Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Halo by Alexandra Adornetto: Review

This week guest reviewer Lulu Meade reviews the novel Halo by Alexandra Adornetto.

Halo tells the story of three angels sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone, especially herself...Is love a great enough power against evil?

Bethany has never been down to earth and has no experience what so ever with humans. She was chosen for this mission because she was known to spend hours and hours studying humans. In heaven her job was to help the little children who had died and guide them up to heaven. So it was just as well that Bethany had Gabriel and Ivy to help her with this new alien world and body. Their mission was far from easy, so they needed a role in the community from which to easily influence the people of Venus Cove. So Ivy throws herself in to volunteer work with the church and charities, knitting items for the elderly or the poor and making badges to raise money for charity. Gabriel becomes Venus Coves new music teacher, he runs the choir and teaches the students many new hymns. Bethany has perhaps the hardest role. She has to become a student at Venus Cove High, in an attempt to influence the students there to keep the good of others in their thoughts. As you can imagine she faces many difficulties and distractions like boys, friends and parties.

As Bethany finds herself getting deeper and deeper into the teenage world she meets a boy called Xavier and feels that the only word to describe her feelings for him is love. Now to say that Gabriel and Ivy do not approve would be an understatement but Bethany simply cannot keep away.Not long after Bethany and Xavier start going out a mysterious new boy from England called Jake Thorn arrives on the scene. Bethany feels herself drawn to him, but not in the way she was drawn to Xavier but in a dark, dangerous way. It is clear he has a dangerous secret but will they ever find out what it is…

Overall I think that this book is truly enchanting, it’s hard to put it down and you can read it time and again without getting bored.

More about our reviewer, Lulu...
Who is your favourite literary character?
My favourite literary character is Scarlet March from Sister’s Red because Scarlet is constantly determined to put her family before herself and she also does everything within her power to save the world from Fenris.
Who is your favourite author?
My favourite author is Alexandra Adornetto because she shows us that you can write a book at any age (she was only 14 when she wrote Halo) and I really enjoyed it.
Which book do you wish you had written?
I wish I could have written the Harry Potter books because they really connect with the reader. The author creates a whole new universe where you  get to know the characters really well and you become totally engrossed so that you just can’t put the book down.

If you would like to be a guest reviewer (of YA fiction) on The Faded Bookmark please email me:

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Author Stephanie Lennox Guest Blog

This week I'm delighted to welcome author Stephanie Lennox to The Faded Bookmark.

Stephanie has written over 160 stories, plays and poems so far throughout her time as a writer. As well as winning the National GetConnected competition in 2009, she also won the Vfifty Award this year for her debut novel I Don't Remember You. Stephanie is also an editor for the teenage girl’s E-zine, Mookychick, and a corporate sponsor of NCLR.

Her guest blog is crammed full of useful tips and advice - I hope you find it as informative as I did!

After writing my first novel, I'd do anything to turn back the hands of time and tell that hopeful, optimistic young lady from my past these five small tips. I'd like to share them for the enjoyment of all of you here at The Faded Bookmark, and personally thank Siobhan for inviting me to guest blog!

Tip 1 - Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Nothing's worse than writing a story and getting halfway through before you realise that you have no idea where the story is going. That is the number one cause of writer's block. Do anything in your power to avoid this! Make sure every line, every word and every chapter has been thought through from beginning to end. When you wake up each morning and have a clear view of what you're going to work on, every day is easier.

TRY THIS: Creating three boxes on a piece of paper (Beginning, Middle, End) and summarising your story in a paragraph or less.

Tip 2 - Communicate

This may sound a funny thing to do, considering that writing consists of sitting alone in front of a computer...but I really believe that it is one of the most important points. You need society to remind you who you are writing for. Read other books, they will help you to evolve as a writer and find your voice, as well as finding out what you like and dislike. Try and find a writing group where other people can help you stage by stage with helpful critiques. Communicate with your target audience, find out what they are really like. Absorb all media you can, really, because everything will help in the end.

TRY THIS: Make sure you're world-savvy. By this I mean, focus on the world around you, your current affairs, don't be an idiot and write a horror on Valentine's Day.

Tip 3 - Write What YOU Want

So, you're half way through writing your science fiction comedy with a pair of transvestite robots. Your best friend has just finished reading it, she looks at you worriedly for a fraction of a second, and then that's it. Total confidence lost. My advice to you is, forget about that. Opinions aren't facts, and if one person can't see your genius for what it is, don't worry about them. You can't please everyone all the time, but if you aim to please yourself, you won't be disappointed at the end.

TRY THIS: There's always an exception to the rule. Ignore one blind critiquer...but if 100 people have said the same thing, you might want to think about a rewrite.

Tip 4 - Write From Experience

Sometimes you might think about the things that have happened in your life, and written them off as boring and uninteresting. (unintentional pun, yay!) But don't! Everything in your life is writing material. If you're writing a horror, remember a time when you were afraid. It might not be of the same thing as your character, but you can focus on the emotions of the particular moment. Remember the five senses at all times. Writing a romance? We all know how falling in love feels, don't we? Or first heartbreak? Oh, don't get me started...

TRY THIS: Having pictures of items from people that inspire you is a great way to motivate yourself, cure writer's block, and conjure up memories.

Tip 5 - Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up

There will be times when you just want to give up. A year ago I remember, having just finished publishing my book, sitting there waiting for the millions of pounds to start rolling in. Someone once told me that a book is like your baby; You have huge dreams for it, of university and riches, yet as it grows you realise that it's a lazy bum who wants to doss around the house eating donuts. You have to be pro-active. No matter what stage your book is at, you can't ever give up on it and expect it to go places on it's own. The only thing you can really do is hope that it never becomes a chore, you always have the passion for it and would start the process all over again if you had to. Good luck to all of you writers out there, I wish you all the best!


Stephanie Lennox

TRY THIS: A book is never truly completed, only abandoned.

For more information about Stephanie please visit her website -

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick: Review

Today, I welcome my first guest reviewer to The Faded Bookmark.

Tamsin Jupp is mother to three young girls, nicknamed The Three Graces and she has been a prolific reader and writer since she was small.  This is the year that Tamsin is going to make her writing more of a priority, whether it be to finish the children's book she has been mulling over for a year or to actually take a chance with a picture book she wrote for her middle child.  So you'll find her either nose in a book, scribbling notes, or out in the woods stomping in the mud letting her imagination run riot.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick
The first chapter introduces us to Sig, a fifteen year old boy who is sitting in an isolated cabin, somewhere in the frozen Arctic Circle, with a corpse on the table.  It's his father, who had fallen through the ice that morning on his way home.  He'd been crossing a melting lake, at a point he had told his son never to cross at.  As Sig struggles to come to terms with this and puzzle his fathers rash actions, it looks like he has been abandoned by his step-mother and sister.  When you think things can't get worse, a psychotic, gun-toting man turns up demanding the gold owed to him by his dead father.

The story revolves around Sig, a boy who has felt a misfit most of his life, who has been treading water, waiting for something he just can't put his finger on.  Now he is stuck alone with an adult who has no moral compass and has spent the last ten years with the sole purpose of tracking down the family, getting his share of gold and making someone pay.  Sig, has no idea where the gold is, so faces certain death, unless he can get to the store cupboard where his father's ancient revolver is hidden, to even the odds.  Can he remember the lessons his father taught him about the gun?  If he does manage to arm himself, will he be true to his mother and choose the bible's peaceful path (she herself was raped and murdered in another part of this lawless, frozen land), or to his father and his scientific, logical mind?  Kill or be killed?  Or is there a third option?

Yet this is not a bleak book, there is always a sense of hope, the hint of possibility just round the corner.  The reader is swept along, carried by Sedgwick's beautiful use of imagery and language.  He builds on the suspense and fear, fuelling your desire to get to the conclusion.   "The words hung in the air, drifted around the room.  They seemed to paint themselves on the walls in letters two feet high.  They seemed to be painted in blood."

I loved this book and can't wait to read more by this author!

To read more from Tamsin please visit her blog My Dandelion Girl.

If you would like to be a guest reviewer (of YA fiction) on The Faded Bookmark then please email me at:

siobhancurham [AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]uk

Friday, 18 March 2011

Writing Tips and Dental Blips

Last week I was invited to give a talk at Brunel University.

As someone who dropped out of university due to a crisis of confidence it was thrilling to be invited to speak to students about my subsequent achievements. And proof that you should never let where you come from stand in the way of where you want to be.

I very nearly didn't make it though. I stupidly arranged a dental appointment immediately prior to the talk.


I ended up having to have a filling, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't been for the fact that the dentist decided to use some kind of clamp contraption (which looked more like a medieval torture device) on my tooth while he filled it.


As I lay on the chair while he heaved and tugged away (all the time saying in a very high-pitched voice, 'Ooh, this doesn't normally happen. Don't worry, we'll soon have it off') I couldn't help picturing myself having to give the talk with a medieval torture device protruding from my mouth. Not the greatest of looks.

Anyway, the dentist continued to heave and tug, and finally the clamp came free - sending him flying backwards across the surgery and his tray of other torture devices all over the floor. (I really hope you aren't laughing!)

I somehow managed to regain my composure - and the feeling in my lower jaw - and hotfooted it over to Brunel. And thankfully, it went really well.

I ended the talk with 10 key lessons I have learnt from my ten years as a writer and thought I  would share them here for any aspiring authors out there...

  • Always follow your heart rather than the market. If you write about something you feel passionately about your work will be infused with that passion and leap off the page. It will also help you to weather the inevitable rejection that is part and parcel of a writer's life. If you really believe in your work you will keep on sending it out there.
  • Write about something new - or find a brand new angle on something that has been written about before.
  • Write as regularly as possible.
  • Study other authors for inspiration. Read author interviews and websites to find out how they got published and see if you can adopt a similar approach. When I was starting out I always found it encouraging to learn how successful authors had dealt with rejection. It taught me not to give up.
  • Follow the example of musicians like the Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen and use the internet and downloads to build a readership prior to publication.
  • Have a web presence. I know of several writers who ended up getting book deals on the basis of their blogs (including Anna May Mangan - see previous blog post).
  • Self publish as a way of getting noticed and proving you have a readership, but I would always recommend trying the traditional route first.
  • Be prepared to do a lot of marketing and promotion - even if you land a deal with a major publisher.
  • Write because you love to write - not for success and acclaim.
  • NEVER, EVER arrange a dental appointment prior to giving an author talk!

You can find more writing tips and advice in the study of my Writing Home... 

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Guest Blogger - Anna May Mangan

This week I'm delighted to welcome my very first guest blogger to The Faded Bookmark.
Anna May Mangan is a freelance journalist, playwright and published author and has won several awards for her work. She is a regular guest on radio and TV talk shows and writes an extremely entertaining blog about her life.

Hello Siobhan and thank you so much for inviting me along as a guest to your exciting new blog.  I want to tell your readers about how I won the  X Factor. Even though I can’t sing a note!

What really happened to me – getting a book deal after four decades of wanting and waiting -actually feels as joyous as it must to win the X Factor, only ten times better.

I am a reader who became a writer. When I was young my mum and aunts used to tut-tut at the way I always had my face stuck in a book. I looted my local library for everything Enid Blyton had ever written and then re-read it again, and again. “The house could burn down around that one when she’s reading!” they all complained about me. They’d never been taught to read properly, a good education was only for rich people in rural Ireland where they’d been born.  Learning to read was considered a luxury for boys and girls who would be in full time work aged just thirteen, and the pleasure of reading a book was never theirs to know. A fact that still makes me so sad.

I was a nearly-writer for almost forty years. I yearned to do it, daydreamed all the time about how I would next week, next month, next year.....  but other things kept getting in my way. Work, children, doing up houses, being a carer, illness. The truth is probably that it was ME and my lack of confidence that got in my own way. Don’t you make that mistake, because it’s very hard to get out of your own way!

 I believe it’s possible to become terrified, and paralysed, by just the thought of making your own dreams come true. For a long time I was. Inside my head was a spaghetti junction of ideas and stories but I was scared no-one would find them interesting. Until I finally got bored of being afraid and ran out of reasons why I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t try to write a book and go on to get it published.  I had become more afraid of trying even than of failing.

So now I would say to any young person who wants to be a writer that you shouldn’t be scared. Fear will choke the words inside you. Trust yourself and give it a go - only good things will happen if you do.

My book is called ‘Me and Mine’ and will be published by Virago on July 7 2011. It’s about the lives of the many women in my big, jumbly family. It’s funny, and sad, and with the help of the nicest literary agent in the country it was sold  to my favourite publisher. That is the single most thrilling thing I have ever achieved.

And I wish the same excitement for all you aspiring writers out there.  And get started today!

'Me and Mine' by Anna May Mangan is published by Virago in July. In the meantime you can hear more from her at her hugely entertaining blog.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Guest Bloggers Wanted

For the past couple of weeks I have been quietly putting this site together bit by bit, but now the time has come to fling the doors wide open (can you have doors on a website?) - fling the pages wide open - and welcome people in.

What I'm trying to say is that I want The Faded Bookmark to be as interactive as possible.

Think of it as your favourite coffee shop, full of squishy chairs and sofas, and shelves crammed with books.

And cake - lots of cake.

And a juke box playing all of your favourite tunes.

And Bruce Springsteen or [INSERT FAVOURITE HEART-THROB] serving behind the counter. Looking exceptionally hot. (That's hot in a good way, not in a hyperventilating-because-the coffee-machine-has-blown-up-kind-of-way.)  

I want it to be a place where book-lovers feel free to drop on by and tell everybody about the books they love. Or hate. Or love to hate.

If you would like to write a guest review of a young adult book I'd love to hear from you.

I'm also looking for guest blogs about your favourite book of all time, or a book that has somehow changed your life for the better.

If you are interested in featuring on The Faded Bookmark, then please drop me an email:


I'll tell Bruce to get a slice of your favourite cake ready...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The Sky is Everywhere - Review

I was initially drawn to this book by its amazing packaging - the eye-catching cover, the blue font, the beautiful illustrations of the poems inside. As I stood there drooling over it in Waterstones I remember thinking two things: firstly that the author Jandy Nelson must feel so happy and proud to see her work so lovingly reproduced, and secondly I hoped that the writing itself was just as beautiful. I wasn't disappointed. From the very first page I saw exactly why publishers Walker had decided to invest so much in this novel. It is incredible.

The Sky is Everywhere tells the story of Lennie Walker, a Heathcliff obsessed teenage girl who is mourning the sudden and unexpected death of her beloved big sister. And yet it is not the misery-fest that so many YA titles concerned with death tend to be. Somehow, in the midst of all the heart-breaking pain of loss, Nelson has created a book that is actually a celebration of life and love and hope, and all that it means to be human.

The writing is exquisite. The kind that you want to savour. After I got half way through I actually started to read more slowly and ration the chapters - that's how badly I didn't want it to end!

And the characters are so interesting and quirky they make you wish you were a part of their world. From the gardener extraordinaire Gram, to the pot smoking uncle who is addicted to getting married, and the wise-cracking best friend, they are a masterclass in characterisation. And as for Lennie herself, from the blurb on the back of the book you initially wonder whether you'll be able to sympathise with her:

"What kind of girl wants to kiss every boy at a funeral, wants to maul a guy in a tree after making out with her (dead) sister's boyfriend the previous night? Speaking of which, what kind of girl makes out with her sister's boyfriend, at all?"

Indeed! But Nelson captures the raw intensity of Lennie's grief so brilliantly that I completely understood why she acted as she did. And I loved the way that as she worked through her grief she was able to step out from the shadow of her older sister and finally discover who she was in her own right.

And of course, no self-respecting YA title would be complete without some kind of love interest. In The Sky is Everywhere Jandy Nelson perfectly captures that heady, magical descent into 'zombie-ville' as Lennie falls for romantic muso, Joe Fontaine. I defy you not to fall for him too! Once again Nelson's characterisation is spot on, creating a complex and interesting (as well as drop dead gorgeous) love interest. And Lennie's developing love for Joe is a great reminder that even in the depths of despair we can find a ray of hope.

I read this book after a period of loss in my own life and I have to say that although it made me cry, it also left me with a new-born thirst and appreciation for life.

Poetic and life affirming, I thoroughly recommend it.