Thursday, 25 May 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A for Wishbones by Virginia MacGregor (Young Adult, 10E/10E)


 18th May 2017, Harlequin Teen, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from HarperCollins
Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1)To get her mum healthy again

2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships
When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problems run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Nayu's thoughts
I was intrigued by how Feather (an apt name when you get to know her) copes with her mum's weight issues as well as another key character's issues. In an ideal world children shouldn't have to worry about a parent, but Feather does because of the major health implications of her mum's weight. While she is old enough to worry and do her best to get her mum on the road to healthier living, Feather doesn't always get told the reasons why her efforts aren't working. Because she isn't an adult who has a wider experience of life and can cope with the emotionally hard reality of why her mum gained so much weight, the adults try to shield Feather from the truth. She goes the extra mile and them some, but unfortunately for a good part of the story her mum simply isn't interested in changing herself. As a result Feather goes through many emotions, anger and frustration being hard to handle. 

It was sweet of her to never give up, even when something she tries fails spectacularly. She figures out a new plan which is inventive in giving her mum the support she needs. It was harder when Feather's best friend Jake isn't quite himself, and their friendship gets a bit unstable. I correctly guessed the reason for that distance, something which Feather didn't see coming. I loved the swimming part of the story, how she had something to work for outside of her family issues. I adore the fancy dress shop owner who takes Feather under her wing when Feather needs some time away from her family after a major plot twist. I wish every child with issues had such a good adult figure in their life! Without her I don't think Feather would have successfully figured out how she felt about the revelation, and what path she needed to take next. It's a brilliant read combining several weight and mental health issues into a read that I couldn't put down. Definitely one for the reread shelf! 

Find out more on Virginia's website.


Question and Answer session with Virginia MacGregor
Another book by Virginia

Nayu) It's with great pleasure that I was able to ask Virginia some questions about the book! 
 
1)  What drew you to pick both obesity and diabetes as diseases that Feather's mum has to deal with, and the topic of being a young carer?
Both in my adult and young adult fiction, I like to focus on strong contemporary issues that have a resonance in our lives.  Obesity, eating disorders and their related complications like diabetes, are increasingly common, especially in the Western world. My feeling is that both over and under-eat eating have a closer relationship that we realise at that their root is psychological rather than physical: this is something I explore through Feather’s mother and Feather’s friend, Clay. I believe that fiction develops our understanding and empathy for those going through difficulties; fiction also makes helps us feel more understood when we are struggling. This is particularly important for young adults who often feel very alone and misunderstood. 

As regards being a young carer, this came partly through my own experience. When I was thirteen my parents went through a messy divorce which left my mother broken both physically and emotionally. Overnight, I went from being a child to an adult: I was the only one  there to care for her. I know that there are children all over the world who have to care for sick parents or relatives and that this puts a huge burden on them. It’s also something I explored in my first adult novel, What Milo Saw, in which a nine year old boy looks after his great-grandmother.


2) Did you ever think about having Feather have some mental health issues (which from the summary I'm guessing her mum has), instead of her mum?
Not really. I wanted her to be the strong, constant pillar in both her family and her community. Although her mother could be said to have mental health issues, it’s more just grief and coming to terms with something tragic that has happened in her past.

3)  Without giving away spoilers what were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?
Feather’s voice, her character and the quirky bits of the novel, like Houdini the goat, were fun and relatively easy to write.  Getting to the root of what happened to Feather’s parents and it’s consequences was harder: what they’ve been through is not something I have experienced directly and I knew it had to be handled sensitively. Seeing it through the eyes of a young girl felt like the best way to tackle such a delicate subject. I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers! 

4)  Is there any reason why you chose Houdini to be a goat? Do you have a goat/like goats?
I’m a great animal lover: I believe that they have a special spiritual connection, that they see and feel more than we do and that when we relate to them, and that they enrich our lives by letting us into these other worlds.  I’ve always lived with cats but I’d have a whole menagerie if I had the space (and if I could convince my husband!).  Ever since I spent an afternoon with some baby goats when I was on holiday in Austria, I’ve always dreamt of having a goat as a pet, so by writing Houdini into Wishbones, I was able to experience that vicariously! I find them wonderfully quirky and Houdini added just the right touch of light to a novel that has moments that are very sad. I think that children and teenagers, in particular, have a special bond to animals: they can confide in them and, through them, they learn important lessons about caring for other living beings. I love to watch my little girls interacting with animals.

5) Where's your favourite place to write? Do you have a favourite drink to write with? 
 I love to write in coffee shops – I wrote the whole of Wishbones in a coffee shop in England – with the most wonderful barista called Richard looking after me! Since moving to America, I’ve been writing in a gorgeous juice bar owned by one of my best friends. I find it easier to write surrounded by people and the buzz of life. My favourite drinks are either an almond latte (extra hot) or a green juice: one balanced the other out!
  
Suggested read
Check out this series about a teen dealing with a mother who has hoarding issues (I have only read book #1)  is Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon (Young Adult, 9/10E)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Blog Tour: Review + Q&A for I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (Young Adult, Thriller, 10E/10E)

4th May 2017, Electric Monkey, 336 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Egmont
Jemma knows who did the murder. She knows because he told her. And she can't tell anyone. 

Fourteen-year-old Jemma has severe cerebral palsy. Unable to communicate or move, she relies on her family and carer for everything. She has a sharp brain and inquisitive nature, and knows all sorts of things about everyone. But when she is confronted with this terrible secret, she is utterly powerless to do anything. Though that might be about to change...

Nayu's thoughts
This book reached me in a magical way. Rather the publicist Nina is magical. We were exchanging emails about the blog tour one day and I mentioned I hadn't got a copy. After discussing what I'd do for content as I was after an alternate to divulging small secrets, the post came. I went to check amd the book appeared! I hastily emailed Nina back explaining how magical she is after she said we magicked the book to my door. Publicists are extremely fun people to be around!

As for the book...it's spectacularly epic. I know a friend with cerebal palsy, she can walk with sticks so unlike Jemma can move around and communicate just fine. I was intrigued by how Jemma's clearly more severe CP affected her, and was quite humbled by her life. I live with several medical issues including severe chronic pain and fatigue issues, so my life can be rather restrictive in what I can do. Jemma's life made me realise while there is a lot I can't do, what I can do has me mostly independant, able to share my views with you and anyone else in the world, something Jemma wants ever so badly.

 I think because I'm not a normal average healthy person (who in reality probably doesn't exist) I connected deeper than I expected with Jemma. Her need to share her likes and dislikes are clear, with the stakes getting higher when she knows about the murderer's identity. It's very much an edge of your seat read, with lots of learning what life is like for severely disabled people. Carers range from the amazing kind to the absolutely rubbish ones (minor spoiler when I say oh my word what was Rosie thinking!) I felt desperately sorry for all who are treated poorly because people mistakenly think because they can't speak they aren't intelligent. Not so. Jemma is the one who figures out the murderer and how to find them, something that people in power overlooked. 

Jemma and her new best friend was a touching storyline. I liked reading about the other foster children - I'm a big fan of the BBC Tracey Beaker spin-off The Dumping Ground about a care home with children of varying issues, so I was used to Finn and Olivia's behaviour. The taste of freedom Jemma got when she was able to communicate is palpable, and I can relate it to when I realised I'd be able to drive & not rely on my family to take me places since public transport is out of the question for me to use frequently. 

Jemma had many frustrations with the limitations of her body, but her patience is massive too, and I truly realised that I'm extremely blessed by what I can do, even when mundane activities take forever and requires an insane amount of rest after. A lot of readers may be shocked by how much care Jemma needs, which is why it's vital for carers to have compassion and understanding that no matter their capabilities everyone is human and should be treated with respect and dignity. I hope that everyone one day can communicate, as it's a vital part of life which everyone deserves, regardless of their limitations. May technology always improve! 

Keep up to date with Penny on Twitter

Questions and Answers with Penny Joelson
Here's Penny!
Nayu: Penny kindly answered my questions which were from before I'd read the book instead of partaking in the sharing secrets part of the tour! 

1) Cerebal palsy affects people in different ways: I’ve got a friend with it but she can speak, unlike Jemma. What gave you the idea to make Jemma struggle to communicate with people as a key part to the plot?
Penny: I didn’t start by thinking I’d write a story about a character with cerebral palsy. I started with the idea that the one person who knew the identity of a murderer was not able to say anything. Having met, and worked with, people with severe cerebral palsy Jemma’s character appeared in my head fully formed and she seemed a great person to tell this story.

2)  Most of us take the ability to speak without realising how blessed we are with being able to communicate with people. What are you hoping readers will take away from Jemma’s story?

I hope that readers will have more empathy with people who have communication difficulties and also will not make an assumption that lack of communication equals a lack of intelligence. I hope readers will be  more sensitive and less afraid of trying to engage with disabled people.


3)  Without giving away spoilers what were the easiest and hardest parts of the book to write?

Jemma’s inner voice came to life very easily and Dan was also easy to write. I think developing the characters, including Sarah, Mum, Dad, Olivia and Finn was the easiest part. The harder parts were those that required more in depth research and needed to be accurate rather than from my imagination. It was also hard to get the structure right as the story is quite complex.

4)  Will there be more books about Jemma in the future?
I didn’t imagine writing another book about Jemma but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely! 



5)  Where's your favourite place to write? Do you have a favourite drink to write with?

I do most of my writing in the corner of my bedroom – not very glamorous. Occasionally I will write in the garden or go to a cafĂ© but very rarely. I don’t usually drink anything while I’m writing though I do stop for coffee breaks!


Suggested read 
This book is about another teen with mental health issues that make her life really hard:Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (Young Adult, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)


Monday, 22 May 2017

One Silver Summer by Rachel Hickman (Children's, 11 years +, 10/10E)

This may just be the proof copy cover - so pretty!
25th May 2017, Old Barn Books,  272 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book Summary
After losing her mom in an accident, Sass is sent to live with her uncle in England. Far from her native Brooklyn, the rocky shores and crumbling castles of Cornwall seem like the perfect place to hide her grief. And when she stumbles across a silver horse in a sunlit meadow, Sass feels a surprising sense of peace . . . only to have it broken by a boy. 

Arrogant and distrustful, the horse's trainer, Alex, doesn't approve of the trespassing American. Yet after a few chance meetings, he begins to feel a connection to the curious girl with the sad eyes, and offers to teach her to ride. Sass never expected to feel anything again--least of all love--but the lessons reveal a far different Alex, and soon their friendship turns into something more.
 
But Alex has a secret--a bombshell about his family that could shatter Sass's trust . . . and force him to abandon the one girl who made him believe in himself.

Nayu's thoughts 
First of all apologies to Rachel-I skipped the non-Sass parts because I wasn't in the mood for them. I thought Alex was going to be a ghost - perhaps then t wouldn't have been such a huge surprise when his true identity was revealed. I had no idea it was that type of story which I enjoy reading. I was a bit worried the story would be too sad, with Sass's distress over losing her mother very obvious. I enjoyed how she slept where her uncle works, who has secrets of his own that had better be revealed further in a book 2!

I spied several plot threads heavily hinting at a sequel with plenty of info for misunderstandings to happen. Sass's life will certainly be different after the way this book ends. I liked that she had Harry the cat to keep her the a little distracted, although I didn't see him that much at the end. Pets are so very awesome when life is tough I may have forgotten seeing him, I was under the influence of mega strong medicine when I read it.

I loved how Sass's uncle tried to be there for her despite her keeping him at arm's length, the moments when she lets him in are touching. And yes her romance part of the tale is sweet and fairytale like. I'm not saying more than that! I will be rereading it for sure ^o^

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Thursday, 11 May 2017

My New Room by Lisa Stickley (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)


11th May 2017, Pavilion Children's Books, 32 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Summary from Pavilion
In her second book, Lisa Stickley tells the story of a Edith who has made the big move into her new house, with her big bedroom and a big bed. But Edith is only little, so her toys are all arranged around the room and they help her to settle in.

Join Gary Guardsman, Osbert T Octopus, Major Ted and the other toys as they give a guided tour of the room and the role each of them plays in keeping the room safe, tidy and happy. This book is packed with quirky and funny illustrations that help you with the story as you read.

Nayu's thoughts 
While not my favourite style of illustration (sorry Lisa!) this book  is a super cute way to introduce younger readers to what happens when they move house. I liked how the patterened backgrounds were muted colours leaving the other objects bright and colourful. Some animals camouflage well against the furniture, some don't, but all have individual characters and a set job to do in the new room. 

I adore how everything is on lined paper like a child's exercise book, and the font used is childlike and looks as if it could be in pencil, which children frequently use. My favourite toy is Reginald with his big ears and his fluffy looking self (the bunny on the cover). The cat finds almost the ideal spot, but I wonder where she will end up. It's cool that Edith has a spare bed in her new room-not only is it handy for when her grandmother stays it must be perfect for making a fort with! 

Find out more on Lisa's website

Suggested read



 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Blog Tour: Dougal Daley by Jackie Marchant & Lorretta Schauer, Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E


It really isn't!
 4th April 2017, Wacky Bee Books, 180 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary
I, Dougal Daley, am dead! Ok I’m not actually dead. But if I’m not careful I soon will be.

In this first book, football-loving Dougal Daley finds himself at risk from the mysterious creature living in the garden shed. Nobody believes him but as a precaution, he sets upon writing his will - rewarding those who help him and disinheriting those who get on his bad side. Meanwhile, as limbs and windows alike are broken by rogue footballs and unhinged canines, Dougal finds himself in all sorts of trouble. . .and NONE of it is his fault!


Nayu's thoughts 

 Despite preferring heroines to heros the hilarity of Dougal's tale is what drew me to it. I dread to think what would happen if he ran into Jesper Jinx, (link takes you to my most recent review of the Jesper series) an equally unlucky boy,
 something I recently mentioned on Twitter to the JJ author, Marko Kitti, which Loretta replied to: 

 
. Unlike Jesper's sister, Dougal's sibling seems nicer in general if very opinionated and against her brother. Throughout the book Dougal makes what feels like a zillion versions of his will (the death kind of will), each influenced by how people have treated him. What adds to the book's humour are the various notes in different styles of writing, mostly to Dougal, with the funniest being from his sister Sybil whose name he can't spell correctly. To be fair even I had to double check the spelling! It's not a common name for me.

Trouble definitely migrates towards him-the an incident wasn't really his fault! He gets grounded a lot but he manages to get caught up in trouble warranting more punishment. I'm surprised he is allowed a hamster given it escapes and causes chaos...but that's nothing compared with the mysterious creature in his shed which is where the trouble starts. I enjoyed not knowing what the creature was and putting up with Dougal's wild guesses. I'm amazed he got any sleep with it being in his garden! The end was unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable, with plot twists which I suspected but didn't link up all the dots in time before it got concluded. Dougal's family and friends are lovable and memorable, just like Dougal and his pets. I'm looking forward to book #2 due this Autumn involving a tarantula! 



All about Jackie
Dougal Daley was inspired by a messy bedroom and a random question from my son about writing a will. Dougal Daley has been huge fun to write about – you wouldn’t believe the disasters that happen around him (none of which are his fault of course)! When I’m not writing I love doing school visits and creative writing workshops. I also take time away from the writing world looking after guide dogs while their owners are away.


 


All about Loretta
I I originally studied performing arts and have a degree in Dance Performance – well you never know when you need a quick pirouette! I also worked in practical conservation for a long time, and spent many years battling balsam, identifying lichen, and searching for creepy crawlies before I picked up my pencils and paints and began exploring illustrating and writing for children. In 2011 I won the Waterstone’s ‘Picture This’ competition and I now illlustrate full time. However I am still happiest noodling around for fossils and shells on the beach!