#BlogTour Toxic by Lucy V. Hay

 It’s my turn to take part in the BlogTour Toxic by Lucy V. Hay.

About the Author

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), as well as the script editor and advisor on numerous other features and shorts. 

Lucy’s the author of Writing and Selling Thriller Screenplays for Kamera Books’ “Creative Essentials” range, as well as its follow ups on Drama Screenplays and Diverse Characters for fiction as well as screenwriting. Her debut crime novel, The Other Twin, is now out with Orenda Books and has been featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspapers, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. 

Follow @LucyVHayAuthor On Twitter, on Facebookon Instagramon Goodreads, Visit lucyvhayauthor.com 

About the book

It was supposed to be a summer of fun. What came next was anything but … Jasmine is 17, a fitness freak and neurotic. Her best friend Olivia is Jasmine’s polar opposite: overweight and unfit, Olivia is happy in her own skin, despite trouble at home. Best friends since nursery school, Jasmine and Olivia have each other’s backs until the glamorous Ellie arrives in town. Rich and popular, Ellie is everything Jasmine is not … but has always wanted to be. 

Jasmine is soon caught in the middle between her childhood friend and the new Queen Bee. Hurt by her oldest friend’s lack of loyalty, Olivia starts keeping her secrets of her own. As the rivalry between Ellie and Olivia heats up, Jasmine will make a single, devastating choice that changes everything. Book #2 in the ‘Intersection Series’, Toxic explores the lethal nature of fake friendship and is perfect for fans of Lauren Oliver’s ‘Before I Fall’ or Laurie Halse Anderson’s ‘Wintergirls’.

Review

Jasmine is seventeen and her biggest problem is having to deal with two friends who can’t stand the sight of each other. Being between them and having to choose either Olivia or Ellie makes life incredibly difficult for Jasmine, and it also means having to hurt people she is supposed to be ride or die with. 

What the alternate timelines and Groundhog Day scenario shine a light on is the often vacuous impulsivity and shallow reasoning behind the choices made by teenagers. One of those choices can mean the difference between life or death, pain or happiness. Such is the world of not yet adult humans.

This didn’t hit the spot for me. If I hadn’t read prior work by this author, which is far superior from a plot, storytelling and world-building perspective, it would perhaps be a different story. The premise of parallel timelines with the same characters experiencing the same day and similar circumstances with alternative endings, is actually an interesting one.

With a bit more finesse it could be so much better, and the same premise applied to a non YA crime scenario for instance, could potentially be a great read.

It’s a Young Adult read with an element of speculative sci-fi, the second book in the Intersection series.

Buy Toxic at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Littwitz Press; Illustrated edition pub date 10 Jan. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Innocently Guilty by Ashling Bourke

It’s my turn on the BlogTour Innocently Guilty Ashling Bourke.

About the Author

Ashling Bourke spent most of her childhood growing up in Malawi which is a central source of inspiration for her debut novel ‘Innocently Guilty’. She now lives in Scotland and is studying at university whilst developing her debut novel into a series. Follow ashlingbourkebooks.com at Twitter or abourkebooks on Instagram

About the book

‘Innocently Guilty’ is a highly engaging and extremely entertaining first novel full of intriguing characters, international adventure, love and passion, secrets and a chilling mystery at its core. Lottie and Emily are best friends, who want more than anything to have the perfect boyfriend but when a boy is found dead and all eyes are on Lottie, an African adventure awaits that unexpectedly reveals the answers she seeks. This was so not part of the plan.

Review

It’s party time for three best friends, but for one of them the opposite gender is more important than the friendship, which is the beginning of a nightmare for one of them.

Lottie has a crush on Robbie and is looking forward to spending time with him, unbeknownst to her someone has plans to make her evening one to remember. Meanwhile her friends feel a little forgotten, even to the point of wanting to make sure Lottie remembers who they are.

First person narrative generally works a little better when the ‘I’ remains the same person consistently, as opposed to changing who the I is referring to every chapter. At the very least a chapter heading alluding to who I is referring to would be easier. As it stands the reader needs to read at least a paragraph each chapter to figure which one of the three girls the I is referring to each time. It’s confusing and disrupts the flow.

It’s a YA story, a tale of petty jealousy and irresponsible actions, of the shallowness of teenage friendship. How one decision made in the heat of the moment can change lives forever, but it’s also about a young girl reflecting on her actions. Being forced to confront her own privilege, stereotyping and bad attitude.

It needs more depth and more attention to detail when it comes to style and voice.

Buy Innocently Guilty at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : The Conrad Press pub date 15 Feb. 2021. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour Blood Metal Bone by Lindsay Cummings

It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Blood Metal Bone by Lindsay Cummings.

About the Author

Blood Metal Bone is the astounding new novel from New York Times best-selling author Lindsay Cummings. Follow @authorlindsayc on Twitter, on Goodreads, on Amazon, Visit lindsaycummingsbooks.com, Buy Blood Metal Bone

About the book

Her destiny was death. The shadows brought her back.

Wrongly accused of her brother’s murder, Sonara’s destiny was to die, sentenced to execution by her own mother. Punished and left for dead, the shadows have cursed her with a second life as a Shadowblood, cast out and hunted by society for her demon-like powers.

Now known as the Devil of the Deadlands, Sonara survives as a thief on the edge of society, fighting for survival on a quest to uncover what really happened to her brother and whether he is even dead at all…

Review

Sonara is part of the revered Shadowbloods, and yet she is both despised and never accepted as one at the same time. Born to and by a mother who never wanted her, and treated like an unwanted skivvy. Not all of her half-siblings agree with the way she is mistreated though. Her brother, the heir to the kingdom shows her kindness, even if it has to be kept a secret.

When she is blamed for his untimely disappearance it is an instant death sentence and so begins the saga of Sonora. Her death is an end and a beginning. It’s a journey of discovery, of worlds untethered and to be explored. The darkness that follows and fuels Sonora leads her to the answers she desperately seeks.

Cummings has created a smorgasbord of fantasy and sci-fi with a hint of brutal medieval times. The result is an extremely dark and yet intellectually invigorating read. The reader goes from the intricate woven threads of fantasy world-building only to be swept away to the heavens as the author opens the door to the sci-fi element of the story. Just roll with it.

Based on the premise and plotting I wouldn’t be surprised to see this evolve into a series, however it absolutely can stand as a single piece of work. I would love to see Cummings delve into the Shadowblood and powers side of the story a bit more. Either way it is an engaging read.

Buy Blood Metal Bone at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Young Adult pub date 7 Jan. 2021. Buy at Amazon com. At Hive. Bookshop org. Waterstones.

#Blogtour Frank Penny and the Last Black Stag by Jeremy Elson

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour and also Publication Day for Frank Penny and the Last Black Stag by Jeremy Elson.

About the Author

Jeremy Elson found that most of his education went on outside the classroom. Learning things that he was interested in, away from normal lessons, was far more valuable. Now he and his wife home educate their son; Frank Penny was borne out of a desire to bring life to a home-educated child, as well as tell a compelling adventure story.

Jeremy lives in Guildford, UK. Apart from writing, his passions includes the outdoors, The Smiths, Chelsea Football Club and Star Wars Battlefront (apart from when he’s being comprehensively beaten by his son!).

Follow Jeremy @ElsonAuthor and @FrankPennyBooks on Twitter, on Amazonon Goodreadson Facebook, Visit frankpennybooks.com, Buy Frank Penny and the Last Black Stag

About the book

Power is not for the weak or faint-hearted. If Frank, Cas, Gabby and Anya want to find the next two guardians of the Simbrian and keep them safe, they need to journey across the dangerous borderlands and into the dark and shadowy world of Kzarlac, sworn enemy of Byeland.

Ruled by the fearsome Etamin Dahke, Kzarlac is no place for four naïve teenagers. Keen wits and a large helping of luck are no guarantee they will succeed and return safely.

Driven by their desire to protect the delicate peace that has existed since the time of Kester, their quest is about to take a deadly turn, and the exposure of an inconceivable secret may make Frank regret ever having started.

Frank Penny and the Last Black Stag is the third book in the Frank Penny series.Book 1: Frank Penny and the Mystery of Ludlow HumsBook 2: Frank Penny and the Kzarlac Spy

Review

This is the third book in the Frank Penny series. This can be read as a standalone novel, however I would recommend reading the others in the series, not necessarily for the backstory – the author adds enough to get the gist, but for the read itself.

On their quest to find the guardians of Simbrian the group of teens must venture beyond their own safe borders and into the dangerous area of Kzarlac. Discovery could mean death or worse for themselves or anyone who decides to aid them.It’s hard to determine who to trust and when, but Frank seems to have an instinct for the when to do the right thing, as opposed what others think is right. I think it solidifies the way he makes decisions and his confidence going forward.

It will be interesting to see whether the young woman Frank has set his sights on will create a rift between the team, betray his trust eventually or become part of the bigger picture. Not everyone is enamoured by the pretty young thing and the budding relationship.

Elson does an excellent job of balancing the genre, the readership he is writing for and hooking the audience. The result is a read that will engage multiple age groups and readers eager to discover the secrets along with this intrepid team.

It’s a Young Adult/Teen fantasy series. An adventure which gets a little more complex as the story goes on. One filled with secrets, betrayal and danger in every corner. Now that Frank has finally had his eyes opened what will he do with the knowledge he has acquired. I guess we will have to wait until the fourth book to find out.

Buy Frank Penny and the Last Black Stag at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Eyrie Press pub date 30 Nov. 2020. Buy at Amazon comAt HiveAt Eyriepress.co.uk

#BlogTour The Love Curse of Melody Mcintyre by Robin Talley

Today it’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Love Curse of Melody Mcintyre by Robin Talley.

About the Author

Robin Talley (she/her) is a queer author who grew up in southwest Virginia and now lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife and their kids. She did digital communications work for LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, educational equity, and other progressive causes for fifteen years before she turned to writing full-time, and is now the New York Times-bestselling author of six novels for teen readers: Music From Another World, Pulp, Our Own Private Universe, As I Descended, What We Left Behind, and Lies We Tell Ourselves.

Her books have won accolades including the Amnesty CILIP Honour and the Concorde Book Award, have been short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award and the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and have appeared on the Junior Library Guild, Amelia Bloomer Project, Kids’ Indie Next, and ALA Rainbow lists. They’ve also been covered in media outlets including Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, The Chicago Tribune, Teen Vogue, NPR, Buzzfeed, Vulture, Huffington Post, Vice, and Bustle.

Her short stories have appeared in the young adult collections Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft, All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages, A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers and Other Badass Girls, and Feral Youth.

Follow @robin_talley on Twitteron Amazonon Goodreads, Visit robintalley.comBuy The Love Curse of Melody Mcintyre

About the book

Melody McIntyre, stage manager extraordinaire, has a plan for everything.

What she doesn’t have? Success with love. Every time she falls for someone during a school performance, both the romance and the show end in catastrophe. So, Mel swears off any entanglements until their upcoming production of Les Mis is over.

Of course, Mel didn’t count on Odile Rose, rising star in the acting world, auditioning for the spring performance. And she definitely didn’t expect Odile to be sweet and funny, and care as much about the play’s success as Mel.

Which means that Melody McIntyre’s only plan now is trying desperately not to fall in love.

Review

First thoughts – goodness how extremely serious do they take their plays, musicals and world of theatre in general. Then multiply that by drama and teenage angst tenfold, add on years of superstition and the result is a bubbling mess of a stage manager called Melody.

Melody believes that curses determine the success or failure of the production she is in charge of. Some of the curses seem to be made up as they go along, such as deciding that Melody’s love life has a negative impact on their show, hence her being forbidden from falling in love henceforth. Sounds a lot easier than it actually is, especially when love is closer to her than she thinks.

I took a step back from this after reading it and thought about the story in relation to other work by Talley, who has without a doubt been able to bring social commentary, racism, identity politics, civil rights, sexual identity and discrimination to the table for YA genre – in a way that is both hard-hitting, relatable and empowering. Her thought process is always to ensure something remains long after the read. I will never forget reading Lies We Tell Ourselves. There is a reason she is a critically acclaimed author.

With that in mind I wondered at the seeming simplicity and what appears to be a lot of teenage angst, drama and common YA unicorn fluff. What is it that lurks beneath the surface of the water as the reader bobs for the apple?  

Buy The Love Curse of Melody Mcintyre at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Young Adult; pub date 12 Nov. 2020. Buy at Amazon comAt Hive.co.ukAt Bookshop.org

#BookBirthdayBlitz Lady in Red by Tessa Buckley

Today it’s the Book Birthday Blitz Lady in Red by Tessa Buckley.

About the Author

Tessa Buckley was an inveterate scribbler as a child, and spent much of her time writing and illustrating stories. After studying Interior Design, she spent fifteen years working for architects and designers. She took up writing again after her young daughter complained that she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read. This led, in 2016, to the publication of  Eye Spy, the first in a series for 9-12 year olds about two teen detectives. There are now two more books in the series: Haunted, which was a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2017,, and Lady in Red. She lives by the sea in Essex and recently completed an Open University arts degree.

Follow Tessa on Amazonon Goodreads, Visit tessabuckley.comBuy Lady in Red

About the book

Pursuing the truth can be a dangerous game…School’s out for the summer, and Eye Spy Investigations have a new case – looking for Lady in Red, a lost masterpiece by Victorian painter, Gabriel Pascoe.

The clock is ticking for Alex and Donna, because the artist’s house, Acacia Villa, where their friend Jake lives, is due to be demolished, and vital clues may be destroyed. And Alex has an additional problem: he is terrified of snakes, and Jake has a pet snake called Queenie…

As the twins pursue their enquiries, they come up against the man who wants to demolish Acacia Villa. But Mr Mortimer is the godfather of their baby half-sister, Sophie, and criticising him could open up family rifts, which have only just healed.

Then Queenie goes missing, setting in motion a disastrous train of events that will turn the search for Lady in Red into the twins’ most dangerous case yet.

Review

This is the third book in the Eye Spy series. It can absolutely be read as a standalone novel. It’s in the YA category, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to a younger reader – the category it is perhaps better suited for.

Alex and Donna accidentally fall into their next case when they befriend a young man and his pet snake. It turns out he is living with the descendant of a famous artist. The house of his ancestor is under threat by a local bigwig developer, which means they have to try and get to the bottom of his own personal mystery really quickly – the hunt for a missing painting is on.

Buckley gives readers the kind of cosy mystery vibe you get from Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, but with a more modern take on the subject. The detectives are nosy, dominant and think they can barge in anywhere and demand change in a heartbeat. One has to admire the tenacity of the young who are willing to take on the criminals of the world and still be of an age where they need permission to stay out late.

Buy The Lady in Red at Amazon Uk (eBook) Publisher: Matador pub date 10 Nov. 2019 or Paperback, Publisher: Troubador pub date 16 Oct. 2019 or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon comBuy at Troubadour. At IBooks.

#BlogTour Stonechild by Kevin Albin

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Stonechild by Kevin Albin.

About the Author

I served 25 years with the police in the UK, eight years of which were with a tactical firearms team. In 2002, I took a career change, and retrained as an International Mountain Leader working across the globe guiding on mountaineering trips and expeditions. 

I have led many trips to the jungles of Borneo, my favourite destination, an enchanting place that has sadly seen much deforestation. My trips were based on education and conservation.

In 2011, I won the Bronze in the Wanderlust Magazine World Guide Awards for my work..

It was whilst working on a corporate training day in London, when I pictured a statue coming to life to give my clients the answer to the clue they were working on. The rest grew from there. 

My hope is that my writing will continue to spread the word on conservation and protection of all species. – I live in France.A word puzzle for the readers of Stonechild and with a prize to be drawn on the 10th December, which is Human Rights Day. Here’s the link with all the details https://kevin-albin.com/book-kevin-albin/puzzle-time-for-readers-of-stonechild/

Follow @KevAlbin on Twitter, on Facebookon Amazonon Goodreadson LinkedInon Instagram,Visit kevin-albin.comBuy Stonechild

About the book

Where do we go to when we die? Imagine human consciousness embedded in the molecules of a statue. So, when the statues of London come to life, it is a spectacle like non other, and they come with a specific message, and an offer we cannot refuse.

As the world reels in this wonder of science and religion, Molly Hargreaves has other plans and she sets out to prove that things are not as they seem. 

Chased, captured and confined, Molly confronts the statues and her own fears. But who can she convince? The people are welcoming, the Government has succumbed, and the police try to act, but how do you shoot stone and metal? Be prepared to be run ragged around London on a mystery worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes.

Review

It’s an interesting question – where do we go when we die – does some part of our energy or consciousness go somewhere. In this case the people worthy or not worthy, depending on the historical context, of having a statue created in their honour, their consciousness is embedded at times inside the statue. One kind of wonders where everyone else goes – no?

When they suddenly come to life and start spreading the word about an important message they have for humanity, everyone around them is scared at first. Then the implications of these important historical figures demanding time and change is astonishing and then becomes sinister.

Young Molly has had a connection with them for many years ago, some of them recognise her and some of them try to warn her. Things are not as they seem, but she can’t seem to make people believe that these statues aren’t all equal and don’t all have the same goal.

This story fits in the YA category, however I would also recommend it to younger more advanced reader. It’s a combination of speculative fiction, magical realism and adventure. The sense of menace and the unexplained Albin weaves into the read suggests a larger picture we might be reading about again at some time. Who is pulling the strings and why? Is the reason they gave the real one or is there something more nefarious going on?

Like I said, the author leaves plenty of unanswered questions and threads which could lead to another venture into the world of Stonechild. It’s a concept with plenty of potential, especially if Albin explores that interesting sentence between representation via a symbol not always representing the reality of the person in question.

Buy Stonechild at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour The Cecily Taylor Series – Can Dreams Come True by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour for The Cecily Taylor Series, the first book – Can Dreams Come True by Krysten Lindsay Hager.

I am featuring the second book In Over Her Head: Lights, Camera, Anxiety on the 18th of April.

About the Author

Krysten Lindsay Hager writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star, Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Bellbrook Times, and on Living Dayton.

Follow @KrystenLindsay on Twitter, on Goodreads, Visit krystenlindsay.comBuy Can Dreams Come True

About the book

Cecily has always had a huge crush on singer Andrew Holiday and she wants to be an actress, so she tags along when her friend auditions for his new video. However, the director isn’t looking for an actress, but rather the girl next door—and so is Andrew. Cecily gets a part in the video and all of Andrew’s attention on the set. Her friend begins to see red and Cecily’s boyfriend is seeing green – as in major jealousy. A misunderstanding leaves Cecily and her boyfriend on the outs and Andrew hopes to pick up the pieces as he’s looking for someone more stable in his life than the models he’s dated. Soon Cecily begins to realize Andrew understands her more than her small-town boyfriend -but can her perfect love match really be her favorite rock star?

Review

It’s easy to forget how fickle teenage and young adult love and relationships can be. Here today, gone tomorrow. Bodies pulsing with hormones and emotions with underdeveloped brains hurrying to catch up with the aforementioned. You never quite experience love, lust and heartache ever again the way you do during the formative years.

Cecily Taylor loves her boyfriend, but she has a fan crush on celebrity and singer Andrew Holiday. So when he turns up in town to film a music video she decides to tag along with a classmate who wants to audition.

She and Andrew get on like a house on fire, perhaps because she isn’t pretending to be something she isn’t. She is just plain old Cecily, which is what appeals to Andrew. She doesn’t pretend to be interested or to listen. She is sincere and her reactions are honest.

Meanwhile her boyfriend is being shady, which makes her jealous and insecure. It also makes her question the friendships she has.

It’s a drama-filled YA read with a great message about being enough for someone by just being yourself – no matter who they are.

Hager gives readers jealousy, anger, disappointment, anxiety, betrayal, fluttering butterflies, love, hope and most importantly the message about believing in yourself. If everyone wanted the same type of partner then the world would be a very one-sided and lonely place. There is a place for all of us and usually a person or two, perhaps even more.

Buy Can Dreams Come True at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Clean Reads; pub date 20 Mar. 2018. Buy at Amazon com.

#SeriesBlogTour Tomorrow’s Ancestors: The Museum of Second Chances by A.E. Warren

It’s my first turn on the Series Blog Tour for Tomorrow’s Ancestors: The Museum of Second Chances by A.E. Warren and will be blogging about the second book, The Base of Reflections, in a few days.About the Author

AE Warren lives in the UK. A not-so-covert nerd with mildly obsessive tendencies, she has happily wiled away an inordinate amount of time reading and watching sci-fi/ fantasy and gaming. She is interested in the ‘what ifs’.

The Museum of Second Chances is her first novel and she is currently writing the third book in the ‘Tomorrow’s Ancestors’ series.

Follow @amauthoring on Twitter, on Facebookon Instagramon Goodreadson Amazon, Visit aewarren.comBuy The Museum of Second Chances

About the book

What happens when the future recaptures the past?

In a post-apocalyptic world the human race has evolved beyond us through genetic engineering – and we’ve been left behind to make amends for the damage inflicted on the earth.

The reversal of the extinction of long lost animals is key to our reparations and all of these are housed in the Museum of Evolution – along with another species of human that hasn’t existed for 30,000 years.

Elise belongs to the lowest order of humans, the Sapiens. She lives in an ostracised community of ecological houses, built to blend with an idyllic landscape. Deciding to widen her stagnating life in the manufacturing base, she takes a chance opportunity to become a Companion to a previously extinct species of human.

And while living in the museum, Elise realises that little separates her from the other exhibits…

Review

Now and again you find an unexpected gem of a read and this is one of those reads. The worldbuilding, research and thought that has gone into this makes it an extraordinary and interesting experience.

Hierarchy and sub-levels of humans isn’t a new idea per se, doing it from the Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens onwards perhaps more so. This is set in a future after the Homo Sapiens has self-imploded their own civilisation, and because of that they are considered less superior than other groupings of humans.

In fact any group above them is genetically superior. Stronger, smarter, taller – every possible advantage can be bought or is yours by birthright. If you’re really lucky you might even win the opportunity to rise up in the ranks by adding genetic advantages.

Elise is Sapiens, which means she is treated either like dirt or as non-existent in the grand scheme of the hierarchy laws. She isn’t satisfied with being confined to a specific job just because she was born in a certain area. She applies to be a Companion to a museum exhibit, which displeases her own family and other Sapiens.

Now imagine the exhibit living in a bubbled replica of their native environment. Caged like an animal, studied like a lab rat, but an ancestor to all the other human species.

It’s very much a case of you don’t belong to the higher social group if you come from below and those below no longer accept you as one of their own when you rise above your own social status. No difference there really – it’s the same in present day society.

It’s a dystopian novel with post-apocalyptic and futuristic elements. Warren combines anthropology, natural science, genetics and eugenics to create a fascinating read. I’m looking forward to the next part in the series.

Buy The Museum of Second Chances at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.  Publisher: Locutions Press; pub date 17 Feb. 2018. Buy at Amazon com.

#BlogTour As Far As the Stars by Virginia Macgregor

It’s an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour As Far As The Stars by Virginia Macgregor. It’s a YA contemporary read, but also one for all ages.About the Author

Virginia Macgregor: ‘I was brought up in Germany, France and England by a mother who never stopped telling stories.  From the moment I was old enough to hold a pen, I set about writing my own, often late into the night – or behind my Maths textbook at school.  My maiden name is Virginia Woods: I was named after two great women, Virginia Wade and Virginia Woolf, in the hope I would be a writer and a tennis star. My early years were those of a scribbling, rain-loving child who prayed for lightning to strike my tennis coach.

After studying at Oxford, I started writing regularly whilst working as an English Teacher and Housemistress.  I taught in three major UK boarding schools for ten years until I met my husband who, as I like to say, ‘loved me into being a writer.’ He persuaded me to take year out to write full time. By the end of that year I had a publishing deal for my first novel, What Milo Saw, with Sphere of Little, Brown and two years later I landed a deal with HarperCollins for my first YA novel, Wishbones. I now write full time.

To date, I have published five novels: What Milo Saw, The Return of Norah Wells, Before I Was Yours, You Found Me and Wishbones. In 2019 I will be publishing my second YA novel, As Far As The Stars and my fifth novel for adults: The Children’s Secret: these last two novels are my first set in the US, which is where I now live with my husband and my children.’

Follow @virginiawrites @HQStories @Harper360 on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, Visit virginiamacgregor.com

Buy As Far as The Stars

About the book

How do you change what’s already written in the stars?

Christopher is the sort of guy that no one notices, yet when Air catches sight of him making intricate paper birds in the airport, she can’t look away.

But their worlds are about to collide in ways they never expected. Someone they love is on Flight 0217 from London Heathrow. And it’s missing.

Convinced that her brother was on a different flight, Air drives them hundreds of miles across the country, on a trip that will change their lives forever.

But how do you tell the person you’re falling for that you might just be the reason their life has fallen apart?

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I’m currently reading All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was recommended to me by a reader who read What Milo Saw, my first novel, as it has some themes in common: a child narrator in an adult book and the amazing resources of a child who is, or is going blind. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time: hugely moving, so intricate and a timely reminder of the atrocities that can come from extremism. It rightly won the Pulitzer prize. I’m going to press it into the hands of any friends who haven’t yet read it. 

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it)?  I recently watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. My husband is a big Martin McDonagh fan and I watched it more for him than for me – I thought it would be another one of those clever dark comedies that wouldn’t sit quite right with me. But I was proved wrong. The unrelenting love of a mother for her daughter and her longing to get justice for her, was beautifully and painfully rendered by Frances McDormand.

Writers or books who have inspired you to put pen to paper? So, so many book and writers have inspired me. Writers range from Barbara Kingsolver, Jon McGregor, Anne Tyler, Carol Shields to Shakespeare and Michael Ondaatje and Roald Dahl. From when, as a child, I worked out that there were writers behind the stories I loved and that writing stories was their job, there was no going back: I decided that that was what I wanted to do. 

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? Leondardo Di Vinci: I’m totally in awe of how he managed to fuse art and science and how he understood the world long before his time. A total genius.

A famous declutterer a la Marie Kondo has decided to help you organise your home – you have to get rid of all but three of your books (the ones you have written yourself are exempt) which three would you pick and why? Well, first, I’d never let her do that! She can have my clothes and my kids’ toys and all the funny shaped cake tins I’ve only used once but she’s keeping her hands off my books! But if I had to give you an answer, I’d pick the following (and every day I’d give you a different answer): 

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This book taught me about how powerful writing from multiple viewpoints can be – the story is told through the voice of five women, a mother and her four children. It’s a novel that has it all. Amazing characterisation. An epic storyline. An extraordinary sense of place. Universal themes that will be as relevant tomorrow as they were when they were written. And a book that makes you really feel deeply. I cried buckets when reading this novel. 

The Selected Poetry of Mary Oliver. Poetry has that magical quality of revealing new truths every time its read and Mary Oliver’s poetry is just so beautiful – she makes us look at the natural world more closely and gives us so much joy and hope through her beautiful language. She also lived and wrote about New England, which is now where I live.

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson – my favourite children’s book of all time: about as perfect a story as a gets. Courage. Love. Adventure. Friendship. Kindness.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about As Far As The Stars.

Let me just take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoyed your book.

Can you tell us a little bit about your inspiration for this story? I’ve always wanted to write a story of first love (I’m a hopeless romantic), so it’s been brewing for a while. But I didn’t want it to be a saccharine or clichéd. So, I waited until I had an idea that would make that first love come to life in an original way. I then became fascinated by how strangers are thrown together in the aftermath of a tragedy: how they go from not knowing each other at all to, sometimes, sharing the most intimate experience of their lives. When the Malaysian airliner went missing in 2014, I wondered how the friends and relatives of the crew and passengers would feel, not knowing what had happened to their loved ones or where they were and having to come to terms with the fact that they might never see them again or recover their bodies. There is also something a bit mysterious about how a big lump of metal can just vanish like that without a trace. All these ideas came together and formed the starting point for As Far As The Stars. 

There are quite a few important storylines in As Far As the Stars. The guilt Air feels, the relationships between the siblings, the relationship between Air and Christopher and the grief they both feel. Which one is the most important to you?For me, all the strands work together but if I had to choose one it would, of course, be the relationship between Air and Christopher: meeting each other changes their lives forever. I loved writing about how these two young people fall in love – and grow and change as their relationship deepens.

Leading on from that, what would you like readers to take away from this story? To be open to the strangers whose lives collide with yours – how those people might just become the most important people in your life. And how, even in the darkest moments, when you experience a loss from which you think you will never recover, there is hope.

Air takes Christopher on an odd sort of nostalgic road trip. Is it because she wants to find Blake at these special locations or feel him there, or perhaps both? Air is in denial about what’s happened to Blake. She is forever convincing herself that he’s going to be okay – so much so that the reader keeps hoping too. But deep down, I think she does know and that visiting these places and showing them to Christopher is her way of clinging onto Blake and trying to keep him alive. 

You disentangle the hierarchy and complex relationships between Blake, Jude and Air.  Why is that so important in this story? I love that you picked this up! The novelist, Anne Tyler, once said that the most interesting character question, for her, is birth order. In February I gave birth to my third child: a little brother to my two older girls. I wrote much of As Far As The Stars when I was pregnant with him and, as I sat there writing and growing my baby boy, I gave lots of thought to how children are affected by where they fall in the family and how my three would be affected by each other. I think I was trying to work out the psychology of my kids through my characters!

Grief plays a pivotal role throughout the story. It’s different for each character and their reactions fuel the story.  You weave emotions of attraction, shock, pain and grief to drive the characters and the story. Was this the way you envisaged it or did the story evolve that way? Psychologists often write about the stages of grief that people go through when they experience a great loss. When researching this I realised that people don’t always go through those stages in the same order or at the same time: that grief is messy and complicated and full of contradictions. That there are moments of joy and humour and love even in the darkest times. How we can take one step forward and then spiral back again. And how the most important element to finding some kind of healing is connection to others. 

Thank you answering all of my questions, even the odd ones. Thank you so much, it’s been a pleasure – your questions were so thoughtful.

Review

Sometimes there are books that can create an emotional bridge between the reader and the story. It’s not the same as being completely enamoured by characters, a plot or experiencing empathy and a rush of emotions for certain elements of a story. It’s the kind of bridge that connects words and heart.

The story is about two young people who become connected forever when a plane goes missing with their loved ones on board. Air thinks there has been a mix-up and Christopher isn’t willing to speak about his own truth just yet.

Air takes Christopher on a road trip of sorts. In a way she is revisiting places she has been with her brother in the hope he will either be there waiting or hoping she will be able to feel him while she is there. Air keeps that sliver of hope alive for herself and for the readers. Perhaps it isn’t beyond the realms of all possibilities that Blake could pop up somewhere along the route – he definitely got on a different plane, right?

I’m not sure if I can capture exactly why this story evoked such a visceral reaction in me, perhaps because I can understand the need to hold on to hope, even when the truth is that all hope is lost. It’s a curious part of human nature, the part of us which needs unequivocal proof before accepting certain things. This is especially the case when it comes to death. It’s often not enough to hear or read the words, sometimes we need to see and feel for it to be accepted as real.

Macgregor shows the similarities between two young people dealing with grief and the differences between the two of them. The result is a canvas bag full of emotional turmoil waiting to implode as they navigate the depths of their loss, and also as the reader waits for the external explosion. The finality of acknowledgement as it pours over the characters like a heavy spring rain shower.

This is a contemporary read, and although it comes under the genre of YA it is a read for all ages, because it is something everyone can relate to in some way, eventually. I loved the subtlety and softness of the approach to the topic of grief.

Buy As Far as The Stars at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: HQ Young Adult; pub date 18 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com.