Sunday, 29 September 2013

Review - Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her.

Amazon UK

I've been waiting for over a year to find out how Cassandra Clare’s fantastic Infernal Devices series turns out, and my expectations were high. But it was worth the wait, because Clockwork Princess is the perfect ending to the series!

Tessa is engaged to marry Jem, but feels torn in two as part of her still belongs to Will. Will struggles to hide his feelings for Tessa from his parabatai and closest friend, but when the demon poison to which Jem is bound begins to run out, they both fear they may lose him. Elsewhere, Mortmain is building his army of automatons to take down the Institute, and only one piece of his plan is missing: Tessa herself. It’s finally time for Tessa to learn the truth about what she is and why she was created, as Mortmain closes in on the Shadowhunters…

This is a long book, but I read it in only a few short hours – it’s that gripping! I wanted to know the fate of every character, and thankfully every storyline is rounded off nicely. There were so many twists I didn’t see coming, and Cassie constantly teases us and pulls on our emotions. I genuinely didn’t see how the love triangle could possibly resolved, and I was right that there’s a lot of heartache involved, but in the interests of avoiding spoilers, let me just say that the ending was just…perfect. There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about this book! This is definitely one of my favourite series of all time, and one I’ll certainly be rereading.

Rating: *****

Friday, 27 September 2013

Double Cover Reveal - Juliana Haygert

Soul Oath (Everlast #2)
Expected pub date: Nov/25/2013
Length: ~80,000 words

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s been three months since Nadine last heard from Victor, Micah or Ceris, allowing her to concentrate on her own life. But until Victor and Micah find the scepters that will restore them as true gods, their human bodies will require her healing touch and it’s only a matter of time until they wreak havoc on her life again.

As if to prove that, Victor shows up at the hospital dragging along with him a swarm of demons. Nadine is forced to flee to safety. Despite her attempts to keep her loved ones protected, the demons find her, and they bring her to Imha, the goddess of Chaos.

Now, confronted by her greatest fear, Nadine finds a new motivation. Vengeance. And when seeking revenge, no risk is too great, including her own life.

**New Adult Fantasy Novel**

Cup of Life (Everlast, #2.5)
Expected pub date: Nov/25/2013
Lenght: ~15,000 words

Summary from Goodreads:
His existence would mean nothing without her.

Book One:
(linked to Goodreads)

About the Author:
New Adult author and contributor at NA Alley blog.
While Juliana Haygert dreams of being Wonder Woman, Buffy, or a blood elf shadow priest, she settles for the less exciting—but equally gratifying—life of a wife, mother, and author. Thousands of miles away from her former home in Brazil, she now resides in Connecticut and spends her days writing about kick-ass heroines and the heroes who drive them crazy.

Author Links:
    photo iconfacebook-32x32_zps64a79d4a.png  photo iconpinterest_zps6fcf02a7.png

Cover Reveal Organized by:

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Review - Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

 Opal (Lux, #3)

No one is like Daemon Black.

When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well... There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on.

But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love.

After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different... And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable of. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever.

Together we’re stronger... and they know it.

Amazon UK

In the third book in the Lux series, Katy and Daemon have finally admitted their feelings for each other, but they also have to deal with the devastating aftermath of the end of Onyx  - betrayals, the death of a friend and the return of someone unexpected. Now they have to find a way to save the other victims of the secret organisation’s testing programme, without getting captured again themselves. The plot was a little slower in this one, but there’s still enough romance, action and character development to keep us turning the pages. And there’s plenty of jaw-dropping plot twists and betrayals!

Katy in particular gets some great character development and we really get to see how her experiences have changed her. Her powers are now pretty badass, and even though she and Daemon are head over heels in love, she remains intelligent, independent and strong-willed. Daemon is as sweet as he can be infuriating, and there are some hilarious one-liners in their interactions as usual. Props to Jennifer L .Armentrout for writing one of the most entertaining couples in YA fiction!

I loved this book just as much as the others, and I have a feeling this series is building up to an epic conclusion, if the killer cliffhanger ending is anything to go by! 

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday #8

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 reading a book of short stories chosen by Neil Gaiman, intriguingly titled Unnatural Creatures. Just my kind of book!

What I'm writing

I already posted about finishing the Darkworld series! Other than that, I've been inching forward with my YA fantasy. It's slow-going, but I'm getting close to the 2/3 mark!

What else I've been up to

I had a great time exploring London over the weekend - setting myself the ambitious task of bookshop-hunting with the help of Google Maps, and seeing as many sights as possible! I walked past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey; saw Big Ben and the London Eye; watched a guy playing bagpipes in Trafalgar Square, got attacked by a pigeon in Piccadilly - and found the biggest Waterstones in the UK! Unfortunately, I can't share my photos yet because I rather stupidly left my camera cable back in Birmingham...but I'm moving out of my London flat on Saturday! Yes - my placement finishes on Friday. It's been a great month, and I can't believe it's flown by so fast! It's kind of scary that I'm now left in the no-man's-land of the UK graduate job market...again...but with my book coming out on the 10th October, I'll get some time to kick-start the promotion!

What inspires me right now

I'm inspired by life. Exploring London has re-awakened my adventurous spirit, and I can't wait to make the most of my time off to plan my next trip!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

On finishing the Darkworld series...

On the 19th September 2013, I finished writing the Darkworld series. All 5 books EXIST. Of course, I still need to do a ton of editing. But the story's there. That's what matters.

I can't even summon the words to describe how this feels. I guess I'm a mixture of:
  1. Elated. I've wanted to write this series for so long, and it was one of those strange, wonderful moments when a book wants to be written so much it tries to write itself, like I was possessed (heh). Even when I was stuck in the Costa Rican jungle with no internet access and only one small notebook and a few cheap pens (and no access to the first half of the draft!), I still finished the first book. Even with all the final-year stress at university, with a dissertation rearing its ugly head over me, I still wrote books 2 and 3 whilst studying for my exams, and started Book 4 after my exams were over. And now, after a marathon summer of writing (whilst juggling internships, freelance stuff, and the unpredictable insanity of life!), I'm done. Book 5 is finished. And hell, it was hard work. But so worth it!
  2. Confused. What am I doing with my life?! This is my standard response to finishing a book, which involves wandering around staring at walls and wondering vaguely what to do with myself. This, multiplied five-fold because I'm at the end of a SERIES.
  3. Overwhelmed. Major editing awaits, and I still don't feel like I've done the story total justice. I'm thrilled with how most of it turned out, but there are some things nagging at me, demanding that I fix them. And the thought of rereading the entire series all the way through again...well, I'll save that for later. As Stephen King wisely advises, letting a first draft stay in a drawer for a bit is always a great idea!

I have a strange relationship with first drafts. On the one hand, drafting's my favourite part of the process, and seeing the images in my head come to life is just...amazing. But there's so much anxiety involved, too, chief of which is the dreaded, totally irrational worry: What if I don't finish? What if the story falls apart? No matter how much planning I do, I'm always afraid the story will crash and burn. It's happened before, with the first few novels I attempted, and with a book I started writing at the end of last year (yes, that was the sequel to The Puppet Spell, but I think that might have been more to do with an overall lack of confidence due to the first book's less-than-stellar sales performance, and my subsequent hair-tearing about mounting debts, than the actual book...). I know the usual reason is losing interest in the idea, which was never going to happen with Darkworld, but after six years of starting projects and not finishing them, it's a fear I've yet to shake off!

I've described writing as like walking a tightrope between hope and fear before, and I stand by that. Hope is the beacon that guides you towards the end of a project. Fear is that the rope will tip before you reach the end. Yeah, dramatic metaphor, I know...but it's true. Writing scares me, I admit it. But it's the best thing in the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way! And finishing this series is like getting to the end of that tightrope and feeling the adrenaline rush! I've completed a vision that's been sitting in a corner of my brain for years. And I'm going to hold onto that.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Review - My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent

My Soul to Keep (Soul Screamers, #3)

Kaylee has one addiction: her very hot, very popular boyfriend, Nash. A banshee like Kaylee, Nash understands her like no one else. Nothing can come between them.Until something does.

Demon breath. No, not the toothpaste-challenged kind. The Netherworld kind. The kind that really can kill you. Somehow the super-addictive substance has made its way to the human world. But how? Kaylee and Nash have to cut off the source and protect their friends—one of whom is already hooked.

And so is someone else…

Amazon UK

This is the third in Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series, and is even better than the previous two! This time, someone is illegally selling Demon Breath – an addictive, deadly substance from the Netherworld – and it’s up to banshees Kaylee and Nash to stop them before it spirals out of control. But Kaylee herself is losing control of her ability to cross over into the Netherworld – and she discovers that someone close to her may be hiding a secret addiction, too.

With plenty of action and romance and a unique take on banshees and reapers, it’s easy to see why this series is so popular. I love the refreshing spin on the paranormal element, and each story brings a new set of problems to Kaylee and her friends. The stakes are definitely higher in this one, and the unexpected and often shocking plot twists kept me turning the pages. We get to see different sides of the characters, especially Nash and Tod, and Kaylee’s emotional journey is more engaging than the previous books as she fights to save those she loves. She’s independent and strong-minded and I like how she doesn’t just accept how things turn out but stands her ground. This is an emotionally gripping and exciting read and I’m officially hooked on this series!

Rating: ****1/2*

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday #7

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 reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, which I enjoyed (and which creeped me out slightly!), and rereading the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout (as I just bought Origin, the latest book). Great distraction from the commute! :P 

What I'm writing

Darkworld Book 5 is on the way to the finish line! I'm just working through the kinks in the plot as I steer it towards the Epic Climax of Doom, which excites and terrifies me in equal measure!

Meanwhile, I've been making good progress on my YA fantasy, passing the halfway mark (yay!). I think I'll be glad to be working on only one project at a time for a bit, though! It's tiring jumping from one plot to another, especially when on involves alternating POV's! Although I got a Shiny New Idea that's now demanding to be written - which is giving me a dilemma about which project to work on next!

What else I've been up to

Well, last weekend was really fun! I went home for a couple of days and finally got to open my birthday presents - and my boyfriend drove halfway down the country to see me. :) For presents, I got the slipcase edition of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comic books, which I've wanted to read for AGES; some waterproof notebooks (for shower-writing :P); book vouchers (YAY!) and an Xbox controller to make playing online games easier! Definitely a great year for presents! Then I had to get the train back down to London on Sunday to be ready for work on Monday morning. I'm not quite as tired as I was last week, so I'm also thinking about my plans for after this placement, when I return to writing, freelancing and job-hunting! I'd love to find some more freelance clients, so I'm planning to work on that when I have time. I really enjoy helping other authors make sure their work is the best it can be!

What inspires me right now

Being so close to finishing the Darkworld series is a pretty awesome feeling! Also, the Xpresso Review Tour for Darkness Watching is now open for sign-ups, so if you've been waiting for the chance to read it, here it is! :)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Tour Stop - Not Pretty Enough by Jaimie Admans

Title: Not Pretty Enough
Author: Jaimie Admans
Date of Publication: August 1, 2013
Genre: contemporary YA comedy


“New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Lloyd Layton will know I exist. He once said three whole words to me, so this is obviously progress. If I don’t get a proper conversation out of him soon, then I’ll take my top off and streak through the cafeteria, because nobody could fail to notice these boobs.
2. I will not get expelled for streaking through the cafeteria.”

Those are the words that begin her mission.
Chessie is fourteen, not pretty enough, and very much in love. Lloyd Layton is hot, popular, and unaware of Chessie’s existence.
Her goal is clear: to get Lloyd to love her as much as she loves him, and she has exactly one year to do it.
As Chessie’s obsession with Lloyd reaches boiling point and she starts to spin a web of lies that spiral out of control, Lloyd turns out to be not quite the prince she thought he was. Can Chessie avoid the gathering storm before things go too far?

-- -- -- -- --
Not Pretty Enough is a contemporary young adult comedy suitable for ages thirteen and over.

Book two in the series will be released early 2014.

Purchase links: Amazon

About Jaimie Admans

Jaimie is a 28-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, drinking tea and watching horror movies. She hates spiders and cheese & onion crisps. She has been writing for years but has never before plucked up the courage to tell people. Afterlife Academy is her third novel and she hopes you enjoy it. There are plenty more on the way!

My Review

Not Pretty Enough is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy which is perfect for tweens and teens. We follow fourteen-year-old Chessie as she attempts to win the attention – and heart – of Lloyd Layton. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. From a hair-dying experiment that ends in disaster to an accident with a javelin, Chessie’s increasingly desperate attempts to impress her seven-foot-tall classmate always seem to fail spectacularly. Teens will relate to Chessie’s woes and and cringe as she makes some bad choices and gets herself into sticky situations in this light-hearted, very funny contemporary book.

The characters are all realistic teenagers with the concerns of their age group. Chessie’s narrative voice is great, packed with humour (some unintentional on her part!) and life. Witty and entertaining, this is a great teen contemporary novel which takes us right into the world of young teens and delivers plenty of laughs along the way!

Rating: ****

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Review - The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)

Goodreads description: Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get round to reading this. Patrick Ness’s astonishing dystopian debut, the first in the Chaos Walking trilogy, establishes a unique voice in children’s fiction.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is narrated by Todd Hewitt, who is the last boy in Prentisstown, a settlement in which no one’s thoughts are private, but are constantly audible in an overwhelming Noise, one of the many side-effects of a war. All the women and half the men were killed, and the town is completely isolated. But when Todd and his dog. Manchee, unexpectedly stumble across something impossible – a gap in the Noise which is completely silent, he discovers that his town has many secrets, and it’s no longer safe for him to stay. But how can he avoid being caught if his enemies can hear his every thought?

Totally original and gripping, this book had me on tenterhooks. Despite the unconventional writing style – it’s written in the vernacular of the narrator – this is a fast-paced read that maintains a high level of suspense throughout. Todd is a sympathetic and engaging protagonist and his companion Manchee is a loyal sidekick. The other characters are well-drawn, and Patrick Ness does a great job of revealing his dystopian world. This series was published before The Hunger Games and dystopia became incredibly popular, but in any case it’s a very different kind of dystopian novel. Todd is largely ignorant of what’s happening outside the town, and much is withheld from him in order to ensure his safety – after all, anyone can hear his thoughts at any point. This proves a great technique for keeping the reader on their toes – and when the revelations come, they pack a real punch! As for the jaw-dropping cliffhanger ending…

This is a haunting, gripping dystopian debut, and I’ll definitely be reading more from this talented author.

Rating: *****

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)
An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king's contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king's bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she's given a task that could jeopardize everything she's come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon -- forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

Amazon UK

In this fantastic follow-up to Throne of Glass, we re-join Celaena as she plays a dangerous game, acting as the king’s assassin but really pursuing her own agenda. No one can be trusted, in the castle or outside it. Meanwhile, dark forces are stirring beneath the castle, and the magic King Ardelan stamped out might not be as dead as it appeared. Deadly secrets, romance and betrayal make up a thrilling plot, one even better than the first book.

Once again, this is a relentless page-turner, and I was captivated from the start. I loved Throne of Glass, but Crown of Midnight surpasses it in every way. The plot takes unexpected twists and turns, and we learn things about all the main players that genuinely shock. I loved the new insights we got into characters’ pasts, particularly Celaena’s. Some of the things that bothered me in Throne of Glass were not as much of a turn-off for me this time. Celaena has grown on me as a protagonist, and the love triangle isn’t nearly as annoying – although I was pleased with Celaena’s choices and maturity in handling the situation, which is more than I can say for some other YA protagonists!

This is epic fantasy as it should be, and it definitely has a Game of Thrones feel to it, but also blends in other elements such as fae and witches, demons and magical runes. This sets a new standard for YA fantasy!

Review: *****

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

What's Up Wednesday #5 and IWSG #6 - Fear of obscurity

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 started The Alchemyst by Michael Scott, which is the first in the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. I don't have much time for reading, except when I'm on the tube, but I'm enjoying this! I'm also making my way through the Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk, which I'd recommend to all urban fantasy fans!

What I'm writing

I'm still writing Darkworld Book 5 and my YA fantasy - I passed the 1/2 mark on Darkworld and the 1/3 mark on the YA fantasy a few days ago, so I'm in a good place!

What else I've been up to

The usual. Work. Commuting. Editing. Dozing off at my laptop. Had a great weekend of writing in Starbucks, though (I'd intended to explore London but all the tubes were down, and I wasn't up for braving the replacement bus service at a weekend in a school holiday! :P)

I was also invited by the lovely Erin to play the 12 Random Facts Game!

What inspires me right now

Well, the final edits on Darkness Watching have been accepted! *squeeeee!!!!* That both inspires and terrifies me in equal measure!

The Insecure Writers Support Group is the genius creation of Alex J Cavanaugh!

Insecurity seems to be the curse of being a writer - it never goes away, not after publication, not after signing with an agent, not even after becoming a bestseller. In fact, I've observed that achieving the dream actually ramps up the anxiety, because it creates a sense of expectation. People want things from you, things you're suddenly unsure you can deliver. Now, I'm no bestselling author. I don't have an agent. When my first book, The Puppet Spell, came out, it was like shouting into an empty room. Few people noticed. I did have the support of some lovely people, but I failed to reach my audience. Sales were so bad I had to abandon the sequel and accept that I'd never make back the money I spent on publishing and promoting it (not to mention drop my plans to get it into bookshops because I can't afford the extra printing costs).  And yeah, that stung, to say the least. I got up, brushed it off, and tried to ignore the fact that everyone seemed to be selling better than me, or at least were further away from the Swamp of Obscurity. My fears that no one would like the book were groundless, because no one cared!

This time, as I approach the publication of my second novel, Darkness Watching, I find myself experiencing twice the usual fears. The old fear of ridicule is still there- but sitting by its side is the fear of obscurity, the fear that once again, no one will notice my book. Now, Darkness Watching couldn't be more different from The Puppet Spell - it's upper-YA urban fantasy/paranormal, and has a completely different tone and writing style. In effect, the readership is completely different. It's also the first in a series. Hence my fears. If people hate -or ignore - the first book, then what about the later ones? These are the worries I have to battle every time I think about my book being unleashed on the world. I'm so proud of this one - I think it's the best thing I've written, and I've spent over a year writing, rewriting, and editing it. I think it's ready - but the twin fears continue to attack me every time I catch myself thinking about the future of the series. Even if a miracle happens and the first book isn't a flop, can I really sustain reader interest for FOUR sequels? It's a question I can't answer, because I'm lacking in the crystal ball department, but it sure doesn't help that my future is a big pile of worry at the moment.

What do I do? Well, what can any writer do, really? I carry on writing on the assumption that this time, people will care, that I really do have something to say. I'll finish up the sequels, and not look too closely at sales or reviews (easier said than done, believe me). In short, I'll continue to dream. That's what writers do best, right?