Tuesday, March 03, 2015

REVIEW: Game Changer by Tim Bowler

I found Game Changer by Tim Bowler to be a really interesting read.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of it at times but there's so much emotion in it that I couldn't help but be pulled into the story and into this main character's head.  Game Changer is the first book by Tim Bowler that I have read but I'm sure it won't be the last as I'm fairly intrigued.

Game Changer is a fairly short read, it didn't take me very long to read it and that's helped along by the fact that it feels quite fast-paced and tense throughout.  The only time the pace slowed down slightly was towards the end but by that point I really needed a bit of a breather.

Our main character in this story, Mikey, deals with a rather serious phobia of open spaces.  And because of this, his family and especially his younger sister, Meggie, are always really aware of him and are keen to support him and help him when things get tough.  Throughout the narrative, Mikey makes all kinds of comments in which he feels like he should be treated in a more negative way because of his fears and the way in which his life (and thus his family's life) is changed because of them.  But I really loved that Mikey has the people in his life that he does.  His parents, his teachers, his friends. But especially Meggie.

The relationship between Mikey and his sister Meggie is really at the heart of this story and it is this relationship as well as Mikey witnessing something terrible that are the game changers in this novel.  Because right from the start, we get this feeling that Mikey is more anxious than normal.  His fears and his coping mechanisms for his fears (hiding in a wardrobe) are amped way up and everyone is worried about him.  There's a touch of the unreliable narrator at play with Mikey as we don't really learn what he's seen for things to have changed in his life until quite far into the story and at times I was thinking that Mikey had lost touch with reality and let his fear take over.

And Mikey's fear is felt in every single page.  I felt Mikey's tension and worry and fear throughout this book, right from the very first page.  It felt all-consuming and suffocating and like something insurmountable. And for all of Mikey's self-deprecation, I really believed all along that this boy is nothing but brave to feel what he does and still carry on with his mostly normal life even without his added courage when facing up to other scary things.

Game Changer was an incredibly interesting book.  I didn't quite know what to expect when I first started reading it and it still surprised me.  This is a very tense thriller with an incredibly unusual hero and a great brother-sister relationship and I'm really glad that I read it.

Monday, March 02, 2015

UKYA published in March 2015

It's March already! And as expected, I've compiled a list of the UKYA books that are being published this month! I might not have gotten them all, feel free to let me know which books I've missed.

I'm really excited about so many of these books. I've already a few, I've got a couple waiting for me and I'm DYING to read a couple more. It's an exciting month! Do let me know in comments which book(s) you're most looking forward to this month!


Liccle Bit by Alex Wheatle

This book is being published the 5th of March and I'm hoping it will be on the first books that I read this month! It sounds like fun.


Love Bomb by Jenny McLachlan

I feel like the Ladybirds series, of which Love Bomb is the second, are companion novels to each other and fall somewhere in the grey area between MG and YA. I absolutely adore the first book in the series, Flirty Dancing, so I thought I would include this here. It's being published on 12 March!


Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton

Again, I feel like Spotlight on Sunny and its predecessor and companion novel, Starring Kitty, are on the higher end of MG or the lower end of YA which means it can be difficult to classify. Again, I love Starring Kitty and I'm super excited to read Spotlight on Sunny, so I'm including it! This is available 5 March!

David Fickling Books 

Jessica's Ghost by Andrew Norriss

I've already read Jessica's Ghost and I loved it! Look out for a review soon but in short, Jessica's Ghost is a lovely story about friendship and being different and finding that place to belong. Look out for this on 5th March in hardback!


Mind Games by Teri Terry

Another book published on 5th March! It's quite the popular date. This is the newest from Teri Terry and it's all about a girl who can see virtual and real worlds at the same time!

Hot Key Books

The Beloved by Alison Rattle

Under My Skin by James Dawson

Two very different titles from Hot Key Books this month! A new historical YA from Alison Rattle set in Victorian times and a book about an evil tattoo set on possession! Both sound amazing and I'm really curious to read both.

Nosy Crow

The Beneath by SC Ransom

I've never read anything by SC Ransom but I've always been curious about her books. This new book by her is available from the 4th of March and tells the story of a community of people living below London and it sounds reallly good!


The Glory by Lauren St John

I've not read anything by Lauren St John yet either! This one also published the 5th of March and I've read some great early reviews of it. I'm definitely intrigued.


Game Changer by Tim Bowler

I've already been lucky enough to read this book and I thought it was wonderful. A great teen thriller with a twist. Look out for my review soon and for a copy of this book in your local bookstores the 5th March!


Half Wild by Sally Green

This is the second book in the Half Bad trilogy and I haven't started this series yet, but I hear good things! The wait is over the 26th March!


Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow

I think Crow Moon has the prettiest cover I've ever seen. Just look at it. I'm incredibly excited to be able to get my hands on a copy of this gorgeous book once it is published on the 5th of March!

Random House

Urban Legends by Helen Grant

I think out of all the books on this list, I'm most looking forward to Urban Legends and it's not being published until the 26th of March! It's the third and final book in the Forbidden Spaces trilogy and I must know what happens to Veerle and Kris. I need to know. I will also be taking part in the blog tour for this book, so do keep an eye out for a fab guest post by Helen Grant here on the blog!


Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed

Not sure where I first heard about this title? Perhaps Jim and Debbie who run the YA in 2015 spreadsheet? I don't know very much about this title or the publishing house, I'm afraid!


His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman (20th Anniversary Editions)

Wow, aren't these new covers amazing? I think they're very pretty. And 20 years! I can hardly believe it. His Dark Materials was such an influential trilogy of books for me, I'd love if these new covers helped to reach a wider reading audience! Get them into your hands on 5th March.


Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

This is the third book publlished this year under the Red Eye imprint from Stripes. Red Eye is all about YA horror and I've really enjoyed the first two books, Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell and Sleepless by Lou Morgan and I can only hope for further scariness for Flesh and Blood!

World Book Day

Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

Geek Drama by Holly Smale

And because I don't know where else to include this, I'll give it a category all on its own. The 5th of March is World Book Day and every year there are special books published to celebrate the event. This year, it features these two YA books by fantastic UKYA authors, Holly Smale and Marcus Sedgwick. Exciting stuff!

Which books published this month are YOU most excited to read?!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

British Books Challenge 2015 - Link Your March Reviews

Wow, you guys. I'm honestly amazed by all the time and effort you've gone to to read and review books for this challenge. Already this year (and we're only at the beginning of March!!) you've collectively read and reviewed over 150 books. Thank you so much! Keep up the hard work and I will continue to do the same.

Onto February's winner! February's prize pack was hosted by HarperCollins and one winner will receive copies of Half the King by Joe Abercrombie, The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig and All That Glitters by Holly Smale. And that winner is...

Sofia (The Reading Fangirl)

Congratulations Sofia! You have one week to email me with your address so that HarperCollins may post out your books.  And a huge thank you to HarperCollins for hosting February's prize pack! Now onto this month's exciting prizes...

March Prize Pack:

I'm really excited about March's prize pack! This month sees the 20th anniversary of the publication of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. So this month, Scholastic are offering a winner the beautiful 20th anniversary editions of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman!  Thank you so much to Scholastic for hosting this wonderful and generous giveaway!

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: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury (Fluttering Butterflies)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Wrap-up

It's the end of February already! I felt like the entire month rushed past me. But here we are at the end of it and here is how my month went in terms of reading, blogging and booktubing...

Books read in February:

1. No More Confessions by Louise Rozett (5 stars)
2. The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa (4 stars)
3. The Blood List by Sarah Naughton (4 stars)
4. Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau (4 stars)
5. The Illusionists by Laure Eve (4 stars)
6. Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (5 stars)
7. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (5 stars)
8. The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski (4 stars)
9. Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (3 stars)
10. Deception by CJ Redwine (4 stars)
11. Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers (5 stars)
12. Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi (4 stars)
13. Hero by Samantha Young (3 stars)
14. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (4 stars)

Total for February: 14

Total for 2015: 28

My main reading focus for February was reading books in series I'd already started but had fallen behind with. My initial goal was to complete 8 series or to read 10 books in a series. Of which I came close to completing! 9 books read, 7 series caught up with. I'm happy with that.

Aside from FinishItFeb, I think I did okay with reading overall.  It was kind of a slow month for me anyway what with the disruption of half-term, but I did manage to squeeze in some other reading as well with The Blood List, Vanishing Girls and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, all of which were amazing! But what was my favourite book I read during the month of February?

February Book of the month:

No More Confessions by Louise Rozett

When I think of the books I've read this month, this book stands out to me. It's very emotional, being the third and final book in the series but I've just loved the entire story and its characters and their relationships so much that I read this book and it broke my heart ten million times. Love Rose and Jamie and Angelo and everybody. I'm sad to see the end of their stories.

British Books Challenge and UKYA in 2015:

British Books Challenge - Link your February reviews
UKYA in February 2015

Interview with Eve Ainsworth author of Seven Days
Cover reveal: House of Windows by Alexia Casale
Blog Tour: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Interview with Sarah Alderson, author of Conspiracy Girl

Lots of amazing things happened this month in terms of UKYA in 2015! I loved being a part of the Seven Days, The Sin Eater's Daughter and Conspiracy Girl blog tours! They were all amazing and I had a great time. And I cry every time I click on the review link-up pages for the British Books Challenge. You were all awesome in what you're doing.

But my favourite thing this month has been sharing the cover reveal for House of Windows by Alexia Casale. That was a great day!

Author Spotlights

Sarah Alderson

Only one Author spotlight this month! I had another one planned but I didn't quite find the time to finish it and post it.

Books reviewed in February:

My True Love Gave To Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga
Me and Mr J by Rachel McIntyre
Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton
Stung by Joss Stirling
The Blood List by Sarah Naughton
Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson
Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Only 9 books reviewed this month. The first part of the month focused so much on other types of posts that it wasn't until 10 days into the month before I had posted my first review. And I always find it interesting to see how many reviews I post on my blog a month and how this compares to how many other book bloggers post. I find it all very fascinating.

Other posts in February:

UKYA Blogger Awards

Student/Teacher Relationships in YA
Interview with Sarah Naughton #UKYAExtravaganza
UKYA Series I Haven't (Yet) Started
Blog tour: A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab - Veronica's Favourite Literary Travellers

I feel like I pulled back a little on the other posts this month. Or maybe it's just been a shorter month? I'm not really sure. Either way, I'm okay with the content appearing on the blog this month! I hope you have been as well.

Booktube videos in February:

Interview with Eve Ainsworth, author of Seven Days
Quiz Time! Featuring E and The Littlest
Rematch! Quiz Time featuring E and The Littlest
February Book Haul
March TBR

Why Michelle loves the Blood of Eden trilogy by Julie Kagawa
Michelle abandons books

Bah. If any of you saw the children's quizzes I posted this month you'll understand why I say that: BAH.

Progress in my reading challenges

LGBT Challenge in 2015:

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Total for February: 1
Total for 2015: 6

I'm really sad that I only read one book that counts towards the LGBT challenge this month. I did start another book which would have counted, but I didn't quite get a chance to complete it. I'm hoping that a lot of next month's reading will reflect higher numbers!

And if you're interested, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda was amazing! Definitely look out for it when it is published in April!

British Books Challenge 2015:

The Blood List by Sarah Naughton
The Illusionists by Laure Eve
Hero by Samantha Young

Total for February: 3
Today for 2015: 8

Again, because of my focus on #FinishItFeb this number is also quite low. I have at least 10 titles on my planned reading pile for March that are books written by British authors so hopefully this time next month I'll have a very different report for you!

I filmed a video for my British Books Challenge wrap-up for February as I thought my reading plan for the rest of the month was set. Only I cheated and read another book that fits for the challenge. It wasn't that good, so I'm not that bothered :)

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blog Tour: A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab - Victoria's Favourite Literary Travellers

I am super excited today to be taking part in the blog tour for A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab. VE Schwab is just one of those authors that I hear incredible things about. And I love the idea of A Darker Shade of Magic and I love Victoria's guest post today. I hope you do as well! 

Here is the product description for A Darker Shade of Magic and some links if you'd like to know more about VE Schwab or A Darker Shade of Magic:

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit. 

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London - but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure'.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped.

Victoria's favourite Literary Travellers 

Travel is a theme in all of my books, whether across physical space or the thresholds between life and death, insider and outsider, human and monstrous. So it’s not surprise I’m such a fan of literary travellers. Here are a few of my favorite:

--Harry August, who travels the course of his own lifetime over and over in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

--Ursula Todd, who also travels her life, but in a very, very different way, with the goal of assassinating Hitler, in Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

--The Alien posing as Professor Andrew Martin, who’s come a very long way to understand humanity in The Humans by Matt Haig.  

--Ronan Lynch, the edgy, but wonderful member of the Raven Boys, with the ability to move between the real world and his dreams, and blur the space between, in The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater.

A Darker Shade of Magic will be published by Titan Books on 27th February.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

REVIEW: Soulprint by Megan Miranda

I really adore Megan Miranda. Ever since I read her debut book, Fracture, I have fallen in love entirely with her stories and characters and I always get wholly wrapped up in the relationships and everything.  Which is why, when in a reading slump, I relied on Megan Miranda's latest, Soulprint to drag me out of it. And unsurprisingly, it worked a charm.  I found Soulprint to be a really addictive, exciting read and one that made me think.

Soulprint is sort of unusual story set in a future in which the reincarnation of souls has been proven and is also able to be tracked. As we begin this story, our main character, Alina, has been imprisoned most of her life for her own 'protection' because of the crimes committed by her soul in her previous life that are a bit unclear. She has no privacy, no possessions, no relationships or friendships of her own and she has a very skewed perception of who she is.  When she is helped to escape from her prison, she finally has the ability to track down some answers and possibly clear her name and free herself from future imprisonment.

What I really liked about this book most of all was the questions it raised... I liked considering different ideas about reincarnation and about punishing a person for crimes committed in a previous life and the ethics behind the incarceration of an innocent person.  I also really liked the way in which love is portrayed in this book. How Alina's previous soul, June, had this huge and passionate love affair ... and how it doesn't necessarily translate over a different life and in different circumstances.

I thought Soulprint was really interesting and thought-provoking with plenty of action and excitement and a dash of romance.  This book really just confirmed Megan Miranda as a recent favourite author.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Interview with Sarah Alderson, author of Conspiracy Girl

I'm incredibly honoured today to be taking part in the blog tour for Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson! Sarah Alderson is definitely one of my favourite authors and I will always be excited to read her books.

To find out more about Sarah Alderson, her books or Conspiracy Girl, do visit the following webites:

How would you describe Conspiracy Girl to new readers? 

Three years ago Nic Preston’s life was destroyed during a home invasion. She witnessed her mother and step-sister brutally murdered and overnight was thrown into the media spotlight. Three years on Nic is struggling to rebuild her life. But then her high-security apartment is broken into and it looks like the killers are back to finish the job. 

She is forced to hide out with Finn Carter - a hacker, rule-breaker and general player - and the same guy who testified for the defence against her mother’s killers allowing them to walk from court scot free. 
Together the two of them have to solve the conspiracy of who wants to kill Nic and why. 

It’s a really fast-paced book, taking place over just three days or so across New York and a snow-bound New England. There’s serious action, lots of tension (of the sexual and dramatic kind both) and a good old conspiracy at the heart (that’s based on a real life story).

We get to see both Nic and Finn's perspective, did one voice flow more naturally then the other? 

Strangely I always find it easier writing the male point of view. I guess with Finn I really enjoyed the slow reveal. He comes across as arrogant and rebellious and head strong at first, but then you strip back the layers and you realise that his whole story - his childhood, the trauma he’s lived through, his ideas that were formed about justice at a young age - have made him who he is. I think writers need huge amounts of empathy. It’s a pre-requisite. You have to be able to feel what your characters have or are going through and with Finn I felt huge compassion. For Nic too but I think with Finn I just wanted to reach into the pages of the book and hug him.

You've set previous stories in California, Nantucket and in New York and throughout New England. How important is setting to you and does it help shape the story?

I think very cinematically (I am also a screenwriter). My whole life is basically one big quest for adventure and discovery. I love living in different places. I grew up in London and have just returned from living for the last five years in tropical Bali. Now I am living for a while in a 17th century cottage in the English countryside and it’s like something from that film The Holiday. It’s so idyllic. We won’t be here that long though before we head off, possibly to spend some time in Africa and then California. I’m addicted to living lots of different lives in different environments. It thrills me no end. So yes, setting for me is everything, not just in my writing. 

I always tend to base my books in places I’ve lived or at least travelled to. New York is a particular favourite city of mine - it lends itself to story-telling because the landscapes are so vivid and so grand, and the sense of place is so fantastic. Everyone has NY as a reference even if they haven’t been there because it’s been so well depicted on film. And then there’s Nantucket - which is a little island off the East coast of America. I nannied there when I was 17 which is why I then based The Sound there (it’s about a British girl who nannies there one summer). California is my second home - it’s where I’m happiest, where I feel most relaxed and free. I love the light there and the ocean. It’s where I set Hunting Lila and Fated. 

There were some quite traumatic scenes in Conspiracy Girl including a home invasion. Was there any particular scene that you found really difficult to write or that you kept returning to?

I did rewrite the home invasion scene about four times as I was striving to get the right sense of terror without being too terrifying (it’s YA after all) and the most realistic depiction it as I could. I researched a lot. I read newspaper reports and other articles about real home invasions - one of which was so incredibly awful it scarred me mentally and I also did my homework on security systems.

It was great to see a mention of previous characters from Out of Control in Conspiracy Girl!  Is this interconnectivity new or had I missed it previously? Will we see glimpses of Nic and Finn in future projects? What IS next for you? 

I’m not sure! Possibly not. I’m moving away from Thrillers to more straight romance. In my short story Tormenting Lila the characters from The Sound appear. So sometimes I do like to cross check books. It makes me smile to myself to leave little traces and I hope fans pick them up too. 

In my new adult books which I write under the name Mila Gray I take a b character and then make them the main character of the next book - though the books are standalones. I think that’s a fun way of doing it as you don’t have to read a series but you get little teasers and to catch up with characters you’ve loved, albeit briefly.

Human trafficking in Out of Control and now the ethics behind diamond mining in Conspiracy Girl, what draws you to intertwine these social justice subjects into your stories? Is there a topic you would like to tackle next?

I am always scouring the news for interesting articles that I then bookmark and mull o. I’m a feminist! A fully paid up member of Fawcett (a charity that fights for gender equality) and I’m passionate about women’s rights among many other things. I used to work for a charity as a head of projects - and all our projects were designed to tackle some form of social injustice. I think writers have a responsibility to their readers and I love being able to slide issues into my books that my audience might not have come across or may not know much about. Not many people in their teens will probably pick up a hard hitting book about human trafficking but they might pick up a fast paced thriller romance, and then they might discover something about a topic they didn’t know much about. It’s my cunning attempt to help promote a cause I’m passionate about (ending human trafficking).

As for what’s next, my second Mila Gray book (out in August) is about a wounded Marine and the psychology student he meets at the hospital he’s in. It tackles mental health issues and war - but my next YA won’t be a thriller and I think I’ll tackle something more individual, more private. We’ll see! 

Conspiracy Girl was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, what are you most looking forward to reading this year?

Oh my goodness! You should see the books on my bedside table. I’m really looking forward to reading Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl and also Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. I also just received a copy of Everyday Sexism from Simon & Schuster (one of the lovely perks of being an author is that I do get some lovely books sent to me when I ask nicely) which I can’t wait to get started on.

Thank you so much, Sarah! 

Author Bio:

Sarah is the author of Hunting Lila (winner of the Kingston Book Award), Losing Lila, Fated, The Sound, Out of Control and Conspiracy Girl (all Simon & Schuster).

Having spent most of her life in London, Sarah quit her job in the non profit sector in 2009 and took off on a round the world trip with her husband and daughter on a mission to find a new place to call home (a journey that was documented on this blog and which is shortly to be turned into a book).

After almost a year spent travelling the world, they settled in Bali where they lived for five beautiful years before the vagabonding urge became too great and they decided to embark on Can We Live Here part two. They are currently located somewhere between India, London, Canada and the US.

As well as writing young adult novels and screenplays, Sarah also writes adult fiction for Pan Macmillan (Simon & Schuster in the US) under the name Mila Gray.

Her first adult novel, Come Back To Me, was published in June 2014. The second, This One Moment, will be out in August 2015.

Sarah has co-written the Hunting Lila screenplay, which is currently in the early stages of production, and continues to blog about her life and travels.

REVIEW: Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

I am such a big fan of Sarah Alderson's, I really am. I think I'll always be incredibly excited to read a book by her.  So when I saw Conspiracy Girl was on Netgalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. And while there were a few glitches to the actual text, I persevered with it because every book by Sarah Alderson has this amazing combination of being really exciting and fast-paced and romantic. And Conspiracy Girl had my heart racing both because it's quite thrilling but also the chemistry between the two main characters.

Conspiracy Girl is a dual-perspective novel told both from the point of view of Nic and Finn.  Nic Preston is an 18 year old college student who is trying so hard to rebuild her life after a brutal home invasion several years ago meant that she was the only survivor. Both her mother and step-sister died and Nic has been quite understandably shaken up by the events and it's left her paranoid and safety-conscious. Especially because the two people who killed Nic's family were caught but then walked free.  And then there's Finn, a super-smart hacker and the person responsible for the killers to walk free.  When Nic's apartment building is broken into, and her security is compromised it's up to Finn to keep Nic safe and to delve into her case again and find out who is responsible.

As I said, I absolutely flew through the pages of this story.  I think Sarah Alderson has an incredible for writing really exciting and addictive stories. I couldn't pull myself away from these characters and this story.  I quite liked the twisty-turny plot and all of the dangerous situations Nic and Finn get into.  I thought Nic's paranoia and grief was portrayed very well and I loved seeing her vulnerability throughout and also seeing how much more confident she becomes throughout this story as her and Finn go on the offensive towards finding the people responsible for her family's deaths and this current attack. I did kind of want to see Nic saving herself and relying less on Finn, but I also got that Nic needed to progress more to get to that.

My only real criticism of this book is a surprising one to me.  For me, while the love story is usually my favourite aspects of a Sarah Alderson story, I felt like at times, it didn't feel quite right for there to be this burgeoning relationship between Finn and Nic.  I get that there's is a complicated relationship with all the baggage they both carry, but I actually didn't want the romantic build-up and chemistry to be occurring at the same time as some of the thrilling aspects of the story.  I really liked both characters and I loved that it felt like it was a bit of an obstacle for them to be together and while I did love how hot they were together, I just wanted more distance between the steamy kissing and the chase scenes in which bullets are flying.

All in all, I think Conspiracy Girl was an ace read - highly addictive and emotionally charged with great characters and relationships.  Plus, bonus points for including an adorable dog!

Friday, February 20, 2015

UKYA Series I Haven't (Yet) Started

I don't know you, but I'm pretty wary of starting new series.  I don't like the wait between books, I find it difficult to remember details when I start reading the sequels, I sometimes find sequels disappointing.  But that doesn't mean that I'm against starting new series, I just find that I put off reading books in a series... which is why events like #FinishItFeb are so helpful.  But instead of talking about the series I'm in the middle, today, I thought I might share with you those series that I keep meaning to read ... and haven't yet.

The following books are in series with sequels published this year. They're also UKYA. Do let me know in comments which books/series I should look out for first because I'm really missing out...

Half Bad and Half Wild by Sally Green

I've heard somewhat mixed things about this series by Sally Green.  Some rave about it ... and others find it not their thing at all.  I kind of love marmite books, it always makes me really intrigued to see which side of the fence I'll fall.  This series is about WITCHES which I think are pretty cool.  We shall see.

The Rain and The Storm by Virginia Bergin

This series are post-apocalyptic and I really loved the premise of this killer rain ... but I never quite found my feet in the first book in the series.  Hopefully with two books in the series that I could possibly read back-to-back, things might change?  I'm not sure. Convince me.

Tribute and Outcaste by Ellen Renner

I remember being really excited about the sound of Tribute when I first heard of it last year ... and then I got my copy and I'm not sure what happened? I think maybe Tribute was a victim in that strange period of time when I was veering wildly between excitedly reading everything in sight and going through extended reading slumps!  Still. I quite like the sound of this series and the gorgeous covers. 

Stella and Siena by Helen Eve

I don't actually know that much about either of these books except that Stella was published last year and it had some good reviews. And Siena is the prequel story and it was published in January with some good reviews.  I don't really want to know much more about these books as I am planning to read them soon and I absolutely adore it when I know next to nothing about a story before I read it! 

Half A King and Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

This series is epic fantasy and at times I find myself a little wary of that sort of thing but I've heard really interesting things about these two books. There's lots of praise for this series and I can't wait to get stuck in! 

Code Red Lipstick and Fashion Assassin by Sarah Sky

I'd love to get my hands on copies of these two books.  It's a combination of fashion and spies which I think is just a winning combination.  It kind of makes me happy just thinking about starting this series! 

Love, Lies and Lemon Pies and Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines by Katy Cannon

And last but not least we have this series which looks to be quite sweet, contemporary stories with a dash of romance and baking.  From what I gather, this series each features a story from one of the members of the Bake Club?  I think it sounds fab.

Are there any series that looks good that you haven't yet started?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Interview with Sarah Naughton #UKYAExtravaganza

I am hugely excited today to be taking part in the amazing #UKYAExtravaganza blog tour to celebrate the massive author event that is taking part in Birmingham at the end of the month. Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery have done a wonderful job setting up the event and organising this great tour! Thank you so much for letting me take part in this :)

I'm so happy to be paired up with Sarah Naughton as well. She's super lovely and I've had a great time discovering a new author and to read books possibly outside of my normal comfort zone. I thought The Blood List was really great and I was fascinated throughout about the historical time period, the superstitions and the eventual witch hunt that occurs.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Sarah Naughton and if you'd like to know more about Sarah Naughton or her books, The Blood List and The Hanged Man Rises, do visit the following places:

Hello and welcome to Fluttering Butterflies! Can you please introduce yourself and tell me a little something about your books?

I've written two books (not including the 300 or so languishing in my bottom drawer): The Hanged Man Rises, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Children's Book award, and The Blood List, both published by Simon and Schuster. They are both concerned with the supernatural, which I’ve always been fascinated by, despite my noisy skepticism (just because I don’t believe in ghosts doesn't mean I’m not scared of them…)

Both of your books are historical thrillers, what compels you to write about these historical time periods?

The idea comes first. With the Hanged Man Rises it was the idea of the possessed policeman and the boy trying to save him from himself. The Victorian era was the obvious setting, because of the huge popularity of spiritualism at that time, and consequent rich vein of subject matter.

The idea for the Blood List came after watching a heart-breaking documentary about the fate of disabled children in the medieval era. In those credulous times parents would become convinced that an ‘imperfect’ child was actually a fairy imposter left in place of their own ‘perfect’ baby. They would set about trying to get the babies switched back by inflicting various tortures on the ‘changeling’. As the plot developed to involve accusations of witchcraft, it made sense to set it during the witch fever of the 17th century.

At the beginning of The Blood List, Barnaby mentions having a great deal of free time. If you had a whole bunch of extra time to yourself, what might you be doing or learning?

I've never been one for extreme sports but since having children I have felt increasingly hobbled by the imperative of keeping them safe and well and, consequently, have begun to have wild fantasies about donning a bandanna and taking up arms in the fight against IS. Or more realistically, becoming a lifeboatwoman. I’d probably just do crosswords.

Both The Hanged Man Rises and The Blood List delve into some dark things. Child murderers and witch hunts. Did you ever have to pull back from writing these darker things?

Nah. I love it. Not gory Darren Shan stuff, which I just find repellent. I love psychological horrors like ‘A Good and Happy Child’ by Justin Evans and ‘Dark Matter’ by Michelle Paver – the latter of which I had to read in a bustling café in broad daylight because it was so effing terrifying. Scary books are a way for children to exercise their need for extreme feelings without putting themselves in genuinely dangerous situations. We have a psychological and probably evolutionary need to scare ourselves pantless. If you've been taught to look for wolves in the darkness you might manage to avoid being eaten.

The Blood List is filled with so much superstition surrounding the identification of changelings and witches to other more everyday things. What were some of the strangest superstitions you came across when researching?

I actually loved researching witchcraft and was even considering joining a coven until a psychic I met while writing The Hanged Man Rises advised against it… We’re all programmed to believe in magic: faith that the sun will rise every morning predates the scientific facts, after all. But with faith comes insecurity and a desire to keep sweet whomever we think might be wheeling the sun out every day, just for us. Even skeptics like myself derive a certain irrational sense of protection from saluting magpies and touching wood. Following my research into 17th century superstitions I keep a hagstone over the threshold of my front door to repel witch ingression and wear a pendant with a silver acorn, whose magical reputation dates back to druid times. I think a very small and primitive part of me actually believes they might do some good. (I drew the line at putting iron nails in my son’s cot).

One of my favourite aspects of The Blood List is the complicated relationships and dynamic between the members of the Nightingale family. Were there any particularly difficult aspects of these relationships for you to write or to get right?

The main characters in the Nightingale Family are based on people I know quite well, so all I did was slot them into the situation and my own familiarity with their characters told me how they would react. The tricky bit was making handsome, spoiled, arrogant Barnaby sympathetic enough at the beginning for people to relate to him and want to read on.

For what it's worth, I think Barnaby's character development throughout The Blood List was really well done! 

I always find it interesting to read about the witch hunts during this period of time. It's a leap, but if a similar campaign were launched in modern times, who do you think would be targeted or be accused of being witches?

Muslims, Jews, Poles, working mothers, people on benefits. The Daily Mail will no doubt decide. The older I get the more I feel those nebulous concepts we have such confidence in, like equality and justice and freedom, are so very fragile. States assassinate their enemies on our shores with no repercussions, our politicians fawn to oppressive dictators, terrorists gleefully massacre children. Perhaps we’ve lived through our golden age of enlightenment, and are slipping back into intolerance and barbarism. Guantanamo Bay seems like an endless Inquisition without even the blessed release of death.

I don't read very much historical YA but I'd love to read more. Can you share any historical YA recommendations with me?

Patrick Ness: he is the man. Diana Wynne Jones and her protégé Neil Gaiman. Suzanne Collins, although she’s hardly undiscovered. Melvin Burgess, Eoin Colfer, Philip Reeve and my teenage favourites: Robert Westall, Judy Blume and SE Hinton.

All excellent suggestions! ...But not many historical YA authors :)

What are your thoughts about the UKYA community?

It’s a wonderfully passionate and vibrant community, and extremely valuable to writers who otherwise get very little publicity. Publishing budgets are entirely devoted to the big names in childrens’ books, like JK Rowling and David Walliams, and without the bloggers some truly wonderful books would have been completely ignored. There doesn’t seem much in the way of reward for all your hard work, but I hope this is just a training ground and that many of you will go on to become authors in your own right.

You'll be appearing at the UKYA Extravaganza in Birmingham this month. Which authors are you most looking forward to meeting?

I always like meeting authors. After I left advertising I thought I’d miss the acerbic wit and quick-mindedness that characterizes a creative department, but it turns out writers are just as funny (just rather more self-deprecating). I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Emma Pass again. We did the Derbyshire Bookbash together a couple of years ago, and since then she has scaled the heady peaks of success. I’m going to ask her to sign my forehead.

A huge thank you for being on Fluttering Butterflies today!

Thanks to you too. See you on the 28th!