Sunday, 10 March 2019

Pre-Launch Review - Sophie Washington: Code One by Tonya Duncan Ellis


Anything Boys Can Do Girls Can Do Better!
Xavier Academy is having a computer coding competition with a huge cash prize! Sixth grader Sophie Washington and her friend Chloe can't wait to enter with their other classmates, Nathan and Toby. The only problem is that the boys don't think the girls are smart enough for their team and have already asked two other kids to work with them. Determined to beat the boys, Sophie and Chloe join forces with classmates Mariama, Valentina, and "brainiac," Rani Patel, to form their own all-girl team called "Code One." Computer coding isn't easy, and the young ladies get more than they bargain for when hilarious mishaps stand in their way. It's girls versus boys in the computer coding competition as Sophie and her friends work day and night to prove that anything boys can do girls can do better!

(ARC received from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for an honest review)

This is the first Sophie Washington story that I've read; I didn't even realise it was part of a series until I started to read! That didn't hinder my enjoyment at all though. If you haven't read any of the other books, don't worry about it, Tonya Duncan Ellis does a great job of setting the scene.
Sophie Washington is an excellent lead character for a series full of diverse and well drawn characters. She knows her own mind, isn't perfect and as a character is realistic for the age group. Her friends are an interesting group that it's fun to spend time with, they're a mix of characters but it makes sense that their friends, rather than seeming like stock characters as some stories do.
My only criticism of this book is about the dialogue. It's the part that is probably the hardest to write in a Middle-Grade book, and sometimes that showed. Some of the dialogue does read like an adult trying to imagine how children that age sound and it doesn't quite work. It can be a little clunky. Don't be put off by this common problem though, it didn't get in the way of my overall enjoyment!
The plot is well-suited to the length of the book, and the characters. The idea of a Coding Competition made it exciting, and the girls vs. boys angle is always a good one! There's more to their conflict than that though, it's well thought out and works well.
Whether you've read all of the Sophie Washington books so far, or you're considering starting with Code One, give this a try, and you won't regret it!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

The Time Traveller's Guide to Romance by Madeline J. Reynolds - Blog Tour Review Stop!

Tour Schedule

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Modern Romance
by Madeline J. Reynolds
Publication Date: March 4, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Elias Caldwell needs more than his life in nineteenth-century England has to offer. He’d rather go on an adventure than spend one more minute at some stuffy party. When his grandfather gives him a pocket watch he claims can transport him to any place and time, Elias doesn’t believe it…until he’s whisked away to twenty-first-century America.

Tyler Forrester just wants to fall hopelessly in love. But making that kind of connection with someone has been more of a dream than reality. Then a boy appears out of thin air, a boy from the past. As he helps Elias navigate a strange new world for him, introducing him to the wonders of espresso, binge-watching, and rock and roll, Tyler discovers Elias is exactly who he was missing.

But their love has time limit. Elias’s disappearance from the past has had devastating side effects, and now he must choose where he truly belongs—in the Victorian era, or with the boy who took him on an adventure he never dreamed possible?


First let me say - 
1. I've never read a time travel book before (aside from Harry Potter but I feel like that doesn't really count.
2. It's only about the second M/M romance story I've read. (That isn't deliberate, it's just the stories that have caught my attention.)
3. Isn't that one of the most beautiful covers you've ever seen?!

Tyler and Elias are interesting characters. I especially enjoyed the fact that Tyler is an aspiring film-maker, which also gave a realistic element to some of the magical aspects of the story. It's also awesome that he's bisexual who's out, and that's that, exactly how sexuality should be treated when it isn't part of the plot really.
Something I'd been unsure about was the 'period' parts of it, but it's so well written and the setting is described so beautifully that it was easy to get into. Elias is a charming, funny guy. His 'fish out of water' experience learning all about the changes in the world since his time is sometimes hilarious and always filled with delightful awe that is guaranteed to make you see the world in a new light. I would have liked to have understood more about the ways that Elias feels he doesn't fit in in his time, it was mentioned a few times but I'm not sure it was clear enough to explain his motives overall. 
With Tyler and Elias, it is insta-love, and I know that puts some people off, but not me. For me there's nothing wrong with that, it's a romance and sometimes that's what works. It's a genuinely sweet read and they are very natural together. 
The time travel is fantastic. It's kept simple, in a believable way, not bogged down with rules as these things often are. There are parts of the time travel that I think could have been delved into more but it would be more spoiler-y to say any more.

So even if this isn't the kind of book you would usually read, I highly recommend it! It's a sweet YA romance with high-stakes in an unusual way. It has everything that a romance should have, and more. 


Buy The Time Travelers Guide to Romance on - 

Read more about it on Goodreads

About the Author 

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Closing the Distance - Published this week!

A couple of weeks ago I entered the Reedsy weekly short story contest. As the prompts were based around Valentine's Day, I thought this would be a good time to put a Romance story out there, something I've been studying/playing around with for a while now. I used an idea that I had been planning to possibly incorporate into a novel, but it fit so well with one of the prompts that I couldn't resist it.

I'd been receiving the prompts for a couple of weeks, but this contest was the first one I was brave enough to enter, so as you can imagine, I never expected it to do well! I received some great feedback and now it is available to read on Medium, the Reedsy site and blog. It's called 'Closing the Distance' and it's an f/f romance about what happens when two young women who used to love each other come back into contact in a way they never expected.

This has definitely given me the kick I needed to get to work on more of the Romance stories I've been considering. I wonder if it's possible to combine YA, Horror + Romance?

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Synopsis (from Amazon)

On September 5th, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they're going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they're both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: there's an app for that. It's called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure - to live a lifetime in a single day.


My relationship with Adam Silvera's books is basically a love-hate one. Don't get me wrong, I love them, 100%, but also, I hate his ability to rip my heart out of my chest and stamp all over it. 

This is without a doubt one of the best books I've ever read. I love Mateo and Rufus, and their friends and relatives too. There isn't a single perfect person amongst this varied cast of characters but they were all wonderful to spend time with. 

What impressed me the most was the world-building. This might not sound like a story that would need a lot of that, I know, but the creation of Death-Cast has implications that span further than I expected. A small detail that I particularly loved were the mentions of it being used as a plot-device in films, especially a reference to Lifetime movies. 

Read this book, if you haven't already. I didn't think another one could upset me more than History is all you left me, but this one definitely did. 

Monday, 11 February 2019

Have you heard about the new Taken film? Taken: Out of Context

As much as I wish I'd made that joke up, I saw it on Reddit, of course.

So much has been said about this whole Liam Neeson interview 'scandal' but what is the purpose of a blog is not to self-indulgently add another voice to the masses? And what I want to say might not be expected of a young, liberal, woman - I get it. I get what he said, what he did, what he went through. A lot of what is being said about this is focussing on his supposed racism but this is a situation that shows how important context is.

I mean, obviously, he said he went out hoping to get into a fight with a 'black man' but I feel like if a white dude had picked a fight with him he wouldn't have said 'No thanks, I'm after something specific.' He was feeling angry, a type of fury that not everyone can fully understand, and that was the only way he could think to ease it. For a young man growing up in the Northern Ireland of the 1990's, it shouldn't be all that surprising.

Let's be honest, I wouldn't feel so strongly about this if there wasn't a personal experience behind it. I have a friend who was raped too. And if I was famous and said the things I have said about that man...let's just say it's a hell of a lot worse than the stuff Liam Neeson said. Knowing that that has happened to someone you love and care about, it's a particular kind of helpless anger. I'm genuinely surprised there aren't more people who are defending him for that reason alone.

I really hope that this doesn't affect his career the way that some are predicting. A young man who was a product of his environment, at a specific point in time (several decades ago), should not affect the talented, good man that he grew up to be.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Film Review : Breaking In

Breaking In

Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Ajiona Alexus, Seth Carr.

Synopsis: When Shaun's (Gabrielle Union) wealthy father passes away, she is left with the task of managing the sale of his sprawling estate. A weekend at his house, built with intensive saftey precautions, becomes a living nightmare when a group of criminals arrive with a plan to take the $4,000,000 in cash that they believe is hidden inside the house. 

The easiest way to sum up this film is to say, it's like if Panic Room had been a Panic House, but it's a much better film! Gabrielle Union plays Shaun, a woman who's rich, criminal father has recently died. She travels to his estate with her two kids, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus, who looks so much like her it's crazy they aren't actually related!) and Glover (Seth Carr), to organise the sale of the house. As they settle in for the weekend, exploring the house and it's many safety features, we get to know them and Shaun's story. It isn't long before the action starts though.

The group of criminals to arrive in search of the cash are the perfect combination of the old standards - the charming, cold-hearted leader with shifting intentions, the sympathetic one who just needs the money, the loose cannon who's genuinely terrifying and the slightly under-written one whose purpose is to be used only when needed.

After a near-lifetime of watching Gabrielle Union in supporting roles in random episodes of shows like Smart Guy, Friends, Moesha (damn, am I old?) it's so good to see her in a lead role. She leads an all-around strong cast here as a woman who is will go to great lengths to protect her kids. This isn't just 'another home invasion movie', it plays with well-known tropes and is surprisingly realistic. By the end of the film, everyone involved looked thoroughly beaten and tired.

The criminals, lead by Billy Burke, aren't ground-breaking but they are scary, and that's all you really need. If you've only ever seen Burke in films like Twilight, it might be a surprise to see him playing such a psychopath (and if you haven't seen Drive Angry, please please do yourself a favour and watch it!)

At first I found the title a little odd, it makes sense shortly after the film begins but this film deserved a better one I think.

Overall, a solid addition to the home invasion genre, leaning more towards action than horror.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Where I've been

Trigger warning - self-harm (cutting), depression, anxiety

So I checked yesterday, and my last post before that was in September 2017. There's nothing particularly final about it, because I had no idea what was coming, though I should have. As I've mentioned plenty of times on this blog, I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, in multiple forms. I've had OCD for as long as I can remember, periods of depression that have varied in severity from a general darkness to a suicidal, quicksand-like blackness from the age of twelve, and the Generalised Anxiety popped up somewhere along the way when I wasn't looking. 

Fun times right?

Together, the depression and anxiety became progressively worse throughout 2017. I finally had a 'grown-up' job which I had naively believed would cure me. Unsurprisingly looking back, it made everything worse. A big part of this was the part of the job that had me working all over the region, something I wasn't keen on from the start but thought would be worth it.

By October I was a wreck. A snapshot of that time that I think gives the best general image of how I was doing, was one of the times I cut myself at work. In itself, this wasn't out of character for me, I'd done that occasionally when I needed to, at a couple of jobs. On this particular occasion, I'd cut a little deeper than I usually would at work, out of...necessity? The trouble was, there was only one bathroom. I could only stay in there an appropriate amount of time before I needed to go back to the sad little office I worked in in that particular branch. So I did what any rational person would do, a folded up a couple of paper towels and tucked them under my sleeve. I was working alone that day and figured I'd be able to sort it out when the bleeding stopped. Which would usually be easy, but this time one of the other members of staff who travels around had popped in and came to the office for a chat. She was awesome, and one of the few people there that I genuinely got along really well with, so I was always happy to see her. We chatted for about twenty minutes before she had to leave, and the whole time we talked, I sat there with the bloody paper towel up my sleeve. 

The thing is, although that was probably one of the 'worst' days at work, it wasn't all that unusual. It took until things got even worse, and there was a week where I woke up on Monday morning and started to cry almost as soon as I woke up. I continued to cry while I showered, dressed and drove to work and cried whenever I was alone. This went on for four days before I had a moment of clarity and realised that that wasn't a way to live. I was either going to kill myself to finally admit it. 

That evening I saw a Doctor who actually took my issues seriously, and signed me off from work for two weeks. Two weeks became six months - which is in itself another post. 

To end this post on a more positive note, that time off was exactly what I needed. I got a lot of help and support, and it was rough. Now I have my dream job, studying on my dream course, and I still have time to write.