When I was younger and started to read more ‘grown up’ novels I came across a book named ‘Between Shades of Grey’ by Ruta Sepetys. I was around about 12/13 when I read this book and since then I have always said it is one of my favourites. It was a hard-hitting book for me to read at that age and I think that’s why I loved it so much, it shared a story that I had never thought of/heard of. It is a book set in 1941 during the Second World War and is based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors. It is a story of a young 15 year old girl, Lina, whose life is turned upside down when her and her family are dragged from their home in Lithuania and deported to Siberia by Soviet officers. It follows her journey to a labour camp in Siberia and what she has to deal with during this horrible time in her life. She deals with life changing events at the age of 15 which I feel no young person should go through. She sees members of her family die and people she has met along the way become her friends only to be ripped apart. She is separated from her love interest during her journey but is reunited at the end once she has been through the worst moments of her life. This book is incredibly powerful and shares a story of a strong and resilient young woman that would inspire anyone, especially young girls.
I think I loved this book due to the fact that it was based on a young girl not much older than I was and how she was so brave and determined to survive throughout her journey. I have read it multiple times and I think with each time it gets slightly better. As I have grown up and re-read the book I have seen it in a different light and experienced it differently from when I was 12/13. I realised that it is a hugely powerful book and I would recommend it to anyone of any age to take the time to read this as it is truly one of my all time favourites.
Another one of my favourites as a young teen was ‘Mist’ by Kathryn James. This is a book of mystery and intrigue and I was captivated from the start. It is a novel about a world beyond the mist. It tells the story of a 16 year old girl, Gwen, who is dragged through the mist and disappears. It also tells the story of her 13 year old sister Nell who spends her time throughout the book trying to find her sister and uncovering secrets about where her sister has gone. Whilst on this journey Nell befriends a mysterious boy named Evan. It is a beautiful world full of musical harps and magical castles which are both scary and intriguing. This welcomes any reader into the world, and invites you to read on. I loved this book when I was about 12/13 as it was a story filled with wonder and deception. It is a well written young teen novel which I was totally enthralled by. I think I loved this book so much is because it wasn’t like anything I had read before. It mixed a reality with another world beyond the mist in a way that seemed totally possible. Gwen crossed over dimensions and it was an amazing book to read.
I highly recommend both books for young teens as well as adults as they both inspire and enthral. You will find a young girl or boy would be inspired by Lina’s power and strength in ‘Between Shades of Grey´ and by Nell’s heroine acts and her investigation into finding her sister. Both are very well written by excellent authors that I couldn’t recommend enough.
Thanks for reading, Caitlin x
(PS comment your favourite books from when you were a young teenager J )
The DI Callanach Series is a book series by crime author Helen Fields. It is a series about a detective who comes from France due to personal circumstances and now resides and works in Edinburgh. It follows how he fits in to working in the Scottish police service after having to leave Interpol. There are currently three books in the series: Perfect Remains, Perfect Prey and Perfect Death with a fourth one being released at the end of the year: Perfect Silence. It is one of my all time favourite crime series and I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read an extremely well written and engaging book which not only follows a crime and investigation but follows and explains realistic characters. All three books keep you on the edge of your seat and keeps you engaged from the beginning. The series is set in Edinburgh, Scotland and I think being Scottish helped whilst reading as it made me more attached to characters and the story, it helps when you recognise a street name or place. The characters themselves are so realistic and comprehendible that you don’t feel like you are reading fiction, you are a part of their world and that is exciting. You feel as though you are a part of their world. Although these books are about horrible events the way Helen Fields develops the characters and their story around this is seamless. You feel like you are just following their day to day, investigating the crimes in each book, but whilst doing so you get an insight into who they are and why. The characters form relationships whilst doing a job that a lot of people admire and aspire to do. This is the main reason (excluding the story line) that I love these books so much. You feel as though you know these characters and I am truly inspired by how Helen Fields does this.
More about the author:
Helen Fields is a crime novelist and ex-lawyer from the United Kingdom who chose to start pursuing her dream of being a writer after deciding to leave her career as a lawyer. She kindly answered some questions I sent her and so I would like to thank her for taking the time to do so.
I hope this allows you to get a further idea into Helen Fields and the DI Callanach series.
Read and Drink Tea Blog Questions
What made you become an author? I started writing seriously during a career break after having my three children. As a child I’d loved writing, spending whole weekends tucked away with a notebook and filling it with plays, poems and stories. My professional life as a lawyer got in the way for a few years, but writing was my first choice for a new career after that. I think if you have a deep-rooted love of books, your mind is constantly craving that new world to explore. I just got to the stage when I wanted to build my own.
Were you influenced by any other authors? It was definitely Christopher Brookmyre who fired up my love of Scottish crime, but before that I’d been a huge fan of the crime genre, particularly of Patricia Cornwell. I’m a bit of a forensics geek, so I loved all the scientific detail in her books. In terms of world building, you can’t beat JRR Tolkien, and I read his work obsessively as a child. It taught me that what you can create is only defined by the limits of your imagination.
Why did you choose to write in the crime/mystery genre? Writing in the crime/ mystery genre was a natural fit for me with a background as a criminal barrister. I prosecuted and defended, spending a lot of time with police officers, in prisons, with psychiatrists and forensics experts. I met so many interesting characters, and some scary ones, so instilling the sense of those people into my books seemed logical.
Regarding your D.I. Callanach series, why did you choose to set the series in Scotland? Scotland has always felt like a land where anything could happen. It’s a perfect landscape for mysteries, with its remarkable cities steeped in history, its fierce sense of patriotism, and unique identity. Scotland is also a haven for romantics, which I am at heart. I wanted to set the books in a place I loved, and there’s nowhere I love more.
With your upcoming release of your 4th book in the DI Callanach Series, which one would you say was the most enjoyable to write? Actually book 4 in the series – Perfect Silence – has definitely been my favourite to write, although I think probably the most harrowing. It’s a real return to the atmosphere of the first book (Perfect Remains) and I felt a closeness to the characters as I was writing it. A lot of tears were shed as I wrote it.
Do you do any research while writing your book? I research as I go almost continuously, double-checking my facts, reading a medical paper, looking at maps and photos. It’s important to make sure your books are as realistic as possible when you’re writing in the crime genre, so I take my research very seriously. It might be the dosage of a certain poison for the relative bodyweight, or the distance to walk a specific pathway on foot, but it’s always worth the time to make sure what you’re writing is accurate (and yes, I do still make plenty of mistakes. People write and tell me about them!)
If you could be any character in this series which would you be and why? I know it’s awful, but of all of them I’d like to spend a day as Detective Superintendent Overbeck. I’d love to feel liberated and fearless enough to swear that much at anybody and everybody, and she’s as sharp as a pin. I think she gets the best one-liners of the series.
What is your favourite ever book? That would have to be The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It stayed with me such a long time after I’d finished reading. I’ve never known an author create such enduring and powerful characters, good and bad. I felt quite haunted by it.
What process do you go through when writing a new book? I always have a baseline idea I can set out in a single sentence. If it’s more complicated than that, it probably won’t work anyway. I plot quite carefully these days as I can’t afford to spend too much time going off on tangents, so I draft a chapter summary that takes me through the entire book. This changes quite often, but it’s easier to deviate from a plan than to keep chasing around in lots of different directions. Writing is something I feel very disciplined about. I try to write 2,500 words a day, 5 days a week. I set out a complete timetable at the start of writing a book and do my best to stick to it.
Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors and/or avid reader of crime fiction? Do you have any tips? It’s often repeated advice, but you should read as widely as you can across different genres. Find the voices that best suit the one in your head and work out how other authors create and maintain suspense, or add colour and texture to characters. Also, you’ll make mistakes as you write. You’re supposed to. It’s a creative process. Embrace the mistakes and correct them as you edit. Don’t let them put them off the flow of your first draft. Be bold, be you, and never try to emulate anyone else. You’ll have a natural writing block at about 30,000 words. Don’t worry about it. Force the next 10,000 words out and you’ll get past it. It’s an actual thing. Lastly, enjoy it. If you don’t, none of it will be worthwhile.
Many Thanks, Caitlin x
(PS please feel free to comment about your thought on this series and author)
A couple months ago when I was online looking for a new book I came across the blind date with a book concept used by Waitrose. It began at Elizabeth’s Bookshops in Australia and has since expanded and is now available across the world. I find the idea of going into a bookstore where all the books are wrapped up with only a couple of words on the front very interesting. We all decide what we are going to read based off of what we see on the front cover, yes we then go on to read the blurb, but you decide to pick it up based on its imagery. This is putting extra pressures onto authors to have amazing front covers rather than spending all their time perfecting their story itself.
I find the concept very enticing and I see it as an exciting way to pick a new book. You base your decision on what book to buy based off of a couple words. It adds to the excitement of buying a new book and can often lead you into reading a different style or genre of book you wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to usually. It allows people to branch out into reading books by different authors also and gives less known authors a chance that they may not get if everyone can see who wrote the book they are going to buy. I personally think that the concept is one that should be adopted more wide spread, to inspire more people to not judge the book by its cover. This phrase is used on a regular basis about people so why don’t we pay more attention to what it actually says and not judge a book by its cover.
I highly recommend that if you are planning on buying a new book, you take a look at the ‘blind date with a book’ shop and buy a book without judging it by its cover, changing the way you read and buy books.
Many thanks, Caitlin x
(PS please comment on your thought about this concept )
When I was younger I never did enjoy reading autobiographies much as I cared more about stories and fairytales, and that hasn’t changed much. I still don’t read much non-fiction never mind autobiographies but there are certain ones that caught my attention.
My first ever idol was Hannah Montana, portrayed by Miley Cyrus. To say I was slightly obsessed wouldn’t be wrong. I idolised her style, her talent and her friends and I showed that through constantly watching Hannah Montana and having every sort of merchandise. As I became older I started to realise that it was Miley Cyrus herself who I indeed idolised also. Who wouldn’t want to be a teen rock star? I listened to all her music and still do and because of this when I was 10 my parents bought me her autobiography: Miles to Go. This autobiography is the only non-fiction I read when I was that age and it was one of the best books I had ever read. It looked at the milestones in Miley’s life and shared an honest view of someone who shot to fame at such a young age. The style in which it was written appealed to me as there were ‘handwritten notes’ on each page correcting, adding in and reacting which made the experience of reading this book so real. It made you think you were there with her, she was telling her story to you. As I look back on this autobiography I see why it appealed to me. I was young and so was Miley. It showed me that being young didn’t stop you from fulfilling your dream and although I never really wanted to be an actor or singer (thankfully considering I am horrendous at both) it showed me that the little things were possible as she did the big things. I can understand why any young girl would read it as it did have a big impact on my life as a 10 year old.
I only have three autobiographies in my collection (and one of those belonged to my sisters) but I find all three worth the read. The next autobiography I was given was Fierce by Kelly Osbourne. It was my sisters book that she gave to me as she no longer wanted it and I am glad she did. Although this book was published in 2009 (I was 10) I never read it until 2015. It showed a girl with a completely different life to mines and most people I knew. It was completely the opposite of Miles to Go but I think that’s what made it stand out to me. That there was someone who lived that life. It showed a wilder side but it was still very inspiring as it showed what she went through as a teen. I think the way it was laid out also helped a lot as it contains side notes of information to explain what she meant and how to fix it. When she explained how she was bullied she left bullying help lines for those who are dealing with that and she left tips such as hair do’s and don’ts to help you through your teenage life. It is well written and honest and I admired that she shared so much. One of the many things I can say about this book is that I am glad my sister gave it to me.
The last and most recent autobiography I own and read is by Ed Sheeran. ‘A Visual Journey’ is a book that was so interesting and inspiring also. I really appreciate Ed Sheeran as a musician and everyone who knows me is aware. When I was still in high school this book was released (I was 15/16) and my best friend Holly bought it for me for my Christmas. I hadn’t expected this and it was a big gift to receive. I was surprised and thrilled. I started to read it on Boxing Day and was finished within a week. It shared how Ed has gotten to where he is now. He never enjoyed school and learned all he needed to know to become a singer was on tour. I found this inspiring as it told me that grades weren’t everything and although they can be important they didn’t control who you were and what you could be. It is full of amazing illustrations by a man named Phillip Butah which illustrated all of Ed’s writing. It helped you to be immersed to the book and continue to read. Although Ed’s words could do that alone, it helped. Ed shared his influences and how he created his albums. I would have to recommend this to anyone who likes Ed Sheeran or aims to become a successful singer as it shows that determination and passion will get you a long way. I would also recommend this for anyone who wants to be successful in anything they choose as it is incredibly inspiring.
‘Miles to go’, ‘Fierce’ and ‘A Visual Journey’ are the autobiographies that I own and loved and I am sure there are lots and lots more I should read but I just wanted to share the ones I believed to be a great influence on the way I think and how I thought when I was younger. I would highly recommend.
Thanks for reading, Caitlin x
(PS please comment your favourite or most inspiring autobiographies that you have read)