Friday, 12 January 2018

Writing festival 2018

Hey all,

I'm putting together another blog festival (the official name is TBC)! If you're a writer, either published or aspiring, I'd love for you to contribute. I've already got a few excellent articles lined up from past guest bloggers, but I'd love to connect with as many writers as possible.

Take a look at these great articles from last time:

How to Leave your Readers Cold, Hungry, and Afraid by R.A. Black
Finding Inspiration in Likely Places by J.P. Jackson
Developing Ideas by Nikki Morgan
Nine Questions Every Writer Needs to Ask by Herb Mallette:

As long as the article is about writing, writing sites, critiquing, publishing process, indie publishing, or fiction books, it will be considered. I'll work with you to edit up the piece and add in an author bio, so please note there will be feedback to get the article into good shape.

Types of content

Let me know if you're interested in any of the following:

  1. An article on one of the above topics.
  2. Print and/or eBook giveaways of your novel.
  3. An author interview (your book can be published, indie, or at the beta-read stage, but should be complete). I'll send over a series of questions and we can have a bit of back and forth to get the most of out it.
  4. Offering up Chapter 1 of your unpublished novel for a free critique. With your permission, I would like to post critiques of your opening chapter. I may not post the whole first chapter, depending on length. If you know me, I can be quite critical, but I'll also look for positives and won't post anything unless I feel it's helpful. Thank you to anyone brave enough to apply!
  5. For a limited time, I'm accepting review copies of self-published books again. Please note, I usually get a high number of requests so I'll have to pick and choose. See past reviews for the types of books I usually read.
  6. If you have a completed manuscript which you are looking for beta-readers for and would like a shout out, let me know where your story can be found, a pitch, genre, word count, and if there is anything you'd like the reader to focus on.

If you're thinking about getting involved, just send me a message via the contact form on the side, or post a comment below. It would help me out if you followed the blog in some way, but it's not necessary. Just let me know you're interested and I'll make sure to keep in contact.

First drafts of content are needed by the 28th of February, but don't delay on showing your interest!

Cheers for reading!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Book Review: Coraline

CORALINE by Neil Gaiman
5 Stars
Verdict: Quirky, creepy, and quick to read!

Bored and alone, with her parents too busy to play with her, eleven year old Coraline ventures through a mysterious door in the wall. It once led to nowhere. Now it leads to an interesting 'other' place, where her 'other' neighbours are much more entertaining than the normal world, and her 'other' mother gives her all the attention she could want. To stay here forever, all she needs to do is one little thing: sew buttons into her eyes...

This is a quick read that I only picked up because I was horribly behind on my reading list but too stubborn and competitive to lose. Fortunately, this is a great book for any age. Full to the brim of weird and wonderful characters, twisted logic, and dry humour, I enjoyed reading this from start to finish.

Gaimen's imagination really is endless. Wit is sew into the narrative like eyes, and it compliments the quirky tone well. The pacing is good, mixing the wondrous and quirky with action and adventure, and there's enough creepiness for me to think Coraline is a braver girl than I was at her age.

There are clever twists and strange discoveries and generally a lot to love. My only complaint is that there weren't' enough pages!

Source: Bought it to complete my 2017 reading challenge.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Welcome to 2018

2017 been a ride and a half, for me, anyway.

The year started with brilliant news. One of my clients emailed to say that he had managed to snag a publishing deal - check him out here. I was elated for him, and since then, he’s had success after success. His story of darkness even had honourable mentions in the Rainbow Awards. It's fantastic news for a fantastic writer.

Me on the other hand? My writing had to take a backseat. Turns out buying a house and progressing your career mops up all your free time and leaves you too dry to churn out a story.

It was worth it though. My life slotted into place in the first week of December. I finally moved into my first house with my boyfriend of seven years. To celebrate, he cooked a lovely meal, broke a cupboard, and proposed. Two days later, I was offered a new job as an editorial assistant. That's going to be a tough week to top!

So yeah, been a bit too busy for writing. So busy in fact, I had to read eight books in the last three weeks of December to complete my reading challenge. Prepare to read reviews for Coraline, Genuine Fraud, A Torch Against the Night, A Monster Calls, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, Count the Stars, Six of Crow and Uprooted. I still see words in my sleep.

This year, I'll focus on my writing again. I already have a great story drafted and edited, then professionally edited, and edited a bit more - it just needs some TLC before submitting to agents.

Last year was my year for life, so this year could be my year for writing! But I've said this before, and nothing has come of it so far.

I'll just have to keep hoping.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows

4 Stars
Verdict: A great bridge to book 3.
#1 - A Darker Shade of Magic

The consequences of book one have set in. Lila has set off in the new world with a sink or swim attitude, and closes in on her dream of owning a ship. Kell struggles with Rhy’s life tethered to his, unable to live freely, fearing that they’ll share the consequences. Lila and Kell are drawn together once more, this time by the call of a tournament that pits magicians against each other in one on one battle, the Essen Tasch.

Lila is one of my favourite characters of all time. She's reckless, and smart, and a darker shade of hero, and it always surprises me how boldly she challenges the world to seize her dreams. I also liked the newest character, Alucard, the likable pirate slash privateer who gives Lila a chance in the world she doesn't belong in.

This book is easier to slip into, easier to enjoy from page one than the prequel. With less jumping around, the world building feels solid, strong I no longer felt lost between the worlds, and instead enjoyed the story from the first chapter. The prose is effortless and beautiful, conjuring up images to match the magical battles.

It's not quite as exciting as book one which is why it loses a star for me. The tournament begins two thirds of the way in, and before that, we’re really just getting there. Lila carves out a mini-adventure of her own, while Kell and Rhys plot their dangerous fun, and it's all of equal interest. The characters’ paths entwine closer and closer, teasing the reader with the promise of a momentous clash which, in the end, didn't make enough noise to feel like a proper climax. There are a few twists and turns as another evil rises in another London, but that's not for this book, just a promise for later.

Despite the brilliant writing and great characters, the story line never peaks or crashes. Instead it builds, one brick at a time, into the bridge that leads us to book three. There’s a bridge hanger too, with all the promises of a great tale beginning in the next book. It's a good sequel, but it's missing the impact of a great standalone novel.

Source: Bought it!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Book Review: The Ask and the Answer

THE ASK AND THE ANSWER by Patrick Ness (#2 Chaos Walking)
4 Stars
Verdict: Tough to get into, killer cliff hanger.
Review of book 1

This book is like climbing a very steep cliff. It starts slow, building up new characters, a new world, a new system to climb through. When you're at the top, it's amazing. And then you slip right off it, your hand gripping the edge, hanging on for that sequel.

If I'm honest, the ramble style of voice isn't my type of thing. I can appreciate the feeling of really getting inside the character's head in the moment, and the way the action scenes unravel at a frighteningly fast pace, but it's the slower in-between sections which don't work as well for me in this style.

The general pacing of the story reminded me of book one. In my opinion, it lacked momentum until something tripped me up and then I couldn't put it down, and this book took longer to stick its foot out. Perhaps after book one being about running, escaping, scraping through one disaster to the next, book two felt claustrophobic in comparison.

So it picks up with Todd and Viola trapped, their lives in the balance, and the promise of a reunion. But their reunion scene is exchanged for events that just weren't as interesting. I felt forced into a story-line I didn't want, forced to follow what the Mistresses were up to. Forced to watch Todd be forced into acts of cruelty. I guess part of it is I didn't expect most of the book to be set in one place, because the last book was such an adventure.

I struggled the most with the motives of the leaders. What does the mayor want? Then why is he doing that? I don't think this book really answered those questions, only asked them. Maybe that's the point, but if so, I still feel like it's missing something.

Towards the middle-end of the book, I started to love it again. The pace picked up, and the pieces started to slot into place. I read the last third of the book ten times faster than the rest, and that's where the four stars comes from.

Then there's that cliffhanger. I know a lot of people don't like cliffhangers, but this is book two of a trilogy, and that ending makes me want to pick up book three right away. It took me by surprised yet it's painfully obvious - this is my absolute favourite thing about reading, and Ness does it so, so well.

Source: Bought it.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Book Review: The Dazzling Heights

THE DAZZLING HEIGHTS by Katharine McGee (The Thousandth Floor #2)
5 Stars
Imaginative, readable, and scandalous.

Review of Book 1

It's impossible for me to write this review without spoilers or hints about book one, so make sure you've read that first. The pages will fly by - trust me on that one - and if you liked book one, book two is the same style with new ideas.

So it begins with another mysterious death. Mariel is angry with Eris's 'accident' and knows there's more to it than meets the eye. Watt decides to play Leda against herself in order to shake free from her blackmail, while Avery and Atlas try to make their relationship work in secret. And a new girl has arrived in the tower, a con artist who has chosen Atlas as her next mark.

I found it entertaining from page to page, just like book one. The multiple point of views allows the reader to skip to the next important scene, the next juicy moment, meaning the pace never drops. Book two is much easier to slip into and enjoy because we already know most of the characters, so it felt effortless to read from start to finish.

Like last time, I enjoyed the futuristic flavourings which shape the tower, and the ways the girls' (and Watt's) lives intermingle. The world building is fun and imaginative, giving the book that extra little something something. I read book two immediately after book one, and I'd take on book three right now if it were available!

What I enjoyed the most is getting to spend more time with Watt and understanding his character better. Leda's character also takes an unusual turn, and I found it intriguing seeing all the different sides of her.

My only criticism is that the book doesn't quite come together as inevitably like the last, and the high didn't feel quite as exciting, for reasons I won't go into. Although it couldn't follow the same pattern as the last one, not really, without being too predictable, so I understand the choice there. The way the ending was handled was slightly surprising, which is always good.

I'll definitely be reading the next one!

Source: With thanks to the publisher, via

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Book Review: The Thousandth Floor

5 Stars
Verdict: A futuristic teen drama beginning and ending in murder

It’s a high school drama set in a futuristic tower that’s more like a world inside itself. Think of Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl, except 100 years into the future. Same problems - boyfriends, cheating, drugs, illegitimate children - with a different flavour.

Avery lives at the top of the tower, beauty and wealth gifted to her from birth. The one thing she can't have is the only thing she wants - her adopted brother, Atlas. Leda is Avery’s best friend, but things have been weird between them since she started dating Atlas - she hires Watt, a hacker who seems too good at his job, to find out more about him. A family secret sends Eris's social status down the tower, while Rylan ends up higher than expected.

Their lives become tangled, tripping over each other until one of them falls from the thousandth floor.

There five point of views: Avery, Leda, Rylan, Eris and Watt. It’s a lot, especially with the majority being girls, but it just about worked for me. I had to pause a few times to reassure myself of the narrator, but each character is crafted meticulously, and by the end of the book, I felt like I knew them all really well.

I know some readers are weirded out by the brother thing. They're not related by blood if that helps. If it doesn't, then it's probably best to avoid this book.

Most of the details are left to the reader’s imagination. This is something I usually don’t like – I want to know how the world ticks down to the smallest cog – but for this story, it worked. The setting played on my imagination, and the logistics of the story weren’t overly dependent on the world so it wouldn’t matter if I was picturing it all wrong.

The world building is what makes this book more than just another teen drama. It adds a fun, imaginative twist to every single scene, and that made it an easy book to whip through.

Source: Bought it.