Friday, 12 July 2019

Take a Chance on Me – review

The brand-new sunny, funny, feel-good rom com from bestselling Beth Garrod, perfect for fans of TO ALL THE BOYS I'VE LOVED BEFORE and THE KISSING BOOTH. Meg had a disastrous first kiss she would rather forget, but this is the summer she puts it behind her. This is the summer she has a perfect, swoony, just-like-in-the-movies kiss with a hot boy - and what better setting than the sun-drenched Greek island she's holidaying on? But with three very different boys vying for her attention, this mission to reset her first kiss may be more complicated than she bargained for...

Take a Chance on Me is a hilarious, summery and romantic read about friendship and feeling good about yourself.

I really enjoyed the multiple potential love interests in this story and I kept changing my mind about who Meg might end up with (if anyone). As great as the romance was, it was Meg's friendship with Neet that made me feel all warm inside. Their relationship was so lovely and realistic and is definitely friendship goals. It was also refreshing that the book delved into family dynamics, for Meg and Neet. 

I also really liked how the book was more about Meg learning to feel comfortable in her skin and see her own worth than it was about gaining approval from others. It feels like Meg goes on a real journey through the book and I loved that. With the brilliant voice and humour, it feels like you really get to know her.

The Greek island setting of the book is gorgeous. It's the perfect book to take on a sunny holiday or to escape for a while from the unpredictable British weather. 

Thank you to Scholastic for the review copy! 

Friday, 14 June 2019

My Secret Lies With You blog tour – Faye's Favourite Mysteries

I'm a huge fan of Faye's tense, intriguing books, so it's lovely to share one of Faye's favourite YA mystery novels as part of the blog tour. You can check out my review of My Secret Lies With You here.

Lying About Last Summer

What I loved about this book was that we were in one location for a short period of time and we weren’t sure, once we got there, who we should trust. A tragic past event takes us into the world of the book; Skye’s parents now are sending her to a camp for bereaved teens after the death of her sister. We go with Skye there. 

In many ways this story has all the makings of a classic Agatha Christie mystery in its set up. And what I loved about it was the ending, which for me, felt like the gift that kept on giving. I can’t say too much about it here because I don’t want to create spoilers, but clearly endings are completely crucial to the success or not of a mystery story. The end of a mystery needs to be satisfying – it needs to answer all the questions that the reader has asked as they’ve read – and it also needs to be credible, authentic to what has happened to get us to this point. As a reader we look for resolution in a way that continues to sit well with the characters we’ve got to know. We hope for a resolution that still might, in some way, surprise us. But we don’t want the surprise to be so outrageous as to be ridiculous or so slight as to be disappointing. Endings need to deliver on the built up tension. They need to entertain. 

For the writer this can be a hard thing to achieve – it requires a specific graft to deliver a conclusion that does all of these things – and I felt that Sue Wallman delivered it perfectly in Lying About Last Summer. In lots of ways the ending crept up on me. I was aware of building tensions between characters throughout the story, but because I was so intent on the resolution to the main mystery, and because I was so immersed in its conclusion, I didn’t anticipate the ending would unfold quite as it did. Here was a real finale! There was danger, in fact there was proper peril – I really felt it – and then as the danger subsided an internal resolution emerged. For me this was a thrilling and satisfying ending brilliantly done and I loved it! I’m looking forward to Sue’s new book, Dead Popular, which is due out in August 2019.

I agree, Faye – Lying About Last Summer is a great mystery with a memorable ending. Thank you for sharing one of your favourite mysteries Faye!

My Secret Lies With You is out now. 

Saturday, 8 June 2019

My Secret Lies With You by Faye Bird – review

Three close friends… Two unforgettable summers… One girl’s darkest secret…

Alys appeared last summer, and then she vanished without a trace.

Ifan fell in love with her. Hannah hated her. And Marko regrets what they did.

This summer, Cait is new in town, and a girl has been reported missing. Cait needs to uncover the truth. What happened last summer? And who is Alys?

I really enjoyed What I Couldn't Tell You by Faye Bird and this is another intriguing, unsettling mystery.

The wild Welsh coastal setting suited the mystery perfectly and made me want to spend more time in Wales. The location was gorgeously described and used to great effect in the plot.

I also enjoyed piecing together the plot from the viewpoint of different characters. Each voice is distinct and reveals another part of the mystery.

I love a summer book and I liked the idea of forcing the characters to reflect on disturbing events from the previous year. It was interesting trying to see how the two timelines would intersect, though I felt the events could have been explored in more detail. 

This is a quick, tense read with an engaging mystery at its heart. Look out for my stop on the blog tour next week, with one of Faye Bird's favourite mysteries.

Thank you to Usborne for the review copy! 

Monday, 3 June 2019

Gumiho (Wicked Fox) by Kat Cho – review

Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret--she's a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt.

But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead--her gumiho soul--in the process.

Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl--he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to men. He's drawn to her anyway. When he finds her fox bead, he does not realize he holds her life in his hands.

With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous and reignite a generations-old feud . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon's.

As soon as I read that blurb, I knew I'd love this book. Gumiho (Wicked Fox) is a gorgeously written YA fantasy that weaves the gumiho Korean myth into an addictive story set in modern-day Seoul. 

I'm a huge fan of fiction grounded in mythology and I was hooked from the moment I read about the gumiho myth. It makes for a deliciously dark hook for a YA novel and I thought there was a really interesting contrast between Miyoung's life as a gumiho and her sweet relationship with Jihoon.

I really liked the way Gumiho immerses the reader in Seoul with gorgeous, sensory descriptions and I enjoyed reading about modern Korean culture. It felt very authentic and well-researched (and it's own voices too). 

I also very much enjoyed the romance. The progression of Miyoung and Jihoon's relationship felt very natural (and I love a good hate to love story arc). It's also refreshing that the book explores the relationships of both main characters with their families, from the good moments to the heartbreaking ones. 

Gumiho (Wicked Fox) is a thrilling start to the series, with a gripping plot, evocative writing and plenty of romance.

Thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy!

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood – review

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.

When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancĂ©e, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?

With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love... A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

A Sky Painted Gold was my favourite book of last year so my expectations were exceptionally high for Under a Dancing Star. Somehow, it managed to exceed all of them and I loved it even more than A Sky Painted Gold. It's another deliciously dreamy, romantic and summery book. 

The romance is my absolute favourite thing about it. Laura Wood crafts connections and chemistry between characters so beautifully. The mounting tension between Bea and Ben is incredible and I don't have the words for how good the kissing scenes are... 

I also thought the characters in this book are brilliant. Even the most fleeting of appearances was memorable and the secondary characters had their own stories. I think Ursula was my favourite of them and I would happily read a whole book about her.

The character I liked the most though had to be Bea. She's so smart, strong-willed and hilarious. She had me laughing out loud at some of the situations she found herself in and her character arc through the book was very satisfying. I could also write a whole review about the loveliness of Ben, but I'll keep it brief. Once again, Laura has created an exceptionally appealing book boy and I enjoyed his interactions with Bea so very much.

I found the descriptions in this book so gorgeous and sensory. The settings are evoked brilliantly and the food sounded mouth-wateringly good. 

It's a really creative idea to write a prequel to Much Ado About Nothing and Under a Dancing Star executes it brilliantly. I want to read the play again to see how all of the elements tie in. It felt very well researched  the details of each location and the time period brought the story to life. 

I loved everything about this book and I felt so uplifted by the end. Along with A Sky Painted Gold, this is one of my favourite YA books and I can't wait to have the gorgeous finished copy in my hands.

Thank you to Laura Wood for the beautiful photograph of the book!

Alex in Wonderland review

In the town of Newsands, painfully shy Alex is abandoned by his two best friends for the summer. But he unexpectedly lands a part-time job at Wonderland, a run-down amusement arcade on the seafront, where he gets to know the other teen misfits who work there. Alex starts to come out of his shell, and even starts to develop feelings for co-worker Ben... who, as Alex's bad luck would have it, has a girlfriend.

Then as debtors close in on Wonderland and mysterious, threatening notes start to appear, Alex and his new friends take it on themselves to save their declining employer. But, like everything in Wonderland, nothing is quite what it seems...

Simon James Green's story in Proud was one of my favourites, so I was really excited to read Alex in Wonderland. It's just as good as I hoped, with plenty of humour, romance and even a mystery thrown in.

Alex is a great narrator – funny, believable and likeable. This book is very much a coming of age story and I loved how it explores all different aspects of Alex's life, including his family, friendships and summer jobs. His fears and insecurities are so relatable.

The romance in this book is so very sweet and slow-burning. I was rooting for Alex's relationship from the start and I was very happy with how it ended. It's a testament to how good these characters are that I didn't want to let go of them at the end. If there's not a sequel, then I'll definitely have to read Alex in Wonderland again!

I feel like humour is one of the hardest things to pull off in a book, and Simon James Green does it flawlessly. Situations escalate to hilarious conclusions and he really knows how to find the funny, awkward parts in everyday life.

I had so much fun reading this book. It's the perfect sweet, summery read and I can't recommend it enough!

Monday, 27 May 2019

The Kingdom blog tour – Jess Rothenberg Q&A

It's great to join the blog tour for The Kingdom, as I had so much fun reading this book! It has a fast-paced narrative interspersed with court transcripts, interviews and other interesting snippets. It's also told from the very unique perspective of an AI character. I'll hand over to Jess now, to explain a bit more about this brilliant book.

Tell us about The Kingdom.

The Kingdom is a blend of sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and courtroom thriller—think Westworld meets Disney World meets the Serial podcast for teens—and is set in a futuristic theme park where seven half-human, half-android Fantasists (picture Disney princesses, but bioengineered with advanced artificial intelligence) have been created to make guests’ wildest dreams come true, no matter what. But when one of the Kingdom’s most beloved Fantasists, Ana, is accused of murdering a young park employee named Owen she ignites the trial of the century. Did she do it? Could she do it? The truth is dangerous… and nobody wants the Kingdom to fall.

What inspired the futuristic subject matter?

Well, the initial inspiration behind the book is that my mom worked at Disney one summer when she was in college, and I always loved her stories of what really went on behind the scenes. The idea of this happy, perfect-seeming fantasy land with plenty of secrets lurking below the surface has always stuck with me.

But in terms of The Kingdom’s futuristic elements, I’ve always been a bit of a pop science nerd and can’t help feeling both fascinated and a little bit terrified of how reliant we’ve all become upon our technology—and how quickly that technology seems to be changing, learning, evolving. What might this all look like in another fifty years or even less? It honestly doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch to imagine the line between humanity and technology becoming blurred to the point where the current code of ethics no longer quite applies. I mean, I already feel guilty every time I forget to “feed” (i.e. charge) my son’s surprisingly cute toy robot, Cozmo. But what will happen when the robot eventually looks and acts like a real dog? Or when Alexa starts to know us better than our own family members? Or when Apple introduces its first ‘iFriend’ home assistant? To me, a dazzling, Disney-esque theme park of the future seemed a really fun and potentially scary setting to explore some of those questions.

The Kingdom has a very interesting narrative structure, with the first person narrative interspersed with trial transcripts. What made you decide on this structure?

I’ve always enjoyed stories that don’t quite follow the rules—books that blend genre and include mixed-media as part of their narrative structure. Ultimately, I wanted the read to feel as immersive as the park itself—experiencing Ana’s unique point of view as a Fantasist while simultaneously puzzling though the clues alongside members of the court to decide whether or not she is guilty (or even capable) of murder.

Can you recommend any other YA with science-fiction elements?

I’m a big fan of The Illuminae Files, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. With its wildly creative mixed-media format (think hacked documents, military and medical records, emails, messages and maps) it’s truly a reading experience unlike any other. I also adore Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza.

Can you give any writing advice to aspiring authors?

Make writing part of your daily routine. Try not to think about it too much, just sit down and begin. When it’s hard, take a walk, brainstorm with friends, have a dance party in your pajamas, and remind yourself why you wanted to be a writer in the first place: the magic, the fun, the joy, the connection. And when you’re not writing, read!

If you could create any ride in a theme park, what would it be and why?

I’d take Soarin’ at Epcot to the next level—just you, no hang glider—so you’d get to experience the insanely thrilling sensation of flying over cities, forests, oceans, pretty much anywhere on earth. In other words, the greatest flying dream brought to life. Just make sure you book a fast pass!

Will there be a sequel to The Kingdom? What are you working on next?

For now, The Kingdom is a standalone novel. But Ana’s world has plenty of possibility. You never know what might happen…. J

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Jess! A lot of those inspirations about the scary potential of AI and a dystopian Disneyland definitely came through the plot. I really hope there is a sequel!

If you're a fan of fun, high-tension YA sci-fi, I'd definitely recommend checking out The Kingdom.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson – review

Jana Novak's history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she's uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she's unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.

But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.

Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall...

Content warnings: sexual assault, drug use, bullying and eating disorders

Every book I read by Juno Dawson just seems to get better and better. Meat Market is brutally honest, brilliantly written and will take you through every emotion.

The voice is one of my favourite parts about this book. Jana feels like a real person and it's like you're living every up and down of the story with her. The dialogue is punchy and realistic, and there are so many memorable characters.

I read this book in less than 24 hours because I had to know what happened. The plot delves unflinchingly into what the fashion industry is like and some scenes are really hard to read. I thought it was great that Meat Market explores the good things about the industry too and that it emphasises how people have the power to change things for the better.

This is one of the best books I've read this year and a week after finishing, I'm still thinking about it. It made me laugh, cry and ultimately feel really uplifted. Thanks Ed Public Relations for the review copy!

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.