Monday, 30 March 2015

Shadow Study Blog Tour: Q&A With Maria V. Snyder

I'm a long-term fangirl of Maria V. Snyder after discovering her Study series before I even started this book blog! To celebrate the UK publication of Shadow Study (eeek!) I'm taking part in the UK blog tour and have a Q&A with Maria to share with you today. I had the chance to meet Maria last week and she was lovely and I'm so excited to read Shadow Study soon! Welcome to Jess Hearts Books, Maria!

It’s been a long time since the end of the study trilogy and you’ve had numerous books released since then. What made you want to return to these characters and this particular world?
MVS: My readers are the reason I revisited Yelena and Valek. They’ve been clamouring for more stories since Fire Study was published back in 2008 and I finally had an idea that I thought would be good enough for a novel.

What do you have in store for Yelena in this new series?
MVS: Yelena is shot with a crossbow bolt in the first couple of pages and soon after her magic is blocked. She then tries to find a cure while keeping ahead of her many enemies who are taking advantage of her situation. The Sitian Council is becoming more and more anti-magician and their relationship with Ixia is strained to the breaking point. All problems that Yelena has to deal with.

Can fans expect to see the return of any familiar faces? 
MVS: Oh yes! Valek, Ari, Janco, Leif, Opal, Devlen, and Reema are all back, plus a few new ones as well.

Each of your worlds is highly developed and distinctive. How much research goes into creating each world? Where do you find inspiration?
MVS: I have to admit, that while I do lots of research for things like glass blowing, riding horses, and picking locks, I don’t do a ton of research for my worlds. I think Ixia came from my experience during 12 years of Catholic school where we wore a uniform everyday. The Fifteen Realms came from a Baltic Sea cruise where we stopped in Sweden, Finland, Russia, Poland, and Latvia. I get inspiration from a number of things. Life is a sea of stories and I’ll spark on the strangest things—like a comment from my kids, or an article in a magazine, or when I’m traveling, or from a random conversation with a stranger on a train. I dreamt the idea for Inside Out – yep in one night, I dreamt the entire story—characters, antagonists, world, and even the twists at the end. I wish I could remember what I ate for dinner that night as that hasn’t happened again!

Is it harder to create a new fantasy world or to return to writing an old one? 
MVS: Each presents their own challenges. Writing in an established world is easier overall because the world is already developed, but I need to remind readers what’s been explained about the world before, and I don’t want to confuse new readers, yet I don’t want to explain too much and bore those who have good memories (a hard balance). Plus I’ve already established the boundaries of the world and can’t change things to suit the story. A new world is fun to do, but more work in creating it. Then everything needs to be explained and that can take away from the story’s action and characters.

Fantasy has become increasingly popular in YA over recent years. Why do you think that is? What do you love about writing it? 
MVS: I think fantasy lets readers escape from their own problems and troubles. It’s hard to be too worried about a test when a character is worried about living through a big battle. Plus having magic is fun and being different in fantasy is usually a good thing. I enjoy reading fantasy so writing it seemed a natural progression for me. I think what I like most are the horses and swords. I think having characters jump in a car or call on the phone is just too easy, and I never liked guns for the same reason—it’s too easy.

Out of all of your worlds which would you rather live in?
MVS: I’d live in Ixia. I attended 12 years of Catholic school and never once minded wearing a uniform – it just made my mornings easier. I’d also like to think I’d be one of the Commander’s advisers or one of Valek’s spies and that sounds like fun.

Which of your characters is most like you?
MVS: Opal. She starts out very insecure with low self-esteem and that was me in high school. I had one friend and while I loved acting and dancing, I never thought I was good enough to pursue either of those as a career. I also loved storms and was good in math and science, which is why I earned a meteorology degree, but it took me a number of years to figure out what I was supposed to do and be comfortable with it.

Do you know how this series will end? Do you write towards it or see where the story leads you? 
MVS: I’ve no idea where the story will end. I just finished the first draft of Night Study and it didn’t follow any of my plans for the story. Nope, it just ignored me and the events that happened are quite a surprise. Therefore, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen in Dawn Study. Which I guess means that I follow the story.

What three words best describe Shadow Study? 
MVS: Action-packed, heart-warming, unputdownable (my spell checker says this isn’t a word, but I’ve already had multiple readers say this to me after finishing the book ;).

Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. If your readers would like more info about me and my books, I have the first chapter of all my books on my website as well as a number of free short stories (including ones with Yelena and Valek) they can read. Here’s the link: My Facebook page is where I’m the most active with updates and news. Here’s the link:

 Make sure you follow the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review for One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon

One Small Act of Kindness 
by Lucy Dillon 
Publisher: Hodder
Release: 23rd April 2015
Genre: Fiction
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby helps a stranger, and transforms her life in the process.

Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories - good and bad - that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn't know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people's lives..."

A Hundred Pieces of Me was my first book by Lucy Dillon and ended up being one of my favourite reads of last year. Whereas A Hundred Pieces of Me was emotionally driven One Small Act of Kindness has more of a mystery to it although they both share a lovely life affirming message. One Small Act of Kindness is ultimately about the importance of identity and those small every day acts of kindness that make the world a brighter place.

This book features two main characters that we follow throughout the story. Libby is the recent new owner of the Swan Hotel when Pippa quite literally comes crashing into her life. When Pippa is in a car accident outside of her hotel Libby goes out of her way to help her. She mysteriously has no phone, purse or ID on her so when she loses her memory in the accident it’s impossible to identify her. Unable to remember her real name she decides to go by Pippa and with no other options Libby welcomes her into her hotel while she recovers. Both women have lost their sense of identity in different ways but Libby’s one small act of kindness sets off a chain reaction of new beginnings and self-discovery for both them and those around them.

Usually when a book has more than one heroine I tend to have a favourite whose story I enjoy that little bit more but that wasn’t the case with One Small Act of Kindness. I equally loved both Libby and Pippa and enjoyed reading their journey. Libby is such a kind soul it’s impossible not to warm to her and Pippa’s situation is so curious that you can’t help but be sucked in by the mystery of it all. There are lots of brilliant secondary characters (I especially loved Lord Bob!) and even some familiar faces from A Hundred Pieces of Me who I was so excited to catch up with!

Overall One Small Act of Kindness was a wonderfully uplifting read about being true to you and how even the smallest act of kindness has the potential to change somebody’s life for the better. I already can’t wait for Lucy Dillon’s next book!

Monday, 16 March 2015

What I Want From YALC 2015

If you're part of the UKYA community then you have probably heard by now that YALC is returning for another year this year between Friday 17- Sunday 19 July at Olympia, London.

Although I was a little disappointed to hear that it is returning beside LFCC it's going to be in a bigger venue and the YALC team are well aware of last years crowding issues and are putting things in place to help YALC run as smoothly as possible.

Ray and I have booked our hotel and will soon be purchasing tickets for the event itself, however, I'm really sad to only be attending Friday and Saturday this year as I have to be home on the Sunday for my dad's 50th birthday celebrations.

Some fantastic authors have already been announced with more to follow and so that got me thinking about who I'd personally love to meet. I wanted to share with you my dream author lineup just for fun because I love making lists and a girl can dream right? This list doesn't include any of the lovely wonderful authors I have already met but rather new to me authors who I'd love to meet someday.

Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is the Queen of Contemporary YA and is largely the reason why I love the genre after discovering it in my early teens. I know this is true for a lot of people and although I doubt she'll make an appearance at this YALC I really hope that she does a UK tour some day soon. She has such a large fandom over here and we are desperate to meet her!

Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen 
I met Lucy briefly at YALC last year but didn't get the chance to get my book signed because I didn't know she would be there. With Lobsters up for The YA Book Prize I think that they make an obvious choice for YALC 2015!

Marcus Sedgwick
Marcus was at YALC last year but had to leave early I think because he had taken ill? I was really sad to miss him and would love the chance to meet him this year.

Robin Stevens
Although the Wells and Wong books are Younger YA/ Middle Grade the UKYA community LOVE Robin's books. After reading them myself this year and falling head over heels in love with Hazel and Daisy I NEED to meet Robin (even though I already have my book signed). Also First Class Murder is due to be published at the end of July. Perfect time for promotion, no?

Melinda Salisbury
Because we can't have Robin without Mel really can we? The Sin Eater's Daughter has been the biggest UKYA Fantasy release in 2015. Melinda is an exciting new talent and I would love to meet her (even though I already have my book signed)

Virginia Bergin
The Rain had a lot of promotion at YALC last year and with both The Rain and The Storm now out I think that Virginia would make an ideal fit for YALC. I'd love to hear her talk about creating an authentic teen voice which is something she does brilliantly with her main character.

Sarah Rees Brennan 
Sarah was another author who was at YALC last year with her friend Holly Black. Sarah has so many fans and with Cassandra Clare already confirmed it makes sense to book Sarah too with the two being good friends and their work together on The Bane Chronicles.

Susan Ee 
Susan is an international author who has a large audience over here and with End of Days the last book in the Penryn and The End of Days series coming out in May, July would be a perfect time to meet fans of the series.

Zoe Sugg (Zoella)
With Girl Online breaking her into the UKYA world Youtube star Zoe Sugg would be a perfect choice for YALC. With Carrie Hope Fletcher also confirmed to attend the two together could draw in huge audiences outside of the book world reaching out to target audiences about UKYA and introducing them to similar books and authors.

Sophie Kinsella 
Adult Fiction author Sophie Kinsella has her first UKYA novel releasing in June so promoting at YALC in July would be perfect. A lot of older YA fans are also big fans of her current works so I'm sure she'd get a lot of attention.

Francesca Haig
The Fire Sermon is another big release for 2015 making UKYA author Francesca Haig a rising star. I think that one of the biggest UKYA releases of the year so far deserves a place at YALC, don't you?

Lisa Williamson 
The Art of Being Normal is Diverse UKYA at its best. Again, this has been a huge release of 2015. It's such an important book that YALC can shine a spotlight on.

There are so many authors that I could include on this list but these are just a few of the big names for me that I have my fingers crossed for! I'm excited to see if any of them are announced!

As well as meeting lots of brilliant authors I'm really looking forward to some thoughtful talks and inspiring workshops like last year. Some of the topics that I'd personally love to see discussed are...

 * Mental Health in YA
This is a topic close to my heart and is something I'd love to see being discussed. James Dawson (Mind Your Head) Matt Haig (Reasons To Stay Alive) Zoe Sugg (Girl Online) Holly Bourne (Am I Normal Yet?) and Sophie Kinsella (Finding Audrey) I think would make brilliant speakers with all of them having books out, or coming out, that deal with mental health.

 * Diverse YA
Nobody does Diverse YA better than UKYA in my opinion and this year more than ever has been fantastic for it. I'd love a talk about the importance of having characters that represent every type of person and situation ready and available in YA.

 * Book Blogging/ BookTube 
Book bloggers have had some much needed love showered on them this year with the two book blogger awards and I'd love to see some of my friends up there sharing their love of books and the industry and shining some light on what goes into being a blogger/vlogger.

So there you have it. These are some of my hopes for YALC 2015. I'm sure that no matter who and what is lined up it's going to be brilliant!

Let me know if you're planning to attend YALC this year and what you're hoping to get from it.

Find out more about YALC 2015 here.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Meeting Gayle Forman

On Saturday 7th March 2015 I met Gayle Forman. I’ve met so many amazing authors over the past year but this was a particularly special event for me. Just One Day was one of those rare and special books that went beyond simply being what I’d consider a favourite book. Reading it literally changed my life.

When I was diagnosed with Anxiety my world became very small. It was easier to not go out and do things because then I wouldn’t have to deal with the sickening fear that occurs even when I do the most basic things like, walking to the top of my street, for example. For a long time my house became my safe place and even leaving my house was a big deal that would make my heart race with panic. Even though Just One Day isn’t a book about mental health it is about doing what scares you and the good that can come out of it. It made me realise that life waits for no one, that it is happening now. I closed the book feeling braver. I started saying “yes” to life even though I was terrified of it. Just One Day is so much more than a favourite book. It gave me my life back. It opened up the world to me.

“It's funny the things you think you're scared of until they're upon you, and then you're not.” ― Gayle Forman, Just One Day

Being able to meet Gayle Forman felt like my journey with Just One Day had come full circle. Here I was, a girl who was too afraid to even leave her house, going out into the world to meet the person who made life feel like a possibility again. I’m usually quite relaxed when meeting authors these days (although there is excitement there, of course) but I felt very nervous during her talk to the point where I’m not sure exactly how much I took in! Whilst I was waiting in line to meet her I kept running over and over in my head what I wanted to say to her. How do you explain the momentum somebody has had on your life in a few short minutes?

When it was my turn to meet Gayle I sat down and kind of blurted out the outline of my story all at once. I told her about how my life used to be controlled by Anxiety and how Just One Day changed my outlook on how I view the things that make me scared. It made me realise that just because you’re afraid of something, even terrified, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. That life waits for no one and if you’re not out there living it, you miss it.

“Or maybe it's not a miracle. Maybe this is just life. When you open yourself up to it. When you put yourself in the path of it. When you say yes.” ― Gayle Forman, Just One Day

Gayle was so lovely and even got emotional and teary eyed as I told her what Just One Day has given me. We high fived and hugged and she took a selfie of us together on her phone. In a few minutes I got to thank someone I’ve never met before who has had a massive impact on my life and being able to do that was so cathartic. Meeting Gayle Forman was more than another author event to me. It was a hugely important moment that I’ll cherish forever. It’s not every day that we get to thank the people who, without realising it, shaped our life in some way and I’m thankful that I got the opportunity.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

February Round Up and Book of the Month

February's Book of the Month is The Mime Order 
by Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order is the epic sequel to The Bone Season. I read The Bone Season for the first time at the start of February in preparation for meeting the author Samantha Shannon and although I really enjoyed it it wasn't quite a perfect read because the world is very complex and I struggled to get into it. Jumping into The Mime Order straight after meant that I had none of these issues and I found it even more incredible than The Bone Season! It's my first and only 5 star read so far this year and is a worthy book of the month. This series is truly on an epic scale and after that ending I can't wait for book three!

Read in February 
11.) The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon (4*)
12.) You Don't Have To Say You Love Me by Sarra Manning (4*)
13.) The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon (5*)
14.) I Was Here by Gayle Forman (4*)
15.) The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead (4*)
16.) We Are All Made Of Molecules by Susin Nielsen (4.5*)
17.) Daughter by Jane Shemit (2*)
18.) The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (4.5*)
19.) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (DNF see why here)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Best Writing: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Best Cover: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Best Characters: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead
Best Ending: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Best Romance: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead
Most un-put-down-able: We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
Most Memorable: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Best Moral: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: The Mime Order, We Are All Made of Molecules, The Last Leaves Falling.

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in March
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Half Wild by Sally Green
Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano
The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski
Shadow Study by Maria V Snyder
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
Under My Skin by James Dawson

 What did you read and love in February? 
And what are you looking forward to reading in March?
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