Monday, 29 September 2014

Interview with Leigh Bardugo + A Giveaway!

Hello lovely readers of my blog! Today I have a special interview for you with the author of the brilliant, amazing, glittering Grisha Trilogy, Leigh Bardugo. I was soooo excited to talk to Leigh as I am the HUGEST fan of the trilogy (review of Ruin&Rising coming soon!) and was curious as to how she came up with the idea to write it. I was invited to an event in August to celebrate the launch of the latest book in the trilogy but unfortunately wasn't able to make it, so I was so relieved I was still able to do an interview! There is also an exciting giveaway, which I will tell you about below the interview... 

1)      How did you find inspiration to write The Grisha Trilogy?

The idea for the trilogy really began with a question: what if darkness was a place? That idea led to a lot of other questions: what if the monsters that you imagine there were real and you had to fight them on their territory? What kind of power would it take to create such a place? What kind of power would it take to destroy it? And all of those ideas contributed to the creation of the Shadow Fold and everything else really arose from that initial inspiration. But I think there is a myth about books; that they come from a single idea, when in truth writing a novel doesn't require a single moment of inspiration it requires daily inspiration.

2)      What is the best and worst thing about The Grisha Trilogy being a fandom?
Honestly, the best thing about it is that I get to see the enthusiasm of readers expressed in fan mixes, playlists, and edits and art. I get to see them connect with one another and see them share their enthusiasm for the books. The worst thing about it is when conflicts arise in that fandom, and I see people being unkind to each other over something I created.

3)      Do you tend to form characters or a plot first?
It is really impossible for me to pull those two things apart.

4)      Is it more fun creating villains or heroes? (I.e the Darkling or Mal/Alina?)
My villains are my heroes - they are just part of a different narrative: every character is a pleasure to create. Some are easier than others and some speak with louder voices, but once I get to know them I treasure them all.

                                                           * * *

And now for the giveaway! All you have to do is comment below on this blog post with your favourite fantasy read, or your favourite character from the Grisha Trilogy- you can enter as many times as you like... No limit! The closing date is Monday 20th October 2014, so get commenting!

There will be ONE lucky winner, who will receive the whole trilogy... That's Shadow&Bone, Siege&Storm AAANNNDDD Ruin&Rising! What are you waiting for? GET COMMENTING BELOW!

If you would like any further information on my giveaway policies, visit my page here.

If you would like to read my review for Shadow&Bone and Siege&Storm click on the titles!

Good luck <3

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Why Malala Yousafzai is the Girl we Teenagers Should Aspire to Be Like

About a week ago, I was sent teenage blogger, campaigner and fighter for girl's education Malala Yousafzai's new book to review. It was probably my most highly anticipated book of 2014 so far, as not only have I been following Malala's story on the news since she was shot by the Taliban in early October in 2012, but ever since she rose in prominence and notoriety from the work she has done for women's education, I have been fascinated to find out what exactly goes through the head of this seventeen-year-old, only three days older than myself, and how she became to be the inspiration that she is today.

As I anticipated, Malala's book did not disappoint one ounce. The voice coming out from the pages were distinctly that of a young teenager, burning with ambition and an unprecedented curiosity of the world; not to mention the fervent desire to learn. I had always known that I was lucky to have the education that I have, however Malala's book really hit this home. I was struck by the sheer courage of Malala and her classmates, her teachers and her parents to continue the education of girls in their school, in one small village in Pakistan, despite the looming threat of the Taliban that was forever hanging over them. The bravery it must have taken for them to continue their learning, when the Taliban had announced on national radio that it was a sin for girls to go to school, and men were patrolling the street with guns, ready to kill anyone who would contradict this rule. When I was thirteen, I would moan at having to get up early, get on the tube and go to school on a Monday morning. On the other side of the world, there was a girl the exact same age as me, covering her face and hiding her books under her clothes as she took a back road to the school that was right next to her house. It's unbelievable the amount of differences between us: even though we are two girls, the same age, both obsessed with the Twilight films and reading... What separates us is where we live, and the fate that one of us easily has what the other longs for. The right to be educated, and enjoy learning in a safe environment where we have the right to choose what we want for our future.

At first glance, it may seem difficult to imagine how myself and Malala can ever be alike. The similarities between us, however, and millions of girls all around the world, is that in some way or another, we are all belittled or underestimated by our gender. Just as Malala describes in her book, although Muslim women are often denigrated and controlled by the men in the Taliban, women in the western world are also objectified by the media and how society defines them. In drawing out these similarities between us and our two very different worlds, Malala is pointing out that it is the power of education, and the knowledge of our own self-worth, that can set us free. 

However, it isn't only the correlative subject of education that made me recognise the similarities between Malala and the average teenager. In later chapters of the book, when Malala describes her new life in Birmingham, I realised not only the shock and unfamiliarity she must have felt to be introduced to an entire new lifestyle, but the fact that the she feels defined by the person she was in Pakistan, and an ardent sense of duty and responsibility to continue the work that she started. When describing her friends at her new school, she points out that although there is a distinct difference between them and herself, they both have experienced things that neither one will understand, and perhaps are more similar than either party anticipated. The freedom that western girls experience by dressing the way they want to and not being limited to an tight supply of certain music, films and books is also their imprisonment, Malala points out. We are all objectified and diminished, as women, no matter where we live.

Throughout the course of the book, Malala's world changes drastically, however her spirit and determination does not falter. She never forgets her roots, where she comes from, and where she's going. Just because she lives in Birmingham, England, a place where girls are free to have an education and choose their own future, Malala does not forget the thousands of girls and women back in Pakistan who do not have the choice, or the freedom to shape their own future. Malala continues to speak out, and spread her gospel of education through her work for the Malala Fund. As she advocates, she will not stop fighting until every girl in the world has a safe place to be educated, to learn, and to be free.

 From Barack Obama, Beyoncé and Angelina Jolie to me, a seventeen-year-old girl from London, millions around the world have been touched and inspired by Malala Yousafzai, and millions more will continue to be impelled to action by the release of her new book. I hope, along with this gospel for equal rights to education for all, and Malala's persistent campaigning, we can actually change something and ensure all girls are given the choice to shape their own future.

Malala Yousafzai is not only 'The Girl who was Shot by the Taliban'. She is the girl we teenagers should aspire to be like. She is the girl who will shape our generation, and remind future ones that with the power of education, one can achieve anything and everything.

Until next time :)

Monday, 15 September 2014

Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall and Kylie Jenner (***)

*Drumroll* Aaaaand here it is, my much anticipated review of Kendall and Kylie Jenner's debut novel, Rebels: City of Indra. Before you read this review, I'd recommend you checking out the blog post I wrote concerning celebrities and publishing- it will make clear some of my ideas before you go on to read this :)

The storyline, on the whole, was not bad. It was similar to a lot of futuristic teen fiction I had read before: a pretty girl with dreams that reached beyond the confined world she was living in, an oppressive government, a love interest that is an enemy before a friend, and a trusty sidekick to top it all off. However this time, since the novel was split into two narratives with the separate tales of Lex and Livia, there was double of each ingredient I mentioned before. The story was well-written enough that I didn't want to give up on reading it (because I always aim to finish every book I start... Obsessive, I know) but it wasn't exciting enough for me to not want to put it down, or hype up on twitter or Facebook. 

The characters, I felt, weren't loveable enough. Sure, teenage protagonists aren't meant to be small and cutsie. However, they have to embody enough attractive qualities for the reader to actually like them, or at least be interested in what happens to them in the book. I just didn't feel that way with Lex and Livia. They weren't particularly pleasant to the other characters, let alone each other, and I don't really understand how you can't recognise your twin. Surely, you'd have enough physical similarities for you to realise before someone told you that? In Kendall and Kylie Jenner's mind, obviously not.

As the book ended on a cliffhanger, I'm presuming there is a sequel in the pipeline. This is not, in itself, an issue. The only thing is, what was promised in the first book has now been promised in the second. The blurb is somewhat misleading, I thought. Technically, all that happened in the first book was that Lex and Livia's lives collided. The rest of what was promised, plot-wise at least, has been shoved onto the sequel. 

As I said before, this was not an entirely 'bad' book. I believe that no book is completely horrific- there are always good points to a novel, if you look carefully. I believe a great deal of the negative press and poor reviews that followed the publication of this book stemmed from the fact that they are the Kardashian younger siblings, and therefore will face criticism whatever they choose to do in life. Although I haven't marked this book five stars, I have given it a rating, and explained why I gave it that particular rating- I don't believe this story is rubbish. If anything, I appreciate that they have struck out on a different path by publishing their own book. Even if there are some negative sides to this, at least they are contributing to this industry, and doing something a bit different.

If you have read Kendall and Kylie's new book, or are thinking of doing so, please leave me a message in the comments. I'd love to hear what you think :)

You can buy Rebels: City of Indra here:

*Try not to get distracted by the insulting reviews that basically just offend the authors. Give it a read first, and then form your own opinion*

Until next time :) 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Emerging Cult of Celebrity Authors Moving in On The Industry

Recently, there has been an explosion of A-List celebrities and YouTube megastars gaining their own book deals, with the likes of publishing giants such as Penguin. From teen idols Kendall and Kylie Jenner to online sensation Zoe Sugg, announcements seem to be springing up from everywhere about a new piece of fiction, written by your favourite pop star. But how did this begin? For years we have been used to the standard Katie Price biography, and perhaps a David Walliams children's book, but recently celebrities publishing has become a completely new ball game.

I first became aware of the extent of this change when I saw an interview with Kendall and Kylie Jenner, the younger members of the Kardashian clan, who announced that they were writing a futuristic tale with two female protagonists they had named Lex and Livia. For me, it had never crossed my mind that two teenagers with modelling careers, sparkling celebrity status and a reality TV show under their name would ever be interested in book publishing. The fact that it wasn't even a biography, but a piece of fiction, was equally startling to me. How did they get interested in this? What did they want to achieve? Apparently, they had come up with the idea for their story in the back of a car, whilst discussing what kind of movie they would like to be in if they ever got the chance to. A seemingly far-fetched idea. But nonetheless, a mere couple of years later, Rebels: The City of Indria was flown across from the US and in my in-tray of books to review. Obviously, the Jenners had fulfilled their ambitions. 

When I finally got around to reading Kendall and Kylie's new book, I told myself fiercely that I was going to read it with an open mind, and treat it like any other book I was sent to review. Fair judgments, unbiased opinions, and an honest opinion. However, what I couldn't get out of my head was the fact that two teenagers (one of them the same age as myself), could get a book deal handed to them on a plate, without seemingly any recognition of how hard it was to get a book out on the market. The staggering amount of co-writers and editors also slightly swayed my opinion. As Kendall herself pointed out in an article, 'We obviously can't write a sci-fi novel on our own'. I couldn't quite sympathise. From the disheartening experience of sending manuscripts myself from the age of fourteen, I had always that was what unfortunately came with being a writer. It was something you had to do on your own. Thus, I found myself having already formed an opinion on the book before I had even read it. Although the names on the front cover read 'Kendall and Kylie Jenner', I couldn't quite believe that they had actually put as much work into the book as it made out to be. Rumours circulated as soon as the novel was released with suspicions of a ghost writer, and bad reviews spread across the internet like wildfire. It seemed an unhappy ending for two teenagers just wanting to have their name on a book. But, like most other people, I suspected the Jenner sisters had other motivations.

Another star with her name now in the literary limelight is twenty-two year old YouTube celebrity Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella to her millions of fans worldwide. Sugg has been blogging and making YouTube videos for six years, but just now has entered into the world of book publishing, and already has a huge number of pre-orders, before the book is even published. According to Miss Sugg, who shared the news in a recent YouTube video, publishing giant Penguin contacted her after reading her blog and liking her prose and style. The reaction to the news was unworldly. For a young debut author, a reaction like this would be incredibly rare; some may even say impossible. However, because of the number of fans that Zoe Sugg already has firmly tucked under her arm, a reaction like this to any new project of hers would be inevitable. Similar to the Jenners, Zoe Sugg lives a crazy lifestyle, as shown in her hugely successful vlogs, with business meetings, television and radio appearances and trips abroad to various YouTube conventions. Somehow, in between all this, she has managed to write a book, set to be released later in the year- the same situation goes for her boyfriend, Alfie Deyes, who has released his own book: 'The Pointless Book'. 

With all of these celebrities gaining publishing deals, seemingly at the click of a finger, it is worth asking the question: is this right? Is this affecting the publishing industry, and if so, for the better or for the worse? Should books be published for the creative and talented merit of the author, or because the publisher knows that they already have a huge, and passionate, following? The financial benefits are easy to see. However, the literary issues involved are a lot more complex.

Rebels: City of Indra is available to buy now.

Girl Online will be released on 25th November 2014

Comment below with your views on celebrities and publishing... Do you think they should be offered spontaneous book deals?