Monday, 21 July 2014

Q+A with Anna Caltabiano

What’s the inspiration behind The Seventh Miss Hatfield?

Even before I came up with the story, I came up with the character of Henley. After Henley, I dreamed up Miss Hatfield. I fell in love with these characters and built a story around them.

The concept of the story was largely inspired by my curiosity with why we as humans are always so equally fascinated and frightened by death. One interesting way to examine mortality is to write a story about immortality, and explore how the characters deal with such issues as identity, love, and loss. These are among the central issues of all stories, but by introducing immortality into the mix I was able to have fun seeing what changed, and conversely, what is unchanging in all of us. I hope that I created an enjoyable story, but left the reader something to think about when it is all over.

Do you think time travel and immortality go hand in hand?

To me, the time traveling, along with the immortality, was a vehicle to further examine what it means to lose your childhood, your family, and your friends—everything that roots you to a particular time and place. I wanted to explore what it meant to know that we are going to one day die. One interesting way to examine mortality is to write a story about immortality, and explore how the characters deal with such issues as identity, love, and loss. These are among the central issues of all stories, but by introducing immortality into the mix I was able to have fun seeing what changed, and conversely, what is unchanging in all of us.

This book avoids the modern day, what made you choose the 50’s to take Cynthia from?

Though actually quite recent, to me the 50’s are ancient history. From the vantage point of my generation, this was a period of traditional values, white bread, a supposed golden age in the US, but probably quite bland. It seemed to be a good launch point for the story.

Can we expect more from Miss Hatfield in the future?

Miss Hatfield wouldn’t be able to stop influencing Cynthia’s life even if she tried!

Writing two books by the age of 17 is impressive. How do you find time to write?

I always joke with my friends that writing is my sport. I just don't get any exercise out of it. If my friends can spend hours practicing their sport for the love of it, I can make time to write because I love it too. I try to write a little every day even if it is just punctuating a sentence I wrote the day before. What's important to me is that I'm making progress, however small.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


AKA Showcase Sunday

I really didn't intend on getting books at YALC, although I did take a book along for Hot Key's book swap. Then I spied early copies of Vivian Versus America for sale so I just had to grab that and whilst I was there why not get something else off my wishlist? I also went for a wander round the LFCC stands and came back with the next volume of Saga. I think I did very well not to buy a replica sword or comic strip dress. It was tempting, but it was also too busy to browse comfortable (you've probably heard about the crowds already).

I went to the Fringe event in the evening and as they were holding a raffle in aid of Siobhan Dowd Trust, I bought a strip of tickets. Of course, not being too bothered my ticket got drawn, and got a bundle of three books. Actually two of my tickets were drawn but I declined a second bundle, beacuse I was already over my one book allowance.

I'm not writing up more on YALC. I did only go for one day and whilst I met lots of lovely bloggers there were loads of people I didn't get a chance to chat to. I have my fingers crossed for a more relaxed affair next year. YALC organisers did a great job but I think Showmasters messed up somewhere with the main event.

Anyway, aside from that, I got the new Tom Pollock for review! And Station Eleven! And an incredibly sexy hardback proof of the new Michel Faber, who I haven't read, but loads of people seem excited about.

For review:
Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock (Jo Fletcher Books)
The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker (Penguin)
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (Canongate)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Pan Macmillan)
Ayoade on Ayoade by Richard Ayoade (Faber)

Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nichols
The Hidden Princess by Katy Moran
All Bones and Lies by Anne Fine

Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle
Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton
Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughn + Fiona Staples
The Fisherman's Net by Laura Lam

The Night Itself by Zoe Marriott

Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Say Her Name

She thought of the girls in her year: drinking, smoking, eating junk as if none of it mattered, simply because they were young. They all assumed that bad things only ever happen to other people – old people.

In five days she will come. It’s Halloween at Piper’s Hall for Young Ladies and Bobbie’s sat round listening to bad ghost stories. One of which is that of a girl who supposedly committed suicide at their school and has become the legend of Bloody Mary. Of course, none of them believe it’s real, but it’s Halloween so they decide to gather round the mirror in candlelit and say her name.

Make sure you don’t need the bathroom when you start reading Say Her Name. There’s some seriously creepy moments all interspersed with nuggets of wisdom and wit from the newly crowned Queen of Teen. The story still manages to touch on a number of real world issues without them being the focus.

It’s interesting to see a horror story with some compassion for the ghost, whether or not they’re doing evil things, they are supposed to be troubled spirits. Maybe they had a tough time in life. I liked that Bobbie investigates who Mary was and the events that trapped her in the mirrors.

As always. James’ characters feel like real people, the kind that you went to school with (or are at school with now). They’re easy to relate to even if they are at a private school. They’re all imperfect, even those who might like to project otherwise.

Bobbie had always subscribed to the idea that teachers went to sleep in Tupperware boxes in their store cupboards.

The ending, from the main characters’ point at least, all felt a little too easy. After Cruel Summer, which is brilliant, I suppose I was expecting something else. That’s my only fault of this otherwise entertaining and unsettling read.

See how that spooky cover was designed here.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Hot Key Books

Also reviewed @ Jess Hearts Books | Page to Stage Reviews | A Dream of Books

Book Source: Purchased

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Win Audiobooks!

To cut a long story short, I want to cancel my Audible subscription but have unused credits on it. I'm pretty bad at listening to audiobooks myself, so why not give them away? I can't transfer the credits direct but I can gift you a book. I have three credits to use, so there will be three winners.

Winners can chose from any available audiobook on the site. You will need to have an Audible UK account (Amazon owned) to claim the gift. I think you may be able to access it from other countries, but it's up to you to work out if you can use the gift or not. You can have an account without a subscription.

Also I want to cancel my subscription before I'm charged again so winners must contact me with their choice before 01/08/14.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Strange Chemistry Reading Month

*Sniff sniff* Writing up my list of reviews for this post has reminded me how many great books Strange Chemistry published. If you didn't know, the imprint folded last month but their existing books are still available to buy. In remembrance I will be taking part in Little Lion Lynette's Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A Reading Month in August. I do have a number of Exhibit A books on my TBR but I'm not really feeling the crime/thriller vibe these days so I'll be sticking to Strange Chemistry titles. I aim to get through:

Skulk by Rosie Best
Playing Tyler by T.L. Costa
Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen
Cracked by Eliza Crewe
Control by Kim Curran
The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Seventh Miss Hatfield

When Cynthia takes a parcel round to her neighbour’s, little does she know she’ll never see her parents again. Miss Hatfield tricks her into drinking a drop from the Fountain of Youth and Cynthia become immortal. She has become the seventh Miss Hatfield but first, she must complete a task; to retrieve a painting from 1887. And immortality always comes with a price.

This is Anna Caltabiano’s second novel, written by the age of seventeen! She should be praised for a light and enjoyable Victorian tale, with a dash of fantasy. However, based on the blurb, I expected more of a focus on the fantastical but once Miss Hatfield has travelled back, she’s there for the long term. Her immortality might sway her final decision but she could be any imposter in a Victorian home.

Saying that, I liked the imposter story. She’s attempting to steal a painting from the Beauford household when she is mistaken for Mr Beauford’s niece. She goes along with it, as does his son, Mr Henley, who is quite taken with the mystery of it all. She does seem to fit quite well in the time, I would have liked a little more awkwardness on her part, trying to adjust to a different way of life. Maybe that’s why Anna chose to take her from the 50’s and not now. Less of a culture shock.

I felt the writing improved as the story progressed. It could be argued that the simplistic voice of the first few pages is that of the young Cynthia, as the sixth Miss Hatfield does say her speech and mannerisms were aged too. The style suits a prim and proper young lady of the turn of the century. However, the case falls through a bit when you remember Cynthia was displaced from the 1950’s.

The Seventh Miss Hatfield is published by Gollancz and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st July 2014. Pre-orders on the ebook are only £1.99 (offered by a variety of retailers including Hive) so make sure you order early! Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Shelve next to: Soulless by Gail Carriger + The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Book of Life

The Book of Life is the final instalment in the All Souls trilogy therefore this review may contain spoilers for A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night.

It all started with a book. Diana and Matthew may be back in the present day, but his past holds many more secrets, one of which will soon threaten their future. With Baldwin and the Congregation already unhappy at their relationship, there is only one solution to all their problems. Diana must once again find Ashmole 782 and put back its missing pages.

The All Souls books have never been fast paced and this is no exception, however the world is so absorbing and once you get settled, you won’t want to leave her world. There’s such detail put into everything, from the locations right down to the furnishings and everyday tasks such as making a cup of tea. I think this has always been part of the charm of these books, but it does mean they’re not always pages turners.

Deborah has said that her plan for a trilogy meant she would get a go at writing three different genres; fantasy, historical and thriller. The Book of Life certainly does have its thrilling moments, but they are tempered by everyday family life. The story returns, at times, to the research lab and the libraries full of antiquated books; along with all the procedures that must be followed. The interweaving histories of all the characters and creatures is so complex but I love learning all the links.

Of course, one of the best things about ending a trilogy is following favourite characters through their journeys. I’m possibly fonder of some of the supporting cast by now than Diana and Matthew. I love Gallowglass and really felt for him in this; he is so loyal and could make anyone feel safe. I like Phoebe, who manages to be the voice of modernity among so many old souls. I never felt Diana was really of our time. And then there’s Jack, whose part is small but manages to pull on the heartstrings.

It’s getting all exciting and then, well, then there’s babies. OK, babies do interrupt life and adventure, but there was just a bit too much on the labour and the days running up to the christening, that it killed off the pace. I admit, I’m particularly adverse to baby talk, but these chapters didn’t feel necessary to the whole plot.

It was a satisfying ending, with lots of loose ends tied up and the answers to many questions that made sense. They felt right. Yet, there’s still that urge to read more about these characters, maybe a few years on, what will become of them and the whole world of creatures. Maybe we can revisit the world in the future? I would be happy for a book that didn’t focus on Diana and Matthew.

The Book of Life is published by Headline and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 15th July 2014. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The One

The One is the final instalment of The Selection trilogy and therefore this review may contain spoilers for previous books The Selection and The Elite.

It’s not long now until the prince must make his choice. America may not have wanted to be in The Selection in the first place but she’s come to realise Maxon means something to her. Will her fear of expressing her true feelings get in the way of a happily ever after? With four girls left in the running and rebel attacks on the increase, the heat is on for the potential future Queen of Illia.

And suddenly all of it was funny. All the arguing, the wicked faces, the little tricks - they felt like a really long joke.

This seems to be the year for finishing trilogies and I’m glad I stuck with this one. It’s such indulgent reading, a bit like watching America’s Next Top Model, but with rebels and royalty. I’ve freely admitted to not liking things in these books, but by now I’ve forgotten the details that really got on my nerves and I was able to sit back and enjoy the show. Will America be The One or will she be beaten to the crown?

Some might say it’s a foregone conclusion, but I was forever doubting America and Maxon’s relationship. He isn’t getting rid of The Elite any time soon. His father is still in severe opposition and getting meaner towards her. And America isn’t being very honest with herself or either of the boys regarding her feelings for Aspen.

I enjoyed the relationships between the final girls. Where they start to see each other as real people and walls come down. The Queen had such little parts but that didn't mean her fate wasn't important to me. I wanted her to be more than just the King's wife. There's a lot more political manoeuvring and tough choices in this one too.

If you wanted to throw The Selection at the wall, I’d probably suggest avoiding the rest. But if, like me, you found it entertaining despite its faults, do read on. I am only a little sad that I won’t get to find out what’s in Illia’s future. There is political change afoot but we may never know…

Has anyone read the short stories that go along with this trilogy? Are they worth reading?

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Also reviewed @ Booking in Heels | Fictional Thoughts

Book Source: Purchased

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Broken Monsters

Detroit, a city built on the American Dream, now harbouring killers and dreams that shouldn’t see the light of day. A gruesome murder with no motives. Detective Gabi Versado leads the case, all hands on deck, filling in the gaps. At home, her teenage daughter surfs the web fishing for perverts. In this digital age, nothing stays hidden for ever and there’s one broken man who needs to be found before it’s too late.

Don’t make the mistake of judging Broken Monsters on the first few chapters. It starts off like any other serial killer thriller and you may start to wonder if Lauren Beukes has turned her pen to vanilla crime fiction. There a single parent detective, a down on his luck journalist and a group of people on the edges of society. However it’s one of those books that just gets better and better as the story unfolds. Keep turning the pages to reveal a serial killer yarn intertwined with social commentary on the internet age against a backdrop of urban decay.

What hope does he have? The world is condensing, attention spans narrowing to tiny screens, and there are people who are wittier and smarter, who know how to write for those nanospaces.

Where The Shining Girls was firmly rooted in the past, Broken Monsters is very much in the now. Lauren writes modern life so well with so many observations that make you think or nod in agreement. Both the journalist and the artists struggle with the quest for originality; everything has been done before and everyone can have an audience via digital media. How do you stand out? How do you make a living? There’s comments on everything from self-publishing and cyber bullying to dwindling attention spans and competition for audience.

Shakespeare would have it wrong these days. It’s not the world that’s the stage – it’s social media, where you’re trying to put on a show. The rest of your life is rehearsals, prepping in the wings to be fabulous online.

The book can probably be read in two ways. It’s an engaging thriller that gets seriously creepy in places. I got a bit freaked out reading it late at night with the windows open. On the other hand, there’s a metaphor within the pages; a message about how we live our digital lives. Something that if you spend any significant amount of time on social media, you will no doubt recognise.

Broken Monsters is published by HarperCollins and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 31st July 2014. Thanks go to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Shelve next to: Glaze by Kim Curran

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Incoming: All Souls Edition

AKA Showcase Sunday

Friday night I went to the pre-launch party for The Book of Life, the final instalment in Deborah Harkness' All Souls trilogy. The event was sponsored by Glamour magazine so we got a very generous goodie bag, which of course included a hot off the press copy of The Book of Life (reading already) as well as a stay up all night reading kit and other bits and bobs. There was also a raffle at the event and I won a lovely bracelet from Nola Bijoux.