Monday, 19 March 2018

YA Shot Giveaway - Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

The lovely people at Faber have sent me three copies of Hero at the Fall to give away as part of the YA Shot blog tour. 

You can meet Alwyn Hamilton and over 50 other amazing authors at YA Shot, a festival being held in London on 14th April. Read all about it and book tickets here

The Rebel of the Sands books by Alwyn Hamilton are some of my favourites of all time, and with Hero at the Fall the series had an emotional, tense ending. You can read the full extent of my love for this book in my review

There are a lot of reasons why this series is so special but the characters are the most important to me. The main characters all went on interesting journeys, and Amani in particular is one of my favourites of all time. She's complex and believable, with flaws and strengths that shape the course of her story.  

This is such a fantastic series and I'm looking forward to reading whatever Alwyn writes next.

For a chance to win your own copy of Hero at the Fall, head over to my Twitter (@yaundermyskin) to follow the instructions in my pinned tweet. It's open internationally and ends 8pm GMT on Friday 23rd March.

Good luck!  

YA Shot blog tour - guest post by Alexia Casale

I'm thrilled to join the YA Shot blog tour again this year and to share a guest post from the YA Shot director, founder and YA author Alexia Casale. You can read more about Alexia and her amazing books here.

YA Shot is a wonderful YA and Middle Grade festival that raises funds for a programme that pairs libraries and schools for free author events, to 'foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts'. This year, YA Shot will be held on Saturday 14th April. Over 50 authors will deliver workshops, panels and 'in conversation' events, as well as signing their books. You can buy tickets and find out more information here.

I'll hand over to Alexia now to discuss the fascinating subject of where ideas come from.

Where do you get your ideas?

Alexia Casale

Every event I do, I am asked this question – for good reason. It’s a big, important question and there are lots of different answers.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how often my own answer changes from event to event and why… and whether there’s one answer that gets to the root of all the others.

I think there is: ‘real life’.

But not in the way we tend to think about that as a source of inspiration: it’s not a one-to-one autobiographical inspiration for most novelists. However, our lives shape everything about us, whether we accept the forces that try to mould us or struggle against them. What we know about ourselves, other people, relationships, animals, stories, the world, food, happiness, misery… all of it comes from our lives – from the interaction of what happens inside us with what we experience externally.

Let’s test that theory by applying it to whether ‘real life’ still inspires stories about other worlds and universes.

One of the big developments in Sci-Fi and Fantasy is a renewed push to deconstruct the ways human history has shaped what we imagine, even when we think we’re coming up with new worlds and sometimes non-human societies. Deconstructing the long, long reach of colonialization is part of this new push to free our imaginations to imagine truly unique and original universes. As authors like Ursula Le Guin have argued, this is why Fantasy and Sci-Fi are so vital to human development: until we can see new ways of being with and among other people, it’ll be hard to learn from the past and move forwards.

Often when we’re trying to confront the worst of human actions in the past, we get stuck simply thinking we must do the polar opposite. It’s a natural impulse, but in the process of assuming the simple ‘opposite’ is the answer to positive change, we forget that may we need to do something radically different – something different in every way. Instead of merely ‘doing the opposite’ and struggling against the forces of the past, what if we tried to imagine something so different that there is a true discontinuity with that past?

We are all caught in the web of what we have seen, tasted, touched, smelt, felt, thought, imagined and learnt. We have ourselves and what we have experienced of the world: the limits of that experience (in the broadest possible sense) are the limits of our inspiration. Thus, the more you learn and experience, the more those limits move outwards.

If you want to be inspired, then you must first be curious. The richer your life in terms of what you experience, the more you can imagine. It’s that simple.

Watch different sorts of things on TV. Read all sorts of different books about all sorts of different things. Go to the theatre if you can afford it. Go to museums of all sorts whenever possible – many are free. Learn about different times in history. And about different places in the world. And about science. Listen to music and try making some yourself. Look at art – and try creating something of your own. Learn a new language to the point where you start to see how people in other societies think in different ways because of how different languages are structured. Try eating and cooking new food. Research what meals look like in different cultures – when do they happen, where, with what furniture/utensils or lack thereof, who is present and who does what, what is eaten, where does it come from, how it is prepared for eating and by whom?

Don’t assume anything. Wonder about everything. Be endlessly curious.

Where I get my ideas? Where do I look for inspiration?



Thanks so much for sharing these fantastic ideas Alexia - I definitely feel inspired. Keep an eye on Twitter and the YA Shot website to follow the other blog tour posts. I hope to see some of you at the festival!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor - review

Publisher: Michael Joseph

You can feel it in the woods, in the school and in the playground; you can feel it in the houses and at the fairground. You can feel it in most places in the small town of Anderbury... the fear that something or someone is watching you.

It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran - the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body.

Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure. Is history going to repeat itself? Was it ever really over? Will this game only end in the same way?

I really wish there were more YA horrors, especially more like this one. The Chalk Man is a genuinely scary, tense and cleverly plotted book. 

The characters were a real strength. Fans of IT and Stranger Things will appreciate the lively group and I especially liked the narrator, Eddie. The alternating narrative between 1986 and 2016 was really effective, giving insights into Eddie's character and slowly revealing a fascinating plot. 

That was another thing I loved about this book. I'm not easy to scare and this book was a brilliant balance of unsettling, gruesome and downright terrifying. It had a plot that drew on elements from the horror genre but used them in a creative, unexpected way.

The setting of this book was really evocative in both the past and the present, and I loved how the setting was significant in both time periods.

I can't say much more without major spoilers except that I thought this book was fantastic, with an unpredictable plot and plenty of scares. I'm very excited to read whatever CJ Tudor writes next!

If you liked the sound of this, now try The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart, which I reviewed here.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Children of Blood and Bone Blog Tour #NowWeRise

I'm absolutely thrilled to join the blog tour for Children of Blood and Bone. I don't often add books to my list of favourites and this has definitely made it. I found the story thrilling and tightly plotted, with amazing characters and absolutely gorgeous writing. I haven't been this emotionally invested in a book for a long time and I loved everything about it. For more details about Children of Blood and Bone and to read my glowing review, you can follow this link

For my tour stop, I decided to write a fan-fic journal entry inspired by my maji clan: Seer. You can use the handy graphic below to find out what clan you belong to. Leave a comment to let me know what clan you're in!

Journal of a Seer

An iron chest washed up on the beach this morning. The day was so peaceful before that discovery, with the salt air whipping my straight, white hair around me and the orange sunrise spilling out across the horizon. It was the last moment when my mind was only occupied by my thoughts. I can barely concentrate to write this down, but I must try to make sense of what happened.

An icy shock of water rolled over my feet, leaving behind a small chest made of dull metal. I picked it up, testing the weight in my hands as I traipsed away from the water.

Flipping the lid revealed a translucent golden stone and a crumpled scroll. Fiery colours shifted under the surface of the stone and I felt inexplicable warmth pouring off it. I’ve always been more interested in words than riches, and I reached for the scroll. Even now, with the layers of time fighting to surface in my mind, I recall that anticipation. What would have happened if I’d tossed the chest back into the ocean?

Of course, I didn’t. My fingers closed on the rough paper and that was all it took. There was a sharp jolt of energy and then the images assaulted me. I fell to the sand, with my head threatening to tear apart.

Laying there on the beach, I saw children splashing in the water and heard the lightness of their laughter, though I was alone. I saw fishermen in a choppy sea, hastily tugging on their nets as a storm threatened. How could the sky be stormy purple and summer blue all at once? I feel myself fragmenting and try to concentrate on writing one word at a time.

Then, I saw the worst images of all. Soldiers poured onto this beach, spreading through Warri like a plague and cutting down all those with colourless hair like mine. The village behind me was awash with death and blood. This is my curse. Time that was once linear is now layered: past, present and future sifting and mingling until I can’t tell them apart. I remember the older generation’s powers, flames that curled between their fingers or hands that could heal with a touch. All I’ve known until this moment is the stigma, the glares because of what I could have been.

I staggered home after that, seeing no living souls on the way but with every new step bringing a rush of time: our simple huts being built decades ago, celebrations with drums throbbing and people spinning…

Zu was passing when I arrived home and I set the chest in her small hands, babbling about the return of magic while the village burned around us. Unaware, she nodded, bright eyed and excited while I smelled the terrible char of burning flesh and heard the screams of the dying. I’ve heard those screams before: the day magic left us.

Zu ran off with the chest, taking that burden, but it seems I’ve already claimed my part in this. Writing in this journal is giving some solace but I can barely concentrate. The words blur and the threads of time are tangled in my mind. I take in a deep breath and release it, focusing on what I know to be real. The warm wood of my simple hut, the new curl to my hair as it springs around my face… these things are real and present.

Though the pictures are still there, they are distant, fading memories as opposed to tormenting spectres. It is clear what I must do but it will not be easy. I must master this ability instead of letting it best me. Magic is a gift, and I must wield it as such. I know of no past conflict in our peaceful fishing village, so the onslaught must be yet to unfold. The time for writing is done. There are villagers who were maji once, and they will come to my aid. I will master this ability, and I will help my people.


Thanks for reading my fan fic - I hope you enjoyed it! Remember to check out other posts on the #NowWeRise blog tour using the hashtag.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Scythe by Neal Shusterman - review

Publisher: Walker Books

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

A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death. In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed ('gleaned') by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes' apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do. Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe's apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice's first task will be to glean the loser. (Publisher's blurb)

After the Walker Bloggers' Evening, I was really excited about this book. The blurb intrigued me, and Maggie Stiefvater's quote on the front comparing it to The Hunger Games was high praise to live up to. This is one of the most fascinating and original dystopians I've ever read, and I can't wait for the sequel.

The reason I became so invested in this book was because of the characters. By focusing on Citra and Rowan's stories in turn, I already cared about them by the time they met and were put into competition. Both of them were distinctive, well-developed characters and they had believable reactions to their circumstances. The third person narrative also allowed the opportunity to delve into the life of the particularly vile antagonist. This plot structure allowed for character development and for the plot tension to build from the very beginning.

I also thought the world was incredibly inventive and believable. Mankind's mastery over death is such a compelling idea, as is the solution: to randomly kill humans so the population doesn't get out of control. The book really effectively showed minor characters' responses to their impending gleanings, and explored what it felt like to be a scythe. This allowed the subject of gleanings to be considered from every side.

I'll continue to think about this book long after reading it, as the characters and conflict had a strong effect on me. Scythe should be read by everyone who wants a compelling story and characters you can get behind.  

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Smoke by Simon Ings - blog tour review

Publisher: Gollancz

Humanity has been split into three different species. Mutual incomprehension has fractured the globe. As humans race to be the first of their kind to reach the stars, another Great War looms.

For you that means returning to Yorkshire and the town of your birth, where factories churn out the parts for gigantic spaceships. You’re done with the pretentions of the capital and its unfathomable architecture. You’re done with the people of the Bund, their easy superiority and unstoppable spread throughout the city of London and beyond. You’re done with Georgy Chernoy and his questionable defeat of death. You’re done with his daughter, Fel, and losing all the time. You’re done with love.

But soon enough you will find yourself in the Smoke again, drawn back to the life you thought you’d left behind. You’re done with love. But love’s not done with you. (Publisher's blurb)

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Smoke. I haven't read any adult books for ages and this one really captured my interest. I found this an intriguing story set in an inventive, disturbing version of the world we know.

It was so brilliant to read a book set between Yorkshire and London: two places I know better than any others. This added to my enjoyment of the book because the descriptions were very evocative of both settings, making the science-fiction elements all the more distinctive. I really liked how this story slipped between the strange and familiar, and it was quite refreshing that sometimes it took effort to work out what was happening!

The writing style was very distinctive, as the first section of the book is written in the second person and then shifts to the first. I thought this might be difficult to get used to but it actually ended up making me read really carefully instead of speeding through as I usually do. That was handy when getting to grips with the complexities of this world. 

Another thing I liked about this book was that at times it had a very contemporary feel, showing a relationship at different (sometimes non-linear) points and getting under the characters' skins. At other points, the science-fiction plot came through very strongly, pushing the boundaries of the surreal in a way that I found alternately entertaining and unsettling. 

I've never read anything like this book before and it's definitely made me think about broadening my range. I think more books by Simon Ings might be a really good place to start!

You can check out the other blog tour spots using the handy graphic below:

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson - review

Publisher: Walker Books

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

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth ― but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem ‘classic’ Earth culture, recording 1950s-style dates for them to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go ― and what he’s willing to sacrifice ― to give the vuvv what they want. (Publishers’ blurb)

It’s ages since I’ve read a book about an alien invasion and I thought this novella had an intelligent take on the subject matter, saying as much about our potential future as it did about what might happen during an invasion.

I really liked how the book had a realistic story about a relationship from the beginning to the end. Adam and Chloes’ responses to their situation felt authentic, especially Adam’s changing perception of Chloe as their relationship deteriorated.

Although this novella is short, the world is richly developed. It captured how the humans of this version of Earth became carried away by what the vuvv promised, without realising the impact on their lives. Adam developed an illness because of the living conditions of this world and I thought this was handled really well. He had terrible digestive problems that were presented in a visceral, realistic manner but with empathy as well. 

Another thing I really liked was Adam's art. The book captured what it feels like to be creative, and showed how Adam used art to make sense of (and escape from) the world he lived in.

I devoured this book in a couple of sittings and I'd recommend it if you want a short, smart and thought-provoking read.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - review

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (8th March)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy. (Publisher's blurb)

As soon as I heard about this book, I loved the idea of a foundation in African mythology and was thrilled to receive a proof copy from My Kinda Book. For me, Children of Blood and Bone far exceeded the hype and I would rank it as one of my top 5 fantasy books of all time.

I think the real strength is in the plotting. The stakes are high and the book piles on the conflict throughout! There was a fantastic balance of lighter moments, relationships and fast-paced action. 

The three viewpoints were also really effective, delivering very different perspectives and motivations. I thought all of the characters were nuanced and interesting, from the most minor characters to the main ones. I loved Zélie the most of all, for her strength and the journey she went through as a character.

I don't think I've ever read a book based on African mythology and I loved the world-building in Children of Blood and Bone. The politics, magic and mythology interwove into a rich, complex but accessible world.

This is the most exciting series I've read for a long time and I think all of fans of YA, fantasy or just a fantastic story should read it.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Scholastic Bloggers' Book Feast and 2018 list

This was my first ever Scholastic Bloggers' event and I had a fantastic time. It was really fun to visit the Scholastic office and to meet so many lovely bloggers, publishers and authors. I thought the day was really well-organised and I got a lot out of it as a reader, a blogger and a writer.

Scholastic have a wonderful list of books coming out in 2018 and the day started with a summary of their list. All of them sounded great but here are some that I'm the most excited about!

I managed to pick up a copy of Shell by Paula Rawsthorne, which came out in January and it sounds incredible. It's the story of a girl who was terminally ill until her parents find a new body for her, and I'm obsessed with the idea of a modern take on Frankenstein.

We got chance to see the cover for Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill, out in May, and it's absolutely gorgeous! There'll be a public cover reveal soon. This story of The Little Mermaid told through a feminist lens appealed to me from the moment I heard about it and I can't wait to get a copy!

I was already very excited about State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, and the more I hear, the more I'm not sure how I'm going to wait until March.

I'm a huge Sue Wallman fan and I can't wait to read Your Turn to Die in May, another fantastically twisty YA thriller.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, out in June, is about five friends who are given a devastating choice: they must decide which one of them will live, and then the rest will die. We received a copy in our goody bags and I can't wait to see how this book turns out!

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood is described as 'a gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop'. Out of the all the books we heard about, this was one of the most exciting and I can't wait to get a copy. Laura read the prologue to us and I was immediately gripped. The writing is beautiful, and very evocative of the time period and setting.

Here's a rundown of the other gorgeous books coming out and their release dates:

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson - January

Last Descendents: Fate of the Gods by Matthew J Kirkby - January

Tender by Eve Ainsworth - March

Spark by Alice Broadway - April

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias - May

Noah Could Never by Simon James Smith - June

Show Stealer by Hayley Barker - June

Access All Awkward by Beth Garrod - July

Riverdale - two novels coming out this summer

A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke - October

It was amazing to hear from authors about their books and writing processes, and I really enjoyed the conversation between editors about what their role entails. The presentation by designers was also really interesting, as I've never seen how a book cover goes from a sketch to the glorious finished product.

There was also a fantastic author panel with Alice Broadway, Paula Rawthorne, Tracey Mathias, Sue Wallman, Eve Ainsworth, Laura Wood, Simon James Green and Lisa Thompson. I really enjoyed hearing them talk about their books and the amazing range of stories.

I had a great day and I'm really excited to read my new books. Thank you to everyone at Scholastic!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Meet Cute short stories - review

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. (Publisher's blurb)

This is one of the best collections of short stories that I've read for ages, and with the calibre of authors included I'm not surprised. I enjoyed some aspect of all of the stories and I thought there was a really good range of genres and subject matters covered. Most stories were contemporary but there were some with fantastical and sci-fi elements that I really enjoyed. 

My favourite stories were by Nina LaCour, Julie Murphy, Nicola Yoon and Dhonielle Clayton. I've just read and loved The Belles, but I need to get books by the other authors immediately!

Nina LaCour's is the story that really stayed with me. I wish there was a whole book with these characters! It's about two girls who meet through a customer service complaint. Their fledgling relationship was really heartwarming and I loved both characters.

Julie Murphy's story of a reality TV dating show was hilarious, unexpected and entertaining! The voice of her writing was great and I can't wait to read more of her books.

Nicola Yoon wrote an incredibly creative story about breaking up that reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's rare that I come across a story so delightfully inventive and I really enjoyed it! 

I adored Dhonielle Clayton's writing in The Belles and her short story was incredibly moving and thought-provoking, achieving so much in so few words!

If you want a book that's sweet and uplifting, this is a perfect option.


Monday, 5 February 2018

The Waking Land by Callie Bates - blog tour

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

It's been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father's rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she's come to love as a father. 
Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again... but this time by her father's mysterious righthand man. Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.
But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna's veins. Now she must decide which side she's on, and whether she'll use her powers for mercy... or revenge.
I'm thrilled to join the blog tour for the paperback release of The Waking Land. This book has a unique premise and a rich mythology that made it a refreshing fantasy read.
Elenna went on an interesting journey as a character, both in coming to terms with her powers and her identity. I'm a fan of characters who don't have all the answers, and I enjoyed Elenna's developing relationships with the supporting cast of characters.
I really liked the setting of The Waking Land, especially the role of magic in the world's mythology. The politics were also really intriguing to me and I think there's plenty of material for the other books in this series.
I love a good revolution story! Elenna's personal struggle and torn loyalties added an extra level of tension. I really liked the romance in this book and it built to some steamy scenes that I enjoyed a lot. Although I felt like the pace slowed down in a couple of places, the revolution built to an exciting (and sometimes heartbreaking) conclusion.
This is a really promising start to a series and I'll look forward to the next book!

You can follow the rest of the blog tour stops using the list below:

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton - blog tour review and giveaway

Publisher: Gollancz (8 Feb. 2018)

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever. (Publisher's blurb)

I can say with absolute confidence that The Belles is going to be one of my books of the year. The writing is dazzling, the plot hooked me immediately and it made me think too. I'll share my opinions and then you can find out how to win your very own copy!

The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous. It powerfully evokes the senses and created a vividly realised world, which is so beautiful on the outside that it highlights the ugliness beneath the surface. 

I was also struck by the power of the book's message. The Belles very cleverly drew contemporary parallels about society's standards of beauty, and made me think about the pressure that both men and women are under. 

I also found this one of the most compulsively readable books that I've read for a very long time. I was really invested in what happened, mostly because I cared so much about the characters and also because the world was in such desperate need of change.

Camellia is a memorable, realistic main character, who goes through a real journey and the series of the book. I found her multi-faceted and interesting, with both strengths and flaws.

I loved everything about this book and it's definitely one I'll remember. It comes out on 8th February and I've already preordered my finished copy. 

The lovely people at Gollancz have offered a copy of the book to give away! Please comment on this blog post or retweet my pinned tweet to enter. The giveaway ends 10th February and is UK only.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart - review

Publisher: Penguin (11th January)

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

An atmospheric, chilling page turner from rising star Martin Stewart, reminiscent of Stand by Me and Stranger Things.

Sep, Arkle, Mack, Lamb and Hadley: five friends thrown together one hot, sultry summer. When they discover an ancient stone box hidden in the forest, they decide to each make a sacrifice: something special to them, committed to the box for ever. And they make a pact: they will never return to the box at night; they'll never visit it alone; and they'll never take back their offerings.

Four years later, a series of strange and terrifying events take place. Someone broke the rules, and now everyone has to pay.

But how much are they willing to sacrifice?

I knew from the blurb of this book that I was going to enjoy it. Even the title and cover piqued my interest. I’m a huge horror fan and I’m still waiting for more options when it comes to YA horror. This is an excellent addition to the genre, particularly because it’s reminiscent of some of my favorite adult horror titles. Chelley Toy had a fantastic guest post from Martin Stewart that you can read here, which explains his nostalgic influences.

One of the best things about this book is the 80s feel. I only vaguely remember the 80s but I’ve always loved 80s movies, from the feelgood to the terrifying. This book captures the 80s in the subject matter, plot and touches from the time period, such as the music and clothing. It has all the best elements from books like IT and Salem’s Lot, in its wonderful characterisation and a gripping plot that takes you to some scary places.

The characters in this book are fantastic. It was hard to keep them all in my head at first, but then I really appreciated the variety of different personalities. All of them had something to different to contribute and relate to, and I particularly enjoyed Arkle's humour, as it added much-needed lightness.

This was the first book I've read by Martin Stewart and I'll certainly read more in future.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hero at the Fall launch - 25th January

Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands series is one of my favourites, so I was really excited (and a bit sad) to attend the launch for Hero at the Fall at Waterstones Piccadilly. I've already read and loved the book, and you can read my review here.

There was a great atmosphere in the room, with drinks and fan art cupcakes throughout the night. Waterstones Piccadilly were fantastic hosts as always and Samantha Shannon asked a really interesting range of questions.

Alwyn feels a real sense of satisfaction on finishing the series and feels that she's rounded everything up how she wanted. It's been a long time writing one protagonist, so it's time to make new fictional friends!

She wrote six books before Rebel of the Sands, all of which were the starts of a series. She'd never written a second or third book but learnt something from all of the other projects. Alwyn's original idea was that this series would be one book that ended with the rebellion. Hero ended where she always intended the story would finish.

Alwyn's favourite part of the publishing journey has been knowing that she could write a second book and talking to people about her books, because it feels like you write in a vacuum sometimes.

Hero was probably the hardest book to write, as all the threads needed to be brought back in. Coming up with the title was challenging too (and Renee Ahdieh helped!). Alwyn always knew the titles were going to start with Rebel, Traitor and Hero because history is a matter of perception. If a rebellion succeeds you're a hero and if it fails you're a traitor.

Samantha asked an intriguing question about whether Alwyn ever considered Amani fighting for herself, and not someone else. to be on the throne. In the first book, Amani had to learn to be less selfish, so it wouldn't make sense for her to have a leadership role. Alwyn wasn't even sure Amani was ready for a readership role by the third book!

Alwyn felt there's sometimes hesitance for a female character to be flawed and she really wanted that in the first book. It was also really important to her to have other women in the rebellion, and Alwyn very soon decided that she wanted Shazad and Amani to be friends rather than antagonists. Shazad was like Amani could have been if she'd had more support.

An audience member asked a really fun question about which Hogwarts houses the characters would be in. Most are in Gryffindor (including Amani and Jin), the Sultan and Leila are in Slytherin, Rahim and Shazad are in Ravenclaw and Sam is a Hufflepuff who wants to be a Gryffindor. 

I had a fantastic time at the event and I have a giveaway on Twitter if you would like to win the gift bag we got at the launch and a signed copy of the book (which are in the two photographs above)!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Fandom by Anna Day - review

Publisher: Chicken House (4th January 2018)

No story is worth dying for ... is it?

Violet and her friends love being part of the fandom for The Gallows Dance. But at Comic-Con, they’re somehow catapulted into the story itself – for real. Trapped in a twisted world where they’ve accidentally killed the original hero, Rose, there’s only one way to survive: Violet must fill Rose’s shoes and put the plot back on track ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction. (Publishers' blurb)

I was really intrigued by the premise of The Fandom from the start - it's the perfect book for YA readers!

The best thing about this book for me was looking out for pop culture references and familiar tropes from YA fiction, especially dystopians. The only downside of this was that it made the plot a bit predictable in places, but enjoyable nonetheless! There was a good balance of sweet, funny moments, heartbreak and high-stakes tension.

Another thing I liked was the interplay between characters from ‘The Gallows Dance’ and the contemporary characters who ended up in their world. There were lots of opportunities for humour from the clash of two cultures, and I liked the fact that characters from both sides had surprising attributes. By the end, this book really grabbed me emotionally and there was an abundance of feels!

From the ending, I can't tell if there will be a sequel, but I hope so!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Wildest Dreams January unboxing

This is the second Wildest Dreams box and again I'm so pleased with the contents! The items were very carefully chosen to match the 'Into the Jungle' theme. There was also a signed bookplate as an added bonus this month. I've already sampled the toffee apple 'Dinosaur DNA' tea and it's absolutely delicious! The Geeky Clean item is a room spray that smells gorgeous too.

If you want to find out more or order your own box, you can visit this website.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Walker YA Blogger Evening - 2018 releases

Photo taken by the lovely Olivia Gacka. You can check out her blog here.

On Tuesday, I attended the Walker blogger event to find out about all the wonderful titles that are coming this year. At events like this, I always feel so grateful to be part of the blogging community. I met so many new people and caught up with friends, as well as finding out about the exciting books to come! 

This is the fantastic selection of books that we received on arrival: 

How to Hang a Witch comes out this month (January 2018) and I can already verify that it's just as good as it sounds. Written by a descendent of a witch hunter at the Salem Witch Trials, it tells the story of a girl called Sam who finds herself at the centre of a centuries old curse. If you love modern day witch tales (like The Graces by Laure Eve), or mysteries with historical elements, then this is a perfect read for you!

This premise really captured my imagination and we only have to wait until February until the book comes out. Scythe is a darkly comedic thriller set in a world where disease, war and crime no longer exist. Citra and Rowan have been reluctantly enlisted to be professional 'scythes', the only people who have the power to kill others. This is a chilling idea and I'm intrigued by the potential for humour and darkness.

Also out in February is this wonderfully dark and quirky title! Landscape with Invisible Hand is a novella about the downsides of accepting help from extraterrestrials. M.T. Anderson is the author of the critically acclaimed dystopian Feed and this sounds like an equally entertaining but thought-provoking read.

This is another much-anticipated title: a collectable gift edition of the popular Magnus Bane short story. This is also out in February. 

In April, Ghosts of the Shadow Market will be released, the first in a new series by Cassandra Clare. This is a story about the young Jace going to live with the Lightwood family. 

In February, gorgeous 10th anniversary editions of the Chaos Walking series will be released.

I can't believe it's ten years since this series came out. Shameful confession time - it might finally be time for me to read them. I've been a huge fan of Patrick Ness' recent books, so I'm excited to finally read these!

This book sounds just as gorgeous as the cover! It's described as 'a sweet and kooky romcom for fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder, Sarah Crossan and Susin Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules'. It's a story about a family circus school, friends, family and first love. Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is Kelly McCaughrain's debut and will be released in March.

The Wonder of Us will be out in May, just in time for summer, and it sounds like the perfect holiday book. It's a story about friendship and an epic road trip around Europe. 

This is a Patrick Ness book that I have read and it's absolutely wonderful. The paperback comes out in May, and if you haven't checked it out yet this is the perfect opportunity. Taking place over just 24 hours, Release is a story about a boy struggling with his family's religious beliefs and learning to let himself love, despite the ex-boyfriend he can't quite let go of. Another gorgeously dark storyline runs alongside this one and it's an incredibly gripping, moving book.   

I'm not able to share the cover for Lou Out of Luck, which comes out in June. I can share that the followup to Girl Out of Water sounds fun and hilarious, with a realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a teen. 

I can't put into words how excited I am about this book. We got to watch a video of Angie Thomas talking about On the Come Up. Not only does she seem absolutely lovely, but her next book sounds just as amazing as The Hate U Give. Also set in the world of Garden Heights, it's about an aspiring teen rapper 'and what happens when you get everything you thought you wanted'. This book comes out in June and I'm already counting down.

This comes out in June and it sounds like a unique, compelling thriller that also explores mental health. Tom Pollock was at the Walker event to discuss the plot of the book and read an extract. He very openly talked about his own struggles with mental health and I'm really excited to read a genre novel that also delves into this subject.

What an amazing year for Walker Books! Thank you for a wonderful evening to all involved. I can't wait to read all of the books!