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Feature: Interview with Charlie Laidlaw

Check out our interview with author Charlie Laidlaw, all about his book The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, and the inspiration for it.

Tell us about your books:

The things we learn COVER FINAL
I’m the author of two novels, The Herbal Detective (Ringwood Publishing) and The Things We Learn When We’re Dead (Accent Press). Assuming we don’t experience nuclear Armageddon in the immediate future, and I’m not betting against it, a third novel, Darker Matters, is due to be published by Accent Press in January 2018.

A little bit about yourself:

I was born and brought up in central Scotland and am a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. I still have the scroll, but it’s in Latin, so it could say anything.

I then worked briefly as a street actor, baby photographer, puppeteer and restaurant dogsbody before becoming a journalist. I started in Glasgow and ended up in London, covering news, features and politics.

Surprisingly, I was approached by a government agency to work in intelligence, which just shows how shoddy government recruitment was back then but, craving excitement and adventure, I ended up as a PR consultant, which is the fate of all journalists who haven’t won a Pulitzer Prize.

I am married with two grown-up children and live in East Lothian. And that’s about it.

What is The Things We Learn When We’re Dead about:

The Things We Learn When We’re Dead is a modern fairytale of love and loss. It’s about the subtle ways in which we change, and how the small decisions that we make can have profound and unintended consequences.

On one level, the book is a simple story of a young woman’s life. But, for those readers who want to make the connection, The Things We Learn is also a retelling of The Wizard of Oz: how a young woman in ultimately tragic circumstances comes to reassess her life and find a new beginning.

But don’t worry: most readers won’t make the Wizard of Oz allusion, so it’s not as wacky as it sounds!

Why the Wizard of Oz?

The book is about second chances – a young woman looking back at her life, and realising what he really has, and who she really is. That theme has been written a million times before and is universal and timeless.

The simple truism is that every piece of fiction being written now has already been written many times before – mainly by Shakespeare, although he also leaned heavily on much older sources.26790464
It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing about love, war, betrayal, death, marriage, alien invasion or the zombie apocalypse, a lot of other novelists have already been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

In that sense, “no place like home” isn’t just a physical place but a state of mind. In thinking the plot through, I realised I could either do what other authors have done and ignore the Oz link or, in my own way, celebrate it. I chose the latter.

What were some of the things that inspired you?

Somerset Maugham once remarked that “there are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” For me, that pretty much sums up what it’s like to write a novel. I really do struggle for inspiration.

But the idea for The Things We Learn was different. It came to me on a train from Edinburgh to London and so powerful was the initial idea that I hoped that the train would break down, or for spontaneous industrial action by the train crew.

I was therefore disappointed when the train pulled into King’s Cross, regrettably on time, but I did have the outline of a narrative – and, more importantly, a first and last chapter. The first chapter has changed out of all recognition, but the final chapter is still much as I first wrote it.

What was the first book that really inspired you?

The first semi-grown-up book that made a mark on me was Jennie by Paul Gallico. The central character is a small boy who is transformed into a cat. It echoed an Alice in Wonderland madness, but with adult themes. It was the first book I read that dealt with death and loss.

What are some of your favourite books now?CL bandw

I only really read contemporary literary fiction, so I must be a bit dull. But I do like books with a distinctive narrative voice – for example, The Last Family in England by Matt Haig, as narrated by a Labrador called Prince. Or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, written by a teenager suffering from Asperger’s.

Or, even more recently, Anatomy of A soldier by Harry Parker, about a British soldier horrifically injured in Afghanistan. The impact of the book comes from a shifting narrative that is recounted by the inanimate objects that surround him – from a battery to a bullet, from a medical swab to a military drone. The overall effect is both distancing and weirdly intimate.

What advice would you give to other writers?

As a writer, I suppose you have to be a reader, and by a strange process of osmosis you do slowly absorb other authors’ wisdom – how to structure a book, how to create good dialogue and narrative, and pace and context.

Also, try to have a support structure around you: p

What’s next?

That’s entitled Darker Matters and is being published by Accent Press in January next year. It’s about love, loss and is, at least partly, a satire on the unexpected consequences of celebrity. It’s a dark comedy, I suppose, but I hope the smiles far outnumber any tears!

www.charlielaidlawauthor.com

Thanks so much for checking out this interview with Charlie. Also take a look at this fab video trailer for The Things We Learn When We’re Dead, available here!


Reading Challenge: The Reading Quest

So I’ve seen lots of people signing up on Twitter to do a month long readathon called The Reading Quest. It’s basically a fun video game style quest to conquer your TBR pile! Now that my dissertation is almost finished and I’m hoping to have lots more time to read, I thought this would be a fantastic way to kick things off. All the information is available on Aentee’s blog Read at Midnight. There is a point system involved, explained in the link there, which I will try and follow, but I’m mainly hoping to make a bit of a dent in my TBR over the next few weeks!

(Also all the beautiful graphics for this were done by CW of Read, Think and Ponder. They’re so stunning!)

the-reading-quest-character-classes
These are the four different character class options, and sticking with the video game theme I’m going to go for the Mage option, because that’s what I usually pick for games.

reading-quest-board1

So here are the books that I am going to try and tackle during this challenge. I’ve only chosen the books for the mage quests just now, if I manage to get any further I will add the others in later. This is the first reading challenge I’ve ever signed up to, so fingers crossed I don’t fall at the first hurdle!

1. A Book With A One Word Title: Carnivore – Jonathan Lyon
2. A Book That Contains Magic: Roar – Cora McCormack
3. A Book Based On Mythology: Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
4. A Book Set In A Different World: Everless – Sara Holland
5. The First Book In A Series: Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

Some of these are books I’ve wanted to read for ages, and a few are from my current review pile. Will update as time goes on, but here goes!


Feature: YALC Book Haul

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So as many of you know last weekend saw bloggers and ya fans flocking to London for London Film and Comic Con and the Young Adult Literature Convention. Myself amongst them, I had a fabulous time, and I bought some beautiful new books, as well as winning/was given some gorgeous new arcs. I only posted a little about the books that I bought so I could focus more on the arcs, but will add in goodreads links if you want to know more about them. Here’s we go!

Books I Bought:

1. Gilded Cage – Vic James

This book has been on my wishlist for absolutely ages, so when I saw Vic James was signing, I absolutely knew I had to pick it up. She was absolutely lovely and chatted away about the book. I’m so excited to start it!

 

 

2. Daughter of the Burning City – Amanda Footy

This book caught my eye on the YAHQ stand. It has such a beautiful cover and when I picked it up it sounded so amazing. The book deals were really fab at YALC so I got this for £5 and it was available a little earlier than in bookstores!

 

3. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe – Lauren James

I have heard such fantastic things about this book from the book blogger community. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone give it less than 4 stars. So when I heard this was going to be on sale early at YALC, I knew I had to buy a copy. It was a bit of a mad dash to get one, as they sold out in a few hours, but I’m sure it’s going to be worth it! (Also how stunning is that cover? I could look at it forever.) Lauren James also kindly signed my copy, and it’s pretty much gone straight to the top of by TBR!

 

ARCs:

1. WAR: Wizards and Robots – Will.I.Am and Brian David Johnson

Goodreads

The lovely folks at the Penguin Platform stand gave me a copy of this. It sounds really fantastic and I’m looking forward to reading it.

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger,  Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

2. Otherworld – Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Goodreads

This was a very hot proof over the weekend. The lovely folks at Rock the Boat did a blogger giveaway for it and I was lucky enough to be one of the first to be there. This book is the first in a series from Jason Segel (from How I Met Your Mother) and since it’s about gaming I think it will be right up my alley. Very much looking forward to reading this one.

The company says Otherworld is amazing—like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They say it’s addictive—that you’ll want to stay forever. They promise Otherworld will make all your dreams come true.

Simon thought Otherworld was a game. Turns out he knew nothing. Otherworld is the next phase of reality. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted.

3. Everless – Sara Holland

Goodreads

There were two proofs I was really hopeful to get over the weekend, one was Fireblood by Elly Blake (which sadly I didn’t get, but I now have an e-galley so it’s not all bad!) the other was this beauty. I’ve heard some overseas book bloggers talking about how stunning this is, and was so so happy to have got a copy. I’m probably going to dive into this straight after The Loneliest Girl in the Universe.

In the land of Sempera, time is extracted from blood and used as payment. Jules Ember and her father were once servants at Everless, the wealthy Gerling family’s estate, but were cast out after of a fateful accident a decade ago. Now, Jules’s father is reaching his last hour, and she will do anything to save him. Desperate to earn time, she arrives at the palace as it prepares for a royal wedding, ready to begin her search into childhood secrets that she once believed to be no more than myths. As she uncovers lost truths, Jules spirals deeper into a past she hardly recognizes, and faces an ancient and dangerous foe who threatens her future and the future of time itself.

4. Blackbird – N. D. Gomes

Goodreads

This was a surprise giveaway that happened just as I was walking past the YAHQ stand. I hadn’t heard much about it, but now that I’ve read the blurb I’m really excited to read this one!

My name is Alex. I am fifteen years old, and I don’t know where my sister is. Or if she will ever come back.

On New Year’s Eve 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead. The same day Olivia McCarthy went missing from a small coastal village in Orkney.

Now Her younger sister Alex is on a mission to find out just what happened to Olivia. But does she really want to know all the answers?

5. The Fandom – Anna Day

The Fandom is another book that has been getting loads of buzz on Twitter and social media recently. The lovely folks at Chicken House were giving away copies in exchange for signing up to their newsletter, so I was delighted to get a copy. Anna kindly also signed my copy of The Fandom, and I can already see big things for this beautiful book!

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands…

6. Zenith – Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

Goodreads

I think this was possibly the most sought after book the whole weekend. The queues to get a copy did get a bit on the forceful side, but YAHQ were kind enough to give me one. The book sounds stunning, a sort of YA Star Trek style epic with kick ass leading ladies, and I’m very much looking forward to sinking my teeth into it!

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her glass starship, Marauder, however, she’s just Andi, their friend and fearless leader.

But when a routine mission goes awry, the Marauder’s all-girl crew is tested as they find themselves in a treacherous situationand at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter from Andi’s past.

Meanwhile, across the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their shipor just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles toward the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only certainty is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

7. Invictus – Ryan Graudin

Goodreads

This took me completely by surprise because I had no idea that BKMRK were planning to do a giveaway of Invictus proofs. This book was already on my wishlist, so I was so happy to be one of the lucky 100 people that got one. Ryan also did a signing that day so I managed to get my copy signed as well!

Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

8. The Treatment – C. L. Taylor

Goodreads

I love a good thriller and this sounds right up my alley. This again was given to me by YAHQ, who were very generous with their proof giveaways over the weekend. (I think there were even more books given out on the Friday as well!) C. L. Taylor also popped by to sign some books at the YAHQ stand, and it was really fantastic to meet her!

“You have to help me. We’re not being reformed. We’re being brainwashed.”

All sixteen year old Drew Finch wants is to be left alone. She’s not interested in spending time with her mum and stepdad and when her disruptive fifteen year old brother Mason is expelled from school for the third time and sent to a residential reform academy she’s almost relieved.

Everything changes when she’s followed home from school by the mysterious Dr Cobey, who claims to have a message from Mason. There is something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is undergoing. The school is changing people.

Determined to help her brother, Drew must infiltrate the Academy and unearth its deepest, darkest secrets.

Before it’s too late.

9. The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

Goodreads

This was another complete surprise and I’m so happy to have a copy. The Exact Opposite of Okay sounds completely kick ass, and Laura was there to sign copies too!

 Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…

10. The Book of Fire – Michelle Kenney

Goodreads

This was such a cool book to get and I can’t wait to read it. It’s one of those proofs that’s plastic bound, so it did get a little dented on the way home, but given the amount I had to carry, I can live with that. It has also been dubbed ‘The Fire Sermon meets Gladiator’ and if that doesn’t peak your interest I don’t know what will!

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told. Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders. 

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret. 

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever. 

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

So that’s all the beautiful books I got this weekend. Were you at YALC, did you get any of these? Are there any you’re particularly looking forward to reading? Let me know in the comments below!


Blog Tour: The Shogun’s Queen – Lesley Downer

Synopsis:

Japan, 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd and to ride a horse. But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence, turning Okatsu’s world upside down.

Chosen by her feudal lord, she has been given a very special role to play. Given a new name – Princess Atsu – and a new destiny, she is the only one who can save the realm. Her journey to takes her to Edo Palace, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. There she seems doomed to live out her days – sequestered in the Women’s Palace, home to three thousand women and where only one man, the shogun, may enter. But beneath the palace’s immaculate facade, there are whispers of murders and ghosts. It is here that Atsu must complete her mission and discover one last secret: the secret of the man whose fate is irrevocably linked to hers…the shogun himself.

Guest Post – Lesley Downer

The Shogun’s Queen is a love story set in a world in which there was no word for ‘love’. I was amazed when I discovered that this was the case in Japan all the way up to the mid-nineteenth century, when my story is set. There was a word for ‘desire’, a word for ‘lust’. But there was no word for that madness that sweeps you off your feet when you’re least expecting it, that inspired knights in armour to take a lady’s glove into battle and drove gentlemen to drop to one knee and beg a lady to marry them, that sent couples rushing off to Gretna Green in defiance of their parents’ wishes. 

It was not that Japanese didn’t fall head over heels in love. But to the government of the day love was so dangerous, so likely to threaten the order of society, that they banned it, made it illegal or at the very least contained it.

When people did fall in love they knew they were committing a crime or at the very least making a terrible mistake. It could only end badly. And that made it all the more fatally attractive. Love was the forbidden fruit.

Falling in love wasn’t something you expected and wanted to happen. No one looked for Mr or Miss Right, no one expected to meet the perfect person and settle down and marry.

Love and marriage didn’t go together like a horse and carriage. Love was to be feared. It was not a welcome, joyous thing but a dreadful curse.

Young people expected their parents to arrange a marriage for them and trusted them to find a suitable husband or wife. Usually you were allowed to say ‘No’. No one was twisting your arm unless you were of such high rank that you were married off in a political marriage.

And people didn’t expect to love their husband or wife. Love was not something a man felt for his wife. It would have been disrespectful. Respectable married women didn’t ‘tart themselves up’. That was for geishas and courtesans.

Women didn’t hope for happiness but tranquillity. They assumed they would have children and devote themselves to them. That was the purpose of marriage. Life was about doing your duty, about giving, not getting, doing what was required of you, not rocking the boat. It wasn’t about happiness, let alone love.

When people did fall in love, it came as a shock. You wouldn’t know what had happened, what was happening to you. And that made it all the more thrilling, that it was a forbidden experience. Even someone who’d always been well-behaved and obedient might be tempted to reject everything and follow her heart instead of doing what she was supposed to do in a society where everyone followed the rules.

If you did fall in love you knew you would not be able to spend your lives together. You’d both be married off to other people. You would have to keep your love secret and spend your life silently yearning, maybe managing a secret meeting every now and then. Some people chose to commit suicide together so they could be together in death. It was called ‘love suicide’ and to the Japanese of those days it was an extraordinarily romantic thing to do.

The Shogun’s Queen is about a woman who defies convention. She falls in love. And that brought her face to face with the dilemma that underlay all of Japanese society at that time. There was a terrible choice to be made. Should she do what she knew was right? Or should she follow her heart, abandon her family and duty and run away with this man she had fallen so passionately in love with?

For her the stakes were higher still. The fate of Japan itself was in her hands. And that’s the dilemma at the heart of The Shogun’s Queen.

About Lesley:

Lesley Downer’s mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring and Lesley lived there for some fifteen years. She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and travels to Japan yearly.

She has written many books about Japan and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of the Vanishing World and the gripping Shogun Quartet; The Last Concubine, The Courtesan and the Samurai and The Samurai’s Daughter. The Shogun’s Queen is the first book in the series.

 

Many thanks to Lesley for her wonderful guest post, and thanks for checking out my stop on The Shogun’s Queen blog tour. Be sure to check out the other stops below, and pop back for a review of the book, coming soon!

 


Blog Tour: Lost Boy – Christina Henry

Synopsis:

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Welcome to my stop on the Lost Boy blog tour! Check out an excerpt from the book below!

Excerpt:

I was smaller then, and Peter was big and brave and wonderful. He said, “Come away and we’ll have adventures and be friends always” and I put my hand in his and he smiled and that smile went into my heart and stayed there.

We ran through the streets of the city where I lived, and Peter was so swift and silent I could hardly believe it. He ran like the wind was part of him and his feet barely touched the ground and I thought, watching him run in the dark, that he might take off and fly and take me with him. It would be lovely to fly away from the city and into the stars, for the city was dark and dirty and full of big people who would grab at you if you were small and say, “Here now, what’s all this?” and cuff you around the head just because they could and they would take your bread and your apples and leave you with your insides all twisted up and then throw you back in the mud and laugh and laugh.

But Peter said he would take me away from all that, he was taking me to a place where there was all the food you could eat and no one would hit you and no one to tell you what to do and when to do it and to get out of the way and go sleep in the trash where you belong. He said that on his island you could sleep in the trees and taste the salt from the sea on the air and there was treasure and fun all day long.

I wanted to go there. I couldn’t wait to go there. But I was scared about getting on a ship to go to the island. I’d never been on a ship before, but I’d seen them in the port. Peter might not like me if I told him I was scared so I didn’t say anything, but I was certain that once we got out to sea that a monster would come and break the ship into a thousand pieces and we would fall, fall, fall to the far bottom of the water and never be seen again.

Peter tugged me along and I was getting tired and he said, “Come on, Jamie, just a little more and we’ll be there” and I wanted to make him happy so he would smile at me again so I ran and tried to be as fast and quiet as he.

I thought we would go to the docks, but Peter was taking us away from there and I tugged on his hand and said, “Aren’t we going to a ship?”

And Peter laughed and said, “Why would we go to a ship, silly?” But he said it in a way that didn’t hurt and didn’t make me feel stupid – more like he had a secret and was laughing because he was going to share it with me soon.

We went away from the city, far away from the place where I slept, and I didn’t know where we were or if I would ever find my way home again, and then I remembered I didn’t want to go home anymore because home is where

they hit you and you sleep in the dirty straw and she screams and screams and screams…


Feature: July Book Haul!

I’ve been trying to be good and not buy as many books as my TBR is (slightly) out of control at the moment, but I’ve caved and picked up quite a few new goodies, so I thought I’d do a quick book haul!

1. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff (Nevernight Chronicles #1)

This is a book I’ve been hearing about for what feels like forever. Everyone I know in the blogging community seems to love it and is really passionate about it. I did try my hand at getting it in my local Waterstones, but alas they had no copies left – so I ordered this one off Amazon!

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

 

2. Those Below – Daniel Polansky (Empty Throne #2)


I was kindly sent a copy of Those Above on BookBridgr when it was released in 2015. I really really enjoyed it, so when I spotted this in The Works for £1.99 I knew I had to pick it up – I hadn’t even realised there was a second book in the series! I really can’t wait to dive into it. If you fancy you can also read my review of Those Above here!

For centuries humanity has served Those Above, god-like Eternals who rule from their cloud-capped mountain-city.

They built a civilisation of unimagined beauty and unchecked viciousness.

They thought themselves invincible.

They were wrong.

The story that began in Those Above comes to an explosive conclusion in this unforgettable battle for the hearts and minds of the human race.

 

 

 

3. The Humans – Matt Haig

I’m currently studying a Masters in Publishing and to get some experience I did a three month internship at Canongate Books around the time preparations were being made for Matt Haig’s newest title – How to Stop Time (It’s a glorious book, I’ll have a review of it up soon). Sadly How to Stop Time is the only Matt Haig book that I’ve read, so when I saw this in a second hand book shop for 50p (50p!) I jumped at the chance to read it. 

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog.

Who is he really? And what could make someone change their mind about the human race. . .?

 

4. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

This is another second hand bookshop find. I read To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager, but I somehow never got around to buying this when it was released. Looking forward to finding out if it was worth the wait!

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

 

 

 

5. Larchfield – Polly Clark

I picked this up in Waterstones a few weeks ago. I have heard quite a buzz about it on Twitter, and had hoped to attend Polly Clark’s event at my local Waterstones but sadly I was working. I’m still really looking forward to reading it though – it sounds fantastic!

It’s early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she’s excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity. She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her very sense of self, Dora comes to find the realities of small town life suffocating, and, eventually, terrifying; until she finds a way to escape reality altogether.

Another poet, she discovers, lived in Helensburgh once. Wystan H. Auden, brilliant and awkward at 24, with his first book of poetry published, should be embarking on success and society in London. Instead, in 1930, fleeing a broken engagement, he takes a teaching post at Larchfield School for boys where he is mocked for his Englishness and suspected – rightly – of homosexuality. Yet in this repressed limbo Wystan will fall in love for the first time, even as he fights his deepest fears.

 

 

6. Sirens – Joseph Knox

Yet another Waterstones find. This is actually a signed copy as well, so I was really excited to get that. I love a good crime thriller, and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this one. Planning to take it on holiday and probably whizz through it!

Set in a sprawling, twilight northern city, Sirens introduces Aidan Waits, a disgraced young detective caught stealing drugs from evidence and subsequently blackmailed into going undercover. When an MP’s daughter runs away from home, Waits is sent to track her down and finds himself at the centre of a maelstrom of drugs, blackmail and deception.

Uncovering the motives of those involved, he’s thrown forwards through politicians, police and drug lords – towards a conclusion and a truth he really doesn’t want to know.

 

 

 

 

 

7. The Waking Land – Callie Bates

I’ve seen lots of bloggers reading this one and was very jealous. The cover is just stunning and it

sounds like such a good story. I had a £10 voucher to spend in Waterstones from collecting the stamps, so I used it to get this beauty just the other day. Hoping to have some time soon to dive into it!

Lady Elanna Valtai is fiercely devoted to the King who raised her like a daughter. But when he dies under mysterious circumstances, Elanna is accused of his murder and must flee for her life. 

Returning to the homeland of magical legends she has forsaken, Elanna is forced to reckon with her despised, estranged father, branded a traitor long ago. Feeling a strange, deep connection to the natural world, she also must face the truth about the forces she has always denied or disdained as superstition powers that suddenly stir within her. 

But an all-too-human threat is drawing near, determined to exact vengeance. Now Elanna has no choice but to lead a rebellion against the kingdom to which she once gave her allegiance. Trapped between divided loyalties, she must summon the courage to confront a destiny that could tear her apart.

8. Roar – Cora Carmack (Stormheart #1)

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This is another one that I’ve heard quite a lot about online. I recently cancelled my Fairyloot subscription because quite a few of the books that came were ones I’d already read or had been sent review copies for (Caraval, Strange the Dreamer etc) so I was slightly gutted that the book for last month was one I really wanted to read! I consoled myself by ordering a copy from BookDepository. It hasn’t arrived yet which is why it isn’t picked, but I’m very much looking forward to it’s arrival!

In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them.

Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. 

She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough. 

Challenge a tempest. Survive it. And you become its master.

So that’s all the books I’ve bought recently. Have you read any of them? What did you think? And what lovely books have you been buying recently?


Feature: Top Ten Books of 2017 So Far

We’re just over half way through the year, so it’s about time to round up what the best books of the year have been so far! So far I’ve managed to read 48 books in 2017, it was a tough choice to whittle it down to 10, but here goes:

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1. Godblind – Anna Stephens

This is definitely my favourite book of 2017. Dark and brutal, it’s a stunning example of grimdark fantasy. Featuring vengeful gods, ruthless war chiefs and a kick ass slave turned warrior, it has everything you could possibly want.  Check out my review here!

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2. Showstopper – Hayley Barker

In a dystopian society where anyone not classed as ‘purely English’ is forced to live in poverty or work as servants for the Pures. Some are forced to perform as part of the deadly circus, performing and dying for the entertainment of others. This book is a gripping and compelling YA story. Check out my review here!

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3. The Wages of Sin – Kaite Welsh

Dark and dingy Victorian Edinburgh. Sarah Gilchrist is a fallen woman, attempting to overcome prejudice and become a female doctor, but when one of her patients is murdered, she must risk her reputation even further to uncover the truth. This book is really fantastic, it’s gory and intense, and history fans will absolutely love it. Review here!

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4. Spellslinger – Sebastien de Castell

When everyone in your family is a powerful spellcaster, what do you do when you have no magic? This story of young Kellen as he attempts to find his magic and discover his place in the world is full of adventure, mystery and of course magic. Check it out!

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5. See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one. A fictionalised account of the Lizzie Borden murders, this book is dark and spellbinding. Review here!

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6. Red Sister – Mark Lawrence

This book was probably my most anticipated of 2017. I love Mark Lawrence’s books so much, and this absolutely did not let me down. Kick ass nuns, mystery and adventure, this book was everything I could possibly have hoped for. Review coming soon!

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7. Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Lazlo Strange is the most perfect character. My first outing with a Laini Taylor book, this story hooked me from the very beginning and refused to let me go. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely have to pick it up. Read more here!

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8. The Scarecrow Queen – Melinda Salisbury

The stunning conclusion to the fabulous Sin Eater’s Daughter series. You always wonder if the conclusion to a series you love will live up to expectations, but this one absolutely did. Filled with Melinda Salisbury’s trademark shock and heartbreak, this book has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. See more of what I thought here!

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9. The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

I was sent an ARC of this book without knowing too much about it, however after a few pages I was absolutely hooked and this story completely blew me away. Full of magic and folklore, I am absolutely champing at the bit for book two. Read my review here! 

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10. Dawn Study – Maria V. Snyder

Maria V. Snyder’s Study series is a series that is very close to my heart. I first read the books a long time ago (the original three – Poison Study, Magic Study and Fire Study) and they are partly the reason that I love fantasy books so much. When Maria announced that she would once again be returning to the story of Yelena and Valek I did a literal happy dance. Dawn Study is the final book in the series, neatly tying up the loose ends, and providing a wonderful conclusion to the most amazing series. Take a look!

That’s my round up of favourite books of 2017 so far. Have you read any of these yet, what did you think? And of course what are your favourite reads of 2017 so far?


Feature: Top Ten Series I’ve Been Meaning To Start But Haven’t

Hi everyone! Starting from this week I’m going to be taking part in the regular Top Ten Tuesday feature ran by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m doing it to mix my posts up a bit and try some new things, so let me know what you think!

So this week is the top ten series I’ve been meaning to read bur haven’t started. This is basically going to be me hanging my head in shame at all the lovely books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t actually got round to yet.

 

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1. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas.

Yes, I know. I love Throne of Glass so much, it’s probably one of my most favourite series and I have been planning to read these beautiful books ever since they first came out – I own all of them and they look stunning – and I hear such wonderful things about them, but for some reason I’m yet to get round to reading them. Maybe now that summer is here this will be the kick I need to finally read them!

 

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2. Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

This is another one that I can’t quite believe I haven’t got around to reading. I bought the first book with the intentions of getting into it straight away and somehow never did. Three books later and I still haven’t quite got around to reading it. It is fairly near the top of my TBR pile, but that changes quite a lot depending on what appears in the post!

 

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3. Anything by Victoria Schwab

This is my secret shame that I have in fact never read any of her books. Each one that she releases sounds utterly fantastic and I have This Savage Song on my shelf at the moment, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I am also really desperate to read The Shades of Magic series because it sounds stunning. I’m definitely going to have to rectify this one soon!

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4. Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is an author that I’ve always had on my radar, but sadly never read anything by. (I know I almost can’t believe it either!) I did rectify that this year when the lovely folks at Hodder sent me a copy of Strange the Dreamer, which I absolutely adored. I am absolutely determined to start this series at some point in 2017, because I’m not itching for more of Laini’s fantastic writing.

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5. Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blare

This one probably isn’t as bad as the others because the first was only released last year, however I was desperate to buy this, rushed to the bookshop to get it, and – you guessed it –  I still haven’t read it yet. With book two due to be released in September, I’m determined to get this one read and not be completely behind on the series!

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6. The Books of Babel – Josiah Bancroft

I first heard about this series from one of my favourite authors Mark Lawrence, who praised it really highly. It was top of my wishlist for Christmas last year and my Dad very kindly ordered them for me. Even after reading so many fantastic reviews for these books I still haven’t gotten round to reading them. I promise I’ll get around to it soon though!

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7. An Ember in the Ashes – Sabaa Tahir

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t absolutely adore this series. I know I’m only two books behind, but with two more on the way I’m going to have to move quick to catch up!

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8. The Dark Artifices /The Infernal Devices /The Bane Chronicles – Cassandra Clare

I am the worlds worst Moral Instrument fan. I loved the series – though I haven’t actually finished it, I still have City of Heavenly Fire to read. Since then Cassandra Clare has brought out a whole host of titles in the Shadowhunter world, and I have dutifully bought them all and haven’t read a single one. I’m not sure why, maybe I’m secretly worried they won’t live up to The Mortal Instruments?

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9. Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

As soon as I finish my dissertation I’m going to lock myself in a room and read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. To be perfectly honest this is the one I am most ashamed about. Leigh Bardugo is probably one of my favourite authors and I loved the Grisha series so much I can’t begin to describe how good it is, but I’ve not read this magnificent looking duology. What is wrong with me!?

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10. The Lunar Chronicles – Marissa Meyer

Finally my last series that I still haven’t got around to reading is The Lunar Chronicles. These books sound so fantastic, and I’ve read lots of lovely blogger reviews about them, I actually own the entire series as well, but I haven’t read them. I’m definitely going to have to spend a lot of the summer catching up on some of these!

So those are the series I definitely need to read. What series have you been meaning to start but haven’t?


Blog Tour: Sleeper – J D Fennell

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Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will’s notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will’s memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.

Now read an interview with Sleeper author J D Fennell!

1. For those that haven’t read Sleeper, can you tell us a little about it?

Sleeper is a pacey thriller that follows the journey of sixteen-year old Will Starling in 1941, who is pulled from the sea with no memory of the past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. The notebook is Will’s only way of uncovering who he is. But other people also want the notebook. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor.

2. Congratulations on your debut novel! How does it feel to finally have it out there?

It has still not really sunk in. When I first held a printed copy, it was the most extraordinary feeling. I sat down, opened the pages and without realising it, read it as if it was not my book. It was strange but nice at the same time.

3. The book reminded me a little of Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series, what was your inspiration for writing Sleeper?

Well, first up I love the 1940s period, the fashion, cars and basic technology. I am also a fan of fast paced thrillers and the dramatic setting of the blitz just seemed such a perfectly treacherous location to drop my characters into.

4. Did you always have plans to write the story as a trilogy?

I thought it might be a series. Of what length I was never quite sure. A trilogy seems about right, for now, at least.

5. As a newly published author, what advice would you give those looking to get their book published?

Work on your craft and always try to write the best book you possibly can. Get to know the agents you want to submit to, look at their other titles and ensure they are right for you. If possible, attend literary events and meet agents and other industry professionals; networking is nice, however, if you have written a great book, it will be picked up sooner or later.

6. I really love the cover for Sleeper. Did you have any input on the cover design?

Yes I did, which is quite unusual for a debut writer. My publisher and I sat down and reviewed the four proposed designs. We both agreed on our favourite, but wanted a few more changes, including the addition of the sniper scope, which finished it off beautifully. I could not be happier with the cover.

7. Now that Sleeper is released, what are you working on next?

I am working on the follow up to Sleeper. There is more to come for Will Starling.

8. And finally, what are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Spellslinger by Sebastian De Castell, a YA fantasy with a western theme. I am doing an event with Sebastian in Waterstones Newcastle on 3rd May, to talk about our books. I am loving the world he has created. It is really terrific.

Thanks goes to J D Fennell for answering my questions. Sleeper is available now from Dome Press.


Blog Tour: Fatal Music – Peter Morfoot

Synopsis:

Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is called to a potential crime scene – an elderly woman found dead in her hot tub. At first it is thought that she died of natural causes, but a surprising link with Darac’s own life leads him to dig deeper. In doing so he uncovers disturbing proof that there may have been a motive to kill the woman, and there is no shortage of suspects…

Release Date: April 4th 2017
Pages: 352
Publisher: Titan Books
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads

Now read an interview with author Peter Morfoot!

1. For those that haven’t read Fatal Music, could you tell us a little about it?

Following Impure Blood, (Titan Books April, 2016) Fatal Music is the second novel in my series featuring the jazz-playing, quick-thinking, warm-hearted but combustible Captain Paul Darac of Nice’s Serious Crimes Squad, the Brigade Criminelle. Opening on the anniversary of the ban on smoking in public places in France, themes of change, loss and new beginnings run through the story which spans the full width of Nice’s social spectrum.

It begins with the discovery of the remains of a 71 year-old woman in her hot tub. When it is found that she had suffered from a heart condition and other maladies, death by natural causes seems the obvious conclusion. Although the death initially offers little of interest to Darac and his team, the dead woman herself comes to fascinate the detective. And then a series of anomalies starts to gnaw at him.

The case is complicated by a number of personal factors for Darac. But he must leave aside allegiances past and present to disentangle a story of greed, deception and escalating murder – murder in which Darac himself becomes a target.

2. Had you always planned to write more than one Darac novel?

Absolutely. I’ve said elsewhere that one of the things I enjoy most about reading crime series – Jim Kelly’s impressive D.I. Peter Shaw novels, for instance – is following the lives of its central character and supporting players as they develop over time. The same applies to writing series. Having created Darac, his team and his world, I can’t wait to see what will happen to them next.

3. What inspired you to write a dark crime series?

I’ve always loved reading crime fiction but for years I wrote nothing but comedy. And scripted comedy for broadcast, at that. It wasn’t until I’d written a successful comic novel that I realised I could tackle full-length prose work. I thought that the vibrant light of the South of France seemed the perfect backdrop for venturing into the dark.

4. Who are the authors that have inspired you most?

What writer wouldn’t be inspired by the 60-year career of Broadway playwright and Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht? Gifted as well as prolific, he wrote everything from tense thrillers such as Alfred Hitchock’s Notorious and Spellbound to fabulous laugh-out-loud comedies like The Front Page and Monkey Business. In terms of prose, I still get a buzz from reading the American hard-boiled trio of Chandler, Hammett and Ross Macdonald. And two contemporary writers make my starting line-up of inspirers: the peerless John Le Carré; and the quirkily brilliant Fred Var
gas. And see question 7 for a newcomer to my team.

5. With Fatal Music about to be released, what are you working on next?

Having already completed the third Darac story, Box of Bones, (Titan Books, April 2018) I’m excited at how the fourth in the series is progressing. In this new story… but that would be telling.

6. Was there lots of research involved in writing gritty and realistic fiction?

“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail” is something of a cliché but researching adequately is an essential part of the process of writing anything. Like any crime fan, I’m fascinated by forensics and pathology so it’s no hardship to settle down with tomes such as Stevens and Bannon’s Book of Posions, (Writer’s Digest Books, 2007), and similar works.

though – initially in having to get to grips with a legal, penal and policing system that is very different from ours in the UK. In terms of the local situation, it’s been invaluable to talk to both beat and senior officers in Nice. As for the setting itself, I’ve got to know the city and its environs well over the years,
certainly well enough for it to feature as a character in its own right in the stories. And I hope that comes across. At times, the French setting of the Darac series has presented a challenge,

7. Finally, what’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Adam Mars-Jones is best known for his penetrating, sometimes lacerating, literary criticism. I discovered only recently that he writes novels, too. And he does so brilliantly. Pilcrow and Cedilla (Faber, 2008, and 2011, respectively) centre on the young life of John Cromer, a boy who suffers from a crippling form of arthritis. Physically tiny, immobile and vulnerable, the character nevertheless struts through his life with a chirpy confidence that is touching, funny and utterly compelling. Disarmingly, Mars-Jones has said that nothing much happens in the two novels and what does happen happens slowly. Every page, though, offers reading pleasures aplenty and having devoured Pilcrow more or less at one sitting, I got stuck into Cedilla immediately. It provided an equally delicious experience. Mars-Jones puts the reader so surely into the head and world of John Cromer that many readers assume the writer himself must have suffered from the disease as a child. He didn’t. That’s genius.