Illustrator Spotlight: Emma Yarlett

emma-yarlett

I caught up with fellow Falmouth graduate and rising picture book artist, Emma Yarlett, about her gorgeous new picture book Sidney Stella and the Moon.

What’s it like having your own picture book out there and so soon after graduating?

Such a whirlwind! I had always dreamed and hoped, but never expected that dream to become a reality so soon! For me it feels as though it has been quite a long process, as I began working on the beginning stages of this project way back in 2010, but it’s incredible to see how far the book has come especially since Templar took me on board!

Sid­ney, Stella and the Moon is your first picture book – can you tell us a bit about the whole process from start to finish? (Sorry – I know this is a pretty BIG question!)

This is a super big question! Hmmm… where to start. I guess like Julie Andrews says “I will start at the very beginning!!” I hope you are sitting very comfortably, might be worth getting a cup of tea and a biscuit! Continue reading

Snapshot Review: VIII by H.M Castor

VIIIThis is a great book to pick up if you’re fan of the infa­mous Tudor king, no mat­ter what your age. VIII tells the story of Henry from a young prince through to his death and Cas­tor really suc­ceeds in bring­ing the prince to life, giv­ing emo­tion and moti­va­tion to her care­fully crafted char­ac­ter, while stay­ing true to his­tory.

There’s a lot to cover in just one book and inevitably some areas of Henry’s life are glossed over slightly, particularly some of his marriages. However, this is a period of history that has already been explored a lot – what’s fresh about VIII is that much of the book is based on Henry’s childhood and earlier years instead. It’s very much about the boy (and later, the man), himself, rather than the women in his life.

There is a hint of the para­nor­mal in VIII but it works well, Cas­tor is ambigu­ous enough to leave it up to the reader to decide whether Henry really was haunted, whether his upbring­ing and reli­gious beliefs led to his visions or whether he was a frag­ile young man, slowly going crazy.

An engag­ing story that I’d highly rec­om­mend for any­one with a love of history.

Snapshot Review: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words in the DustWords in the Dust is one of those quiet, no fuss books that tend to get lost amongst the pop­u­lar, well-marketed titles. If I saw this book on the shelf I would, in all hon­estly, be put off by the old fashioned cover and prob­a­bly carry on by. But this is a heart­felt, intel­li­gent book and I sim­ply can­not praise it highly enough.

Words in the Dust, writ­ten by for­mer sol­dier Trent Reedy, tells the story of Zulaikha, a young girl liv­ing in worn-torn Afghanistan. The Tal­iban may be defeated, but Zulaikha is bul­lied daily and shunned because of her cleft lip. Until the day the American’s arrive and offer her a surgery that will trans­form her life.

Words in the Dust is a rich novel that flows so beau­ti­fully, giv­ing an insight­ful glimpse into a very dif­fer­ent cul­ture and way of life. It was heart­en­ing to see Zulaikha grow in con­fi­dence throughout the book and ultimately choose her own future. One of the aspects I loved most (and found particularly powerful), was how pro-women’s rights the book was, all the while maintaining a respectful understanding of a culture where girls and women do face a lot of limitations. To that end, the authors note at the end is also well worth a read. An excel­lent book for younger and older readers.

*Many thanks to Frances Lincoln Books for sending this for review*

Snapshot Review: Arcadia Awakens by Kai Meyer

Arcadia Awakens by Kai MeyerArcadia Awakens, with its unusual plot and rich setting, promised to be a bit more creative than a lot of the paranormal YA circulating at the moment. In the end, however, it didn’t quite work for me.

I found the writing quite clunky. Whether it’s Meyer’s style of writing or a consequence of the translation I don’t know, (Arcadia Awakens was originally written in German), but sentences didn’t flow as well as they could have and the dialogue felt stilted and awkward. I also didn’t feel the characters reacted convincingly to the often bizarre things that were going on around them. And while I love Greek mythology, the whole snake/cat romance just didn’t work for me here. A shame, as I could have really gotten into a Romeo and Juliet type romance with a mafia setting and some shapeshifters thrown in.

*Many thanks to Templar for providing a copy for review*

Snapshot Reviews: Swim the Fly by Don Calame

Swim the Fly by Don CalameSwim the Fly is a lot of fun and a refreshing change of pace in the YA market.  While this is most definitely a ‘boy’s book’, its one that girls and adults can also appreciate and enjoy. Matt, Coop and Sean’s summer goal is to finally see a girl naked, but Matt is also determined to impress a girl called Kelly. Naturally, the only way to do this is by volunteering to swim the 100-yard butterfly. Needless to say, nothing goes according to plan and ridiculous hilarity ensues.

If you’re not a fan of toilet humor, this probably isn’t the book for you. For the most part I was torn between horror and hysterics. By all accounts, Calame appears to have pretty much nailed the inner workings of the adolescent boy – perhaps a little too well (there’s only so much time in a teenage boy’s head I can take). Yes, some parts were a little over the top, but Swim the Fly, while as gross and cringe-worthy at times as you might imagine, has some surprisingly heart-warming moments as well.

*Many thanks to Templar for providing a copy for review *

Book Review: Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn Childs

Fins are Forever by Tera Lynn ChildsI didn’t love the first book in this series, Forgive My Fins, but since I was kindly sent Fins are Forever for review and I remembered quite liking Quince, I thought, what the heck?

On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form, when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not a mermaid kind of girl (unless its Splash. I loved that movie, which is probably proof that I would have quite liked this book when I was a kid, despite how I feel about it now). These days however, I find Tera Lynn Child’s narrative too young and simplistic for my reading tastes, a re-occurring issue for me with her books.

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Book Breakup: The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie HarrisonAilsbet loves nothing more than music; tall and red-haired, she’s impatient with the artifice and ceremony of her father’s court. Marissa adores the world of her island home and feels she has much to offer when she finally inherits the throne from her wise, good-tempered father. The trouble is that neither princess has the power–or the magic–to rule alone, and if the kingdoms can be united, which princess will end up ruling the joint land? For both, the only goal would seem to be a strategic marriage to a man who can bring his own brand of power to the throne. But will either girl be able to marry for love? And can either of these two princesses, rivals though they have never met, afford to let the other live?

For some reason, I got my authors mixed up when I requested this on NetGalley. I vaguely thought this was a new novel by Eva Ibbotson. After thinking Ms Ibbotson’s writing wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as I remembered, I realised my mistake.

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Book Review: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Nantucket Blue is a solid choice for a relaxing summer read. There’s lots I liked about this book: Jules and Cricket’s friendship, the subtle romance, the way sex was handled in a realistic and positive way, the subplot involving Cricket’s mother. Though Nantucket Blue won’t be going down as a personal favourite, this is a good read and worth checking out.

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

Nantucket Blue is about discovering yourself and who you want to be. Cricket, determined to be there for her best friend following the death of her mother, gets a job in Nantucket Blue, so she’ll be nearby if Jule’s needs her. But, as often happens in life, the death of someone who was a mother figure to both girls causes them to grow apart and Cricket has to figure out who she is without Jules. I thought the cracks in their relationship, the hurtful comments, the betrayal of confided secrets and little signs of how much they still cared was very well drawn. We’ve all experienced the sadness that comes from outgrowing a friendship and I thought Howland captured it realistically.

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Book Review: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Since Perfect Chemistry is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, I thought I would enjoy Katie McGarry’s work. Unfortunately this book was so cloying and melodramatic I just wanted to scrub it from my mind once I finished.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with “freaky” scars on her arms. Even Echo can’t remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo’s world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she’ll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Let’s start with the semi-good. The relationship between Noah and his brother was the most interesting part of the book. The whole fostering/adoption storyline was written, like everything else, in such a way as to try to manipulate an emotional response from the reader. However, it did attempt to convey how difficult and painful it must be to watch what’s left of your family become part of a new one without you. That being said, Noah certainly didn’t help his case. Instead of acting responsibly and trying to take steps to build a life where he could eventually be considered a suitable guardian, he does the complete opposite.

After initially being intrigued by Echo’s scars, I got frustrated the longer we were left in the dark. The secret of what happened to her seemed overly drawn out and anti-climatic once everything was finally revealed. I would have preferred more time spent on Echo actually dealing with her trauma and the reader getting to know her mother (who only appears briefly near the end and isn’t painted in the best light, given that she is mentally ill). The complex relationship between Echo and her mother wasn’t explored as it should have been, which was disappointing.

Unfortunately, the book spends far too much time on the ‘romance’, which I didn’t care for in the slightest. I was really turned off by the constant pet names (“siren”, “nymph”, “seductress”) and the way Noah talked was particularly cringe-worthy. Noah is clearly meant to be the ‘bad boy’ with hidden depths in need of a ‘good woman’ to get him on the straight and narrow, but in reality he’s just an asshole. No amount of simpering over Echo is going to make me like him.

Aside from Noah’s fear of loosing his younger brothers, everything else in Pushing the Limits feels overwrought and angst-ridden simply for drama’s sake, instead of taking the opportunity for a nuanced look at mental illness, the effects of trauma, domestic abuse and the foster system.

*Many thanks to NetGalley, HarlequinTEEN and Mira Ink for sending me a copy for review*