Friday, 29 November 2013

#WIPMarathon Intro post!

Yes - it's happening again! The #WIPMarathon is running from December to the end of January this time! I might have failed NaNoWriMo, but the beauty of the WIPMarathon is that we can set our own goals! This month, I finished revising two books, wrote 20,000 words of my MG fantasy WIP, and did a total overhaul of Darkworld Book 2 for my publishers. As I have another unpredictable month ahead, with more scary emails of doom on the horizon, it's probably best if I don't set a particular word count goal for December/January!

Marathon Goal

Although I'm not aiming for a specific word count, I'm planning to finish Draft 1 of my MG fantasy this month. I probably have less than 20K to go, so hopefully this won't be too much of a stretch!

I'd also like to finish editing the Darkworld series! I've already got books 2 and 3 publisher-ready and completed the first major edit of Book 4, so I just have one major edit to do (Book 5), and then I'll put 4 and 5 aside for a bit. I'll be working on the next stage of editing Book 2 (that's the Email of Doom I'm waiting for) so I need to be ready to jump back into that!

Finally, I'd like to have a plan for my next WIP this month (and hopefully start it!). I have a YA urban fantasy trilogy outlined, but am also working on plans for a YA post-apocalyptic fantasy duology. So it's looking like it'll be one of those two!

Stage of writing

For my WIP, the very rough first draft!

For the Darkworld series, it varies from publisher-ready to first edits!

What inspired my current project

My MG fantasy is a strange one. It's a mash-up of old characters (from the first novel I ever wrote) and a whole new, slightly insane alternative-universe-system. I wanted to write the kind of wacky, out-of-this-world adventure I loved to read as a child, so I threw bits of various other genres in there - dystopia and steampunk, for instance. It also grew from my admiration for Diana Wynne Jones and her skill at creating bizarre world systems that run on their own special kind of logic!

As for my others...I'll introduce them later, when I decide which to work on!

What might slow down my marathon goal

Goes without saying, but Christmas! Distractions come out of nowhere at this time of year, so I'm hoping I'll get more productive days to make up for lost time!

Also, winter in general.  It's dark, cold and depressing, and I suffer from SAD, which aggravates everything. I have to write through lethargy and depression, fighting the desire to fall back into bed (and usually have a persistent cold from November to January, too!). Without exception, every novel I've written in winter has turned out awful and needed rewriting, but I'm determined to push through and get the words down regardless! If nothing else, WIPMarathon will give me a reason to keep on top of my goals!

Best time of the day for writing

Usually the afternoon, as I spend mornings answering emails. But as I'm in the UK, I'm 5-8 hours ahead of the US (so 2 p.m. GMT is 9 a.m. EST, etc). I'm a night owl so I'll be up for sprints later in the day, too!

Advance Review - Soulcutter by Lexa Cain

Soul Cutter

The Soul Cutter is hunting again.

Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe—all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.

In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start—the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan's only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn—and hiding dangerous secrets.

When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.

Élan is fighting for her very soul.

Wow – what an original premise! Elan is used to exposing psychic scams via her online site, but when her mother disappears when filming a movie in Egypt, she finds herself in a supernatural event that’s all too real. A string of murders lead the film crew to suspect that the legendary Soul Cutter is back from the dead, and Ramsay, an intern who agrees to help Elan, has a dark secret of his own – he is part of a bloodline who constantly hears the voices of bloodthirsty spirits.

This is YA horror as it should be! Packed with tension from the start, the story is full of ominous foreshadowing, and when the supernatural element kicks in, it’s completely convincing – and scary! I love that it’s set in Egypt, like The Mummy, one of my favourite films. It has a totally unique mythology which is really refreshing. Elan is a strong-willed protagonist who’s had to deal with a tough life, whilst Ramsay is the perfect complement to her. I was completely drawn into the story. With romance, creepy monsters and nail-biting suspense, this is a horror read you don’t want to miss!

Rating: ****

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What's Up Wednesday #17

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

Champion (Legend, #3)This week, I read several sequels I've been waiting to read for a while! I picked up Champion by Marie Lu, as I really enjoyed Legend and Prodigy, and this was probably my favourite of the three! What an amazing trilogy ending! 

I've also been reading the Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong, which have been on my TBR list forever! I really enjoyed the series (though I'm kind of glad I didn't read it before writing the Darkworld series as there are a couple of similarities - it's always the way!)

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)The Awakening (Darkest Powers, #2)The Reckoning (Darkest Powers, #3) 
The Redemption of Callie and Kayden (The Coincidence, #2)
I also read The Redemption of Callie of Kayden, which I've looked forward to for ages! I don't read much contemporary, but these are some of the best New Adult books I've read.

Oh, and I completed my Goodreads 2013 reading challenge: 250 books! Note that around 30 of these were novellas, but I'm still pretty thrilled because it's double what I read last year! I blame submission reading for turning me into even more of a speed-reader than I was already - but it certainly doesn't mean I don't take the time to slow down and enjoy the story! :) 

I just wish I had the time to review every book I read...

What I'm writing

More editing! I've been fixing continuity issues across the Darkworld series, and also doing the possibly-final edits of Beneath the Waves and tinkering with the query. I've read through this manuscript so many times I'm afraid any more editing will ruin it - so I'm going to face my fears and enter Pitch Wars next week! It might be only the nerve-shredding terror of entering the query trenches again (would you believe it's been a year since I was querying Darkness Watching? How time flies...) that's been holding me back. Also, I've never participated in a contest before. But Pitch Wars sounds fantastic, so I'll give it a shot!

If it's of any interest to anyone, here's my current query for Beneath the Waves:

In sixteen-year-old Rika’s world, the cursed oceans return the dead to life as blood-drinking vaska that threaten her home. As the only human who can breathe underwater, she must hide her abilities from her superstitious neighbours, but when she discovers she is the missing daughter of the Queen of the Finfolk, a hidden community beneath the waves, she makes the dangerous journey into the Kingdom of the Finfolk. A slumbering danger worse than the vaska lurks in the water; and her only hope lies in a forgotten alliance between humans and Finfolk.

When Rika’s childhood friend, seventeen-year-old Levi, a young magus-in-training at the Magi Guild, discovers that the syla crystal – humanity’s only defence against the vaska – is dwindling, he determines to find an alternative source. Rika’s and Levi’s quests bring them together to face the vaska and the awakening beast. They must restore the failed alliance or lose their world forever.

Aaand, an alternative one:

Sixteen-year-old Rika is the only human she knows with the ability to breathe underwater – a dangerous gift in a world where the oceans are cursed to return the dead to life as blood-drinking vaska. But the last thing she expects is to learn that she is the missing daughter of the Queen of the Finfolk, a hidden community that exists hidden beneath the waves, and the key to saving them from the curse of the vaska.

When Rika’s childhood friend, Levi, a young magus-in-training at the Magi Guild, discovers that the syla crystal – humanity’s only defence against the vaska – is dwindling, he determines to find an alternative source. But this is the very crystal that sustains the Finfolk’s community, and when the vaska strike at the heart of the Magi, Levi faces the choice of whether to reveal their existence or face humanity’s extinction.

As Rika make the dangerous journey into the Kingdom of the Finfolk, she learns of a danger worse than the vaska awakening under the sea, threatening both humans and Finfolk alike. Their last hope rests in a forgotten alliance, but magecraft always has a price, and it might be more than they are willing to pay.

(this is giving me headaches at the moment...)

I'm thinking of pitching it as like Sabriel with merpeople...

As for my other writing, for some reason, I seem to be on an end-of-the-world kick at the moment. The next project I'm planning (but shouldn't be, given how much else I have to do!) is a YA post-apocalyptic fantasy. So, there's that. But I'm being good and putting it away to focus on my current works-in-progress (read: I'm working on it when I should be sleeping...).

What else I've been up to

DOCTOR WHO. Also, my boyfriend and I spent Sunday at Birmingham MCM Comic Con, which was amazing! 

 Yes, there was a giant minion. Also, we ran around trying out the Star Wars vehicles. :D
 (I am completely incapable of acting my age...)
 And there was a Stormtrooper parade. Awesome.
 I was VERY tempted to buy a D.Gray-Man replica sword (photo on the left, the top one). I managed to resist, on the grounds that I have nowhere to keep it. But yeah, I'm a total D.Gray-Man fanatic and have always wanted one of these!

I did buy a walrus named Paul, though.

And there's always a Dalek (see below).

I then went up north to stay with my boyfriend for a few days. We watched Catching Fire on Monday, which was AMAZING! I liked it better than the first Hunger Games film (which I loved).  Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant, as always. That film was SO EMOTIONAL. I'm still getting over it!

What inspires me right now

Enthusiasm! From the tenacious NaNo-ers close to completing their goals to the excited writers preparing for Pitch Wars, the writing community is overflowing with enthusiasm at the moment! Also, Doctor Who. And Catching Fire. And life in general.

Only 5 days to Pitch Wars! *flails*

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Blog Tour Stop - The Prophecy by Erin Albert

Back Cover

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He's grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear...not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash's secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.

Erin Albert is an author and fitness trainer.  Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word.  She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police."  In her free time, Erin enjoys acting, running, kickboxing, and, of course, reading and writing. 

Find me online:

Twitter:  @ErinAlbertBooks


            Even though she had no chance to escape now, Layla shoved the Elder with all her might. The blow sent him flying into the baker’s door, which splintered under the force, and she darted forward.  The Vanguard soldiers moved to block her. 
            “We are all Vanguards,” she pleaded. “Please let me go.”
            For a moment, they hesitated.  Layla used the opening to slip around them.  She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, but they proved to be too slow.  Within moments, the soldiers leapt upon her, knocking her to the ground.  Wrenching Layla up by her hair, they dragged her back to the Elder, whose face now bled from his encounter with the baker’s door.

            “I see you’re going to be trouble.” He brushed the dirt off his robes.  “You can’t escape your destiny, girl.”


I've been excited to read this book ever since getting to know Erin on Twitter! 

When Layla goes to the market with her friend Samson, the last thing she expects is to be kidnapped by the Ecclesiastics, who see her purple eyes as a sign that she may be able to fulfil their prophecy. Sent away to marry the son of an enemy to bring peace between the Vanguards and the Ethereals as her duty to the First Ones, she falls in love with her betrothed’s brother, Nash. Layla and her betrothed, Wilhelm, have to put aside their feelings and prejudices for the sake of peace, before war erupts between the two kingdoms.

I love the idea of the Vanguards having unnatural strength whilst the Ethereals have the ability to influence thoughts and memories, and the role these abilities play in the plot. The fantasy world is well-thought-out with a Game of Thrones-esque vibe to the scheming groups and arranged marriages. I’m really interested in the other groups, the Ecclesiastics and the Outlanders, and am looking forward to finding out more about them in the coming sequels.

A must-read for fans of action-packed fantasy with romance and great characters, The Prophecy is a fantastic start to a new trilogy and I’m eagerly awaiting the next book!

Rating: ****

Friday, 22 November 2013

Review - Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)

Just your average boy-meets-girl, girl-kills-people story...

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

Amazon UK

Holy. Wow. I don’t remember being genuinely creeped out by a ghost story in a long while, but there’s something about Anna Dressed In Blood that makes you jump at sudden noises and want to look over your shoulder in case you’re being watched by something sinister. Kendare Blake’s brilliantly creepy novel is one of the best YA ghost stories I’ve read, and earns bonus points for having great character development, something which is sometimes neglected in horror stories which can often be more about the scares than the characters.

Cas is a believable teen male protagonist, whose narration carries the story along with both humour and enough emotional depth to make him likeable. He’s a ghost hunter who has taken on his deceased father’s role of dispatching restless, violent spirits with his athame blade. But when he receives word of a spirit known as Anna Dressed In Blood committing gruesome murders in the town of Thunder Bay, Ontario, this becomes more than just another job and he finds himself developing a connection with the spirit.

Kendare Blake does a fantastic job of creating an ominous atmosphere with enough details to immerse the reader completely and keep the suspense running throughout. The plot is well-paced, and the subplot of Cas’s desire to kill the spirit which murdered his father ties into the main plot in an ingenious and unpredictable way. There is a romantic element, but thankfully it never draws the focus away, and this remains a suspenseful and spine-tingling tale from beginning to end. 

Rating: ****1/2*

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What's Up Wednesday #16

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

Witch Finder (Witch Finder, #1)I read Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton. Witches in Victorian England was a premise I couldn’t miss, and it didn't disappoint!

Luke Lexton joins the witch-hunting order, the Malleus Maleficorum, to avenge his parents’ deaths, but in order to gain full membership, he has to hunt down a witch picked at random from a book. He draws the name of 16-year-old Rosa Greenwood, who he has to kill or lose his own life. Rosa, meanwhile, is forced to marry for money, little knowing that her new stable hand is plotting her murder. But when Luke actually meets Rosa, he finds it hard to achieve his goal.

FangirlBoth Luke and Rose are sympathetic characters and the story completely drew me in. I loved the Victorian setting and thought the author did a great job of making it believable and including just the right amount of detail. The plot races along and kept me engaged throughout. Fans of Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices series will certainly love this! 
I also read Fangirl, my first Rainbow Rowell book. I don't read much contemporary, but I loved it! It's sweet and funny and relatable and I was completely drawn into the story!

For review, I read The Prophecy by Erin Albert, one of my writer friends from Twitter! It's a fabulous book, one I'd recommend to any fantasy lovers - look out for my review on the 24th, and find more information here! 

What I'm writing

Well, on Thursday morning (or possibly late Wednesday night; I'm not good with time zones...), I received that Dread Email. Yes - a two-page Epic Editorial Email of Doom for Walking Shadow (Darkworld 2). And yes, it was pretty intense. But I was prepared. I'd long-since resigned myself to a major rewrite, so I had my notes out, diet coke at the ready...and locked myself in the Editing Cave. 

This is the first time I've done such an intense rewrite at this stage of the process, but I was amazingly calm about it, and even opened a new Word Doc for deleted scenes. I think I expended all my worry before my last What's Up Wednesday update, because I've never been so excited for a rewrite! Yes, the words "excited" and "rewrite" don't usually go in the same sentence - or even in the same room. But I decided to roll with it!

And it worked. I understood all the changes my editor wanted me to make, and as this book has given me more trouble than any other Darkworld book I've written, it was a relief to have everything set out in one place. For once, my head was clear and I could see what I had to do. These days are incredibly rare, but I made the most of every second and typed for fourteen hours straight. Two keys fell off my keyboard in the process (though that might be because this keyboard is awful, not because I'm such a hardcore typer :P). But amazingly, I got it done. Of course, I might end up having to do another rewrite later...but I'm not thinking about that now! I rewrote the best part of a 63,000 word book, and now I'm letting it sit for a few days before I give it another read, and prepare to send it back to my publishers... *bites nails*

As for my poor neglected WIP...I'm behind with NaNo. Inevitable, really, after all the editing!

What else I've been up to

Crashing from all the caffeine! :P Apart from that, editing for clients and watching anime!

What inspires me right now

Just having that one day where there was nothing but me and the laptop, and my mind was completely immersed in the world of my story. Days like that have been rare in the past month, an inevitable consequence of the first Darkworld book being out in the world, but just being in the zone, totally involved in the work, and loving it, made all the anxiety go away.

Also, CATCHING FIRE. Who's excited? :D

Friday, 15 November 2013

Review - Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

 Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)

 The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

Amazon UK

As I love immersive, original fantasy, I had a feeling this book would be right up my alley. And I was right! Shadow and Bone is set in a unique and fascinating world in which a young girl discovers she harbours power she never knew about. Along with her best friend, Mal, Alina grew up an orphan in the Kingdom of Ravka, where those with magic, the Grisha, are the elite. Their nation is divided by a stretch of darkness known as the Shadow Fold, inhabited by volcra, vicious creatures that eat humans. But when passing through the Shadow Fold, Alina somehow saves everyone from a volcra attack using a strange light. It’s revealed that she has a power no one else does, the ability to summon the sun – and this makes her a target.

Alina is taken into the capital to train with the other Grisha. I loved learning about the Grisha and their different abilities, which vary from wielding elements to altering a person’s appearance, to the skills possessed only by the Darkling himself. The Darkling is the enigmatic leader, the most powerful Grisha, and to Alina, is both seductive and sinister. He offers an alternative to the comfort of her former life with Mal – but then secrets come to light that shatter everything she knows.

The plot is superb, with just the right amount of world-building and intrigue combined with jaw-dropping twists and revelations. Alina is a great protagonist, strong-willed and loyal. Her confusion at her situation is understandable, as are her struggles to fit in with the Grisha and to master her strange new talents. She changes and grows within the novel and learns to face her true nature. The other characters are as fascinating and complex as the world, and the story had me hooked to the last page. Five stars!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What's Up Wednesday #15

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 some great books for review! Taste of Darkness, the final book in Maria V. Snyder's Healer trilogy, is a great finale (I'll be posting my review soon!) and I'm currently writing up my reviews of 18 Things by fellow Curiosity Quills author Jamie Ayers and Soulcutter by Lexa Cain. Both are fantastic reads! And I'm finally reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which so many people have recommended to me!

What I'm writing

I've been catching up with my NaNo goals, which hasn't been easy as I've caught the usual winter cold and every sentence is like pulling teeth!  But I've managed to keep on target - just! I'm at nearly 28K total, with 16K written this month, but I'm sort of cheating and including words added to my Darkworld novels during edits in my NaNo word count. 

But it isn't easy. I mentioned reviews in my IWSG post last week, and I hoped that I'd managed to get my inner anxiety-freak under control. But I'd forgotten how hard it was to pull myself out of the slump once I fell into it, and trying to edit the rest of the series whilst getting constant feedback on the first book, the one book I can't change, is distracting to say the least! But I've just finished the final self-edit of Darkworld Book 3 before sending it to my publishers, and I should be hearing news on the next editing stage of Walking Shadow (Book 2) any day now. *eek!*

I've just been struggling with self-confidence issues, which inevitably affects how I perceive my writing. I used to suffer from anxiety and depression (and still do to some extent) and whenever I'm feeling particularly down, the old demons threaten to come out to play. I try to be positive, but it isn't easy when I'm feeling the pressure to put on a front and pretend everything's OK! After all, complaining about reviews is a big author faux pas- it feels like something you're not supposed to talk about, but I definitely underestimated how much of an effect it would have on my writing (though when I decided to draft the whole Darkworld series before the first book was published, I definitely had the right idea). So I haven't been as engaged with social media as I used to be. I've read a lot of posts lately about the struggle to balance everything, and I know this is something I need to work on!

What else I've been up to

When not dying of the Plague, I've been playing Pokemon X, doing internship work, and editing!

What inspires me right now

Christmas! (which is apparently signaled  by the appearance of the Coca Cola advert on TV...) I'm usually a complete Scrooge, but I do enjoy having an excuse to buy books! :)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Review - Vampire Academy: Spirit Bound by Richelle Mead

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, #5)

Dimitri gave Rose the ultimate choice. But she chose wrong...

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri's birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's-and to her best friend, Lissa. It is nearly graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives beyond the Academy's iron gates to begin. But Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won't rest until Rose joins him... forever.

Amazon UK

This is the fifth book in Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, and now Rose has finally become a fully-fledged guardian. However, she worries that she won’t be assigned to Lissa, her best friend, because of her past misdemeanours – but finding out that there is a possible way to save Dimitri leads her to make a dangerous decision. She and her friends are forced to break a dangerous criminal out of jail in order to gain information on how to save a Strigoi, and her actions may have repercussions that even she can’t predict. Meanwhile, Dimitri will do anything to win her over to his side and turn her to Strigoi, and saving him seems impossible.

This is probably my all-time favourite vampire series (with the possible exception on Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series), and the world of the Moroi and dhampirs is complex and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the ongoing debates about whether certain laws – for instance, that all dhampirs train to guard the Moroi, some of whom are capable and willing to learn to defend themselves – ought to be changed.

The book is another action-packed rollercoaster; although it does start off slowly, it’s totally gripping from the halfway point onwards, with twists I definitely didn’t see coming! Rose is as engaging as ever, although I did think it’s a bit unfair of her to string Adrian along the way she does, when it’s plain she still has feelings for Dimitri. That said, the story is extremely gripping and the stakes are sky-high (no pun intended!). With such a killer cliffhanger of an ending, I’m going to have to read the last book!

Rating: ****

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Review - Taste of Darkness by Maria V. Snyder

Taste of Darkness (Healer, #3)

She's fought death and won. But how can she fight her fears?

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he's gone forever.

But there's a more immediate threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry's healing powers are needed now more than ever.Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

Amazon UK

Read my reviews of the first two books in the series, Touch of Power and Scent of Magic!

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review Taste of Darkness, the final book in Maria V. Snyder’s latest fantastic trilogy! Picking up where Scent of Magic left off, this excellent third novel brings more of the same – betrayals, ambushes, sarcastic dialogue, and vivid characters. The action is as fast-paced as ever and the villains are wonderfully creepy – especially the sinister Skeleton King.

Numerous story threads converge and we get answers to some of the main questions of the series. The ending felt a tad rushed but satisfying regardless, and tied up all the loose ends nicely. I’d absolutely recommend this series to fans of action-packed, character-driven fantasy!

Rating: ****

Friday, 8 November 2013

Review - The Hunting Ground by Cliff McNish

The Hunting Ground

Goodreads description: When Elliott and his brother move into the old and crumbling Glebe House they don't expect to find themselves sharing it with ghosts. But soon sinister events are unfolding. An old diary reveals glimpses of the mansion's past - and of a terrible tragedy. An old woman talks to ghosts - but is she in fact being controlled by them? And what of the sinister East Wing - a hideous labyrinth devised by a truly twisted mind? Can Elliott and his family escape the clutches of Glebe House? Or will they end up trapped in the endless maze of corridors, forever hunted by the dead?

A creepy mansion with a tragic past not quite buried and an evil presence in the corridors… Cliff McNish tells a classic ghost story which proves that some things never fail to send chills down the spine, and sometimes, traditional ghost stories work best.

When siblings, Ben and Elliott, move into an old estate, they don’t expect their sleep to be disturbed by strange noises, nor the corridors to be filled with creepy paintings of the previous owner standing over the corpses of hunted animals.

They find a diary written by a girl who lived in the house several generations earlier. She describes her conversations with a mysterious girl who could apparently talk to ghosts – and there is a hint that the ghost of the former occupant of the house isn’t a friendly one. Then there’s the forbidden, labyrinthine East Wing, which seems to have caught Ben’s attention. It isn’t long before the ghosts reveal themselves, and the hunting game begins…

Tense and scary, The Hunting Ground is a fantastic ghost story that keeps you on edge throughout, wanting to find out what happens yet scared to turn the page and face each new horror.  The title pretty much gives away the plot, yet knowing immediately that Elliott and Ben are going to be hunted by a psychotic ghost doesn’t compromise the narrative tension in the slightest. The ghosts are sinister and the spooky atmosphere is well-crafted. The gothic trope of a supposedly safe and secure place, the home, as being transformed into a place of terror, works extremely well. The inclusion of the diary entries builds tension as the narrative shifts from a ghost story to a tense thriller as the new hunting game begins again.

I’ve not read any of McNish’s work before, but when I met him at Lancaster Litfest (and got this particular book signed), I was interested on his thoughts on the Gothic in Young Adult fiction. For McNish, the Gothic is about what scares us, and he writes for the ‘monsters’ – and I’d definitely say he does a good job!

Rating: ****

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

What's Up Wednesday #14 and IWSG #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

This week I've been reading the second and third books in the Hex Hall trilogy, and rereading the Skulduggery Pleasant series as I've just recently bought the newest book.

What I'm writing

I've been working on my MG fantasy book, but due to going away over the weekend/a rather ill-advised decision to start another edit of Darkworld Book 3, I've not written as much as I'd have liked to. Plus edits on Darkworld 2 and Beneath the Waves are waiting in the background, meaning I'm probably spending more time worrying about not getting things done than actually getting things done...

What else I've been up to

Well, I hopped on a train to visit my long-distance boyfriend this weekend. :) And received a nice surprise - an early Christmas present in the form of a Nintendo 2DS and Pokemon X! Yep, I can finally play the new games! :D Of course, now I have something else to distract me from NaNo. :P 

What inspires me right now

Nice reviews! And all the people supporting me. :)

It's also the first Wednesday of November, which means it's time for The Insecure Writers Support Group, the genius creation of Alex J Cavanaugh!

I've had reason enough for insecurity in the past month! Firstly, my book, Darkness Watching was published on the 10th October, and secondly, I've had a review tour on for the past week. If I've been oddly absent from the interwebs, this is why! I know a lot of people advise you not to read your reviews -and that goes double for the bad ones. But I'm a sucker for self-punishment, apparently - that, and my over-active imagination makes things out to be worse than they actually are, so I figured it'd be better to get it over with! And it wasn't too just made me incredibly jumpy when one of them popped up. Also, trying to write a tricky book whilst reviews of your other book are appearing is distracting to say the least! So I've been trying - and failing - to avoid going online during writing time.

Needless to say, it hasn't been easy. Reviews can, intentionally or not, cause you to doubt yourself as a writer over the most minor point. I'm happy to be told if anything is lacking in my books BEFORE they're published, and I love getting feedback. But post-publication feedback is a different beast altogether, because once your book's published, it's out of your hands. If a critique partner or beta reader points out something you might want to change about your work, you can change it. But after publishing, it's too late to have that option. Readers' interpretations can differ wildly, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. What one reader loves, another can detest, and sometimes it's something you'd never have thought about. Even looking at reviews of bestselling books can show wildly differing viewpoints, so it's important not to get too stressed about these things! But it's been tough trying to practice that. I'll try harder! People have said some lovely things about my work, and I'm thinking I might frame my nice reviews to put on the wall. I have no regrets about the tour, but sometimes I could switch off my instinct to despair over any less-than-positive comments. My inner self-critic is active enough already!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Darkness Watching Reviews!

It's been quite a week! Darkness Watching has been touring the Blogosphere with Xpresso Book Tours, and some lovely bloggers have had great things to say! Here's a snippet:

"Emma is an amazing writer. She has become one of my favorites. I couldn’t put Darkness Watching down." - Diane at A Creative Mind

"Darkness Watching provides an original world that is fully complete and from a teens POV. It was dark and entertaining and sometimes teen books don’t go full out, this one did. The world building was truly strong in this novel." - Lexi at Book Bliss

"Like good books should, Darkness Watching left me pondering the story after I'd finished reading AND left me wanting more. Adams built a strong world for readers to be immersed. But the regular world retained full realism. Normal every day teen situations felt completely believable." - Erin at Erin Albert Books

I have to say, I didn’t see the ending coming! ... the final showdown left me speechless (You will have to read it!)" - Julia at Never Judge a Book by its Movie
"This was entertaining from the start...I didn’t want to put it down, and fans of urban fantasies I think will enjoy this. Darkness Watching was definitely worth the read." - Jenea at Books Live Forever

"This book is unique, fun and interesting. I kept wondering what was going to happen next...I felt that this book was well written and It was hard to put this book down once I started. " -Jessica at Eat Sleep Read

"WOW! From the moment I started reading I was hooked. No turning back for me now. I'm a newbie to paranormal. I must say, I'm now a LOVER of this genre...I LOVED this book and the characters. It's so well written I got lost in it. I wanted to know more, I couldn't turn the page fast enough. I NEED more! Emma you have got me addicted." - Nicole at Busy Mom of 3

"Demons, Sorcerers, evil, and secrets. Could you ask for a better supernatural suspense set-up? I couldn't, and picking this book to read for Halloween was perfect. It's full of suspense, danger, evil and dark humor. The plot is original, and completely gripping. From the first page, this book had me hooked, almost too afraid to finish, but knowing I'd regret it if I didn't keep reading." - Rose at Desert Rose Reviews

"This is a wildly different story than any I have read about demons...I loved it!" - Kathy at Bookmarks, Spoilers, and Happily-Ever-Afters

"All in all this is a suspenseful first part to an intriguing new fantasy series. I look forward to the next book and finding out what happens next! Recommended to fans of NA & upper YA supernatural & fantasy novels" Sharon Stevenson, supernatural author

"the twists and turns just kept coming and I wasn't sure how the book was going to end. Definitely recommend for all paranormal and fantasy fans" - Samantha at Cold Tea and Crumbs

So that's it! Thanks again to all the participants, and to the lovely Giselle at Xpresso Book Tours for organising the tour and being super! :)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review - The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1)

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

Amazon UK

When I saw The Screaming Staircase, I knew I had to read it. A chilling children’s story about psychic investigation agency in an alternative London plagued by ghosts sounded right up my alley! And The Screaming Staircase certainly didn’t disappoint.

Lucy, George and Lockwood work for Lockwood and Co, an agency that investigates hauntings. I love the idea that children have to hunt ghosts because only they have psychic sensitivity to malevolent spirits. The story has just the right blend of humour and horror without being truly terrifying, and the plot races along. I was hooked! The characters are just as engaging as the plot, wonderfully believable and three-dimensional. Lucy is a fantastic heroine and the dialogue between the three young ghost hunters sparkles with life.

This is one of the most engaging ghost stories I’ve read in a long time, and the start of what promises to be a fantastic series. The ghosts’ histories are poignant and well-developed, adding depth to the story, and I love the dynamic of the three central characters. I absolutely loved this tale of three brave and believable heroes as they face the ghostly presences that haunt this brilliantly detailed version of a haunted London. A definite five stars from me!

Rating: *****