Saturday, 5 December 2015

Book Review: Fever

FEVER by Lauren DeStefano (The Chemical Garden #2) 
3 Stars 
Verdict: Miserable. And not in a good way.


Let’s get one thing straight. I loved book one and I’m still pumped for book 3. Unfortunately this is a bridging story full of side plots. It was the aftermath of book 1 and the build up to book 3, and there’s one word to describe it.

Miserable.

What wasn’t miserable was a half-happy memory, scarred by the dystopian world. That in itself is pretty despondent.

The beautiful prose made it sound like a reminiscent drone, and the scales were tipped towards pretentious in this book. Personally I didn’t connect with it like I did the last time. In particular, I never really understood the many references to bees.

Life became grey for me when reading this. Well alright, the prose was beautiful so let’s say a shade of greyish lilac.

So life was crap before and it’s crap now. And it’s only getting crapper. The people in their world don’t even want to fix the issue. In fact, they’d rather kill more innocent bystanders than do that...

I just found it hopeless and impossible to connect with. If you don’t give me anything to look forward to, nothing to believe in, and only show me disappointment, I’ll put the book down – I’ll do it. The only thing that kept me going was how short it was and how much I loved book one.

It ended in a typical book two style. The last paragraph leads into the next book, and it was probably the best, happiest, most exciting thing to occur in the entire title. It wasn’t worth the read to get there, although now I will have to read the final in the series. Hopefully before I lose faith in the world.

Source: Bought it. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Book Review: Gone Girl

GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn 
5 Stars 
Verdict: Kinda messed up, aren't they?


When Nick finds his wife missing in suspicious circumstances, he doesn’t react the way a loving husband should. That’s all I’m going to say (fearful of spoilers). The film is also very close to the book, so don't watch if you plan to read it!

At first I enjoyed the two narrators, Nick's present day musings which are obliviously insensitive towards his wife, juxtaposed against Amy’s quirky diary entries of a girl falling in love. I'd say I had medium interest. The treasure hunt kept me semi-interested, and the mystery of the ‘gone girl’ seemed a little underwhelming considering how long this book was in the charts for. I think it’s fair to say this book starts off with an average plot written with flare, but no less average.

When the twists began, the story began. It might have taken a while, but it was worth it.

I could say ‘I saw it coming’ but that wouldn’t be the whole truth, because I didn’t expect the extent and I certainly didn’t think things would turn out the way they did.

I have a love-hate relationship with both Nick and Amy, thanks to Flynn. Both likable and hateable, it’s hard to pick a side.

I love a crazy narrator probably more than the next person, so this is my type of novel. Parts were twisted, others painful, but the ending is messed up in a way that’s fits the story.

Source: Bought it!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Self-Pub Fest Postponed

Unfortunately stacking a self-pub fest onto my plate right now is going to put cracks in the china.

What I mean is, I don’t have enough time to coordinate the blog event I was hoping for. Organising good quality content from a bunch of authors takes time, and I want to be able to put that time in.

My boyfriend of five years has a job in the same county as me – a commutable distant if we pick the right location! We’re looking to rent in one of the most expensive places to live, so there’s that. I’ve taken on new responsibilities at work too, which is taking up more of my energy although not so much my time.

This isn’t the end. I’m hoping to get it up and running when everyone is thinking about those summer reads!

So if you’re interesting in taking part, please get in contact. As soon as I get enough content polished up, I’ll announce the new schedule.


Here's what I'm looking for:

~*~ 1000 word extract of your most enticing scene
~*~ Author Interviews
~*~ Paperback give-away
~*~ Articles on your self-publishing journey

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book Review: Find Me If You Dare

FIND ME IF YOU DARE by Vicki Leigh  (Dreamwalker #2) 
3 Stars 
Verdict: An action romance. Not bad. 

As Kayla’s father plots to bring on the apocalypse, the Protectors join forces with a coven in order to take down her father before it’s too late.

This book has a lot of things I love – protective characters, thrilling action, magical powers – yet I don’t think it was quite as good as the first book in the series.

As before, Daniel leads the narration. Usually I love a protective character, but in this book I found Daniel overbearing. Poor Kayla proved her strength over and over, but Daniel still saw her as weak.

On the other hand, I liked how much Kayla developed in this book, both in her powers and her ability to take on anything that came her way whilst remaining sweet at heart.

The story seemed to lunge over a few weeks, tumbling head first into action – but with context and characters I couldn’t place. Too many names were listed for me to check off my memory, and because of that, I struggled to understand the implications of those lost and those surviving, even towards the end of the book.

Daniel leads his team on several... missions in order to stop Kayla’s father. Sometimes I wondered what their actual plan was. They seem to head to locations only to be slaughtered, but I couldn’t work out what they were trying to achieve.

Towards the end, the close-knit team of friends managed to plan intelligent operations which made the action a lot more engaging. On that note, there was a little bit too much action in this book for me. I’d have preferred a little more plot and a few more striking moments, rather than fight scenes and deaths. I also wish it relied a little more on the unique concepts which made me love book one, rather than turning to bible verses and long fight scenes.

A few sections felt inappropriate considering the context. For example, the party. So after a mission flooded with peril to gather food - and, erm, DVDs – I assumed they were low on supplies and unable to leave their safe haven. Perfect time for a ball! Well, probably not. I did wonder where Kayla managed to find a beautiful dress. Or why this was a thing. Is it a good time for a ball when you’re under attack? It’s not an utter impossibility, but I’d have liked a better reason.

Vampires were introduced at once point. They were never mentioned again.

Another strange and rather short-lived section was the tournament. This was explained in detail but, as far as I can tell, never actually happened. Much of the training was also describe in detail which can be skimmed over.

I’m quite surprised by some of the character’s lack of common knowledge, too. A witch who hasn’t heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Okay, maybe. But a few other ‘twists’ were thrust upon the characters which were very predictable and made the characters look quite slow.

It’s still exciting to read and dull moments are rare (you can always speed up your reading pace until the good bits come back around). I’d like to read the next in the series as it ended in an intriguing place. I recommend reading it directly after book one as it races off the start line with or without you!

Source: Thanks to Curiosity Quills for providing a free kindle version via Netgalley.com.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Book Review: The Winner's Curse

THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski
3 Stars 
Verdict: Slow and flowery. 


Kestrel is clever and tough, with a strategic mind and a sharp affinity for reading others. Arin is a defiant yet skilled slave, and clearly just as intelligent. After paying too much for him in an auction, Kestrel’s name becomes tarnished in society...

The first half of the book is sssssslllllooooowwww. While I’m not denying the author is good at the flowery prose (a bit of an oxymoron), a lot of words were wasted telling me something which could have been shown in a much more interesting and succinct way.

But what really puts cement in its shoes is that nothing much happens. Oh, there’s gossip. And romance. Silly romance. Time spent with horses. Tea parties. Other parties...

Where’s the, erm, well...story?

Kestrel can be an idiot too. She’s a little hypocritical when it comes to gossipers, and spends a lot of the book sorting out her own shortfalls – actually, that made her a well rounded character who I grew to like.

On the other hand, Arin confused me. The Arin at the start of the book barely resembles the one towards the end, although there was no real catalyst for his change. I’m not sure I can believe his character arc.

I found the dialogue heavily stunted in this. The flowery prose often interfered with the flow, the moment. Nearly every line of dialogue is analysed afterwards, mostly to point out the obvious or to jar the pace. Jarring is better than constant summaries though. What could have been heated dialogue, tense debate, or witty banter, was taken out of the moment, out of direct dialogue or lifelike detail. This spilled over to the action, too. I get the sense that the author wanted to move the pace along, when really they were grinding it to a halt.

So with the pace sluggish, the dialogue distant, and the details left to the imagination, I found this book fuzzy to picture.

The last half is where it really kicks off. The war heats up, the character dilemma tangles, and Kestrel shows her aptitude for strategy.
I’m a little annoyed and how much I liked it towards the end, because it shows it could have been a fantastic book. Kestrel has a manipulative mind which twists the story in intriguing ways. The story ends with a substantial round off, yet enough to leave me curious for where it might go.

I’ll take a chance on book two, just to see where the kestrel flies.

Source: Bought it as an ebook.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Book Review: Demon Road

DEMON ROAD by Derek Landy
5 Stars
Verdict:
Easily the best book I have read this year.


Amber’s parents want to eat her. Amber doesn’t want to be eaten. This calls for a deal with a demon, a hunt for a murderer, and an action packed road trip!

Fantastic premise. Loved the characters too. Amber is relatable - the right amount of awkward, self-conscious, and generally a good sport. Milo is her hired protector, although something felt very off about him... He’s serious, strict, and secretive. Blunt too. Gotta love a blunt character. Then there’s the loveable idiot, Glen, who they accidentally acquire on their way. He grinds Milo’s nerves, which makes a great banter.

I’m so glad this book isn’t about romance. It wouldn’t have worked.

Instead it’s witty and entertaining, and an adventure that will make an amazing film, or even a series...

Ever watched Supernatural? It’s hard not to see the similarities: old car, deals with demons, turning up in small towns and fighting supernatural beings in mini ‘episodes’ until the ‘season finale’ puts the characters’ lives back in centre stage... That’s alright though, because Supernatural was awesome. And Demon Road is different enough to still feel fresh.

A lot of the cameo roles tended to have the same personality... hell, at least it was an interesting personality!

Most of all, it brought out my inquisitive side. It’s a book that doesn’t lay all its cards on the table but has you asking questions. You can tell it’s book one of a fantastic series – it has that depth to it.

There are some things I’m still umm-ing over. I’m very eager to get my hands on the sequel to make sure one event will un-happen or not quite be what it looks like. I have faith that the author knows what they’re doing.

Source: Netgalley.com

Friday, 30 October 2015

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
5 Stars
Verdict: For a book about dying cancer kids, it didn't half make me laugh. (I'm a terrible person...)


Two kids with cancer meet at a support group. We all know where this one is heading. If you don't then perhaps skim past this review for now. 

It was good the Green decided to inject humour into this one. If he hadn't, it wouldn't have worked. 

That's not to say it didn't get touch at times. However, the story never made me cry. The moment you pick up the book you know what terrible event is looming. It's inevitable. Although I might not have shed a tear when the time came, I still felt sorrow in the moment. 

The writing is intelligent and creative. Combined with quirky characters, you have a prose that's both funny and thoughtful. Every sentence was inspiring. If you're an aspiring author of young adult novels, read this book - no, study it. It felt effortless how much Green made me think and feel within such a short amount of pages.

"Our children are weird."

You got that right. They were weird, but weird and wonderful. You'll need to brace yourself for a little pretension as the kids have a taste for it, but the way they connect together, the way they bounce, it's heart-warming and sometimes hilarious. 

Once the story was over, the book lingered on in what I now know as true John Green's fashion. He tried to smuggle in an extra point at the end, but when it's over, it's over. Still a fantastic read.

Source: Bought it from Amazon.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Book Review: Stardust

STARDUST by Neil Gaiman
5 Stars 
Verdict: A gritty fairytale for adults.


A star falls. Tristran proclaims he will fetch that star to prove his love to a woman who frankly isn’t bothered. Witches, dead princes, magic and a little gore, STARDUST is a fantastic modern fairytale that still feels traditional.

This is a book for anyone who loves gritty fairytales.

I loved the film, and now I love the book. Those are two very separate things. Of course the story is similar, but the style, the creativity, and the resolutions are very different. Compared to the film, Tristran felt flat to me, but the playful yet dark voice of the book makes up for what the male lead lacks.

It’s a short book, but not a children’s book. I reckon I’d still have loved it as a teen. Bit of swearing, bit of gore, bit of sex.

Best part? The resolve. I love clever round ups, playing on words and slotting pieces of the story together. Worst part? The ending. After a clever resolve, it turns into a ramble that peters off into an irrelevant realm.

I'm excited to try another Neil Gaiman novel. I might be a fan in the making!

Scource: Kindle sale!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Self-Publishing Fest Returns!

Do you know what time it is?

My birthday!

Okay, but what else is it?

It’s the time where I start to plan my self-publishing fest. If you’re self-published then come on over and get involved.

Last year was amazing. We had a vast mixture of posts: author interviews, guest articles, book reviews, giveaways. If you're interesting in taking part in any of these things, let me know and we'll sort it out.

The sad part is I don’t have time to read your lovely books this year. I’m snowed under and don’t like making promises I can’t keep.

Instead I’d like to feature an extract of your novel for anyone to read and decide for themselves! This extract can be up to 1000 words long, so pick wisely.

Every post goes through me. I’ll offer editorial feedback, guidance, and generally 

In return for your wonderful contribution, you’ll have my thanks as well as your time in the spotlight. Most of all, you’ll have the support of other authors. Last year more than half of the authors took to social media to promote other authors than themselves. This event relies on promoting each other as well as ourselves.

Deadlines for sending content is Friday the 4th of December, but please contact me ASAP as spots fill fast. Remember, I need to check over these articles so the earlier the better, and there are only so many days in December!

If you’d like to get involved, please use the contact form on the right. Please start your message with SMC SELF-PUB FEST. If you’re a phone user, you might not be able to see it. That’s okay, just post below in the comments.

*Don’t’ forget to follow the blog!


*Of course, this is optional, but it helps a bunch.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book Review: The Knife Of Never Letting Go

THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness
5 Stars 
Verdict: If you can adjust to the style, this is the book of never putting down. 


At first, I didn’t like this book at all. I struggled with the unconventional spelling, I found the voice a disconnected ramble, and nothing seemed to happen in the first four chapters.

Then, all of a sudden, I could barely put it down. The voice and spelling worked. The plot took off, with poor Todd running for his life almost continuously from start to finish.

The mystery of what happens when the boys become men is strung out for the whole book. Ness sets up ample opportunities for us to learn more, and then twists them around so that I ended up with a growing number of questions.

The lack of answers irritated me, yet I kept reading. It tore out my heart, yet just like Todd I kept going. This book can only be described as emotional self harm.

I’m not recommending this book to all readers. It’s a book that will get your emotions going, and will probably annoy you in places. You’ll probably cry at some point. It’s not all fun and games for poor Todd.

I also wasn’t keen on how many times the same thing kept happening. Even when the person was slightly different, the book was a little repetitive in places. That’s really my only quibble with it.

Prepare for heartache. Prepare for plot repetition. Prepare for a cliff hanger ending. You’ll probably need to prepare to adjust to the style too, but once you get going, prepare to read this book in every spare minute you can find.

Source: Bought it.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Book Review: The 100

THE 100 by Kass Morgan
4 Stars
Verdict: You can't go wrong with a concept like that.



100 juvenile delinquents sent to earth to see if it’s inhabitable. No adults. You know this will be angst ridden and full of peril. This is my kind of book!

The writing itself is fairly perfunctory, but sometimes it’s not even that. Chunks of detail were skipped, events were missed, and I found myself wondering how, just how, did this or that happen. How did a medical tent become a thing, and where did the supplies come from? How did Glass manage to... okay, spoilers aside.

The book is always tumbling forwards, the characters twisting around each other as we work out what they did to deserve such a fate.

After watching the TV series, which is now my current favourite, I have to say it’s not the same calibre. I’m glad the storylines are different as it means I can enjoy both, but if you only have time for one, I’d recommend the TV alternative. The characters are more interesting, the stakes feel higher, and the extra character are probably my favourites. Clarke really stands out as a hero and leader in the series, where in the books she’s mainly just angst.

The TV series is about survival: the how, why, and ‘if’. The book only has time for what started it, how they ended up on the ground, and a few gut wrenching but predictable events. I’m excited for book 2, but I couldn’t wait to watch the series.

Source: Bought it myself.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Book Review: We Were Liars

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart 
5 Stars
Verdict: Unconventional and thought provoking


I’m glad this was a short story because the writing style was poetically, erm, you know... Pretentious. It was pretentious. Phew. Glad to get that word out of me.

Okay, so sometimes it was beautiful. I decided at the beginning to not let that bother me because when it worked, it worked damn well. For every paragraph which sounded melodramatic, I could pull out ten more which I loved to bits.

And what’s wrong with British toothpaste? That’s probably the weirdest thing that’s irked me about a novel. Somehow Lockhart has made me patriotic over toothpaste...

Back to the review.

The characters inspired emotions in me. I loved to hate the manipulative granddad. I enjoyed reading how the spoiled sisters tore their family apart from the inside out over their own greed. The romance that strung the mystery together had me reading on and on.

The little fairytales were a nice touch - short and snappy with twists at the end that jolted me from reading and into my own thoughts. I absolutely loved them. If Lockhart ever writes a book of short fairytales, I’m there. This is probably the reason I want to give it five stars.

Lockhart also has my kind of humour. Especially the story about the mouse... hehe.

I’ve had a bit of a rough time with books later, and this is another one which had me in tears. I didn’t see it coming. That’s probably because I didn’t want to see it coming, which I think is a testament to how well the character and story was set up.

I’d recommend reading the opening chapter before committing to the book. If it doesn’t offend you too much, and if you’re a sucker for a sad tale, then go for it. Let’s call it an acquired taste.

Source: Bought it!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Book Review: Allegiant

ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth 
5 Stars 
Verdict: Ouch.

I can’t review this book in detail without spoilers, so I’m keeping it short and sharp -  which is fitting, as this book felt like a knife to the heart.

No, not a knife.

This book is Roth’s warning: Enter my imagination at your own peril.

What I will say, is that this book is very different from the others. It had to. The end of book 2 was a game changer, and so this book isn’t the final step in the revolution. It’s much more of a message. A statement. And in true Divergent fashion, it’s slow to get going but hard to put down.

Until that final section.

I’ve come to terms with the ending now. It held a lot of meaning, and felt like the realistic option. A bold move, by all accounts, but after reading hundreds of pages, I feel disappointed, jilted, and well and truly done. The next in the series doesn’t interest me.

It was good while it lasted, but so long Divergent series. I would say ‘take care’ but I know you won’t have that luxury

Source: Bought it.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Book Review: Insurgent

INSURGENT by Veronica Roth 
5 Stars 
Verdict: Gradual twisting plot with a prose that kept me entwined. 



I love the way Roth writes. One sentence slips into the next, punching you in the gut or sending shivers down your spine depending on what the situation calls for. I lingered over several lines when reading them, soaking up the impact. Not one of those lines overstep the boundary into purple prose or pretentious, in my opinion. Just beautiful and meaningful.

The story picks up where we left off, with a steady pace and a gradual build. The factions become a lot more salient in this book, and the world develops in the way I hoped book 1 would have explored; I felt like Roth knew what she was doing from the start.

Tris and Tobias have issues to sort out in this book, and the state of their relationship is put to the test. I wouldn't call it action packed until past the half way point, but it’s an enjoyable read. Lot’s happens, there’s always something building in the background,

I like Tris – scratch that, I love Trist. She interesting. She’s broken. She doesn’t act in ways I would recommend, which makes her gripping to follow. I’m never sure what she’ll say next but I know it will cut straight to the bone.

Just like book one, there are more characters than I could viably remember. I read Divergent five months ago, so a lot of the weaker personalities had ebbed from my memory. Some sections were tricky, especially the ending which made me wonder if I’d forgotten about a certain someone...luckily I cracked out book three in order to sort myself out.

In my opinion, this book is better than the last. I cared more about Tris and Four’s relationship, I understood their world better, and the writing really struck me as beautiful.

Source: Bought it with my own money and everything!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Book Review: Talon

TALON by Julie Kagawa
3 Stars 
Verdict: A romance novel with the slightest touch of dragon.



I haven’t read a book on dragons before, I somehow I still don’t feel like I have after this one. The reasons that drew me in to the book didn’t transpire on the page. That said, Kagawa has a way with words that melts descriptions off the page to form images right there in front of you. Although Talon wasn’t my favourite read of the year, I’m tempted to checkout Kagawa’s Iron Fey series.

Let’s get one thing straight. Talon is a romance novel, not action. It has a slight fantasy twist as the word ‘dragon’ is used a lot, but it doesn’t have a fantasy feel to it. If you think you’d enjoy a love triangle centred on the military and secret operatives, this is probably the book for you.
As far as young adult novels go, this book felt on the younger side of the spectrum. Our main dragonell, Ember, sounds and acts younger, so maybe that’s why it didn’t appeal as much to me. I prefer the older side of YA where things are a little less cheesy, less predictable, and less going to the mall.

Most of the plot was obvious and simple. The instant attraction(s) felt cliché, the propaganda from each side of the dragon war felt cliché, and the whole ‘for the good of the many but we won’t say what we actually do’ vibe was nothing more than run-of-the-mill.

Talon is an organisation, but I had a lot of trouble working out what Talon means. Are they spies? A species trying to integrate? Why was Ember sent to live near a beach for the summer? Because she was told to doesn’t really cut it for me, especially after I’ve finished the book.

There were some fantastic terms. The Order of St George, vipers, dragonell... but themed titles don’t really constitute as world building. The way Ember and the other dragons acted, thought, and appeared for the majority of the book felt entirely human. There were only glimpses of proper world building here and there. It was mostly just clever names for things, which is why it didn’t feel very dragon inspired. Just themed.

What disappointed me the most was that the pace was slow. S-l-o-w. The last 20% really kicked off and became the book that I hoped the first 80% would be, and that’s too late.

The multiple points of view didn’t do this book any favours either. Instead of moving forwards, the plot tended to linger in the same moment in another point of view. Often the change in perspective was in order to spoon feed more of the story, rather than show it. Usually I love seeing the same conundrum from a different opinion, but this really was mostly romance and too predictable.

Sometimes the dialogue was realistically quirky, but Ember often sounded like a parody of American TV. Inside her point of view she felt more natural, but seen through the perspectives of the guys inside her love triangle, I half expected canned laughter to follow.

The ending is just a lead into the next in the series. The only problem with that tactic is that I don’t trust the author to take me on a kick-ass, fire breathing, heart-breaking but laugh-out-loud adventure of freedom against the system. I expect a dawdle.

I think one of the last paragraphs sums up this first book very well.

‘No more surfing, volleyball, parties, or hanging out with friends.’

If only this line had come earlier within the book, I might have been tempted to read more.

Source: Brought it with my own money and everything...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Book Review: Escape From Witchwood Hollow

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth
3 Stars
Verdict: Intriguing but not thrilling.



Everyone in Arnn - a small farming town with more legends than residents - knows the story of Witchwood Hollow: if you venture into the whispering forest, the witch will trap your soul among the shadowed trees.

***

Escape From Witchwood Hollow will always stand out to me as unusual in a good way. The eerie feeling of the hollow drew me in, and the multiple timelines developed steadily in a way that kept me thinking about where the story might be going. I’m a fan of the author and always surprised by some of her ideas, but overall this book didn’t hit the right notes for me.

There were three main perspectives, each with different stories surrounding the haunted Witchwood Hollow.

First we have schoolgirl Honoria from 2001. There’s not much to say about her, other than she’s still grieving the loss of her parents from the September 11th tragedy. I found her section just too bland with too many mundane events, and the romance was written in a very dry way.

Next up is the tale of a murderous witch from 1670. Lady Clifford’s perspective enthralled me, with her strange view on life and creepy thoughts. She seemed very unstable, and that’s what really pulled me in. I never knew whether she was going to snap, and every scene involving her was instantly tense.

Finally, we have Albertine from 1850. Albertine fascinated me. I had to face palm her naivety a few times, but I grew to like her. She didn’t always understand what was made so clear to the reader, and the use of dramatic irony really kept me reading. I thought the ‘tap tap tap’ would become more significant later on, and possibly in an incredibly creepy way, but it never really developed. I couldn’t help but feel it was a lost opportunity to really send shivers down a reader’s spine.

In Albertine and Honoria’s sections, the side characters piled high. I get the feeling this would have worked better as a novella with fewer character and less from Honoria perspective overall. If the book took a slightly different turn around mid-way, it could have been fantastically chilling. Instead, nothing major happened to carry the story forwards. Although parts still intrigued me, the tension ebbed away. I didn’t know what the book was building to, and it ended on that feeling for me.

I liked how the book linked together at the very end, but I didn’t like Albertine’s ending. Without adding in spoilers, I’ll just say it felt like no one actually did anything substantial to resolve the conflict, and then it was resolved. I didn’t really like Honoria’s ending either. I was expecting a fascinating twist, but instead it was more of a round off.

Sometimes the writing was clean and easy to read, each word slipping off the page. Other times it told rather than showed. My boyfriend read a line over my shoulder about a man’s beard, and we proceeded to discuss what the author had intended from this perplexing description.

I guess what I didn’t like so much about the book was the unfulfilled potential. I kept seeing snippets of fantastic writing and gripping storytelling, but then those snippets would pass by.

As I said before, I’m a fan of the author, but I think they’re still a book or two away from writing something utterly brilliant. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an intriguing story with a constant pace, but I can’t say more than that.

Source: Review copy from the author.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Book Review: Witch Hunter

Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
4 Stars
Verdict
: Brilliant opening followed by lots of long conversations, a few odd moments peppered with action, and then an epic end. Review done. 

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.




~*~

The first three chapters and the last section were my favourite. I think it’s well worth a read if you like the sound of this: a witch hunter who questions her allegiance when she’s thrown in jail and learns of a prophecy that means she is the only one who can save magic.

There’s nothing too special about Elizabeth Grey, our main character. We’re told she’s a good witch hunter, but only shown how she messes up a lot, which set the tone for the book. Elizabeth seems broken, unable to think for herself for the most part. She’s been cohered into a profession she never wanted, has her heart set on a guy who has been her whole world, and now has a prophecy to fall in line for – one that seems to predict her death.

The author knows how to write relationships in a way that tugged at my emotions, creating interesting side plots rather than overwhelming the story with romance. I never felt particularly fond of either of the love interests, but I liked how Elizabeth started to pull away from her roots. The transformation was very emotional in parts.

There was a very long early-middle section. It contains lots of tedious conversations and a bundle of new characters that weren’t used much. At this point, I was struggling to picture half of it, and there wasn’t much motivation to read to the end. There wasn’t a sense of tension or stakes.

I wasn’t expecting it to pick back up, but it started to gather pace and slowly enticed me back into its clutches. Although I could see most of the twists coming, they played out a little differently to what I was expecting, and that made it hard to put down.

A lot of things could have been done better. Firstly, there were possibly too many characters. Fifer seemed like a complete cliché, although I still found that she spiced up the story. I loved George the jester when we first met him, but he doesn’t really have a part to play in the book, and I even forgot he was even around. I can’t remember some of the other minor characters. If they become important in book two, then perhaps they should have been introduced later.

The twist concerning the herbs felt like the first person narrator was keeping a secret from the reader or added as an afterthought. Also, the idea of pirates and ghosts sounds awesome, but in reality, they were never really used. I get the feeling that this book could have been absolutely amazing, but it didn’t quite get there.

Prophecies can be a little tiresome in my opinion. We all know they’re two faced, and they’re always purposely vague – forcing the main character to follow their gibberish whim without another motive. This was no different, although I did think the writer made a good job of it.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, and it ended on a high note too. I think I’d like to at least take a peek of the next in the series.

Source: Netgalley.com

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book Review: Such A Secret Place

Such A Secret Place by Cortney Pearson
3 Stars
Verdict: Brilliant but inconsistent fantasy concept. 

Raids splatter across the news--Arcaian soldiers are stealing magic left and right, using it against the people they steal it from.

When sixteen-year-old Ambry Csille's brother gets taken in one of these raids, her utter fear and panic should be enough to invoke tears in any normal world. But for Ambry, tears are a thing of the past.

Because of a spell, people can no longer feel emotion; not enough to cry, and definitely not enough to defend themselves against the tyrannical soldiers stealing her people’s magic. A rare vial of enchanted tears chooses Ambry to reverse the spell, and soon she finds herself the target not only of the Arcaians, but of battle-scarred Talon Haraway, who wants the tears for his own reasons.

All Ambry wants is to rescue her brother, but when her tears get stolen, Ambry determines to work with Talon to get them back. Any day the Arcaians could drink her tears. Any day they’ll succeed at draining her people's magic completely, and all hope will be gone—not only for her brother, but for her world.

~*~


Sink or swim is an apt description of this book. The opening chapters were mainly exposition which made it hard for me to get into. Lots of terms were mentioned, some explained better than others. I still have many questions about the world, and I felt like not enough of it was shown.

I decided to cling to some driftwood and go with the flow. After all, this is by no means a bad book. The creativity of the concepts knocked my socks off, from stealing magic to the emotional blunted society. The romance is gradual and feels natural, and there are plenty of action snippets throughout.

I still found the poor author never gripped my interest. One of the main issues was show don’t tell, and a few of the told concepts felt very inconsistent making it hard to follow at times.

Ambry doesn’t have magic... Then what is she doing at school where they seem to be learning about magic? We’re told she gets extra time during tests because she’s powerless, but what are these tests? Extra time won’t help you fill up a canister with magic (which is the only thing we’re shown).

No emotion was also a fascinating concept... except characters did have emotion. Rather sporadically though. I thought I understood the rules, but I’m pretty sure the author breaks them a couple of times throughout the book, and then changes the rules towards the end. Some characters clearly have emotion and magic, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the main character never at least questioned this a little more.

Descriptions were usually clever but minimal, powerful in places and lacking in others. From time to time, I ended up with a very flat idea of where the characters were. The author had some good lines up their sleeve and a bit of wit, but I can’t help but think it was often misplaced. A witty line isn’t a good substitute for description, and if you have to drag out a scene to add in humour, it gets tedious.

When I start editing a book as I read, I just know it’s not quite as polished as it could be.

Logic was also obscure. For example, if I hypothetically caught someone who had a bounty of 100K, I wouldn’t just steal their necklace and let them go, no matter how valuable the necklace is.

Other times, the scene would rapidly change with little warning. Action scenes were good and plenty, although it wasn’t always clear what was going on. Towards the middle of the book, I felt like there was too much emphasis on long fights, without much tension behind them. Some parts were much, much stronger than others.

Overall, it just seemed a bit rushed. Such a secret place has five star potential, but not quite there yet, at least, not for me.

Source: NetGalley.com, from a lovely author

Monday, 25 May 2015

SP Book Review: Frostbitten

Frostbitten by Heather Beck

4 stars

Verdict: If you can get into it, you won’t want to put it down.

Great beauty hides dark secrets... 

Seventeen-year-old Anastasia Lockhart has never led an easy life, but when she starts getting into serious trouble, she’s sent to live with her grandparents in Cedar Falls. The small, picturesque town hasn’t changed since she visited four years ago, with one exception – the presence of a handsome, mysterious boy named Frost. Despite warnings from her grandparents and friends to stay away from Frost, Anastasia can’t deny their attraction, and the more time they spend together, the deeper in love they fall. Unfortunately, Frost has a secret that is beyond Anastasia’s wildest imagination, and she soon finds herself in the midst of a supernatural legend that has haunted Cedar Falls for years.

Can Anastasia and Frost’s love really overcome anything, or are their fates much darker?




~*~

The Rating Breakdown

Enjoyment: 3 Lots of brilliant sections. Uneven pace. 

Writing Style: 3 Exposition, passive voice etc.

Plot: 4 Excellent twists, but could shuffle things around to improve pace and flow. 

World & Concepts: 5 Clear, well-defined. 

Characters: 5 A good mix, well-defined, relatable. 

Finish: 5 Beautiful cover. No typos. 

Strengths: Excellent climax. 

Weakness: Writing style tells more than shows.

~*~

Anastasia is a good mix of relatable, strong, and likeable, with a slight rude streak but mostly a kind heart. Frost fulfils the typical mysterious, angry, protective love interest. They’re drawn to each other, but their love is forbidden... I think we both know what book this resembles.

It was the writing style that really got to me. Lots of exposition, and yet lots of missing details. So much of it could be improved just by showing rather than telling.

For example, the book starts by explaining why Anastasia's life is out of hand and she must live with her grandparents. It would have been so easy to start the book with Anastasia arrested for reckless behaviour, followed by an argument with her mother that results in sending her away. Readers would then get to see the Anastasia from beforehand, as well as actually meet the mother we hear so much about. Instead, we’re told it happened, and it’s just not the same.

I thought this a few times throughout the book, which is why I ended up reading it very s-l-o-w-l-y. I was enjoying it, yet I kept putting it down.

But I did keep picking it back up. What exactly was Frost up to? Why does Kate dislike him so much? How can Anastasia stop the villagers? It took me a while to get through the whole book, yet I couldn’t put it aside forever. I had to know what was going on.

Around three quarters of the way through, Anastasia and Frost run away together, and the book really kicks off. Countless twists, actions scenes, and emotionally fuelled revelations. The story grabbed me in its clutches where it previously had not.

It’s quite clear that this is book one of a series. There’s a slight hook at the end, but don’t worry, no cliff hanger. I’m not sure if I’ll read book 2, but book 1 was an enjoyable read overall.

Source: From author for a buddy read scheme.

Friday, 22 May 2015

What I learned from Nest Pitch 2015

Nest Pitch has taught me so much writing. Here are a few thing's I learned from polishing up my first 300 words and taking part in the Nest Pitch:

Your openings matters a lot. If your story kicks off in chapter two, or only grabs a reader's attention half way through chapter one, then you might be giving potential readers too much time to put the book down.

Show. If you're cramming ideas in to hook the reader, you might actually be burring them with information instead. See if you can leave some of the exposition aside and show it later.

Avoid vagueness. Your readers are blank slates, and they will only pull into the opening image what you give them. Specifics are what interests readers, and confusion is not the same as intrigue.

One idea per sentence. If the sentence starts to sound full or unclear, then writing it as two separate sentences could strengthen your writing.

Take a unique angle. Ask yourself, what makes your opening specific to your book? Is it like no other, avoiding clichés in both the writing and the scene choice?

Value strong writing over everything else. If your writing is strong, then you'll be engaging too.

Query contests are about much more than just writing. It's about connecting with other writers, cheering on your new friends, and knowing that all books are beautiful. ;)

Cheers for reading!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: Meet the Winner

Introducing the winner of Scookie Review's Hidden Gem Awards, Jason P Crawford, and his supernatural novel, Chain of Prophecy!


How does it feel to win the Hidden Gem Awards?

Fantastic! I really didn’t think I had a chance at it when I got a good look at the competition. I watched the final countdown with my heart in my throat…for five days!


What inspired you to write Chains of Prophecy?

Like a lot of my books, I wrote Chains of Prophecy after being inspired by a role-playing game. Ars Magica is a magical-European-medieval period game, and in it God is an objective reality. My book doesn’t use the mechanics presented in Ars Magica, but several of the concepts are borrowed from the same origin.


What was the best part of writing it?

Chains of Prophecy was my first published novel but my second written. The best part of writing it was that I had the same fire of creativity, but more confidence in myself as a writer because I knew I could finish a book.


The hardest?

Patience. I wanted everyone to get my book NOW. I didn’t want to wait for editing and cover art and revisions. Lesson well learned. :)


What made you decide to self-publish?

See the answer to 4. J Seriously, I didn’t want to wait for six months to a year to get an agent, then however long it would take to get a publishing contract and for the books to hit the shelves. This way, I already have two published books on my schedule.


Take us through how you prepared your book for publishing.

A lot of my process here comes from reading On Writing by Stephen King.

After my first draft, I sat on it for thirty days, then went over it myself as if I had never seen it. Then I gave it to my primary reader, who chewed it apart for discontinuities, clichés, or unlikeable characters. We sat and edited the work together before I gave it to several beta readers. I took their feedback and discuss it with my primary reader and make necessary changes, then another several proofreading rounds to catch typos.

For the cover, my wife makes those. She decides on a theme for each series (The Samuel Buckland Chronicles are ethereal, whereas the Essentials is more photorealistic) and creates the cover herself. She’s very picky and always looking for errors in her own work.


Are you part of any writing communities – and do you bite?

I am! I’m on the Independent Author’s Network and a member of several groups on Goodreads, most especially the Fringe Fiction group. Fringe Fiction is dedicated to helping “hidden gem” authors and readers find one another, but it’s a promo-free zone designed to encourage discussion rather than push sales, which is wonderful.

In all interactions, I believe in respect and kindness. Being mean or condescending helps no one and hurts you


Are you happy with your decision to self-publish?

Extremely. I find the indie author community to be welcoming and full of talent. I’ve read so many fantastic indie books recently and have gotten so much support and encouragement.


Would you consider traditional publishing in the future?

Now that I have an established book list, possibly. . . It could increase my branding and exposure. But I’m not planning on querying, so it would have to fall into my lap for me to take it.


Can you give me a hint to where the Samuel Buckland series might be heading?

I released the second book, Bonds of Fate, on April 30th. A huge crisis hits Heaven, and Sam has to investigate the Host…but Heaven and Angelic society aren’t exactly what he thought they were. I’m working on the third book, tentatively titled Doom of Light, presently.


What is your favourite novel/author?

Neil Gaiman, hands down. Not only is his writing exceptional (and American Gods is my favourite novel), but he is a wonderful human being: down to earth, active in causes he believes in, and humble about himself.


What character from fiction would you say you are most like?

Interesting question. I wrote another novel, Seeking the Sun, and the main character is a young woman who Apollo becomes interested in. I specifically patterned her after myself, except as a female – the things I like, she likes; the attitudes and beliefs I have, she has. At least at the start of the book. ;)


What is your best piece of advice to aspiring authors?

BE PATIENT. You will not be an overnight success. Take your time and do things right, because poor quality and poor behaviour will weigh you down long after you’ve forgotten you did them.


~*~


Jason P. Crawford is as friendly as authors get. You can follow him via facebook, twitter, or his blog, or sign up to his fortnightly newsletter.  Don't forget to check out this list of sellers to get your hands on a copy of Chains of Prophecy

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Nest Pitch Results: The Clearing

Nest Pitch is over, and wow, I really wasn't expected the results. I'm ecstatic to announce that Team Sugar Rush cleared up the contest! 

Not only did I receive four agent requests, I got to meet loads of lovely, supportive authors. Can't wait to read all your books, guys.

If you'd like to read the opening 300 words of THE CLEARING, here's a link to the blog of my wonderful mentor, Louise Gornall, My whole manuscript is a lot stronger, thanks to her.

I've also worked on the cover using copy-right free images. I think I'm getting the hang of Paint.Net.



Despite danger lurking between the trees, the banished always run into the forest. Ruby doesn’t understand why. Until rebellious behaviour gets her sentenced. Now, Ruby is about to learn first-hand why the banished must run.

Sixteen-year-old Ruby is not supposed to question the way of her village life. She is expected to settle down with her best friend and focus on bearing children, all while respecting the whims of the local psychics. But Ruby is frustrated with living within the confines of ridiculous village rules, that is, until her increasing rebellious behaviour gets her sentenced. 

Now, Ruby finds herself amongst the banished and facing a forest that has swallowed up so many before her. No one has ever returned from the trees alive, but no one seems to fear them either. Why, when all Ruby knows of them is monsters and madness? With no choice in the matter, Ruby is going to discover what it is about the forest that entices the sentenced to brave its demons.


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: Round Up

The contest is over, and congratulations to the winner, Jason P. Crawford. I will be posting up an author interview about The Chains of Prophecy within the next month!

Here are my thoughts for the next contest. Feel free to comment below if you have any ideas, opinions, or musings.


A Few Alterations

So that the whole process is a little quicker, I will only select three top entries to read. This should make it much easier for me to post up the results within a few weeks, especially in case life gets unexpectedly busy again.

After I've selected my three finalists, I will read each of the books entirely. In this contest, I mentioned I might put the book down at some point, but I decided against this. I need to know the ending to be able to truly judge a book. With so few final contestants, it seems unfair of me not to give everyone an equal chance.


To Potential Contestants

There's still time to vote on the next genre. The top two genres were Fantasy and Sci-Fi, so place your votes now if you want a say on what the next topic should be.

It's easier for me to judge your books when they fall into one category, even though they were so different this time round!

The next competition is likely to take place later summer/early autumn. It depends on how much time I have, but I'll post up a warning here and on GoodReads.


Want me to review your self-pub/indie book?

I'm only going to be accepting review copies through my Hidden Gem Awards. You'll have to wait until your genre appears.


Cheers a bunch

Thank you for all the social media support, for the free copies of your fantastic novels, and for your enthusiasm over the whole process. It has made the competition enjoyable for me, and I hope you guys have had fun too.

Cheers!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: 1st Place

#1
The Chains of Prophecy
Jason P. Crawford


When Samuel Buckland discovers he's descended of a powerful bloodline, he must first battle with his lack of faith before he faces evil in the form of a vicious yet smooth-talking politician. 

This book takes no time in getting started, which is probably because Samuel is a character who likes to take action. Some of the side characters also act strangely at first, but it soon starts to fall into place as Samuel discovers that he must save a powerful yet helpless being.

I'm going to keep my wording vague to avoid spoiling the plot, but if you're a fan of contemporary fiction involving angels, powers, and villains, then you'll love Chains of Prophecy.

I’m a huge fan of angels and legacies, especially when the author adds in a few new spins like Crawford has. After learning that God and beliefs would play a part in the story, I was also thankful that this book handled beliefs in a way that isn't designed to be preachy. It's a story involving angels, demons, and faith - I think fans of Supernatural will love this book!

Like most heroes, Sam begins his journey rather reluctantly. He grows as a character throughout the book, both in his power and faith. I found him easy to relate to and root for.

The dual perspective was another thing I enjoyed about this hidden gem. I always like understanding two conflicting points of view. Later on, when a few twists were worked into the mixed, I enjoyed guessing how things would turn out. The last showdown was a fantastic way to end book 1.

The writing was strong and I could tell a lot of research went into making this. There were a few unconventional quirks in the writing that I thought didn’t work (including brackets), but not enough to make me put the book down!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: 2nd Place

#2
Bloodline
Tara Ellis


A meteor shower is followed by an infectious disease, one that seems to changing everyone around Alex into emotionless aliens. Alex always knew her father’s death was suspicious, but now solving the clues he left behind for her seems to be the key to reversing the disease.

 The mystery behind the disease is well thought out. I loved the hieroglyphics sketched into the book – a nice touch, very unusual. The sketches pulled me into the puzzle left for Alex to solve, and it’s quite a clever quirk.

I also commend the author for the diversity of her characters. I'm a fan of anything Egyptian and was glad to see Alex's heritage being part of the story.

Alex is a sweetheart and her brother is intelligent and loving too. They make a good pair. On the other hand, I didn’t care much for ‘nice guy’ Chris because I just didn’t feel like I knew him very well. Maybe I’ll have to read book 2 to find out more about him.

This was a quick read with a great ending. I still couldn’t help but feel it could be edited down. At the very least, it needed a higher saturation of exciting bits around the build up, and a stronger atmospheric vibe when the scenery changed.

The book ends in a great place too – not quite a cliffhanger, but enough to make me want to read on. 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: 3rd Place

#3
The Scary Girls
J.D. Kaplan



Trick needs a new band, preferably one where the lead singer doesn't make out with his girlfriend. That's when he meets the Scary Girls: three beautiful, mysterious, and talented musicians whom Trick instantly clicks with. He soon finds himself playing extraordinary music as well as bumping into otherworldly beings that have him questioning who, or what exactly, is he?

Mixing music with the supernatural, The Scary Girls was the most original book of all the entries. I could tell the writer must be an awesome musician as well as a talented writer.

I liked Trick a lot. There was something very relatable about all the characters - something real and raw, especially with Trick. He's a little uncomfortable in his skin, but rises to the moment, and comes across as very likeable, easy going, and very easy to follow as a main character. If you're tired of strong female leads, then this might be the book for you. 

I became really confused at the end. Great twists were mingled together with confusing reveals, and I’m not entirely sure if I understood all of it. There was also a lot of information to take in. While I enjoyed reading about aspects of the Fae which aren't so overdone in supernatural fiction, there were a lot of heavy exposition scenes.

Still, these are broken up with the odd bar room brawl girlfriend drama, and strange visits to another dream-world. I've never read anything else like it!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: 4th Place

#4
Broken Dolls
B.R. Kingsolver


Private Investigator R.B. Kendrick usually uses her telepathy to help nail cheating spouses. But when she's asked to investigate the disappearance of a missing girl, Kendrick uses her abilities to unravel a much more dangerous plot in the dark underbelly of the telepathic society.

I loved the creativity in this one. The feisty character’s main gift was telepathy, which allowed a brilliant spin on a private investigator story. My favourite part was how Kendrick can tell what nasty things a person has done by the stains on their soul. There were also lots of juicy plot twists and action scenes too – a lot to keep me reading onwards.

As much as I loved the concepts, explanations were often wordy and complicated, even when rereading. It all seemed to sound overly complicated for what it was, and new powers would pop up whenever needed rather than recycling old ideas to really knit the concepts together. I thought it would be better if the characters didn’t have so many gifts each – I can’t remember half of them, and I’m certain that not all were used.

Other than that, the writing was strong, and the bold and intelligent main character carried the mysterious kidnapping plot.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: 5th Place

Ladies and gentlemen, readers and writers, it's about time I announced the results of the Hidden Gem Awards. Eleven supernatural themed books entered, all self-published. Five were selected from reading the opening alone, and now they are all read and reviewed.

I'll be posting one a day until we reach the winner to give each fantastic entry it's own time in the light. Here's the first runner up:

#5
A Time Apart
Rebecca Norrinne Caudill




Olivia moves to Ireland, feeling a down on her luck and looking to kick start her life back up, starting with a tour of William Macauley's castle. When William rejects her offer, he wasn't expecting such a feisty reply, but Olivia was even more surprised when she remembers just exactly who William is.

I knew a little of what was to come when I checked it was supernatural, but the twist was still a good one. The writing was quite clever, weaving in a few ideas that only really came together at that click moment. There were quite a few original spins on what has become a tired genre, and I'd definitely keep an eye out for future releases by authoress Caudill.

The pacing was just a bit too slow. I could see many ways to improve this, both structurally and by using writing tricks to strengthen the prose. The main problem was too much telling and exposition, not enough showing and action. 

I loved the voice a lot, but it took precedence over the pace most of the time. Still, Olivia is both feisty and insecure, which made her easy to relate to as well as fun to root for.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Blog Update

I've had quite the month, guys, one that's been unexpectedly fantastic. Let me break it down:

Nest Pitch 2015

Nest Pitch is a query contest, and I'm ecstatic to announce THE CLEARING made the cut! I'm on #TeamSugarRush, working with the lovely Louise Gornall to polish up my opening for the agent round on the 11th of May. Fingers crossed!

Oxford University Press

After several interviews, I've been offered an internship at Oxford University Press in the digital content ops department. I can't wait to get started, although I'll actually need to wait until June 29th before embarking on that stage of my career. 

Hidden Gem Awards

I've read all of my top picks - all were fantastic. I'm working on mini reviews and the rankings. If all goes to plan, I will be posting up the result next week. 

Cheers!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: Fairy Keeper

Fairy Keeper by Amy Bearce

4 stars

Verdict:
Young girls will love this one!

Shorten blurb:

Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year-old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper.

Fairy nectar can heal people, but it is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. She’s forced to care for a whole hive of the bee-like beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father.

Then one day, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead. The fairy queen is missing. Her father’s Flight operation is halted, and he plans to make up for the lost income by trading her little sister to be an elixir runner for another dark alchemist, a dangerous thug. Desperate to protect her sister, Sierra convinces her father she can retrieve the lost queen and get his operation up and running.


~*~

If you love magical folk, you’ll love this book. Fairies, merefolk, unicorns... Bearce has created a beautiful world with a beautiful name: Aluvia. I absolutely love how the fairies are like pesky bees, producing nectar that can be turned into a drug. It’s brilliant set up which I tip my writing hat to.

The idea that really sold the book to me was Flight: the illegal hallucinogenic that can be produced from fairy nectar. It makes a few appearances throughout the story, but it’s not really what the book is about. In a way, Fairy Keeper is really about how human greed can destroy beautiful creations.

Sierra is strong and likeable character. Because of her abusive father, Sierra has a darker side, but she realises what she could become and tries to act better. I enjoyed how she grew as a character, especially when contrasted against her best friend, Corbin, who has lived a sheltered life in comparison. The third main adventurer is Nell, Sierra's nemesis who has also had a rough lot in life. Again, fantastic set up. Nell definitely spiced up the story in more ways than one.

As much as I loved the set up, I have to be honest. Bits of it dragged. It felt overwritten in places, and the camping was a tad repetitive. I know its middle grade, but the main 'issues' wouldn’t progress and yet they would be discussed again and again through the third person, over the shoulder narrative. It grinded the pace to almost a halt at once point, but it did pass.

The love aspect was a bit tricky. At first I liked how the romance blossomed, and how things just weren’t going to be easy for Sierra. Ultimately, she has to understand another point of view, and I like how it didn’t turn into a love triangle in the traditional sense. Then again, something happens later which I can’t help feel the book would have been better if it didn’t go down that particular route. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say it felt a bit forced.

This is still a fantastic read with a really exciting ending. There are lots of great action scenes, twists, well-built characters, and a great round up in one book. It won’t leave you hanging in uncertainty, and it definitely made me want to read on.

Source: Curiosity Quills through NetGalley.com

Friday, 10 April 2015

SP Book Review: Sleeping Tom

Sleeping Tom by E.V. Fairfall

3 Stars

Verdict: Brilliant first third. I can definitely recommend the first third...

Hitchhiking is a bad idea but Caden is desperate. 

When she accepts a ride from the first car to come by she meets Gabriel. He's her age, hot, and the closest thing she has to a savior. Problem is, he is a total jerk. With nowhere to go, Caden convinces Gabriel to let her stay with him for one night. He reluctantly lends a couch.

That night Caden wakes up to strange noises. Concerned, she rushes into Gabriel’s room, already anticipating his bad temper. Instead, he’s kind, sweet, and suspiciously harmless—nothing like the man who gave her a ride. He seems like a different person altogether, and claims he is. By night he is Tom, and by day he is Gabriel. Caden finds herself drawn to the mysteries hidden in his eyes.

For Gabriel, Caden is an annoying mistake. One night turns into many, and despite all his anger towards her, she stays. She even seems to accept him and his flaws, but he still doesn’t trust her—is she staying for him, or has she already discovered more than he's willing to share?


~*~

The Rating Breakdown

Enjoyment: 3  I enjoyed a lot of it.

Writing Style: 3 Strong with weak spots.

Plot: 3 Utterly gripped to start with, uninterested by the end.

World & Concepts: 3 More research needed perhaps.

Characters: 5 Interesting, broken, full of personality.

Finish: 3 Beautiful cover. A few weak sections.

Strengths: A curious 'condition' that pulled me in.

Weakness: An ethical dilemma overlooked.

~*~

Oh, this one started out strong. Strange occurrences and mysterious pasts - I couldn't put it down. We have a girl running from an abusive past, but why can't she go home? She used to be called Rebecca but now insists she's called Caden, as she tries to be a stronger person. She takes refuge with a stranger called Gabriel, who treats Caden badly despite also wanting her to stay close to him. But Gabriel has another side to him. At night Gabriel becomes Tom, a young boy that enjoys playing games with Caden and wants her to stay - he's like a a younger brother. 

There's a good balance of mystery and intrigue at the start. I had to know what was going on. 

Around two thirds in, I disconnected entirely. In my opinion, the author steered this story in a strange direction, and the story lost it's appeal once the mystery settled down. I'm going to have light spoilers in this section so I can explain why.

Light spoiler ~*~ I'll admit, Gabriel and Caden had chemistry. However, I was under the impression that Gabriel's other personality, Tom, was a child. Portraying a child was something the author did pretty well. Tom equals child. So when Caden coerces Tom to kiss her, it just felt wrong. After all, age is just a number that's closely linked to your maturity and development; it was clear that Tom didn't want to kiss her and didn't understood what kissing was. Eek.

I liked that Caden wanted to be stronger, but that made me disinterested in her choice of romantic partners. Caden's ex-boyfriend Sean was abusive, Gabriel is abusive, and Face is overly involved for someone she meets at a party once. Tom, as established before, was a ten year old boy in my mind, so although I liked him, I didn't consider him a viable love interest option even though it seemed as if the author tried to write it that way. 

My other issue was that I lost interest. The thing is, if you pull a reader in with mystery, you need a satisfying reveal. The last third sorta became about a love triangle, and the intense mystery sizzled away. Gabriel was a fascinating character, but we never really learn anything about him either. We still don't really know what's going on with him, and Caden ends up kinda where she started out.  ~*~ End Light Spoiler

There wasn't enough going on to string me along for a couple of books, so I was disappointed to find out that's what was intended.

There's also plot repetition. Caden has the tendency to run away from where she's living only to be offered a bed and food like she's a stray cat. It's a little coincidental and shocking that she only bumps into future love interests rather than rapists/murders.

This last quibble is probably entirely me, but I'll mention it anyway. I found it unrealistic that someone interested in metal illness was directed by a librarian to a book that's older than the librarian herself. To learn about mental illness you'd want the latest version of the DSM or ICD, or a modern book filled with recent research. Using a dusty old leather encyclopaedia is about as much help learning about mental illness as a medieval book of medicine would be on helping with cancer. Obviously, I can shrug this point off, but I'll make it for future reference. 
  
Towards the end, I had lost interest. It just didn't sit right for me. Then again, I know this book has a lot going for it too. I would still recommend you to give it a go if I haven't put you off too much!

Source: Author for a group read.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Semicolon Frenzy

This week I’ve had the privilege of reading the opening to 11 self-published novels. In at least 8 of them, I spotted incorrect use of semicolons. It was such an issue that I decided not to factor it into my selection.

But we need to talk!

I love semicolons. I think they can turn a good line into a powerful punch. However, incorrect usage seems to be a huge problem for aspiring authors and indie authors alike.

Semicolons are used to join two full sentences to imply a link, or to separate list items.

The most frequent offence was using them instead of either a simple comma or when they should have used a colon. If you can replace one with a comma and you’re not writing a list, you’re doing it wrong. If you can replace one with a full stop, then you’re probably doing it right.

Overuse is a problem, too. Just like someone slapping you again and again, they lose their power and you become numb to them. They become a distraction from the writing. It also means you have repetitive sentence structures as well as a text that looks unappealing from a distance.

If you think about it, sentences in a paragraph are all linked to each other to some degree, but using semicolons all the time is unnecessary. Only use one when they add to the meaning.

I’ll come out and say it too, they look pretentious when overused. Some writers and readers are particular adverse to them for this reason.

Kurt Vonnegut: “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.”

This is an extreme view, and one I do not share, but I understand where he’s coming from. Overuse is worse than no use at all in my opinion. Sort them out, guys!

Here are some past articles on semicolons:

Colon Usage: Non-semicolon usage
The Supposedly Elusive Semicolon
Comma Splice: A Spaghetti Western
Must Read Advice Before You Self-Publish

If you watch this, you need to see the end to get the real point, or skip to 2.25.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Hidden Gem Awards: Top 5

Without delay, here are my top 5. I'll spend the next month reading each of your books before choosing a winner,

1)  Bloodline by Tara Ellis



By far the easiest choice. From chapter one, we have engaging, strong writing and a story that felt effortless. I want to know what will happen next, and I'm already attached to some of the characters. On to the next round!


2) The Scary Girls by J.D. Kaplan



A few lines in this made me chuckle. I love the narrator - why wouldn't I want to read on? It begins with two intriguing characters and a prose I could slip into. Another very easy choice.


3) Broken Dolls by B.R. Kingsolver


An interesting concept carried by a flawless prose. The ingenious use of asterisks to mark the telepathy made it clear and easy to follow. I'm very excited about this one!


4) Chains of Prophecy by Jason P. Crawford


The opening scene reminded me of Supernatural, and now I want to read on just to find out what was going on. There's a bit of awkwardness in the prose to start off with, but once it started to flow I didn't want to stop.


5) A Time Apart by Rebecca N. Caudill



There's something quirky about the prose that kept me reading. Not much has happened yet, but I'm still curious to read on. I found it easy to relate to the main character.


As I've only read the opening few chapters of each entry, I've had to be critical. I was looking for an engaging prose, clean writing, and signs of an intriguing main plot already unfolding.

If you didn't make it to the list, feel free to contact me and ask why. I'm more than happy to explain how I felt about your book and any issues I had with it as well as what I liked. There were a few that I struggled to part with. In particular, War of Destiny: Lost Soul by Theresa Van Spankeren is going on my reading list.


Cheers!