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.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Write Mentor 2019

I’m thrilled to be a mentor for Write Mentor 2019! I had an amazing experience as a mentee last year with Marisa Noelle as my mentor. I found a community of friends, made my manuscript so much better and got an agent a month after Write Mentor ended.

What I’m offering

I’m offering to support a mentee with a submission package of a query, three chapters and synopsis. I’ll use tracked changes and comments to give feedback, as well as providing detailed written feedback. I’m happy to reread my mentee’s manuscript and offer additional feedback after edits.  I can’t wait to get started!


About me

I’m passionate about YA fiction and I would love to mentor someone who writes for this audience. I’ve just finished edits of my Gothic YA mystery novel and will soon be going on submission! I specialise in dark, twisty plots and (hopefully) characters that you want to root for.

For several years, I've been part of the online writing and book blogging community. Through editing my own writing, critiquing the work of others and reviewing books, I've gained a strong sense of what works in fiction and how writers can improve their craft. I’ve given a lot of feedback to other writers as part of Write Mentor and reading for the Children's Novel Award.

My feedback style is very detailed and honest. I'll also give plenty of praise and share things I'm really excited about! I’m happy to tailor my feedback to elements a mentee would like to focus on, and will also advise on voice, characterisation, plot and other things that come up.

What I’m looking for

Most books I read are intended for the YA audience but I enjoy just about every genre, from contemporary to horror. I'm very open-minded about what I want to see from prospective mentees. I often veer towards books with horror or fantasy elements and I would LOVE to find Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in book form.


To give an idea of what else I like, some of my favourite authors include Laini Taylor, Laura Wood, Lauren James, Anna-Marie McLemore, Katherine Webber, Will Hill, Kim Curran and Alwyn Hamilton. Mainly, I'm looking for a great concept, writing that has potential and a mentee who is open to feedback.

Intensely issue-driven books, pure romance or anything that deals with grief or abuse in depth is probably not for me.

Thank you so much for reading my post! I’m excited to help someone on their journey towards publication and hope that you might like to work with me.

If you have any questions, feel free to find me on Twitter (@yaundermyskin) or comment below.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee blog tour

I'm so excited to join the blog tour for Rayne and Delilah's Midnite Matinee with not one but two brilliant posts from Jeff Zenter. I absolutely loved this book and you can read my review here.

First, there's a Q and A and then a fun post from Jeff about why The Goonies is a terrible/ingeniously brilliant movie. This will be an interesting one, as that's my husband's favourite film (as you'll see from the photograph of his collection).

Can you tell us more about the book?

Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee is the story of Josie Howard and Delia Wilkes, two recent high school graduates who host a creature feature show on their local public access station in Jackson, Tennessee, under the guise of their alter egos, Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood.  They show some of the finest(?) horror movies from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. During breaks in the movie, they do corny skits, read viewer mail, sometimes get dim-witted classmates to do shirtless dance parties. Josie is doing the show to kickstart her television career. Delia is doing the show to reconnect with her father who abandoned her. The big question of the book is whether they’ll be able to take their show to a level that will allow each of them to reach their goal without going their separate ways. It’s my first attempt at a comedy.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

One night, a couple of years ago, I came home on a Saturday night and turned on the TV and started channel surfing. This is not something I generally ever do. When I hit the Nashville public access station, it was showing this grainy zombie movie from the late 60s called Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. Intrigued, I kept watching. The movie cut to these two young women dressed in goth/vampiric attire, who went by the names Marlena Midnite and Robyn Graves. It was a show called Midnite Mausoleum that was syndicated from someplace in rural Iowa. It fascinated me to see this labor of love and I’ve always had a soft spot for people who put things into the world for the sheer love of it. A story began forming in my head. All of my books are about people who fascinate me.

Do you have any writing tips for aspiring authors?

Give yourself opportunities to be bored. We’re not bored enough nowadays because we have boredom-killing smart phones with us all the time. But boredom is the mother of imagination. I go on long walks to enforce boredom upon myself. I listen to meditative music  and take my puppy, so it’s hard to look at my phone. I find a lot of inspiration that way.

What are your favourite recent books?

Two books that are coming out in 2019. Hello Girls by Brittany Cavallaro and Emily Henry. This is a darkly hilarious and sharply written YA Thelma and Louise about two teenage girls on the run. It’s brilliant. Then, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous  by Ocean Vuong. I love novels written by poets and he’s one of my favourite poets. This novel—a letter from a son to his Vietnamese immigrant mother—is easily one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. Every sentence burns like a flame.

Which character (of yours or other authors) would you take to a midnight matinee movie showing and why? What movie would you watch?

I think I’d take Charlotte Holmes from Brittany Cavallaro’s A Study in Charlotte series because she’s brilliant and hilarious. And I’d love her take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, my favourite horror movie.

What are your favourite horror movies?

Besides the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Ring, Wolf Creek, Hereditary, Session 9, The Exorcist, Alien.

Thanks for the Q and A, Jeff! It's really got me in the mood for watching some horror movies. Now, it's time for Jeff's guest post about The Goonies.

The Goonies

I’m going to take some heat for this one, but The Goonies is a bad movie. It feels, in every way, like a bunch of kids were playing pretend in their unspectacular hometown and filmed themselves improvising a movie. It posits a world in which pirates from the 1600s are fixated on the coast of...Oregon? Ok, that might be historically accurate but it seems wrong. But The Goonies also posits a world in which said Oregon-fixated pirates from the 1600s are capable of stunning feats of engineering. These include an organ made of bones in a dripping wet massive underground complex that makes pieces of the floor fall away. Oh, and by the way, it does this reliably some 300 years after it was built. The door lock actuator on my 2007 Honda CR-V just went out. It’s like 400 years younger than One-Eyed Willie’s contraptions and made by Honda.

For some reason, these pirates really only want someone who is good at playing the organ and capable of reading sheet music (that has also survived for hundreds of years) to get their treasure. They can’t abide the thought of someone who sucks at the organ running around, rich off their treasure. You want our treasure? Get your non-organ-playing asses out of here. Better yet: die. If you can’t play organ, you not only don’t deserve our treasure, you deserve to die. Other feats of pirate engineering include incredible water slides, and a giant underground pirate ship garage. I know I’m forgetting a lot of stuff here.

Then we have the Fratellis. Who I guess are supposed to be organized crime of some sort? They’re certainly coded as such. In Astoria, Oregon, famously a hotbed of Mafia activity. And then there’s the scene when Mikey reverently confers upon One-Eyed Willie the title of “the first Goonie.” But why? How is that earned in any way? The Goonies are a bunch of doofuses who repeatedly luck their way out of tough situations. One-Eyed Willie was a rich sociopath who, even in death, delighted in using Rube-Golbergian contraptions to kill people who wanted to share in his fortune. He created marvels of engineering to murder. Where the Goonies were so uninterested in money they couldn’t bring themselves to steal wishing-well money (aside for their wish and they’re taking it back), One-Eyed Willie loved his money so much that the thought of someone using it to save their home from being bulldozed made him want to kill them hundreds of years after his death.

He wasn’t the original Goonie, he was the original country-club-guy who wants to bulldoze the Goonies’ houses. If he was the original Goonie, then the Goonies really suck and they’re going to grow up to be serial killers.

In conclusion, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Five stars.

Thanks so much to Jeff for the brilliant posts and to Andersen Press for inviting me to join this blog tour. You can follow the rest of the tour using the banner below.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Rayne & Delilah's Midnight Matinee – review

Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder. 

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.

The premise of the book really intrigued me, as I loved the idea of a contemporary novel with Gothic references. It lived up to all of my expectations and evoked so many emotions!

My favourite things about this book were the characters and voice. It's really hard to make two viewpoints distinct and Rayne and Delilah does this really well. I liked both characters a lot and appreciated how they develop both as individuals and together.

Another brilliant thing about this book is the emotive quality. It captures an important moment in Rayne and Delilah's lives and exactly what it's like to be a teenager. I read this on the plane and managed to laugh and cry aloud, which doesn't happen to me very often when I'm reading!

This book also made excellent use of pop cultural and Gothic elements. I enjoyed picking them out! The horror convention was a great setting too.

Thank you to Andersen Press for the brilliant book and goodie pack. I have an excellent Q and A and guest post from Jeff Zentner coming tomorrow for the blog tour, so look out for those!

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The Everlasting Rose blog tour review

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia’s Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies – a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely – and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider’s Web, Camille must use her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.

I loved The Belles so I was really excited to join the blog tour for The Everlasting Rose. This is a really unique series and I enjoyed this second instalment just as much.

One of my favourite things about this book is the descriptions. The writing is so gorgeous and sensory that every setting is brought to life. I feel like the descriptions are even more striking for being set against such a dark, unsettling world.

The world of this book is a distinctive fantastical setting and yet is frighteningly believable, drawing attention to modern standards of beauty as well as how people treat each other now (and did in the past).

That brings me to the plot. The pace of The Everlasting Rose is a perfect balance of tense action, romance and quieter moments of character development. I wanted to make this book last but I ended up racing to the end, because I had to know what happened.

This is a brilliantly written, gripping and thought-provoking series. I can't wait to see where it goes next!

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Lauren James Q&A – The Quiet at the End of the World

Lauren James is one of my favourite YA authors and I'm so happy to host a Q and A with her to celebrate her new book. The Quiet at the End of the World comes out on Thursday and is the thrilling story of the last two teens on Earth. You can check out my review here.

Tell us about The Quiet at the End of the World.

It’s about the future of humanity, and the fragility of life and existence. It’s about the power of humanity to fix any problem through love and determination. And it’s about the last boy and girl born in a world without children.

What does it have in common with your previous books?

It has the multimedia format of The Next Together series, with a plotline set eighty-five years before Lowrie and Shen’s time, told in social media posts. That was my absolute favourite part of the book to write.

Which characters would you want to have with you at the end of the world, from your books or otherwise?

Artemis Fowl. Ada Lovelace. P G Wodehouse. Ella from The Last Beginning. My type: funny and clever.

Your plots often deal with social media and science. What draws you to these subject matters?

Honestly, I write books for myself. I just write what I want to read, and I love science – the enthusiasm and joy you can get from problem-solving in science – and I love social media. Specifically, I love the new opportunities for storytelling innovation that social media and the internet gives us. There is the potential to write stories we’ve never told before using the internet as a plot device, and I don’t think I’m ever going to get bored of exploring that.

Can you recommend any fiction or non-fiction books for readers who are interested in science?

Absolutely! Here’s some of the books that inspired The Quiet at the End of the World:

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness 
 A fascinating look at how evolution makes our brains think.

Aliens: Science Asks: Is There Anyone Out There? 
 What's going to happen in the future? Will there be aliens there? Mind blowing and easy to read.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow – Cleverer than any other book you'll read in 2019.

Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind 
 If you're at all interested in art, then you need to see where it all started.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes 
 One of the ways scientists have worked out some of the bold claims you'll read about in these other books

The World Without Us 
 The future of Earth, good and bad, if humans disappeared right now.

Which recent YA books have you been the most excited about?

The Dark Days Club series by Alison Goodman 
 High octane demon-fighting, Regency social politics, angst-ridden romance and the best heroine of all time  I could read about Lady Helen forever.

A Sky Painted Gold
by Laura Wood 
– This YA novel is set in 1920s Cornwall, where a local girl gets caught up in the lives of the rich lords and ladies visiting for the summer from high society London. She becomes part of their group, partying with them at their indulgent, expensive Gatsby-style events, and bickering with the handsome but enigmatic older brother (who is, tragically, already engaged). This is the most perfectly indulgent guilty pleasure read. I described it as The Camomile Lawn meets Dodie Smith meets The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets (all of which you should also read).

Fence Vol. 1 by C.S. Pacat - The easiest way to describe this YA graphic novel series is: fencing arch-nemeses turned roommates at an upper class boarding school. It's Yuri on Ice in the fencing world, and it's so. damn. good.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer those questions Lauren! It's fascinating to gain an insight into your writing and to see your passion for science. 

You can find Lauren on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.