Blog Tour: Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourn

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I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourn today. You can read my more detailed thoughts a bit further down the page, but for now let me tell you that I really enjoyed this book and would rather like the sequel right now thank you very much!

First though, Cara was kind enough to write a guest post for me about her top five inspirational authors.

Five Inspirational Authors

I’ve always wanted to be an author, for as long as I can remember, and I think what I find ‘inspirational’ has probably changed a fair bit over the years. It used to be that I was simply inspired by fantastic story telling, but now I think that the way authors interact with their readers and handle the business side of their lives plays a part too. At the moment, my top five would be:

  1. Margaret Atwood. Not just because of her incredible writing, but because of the way she conducts herself as an author. She interacts with readers, does lots of speaking engagements and is fiercely intelligent without being even a little bit patronising. Her work is also completely timeless, as we’ve seen with the reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale adaptation.
  1. William Nicholson. Nicholson wrote The Wind On Fire trilogy, as well as some adult novels. I saw him do a talk at Heffers book store in Cambridge when I was perhaps thirteen or fourteen and I’ll always remember him talking about the reality of being an author – that sometimes you have to take a script-writing job you don’t really want, in order to pay the bills so that you can keep writing what you love. The Wind Singer books were also a huge inspiration for me.
  1. Joanna Penn. Also known as J. F. Penn, Joanna runs The Creative Penn website which offers advice and guidance to authors hoping to self-publish. She is an absolute inspiration to me because she achieved exactly what I hope to achieve – she quit her day job and is now a full-time author/entrepreneur. She divides her time between writing fiction and non-fiction and if I could emulate even half of her success I’d consider myself very lucky indeed.
  1. J.K. Rowling. How could I possibly miss out J.K? It seems ludicrous to even list the reasons why she’s an inspiration because I think so many people feel the same. But, for me, the biggest thing is that she bridged the gap between children’s and adult’s fiction. Harry Potter was originally for kids but adults fell in love with it too and I think it was instrumental in YA and children’s literature being taken more seriously. I also love that she has crossed genres to write her adult crime books under Robert Galbraith. I love writing fantasy and, while I can’t see myself writing anything other than YA, I do want to explore other genres, in particular a crime/mystery series that’s been floating around in my head for a while.
  1. Alwyn Hamilton. Rebel of The Sands is one of those books that made me go ooh I wish I’d written this! Alwyn’s fab at interacting with her readers, has an awesome website and always champions fans’ artwork and blogs. Her world building is fantastic too and her heroine kicks butt.

About the author

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Cara Thurlbourn writes children’s and young adult fiction. ‘Fire Lines’ is her first novel and it’s a story she’s been planning since she was fifteen years old.

Cara has a degree in English from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

She lives in a tiny village in Suffolk and has worked in academic and educational publishing for nearly ten years. Cara blogs about her author journey and in November 2016 she crowdfunded her first children’s book. 10% of its profits are donated to animal rehoming charities.

Cara plans to write at least two more books in the Fire Lines series, as well as a young adult mystery series, and has lots more children’s stories waiting in the wings.

You can sign up for Cara’s newsletter, for giveaways, updates and latest releases, here: http://www.firelines.co.uk

Thanks Cara!

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When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?

Fire Lines is a great YA dystopian fantasy novel. I loved the structure of this world, and the way the Quarter you lived in demonstrably affected your chance in life – and how the other parts of the city didn’t understand the deprivations suffered in the Red Quarter. Sometimes it felt like the fantasy world of Fire Lines wasn’t too far away from our own.

That wouldn’t be a totally bad thing mind you. While I wouldn’t want to live in Nhatu, the rest of the world created by Thurlbourn is much more pleasant, and includes the angel-like Watchers, who take Emi under their (literal) wings to help her fulfil her mission. The gang quickly establish themselves, and I was genuinely fearful for them at some of the more dramatic parts.

Fire Lines does suffer a little bit from that age old problem of no-one talking to anyone else, when problems could be so easily solved by a bit of communication, and it is true that Emi and her friends don’t always take the wisest course of action. However, despite this, I did really enjoy the book. I want to know what happens next. I desperately want to know what happened to the people Emi left behind in Nhatu, and I hope we get to find that out in the next book – which I will be reading. If you’re a fan of dystopian fantasy, Fire Lines should definitely be at the top of your TBR pile!

4/5

Fire Lines will be published by Bewick Press on the 26th September 2017.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35581157-fire-lines

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fire-Lines-Cara-Thurlbourn-ebook/dp/B075FTR12K

ARC received from the publisher via Faye Rogers, in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Midnight Peacock

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Katherine Woodfine’s The Sinclair’s Mysteries (and I’m so pleased that I got a chance to tell her that in person at YALC), so when I realised the latest (and final) book was available on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it immediately.

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You are cordially invited to Sinclair’s Midnight Peacock Ball! The festive season has come to Sinclair’s and Sophie and Lil are spending the holidays at snowy Winter Hall. But it turns out that this is no ordinary house party …As sinister secrets come to light, our intrepid heroines find themselves faced with a more baffling mystery than ever before! With the help of their friends, can they uncover the truth in time to foil a truly diabolical plot? Or will Mr Sinclair’s New Year’s Eve Midnight Peacock Ball spell disaster for the dauntless young detectives? Prepare for shocks and surprises in the thrilling conclusion to the Sinclair’s Mysteries!

The Midnight Peacock is a fitting finale to the series. It ties up a lot of loose ends and brings back the secondary characters we’ve met over the course of the previous three books. I was particularly glad to see the Lims return and I hope that at some point in the future Woodfine fully explores the links between Grandfather Lim and Sophie’s father. (There are hints that while this might be the last Sinclair’s Mystery, it’s not going to be the last we see of this universe.) Also, I absolutely adore the idea of Sewing Club, and I love Song and Mei as characters. Song especially is very sweet and I hope that at some point, Sophie realises the same.

This book is perhaps more reliant on a knowledge of the previous books than the rest of the series, and therefore I’d recommend you don’t start with this one. However, it’s still a self-contained plot which rollicks along at a great pace, while still giving us ample time to reacquaint ourselves with Sophie and Lil, now established as a detective agency. I must admit that I worked out who the secondary bad guy was fairly early on, but there were enough red herrings strewn about to make me second guess myself, and the joy of a good mystery book is trying to play along! I also found myself thinking about the characters and wondering how they were getting on, long after I’d finished the book

As is usual with mystery books, it’s hard to talk about The Midnight Peacock without spoiling it or the previous books in the series. Rest assured that if you’ve enjoyed the other Sinclair’s Mysteries, you’ll enjoy The Midnight Peacock just as much. If you haven’t read the rest of the series then you need to go and read The Clockwork Sparrow right now. This is a great middle grade mystery series, and I’m sad that it’s finished – but looking forward to whatever comes next!

The Midnight Peacock is out on 5th October, and I highly recommend it!

4.5/5

ARC received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Things A Bright Girl Can Do

As is often the way, I’d seen a few people talking about Things A Bright Girl Can Do, by Sally Nicholls, for a while, and then my friend Sarah told me I had to read it because I would love it, so of course I had to give it a go. She was right of course; I did love it, because it is right up my street. History! Feminism! Wonderful characters! Everything I love to see in a book, in fact.

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Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice? 

Things A Bright Girl Can Do starts in 1914 and moves through to the beginning of 1918, following the three young women throughout. It’s a really interesting way to look at the time period – we tend to concentrate on men’s stories in the war period, and although we all learn about the Suffragettes, we don’t tend to drill down past the leaders, and certainly not to teenagers, so I very much enjoyed reading about it from the point of view of three very different young women. All three stories are fascinating and cover the breadth of Edwardian society, and I particularly liked the way they all had different reasons pulling them towards the suffrage movement. It was also good to see the historically accurate potrayal of May and Nell’s relationship, and how it was clear that it was Nell who was taking all the risk, because of the different attitudes of their communities.

I loved Evelyn and Nell as characters, although if I had to pick a favourite, it would probably be Evelyn. She’s intelligent and stubborn right from the start, but once she discovers the Suffragettes she gives herself to the cause wholeheartedly, despite her previously cosseted lifestyle. I found myself desperately worried for her at various points in the book, which shows how much I engaged with her. I also engaged with Nell, but to a lesser extent. The hardships she and her family suffered were heartbreaking, and there was a point where I really regretted reading the book in public, because I knew I was about to cry. May I was much less interested in. Although she shows spectacular growth by the end, for much of the book she came across as a bit self-obssessed. She had no idea about the things Nell was going through, and treated her abominably, and it kind of put me off her, even though the other aspects of her story were interesting. An honourable mention here for Teddy, who was my favourite of the supporting characters. His relatonship with Evelyn was just so lovely, in the way he supported her even though he was worried about what the consequences were, and I was terrified for him when he went off to war.

The period detail in Things A Bright Girl Can Do is also fantastic. The social history of Britain in this period happens to be the area I studied most at university, so while my knowledge isn’t quite up to date, I fancy I’ve got quite a good idea of what it was like, and Sally Nicholls has done a great job of portraying it right across the social classes. From the lack of opportunities for women to get an education (they can study and sit all the exams at Oxford, for example, (if they’re rich enough) but they can’t actually get a degree), to the conditions Nell and her family live in in the East End, Nicholls has got it right. Not only that, she writes in such a way that the setting is vivid and real, even to people who don’t have the historical background.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a fantastic book, full of historical detail and great characters. I really enjoyed it, and as this is the first book I’ve read by Sally Nicholls, I will immediately be searching out her other books. I recommend you do the same.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is out today, 7th September. You should go and buy it.

4.5/5

Arc received from Andersen Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Moonrise

Ah, it’s so nice to get back to some blogging after a couple of months with no time to think! I’m planning on writing and scheduling a few reviews tonight, so hopefully you’ll see a bit more activity on this blog than there has been in the last few months! First up, we have Moonrise, by Sarah Crossan. I’m a big fan of Sarah’s verse novels, so I was very much looking forward to reading this. It’s not my favourite of her books, but it’s still some of the best writing out there.

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‘They think I hurt someone. 
But I didn’t. You hear?
Coz people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.’

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

Moonrise is the story of Joe, who moves to Texas to be near his big brother Ed, on Death Row for a crime he says he didn’t commit, in the weeks leading up to his execution date. Joe is the only member of his family who makes the trip from New York – his mum disappeared not long after Ed went to prison, his sister Angela is still trying to scrape the money together to get there, and his aunt believes Ed is guilty and wants nothing to do with him. Joe is 17, alone, and in a strange place with no money and we follow him as he tries to get by, and tries to get to know his brother again, in the worst circumstances possible.

First of all, I want to point out that when I say Moonrise isn’t my favourite Sarah Crossan book, it’s not really the book that’s the problem. My copy from Netgalley wasn’t formatted correctly, and told me it was only 50% through the book when it was actually at the end, so the ending seemed really sudden, and I know that’s coloured my perception of it. I was expecting another couple of hundred pages (although I don’t know what I thought was going to happen in them!), and then it just seemed to stop, which was disappointing. So that is absolutely nothing to do with the book, which is as beautifully written as any of Sarah’s works.

There’s a real sense of longing throughout the book. (Longing’s not quite the right word, but it gives you the gist.) Joe desperately wants Ed off Death Row and out of prison. He desperately wants the rest of his family to join him, so he’s not alone in Texas. He desperately wants to get to know Nell, a girl who lives in the small town he’s found himself in, better. He’s a 17 year old boy on his own with no money, and he hates it, and I thought this came across really well in the book. The present is interspersed with flashbacks to Joe’s childhood with Ed, and through these we also get to know him, and Angela and their Aunt Karen. The characterisation of all these people is wonderful and I really did feel like I knew them all by the end of the book.

Moonrise is not just about this family though. It’s also a condemnation of the death penalty and the circus that surrounds an execution. Sarah Crossan doesn’t pull any punches in examining the process and the effect it has on everyone involved, including the prison staff and the people who live in a town that essentially only exists because of the prison. I found it an interesting point of view to take, and I certainly feel like I have a better understanding of the system in the US.

I definitely recommend Moonrise to everyone. It’s a beautifully written, coming of age verse novel that packs a powerful punch and it’s out tomorrow, 7th September, in the UK.

4/5

ARC received from Bloomsbury via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.