Hi, everybody! Today’s post is very exciting. In case the massive title escaped your notice, I’m going to be reviewing a book called Libary of Lemons AND having a cup of tea with the author (okay not literally, but there will be an interview!) Let’s get on shall we?
Title: Library Of Lemons
Author: Jo Cotterill
Rating: 4 stars
Calypso is only 10 years old, but yet her mother is dead, her dad is always working, and she is left to do all the house chores. Her life is consumed by books, and according to her dad, she doesn’t need people. She believes this until a new girl, Mae, arrives. They befriend each other but their friendship grows into something wonderful as the two girls help each other out in the dark times.
This was a truly refreshing book. After reading, Looking At The Stars, which had brought me to tears, I was very excited to see another book by the fabulous Cotterill! I immediately slid it off the shelf and skimmed through the blurb. It seemed very different to LS (Looking At The Stars) but I decided to give it a go. The title did seem a little funky, and the cover a little too bright. But, nevertheless, I did not judge the book by its cover or its title for that matter. I borrowed the book and in I strode.
Calypso was just amazing. She really is someone to look up to. She loves reading and writing, just like me and many others and, though,1 s0he takes the world’s responsibilities on her shoulder. Her emotions and determination were admirable. Chucking the lemons everywhere, anger shooting through her. Owning up to her mistake, honesty shining through the way. Calypso developed a lot as a character.
And then there was Mae. The girl who cried at anything beautiful, especially endings (I can so relate). The girl who was so determined that they put their book online. The girl who lightened up Calypso’s world with her vibrancy and optimistic attitude. Mae was wonderful and their blooming friendship was just the sweetest. I loved when she and Calypso would sit in the Wendy House, writing stories and eating Halloween sweets. I loved when they would play together, eat dinner Mae’s house, and generally spend time together. Their passion for books and bond, made me wish I had a best friend, at 10, who was just as amazing.
Her dad, eventually, comes to his senses. He finishes writing the book, but his request for its publishing are declined. This is when Calypso and their dad bond together. They write stories together, try and understand each other and the dad gets help. I’m so glad but surprised that Cotterill talked about mental illnesses (dad’s depression). In most children books you read, the topic never brought up, but yet it so common and needs to be brought up more often.
In the end, Calypso realises she does need other people. We ALL need other people to lean on. A shoulder to cry one. No one is every truly independent. Because we all have our bad times. People need people.Mae’s mum was truly amazing. I loved the scene where she hugs the two girls after they have ruined the dress/fabric she had warned them about, owned up to their mistake. Mae’s mum had hugged them and this was the first time Calypso had someone comfort her.
I loved the messages portrayed. Calypso is constantly being told that we don’t need other people, that we should be strong ALL by ourselves. And Calypso has to believe this, live by this. Who wouldn’t listen to their dad? Her mum has died his dad is his only parent. And yet, he still has to look after the house, cook dinner, and be responsible. I genuinely feel sorry for Calypso. His dad has put so much weight on his shoulders, whilst he works on his non-fiction book ‘A History Of Lemons’.
It was amazing to see that when Calypso found that other people didn’t read, and instead played video games, she was shocked. I hadn’t thought much about the technology sides of things. But when they brought it up, it was truly fascinating. Calypso hardly ever touched technology. She didn’t even like it. Books were her world. I could SO relate.
I remember instantly loving the book. There were no boring passages to trudge through. The book was good. The writing style was easy to read. I didn’t skip any passages, words. I savoured every minute of it. It was paced amazingly as well. I didn’t feel as if any parts were dragging or too fast. In fact, if anything, I would have loved the book to be longer. Maybe a sequel? I felt like there wasn’t enough! I wanted more and more of Calypso and Mae, their adventured. Everything.
All in all, it was a truly fascinating book. I loved the messages portrayed. The friendships that grew. The characters that developed. And the lessons that were learnt. I’d recommend this to any friend, for sure!
But, I’m not going yet! You guessed it, it’s interview time! The questions ( I have asked) are in bold. And the rest is Jo’s!
I aspire to be an author like you. But, first, I think we’d all like to get to know a little bit about you. Besides writing amazing, gripping books, what do you do in your spare time?Oh and also, I know this is random, but your favourite food?
Aww, you’re so kind! From the outside, authors all seem terribly glamorous and organised and clever, but I’m sitting at my desk right now tapping answers to this whilst eating a chicken sandwich and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. In only half an hour I’ll have to go out to pick up my kids from school, which is why my keyboard is full of lunch crumbs (and er, yes, I forgot to eat lunch until 2.30pm). I’m very ordinary, really!!
BUT there are three things I love to do in my spare time: read books (soooo many brilliant books out there, so little time), make things (paper crafting is a big favourite of mine), and watch films with my kids (two daughters, aged 4 and 8).
My favourite food is probably curry. Not too hot, though – something mild like a Cassandra or a korma. Or butter chicken…mmm…
One thing I’ve always wanted to know is how authors stick to writing a book. I mean, how do you actually write a whole book, without getting bored or tired of it, and just leaving it? I mean both of your books, Looking At The Stars and Library of Lemons, were absolutely amazing. How did you manage to finish them?
This is a REALLY good question and a much more important one than where ideas come from. Anyone can have an idea. That’s not the hard part! The hard part, as you’ve just asked, is how on earth you finish the flipping book. I hit a wall at around 20,000 words in, usually. That’s the point at which it’s no longer fun and I have to MAKE myself keep going until I get to the end. Yes, talent and inspiration are important, but what makes a writer into an author…is discipline. You have to become your own boss nag. I take to bribing myself (and I’m not the only author to do this). “At the end of this page, I’ll have a chocolate biscuit” or “Another five hundred words and I can stop.” I also set myself word targets when I’m writing the first draft: if I don’t get 2000 words down in a day, I’m disappointed. Word targets don’t work for everyone, but in the end, who’s going to put the words there if you don’t? No one. So you have to keep going.
I’m a very inquisitive human, so I’d love to know what inspired you to write Library Of Lemons? It inspired me, nearly used up a whole tissue box and really got my creative juices flowing. But what about you, how did you come up with such an amazing idea?
That’s lovely, I’m so glad it was so inspirational for you! Um…well, it started with the title. I love wordplay and alliteration, and I collect words and phrases for possible titles. I love libraries too, and I think I was just playing around with words one day and the title just appeared in my head. And I went, ‘Ooh! Shiny!’ which is what I do when I get an idea that I like. And somehow, the story just kind of unrolled itself: a girl, living alone with her father, who shuts himself up in his study and who has a big secret… That’s how it started really.
Can I just say how much I adored Mae and Calypso’s friendship?How I dream of having such a sweet, bookish and loyal companion! Who do you relate most to, Calypso, Mae or someone completely different in the book?
Oh, I’m definitely a Calypso! I’m very happy on my own: I love peace and quiet and reading, and too many socialising tires me. I also know the value of a really good friendship, though, so the scenes where Calypso and Mae play together were especially nice to write.
Your book brought up some very interesting topics which were very insightful to read about. In the book, Calypso’s dad is very depressed and believes that we don’t need other people and leaves Calypso, a mere child, to be independent while he gets on with ‘work’. What are your thoughts on this?
He’s a neglectful parent, there’s no doubt about it. Children of Calypso’s age should not be carrying out the duties and responsibilities she has. But mental health is so fragile, and Calypso’s dad is suffering much more than he realises. When your version of the world is so entrenched, it can be hard to realise that other people around you are suffering too. I think it’s vitally important that we don’t judge people without knowing their situations fully.
I loved every moment of Library Of Lemons. From the unique title to the blooming friendship between Mae and Calypso and the sweet Wendy House. One of my favourite scenes had to be when they published their book online. It was so exciting to see the whole process and their anticipation for a review. I also loved when they would sit in the Wendy House and write away. But, the scene, that beats them all is when Calypso discovered that instead of his Mum’s books sitting on the shelves, there were lemons. The anger and reaction of Calypso were written so well and was by far my favourite part. Enough about me, what was YOUR favourite part, a scene you enjoyed writing most?
Oh, that’s the most important scene in the book, unquestionably. And as such was very important to get right. But I didn’t much enjoy writing that scene because it was so very intense, and that’s exhausting to write. Every single word and phrase and sentence have to be carefully constructed to fit the pace and tone of the scene. The scene I probably enjoyed writing most was when Calypso and Mae act out Anne of Green Gables doing The Lady of Shalott. It felt very reminiscent of my own role-play as a child! And of course, it heavily references Anne Shirley, one of the best female characters in children’s literature EVER.
As an aspiring, budding writer, do you have any first-hand tips for writing?
I’m not sure I do, really. I mean, I know aspiring writers wish there were some magical formula you could buy…but really, writing is so very personal. Every author I’ve met does it in a slightly different way. Some insist on planning out every single chapter before beginning the first draft. Others don’t have a plan at all. And one author I know wrote a whole book completely out of sequence and then stuck the chapters together afterwards! But in terms of honing writing skills, you can’t go wrong with reading.
Reading widens your vocabulary and your empathy. If you have many many words at your fingertips, and you can slip into an imaginary person’s skin and make it feel real to the reader, that will get you a very long way.
Other than that, I recommend getting very strict with yourself and using chocolate biscuits as bribery.
Writing has always been a personal experience for me. From creating my own worlds to trying to read my illegible handwriting. What are some funny experiences or habits you have as a writer?
I pull faces while writing. I’m desperate to avoid cliché so I try to find other ways of describing things. This means that sometimes I can sit in front of my computer and shrug in ten different ways so that I can identify what’s important to mention about the shrug. Or the face someone makes when they realise they were wrong about something. It’s important to me to sound authentic, so I’ll say lines out loud sometimes to see if they fit properly. It’s a good thing there are no cameras in my study!
I’ve always had a massive desire of being an author. I’ve always thought it was a bit far-fetched. So, did you ever dream of being a published author?And If so, did you think it was possible?
I never dreamed of being a published author. Actually, when I was in primary school, I wanted to be an illustrator. And then when I was 13 I saw the film Labyrinth and immediately decided to become an actor. So that’s what I did! It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I thought it would be nice to go back to writing stories like I had as a child. I’d always enjoyed creative writing, so I did a correspondence course, and the more I wrote, the more I enjoyed it…and then I started submitting stories…and eventually (VERY eventually!) bingo!
I’m always pondering about new ideas, worlds and characters? Are you working on any story at the moment?
Yes, I’m working on some short stories for a reading scheme, but I’m contracted for another book for Piccadilly Press (who are publishing A Storm of Strawberries this July) and I need to come up with a proper idea for it, so I’m mulling over various possibilities in my head. And I’ve had an idea for a series for younger readers which would be loads of fun. And there’s a story I wrote a few years ago that I’d like to try to re-work for publication. Basically, I always have about six stories at various stages on the go at once…!
Time for some quick questions, if you don’t mind.
My favourite round which goes by:
THIS or THAT?
- Tea Or Coffee? TEA
- Writing by hand or on screen? ON SCREEN
- Reading or Writing? Ooh blimey, that’s a really tough one…READING
- Chocolate or Sweets? CHOCOLATE
- Favourite book? LOCKWOOD & CO SERIES (cheating I know) BY JONATHAN STROUD
- Print or E-Book? PRINT
- Novels or Novellas? NOVELS
- Libraries or bookstores? LIBRARIES
There’s so much I want to ask you but we’d be here all day! Thanks so much for taking your time to be here, it means the world to me. Really it does! Any last comments or goodbyes before you go?
Just a thank you, really! It’s readers like you who make all of the bribery and discipline worthwhile. When we write books, we send them out into the world with no idea if anyone will like them. So hearing from people who enjoyed our stories is the nicest thing ever.
Have you read Library Of Lemons? Did you enjoy the interview? Have you read any books by Jo Cotterill before?TELL ME!