View from a Book: Guest Post by Sophie Cameron

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Today is my turn on the blog tour for Out of the Blue, the stunning debut novel from Sophie Cameron which came out on the 22nd March. On the surface, Out of the Blue is a story about angels falling from the sky, but on a deeper level, it explores the different ways we deal with grief and how we can affect the other people around us. I was sent an arc as part of this blog tour, and I absolutely loved the book. Jaya, the main character, is incredibly relatable and I loved seeing her relationships with Allie and Teacake (the only angel to survive the fall) develop.

Sophie kindly agreed to be the second participant in my View from a Book feature, so without further ado, onto Sophie’s post!

View from a Book

View From a Book

  • Where are you and what are you reading?

I’m in Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, and reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  

  • Would you recommend the book?

Definitely! I’m only a few chapters in but so far it’s excellent.

  • Is there anything special about this particular spot?

It’s one of my favourite parks in Barcelona and is just a short walk away from my flat, so I come here a lot when I want a wander or some fresh air. In summer it’s too busy to read in peace, but at this time of year you can still find some quiet(ish) spots.

  • Do you have a favourite place to read?

I love reading on the beach – any beach, as long as it’s not too busy.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Out of the Blue?

Out of the Blue is about a 16-year-old girl named Jaya, who has recently lost her mother and whose father has dragged her and her sister to Edinburgh in the hopes he can catch one of the angels or ‘Beings’ that have been falling to earth for the past eight months. It’s Jaya who finds one instead – but rather than telling her dad she decides to keep it hidden from him and nurse it back to health.

  • If you could send someone to anywhere in the world as the perfect place to read Out of the Blue, where would you pick?

It’d have to be Edinburgh! Maybe in the Meadows or the Royal Botanic Garden, if it’s a nice day.

  • And finally, if you could pick any book for Jaya and Teacake to read, what would it be?

I love this question! For Jaya, I’d pick Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee, I think she’d love that. I think Teacake could probably learn to read in English really fast if she put her mind to it, but to start with I’d give her a recipe book with lots of photos of tasty cakes and puddings – maybe Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Thank you to Sophie for this fabulous post – are you all as jealous as I am of that lovely spot?!

Out of the Blue is out now from Pan Macmillan and really is a fantastic book that I recommend you all get your hands on immediately, especially if you like LGBT and disability rep in your books.

Have you read Out of the Blue? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments!

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View from a Book: Guest Post by Yaba Badoe

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Today I am really excited to be welcoming Yaba Badoe onto the blog as part of the blog tour for A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, her YA debut. Published in hardback in September, this beautifully written book has just come out in paperback, and tells the story of Sante, the family she’s lost and the family she’s found.

Yaba has very kindly agreed to write a guest post and launch my new feature, View from a Book, and I couldn’t have asked for a better launch post! I love the book Yaba has chosen and I think the photograph she has sent me is gorgeous – I wish I had somewhere like this to read!

View from a Book

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This is the view from a book I’m currently reading – an edition of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm illustrated by Arthur Rackhman.

The book is open at page 72, on the story of the The Goosegirl. A mild-mannered, ‘humble’ princess on a journey to marry a distant Prince is bullied by her bloody-minded Lady-in-Waiting into swapping her clothes and identity. The Lady-in-Waiting marries the Prince while the real Princess is forced to eek out a living as a Goosegirl. Eventually, the Prince’s father, the King, discovers the Goosegirl’s secret. The Lady-in-waiting is put to death and the true Princess marries her Prince!

I’m reading the story on the sofa of our basement kitchen – a great place to read and relax because it’s comfortable, and has a wonderful view of a large sycamore tree in our front garden. Depending on the season, whenever I look up from the page, there’s either a lot of sky or leaves. That upward tilt of my head to gaze out takes me deeper into a state of reverie essential for entering other worlds. And if the sun is out and I’m in tune with the story I’m reading, looking out dazzles me.

At the moment I’m working on a second book, Wolf-light for Zephyr, the YA imprint of Head of Zeus. My debut novel for Zephyr was A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – a story about people trafficking, migration and dislocation. Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. It seems she is the survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them.

Wolf-light tells the story of three young women, sisters of the heart, born within hours of each other in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall. Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of sacred sites and belong to a secret order whose task is to protect and conserve the landscapes they inhabit. When copper miners begin to plunder Zula’s desert home in Gobi Altai and Adoma’s forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy.

A couple of the characters in A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars reappear in Wolf-light – so although it’s not a sequel in any sense of the word – it revisits a theme that fascinates me: how, do individuals and communities, in an increasingly globalised world, hold on to what they treasure most.

Thank you for this gorgeous post Yaba! I’m really looking forward to reading Wolf-light in the near future!

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is out now in paperback, published by Zephyr, and is well worth your hard-earned money.

Have you read A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars? If not, are you more likely to after reading this? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour this week!

Book Review: A Spoonful of Murder

If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Robin Stevens and her Murder Most Unladylike series. It takes me right back to my childhood and the boarding school books I used to read (I say used to, but I still have a complete set of Chalet School books which get read regularly!), while making sure the kids of today love them just as much. A Spoonful of Murder is the most recent volume, and I made sure I had it pre-ordered so it arrived on release day!

a spoonful of murder

When Hazel Wong’s beloved grandfather passes away, Daisy Wells is all too happy to accompany her friend (and Detective Society Vice President) to Hazel’s family estate in beautiful, bustling Hong Kong. But when they arrive they discover something they didn’t expect: there’s a new member of the Wong family. Daisy and Hazel think baby Teddy is enough to deal with, but as always the girls are never far from a mystery. Tragedy strikes very close to home, and this time Hazel isn’t just the detective. She’s been framed for murder! The girls must work together like never before, confronting dangerous gangs, mysterious suspects and sinister private detectives to solve the murder and clear Hazel’s name – before it’s too late . . .

Obviously, I loved A Spoonful of Murder. Possibly not as much as I loved Mistletoe and Murder, the previous novel in the series, but it’s still a brilliant book. My favourite thing was the way that being in Hong Kong meant Hazel was in charge and Daisy didn’t always know what was going on. It was a fantastic reversal of the usual dynamic, and it was great fun to see Daisy think about her attitude towards Hazel. I mentioned in my review of Mistletoe and Murder last year that Robin Stevens does an amazing job portraying the racism that Hazel faces on an everyday basis, even from her best friend, and this book is no exception, although it takes a slightly different angle.

The plot (which I’m not going to spoil for you here) races along as usual, as Daisy and Hazel struggle to solve the murder of a maid and the kidnapping of Hazel’s new baby brother. I always like it when the mystery strikes close to home for these two, because the importance of family to both of them is something that shines through all the books. No-one is more important to Hazel than her father, and it’s really interesting to see more of that after the events of First Class Murder.

It’s also very interesting to learn more about Hazel’s life away from Deepdean, and about Hong Kong in general. Because this is as new to Daisy as it is to us, she acts as our eyes, and I loved her astonishment at realising just how rich Hazel’s family is. As I said above, it’s good to see Daisy thinking about how she acts with Hazel – the events of this book make her realise she doesn’t really know that much about Hazel’s life at home. I thought there was also a good exploration of how her father suddenly having a son might change Hazel’s life dramatically.

Robin Stevens always manages to pack so much into her books that they really are a masterclass in writing, and A Spoonful of Murder is no exception. While I would highly recommend it if you’re up to date with the books (and if you are, I doubt you need my recommendation – you’ve probably already read it!), I definitely wouldn’t jump into the series here, because you’re not going to get the same depth out of it. Go back to the beginning (Murder Most Unladylike) and savour the entire series as it was intended, and you’ll be as hooked as I am on Robin’s books!

5/5

Book Review: Sunflowers in February

So a few weeks (months? I can’t remember!) Hot Key Books put out a blogger call for their mailing list, and having signed up like a shot, a blogger call out email duly arrived, for Sunflowers in February, the debut book by Phyllida Shrimpton. Obviously I was not going to pass up this opportunity, especially because the book sounds fascinating – Lily wakes up at the side of the road, only to realise she’s dead. It maybe didn’t quite live up to its potential for me, for reasons I shall go into shortly, but it was still a highly enjoyable book.

sunflowers in february

Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. and very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance arrive, and she sees her own body, that she realises that she is in fact… dead. But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and see her family – her parents and her twin brother start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time…

A moving, startlingly funny yet achingly sad debut novel from a stunning new talent.

First things first, you can’t really tell in that picture, but the cover is gorgeous. The blue petals are foiled and it’s a lovely, shiny and bright cover. I love the effort publishers are putting in to their covers recently.

As to what I thought of the content, well, like I said above, I did enjoy it. The relationships, particularly between Lily and Ben, really came through, and I liked the little snippets we got from other people’s points of view. I also liked how we saw that grief affects different people in different ways, particularly in the way Lily’s parents each reacted to her death. I did think we found out a bit too soon who was responsible for Lily’s death, and I’m not sure we ever got real closure on that aspect, but that was never the main point of the book (in my opinion anyway).

My biggest problem was that sometimes the writing was a bit childish and simple. It felt like it hadn’t quite worked out which demographic it was aiming at, and I think older teenagers would be disappointed in the writing style if they picked it up. Also, Lily could be incredibly annoying, even taking into account the trauma she’s just been through. I mean, she knows Ben has to come back eventually, but she continues to make him look ridiculous, instead of just staying out of the way. Of course, the book couldn’t exist if she just stayed out of the way, but she could have been a little more aware of the effect she was having on his life! My last negative is that the epilogue just didn’t work for me. I do think there needed to be something there, I’m just not sure that epilogue was it, but I don’t want to say more because of spoilers.

All in all, Sunflowers in February is a good book, but not a great one. It has some great ideas and a very realistic depiction of a sibling relationship, but it loses its way a little bit in the middle, which is a real shame. It is a debut though, and I’m definitely happy to give Phyllida Shrimpton’s next book a go!

3/5

ARC received from the publisher, Hot Key Books, in exchange for an honest review.

 

Wildest Dreams February Unboxing

It’s been a little while again, hasn’t it? Apologies for disappearing – I had an absolute stinker of a cold that left me good for nothing for a week. The good side of this is that I managed to read seven books in one weekend. Hopefully at some point I’ll actually review them!

Anyway, today’s post is a slightly belated unboxing of a new subscription book box. Run by the very lovely Zoe of the No Safer Place blog and YouTube channel, Wildest Dreams promises to provide a book, tea and bath or body product every month, for an incredibly reasonable £18. Isn’t that a fabulous price? Wildest Dreams is definitely the best value subscription box I’ve come across!

So February’s theme was Truth and Lies, and I was pretty sure I knew what the book was going to be. However, the main reason I chose to purchase this box was because I knew there was going to be a candle from Taken Moons in it.

Just look how amazing that candle is, and it smells gorgeous. It’s black cherry flavour, and called Lies Require Commitment, inspired by Divergent. I love it!

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The tea is from Rosie Lea Tea, and is lemon and ginger. Called Veritaserum, it’s obviously inspired by Harry Potter. One of the things I love about this box is the way Zoe includes some teabags to make sure you can actually use the tea. I forgot to take a photo of them, but they’re so cute!

The book comes beautifully wrapped, with the Wildest Dreams sticker on it, and this month’s book came with a signed book plate and a letter from the author. It was, of course, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr.

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So there you have February’s Wildest Dreams box. It’s a really well curated, good value box and I’m sure it’s not the last one I’ll be buying.

(I realise there are no links in this post, but I’m writing on my phone and it’s not letting me include any. I will add them tomorrow when I can get on my laptop, so come back then and I’ll tell you where you can order future boxes!) Links now included!

Wildest Dreams

Taken Moons

Rosie Lea Tea

Six for Sunday: Favourite Tropes

Sunday again! Where do the weeks go?! Anyway, time for this week’s Six for Sunday, which is a meme created by Steph over at A Little But A Lot. This week’s theme is favourite tropes, so here goes!

  1. The chosen one
  2. Insta-love (I’m sorry, I know it’s terrible and unrealistic but can’t help it!)
  3. Friends to something more
  4. Angst
  5. Found families
  6. Meet-cutes

God, they’re all terrible. I am a cliche of a person, but I really do love all of them – with the caveat that they have to be done well.

What would be on your list of favourite tropes? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Eye of the North

I like to read the odd middle grade book now and again, and The Eye of the North by Sinead O’Hart sounded like it had the potential to be a great book when it turned up in the books of the month Netgalley email. Sadly, for me it didn’t quite live up to that potential.

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Emmeline Widget has never left Widget Manor – and that’s the way she likes it. But when her scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself being packed off on a ship to France, heading for a safe house in Paris. Onboard she is befriended by an urchin stowaway called Thing. But before she can reach her destination she is kidnapped by the sinister Dr Siegfried Bauer.
Dr Bauer is bound for the ice fields of Greenland to summon a legendary monster from the deep. And he isn’t the only one determined to unleash the creature. The Northwitch has laid claim to the beast, too. Can Emmeline and Thing stop their fiendish plans and save the world?

First of all, the things I did like. Emmeline was a very interesting character and I really liked how she was prepared for everything, and how she could adapt the things around her to be of use. I mean, it all stemmed from the paranoia instilled in her by her upbringing, but it was a good take on anxiety. I also liked Thing, and his willingness to protect this young girl he comes across by accident, even when it’s clear she’s in much deeper trouble than he ever imagined. My problem with the two of them was that they never seemed to properly connect, and therefore I never connected with their friendship. Thing knew Emmeline for all of five minutes before she was kidnapped, and I was just never sure of why he cared so much. Yes, he’s a good, decent lad but I expect a bit more motivation than that in a story with kidnappings and potential deaths! It could have worked, if we’d just seen the two of them actually being friends for a bit longer.

The other thing I liked was the idea. I’m a sucker for stories with a young heroine forced to survive on her own in a story with mythical or supernatural elements, so this should have been right up my street. It failed somewhere in its execution, although I can’t put my finger on why. Again, I’m not sure we spent enough time with our villain to work out his underlying motivations. Obviously he wanted power, but why? The same was true of the Northwitch, who could have been an awesome character.

I enjoyed reading The Eye of the North, and it’s a perfectly acceptable debut MG novel. I’m just disappointed because it still feels like it had the potential to be so much more. It also feels like there’s a lot missing in it, and I do wonder if it was heavily edited to bring the wordcount down. If that is the case, it’s a shame, because I’d have liked to have known more about the characters and setting.

Having said all of this, I will be perfectly happy to pick up Sinead O’Hart’s next book, and I look forward to seeing her grow as an author.

The Eye of the North is out in the UK on 8th February, published by Stripes Publishing.

3/5

ARC received from the publisher, Stripes Publishing, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pre-order campaign: The Exact Opposite Of Okay

Something a little bit different from me today – I wanted to draw your attention to the pre-order campaign for The Exact Opposite Of Okay by Laura Steven. This is a brilliant, funny, feminist book and I loved it when I read it!

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So, if you pre-order the book before 7th March 2018, and email proof of purchase to Laura at theexactoppositeofokay@gmail.com, on release day, she will send you an exclusive bonus chapter detailing how our heroine, Izzy O’Neill, lost her virginity. Yes, really.

I’ll be reviewing The Exact Opposite Of Okay nearer to release date, but have a read of the synopsis below, then head to your retailer of choice to pre-order!

Aspiring comedian Izzy O’Neill never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench emerge, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she must figure out who’s behind the vicious website – while keeping her sanity intact. 

Izzy is about to find out that the way the world treats girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.

This is a book for anyone who’s ever called themselves a feminist … and anyone who hasn’t. 

Pre-order at Amazon 

Or at Book Depository

Six for Sunday: 2017 Books I Didn’t Read

It’s that time of the week again! Six for Sunday is a meme created by Steph at A Little But A Lot. This week’s theme is actually authors you discovered in 2017, but I did that for a Top Ten Tuesday post the other week, so I’m jumping back and doing the first theme of this year (which I missed) – 2017 books I didn’t read.

I actually own all these books. I was excited about all of them before they came out. I’m still excited for them. I just haven’t got round to reading them! The sad thing is, I could have easily doubled this list under the same criteria. Why do things like working and eating and sleeping get in the way of reading?

What did you miss last year? Is your list as sad-making as mine? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Loved, But Can’t Really Remember

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme that was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books you loved, but can’t remember much about at all. It feels terrible to confess, but there are So. Many. I read relatively quickly, so books often merge into each other. On the plus side, I can reread as many times as I want without remembering what happened!

Anyway, the books!

I really loved all of these books (I even recommend some of them!), and I can remember certain things about them, but I couldn’t sit here and tell you the entire storyline of any of them. Which can only mean it’s time to reread!

Do you always remember what happened in the books you’ve read, or are you like me? What would be on your list? Let me know in the comments!