Review: The See-Through Leopard

Some books tell a great, entertaining story.

Some books inform and educate, even if they are presented as fiction.

Some books tap into your emotions and make you feel.

see through leopard

 

The See-Through Leopard does it all.

At the age of 15, self-absorbed Jazz Hooper forgets a book for school and makes her mom go back home to get it. In a hurry, her mom is more focused on Jazz’s lack of seatbelt than the road and runs a red light. She’s struck by a lorry and killed.

Jazz is left disfigured by scars and depressed. She despises herself and struggles with the rejection she experiences from former friends who mock her appearance mercilessly at school.

When the book starts Jazz is 16 and just finishing up school. She learns her dad has decided to go back to Kenya, where Jazz was conceived, and is furious that he is forcing her to go with him. Her life, until the accident, had been about clothes and makeup and boys; her parents’ interest in animals had never been a priority to her.

She was miserable in England but isn’t any happier in Kenya at first. When she’s ridiculed by guests at the lodge on the reserve she and her dad are working at she runs off, despite the warnings to not wander on her own. An orphaned leopard cub finds her and ultimately, Jazz convinces her dad and 18-year-old Zach to let her try to raise the cub and return it to the wild. In order for them to agree she had to commit herself to seeing it through and she has to work with Zach and let him make a documentary.

Jazz is able to put aside her fear of being filmed for the sake of Asha, the leopard cub. As she works with Zach they form a close bond but she is afraid to take the chance of risking his friendship by sharing how she feels.

Poachers and people who trade in wildlife for circuses threaten Asha and other animals, and the more Jazz learns and sees, the less she mourns the dreams she had that died along with her mom. But will she have the courage to embrace the chances she has for a happy future?

This is a really inspiring story. When I started it, my initial thought was, “Crap. I can’t read this. I’m going to ugly cry.” And I cried a lot. The author doesn’t pull punches about issues facing wildlife, or about grief, but Jazz’s journey from a self-absorbed teen to a depressed girl to a young woman is inspiring and the strong emotional connection with the character is one of the reasons that this book will be one I remember for years to come. A great YA/coming-of-age story with the bonus of providing a lot of information about endangered species and the threats wildlife face from poachers today.

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Imogen’s Story: B Fleetwood talks about how a novel became a trilogy and what’s next for Imogen

Haven’t heard of B. Fleetwood? Let’s correct that right now. I had the opportunity to read both Imogen’s Secret and Imogen’s Journey not that long ago and they are already perched on top of my best 2019 entertainment list. I could not put these books down. Ya/Coming of Age Sci Fi with a bit of romance, some tremendous worldbuilding and a riveting plot that keeps you turning the pages all hours of the day and night. I finished both books in a matter of a few days and just had to catch up with the author to find out a little more about Imogen, the idea for the story, and where things will go in book 3.

Buy Imogen’s Secret

Buy Imogen’s Journey

51jg7gt99tlThere’s a lot of worldbuilding in the Chroma series books, and there’s also a very compelling cast of characters. What came first for you – the worldbuilding or Imogen? How did Holis affect Imogen’s character as she took shape?

Imogen came first. I had imagined a character with the ability to ‘see’ lies for many years, long before I put pen to paper.

When I began to seriously consider why my main protagonist would have the ability to read Chroma, or auras (I did not want this to be a magical power), I decided there needed to be a genetic reason for her gift. Writing the first chapter, it came to me; Imogen had to be of another race, a race that had been genetically engineered. This would allow her to have all sorts of other differences, like her ability to absorb information, ‘read’ thoughts by touch and for her body to self-heal.

It became crucial to her character development for the truth to have been hidden from her; she could not know she was from the planet Holis. I wanted her and the reader to fathom it out together. As Holis developed as a tangible place, Imogen’s abilities crystallised on the page. As a new author, I am rather in awe of how her character evolved.

 

515lgq7ukalConsidering all the talk about global warming and damage to our planet, your series is both incredibly entertaining and captivating, and also timely. Every now and again we hear about other planets that have been discovered that might be capable of sustaining life. Do you think if we had the capability to reach such a planet that we’d learn from our mistakes or repeat them? Was this something that inspired you as you developed the series? (What did inspire you?) 

I studied Sociology at University, fascinated with what makes a society ‘tick’ and conversely, what makes societies break down.

I believe there must be planets out there that would support human life or alien lifeforms.

Would we make the same mistakes if we reached them? This intrigues me. I don’t have a clear answer. Do humans have a basic destructive nature they cannot escape or a capacity for nobler action? The optimist in me wants to believe humans are capable of rising above greed, self-interest and perpetuating differences. In Chroma, my superior Holans look at Earth with much disdain. And whilst it’s easy to despair of our race, I believe there is an integrity / spark within us all which, if encouraged, will allow the human race to advance to a point where we would learn from our mistakes.

 

You’ve billed this as a trilogy. Did you have a clear plan for all three books from the start? How much advance plotting did you do before you started writing? 

My decision to create Holis transformed Imogen’s Secret from a standalone novel into the first of a trilogy – I had not planned this in advance. It honestly just ‘came to me’ with an unshakeable conviction: it had to be more than one book. I knew if I was the reader, reading Imogen’s Secret, I would want to go to her home planet and see how it all worked. For a few weeks, during the writing of Imogen’s Journey, I considered finishing the tale in two books (I think I was feeling rather daunted by the task!) but as Holis became more than a vague imagining, I realised there would have to be a third book in order to do justice to the story.

 

Which character do you relate to the most in the books and why?

It would have to be Imogen. She finds out there is a whole new world out there and she cannot take things at face value if she wants to uncover the truth. She goes from being passive to active. This directly relates to the revelations I experienced at University – my coming of age –discovering the world was not all as my parents had painted it and the start of questioning everything!

 

There definitely seems to be a connection between Imogen’s people and sites on earth, such as the pyramids. Some people do believe the pyramids were built by aliens. What do you think? Or is this something you just wanted to play with in the story?

I have visited Egypt and been astounded at the building of the pyramids, temples and obelisks. The race was so advanced for the time. Do I believe aliens intervened? Not really, but I decided to play with this in the story. It makes a great link to how Holan folk ended up on Earth (more to be revealed in Book 3!).

 

There are five personality lines on Holis – Ra, Iris, Nut, Hathor and Amon Anon. If you could only choose one of those personality lines to be, which one would you pick and why?

The five lines have been lifted from general psychological theories (still used in management evaluations today). Whilst I don’t like putting people in boxes, I can see that personality traits are more dominant in some folk than others. If I had to pick just one, I guess it would be Iris (creative and imaginative – or over imaginative perhaps?) or maybe I’d be a Bi-Crypt with Hathor (compassionate and caring – I cry at the slightest thing!) as the other line? This is mainly because I don’t fit the other lines; I’m neither dominant or decisive, calm or disciplined!

BTW: the name, Iris, was originally Isis (the Egyptian Goddess) but I felt compelled to change the name to Iris after the militant terrorist group took Isis as their name. Grrr… An example of how politics influences writing!

 

If you were Imogen would it be Araz or Tarik?

Araz! The chemistry is compelling; however, he would need to lose his arrogance and grow Tarik’s sense of humour to be completely perfect!

 

Whether intended or not, there’s certainly some political commentary the books make in a subtle way. The people from Imogen’s home planet don’t even seem to question their leaders, which leads to abuse and manipulation from those in power. Was this intentional or is it just coincidence that it feels so timely given the current state of politics around the globe?

The lack of challenge by the Holan populace was intentional. With no conflicts, no disparity and no enemy, I decided to portray Holans as having become complacent in their ‘idyllic’ lives. I am also influenced by the political state of the world and the seemingly incomprehensible decisions made by supposedly intelligent beings. Just because a race is superior in intellect, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would not make the same mistakes.

 

Give us a teaser for book 3. What do we have to look forward to? What do we have to fear?

Imogen, separated from Holis and Araz, must unlock Kekara’s secret, stolen from her chambers. Could it have anything to do with the new direction being taken by the Holan regime? The reason the history of Holis has been re-written?

Imogen is unaware the regime has developed a hybrid version of the Repros. Will they follow her and can her family keep her safe?

Desperate to see Araz again and unsure if the Tractus link will be broken between their two planets, Imogen fears for Araz’s safety. She also cannot squash her unease knowing he is twenty light years away with Naomi – a penta-crypt just like her. Could this clone replace her in Araz’s affections? And is the prophecy true? Either Imogen or Naomi must die?

As the growing evil on Holis threatens to come to Earth, Imogen must fight to decide where her true destiny lies.

Review: The Fragile Ordinary by Samantha Young

614af1ibwhl-_sy346_“I am Comet Caldwell.

“And I sort of, kind of, absolutely hate my name.”

Thus begins Comet’s journey in The Fragile Ordinary. Comet is a 16-year-old girl from Scotland with two disinterested parents who prefers escaping into the world of books or writing poetry to socializing. This can get her in a bit of trouble with her friends, Vicki and Steph, who are trying to pull her out of her shell. When a new boy at school makes Comet’s heart beat faster and her skin turn redder than its ever been, Comet struggles to understand and control her response to Tobias King. When King is assigned the seat next to her in one of her classes and they have to work on a project together she discovers there’s much more to the American “bad boy” than meets the eye.

Comet’s story is relatable for many teens who are trying to figure out who they are and struggling to adjust to the changes that growing up brings. Young walks a very fine line, presenting these teens as real without overusing curse words or overemphasizing some of the teen perils that are touched on. From Comet to Tobias to Vicki to Steph, all of the main characters in this book will have to grapple with who they are and what they want from life to some extent, and teens will relate to the challenges they’re facing themselves as they figure out their plans for the future. Bullying is a reality at school, and nobody pretends to have the perfect answer for how to deal with the problem. Just going through the thought processes for the decisions that Comet and others make may help some readers feel as though they aren’t so alone, and may give those struggling with similar issues ideas for how to resolve their own problems.

Family issues are front and center. Comet’s disinterested artsy parents are more wrapped up in each other than anything else and are anything but typical. Her neighbor is more of a parental figure than Kyle or Carrie, as Comet has been instructed to call Dad and Mom. As Comet gains confidence she confronts her parents about how they treat her, and comes to terms with what that means for her relationship with them moving forward.

Tobias comes off like a bad boy and definitely has an attitude. Once Comet starts to get to know him, all of the reasons for his anger make sense. I don’t want to say too much there because of potential spoilers, but this was a really believable and compelling part of the story. Both Comet and Tobias are dealing with imperfect parents and coming to terms with how their parents have – for better or worse – shaped their lives. Tobias also has family in town, and his cousin has a bad reputation. When his cousin’s mom is diagnosed with cancer things spiral, and both Tobias and Comet struggle with how to help him.

The dynamics between the three girls are also pretty interesting. Comet is better friends with Vicki than Steph, who is self-absorbed and likes to be the center of attention. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a future where Comet and Steph have completely drifted apart. One of the things Comet really has to think about throughout the story is how her decisions (to withdraw, stay home and read, not go to parties or socialize) are affecting her friendships.

Overall, Comet matures and blossoms in this coming-of-age story, while grappling with some big decisions and big problems. Whether you’re a teen whose drifting apart from your more sociable friends or someone who’s being bullied or worried about a peer who’s having serious family problems or a parent trying to understand your teenager, you’ll find some keen insights woven into the fabric of this engaging story.