book reviews, spoiler free

The Starlight Watchmaker review

44097002The Starlight Watchmaker by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published July 15th by Barrington Stoke

“Doesn’t it get tiring being judged for who you are all the time?” Ada asked, “and treated like you’re less than other people?”

Wealthy students from across the galaxy come to learn at the prestigious academy where Hugo toils as a watchmaker. But he is one of the lucky ones. Many androids like him are jobless and homeless. Someone like Dorian could never understand their struggle – or so Hugo thinks when the pompous duke comes banging at his door. But when Dorian’s broken time-travel watch leads them to discover a sinister scheme, the pair must reconcile their differences if they are to find the culprit in time.

A wildly imaginative sci-fi adventure from YA star Lauren James, particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 13+

At the Quiet at the End of the World event a few months back Lauren announced that she would be releasing a novella with Barrington Stoke later this year and as time went on we got a title, a cover reveal and synopsis for The Starlight Watchmaker which I’ve been excited for ever since.

I don’t normally go into much detail about publishers but I really wanted to rave about Barrington Stoke for a moment. They are a fantastic publisher who have been helping dyslexic and reluctant readers for over twenty years by working with writers and illustrators to publish super readable books as well as adding little adjustments like using a unique, dyslexia-friendly font specially created to make reading easier, Accessible layouts and spacing stop the page from becoming overcrowded and even Heavier paper with a gentle tint helps reduce visual stresses, their motto is every child can be a reader and I think reading can be so daunting for young children today that we need to do everything we can to create a space and opportunity for all readers, including those who might be reluctant or have difficulty reading for pleasure. I had read a couple of Non Pratt’s books published by Barrington Stoke previously and loved the shorter book format and just how effortless they felt to read which can be really motivating and confidence building.

I reached out to Barrington Stoke about Lauren’s new title and the lovely Kirstin sent me a proof to review in exchange for an honest review. At just 128 pages it is an extremely short read but oh the wonders Lauren can work with 128 pages. The Starlight Watchmaker is set in a universe that feels like magic and science, the academy that Dorian attends and Hugo works at is incredibly diverse, full of all kinds of sentient creatures from across the galaxy. It was absolutely refreshing to read all of these fantastic descriptions of different races and species, I was fascinated in particular with one of my favourite characters, a student like Dorian called Ada (Lady Ada de Winters – short for Adedeneumdora) who is essentially a mountain that can walk around and will eventually become a planet all of her own just like her mother, the planet Zumia. She’s well spoken, smart and fantastically quirky as well as being a brilliant departure from the usual humanoid looking alien lifeforms we usually see.

Hugo is an android and an absolute sweetheart who I love, he’s a hard worker making the best of a bad situation who enjoys what he does and is mostly content but finds himself yearning for more, things like friendship and freedom, not to mention he really likes plants. Our other main character, Dorian is a fifth-year student but also a Duke who comes to Hugo for help but comes across a little brusque at first and perhaps a bit to forward which could be misconstrued negatively but I think he really grows and learns over the course of the story and you learn more about him as well as Hugo and see how they react to each other.

Somehow, even in under 200 pages Lauren managed to fit a nice little twist into the story, the plot is simple but honestly all the more enjoyable for it, the narrative is fast flowing and straight forward but conveys every detail and emotion needed. This entire book is akin to a nice chilled glass of juice on a hot day or that feeling when you step out of your morning shower, it’s refreshing and soothing and the moment I finished it after reading it the first time I managed to put it down for five minutes before I decided to pick it back up and read it all over again. The story is well rounded and unlike with some short-form works where I find myself  wanting more in an unsatisfied way, I found The Starlight Watchmaker to be the perfect bite-size piece of cake, it felt complete and whole and I felt like I’d been on a journey after reading it which is why I read, to be whisked away on adventures and feel a better person at the other end. This is a beautiful tale of friendship and I cannot recommend it enough.

The Starlight Watchmaker will be available on July 15th, don’t let it’s smaller size fool you, it’s a fantastic little read and one that can definitely be enjoyed by a variety of ages.

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book talk, Bookish Discuussions

Lauren James – The Q&A at the End of the World

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Happy release day to The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James today! You may have seen my spoiler-free book review earlier in the week but today I’m so excited to share with you a Q&A session Lauren was lovely enough to do for me despite her busy schedule so thank you so much Lauren for finding the time so close to launch and the team at Walker Books for setting this up for me, it’s not every day you get to interview one of you’re favourite authors!

I loved hearing about the physics question that ultimately served as inspiration for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, was there anything in particular that inspired you to create The Quiet at the end of the World?

I was reading a lot of science non-fiction, which I try to do as often as possible because it always inspires new ideas for my writing. I was reading Seven Brief Lessons in Physics, which was discussing extinction.
It said, “We are a short-lived genus of species. All our cousins are already extinct. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our own mortality. I fear that soon we shall also become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilisation.”
It was the first time it occurred to me that it is a one hundred per cent probability that the human race will one day go extinct. It might be a hundred years from now or a hundred billion years, but it’s going to happen.
Which means that there’s probably going to be the last generation of people who will know that they’re the last people to ever live. That seemed to me to be an incredibly pressured situation to find yourself in, especially if there’s no hope of a cure.

Lowrie and Shen often wonder just what mark they might leave on the world after they’ve gone and how they might leave a message for others to find in the future, what would you leave and how?

Ooh, good question! I would love to create some kind of message in hedgerows. You know how hedgerows around fields in England have been there since medieval times? I’d write a message across miles of space by planting hedges to create letters. Super long term, large scale communication!

What skill would you most like to learn from the surviving populace in the lead up to the extinction of the human race?
Lowrie and Shen learn loads of stuff, like mudlarking and kickboxing and engineering. I think if it was me, I’d want to learn something really useful like first aid and medicine. Knowing how to set a broken bone seems like it would be totally vital.
Creatively, I think I’d like to learn how to make stained glass from scratch. Just because that’s something I’m planning to take up as a hobby myself anyway!

Time travel has featured heavily in your books before and in Quiet Lowrie asks Shen, “If you got one turn in a time machine, what time period would you visit?” How would you answer this question yourself?

Such great questions! I became slightly obsessed with the Cambrian explosion when I was writing the book, which was 500 million years ago when life on Earth was evolving. I would definitely go and take a look at that in person. This is also Shen’s answer, because we are pretty similar people.

At the start of each chapter, we see an entry in Shen and Lowrie’s Discovery Log book, (the beanie baby tag was my favourite) other than the ones that were more plot-relevant how did you pick the others?
A few of them are things that I’ve personally found, either at car boot sales or at the tip or genuinely in the ground. Others are ones I’ve seen on mudlarking social media accounts (yes, that’s a real thing – tidelineart is my favourite.) And a few are my wishlist items of things I’d love to find one day!

Did you have a favourite one and were there any you were particularly fond of that didn’t make it into the finished book?
I actually split up scenes to make more chapters so I could use all the ones I wanted! I was quite selfish about it, because I liked them so much. My editor wasn’t sure the logbook entries would work, but I persuaded her to let me write them – and I’m very happy with how they turned out.

We see a lot of struggles throughout this book but also adapting and working through difficult times, was there anything in particular that you struggled with while writing Quiet and did you have to adapt to solve any problems?

Finding Lowrie’s character was quite tough. I really wanted to write about another female scientist, as I do in all my books, but I didn’t want Lowrie to feel exactly like Romy or Clove. So it took me a while to find the right style of intelligence for her – she’s an engineer, so she’s very physical and thinks in terms of the mechanics of things, but struggles with the more fact-based side. Once I had worked that out, she clicked into place, but it did take a while to get her voice right.

We learn about characters Maya and Riz through old posts on social media, what do you think future generations might think of us if they were to see a slice of the activity we experience on social media today?

I think they’d be completely perplexed by how much we were all focussed on politics and debates over land boundaries, when we should have been trying to reverse climate change and save the world. We’re on the brink of destroying the planet and I think in the future it’s going to seem crazy that we knew that and yet did nothing about it.

I couldn’t finish this Q&A without asking about Mitch, a firm favourite in my heart and I couldn’t help but wonder how you decided which coloured lights to use for different answers and reactions? Did you have a list or go with what felt right? As a reader, I felt that the colours fit with his emotional responses really well and helped to build his personality for me.

I love Mitch too! The coloured lights were a very late addition – originally he made beeping noises. When I changed it to flashing lights, everything clicked into place. I definitely didn’t make a list or think too much about it – I just chose them instinctively. I like to imagine that the lights are part of a broken LED screen that would have originally displayed actual pictures and text. But only a few of the LED lights still work, so the lights seem to appear at random.

Lauren James was born in 1992 and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. She is the Carnegie-nominated British Young Adult author of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, The Quiet at the End of the World and The Next Together series.
She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university.
Her books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone and been translated into five languages worldwide. She has been described as ‘Gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘A strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly.
Her other novels include The Last Beginning, named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for young adults by the Independent, and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. The Quiet at the End of the World considers the legacy and evolution of the human race into the far future.
Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books and in the US by HarperCollins. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2020. She lectures in creative writing at Coventry University, and works with Writing West Midlands, providing creative writing courses to children through the Spark Young Writers programme.
You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

Events, spoiler free

The Quiz at the End of the World

To celebrate the release of The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James (out tomorrow! March 7th) Walker Books brought together Lauren James (obviously), Non Pratt, Alice Oseman and acting as host Sanne Vliegenthart (books and quills) for a panel and quiz followed by a signing and Q&A session aptly named, The Quiz at the End of the World.

I love attending events Waterstones Piccadilly and this one was no exception, I went on my own for a change but still managed to meet up with loads of other lovely attendees including some fellow bloggers, three of which joined me in becoming a team in the quiz! (Thank you, Nicola, from Fantastic Book Dragon, Faye from Daydreamers thoughts and Madeline from Ramblings Mads).

The event consisted of a panel first where the authors answered some great questions from Sanne, then onto the Quiz portion of the event which involved a round of guessing book covers and emoji book titles and then answering questions from Lauren, it was a super hard YA quiz which was fun but made me realise just how broad YA really is, I don’t read a lot of contemporary so didn’t managed to contribute loads (other than one Twilight question) but did found out who Lara Jean ends up at with at the end of the To All the Boys I’ve Loved before books which was my favourite spoiled I’ve ever received. After the quiz came a Q&A session where we could ask the authors questions and again this was really fun, you could really tell these authors obviously knew each other and got on well outside of this environment as well as they just gelled together so well and it made it so much fun as well as getting a little deep when we got onto the topic of who YA is really aimed at and how little input teenagers have in it which is crazy when they’re essentially the target audience.

The signing happened after and this was lovely as usual too, it was nice and relaxed and allowed us time to chat with each author as well which was lovely. All in all a great event and possibly one of my favourite panels, definitely one I would listen to again for sure.

I did film a little video with some of my journey and the panel itself as well as some of the Q&A after, I don’t like to film the entire thing as I think it’s rude but I did manage to get some of the really good moments, I apologise for the occasional cough as I was (and still am) getting over a horrid cold/sore throat thing at the moment, still I hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek into the evening, there is no footage of the quiz as understandably phones were not allowed in case of cheating but I did film some of the Q&A as well.

Speaking of Q&A, to continue with our week-long celebration of The Quiet at the End of the World tomorrow I’m lucky enough to be able to bring you a Q&A session with Lauren herself! So I hope you enjoy the video from the event and will see you back here tomorrow!

book reviews, spoiler free

The Quiet at the End of the World

32716442The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published: March 7th by Walker books

“We live in the quiet at the end of the world. The slow winding-down clockwork motions before life stops completely. Time is slipping through our fingers.

How far would you go to save those you love?
Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Closeted in a pocket of London and doted upon by a small, ageing community, the pair spend their days mudlarking for artefacts from history and looking for treasure in their once-opulent mansion.

Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence. Lowrie and Shen face an impossible choice: in the quiet at the end of the world, they must decide who to save and who to sacrifice . . .

I’ve been SO excited about this book! Since Lauren revealed her next book would be about the two youngest people left alive on earth I was already intrigued and then as we got more and more information this easily became one of my most anticipated reads of this year. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early finished copy from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review and I genuinely screamed a little when I opened a package and found this gorgeous book inside. Reader, you will not be shocked I think, to hear that I was certainly not disappointed by any means and I will do my best to keep this review as coherent as possible, I promise.

The Quiet at the end of the World is a stand-alone story, so although I recommend Lauren’s other books (especially the Loneliest Girl in the Universe) you don’t need to have read them to enjoy this book and not connected to each other (at least in anyway that seems apparent at the moment) so don’t worry if this is your first Lauren James book!

The Quiet at the End of the World features a one-page prologue and if I had needed any more persuasion to read this book this would have absolutely tipped me over the edge. It’s simple yet super effective and quintessentially a style I have become to identify as Laurens. The rest of the book itself is paced exceedingly well, moments that might have otherwise been a little quiet and slower paced, like the beginning are sprinkled with great pieces of information to help you create this eerie, mostly abandoned and degraded vision of London that main characters Lowrie and Shen inhabit as what their day to day life consists of and what it means for them and the people around them. The book only continues to up the pace as the story unfolds and let me tell you it is a wild ride!! The plot is so cleverly put together, filled with breadcrumbs and questions and more mysteries but in true Lauren James fashion, even when I thought I knew where everything was going she STILL managed to pull a fast one on me and knock me for six. Unfortunately for me, this happened at one in the morning when I had decided to just read one more chapter, I nearly gave my poor husband a heart attack and didn’t sleep until the sun was already starting to peek through the bedroom curtains.

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Somehow it just manages to get even better from there and although there are some slower moments here and there for you to catch your breath they are, again filled with brilliant and useful information in the form of social media posts from Maya and Riz who I would also consider main characters in this book and to me, every bit as important as Lowrie and Shen. Not going to lie, I’m dreading the thought of anyone ever going back to look at my social media posts, heck I wrote them and even I hate going back over them sometimes!

The characters in Quiet felt so memorable and real, like most of the other information in this book it felt organic as we learnt so much about everyone. Although Lowrie and Shen are probably considered the main characters, as above I would argue that Maya and Riz are equally important and I felt that I knew them almost as well as Lowrie and Shen to some degree. There’s also Mitch the bot who is honestly the loveliest, sweetest thing and I love him to pieces despite his seemingly limited mode of communication which I think is Quiet possibly one of my favourite things in the book, it was done so well and although Mitch cannot communicate with words, Lauren has done a brilliant job at having his personality shine through regardless. There is, as expected a little romance in this book and it didn’t overly bother me as it felt so natural, I enjoyed the relationships that were present with or without the romantic element and although one or two times I did feel that I definitely read those bits faster on occasion to get back to the “main story” I still enjoyed them. Lauren has a gift for creating great connections and wholesome, healthy relationships that I will never get sick of.

This book made me cry, it made me laugh and it made me yell uncontrollably at 1am and I would absolutely do it all over again. I would say I wish it was longer as I read it in under forty-eight hours but I think it was honestly a perfect length, I will definitely have to read it again at least a few times and I cannot wait to do so. Lauren James is both an evil genius and a wizard with the spell she weaves with her newest book, it’s essentially a dystopia but it’s so full of warmth, love and light, a book that sounds like it should make you feel hopeless and impossibly small instead inspires hope and a greater sense of worth and your place in the world and the legacy of the human race. The Quiet at the End of the World is classed as a Young Adult book but I think it could appeal to any age group who feels comfortable with the subject, there is a lot of reflection and contemplation that can be done about the human race and its future as well as what exactly makes us human which I think could lead to some great discussions and certainly makes one reflect on themselves and future generations. The Quiet at the End of the World is out Thursday March 7th and defintley well worth checking out!

Stay tuned for all things Quiet at the end of the World this week, already lined up I have a special Q&A with author Lauren James, coverage of the Quiz at the end of the world event and a book talk video. I’m so excited I’ve even whipped up a mood board below for the occasion.

Are you excited to read The Quiet at the End of the World? Have you checked out any of Lauren’s other books? What would you do if you were one of the yongest people left alive on earth?

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Review

32601841.jpgThe Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Rating: XXXXX

Published September 7th 2017 by Walker Books

“Love takes so much energy, and it just leads to pain. I think it’s probably best for people to be self-sufficient. If I was strong enough to be independent, then I wouldn’t be so desperately lonely. I’m sure of it,”

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

I stumbled across this beautiful book at YALC in 2017 on early sale at the Waterstones stand and although to me it looked like it was probably just a contemporary, maybe set in space? (I know contemporaries can be good too, I’m just not usually as interested in them). After I read the blurb I figured it was maybe a cross of Fangirl and the lake house somehow? Either way, I couldn’t say no to that shiny, sparkly cover. That and on behalf of Walker to celebrate the books release I’d just had a sparkly makeover so figured the least I could do was to check out the book they were promoting (and that sweet sweet cover). I had no idea that The Loneliest Girl would end up being one of my absolute favourite books. Two years later and now eagerly awaiting Lauren’s new book “The Quiet at the End of the World” which is out in early March, I decided to revisit the book that started it all for me, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.”

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The first time I read The Loneliest Girl I found out far too late that this book is a thriller. It starts off fluffy and light, very much in the vein of Fangirl, despite the darker sides to Romy’s backstory and her situation it feels like boy meets girl but are thousands beyond thousands of miles away from each other, cute emailing ensues etc. When I realised it was a thriller it was far too late to turn back, I was utterly hooked and terrified at the same time. I want to say that it’s different the second time around but to be honest it still pulls you in, lulls you into a false sense of security and makes you complacent so that when it really gets going you still feel like you’ve hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs when you were convinced there was one more step. This book is a wild ride that will not let you go, as the story goes on you recognise that feeling when you know something bad is going to happen but you can’t stop looking anyway and it is WORTH IT.

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Romy is a fantastic character, she’s realistic and relatable despite living her entire life on a spaceship she is wracked with anxiety and real fears and wants that just really hit a note with me and from having spoken to others who have read this she has the same effect on them as well. There are only a small number of characters in this book and I think in a lot of other books I might have found that boring but it works so well with The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, it adds to Romy’s isolation and you feel how important any kind of communication between the small number of characters really is and makes you appreciate them all the more which I imagine is the same case for Romy. This is one of my favourite aspects of the book because it really puts you in Romy’s shoes and heightens so much of the story.

The science is fantastic and fairly easy to wrap your head around instead of the pages of confusing words that don’t actually make sense together or sound ridiculous like you find in some Science Fiction books, strangely especially the adult ones… I now realise after having read Lauren’s other books that this is always a defining feature as well as featuring female scientists in prominent roles which gets a huge thumbs up from me! I actually found out after reading this book for the first time that it was inspired by a physics calculation Lauren was tasked with completing while at university! How cool is that?!

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If for some reason you haven’t checked this book out yet I highly recommend you do so, it’s only a short read and you can even buy a personalised and signed copy from Lauren’s Etsy store (it’s a dangerous place) there are pin badges and different versions of the books of which I now own all of…my personal favourite is the doodle in my US copy of a space cat because I like space. and cats. You get the idea. Don’t forget you can also preorder The Quiet at the end of the World, I just read the prologue and I HAVE CHILLS.

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