BLOG TOUR: Amber Lee Dodd

Lightning Chase Me Home: Middle grade with a whole lot of punch!

Lightning Chase Me Home by Amber  Lee Dodd

“Amelia Hester McLeod is named after two of her mum’s favourite explorers. Two amazing, fearless, awesome women: Amelia Earhart and Lady Hester Stanhope. But Amelia herself doesn’t always feel very brave or very bright. She lives on a windblown island in a creaky old house right beneath the North Star. Her dad is sad and silent since her mum left them, and her absent-minded grandpa suddenly seems convinced something strange is about to happen to her. When Amelia makes a birthday wish to be reunited with her missing mum, a wild magic is stirred from the sea..”

Lightning Chase Me Home is the story of Amelia. Amelia is a young girl who lives and with her father, grandfather and their dog. They live in the cold and wet island of Dark Muir, Scotland. The island has a rich and deep history of myths and legends (which, as we all know, I was ALL ABOUT) and there is the forever foreboding sense of a storm brewing on the horizon. I loved the use of this constant threat of storm coming… it kept me on my toes throughout the book! 

As the story advances, unusual things start happening around Amelia. These unusual things happen to coincide with Amelia’s birthday and the wish she got to make as part of the island tradition. Who wouldn’t want to visit somewhere called Serpent’s Tooth Rock?! (I mean me, that sounds ominous as anything and I’m a right scaredy cat). Amelia’s wish made really emotional and over time it becomes apparent that the wish she made has stirred some deep and potentially dangerous magic on the island. 

This book will keep you gripped throughout. You’ll be under the spell of the incredible writing style and the infusion of incredible settings and characters with folklore. Amelia is a really great protagonist that I know lots of children will take to. The unusual events and the rumbling of storms and the growing of the magic over the story kept me flicking the pages til there were no more pages to flick. I think every kid will see themselves in this story because we’ve all dealth with some of the things Amelia has to deal with: a poorly grandparent, bullies, a new school, struggles in school. Pair all of these things with ultimately a BRILLIANT magical mystery and you have a total winner! 

Here we have another bloody brilliant example of an MG book that deals with some pretty tough stuff but in a beautiful way. It’s a book full of spirit, adventure and warmth and absolutely has a place in EVERY classroom, school and home library!

Have you read Lightning Chase Me Home?
Would you like to visit Amelia’s island?

A massive thank you to Scholastic for asking me to be on this blog tour! I can’t wait to see all the love this book is going to get! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Vote for Effie

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy being on the blog tour for Vote for Effie – the first in a new hilarious series by Laura Wood (author of 2018 YA sensation A Sky Painted Gold) for 9-12 year olds. Inspired by 2017’s Women’s MarchVOTE FOR EFFIE is extremely timely and the perfect antidote to the current political climate; it will inspire young readers to stand up for the issues that matter to them, whatever that may be!

I’m honoured to be on this blog tour as each stop on the tour is written to celebrate a young female activist and/or inspiring girl who is working to change the world; each post will include a short profile on the person written by Laura.

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Mari Copeny

When she was only eight, Mari Copeny wrote a moving letter to President Obama about the Flint water crisis. Not only did Obama reply, but he came to Flint to meet with the people there, and he eventually signed off on $100 million funding to help repair the city’s poisoned water system. Mari is known as ‘Little Miss Flint’ as she continues to fight for her city, and raise money to tackle the problems they are still facing. Now, aged eleven, she is a fierce advocate for change and she uses social media to share her message. 

Mari has said that she’ll be running for president in 2044, but, until then, she wants other kids to know “you’re never to young or to small to change the world.” I think Mari is an enormous inspiration. She hasn’t let being young stop her from being heard. When people weren’t listening, she didn’t give up… she made more noise. I love her confidence, her intelligence and the sense of empathy that drives all of her efforts. I see these qualities so often in the children I meet while visiting schools and it makes me feel so hopeful. These girls really are the leaders of tomorrow.

If you would like to see why Mari is so amazing, and why I think she and Effie would be best friends, you might like to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ML2dRP9i3FQ

Yes for women and girls who are doing good things! 

Do you have an inspiring woman who you’d like to shout about?

You should definitely go and check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour. There have been some absolutely incredible women highlighted in the posts and it’s certainly been inspiring! Plus, there’s some pretty incredible bloggers on this tour too! Massive thanks to Harriet at Scholastic for inviting me to be on this incredible blog tour! I hope you all enjoyed the post and go and check out Vote for Effie – out now! 

vote for effie blog tour

Speak soon, 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Jan Eldredge

Hello friends!

Today I have an absolute treat for you. Jan Eldridge, author of the brilliant Witch Girl, is here to talk about weaving inspiration into a story! I hope you enjoy this post, I loved reading it and am very grateful for Jan taking time to write such a brilliant blog post! Hearing there’s a sequel to Witch Girl also made me VERY happy! 

WEAVING INSPIRATION INTO A STORY

By Jan Eldredge

Inspiration is everywhere. It can strike at any time, and often where you aren’t particularly expecting it. It’s when you take that flash of an idea, brainstorm it a little, then merge it with some other interesting ideas, that you generate an exciting new book concept. It’s a bit like weaving a magic spell, and it was this process that brought WITCH GIRL to life.

I’m a huge fan of spooky, magical stories for kids. In fact, I seldom read grownup fiction. My towering stack of books-to-be-read is made up of children’s fantasy adventures. I especially love monsters and ghosts and all such eldritch things that go bump in the night. So much so, that the shelves in my home office are filled with encyclopedias and field guides featuring mythical creatures from around the world.

A few years ago, while I was browsing through a used book store for more supernatural reference books to add to my collection, I came across an old dictionary of superstitions. As I thumbed through its pages, I was instantly captivated. Inspiration struck, and I knew I wanted to write a story incorporating some of those fascinating beliefs.

It went without saying, that this story about superstitions would have to contain ghosts or monsters. Having grown up in Louisiana where belief in the supernatural runs deep, and where strange occurrences are a natural phenomenon, my home state felt like the perfect place to set such a tale. I knew in my gut I had the ingredients for a unique and exciting book. All I needed was an interesting protagonist to add to the mix.

At the time, I’d been reading, and very much enjoying, some middle grade fantasies about young apprentices, but all the apprentices in those books were boys. The idea of making my adventurous, superstitious monster-hunter a girl was another one of those elements that just felt like a perfect fit. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do much character brainstorming. My protagonist, Evangeline, as well as her Gran, quickly formed in my mind, as though they were real people I’d already known. Even Evangeline’s sidekick, Julian Winterbourne, didn’t take much work to develop since he was heavily inspired by my son.

Armed with a cast of quirky characters, some intriguing story elements, and a strong gut feeling, I set about writing the kind of book I love: a spooky, adventure, mystery with dashes of humor, a story for kids, but one that teens and adults will love to read too.

I’m now in the process of writing the sequel to WITCH GIRL, and I’m keeping my eyes open for the next strike of inspiration that I can weave into Evangeline’s witchy world.

WITCH GIRL by Jan Eldredge out now in paperback (£6.99, Scholastic)

              @JanEldredge  www.janeldredge.com @Scholasticuk

S x

BOOK BLOG: Hayley Barker

Show Stopper/Show Stealer: thrilling books excellently paced that you just can’t put down!

Show Stopper and Show Stealer is a duology written by Hayley Barker and I JUST ADORED THEM OK? I picked up Show Stopper a while ago based solely on the cover (just look at it man!) and once I had dived into the world of the twisted circus and got to the end, I needed the second one. I bought Show Stealer (the sequel) about 2 days later and immersed myself right back into the world. 

Show Stopper:
Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

I won’t share the synopsis for Show Stealer because spoilers… but if you’re curious click here.

I’ll try and keep this review as un-spoilery for both as possible!

In the world of these books, you’re introduced to a society of the Pures and the Dregs (yes, I couldn’t unsee the Six of Crows either!). The Pures are the rich and the Dregs are the poor. The Dregs live in the slums and do the menial jobs in the world of the Pures. If you’re an unlucky (or lucky, depending how you see it) Dreg, you might be taken in by the circus and be trained up to perform for the Pures. The Dregs aren’t treated well, but as they have no rights, this happens for the entertainment of the Pures. As the books progress, you see the inside of the circus and the deplorable ways in which the performers are treated. 

I adored the circus setting. I’m well into books that are set in the circus (if you have any recommendations, please tell me because I am all about them… kids and YA please!) The setting is so brilliantly described in book 1, but in book 2 these descriptions are just taken to another level. The circus changes for the worse in book 2, so the descriptions get DARK to match the new look circus. 

As well as the incredible setting, there’s a bunch of characters who will pull at your heart and make you angry and make you see the good in people and make you want to punch things and make you look at the world these people live in, as well as our world! I think it was the characters that made me fall into love with these books even more:
Ben – he’s brave, honest and compassionate. You feel the real pull in Ben’s heart between what he has been taught and what he believes is right. I loved Ben a lot. He’s a very good egg. He goes against everything he’s ever known because he sees an injustice happening. I fell for him quickly. 
Hoshi – she’s fierce and fearless, particuarly where the people she loves are concerned. I loved seeing her growth. She’s like a Mama Bear. Hoshi is one of those characters that have so many layers – once you get under her skin there is still so much more to learn.
Viviene – Ben’s mam, politician. This woman is just disgusting. Some of the things she believes and fights for are vitriolic and I genuinely despised her. We need to talk about her more, but I can’t help but get a little angry about her.
Roger – Ben’s dad. I have quite different emotions for dad than mam. At first, I thought he had no backbone, but that changes. I can’t reveal why I have such a soft spot for him because MASSIVE SPOILERS, but trust me he is a good man.
Silvio – the ring master of the circus. GOD THIS MAN. He’s an egomanic and true narcissist. He ONLY gets worse as the books go on too. 
Jack – he makes an appearance in book 1, but is pretty important in book 2. I adore him. He is an actual hero.

There are more characters than this… there’s some wonderful additions to the circus in book 2. I could talk about the characters in these books for many words, but I won’t!

(I wanna go and reread these books now! I miss these characters quite a lot)

One of the things that surprised me about these books were how politically driven they were. I didn’t expect to read these and think politics, but the politics of the world is one of the prevalent threads throughout and I quite adored it. There’s a lot to learn from these books. There’s many a comparison that can be made between these books and the world that we live in today. If people could just find in them a smidgen of compassion, like Ben, then we would have a much kinder world. We can change minds and we can be wrong, but we should ALWAYS be kind. Jack is one of the most important characters in these books. Please can we all appreciate him please? Books like these show that the good guys can win and that kindness will get you further than hatred. 

My goodreads reviews of these books:

Show Stopper: 

If I could swear here, I would swear. What an absolute winner of a book here. My mind is 100% blown.

Show Stealer

I have THOUGHTS and FEELINGS about this book. More feelings than thoughts.

This book manages to encapsulate the absolute brilliance of book 1, but is more despicable, horrifying, compassionate and honest all at the same time. I just can’t get the words right now.

Shout out to Roger 💛

Ha. I love the Goodreads version of me. 

Have you read Show Stopper or Show Stealer?
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THEM PLEASE?
Can you recommend any circus books?

Talk to me in the comments, or on twitter please! I need more people who love these books in my life!

S x

BOOK BLOG: Philip Pullman

Northern Lights: an emotional rollercoaster!

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“Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford. The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight. Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences far beyond her own world…”

Man, I loved Lyra. So so much. She’s just such a brilliant main character. I finished this book about a week ago and I STILL have FEELINGS about this book. I vividly remember the moment in this book where I needed to stop, message my friend Lucy to say I didn’t want to carry on reading because I was too traumatised, breathe, cry and then keep reading. That doesn’t happen often. I love books and I love them deeply. For a book to make me genuinely think about stop reading, that’s a big thing. (I bet you can probably guess the moment of this book… if you can comment or tweet me, cause I’m curious!)

Yes, yes, this is my first time of reading this book.
No, I don’t quite know how I bypassed it as a child.
Yes, it’s always been on my radar.
Yes, I own all of the books (in these WONDEFUL editions because shiny covers are the best!)
No, I’m not reading book 2 straight away (my brain needs a break!)

I can’t imagine as a child or a young teenager reading this book and being in ANY state afterwards. I was heartbroken at one point. There were SO MANY MOMENTS of “WTF OMG!” through the book. My friends were loving my reactions. I did a thread on twitter of my reactions and I can tell you there were a lot more than I put on there, because spoilers. 

Now when I started reading, I genuinely knew VERY LITTLE about this book. I knew it was about a girl called Lyra and there were armoured polar bears (that’s my friend Charlotte’s fault), but that’s about it. This meant when I started reading that I was BLOWN AWAY by it. The plot is just wonderful. The setting is lush. There are scenes that made me laugh (a polar bear at a pub getting drunk? Yes please!) and scenes that made me cry. Scenes that shocked me (that reveal about her parents?!). I think I felt EVERY emotion reading this book and I have no shame about it. There are so many plot twists and reveals in this book that just when you think you’re comfortable and know where you stand in your reading, you’re hit BAM IN THE FACE with something new, some hidden gem of information, some plot twist. So so good. So much recommendation from me.

In other news, I REALLY WANT A DAEMON. 

This book is magical, mystical and wonderful. I’m keen to read book 2 to see where Lyra’s story takes her. 

If you could have a daemon, what would you have?
What kind of daemon would you suggest for me?
Have you read Northern Lights?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or on twitter! I’d love your suggestions for my daemon!

S x

p.s. Mrs Coulter is a TERRIBLE person.

BLOG TOUR: Candy

Hello!

Today I have the absolute joy of introducing you all to Lavie Tidhar, author of the amazing ‘Candy’ released a few weeks ago (7th June) from Scholastic. Lavie is here today to talk about his brilliant novel Candy and the inspirations from film noir. I hope you all enjoy his post and go check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! 

On Candy and Film Noir

A few years ago I watched the movie Brick, written and directed by Rian Johnson. What Johnson did that was so clever was to take the hardboiled formula – the hard-bitten detective, the femme fatale, informers and cops, corruption and mystery – and transpose it into a high school. It wasn’t played for laughs – it was perfectly straight-faced and very noir, and I thought it was great!

I love the hardboiled formula. It has certain quirks and ticks that you expect, certain beats to hit, but at the same time the fun is in somehow subverting the expectations, of using the skeleton frame to tell a story not necessarily concerned much with the plot. The point of it, as Raymond Chandler once said, is that you can read the story even if the last eight pages are missing. In other words, it really isn’t about the solving of the mystery (like in the old Golden Age English detective stories) but about the people and the place they live in.

In my adult books, I often use noir and hardboiled motifs in one form or another. The truth is, I find great delight in parodying the style. I love starting a book on a variation of the “femme fatale walks into the detective’s office”. In Candy, the detective is 12-year old Nelle Faulkner, and the client is Eddie de Menthe, a cynical candy bootlegger of the same age. Already, the expectations from the scene are turned. And I love writing hardboiled dialogue. As Nelle says early on: “The truth was I was out of pocket money again, I was behind on my luck, my hat was older than I was and I needed a job even worse than I needed a caramel fudge.” There’s a certain rhythm to the prose even – especially when – you parody it. And there’s actually a lot of humour in Chandler, too. It’s impossible to do it like Chandler did, of course, but at his best the lines simply sing.

Candy takes these adult tropes and throws them into the world of children. It’s funny – but not to the kids themselves. For them the game’s the game – to quote The Wire. For them it’s serious and real. The stakes are high. And just like in the best noir novels, the adult world is revealed as compromised.

“Growing up was serious business,” Nelle reflects at some point, “and so was candy.”

I think the very best children’s writers know this. They know the darkness that lies just out of sight, there on the edge of vision. Growing up isn’t easy. And becoming an adult means compromise. What I love about the hardboiled detective is what I love about Nelle Faulkner. She believes in doing the right thing. Whatever the cost. She believes in fairness, she believes in justice. She wants to make the world a better place.

And I had a ridiculous amount of fun packing in as many classic references as I could get away with! Not just Raymond Chandler – whom Mayor Thornton is named after (Thornton was Chandler’s middle name) – but at various points you might spot a hidden reference to The Godfather, Goodfellas, Justified, The Big Lebowski (itself a brilliant parody of Chandler, of course) and numerous others (even I forget which!). And there’s a pie fight – there should always be a pie fight!

So my hope, too, is that the book works both ways. That it works for kids, but will have an extra dimension for their parents, too. It certainly does seem to be an unusual take, or so I’m told.

But you know what? Ultimately, I just had so much fun writing it, that if nothing else I hope that’s what comes across.

Check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour! Watch this space for my review of Candy coming! Spoiler alert: I loved it!

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S x

BOOK BLOG: Alesha Dixon

Lightning Girl: a fun book filled with positivity!

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“10-year-old Aurora Beam lives at home with her utterly unremarkable family… until the day she sees her little sister being picked on in the playground and suddenly beams of light shoot out of her fingers! It’s time for her parents to drop a life-changing bombshell. Mum is a secret superhero, fighting crime across the globe while Dad looks after the kids at home. As Aurora’s own powers come into play, will she be able to balance her new super skills training with school? Will she be able to keep it all a secret from her friends? And when her mum’s evil twin pops up, will Aurora think that being a super VILLAIN might be more fun…?”

Lightning Girl follows the story of brilliantly brave 10 year old Aurora Beam, who discovers something unusual about herself… she has powers! I mean, which 10 year old doesn’t wish they had powers? (I’m 29 and I want powers… I don’t know what, but powers would be LUSH thanks) Naturally, Aurora is quite frightened at first, and VERY confused, but after some coaching and some love from her parents comes to realise that they’re something to be embraced. Your differences make you YOU. 

As with all brilliant MG books, there’s a baddie, a point of peril, some danger, some scariness and this comes in the shape of someone trying to steal precious stones. Who this someone is I will keep spoiler free. Throughout there’s one character who I KNEW to be suspicious of… I just never trusted them. 

One of the things that stood out for me with this book was its brilliance at dealing with all kinds of issues in gentle ways – there’s separation, friendship issues, moral dilemmas, dealing with siblings and awkward families. All kinds of things. But it’s all done so brilliantly. Aurora has some amazing friends and I love reading positive friendship portrayals, so that also was a massive big YES from me!

Aurora is a FAB MC and it’s so wonderful to see characters of varying races represented in kids’ books. One of the girls at school even commented “Miss, she’s got hair like me AND her skin matches mine. It’s like me in a book” and that made me think yeah, this book is important. Girls who wouldn’t have traditionally seen themselves in books are getting the chance to now. 

I really enjoyed Lightning Girl. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it has brilliant characters and it’s all about embracing yourself. I look forward to the second one immensely, I hope there will BE a second one! 

If you had a superpower, what would it be?
What would your superhero name be?
Can you recommend any more MG books like this to me? 

Talk to me! Comment! Tweet me! 

S x

BOOK BLOG: Alice Broadway

Spark: what happens when you have to see a story from the other side?

SparkCan we take a minute to appreciate this cover please?

Leora is reeling: questioning everything she has ever known about her family and herself.
As half-Marked and half-Blank, can she ever wholly belong in either fractured community? Mayor Longsight wants to use her as a weapon: to infiltrate Featherstone, home of the Blanks, and deliver them to him for obliteration. Leora longs for answers about her mysterious birth mother, and Featherstone may reveal them. But will she find solace and safety there or a viper’s nest of suspicion and secrets?

(FYI: I’ve tried to write this review a million times… bear with me here!)

If you’ve not read Ink, then I recommend WHOLEHEARTEDLY that you do (you’ll find my review here). Spark is the second book in what will be a trilogy (OMG YES). The final book in the trilogy comes out next year and I am SO READY to see how Leora’s story ends (but so not ready… I’ll miss Leora and Obel a lot)

In Ink, you meet a young girl who is questioning everything about who she is. She’s afriad, she’s not sure who to trust. She begins exploring and questioning those in trust around her. In Spark, you get that Leora and so much more. You get a Leora who has to learn to trust brand new people. You get a Leora who needs to be more open minded. You get a Leora who has to keep doing what she knows is right, even if everything around her is saying not to. Leora is one of those brilliant characters in YA who is just so incredibly brilliant – she’s brave, she’s bold, she’s afraid, she’s faulted… she’s real. I have grown genuinely attached to her over the two books, so book 3 is going to be an experience! 

Through Spark, you learn the stories from Ink, from the Blank’s perspective. One of the most powerful elements of this series for me is the sense of folklore and the use of stories. In Ink, you learn about the two princesses and what they’ve done to make these 2 groups of people – the Marked and the Blanks. That’s all the perspective you have – that the Blanks are “alien”, they’re strange, they’re the baddies. When Leora is banished to life with the Blanks, she’s naturally terrified, but there’s part of her that knows that these people are people after all. 

Reading Spark and the folk stories which are encapsulated in it and seeing the world from the Blank’s perspective was just a delight. You see the other side of the fairytale. You see the Marked people labelled as the baddies, as the strange ones. They’re the ones in the wrong. As I was reading, I was discovering along with Leora. She had NO idea there was another side to these stories. She’s only ever known life as a Marked one. There’s a brilliant sense of duality throughout these books… it’s something I loved the most. 

(Can you tell I loved EVERYTHING the most? It’s one of those books!)

So Leora is sent to live with the Blanks and she quickly has to learn that there is going to be an awful lot of mistrust (aimed at her, but from her to the others around her). She meets an incredible bunch of people on the other side of life, who initally meet her with great resistence. There’s Gull, a young Blank, who takes Leora under her wing (lol no pun intended) and wants to befriend her. Gull was a ray of light for me through the book. Being so open and accepting of a perfect stranger – she’s a brilliant human. There’s Nate, Gull’s older brother, who does NOT trust Leora… he’s one to keep your eye on. I was unsure of him at first, but he earned a lot of my love and respect by the end. He’s one of those characters that takes a lot of growing on, but you get there eventually. He definitely deserves a lot of love. But obviously, there’s not just the guys who make Leora feel welcome, there’s also a lot of people who don’t want to welcome her. 

(Shout out to Obel here, I love him so much)

In the Marked world, there’s obviously still Mayor Longsight… you guys know how I feel about him. I can’t stand him. He’s a piece of work. There’s a scene in this book where I was STUNNED. Something happens with one of the Blanks that I genuinely did not expect. I trusted that Blank… you’ll know who I mean if you’ve read it. 

So yeah… in Spark you have this incredible “other side of the coin” from Ink. I can’t say how much I loved this book because I am yet to find the words. Alice Broadway builds this incredible world, an incredible bunch of characters and certainly a moral dilemma or two. Pair this world building with some bloody brilliant storytelling and crumbs of information and you’ve got an absolute killer book. I can not wait for book 3. It is going to be special. I can feel it now.

My Goodreads review reads:
ALL OF THE STARS. I am not sure how to process that ending. The whole story with Leora’s story woven with the legends of the past, her inner turmoil with the outer unrest. Man what a story. I just, can’t manage to find words to be honest.

So yeah… sorry for such a rambling review. I haven’t even mentioned half of the things I loved… let’s talk about it! GO GO GO. READ INK AND SPARK PLZ.

Have you read Ink and Spark?
What colour do you think the 3rd cover should be?
Would you rather be a Blank or a Marked?

Talk to me! I’d love to know what team you are on for the 3rd cover!

S x

State of Sorrow mood board

A POST ON A SATURDAY? WHAT IS THIS? 

It’s another State of Sorrow post, obviously. I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s review! I HOPE YOU BOUGHT IT, or are considering it! 

The last mood board I made was for one of Mel’s other books (The Scarecrow Queen, see that mood board here: BLOG TOUR: The Scarecrow Queen) and I had such fun that I decided I would do another one here for State of Sorrow. Don’t worry, this is going to be as spoiler free as possible! 

Sorrow moodboard

This bunch of pictures for me depicts the characters, plot and emotions for me so well. There’s a mix of Sorrow, her family, her enemies in this collection of pictures. The castle, the bridge, the water: they speak of the setting. Setting the tone and building the world were so well done in State of Sorrow (obviously, this is Mel) that you definitely feel like you’re there. A world of perpetual sadness. Dull, dark, distraught. I used a lot of eyes in this mood board: unintentionally. The brown eye speaks of Sorrow’s brother, the eyes of the old man are Sorrow’s dad – a lost man; lost in his own darkness. The green eye spoke to me of Sorrow – the sky her hopes, the trees her growing, the birds her desire to be free of the mourning, the tears her being dragged into the repetitive past. The eyes of the rugged man bottom right (who I think I recognise, let me know if you can tell me who this is!) shouted the villain of the story – haunting, horrid, hateful. He’s a mean man. Sorrow, the story, tells of a complex family, a mourning nation, a glimpse of hope doused in tears. There’s secrets, lies and a magical feel in the book. Sorrow is an incredible character. I have hopes that she will in fact rise and roar in the second book. 

S xx

 

BOOKBLOG: Melinda Salisbury

HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY TO THE ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT ‘STATE OF SORROW’.

You really thought you could get away from me? You really think I wouldn’t celebrate this majestic day with some kind of State of Sorrow appreciation post? 

Today, I will share my review with you. There will be more State of Sorrow themed posts coming in the next few days. I am not sorry at all. 

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State of Sorrow: delicious, deceptive, daring

A people cowed by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose…

Sorrow all but rules the Court of Tears, in a land gripped by perpetual grief, forever mourning her brother who died just days before Sorrow was born. By day she governs in place of her father, by night she seeks secret solace in the arms of the boy she’s loved since childhood. But when her brother is seemingly found alive, and intent on taking control, Sorrow has to choose whether to step aside for a stranger who might not be who he claims to be, or embark on a power struggle for a position she never really wanted.”

Hello. My name is Steph and Melinda Salisbury is my absolute queen.
(I feel like I open all of my Melinda Salisbury blog posts like that, but it’s true.)

So, I went into reading State of Sorrow ignoring the blurb. I won’t lie. I am a bit of a blurb ignorer. I’d read the sampler for State of Sorrow, which I got at YALC, a few months ago and I knew I was in for another absolute barrage of emotions, badass brilliant characters, an evil villain and a whole load of incredible world building. AND I WAS ALL ABOUT IT. There’s a MASSIVE surprise with her brother, which I did not see coming. I DID NOT KNOW IT WOULD HAPPEN, I HAD IGNORED THIS (it’s on the blurb/synopsis apparently). Therefore when I read I WAS THE MOST SURPRISED. It was like BAM KABLAM. SLAP IN THE FACE BRILLIANT. Like, I wasn’t expecting it. But my gosh was it brilliant.

So, Sorrow. She’s a brilliant young woman. She’s unwillingly doing a job her father should be – ruling a land that are in constant mourning for a brother lost years before. She’s living in the shadow of his sadness. She’s in love with a young man she can’t really be seen with. She’s fighting losing battles against people she can’t influence. Her father is pretty useless, with a venomous man whispering in his ear. Sorrow just wants it to be time when she’s finally in control, so she can get rid of the venomous letch. Speaking of our friend, the venomous letch. He’s POISON. He’s the thing Mel does so well. She does wily, deceptive, sly characters brilliantly. They’re just there weaving their wily little plans. They’re plotting and scheming all the way through. He made me uncomfortable, but in that very excellent way that good baddies do. He’s like a sly fox.Doing dirty deeds all over, poisoning minds. 

OK, so there are more characters than this in State of Sorrow. There’s a brilliant character who all the way through I was like “YES I LOVE YOU, TEAM YOU” and then they do something bad and my reaction to this was nothing short of “WHAT ARE YOU DOING NO WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU”. There may be some redemption though. I’m not saying for definite. Sorrow has some brilliant friends too. Irris is pretty special. I really quite liked her. 

Mel writes incredible characters. 
Mel writes incredible plots.
Mel writes incredible emotions. 
Mel writes incredible worlds.

There’s this remarkable sense of BEING in the book. The world is built so incredibly well around you that you’re immersed entirely in this world of a mournful world: the castles, the lands, the sorrow, the monotony. You can’t NOT be there. The lands have history, they have meaning, they make sense. There’s always something magical and slightly mysterious going on. From incredible expanses of land, the small cottages, to freezing cold rivers…it all fits in this magical land where sorrow rules. 

WHILE YOU’RE STILL HERE… canwe just talk about emotions?If you’re reading a Melinda Salisbury book I can guarantee that your emotions will not be in tact by the end of your stay. Your heart will be stood on, repaired and then stood on again. There’s sheer disbelief; there’s contempt; there’s love and lust; there’s belief and disbelief and there’s this incredible sense of belonging. We’re all going through these emotions together. We are all shocked. There’s a lot of YES SORROW going on. You can’t NOT root for her. You can’t NOT want her to succeed. You can’t NOT be appalled at the behaviour of some of the characters. You can’t NOT be sad. There’s this incredible balance of being looked after, being secure and them BAM NOTHING IS THE SAME. I’m a massive fan of this. If you’ve read The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy you’ll know what I mean.

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Look at my happy little face. This was me reading State of Sorrow in Starbucks. Thanks @kellysrambles for the picture!

Are you still here?Excellent, I have more to tell you. I hope you’re enjoying this review. It may be my longest review to date. I don’t apologise for this. State of Sorrow is totally worth it. 

So what have I told you about so far? Sorrow, some other characters, worldbuilding, emotions. What else? SO MUCH. Oh yes… plot.

As I’ve said, I was OBLIVIOUS to one of the plot twists (which the blurb gives away, I was just oblivious to this), however State of Sorrow does not just have ONE plot twist there are SO SO MANY that it’s exceptional. The pace of this book is brilliant. You get comfy in one little plot line and BAM there’s a change. Some of the twists are just little, a bump in the road and then there’s others that just hit you hard on the head and spin your world upside down. The way this story is woven together is exceptional. (I don’t have enough superlatives for this book). Everything fits. It’s tantalisingly good. The ending will make you go NO DON’T END THERE. PLEASE DON’T END THERE. 

I can’t believe we’re being made to wait for more. I can’t wait for more. 

My goodreads review reads:

If it was possible to give a book more than 5 stars I would. This book is delicious, deceptive and daring. I absolutely love Sorrow and everything she stands for. There are more twists and turns in this book than I can count. I can’t explain how brilliant this plot, this world, these characters (you’ll love some, hate others), this story weaving is. Just incredible. I can’t WAIT for the next one. The ending of this is TANTALISING. I NEED MORE NOW.

If you want a story that will take you to an incredible new land with sibling rivalry, brilliant characters and an exceptional plot then PLEASE check out State of Sorrow. I was very lucky to be sent a copy and I am so grateful. Thanks, Mel!

Thank you for getting to the end of my review. If you made it this far I owe you a sticker. Please let me know in the comments if you got this far. 

S x