Friday, 27 February 2015

Wolf Winter blog tour - 3 tips for writers

I've been very luck to have been invited to take part in the blog tour for Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekback. 
Here are Cecilia's three tips for becoming a (better) writer:
I live by this quote: "Write a little every day, without hope, without despair." (Isak Dinesen)

"Write a little every day..."
To manage to live in the world your writing creates - thus making it come alive - you have to visit it every day. Goals such as word count seems less helpful to me as the writing waxes and wanes and there are periods which are very productive quantitively and others – more reflective ones – which are as productive qualitatively. But the writing must be revisited daily.

"...without hope..."
The moment you start writing “to be published”, you have lost it. You must remain true to yourself, to what you have inside you and not look at what people will like or at what will sell. This becomes so clear once you know you are going to be published. There is so much noise and if you let yourself get distracted by it, your writing peters out in the same pace as your confidence.

"...without despair."
Writing is hard, but you must trust in ‘the muse,’ or in your subconscious who is at it all the time, even when you don’t sit at your desk. When you get stuck, go for a walk, cook a lovely meal or play with your children. The answer will come when it’s ready.

I'll be reviewing Wolf Winter on the blog very shortly, and I promise, it's good!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

In Conversation With C. J. Daugherty

Today, as part of the #UKYAExtravaganza, I'm in conversation with C. J. Daugherty, author of the extremely successful Night School series.  If you missed it, my review of book 1 is here
How did your first book, Night School, come about?
The very first idea for Night School came from seeing a photo in the newspaper. It was a black and white picture of a group of young men standing on the steps of a grand building, all wearing old-fashioned tuxedoes. They were staring at the camera like they owned it. Or rather, like they owned everything. The headline read, “The Bullingdon Club, a secret society at Oxford University”.  The photo was old – taken in the 1980s. Prime Minister David Cameron was in it, and London Mayor Boris Johnson. They were teenagers, but still recognisable. And already on the path to power.

Seeing that image set off a chain reaction that ultimately became Night School. I wanted to explore how wealth and power impacted young people. What’s it like to be the child of the prime minister? To be the child of a billionaire? I wanted to examine what it’s like to be so young, and so rich you’re essentially above the law. What does that do to a sixteen-year-old’s head? Because the guys in that picture look like they think they can get away with anything. And if you could get away with anything at that age, what would you do?

Any advice to anyone dreaming of becoming an author?
There is an old saying, ‘If you do not read then you cannot write, and if you cannot write then you must work for a living.’

I read that when I was 16 and it stuck with me. It turns out it’s true. The first step to becoming a writer is becoming a reader. After that, writing either happens or it doesn’t. I’m convinced it’s in your DNA. If you haven’t got the writing gene, nothing will make it happen for you. But if you do, nothing will stop you from doing it.

It’s not a matter of wealth or privilege – I grew up in a house with no books. My parents weren’t readers. My mother genuinely believed reading was a waste of time. She was constantly throwing my books away. Nobody in my family went to college except me. And yet, I always knew what I wanted to do. All I ever wanted to be was a writer. I remain convinced if you look at my blood under a microscope you’ll see the tiny books in it. The doctors just don’t want me to know.

 This is why I don’t trust doctors.

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
Real life is my inspiration. On Twitter, I’m always tweeting links to news stories with BOOK IDEA in front of them. People think I’m kidding, but I’m dead serious. Night School was inspired by a picture in a newspaper. The next book I’m writing also started as a news story. These days, I basically watch the news with a notepad in front of me and a pen in my hand, waiting for inspiration to strike.

What are you working on next?
I’m co-writing a two-part series called The Secret Fire with the brilliant French writer Carina Rozenfeld. She’s writing a French boy character named Sacha. I’m writing about an English girl named Taylor. The French boy knows the precise day he’s going to die. Until then, nothing can kill him. But on that day nothing can save him. Except Taylor. The only problem is, they’ve never met. They live in different countries. They have only eight weeks to find each other, uncover the ancient mystery surrounding him, and save his life.

The Secret Fire will be published this September in the UK by Little Brown. I can’t wait for people to read it!

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
After my husband and my pets.... My laptop! My next book’s in there. If I could I’d sleep with it under my pillow.

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Kurt Vonnegut (very funny and wise), Benjamin Franklin (very wise and funny), Robert Downey Jr (intelligent eye candy), David Sedaris (nicest man in the universe), Taylor Swift (no explanation needed).

I worry a little that Franklin and Vonnegut might get on each other’s nerves. But I’d seat them separately.

If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the Night School Web Series on my Youtube Channel: -- We’ve had 200,000+ views so far and we’re hoping to make a series 2 later this year!
And I hope I get to see some of you in Birmingham on Feb 28!!

Thank you C.J. for that fabulous interview.  If you haven't read the Night School books yet, I recommend you grab the first one and give it a go - I really couldn't put it down! You can follow C.J. on twitter by clicking this link and she's also over on Facebook too

I'm looking forward to going to the UKYA Extravaganza on Saturday too - I'll blog about it once I'm back!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Night School - book one

Night School - Book one by C. J. Daugherty
Published by Atom
5th January 2012
Paperback Edition
Allie's world is falling apart...

She hates her school. Her brother has run away. She's just been arrested. Again. And now her parents are sending her away.

But instead of hating boarding school, Allie is happy. She's making friends. And there's Carter, a brooding loner with whom she feels an instant connection.

Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. Her classmates - and maybe some of the teachers - are hiding a secret. And soon it begins to feel like a very dangerous place...

I haven't felt this way about a YA series since I started the Twilight books all those years ago.  This is the first in the Night School series - there are currently four in the series, with number five, the final book in the series,  being published later this year.  I'm fortunate enough to be interviewing C. J. as part of they UKYA Extravaganza that is taking place in Birmingham on Saturday, and my interview with her will be on here this Wednesday!

The plot is thus: Allie is in big trouble! She has just been arrested again for breaking into, and vandellising her school, and it's the final straw for her parents.  Unknown to her, they make plans to send her to boarding school; the mysterious Cimmeria Acadamy where contact with the outside world doesn't seem to exist.

Allie is adamant that this school will be no different from her last one, and is surprised when, despite all the strange rules and regulations of Cimmeria, she seems to be truly happy at last.  Though there do seem to be some very odd things going on - and nobody is prepared to discuss them.

Add to the mystery some bitchy girls, and two hot boys who can't stand each other, and you've got the start of a cracking series of books.  Oh, and did I forget to mention, the first rule of Night School is that nobody talks about it!


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 16 February 2015

Second Life

Second Life by S. J. Watson
Published by Doubleday
12th February 2015
Hardback Edition

She loves her husband. She's obsessed by a stranger.

She's a devoted mother. She's prepared to lose everything.

She knows what she's doing. She's out of control.

She's innocent. She's guilty as sin.

She's living two lives. She might lose both . . .

This is the highly antcipated second novel from S. J. Watson following on from the success of Before I Go To Sleep which debuted a few years ago, and which I did enjoy, so I was looking forward to reading this.  I have to say from the off, that I felt like I was watching one of those cheesy horror films, you know where there's a noise outside so the 'victim' opens the door and looks out, no one is there, but you, the audience, know that now the killer is in the house and that's it for them?  Second Life felt a bit like that for me.  I spent many pages yelling at Julia, the central character, that she was a total fool and not to proceed with any of her foolish ideas, but to no avail, she didn't listen to me one iota!

The plot is as follows: Julia is happily married to a surgeon, with a teenage son, and a younger sister who lives in Paris.  Out of the blue she finds out that Kate, her sister, has been murdered, but there appears to be no motive for the crime.  Julia goes over to Paris to see the scene for herself, and to meet Anna, Kate's flatmate and best friend.  There she learns that Kate had been using websites to meet men, mostly virtually for sexual liaisons and Julia begins to wonder if this is what got her killed.

Not content to let the police handle the situation, Julia decides to pass herself off as Kate and log on to her account to see if she can find the man who might have been responsible for her death.  There she meets Lukas, a single man living in Spain.  They begin an online relationship, despite Julia's fears that this might be the man responsible for killing her sister.  Then Lukas announces that he is in London for a night; he poses the question, does Julia want to meet him?!
Just to add to the confusion in Julia's life is the added fact that her son Connor is actually Kate's biological child but she was unable to care for him, so Julia and her husband Hugh have raised him as their own, but prior to Kate's death, she was adamant that she wanted her child back.  We also flash-back to Julia's younger days when she was starting out as a photographer in Berlin and of what drove her back to the UK and into the arms of Hugh.

At this point, as you can imagine, my yelling at Julia began, and it didn't end until almost at the end of the book.  There is defintely a touch of Fatal Attraction going on throughout the story, and at times I did shake my head in disbelief at some of the things that went on.  But, it is fiction, and therefore, doesn't it require the ability to suspend any notions of reality, in order to submerge yourself into the fantasy world that is being created?

I read this very quickly as it is a page-turner but did I enjoy it as much as Before I Go To Sleep?  I'm not entirely sure that I did, but that's not to say that it isn't a good book.  Maybe if I hadn't wanted to bash Julia so much for being stupid I'd have enjoyed it a little bit more.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

The Ship

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell
Published by W&N
19th February 2015
Hardback Edition


Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is occupied by ragtag survivors. The Regent's Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can't produce your identity card, you don't exist.

Lalla, sixteen, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised to save them. His escape route is a ship big enough to save five hundred people. But only the worthy will be chosen.

Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?


This is the first book that I've read as part of a new book group that I'm in, being run by the publishers at Curtis Brown.  They advertised it on twitter last year so I thought I'd fill out the form and see what happened, and lo and behold, I was chosen!  The Ship was our initial read and then we got to take part in an online discussion with the others from the group, plus the author herself which was lots of fun.

The Ship is a dystopian novel that some say is billed for the YA market, and others not, but as the author herself had no definitive answer to that question, lets just say it's available out there for anyone who wants to read it.  Now I'm not a sci-fi fan, and on the basis of the blurb, I would not have chosen to read this book.  However, I'm a sucker for a nice cover and based on that, I would actually have picked it up, which I think others in the group have said too.

The plot is as such, we are in London, sometime in the future.  Without an identity card you are no one.  You cannot live, you cannot eat, you  cannot survive.  Those who are now identityless are camped out in numerous locations throughout the city, the British Museum being one of these shelters.   Lalla lives with her parents Michael and Anna in the confines of their house.  They visit the museum often, but are always aware of what doubt there is to their future and the world that they live in.  Michael though has a plan, one that he discusses in quiet whispers with his wife when he thinks Lalla isn't listening - something about a ship.

One even a terrible thing occurs and the family leave their home to board the vessel that Michael has been planning for years.  On board are almost 500 other people, specifically chosen by Michael to be saved.  As the ship sets sail, what wonders will this new life provide for those on board, or will they regret leaving London behind?

I don't want to give too much away here, but I will say that once on board the ship (I keep wanting to call it a boat) I felt very claustrophobic - I don't think cruising is going to be for me, especially after this, but The Ship is a very easy read, and it's not too sci-fi that I didn't enjoy it.  In fact, it was very readable and provided us with lots of things to discuss, so I'd definitely recommend it for other book groups to add to their list.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 11 February 2015


Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed
Published by Atlantic Books
1st January 2015
Paperback Edition
At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise - a promise of piecing together a life that lay shattered at her feet...

Having previously read, and enjoyed Torch by Cheryl Strayed, I instantly set about getting my hands on her other two books, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things.  If you don't already know, Wild has just been released as a film staring Reece Witherspoon and everyone who is in the know says you must read the book first.  Not a dilemma for me as by the time I get to see it (and I do want to watch it), it will be out on dvd or on the tv and no longer in the cinema!

Four years on from the death of her mother (which Torch touches upon), Cheryl's life turns upside down.  Her stepfather finds a new love, her brother and sister take different paths with their own lives, and her marriage to Paul begins to break down, with Cheryl having numerous affairs.  She needs to find her way in life but she has no idea how to do it.

A chance finding of a map about the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) ignites a tiny flame inside Cheryl that seems reluctant to be put out.  The idea grows until suddenly it is a fully envisaged plan - she will walk the PCT on her own, from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.  Having never walked before this is a humungous task and not one to be undertaken lightly.  What on earth do you need to be out in the wilderness for months at a time, and most importantly, can she even achieve it?

With a route mapped out, and boxes waiting for her at various stages along the way, Cheryl and her backpack Monster begin the journey.  Within hours she has blisters and feels she cannot go any further - but this is only day one.  There are over 1000 miles left to conquer. 

I was thoroughly rooting for Cheryl all the way through Wild.  Its a brutally honest book and some parts of it made me wince inside.  As she steps out into the wilderness, we too hear the silence of being the only person around, the rattle of the snakes warning us that they are in our way, and the sound of running water when our only supply has dried up.  This is also a book about camaraderie with the fellow walkers that Cheryl meets on the trail time and time again.  Of counting the dimes and cents for food and Snapple lemonade when you know that what is in your pocket is all you have until your next parcel collection, and of reading and burning pages of books along the way until you finally reach your final destination.

I'm an indoorsy person but reading Wild made me want to go outside and live a little more.  I don't have the strength to do what she did, but boy I admire her so much for doing it.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Zig-Zag Girl

The Zig-Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
Published by Quercus
6th November 2014
Paperback Edition

Brighton, 1950.

When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar's. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate.

But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another 'trick', the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in the killer's sights...

Set in the days when the world of theatre was changing, The Zig-Zag Girl looks at the less glamorous side of the fading era of magic and of the growing world of comedy in the theatres around Britain.  Primarily based in Brighton, the book centres around Edgar Stephens, a DI who during the Second World War was part of a unit known the Magic Men.  Stephens has left the world of magic behind him, but when the body of a girl turns up in three separate boxes, he is reminded of a trick called the zig zag girl that was once performed by a member of the Magic Men, Max Mephisto.  Edgar gets in touch with Max who is still performing, and the Magic Men are slowly reunited.  However as things progress, their number starts to decline one by one and it is clear that they are all in danger.  They all know how to perform and what each trick entails but someone somewhere is re-enacting these stunts with catastrophic consequences, and no one knows who will be lured to their death next.

What I really enjoyed about this book was its sense of atmosphere and era.  You could envisage the changing world of the industry as you read through the story, of the clubs that no longer sparkled and gleamed, and of playing to the same tired old audiences time and again.  I didn't work out who the killer was; I think Elly Griffiths worked her plot and characters so well that as the book moved along I didn't have time to question 'whodunnit' as I focused on what was going to happen next. 

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x