20 March 2013


Today I'm really excited to welcome Rob Lloyd Jones, author of the forthcoming children's book Wild Boy to My Book Journey. Not only is the cover for this book absolutely stunning, but I'm currently reading Wild Boy and it is fab!! Set in dark and dangerous Victorian London, Wild Boy is considered a freak and a monster. But with his own special skill of detection, he is sure to get caught up in a whirlwind of adventures!

I'm really excited to hear Rob's perspective on writing and forming story ideas. So Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, and with a drum roll, read on to find out...

Where Ideas Come From

Hi and thanks for having me on My Book Journey.

I don’t get asked many questions. I’m pretty new to this, so I don’t have a lot of advice to offer. Also, I suspect there’s something about me that suggests I might not give good answers. I mumble and fidget when asked about anything important. Or I pretend to need the loo and flee. There’s one question, in particular, to which I always mess up my reply. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to write it down for the record. Now I can simply direct anyone that asks to this blog.

The question is, of course, where do I get my ideas from?

Just because this is asked a lot of writers doesn’t make it a bad question (if there’s such a thing as a bad question). Different people will give different answers, yielding new and interesting advice. So ask it as much and as often as you can.

Usually writers offer smug, rehearsed replies to this question. So here is mine: Where do my ideas come from? My brain.

I was never much good at science, but I think that’s where ideas come from.

That sounded very smug didn’t it? Sorry.

The point, though, is this: everyone has ideas. They are not a divine privilege of writers, just as not only philosophers are allowed to think. We all have ideas, all the time. You’re probably having one right now. The only difference between writers and other people are that writers write their ideas down.

So always - always - carry a pen. Your mind is a motorway, where ideas flash past way over the speed limit. Some of them aren’t much to see – dented old saloons towing rusty caravans. But every now and then – vroooom – there goes a Ferrari!

And if you don’t write that down you’ll forget it was ever there. No, it’s worse than that – you’ll remember it was there but you’ll forget what it was.

Write it down!

There are ways to jump-start good ideas (okay, enough with the cars stuff already). Look around you, for a start. Pay attention. Even the most humdrum everyday things might throw up an interesting story idea. As you look around ask ‘What if?’ What if one of those puddles in the park wasn’t a puddle at all, but a watery hole that sucks you down to somewhere incredible? What if the kitchen oven started speaking to you? What would it say? What if, flicking through a book, you saw a photo of yourself? Only it’s a history book and the photo was taken over a hundred years ago...

Speaking of history, what a treasure trove of ideas that is! Read about pirates, knights, spies in wars... At school you need to remember what reallyhappened. But now imagine what might have happened. What if there was something else living in no-man’s-land between those two armies?

That’s how I stumbled across the idea that became my first book. I was reading about Victorian England (one of my favourite subjects) and, in particular, the travelling freak shows that toured the countryside. I remember writing down two questions.

What if one of the freaks - a boy covered in hair? - spied on people for clues to the outside world? Would he be a detective?

To be honest, I knew immediately that I had to tell this boy’s tale. I was never going to forget that particular idea. But, once it was written down, itcouldn’t be forgotten.

Sometimes our ideas turn out to be a bit wobbly. Flicking through my notebook, I’m always cringing with embarrassment that I had this or that thought. But then, occasionally, my fingers tighten around a page, and I think, Oooh, that was a goodun. Maybe I’ll never do anything with it, but it would have been lost forever if I hadn’t written it down.

So if you have an idea – and you have loads! – don’t waste it. Write it down. One day it could change your life.

Wild Boy will be published on April 4th 2013 by Walker Books.
For more information about Rob or his other children's books, you can find him on Twitter.

Don't forget to visit Clover at Fluttering Butterflies on Friday for the next instalment of the Wild Boy blog tour!

4 March 2013


Author: Terry Pratchett
Series: Yes, but you can absolutely read the Discworld series out of order
UK Publisher: Corgi
UK Release date: 2005
Genre: Fantasy

Moist von Lipwig was a con artist and a fraud and a man faced with a life choice: be hanged, or put Ankh-Morpork’s ailing postal service back on its feet. It was a tough decision. But he’s got to see that the mail gets through, come rain, hail, sleet, dogs, the Post Office Workers Friendly and Benevolent Society, the evil chairman of the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company, and a midnight killer. Getting a date with Adora Bell Dearheart would be nice, too. Maybe it’ll take a criminal to succeed where honest men have failed, or maybe it’s a death sentence either way. Or perhaps there’s a shot at redemption in the mad world of the mail, waiting for a man who’s prepared to push the envelope...

Being a big fan of Terry Pratchett's other books, and the TV version of this book, you can easily imagine my thoughts after reading Going Postal. It didn't disappoint; in fact I loved it.

When I tell you about the main protagonist, Moist von Lipwig, you may wonder why I loved it so much. Moist was a con artist, swindler and trickster. I shouldn't have liked him, because he stole, cheated and lied at every turn. And when he wasn't doing that, he was running away like a coward. But I did really like him and I found his story to be captivating, humorous and fast paced. Perhaps it was because of his witty narrative and charisma. Or perhaps it was because he started out at his lowest point - on the hangman's noose - and from there he could only go up. He struggled to see the error of his ways, and continued to manipulate people into being on his side, however it wasn't done maliciously. And because he ended up caring for the people in the post office, it turned out to be a good thing. In fact, this quick wit, bravado and fast mouth, were the very things needed to bring life back into the post office.

In his typical style, Terry Pratchett included plenty of humour and wit. I smiled and giggled my way through the book. However there was also a moral element to the story. Vetinari, the leader of Ankh-Morpork, may be fearsome, but he is also fair. He doesn't just punish Moist von Lipwig for his crimes. He offers him a choice, and a chance at redemption.

The story held plenty of action, twists, turns and surprises. And of course, a handful of weirdness. I love the way Terry Pratchett took something so normal, like post and stamps, and turned it into this fantastical and frantic race to succeed, and do right by the common people of Ankh-Morpork. I have no idea how stamps came into being in our own world, but it was fascinating to see how the idea of them developed in this story.

Once again Terry Pratchett creates magic on each page. If you love a book with fantasy, humour and bold characters, then please read this!

Rating: 5*

1 March 2013


Author: John Green
Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Penguin
UK Release date: January 2013
Genre: YA

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

The first thing that will probably make you decide whether you read this book or not, is that it is about cancer. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I urge you to read this book. I cannot say a bad thing about it.

Being the first book I've read by John Green I completely underestimated what this book would be like. What surprised me the most about his writing is that he can write big sensitive themes and events but also the subtle nuisances of human behaviour. The latter really made the characters feel alive, through their life-like gestures, responses, thoughts, and everyday habits. But on the flip side, John Green can take the often depressing subject of terminal illness and infuse it with empathy, humour, emotion, and joy.

Hazel is the narrator for the story and at first she is isolated and alone, almost hiding away with her illness in order to protect everyone around her from getting hurt. She was so strong and honest about death, that it made her a very brave and brilliant character. But I'm also so glad that she didn't allow her illness to keep her from the world and connecting with other people.

Augustus (Gus) was gorgeous and an absolute star. His personality and wit blew me away. I loved how positive he stayed throughout his, Hazel's and Isaac's treatments. He made me smile and laugh, and I was so glad he and Hazel found each other.

What worked really well was seeing how Hazel's family coped with her illness. This wasn't something I had expected but I think it was important for the reader and Hazel to understand how her parents felt about the situation.

Gus and Hazel were brilliant together and so perfect for each other. Perhaps though they were a little too smart for me, with their existential and philosophical debates and satirical comments. This did allow the sensitive central themes of cancer and dying to be thought provoking but also touched with wit and humour. It also gave me a sense of reality to Hazel's condition and the chances of her survival. The pair's differing views on life and death made me think; and like Gus I would want to make my mark.

I won't lie to you - The Fault in Our Stars is an emotional roller coaster ride. I laughed one minute and the next could be crying. And the end was so unexpected - the plot completely subverted my expectations and the unfolding events came out of nowhere taking me by complete surprise. It just seemed like life was so unfair for Hazel and other young cancer sufferers like Gus and Isaac. And it hit home how lucky I was just to be alive and healthy, and that I shouldn't take that for granted.

A must read - you will truly appreciate every day you have after reading this book.

Rating: 5*