Book Jacket


rank  Editors Pick
word count 51323
date submitted 21.06.2010
date updated 31.10.2013
genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Popular Cultu...
classification: moderate


P. Johnson

Being threatened by a mad tramp seems just more bad luck to ‘Coo.’ Instead it leads to a meeting that will change her life forever.


Coo’s alcoholic brother Sam has died and her family is falling apart. Unable to speak of her own role in his death, or forgive her parents for failing to protect her, she is searching for a lifeline.

Truanting by the Brighton seafront, Coo believes it’s just another bad day, but then she meets three people: an aggressive tramp called Mad Alec; his mate ‘Banks’ and a boy named Joe.

Banks is not a regular tramp. He speaks of Wittgenstein, forgiveness and the power of stones, but at the same time there are reports of attacks in the area. Coo begins to suspect Mad Alec, but Banks seems determined not to listen.

Through a strange midnight feast, a near drowning and the unravelling of secrets, the girl and the tramp seek a chance of redemption, until they find that their feelings are dangerously astray.

Mad Alec finally confronts Coo and she learns that there are limits to forgiveness, and that some broken things can never be mended.

‘Stones’ is a story aimed at the teenage market but also appeals to adults. It is set in present day Brighton.

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Admit you’re wrong,’ he said.  ‘That’s all you have to do; it’s not hard.’

When you’re being held against a wall – feet almost off the floor and a hand gripping your throat - it’s always best to agree.

‘Yes, okay. You’re right, let go!’

    The red face - spit round the mouth – came closer.  Eyes squinted a hair’s breadth from mine, a horrible smell of stale beer bloomed in my nostrils, but it would be okay. He was right.  I said it…


I walk fast, head tucked into the neck of my jacket like a tortoise.  Adrenaline washes through me in a hot tide so I don’t feel the tang of ice in the sea-wind.  The windows of the streets and squares glow yellow, and shop windows flicker to life as Brighton wakes.  I hurry through it as though my feet are on fire, while commuters barge past me the other way, cups of stinking coffee held before them as shields.  My heart surges in my chest and I don’t want to talk; I don’t want to be part of it.  I just need to reach the sea.


    ‘Lying little moron,’ the voice sneers again in my head. ‘You don’t mean that. You think you’re so smart…’ 


    Voices from the dead.  At night the past spills over into morning and I wake thinking it’s now.  I lie in the early light and remind myself it isn’t; it’s done.  I tell myself this over and over, hoping that will make it true – that the memories will fade like the Shrink Woman tells me.  It’s just that mine aren’t ready to leave yet and wake me with a slap each morning.  Memories of my brother Sam, or at least what he turned into…


    …The hand tightened on my throat.  Black and silver stars exploded on the edges of my vision.  ‘I’m wrong,’ I said, ‘Sam! I agree!’  I tried to make my voice as loud as I could, so that maybe someone upstairs would hear me and come down.  He slammed my head back against the wall – again, then again.

‘I’m going to kill you,’ he said.


I’ve walked so fast, I’m already crossing Grand Junction Road.  The long green railings and Pier entrance are ahead and after that there’s only the sky, streaked with orange and pink and no sound but the shush of waves washing lazily over stones. I hurry down the steps to the promenade, move the rucksack to my other shoulder and slow down, listening to the suck and blow of the water and the hum of the wind.  It’s quiet now...  calm… until suddenly a voice breaks in - shocking as a slap:  ‘Oi…Girl… you – Girl!’

I keep moving, twisting my head to find the speaker, and then I see him. 

Over the road, in the shadow of the tall arches, are two men.  One lies on a bench but hefts himself up to stare at me, his face ghostly pale in the dimness, but it’s the shouter I fix my eyes on.  He walks towards me with a strange scissoring stride - hair in a mad, red halo, his mouth a wet gape.

‘I saw God!’ he bellows, so close now, I can hear his breathing.  ‘I saw God, and he had a message for you!’

His eyes are red-rimmed and crusty, eyelashes yellow with some gungy mess and the scent of him carried on the breeze is a ripe, biscuity stink.  I look down and keep walking, my feet shooting in and out beneath me in a blur, but he keeps pace – one hand coming up to clutch my jacket. 

‘You!’ he says again.  ‘Girl…!’

The fingers catch and hold, tightening, before they are suddenly snapped away.  The man with the pale face has him, his arm locked round the nutter’s neck, holding him back.  For a second our eyes meet – his the colour of moss on stones – and something unspoken passes between us.  He smiles at me even as the red haired man struggles and growls.   I get away while I can, breath tearing out of my chest and sweat cold on my forehead.  I run until I feel pebbles under my feet and I’m safe on the beach.  It’s just me now, but for a single grey gull riding the air currents, and far in the distance a hesitant swimmer, stammering on the frozen stones.  The day is full of madmen.

    No one has followed me, but I keep moving all the same, hugging the rucksack close, not sure why I brought it.   It’s an old bag – you can still see the faint printed outline of Barbie on one side – and it’s stuffed with emergency supplies for when I leave – change of clothes, map of London and a small knife from the kitchen.  No money though which makes bringing it pointless.  No money; no train. 

    After a while, I crunch my way back over the pebbles, then stop, letting the cold squeeze me.  The end of the mini railway is in sight and with it, the end of the promenade.  I don’t know where to go from there.

    As I’m thinking, a blob appears and as it gets closer, I see it’s a lad wearing the same uniform as mine.  He’s stuffing a sausage roll in his face and talking to himself.  As he draws level and sees me, the talking stops and he blushes deep red.  ‘Don’t keep on that way,’ he says. ‘There’s police.’

I ignore him and walk on, but he turns and follows, keeping pace and flicking glances from me to the road ahead.  He has fluffy blond hair, an earring, and a dirty smear down his face as if he’s been crying.  I wish he’d go away.

‘You should stop,’ he says.  ‘Something’s happened up there.’

I walk faster.  ‘Why should I care if there’s police?’

‘You’re meant to be in school right? Like me.’

‘It’s early – it’s not their business anyway.’

He blushes again, the hot stain washing up his neck and into his hairline.

‘It might be.  They looked at me funny.  There’s nothing to see, but you don’t want to draw attention.  I’m going to warm up somewhere.’

Being warm sounds good, but I keep going until I see the cars drawn up in a tight circle.  There are four policemen and a dog; I stop.  The boy watches me and I notice that as well as the tear streak, there’s a line of dirt all round his chin.  He looks as miserable as I feel.  I decide to go with him.

The police don’t notice us anyway.  They’re clustered opposite the big white ruin I call ‘The Mansion.’  Its peeling paint and the darkness of its door-less front seems to be bothering them.  One of the policemen comes out, talking into a radio and we turn our backs, walking with the wind behind us.

‘Good decision,’ the boy says.  ‘It’s nicer to have company don’t you think? I fancy a latte, how about you?’

I make a face. ‘A latte? That’s what my mum drinks.’

For a moment he just looks at me – eyes wide as marbles.  There’s a faint stubble round his mouth so he must be older than I am, but he’s going red again, like a little girl.

‘I have expensive tastes,’ he shrugs. ‘You may have a Coke if you like, but I shall have a latte.’

He’s odd, but for some reason I like him.  He smiles, lights a cigarette and offers me the packet.  I shake my head and we go on in a burst of smoky scent, not even talking, like we’ve known each other for years and before I know it, we’re back with the tramps.

The man who saved me is sitting up, head in hands, fingers rubbing at his temples with slow concentration.  The shouter is glaring up and down the seafront, waving a can around and muttering.  Any hope of slipping past is gone, when he sees us and steps into the road.

‘Hey,’ he croaks, hoarse now. ‘You found a boy!  Is he a good boy?  Everyone should have a boy…’  

The ‘boy’ glances at me and grins.  ‘Friend of yours?’ he asks.

‘Don’t answer,’ I say, ‘he’s nuts.’

The man sways over to join us, eyes fixed on me.  ‘Tell her!’ he croaks, ‘Tell her I got a message from God.’

‘You tell her,’ the lad says, and I dig him shuttup in the ribs. 

‘Oh, don’t be mean,’ he says. ‘Even nutters need friends.’ 

‘You have him then.  Personally, he’s not my type.’

As soon as we reach a busier part of the promenade the madman stops as if at an invisible checkpoint.  He stands muttering, and then the mutters turn to shouts and the shouts into shrieks as we pull away. I think I still hear them long after we’re gone, like the howls of a beast.  At last we reach La Gigo, where my ears are soon burning in the warmth.  I wonder if the boy has noticed, but he brings our drinks then sits, sweeping spilt sugar into a heap and tweezing it up with his fingers.  When he’s done, he looks up and smiles.  ‘I like to be tidy,’ he says, ‘don’t you? How old are you by the way?’

I tell him I’m just sixteen and he raises an eyebrow.  Then, to my horror, pushes his chair back and shakes his head.  ‘Sorry,’ he says.  ‘Way too young for me.  I really can’t be seen talking to you.’ 

He turns away, and I can’t believe it - until I see the smile on his face and realize he’s joking.

‘You have a weird sense of humour.’

‘Have to,’ he says.  ‘Otherwise I’d go crazy.’

I start to laugh, but his face is so serious, it dies halfway.  He sits down again, picking up the free biscuit that came with his coffee.  It’s some buttery, almond thing and I watch him bite into it undercover of my fringe.  Tiny crumbs of sugar stick to his lips and his tongue comes out to catch them.  While he’s looking down, I tuck the stray hair behind my ears and wipe at my face.

‘You look fine,’ he says.  ‘I like your hair, though I bet you hate it.  Girls always want what they don’t have.’

He’s right. I don’t mind the colour, which is what they call auburn but ‘You’re right,’ I say.  ‘I’d rather it was straight.’

I lift a curl and twirl it round my finger, but he’s gazing out of the window where the sky is white and cold.  ‘How come I’ve not seen you around?’ I ask.  ‘At school I mean.’

He stares at me and sighs.  ‘I only came this September.  And I haven’t seen you either.’

I wonder where he was before.  He has such a fancy voice I’m sure it was a private place but I daren’t ask because I don’t want any questions back.    He’d think I was madder than the tramp if he knew I was seeing a psychologist.  People always do even if they don’t say so. 

He must notice my hesitation though, because he sits forward and smiles.  ‘So,’ he says, ‘why are you bunking off?’ and something strange happens, because I find myself talking as if it’s nothing to do with me at all.  ‘It’s my brother,’ I tell him.  ‘He died.  Everyone thinks I should be over it by now, but I’m not.  They think it’s because I miss him, I suppose, but I don’t.  They’d think I was evil if I said so, but I just don’t.’

‘Oh,’ he says and waits for me to go on, but it’s more than I’ve admitted to anyone before.  I feel the panic rising and it must show in my face because he shakes his head.  ‘Forget it,’ he says.  ‘If you don’t want to talk about it that’s fine.  Leave it.

We sit there avoiding each other’s eyes, but just as it’s getting awkward, he asks for my number and email address and we leave, walking through the town in a warm silence.   When we reach the bottom of my road, he stuffs his hands in his pockets and grins again.  For a boy who looks like he’s been blubbing, he smiles more than most people.

‘Goodbye then,’ he says and goes ten paces before turning back and calling out.  ‘Oh! How stupid – I don’t know your name.  Mine is Joe.  Joe Steen.’

‘Coo,’ I say, ‘at least that’s what everyone calls me.’

‘Coo....’ says Joe. ‘Cooo.  Like a dove.  I like that.’

I stand and watch him till he disappears.  He’s wearing a long coat over his uniform and his blond head seems to shine.  For the first time in ages, I reach home without thinking how much I hate it there, though it’s not the place itself, but the silence; especially the silence in Sam’s empty room.    




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HarperCollins Wrote

This young adult title concerns a young girl called Coo who loses her brother to alcoholism. Coo finds herself unable to feel anything but anger – towards her late brother, her parents and her situation in general. That is until she meets a tramp on Brighton seafront called Banks. He is no ordinary bum, he’s articulate, sensitive and gradually makes her see that being so consumed with resentment will get her nowhere – she must forgive (but crucially not forget) in order to move on with her life. This is not just a story about bereavement, it also chronicles Coo’s emotional maturity and how she juggles the challenges of being normal teenager while at the same time having to cope with such a life-changing incident.

From the moment I started reading the extract I was completely hooked. The characterisation of Coo is wonderfully vivid and by the end I felt I could even accurately predict what she’d say or do – she felt that real! I really admired the way the author didn’t give too much away about the circumstances of Coo’s brother’s death; there were only minor clues in the existence of Banks and his dependence on alcohol. Being from Brighton I was ready to criticise any misinterpretations or inconsistencies in setting – but I couldn’t. Johnson accurately describes the way Brighton can at once feel bustling and thriving but still lonely and quite bleak. I also felt the setting was the perfect choice for the backdrop to Coo’s confusion. For instance, the way she felt both safe and scared in the same city – mimicking the state of her mind. I also loved Banks as a character in his own right, and his involvement in Coo’s life is engaging. The juxtaposition of a young naive girl against a tramp who has experienced too much of life’s knockbacks is effective and dealt with sensitively. Their friendship is sweet and authentic, but the threatening undercurrents of the attacks that are possibly made by Banks’ friend add an aspect of danger to the friendship, which I thought worked perfectly.

The only area that I think might need work is the portrayal of other characters such as the ‘goth girl’ and Joe. Similarly, Coo’s Mum and Dad are slightly weak. More attention could be given to these fringe characters, particularly Joe. Joe and Coo’s relationship never feels very believable; I think if they were more emotionally dependent on each other it would add another dimension to the story particularly bearing in mind Joe’s implied homosexuality.

In some cases I had to read a sentence a few times as it felt slightly muddled; more care needs to be taken with grammar and sentence structure. However, most of these minor issues could be dealt with quickly and painlessly.

As a young adult novel I think STONES would do really well. It reminds me of YA authors like Cathy Macphail and Celia Rees – who also deal with hard issues: death and the consequent distress and confusion. Like STONES these novels are really tuned to how teenagers talk and behave. I would be keen to see how this novel progresses, if the author is willing to consider some of the criticisms above regarding characterisation.

Paul Beattie wrote 766 days ago

Fantastic stuff, Polly. Very highly starred and on my watchlist so I can read on. I don’t read a lot of teen fiction but I really enjoyed your opening chapters. In many ways, it doesn’t feel like a young adult book. Its main character may be a teenager - and many of the issues it deals with are teen-orientated - but the quality of the writing and the ambition and depth of the narrative will, I’m sure, appeal to adult readers. Publishers seem to love a novel with cross-over appeal, so I can definitely see this having genuine commercial potential.

The prose feels extremely polished. There’s an appropriately relaxed, almost chatty tone to the narrative which feels just right for a novel of this type. I’m a big fan of the present tense, particularly in a first person narrative. It lends the novel an immediate, almost filmic quality which, for me, makes for an attractively immersive reading experience. The prose is clear and direct and entirely in keeping with the age of the narrator. It doesn’t feel dull or one dimensional, though. There are lots of nuggets of beautifully restrained, almost innocent lyricism (eg ‘the sky streaked with the new morning’) which really helps to bring the narrative alive without coming across as self-consciously ornate or out of keeping with Coo’s character. Nicely done.

Coo herself come across as an extremely likeable, appealingly flawed main character, someone the reader can immediately identify with and care for.

I love the little moments of natural, character-driven comedy (eg ‘Have to… otherwise I’d go crazy’) – really good way to temper the underlying bleakness that seems to lie at the heart of the book. Most teen fiction seems to be rather po-faced these days so it’s great to see humour – even wry, often quite dark humour - being used to provide a little light and shade. Clever stuff.

The dialogue feels real and purposeful and helps both to flesh out the various characters and add good energy to the scenes. The level of narrative detail seems spot on, real and involving but not forced. Brighton itself feels almost like a character in its own right – slightly seedy and careworn, menacing and reassuringly familiar, one face for day trippers, another for locals etc – and provides an aptly unconventional backdrop for this unusual story. I love the use of slang/vernacular. It’s just enough to bring the scenes/characters alive without intruding on the narrative or coming across as a writerly gimmick. Very impressive.

The plot feels well thought out and original and, with its mix of drama, pathos, comedy, mystery, adventure etc, should appeal to a broad cross section of readers (and should definitely appeal to adult as well as teen readers).

I haven’t really got any specific criticisms to make, Polly. I think I noticed a few incomplete sentences which may read better if separated with semi-colons rather than full-stops (although, having said that, I quite liked the slightly unconventional punctuation/formatting as it seems to mirror the tone of the narrative??) Maybe also think about losing one or two of the dialogue tags?? There’s such an involving, filmic quality to the narrative which I think might be heightened even further if you lost all dialogue tags unless they’re absolutely essential. Just a thought.

In short, a beautifully written, subtly profound, terrifically original piece of writing. Thanks and best of luck. P

Scott Toney wrote 865 days ago


I just finished with chapter one of 'STONES' and have to say that this is one of the most impressive works I've read on Authonomy thus far. I don't say that lightly. I'm an extremely picky reader when it comes to books that I actually buy but if I picked up 'STONES' at the bookstore and did my usual thing (aka reading the first chapter before buying) I would pick it up and purchase it for my next read.

'STONES' is well written, with a stong premise and well thought out characters, and holds me rapt as I read, wanting to know what makes up Coo's mind and what role the people around her will play as the story progresses. I like what Warrick said before me... that Coo has a gentle madness. This is so true and is part of what intrigues me about her. I've rated 'STONES' six stars and have added it to my watchlist. I have a friend whom I'm going to try and convince to support it as well. I'll definutely be back for more soon and have added it to my watchlist.

Have a wonderful day!

- Scott, The Ark of Humanity and Lazarus, Man

P.s. Thank you for reading and commenting on Lazarus, Man. It means a lot to me (especially because I highly enjoy your work as well) and I look forward to hearing what you think of the rest that's uploaded. Thank you also for pointing out that burial during that time period wasn't done under earth. I researched it and in looks like inside the tomb people were layed out in a 'kokhim' style. The chamber was stone and had a lowered stone area able to hold one body in it. A stone was then moved overtop this space once the body was inside. I like the idea of Lazarus coming out of earth but I want to accurate so I'm going to change the book to be how it would have been. Having things as they should be is important to me and so your advice is greatly appreciated.

P.p.s. Again, Have a great day!

getlink wrote 60 days ago

Beamis12 wrote 130 days ago

I love this book, the character Coo resonated me and reminded me so of myself at that age. Great job!

RonParker wrote 169 days ago

Hi Cariad,

I'm not usually a fan of first person stories, but I can see why this had made it to the top.

The only reason I haven't backed it is that it is too late to be of any help to you. I'm sorry about that but wish you luck in getting it published and I look forward to seeing the book in print.


Kevin Bergeron wrote 285 days ago

I'm up to Chapter Seven. You really get the reader inside the mind of a teen-age girl. Also you have a deft way of describing things from Coo's pov using only a few words, like an artist who paints a picture with a few brush strokes. The only nit I can find is that I'd rather the story had been told in past tense, as present tense can be limiting, and also as a reader I want to have at least a little sense of distance that past tense provides. The immediacy and closeness of present tense can be either good or bad depending on how you look at it and what kind of reader you are. It's really not so much a criticism as a preference of mine, and in any case the story so far is totally believable and realistic, and the narrative voice is distinctive, natural and engaging. I can see why it was selected for publication by authonomy, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out.

Max China wrote 322 days ago

I don't think I've read any YA since I was a young adult, I was a collector of Marvel comics and often wiled away the hours in and around The Lanes of Brighton, and spending time on the seafront. I have only read the first chapter of 'Stones', but it did several magical things for me. It placed me firmly back into the 'feel' of Brighton, and I marvelled at how easily your YA work reached what remains of the young adult buried deep inside of me. And L love how you bring Coo to life, all her thoughts and fears, the pain and loneliness...
Destined to read more as soon as time permits. Thank you for providing such a wonderful read.

Max China
The Sister
The Man In Brown

Mellish wrote 324 days ago

Chap 1. Very nice. Captures the seafront quite well - could add a few more touches of local colour maybe? Also, not sure why something had to 'pass between' Coo and the saviour stranger - could be left unsaid - a fleeting meeting of eyes, at most. Unusual characters and already I like the mysterious Joe Steen.

Possible edits... ignore if you want!:

'eyes squinted' -> 'squinting eyes'
'hair's breadth' ??? inches?

Carol Repton wrote 355 days ago

This is excellent. I don't normally read this kind of book, as I try to avoid harrowing stuff, but I can see why HC reviewed your book now. It gripped me from the beginning, and I've just read the first three chapters in one go. It sucked me in - I had to read on.
The characterisation and scene-setting are very real. I found it moving when Coo confides in the boy Joe, when she first meets him. The description of the Brighton seafront is sad and bleak, mirroring the immense sadness in Coo's heart. By the time I reached the end of chapter 2, I was almost in tears, after Coo's interior monologue, remembering her brother from the photo and recalling the night he died.
In chapter 3 there is a vivid, authentic description of the stink of the tramp, with alcohol oozing out of him. I like Coo's contempt for the euphemisms her headmaster uses to describe her brother's death. I found it almost unbearably sad to read the description of Coo's mother who had grown so thin after her son's death.
Your writing is succinct and alive. I can't find anything to fault in it.
Well done! I will be back to read more.
'Worst Case Scenario'

Daisy Hay wrote 431 days ago

Just found this but boy is it a great read. Coo is a great character and well described. Great start. Will read on…

Tornbridge wrote 434 days ago


This is beautifully drawn and the character of Coo is both endearing and engaging. The first person perspective pulls the reader in and the descriptions of people and places are so vivid it’s easy to picture the action in your mind.

I have to praise you on your pace. The opening chapter does a great job to hook and then the second fills in the blanks we need to feel the story moving forward. YA is not my genre but the mark of a quality writer is that they can, as you have, grab the reader and engage them in their world. I genuinely feel for Coo. To have lost a brother and then feel as she does about it invokes a very real response. I want her to heal and read on to hope she does.

I wish you the best with this. I can see why it got to the desk.

The Washington Adventure.

Jaclyn Aurore wrote 480 days ago

YARG review

actually - since you've already reached desk, i thought i'd just read this leisurely :)

Instead of going line by line looking for mistakes or inconsistencies, I just sat back and read this as I would any other book on my shelf... well done. Obviously Coo is relatable to more than just teens, but it always breaks my heart to see younger folk going through such trying times.

i love the 'thought diaries' - particularly - I"m actually tempted to look up this website to see if it's real...

great read, and i'm glad i got a chance to do this freely without any other objective :)

cheers for now
Jaclyn x
It Never Happened

Kestrelraptorial wrote 532 days ago

I like the name Coo . . . it’s cute. All throughout the book, I could really feel Coo’s sense of loss, of her brother and of her family. They have some enjoyable times together, but in the meantime feel so distant from each other. I began to feel the reason she hung around Banks was she may have thought it would help her understand her brother, and what happened to him. I wish I could have learned a bit more about Sam, though, more about what he was like before he started drinking, what may have led him to seemingly lose himself. I very much fear that Coo is starting down that road herself . . .

William Holt wrote 566 days ago

Stones--A Reading

Maybe there's no solution to the pain
A toxic brother's death can leave behind.
Alive, he hurt her in his drunken rage,
And dead, he keeps her caged in her own mind.

She wants a friend she can tell all the truth,
But there are things in her that can't be named
Without the risk that her too private hurt
Will leave another's world too badly maimed.

An alcoholic tramp, a beaten boy,
A girl in gothic garb who seems to know
Far more than she is willing to confide,
A counselor to whom she has to go

All seem to listen to her, quite sincere
In seeking to find out the frightful tale
Of how she chose to help her brother die,
But that last truth remains in the locked jail

Of memory that's hers alone to hold,
Unsuitable for any spoken form.
Retreating from a place too dangerous,
She finds a refuge from the mental storm

At home, the place where she must go
And they must take her in; she knows they love
Her deeply, though she hardly can return
What they so freely give, since far above

All else, her grief and guilt hold her love down--
And mostly guilt: nothing she does atones
For what she's done, and she sees no relief
Unless it comes by way of mystic stones.

desiree lane wrote 575 days ago


D. Lane
Freedom Rings

EMDelaney wrote 576 days ago

Jolly good show, Polly. Glad they liked it.


bibbybop wrote 576 days ago

I liked this.

While I probably wouldn't read it now- being all grown up and what not- I would have ate it up as a teenager. Coo is very relatable and I'm enjoying the unusual side characters. Only made it to chapter 5 so far, but it flew in quickly. Stylistically, you give enough to make us feel the slightly lost quality of Coo's state of mind, echoed by her lonely surroundings, while not being melodramatic or losing authenticity of the younger voice.

I will be back :-)


Racheal McGillivary wrote 590 days ago

YARG review

I am so glad I was finally able to read this! What a wonderful story so far. I have read the first chapter, and though I know I am late to offer any crits, I would like to point out my favorite parts.

I loved your descriptions. They were short, but full of so much. I was able to get a good picture of the scene without needing to read a whole paragraph.

I loved the realistic qualities to your characters. Coo is adorable with her quirks and troubled by her past. The flashbacks were wonderful. Joe is peculiar and funny, with a great personality.

I felt the opening was very well paced and yet hooked me instantly. I will be reading more! :)

Racheal McGillivary

funnyantfarm wrote 603 days ago


I finally got around to reading your book. I enjoyed it very much. I would love to read the rest. 8-D

A few crits: punctuation is an issue (commas separating tag questions and the like, closing quotations, that sort of thing). You don't write OK consistently. Blonde is not spelled blond. I wasn't sure how Coo could buy a soft drink in chapter 1 if she had no money on her. Dessert is spelled desert in ch. 9. You don't put toast in the toaster, you put bread. It seems to me a careful edit would resolve a bunch of little technical issues.

However, your story flows nicely, the characters are believable and the tension between the family members is realistic. I watchlisted your story, because my bookshelf is full. Six stars, too.

I would appreciate a reciprocal read of A Knight for A Queen (formerly Alter Business).



pickarooney wrote 622 days ago

I never got around to reading enough of this to comment before it made its way to the editor's desk.I would have shelved it with no hesitation had it not been a sure thing.such a strong voice and sense of place from the first chapter alone sets this out as a book that should go far. Here's hoping it does.


Inkysparrow wrote 629 days ago

Yarg 2

Wow, Cariad. I'm finally here for my return read and I must say your first chapter is fantastic. The way you intersperse backstory is the work of a master. I immediately loved Coo and felt pain for her issues. Your characterization reminds me of many great modern fantasy writers. I'm reminded a little of Charles de Lint and Holly Black, actually, because your character is a street-wise girl who's had a tough time of it. Your purpose for the novel is clearly stated in your pitch and we see that Coo has much to forgive, perhaps even more than is illuminated in the first chapter.

Really, really loved it. I'll be back for more.

lisa85 wrote 631 days ago

Hey Polly!

Thanks for commenting on my book twice and sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I'm glad that I did. The first chapter made me cry, and I can't remember the last time I cried over a book. There is such vibrant honesty in there that the reader has to be made of stone in order not to be affected. I've read 2 chapters so far, but I want more, and I'll comment when I return from holidays.

A smallish remark. The opening dialogue in the beginning is a masterpiece. Very well done. Yet, we didn't know at once that the MC is a girl, and I was persuaded it was a boy, actually. Based on the dialogue and the situation that started taking shape in my head. When I knew she was a girl, I thought she was younger than she really is (around 12). And finally, up to the end of the chapter, I though the girl was homeless who ran away and lived alone now. Chapter 2 gives a full background that provides the reader full information he needs to position himself in the novel. Maybe, try to work a little on the first chapter, giving to the reader more directions as of your MC: her age, gender and situation. Also, I liked the way her age was introduced in the conversation. Nice job.

Overall, based on what I've read, I think you deserve to be on the desk, and I wish you good luck with your review.

BoricSmith wrote 632 days ago

A BHCG review

I did not have a lot to criticize here. This was a good and entertaining read.

Plot – True to the pitch.
Pacing – The pacing was good.
Characters/Characterization - The characters were good. I have read five chapters so far, and the detail regarding your characters is vivid.
Point of View/Voice - Fine. No passive voice.
Style – your writing style made for a comfortable read.
Sentence level – I made a couple of recommendations that you might consider before the publisher gets it (hopefully).
Dialogue - The dialogue was smooth and easily readable.
Originality - The main story is pretty common, but the way you tell it seems to give it a fresh feel.
Publishability - I can see why you are at the top of the charts. I think thatyou will reeive a good review. Good luck! I gave you five stars and backed your book.

Here are just some minor recommended changes or observations. Your story was rich and pulled me in when I realized this girl lost her brother. It is a compelling read.

Chapter 1

At night the past spills over into morning(,) and I wake thinking it’s now.

He has fluffy blond hair, an earring, and a dirty smear down his face as if he’s been crying...did he have make-up on?. Maybe say something like the dirt smeared his face as if he'd been crying.

You’re meant to be in school(,) right? Like me.’

He’s odd, but for some reason I like him. He smiles, lights a cigarette and offers me the packet. I shake my head(,) and we go on in a burst of smoky scent, not even talking, like we’ve known each other for years(. B)efore I know it, we’re back with the tramps.

As soon as we reach a busier part of the promenade(,) the madman stops as if at an invisible checkpoint.

I start to laugh, but his face is so serious, it dies halfway. He sits down again, picking up the free biscuit that came with his coffee. It’s some buttery, almond thing(,) and I watch him bite into it undercover of my fringe.

He’s right. I don’t mind the colour, which is what they call auburn(,) but ‘You’re right,’ I say. ‘I’d rather it was straight.’

I wonder where he was before. He has such a fancy voice(.) I’m sure it was a private place but I daren’t ask because I don’t want any questions back.

We sit there avoiding each other’s eyes, but just as it’s getting awkward, he asks for my number and email address(. Then) we leave, walking through the town in a warm silence. (suggested to improve flow)

Ben sighs. ‘It is a statue of Pan,’ he explains. But to me(,) it’s still just a weird sort of half-man-half-goat thing tootling away on some pipes.


I like this empty time. The air is fresh; the sky streaked with the new morning and despite what happened yesterday, I head for the beach. It’s my thinking place and no nutcase will keep me away. All the same, I go a different way and walk right along the shoreline, just in case.
(By this point, I think you have really given her great depth and complexity. Nicely done.)

I leave them behind and walk until I’m halfway to the Mansion (. Then I )stop to look out across the grey water. It’s because the wind is in my ears(,) and my mind’s far away that I don’t hear the scrunch of feet until they’re right behind me. (suggested to improve flow)

I feel like laughing. ‘An education? Like you I suppose.’ But he doesn’t answer(. He) just sends a big, grey stone crashing into the pyramid, tipping it sideways. (suggested to improve flow)

I do, but don’t answer, keeping my eyes instead on a big gull(. It) struts up and down eager for crumbs(;) its legs doing a nervous dance closer and closer. (suggested to improve flow)


The radio's on and Dad hums tunelessly under his breath. He stops half way home at a café(. T)he warm air and clatter of knives and forks makes things all right again. (suggested to improve flow)


Banks dragged on his ciggie and burped. ‘He was a proper boozer by then(.)’

ses7 wrote 632 days ago

I've seen this story on here for a while and I've been meaning to read it. I'm sorry I didn't read it sooner! Your descriptions are fantastic, and you've done a great job pulling us in with action in the opening. You give us just enough details to make us intrigued, and your characterizations are concise and well rounded. I enjoyed the first chapter (I will definitely come back for more...just short on time today). Nicely done!

Hoping to give you a final push to stay on the desk as the month winds down. Good luck!

Emma.L.H. wrote 634 days ago

Cariad, wow! Every now and again, I'll come across a book on here that stands out from the rest; this is one of them. What a gem, I bloody love it. Your pitch is brilliant; who could resist reading the book after that?! Coo is a brilliant MC; her actions, dialogue, everything is spot on for her age. You open up the book with a very intriguing scene, and of course, anyone would be wondering what on earth has gone on with her brother. Hopefully, I'll find out soon!

You have a great writing style and a quirky, comical aspect to it; it made me smile a few times as I was reading. The dialogue is snappy and believable and is peppered with witty quips. Your descriptions, I feel, are your strong point. They are very vivid, especially when describing the characters' apperances, and in particularly the mad tramp - yack!

I really don't know what else to say. I can certainly think of nothing to suggest for you to improve this, there are no typos, etc, it's very polished; I can easily see why this is on its way to the ED. All the very best with this cracking book, highly starred and I'll be back to discover what the mystery is regarding Sam... :-) Well done.

Sabina Frost wrote 634 days ago

I have read your first chapter and I can see why you've got such a high rank. Your language flows really well and the pace is perfect. The opening is intruiging and makes you want to read on. Instead of info-dumping, you let the characters speak for themselves until we know what's going on without you telling us about it - that takes talent! Your dialogue flows naturally and is not forced. That it's in Brighton is also a plus for me, since I've been there myself.

The only note I have is that you double-space your paragraphs at some places where you don't need to. Some like it, some don't, and I just happen to be one of those people who find it distracting. So it's not a big deal. It's just my personal opinion.

Overall, great work!

Sabina Frost

LittleDevil wrote 635 days ago

Bout time this reached the desk. Good luck!

faith rose wrote 635 days ago

Thanks for getting my attention with your lovely comment! :) I just noticed your red arrow and will see what I (or my family) can do again "shelfwise." I thought I had given this 6 stars but after checking only 5 had registered. I am bumping you up to 6 right now, as it should be! This is an amazing piece of literature, highly deserving of recognition and publication.

All the very best,
Faith Rose
Now To Him

The Brothers Quinn wrote 635 days ago

You've brought the setting and characters to life, and you manage to move, amuse and philosophise all at once. Yes, this is one of those books that doesn't have a market age range. It will appeal to anyone who loves a good story. I actually read this years back in another incaqrnation here on Authonomy and it was great to revisit it again. You're on the desk and you're staying on my shelf til the end of the month.

Catembi wrote 636 days ago

Great writing! Please put this on kindle - I would def buy it. Not a big fan of reading tons from the PC, but would def buy on kindle.

Lynne Heffner Ferrante wrote 637 days ago

Polly - I've only gotten to chapter 5, but I intend to finish tomorrow. You are correct when you say that even though this is meant for teens it held my attention, A very taut style that remains packed with detail and captures the aura and essence of the situations and scenes. Your voice as an author, as well as each of the characters is right on target. Your prose is well crafted, distinctive and delightful. The entire thing has a delicious flavor.

Nepalwriter wrote 638 days ago

Your descriptions are wonderful. Your dialogue perfect. I love the first person, present tense. It's so intimate.You include the details so beautifully. I can see everything clearly in my mind. No wonder you're rated so highly. I'm sure a publisher will grab you and you'll become a best selling author. You're on my watch list for sure!!

Little Egypt wrote 638 days ago

Hi Polly
A wonderfully crafted book that brings the tang of Brighton sea air into the room. Coo's personnal journey after the death of her drunken brother is a real, on the edge of society experience. Banks is almost a mysticc in a dirty shell of a body and Coo's attempts to clean him up seem well meaning but misplaced.
Highly starred and a place on my shelf till you get to the desk thing.
Little Egypt

Odette67 wrote 641 days ago

HI wondered if you would have a go at reading mine?

will have a read in a bit.


Sam Banfield wrote 641 days ago

YARG/YALF review

If this book is not on your bookshelf, then quite simply it should be.
Without doubt one of the best reads on this site, regardless of the genre. I’ve been thinking about writing this review for over a week, how to come up with something that does not come across as gushing. Trying to come up with something that the writer might think of as useful. But I can’t, if there are any faults to this book, then I can’t think of them. Saying that it needs a going over for tiny mistakes here and there, like the lack of quotation marks at the end of dialogue, but frankly so what.
The use of first person is brilliant, as the story unfolds we find out more and more about her, changing the readers perception of the MC. At first we feel sorry for her, then we begin to dislike her, until finally we really understand her. It takes the whole book to know Coo, and it’s cleverly done. Then there’s the hooks, they are subtle, but really drag you into the narrative. We want to know more about Joe, Raven, and Banks, we want to find out who is behind the attacks, but like I said before all this is done with the lightest of touches.
Still, that doesn’t mean that this book is without drama. For all its gritty realism, there are plenty of laughs, profoundly sad moments, and action. All handled with the same deft touch.
If really pressed there are only two things I don’t like about this book. Firstly is the long and short pitch, which I don’t think do it justice. And secondly it’s much better than mine!
If harper collins doesn’t take an option on this, then the rest of us have bob hope!
Congratulations on a well written book.

Sam Banfield
Committee of Dubious Goals

E.Moncada wrote 642 days ago

You’re a great writer, its no wonder your book is in the top 5. Well deserved. I read six chapters, and Stones is easy to read and I like how you don’t go overboard with descriptions. You do a great job of capturing the reader’s attention. Chapter 5 made me laugh.
Best of luck,

Kayla H wrote 642 days ago

YALF/YARG review for chapters 34-38:
Chapter 34:
Coo and Banks conversation is good.
“I’m alright” is missing quotation marks at the end. Same with “hearing me at all”
Chapter 35:
Coo seems to be doing better with her family.
Chapter 36:
Loved the description of snow as “tiny chips of show are whirling around”
“Joe should remember” is missing quotation marks at the beginning.
Chapter 37:
Banks’ story reveals more about his personality and past.
There’s also a lot of good descriptions in this chapter.
“tell me a story about” is missing quotation marks at the beginning.
Chapter 38:
Really love the conflict between Coo and Banks, the confusion about what they are doing there and where all of this will end.
“if that’s okay” is missing quotation marks at the end.
Your writing style is amazing, lyrical and beautiful, but also very vivid and original, describing things in new, perfect ways.
The reoccurring symbolism of stones is well done; it’s always present but it never comes across as forced or heavy-handed.
All of your characters are complex, flawed, and real. And the relationships between them are conflicted in a wonderful way.
The only possible downside is that the tension/suspense about the attacks doesn’t feel as strong as it maybe could be. It feels too distant somehow, too detached from the rest of the story, maybe because it always takes place “off screen,” if you will, and is told about only briefly, or because they seem completely disconnected from having anything to do with Coo. I think if you could find a way to make these attacks seem more immediate or threatening it could really add more tension to the story and pacing.
Other than that, I thought it was amazing. It is definitely one of the very best I have read on this site. Great job.

Amy Smith wrote 642 days ago

YALF review

This is on my shelf, and as you already know, I absolutely love this book.
Below I have outlined specific things that might need altering and also certain moments that really stood out for me in the story from the first six chapters.

Stand out moments
Great opening-very dramatic. The line:
When you’re being held against a wall – feet almost off the floor and a hand gripping your throat - it’s always best to agree. Is a great piece of dark humour and gives us a good impression of what Coo is like without dumping lots of information on the reader.

‘… cups of stinking coffee held before them as shields.’-very unique simile: really suits Coo’s character and the way she thinks and feels.

‘It just seems mine aren’t ready to leave yet and wake me with a slap each morning.’-illustrates the force of the memories and the effect they have on Coo perfectly.

It is slightly confusing when we are switching Coo’s memories of Sam and the present at first. I think it’s because Coo is reliving it so vividly that the reader thinks that’s what’s happening in the present, and then suddenly we’re walking through the streets of Brighton towards the beach. I’m not sure what you could do about this though, as I think the vividness of the memory gives Stones, a wonderful opening.

I’m not sure about the use of ‘as we pull away.’-for me it has connotations of driving away in a car rather than walking

Minor typo: ‘horrot’ should be ‘horror’


Stand out moments
‘Sam is about ten and stands in front of us grinning, one hand brushing the curls from his eyes and the other waving into the future with no idea of where he’s heading.’-this is very haunting and a good way of hinting what happens next.

‘fluffy’ is a unique description of a person’s hair, so I’m not sure if using this word to describe Joe and Coo’ Mum’s hair really works.

Also, I did question whether Coo would risk looking into the shop when her Mum was there when she had got home before she should have if she had been at school.


Stand out moments
‘I know that look from my own mirror.’-very poinient

‘It’s like a roundabout you jump off when you’re little, that’s spinning too fast for you to get back on.’-i really liked this analogy, but as I read this sentence, it felt as thought it didn’t flow as well as it could have (I cant put my finger on what it is though).


Stand out moments
‘…and listen to her questions, which I never answer. They’d only lead to other questions…’-really demonstrates Coo’s vulnerability


Stand out moments
‘I leave her to her ghosts and go downstairs.’-very haunting

‘I lost mine a long time before he died…’-this really stood out for me.

I like how how the significance of stones is shown in this chapter-it really adds another layer to the narrative

Hope this helps
Amy :)

Kate LaRue wrote 642 days ago

YALF review

Having read through all of the upload now, all I have to say is this is fantastic. The imagery of the sea throughout is beautiful, and I love the parallel between the old man coming again and again to swim in the frigid water with Banks' (and Sam's) alcoholism.

I did have a hard time drawing a mental map of the Mansion and its surrounds. I'm not sure if anyone else has had this problem, but thought it worth mentioning. Also, the bit at the end of the chapter before Raven is attacked, where Coo says something like 'how could either of us have known it was a bad idea' was a little hard for me to swallow as this is written in present tense. Maybe a bad feeling or a dark shadow that Coo dismisses would work better as foreshadowing? Not sure, but that line just didn't feel right to me in a present tense book.

Love the contrast in the girls' nicknames, and how you withheld Raven's until something bad was about to happen :) I kept wondering when Coo would realize she didn't know her name.

Hope this is helpful.
Now, how can I get my hands on the rest?

Kayla H wrote 643 days ago

Chapters 25-26: I’ve tried to access both these chapters half a dozen times each on different days and only get an error message. I don’t know what’s up with that so I guess I’ll be skipping them for now.
Chapter 27:
Love the suspenseful ending to this chapter.
Chapter 28:
Interesting revelation, especially since there seems to be more that Coo isn’t saying.
Chapter 29:
Love this line: “The air is sharp as a knife blade—I can feel it all the way down to my lungs like I’ve swallowed the sky”
“you’re no there” should be “you’re not there”
Chapter 30:
Very well written, interesting to see how Coo’s parents interact with Banks.
Chapter 31:
“not equipped for that” is missing quotation marks at the end. Same with “needed a drink”
Chapter 32:
“something will turn up” is missing quotations at the end.
Chapter 33:
Poor Raven.
“in case you can help us” is missing quotation marks at the end. Same with “could be next”

Kayla H wrote 644 days ago

YALF/YARG review
Chapter 22:
Great chapter, with Banks and Coo making up stories about who the swimmer is and Coo giving him money.
“that’s why she’s angry” is missing quotation marks at the end.
Chapter 23:
Good inner conflict with Coo wanting and not wanting to talk to her mother.
“scared of” is missing quotations at the end.
Chapter 24:
“he says” has a quotation mark at the end of it that doesn’t need to be there.
Chapter 25:
Nice chapter, with Coo’s plan and the conflicts that go along with it.
You’ve got some font changes in your thought diary.
“drop all this” is missing quotation marks at the end. So is “early Christmas Day”
Other than that, really lovely chapters.

Debbie Coope wrote 645 days ago


Ten more chapters read of Stones and still a great read.

I really like the charcter of Banks, though I'm sure there's more to him than I've gathered (up to chapter twenty). He comforts and protects Coo, then he betrays her. I like the parallels between the ring and the marble, and again with the bruises and the make-up in the opticians. Good symbolism for visual pain. I was just as surprised as Coo seeing Joe in the loo like that.

Still backed.

Kayla H wrote 645 days ago

YARG/YALF review for chapters 16-21
It’s really nice to see Coo interacting with someone besides her parents, Joe, the Shrink Woman, and Banks. Goth Girl is an interesting character.
“clothes with holes in” sounds a bit odd. Is this supposed to be: “clothes with holes in them”?
“but never with you,” should have a quotation mark and should have a period instead of a comma.
“In the end I leave it there, I think it looks okay.” Should probably be divided by a semicolon instead of a comma.
Chapter 17:
Nice symmetry for Banks to show Coo his house after she showed him hers.
“You said you had a house once, though. With your wife and baby” I think I’m missing something because I do not remember this conversation and I definitely don’t remember Banks saying he had a family.
Chapter 18:
Oh, this is interesting. Very interesting.
You’ve got a font change in the thought diary.
“I wonder, Corinne” is missing quotation marks at the start.
“Right” is missing quotation marks at the end.
“talk with her Mark” should be “talk with her, Mark.”
Chapter 19:
Coo’s reaction to the theft is wonderful and real.
“see if he’d taken” the rest of this sentence is dropped down into the next paragraph.
Chapter 20:
I really like Coo’s realization about Sam and her parents at the end of the chapter.
“the demands of your walking life” should probably be “demands of your waking life”
“get away with it” is missing quotation marks.
“wouldn’t be here, would I” probably needs a question mark at the end.
Chapter 21:
Wonderful revelation about Banks having known Sam, though I do wonder if he really wouldn’t have figured out that Sam was Coo’s brother. It would almost make it more interesting if he knew but chose not to tell her.
Like Coo I’m curious what Banks’ question was.
“make up silly stuff” is missing quotation marks at the end. Same with “but here you are” and “knew my brother”
“like your brother eh?” should probably have a comma after “brother”
“about me Banks” should have a comma after “me”
“gave him a stone once” looks like you have an extra space or two before “stone”
“like I told you” is missing quotation marks at the end. So is “used to be dinosaurs”

JMF wrote 645 days ago

Chs 16 - 20
Oooh! I feel Coo's sense of betrayal at Banks' theft of the ring and then I feel her need to forgive. This is so good. I can't find fault with it.
Shadow Jumper

Will Penny wrote 646 days ago

Just started in on this Polly and it's really very good. Rating you at six stars. Will.

Kayla H wrote 646 days ago

YARG/YALF review for chapter 10-15
Chapter ten is lovely, with Coo dealing with the results of bringing Banks over and also conflicts with her parents.
“go somewhere tomorrow” is missing quotation marks at the end of the sentence.
Chapter eleven:
The relationship between Coo and Banks is developing.
Chapter 12:
Banks thoughts about Coo and her situation are interesting and probably true, and yet he gets her drinking so it’ll be interesting to see whether he becomes a good or bad influence on her.
“is it working” is missing quotation mark at the start of the sentence.
“’Course it was,’ He says” “He” shouldn’t be capitalized.
“Not right” is missing quotation mark at the start of the sentence.
Chapter 13:
You’ve got a font change in Coo’s thought diary.
“mum must be” “mum” should be capitalized.
“something wrong” is missing quotation marks at the end. So is “but…come on”
Chapter 14:
It’s nice to see that Joe worries about her and wants to make sure she’s OK. Coo’s interaction with her parents is interesting, now that they’ve found out a little about Banks.
“done it before have I?” should probably have a comma after “before”
“She stops” has a quotation mark that doesn’t need to be there and is missing a period.
“just like Banks” is missing a quotation mark.
Chapter 15:
Coo’s thoughts about the Shrink Woman in this chapter are funny—telling her about going on a killing spree, etc.
“send you home” is missing a quotation mark at the end.
“white and tired” has an unneeded quotation mark at the end.
Really great chapters with lots of development to the characters’ relationships to each other. Really curious to see where this all ends up.

Kayla H wrote 647 days ago

YARG/YALF review for chapters 6-9
I love the beginning of chapter six—introducing more questions about Joe and showing that Coo’s mom is definitely still dealing with the death of her son. Beautiful, sad image of her with the clothes basket outside his door.
Very nice conversation about stones. When Banks says that they are meaningful, I’m curious like Coo to find out the answer to “meaningful how?”
“careful whisper against the wood” you need a period at the end of this sentence. Same with “I throw them at it”
“Why is it only stones” is missing a quotation mark at the beginning of the sentence.
“ordinary stone here right?” should be “ordinary stone here, right?”
“and he listens to me” is missing a quotation mark at the end of the sentence.
Chapter 7:
Wonderful chapter, with Coo’s conversation with the Shrink Woman and then an attacked girl adding tension.
“Now I’ve started talking” could possibly be “Now that I’ve started talking”
“it usually kills them” is missing quotation mark at the end of the sentence. Same with “when I’m with him” and “you can stop him” and “Why an alcoholic”
“boozer by then” needs a period at the end of it.
“Stop making excuses” needs a period and a quotation mark.—actually, it looks like it got shifted down into the next paragraph.
Chapter 8:
I like how in this chapter the tension between Coo and Alec escalates.
“red haired” should maybe be “red-haired”
“She helped pay” is missing quotation mark at the start of the sentence.
“says they’re sorry” needs quotation mark at the end of the sentence. Same with “a saint or something” and “you’re on about” and “I’m telling you”
Chapter 9:
This chapter really ups the tension level. Coo’s conflicting emotions feel wonderfully authentic.
Does “street-lights” need the hyphen?
“We should go down” needs a period. So does “if you like”
“Sure” is missing a quotation mark. So is “What’s in there”
Missing quotation after “Banks!” and “getting cold”
Wow, really hard to stop reading at this point.

Joshua Roebuck wrote 647 days ago

Beautifully written. I have read the first 4 chapters and dipped in beyond. It took me a while to find my way through the description to the essential details though, even if the detour was almost always enjoyable. So you might want to aim for a bit more economy early on. It reads a bit as though you were finding your stride, as a writer, with the characters and place by being so descriptive. There are some lovely touches there, and I know from my own efforts they can be the hardest to cut, but are they really necessary to the story? If I am right, I won't need to tell you which bits they are!

julia mccreedy wrote 647 days ago

Hi Cariad

Please find below my review of 'Stones'. It is just my opinion and I am certainly not an expert, so take anything that you find useful and ignore the rest. It is not my usual genre, so I dont know how much help I will be, but I will try. Oh, also, I never read anyone elses comments so I do apologise if I mention something that has already been pointed out by someone else.

Pitch - Interesting pitch. It raises questions that certainly make me want to read on. I think it will appeal to your target audience, and with a misspent youth (some of it in Brighton), it appeals to me also!
Plot - I like the plot. I think that within your target audience, people try to stay away from death, alcoholism and perhaps tramps (!!) and so I think stones certainly offers something very different and unusal.
Pacing - I think that you've got it spot on. I read the first three chapters and at no point did I skim it (which I have been known to do - not just on here, but with published books too!) to find the next interesting bit.
Spelling/grammar - certainly not my area of expertise, but I didn't find any errors at all.
Dialogue - really natural and flowed well
Voice/Style - I really liked your style and I thought that it flowed really well. I felt like I was listening to a teenager telling me the story and it all felt very realistic.
Characterisation - I already feel for Coo, I think that she is a bit of a loner since Sams death. I am hoping that Joe will be able to bring her out of her shell, and maybe a bit more than a friend?? I think alot of youngsters will be able to relate to what Coo is going through, which is why I have backed it and given it 6 stars.

I genuinely hope to see it in a bookshop soon, and wish you every success with it.

Take care


Searcher wrote 649 days ago

Hi, Read the first 9 chapters. Great writing ... very interesting! Makes you think & read between the lines. Would have read on but locked for editing! You're busy working on it! Will come back & read more later. Adding it to my WL! Hope it stays in the top 5 & makes it to the editor's desk! Lots of Luck! Highly starred!


Kayla H wrote 649 days ago

YARG/YALF review for chapters 4-5:
You manage to hold my attention throughout this: I’m curious where Coo’s relationship with Joe is going to go and what’s going to happen with the tramps and whether she will ever be allowed to stop seeing the Shrink Woman.
The only things I found to comment on are really minor:
Chapter 4:
I really like Coo’s thought diary, but “Man, this is our week to get crazy” is missing the final quotation mark.
Should “I can’t just stay and watch him sleeping” possibly be “I can’t just stay and watch him sleep”?
“It’s not till I reach the promenade that I remember the other one—his mad mate” But wasn’t she thinking about him before? She and the tramp were talking about him and it’s the last thing she says before walking away.
“Don’t be late home” sounds a little backwards. “Don’t be home late” maybe?
“It’s like a roundabout you jump off when you’re little, that’s spinning too fast for you to get back on.” I love this imagery, especially when Coo goes on to think: “There’s a sense of not knowing what’s changed or what happened while you were off it.” It really is a perfect metaphor.
“and then its lunchtime” should be “and then it’s lunchtime”—contraction for “it is”
I like how you give Coo something to hope for—that she will see Joe in school. He seems like a good guy for her to hang out with, helps her think more positively. I felt bad for her when he didn’t send her a message like he said he would. Question about that, though—most school-age people I know don’t need a computer to send a message and texting via phone/other techy gadget seems more popular among that age group than emailing. Perhaps consider changing the computer to something else or make a point of Coo noting that she just never got into the whole relentless texting craze/doesn’t own a cell phone for whatever reason, etc. Perhaps it is a bit different in the UK, though? I wouldn’t know.
I really like the way the chapter ends, with her excitement that Joe was late, but didn’t forget.
Chapter five:
I like the bit of attitude Coo has about visiting the “Shrink Woman”: Her dad “could make it easier by canceling the whole thing.”
“You’re the biggest nut of all” is missing a quotation mark at the end of the sentence.
Throughout you’ve capitalized both words of “Shrink Woman” but in “The Shrink woman is very glamorous” “woman” isn’t.
“and I think” is missing punctuation at the end—probably a period.
“wants me to write in at least once a week” should probably be “write in it at least once a week”
Other than that, excellent as always.

Kirstie wrote 649 days ago

Stones Review (First five chapters)
What a wonderful opening. There is so much going on in these pages, so many levels of hurt and confusion and mixed emotions.
This has a great sense of atmosphere. An air of threat, danger and despair hangs over everything in the opening chapters. The opening section is immensely disturbing, in a good way and makes a great hook. We find out that she had a brother who died and who was violent and nasty so the scene is set well and you launch the reader straight into the action. I loved the line ‘voices from the dead.’
Writing in the present tense helps to make it clear when Coo is thinking about the past and so works well.
I like your writing style immensely. Your voice is poetic even though the subject matter is gritty and there are some lovely descriptions. But more than that, the descriptions are not just there to let us see what things look like, they add an extra layer of emotion too – letting us know how Coo feels about things. The tramp is so well described it made me feel a bit queasy reading it, especially the yellow gunge in his eyelashes. He is a very threatening figure and adds to the sense of menace. I really liked the line ‘the madman stops as if at an invisible checkpoint.’
Your characterisation is very good, especially of the two tramps. I like the way you use little things to reveal your characters, like Coo pulling her head in her coat like a tortoise, like she is trying to hide as well as keep warm.
One typo I noticed – horrot instead of horror.
I wasn’t sure about stinking coffee – it just didn’t sound quite right to me.

Chapter Two
I really feel like I am getting inside Coo’s head. The photo – taken in the ‘before’ adds a sense of poignancy. You get across a lot of information in this chapter but it doesn’t feel like an info dump – it happens smoothly and each piece of information adds to our understanding of Coo.

Chapter Three
Everything here is beautifully described. I can picture the sea, the gulls and the tramp Coo talks to on the beach. I can sense her uncertainty at everything. The contrasts you provide mirror Coos emotional turmoil and confusion: the happy family with the puppy, the big seagull eager for crumbs. the tramp knocking the pyramid of stones down, the squabbling seagulls fighting over scraps. They add a sense of foreboding too.

Chapter Four
I loved the roundabout analogy. I also liked Coos imaginary conversation with Joe. I wondered if she would have checked her computer again after dinner to see if there was a message.
Overall I found this chapter a little bitty and not as smooth and full of depth as previous ones. You are obviously changing scenes a lot here so that makes it difficult to get the same level of intensity as in the previous chapters, but I didn’t really get the sense of how Coo felt at school I should imagine that she felt pretty bad that no-one wanted to talk to her. I know that Joe eased this feeling, but again her conversation with him was very briefly shown. You are obviously more in your element describing nature.

Chapter Five
I like the session with the shrink woman. Coo seems determined to shock the psychiatrist with the information she gives about talking to the tramp. But she also seems determined to defy her by refusing to answer the questions – again it shows her conflicting emotions very well. The description of the hole in the sand was good – I can remember that cold feeling.

So far, I am thoroughly enjoying this. I have read a bit further and the story has me on the edge of my seat. I am worried for Coo, I am worried about Banks and I am worried about the girls and the boy that have been attacked. I’m also worried about Joe. There is plenty going on to make sure I come back and read more. I want to know about Coos parents too. I find them impossible to understand. I can’t believe that they let their son hit their daughter without doing anything. It really not surprising Coo is in the state she is in. I definitely feel a strong connection to Coo and I’ll be rooting for her through the rest of the story.