Thursday, 27 November 2014

Interview with Martha Collison!

I have kept this a secret for SO SO long but I am so happy to finally be able to share it with you! I was lucky enough to get the opportunity a few weeks ago to interview the amazingly talented Martha Collison, Great British Bake Off quarter-finalist 2014! I was so delighted to be able to talk to Martha, as I am aware we are the same age and she has already achieved so much. I hope that this interview will be inspiring for you. So, after months of keeping this exciting interview a strict secret, here is 18-year-old Martha Collison on baking, time management and why she thinks it's important for teenagers to step out and try something new...

When did you decide that you wanted to apply to Bake Off?

Applying for bake off was a very spontaneous thing for me. I'd always been a huge fan of the programme so I thought it would be fun to apply just to see how far I could get. I didn't expect to make it past the phone interview so every step after then was such a bonus, I was just so excited! I applied 2 days before the closing date in January, so I'm very happy they waited for me!

Were you nervous about going into Bake Off when you knew that you were the only teenager competing?

When I met the other contestants for the first time, I was quite surprised to find them all over 30! I knew I'd be the youngest, but they often have uni students or people in their early 20's so I wasn't expecting to have 14 years between the next youngest contestant and me. They really wanted to emphasise the age gap! I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't have the experience that they had, but luckily that didn't hold me bake too much.

What was it like working with people who were all older than you?

After the initial surprise of finding they were all a lot older than me, we all really got to know each other and age just wasn't a problem. Being younger meant the other contestants really looked out for me, so I was always cared for, and I think making new friends who are different to who we would usually choose helped all of us. I grew up and matured a lot quicker because I was hanging out with lots of adults, and people like Nancy said that she felt young again and it was refreshing for her to make younger friends. I was an unusual situation but definitely benefited us all.

How has Bake Off changed you?

Bake Off has completely changed my life. I'm 18 years old and living the home baker's dream, it's just fantastic. Over the 8 weeks I was in, my confidence noticeably grew and now I am so much more comfortable talking to people I don't know! If you'd told me last year that 12 million people would have seen and listened to me, and that I would have done live demonstrations in front of 300 people I'd have thought you were crazy! I've also learnt a whole lot more about baking from all the different challenges and from listening to Paul and Mary.

What is the most important piece of advice (baking or otherwise!) that you have taken away from Bake Off?

The most important thing I learnt was how important time management is in baking. When I bake at home, there are no time limits, no space restriction and no 'there must be 36 of these'. On bake off, it took me a while to get used to tight time limits and I ended up rushing everything in the last 10 minutes! Now I'm much better at working to deadlines.

How did your friends and people at your school/college react to you appearing on Bake Off?

My friends couldn't get their heads around it at first. I filmed it all April to June and wasn't allowed to tell anyone, so when it all got revealed in July people couldn't believe that that was what I'd been doing all that time! Now they just think it's funny that everyone knows who I am, and they take great pleasure in pretending not to know me when we are out, and then pointing and shouting 'isn't that the girl from the bake off?!' just to see how much attention it attracts. It's so embarrassing!

How did you balance Bake Off and AS levels?

Bake Off and AS levels. Not the best idea! When I applied, I never expected to actually get onto the programme, so I didn't factor in how difficult it would be to spend at least 2 days a week filming, the rest solidly practicing for the next week, and still try to fit in revision. If you ask the other bakers, they will confirm that in the 2 and a half hours between finishing a bake and it being judged (yes, 2.5 hours!) I would whip out my chemistry text books and try to get some studying in. My mind was so buzzing that I couldn't focus at all, but at least I tried! I decided to prioritise bake off because you only get opportunities like this once. I was lucky to pass my exams and just have to retake a few modules this year, I'm very lucky!

What advice would you have for someone applying to Bake Off?

My advice for someone applying for the bake off is just go for it! If you never try, you'll never know what could have happened, and the worst that can happen is that you don't get into the final 12. What I would say is don't be too disappointed if you don't make it. When the casting team were down to the final 50 potential bakers,  they said that we were all good enough, it was just about getting the right mix of people. You might be what they are looking for, or you might not, but don't let that stop you from baking!

Why do you think it's important for teenagers to step out of their comfort zone and do something different?

Teenagers today get a bad name in the press, so I think it is so important that we step out and show that we are a generation of many talents. It's not easy to step out of your comfort zone, but it is so worth it and shows that we are passionate and that we do care about our futures.

Thank you so much for being interviewed, Martha!

Check out Martha's blog here:

Follow Martha on twitter:

Until next time :)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Literary Pilgrimage to Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn

Hi readers of this blog! Today, as promised, I am reverting to the normal-ish posts I am used to and comfortable with- just stuff I am up to, and how it has inspired me with my reading and writing.

As you may know, I journey up to the lands of North Cornwall extremely often, and it was only this year that I took up one of Daphne du Maurier's books, Jamaica Inn. Her books are extremely famous in and around Cornwall, and in fact, when I was travelling up to Cornwall by train from London Paddington about a month ago and had my paperback copy of Jamaica Inn with me about five different people commented on how great that book is, and simultaneously, how appalling the BBC adaptation is.

Well, I haven't watched the BBC adaptation myself, but what I can vouch for is that Jamaica Inn is indeed a fantastic book, filled to the brim with action and romance and mystery. Okay, perhaps less of the romance. I can safely say that I have never read a book like Jamaica Inn before, because it kept me gripped throughout, and waiting at the very edge of my seat for what would happen next. It is thoroughly emotional yet at the same time horrific in its descriptions of the horrific crimes that have taken place in Cornish history.

After reading Jamaica Inn, I realised that I wanted desperately to find out more about Daphne du Maurier and the world she created in her books. Having visited North Cornwall annually since I was about three and much more often in recent years, I feel the same connection as she did to the area and the mystery and beauty it embodies. Therefore, in October half term my family and I visited Jamaica Inn in Bodmin, North Cornwall, to discover what it was that inspired Daphne du Maurier to write such an action-packed, beautifully written novel set in one of England's most temperamental environments. 

I took some pictures of my time in Bodmin, check them out below :)

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Interview with Sally Green!

Hello again lovely readers to another merry Wednesday! I'm sorry if you don't like these fancy author-type posts (I don't know why you wouldn't!) but everything will be back to normal soon (i.e my boring lifestyle posts!). Personally, I believe that I am very fortunate to be doing these kinds of posts, as this time last year I did not have nearly as many opportunities to host wonderful people on my blog and provide you, my readers, with interesting interviews and writing advice if that's what you're here for.

Nevertheless, let's get cracking with today's post! I am very lucky to be interviewing the awesome Sally Green, author of the Half Bad trilogy. There was an overwhelming fan response from the YA community and beyond with the publication of Half Bad, and to keep fans satisfied until the publication of the next book in the trilogy, Half Wild on 24th March next year, Sally Green is releasing a new short story Half Lies which is being published on eBook and all digital platforms on the 13th November.

Set in the months before Half Bad, Half Lies takes the form of a diary written by Michele, the sister of Gabriel, Nathan’s Black witch friend.  Having fled Europe for Florida, Michele falls in love with a local White witch boy. There, she finds that the divide between the Black and White witch communities is just as dangerous as it was in the life she's left behind.

Intrigued? Check out my interview with Sally Green below, with everything writing, witches and why she finds writing short stories nothing short of terrifying...

Why did you decide to write about witches, and what inspired you to go down this route?

The main thing that attracted me to witches was that they're women. I wanted to create a community where the women had stronger 'powers' than the men. This is lost a little as the key protagonist is male and powerful, but the community is led by women and the Hunters (the White witch army/police force) is mainly made up of frighteningly amazonian women. 
However, I didn't want pointy hats, broomsticks and there are definitely no black cats. The magic is much more what I think of as 'of the earth' and also from within the person, rather than being dependent on spells and cauldrons.

Did you expect the overwhelming reaction from the YA community that Half Bad has experienced?

Half Bad is my first novel so I didn't expect anything at all. My dream was to get an agent and sell maybe a few hundred books. Now Half Bad is sold in 50 different languages and many countries and it's wonderful that the story resonates with young (and not so young) people all over the world. In a way it's giving me hope - showing me that people are people with the same issues and concerns wherever they live (and whatever age they are). 

What was different for you when writing a short story instead of a full-length book?

I much prefer writing a full novel, short stories scare me. I think this stems from doing a lot of creative writing courses where I had my short stories assessed, and I dreaded getting the marks and comments! 
But really all writing is fun for me and I love developing the characters. Writing Half Lies (my new short story linked to the world of Half Bad) allowed me to explore the world of Black and White witches a little more and to build on the character of Gabriel. 

How do you go about creating amazing characters that your readers adore and sympathise with, like Gabriel?

I do believe in all my characters and think of them as real people, even though of course I know they're not. Gabriel is one of my favourite characters and he came up pretty much with no planning at all, but then he developed in my mind very rapidly and I fell in love with him. I decided he would be homosexual but didn't want him to be a stereotypical gay person. I wasn't sure how to do it so I just wrote him as a man whom I would find very attractive (handsome, strong, intelligent, masculine) but I also made him be in love with Nathan.  

What do you find exciting about writing for YA?

Definitely pushing the boundaries of my own writing, seeing what I can do with the words on the page. I'm experimenting with swear words at the moment - lots of them, or rather one of them lots of times!
I don't think there's anything that you can't do in YA now. I think some people still think you need to have a happy ending or (worse) a 'message'. But I'm convinced you just need a good story, and the reader will find the message appropriate to them in there.

What was your favourite book when you were a teenager?

I never found one, that's why I wrote Half Bad - it's the story I would have loved when I was 15.

Which character in Half Bad do you think is most like yourself?

Annalise (her determination to do the right thing, whilst really being terrified… more of this in Half Wild).

What advice would you give to young, aspiring writers?

Have fun but take it seriously too - learn to analyse a piece of writing, pull it to pieces to find out why it works or why it doesn't work. 

Could you sum up Half Bad in three words?

Cage, scars, tattoos.

Thank you for being interviewed Sally, and for such interesting and thoughtful answers!

Check Sally out here:

 You can buy Half Bad and Half Lies here:

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Blog Tour: Ryan Graudin Takes Over!

Hello you lovely people! Today the amazing Ryan Graudin will be taking over Delightful Book Reviews, on the blog tour of Walled City! I am so excited to be part of this blog tour (my first one!) and I never thought I would do them, but I am very glad to have this opportunity to! But first things first, here's a little taster for you of what's to come...

The Walled City is a cut-throat world of gangs, drug-dealers and warlords and every day is a struggle to survive. 

The Walled City is a dark YA thriller set within the walls of a lawless slum city where Jin Ling searches for her lost sister and Dai struggles to complete an impossible mission.

A fantasy setting inspired by Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong, Ryan's novel has a rich authenticity and an intense atmosphere, and its pace will enthral the reader from the very first page.

Disguised as a boy, Jin Ling searches for her missing sister, Mei Yee, who was sold into the brothels of the Walled City. She relies on her speed and cunning but how long will her luck hold? 

When a mysterious boy, Dai, requests her help with a dangerous mission Jin Ling's inclined to say no - this is a world where no one can be trusted - but the mission offers her a vital chance to see inside the brothel where her sister may be being held.

Jin Ling and Dai join forces, but will either of them survive the mission? Is Mei Yee still alive? And how will any of them ever escape the stifling city walls?

Intrigued yet? If so, here's Ryan Graudin herself with her top writing tips! Whenever I get the chance to interview/meet/speak to authors, this is probably one of the first things I ask them. I know that a lot of people find the various tips and advice authors give (because everyone has different ideas) very confusing and a little too much, but I find it extremely helpful and I hope you do too! 

Ryan's Top Writing Tips

Read a lot.

Reading is one of the best ways to learn plot structure, character development and voice. When I was in school for creative writing every single one of my teachers would preface an assignment with a classic short story. We’d read the pieces as a class, examine what the author was trying to do, and set to work mimicking it in short stories of our own. This is what novelists do on a much wider scale. If you don’t read widely and well, your writing will suffer for it.

Write every day.

I know this sounds overwhelming, but consistent actions create habit. Just as exercising is easier when you condition yourself to do it every day, so is writing! It’s important to keep your creative muscles limber. Some days you might write pages upon pages, others just a few words. Both are okay! Even the days with few words add up quickly. 
Persistence is key. 

The most successful writers aren’t necessarily the most talented. But they’re always the most stubborn. Finishing a book takes hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of work. Only stubborn, unrelenting souls make it to the end of the first draft. Sending out query letters to find a literary agent, going on submission to editors at publishing houses, going through round after round after round of revisions… It’s the writers who never give up who end up with a book on the shelves. 

Refill the well.

As an artist it’s just as important to consume as it is to produce. Creativity is a limited commodity. Some days chapters worth of words will flow from my mind onto the pages. Other days, writing just a few sentences feels like pulling teeth. When I find myself faced with the latter, I write what I can and then step away to an activity that lets my mind relax. Reading, listening to music, binge watching seasons of Doctor Who are just a few of the things I turn to when my writing life feels stretched thin. 

Thank you so much Ryan for being on Delightful Book Reviews, and thank you Fierce Fiction for allowing me to be part of this blog tour! <3

Check out Ryan Graudin here on her BEAUTIFUL website:

If you would like to buy Walled City, you can do so here:

A review of The Walled City will be coming soon!

Until next time :)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

'The Ghosts of Heaven' by Marcus Sedgwick (*****)

Oh hey there! I apologise for not posting yesterday (as I try to post everyday in my holidays!) but I had a very exciting day visiting the ever-so-famous Jamaica Inn: blog post will be coming soon! Anyway, now onto another 5* book review... This time it is the wonderful Marcus Sedgwick's latest book The Ghosts of Heaven. This week I was lucky enough to host Marcus on this blog and Huffington Post, so check out what he has to say about writing tips for young aspiring authors. I was sent Marcus' book by the lovely folks at Orion in exchange for an honest review, and I can truly say that this book was like nothing else I have read before by a YA author. This book is definitely THE book of Autumn, and I would recommend it to anyone aged 14 and up!

If you have read David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, you will understand the whole mechanics of the book; that is the idea of the spiral continually twisting and curling and building copies of itself for generations. The spiral connects the protagonists of the four different quarters of the book in different ways, and it is up to the reader to discover the way in which it connects them to the other characters in the book, and what it means for them. For me, the spiral has infinite meanings, and I think that its ambiguity causes the beautiful mystery embodied in this fantastic read. Also similar to Mitchell's Cloud Atlas is the different sections with completely differing stories- all from contrasting periods of time, genres and ways of narration. What I found particularly striking was how I did not see any connection whatsoever between the different characters and their stories... until I had finished the book. That moment of realisation when everything begins to make sense is priceless, and the way that Sedgwick kept me waiting to slot all the ideas and themes together make this a truly remarkable read, from a truly remarkable writer.

I found myself getting lost in the stories, some of them from genres that I never thought I would enjoy, for example the last quarter that detailed Keir Bowman search for the truth, onboard the ship Song of Destiny. This is definitely sic-fi, a genre I would never associate myself with, but I found myself enjoying it immensely. The same goes for the first quarter of the book, which is written in poetic form, and the narrative style gave it the magic and mystery that Sedgwick was evidently trying to put across in its form.

As for my favourite segment, that's a really tough one. I'd have to say it's between The Witch in The Water and The Easiest Room in Hell. I found myself wishing these would both be books in their own right, as I wanted them to go on forever. I especially enjoyed how these two narratives in particular had the closest links in terms of the spiral, and I thought it brought the meaning of the book as a whole together. 

Marcus points outs that you can read the quarters of the book in any way you want, however I lived up to my dull-as-ditchwater nature and just read the book in that order. However, I'd be very interested in hearing about what order you guys read it in, and how it affected your perception of the book. 

Overall, this book was such a fresh and interesting read, and I'm so glad Orion sent it to me, as again it challenged me in terms of what kind of books I think I will enjoy, by allowing me to read a book which I probably wouldn't have picked up! (I tend to go for books that have a less-complicated nature, hehe). I gave this book 5*s because it thrilled me in terms of the complexity of its characters and intertwining plot lines, and Sedgwick's creativity in its creation.

If you would like to purchase The Ghosts of Heaven, you can do so here.

Check out my interview with Marcus Sedgwick here!

Read my last review of Sedgwick's, She Is Not Invisible here.

Read Marcus Sedgwick's takeover of my blog here

Until next time :)