Monday, 20 April 2015

INTERVIEW: Jo Ramsey

I'm excited to share with you this awesome interview with author Jo Ramsey!

What made you want to write for a YA audience?
I've been writing stories for and about teenagers since I was one. About 30 years now. I sometimes say I never really outgrew my own teen years, and some of my stories are written to give myself a do-over on things that happened when I was in high school.

I've also worked with teenagers as a teacher or teacher's aide, and I've known many who were discouraged, or who were making poor choices because they didn't know any other choices to make. I met a lot of teens who didn't believe in themselves, but encouragement and support went a long way. I write for the teens who wonder if they're "okay", or who think they aren't anything special, or who don't believe they'll ever do anything important. That's why my tagline is "Anyone can be a hero."

What were some of your own favourite stories to read as a teenager?
As a teen, I was really into fantasy. Susan Cooper and Madeleine L'Engle were two of my favorite authors. Pretty much anything that involved a "normal" teen being pulled into a fantastic world where they were able to save people/the universe/whatever, I would read and love.

Where do you find inspiration for the stories you write?
All over the place. My kids are teenagers right now (though the older one disputes that, since she'll be 20 this summer), and they and their friends have inspired a lot of my recent projects. Some of my older, now out-of-print, books were inspired by my own experiences as a teen.

Have you ever related to any of the characters in your books?
Very much so. My Reality Shift series (which is unfortunately among the books that are now out of print) was somewhat autobiographical, in that many of Shanna Bailey's experiences, fears, and other issues were mine, either when I was a teen or when I was an adult. I took some of my adult experiences, including my journey of healing and recovery from abuse, and aged them down to reach teenagers.

What have been the best and worst parts of the writing process for you?
The best part is seeing the finished product available to readers. The worst part is revising my first draft. Though sometimes writing the first draft isn't completely fun...I love having written, but actually writing isn't always the best.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?
Write for yourself above all. If you write a story you aren't really interested in because you think other people will read it, they won't read it, because your lack of interest will show in the writing. Write what calls to YOU.

Which novel are you working on at the moment?
I just submitted the fifth novel in my Deep Secrets and Hope series, so I'm taking a bit of a break before I start writing anything else.

Thanks to Jo for taking the time to answer these questions! Be sure to read more about her stories on her website, and you check out her twitter page here.


Friday, 17 April 2015

REVIEW: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Bookish Details:
Pages: 368 Hardcover
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release Date: January 1st 2015
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK - Waterstones

Synopsis:
Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

My Review:
This story follows David and Leo as they form an unlikely friendship after Leo transfers to Eden Park School. David was a girl born inside a boy’s body, and the only two people who know about it are his two best friends. He wants to tell his parents but doesn’t know how to. He assumes that they think he is is gay, and have been waiting for him to tell them so, but he doesn’t know how to explain to them that he’s not gay. He’s actually a straight girl.  

When the school’s bully gets hold of the notebook David uses to write about the changes happening to his body, Leo steps in to help. When the pair end up in detention together, they slowly start to get to know each other more.

Heart-warming, witty, and full of brilliant characters, I completely fell in love with The Art of Being Normal. The characters and events throughout the story are believable and beautifully written. Both protagonists had their own individual voice and personality, and the scenes between them were wonderful to read.

The character progression of both Leo and David was perfectly executed. I loved watching them grow throughout each chapter. This isn’t just a book about transgender issues; it’s about watching these characters develop and overcome their own personal problems and doubts.

I’m glad that David had his best friends, Essie and Felix, throughout the story. They were incredibly supportive of him, and it was good for him to have people to share everything with. Leo, on the other hand, is reserved to begin with and doesn’t have any desire to find close friends, so it was great seeing him slowly open up to David and finally learn that friendship isn’t a bad thing.

Leo’s story was fantastically written. Williamson has a great way of conveying the emotions that run through the minds of the characters and I feel she did this exceptionally well with Leo. When we finally find out what event happened in Leo’s past for him to have to move schools, I had to fight back the tears. It broke my heart, but it was so important to read.

There is a lot I would like to say about different parts of this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone! Just know that it now owns a little piece of my heart. As well as showing readers a glimpse at the struggles these characters have to face, this story is also packed with humour, hope, and beautiful moments that will stay with us long after the last page.

It’s also a fantastic example of good UKYA, and I can’t wait to see what else Lisa Williamson has in store. There was a lot of buzz online about this book before I read it, and now I see why. It’s a story that does live up to the hype. I’m excited to see more and more readers pick it up and fall in love with the characters as I did.

*I used male pronouns in regards to David in this review because they are used within the book.*

Royal Rating:





Sunday, 12 April 2015

#UKYADay: UKYA From My Teens

As you probably already know, today is UKYA Day, an event organised by the awesome Lucy from Queen of Contemporary, who has done so much to show her support for UKYA over the years.

And since we’re discussing all things UKYA, I just wanted to take a little time to reflect on why it’s been so important to me. We have so many UK authors and stories that we need to be celebrating, and over the past year, I’ve seen a lot more of them see success, and I couldn’t be happier!

But for today, I wanted to go back to a part of my bookshelf that gathers a little more dust than the rest, containing the books I’ve had for a long while. I wanted to remember some of the UKYA reads I discovered in my early teens, and why I loved them so much.

One of the first book series’ that I really remember relating to was the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison. 

My first and final books of the series
I grew up with the series and Georgia still remains one of my all-time favourite characters today. The books perfectly captured the lives of British teenagers in a way not many other books could at the time, and I think that’s why I loved them so much. They the first stories I remember reading with my friends. Reading was normally something that I didn’t get to talk about all that much because none of my friends were readers, but this was the one series that we actually all loved. Oh, how we wanted (and tried) to be the Ace Gang, and go in search of our very own Sex Gods. This series helped me laugh my way through my awkward teenage years, and it’ll always stay close to my heart.

Also hanging around on my bookshelf was Voices by Sue Mayfield. Sue is an author whose books I remember always picking up in my high school library, but I very rarely see her books talked about now.


Voices is a contemporary story about a message in a bottle, and I completely fell in love with the idea of it. The characters and the plot are wonderful, and it’s a story I’ve gone back to read a few times over the years. It was originally published in 2003, but I’d love to see readers enjoying it now.

The other book I found whilst searching for the ghosts of UKYA past is Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning. 


Again, Sarra was an author I’d always seek out at the library, but Guitar Girl was and still is my favourite book by her. It’s a story of teens finding success in a band, but rock and roll fame it isn’t everything they pictured it to be. I remember flying through this book in a day because I couldn’t put it down. It comes with awesome characters and songs you wish were real.

So there is my nostalgic trip to UKYA times gone by. I love seeing the amount of awesome books coming out of Britain now and gaining popularity across the world. It shows just how much UKYA has managed to progress over the years. I vow to never again let some of my British books gather dust on a lonely shelf, because they really did help shape the reader I am today.

What have been your favourite UKYA reads of all time? What books do you wish more people would pick up? Let me know! Also, be sure to get involved with all the action on Twitter by using the #UKYADay hashtag!



Saturday, 11 April 2015

INTERVIEW: Jennie Wood

I'm excited to share with you this awesome interview with Jennie Wood, author of A Boy Like Me

Hi, Jennie! Your novel was touching to read.
JW: Thank you so much!

What was it that made you want to tell Peyton’s story?
JW: When I began working on A Boy Like Me, I was taking a break from writing Flutter, which is a graphic novel series about a girl who shape-shifts into a boy to get the girl. Minus the sci-fi shape-shifting element, Flutter is a story very close to my own. Growing up in a small, conservative town, I spent a lot of time imagining what my life would be like as a boy. I’d watch my guy friends and male cousins take girls on dates to the movie theater. A girl taking a girl to the movies just didn’t happen in my town and I wasn’t even out yet, not even to myself. At that point, my mind just didn’t allow itself to go there so I just imagined my life as a boy and that became the basis for Flutter.

While taking a break from Flutter, I wanted to spend some time with a story that was different from my own experience. Instead of a girl imagining life as a boy, I wanted to write from the point of view of a guy who had been assigned the wrong gender at birth. I wanted to spend some time with a guy who saw the world in very black and white terms because that’s the view, the world he’s raised in, but his own personal situation forces him beyond that mindset.  

What sort of research went into writing the book?
JW: The subject matter is something that’s extremely important to me so I did a ton of research before I began the first draft. I spent a lot of time reading nonfiction, especially first hand accounts, interviews, and anthologies. One major source was Aaron Devor’s FTM: Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society, which I reference directly in the novel. I also talked to transgender individuals directly. What I realized pretty quickly was that while some situations, feelings, and experiences were similar, everyone had their own individual way of accepting, embracing, and becoming who they were. It was very important to me to not write an issue book, to not write a character attempting to represent one definitive experience.

While writing the novel, I focused on giving Peyton his own individual experience. His behavior and his inability to express himself reflected the world he was raised in. His confusion comes from a lack of language and communication skills.

When working on final revisions, I asked Tate Fox to be the novel’s content consultant. Tate was just a little older than Peyton is in the novel and had some similar experiences. Tate gave me feedback on language, situations, reactions, and dialogue for the entire book. 

What was it that made you write for a YA audience?
JW:  A Boy Like Me being a YA novel was a happy accident. I didn’t set out to write it as YA. The first draft spanned 30 years of Peyton’s life. But the more drafts I did, I realized the most important part of Peyton’s story was around the moment when he embraces who he is and the events leading up to that moment.

For example, whatever medical interventions he decides to do - or not do - later on is less important. Because Peyton’s a teenager when he begins to realize and accept who he is, that makes it a YA novel. I’m happy that A Boy Like Me turned out to be YA. Some of my all-time favorite books are. The journey I had writing this book is an example of what happens when writers get out of the way and let the story go where it wants to go.

Did you relate to any of your characters at all?
JW: Great question! Both Peyton and Tara find solace and a way to communicate through music, which I can relate to a lot. Writing songs, playing guitar, and music in general definitely helped me get through high school and beyond. Being in bands and working in recording studios – there have been times when a recording studio has been a refuge for me.

I didn’t think about that at the time I was writing the recording studio scenes with Peyton and Tara. But afterwards, looking back, I realized they were able to express themselves there because they felt safe, which was a feeling I’ve always had in a recording studio.

Also, the way Peyton sees the world - things are all black or all white, things are either masculine or feminine, for girls or for boys - that way of looking at things is something I grew up with, too. It took me a while to see beyond it and embrace all the wonderful grey areas in life, the areas that Tara so clearly sees at a young age. Tara sees those grey areas because she’s had more exposure and experiences than Peyton.

Did you learn anything new about yourself throughout the writing
process?
JW: Another great question! I learned that I could write a novel. I learned that I am capable of patience and perseverance. I learned that I could be patience not only with the process of writing a novel and with myself during that process, but also with the people I worked with, especially the two amazing editors of A Boy Like Me, Kelly Ford and Mike Perkins.

Whenever I thought to myself – I can’t look at this book one more time, I can’t do one more revision, I can’t revise one more scene – I did. At one point, in final revisions, Kelly suggested I add some new scenes with Peyton and his mother. I wanted to scream “No! No more!”

Because with new scenes comes more revisions, more edits, more back and forth. But I added those scenes and the book is better for it. I may have wanted to scream no, but I never said no to more work, to more revision on this book.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
JW: Peyton’s story is bittersweet. It’s not all rosy. Not everyone accepts him. Not everyone gets it. And that felt true to me. But I hope that readers come away from Peyton’s story with the feeling that the struggle, hard work, and courage it takes to truly know each other and ourselves is worth it. That there is some happiness on the other side of that intense struggle to know and embrace who we are.

There will be a lot of young people who can relate to Peyton’s story; do you have any advice for readers going through similar situations?
JW: Advice is tricky because while some aspects of a situation can be similar, other aspects can be different. In most cases, what a person needs in these situations is not someone to give advice, but someone who will listen.

In the book, Peyton has Uncle RB and Tara and later on Dr. Wainwright (his therapist). Peyton’s struggle is that he has a hard time talking to them, but for many, the struggle is finding someone who will just listen, especially in these noisy, busy, distracting times. Many of us don’t always have an Uncle RB or therapist or significant other. And even when we do have someone, that person isn’t always available. So the best advice I can offer is in those moments when there’s no one to listen and you feel terribly alone, do what you need to do to endure the moment. Write in a journal or bang on some drums or guitar, reach for a favorite book or CD, whatever thing gets you through that moment. 

There are moments – still – where I can’t dig myself out of a hole on my own so I reach for the music of Florence + The Machine or Amy Winehouse. And that music is enough to get me through a bad afternoon or night until I can talk to someone about whatever the problem is. If you can find a way, an outlet to get you through those moments of extreme loneliness, you’ll be okay because beyond that moment, just around the corner, it does get better, you will find someone to listen.

Finally, any tips for aspiring writers who have a story to tell?
JW: While writing, let the story speak to you by getting out of the way of it. It might take a draft or two or six (ha) before you realize oh, this is a novel, or a YA novel, or a graphic novel or a short story. Let your stories and writing go where it wants to go.

Don’t worry about where or when it’s going to be published, especially while writing it. There are so many options out there – traditional, indie, self-publishing, crowdfunding. When the work is ready for an audience, the right path to that audience will become clear. When it’s ready, your work will find its home. 

A huge thank you to Jennie for her wonderful and insightful answers! You can read my review of A Boy Like Me here.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

REVIEW: An Island of Our Own by Sally Nicholls

Bookish Details:
Pages: 216 Paperback
Publishers: Scholastic
Release Date: April 2nd 2015
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK

Synopsis:
From one of the brightest talents in children's fiction and the winner of the Waterstones Children's Book prize comes a new novel about family and friendship. Siblings Jonathan, Holly and Davy have been struggling to survive since the death of their mother, and are determined to avoid being taken into care. When the family's wealthy but eccentric Great-Aunt Irene has a stroke, they go to visit her. Unable to speak or write, she gives Holly some photographs that might lead them to an inheritance that could solve all their problems. But they're not the only ones after the treasure...

My Review:
Picking up this book was such a breath of fresh air for me. Amongst reading so many dystopian worlds and complicated fantasy lands, this book brought me back down to earth with a huge smile on my face.

This story follows siblings, Holly, Davy, and Jonathan, as they try to track down jewellery left for them by their aunt. It’s a treasure hunt which desperately makes you wish you had something to chase up and down the country.

Holly is a delightful character. She’s full of optimism and sass. It made me wish I could’ve been more like her when I was twelve-years-old! Her determination to go hunting for the jewels and make life better for her and her brothers is what makes this such a heart-warming story. It reminds you what it’s like to be that young and feel like you can conquer any quest. I loved the bond she had with her brothers. Even when she was angry at Jonathan, she’d understand that he was just trying to do what was best for them all.

I fell a little bit in love with Jonathan and all his geeky references. There is a scene in which he’s making up a story for Holly and Davy, and he combines nearly all of the nerdy things I adore into it. After that, it was impossible not to love him. He showed personal strength throughout this book. He somehow managed to always keep his cool even though he’d had to sacrifice so much. Fictional he may be, but there are many young adults like him who step up to look after their younger siblings when no one else is there to.  

There are so many brilliantly quirky characters that pop-up in the story to help the siblings with their mission, and I could picture each of them perfectly in my head. I love adventures in which the main characters get to meet a wide variety of different people on their journey. It makes it impossible for the story to become dull.

This is a story that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages, and it has something to offer to everyone. Humour, adventure, realism, and a little bit of mystery, whatever you like reading, you can find it within these pages.

This book had me smiling from ear-to-ear by the time I put it down. The final paragraph is a quote I can imagine people will want to turn into those cute, inspirational text images you often find on Pinterest. It’s a fitting and wonderful ending to a really wonderful story. 

Royal Rating:



Friday, 27 March 2015

The Magic of Harry Potter

Like many people in my generation, magic was brought into my life through the words of J. K. Rowling. Before I discovered Harry Potter, reading was not the huge part of my life that it is now. In fact, reading anything was pretty much a chore for me. I’d dread the hour-long library session in school, when I’d have to select a new book to read every few weeks. I didn’t want to read a book. I never had the desire to finish a book. Until the day I picked up Harry Potter.

Something about the wizarding world made me desperate to read my way to the end of a story for the first time. And since then, literature has changed my life. It’s changed the way I think. I often find myself wondering exactly what is was about Harry Potter that managed to connect with me in a way no other story had before. What is it about words on the page that keeps us reading late into the night?  

Hogwarts providing a home for Harry when he felt like he had nowhere else is one of the touching aspects of the story. To me, it sends out a message that there is always a place you can belong, even when it seems impossible. The entire series’ reminds us to have hope when there is none. Without even knowing it, Harry Potter and many other children’s books like it can send messages of courage and strength without us even realising, shaping the minds of our younger selves.

There’s no doubt that stories are a powerful force, and authors have the ability to get messages across through the power of the written word, and language plays a vital part in sharing literature with the world.

Harry Potter is a story that is lucky enough to have been translated beautifully into over sixty different languages. Good translation is the key to sharing stories accurately. With the millions of fans all over the world, it’s clear that the magic of Harry Potter wasn’t lost in translation. I’m willing to bet there are some stories that weren’t as lucky.

This is a prime example of why good translation is important. There are so many widely popular YA series’, such as The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments, that have become a global success by being translated into so many languages. Stories are no longer limited to their place of original publication, and it helps residents in countries all over the world feel like they are truly able to immerse themselves in those stories.

As a blogger, I love getting to see readers from all corners of the globe have a chance to bond over the same books. We get to learn so much from reading stories set in other parts of the world. Even though Harry Potter is fictional, and the character lives’ are highly different to our own, it still manages to share British culture with the rest if the world.

Translation helps everyone feel a part of something collectively by stopping the limitations of location. It’s why translation software is important, helping to spread information globally. It’s exciting to think that we are getting closer to living in a world which isn’t limited by language barriers, because magical stories demand to be shared with as many different people as possible.




Thursday, 26 March 2015

REVIEW: A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood

Bookish Details:
Pages: 267 (Paperback)
Publisher: 215 Ink
Release Date: September 4th 2014
Source: Received by publisher in exchange for honest review
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK

Synopsis:
Born a girl, Peyton Honeycutt meets Tara Parks in the eighth grade bathroom shortly after he gets his first period. It is the best and worst day of his life. Determined to impress Tara, Peyton sets out to win her love by mastering the drums and basketball. He takes on Tara’s small-minded mother, the bully at school, and the prejudices within his conservative hometown. In the end, Peyton must accept and stand up for who he is or lose the woman he loves.

My Review:
This story was everything I wanted it to be and more. Heart-breaking, heart-warming, and completely beautiful, I know Peyton’s journey will stay with me for a long time.

I was immediately interested in reading this book. It’s not often that I come across a story in YA that follows a transgender protagonist. I hope that in the future, it won’t be uncommon to find these stories. This book comes at such a prominent time after heart-breaking stories of real-life transgender teens have been in the media.  

A Boy Like Me follows Peyton’s journey through high school as a boy trapped inside a growing woman’s body. He is confused and frustrated by emotions he can’t explain to himself. His mother wants the perfect daughter that he will never be, and their relationship falls more and more apart as the story progresses.

The relationship between Peyton and his mother is an important one. Reading it, you can’t help but feel desperate for him to get the acceptance he deserves from her, but it’s also a good way to show that he can be stronger and overcome it.

The scenes Peyton shared with his uncle RB added some well-needed warmth to the story. He was so supportive throughout and was one of the few characters that made sure Peyton knew he was loved regardless. 

The relationship with Tara was beautifully written. This was also a new and confusing journey for her, and I loved how believable she was. She truly cared about Peyton and wanted him to be happy, and she was willing to learn how to make that happen.

The scene in which Peyton first learns about the term ‘transgender’ was both beautiful and heart-wrenching to read. It helps us to understand a little bit about what going through that sort of situation must be like, knowing that after feeling so much isolation he’s not alone and there are other people out there just like him.

What I really love about this story is how genuine it is. It doesn’t feel like the author is simply force-feeding information about transgender issues to the reader. It takes you on a boy’s personal journey and allows you to feel as though you are living alongside it, being a part of it and observing everything. It gives us a glimpse into what life must be like for someone who feels they don’t belong in the clothes they’re expected to wear, someone who feels like their own reflection is a stranger. Most importantly, it teaches us to accept who we are, and not to judge others for how they see themselves.  

Royal Rating:


Sunday, 22 March 2015

INTERVIEW: Sarah Noffke

Today I'm happy to share with you an interview with Sarah Noffke, author of The Lucidites series! 

Can you tell us a little bit about your book, Awoken?
Awoken is the story of a young girl named Roya Stark, who has just discovered she’s a part of special race of humans and that her fate is tied to that of a dangerous man’s, Zhuang. Roya is a Dream Traveler, which allows her to use her dreams to go anywhere in space and time. She’s also clairvoyant. Zhuang has taken her family’s consciousness hostage and Roya knows the only way to save them, and the world at large, is to fight him. The Lucidites, a seemingly good society of Dream Travelers, swoop in and offer to assist Roya. However, upon arriving at their headquarters, she learns she hasn’t been told the whole truth. Still Roya remains reluctantly committed to the mission she must lead. And there is some hope for her, since she’ll have the aid of five talented Dream Travelers who all have their own special ability. Roya has plunged into a dynamic and dangerous new world, but what keeps her awake at night is the fact that the fate of humanity’s dreams rest of her shoulders.

Awoken is the first in The Lucidites series, in which all three books were released at the same time. What made you decide to release the whole series all at once?
I did make the conscious decision to release all three books in the series at once, and have since learned this is considered an edgy approach. The reason I did this was to cater to the reader’s needs. Releasing one book at a time stirs up a lot of media and marketing attention. But readers, from my experience, don’t want to wait. Why make them? I’m a reader and I loathe when I have to wait six months for the next book to come out. And all too often, by the time the book is released I’m off reading something else and can’t get back to it for a long time. I’m not sure that I’ll always release all my books in a series at once, but if it’s what the reader wants then I will. I serve readers, not a hungry publisher.

What inspired you to write about people who can dream travel?
I’ve always been obsessed with dreams. They’re this enigma, which seem to carry so much power. How many times have you dreamed something that came true the next day? Or dreamed about a friend and then they called out of the blue? Or had the strangest déjà vu? Dreams hold so much richness and also a ton of mystery. I have always wondered how I could use them more fully in my own life by lucid dreaming. All these fascinations of mine with dreams led to the idea of a special race who transcend time and space when asleep. And from there the rest of the story slowly unraveled.

How did you come up with the villain of the story, Zhuang?
The idea for an ancient villain came to me when I was reading about Zhuangzi, who was a Taoist philosopher. He said, “Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was myself. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.” Once I read this I quickly latched onto the idea of a villain who was once good, but became corrupt through greed. And so Zhuang was born, but he dreamt himself as things much more threatening than a butterfly. Maybe most writer’s start with creating the hero, but in my case I started with the antagonist. From there the idea of stealing consciousness through dreams took shape and everything fell into place.

Did you relate to Roya at all, or any of the other characters whilst writing the story?
I relate to all of my characters in one way or another. Roya is in many ways a lot like me, and in other ways we’re complete opposites. She’s quiet and antisocial, which I’m not at all. She’s also very brave and a badass, and I can’t say I’ve ever been either of those. However, we both share a love for classic literature, use sarcasm way too much in conversation, and truly believe the world is innately good. Besides from Roya, I think the character I relate to the most is Aiden, or at least I highly admire him. He’s a very focused individual, who also doesn’t take himself too seriously. I love how much life he interjects into his scenes. Is it wrong that I want to be a nerdy scientist in my next life?

What made you decide to write the series for young adults?
YA is my genre of choice when reading. For young adults, nothing is fixed. For the most part they don’t know who they are, who’ll they marry, who they’ll become or where they’re life is going. All of these uncertainties make for a lot of adventure and tension. Also, young adults have a hunger for life that dissipates to a certain extent for adults. As adults, we’re bogged down by the day-to-day. Young adults have a fresher perspective. I also love interacting with my young adult audience for this reason. They are so inquisitive and passionate.

What was your favourite part of the writing process?
Falling in love with the characters. When I first start writing a book all of these characters come to me, like I’m meeting the whole gang at a party. Over weeks of outlining and brainstorming, their personalities are revealed. Then I start writing and it’s like we’ve all taken an extended holiday together. Somewhere between the first page of a novel and the last, I find that I’ve attached myself to a few different characters and in some cases, fallen madly in love with them. I’ll tell you this, when I finished the last book in The Lucidites series I cried and cried and cried. I felt like all my friends had gotten on a ship and sailed to a distant land where I would never see them again. Yes, that’s right! I have imaginary friends.

Do you have any advice for other inspiring writers out there?
Every writer has advice on this topic and it’s all worthy. It’s advice from other writers that’s made me who I am. With that being said, I don’t want to repeat what most say, but I’m going to anyway. My promise is that I’ll try to say something new too.

So most will tell an aspiring writer (and they’re correct) to read as much as possible, write every day, and read books on how to write.

Alright, now here’s my something new that I give to only you: Become intimately acquainted with the writer inside you. This is not a person the world outside will know. This is the part inside you that only you know, that tells stories inside your head, and imagines fantastic things when the normal day-to-day is going on around you. You’re the only one who knows this person and the only one who can interpret their stories. Make a habit of closing your eyes once a day and meditating with this person. In time you will be so connected to them that their words will flow from you effortlessly. Most writers I know will agree that their books do not come from them, but rather through them. This happens when you open up this channel.

And if that sounds too metaphysical for you, well then just check out Stephen King’s autobiography, On Writing. He’s a genius.

Finally, are you working on any other novels at the moment?
I’m currently writing a new trilogy. I’ve complete the first two books and hope to start the third by early spring. It another series about Dream Travelers. There’s all new characters. A new society. And it’s WAY more dystopian than The Lucidites. It’s also a lot darker and a little sexier, but still YA. The series is called The Reverians.

Thanks so much to Sarah for stopping by! You can read my review of Awoken here, and look out soon for my review of book two in The Lucidites series, Stunned. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

REVIEW: Awoken by Sarah Noffke

Bookish Details:
Series: The Lucidites #1
Pages: 312 Paperback
Publisher: One-Twenty-Six Press
Release Date: November 24th 2014
Source: Provided by author in exchange for honest review
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK

Synopsis:
Around the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent. And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she? That’s the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?

My Review:
The description of this book immediately intrigued me. It follows the story of Roya Stark, who is trying to come to terms with being a dream traveler. She has been selected as part of a team who will try and rid the world of the man who is stealing people’s consciousness: Zhuang.

As much as I want to discuss every aspect of this awesome story, I’m going to keep this review spoiler free, so you can all go and discover it for yourself.

First of all, the writing throughout this book was beautifully descriptive, and it really helps the reader to understand what’s going on in Roya’s mind. I found the first couple of chapters a little hard to follow, but once Roya got to the Institute, and more was revealed about The Lucidites, I began to ease into the story.

Roya was a fantastic character who developed well throughout. I found her reactions to the situations around her realistic and relatable. And she definitely knew how to kick some ass! Everything happens quite quickly in the first few chapters, so we don’t get to see much of her life with Bob and Steve, the people who take her in after her family are corrupted by Zhuang. They seem like an interesting pair, and I’d love to find out more about them.

All of the other characters were written brilliantly. I loved Joseph from the start. He added a bit of light-hearted humour and genuine warmth to the story. I’m very interested to see how he progresses through the series.

Aiden owned my heart from the minute he was introduced. A guy wearing glasses and a Fall Out Boy t-shirt, of course I was going to love him. How could I not? I liked that he wasn’t perfect, and that he did things that go against what Roya believes in. They challenge each other, and that’s why they work so well together. I’m excited to see how their relationship changes in the future.

The only small problem I had with the story was George. I really liked getting to know more about him as the story went on, but I didn’t feel the love interest connection that sparked up between him and Roya. I think it would have felt a little more believable if it had been built up longer. I do, however, think George has wonderful potential, and I can’t wait to find out more about him. 

I’d love to find out more about Zhuang, and how he came to be the way he is. I’d also love the story to explore more of the time traveling side of the dreamscape. The fact that The Lucidites can travel to any point in time is fascinating, and I hope that’s something we get to see more of in the series.

There was a fantastic twist that happened in the second half of the book which I was really pleased about. I felt like it was needed and I can’t wait to see how that effects the characters in the next story.

This book is a prime example of why people need to be reading the work of indie authors. This story has been more way exciting and captivating than some of the widely published books I’ve read in the past. Anyone who loves a good fantasy and sci-fi story should definitely be checking this one out. 

Royal Rating:



Sunday, 1 March 2015

REVIEW: Dealing With Devils by Pembroke Sinclair

Bookish Details:
Series: The Road to Salvation #2
Publisher: Booktrope
Release Date: January 16th 2015
Source: Received by author is exchange for honest review
Buy it From: Amazon - Amazon UK

Synopsis:
Dating a demon has its advantages, like helping deliver souls to Hell. Wait...what? 

Katie’s world has been turned upside down. She's fallen for Josh—despite the fact that he’s a demon from Hell. Wes is finally out of her system and her life. Convinced she can change Josh, she sets out to make him a better person, only to find out things aren’t as simple as she’d originally thought. For one thing, Josh has Katie help him deliver souls to Hell, and she kind of likes it. And to top it off, other more powerful demons are battling for her soul, and revelations from the past could change the course of her life forever.

My Review:
Dealing With Devils picks up where the story left off in The Appeal of Evil, and it’s straight away more engaging than the first book. It might be because I already knew the characters this time around and had a basic understanding of the story, but it was much easier to follow this time around.

Wes is now out of Katie’s life, and she’s coming to terms with her situation. As she spends more time harvesting souls with Josh, we get to see more about him and his life. I loved that we get to know Josh a little better in this book because throughout The Appeal of Evil, I couldn’t understand at all what Katie saw in him. Although I still think he and Katie needed a few more bonding scenes together, I can see why she is drawn to him now.

I felt like the plot was a lot more in-depth and exciting in this book. What I liked most was the reveal regarding Katie about two-thirds of the way into the story. I definitely perked up when I found out the truth about her, and I think that particular plot has a lot of potential that I’m excited to see explored. Bringing the myths into it really added some much needed thrill and danger to the story, because although Josh is a demon, and has taken Katie to Hell, it still didn’t have an edge-of-the-seat atmosphere to me before then.

There are still parts of the story that focus too much on Katie’s thoughts and feelings about the guys in her life, and I sometimes found myself wanting to skim over big chunks of descriptions about Katie’s ever-changing feelings towards Josh.

In my review of the first book, I mentioned that I’d really like to see Katie get an ally in the sequel, preferably a girl, because I thought she lacked a friendship and bond without romance thrown into it. I still haven’t gotten that in this second book, and I still feel like it’s needed. A lot of the people Katie meets are romantically perusing her in some way or another, and it just doesn’t feel that believable to me for some reason.

Also, poor Deb had a really hard time in this story, and I feel that she’s been overlooked once again. She has potential to be a fantastic character, but it’s just not working out so far. I’m really hoping we get to learn more about her family’s connection to Praesuls in the next book.

The ending was great, and although I was expecting the cliff-hanger that occurred, I loved reading it. I’m curious to see what Katie’s reaction will be in the next book, and how it will shake things up. 

Royal Rating:


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