Blogmas 2018 · Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Amy from Golden Books Girl tackles the Christmas shake-up Q&A.

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Christmas shake-up Q&A:

What is the Christmas shake-up Q&A? Basically, it is a little game I devised where participants mix things from different books to create a festive situation. So clothes from three books to make a party outfit or objects from one book gifted to a character from another. 

Today’s answers come from Amy from Golden Books Girl

Amy is one of my earliest blogging friends. She’s the one who keeps me sane when I have 460 blog posts to write on a Friday evening. Her knowledge of middle-grade fiction is second-to-none and she has cheered on my writing from the early, shapeless stories through to the third edits of a 45,000-word manuscript. 

I love Amy’s blog too – it’s a mash-up of Disney and middle-grade fiction and exceptionally cute dogs. 

Thanks to Amy for your time. 

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Gift an object from one book to a character from another and explain why.

Oooh this one is definitely the hardest! I think I’d give a certain very expensive spoilery object from the Children of Castle Rock to Joni’s family from Skylarks so that they could sell it and have a really special Christmas with the proceeds.

You’re hosting a Christmas party – pick your fictional guests and explain why you put them together.

I want a party with basically all the Geek Girl characters, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells from the Murder  Most Unladylike books because I think they’s be brilliant company and Ade and everyone else who lives in his tower because they deserve a really special Christmas because they go through so much in the book!

If you could try a Christmas tradition from any story, what would it be?

I loved the sound of the royal Christmas in Maradova, and I’d love to give those a go! We see them in Princess in Practice, and they sounded wonderful! Or some of the Covey family’s from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before!

Pick the setting from one book and a celebration from another. Why would you host that celebration in that setting?

Much like Fergus from the Children of Castle Rock’s decision to sabotage Alice when she first arrives at Stormy Loch, my choice for this question is inspired by literally nothing other than to see what would happen: I want to move Daisy and Hazel’s present opening scene from the end of Mistletoe and Murder to a fantasy world. Really any, but I think something where the animals speak like in Narnia, would be HILARIOUS to see Daisy especially navigate. I can’t imagine her putting up with the White Witch for long!

Make your New Year’s resolutions with messages from three books. 

I need to embrace what Gracie learns throughout You Only Live Once- you need to have a healthy balance between doing school work and other things you love.

‘Nobody ever really metamorphoses’- this is from Geek Girl (I’ve mentioned them SO many times in this post alone, but they’re such faves so why not?!). It’s something I try to remember constantly- you can’t really change yourself that much, and as such you really should like yourself.

I also liked the Great Diamond Chase’s message of trying your best to be good to the people around them and do the best thing for them, so I’ll go for that as my last one I think.

Make up a Christmas ball outfit with clothes and accessories from different books. 

I think for a dress I’d go for the polka dot dress from the Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington, or perhaps one of the party outfits from A Sky Painted Gold- which all sounded gorgeous! For jewellery, I seem to recall Harriet wearing lovely expensive earrings in one of the Geek Girl books, so I’d have those too, and for shoes I’d probably go for strappy sandals (which are mentioned in loads of books, and I’m almost certain they pop up in several of Cathy Hopkins’) even though it’s December, because I can’t wear high heels. I can’t think of any characters off the top of my head who wear red lipstick, even though there are probably loads and I just can’t remember them, but I’d finish off the look with that because I wear it with just about any outfit it even vaguely goes with!

 

Do you have a great answer for one of these questions? Let me know in the comments below.

Blogmas 2018 · christmas · Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Michelle Harrison’s gingerbread recipe

Author Guest Post: Michelle Harrison’s gingerbread recipe

2018
Author Michelle Harrison

There is one middle-grade novel I am extra especially looking forward to in 2019. Michelle Harrison writes folksy, magical stories full of black-cats, fairies and local traditions. I have loved every story she has written so far, and  A Pinch Of Magic looks equally amazing.

It is the story of three sisters who must break a deadly curse which has haunted their family for generations. Each sister possesses an object which has been handed down the family – a mirror, a carpet bag and a set of wooden nesting-dolls. None of these objects is what it seems. 

The Widdershins sisters kindly agreed to share their gingerbread recipe. It is a pleasure and a delight to welcome Michelle Harrison and the Widdershins to my blog. 

 

Widdershins Gingerbread

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The isle of Crowstone, home to the Widdershins sisters ‒ Betty, Fliss and Charlie ‒ is often damp and chilly thanks to the freezing fogs from the nearby Misty Marshes. So what better treat to stay cosy with than some warming, spiced gingerbread?

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour (plus extra for rolling out)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g butter
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

 

mh1Makes approx. 20 pieces, depending on cutter size. I found this gorgeous Russian doll one on eBay which came with a stamp to press in the detail. I’ve used it several times and the shapes are always met with delight. Without further ado I’ll hand over to the Widdershins . . .

Method

 

FLISS: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon. Add the butter and rub together with your fingers ‒ CLEAN fingers, Charlie! ‒ until it looks and feels like sand.

BETTY: Sand? That looks more like shingle from the marshes. Rub it in some more.

FLISS: Shh. This is my recipe.

CHARLIE: No, it’s not. It’s Granny’s.

BETTY: Stop eating the sugar, Charlie.

FLISS: Stir in the sugar. I usually close my eyes and make a wish when I do this part.

BETTY: Can you wish not to burn it this time?

FLISS: *Snorts* Lightly beat the egg and the golden syrup together in a jug—

CHARLIE: Make sure it’s a free range egg. They’re tastier and kinder to the chickens.

FLISS: —then pour the egg/syrup mix into the bowl. Combine until it begins to clump together, then remove from the bowl and knead until smooth.

BETTY: Sprinkle some flour on to your work surface so the dough doesn’t get too sticky. When it’s ready, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for fifteen minutes. This stops it spreading out too much and losing its shape while it’s baking.

FLISS: Ooh, yes. I always forget that part.

CHARLIE: Who cares what it looks like? Get it in the oven I WANT TO EAT IT!

FLISS: Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Once chilled, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 0.5cm on a lightly floured surface, and cut out the gingerbread shapes. Place them on the tray with a gap between them and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown. This usually gives me just enough time to write a little love poem.

BETTY: No, this is when you clean up the kitchen and keep an eye on the oven, feather-brain. The best gingerbread is a bit chewy, so don’t overdo it! Once it’s out of the oven, leave it on the tray for a few minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

CHARLIE: IS IT READY YET?

FLISS: Once cooled, you can make your shapes look pretty by adding icing, and silver balls or sprinkles.

CHARLIE: Or just scoff it as it is. Jumping jackdaws, that’s good!

 

Huge thanks to Michelle Harrison for your time. A Pinch Of Magic publishes in February 2019. Pre-order here.

 

Check out day one and day two of Blogmas. 

blog tour

Blog Tour: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

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Blog Tour: Shadow Of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow Of The Fox is one of my favourite YA reads this year, and it is your new YA fantasy addiction. Set in a world of demons and tree-spirits, ghosts and shapeshifters, it follows a girl on her quest to prevent a terrible power from falling into the wrong hands. 

I was delighted to be invited on to the blog tour and I particularly wanted to hear how Japanese mythology had shaped the book. My friend Christina has lived and worked in Japan and knows the language and culture well. When I visited her in October, she introduced me to a whole landscape which I had never known before. Shadow Of The Fox took me further into this landscape and made me hungry for more fantasy inspired by world mythology. 

A big thank-you to Julie Kagawa for taking the time to tell us how mythology shaped your story. birdbreak

About Shadow Of The Fox and Japanese mythology – Julie Kagawa. 

Shadow of the fox’s main protagonist is Yumeko, a girl who is also half-kitsune.  Kitsune are the magical, shapeshifting foxes of Japanese legend, and one of their most beloved creatures of myth.  Kitsune appear everywhere in Japan: in anime and manga, folktales, toys and video games, even in food.  Kitsune udon (noodles) and Inari zushi (tofu sushi) are tied to foxes, as both have a sweet fried tofu pouch that is said to be a kitsune’s favorite food.  Fox statues can be found at Japanese shrines, particularly the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, as kitsune are also messengers of Inari, the god of rice.    

In Shadow of the Fox, Yumeko struggles with the two sides of herself.  She wants to be a good human, but she is also mischievous and loves playing pranks due to her kitsune nature.  Having lived in an isolated temple all her life, she is very innocent and naive to the world, but she has a fox’s intelligence and learns quickly.  Which will come in handy when she flees her home and runs into all manner of Japanese monsters and yokai.  Yumeko isn’t a warrior, but she is kitsune, and will have to use all of her cunning, magic and fox talents if she wants to survive.

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Author Content – Pages & Co by Anna James

Pages & Co by Anna James – blog tour. 

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Pages & Co was one of my favourite reads this summer. It is a magical middle-grade story which will by loved and enjoyed by all bookish people. The story follows a girl with the magical ability to wander inside books. 

I am delighted to welcome Anna James to BookMurmuration to talk about the books which made her an avid reader. bird

Children’s Books That Made Me The Person I Am Today – reccomendations from author Anna James 

 I imagine that anyone reading this is built of books. I dread to think of who I would be if you took everything I’ve learned or felt because of a book I’ve read, I worry there wouldn’t be much left. In Pages & Co, my heroine Tilly feels much the same, so much so that she struggles to relate to real people outside of the bookshop that she lives in. When characters from her favourite books start popping up, she thinks she’s found the friends she needs, but of course real life is still waiting.

Yesterday I wrote about my top ten children’s classics over on a Day Dreamer’s Thoughts. All of those books were hugely formative for me, but I’ve resisted the urge to repeat any (Anne of Green Gables in particular!) to choose some more modern books that had a big impact on me growing up. From the super famous to the out of print, these are the five books that have most impacted me as a reader, a writer and a person.

 

Favourite books from childhood –

–          Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

“And it’s a pity too that I’ve no right to open your letters. I hope you don’t get many, or my conscience will give me no peace.”

If I had to name one writer that has had the biggest impact on me it would be Diana Wynne Jones. She’s written a lot of books and I think I’ve read most of them. She’s probably best known for Howl’s Moving Castle because of the Studio Ghibli film, but in my mind the Chrestomanci series is her best. They’re a bit of a Narnia situation, i.e. do you read them in the order they were written, or chronologically in terms of in-world timing, but I would recommend starting with Charmed Life. Quirky, funny and clever, it’s storytelling at its absolute best. With her worlds within worlds, playfulness with genre and tropes, and stories of finding yourself, Wynne taught me all the foundations of the things I love to read and write.   

 

–          Back Home by Michelle Magorian

“Come on,’ said Peggy. ‘You’ll have to come with me. I need you to show me the way.”

Michelle Magorian wrote the beloved Goodnight Mr Tom (which I’ve somehow never read) but my heart lies with Back Home, the story of Virginia, nicknamed Rusty for her red hair (I can’t resist ginger heroine as a redhead myself) who is returning to England after her evacuation to the US during the Second World War. She comes back to a country and a family she barely understands and struggles to fit in at home or at the strict boarding school she’s sent to. It’s a story of hope, bravery, family and being true to yourself. If you’re already a fan, I recently read Hilary McKay’s The Skylarks’ War and it took me right back to how I felt reading Back Home.

 

–          Momo by Michael Ende

“Those who still think that listening isn’t an art should see if they can do it half as well.”

Another book where the author is better known for a different title, you might have heard of Ende as the writer of The Neverending Story, but he also wrote another book about the power of storytelling about an orphan called Momo. It’s sometimes also published as The Grey Gentlemen, who are the villains of the piece and inveigle their way into Momo’s town and start to steal the people’s time. This is one of my Dad’s favourite books, and I came to it through his version which is printed in brown ink with amazing illustrations. It’s a trippy, weird, profound book about how we use our time, and what is really important in life, and the grey gentlemen were big inspiration for me creating Enoch Chalk, the villain in Pages & Co. His grey bowler hat is a nod to them.

 

–          Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

“You cannot change what you are, only what you do.”

From some slightly more obscure titles to one of the most famous books of recent decades. I was bought Northern Lights for Christmas by my Grandad when I was about nine or ten and I fell in love. My Grandad, and the way he chose books for me and my sister, hugely inspired Tilly’s Grandad. He died when I was at university, but I hope that in Tilly’s Grandad he exists still in some way. His Dark Materials is also the series that made me aware of publishing, because I had to wait for the third book in the series. I remember going into my local Waterstones every time I passed to ask if they knew when it was going to be available. As well as being brilliant stories, these books taught me about challenging corrupt authority, standing up for what is right, and showed me the power of being your own heroine, something that is at the heart of Tilly’s story too.

 

–          They Do Things Differently There by Jan Mark

“We have to be careful from now on,’ Elaine said. ‘In a minute we’ll be back where we started. If we’re going to disappear, this is where it happens.”

It is an absolute travesty that this book, first published in 1994, is out of print (I think I am going to have to petition my publisher to buy the rights and reissue it). It’s one of the weirdest, most wonderful books I’ve ever read, and my childhood copy (whose RRP is £3.50!) is very worn from how much I read it. Arguably a UKYA novel before UKYA existed as a genre, it’s about two teenage girls living in a newly built town just outside of London, inventing a hidden world in the cracks and corners of the identical suburban houses. It features fishmonger poets, avenging angels, and a mermaid factory and it is a clever, weird trip of a book that kicked off my love of books about magic just around the corner, hiding in plain sight in the real world (see also Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones!).

 

Pages & Co: Tilly And The Bookwanderers is available from 20th September 2018.

Thanks to Anna James for your time and to Sam White at HarperCollins UK for organising the tour.

Chat · Guest Post

Guest Post: Bath, book, bed by Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland.

I am delighted to welcome Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland to my blog. A Cup Of Wonderland is a beautiful bookish blog with amazing photography and great reccomendations. If you haven’t found Hannah’s blog already, do check it out

Back in April, I wrote a post in support of BookTrust’s bath, book, bed campagain. I suggested adults and teenagers would do well to adopt this routine too. Hannah kindly agreed to give us a look at her own bath, book and bed habits. A big thanks to Hannah for your time. 

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Bath, Book and Bed.

 A while ago on BookMurmuation, Louise published a post which was inspired by the Booktrust recent campaign of Bath, Book and Bed routine. Louise wrote about the importance such a routine has not only for children but for adults as well. I found her post incredibly insightful as Louise illustrated the importance of this routine by discussing her own. Now I happily admit that I am quite an inquisitive person, which perhaps is just a polieter way of saying incredibly nosy, so I quite enjoyed her post. Which is why I was equally delighted when Louise invited me onto her blog to write this post presenting my own Bath, Book then Bed routine.

I feel that before I begin this post, I should include a disclaimer. The majority of the time my routine is quite chaotic and probably not good because I am a phone addict and will watch YouTube videos or Netflix instead of going to sleep. But at least once a week or a couple of times a month, I like to set some time aside especially for this routine. I think it’s a great way of recharging your batteries, allowing yourself a break which is incredibly important if your a bit of a workaholic like me. Now onto my Bath, Book and Bed routine.

 

The Bath:

hannahbathIn my household I live with both my parents so normally when I plan to have one of these types of evenings, I make sure I get in the bathroom last as it means I can happily spend an hour or two in the bath with a nice bath bomb with no complaints or someone (my dad) banging on the door telling me to get out. At the moment my bath bomb of choice has been Lush bath bombs which I love immensely which is due to the fact that it’s one of the few types of bath bombs which don’t irritate my skin or psoriasis. The one which I used for this bath in particular was the Monster one which Lush released for Halloween and it’s my favourite which is why I been rationning the ones which I have remaining.

Once in the bath, I always have a book in hand. After all I will happily spend an hour or more enjoying a good soak with a good book and a cup of tea too.

 

The Book:

hannahbookThe most important part of the evening. Now I normally read in bath for a good portion of time before I get out and light some candles, dry off and then dive right back in. The book in choice for this post was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I saw the movie adaptation when it was released. I adore the film but reading the book made fall entirely in love with every single character, place, and aspect of the novel. If you haven’t read it then I would definitely recommend you purchasing it. 

 

Bed:

hannahbedNow if the book is really really juicy, and I’m unable to put it down. I blow the candles, get my pjs on and slip into bed and continue reading. Which is better than normal as it means that my phone is not being used and I’m not working at all. Now when I finally put the book down and decided to go to sleep, unfortunately the plan deviated a little because my 6 month old pup Oscar, decided to bring his Micky Mouse up and wanted to play. So it was almost completely perfect then? Eventually I’ll to sleep.

 

Huge thank you to Louise for inviting  me to write this post as I too think it’s incredibly important to use your bedtime routine as a way of relaxing and having an allocated downtime.

 

Guest Post

Blog Tour: Mirror Magic by Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic author Claire Fayers 

Mirror Magic is a middle grace fantasy about a world which is like ours, and yet unlike ours. It is about a girl called Ava who shares a connection with a Fair Folk boy. 

I am delighted to take part in the blog tour, and to welcome author Claire Fayers to my blog. 

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If William the Conqueror had Magic

Claire Fayers

Mirror Magic imagines a world exactly like our own but with one big difference – magic exists. Fairy mirrors connect us to the Unworld where the Fair Folk have promised to provide magical goods and services to anyone who asks.

The story starts in 1842, when most mirrors have stopped working and only one small town on the border of Wales and England still has access to the Unworld. The Wyse Weekly Mirror (expertly designed by Jess at Macmillan Children’s Books) gives an insight into daily happenings in the last town of magic.

But what of other time periods?

What would newspapers look like if, for example William the Conqueror had magic (and newspapers).

 

William the Conjuror Sets Sights on England

Inhabitants of southern England are today being urged to remain calm amid rumours that William, Duke of Normandy, is planning an invasion of the Kent coast.

Normandy is well known for its enchanted apples and it is feared that Duke William has singled out Kent as suitable land for an extension of his vast orchards.

Williams denies this. “The people of Normandy have a great fondness for Kent,” he said, speaking from his castle. “Many of us enjoy visiting in the summer months.”

Many French people have indeed been seen in Kent, measuring fields and complaining about the quality of the local cider.” Tourists or invaders? King Harold of England has so far declined to comment except to say he is aware of the situation.

 

Stamford Bridge Army ‘An Illusion’

The Norman army camped near Stamford Bridge in the north of England has proved to be a fairy illusion.

The deception was discovered too late for King Harold who had already marched all his forces north to meet the threat.

Meanwhile, a large number of tourists have arrived on the south coast from France and set up camp outside Hastings. “We are definitely not an army,” said William of Normandy, polishing his armour.

 

Harold Defeated at Hastings

Harold is dead. Long live King William of England.

After a fierce battle of arms and magic, King Harold has been defeated at Hastings. Harold, who was tricked into taking his army north, conjured a fairy road to travel back, but the journey exhausted his men and by the time they reached the Norman invaders, they were relying on magical energy potions.

Because of this, Harold insisted on keeping his magic mirror with him in the thick of battle. This proved his undoing when a stray arrow pierced the glass and Harold lost control of the Unworld. Witnesses report thick mist flowing from the broken mirror across the field of battle, turning the grass foul shades of orange and purple. Harold led a final, desperate charge at William’s mirror, but the Norman archers were ready and the king died under a hail of arrows.

 

Huge thanks to Claire Fayers for your wonderful post and to Karen Bultiauw for organising the blog tour. Mirror Magic is available from 14th June.

 

 

 

Guest Post

YA Shot Guest Post: Patrice Lawrence

yashotbanner.jpgYA Shot

YA Shot is a day-long festival held in Uxbridge, London. The money raised is used to fund author events throughout the year in schools and libraries. YA Shot aims to foster a love of reading and writing, and to help young people aspire to careers in the arts. 

 

Patrice Lawrence

Patrice Lawrence Author Image.jpgI am excited to welcome Patrice Lawrence as part of the YA Shot blog tour. Patrice Lawrence debuted with Orangeboy in 2016. It is the story of Marlon, a boy who finds it increasingly difficult not to get drawn into a world of gangs and crime. The book was a phenomenal success, winning the YA Book Prize and the Waterstones Children’s book prize. 

Lawrence followed with Indigo Donut, the story of a young woman searching for her own identity when everyone around her knows the story of how her Dad murdered her mother. Both novels deal with themes of identity and inheritance. This guest post is about the theme of family legacy. Huge thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. 

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From father to daughter and everything in between – Patrice Lawrence 

I have no photographs of my father. My parents split up before I was born and my father, Patrick Edward Singh, died in his 40s. I had spent time with him, as a child and as an adult. He was a great reader, anything from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ to the collected works of the science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov. He was also a musician. I remember his basement flat in Brighton being full of guitars and I knew that he had fronted a band called Eddie and the Black Princes. He loved the provocative wordplay. (The original medieval Black Prince was Edward, son of Edward 111, probably given the name because of his black armour.)

As I grow older, people remark on my resemblance to my mother. I look like her. I have her family name. I share her love of books, art and cake-making. She introduced me to early Depeche Mode, UB40’s brilliant first album and New Order. She has bought my YA books and shipped them off to the family in Trinidad. She has made sure that the booksellers in Haywards Heath Waterstones know that I am local.

Both Marlon in ‘Orangeboy’ and Indigo in ‘Indigo Donut’ are tied to family legacy. Marlon’s connection to his dead father, Jess, is through music and sci fi. He has inherited his father’s vinyl collection of funk and soul. He is named after the actor who played Superman’s dad in the 1978 film. His feelings are punctuated with music and he often articulates his world with the help of Star Trek and The Matrix.

Marlon, like the other two pairs of brothers in ‘Orangeboy’, has inherited loss and revenge. What happens to him is exciting but destructive. It is also viewed through the prism of ‘race’ – how far will he let the past shape the present and his identity as a young, black man in today’s society?

Indigo believes that she has inherited anger. Her father killed her mother and what’s inside him is inside her. It is like a wild animal, roaring up when provoked. She is frightened to let anyone get close. And what else has she inherited? She stares at photos of her mother, trying to trace their resemblance. She can barely remember living with anyone who is related to her. She is not sure how to go forward because she doesn’t understand her past.

It is only when I exceeded the age my father was when he died that I started considering his legacy to me. My father in everything except blood is my stepdad. He has been in my life since I was four and has always called me his daughter. We spent last Christmas together watching Steve McQueen films trying to list the death dates of The Magnificent Seven actors in chronological order. We recalled the joy of holidays spent in his native homeland. I don’t need another father.

But –

Like my characters, like so many young people, I still can’t help asking – ‘who am I?’ Does my hair, my face, my body shape bear any trace of my father’s side? When Bailey, in ‘Indigo Donut’, became a rock god with a room full of guitars, was I thinking about my father? Or my daughter? Did my father’s guitar dudeness bypass me and hit my daughter full force?

Last year, I saw that a retired nurse, one of my parents’ peers had written a history of the Victorian psychiatric hospital where they had worked. I ordered the book out of curiosity. I opened a page at random and there was a photo of my father. Resplendent in a quiff, he was playing his guitar.

 

Many thanks to Patrice Lawrence for your time. Check out more info about YA Shot and book your tickets here.

Guest Post

Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour

ORPHAN MONSTER SPY BLOG TOUR GRAPHIC

Matt Killeen author photo.jpgToday is my stop on the Orphan Monster Spy blog tour. Protaganist Sarah is a good example of a female character who knows her own mind and makes her own decisions. Matt has written about his female heroes and today he celebrates singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. 

I’m so excited to welcome Matt to my blog. 

birdAlanis Morissette

 Alanis was not the first female artist to swear and tell it like it was. She wasn’t the first to complain about abuse in the music business in song. She wasn’t the first to scream and talk explicitly about sex and heartache. She wasn’t even the first person to play the harmonica that badly in a professional setting.

 Yet there was something about her that sounded genuinely new. There was virtually no analogy, metaphor or simile at work in most of her lyrics. She hopes that her ex-boyfriend feels her having sex with someone else. So that’s what she says.

 Again, it was not unique, but it was the moment when 33 million people stumped up £12 for Jagged Little Pill to hear her go for it over and over again. It was the point when the entire world decided it wanted to hear a woman speak, without any filter whatsoever, from the darkest and most transgressive of her desires and hatreds, to the wildest of her dreams and the most heinous of her wounds. All in so many words.

 Figuratively and lyrically she managed to exist simultaneously as “beautiful” and “ugly”, good and bad, equally comfortable with either, equally dismissive of both. She seemed so triumphant and so lost, so powerful and yet so vulnerable. Even her descriptions of sex manage to be detailed without being pornographic. And all this rendered complexity, all this terrifying, deep and murky raucousness was melodic, accessible and catchy. Perfect pop. It played the game, changed the rules and won.

 One of the few obfuscations on the album, using similes throughout, is the track that’s most dubiously derided. No, her examples aren’t ironic – but in fact, she doesn’t insist these things are ironic, she just asks us if that’s what we’d call them. It took me years to realise that it was all about meeting the man of her dreams and then meeting his wife…an event that left her lost for words. It’s an admission of weakness, so embarrassing that it can only have been true. What it probably was for a supposed former infatuation junkie, was typical.

 It was an album released by a woman – it appeared on Madonna’s Maverick label – when every other company had passed on it. It outsold her boss, the Beatles, Guns N’ Roses and even Adele hasn’t done better. It remains the 13th highest selling album of all time, the second best-selling album by any woman. That may not be meaningful – Shania Twain is number one after all – but it was the Wonder Woman of its day, proving conclusively that the public would stump up cash to hear a woman speak for herself.

 She suffered through all this to an extent and took a sharp turn in style in its aftermath. She became ever more introspective and concentrated on self-care to the detriment of her sales and arguably the quality and importance of her music. Certainly, her work no longer resonated with the numbers of people it had done.

 As a music journalist, I might bemoan the reasons behind her later choices. She once said of her change in intensity, that singing Jagged Little Pill live, night after night, hadn’t resolved anything for her but made her more angry. This suggests that she thought that it was supposed to be cathartic for her. She was the shaman, she was there to heal the tribe, not herself. Of course, there speaks that part of us all that likes our rock-stars to burn bright and then be a bit dead.

 As a fan, I could talk about the crushing disappointment of her meditative later material, or the fact that the 2005 acoustic version appeared to show someone who didn’t know what made her greatest achievement worth listening to.

 But as a feminist, she decided she was done. So that has to be good enough for me. Maybe what she gave us of herself should be enough for everyone. She was just a singer. She was not a spokesperson or shaman. She was just a woman. But wow, what a woman.

 

Thanks to Matt for your wonderful piece. Tomorrow’s stop is at Be My Anchor.

Guest Post

Guest Post – Staying Sane At Christmas

Today’s post comes from Charlotte of CharlotteSometimes. Who better to give advice on keeping cool at Christmas? There will be no sugar-coat about it. Sometimes we need to face up to the insantiy of the world around us, and figure out where to go from there …

Charlotte is one of my greatest blogging friends, and it is a pleasure to welcome her. 

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I don’t know why Louise suggested me as a person to write about being sane at Christmas. Sanity is not usually my strong point! That said, I do maintain a good level of chill over the festive period. I’ve never really understood why it causes other people so much stress. My boss (who is also a lovely friend) suggested it was because I was so organised and efficient. I nearly choked on my gin. Kidding! I never drink gin at work <innocent face>

 

Here are some of my top tips:

 
1. Lists, Lists and More Lists: I am a list maker. I love lists, and Christmas is when my list making comes into it’s own. I have present lists, card lists, food lists, and my infamous Christmas dinner timeline. I can’t take the credit for the idea (it features in Nigella’s Christmas book). It means that a few days before Christmas I plan what time we want to eat and work back the timings of the day from there. It never fails and I am never flapped about producing a dinner. Granted, I rarely cook for a big group, but the beauty of the list is, it’s easily adaptable to your day and your numbers. Lists are your friends!
 
2. Preparation, Preparation, Preparation. Don’t leave all the things until the last minute. No-one wants to be peeling spuds whilst their kids are opening presents from Santa. I start my prep a couple of days before and then on the day itself, it’s all just getting things out of the fridge or cupboards and off we go. Presents? Wrap those babies as soon as you can. I’d love to tell you I don’t leave it until the last minute, but I frequently do and GUYS THAT IS UNNECESSARY STRESS. One year all my labels fell off and caused hell with the wrapping in advance plan. My solution? Screw gift tags! I write the names on with a sharpie. I am all the kinds of classy.
 
3. Don’t Invite Your Family (HAHA) – oh. You think I’m joking. Okay. This is partly tongue in cheek, but there is something to be said for the joy of a quiet day with your immediate family. By all means do the big family thing at some point (we usually decant somewhere over the Christmas break to have a day with all the in-laws) but make time for a few quiet days too. Our Christmases got much less stressful when we stopped trying to travel everywhere to keep everyone else happy. Yes, it’s important that you make time for family, but not at the expense of your own sanity or happiness.
 
4. Find the Fun. Christmas prep can’t all be fun all the time, but you can find fun in even the most stressful situations. One year, my parents were having building work done right before Christmas. On Christmas Eve Eve mum and I went food shopping. The supermarket was rammed. Everyone there was barging and angry. Mum and I had the best time. Why? Because we made it fun. We didn’t mind standing in the queues chatting and laughing on. We were listening to the tannoy guy make all the hilarious sarcastic comments and wondering if we could chop up other orange veg and pretend it was carrots. Christmas Eve, mum and I went to buy all the Christmas presents. We played this game where one of us picked a shop to go in and the other had to find a present in that shop for the next family member on the list! It made for some unusual gift choices, but it took the stress out of the day.
 
5. Routine / Traditions. Find the ones that work for you. Don’t feel the pressure to do all the things with all the people or have the latest “must have” Christmas theme. Want to go to the carol service or the next door neighbour’s cat’s mince pie party? Great! Would rather stick forks in your own eyeballs (like me)? Don’t go. If you want to make your house look like the cover of Ideal Home, crack on. If you’re happy with a piece of tinsel and 5 baubles do that. You do you. You don’t have to ldo what everyone else is doing. That way madness lies.
 
6. Cut the Cr*p. Our Christmas card lists are thousands long, we buy presents for people out of routine, we set things up to show off on social media. No. Stop that! Don’t send cards to people you don’t care about. Cut back the present buying: shave people off the list if you don’t want to swap gifts, suggest a secret santa, make them something, set a limit. Whatever you want. Obligation is not one of the Christmas feels! It has no place here. Don’t set things up just for how the photos will look later. I’ll let you in on one of my best kept secrets: just because it’s not on Faceache doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
 
7. Treat Yourself. Christmas is the season for giving right? It’s also the season for a bit of indulgence and enjoying yourself. So treat yourself, even if that’s just to half an hour’s peace in the bath or sitting down with a hot drink to watch something on the TV. Make sure that you make time to recharge yourself and do something that you enjoy just for you!
 
8. Naps! They’re not just for babies and old people. Christmas is exhausting. The days are darker, it’s colder, all our spare time is taken up doing things. If you have a child in your life you will be up until the early hours and then again shortly after with the excitement of Santa. Overtiredness is no good for anyone. Mix that with indulgent food, alcohol and relatives you would never ordinarily put in a room together and the sparks will fly. I don’t mean the good kind. Take time to shut your eyes for a while. One of my mum’s traditions was to send us all to our rooms for an hour or so after Christmas lunch. We didn’t have to sleep. We could read or play quietly, but if forced on us the idea of some quiet time in the busy day, and that’s something to be cherished if you don’t want the day to end in arguments.
 
9. Caffeine. Fuel your day with caffeine! It wakes you up and might just make you perky enough to avoid stabbing anyone!
 
10. GIN. I prefer mine with just tonic and a slice of lemon or lime, but Christmas is a time for adventure. Make a cocktail! Make several. I have a weak spot for one with cranberry in which makes it look as though I am spending the season drinking the blood of my enemies.
 
Do you have any top tips to share for surviving the Christmas season? 
Guest Post

Dating The IT Guy Blog Tour – Feel Good Books from Krysten Lindsay Hager

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           Book Cover     I’m one of those people who rereads books. It started when I was a kid and my parents would give me an allowance each month to buy books that I would basically speed read through. I truly didn’t understand how to pace myself and I’d be done with all my new books in a few days. My only option was to reread the books until the next month came along and I could get a few new books after doing my chores. This meant I read my favorite YA and middle grade books several times over and found new aspects to them each time. In rereading, I got a better handle on the book and I think it’s why I remember so many of my favorite books from my youth in such detail. I can recall what the characters wore and little details about their bedrooms or their makeup. For most people that’d be a useless skill, but now, as a YA writer, I can use those sensory details to help me write more vivid scenes for my readers. So here are some of my favorite books to read over and over again.

Good-bye, Glamour Girl by Erika Tamar. I read this for the first time the summer after 5th grade. It’s a coming of age story about a girl whose family escaped Europe during WWII and she is trying to fit in in America. Each time I read this one I feel like I’ve peeled back another layer to it as I might learn more about the experience of a girl in a new country or what it’s like to escape real world fears (WWII) by throwing yourself into the movie star culture of the time and thinking that glamour would erase the pain and fears. It’s a striking book and one that never fails to move me.

My Mother Was Never a Kid by Francine Pascal. I read this book as a preteen and it’s about a girl named Victoria who’s about to get grounded and she feels her mother doesn’t remember what it was like being a kid. On her way home on a train, she hits her head and when she wakes up, she’s gone back in time and meets a fun new girl, Cici, who’s wilder than she is and it turns out to be her mother as a teen. I love the book for it’s hilarious moments and because Victoria is a realistic teen with very genuine thoughts that weren’t always PG and perfect. She is flawed and fun and that was something different to see at the time.

Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. I read this book for the first time on the first day of sixth grade. I was so anxious and this book was my escape. It’s about three very distinct characters who are also starting a new year of school and I loved reading about the insecurities they had. That book helped me escape from my own anxious preteen life into a safer place where my own worries could be put on the shelf.

Reading is an amazing way to get you out of your own world to a place of escape. I still find rereading my old favorites is a great way to relax.birdAbout Dating The IT Guy

 Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

 

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Thanks to Jenny from Jenny In Neverland for arranging this blog tour. Catch more content from KLH over the weekend.