[REVIEW] Mosquitoland – David Arnold

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

Quote
“Every great character, Iz, be it on page or screen, is multidimensional. The good guys aren’t all good, the bad guys aren’t all bad, and any character wholly one or the other shouldn’t exist at all. Remember this when I describe the antics that follow, for though I am not a villain, I am not immune to villainy.”

Review
Being called out of class isn’t exactly a new one on Mim, but overhearing the principle discussing her mother’s deteriorating health with her father and step-monster certainly is. And it’s the last straw. Dragged 1,000 miles away to live in Mississippi when her parents divorced, Mim decides it’s about time she made good on her plans to visit her mum in Ohio. Stealing all the money in the house she can find, Mim jumps on the next Greyhound bus and sets off into the world to make things right.

MOSQUITOLAND has a simple but fast-paced plot that is built around the characters Mim encounters on her journey to find her mother. Making plenty of friends and enemies on the way to her mother, Mim’s story is one of humanity and, like all good road trips, figuring out where she stands on family, friends and matters of the heart (in all their incarnations). I never knew what was coming next with Mim, she’s as unpredictable as they come, with all the accompanying excitement.

David Arnold’s style is perfectly pitched between humour and gravity, and feels incredibly genuine from our young heroine’s mouth. Despite spending a fair amount of time travelling and waiting, there is never a dull moment in MOSQUITOLAND with a pace which flows quickly throughout the whole novel.

Told through a combination of letters to Isabelle and an up-close and personal first person narrative, getting inside Mim’s head is an extremely simple, if not occasionally uncomfortable, experience. Medicated at the insistence of her protective father, knowing that what Mim is thinking and feeling is real isn’t entirely straightforward.

Mim is just about the bravest, most relatable, most human YA protagonist that I have yet to come across (and please let there be more). Melinda Salisbury gave a passionate speech at YAShot this year on feminism and the notion of strong female protagonists. She said that being strong is so much more than just having a ‘sassy’ narrative or a physical advantage, that there a million different ways to be strong, from standing up for what you believe in to having the courage to walk away. For me, Mim represents exactly what Melinda was talking about. She is a real human being who is full of the bravado of a confident teenager to the world but, in reality, is just as confused and anxious as everyone else.

Mim may have a funny, nonchalant voice but it is her true self that really makes MOQUITOLAND stand out as honest, liberating and most importantly, believable. The way she interacts with other characters isn’t always flattering, but she does have more redeeming features than she probably even realises. Her partners in crime: Arlene, Walt, Beck and a whole host of Carls, are just as well developed and endearing as she is.

It’s the things that Mim learns about herself on the way to rescue her mother that absolutely brings this novel to life; it takes guts to drag yourself 1,000 miles from home. I truly loved the deeper message of self-acceptance behind this book and can only hope that more readers find that same warmth, to make MOSQUITOLAND a quiet classic for years to come.

I received MOSQUITOLAND in exchange for an honest review from Headline. My reviews always represent my own opinion. 

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[GIVEAWAY] Throne of Glass Goodies

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I picked up the first book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas a long while ago but lots of ARCs have kept me from getting started. I’m so excited to finally have the time to delve into these books and I wanted to share a little giveaway with you all!

These adorable Throne of Glass badges are made by the brilliant Hooked on Books, and I have one set to give away to a lucky winner!

To enter just follow my Twitter account @fireflyreads and RT the below tweet, easy!  The competition is open internationally and will close on 30th November 2015 at 11pm GMT.

Please make sure you check out my Giveaway Policy before you enter.

Good luck!

Charlotte x

[UCLPUB2015] Week 6 & 7

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 6: 9th Nov – 13th Nov 

With no lectures during Reading Week, I wasn’t originally planning on writing a post to cover Week 6. I spent all my free time frantically finishing off my first assignment for the course and my usual three days at HarperCollins. I can’t believe that I’m over half way through the compulsory 20 day internship now; it’s absolutely flown by!

Even though I had to go into work on my birthday (welcome to the real world, sigh) I still managed to have a great time. All staff were invited to the HarperCollins Summer 2016 Highlights meeting, so I got a sneak peek at what each imprint is publishing next year and saw how each division works within the company umbrella. I marked off quite a few upcoming books in my guide that I’m excited for – I can’t wait for the Bondi Harvest cookbook (me, cooking? I know right) and there’s some seriously dark YA fiction that’s caught my eye too.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 21.30.28There was more than a little competition for the best presentation. Each imprint brought along prizes, specially filmed videos and even free cookies from Bake Off contestant Martha, but it was Collins, the education imprint, which really stole the show. Bringing in some beautiful animal helpers definitely brightened up my birthday. Just look at this gorgeous little thing!


 

Week 7: 16th Nov – 20th Nov

Back to working hard this week has me pretty worn out. The content has all been quite heavy-going but I’m trying my best to get through everything from both my internship and my course. I’ve not had much chance to update my book reviews this month but I’ve still been doing plenty of reading!

My group now knows which book we’ll be bringing to life for our Publishing Project module – our mythology collection! We’re so excited to create this for real so we took the opportunity on Tuesday to really get started on our schedule. We’ve been playing around with a few ideas for a name to fit our target market too; once we’ve decided there will be a Twitter and WordPress set up so please do keep an eye out for our open submissions. We’ll be looking for short stories and artwork/illustrations based on myths from all different cultures – I’d love to see as many of your ideas as possible!

giphy.gifOn Tuesday we also had a lecture on metadata from possibly the best named man in the business, Dr. Merlin Fox. It might not sound like the most thrilling of topics, but understanding how to search for, collate and handle data is such an important aspect of becoming a well-rounded publisher. As well as discussing ONIX, XML and BIC, we also chatted about book piracy. Before this week, I didn’t even realise that piracy was really an issue for publishers and authors, as it’s something I’ve only ever encountered in the music and film industries.

Thursday morning we learnt about how publishing contracts are written, the law they are based on and the premise of negotiation from both the author and the publisher’s point of view. It’s definitely interesting to see what’s important depending on which corner you’re fighting in! I feel a lot more confident with my contract knowledge after a couple of sessions and my internship in rights – I’m finding the law surrounding publishing and copyright a lot more interesting than I ever anticipated I would!

We finished up this week with some casual critical editing of early modern texts. As hopeless as I am at reading handwritten letters from the 1800s, learning about the process of transcribing, editing and presenting these old texts turned out to be pretty enjoyable. A good high-octane action tale about the race to LE MORTE D’ARTHUR manuscript always helps too! (Wait. Arthur… Merlin… Owls…?! 😳)

Charlotte x

[REVIEW] Idyll – James Derry

IDYLL_Cover2cSummary
Characters – 4/5
Plot – 4/5
Style – 3/5
World Building – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote
“Their loss was like the sea. When judged with distance, it seemed placid, something ethereal, something that could be abided. But to dwell on their loss, to give in to close scrutiny, led to turmoil. They might start to wallow; they might drown. Fixating on their grief, drawing it close and making it the dominant geological feature of their lives, would be a very bad thing. Then again, ignoring that absence entirely could be just as bad.”

Review
A bizarre plague named The Lullaby has Mother Earth’s second chance, Idyll, in its deadly grasp, and it seems that the only guaranteed way to survive is permanent quarantine. Three years after their father left in search of answers, Walt and Sam finally decide that they’ve had enough of hiding and move on from the family ranch to track him down. Travelling through decimated cities forgotten by everyone but faceless monsters, the brothers take their chances on a journey with their infected mother to find a cure and reunite their family.

Carefully and gradually terraformed over hundreds of years, Idyll has been shaped with the best parts of Earth in mind ready for colonisation. Rid of the unnecessary technology and life-extending pharmaceuticals we have come to rely upon, Idyll has been cultivated on the basis of earning your place, proving your worth and allowing natural selection to do her work. Beginning with the humble and tender care of earthworms and insects, generation after generation of the Starboard family has been trusted to farm creatures great and small. Now experienced ranchers, it is a large responsibility that Sam and Walt must leave behind, in the hope of a better life in the capital – Marathon.

The terror of falling into an endless sleep, infecting anyone close enough to hear the endless comatose mumbling of the trigger phrase, is exceptionally psychologically haunting. Destined to waste away and doom the people you love, The Lullaby is a brilliantly crafted motivator behind the narrative and poses much more than simple mortal threats. The details of the epidemic are well thought-out and small nods to its origins and purpose are intelligently woven into the story through short interludes. The reveal is intensely satisfying with every small piece of the puzzle falling logically into place in way that makes sense while still managing to catch you by surprise.

Our narrators’ opposing personalities make their interactions tense and intriguing, as while they have the same ultimate goals, Walt and Sam must juggle their differing methods and come to terms with their changing priorities. At times, Walt and Sam can be more alike than they realise, the dual narrative giving the reader an insight into how their time in quarantine has both wrenched them apart and solidified their shared morals and values.

Miriam and Virginia are fiery characters who push the brothers beyond their comfort zone and give them something tangible to fight for. With a mother wasting away on Walt’s basic medical training and a father they can only dream of finding, Miriam and Virginia keep them focussed on the road ahead. The sisters struck me in particular as, while they are manipulative and brave, they are still vulnerable and scared. They are neither damsels in distress nor one dimensional strong female characters, they are an honest blend of the two, characters that science fiction and YA needs right now more than ever.

From scientific discussions of the primordia teeming on the planet to the soft glow of the sister moons, it is apparent that a large amount of care and attention to detail has been paid in crafting the world of IDYLL. With a bittersweet ending that plays hope against despair, IDYLL is an exciting and heart-stopping race across a tragically beautiful new planet. Exploring both the physical and psychological effects of a sleeping curse-like plague, IDYLL challenges the reader to delve deeper into the story to discover what really caused the world to fall apart.

I received IDYLL from James Derry in exchange for an honest review. My reviews always represent my own opinion.

[UCLPUB2015] Week 5

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 5: 2nd Nov – 6th Nov

It is well and truly autumn and the weather is becoming more miserable by the day in London. I’ll be moving on to my winter banner in no time! Somehow we’ve hit the quarter-way mark in the taught portion of the course, and that thought is absolutely terrifying. I feel like I still have so much to learn and we have so much time left, but in reality we’re almost done with the first term!

Tuesday was a little more stressful than usual, with a morning class on finance and accounting that took me by surprise! Our guest speaker was brilliantly funny but, as a hopeless maths student, I couldn’t help but feel like I was drowning in numbers and unfamiliar phrases by the end of our three hour slot. I will definitely have to go over my notes a few times before we revisit costings for our project! (Again, how did I end up as the treasurer?!)

In the afternoon we had our Publishing Project pitch. We were the last group so had plenty of time to practice while we stuck around on campus, prepping our presentation on our two ideas for publication. One of our lecturers seemed really into our mythology collection and, while we haven’t had any confirmations yet, it looks like we might end up with the project that the majority of the team really love. Even so, which ever project we’re assigned will have an open submissions period for YA short stories, so if you’d like to get involved make sure you keep an eye open for our announcement!

Thursday followed on nicely with a catch up on finances in Author Management before moving on to discuss copyright law with Richard Mollet, CEO of The Publishers Association. Richard was a fantastic speaker and I definitely feel like I have a good grasp of copyright now, especially with my internship in a Rights department. Theories of the Book was a lot of fun, holding a debate on the author based on our Foucault and Barthes readings and casting our minds forwards to think about publishing in the 22nd century (all glory to the robot overlords).

Next week is reading week so I will likely be frantically catching up with all the work we’ve been set for the course. Our first formal assessment is due on 13th Nov and usually at this point I would be blaming my human tendency to procrastinate for the rush (hey, we all spend too much time watching cat videos sometimes), but this time it’s purely down to how busy I’ve been. With uni two days a week, an internship three days a week, two jobs and a blog, I am definitely looking forward to a couple of days off!

Charlotte x

[GIVEAWAY] Geek Girl All Wrapped Up – Holly Smale

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I hope you’re excited for the brand new Geek Girl novel from Holly Smale, ALL WRAPPED UP!

To celebrate the launch of this festive little treat, I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy for one lucky winner! All you have to do is follow my Twitter account @fireflyreads and retweet my competition tweet – easy peasy!

The competition is open internationally and will close on 8th November 2015 at 11pm GMT.

Good luck!

Charlotte x

[UCLPUB2015] Week 4

UCLPUB2015 HALLOWEEN

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 4: 26th Oct – 30th Oct

I always really enjoy my Tuesday classes, I love the opportunity to get some practical experience and get to grips with the skills we’ll need for a career in publishing. In the morning we had a session on proofreading and copyediting, and apparently no, they’re not the same thing! I already do some freelance copyediting and language editing for job applications, so it was super helpful to get some more specialised training. After a discussion with Wendy Toole, Society for Editors and Proofreaders, we tried to take on the BSI symbols by ourselves!

My group’s pitch for the Publishing Project is starting to come together and we’ve decided to focus on a collection of YA short stories and a mythology based anthology. We pitch to our lecturers and a few special guests on 3rd November and they’ll let us know which idea we can take forward to actually PUBLISH IN A REAL LIFE BOOK. I’ve somehow ended up in charge of the finances so erm, please buy it? Pretty please?

On Thursday we had some really interesting discussions with Dr Shafquat Towheed and Dr Danielle Fuller about the history of reading and the historical differences between reading aloud and reading silently. Coming from a linguistics background, I’m much more comfortable with practical analysis and investigation than I am with Foucault or Barthes, so the reading is taking some seriously hard work on my part. Despite my apparent inability to understand a text the first time I read it, I’m actually enjoying this theoretical module a lot more than I expected to. The lecturers and speakers so far have made it an engaging and intriguing space and I’m even kind of looking forward to researching my essay topic… WHO AM I?!

Finally, I feel like I’ve fully settled into my internship with HarperCollins this week and I’m really enjoying my time there. It’s still super busy after Frankfurt Book Fair and it’s so exciting to see all the foreign publisher contracts. The new Geek Girl is all over the office at the moment too – only a few days left until publication!

Charlotte x