Tuesday, 26 September 2017

BLOG TOUR | 'The Dancing Girl and the Turtle' | 5 Minutes With Karen Kao

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am absolutely thrilled to be back on my blog, after what has been a rather long and unexpected blog break! It has been very hectic moving into my new house and settling into my final year of university.

However, today I am very excited to be hosting my spot on the The Dancing Girl and the Turtle blog tour, celebrating this wonderful new book by Karen Kao.

Karen Kao is the child of Chinese immigrants who settled in the US in the 1950s. Her debut novel has been praised by critics from London to Hong Kong for its accurate portrayal of the oppression experienced by women in 1930s Shanghai.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

A rape. A war. A society where women are bought and sold but no one can speak of shame. Shanghai 1937. The courtesan culture. Violence throbs at the heart of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.

Song Anyi is on the road to Shanghai and freedom when she is raped and left for dead. The silence and shame that mark her courageous survival drive her to escalating self-harm and prostitution. From opium dens to high-class brothels, Anyi dances on the edge of destruction while China and Japan go to war. Hers is the voice of every woman who fights for independence against overwhelming odds.

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle is one of four interlocking novels set between 1929 and 1954, The Shanghai Quartet, which span a tumultuous time in Chinese history.

And today I am delighted to be featuring Karen Kao on my blog, to talk all things literary inspiration, representing the violence endured by women at the heart of 1930s China, and the inability to speak when it is needed most.

What was the inspiration behind The Dancing Girl and the Turtle?

My father is a storyteller. He was born in 1923 in Shanghai and lived there until the Communists took over in 1949. He used to tell me stories about his childhood, our extended family, anything he could remember though I suspect he made stuff up just as I have. 

Tell us a bit more about Song Anyi. Do you have anything in common with her?

Song Anyi is a rebel: smart, feisty and ambitious. But she’s repressed, too. By the male-dominated culture of 1930s China, the intensely face-saving attitudes of her own family and the rape she endures. Anyi needs help but she doesn’t know the words to ask for it. That inability to speak when it counts the most is something I suffer from as well.

What made you want to write about the intense and troubling issues that are explored in The Dancing Girl and the Turtle?

Rape and self-harm are acts of violence mostly against women. 1930s China was a violent place. I wanted my novel to be true to that period of time and the ordinary Chinese who lived and died in Shanghai. But, most of all, I wanted to write about the power of shame and the damage silence can do.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read! As much as you can and as widely as possible. Other writers can teach you more than any workshop or university degree. 

Sum up The Dancing Girl and the Turtle in 3 words!

Old Shanghai Noir.

Thank you so much, Karen, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the other spots on the blog tour <3

Buy The Dancing Girl and the Turtle here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993599702

Check out Karen Kao here: http://inkstonepress.com

Until next time :)

Friday, 8 September 2017

BLOG TOUR | THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO | '5 Minutes With Sally Nicholls'

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Things a Bright Girl Can Do blog tour - to celebrate the publication of a wonderful book that I'm pretty sure everyone will fall in love with. I read this book almost as soon as I was sent it, back in June, but have only been able to rave about it three months later!

Next week my review of Things a Bright Girl Can Do will be live, so keep an eye out for that! 

Things a Bright Girl Can Do is a book about politics, class, feminism and the fierce determination of those who refused to be sidelined from society. The story follows three girls from three completely different backgrounds, and different dreams for their futures, yet with one main goal: to stop their voices from being silenced any longer. However, when Britain enters into War with Germany, their entire world is turned on its head, and the future of the Suffragette movement appears uncertain.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women's freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who's grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

And today I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming Sally Nicholls to Delightful Book Reviews, to talk all things feminism, YA literature and why writing about suffragettes is pretty much the best thing ever!

Hi Sally, and thanks for being on Delightful Book Reviews! What was the inspiration behind Things a Bright Girl Can Do?

It was actually my editor’s idea. She asked me if I’d like to write a book about suffragettes and I said, “Ooh! Yes please!”

Tell us a bit more about the three main characters, Evelyn, May and Nell. Do you have anything in common with them?

They’re all quite different! There’s Evelyn, who’s seventeen at the start of the book. She wants to go to university, but her parents can’t see the point for a girl. She’s also trying to decide how she feels about her friend Teddy, who is in love with her. She’s quite a prickly sort of character. 

May is fifteen when the book opens. She’s been a suffragist all her life, as well as a Quaker, a pacifist and a socialist. May is the most confident character in the book, and can be a bit obsessed with her various causes. But she’s a sweetheart really, and very innocent. She’s also a lesbian, and she’s in love with …

Nell, who is the same age. Nell has never felt at ease in her own skin or her own life. She lives in a two-room flat with her parents and five brothers and sisters, and she’d rather wear breeches and play cricket than get married and have children.

I have a bit in common with all my main characters. Like Evelyn and Nell, I get very uncomfortable and awkward with people who are romantically interested in me, and like Evelyn, I took a long time to make up my mind whether I wanted to get married. Like May, I’m a Quaker, and I generally think well of people – and I’ve been known to argue a point long after I should probably have stopped. 

What made you want to write about Suffragettes? 

I don’t know – my head just went “Yes, please!” They’re such an emotive subject; young people whose potential is so constrained, fighting for really basic human rights; not just the right to affect political decisions, but the right to get a job, leave home, be treated as an equal to their male peers. And who wouldn’t want to write about women in petticoats with toffee hammers?

What’s so special about YA literature?

As a writer, it’s a great place to sit. I get to write books about all sorts of different topics, from the perspective of young people who are just starting out in life. All the characters in my books are figuring out who they are and what sort of life they want to live, and that’s a very exciting age group to be writing about. It’s also exciting to think that my books are helping to shape how young people think about subjects like feminism and history.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Prioritise writing – make it one of the most important things in your life. Learn from writers you love, but don’t try to be them – be absolutely yourself in your writing.

Sum up Things a Bright Girl Can Do in 3 words!

Feminism, activism, snogging.

Thanks so much for appearing on my blog today, Sally!

Make sure you guys check out the other spots on the blog tour <3

Buy Things a Bright Girl Can Do here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1783445254

Check out Sally Nicholls here: http://sallynicholls.com

Until next time :)