Thursday, 19 May 2016

Mystery & Mayhem Blog Tour: Robin Stevens

Welcome to my stop on the Mystery and Mayhem blog tour! I'm delighted to be bringing to you a guest post from one of my favourite authors Robin Stevens on the origins of her short story The Mystery of Room 12.


The Origins of ‘The Mystery of Room 12’ by Robin Stevens 

Sometimes, stories just happen to you.

In spring last year I travelled to St-Annes-on-Sea for Storytellers Inc’s Midsummer Mystery festival. I knew I had a short story to write for a mystery anthology I was working on at Egmont, but I hadn’t been able to find inspiration for it yet. I wanted to challenge myself by creating something contemporary – after four books, the 30s felt dangerously comfortable, and I wanted to make sure I was actually capable of writing a detective story in a world with iPads and smartphones and Google. But where should I set it? And what could it be about?

It should have occurred to me that St-Annes-on-Sea was probably by the sea – but, somehow, what I found when I stepped off the train was a complete surprise. A miles-long expanse of beach and sky, beautiful but with a slightly eerie, off-season loneliness of it as the sun began to set, and one single donkey plodding along very slowly, far out on the sand. I stood and stared at it, and I thought to myself, this is a place that someone could get lost.


I wheeled my suitcase along the row of beachfront hotels until I found the one I’d been booked into. It was tall and white with elegant windows, like something from an episode of Poirot. And I suddenly realised that I wanted to set my story in a hotel, in a seaside town just like this one.

I went up the steps, and pushed open the front door. The hall was empty, the front desk lit by a big antique lamp with a fringed shade. I went up to the desk and rang the bell – and a gorgeously large and hairy dog leaped up out of nowhere, banged its front paws down on the wood of the desk and panted in my face. A hotel with a dog concierge! I thought. That sounds like the beginning of a story.


By the time I’d been shown to my room, at the top of a winding, narrow set of stairs, hung with paintings and lined by statues and figurines and china ornaments, lamps and tables and desks and drawers, the story was alive in my head. My detective would be a little boy called Jamie, who lived in a seaside hotel with his father and his pet dog. And the mystery, of course, would be a disappearing guest. Jamie would be a modern detective, with all of the gadgets of the 21st century at his disposal – but the mystery would still have to be all about careful observation and clever deductions, with three suspects and one bewildering question: what happened to the guest in Room 12?

The idea sat in my head for a month, and then I finally wrote it in August last year. Writing a short story turns out to be very different to writing a novel. A book is a marathon – slow and steady’s the way to go. But short stories are one sprinting burst of inspiration. It took me less than twenty-four hours to write 4,000 words of it – and it turns out that I love writing short stories. You can test yourself, try new things and explore ideas without the pressure of 60,000 words ahead of you. Trying to create a totally new character, too, was harder than I’d expected – I had to make Jamie seem real instantly, and different enough from Hazel, the narrator of my Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, to be believable.

I hope Jamie and his story works – and, from reading the 11 other stories in the collection, I know that it’s in great company. The stories of Mystery & Mayhem are smart, funny, strange and gruesome. I never knew what to expect – and I hope that, when you read them, you’ll feel just as fascinated and delighted by them as I did.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Blog Tour: Lying About Last Summer

Hi everyone, today is my stop on the Lying About Last Summer blog tour! I have author Sue Wallman on the blog today with a very intriguing post, can you uncover the truth?



Truth or Lie by Sue Wallman 
(A list of things about Lying About Last Summer where some things are true, some things are false but no indication of which is which)

• My character Brandon was named after Brandon Stanton who founded Humans of New York, which I follow on Facebook. I was on Facebook in one of my (many) writing breaks when I was trying to name him.

• When I wrote the first draft of Lying About Last Summer I wrote it in chronological order and didn’t include any flashbacks.

• When Skye and Brandon go orienteering, Skye vaults over a five-bar gate. I used to be able to do that.

• There’s a paintballing scene in the book. I was once hit in the neck by a paintball pellet and had a massive bruise that looked as if someone had tried to strangle me one-handedly.

• I was shown an early version of the cover in black, white and red.

• The epilogue was the quickest chapter to write.

• There’s a farm shop in the book. I had a Saturday job at a farm shop for a couple of years when I was teenager.

• After I’d finished writing the book I read a story in the paper about a grandmother who’d been buried with her mobile. Her granddaughter used to text her to help get over her grief and was stunned when she started getting replies.

• For research I interviewed someone who runs activity camps for teenagers in Scotland.

• My middle daughter helped me get the kayaking scenes right. She’s kayaked for England. 

ANSWERS! (Highlight to see)
My character Brandon was named after Brandon Stanton who founded Humans of New York, which I follow on Facebook. I was on Facebook in one of my (many) writing breaks when I was trying to name him. TRUE – I’m a big fan of Brandon Stanton 

When I wrote the first draft of Lying About Last Summer I didn’t include any flashbacks. TRUE – I misguidedly thought it was frowned on to put flashbacks into young adult fiction 

When Skye and Brandon go orienteering, Skye vaults over a five-bar gate. I used to be able to do that. TRUE – I used to get a real kick out of doing this 

There’s a paintballing scene in the book. I was once hit in the neck by a paintball pellet and had a massive bruise that looked as if someone had tried to strangle me one-handedly. FALSE – I’m too much of a wimp to go paintballing 

I was shown an early version of the cover in black, white and red. FALSE – I only ever saw the finished cover and as far as I know there wasn’t one in black, white and red 

The epilogue was the quickest chapter to write. TRUE – it just all came together really easily (the only part that did) 

There’s a farm shop in the book. I had a Saturday job at a farm shop for a couple of years when I was teenager. FALSE – when I was a teenager I worked in a café and the local post office, and I was also a chambermaid 

After I finished writing the book I read a story in the paper about a grandmother who’d been buried with her mobile. Her granddaughter used to text her to help get over her grief and was stunned when she started getting replies. TRUE – the grandmother loved her mobile so much she’d been buried with it. Then O2 reassigned the number to someone else and when the granddaughter texted the number to feel close to her nan, the man who’d acquired the number texted back as a prank. 

For research I interviewed someone who runs activity camps for teenagers in Scotland. FALSE – I based the camp on a mix of activities my daughters had done, trips they’d been on, and internet research 

My daughter helped me get the kayaking scenes right. She has kayaked for England. TRUE – apologies for parental boasting 

 Did you uncover the truth? Make sure you follow the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Blog Tour: Review for The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and Giveaway

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Release: 26th April 2016
Genre: Paranormal, YA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis: 
"The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure any more."

Review 
The Raven King is a book that I’ve been both anticipating and dreading. I’ve fallen in love with this world where magic is ripe, dreams can be brought to life, curses are destined and death is a promise. For four books I’ve been spellbound by Blue and her Raven boys, a family of psychics and the poetic, dreamlike way their story is told. From start to finish this series has been pure magic.

As with most final books in a beloved series there were things I was both happy and dissatisfied with. There were some things that I’ve been dying to see come about since book one that happened that I was so happy with but there were also other outcomes that I found disappointing and a little anticlimactic after so much build up throughout the series.

For me, the most important thing about a final book is for the characters that I’ve come to know and love to have an ending that I am happy to leave them with. Overall I was really happy with the outcome of the book but there were one or two characters who I felt deserved more of an ending. I loved how Maggie really brought this series full circle but in some situations I’d have liked a little more clarity and closure.

The pacing for this book was pitch perfect, I never once wanted to skip to the end to find out what happened because so much was happening throughout to change the course of the story. The big things that I wanted to happen were delivered perfectly at just the right moment; a certain kiss went way beyond my expectations. Again there were a few plot points that I found somewhat anticlimactic but for the most part my expectations were more than met.

I truly feel like I’ve been on a magical journey with The Raven Cycle and I’m so sad that our time with these characters has come to an end. Each book has read like a haunting dream that I find myself getting lost in; every word has delivered beauty and has held me enchanted. I was so sad to turn the final page and wake up.

Giveaway 
For the chance to win a set of these exclusive Raven Cycle badges enter bellow!


Giveaway Rules 
 To enter you have to fill in the Rafflecopter 
 Open to UK residents only 
 One winner will be drawn and contacted by email with 1 week to reply else another winner will be selected 
 Make sure you complete what the form asks of you - I do check! Any winner who has not completed an option will be disqualified


Make sure you follow the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 22 April 2016

My Top Readathon Tips

Hello lovely people! Tomorrow is Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I'm very excited. Despite taking part in lots of readathons before (and even hosting one myself) the first time I took part in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon was last year and I absolutely loved it! I'm so excited to be taking part again this year and thought what better time to share with you some of my top readathon tips. I've definitely learned some tricks that help me make the most out of a readathon over the years and so today I decided to share what I've learned with you in case there are any readathon newbies looking for advice or anyone who'd just like to be nosy about how I make the most out of a readathon.

Join us and sign up here!
• Be Organised – For me this is the most important tip because it usually insures that the readathon runs smoothly for me. The day before a readathon I like to go shopping for snacks, clean my reading area, put together a TBR pile and make sure my comfiest clothes are washed and ready for the next day. Being well prepared means that I’m saving myself precious time that I can put towards reading once the readathon has officially begun. 

• Choose Books Wisely- A readathon is not the time to be trying a new genre or a book you know is going to be a bit of a gamble. Also don’t be afraid to choose more books than you’re going to have time to read, that way you’ll have plenty of choice and if a book isn’t working out for you you’ll have a backup plan. I like to go for fast paced reads that I know are going to keep me turning those pages, I also like to put a few books on my TBR by some of my favourite authors who I know I can rely on for a great read. I find that it’s a good idea to read books on different formats, graphic novels or audiobooks are great for when you want to keep your reading progress going but are feeling bogged down from reading a physical book. 

• Follow Fellow Readers- Before the readathon starts I like to go through social media and bookmark bloggers and booktubers who will be taking part in the readathon. I find following other people’s progress really encouraging when I’m struggling to keep reading. 

• Try NOT to Read Beforehand – The day before the readathon I like to not pick up anything to read. For me it’s almost like not eating anything all day because you’re going to an all you can eat buffet for dinner. I love the anticipation of waiting to dive into a pile of books and I like to spend the night before watching some TV because I know I won’t be doing much of that over the next 24 hours.

• Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Make sure you get an early night the night before the readathon - you’ll be grateful for it when you’re up late reading the next night. 

• Choose Snacks Wisely- A readathon is a great excuse to pig out on some delicious treats but also try to add some healthy foods in there too. Too much pizza, chocolate and crisps can make me feel tired and sluggish so I try to eat some fruit and drink plenty of water too. It also goes without saying that if you like to read and eat at the same time try to go for finger foods that aren’t going to leave your book messy. 

• Take Regular Breaks – Every couple of hours I like to take a 10-20 minute break to stretch, play with my dog or watch a sitcom. Taking breaks keeps your mind fresh and it’s so important to stretch those legs! 

• Time Your Internet Allowance- We all know how easy it is to get sucked down the internet rabbit hole when you’re supposed to be reading. I like to set a timer on my phone allowing myself half an hour to browse the internet and see how other readers are getting on. That way I’m not looking up from my laptop hours later and realising I’ve lost a large chunk of those precious 24 hours online. 

• Put Books You Aren’t Enjoying Down – This is something I find really difficult to do because I usually like to finish a book even if I’m not enjoying it all that much. The readathon is not the time to be slogging through a book you aren’t enjoying so if like me you like to finish a book, put it down just for the readathon. Telling myself that I can go back to it after the 24 hours are up really helps. 

• Sleep If You Need To – I’m an insomniac so staying up all night reading is not a good idea for me. I try not to feel guilty over the fact that I need to sleep. If you’re getting to the point where you’re reading the same sentence over and over again because you keep drifting off put the book down and get some sleep. You’re only wasting precious time making slow progress; you may as well catch some sleep and try again when you’re feeling fresh and alert. 

 Because the readathon is on for such a short amount of time I won't be posting updates on my blog but you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads to see how I'm getting along. Read lots and have fun!

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Review for When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen 
Publisher: Black Swan
Release: 21st April 2016
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis: 
"YOU SEE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY.

BUT WHAT CAN'T YOU SEE?

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years - they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ....

Now, there's something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?"

Review 
When I read the synopsis for When She Was Bad I immediately wanted to read it. There are so many psychological thrillers out at the moment that it’s hard to find one with a unique premise. The idea of a murderer at work was so intriguing to me and made a refreshing change from the missing child stories that are currently so popular in this genre.

When She Was Bad is told in alternate chapters, one thread of the story follows a group of work friends in the UK whose once friendly workplace is growing toxic and competitive with the arrival of new boss Rachel. The other half of the story is set in the United States and follows Anne, a child psychologist, who is treating a highly traumatised child called Laurie. Both plots grow more sinister as the book goes on but they also read completely separate from one another. The two storylines kept me invested in this story. I just had to know if and how they were connected!

My only complaint about this book is that it took a while to get going. It’s a thriller that ends on an explosion rather than starts with one so it opens slowly and gathers speed as it goes along. The real fun of this book is getting to know the large cast of characters who all have their secrets and sinister side. Are any of them capable of murder? As the tension in their work environment and personal lives rises, the characters are on tenterhooks with each of them growing more troubled. I loved guessing who would snap first!

I pride myself on usually being about to guess “who done it?” in a thriller but When She Was Bad had such a clever ending that I was completely taken aback by. It also ends on a deliciously twisted final note that teases at what might be in store for these characters when we close the book and leave them.

Overall When She Was Bad is a fresh and exciting read that stands out as different in an overcrowded genre.
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