Friday, 31 July 2015

Blog Tour: Paige Toon's Research for I Knew You Were Trouble

I’m really pleased to welcome one of my favourite authors to the blog today, Paige Toon! The second book in her YA series, I Knew You Were Trouble, was released yesterday by S&S. Read on to find out about the research Paige does for her books.

Ever since my first book, Lucy in the Sky, I’ve liked to visit the places I’m writing about. It’s not always possible – in Chasing Daisy, my characters travel to every country on the Formula 1 circuit – so sometimes, internet research has to suffice. But when I have been able to walk in my characters’ shoes, see what they’ve seen and visit the places that they’ve visited, my writing definitely feels more alive. Or so my readers often tell me…

The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson and its sequel, I Knew You Were Trouble (out 30 July), are set partly in Maidenhead and partly in the far more glamorous locations of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Researching Maidenhead was easy – I went to secondary school there – but researching LA and San Fran… Well, that was fun. I first went to LA when I was writing my second book, Johnny Be Good, about a twenty-something girl called Meg who finds herself working as personal assistant to bad boy rock star Johnny Jefferson. The Jessie Jefferson series is a spin-off from this book and its sequel, Baby Be Mine, so it was easy to visualise Johnny’s teenage daughter Jessie’s surroundings.

I hope these research pictures help to bring the story to life for you…


1. This is Santa Monica beach and the fairground where Jessie goes with her half-brothers Barney and Phoenix on her first full day in LA. Johnny arranges for the rides to be closed to the public.


2. Here are the manicured gardens of Bel Air, home to lots of the rich and famous. Johnny and also Jessie’s new LA friend – TV star Charlotte Tremway – lives here. Picture Lottie’s legendary parties taking place behind those walls…


3. The Skybar at The Mondrian Hotel is one of Jack’s sister Agnes’s favourite hang-outs. When I went there, I thought the guy on the right looked a bit like Johnny from behind…


4. Here are the hazy lights of Downtown LA from up in the hills. Jessie sees this view every night from Johnny’s pad – and she’d also see it from the back of her dad’s motorbike.


5. The Golden Gate Bridge only looks this bright in colour when the sunlight hits it – and this is how Jessie saw it when she escaped to the beach with Jack on the morning after the All Hype concert in San Francisco…


6. Who can you spy out there on the waves? In I Knew You Were Trouble, Jessie thinks Jack kite-surfing is one of the coolest things she’s ever seen… The scenes that take place on this beach are some of my favourites in the entire book. I’d love to hear if it’s the same for you – so please tweet me @PaigeToonAuthor and let me know!

Note: For more research pics for all of my books, please visit my website www.paigetoon.com

Thank you so much Paige! Don’t forget to pick up your copy of I Knew You Were Trouble and the re-covered The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson.


Sophie 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine

Pages: 410
Publisher: Allison and Busby
Release Date: 7th July 2015
Edition: UK paperback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Weather Warden series, Morganville Vampires series, Revivalist trilogy, Red Letter Days duology, Outcast Season series, Prince of Shadows

Knowledge is power. Power corrupts.

In a world where the ancient Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed, knowledge now rules the world: freely available, but strictly controlled. Owning private books is a crime.

Jess Brightwell is the son of a black market book smuggler, sent to the Library to compete for a position as a scholar…but even as he forms friendships and finds his true gifts, he begins to unearth the dark secrets of the greatest, most revered institution in the world.

Those who control the Great Library believe that knowledge is more valuable than any human life – and soon both heretics and books will burn…

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Caine’s for a really long time and I’ve been fascinated with ancient history for even longer so when I heard that Caine would be writing a series about a world where the Great Library of Alexandria had survived, I was immediately sold.

The Great Library is the dream of booklovers, scholars and historians everywhere so it was fascinating to see the idea turned into something scary and corrupted. Ink and Bone take place fifteen years in the future of an alternate London. The Great Library has wielded control over original books for hundreds of years and possession of these books is illegal. Only digital blanks authorised by the Library are allowed to be owned by individuals, so there’s a thriving black market for these priceless tomes. Jess Brightwell’s father is a famed smuggler and he’s sent Jess to Alexandria to compete for a position inside the Library and provide valuable information for the Brightwell’s family business.

Jess thought he knew all about the corrupt power of the Library but life under the tutorage of Scholar Wolfe in Alexandria he realises that there’s even more danger in his future than he expected. I loved the secrets and the mysteries and the feeling that Jess couldn’t really trust anyone, and if he did and ended up genuinely liking them, they could be pulled from under his feet. It kept me on my toes!

When the postulants are nearing the end of their training and being given their posts in the Library they are called to Oxford to rescue a slew of original books from the Bodleian Library. But Oxford is now the front line in the war between Wales and England and there’s a chance they won’t make it back to Alexandria. I have to admit that I’m not entirely sure why Wales and England are at war, but it was very obvious that the Welsh were winning significantly. The people of England are poor and starving and resigned to dying under the hands of the Welsh. I really would have liked to know more about the war as most of the action in Ink and Bone takes place around it, but that could very easily have been me missing something – I read a lot of this novel very late at night! The action was intense and I loved the way it brought the postulants together and firmly onto the same team.

Ink and Bone has an incredibly diverse cast and even though not many of the characters are likable, they’re all really interesting. The way that their backgrounds, families and origins influence their opinions and experiences of the Library was really cool and I loved that each character had different strengths and weaknesses. I especially enjoyed Wolfe’s development. He went from an annoyance to someone that everyone liked and respected; he had a hell of a lot more going on underneath than first appeared. He ended up being one of my very favourite characters.

Ink and Bone is a novel of secrets and spies, corruption and danger; a brilliant opening to an intriguing series.

Sophie 

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Recommendations: Road trips!

Summer is the season of the road trip novel and it just so happens that I love road trip novels! Here are some of my favourites:

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
S&S|7th July 2011

Amy has had a sucky year and her mum deciding that they’re moving from California to the East Coast and Amy has to get the car there doesn’t really improve anything. Especially as she hasn’t driven since her dad died. The son of a family friend, Roger, comes to the rescue, joining Amy on her trip. To her surprise, Roger turns out to be funny, sweet and cute and he’s intent on turning their cross country drive into a full-on road trip.

Morgan Matson’s debut is sweet, fun and emotional and it’s just the perfect summer read. Amy and Roger go on a real emotional journey as well as a physical one and I loved watching them get to know each other, open up and fall in love. All of the little extras – tickets, playlists, photos, receipts, menus – just made it come alive. Wonderful!

From What I Remember, Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Electric Monkey|7th January 2012

Kylie is due to give the most important speech of her life at midday today – the Valedictorian speech. But she’s just woken up in Mexico with a killer hangover and next to the hottest boy in school.

This book is one of the most fun I’ve ever had reading. It’s hilarious and heartwarming and has an unexpected depth to it. The characters grow and develop such a lot in such a short amount of time and I fell in love with them. Everyone is complex and layered and there’s just so much more under the surface and it takes this crazy, crazy adventure for everyone to figure that out about each other. Highly, highly recommended.

How to Be Bad, E Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle
Hot Key Books|4th June 2015

Vicks is a wild-child; Jesse has a life-changing secret and Mel is the new girl, desperate for some friends. As different as they may be, they all have one thing in common: they want to escape. So they “borrow” Jesse’s mum’s car and head to Miami for the weekend.

This is an easy, enjoyable read about three very different girls. I remember loving how distinct each point of view felt as each author wrote each girl and you don’t know who wrote which until after the story.



Open Road Summer, Emery Lord
Bloomsbury USA|3rd March 2015

Reagan has just broken up with her boyfriend and she’s nursing a shattered heart. Her best friend, Dee, is a country superstar and recovering from her own break-up. Fortunately, Dee’s huge American tour is about to kick off, offering the girls a summer of bonding. Then Matt Finch joins the tour and his charm could be more than Reagan can resist…

I fell in love with this novel at the beginning of the year. It hit me in a way that a book hadn’t in a long time and I devoured it. It’s both warm and summery and angsty and emotional in the way that the best contemp is and I just, GAH, I LOVED THIS BOOK! Emery Lord became an instant favourite and I devoured her second book, The Start of Me and You, as soon as it came out and her third is already on pre-order.

Pretty Bad Things, CJ Skuse
Chicken House|1st March 2010

Twins Paisley and Bea hit the headlines when they went missing for three days when they were six. They were looking for their dad. But now they’re sixteen and they have a clue; they might finally find him.

CJ writes wonderfully off the wall, funny and charming UKYA. (And she’s an awesome person too, btw). The plot for this one is a little bizarre, but in the best way. There’s a Las Vegas sweet shop crime spree, two very different twins and the constant fear of Paisley and Beau’s world coming crashing down. Such fun!



Paper Towns, John Green
Bloomsbury|19th December 2013

Q has loved Margo Roth Spiegelman for as long as he can remember so when she climbs through him window one night and invites him on a revenge mission, he can’t say no. But she’s not at school the next morning and she still hasn’t showed up after a week. Then Q starts to spot clues and so he goes on a road trip with his two best friends to track her down and learns about him and Margo along the way.

This one really doesn’t need an introduction, but with the adaptation coming out soon I couldn’t leave it off my list! It’s been a really long time since I read this, but I remember it being just as witty and thoughtful as you’d expect from John Green. Now I think I’d definitely see Margo as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I do like her character and the journey she and Q go on in the novel. Read it before the film!

Two-Way Street, Lauren Barnholdt
Simon Pulse|26th June 2007

Jordan and Courtney are totally in love. They’re going to the same college and they have a cross-country road trip to get there. But then Jordan dumps Courtney for a girl he met on the internet and it’s too late to change plans: the road trip is still on. Courtney is heart-breaking but powering through it. Jordan has a secret about why they really broke up and why they can’t ever get back together.

This is an oldie! Told in dual narrative (my fave), we get two different sides to the same story and a gritty look at a complex, genuine relationship between high school sweethearts. This is one of those books that you can devour in a few short hours whether you’re chilling by the pool or bemoaning the damp English summer. Pure escapist fun.

The Last Summer of Us, Maggie Harcourt
Usborne|1st May 2015

Limpet, Jared and Stefan are embarking on their last road trip together. Everything’s changing and it’s only going to carry on changing – they need to escape for a few days so they climb into Stefan’s clapped-out old car and take to the road.

What’s that? A UKYA road trip novel, you ask? YES. Maggie Harcourt’s debut is set in Wales! There’s such a genuine feel about this novel. They bicker, they tease each other, it doesn’t always go to plan and there are some utterly ridiculous moments that crop up along the way. It’s beautiful, sad and hopeful and I loved it.



So those are my road trip recs! Do you have any you think I’ve missed? Any you recommend?


Sophie 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mini Reviews: Thoughts from Women

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Pages: 64
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Release Date: 9th October 2014
Edition: Kindle e-book, purchased

Synopsis
What does ‘feminism’ mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed TEDx Talk of the same name – but Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. with humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness.

Mini-review
Adichie talks about feminism from a very personal standpoint and in relation to a culture that I know very little about. Being a woman, particularly a feminist woman, in Nigeria is tough. You aren’t greeted when you enter a restaurant; in fact, in some restaurants, a woman isn’t allowed in on her own; women aren’t allowed to speak for their community among the Igbo people, where Adichie was brought up; women are trained to be marriage material. It all sounds very Victoria, but that’s how it is there and it’s scary.

The ideas of what is feminine and how she herself counteracts those in her teaching, her writing and her view on women in society lays nicely next to the constraints of masculinity. Adichie says that men need to be taught that feminie is not bad, you don’t have to oppose all of the typical feminine traits to be seen as masculine. Socialisation exaggerates gender into inescapable social constructs that cannot possibly fit every woman.

This is an eye-opening and important speech and I sincerely hope that it’ll be read by young people everywhere.

Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 144
Publisher: Granta
Release Date: 14th November 2014
Edition: UK hardcover, purchased

Synopsis
In her iconic essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’, Rebecca Solnit investigates the conversations of men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t.

This famous and influential essay is included here along with the best of Solnit’s feminist writings. From rape culture to grandmothers, from French sex scandals to marriage and the nuclear family, and from Virginia Woolf to colonialism, these essays are a fierce and incisive exploration of the issues that a patriarchal culture that will not necessarily acknowledge as ‘issues’ at all. With grace and energy, and in the most exquisite and inviting prose, Rebecca Solnit proves herself a vital leading figure of the movement and a radical, humane thinker.

Mini-review
This collection of seven essays from Rebecca Solnit provides an easy to read and accessible introduction to feminist writing that is perfect for younger readers or those just being introduced to feminist literature.

Solnit covers a range of topics, including male entitlement, rape culture, rape and sexual assault, traditional gender roles, marriage, control, confinement, the disappearance of women, how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go. She does all of this with humour and brevity; there’s no sense of overcomplicating things that don’t have to be, she’s not patronising or belittling in any way and nothing is overblown.

Most of the ideas in Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays were ones I had come across before but it was really interesting (and terrifying) the read the extra anecdotes, news stories and statistics to back those ideas up. It makes for powerful reading and a great launching pad for those interested in feminism. Highly recommended.

Very Good Lives, JK Rowling

Pages: 80
Publisher: Sphere
Release Date: 14th April 2014
Edition: UK hardback, purchased

Synopsis
In 2008, JK Rowling delivered a deeply affecting speech at Harvard University. Now published for the first time in book form, Very Good Lives offers JK Rowling’s words of wisdom for anyone at a turning point in life, asking the profound and provocative questions: How can we embrace failure? And how can we use our imaginations to better both ourselves and others?

Drawing from stories of her own post-graduate years, the world-famous author addresses some of life’s most important issues with acuity and emotional force.  

Mini-review
Before I even get to the insides, I just have to mention how beautiful this book is as an object. Underneath the simple dust jacket is a beautiful read hardcover with a pattern of graduation caps on it – I love it when publishers jazz up the naked hardcover! But the illustrations continue.

Alongside JK’s inspiring words are gorgeous red, red, white and grey illustrations and quotes that have been transformed into gorgeous typography. There’s something to marvel at on each page.

The speech itself is funny, witty, inspiring and thought-provoking and I loved the messages about the importance of failure and the ability of imagination to transform you and give you an intense sense of empathy. I also really liked the point that JK made about the burden and privilege of graduating from an institution like Harvard. They are people not used to failure or struggle or lack and how they should use that position for the good of everybody. I thought that was an incredibly important point, and probably something a few of those graduates should definitely think about with the moves they make in their lives and career.

Sophie 

Monday, 27 July 2015

21 Stolen Kisses, Lauren Blakely

Pages: 251
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Release Date: 26th May 2015
Edition: Kindle e-book, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Caught Up in Love series, Seductive Nights series

When I first met him I resisted.
Like any forbidden love, I told myself he was a crush, and it would pass.
It was a lie. It never faded.

And I never expected he would fall for me just as hard.

There were so many reasons that should have kept up apart, least of all, the decade that separated us. Growing up in New York City I learned early on that love is a double-edged sword. Love broke up my parents, love took away my friends, and love – the big, intense, never-been-like-this-before love – landed me in therapy. Now I’m heading to college, and it’s time to give love a clean slate again. But, can I still really start over when he’s still in my life? Because the one man I’ve always wanted, is the only one I can’t have… And he wants me just as fiercely.

Can I settle for anything less that the love of my life?

I always find the novels that come from Bloomsbury Spark to be fun, easy, quick to read and brilliant for easing me out of a slump. 21 Stolen Kisses was no exception.

Before I go into the review properly I just have to say how not quite true the synopsis for this novel is: love didn’t land her in therapy, her dad sent her; she’s still in high school with about nine months until college; she has no intention of a clean slate and there’s eight years between them, not ten. I know it sounds silly to pick on that, but it does get on my nerves a little when the synopsis and actual content of the novel don’t match up!

I was fully prepared for 21 Stolen Kisses to be a student/teacher romance, but it’s not, and I was pleasantly surprised by the nature of Kennedy and Noah’s relationship. It was definitely something I’ve not come across before and I really enjoyed the new dynamic it lent to their relationship and the possible ramifications if knowledge of their relationship got out. I’m always a sucker for the combination of swoon, sweetness and potential disaster! When I started to think about their relationship I couldn’t decide how I felt about it, but I definitely felt their connection while I was reading and I decided that that was enough for me. There’s a real palpable chemistry between Kennedy and Noah and the dual narrative made sure that came from both sides.

Letters are of huge importance in this novel and I really loved the way they were woven into the story. As well as Kennedy dispensing copies of famous love letters across New York City, they are also interspersed in the narrative. Kennedy writes Noah a love letter, detailing their 21 stolen kisses and kisses she wants them to have in the future and excerpts of this letter are peppered between chapters throughout and I think it’s a brilliant idea. It really tied the story and the ideas of the novel together beautifully.

Through the love letters, the adoration that Kennedy (and Lauren Blakely, I suspect!) have for NYC came across so strongly. It made me so sad to read about that city that after a single visit, I’m head over heels in love with and desperate to return to. It’s always lovely to read about places that you’ve been and can vividly draw to mind and it’s even better when something like a Broadway show – something I’d dreamed of since I was little – came up in the novel and they went to the theatre that I did. It gave me a happy-sad.

I have to admit that throughout it all I was waiting for everything to come crashing down, and of course, it did. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. Then Kennedy made a seemingly convenient decision, which I actually ended up really respecting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s rare for characters of YA to make sure mature, thoughtful decisions when they’re wrapped up in intense love affairs and I liked it a lot. (And I liked the eventual happily ever after even more!)

21 Stolen Kisses is a swoony love letter to Broadway, New York City and love itself. A lovely read.

Sophie