Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Blog Tour - Finding a Voice by Kim Hood

Today I am pleased to welcome Kim Hood to my blog. Kim's latest release, Finding a Voice, is a great book which covers the taboo subject of mental illness, a subject which is hitting the headlines more and more in current months. It is a subject which has been hidden in previous years, an illness which I myself have suffered with for many years and I therefore was eager to review this fantastic book which I hope will help children sufferers to speak out and seek support from those around them. Kim Hodd joins me on my log to talk about the challenges she faced writing about this taboo subject.


To be honest, I didn’t think I was writing a book that contained a taboo theme when I wrote Finding a Voice.  I was just writing a story, and story for me always starts with interesting characters.  It just so happens that a lot of the interesting people I have known over the years have also suffered with mental illness.  Some of them have been kids.  And all of them have been members of some sort of family of course.  So it didn’t seem out of bounds to include a character with a mental illness in a book for children and teens.

While I didn’t think about mental illness being an off-limits subject matter in fiction, I was well aware of how difficult real life mental illness is for kids.  It can be draining and scary and confusing for everyone involved—those struggling with their own mental health and the people around them struggling to support them.  It is made so much harder by the fact that mental health is still unmentionable for the most part; not only does a family have to make it through dark days at times, but they have to do it silently.

This silence, for the most part, has extended to books for kids.  If a book does address mental illness it is probably ‘edgy’, and definitely for older, more mature teens.  Kids and younger teens are mostly kept at the periphery of discussions about difficult or disturbing issues—yet they are often the ones most affected by these very issues.   With statistics indicating that mental health concerns are on the rise, especially for teens, how can ‘protecting’ kids from the subject be healthy?   

Of course, there are also many kids who, luckily, have no life experience with mental illness.  I would guess there is a child at their school who does though.  Maybe that child needs someone to understand.  Books can open up discussion, or at least give kids a window into diverse experiences. 

Diversity is almost a cliché in discussions about books for kids and teens right now, but it really is important isn’t it?  Mental illness has got to be a part of this diversity, as difficult a theme as it might be.  After all, don’t all kids deserve to see aspects of their experiences reflected in the books they read?

Thank you Kim for joining me today and I hope that this book helps at least one child in seeking support for a mental illness.

I would also just like to take this oppurtunity to highlight Rethink Mental Illness - Time to Change, a fantastic organisation which helps support Mental lllness. I think this video is such a powerful piece of film and really highlights the reality that mental illness touches so many of us:

Finding a Voice: Friendship is a Two-Way Street by Kim Hood

Finding a Voice: Friendship is a Two-Way Street ...

Jo could never have guessed that the friendship she so desperately craves would come in the shape of a severely disabled boy. He can't even speak. Maybe it is because he can't speak that she finds herself telling him how difficult it is living with her eccentric, mentally fragile mother. Behind Chris' lopsided grin and gigantic blue wheelchair is a real person - with a sense of humour, a tremendous stubborn streak and a secret he has kept from everyone. For a while it seems life may actually get better. But as Jo finds out just how terrible life is for Chris, and as her own life spirals out of control, she becomes desperate to change things for both of them. In a dramatic turn of events, Jo makes a decision that could end in tragedy. This is the story of how an unusual friendship unlocks the words that neither knew they had.

Mental illness is an 'illness' which touches many people. I am one of those people and I now, after over fifteen years, feel ready to talk about it. however, when I was younger, I wish there had been a book that I could of related to, this is such a book. 

The book touches on many subjects, bullying, disability, mental illness and the over riding topic of friendship makes this story such a beautiful read which has underlying messages running throughout. It is a great book to read at anytime but also it would be a powerful book to read during school PHSE lessons and could be used as a great introduction into mental illness. 

This book should be introduced into school -let's get it onto school reading lists!

In summary, a well written book and I look forward to reading more by this author soon.

Thank you to the publicist, Antonia Wilkinson, for sending me this book to review.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Blog Tour - The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

The Best of Me

They were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks - with a passion that would change their lives for ever. But life would force them apart. Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip ...Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past? This is the new epic love story from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of The Notebook, The Lucky One and The Last Song. Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved authors.

Nicholas Sparks is fast becoming a very popular author, but I had not, before reading this book, read any of them. I had picked up an earlier book but never finished it  However, after finishing this one, I am sure I will be looking out for others by the same author.

The story begins with the love story of two people who's families believe that they should not be together, they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but no matter what barriers are put in their way, they get together, until college calls for Amanda and Dawson makes the ultimate sacrifice by breaking the relationship off so Amanda will follow her career path - however not all goes to plan and lives change. It is not until Dawson returns for the funeral of someone he looked up to that Dawson and Amanda meet again.

I read the first two thirds of the book and enjoyed it, but was not itching to pick the book up at every spare moment. This soon changed when I got to the last third of the book. The tempo changed and existing characters were given bigger roles in the story. Filled with twists and turns, the story gathered pace, but the ending was just too tidy for me - I would of liked a little bit more from the ending which would of had me talking about it to friends, raving about the plot, but I just didn't feel satisfied with the ending. 

It was an easy read, I liked Sparks' writing style but I am unsure if I will be rushing to other titles.Many of Sparks' books have been made into films and have had rave reviews. I may try watching one of these films to see how they translate to the big screen

Thank you to the publishers, Sphere, for sending me the book to review.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Blog Tour Review - Violet and the Pearly Orient by Harriet Whitehorn

Violet and the Pearl of the Orient

Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making...When a new family move in next door, Violet is sure there's something strange about them. Then her eccentric, but lovely neighbour, Dee Dee Derota, has a precious jewel stolen. Could the new family be to blame? Violet is on the case to uncover the truth...With a beautiful hardback package complete with two colour illustrations throughout by emerging talent, Becka Moore, everyone is bound to fall in love with Violet and the colourful characters that make up her world. Perfect for fans of Dixie O'Day, Ottoline, Goth Girl and Darcy Burdock.

This is a fantastic book for young detectives, Violet Remy-Robinson is, herself, a wannabe sleuth, who knows as soon as she meets her new neighbours that something is not quite right. There are clues throughout the book as to the crime and its culprits.

It is a great book, written for the 9+ audience. It has a fantastic cover which depicts the characters perfectly. Printed in hues of violet and a light turquoise, this all adds to the 'spookiness of the book'. It reminds me of a kind of Addams family style family who have moved into the neighbourhood, neighbours to Violet Remy-Robinson.

This is one of a series of books featuring Violet but is great as a stand alone book which I am sure will encourage readers to find more of Harriet's books to read in the future.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's Books, for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Violet and the Pearl of the Orient - Illustrations

Today I am pleased to welcome Harriet Whitehorn, the author, and Becka Moor, the illustrator, to my blog. Violet and the Pearl of the Orient has a fantastic cover and they discuss the process of how the cover was designed.

Becka Moor Illustrations

The cover art for Violet and the Pearl of the Orient went through various different stages before we settled on one we liked. The concept itself was a spark of genius by designer Jane Buckley at Simon & Schuster who suggested we try for a ‘Rear Window’ kind of feel, with the main cast of characters occupying different windows of a Georgian style town house. Violet also went through a few different stages. She started with long hair and dungarees, but as we progressed through ideas, she was given a haircut and new wardrobe to reflect her background a bit more.

The process for Violet and the Pearl of the Orient was really collaborative. I started with the roughs which were shown to the author, Harriet Whitehorn, who passed on some feedback. Along with feedback from the publisher, a few changes were made until everyone was happy with everything. From there, we moved onto the finals for the book, which took a little bit of planning due to the addition of the violet pantone colour throughout. It was a lot more technical than I initially thought, but once I’d cracked it, it was easy peasy...ish. Everything was done digitally, with some added handmade textures here and there!

I think that the cover really suits this book - it really reflects the writing style of the book and the characters within. Throughout the book there are all brilliant illustrations. The book has a great Hallowe'en party within the story and I especially loved these illustrations with the characters dressed up in their costumes.

Another point I love about this book is the colour scheme. As mentioned above there is a violet colouring throughout which all adds to the 'spookiness of the book'.

Thank you to both Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor for visiting my blog today. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Blog Tour - Created the Destroyer by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir

Created, the Destroyer (eBook): Number 1 in Series

Sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit, ex-cop Remo Williams is rescued from the electric chair at the eleventh hour and recruited by a secret government organisation named CURE. From this moment, he ceases to officially exist. From now on, he will be an assassin, targeting criminals who are beyond the law. Remo's trainer is a grouchy old Korean named Chiun, whose masterey of the terrifyingly powerful martial art of Sinanju makes him the deadliest man alive. Together Remo and Chiun set forth on their epic, impossible mission to vanquish every enemy of democracy - every bad guy who thinks they can escape justice. This is a new era in man's fight against the forces of evil. This is the time of the Destroyer. Breathlessly action-packed and boasting a winning combination of thrills, humour and mysticism, the Destroyer is one of the bestselling series of all time.

I am a big fan of Lee Child, Jason Bourne and other books with strong male leads who don't live by the rules and when I heard about Remo Williams, I was hoping to find another man to add to my list. And I wasn't disappointed!

When I read the synopsis sent to me I will admit I was unsure - I didn't believe that it would be believable but it was. An ex cop on death row, who was due to be sent to the electric chair but is visited by a monk who gives him a black tablet which he is told to bite on just before the button is pressed. This is just the start of the story as Williams is then send to a medical establishment where he is 'awakened' and he is trained as an assasin - how can he be traced if he is supposed to be dead! 

It is a great read, full of everything a reader wants from a debut read from an explosive new author and that is what get. And that is not all - Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir have actually written fifty ebooks in this series and they have all been released now for us to read! 

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for including me in this blog tour - and I definitely recommend that everyone reads Created the Destroyer - I am sure you will all soon be hooked!

Blog Tour - Destroyer