Monday, 31 March 2014

#LGBTApril



I've spent about 3 weeks planning on writing a sign-up post for #LGBTApril and have just realised that it starts tomorrow, so I'm going to get an ultra-quick one down here and may edit at some point.

For those who aren't aware of it, LGBT Month is hosted by Cayce at Fighting Dreamer and Laura at Laura Plus Books. It runs throughout April and it’s here to celebrate LGBT readers, LGBT authors and of course LGBT books!

I'm aiming to read a fair amount of LGBT books. I'm terrible at planning this stuff ahead of time but a few I have to choose from...

Books I have/have got from library:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
Keeping You A Secret by Julie-Anne Peters
Hero by Perry Moore


Books I'm hopefully getting or borrowing before the end of the month

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Adaptation by Malinda Lo
It's Our Prom by Julie-Anne Peters


Books I'm tempted to buy even though I have far too many books...

Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Teeth by Hannah Moskovitz
The Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi
Great by Sara Benincasa (Published in US a week tomorrow so tempted to get an import)
Coda by Emma Trevayne


Books I've read and should review:

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton


Books I'm desperately hoping review copies are available of before the end of April: (Subtle, me?!)

Pea's Book of Holidays by Susie Day


I'm also hoping to do a few discussion posts, although I ALWAYS say that. Stuff I'd like to talk about if I get a chance:

 'Light' LGBT fiction - why isn't there more of it? (As much as I love having my heart torn out by people like Tess Sharpe and Cat Clarke, Starring Kitty was hugely refreshing as it was so adorable!

Why Isn't The Blurb Out? I LOVED Far From You but the blurb irritated me by making no mention of the central relationship which is by far the best thing about this wonderful book. This is hardly unique - should books be up front about their LGBT characters? What about the 'twist' of someone being LGBT? (Thinking of one in particular where you may assume the narrator is a girl until the halfway point when he's revealed to be a gay guy...)

LGBT Films and TV Shows - This will clearly be me raving about Dance Academy, but I may throw in shout-outs to Kissing Jessica Stein and Lost & Delirious

A Sporcle quiz or two.

Are you signing up for #LGBTApril? Any books I haven't listed here that I should definitely read? Let me know in comments or on Twitter! (Also, if you're short of recommendations for books to read, then Dahlia Adler's QUILTBAG YA/NA Compendium is AMAZING. Although apologies if she bankrupts you...)


Friday, 28 March 2014

Author Interview with Cat Clarke

While I'm stunned by the generosity of ALL authors who give up their time to talk to me, today's is an extra-special one for me. I interviewed Cat Clarke a few years ago after the release of her brilliant Torn, and I don't think I've ever done a repeat interview before - until now! (Feel free to point out one I've forgotten in the comments, if I'm wrong here.)

As much as I loved Torn, I think next Thursday's release A Kiss In The Dark is Cat's best yet, so I was really excited to get the chance to ask her about it.


1. What changes have you seen when it comes to YA in this country since you first became a published author just over 3 years ago?

There’s more of it, and a lot more variety too, which can only be a good thing. When Entangled came out, there was still a lot of paranormal romance on the shelves. I was clearing out my study the other day and came across a printout of an early version of the Entangled cover – it had a VERY paranormal romance vibe going on! I’m so glad we ended up going down a different route!


2. Moving onto questions specifically about A Kiss In The Dark, which are going to be super-vague to avoid spoilers... it's narrated partly by Alex and partly by Kate. Did you find one of their voices easier to write than the other?

I found Alex’s voice the easiest to write, I think. Kate’s section was trickier, because there was a lot that it had to do. It had to work harder, in a way. It’s always like that with my writing though. I love setting up obstacles for my characters, putting them in tricky situations and seeing how they react. It’s the tricky wrapping-things-up stage that always seems to put a spanner in the works!


3. You tackle some really tough scenes in your books, with suicide in Undone and others in A Kiss In The Dark which I won't go into due to my usual fear of spoilers. The idea of 'age ratings' for books seems to have cropped up again recently, with a few newspaper articles and blog posts about it. Where do you stand on the idea?

I agree that age ratings can be handy, especially for people buying books for children, but I’m not a fan. A book that’s suitable for one nine year old may not be suitable for another. A child might be put off reading a book that’s considered too ‘young’ for them. And is the age rating supposed to be about reading age or the content of the book? I have too many questions and misgivings. In the end, I think there’s no substitute for good advice when it comes to buying children’s books, whether that be from a bookseller or a librarian or a blogger. Each reader is different and has different needs, and I hate to think of children not finding the book they want – or need – because someone has put a needless barrier in their way.


4. I'd say that your main characters are often not particularly likeable, with several of them doing some terrible things, but they're always sympathetic as we can see WHY they do these things. Do you think it's important that a lead character is sympathetic? Any tips for writing them?

I don’t think main characters have to be anything other than interesting. I don’t need a main character to be likeable, and I don’t even need to necessarily understand why they do the things they do, I just have to care enough to want to find out what happens to them. I’m not sure my characters are all sympathetic, but thanks Jim! As for advice for writing sympathetic characters, it’s probably most important to make them real. Above all, the reader has to believe in the character. I’m just not entirely sure what the secret is!


5. There's been a huge upswing in LGBTQ UKYA fiction recently, with some of your books, like Undone and Falling, towards the forefront. Do you think this will continue over the next few years?

Definitely. I think we’re going to see more and more LGBTQ UKYA novels, and I can’t wait to read them! We’re slowly but surely catching up to the US on this front, I think. I know there are some awesome-sounding LGBTQ books coming up soon from Keris Stainton, Liz Kessler and James Dawson, and there are hopefully lots more I’ve yet to hear about.

I've been lucky enough to read Keris's Starring Kitty and it's AMAZINGLY good, can't wait for everyone else to read it so I have people to talk to about it. Liz and James are both fab so really looking forward to theirs as well.

6. Without revealing anything about the ending to A Kiss In The Dark, several of your previous books have left readers wailing. Did you buy shares in tissue companies before becoming an author?

Damn! I missed a trick there, didn’t I? Where’s that TARDIS when I need it? Nothing makes me happier than hearing that my books make people cry, except when I heard that Entangled made someone faint. That was pretty cool too. For my next trick, I’d like to make a reader puke. Or maybe have a nosebleed. On second thoughts, maybe I should stick with crying.


7. If you could ask any other UKYA author any other question, what would you ask and who would you ask it to?

I would ask Malorie Blackman if she wouldn’t mind me borrowing her brain once in a while. I’m sure we could come to some sort of satisfactory arrangement – every other Tuesday afternoon, perhaps. Just for an hour or two.


8. What was the last thing you Googled?

Little Red Riding Hood.


9. Last time I interviewed you, you shared a few artists who you were listening to when writing Torn. Did you listen to music when writing A Kiss In The Dark? If so, any particular artists?

The song I listened to most when writing A Kiss in the Dark was ‘It’s a Girl Thing’ by My Life Story. Several hundred times, probably. Weirdly enough, I’ve recently stopped listening to music while I write. I never thought that would happen, but for some reason I just started finding it massively distracting all of a sudden!

Thanks for having me on your blog, Jim!

Thanks so much for taking part, Cat!

A Kiss in the Dark is out on Thursday - why not pre-order from your local bookshop? For more from Cat check her out on Twitter and on her website, and of course read her previous novels Entangled, Torn, Undone and Falling!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Recommendation: Bone Jack by Sara Crowe




Title: BONE JACK
Author: Sara Crowe
Obtained: From publisher in exchange for consideration for a recommendation
Why I Read It: The cover and blurb made it sounds amazing. (Spoiler for my review - they were right!)
Genre: YA contemporary fantasy
Very Highly Recommended
Release date: April 3rd

15-year-old Ash has been waiting for his father to come back from the war. He's following in his dad's footsteps as the stag boy in the traditional Stag Chase, and he knows his dad will be proud of him. Running through the mountains whenever he can to train, he's not bothered by the taunts of the other boys who he beat to become the stag, and who will take their places as hounds - he knows their hostility is traditional. But something is stirring in the countryside, and he sees strange visions, while his old friend Mark is behaving seriously creepily. Is Mark just grieving for his father, or is there something more sinister at work?

This is becoming a remarkably strong year for debut authors. The first three months have seen the publication of Non Pratt's Trouble, Anne Booth's Girl With a White Dog, and Tess Sharpe's Far From You. Joining their ranks as a truly stunning first novel is Bone Jack, a deeply disquieting tale which mixes old legends with thoroughly modern problems. Ash's village is reeling from foot and mouth, his father is suffering from shell shock after returning from the war, and farmers are going bankrupt all around. It's the perfect balance of these elements which make this stand out as something special.

I read a lot of books quickly but this is perhaps the one I raced through fastest recently. That's partly because I was desperate to find out what would happen - it's a really unpredictable read - but it's also because there's no way on earth I wanted to be reading it after 10 o'clock at night! (That turned out to be nowhere near early enough as a cut-off point, sadly - I woke up twice during the night. The first time, I couldn't get back to sleep in case a character from the novel was waiting in my dreams; the second, because I was too busy trying to think how to review something this brilliant!)

Ash is a great main character, who's physically and mentally tough but who doesn't know how to handle either his father or his former best friend. It's these two relationships which give the book a lot more depth than I was perhaps expecting - both are superb. The portrayal of Ash and his mum trying to ease his father back into his old life and avoid stressing him out is excellent, while the antagonistic way Mark and Ash interact feels incredibly realistic for two people once so close. The fantasy elements are also brilliantly handled, with strong elements of classic legends like the Wild Hunt being clear influences. (Speaking of the Wild Hunt, if you're looking for perfect music to listen to this, head to the wonderful BarlowCree's website and check out Mallt-y-Nos, the third video down.)

Massive recommendation to all, particularly to fans of The Dark Is Rising, The Wicker Man, or Hollow Pike. I'm already desperate to read Sara Crowe's next!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Divergent Experience 29th-30th March - Including EUROPEAN PREMIERE TICKETS giveaway!

If you have any plans for next weekend, you may want to cancel them! The Divergent Experience happening in Leicester Square and it looks AMAZING, well worth going to even if you don't have a ticket for the European premiere.

Of course, the one thing better than going to the Divergent Experience WITHOUT a couple of tickets for the European premiere would be doing what I'm doing, and going to it WITH a couple of tickets for the European premiere... and I may just be able to help out with that. Check out the Rafflecopter at the bottom to be in with a chance of winning two tickets for the premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on Sunday March 30th at 2:30!




Experience the world of the hotly anticipated DIVERGENT movie in Leicester Square and attend the EUROPEAN PREMIERE!

On Saturday March 29th and Sunday March 30th Leicester Square will be transformed into the dystopian world of DIVERGENT, where fans will be invited to undergo initiation tests and, like Tris Prior, choose where they belong. Would you survive in Dauntless? Fans will be put through their paces with Dauntless training to see if you are brave enough to join their faction!

But that’s not all – we have a pair of tickets for the European premiere of DIVERGENT at Odeon Leicester Square on the Sunday at 1.30pm, attended by stars of the film Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet! So not only can you discover the world for yourself, you can walk the red carpet, mingle with the stars and watch the film before it’s released in the UK!

Enter here for your chance to win this once in a lifetime experience! If you aren’t lucky this time, you are still in with a chance - get down to Leicester Square early as we will also be giving out a limited number of premiere tickets to fans on both days!

The Divergent Fan Experience Timings

Saturday March 29th
11.00am – 6.00pm

Sunday March 30th
11.00am – 12.00pm
3.00pm – 6.00pm

Premiere timings

Sunday March 30th
Doors open – 1.30pm
Doors close – 2.30pm
Film starts 3.00pm

DIVERGENT is released April 4th

FB handle: DivergentUK
Twitter: @Divergentmovie
#Divergent



a Rafflecopter giveaway

There are several other book bloggers running similar giveaways, by the way! For extra chances to win, make sure you enter them all. Ones I know about are at Daisy Chain Book Reviews, Much Loved Books, Wondrous Reads, Once Upon A Bookcase, Natasha Ngan and Live Otherwise. (Closing dates vary; all are ongoing when I post this though.) If you know of any others let me know in the comments or via Twitter and I'll edit in if I get a chance. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Far From You Countdown: Review + Giveaway


One of the best received books of the year so far has been Tess Sharpe's utterly amazing Far From You, which EVERYBODY loves. (But without wanting to brag, I loved it before nearly anyone else in the UK did - other than Clover, at least.)

This review was originally posted on The Bookbag but with just six days to go it seems a good time to repost. And the wonderful Orion have given me an awesome countdown graphic AND a book to give away to a lucky follower in the UK or Ireland - how cool is that?


I have no idea where to begin on this one. I'm not even sure I should attempt a plot summary. Ultra-condensed review is basically along the lines of buy this right now - top five of the last decade for me, maybe top three. If you're a fan of great teen books in general, or great LGBT teen books in particular, you really can't afford to miss out on this.

It's being billed as a story of drug addict Sophie investigating best friend Mina's death, which is remarkable for being both an honest description and completely misleading at the same time. Yes, the focus is on Sophie's hunt for Mina's killer, but the mystery aspect is the weak part of the book - there aren't enough clues given for the reader to have a decent chance of working out the solution through anything other than random guesswork.

So why is it top three YA of the last ten years despite the murder mystery not really working that well for me? The characters are absolutely outstanding. Sophie is a superb narrator - sent to rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten and finally out and ready to seek justice. The relationship between Mina and Sophie has incredible chemistry and made me really care about both of them - which was rather soul-destroying as we know from the start that Mina is dead! As well, the jumping from time to time - the narrative alternates between 'now' and events at various prior points in Sophie's life - works brilliantly, gradually painting a fuller picture of Sophie, Mina and Mina's brother Trev.

Oh, and it's also probably the most emotional book I've ever read. I've mentioned before that a couple of the very best books of recent years have made me cry in public - but none of them destroyed me in the way this one did, leaving me choking back sobs for hours afterwards.

Hugely recommended as an absolute must-read.


a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

MG Review - Sesame Seade Mysteries 1: Sleuth on Skates

Before I forget, the BRILLIANT Anna at A Case For Books ran a Carnegie predictions post last week that I was invited to take part in! I've tweeted about it but haven't mentioned it here yet - if you missed it, check it out here.

One of my aims for the year has been to read more MG fiction, and it's a decision that's paying off pretty spectacularly well. There have been a couple of awesome reads in the last week or so and I may update this post later but for now, I wanted to share the brilliance of Sesame Seade!

Title: SESAME SEADE: SLEUTH ON SKATES
Author: Clementine Beauvais
Obtained: From publisher in exchange for consideration for a recommendation. (Thanks Cait!)
Why I Read It: Cait at The Cait Files and Daphne at Winged Reviews made it sound fantastic.
Genre: MG contemporary mystery
Highly Recommended




Eleven-year-old Sesame Seade has been waiting all her life to be a super sleuth, so when a student journalist disappears and no-one seems all that bothered, she decides to solve the case herself. Can she track down the vanished girl before her parents work out what's going on?

I think one of the things MG does perhaps even better than YA is fun books. That's not to say there aren't any really joyous YA novels out there, of course - I'm thinking of ones like Boys Don't Knit, Have A Little Faith and Weirdos vs Quimboids. But they seem to be relatively rare and hugely underrated, whereas MG is maybe a more frequent source. I'm pleased to say that Sesame Seade is absolutely huge FUN with a capital F, U and N! Sesame herself is a brilliantly resourceful heroine who's clever, brave and honest, with a wonderful voice. (Having said that, while I loved reading about her, I'm so, so glad that I didn't have to teach her - I even felt sorry for poor Mr Halitosis!)

Much of the credit for Sesame's fabulousness goes to author Clementine Beauvais, of course, for giving us a great set of characters - I really enjoyed the relationship with her mother, a college professor, and her father, a reverend, both of whom clearly love their daughter but find her rather challenging! - and a clever, original plot. I was intrigued by the solution to the mystery and it was a genuinely surprising one. Oh, there are also some fabulous one-liners - I think my favourite is "Normally I would have followed Jesus's advice, since my dad works for his dad..." As if that wasn't enough, it's also got enough throwaway comments referring to classics - as befits a book set at Cambridge university - to pique younger reader's curiosity about Narcissus, Scheherazade and many others, so you can even think of it as educational.

However as great as Beauvais's writing is, the book also benefits hugely from the gorgeous illustrations by Sarah Horne. There are lots in each chapter and they're brilliant - perhaps my favourite being Sesame's friend Toby accidentally karate kicking a rather annoyed professor! Similarly, it's a gorgeously put together book, Hodder have done an amazing job of making it stand out and it's one to buy rather than borrow. (That's partly because you're bound to want to reread, and partly because it'll look stunning on your bookshelves!)

I'm just about to start the second book after the hugely kind Daphne at Winged Reviews passed it onto me and the third, out in April, is near the top of my TBR pile. Highly recommended to anyone looking for a new series to start.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Author Interview with Sally Nicholls



Sally Nicholls's stunning Close Your Pretty Eyes was one of my favourite books published last year - although it took me until this year to get round to reading it. Otherwise, it would definitely have been a strong contender for my year-end awards. I'm still trying to marshall my thoughts over such a fascinating read into coherent form for a recommendation, but it's one that all fans of YA should read! I was delighted to set up an interview with Sally.

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

My readers are a varied bunch! I suppose my average reader is probably a clever girl of about twelve or thirteen. But I’m also read by boys. And a lot of adults. Close Your Pretty Eyes has been very received by adults involved in foster care, and also by librarians.


2. Olivia was the latest in a long line of unreliable narrators I've loved. Who's your own favourite unreliable narrator?

Well, one of the inspirations for Olivia was Tracy Beaker, of course. The Story of Tracy Beaker is a masterclass in how to write an unreliable narrator who’s unreliability can be understood by a reader as young as eight or nine. For adults, probably Eva from We Need to Talk About Kevin. The scene where she takes the pre-school Kevin to a restaurant is particularly chilling, as you suddenly see how normal this ‘abnormal’ child of hers probably is – or is he?

I've never actually read WNTTAK, but that's a fascinating recommendation for it - will definitely keep an eye out!


3. Through flashbacks to Olivia's experiences before going to live with her current family, we see a wide range of experiences in foster care. How much research did you do into foster parents?

A lot. I read as many biographies of foster care as I could find, and a lot of online blogs written by foster parents, adoptive parents and foster care survivors. It was heartbreaking to see the same stories come up again and again, and to see the different ways the child and the adult would describe similar events. The adults writing about their childhood in foster care were fascinating examples of real-life unreliable narrators – as far as they were concerned, they’d been abused and mistreated by every foster family who hadn’t kept them, and you got very little of the reasons why so many of their placements had broken down. I was never sure how deliberately they were working to engage the sympathy of their readers, and how much they honestly believed they were blameless. It’s one of the most fascinating things about this sort of mental illness – when you have the emotional capacity of a toddler, as Olivia does, what you need and expect is an adult who will treat you with as much love and forgiveness as adults routinely treat two-year-olds. But of course, when you’re an angry, violent eleven-year-old, adults quite reasonably need you not to behave like a toddler. And this disjunct only grows harder as you get older.


4. And similarly, how much research did you do into the topic of baby farming before writing the book?

Less. I read a biography of Amelia Dyer, which told me as much as Jim knows, which is as much as Olivia knows. That was quite enough!


5. I found the portrayal of Olivia's mother to be really interesting, but she made my skin crawl. Who do you think are the worst parents in YA fiction?

Ooh … There are quite a lot. Worst father award goes to the father in Margo Lanagan’s ‘Tender Morsels’ who I’d say is worse than Olivia’s mother. Worst mother to the mother in Anne Cassidy’s ‘Looking for JJ’, who also makes my skin crawl.

I was shamefully late in getting around to Looking For JJ, finally reading it last month, but totally agree! Tender Morsels is also on my TBR list.


6.  Close Your Pretty Eyes is a really chilling read at times, which scared me! (Although I know I'm easier to scare than many kids less than half my age are...) The discussion about age ratings on books has recently sprung up again. Where do you stand on the topic? Is there an age at which you'd say children were perhaps too young to read a book like CYPE?

I think it’s fascinating. I think age banding is a really positive thing for booksellers and librarians, for adults who don’t know much about book-buying (and even those who do) and for the children who might not otherwise get books bought for them. It is hard to judge the age a book is aimed at even if you know a lot about children’s books – as Michael Rosen demonstrated when he recommended Jacqueline Wilson’s ‘Girls in Love’ to an eight-year-old on a television debate about age banding. And of course bookshops divide books by age already – and often inaccurately. I’ve seen Philip Pullman’s younger fiction routinely shelved in Teen.

But I do think it’s a negative thing for children – who are usually pretty good at deciding what books are the right age for them. Children whose parents want them to ‘read up’, children who want to read books which are ‘too young’ for them, children who can’t read books which are the ‘right’ age for them all suffer. And then there are the books like my first novel, Ways to Live Forever, which is a 9-12 book in America, a YA novel in the UK and an adult book in Spain. I’m very grateful that doesn’t have an age band on it.

I think there are definitely children who would be too young to read Close Your Pretty Eyes – of course there are. But how old that is will vary from child to child.


7. Olivia is younger than the majority of YA protagonists. I've seen suggestions that children won't read about main characters younger than themselves but it definitely doesn't seem to have affected people's enjoyment of Close Your Pretty Eyes! Did you ever consider ageing her up or was it important to you that she was still relatively young?

In the first draft she was ten. My editor asked for her to be older, but we felt it was important that she was still in primary school, which is why she’s eleven. Her childishness and vulnerability are important to the story, I think, as she’s such a hard character to like in so many ways.

I find it quite frustrating that the age bands in this country are 9-12 and YA. UK authors are actually very good at books which span those brackets – 11-13, perhaps – which is where I’d put books like the Harry Potter series, His Dark Materials, Hilary McKay’s Casson Family series and Watership Down – and probably Close Your Pretty Eyes and Ways to Live Forever. I understand the logic behind ‘reading up’, but I do think it’s bizarre that it’s so common for children’s books and films to feature adult characters – just look at superhero movies and fairy tales - and it’s certainly accepted for adult books to feature child characters, but teenagers are believed to only be interested in teenagers. I don’t think that’s true at all.

Agree completely there! There are so many AMAZING authors writing for that 11-13 or so age range.


8. This is one of those questions which I've spent a few weeks struggling to phrase without spoiling the book, and may have messed up, so feel free to ignore it! Did you always know you'd end the book at that particular point, rather than giving more of a 'closed' ending?

No. In my synopsis the ending was more resolved. But – well, there are two ways the story could end, and neither of them felt very honest. One felt too ‘happy’ and dishonest to the experiences of many children like Olivia. And the other felt too ‘sad’ and dishonest to the growth and learning that Olivia goes through in the book. And actually the hero’s journey, if you will, was getting Olivia to the point where the book ends. That was the important part. I was so pleased when I figured out how to end it. I knew that was exactly the right ending, and most people have agreed.

I definitely do! A superb way to finish things off.


9. One of your upcoming releases is a story in the anthology War Girls, which looks amazing! How did you get involved in it?

Well, I wrote a story for another Andersen anthology about the afterlife, Next, which they liked. Keith Gray asked me to write for that because I’ve written about the afterlife before, in Ways to Live Forever. And then Charlie Sheppard at Andersen heard me talk about my historical novel, All Fall Down, at a librarian’s conference, and asked if I’d be interested in writing a historical story about World War One. I actually cheat a bit – my story is about the two million ‘spare women’ who were left without a husband after the War. They’re a subject that fascinates me, so I was delighted to be allowed to write about them.

Sounds an intriguing story! Can't wait to read it.

10.  What's next for Sally Nicholls?

War Girls comes out in June. I’ve also got a short novel about a teenager in foster care, Shadow Girl, which is published by Barrington Stoke in May 2014.

Right now I’m working on a novel called Stone, Paper, Ninjas, which is a contemporary family story. It’s about a twelve-year-old who’s being raised by a nineteen-year-old brother, and is helping to raise a seven-year-old. And there’s also an adventure element. But, sadly, no ninjas.

Oh, brilliant! All three sound wonderful, perhaps especially Shadow Girl for me; I'm trying to read more Barrington Stoke at the moment as they're such a fantastic publisher.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Sally!


Sally can be found on her website and on Twitter.




Saturday, 8 March 2014

Recommendation: Girl With A White Dog by Anne Booth


I like to think I have many good points as a book reviewer, but I'm conscious of my weaknesses. One of them is that I sometimes feel I rave about some books too much, building them up to a level where people may feel the novel can't live up to my hype. Even though I only really go overboard for stuff I think is completely wonderful, I've recognised this and am making a real effort to be more restrained in my praise recently.

Bearing that in mind, Girl With A White Dog is firstly, the best book I've ever read for this age range; secondly, the best book of the year so far for any age range (yes, beating out the superb Far From You by Tess Sharpe), and thirdly, the one book I would most want EVERY school librarian to go out and buy multiple copies of. It's a book which, as the back cover quote 'A Story To Change Hearts And Minds' suggests, will help shape the way children (and adults) look at the world. It's a book which will completely devastate you with its brilliant voice, wonderful plot, and massively important messages - about forgiveness, family, learning from history, and doing the right thing. It's a book with brilliant characters who are compelling to read about and are well-rounded, flawed individuals. And it's a book which is likely to bring so many prizes to Anne Booth that if there's any justice in the world of book judging, she should reinforce her mantelpiece now. Highest possible recommendation; I'll be buying a second copy to lend out to people as soon as I get a chance. (And some tissues for them as well!)

(I know I haven't actually mentioned ANYTHING about what it's about, by the way - that's completely intentional. The less you know, the more powerful this read will be. I'd avoid even reading the blurb!)