Thursday, 29 October 2015

UKYA Extravaganza

Two weeks ago I headed off to Nottingham for the second UKYA Extravaganza.  It turned out to be a rather long day, sometimes taking a train can take an age, can't it? but the day itself was brilliant as I was catching up with old and new bloggers, and authors alike.
I love listening to authors talk, not only about how they got their publishing deals, and about their writing ways, but also hearing them talk about their books with so much passion, and there were a lot of titles to choose from.  I brought a couple, but could have come away with so many more, and I got them signed too!
I also got these delights from Bali Rai (my interview with him can be found here) as a thank you for featuring him on my blog (though it was my pleasure) and I finished Web of  Darkness last night, a review of it will be up soon, but let me say right now that it's a cracker!
All in all, it was a fabulous day out and I'd like to thank Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery for inviting me yet again. 
Happy Reading
Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Queen of the Tearling

 The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Published by Bantam
16th July 2015
Paperback Edition

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret after her mother – a monarch as vain as she was foolish – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea’s uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea’s nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother’s guard - each pledged to defend the queen to the death - arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding...

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom’s heart, to claim the throne, win the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother’s legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance - it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive...

This is the first in a trilogy of books by Erika Johansen set in a dystopian world where Kelsea Glynn, now she has reached her 19th birthday, is to be crowned queen of Tearling.  However, having spent the past 18 years in hiding, there are many who want her dead before she is able to become crowned, not least those who work for the Red Queen, leader of the enemy realm Mortmesme.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  In some ways it was disappointing that I knew it was a trilogy before I started reading it, as you sort-of already know that Kelsea is clearly going to survive to at least make it into book two, but that didn't detract from the plot of the story at all.  Some concentration is needed as in any dystopian novel nothing is as it is in the present day, and there are new realms and rules to be discovered through every page of Queen of the Tearling.

There is magic and loyalty, treachery and deceit in every chapter, plus a little romance which made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.  I'm looking forward to reading the sequel which is lined up on my kindle already!  If you loved The Hunger Games trilogy, then I think you'll love reading this too.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Black Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
Published by Michael Joseph
13th August 2015
Hardback Edition

A chilling new thriller that gets into the heart and mind of the killer, and the victim . . .

Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a 'Black-Eyed Susan' by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars - or so she thought.

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa's bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.

Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter's safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it's too late?

I raced through this novel by Julia Heaberlin, and I really enjoyed it.  Thankfully there was no sloppy ending as I've experienced with some crime/thriller novels over the past year or so, and actually, this would make a really great movie.  At the age of 17, Tessie is the only survivor of the 'Black-Eyed Susan' serial killer, found in a hole amongst some of the other discarded bodies.  A defect in the way her heart beats led her to appear to have stopped breathing, thus ensuring she survived.  Fast-forward twenty years, and Tessa, as she prefers to be known, isn't fully convinced that the right man is serving time for this crime on death row.

Terrell Darcy Goodman is a condemned man, with only a few weeks to live before his date to die reaches fruition, but not if his law team can help it.  They are still convinced that he is not the serial killer he has been convicted of being, and with Tessa's help, they aim to get him a stay of execution.

Tessa isn't convinced either, because if Terrell Darcy Goodman is in fact the killer, then who has been planting the flowers synonymous with her attack, near to her home, for the past two decades?

I thought this was well-paced and a gripping read.  There are lots of suspects and un-savoury characters floating around, as well as an old, and new love interest for Tessa, not to mention the life of her own daughter Charlie, who she wants to protect from the past as much as possible.  Is the right man on death row, or is the black-eyed susan killer still out there?

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 19 October 2015

The House on Cold Hill

The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
Published by Macmillan
8th October 2015
Hardback Edition

Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House - a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion - Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.

Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren't the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade's is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House's dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them . . .

This is a stand-alone novel by Peter James and it's certainly a haunting tale.  I read it in a day as I couldn't put it down!  It's a tense, and spookily haunting tale, that will send chills down your spine, so don't read it alone, in a dark, and eerie house!

Ollie and Caro Harcourt put everything they have financially into buying Cold Hill House in Sussex.  It's a Georgian mansion that requires a lot of updating but it's a dream come true for the couple, and their young children.  What they don't know is that Cold Hill House has had many an owner over the years, but none of them have actually ever managed to leave the property alive!

Neither of the adults discuss their suspicious feelings about the supernatural aspects of their house and each of the Harcourt's are disturbed in very different ways once they have moved in.  It appears that whomever, or whatever haunts the walls of the house is not a happy spirit and the family may not be safe within their own home.

The villagers are all keen to offer advice, but it's difficult to know whom to believe, especially when the person you are talking to might not actually still be living!  From beds that move in the night, to emails that can't possibly have been sent, Cold Hill House is not a house you would want to have brought.  However, for the Harcourt's, it might not be a decision that is so easy to reverse, no matter how much they may eventually want to!

A perfect Hallowe'en read.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Secrets of Ghosts

The Secrets of Ghosts by Sarah Painter
Published by Carina
26th February 2014
Kindle Edition

On her twenty-first birthday Katie Harper has only one wish: to become a real Harper woman. Mystical powers are passed down her family generation after generation – some even call them witches – yet every spell Katie attempts goes disastrously wrong.

When her magic does appear, it’s in a form nobody expected and suddenly Katie is thrown into a dangerous new world with shadowy consequences. For the realm of the deceased is not as peaceful as she once thought. The dead are buried with their secrets and only Katie can help the ghosts of the past finally find peace.

If that is what they are looking for…

This is a follow-on novel from The Language of Spells, (review here) which I equally loved, but you could easily read as a stand-alone novel.  The Harper women are in Pendleford to stay, and as Katie approaches her 21st birthday, she wishes to know more about her heritage and to finally find out what her magical talent might be.

At the Grange hotel, things are not going to plan.  There seems to be more than one underlying presence around, that only Katie can communicate with.  The problem is, as a beginner in witchcraft, can Katie handle her powers solely on her own, or will she need the help of her aunt Gwen at least to assist her?

Gwen is happily settled with Cam, and her world is starting to become whole after her move to Pendleford seven years earlier, however, is she about to bite off more than she can chew once Katie starts dabbling in magic, and who is the mysterious Max who turns up at the hotel and starts to take an interest in Katie almost immediately?

This is a great tale of witchcraft and magic and I was, once again, thorougly engrossed in the lives of the Harper family and all that goes on in Pendleford.  I only hope there's another book to follow on.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

In Conversation with Bali Rai

Today on the blog, as part of the UKYA Extravaganza, I'm in conversation with Bali Rai, award winning author of the Shrophsire Teen Book Award for 2015 for Web of Darkness, as well as of the Barrington Stoke series of books.

For anyone who hasn't come across your books before, can you give my readers a brief synopsis of some of your stories?
No problem – I tend to write social realism on the whole, so my first novel, (un)arranged marriage is about Leicester teen whose Sikh parents want him to marry a village girl from India, something he fights against.

Rani & Sukh, which was a GCSE set text until Mr Gove got his hands on the English curriculum, is a Romeo & Juliet inspired love story, also set in Leicester, which incorporates elements of age-old star-crossed lover’s stories from India and other places, alongside a very modern story about teenagers in love, and blood feuds which spiral into violence.

Web of Darkness is a story about two Year 11 girls who find their lives turned upside down when their use of social media brings evil into their lives. It’s a fast-paced thriller that explores the use of social media and the dangers inherent in that. It’s not a story for those with weak hearts!

Killing Honour is probably my most “adult” YA offering. It’s a very, very dark story that explores honour-based violence through the eyes of a 17 yr old lad whose adult sister has gone missing. It also follows an adult female whose life is falling apart due to the extreme violence her husband subjects her to.

City of Ghosts is my only historical novel to date. It’s set around the Amritsar Massacre of 1919, in colonial India – an event Winston Churchill described as “monstrous”. It also takes in the Great War, Brighton in 1915, and is sort of magical realism. A wounded Sikh soldier falls in love with his nurse in Brighton, 1915, and tries to evade an order to be sent “home” to India once recovered. When he fails, the India he returns to is in anti-colonial turmoil, and he becomes the central figure in a web of five stories, all of which climax during the horrific scenes of the massacre. I’m hoping to add a sequel at some point soon!

Finally, my only fantasy offering is Fire City. It’s demons and dystopia – a world in which the richest 1% have gained total control with help of inter-dimensional beings (demons), enslaving or killing the rest of the world’s population. It also reworks Western-inspired “Man With No Name” stories. A dark, amoral stranger with strange powers appears in a town ruled by a vicious and violent Mayor, and despite himself, he stays on to help a small group of rebels fight back. The Mayor’s stepdaughter, a feisty teenager called Martha, intrigues the stranger, and together they set in motion a series of events that lead to tragedy and death, and perhaps a semblance of hope for humankind. The sequel is already planned but I’ve yet to start it!

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
The biggest inspiration is real life. I’ve always felt that ordinary, everyday people are terribly under-represented British fiction, and that goes double for those from non-white, British backgrounds. So, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve – namely stories about the people who live in multicultural communities such as the one I grew up in, and still live in. Stories that weren’t seen as niche or for any particular community or other – just great characters and plots about people whose voices are ordinarily missing.

Then, of course, there are all the books I’ve read in my life, and those I’ve yet to read. The same is true of film and music, too. I’m inspired by other people’s stories, their thoughts and their emotions.

What are you working on next?
My new YA offering is nearly finished. I call it a state-of-the-nation novel – set amongst the growing underclass in modern Britain, whose lives are blighted by ever-deepening poverty and vicious media and public stereotypes of “undeserving” poor people, “scrounging” from the State. Within that context, I have a teenage girl, Siren, whose mother dies from a heroin overdose, leaving her and her three-year old sister to fend for themselves. Caught in dire poverty, and with a well-founded distrust of the social services and authorities, Siren resolves to make sure that she and her sister aren’t separated. With the help of her mother’s best friend, Siren goes on the run, hoping to find the grandfather she has never met and change her life for the better. However, before leaving she takes fifty thousand pounds from a local criminal called Smithy. With both the police and Smithy searching for her, she faces a long, hard road to safety. It’s extremely gritty and pulls no punches in describing the harsh nature of street life in Tory Britain. I have a working title of ‘Siren’s Cry’ but that may well change!

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
The advice is always the same, and as honest as I can make it. Being an author is NOT an easy thing. There’s the ideas themselves (the easy-ish bit), getting a workable plot from those initial sparks, working out characters and their motivation, editing, thinking about publication, and on and on… The key is to write – like, actually write, rather than talk about it.

You must also make sure to read as much as you can within the market you want to be published. So, if you’re writing sci-fi, for example, read other, established writers and see what is being published and by whom. Knowing as much about the industry as possible BEFORE you approach an agent etc… is very important in my opinion.

You must be hard headed too. Understand that you’ll probably get rejections, that you’ll feel unsure about your work, have moments when you’re unable to string a sentence together etc…. This is natural and shouldn’t make you quit. The writers that make it as published authors (as in mainstream published rather than self-published) are the ones who work through all of the hurdles, the doubts, fears etc…

Finally – just go for it! If you’ve got an idea, and you’ve got the writing bug, get writing!

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
I’d be stuck because I have so many vinyl records and books that I’d want to save in their entirety. I think I’d probably just grab my Macbook and run. Actually, I’d probably be burnt to a crisp deliberating over exactly which reggae record and which book are my absolute favourites!

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Ah – I’ve never been asked this before! Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley, Billie Holiday, Sue Townsend and James Lee Burke. And, yes, that did take ages to answer! Can’t I have ten????

Bali will be appearing at Waterstone's Nottingham on Saturday 10th October between 1 and 4pm for the UKYA Extravaganza, and so will I (along with my reading, blogging buddy Maia from Maia and A Little Moore). 

And as a little extra (yes I know not to start a sentence with 'and' but this is important), Bali has five signed books to give away to those of you who either leave a comment here on my blog, or retweet the link I'll be putting up on Twitter.  The competition will close at midnight on Monday, UK followers only (sorry) and we'll draw the winners afterwards, so good luck!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x