Sunday, 19 May 2019

Beauty Sleep blog tour – My favourite YA sci-fi

I'm so happy to join the blog tour for Beauty Sleep with a post about my favourite YA sci-fi books. Beauty Sleep is a brilliant blend of sci-fi, dystopia and thriller, and I couldn't stop reading it! The characters and voice are great, and it's one of those rare books where I had no idea what was going to happen. The lovely people at Usborne have given me an extra copy of the book and a Beauty Sleep pocket mirror to give away. Comment on this post or head over to my Twitter (@yaundermyskin) to enter.

I've been a huge fan of sci-fi books and movies for as long as I can remember. I love sci-fi that feels unsettlingly familiar and possible, yet just beyond the bounds of our current technology. I'm also obsessed with books that delve into new worlds, and technology I can barely imagine. 

That's why my favourite sci-fi author is Lauren James. Lauren creates worlds that are disturbingly believable and tense plots, underpinning everything with science. Her characters are some of the most authentic and likeable that I've ever encountered, and I love how she weaves social media into her stories.

Two of my favourite books of all time are YA sci-fi written by Lauren James: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and The Quiet at the End of the World.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is the story of Romy, the only surviving crew-member on a spaceship bound for a new home for humanity. She has no contact with anyone until she hears from a new ship that has left Earth, with a boy called J onboard. 

I loved this book so much because, like Beauty Sleep, it draws on the best elements from several genres, and I had no idea how it was going to end. The voice is YA at its best, fresh and relatable, and Romy is one of my favourite characters. Her reactions are understandable and it feels like you know her by the end of the book.

The science is another great thing about Lauren's writing. It manages to be accessible at the same time as being technical, well-researched and believable. Everything about the ship and the technology Romy used felt authentic.

The Quiet at the End of the Universe is another stunningly written book, about two teens who know they are the last surviving members of the human race. 

The portrayal of what the planet would be like after humans is eerily realistic, as is the technology still used by Lowrie and Shen.

The use of social media in this book is very creative too, as the protagonists are able to understand the decline of humanity through the social media posts of people who went through it.

Books like those written by Kathryn Evans and Lauren James remind me of why I enjoy sci-fi so much. If you'd like to share your favourite sci-fi titles, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

You can follow the other stops on the blog tour for Beauty Sleep using the banner for below. Thank you to Usborne for including me on the blog tour, and for gifting the books for giveaway and review!

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett – review

After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately...
This was my first Jenn Bennett book and I loved it! The combination of romantic contemporary and mystery worked great together and felt very fresh.

The characters were my favourite thing about this book. Birdie's love of mysteries was a lovely touch set against the mysteries in the hotel. I really liked how each character had a believable backstory and not everyone turned out as I expected.

The Seattle setting was really great too. I love it when I've visited a place and an author captures it so perfectly! There was a mixture of real Seattle landmarks as well as those in the world of the book.

I also liked how Serious Moonlight didn't shy away from serious subjects, including the tragic history and losses suffered by some characters. I also appreciated how it had a character with narcolepsy and another who is deaf in one ear, as I haven't come across enough YA books that explore those conditions.

Serious Moonlight
has a compelling plot, and I enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery just as much as I was into the romance. If you're a fan of authors like TE Carter and Adam Silvera, I'd definitely check it out.

The Unadjusteds cover reveal

I'm so happy to join the cover reveal for The Unadjusteds, an exciting YA sci-fi title that's due to be published on 1st November. Look how gorgeous it is!

Sixteen-year-old Silver Melody lives in a world where 80% of the population has modified their DNA. Known as the altereds, those people now possess enhancements like wings, tails, and increased strength or intelligence. Although Silver’s parents created the nanite pill used to deliver these genetic modifications, Silver is proud of her unadjusted state. However, when the president declares all unadjusteds must take a nanite, Silver has no choice but to flee the city with her father and some friends to prevent the extinction of the unadjusteds.

With Silver’s mother in prison for treason, Silver’s father is the unadjusteds’ only hope at finding a cure. But time is running out as Silver’s father is captured by the president’s almost immortal army. Vicious hellhounds are on Silver’s trail, and her only chance to recover her father involves teaming up with a new group of unlikely friends before all humanity is lost.

Author Bio:
MARISA NOELLE is a writer of young adult and middle grade novels. She leans towards grounded science-fiction, urban fantasy and paranormal but mental health issues are important to her writing too.
Her first book, THE SHADOW KEEPERS is due out JULY 30TH 2019 and her second, THE UNADJUSTEDS, NOVEMBER 1ST 2019. There is also a forthcoming series, THE MERMAID CHRONICLES: SECRETS OF THE DEEP, due at the end of 2019.
Marisa had plenty of ideas for career and still regrets not moving to Hawaii to train dolphins and pretend the real world didn't exist. Struggling with anxiety led her to the field of psychology. Heavily influenced by underdog movies such as The Karate Kid she realized her mission in life was to help other people, through any medium. Embarking on a psychology degree, she wanted to emulate her hero, Jodie Foster, from Silence of the Lambs and actually tried to secure work experience at Broadmoor. Thankfully she left the idea of criminal profiling behind, but uses many of these aspects in her novels.
Now a full-time novelist, she lives in Surrey, UK with her husband and three children.


Sunday, 5 May 2019

All We Could Have Been blog tour – guest post

All We Could Have Been is a gripping book and I'm thrilled to join the blog tour with a guest post from T.E. Carter. You can check out my review here

Why did you want to become an author? What made you sit down and start writing?

To be totally honest, I’m still on the fence about whether or not I want to be an author. I have always enjoyed stories and storytelling, and I admired authors when I was younger. It almost felt unreal that people just sat down and wrote these things that became living and breathing entities. That said, I had a phase where I was fully committed to being an author. I wrote and queried and rewrote and requeried and did all the things that would get me there, but it was a slog. I ended up really depressed as a result of it all, so I decided to give up that dream and move on with my life. About 12
18 months later, I sat down one evening and started writing a story about sexual violence. I had this image and idea in my head, and I had no plans to share the story with anyone. I just needed to put it all down. I’ve always struggled with communicating certain experiences and feelings, so it was mostly an experiment for myself. When I was done, though, I had a novel, and I went through it and edited and rewrote parts. At that point, I realized I might as well see if it resonated with anyone, since it was done, and it wouldn’t really matter because that wasn’t the purpose in writing it.

That book was my debut novel, I Stop Somewhere, and within a month of sending my first query, I had a publishing deal. That’s an amazing story and accomplishment, and I’m proud of it. But something had changed in me when I gave up writing and my dreams of being an author, and suddenly there was this very personal story out there for people to read. So I admit it’s been a bittersweet experience, because I am incredibly grateful, but I’m also uncomfortable talking about my work. I began writing All We Could Have Been, and I told myself I would remain detached from the story to some degree and not get that personal again, but that didn’t happen. For me, being an author has carried with it this very scary feeling of nakedness. I jokingly told my agent I thought my next book should be about dragons or something that wasn’t so close to my heart, and I think I was only half kidding! I have an entirely new respect for all the stories I loved as I grew up, because I realize only now just how much of a person went into them.

Thanks so much for sharing your story! I'm always fascinated to know where authors find their inspiration and how they started writing.

All We Could Have Been by T.E. Carter is out now (£7.99 Paperback, Simon & Schuster UK)

T. E. Carter was born and raised in New England. Throughout her career, she has done a lot of things, she has always loved to read and still loves stories in any medium (books, movies, video games, etc.). When she’s not writing, she can generally be found reading classic literature, obsessing over Game of Thrones (100% Team Lannister), playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge-watching baking competitions. She continues to live in New England with her husband and two cats. All We Could Have Been is her second novel for young adults.

@hashtagereads #AllWeCouldHaveBeen

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

All We Could Have Been review

162 days.

That’s how long Lexi needs to survive at her new school. Every year, she starts somewhere else under a new name, hiding in plain sight for as long as she can manage. Her record is 134, but it's senior year now and if she can make it till June, she can disappear into the real world. Maybe a big city, where no one recognizes her and no one knows about her brother and what he did.

But this time things are different. This time there’s her new friend, Ryan, who makes her believe that she belongs somewhere. This time there’s Marcus, the boy who looks at her in a way no one has before. This time she’s actually started to miss her older brother, Scott, even though she knows she shouldn’t. Scott was the boy who hung out with her reading comics and riding bikes. The boy who applied Band-Aids to scraped knees and chased away spiders. But he’s also the reason that she’s been in hiding away from the world, and from herself.

It’s just 162 days, but for Lexi that's a few days too many. Because it turns out you can't really run away from who you are. Eventually, the truth will always catch up with you.

All We Could Have Been is a memorable, gripping book with a strong voice and I'm still thinking about it a week after I finished reading. 

I think the voice and characterisation are what left such a lasting impression. Lexi seems like a real character, with authentic reactions to events. I liked the way the story unravels for the reader as Lexi makes sense of what happened to her.

This book didn't shy away from tough subjects and there are some violent scenes from Lexi's past. I thought it explored dealing with traumatic events in an honest, empathetic way. It looks at the lasting impact on Lexi's mental health and the treatment she sought.

Another thing I really liked about this book was how it evokes settings. The estate where Lexi lives, school and other places are described in a way that took me right back to my teenage years.

This is my first TE Carter book and I can't wait to read more. If you're a fan of Adam Silvera's writing and authentic contemporary YA with a darker side, I'd definitely read this book.

Thanks so much Simon and Schuster Kids for the review copy!

#WordsThatFly blog tour – Sarah Carroll Q&A

I really loved The Words That Fly Between Us (and the proof has one of my favourite covers of all time). It's a beautifully written, extremely believable teen novel about a young artist trying to figure out who she is and finding her voice. It comes out tomorrow (2nd May)! For my tour stop, I have a brilliant Q&A with the author Sarah Carroll. 

I thought the motif of words through the book was really clever and I liked how it tied in to Lucy's character development. What inspired you to include it?

Actually, the story pretty much stemmed from the motif of words. The first words I wrote were the opening lines: Words can be sticky. They nudge their way into the grooves of the tiles, and get wedged in tiny cracks in the plaster, and seep into the grain of the floorboards. And they stay there. If you look closely, you can see them. Our house is filling up with them. People don’t realize, though. They think you can just fling them around.

These lines defined the tone and theme of the rest of the book. I wanted Lucy to be so fixated on the words around her that they became almost visceral. We see them soaking through the carpet, exploding like fireworks, following her like a dog’s growl. Words trip her up. Suffocate her. They elude her, and so she must find another way to express herself, which is through art.

Words are used cruelly in the book. But it’s often the weight of the words left unspoken that have the most impact, be that by Dad or by Hazel (the girl who bullies Lucy’s friend, Megan). Words are the weapons used by those who abuse throughout the book, but on the flip side, they are the very thing that both Lucy and Megan need to find if they are going to become the people they want to be.

Why did you choose to write for children?

I wonder that myself. In another (unpublished) manuscript that I have, an older character thinks to himself, ‘Young people. They get a hard rap from their parents for thinking they know it all. The way I see it, it’s because they usually do. Then they spend the rest of their lives unlearning it until they end up at war with everyone, especially themselves.’

I think there’s something in that. When you observe the world through the eyes of a child, you see it without the baggage of cynicism or the mistaken belief that your years of experience somehow give you a definitive knowledge on how things should be. When we look at the world with innocence, we hold a mirror to it, and, perhaps, we can see something in a fresh light. By using a child’s perspective, I can explore a story in a way I couldn’t do through the eyes of an adult.

Is there a message that you hope readers will take away from the book?


As a teenager, I was bullied in school, and some of the abuse highlighted in the book is inspired by those experiences.

There was one girl in school who enjoyed tormenting me. It was an insidious type of bullying, so hard to put your finger on. Sometimes it was the words, ‘Mmm, funny,’ delivered in flat tones after I’d made a joke. Other times, it was just a look from her that stole my words away. A few times, I found out about a sleep-over that all of my friends attended in her house, after-the-fact.

Three years it went on for, and during that whole time, I said nothing to her. Inside, though, I was screaming. Everyone else pretended nothing was happening for fear that if they spoke out, she’d turn on them.

Finally, it was one small incident that put an end to the years of bullying. One day, I walked past an open classroom door and overhead her mocking me. Suddenly, I’d had enough. I walked in, up to the group, and challenged her. She was so surprised, she didn’t speak at first. And her silence gave me the space to say what I needed to say, which was to calmly point out to everyone what was going on. And, honestly, that was it (actually, there was a bit of drama that I won’t get into, but in essence, that was it!). From that moment on, I stopped hiding away. It honestly was a turning point in my life.

So I guess, with The Words That Fly Between Us, I wanted to impart the message that you can find the strength to stand up for yourself. You can find your voice.

Can you recommend any teen books that you've really enjoyed?

Lots. Let’s pick three.

Geraldine McCaughrean’s Where the World Ends. I think it’s a triumph of the imagination that a story which takes place almost entirely on the cliffs of a barren sea stack can be so touching, compelling and uplifting.

Will Hill’s After the Fire. It is a first-person perspective of a girl who has grown up in an isolated religious cult run by a cruel dictator. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.

Any book by Sarah Crossan, but let’s go with The Weight of Water… Or One... Or Moonrise... I’d recommend them all. Sarah gets to the heart of a story and brings you with her.

What does your writing process look like?

An hour of exercise in the morning followed by four to five hours of writing/editing, five days a week. Then I try (and fail) to switch off at the weekends.

At the moment, I’m still in the early stages of drawing a few ideas together into a full, coherent story, so that involves less sitting and writing, and more walking around, pushing a pram, trying to keep the faith as I wait for ideas to formulate. I hate it. All I want is to sit down and write, but I’m one of those writers that can’t put pen to paper until I know exactly where I’m going with it.

Who is your favourite children's book character and why?

Do you know what? I’m not going to answer that! Because, for me, it’s not just about character. Or plot. Or theme. Brilliant books have all those things in abundance while also celebrating language.

As a writer, I love a strong theme and a well-constructed scene (or even just a cracker of a sentence). As a reader, I want a page turner, images I can wallow in and characters I can relate to.

In a way, it annoys me when one of these things take over… an issue-driven book that lets plot or characterisation fall to the way side, or a plot-heavy book that cares nothing for beautiful words. 

I don’t want one. I want it all.

What are you working on next?

Right now I’m trying to weave some random ideas and characters into something resembling a coherent story. When I have one, I’ll let you know.

Thanks so much for such an inspiring, candid Q&A, Sarah! I can't wait for your book to be out in the world and I look forward to the next one.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie – review

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn't want to go to parties - in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book. It's like she hasn't found her people...

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING - especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body. But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it's the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed's fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself ...

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

I was really excited as soon as I heard about The Paper & Hearts Society – a bookish novel from one of my favourite bookish YouTubers! 

My favourite thing about this book is how relatable it is. Tabby's experiences seemed authentic and her reactions to social situations felt very familiar from my teen years. I really enjoyed reading this book as an adult and I definitely would have adored it as a teenager!

The voice of this book also feels really natural and heartfelt. Through realistic dialogue and the narrative that gave an insight into Tabby's thoughts, it really felt like you got to know her as a character. I also liked the secondary characters, especially Tabby's friendship with Ed. It reminded me a lot of friendships I had with boys as a teen and was just really lovely!

Another great part is the bookish references. I'd read a lot the YA books that Tabby references but came away from the book determined to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I also really liked it that the characters go on a literary road trip, particularly as I'd visited a couple of the locations.

This book is a light, fun read that made me feel happy and uplifted (except when I was worried for Tabby). It's a brilliant start to a series and I'm already looking forward to the next instalment!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Queen of Sea and Stars blog tour – Q&A with Anna McKerrow

Today is my stop on the Queen of Sea and Stars blog tour, an adult series that I'm really excited to read (and I adore the covers!). I've got a Q and A with Anna about her brilliant books, recommendations and writing process.

Tell us about Queen of Sea and Stars.It’s the second in the Elemental Kingdoms series and follows the main character Faye Morgan as she moves temporarily down to London to be with her new boyfriend and get away from the drama at home in Abercolme, a small village on the Fife coast. Faye is a hereditary witch who runs a witchy shop there called Mistress of Magic, and in book one realises that she is connected to the faerie realms. In fact, she’s half-faery. Yet the faerie kingdoms are very dangerous, so Faye and Rav quite rightly feel that by the end of book1 (Daughter of Light and Shadows) they need a bit of a change!

Fortunately/unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it’s not that easy for Faye to leave the faerie kingdoms, and in London she still finds it calling to her. She meets a coven of London witches, and in a ritual on Hampstead Heath (a regular venue for covens and lone witches) she finds herself drawn back into faerie, but this time, somewhere rather different to before. There is an increasing peril both for her and for others in being in the faerie realms (which I won’t spoiler for you here) and Faye finds that she has to make some pretty difficult choices to be true to herself and save herself and her friends from rather unpleasant fates.

Where book 1 was set in the wild Scottish landscape, book 2 is a real celebration of being a city witch, and of some of the magical places in London.

What draws you to write about magic and romance?
I always write about magic, because I think it’s important to put magic as a real life activity, rather than a fantasy subgenre, out there on the page. People are doing magic of all kinds all the time – meditation, visualisation, journeying, ritual, connection with gods, devotional practices, religious practices – which are important to them, across a range of cultures. I dislike the modern idea that spirituality and religion is inferior to intellectual atheism. I don’t like the fact that witchcraft is seemingly only included in literature as fantasy or as negative. I try to challenge that.

What inspired you to write for adults?
Honestly? The publisher of my YA series cancelled my trilogy immediately after book 2 was released which had a big impact on sales, as you can imagine. I initially went on submission with a middle grade novel after – every publisher said they really liked it but ultimately said no because the YA trilogy had sold low. Fortunately Bookouture liked my idea for this series and so here I am. Looking back, I’m actually relieved, as YA sells very little by comparison unless you are one of the bestsellers, and I really enjoy writing for adults. So it all worked out in the end!

Can you recommend any YA or adult books for readers who want more witchcraft?

I’d definitely recommend Circe by Madeleine Miller, which really captures a witch learning her craft over time 
 and is beautifully written, and a timely retelling of the myth. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic are lovely  contemporary-ish New York family with magical gifts and a deep consideration of magic and relationships. In terms of real witchcraft, I would always point readers towards Dion Fortune’s occult novels which have yet to be bettered. Kala Trobe had an excellent collection of short stories out a while ago called The Magic Bookshop which may be out of print now. Also out of print but excellent on the old goddess traditions in England and King Arthur myth are Daughter of Tintagel by Fay Sampson and of course The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Most witches I know love Outlander (books and TV) and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t read American Gods and Anansi Boys to read those and reflect on how few books we see that posit the radical ideas that gods and goddesses we see in mythology are alive and well, and able to be communicated with. Obviously, there is a ton of nonfiction I could recommend, but specialist publishers like Avalonia, Llewellyn, Moon Books, Weiser and Capall Bann are all excellent.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

This is not a job for the faint-hearted. Actually, for most of us, it’s not a job at all, it’s something we do on the side of various other things. Be prepared for the fact you will probably not make much money from this at all 
 like, FAR below minimum wage. Find a rich partner who doesn’t mind supporting you, or parents that don’t mind you never moving out. It can take a really, really long time – ten years, more – to get to the book that becomes well known, or sells well, etc, if at all. Most advice for aspiring authors is ‘keep going, you’ll get there, put the hours in’ which is absolutely true. However, the flip side of that is that all the time you’re spending writing, and staying in part time/less demanding jobs that allow you to write, means that you’re not going for that well paid job, you’re not spending time with your family, you are most likely making decisions as to holidays and social activities because you can’t afford to do them… and so on.

Even if you sell a book and it gets a big advance 
– the dream – writing isn’t a job with a steady paycheck. You might not get one of those big cheques again, and it absolutely doesn’t guarantee you’ll get another book published. Basically, the economics of writing are terrible, which means we don’t end up reading books from many talented authors because they simply cannot afford to work and not be paid, or they can’t live with the ongoing instability of this kind of creative career. The longer I’m a writer, the more I realise that publishing (rather than the craft of writing itself, a wonderful and beautiful thing) is less about talent and more about commercial trends and who can afford to hang in there longer.

In addition, you live with constant rejection, envy of other writers, reading awful reviews of your work and worrying that your book isn’t selling well enough, or getting overseas deals, or being nominated for awards etc etc, so it takes a philosophical attitude and a lot of determination to get through.

For writers reading this, I wish you all the luck and success in the world, but I also think that if you’re in a position to have an actual stable career that you’d really enjoy, like dentistry or surveying, then do that.

What does your writing process look like?

I currently write two days a week, 9
2 and sometimes in evenings. I aim for a minimum of 2000 words a day but will frequently write more, so up to 4000 a day really. I write mostly in a linear progression and then edit and move bits around etc. A lot of my “good” writing is in the editing stage!

If you could have any magical power, what would it be and why?

We all have magical powers! The tragedy is that more people don’t have this view.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a witch-themed cozy mystery for Bookouture, which is out in October.

Thank you so much Anna! I always love getting recommendations and advice from authors (and appreciate your honesty!).

If you would like to check out other stops on the blog tour, you can use the banner below.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Mera: Tidebreaker blog tour

Princess Mera is teenage royalty and heir to the throne of Xebel, a colony ruled by the other no-so-lost land under the sea, Atlantis. Her father, his court, and the entire kingdom are expecting her to marry and introduce a new king. But Mera is destined to wear a different crown....

When the Xebellian military plots to overthrow Atlantis and break free of its oppressive regime, Mera seizes the opportunity to take control of her own destiny by assassinating Arthur Curry—the long-lost prince and heir to the kingdom of Atlantis. But her mission gets sidetracked when Mera and Arthur unexpectedly fall in love. Will Arthur Curry be the king at Mera’s side, or will he die under her blade as she attempts to free her people from persecution?

I’m super excited to join the blog tour for Mera: Tidebreaker because I loved her character in the Aquaman movie. Add in the fact that it was written by Danielle Paige and you’ve got a perfect combination!

Stephen Byrne’s artwork is absolutely stunning. Both Aquaman and Mera's personalities and expressions really come through the artwork (and they look gorgeous). The muted ocean shades create a stunning contrast to Mera's hair, too. 

I really enjoyed the plot of this graphic novel and the suggested origin story for Mera and Aquaman. Danielle Paige’s witty dialogue created some real chemistry between them and I’m a huge fan of the enemy to friends arc. The storyline felt very fresh and I enjoyed the transition from a setting under the ocean to on land.

Mera is definitely a character that I want to see more of. I loved Danielle Paige's portrayal of Mera as a fierce warrior who is conflicted about her responsibilities as princess, and could teeter over into villainy.

I haven’t read a graphic novel for ages and this has definitely made me want to read more! It’s a fun, romantic read and I hope to see more collaborations between Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne in the future.

You can check out the other tour stops for this brilliant graphic novel using the banner.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Viper by Bex Hogan – review

Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father.

It's been a while since I've read a fantasy book this unique and exciting. I lent my copy to a friend, and she stayed up until 2am reading. That's how good Viper is!

One of the best things about Viper is the characters. Marianne is a great protagonist, who I liked from the beginning but got even more attached to as she developed through the book. 

There was also a fantastic cast of secondary characters: Torin, Grace and Bronn were just three of my favourites. It was also refreshing that the antagonists of the book were genuinely threatening and it felt like Marianne was in real danger.

The world of this book is also vividly described and there was a great balance of scenes at land and sea. There's definitely scope for more of the setting to be revealed as the series progresses. 

Another great part of this book is the plot. It was gripping, well-paced and not at all predictable. It really got me in the feels too!

This is a brilliant start to a series and I'm excited to see where it goes next! It comes out tomorrow (18th April) and I'd definitely recommend picking it up.

Thank you to Orion Children's Books for the review copy!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Slayer by Kiersten White – review

Into every generation, a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers – girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead, she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One – she’s the last Slayer, ever. As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested – because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

It probably goes without saying that I'm a massive Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I was so excited to read something new set in the same world and this book slotted into the mythology really well.

Kiersten White obviously loves the series too and that really comes across in Slayer. The story followed on seamlessly from the end of Season 7 and incorporated details from the series throughout. The dialogue was also in keeping with the TV show's witty, entertaining style. The Irish setting was a nice touch, as it differentiated the books from the familiar California landscape.

I enjoyed the storyline of Nina getting used to her powers and what it means to be a slayer. The whole story was a really fun read, exploring familiar tropes from the series as well as some new elements.

This is a really promising start and I'll look forward to the next instalment. In the meantime, I've heard great things about The Conqueror's Trilogy by Kiersten White so I might get started on those...

Thank you Simon and Schuster Children's UK for the review copy!

Monday, 25 March 2019

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town review

Jude Lomax scrapes a living playing the trumpet on the neon streets of Baton Noir. Then she is invited to play at the funeral of the infamous cajou queen, Ivory Monette. Passing through the cemetery gates, Jude finds herself possessed by the murdered queen’s spirit. And Ivory won’t rest until she’s found the person responsible for her death.

If Jude wants to be rid of the vengeful spirit, she must take a journey deep into the dangerous underbelly of the city, from the swampy depths of the Black Bayou to the velvet opulence of the vampires’ secret jazz clubs. But as Jude untangles Ivory’s web of secrets, she is confronted with a few dark truths from her own past…

I'm a huge fan of Alex Bell's writing so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of this book! If you haven't read Frozen Charlotte and the prequel Charlotte Says, they're deliciously creepy reads. Music and Malice in Hurricane Town is quite different but I enjoyed it even more.

The setting in this book is gorgeously described and so evocative. It's inspired by New Orleans and captured the city perfectly, as well as adding plenty of great fantastical elements and a compelling mystery.

Have I mentioned how much I love vampires? The Gothic and supernatural qualities of this book are written so well, with the creepy elements that I enjoyed so much in Alex Bell's other books. It's about time vampires made a comeback and Stripes Publishing are killing it, first with Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan and now Music and Malice in Hurricane Town.

Another brilliant thing about this book is the characters. Jude is an awesome main character, with plenty of agency, wit and bravery. I also really liked the cast of supernatural (and human) minor characters.

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town comes out on 4th April and is a gripping, brilliantly written book with touches of horror, romance and plenty of action. 

Thank you Stripes Publishing for the review copy!

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Proud blog tour – Frank Duffy guest post

I'm thrilled to join the blog tour for Proud, the fantastic anthology of short stories, poetry and illustrations by authors and artists that identify as part of the LBBTQ+ community. You can read my 5-star review here.

My stop on the blog tour is a guest post from Frank Duffy about their illustration process, with gorgeous images of their artwork from the anthology. 

Proud illustration

Whenever I’m commissioned to create an illustration the first thing I do is find the energy of the piece. I read it over and over and then I sleep on it and I draw the images that come to mind after my sleep – little thumbnail scribbles that wouldn’t mean much to anyone else, just visual shorthand.

And with this piece the energy is swirly: there is the swirl of hormones and emotions, there is grief and shame, there is desire and there is the spinning and spinning of the records that accompany all these feelings in the main character.

It seemed obvious to me to combine the swirly energy with the image of the moon and stars that we see on the roof of the bus and with the spinning of a record, and to have this swirliness as the backdrop to one queer girl reaching out to another with a steadying hand. I wanted this to be about a moment of confused loneliness shattered.

I pretty much always create a grid of thirds in my sketchbook, dividing the page into three horizontally and vertically, and then composing the image with this grid in mind. The image came to me straight away. It’s a hard process to describe - a combination of intuition, logic and experience. If an image takes too long to come to me then I know it’s the wrong one.

With linocut the image is carved in reverse, a mirror, so that needs to be born in mind. I inked it up, printed it by hand, waited for it to dry, scanned it and sent it off – and am so very proud to be part of this incredible book!


Thank you so much Frank for sharing how you created this amazing artwork! It's fascinating to compare the linocut to the finished image.

Frank Duffy is a nonbinary trans person from Cardiff. They have been a freelance graphic designer and illustrator for fifteen years, and have an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University. They have written and illustrated a partly autobiographical art book about gender, the shifting nature of identity and the self – visit their website for more information. @MxFrankDuffy

You can check out the other stops on the Proud blog tour using the banner below.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Simon and Schuster's Big Book Brunch

I had an amazing time at Simon and Schuster's Big Book Brunch last weekend! It was a great opportunity to hear about their amazing upcoming books and meet up with lovely people. This is my (slightly belated) rundown of their YA titles that I'm the most excited about. Thank you to Chelley Toy and Olivia Gacka for the candid photos!

There were so many great titles that I've included covers, quick blurbs and links below so you can check them out. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconsis is out now and the movie, starring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson, will be released in March. It sounds like a perfectly heart-wrenching story of two teens suffering from cystic fibrosis who can't get within a few feet of each other without risking their lives.

Next up is my current, brilliant read Slayer by Kiersten White. It's set in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer after season 7.

We then got to hear from Laura Bates, best known for her non-fiction and the Everyday Sexism Project, about her debut YA The Burning. It sets a devastating modern-day story of sexting against the historical story of a witch trial and I can't wait to read it!

Amy McCulloch was also there to tell us about Unleashed, the much anticipated sequel to Jinxed. I love this series so much and it was great to hear from Amy about her time as a kid participating in science fairs. We also got to hear an exclusive extract from the beginning of the book and it was fantastic! I don't know how I'll wait until it comes out in August.

Below are other amazing Simon and Schuster titles that are coming soon.

        Out now!                           May                              April                                

Thank you Simon and Schuster for inviting us to your gorgeous offices and for telling us all about the lovely books! I can't wait to read them.