more than once.

But then a new boy, Connor, shows up and their friendship is something that Dea has never had before and so she starts breaking the dream rules and now the separation between reality and the dream world is starting to deteriorate.

Honestly, Dreamland was such an exciting book to read. At first it felt very similar to the trilogy of books by Lisa McMann (Wake, Fade and Gone) which I loved and was a basis for me picking up this book to read but I loved the way Robert L. Anderson took this story in an entirely different direction.  Dea was a great character and I loved being inside her idea and exploring both the relationship with her mother and also seeing what Connor's friendship means to her.

And everything that happens in these dream worlds was fun too.  My mind did wander on some of the really descriptive elements of the dreams but overall I found it very fascinating unravelling the mysteries this book throws at the reader: how and why can Dea walk dreams? What has happened to Dea's mother? What is stored in Connor's memories and dreams of his childhood?

I loved how all the different strands of this story come together and as I mention, a lot of was unexpected. I think it takes a lot for me to be surprised by a book but Dreamland definitely surprised me.  Such a fun and unusual concept for a book and I highly recommend it!

Monday, September 07, 2015

One Transplant, Two Books and Seven Days to Say 'I Do' by Maria Farrer

Last week I got a message from both Emma Carroll and Maria Farrer about a topic that, honestly, isn't one I've given much thought to until recently: that of organ donation and the fact that this week, the 7th - 13th September is National Transplant Week. And to celebrate and to help spread awareness and to start a conversation about organ donation and transplants, Maria Farrer is here with a very emotional story of her family's experiences and how her nephew's heart transplant has inspired two books.  I think it's fascinating and thought-provoking and I do hope that it encourages more of you to consider registering to become organ donors with the NHS.

This comes just a couple weeks after I watched Dawn Kurtagich's transplant story and heard how much it had changed her life and inspired her own story, The Dead House, and made me remember a little boy that used to be friends with my son who was on the transplant list. It made me realise that organ donation/transplants is something that so many of us have experience with or in contact with in some personal way. And it is a reminder that more needs to be done in order to help and also a great way to show just how very much becoming an organ donor helps out people and families.

by Maria Farrer
It is spring 2013 and I am on the motorway driving towards Cambridge. My sister sits beside me, pale and tense and, for once, it is nothing to do with my driving. Suddenly the traffic parts and an ambulance screams through, blue lights flashing, sirens wailing. In the back of that ambulance is my sixteen-year-old nephew. My sister blinks back her tears, winds down the window and I wonder if she is about to be sick.
Even as I re-read that first paragraph, it sounds like something from a novel, but sadly there was nothing fictional about this scenario - it was a real life (and death) situation.
As a writer, I tend to avoid writing too specifically about anything or anyone I hold very close and dear, but today I am going to ignore all that because this week is National Transplant Week and I want to encourage everybody, young and old to discuss their thoughts on organ and tissue donation. The story of my nephew, Max, was the inspiration for my most recent YA novel, “A Flash of Blue”, but it turns out that Max was also the inspiration behind a character and plot-line in Emma Carroll’s magical MG book, “In Darkling Wood.”

Emma and I met up a few weeks ago and, given the thread of heart transplant running through both our books, decided that we would like to help publicise the organ donor campaign and to support it in any way we could. We would both like to thank the generosity of Michelle for allowing us to do this.
Just over two years ago it seemed like a pretty average Sunday morning in my house. I did a bit of writing and we had friends coming to lunch. The phone rang - as phones do - and as soon as I heard my sister’s voice, I knew something was very wrong. She told me, as calmly as she could, that my 16 year old nephew’s heart had stopped working and he was fighting for his life in critical care. Within a few minutes, I had sent messages to colleagues at work, had packed a bag, jumped in my car and headed straight for the hospital in Southampton. As the situation deteriorated, it became clear that my nephew needed to be moved to a specialist transplant unit. Within hours he underwent emergency surgery to allow his heart function to be carried out by a machine outside his body. It was a roller-coaster time and as soon as he was stable enough, he was put on the list to receive an emergency heart transplant; a transplant that was his only hope of a future. A few weeks later a donor heart became available and was successfully transplanted. He was one of the lucky ones and if I could, I would share my gratitude with the world.
There aren’t enough donors and that is the sad and simple fact of the matter. Every day in the UK three people die while waiting for a transplant. Three people every day. To become a donor is probably the most personal of personal decisions and every person’s choice should be respected. When my nephew went into hospital, I wasn’t a registered organ donor - not because I didn’t want to be, but simply because I hadn’t really thought about it or got round to it. But a few days in a transplant unit focuses the mind, I can tell you. I went home, registered as a donor and it felt like one of the most meaningful things I had done in my life. If the unthinkable happens to me, how do I want my story to end? With nothing? Or with the hope that I may be able to give someone else the chance of a better life? And as I looked around at all those brave people in the critical care unit waiting for a transplant - many of them very young - how did I want their stories to end? Happily, of course.
I often feel as if I put a small part of my heart into every story I write. If you could write your story, from the point of view of a donor or a recipient, how would you want it to end? My hope is that all of us will live a long and happy life, but my hope is also that all of you will think about becoming an organ donor and, if you decide it is something you want to do, to register on and make your family aware of your wishes.* There is no age limit, young or old. Any one of us could help to save or improve more than 5 lives. How incredible is that? Is there anything greater than the gift of life?
Thanks to one amazing person, my nephew is now 18 and off to university. Thanks to the promise I made to him when he was waiting for his transplant, I wrote “A Flash of Blue” and he was by my side at its launch in April (no prizes for guessing where the title came from!).

SEVEN DAYS TO SAY I DO: From Max and Maria and Emma, please support organ donation and pass it on.