Giveaway Winner Announcement

Last month, you may remember, I ran a giveaway for signed copies of All About Mia and Caraval. I then failed to do anything to promote it, so you’d be forgiven for not remembering! The giveaway ended at midnight, and I’m delighted to announce the winner is

@Rachels_reads

Congratulations Rachel! I’ll be in touch via twitter DM to get your details!

Thank you to everyone who entered. Hopefully it won’t be too long until the next one!

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Author Q&A with Greg Fowler

blogtour[4]

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for T is for Tree by Greg Fowler, and very excited to present my very first author Q&A! Greg was kind enough to answer some questions for me – check them out below the blurb!

T is for Tree

Eddy knows he’s not like other teenagers. He doesn’t look like them. He doesn’t think like them. He doesn’t go to school or have friends like they do. Eddy’s not even allowed to leave his bedroom – except on shower day of course. He doesn’t know why; all Eddy knows is that he’s different.

Abandoned by his mother and kept locked away by his grandmother, Eddy must spend his life watching the world go by from his bedroom window. Until Reagan Crowe moves in next door and everything starts to change. She’s kind, funny, beautiful, and most importantly, she’s Eddy’s first friend. Over time, Reagan introduces Eddy to the strange and wonderful world outside his bedroom: maths, jam, love.

But growing up isn’t that simple for either of them. And Eddy has a secret. The tree that’s slowly creeping in through his window from the garden is no ordinary tree. But then again, Eddy’s no ordinary boy. He’s special…

Set over the course of five years, T is for Tree is moving, life-affirming, and shows that we can all find greatness in the small things.

Hi Greg! Thanks for doing this Q&A with me – I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day!

My pleasure. It is always fun answering questions.

Firstly, T is for Tree is quite an unusual book – where did the story come from?

It is an unusual story but that’s a good thing…I’d like to think. The story arrived from no single place. Initially it was going to be a story about Eddy getting revenge on all the people who tormented him, but as Eddy developed in my head, and on the page, he was too innocent for such a thing to happen. In the end, I wanted to tell a story about overcoming the odds. You only overcome odds when they are first stacked against you and that takes something special, something strong. That’s a great breeding ground for compelling characters, both good and bad. I also wanted to tell a story about how life will be how you choose to see it. Hopefully all of this comes across through Eddy’s journey.

You tackle some difficult issues in the book, from Eddy’s situation to Reagan’s illness – how did you go about researching this?

I’ll tackle the Reagan bit first. It’s a very unfortunately reality, but I think we all have a connection with someone who has fought cancer. It’s a tough journey to watch, let alone be the centre of. So I took my lead from watching others fight a very personal battle and filling in what gaps I could with internet based research.

As for the Eddy situation, that’s a harder one to explain. Like many authors, I suppose, I have this capacity to walk a mile in my character’s shoes. I grew up lucky, in that I was not bullied, or (thank goodness) locked away in my room. But I can imagine what it would be like, to the extent it can make me physically upset. To cut a long story, I found Eddy riding along in my head and I believed everything he did and said; hopefully that carries on to the pages.

Did anything in the story end up differently to the way you expected when you started writing?

Yes. Writing takes time and practice. One of the lessons I have learned is to plan, but not to over plan. Leave a little space between the pillars of your planning so that you can create and innovate along the way. That happened with T is for Tree. As mentioned earlier, this story initially had a darker edge to it, but it changed because Eddy simply wasn’t made that way.

I also committed a bit of a writer’s sin, in that I didn’t have the end before I started. That arrived of it’s own accord. When you believe in your characters enough, sometimes you just have to have faith in letting them do what they will do. There were occasions when I went along for the ride as much as any reader has.

Without spoiling anything (sorry, I know it’s difficult!), do you think you would have been able to make the same decisions Eddy does?

That’s a great question, and one I haven’t been asked before.

Eddy is undoubtedly selfless. That’s an amazing trait considering what he goes through. Could I do the same thing? I’d like to think I would and I could. If I placed my wife (or my children) in Reagan’s shoes, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

We know that Eddy’s different from the very beginning of T is for Tree, but we never find out exactly why. Was it important to you that this was never defined?

Another good question. I think it is important. Everybody faces challenges, some more than others. Some much, much more. I’d like to leave it to the reader to step into Eddy’s world, and the challenges he faces, with an open mind.

Finally, how would you pitch the book to anyone thinking of picking it up?

As you mentioned in your first question, this is an unusual story. It merges modern day realism with a touch of magic; enough to make you look for the magic in your every day life. It sings of love, forgiveness and all the lessons that come along for the ride. At the end of the day, it about how people really need each other and how we can run from that fact, but we can never hide from it.

Thanks so much for your answers Greg!

You can see Greg reading from T is for Tree in the video below, and don’t forget to check out the other stops in the blog tour!

T is for Tree is out now from Ink Road Books.

The End of an Era

I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was 7. By 9, I knew I wanted to teach History. My entire academic career was geared towards becoming an educator. And hey, secondary school teaching didn’t work out for me, but I made the leap to adult education and thought I’d found my place. That was 11 years ago, and in those 11 years, I’ve made a difference to people’s lives. I know I have. There are people who started new careers because of the qualifications I helped them gain. People who had always been afraid of English or Maths discovered that they could do it after all. And I loved it. I loved seeing people reach their potential in ways they hadn’t dreamed possible for years. But  tomorrow is my last day working in education. And it’s weird.

I’m pretty certain it’s the right decision for me. I hate the pressure of Ofsted, the constant erosion of funding, the ever-present need to do more for less, and the ridiculous amount of paperwork that stops me being able to prepare effectively, and anyone who follows me on twitter knows that hate is too mild a word for me feelings towards my curent workplace. But I’ve been convinced for most of the last 30 years that education was the career for me, so it’s very strange to be leaving it for something completely different. It’s scary too. Education works very differently to other sectors and I haven’t worked in the ‘real world’ for anything more than a few weeks since university. My commute has gone from a 10 minute drive to an hour on the bus, again something I haven’t had to do since university.

I don’t start my new job until the first week of September, so I have two lovely weeks to prepare myself, which I think I’m going to need. But if I go a bit quiet (again), at least this time you’ll know why.

(I know I don’t usually post personal stuff on the blog, but I wanted to make an exception for this. Thanks for reading!)

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Diverse Books Recommendations

Hello! Yes, it’s been a while. Between YALC, Nine Worlds and work, my blogging time recently has been cut down to practically nothing. However, I am about to have two weeks off work and hopefully this will give me the push to get the posts I need written! I thought Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme run by The Broke and The Bookish (which has been on hiatus for a few weeks and I’m so glad it’s back!) would be a good way to slide back into regular blogging. This week’s theme is ten books to recommend for…and I’ve chosen to rec ten diverse books.

1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

thug cover

2. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

the wrath and the dawn

3. A Change Is Gonna Come by Various

change book

4. Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence

indigo donut

5. The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

bok of phoenix

6. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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7. Release by Patrick Ness

release

8. This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson

this-book-is-gay

9. The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

state of grace

10. Another Place by Matthew Crow

another place

Which diverse books would you recommend? Have you read any of the ones on my list? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Another Place

A few weeks ago, Atom Books put out an open call for bloggers to review Another Place by Matthew Crow, and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I’d seen some buzz about it on social media, and there was a cover quote from Matt Haig about Crow’s last book, so I hoped it would be good. I was not disappointed!

another place

A small town. A missing schoolgirl. A terrible secret. And one girl’s fight to survive.

Sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint is coming home from hospital after an escalating depression left her unable to cope. Released into the care of her dad, she faces the daunting task of piecing herself back together.

She may look unchanged; but everything’s different. The same could be said about her seaside hometown: this close-knit community seems to be unspooling in the wake of the sudden disappearance of one of her schoolmates, Sarah.

As the police investigate and the press dig around for dirt, small town secrets start to surface – and Claudette must do everything in her power to keep her head above water. 

Another Place is a novel about lost girls – and the meaning of home.

Another Place is so good, I really recommend it you get hold of it as soon as it comes out. It has great mental health rep (Claudette, the main character, has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after years of suffering with depression) and it’s also really interesting in the way it explores class  – there’s a definite divide between the middle and working classes in the community, which can be seen in the attitudes towards Sarah.

We only get to meet Sarah through flashbacks, as Claudette remembers her friend, but I found myself really liking her. She’s not a nice character by any means, but she comes across as a survivor, who does what it takes to get by…until of course, she goes missing. Claudette is convinced that the key to her own recovery is finding out what happened to Sarah, and sets about doing so. Claudette herself is difficult. She’s clearly still struggling, but instead of turning to the people who love her, she becomes obsessed with her quest, and hurts a lot of people. The book is marketed as something of a mystery, but it’s much more about Claudette’s journey to accepting who she is.

Fortunately, Claudette is surrounded by great supporting characters. Her dad, her almost-stepmother and her best friend are fantastic and I loved seeing them interact with Claudette and try to show her that they’re there for her. Donna, the best friend, is particularly good at home truths, which Claudette was sorely in need of at times. I also very much liked Mr Fitzpatrick, a curmudgeonly soul who is unexpectedly nice to Claudette one day, leading to an unlikely friendship.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I think it’s much better if you go into this book knowing as little about it as possible, but I really did think it was great and exceptionally well-written. It’s out today, 3rd August, and I hope that if you do check it out you enjoy it as much as I did.

4/5

I received an ARC from Atom Books in exchange for an honest review.