Tag Archives: 2016 release

An Interview With Calista Lynne: Author of We Awaken

Today I’m delighted to be sharing my interview with Calista Lynne, whose new title We Awaken was released in July. I was really interested in this book as soon as I’d heard about it, as not only does the magic-laced contemporary story sound really interesting, but this is also one of very few titles I’ve seen out there where asexuality is a main aspect.

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THE BIBLIOMANIAC: Hello! Firstly, could you give a quick overview of your latest book, We Awaken, is about?

CALISTA LYNNE: The main characters in We Awaken are two asexuals in a F/F relationship. One of them is a creator of dreams who helps the other girl try to get into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. It is YA Magical Realism, so there is a fair amount of conflict and adventure, but at the heart of it all, this is a tale of romance.

30341730Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for the story?

The characters came from the fact that I wanted to write asexual representation, but the plotline came from a variety of places. Fairytales, a sonnet I never wrote, stories friends told me at parties. I had a friend growing up who had a fake license so she could rent cars underage and go to auditions in the city. Shockingly enough, that led me to make the main character a dancer.

What was your writing process like for We Awaken?

It was a bit more structured than my current writing process. I had long lists of scenes and events and wrote them as chronologically as I could without getting writers block. The first scene that came to me was one in the middle, though, so that was my anchor. There was also a fair amount of screaming at my laptop screen.

Did you always plan on having a supernatural twist in your writing?

I like to pretend that I can write in any genre, but fantastical elements just come to me better. Recently I abandoned two completed drafts of a contemporary romance because it didn’t feel right. Now I’m working on a fantasy and it is coming out so much better. I write whatever plots come to me and, for some reason, they always seem to involve creators of dreams or fairies or something supernatural. It’s not even planned it’s just in my nature, I suppose.calista-lynne

What made me really interested in We Awaken was that your main characters are asexual, which I think should be represented a lot more in YA. Did the asexuality aspect of your novel just happen as you wrote, or did you have the intention of representing minority characters?

I definitely had the intention of including minority characters going in. My goal was to write the novel I wish I had growing up and show that asexuals aren’t broken. I wrote the representation I wanted to see in the media. Although I will admit, originally there was only one asexual character in the book but during rewrites I changed it to two.

And, lastly – do you have any book recommendations?

This is a difficult question! Tragically, I don’t know many books with asexual characters- feel free to send recs my way- so I can’t offer up any titles in that regard, but I do highly recommend every book by Neil Gaiman. American Gods is my personal favorite. Honestly it’s written so cleverly it almost makes me angry. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is my favorite LGBTQ title. I just recommend you read whatever makes you happy and don’t let anyone give you shit about it.

Thanks very much for visiting the blog, Calista! (And I second the Aristotle and Dante recommendation. That book is beautiful)

Are you interested in We Awaken? You can find more details about it over on Goodreads – and it’s out now from Harmony Ink Press.

 

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

Published 9th June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

29604253Goodreads Synopsis: When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn’t just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

My Review: With Malice arrived in the post by surprise, but I was was desperate to start reading it after looking into what it was about. Psychological thrillers are right up my street, so I was really sure I’d find this great!

The plot is centered around Jill, who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the last six weeks. She discovers that she was involved in an accident that the press is not obsessed with – but was the accident her fault? Is she to blame for the tragic outcome?

I’ll get the slightly negative part of this review out of the way – I couldn’t like Jill. She had many likeable traits, but there were so many reasons why I just couldn’t feel for her. It meant I felt a little distanced from the story – though not entirely, it was incredibly addictive. Maybe it’s because of the way she was portrayed by the media excerpts in the book, maybe it was because she didn’t seem to mourn after the accident – she just seemed a little two dimensional to me, though that’s not to say everyone else will think that. I’m sure many readers will engage with her.

I really did enjoy the story, because it’s full of many unexpected twists, especially towards the end. It feels like a very classic mystery, with modern elements. Whenever I wasn’t reading, I was coming up with theories as to what could have caused the accident!

I really enjoyed the way in which the story is told. It isn’t told in modern day extracts and then flashbacks, like I’d expected. Instead, we follow Jill in the present day, and between chapters are extracts from various news channels, witness interviews, and blogs, which allow the reader to see into the mystery from multiple perspectives – characters close to Jill, hateful media perspectives, and anonymous blog trolls. It was really interesting to see the story told from lots of different perspectives – it also revealed lots of little hints and different theories, which kept me hooked.

Overall, With Malice was a really brilliant and addictive read. It’s the perfect book if you’re looking for a thrilling read for this summer. I really enjoyed the story, and although I had a couple of problems with the characters, I’m sure many people will love it.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

Published 1st June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

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Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

My Review: I was sent this book by surprise, and although I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be something I’d enjoy, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sarra Manning’s other books, so I was eager to give it a go!

London Belongs to Us is a brilliant tribute to London. It’s set over one crazy, eventful night, and roughly each chapter is set within a different iconic place – from Crystal Palace to Chelsea – and with each new change in scenery brings a little chapter introduction with facts about the place. It’s written almost like a love letter to London; all of the research, and attention to detail that’s gone into describing the locations. I really enjoyed reading it, as there is so much emphasis on the setting, and being a Londoner (or near enough) I adored the familiarity and how easily I could envision so much of the book.

The story is hectic, as it starts in Crystal Palace Park on a late evening, and finishes the next morning – with so much happening in between. Sunny unexpectedly receives a photo of her boyfriend with another girl, and a wild chase across London ensues to solve the story – along the way, there’s all sorts of craziness, from mopeds to nightclubs and concerts to The Ritz. It was fast paced and adventurous; so much fun to read, and it’s short enough to enjoy in a day. It’s a silly thing to pick up on, but I did question the plausibility of some of the wild things that happened… To think that some people roughly my age did some of those things, and all in one night, is crazy 😀

One thing I noticed about the story, and really appreciated, was that the topic of racism was brought up. Sunny, the main character, is mixed race, and over the course of the book multiple comments are made by other characters about her colour of her skin, making snap judgements and rude stereotypical statements. I think the way the author wrote about these was incredibly realistic and I like the way the topic was treated; it’s something I’d love to see a lot more in books.

Overall, London Belongs to Us was a fun book, and one that’s perfect for you if you’re looking for a short but enjoyable summer story… Or an ideal London train read! I really enjoyed reading about Sunny and Emmeline, and the ridiculous things they did all in one night. It’s very quirky and very random – a great tribute to an equally quirky and random city.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Published February 2016 by Macmillan.

25437747Goodreads Synopsis: I was brave. She was reckless. We were trouble.
Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting.

Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be.

But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

My Review: Beautiful Broken Things had been on my to-read list ever since I saw its beautiful cover in late 2015! I’m very much a ‘judge a book by its cover’ type. I actually went into the book knowing very little about it, other than that it was about friendship, and by my guessing, would be quite a sad read.

It took me a while to read this because it was the first book I read after exams; the last two months have been a massive reading slump and I’ve been so out of the loop, and out of the reading mindset. However, on a long bus journey the other day, I devoured over half of the book. Sara Barnard really draws the reader in, and gets them totally engrossed in the story.

Beautiful Broken Things follows the story of Caddy, who is living what she feels is a boring, average life. When her best friend Rosie introduces her to Suzanne, a new girl to Brighton, everything begins to change. Suzanne went through some horrible things before moving to Brighton with her aunt, and Caddy finds herself drawn to her, wanting to be there for her. Events begin to spiral out of control – and nothing’s the same.

The premise of the story was brilliant. Even though I did think the story was a little predictable, I still found myself feeling for the characters are the story played out. I loved the setting; it feels like Barnard’s debut is like a love letter to Brighton, highlighting its beautiful places in the pivotal scenes of the story.

The characters are all really well developed and felt very real to me, but for some reason I just didn’t connected with them like I’d expected to. Especially Suzanne. It’s not that I explicitly didn’t like the protagonists, but some of the decisions they made just didn’t add up for me and I felt a bit detached from them. I feel like if I’d grown to love them more, this book would have deeply impacted me much more.

Overall, Beautiful Broken Things is a really great debut novel, and one I’d certainly recommend. It’s a riveting contemporary story, with some characters that I’m sure most will find very memorable. Sadly, something just didn’t click for me, whilst I was reading – however, it was still a brilliant read 🙂

My Rating:

three

I purchased a copy of Beautiful Broken Things.

Book Review: Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Published April 2016 by Little, Brown.

26030682Goodreads Synopsis: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

My review: Anyone who knows me well enough will know that I do not shut up about Monica Hesse’s début YA books, STRAY and BURN, which are two of my all-time favourite books, ever. My excitement went through the roof when I found out that Hesse had written another YA book – and I was very interested to see her genre choice jump from Sci-Fi to historical fiction. I was delighted to have the chance to read it.

Girl in the Blue Coat is set in wartime Amsterdam. Hanneke is secretly running illegal errands, delivering extra rations of food to local people, and staying under the radar. But when one of her clients asks her to help search for a missing Jewish girl that she’d been hiding, her life is turned upside down as she is catapulted into a complex mystery, and begins to unravel dark secrets about the what is happening to Jewish people being captured in Amsterdam.

Story time: I visited Amsterdam last year, and had the chance to also visit Anne Frank Huis. It was really heartbreaking and moving to walk around the tiny place the Frank family had to hide in for years – it’s incredibly eye-opening, and hard to believe that this was a reality for many Jewish people during the second world war. Monica Hesse’s attention to detail is admirable; her extensive research is evident in her meticulous descriptions – from the streets of Amsterdam, to the place Jewish people were inhumanely held, to the hiding spaces in Dutch households.

The plot gripped me from the start and hasn’t really let me go, even after closing the book. I’m still thinking about the story weeks later. It’s rare to find something so incredibly raw as this is – the emotion in this book is so intense and it can be quite hard to read the brutal nature of events at points. Admittedly, I don’t take history, but I’m sure the level of detail Monica Hesse explores in Girl in the Blue Coat can exceed what people learn in schools. This has really opened my eyes to what happened in Amsterdam, and I’m eager to learn more.

Hanneke is one of those characters I couldn’t help but adore. From the opening pages, I admired her daring nature, and her realistic inner conflict about searching for a Jewish girl in a dangerous world. I was rooting for her all of the way through, and loved the unlikely community she finds in the book, during her search. All of these characters will definitely stay with me for a long time – many scenes where their backgrounds are explored really moved me.

Overall, Girl in the Blue Coat was an incredible read. Monica Hesse has transcended into the historical fiction genre beautifully, with a powerful and mesmerising novel about the brutality of wartime events in Amsterdam, highlighting the bravery and selflessness of those who resisted Nazi efforts. The story is hard to fault, and was hard to put down; I was desperate to unravel the truth about this mysterious girl for myself. The ending was incredibly unpredictable, and the final events of the story brought me to tears! Highly recommended if you’re looking for a thought-provoking read.

My Review:

four and a half

I received a copy of Girl in the Blue Coat.

 

 

Book Review: The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

This edition published January 2016 by Curious Fox books.

The Diamond ThiefGoodreads Synopsis: No one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Rémy Brunel. But Rémy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

Meanwhile, young detective Thaddeus Rec is determined to find the jewel and clear his name. Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Rémy that he needs to save?

My Review: This book has been on my to-read list for ages, and for some reason, I’ve simply never gotten around to buying a copy. However, when Curious Fox were kind enough to send me some of their titles a while ago, I saw that it had been given a cover makeover – I’m in love with the new look! I thought this was a great opportunity to finally get into the trilogy.

The Diamond Thief pulled me in immediately, with a beautifully written and gripping trapeze scene  – and all the way through, there was never a dull moment. Protagonist Rémy is not your usual travelling trapeze artist – as well as a secret and mysterious past that she doesn’t fully understand herself, she lives a double-life as a jewel thief and is in London to steal a famous gem.

The plot was gripping and entertaining. Not so long ago, I was hugely into steampunk and fantasy stuff – I feel like more recently, I’ve moved into reading more contemporary fiction. The Diamond Thief felt like coming home to an old friend that I haven’t seen in a while. It was 300 pages of pure, riveting escapism – a classic steampunk-inspired story with some beautifully elaborated Victorian elements.

Rémy is an awesome main character – she’s a classically adventurous and courageous heroine. Also, kudos for her to standing up for herself and refusing to be defended. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about her and another character, whose chemistry is hinted at and I’m sure will be evident in the next book! However, I really did enjoy reading about the unlikely gang Rémy finds herself banding together through her journey to get the diamond and uncover the truth.

Overall, I definitely recommend The Diamond Thief to anyone who loves mystery stories, or ones with steampunk elements. It was a really great read – perfect for fans of Pantomime by Laura Lam and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. I can’t wait to read on in the trilogy and see how Rémy’s story develops.

My Rating:

four

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

Intrigued by The Diamond Thief, or already a fan? Come back to this blog this time next week, for an interview with the author!

FLAWED Blog Tour: ‘5 Things About Me’ by Cecelia Ahern

I’m incredibly excited to be a part of the blog tour for FLAWED – the new YA novel coming from bestselling author Cecelia Ahern – most famous for P.S. I Love You and Love, Rosie. Here’s Ahern discussing five random facts about herself:

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Interested in her new novel? It’s an exciting new dystopian novel, where you are either labelled PERFECT or FLAWED. Here’s the synopsis!

28425994Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

In this stunning novel, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society in which perfection is paramount and mistakes are punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

FLAWED is published by Harper Collins Children’s Books and is available now in book stores.

goodreads | amazon | waterstones

Book Review: When We Collided by Emery Lord

Related Posts: 2016 Releases: Books on my To-Read List!

Published April 2016 by Bloomsbury Books.
27235365Goodreads Synopsis: 
Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.
Vivi and Jonah couldn’t be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi’s zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there’s something important Vivi hasn’t told him.

My Review: I’ll admit, this was a book I judged quite largely on the cover – it was so beautiful, I just had to see what it was about. And I’m so glad I was pulled into it. When We Collided was everything I expected and so much more; a truly unforgettable story that I want to recommend to everyone.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters from the opening pages; instantly, I was swept up within the separate lives of Vivi and Jonah – her bustling, art filled life, and his busy and mourning family – and didn’t want to stop reading as they, well, “collided.” Both Vivi and Jonah have awful hardships in their life, but after finding each other, it’s like they both have a new lease of life. I’ve never read anything by Emery Lord before, but I really want to now; her ability to craft realistic, memorable characters is second to none.

Mental health is a topic discussed often in YA fiction – and When We Collided is an incredible depiction of bipolar disorder. The author writes about it honestly and openly, and in a very realistic way. I think it was discussed really well in the book – Emery Lord’s writing is authentic and raw, her characters voices genuine.

I could tell from about a third of the way in that this book was bound to get quite sad at some point – it does, inevitably, but I was so wrapped up in Vivi and Jonah’s lives that I hardly saw it coming. The plot is so heartbreaking, but there are plenty of points that made me smile – Vivi’s happy moods are infectious. The whole book is a roller-coaster of emotion, and I definitely wasn’t expecting such a powerful story.

Overall, I’m incredibly glad I got the chance to read When We Collided – it was a moving, wonderful book and I can’t wait to read more from Lord in the future. I’ve never fallen for characters or gotten so engrossed in a love story so quickly. When We Collided is the perfect book if you want to read about some amazing characters, with a heartbreaking but also at points uplifting story. And the setting is gorgeous. I really can’t do this book justice – just go have a read for yourself 🙂

My Rating:

five

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

Book Review: Image and Imagination by Nick Healy and Kristen McCurry

Published March 2016 by Curious Fox Books.

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I used to write all of the time – I’ve got notebooks and ‘how to write’ books bursting with stories I wrote when I was younger. Since about year eight or nine, I’ve neglected them – focusing more on school and leaving behind that hobby. When I received this book in the post, I was really intrigued by it, as it seems like a fresh, new and inventive way to kick-start writing ideas.

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As soon as I opened this, I fell in love. Image and Imagination is a book solely full of sentence-long prompts and images to accompany them, nothing more, but that’s what makes it stand out among its market. It’s beautifully presented, with some really inspiring ideas and gorgeous, full-colour photos. (And, as a total font nerd, I spent just as much time squealing over the typography as I did imagining what I was going to write!)

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Although marketed for young adults and teen writers, I’d actually really highly recommend this to anyone looking for an exciting new way to find inspiration. Prompts range from half finished sentences, to quotes, to photos of characters to build profiles of, to encouragements to delve into your personal life and draw inspiration from it. With no boundaries or other guidelines, it’s a lovely and free way to start crafting stories. There’s blank spaces to begin your stories on each page, but lined paper at the back of the book to continue them on, too!

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Overall, I really recommend Image and Imagination to teenagers and adults alike. It’s a great book whether you want to start writing, or if you’re just stuck for ideas and need some stimuli. I’m sure this is a book I’ll make a lot more use of in the future, as it’s so beautiful to look at that I can’t help but want to fill it up with words!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of Image and Imagination form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Electrigirl by Jo Cotterill, illustrated by Cathy Brett

Published February 2016 by Oxford University Press.

25950125Goodreads Synopsis: Holly Sparkes is just your average 12-year-old, that is, until she’s hit by a bolt of lightning. Now Holly is EXTRAordinary. Like a human battery Holly can generate a massive amount of electricity in seconds, which could come in handy if she’s ever going to solve the mystery of her best friend’s disappearance. Because when you’re dealing with the likes of Professor Macavity and her mysterious CyberSky corporation, you need all the help you can get!

My Review: As soon as I spotted this online, I couldn’t wait to delve into it and see what it was like! I adored Jo Cotterill’s Looking at the Stars, and Cathy Brett’s books – though Electrigirl is nothing at all like those titles. It’s individual, and I’ve never reading anything like it before!

The story begins with Holly, an ordinary girl whose biggest problem is that her mum is constantly protesting against the new company in town. When she’s suddenly hit by some mysterious lightning, she finds herself with special powers – and with the help of her comic-obsessed brother, she puts them to use to save her friend.

Electrigirl feels like such a classic superhero story, but manages not to feel cliché despite using all of the typical ‘superhero origin’ story elements. From the mysterious powers, to the secretive company, to Holly’s double life…  It’s very Spider-Man, but in the best way. I’m sure so many young readers are going to fall in love with this epic story.

The characters are really fun and I enjoyed reading about them; especially Holly’s little brother, who’s pretty similar to my own. They’re quirky and loveable, and I’m sure anyone who reads this will really connect with them too.

Cathy Brett was the perfect illustrator for this story. I’ve been a fan of her work for a long time, so it was exciting to see how her collaboration with Jo Cotterill would be. Needless to say, it’s absolutely brilliant; I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series holds, as it was just such a joy to read. Brett’s illustrations set the scene for this action story fantastically, and add even more energy to the story. The half-book-half-graphic-novel concept is really exciting; I’m eager to discover more books like this!

Overall, I really recommend Electrigirl. It’s a really entertaining book, and presented in a really clever way; Cotterill’s writing paired with Brett’s illustrations make for an exciting story. I’d particularly recommend it for reluctant readers of novels, as it’s a great and engaging story that alternates between comic strip and text. Of course, it’s a must for young comic fans too!

My Rating:

four

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