Archive for November, 2011

Author Interview: J D Thompson

A few weeks ago we reviewed Silver and Stone a paranormal romance from self published, debut author J.D Thompson. A busy working mother awaiting the immanent arrival of her second child, Jennifer took some time out of her busy (makes me tired just hearing about it) schedule to answer a few of our questions.

Welcome to high school high society hell.
As if senior year at Weatherford Preparatory School wasn’t hard enough, sixteen year old Alexis Bardolph had to add school outcast to the curriculum.A new found notoriety following a family scandal, her lacrosse star boy-friend dumping her for a former BFF and a string of perpetually bad hair days were among the many things going wrong in her already turbulent teenage life.
But when the haunting nightmares that have plagued her since childhood begin to take an eerily tangible form and several Holler Creek residents are reported missing, Alexis can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more to her hellish dreams than meets the eye.
The unexpected arrival of a mysterious and dangerously handsome new student ultimately leads Alexis to troubling truths that not even her wildest imagination could have conjured.

Please describe Silver and Stone

My favorite description for Silver and Stone thus far came from a fellow book blogger who said it was like Gossip Girl meets Twilight. Those being huge shoes to fill I find the comparison quite intimidating, but I get where they are coming from. Alexis went from being a popular teenage girl at the prestigious Weatherford Preparatory School to becoming a social outcast after a tragic family scandal. To make things worse, terrifying dreams have begun haunting her every slumber. Dreams so vivid that Alexis is often left wondering if they were really dreams at all. To complicate matters further, Alexis meets her new dark and mysterious neighbor Lucas who ultimately makes her question everything she once thought she knew about her life.

What research did you do for this book?

The bulk of the research I did was for the character of Lucas. Without giving too much away, I wanted some historical aspects to come into play on his end. As for the rest, I can’t say very much research was done.

Are there any elements of  Silver and Stone which are based on real life experiences or people?

Holler Creek is loosely based on my hometown. From the mountainous scenery to the quaint Main Street, it’s a lot like where I grew up. Weatherford Preparatory School was inspired by Bishop’s Univeristy located in Lennoxville, Quebec. The campus is beautiful and it definitely had that historical feel I was going for. Apart from that, Silver and Stone is entirely a work of fiction.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on completing the Bloodlines series. I’m hoping to have Blood and Champagne available early spring 2012.

Why did you choose to write YA fiction?

YA is the genre I identify the most with. It just wouldn’t feel natural to write anything else.

How did you get interested in YA?

I read a variety of genres, but YA is the one I have the most fun reading.

What inspired you to become a writer?

Writing has been a closet passion of mine for a very long time, though I didn’t “officially” start writing until I went on maternity leave for my oldest daughter. It was something that was always put on the back burner so to speak. Once on maternity leave, I had a lot more free time on my hands than I was used to and I filled the gap with reading. I went on a paranormal binge so to speak and was becoming increasingly disappointed with what I had in hand. It wasn’t so much that the books were bad, it’s that they were all the same. I like vampires. I get the appeal. But I can only take so much of them. So I started to think of what else could be interesting to read about and how I could make that happen. From there, Silver and Stone was born.

Describe your writing process.

Most of my writing is done on my laptop, though I do sometime use the PC. Since my life is pretty chaotic at times, it’s hard to have a routine. I do however try to write every night. I often find myself jotting down random ideas in the middle of the night though I must admit that the next morning my notes are sometimes gibberish.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?

All of the above! Music is a key player in my writing. The right play list can set the mood for an entire chapter. I’ve found myself listening to the same song/band on repeat at times while writing, much to my husband’s annoyance. 

What prompted you to self publish Silver and Stone?

The whole publication process was so much more complicated than I had ever imagined. I had this notion that all I needed to do was print off a copy of my manuscript, send it off to a publication agency and like magic it would be on bookshelves. I was so naive. I had no idea what a query letter was, or the fact that it can take months before an agency ever gets back to you. I did come close on a handful of occasions, where an agent would go as far as requesting the full manuscript, but in the end I was still left sans-agent. I sat on it for some time before deciding to self publish. I didn’t realize how much merit there was in self publishing until reading about YA author Amanda Hocking. She is truly an inspiration to me. She managed to sell millions of copies, all on her own.

Can you tell us about the challenges of writing and publishing your first novel?

The worst for me was editing. It was a major challenge. I wish I had realized how terrible I was at it from the beginning and had paid someone right off the bat. I will definitely keep that in mind with the next one!

Do you ever experience writers block? How do you overcome it?

I think every writing at one point or another experiences writers block. Personally, I try not to stress over it too much. If it’s not happening one day, I try again the next. I think the trick above all is to keep writing every day, whether it be a chapter or just one sentence. Every bit counts.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s the best advice I can give. The publishing world is a hard one. It takes time and patience and a tough skin to make it. Every writer has had a rejection letter. It’s about taking everything in stride and moving forward.

What do you do when you are not writing?

What don’t I do when I’m not writing! I have a full time job as well as a business to manage, so working a 60 hour week isn’t unusual for me. I am also the mother of a very active toddler who always has a way of keeping me on my toes. My guilty pleasure is reading and any time I can fit that into my day I’m happy.

What books have inspired you?

There are so many books and authors that have inspired me throughout the years. I love Wurthering Heights. My paperback edition is so used the papers are literally falling out. I’m a big fan of James Patterson, and his Maximum Ride series is a must read. The pace of his novels is excellent and I have yet to pick one up that wasn’t a page turner. The romantic in me loves all that is Nicholas Sparks. I’ve reread The Notebook more times than I like to admit.

What was your favourite book as a teenager?

I was a twisted child. I was the crazy kid that aired The Exorcist at her sixth grade birthday party. So my favorite books as a teenager reflected that. I had a lengthy Stephen King phase during which time I read almost everything he ever wrote, my favorite being The Shinning.

What are you currently reading?

At the moment I’m reading The Iron King by Julie Kagawa and I’m totally loving it. It had been on my to-read list for some time but being so busy it took a while before I was able to pick it up. I’m really happy I did!< What was the last book you recommended to a friend?

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Absolutely loved it.

And just for fun…
Paper, Audio or eBook?

Paper is my preference, though I’m starting to enjoy the convenience of eBooks.

Tea or Coffee?
Coffee, hands down. I’ve tried to acquire the taste for tea for years now and just can’t do it. Nothing beats a latte.

Slippers or barefoot?
I’m always barefoot, even in the dead of winter. I only wear socks when I need to leave the house and don’t even own a pair of slippers. It’s a weird pet peeve of mine.

Shower or Bath?
I think I have a touch of OCD, but there’s something totally unappealing about the thought of bathing in my own filth. I don’t do baths. It’s strange and I can’t explain it.

Email or postcard?
Though postcards have a great romantic feel, in today’s world I couldn’t get by without email. Between my PC, laptop and iPhone, I’m sure I check my email 100 times a day.

Big thanks to Jennifer for sparing us some of her very precious time. Silver and Stone, the first book in The Bloodlines Series, is available to buy now from the Kindle store for the amazing price of just 86p!

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The Whales’ Song

Dyan Sheldon and Gary Blythe

Lilly listens to her grandmother’s tales of whales and longs to hear the creatures’ powerful songs for herself. This eloquent work celebrates the extraordinary relationship between a young girl and the whales that do eventually sing for her.

I picked this book up when I was teaching and bought it because the pictures are exquisite. Some of them could hang on your wall!

Following that, the story is emotive and beautiful, I always feel it when I read it. There is a haunting quality to it, the idea that the whales could call to you is spellbinding. It is easy to see why Lily is so intrigued by her Grandmothers tales and at the same time why her uncle is sceptical and gruff about it.

As Lily longs for her own encounter with the whales the pictures beautifully illustrate the yearning. The encounter with them is mesmerising.

I have recently read this to my nearly four year old and she enjoyed it, but in a totally different way to me. She was interested in; why was the uncle was cross? Why did Lily give the whales a flower? Do whales really talk? Can they really sing? But this is one of the great things about the story, that it brings such different things to those that read it. As she grows it will grow with her, and the beauty I see in it might, one day, be apparent to her too.

Verdict: Superb, evocative and yet simple story that will be treasured for a long time.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Red Fox
Publication Date: September 1993
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Early Readers
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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Far From The War

Jeffrey David Payne

Economic ruin and partisan rancor have pushed America to the brink of a new civil war. Esther is caught in the middle, serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when rogue politicians and military leaders stage a modern day coup d’etat. When the coup turns violent, she abandons Washington, D.C. for home. She must learn to survive on her own as transportation and financial networks fail, as the war disrupts food and water supplies. The result is a cautionary tale about political extremism and the true cost of war.

With little understanding of American politics I found the initial portion of the book slow paced and at times perplexing. This back ground is essential however, as it places our protagonist in a unique position to witness the growing political unrest first hand. Once war is declared the pace builds quickly and the resulting story is impossible to put down as my red rimmed, sleep deprived eyes can testify.

Esther is a complex and flawed character, a combination of determined political ambition and idealistic naivety. I didn’t immediately warm to Esther; at times she was proud and superior and I particularly disliked the dismissive manner in which she spoke to her parents. But she is also exceptionally patient, open and honest to a fault. She has a remarkably well developed vocabulary, beyond anything I was capable of at eighteen or even now. I have to be honest that I needed to utilise the dictionary feature of my Kindle on more than one occasion!

But Ester is not your average teen. She is a gifted student who has been selected from thousands of applicants to undertake the once in a lifetime opportunity to serve as a republican intern in the United States House of Representatives. Initially desperate to leave home and experience all her internship has to offer, Esther is quickly disillusioned with the page program and the senators she had previously admired and aspired to be like.

The turning point in our character’s development, and my relationship with her, came when she had to choose between her future political career and her integrity. From that point on she displays amazing mental and later physical resilience as she fights her own battle to survive the war and make it back home.

Unlike other dystopian stories I have read, Far from the war is set in fairly contemporary America. This is the story that bridges the gap between society as we know it and the warped Utopian visions and dystopian societies of futurist fiction. There are no fantastical technologies or extreme societal rules allowing you to maintain a degree of detachment. While the violence is not gratuitous, it is harder hitting for its realism and as such I would recommend that those with a sensitive disposition proceed with caution.

Verdict: I urge you to persevere with this book as following the slow burn of trilogy scene setting, you will be rewarded with a devastatingly realistic dystopian journey through modern war torn America that will leave you thoughtful, and just a touch nervous.

Parental Note: Contains realistic depictions of war including: dead bodies, graphic injuries, murder, rape and the destruction of cities.
Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Roche Harbour Books
Publication Date: July 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 653KB
Genre: Contemporary, Action
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Tom’s Midnight Garden

Philippa Pearce

When Tom is sent to his aunt’s house for the summer he resigns himself to weeks of boredom. Lying awake one night he listens to the grandfather clock in the hall strike every hour. Eleven…Twelve…Thirteen. Thirteen! Tom rushes down the stairs and opens the back door. There, awaiting him, is a beautiful garden. A garden that shouldn’t exist. And there are children in the garden too – are they ghosts? Or is it Tom who is really the ghost…

Stories that have a bit of intrigue and mystery always get my attention and the way this tale comes together at the end is brilliant. Lonely Tom has been sent to stay with his aunt and uncle and there are no other children there, and not even a garden to play in. But at night incredible things start happening when the clock strikes thirteen. Tom goes to investigate and discovers a garden that only appears at night. Better still, in the garden there is a girl that he befriends and plays with.

Strangely when Tom re-visits the garden, the very next night, time has moved differently in the garden, but his new friend Hatty is still there. Sometimes she is older, sometimes younger, sometimes it is summer, sometimes winter. Tom is very puzzled about what is happening and why other people in the garden can’t see him, it is an exciting problem! Tom goes on an incredible journey of discovery, about himself and about the garden and about Hatty.

This story examines many issues that affect children; loneliness and friendship, truth lies and stories, growing up and moving on, love and loss, what is time? Being away from home, how to make difficult choices. It is crammed full of issues and things to think about, but this never detracts from the story.

The prose in this book is wonderful; the description of the garden is lovely and draws you in to the world that Tom is experiencing. The enchanted world he enters feels magical and real at the same time. I also love the passages about his experiences with Hatty, some make you smile, some are moving, in particular when they both put their hands in the water and they are touching and yet not touching. It is beautiful and full of a sense of the love and the boundaries of their relationship. It always brings a lump to my throat when I read it. It is so evocative of the myriad emotions that you go through when growing up and yet so often can’t articulate.

As we move between now and the time in garden we gradually uncover the history of the house and Hatty’s story, The movement between the time periods demonstrates how different and yet how similar the lives of children are. The clothes and expectations maybe different, but the feelings and problems to be dealt with are often the same.

I can’t say any more without putting in major spoilers about the story, you need to read it for yourself and feel it all as Tom feels it, see it as he sees it. Suffice to say it is both a happy and sad ending and one which is very satisfying without being typical in any way.

Verdict: Intriguing, clever, beautifully written, great characters, absorbing ideas, a book you can return to many times and still find fresh and exciting. Fabulous!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: OUP
Publication Date: January 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
Genre: Classic, Adventure, Time Travelling
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: N/A
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