Release Date: March 8th 2018 Publisher: Mantle Pages: 352 Find it on:Amazon. Goodreads. Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
We went to school that Tuesday like normal.
Not all of us came home . . .
Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.
In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing.
Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can.
This is a brilliantly written debut focusing on a horrific school shooting and the rippling aftermath that the event has on the local community. It is powerful, heartbreaking and incredibly relevant given the current news and media. The book really hones in on the community and the lasting effects that this single event can have.
The book is told from the perspective of young Zach, who is a powerful and fascinating protagonist. Navin does a fantastic job of bringing him to life, Zach along with the rest of the characters feel very realistic and complex, each dealing with their own complex emotions and grief as they deal with all that has happened. I definitely felt myself becoming attached to Zach, you feel for this clever young boy as he retreats into his books and drawings, while his parents atte
mpt to cope with their grief.
I also found it fascinating that Zach chose to represent his emotions with colours. He’s a bright and fascinating character and seeing him bring people together was part of the reason I loved this book so much. It is excellently paced and the writing style definitely hooks you in from the get go. It might be a difficult topic but it is absolutely worth while.
This book is by no means an easy read. It is hard hitting and emotional, but it is one that you have to read. It stayed with me long after I finished reading it and I found myself thinking about it throughout the day afterwards. As a debut it is stunning and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what Rhiannon Navin has in store next.
Series: StoryWorld #2 Release Date: August 10th 2017 Publisher: Heads of Zeus Pages: 368 Find it on:Amazon. Goodreads. Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
StoryWorld is the nation’s favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the cauldron of conflicts and resentments that constantly simmers off-stage.
In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the heated world of live TV. Liz Lyon must balance the monster egos at work with the demands of her teenage daughter – and the man she’s just started dating – at home. It’s all in a day’s work.
This was a fantastic, gripping read from author Jane Lythell, full of twists and turns. When a new woman joins the team at work, Liz feels the balance of power has shifted. She has to keep a lid on all her feelings as she maintains her role as a television producer. Coupling this with raising her daughter and dating, Liz’s life is full of surprises and shocks.
I really enjoyed reading this book partly because I found the main character so likeable. She’s a strong woman who looks after her team and works hard. I liked seeing her play the peacekeeper, diffuse the tensions and solve problems on her feet. She felt like a realistic and layered character, dealing with a teenage daughter and starting a new romance. She often has doubts about herself too, which felt quite refreshing for a main character.
I must admit that when I read Behind Her Back I did not know it was a sequel and I haven’t actually read the first book. I didn’t feel that that hindered my reading experience though, and you can definitely read it as a stand alone. I am however excited to go back to book one and find out what I missed. I love the tense, explosive atmosphere that Lythell has created, and am definitely eager for more.
Jane Lythell has drawn on her own experiences as a TV producer for this series and I think that’s part of the reason that it works so well and feels so real. The book is well paced and definitely makes you want to just read one more chapter. If you’re looking for a gripping and engaging read that’s different from anything you’ve read before, Behind Her Back is exactly what you’re looking for.
Now check out our extract from the book!
As I let myself into the flat I could hear Flo crying in her bedroom. I hurried in and she was lying on her bed sobbing as if her world had come to an end. The shutters were closed and the room was in near darkness.
‘What’s happened, sweetheart?’
She sat up and I saw that her beautiful brown hair was now a nasty brassy blonde! I rushed over to her and put my arm around her and the story came out between great hiccoughy sobs. She had decided to use the money Ben had put into her account to get her hair bleached. She thought that going blonde would be edgy so she and Rosie had set off after breakfast to look for a salon she could afford. The high street ones had been too expensive so they found some cheap backstreet hairdresser who must have applied a gallon of peroxide to Flo’s tender scalp. Honestly, I think the bloody woman had used toilet bleach! When she saw the result Flo knew it had been a terrible mistake. Rosie had tried to comfort her but she was inconsolable and had run all the way home. I was shocked when I touched her hair, not just at the colour but that her normally healthy hair felt dry and brittle.
‘My scalp is burning,’ she said.
That worried me.
‘Will I go bald?’ she wailed.
‘Of course not,’ I said firmly, while thinking that it was not impossible. ‘I’m going to look up some advice now,’ I added, as calmly as I could manage.
I went into the kitchen and furiously googled how to deal with a bad job of bleached hair. I found a terrifying article which said you should inspect the burn area. Redness and irritation could be treated at home but if there were open wounds, blistering or tissue damage you had to go to hospital. Vomiting and feeling faint was also a symptom of chemical burn. Flo had joined me in the kitchen and I shut down the article quickly.
‘I need to look at your scalp, darling.’
She let me inspect her head. Her scalp was red but there was no sign of blisters.
‘You’re not feeling sick or anything like that?’
‘No, not sick; all hot and itchy.’
‘OK. We need to get hold of some aloe vera lotion. That should soothe your scalp. I’m going to the pharmacy now. Do you want to come with me?’
‘No! I can’t leave the house.’
‘OK, well I think you should run some cold water on your head to cool your scalp down.’
I guided her into the bathroom and got her to kneel down and run cold water from the handheld shower onto her head.
‘Keep running the water as long as you can and I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.’
Chalk Farm flat, Sunday
By this morning Flo’s scalp had calmed
down a bit. She told me it wasn’t hot any more but was still dry and itchy. It was a beautiful sunny day and I suggested we go to Regent’s Park and eat out, or maybe go on the boating lake which is one of our places. Her response had been emphatic.
‘No way am I going out looking like this!’
She was determined to stay holed up in the flat all day. I got out our two deckchairs from my tiny shed and sat in the sun reading, reconciled to a day at home. Finally Flo emerged and stood on the threshold watching me. The deckchairs were new ones we bought recently as
our last pair had fallen apart. Flo had chosen them and she always insisted on sitting on the one with the yellow and white stripes and left the green and white one to me. She sank down sorrowfully with a deep sigh and started a long phone conversation with Rosie in which she made her promise several times not to say a word about her hair to anyone.
I went inside and made a jug of sparkling water with lime cordial, adding lots of ice cubes, brought the jug out and poured us both a beaker. I deadheaded the flowers and watered the plants in their pots and finally Flo said goodbye to Rosie.
‘Darling, were you given a skin test at that salon?’
‘A skin test?’
‘Yes, sweets, they’re supposed to test the bleach on your skin before they do anything. They’re supposed to do it twenty-four hours before.’
‘Nothing like that…’
‘What’s the name of the salon?’
‘Are you going to complain?’
‘Damn right I am. The woman is a menace and I’ll try to get your money back.’
‘It had a stupid name, Scissor Sisters,’ she said reluctantly.
She hates me to make a fuss about anything relating to her. She started in on me then. Her position was that normal life could not resume until I paid a good salon to dye her hair brown again and why was I being so mean as to say no to that.
‘Because I’ve read up on it. Every article said you have to wait and let the scalp and hair recover before attempting any more colour changes.’
‘I can’t wait.’
‘You’ll have to. It’s not the end of the world.’
‘I look like a freak.’ Her voice was rising which usually meant that tears were on their way.
‘Of course you don’t,’ I said, privately thinking, Whose fault is that?
We argued on and off for the next hour.
‘I was thinking maybe you’d like me to move your trip to Portsmouth forward?’63
‘At least no one knows me down there,’ she said tragically.
I went inside and called Grace, Ben’s mum, and we agreed Flo would travel down on Tuesday. Pete would meet her at the station and she could stay ten days if she wanted to. I briefed Grace on the great hair drama and she promised me she would be diplomatic about Flo’s appearance and would stop her doing anything else to her hair. I returned to the garden and told Flo about the new arrangements.
‘It means I’ll miss Sophie’s party,’ she grumbled.
‘But you said you didn’t want to go out.’
‘I don’t, but if you’d pay to get my hair done…’
‘Once you’re back from Portsmouth I’ll book you into my salon.’
‘Why do I have to wait?’
I’d had enough of her endless whining.
‘I’ve told you. That’s enough, Flo!’
‘You’re so mean.’
‘And you brought this on yourself. No one told you to go to that stupid salon.’
She stormed off to her room in a fury and I heard her bedroom door slam. I sat down and picked up my book, wanting to escape into it, but I couldn’t settle to read. I went inside and tidied the sitting room and emptied the bins. I flattened our empty water bottles for the
recycling box with more force than usual. I was fed up. The weekends are when I recharge my batteries in preparation for the week ahead. I resented Flo’s histrionics which had dominated most of the last two days.
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
Now check out this fab guest post from author Sarah Maria Griffin all about how the book was written!
The first lines of Spare and Found Parts were written on cheap recycled paper that was a deep brown in colour, that I bought in the big office-supply-store down near Protrero Hill in san Francisco. I was 5000 miles away from my home, having set out with my boyfriend and a big dream – to go and live in the hilly, foggy city people sing songs about and become a writer. I was 23. I scrawled out ideas about who Nell Crane would be, who her father would be, what became of her mother – and what it was exactly about the Dublin they were living in that made it different from the Dublin I had just come from, the Dublin I was grieving every single day. During my time living in the Bay Area, I wrote a nonfiction book called Not Lost – a weird collection of vignettes and essays about a single year of being an immigrant in America. It published in 2013, and softly started my career – but Spare and Found Parts was the book I was nursing while racing to finish Not Lost on a tight deadline. The true story of being an outsider in a world you don’t understand is Spare and Found Parts – and the setting speaks to that.
I thought about Dublin every day as I mapped my way around San Francisco, largely on foot. The city is a precise grid system, occasionally thrown by hills, but largely it is mapped and strict and easy to navigate. It’s also small, oddly enough, around the same 7 miles by 7 miles that Dublin holds, too. That, however, is about the only thing the two places have in common. Dublin is a tangle of streets and alleyways, weird parks and desolate flats, empty department stores, underground cinemas, a river that has always felt hungry and sinister to me – the weather so unpredictable and often so utterly dour that Irish people are practically elemental extensions of it. So in the steady, consistent, 19 degrees heat and sunshine, the seasonless ordered grid of San Francisco, I mourned Dublin into Black Water City. I turned the temperature up, I made the world too hot, sweltering, the parks all swamps. I burned it down, I gutted the population, I stripped the place and painted it in ash and red paint to mark where the poison still lives. The landscape of Spare and Found Parts is just as much a character in the book as any of the humans (or the android) – the Phoenix Park, one of the most gorgeous spots in the city, is where I placed Nell’s house. Dublin Zoo is there, which is why, in this 100 year future, there are elephants roaming the parkland. The Cathedral District is Christchurch, the Olympia Theatre remains the Olympia – the Lighthouse Cinema is still there, and one of my favourite places in the whole town. The bike ride that Oliver takes Nell on from the Bayou (which is so far into the Phoenix Park, geographically, it’s practically in Blanchardstown) leads them down through Stonybatter and into Smithfield Square, now a hollowed out crater from a fallen aeroplane. My experience of Dublin changed in writing this story, because I have my own Dublin now, as well as the real truth of the place, too.
In writing we figure things out about the world, our world, our place in it: and in the making of Black Water City I learned where my home truly was, and it’s here, in these strange, ancient streets.
Thanks so much for checking out my stop on the tour, be sure to check out the other stops below and pop back soon for a review of this magnificent book!
Release Date: 25th January 2018 Pages: 355 Publisher: Headline Find it on:Amazon.Goodreads. Source: Headline kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
It makes us. It destroys us.
The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.
Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.
Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.
Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?
As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew it would be a cracking read, and I absolutely wasn’t disappointed. I read this book in two sittings on the train and just could not put it down. The Feed is brilliantly written and utterly terrifying at the same time.
The story is set in a future where our love of technology has expanded even further, all social interactions are done online in the feed, no one really talks in the real world anymore. The world over is addicted, but what happens when it goes down and people no longer know how to cope?
One of the reasons I loved this book so much was how believable it felt. We’re all already addicted to social media and this dystopian world seems inherently possible as a result. This made The Feed a really scary read, but at the same time I just couldn’t look away.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, it is just a fantastic read that I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone, but it is set after the feed goes down as a group of people attempt to go on living without the technology they were so addicted to. The characters are all very well executed, dealing with their own grief and horror at how the world has changed. The point of view changes throughout the book and it’s a great chance to see events from different characters perspective.
The book is excellently detailed and just a wonderful read. It’s also pretty topical, hitting on not just issues around social media but the environment as well. It was really fascinating watching characters attempt to understand one another through everyday interactions because they are no longer sure how. The Feed is a tense, gripping dystopian thriller that I guarantee is going to be one to watch in 2018.
Release Date: February 15th 2018 Publisher: Red Door Books Pages: 288 Find it on:Amazon.Goodreads. Source: Red Door kindly provided me an e-copy to review.
Paris, 1968. Nicholas finds himself broke, without papers and on the verge of being deported back to England. Seeking to stay in France, Nicholas takes a three-month contract as an English tutor to the 17-year-old Imperial Highness Natalya. It is the perfect solution; free room and board, his wages saved, and a place to hide from police raids. All that is asked of Nicholas is to obey the lifestyle of the household and not to leave the grounds.
It should have solved all his problems…
“The most dangerous lies are the lies we tell ourselves…”
This was such a strange and unusual story that hooked me in from start till finish. Nicholas takes a job as an English tutor for a young woman named Natayla. The house has some odd rules – there’s no electricity, you’re not allowed to leave and everyone thinks the Russian war is still going on. Despite this Nicholas stays on, he’s desperate and the job is good, but as things take a darker turn, he’s not altogether sure he made the right choice.
I love an unreliable narrator and that’s exactly what Nicholas is. The story is framed with a doctor who sees Nicholas as a patient and he recounts his fantastic story. But what he saw, was it real? I was constantly questioning if what he saw was ghosts, a hallucination or in fact real. It keep me desperate to know more because I was never really sure what was real and what wasn’t.
The characters were similarly duplicitous, and everyone seemed to have an alternative motive. Nicholas was a really interesting protagonist, trying to understand what happened to him, and exactly why it did. The ending was a bit of a shock, and I would never have guessed the truth. There were also plenty of creepy, unsettling moments and I loved the setting of the big old house with long corridors and moving shadows.
If you love a story with plenty of twists and creepy moments, The Spaces in Between is a fantastic read and should definitely be on your to be read list. It also has a completely stunning cover!
This is honestly one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. You can check out my review here, but in the mean time here’s my interview question for author Marieke Nijkamp!
You explore mental health issues in Before I Let Go. Is this something that we should be talking about more in books?
For YA books in particular, I feel like in recent years we’ve had amazing books that increasingly addressed mental health in a variety of different ways, and across the genres. To give you an example… in Before I Let Go, Kyra lives with bipolar disorder. While she is a main character, she isn’t the protagonist. A conscious choice for the story I wanted to tell, but also one that’s only possible because we see more and more protagonists too. So thank goodness for books like S. Jae-Jones’s spellbinding Wintersong andEmery Lord’s heartfelt When We Collided, two wildly different stories that both star girls with bipolar disorder.
Of course, while we’re heading in the right direction, increased presence is only a starting point. I’d still love to see more discussion of mental health – and, in a broader sense, neuroatypicality and disability – in YA. I’d love us to deconstruct harmful tropes that have come into existence with regards to mental health. I’d love for us to destigmatize mental illness. I’d love to see more, far more intersectionality. Because the thing is… this affects real teens. We should talk about it more in books, because teen readers live with their own mental health struggles. They live in a world where mental illness is still too often taboo. They are the Kyra’s, and the Liesls, and the Vivis, and they deserve to tell their stories and be seen.
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp is published by Sourcebooks on 23/01/18.
1. For those that haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale, can you tell us a little about it?
The Bear and the Nightingale is an historical fantasy set in Russia during the Middle Ages. It combines events from history with characters and tropes from Slavic folklore and fairy tales. It follows the adventures of Vasilisa Petrovna, the daughter of a minor aristocrat, who can see the world of spirits in Slavic folklore that is hidden to most.
2. There’s an immense amount of detail and mythology in the series, but what drew you to write about Russian folklore?
I have always been fascinated by Russia, the culture and the history. I was a Russian major in college, and I lived in Moscow while I was studying. So I had a background in Russian, and when I decided to write a book, writing a book set in Russia was a natural choice.
3. What was the writing process like for the books, with lots of characters did you have to map them out individually?
No, the characters grew organically out of the plot. Writing the books was mostly a process of trial and error. Emphasis on error.
4. Did you always plan for Vasya’s story to be a trilogy?
I knew what I wanted the story to be, but I didn’t know how much plot I could fit into one book, so as I gradually realized that I had too much plot for one book, it became three.
5. The series already has lots of fans and reviewers who adored it, how did it feel when the early praise started coming in?
Great. Terrifying. Validating. I felt proud, I felt like a fraud. It’s weird seeing people read and respond to a book you’ve been working on by yourself for a long time.
6. Now that The Girl in the Tower is released, what are you working on next?
Book 3 in the series, called The Winter of the Witch, will be out later this year. I just turned a second draft in.
7. Can you give us any little sneak peaks into what will happen in The Winter of the Witch?
Not everyone will survive. There will be a lot of returning characters and a few new ones. Possibly some romance.
8. The cover designs for the series are just stunning. Did you have any input into their look?and what was your reaction when you saw the final designs?
I adore the covers. I had pretty minimal input, just reacting to things I was shown, but Aitch, the artist, and the entire design team did a fantastic job.
9. Can you recommend a great book to read in 2018?
Just finished an ARC of a fantasy debut called The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith that I really enjoyed
10. Thanks so much for taking part in this Q&A, is there anything you’d like to tell readers to
finish us off?
Think that about covers it. I hope you enjoyed the novels!
Release Date: 11th January 2018 Publisher: The Dome Press Pages: 256 Find it on:Amazon. Goodreads. Source: The Dome Press kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star, we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her granddaughter. This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875
Some days there’s nothing I love better than curling with a good historical fiction and enveloping myself in a different time period. When I was offered the chance to review Beautiful Star & Other Stories I jumped at the chance, not only because I love Andrew Swanston’s Incendium, but because something I’ve read very little of is historical fiction short stories. This collection has seven different tales, all from differing time periods and locations. I thoroughly enjoyed each one, giving a fascinating snapshot of that time period.
The stories are all in some way based on a true event or a true person, and that made the stories all the more enjoyable, knowing that I was learning about stories that are not often talked about. Each story was richly described with a very personal narrative voice. They were vivid and unique, dealing with a variety of themes from friendship and family, to loyalty and courage.
Of the seven stories there were a few that particularly stood out for me. I loved the story of Lady Mary Bankes, who defended Corfe Castle when it was sieges by Parliamentarian forces. This was something I had never heard of, and after doing my own research I am now eager to go and visit the ruins. I also loved the story of the young monk who dreams of learning to fly, as well as the story of a young boy who meets Charles I in a rather unexpected place. It’s the mark of incredible writing that each time period and setting comes alive, and that is definitely the case with Beautiful Star and Other Stories.
Richly detailed and thoroughly researched, Beautiful Star and Other Stories is a wonderful mix of stories. Full to the brim with realism and human voices, it is everything a historical fiction fan could ask for.
Now read on for a Q&A with Andrew!
1. For those that haven’t read Beautiful Star and Other Stories yet, would you be able to tell us a little about it?
Beautiful Star and Other Stories is a collection of seven fictionalised accounts of historical events from the Benedictine monk, Eilmer, who in the year 1010 tried to fly, to a devastating fishing disaster of 1875 involving a Scottish ‘fifie’ on her maiden voyage, from which the book takes its name. In between there is the story of Jane Wenham, who in 1712 was the last woman to be sentenced to death for witchcraft in an English court, the story of the fate of Admiral Sir Cloudesley’s fleet on its return from the seige of Toulon, a whimsical tale of King Charles II hiding in the Boscobel oak after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, an account of Lady Mary Bankes’s gallant defence of her home at Corfe Castle during the War of the Three Kingdoms, and, finally, two stories that came out my research for Waterloo. The Bravest Man, published in 2015, which I have called The Button Seller and the Drummer Boy. I chose them simply because I found them interesting episodes in history which involved ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
2. I absolutely loved Incendium. How did it compare writing the short stories and writing longer books?
In Beautiful Star, the narrator, Julia Paterson, tells her friend Willy Miller that ‘flowers on not wild or tame. They are just flowers’. So it is, for me, with stories. Some longer and more complex, others shorter and simpler, but all with beginnings, middles and ends. I enjoy reading and writing stories of all lengths and find the challenges much the same.
3. If you could go and visit any historical period, where would you go and why?
Please may I be a dashing royalist during the War of the Three Kingdoms who survives to enjoy the magnificent excess and debauchery of the Restoration. After the grim austerity of the interregnum, think how splendid that would be!
4. What was the writing process like for Beautiful Star? Was it a long or short writing process?
Beautiful Star was actually the very first story I wrote, about ten years ago, so you could say the gestation period has been longish! It was followed by A Witch and a Bitch and The Flying Monk – both in the collection – before I turned to the Thomas Hill stories. While writing Incendium and Waterloo, I came across the other stories and, encouraged by my agent, David Headley, researched and wrote them. The result is this collection. Actually writing each story is quite a quick process. It is the research and planning that takes time.
5. Now that the book is about to be released, what are you working on next?
I am writing the sequel to Incendium and hope also to write another collection of shorter historical stories.
6. What’s the best book you read in 2017?
Wow, what a tough question. To relax, I read a good deal of non-fiction and have favourite authors. In 2017 I especially enjoyed Giles Milton’s ‘Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’.
7. Thank you so much for taking part in the Q&A, is there anything you’d like to tell readers to round off?
I would like to thank my readers for giving me the opportunity to write. I want my stories to be read and enjoyed and I do hope they are.
15-year-old Nikka is invited to attend Wildwood Academy, a prestigious but secret boarding school for talented youth located deep in the Californian mountains. Once there, Nikka quickly falls in love with her bizarre classes, the jaw-dropping scenery and… two very different boys.
However, Wildwood Academy has a dark and twisted secret, one that could cost Nikka the one thing she had never imagined she could lose, the one thing that money can’t buy. It is this very thing that Wildwood Academy was created to steal.
Nikka can stay and lose everything, or she can risk death and run.
Today is my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous Wunderkids by Jacqueline Silvester! With Wunderkids being set at a boarding school, Jacqueline has kindly written a post about her top boarding school settings in books and film. Take a look!
1. Catcher in the Rye
Though Holden Caulfield’s boarding school only plays a small(ish) part in his story, it’s still and important one. This classic was my first experience with a coming-of-age narrative and a boarding school setting. Thus, it deserves a spot at the top of the list.
2. Fallen by Lauren Kate
The Fallen series by Lauren Kate centers around two boarding schools, Sword and Cross Reform School in Savannah Georgia and Shoreline School in Northern California, both schools have one fabulous thing in common- they are both populated by angels.
3. Wild child
A rich and spoilt Malibu teen is sent to a strict boarding school in England as punishment for her latest prank. Hilarity ensues. Featuring Juno Temple, great uniforms, and Alex Pettyfer behind the wheel of a 1958 Austin Healey Sprite.
4. Little Princess
A young girl is left at a prestigious school in England when her father has to go off to fight in the war. When he is presumed dead, the young girl is forced into servitude. Based on the children’s novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, this film is beautiful and it will make you cry. I was absolutely in love with this film when I was little.
5. A Great a Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
A mysterious, gothic, and beautiful YA series that takes place in 1895 and tells the story of Gemma Doyle, a young girl whose I uprooted from her life in India and send to a boarding school in England. If you’ve read my novel Wunderkids you know that I have a weak spot for creepy, sinister academies.
6. The Chorus
The Chorus is a gorgeous French film. It’s about a music teacher who starts a job at a boarding school for troubled boys. Once there, he founds a choir to help the boys channel their energy into something positive. It has been years since I’ve first saw the film but I still have the entire soundtrack on my phone and listen to it all the time.
7. She’s The Man
Cheesy? Yes. But this film is also hilarious, and takes place at a boarding school, and it never once failed to cheer me up. Also, who wouldn’t want to be dorm mates with Channing Tatum?
8. Never Let Me Go (film)
Based on the book by the Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro, this film has everything I love- dystopia, romance, and boarding school.
9. Gallagher Girls by Aly Carter
Boarding school for spies? Yes, please! Paired with Ally Carter’s dynamic writing, great storytelling, and a cast of kickass schoolgirls who can hack into CIA databases and disable bombs. Perfection.
10. Vampire Academy
The setting for this series is St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for Vampire royalty and their protectors. Enough said. Just do yourself a favor and skip the film.
Thank you so much to Jacqueline for her wonderful guest post! What are your favourite books/films that feature boarding schools? (Mine has definitely got to be Harry Potter!) Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out the other blog stops!
For those that haven’t heard about Herself Alone in Orange Rain yet, can you tell us a bit about it?
Herself Alone in Orange Rain is part two of my Celtic Colours trilogy which explores 100 years of conflict in Ireland. Part one, Green Dawn at St Enda’s, focuses on the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising and came out last year to coincide with the Rising’s centenary. Green Dawn’s main protagonist is a schoolboy, Finn, who becomes embroiled in the Easter week rebellion.
But this is not a typical trilogy where part two picks up shortly after wherever part one left off and Herself Alone in Orange Rain is mainly set in the 1980s. The novel is about a young woman who joins the IRA, becoming an active service volunteer for them and taking part in many of the high profile attacks of that period. Before the late 1970s women were not commonly ‘on the front line’ for the IRA but that’s what I wanted to explore so that meant setting the book about 70 years later than Green Dawn.
The main character in Orange Rain is a 19 year old art student called Caoilainn. A family connection runs through the whole trilogy so she’s related to Finn from part one (I’m not saying how– you’ll have to read to find out!). This way I can show how the Irish conflict impacts on one family down the generations. Caoilainn (and Finn) is entirely fictional but her experiences, attitudes, decisions and actions are based on the real life accounts of IRA women from this period. I think people who’ve read Green Dawn may be surprised because part two is very different, telling a more emotive and divisive story. But the one thing that both books have in common, and part three will develop this too, is the cost of conflict.
Where did the inspiration come from for the book?
Once I had the idea for Green Dawn and started doing the research I quickly realized I would be writing a trilogy; there was too much for one novel. I always felt part two would be set during the 1970/80s because, historically, that was a pivotal period in terms of IRA activity but originally I thought I’d be writing about a man because, probably like most people, I assumed the IRA was all male. Then a friend and fellow writer, Natalie Scott, said it would be interesting to tell the story from a female perspective. This was an intriguing proposition that raised lots of questions about the role of women in the IRA and about how that is portrayed in fiction so I started researching, discovered that women had indeed operated in combatant roles for the Provisional IRA and from the extensive research came the novel. In fact there was such a wealth of research to do that the novel actually became my creative writing PhD project.
What was the writing process like for the book, did it take you long to complete?
The whole process of researching, writing and editing took me three years because that’s how long I had to do the PhD. But of that the research and the editing took far more time than the initial drafting because doing a novel in an academic context for a PhD meant I
had to go much deeper with the research. Handily it has resulted in a much strong, more maturely written novel, I feel.
Now that the book is about to be released, what are you working on next?
I’m furiously tapping away at part three of the trilogy which currently has the working title White Leaves of Peace. This concluding part is focused on life in Ireland since the signing of the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and will go up to 2016, looking at whether or not there truly is peace in the north of Ireland. Again there is a family tie the main protagonist, a young man called Cian, is related to Caoilainn from Orange Rain (but again, I’m not telling you how).
You’ve written in a whole range of areas, from non-fiction to flash fiction, do you find it difficult switching between them?
I don’t really find switching between types of writing difficult. After I’ve finished doing this feature I’ll be back later today to working on part three of the novel. I just take a short brain break in between, I’ll probably go to the gym. What also helps is thinking about what I’m writing before I sit down to do it. I write in my head constantly and if I know tomorrow I’m doing a short story I’ll be thinking about it when I get up, while I’m in the shower, eating breakfast, cleaning up etc. so that when I sit down I’m already in the ‘short story’ zone.
You’ve also been a writer in residence on several occasions, what was that experience like?
Being a writer in residence is, aside from writing, my favourite writer’s job because it gives you an extended opportunity to work with others on a particular project that really focuses creative energy and sees amazing results produced. When I was working on the Silent Voices project in Helmsley for an exhibit at nearby Rievaulx Abbey I got to work with an entire primary school of enthusiastic young writers who were all thrilled to be able to exercise their creativity.
More recently I’ve been writer in residence for the Crossing the Tees book festival, working with them on a brand new aspect to the festival: a short story competition. And I’ve been privileged to help emerging writers really develop their craft through a series of short story writing workshops and some one-to-one mentoring sessions, hopefully inspiring them to keep writing and one day seeing their work in print too.
Finally, can you recommend us a good book you’ve read recently?
I recently read what I think is one of the most brilliantly creative, experimental pieces of storytelling published in a long time. It’s called This is the End of the Story by Jan Fortune. She happens to be my editor so, admittedly, I read it because I was curious about her own writing, especially when I’ve had to read some harsh, but justified, criticisms of my writing from her. But, having read her novel, I hold my hands up and say my God, she can write and I consider myself lucky to have her as an editor, guiding my creative practice.
Big thanks to Tracy for answering my questions, and be sure to check out the other stops listed below!