BOOK BLOG: Malcolm Duffy

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me: touching, hard-hitting and brilliant

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“Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him. But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad. The Dad he’s never met.”

I was sent Me Mam. Me Dad. Me by the lovely publishers Head of Zeus and guys, IT’S A GEORDIE BOOK. IT’S WRITTEN BY A GEORDIE, WITH A GEORDIE MAIN CHARACTER, SET IN GEORDIE LAND. As an exceptionally proud Geordie, this made my heart so happy. It was so refreshing to read something that was in my dialect. It’s nice, every now and again, for a book to “get” youto see yourself in the book. While I’m not Danny, I’m a Geordie, I say the words he says, I speak the way he does, I know the places he goes… it was SO LOVELY to see MY WORLD in a book. 

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me tells you the story of Danny, a young man who has grown up just him and his mam (I loved seeing the word mam throughout this book, that’s what I call my mam, not mum or mom… mam). As the book goes on his mam falls for Callum, who seems like a nice enough fella to start with, but who’s not a nice man at all. He’s abusive, manipulative and down right horrid. His mam brushes it off, but it bothers Danny a lot. Eventually, Danny decides that finding his dad and getting his dad’s help is the only solution to the Callum problem… which ends pretty disastrous. 

It’s so nice to read a Geordie character who is actually likeable. I’ve only read one other – Juno Dawson’s short story in I’ll Be Home For Christmas! (Here, I’m going to keep saying this, so get used to it). Danny is one of those just good kids. He wants to look after his mam. He just wants her to be happy and safe, and who would blame him? I’d be doing the exact same thing. He’s so normal: he goes to school, has a girlfriend, has mates. He’s so brave. He’s naive and foolish too. His plan isnt foil proof if we’re honest. Going to find the dad you’ve never met? Good shout Danny. But I really liked him. I really felt for him. 

Then you’ve got Callum. That deplorable man. I just have no time for him. He’s condescending, abusive, mean, manipulative. Watching his character change over time was fascinating however. He starts as this generous, happy fella and in the end, he’s not that at all. His separate relationships with Danny and Danny’s mam are interesting – shouldn’t he treat her with the respect someone deserves who you love? Well, you’d think. 

I really liked the family element to this book. You see Danny’s mam’s family, Danny’s dad’s new life and Callum’s family. All 3 very different. All bringing different vibes to the book. 

This books deals with dark topics I can’t deny that. There are scenes which are really hard to read. There’s moments where my heart hurt for Danny. I say this but there’s also a lightness about it. Finding yourself, finding your family, standing up for what’s right, teenage naivety. I would absolutely recommend this book to everyone and anyone. 

I hope this just inspires more Geordie books, because I endorse this massively. 

My goodreads review:
A Geordie voice? A tough topic? A book which will make your gut wrench but also make you laugh at times? 
I’ll keep going on about this BUT ITS SO NICE TO READ SOMETHING IN MY DIALECT. Man, we need more Geordie MCs. This was just so refreshing.

So yes, if you can, please go out and buy this/request it from your library. It’s so brilliant, it’s hard-hitting and it’s authentic. We need more voices like Danny’s (and not just the Geordie voices!). 

Have you read Me Mam. Me Dad. Me?
Would you like to see more books in different dialects?

Let me know in the comments! 

S x

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Q&A with Katherine Webber!

Katie Webber is one of my favourite authors, one of those MUST BUYS MUST TRY TO ACQUIRE BOOKS FROM. Wing Jones is one of those just incredible books that comes along and smacks you in the face. When I was asked if I’d like to do a Q&A with Katie as part of the NYA Literature Festival celebrations, I JUMPED AT THE CHANCE
Enjoy guys! 
1. Where did the inspiration for Wing Jones come from?
The idea of writing about a girl runner had been bouncing around in my brain for years. I ran track and cross country in high school  and while I loved parts of it, I also found it very difficult! I used to fantasize about being a naturally talented runner, and it just coming effortlessly. So when I finally sat down to start what would become WING JONES, I had all these questions about this girl runner character. Who was she? Why was she special? Why was she running? Why didn’t she know she was a talented runner? Wing’s brother Marcus came next, and then her grandmothers, and the whole story went out from there. 
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2. What is your writing process? Do you go for a set number of words a day? Or do you just write as and when you can?
It depends if I’m drafting or editing! When I’m drafting I try to just get as much written as I can, but when I’m editing it is a slower process. Sometimes it will take me days to perfect a certain scene, and most of that time I’m just thinking and trying to work it out. I like to write at home in my office or in my living room with writer friends or at the British Library. 

3. There’s an incredible sense of “believe in yourself” in your books, is this a message you want your readers to take from Wing?
Absolutely! My biggest message would be to believe in yourself, and that you are stronger than you think you are. I hope this comes across in my next YA book too. 

4. You’ve written for children and young adults, how were the two processes different?

It was a completely different process! I really enjoyed doing something so collaborative. Working with my husband Kevin was a lot of fun, and I think for this particular project I couldn’t have written it on my own, so it was great to have a partner.  The whole process is very different from how I write YA, and I think it was good for my brain to work a different way. It is definitely difficult at times co-writing it, but worth it in the end! 

YA is where my heart is, but I loved writing for a different age range. And it was really great to work on something so collaborative. And I LOVE having a book with illustrations.

The planning process is very different. Writing collaboratively requires a lot more structure. Kevin and I spend a lot of time brainstorming and then we write a very structured outline that we don’t deviate too much from. For my YA novels, I rarely have an outline, and when I write a first draft, I tend to see where it takes me. I’m writing to find the story.  After my first draft, sometimes I’ll make an outline or write a synopsis that I can use as a reference while editing. My YA books require more rounds of edits, and SAM WU requires more planning and outlining. 

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5. How has your debut year been?

I’ve had the best debut year! I’m so grateful to my wonderful publisher Walker books, to all the readers who have supported the book, to all the authors who have been so welcoming and wonderful! And of course to all the amazing bloggers who shouted about the book and got behind it–it makes a huge difference to a debut author. I’m so grateful to be an author and try to enjoy every part of the experience. 

6. What’s next?
My next YA novel is out this August with Walker books. The title is ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART and it is set in the Palm Springs desert. It’s about a beautiful, popular girl named Reiko Smith-Mori who has secrets and cracks in her heart, the boy who thinks she’s perfect, and what happens when they both want something the other one can’t give them. It’s about family, friendship, and finding yourself. 
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As a reader of all of these 3 books, I can say that they are all wonderful in their own ways. I would recommend them HIGHLY. The kids at school are loving Sam Wu, and I know so many of my blogger pals are a fan of Wing Jones. I can’t wait for them all to meet Reiko!
Northern YA Lit Fest

Northern YA Literary Festival

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their new BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 24th March 2018 at 53 Degrees in Preston. Doors open at 10am, with the events staggered throughout the day. Best of all, it’s free!

S x

Playlist: The Exact Opposite of Okay

Hello!

I’m trying something new today. While reading The Exact Opposite of Okay (which you can find my review of here), I was like “OMG, IZZY! A PLAYLIST”. So here we are, with my very first at an attempt at a list of songs inspired by The Exact Opposite of Okay. (If this goes well, I may try other books and songs… but I’m not sure!)

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Some of these songs are songs I think Izzy would love. Some are songs I’d like Izzy to hear. Some are songs that relate to my feelings throughout the book.

Can’t Hold Us Down – Christina Aguilera

Survivor – Destiny’s Child

Part of Me – Katy Perry

Titanium – Sia

Respect – Aretha Franklin

Bleeding Heart – Regina Spektor

Power – Little Mix

Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato

There’s a brilliant guest post featuring Izzy and her very own playlist over on my friend Cora’s club. Check it out here!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked Deep: an incredibly duality in the pages of a beautiful book

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Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…
Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths. Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters. But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.”

The Wicked Deep tells the story of Penny, a young girl, living in a small town, which has been haunted by the spirits of 3 sisters from centuries ago. The sisters take the bodies of young women and seek revenge on the town that once betrayed them. Penny knows the tale of the three sisters. The town has accepted their fate – the sisters will come every summer and take the bodiesof 3 young women. They will then use these bodies to lure 3 young men to their death, in the very same waters that the sisters were sent to their deaths in. This particular summer, Penny meets a young man named Bo, who has some of his own demons to battle, and they hit it off. Bo has no sense of the danger being in this town brings him and it is ultimately up to Penny to try and save him… or save herself.

I absolutely adored this book. The plot is one which I’d not read before. We’ve all read books of revenge and of young men being lured for revenge. This one felt special. It felt new. There’s so much mystery and the town set in their legacy that I just was taken. I’m a sucker for anything with a bit of history. I love an author who weaves stories within their story. Having the sisters’ backstory in the book made me believe it. 

The characters in this book are just brilliant. Seeing the town and its happenings through these teenagers’ eyes, but also through the sisters’ eyes was fascinating. You get to see a town clouded in mystery and panic. A town overcome with an anger and a grief. There’s a lot of high intensity emotions that this town, and the teenagers, feel. Flaunting legend and tempting fate all for the sake of what is to come! I loved in particular the moments where you see the sisters together. You read their plotting, their mysteries. They’re fascinating. Their interactions with each other really gives a sense of sinister, dark magic. 

There is quite a big plot twist that I did not see coming. I mean, I suspected it… but I loved it. Thinking back to it now, I probably SHOULD’VE seen it, but what can I say, I’m a bit gullible and I’ll believe what a narrator tells me! I loved Penny’s voice, her point of view. Throughout the book, I believed her. I wanted to be her friend, I properly rooted for her. Even towards the end. I truly believed she’d changed. I’m a sucker for romance. A total and utter sucker. 

While we’re here talking romance… I’d like to just mention Bo. I REALLY liked him. I was totally taken by him. Like, I think teenage me would be smitten with him. He just gave me this lovely vibe. The mystery surrounding him was quite intiguing too… I wanted to know more about him. When his backstory was revealed, I was like ‘yep, you’re lush’.

There’s a gorgeous sense of duality in this book that kept me hooked:

  • Darkness and light
  • Hope and loss
  • Love and revenge
  • Betrayal and trust

I just adored this book. There’s so much about it that I love. I could’ve read 100 more pages and still have been gripped. I’d love to know more about Penny’s mam. I’d love to see more of the sisters’ past snatches. 

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy! I loved it!

Have you read The Wicked Deep?
What’s your take on mythology in books?
Would you be a good witch?

Talk to me! I’d love to talk mythology and The Wicked Deep with you!

S x

 

 

Author spotlight: Laura Steven

Hello, today I have the absolute pleasure of introducing you to Laura Steven, author of the incredible The Exact Opposite of Okay. If you’ve not picked it up yet, please do.It’s absolutely incredible. Laura is here answering 3 quick questions about her book… so I should leave you to it really!

Where did the inspiration for TEOOO come from?

In terms of inspiration, this book was SO different to everything else I’ve ever written (I’d written four full manuscripts before TEOOO).
While my novel ideas usually come to me through plot or world first, Izzy’s voice just popped into my head one morning. Seriously, the hilarious voice of a snarky teenage girl just started chirping away in my head. I felt like I might require an exorcism. So all I had to do was come up with a story for her, and the rest is history.

The plot itself is inspired by a few different things that have happened to me since leaving high school – namely a friend-zoned guy who turned aggressive, a former boss who sexually harrassed me in the workplace. I wanted to explore some of the issues facing teenage girls – slut-shaming, friend-zoning, body image, victim-blaming – but also do with humour and sass. Because life is just more fun – and more bearable – if you can laugh when everything is going to shit.

What is your favourite thing about Izzy?

The way she’s so completely, unapologetically herself. When I was that age, I knew who I wanted to be but I was too scared to be that person. Confident, funny, wise in my own way. So in a sense, I relived my teenage years vicariously through Izzy. She doesn’t care what the world thinks of her as long as she’s true to herself. She also holds her hands up when she makes a mistake and dos whatever it takes to make amends. I adore that in her too – I think when we’ve messed up, it’s human nature to go on the defensive and refuse to admit you were wrong. But Izzy readily admits she acted like a royal twat to someone she loves. That’s kinda cool of her.

What do you want people to take from TEOOO?
 

Well first of all, I really hope people learn never to touch their foofer after chopping chilis. In all seriousness though, I really want to inspire teenagers to speak up and fight back against the never-ending stream of misogyny diarrhea they have to face on a daily basis. I believe we’re living in a time of huge change, with the Silence Breakers being named TIME’s Person of the Year, the #MeToo campaign gathering so much steam, and powerful men beginning to be held accountable for their sexual harassment. It feels like the tide is finally turning, and I’m so proud to be joining the fight with this book. 

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Blurb

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.  

Bio

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Laura Steven is an author and journalist from the northernmost town in England. Her writing has appeared in The i Paper, The Guardian and Buzzfeed, and The Exact Opposite of Okay, her YA debut, will be published by Egmont in March 2018. By day, Laura works for Mslexia, a non-profit organisation supporting women writers. She has a BA in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing, and her TV pilot Clickbait reached the final eight in British Comedy’s 2016 Sitcom Mission. Laura is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary and Media Inc.

If you’d like to follow Laura (which you should because she’s WONDERFUL) check out her social links… there’s SO MANY places to follow her.

BOOK BLOG: Laura Steven

The Exact Opposite of Okay: the exact definition of remarkable.

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“Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…”

(massive shout out to Waterstones Newcastle for putting this book EVERYWHERE. I hope it sells out quickly)

There had been a lot of buzz around this book, I remember people at YALC last year were going MAD for it. I missed out on getting a proof back then, but when I managed to get my hands on a proof I was ECSTATIC. Guys, this book is INCREDIBLE.

TEOOO opens with the MOST HILARIOUS first chapter. I genuinely cackled SO HARD over the first chapter (I mean, I cackled a lot throughout the whole book, but my introduction to Izzy and her life just had me gripped). You’re introduced to Izzy O’Neill, who I will HAPPILY put my hand up and say is one of my favourite characters I’ve been introduced to in a long time. She’s hilarious, brazen, bold, honest and just brilliant. She’s this bundle of absolute hilarity. Izzy has been written in such an incredible way – there’s this snarky, sarcastic wit about her that I just adored. She’s a girl who is FULL of self doubt. She has so many worries, but she disguises them so well. She puts on a brilliant face. She’s great at making her exterior very opposite to interior. I very quickly grew attached to her. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her INSTANTLY. 

One of the things that I think makes Izzy so special is that she is so relatable. She’s not some rich kid with 70000 ponies and a gold studded car. She’s very normal. She goes to school, she has best friends, she has secret passions, she has crushes. Something goes wrong. She struggles to deal with it. She has people around her who stick with her, some who aren’t as lovely. She gets through it. She’s incredible. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next... because yes guys there’s a TEOOO2 coming. I can not wait

This book is so much more than just Izzy though. Whilst Izzy is IMPERATIVE to me falling in love with this book, there’s a whole host of other people that I loved and hated (in that bookish loving kind of hatred). Let’s just list the characters I love/hate most because I love a list…

  1. Ajita.
    Everyone needs an amazing best friend like Ajita. I loved that Izzy had such an incredible, equally funny, equally sassy best friend like Ajita. I really liked her. There’s brilliant moments of consideration for Ajita’s cultural background that are woven so seamlessly into the book. She’s hilarious, loyal and bold. We’ve all got a friend like Ajita.
  2. Betty.
    Izzy’s exceptional grandmother who just says things like they are. They’re able to be so open with each other. I’m not sure I’m that open with anyone in my life, so to see quite a brazen teenager have this incredible relationship with her grandma was just spot on. Betty isn’t afraid to tell Izzy how it is either. She’s this wonderful mix of warm, supportive, cuddly with a sharp tongue. She keeps it real.
  3. Danny
    Oh Danny. I won’t spoil it for you guys. Danny is just. I can’t. I wanted to be team Danny, but he’s just no. I think reading this book as an adult made me think back. I definitely had a Danny in my life. I’d like to think that I could stand up to any Dannys in my life now. He’s everything that bothers me about self entitled people.
  4. Mrs Crannon
    As a teacher, it is so SO SO SO SO brilliant to see a positive relationship outlined with a teenager. Teachers are so often silent characters in contemporary books, or are part of the problem in teens lives. To see a teacher written in such a positive, encouraging light made my heart so happy.

So… an incredible cast of characters, who you will love or hate? Check.
A book which will make you laugh, cry and be angry in equal measures? Check.

What about dealing with something that is NECESSARY? WELL LET’S SEE.

TEOOO deals with Izzy, who is thrust into the centre of a “slut-shaming, revenge porn, victim shaming and blame culture” situation and IT IS SO NEEDED. This book so brilliantly deals with an issue which, in our technologically sound age, could be a very real problem. Laura deals with it in a very humorous, touching, REAL way. It’s needed. People need to read this. This book is going to make a lot of noise. It’s going to stamp on a load of social barriers. It’s going to make people listen. It’s going to make people talk. It’s going to give people a voice who didn’t have one before. I am very passionate about this book. I will thrust it into the hands of so many people. It needs to be seen by teenagers, teachers, adults… EVERYONE. There is no one who I wouldn’t hand this to. People need to read this. People need to read Izzy’s story. 

I’ve heard Laura speak about TEOOO a few times and she’s such a brilliant speaker. She speaks of this book with such warmth, such passion. She’s just remarkable. Laura is HILARIOUS too. I love that Izzy’s humour is clearly evidence of Laura’s own humour. (If you want other reasons Laura is awesome, may I point you in the direction of #FeminismFriday – Laura Steven)

V. QUICKLY WHILE I STILL HAVE YOU… THAT COVER THOUGH. *heart eyes*

My goodreads review of TEOOO is all of these things in far fewer words: (I would DEFINITELY give this book all of the stars in the world, if I could)

If I could give this book more than 5 stars I completely would.

Izzy O’Neill is going to make some noise in 2018 and rightfully so. This book is incredible and necessary. It shouts and barks about important issues like revenge porn, victim shaming and blame culture. I just adored it.

Everyone needs to read this book. Buy it.

Have you read The Exact Opposite of Okay?
Did you also have STRONG FEELINGS about Danny? (We need to talk!)
Who was your favourite character?

Talk to me! Tweet me! Send me a postcard, a carrier pigeon, an owl, a text… whatever. This book is one of my faves of 2018 so far. 

S x

BLOG TOUR: Matt Killeen

Today I have the utter pleasure of hosting the author of Orphan, Monster, Spy on my blog: Matt Killeen! He’s here today to talk to you about one of his female heroes! The rest of the blog tour has been fascinating and I have loved reading all of Matt’s other posts! When this one arrived in my inbox I was very excited to read it!

I hand you over to Matt’s words now…

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Ada Lovelace

Some visionaries are so ahead of their time that they can seem laughable, even insane. One such man was Charles Babbage. In 1822, he designed a sophisticated calculating machine that promised to change the world but just could not get his crap together. So intricate was Babbage’s Difference Engine that it was forever unfinished, exhausting the pockets and patience of the British Government and London society that once fêted him, even as he dreamed of the Analytical Engine which was, basically, the first programmable computer.

People like this need an early adopter. There was one person that truly understood him, and his inventions and she was also a visionary. She went far beyond the cogs and gears of the physical and predicted the entire information technology age.

Ada Gordon was born the daughter of “mad, bad & dangerous to know” poet Lord Byron and maths geek Annabella Milbanke, after a whirlwind and disastrous marriage of science and the arts. With a childhood designed to mitigate any of her father’s “poetical” or chaotic tendencies that bordered on abusive, she inherited her mother’s love of logic and mathematics, but also more than a little of his imagination.

She was fascinated from an early age by machines and mechanics and the numbers behind them, which is why, at 18 years old, she ended up at a party where her mentor Mary Somerville introduced her to Babbage. Babbage’s machines were so complex that few people could even understand the basic principles, let alone see what their application might mean, so they became firm friends and collaborators. For Babbage it was all about the numbers, but it didn’t take Ada long to swap those numbers for broader more metaphysical concepts. What she saw was a world where machines could be told to think. Make decisions. Write and perform music.

The scale of her contribution is hotly debated. It is widely believed that she wrote the very first computer programme, and certainly she perfected it. Her work directly influenced Alan Turing, whose work helped define the information age, although she didn’t believe in conscious machines or computers that could create, a contention that it took Turing 107 years to rebut. Seven decades later we’re still arguing about what that might mean. Indisputably, she was a prophet. She saw the future and she described it. How it would work. What it would do.

Her wealth and privilege allowed her to study with some great minds and to promote Babbage’s ideas, but this was no substitute for real academic rigour and research. One can only guess at what her brain would have created had she been born in a different era, of equal educational opportunities and longer lives.

And she was not without her vices…she was Lord Byron’s daughter after all. She had a string of affairs and sexual encounters, as well as a serious gambling problem and it was the latter that highlighted her limits – it transpired that she did in fact have some. She simply refused to believe there wasn’t a mathematical solution for effective betting on the horses. In pursuing finances for Babbage’s work, she became mired in financial scandal, losing a fortune of her syndicate’s money and then chasing her losses. She was bemused and frustrated by her inability to unravel this Gordian knot, when so many other mathematical mysteries uncoiled themselves effortlessly in her brain. It was an ignominious and uncharacteristically unsuccessful end, coming as it did just a year before she died of cancer at just 36.

Admittedly, I can’t think of Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace without thinking of Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. This glorious fictionalised account of her work, culminates in them using the completed analytical engine to fight crime for Queen Victoria in an alternative timeline. It always felt like the future she should have had, rather than the hobbled, overlooked and all-too short time on an Earth that would come to depend on the things that she envisioned.

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Check out the rest of the blog tour – there’s some amazing bloggers and some brilliant blog posts to read too! My review is coming soon too, so keep an eye out for that! 

ORPHAN MONSTER SPY BLOG TOUR GRAPHIC

S x

BOOKBLOG: Melinda Salisbury

HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO THE ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT ‘STATE OF SORROW’.

You really thought you could get away from me? You really think I wouldn’t celebrate this majestic day with some kind of State of Sorrow appreciation post? 

Today, I will share my review with you. There will be more State of Sorrow themed posts coming in the next few days. I am not sorry at all. 

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State of Sorrow: delicious, deceptive, daring

A people cowed by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose…

Sorrow all but rules the Court of Tears, in a land gripped by perpetual grief, forever mourning her brother who died just days before Sorrow was born. By day she governs in place of her father, by night she seeks secret solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But when her brother is seemingly found alive, and intent on taking control, Sorrow has to choose whether to step aside for a stranger who might not be who he claims to be, or embark on a power struggle for a position she never really wanted.”

Hello. My name is Steph and Melinda Salisbury is my absolute queen.
(I feel like I open all of my Melinda Salisbury blog posts like that, but it’s true.)

So, I went into reading State of Sorrow ignoring the blurb. I won’t lie. I am a bit of a blurb ignorer. I’d read the sampler for State of Sorrow, which I got at YALC, a few months ago and I knew I was in for another absolute barrage of emotions, badass brilliant characters, an evil villain and a whole load of incredible world building. AND I WAS ALL ABOUT IT. There’s a MASSIVE surprise with her brother, which I did not see coming. I DID NOT KNOW IT WOULD HAPPEN, I HAD IGNORED THIS (it’s on the blurb/synopsis apparently). Therefore when I read I WAS THE MOST SURPRISED. It was like BAM KABLAM. SLAP IN THE FACE BRILLIANT. Like, I wasn’t expecting it. But my gosh was it brilliant.

So, Sorrow. She’s a brilliant young woman. She’s unwillingly doing a job her father should be – ruling a land that are in constant mourning for a brother lost years before. She’s living in the shadow of his sadness. She’s in love with a young man she can’t really be seen with. She’s fighting losing battles against people she can’t influence. Her father is pretty useless, with a venomous man whispering in his ear. Sorrow just wants it to be time when she’s finally in control, so she can get rid of the venomous letch. Speaking of our friend, the venomous letch. He’s POISON. He’s the thing Mel does so well. She does wily, deceptive, sly characters brilliantly. They’re just there weaving their wily little plans. They’re plotting and scheming all the way through. He made me uncomfortable, but in that very excellent way that good baddies do. He’s like a sly fox.Doing dirty deeds all over, poisoning minds. 

OK, so there are more characters than this in State of Sorrow. There’s a brilliant character who all the way through I was like “YES I LOVE YOU, TEAM YOU” and then they do something bad and my reaction to this was nothing short of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING NO WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU”. There may be some redemption though. I’m not saying for definite. Sorrow has some brilliant friends too. Irris is pretty special. I really quite liked her. 

Mel writes incredible characters. 
Mel writes incredible plots.
Mel writes incredible emotions. 
Mel writes incredible worlds.

There’s this remarkable sense of BEING in the book. The world is built so incredibly well around you that you’re immersed entirely in this world of a mournful world: the castles, the lands, the sorrow, the monotony. You can’t NOT be there. The lands have history, they have meaning, they make sense. There’s always something magical and slightly mysterious going on. From incredible expanses of land, the small cottages, to freezing cold rivers…it all fits in this magical land where sorrow rules. 

WHILE YOU’RE STILL HERE… canwe just talk about emotions?If you’re reading a Melinda Salisbury book I can guarantee that your emotions will not be in tact by the end of your stay. Your heart will be stood on, repaired and then stood on again. There’s sheer disbelief; there’s contempt; there’s love and lust; there’s belief and disbelief and there’s this incredible sense of belonging. We’re all going through these emotions together. We are all shocked. There’s a lot of YES SORROW going on. You can’t NOT root for her. You can’t NOT want her to succeed. You can’t NOT be appalled at the behaviour of some of the characters. You can’t NOT be sad. There’s this incredible balance of being looked after, being secure and them BAM NOTHING IS THE SAME. I’m a massive fan of this. If you’ve read The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy you’ll know what I mean.

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Look at my happy little face. This was me reading State of Sorrow in Starbucks. Thanks @kellysrambles for the picture!

Are you still here?Excellent, I have more to tell you. I hope you’re enjoying this review. It may be my longest review to date. I don’t apologise for this. State of Sorrow is totally worth it. 

So what have I told you about so far? Sorrow, some other characters, worldbuilding, emotions. What else? SO MUCH. Oh yes… plot.

As I’ve said, I was OBLIVIOUS to one of the plot twists (which the blurb gives away, I was just oblivious to this), however State of Sorrow does not just have ONE plot twist there are SO SO MANY that it’s exceptional. The pace of this book is brilliant. You get comfy in one little plot line and BAM there’s a change. Some of the twists are just little, a bump in the road and then there’s others that just hit you hard on the head and spin your world upside down. The way this story is woven together is exceptional. (I don’t have enough superlatives for this book). Everything fits. It’s tantalisingly good. The ending will make you go NO DON’T END THERE. PLEASE DON’T END THERE. 

I can’t believe we’re being made to wait for more. I can’t wait for more. 

My goodreads review reads:

If it was possible to give a book more than 5 stars I would. This book is delicious, deceptive and daring. I absolutely love Sorrow and everything she stands for. There are more twists and turns in this book than I can count. I can’t explain how brilliant this plot, this world, these characters (you’ll love some, hate others), this story weaving is. Just incredible. I can’t WAIT for the next one. The ending of this is TANTALISING. I NEED MORE NOW.

If you want a story that will take you to an incredible new land with sibling rivalry, brilliant characters and an exceptional plot then PLEASE check out State of Sorrow. I was very lucky to be sent a copy and I am so grateful. Thanks, Mel!

Thank you for getting to the end of my review. If you made it this far I owe you a sticker. Please let me know in the comments if you got this far. 

S x

BOOKBLOG: Non Pratt

Second Best Friend: short, honest, brilliant.

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“Jade and Becky are best friends, but when Jade’s ex-boyfriend lets on that everyone thinks Becky is the better of the two, Jade finds herself noticing just how often she comes second to her best friend. There’s nothing Jade is better at than Becky. 

So when Jade is voted in as Party Leader ahead of her school’s General Election only to find herself standing against Becky, Jade sees it as a chance to prove herself. If there’s one thing she can win, it’s this election – even if it means losing her best friend.”

I absolutely love Non Pratt’s books, so when I heard there was a new one coming out I knew I needed to get my hands on it. One of the brilliant things about this book (and Unboxed too!) is that they’re published by Barrington Stoke, which makes dyslexia friendly books which are perfect for reluctant readers. This book took me all of about 10 minutes to read (OK maybe a bit longer, but you know what I mean) and I have since read it again and it packs just as powerful a punch the second time round (and third too for that matter).

If you’d like to know more information about Barrington Stoke books, check out their website here

Second Best Friend tells the tale of Jade and Becky, two teenage best friends who end up competing against each other in a school election. Pair this up with a venomous ex-boyfriend who says that Jade isn’t as beautiful as her best friend (“everyone knows it”) and you have an excellent tale of expectations, friendship and honesty – both with yourself and others. 

The thing that hit me hardest about this book is the honesty of it. We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt insignificant in comparison to our best friend and we’ve all struggled through that in some way. Whether you’ve been the one feeling insignificant, or you’ve been the one compared to – you’ve been there. For most of us however, we get to do that privately. Jade doesn’t have that luxury. She has to live her inferiority complex in front of the whole school, with her best friend in the whole world. Reading this book hit a few very honest chords with me. I’ve definitely been there in the past. Never felt quite good enough, never felt pretty enough, smart enough, popular enough… not quite enough compared to my friends. 

This book made me laugh (“who does he think he is? Fantastic Mr. Fox” HAHAH YES), cry and angry. At the situation, the best friend (both girls, not just one), the boys (STUPID BOYS). 

I would totally recommend this. It’s a super quick read which will hit many a chord with people of all ages. GO GO GO.

Have you read Second Best Friend?
Are you your own best friend?
Have you ever had a friend you compared yourself to?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to talk. 

S xx

BOOK BLOG: Alwyn Hamilton

Hero at the Fall: a fitting end to a trilogy I adored

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“When gunslinging Amani Al’Hiza escaped her dead-end town, she never imagined she’d join a revolution, let alone lead one. But after the bloodthirsty Sultan of Miraji imprisoned the Rebel Prince Ahmed in the mythical city of Eremot, she doesn’t have a choice. Armed with only her revolver, her wits, and her untameable Demdji powers, Amani must rally her skeleton crew of rebels for a rescue mission through the unforgiving desert to a place that, according to maps, doesn’t exist. As she watches those she loves most lay their lives on the line against ghouls and enemy soldiers, Amani questions whether she can be the leader they need or if she is leading them all to their deaths.”

Hello, my name is Steph and I ABSOLUTELY adore the Rebel of the Sands trilogy. If you are unware of this trilogy, it follows the incredible Amani (a gunslinging, sandcontroller) who ends up part of an excellent army of rebels trying to overthrow the cruel Sultan. Over book 1 and 2, Amani ends up part of the incredible band of merry men (she’s like a modern day female, brilliant Robin Hood) and they’re just MAGNIFICENT. I’d totally recomment you read this trilogy – there’s sand, magic, brilliant friendships and peril. SO MUCH PERIL. (See my reviews: Rebel of the Sands review and Traitor to the Throne review)

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Anyway, I’m here to talk you through my sheer joy and UTTER SADNESS that this trilogy is over. That’s how I feel: it’s a bittersweet time of my life. I have ADORED this trilogy and reading Hero just proved to me why this series is special. The storytelling, the characters, to magic, the mythical elements, Jin (be still my heart), the progression of the characters, the closure. It’s just wonderful. Alwyn is an incredible author and I’m excited to see what’s coming next!

One of the things that hit the hardest about this book was the sense of family and belonging that Amani gets throughout. The gang get back together and you see her in her element with all the people around her she loves. The characters, both new and old, blew me away at times. Their actions speak volumes. The new characters add a whole new level of brilliance for me. These books wouldn’t be as massive a hit for me if it weren’t for such an excellent bunch of characters. They balance each other out. They complement each other. There’s moments throughout of reminding me why I fell in love with them all individually, but collectively too. They fight for each other; the fight WITH each other but they stick together and fight for the same brilliant cause. 

Another of the things that’s been prevalent throughout the whole series is the myths and fairytales beautifully woven into the plot. I am a MASSIVE fan of this. I think it adds intrigue and interest to books, it gives them a history that you couldn’t have without them. Hero features, among others, 2 massive new myths which both are incredible. There’s a remarkable parallel between what the characters are going through now and what the story tells of. Amani and Jin have their own moment of life imitating art which absolutely BROKE MY HEART and put it back together again. (More on Jin later).

As I read through, there was an absolute need to read more and know how things were going to end. I wanted to see where these characters were going to end up, how their stories ended… and I was SO satisfied with the ending. The arcs and progressions of these characters is something I adore. Amani herself goes on quite an important journey of accepting herself, accepting her varying position in the group, and her battle with some tricky decisions was a brilliant plot line to watch unfold. 

You get the chance to revisit locations from book 1 and 2 in Hero and it made my heart so happy. Revisiting Dustwalk and the location of the camp in particular gave me flashbacks, reminding me of books 1 and 2. It was gorgeous to have those nods to the past 2 books, whilst still bringing in brand new locations, characters and plot. There’s a satisfying amount of loose ends tied up by the end of Hero, which for me makes me happy. There’s nothing worse than knowing a trilogy is ending and having a whole load of unanswered questions. 

Jin. Oh Jin. *heart eyes* I love him. I think all of my reviews of this trilogy have had their own Jin paragraphs. I’d like my own Jin. He’s such a brilliant human. I adore him. I adore his and Amani’s relationship. They’re just lovely. They balance each other out so much. He’s smooth and mellow, a total opposite to Amani, who can be like a tight knot at times. I’m glad they got the ending they did. They deserve it. I am all for a happy ending (it’s not without its rollercoaster though).

I need to take a moment here to mention my sheer appreciation for the cover (and the covers of the trilogy). They are EXCEPTIONAL and look brilliant together. I am a sucker for some gold.

Where does Hero stand on the crying front? (I know you all know I’m a crier) I CRIED SO MUCH. I reckon I cried for the last 100 pages or so. SO MANY TEARS WERE SHED. It’s SO SO SO WORTH IT THOUGH. There’s scenes that deserve the tears; some were heartbroken tears; some were disbelief tears; some of the tears were sadness at saying goodbye. 

So if you hadn’t guessed from this review… I really quite LOVED Hero at the Fall and would ABSOLUTELY recommend the whole trilogy. Please go out and buy them, if you haven’t already. SO WORTH IT.

Have you read Hero at the Fall?
Do you think you’d be as badass as Amani?
DO YOU LOVE JIN TOO OMG?

Talk to me about this book, this trilogy, Jin, magic, WHATEVER. Just talk to me. This book, this trilogy, these characters are EXCELLENT and deserve all of the praise they get. Just read them!

S x