Category Archives: teen reads

Are all book reviews equal?

I’ve been reading quite a lot about book reviews in various Facebook groups recently. One theme has been that even bad reviews can help sell your book. (I believe that JK Rowling has more one star reviews than any other writer, and they certainly don’t seem to have held her sales back).

To date I’ve only had a single one star review – for an anthology in which I had a short story (Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats): festive-treats

Mary’s Christmas by Margaret Egrot relates the highly boring Christmas of an OAP in a nameless British town. Nothing of note happens. It is related in excruciating detail.

This review came straight after a much more upbeat one for the whole anthology, in which my story was again singled out:

Some of the stories are moving and heart-warming. The story of Mary’s lone Christmas, standing above the rest in the bunch, I feared another outcome, which is testament to the cleverness of how the author made the story unfurl, the resolution made me joyously happy! Margaret Egrot has written a truly beautiful story.

Just goes to show you can’t please everybody.

Despite (because?) attracting the full range of star ratings, Festive Treats has almost never been out of the Amazon best seller list – though the fact that it is free as an e-book might help!

One of my favourite ‘critical’ reviews was for my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has And Alex -coverAcne. The young reviewer hadn’t much liked the book, because she didn’t like books about topics covered by the celebrated author, Jacqueline Wilson. As many readers do though (including me) I was quite chuffed:

The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.

Whether one star reviews boost sales or not, it is still re-assuring for an author to get a good first review after a book is published. So you can imagine I was delighted to get the following five star review last week for Cast Off, my recently released collection of short stories based on female characters in Shakespeare’s plays:

One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a Cast Offcollection of tales based on the characters in another’s works, but Mrs. Egrot weaves intriguing story lines utilizing some of Shakespeare lesser known supporting characters, and spin-offs from his heroines. My favorite two? “Time Out of Mind” affected me on an emotional level, and “Ban! Ban! Cacaliban” left me wanting more. Each story stands alone on its own merit. If you’ve never even heard of the bard, and you were born in a cave and raised by wolves, you will find a tale here to fall in love with. Thoroughly enjoyed.

On balance, whatever they say about the merits of one star reviews, vis-a-vis five star ones, I know which I prefer for a first review!

All the stories mentioned are available from my Amazon author pages:

All but Festive Treats are also available from Solstice Publishing.

http://www.solsticepublishing.com

solstice logo (1)

 

 

 

 

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Meet Author M. A. Cortez

Next up in my intermittent series of author interviews this summer, is YA author M. A. Cortez. Welcome Mary Ann!

mary Ann 3What is the title of your latest book? (In a nutshell what is it about?)

Sister Sleuths and The Wailing Darkness is book two of the YA Sister Sleuth series. Teen twins Sam and Sandy find themselves in the middle of a mystery when a banshee shows up in town just about the same time as new exchange student Darcy O’Sullivan. One of the twins, Sam, is on the spectrum and has a heightened sensitivity to beings in the spiritual realm. She becomes obsessed with the notion that the banshee’s prediction of death could include one of their own. But neither twin expect the twists and turns their lives take after the arrival of the banshee.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding? The most challenging part of being a writer, for me, is working through the middle of my stories. I know in my head what I want to happen but getting from point A to B and still keeping the story strong can be a challenge. I go through several drafts before I find something that works. Also, just getting myself to write every day is a huge challenge. I get distracted easily and before I know it the day is over and I haven’t written a word. Most rewarding, finishing a story and creating characters that people fall in love with.

What is your top tip for an aspiring writer?

NEVER give up. Keep writing, and reading. Reading is just as important to your writing as putting your own words down on paper. Also, take time every day to move forward toward your dream.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have several projects in the works including a few picture books but the third book in the Sister Sleuths series is at the top of my list at the moment.

What do you like to read?  

sister sleuths & shadowman-001 (1)

I read a lot of YA mysteries. I also love biographies.

Where can readers find you ?  

https://twitter.com/@maryanncortez16

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryAnnCortez

https://itsthewriteplace.blogspot.com

Instagram@ Bookwormyxoxo

http://mybook.to/DoubleExposure

http://getbook.at/GraceatChristmas Sister Sleuths-001

http://getbook.at/Moondance

http://getbook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheShadowman

getBook.at/SisterSleuthsandTheWailingDarkness

 

 

Watch the trailer:

 

 

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA.

Hello, and welcome to another ‘Happy Everybody reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my first YA novel, And Alex Still Has Acne. But first I’m sharing an excerpt from a review written by a YA reader.

‘The book certainly shows the author’s understanding of the idiosyncratic problems which certain young people today (often described in the novels of Jacqueline Wilson) have to deal with.’

I love the reference to Jacqueline Wilson regarding my book, as I am a huge admirer of her work. And Alex …, like my other YA novel, Girl Friends, does indeed tackle some of the issues she writes about so brilliantly. I have learnt a lot from her, though I write for a slightly older age-group.

Excerpt:

And Alex -coverSam was dog tired. He looked at his watch. Still only 9.30pm, but it felt like the middle of the night. He got up and went into the front room to look again at his mother. She was sleeping just as he’d left her. Clearly she was not going to wake up this side of midnight, so there was no point staying up to talk to her. They would have to have a chat tomorrow. But what about exactly? He tried a few opening gambits: “Hi Mum, are you turning into an alcoholic?” “Mum, I’ve been doing a bit of shoplifting recently; on account of you never getting me any food.” “Mum, are you ill?” “Why have you and Dad split up?” “Don’t either of you care about me anymore?” None of these questions seemed right, though they were all ones he wanted answers to, especially the last, although he was a bit ashamed to admit this – even to himself. He was fourteen going on fifteen after all.

Blurb: Life for fourteen year old Alex is OK most of the time. He enjoys school, has a best friend Sam, and a pretty and only mildly irritating younger sister, Nicky. But then Sam starts acting strangely, and so does Nicky – and both insist on sharing secrets with him and making him promise not to tell anyone. Then Nicky goes missing and only Alex feels he knows where to find her. But is Sam anywhere around to help?

Links:

And Alex Still Has Acne

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Reading from And Alex Still Has Acne at a book launch.

http://www.bookgoodies.com/a/B00RU1Y0G

myBook.to/AndAlexStillHasAcne

Girl Friends

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

 Amazon Author Pages

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

 

 

A YA story for our time.

Happy ‘Everbody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my contemporary YA novel Girl Friends. 

Blurb:

Two teenagers, each looking for a ‘proper’ boyfriend: Courtney follows the old fashioned route via school and getting to know you chats over coffee. Grace finds a young man with a fast car who gives her expensive presents and promises to get her a career in modelling. But there’s a catch, and it’s a big one involving drugs and sex trafficking. Can the girls remain friends? More importantly, can Courtney and her new boyfriend (and his older sister) rescue Grace before she is in too deep? Does Grace want to be rescued?

Excerpt:

Girl Friends - cover” … Mostly young girls who don’t have any family to speak of. They get lured in by promises of enduring love or some such, and then also end up as prostitutes—with threats to slash their faces or break their legs, or hurt their family or friends, if they try to escape.” “That’s interesting. But I can’t see Grace falling for anything like that. She may not work hard at school or get great grades, but she’s not stupid.” “Well, maybe she believed that Kal had something more to offer her, something she really, really wanted. Something that made the loss of your friendship, the rows at the home, and missing school etcetera, all worthwhile.” “Oh, God, yes,” I am about to sit down again, but Hannah’s words deliver another shock. “He’s told her he can put her in touch with a man who can arrange a modelling contract for her. She’s mad to be a model— would do anything for it.” “There you are then.” Hannah sounds almost pleased, and this makes me so angry I nearly hit her. “But that solves nothing. We think we may know now why she’s behaving like she is, and can guess it won’t work out for her. And aren’t we the clever ones. But meanwhile, she believes she has a modelling contract almost in the bag. In fact she’s going today to meet this mythical man to get it sorted.” “Oh, Christ!” Both Hannah and Laurence turn to me with a look of dismay.

Links:

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01EX9DPMS

myBook.to/GirlFriends

Girl Friends is published by Solstice: http://www.solsticepublishing.com

I’m taking a couple of weeks off. My blog will be back, with a number of author interviews lined up, after Easter. 

Capturing a child’s view of the world

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare

Today, to be a little bit different, I’m sharing an excerpt from Penelope Lively’s memoir of her childhood growing up in Egypt, Oleander Jacaranda. In chapter three she recounts a number of her very first memories, noting how surreal and disconnected, what she calls this ‘assemblage of slides in the head,’ is. At the time of writing the memoir she could not work out the chronology for when each event occurred, and noted how important it is, to an adult mind, to understand things in a linear and sequential way. Not so for a small child.

Excerpt:

It is only very small children who retain this wonderfully surreal vision. It is an anarchic vision, too. They are seeing the world without preconceptions or expectations, and therefore anything is possible. [Unlike adult perceptions] The child’s view arises because of an absence of expectation, not a manipulation of what is known.

Her insight into how children see the world is, I feel, a useful guide for any writer trying to get into the head of a small child, or someone who, for whatever reason, can not think like a ‘normal’ teenager or adult – think of Mark Haddon’s novel written from the perspective of an autistic boy. The nearest I have got to capturing the child’s ‘anarchic’ view is in my short story for young teenagers, Sleeping Beauty. Here the young heroine is in a coma and sees things in a more surreal and fantastical way than the adults around her do, or she would if she were fully conscious. Children don’t understand the world as adults do. But how they make sense of what they see and experience, is sometimes more real.

Links:

sleeping beauty

 

Sleeping Beauty : myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q

http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00RVO1BHO

A short YA read for Sunday.

Happy ‘Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare. Today I am sharing an excerpt from Sleeping First LoveBeauty. This is a short story that combines fairy tales, fantasy, hospital drama, and a teenage girl’s first feelings of love. The story can be bought as a stand alone e-book, and is also one of the stories in the anthology First Love, published by Summer Solstice.

Excerpt:

It seemed a funny idea of a quest to me, and Mum never got round to telling me this story, or teaching me to read properly. She got sick and died, and all I had left to remember her by was a head full of fairy tales and the recollection of her scent: l’air du temps, according to the label I eventually learnt to read. The scent still clung faintly to her dresses and a coat that Dad had hidden in the back of my wardrobe when Sukie moved in. Sometimes I would sit in my wardrobe and pull the door close, just to breath in the memories of a happier, safer, time.

Blurb:
sleeping beauty

Dawn has been in a coma for a year and is visited in hospital every day by her devoted father, occasionally by the ghost of her dead mother, and once by her vicious stepmother. Unable to move a muscle she monitors their coming and going and relives the events that lead to her accident. She yearns to wake up and live like a teenager again, but nothing so far has been able to rouse her from her deep, deep sleep. Then, on her fourteenth birthday she is visited by a mysterious delivery boy with a strange package.

 

Links:

First Love Anthologyhttp://bookgoodies.com/a/B01BH43NXS

 Sleeping Beauty:   http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01CKKNG7Q

myBook.to/TheSleepingBeauty

 

 

Happy Everybody Reads YA

Welcome to ‘Happy Everybody Reads YA’ #SundayBlogShare.

Today I’m sharing a review of my 2016 YA novel, Girl Friends, that appeared on Goodreads and Amazon Books last week. Writers appreciate reviews, and when they are as good as this, we positively glow with pleasure, and feel inspired to write more, and write better!

Review;

Girl Friends - coverThis book is truly a wonderful read. It starts early with a bleak portrayal of a typical evening in the life of Courtney Jacks; there is domestic abuse, alcoholism, and saturated fear throughout that first introductory chapter. But then you also immediately see what a good hearted person the main character, Courtney, is.

I think that this book touches on a lot of adult themes, but it is 100% something that Young Adults can and should read. There is the struggle to improve yourself, the delicate balance needed to maintain friends, how to overcome self doubt, and most importantly of all is how to save a friend who needs saving.

By the end of the story, I cared deeply about all the characters, and in post-analysis of their development, found no critique but only praise for how well Margaret made every character into a brand new creation by the end of the book.

The book was very enjoyable from start to finish, and I heartily give it a 5 star review.

Links: