Thursday, 27 March 2014

Author Cammie McGovern Guest Post: Writing a Character With OCD

Last month I had the pleasure of reading an incredibly special book a month before its release date and ever since then I've been trying to persuade everybody to pre-order a copy. That book is Amy and Matthew. It's a beautifully written YA Contemporary with realistic characters that is absolutely perfect for fans of Eleanor and Park. But what really stood out to me was Matthew a character who has crippling OCD. Having OCD myself I really connected with his daily struggles of managing mundane tasks that other people may not think twice about. Cammie wrote one of the most realistic fictional portrayals of OCD that I've ever read so I invited her on to the blog today to talk a little bit about her experience writing a character with OCD to celebrate the release date for Amy and Matthew which is out in the UK today. If you'd like to hear more on my thoughts about Amy and Matthew check out my review here.

Writing About OCD by Cammie McGovern 

The most interesting discovery I made in writing Matthew, a character with OCD, is how many people read a little bit about OCD and think they have it. As I researched, I diagnosed seeds of it in myself as a teenager. I also recognized it in my oldest son who is seventeen and has autism. For me, though the real surprise came when my fourteen-year-old son read Amy and Matthew and came into my room afterward. It was late at night and he whispered softly, “You based Matthew on me, didn’t you?”

Of our three children, he is our most outgoing and most social kid. In his group, I think of him as the relatively easy-going one who navigates the moodiness and hilarity of his friends with an even keel. “God no,” I said, stunned. Where had this idea come from? Most nights, as I lie on my bed reading, he leans into my bathroom mirror, examines his face for new patches of acne, and tells me stories about his crowd that get me laughing so hard I get tears in my eyes. “I do all that stuff,” he whispered that night. “I make deals all day long—if I make it to my locker in ten steps, my test will go well…If I don’t step on any lines, I’ll get an A…”

He’d never told me this before. In fact, I’d never thought of him as particularly anxious or as someone who would dabble in the—I’m not sure how else to put it—the illogical comforts of OCD deal-making. I remembered doing it all the time when I was a teenager, but I was far shier and less social than he. I didn’t travel school hallways with a pack of friends, so I had plenty of time to walk on blue tiles only and touch certain heating vents.

When my youngest son, the ten year old, overheard us talking about it again the next morning, he cornered me that afternoon and whispered, “Those things you and Charlie were talking about, I do them too. All the time—"

By this point, it was slightly less of a surprise, or maybe I’d learned something, not about my children, but about OCD. In my research, it’s often described as the mental illness that afflicts the otherwise sanest people you’ll ever meet. Frequently very bright, people with OCD nearly always recognize the irrationality of compulsive thoughts. They know the stove has been turned off; still their brain insists on checking. They know step counts won’t effect a test score; still their brain insists it will.

Perhaps in the chaotic pressure of navigating adolescence and all the changes one has no control over, OCD thoughts provide the comfort of some illusory control. I know they did for me without becoming too obtrusive later in life. They kept me busy as I navigated hallways filled with people who weren’t my friends. I don’t mean to equate an adolescent propensity toward mild OCD with the more serious, more debilitating form that Matthew and so many others experience. I only mean to say that if you have it and talk about it, I suspect you’ll be amazed at how many people recognize immediately what you are saying. It’s not as illogical or ridiculous as you suspect it might be. It’s a complicated bargain with the abstractions we have all wrestled mightily with: perfection, luck, safety, hope. It’s our brain playing games to keep us well. If I do these things, everything will work out. Maybe it’s a kind of creative faith, or a tool. Or maybe it’s a way for a fourteen year old kid with a lot on his plate to seem easy-going. I’m not sure. I just know you’re not crazy and you’re not alone.


Thank you so much for this wonderful post Cammie! 
 If you'd like to hear more from Cammie follow her on Twitter @CammieMcGovern 
 Amy and Matthew is available to buy in all good bookshops across the UK as of today

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Half Bad Blog Tour: Sally Green's Writing Day

Hi guys! Today I'm super excited to be the stop on the Half Bad blog tour. You guys know how much I adored this stunning UKYA debut novel but in case you missed my rave review you can check it out here. Half Bad is the book that everybody is talking about at the minute and I'm honoured to have the author Sally Green on the blog today talking about her writing journey and how a short story ended up becoming Half Bad.

 My Writing Day by Sally Green


Oh dear, I can’t even get past the title of this piece without feeling a bit panicky, because my writing day is hardly ever the same and thus is hard to describe. Perhaps I can try to give a flavour of the different types of writing days that I’ve had over the last few years, since I began writing in 2010.

1. Birth of a writer (June 2010 to December 2010)

The days of innocence. I began writing one afternoon with the idea (I thought) for a short story, but by the end of the week I realised I was writing a novel and that I didn’t want to (and couldn’t) stop. I wrote mainly in the evening (as I still prefer to do) until 2a.m. if it was going well. When I wasn’t writing my novel I was thinking about my novel - it really did take over my life 24/7. It may have looked like I was driving/ironing/cooking/gardening/running-on-the-treadmill but really I was working on the next scene. I would work all out in my head before writing it down. I wrote a lot by hand in those days too.

2. Student writer (January 2011 to February 2013)

Ah yes, I have fond memories of these days. I was a student of Creative Writing with the Open University, trying to improve my writing, finish my novel and get an agent. So I was writing short stories, poems and even scripts for my OU course, writing/editing my novel, reading as many books as possible, ironing, shopping, doing the school run, making dinner. There were lots of burnt meals I seem to remember as I was writing whilst cooking and forgetting about the sausages in the frying pan bit.

For most of this time I did have a routine of getting up half an hour earlier than normal to keep a writing diary (as the OU suggested we students do), but as I was staying up much later than normal to write my novel in the quiet midnight hours I was a wreck (and living on burnt sausages).

3. Writer - Post-publishing deal/pre publication (March 2013 - January 2014)

This seemed hard at the time but actually it was a doddle. I got an agent in February 2013 and a publishing deal in March 2013. For most of the period I was working on the edits of HALF BAD. This was not too painful (no red marks slashing across the page - but more ‘I really like this but’, which actually is the polite equivalent of red marks across the page). I would sit in a room at home, in the sun and work out the changes I needed to make. My husband had taken over a large part of the cooking - he never burns the sausages. In September 2013 I started writing HALF WILD, the second book of the trilogy and was dismayed that there was still some editing to do on HALF BAD. It seemed quite difficult to juggle the two (now I laugh at trying to juggle just two different aspects of writing). Generally I did either one or the other on a given day.

By November HALF WILD had taken over my life. I set myself goals of 1,000 words a day. I didn’t mind if these weren’t perfect words, I just wanted to get the story down. I was relaxed after I was over 10,000 words but didn’t want to let up on the pace of writing. I was word count fixated. I finished the first draft (80,000 words) in December and took a break for Christmas, before starting to edit in January.

4. Published Author - (January, 2014 to today)

My desk is in utter chaos

HALF BAD was published in the UK on 3rd March, but this period really started at the end of January when the PR began. I had a few weeks away from editing HALF WILD for a 8 night tour of the USA and 4 night tour of the UK and then a lot of PR in the week of the launch of HALF BAD. I thought I might write as I travelled but was usually too tired and really just not in that zone. I was worried that it was too long a time away from HALF WILD but I think it might have helped to step away and see it all a little clearer.

Now, I grab time where I can to write whatever I need to (this piece, numerous Q&As, writing tips, blog posts etc.) and I edit HALF WILD in equally short or longer bursts as the mood takes me.

I’ve got my deadline for HALF WILD looming, so I’m trying to establish a routine of writing/editing in the evening, usually until about 1am, when it’s quiet. I try edit in my head as I do other things too - so, for example, at the moment I’m not happy with the plot at the end of the book and I’m working out various possible solutions usually as I drive somewhere.


Thanks for stopping on the blog today Sally! I absolutely loved reading about the evolution of Half Bad and how your writing habits changed along with it!

Half Bad by Sally Green is published by Penguin £7.99 
Be sure to stop by the other posts for the blog tour! Info in sidebar.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Review for A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon 
Publisher: Hodder
Release: 27th February 2014
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Netgalley/ Bought

"Letters from the only man she's ever loved.
A keepsake of the father she never knew.
Or just a beautiful glass vase that catches the light, even on a grey day.

If you had the chance to make a fresh start, what would you keep from your old life? What would you give away?

Gina Bellamy is starting again, after a difficult few years she'd rather forget. But the belongings she's treasured for so long just don't seem to fit who she is now. So Gina makes a resolution. She'll keep just a hundred special items - the rest can go. But that means coming to terms with her past and learning to embrace the future, whatever it might bring..."

A Hundred Pieces of Me is my first book by Lucy Dillon. The stunning cover and unique synopsis pulled me in for this one and I’m so glad it did because this was an absolute gem of a book!

A Hundred Pieces of Me is a simple story in plot. It’s about Gina a woman who has been dealt more than her fair share of sadness in life. But being a breast cancer survivor she knows she is luckier than most and looks at the recent separation from her husband as a chance at a fresh start. The book follows Gina’s new beginning as she leaves her old life behind and just keeps one hundred special items to build her new future with.

It’s Gina’s character that keeps you turning the pages. Gina leads a small but precious life. Her life has not turned out quite how she imagined it would with great loves and opportunities lost. I loved how real Gina’s story felt. It isn’t one of whirlwind romances, endless possibilities and joy but it isn’t a bleak and depressing read either. Instead Gina’s story has a quiet happiness to it and a longing for something more which is how I think most of us feel about our lives.

We get to know Gina incredibly well as we follow her in the present day but also get glimpses of her past as she sorts through her belongings and we see the memories attached to them and why they’re important to her. I loved experiencing the highs and lows of Gina’s life from childhood to where she is now. This book really made me think of my own cherished belongings and why they’re important as the book raises the question is it the object itself that we love? Or rather what the item represents and the feeling it gives? In many ways this book is about leaving our mark on the world and how we cling on to happy memories by having physical reminders of them around us.

Beautiful, hopeful, thoughtful and moving A Hundred Pieces of Me is a book about letting go of the past, not worrying about the future and grabbing the present with both hands. I was emotionally rapt from start to finish and believe that this gorgeous novel will propel author Lucy Dillon to new heights.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Blog Tour: Review for Far From You by Tess Sharpe and Giveaway!

Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Publisher: Indigo
Release: 27th March 2014
Genre: YA, Thriller, Contemporary
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Synopsis:
"Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That's how long recovering addict Sophie's been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong - a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she'd already beaten, Sophie's finally out and on the trail of the killer - but can she track them down before they come for her?"

Far From You is so much more than a murder mystery. It’s a thriller with heart as although the plot revolves around Sophie hunting down her best friend Mina’s killer there’s also a contemporary side to the book handling topics such as drug abuse and grief which is unexpectedly what I enjoyed most about this book. There’s more to Far From You than meets the eye and I loved delving into Sophie and Mina’s complex relationship and discovering the secrets between them.

There are a lot of topics going on in one book as well as the book dipping in and out of different timelines which might sound messy and confusing but actually worked in this books favour. Every issue was somehow connected to the plot as a whole and getting to look at Sophie and Mina’s relationship at different points in their lives helped to develop them as characters. Seeing the genuine love between the girls made Sophie’s grief feel real and raw in the present. I could really feel Sophie’s loss and it broke my heart to read.

I loved the blend of emotional contemporary read and twisty murder mystery. Sophie is a drug addict which makes her an unreliable heroine. When her parents and the police don’t believe what she says happened the night of Mina’s murder Sophie knows that to discover the truth about Mina’s killer she has to take matters into her own hands. I was certain that I’d guessed the murderer and their motive so it was a nice surprise when it turned out I was completely wrong! I love when that happens; I think it’s the mark of a truly good thriller.

Far From You is not what I was expecting at all going into it and that’s one of the reasons I loved it as much as I did. It’s definitely one of those books that you want to go into knowing as little as possible which is why I’ve kept quite a bit to myself in this review. If you’re a fan of emotional reads full of secrets and complex relationships then you won’t want to miss this brilliant debut.

To celebrate the release of Far From You the publishers are giving away a copy of the book to one of my UK/ Ireland readers. Simply read the rules and fill in the Rafflecopter to be in with a chance of winning. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules 
 To enter please fill in the Rafflecopter 
 Open to UK/ Ireland residents only 
 End date: 20th March 2014 
 One winner will be drawn and will be contacted by email with 1 week to reply else another winner will be selected.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Review for Deeper by Robin York

Deeper by Robin York 
Publisher: Piatkus
Release: 6th March 2014
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Synopsis:
"When Caroline Piasecki's ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn't look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear; hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defence and punches her ex to the ground.

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he's shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger - even after promising her dad she'll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works.

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they're 'just friends,' their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself - and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her.

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper."

Deeper follows a similar formula to other New Adult books with the whole good girl falls for bad boy storyline yet the characters are more diverse than that. Caroline and West had both good and bad traits which is something I always enjoy and appreciate in my characters.

Caroline and West live opposite lives but manage to meet somewhere in the middle after Caroline’s ex-boyfriend posts naked pictures of her online and West is one of the few people to not treat her differently or judge her. One of the things I really enjoyed about Deeper was that Caroline and West really get to know each other and spend a lot of time together first before jumping into a relationship.

Unfortunately things are not smooth sailing for Caroline and West. West is the main provider for his family and works several jobs as well as attend college to get him and his family by. West is determined to better his life and wants nothing to distract him from that goal which means that he’ll often push Caroline away. Caroline and West would constantly put barriers up that didn’t need to be there and there was a lot of unnecessary drama at times meaning that I’d often get frustrated with them as a couple and so I wasn’t always 100% behind them which was a shame.

Hands down my favourite thing about Deeper was Caroline and her journey. Caroline is deeply damaged at the start of the book with her confidence and future in shreds after her pictures turn up online but as the book goes on she decides not to be a victim anymore and I was so proud of how strong she became. Reading about Caroline’s experiences with revenge porn was actually my favourite thing about this book and the author delivers some important messages about female empowerment and sexuality.

Although I did have a couple of problems with Deeper overall I did enjoy reading it and appreciated the unique themes and important messages it brought to the New Adult genre.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Letterbox Love (38)

Letterbox Love is a meme hosted by Lynsey @ Narratively Speaking for UK based book bloggers to showcase the books that they’ve received each week.

Hi guys! Here's my book haul for March so far and it's an exciting one! I've received so many of my most anticipated books of the year. My TBR is packed full of exciting books right now and I'm loving working my way through them.

I can't get over the irony of doing a 'Letterbox Love' post because my letterbox hasn't received a whole lot of loving lately. We've been given the postman from HELL. He's rude, my stuff turns up days late, if at all, I've had to email three publishers this month letting them know that the books they sent out for review have gone missing. Ugh. The other day I caught him walking off with a letter from my best friend. Good job I recognised her writing paper and stopped him to ask if it was mine. Seriously guys he is hopeless and as a book blogger it's so important to have a good postie. Right, now, with that vented let's get on to the books!

 Review Books

The Worst Girlfriend in the World by Sarra Manning (Proof Copy)
Yesss!!!! We're starting off with one of my most anticipated books of the year folks! I'm such a huge Sarra Manning fan and have been since my teens so I am hugely excited to have an early proof of her next YA novel.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Proof Copy)
If you know me at all you'll know that when this dropped through my letterbox there was plenty of happy dancing and squeals of excitement. Guys! Rainbow Rowell! I love her, I love her books, and I couldn't be more grateful at the chance to read this book early.
The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones (Proof Copy)
I've never read anything by Belinda Jones before but I love my foodie chick-lit and am looking forward to giving this one a go. I also love the pretty cover!
A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
Here be another one of my most anticipated books of the year! I adore Cat Clarke and her gritty contemporary thrillers and I'm so excited to read this soon!
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
Jenny is the queen of foodie chick-lit and is one of my favourite authors. I've been looking forward to this for ages and am looking forward to devouring it on a lovely spring day sometime soon.

 Bought Books

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
This book is right at the top of my most anticipated books of 2014 list (are you guys seeing a pattern yet!?) and I had this on pre-order. The book itself is stunning with distressed page edges and I'm so in love with the cover. When I went to add this on Goodreads I noticed that every one of my friends has rated it 5 stars. Also there is a quote from Kristin Cashore on the back and I'm hoping that this will be the gorgeous fantasy novel that I'm hoping it'll be.
Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor
I'd seen this one around and was interested in it but it was my friend Jasprit's review that finally convinced me that I need to read this one. I'm loving my emotional reads this year and am really looking forward to this!
Split Second by Kasie West
I adored the first book in this series Pivot Point and after that heartbreaking ending I have to know what's going to happen next! This is really high on my TBR right now! I need more from Trevor!
A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon
I've already read this one and am completely in love with it. There seems to be so many gems coming out in women's fiction this year and so far it's the genre where my favourite reads are coming from. I'll have a review of this up soon.
Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes
I picked this up to make up the 2 for £7 deal in Tesco along with A Hundred Pieces of Me. I've never read anything from this author before but everyone seems to be loving this book so I'm excited to check it out.

As always thank you to the lovely publishing folk for the review copies. If you decided to do a Letterbox Love, Book Haul, IMM, Showcase Sunday, Mailbox Monday or whatever else featuring the books you got this week leave me a link as I’d love to check out your books too! ^_^ 

 Happy reading till next time!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Review for Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad by Sally Green
Publisher: Penguin
Release: 3rd March 2014
Genre: Witchcraft, Paranormal, UKYA
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?"

I’ve been trying to decide how much I want to say about Half Bad and how much I want to hold back on. On the one hand I don’t want to set impossible standards in reader’s heads but on the other I want to be honest about how much I enjoyed this book. And so after a lot of thought I have a little secret to tell you…Half Bad gave me the Potter feels.

I imagine at this point you’re either getting terribly excited or rolling your eyes at the idea of a Harry Potter copycat and that’s where I want to come in and say that you couldn’t be more wrong. Half Bad is completely unique in its own right. With not a magical beast or wand in sight Half Bad surprisingly feels less fantasy and more realism as Nathan has to deal with many contemporary issues.

Half Bad is very much a coming of age novel only with powers and a civil war between witch kind. You have the white witches who are good, the black witches who are bad and Nathan a one of a kind Half Code who is both and so has never really fit in anywhere. With a white witch mother and a father who is the most powerful and hated black witch of all time Nathan is feared and shunned by the white witches who keep him locked up in a cage and run experiments on him.

One of my favourite things about Half Bad was how Sally Green blurred the lines between good and evil. The characters in this book are much more dimensional than their labels with some of the white witches being cruel and insatiable and some of the black witches showing kindness and loyalty to Nathan. There’s also the theme of Nature vs Nurture are we destined to become a certain way? Or do people who push labels on to us make it so?

The world building in this book was spot on. All the information we need is revealed as and when needed which is so much better than a massive information dump at the beginning of the story. The hidden world of the witches is a simple and believable one and the lonely Welsh countryside created the perfect atmosphere for Nathan’s story.

Overall Half Bad was a book that ticked all of the right boxes for me and I can’t find fault with it. Unique and compelling I closed the book with the feeling that I’d just read something truly special.

Monday, 3 March 2014

February Round Up and Book of the Month

February's Book of the Month is The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I had a really tough time choosing between The One Plus One and Half Bad for my book of the month. Both were excellent in completely different ways! In the end I decided to go with The One Plus One because it had such an emotional impact on me. I love my emotional reads and even though it's been nearly a month since I read it I still can't get the Thomas family out of my head! This is my first 5 star read of the year and if you haven't picked up anything by Jojo Moyes yet I highly recommend that you do. To read more on my thoughts for this one check out my review here.

*** I loved the message of family in this book! *** 

Read in February 
11.) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (3*)
12.) The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (5*)
13.) Cress by Marissa Meyer (4.5*)
14.) Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern (4*)
15.) Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott (4*)
16.) Panic by Lauren Oliver (3*)
17.) Deeper by Robin York (3.5*)
18.) Half Bad by Sally Green (5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: Half Bad by Sally Green
Best Writing: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Best Cover: Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott
Best Characters: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Best Ending: Cress by Marissa Meyer
Best Romance: Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern
Most un-put-down-able: Half Bad by Sally Green
Most Memorable: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Best Moral: Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: The One Plus One, Half Bad and Cress with a special mention to Amy and Matthew because I really did love that book too!

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in March
The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Bad Brides by Rebecca Chance
Shattered by Teri Terry
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
The Time of Our Lives by Jane Costello
Trouble by Non Pratt

 What was the best book you read in February? And what are you looking forward to reading this month?
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