#Frostfire Blog Tour: Jamie Smith on Worldbuilding

Hello everybody!

Today, I’m really excited to share a guest post from author Jamie Smith on the theme of worldbuilding, as part of the blog tour for his book Frostfire. Onto the post!


Continue reading “#Frostfire Blog Tour: Jamie Smith on Worldbuilding”

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October Reviews 2018

Hello everybody! Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on all the books I’ve read in October. Onto the post!

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Why I Love Geek Girl

Hello everybody!

Today’s post is a tiny bit different to usual (more in format than anything else), so onto the post! I hope you enjoy it 💜

Of all the books that I count as favourites, the Geek Girl series is one of the very closest to my heart. There are so, so many reasons why I love this series and I decided, since it’s now almost a year since the final book came out that I wanted to write about it.
It fits my taste perfectly.

Harriet’s voice is incredibly unique, and her dry sense of humour throughout never, ever fails to make me laugh at least once a chapter. We’re very different in a lot of ways, though I see similarities too. I don’t rattle off facts or love maths and Science, but I adore history, and books, and I’m the first to admit I’m not all that into fashion. There is a passage in the first book about that very topic that speaks hugely to me, and I’m often heard saying ‘they’re just clothes!’

That’s something Geek Girl has given me. There are whole sections of this book I can rhyme off by heart; Harriet’s vocabulary has seeped into mine. Ostensibly, which features in one of the most uncomfortable bullying scenes throughout all 6 books is one of my go to phrases in an essay, and it’s one of my favourite words ever. I also try and learn some of the glorious facts sprinkled throughout that always fit just right with the narrative, which never feel jarring as they could be in other hands.

The rest of the cast are just as special. Eccentric agent Wilbur; so bizarre I can’t help but giggle when he’s on the page. Her parents; clever and caring, and undoubtedly my favourite book parents of all time. Toby; initially an irritation, but someone I came to care about by the end of Forever Geek. Best friend Nat; ferociously protective of Harriet, hilarious, a true ‘girl bomb’. Scary fashion designer Yuka Ito, whose terrifying manner provokes Harriet into some of the best moments of the series for me. And Nick. Lion Boy. A character I’m unashamedly in love with. He’s funny, charming, gorgeous and I can picture him so vividly throughout. He’s perfect for Harriet, to me, and she’s perfect for him.

Watching them grow over the course of the series is a pleasure, and letting them go in Forever Geek was difficult (I spent the entire sitting in which I read it in tears, even as I inevitably laughed). I don’t think I’ll ever stop rereading them though. At the end of any especially tough week, or in preparation for something I’m dreading, I go to the drawer in which I keep these (the most easily accessible I have), pull them out and start reading. And it feels like going home.

Why do you love Geek Girl? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl

Amy xxx

Author Interview: Lari Don

Hello everybody! 

Today, I’m really excited to have an author interview with Lari Don, whose books I absolutely loved when I read them last year. Onto the interview!

Hi Lari! Thank you so much for being here!

1. Can you please describe your writing in 5 words?

Magic, monsters, adventure, ambushes, danger…

2. What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I wish I had a regular writing routine, involving nice quiet days typing in my study and going for long walks to think through plot problems. In fact, I do most of my writing on trains and in a shed. I spend a lot of time talking to young readers and writers in schools and libraries, so if I want to keep on top of my deadlines, I have to write while travelling. Then when I am at home, my family are usually there too, being noisy and distracting, so I have to escape to the garden shed to get peace to think and imagine. And the shed isn’t a fancy shed, it’s an old leaky tool shed, with a desk, a box of blankets, and lots of spiders. Therefore, my unusual writing habit is getting someone brave to check the shed for spiders lurking in the corners or above my head before I start to write. 

3. All of your middle grades are mainly fantasies. Was there any reason you chose to write in that genre? Do you have any favourite fantasy books?

Of my 9 novels so far, 8 are fantasy adventures! I write about magic and quests and monsters because that’s what I’ve always loved reading. Also, most of my inspiration comes from reading, researching and telling old myths, legends and folklore. So I write fantasy because I love fantasy, and because most of my ‘what if’ ideas lead to me that way. My favourite fantasy books are the ones I read when I was young, by Diana Wynne Jones (the Chrestomanci books, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Power of Three) but I’ve read some brilliant ones recently too, including the Five Kingdoms series by Vivian French and the Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud.

4. Your books are all set in Scotland, which I loved (It was so nice to understand all the school references for a change!). Did you always plan for that, or did it just seem natural to set the books there when you started? Is there any part of Scotland that you’d like to set a book in that you haven’t yet?

I don’t really plan anything! I just write the stories that won’t leave me alone! My stories generally find themselves happening in Scotland because I know Scotland better than anywhere else in the world, and because the Scottish landscape is fantastic for quests and adventures. Also, location research is easier if it’s a coastline or mountain or castle that I already know or that I can visit in a weekend. However, not all my characters are Scottish (Theo in Spellchasers is from Egypt, for example) and the monsters and magic are inspired by myths and legend from all over the world. Also, I have written a novel (Mind Blind) set mostly in London, so I hope my imagination doesn’t stop at the border! Spellchasers is set in Speyside, where I was brought up, and the Fabled Beasts quested in parts of Scotland that I visit for holidays or to see family: the Borders, the West Highlands, Orkney, Skye, Sutherland… If I want to write about a ‘new’ bit of Scotland, I could consider Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Glasgow, and various other islands. But I’ll have to see what the next story wants and needs. (I think it might need a port, so perhaps I’ll set it in Leith?) Also, I’m delighted that you enjoy reading books set in Scotland and recognising the references.  When I was young, I only read one (ONE!) adventure novel for kids set in Scotland.  Everything else was English or American. Nowadays, there’s so much more choice for young readers, so much more opportunity to read about their own landscape and culture and history. I know that’s the case in Scotland, I hope it’s the case everywhere else as well! 

5. One of the main elements of Spellchasers is shapeshifting, as that is the thing the main character Molly has been cursed with. What 3 animals would you most like to shapeshift into, and why?

A hare – because I spent so much time researching hares, that I’d love to know whether what I imagined and described every time Molly ran as a hare is really how it feels. Also, I’d love to run that fast!

A hawk  – because who doesn’t want to fly? And I’d love to hover above the landscape, watching all the stories happening below me.

 A cat – after all that sprinting and running, I’d probably want to turn into a pet cat, so I could curl up beside a fire and have a snooze!  

(Then, of course, I’d want to become human again, because I don’t fancy eating grass or rodents for my tea!) 

6. I`m going to be a bit mean now. Who is your favourite Spellchaser, and Fabled Beast? Mine are Beth/Atacama and Sapphire, if you’re interested.

I should struggle to answer this, because I should love all my characters equally, but if I’m honest I already know my favourites. Yann the centaur in Fabled Beasts and Innes the kelpie in Spellchasers.  (And my favourite baddies are the Faery Queen in Wolf Notes and Nan in The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away.  There are probably common themes in both of those pairs of favourites, which possibly reveal far too much about me…)   

7. This one should be a bit easier! What’s your favourite thing about being an author?

That’s not easier, because I love so many things about being an author! I love the moment an idea arrives, the ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder’, and especially when several smaller ideas crash together and sparks fly and I can feel I have a new novel coming to life.  But I also love the process of discovering the story, the long journey to find the answers to the initial questions. And I am excited any time a character does something unexpected, especially those wonderful and rare moments when a character takes control of the story and runs off with it (that happened in Rocking Horse War, my only standalone fantasy, and it seriously improved the plot!) And I love editing (yes, really. I know that’s unusual, but I love seeing the story get stronger as I slice away the extra words that I needed to find the story but that the readers don’t need to enjoy it.) And I love the moment a new book arrives, all shiny and real. AND I love talking to young readers and inspiring them to come up with stories of their own. Despite the late nights and long train journeys and spider-filled sheds, I love everything about being a writer! 

8. Finally, before the quickfire questions, can you let us in on any secrets about what you`ll be releasing next? *crosses fingers for more fabulous MG*

I hope there will be more ‘fabulous MG’ (thank you!) sometime soon, but the next book is actually a picture book. It’s called The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, and it’s quite dark and dangerous, but also magical and mysterious, with amazing illustrations by Nataša Ilinčić. And after that – who knows? I needed a creative break after writing the Spellchasers trilogy (a trilogy takes a long time and a lot of complicated story-weaving) so I am having fun with several possible novel ideas right now. But all the ideas I am playing with involve magic, betrayals and danger, so I hope you’ll enjoy the next novel, whatever it is! 

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house? – Ravenclaw 

Favourite sweet treat? – Orange or mint chocolate, in the middle of the night, to keep me awake when I’m editing

Favourite season? -winter

Your 3 favourite reads of 2017? – The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co) by Jonathan Stroud 

Within the Sanctuary of Wings (the Memoirs of Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan

Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris 

(and I got a pile of intriguing books for Christmas which I’m really looking forward to working my way through) 

3 random facts about you- 

• I’m terrified of spiders, but don’t have any problems with wasps, bees, moths, birds, snakes or dragons; 

• I am learning British Sign Language; 

• My current favourite vegetable is cauliflower. 

Thanks for asking such wonderful questions! 

Thank you for answering so wonderfully!

I hope you enjoyed Lari’s answers as much as I did. Do you love Lari’s books? Are they on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx

I Swapped My Brother on the Internet Blog Tour- Jo Simmons on Funny Fiction 

Hello everybody!

Today, I have a guest post from Jo Simmons all about funny books as part of her blog tour for her own VERY funny book which I really enjoyed (and will be reviewing in my January Reviews!)

I’m not often sure what I think about anything. Age has not brought wisdom, just a sense of bafflement and a love of early bed times. But I do know what I think about funny fiction for kids – I think it’s a really, really good thing.

Not all kids are hardwired to read, but most kids are hardwired to laugh. They laugh so much more than adults – 300 to 400 times a day apparently, while grownups manage about 15 times. This makes children a willing audience for funny fiction. In fact, I’d argue that they positively deserve it!

I remember devouring Spike Milligan, Ogden Nash poems and PG Wodehouse as I went into my teenage years. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy dazzled with its cast of curious intergalactic characters and the hilarious fictional small ads in the copies of Viz my brother passed me were just brilliant. That and the Fat Slags, of course.

Once I had my own two boys, I was impressed by their ability to laugh their way through a day and unimpressed by the unutterably dull books I sometimes found myself reading to them at bedtime. So when I sat down to write my first children’s book in 2010, I wasn’t sure what to write, but I knew anything I did write had to be funny.

Funny fiction does so much more than simply entertain. Humour can tempt even a reluctant reader to try another chapter and every time an author makes a child laugh, it’s a little victory for reading. They’re communicating the message that reading funny books is fun, therefore reading must be fun. 

So it’s annoying that funny fiction sometimes gets overshadowed by those heavy books that tackle issues and win prizes, as if a witty story cannot also have meaning or relevance. Writing funny does not mean compromising on narrative ambition. A good funny story is still just that – a story – and can deliver all the truths and meaningful moments a serious tale does. 

My books contain plenty of bonkers scenarios and freaky folk, but also touch on issues relevant to children: friendship problems, anxiety about change, fear of the dark, loss of a loved one and, in my latest, I Swapped My Brother on the Internet the frustration of being inferior in age and privileges to an older brother. Serious stuff, for sure, but all wrapped up in a thick coating of silliness and escapism, ghosts, merboys and doppelgangers, and some seriously grotty pants. Maybe not great art, but hopefully great fun. 

You can follow Jo on Twitter @joanna_simmons and the book’s illustrator Nathan @nathanreed_illo.

Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite funny books? Did you love this one? I’d love to hear from you down in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx 

Guest Post: Books I’m Hoping to Find Under my Tree by Zoe (nosaferplace)

Hello everybody! 

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome my lovely friend Zoe from the exceptional No Safer Place to chat about the books she’s hoping to get for Christmas, similar to my Top Ten Tuesday post the other day. 

Over to Zoe now, and see you tomorrow,

Amy xxx

I rarely ask for anything at Christmas. Christmas for me is about giving and spending time with my family. But if I do ever drop a hint at what I’d like for Christmas, you can bet it’s going to be a book. There’s just something so magical about opening a brand new book, smelling the pages and wondering which world you’re going to get lost in next. So what books am I hoping for under my tree this year? Read on, to find out.

Origin – Dan Brown

I absolutely adore Dan Brown and the Robert Langdon series. I read The Da Vinci Code when I was quite young, but I was just completely mesmerised by this complex book, and the twists and turns that lurked on every page turn. I have gone into bookshops several times since the book’s release, just to hold it and let me tell you – the excitement is strong.

The Silver Mask – Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

This is the 4th book in the Magisterium series. Cassie is obviously one of my favourite authors and everything she writes is just gold dust to me. The series gives off very strong Harry Potter vibes, but is aimed at a slightly younger audience. I read the first 3 on their release dates, so I’m slightly gutted not to have this yet – but I know it’ll be worth the wait.

Turtles All the Way Down – John Green

I don’t think this book needs any introduction and I’d imagine if you’re a bookworm that hasn’t read this book yet, like me, this will be on your Christmas book list too. I don’t really have any idea what the book is about, but I know John Green has written it, and that alone is reason enough to give this book a go.

 

Harry Potter: A History of Magic – British Library

Harry Potter has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I was never really interested in the illustrated editions of the books but I think there’s something really magical about this one. The illustrations look incredible and of course, I’m always open to learning more about the series that dominated my childhood.

A Christmas Wedding – Paige Toon

Now, would this list really be complete without a Christmas book? Paige Toon is one of my favourite authors and this short story, with a cup of hot chocolate, under a blanket, really sounds like the perfect way to get me into the festive spirit.

What books are you hoping to find under your tree this Christmas? Do we share any? Tweet me your answers at @zcollins1994!

Check out my book recommendations and blogmas posts here: nosaferplace.co.uk 

My 2017 YA Favourites List

Hello everybody!


Welcome to day 20 of blogmas! Today, I’m going to be speaking about my 10 favourite YAs in 2017. This was a tough choice, and I still love all of the books on my mid-year favourites list too! There’s one book on here that I didn’t give 5 stars as I can’t actually remember why not and I really enjoyed it,  and I highly recommend everything I’ve rated that not on this list too. I’ll be doing a seperate list for MG books in a few days, and I’m leaving it till last as my 3 overall favourites of this year are all MG.
 Note- not all of these are from 2017. Some are books I’ve read this year that were either published before 2017 and others aren’t out till 2018

Onto the books!


The Summer of Telling Tales
– this was beyond heartbreaking. It’s a tough but hopeful read, and reminded me of Jacqueline Wilson at her very best. I think this is massively underrated, so if you get a chance to read it (I stumbled on my copy at the library, for example) please, PLEASE do.

The Exact Opposite of Okay
-I  feel so lucky to have read this already, seeing that it isn’t out till next March. It has a wonderfully witty narrator who made me snort and cackle multiple times and I think a lot of people are going to fall in love with this when it’s released.


This Beats Perfect-
A wonderful boyband YA, with a really nice romance and a prontagonist I loved, as well as a superb cast of secondary characters. I also just really liked the writing style, which felt unusual but I can’t explain how, and I’m looking forward to the sort of sequel that’s due out in February.


The Graces
– this was so chilling and creepy it gave me goosebumps in places, and I couldn’t put it down to revise for my French exam (which I read it on the day of… oopsies). I passed though, so my love for this book remains very much in tact. Also, the last line is GLORIOUS; roll on the Curses right now please!


Radio Silence
– This was another book from my last week of exams, which I also read in a day (the day of my Modern Studies exam). The thought of going back to this got me through a challenging paper, and it’s just phenomenal! Aled is one of my favourite characters ever.


Stargazing for Beginners
– I read this after a bit of a reading slump, around the start of May I think, and it’s just wonderful. Meg is such an inspirational, yet flawed and realistic character, and watching her struggle with caring for her little sister after their mum jets off and abandons them is so sad in places. Her friends, such as Annie, are hilarious, and I also loved her romantic interest Ed.


The Empty Grave-
this was pretty much the perfect finale to a pretty much perfect series. The trademark drama, humour and adventure combo was as slick as ever, and the characters continued to be exceptionally awesome in every way. And it made me cry at the end!


Wing Jones
– I read this at the start of 2017 and it got me through the very difficult night before my MRI scan (which I find really difficult). Wing’s journey of finding her passion for running and falling in love is stunning from start to finish, and I adored the magical realism element.


Moxie
– This is a fierce, feminist read that’s guaranteed to make you want to start your own revolution. It tells the story of Viv as she starts up her own zine and creates the Moxie movement to shake up her sexist school.


Noah Can’t Even
– I genuinely have no idea why I didn’t give this 5 stars. It made me giggle loads and it was amazing fun, and Noah is so sweet and nerdy. DEFINETELY a favourite of this year in spite of the stupidity of past me’s star rating. (Which I have now went and swapped on Goodreads)

EDIT- I forgot a book! One of the most special things I’ve read this year is Forever Geek by Holly Smale, which was the final instalment of one of my favourite series (Geek Girl). I am MOST ashamed that I forgot it, but it’s definetely worth going over my 10 books.

What have your favourite YA books of 2017 been? Do we share any choices? I’d love to read your list if you have one! Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!

Amy xxx