What If Time Was Currency? Reviewing Everless By Sara Holland

Everless - Sara Holland
Published by Orchard on 4th January 2018.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

What if time was currency? If you did something right, you gained an hour. If you did something wrong, you lost one. Or a day, a month, a year. It's a terrifying concept and one embodied in Sara Holland's new fantasy series, Everless.

Jules needs more money to pay the rent and more time because it seems that her father is running out. In this world, there is only one option - go to Everless and work for the royal family. Against her father's wishes, Jules does just that. But then she wonders why he was so desperate to stop her.

As someone who doesn't read much fantasy and is often put-off by the overused trends and staples of the genre, I was impressed with Everless. I loved the descriptive writing style because it made me feel like I had been to Everless and that really helped me connect to the story. The luxury life of that small portion of society starkly contrasts the home that Jules has grown up in and gives it a Hunger-Games-esque feel. 

Unlike The Hunger Games, there is love in this story but it's far from the focal point and I respected that. It's refreshing to have a series that is more about the girl and her power. It takes a real badass to confront mortality like that. I can only compare this to Cinder but with a far darker and more twisted edge...

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading Everless at the time, it's not stuck with me as much as I hoped and the twists and turns of the plot have grown foggy for me already. Yet, for me, it's more about standing out in the moment. It did that very well. Fantasy readers, you have to try this.

Love, Jess

Thank you Orchard for my copy.

Girl In Snow: Paula Hawkins Meets Megan Abbott

Girl In Snow - Danya Kukafka
Published by Picador on 11th January 2018.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

This snowy weekend, I tried something new. I did Readathon By Zoe for my YouTube channel. It's a 24 hour period to read as much as you wish. Considering that I've had very little time to read on the weekends lately and I always say Oh, I'll read that on the weekend, I needed this. I blocked the day out, I picked some books and I am so glad I did.

To begin the readathon, I read Girl In Snow. It seemed a fitting title for the winter season and I was in the mood for a thriller. Not to mention, this cover is absolutely stunning and one of my favourites of 2018 already. I've seen so little about Girl In Snow and was surprised to find that it's been out since August (at least as an eBook). Seems a bit of a strange time to publish a book that's all about the cold. 

The novel is set with the premise of a death. A 15 year old girl is found in the snow by the night janitor at the local school. The police come and they draw up suspects. The parents, the ex-boyfriend, the stalker, the janitor. Three perspectives  draw a picture of what really happened, Cameron, Jade and Russ. Cameron is a social outcast, Jade seems to have no emotions and Russ is the police officer with a questionable past. 

The literary prose is absolutely stunning and hints that Kukafka could be a classic writer of her generation. Fuelled by characters, this story is all about perception. How one character perceives another, how we as the readers perceive them, how they anticipate being perceived. It shapes their actions and their stance and I loved exploring each of them. 

The chronology is all over the place. The story is divided into the days straight after the body is discovered but within each perspective there are flashbacks that are scattered across the previous years. Each section is short and provides just enough detail to lull you in, but not enough to give you any firm suspects on 'who did it'. 

Paula Hawkins meets Megan Abbott in this chilling story of what it means to really know someone. I urge you to pick it up.

Love, Jess

Thank you Picador for my copy.

REVIEW: The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life - Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published by Simon & Schuster on 30th November 2017.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

Please do not judge this book by the cover. The cover does not do it justice. It may be packaged in a paperback with a stereotypical starry backdrop and some questionable font, but the story inside is utterly enchanting.

Sal lives with his adopted father, who is Mexican and gay. He has a best friend called Sam who despises her mother and a friend called Fito whose mum is a drug addict. The story follows Sal as he and his friends go through a particularly tough year. Full of loss, bullying and change, they have to learn how to adapt and that fundamentally comes down to being confident in who they are. 

We live in Sal's mind and this coming-of-age story is unique in that Sal isn't just the guy who is sitting quietly in the corner like a wallflower, but he's the guy that throws punches. He's overwhelmed with emotion and questioning whether who he is comes down to his biological father. It's a question of nature vs nurture.

Written in the almost philosophical style of John Green, with quirky characters and deep meaning, The Inexplicable Logic Of My Life tackles some big issues. You can tell that much from the title. But it brings them to light in such a gentle way that I found it a smooth read. I was triggered in parts by the loss, but quickly reigned in by the thoughtfulness that surrounded these sections.

I loved the short chapters and found myself flying through this story even though it's over 400 pages long. Sal and Sam have a Word For The Day and many chapters begin or result in them picking a word that entirely sums up the events. It's clear that Benjamin Alire Sáenz feels passionately about the power of words. Not only did his characters discuss words as a topic, but it felt like each word of his novel was chosen with care.

I finished reading this book a week ago and it's still circling around my mind and that's why it's taken me so long to sit down and write this review. I've since bought Aristotle and Dante Uncover The Secrets Of The Universe as an audiobook because I need more. I completely see why people rave about Sáenz.

If you love John Green and Patrick Ness or if you want some slightly heavier YA, this one's for you.

Love, Jess

Thank you Simon & Schuster for my copy.

REVIEW: Some Kind Of Wonderful - Giovanna Fletcher

Some Kind Of Wonderful - Giovanna Fletcher
Published by Michael Joseph on 16th November 2017.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

I hadn't read something with relationship drama, female empowerment or best friends in ages and when I saw the blurb for Some Kind Of Wonderful, I was instantly excited. 

Lizzy and Ian met in their first year of university and have been a couple ever since. 10 years have gone by and in that time life has been safe, steady (or as the Tories would have you believe, strong and stable). The only thing is, they still haven't taken the next step and Lizzy is still waiting on a proposal. In their relationship, this kind of move needs to come from Ian. Lizzy is completely invested in their relationship but it's always seemed that Ian isn't quite there yet. Will he ever be?

When I came home from work to find that Some Kind Of Wonderful had reached me, I literally jumped around with excitement. I dropped the book I had already started and threw myself straight into Lizzy and Ian's world. It had to be done.

The book began in the most heartbreaking way, with a holiday to Dubai that should have resulted in the proposal that Lizzy was longing for. Instead, Ian turned out to be cruel and heartless and Lizzy returned without even a boyfriend. Just imagining losing a 10 year relationship gave me the chills. I can't begin to imagine how horrible that would be.

With Lizzy's life completely overturned, she moved back in with her mum and revisited her teenage self. This is where the book becomes a story of self-discovery and finding what it means to be happy. I loved Lizzy's rambling voice. She overthinks and stresses and pressurises herself until she can't think straight anymore and needs a good night with her best friend, Connie. Her family is even more entertaining, especially Michelle, Lizzy's younger sister. She's a few steps ahead of Lizzy in life - with marriage and children on the horizon. Their dynamics were always pushing the limit between friendship and rivalry in the best kind of way. 

Giovanna Fletcher is one of my favourite vloggers and I loved her shoutouts to certain messages I recognised from her channel, like CoppaFeel and her opinions on breastfeeding. It really made this book a Gi book and just like her backlist, notably Dream A Little Dream, I loved it.

Some Kind Of Wonderful was exactly the kind of entertaining winter read I was looking for. The spark of people coming together, shaping each other and pushing themselves towards contentedness is exactly what the season is about. As well as sisters calling each others bitches and all that....

So that's why I'd recommend giving it a go and if you already have, let me know what you thought.

Love, Jess

Thank you to Michael Joseph for my copy.

Meet The Impress Prize Winner 2016 - Magdelana McGuire

Home Is Nearby - Magdalena McGuire
Published by Impress Books on 1st November 2017.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Book depository purchase link.

The Impress Prize is known for bringing out the best of debut adult fiction and the 2015 winner, The Joyce Girl, remains to be one of my favourite works of historical fiction. So, to receive a proof copy of the 2016 winner, Home Is Nearby, was exciting. I knew the team of judges would have picked something special. I saved it for my holiday to York recently because what's more fitting than a historical book for a historic city?

Ania comes from a rural village in Poland where she lived with her father. When she meets Dominik at university, her whole perspective on life shifts. She begins discovering her artistic talents and her creativity emerges. Unfortunately, so does the Polish Crisis of the 1980s. As censorship becomes the new norm, Ania must find a way to balance her career, loyalty and friendships in a country that is spiralling out of recognition.

The Polish Crisis is a part of history that I've never learnt much about. Really, it's embarrassing. Ania's story brought that whole world to life for me in a literary style. Magdalena's writing is every bit as brilliant as I thought it would be, capturing Ania's anguish and her determination in one powerful tone. I appreciate good literary fiction and I'm picky when it comes to writing that is overdone and stupidly complex so I'm glad to say that McGuire got the balance just right.

As Ania found herself, and lost herself, I found myself wincing at her awful situations. She's quite a moral character so when crap happened, I sympathised with her completely. She's a good person trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Her relationship with Dominik is painfully real and I was completely rooting for them throughout the novel. 

In spite of all the dark times that Ania goes through, this book brought a bit of light to my holiday to York. I urge you to pick it up if you're after high quality story-telling this autumn.

Love, Jess

Thank you Impress Books for my copy.

YA Thrillers: The New Trend?

It's not secret that my two favourite categories are YA and thrillers. When I found out that one of my favourite adult thriller writers, C L Taylor, was turning her attention to young adults with her newest release, I was so excited.

The Treatment is about a facility centre for troubled youth. Drew's brother Mason has been sent there and she thinks nothing of it, until a doctor tracks her down and hands her a worrying note. Soon enough, Drew has to find a way to get into the treatment centre and break Mason out. C L Taylor described the novel to her agent as 'Prison Break meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest but for teens' and she could not have captured the story in a more accurate way. 

The emotions of teenage Drew combined with the trauma of the treatment creates an addictive combination. As she makes alliances and tries to figure out the workings of the building, it's a race against time to get out. The pacing, tension and horrifying set of consequences make it a page turner. Can you tell that I enjoyed it?

The Treatment is one of not that many YA thrillers around, but I definitely can see this genre on the rise. After Stephanie Perkins' There's Someone Inside Your House, a YA horror novel released this month as well, and the growing popularity of murder mystery One Of Us Is Lying, which has been optioned for TV, it's looking promising for the category.

What's not to love? All the emotions and identity searching of a YA novel with the chilling stuff of thrillers . After years of popularity surrounding domestic thrillers and the psychological spin that's entranced millions of readers, it's time for something new. For both YA and thriller readers, this is an exciting step.

The Treatment is out on 19th October, published by HQ. Here's a link to where you can buy it. I highly recommend getting stuck in because this category is around to stay!

Love, Jess

Thank you HQ for my copy of The Treatment.


The Nowhere Girls - Amy Reed
Published by Atom on 10th October 2017.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

This is a lesson on when don't touch me actually means: don't touch me. Note to men: this is all the time.

When I read Zoe's review of Amy Reed's The Nowhere Girls, I knew it was a book I had to pursue. Feminism, women's bodies, girl power and a literary style? Yes please. 

Zoe's post went into a bit of detail on her own experiences of being objectified and learning from a young age that the male species have a habit of treating us women like we should want them, like we're programmed to make them happy. I was saddened to read Zoe's story, and even more upset to know that pretty much everyone has a story like this. In fact, my own is almost identical to Zoe's! 

Also like Zoe, I recently read Moxie, a YA novel about school girls in America who get sick of the vague yet enforced dress codes that oppress the girls and set up a resistance. They are afraid of the trouble they could get in and in some cases hide it from their families, but ultimately it's the most important part of their lives. Fans of Holly Bourne's feminist fiction and Moxie-like books will find a home in The Nowhere Girls, that's a promise. 

When Grace moves into her new home, she finds the disturbing markings of the girl who used to live there. After a bit of digging, she finds out that Lucy left town after accusing the most popular boys at school of raping her. She wasn't believed. Soon enough, Grace makes friends with Erin and Rosina and the three of them start building their own resistance to the way girls are treated in their town. 

They're so different from one another because it isn't just one 'type' of girl that gets objectified. It's all of us. Erin has Asperger's and she's not immune to it, nor is Grace who is overweight, or Rosina who doesn't fit into the 'white girl' mould. They fight it anyway and become friends with some of the girls in school they thought they would never talk to. Another important lesson, girls need to stop judging each other and bond instead. That's because a blog titled The Real Men Of Prescott is fighting against respect of women. A disgusting and scary thought process that is known as the manosphere calls women's rights activists feminazis and says that women deserve to be treated like crap because all they're good for outside the bedroom is 'making sandwiches'. Yes, this line of thinking exists just as much in real life as it does in fiction. We need to fight.

The fight isn't easy and I love the realness of The Nowhere Girls. It doesn't promise a happily ever after or a simple solution. Just because girls start to fight back, doesn't mean they will be heard or respected. But, if you feel it too, join us. Pick up a copy today and call out the crap when you see it. 

If you want to start changing the world, why not pick up This Book Will (Help You) Change The World by Sue Turton?

Love, Jess

Thank you Atom for my copy of The Nowhere Girls. 

REVIEW: The Surrogate - Louise Jensen

The Surrogate - Louise Jensen
Published by Bookoutre on 27th September 2017.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

You can always count on Louise Jensen to write a fantastic thriller. Of her three novels so far, The Sister, The Gift and now The Surrogate, I haven't been able to guess a single ending correctly. You know those tag lines "best twist ever"? Well, I hate them. I'm sure many of us do. How many "best twist ever"s can there be? But when that kind of tag is attached to Louise Jensen's books, you can trust that the twist will be worth your while. But, I'd argue it's not the strongest aspect of her writing.

I think her true talent comes from the way she creates characters. They're so complex, with detailed histories and layers of issues. You never know how they're going to react when pushed to their limit. They might seem nice, but beneath it all, can you really trust them? I have to go into these stories and keep the characters at a distance now. Never get attached. Trust no one. 

The Surrogate is about a woman named Kat who is desperate to have a baby and her childhood best friend Lisa who is a convenient surrogate. Having struggled to have children for years, Kat finds it hard to accept that this time could be the real deal and a paranoia sets in. Little does she know, there is actually something very dark to be afraid of. 

The story begins with a journalist looking in on a house - a crime scene. Two bodies are being removed. Right from the outset, you're trying to guess who. When you think you know that, you're trying to guess how, why, when? But, it's not until the end that the truth becomes clear and you realise you were entirely wrong. How you too didn't spot the darkness lurking. 

You see, Kat's hiding something in her past and all we know is that it links with Kat's teenage boyfriend and Lisa. As the story went on, the line, 'you mustn't tell, Kat', was repeated over and over. Each time, I found myself scrambling for guesses as to what it could mean.

Kat's husband Nick seems to be hiding something too. That's what I was thinking at the start - either that or he was too perfect. Kat began to annoy me, the way she wound him up, but then I shifted my alliance and started to find Nick too secretive and uncaring. I was wrong about both of them.

For fans of Lisa Hall, Jenny Blackhurst or Louise Jensen's other novels, The Surrogate will give you the creeps right in time for Halloween. 

Love, Jess

Thank you Bookoutre for my digital copy.

REVIEW: It's Only Happens In The Movies - Holly Bourne

It Only Happens In The Movies - Holly Bourne
Published by Usborne on 5th October 2017.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

Holy freaking hell. This is Holly Bourne's best book to date. 

It's about Audrey, named after Audrey Hepburn, and her troubled home life, her love for drama (the subject, not like drama drama) and her hatred for romance films. When she gets a new job at her local cinema to escape the problems at home, she meets Harry. This is the part where Taylor Swift's Trouble starts playing. He's got a reputation and she shuts him down. Until she doesn't. 

Audrey is a fierce character with feminist views and the honest confusion of any teenage girl. She's a bit mean at times and not the best friend but she's got a good heart behind it all and is definitely a character to root for. After a crappy first-serious-relationship, she's damaged and scared, although no one can see it from the outside. When Harry starts to see Audrey's vulnerable side, she has to decide whether to be brave, logical, fleeting, or just violent. For anyone who's read the book, you'll know what I mean by violent. 

At this point, Taylor Swift's Love Story is probably the most likely background music you'd hear. This is YA romance at it's best and fans of Bourne's previous work, as well as readers of Nicola Yoon, Becky Albertalli, Sara Barnard and Kasie West, would love this writing style. Layered with Audrey's complex feelings about her parents' divorce, her half-siblings and step-mum, I often went from "aww" to "OMG NO" in about six seconds. So, you know, if you want to go on a roller-coaster from your own living room, this is the book for you.

I absolutely loved how it broke down the conventions of romance films, and the romance genre in general. Some chapters start with a romantic convention and compare it to real life, from kissing to dates and everything in between. It was read-out-loud and read-read-read-again worthy. Audrey's media coursework is to analyse romance films and  she comes across some pretty serious topics (sexual assault) as well as baffling ones (eye kissing) along the way. It was like analysing romance while reading a romance. 

Much like Adam Silvera's They Both Die At The End, you know the ending of It Only Happens In The Movies right from the start, but you can't help hoping that something will change it. You're rooting so much for the characters and their story. Right at the end is when Taylor Swift's Look What You Made Me Do would come on and I think it burns even more than Tay Tay's music video.

All in all, It Only Happens In The Movies is the kind of book you can't put down even when you're absolutely desperate for a wee or need to sleep because you have work in the morning. My bladder and eye bags didn't appreciate this story, but I did.

I'm going to Holly Bourne's event in Birmingham this October. Come and say hello if you're there! I may vlog the occasion so keep an eye on my Booktube channel.

Love, Jess

P.S. I want to go on a zombie run SO BADLY.

Thank you Usborne for a copy of It Only Happens In The Movies.

"I studied English at university, but I can’t say I ever expected to become a novelist." - An Interview With Chris Russell

This is Chris.

The ever-so-talented Chris Russell is a YA author and musician. His popular series Songs About A Girl tells the story of young photographer Charlie Bloom and how her life is turned upside down by her decision to take a chance and work with the members of a famous boyband, Fire&Lights. Chris is now a Zoella book club friend and as a huge fan of his writing, I am so happy to welcome him to my blog today and for the chance to ask him some of my most burning questions...

Music is obviously a huge part of who you are. You’ve toured the world with your band and even recorded some of the songs from Songs About A Girl. Why is music special to you?

It’s not really possible for me to overstate how instrumental (LOL) music has been in my life. When I was thirteen, I started a band with my best friends from school - and that single decision laid the blueprint for pretty much everything I’ve done in the twenty-three years since. Our band, The Lightyears, has toured the world, lived in each other’s pockets, played stadiums and dive-bars and everything in between, and it’s just been the most amazing adventure. When I’m not writing, I get to spend my time playing gigs with my closest friends, and I feel incredibly lucky to do that.

How did this love of music transition into a love of writing about music? Have you always been an avid reader?

Strictly speaking, writing was my first passion, before music. I read The Hobbit when I was around ten years old and was so inspired that I immediately sat down and wrote a teeny tiny imitation novella called The Dark Tower (I guess that was fanfic, technically!). I’ve always been obsessed with words, and I studied English at university, but I can’t say I ever expected to become a novelist. It happened almost by accident. In my twenties, I got into the habit of writing tour diaries for the band - blogs for our website, essentially - and then in 2010, our lead singer, George, sat me down and said: “Buddy, I think you should write a novel”. Since I have a history of doing pretty much any mad thing George tells me to, I did - and here I am, seven years later, a published YA author. It’s a funny old world.

Onto the books. The guys in Fire & Lights are all attractive in their own ways. Do you plan your characters before you start to write and what’s your method for making each character unique?

I love squads. I grew up on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Tolkien’s Fellowship, and when I hit my teens, I became obsessed with the ultimate kind of squad - rock bands. Take Guns ’n’ Roses, for instance. If a scientist distilled pure rock ’n’ roll in a lab and then brought it to life, it would look like GnR. Every member brings something different to the party. And after years of performing in a band and fanboying over other bands, I knew I wanted no deadwood in Fire&Lights. Every member had to be fascinating in their own way. As for planning, I am a turbo-geek planner. Everything is plotted out in advance; in fact, my novels start as an intricate series of spreadsheets. Some of them are (ahem) colour-coded.

There’s a nasty stereotypical set up about women always being fangirls and men always being the successful musicians. While writing male artists and female fans, how did you go about trying to avoid sexism and stereotyping? (You do this really well by the way!)

Thank you! That’s a relief. It was so, so important to me, right from the beginning, that Charlie didn’t fall into the age-old groupie stereotype. I wanted her reason for ending up with the band to be based on her talent, not on fandom (she isn’t even into Fire&Lights when the book begins). Of course, we live in a misogynistic society, and when a photograph of her is leaked online, the media lazily label her as a “random groupie”. But that’s the last thing Charlie is, and it’s why the boys love her. Indeed, as the story progresses, we come to understand that Fire&Lights need Charlie just as much as she needs them.

Let’s talk about Charlie Bloom. What inspired you to tell Charlie’s story?

The very first novel I wrote, Mockstars, was very loosely inspired by my tour diaries for The Lightyears, and was told from the point-of- view of (unsurprisingly) a musician in his early twenties. When I came to write SAAG, however, I was determined that the story wouldn’t be told by a member of the band, but by an “ordinary” teenager being unexpectedly thrust into the band’s world. This is partly because I felt it would be more identifiable for my readers, but mainly because, quite simply, it’s more interesting, as you get to see Charlie’s life being turned upside down.

How do you find writing a female perspective as a male writer?

It’s second nature to me now, after all these years. In fact, I can’t really remember what it’s like to write about a man in his thirties! But I have to say, whenever anyone compliments me on my ability to write in a young female voice, I get a little glow. I suppose it is fairly unusual. Still, as a writer, it’s your job to step into someone else’s shoes, and in a sense, it
shouldn’t matter whether or not that person shares your age, gender, race or sexuality. All that matters is your imagination.

Charlie and Gabriel go through a lot of self-searching in the books and identity is a big theme. What do you think inspired this?

I think it’s inevitable when you’re writing YA. We all spend our teenage years exploring our identities, and books are one of the most effective self-discovery tools in existence. Also,
the trilogy’s mystery element was important to me right from the start, and at its most basic level, Songs About A Girl is the story of Charlie finding out who she is, and where she
comes from.

Likewise, parents are a big topic for discussion. Was this purposeful and, if so, why?

I’m not really sure! I should mention, first, that I have the greatest parents in the known universe, and so Charlie and Gabe’s dysfunctional families have very much sprung from
my imagination. But family has always been a preoccupation for me, perhaps because I come from rather a large one (I have four brothers). There’s nothing more precious to me
than my family, and I guess part of writing Charlie’s story was wondering, in a macabre sort of way, what it might have been like to grow up without them.

After you’ve finished the Songs About A Girl trilogy, do you have any ideas about what comes next for you?

I do indeed! I’m already working on ideas, but I can’t reveal them yet. *twiddles moustache*

Finally, what have you been reading lately that you’ve loved? Or what would you recommend for fans of Songs About A Girl?

My favourite book of 2016 was My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood. It’s just the most hilarious and charming YA read, and it’s perfect for fans of SAAG. The novel I finished most recently was Release by Patrick Ness … and good grief, can that man write...

“Wade’s face suddenly hardened, like a camera coming into focus on a wasp’s nest”.

That is STUPENDOUS wordsmithery, Patrick. Bravo.

Thanks Chris for those great answers! I strongly encourage everyone to pick up the songs about a girl trilogy from their local bookshop, Book Depository or Amazon. I actually recommended Songs About A Girl in a blog post with Sweet Cherry Publishing recently as my top YA pick!

Love, Jess


Irena Brignull Interview

Meet Irena Brignull, author of The Hawkweed Prophecy and The Hawkweed Legacy and screenwriter to MANY projects. She's an Oxford graduate with a hefty portfolio of critically acclaimed, sometimes award-winning, films and fabulous stories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her Hawkweed series and was thrilled to get the chance to ask her a few questions...

The Hawkweed Legacy came out a couple of months ago. What has been the most interesting/surprising thought that has come up in a review?

Nothing too surprising yet. I’m sure they’ll come! Fingers crossed, it’s been pretty positive so far. The story has a past as well as a present day storyline running through it and multiple points of view, so I was a little unsure how readers would respond to this. Thankfully, they seem to have really engaged with it.

There’s such a strong feminine presence and feeling in the Hawkweed series. What inspired these powerful fictional women?

I’m so happy you picked up on this and asked me about it. It’s very important to me to portray dynamic, strong female characters. I think I was inspired firstly by the stories of women who were marginalised or persecuted over the centuries – like those labelled ‘witches’, or artists who refused to conform, or simply wives and mothers who had no agency over their own lives. Then there were the suffragettes who fought for a fairer world and sacrificed so much. And finally, the novelists and fictional women whose stories I read over the years – Jane Eyre, Tess Durbeyfield, Hester Prynne, Celie from The Color Purple, Cal from Middlesex, Lucy Honeychurch, Elizabeth Bennett. There are so many!

The romance is a big talking point in the series. How do you find weaving that into the storyline? Have you learnt any important lessons as a writer in creating romance?

It has been a talking point but I never really thought of it as writing romance – just how certain characters reacted to each other and how their individual set of circumstances motivated their behaviour. In The Hawkweed Prophecy, I was really interested in the idea of a female-only society and I wanted to examine the pressures on a friendship when a boy was thrown in the mix. It was actually more of a love square than a triangle. I hoped to show some different aspects of first love through three very different girls and one very particular boy. One falls in love as an act of jealousy and rebellion, another out of a romantic ideal, and the third has a connection that she can’t understand but finally discovers the reasons for. In Legacy, the love stories are simpler and perhaps less thematic, and as such, they were easier to weave in. But still these are not the defining relationships in the novel. The love between friends and mothers and daughters has an even bigger part to play.

Are you writing/editing book 3? How many books do you think will be in the series?

I’d love to write a third Hawkweed book but I’m doing a movie next and have already started a middle grade novel. I also have a picture book coming out. I think I need to go away and come back to Poppy, Ember and Leo if a story that I’m passionate about writing comes to mind. I’ve actually sold the film and tv rights to the Hawkweed books so perhaps it’ll have another life on screen first.

I was surprised to find out you’re also a screenwriter because it seems like such a different skill. How is writing for screen different than writing novels? Does your approach change?

It is different but, deep down, my approach doesn’t change that much. I still focus on character and motivation. I still see myself as a story-teller who needs to engage their audience. But with screenplays, I plan the plot more tightly and work very hard on structure. That’s less visible when you’re watching the movie. The dialogue is what fills the pages of a screenplay. When I was writing the novels, it felt like such a treat to be able to write description and use words to bring a scene to life. I liked to think of myself as director, cinematographer, actor, the whole cast and crew. But of course, it’s the reader’s imagination that brings the words to life.

Along the same line of thought, how does the editing process differ?

I do far more drafts of the screenplays than the novels. And many more people are involved. With the novels, it’s a close relationship between the writer and editor over a couple of re-writes. With screenplays, there’s the director, producer, exec-producers, script-editors, sometimes others too, all giving notes. The good news is that each draft is a lot quicker to write and, when you have a good team, the collaboration can be really inspiring. For me, writing a novel was like going solo from being a one of the band. I don’t mean to underestimate the work of everyone at my publisher’s who were involved in the novels – they were all wonderful.

If you could write the screenplay for the Hawkweed Legacy, do you have any ideas for how you would adapt it?

I have thought about it but I’m not sure whether it’s best left to another screenwriter. Adaptations can be a tough process – cutting down and re-shaping a novel, particularly if it’s your own! And I have so many other ideas that I’d like to write. We’ll see what happens. The main trick is to find a way to take all the internal dialogue in the book and reveal character through the choices they make – what they say and do.

When you’re creating - books or screenplays - how do you stay inspired?

I wish I knew! Ideas just pop into my head sometimes. I keep reading and writing and hanging out with friends. I also find holidays very important (and I’m not just saying that because I’d like to go on more). I really believe that you need a change of pace and scene sometimes. Ideas can’t be forced, but the more you inhabit your imagination, the more at home you feel inside it.

Do you ever have moments when you doubt yourself? How do you remind yourself that you CAN do this?

I doubt myself all the time! But writing is the cure. When I escape into the story, I forget all the stress. Starting is the worst bit. For years, I worked on other people’s screenplays because I didn’t have the confidence to write my own. But writing isn’t a competition. The only failure is not to finish (or so I tell myself) and I’ve experience plenty of those.

Finally, what have you read recently that you’ve enjoyed? Or seen?

I loved the tv adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Beautifully shot and performed. Girl From the North Country at The Old Vic was a brilliant night out. Full of incredible singing and acting. And on holiday I read a lot of books and particularly admired Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (so skilfully observed and very moving), Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give (so warm and generous in its depiction of such a shockingly painful and revelvant episode) and Colson Whitehead’s utterly riveting and resonant The Underground Railroad.


Rachel @_sectumsemprah is the organiser of weekly Twitter chat #SundayYA and also the wonderful SundayYAthon. I've only taken part in one readathon before (it was a SundayYAthon) and I'm so happy there's another one!

Here is my (tentative) TBR:

SweetFreak - Sophie McKenzie

This one could count for recommended read or summer read as the cover is pink and the way it was recommended to me by Simon & Schuster based on my tastes. I can see why, so far I'm loving it! It's about a fourteen year old girl accused of bullying her best friend.

Welcome Home - Eric Smith

My diverse voices pick is a bit unusual. This is an anthology of stories about adoption and foster homes by authors with a close connection to this topic. 

They Both Die At The End - Adam Silvera

As my recommended read, it's probably not ideal that I can't remember who recommended this one first. I've seen it everywhere and I've just finished Adam Silvera's other bestseller, History Is All You Left Me, and can't wait to get back into his worlds.

Songs About Us - Chris Russell

Here's a summer pick. I read Songs About A Girl just the other week and quickly became obsessed with the characters. It's all about music, fame and romance. What more could you want for festival season?

I may add more to this as my reads change the squares I want to fill adjust but that's where I am for now! This blog post will update as the readathon continues...

Update: I finished my diverse read! Welcome Home was only a 3/5 for me. Less than half of the stories really gripped me, although the ones that did were great. The anthology was written very well but I just couldn't get into some of the styles and genres - I'm sure others would love it though!

So far, I've also finished The Raven Boys audiobook which could count towards a recommended read thanks to my Twitter friends. I also finished SweetFreak and I guess I can class that as a summer book (the cover at least makes it look very summery). I think it's safe to say I have at least completed this readathon but let's see what I can get read tomorrow! 

Another Update: Reading on the final day of the readathon just didn't happen. Oops! At least I completed my challenges and read some good books! Here's my final wrap up:

Recommended Read: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Free Choice: SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie

Diverse Voices: Welcome Home edited by Eric Smith

How did you get on?

Love, Jess

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