Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Where The Ideas Flow with Tatum Flynn

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I am really pleased to welcome debut author, Tatum Flynn, onto the blog to show us where her ideas flow.
 I live by the sea in England, this is the view from my study (if I stand by the window and peer round the corner ;)
 Here's one of the bookselves by my desk (I have seven altogether and they're all overflowing)
You see, books even turn up in the bathroom...
​Sometimes I try to write when I'm away from home but there can be distractions...
​ 
I am in love with my desk - does that sound weird? ok that sounds weird but I don't care - I nabbed it on eBay a few years ago for a steal and it dates all the way back to Napoleonic times and is so beautiful. I like to imagine some French ambassador sitting at it and sending out Important Orders. Also, handy snack drawers.
And here's some of the junk sitting on it. The passport to Hell was a present, and I bought the Pop Rocks to celebrate getting my book deal (the pet vampire bat in The D'Evil Diaries has a thing for it) and left it there as a reminder. Peeking out at the back is my invitation to last year's Hachette summer party, which was an absolutely brilliant night, not least because I got to meet Cressida Cowell who is ridiculously nice. I have no clue where the devilish ducks came from...
Finally here is Friday, the person who actually writes my books. As you can see she's getting a bit fed up with not getting the credit.
Bio: Tatum Flynn lives by the sea in England with a cat called Friday and too many hats. She has a soft spot for the word ‘ramshackle’, and a vagabond past which involves piloting lifeboats in Venezuela, playing poker in Las Vegas, shooting rapids in the Grand Canyon and almost falling out of a plane over Scotland. Her debut, THE D’EVIL DIARIES, will be out from Orchard/Hachette on the 2nd April 2015, with a sequel, Hell's Belles, to follow January 2016. Find her on Tumblr (sometimes) and Twitter (far too often).
 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow

Crow Moon 
The fire in the middle of the circle casts flickering shadows over our faces: we stand obediently in its fierce warmth, following the words of the monthly full-moon ritual.
I raise my hands up to the star-riddled Cornwall evening just like everyone else, just like every month, and feel nothing.
First of Greenworld Series
Published by Quercus on 5th March 2015 
408 pages in review paperback
Summary from Publisher’s website
Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn’t want to follow in his mum’s witchy footsteps.
Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea…
But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?
*****
Quercus, the publishers, quite rightly mention passion and wickedness in their promotion for this novel. For me what underpins the whole story is Anna McKerrow’s passion for the setting she has created. This Greenworld is fully realised and utterly believable – she includes the muck as well as the magic. 
We’re seeing it through Danny’s eyes – our 16 year old main character – and so the reality of the wickedness that threatens his community grows on him – and us. As the publishers say, it is a coming-of-age adventure. We want him to grow up – and oh does he get the dramatic events to do that! I was thrilled by the cunning use of witchcraft and folklore, enough to feel real, yet so sparing and wrapped up in the adventure to intrigue.
I am not really a romance fan – but I’d say the relationship tensions add to the story. Many readers will fancy Danny, I expect. There’s a fair bit of character-led humour too which enriches the mix. That makes any perils and losses all the more heartfelt.
This will suit those who love reading about adolescents trying to find their role in a magical world very close to our own. The sort of person who wants to speculate about an alternative future – but see it through a credible contemporary character. More thoughtful readers will pick up on the underlying issues of gender, race and spirituality – but happily, it zips along without preaching.  There’s plenty of action with supernatural threats and violence, and romance that touches on sexuality. Nothing there without a point, though, I’d say.
The notes were an informative bonus.  You will just have to wait for the second story – which I rather hope lets us see the Redworld - until next spring.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Write Way with Teri Terry

Today, I am pleased to welcome author, Teri Terry, onto the blog, to tell us lots of her writing secrets.
1) Your new novel, Mind Games, has just been published. How do you feel?
Good! And a mixture of nervous and hopeful. Also rather rubbish just now, as I’ve got an endless cold.
2) Can you give me a one line pitch for Mind Games, so my readers can get a feel for the story?
I’m SO not good at one line pitches! How about...
Mind Games is the Matrix meets Holodecks, and shows the dangers of 24-7 plugging in to technology through the eyes of a girl whose life changes forever when she stops Refusing, and becomes part of it.
That is rather wordy: if any of your readers can come up with a better one, it’d be very much appreciated!
3) Was Mind Games harder to write after writing  the Slated trilogy? 
I’d had more practice with writing and editing when I got to Mind Games, so in that sense it was easier. Also writing a standalone this time was fun! I didn’t have to think about what to keep back for the next book all the time.
4) Are you a planner or a pantser when it comes to starting a new novel?
I plot much more now than I used to, but I don’t start a book that way. Usually I’ll write my way into a story, get to know the characters, and feel my way in. At some point, I’ll step back and think more about where I’m going and how to get there. This usually involves writing a chapter summary of what I have so far, and extending it on, either in sections or as a whole. How far I’ve got when I stop to focus more on plotting varies book by book.
5) I notice from your Twitter feed, that you often seem to be rushing from one place to another. When do you find time to write? 
I’m writing full time now, which does include rushing around at times but I’m also home writing a lot of the time. The way things have gone lately is that I seem to have bursts of intense busyness and travel, interspersed with writing. I like to write in big chunks of time, so this works for me. But I do have to be careful about booking too many things away; I don’t write well away from home. Last autumn I was over committed, and it did make finishing the next book rather hard.
6) Where is your ideal place to write? 
At home. In the morning I like to write in bed in my PJs with a cup of tea and my laptop. In the afternoons I like to write in the garden, weather permitting, or in my Writing Shack, also in the garden. The latter doesn’t have power so isn’t any good in the winter. Because of this my best writing time tends to be May to September, so I try not to book a lot of stuff this time of year.
7) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
Sometimes, but word targets can be distracting: the temptation is to overly focus on the number. It works better for me to aim to finish a chapter(s). When I was writing the Slated trilogy, I did use word count targets more, partly because I was panicking about meeting deadlines. It made me feel more in control.
8) Who are your favourite #UKYA authors? 
There are so many! Lucy Christopher and Sharon Jones; Frances Hardinge (though perhaps she veers towards younger); Tanya Byrne.
9) Do you have any advice for unpublished authors on dealing with rejection? 
It’s part of being a writer, but it’s never fun. You have to be able to shake it off and keep going, or it can crush you. One thing that helps is to always be writing something new that you’re excited about when you are waiting to hear back on something else. If it is rejected, the new thing can sustain your hope.
10) Is there one SCBWI unpublished author that you think we should watch out for in the near future? 
Many of my SCBWI friends that I’d have put in that category in the past have either got there (eg Jeannie Waudby) or have a book coming soon (Kathryn Evans). Another very talented author-in-waiting is Julienne Durber.
Mind Games is published by Orchard Books and available to buy now.  
To find out more about Teri Terry:

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

The Mermaid's Sister
There is no cure for being who you truly are...
2014 Winner — Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award — Young Adult Fiction
Published in March by Skyscape
Pages - 236
Summary
In a cottage high atop Llanfair Mountain, sixteen-year-old Clara lives with her sister, Maren, and guardian Auntie. By day, they gather herbs for Auntie’s healing potions. By night, Auntie spins tales of faraway lands and wicked fairies. Clara’s favourite story tells of three orphan infants—Clara, who was brought to Auntie by a stork; Maren, who arrived in a seashell; and their best friend, O’Neill, who was found beneath an apple tree. 
One day, Clara discovers shimmering scales just beneath her sister’s skin. She realizes that Maren is becoming a mermaid—and knows that no mermaid can survive on land. Desperate to save her, Clara and O’Neill place the mermaid-girl in their gypsy wagon and set out for the sea. But no road is straight, and the trio encounters trouble around every bend. Ensnared by an evil troupe of traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill must find a way to save themselves and the ever-weakening mermaid.
And always, in the back of her mind, Clara wonders, if my sister is a mermaid, then what am I?
* * *
Make no mistake, this is a fairy tale through and through and requires suspension of disbelief.  If you can do that, you’re in for a treat. The book was originally titled ‘Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree’ and centres around three orphans (two girls and a boy) who have grown to their teens being taught that one was found on the doorstep inside a seashell, another was dropped off by a stork, and the other under an apple tree.  With Maren, the older sister turning slowly into a mermaid, Clara, the other sister, is left wondering if she will one day turn into a stork!
The characterisation is great with nearly every character unusual and captivating.  The villains are dastardly, the heroes intensely likeable.  There’s more than a touch of Grimm’s fairy tales rather than Disney, so expect some dark moments.  Pilsner…that’s all I’ll say.
Maren, despite saying not a word in her mermaid form, still manages to convey all a mermaid should be; beautiful, flirtatious and wrathful.  You can just imagine her being the source of all those tales of tortured sailors at sea.  
But beware if you like your heroines in touch with their soft side - though the story is written in the first person, some readers may find Clara’s voice sometimes a bit detached.  I found this fit with the traditional style of a fairy tale as well as Clara’s ultra-pragmatic character.  However, I can imagine some readers - who prefer their female first person novels to have a bit more of an emotional attachment to the story - may find it unrealistic or unengaging.
I was really wondering towards the end if this fairy tale would have a happy or grim ending.  I won’t spoil it for you, but I think I would have been delighted with either – it was the journey that was the most captivating.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Spotlight on Sunny by Keris Stainton

 ‘You’ll phone us every day,’ Sunny’s dad said, squeezing her against his chest.  She could feel her hair vibrating where his mouth rested on the top of her  head.
‘Yes, I’ve said I will,’ Sunny said.’Please don’t wipe your nose on my headscarf.’
Published by Catnip in March 2015
Pages - 203
Summary
After winning a local film competition, Sunny and her best friends Kitty and Hannah are off to do a film-making course - in London! Sunny can't believe her dad has let her come on her own (even if he has asked her to phone every day...) Sunny is loving the film-making classes and hanging out with their new friend - lovely, funny Will. Sunny knows that these things don't fit with the future her parents want for her and she starts to wonder what she really wants. And that's not even the biggest thing on her mind - there's also the big secret she's hiding from her best friends...
*****
In this series, Keris Stainton presents the teenagers of today, writing about their hopes and dreams as well as the difficulties they face in life, without making a big deal about them.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the multicultural feel to it and the fact that the  main character, Sunny was a Muslim.This author is waving  the flag for a new generation of diverse main characters, by showing how individual and unique each teenager is,  celebrating their differences rather than ridiculing them.
I know very little about life as a Muslim, so it was extremely interesting to read about the customs and routines of a British Muslim teen.  Sunny’s parents are quite strict about her upbringing, and Sunny embraces their views rather than rebelling against them. She has strong religious beliefs and knows exactly what she wants out of life. She comes across as a wonderful role model and a well adjusted teen. It was fascinating to watch her blossom on her first trip away from home.
I haven’t read the first book in this series, Starring Kitty, but I will definitely be reading it soon. A fantastic portrayal of British teens.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Craft Book Review: The Complete Book of Drawing by Barrington Barber

 

 
Learning to draw is not difficult. Everybody learns to walk and talk and read and write at an early age, and learning to draw is less difficult than that. Drawing is merely making marks on paper which represent some visual experience. All it takes to draw effectively is the desire to do it, a little persistence, the ability to observe and a willingness to carefully correct any mistakes.
Republished by Arcturus in 2013
What does an artist need to know about drawing? And what has to be mastered in order to achieve the drawings you want? In this beautiful book Barrington Barber shows you, offering advice and tips he takes you through the various stages.
From object drawing and still-life composition, the natural world and portraiture, to looking at form and shape, and assessing styles and techniques, The Complete Book of Drawing is a distillation of the many skills that the aspiring artist needs to develop.
*****
Just by looking at the sheer size of this book, you can easily believe that it is a complete book of drawing. Just by flicking through the pages, I was astounded by how many different things you can draw. This book takes you through the basic skills needed, including the right drawing tools for you, right through to more advanced stages, such as learning from the masters. The drawings have mainly been created in pencil and pen, with guidelines to show you how they were created.
As a beginner, I was a little overwhelmed by the book. For me, personally it didn’t break down the stages enough to make my drawings look anything like the ones in the book. So I enrolled the help of an assistant, Imogen, who is presently studying art at A level. Now I have seen quite a few pictures created by Imogen, so I knew she would be looking at this book, with the eyes of an experienced artist. The drawings below are hers.
Imogen had likes and dislikes about the book. She mainly enjoyed the chapters based around drawing the human body. She  felt they helped to break the body’s movements down, by analysing the human skeleton. She also found the steps to drawing hands at different angles really rather helpful.
As an experienced artist, Imogen felt that more steps were needed in many of the breakdowns of the drawings, which is something I touched on earlier in the review. She found herself copying the finished drawing rather than learning to break it down for herself.
On the whole, this book literally covers everything you would ever consider drawing,  and has something for artists at all levels. If you’re a beginner, the first stages which cover drawing objects and shading would definitely be helpful. For the more advanced artist, looking for a different subject to draw. This book would probably suit the more experienced drawer than a beginner, who would need more step by step instructions to achieve the desired effect.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Great Cheese Robbery by Tim Warnes

 
Patrick Elephant is scared of lots of things, like the dark and the fluff under the sofa. His daddy isn’t scared of anything – except mice! So when a mouse posing as a cheese inspector tries to steal the elephants’ cheese, Daddy is too terrified to stop him! Can little Patrick Elephant save the cheese – and his father?
Published by Little Tiger Press 2 March 2015 
Summary From Little Tiger
A hilarious new tale from Tim Warnes (Dangerous!, Monty and Milli - The Totally Amazing Magic Trick). The Great Cheese Robbery is the perfect book for kids dealing with phobias. Warnes’ fresh and quirky illustrations and mischievous mice will captivate young readers. A fantastically funny story that parents won’t mind reading again and again . . . and again!
This is a fun story that deals with the fact that everyone – even the biggest amongst us – is afraid of something. At first it seems that Daddy Elephant is totally fearless – Patrick, his son, tries and tries to scare him and make him jump, but it just doesn’t work. But then, while Mummy’s out, the mice arrive – led by dastardly Cornelius J. Parker and we see that Daddy is absolutely terrified of mice. He lets Cornelius and his huge troupe of’  thieving mice friends get away with everything – including the fridge until Mummy Elephant arrives home just in time!
I tested this story out on a six and three-year old and they were initially not that keen on reading it compared to other books. The cover is actually rather plain compared to the wonderful havoc inside – but once into the story the children absolutely loved the fact that a dad could be afraid of and be made to look so silly by something so much smaller than him. This is a humorous story, with fun illustrations, that allows children to laugh at fears – which can be no bad thing. This is a funny, entertaining and useful addition to any children’s bookshelf.