Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Review & Interview

Letters to the LostTitle: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.
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This book has just been announced as part of the Zoella Book Club and I couldn't be happier for Brigid Kemmerer. This book is incredible and I can't wait for so many new people to read the book because of this! Grab yourself a copy asap, and now you can even grab the Zoella Book Club WHSmith exclusive cover.

Before Letters to the Lost, I'd actually once tried to read another book by Brigid Kemerer, Storm, the first book in her Elemental series. I ended up not finishing the book, I couldn't get in to the story and thought that maybe her writing just wasn't for me. So I must admit that I was a little hesitant to pick Letters to the Lost up, but I just had to read it as it seemed like exactly my kind of contemporary. I was so very right. I am so glad I took a chance on it, I ended up absolutely loving this bstory and now I am left wanting more from this author. I read this book in just a few hours, I honestly just couldn't put it down and step away from the story or these characters. Within just a few pages Kemmerer managed to get me ridiculously invested in her characters and their story. Ahhhhhh, I just really loved this book and now I just kind of want to gush about it.

Since Juliet lost her mother in a car accident, she has been leaving letters at her grave as a way to feel close to her. Her mother was a war photographer, constantly travelling to war torn countries to capture the true horror, so letters have always been how Juliet and her mother kept in touch whilst she was away. Juliet never expects anyone to read the letters she leaves at her mother's grave, she definitely doesn't expect anyone to reply. But Declan does. He is currently doing community service at the graveyard when he finds one of her letters. He understands her feelings, he is still dealing with the death of his sister and the guilt he feels from that. He write back, which begins a communication between the two of them. They seem to understand each others pain, guilt and grief, but they don't realise that they know each other in real life and they haven't exactly had the best interactions with one another. Cue all the good stuff!

Image result for now kiss gifI'm not even sure where to begin, there are so many things that I loved about this book. It covered so many issues so well, and gave me so many feelings in the process. I think first I should say that I loved the characters, they just felt so real. Their grief and pain was just so easy for me to understand and relate to, as well as their guilt, even for the things they really shouldn't blame themselves for. I loved watching Juliet and Declan connect through their letters, whilst also getting to know one another in real life without even realising it. It showed so well how quickly we can judge people and make assumptions about them, without knowing their full story. It also perfectly showed how anonymity can make us far more comfortable and willing to show who we really are.

This book dealt with a lot of tough subjects, not just loss and grief; Brigid Kemmerer dealt with these all so well. It never felt like too much, or that she went too over the top with it like I have seen in other books. These tough issues were never used for drama, they were so important to the story and these characters, who they were and the decisions they made.

Another thing I loved about the book was all the different relationships portrayed here. You had those with good relationship with their parents, those without. Not to mention the strong friendships here, ones that I really enjoyed. I especially enjoyed Declan's relationship with his best friend Rev, the level of understanding those two have of each other is just brilliant. They know each others past and the struggles it caused them, they were supportive, whilst also being capable of calling the other out on their bullshit when they needed it. I felt the family relationships were also very realistic, especially Declan's struggles with his step father. I felt like their lack of communication was so true to real life. If you don't open up and tell someone your feelings and motivations, they'll judge you only on what they can see and that won't always be who you are. I really enjoyed how Kemmerer dealt with that relationship over the course of this novel.

Image result for kiss already gifKemmerer did such a wonderful job building up the relationship between Declan and Juliet. This is a fantastic contemporary, where the romance isn't overpowering the story, and I actually preferred it that way. This was definitely a slow build and slow burn romance, with two characters truly opening up and getting to know each other; my favourite kind of romance. That isn't to say that I didn't totally want to see these two end up together, I did. I shipped these two so very hard!

I absolutely loved this book and can't really find any faults with it. My one and only complain might be that I wanted one more chapter or so, which is what I seem to say about every single contemporary I ever read. That's not because the ending didn't wrap up the story enough or didn't give me closure, it was just that I didn't feel ready to say goodbye to these characters, which is a good sign that I loved the book.


5/5 Butterflies





Why do you write?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I started writing stories in middle school because I couldn’t find enough to read to keep me busy.


Do you write letters? How important do you think it is to keep up letter writing rather than just always texting/emailing etc – or do you think we have to move with the times? 

I rarely hand-write physical letters (though I’m going to write two physical letters to two people I found incredibly inspiring as I was writing Letters to the Lost). That said, I am constantly emailing and texting. I love being able to take the time to sit down and think through what I say, and especially with email, being able to deliver all of it at once, instead of as part of a conversation. I think that goes hand-in-hand with writing books: I’m just a storyteller at heart.


In the age of digital dating and online friendships, how much do you think it is possible to get to know a person without actually meeting them? 

My absolute closest friend is a woman I met online through a writers’ message board. We’re as close as sisters now, and we’ve only physically seen each other twice. I met my husband over the phone, and we developed a friendship well before we ever met in person. And those are my two closest relationships! I think it’s very possible to develop a close relationship with someone online. I’ve never met many of my writer friends. Being able to connect with people all over the world is one of the best parts of the digital age.


Which novelists do you admire? 

Oh my goodness, SO MANY! Huntley Fitzpatrick, Sabaa Tahir, Charlaine Harris, Sophie Kinsella, Bill Konigsberg, Jane Green…I could go on and on!


Describe your route to being published: 

I feel like I’ve been writing forever, but I started to really take it seriously in my late twenties. I began researching what it would take to get published—and learned it takes a lot of work! My first real novel was rejected everywhere, so I wrote another one. That novel landed an agent—but didn’t sell to any publishers. My third novel, Storm, sold at auction, and it’s the first novel in a series about four brothers who control the elements of earth, air, fire, and water.


What songs would be on a Letters to the Lost playlist? 

I always say that Shots by Imagine Dragons is the book’s theme song. The regular version is great, but there’s a slower, acoustic version that just absolutely nails it. The song is about someone who wants to do things right, but they feel as though everything they do ends up being terribly wrong.

What is the first book that made you cry? 

I can’t remember. The last book that made me cry was The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.


What drove you to make Juliet’s mother a war photographer? 

I wanted her mother to have a job that would require a lot of travel, but also be something unusual and admirable. I started researching photojournalism and it just clicked immediately.


What’s your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Or one that you’ve seen? 

The most powerful photo I’ve ever seen is the one that inspired the opening chapter of Letters to the Lost. It’s called “Iraqi Girl at Checkpoint,” taken by Chris Hondros, and it’s terrible and devastating.

Here’s a link: http://100photos.time.com/photos/chris-hondros-iraqi-girl-at-checkpoint How a Photo of an Iraqi Girl at a Checkpoint Changed the ... 100photos.time.com

The girl's parents were shot dead by U.S. soldiers who thought the family's car held insurgents or suicide bombers But seriously, it’s terrible and heartbreaking. Not for the faint of heart. The instant I saw it, I started crying, and the mother in me wanted to find her and hold her.


What was the hardest part of writing the book? 

Looking at war photographs. Some of them (like the one above) are terribly difficult to look at. My husband and I went to the Newseum in Washington D.C. so I could do some research for Letters to the Lost, and seeing so many photographs all at once was an incredibly emotional experience.


Can you tease any future projects? 

Yes! Rev Fletcher, a side character in Letters to the Lost and already a reader favorite, is getting his own book. More Than We Can Tell will be released in March 2018. I’m also just finishing A Curse So Dark and Lonely, a fantasy/contemporary crossover, which should be available sometime in 2019.




Monday, 18 September 2017

Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

Swear on This LifeTitle: Swear on this Life
Author: Renee Carlino
Publisher: Atria Books
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know that I have a complicated relationship with New Adult books. It is very rare for me to find a new adult book that I like. My biggest issue with the genre from the majority of books I have read is the poor writing, annoying tropes, every tragic backstory you can think of and the cringe-inducing dialogue. I mostly stick to Colleen Hoover, although I've been disappointed with her last few books. I recently discovered Fisher Amelie and I will forever recommend Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility. Every now and again I will take a chance on a new adult book, hoping that it will pay off. I decided to give Swear on This Life a try because it was recommended by Colleen Hoover and I was curious. Unfortunately, I have to say that this was one of the worst books I have read in a very long time.

Image result for i hate this gifThe story follows Emiline, a writing instructor at UC San Diego, who always longed to be a writer but could never find the story she wanted to tell. When a debut novel blows up and becomes the next big thing, Emiline decides to read it. She is surprised to find that the book is about her. The author, J. Colby has to be Jase, the guy she grew up with and her first love.

Another reason I was curious to read this book was because of the childhood friends to lovers story line, as I usually find them super cute. However this story offered me absolutely nothing and I honestly wish I had never picked it up. My biggest problem with this book was that it was poorly written. It had some of the weakest dialogue that I have ever encountered. It also contains the whole 'book within a book', a book we are supposed to believe is getting world wide attention and acclaim, which made no sense given how poorly that book was written, so much so that it could make Fifty Shades look like a work of genius. It was just so, so, so, soooooo bad.
This also had one of my least favourite tropes that is ride in New Adult literature. And that is the tope of the tragic back stories. Why can' a lead character in a new adult book not have some awfully tragic back story? One has an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who abandoned them. The other has a druggie mother, absent father and brother who dies tragically. Of course! It is always sooooo fucking over the top and ridiculous and I hate it.

Image result for i hate this gifThe book within this book made it hard for us to get to know the characters as adults. Instead we kept going back to a fictionalised version of their childhood. It made it hard to connect to them or to really buy their romance. Not to mention it had a really rushed and swift end. It felt like you got absolutely no pay off for sticking through the whole book. I just had a horrible time with this book and it has put me off trying anything else by this author.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby: Review

The Secret History of UsTitle: The Secret History of Us
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Harper Teen
A near drowning…a coma for days…and then…

Olivia wakes up to realize she doesn’t remember. Not just the accident—but anything from the last four years. Not high school. Not Matt, the guy who is apparently her boyfriend. Not the reason she and Jules are no longer friends. Nothing.

That’s when it hits her—the accident may not have taken her life, but it took something just as vital: her memory. The harder she tires to remember things, the foggier everything gets, and figuring out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

But then there’s Walker. The guy who saved her. The one who broke her ribs pumping life back into her lungs. The hardened boy who keeps his distance despite Olivia’s attempts to thank him.

With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t even remember living.
I was very excited when I saw this book was available for review, I'd read Jessi Kirby's Things We Know By Heart  last year and absolutely loved it. Her writing just drew me in and I connected to her characters, so I was hoping my reading experience would be the same for this book. In the end, I did enjoy this book, it just didn't pack the same emotional punch as the first book I read by her.

We follow Liz, who wakes up in a hospital after spending eight days in a coma following a serious car crash, one that no one can understand how she survived. It soon becomes apparent that Liz doesn't remember the crash, in fact she doesn't remember the last five years of her life. She has no memories of her boyfriend of two years, who was in the car with her that night. Liz has to learn to come to terms with who she is now and where life has taken her in those five years. She is drawn to the young man who pulled her from the water that night, the same person who performed the CPR that saved her live.

I'm still really enjoying Kirby's writing, there is just something about it that draws me into her stories and makes her books hard to put down. I struggled to connect to the characters here, but that had a lot to do with Liv's memory loss. It feels like you never really get to know her and who she actually is. The book doesn't spend enough time on any of the other characters for them to make much of an impression.

I hadn't known what to expect from this book. I associate Kirby with contemporary fiction, but I got the impression this would be more of a mystery/thriller going off the slightly creepy cover and the memory loss story line. It isn't at all though, it is more of a contemporary about finding who you are and who you want to be, with a little bit of romance thrown in.

Overall, I felt it was an okay read but it just didn't make me feel much of anything. I never truly connected to Liv as a character. I also was never able to buy the romance here because we just didn't spend enough time with the other characters.Without Liv's old memories we are unable to see the moments they've shared, the ways that they connected. Personally, I just felt that not much happened in the story overall, and all the major events that do happen, happen right at the end, making the story feel rushed and incomplete. I still enjoy Kirby's writing, but I would definitely recommend her other book before recommending this one.



Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Inventory Series by Andy Briggs: Review, Giveaway & Guest Post

Iron Fist (The Inventory, #1)Titles: Iron Fist, Gravity & Black Knight
Author: Andy Briggs
Publisher: Scholastic
The Rules: if you find a secret inventory of utterly deadly battle tech. 1) Do not try it. 2) Do not tell anyone. 3) Do NOT let thieves in behind you. What’s more secret than top-secret? The Inventory. Home to the deadliest inventions the world isn’t ready for. Invisible camouflage. HoverBoots. Indestructible metals. Plus a giant creature of chaos: war robot Iron Fist. No one has ever broken past the state-of-the-art AI security system. (Seriously, most bad guys have no idea this stuff is even there.) Problem 1: the security robot wasn’t ready for a gang of kids wandering in. Problem 2: they’ve ONLY brought the ruthless Shadow Helix gang in behind them. Seriously dumb, but it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’. Say hello to trouble: the Iron Fist is in the wrong hands!

The Inventory series by Andy Briggs is one of those action-packed books that is just perfect for its middle grade audience. I am actually starting a new job next week, managing a Secondary School library and I will be buying these in straight away if they don't have them. The Inventory is basically a huge storage facility where technology deemed 'unsuitable' or too dangerous for use is stored. Now this includes dangerous weapons, crazy inventions and incredible pieces of tech. Dev has lived with his uncle his whole life, and his uncle is charged with watching over the Inventory. Dev has never really made friends, so it comes as a surprise when two classmates show up at his 'farm' one day. It just so happens to be the day the Inventory is attacked by Shadow Helix, a group determined to break in and steal the Iron Fist, a piece of technology even Dev doesn't know what it can do. When they capture Dev's uncle it is down to Dev and his two classmates, Lot and Mason, to outsmart the bad guys and protect the Inventory.

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Me at almost every page!
This book is honestly just perfect for the age range. A group of teenagers working together, with all this advanced and rather incredible technology, to take down a gang of adults and protect the world. Seriously, perfect! And it is done soooooo well. There is action on every single page, there isn't a boring moment at any point during the book. I also loved watching Dev, Lot and Mason work together throughout the book. And that is continued on in the sequels, where they are helping to trach down items from the Inventory. The first book is set almost entirely within The Inventory, but with how big that actually is and the exciting inventions inside, it seems like such a bigger world and you don't get bored, instead you kind of wish you could peer into every corner of the Inventory and see all it offers.

These books are fast-paced and action-packed. I could get through these books in one sitting, without even realising it. It is hard to put them down because you are always in the thick of the action and there never seems a good time to step away and take a breather. I am actually so excited by this series, it is one of the best middle grade series I have read in a long time. I can't wait to start my new job and start recommending these to the kids I'll be working with, I know they're going to love them. Anyone looking for an exciting, adventure series then this is one I highly recommend.



7 Tips for Aspiring Authors
by Andy Briggs


1 - Finish your book. 

While on the surface this may sound like completely pointless advice, you’d be surprised. Touring around the UK, I meet many people who excitedly tell me that they’re writing a book. You meet very few people who have actually finished one. While it’s great that so many people are writing, it takes a lot effort to actually finish a book. Just remember, once you have completed your epic, you’re in a small select group of people who have actually done so – regardless if you’re published or not!


 2 - Write different things.

It seems that publishers all want are series. So, of course, everybody pitches their series ideas and then are surprised when they’re turned down. The thing is, publishers want material that has the potential to be a series, but stands up as a strong single book. One of the unexpected things writers get asked, shortly after being rejected by an agent or a publisher, is “what else have you got?”. If you’ve just been rejected for your dystopian vampire love story because there are billions on the shelves already, make sure you have something different (and preferably complete) in your back pocket – a story about a talking horse perhaps, make it something very different from your first offering. If the agent/publisher is asking that question, it’s because they like you and your writing, so don’t disappoint them.


 3 – Experiment.

Some people are desperate to be authors, but struggle to make it a reality. Constant rejections shouldn’t be the end of the dream, consider them a beginning. Writers create comics, non-fiction stories, magazine articles, screenplays, computer game scripts – and just about every other creative avenue requires writers. Spread your wings and experiment… you may find your niche in the most unexpected place…


4 – Don’t care, get it down!

I find it sad when I visit schools and see creative kids stymied by the ultra-important need to spell a word correctly and sharpen their grammar, because we all know that is much more important than creating anything original. The end result of their endeavours is a clinical lab experiment with no soul – accurately crafted sentences that are dull and unimaginative (and probably stolen from that movie the teacher hasn’t watched). I strongly recommend writing your story with no regard for spelling or grammar. Your goal here is to lay down your plot and bring your characters to life. Then you have the chance to rewrite, correcting spelling, grammar, and any other technical detail you feel is important. Oh, and by the end of the first rough draft… you have the pride of knowing that you’ve written a book!


5 - Write then rewrite. Repeat.

Following hot on the heels of point 4, rewriting is your friend. I know writers who hunch over their work, stressing about how they can make that next sentence perfect. As a result, days, weeks and even months pass with no progress – and the little demon called Writer’s Block has won once again claimed a victim. It’s best not to worry about perfection. You won’t achieve it. Write something, anything, then move on and you will soon find your rhythm. Remember, you will fix everything later in the rewrite, that’s the magic wand that makes your work even better.


6 – It’s a numbers game, not a word game.

When not stressing about their work, first-time authors stress about getting an agent or publisher. I don’t know any published author who doesn’t have a stack of rejection letters stowed away somewhere. You have to remember, most of these rejections aren’t a slight on your work (unless you get detailed criticism – in which case listen to it!), they’re simply stating a fact the market isn’t ready for yet another dystopian novel or an agent has exactly the number of clients they can comfortably manage. The harsh reality of this artistic endeavour is that it’s really a business and based on numbers. Generally, a rejection is not a rejection – it’s just a “this isn’t the right time” note. Write something else, and try again. Apply to other agencies and other agents within the one you have just been rejected by. Agents, like editors, have their own tastes. Just keep trying. Go to publishing events where you can mingle with agents and get to know them (before you insist they read your work). It’s just as much who you know as it is your quality of work.


7 – Don’t give up.

That should say it all. You never know when your break may occur. I used to think (and still do) that writing is an endurance game. Editors and agents move from place to place, and sometimes into completely unrelated jobs (I know one who now runs a pub!) – that means you have a clear playing field to start pitching your work all over again…

 Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.
 Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.
 He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has written 20 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world. In 2016 his latest feature, Crowhurst, will be released.






Thursday, 13 April 2017

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman: Review & Giveaway

Everything Beautiful Is Not RuinedTitle: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.
IFC the breakfast club GIFThe first I heard of this book, it was being pitched as The Breakfast Club meets camping, or something quite similar. To me, that is probably the perfect way to describe it. And it was a huge part of the reason I wanted to read it, as The Breakfast Club just so happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. I finished this book with tears in my eyes and an overwhelming feeling of happiness, this book didn't just meet my expectations, it exceeded them.

Ingrid has been sent off to camp, and she is not looking forward to it. She is imagining uncomfortable bunks, cabins and having to go to the toilet in an outhouse. None of them are pleasant ideas to her. She is determined though, she made a deal with her mother to do it. If Ingrid can make it through the two weeks at the camp then she can go to a prestigious school in London to study. The only problem is the camp turns out to be worse than she imagined. The camp is not a camp at all, it's a tiring two week trek through the wilderness, sleeping in tents and with no toilets in site. Ingrid's idea of hell. Not to mention she is in a camp with 'at risk teens', something she definitely wouldn't call herself. But Ingrid is stronger than she knows and there is more to her camp mates than she assumes.

Image result for camping gifI really liked Ingrid as a main character, especially since she is such a complex character. She clearly has a strained relationship with her mother at this time, given the fact her mum has sent her to the camp. She is also closed off, not willing to open about herself or what led her to the camp. She doesn't feel like she fits there, she sees herself differently to the others at the camp. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character grow stronger, not just physically but emotionally. I loved seeing her open up to the others, standing up for herself and finding her voice.

This book also deals with some serious issues and I love it for that. It deals with depression, something I love seeing done well in YA books, especially as I have struggled with and used medication to help with depression in the past. It also deals so well with sexual assault, how that was handled in this book was just so perfect to me. Not to mention the perfect and complex mother daughter relationship here. Honestly, I am just so impressed with Danielle Younge-Ullman and I will read whatever she comes out with next.

This book was so much more than I had expected, I can fully admit that it didn't just hit me in the feels, it punched me so hard in them I wanted to double over in pain. I was a little bit of a weepy mess, but I kind of loved that. There is just so much about this book that I really loved. My only hang up is the same problem I have with almost every contemporary I read and that is that it felt too rushed at the end and there wasn't enough closure. It is the same with so many contemporary books, where you're holding just a few pages in your hands at the end of the book but feel there should be about another 30-50 pages to go. Don't get me wrong, the story wraps up and does it so well. I just felt maybe Ingrid's return from camp could have been given more time, so we have more time to adjust to that and see how it all plays out.

4.5/5 Butterflies



I am super lucky to be a part of the Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined blog tour, and Scholastic have been kind enough to offer a book for a giveaway. So one lucky winner could win a copy of this awesome book! The giveaway is for UK peeps only though, sorry international guys!