Wednesday 14 May 2014

Countdown to 5th June: Interview with Susie Day!

Hello guys! I know that I've been a bit absent this month, but I'm back for today because I'm taking part in the great Countdown to 5th June blog tour (organised by Jim at YA Yeah Yeah) which is a big sort of lead up to the 5th June as a whole bunch of books are being published that day. And I have had the pleasure of getting to interview Susie Day, who is very lovely, and who writes great books. So, I hope you enjoy! 

(Me in bold, Susie in not bold/normal/you know what I mean)
Can you try and summarise the Pea's Book Of... books, and the newest (and final) book, Pea's Book of Holidays?

Someone described them as ‘crumpets-by-the-fire books’ and I love that. I wanted to capture all the reassurance and comfort I got from classics I read as child - the feeling of being told a story, of being in a safe familiar world where nothing too awful could happen - but with a contemporary edge to offset that sweetness, and lots of humour too. 

Pea’s Book of Holidays takes Pea, her writer-mum and her little sister Tinkerbell out of London and off to Corfe Castle in Dorset, the inspiration for the Famous Five books. Tink’s a huge Blyton fan and demands a thrilling mystery; Mum’s desperate to fix her writer’s block; Pea’s the one who has to make it all happen. But inevitably things don’t go to plan - until they meet a pair of ghost-hunting boys, and suddenly find themselves on a real adventure. It’s an homage to and a critique of Enid Blyton at the same time, and I’m so excited for people to read it at last!

How did it feel to write the last book? Was it sad to say goodbye to Pea and her family and friends?

I expected this book to be easy (I’ve done this three times already! Like riding a bike! I can’t actually ride a bike, someone remind me of this next time I start writing a book) but this time I was taking my characters off to a new place, with new friends to meet. It felt a bit like starting all over again. And I cried at the end. But it would have been far harder to finish if it really was my last chance to write about Pea...

Why did you decide to write a spinoff series about Sam1? (which sounds a bit like I think you shouldn't have which is not what I mean at all - I think it's great)

I’d love to say it was because I felt a magical bolt of inspiration - but I think the real answer is even better, which is that it was proposed to me by my brilliant editor. She knew I had an idea for one more Pea book (the holidays one), and she had the idea of continuing in a different way, by going next door, and carrying on down Pea’s street.The moment she said it the plot of Sam’s Book popped into my head, as if it was waiting all along.

Within your books, you've explored and put in things like Sam's two mums, which is obviously really great! Do you think more books for younger readers should do this too? 

My aim isn’t to write ‘issue’ books (although those will always be valuable too), but to be casually inclusive, casually diverse: to write exactly the same sort of fun, funny, character-driven books as everyone else gets, but without confining my characters to straight, white, able etc. Every kid deserves to see their life reflected back to them in a book - and to find books which open a door to a life unlike their own.

One of my ghost-hunters in Pea’s Book of Holidays has a disability called hemiplegia, which meant doing lots of research, seeking out people with personal experience to read the text and correct all my horrible misapprehensions - and of course it still can’t represent every experience. I think a lot of writers are afraid of ‘getting it wrong’ so don’t try. But ‘getting it wrong’ is an inevitable stage in the writing process. I’d LOVE to see more diverse books for 8-12s.

Before the Pea's Book Of... series, and Bluebell Jones you also wrote a few YA novels. What was it like, writing for the different age groups? Did you feel like you had to change your style much to write for a younger audience?

Not really! The books tend to be shorter, and so far I’ve written all my younger fiction in third person and my YA in first - but there are lots of similarities too: the Pea’s Book series is full of diary entries, little notes, random lists, as well as narration and that sort of formal mucking-about is a big element of my YA books too.

With both audiences, it’s about respecting the emotional scale of the characters. So for Pea, worrying about not having a best friend is every bit as weighty as, say, serafina thinking she might have mental health problems in Big Woo.

Also, are you planning any other YA novels for the nearish future, after the spinoff series?

I love writing for this age group, so that’s my focus right now - but I’ve got a YA idea in my back pocket which is nagging away at me. If I could just turn off Twitter and Netflix I’d probably have written it twice by now.

 (if only we could all just turn off Twitter and Netflix... *sighs*)
Do you have a favourite book you've written? 

Argh, killer question! I’m supposed to love them all equally, right? The difficulty is that some books are written at a tough - or happy - time in your life, regardless of what they’re about or how they turn out, so that influences your take. The singer-songwriter Luke Haines once disowned his album Now I’m a Cowboy; it’s my favourite but I think of that every time I play it. I once stated I wasn’t a big fan of one book, and a bunch of people told me how much it meant to them. Once it’s read by other people, I’m not really the person to judge any more, if you know what I mean. I have big, wonky, complicated love-feelings for all my books. But right now it’s Pea’s Book of Holidays, because it’s new, and shiny, and no one’s had the opportunity to tell me they hate it yet. ;)

You like cheese. Dare I say, you love cheese. Which is your favourite cheese? (mine is Red Leicester - great for prawn cocktail crisp sandwiches)

Ha! I love all the cheeses. (Yeah, even dairylea. Not cottage cheese though. That’s not cheese. That’s the coagulated tears of real cheese.) Blue cheeses are my favourite; I’m especially fond of Picos, which is so mouldy and disgusting that it tastes kind of fizzy. Weird cheese joy.
(I think 'That's the coagulated tears of real cheese' is possibly the best thing ever said about cottage cheese. Someone should embroider it on a pillow.)

You also love Doctor Who (WOOP). Who is your favourite Doctor and why? (NINE FOREVER)
Five - aka Peter Davison. My Doctor. I’m a massive Eleven fan, too; Matt Smith’s first season is one of my favourite telly-things ever. And since he’s sort of the inspiration for Five and Eleven, Patrick Troughton as well. And then there’s the Big Finish audio plays, Eight and Seven especially. And since you mention it, Nine’s amazing. I think what I mean is I LOVE THEM ALL.

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be and why?
Well, a blue box that travels in time and space wouldn’t be so bad. But I’d most like to be Snufkin from the Moomin series by Tove Jansson. He’s a mysterious traveller; a fond friend but one who disappears every summer on an adventure, and no one really knows where he goes. If I was him, I’d find out.

If you could have any celebrity read your book, who and why?
JK Rowling. My eldest sister took me to the film set tour, and (as well as adoring it) I found it all so overwhelming. Harry Potter was what rekindled my love of children’s books in adulthood; what reminded me that writing for children was what I’d always dreamed of doing. I’d be well giddy if she ever read me.  

Susie at Privet Drive because Harry Potter

Favourite mythical creature? (because favourite animal is just too obvious...)
Dragons. You can take the girl out of Wales... (The only correct answer to this question, obviously. Dragons are the best.)

Thank you so much Susie for taking the time to do this! You can find Susie on Twitter here, and you can find her blog here, and you can find Pea's Book of Holidays in shops on June 5th!

Tomorrow, the tour continues at the awesome Books 4 Teens, who will be having the wonderful Keren David on their blog!

Sunday 4 May 2014

The Crown of Embers review

The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2)
Rae Carson
September 18th 2012
Greenwillow Books

She does not know what awaits her at the enemy's gate.

Elisa is a hero.

She led her people to victory over a terrifying, sorcerous army. Her place as the country's ruler should be secure. But it isn't.

Her enemies come at her like ghosts in a dream, from foreign realms and even from within her own court. And her destiny as the chosen one has not yet been fulfilled.

To conquer the power she bears, once and for all, Elisa must follow a trial of long-forgotten—and forbidden—clues, from the deep, hidden catacombs of her own city to the treacherous seas. With her go a one-eyed spy, a traitor, and the man whom—despite everything—she is falling in love with.

If she's lucky, she will return from this journey. But there will be a cost.

You may or may not know this, but I aboslutely adored the first book in the series, Girl of Fire and Thorns. As such, as soon as I got this book in my hands I pretty much absorbed it. Unlike with the first book, I could not put it down and I am so, so, so happy to say that it is just as good as the first book.

There are so many things that I love about this series. Not least of all it's amazing heroine, Elisa. The characterisation is these books is brilliant for most of the characters, but Elisa's is just so great. Over the course of the first two books she has grown and changed so much, and she's such a great, interesting character. In this book, rather than strategising and defeating an army of mages, she is trying to navigate being the queen of Joya D'Arena, as well as trying to understand her feelings for Hector and what she is meant to do with her power. I loved that the romantic subplot was just that, because even though I adore Hector and their romance, there are so many other interesting plotlines in this series that I wanted to read about even more, but everything was beautifully interwoven. And seriously, Hector and Elisa are going to friking kill me because they are literally so in love with each other like and then THE WAY THIS BOOK ENDED AND I DON'T KNOW WHEN I'M GOING TO GET THE BITTER KINGDOM BUT I NEED TO KNOW *SOBS*

Sorry. These books are so hard for to write about because on the one hand I love the way that they're crafted and I think that they're skillful and smart books and I want to write seriously about them, but on the other hand I just want to run around fangirling because they're so good. So I'm trying to do both. (But seriously if you're reading this and for some reason you have not read this series and you have the slightest inkling of an interest in fantasy then read them! They're accessible enough for people who aren't major readers of fantasy, and so much fun to read if you are.) Another one of my favourite things about Crown of Embers was how the book was balanced between court politics and Elisa going on a journey to find out more about her powers. I love fantasy politics. In Game of Thrones, pretty much all of my favourite parts are the parts set in King's Landing where everything is game playing, and using wits rather than brawn, and I felt like this was kind of similar to that. And there was a magical quest, which is always fun. Plus, a character who you initially think is going to be an enemy, but is actually sort of alright by the end (and I hope it stays this way. Seriously. Storm is hilarious. I love him.) The best thing about it though is the seamless way it all works together. The way I'm talking about it probably sounds like it would read like two different books, but it really doesn't. 

And I still think that the world-building is fantastic. I always think that the fact that religion is such a huge part of the story will make me uncomfortable (not that I have anything against it, just that sometimes stuff in fantasy can be allegorical and can seem like really God is giving her to do the strength to do all the things she does, like Christian God not fantasy religion God, which again is fine but is not something that I like to read personally and I'm going to stop talking about religion now because I feel like I'm digging a hole for myself), but it doesn't. It's just an integral part of their culture, and I like seeing religion explored in a fantasy context because I don't think we really see enough of it. Also, we get to see some more of Joya D'Arena itself, as Elisa leaves the capital, as well as getting to see some more of the capital. And in the next book I think she goes to Invierne, which will be so exciting. I'm desperate to know what Invierne is like and to find out more about the Inviernos and why they have powers and I have so many questions and I hope, I desperately hope, that the Bitter Kingdom answers at least some of them. And I completely trust that the series will have a satisfying conclusion, whatever happens.

I wanted to write more, but I think I would just be repeating myself (even though there are so many smaller things about Crown of Embers which I loved), so I will just say that it certainly lives up to the first book for me and I am so ready to read the third. I need it. Now. But I am forcing myself to wait until exams are over before I buy any books so only a month a week to go! *sobs*


Thursday 1 May 2014

Monthly Round-up: April

Hey guys! April was another slow month for me, which was disappointing... I was expecting to get lots of reading and work done over the Easter holidays, but it didn't really work out that way. I think the only thing I actually accomplished during the holidays was watching all of Arrow, and then sitting around waiting for the new episode of Arrow... And obsessing over Game of Thrones of course! Though it's been a bit odd lately. Sometimes it is SO on point (the Purple Wedding), and sometimes it's just off (Jaime and Cersei). But we'll see how it goes. Anyway, books!

Books read:
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Captain Marvel Volume 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Avengers: The Enemy Within by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Black Widow: The Name of the Rose by Marjorie M Liu
Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
The City's Son by Tom Pollock
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

Total: 8

It doesn't look that bad, but 3 of these are comics, so really I only read 5. They were all pretty excellent, though, so it's going hard a top book.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter


Book of the Month:

So I couldn't choose between these two. They're both so amazing for different reasons and I love them both! Rooftoppers was also wonderful, but it's Crown of Embers and Murder Most Unladylike that just nudged their way to the top.

I also posted some UKYA recommendations for UKYA Day, and participated in the blog tour for Breaking Butterflies, if you're interested in those sorts of things!

This month I also went to the Dawn O'Porter event at Waterstone's Piccadilly, which was a lot of fun and Dawn had a lot of interesting things to say about stuff like celebrities writing books, religion, and fanny farts. As I said, a lot of fun.

May will most likely be another slow month around here as exams and revision and stress, but I hope to get my mojo back soon. It's been gone since, like, the beginning of this year and it'd be nice to post more than 4 things a month...

How was your April? :)

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