Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Review - Splintered by A. G. Howard


Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family.

She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

As a huge fan of Lewis Carrol’s Alice stories as well as Tim Burton’s wonderfully dark and visually spectacular adaptation, I knew I had to read this! A. G. Howard conjures a Wonderland easily as mesmerising as Tim Burton’s in a dark retelling of the familiar tale that more than does justice to the original!

Alyssa Gardner is used to people making Wonderland jokes around her – everyone knows that she’s the great-great-great-granddaughter of Alice Liddel, the girl whose tales inspired Lewis Carroll to write the Alice books. But a name’s not the only thing she inherited: the family is cursed with hereditary madness, and it’s already claimed her mother. Alison lives in an asylum, claiming to hear bugs and flowers speak to her, and Alyssa knows it’s only a matter of time before she joins her mother, because she suffers from the same delusions. Or so she thinks.

But an inexplicable series of events leads her to question whether the curse is really insanity, and whether there is some truth to the tales of Wonderland. Soon, drawn by a mysterious voice, Alyssa has to take her own journey down the rabbit hole to break the curse. The problem is, she accidentally drags her childhood friend Jeb, on whom she has a secret crush, along with her.

They soon discover that the original Alice saw Wonderland through a child’s eyes, and the real thing is darker and more twisted than Alyssa remembers. She has to face killer flowers, outwit an octobenus (a walrus-octopus hybrid!), and meet the mysterious Morpheus, her lifelong dream-companion and friend of the original Alice. The writing is as beautiful and intricate as the gorgeous cover illustration, and Alyssa’s journey both echoes and twists the original in imaginative ways. The constant war between her desire to break the curse and her desire to give into her impulsive ‘dark’ side keeps the reader turning the pages to find out how it all plays out.

All in all, a fantastic debut! I strongly recommend this book to fans of Lewis Carroll’s wacky, mind-bending Alice books as well as anyone looking for a book that’s a bit surreal, inventive, and absolutely mad in the best possible way!

Rating: *****

Sunday, 24 February 2013

More good news!

I signed the publishing contract with Curiosity Quills Press!!!!!

Really, holding this in my hand made it feel so much more real...

Yes, that's the Curiosity Quills logo. It's SO COOL! :D

I know this is the place for my Darkworld series, and I'm PSYCHED that Darkness Watching has found a home with them! Thank you so much to Kathleen for taking me on, and I'm excited to meet the rest of the team!

I've received several messages lately from other writers saying that my journey's inspired them to pursue their own goals. There are so many authors I admire and who have inspired me, and it's both humbling and exhilarating to know that I'm inspiring other authors in turn!I think that's what writing's about - inspiring each other. Eh, I don't normally do sappy speeches, at least in real life! But seriously, I love getting messages like that. Almost as nice as getting nice messages from people who have read and enjoyed my book! :)

Hope everyone else is having a fantastic weekend! 2013 is shaping up to be the best year ever! :D

Monday, 18 February 2013

Liebster Award

It seems once again I've been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award, this time by the lovely Reena at Starlight Book Reviews! I'm short on time so I'm afraid I'll have to cut corners a bit here - it seems I've nominated everyone I know lately so I genuinely can't think of eleven nominees! I'll try to answer the questions, though! :)

1. What's your favorite genre for reading?

I'd have to go with fantasy, but I'll read pretty much all speculative genres, including paranormal and dystopia. And I won't rule out other genres entirely!

2. When did you start blogging?

I started this blog in April 2012. So, 10 months now!

3. Any favorite books or recommended books to read?

Everyone should read the Harry Potter series, but that goes without saying. ;) For YA fiction I'd also recommend the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa and the Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. 

If you like your fantasy a bit more grown-up and gritty, try A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. And I'd always recommend Tolkien!

4. What's your favorite song, tv series or movie?

TV series: Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and Pokemon (the original, not the new ones). Nerd alert. :P

Movie: has to be The Lord of the Rings.

5. Books or Movies? Why?

Books, definitely. You get a more immediate and personal experience, you can carry a book everywhere and make it last as long as you like, and it doesn't skimp on details like some movies do when they have to fit into a short time frame. Yay for books! 

6. Who's your favorite character of all time?

That's impossible...I can't choose!

7. Do you have any other hobbies besides reading or blogging?

I write. :) I also like playing video games and going to the cinema.

8. Which book character would best describe you?

Argh...another tough one. I've no clue.

9. Do you have any book boyfriends/girlfriends? Who? Or if you don't, who do you like the most?

I don't really do that kind of thing...but I think Ash from the Iron Fey series is pretty badass. And Jace from the Mortal Instruments. And (I know no one will have heard of this one, but oh well!) Kanda from the D.Gray-Man manga.

10.Which book would you want to be turned into a movie?

So many of my favourite books are being adapted already! But one I'd love to see on the big screen is Sabriel by Garth Nix.

11. Where's your favorite place to read?

Probably my room, although I'd read everywhere if I could get away with it!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Review - Don't Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto

Don't Fear the Reaper (Netherworld, #1)

Description: Haunted by memories of her murdered twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her only ticket to eternal peace. 

But in death, she discovers the afterlife is nothing like she expected. Instead of peaceful oblivion or a joyful reunion with her sister, Keely is trapped in a netherworld on Earth with only a bounty-hunting reaper and a sarcastic demon to show her the ropes.

When the demon offers Keely her ultimate temptation--revenge on her sister's killer--she must determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, the reaper and demon have been keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true--that her every decision changes how, and with whom, she spends eternity. 

Where to buy: 

Where to find Michelle

When seventeen-year-old Keely commits suicide, she expects to be reunited with her murdered twin sister Jordan, whose death she never recovered from, in the afterlife. Instead, she wakes up looking at her own corpse and in the company of two men in suits: Banning, a reaper employed to escort her to the afterlife, and Daniel, a demon. Suddenly death doesn’t seem so simple.

Now in purgatory, bound to walk the earth amongst the other souls unable to move on, Keely is faced with a choice. She wants to find her sister’s killer, and when Daniel offers her that chance, she finds herself torn between saving her own soul and avenging her sister.

This is the first book by Michelle Muto I’ve read, and it was amazing! Don’t Fear the Reaper is a haunting take on life after death, and I was instantly drawn in from the first chapter. The themes of teen suicide and murder are undoubtedly bleak, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a light read, but Muto does an excellent job of capturing the emotions surrounding death and in particular, Keely’s realisation of the pain she has caused her family. Her regret and grief make her sympathetic despite her selfish act.

Sad and poignant, this is an extremely well-written novel which draws on the idea of purgatory as simply earthbound, lingering in the living world. This unseen world of reapers, angels and demons is made plausible through the details and through the characterisation. Daniel is another interesting character: a demon with a conscience. Daniel is unable to help what he is, but as it’s his job to convince Keely to give up her soul, he is not trustworthy even though he may be Keely’s last hope to find her sister.

I found the lack of romance refreshing for YA novel, and I didn’t feel it detracted from the story. Far more important was the sisters’ close bond and the personal stories of the individual characters. This is a powerful and thought-provoking tale of death, life and hope, and I will definitely be reading more from this author!

Rating: 5 stars.


 About the author:

Michelle Muto lives in northeast Georgia with her husband and two dogs. She loves changes of season, dogs, and all things geeky. Currently, she’s hard at work on her next book.

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop!

I've been tagged in the Next Big Thing blog hop by my fellow author Sharon Sant! I have to answer the following questions then tag two writers to follow!

1. What is the working title of your next book?

My next book is called Darkness Watching, and it's the first in the Darkworld series.

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Honestly, I've no idea. The first novel I ever wrote was a boarding-school-set children's fantasy book with demons as the main antagonist, and although that particular story will never see the light of day, around a year ago I started thinking about trying to use the demon idea again, but rewriting it for an older audience. Then I thought: why don't I set it at a university? I was in my second year at Lancaster at the time, and I thought a university would provide the perfect environment in which to set all the chaos. So I revamped the plot, made up whole new characters and invented a fictitious university in the middle of nowhere.

But as to what prompted me to write about demons in the first place, I couldn't say...

3. What genre does your book fall under?

I've categorised it as New Adult/Young Adult supernatural fantasy. It's a tough one because the main characters are older than the average YA protagonist, but in terms of content it's more upper YA-level. But I guess there's a fine line between YA and NA anyway! As for supernatural fantasy...I guess it could also fall under urban fantasy and paranormal, but it isn't a paranormal romance. There's romance in there, but no guarantee of a happy ending, and everyone has ulterior motives. I'd say there are bits of several genres in there.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Argh, this is a tricky one. I'd want the actors/actresses playing the main characters to be British, because it's set at an English university and that's the way I've always pictured it. It irritates me when movie adaptations of books change the location needlessly. That's why I love the Harry Potter films so much - they look exactly as I'd imagined them to when I read the books!

Anyway, as long as the actors/actresses looked vaguely like I imagine the MC's to, I'm not overly fussed...

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I struggle with this one too - mainly because it's the one sure-fire way to make even the most original idea sound generic and cliche! 

Ashlyn can see into the home of demons, the Darkworld - but that's only the start of her problems as she encounters supernatural threats at her new university and confronts someone who's out to kill her.

Or possibly...

Watched by eyes no one else can see, university student Ashlyn must learn the reason for the demons’ interest in her before her abilities put her at the mercy of those who would use her as a tool for evil.

Ugh. I always start with a one-sentence summary when planning my books, but that swiftly gets forgotten as I build a more complex plot. It's hard enough writing a blurb!

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agent?

Neither - I've secured a publishing contract with the small publisher Curiosity Quills Press, but I don't have an agent. I've received positive (or form) rejections from every agent I've queried, and in my experience it's been harder to get an agent than to get the interest of a small publisher. Until I actually need one, or if Hollywood comes knocking on my door (heh) I'm not actively seeking one out.

7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It was a bit of a confusing process because I got halfway through Draft #1 before I went travelling around Costa Rica. I couldn't take my laptop with me, but I finished the (very rough) first draft by hand whilst in the jungle! If that counts, then about 3 months. But it took me another month to get a complete typed draft after I got home. 

It might seem incredibly fast, but the idea's been there for about 6 years, and I'd been planning all 5 books for a year beforehand so I could pretty much dive straight in. It's by far been the smoothest first draft I've ever written, though!

8. What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

Hmm...I'd say it should appeal to fans of other YA urban fantasy series such as Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series and the Demon Trappers series by Jana Olivier. The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead has a similar kind of campus setting, and I'm sure there are a lot of other books that do,  even if I can't think of them at the moment! But it's different enough from those series that it should hopefully appeal even to people who didn't like them.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My unwillingness to let an idea go to waste, more than anything. And those demons just wouldn't leave me I decided to inflict them on the world. *evil laugh*

I guess it's also because university has by far the best experience of my life. I wanted to capture that feeling of infinite opportunity, when your own life is in your hands and it doesn't matter if you make mistakes because your future isn't set in stone. Even if you can see invisible demons!

10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? creative writing tutor joked that I should pitch it as The Exorcist meets Harry Potter meets campus novel...make of that what you will! It's sometimes scary, sometimes crazy, and captures all the madness of student life!

Now I'm tagging two fellow writers! My two nominees are Suzanne Furness and Julie Luek!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Teaser - Don't Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto

Today I'm excited to feature a teaser from Don't Fear the Reaper by Michelle Muto! 

About the book:

Don't Fear the Reaper (Netherworld, #1)

Description: Haunted by memories of her murdered twin, Keely Morrison is convinced suicide is her only ticket to eternal peace. 

But in death, she discovers the afterlife is nothing like she expected. Instead of peaceful oblivion or a joyful reunion with her sister, Keely is trapped in a netherworld on Earth with only a bounty-hunting reaper and a sarcastic demon to show her the ropes.

When the demon offers Keely her ultimate temptation--revenge on her sister's killer--she must determine who she can trust. Because, as Keely soon learns, the reaper and demon have been keeping secrets and she fears the worst is true--that her every decision changes how, and with whom, she spends eternity. 

Where to buy: 

Where to find Michelle


My brain refused to accept the facts in front of me. I couldn’t be dead. If I was dead, I wouldn’t be rationalizing my death. My brain insisted I was tripping. Yes, that was it. A wild trip like in the old days. Or, a lack of oxygen. I’d heard people thought some pretty weird things when they didn’t have enough oxygen. What if I was in a coma, or having an out of body experience?
I shook my head. “Not real,” I heard myself whisper.
“Real,” Daniel said, nonchalantly from his post against the wall. “Stage one, full denial with psychotic tendencies and delusions of astral projection.”
I hated him, hated the way his words sounded in my ears. He didn’t care that my parents were completely torn apart. He didn’t care how sorry I was. My life was...gone. Over.
What had I done?
“Enough,” Banning warned him. “Ever hear of tact?”
“Oh, I’m supposed to have sympathy for her on top of everything else?” Daniel scoffed. “I know better, Banning. I freaking know better. Am I supposed to candy-coat it? Tell her it’s okay and then show her around hell like it’s Ft. Lauderdale on spring break?”
“She’s not going with you,” Banning repeated.
I wasn’t going with anyone. I wanted them to leave me alone. Or fix everything. For the first time in months, I wanted something more than my sister’s life back. I wanted my life back. “Undo this. Fix it!” I shouted.
“If only I could,” Banning said. “That’s not within my power—”
“Then take me to someone who can. God. Lucifer. Anyone.
“That’s a no-go on my end. What do you have, Banning?” Daniel had his head down, rubbing his temples in slow circular motions. I guess my parents grieving over my dead body was too much for him. I hoped there wasn’t anything like aspirin in hell.
Banning shook his head. “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Keely.”
“Screw that! People come back from the dead all the time. I’m just having a near death experience. Put me back.” A glance in the mirror told me that my eyes had already started to get puffy. But even red and tear-stained, my face was still considerably better than the me lying dead on the bathroom floor.

About the author:

Michelle Muto lives in northeast Georgia with her husband and two dogs. She loves changes of season, dogs, and all things geeky. Currently, she’s hard at work on her next book.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The most epic of epic news

It took me a while to get my thoughts into some kind of order to type this post. It's been a hectic few weeks and things are only going to get busier with my online internship starting next week, deadlines for every university module and The Puppet Spell blog tour coming up. But in the midst of all this chaos, I received an email that stopped me dead in my tracks.

I've been offered a publishing contract for my next book from Curiosity Quills Press!

As you can imagine, I felt something like this:

(actually a photo of me skydiving in Australia a couple of years ago :P)'s happening. The first in my new Darkworld Series, Darkness Watching, will hopefully be published by the end of the year! It'll be available in paperback and ebook format, and I'll update as soon as I have more information. For now, here's the blurb of my book I used in my query:

'Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. Watched by sinister eyes no one else can see, Ash fears she’s going mad. But the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits– and the darkness is staring back.

As if freaky staring eyes weren’t enough, Ash then fails to get a place at her university of choice, ending up at her backup plan – which turns out to be in a village in the middle of nowhere. But in Blackstone, she finds a life she never knew she was missing. New friendships, bizarre flatmates and all-night bar crawls are part of the package of student life. But as she grows closer to her new flatmates and begins a tentative romance with fellow student David, she also discovers that there’s something else that drew her to Blackstone: the Venantium, sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.

Ash soon finds herself the centre of unwanted attention from a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld: partygoer Claudia, volatile Howard, slacker Leo, and sharp-tongued Berenice. This renews a fear that the demons want something from her, and if they knew, the Venantium would claim her as their own. One thing is clear: not everyone is what they appear to be…

DARKNESS WATCHING is the first in a chilling supernatural saga, the Darkworld series. It is a tale of dark sorcery and demonic possession that will haunt and thrill readers aged 16+.' 

Writing. It's time-consuming, frustrating, and you don't get to spend much time doing actual writing. But this is what I want to do, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm unbelievably excited about this! :D

Monday, 4 February 2013

Review - The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa

The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #1)

Goodreads description: Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

Amazon UK

Add on Goodreads

Julie Kagawa revisits the world of the Iron Fey in her stunning new series, Call of the Forgotten. Whilst Meghan rules the Iron Kingdom as Queen, her younger brother Ethan, who was only four when she first disappeared into the Nevernever, has never forgotten her – even though he and his parents have to pretend she never existed. It’s dangerous for humans to get involved with faeries, but the faery world refuses to leave Ethan alone, and when he stands up for a half-breed faery-human, he doesn’t realise just how fast things can get out of control. Half faeries and exiles are disappearing, and when the sinister ghost-fey responsible notice Ethan asking questions, they come after him. Now Ethan’s stuck in the Nevernever with his new human friend Mackenzie, and it seems his birthright isn’t as easy to escape as he thought…

I couldn’t wait to read this book, and it was far from disappointing. I like Ethan as a protagonist, even when he’s pushing people away so they won’t attract the attention of the fey, which is understandable, considering how what happened to his sister has affected his life. I like Kenzie’s no-nonsense attitude and her fearlessness in the face of the crazy things happening around her, and the introduction of Meghan’s and Ash’s son Keirran was unexpected, as was his storyline. The Lost Prince also brings back many familiar faces, including Meghan, Ash, Puck, the queen of exiles Leanansidhe, and the enigmatic Grimalkin. We’re also re-introduced to the sinister ghost-fey from The Iron Knight, the forgotten – fey whose only way of clinging to existence is to drain the glamour from other fey. This makes for an exciting story packed with the same action and suspense that makes the Iron Fey series awesome.

One of the interesting things about this book is that the main characters are mostly human, taking on the fey armed with nothing more than martial-arts sticks. This makes for some intense action scenes! The plot is interesting and the twists are unexpected. I confess that I prefer the original Iron Fey series, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I’m looking forward to seeing where Julie Kagawa takes the series next! 

Rating: 4.5 stars.