Friday, 28 February 2014

Review - Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Amazon UK

I really enjoyed Cinder, but I loved Scarlet even more! Meyer has a gift for spinning a gripping story, and with three storylines interlocking it made for a fast-paced read. Cinder’s story picks up where it left off, with her escaping from prison along with another fugitive, Thorne, and going on the run to avoid being recaptured by Queen Levana. The ruthless Queen retains a vice grip on the newly crowned emperor Kai, and is still determined to become Empress through marriage and declare war on Earth.

Meanwhile, Scarlet Benoit is determined to find her missing grandmother, and when she meets a street fighter named Wolf who seems to have information, she reluctantly allies herself with him in order to find out the truth. It soon emerges that her grandmother kept many secrets from her, but the last thing she expects is for her fate to be tied with a missing princess, who may be the only one who can stop Queen Levana.

The book is a page turner from beginning to end, with the mysteries surrounding Scarlet’s family gradually unravelling and linking her story to Cinder’s. There’s a lot more action than there is in Cinder, and the dual POV keeps things moving at a swift pace. Scarlet is feisty and independent, determined to find out what happened to her grandmother, and I enjoyed reading her side of the story and trying to piece the details together. Without a doubt, Meyer has created a complex and ingenious storyline, and the characters are equally complex and many-sided, especially Wolf. The idea of the Pack adds a new dimension to the story and ties in nicely to the main storyline. Cinder’s new abilities cause her something of an identity crisis as she does not want to become like Queen Levana, but is forced to use her powers to save herself and her friends.

As before, Marissa Meyer has succeeded in re-inventing the fairy tales in a unique way, and I thoroughly enjoyed this second instalment. All I can say is, bring on the next instalment!

Rating: ****

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Exciting Darkworld News! :D

YAY, I can finally post this! I've been driving people slightly crazy for the past couple of months hinting at what this is, but I was reluctant to say until it was absolutely certain, in case the universe decided to throw me another curveball (as sometimes happens!). But, here I am!

Firstly, the third Darkworld Book has been accepted for publication and I've signed the contract, so we're moving towards production! This should hopefully mean less of a wait between books 2 and 3, so that's great news! ^_^

Secondly, I'm delighted to announce I'll also be releasing a prequel Darkworld novella! This is the "Shiny Secret Mini-Project", as I've been referring to it on Twitter and my blog, and it's set a year before the events of Darkness Watching. It's from the perspective of Claudia, and is a full-length stand-alone story of around 21,000 words.

It's probably going to be electronic only, but I'm so happy this is going ahead to publication! I should add, it was something I decided to do on my own, as I missed writing in the world of the Darkworld series, and I realised there's so much backstory readers want to know about that I couldn't fit into the series - such as how Claudia, Cyrus, Leo and Howard came to meet. The limits of writing in first person are that it's sometimes hard for the other characters to get a look-in, which is why I enjoyed writing from Claudia's POV so much! She's a kickass girl with an attitude, and it was fun to run around in her head for a bit!

My awesome publishers at Curiosity Quills have been wonderfully supportive, and have offered me a contract for the novella. I don't know about release dates yet (though I'll hopefully be starting on Darkworld Book 2 edits in the next few weeks), but you guys will be the first to know! As will anyone who hears me shouting from the rooftops. ;)

Anyway, the title for the novella is: Fear's Touch: A Darkworld Novella.

And here's the blurb:

This is a standalone novella, intended as a prequel to the Darkworld series. As it takes place one year before the events of Darkness Watching, it doesn’t contain any spoilers (although it does hint at things which will come into play later in the series).

Freakish powers and staring demon eyes aren’t part of Claudia’s plans for the future – and neither is ending up stuck at the gloomy, isolated University of Blackstone. But bad life decisions are the least of her problems, when helping another magic-user puts her in the crossfire of both the shadow-beasts and the creepy organisation which hunt them down.

Claudia’s never had to worry about doing the right thing before, but every decision matters when you have a Darkworld connection. Soon, she’s going to have to make a choice: turn her back on the crazy and try to live a normal life, or take the monsters down.

But in a world where everyone seems to have secrets, can she really trust her fellow magic-users – or even herself?

As a special reward to Darkworld fans, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you'll get a sneak peek at an excerpt and a chance to sign up for an Advance Copy! I'll be sending out my first author newsletter at some point next month, and you'll now be getting two Darkworld excerpts (one from Walking Shadow, the other from Fear's Touch), as well as a chance to sign up for Walking Shadow ARC's. Walking Shadow is now in production, so hopefully I'll have a release date to share soon!

EEK! Excitement! :D

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow.

What I'm reading

I finished The Way of Kings, which is the longest book I've read since A Game of Thrones! Despite the daunting page count, it's a gripping read, one I'd recommend to fantasy fans. I also read The Faerie Prince and The Faerie War, books 2 and 3 in the Creepy Hollow series, and I really enjoyed them!

Now I've just finished reading One by Leigh Ann Kopans, which is an awesome take on superpowers! I can't wait to read the sequel, Two.

What I'm writing

I've been carrying on with my YA Urban Fantasy draft...while resisting the siren call of a shiny new idea. I had some free time the other day so I went back to the outline I was working on for my next project...and turned it into a trilogy. Then a few nights ago, the entire opening scene for the first book played out in my head when I was trying to sleep, so I ended up writing it down. So now I have two series rocketing around in my the one I need to revise...

I'm also signing the contract for Darkworld Book 3 today! *Yay!*

What inspires me right now

Cute baby animals. And shiny new ideas. ^_^ Also, as I've said before, the awesome online writing community. As a certain article in the last week has shown, it's easy to lash out in envy of other, more successful writers, but that kind of negativity is self-defeating. Better to be supportive of fellow writers rather than trying to bring people down! Amy Trueblood has a great blog post on focusing on the positives!

What else I've been up to

I've been really busy with freelance work and critiquing.  I also blogged on Tangled Up In Words about my habit of accidentally starting books vs being scared to start writing...

I also watched The Hobbit again, which is always awesome. :)

Also, I'm going to Iceland in October!!!!! (The country, not the supermarket :P) I'm crazy-excited already about getting to see the Northern Lights, something I've wanted to do forever! ^_^

Monday, 24 February 2014

Monday Mini-Reviews - The Indigo Spell and The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead

 The Indigo Spell (Bloodlines, #3)

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets--and human lives." 
In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she finds herself struggling to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do. Then she meets alluring, rebellious Marcus Finch--a former Alchemist who escaped against all odds, and is now on the run. Marcus wants to teach Sydney the secrets he claims the Alchemists are hiding from her. But as he pushes her to rebel against the people who raised her, Sydney finds that breaking free is harder than she thought. There is an old and mysterious magic rooted deeply within her. And as she searches for an evil magic user targeting powerful young witches, she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her magical blood--or else she might be next.

In the third book in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series, Sydney is torn between her lifelong beliefs and her heart. Increasingly worried about the hints that the Alchemists are keeping secrets from her, she decides to track down Marcus Finch, a former Alchemist who might have the answers she’s looking for. But her history teacher, Mrs Terwilliger, is convinced that she has innate magical abilities, and that she might be the next target for a powerful witch who keeps her youth by draining the life out of other magic-users.

Again, the best part of the book was the characters, especially Adrian and Sydney. Mrs Terwilliger also gets a more significant role as her attempts to get Sydney to take up learning magic become central to the plot. Marcus Finch, the former Alchemist, is an intriguing character, too, and I was glad to see that Mead didn’t develop a love triangle with Sydney and Adrian. The plot is exciting and it was really interesting to learn more about the way magic works in the VA universe, and the different groups who practice it. Sydney has become more independent and is learning to use magic to defend herself, giving her the chance to fight back, and there is a lot more action in this book. With magic, romance and a twisting plotline, this series has officially grabbed me, and I can’t wait for Book 4!

 The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives.

In The Indigo Spell, Sydney was torn between the Alchemist way of life and what her heart and gut were telling her to do. And in one breathtaking moment that Richelle Mead fans will never forget, she made a decision that shocked even her. . . .

But the struggle isn't over for Sydney. As she navigates the aftermath of her life-changing decision, she still finds herself pulled in too many directions at once. Her sister Zoe has arrived, and while Sydney longs to grow closer to her, there's still so much she must keep secret. Working with Marcus has changed the way she views the Alchemists, and Sydney must tread a careful path as she harnesses her profound magical ability to undermine the way of life she was raised to defend. Consumed by passion and vengeance, Sydney struggles to keep her secret life under wraps as the threat of exposure — and re-education — looms larger than ever.

Pulses will race throughout this smoldering fourth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where no secret is safe.

I couldn’t wait to read the fourth in Richelle Mead’s addictive Bloodlines series, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sydney and Adrian’s relationship gets more development as they risk everything to be together, and Sydney’s decision to learn magic also puts her at risk from the Alchemists she once trusted. But now she’s working to undermine them completely.

I liked the alternating POV’s as we got Adrian’s perspective as well as he struggles against the unstable mood swings brought on by using spirit magic. I like how he and Sydney both mature and how each considers the other’s feelings, and the development of their relationship takes centre stage in the story. The plot wasn’t as evident and I did get a bit bored with some of the recapping and tangents which dragged out the romance sub-plot but did nothing to advance the main plot. That said, I still love the characters, and this instalment brings more of the passion and drama that make this series so addictive!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Review - Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Amazon UK

I couldn’t wait to return to the fascinating world of the Grisha, and the sequel to Shadow and Bone didn’t disappoint! Alina and Mal are on the run, but it isn’t long before the Darkling catches up to them. He is still intent on using Alina’s power for his own gain – and has a terrifying new dark power. Alina and Mal are rescued by a boat captained by Sturmhond, a mysterious privateer with motives of his own, who may be a friend or a foe. Alina is torn between the lure of her new abilities and the horror of the damage they can cause, and she definitely comes into her own in this book, even as she faces difficult decisions. I really felt for her and Mal as they came into conflict because Alina’s power pulls her away from him.

There are also a number of new secondary characters who add something new to the story, and some stunning action scenes. The plot takes unexpected turns and I found it hard to guess what was going to happen – which is a rarity with me! This book is slower paced than the first but I was never bored. Again, I love the world-building in this series, especially the folktales and myths that make up Ravka’s backdrop. There are so many details that build up a vivid picture of this world, yet it never feels overwhelming.

I think I preferred Shadow and Bone overall, but Siege and Storm is a fantastic sequel. The characters are flawed and believable; the magic is original; and the plot keeps my heart racing. I can’t get enough of this fabulous fantasy world, and I’ll be first in line for the final book of the trilogy!

 Rating: *****

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome to What's Up Wednesday, a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow.

What I'm reading
The Rithmatist (Rithmatist, #1)
I'm on a fantasy kick this week! I've been reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I picked it up for only £1.99 on Kindle as I loved the Mistborn trilogy, and so far it hasn't disappointed! I also read another Sanderson book, The Rithmatist. I love the original and unique magic systems!
Blood Magic (The Blood Journals, #1)
I'm now reading Blood Magic by Tessa Gratton, which is a fantastic read. Next on my list is Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn, for the blog tour next month. I've been looking forward to this one!

What I'm writing

I finished the first revision of Darkworld Book 3 and sent it to my publishers for approval! *eek* It wasn't as intense as the two mega-revisions I had to do for Book 2, so hopefully this'll work out well! I'm also waiting on some exciting Darkworld news which I'm hoping to announce soon. :)

Meanwhile, I'm working on my YA Urban Fantasy, and I've reached the point where, despite all the planning, the story tries to run away from me and the inner editor comes out to play so I have to beat it with a stick. But I'm enjoying using Scrivener's word-count goal features to keep track of targets. (Yes, I'm now a Scrivener convert! Though part of that is because updating to Word 2013 has successfully made it difficult to do basic things like opening files... O_O)

What else I've been up to

Despite the crazy weather's best efforts to thwart our plans, my boyfriend and I managed to escape to Swansea for Valentine's Day. :) Luckily we avoided the places hit by blackouts and floods, though we ended up going to the cinema three times in two days because of the hurricane-force winds at the beach. o_O But the Lego Movie was awesome. :D 

Also, BOOK SHOPPING. I spent the last of my vouchers and have now got the other two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness.

Basically, escaping the crazy. The writing life is completely insane sometimes, and I think I need to get a better focus on the positive things rather than dwelling on what I can't control. Publishing's wildly unpredictable and readers' opinions are subjective, so all I can do is concentrate on the writing/revising/editing, and not whether people will like/buy it. I've had a lot of negativity thrown my way over the past few weeks, but I've also had some lovely emails from my publishers and some great beta feedback. So I'm focusing on that! :)

What inspires me right now

That tiny bit of sunshine in the midst of all the rain. :P Seriously, though, it's rained non-stop literally all year. But hey, things can only get better from here, right? 

*skips off singing, "Everything is awesome" (that song is stuck in my head!)*

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Review - Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares (Anna, #2)

 It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on. 

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.

Amazon UK

The sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood doesn’t disappoint! It picks up several months after the events of the first book, where we find Cas still hasn’t got over what happened to Anna – mainly because he’s literally being haunted by her spirit. At first, his friends Carmel and Thomas think he’s cracking up, but when it’s revealed that the athame blade with which he sends violent spirits to the afterlife is inextricably linked to her spirit, he becomes determined to save her from the horrific Hell she’s now imprisoned in.

This was just as good as the first book! Cas’s narrative voice is as humorous as ever, which nevertheless doesn’t detract from the creepy element of ghost-killing. The supporting cast, particularly Carmel and Thomas, are equally well-developed, and I like how Kendare Blake explores their bond more fully in this second novel, since Cas has never put down roots or formed attachments before now, being constantly on the move. The emotional depth makes this a horror story which is more than just about the scares – although there are plenty of spooky moments and nail-biting scenes. We get to learn more about the athame blade and the background behind it, as well as visiting some new (and extremely sinister) locations!

This sequel is a fantastic conclusion to the Anna duology, and builds on the first book whilst tying up all the loose ends. There's not enough good YA horror out there at the moment, in my opinion, and this has the bonus of not being TOO creepy, but still a fantastically spine-chilling read!

Rating: ****

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Not a Drop to Drink (Not a Drop to Drink, #1)
What I'm reading

I read Not a Drop to Drink, which is a great (and scarily realistic!) dystopian YA.

I also read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, which was sinister and scary as I expected! Definitely a unique take on vampires!
The Unbound (The Archived, #2)

My copy of The Unbound by Victoria Schwab arrived from the Book Depository the other day! I loved The Archived, and the sequel didn't disappoint. Loved it!

What I'm writing

I'm still working on my YA urban fantasy. Progress has been a bit slow this week due to some confidence-knocking setbacks (and technological meltdowns!), but still more or less on the right track...well, I haven't deviated majorly from the outline yet, and I passed the 20K mark the other day. 

But I've had a lot of knockbacks. Not with this book, but being constantly on the receiving end of criticism, be it on my published book, or through querying, has made me doubt every word I write and every idea I think of. It takes a lot to stop me writing...but this time I'm going to have to admit defeat and take a break for a few days. This is something I hate doing mid-project, but it's got to the point where insomnia and anxiety are affecting my ability not only to write, but to do pretty much anything else.

What else I've been up to

Dealing with said technological meltdown! My laptop, which has been driving me mental by crashing every few hours, finally packed it in - fortunately, I had enough warning to insert a memory stick and ninja-save all my books! But it made writing difficult because I had to re-download the scrivener trial onto my netbook in order to be able to work on my books, plus the version of Word Starter doesn't allow editing...argh. But it's OK now! I have a shiny new laptop, and I've spent the past few days setting it up and retrieving all my files. *breathes*

So, not a terribly exciting week! But I'm going to Swansea with my boyfriend for Valentine's Day, to celebrate three awesome years together (I have no idea how it's been three years since my first bizarre year at university...). I'm taking a kind-of-hiatus from the Internet over the next few days for my sanity's sake (reviews and rejections have the worst sense of timing, and I haven't had a decent night's sleep in over a week), but I'll be back to return comments in a few days. :)

What inspires me right now

This post from Claire Legrand. Also this from Natalie Whipple. Some encouragement for us struggling authors - we are not alone!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Review - The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

The Eternity Cure (Blood Of Eden, #2)

In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood 

She has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever-and possibly end human and vampire existence. 

There's a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago-and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries, if Allie can get to him in time. 

Allison thought that immortality was forever. But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could never have imagined having to make.
I was really excited to read this book as I loved The Immortal Rules, the first in Julie Kagawa’s fabulous Blood of Eden series, and it more than lived up to my expectations! Allison Sekemoto is a vampire in a world where humans are blood cattle, but she remembers her human origins all too well – as well as the group of humans she travelled with, including the angelic Zeke. Now alone in the wilderness, she’s determined to rescue her vampire sire, Kanin, from the sadistic Sarren – only to run into an unlikely ally: Jackal, her blood brother. The two form a wary alliance to rescue the vampire master from the city of New Covington, Allie’s former home – but a new strain of the Red Lung virus which almost wiped out humans and vampires alike has risen to threaten mankind again, and this time humanity might not survive.

This is just as gripping and action-packed as its predecessor. In a world where civilisation has fallen into ruin and vampires dominate, using humans as blood cattle, Allie is a rarity: a vampire who doesn’t want to be a monster. She’s suffered a lot but remains strong and committed to fighting for those she cares about. She and Zeke also face the dilemma of whether a human and a vampire can safely be together, with Allie constantly fighting the demon within herself and not knowing when she will lose control and kill someone. Sarren is a truly scary villain, sadistic and unpredictable, and Jackal was another character who took me by surprise.

The story is absolutely captivating, and the emotions are as sky-high as the action and suspense. I was on tenterhooks as I was reading this book and I didn’t want it to end. And hell, what an ending. How very cruel of you, Julie Kagawa.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and that’s saying a lot! Now to find a distraction from the long wait for the final book of the trilogy…

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

What's Up Wednesday & IWSG

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.

The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #2)
What I'm reading

I've spent most of the past week reading the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, and HOLY WOW. The series finale kept me  up until the early hours, and I think I wore out my Kindle with my frantic clicking!

Unhinged (Splintered, #2)

Then I read The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa, which was pretty awesome!

Now I'm rereading Splintered by A.G. Howard, because the signed copy of Unhinged I won in a giveaway finally arrived on Monday. ^_^

What I'm writing

I've been working on my YA urban fantasy WIP. Steady progress all around, but as I've been pretty busy (and had a crazily productive January!), I'm expecting this month to be slower. But the other day I had an epiphany about my possibly-next series, and I'm doing some planning on that. I can never settle for one project! :P

What else I've been up to

Other than editing and a nice trip to Waterstones on Saturday, not a lot! It's been a busy week work-wise so I've been keeping on top of deadlines. (Wow, my life is boring.) Also re-watching Supernatural and Studio Ghibli films, because you can't go wrong with that.

What inspires me right now

Hmm...most of you will probably know the Internet exploded the other day when J. K. Rowling announced that she regretted that Ron and Hermione ended up together. I'm refraining from expressing an opinion on this, but I totally agree with Nathan Bransford's post about what writers can learn from this. Even published authors can have second thoughts about the many decisions they make in the writing process!


It's also the second IWSG of 2014! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the creation of Ninja Captain Alex, and is a great way for writers to share their worries, support and encouragement.

This month has been a constant battle against insecurity. I finished a book, but it's genre-confused and plot-confused and I genuinely have no idea what to do with it or whether it could ever be publishable. I started another book, and I've no idea whether this one will work out, either. I did a lot of waiting. Firstly, for news on whether Darkworld Book 2's second round of revisions would be accepted - happily, they were, and I was offered a contract. Secondly, for agents' replies to queries. The stress has brought back my anxiety and insomnia, which has made it hard to concentrate on writing!

The few rejections I've had have been mostly positive - a case of 'It's not for me' or 'I'm not the right agent to represent that project' - YA high fantasy's a hard sell, especially here in the UK. Nothing crushing, and nothing unexpected. But when you combine that with the reviews coming in for Darkness Watching (mostly positive, but distracting!), my nerves have been totally shredded. I'm sure it's the same for a lot of writers, but the idea of people out there reading my work, judging it - even though I know, rationally, they're not judging me - is still hard to deal with sometimes. Anxiety and writing don't go together, even though I know it's something a lot of writers deal with - in fact, I'm writing an article for this fabulous new Tumblr group about dealing with exactly that!

Anyway, as I said in my last What's Up Wednesday post, it's those days where anxiety overwhelms me and the universe constantly throws obstacles which make me more determined to write because I want to. Whether it's being published or not. Giving up is never an option. So I'm going to carry on putting my work out there, because there's nothing like hearing someone genuinely loved one of my books. Those are the days I write for. :)

Monday, 3 February 2014

Monday Mini-Reviews - Bloodlines and The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead

Bloodlines (Bloodlines, #1)

Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty - a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning...

As I loved the Vampire Academy series, I was keen to read this spin-off series featuring some of the characters from the same world. The leading heroine is Sydney, a member of the secret order of Alchemists whose task is to keep the existence of vampires hidden from humans. Sydney has been in disgrace following the incidents at the end of the last Vampire Academy book, but is offered the chance to redeem herself when an attack on Jill Dragomir, the newly crowned Queen’s half-sister, leads the Moroi to decide to send her into hiding. Sydney is chosen to accompany Jill to a private boarding school where they will hide amongst humans until the danger has passed.

Sydney is a very different narrator to Rose, but her story is just as engaging. She might not be as kickass but she definitely has spirit, and it’s interesting to see how her views on vampires and magic gradually change over the course of the book. Fans of Adrian will be pleased to know that he plays a major role in this series as well, and is as charismatic and hilarious as ever. This book both continues loose ends from the VA series and develops a gripping new story of its own, and it’s a great return to the unique world of vampires and alchemists that Mead has created. A strong start to the series!

The Golden Lily (Bloodlines, #2)

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?

The second book in the Bloodlines series picks up where the first left off. Sydney used to believe that magic was unnatural and evil and that vampires were the same, but when sent into hiding with Jill, the Queen’s half-sister, to protect her, she has found herself forced to question her prior beliefs. Meanwhile, she reluctantly agrees to be set up with a guy who seems to be exactly like she is – only to find that she might be developing feelings for someone who is out of bounds. But a new threat suggests that there may be a vampire-hating force at work which even the Alchemists don’t know about.

The plot takes a while to get going, but the story is as engaging as ever. Sydney is really growing on me as a protagonist, and is starting to question her ingrained beliefs about vampires and magic. Adrian, once again, steals the show, and he and Sydney are great together. There’s a lot more romance in this book than in Bloodlines and the action still isn’t as high as in the VA series, but I really enjoy reading about the characters and I like that we get to learn more about magic and its place in this fascinating world of vampires and Alchemists. And with an ending like that, I’m glad I have The Indigo Spell ready to read right away!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

#WIPMarathon Final Check-In

It's time for the final #WIPMarathon check-in - a huge thank you to Ifeoma for organising it all! But it's not the end - we'll be checking in monthly from now on! :)

Last check-in word count + chapter count: Last time I was at 2000 words of my new WIP (YA Urban Fantasy) and 10,000 words of the shiny secret mini-project (and apparently driving people crazy with my hints :P).

Current WC + CC: I finished the mini-project yesterday!!! 21,000 words, longer than I expected! (The length should give a clue as to what it is :P)

I'm also now at  8000 words of the YA urban fantasy. :)

WIP issues this week: I don't know what it is about writing in the third person, but it always takes me twice as long as writing in first person! I don't even know why, especially because I'm writing urban fantasy and not high fantasy this time. Maybe it's because it's a new project and I'm still feeling my way into the writing style (once again, it's different to anything I've written before...this is becoming a habit!)

What I learned this week in writing: Hmm...well, over the past month, I've been using shiny stickers as a motivator, and as it's now February, I could total up what I achieved in January...and somehow, I've managed 64K. o_O I have absolutely no idea how that happened, but the stickers (and #WIPMarathon, of course!) have really helped! :)

What distracted me this week when writing: I unexpectedly got a ton of freelance work at once, which is awesome, but suddenly making time for writing was a bit difficult! Also, trying to draft when my brain's still in Editor Mode is tricky! Also, the usual - querying, drowning in emails...

Last 200 words: It's a secret. ;) But I'll be sending this mini-project to my publishers next week (another clue!) and hopefully I'll be able to share a teaser soon...

Plans after #WIPMarathon: I'm going to carry on with this YA urban fantasy draft! :) I'm sending two shorter works to my publishers next week and I want to get to work on outlining something new (I got hit by a killer idea for a new YA high fantasy this week!). Basically, my aim's to avoid insanity when waiting for agents to reply! :)