Saturday, 25 June 2016

Radio Silence

Radio Silence by Alice Osman

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. 

Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets. It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has. {Goodreads Summary}

"He smiled and looked away. 'Sometimes I think we're the same person...but we just got accidentally split into two before we were born."

The most important thing to tell you about Radio Silence is that it's different. It won't be like every other YA novel you read this year, or possibly like any YA novel you've ever read before. For a start, there isn't a major romantic plot line. Instead, it's friendship that takes centre stage; not only that, but a friendship between a guy and a girl, which most teen TV shows/novels like to suggest is impossible. Radio Silence felt very realistic throughout. Osman's characters are real teens, not book teens. 

I think Radio Silence has a really positive message when it comes to exam pressure and the stress of getting into university, which is such a huge problem for British teens and is easy to relate to. I saw a lot of myself in Frances when she went to her Cambridge interview. It's nice to find a book that reflects the impact this pressure has and also goes against the school-rhetoric that exams and university are everything. Carys was a particularly strong example of this. 

I loved that Radio Silence had a competent, involved adult figure who knew what was going on in her daughter's life and did her best to support and help her. Absent/incompetent parents have become an over-used trope in YA, and Frances' mother was refreshing. 

“You're an idiot,' said Mum, when I relayed to her the entire situation on Wednesday. 'Not an unintelligent idiot, but a sort of naive idiot who manages to fall into a difficult situation and then can't get out out of it because she's too awkward.” 

If you want to read something that is different, realistic and diverse, Radio Silence is a must. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Why We Love... Goodnight Spaceman

Picture Book Review: Goodnight Spaceman

With a forward by Tim Peake, Goodnight Spaceman is a must-have for any young space enthusiasts. It follows two boys as they get ready to fall asleep, imagining themselves going on a rocket into space to see their dad, who is an astronaut on the ISS.  There is some nice use of the ESA and Principia logos and it's a great way of introducing young readers to space terminology. There is also lots to point out and discuss in the adorable illustrations. Although both of the young children are boys, there are female astronauts on the ISS, so this book should encourage both boys and girls who dream of a future in space. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

My Writing: Self-Publishing and Beyond

I am currently getting ready to query agents about Amber & Ice (which has a brand new title that I'm really excited about but am going to keep to myself for a little while longer).

This doesn't mean that I have given up on self -publishing. The Elements of Power trilogy will continue to be available as ebooks (and hopefully in physical copies when I eventually get around to it). I have loved my experience self-publishing and my writing is so much better for it. A&I wouldn't be the book it is without the helpful feedback I've received on Elements of Power from bloggers and reviewers. I have a better sense of what works well, where my weaknesses lie and have improved my pacing and plotting so much as a result. I now know that I'm good at character who polorise opinion; something I'm going to put to good use in the two other novels I have in the pipeline at the moment.

I've also learnt how to market and sell my work. Experience I never would have gained without self-publishing.

I'm proud of the sales I have achieved (and am still achieving, over a year after Air was published) with Elements of Power. I get such a thrill when I log into Amazon and look at my sales dashboard. Self-publishing has never been about making money for me, but about sharing my work and every sale is another person who is reading (and hopefully enjoying) the novels that gave me so much joy to write.

However, I know that my writing can be better. I know that the experience a good literary agent and editor can bring will be invaluable to my writing. And I still want to realise that dream of walking into Waterstones and seeing my name on the shelf. That's why I'm still searching for representation, even after my brilliant experience self-publishing.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Why We Love... Hugless Douglas

Picture Book Review: Hugless Douglas 

We have been enjoying the World Book Day edition of Hugluss Douglas for a year now, but we have only recently tried the longer stories. The characters in Hugluss Douglas are charming and the series places lots of emphasis on friendship, which is great to see. 

One of the best things about this book is there are lots of excuses for cuddles and any book which encourages those is a hit in my eyes. 

The books are bright and cheery, with lovely artwork and typography. There's also a nice number of words per page, and lots to point out and discuss in the pictures, so they hold my daughter's attention really well. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

War & Peace: Post Three - Half Way

Half way! Half way! Half way!

That's right, recently I got to see THIS amazing update at the bottom of my Kindle - and we're not even half way through the year yet!

Unfortunately, I am also up to the part of the novel that I was dreading reading, and I hope my reading speed doesn't slow down as a result. I normally read the second half of novels more quickly than the first, so fingers crossed War and Peace will be no different. 

Overall, I am still really enjoying Tolstoy's epic. I may have started reading it for a challenge, but I'm continuing because I love it. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters. {Goodreads Summary}

"I meet his gaze and sneer. My arm is a steel band around his waist. "I choose you," I say. "Simon Snow, I choose you.”

Carry On is the third Rowell novel I have read and it's the first novel I've finished this year by an author I have read before (Tolstoy doesn't count as the end of War & Peace is still twelve hours of reading time away...) It's also the third novel I've read this year written from multiple perspectives. 

“Just when you think you're having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”

I had seen a lot of love for Carry On online before I started reading it, but when I started I was a little disappointed and began to wonder what the hype was about. Then I read the first Baz chapter, and I was hooked. 

“Everyone’s still gossiping about where he’s been. The most popular rumours are “dark coming-of-age ceremony that left him too marked up to be in public” and “Ibiza.” 

I loved Baz. His perspective on the story was brilliant and not at all what I was expecting from Simon's complaints (which I guess was the point, but it still took me by surprise). I loved his dry humour and most of the funniest lines in the novel were his, but so were the most intense and the most romantic.

“Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.

He's constantly drawing you in. And you're constantly stepping too close. And you know it's not good--that there is no good--that there's absolutely nothing that can ever come of it.
But you do it anyway. 
And then...
Well. Then you burn.”

There are so many subtle Harry Potter references and parallels that I was thinking about them even while I wasn't reading. I had lots of fun spotting them. I also loved the pop culture references Rowell included through her spells (her whole concept of magic was really unique and interesting) and kept getting songs stuck in my head as a result. Despite being written by an American author, Carry On felt very British, from the language to the Bacadri Breezer references. Rowell has also given new meaning to the word 'numpty'.

“The front seat is for people who've never been kidnapped by bloody numpties. Jesus Christ, Baz.” 

I've purposely not included my favourite quote from the book, even though it appears four or five times in the Goodreads quote section, because I think you have to read it in-situ to get the full effect. When it occurs, at the end of one of Baz's first chapters, it starts the novel on a whole other level of amazingness. 

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Why We Love... Kipper

Picture Book Review: Kipper

I was already quite familiar with Kipper before Kipper's Visitor came out for World Book Day, as my younger sister used to watch the TV show and we had a few of the books when she was younger. I was really excited to introduce my daughter to another Mick Inkpen series, after the success of Zoe and Beans and Kipper's Visitor was a great introduction. It's a very simple story, but also very funny and my daughter loves shouting 'honk' when prompted. 

We picked up Kipper's Beach Ball from the library and it's been an instant hit. I was worried that there would be too many words on some of the pages to hold her attention, but that hasn't been the case at all. She is mesmerised by Kipper, Tiger and their beach ball and happy to listen to every word.

The books were re-released with new covers a couple of years ago to celebrate Kipper's 25th birthday (it turns out Kipper is older than me!). Unfortunately you can't buy them as a collection at the moment, so I think we'll be sticking to library copies for now as the entire series would be quite an investment. I will, however, definitely be digging out my sister's old copy of Kipper's A to Z next time I'm visiting my parents. Our Kipper adventure will definitely be continuing!