Monday, 4 April 2016

Gorgeous Covers

Whilst you're never supposed to judge a book by its cover, I have a terrible tendency to do so, so whenever particularly gorgeous cover art comes along I'm even more eager to get a book into my hands.

Over the last few days there have been a slew of beautiful cover releases, to whet our appetites for when the books eventually grace our shelves later in the year.

First up is the second illustrated Harry Potter, due out on October 4th. I loved the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and I think that Chamber of Secrets will more than keep up with the high standard its predecessor set. I can't wait to see more of Jim Kay's illustrations bringing Harry's world to life in this new and beautiful way. Apart from the spiders. I hate the spiders.

Next up, Laini Taylor's forthcoming novel "Strange the Dreamer" which, let's face it, is going to be gorgeous. Which makes the release of this stunning cover all the more exciting. Laini has a way of bringing stories to life, and twisting prose into its most stunning forms. I adored her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and the short story in 'My True Love Gave to Me', and I cannot wait to read her next full novel due out this September. It's going to be beautiful.

And finally we have a cover reveal for Deanna Raybourn's next Veronica Speedwell mystery "A Perilous Undertaking", and a cover redesign for the series.

Cover redesign's tend to vex me, because they inevitably mean that series don't match and I end up with multiple copies of the same book on my shelf in an effort to make my covers match up properly. Not actually that terrible, but that involves waiting until the second book is out in paperback to match the first book only being released in paperback... Such are the trials of a book lover. 
Regardless, I'm so excited about the covers, they're gorgeous and a lot closer to the UK cover that was released originally for the first book.

So there you have some of my favourite cover releases from the last few days, and a few more books that I cannot wait to get on my shelves when they're released later in the year!

Now talk to me! How do you feel about cover redesigns mid series? Particularly when they end up being such beautiful new covers! 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Books I'm Squeeing About in April

It's April! Already! I had a brief moment of panic this morning on looking at my calendar and realising we were starting another month - this year is racing by and I barely feel like I'm hanging on.
However, there is one bonus to the days racing past, and that is some of my most anticipated books of the year are being released this month! Take my money! I need these books!


5th April - Tell The Wind & Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets. 
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?


Anytime Sarah Rees Brennan releases a new book, I run to the bookstore. Actually, it's usually more that I camp outside with my nose pressed against the glass waiting longingly for it to be released... I adore her books. They're smart and funny and brilliantly imaginative, peopled with snarky, brilliantly developed characters. I've been antsing to get my hands on this Tale of Two Cities re-telling ever since Sarah announced she was writing one, and now it is finally HERE. Almost.

12th April - Masks & Shadows by Stephanie BurgisThe year is 1779, and Carlo Morelli, the most renowned castrato singer in Europe, has been invited as an honored guest to Eszterháza Palace. With Carlo in Prince Nikolaus Esterházy's carriage, ride a Prussian spy and one of the most notorious alchemists in the Habsburg Empire. Already at Eszterháza is Charlotte von Steinbeck, the very proper sister of Prince Nikolaus's mistress. Charlotte has retreated to the countryside to mourn her husband's death. Now, she must overcome the ingrained rules of her society in order to uncover the dangerous secrets lurking within the palace's golden walls. Music, magic, and blackmail mingle in a plot to assassinate the Habsburg Emperor and Empress--a plot that can only be stopped if Carlo and Charlotte can see through the masks worn by everyone they meet.

Gorgeous cover - check. Fascinating blurb - check. Spies, historical setting, magic - check. Count me in please. The cover caught my eye, but the blurb has me thoroughly intrigued. I cannot wait to see if this one lives up to my expectations.

26th April - The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.


I am not even close to emotionally ready for the end of this series, but I also cannot wait to read it. I've fallen in love with Blue and her boys, with the magic and the woods and the gorgeous, gorgeous prose. I come back to them again and again, and I whilst it is likely to break my heart, I want to finally learn how their stories end. Get the tissues ready guys, this one will be beautiful and devastating.

April 26th - The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
The Star-Touched Queen is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.


This book showed up randomly on my recommendations and I am so glad it did. Anytime a young adult book veers away from the stereotypical 'UK' or 'US' settings, I get excited. Add in some fantasy and a thoroughly intriguing blurb and beautiful cover and I cannot wait to get reading.

There you have the books I cannot wait to get my hands on over the next thirty days! Are there any you can't wait to read? Any you feel I've missed? Or any you're curious to pick up? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Review: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Publication Date: March 29th 2016
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 352 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Piatkus for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...
This is not one of those times.
Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.
Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...
Or not.
There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.
But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...
Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

Every now and again I find myself needing a chicken soup read. Something I know will make me laugh, will make me swoon, and most importantly, will have a Happily Ever After. Capitals included.

And the author I know without a doubt will always offer me exactly what I need when I need it most? Julia Quinn. I fell in love with the Bridgerton’s a decade ago and so it was wonderful to be back with them once more – albeit a generation earlier.

This latest has all the trademarks that I’ve come to love in Julia’s novels. It’s funny, at points I found myself laughing out loud. It offers engaging and interesting characters who you genuinely come to care for. It gives you all the butterfly and swoon-worthy moments you could wish for, without veering too much into steamy territory. In short, it’s a quick, amusing read that offers the perfect chicken soup.

I did find myself slightly frustrated by one or two points. There’s a sub plot that comes into play in the last part of the novel that felt a little too rushed and thrown in at the end without due time to play out. I also found myself noticing a few modern phrases and Americanisms sprinkled throughout – the first time I’ve noticed that in a Quinn novel. There was also a lack of the usual peril and urgency that often comes with romance novels. Usually some circumstance or misunderstanding causes tears and upsets galore, but was missing from this one. Not that I’m complaining, it was nice to have a little less drama and more of our hero and heroine getting along and snarking at each other.

All in all this was a wonderful read. Not my favourite of Quinn’s novels, but a wonderful book all the same. If you’re after a light historical romance to pass an afternoon or evening, then this is definitely one to pick up.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR Pile


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by the lovely folks over at 'The Broke & The Bookish' - to join in simply follow the link!

Spring is finally starting to make a half-hearted appearance here in Lyon, so it's the perfect weather to sit outside in the sunshine with a book. Luckily there are more than enough amazing books coming out over the next few months to keep me occupied. However, since 'The Broke & The Bookish' folks like their lists of ten, I've whittled my never ending excited about reading book pile down to the top ten books I cannot wait to get stuck into.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: April 26th 2016
The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.


I'm not even remotely emotionally ready for the last book in The Raven Cycle, but that doesn't mean I don't want it. It's going to be beautiful and brilliant and utterly brutal, and you can guarantee that I will likely be sobbing by the end. I adore this series, far more than I will ever be able to explain, and it's going to be wonderful and heart breaking to see it come to its conclusion.

Tell The Wind & Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: April 5th 2016
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets. 
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?


A new book by Sarah Rees Brennan?! It's been too long! Take my money now! I'm so excited about this one, partly because of the blurb, but mostly because I adore Sarah's books. They're intelligent, gripping, brilliantly funny and always favourites on my bookcase.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: March 8th 2016
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?


On the one hand, I'm a little bit Shadowhuntered out, particularly since my husband has become unbelievably obsessed with the new tv series... But on the other? It's Cassie Clare, and despite feeling like I've read (and seen) a lot about the Shadowhunter world over the last few years, I still really enjoy going back to it. It's kinda like crack. So of course this book is on my spring TBR pile.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date: March 24th 2016
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?


I am so in love with this series, and the cliffhanger at the end of the second book? So cruel. So brilliant and perfectly cruel. And it left me absolutely desperate to find out how this stunningly written series would end.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court--but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms--and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future--and the future of a world cleaved in two.


Whilst my heart truly lies with Sarah's Throne of Glass series, I really loved this new series she surprised us with last spring. It was something a bit different, a bit brutal, and very, very good. I stormed through the first one and I'm really looking forward to seeing how things play out in this second installment.

The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.


Another amazing book that wrecked me last year, and is coming back for another go at me with the second installment. This was a truly artful re-telling of the Arabian Nights story. Beautiful, heart breaking, and utterly gorgeous. The ending wrecked me, and the second part of this duo-logy is liable to do the same.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
Release Date: May 5th 2016
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. 
Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. 
And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be...


This series has been an unexpected surprise. It's not something I would have usually picked up, and the narrative style is very strange and hard to get used to. But it's the kind of story that sucks you in without you even realizing. I'm thoroughly intrigued by the quirky misfit bunch of residents of Midnight, and I can't wait to visit them in this third volume of the series.

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Release Date: March 29th 2016
Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...This is not one of those times.Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...Or not.There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

I adore Julia Quinn. Her books are like chicken soup for my soul. And right now I need a lot of chicken soup. It's going to be wonderful to be back with the Bridgerton's - albeit a generation earlier, and falling in love with a whole new collection of characters who are after their Happily Ever After's.

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
Release Date: May 31st 2016
A ruthless tycoon.
Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better…
A sheltered beauty.
Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable…the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…
Marrying Mr. Winterborne.


I loved the first book in this series 'Cold-Hearted Rake', and was all set to fall in love with the rest of the series. But then at the very end of the first book, Kleypas turned the hero of this book into a truly terrible man. It left me feeling quite unnerved and I'm very curious to see whether I can be persuaded to like him again in his own romance.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
The Star-Touched Queen is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.


Gorgeous cover? Check. Intriguing blurb? Check. Fantasy inspired by mythology that I don't know a huge amount about but would really like to? Check. Be still my heart, this one looks like it's going to be fantastic.

So there you have the top ten books that are going to be right at the top of my spring to read pile over the next few months. Are there any here that you can't wait to read? Any that you hadn't heard of before but are eager to pick up now? And any you feel are missing from my list? Let me know and link me to your own top ten's in the comments below!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Author Interview: Maria V Snyder (Night Study Blog Tour)

Today I have the very great pleasure of hosting the final stop on the Night Study blog tour, with an interview with the author herself, Maria V Snyder.
I've been a huge fan of this series since I first discovered them way back in university, so to see the original trilogy continued and expanded is a dream come true. To actually host Maria on The Review Diaries? Even more so.

What inspired you to come back to these characters and continue their story?

MVS: My readers! They begged.  They pleaded.  They sent me hundreds of emails.  They made puppy dog eyes at me.  I couldn’t resist those puppy dog eyes. Also I sparked on an idea for a new story and I wanted to explore Valek’s past.

Can you give us a hint about the challenges Yelena and Valek will be facing in this book?

MVS: The Cartel is one of the biggest problems they have to deal with. It’s a conglomerate of powerful and wealthy business owners who have decided Sitia needs to be run as a business (and OMG I just made the realization that it’s very similar to Donald Trump running for president of the United States – except the Cartel isn’t campaigning, they’re just removing the current council and taking over).  Yelena and Valek also have to face and deal with Owen and his plans.  He’s a powerful magician and has recruited a number of powerful allies.

How has the original idea and concept evolved into the book readers will have in their hands?

MVS: The original idea for this new set of Study books started with Shadow Study and my desire to explore Valek’s past and create new problems to challenge them both.  Night Study is a continuation of what I set in motion in the first book.  Normally, I try to make each book a separate story, and they do have plot lines that are resolved in each book, but these three new Study books are definitely linked.

Can you tell us a bit more about your research process for the novels?

MVS: I usually discover what I need to research as I write a book.  Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, I discover the story as I go.  When I’m writing, I’ll make a list of things that need to be researched and, when I have time, I do it.  I’ll use the internet and I found juvenile non-fiction books to be very helpful when I don’t need to go into depth for a story.  I also do as much hands-on research as possible.  When I was writing the Glass book, I took a bunch of glass classes and learned not only how to work with molten glass but how to fuse glass and make stained glass.  So much fun!  I also learned how to ride a horse and I spent a day in jail!

It's well documented how hands on you are when it comes to learning new skill sets that your characters have, which was your favourite both to learn and to write about?

MVS: The glass classes were my favourite. I’m fascinated with the process and how malleable and reusable glass is.  I enjoyed writing about the process and have had many readers say they loved learning about it when the read my books.

What's the hardest part of writing any of your novels?

MVS: Writing the first draft is always the most difficult.  Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, I don’t plan out the story other than a basic plot.  Each writing session, I’m discovering new details about my story, but it’s slow.  I’m a slow writer and having to sit down every night over 5 to 7 months can be a cold hard slog.

And the best, most rewarding part?

MVS: Finishing the first draft is a wonderful feeling! I enjoy the revision process and it goes much faster.  I also love hearing from my readers.  When my books inspire them and influence their lives in a positive way, that’s just a gift and gives me great joy.

Does anything particular stimulate your writing and creativity, do you have any set writing habits?

MVS: When I read a really good book or see a movie/play that is spectacular, I’ll get motivated to write.  Also those 5 days I spend at Seton Hill University teaching the MFA students twice a year, is always a creative boost.  As for writing habits, I write at night from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., and before each session I have to tuck my family into bed, brew a large thermos of decaffeinated English Breakfast tea, and then turn on music (otherwise it’s too quiet).  It helps if my desk is neat or else I’ll procrastinate and clean it up before starting.

What are your go to comfort reads when you're not busy writing or researching?

MVS: I hardly ever re-read books, but there are certain genres I’ll lean toward when I’m on holiday and just want to relax.  Romantic suspense is one of my beach reads and I’ll also read mysteries.

What authors or books have inspired you?

MVS:  Here’s a partial list of books that have inspired me: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Jaran by Kate Elliott, The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper, and The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly.  Other author whose work has influence me are: Dick Francis, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Glenda Larke, Barbara Vine, and Piers Anthony.

Once you've finished this latest series, will you continue with more stories set in Sitia and Ixia? Or will you be heading to a whole new world?

MVS: I will be heading to a whole new world.  After spending over three years with a set of characters, I need a break.  I might return and focus on the younger generation as there are a number of characters like Reema, Teegan, Fisk and Heli that might need their own stories. But that won’t be for a number of years.

Can you give us a hint about what you're writing next?

MVS: I don’t know what I’m writing next!  I’ve a fantasy idea and a science fiction one and I need to write up the synopsis for each and see what my editor likes.

And finally, any advice for aspiring writers?

MVS: I’ve lots of advice for aspiring writers.  In fact, I’ve a number of articles on my website that can read here: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php

My biggest piece of advice is persistence.  I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Poison Study was rejected many times, but I kept submitting the book and had planned to submit until I ran out of publishers to send it to. I also tell writers to be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!

Thank you so much Maria for taking time out to come and talk to us! It's fascinating to hear about the writing process! If you haven't yet nabbed your copy of 'Night Study' head on over to Amazon or Waterstones now and order your copy. It's a thrilling story that will have you feverishly reading through the night to find out what happens next!
Keep an eye out for my review which will be going live later in the week!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Books I'm Squeeing About in March


It's March! Already! How did that happen! This month is a particularly good month for books though, with a whole host of very exciting novels hitting our shelves over the next thirty one days. Good for reading, less good for the bank balance...
I've had a bit of a reading slump over the last few weeks so I'm hoping that a few of these will jolt me out of that and into a stretch of wonderful novels that make me excited to be reading again.


1st - Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.


One of those random books that popped up on my 'hey you might like this' Goodreads recs, and from that blurb yes, yes I think I will. It's been sitting on my 2016 wants pile for a few months now so I'm looking forward to finally seeing if it lives up to my expectations.


3rd - The Shadow Queen by C J Redwine
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.


Early reviews so far say that this is just as good as I'd hoped, which makes me even more excited to get reading. I've loved Redwine's previous work and the blurb has me thoroughly intrigued. Definitely all good things.

8th - Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?


Part of me has really just had enough of the Shadowhunters world at this point, but another part is craving another fix. It's like crack. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this new series yet, but I'm curious (plus that cover) and that alone is enough to have this book on my March reading list.


22nd - Broken Crowns by Lauren DeStefano
The city is falling out of the sky…
Morgan always thought it was just a saying. A metaphor. The words of the dying. But as they look up at the floating island that was their home, Pen and Morgan make a horrible discovery—Internment is sinking.
And it’s all Morgan’s fault.
Corrupted from the inside by one terrible king and assailed from the outside for precious resources by another, Internment could be destroyed because Morgan couldn’t keep a secret. As two wars become one, Morgan must find a way to bring her two worlds together to stop the kings that wage them…
Or face the furthest fall yet.


I haven't actually read the second book in this trilogy yet (I know, I'm terrible) but I adored the first book and I cannot wait to get stuck into the rest of this series, so waiting until the final installment is out so I can binge read my way through at the end of the month seems like an excellent idea.
If you've enjoyed DeStefano's previous novels then this series is a must read, her writing just gets better and better, and it was already pretty awesome to start with.


24th - The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?


Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Take my money now. I stormed through the first two books in this series when book two came out this time last year, and now finally,  finally, the third book is in my grasp. That cliffhanger! Basically this series is amazing, and I cannot wait to see how it ends.


29th - Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...This is not one of those times.Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...Or not.There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...


I am a huge Julia Quinn fan, particularly for her Bridgerton series - that family, I adore them. So to be back with the family (admittedly a generation earlier) is a dream come true. Add in that cover (the mallet of death!) and I'm ridiculously excited to get lost in another Quinn historical romance. I need some happily ever afters right now, and no one does them better than Quinn.

So there you have the books that I cannot wait to get my hands on over the coming month. Are there any here that you're desperately waiting for too? Any that you think I've missed? Or any that you're planning on picking up after seeing them here? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Review: Undertaking Love by Kat French

Publication Date: May 22nd 2014
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400 pages


When Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.
Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths.
Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His rugged good looks and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz – how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?

So often debut novels set the standard so high that a second novel fails to reach the bar and ends up being a slight disappointment instead. I find it’s rare to for the debut to be a disappointment and the second novel to blow me away. With this in mind, given how much I loved Kat French’s second novel ‘The Piano Man Project’ when I read it last summer, I was expecting to love her debut novel ‘Undertaking Love’ just as much.

Not so.

Where ‘Piano Man’ was smart, funny, full of banter and brimming with emotion, I found French’s debut to be filled with over blown caricatures that I never connected with, crass humour and a whole host of plot threads that left me feeling anywhere from vaguely amused to downright horrified.

Where was the romance? The banter? The brilliantly conceived plot? All the things I loved so much from the second book were missing in this first. I didn’t care about the characters, their choices and motivations were a bizarre mixture, and so many of them were downright awful stereotypes and caricatures.

It was a slog to get through this one when I was expecting a fun and enjoyable read. Some people will connect with these characters and love this romance, and I could see glimmers of what I’d hoped for at odd moments throughout the book. However for me it just wasn’t enough. I wanted to be swept up in the romance, I wanted to fall in love and care for these characters. I didn’t want to be shaking my head at their terrible life choices and crass dialogue and humour.


Since I loved ‘The Piano Man Project’ so much though, I’m curious to see how French’s third novel (due out this summer) holds up in comparison. Will it echo the brilliance of her second novel? Or plunge back down to the disaster I found her debut to be? Fingers crossed it’s the former.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Hogarth Books
Length: 288 pages

The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's “late plays”. It tells the story of Leontes, King of Sicily, whose insane jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter, Perdita, from the kingdom and then the death of his beautiful wife, Hermione. Perdita is brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of miraculous events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited. 
In Jeanette Winterson's retelling we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crash, to a storm-ravaged city in the US called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, video games and the elliptical nature of time. It tells in a hyper-modern way, full of energy and beauty, of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and love, redemption and a lost child on the other.

It’s rare these days that I get to go into a bookstore and pick up a random book that I know nothing about. With so many books on my to read pile, so many on my radar waiting for release dates, and so few English language books available for me to go and browse whilst I’m living in France, it understandably turns into a giddy and fun experience to wander through a UK bookshop and pick up books I know nothing about based on no more than an eye catching cover and an intriguing blurb.

“The Gap of Time” is one of those finds. A beautifully simplistic and engaging cover that caught my attention, and the possibility of a Shakespeare re-telling for a play that doesn’t get nearly as much coverage as some of his other works – colour me intrigued.

Luckily the insides more than lived up to the promises given, and I was enthralled from the opening line. ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is not a play that I’ve studied as extensively as some of Shakespeare’s other works, so it was nice that a brief summary of the play is included at the start to get you up to speed. It does take away a little of the mystery of what’s going to happen if you aren’t familiar with the play already, but it’s also a nice opening that allows you to sink into the story and appreciate it for what it is – a beautiful re-working.

It is stunningly written, filled with short sharp sentences, and passages and turns of phrase that took my breath away. It reminded me of ‘The Night Circus’ with some of the lyrically beautiful prose and I found myself quickly becoming lost in the story.

“In this night soaked bed with you, it is courage for the day I seek. That when the light comes I will turn towards it. Nothing could be simpler. Nothing could be harder. And in the morning we will get dressed together and go.”

My only issue came with Leo, who ends up coming across as a forced caricature, desperately shoe horned into a stereotype that works in the original play, but doesn’t in this. He’s flat, one dimensional and his ‘madness’ scenes were utterly bizarre. I couldn’t connect or understand, and that section was thoroughly jarring in relation to the rest of the novel. That was the only thing that stopped this breath taking book from being a full five star read for me.

Aside from that, I adored this book. It was a surprise find that enchanted me from the start. Full of beautiful passages and intriguing characters, this is a wonderful re-telling that brings Shakespeare’s tale to life in new and exciting ways. I cannot wait to see the rest of these re-tellings as they are released.


“That night, storm and rain and the moon like a mandala when the clouds parted, it was the moon that made him know. The baby had lain like the visible corner of a folded map. Traced inside her, faded now, were parents she would never know and a life that had vanished. Alternative routes she wouldn’t take. People she would never meet. The would-be-that-wouldn’t-be.
Because her mother or her father, or both, had left the map of her folded on the table and left the room.
It was a map of discovery. There were no more North Poles or Atlantic Oceans or Americas. The moon had been visited. And the bottom of the sea.
But she was setting out with the blank sheet and a compass of herself.
Unpathed waters. Undreamed shores.”