Thursday, 17 April 2014

Feature: 20 Random Questions with … Jane Elson




20 Random Questions is a feature on Sisterspooky that will show you a different side to authors you may already know and introduce new ones.  I ask 20 very Random Questions and they answer them.  Simple as that.  The idea was inspired from a mixture of things in my head and a random question asked by Jim over at YA Contemporary

Today, the ever so lovely Jane Elson, is on the blog to answer the dreaded 20 Random Questions.  Her book, A Room Full of Chocolate, is out now!


If you were ruler of the world what laws would you make?

To be respectful of people’s differences and to not squeeze  everyone through the same system.
(I work with young people many of whom have been labelled stupid by the education system but I find them anything but! They just need a different way to learn.)

That we should all spend more time listening and less time shouting!

Menu systems on telephones would be banned. They are so annoying.

That people stop making products with Ivory, Rhino horn, fur and anything else which causes our endangered species to be poached. 

I could go on forever but they are the things that immediately spring to mind.   

If you were a super hero what powers would you have? Limit to three powers!

Power 1 – To Fly: obviously it would be amazing and freeing to be able to soar up into the sky and go anywhere you want. 

Power 2- To see a tiny bit into the future (not too far, that would be a burden) so if somebody steps into the road you would know if they were going to be run over and pull them out of danger – that sort of thing. That would be really cool. It would also be useful as I am bad at making decisions, so it would be fantastic to see where my decision would lead me. 

Power 3 – to be able to see into somebody’s mind and know if they were telling the truth. That would save a lot of time and heartache.


What's your favourite cheese and why?

Wensledale with cranberry. I love this cheese as it’s really soft and the bits of cranberry give it a kick and make it special. I only get it sometimes but it’s a really special treat. 

If you were an animal what would you be and why?


I would be a shaggy sheep dog. My hair is always a bit messy.
I tend to bound through life and do many different things like a dog bounding from one thing to another. I am also ungainly. That breed of dog is also sometimes described as a couch potato. I love the part of the day when I can just curl up and watch TV.  However dogs are very resourceful and if they don’t get something the first time they try, they will keep finding different ways to do it, till they succeed – which is the story of my life. I am also very loyal which is a quality I prize and one of the lovely things about dogs.  


If you could ask your future self one question what would it be?

Have you achieved the skill of not worrying about things that haven’t happened yet?
(I have an overactive imagination and imagine all sorts of scenarios. I constantly strive to relax more. I hope that in the future I will be able to do this.) 

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The telephone – to be able to talk to people who are far away is very special. 

What's your favourite type of Pie?

Banoffee Pie is scrummy – I love bananas with chocolate and cream.

If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be and why?

I would steal a big house with a garden. I would love to have space. I would probably fill it with rescue dogs and other animals that needed a home. I know what I am like it would be a menagerie in no time!


Who's your favourite Villain and why?


Cruella Deville. I thought Glen Close’s performance in the films 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians was fantastic. The character is so camp and over the top and has entered our popular culture. I have heard people say ‘Oh that’s very Cruella!’ and immediately everyone knows what you mean. The original cartoon of 101 Dalmatians was also my favourite film as a child. 

Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?

I always touch the statue of Dick Whittington’s Cat on the way to the Whittington hospital. Judging by the fact that the statue has no ear left it’s obviously a lot of people’s superstition. This old man appeared behind me once and said that every time his wife touched the statue she won something in the lottery. I am still waiting for that to come true. Though I did win £25.00 the other day so who knows! 

If you had a warning label, what would yours say and why?

Beware she spreads her possessions everywhere and loses everything!

What's your preferred playing piece in monopoly and why?

The dog – because as I said above they are resourceful at finding alternative ways of doing things, a quality very useful for any business entrepreneur.  If they can’t jump over a fence they will go under it or round it. That is something I had to learn to do from a very early age as a dyslexic person. Also dogs are loyal and trustworthy – things that can be lacking in the hard world of commerce. A dog would honour his business commitments. The other pieces on the monopoly board are objects so have no feelings.  

What was the last thing you ate?


Ice cream and pancakes. I have just come back from having a special dinner with Josie, a young lady who I used to look after on occasions when she was a child. She was one of the driving forces behind why I wrote Chocolate. We went out to celebrate the publication of A Room Full of Chocolate – one of many celebrations. 

Who would you want to be trapped on a desert island with? Pick no more than five people!

I am trying to think of people apart from Martin Luther King, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama who everyone usually says they would invite to a fictitious dinner party or be on a desert island with. I think mine would be:

1, Monty Roberts – the horse whisperer. I love horses and would like to learn more about his techniques. However on a practical level if there were wild beasts on the island he would be really good at taming them and keep us all safe.

2, Rosa Parks, the African American Civil rights activist. She was arrested on 1st December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to obey bus driver James F Blake’s order that she give up her up her seat on the bus, in the coloured section, to a white passenger. On a practical level she would be good to have on a desert island because she famously said ‘I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.’ That would definitely be a good mind set to have when dealing with being stuck on a desert island! She was a brave amazing lady and would be a very good person to have around whilst trying to survive on a desert island. 

3, Shakespeare. I would love to talk to him and find out all about the rehearsals and the performances and what the actors were like. He would just have so many stories. We could become a company on the desert island and perform in his plays to entertain ourselves. In Elizabethan times there were no right or wrong spellings – you could spell things how you wanted. So a dyslexic’s paradise!  Shakespeare himself is responsible for many words and sayings in our English language. 
‘As merry as the day is long’ from Much Ado About Nothing would be a good attitude to have on the desert island.
He also invented ‘Better Foot forward,’(King John) –  this has become ‘best foot forward’ which you would need to say when you got tired and thirsty and needed to build a shelter for the night and forage for food on the island. On a practical level - 
Shakespeare wrote The Tempest - which is a play I have performed in. It is set of course on an island so I reckon Shakespeare would be an expert on how to survive. Food did not come in plastic cartons in Elizabethan times so I think Shakespeare would know better than the rest of us which berries and plants are safe to eat.

4, Nicholas Winton - the man who organized the transportation to England and safety for 669 mostly Jewish children from German occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the second world war. What a special man, and anyone who could organize something so amazing and on such a grand scale would find it easy to organize life on a desert island.

5, Leonardo da Vinci – the dyslexic genius. I have written a play about him called Leonardo Stole my Crayon  set in a young offenders institution. I would love to talk to him so much. Apparently he never finished things, which is a fault I have myself – typically dyslexic! I think that Nicholas Winton and Rosa Parks would get us organized though. On a practical level Leonardo invented flying machines, diving suits and the parachute – so I think he would find a way to get us all off the island when we wanted to return home.

What song would you say best sums you up?

The Four Non Blondes song ‘What’s Up’. The lyrics ‘trying to get up that great big hill of hope for a destination’ - my life has definitely felt like that. 


What was your first job?

I worked, probably illegally, in a hairdresser’s when I was only 13.  I was very bad at washing hair – I used to nearly drown people by accident with the shower attachment!  

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?

There’s been a lot of things but taking my driving test springs to mind. I was attempting to do a three-point turn and the examiner asked what I was waiting for? I replied that lady over there.
He replied very sarcastically, ‘Are you planning to drive on the pavement dear?’

What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

To try and be in the moment and not to look too far ahead.

What is your favourite comfort food?

Apart from the obvious chocolate, I find mashed potato a comfort especially if it has cheese mashed into it.

What was your favourite childhood toy and why?

Bob who was a bear on wheels. I learned to walk holding on to him and my first word was Bob. 

Thanks to Jane for taking part in the feature.  You can find out more about Jane and her work on her website and by following her on twitter

Monday, 14 April 2014

Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

GoodReads

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That's how long recovering addict Sophie's been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer - but can she track them down before they come for her?

Review

I was sent a proof copy of this book from the publisher and thought the blurb sounded interesting, so I kept it on the TBR pile for a look at later.  Little did I know how powerful a story was inside this book.  It wasn't until I was quite caught up in the whodunnit aspect that I realised how big of a story Far From You was.

Sophie and Mina are the best of friends, closer than family.  Sophie has suffered a lot in her life from a horrific car accident that has left her with severe pain and injury.  It has also left her a drug-addict.  Far From You is told from both the past and present POV as we join Sophie as she returns from rehab and Mina is dead.  Mina was murdered and everyone believes it was in part Sophie's fault because of her addiction.  Trouble is, this is all lies.  Sophie had kicked the drugs, (though is still tempted as an addict always is), and someone is trying to cover up the murder as a drug by gone wrong.  We follow Sophie as she tries to find out who killed Mina and why as well as seeing the girls past unfold through Sophie's memories and many secrets are revealed that play a part in this incredible thriller.

Far From You is not a simple murder mystery story.  In fact, I think the blurb undersold it because its a very deep, dark and complex story about love, pain, secrets and lies.  It's not your run of the mill thriller and the back and forth telling of the plot is very clever as a plot device.  We are shown little glimpses into Sophie and Mina's past up to the point of the murder and we are also watching this mystery unravel in the present as Sophie slowly tries to find out who is responsible for Mina's death, along with Mina's brother, ex-boyfriend and a new found friend.

A very powerful and wonderful book that captures the heartache that can come with love; even when it's returned.  A brave book, not just for the elements of LGBT themes in the story as a whole, but because they aren't the driving force of the story.  It isn't what the book is about at it's root; this story is about love and loyalty and how far you'd go to preserve it.  Strongly written and a well-developed group of characters that I really enjoyed following.
Published by Indigo and is available online and in bookshops now

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Feature: 20 Random Questions with … Emma Carroll


20 Random Questions is a feature on Sisterspooky that will show you a different side to authors you may already know and introduce new ones.  I ask 20 very Random Questions and they answer them.  Simple as that.  The idea was inspired from a mixture of things in my head and a random question asked by Jim over at YA Contemporary

Today the very lovely Emma Carroll is with us on the blog to answer question and spread some general randomness.



If you were ruler of the world what laws would you make?
No-one should get out of bed before 9am. 

If you were a super hero what powers would you have? Limit to three powers!
1.To make cups of tea appear out of thin air.
2.Teleportation
3.To make it snow on demand.

What's your favourite cheese and why?
Godminster Organic Cheddar. Because I’m a Somerset girl and because you can buy it in massive pieces so you never need run out.


If you were an animal what would you be and why?
A deer, then no one would call you weird for hiding in the woods all day. 

If you could ask your future self one question what would it be?
Tell me the Lottery numbers for next week.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?
Antibiotics. Yukky to take but the alternative is worse.

What's your favourite type of Pie?
Homemade homity pie. 

If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be and why?
A litter of sausage dog puppies. My friends and I would share them out between us. 


Who's your favourite Villain and why?
Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. Because if you had writers block and your partner went all ‘cheerleader’ on you, well, you’d just have to, would’t you?

Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
Always saying ‘morning sir’ to single magpies.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say and why?
Do not tumble dry.



What's your preferred playing piece in monopoly and why?
Dog. Because I love dogs more than hats or irons.

What was the last thing you ate?
A clementine- shockingly, my first piece of fruit in days.
Who would you want to be trapped on a desert island with? Pick no more than five people!
Predictable, but I’d be lost without my husband, my two best friends and my good old ma and pa.

What song would you say best sums you up?
River Deep Mountain High by Tina Turner.

What was your first job?
Washing dishes in a cafe. Though more time was spent locking each other in the deep freeze and throwing each other in the skip.

What's the scariest thing you've ever done?
Had chemotherapy.

What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
No-one died wishing they'd spent more time at work.

Thanks SO much to Emma for taking part and her book, Frost Hollow Hall, is available now.  You can find out more about Emma and her work on her website and by following her on twitter.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

News: Official Grisha Trilogy Re-Read UK & USA Event

A bit of news ahead of a publication that I'm proper excited about, the third and final book in the Grisha Trilogy: Ruin and Rising which is published in the UK on June 17th.

To celebrate this new book, both the US and UK publishers (Macmilian Children's Publishing Group US and Orion Books UK) are teaming up, along with Leigh and some lovely bloggers for a re-read event.  More can be found here on the official GoodReads page.



It's time to dig out your copies of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm for a huge re-reading event.  I know that time is hard to come by some perhaps you can do something similar to me.  I'll be randomly re-reading selections over the set time periods to get a flavour of the Grisha world once again, ahead of Ruin and Rising.  Weird; perhaps, but it's sort of practical for me because I have little time for reading, let alone re-reading.

There is also a chance to take part in some Q&As with Leigh too:  

April 21 - May 2: Shadow and Bone Re-Read takes place.

May 2 at 3pm EST / 12pm PST: Q&A with Leigh Bardugo! 

May 19 - May 30: Siege and Storm Re-Read takes place.

May 29 at 3pm EST / 12pm PST: Q&A with Leigh Bardugo! 

June 17 - June 30: Ruin and Rising is Published and READING STARTS!

June 26 at 3pm EST / 12pm PST: Q&A with Leigh Bardugo! 

Take part and enjoy the re-read!


Monday, 7 April 2014

Review: The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning

GoodReads

Alice Jenkins is the worst girlfriend in the world according to the many, many boys who've shimmied up lampposts and shoplifted from New Look to impress her, only to be dumped when she gets bored of them. Alice has a very low boredom threshold. 

But she never gets bored with Franny, her best friend since they met at nursery school. Friends are for ever. Ain't nothing going to come between them. Girls rule, boys drool is their motto. Well, it's Alice's motto, Franny doesn't have much time for boys; they're all totes immature and only interested in one thing. 

But then there's Louis Allen, lead singer of The Desperadoes, the best band in Merrycliffe-on-sea (though that could be because they're the only band in Merrycliffe-on-sea). He's a tousle-haired, skinny-jeaned, sultry-eyed manchild, the closest thing that Franny's ever seen to the hipsters that she's read about on the internet and she's been crushing on him HARD for the last three years. 

She's never worked up the courage to actually speak to him but she's sure on some deeper level that goes beyond mere words, Louis absolutely knows that she's his soulmate. He just doesn't know that he knows it yet. It's why he cops off with so many other girls. 

So, when Alice, bored with callow youths, sets her sights on Louis it threatens to tear the girls' friendship apart, even though they're better than fighting over a boy. 

They strike a devil's deal - may the best girl win. Best friends become bitter rivals and everything comes to an explosive conclusion on their first trip to London. 

Can true friendship conquer all?

Review

Sarra Manning is one of the leading ladies of UKYA contemporary romance stories with characters that are relatable and stories that are believable as her mark above the rest.  That being said, I was rather pleased to be sent a proof copy of her newest offering: The Worst Girlfriend in the World.  Who wouldn't be pleased?

Set in a little nowhere town near the UK shore line, we meet Franny and Alice who are the best of friends.  Alice is the "Worst Girlfriend in the World" and is proud of it.  She uses boys  like toys and disposes of them with the click of her fingers once she's bored.  Franny has the biggest crush on Louis and dreams of nabbing him and becoming a world famous fashion designer.  However, when Alice sets her targets on Louis, against Franny's pleas not to, the girls fall out big time.  Can they're friendship survive?  Can Franny reach her dream of leaving her small town for fame and big dreams?

Franny is a fantastic character to follow in this story of heartache and hope for a better future.  I really loved the idea of these two girls that are so tightly bound to each other and how they survive on their own as individuals.  Plus, Alice seemed like such an awful compared to Franny, you can quite imagine them falling out but at the same time, you don't want them too because they really are BEST friends.  

I enjoyed the side story of Franny's family and the issues with her mother and found it really refreshing that this story wasn't just written off as filler.  It was all part of who Franny is and how she works in the world around her and how she makes her decisions, so it was important it was dealt with well by the author, and it was.

I always enjoy the fun that is a Sarra Manning book, but what really makes them stand out as an excellent choice is how they are three dimensional stories with several aspects to the characters and this is never over looked.  This wasn't Adorkable Part 2 (Sarra's previous and fantastic YA book) and as much as that disappointed me, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of this book.  I didn't warm to Francis as much as I did Michael Lee (Adorkable), but that's not to say that I didn't like him.  

A fun and thoughtful book that proves that Sarra Manning is the bee's knees when it comes to this genre.  A great cast of misfits that I enjoyed following, even if it wasn't up there with Adorkable in my heart; it still has a place there.
Published by Atom Books and is available online and in bookshops from May 2014

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Review: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

GoodReads

Fever Crumb is a girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. In a time and place where women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only female to serve in the order. Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb-nearly the only person she's ever known-to assist archeologist Kit Solent on a top-secret project. As her work begins, Fever is plagued by memories that are not her own and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. 

Fever has also been singled out by city-dwellers who declare her part Scriven. The Scriveners, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people. If there are any remaining Scriven, they are to be eliminated. All Fever knows is what she's been told: that she is an orphan. Is Fever a Scriven? Whose memories does she hold? Is the mystery of Fever, adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, the key to the secret that lies at the heart of London? Haunting, arresting, and astonishingly original, Fever Crumb will delight and surprise readers at every fast-paced, breathless turn.

Review

To start a new Philip Reeve book series is like looking at a gorgeous Victoria Sponge Cake and saying to yourself, 'I'll just have one slice', because before you know it, you've gorged yourself on the wonderful baked goodness and you're eyeing up those scones nearby.  Philip Reeve's writing is completely addictive and his characters and world building is generally beyond compare, to my mind.  That being said, I'm sure you can guess the tone of my review for this book.

Fever Crumb is a new series but set in the landscape of the Mortal Engines world, only many, many years before young Tom Natsworthy is born.  Fever Crumb herself is an engineer, once an orphan taken in by a kind Engineer, and is sent out from the safety of her home to be a skilled aid and this is when the adventure; and the trouble, begins for Fever.  Her tightly ordered and logical world is thrown into turmoil with memories she can't place, thoughts she can't really control and being caught up with emotions she usually can control.  

I have a soft spot for Philip Reeve's work because his stories always have that sense of magic about them that I assumed all stories should contain.  They are fairytales for a new generation and present a level of world building and knowledge that is up there with Tolkien and Pratchett, in my humble opinion.  His books are the key to unlocking a part of your imagination that can light up your entire day with just one chapter.  I really loved the inside nods and jokes to the Hungry Cities series and the funny nods to our own society with swear words and common place phrases now a Chinese Whispers mishmash of nonsense. 

I've already bought Book 2 and 3 in this series and can't wait to indulge my mind with the delights held within the pages.  Reeve is the a wonder to children's writing; writing in general.

Published by Scholastic UK and is available online and in bookshops now

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Feature: 20 Random Questions with … Tess Sharpe

20 Random Questions is a feature on Sisterspooky that will show you a different side to authors you may already know and introduce new ones.  I ask 20 very Random Questions and they answer them.  Simple as that.  The idea was inspired from a mixture of things in my head and a random question asked by Jim over at YA Contemporary

Another Thursday, another brave author tackles the 20 Random Questions.  Today is the turn of Tess Sharpe, author of Far From You


If you were ruler of the world what laws would you make?
 I would have much better laws to protect animals. I’d also put a lot of money into ending bigotry and bullying. On the fun side, I’d have a world wide, week long celebration of chocolate. Festivals, chocolate fountains, truffles covering the street, flags made out of chocolate, everything made out of chocolate. All chocolate, all the time. 

If you were a super hero what powers would you have? Limit to three powers!  
Flight, Invisibility and Super Bendiness. 

What's your favourite cheese and why? 
Baked brie with lavender honey and walnuts. It’s just so delicious! 

If you were an animal what would you be and why? 
I would want to be one of my dogs—a Pyrenees or a St. Bernard—mostly because they’re insanely spoiled and get whatever they want.  

If you could ask your future self one question what would it be? 
Future Tess: Do you ever get your 140-pound dog to stop sitting on top of you? Because he’s really hard to move and likes to slobber all over our laptop. I could use some tips. 

What do you think the greatest invention has been?  
Definitely the internet. Or chocolate (can you tell I’m a fan?) 


Spooky Note: Should I mention now or later that my day job is in a chocolate shop?

What's your favourite type of Pie? 
Marionberry. 

If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be and why? 
I would love the First Folio of Shakespeare’s Plays. But then I would feel guilty of depriving other people of the chance to look at it because stuff like that belongs in a museum. I would make a terrible thief. 

Who's your favourite Villain and why? 
Mrs. Danvers in REBECCA. She’s so evil! She spends the entire book trying to get the new Mrs. DeWinter to throw herself out a window. I also adore her obsessive love for Rebecca’s memory, it says a lot about her, since Rebecca by all accounts was not the nicest of people. 


Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they? 
I was in the theatre, so I have a few quirks, like saying break a leg instead of good luck and avoiding calling the Scottish Play by its real name. I also throw salt over my left shoulder like any superstitious cook. 

If you had a warning label, what would yours say and why?
 I would definitely have an overactive imagination warning label. Which is useful in writing, but gets me into all sorts of trouble in real life. 

What's your preferred playing piece in monopoly and why? 
The shoe! Mostly because I love shoes. 

What was the last thing you ate? 
Chipotle Stewed Beef with Creamy Cheddar Grits. 

Who would you want to be trapped on a desert island with? Pick no more than five people!
My oldest friend (and fellow YA writer!) Elizabeth May, Mr. Rogers, both my dogs (they’re people sized, they count!) and J.K. Rowling. 

What song would you say best sums you up?  
Man in Black by Johnny Cash. Though I guess in the case, it would be (Wo)man in Black. 

What was your first job? 
Working at a frozen yogurt shop. 


What is your favourite comfort food?
 Macaroni and cheese. But it has to be homemade and it has to have breadcrumbs on it. 


What was your favourite childhood toy and why? 
I had these great vintage Naugas as a kid. They were these promotional toys—monsters made from a material,Naugahyde, that was used in 1960s furniture. They are the cutest. 

What's the scariest thing you've ever done? 
Being dragged into a very tiny cave by my stalactite-loving mother. I am not a cave person.  

What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
 My Gramz told me once to always start my stories with something attention grabbing. It’s served me well so far. 

Thanks a million to Tess for taking part in this feature.  Lovely answers too!  To find out more on Tess and her book, Far From You, you can check out her Tumblr and her twitter.