Tuesday, 3 May 2016

#ThisIsWhoIAm: What Would I Put In A Time Capsule?

Hey bookworms! May 5th marks the release of the fabulous The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood. In honor of the time capsule that Gottie and her best friend Thomas create in the book, I thought I'd photograph some of the items I think I'd include in my own time capsule! So, This Is Who I Am.

Firstly, I'd include a pair of earphones to signify my love of music. My favourite music is a huge part of who I am, so I'd have to represent that in some way! The next thing is my favourite bookmark. This shows two things about me: my love of reading, and my loves of giraffes. Seriously, giraffes are the cutest, don't argue with me on this. The third thing that would go in the capsule is my volunteer badge from the Oxfam store that I've been volunteering at for the past two years. The store has shaped my life in so many ways. 

What next? Well, I'd have to include the cinema ticket for the last film I went to see, Civil War! (No, I'm still not over it.) I'd also add my favourite writing pen that I've had for years. I got it during a school trip to a museum in which I utterly fell in love with all of the ancient Egyptian artifacts. The next thing I'd pop in the box is a picture of my dog, Dilly!

Next I'd include a camera lens cap. Photography is a huge part of my life and has meant a lot to me since taking it up a few years ago. Now I couldn't imagine not being behind a camera lens, capturing photographs! I'd also include the rocks I collected from the summit of Mount Snowdon when I climbed it in 2014, to remind future me that I kept on climbing, even when things got tough! 

As for books, I'd include two of my most important ones. The first being Harry Potter because it quite literally changed my life and inspired me to read! The second being an anthology that two of my own short stories are actually published in!

I'd also include tokens to signify two of my favorite books series: The Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Games. Along with a quote postcard from another one of my all time favourite books, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell! 

I think I'd also throw in a couple of paintbrushes to signify the new hobby that I've taken up over the past year: watercolour! 

Lastly, I'd include a picture of my bestie, my sister, and myself!

What would you include in your time capsule? What would represent the person you are today? Let me know in the comments! Also, be sure to share your ideas on Twitter using #ThisIsWhoIAm. I'll be a sharing a few more time capsule related posts on my Twitter and Instagram this week!

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel . . .

Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason left her - the boy to whom she lost her virginity (and her heart) - and he wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral! This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time - back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last. The Square Root of Summer is an astounding and moving debut from Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

GUEST POST: Sarah Mussi Shares Her Tips For Writing About Local Legends!

Today I'm excited to share with you this awesome guest post from author Sarah Mussi - enjoy!

Myth and local legend are a positive gold mine for creative writing - packed with mystery, magic, romance and danger, what better ingredients for a true teen novel!

Better still, every area in the world has its share of local spooky tales and mythical monsters!

Sarah Mussi, multi-award winning author of HERE BE DRAGONS – BOOK ONE IN THE SNOWDONIA CHRONICLES, and a wealth of other topical teen and Y.A. titles, gives her top ten tips to help aspiring young writers use their local legends to create terrifying tales.

1) Create your protagonists: give them heroic qualities.
Who is going to be the hero of your story? And what qualities will they have? Nobody loves a hero who cries and whines a lot, so your protagonist needs to be strong and just the kind of person you would like to be, when you are in a good mood! Take time to think about those qualities, and be very strict about not allowing reality to get in the way of a good story!

2) Your protagonist needs a truly awe-inspiring goal to work towards.
All strong narratives are driven by the need of the central character to achieve a goal. The journey that this person makes may be filled with conflict, tension and obstacles, but as long as they have a strong goal, that they are determined to reach, your protagonist will find the necessary strength to overcome the obstacles and find solutions to all the problems life throws at them.

3) Now you need to do local research.
Every square mile of the UK is filled with tales of the unexpected - local legends of wizards and witches; terrifying accounts of big cats on the loose; myths about hills and valleys, wells, stones and rivers. Your local museum, or ordinance survey map, or tourist souvenir shop, will often have details of these types of stories. Take time to do your research. Talk to residents whose families have grown up in the area. And of course there is always the Internet! Failing all of that, go for a long walk through your nearby countryside, and start imagining the kinds of stories the features of the local landscape might suggest to you.

4) Now serve up your local legends with a twist.
Imagine that your protagonist meets one of the characters from the legends you have learnt about. Perhaps on the way home from school, they face a horrifying encounter with the Beast of Bodmin Moor! (Or whichever truly terrifying monster is rumoured to live in your area.) If you live on the shores of Loch Ness, you have a ready-made monster to work with! Start to believe the myths and legends you have researched into, then imagine how they will impact the life of your protagonist. Will the character/monsters become obstacles, or solutions to your protagonist’s quest to achieve their heart’s desire?

5) Create an antagonist.
All conflict and tension in truly gripping stories is created by the machinations of a villain! If possible borrow one of the many villains that exist in mythology. This gives your villain a second and important layer of terrifying-ness. It makes them genuine and real! Also most villains in myth and legend have supernatural powers too. SHIVER! They also have an archetypal presence, which makes them truly scary.

6) Take time with your setting.
The setting of your story may be one of the single most important features that you have direct control over. Setting can offer all kinds of conflicts and tensions. I chose to set to my teenage romantic, adventure, mythical-fantasy on Mount Snowdon. This meant there was lots of potential to get lost, be put in danger, freeze, or fall off huge cliffs! This all added to the tension and sense of jeopardy in the story. So where is your story set? Can you go there and take notes about what it is like? Notice details of the landscape. The kind of things you hear. Note down bird song, wind activity, sounds far away in the distance, maybe aeroplanes? What about traffic? Or maybe the sound of the sea? Think about what you can smell as well. Every place has a slightly different smell. Unfortunately in the English language, we have a very limited vocabulary for the sense of smell. Things either smell good or bad or putrid or sour or sweet. However, you can add to this by creating metaphors and similes to help the reader imagine what the place smells like.

7) Now begin your story in medias res.
In the medias res is the term authors use for starting a story in the middle of the action. Experienced writers start a story in the middle of things, because this is what engages the readers’ attention the most quickly. Because - don’t forget you are writing a story to entertain a reader! Although you may enjoy it for yourself, you need to keep the reader on your side and totally engaged in the twists and turns your protagonist faces. So your first job is to get the reader to be on your protagonist’s side. This means creating reader empathy with your main character. The best way to do this is to have your readers see the hero in the middle of an action scene, using all their heroic qualities to do something truly great. If your main character has to sacrifice and be hurt in order to do this, it is all the better! Your reader will love them all the more. Once you have your reader on the same side as your main character, you can then tell more about the background to the story.

8) Roughly plot out the journey your story will take. 
Once you have your main character, their goal, a villain, the setting, the local legends and myths with its monsters and problems, you can start to map the journey your protagonist will need to take to meet their goal. This is lots of fun. You can heap obstacles and difficulties in the path of your protagonist. You can use your inventive powers to help them overcome the conflicts. Don’t forget to make it action packed and full of jeopardy, this will keep your reader firmly on the page.

9) Get inside the skin on your character and starts to think like them.
Once you have mapped out the main plot of your story. You need to write it from the viewpoint of your main character. This may be through a first person delivery, or you may use a limited third person point of view. These are the two most common points of view used to promote a narrative about one character’s adventures and journey towards their goal. Using this form of viewpoint enables the reader to closely experience all the thoughts and feelings of the character. This helps the reader to imagine themselves in the role of the main character and experience the events, as if they were happening to themselves.

10) Write the Obligatory Scene.
Nearly all exciting narrative ends with a climax. This is called the obligatory scene. It is when the hero must face their darkest hour, overcome their deepest fears, and go forth to meet the villain in a final confrontation. The main push of the narrative has been bearing down to this collision. The goals of the protagonists and the antagonist will clash during this last important scene. There may be bloodshed! It is useful to have as many characters as you can - from the story - onstage in this scene. This is the shootout at the O.K. Corral! High Noon has come and there can be only one victor! Make the scene as full of action as you can.

Circular endings? After all the dust has settled and every character has received their just deserts. The brave have been rewarded, the wicked punished. After the hero has returned home, triumphant with their goal achieved, it is time for you to go back to the beginning of the story and do your editing. During this second draft, you will see much more clearly the story points that need to stay and the ones that need to be cut or changed. This is very important work for a writer. It tightens the story up and makes it unbeatable!

Sarah Mussi’s latest book HERE BE DRAGONS: Book One of THE SNOWDONIA CHRONICLES (Vertebrate Publishing) is already out. BOOK TWO: HERE BE WICHES is coming OCT 2016.

Ellie Morgan wants a boy who's all hers. Just for once, it would be nice to meet someone that Sheila (the cow) hadn't got her claws in to.

A remote farmhouse on Mount Snowdon is hardly the ideal setting for meeting anyone unless, of course, you count her best friend George or creepy Darren (which Ellie doesn't). But when a boy, glimpsed through the mist and snow, lures her up to the Devil's Bridge, Ellie realises the place she knows so well still has its secrets...

The stronger her feelings for this strange boy become, the more she is in danger: a battle as old as Snowdon itself has been raging for centuries and now Ellie's caught in the middle.

Something has left its lair.

It's out there stalking her.

Who ever said true love was easy? 

SARAH MUSSI (author of over eight children’s books)
Winner of the Glen Dimplex & Irish Writers' Award for Best Children's Book
Shortlisted for Branford Boase Award
Nominated for the Carnegie Medal
RIOT ~ Winner of the 2015 Lancashire Book Award
SIEGE - WINNER OF THE CONTEMPORARY BBUKYA AWARD ~ shortlisted~ Oldham Book Award, Leeds, Catalyst Book Award ~ Listed for UKLA, Hampshire Independent Book Awards
BOMB ~ shortlisted for the Lancashire Book Award 2016

Here Be Dragons: showcased in The People’s Book Prize! 

Friday, 29 April 2016

REVIEW: Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi

Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Vertebrate Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: September 1st 2015
Buy The Book: Amazon UK

Ellie Morgan wants a boy who’s all hers. Just for once, it would be nice to meet someone that Sheila the cow hadn't got her claws in to.

A remote farmhouse on Mount Snowdon is hardly the ideal setting for meeting anyone – unless, of course, you count her best friend George or creepy Darren (which Ellie doesn’t). But when a boy, glimpsed through the mist and snow, lures her up to the Devil's Bridge, Ellie realises the place she knows so well still has its secrets ...

The stronger her feelings for this strange boy become, the more she is in danger: a battle as old as Snowdon itself has been raging for centuries and now Ellie’s caught in the middle.

Something has left its lair.

It’s out there stalking her.

Who ever said true love was easy?

My Thoughts:
I adore Mount Snowdon. It’s one of my favourite places. (I climbed it two years ago and it was the most beautiful experience ever.) So imagine how excited I was to read a YA story set on the mountain itself! Here Be Dragons is an exciting mixture of mythology and romance, following Ellie as she discovers a strange boy on the mountain. Curious to learn more about him, she ignores his warnings to forget about meeting him. As their connection grows and Ellie find out more about his life, she becomes determined to free him from the difficult situation he’s trapped in. 

Ellie was such a fun protagonist and I loved her witty comments throughout the story. She had a chatty way of narrating that made her relatable and endearing. The texts between Ellie and her friends were really fun. Rhiannon and Shelia are very different from each other, so I enjoyed seeing the contrast in the style of their texts. It was a bit of a shame that Shelia had to be a catty character, always trying to steal boys from other girls. I actually felt a little sorry for her, and I’m keen to know if there’s more to her character than what this first books allows us to see.

When Ellie meets Henry and they get to spend more time together, I enjoyed the conversations that happened between them. They do seem to bond rather quickly, but it’s not all smooth sailing for the two of them. I look forward to seeing how things move forward after that ending!

I’ll admit that Ellie’s best friend, George, was completely my favourite. As intriguing and lovely as Henry was, I know which guy I’d choose if I was in Ellie’s situation. He was just full of wit and enthusiasm, not to mention he was willing to do literally anything in order to keep Ellie safe. I couldn’t help but find him utterly adorable. I don’t exactly blame Rhiannon for constantly trying her luck with him! 

The best aspect of this story for me was the plot itself. I was drawn in by the history and the mythology of the mountain and its dragons. Learning the legends was fascinating, and I loved the modern and romantic twists added into it for the sake of this story. It’s gotten me excited to learn more. The setting was also awesomely epic and vividly described. I felt like I was up on that mountain with Ellie most of the time. 

This was a thrilling read that got more and more action packed as it reached the end. I’m eager to see what this world has in store for these characters next!

Royal Rating:


Thursday, 21 April 2016

COVER REVEAL: Shadow by Christi J. Whitney

Hey everyone! Today I'm excited to share with you the gorgeous cover for SHADOW by the awesome Christi J. Whitney!

Isn't it beautiful? This is the second book in the The Romany Outcasts series, and it's due to be released this June. Be sure to check out my recent interview with Christi here, and read the blurb for the book below!
The second volume in this incredible YA trilogy.

When stone hearts break they shatter.

Sebastian Grey used to be a normal teenager. Now he’s a creature whose sole purpose is to be a guardian for secretive gypsy clans.

When the Romany gypsies claim him, Sebastian is given a second chance to protect Josephine Romany – the girl he loves. But some clan members would rather see a gargoyle in a cage than have one by their sides.

If Sebastian is to keep Josephine safe from the shadow creatures attacking her people, he might have to embrace his changes. Even if that means choosing between his humanity and becoming the monster everyone believes him to be.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

REVIEW: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Release Date: February 25th 2016
Buy The Book: Amazon UK

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

My Thoughts:
I feel like I’ve been waiting to read a story like this one for a while. A YA novel that is purely focused on the importance of platonic female friendships. I was already majorly excited before I even turned to the first page. 

This story follows protagonist Caddy as she approaches the age of sixteen. At the start of the book she talks about how she feels to be reaching this age without having experienced any Significant Life Events. (Something I remember thinking about a lot at that age, so I was relating to Caddy merely six pages in!) So she wants to do something exciting, she wants some sort of turning point to happen in her life. Little does she know she’s about to get just that, only not in the way she ever expected. 

She and her best friend Rosie go to separate schools. Rosie is in a mixed high school; Caddy attends a private all-girls school. Despite this, they’ve managed to remain the very best of friends throughout the years. Then Suzanne arrives as a new girl at Rosie’s school and the friendship dynamics soon begin to change. Caddy fears that her and Rosie’s friendship may begin to drift apart as Rosie spends more and more time with Suzanne. But as the story progresses, Caddy discovers more about Suzanne’s past, and the pair begin to bond. 

The characters in this book are so beautifully written and utterly believable. I adored the contrast between Caddy and Suzanne, both having completely different upbringings and home lives. The dialogue between the girls was great; funny at times, but heartfelt when it needed to be. I highly enjoyed the night-time conversations between the two of them. 

The plot was perfectly paced and never rushed over any details. I enjoyed slowly discovering more about Suzanne’s past as the story progressed and seeing how it affected her in different ways. Whilst this particular story is fictional, there are all too many teenagers that have suffered the same situations as Suzanne, and this book touched upon them sensitively but without sugar-coating anything. That is one of the reasons why this is such an important YA story. 

As much as I wanted things to work out happily, I knew that trouble was brewing. Suzanne is dealing with a lot of problems that Caddy doesn’t fully understand, and whilst she tries to help Suzanne through it to the best of her ability, sometimes she’s not aware of what is best for her friend. Seeing Caddy’s willingness to defend and protect Suzanne was touching and demonstrated just how important friendships can be. This is one of those rare novels that shows how romantic relationships during teen years are fleeting, but friends are there to see you through not just the fun times, but the painfully hard times as well. These are characters that stay with you long after putting this book down.

Special thanks to Maximum Pop! Books for sending out a copy of the book! Discover what more readers had to say here.

Royal Rating:

Friday, 8 April 2016

REVIEW: Race Girl by Leigh Hutton

Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Series: The Go Girls Chronicles #3
Genre: Romance, Sports
Release Date: April 3rd 2016
Buy The Book: Amazon - Amazon UK

Fresh on the heels of Michelle Payne’s historic Melbourne Cup win, comes a blockbuster Australian story about a Queensland girl and the ‘race that stops a nation’ . . .

Tully Athens has always dreamed of following in the footsteps of her hero Michelle Payne. Of living up to the Athens name and becoming the third generation of women from her family to rule the track. But Tully’s never been sure she’s got the nerve, and when her mother is killed in a horse racing accident, her whole world is shattered.

Six months later, in the heat of a Queensland summer, sixteen-year-old Tully is ready to face her fears. But getting back in the saddle leads to a whole lot more than she bargained for, with an out of control crush on the boy from their rival thoroughbred farm – the gorgeous but cocky larrikin Brandon Weston – and a forgotten filly with stardom in her eyes . . .

When faced with the most difficult decision of her life, will Tully choose to train and race her new filly in Melbourne? Or will she sacrifice it all to fight for love on the land that feeds her soul?

It’s only when tragedy rips everything from her that Tully finds a strength and courage she never knew she had, in this action-packed novel of passion, adventure and determination.

RACE GIRL is the highly anticipated third book in The Go Girls Chronicles - bestselling stories of gutsy girls in action sports, by Leigh Hutton!

*A PORTION OF EVERY #RaceGirl book sold goes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, and to horse-welfare charity, Equine Action Qld*

My Thoughts:
Tully’s life hasn’t been the same since her mother tragically died during a horse racing accident, and her father has forbidden her from riding competitively for fear she could also end up injured or worse. However, she and her father are strapped for cash and the Weston family want to buy their property, Avalon Downs. Then Tully ends up getting a deal on Dahlia, a young horse in need of some serious TLC. If Tully can save Dahlia, then Dahlia might just be able to save Tully and her father in return. 

This is the third book in Leigh’s The Go Girls Chronicles series and after highly enjoying the first two, I was much looking forward to reading this latest edition. I wasn’t disappointed. Leigh has a wonderful way of telling a story that utterly draws you in and makes every moment believable. 

I adored how this story made references to the other books in this series, Rev Girl and Jump Girl. The scene in the hospital in which Tully gets to meet Clover was so awesome because I loved reading Clover’s story and to get a little update on her was great!

The characters in this book are beautifully written. Tully is a strong and determined protagonist, and I loved getting to see her grow and develop throughout the course of the story. Her passion for the horses and for racing was touching, as was her willingness to do whatever she could to save Avalon Downs. 

She meets and starts to fall for the gorgeous Brandon Weston, but being a Weston makes him forbidden fruit for Tully, so their relationship has challenges from the very start. This was an interesting aspect of the story and I enjoyed seeing how it affected these two characters. The chemistry between them is undeniable and the scenes that they shared were excited to read. 

All of the various relationships within this book were interesting to learn about. There were touching but also heart-breaking scenes between Tully and her father. Their relationship is tested over the course of the story and I was rooting for them to work things out for themselves and their life at Avalon Downs. I also highly enjoyed Tully’s friendship with Tam. The two girls had some hilarious moments and I loved the dialogue between them.

Race Girl is fast paced throughout with some epic racing scenes that will leave you on edge! The story was wrapped up in a perfectly satisfying conclusion that left me with a huge smile on my face, and it has definitely made me excited for the upcoming stories that this series has to offer.
Royal Rating:

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