Author Archives: keithbwalters

Book Review: The Next Together by Lauren James

Published 3rd September 2015 by Walker books.



Goodreads Synopsis: How many times can you lose the person you love?
A powerful and epic début novel for teenagers about reincarnation and the timelessness of first love from a talented young writer.
Teenagers Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.
But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?
Maybe the next together will be different…

My Review: When I first heard about this book I wasn’t too sure I’d read it – the idea of two lovers being reborn over & over throughout history reminded me a lot of an old favourite, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. But then I read into it more, and saw that beautiful cover, and was offered the chance to review it for LoveReading4Kids – I jumped at the opportunity to.

I was hooked from the opening pages. The story is split between multiple time periods and the reincarnations of Katherine and Matthew in each one; from 2039 to 1745. With each life, they fall in love, affect historical events – and are separated again, to be born again. The stories are all told, uniquely, through not just usual writing but notes between the characters, maps, articles and letters. I loved the format. It made for such a unique reading experience. I thought I’d struggle to keep up with the multiple plots, but it was quite easy to read and Lauren James’s writing is so engrossing.

Technically, we see four reincarnations of the same characters in the same book! James has written them fantastically; no matter what time period, their personalities shine through (Katherine being pretty funny in many places. I had to suppress laughing out loud on a packed train) – though they’re also quite different in each year. I’m always pretty cynical when it comes to romance books but Lauren James has written these characters and their chemistry so so well.

As I did mention, I’ve seen a story done like this before, but this book still felt highly original and compelling – from the perfectly crafted, pulse-raising plot to the instantly loveable and beautifully written characters. There’s an almost sinister, underlying feeling to the plot, as there are mysterious computer-input-type messages throughout such as “objective achieved” / “intervention recommended.” It had me thinking all the way through as to what they could mean! It made quite an intriguing mystery on the side of the main events – it’s linked, but I’ll stop talking about it now…

Overall, I have to say this is the most stunning début of 2015 so far… Or maybe even a while longer. Lauren James is definitely an author to watch out for; her writing is astounding and the plot she has crafted is a rich blend of Sci-Fi, history and romance that is an absolute joy to read. It’s a gripping, emotional roller-coaster that I highly recommend looking out for.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Next Together from the publisher, via LoveReading4Kids, for review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.



Literary Amsterdam

For lack of a better title… 😛


So if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen I went to Amsterdam a few weeks ago. It was the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and I feel really lucky to have had the chance to wander around the streets and the canals for four days. I thought I might make a blog post about what I read while I was there and all the literary things I saw. Plus a slightly less related arty thing, because why not?

A bit of a jumble of a post – but without further ado, here’s all of the literary-related things that happened in Amsterdam.

#1 – Anne Frank HuisIMG_4130

(I didn’t manage to get many great photos of the outside of Anne Frank’s house sadly – this photo’s mainly the modern building neighbouring it)

We queued from two hours before the house’s opening, just to make sure we could visit, on our last day in Amsterdam. It felt incredibly surreal when we were inside – climbing the stairs Anne Frank and her family did; walking through the rooms they stayed in for so long in hiding. It was so saddening to read about the terrible things that happened to them in the place where they actually had been, years ago.

At the end of the walk around Anne Frank Huis, there’s a room with glass casing in the walls. Inside, there are loose pages from one of Anne Frank’s rewrites of her diaries, mounted on the wall. And in the middle of the room; the famous diary itself, opened on a page crammed with her writing, and a photo of herself.

It didn’t feel real to be seeing it, the original diary that’s been read by so many millions of people, right in front of me. It’s an experience I will never, ever forget: it’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to see Anne Frank’s writing get the fame she always wished for.

#2 – The ‘TFiOS Bench’IMG_3894IMG_3893

Although it wasn’t the original bench Augustus and Hazel sat on in the movie (believe it or not, that got stolen! This one’s the replacement), I dragged my family around the smaller streets of Amsterdam to find it. I figured that because when we went the first time, (yup we went twice) the street would be empty – but both times we were there, and the times we passed the street, there was always a group of people there. Taking photos of themselves on the bench, talking about the book, or writing their names or quotes on the bench. It was pretty incredible, seeing how so many people visit it. It’s like a pilgrimage for John Green fans or something.

Although we didn’t spend long there (more people kept appearing, wanting photos too!) it did feel quite special to watch the view Augustus and Hazel (fictionally) looked over in the most important scene of the film, and to read everyone’s writing on the seat. I love the plaque that’s been put on it.

#3 – Van Gogh MuseumIMG_3701

The queue for this museum was crazy, but I don’t regret waiting such a long time to see so much of Van Gogh’s work at all. Van Gogh is one of those artists I’ve always admired but never fully appreciated, but seeing the brush strokes up close and reading about his life in the Netherlands was really incredible. My favourite part was seeing Sunflowers (not just because of Doctor Who, honestly). I actually didn’t realise it was such a large painting, and it’s ten times better up close.

Holiday Reads:


ONLY EVER YOURS by Louise O’Neill – I finally bought a copy of this at YALC, and after hearing O’Neill talk about it, I couldn’t wait to read it much longer. It was really eerie and unsettling, but it carries a really important message. And if you look at some of the events in this book, they’re not all too different from life today. And that’s terrifying.IMG_3898

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE by Haruki Murakami – After reading many glowing reviews of Murakami’s books, and being pulled in by the spectacular covers, I purchased this one completely at random. Emotionally taut and depressing, yet vaguely optimistic, Murakami’s writing has quickly become a favourite. I’m really looking forward to reading more of his books.

Also, the Best Purchase Ever Made:


Posable William Shakespeare figure with a book of illustrated Shakespeare puns.

Best. Three. Euros. Ever. Spent.

Book Review: One by Sarah Crossan

Published 27th August 2015 by Bloomsbury.

25366338Goodreads Synopsis: Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.
And their lives are about to change.
No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?
But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

My Review: I read Sarah Crossan’s début, The Weight of Water, a while ago and was a little mixed; the story was brilliant but the writing format, verse, wasn’t my thing. However, I really wanted to give One a go because I was really interested in the story. There’s nothing like it on the shelves. I hope this beautiful new book will inspire many more.

Tippi and Grace are conjoined twins and have always been home-schooled – until their funding is cut and they must go to a school with other teenagers. At their new school, they’re treated differently by everyone aside from two new friends. School life is manageable for them – until they have to make a life-changing decision.

Through this book I came to enjoy the free-verse format. Not only is the plot unique; the uncommon writing style made for a refreshing change from most YA books I read. It captured Grace’s feelings throughout the story in a raw, intimate way that made the reading experience really special.

Crossan has crafted such stunning characters, it’s hard to remember they’re fictional. Grace and Tippi are contrasting of each other yet have such a strong, sisterly bond that’s unforgettable. Their story made me tear up too many times to count – it was hard to get through the last hundred pages, I felt for them so deeply! The ending broke my heart.

It’s hard to find the words to describe a book like One – it’s the kind of story you’ll put down after reading, but find yourself wondering about the characters and story days, weeks, later. It’s heart-rending and poignant. Sarah Crossan’s writing is beautiful and emotional. I’m sure everyone who comes across this book will be mesmerised!

My Rating:


I received a copy of One  from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

BLACK CAIRN POINT: Guest Post from Claire McFall

Earlier this week, my review of BLACK CAIRN POINT was posted – it’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year, and one of the best thrillers I’ve read full stop.

I was asked to join the blog tour for the book, but with my messages messing up and coming in delayed, I was wayyyy too late! However, Claire kindly offered to write a guest post for this blog for this week and I’m really excited about helping share her process of selling the book. If you’d like to check out the blog tour posts, check the banner below!

Over to Claire!

Banging your head off the wall: a guide to getting published

So there I was, proudly grinning down at my laptop screen.  Finished.  I had written a novel.  Go me! Now, what to do with it?

Well, I had two options:

  1. Leave it languishing on my laptop and tell no one.
  2. Try to get it published.

I’d spent way too much effort on the thing just to feel a sense of internal pride and know that I’d done it. But, in all honesty, the idea of trying to get it published was frankly terrifying. Firstly, because I’d no idea how to go about getting published, and secondly… what if people said it was crap?

So I hummed and hawed and procrastinated, and then suddenly decided I was being a big fat wuss and started investigating. The first thing I did was a bit of market research to answer that key question: was my labour of love, in fact, a pile of steaming poop? I was too chicken to send it out blind, so I got a couple of pals to read it.  The response?  Oh, it’s really good! (With a hint too much surprise for my liking!) Now, that’s all well and good, but these were my pals.  They had to say nice things.  The trick is to find someone you can trust to tell you the truth. However heart-wrenching it may be.  What’s a girl to do?

25326323I sent it to my mum.

When she said it was okay (note: ‘okay’, not the ‘incredible’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘awesome’ I’d had from my mates) then I figured it was good enough to take the next terrifying step: send it to strangers.

I did a bit of digging (good old Google!) and found that while I could self-publish, getting any interest in an unknown novel by an unknown novelist was nigh on impossible.  Yes, there are people who manage this, but it sure ain’t the norm. Another possible route was to send my novel off to smaller, independent publishers (the big ones don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts” for the most part), but I was scared off by talk of enormous slush piles and miniscule odds.  No, the route forward seemed to be to try and get an agent.  But, numerous websites warned me, most agents already have full books and will only take something on if they’re sure they can sell it, so expect a lot of rejections.

Thick skin duly donned, I chose my opening volley.  I read somewhere online that it’s a good idea to pick maybe ten agents that you think you’d like to represent you and send off queries to them all.  You then create a spreadsheet (excellent, I like spreadsheets!) and record their responses.  There are a few possibilities:

Form rejection – a big fat no so emphatic they didn’t even bother to write it personally, just copied and pasted it in.

Personal rejection – again, still no, but they at least took the time to say why it wasn’t for them, which is a start!

A request for more – ooh! They like it! They want to read the whole thing!

Offer of representation – OH MY GOD THEY WANT ME!

Wisdom has it that if all you get in your first round of ten are form rejections, your novel, that you have slaved over and loved and, possibly, wept over, isn’t as good as you thought it was, no matter what your mum says.

Or, you might just have gotten unlucky.

When I sent out my first feelers for Ferryman, my first novel, I got two requests for more.  Yay me! Cue much excitement.  Alas, after reading the finished manuscript, both agents decided it wasn’t for them.


What I possibly should have done at this point is go back to the novel and try and improve it – they were kind enough to give me feedback after all – or try again with another ten agents.  Nah, I decided, to hell with it. I’ll just write another book and see how that goes.

Hmmm.  Possibly not the smartest way forward.  In fact, I wrote EIGHT books before I landed an agent.  That’s right, eight.  Approximately 600,000 words.  It would have been much easier to just work on Ferryman and make it better… but it’s too late now!

Who cared, though? I had an agent! They would help me make my novel(s) sparkle, and then sell it for loads and loads of money!

Or… not.  Next lesson: charlatans! You see, I had no idea that someone who said they were an agent, might not actually be an agent.  Who would? She had a website, and a plan for how to put me forward.  She wasn’t going to charge me anything for her services (note: you NEVER EVER give an agent money up front.  EVER!) So I signed a contract with her, and we got to work making my stuff ship shape.  Then funny things started happening.  Oh, she had good contacts with this small publisher.  They were new so couldn’t offer an advance, but they wouldn’t charge me anything.  Okay.  Oh the cover?  Yes, it’s coming, it’s coming.  Oh, now.  Things have changed, they need a little bit of money up front…


It turned out, the “agent” was also the “publisher” – hiding under a different name.  I don’t know if she started off with good intentions and got into trouble because she didn’t know what she was doing, or if she was just a big, evil scammer… but beware!  There are websites like Firstwriter where you can see reviews of agents and check that they have actually a) made sales and b) paid money to authors.  Luckily, at this juncture, I landed a real agent, from a real agency, so all was well.

What happened next?  Well, said agent had lots of shmoozy boozy lunches and wooed some publishers…. And voila! A book deal!  No, a three book deal (of which Black Cairn Point – PLUG ALERT! PLUG ALERT! – is book number three)!  And so now, here I sit.  I have three books with my name on them.  I even have a book with (I’m assured) my name on it in Chinese!!! I am, officially, an author. As we say in Scotland, ya dancer!

Thanks for the awesome guest post, Claire! BLACK CAIRN POINT is out now in bookstores, published by Hot Key Books. If you read one book this year, make it this one!

THE SELF ESTEEM TEAM BLOG TOUR: Guest Post by Natasha Devon

I’m so excited to be sharing this post with you today! The Self Esteem Team is a group of three awesome women who provide talks and advice to teenagers about a range of issues that affect teenagers lives.

self esteem team

 They’ve just released their first book – a guide to all sorts of things teenagers are asking – and I was lucky enough to be asked if I’d like to join its blog tour! Natasha Devon is a journalist and one third of the team. She’s here today to talk feminism and empowerment! Whoop!

What Does Feminism/Empowerment Mean to Women Today?

By Natasha Devon of the Self-Esteem Team

Self Esteem Team coverFeminism is and always has been about choice. Women should be in charge of their own destinies, have the same rights and opportunities as men and respect the choices made by their fellow woman. (I realise of course this is all completely obvious to anyone with a gram of sense, but you’d be surprised how often my job (as a journalist and TV pundit) necessitates repeating the above)

Having choices isn’t to be confused with ‘having it all’ – in my opinion that’s a dangerous and tiresome myth. There’s enough pressure on women already to emulate a terrifyingly narrow and prescriptive idea of ‘perfection’ without throwing an expectation that we’ll be ‘brilliant at everything’ into the mix.

The teens we work with often tell me that at some point during the past decade, their understanding of feminism’s slogan shifted from ‘you can do anything you want!’ to ‘you must do everything!’. Young women (indeed, all young people) are currently feeling the pressure to attain straight A*s, to keep up the appearance of an awesome social life on the web and to look fantastic for their proms. In the terrifying global hierarchy created by social media, nothing short of ‘the best’ will do.

Emily Pankhurst wouldn’t approve (probably. We can’t ask her). There’s little advantage in women in developed countries having more opportunity than ever before if we’re going to tie ourselves in knots, constantly worrying that we aren’t getting it right.Natasha

The best type of feminism isn’t about hating men, but about loving yourself. It’s about valuing yourself enough to know that you can do anything you set your mind to, but you don’t have to succeed the first (or even the seventh) time. It’s about knowing that neither your dress size nor your bank balance defines who you are. It’s about forgiving yourself, learning from your mistakes and having the confidence to celebrate your triumphs. It’s about recognising that you are unique and marvellous but, perhaps even more crucially, so is everyone else.

Increasingly, we are recognising that people of all genders need to be included in the feminist dialogue. Gender politics is now being discussed in school assemblies, not just in exclusive female-only clubs.

Whatever your sexuality, orientation or gender identity, you will face challenges in your life. I hope the future of feminism will be less about firing 140-character insults across the no-man’s land of the Twittersphere (or, as Ricky Gervais puts it ‘shouting in a bin’) and more about creating a mutually supportive culture where everyone is given the opportunity to flourish.

Thank you, Natasha, for the great guest post! The Self Esteem Team’s Guide to Sex, Drugs & WTFs?!! is out this month.

Book Review: Black Cairn Point by Claire McFall

Published 6th August by Hot Key Books.

25326323Goodreads Synopsis: Two survivors, one terrible truth.
Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she’s desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.
One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn’t, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

My Review: It’s safe to say I am a huge fan of Claire McFall – Ferryman and Bombmaker are undoubtedly two of my favourite UKYA books. I’ve been eager to read even more of McFall’s work (I can’t get enough of her atmospheric writing!) so when I heard about Black Cairn Point, I was ecstatic.

devoured this book. I was hooked from the beginning, up until the last word. Heather and four of her classmates go on a camping trip, for Dougie’s birthday – it’s an abandoned beach, near an ancient Cairn, which is an old Pagan burial area. But when, suddenly, some terrifying things are beginning to happen, Heather’s certain it’s linked to the Cairn.

The characters are fantastic – just as I’d guessed they be, because years after reading Ferryman, I still have Dylan and Tristan in my head! Heather felt so unflinchingly real to me. The chemistry between all of the characters was brilliant; Claire has captured teenage drama really well, the fluctuating relationships  and rising tensions were really fun to read about.

The story spirals from feeling like a cutesy teen holiday to a dark tale of murder and mayhem – it’s gripping, shocking, and gets progressively more terrifying with every page! Chapters alternated between the ‘then’ and ‘now’ – ‘then’ being on the camping trip, and ‘now’ is Heather’s time in an institution one year later with a therapist, trying to get to the bottom of the story before Dougie wakes from his coma. Scary, nightmarish things are revealed from both time periods, and I was racking my brain throughout to work out what the outcome could be on the camping trip, and one year later.

Claire McFall takes her books in completely unpredictable directions, and this one is possibly the best of hers. It is so hard to talk about the best bit of the book without spoiling it, and I want to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’m not even going to mention what I thought about the last pages as everything clicked into place. All I’ll do is give you this accurate depiction of me in GIF form:

Trust me, everyone is gonna look like this when they read the end.

Overall, just, ahem, please go and buy Black Cairn Point as soon as possible. It’s a thriller with an unbelievable twist that will render you completely speechless. Even before I’d finished it, it became one of my favourites of this year!

My Rating:


I received a copy of Black Cairn Point from the publisher. In no way at did this affect my thoughts.

The Hive Construct Blog Tour: Guest Post from Alexander Maskill

The Hive Construct is Maskill’s début novel and I’m delighted to be a part of the blog tour! Today I’m sharing a guest post from the author, about what influenced him to write the book. Find more about The Hive Construct here!

The Hive Construct’s biggest influence was the year I’d spend prior to writing it studying politics at the University of Leicester. My degree required that I study political systems and social structures and the like, and so it was what was on my mind when I sat down to work out what the story would be. The story is a political story, it’s a story of political strife. The best thing you can do as a creative person is to not just draw on other creative works, but to combine outside interests of yours with your creative inclinations to create something less derivative than it otherwise might be.

18395027Getting more into other creative influences, the book was, in many ways, inspired by The Wire. I was really interested in exploring a society’s systems from multiple points of view, examining how the institutions of that society inexorably draw them into conflict – and The Wire is maybe the best ever telling of that particular story. The original title for The Hive Construct, which was just “The Hive”, is literally two letters away from “The Wire”, that’s how influential it was on me. At the same time, I wasn’t bound by journalistic experiences in the same way David Simon was, which allowed me to extend the themes into the details of the world-building. It made sense to me to parallel the ways people integrate themselves into the systems around them with people literally integrating themselves into information systems, and extending that metaphor wherever I could. Obviously this drew to mind other stories about transhumanism – Ghost In The Shell, Deus Ex and The Matrix being the most obvious ones in my mind.

The Mass Effect series of video games also ended up playing a significant role in a lot of my approach to world-building. My big dirty secret is that I don’t actually read that much science fiction, so the Mass Effect universe is probably the most developed science fiction universe I’ve ever been invested in. This is obvious everywhere from the way I describe the novel’s portable computers to some of the thematic concerns later on in the story.

Something else I realised a little while later was precisely how subconsciously influenced by the show Legend of Korra my Serious, Adult Political Novel ended up being. Talented young woman goes to a huge city in the middle of a major social upheaval, has often-contentious relationship with both sides and things escalate from there. I mean, I spent less time on fictional sports and love triangles, so maybe I missed a trick there.


Alexander Maskill grew up in East Sussex. He has just completed a Politics degree at the University of Leicester and hopes to follow this with an MSc in Computer Science. The Hive Construct is his first novel and won the 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize.


Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Published 16th July by Pan Macmillan.

The Bones of YouGoodreads Synopsis: When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She’d come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her – perhaps better even than Rosie’s own mother.
A family torn apart: Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why?
A keeper of secrets: Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She’s certain that someone in the village knows more than they’re letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate’s obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.

My Review: This book looked and sounded amazing, so I was very excited to start it! I had to read the first half in short snatches between the last-week-of-school-rush-to-finish-coursework, but on the last day of school I sat and devoured the last half of the book in one reading. I wish I could’ve read the whole book like that. It’s fast paced and definitely one of my most gripping reads this year!

Rosie, teenage daughter of the famous TV presenter Neal Anderson, has disappeared. Kate, the local gardener who had a connection to Rosie, is shocked and saddened by the truths that are slowly coming to light. She decides to investigate on her own as to what happened – delving into the murky and mysterious background of Rosie’s famed family. The outcome of the story is absolutely terrifying.

The story felt so real at points it was scary – I especially really liked the psychological aspects and the heavy focus on media representation. It was very chilling to read about how the national papers exaggerated Rosie’s disappearance story – and made me think of how so many papers do this in real life.

The Bones of You is a very dark tale and certainly not for the faint-hearted – there are lots of grim scenes. However I raced through the story, utterly engrossed, desperate to unravel all of the answers. The Bones of You is an absolutely stunning début novel. The plot was so intricate and complex and I came up with countless theories, but none of them were anything like the outcome. I had to read over the revealing lines to make sure I wasn’t seeing things!

I became really attached to the characters, especially Kate. She felt very realistic and her actions were so believeable. Her daughter has just left for university, and on top of adjusting to that change, she becomes tangled up in the mystery of what happened to Rosie, a local friend’s daughter. I don’t read from adult perspectives very much as I mainly read YA but, unexpectedly, I came to love Kate as much as I would love a YA protagonist.

Overall, I was really impressed with this début novel – I went in with not very many expectations and was met with a truly unique, dark thriller. I would jump at the chance to read more from Howells in the future! She has a great talent for writing very realistic thriller stories. The plot was so well crafted, as were the unforgettable characters. I definitely recommend this to people who love crime books.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Bones of You from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Off The Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

Make sure to scroll down after my rating – there’s an awesome bonus thing about this book! 

Published 4th June 2015 by Hodder.

25001544Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Delilah is finally united with Oliver—a prince literally taken from the pages of a fairy tale. There are, however, complications now that Oliver has been able to enter the real world. To exist in Delilah’s world, Oliver must take the place of a regular boy. Enter Edgar, who agrees to take Oliver’s role in Delilah’s favorite book. In this multilayered universe, the line between what is on the page and what is possible is blurred, but all must be resolved for the characters to live happily ever after.

My Review: A few years ago, my dad passed me the proof copy for Between the Lines, a book he thought I might like because it was about story characters coming to life. I LOVED it. I wanted more! Coincidentally, a few days after I finally bought a finished copy of Between the Lines only a few weeks ago, I was emailed about reviewing the sequel. How I had missed that news before, I have no clue. Needless to say I have never responded to an email faster.

Off the Page is, essentially, a sequel –  it follows Oliver adjusting to life in the human world with his love, Delilah, after he’s left his fairy tale – but it’s not actually that hard to follow for someone who’s new to the story! Following the events of Between the Lines, Oliver and Delilah can finally be together in the real world – and Delilah thought that teaching him basic human-world skills would be hard, but when something in the book is starting to mess everything up, Delilah realises it’s going to be a lot harder…

Admittedly it did take me a little while to become properly engrossed in the story, but once I was, I didn’t want to stop reading. The plot progresses brilliantly, with some twists and turns I couldn’t guess were coming. The ending was really satisfying and actually made me tear up a tiny bit!

Just as Between the Lines was, Off the Page was superbly written – a blend of humour and heart that’s hard not to fall in love with. Mother and daughter duo Picoult & Van Leer are both so talented and I love their writing – I would love to read more from both in the future, collaborative or not! There’s something about Off the Page that I can’t quite define. It, along with the first book, just seems to stand out against the rest of its genres – feeling like an old classic, but upbeat and modern too. They seem to be very popular in the US , so I really want to spread the love for them over here in England!

Overall, Off the Page was a fantastic companion novel that I highly recommend – whether you have read Between the Lines or not. The beautifully crafted contemporary world with a fantasy twist will certainly appeal to fans of Inkheart by Cornelia Funke! Whether you’re looking for a gripping fantasy story, or a beautifully written romance, Off the Page is perfect. I can’t wait to read more from Picoult & Van Leer in the future – it was sad to see this story finish!

My Rating:



ALSO! ZAPPAR FEATURES: On the front of the hardcover book, you’ll find a sticker that asks you to scan the book with Zappar – an app available on iOS and Android. I was expecting this to be simply a link to a description of the book or something similarly generic – so I was stunned at what scanning the book revealed! Excuse my bad attempts at getting photos…IMG_5469

The words on the front cover animate a spiral off the page, then the book characters bursting off the page literally do jump off the page. Through your phone or tablet, you can watch them dance around – and flip your camera to take a selfie with them! Here’s dad looking baffled because technology.


I received a copy of Off the Page from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Published 4nd June 2015 by Harper Voyager.

23569524Goodreads Synopsis: What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.

My Review: I first heard about this at the Fire Sermon event with HarperVoyager a few months ago, and instantly the story appealed to me. Over the last year I’ve been getting into contemporary more and more, which has meant I’ve been reading less fantasy. After The Fire Sermon, this seemed the perfect read to rekindle (pun 100% intended) my love for the genre. And, it was! An Ember in the Ashes exceeded my expectations by miles. It was a mesmerising début, from a very talented new writer.

The story is told in switching perspectives; Laia, a scholar, and Elias, a ‘mask’ soldier. Laia is thrown into a world of resistance against the Empire and espionage in order to save her brother, whilst Elias is a promising soldier of Blackcliff, expected to go through horrifying things to compete to be Emperor, despite how much he detests the system. The two are about to meet in the place they are both trapped, and the path they take is set to change everything.

adored the characters. Laia was a refreshingly unique protagonist. In the beginning, she is weak, afraid and does not involve herself in anything illegal; that’s all her brother, until he’s captured. She develops a lot over the course of the plot; Sabaa Tahir has written her character so well. I didn’t really mind the vague love triangle, too!

It’s really hard to express my feelings about An Ember in the Ashes. It was just so enjoyable – I was sucked into the world of the Empire straight away; swept away with the characters on their terrifying stories. The story ended on such a huge cliffhanger, and I actually thought it was a standalone novel… Thankfully a sequel is due and I’m eagerly anticipating reading more about Laia and Elias.

Overall, I very highly recommend An Ember in the Ashes. If you’re a fan of fantasy, Sabaa Tahir’s book is the perfect next read – and, in fact, it’s the perfect book to get into the fantasy genre with. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning debut novels I have read.

My Rating:five

I received a copy of An Ember in the Ashes from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.