Archive for September, 2016

Blog Tour: Making Arrangements

Ferris Robinson

Against all odds, cancer survivor Lang Ellis is celebrating the one-year anniversary of her “death sentence” when her beloved husband drops dead on the tennis court.
Devoted to him, she reels from the loss, focusing on her precious granddaughter but struggling with her bossy only child, Teddy, and his aloof girlfriend, Sarah.
With her historical family estate in jeopardy, Lang realizes her husband wasn’t as perfect as she thought.
The secret he carried to his grave can ruin her life.
If she lets it.

Excerpt
What do you wear the day after your husband dies? Lang wondered, damp from the shower. She put on her old sweatpants and Jack’s practically disintegrated Auburn sweatshirt because they were so soft. She wanted to feel something easy on her skin. She pressed the frayed ribbed collar to her nose and breathed in the sharp smell of aftershave and bacon grease. Jack’s smell.

Teddy sat hunched over the kitchen counter with Sarah and Katie D. on either side of him. Sarah leaned into him, her cloud of pale hair floating out over the back of Teddy’s brown sweater, hovering with static electricity. Lang watched the three of them for a moment from the doorway. She could hear murmurs of their sentences: Katie D.’s singsong voice, Teddy’s hoarse rumble, apologizing for something, and Sarah speaking so tenderly her voice didn’t sound human.

Lang closed her eyes, holding on to the doorjamb for balance, and felt Sarah’s words like they were something physical, covering her softly. Gently.

“Mom!” Teddy said, scraping the chair away from the counter. She jerked to attention.
He looked like he hadn’t slept in days; the collar of his button-down shirt was uncharacteristically wrinkled, and his azure eyes were flat.

“Oh! I didn’t hear you!” A. J. said, appearing suddenly from the hall bathroom. She looked Lang up and down, grimacing. “You still got that rubber band around your wrist.” Lang pulled the frayed cuff down to her knuckles, holding the soft fabric in her fists.

A. J. looked like a different person except for her crumpled tennis clothes. Her hair was styled and her eyes were bright and her skin was dewy. She looked like she’d found a day spa in the hall bathroom. Lang sniffed the air, detecting vanilla and deodorant.

“I smell something,” Katie D. said.

“Halston,” A. J. said, flapping her hands in circles about her neck in an effort to spread the heavy perfume around the room. Katie D. crinkled up her nose.

Lang ran her fingers under her own eyes, trying to remember the last time she’d looked in a mirror. She should have put on some makeup after her shower. Concealer under her eyes at least. She reached her hands out toward her son, then curled them into useless fists as she shook her head slowly.

Teddy wrapped his arms around her, and she felt her boy sink into her, collapsing for a second. His breath caught, and his chest shuddered against her shoulder.

“Shhh,” she said. “Don’t cry.” She felt him stiffen before he stepped away.

“How you holding up?” Teddy asked brusquely. “Who would have thought, huh? Sorry, bad joke. Dad would have laughed, though.”

Lang squeezed the edges of her mouth up into a semblance of a smile. No one would have ever thought Jack would be dead instead of her. Hilarious.


A former columnist for the Chattanooga Free Press, she is the editor of the Lookout Mountain Mirror and the Signal Mountain Mirror. Her work has been published numerous times in The Christian Science Monitor and the “Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series. She is a columnist at chattanoogan.com.
The author of several cookbooks, including “Never Trust a Hungry Cook,” which she wrote in college and the “Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook,” Ferris was featured on the cover of Women’s World magazine. Promoting her super-easy but healthy recipes, she made numerous television appearances and sold 10,000 copies of the Gorgeless Gourmet’s Cookbook, pre-Internet. Paid subscribers from every state in the U.S. received her newsletter featuring “practically fat-free recipes for super-busy people.”
Her book “Dogs and Love – Sixteen Stories of Fidelity” has 94 reviews on Amazon, and her other books include “Authentic Log Homes.” “Making Arrangements” is her first novel.

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13 Minutes

Sarah Pinborough
27802575I was dead for 13 minutes.
I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.
They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

*Please note that due to the nature of this novel I am not going to go into too much depth whilst giving a synopsis as I think it is best to go into this one with limited knowledge of what might unfold.*

13 Minutes is a young adult psychological thriller that follows the on going twists of a gripping murder mystery involving a group of seemingly normal teenage girls.
The novel opens with the lucky discovery of Natasha’s close to dead body in a local river. She is revived at the scene, having been technically dead for 13 minutes (hence the title), but is left in a state of amnesia in that she can’t remember the days leading up to the incident including how she ended up in the river.

Natasha happens to be the leader of the popular girls (or ‘Barbies’) at her sixth form and her near-death experience sends shock waves through the community – ultimately triggering a series of rippling events that threaten to destroy anyone and everyone involved.

Right from the beginning of this novel I was absolutely hooked and the vast variety of perspectives and formats, including text messages and transcripts, lead the way for a story full of intrigue and deception I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. The vast majority of the book is told from Becca’s perspective, Natasha’s ex-best friend, who sheds light on the history of herself and the so-called ‘Barbies’ in a way that adds a depth I haven’t seen in many YA books. I especially loved Sarah’s use of doctors reports that were placed perfectly throughout and allowed us to delve beneath the surface of the characters actions in order to grasp a sense of who they truly are and thus created layer upon layer of character development.

This novel is more than just a murder mystery, though a great one it is, it is a book that highlights the pressures of the modern day and offers an insight into teenage friendships and social structures. It provides a constantly evolving plot that spirals into something I never ever would have predicted when I first picked up this book. I love the vast spectrum of characters that Sarah uses to create a complex and colourful plot she weaves so perfectly to create a story that left me utterly speechless. The story line slots together with a loud and vastly satisfying click right at the end but up until that point I had no idea where it was going and Sarah had me constantly guessing from the very beginning.

Verdict: Sarah Pinborough utterly delighted me. I cannot stress enough how skilfully plotted this book was – I will for sure be purchasing many more of her books. I would definitely recommend this for lovers of Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard, Torn by Cat Clarke or just anyone looking for a really great and well-crafted quick read. Just keep in mind this book is not suited for young readers due to the nature of the plot and some sexual content.

Reviewed by Evie

Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: February 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 405
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Age: YA
Reviewer: Evie
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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Author Interview: Emma Barnes

We are delighted to welcome Emma Barnes author of Chloe’s Secret Princess Club( illustrated by Monique Dong ).
Chloe's Secrete Princess ClubChloe never means to get into trouble but sometimes her plans get a little out of control. With her two best friends, she forms a Secret Club dedicated to making their dreams come true – but fantasy and reality don’t always mix!

Where did the idea come from for Chloe’s Secret Princess Club?

There were a few different things that came together. I’d really wanted to write about a very imaginative, dreamy little girl – somebody who tended to get carried away by her own fantasies. So that was Chloe. And so many girls go through a “princess” stage – I thought it would be really fun to see a group of girls trying to act out their princess fantasies in real life and the kind of disasters that could follow on from that!

What was your favourite book to read as a child?

There were so many. One was Harriet the Spy, which was maybe the inspiration for the fact that Chloe and her friends write things down in a secret notebook, just as Harriet did. I also loved the Narnia books, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – which Chloe also loves and which leads her into trouble in chapter one.

What is your favourite thing about being a children’s author?

Working in my pyjamas! Coming up with crazy ideas in my head, and trying to get them down on paper in all their craziness. I also love meeting children and seeing how they respond to the books – even when they mistake me for Enid Blyton, which actually happened once.

Are you a planner or a panther?

I do both. Typically I do plan, but then a lot of the story changes when I write (and rewrite) the book.

What are your top three places to write?

Libraries. Trains. And I love cafes – my favourite is the Opposite Cafe in my hometown of Leeds.

What are you currently working on?

That’s a secret! It’s too early to tell anyone – it needs nursing a bit longer.

What is your favourite fairytale?

Cinderella. It’s such a classic.

If you had to describe your book in a tweet (140 characters), what would you say?

Chloe is determined to be a princess – and she isn’t going to let ordinary life get in her way!

Interview questions by Faye

portrait
Emma is the author of several books for children, including JESSICA HAGGERTHWAITE: WITCH DISPATCHER, for which she was nominated for the Branford Boase award, and the WILD THING series. As well as writing, she enjoys spending time working in schools and libraries. You can learn more about Emma and her work by visiting her website (here),Facebook Page (here), or her Twitter account (here)

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Poppy Pym and the Double Jinx

Laura Wood

From the Winner of the Scholastic Montegrappa Prize for New Children’s Writing It’s Halloween at Saint Smithen’s. When the Brimwell town hall burns down, the amateur production of Macbeth is moved to the school and it’s all hands on deck. But when the play is struck by a series of mysterious attacks, it’s up to Poppy, her friends and her circus family to save the play and unmask the culprit.

Five Reasons to Read this Series

Poppy Pym
All I can really say about Poppy is that she is an incredible character that I really love. She’s got an amazing spirit, she’s quirky and interesting and the kind of girl that I would have loved to have been friends with at eleven. She is a brilliant character to read about and definitely makes the series great fun to read!

Ingrid & Kip
Poppy’s new-found friends at boarding school, these two characters help form a strong trio in the books that is wonderful to read about. It helps show how amazing and powerful friendship can be and also how important it is too. I love Ingrid’s dreamy personality and Kip’s love of adventure. They definitely make this series more interesting.

The Circus Family
One of the main things I absolutely loved about Poppy Pym was the circus family. They all have unique personalities and as a whole make a very dysfunctional family unit but their love for Poppy is incredibly strong. I also love that this book shows adoption in a positive light whereas Poppy is very fortunate with all the love she gets from her adoptive circus family.

The Mystery
In both books in this series there is a mystery to be solved and I loved reading it through with Poppy as we try to work out what is going on. I’m a sucker for mystery books anyway but in Poppy Pym, the mysterious are so intriguing and really keep you glued to the page from beginning to end. I also love that there was also so much more to these stories than just the mysteries to be solved too!

The Writing Style
Lastly, but certainly not least, I absolutely fell in love with the writing style of these books. It was addictive and fun all at the same time. I devoured the words on the page quickly and fiercely. The writing really pulls you into Poppy’s world and is full of quirky and interesting descriptions of the world as Poppy sees it. It’s fun for both adults and children and I can really see children falling head over heels for these books!

Posted by Faye

Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 224
Genre: Mystery
Age: MG
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
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What’s A Girl Gotta Do?

Holly Bourne
29740718HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…

What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne is the third in a series that revolves around three English teenagers – Evie (who of course has the best name!), Amber and Lottie. Each character is relatable and likeable in their own way as is the book that follows each of them. In this much anticipated sequel we follow Lottie as she embarks on a month long project to call out every act of sexism she encounters, with the hopes of enlightening some of her more unaware peers of the ever present issue. We get to see Lottie as she prepares for her looming Cambridge interview, how she handles expectations inflicted by her parents and how she deals with the reverberations of her project throughout the public. Having read and devoured every one of Holly Bourne’s books I had high expectations going into this one and I am pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

The story opens with Lottie experiencing sexual assault on her way to school; this, and an array of other events, trigger Lottie’s project – called the ‘Vagilante’ (!). Lottie, alongside the Feminist Society at her school, highlight everyday acts of sexism, from objectifying movie posters and unreasonable marketing, that ultimately lay the bricks for those much larger and life changing acts of sexism like domestic abuse and rape. Although the topics touched in this novel are very serious Holly Bourne manages to retain humour by creating a multitude of intertwining plot lines alongside witty and sassy dialogue.

Holly Bourne’s energetic and emotive writing style captivates the reader and makes it incredibly easy to submerge yourself in the world of Lottie. What makes this such an enjoyable read is the three dimensional characters Holly creates that you can’t help but love and root for. The author constructs an intricate world of kick-ass feminism, humor and romance that provides a satisfying and quick read that I believe many would find thoroughly enjoyable. The diverse range of topics touched in this novel, the varying emotions and constantly changing pace contributed to a refreshing read that is a must have for young feminists everywhere.

I have only one minor criticism of this book. Having read the other books that follow Evie and Amber I am accustomed to Holly’s use of swoon worthy romance but I have to say the romance in this particular novel didn’t quite do it for me. The main love interest is the handsome yet extremely arrogant cameraman, Will, who – compared to the previous male protagonist, Kyle, in Amber’s installment – was rather disappointing. I felt the relationship was rather rushed and therefore lacked the emotional attachment that I am so used to seeing in Holly’s books. Not only was it sort of ‘insta-lovey’ but at times I felt some of Lottie’s attitudes regarding Will were verging on the hypocritical, but I guess the story redeemed itself in that Lottie on several occasions acknowledged her cognitive dissonance and that the book had such a heavy emphasis on female friendships and the importance of them.

Overall I would defiantly recommend this book and the accompanying installments for anybody looking for a fun and vastly empowering read that is light hearted whilst tackling very many serious and topical issues.

Verdict: After reading all of Holly’s books, I have concluded that this is not my favourite but it is, nevertheless, a strong read full of sass and kick-assery that I would not hesitate to recommend to those above the age of 12 (purely due to mature content).

Reviewed by Evie

Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Genre: Contemporary, Feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Evie
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Introducing Evie

Evie is a 14-year-old girl, passionate about books, feminism and art. Evie enjoys reading with her two dogs – Charlie, a Chocolate Labrador and Hugo, a rather large and shaggy, 8 month old Irish Wolfhound (who happens to look at lot like she thinks Padfoot, from Harry Potter, should look). Her relationship with books started in her early childhood, when her mum would regularly read aloud to her. One of her most vivid and treasured memories being of them both snuggled up on the sofa reading Harry Potter and crying (a lot!).

Evie adores talking about books and will find any opportunity to do so (sometimes to the annoyance of her friends). One of her most enjoyed activities at school is participating in the Hampshire Book Awards scheme in which students are required to read a shortlist of six books to review and ultimately choose a winner from. Unfortunately this scheme only runs for part of the school year and Evie would absolutely love to review books regularly and belong to a community that is equally enthusiastic about the joys of reading (and will tolerate her non-stop fan-girling). Evie is never far from a bookshop, a place in which she can spend hours, and she never ever leaves the house without a book! Her favourite books include the Book Thief, The Outsiders and of course Harry Potter but she also enjoys a huge variety of YA books across a multitude of genres (and she’s recently discovered John Grisham- much to her dad’s delight).

We are absolutely delighted to add Evie to the Big Book Little Book team.

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Barefoot On The Wind

Zoe Marriott
29235197There is a monster in the forest…
Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects…

Before I begin to tell you my thoughts and feelings about this lovely book I have a big fat and horrible secret to admit to you all…. this is my first Zoe Marriott read.
Yes I know shock horror and I should probably be burned at the stake for this treachery and massive YA offence; but before you get your pitchforks let me tell you what I thought, and let me solemnly promise that I will be making amends to right this terrible wrong!

Barefoot on the Wind is a wonderful and clever retelling of one of the best (in my humble opinion) fairy tales: Beauty and the Beast.
As with many retellings Zoe Marriott put her own imprint on this story. The transposition and adaptation of the original story line to a Japanese environment, lay out and way of life was incredibly faithfully done. The village, the villagers, the rules and regulations of that period in time down to the Japanese denominations for each member of society and status were respected, making me feel like I’d actually stepped into a Japanese mountain village that was being plagued by a beast and I was about to witness the unfurling of this story.
I was all geared up with my cup of green tea to sit back and enjoy what I thought was merely a transcribed and slightly altered fairy tale to suit the new set up, when Zoe decided that actually she hadn’t quite finished with her adaptation.
It soon became clear that from the original tale, all that was taken were the bare bones, in a manner of speaking.
Now before I go any further I should tell you all that I am a massive fairy tale fan, and will happily read any retelling and any new story that comes my way, but what I came across here was pretty wonderful and a very original take on fairy tales with a pinch of modern thinking.
Although you will catch a glimpse of Belle in Hana-San’s kindness and love for her family, and you will perceive some of the Beast’s hard earned humility in Itsuki, these two sets of characters are as different as they are alike. Zoe Marriott’s Belle is a fighter, a hunter and does not fear the dangerous dark woods that have claimed many a life. She is proud and strong and although her hierarchical society does not approve, she holds her ground steadfast and fights for what she believes is right even if that means going into the beast’s lair alone. Zoe’s Beast, that Hana dubs Itsuki, is the gentlest creature you will ever meet. He cares for all those that are harmed regardless of by whom and why. He has a big heart and has worked hard to learn what patience, humility, true love and respect mean.
Although initially perplexed I soon came to love these two characters and how their interactions were so similar and yet so different from those that I have loved and grown up with.

As I mentioned before Zoe merely used the bare bones of the classic and then built her own story giving it flesh and thoughts to shape it differently and make us readers reflect.

As per all fairy tales there is a lesson to be learned, and whilst deconstructing and recreating her tale our lovely author did not forget this vital part. Whilst the Disney we all know and love focused on romance and the signature happily ever after, Zoe Marriott decided to centre her story around Hana-San, her journey to self discovery, forgiveness and its ripple effect on the surrounding characters and, indeed, the story. Although romance and love is undoubtedly a main thread to it, Zoe Marriott reminds us that the types of love that can change someone also include the love between a family, siblings and friends. She reminds us that love’s close counterpart and partner in crime is hate and the line between these two at times has been known to be thin, thin and full of its own emotions ranging from anger to sorrow.

You might ask be asking yourself what else is different aside from the characters, the set up, the nature of the beast, the strength of the belle and the society whose rules they live by?

Well I will let you figure that one out for yourself, but what I will tell you is that this is a very cleverly constructed Japanese fairy tale retelling, and that like Hana-San you will have to walk into the dark woods and tread lightly on the dark magic that has cursed more than just a man, and you will have to heed the advice of the trees and the wind that blows through them because a monster, a beast roams the woods but the two are not always one and the same and every individual is capable of monstrous things.

Barefoot on the Wind proved to be more than just a simple fairy tale with a different back drop. Zoe Marriott brought with it her own set of characters and morales to teach us. Despite the simplistic story, she managed to build into it new thoughts and feelings giving it a new dimension and complexity that I had not previously appreciated.

Verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this tale and will happily be getting lost in these dark woods again with Hana-San and Itsuki.

Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 313
Genre: Retelling, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Guest Post : Guy Parker Rees

Thank you for asking me along, Big Book Little Book!
For this stop on my blog tour I want to share my five very best moments in making my latest book, Dylan the Doctor.

1. The best moment was doing the sketch that started it all.
When my youngest son was born we bought a stripy sausage dog toy for one of his older brothers to give him as a present. This sowed the seed of an idea for a stripy dog character and I did this sketch. I thought there was something special about him.

guy 1
That was 8 years ago. These things take time!

2. Another special moment was when we found his name.
Naming a character is tricky, it either comes straight away or it’s a struggle. Dylan was a struggle. It took months of searching, going through lists of names, boring all my friends stupid as I tested them out and rejected their ideas. It was harder than naming my three boys. In fact I ended up with the name I’ve given two of my children. Admittedly it was the second name of my oldest, we had to use it again by the time we got to our third, the one who was given the sausage dog.

3. I had an idea of what I wanted Dylan’s character to be like from the sketch but I had to think of what sort of world he would live in.
Originally I wrote a story for him in which he had a pet boy, here’s a sketch from it.

guy2

But that all changed when I took the story to my wonderful editor, Alison Green of Alison Green Books. She suggested that Dylan could be the star in a series of adventures- not just the one book.

For this he would need a gang!

Again it took a lot of searching and sketching to find his best friends. It was another special moment when I felt I had found them all. Here they are: Purple Puss, Jolly Otter and Titchy Chick. Oh, and there’s Dotty Bug as well who is there on every page to encourage everyone to join in.

guy 3
4. I think one of the best moments in making a picture book is when I’m sent the first copy and I hold it in my hands.
What was once just an idea that became a sketch now becomes a real object with a life of its own. It will sit patiently on a library or bookshop shelf waiting its turn to be shared.

guy 4

5. And sometimes it takes on a life beyond the book.
I had a very talented friend of mine, Mia Underwood make me a felt toy of Dylan. Here is Dylan in three dimensions:

guy 5
It was a very special moment to see him come to life. And even more so to hear soon afterwards that Brown Bag, the animation company who made Octonauts, wanted to make a series of Dylan animations.

My youngest son, Dylan, is nine now. Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to grow and develop. You have to be patient and persevere- just make sure you enjoy the special moments along the way!

Guest post by Guy Parker Rees

Dylan the Doctor was published on the 4th of August by Scholastic Press.

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