Saturday, 31 August 2013

Final #WIPMarathon Check-In!

It's time for my final #WIPMarathon update! It's been so much fun, and I've met some fantastic writers! I'm going to miss it! But here's my last check-in:

Last Check-in Wordcount + Chapter Count: I couldn't update last week as I was away after a grueling week of edits! At the last check-in, I'd reached 19,000 words of both Darkworld Book 5 and my YA fantasy.

Current WC + CC (or SC):  I made it! 30,000 words of Darkworld Book 5 are done, which means I'm over halfway! Meanwhile, my YA fantasy is at 23,000 words, meaning I've exceeded my goal by 3K!

WIP Issues this week: And how you fixed them, if you did. If you didn’t, we can help you solve it!

Moving to London, recovering from edits...all the stuff mentioned in my What's Up Wednesday post, really! But I'm back into making solid progress now, so it's all good! Working full-time means I have to sneak in writing whenever I can, whether it be before I leave for work or during my lunch break (plenty of nice cafes to take my laptop to, though!). Once I snapped out of Edit Mode, I found the words came more easily, although I've had to push back my YA fantasy to focus on catching up with Darkworld Book 5, which is still my priority!

What I learnt this week in writing: Anything new you learnt from a book on writing, or a blog article that helped you improve your writing. Even if there’s nothing new you learnt, share one writing tip with us!

I worry about my first drafts being too short (they usually are) but I found this great post on Tumblr with some tips for making sure your plot is enough to sustain a full-length novel!

What distracted me this week while writing: Any fun or not-so-fun thing that happened, or that you did. Just share!

Moving to London, starting my internship, trying to switch off the inner editor, and playing online games with my boyfriend. :P And tiredness. Commuting an hour a day on the tube wears me out, and I have only about 4 hours of "free time" every day. But I'm determined to keep up the writing momentum!

Plan after the marathon

Finish both my books! Then focus on revising and editing my YA fantasy until (eventually) it's ready to query...

With Darkworld, finish Book 5, send Book 2 to my editor, and prepare for the release of Darkness Watching!

It's been an amazing month, and I've loved meeting so many new authors on Twitter and forming such a supportive community! I'm a very goal-oriented writer anyway, but during the weeks I wasn't travelling or editing, I doubled my productivity! 50,000 words in a month is a new record for me, and as I tend to edit and re-outline as I write, this is some achievement! I'd love to do it again in future! :)

Darkness Watching Cover Reveal!!!!!!

It's time! *dances* The Big Reveal! Ready?


Gorgeous, isn't it? And the demon eyes are PERFECT - just the way I imagined them! I'm thrilled - a massive thank you to Alex, my fabulous cover designer at Curiosity Quills Press! Here's her website if you want to check out some of her other work - she's super-talented! :)

She also designed me a blog banner:

and a blog button:

So if anyone wants to give me a shout-out on their blog, feel free to grab the button! :)

Only forty days left until publication! Eeeeeeek!! :D

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

What's Up Wednesday #4

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up!

What I'm reading

After finally catching up with all my internship reading, I read Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, which was awesome. I wish I had more time to read!

What I'm writing

I'm back at work on Darkworld Book 5 and on my new YA fantasy, but progress is slow. I've had a busy weekend and I'm now working full-time, so it's to be expected, but I can't help feeling frustrated with myself for not getting enough done! Meanwhile, I'm still exchanging emails with my editor about the changes to Darkness Watching!

What else I've been up to

Well, I spent a lovely weekend at the seaside with my boyfriend and his family, followed by a birthday party and watching City of Bones (which I really enjoyed, despite the changes from the book!). Then on Monday, I travelled to my new studio flat in London, where I'm living for the next 5 weeks! I started my internship yesterday, and I'm enjoying it! 

What inspires me right now

I'm struggling to find inspiration at the moment. London's amazing, but I'm feeling exhausted and overwhelmed due to the total emotional upheaval of the past few days. After an amazing weekend, moving to a new city where I know no one is taking a bit of adjusting to! I'm not homesick, per se, but I guess since university I haven't really ascribed one particular place as 'home' (I live with my parents but as there are no jobs in publishing nearby, I've always known I'll have to move to London, and most of my friends live hundreds of miles away anyway!). 

But it's tough. I'm happy, because I know I'm lucky in so many ways. But I'm also sad, and a bit scared (no money, general career uncertainty etc.) I guess I'm feeling unsettled and trying to get used to NOT getting used to anything! But I think I just need a good night's sleep and some time to adjust. 

Hope everyone else is having a great week! :)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays 
"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

All Our Yesterdays is a fast-paced thriller, if rather confusing to follow at first. It jumps back and forward in time in a nail-biting tale in which the truth gradually unfolds. In the present day Em and Finn are imprisoned, interrogated about something that, technically, hasn’t happened yet. A device has been invented that enables time travel and they need to use it to avert a tragedy – by killing the boy Em, formerly Marina, loves. She follows instructions written in her own hand, but when the past and present become entangled, it becomes ever more unclear whether she can kill someone she once loved to change the future.

In the past, Marina witnesses the shooting of Nate, brother of her closest friend, James – and shortly after, someone tries to kill James, too. Someone who looks just like her. Now the past has changed, and the characters both past and present are now set on paths with no clear outcome.

This is a really deftly plotted and well-thought-out story, which it has to be to cope with the mind-bending concept of time travel! Once I got past the confusing time-jumps, I found this to be a suspense-filled read that doesn’t fall down on character development, either. Marina/Em, Finn and James are all complex and multifaceted, and we see how they change, both in past and present. I was engaged from start to finish and thought this was a really interesting take on time travel – worth checking out whether you’re into sci-fi or not!

Rating: ****

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A glimpse into the crazy

This is my last update until I'm settled (relatively speaking!) in London! My life has been well into the realm of crazy lately. I have:

  • Returned from an awesome holiday in Italy to find ALL THE THINGS awaiting my attention!
  • Hit 20K in Darkworld Book 5 and am now having all the feels, because it's the last Darkworld book and I....arrrgghhh, it's so emotionally just...uhhhhhh. Yeah. Words fail, pretty much. Ironically, considering I'm supposed to be a writer. :P
  • Also hit 20K in new YA fantasy project (aka mer-zombie-vampire-mash-up-thing) and debated the Wisdom of Prologues.
  • Edited the whole of Darkness Watching in a maelstrom of angst and despair and headdesking and emails and writing and rewriting and passive-verb-hunting and wanting to destroy Microsoft Word for crashing... But I made it out alive. Just. After reading the damn thing about 100 times and rewriting about 10,000 words of it! (bringing it to a nice total of 62,500- I always add at least 5000 words to a book during revisions!)
  • Freaked out and panicked about moving to London and having nowhere to live, and people not responding to emails and calls and letting agencies and UGH. But I'm OK now! I have a studio flat to rent for a month, and I won't have to sleep in the Underground! :P
And this is what I'll be doing this weekend:

  • Waiting for email from editor *bites nails*
  • Tomorrow, spending about 5 hours on trains across the country to visit my boyfriend's family, followed by a movie-style reunion on the platform (cliche that I am :P).
  • Watching The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (can't WAIT! :D)
  • Moving to London properly on Monday, ready to start my internship on Tuesday!
  • Fitting in as much writing time as I can! But I'll have to skip this week's #WIPMarathon update, because Edits ate my writing time!

So many lovely people have put up with ANGST from me this week. Seriously, I don't know what I'd do without the people who put up with the inevitable rollercoaster of having a writer in their life. But it is greatly appreciated! <3

Meanwhile, Italy! I promised photos (probably. I think I did. Well, I have them anyway!):

Lake Garda <3

Me and the Lake

Gondola ride in Venice! I also acquired a Venetian glass frog, my latest writing mascot!

More fun times in Venice!

Another pretty lake picture!

Juliet's balcony in fair Verona!

Indie Book of the Week #7 - Strength by Carrie Butler

Strength (Mark of Nexus, #1)
When college student Rena Collins finds herself nose-to-chest with the campus outcast, her rumor-laced notions are shattered. Handsome, considerate, and seemingly sane, Wallace Blake doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, screaming and banging on the walls of his dorm room. Hell, he doesn’t look like he spends his nights alone, period.

Too curious for her own good, Rena vows to uncover the truth behind Wallace’s madman reputation--and how two seconds of contact had left her with bruises. Of course, there are a few setbacks along the way: guilt, admiration, feelings of the warm and fuzzy variety…

Not to mention the unwanted attention of Wallace's powerful, supernaturally-gifted family.

They’re a bloodline divided by opposing ideals, two soon-to-be warring factions that live in secret among us. When Rena ends up caught in their crossfire, Wallace has no choice but to save her by using his powers. Now they’re really in trouble. With war on the horizon and Rena’s life in the balance, he needs to put some distance between them. But Rena won’t let go. If fighting is what it takes to prove her own strength and keep Wallace in her life, then that’s what she’ll do--even if it means risking a whole lot more than her heart.

This fabulous book has just been re-released and is on sale for 99c this week, so don't miss out! :)

Rena, like everyone else, has always thought of Wallace Blake as the campus resident psychopath - the strange noises coming from his room have led to rumours getting out of control. But when she meets him, he seems like a normal guy. I liked reading about a love interest who isn’t an asshole for once – and is the campus outcast rather than popular with everyone! I loved all the characters. Rena is spunky and strong, and even though she’s in way over her head with the supernatural world she’s landed herself in, she never lets Wallace or his not-so-friendly brother, Cole, intimidate her.

The pace is leisurely at first, giving us time to get to know the characters, but then at 40%, BAM! Plot twist. I loved it. From that point on, I was hooked and had to know what was going on! The pace is faster in the second half and I really enjoyed finding out about Wallace’s family and their different supernatural powers. I thought this was an original spin on the paranormal genre!

The romance is both sweet and complicated, given that Wallace can’t touch Rena for fear of hurting her due to his uncontrollable strength. Nevertheless, there’s some great chemistry between them. The emotions are strong and kept me rooting for the characters. This is a fabulous debut novel and one I’d recommend to fans of New Adult looking for something on the paranormal side!

Rating: ****1/2*

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

What's Up Wednesday #3

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up!

What I'm reading

I've been catching up with internship work this week, so no reading for fun. :( But whilst I was in Italy, I read Maria V. Snyder's Study trilogy, which was fantastic, and A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I was completely hooked!

What I'm writing

I'm currently in the Editing Cave with the Manuscript of Doom, aka DARKNESS WATCHING, so no chance to work on my WIP's this week. *sob* I was doing so well with the #WIPMarathon, too, but alas, deadlines are calling, and I have only a week to get these edits done...*rocks in corner*

What else I've been up to

Well, I came back from Italy and had a ton of catching up to do - emails, messages, internship work, book reviews....and then I got the Major Editing Email from my editor so I was forced to retreat into the Cave! I also found out that my publishers want to move the DARKNESS WATCHING release date forward to the 10th October - which meant a lot of blog tour rescheduling! But it's OK now!

More plans: well, I'm spending the weekend with my boyfriend and his family, and then temporarily moving to London for my internship, which starts on Tuesday!

What inspires me right now

The thought of a light at the end of this tunnel, and getting to see my boyfriend and watch City of Bones this weekend!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

#WIPMarathon Check-In #2

Even though I've been in Italy all week, I've found the time to get more writing done than I've expected - possibly due to being without an Internet connection most of the time! So, although I've been out of communication for a while, I can still post my second update on my progress on the #WIPMarathon

Last Check-in Wordcount + Chapter Count: At last count, I was at 11,000 words of Darkworld Book 5 and almost the same for my YA fantasy. That's around Chapter 5/6.

Current WC + CC (or SC):  Now both my WIP's are at 19,000 words, and I'm just starting Chapter 9 for both of them!

WIP Issues this week: And how you fixed them, if you did. If you didn’t, we can help you solve it!

It's getting tougher to manage two projects at once now their plots are getting more complicated, but I can't bring myself to break away from either of them! I'm really into high fantasy mode, but Darkworld is always my priority project, so it looks like I'll be juggling them both for now! It's also getting tough to juggle two POV's in my high fantasy project and keep the two in balance, whilst not forgetting important details in the two separate stories!

What I learnt this week in writing: Anything new you learnt from a book on writing, or a blog article that helped you improve your writing. Even if there’s nothing new you learnt, share one writing tip with us!

Thinking time is just as important as the time spent doing the actual writing. I've been on quite a few coach trips this week (including Venice and Verona!) as well as two flights, so I've had a lot of time where my mind's been free to wander and think about my WIP's. The result? I've finished updating the outline to Darkworld Book 5, factoring in a few new plot twists, and also penned the final words of the book!

What distracted me this week while writing: Any fun or not-so-fun thing that happened, or that you did. Just share!

Well, being in Italy was a bit distracting! :P But as I said, I had a lot of long coach trips which provided ample time for mulling over ideas, and a couple of days by the pool with my netbook were enough for me to get over 14,000 words written! :)

Again, I can't share the last 200 words I wrote because of spoilers -but I'll have some teasers from Darkness Watching up very soon!

And let's end with a photograph of a lovely Italian sunset over Lake Garda!

Review: Vampire Academy: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss (Vampire Academy, #3)

It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all... might be seeing ghosts.

As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose's forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line - and choose between the two people she loves most.

Amazon UK

In the third book in Richelle Mead’s fabulous Vampire Academy series, Rose is ready to begin the trial which will test her abilities as a guardian, but instead of being paired with her best friend Lissa, as she expected, she instead finds herself having to guard Lissa’s boyfriend Christian. She has to pass the six-week trial to become a full-fledged guardian – but she has bigger things to worry about than her annoying partner: she is suddenly seeing the ghost of her dead friend, killed by the Strigoi. Even in the vampire world, seeing ghosts isn’t normal, and she isn’t sure if she’s going mad or if there’s something sinister going on. To make things worse, Victor Dashkov, who tortured and nearly killed Lissa, might get away with his crimes if he isn’t found guilty, and a mysterious group is trying to recruit the most powerful students – including Lissa. But if Lissa uses her powers again, there are deadly consequences…

Wow. The third Vampire Academy book is the best yet, in my opinion. Rose has matured a lot as a character and you really get to see this in Shadow Kiss. Her relationship with Dimitri is developed further, too, with more insight given into how much the two love and support each other. They’re the perfect match, despite their separate guardian roles meaning they cannot be together. The plot in this book is slow to unfold, but the last quarter is a fast-paced, gripping rollercoaster, and it ends on a twist I definitely didn’t expect! This is probably my favourite YA vampire series – the books keep on getting better! I love the engaging plotlines, the writing style, the original vampire mythology, and of course the kickass heroine!

Rating: *****

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Review - A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, #3)

Goodreads Description: Here is the third volume in George R.R. Martin's magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Together, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords...

The stakes are higher than ever in the third gripping instalment of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire saga. A Storm of Swords is actually split into two volumes, and introduces yet more characters and subplots to an already complex narrative. Yet it is to its strength, rather than its detriment, because each of these brings something new to the story.

For instance, we get Jaime’s perspective as he is escorted back to his father in a reckless exchange orchestrated by Catelyn Stark, who is desperate to bring her own daughters back to safety. But nowhere in the Kingdom of Westeros is safe. The Wildlings are moving to attack the kingdoms from beyond the Wall, and three kings jockey for power. Robb Stark retains his crown in the north, but the cunning Lannisters rule the south, and Stannis, the brother of the dead king, continues his alliance with the red sorceress Melisandre. Meanwhile, beyond the wall, the dead are rising, and only the Black stand between the army of Others and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms…

The narrative threads are expertly woven together, with the fates of many interlinking and no one side claiming our support. As before, the characters do not have black and white personalities but their decisions are morally ambiguous, and I found myself supporting characters I had previously despised. And Martin proves once again that this is no fairy tale. Characters both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ die – I still can’t believe the fate of some apparently major characters – and ‘villains’ get away with murder in the deadly game of thrones. There are no winners in this fantasy story which only gets more complex as it progresses. This series has me addicted, and I’ll be moving on to the next book without delay!

Rating: *****

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review - My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Save (Soul Screamers, #2)

When Kaylee Cavanaugh screams, someone dies.

So when teen pop star Eden croaks onstage and Kaylee doesn’t wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can’t cry for someone who has no soul.

The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand.

Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk...

Amazon UK

This is the second book in Rachel Vincent’s addictive teen paranormal series about bean sidhes (banshees) and reapers, and it didn’t disappoint! Bean sidhes Kaylee and Nash are pulled into danger again when they discover that people are selling their souls for glory. When Nash’s reaper brother Tod learns that his ex has sold her own soul and faces an eternity of torture in the Netherworld, the three attempt to do the impossible and find her missing soul – without losing their own.

The world of the bean sidhes, reapers and the Netherworld is really well thought out, and I liked that we get a deeper insight into the world in this second novel. The Netherworld, a sinister place loosely connected to ours but inhabited by dangerous hellions and carnivorous plants, is especially well described. The characterisation is also strong, and Kaylee and Nash’s relationship and chemistry are well-established. But Tod has to be my favourite character. As a reaper he’s invisible to most people and can walk through walls, appear from nowhere at will – and has a terrible sense of timing!

The second book in the Soul Screamers series is just as good as the first – an engaging paranormal story with a fast-paced plot and endearing characters. A must for supernatural/urban fantasy fans!

Rating: ****1/2*

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review- Onyx by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 Onyx (Lux, #2)

Being connected to Daemon Black sucks…

Thanks to his alien mojo, Daemon’s determined to prove what he feels for me is more than a product of our bizarro connection. So I’ve sworn him off, even though he’s running more hot than cold these days. But we’ve got bigger problems.

Something worse than the Arum has come to town…

The Department of Defense are here. If they ever find out what Daemon can do and that we're linked, I’m a goner. So is he. And there's this new boy in school who’s got a secret of his own. He knows what’s happened to me and he can help, but to do so, I have to lie to Daemon and stay away from him. Like that's possible. Against all common sense, I'm falling for Daemon. Hard.

But then everything changes…

I’ve seen someone who shouldn’t be alive. And I have to tell Daemon, even though I know he’s never going to stop searching until he gets the truth. What happened to his brother? Who betrayed him? And what does the DOD want from them—from me?

No one is who they seem. And not everyone will survive the lies…

Amazon UK

The second book in Jennifer Armentrout’s addictive sci-fi alien romance series is just as amazing as the first! Packed with action, chemistry and romance, this is a one-sitting read – with some fantastic characters and a genuinely original take on aliens.

Katy is trying to deny her attraction to Daemon as part of the connection forged when he used his powers to heal her, but he’s an expert at getting under her skin, and the link between them may be more than alien super-powers. But Katy’s developing freakish abilities of her own, and is in danger of attracting the attention of the Department of Defence – who would imprison her if they knew a human had found out about the Luxen.

Again, Katy and Daemon stole the show. Their interactions are hilarious, and I loved the constant witty banter and the way Katy refuses to let Daemon have the last word. But we also get to see a more caring side to his character, even though he’s as entertaining as ever. I loved Katy even more in this book, and I still think it’s awesome that she’s a book blogger who freaks out when her laptop breaks. I can definitely identify with that!

The plot in this book is more twisty and unexpected than Obsidian, and it kept me glued to the pages. There’s the perfect balance between romance, suspense and alien superpowers. A fantastic follow-up to Obsidian – now I need the third book!

Rating: *****

Friday, 9 August 2013

#WIPMarathon Check-In #1

Here's my first update on my progress on the #WIPMarathon! It was supposed to be posted on the 10th but as I'm going to Italy tomorrow, I figured I should jump in early!

Last Check-in Wordcount + Chapter Count: As I said in my intro post (see above link), I was 1000 words into Darkworld Book 5 and 1500 into my YA fantasy project when I started, so about half a chapter for each.

Current WC + CC (or SC):  Now I'm at over 10,000 for Darkworld Book 5 and the same for the YA fantasy (which is apparently now called 'Vampire Mer-Things Zombie Mash-Up' - blame Twitter for that one! :P). I realised yesterday that I'd written over 20k in 10 days - that's the most I've ever written, ever! I've never even done NaNoWriMo out of fear of losing momentum and interest due to overkill. But working on two projects at once has actually reduced my fears of both of them!

WIP Issues this week: And how you fixed them, if you did. If you didn’t, we can help you solve it!

As I said in my post on Wednesday, writing high fantasy is hard. Not just in terms of the research but also in the sense that it has to sound authentic, too. I had a lot of trouble making sure my first few chapters weren't too dense and packed with information and that the characters were sympathetic. I've got into my stride now and the narrative voice is starting to come naturally, so things are looking up! I'm also really enjoying writing something that's so different from anything I've written before.

What I learnt this week in writing: Anything new you learnt from a book on writing, or a blog article that helped you improve your writing. Even if there’s nothing new you learnt, share one writing tip with us!

I found a fantastic post on Tumblr with some great advice on how to outline your book. Anyone who struggles with plotting, like me, should definitely check it out! :)

What distracted me this week while writing: Any fun or not-so-fun thing that happened, or that you did. Just share!

Check out my Waiting on Wednesday post for more details, but exciting things have been happening! After a week in Italy, I'll have to find somewhere to live in London for a month! Also, sign-ups are open for the Darkness Watching release week book blitz with Grapevine Book Tours here, and the cover reveal is happening on the  31st August, so again, you can sign up here! :) 

I can't share the last 200 words I wrote because of spoilers! ;P

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Review - Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

 Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Goodreads description: Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. 

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Amazon UK

Perhaps the word ‘unique’ is thrown around too much, especially when it comes to fantasy fiction. After all, no idea is completely original. But Daughter of Smoke and Bone is honestly like no other book I’ve ever read. It rewrites clich├ęs. With intriguing characters and strange, haunting magic, this is without doubt one of my favourite urban fantasy novels of all time.

Seventeen-year-old Karou lives a decidedly unorthodox double life, half as an art school student, half as an errand-runner for the chimaera who has looked after her since she was a child. Her missions generally involve walking through a portal to ‘Elsewhere’ and emerging at any location in the world, in order to steal teeth (usually animals’, sometimes humans’) for her master. Did I mention bizarre?

But it works, and the result is a refreshingly original, beautifully written tale of a girl’s attempt to discover her identity. Karou is one of the strongest protagonists I’ve ever encountered in YA fiction, and the supporting characters, her best friend Zuzana and the mysterious angel Akiva are equally well-drawn. The magic created in this fantasy novel is unlike any I’ve read before. Brimstone, Karou’s adopted father of sorts, deals in wishes, which Karou uses to help her - including playing pranks on people or dyeing her hair blue! The story is well-paced and addictive, and the exotic settings are vividly drawn. Laini Taylor puts a whole new spin on forbidden love, and creates a fascinating alternative world locked in brutal war between the angels and chimaera.

This book is right up my street! It’s an utterly jaw-dropping urban fantasy, rich in detail and lyrical in style. An unquestionable five stars!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

What's Up Wednesday #2 and IWSG #5 - on project-juggling!

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up! It's also the first Wednesday in August, which means it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group, run by Alex J. Cavanaugh!

What I'm reading

I've been reading Daughter of the Flames and FrostFire, two other books by Zoe Marriott. As I loved her first urban fantasy novel, The Night Itself, I decided to check out some of her YA high fantasy. I confess that I might be experiencing writer envy right now - I love the way she envisions every detail of the fantasy worlds she creates!

What I'm writing

With Darkworld, to my eternal surprise, things are running smoothly (touch wood!). I think that working on another project at the same time has reduced the "OMGI'mwritingthefinalbookinaserieseeek" freaking out to a manageable level! :P
On the other hand, writing YA high fantasy is HARD. As I'm working on my new project, I worry that I'm sounding too pretentious, because I'm used to writing in first-person, contemporary voices. Third person isn't natural for me, either (though it's what I used for the FIRST novel I ever wrote, back when I was 18!). In the end, I've just tried to make it readable, but I know it'll need a lot of revising later. I'm at the stage where every word is a struggle, and every writing day is a battle of wills: me versus the blank page! So I guess that's my insecurity this month.

But that's why I love the online writing community. The #WIPMarathon has been a fantastic way of keeping focused, as well as an opportunity to meet some new and awesome authors. I don't think I'd be half as motivated without it!

Also, editing on Darkness Watching continues, and sign-ups have already opened for the release week book blitz with Grapevine Book Tours (*flailing*)! Sign up here if you want to be part of the fun! Also the fabulous Giselle is organising a cover reveal for the book on 31st August, so again, you can sign up here! :) 

Here's hoping I have the edits done soon - as amazing as it is that people are asking for ARC's already, it's starting to panic me a bit that I don't know when they'll be available! So that's a rather specific writerly insecurity, amplified because I'm going to be out of the country next week and won't be able to answer emails...

What Else I've Been Up To

Well, I'm off to Italy for a week on Saturday! Since I haven't taken a day off writing for about six months, a holiday might give me a nervous breakdown! (being a workaholic :P) I've also had an interview for an internship at a publisher in London and I got accepted, so I'm moving to London for a month! :D

I've also set up an 'editing services' tab on my blog, because I've decided to put my Grammar Queen title to good use and start helping other authors with copy-editing and proofreading their work prior to publication! I've just finished editing a book for my first client and received an amazing testimonial! As I'm just starting out, I'd appreciate it if anyone could help me spread the word! :)

What Inspires Me Right Now

Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine. Seriously, their music is an amazing backdrop to write to. Spotify is a creation of genius! (even if their advertising makes me crave Ben and Jerry's...).

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. 

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. 

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. 

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Amazon UK

Celaena Sardothian is the world’s most famous assassin – but she’s spent the past year as a prisoner. When Prince Dorian offers her a chance at freedom, she accepts, even though it means fighting as his champion against other assassins in order to win the honour of serving as his royal assassin for four years before being granted freedom. But a seemingly straightforward competition is complicated when her rivals start turning up dead, and she discovers a darkness beneath the opulent castle with its roots in magic long-forgotten.

I admit I found Celaena unbearably arrogant to begin with – she’s the world’s best assassin, and she knows it. She also catches the eye of every man within a hundred-mile radius, and the love triangle was a tad predictable. Oddly enough, though, it didn’t annoy me, and didn’t distract from the main plot. I like the idea of a world where magic once existed but has been all but stamped out of existence – but still lurks beneath the surface. Meanwhile, the plot is fast and exciting, and the heroine is entertainingly witty, if a bit annoying at times. I found I appreciated the vulnerability she tries to hide as the story continues.

Throne of Glass is accessible epic fantasy for a teen audience with a strong heroine, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s fast-paced, packed with mystery and memorable characters. I’m really interested to see where this series goes!

Rating: ****

Friday, 2 August 2013

Series Review - H&W Investigations by Jess Haines

This is my first 'series review' post, in which I post reviews of several books in a series back-to-back - mainly because sometimes I read all the books in a series in a row and it's easier to review them that way. I'm thinking of doing this monthly, so I'm starting in August and hopefully doing another one next month! For my first post, I've picked the awesome urban fantasy series, H&W Investigations, which follows detective Shiarra Waynest as she's drawn into the world of the Others - whether she likes it or not...

Hunted by the Others (H&W Investigations, #1)

Shiarra Waynest's detective work was dangerous enough when her client base was strictly mortal. But ailing finances have forced her to accept a lucrative case that could save her firm - if it doesn't kill her first. Shiarra has signed on to work for a high-level mage to recover an ancient artifact owned by one of New York's most powerful vampires. As soon as Shiarra meets sexy, mesmerizing vamp Alec Royce, she knows her assignment is even more complicated than she thought. With a clandestine anti-Other group trying to recruit her, and magi being eliminated, Shiarra needs back-up and enlists her ex-boyfriend - a werewolf whose non-furry form is disarmingly appealing - and a nerdy mage with surprising talents. But it may not be enough. In a city where the undead roam, magic rules, and even the Others aren't always what they seem, Shiarra has just become the secret weapon in a battle between good and evil - whether she likes it or not...

This is a fantastic and gripping urban fantasy novel set in a contemporary world in which the Others – weres, vampires, mages, elves, etc – have revealed themselves and live, relatively peacefully, alongside humans. Shiarra is a private investigator who finds herself dragged into the dangerous world of the Others when she accepts a case involving a stolen magical object from one of New York’s most powerful vampires. Suddenly she’s a target for anti-Other extremists, various groups of Others – and an extremely dangerous vampire. With mages being killed off, she realises the game is far more dangerous than she anticipated, and she’s unwillingly become a pawn in a deadly battle.

This is urban fantasy as it should be. The world-building is detailed but the author doesn’t hit us over the head with it; all information is delivered in way that feels entirely naturalistic. Shiarra is a tough female protagonist with just the right amount of doubt and sensitivity to make her a well-rounded character, and the other characters are well-established too, including the enigmatic and dangerous vampire, Royce, the mage Arnold, and Shiarra’s were ex-boyfriend Chaz. The plot races along, with plenty of twists and turns to keep it unpredictable, and the action and suspense kept me glued to the pages. This is an excellent debut novel and a must-read for all fans of urban fantasy!

Rating: ****1/2*
Taken by the Others (H&W Investigations, #2)

Taken by the Others

I loved Hunted by the Others, the first in Jess Haines’s witty and smart urban fantasy series, and the second novel didn’t disappoint. One of the things I like about this series is that the protagonist doesn’t have magic powers of her own, despite living in a world where vampires, weres, mages and other supernatural creatures live alongside humans in contemporary New York. Shia is a private investigator who wants nothing more to do with the Others – especially the manipulative vampire Alec Royce – but is forced to ask for his help when targeted by another dangerous vampire out for revenge on Royce for a past wrong. Shia is caught up in the world of the Others once again, and the result is a plot which is even more gripping and action-packed than the first book, with Shia facing her biggest fears – namely, becoming a vampire’s toy – and some truly terrifying villains. Familiar characters also make a reappearance, including Shia’s werewolf boyfriend Chaz; Devon of the anti-Other group, the White Hats, who are still trying to recruit her; and my favourite: a talking vampire hunter’s belt with a thirst for blood.

This is a fast-paced, entertaining read, and I’m definitely invested in this series. Shia’s witty narrative carries the story along, the characters are varied and interesting, and I really like the urban fantasy world Jess Haines has created. Now I’m off to read the next book! 

Rating: ****1/2*

Deceived by the Others (H&W Investigations, #3)

Deceived by the Others

In the third book in Jess Haines’s addictive series, Shiarra faces new complications both in her relationship with werewolf Chaz and with the Others when she accompanies him on a trip with the werewolf pack. It’s clear that someone really doesn’t want her there, and threatening notes start to appear. Meanwhile, the press refuse to give her a break, and someone is plotting to betray her.

I thought this one was a bit slower, but it’s still a great read. I found it interesting to learn more about the weres, since previous books have been more focused on the vampires. I love the alternative urban fantasy world the author has created, and Shia still manages to be an awesome character even without special powers of her own. With some unexpected plot twists and a cliffhanger ending, I’m definitely picking up the next book!

Rating: ****1/2*

 Stalking the Others (H&W Investigations, #4)
Stalking the Others

Stalking the Others begins shortly after the last book ends, and Shia, furious at being betrayed, is about to take revenge on the Others into her own hands. But two werewolf packs, a group of vampires and the White Hats all want a piece of her, and she’s playing a dangerous game. With the full moon approaching, she might be becoming Other herself – and the bloodthirsty hunter’s belt she carries might prove to be her undoing.

Wow- this was by far the most action-packed of the series so far! There are fights with werewolves, vampires and mages, and Shia really changes in this book, taking on the influence of the hunter’s belt to become more reckless and violent. The tension and plot twists kept me glued to the pages, and again, the ending left me eager to pick up the next book!

Rating: ****1/2*

 Forsaken by the Others (H&W Investigations, #5)
Forsaken by the Others

With several werewolf packs hunting her, Shia is forced to go into hiding in Los Angeles, along with her business partner Sara. But she’s soon caught up in a new case: someone is raising the dead, and vampires are being savaged by zombies summoned by a rogue necromancer.

Shia has definitely changed as a character throughout the series. Although she’s still scared of the Others a lot of the time (and who wouldn’t be afraid of an angry vampire or werewolf?), she’s overcome a lot of her prejudices and is even accepting that Royce doesn’t mean her harm. She’s also having to face up to the rash decisions she made in the last book under the influence of the hunter’s belt, which caused a lot of damage.

Although the pace is slower than the previous book, the mystery kept me turning the pages, and Shia gets to make use of her detective skills again. The book is fast-paced and witty, less dark than the previous one, and there are enough twists to keep you turning the pages. The only complaints I had were the absence of most of the more interesting side characters, and the frustrating cliffhanger ending – although that one threw me for a loop. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book as there are still questions I want answers for – is Shia turning Other, and in what way?

Rating: ****1/2*