AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ruth Lauren 

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m hugely excited to have Ruth Lauren, who wrote one of my favourite reads of this year, here for an interview.

Let’s get started!

Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview; welcome to Golden Books Girl

It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for having me!

1. Can you please describe Prisoner of Ice and Snow in 5 words for anyone who hasn`t read it?

Prison Break meets Frozen

2. What inspired you to write the book? Had you always envisaged it as a series, or did you originally plan for just one book?

The idea began when I was watching Prison Break with my son. I wondered what that kind of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead (and then if it were set in a fantasy land where I could add all sorts of interesting challenges and twists). 

I actually only planned a standalone, but every publishing house interested in the story wanted a sequel, and once I started thinking about what might happen to Valor and Sasha next, I knew they were right. 

3. The world of Demidova is so vivid and layered. How did you go about your worldbuilding? Were there any high points or challenges during this process?
You’re so kind, thank you!

I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison. 

Once the setting was fixed in my mind, the details had to reflect the landscape—the animals that inhabit it, the clothes the people need to wear, the food they might be able to access. My editor was brilliant at helping me think about other aspects that add to making the world feel real—like special celebration days in the city, the history of the prison and the geography involved with surrounding lands and how they might impact on the story.  

I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power. I wanted the sisters to inhabit a world where they don’t have to struggle or overcome (at least not in this aspect) and it would never occur to them that those positions weren’t open or available to them. They see women in every role in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. That was a really important part of the world to me. 

The whole experience was actually one big high point (or at least it feels like it in retrospect). Prisoner is very different from anything I’d written before and it was a lot of fun to write. 

4. Your heroine Valor, is so brave and I really sympathised with her throughout the book, even if I didn`t agree with her decisions. Who would you say your top three heroines are?

Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here. 

TV: Buffy, Jessica Jones, Lisa Simpson

Books: Katsa (Graceling), Feo (The Wolf Wilder) and Katniss Everdeen

5. Alongside Valor is a variety of other prisoners who form a fabulous ensemble cast. Which character of these is your favourite?
I have a soft spot for little Feliks, but Katia is my girl.  

6. What`s your writing process like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I really don’t! Just outlining, trying to write 1k a day when I’m drafting, and wondering how people who listen to music when they write can possibly concentrate.

7. If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?

I would love to steal The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for my own. Or anything by Laini Taylor or Kristin Cashore or Katherine Rundell. Their imaginations feel so much bigger than my own and I know I could never write anything on the scale that the first three do or with the inimitable style that Katherine Rundell does.  

8. Finally, before our quickfire round, can you let anything slip about the sequel to Prisoner of Ice and Snow, Seeker to the Crown?

Seeker picks up right where Prisoner left off and with Princess Anastasia now missing, Valor is plunged straight into another exciting mission. More crossbow, more icy danger, and I don’t want to say too much, but a certain monarch may vanish leaving Demidova in chaos . . . 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house- I have no idea!

Favourite flavour of ice cream– Salted Caramel 

Animal you`d most want to turn into?- Cheetah

City/country you most want to go on holiday to that you haven`t yet? Florence, Italy
Favourite season of the year?- Spring
Thank you so much to Ruth for answering my questions, and Emily at Bloomsbury for setting the interview up!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post everyone! I’d love to hear what you thought if this book if you’ve read it!

 Amy xxx

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Blog Tour Review: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren 

Hello everybody! 

Today, I’m incredibly excited to be part of the blog tour for Ruth Lauren’s Prisoner of Ice and Snow. I read this back in July, and I’ve been super excited for today ever since, as I really couldn’t have loved it very much more! Huge, HUGE thanks to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for allowing me to be part of this tour!

Let’s get onto the review!

*I recieved a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

In her debut novel, Ruth Lauren transports us to the wintry kingdom of Demidova, where we meet heroine Valor, who has got herself put into prison so she can break her sister out.
Valor is a fantastic character as I really rooted for her, and I also love the supporting cast of the other prisoners who joined the escape attempt as they all felt well rounded and fairly unique, which isn’t always the case with ensemble casts. The book also featured some absolutely chilling villains.

This is super fast paced (and quite a short book), and there was almost constant action that made me want to keep turning the pages. There were some major twists and turns, and they’ll leave you not quite sure of which characters you can trust. 

As well as excellent characters and plotting, the worldbuilding is exceptional. Demidova felt multi faceted and I loved it as a fantasy world.

Finally, I thought the actual writing was brilliant. It struck the perfect balance for me of good prose/exciting imagery and keeping the plot advancing.

I’m unbelievably excited for the sequel to this next year, as it’s by far one of my favourite books this year. 

5/5 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Summary:

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.
No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …
An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable
About the author

Ruth Lauren lives in the West Midlands in England with her family and a lot of cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

August Reviews

Hi everybody!

It`s September! Can you believe it? Today I`m planning to share my reviews of (almost) all of the books I read in August. I enjoyed every single book I read this month enough to review it (yay for fab books!) but I took part in a readathon over the past week and I haven’t quite had to catch up on reviews for the books I read during it yet, thanks to pesky homework . I read some amazing books though, so I`m super excited to include them in my September wrap up next month!

Let`s get started with the reviews!


The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

I had been excited about this book from the moment it was announced on Twitter, so I couldn`t have been more thrilled when I won a giveaway so I picked up the book almost right after it came through my door. It more than lived up to my expectations! While I hadn`t expected the US setting I still liked it, and the book tackles the timely issues of slut shaming and feminism, and also their link to the Internet/social media. I don`t want to say too much about the plot as I didn`t know exactly what it would be like when I went in and I think it made my reading experience even more enjoyable. Izzy is one of the best narrators I think I have ever read; she manages to be witty, irreverent and relatable and I absolutely loved her as a character.  I also really liked the other main characters such as Izzy`s gran Betty, best friend Ajita and love interest Carson (I`m especially hoping to see more of Carson in the sequel, which I`m already incredibly excited for!). Finally, this book manages to be hilarious and touching in equal measures and also made me fuming with society at some points. I highly recommend this book to everyone, but especially for fans of Moxie and the Spinster Club books. 5/5

Gaslight by Eloise Wiliams (received from Firefly Press in exchange for an honest review)

In her 2nd novel, Eloise Williams tells the story of Nansi, a young girl who works in a sinister, shady theatre/circus and is searching for her mother who she hasn`t seen since she was very young. I initially struggled to get into Gaslight as it`s quite slow paced until just over halfway through, but I did like the immersive descriptive writing as it allowed me to build a picture of the setting in my mind. I liked Nansi a lot as a narrator, mainly because of her unique `style` with the imagery, but I also sympathised with her and her situation hugely. Even though I did have a few issues with the pacing and also the book being very different in both plot and tone to what I`d thought when reading the blurb, I still enjoyed this and I think you would love it if you enjoy gothic books. 3.5/5

Simply the Quest by Maz Evans

Much to my surprise, Simply the Quest not only managed to match Who Let the Gods Out in quality, but was even better. In this book, Maz Evans continues the story of Elliot Hooper, who is having to deal with his mum`s dementia, learning more about his dad and why he hasn`t been part of his life (so far) and also living with several of the Greek Gods and Zodiac sign Virgo. The book manages to have phenomenal humour throughout (it was even funnier than book 1, and I feel like there`s a superb mix of humour for younger and older readers to enjoy). The characters, especially the gods, form a huge part of this as they`re such zany, cool characters and it was brilliant to get to know more about the gods we already know such as Zeus and Hermes, and meeting others like Hades and Persephone for the first time (I wasn`t a big fan of Hermes in book one, but I adore him now!). Maz Evans is also excellent at writing her villains. Even though they make me laugh, I`m still terrified of them (especially Nyx and Patricia Porshley-Plum). However, the book was extremely poignant in places too, and I found myself in tears during some scenes. Elliot`s relationship with his mum Josie is particularly heartbreaking. This is a perfectly plotted and paced mythical adventure which I seriously can`t imagine someone not adoring. 5/5 (and I`d give it even more if I could, trust me)

The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens

In the long-awaited sequel to the London Eye Mystery (written by Robin Stevens on behalf of Siobhan Dowd and her Trust), protagonist Ted sets off to New York and soon finds himself with a new case to solve when a painting is stolen from the Guggenheim Museum and his Aunt Gloria is accused. Ted is one of my favourite narrators and characters of all time and I was really worried before reading that his voice wouldn`t be the same, but he was in the safest of hands with Robin as if anything, I adored him even more this time around. Robin managed to be both incredibly faithful to London Eye, but I also felt some of her influences throughout the book, which was lovely. The New York setting was so well described that I felt I was there with Ted, his sister Kat and Salim, his cousin. The relationships between these characters also changed, and I enjoyed the subplot about Kat and Salim`s plans for their future careers. I did partially guess the solution to the mystery (which I don’t usually, so I was very pleased with myself!) but I still loved following the plot and I`d recommend this to anyone who wants a fun mystery with a glorious setting and some of the most iconic characters in British children`s books back and better than ever. 5/5

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison 

In their 3rd novel, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison return to upper YA to tell the story of Phoebe and Luke as they begin university. I liked the characters (especially Phoebe`s new friends Frankie and Negin) and the plot, which explored the ups and downs of the first few months of university, but as I haven`t been to university I did find it a little bit harder to relate to as I know next to nothing about it. The book was also more serious in tone than I`d expected (I found the way it tackled `lad` culture excellent), but there were also some real laugh out loud moments. This hasn`t taken Lobsters` place in my heart, but I`m still glad I read it, and I`m looking forward to whatever Tom and Lucy write next. 3.5/5

Songs About Us by Chris Russell

This book is incredibly hard to review without spoiling any of it for you, as these are the most suspenseful YA contemporaries I`ve ever read. I had found a few parts of the 1st book, Songs About a Girl, slightly slow paced, but I was absolutely gripped throughout this book, and the ending has made me desperate to get my hands on Songs About a Boy next year. This continues the story of Charlie, who is given the opportunity to take photos for the world`s biggest boyband Fire and Lights, and is also linked to mysterious frontman Gabriel West in a way we don`t know yet. The characters in these books are phenomenal. They are layered and multi-faceted, and in a lot of ways feel like they could be real celebrities from our world. This book managed to develop every single one further and in really interesting, often unexpected ways. I particularly liked band members Aiden and Yuki`s arcs (although I do wish we`d seen a little more of Aiden`s). I also loved protagonist Charlie even more in this book and still thought she was really easy to sympathise with, as well as her best friend Melissa, who I wasn`t very keen on book 1. Overall, if you loved Songs About a Girl, I think you`ll fall head over heels for the sequel. 4.5/5

Being Miss Nobody by Tamsin Winter

This is one of the best debut novels I`ve read this year, if not ever. I was hooked from page one, as we`re told the story of Rosalind, a girl with selective mutism who is starting high school. The book sensitively tackles selective mutism, bullying and social media (and some parts of Rosalind`s school experience resonated with things I`ve seen in the past, and I feel like a lot of readers will be able to identify with her fears about secondary school). The book also dealt with childhood cancer from a sibling perspective (Rosalind`s younger brother Seb is very ill throughout the novel), and for this and also the writing style and general tone of the book, I was reminded of Sally Nicholls` Ways to Live Forever. This moved me as much as that story did too. I was on an absolute rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout Being Miss Nobody; I laughed at Rosalind and Seb`s adorable sibling relationship, I cried when Rosalind was struggling at school and with life and I was joyous when things went well for her. Each character felt real to me and I loved them all so much (except, of course, the bullies). Finally, the ending was just perfect for the book- it was bittersweet but hopeful, and left me sobbing but wholly satisfied with this story (which I read in a matter of hours. I physically couldn`t stop reading). I can`t tell you how phenomenal this book is. 5/5

The Secrets of Superglue Sisters by Susie Day

This book is exactly what I`ve come to expect from Susie Day- a funny, touching contemporary that tackles things relevant to the people the book is aimed at (in my opinion); periods, blended families, struggling to fit in and make friends. The Secrets of the Superglue Sisters tells the story of Georgie and Jem, two best friends whose parents fall in love and decide to move in together, and explores how that changes their friendship. It also sees them starting a new school and making friends, and there`s also the mystery of who stole their classmate`s secrets for a class project to solve (and I SERIOUSLY didn`t see this twist coming, although I did guess what the smaller subplot of Georgie`s secret would be). The characters were hugely lovable, especially Jem`s little brother and sister, and I also completely adore the cameos from the Pea quartet/the other Secrets books as it makes me feel like I`m part of their community and I know everyone in it as I read. The only thing I had a slight issue with was that I struggled to identify between Georgie and Jem in the dual narrative, but I still recommend this to anyone who loves Susie`s books like I do, and anyone else who enjoys awesome characters, an intriguing and fun plot and contemporary MG in general. 4/5

Fly Me Home by Polly Ho-Yen

Ho-Yen`s debut Boy in the Tower is one of my favourite books of all time, and Fly Me Home came very close to being just as good. Fly Me Home enchanted me from the first page with the tale of Leelu, a girl coming to London from abroad and finds it difficult to settle in, until she finds magical objects and meets some rather special friends. The book is a real mix of the magical realism element and real, contemporary issues, and also touches on immigration and the meaning of home. Every single character in this book, good or bad or in between, is superbly written and I loved Leelu and her brother Tiber, who also faces some issues when arriving in England, especially. The prose, imagery and writing style is completely gorgeous, and the ending was perfect (I was in tears). I have a feeling my copy of Fly Me Home may become just as treasured as Boy in the Tower in years to come. If you haven`t discovered Polly Ho-Yen`s lyrical, magical and utterly unique novels yet I can`t recommend them enough. 5/5

Hope by Rhian Ivory (received from Firefly Press in exchange for an honest review)

In this fantastic contemporary YA novel, Rhian Ivory tells the story of Hope, who is having to reevaluate her future plans after being rejected from every drama school she applied to, and is made to work with a singing team in a hospital by her mum to stop her moping. I thought the hospital setting was fabulous- it`s the closest to ones I`ve been in that I`ve ever read, and I also learnt some new information about hospitals/medicine, which I hadn`t expected going in. Hope was an excellent protagonist as she was really relatable and felt like someone you could actually come across. She also suffers from PMDD, a condition related to periods that I`d never heard of and I`m really glad the book raised awareness of it. I also liked the majority of the supporting characters and I especially liked Hope`s Nonno. The only thing I wasn`t keen on in Hope was her love interest Riley as I just couldn`t take to him as a character, but this is still a fantastic YA contemporary I seriously recommend reading once it comes out as I was so desperate to know how Hope`s story would unfold that I got through this in a single sitting. 4.5/5

Defender of the Realm by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

I picked this up after seeing a positive review from a blogger I really trust, and I totally loved it. It`s about Alfie, heir to the throne, as he assumes his new role and discovers he must also become a superhero/vigilante figure known as the Defender, who deals with the mythical creatures that have caused all of the disasters in British history. I thought this was an unusual, cool and intriguing concept and I can`t think of anything especially similar to this. Alfie was a great main character as I really sympathised with him and wanted him to succeed and I also liked the supporting cast (I particularly appreciated LC and Brian, who are helping Alfie prepare for his new roles, and Hayley). I did find the book slightly slow paced in places but for the last 150 pages or so I physically couldn`t put this down as I was so desperate to know what was going to happen. This section was filled with twists and turns I didn`t see coming, and the one on the last page especially left me gasping, to the point where I went and ordered the sequel immediately. I`m so excited to pick up book two now! 4.5/5

Thank you for reading! Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my thoughts on them? Are any on your TBR? I’d really love to hear in the comments below or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

See you soon with a new post

Amy xxx

Author Interview: Jess Butterworth 

Hello everyone!

Today, I’m incredibly excited to welcome another author for a Q&A; the incredible Jess Butterworth, whose stunning debut Running on the Roof of the World I absolutely adored (you can read my review in this post). Onto the questions!

Hi Jess. Welcome to Golden Books Girl, and thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview with me!

My pleasure! I’m delighted to be here.

1. To start off, can you sum up Running on the Roof the World for anyone who hasn`t read it yet in 5 words?

Contemporary Himalayan adventure, featuring yaks!

2. I absolutely loved the setting of Tibet in the book. What inspired you to set the book there? Is anything in the book based on your own experience of living in the Himalayas?

Absolutely. My father was a trek leader and we lived on a remote foothill above Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama and a Tibetan community in exile is settled. My mother’s family lived in London, where I was born. Growing up, I would always write about the Himalayas when I was in the UK and missing the mountains or my dad and grandparents who still lived there.

I wanted to introduce readers to events I care about deeply, but really it wasn’t as planned out as that. Tash’s voice appeared in my head one day and wouldn’t leave.

The vulture tree is based on a tree I saw about ten years ago, with many vultures perched on its branches. It’s something I’ve never seen again on my visits since, and an image that has stayed with me.

Another real life moment I drew from was when my sister and I once walked down the mountain at dusk and saw a bear up a tree. Needless to say, we backed away slowly and luckily left the bear undisturbed. My sister is a singer and from that moment onwards she would always sing at the top of her lungs as we walked over the foothills. We were taught never to sneak up on the leopards and bears; you’re safer if they can hear you coming and will choose to get out of the way.

The glacier scene came from a time I was trekking with my Dad and we camped by a glacier. Later, we used our sleeping mats to slide down the glacier. It was fun, but bumpy!

During my research trip, when I was close to the India/Tibet border, after acclimatising, I went up to 18380 feet, and very much felt the effects of being at such a high altitude. So that made it into the book too!

3. The difficult political issues in Tibet are very prominent throughout Running on the Roof of the World, as Tash`s parents are arrested by the Chinese soldiers for being rebels. Was it a challenge to explore such a brutal situation and still aim the book at middle grade readers?

I definitely spent time making sure that the book was truthful to its setting whilst still appealing to middle-grade readers. I wanted to write a story that was relevant to today and it was important to me to include those moments as they’re grounded in real events. Writing in first person helped and allowed the reader to see the events through Tash’s eyes, whilst still giving a sense of the bigger political picture. I included moments of lightness and laughter, and an overall theme of hope, and I focused on the universal aspects to make it relatable to younger readers.

4. What was your favourite scene to write in the book?
So many! I loved everything about writing about the mountains! Sliding down glaciers was one of my favourite, hiding with Eve, and the ending.

5. Speaking of writing, do you have any unusual writing habits? What are your writing routines like?

In the past few years, I’ve had many different jobs at the same time as being a writer, from working as a bid-coordinator, assisting in a vintage furniture shop, to nannying. In between them I was often travelling to and from India which means that my writing habits changed regularly. They mainly consisted of writing wherever and whenever I could! I do know that I work best in the mornings, when I can wake up and write straight away. I like to start a new idea in a notebook before transferring it to my computer.

Right now, for the first time ever, I have an office and office assistants, Luna and Bo Bo, the Maine Coon kittens, which is exciting.

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6.  Do you have any tips or advice for writers reading this interview?

Read as much as you can. If you’re stuck for inspiration, think back to the things you loved doing at the age at your protagonist or the things you feel passionately about. So much of writing is re-writing; Running on the Roof of the World ent through at least ten full drafts. Practice patience; everything takes a long time! Most importantly, don’t give up! Everyone has rejections.

7. What other activities do you enjoy apart from writing?

Trekking, dancing, reading, camping and being outside, being with friends, yoga, watching live music, travelling.

8. What has been your  exciting moment of being an author so far?
The book launch for sure! I got to see it in a Waterstones window display and gave my first public reading.

9.  If you could have written any book by another author, what would it be and why?
Matilda by Roald Dahl because it has remained one of my favourite books.

10. Finally, before we go on to the quickfire questions, are you able to say anything about your next book? I can`t wait to read it after your amazing debut!

Aw, thank you! It’s called When the Mountains Roared and is inspired by my Grandma who smuggled a kangaroo joey out of Australia. It’s an adventure set in the mountains of India, about a girl who is determined to protect the wild leopards of the mountain from poachers.

QUICKFIRE

Can you give us three random facts about you?-

In the Australian outback, I got bitten by a brown snake and airlifted to hospital.

I have three younger sisters.

I edited Running on the Roof of the World while I was in India, during monsoon. I was often enclosed in a cloud. If I opened a window, the cloud would drift inside. My pillow went mouldy.

Favourite animal?-

Yaks and leopards (couldn’t choose!)

Favourite chocolate bar?-

Yesterday someone gave me pomegranate dark chocolate and it is my new favourite thing!

What`s your Hogwarts house?-

Gryffindor

Best book you`ve read this year?

The Huntress: Sea by Sarah Driver

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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed writing the questions and organising the post with Jess, who has been an utter delight (and was kind enough to send me the gorgeous photos throughout the post to use)

See you soon with a new post 

Amy xxx

July Reviews

Hello everybody!

Today I`m planning to share my reviews for all of the books I read last month. I was on holiday in Northumberland for most of the month (as you'll probably know if you follow me on Twitter) which meant I got a lot of reading done.

I actually read a bit more than what Im including here, but I sadly didn't really enjoy the others I read enough to recommend them.

Let`s get on with the reviews!

Continue reading “July Reviews”

LGBTQIA Read Wrap-Up

Hello everybody! Its the weekend, yay! Today I'm sharing my reviews for the books I read during the #LGBTQIARead, which was hosted from 24th June-1st July by Faye from A Daydreamer`s Thoughts and George Lester (who is one of my very favourite YouTubers). I read some fabulous books during this ( even though I didn’t read everything from my TBR, which you can read here)

Along with the books I`ll be reviewing below, I also reread Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, which I loved even more this time round.

Let`s get onto the reviews!

Continue reading “LGBTQIA Read Wrap-Up”

June Reviews

Hi everybody! Happy weekend!

Today I`m sharing my reviews for the books I read in the month of June (except for the new books I read during the LGBTQIA Readathon hosted by Faye at A Daydreamer’s Thoughts and George Lester.

I read some fantastic books this month, so let`s get started with the reviews 🙂

Continue reading “June Reviews”