Thursday, 29 January 2015

Blog Tour: From editor to author by A J Granger

Today, I so pleased to welcome A.J. Granger to the blog to tell us about what it was like going from being a book editor to being a book author.  Over to Annalie:  



From editor to author: Things I thought I knew but really didn't

A. J. Grainger, children’s books editor and the author of Captive, on the ten things she thought she knew about writing and publishing because she was an editor but now she is an author has discovered she really didn’t… 

1. Being an author makes you paranoid. Having someone read your book feels a little like standing on a stage, in front of a room full of people who are all staring at you. Oh, and you're naked. 

2. Edits can be annoying, even when you know the editor is right (especially when you know the editor is right).

3. Writing is hard work. It involves many long hours on your own desperately willing your brain to come up with a plot point, convincing character, or even just the right word. 

4. Getting to know other authors is vital. Everyone needs a support network. It doesn’t matter how supportive your partner/best friend is; chances are they won't want to hear about your plot woes over dinner every single night. Other authors love talking about plotting, characters and setting. Plus, they can give you great advice on what to expect at events, on publication day etc. As an editor, I thought already knew all of this. I really didn't − and my author friends have been brilliantly supportive and encouraging.

5. Having a good agent is equally vital. You want someone you get on with, who understands you and is willing to champion you and your writing. 

6. The book jacket is important. Imagine someone wrapping your baby − your precious − in a lime-green tracksuit with orange tassels! Ugh. Yuck! No way! Take. It. Off. This. Instant.

7. Twitter and Facebook are brilliant. Suddenly you have all your friends in your study with you, offering advice or just making you laugh.

8. Twitter and Facebook are terrible. Suddenly you have all your friends in your study with you, offering you advice or just making you laugh … and, oops, you've just lost an hour's writing time. 

9. Nothing beats seeing your name on the cover for the first time except ...

10. … Holding the book with your name on the cover for the first time.

A. J. Grainger lives in London, where she works as a children's books editor. She feels incredibly lucky to be able to do two jobs that mean she gets to talk about books all day. Captive, A. J.'s first novel, was named 'One to Watch' by The Bookseller. She is currently working on a second book and learning even more things she thought she knew and didn't about being a writer. Find out more about A. J. and her writing on Twitter (@_AJGrainger) and Facebook or by visiting her website, www.ajgrainger.com.

About Captive


Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.

Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit − and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all…
A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Blog Tour: Songs of Vendetta


Vendetta is divided into three parts. Each one begins with a quote that foreshadows what’s to come. As you might expect, each section is darker than the one preceding it, as the protagonist, Sophie, is propelled further into the underworld that begins to surrounds her.
Music played a big role in writing Vendetta. Sometimes a song would get me into the right mindset, and other times if I was feeling sluggish or starting to procrastinate, I’d click onto Youtube and let myself be inspired by something.
I made an official playlist of the music that relates to Vendetta (see Wondrous Reads blog today for that playlist), but there are three songs in particular that stand out, and each one is linked to a different part of the book. When I close my eyes and imagine pivotal scenes from these sections, it is these songs that come to mind. Here are the songs that encapsulate the atmosphere of Vendetta most wholly in my mind.

Notable Lyrics: 
“I was living in a devil town
Didn’t know it was a devil town
Oh Lord, it really brings me down
About the devil town

All my friends were vampires
Didn’t know they were vampires
Turns out I was a vampire myself
In the devil town”

This song is the ultimate backdrop to Sophie’s surroundings as we first encounter them – everything in her life is stagnant, seemingly innocuous, and utterly boring. 
Like the lulling tempo of Devil Town, the beginning of Vendetta is a slow build to the danger that first arrives on the day the old Priestly mansion is restored to its former glory. Like the song, the unassuming, mellow nature of the opening pages quietly hints at something bigger. 
I think the song is about realizing the world around you can be something completely other than what you think it is. Places and people aren’t always as they first appear, and your role within the framework that surrounds you might not be either. This is the case with Sophie. When certain things are brought to light, everything shifts, and what was once a safety net becomes something else entirely. 
(It is also worth mentioning that there are no vampires in Vendetta, as there are in this song, though that’s not to say that there aren’t people who are out for blood!)


Notable Lyrics:
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice

Described as both a ‘love song’ and a ‘contemplation of sin’, Hozier’s debut is the perfect fit for Vendetta, where the line between right and wrong grows ever murkier. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore this new Irish singer-songwriter and everything he writes. He’s the next big thing, and this song has rightfully catapulted him to the top of the Billboard charts in America. Take Me to Church is eerie and intense; it builds and builds, while retaining a wonderfully haunting quality. The tempo, the depth and the darkness within reminds me of the progression in Vendetta, as Sophie becomes ever more entangled with the web of darkness that looms over her quiet little town. The tone of this song matches part two of the book so well that it became the ultimate Vendetta song when I was writing. I must have listened to it a thousand times, and still it doesn’t get old!

Lyrics: 
Love of mine, some day you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the “No’s” on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks
I’ll follow you into the dark

Rather than simply being about the idea of death, this song is about devotion, about loving someone so much that you would walk into darkness so they won’t have to face it alone. This is very much the theme of the closing chapters of Vendetta when the chips are down and big decisions must be made. Danger is closing in, and several characters have to decide whether to walk into the darkness or to stand by and watch as the world crumbles around the people they care about. This song is a quiet ode to loyalty, love and the more difficult parts of life, and I hope in some small way, Vendetta is too. 
Vendetta by Catherine Doyle out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House). Find out more about the author at http://catherine-doyle.tumblr.com and http://www.catherinedoylebooks.com.

Be sure to check out Wondrous Reads today for more Blog Touring Goodness!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Blog Tour: Suzy P, Forever Me by Karen Saunders

Today, the lovely Karen Saunders is here on the blog today as part of the promotional Blog Tour for the third Suzy P book, "Suzy P, Forever Me".  I've loved the other Suzy P books and, having met Karen, can say she's such a nice person and highly recommend you try and catch her at any future events!  Over to Karen:

The Many Disasters of Karen Saunders

Hi, I’m Karen Saunders, and I’m the author of the Suzy P series. The third Suzy book, Suzy P, Forever Me, has just been released, and I’ve been invited onto this lovely blog to talk to you about it.


Hopefully you know the books, but if you don’t, they’re about the hilarious (even if I do say so myself) misadventures of fourteen-year-old Suzy Puttock, a girl who finds embarrassment everywhere. And as for her family, well, if Suzy’s not embarrassing herself, her family are doing it for her!

Although my family isn’t as bad as Suzy’s, and I don’t have any sisters, it’s true to say I’m a walking talking disaster zone, just like Suzy is. Don’t believe me? Here are some of the ridiculous things I’ve done…
  1. Given myself concussion getting into a car. It was on my birthday, too, just to add insult to injury.
  2. Given myself concussion falling head first off a sofa.
  3. Ended up with a broken nose during a tickling fight.
  4. Knocked over the boy I fancied in the sea after an enormous wave sent me flying.
  5. Got whacked full-on in the face with a football while watching a match.
  6. Ended up with my arm in a plaster cast after opening a window.
  7. Got stuck in a snowdrift the first time I was on skis.
  8. Broke a ridiculously valuable antique tea-cup while working as a house-keeper.

Cringesome, right? I keep hoping as I get older these things might stop, but nope, they just keep on happening…

Make me feel better by letting me know on Twitter what the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done is… and after you’ve done that, maybe you’d like to read the book to make yourself feel better!

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!




Suzy P, Forever Me; Suzy P and the Trouble With Three and Me, Suzy P by Karen Saunders are available to buy online and from all good bookshops. If you’d like to find out more about the books or the author, do visit Karen online at www.karensaunders.co.uk, ‘like’ her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karensaunderswriter or follow Karen on Twitter @writingkaren. Suzy tweets too, @suzyputtock, so don’t forget to follow her, too!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Love is All Around ... for Bloggers.

Over the last 5 years of being a book blogger, I've seen some wonderful things happen to the community as it's grown and shaped with time.  It began as a few strong buds that bloomed and then encouraged others to grown along side them.  Over time, more things grew and now it seems like there is a whole forest of us bloggers.  In fact, there are so many of us out there that I couldn't even tell you about all of them.  

All these individual blogs have unique personalities and voices within them and it's amazing that I get to be a part of this great community.  However, the niggle in the back of my head has always been Are we being taken seriously? Do they just look as us all and not 'get it'?

Lovely bloggers at YALC: Photo by Michelle at Fluttering Butterflies
It's wonderful to see real-life books in shops with blogs quoted in them and referenced.  Social media means we can interact with authors and publishers just like chatting with any other of our mates ... but when it comes down to it, there isn't any one place that is shining a light on this community, other than the odd moment on Twitter, saying "What you lot do is amazing".  We know we are loved by publicists, authors and agents for the work we do and the fact that we do it all for free and in our spare time outside of work/life/school/uni/family/friends/sleep.  However, authors have their own awards and so do publishing houses and we don't.

UNTIL NOW!



It was something of a delight to see not one, but two specially-created awards that are championing bloggers and their network.  First comes from Faye at Daydreamer's Thoughts and she has created a great community awards where, us the bloggers (and other people, I assume), can vote for each other anonymously for a huge variety of awards.  Bloggers do so much already, so for Faye to take the time to organise this herself is, quite frankly, amazing.


And, like a London bus, we get another awards thrown our way.  This time it's a slightly different tone because it's been organised by an author and then nominated and voted on by authors and publishers.  More an external awards, if you will.  There's even going to be a proper event in a London bookshop.  I'm definitely going to go, even if I'm not shortlisted because it sound like it'll be a great chance to hang out with blogger pals and even the lovely authors and publishers that were kind enough to say "Hey. You guys. We love you and this is how we're showing it!".

I've been long-listed for the awards and will probably get all dizzy and giggly if I get shortlisted.  If I was to win an award, I'd most likely cry or wet myself.  EXCITING TIMES!



It's great to see so much love for bloggers and what we do and I hope that awards like these will only help to raise awareness of what we do for publishing, books and maybe even get the mainstream media to take note of us not just as a gimmicky novelty.  

We're changing the world in our own little way and it's great to be on TEAM BLOGGER!

UPDATE:

The lovely Carly from Writing from the Tub has also been inspired by the blogger love from UKYABA to write a fab post on why she loves UKYA and the blogging community!

READ!!!

Also, Hannah Love from Faber and Faber has posted some lovely thoughts about why bloggers are so important over on the UKYABA website

READ THAT TOO!

And after chatting with a couple bloggers online, I thought:  All this blogger love is amazing and wouldn't it be nice to show it in return by promoting the websites and saying thanks?"

So, I'm calling all bloggers, to perhaps take the time out from their usual blogging and to write a little post on their websites about the blogging community, about why they blog, what they love about it etc.  Long or short, it doesn't matter.  The only thing I'd recommend is to link to the two awards as I have done above and then tweet their accounts (@daydreamin_star and @ukyaba) when it's live so they can share it.  The love is there; now it's time to spread it!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Review: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

GoodReads

It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry—and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format—a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.

Review

This book was one on my wish list from Christmas and part of a massive pile of book goodies I received.  I was a massive fan of Kate DiCamillo's previous book, The Tale of Despereaux, and I was really keen to see what else Kate had on offer.  I was lucky that this book was recently published and I could jump straight into another magical story.

This book is an interesting blend of art and story with a mix of comic-strip-esque illustrations and a story that reads like a superhero tale in suburbia.  I couldn't help but fall in love with Ulysses the Squirrel with his big glowing heart as well as Flora with her cynical outlook on the world that was begging for some real colour in it.  The ensemble cast is just as loopy and wonderfully nonsensical as the idea of a superhero squirrel and his human best friend.  

This story is another tender story about love and family; much like Despereaux, but this story has a different vibe to it.  With a more contemporary setting and a sprinkling of quirky characters, Flora and Ulysses was fun and joyous read that I'd happily pass on to any as a treasured gift.  The characters all had their own hook that made you want to know more about their interesting lives and the story was simple, and yet exciting.  If it taught me anything, it's to very under appreciate the world around you and the people in it.  Oh; also squirrels are smarter than they look.

Published by Walker Books and is available online and in bookshops now

Monday, 5 January 2015

Christmas Adventures and Seasonal Mini Reviews

Wow! 2015; we made it!  A brand new year with new books to read and more adventures to be had.  I spent my Christmas work break at home and with my family around London with our traditional sense of nuttiness.  Christmas Day was spent with Mum and Step-Dad at a well-known french high street restaurant and not everyone was pleased with their meals but I rather enjoyed the indulgence of it all!  My cousin, Rebecca, and I realised that we can not be beaten when it comes to our Logo Game: Movie and TV knowledge and I worked out that having too much food that is mainly beige in colour can upset your stomach. :S


I was very lucky to get some lovely presents from my loved ones ranging from books, a new green hat, clothes and lots of bathroom goodies and I also had a good time with them all and many laughs as ever.  My brother couldn't make it over from Spain this year but I sent him a little something to think of me when he was away from the family at Christmas.


Because I'm the best sister...EVER.

Then I went over to the BF's and we ventured off to Devon for the New Year.  Now; I don't want to overshadow my family Christmas with the Devon experience (as family christmas is always fun; if not a bit crazy) but I had been looking forward to going to Devon again for yonks.  I've sort of fallen in love with Devon over the last year and couldn't wait to get back and explore more.  We visited Exeter and wandered around the shops and Cathedral.  


Exeter was lovely because I'd been before, many years ago, visiting a chum in our student days so I had a very different memory of the city.  It mainly involved bars and clubs then and now it was about the history and views.  


There was so great food consumed over the week including some of the best fish and chips I've ever had and a artsy Indian meal on NYE.  

Sadly; like most adventures, it had to end and has wrapped up with me having to contend with returning to work today with an awful cold.  I'm looking forward to visiting Devon again in the summer and hopefully seeing Dartmoor again when the weather is well above freezing.

All this "relaxing" has meant I've been able to complete my first draft of my WIP (finalllllly) and can begin editing and amending it and I also got to read some books including A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (Loved this story and really keen to see the film now) The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (lovely fantasy MG with great art work) and The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Russell Brand and Chris Riddell (a good fairytale but I think I enjoyed the illustrations far more than the story itself.  I always find 'celebrity' authors a bit hit and miss).


All these books were bought by my Mum and Step-Dad and up next I've got the Wombles to read.  I'm looking forward to change in 2015; but good changes and here's hoping everyone else had some fun seasonal adventures!


Monday, 29 December 2014

Review: Captive by A.J.Granger

GoodReads

I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a slice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. 

Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.
Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.

Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .

A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Review

I was sent this to review via the publishers and was interested to see how it would be as I also know this lovely author as a lovely editor from another publishing group; one of the best editors I've met.  She's worked on some of my favourite books so I wanted to see how her own writing would be like.

Captive is the story of Robyn, the Prime Minster's teenage daughter, as she is kidnapped and held to ransom by an animal rights activist group demanding the release of one of their own from prison.  She's taken and kept in a basement and told to do exactly what they say or else she'll be harmed or, worse, they'll go after her toddler sister too.  As time in the basement goes on, day by day, Robyn learns of lies and truths from her own life and becomes sympathetic to one of her kidnappers.  Will this closeness draw her closer to danger or will it be her salvation?  

I enjoyed the drama of this novel and the pace and tension was balanced just right to get my heart racing at the right moments but, giving me time to calm down again afterwards.  I also enjoyed the back and forth between the past and present, so we got to fill in the blanks of Robyn's past as new ideas and information filtered into it from the captors.  It was a plausible idea; that someone is pushed to the brink and on one side of the coin they seem victims of government lies but on the other side, they just look like nut-jobs.

The only letdown for me was the romance element.  I liked the idea of having Stockholm syndrome brought in as a factor; it's something I've heard of before and can imagine is possible.  However, I think it went a step to far into the second half of the book.  I would have liked to have more confusion in Robyn's mind about how she really felt and thought and self-questioning and have left it a hanging idea in her mind, rather than acceptance.  I liked the ending for some aspects, but others moved it from a plausible storyline into more make-believe and didn't ring as true as the rest of the novel.

Overall, it was a well-written and enjoyable novel with a nice pace and unfurling of the story and I'd definitely look out for more books from A.J.Granger.   Clever idea for a story but, for me, I didn't need the romantic element to make it more genuine.
Published by Simon and Schuster UK and is available online and in bookshops in Jan 2015