Thursday, 29 August 2013

Blog Tour - Josin L. McQuein

So today, Just This Teenager is lucky enough to take part in a blog tour organised by Egmont and I've got a brilliant exclusive article from the author Josin L. McQuein who is responsible for the incredible YA novel Arclight, a new dystopian sci-fi thriller that I absolutely loved, and Josin's post also builds on my declaration of passion for the necessity of a brilliant setting in a book. I hope you enjoy this takeover by Josin and the review for Arclight should be up soon - take a wee look at the other blogs where Josin has also guest-starred, if our post is anything to go by she'll give you some interesting insights into not only Arclight but the essence of writing and creating good stories as well.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy!

First off, thanks for letting me park here for the day. I’ve brought friends. Okay, not so much friends as characters – some of them aren’t very friendly at all. They heard I was stopping by and they insisted on coming with me (and I learned a long time ago that it’s pointless to argue with the voices in my head, so here we are).
But that’s okay. There wouldn’t be much of a story to tell without characters. They’re the guides that lead the reader through every strange, new landscape they encounter on the page, and that means that, at heart, no matter how alien the setting, the characters need to be somewhat familiar. 
Basic personalities
There’s the awkward new kid, Marina. We’ve got the angry loner kid, Tobin. Anne-Marie’s the best friend. And then there’s Rue - the weird kid that everyone’s kind of afraid of.

But there’s also one more character that I think gets overlooked in a lot of stories, and that’s the setting itself. Silly author-person, that’s crazy talk, you might think. Settings can’t be characters; they’re not alive!

Actually, they kind of are.

A science book will tell you that your skin is the largest organ in your body (Technically, on your body, but science books aren’t grammar books, so I’ll let it slide.) Similarly, the biggest character in your book, and the largest personality anyone else will interact with is going to be the setting. Just like a single person can set the tone of a room when they enter, the setting will set the tone of a novel. Everyone and everything else will react to that tone; it’s pervasive.

Setting can make a character feel safe, or afraid. It can be beautiful or terrible, the same as any living creature. It can be the goal, if your hero is trying to find his way home, or it can be the enemy if he’s alone and freezing to death on top of a mountain during a blizzard.

For Arclight, the setting is definitely a huge component of the story, bigger than I first realized, to be honest.

The Arclight itself started off was originally conceived as a space ship, but it became an Earth-bound compound of connected buildings that are shielded within an “arc of light.” (Think of a dome made of lamps.) Like a spaceship, it’s got bright corridors and metal doors. 

It’s less pretty than it is functional.  It’s impersonal, like a machine, and its sole purpose is to protect those who live inside it.

You can’t have a space ship without outer space, and that’s the Dark. Also brought down to Earth for the sake of the novel, the Dark is a void of nothing. It’s the thing outside the window that will kill you if it gets in. It’s menacing as a monster in the closet, and no matter which window you look out, it stares back at you without flinching.

As much as Arclight is a story of identity and survival, it’s also a story about the dominance of light vs. dark. The light and dark become juggernauts facing off with each other across the divide, which is the Grey. The Grey is dead-space created where the lights hit the shadows and neither is strong enough to overtake the other.

Places have personality, and settings have souls. The story can’t exist without them because they provide the air the characters breathe. They are the literal breath of life for the entire novel, and they are most definitely alive.

And that was Josin L. McQuein everybody! Betcha can't wait to get your hands on a copy of Arclight now! Wait for my review, or don't, but even without hearing my opinion in flesh first I'll assure you, you'll want to buy a copy! Gives me shivers reading her post, settings are real and they have so much more effect than you realise!

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Every so often you come across a book which makes you realise how one aspect can make one book shine so much brighter than others. For me, that aspect is the setting. If you can really, I mean really, imagine the place you're reading about, if you can feel the rain on your face, see the mud and dark shadows the characters have to pass through, if you feel yourself remembering places the character have visited. For me the minute a book holds a map on its pages showing the reader physically the world they are about to enter, this book almost definitely promises to be good. It promises me that there might be some depth, some adventure, some wars, some cross country trekking, most usually some magic, a lot of fantasy and it definitely promises the author has put enough effort into creating a world where their story can take place. 

Maps are both aesthetic and functional, it might be just as I've never learnt the art of reading them, but I find something alluring about the lines of a map portraying vast expanses of land in a small space whispering a whole lot of secrets to anyone who will listen..... Anyway enough about my admiration of maps;  basically seeing a map of the world I was about to enter before I'd even started the story  fills me with a great deal of hope!

And Throne of Glass delivered, when I received it in the post, I'd been a little apprehensive over where the story would go, but go it did! The first part of the blurb:
'In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.'

At this I was intigued, to say the least, an kick-ass assasin, a girl at that, it promised to be good! But then the second part;

'Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament - fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin's heart be melted?'
Here my apprehensions started to form as it sounded a bit like a rip-off of the Hunger Games, with a bit of cheesy romance thrown in. I mean 'melted'??? It was a turn-off of a word to use!

However I am more than happy to give Ms Sarah J. Maas a thumbs up! I adored Throne of Glass and I read from beginning to end non-stop. Although the romance was a bit cheesy there were still some scenes which I wouldn't have predicted and thoroughly enjoyed. Celaena was a flirt and a tease with The High Prince Dorian but it wasn't in a way that meant the reader wanted to slap her but it made for some amusing exchanges between the two of them and I loved following them. Celaena and Captain Westfall was more predictable but I liked how the novel ended without any firm plans being set in Celaena's love life thus allowing it to further develop in the other coming novels.

The setting, as you might have guessed, was very well done, and Maas delivered a complex world with the countries at war, and rebels fighting back. This separate plot of the bigger picture was woven in well amongst the immediate story of Celaena and her Champions tournament. On the whole Maas has created a story that I adored, a right mash of the Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings and a bit of James Bond! I have bought the second in the series and also ordered a Kindle, for other reasons, but mainly the fact there are 4 e-novellas available on Amazon!

I think, and I don't think I'll regret it, but Throne of Glass will earn a Skinny rating (6 out of 5) as although it had a few minor faults the story itself was so enthralling that they slipped to the kerb!

It can be ordered from for £3.85 and is published by Bloomsbury. It's been a while since I've read a series I've really really loved and wanted to buy the next book for reasons other than making sure the plot didn't change too far from what I'd predicted! In other words I've brought a Crown of Glass for the book and the story and the characters theirselves rather than the whole series!

I wholly suggest you invest, Sarah J. Mass, Erilea and Celaena deserve a huge fan following!

Good Reading


Monday, 26 August 2013

Hands up!

Hands up, I know when I'm caught redhanded......
I am officially a bad blogger..... but I wont feel too guilty as I have been ridiculously busy getting my hectic life into a reasonable less messed up order!
In the past three weeks since I last blogged I have,
- Received my exam results (got 2 A's and a B) so not enough for Cambridge but fingers crossed for a succesful remark in Biology - mind you; think I like Edinburgh more!
- Went to the Oban Summer Ball - forrrmal! Read my analysis of reeling below, give it a big share if it makes you laugh!
- Worked a buttload in the restaurant - we've had some very busy days (damn you english holidays!)
- Attempted to get my horse fit again, has not gone wholly to plan!
- Tried to plan my gap year - France and Canada here I come!
So yeah, just a little hectic!
Anyway some much needed book reviews coming up, have a nice bunch to slowly be filtered on here! But seeing as I describe this blog as a summary of a teenagers life I feel perfectly happy boring you with my lovely life ;)


Reeling is a Scottish phenomena. As my dad says, it is a ancient sport where reelers attempt to incapacitate fellow dancers in a bid to be the last standing when the music stops. The respect that you earn at this difficult feat is incredible - you are praised as a god of dancing for five minutes of respite until the next reel starts and the previous god finds that his/her previous worshippers now view him as competition and he/she finds themself spinning headfirst into the very hard wall within the first few beats of the next reel.

We are fast, furious and deadly - any opportunity to spin a partner into another solid fellow is seized and exploited - we battle fierce motion sickness as we spin spin spin down the line, the girls flirting innocently before, seemingly accidentally,  kneeing the man in his sporran area before skipping away to rejoin their partner where the battle of arm strength continues..... the man struggling under the Scottish womens grasp as their arms are squeezed and their blood begins to boil before luckily the said women skips away to flirt with the next man before, if she is talented enough, performing a sly kick in the groin. These few minutes of freedom should be wonderful for the now free man but unfortunately traditional reeling rules require him to dance with a free female leaving him open to attacks from said woman in his private parts..... who ever said Scotland wasn't a feminist country....
I feel for any untrained dancers attempting to show their enthusiasm and interest in learning a culture.... reeling is not the way to go,

If you ever see a reeler, especially female, they will be bedecked in kilts for the men and full ballgowns for the ladies but DO NOT be fooled. The women attach pins and knives to their thighs... the men hide daggers in their socks, these people are armed to their sparkling teeth ready to attack any unfortunate person who feels that these 'posh poncy' people are ripe for the mugging.

To me Scottish reeling is an art but to others, I suppose, it is a deadly sport where you are unlikely to leave the hall not sporting an injury of kind, I must concede that it is unusual not to see the crowd falling out the hall cradling bruised crushed arms, limping quickly away from the thrall and generally making a lot of groans and moans.

Reeling is amazing but take part on your own head.... it will definitely receive a couple of bangs and hits!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Smuggler's Kiss

Smuggler's Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen was another masterpiece to add to her already amazing collection. Jensen has been an author that I have followed and collected since I found one of her books The Lady in the Tower in a bookshop. She has a conversational tone to her writing and I find it makes for a welcoming smooth read, books that I can pick up, sit with a cup of tea, and fall into, transported to whatever magical scene Jensen has concocted. In Smuggler's Kiss this was a smugglers ship in 1720. Jensen weaves humour, danger, intrigue, suspense, intricate plots and romance to create this novel and quick note here - all Jensen's books are set in the past which I really adore as not only do I get to read an amazing story but I also get to experience a glimpse into the past made all the more accessible by Jensen's vivid and detailed descriptions of life in the 18th century (in this case).

Smuggler's Kiss follows Isabelle as she attempts to drown herself in the sea but is rescued by a band of smugglers and taken aboard their ship, The Invisible. Fearing that she will betray the smugglers keep her captive onboard but Isabelle being a blueblood, upper class woman, is unused to being alone amongst so many men and without servants. For the first couple of chapters she is a spoilt and unpleasant character acting more like a spoilt child than a teenage woman and you can't help wanting to slap her. However as she gets used to her situation and begins to warm to some of the smugglers she becomes a more pleasant character to follow. The romance between her and one of the smugglers Will is one of sparring and snide quips and sarcastic comments which makes for some very humourous and endearing (as you can guess it'll work out OK) scenes. It's always nice not to have a romance where the characters fall deeply and unrealistically in love and the reader has to cope with a ridiculous amount of gush and drivel for the whole novel.

I struggled to put down Smuggler's Kiss whilst I was reading it but looking back I wish I had as it would have made it last longer! It was lovely to read a book that had its own plot and didn't follow the generic outline of so many YA novels nowadays and being set in the past offers a break from this recent spat of dystopian futuristic novels that appear to be so popular. Jensen has again delivered a comforting read that I know I will enjoy reading again especially on a wet and windy night so I can imagine the howling cold wind rattling through the Invisible's sails as Isabelle would have. Though to be honest Jensen's description paints as vivid a picture as any and I could probably still imagine the punishing wind and sheets of rain, the waves from the rolling sea, even on a warm summer's day!

I will give Smuggler's Kiss a solid five as it was an enjoyable, original read and I will definitely revisit it as I do all Jensen's novels. It is published by Oxford University Press and can be purchased from for £4.82 and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

En Bon Lu!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Returned to the land of the Scots, safe, sound and a little Zambian homesick!

My dear beloved Bloggers,

I have returned! (feel a little Voldemort saying that but oh well!) Back from the hot sunny land of Zambia to the drizzly rainy hills of Bonnie Scotland, and I must say I am far more homesick for Zambia then I was for Scotland. Apologies my dear native country but you're being replaced in my heart!

My time was amazing - it was just absolutely incredible, the boys we stayed with were lovely and so vibrant - I think that's what really stayed with me about Africa was how vibrant and friendly and welcoming the people were, even though they had suffered horrible experiences, they were poverty stricken, they were hungry. It was amazing how many of them appeared determined to live life to the full and embrace it, making the best of what they had. I know it's a cliche repeated hundreds and millions of times before but we honestly do take things for granted. In Zambia the children are hungry for education, ravenous for it, whilst here in the UK we find it a nuisance, something that keeps us from going home to play computer games, hang out with friends. The children in Zambia cherish the opportunity to study especially since the government only provides education to a certain level for them, afterwards they have to pay for their education, which most families can't afford.

The charity who organised our exchange this summer is called M.A.L.I (the Mthunzi and Lilanda Initiative) and provides funding for education for boys in the Mthunzi Centre as well as help the Father Josephs Parish. These boys have mainly been picked up off the streets of Lusaka and have undoubtedly suffered some horrific experiences and the Centre helps them, putting them into the local basic school when they are ready and M.A.L.I. then pays for their further education when they have finished at that school (it only goes up to Grade 9 and there are still 3 more grades to go before Zambians have the qualifications needed for university etc.) M.A.L.I also pays for boys to go to college and study practical courses such as hospitality and encourages them to use education as a way to get a step forward in life. As is similar all over Africa, and indeed everywhere, qualifications are needed to make individuals stand out for that one fought over job that tens of other people have applied for.
Please visit this website and read more about the charity and if possible make a small donation. When I was in Zambia we visited the local school and they told me that they have 10 textbooks in one class to be shared between 50 pupils. The majority of their lessons are taught on blackboards and the children have to painstakingly copy out questions, answers, homework, examples, all because they don't have enough textbooks to take home to study.

My time in Zambia was incredible and I'm desperate to go back and help at the Centre again as well as raise awareness for this charity. I plan to do some fundraising in order to start giving back because what I experienced when participating in the exchange with the boys was invaluable and I learned so much. Far more I'm sure then they did from me. To be honest I feel that we have as much to learn, or at least relearn, from the developing countries as they do from us. When I was there we met up with a Girl Guides group which is just taking part in a new emerging feminist movement campaigning for equal rights for women and girls in education, the home, work. Their passion for what they believed in inspired me and made me realise we have lost a lot of that in Scotland - these girls were my age, 17, and younger and completely believed in their cause. Teenagers hardly have that any more, a cause to fight for, there's no need, and I think we 'developed citizens' lose a lot of motivation, determination and passion due to this. Basically we have our safety net woven around us and we hardly need to worry about things that for us our normal, where as for them, it's what they deeply desire and hope and wish for. We are so ridiculously lucky that we almost aren't as we don't appreciate it, we don't realise our luck and I think it is really sad. If I'm honest with myself even after my time in Zambia which has managed to open my eyes slightly to my life and the life of others, I probably still don't appreciate how lucky I am and that, that saddens me.

What was supposed to be a lighthearted small account of my time abroad has turned into a spillage of cascading thoughts that I feel have to be shared, however I promise to tell you about the lighter side of my trip soon!

Dig deep in your pockets for this charity if you can,
Be safe,