The Mask of Aribella Blog Tour: the Superpower of Friendship

Hello everybody! Today, I’m so excited to be part of the blog tour for Anna Hoghton’s wonderful debut, the Mask of Aribella. Onto the post, which is is written by Anna and is about one of the most wonderful parts of this book!


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As you’ll see from the acknowledgments section of ‘The Mask of Aribella’, friends are extremely important to me. I couldn’t have made it through a lot of the hurdles in my life without them. Just as with my main character, Aribella, my friends have given me the strength to believe in myself and keep on fighting, even when the world seemed dark.

It took me a while to find friends who I could trust with my whole heart. When I was growing up, I remember spending a lot of time trying to fit in with certain people and feeling upset when I didn’t quite make the mould. I met a fair few bullies along the way and, as vulnerability is seen as weakness when you are a teenager, I often felt isolated. It took me a good few years to re-find confidence after those early experiences, and I revisited those old feelings whilst writing this book. I think that, even if you weren’t bullied growing up, everyone knows how it is to feel left out and like you don’t quite fit in anywhere.

At the start of the book, although brave and kind, Aribella lacks in confidence and is desperate to just disappear into the background. However, she sticks out because she’s different – just how different, she’s about to find out. But she soon learns that being different isn’t a weakness but strength, and that the secret of being a misfit is that ‘you’re never the only one’. Indeed, personally I credit all the times I felt like an outsider when I was younger as the spark that lit me up for everything I’ve managed to do and be as an adult. My logic became very much: if you won’t let me sit at your table, then I will build my own. And, when you start thinking and living like that, you meet other table builders, who invariably turn out to be the most interesting, wonderful and fantastic friends than you ever could have hoped for. Children’s books helped teach me that the best friendships are often the unlikely ones, the ones that spring up from nowhere, between people who, perhaps at first, appear entirely unsuitable for one another, like Charlotte and Wilbur, Frodo and Sam, Lyra and Will, and even Harry, Ron and Hermione, who start off at odds. Sometimes these friends seem to come from entirely different worlds at first. My best friend is my husband, Chris, he’s from California and has always been the Will to my Lyra. But these friendships between people who celebrate their differences rather than try to be the same are the sorts that grab hold and don’t let go; that can be counted on and trusted in completely.

These are indeed the sorts of friendships that Aribella finds. Among her friends there is Seffie, a wild-hearted, impulsive and mischievous girl, who is loosely based on my oldest friend, Katie – who was always a little wild and fierce in the best possible way. Fin is earnest and book-loving, as the best people I’ve met often are. And then there is Theo, whose loyalty knows no bounds and who will courageously look out for Aribella and others, even if it means putting himself in danger. I’ve been lucky enough to have now met many Seffies, Fins and Theos in my life and to get to call a great deal of them my friends. Making true friends came from leaving my comfort zone, giving up on trying to be like the people around me and, instead, showing the world my true self. It also, importantly, came from being a good friend in return and Aribella, though she makes mistakes, ultimately proves herself to be loyal and there for her friends until the end.

‘The Mask of Aribella’ is full of superpowers but the most important one of all isn’t talking to animals, walking through walls, or making flames come out of your fingertips; it is the power of friendship and this is the magic that helps Aribella find the courage to believe in herself and fight the darkness that is unmasked in the final chapters. Just like all our true friendships help us find our own strength, no matter what we face.

The Mask of Aribella by Anna Hoghton is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)


Are you planning to read this book? Who are your favourite friendships in fiction? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

My Favourite Young Adult and Adult Reads in 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be talking about my YA/adult favourites of 2019, and they’re a pretty brilliant bunch, so onto the post!


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The Curses– this is the sequel to the Graces, which was one of my favourite books in 2017, and somehow this managed to be even better. It takes place a year later and is from the point of view of Summer Grace, and I can’t tell you anything about it without spoiling it, pretty much. If you like your books dark but funny and with loads of intrigue, get on these two. There’s a scene in this that legit made me laugh like a hyena.

Song of Sorrow– I really enjoyed the first in this duology, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t expect to be anywhere NEAR as blown away as I actually was by this. It made me gasp and shriek and laugh and cry, I had multiple meltdowns in various contexts over Luvian (if you’ve read them, you KNOW what I mean, that man is magnificent!) And it’s just really bloody brilliant political fantasy.

A Girl Called Shameless– I loved the Exact Opposite of Okay, but again this sequel was even better. It follows Izzy as she attempts to get the law on revenge porn changed, and it’s just spectacular. It’s funny and clever and says so many crucial things, and I loved it. Also, Carson is an excellent book boyfriend and I love him.

Paper Avalanche– this book is so wonderful, and I’m VERY excited to be part of the blog tour next month. It’s about a girl named Ro, whose mum is a hoarder, as her life changes when she meets a girl called Tanvi and it kind of broke my heart, but it also put it back together again so Lisa is forgiven for that. The friendship between Ro and Tanvi is one of my faves ever, and Ro and her mum’s relationship was so complex and interesting and nuanced. If UKYA contemporary is your thing, you need Lisa in your life.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder– this is a YA mystery, which I don’t tend to read that many of, and it’s easily my absolute fave YA of this year. It’s about a girl called Pip (who I think I’m very like, although she’s a much better version) who solves the cold case murder of Andie Bell, who is from her town. I devoured it in a couple of hours, even though it’s pretty lengthy, and I was very proud of myself for partially guessing what happened! And Ravi is everything.

Jemima Small Versus the Universe– this is Tamsin Winter’s second book, and it is wonderful. She wrote the incredible Being Miss Nobody, if you’ve not heard of her, and this one focuses on a super clever girl named Jemima who is forced to join her school’s new “Fat Club”. It says some very important things, and it made me cry, and it’s just brilliant. Tamsin is just brilliant all round, to be quite honest.

The Paper and Hearts Society– this is Lucy Powrie’s debut, which I feel like I’ve been waiting on FOREVER. It’s about a girl called Tabby who becomes part of the titular book club when she moves to a new town, and the ensuing literary adventures they share. It is SO much fun, I’m in love with all the characters (if I don’t get an Ed book I’m going to be very upset) and the literary references brought me a lot of joy.

Sasha’s Secret– I wasn’t very sure whether this should go on the MG or YA list because it’s very much a teen book, really, but there’s less on here so that’s why it ended up on this one! It’s the latest in the brilliant the Lost and the Found series, which is about a literal band of misfits. This one specifically focuses on Sasha, the lead singer, and her issues with anxiety and absence seizures. I loved her so much, I adore the rest of the band too, I really enjoy reading about famous people and the romance is gorgeous. And the Pretty in Pink reference 🥰🥰🥰

Sealed with A Kiss– this is the story of a woman named Kate who moves to a remote Scottish island after getting dumped and falls in love with the rather handsome young Laird. It’s romantic and funny and has an absolutely evil cow of an antagonist in Fiona (and believe me, I want to use a stronger word there because that’s insulting to cows. She’s an absolute SNAKE, and I despised her with a passion). I loved spending time in Auchenmor, and it’s just joyful all round.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public– this is the latest Holly Bourne book, and it’s definitely my favourite of her standalones. It’s about a girl called Amelie retracing the steps of her abusive relationship to try and work out exactly where things went wrong, by going back to all the memories of the times Rhys made him cry in public. It was so cleverly written, Amelie is an amazing character and this book DEFINITELY made me cry in public, multiple times.

The Turn of the Key– this is, I’m fairly sure anyway, the first adult thriller I have ever read, and honestly I will be surprised if I ever find one that I love as much as I loved this. I picked it up because I was in the mood for something dark, which is not very like me, and I devoured it- I started late on Monday and finished on the Tuesday morning. It’s about a nanny with plenty of secrets to hide who goes to work for a family who live in a smart home in the Highlands. It’s the creepiest, most chilling thing I’ve ever read, hands down and it’s so cleverly written with the epistolary format of letters from prison recounting the events leading up to the death of one of her charges.


Which books from these age categories were your favourites this year? Do we have any in common, or are you planning to read any? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Five Backlist Books I Want to Read in 2020

Hello everybody! I’m not really sure why I’ve decided to write this post because it’s by no means an extensive list and technically all my 2019 books I’ve not read will be backlist too in a few days, but I wanted to share some of the books that aren’t 2020 releases that I hope to read. Onto the post!


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo/Taylor Jenkins Reid’s entire back catalogue- I’ve heard a LOT about Taylor Jenkins Reid in 2019 (mostly from Jess, whose opinions are generally pretty aligned with mine) and at this point the curiosity is killing me to be honest. Evelyn Hugo is apparently the best one to start with, but so many other concepts sound so interesting as well and if I like one I’ll probably read the whole lot!

Podkin One Ear– the amount of times I’ve said I’ll read this book and haven’t done so is really embarrassing at this point, seriously. If I read nothing else off this list, please can someone shout at me and remind me I need to read Podkin?

The Frozen Telescope– I really, really liked the Crooked Sixpence back in 2016 and enjoyed the second in the trilogy, so it’s a disgrace I’ve not read the 3rd yet. I’ve missed the chance to read it at the right time of year AGAIN so my only goal this time is to read it at some point.

The Tale of Time City– funny story, I heard about this book one day and was seconds off of buying it when I did an unhaul and discovered a copy was sitting on my TBR the whole time. Literally no idea where it came from, but the book sounds brilliant (I think it was Robin Stevens who I saw recommending it, and we all know how I feel about Robin Stevens!).

Shadowsmith– I’ve adored both of Ross Mackenzie’s books I’ve read so far, and while I’m scared to read this since it’s about a different world, I think I’ll very likely still love it!


Which backlist books are you most hoping to get to in 2020? What are your thoughts on the ones I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

The Naughty or Nice Book Tag 2019

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be doing the 2019 edition of Jenn’s Naughty or Nice Book tag, which I always love doing at this time of the year. Onto the post!


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Received an ARC and not reviewed it

Yes, but I can only think of one where that’s been the case this year in my defense. There could be more I just can’t remember though. And there are some I’ve not reviewed yet, but I do intend to!

Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley

I don’t use Netgalley.

Rated a book on goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

No. I wait till a review post is up then I update Goodreads properly.

Folded down the page of a book

Not intentionally but yes. My uni bag is a tip and where books go to get squashed

Accidentally spilled on a book

Absolutely.

DNF a book this year

Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

Yes. Definitely.

Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)

I’ve definitely done this. I did it this weekend actually, by neglecting an online test in favour of We Met in December. I did do it once I finished the book though!

Skim read a book

Guilty as charged. It was boring but I really wanted to see what happened at the end.

Completely missed your Goodreads goal

I’ve actually read more than mine already, which I really wasn’t expecting! I hit it by the end of November, not that you’d know given how bad I’ve been with reviews since starting uni!

Borrowed a book and not returned it

I still have library books out, but I’ve not like… stolen them. I’ll return them soon hopefully- I really want to dedicate some time to my library pile while I’m off.

Broke a book buying ban

I don’t do buying bans, so had none to break. There are definitely things I shouldn’t have bought though.

Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

Yes! Usually by the time I come to reviews, I have to check a couple of details about the plot and stuff, which is embarrassing. I remember the most important bits of course, and I’m much better with books I enjoy!!

Wrote in a book you were reading

God no, I’d never. I actually have a friend who used to do this with textbooks when we first met, but I have since reformed him.

Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads

There are some I’ve not got to adding yet but I will!

Borrowed a book and not returned it to a friend

I don’t think so? Friends, please tell me if I’ve done this? I’m sorry if I have!

Dodged someone asking if they can borrow a book

No I’ve not. At least I can’t remember doing that.

Broke the spine of someone else’s book

Library books, yes.

Took the jacket off a book to protect it and ended up making it more damaged

Nope!

Sat on a book accidentally

Definitely done this. I felt guilty for days.


I’ll not lie, feel like I might be on the naughty list here! What do you think? And do you think you’re on the naughty or nice list? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

The Two Books, One Stone Tag

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be doing the Two Books, One Stone tag, which I found on Lainy’s blog. Onto the post!


1) The second-last book you read.

At time of writing, Field Notes on Love. It was pretty meh for me, to be honest.

2) The second book from the top of your TBR

I think the 2nd next thing I’ll read is probably going to be In the Time We Lost but I might totally change my mind!

3) Two 2-star reads.

Bodas de Sangre and the Glass Menagerie are my two most recnt, I think? It’s not a rating I give much.

4) Two great books by the same author

Running on the Roof of the World and When the Mountains Roared by Jess Butterworth are both absolute perfection.

5) Two bails, or two books you’d wished you’d bailed on, or two books you hated.

I’m going to go for ones I’ve DNF, and I think the two most recent have been Running on Empty and the Girl with Shark’s Teeth.

6) Two favourite books this year

I, Cosmo is my fave MG, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder takes the crown for best YA so far

7) Two new favourite book bloggers.

They’re not really new anymore, but the two newest I’ve become a proper reader of are Rachael and Lily– they’re both brilliant!

8) A book you’ve read twice

I’m struggling to think of many I’ve read exactly twice! The Children of Castle Rock is one, I think.

9) Two fabulous quotes from books you’ve read recently.

Neither of these are very recent but the one about scars from No Ballet Shoes in Syria I mentioned in a Top Ten Tuesday about quotes shortyly after I read it and ‘courage, dear heart’ are my go to answers for this. I actually really want to get the latter as a tattoo!


What would your answers to some of these be? Do you agree with any of mine? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Ten Books That Give Me Autumnal Vibes

Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be talking about books that make think of autumn as part of Top Ten Tuesday– fair warning that they’re a super eclectic bunch and some of my reasons are pretty random!


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Harry Potter– I know Harry Potter ends up on a lot of these lists, but sorry not sorry. They always begin at back to school time, which is a quintessential part of autumn, and there are usually scenes for Halloween as well. Plenty of autumhal vibes in there to justify its place.

Soulmates– there’s a lot of bad weather in this book on account of the whole finding your soulmate can end the world idea it explores (which is so interesting!) and I think we can all agree that autumn usually brings worsening weather, much as I adore it.

City of Ghosts/Tunnel of Bones– Victoria Schwab’s MG books are about ghost hunting in different citues, and they’re pretty spooky. I ran out of room on last week’s list so it seems only fair to put them as my spooky autumnal vibes spot on this one!

A Pinch of Magic– I didn’t want to include too many witchy books on this because I’ve got tentative plans for next year’s Halloween freebie but I figured one wouldn’t hurt. This is witchy and mysterious and brilliant. Actually, all Michelle Harrison’s books are pretty autumnal in feel. My personal fave is the Other Alice, but I like all of them a lot.

Strange Star– this has rain on the cover and it’s got a ghostly element AND it’s about Frankenstein. Absolute autumnal vibes.

In Darkling Wood– yes, I am putting two Emma Carroll books on here, because it’s my list and I just want to. This is a dual narrative timeline between two intersecting girls in 2015 and 1918, and it’s kind of amazing- there’s this magical element to do with the possible discovery of fairies but also the tackling of some very real issues. The vast majority is set in November, which is a month I am fond of for obvious reasons (if you don’t know me, my birthday is in November).

Jolly Foul Play– yes, I will take any excuse to talk about Murder Most Unladylike, but this is set at Guy Fawkes night, so I’m not even cheating for once!! In this one, the (rather horrid) head girl is murdered and the Detective Society must investigate.

Nevermoor/Wundersmith– I think these mostly remind me of autumn because I read them both in autumn. I’m so sad the 3rd one isn’t out till February, I love my annual visit to Nevermoor to see Morrigan and friends a lot!

The Secret Starling– okay, I know I’m at 11 now but just wanted to give this a quick mention! The cover is pretty autumnal and it’s a mystery set in the 1970s with very creepy villains. Highly recommend!


I’m sure there are loads of others I’ll kick myself later for forgetting, but I’m pretty chuffed with that this list! What books give you autumnal vibes? Do you have any thoughts on the ones I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x

Author Interview: Alex Bell

Hello everybody! Today, I’m very excited to be sharing my interview with Alex Bell, the writer of the wonderful Explorers books and the newly released A Most Peculiar Factory with Barrington Stoke, as well as some YA. Onto the post!


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Hi Alex, thank you so much for being here!

1. First off, can you please describe A Most Peculiar Toy Factory in 5 words?

Teddies. Goblins. Creepy. Toymaker. Secrets.

2. Since the book takes place in a toy factory, what were your favourite childhood toys?Do you think you`d like to have a toy from Hoggle`s Happy Toys?

I had a soft toy of Abu, the monkey from Aladdin, that was my absolute childhood favourite. He came with me everywhere! I also had an impressive collection of Polly Pockets. And, yes, I’d love a toy from Hoggle’s Happy Toys, just so long as it wasn’t one of the evil ones.

3. I also really liked the otherworldly elements to the story, particularly someone I don`t want to name specifically as it may be a tiny bit of a spoiler, and I love this in the Explorers series too. What are your favourite magical elements or creatures to find in a book, and do you have any specific examples of these?

I enjoy it when there’s a little bit of darkness or creepiness to magic, as in many of the Roald Dahl books. And I’m just a sucker for any kind of magical creature in a book, but I especially like completely new ones that the author has created themselves, which is something I love playing with in Explorers.

4. The farm your main character Tess`s family runs sounds BRILLIANT- for anyone who hasn`t read the book yet, they produce sweets. If you had your own unconventional farm, what thing would you most want to create unlimited supplies of? (and this can be anything, not limited just to food!)

Ooh, what a great question! I think it would have to be some kind of Christmas farm, perhaps creating magical Christmas trees. Otherwise, it would have to be a unicorn farm.

5. My absolute favourite thing about the novella was definitely the ending though, WOW. What endings in books/films/TV shows have surprised you the most?

I love a twist and I almost never see them coming. I was completely blown away by the ending of Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, which I think is one of the most amazing novels I’ve ever read.

6. Also on the theme of endings, what tips would you give to writers trying to create a cliffhanger-style one? Between this and the ending of Explorers on Witch Mountain, it`s safe to say you`re amazing at them!

Thank you! I think the aim with cliffhangers is to leave your audience wondering about what happens after the book ends, so you need an unanswered question of some kind, or hint that things are not quite as resolved as the reader thinks. But at the same time I think it’s important that most of the major issues have been resolved, otherwise it can feel like a bit of a cheat.

7. What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?

I generally aim for 2,000 words a day but that really just involves sitting down wherever there’s space and working away at it until it’s finished. I don’t have a dedicated writing room, but I always work better with one of my Siamese cats on my lap for company.

8. Can you tell us anything about your next release or what you`re working on at the moment?

I’ve recently done the final checks on the third Explorers book, Explorers on Black Ice Bridge, which comes out in November. I had so much fun writing it, and can’t wait for their next adventure to hit the shelves, especially as this one involves sea-gremlins and gentlemen flamingos.

QUICKFIRE

Hogwarts house? Ravenclaw

Explorers` Club you most want to be part of? Polar Bears

Favourite biscuit? Jammy dodger

Thing you`re most excited about for autumn/winter? Eggnog lattes, always.

Top 3 reads of 2019 so far? North Child by Edith Pattou. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. The Binding by Bridget Collins.


Have you read any of Alex’s books, or are you planning to? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Amy x