Wednesday 30 July 2014

Blog Tour: An a Interview with John Corey Whaley (Noggin)

I'm very pleased to welcome John Corey Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back and Noggin, to the blog to answer a few questions as part of his UK blog tour for Noggin.

1. You've chosen to tackle universal human experiences - moving on, love, identity - through a very unusual situation. Did the head-transplant come from a desire to explore humanity, or the other way around?

I think everything I write starts with a desire to explore humanity - but, in this case, I actually wanted to write something absurd and ground it in reality, so the head transplant came first, and I filled in the humanity later.

2. If you had Travis' choice, would you choose to die naturally or take the chance to come back in the future?

I want to say that I'd come back, but my instinct is to say that I'd probably opt to let go instead of facing a possible future without my loved ones.

3. Do you think this kind of medical science will be possible one day or is it pure science fiction?

I believe this is something that is very likely to happen in our near future and, thus, made it easier to write about it in a way that wasn't science fiction, but speculative.

4. Is there one skill - like Travis and Space Invaders - that you'd be loathe to lose if you were brought back from the dead with a new body? One you'd love to gain?

I'm not really skilled at anything (but writing, on occasion), so I can't think of anything aside from that. I'd love to gain to ability to draw or paint.

Quick-fire round!

5. Favourite word?


6. Dream holiday destination?

Anywhere with mountains?

7. A book you wish you'd written?

To Kill a Mockingbird

8. Current read?

Unbroken by Lauren Hildebrand

A huge thanks to Jade from S&S for organising the tour and John for taking the time to answer my questions. Noggin is out tomorrow!


Saturday 26 July 2014

Countdown to 7th August: Generations of Sequels by Rachel Ward (Water Born)

Today I’d like to welcome Rachel Ward, author of the Numbers series, The Drowning and her brand new novel, Water Born, back to the blog! To celebrate the release of Water Born and lots of other fantastic novels releasing on August 7th, Rachel has written me a really interesting post on the pull of jumping a generation when she writes sequels. Read on!

Generations of Sequels

I like to write sequels that jump a generation. Two of my sequels have fifteen or sixteen years between them and their predecessors - Numbers and The Chaos, and now The Drowning and Water Born.

With The Chaos I wanted to write about someone with a different personality to Jem having the same gift. Numbers is a fatalistic book, and for the sequel I wanted to show someone kicking against the numbers, trying to change them. Jem passing her gift to the next generation also gave a satisfying twist to the very end of the book.

I originally envisaged The Drowning as a stand-alone book. However, halfway through writing it, I had a strong idea for a companion book. The Drowning is a dark, rainy, autumnal book for the most part. I had a vision of a long, hot summer sort of book, a summer in which water is in short supply. Then I realised I wanted to know what happened to Carl and Neisha. Carl had a very tough start in life – what happens to a boy like that when he ‘grows up’? What kind of man is he? What kind of dad? Neisha had a strict but supportive upbringing, but suffered when her mum died and felt alienated in the town that she moved to with her dad. What sort of mum would she be?

I suppose my fascination in examining how people turn out may be related to my age. It’s less than a month to my 50th birthday. If I was a character in one of my books, I would have appeared in three novels by now and the reader would have seen dramatic changes in my life. Sixteen-year-old me was terribly shy, withdrawn, depressed. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I listened to the radio a lot and sat on the bed in my tiny bedroom (I was the youngest of three so I got the ‘box room’) for hour after hour, waiting for my life to start. When you open the sequel you’ll find a very different person – a 32-year-old working mum, on maternity leave from a sensible part-time job in local government, with a scientist husband, a 4-year-old daughter and a new baby boy. At this point, my children take up all my time. I don’t remember doing anything else except looking after them. Did I do anything else? It’s lost in the mists of time. Sixteen years later, the third book in my trilogy finds me at 48 – a published writer, using a sabbatical year from my job to try out writing full time. My husband is seriously ill. My children are 20 and 16, the older one now sporting pink hair, decorative artwork on her skin and ironmongery in her face, the younger one a lot taller than me, growing every day and an exceptional gamer. (I wonder where/who they will be in sixteen years time.)

Looking back, I could not possibly have predicted the story of my life. It’s been a million times better than I could have hoped for, but there have also been tough times which I wouldn’t have written into my script if I’d had the choice. There are some decisions which affect the course your life will take. Sometimes you have to take what life flings at you. But in my books, I get a chance to mould my characters’ lives and I don’t have to do it in real time. I turn the page, jump ahead and imagine their futures.

I enjoyed revisiting Carl and Neisha (and Carl’s mum, Kerry) in Water Born. And I enjoyed writing about their daughter, Nic. She’s a determined, competitive girl, a little different from anyone I’ve written about before. I wonder how she’ll end up…

Thank you so much, Rachel!

Be sure to grab a copy of Water Born on August 7th and enjoy the rest of the ‘Countdown to August 7th’ blog tour!


Monday 21 July 2014

My YALC Highlights

The weekend before last I went to the first ever Young Adult Literature Convention and my first Comic Con. I could tell you about the sweltering heat on Saturday, the twenty-minute queues to buy a bottle of water, the fear of not finding a single blogger as I approached the mass of people at Earl’s Court, but to be honest, you’ve probably already reads that three times. So instead I’m going to give you my favourite bits of YALC. Enjoy!

- Getting to spend time with friends (of the blogger, author and publisher variety) that I haven’t seen in years.

- The ‘I’m Too Sexy For This Book’ panel starring Cat Clarke, Non Pratt, Beth Reekles and chaired by James Dawson. Easily the best panel of the convention – hilarious and open and interesting.

- Malorie Blackman opening the convention in Klingon and wearing a cape.

- The costumes. The time and effort and suffocating heat of those costumes blew me away. Worth a trip to Comic Con just to see them!

- The Blogger’s Brunch on Sunday featuring Matt Haig, Non Pratt, James Dawson and

- All of the hugs. I don’t think I’ve ever hugged and been hugged that many times in two days before... except graduation maybe.

- Managing to edge into the epic Rainbow Rowell queues just as it ended. I do love skipping a queue by sheer luck.

- The Art of Blogging workshop, featuring Natasha Ngan, Sanne Vliegenthart (Books&Quills and Hot Key Books), Holly Bourne and chaired by Kat McKenna of Macmillan. Really interesting to hear about blogging from different avenues and directions.

- Meeting Meg Rosoff and Sarra Manning again – my heroes.

- Spotting SableCaught, a booktuber I love.

- Finally meeting Tanya Byrne and Lucy Christopher. It’s been a long time coming.

- The atmosphere. The excitement. The enthusiasm. The passion.

- The overwhelming agreement that Malorie Blackman is Queen and that YALC needs to happen again next year.


Tuesday 15 July 2014

TV REVIEW: S5|The Vampire Diaries

DETAILS: ITV2, 9pm Thursdays, confirmed for season 6

DAMON ~ Ian Somerhalder
STEFAN ~ Paul Wesley
CAROLINE ~ Candice Accola
BONNIE ~ Kat Graham
MATT ~ Zach Roerig
TYLER ~ Michael Trevino
JEREMY ~ Steven R McQueen
ENZO ~ Michael Malarkey

The story of Elena who lives in a small town called Mystic Falls in the South who ends up caught between two ever-feuding vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon Salvatore.

The relationship I have with this show is somewhat tumultuous. I love it so much, but I also violently hate it. That change doesn’t just vary season to season, but from episode to episode; it gives me whiplash!

Just before the end of season four, I was ready to give it up. I felt that the storylines were repeating themselves and my ship kept being sunk seconds after it set sail, and then came the finale. After that monster cliffhanger there was no way I couldn’t watch the next season. Just a few episodes of course, just to make sure that Stefan was okay. Yeah, sure, just a few episodes...

Those first were episodes were amazing. My ship was in full sail and there was only minor heartache – my show was back. Then it all went tits up. Okay, I can’t go any further without a minor spoiler for the previous four seasons and revealing my ship: Damon and Elena. They are volatile and fiery and so perfectly matched that they make my heart break. I would literally just watch an entire show of them just living a happy life together, no other drama, deadly threats or strange curses and possessions. 

For most of season five, the characters I’ve grown to love and hate were possessed, cursed, trapped, had their switch flipped, broke up and shattered each other’s hearts. Oh yeah, and died. It was quite a heart-rending season, but it had nothing on the end. The threat of an entire part of their world collapsing and taking loved ones with it, things started to get seriously serious. And once again, I was only in it for the Delena. I had heard a spoiler for the finale of season five and it was horrible and I hated it, but I couldn't have imagined how horrific the one I had missed was.

The finale left me with my heard in my hands, tears running down my face and shouting ‘I HATE THIS GODDAM SHOW!’ at my little sister, Amy. My reaction was strong enough that when I got home from work the next day, my sister had watched half the first season of The Vampire Diaries, eager to know what had ruined my life. 

I guess it looks like I’ll be counting down to the next season once again because of the bloody finale cliffhangers. There was stuff in that episode that NEEDS to be undone, I’m telling you...

RATING: 7/10

WORTH A WATCH? I CAN’T LET GO! But, I honestly wouldn’t start watching this if you have exams, coursework, deadlines or a life...



Thursday 10 July 2014

Fan Fiction: Trash or Treasure?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. I read every single night, within reason. I take a book to work with me for when I get the train there and back and to occupy myself during my lunch hour. I find nothing more than relaxing after that day at work to unwind in the evening with a book. I try to dedicate a full day every week to just read straight through from page one to the end. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember, of course, with variations on time and setting and situation, but when I was in my mid-teens, my reading changed a little.

I would continue to read novels at bedtime and during the weekends, but afternoons and evenings were dedicated to something else: fan fiction. There are very strong opinions towards fan fiction, both writing it and reading it, but it kept me going. Around the time I began delving into the beguiling world of Harry Potter fan fiction (Dramione all the way in case you were wondering) my mum started to get sick for the first time. That’s a difficult thing to deal with at fourteen while simultaneously trying to start your GCSEs. Sp I buried myself in the Harry potter world while I waited for the Half-Blood Prince and then the Deathly Hallows to be released. It was a real high of production at that time – no one knew what was going to happen.

I found some trash. There were so many stories were the authors used text speak or no punctuation or they were just really terrible. But there were some seriously good ones. Stories of fifty+ chapters, each about 3000/4000 words which were uploaded every week and were brilliantly written and absorbing. I particularly liked AU (Anothing Universe), non-cannon and set after the Deathly Hallows (which hadn’t been released yet so people were free to speculate on the outcome) where Voldie had won and Draco and Hermione were pushed together in increasingly awkward and dramatic situations. Admittedly, looking back, Draco’s character was never really Rowling’s Draco, but Hermione was always believable and I really liked that ship so I went with it! There were some stories I would check every single day waiting for an upload. And even now there are some I still remember fondly, particularly one that was never finished where Hermione just disappeared one day, leaving behind Draco and her little girl. I was hooked.

Then the final books came out and the fuss started to fizzle out a little in the world of Harry potter fan fiction, though it is still being written now which is brilliant, and I started to bury myself in novels again. Then I moved onto college and A-levels and my reading changed with the introduction of big, heavy texts that I had to read multiple times and I eventually forgot about fan fiction.

It wasn’t until my final year at university when my Tumblr usage and love of the Vampire Diaries was at its height where I heard about a fandom favourite Delena fan fiction, Bourbon in Your Eyes. I couldn’t imagine going back to fan fiction for anything other than my beloved Dramione, but the fandom would NOT stop talking about it. So one night, when I couldn’t sleep, I thought I’d just read one chapter and see what it was like. Heh. I read about 35 out of the 50 chapters. It was brilliant and I was hooked. Once again, AU and past the timeline of the series (I only read up to book four as I thought they were crap so I can’t comment on how it fits the timeline of the books) and at the time, a non-canon pairing.

I was reminded just how good these stories could be. How they encapsulated everything you love about an existing world, relationships and characters and make it their own. And really just how good some of the writing was. Then a few ago my sister became obsessed with TVD after seeing me fall apart due to the ending of season five and I recommended her read it too. She devoured in it one night.

Amy is also a regular reader of fan fiction. In fact, she reads it more often that regular fiction, though she tends to read fics based around Supernatural: often Baby Winchesters (this was totally unexpected), injured Sam, Destiel and Sam and Lucifer. She’ll read it on her iPod for hours. For her it satisfies the craving to read without investing in something super long and in her own words “means I don’t stay up all night reading”. But there are many mixed opinions on fan fiction:

Neil Gaiman has a lot of things to say about it.

Author of the Song of Ice and Fire series, George RR Martin, in a post about the legal side of it: “My characters are my children … I don’t want people making off with them, thank you. Even people who say they love my children. I’m sure that’s true, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the affection, but still… No one gets to abuse the people of Westeros but me.”

Interview with a Vampire author Anne Rice errs on the legal side, and very severe, too: “I do not allow fan-fiction. The characters are copyrighted. It upsets me terribly to even think about fan-fiction with my characters. I advise my readers to write your own original stories with your own characters. It is absolutely essential that you respect my wishes.”

And there’s a great post on Oh No They Didn’t! quoting lots of famous authors who feel strongly about it, and I think I actually agree with Stephenie Meyer the most...

Now I am not an author and I have never published anything that would warrant fan fiction, but I see it as an honour to that author, those characters and their world that fans feel so strongly about it that they need more of it. Obviously, that’s taking advantage of the fact that no one abuses that privilege and makes money from it or commercialises it in any way. What do you think?

Do you think it’s a compliment, or a crime? Have you read any fan fiction? Have you written any fan fiction? Trash or treasure?

Monday 7 July 2014

A Blog Break

It's becoming clear to me that I need a break from blogging. Lately I've been reading to finish and review a book, not enjoy the experience. I think that the only thing that will cure that is a break. 

I don't know how long I'll be away, maybe a few days, a few weeks, but hopefully not longer than a month. Then I can come back with new things to say, enthusiasm, motivation and a renewed excitement about something that I sink so much time and effort into, seemingly for nothing at the moment. 

In the coming days there will be reading without a schedule or a timescale, rereading the TMI books so I can finally get around to City of Heavenly Fire, going back to older books and jumping forward to review books not out for a while. My bookshelf is a free for all and I'm already excited about it. Oh, and I'll also be indulging in my new TV show obsession, Greek. I'm so in love with Cappie it's embarrassing... 

There will be some posts here and there; I have some scheduled and there are blog tours I've agreed to partake in that I will honour. But I'm hoping that I'll start posting again almost naturally, so fingers crossed a review might pop up every now and then before I am officially back off of my break.

Of course, I'll still be around. I try not to leave Twitter when I don't have to, I still want to read all your blog posts and, well, YALC is at the weekend and I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE ALL YOUR FACES!

So, yeah. I'll be gone and then I'll be back - I always am. 


Zom-B Clans, Darren Shan

Pages: 217
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 3rd July 2014
Edition: UK hardback, review copy

B’s fellow angel, Vinyl, is being held hostage by the sinister owl man...who will only release him in exchange for B’s dangerous captive...

Owl Man purses his lips thoughtfully. ‘You can have Daniel. We will take Vinyl. When you return to London, bring Daniel to us and I will arrange a swap.’

‘Wait a minute,’ Dan-Dan squawks, losing his calm. ‘You can’t leave me in the clutches of these foul brutes...they’ll kill me!’

‘No.’ Owl Man says. ‘Vinyl is one of Becky’s oldest, dearest friends. She came back to save him. She will not harm you if she knows that she can swap you for him later.’

‘You expect me to trust you?’

‘What other option do you have? Owl Man says sweetly.’

With each instalment of this series I wonder how Darren Shan can possibly through in any more shocks, twists and turns, but he did it again in Zom-B Clans.

In the eight book in the Zom-B series some serious revelations were thrown into the mix, about Owl Man, Dr Oystein and the real threat behind the psychotic Mr Dowling. We learned more about the Doctor’s past, his experiments that lead to creating the virus and his involvement with both Dowling and Owl Man, as well as Owly’s true identity. It was a smack in the face of a plot twist that changes the whole game for B and the Angels.

Book seven, Zom-B Mission, ended with New Kirkham, a civilian settlement in the country, being invaded by Mr Dowling and the Klu Klux Klan. Zom-B Clans poses a really interesting question: if you stand by and watch the bad guys be bad, does that make you as punishable as them? I love how this series continually makes me think about things that had never previously occurred to me, but they’re presented in a way that isn’t preachy or heavy-handed. It’s a provocation to consider something from a different angle.

I love this series and I officially declare Zom-B Clans to have the most evil cliffhanger of the series so far. I’m so glad the books in this series come out in such quick succession.

Thanks to S&S for the review copy.