Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Books of the year - authors and bloggers edition

I've asked some authors, bloggers and friends to share their books of the year in this post. They've made some amazing choices (and added to my already unthinkable TBR pile!) In case you missed it, you can check out my books of the year blog post here.

Lauren James

Here's my favourite books of the year so far: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/4254869-lauren-james?shelf=top-ten-of-2017

I particularly liked The Pearl Thief and Sourdough, both very unusual and unique stories that I haven't been able to get out of my head since I finished them.

Alwyn Hamilton

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse - This 2017 Debut is about one girl's last seven days in her expat community in Tokyo. It really resonated with me as an expat but also brought me into a whole new unfamiliar world with the fabulous Japanese setting, through the eyes of someone who straddles the line between belonging there and not belonging. If you loved Stephanie Perkins's Anna and the French Kiss, you'll love this one too.

Virginie from Chouett Blog
It has be The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius. Not as well-known as most children's books, but a beautiful tale. It has been translated from Swedish and is published by @PushkinPress. I loved it for its simplicity and the principles and faith that the main character adheres to to achieve a goal. A really beautiful book. One of those stories we no longer write.

Zoe from No Safer Place

I mean, did anyone expect any different from me? After the Fire captured my heart in a way no other book has ever managed to do. Our protagonist, Moonbeam has just been removed from a cult and is now seeing a psychiatrist in a rehabilitation unit. We are taken on her journey through recovery, and discovering what really happened inside the cult and the awful ordeals she suffered. This book is raw, gritty and beautifully written. Not only is this the best book of 2017, but the best book I've ever read. Warning: emotions will run high when reading this book.

Aimee (@aimee_louise_l)

A story of empowerment and finding your true self, even when you seem most invisible, Wing Jones is my favourite book of 2017. Despite feeling 2nd best and often invisible, Wing finds a hidden talent after her brother ends up in an accident. Lacing up her trainers and with the help of magical realism, Wing discovers that running helps her feel free. If anything, Katherine Webber has written a novel that speaks to the heart and encourages female empowerment.

Holly (@HollyStorm)

1.The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James - gorgeous, read in 2 sittings and the twist gave me actual fear! 
2.Silver Silence by Nalini Singh- I've waited for Silver's story for so long! The Psy-changeling series is my go to, everyone should read these books! (Not YA!) 
3.The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli - I was rather down when I read this. It pulled me out of my mood and slump and it's a beautiful book of adventure,fierce women and villains. 4. Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody - LOVED this world, the writing, the characters, everything!

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed!

Tomorrow, the amazing author of Wing Jones Katherine Webber will share her books of the year. 

Monday, 11 December 2017

My books of the year 2017

It's been a fantastic year for YA books! This week, I'll be releasing a new 'Books of the year' post each day, featuring the books chosen by my favourite authors and bloggers.

To kick off my 'Books of the year' week, I'm going to share my favourite books published this year. It was really hard to narrow down, and quite a few amazing books didn't make the list, but I've settled on a mixture of favourite authors, incredible debuts and established authors that I've just discovered. 

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber is my favourite debut of the year. It's a gorgeous written, whimsical and uplifting book about following your dreams. Wing is one of my favourite main characters of the year because she felt so real to me, with all the strengths and flaws that comes with that.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton is amazing for being a sequel that is just as good as its predecessor, if not better. This book is so unique for combining elements of western and fantasy genres into something new and absolutely riveting. The characters and settings are wonderful and I can't wait to see how this series will end!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is the first Lauren James book I've read, and it certainly won't be the last. I don't think I've ever read a science-fiction book that accurately depicts what it's like to be a teenager. It's also the most tense, gripping book I read all year and the plot took me completely by surprise.

Truth or Dare by Non Pratt has some of the most realistic teen characters I've ever come across. The structure of reading half of the book from one character's perspective and half from another felt completely fresh. This book uplifted me, made me cry and made me think.

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore is one of the best magical realism books I've ever read. For me, no other author so vividly evokes the senses or delves so convincingly into characters' thoughts. Anna-Marie McLemore has become one of my favourite authors, and her books just keep getting better.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it ended up being my favourite. The world is so vividly realised and the fantastical elements are creative and completely distinctive. I always love the worlds Laini creates and I'm so excited to read the conclusion of this duology.

Tomorrow, visit my blog to find out the books of the year of some of my favourite authors and bloggers! You can check the schedule below to find out what's happening over the rest of the week.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - review

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

I received this book for free on Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone...except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both. (Publisher's blurb)

I couldn't have been more excited about this book - what could be better than one of my favourite authors writing about superheroes?

I was a bit slow to get into Renegades at first, partially because it took me a while to get to grips with who all of the characters were. When I did, I really liked the large cast! It was great to get an insight into the 'heroes' and 'villains', and to decide for myself who really fell into those categories. As usual, Marissa Meyer has created really interesting, likeable characters, and I enjoyed both Nova and Adrians' viewpoints. 

The plot had a good balance of action and character development, and the witty dialogue kept me entertained. Renegades did a really good job of exploring different aspects of the superhero genre and I thought the range of powers was really inventive. Adrian's ability was my favourite, although I'd quite like to be invincible too!

By the time I got to the end of this, I was completely hooked, and I don't know how I'm going to wait for the next book in the series!

If you liked the sound of this, try Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo or Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Tower of Dawn Waterstones event write-up

I had a fantastic time at the Tower of Dawn Waterstones event on Wednesday. Sarah J Maas and Samantha Shannon were both absolutely lovely and we heard so many interesting stories from Sarah. These are some of my favourite parts of the event. All of this is paraphrased from my hastily scribbled notes, so all errors are my own!

The photographs for this post were taken by my lovely friend Holly (who you can also see in one of them). You can find her on Twitter (@HollyStorm) or Instagram (sardothianqueenc).

It turns out that Tower of Dawn was supposed to be a novella about Chaol. After a frenzied week of writing, Sarah had a 100,000 word draft! This doubled over the 9 months that she worked on the book. The timeline runs parallel to Empire of Storms and then Tower of Dawn goes further.

A Court of Frost and Starlight is coming out in May and it'll be about 60,000 words rather than a full-length novel. 

Nesryn has become one of Sarah's favourite characters. Tower of Dawn gave Sarah the opportunity to explore epic fantasy and the southern continent through Nesryn's eyes. She always knew Yrene would come back and it was so hard to wait for her! Yrene's strength is quieter and there's something soothing about writing her voice. 

Chaol's story was one of hope and healing. He starts at a low point, which Sarah has been planning for a while. To do this story justice, Sarah couldn't have squeezed it into Empire of Storms.

As Chaol is in a wheelchair, Sarah wanted to approach his story respectfully. She did a lot of research and read stories about wounded veterans. She has sensitivity readers and wanted to make it as accurate as possible.

The world building was quite different for Tower of Dawn. Sarah's known for years that it would have a Mongolian Empire feel but it's not a historical novel. Sarah is fascinated by Genghis Khan. In his empire, there was free, almost universal education. They also had a policy of religious tolerance.

Sarah was raised by women with different kinds of strength. She told a fascinating story about her grandmother, who was a holocaust survivor. She was a Jewish child in Nazi Germany. Her family had tickets to England before the borders closed but her mother decided not to leave Germany because their family was there. Sarah's grandmother remembers her father being taken one night by the Gestapo, and they didn't find out what happened to him until after the war. Sarah's great grandmother got the children into an organisation that smuggled children out of Germany and put them on a train.

After living with a Belgian family, Sarah's grandmother ended up in the south of France. She refused to get on a boat to America until they found her brother. He ended up being only a couple of miles down the road. It wasn't until they saw the Statue of Liberty that she knew she was safe. She didn't know what happened to her parents, but eventually, her father found them. Her mother had sadly died during the war. Sarah said she felt honoured to tell her grandmother’s story, and is proud to be the granddaughter of an immigrant. Tower of Dawn is dedicated to her grandmother. Yrene is not based on her grandmother exactly, but bits of the story are hers. Yrene feels a moment of connection to the women who came before her, and one of the these women has Sarah’s great grandmother’s name.

I've told this story pretty much in full because it really moved me, and I was touched how open Sarah was about her family's history.

Sarah’s grandma is her favourite person. She’s 87 now, and a tiny little lady. Still, she’s full of life, energy and curiosity despite the horrible things she went through. She still travels the world and wants to see everything. Sarah has learnt from her that it’s important to live life with your eyes and your heart open.

Sarah explained that she rarely gives bits of herself to a character, but she did give Aelin her hatred of fish! When Sarah wrote Heir of Fire, she realised that she started to like fish and now Aelin does too!

Samantha and Sarah discussed where in the world they would like to visit. Samantha would love to go to Venice, and to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Sarah wants to visit Patagonia. When she travels, she likes to feel part of the hustle and bustle or visit places where no one is around.

In response to a fan’s question about accents, Sarah said that everyone in her head has the 'Lord of the Rings accent'. She jokes that whatever accent you imagine is the ‘hottest possible accent’ is the accent they have.

There was also a question about wedding scenes. Sarah learned when she was in high school that Jane Austen never wrote a wedding scene. Sarah tried in an early draft of A Court of Wings and Ruin and it was so cheesy! She has a plan for a spin-off book that may or not contain a wedding scene.

Apparently, her husband didn’t inspire any characters (despite popular rumours that Rhys is based on him). She said that when writing about Feyre and Rhys, she felt it was true love, which she could only write because she has it. Sarah feels lucky to have a partner that loves and respects her.

For the last book, Sarah has figured out when to bring familiar characters into the story when they will have the most impact. To prepare for writing the last book, she reread the series for the first time as published books.

I really appreciated Sarah and Samantha both being so candid during the event, and found both of them fascinating to listen to! I can’t wait to read Tower of Dawn, and all of the other exciting books to come from Sarah and Samantha in the future!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

All that she can see by Carrie Hope Fletcher - review

Publisher: Sphere (July 2017)

Cherry has a hidden talent. She can see things other people can't and she decided a long time ago to use this skill to help others. As far as the rest of the town is concerned she's simply the kind-hearted young woman who runs the local bakery, but in private she uses her gift to add something special to her cakes so that after just one mouthful the townspeople start to feel better about their lives. They don't know why they're drawn to Cherry's bakery - they just know that they're safe there and that's how Cherry likes it. She can help them in secret and no one will ever need to know the truth behind her gift.

And then Chase turns up and threatens to undo all the good Cherry has done. Because it turns out she's not the only one who can see what she sees . . . 

This book is based on a unique premise and overall I found it a charming, uplifting read!

The idea behind All that she can see is really sweet and creative. My favourite part of the book is the first half, as it has a kind-spirited feel that made me feel really happy! Cherry is likeable and her desire to help people genuinely moved me! Her optimism seems endless, and the book made me consider how we all have things going on beneath the surface that others might not be aware of. It made me think a lot about empathy and the power of emotions.

I enjoyed the plot of the book as a whole but I found the shift in tone towards the end a little jarring. As a result, I didn't feel quite so engaged by this part of the story. In a way, I would have preferred it to stay with the small town politics and interactions, as this was the part of the book that really grabbed me. 

This was an engaging, enjoyable read and I'll definitely seek out more books by Carrie Hope Fletcher in future.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Strange Weather by Joe Hill - review

Publisher: Gollancz (7th November 2017)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review. 

Strange Weather is a collection of four chilling short novels, SnapshotLoadedAloft and Rain, which range from creepy horror to powerful explorations of our modern society. The stories, though unique in themselves, are connected by an overarching theme; extraordinary meteorological happenings, or strange weather, and will appeal to lovers of both crime and science fiction. (Publishers' information)

I'm a huge Joe Hill fan, so I was thrilled to receive Strange Weather. I loved the fact that this book has a thread running through it, but at the same time has so many different elements to offer. At different points, I was disturbed, moved, amused and even angry. This is a thought-provoking, very topical book, and it draws skillfully on several genres to create something that feels very unique. 

I connected strongly with all four stories. I've intentionally not included the full blurb for each of them, because for me it was great to go into this book without knowing too much about it. Each of the novels is unpredictable, gripping and different in its way, and they had some unsettling things to say about modern society.

The voice of Joe Hill's writing is incredible. Somehow, each story has a completely distinct voice that perfectly suits its plot. There were a few unifying elements that I really enjoyed, including the use of humour, pop cultural references, and visceral descriptions.

I also really responded to the characters in this book. All of the events were filtered through their views of the world, and I found something to like (or despise) in all of them.

This is a gripping, smart book, and I'm having to resist rereading it immediately.


If you liked the sound of this, now try The Fireman by Joe Hill. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase - review

Publisher: Michael Joseph (13th July 2017)

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review. 

From the present day . . . 

Applecote Manor captivates Jessie with it promise of hazy summers in the Cotswolds. She believes it's the perfect escape for her troubled family. But the house has an unsettling history, and strange rumours surround the estate.
to the fifties . . .
When teenage Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote during the heatwave of '59, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before.
The sisters are drawn into the mystery of Audrey's vanishing - until the stifling summer takes a shocking, deadly turn. Will one unthinkable choice bind them together, or tear them apart?
Step back in time for a richly evocative mystery, where the beauty of a Cotswolds summer is vividly contrasted with the violence which shatters it.

I seem to have read a lot of books about missing people recently. This book stands out above the rest, and has so much more to it. The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde is a gripping story about sisters and coming as age, as well as an intriguing mystery that blends the past and present.  
One thing I loved about this book is how richly descriptive it is. I'm a massive fan of books set in stately homes and I thought this book captured the past and present settings really well. 
This book also has incredible plotting, with alternating voices and stories that I found equally engaging. The use of the first and third person for the two narrators worked really effectively to distinguish them.
The plot develops slowly, but this really works as the truth unravels gradually. This allowed me to try to solve the mystery, and gave plenty of opportunities to explore the interesting cast of characters.
This was a captivating book that I'd recommend to fans of historical fiction and intriguing mysteries.

If you liked the sound of this, try The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore - review

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (3rd October 2017)

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They've also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he's even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Anna-Marie McLemore has become one of my favourite authors, and everything about her books really sets them apart. The writing is beautiful, the characters feel real and her plots are so stunningly original!

Like The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours, Wild Beauty is a delight for the senses and there's such close attention to detail. There's no other book where the setting and characters are so strongly evoked. On every page, it feels like I can smell the flowers and the delicious-sounding foods. These books usually make me hungry!

Anna-Marie McLemore writes complex, well-developed and diverse characters like no other author. Somehow, I felt like I knew all of the sisters and older generations of Nomeolvides women, even though it's such a large cast of characters.

The plot of this book is stunning, and I think I went through every emotion when I was reading it. It's such a unique idea and this meant I couldn't tell where the story was going at all.

For me, this a flawless book and I read it really slowly because I wanted it to last. While I wait for Anna-Marie McLemore's next book, I think I'll reread the others.  

If you liked the sound of this, try The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours. Follow the links to check out my reviews!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Everless by Sara Holland - review

Publisher: Hachette Children's Group (4th January 2018)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything - even time. Ever since the age of alchemy and sorcery, hours, days and years have been extracted from blood and bound to iron coins. The rich live for centuries; the poor bleed themselves dry.

Jules and her father are behind on their rent and low on hours. To stop him from draining himself to clear their debts, Jules takes a job at Everless, the grand estate of the cruel Gerling family.

There, Jules encounters danger and temptation in the guise of the Gerling heir, Roan, who is soon to be married. But the web of secrets at Everless stretches beyond her desire, and the truths Jules must uncover will change her life for ever ... and possibly the future of time itself. (Publisher's blurb)

I haven't read much YA fantasy recently because it often feels quite similar. This book has some features in common with other YA fantasy, but it also has a fresh perspective that made the story feel unique and interesting.

The concept of this book is brilliant. The power of the ruling classes in fantasy is a familiar idea, but Everless took this to a new level. It was a gruesome and disturbing idea that people in need could sell their time, and this interesting premise underpinned the whole plot.   

Another thing I liked about this book was that the plot and characters surprised me. Not everything or everyone turned out how I expected, and that doesn't to me very often!

I liked Jules as a character. She didn't just get swept along by the world; she had agency and she wasn't afraid to stand up for herself as others.

This is a fresh new take on YA fantasy and a compelling start to a trilogy. How long do we have to wait for the next book?

If you liked the sound of this book, now try Ruined by Amy Tintera, which I reviewed here.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan - review

Publisher: William Heinemann (24th August 2017)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs―the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meagre worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia? (Extract from publisher's blurb)

I'm going to tread carefully during this review, as the plot is my favourite part and I don't want to give anything away! I seem to have read more adult books than normal this year, and Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is one of my favourites. 

The structure was fantastic, gradually revealing Lydia's backstory and details about Joey's life. I enjoyed trying to piece the clues together, as this is a very different, cleverly-plotted story.

I'm always a fan of a book about books, and Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore had a very unique take on the subject. I loved the bookstore setting and the way books were woven into the plot.

A real strength of this book is in the characterisation. Lydia is a complex, realistic main character, but I warmed to the secondary characters too. Even the most minor characters felt like heroes of their own stories. 

This is the perfect book for book lovers, and for anyone who enjoys a good mystery. This is one of my most memorable books of the year.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mirror Mirror by Cara Delevingne - review

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Publisher: Orion Publishing Group (4th October 2017)
Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn't perfect, but music unites them, and they're excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.
She's left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren't convinced. Will Naomi ever wake? What -­ or perhaps who - led her to that hospital bed? How did her friends fail to spot the warning signs?
While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It's a journey that will cause Red's world to crack, exposing the group's darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can't be fixed. (Publishers' blurb)

This is a hard book to review. I read it really fast because I wanted to know what happened, and it made for a tense reading experience. At the same time, I didn't feel connected to the characters, which meant I wasn't fully invested in the plot. 

I really enjoyed the sections where the band were performing or practising together, and I thought the ups and downs of their relationships were realistic. At the same time, I couldn't really relate to any of the band members, although I quite liked Red and Leo. My favourite character Ash wasn't even in the band, but I found her intriguing and I could read a whole Ash book quite happily. 

The plot kept me engaged and there were elements that were unpredictable (though I figured a few things out). 

Mirror Mirror was a tense book, and I liked the way it used elements from thrillers and contemporary novels. 

If you liked the sound of this, now try One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, which I reviewed here

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Hope by Rhian Ivory - review

Publisher: Firefly Press (15th September 2017)

Plan Bs are for people who fail.

I just never, not once, not even for a tiny moment thought I would need one.

It's the summer before sixth-form college. When Hope doesn't get into drama college, and her friends do, all her plans fall apart. She's struggling with grief for her father and a sense that her own body is against her. A chance meeting with an attractive Irish guy on a ferry and a summer job with the Singing Medicine group at Birmingham Children's Hospital force her to rethink, but it won't be easy.

This beautiful novel from Rhian Ivory is about finding your voice and having the courage to ask for help. (Publishers' Blurb)

I loved this book! Hope wasn't an easy read for me, but it was a very important one. 

It was so great that Hope tackled big issues, from serious illness to organ donation. I sometimes shy away from books that make me face up to difficult subject matters, and after reading Hope I'm going to push myself a bit more.  

I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. It felt like a realistic portrayal of being a teenager, with its challenges and uplifting moments. The different experiences that girls have with periods should be discussed so much more openly, and books like this go a long way towards breaking down these barriers. 

Hope was a great character, with a balance of strengths, flaws and interesting characteristics that made her feel very real. I also really liked the supporting cast of characters, especially Nonno. I would love to see more grandfathers and other family relationships explored in YA, which is something this book does really well.

Hope made me feel a full range of emotions, but ultimately I was left feeling that this book was very aptly titled.

If you liked the sound of this, try Release by Patrick Ness (which I reviewed here).

Sunday, 15 October 2017

My top 3 podcasts

This is my first ever post about podcasts because I’ve only recently got into them. Now that I have, I don’t know why I waited for so long. There are podcasts about every subject that I could possibly think of, and they’re usually free! These are some of my favourite podcasts that I've discovered so far. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!


This was the podcast that started it off for me. I’d read so many good things about it online that I was intrigued enough to download a podcast app and give it a go. The first series of Serial captured my interest. It was about a man called Adnan Syed who was accused of murdering his high school girlfriend and has been in prison ever since. The investigation was fascinating, listening to all of the sides of the story and trying to work out what was true. I thought the production company This American Life did a great job of providing a balanced portrayal of events, and the real-life dimension was gripping.

I’d also recommend the second series of Serial, and S-town (another podcast by This American Life).

The Black Tapes

This is my current obsession. I'm currently up to series 2 and series 3 episodes are being released every fortnight. The Black Tapes is described as 'a serialized docudrama about one journalist's search for truth, her enigmatic subject's mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both'. I don't think I can explain it any better than that! Alex Reagan is a fantastic host - she's very engaging and relateable. I love the way reality and myth merge with this series and figuring out what I believe. It's a really tense, intriguing podcast and I'm wholly invested in seeing where this goes.

The Well

This podcast is relatively new but it's made a strong start! It's about creative inspiration, and features interviews with interesting people about their slant on creative thinking and what inspires them. The hosts, Branan Edgens and Anson Mount, have a really strong connection and genuine interest in their subject matter, which makes this an interesting and inspiring listen.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Kristen Ciccarelli guest post - The Last Namsara blog tour

I received an advance reader copy of The Last Namsara from Gollancz and it's one of the best fantasy books that I've read for a long time. It has incredible mythology underpinning the world, a brave, interesting heroine and dragons. What more could you want? If you need more persuasion, you can read my review here.  

For the blog tour, I have a guest post from the lovely author Kristen Ciccarelli, who has some writing tips to share. After the guest post, you can read an author bio and a blurb for The Last Namsara. Welcome to YA Under My Skin, Kristen!

Top 3 Tips for Writers

1   First of all, if you write, call yourself a writer. I’ve met lots of people who refer to themselves as 'aspiring writers' which has never really made sense to me. If you aspire to do something, it means you’re not yet doing it. If you’re writing, then you are a writer. Own it. Take your writing seriously, and it will take you seriously.

2.  Do it because you love it. If you write books for any other reason than the writing, you’re probably going to hate being an author. It’s a hard job. You spend a lot of time alone, working under tight deadlines, and SO many things are out of your control. The only thing in your control are the words you put on the page. They need to bring you joy. If they don’t, your reader will know. And just as importantly: you won’t like being an author. You can’t do it for the external trappings. (You shouldn’t do anything for the external trappings—that is a recipe for unhappiness.) You have to do it for the act itself.

3.  Don’t let the NOs stop you. Rejection and failure are necessary in writing (and in life) in order to grow and get better. You can’t get better unless you fail first. And you can’t know how badly you want something until someone tells you that you can’t have it. So embrace the failure. Listen to the rejections in so far as they can help you, but don’t let them stop you. 


     Thanks so much for the advice, Kristen! It's encouraging to hear that published authors have met with rejection, to remember the important of self-believe and to love what you do.


A stunning YA fantasy series from a spectacular new voice in the genre, a perfect read for fans of Victoria Aveyard, Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J Maas.

There are some stories that are too dangerous to be told…

Asha is a dragon-slayer. Reviled by the very people she's sworn to protect, she kills to atone for the terrible deed she committed as a child; she told one of the forbidden stories, one of the stories that summon the deadly dragons and that killed her mother. In doing so she almost destroyed her city and was left her with a terrible scar.

Only the death of Kozu, the first Dragon, will bring Asha true redemption, unite her father's fractured kingdom and allow her to avoid a horrifying arranged marriage. But no matter how hard she tries, the temptation to tell forbidden stories is something she cannot resist. (Publishers' blurb)

Author bio

Kristen Ciccarelli hails from Ontario's Niagara Peninsula where she grew up on her grandfather's grape farm. She's made her living as a baker, a bookseller, and a potter, but now writes books about bloodthirsty dragons, girls wielding really cool weapons, and the transformative power of stories. You can learn more at www.kristenciccarelli.com