Blog

Book Review – Out Of The Blue by Sophie Cameron

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

THE BLURB

Sometimes, I imagine alternate endings to the story: last-minute miracles, touches of magic. I picture how things might have gone, if I wasn’t there. If I’d left just a few minutes later. If I hadn’t been alone. It doesn’t make any difference. One way or another, the crash always comes.

Ten days after Jaya Mackenzie’s mum dies, angels start falling from the sky. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived.

Hysteria mounting with every Being that drops, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand this obsession and, struggling to make sense of her mother’s sudden death and her own role on that fateful day, she’s determined to stay out of it.

When her best friend disappears and her father’s mania spirals, things hit rock bottom and it’s at that moment something extraordinary happens: An angel lands right at Jaya’s feet, and it’s alive. Finally she is forced to acknowledge just how significant these celestial beings are.

Set against the backdrop of the frenzied Edinburgh festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tackles questions of grief and guilt and fear over who we really are. But it’s also about love and acceptance and finding your place in this world as angels drop out of another.

MY OWN THOUGHTS

This book has a hugely compelling hook and is beautifully written. Although at first sight it is a book about Beings falling from the sky and the world going mad in the search for angels, it is at its heart a tender book about love and grief. Jaya is a great main character and is brilliantly drawn, as are the other characters around her who are all battling their own issues at the same time. I found I could visualise each scene and I tore through it as I had absolutely no idea how it was going to end. A refreshingly different read for all fans of YA.

***** – FIVE STARS

Advertisements

2018 So Far…

So that’s us a quarter of the way through the year already and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I started the year holding my breath waiting to find out the results of The Bath Children’s Novel Award, having had my YA novel, Sixteen Again, longlisted in this at the tail end of last year. You can see the full longlist announcement here: – https://bathnovelaward.co.uk/2017/12/05/2017-longlist-announcement/

I was lucky enough to attract some interest from agents and publishers off the back of this and a subsequent #PitMad Twitter pitch, so I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed.

In January our South East Scotland #SCBWI network hosted a fabulous ‘Time To Write’ workshop with Undiscovered Voices winner, Peta Freestone (@DrPetaFreestone) where we focussed on how to prioritise our writing, plus we have lots of other fantastic SCBWI events lined up for the rest of the year (including a re-scheduled Scrivener event to be led by Caroline Deacon @writingdilemmas, which was a casualty of The Beast From The East).

Then it was on to our February Chasing Time Writing Retreat, this time focusing on editing and making your words sing on the page. The retreat was full and we had a great bunch of people attend, which made it hugely enjoyable.

Our current retreat programme is available on our website, including specialised full day retreats for the first time. We are now also offering an extensive list of writers’ services, if this is something that may be of interest… https://chasingtimescotland.wordpress.com/writing-services/

This week I’m just back from the annual Scottish Association of Writers conference held at The Westerwood Hotel in Cumbernauld. This was my fourth year and I’ve been lucky enough to maintain my record of being placed in the competitions they run each year, as well as being a previous winner of the T.C. Farries award in the children’s novel category. This year’s highlights included being awarded a highly commended in the YA category by novelist Claire McFall @mcfall_claire, attending workshops run by her and the wonderful Lari Don @LariDonWriter, and my writing group, Angus Writers’ Circle (@AWCAngus ) sweeping the board in the poetry competition, which has never been achieved by any club before. We’re particularly proud of our own Chasing Timer, Sandra Ireland, who brought back the poetry trophy for the second consecutive year. We also enjoyed a keynote speech by the very funny Simon Brett.

After all that, I think I need a bit of a lie down. Or, even better, a way to stop getting distracted by social media so that I can crack on with my current WIP, another YA novel that weaves themes of bullying and broken homes with elements of Norse Mythology.

Happy writing everybody!

Book Review – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

ELEANOR OLIPHANT

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

THE BLURB

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

MY OWN THOUGHTS

I loved this book! Eleanor leaps off the page and is so perfectly drawn, with all her idiosyncrasies. At times I laughed out loud and at other times I cringed, embarrassed on her behalf even if she herself didn’t care or understand. It was so interesting reading about somebody with such control, but at the same time such little self-awareness, and I loved how Raymond managed to gradually draw her out of herself.
This book is unique, powerful, insightful and, ultimately, unputdownable. I would highly recommend it.

***** – FIVE STARS

Book Review – Shadowsmith by Ross MacKenzie

Shadowsmith
by Ross MacKenzie

Are you brave? When mysterious Amelia Pigeon turns up at Kirby’s bedroom window in the dead of night, this is the question she asks him – immediately before they tumble into a world of ancient malevolent spirits who have torn their way into Kirby’s sleepy seaside village. Ross MacKenzie weaves a world of magic and adventure, which twists and turns magnificently and will keep thrilled young readers guessing right to the end.

***

MY OWN THOUGHTS

A friend had said how much she enjoyed Ross’ first book, ‘The Nowhere Emporium’, and had praised his writing, so I was looking forward to reading this, and wasn’t disappointed. I read it in two sittings while on holiday last year, and loved the characters of Amelia Pigeon and Kirby, as well as the underlying family themes (Kirby’s mother is in a coma from which we don’t know if she’ll recover, and he has become distanced from his dad) and the overall plot, with all its inherent mystery and high stakes.

Without giving too much away, I also loved how the real Amelia Pigeon turns out to be someone you would not immediately expect to be depicted as a young girl in a yellow raincoat, as well as the fact that she is not even remotely a straightforward character.

I would definitely recommend this and am now looking forward to ‘The Nowhere Emporium’ even more.

Five Stars *****

2017 – A Year In Review

As we come close to the end of 2017, I thought I would share some of my writing-related highlights in what has been a busy and eventful year. I hope your year has been a good one too, and I love reading about what everyone is up to.

In February I was lucky enough to visit Ruth Bennett at Stripes Publishing and have a tour of the offices, finished off by a chat about my upper Middle Grade book, Sunk!, which I was editing at the time. She was lovely and encouraging, and I was in my element surrounded by all those books and the whole publishing process.

This was followed in March by the annual Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference at the Westerwood Hotel in Cumbernauld, which I attend with a contingent of Angus Writers’ Circle friends, and which is always a high point of my writing year. Thankfully I kept up my record of being placed in their competitions this year too.

Each month I also attended my SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) YA critique group in Edinburgh, as well as a number of  fab SCBWI workshops and seminars throughout the year. A major highlight however, had to be getting asked to become the joint co-ordinator for the South East Scotland network with the wonderful Sarah Broadley ( @sarahpbroadley ) and we’re really excited about all the plans we have lined up for the coming year.

August of course brings the Edinburgh International Book Festival and all the amazingness that entails, and I was lucky enough to manage to get through for quite a few different events this year.

Then September was a notable month for two fantastic reasons. The first of these was the official launch of our Chasing Time Writing Retreats with our inaugural retreat taking place over the last weekend of the month, which saw all of our plans and hopes come to fruition. It’s fantastic working with two such lovely fellow writers and hopefully in 2018 we’ll go from strength to strength. Our next retreat in February is already down to only one remaining space, which is so encouraging. Watch this space for further writers’  services and offerings coming soon…

It’s also gratifying that we’re starting to have our work recognised, especially Sandra‘s shortlisting for the Saltire Society Literary Awards First Book of the Year with #BeneathTheSkin and Dawn’s many journalistic achievements, as well as her signing up with a literary agent for her YA novel, which is currently out on submission. For myself, I am beyond thrilled that my own YA manuscript has been longlisted in The Bath Children’s Novel Award, and I have less than a week now to find out if it’s made the shortlist – eek!!

The other brilliant thing that happened in September was a Bronte field trip with three of my fellow ‘Novellers’ (we meet most months and exchange chapters and feedback for our current works in progress) to Haworth, where we were each lucky enough to write a line of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights as part of artist Clare Twomey’s ( @CTwomeyStudio ) project to re-create the long lost manuscript.

Rounding off the year was a visit to Aberdeen for the launch of Granite Noir with a poisoned cocktail party – never trust writers!

Who knows what 2018 will bring, but I’m off to make some writing goals/resolutions (including blogging more regularly and updating my Goodreads page more often, as well as tackling a whole new manuscript, which is only at the very faint general idea stage in my mind at present). I hope you all have a happy, healthy and successful year and wish you all the best with your own writing goals.

 

In Pursuit of the Strange and Curious…

Our next retreat focuses on settings and characters, drawing inspiration from some gothic writing of the past. Here’s a little teaser from Sandra to whet your appetites…

Source: In Pursuit of the Strange and Curious…

Saltire Literary Awards 2017 Shortlists Announced! @Saltire_Society #Edinburgh #Scottish #Scotland #LiteraryAwards

I’m thrilled to share this with you as my great friend and writing buddy, Sandra Ireland, has been shortlisted in the First Book category. What a fabulous achievement!

Love Books Group

2017 Saltire Literary Awards shortlist unveiled at special event in Edinburgh

Multi-award winning writers and household names James Kelman, Bernard MacLavertyand Denise Mina feature alongside emerging talents Ever Dundas and Kate Hunterin 2017 Saltire Literary Awards shortlists, unveiled today (12th October).

The shortlists for the seven awards that make up the 2017 Saltire Literary Awards were officially announced at an event hosted at the Edinburgh West End branch of Waterstones and featured readings from last year’s winner of the Scottish Book of the Year Award, Kathleen Jamie.

Widely regarded as Scotland’s most prestigious book awards, the Saltire Literary Awards are organised by the Saltire Society, a non-political independent charity founded in 1936 which aims to celebrate the Scottish imagination.

Established writer John Burnside, one of only two poets to have won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the same book, features in both the Poetry and Fiction Book Awards…

View original post 625 more words

Chasing Time Writers Retreats ~ Meet The Team & Booking Info @ChasingTimeScot

Thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for this lovely round up of Chasing Time.

Love Books Group

IMG_0412

I am very proud to have been Blogger in Residence at Chasing Time Writing Retreats in October. I am delighted that I will be continuing my residency in November too.  Below is information about the super team behind Chasing Time Writing Retreats and about the fabulous writing retreats themselves.

TURN BACK TIME

Date: 4pm Friday 3rd of November 2017 to 2pm Sunday 5th of November 2017

Noir is the new black! Our November retreat aims to lift the (coffin) lid on what makes a dastardly dark tale! What is Gothic and how can we use its conventions to enhance our writing? Sandra Ireland, author of gritty noir thriller ‘Beneath the Skin’, will be leading a series of workshops on character, setting and suspense, while the gloriously Gothic venue will provide you with lots of inspiration. What better way to wile away a dark November weekend?

Friday evening.

Over supper…

View original post 751 more words

Inaugural Retreat Success

Here’s our latest Chasing Time blog post following our first retreat last weekend, which went even better than we could have hoped for. We’ve already had three 5* reviews (which are included at the end of the post), and are looking forward to doing it all again in a few weeks time!

Source: Inaugural Retreat Success

Chasing Time Writing Retreats @ChasingTimeScot Day #2 #Review #Writing #Retreats #Scotland

A lovely write up of day two of our inaugural Chasing Time Writing Retreat…

Love Books Group

IMG_0313

Day 2

Chasing Time Writing Retreats – Stop The Clock

Arbroath, Scotland

I awoke in my fancy princess bed well rested and ready for the new day of adventure at the writing retreat.

IMG_0362IMG_0363IMG_0364IMG_0365

Everyone gathered for a beautiful breakfast. You can choose to have a full English and they also have a vegetarian option.

IMG_0401

The first event of the day was a brisk walk around the grounds of the Rosely House Hotel, to ignite the creative juices.

IMG_0402IMG_0404IMG_0405IMG_0406IMG_0410IMG_0409IMG_0417IMG_0416IMG_0414IMG_0412IMG_0413IMG_0418IMG_0419IMG_0422IMG_0425

For the remainder of the morning, we had a flash fiction exercise, followed by creative workshops. I found these very inspiring and they really lit a fire in my belly. Perhaps that wee idea I have had for a while will come to fruition.

A beautiful buffet style lunch was set up by author and host Dawn Geddes for us all, with a mix of meat and vegetarian options. The hosts are very happy…

View original post 199 more words