Friday, 3 July 2015

The Potion Diaries Blog Tour: Interview with Main Character Samantha!

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn. Enter Samantha Kemi - an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam's family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they've fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime? And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news. No big deal, then.

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward was published in the UK by Simon and Schuster this week, and it sounds like a must-read for fantasy fans. As part of the blog tour I have an interview with the main character, Samantha, for you all to read. Hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Amy for writing it!


Interview with my main character 
By Amy Alward

Hello everyone! My name is Amy Alward and I’m very excited to interview Samantha Kemi for the Kingstown High School yearbook.

So Samantha, you’re definitely what I would call a legacy student around here- everyone knows you by your last name. Do you think you’re going to follow in your family footsteps? 

Wow, talk about jumping me straight into the deep end! Of course, I’m so proud of my family’s legacy as Kingstown’s (best) alchemists, but I also don’t like the idea that my destiny is already laid out for me and I don’t get a say. I guess the short answer is: I don’t know yet! I want to see where life takes me.

Speaking of life taking unexpected turns, what did you think when you first heard the Princess’s news that she was poisoned by a faulty love potion?

To be honest, I didn’t know what to think! I’m actually pretty impressed that she was able to figure out a formula for a love potion that’s been banned for over two centuries. That is quite a complicated formula. She always seemed to…let’s say…disguise her intelligence on the newscasts and TV programs that I’d seen on before.

Apart from that, I’m pretty excited that I’ve been called to participate in the Wilde Hunt to find the cure! It isn’t something that I expected to ever happen in my lifetime. It’s great that all the ingredients have to be natural too- although I respect the synths, I do believe that there is more potency in Wild ingredients than the ones made in the lab.

Ooh, a bit of a controversial opinion there. Speaking of synth potency, tell us about your competitor, Zain Aster- he’s a bit of a hottie, isn’t he? 

Is he? I hadn’t really noticed…

Sure, Sam, sure. You didn’t notice those dreamy blue eyes? That swarthy black hair? Those burly muscles?

Look, he’s on a different team to me, so it’s not like we’re exactly the best of friends. But I don’t want him to fail. I’m hoping we ALL do well, actually. If none of us manages to figure out the formula, the consequences could be real dire not just for the Princess- but for the whole of Nova. 

Well, good luck Sam and thanks for this awesome interview! We’re all rooting for you…Will you just answer a few of these rapid fire questions before you go? 

Books or Adventure? Books!

Unicorns or Mermaids? *shudders* Unicorns
Planes or Mirrors? Planes
Truth or Dare? Truth
Blue eyes or Brown? Blue

Amy Alward is the author of The Potion Diaries and editorial director for a leading children’s publisher. She is addicted to coffee, books and adventure. Get in touch via Twitter: @amy_alward or Instagram @amyalward!


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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Windsnap Wednesday #1: Liz Kessler's Poem and The Tail of Emily Windsnap + Giveaway!

In August, Orion Children's Books are set to publish the sixth book in the Emily Windsnap series, Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls, alongside a brand new cover look for the previous five instalments.

This weekly meme, titled Windsnap Wednesdays, is your one-stop place for Emily Windsnap and author Liz Kessler, and I'm excited to be kicking things off today! Over the next six weeks or so each Emily Windsnap book will be highlighted, with posts from both UK and US bloggers.

Today's content is a poem from Liz herself, all about an adventure that inspired the Emily Windsnap series. Hope you enjoy, and don't forget to follow all the fun on Twitter using #windsnapwed.


Windsnap Wednesdays #1
by Liz Kessler

Picture the scene: It’s early in the new century and late in the summer. I’m sitting on my narrowboat on the canal, looking out of the window at fields and sheep and a big blue sky. The boat is rocking gently, and a few lines of a poem drift into my mind.

Mary Penelope lived on a boat,
Which was all very well, but it didn’t quite float.
It wavered and wobbled and fell on its side
Whenever she tried to go out for a ride.

I am hooked. (Forgive the pun.) I grab a pen and get to work. And as my boat rocks, the poem unfolds…

…Now Emily, Mary Penelope’s daughter
Often felt sick as she didn’t like water.
Except, if I’m honest, that isn’t quite true.
(Although this is strictly between me and you.)

In fact, it fills my mind for the next few weeks. The story of a girl who lives on a boat with her mum and has a big secret: she is a mermaid. By the end of the poem, her secret is out, Mum is proud, Emily is free and everyone is happy.

Shining and beautiful out on the sea
Emily whispered, ‘It’s nice to be me.’
And, glad that her secret was finally told,
She swam with the mermaids, happy and bold.

But it turned out Emily didn’t want to be a poem. Luckily for me, I had a good writer friend (Lee Weatherly, still one of my best writer buddies) who, along with her editor David Fickling, gave me some fabulous feedback, which resulted in my decision to try writing the story of this poem as a novel instead.

And so, Emily Windsnap was born.

Back then, I had no idea where my adventures with Emily would take me. Now I can tell you this: they have taken me to Bermuda where I snorkelled with hundreds of beautiful fish; they’ve taken me to the midnight sun of an arctic summer; to magical castles, mystical caves, to hidden coastal paths and mysterious pools, ponds and waterfalls.

Emily has been part of my life for over a decade. Each time I write a new book in this series, I feel that I am going on an adventure myself. I am indulging my love for the ocean, exploring its mysteries and uncovering a few more of its secrets.

Sometimes, readers ask which is my favourite out of all the books I’ve written, and I often find this a difficult question to answer. But one thing I can say without hesitation is that my first book, The Tail of Emily Windsnap, will always have a special place in my heart. It is where it all started for me. 

Some people think that a writer makes up stories. I’ve never felt that way. I’ve always believed that our stories kind of exist in some sort of way, and it’s our job as writers to find them. I believe our characters exist in some sort of way too – and they choose the writer who they think is the best person to tell their story.

I am grateful that Emily chose me.

I hope I’ve done her justice. So here’s to mermaids and Emily and all that is swishy in the sea, and I look forward to focussing on each book of the series over the next few weeks, with Windsnap Wednesdays. And of course, at the end of all that, I am REALLY looking forward to Emily’s sixth adventure, Emily Windsnap and the Ship of Lost Souls, which comes out in August. Hope you’ll join me and Emily for the #WindsnapWed adventure and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we’re going to!

Swishy wishes!
Liz :)



Thanks to Orion, one lucky winner will win whole set of all six Emily Windsnap books, with the brand new sixth book to be sent to the winner upon publication in August. To enter all you have to do is fill in the form below.

This giveaway will end on July 8th, 2015, is open to UK and Ireland residents and is one entry per person. Good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The Baby Blog Tour: Nicola's Extract!

When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor - and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She's not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia's help. But Olivia has her own problems - specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there's Nicola's friend Ben, who's struggling with secrets of his own.

Lisa Drakeford's YA novel The Baby is published in the UK this Thursday, July 2nd, by Chicken House. It promises to be a great, emotional read, and I for one am looking forward to getting stuck in!

As part of this blog tour I have an extract to share with you all, which I hope you enjoy reading. It's part of a series of five extracts - see the banner below for details of where to find the other snippets!



This would be the first time that her mum had shown interest. She can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times her mum has even looked at the baby. 
Nicola swallows and allows a faint wisp of hope to slide up her throat. ‘I think she might be starting to get used to the place.’ 
Her mum purses her lips. ‘So you want this Ben up here?’ She looks doubtfully around the room. 
‘Please.’ Nicola nods. 
Her mum sighs and stomps down the stairs. 
A matter of seconds pass by before she hears Ben leaping up the stairs. Then he is striding into her room. He has his usual grin and something in a carrier bag. Nicola cannot begin to think how she could have coped without his visits. He is the one person in all this chaos who has made her feel vaguely normal. The one person who appears to have stuck by her. Everyone else, apart from Alice, has dumped her. Like she makes everyone feel awkward. 
‘How is she?’ Ben whispers, peering over the Moses basket. 
‘The health visitor says that we should talk normally around her so that she gets used to sleeping with noise.’ Nicola screws up her nose. ‘But right now I’m just grateful that she’ll sleep. I’m willing to live in a soundproof vacuum if it means I get four clear hours.’ 
Ben grins and turns back to her. ‘Dig the leggings, by the way, Nic. You aiming for a tie-dye design?’


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Friday, 12 June 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Cover Reveal - Millie vs the Machines by Kiera O'Brien

The lovely people at Quercus are publishing a brand new middle grade series by Kiera O'Brien, which starts with Millie vs the Machines, in August, and today I'm revealing the cover!

Here's a synopsis of the book which I think sounds great!

Boarding school, 2099. Robots are part of everyday life. Until pupils start going missing. One. By. One... 
Within the confines of Oaktree boarding school, Millie Hendrick and her friends are privileged kids in a future world, where robots are hired help for everyone. 
But Millie has never trusted the Units. They're just... creepy. 
When pupils start disappearing, and no one else shares her increasing terror, how can Millie find out whether she is the only person who can see the truth, or is simply going crazy? 
Who can be trusted - and who will be next?

And here's the cover! What do you think? I'm really looking forward to this one!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Phoenix Rising Blog Tour: Bryony Pearce Talks Series Writing!

Sail. Salvage. Survive. Toby's father is a wanted man. For as long as Toby can remember, they've been on the run. The Phoenix has become their home, their backyard the junk-filled seas surrounding it. The crew of the Banshee lives for hunting down the Phoenix and now they're closing in. Ayla has spent her whole life fighting - preparing for the moment when the Banshee will face its ultimate enemy. But Toby doesn't want to run any more and Ayla is his only hope. Can he turn an old feud into a new alliance? The future is in their hands.

Phoenix Rising was published by Stripes on June 1st in the UK and promises to be another great book from Bryony Pearce.

Many thanks to Bryony for the guest post and I hope you enjoy reading it!


Series writing 
by Bryony Pearce 
My last published novel, The Weight of Souls, ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger. It was a one book deal, so should have been a standalone, but when I finished writing it, both my editor and I agreed that if book one sold well, we wanted to publish the next part of the story (which would have been, by the way, a smack down between Anubis and Horus). So I changed things to leave it a bit more open ended. 
Then the publisher shut down. 
I felt bad about this, partly because so many readers were asking me when the sequel was coming out. 
This was the closest I have come to writing series fiction, until now. 
I don’t need to imagine the frustration that readers of an unfulfilled series must feel – I’ve been in the position of reading books and discovering that the rest of the series isn’t going to publication (Kim Curran’s Shift series is one of them – although Delete has now been published through a different publisher). I was one of the original George RR Martin readers, who gave up after waiting almost a decade for the next book in the series. 
So I know the risks of series writing, the potential to frustrate and therefore alienate readers if it doesn’t come off, the risk of writing a second book that doesn’t meet the expectations of book one. 
It’s scary to contemplate. 
However, I know that the sequel to Phoenix Rising is going to be published. This is as cast iron a guarantee as it is possible to have in an ever changing world. 
The sequel has in fact been written. As you read this, I am probably editing it (or perhaps doing the school pick up, or eating lunch, or even asleep and dreaming of it, depending on your timings and location in the world). 
While writing Phoenix Rising, I had to keep in mind the whole way through, the over-arching storyline of the series, not just the single book. I had to plant seeds for Phoenix Burning and research and plan things that were never going to happen in Phoenix Rising, but were likely to take place later on. I had to make sure that I didn’t contradict myself, or accidentally write in or out something I intended to be important much, much later. 
Writing a series is like writing a single very long novel. 
And yet, I wanted to make sure that Phoenix Burning can, if necessary stand separate to Phoenix Rising. It is its own story, as well as a sequel. In Phoenix Burning I didn’t just want to rewrite Phoenix Rising, it had to have its own feel and its own central coherent story that would become part of the whole. 
And so back to Phoenix Rising and the strangeness of having a ‘new novel’ which is now, to me, already a whole novel old. 
Characters which, in my mind are already older, have already developed into more jaded, more complex people, are characters that you are meeting for the first time as fairly naïve children. You are just setting out on Toby’s exciting adventures, while I am working on finishing them off. 
It is strange to me to be so far ahead of the reader. 
I can’t wait for you to join me here.

To find out more about Bryony Pearce and her writing, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter @BryonyPearce


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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Extraordinary Means Blog Tour: Robyn Schneider's Top 5 YA Reads!

When he's sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick teens, Lane thinks his life may as well be over. But when he meets Sadie and her friends - a group of eccentric troublemakers - he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn't have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure. Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances.

Extraordinary Means is published here in the UK tomorrow, June 4th,  by Simon and Schuster, and promises to be just as good as Severed Heads, Broken Hearts. It has a great, unusual cover too!

Thanks to Robyn for putting together this post about her top 5 YA reads and I hope you enjoy it!


Top 5 YA Reads
by Robyn Schneider

Noggin by John Corey Whaley: the most hilarious, insightful head transplant story I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E Lockhart: Boarding school hijinks and a fiercely feminist protagonist taking on an old boys' club.

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson: Gorgeous prose and a bittersweet story told in two timelines about a quirky, superstitious family dealing with loss.

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini: overachieving Craig winds up in a psychiatric ward and wryly explains the events that led to his crack up.

Looking For Alaska by John Green: A classic coming-of-age story that will make you laugh and cry equally.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Review: Hattie B, Magical Vet - The Mermaid's Tail by Claire Taylor-Smith

Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: July 3rd, 2014
Rating: 7/10

Amazon summary:

Another creature needs Hattie's help in the Kingdom of Bellua! This time a mermaid has lost the colour in her tail, and Hattie knows who has stolen it - evil King Ivar of the Imps. Hattie must travel across the desert to collect the mermaid's medicine. Will she make it back in time to save her? 


Hattie Bright is just about to go on stage at the village hall when her magical charm bracelet starts to glow and she has to go back to Bellua straight away. There she finds a mermaid in trouble and, if Hattie doesn't find a cure and stop King Ivar, the mermaid's tail will dry out!

I liked the mermaids in this book - they're not the mermaids I'm used to reading about, and instead they're grumpy and a bit mean. They look lovely though, with shimmery tails, brightky coloured hair and rainbow colour schemes. They have their own little corner of Bellua, at the Frozen Merlakes, and live peacefully most of the time. Unless King Ivar is about, that is!

Hattie and best Bellua friend Mith Ickle once again make a formidable team, with Hattie taking advice from Mith whenever she needs it. Although this book isn't my favourite of the series, it's still a good little read and takes the reader on a journey round parts of Bellua we haven't seen before. It's a huge kingdom and I'm sure it will take Hattie a while to make her way around it.

The Mermaid's Tail is the fourth book in this series, which is then followed by The Pony's Hoof  and The Phoenix's Flame. I'm looking forward to returning to Bellua and hanging out with Hattie and all the magical creatures again - hopefully this series will run for a long time!