[COVER REVEAL] The Map of Bones – Francesca Haig

cover

I am so excited to take part in promoting the second book in Francesca Haig’s amazing Fire Sermon series – The Map of Bones!

If you haven’t read The Fire Sermon, make sure you grab a copy before The Map of Bones is released into the wild on 7 April 2016. Continuing Cass’ story as she joins forces with the Omega uprising, I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

The absolutely stunning cover design is being revealed by bloggers across the country today, track the talk with #mapofbones!

 

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[BOOKTOUR] Alyssa Sheinmel on writing

I’m so excited to host this guest blog from author Alyssa Sheinmel! After you’ve read her advice on writing, make sure you check out her new novel, FACELESS, and my review!


Writers are often asked what writing advice they would give to aspiring authors, to younger versions of themselves, or to just about anyone who has a story to tell. 

I always give the same answer, and I have to admit, it’s pretty simple. (Plus, it’s something most people who write love to do anyway.) It’s just one word and only a single syllable. It’s also one of my favorite words in the whole world.

Read.

Okay, I know that’s not the most insightful suggestion. It’s not particularly original.   I mean, you’ve probably heard that piece of advice a dozen times before, right?

I could at least be more specific. Like by suggesting a particular author or genre or style or author. Here goes – not just one but three more specific reading suggestions:

1. When I was in college, one of my favorite teachers told me to read writers who wrote the type of writing that I hoped to do myself someday. And I learned a lot from that type of reading, and continue to do it every chance I get.

2. Or, when I’m feeling a bit blocked, there are a few authors whose writing never fails to inspire me – writers whose work I look up to, whose stories are usually very different from the stories I’m trying to tell, but who tell the stories so well that just reading them feels like a lesson. (Just a small sample of these writers: Joan Didion, Mary Gordon, Alice Hoffman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway.)

3. I also get very motivated to write by researching the project I’m working on. In the case of Faceless, that meant reading a lot of articles about face transplants and immunosuppressive drug regimens. I’m a research-happy writer, and reading information about the story I’m telling always gets me that much more excited to tell it.

But … at the end of the day, I keep coming back to that one syllable. Read. Because I really do believe that every single thing I’ve ever read has taught me something about how to tell a story – books that I’ve loved and books that weren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Novels and non-fiction. Essays and articles. Even – and I really mean this – textbooks. (There’s one psychology textbook I read over a decade ago that I still think about all the time.) Everything has something to teach you – or at least, I feel like it has something to teach me. Ideas can come from the most unexpected of places. A textbook taught me to insert humour into a dry topic. Magazine articles have prompted (sometimes completely unrelated) story ideas. Novel after novel has shown me beautiful and unexpected sentences. Essays have improved my vocabulary. For me, the essential thing isn’t always what I’m reading; sometimes it’s just enough that I’m reading. It’s still (and I suspect always will be) the piece of advice I most often give to myself about writing: just sit down and pick up a book.

-Alyssa Sheinmel

[REVIEW] Faceless – Alyssa Sheinmel

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Characters – 5/5
Plot – 4/5
Style – 5/5
Setting – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote
“No one will know that I used to be an athlete, that there used to be freckles on my nose, that I used to have a dimple in my left cheek. They might wonder how I got these scars, but they’ll be too polite to ask, and I won’t ever tell.”

Review
When Maisie wakes up from a medically induced coma after going for a run in a storm, she discovers that half of her body has been burnt beyond recognition. Constantly told how lucky she is to be alive, to be found in time, to be brought to this particular hospital, Maisie doesn’t feel very lucky at all. Given the option of a face transplant to repair the damage caused by her accident, Maisie grabs the chance to slip quietly back into normal life without considering how difficult her plan really is.

The plot of FACELESS is a relatively simple but moving one. Maisie is left to rebuild her life in the wake of her accident: going to school, applying for college and trying to keep up with her best friend, Serena, and her boyfriend, Chirag. It’s unfussy, and the simplicity of the story perfectly compliments the inner chaos Maisie experiences as she tries to make sense of what’s happened to her and learns how to look at herself in the mirror again. The book is punctuated with everyday challenges that she once took for granted – her first day back at school, finals, dates and getting up early to go for a run.

The majority of the characters surrounding Maisie are just as believable and honest as she is. Serena is unflinchingly supportive, loyal at cost to her own happiness, while her parents work together as a united front despite their years of fierce arguments. Each has their own problems and lives outside of Maisie’s recovery, and these strong facades start to crumble piece by piece as Maisie slowly begins to understand how her accident has touched the lives of those around her too.

Alyssa Sheinmel presents Maisie’s recovery in what feels like a very truthful and sensitive way. There are no miraculous cures which take the pain away, no great moments of realisation. Each discovery and progression is creeping and gentle, slowly catching up to Maisie as she works through her new appearance as well as the emotional consequences of her surgery. Seeing a stranger every time she looks in the mirror and tied to taking medication for the rest of her life, Maisie has a lot to come to terms with. The difficulties she faces can’t be swept under the carpet, no matter how much she tries to avoid herself.

Set against the typical, YA high school setting makes Maisie’s story a lot more digestible for that younger audience. Such a huge and unimaginable trauma, both mentally and physically, works really well with a relatable background to bring the story back to something understandable. There are many layers to FACELESS, with self-acceptance being one of the major underlying themes.

I received FACELESS from Chicken House in exchange for an honest review. My reviews always represent my own opinion.

[UCLPUB2015] Week 9

UCLPUB2015 XMAS

Welcome to my new blog series – UCLPUB2015! Every Sunday I’ll be posting a roundup of my week as a student on the UCL MA Publishing course, talking about my experiences and passing along any handy tips I pick up along the way. I’m so excited to share my journey with you and hope that maybe these posts will help other aspiring publishers too!

Week 9: 30th Nov – 4th Dec

I have been absolutely dying to finally use my December graphic for this series! The term is almost over with only two weeks left until the Christmas break (WHAT). I have an essay due on the final day of term and plenty of homework to squeeze in between now and then. The topic is pretty open; we can choose between four essay titles and the last option is almost a ‘write your own question’ type. I’ve liberated the necessary books from the library and looks like tomorrow it’s time to get started!

This week we sent out a call for submissions to find writers who want to accompany our confirmed illustrators for The Arcanum. We’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive response and we could not be more excited about this project! We have lots of talented and creative people involved and are always open to hearing from more – if you’re an author or illustrator willing to contribute to a YA collection of mythology, legends and fairytales then please get in touch! We have a small number of pre-set myths that we’re specifically commissioning artwork and stories for, but we’re also looking for myths from all over the world.

Call for Authors.pngAll the details can be found over at our blog: thearcanumbook.wordpress.com

Asimpsons-fires part of our Publishing Skills class, our group also filmed a vlog to be uploaded onto the course YouTube channel. Our only brief was that it had to be part of our scifi theme (other groups were given themes like YA, crime, cookbooks etc) so we decided to have a go at creating our own tag. None of us felt like acting on camera and I found it much more comfortable to just be myself and enjoy filming! I’m not sure when it’ll be uploaded but rest assured that if it’s as horrifically embarrassing as I think it will be, then I will never mention it again (but seriously, it’ll be fine right?).

In Author Management we looked at the relationship between authors and their literary agents, paying specific attention to the contract an author can expect to sign as part of an agency. In the afternoon, we had a lecture on the effects of globalisation on the publishing industry and whether it’s necessarily a bad thing (spoiler: I still think it is). We talked about the importance of translation in the publishing industry and tried to address why the UK publishes such an embarrassing number of translated works every year.

My thoughts were that our lack of diversity in books available stems from the lack of diversity in the people we employ. It’s no secret that the publishing industry here is dominated by white women who are increasingly being told that they don’t need another language to work in this industry. English-speaking Editors aren’t commissioning any translated works because they simply can’t or won’t read them in the first place. I’ve sent countless brilliant books to publishers overseas for translation whilst on my internship, but we just don’t return the favour. By not exploring authors writing in their first language we’re missing out on not only a lot of amazing books, but also the opportunity to grow and learn.

Charlotte x

[BOOKTOUR] The Awakened – Sara Elizabeth Santana

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Zoey Valentine is concerned with two things: surviving the multitude of self-defense classes her dad makes her take and avoiding Ash Matthews.

Then the Z virus hits, wiping out a third of the population in a matter of weeks. If that weren’t frightening enough, the bodies of the victims disappear and suddenly reappear, awakened from their dead state.
Faster, smarter, working together to get the one thing they crave, human flesh.

The United States is in a panic and then the government decides the unthinkable: to bomb every major city overrun with the awakened.

Now Zoey is on the run, with her dad and Ash, desperate to find a place of safety amongst the ruined remains of the country.


0081ce_f0504e6999e74d0d830f8a11e8d785e4Summary
Characters – 3/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 3/5
World Building – 3/5
Overall – 3/5

Review
Zoey is physically strong and seemingly well prepared for the end of the world. Between shooting lessons and a proficiency in almost every martial art on offer, she can certainly take care of herself.

Her bravery and powerful right hook can be a little too good to be true at times, especially with her tendency to hide her emotional vulnerability, but she does eventually open up as she warms to Ash and comes to terms with her losses along the way.

Whilst in places the plot was somewhat predictable, the awakened are a brilliant twist on the classic, slow zombies which usually haunt apocalypse books and movies. Distinguished by the blue tint to their skin, the awakened are intelligent, vicious, fast and light on their feet; surviving in this new world is a truly brutal affair.

I loved Zoey as a protagonist but felt that occasionally the author was trying a little bit too hard to mould her into a relatable character. She’s super into reading and makes a lot of references to popular novels and characters in the YA community. Sometimes these shoutouts felt a little shoe-horned in, to me, but I definitely think they will go down well with less cynical readers (I’m a grump, what can I say?).

I also have to go out on a limb here and say that I really did not like Ash. He does go through some serious character development throughout the story arc (thankfully), but until the effects of these changes are felt, he is utterly insufferable. I do maintain, however, that a good character doesn’t always have to be likeable, and Ash is the exact kind of smooth, flirtatious, persistent irritant that seems to make other YA readers go weak at the knees.

THE AWAKENED has some seriously steamy moments for a YA novel which took me by surprise. Sometimes sex in YA can produce very stilted, timid, ‘fade to black’ scenes that make it very obvious that the author didn’t feel confident or comfortable writing about it. In THE AWAKENED, these moments are pitched at the perfect level for an emergent audience and are well-written and handled appropriately across the board.

While this certainly wasn’t a major feature of the plot, it is so refreshing to read a YA novel where the 19 year old protagonist actually behaves like an adult. Even little things like Zoey wanting to brush her teeth on the road and having her period add together to make this a wholly more realistic (and therefore frightening) experience.

As a publishing student, the real triumph here is seeing how Ben’s (Benjaminoftomes) hard work has paid off. Setting up a micropublishing house is an amazing feat in itself, but he has also managed to take three books to publication since September with more in the pipeline for early 2016! I can’t wait to see how Oftomes Publishing grows and am certainly looking forward to reading more books from a publishing house which is so in tune with what the community really wants to read.

Overall, THE AWAKENED is fast-paced and exciting, with danger lurking on every road between Zoey’s New York brownstone and her mother’s farm in rural Nebraska. Facing more than her fair share of tragedy, Zoey has to learn how to hone her survival instincts as she slowly becomes aware of how and where these mysterious awakened came from.

I received THE AWAKENED in exchange for an honest review from Oftomes Publishing. My reviews always represent my own opinion. 

[REVIEW] The Selection – Kiera Cass

imagesSummary
Characters – 2/5
Plot – 2/5
Style – 3/5
World Building – 2/5
Overall – 2/5

Quote
“I hope you find someone you can’t live without. I really do. And I hope you never have to know what it’s like to have to try and live without them.”

Review
Prince Maxon has finally come of age and all eligible young women across the kingdom have been invited to take part in The Selection. The entire process is televised throughout Illéa, showing the 35 lucky girls as they are whisked away from their families to live in luxury and compete for the hand of the prince.

America didn’t think she stood a chance when her letter arrived, having to be pushed by her mother and boyfriend, Aspen, to take the chance for a better life. When her name is called as one of the chosen few, America’s life changes forever. Automatically bumped up the caste system whether she wins or loses, America can never return to her normal life again. Fiercely loyal to her family but heartbroken by Aspen’s recent betrayal, America plans to stay in the palace for as long as possible just to escape reality – Prince Maxon doesn’t even factor into her ideas.

While I ultimately enjoyed THE SELECTION as an easy break from more taxing reads, I took great exception to the simpering nature of the main character, America. She spends the vast majority of the book fawning over her first (and secret) love, Aspen, while simultaneously falling for the bland Prince Maxon. Love triangles and relationship drama are no new phenomenon in YA, but it’s the positively pathetic and generic way America handles herself that frustrated me most of all. She has all the makings of a perfectly acceptable (if not boring) heroine, but her one dimensional thoughts just perpetuate the outdated stereotype of women swanning around in pretty dresses and weeping over men.

THE SELECTION comes complete with a tiered caste system, vague mentions of poverty, rebellion and a general resentment of the upper factions to create a generally predictable world. There is even a somewhat embarrassing attempt at exposition, with a whole history class on the Chinese invasion of the US. Then the Russian invasion of the US. Then the US becoming a monarchy. Sigh.

It’s a perfect example of the infuriating trap of the modern ‘dystopian’ trilogy. For a start, there is hardly any motivation for this book to be a dystopia. Throwing a poorly judged and terribly insipid few paragraphs on World War 3 completely undermines the reader’s intelligence. Worldbuilding like this needs to be explored sensitively and expansively; not simply comprise of a throwaway reference in order to classify as a popular genre.

Additionally, there is absolutely no need for this book to end on such a poor cliffhanger except to make it ‘fit in’ with the current market. YA publishers seem to be forgetting that, no matter how many books in a series, each novel needs a complete story arc. There is nothing even close to a complete story arc in THE SELECTION – we don’t even see the whole selection process! Is there any reason to drag this plot over three books that doesn’t boil down to money? Not that I can see.

I can appreciate why this has become so popular with the slightly younger YA readers, but it’s the kind of novel that I dislike myself for finding even somewhat entertaining. I’m growing so tired of the incessant bandwagon that is YA dystopian trilogies. Light, fluffy, mindless reads are only going to satisfy the community for so long and I can’t wait for the industry to finally move on.

[UCLPUB2015] Week 8

UCLPUB2015 AUTUMN

Welcome to my new blog series – UCLPUB2015! Every Sunday I’ll be posting a roundup of my week as a student on the UCL MA Publishing course, talking about my experiences and passing along any handy tips I pick up along the way. I’m so excited to share my journey with you and hope that maybe these posts will help other aspiring publishers too!

Week 8: 23rd Nov – 27th Nov

It’s been another busy week on the course with a pretty varied collection of topics. My final week at HarperCollins begins tomorrow (already!) and the deadline for our Theories of the Book assignment is looming, which can only mean that Christmas is coming!

On Tuesday morning we had a workshop on vlogging. We spent a lot of time talking about Zoella and other famous YouTubers who have stormed The Bookseller’s chart recently, but I was kind of expecting more of a focus on the role of BookTube in the publishing industry. We have to upload a short vlog for our publishing channel so it would have been cool to get to grips with the practical side of creating content and filming too.

In the afternoon we launched the Twitter and WordPress accounts for our project: The Arcanum! We’re currently looking for artists who would like to contribute to a collection of YA mythology stories, poems and illustrations (the details for authors will be released soon!). Take a peek at our call for submissions and visit our blog for more info.

Illustation Call for Submissions.png

In our Author Management class we broke down foreign rights and permissions from both a trade and academic context with Lynette Owens and Diane Spivey. I’ve really been enjoying our recent in-depth lessons on contracts and copyright, especially as we’ve considered them from an author’s, agent’s and publisher’s angle. It’s an area of publishing I didn’t expect to feel this comfortable with but thanks to my internship I’ve had the opportunity to see (and even write!) tonnes of contracts – I’m so grateful!

Thursday afternoon was a fun lecture on literary citizenship and how we can contribute to the wider publishing and bookish community. Sam asked us to draw our own literary citizen-ship (we do love a good pun) and it was brilliant to see how creatively and differently each group interpreted the brief. Check out some of our ships on the UCL Instagram!

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Charlotte x