23 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #67

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf for Five Years or Longer That You STILL Haven't Read Yet.

The original top ten topic was Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven't Read Yet but I've only been blogging for 3-4 years and Steph doesn't really blog so we changed it.

CORA'S LIST

It was hard to whittle this one down because I AM A MOOD READER AND I'M NOT SORRY.
  • Entangled by Cat Clarke
  • The Queen's Secret by Victoria Lamb
  • Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • Innocent by Anne Cassidy
  • Raider's Tide by Maggie Prince
  • Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
  • Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
STEPH'S LIST

Steph forgot to send me her list.
  • SHAME
  • I could probably do it myself
  • We're BFFs
  • I KNOW EVEYTHING
  • But still
  • I told her in advance
  • Like, well in advance
  • She could have sent me five or something
  • She usually does it straight away
  • Crap, what if she has...? *runs to check*
How many books are on your TBR?

16 August 2016

Review: Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant fa├žade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.

Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all.


5 Words: Family, friendship, resentment, love, growing-up.

This book very much sits on that fine line between YA and Adult fiction - as much as it's about growing up, that inbetween time when you aren't yet grown but are no longer a child, it is also written in a rather mature and slightly less accessible (for me) style.

I loved the small town mentality, how everything came back to it. I loved how the Jack seemed so trapped, how everyone seemed trapped, but that no one ever properly left. I loved how the characters themselves seemed as small as the setting.

I didn't really like Jack that much, and I struggled at first because of it, but I got sucked right in to her world. I was there witnessing the tumultuous relationships she had with everyone around her, I felt her resentment, I understood her actions. I loved how she interacted with her sister, how they weren't best friends, how they argued all of the time. I have sisters, and we are at each other's throats, so the relationship really rang true.

This book had a very summery feel to it, in the writing style itself as much as the summer setting, and at times I was reminded of Panic by Lauren Oliver.

I was provided with a copy free for review.

Top Ten Tuesday #66

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books With a Dystopian Setting.

Did anyone else struggle picking which setting to do? It took us ages! Can you ever get enough of the terrifying speculation that is a Dystopia? We settled on five each otherwise our lists would be practically identical.

CORA'S LIST

  1. Slated by Teri Terry
  2. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
  3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  4. Acid by Emma Pass
  5. The Blemished by Sarah Dalton

STEPH'S LIST

  1. Slated by Teri Terry
  2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  3. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
  4. The Glimpse by Claire Merle
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Whats' your favourite dystopian novel?

09 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #65

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books I'd Want on a Desert Island.

Not only are these some of our FAVOURITE books, but they are also ones that we could - and already have - read time and again, the ones we never get bored of.

CORA'S LIST

These are the books that stay in my head, the books that I love to get lost in, the books that make me feel every emotion under the sun. They are books that I would recommend to absolutely everyone, and I am currently giving away one of them in the post before this.
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  • Lucas by Kevin Brooks
  • Junk by Melvin Burgess
  • Darkmere by Helen Maslin
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  • Shadows and Stronghold by Elizabeth Chadwick
  • Geek Girl by Holly Smale
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • Possessing Rayne by Kate Cann

STEPH'S LIST

I decided to chose these books as some of them have a desert, or arid dry setting to them. The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick, follows the story of Sabin FitzSimon, as he travels to the Holy Land. Chadwick has a unique flair the bringing the Holy Land to life, and captivating the readers senses.  
  • The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan
  • Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix
  • Matched by Ally Condie
  • Perelandra by CS Lewis
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  • The Wind Singer by William Nicholson
  • The Doomspell by Cliff McNish
  • Fated by Alyson Noel
  • The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick
What's your ultimate desert island read?

08 August 2016

Guest Post & Giveaway: Helen Maslin "My So-Called Authorly-Life"

If you follow me anywhere online, you will have heard me pushing Darkmere by Helen Maslin on everyone. Wherever the book even slightly fits the topic, I manage to squeeze it in. If it doesn't fit the topic, I still mention it anyway because it is amazing. It was my absolute favourite book last year and my love for it knows no bounds. Even better is that Helen is on Twitter and happy to answer questions and be tagged in the hundreds of posts where I mention Darkmere and its many virtues.

A castle.

A curse.

A dangerous summer.

Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.


It has been a year since Darkmere was released, and I asked the lovely author if maybe she could tell me a bit about her first year after publication. So here we go... And also, giveaway!


My So-Called Authorly-Life
by Helen Maslin

God, I love the idea of an ‘authorly-life’ – I imagine it would involve wafting about in floaty scarves and drinking cocktails at literary events, and saying terribly clever things all the time, knowing people will quote you.

And my life is almost exactly like that.

Apart from the scarves.

And the cocktails.

And the other stuff.

Because it’s hard enough to fit any actual writing in around the washing-up and the school-run and re-grouting the shower and having arguments with my husband about whose turn it is to take the rubbish out, never mind attempting to do it all whilst half-drunk and tangled up in a scarf.

I said I wouldn’t complain.

Once, I stayed late at a festival and watched all the portable toilets being hoisted onto a lorry and driven away and I swore I would never complain about having a job that didn’t involve taking portable toilets away and cleaning them. And writing is the opposite – it’s great. You can do it in bed whilst eating biscuits and it makes people think you’re clever.

But in the year since being published, I’ve changed my mind about not complaining, because writing a book is hard work.

It’s not unpleasant work (festival-toilet-cleaner still wins that round) but keeping going – one word after another – and making sure it all makes sense, with a plot and characters and everything – it’s hard. Husband says he can tell when my writing is going well because I stop complaining that I can’t do it – and start complaining that I don’t have enough time to do it.

So, yeah – authorly-life involves a lot of complaining.

Also guilt.

I’m not sure why, but I feel guilty whenever I’m not writing, including on weekends, holidays and at night-time. As if I’m not committed enough – or something. Lots of other authors seem to feel this too. After all, if Patrick Ness can come up with at least one prize-winning book every single year, why can’t the rest of us? Why – whyyyyy?

I’m making my authorly-life sound rubbish, aren’t I?

Sorry. I’m very happy and I really do enjoy writing, but the main thing I’ve leant over the past year is that I have to focus on enjoying the writing because it doesn’t happen automatically. Last year, I lost sight of that amid all the re-writing and editing and blogposts and other promotional stuff. For

a while, writing became all about speed and professionalism and never letting anyone down. Trouble was, when I tried to write too fast, the end result wasn’t as good as it should’ve been and I stopped enjoying it. I had to really concentrate on finding my own pace again – and making the words good enough for me to feel proud of them.

Ironically, since being published I’ve met a few of the more famous authors who write better and faster than me and they’ve told me about the stress and insecurity and crippling deadlines that come with the big money publishing deals – it doesn’t sound all that tempting.

What else?

Hmm... besides the completely obvious things I learned i.e. – to enjoy the writing and stop comparing myself to Patrick-bloody-Ness all the time, I suppose the main thing I’ve learnt in the last year is that I’ve only just started learning things. Every book will be different and every one will be hard work. I’m happy to keep at it, though.

A list of things that happened during my first year as an author...

I got to see my name on the cover of an actual book.

And it was as exciting as everyone said it would be! I loved the cover art, the tagline, the hearts around the chapter headings, the font – everything. Seeing it in bookshops was brilliant. Signing books with my special authorly-signature will always be weird – but it’s a nice weird!

Someone recognised me.

The week before my publication date, I went on holiday and got badly bitten by midges. It was my own fault: I bragged about how I never get bitten and refused to put any insect repellent on – and a whole swarm attacked me. There were bites all over my arms and face. Even my eyelids turned into giant itchy lumps. Over the next few days, I had a reaction to the bites and they tripled in size and went bright green and poisonous. I have – genuinely – never looked more disgusting in my life.

That’s when someone recognised me.

I was on the way back from the doctors with armfuls of antibiotics and antihistamines, when a woman came right up to me and told me she’d seen my picture in the local paper. I watched her face fall in slow-motion as she saw how hideous I was in real-life.

That moment was far from being one of my best moments.

I had a launch.

This, on the other hand, was definitely a best moment! My book was launched in the Suffolk Anthology – a beautiful indie bookshop close to

where I live. Helene, the owner, had ordered a whole box of Darkmeres and decorated the window with props from the story. There were balloons and flowers and speeches and cupcakes and champagne – the whole thing was fabulous. I was a bit nervous about being the centre of attention, so I drank my wine far too fast... before discovering I shouldn’t have mixed it with all the antibiotics and antihistamines I was taking for my horror-bites. Anyhow, I ended up clinging on to the bookshop counter for support and giggling a lot!

Several people gave me books they’d written, assuming I would be able to get them published.

I’d heard that this would happen, but it was still totally unexpected – I mean it’s blindingly obvious I have no high-powered contacts or influence over anyone. I can’t even make my own children pick their clothes up off the floor. But as soon as my book was published, neighbours and friends-of-friends showed me their poetry or picture books. All I could do was tell them how much I liked their books and then feel a bit guilty for not owning a publishing house. I’m worried that I won’t be able to get my own next book published, so I can hardly help anyone else bypass the tortuous submissions-and-rejections process.

I still hate thinking up titles.

It doesn’t get any easier. All authors hate choosing titles. Apart from the author Emma Pass who loves them. She has a notebook full of titles waiting for stories to be written around them. And sooner or later all the other authors are going to form an Ocean’s Eleven-type gang and steal that notebook.

I did my first ever school visit.

And the Imposter Syndrome was strong! Angela Stone, the librarian of Pates Grammar School invited me to visit on World Book Day and give an author interview. There were spotlights. A microphone pack. A blow-up of my book on the screen behind me. Even a reserved parking space with my name on it. God, I wished I was important enough to have merited that kind of attention. By the time the hall had filled up with hundreds of year tens, I was shaking ALL OVER!

I was interviewed by Caitlin Devlin from year 12 and I have very little memory of anything I said. Although I’m pretty sure I didn’t come out with any of the anecdotes I planned beforehand. I got through it by pretending to be a properly famous and important author – and I fully intend to become a properly famous and important author so I can be less of a fraud retrospectively.

Since then, I’ve joined various other authors on discussion panels in front of much smaller audiences in bookshops – and these have been less scary. The Imposter Syndrome is as strong as ever, though. So far, I’ve always been the only author

with only one book after my name on the programme. I asked another author, Sharon Jones, if I’d feel like a proper author when I had two books to my name... and she made a sort of snorting noise at me. I asked Keris Stainton, who’s written eleven books, the same question and she did exactly the same snort. So I guess that’s a ‘no’ then.

People asked me how my book was selling.

This is another thing I was warned about, but still gaped when it happened. People I barely know have asked how many copies I’ve sold and how much money I’ve made and why my book isn’t available in Tescos/Airport/local newsagent/other.

And every time, I’ve wanted to turn the question around and demand to know their salary, but I’ve never had the nerve. Because this is a question that only applies to writers apparently.

My honest answer has always been that I’ve no idea how well the book has sold because I’ve never asked. I took the author CJ Skuse’s advice on this. ‘Before you ask,’ she said in her scariest voice of doom, ‘be sure you want to know the answer!’

There was no way I was going to ask after that. Besides, the not-knowing fits in with my policy of simply enjoying the writing.

I went on one of those amazing promotional trips abroad.

Still feels like I imagined this one. My publishers paid for me to fly to the beautiful German city of Leipzig for a weekend of book signings and interviews, of aeroplanes and hotel breakfasts, of Aperol Spritzes and huge marble bathtubs, of meeting the friendliest bloggers and wandering around the biggest, busiest book fair until it felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out.

I also had the longest book signing queue I’ve ever seen in my life! Seriously. It was worth writing the book for this queue alone.

Twitter was the best!

In the run-up to publication, I felt as if everyone was supporting me on social media – which was lovely. Dozens of bloggers told me they were eager to read the book and posted photos of early copies in bookshops all over the country. There were also reviews full of praise or pictures of teenagers reading it at their breakfast tables. Before Twitter, books must have been published into relative silence and their authors probably didn’t get much feedback, so I felt incredibly lucky. Some writers told me life would seem a bit flat when social media moved on to the next new author, but I didn’t feel that way at all. I think it would be daunting to be celebrated endlessly – like JK Rowling. Although the whole fanfare did make me determined to write another book so I could experience it all over again.

Twitter was the worst!

When the writing isn’t going well, it’s always tempting to distract myself on the internet and Twitter will unfailingly let me know that Emma Carroll has written another book... and Melinda Salisbury has written another eight chapters... and Frances Hardinge has won another prize. And their words will have that kind of sparkly brilliance that makes it seem impossible that they can be writing them so quickly. And I’ll have to stop myself from wailing: ‘How are you all doing this? How? How?’

There were reviews.

It was impossible not to read every reference to my book in the first few months after it was published. Short reviews... long reviews... reviews that made no sense and reviews that gave away the entire plot. I read them all and thanked the writers of the complimentary ones. Because they inspired me to go on writing. But I’ve learnt that reviews are not really for the author and I genuinely try not to look for them anymore because I’m concentrating on just enjoying the writing!

The worst reviews? Maybe I was luckier than most, but every less-than-glowing review really did seem to say more about the reviewer than the actual book, which made it easier for me not to be upset by them.

The weirdest review was included in an ASMR video which I watched without knowing what ASMR videos were. The vlogger drummed her fingernails against the book cover all the way through, whilst asking: ‘Does this look like the kind of book you might enjoy?’ in that Cadbury’s Caramel Bunny-type ASMR voice. ‘It sounds like static interference,’ said my thirteen year old with a baffled look. ‘Maybe it’s her first video,’ said my ten year old, ‘and she’s really, really nervous!’

Anyway, after we’d Googled ASMR videos, the ten year old decided they were hilarious and spoke in an ASMR voice for at least a week. ‘Do you like the look of this?’ he’d ask, tapping noisily on a loaf of bread. ‘Does this look like something you’d enjoy making into a sandwich for me?’

And the best review was yours, of course. I still get teary when I read it and believe me – I’ve read it a lot! Especially the bit where you were shaking. SHAKING.

I try to write for myself and not pay too much attention to other people’s opinions, but I can’t help having a handful of people in my head who I’d love to impress – and I think they’ll always be there whatever I write. Rachel, my brilliant editor, Jazz, the publicist extraordinaire, other writers such as Emma Carroll and Rhian Ivory whose writing I admire, Helene who owns my favourite bookshop and you – because you’ve been so supportive of Darkmere. Whenever I write something I’m pleased with, it’s not unusual to find myself thinking... ‘I really hope Cora Linn will like this bit!’

GIVEAWAY

If Book Depository ships then you could win 1 paperback copy of Darkmere by Helen Maslin.

28 July 2016

Release Day Review: Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Charlie Bloom never wanted to be 'with the band'. She's happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she's asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band Fire&Lights, she can't pass up the chance. 

Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West, and his boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson. Then, as the boys' rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mind-blowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs... 



5 Words: Friendship, fame, betrayal, bullying, family.

This was such an addictive story, I seriously could not put it down.

This is another YA that acknowledges technology - it confronts online bullying and trolling head on and if anything the consequences of every action are even greater because of today's technology. But despite the serious issues it tackles, it still manages to stay relatively fun. And it makes the story very compelling.

I loved Charlie's insecurity and self doubt, and I loved when she had those "I am good enough" thoughts. I loved how she reacted to the situations she found herself in, it felt very organic and real. Okay, I love Charlie Bloom.

I was a bit torn about the ending. Ending it just a few pages sooner would have been perfect, with everything wrapped up yet still open enough for me to imagine what comes next. But then there's this little twist and everything changes and now I really need the next book and I have to wait a year... I don't think I can!

I received a copy of this for free via NetGalley for review purposes.

25 July 2016

Blog Tour: Review: Mata Hari by Michelle Moran

Paris, 1917. The notorious dancer Mata Hari sits in a cold cell awaiting freedom… Or death. Alone and despondent, Mata Hari is as confused as the rest of the world about the charges she’s been arrested on: treason leading to the deaths of thousands of French soldiers.

As Mata Hari waits for her fate to be decided, she relays the story of her life to a reporter who is allowed to visit her in prison. Beginning with her carefree childhood, Mata Hari recounts her father’s cruel abandonment of her family as well her calamitous marriage to a military officer. Taken to the island of Java, Mata Hari refuses to be ruled by her abusive husband and instead learns to dance, paving the way to her stardom as Europe’s most infamous dancer.


5 Words: Fame, fortune, propaganda, war, family.

This book pretty much delves straight into the life of Mata Hari as she desperately tries to survive having come to Paris. Starting this book, I knew little about her life, only that she was executed for espionage in World War One. Throughout the story, her past is slowly revealed, information is drip fed, and my own feelings and attitude towards the character changed completely.

By the end of this book, I felt a little empty, I was a little numb with shock. Because even though I knew the historical truth, in my head I still hoped that maybe there would be a happy ending.

A lot of the story focused on the protagonist's material belongings - what she wore, what she bought, what she was gifted. It felt very sumptuous, the writing itself was rich and colourful and glittering. This was an integral part to the character, in building her up and showing who she was and why. It felt right. And as much as it threw me a little, and at first it meant that I didn't like her so much, by the end I understood completely.

I have never read this author before, but I absolutely will keep an eye out in future. And I've reserved her back-catalogue at the library.

I was provided with a copy free via the publisher for review.