Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Writing from the Tub has a new home!

Hi!


Thanks for visiting but you might have noticed there haven't been many posts around here lately...

I've actually moved to a custom domain so you can visit my new home by clicking here!

Thanks,

Carly x

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Writing from the Tub has Moved!

Hey guys,


Writing from the Tub has a new home! I've moved to a custom URL and everything's had a new lick of paint, so please do update your bookmarks and visit me at:


Thanks :D

Friday, 26 September 2014

Review: Age of Iron - Angus Watson

Published: September 9th 2014, Orbit
Pages: 520 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: This is book one in the Iron Age series
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Bloodthirsty druids and battle-hardened Iron Age warriors collide in the biggest epic fantasy debut release of 2014.

LEGENDS AREN'T BORN. THEY'RE FORGED.


Dug Sealskinner is a down-on-his-luck mercenary travelling south to join up with King Zadar's army. But he keeps rescuing the wrong people. 


First, Spring, a child he finds scavenging on the battlefield, and then Lowa, one of Zadar's most fearsome warriors, who's vowed revenge on the king for her sister's execution. 


Now Dug's on the wrong side of that thousands-strong army he hoped to join ­- and worse, Zadar has bloodthirsty druid magic on his side. All Dug has is his war hammer, one rescued child and one unpredictable, highly-trained warrior with a lust for revenge that's going to get them all killed . . . 
It's a glorious day to die.


My review: As most of you know I'm not much of a fantasy reader but I decided to give Age of Iron a go when it was pitched to me as something Game of Thrones fans will love. I've read and enjoyed every instalment of ASoIaF so far so I figured I'd give it a go and see if it stood up to the hype.

I went into Age of Iron with a few reservations (as I mentioned, I'm not a huge fantasy reader, I'm easily distracted and this is a pretty chunky book) but I'm pleased to say my reservations were unjustified, and Age of Iron is well worth adding to your TBR pile.

It's clear from the get go that Watson is an accomplished writer. He relies on stark imagery and blunt, direct prose to tell his story, which is refreshing change from the purple prose I've been disappointed by in some fantasy novels. Taking into account this is his debut novel, it makes it even more impressive.

Age of Iron is the first instalment in the series and it strikes that delicate balance of laying out series-length story lines, as well as having its own standalone plot lines. The ending was satisfying but left me wanting more, in a good way, not a frustrated way.

Age of Iron focuses on a section of history that is largely missing from novels and movies, so it was great to see Iron Age Britain brought to life. It was certainly a difficult, brutal era to live in and I loved learning more about that period of history through Watson's book, without feeling like I was reading a history textbook.

The characterisation in Age of Iron is strong, and I found myself warming to Dug from the outset. He might be a little rough around the edges but it's impossible to dislike him. He's got a mouth like a sewer and he's worn out and older than your average hero, which I really liked. It's nice to read about somebody with some life experience, rather than an eighteen year old 'chosen one' who can do no wrong.

This is a great book to lose yourself in as the evenings grow darker and the air gets more bitter. Curl up under a blanket and stop counting down the days until Game of Thrones returns to our screens, because delving into Age of Iron is a great way to spend a few evenings.

This review has been written as part of the Age of Iron blog tour, so have a look below to make sure you don't miss out on the rest of the tour!




Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Blog Tour: Killing Sound - Paul Southern


Published: September 4th 2014, Chicken House
Pages: 352 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Jodie is cursed with a terrible gift. She just doesn't know it yet. When she stumbles across one of her dead father's old papers on sound waves in the attic, it sets her on a terrifying journey to find out more, leading her across the streets of London to the dark, untrodden tunnels of the Underground, where she is forced to face the truth. Her worst nightmare is about to become real. Worse, she can hear it coming.

My review: As you know I'm a big fan of horror so I'm always excited to read any new releases. YA horror is hugely under-represented so it's always a treat to find a new one in my TBR pile. As such, I went into Killing Sound hoping to discover a creepy, well-written story that I'd be able to recommend to anybody looking for a new YA horror. Was I disappointed? Read on to find out...

Chicken House have this cool bit of marketing where they choose three words to sum up the book and print them on the back cover - such a good idea. For Killing Sound they've chosen 'spine-chilling', 'supernatural' and 'suspense' and I think they nailed it.

I find that a lot of YA horror tries and fails to deliver genuine scares but this is somewhere where Killing Sound really excels. It manages to create a real feeling of unease and parts of the book really did unsettle me. I like that Southern went more for creating a creepy atmosphere than relying on gore or cheap shocks to scare his audience - it helped the story feel more like an old-timey sci-fi horror, which is a huge plus in my book.

The idea of a horror story built around sound waves was something I've only come across a couple of times before and I found it such an interesting concept. I found myself thinking of JG Ballard's Track 12 and Roald Dahl's The Sound Machine while I was reading Killing Sound - both of which I definitely recommend!

Killing Sound felt like a horror novel on the more sophisticated end of the spectrum and I like that I was kept guessing right until the final pages. Speaking of which - THAT ENDING! I obviously can't give much away but, gee whizz, that's one I won't forget in a hurry. I was so engrossed by the end that, after I finished the epilogue, I had a moment where I was a bit shocked to find that I was reading a book rather than watching a film - it's just that immersive and visual and the narrative flows so easily that it feels like something you're experiencing in front of you, rather than reading.

So, to hark back to my earlier question - no, I definitely was not disappointed. Killing Sound is one of the most unique novels you'll read this year and I wholly recommend curling up with a blanket and hot chocolate and delving into this creepy, unsettling story.

Killing Sound by Paul Southern out now in paperback and eBook (£7.99, Chicken House). Find out more at doublecluck.com.

Make sure you swing by the other blogs on the list for the next stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

I’m a big Taylor Swift fan so I was all over this tag the second I saw it. It was created over at The Book Life so do click on the link to have a watch of the original video.

Now, whack your favourite T-Swift album on in the background and see what my picks are.


1. We are never getting back together: a book or series you were pretty sure you were in love with but then wanted to break up with

Killer Instinct by S E Green. I *loved* the beginning of this one and thought the premise was great but, eesh, that ending…

2. Red: pick a book with a red cover

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins which is, of course, book two in the Hunger Games trilogy.

3. The best day: pick a book that makes you feel nostalgic

Pretty much anything by Enid Blyton but particularly the St Clare’s books

4. Love Story: pick a book with a forbidden love

So many to choose from but Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the best around


5. I knew you were trouble: pick a book with a bad character you couldn’t help but love

Anything by Paige Harbison (nobody writes a loveable bitch like she does) but Here Lies Bridget is my favourite

6. Innocent: pick a book that someone ruined the ending of

I think I speak for a big chunk of the internet when I say Allegiant by Veronica Roth

7. Everything has changed: pick a book that has a character who goes through extensive character development

Being Billy by Phil Earle. If you haven’t read it yet do pick it up, because it’s gorgeous

8. Forever and always: pick your favourite book couple

No surprises here: Edie and Dylan from the Diary of a Crush books by the incomparable Sarra Manning


9. You belong with me: most anticipated book release

Right now, I don’t really have one but of all time it’d be Butter by Erin Jade Lange

10. Come back, be here: pick a book you wouldn’t lend out to anyone for fear of missing it too much

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. All time number one, forever and always!

11. Tear drops on my guitar: a book that made you cry a lot

Quite a few to choose from, as I’m a serial crier, but it’s got to be Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (closely followed by HP and the Deathly Hallows and The Knife of Never Letting Go)

12. Shake it off: a book that you love so much you just shake off the haters

Choker by Elizabeth Woods! I loved this one but everybody else seemed to hate it. Hey ho, that’s the way to cookie crumbles sometimes.

*

What books would be on your list? If you decide to do this tag let me know! And now, excuse me while I go and jump around to Shake It Off to celebrate the impending weekend.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

10 Books on my Autumn Reading List

So, autumn is almost upon us! I'm wholly ready for summer to bow out and let the falling leaves, hot chocolates and blustery afternoons commence. In case you couldn't tell, I'm a big fan of the upcoming season.

I always find a read a lot more in autumn than I do in summer. There's something about the chilly, dark evenings that sends me diving underneath my duvet to lose myself in a brilliant book. So, to celebrate the impending arrival of autumn here are ten of the books on my autumn reading list:


1. The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

I've had this on my wishlist for ages and after receiving a review copy a couple of days ago I'm finally going to see what all the fuss is about!

2. Age of Iron - Angus Watson

I'm reading this one for a blog tour and, although it's outside of my usual type of book, I'm still hopeful.

3. Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

Slightly put off by the OTT 'OMG JOHN GREEN'S EDITOR PUBLISHED THIS!' marketing but the story sounds interesting and I can't turn down a Bell Jar comparison.


4. Killing Sound - Paul Southern

Another blog tour read. I'm always going to be excited by a horror and this has got an awesome premise.

5. Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

I've seen some great reviews for this and it has a really interesting storyline. It's quite chunky but should be good.

6. The Castle - Sophia Bennett

I started this over the summer when my copy first arrived but ended up putting it down during a giant bookshelf reorganisation period. I really loved the beginning so I'm excited to get back to the story.


7. The Iron Trial - Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

*Meh face* At this point I'm reading this purely out of duty and because I'm curious to find out what this twist is that everybody keeps talking about. I'm about a third of the way through and it's really not doing it for me...but I'm hoping that returning to it after a break might help.

8. Popular - Maya Van Wagenen

This sounds like a fun read that I probably should have read over the summer but will hopefully inject a little bit of sunshine into dreary autumn days.

9. Noggin - John Corey Whaley

I took part in the blog tour for Noggin and the author's playlist for the book has convinced me that I definitely need to bump it up my to read list and get to it.

10. Annihilation - Jeff Vandermeer

I bought this on a whim because it was free on the Kindle store and it was billed as Lost meets...something. I don't know, as soon as I saw the Lost comparison I'd already downloaded it.

*

So there you have it, ten books I'm hoping to read this season. Are any of these books on your list? What are you hoping to read over the coming weeks?

Monday, 15 September 2014

Messenger of Fear - Michael Grant

PublishedAugust 26th 2014, Electric Monkey
Pages: 309 pages, proof
Standalone/Series: This is book one in the series, with book two (currently untitled) due out next year
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.


The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear. 


But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out . . .


My review: This was one of my most hyped books of 2014 and I'm happy to report that it didn't disappoint in the slightest. After reading a succession of disappointing books at the end of the summer I was a bit nervous when I delved into this, as I had such high hopes for it, but all of them were met and exceeded. Isn't it lovely when that happens?

I've been a fan of Michael Grant's books since I discovered the Gone series during my early days as a blogger. He has a real talent for creating richly realised worlds that are almost our own but...with a few quirks, and I find his persuasive, immersive writing makes it impossible for me not to suspend my disbelief while I'm reading his books. 

I'm more of a contemporary girl but I received my copy of Messenger of Fear right when I needed it most. I'd read a slew of disappointing books and was in a midst of a deep reading slump. I wanted something totally different to pull me out of my funk and this delightful treat was just the ticket. I blitzed through this in a couple of sittings in a single day and felt wholly satisfied and entertained when I turned the final page. This is the first in a series but it has the perfect blend of being a self-contained story as well as a brilliant opening book that piques your interest and leaves you wanting more, without ending on a frustrating cliff hanger.

Messenger of Fear contains definite elements of horror, which had me clapping my hands with glee, as you can imagine. What's even better is that the horror scenes are genuinely scary and had me feeling more unsettled that a lot of pure horror releases I've read this year. There's a lot to think about in this book and if you were a fan of the first Saw film you'll definitely feel the same 'damn, what if this actually happened? How would I fare?' unease that you felt in that movie. For non-horror fans, though - don't worry, this isn't filled with gore like the Saw movies, it just has the same interesting study of karma and retribution.

Memorable characters (the Messenger is one of my character highlights of 2014 and I can't wait to learn more about his backstory further down the line), a rip-roaring white-knuckle ride of a story and some top notch writing - it doesn't get better than this. Oh, and get a load of that cover; fantastic, right?

As always, well played, Michael Grant, well played.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Blog Holiday

Hi guys!


Just a quick one to let you know I'm taking this week off blogging to have a nice, chilled out week with my boyfriend before he starts his new job - so you won't see any new posts from me until September.

Have a great week,

Carly xxx

Monday, 18 August 2014

DNF: Black Ice - Becca Fitzpatrick

Published: October 7th 2014, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 392 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads)Sometimes danger is hard to see... until it’s too late. 

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn't prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there... and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target. 

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 


My (sort-of) review: As always, I call this a 'sort of' review because I didn't finish reading Black Ice, I got to page 81 before giving up so do remember that this opinion is based on that portion of the book, as I didn't like this enough to continue.

To be blunt, I really disliked Black Ice and it was not my thing at all. I didn't have any intention of reading it but when a copy popped through my letterbox and the publisher encouraged me to try it I thought I might as well delve in. Plus, I always get tempted to see what the fuss is about when I read a string of negative reviews - morbid curiosity, I guess!

Often I like books that a lot of people dislike but this time I 100% agree with the negative comments Black Ice is attracting. The protagonist - oh, wow, she is something else... I've seen a couple of reviews say that she gets better later on and it's easier to ignore her awful personality once the book gets going but I couldn't carry on with this. The awful characters, coupled with the dull story and uninspiring writing meant I was turning the pages purely to try and get through it and wasn't enjoying anything at all.

Our protagonist, Britt, is a selfish, spoiled, bitchy student who is on Spring Break with her equally dislikable best friend, Korbie. Instead of heading to Hawaii with their other friends they're heading to Korbie's cabin in the mountains to spend the time hiking the trails etc etc. There's a snow storm, their car gets buried, they hike through the woods and find a mysterious cabin in the woods, where they promptly shack up with the two guys inside. Sensible? NO, OF COURSE NOT. 

Britt is a pretty vapid, spoiled piece of work, as outlined by a few quotes I've pulled from the first 80 pages:

'I wondered if I'd gained any weight since he'd last seen me. I didn't think so. If anything, the running and weight lifting I'd done to prepare for our backpacking expedition had sculpted my legs. I tried to cling to the idea of sexy legs, but it wasn't making me feel any better.'

'"Daddy!" I hollered...and put on my best little girl pout. "I need money for gas, Daddy."'

'"Since you started pilfering Slurpee and pretending you can't operate the gas pump so I have to come out and fill your tank for you. Every time you pull in, I want to kick myself."
I wrinkled my nose. "I don't want my hands smelling like gas. And you are particularly good at pumping gas, Willie." I added with a flattering smile...
... I padded barefoot through the aisles looking for Twizzlers and Cheez-Its, thinking that if Willie didn't like pumping my gas he really should get another job.'

The next part is too long to type out but she runs into her ex-boyfriend and proceeds to lie and pretend she has a new boyfriend, pointing to the first guy who walks into the shop and pretending he's her new boyfriend. Seriously? This is a book about young adults, not children, right? After making up a fake boyfriend to spite her ex, she walks into the car park, sees his car and does the following:

'Climbing through the passenger door, I knocked his rearview mirror out of alignment, dribbled Slurpee on the floor mats, and stole his vintage CD collection from the glove box.'

All of the above happens in the first 27 pages, so you get the gist.

She also admits to reading her best friend's diary and starts flirting with one of the strangers in the cabin to try (the one her best friend likes) to try and prove a point. Yeah, a character I dislike that much cannot sustain my interest for almost 400 pages.

Oh, and my personal favourite, from page 69:

'I tapped my cup to his, grateful to have found Shaun, because for a minute there, I'd thought I was going to have to save myself. Instead, I'd wandered into the protective care of a sexy older man.
I dared any of my friends to return from spring break with a better story.'

REALLY?! 

I don't want my negative thoughts about Black Ice to deter anybody from reading it, as we all love different books and while this has had a lot of negative attention (particularly among UK book bloggers, which is interesting) it has also had lots of positive reviews on Goodreads, so swings and roundabouts. I do think this will be a polarising book so if you fancy reading it I'd probably download the Kindle sample before purchasing the whole thing, because if you're going to be turned off of this one it will probably happen within the first chapters.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Blog Tour: Abigail Haas - Dangerous Boys (*Shirtless Chad Michael Murray Klaxon*)

Today is my stop on Abigail Haas' blog tour for Dangerous Boys - a book I read and really enjoyed! I'm a big fan of Haas' books and adored last year's Dangerous Girls, so I recommend checking both of those books out if you're looking for entertaining mysteries to read.

For today's post Abigail is going to talk bout her top five bad ass brothers! What's not to like?



TOP 5 BAD-ASS BROTHERS

Damon & Stefan Salvatore – The Vampire Diaries


I never read the books, so this is all about the on-screen TV smolder, but Damon and Stefan take the prize for being recklessly dangerous while maintaining excellent hairstyling. They’ve role reversed ‘good bro’ and ‘bad bro’ so many times, peeling back the layers to reveal real strength and darkness every time. 

Lucas and Nathan Scott – One Tree Hill

If I can get a picture of a shirtless Chad Michael Murray on my blog then by hook or by crook I will!


Yes, I was a big OTH fan. No, I’m not ashamed. The show nailed crazy teen drama and emotional sincerity, and from the very first episode, the dynamic between half-brothers Lucas (single mom, illegitimate), and Nathan (rich, dysfunctional family) drove the action. The burgeoning sense of brotherhood grounded the often-ridiculous action, so that even when crazy nannies were kidnapping kids, and a dog ate a human heart set for transplant (true story, just watch), you still felt the emotion between the brothers.

Nick and Alan Ryves - The Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan


Demon-fighting, sword-toting brothers on the run. Rees Brennan brings a trademark wit and banter to every scene, but still grounds their dynamic in real sibling protectiveness and loyalty. 

Loki and Thor – Marvel world movies


The layers of resentment, admiration, and jealousy that run between Loki and Thor will be recognizable to any sibling. Except this pair also comes with the threat of world domination.


Sam and Dean Winchester – Supernatural


What is it with hot brothers fighting (and/or becoming) demons? Sam and Dean have been through a lot in nine years of the show, with the future of humanity seeming to hang in the balance every other week, but through it all, their loyalty remains strong. As does their hair game.

*

Well, there you have it. What do you think? Do you agree with the choices? I have to agree with the Salvatore brothers and Loki and Thor, for sure!

For more information about Dangerous Boys you can check out the Goodreads page for the book, or follow Abigail on Twitter.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Wickedpedia - Chris Van Etten

(Note: Kindle edition cover differs)
Published: June 24th 2014, Scholastic
Pages: 224 pages, Kindle
Standalone/Series: Standalone


Summary (from Goodreads): It's the return of Point Horror for the Internet generation! Don't open the door. Don't answer your phone. And whatever you do, DON'T turn on your computer. . . .


Cole and Gavin love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole's girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.


It's all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident . . . just as Cole and Gavin predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways . . . and those entries start to come true as well.


To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who's behind the murders, or else he's set to meet a pretty grisly end.


My review: I'm a huge horror fan, as any regular readers of Writing from the Tub will know. I'm always looking for the latest YA horror release and I've often loudly wished for the day when YA horror rises to the forefront of publishing wishlists and finally has its moment. As such, I was pretty darned excited when I stumbled across Wickedpedia on Goodreads earlier in the year - I thought it sounded like a great premise and I was a huge fan of the Point Horror books in my teenage years. So, when Wickedpedia's release day rolled around I was excited to download it to my iPad and dig in.

Unfortunately, that's where the excitement ended.

I wanted to love Wickedpedia, I really did. I wanted to be drawn in by the characters and engrossed by the story. I wanted to text my friends and tell them to read this book for pure nostalgic pleasure... Sadly, I really, really didn't love Wickedpedia.

The narrative was clunky and awkward and the entire thing could really have done with a lot more editing - it felt like I was reading a novel in the early stages of drafting rather than a finished product that was actually out on bookshelves. Cole and Gavin fell flat for me and I certainly didn't find myself rooting for Cole, who was incessantly moany about his break up with Winnie, or Gavin, who I think was supposed to be witty but just came off as bitchy.

The death scenes were gory and were probably the best written part of the book, to be honest. They did remind me of the old school Point Horror novels so, bravo for the gore because it did hit the mark.

The mystery surrounding the 'Wickedpedia' element of the story was just...no, it just didn't work. At all. By the time the 'big reveal' happened I genuinely didn't care any more and the killer was such a weird curveball that it didn't even surprise me. It wasn't a sophisticated mystery, it just felt like a random character was picked to be the killer and didn't feel like the natural progression of the story.

Unfortunately, Wickedpedia didn't deliver and I'm really disappointed because I wanted to be scared stiff; the scares just didn't come.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Blog Tour: Water Born - Rachel Ward

Happy hump day, everyone! I'm here today with the ever so lovely Rachel Ward for my stop on the blog tour for Water Born, the sequel to The Drowning.

In keeping with the theme of the books, Rachel is here today to talk about her relationship with water and there are some excellent stories in there, so do make sure you keep reading!

For more information about Water Born, which is due out tomorrow, you can check out the Water Born Goodreads page and follow Rachel on Twitter.



Water and Me - Rachel Ward

When I wrote The Drowning, my publisher Barry Cunningham of The Chicken House asked if I was scared of water. I said that I wasn’t, but that I had a healthy respect for it. And it’s true – I’m pretty scared of heights, I’m definitely scared of spiders and snakes but water isn’t one of the things that gives me nightmares or sets my heart racing in panic. In fact, I love swimming and one of the delights of this year has been discovering that there are river swims to be had only a mile or two from my home in Bath (and lovely literary folk to swim with).

His question did get me thinking about my relationship with water, though, and the more I think about it, the more I realise it’s played an important part in my life and in writing The Drowning and its sequel Water Born.

I didn’t have a water birth (if only my mum had thought ahead, it would have made the title of my new book oh so sweet). My first memory of water takes me to the back garden of my parents’ house, on a hot summer’s day, when I was three or four. I remember being alone and walking backwards (why? Just to see if I could do it, of course!) and I remember my legs bumping into the metal frame, the feeling of toppling, the shock of the cold water, the sound of it rushing in my ears. I remember not knowing which way was up and swallowing an awful lot of water. I can remember its taste. Writing this is making me shiver. Right now, even though I know it turned out okay, I’m scared for that little girl. I feel a bit sick about what might have happened. I managed to clamber out and trudge soggily into the kitchen, but how close did I come to drowning? Too close for comfort.

My other watery tales are happier. I learnt to swim during a glorious week at the end of the school holidays, when the new middle school building wasn’t ready and I had an extra few days off, while my older brother and sister had to go to their senior schools (result!). It was hot and sunny, and my mum and I went to Guildford Lido every day where we ate picnic lunches and I learnt to doggy paddle in a jerky, splashy sort of way. ‘Look! I’m not even touching the bottom!’

I met my best friend at secondary school in the first week of term in the swimming lesson. Rowena and I were both in the worst group, shivering miserably in the shallow end, while our more gifted classmates showed off their front crawl and did exciting things like diving for bean bags in the deep end. Or was it heavy rubber quoits? How would I know? I never got to dive for anything. I was still shivering in the shallow end after two years of futile lessons.

In my early twenties, one of my colleagues at Norfolk County Council taught me how to swim breaststroke and actually get my face in the water, during lunch hour jaunts from the Planning Department. Those were the days when long lunch breaks weren’t frowned upon. Friday lunchtimes would usually involve a stroll up to the on-site social club for a convivial drink. Times have changed. By the time I left local government a couple of years ago, most people just worked through lunch, nibbling their sandwiches at their desks, or taking a quick thirty minutes to catch up with errands. ‘Lunch is for wimps.’ Not in Norfolk, in the 1990s.

Through all this, front crawl eluded me, but when my son was little, fifteen years ago or so, I finally took swimming lessons. Turns out it’s all about the breathing. And it’s about trusting the water, lying flat, and learning to turn your head, find a rhythm and relax. 

These days I rarely refuse the chance for a dip in the sea, I swim in the local pool, and am looking forward to discovering more of the local wild swimming haunts. I’m not frightened of water, but researching for The Drowning and Water Born I did discover how easy it is to drown and to miss the signs of drowning in those around you. Water should be respected. You disrespect it at your peril. And, looking back, I do wonder whether my first adventure, make that misadventure, with water – that backflip into the paddling pool – lies at the heart of these books.  

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Blog Tour: Noggin - John Corey Whaley

Today I've got debut author John Corey Whaley at Writing from the Tub, talking about his dream soundtrack for his YA novel, Noggin.

Before we launch into the songs I wanted to share the gorgeous cover art and summary for Noggin, in case any of you haven't heard of this one yet. Does the cover art remind anyone else of David Levithan? Just me? Either way, I think it's a brilliant design.



Summary (from Goodreads): Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

*

And now you know a bit more about the book, let's take a look at some of the songs the author would put on the book's soundtrack:


Head Over Heels by Tears for Fears

--->Not only is this song IN the book, but is also my all-time favourite song from the 80s. 

Girls Like You by The Naked and the Famous

--->This song has a very nostalgic quality to it that I think fits NOGGIN very well.  Also, it's about a guy in love with a girl, which is pretty much what the book is about. 

Forever by Haim

--->This song, and the whole album, reminds me of my favorite music from the 80s and early 90s, in a way that I believe fits with NOGGIN, which I wrote to feel similar to a John Hughes movie. 

Pop Music of the Future by Say Hi to Your Mom

--->I used to listen to this song in college a lot I stumbled across it again while I was working on NOGGIN and, with a title like that, how could I NOT use it on this playlist? 

Dead Hearts by Stars

---->There are few songs that can make me tear up as soon as they start playing and this is at the top of that list. It's meant to be heartbreaking, just like parts of this book. 

True Romance by Citizens!

--->This was one of the first songs that I knew I'd include on this playlist from the outset of writing NOGGIN.  It's just so  fun and also super quirky, which is what I was aiming for in parts of the story. 

Forever Young by Youth Group

--->This is a remake of the original song (I think I heard this version on The OC years ago) and I fell in love with it.  

*

Haim and The Naked and Famous on one playlist? Yes, please!

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dangerous Boys - Abigail Haas

Published: August 14th 2014, S&S
Pages:
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…


My review: After reading and loving Abigail Haas' Dangerous Girls last year, I couldn't wait to receive a copy of Dangerous Boys, which I had very high hopes for. A copy arrived for me last week and I read it the same day it arrived - once I started, I simply couldn't put it down. This is one more-ish story that will have you racing through the pages to discover what really happened when Chloe Bennett and the Reznick brothers went into the abandoned house on a night that ended in tragedy...

The narrative in Dangerous Boys is split between 'Then', which shows us the events that take place before the night in the abandoned house, and 'Now', which shows the aftermath of the fire. During the 'Then' sections we see Chloe meeting Ethan, the younger Reznick brother, their blossoming relationship and how complicated their lives become when Oliver, the enigmatic but troubled older Reznick brother, comes onto the scene.

I adored the story in Dangerous Boys, particularly the mystery about what really happened in the house and who made it out alive, as this is something we don't find out until almost the end of the book. While I was reading I kept changing my mind about who had done what, who I sided with, who made it out alive - I just couldn't make my mind up and in every chapter a new clue was brought to light. I love mysteries and this is a great one - I really don't think the denouement is anything a reader would see coming and I love that Haas kept me guessing until the final pages, just like she did in Dangerous Girls.

However, I did struggle a little with the characters in Dangerous Boys, as I didn't find myself warming to any of them in particular, so I wasn't really rooting for anybody as they all fell a little flat for me. I found Chloe a bit insipid in the beginning of the book but as she grew as a character I did find myself liking her a lot more towards the end of the story. However, when it came to Ethan and Oliver I really wasn't keen on either of them - Oliver was slimy rather than charming and pretentious in a way that just irritated me, whereas Ethan was way too soppy and clingy to be considered a compelling love interest. Now I've finished the book I'm sure they were both written with these flaws on purpose but it did grate on me a little as I was reading.

However, irritating characters aside, I flew through Dangerous Boys and read it in a single sitting because I was so engrossed by the story. If you're looking for an easy to read, summery mystery then this is absolutely perfect for you - let's just hope the sun stays shining until it's released in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Picture Me Gone - Meg Rosoff


Published: September 5th 2014, Puffin
Pages: 208 pages, hardback
Standalone/Series: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads)Mila is on a roadtrip across the USA with her father. They are looking for his best friend but Mila discovers a more important truth. Sometimes the act of searching reveals more than the final discovery can. Adults do not have all the answers. It all depends what questions you ask.

My review: First off, can we take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? It looks even more lovely in real life and the story inside is just as vibrant and rich as the cover art.

From the outset we discover that our protagonist, Mila, is extremely perceptive of people and situations. She sees things other people don't and can spend five minutes in a room and glean things that nobody else does. This talent comes in particularly handy when her father's best friend goes missing and her and her dad go on a road trip to try and find out what happened to him.

Mila knows something isn't right from the moment they meet the missing man's wife and from that point onwards things feel more and more 'off'. She isn't sure what but something strange has happened but it becomes clear that only somebody with Mila's mind could piece the mystery together. However, the mystery of the missing man isn't the only plot in the book, as other threads are delicately woven through the story to make Picture Me Gone a full-bodied, living, breathing novel that comes to life through Rosoff's unique, memorable prose.

Picture Me Gone is definitely a subtle, understated novel. There are no car chases or explosions here, no century-long romances or bloody crime scenes, just a beautifully-written story about a young girl finding her way in the world and discovering that everybody, even those closest to you, has a secret.


Monday, 21 July 2014

YALC: Day Two

So, day two at YALC!

I woke up feeling a million dollars on the Sunday morning - I was so knackered I can't remember the last time I slept so well. Me and Lynsey mooched on down to the hotel's restaurant for breakfast (hellooooo bacon and hash browns) and then nipped across to Earls Court on the tube, raring to go.

I'd been invited to the YALC blogger event, which meant we got early access to the convention centre and got waved in ahead of the huge queue - which felt pretty awesome, I have to admit. Earls Court was so lovely and quiet at that time of day and we took advantage of the lack of crowds and did some celebrity spotting (HI, HODOR!) before the blogger breakfast started. 

The breakfast itself was great fun, we got to hear from lovely publicists and James Dawson, Non Pratt, Holly Black and Matt Haig all spoke to us about their most recent books. After the event we were all given a brilliant goodie bag and got the chance to have a chat with the authors, which was great fun!

Sunday was definitely much more chilled than Saturday, and I got to meet up with even more of my blogger friends, which was my highlight! We live all over the country and it's not often we get to meet up in such a big group, so I had a brilliant time catching up with all my lovely bookish friends - I won't name names as I'll only forget and offend someone, but you all know who you are and you made my weekend absolutely top notch. Much love!

I caught Phil Earle, Sally Green and Ben Horslen's panel in the morning, which was excellent and gave tonnes of solid advice about getting your novel published. I left the panel desperate to get home and carry on rewriting my book!

After the panel most of my pals were ready for the I'm too Sexy for this Book talk - which might have been the most popular of the weekend! While they were busy with that I decided to venture out solo to enjoy the rest of what LFCC had to offer, as I'd spent most of the previous day in the Book Zone. I had a look at some of the stalls and picked up some Game of Throne badges and American sweets to take home (Nerds and Laffy Taffy, obviously). The stalls were pretty cool but, unfortunately, because of the crowds it was impossible to really stop and look.

After doing a lap of the convention centre and spotting some amazing cosplay I decided to have a little breather outside to cool down, as it was blinking hot. Aaaand that's where it all went wrong... When it came to getting back inside it was completely unorganised and there were loads of different queues at different doors, with people getting stressed out that they couldn't get back in, even though we all had our hands stamped. Things started to get a bit...tense, and nobody seemed to have any idea what was going on or where we were meant to go, so I took it was a sign to head back to Paddington and get a slightly earlier train home.

I'm a bit sad I didn't get to go back inside to catch my last panel and say goodbye to everybody but the atmosphere in the re-entry (or lack of re-entry) queue was definitely getting a bit irate so I didn't want to ruin a good weekend with LFCC drama!

Before I go into my feedback, here are my favourite pictures from day two:

Me and Michelle // GEORGE A ROMERO // Me and Faye // Me and Sophie // Me and Jenny // Sally Green, Ben Horslen and Phil Earl's brilliant panel // A WILD HODOR APPEARED

I had a brilliant time at YALC and it was fantastic to be present for the UK's first YA convention. However, there are definitely a few ways YALC could be improved in future and we were all asked for our honest feedback, so here it is:

- I really don't feel as though LFCC is the right place for YALC. YALC was overshadowed by the convention and the crowds made it difficult to get the most out of the event. It was impossible to just stop and enjoy anything without being bumped into, shoved or moved along by the huge crowds. 

- I was disappointed that barely any publishers had stalls at YALC - come on, guys! It was the perfect place to showcase books and authors and those that were there always had a huge crowd, so it'd be nice to see everybody representing what they have to offer.

- The panels on offer were great but the way they were run wasn't quite as good. The sound issues meant you could only hear if you were in the first few rows and as anybody could wander up and watch the talks it meant people with tickets ended up not being able to get seats. I think for the panels to really work they needed to be in a separate room, or in a space further away from the main crowds, as the background noise was a big problem.

- I was really keen to go to a few of the workshops but the spaces were so limited (25 or 30 spaces per workshop and 70,000 tickets sold for LFCC - the odds were definitely *not* in our favour) I didn't manage to get to any of the five I signed up for, which was a shame as they looked brilliant!

That's it, really. YALC was a fantastic idea and everybody involved did a brilliant job, I just think the venue isn't right, going forward. 99% of the problems we encountered were to do with the crowds for LFCC but I understand why YALC was held there for the first year - it proved that people ARE interested in YA and related events will attract huge crowds! Hopefully the popularity this year means YALC can have its own dedicated venue next year, which would pretty much be perfection.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

YALC Write Up - Day One

So, like a huge chunk of the UKYA community I headed up to London last weekend for the UK's first YA literature convention, which was part of London Film and Comic Con. I decided to split my write up into two posts, one for each day, so my post doesn't end up too long!

I travelled up to London on my own, and that time mostly consisted of sending a million tweets, trying to quietly eat crackers in the quiet carriage on the train and bouncing around in my seat because I was so excited. I arranged to meet my blogging pal, Raimy, and her sister at Earls Court so we could brave the giant queue together and, golly, was it a giant queue!

Yeah, the queue was huge, but I think we all expected it so we chatted and spotted awesome cosplay while we waited. We spied a bunch of bloggers too, which was fun! After an hour and a half we managed to get inside and, gee whizz, if I thought it was hot outside that was nothing compared to the temperature inside! I have to admit I did feel a little overwhelmed when I first got inside as there were literally HUNDREDS of people shoving their way through a teeny tiny little space to get into the main floor. Things did clear out when we found out way to the Book Zone, so I got a chance to cool off and chill out with some of the loveliest people in the world - other bookish types!

I met up with a tonne of my blogging and author friends (some of who I hadn't seen for almost four years!) and met some brilliant new friends too - including Georgina from What She Reads, who I have to give a special shout out as we spent all of Saturday together and she's such a lovely girl, so do check out her blog if you have a minute!

The Book Zone was, you guessed it, dedicated to all things bookish and it was great fun to walk round and see all the displays the publishers had put together. I got tattooed by Hachette, gossiped with Hot Key and browsed the Waterstones booth to check out all the brilliant releases that were for sale - they had early copies of a few books but they sold out prettyyyyy swiftly.

After a day at Earls Court I headed to O'Neills with a few other bloggers and we recharged our phones, feasted on cheesy chips and drank cocktails to relax from a busy day - after that we hit the Fringe event, organised by the fantastic Sophia Bennett, and got to chinwag with even more authors and bloggers.

Me and Lynsey didn't get back to our hotel room until almost midnight, where I pretty much zonked out for seven hours and slept like an absolute log...all in preparation for day two of YALC!

So, to finish the post off, here are a few of my favourite snaps from day one of YALC (SELFIE ALERT):

Me and my lovely new pal, Georgina // Me and my roomie, Lynsey // Me and Non (of internet sperm/Trouble fame) // Me and Tanya Byrne (we finallllly met!) // Me and my best friend, a mojito // Me and the dragon skull from GoT

I'll be back soon with my round up of day two - which will include my round up of the weekend and my highlights and lowlights of YALC!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Blog Tour: Starring Kitty - Keris Stainton

Hi chaps, today I've got a great interview with the lovely Keris Stainton for you all to read to cheer up your grey, muggy morning. Keris' latest novel, Starring Kitty, is due out next week and she was kind enough to stop by and answer a few of my burning questions about the book and her writing process:


Hi, Keris! First off, can you tell us a little bit about Starring Kitty?
Hello! Certainly. It's the first in a series of books about three friends, Kitty, Sunny and Hannah (they'll have a book each). They enter a film-making competition and while they're working on the film, Kitty is trying to deal with her mum's illness and also falling for a girl she's just met... 
Talk me through an average day when you’re working on a novel. Do you have a set number of words you have to write per day or do you set yourself different targets?
I used to be very bad at this. There's a lot of waiting in publishing and whenever I was waiting (or planning or editing), I wasn't writing. This year I decided to make a change and set a target of 1000 words a day, every week day (which is 250,000 for the year) and it's really changed everything, I've been so much more productive and I'm enjoying it much more. Plus I buy myself a treat every 10% which is fun too. 
Some writers relate take great inspiration from music while they’re writing. Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what artists/bands do you like to listen to while you write? 
I did this for Jessie Hearts NYC and it worked brilliantly, but for some reason I haven't really managed to do it again. I'm about to start the second draft of the next Reel Friends book, so I might try to make a playlist today because it definitely helps. There are some songs that were on the Jessie playlist that even now make my fingers twitch with the urge to write. 
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Have you always been this way?
Total pantser. Always. I occasionally try to do a tiny bit of plotting - even just making a few notes about what I'm going to write the next day - but I'm much happier just blurting it all out. And then the next draft is MURDER. 
Can you tell me a bit about your journey with Starring Kitty? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being released?
After Emma Hearts LA came out in June 2012, I was working on another book in the series about Bex, Emma's sister, falling for a girl. My publishers eventually told me they didn't want it and I ended up blogging about it as a story I wasn't going to get to write. The same day the blog went up, Non Pratt at Catnip had blogged that she was looking for an LGBT romance so I got in touch with her and had a bit of a chat, but I was also changing agents so I didn't get to meet with Non until early 2013 and my agent situation wasn't sorted out until the summer. In the meantime, the plan changed from the Bex book to the Reel Friends series and I sent the first draft in at the beginning of this year. The turnaround since then has been pretty quick, but basically it will be two years from the original 'spark'. 
How important do you think social media is in today’s market for a writer?
Oh I think it's essential. I'm a total social media obsessive (you might have noticed) - it changed my life. I met my agent and editor through Twitter and many of my best friends online. Plus the entire YA blogging community just makes my heart happy. For research, for relaxation, for support and sometimes commiseration… I don't know what I'd do without it. 
What would you say is your worst bad habit when it comes to writing?
So many bad habits! Too much Twitter. Too much faffing about 'researching' on Google Maps. Too much internet in general. In the actual writing, I tend to back off from the really hard stuff (the hard emotional stuff, I mean) - and it always has to be teased out of me by my editor. Plus I worry about dragging endings out and so I think I often wrap things up too quickly. But I saw Rainbow Rowell say she does the same so I'm in good company there, at least :)
Is naming characters important to you? What processes do you go through to come up with names for your characters?
Yes, but it's not something I can really explain. Names just click. With Della Says: OMG! I really couldn't get on with the book until I was happy with Della's name. With the current book I've ended up with two characters with basically the same name (Daniel and Danielle) and I don't want to change either of them. But I'm going to have to and I'm fretting about it. Every time I hear a name, I run it past the characters in my head to see if it works. No luck so far. (Hmm… Carly…)
What did you hope to accomplish by writing Starring Kitty? Do you think you have accomplished what you set out to do?
Oh that's a good question! Basically I wanted to write a romance like my other books but that just happened to be between two girls. I didn't want it to be about fear or angst or bullying, I wanted it to be about first love. I hope I've accomplished that. I'm certainly very happy with it. 
Aside from writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
So. Much. TV. Also my kids are home educated, and while I don't actually teach them, we do spend a lot of time together. My 5yo is sitting next to me right now and for every question I've answered in this interview, I've answered about 300 of his. (Just now: "Would a fish cuddle a wild cat?")
Thank you so much for your time, Keris. Before you go, could you tell me about any projects you have in the pipeline we can look out for?
I've just finished the first draft of the next book in the Reel Friends series, Spotlight On Sunny, and the first chapter of that will be online soon. There's another VERY exciting thing in the pipeline, but I'm not allowed to say yet, sorry. And thank you so much for having me!