Sunday, 31 January 2010

Chips, Beans and Limousines by Leila Rasheed

Title: Chips, Beans and Limousines
Author: Leila Rasheed
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 29th February 2008
Pages: 192
Genres: Children's/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the author.

Dear New Diary,

I have a surprise for you. It's a BIG surprise. So, are you sitting down? No, you are lying flat on my desk while I write in you.


Okay, just breathe deeply, and try to stay calm. The hand that is writing in you now, belongs to...

BATHSHEBA CLARICE DE TROP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes!! Yes yes yes yes yes!!!!!

Bet you never thought you'd belong to a celebrity, did you?

Chips, Beans and Limousines is the first installment of The Fantastic Diaries of Bathsheba Clarice De Trop series. It's a really funny book, and had me laughing all the way through! Bathsheba is a rich, spoilt child who hardly ever see's her Mother; the housekeeper Natasha looks after her usually. She is a very sad and miserable girl but one day someone comes to see her, and her life changes forever...

As I have already said, this book was really funny and the way it was written was brilliant! The whole book was set out in a diary format which made it more fun to read, too. The things that Bathsheba get up to are hilarious! Near the end you kind of start feeling sorry for her though but then the ending is fabulous! I'm not going to spoil anything by writing about the ending - you'll have to read it for yourself! And trust me, you will LOVE IT!

Overall, I give this book 5/5!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Interview with Maggi Gibson!

If you could be any character in your books, who would you choose to be and why?
I think I'd like to be Cordelia. I'm already pretty much like Sassy - at least I was when I was thirteen. But Cordelia's so mysterious and so creative. I'd love to be able to dress like her. And some magic powers would come in handy!

How did you come up with the idea for your first book, Seriously Sassy?
I wanted to write about a really feisty girl who cared about things, but who was also a lot of fun. I like to think I was a bit like that when I was a teenager. The plot ideas came once I got the idea for that character and her friends. I remember so clearly how confusing and difficult the whole boyfriend thing was for me when I was that age I wanted to make that part of the story. I kind of stole ideas from my own life, and from things that happened to my two daughters.

 What is your favourite kind of music? 
I love music I can dance to. Sometimes I just dance crazily round my little flat cos I spend so much time sitting at my desk! I also like songs with stories to them best. There's a band from Scotland called CAMERA OBSCURA that I like. And I've recently got into FLORENCE +THE MACHINE.

 Were your characters based on anyone you know? 
Ooops! I think I answered that one already. Sassy is kind of like a mix between me and my daughter, Hazel. Taslima is based a bit on my daughter, Keira, who's quiet and calm and a really good friend to have around. Cordelia is the person I would LOVE to be. Pip is based on Hazel when she was 8 or 9 and an absolute hoot. Brewster, the dog, is based on my lovely old dog, Bramble, who's sadly passed away now. And Lovelace, the PE teacher, is based on a HORRID PE teacher I had at school.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I'd love to go to Peru and visit Machu Picchu. I love visiting places where there are ruins from thousands of years ago. My daughter's going to Peru in April and it sounds like it will be a great adventure.

How did you become an author, and do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
I started writing poetry when my kids were quite small. I didn't have time to write anything longer! Then I just kept writing more and more and poems and things started to get published. It was a short step from there to writing the SERIOUSLY SASSY series.
Tips for aspiring authors: Read lots and lots of books. Have fun trying to write different kinds of stories. Remember not all stories work out, so don't worry if you don't finish everything you start. All writers bin lots of stuff before they get something that really works.

 When does your third book Crazy Days come out, and could you tell us more about it? 
CRAZY DAYS comes out in JULY 2010. WOOP! It starts just after the Wiccaman Festival, when Sassy's life starts to become increasingly complicated - on the music, the boyfriend and the friends front. Poor Sassy! Nothing ever seems to go straightforward for her. I don't want to say anything else, in case I spoil it...

 Last question...what did you think of the poll results I sent you?
I think it's great you did the poll. I always have a huge problem with finding the right title. There are so many things you COULD choose and it's hard to decide on one. So It's helpful to see what other people think. But CRAZY DAYS suits the story in the next book. So I'm happy with it now.

 Thanks very much for letting me interview you! 
Thank you Amber.
Goodreads   Waterstones

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Introducing Scarlett Lee by Rose Impey

Title: Introducing Scarlett Lee
Author: Rose Impey
Published by: Orchard
Publication date: 7th February 2008
Pages: 240
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

Scarlett is a drama queen in every sense.

Larger than life, she lives to act and sometimes has trouble remembering when the drama lesson ends and real life resumes.

When her father seems to 'disappear', Scarlett suddenly finds herself in a real-life drama of her own.

Will she be able to uncover the mystery and discover just who she can trust and who is really putting on an act?

Scarlett is a full-on, five-star blockbuster of a drama queen. Wasn't she named after Scarlett O' Hara, one of the greatest drama queens ever?

Scarlett is obsessed with drama and really wants to become a famous actress. At drama club she always has her best friend, Gemma, in a fit of giggles by impersonating the other girls at their Drama Club. But one day, Gemma turns on Scarlett and Scarlett becomes the loneliest person in the world. Well, she has her mum and big sister Cleo to keep her company but... it just isn't the same.

Scarlett's dad is going on a trip in a yacht in the Atlantic Ocean for six weeks! She really misses her dad - they all do. But then dad's best friend Gerry (the girls call him Uncle Gerry) arrives on the scene and everything changes! It turns out Uncle Gerry is... evil.

A big drama happens involving the police... and for once Scarlett doesn't want to be the centre of it all!

This book was really good, and it was like the book had been written about me! I'm just like Scarlett - I love drama, singing and dancing.

I give this book 4/5. I was a bit disappointed because when Gemma turned nasty and ignored Scarlett, I was like 'Oh I can't wait to get to the end - I want to know why Gemma has turned so nasty!' but it turned out the book didn't give any explanation of what happened to Gemma. But luckily that was the only down part of the whole book!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Book Swag

I just want to say a big thank you to Kimberly Derting, author of The Body Finder (to come out March 16th 2010) for sending me a few signed things. :-)

Close up of the bag she sent me.

Close up of the signed poster

The bag, the poster and some signed bookmarks and stickers.

Bookmarks and stickers.
Thank you so much Kimberly!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

My So-Called Afterlife first chapter now online!

My So-Called Afterlife by Tamsyn Murray is a book about a teenage girl Lucy Shaw who haunts Carnaby Street Men's toilets. No one can see or hear her, but one night a man called Jeremy comes in and can see her! Lucy is shocked and excited, and even more excited when Jeremy decides to help her escape the toilets and meet other ghosts.

It sounds brilliant! You can read the first chapter HERE. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Angel Cake by Cathy Cassidy

Title: Angel Cake
Author: Cathy Cassidy
Published by: Puffin
Publication date: 2nd July 2009
Pages: 224
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Hardback
Source: Bought.

Anya used to dream of moving to Britain to start a brand-new life.

But as she sits in a school where nobody understands her, she dreams of Polish summer skies and the place where she once belonged.

Then Anya meets bad boy Dan. He's no angel, but she's sure there's a sweeter side to him.

When things begin to fall apart, Anya realizes she's not alone - how can Dan be such bad news when being with him feels like heaven?

From the outside, Anya seemed like a sweet, shy, quiet girl. To some people, she might have even seemed stuck up and posh. But inside, she was normal and just wanted life to be good again; she wanted life to be how it was in dreams. She was a great character and I empathised with her well.

This book was really good. It was written brilliantly and it was as if you were there, watching everything that happened to Anya and her family. This is one of my favourite books by Cathy Cassidy! My favourite character was Frankie, one of Anya's new friends, because she was really cool and funny and didn't care what anybody else thought, which is a great message for readers. She also helped Anya and gave her advice when she didn't know what to do.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Author interview with Sophia Bennett!

How did you come up with the characters for your book 'Threads'? Were they based on anyone you know?
Most of the characters have bits of me in them, but they just developed as the story unfolded. Nonie arrived in my head as a chatty, funny girl with a quirky sense of style and a sense of humour, but she also got some characteristics from my stepdaughters, such as her confidence, her kindness and her interest in finding out what's happening in the world. The story became much easier to write once I found her. Edie has lots of me in her, including her tendency to lecture people on how to be good and her ability to say the wrong thing without meaning to. Crow was herself from the moment the story came to me. She wasn't originally from Uganda, or a Night Walker, but she was shy, imaginative and hard to get to know. And Jenny was just Jenny. She started off as quite a small character, and then she just grew and took lots of the story with her! I use real celebrities sometimes, who I mention by name, but my made-up characters are truly made up and not based on real people. I enjoy conjuring them up out of nowhere! 

Have you always wanted to write as a profession?
Yup, pretty much. I wrote stories and poetry when I was seven and carried on from there. Writing is the one thing I can do when usually I know if it's any good or not. I love playing with words and as I'm always, always telling myself little stories, it's great to get some of them down on paper - or onto a computer screen. Even if I was a deep-sea diver or something (never gonna happen), I'd still be telling myself stories. I wish I could illustrate them too. That would be wonderful. But, like Nonie, I truly can't draw. 

If you could be a character from one of your books, who would you be and why?
What a lovely question! I haven't been asked that before. I think it would be great to be Nonie's older brother, Harry, because he's cool and funny, he's doing a job he loves (DJing) and people just naturally like him. It would also be fun to be Granny because she says and does whatever she likes, she has an amazing wardrobe and lots of incredible memories. More fun to be her than to be with her, though. Also, I really admire Edie for not only caring about other people, but actually doing something about it whenever she can. 

What is it like being an author?
Truly, fantastically wonderful. Thank you for asking. I just hope it lasts! I like the lifestyle - lots of time in cafes and libraries, writing, but also time with my children (unlike when I was a consultant and often had to work very late). I love travelling and talking to schoolchildren about my books and what it's like to be a writer. And getting the chance to hear some of the amazing stories that they write. But the best bit is when I'm in the middle of a chapter and I'm not sure how to finish it and one of my characters (often Crow) just does something unexpected and I sit back in astonishment for a bit and then write as fast as I can to keep up with her. It's quite a risky lifestyle - you're busy creating this thing in a room all by yourself and you have no idea if other people are going to like it, but I enjoy that risky side of it (I'm odd that way), and then if they do like it, it's wonderful. I certainly wouldn't do it for the money, though. Not everybody is JK Rowling! Honestly! 

What is your favourite kind of music?

There's quite a lot of music in Threads, which I enjoyed putting in, and all of it is stuff I listen to, from Girls Aloud to Chopin. It depends what kind of mood I'm in. I love jazz, funk and blues, but also classical piano music and pop tunes you can really dance to. I love the Police (from when I was a teenager), and Prince and an LA band called Steely Dan. I think I know every word of their strange lyrics. Talking of lyrics, my favourite singer is the late Ian Dury. His songs are very funny and his band, the Blockheads, are absolutely brilliant. When I'm writing, I have a whole playlist of songs I enjoy having in the background. Zero 7 are absolutely the best to write to, followed by David Bowie, Girls Aloud, the Ting Tings, Dizzee Rascal and Michael Jackson. But if I'm not writing, I love Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. Phew! I hope that's enough ... (Oh, also Bach ...) 

Are you currently writing a new book, and if so can you tell us about it?
I'm writing the third book in the Threads series, which focuses quite a lot on Jenny's career and also has Nonie wondering what will happen when she and Crow do their exams and leave school. Will Crow still need her? And Edie makes some major discoveries about herself and other people, which makes one particular person look at her in a totally new way ... There's a lot happening and although I know exactly what happens in the end, at the moment I'm trying to work out how to get the beginning to work. Always the hardest part. Luckily, book 2 is mostly done and I'm really REALLY looking forward to seeing it on bookshelves in May. The cover is amazing! 

Thank you very much Sophia!
Thanks Amber!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Author Interview with Belinda Hollyer!

If you could be a character in one of your books, who would you be and why?
That’s a very interesting question, Amber, and quite a difficult one to answer. The character that’s closest to being like me is a girl called Laurie, in a short story (its title is ‘The Middle Ground’) that I wrote for a collection about friendship called YOU’RE THE BEST. In fact, the story is closely based on a real incident in my life, which is the sort of thing you’re not supposed to do in fiction, so I broke (or maybe only bent) a basic rule in writing about it. But the choice I’d make to be one particular character would be Jessye, in RIVER SONG, because I would love to experience her magical connection to a taniwha - the mythic Maori water monster that appears in that book.

What age were you when you decided to become an author?
I’m not sure that I ever actually made a decision to be a writer: I just did it! I was about three when I first started writing stories, but by the time I grew up I didn’t believe I could invent good stories of my own, so I wrote non-fiction instead – history books and so on. It wasn’t until years later that a friend and publisher suggested to me that I should try writing a novel, and once I trusted myself enough to begin the first one, the ideas never stopped coming. I still have a whole bunch of ideas in my head waiting for attention.

What did you do before you became an author?
I’ve been a teacher, a book editor and book publisher, a school librarian and a college lecturer, and I’m now an almost full-time writer. And as you can guess, the connecting thread that runs through all those jobs is the love of books! I often say that I’ve spent most of my working life enjoying some combination of children and books, and that’s still true.

What sort of music do you like?
It’d probably be easier to say what music I DON’T like – because I music’s very important to me and I listen to lots of different kinds. I usually have music playing while I write, and choosing the right music helps me to create a particular atmosphere or mood on the page – and that, in turn, helps me write. On my website I list some of the female singers I particularly enjoy; right now I’m playing Florence and the Machine for her inventiveness and energy, and KD Lang for her musicality.

Did anyone inspire you to become an author?
Well, many other writers constantly inspire me – to try harder, to do it better, and to tell the truth more inventively. When I read something wonderful I often think: Oh, I wish I’d done something as good as that!

What is your favourite book ever and why?
I don’t have just one favourite book, and the books that are my favourites these days tend to rotate, depending on my mood: a funny book to cheer me up; an historical drama to sweep me far away; a book of poetry to soothe or inspire me: the list is almost endless. The book that made the biggest impression on me when I was growing up was STUART LITTLE, by E.B. White – I just adored it, and I still know bits of it off by heart. Another big favourite when I was older was WARRIOR SCARLET, by Rosemary Sutcliff – I’d love to write historical fiction if I could do it anywhere near as well as she did.

If you had unlimited money, what would you buy first?
This question was a fascinating challenge, and thinking up the right answer kept me awake at nights! It’s a tough call, and I ended up wanting to buy lots of things instead of only one, if that’s OK? (You don’t say it has to be just one thing...)

Anyway, the first thing I’d do is buy lots of wonderful new books for every single school library and public library in the UK. With unlimited money I could set up a trust fund to keep that going, but to start with I’d just go crazy and buy hundreds of thousands of books in one go, which would be the best fun imaginable! (You can help if you like, Amber – don’t you think it’d be great?)

And after that, I’d like to buy a little house on an island I love called Waiheke, in New Zealand. I partly grew up on Waiheke because my grandparents lived there, and it’s a very special and lovely place to me. I’m going to Waiheke next month for a few weeks, and I would love to stay for longer – and the little house I rent is a lovely place to write, and it has the most amazing and perfect view imaginable. (If you look at the blog intro page on my website, you can see a photo of the view.) The house isn’t for sale, but still, I’d like to dream of buying it...

Are you currently writing a new book, and if so can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on two different books. One is set on the island I’ve just mentioned – Waiheke, in New Zealand – and it’s a mystery thriller for older readers. I’ll do some more work on it when I’m back on the island, where it’s easier to imagine what’s happening in the book, and where everyone is in important scenes. (Not all my books have a strong sense of place, but I can already tell that this one does, so getting it right is critical.) The other book’s very different – it’s for younger readers, it’s funny, and it’s narrated by a dog!

Thank you very much, Belinda!
Thank you, Amber!