Anne Bonny #Author Q&A with @Hollieannem #Sweetbriars #LeavingTheCity #YA #Equestrian

Sweetbriars – Book 1 – Leaving The City by Hollie Anne Marsh


Q) For the readers, can you provide a synopsis of your new novel?

Sweetbriars – Leaving The City
It tells the story of Cate Sullivan and her new friends Violet and Tabby, at the wonderful Sweetbriars horse farm in the English countryside. It is a ‘coming of age’ story which features ‘growing up’ themes around three fun, relatable, but also different twelve-year-old girls.

A Tale of Sweetbriars.
Welcome to the yard! Come and meet the girls… Cate, Tabby and Violet and their beautiful horses.

Cate is uprooted from life as she has known it. Along with her family and her gorgeous palomino show horse Odette, she moves to a charming farm deep in the English countryside.

Cate is torn. Upon moving to horse heaven, she had to leave behind her best friend Beth and her beloved horse-riding instructor Bridget. On the other hand, she has fallen in love with Sweetbriars, the farm her family has bought to make their dreams come true.

Setting up an equestrian centre at Sweetbriars is fun to Cate but settling into a new school and having a stern Pony Club riding instructor that teaches dressage is less so. At school, Cate makes friends with Violet, who is confident and wacky, and through Pony Club she gets to know Tabby, who is sweet and popular. The girls’ lives will be intertwined in ways they could never have imagined thanks to their shared passion for horses and Cate’s determination to make Sweetbriars a success.

Will Cate ever settle into living in the countryside?

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) I wrote the manuscript for Sweetbriars almost fifteen years ago in Australia. I remember sending the manuscript to a literary agency for an appraisal, and they wrote back to me encouraging me to take more writing classes! I was encouraged at school to pursue a career in writing as my teacher thought I had some talent – but school English is a little different to studying writing at University or through specialist courses.

My dream was to create a new Saddle Club series as I loved these types of books… books with fun, addictive characters that love horses, and evolve as the series progresses.

I did go on to study writing more formally… but as part of a business degree where I had some ‘free’ subjects and somehow was able to choose creative writing subjects. Which I enjoyed a lot and did well in. After finishing my studies, I went into a career in marketing working for international companies / brands.

A year and a half ago I had a baby and I hadn’t forgotten my book dream… so I dug out the manuscript and worked on it a few hours each day, whilst I was at home with my baby.

My last professional job was not creative at all, so doing something creative was enjoyable and a welcome change.

As I’d lived in England for almost ten years I changed the book to be set in the stunning countryside of Devon – where my Oldenburg foal was bred. The book is based on the many experiences I had whilst enjoying horse life in the UK – competing in dressage competitions, exploring bridleways and spectating at big horse shows. Also growing up riding ponies, going to Pony Club and having so many fun adventures with my friends.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Well there are a lot! I actual like to read a lot of motivational / spiritual books and find I can read the late Wayne W. Dwyer and Esther Hicks books over and over. For some time, I was loving Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, as at the time I was living a similar kind of life… taking a year off to travel and I had some unique and wonderful experiences. Since living in Barcelona I discovered The Cathedral Of The Sea by Ildefonso Falcones – a classic and what an incredible storyteller. For people that have visited Barcelona and loved it, I highly recommend this book. That was probably the best last book I read – although Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is almost as amazing. I have a wide and varied reading taste and I think enjoy most genres of books if they are good!

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) The Saddle Club followed by The Baby Sitters Club – I was totally addicted to these books… they were like T.V. in a book. I used to trade the books with my friends once we were finished and we would talk about the characters and stories for hours, finding common ground between our lives and theirs! Ha ha.

I also adored more classic books such as Flambards by K.M. Peyton and Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) Getting great reviews. That is an incredible feeling as a debut author. Totally surreal at first.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) Our family of four – my partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. I’ve taken time out from my professional career and a good part of it has been spent finishing this book. My partner has been supportive, believing in me and my baby boy inspires me with his pure love of life. As for Frieda, the best way for me to clear my head and feel ‘at home’ is by sitting on a horse. Feeling that partnership with such a special animal, in nature, has always been grounding for me.

Hollie Anne Marsh

Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview All American Boys by @KielyBrendan & @JasonReynolds83 5* @AtheneumBooks ‘Emotive, moving and intelligently written. 5* Genius’

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
My own copy

A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, and recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature.
In this New York Times bestselling novel, two teens–one black, one white–grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins–a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan–and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team–half of whom are Rashad’s best friends–start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

My Review:

All American Boys is a YA novel with beautiful depth and emotive themes. The authors have cleverly crafted the novel; so that you are given the opportunity to understand both the narratives of Rashad and Quinn. Rashad and Quinn come from entirely different backgrounds, upbringings and circumstances.
But can they be united by their common belief in humanity?

The novel opens with Rashad and his backstory is slowly expanded upon. We learn that he is being pressured into a military career by his father. Rashad’s father has served as both a former soldier and former cop. When Rashad becomes the victim of police brutality that is largely based upon his race; it shakes the family to its very foundations.

Rashad attends Springfield Central High School, he also regularly attends junior reserve officer training corps (ROTC) to please his father. Upon leaving ROTC he enters Jerry’s a local shop that is known to him. There is an innocent accident, then accusations are thrown and before anyone can attempt to open a dialogue.
Rashad finds himself cuffed and being beaten.

‘I just wanted him to stop beating me. I just wanted to live’ – Rashad

The police officer in question maintains that a HANDCUFFED teenage was ‘resisting’. But it is only later, when we discover the full extent of Rashad’s injuries, we learn this was a violent assault on an innocent teen.

‘My brain exploded into a million thoughts and only one thought at the same time –
kill me’ – Rashad

Quinn is then introduced into the novel. He is a young man living with his widowed mother Mia and brother Willy. His father died in Afghan, due to an IED attack. What we learn from Quinn’s internal thoughts is that Quinn was present that day at Jerry’s, he witnessed the brutal assault and fled.
Will he now have the courage to stand up for what is right?

The dilemma within the novel, is that Quinn is good friends with the police officer that delivered the violent beating. To Quinn he is a father figure, and this forces Quinn to question everything he has ever known about Paul. Did Paul really assault Rashad due to his race? Was the assault racially motivated?

Rashad is slowly recovering in hospital. He must deal with a father that blames him for the assault and a brother hellbent on fighting the injustice. Then mobile phone footage of the assault is released online. Suddenly Rashad’s assault has gone viral and the world wants answers. . .

‘I didn’t deserve this. None of us did. None of us’ – Rashad

Soon there is a graffiti tag ‘Rashad is absent again today’ and #RashadIsAbsentAgainToday is trending. Kids begin to speak up about racial injustice and question their own internal prejudices. None more so than Quinn.

When Quinn attend the Galluzzo family BBQ, he over hears some comments that leave him emotionally troubled. Quinn fears exposure as a witness to the assault. He fears that others will know he witnessed an attack and fled. Is Quinn part of the problem?

The novel forces you to see the world through both boy’s eyes. Obviously, we build an emotional response to Rashad’s experience. But we also begin to question and speculate what Quinn will do. It is very cleverly structured, and I think perfect for young teens in education settings.

I can’t fully get across how I feel about this novel in text. But it made me think about what I teach my kids. That it is important to educate them not just on injustice, but HOW they should respond in certain situations. As a mother I really felt for Rashad’s situation, you desperately want to reach through the pages and help him. But realistically what Rashad needs, is to learn to come to terms with his experience in his own time.

Emotive, moving and intelligently written. 5* Genius

Jason Reynolds

Brendan Kiely


Anne Bonny #BlogTour #GuestPost by @RuthEstevez2 #Diversity in #YA fiction #NewRelease YA #Literarture Jiddy Vardy @ZunTold #UKYA #JiddyVardy

Jiddy Vardy by Ruth Estevez
Full review to follow

Jiddy is a survivor. Rescued at birth, she grows up in Robin Hood’s Bay, a village harbouring a dangerous secret. Just as romance blossoms and Jiddy finally feels like she belongs, figures from the past threaten to tear her world apart… A thrilling tale of one girl’s search for identity and love, set against a backdrop of smuggling and viole.

Guest post:

Diversity in YA Fiction

I believe there are many young people who aren’t reading because they don’t see it as an option. This could be for many reasons, access to books, difficulties reading, economic, it’s not a tradition in a family or environment to read, there are no role models who love reading, or you just can’t find anything you want to read.
Often, you just want to find a book that you relate to but can’t find it. A character with the same name as you can be enough to pick up that particular book. It could be set where you’re from. I picked up The Ballroom by Anna Hope because it was set in an old Victorian Mental Institution, as they were called, near where I used to live. My friend’s mum went in to do the inmates’ hair as they were called then. My friend Andy, used to drive us in his mini into the courtyard and out under the bridge to scare us. From what, I’m not sure, but it was dark at night and it was a thrill. So, to find a story set High Royds, made me want to read it. I picked up Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, Ruth in a second hand bookshop, because well, I’d not seen another book called Ruth and that name’s special to me!
I’d like to think everyone out there could find a book with a name the same as theirs or a friend’s name. Or that it’s set in a place they know. Or it’s about how they are feeling and experiencing the world.
We love to say, ‘Yes! I feel exactly like that!’ It’s important in YA fiction for readers to be able to see characters and scenarios that you are going through so that you can see choices, solutions and how others cope with similar dilemmas.
And for books to be authentic, we need authors from diverse backgrounds, whether that be culturally, economically, socially, gender and sexual orientation, size, shape, skin colour, health-wise, in all ways. Personal experience makes a story ring true.
So…diverse writers need finding and encouraging. And how do we do that? Readers shouting what we want?! Writers writing about what’s important to them? And people in the publishing industry listening to that call.
With The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night-Time all best-sellers, to name a few, and Meredith Rosso’s If I was your Girl, the first book written by a trans-gender author, the diverse stories featuring diverse characters are opening out. There are still many unheard voices out there of course.
I used my own experiences to write my YA novel, Jiddy Vardy, which is about a girl who is a foreigner in a tight knit community. I know my mum felt like this when we moved from the city of Bradford to a small rural village, when I was two. I felt like this when I was the only girl who went from my primary to secondary school. I could translate the feelings I felt to how Jiddy fought to belong.
One of the reasons, one of my main characters in my next book, The Monster Belt, is a redhead is because I am a redhead. Or, I should say, was – because my hair has changed colour, grown darker and duller over time. No actually, I change that back to ‘am.’ I am a redhead because I hold in me as an adult, all that being a redhead as a child and teenager has made me. And I’m not writing about a redhead that I so often see in fiction, plucky and fiery and not much said about her skin. Dee is a redhead who burns in the sun and I’m going to talk about it. And she is a brilliant character though I say so myself! There. Got that off my chest! Everyone needs representing and I have plenty of insider information on redheads. We want writers with plenty of insider information about their specialist subject! Because readers need to see themselves authentically in print.
There is also another reason why we need diversity in YA fiction… ‘no-one is an island.’ (Something my mum used to keep telling my sister and me.)
This can be translated as, we want and need to learn about other ways of being, other places and experiences, so that we can feel connected to everyone else. Reading outside our own experience and comfort zone helps us expand as human beings. We all want to grow and see other worlds, so that we can understand each other, don’t we?
Whichever way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation to have diversity in YA fiction. YA audiences are hungry to read about themselves and about different worlds and lives as well. And we need writers of all diversities to provide readers with that. So, publishers, nourish these writers. Please think long term and help these writers to grow and share their unique voices for all the unique readers out there.
And for those of you who don’t see anything for you right now, take up the challenge, pick up your pen, or start tapping on that keyboard and get writing yourself. There are organisations like We Need Diverse Books and Diversity in YA who work to give opportunities to those interested in publishing from minority backgrounds. Manchester’s new publishing company, ZunTold is engaging with young people through interactive story-telling on their website. Everywhere, there are initiatives. Find them. Let’s really make sure there is something for everyone and so readers can find a book they want to read.

Ruth Estevez
ZunTold  – TwitterWebsite

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***

Anne Bonny #YA #BookReview I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter #NewRelease YA @simonschusterUK ‘Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing’

I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
My own copy from TBR pile

“Caleb led me into the party. He’d invited me because he could. He’d kissed me because he could. Just like his dad, Caleb lived in a world of could and we drifted from room to room on the privilege of it.”

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, she begins her freshman year with new clothes, new hair, and a plan: she doesn’t need to be popular, she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

It’s a lonely existence, but at least no one’s tripping her in the halls. In fact, no one notices her at all. Until Caleb Breward, tells her she’s beautiful and makes her believe it.

Ellie loves Caleb, but sometimes she doesn’t like him that much – his awkward smile, the possessive way he touches her, the tone he uses, how he ignores her one minute and can’t get enough the next. And on one black night, she discovers the monster her boyfriend really is. Ellie wasn’t the first victim, but now, trapped, she has to watch it happen again and again. She tries to hold onto her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

But no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

My Review:

This is very much a Lovely Bones for the YA generation. There is some extremely beautiful writing, despite the dark subject matter. The protagonist Ellie Frias is unusual in that Ellie is a murdered teen, watching over the aftermath of her brutal rape and murder. She is from a small town named Hollow Oaks in New York, which she describes rather poetically.

‘I suppose this is a fitting place for a girl like me. I disappeared before I actually did. And now, I’m trapped here. Forgotten.’
‘This whole town is full of ghosts’ – Ellie

We Later learn that Hollow Oaks is a town facing economical destabilisation. With most of the factories closed. Families have lost everything including their homes. The downturn enables one wealthy family to buy up all the real estate and effectively own the town. Hollow Oaks sounds like a miserable place to live and an even worse place to die.

‘I hate the way these unseen things damage us in secret’ – Ellie

The novel opens with Ellie in ghost form witnessing an assault on a new victim. This is taking place at the same run-down house where Ellie’s assault took place. The current victim is pleading to be let go. Ellie remarks on how there has been seven victims, since she was brought to the abandoned house.

‘He looks for the young ones, the pretty ones.
The weak ones’ – Ellie

We learn Ellie’s background, raised by a single father, she is a social outcast as school. Having recently transferred schools, she wasn’t struggling to fit in, she simply didn’t exist. The novel also reflects quite deeply on the power of words and in particular the word ‘pretty’. As Beyonce says ‘Pretty Hurts’. The term pretty and to be defined as or as not pretty can have a huge impact on a young girls psychology. Their self-esteem can be exceptionally fragile in an Instagram society, where we are judged by out snaps alone. Ellie words this so much better than I ever could. But as the mother to a teenage daughter, it gave me much food for thought.

Eventually someone shows an interest in Ellie, a young boy by the name of Caleb. Only what Ellie doesn’t know, is the meeting of Caleb will be the very undoing of her. But still he persists to ask her out on Friday night. . .
“Why not? What’s the worst that can happen? I’m a nice guy – Caleb

“You can’t imagine the things I think about doing with you” – Caleb

Reading on, as Ellie reflects upon meeting Caleb and the clever way in which he groomed her and broken her down slowly by building her up with words, brought tears to my eyes.

‘It takes a lot of things to make a girl, but breaking her? it only takes a few pretty words and a crooked smile’ – Ellie

Ellie is forced to witness victim after victim, be brought to the abandoned property. To witness their assaults. Until one victim named Gretchen decides to fight back! It is Gretchen’s refusal to be a victim and determination to find Ellie that unravels the entire plot.

The chapters are reflective and cover previously to the attack, after the attack itself on Ellie and subsequent attacks on other young girls. Ellie is able to watch over not only her killer but the police dealing with her case and her grieving father. The novel has some powerful writing as mentioned and quoted above. It really is written from the soul.

There are various topics that would make for great debate among book groups and young people. The arrogance and sexual entitlement of some young males and their disregard for the women they abuse and manipulate.
But also when we think of grooming itself, we don’t necessarily think of teenage boys. I know I didn’t, yet when I thought back that is exactly what Caleb did. I guess this novel serves as a stark reminder that teenage boys can groom their victims too.

‘Nobody every wants to be inconvenienced by all the things that happen to girls’

The theme of victimhood amongst teenage girls is also explored, as more and more young women eventually come forward. It concerns me that now we seem to see cases where a rapist needs multiple victims for the victims to be believed.

Dark themes, haunting characters and beautiful writing 4*

T.E. Carter

Anne Bonny #YA #BlogTour #BookReview Nowhere Else But Here by @_rachelcotton YA #Romance #NewRelease @inkroadbooks ‘The novel has strong themes of trust, falling in love and finding a place to belong’

Nowhere Else But Here by Rachel Cotton
Review copy

Rose Valentine has found out the hard way that life’s easier when you stick to the rules and stay out of other people’s business. But her classmate Theo Lockhart is too intriguing to ignore. He’s handsome, sure – and he makes her laugh. He’s also aloof, moody and impossible to connect with. He’s a mystery; one that Rose secretly dreams of solving.

Then, when Theo disappears from town, Rose is certain he’s done a runner. Certain, until he pitches up on her doorstep, desperate to hide out at her house. He’s on the run – but why, and who from? And why on earth did he choose her?

If she lets him in, Rose will be going against everything she holds true. It’s reckless, risky – and definitely not in the rulebook.

But something about Theo makes Rose long to break the rules. His troubled presence, beset by unspoken fears, turns her world upside down. Yet neither of them can escape the real world beyond the safety of Rose’s bedroom. After a week like none other, how can life ever go back to normal?

My Review:

This novel is of the of the YA romance genre. It is possibly best suited to the pre-teen and younger teen age category. The novel focuses on the on/off romantic relationship between Rose and Theo. With added a mystery thrown in, as Theo has recently disappeared. Whilst the search is orchestrated, and the flyers displayed.
Rose wonders, where is Theo?

‘Theo Lockhart. The boy no one at our school really knew – and the boy everyone now believed something awful had happened to’ – Rose

We know that Theo is the local enigma, the boy that intrigues the legion of teen girls. But what about Rose? Her parents work long hours at the same law firm and she is left to her own devices. She is organised, self-sufficient and strong minded. Rose doesn’t follow others into danger. She likes a tidy, ordered existence. That is until Theo appears late one night. . .

“I need your help” – Theo

With the arrival of Theo comes a million internal questions for Rose. Why her house? She only knows him from being partnered in chemistry class. Why has he chosen her to seek help from? And how much trouble is Theo Lockhart in?

Theo makes Rose promise to not call the police – no matter what. He begs her for a place to stay just for a few days. For the first time, Rose relents and invites in Theo and all of his personal baggage.

‘Theo liked being a loner; it suited him’

The two begin to form a strong bond. We learn more about Rose’s upbringing and how much she misses her brother, who is away at Uni. Rose’s carefully structured existence is finally disrupted and she begins her own form of soul searching.

‘Theo actually cared, and that mattered to me more than I though it ever would’ – Rose

Teen love is so much different to the adult world. I don’t say this just as someone who has experienced a teenage boyfriend. I say this as the grown woman, that married mine 17 years ago. Youth has an emotional intimacy that you just don’t have as a guarded adult. I remember long conversations into the night, planning our whole lives out. Much like Theo and rose within the novel. Everything seems so easy when you are young and full of hopes and dreams. So, I really enjoyed reading on, as their relationship blossoms, with Theo as Rose’s secret stowaway.

‘I wanted to know everything about Theo. He was a puzzle I was intent on solving’ – Rose

When there is a public press conference for Theo, with his parents present. The pair begin to feel the burden of their secret. But Rose is growing more and more addicted to his presence in her home and life.

‘For all these years, you’ve been so nice to me and you always thought I didn’t notice’ – Theo

Eventually the secret is discovered. Theo and Rose are left to find their own path, in the aftermath of their secret being exposed. Whilst Theo must confront some home-truths about why he ran away in the first place. . .

The novel has strong themes of trust, falling in love and finding a place to belong. 4*

‘Theo Lockhart would always be a mystery to me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way’ – Rose

Rachel Cotton

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***