Tag Archives: dystopia

An interview with… Sophie Hamilton!

I’m really delighted to have Sophie Hamilton, author of the fantastic YA début STITCH UP, on the blog today, answering some questions on her book! Firstly, a little about Sophie Hamilton:

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Sophie Hamilton lives in London and writes urban YA.

For years, Sophie worked in TV as a film researcher and producer. Her programmes ranged from hard-hitting documentaries to culture and art shows, she most enjoyed those highlighting the lifestyle, quirks and foibles of the rich and famous. She then decided to swap the hectic environment of television for the solitary life of a writer, and the result is her debut novel ‘Stitch-Up’.

When not writing she’ll most likely be reading, watching films, searching out culture, walking or jogging round London or just kicking back.

Onto the questions!:D

G: Stitch-Up is set in a vision of London where the media has a firm grip over everything. Why did you decide to write a book with a focus on media and how people can manipulate the truth?

S: I worked in television for years before I started writing ‘Stitch-Up’, and I guess this influenced my decision to write a book with a focus on media. Also as a news junkie, I’ve always been interested in the way the media creates stories, constructs narratives and isn’t beyond manipulating the ‘truth’ to sell newspapers. I would say two main factors informed my choice to set ‘Stitch-Up’in a near-future, media-controlled London.

Firstly, when I began writing ‘Stitch-Up’, it seemed that there was a dubious relationship between certain sections of the media, the political establishment and the police force. This made me feel very uneasy. Also, media barons having political sway is never good for democracy.

Secondly, I’m both horrified and obsessed by media storms and the damage they do to people’s lives. I began ‘Stitch-Up’after the mother of all media storms, in which certain sections of the press wrongly accused a couple of being involved in the disappearance their child. Instead of chasing down the facts, the press constructed a sensational story with a total disregard for the truth, the parents’ feelings and reputation. The whole nation was hooked on the drama, newspaper sales rocketed, which encouraged the press to print yet more lies.

sophie1This started me thinking…how would it feel to be caught up in a media storm? If the press printed lies about you, demonized you, and shredded your reputation,and you had no way of putting your side of the story across.It would be frightening if you were an adult, but if you were a teenager it would be beyond terrifying – a living nightmare.

STITCH-UP feels very realistic, as it’s about the darker side of celebrity lifestyles, kidnappings and terrorism. Was any of it inspired by true events?

Many aspects were informed by real events. In fact, the trigger for the whole book came from a news item about the Clapham train disaster, which stated that one person goes missing to start a new life whenever a train crashes.

However, for the rest, I think it is more a mash-up of events and news stories rather than one particular event, which informed it. With hindsight it’s easy to say this or that inspired the story, but it is never that simple.

I never set out to write a book about the media, or about a kidnap, or about the way Muslims in Britain were demonized after 9/11, or about celebrity lifestyles, surveillance-creep or the financial crash. I started with a girl running away from controlling parents because she didn’t want to be forced to look and behave in a certain way.But when I had to describe the world and choose characters – Dasha, her parents, Latif and her friends –my concerns and interests influenced my decisions, and suddenly I was writing about things I felt passionately about.

‘Stitch-Up’tunes into the mood music of the times – the financial crash and the recession, discontent, Islamophobia, FEAR, surveillance, riots, alienation, post 7/7 paranoia, FEAR and ultimately repression. It was a time when the rich were getting richer and the poor were being pushed out of London, and everyone was happy to be spied on in return for cool free stuff.

Why did you want to write a book about London?

20434644That’s easy, because I love London. I wanted ‘Stitch-Up’ to be a celebration of this diverse, mad and maddening city. At the same time I wanted to sound a warning that we have to be vigilant before things change irreversibly for the worse – the near-future London of‘Stitch-Up’is only a heartbeat away. I felt London was becoming a divided city: a playground for celebrities and the rich, and a hard-grind for ordinary Londoners.

So we need to wake up, put our smart phones down, and start making smart decisions instead … Whoops! Rant over …

At the beginning of the book, Dasha is in a really difficult situation, and decides to take her chance to run away. Would you have done the same?

Hopefully I would have made a break for it… Sadly, in reality I probably wouldn’t have had the courage. I love the fact that Dasha is prepared to risk everything in her quest to control her own identity, and to discover the truth.

Do You Have Advice For Young writers? (Particularly about world-building if possible!:))

Write what you feel passionately about. With regards to world-building, you must be very clear from the outset what type of world you want to create, right down to the tiniest details. Always remember the devil is in the detail! Draw maps, create mood boards, plan everything – totally immerse yourself in your world. Many dystopian writers create incredible worlds from scratch, and I’m completely in awe of this approach, but it wasn’t the type of world I wanted to build. From the start I wanted to write a novel which was set in a near future but recognizable London. I wanted to keep it real as I felt it would be scarier… Do masses of research around your subject. Read newspapers, watch films, visit exhibitions and immerse yourself in popular culture. Always remember anything and everything can inform your world. Often you will find inspiration in the most unlikely places … I reckon the best tool for world-building is the question ‘What if…?’ Keep asking questions, and your answers will shape your world. Whatever you do enjoy building your world. You are God and you must make your world rock!

Finally, as I know you’re currently editing book two, are you able to say anything about Mob Handed?

{tiiiiny spoiler} I have to be very careful as it is a thriller, and I don’t want to give anything away. All I can say is the crew are back together, Latif has returned from a self-imposed period of exile in Lebanon, and the Golds are back and more dangerous than ever. The London elections are looming and they are determined to consolidate their power by rolling out the Entertainment State. As for Dasha and Latif, things don’t go as smoothly as Dasha had hoped… Okay, that’s it…my lips are sealed.

Yay! I can’t wait for book two:D Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to give a big shout-out to the blogging community for their huge passion for books reading, blogging and generally causing a buzz around YA books. Without the blogging community’s reviews a debut author’s situation would be DIRE…

Yippee!:D Thank you so much, Sophie, for taking the time to answer some questions.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I really recommend Stitch Up – available now:) You can read my review here.

Book Review: Stitch Up by Sophie Hamilton

Published 1st May 2014 by Templar books.

20434644Goodreads Synopsis: Information is power, but image is everything…

Dasha Gold enjoys a life of indulgence, made possible by her powerful and wealthy parents. But this privilege comes at a price – extreme image control, including cosmetic surgery to transform her into a living logo for their brand.

Presented with a way out, Dasha embarks on a hunt for the truth that takes her across a divided and CCTV-dominated city, in the company of maverick Londoner Latif.

But money talks and the Golds own the media. Who can Dasha really trust?

My Review: When I started Stitch Up, I knew I was in for an action packed, thrilling read- but I think I underestimated just how action packed and thrilling it would be! Stitch Up had me completely hooked, right from the beginning.

The world building was so amazing. Stitch Up really stood out as a dystopia novel; Sophie Hamilton’s vision of a near-future London was so memorable. It’s controlled by media giants, visibly divided between the rich and the poor and is pretty much on the brink of a big-brother style society, with CCTV around every corner. In a lot of aspects, it is actually very similar to London right now, which gave it a really scary edge!

I really grew to like all of the characters- especially Latif, who’s the supporting character and the teenage, ‘rebel’ boy who saves Dasha from a dangerous London street just after she’s run away. I really did like Dasha; she’s in a really complex decision at the beginning of the book (should she run away, and be free but have to live as lower class and in the shadows, or should she stay with the Gold family, live a life of luxury… but have major plastic surgery to become a living logo?) and she felt very realistic, making really harsh decisions. She was quite relatable. One thing I didn’t really like about her though was the fact that she seemed snappy towards the people who help her, and cover up all of her traces.

The plot progressed in a way I wouldn’t have ever imagined! Every few chapters or so, just as the reader thinks they’ve got the resolution sussed out, there’s a shocking plot twist or event that changes the entire course of the story. It’s ridiculously clever, too. I loved the way everything came together towards the ending- all of the pretty complex drama fit together like a jigsaw and I was left gob-smacked, kicking myself for not sussing it out!

Overall, I really enjoyed Stitch Up. I began it hoping for a pretty fun read, and I got way more than what I expected. This is Sophie Hamilton’s début novel… And so I can’t wait to read more from her in the future (Especially the sequel to this book, Mob-Handed!). The characters are relatable, modern and generally just awesome. I found the plot scarily possible, and really interesting. I’ve never seen the topic of image, and media handled like this in a book before. I highly recommend Stitch Up if you’re looking for a new favourite thriller novel.

My Rating:

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

Book Review: Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson

Published 22nd May 2014 by Pan Macmillan.

21243216Goodreads Synopsis: In the village of Martindale, hundreds of miles north of the new English capital of Windsor, sixteen-year-old Silver Blackthorn takes the Reckoning. This coming-of-age test not only decides her place in society – Elite, Member, Inter or Trog – but also determines that Silver is to become an Offering for King Victor.

But these are uncertain times and no one really knows what happens to the teenagers who disappear into Windsor Castle. Is being an Offering the privilege everyone assumes it to be, or do the walls of the castle have something to hide?

Trapped in a maze of ancient corridors, Silver finds herself in a warped world of suspicion where it is difficult to know who to trust and who to fear. The one thing Silver does know is that she must find a way out . . .

My Review: I’m actually really mixed on Reckoning! I definitely enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first, but I’m a little torn on whether I liked or disliked the book overall. Largely, though, I did enjoy it- I think most fans of the dystopia genre will definitely love it.

Reckoning is set in a post-war Britain (Which made for a nice change; most dystopia novels I read are set in the US!) where England has been divided into four realms and is ruled over by the new king, who essentially restored order from the war chaos. Every year, The Reckoning takes place in July for all of the teenagers entering adulthood, and determines where, and how you work for the rest of your life, under either Trog, Inter, Member or Elite (Which felt slightly Divergent-y).  A random lottery of Reckoning qualifiers selects ‘offerings’ for the king, who must live in Windsor Castle and serve him directly.

There were quite a few aspects of the book that reminded me a little too much of other dystopia novels. It definitely disappointed me a little bit… Though of course with dystopia being such a big, popular genre still it’s common to find books similar to others. It did take me a little while to get properly focused on the story, as I just kept picking up on similarities, though I’m probably exaggerating a bit… Reckoning still has many original aspects. After about half of the book though, I did start to get really engrossed.

Reckoning has so many plot twists! I honestly had no clue where the book was going, for the most part. I read one huge twist on a school journey, and had to restrain myself from gasping out loud! xD Wilkinson’s writing lures you into a false perception of things, then shocks you when you least expect it. That’s a big reason why I did really enjoy the story.

I’m mixed on Silver Blackthorn, who is the protagonist of the novel. I struggled to connect with her, for most of the story; a big reason why I love dystopia novels is because I find most of the characters really relatable, though for some reason I just didn’t connect with her, mostly! I think a lot of people will like her character. I think that, just like with some of the plot, I just didn’t really connect with her.

Overall, Reckoning is a really great read if you’re a fan of the genre. I liked the setting for the book, and the plot twists are totally shocking. Kerry Wilkinson’s writing is very enjoyable; I think I will read book two if I get a chance to (Reckoning kicks off a new dystopia trilogy!). I’m really sad I didn’t enjoy this as much as other people… I just didn’t click with parts of the story. However, all the Goodreads reviews of it that I’ve read have been glowing, so I’m pretty sure most people will love this book. ;D

My Rating:

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

Random bloggy note that’s too short for its own blog post:

Over the course of June and July I’ll be really busy with non-bloggy things; I have to revise for all of my end-of-year mock exams, and if I qualify on the next round on an extra curricular quiz team, I’m basically going to drownnnnn in revising for that, too xD Blog posts won’t always be as frequent from now on (Some of you might have noticed I only managed to get one published last week!).

I decided against going on a hiatus, because I don’t think I could manage leaving my blog for two months or so! However, hopefully blogging a little less over the next few weeks will let me get more reading done, and some more blog scheduling and planning for the future done, too. (: Thanks everyone for reading though, as always!<3

book review: seven second delay by tom easton

Published 1st May 2014 by Andersen Press.

18300258Goodreads Synopsis: Mila has 7 seconds. 7 seconds to fight. 7 seconds to escape.

Seeking a new life on the futuristic Isles, Mila’s time runs out – she’s captured by Agents, who implant her with a phone that broadcasts her every move. Now she’s on the run, hounded by an elite fighting force who is convinced she poses a dangerous threat to society. Her only advantage: a seven second delay.

It’s a race against time.

My Review: Seven Second Delay was such an action packed, and thrilling read!I was looking forward to reading it, and wasn’t let down, though I wasn’t entirely sure at first how I’d find it , a dark dystopian, after having read Easton’s more contemporary, funny book!

It did take me a little while to understand the world; it was about a hundred pages before everything was explained fully. However, the rest of the book did make up for that! The plot is so interesting. The beginning of the book has the reader as clueless about what’s happening as Mila, the protagonist, so it’s really riveting to piece together all of the information along with her. There were a lot of unexpected twists and turns; I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen on the next page. 

I really loved Easton’s writing. He laces his chapters with tension and drama. It’s quite a fast paced book, set over a relatively short period of time, too. Seven Second Delay is pretty addictive, full of narrative hooks. I enjoyed all of the flashbacks woven around the story, that focus on Mila’s life before she’s captured by agents. They let me get to know Mila really well. I would’ve liked more flashbacks, though, because they were brilliant and gave good insights into the other areas of the futuristic world the story is set in. The book is shorter than I’d expected at just over 300 pages. I was left wanting to know a bit more about the world (hint, Tom Easton… sequel…? 😀 )

Overall, Seven Second Delay is a really action packed, fast paced book. It’ll definitely appeal to fans of Charlie Higson, and Anthony Horowitz! I really liked the characters. Mila is great- she reminded me a lot of many other awesome dystopian protagonists, namely the ones in novels by Emma Pass. I really loved the concept of the world, it’s so unique and clever. I would have loved a bit more about it, though… I’ve given this 4 hearts, but i’m really going for 3.75 (I’m awkward 😀 ) because it’s a brilliant read but I wish it could have been longer 🙂

My Rating: 

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

Book Review: The Fearless by Emma Pass

Published 24th April 2014 by Corgi Books.

18160146Goodreads Synopsis: The Fearless. An army, powered by an incredible new serum that makes each soldier stronger, sharper, faster than their enemies. Intended as a force for good, the serum has a terrible side-effect – anyone who takes it is stripped of all humanity, empathy, love. And as the Fearless sweep through the country, forcing the serum on anyone in their path, society becomes a living nightmare.

Cass remembers the night they passed through her village. All Cass has left is her little brother – and when Jori is snatched by the Fearless and taken to their hellish lair, Cass must risk everything to get him back.

My Review: I really loved ACID by Emma Pass last year. Ever since I found out Emma had written a new book, I’d been really excited, so I did a little dance when I got the chance to read this on Netgalley!
The Fearless begins with a completely scary prologue, where ten year old Cass and her parents experience the Invasion and are forced to risk everything and leave everything behind to get to a safe place: an island called Hope. I made the stupid mistake of reading the prologue before I went to sleep. It freaked me out. A lot. :O

The world building in The Fearless is awesome: I could really visualise this post-apocalyptic, almost, world- where England and (so far as we know!) the globe has been destroyed by a rapidly growing, almost zombie-ish army. The Fearless felt like a really original dystopian; it’s got that zombie invasion feel, but at the same time, it’s linked to the military and soldier serums and it’s really unique- I haven’t read anything like it!

Cass is a great main character- we see her grow a lot within the first few chapters- where we see her become a teenager intent on finding her brother, from a ten year old girl watching in horror as the Fearless rip her world to shreds. I was terrified for her, but she was a strong protagonist throughout. Emma Pass has expertly crafted another loveable, kick-butt heroine! There’s a… slight love triangle… but I coped with it. I have a tendency to really dislike love triangles, but I was okay-ish with this one! It was a little bit predictable, but I really grew attached to one of the love interests.

Overall, The Fearless was a really great second book from Emma Pass. I’ve been looking forward to hearing more from Emma since loving ACID last year, and though I think ACID is probably my favourite of her two books, The Fearless is definitely worth reading if you loved ACID or if you’re a dystopian fan! Emma Pass’ début novel was already dark and terrifying, and I didn’t think her next book could get scarier, but it did. the Fearless will freak you out, and keep you on the edge of your seat.

My Rating:

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

Book Review: BURN by Monica Hesse

Published by Hot Key Books, 6th February 2014. You can read my review of the first book, STRAY, here!

18682748Goodreads Synopsis: Lona Sixteen Always is about to become Lona Seventeen Always, but she isn’t feeling much older or wiser. Unlike Fenn and the rest of the Path strays, she is struggling to move on with her life. How can she look to the future when she knows almost nothing about her past? Lona feels like everyone’s pressuring her to become ‘normal’ – even her beloved Fenn – and on top of this, she’s been having strange, violent dreams. It almost feels like someone’s trying to send her a message…

Lona’s dreams turn out to be memories – clues hidden inside Lona by her mother, who Lona always assumed was lost to her forever. But she isn’t lost at all: she’s being held captive by Harm – emotionless, psychotic, murderous Harm – and she’s desperate for Lona to find her. But can Lona work it all out in time? And why does Harm need Lona’s mother? In the bid to find out who she really is, Lona will fall headlong into a trap far more dangerous and cunning than she could ever have imagined. The Path was just the beginning.

My Review: Contains small spoilers only in the first paragraph if you haven’t yet read Stray! Whoa. I’ve been really eager to read this since I finished Stray a year ago: If you’re on Twitter you might have seen multiple fangirly tweets. As soon as I received it, I re-read book one so I had everything fresh in my head! This sequel definitely lived up to my expectations. Wow.

Burn focuses largely on Lona’s hunt for any possible family. After the events of Stray, Lona is trying to adjust to life outside of Path, the virtual reality experiment that lets foster children live a ‘perfect’ life. Turning seventeen, she realises there must be a mother still alive, and she’s desperate to find her, but Harm makes an appearance in the story and everything turns really dark and sinister. I was completely blown away, on the edge of my seat for every page. The plot was really thrilling! It captures the broken bond between a mother and a long lost daughter so, so well. I felt tears welling up. A lot.

I fell in love with the story all over again, but there was one thing I couldn’t quite get on with: There’s a death in the first book, right at the ending, and I thought that would really shake all of the other protagonists up. They seemed fine, though… It bugged me for some reason.

Lona was still a kick-butt, loveable character. She develops a lot throughout this book, and I really felt for her as she begins to adjust to a life with no more danger (Or, so she thought…). With a lot of books I’ve read recently, I haven’t been able to connect with characters when the book’s in third person, but Lona’s a character I can instantly connect with and follow easily. Fenn, of course, totally beats Jace Wayland any day ;D Forget Jace and Clary or Tobias and Tris. It’s LONA AND FENN:3. One character I was truly terrified of was Harm… He seriously scared me in the first book, and this one was no different!

Overall, Burn was a brilliant sequel, and it was definitely worth the wait. The plot was pacy and exciting, and much more than what I was expecting. Monica Hesse’s writing is amazing, and more people need to read these books! Strong sequel? Yep. Awesome main protagonist? Yep. Clever and imaginative Sci-Fi themes? Yep. It ticks all the boxes! I can’t recommend this more; It’s definitely worth starting if you’ve read the first book, and if you haven’t, well… Read the first book!! (: I’m super sad now. There will be no more from the world of Stray, according to the author. But, I’m hoping there will be more books from her soon!

My Rating: 

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