Thursday, 25 April 2019

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie – review

Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn't want to go to parties - in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book. It's like she hasn't found her people...

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING - especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body. But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it's the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed's fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself ...

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

I was really excited as soon as I heard about The Paper & Hearts Society – a bookish novel from one of my favourite bookish YouTubers! 

My favourite thing about this book is how relatable it is. Tabby's experiences seemed authentic and her reactions to social situations felt very familiar from my teen years. I really enjoyed reading this book as an adult and I definitely would have adored it as a teenager!

The voice of this book also feels really natural and heartfelt. Through realistic dialogue and the narrative that gave an insight into Tabby's thoughts, it really felt like you got to know her as a character. I also liked the secondary characters, especially Tabby's friendship with Ed. It reminded me a lot of friendships I had with boys as a teen and was just really lovely!

Another great part is the bookish references. I'd read a lot the YA books that Tabby references but came away from the book determined to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I also really liked it that the characters go on a literary road trip, particularly as I'd visited a couple of the locations.

This book is a light, fun read that made me feel happy and uplifted (except when I was worried for Tabby). It's a brilliant start to a series and I'm already looking forward to the next instalment!

Monday, 22 April 2019

Queen of Sea and Stars blog tour – Q&A with Anna McKerrow

Today is my stop on the Queen of Sea and Stars blog tour, an adult series that I'm really excited to read (and I adore the covers!). I've got a Q and A with Anna about her brilliant books, recommendations and writing process.

Tell us about Queen of Sea and Stars.It’s the second in the Elemental Kingdoms series and follows the main character Faye Morgan as she moves temporarily down to London to be with her new boyfriend and get away from the drama at home in Abercolme, a small village on the Fife coast. Faye is a hereditary witch who runs a witchy shop there called Mistress of Magic, and in book one realises that she is connected to the faerie realms. In fact, she’s half-faery. Yet the faerie kingdoms are very dangerous, so Faye and Rav quite rightly feel that by the end of book1 (Daughter of Light and Shadows) they need a bit of a change!

Fortunately/unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it’s not that easy for Faye to leave the faerie kingdoms, and in London she still finds it calling to her. She meets a coven of London witches, and in a ritual on Hampstead Heath (a regular venue for covens and lone witches) she finds herself drawn back into faerie, but this time, somewhere rather different to before. There is an increasing peril both for her and for others in being in the faerie realms (which I won’t spoiler for you here) and Faye finds that she has to make some pretty difficult choices to be true to herself and save herself and her friends from rather unpleasant fates.

Where book 1 was set in the wild Scottish landscape, book 2 is a real celebration of being a city witch, and of some of the magical places in London.

What draws you to write about magic and romance?
I always write about magic, because I think it’s important to put magic as a real life activity, rather than a fantasy subgenre, out there on the page. People are doing magic of all kinds all the time – meditation, visualisation, journeying, ritual, connection with gods, devotional practices, religious practices – which are important to them, across a range of cultures. I dislike the modern idea that spirituality and religion is inferior to intellectual atheism. I don’t like the fact that witchcraft is seemingly only included in literature as fantasy or as negative. I try to challenge that.

What inspired you to write for adults?
Honestly? The publisher of my YA series cancelled my trilogy immediately after book 2 was released which had a big impact on sales, as you can imagine. I initially went on submission with a middle grade novel after – every publisher said they really liked it but ultimately said no because the YA trilogy had sold low. Fortunately Bookouture liked my idea for this series and so here I am. Looking back, I’m actually relieved, as YA sells very little by comparison unless you are one of the bestsellers, and I really enjoy writing for adults. So it all worked out in the end!

Can you recommend any YA or adult books for readers who want more witchcraft?

I’d definitely recommend Circe by Madeleine Miller, which really captures a witch learning her craft over time 
 and is beautifully written, and a timely retelling of the myth. Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic are lovely  contemporary-ish New York family with magical gifts and a deep consideration of magic and relationships. In terms of real witchcraft, I would always point readers towards Dion Fortune’s occult novels which have yet to be bettered. Kala Trobe had an excellent collection of short stories out a while ago called The Magic Bookshop which may be out of print now. Also out of print but excellent on the old goddess traditions in England and King Arthur myth are Daughter of Tintagel by Fay Sampson and of course The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Most witches I know love Outlander (books and TV) and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t read American Gods and Anansi Boys to read those and reflect on how few books we see that posit the radical ideas that gods and goddesses we see in mythology are alive and well, and able to be communicated with. Obviously, there is a ton of nonfiction I could recommend, but specialist publishers like Avalonia, Llewellyn, Moon Books, Weiser and Capall Bann are all excellent.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

This is not a job for the faint-hearted. Actually, for most of us, it’s not a job at all, it’s something we do on the side of various other things. Be prepared for the fact you will probably not make much money from this at all 
 like, FAR below minimum wage. Find a rich partner who doesn’t mind supporting you, or parents that don’t mind you never moving out. It can take a really, really long time – ten years, more – to get to the book that becomes well known, or sells well, etc, if at all. Most advice for aspiring authors is ‘keep going, you’ll get there, put the hours in’ which is absolutely true. However, the flip side of that is that all the time you’re spending writing, and staying in part time/less demanding jobs that allow you to write, means that you’re not going for that well paid job, you’re not spending time with your family, you are most likely making decisions as to holidays and social activities because you can’t afford to do them… and so on.

Even if you sell a book and it gets a big advance 
– the dream – writing isn’t a job with a steady paycheck. You might not get one of those big cheques again, and it absolutely doesn’t guarantee you’ll get another book published. Basically, the economics of writing are terrible, which means we don’t end up reading books from many talented authors because they simply cannot afford to work and not be paid, or they can’t live with the ongoing instability of this kind of creative career. The longer I’m a writer, the more I realise that publishing (rather than the craft of writing itself, a wonderful and beautiful thing) is less about talent and more about commercial trends and who can afford to hang in there longer.

In addition, you live with constant rejection, envy of other writers, reading awful reviews of your work and worrying that your book isn’t selling well enough, or getting overseas deals, or being nominated for awards etc etc, so it takes a philosophical attitude and a lot of determination to get through.

For writers reading this, I wish you all the luck and success in the world, but I also think that if you’re in a position to have an actual stable career that you’d really enjoy, like dentistry or surveying, then do that.

What does your writing process look like?

I currently write two days a week, 9
2 and sometimes in evenings. I aim for a minimum of 2000 words a day but will frequently write more, so up to 4000 a day really. I write mostly in a linear progression and then edit and move bits around etc. A lot of my “good” writing is in the editing stage!

If you could have any magical power, what would it be and why?

We all have magical powers! The tragedy is that more people don’t have this view.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a witch-themed cozy mystery for Bookouture, which is out in October.

Thank you so much Anna! I always love getting recommendations and advice from authors (and appreciate your honesty!).

If you would like to check out other stops on the blog tour, you can use the banner below.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Mera: Tidebreaker blog tour

Princess Mera is teenage royalty and heir to the throne of Xebel, a colony ruled by the other no-so-lost land under the sea, Atlantis. Her father, his court, and the entire kingdom are expecting her to marry and introduce a new king. But Mera is destined to wear a different crown....

When the Xebellian military plots to overthrow Atlantis and break free of its oppressive regime, Mera seizes the opportunity to take control of her own destiny by assassinating Arthur Curry—the long-lost prince and heir to the kingdom of Atlantis. But her mission gets sidetracked when Mera and Arthur unexpectedly fall in love. Will Arthur Curry be the king at Mera’s side, or will he die under her blade as she attempts to free her people from persecution?

I’m super excited to join the blog tour for Mera: Tidebreaker because I loved her character in the Aquaman movie. Add in the fact that it was written by Danielle Paige and you’ve got a perfect combination!

Stephen Byrne’s artwork is absolutely stunning. Both Aquaman and Mera's personalities and expressions really come through the artwork (and they look gorgeous). The muted ocean shades create a stunning contrast to Mera's hair, too. 

I really enjoyed the plot of this graphic novel and the suggested origin story for Mera and Aquaman. Danielle Paige’s witty dialogue created some real chemistry between them and I’m a huge fan of the enemy to friends arc. The storyline felt very fresh and I enjoyed the transition from a setting under the ocean to on land.

Mera is definitely a character that I want to see more of. I loved Danielle Paige's portrayal of Mera as a fierce warrior who is conflicted about her responsibilities as princess, and could teeter over into villainy.

I haven’t read a graphic novel for ages and this has definitely made me want to read more! It’s a fun, romantic read and I hope to see more collaborations between Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne in the future.

You can check out the other tour stops for this brilliant graphic novel using the banner.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Viper by Bex Hogan – review

Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father.

It's been a while since I've read a fantasy book this unique and exciting. I lent my copy to a friend, and she stayed up until 2am reading. That's how good Viper is!

One of the best things about Viper is the characters. Marianne is a great protagonist, who I liked from the beginning but got even more attached to as she developed through the book. 

There was also a fantastic cast of secondary characters: Torin, Grace and Bronn were just three of my favourites. It was also refreshing that the antagonists of the book were genuinely threatening and it felt like Marianne was in real danger.

The world of this book is also vividly described and there was a great balance of scenes at land and sea. There's definitely scope for more of the setting to be revealed as the series progresses. 

Another great part of this book is the plot. It was gripping, well-paced and not at all predictable. It really got me in the feels too!

This is a brilliant start to a series and I'm excited to see where it goes next! It comes out tomorrow (18th April) and I'd definitely recommend picking it up.

Thank you to Orion Children's Books for the review copy!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Slayer by Kiersten White – review

Into every generation, a Slayer is born…

Nina and her twin sister, Artemis, are far from normal. It’s hard to be when you grow up at the Watcher’s Academy, which is a bit different from your average boarding school. Here teens are trained as guides for Slayers – girls gifted with supernatural strength to fight the forces of darkness. But while Nina’s mother is a prominent member of the Watcher’s Council, Nina has never embraced the violent Watcher lifestyle. Instead, she follows her instincts to heal, carving out a place for herself as the school medic.

Until the day Nina’s life changes forever.

Thanks to Buffy, the famous (and infamous) Slayer that Nina’s father died protecting, Nina is not only the newest Chosen One – she’s the last Slayer, ever. As Nina hones her skills with her Watcher-in-training, Leo, there’s plenty to keep her occupied: a monster fighting ring, a demon who eats happiness, a shadowy figure that keeps popping up in Nina’s dreams…

But it’s not until bodies start turning up that Nina’s new powers will truly be tested – because someone she loves might be next.

One thing is clear: Being Chosen is easy. Making choices is hard.

It probably goes without saying that I'm a massive Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. I was so excited to read something new set in the same world and this book slotted into the mythology really well.

Kiersten White obviously loves the series too and that really comes across in Slayer. The story followed on seamlessly from the end of Season 7 and incorporated details from the series throughout. The dialogue was also in keeping with the TV show's witty, entertaining style. The Irish setting was a nice touch, as it differentiated the books from the familiar California landscape.

I enjoyed the storyline of Nina getting used to her powers and what it means to be a slayer. The whole story was a really fun read, exploring familiar tropes from the series as well as some new elements.

This is a really promising start and I'll look forward to the next instalment. In the meantime, I've heard great things about The Conqueror's Trilogy by Kiersten White so I might get started on those...

Thank you Simon and Schuster Children's UK for the review copy!