Thursday, 28 July 2016

Caighlan Smith's Desert Island Books

To celebrate the publication of The Children of Icarus, I am pleased to welcome author, Caighlan Smith, onto the blog to tell us about the books she would take to a desert island with her. 
If I were trapped on a desert island and could miraculously have a water-proof suitcase full of books wash up on said island, these would be the books within said water-proof suitcase: Lord of the Flies, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and In Search of Castaways. There would also be an inflatable raft and back-up jetpack within said suitcase, but that’s beside the point. Despite the fact I have an English Literature degree and am, you know, a writer, I’m woefully behind on my reading of the classics. Hence my book choices. Plus maybe their content might have some practical usage on a desert island? Like a fan, perhaps, provided I could find a way to fan myself with the pages without cracking the spine (because THAT would be sacrilege).
To be honest, I’ve read Lord of the Flies, and it remains one of my favourite books to date. I was fascinated by the concept of a youth society, where young people have to create their own law and figure out how to survive without any adults. When I was writing my novel Children of Icarus, one of the things I had in mind was to explore youth societies. Children of Icarus is about a girl who enters a labyrinth, believing it will lead to paradise. Instead she ends up trapped with a bunch of other kids, and is forced to face the horrors of the labyrinth if she wants to survive. Unfortunately, she does not have a waterproof miracle suitcase to help her.
Published by Curious Fox in July 2016
It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

About the Author 
Caighlan Smith wrote her first novel, Hallow Hour, in her final year of high school in St. John's. Inspired by her love of fantasy and the supernatural, Smith's work combines the fun and action of video games with the urgency of post-apocalyptic survival. She is studying English at Memorial University of
Hallow Hour, the first book in the Surreality series, was signed with a publisher when she turned 19. To date, she has written 14 novels and one novella. Her great loves are reading, gaming and, of course, writing.

To find out more about Caighlan Smith:

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Strange Star by Emma Carroll

It was Felix's job to deliver the invitation. On such a sparkling, sunny morning after weeks of cold rain he was glad to be outside, stretching his legs. Not that he had far to go- Mr and Mrs Shelley's villa was just a short walk through the apple orchard. 

Published in July 2016 by Faber and Faber
Pages - 320

They were coming tonight to tell ghost stories. 'A tale to freeze the blood,' was the only rule. Switzerland, 1816. On a stormy summer night, Lord Byron and his guests are gathered round the fire.
Felix, their serving boy, can't wait to hear their creepy tales.
Yet real life is about to take a chilling turn - more chilling than any tale.
Frantic pounding at the front door reveals a stranger, a girl covered in the most unusual scars.
She claims to be looking for her sister, supposedly snatched from England by a woman called Mary Shelley.
Someone else has followed her here too, she says. And the girl is terrified. 
Emma Carroll is one of my favourite authors. Literally everything stops for an Emma Carroll book. Each book is unique and the story  never lets me down.
I really loved Strange Star. Oozing with Gothic aromas, this story captures your interest and catapults you back to the 1800's. The story is told in third person, from two different view points. The beginning and the end of the book are told by Felix, a young boy, freed from slavery and working for Lord Byron. You feel his excitement and fear at the discovery of a frantic young girl at the door late at night. 
The middle part of the story is told by Lizzie and what a tale she has to tell. Her fear and bravery are apparent from the very start. 
Even though this book is historical, it easily portrays diversity as well as strong, career minded females. I loved the female scientist.  The book brings back to life well known historical figures, such as Lord Byron and Mary Shelley, capturing a period in their lives and breathing a plausible story into it. 
Just like all of Emma Carroll's books, this has a real classical feel. I can guarantee that Emma Carroll's books will be the classics for future generations. 
If you loved Frankenstein, you will love this too. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Writing Words - 5 reasons why #UKYA unpublished and published authors should attend YALC.

YALC is happening this week! If you have had your head buried under a mountain of books you might have missed the excitement brimming over on social media about this ever growing annual event. But if you don't know what it is, let me help you. 
YALC stands for Young Adult Literary Conference and will basically feature the biggest gathering of YA authors, publishers and agents in the UK. If you write YA, this is the place to be! Not convinced?
OK, well let me try a little harder by giving you five excellent reasons why you should attend YALC if you write YA. It doesn't matter if you are published or you are not, you need to be at YALC because:
  1. You can pitch to agents. If you are seeking representation, this is an ideal opportunity that won't cost you anything, to sit and talk face to face with some of the UK's finest agents and pitch them your idea.  There will be a different agents doing talks every day. Julia Churchill will be there on Friday, followed by Danielle Zigner on the Saturday and Louise Lamont on the Sunday. 
    Agent Julia Churchill
  2. There are three whole days jam packed with writing workshops taught by some of the best YA writers in the UK! It would cost you a fortune to have this many classes with so many brilliant writers, yet at YALC it all comes within the price of your ticket. You can learn to write using the Tarot with Anna McKerrow, which I loved last year. There are screen writing classes, as well as writing fandom. 
  3. You get to breathe the same air and listen to some of YA's finest talk about their writing. UKYA writers like Carnegie winner Sarah Crossan, Holly Bourne, Malorie Blackman and many others. Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell will also be on hand to illustrate live, which is definitely something worth seeing. And on top of that you have some of America's finest such as New York Times Bestseller, VE Schwab, David Levithan and Maggie Steifvater. 
    New York Times Bestselling Author, VE Schwab
  4. You can find out what's new in the UKYA publishing industry. There will be a couple of talks every day where you will find out what it's like to work in the publishing industry. You can also find out what you need to do to get published. 
  5. It's an ideal opportunity to network. Not only will you get to meet authors, but you will also meet the people who work in publishing as well as many of the book blogging community. There will be a huge amount of people who will want to talk to you about your book!
    Super bloggers!
    There are lots more reasons why you should attend, in fact I could probably go on and on and on about it right up until the event, but I must stop now because I really need to pack ready for my three day stay in Olympia!!! If you do come, make sure you say hi if you see me! And good luck - YALC could be the start of your publishing career!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

In times of sadness or distress, I have often sought the comfort in the idea that the best is yet to come. To me, the 'best' doesn't have to be the glitz and the glamour of some star-studded, bright-lights premiere where I'd walk down the red carpet in a custom Vera Wan ballgown everyone is screaming my name. The 'best' can be a steaming hot cup of coffee early one November morning when it's still dark outside and all I can see when I look up is the fluorescent amber glow of street lights against the slow rise of dawn. 

Published by Scholastic in June 2016
Pages - 272

An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe's debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011. Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship. Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following. Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn. 
I'd never heard of Lucy or Kaelyn before reading this book, but I felt like I got to know them so well, that I found myself tuning into their Youtube channel. Lucy comes across as a really lovely girl when reading about her life and that is only echoed when watching her videos. 
The book is autobiographical and deals with Lucy's experiences with coming out. We see her from a young age, realising that she felt differently about boys to her friends and watching it dawn on her that she was a lesbian. She is honest about her fears in telling her friends and family the truth. We also see her blossoming relationship with Kaelyn, which is really sweet and it was lovely to see a long distance romance develop. 
I can see why this book will be popular as so many teens watch Lucy and Kaelyn's channel. Their determination and devotion to helping others be comfortable and truthful about their sexuality will make their fans desperate to read this book. 
Personally I would have liked to know more about Kaelyn and Lucy's developing relationship as it felt the book dealt more with her past than her present and their relationship. However, I'm positive many teens will really enjoy this book and come away with something. It really is an important read which will help many teens confront their own sexuality and their fears about coming out. I would highly recommend you go and watch the girl's on their Youtube channel once you have read the book as they are really are fabulous to watch. 

Author Information
Co-star of the popular YouTube channel Kaelyn and Lucy which documented the long distance relationship she had with Kaelyn Petras. She and Kaelyn finally came together in August of 2014, ending the long distance element of their relationship.

She graduated from Plymouth College of Art and Design in 2014 with a degree in Film Arts

She works as a freelance film editor and author. She and Kaelyn's channel mainly focuses on advice videos for LGBT youth.

She was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire to parents Sharon and Roger Sutcliffe.

There is a tour-wide giveaway! 3 copies of Girl Hearts Girl for 3 lucky winners!
Participants must live in UK or IRL.

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Don't forget to catch all the the other stops on the blog tour. 

#ReviewMonday with KM Lockwood - Cogheart written by Peter Bunzl

Malkin pressed his forepaws against the flight-deck window and peered out. The silver airship was still following; gaining on them. The purr of its propellers and the whoosh of its knife-sharp hull cutting through the air sent a shiver of terror through his clockwork innards.
The fox tore his eyes away and stared at his master. John’s ship, Dragonfly, was fast but she had nothing in the way of firepower. The silver airship, by contrast, bristled with weapons. Sharp metal spikes stuck out from her hull, making her look like some sort of militarized porcupine.
Just then, Dragonfly’s rudder shifted, and she pitched as John twisted the wheel into a one-eighty turn to swoop back past her pursuers.
The silver airship shrunk away, but within seconds she’d swung around to follow. She began closing in once more; her propellers chopping through the clouds, throwing dark shadows across their stern. When the two airships broke into a patch of blue, she fired.
A harpoon slashed across the sky and thudded into Dragonfly’s hull, the point piercing her port side.

Cover and inside illustrations by Kath Millichope and Becca Stadtlander 
(some images via Thinkstock)
384 pages in paperback
To be published 1st September 2016 by Usborne Books

Introduction from


Introducing… Lily, Robert and Malkin
When thirteen-year-old Lily’s inventor father disappears after a routine Zeppelin flight, Lily’s determined to find out the truth behind his disappearance. But she’s not the only one searching for him; there are silver eyed men in the shadows who will stop at nothing to find him.
With Robert, the local clockmaker’s son, and a cantankerous clockwork fox called Malkin, Lily travels to London, where they discover that she holds the key to the mystery…
A mystery closer to Lily’s heart than she could have ever imagined.
So you are, or you know, a confident young reader. You’re looking for adventure, thrills and lots of peril in the stories – but you want the main characters to be brave and resourceful enough to meet the challenges. Perhaps you have read or watched some of Jules Verne’s stories. Perhaps you like steam-driven machinery and Victorian engineering. Perhaps you have older friends who love Gail Carriger’s books – and you’d like something like that, without the soppiness romance.

Well, Cogheart is just right for you. It’s chock full of intriguing characters, both human and mechanical. There’s a wind-up fox, grumpy and loyal; an adventurous orphaned girl and a kind, brave boy. They are pitted against murderous villains, treachery and deceit – all in a riot of well-imagined steampunk settings.
If you like desperate peril, can cope with genuine sadness and loss, and don’t mind a few shocks along the way, this will suit admirably. The point of view shifts between the three main characters, and it is quite long – so it’s not suited to a beginner. But the pace rattles along through 26 mostly short and snappy chapters.
I don’t imagine it’s the last we will read about Lily, Robert and Malkin: Usborne certainly feel this debut could start off a classic series. (I do hope the rather wonderful Mrs Rust, Miss Tock, Captain Springer and Mr Wingnut make an appearance in Book 2 due 2017.) At any rate, this first tale would make a glorious animation – check out the moving cover on the Cogheart mini-site to see what I mean. 
Fantastical, immersive – and yet with real heart.

K. M. Lockwood lives by the sea in Sussex - see the pics on Instagram. She fills jars with sea-glass, writes on a very old desk and reads way past her bedtime. Her tiny bed-and-breakfast is stuffed full of books - and even the breakfasts are named after writers. You're always welcome to chat stories with @lockwoodwriter on Twitter.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Inspire Me! The inspiration for “Magpie Soup” by Dave Cousins.

To celebrate the publication of the collaboration, Stories From The Edge, I'm so pleased to welcome Dave Cousins back onto the blog, to tell us about the inspiration behind his story in the book, Magpie Soup. 
Hi, Viv—thanks for inviting me back to Serendipity Reviews. 
Long time visitors to the blog might remember “15 Days without a Head”—my debut novel for teenagers published back in 2012—it’s where Mina, from “Magpie Soup”, made her first appearance.
She wasn’t supposed to have a huge role in that story, but the moment I started writing about Mina, I knew she was going to be important to Laurence and Jay’s story. She was one of those characters who came to life on the page. I liked her irreverent take on life, the way she gently teased Laurence and was more than happy to join Jay in his crazy six-year-old world. Mina offered the brothers friendship, help, and someone to trust when they needed it most.
Which was great—but it also gave me a problem. “15 Days without a Head” wasn’t supposed to be about Mina, it was Laurence and Jay’s story. The term ‘killing your darlings’ will be familiar to anyone who has reached editing stage with their writing, but this time it really hurt. I had to sit Mina down and, as diplomatically as possible, remind her that she was only supporting cast. Of course, she took it better than I did—but that was the moment something sparked into life somewhere in the dark depths of my subconscious—the idea that Mina deserved her own story.
I travel a lot visiting schools, libraries and book festivals, and most sessions end with a Q&A. I’m always touched when someone asks if there will be a sequel to one of the books—when readers want to know what happened next for Laurence, Jay and Mina. A few people even told me that Mina was their favourite character, and each time they did, that spark glowed a little brighter.
In “15 Days” Mina and her dad have recently moved down from Yorkshire. We know that Mina plays in a brass band and that her mum has died. I decided I wanted to go back and explore Mina’s life before she meets Laurence and Jay. 
For me, stories are centred on characters—I’m interested in people—how they cope with what life throws at them. Losing a parent at a young age is going to be a life-changing experience, so I decided to set the story on the morning of Mina’s mum’s funeral. Then I sat down and started writing, and waited to see what would happen.
That’s how I like to work—discovering the story as I write. I follow the characters, listen to what they have to say, and watch what they do. It’s not the most efficient method, and can take a long time with lots of false starts and dead-ends. Many times I’ve written tens of thousands of words before I realise there simply isn’t a story to tell, which is frustrating. But this method has also provided some of the scenes and ideas I am most proud of—they grew organically from the writing and would never have occurred to me had I sat down and tried to plot them out. Not that I’m saying plotting doesn’t work—far from it. Once I discover the story I’m trying to tell, I have to find structure and balance among the mess on the page—but that comes later.
Following Mina on the morning of her mum’s funeral led me to a song. Mina needs to feel her mum’s presence in the room full of sombre people in dark clothes, and plays one of her mum’s favourites. It’s a song Mina grew up with—knew all the words to, without ever consciously learning them. There’s a line in the song about eating soup with magpies in! It struck me as an idea a child would pick up on—the younger Mina would have wanted to know if people really made soup from magpies—like the blackbirds baked in a pie from ‘Sing a song of sixpence’. Mina remembers her mum’s explanation—
“You told me that magpies fill their nests with shiny things they like the look of, and that magpie soup was the same: a combination of all the things you liked, so it was different for each person who made it. You said it didn’t matter if the ingredients didn’t really go together—because how could it taste bad if it was made up of all my favourite things? I have to say, you set yourself up for disaster with that one, Mum.”
That was the spark. The rest of the story grew from there. By the end, Mina is able to come to terms with her mum not being around anymore because she realises that her mum will live on in her memories and all the things she taught Mina—like how to make Magpie Soup.
Mina’s mum’s favourite song is ‘Fortunately Gone’ by The Breeders—you can listen to it here.
“Magpie Soup” is from the new Young Adult anthology “Stories from The Edge”, a collection of gripping, thought-provoking tales by eight award-winning UK YA authors. 
From the perils of online chat rooms, doping in sport, racism and terrorism, to gender and self-esteem issues, love, life and death, “Stories from The Edge” isn’t afraid to ask some big questions. Sometimes frightening, often funny, always brutally honest, these stories will take you to where the shadows are darkest and the ground drops away. The question is, are you prepared to look over the edge?
Out now in paperback (£5.99) and eBook (£1.99) Please visit for details.

For more information on Dave Cousins, visit

More Stories from The Edge Blog Tour posts here:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Other Alice by Michelle Harrison

Alice Silver had never met anyone who had killed before, but that changed on the day Dorothy Grimes walked past the window of Alice's favourite coffee shop. 

Published by Simon and Schuster on 28th July 2016
Pages -352
What happens when a tale with real magic, that was supposed to be finished, never was? This is a story about one of those stories . . . 
Midge loves riddles, his cat, Twitch, and ‒ most of all ‒ stories. Especially because he’s grown up being read to by his sister Alice, a brilliant writer.
When Alice goes missing and a talking cat turns up in her bedroom, Midge searches Alice’s stories for a clue. Soon he discovers that her secret book, The Museum of Unfinished Stories, is much more than just a story. In fact, he finds two of its characters wandering around town.
But every tale has its villains ‒ and with them leaping off the page, Midge, Gypsy and Piper must use all their wits and cunning to work out how the story ends and find Alice. If they fail, a more sinister finale threatens them all...
I may be completely biased, because I love everything Michelle Harrison writes. Ever since reading The Thirteen Treasures, I've hailed Michelle as the new Enid Blyton and I still stand by my words. She weaves fantasy with ease into a contemporary setting. 
This book is pure magic! I love that there is a book within the book! This tale brings to life, Alice's characters from her stories. Some are lovely but many are menacing and out to get what they want. For them to return to the story, Alice must finish writing it. When Alice disappears, Midge, Alice's younger brother, struggles to search for and save his sister. He must help her to return the characters back to the fictional world. 
The characters effortlessly spill out of the story into real life. I thought it was excellent how they believed themselves to be alive and really felt their shock  and fear on realising they were just characters from a story. I loved Tabitha, the talking cat, who loves a good cup of tea.
There is a real darkness to this tale, which is very much a signature of Michelle Harrison's style of writing. Her characters are never sweet or innocent. Dorothy Grimes is seriously scary!
The prose is intricately plotted and bursting with descriptive passages. I am in awe of Michelle's plotting abilities. 
The book reminded me how much I loved Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. If you are a fan of Inkheart, you will really enjoy this book.