16 November 2018

Book Beginnings #64

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan cover
There is a tradition in our kingdom, one all castes of demon and human follow. We call it the Birth-blessing. It is such an old, deep-rooted custom that it's said even our gods themselves practiced it when they bore our race onto the earth.
I am reading this for the Fairyloot Readalong, reading roughly 50 pages a day from the 15th to 21st November.

I'm not going to lie, I have Expectations. I am so excited to be reading this book. I have heard so many amazing things.

This book comes very sensibly with content warnings printed right at the front, and a list of numbers for if you are affected by any of the issues raised. I applaud the publisher for putting these in, as it's something than can help people so much.
A wooden tub is brought to the room and filled with warm, fragranced water. While she bathes me, Lill quizzes me about my life before the palace, questions tumbling from her mouth so quickly I barely finish answering one when the next comes.
This is exactly where I'm up to and... Wow. It's been intense so far. SO intense. Like, I had to take a break already and I'm only 56 pages in. I love the writing style, the story so far is shocking but engaging and I am quickly falling in love with Lei.

What are you reading this week?

15 November 2018

A Way Back Home by Alison Sherlock

I am thrilled to be inviting Alison Sherlock on to the blog today to talk all about the inspiration behind their Willow Tree Hall series and to tease a little about the latest book, A Way Back Home. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, so you can jump in to the story at any point (and I definitely recommend that you do) and have your heart warmed by the characters you find there. A Way Back Home is also perfect for reading in the run up to Christmas to get you in a festive mood.

A  Way  Back  Home

A  Way  Back  Home  is  the  third  book  in  my  Willow  Tree  Hall  series.  The  idea  for  Willow  Tree  Hall  actually  came  from  watching  Downton  Abbey!  I  watched  the  programme  and  wondered  what  it  would  be  like  to  live  in  a  grand  stately  home  in  the  present  day.  As  I  researched  the  subject,  I  realised  that  many  of  our  country  estates  had  fallen  into  disrepair  due  to  the  high  running  costs.  And  thus  became  the  ‘eureka’  moment  that  began  the  plot  for  Book  1  in  the  series,  A  House  To  Mend  A  Broken  Heart. 

The  renovation  and  transformation  of  Willow  Tree  Hall  will  take  place  over  all  four  books,  although  you  don’t  need  to  read  them  in  any  particular  order  as  each  story  is  standalone.  I  was  a  tiny  bit  worried  about  writing  a  series  –  my  first  ever!  But  all  of  the  books  have  been  huge  fun  to  write  as  I  loved  having  the  chance  to  catch  up  with  my  characters  each  time.  Will  Harris  is  the  hero  in  A  Way  Back  Home  and  I’ve  been  desperate  to  write  his  particular  story  from  the  very  beginning!    He  is  the  younger  brother  to  Sam,  the  heir  to  Willow  Tree  Hall.  Will  has  always  felt  like  the  ‘spare’  and  surplus  to  requirements  over  the  past  few  years.  Instead  of  helping  with  the  renovations,  he  has  stayed  abroad,  building  up  his  playboy  image,  complete  with  an  Aston  Martin!  But  when  he  loses  his  job,  Will  is  finally  forced  to  come  home. 

The  trouble  is,  the  rundown  lodge  he  calls  home  has  unexpectedly  received  a  new  co-owner,  a  stranger  called  Skye  Jackson.  Skye  is  as  surprised  by  the  inheritance  as  Will  is  and  both  of  them  want  the  matter  dealt  with  as  quickly  as  possible.  But,  as  always,  it’s  never  that  easy...

The  book  was  great  fun  to  write  as  I  had  already  given  Will  a  wickedly  dry  sense  of  humour.  Therefore  it  was  only  right  that  the  heroine  of  the  story  would  be  free-spirited  Skye  who  is  his  total  opposite! 

Do  they  find  common  ground  and  even  love  over  a  long,  cold  winter?  You’ll  have  to  read  A  Way  Back  Home  to  find  out!

A Way Back Home by Alison Sherlock coverAdd to Goodreads button
What  happens  when  two  lost  souls  find  themselves? 

After  recent  heartbreak,  Skye  Jackson  finds  herself  homeless  and  on  the  road  with  only  a  classic  Airstream  trailer  to  her  name.  A  surprise  inheritance  of  a  rundown  little  lodge  in  the  grounds  of  beautiful  Willow  Tree  Hall  forces  her  to  change  her  plans.  However  there  is  a  problem... 

The  lodge  is  co-owned  by  care-free,  playboy  Will  Harris,  who  finds  himself  unemployed  after  a  recent  tabloid  scandal.    

Syke  desperately  wants  a  home  to  call  her  own  and  needs  to  move  on  as  quickly  as  possible.  Will  doesn't  want  to  stay  at  his  family  home  either  to  face  the  ghosts  of  his  past.  So  they  decide  to  put  aside  their  differences  and  renovate  the  cottage  together.

But  when  a  storm  hits,  Skye  and  Will  are  forced  to  stay  on  to  ensure  that  an  important  wedding  goes  ahead.  Can  Skye  finally  find  a  home  of  her  own?  Can  Will  stop  running  from  his  past  and  help  out  his  family  when  they  need  him  the  most?

The  magic  of  winter  at  Willow  Tree  Hall  is  about  to  change  everything...   

13 November 2018

Bookish Items/Merchandise I’d Like to Own

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Bookish Items/Merchandise I’d Like to Own
I decided that this week I'd get creative and rather specific with my list, and think up all the bookish things I wish existed for me to own.
  • Sky In The Deep hair stick
    A double pronged hair stick with gorgeous Viking-esque carvings at the top. Maybe inlaid with metal to bring out the pattern. OR a hair stick shaped like an axe, the the handle as the prong.
  • Lockwood & Co insulated flask
    For tea, obviously. Need to keep my spirits (ha) up when it's chilly.
  • The Extinction Trials Milo plushie
    TBH I just want to hug Milo, but dinosaurs are kinda big and probably not so huggable, so a plushie will do.
  • Clean Lexi inspired candle
    Yes, it's a candle but ALSO it would  smell rather specifically of champagne and clean linen, with a hint of lavender, and have a little shimmer hidden away in the pure white wax, and a quote on the outside: "We aren't broken. We're just alive."
  • Queens of Geek autograph book
    Vibrant and brightly coloured and quirky, perfect for getting autographs at cons.
  • When the Beat Drops headphones
    A gorgeous pair of over-ear headphones, sound excluding and vibrant, for listening to music.
  • A Court of Thorns & Roses oracle deck
    I think that the characters in this series would translate excellently into an oracle deck, and also they'd be pretty.
  • Children of Blood and Bone Amari inspired tea
    I've kind of already blended up my own, but I'd love an official Amari tea as she is my queen.
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns quote bracelet
    Very specifically I'd like my favourite quote on a bracelet: "The beauty of this world is fading all too fast through the cruelty and thoughtlessness of men."
  • Gilded Cage quote blanket
    A big snuggly blanket with glittering gold thread and a quote: “History only appeared inevitable because it was written in a world where it had already happened.” 

    Which super-specific bookish merch do you wish you owned?

    11 November 2018

    Dreaming of Christmas by T.A. Williams

    Today I get to welcome TA Williams, talking about their latest Christmas-y read Dreaming of Christmas.

    Writing those magical words, The End, at the bottom of the final page of a book is a cathartic moment. It represents the culmination of weeks, months, even years of effort and it is, without doubt right up there alongside births and marriages as a perfect excuse to crack a bottle (or two) of something sparkling.

    The bad news, however, is that in many ways The End is just the beginning. Take Dreaming of Christmas for example. I had a meeting with my editor at publishers Canelo back in January this year. We talked about the idea of a “Christmas” book and discussed possible settings, ranging from the Highlands of Scotland, via deepest Cornwall, to the eventual choice; the Austrian Alps. I returned to my writing cave (well, really just a room in my house that I call my study) and sat down to write the book. By the end of March, I had completed the first draft and did, indeed, open a bottle of Tesco’s Finest Prosecco to celebrate.

    What happened next?

    First the biggest test of all. I gave it to my wife to read. She is my greatest critic (and hopefully fan) and I really value her ideas and input. She returned it to me with three or four pages of comments and I spent the best part of a week going through the manuscript, changing, adding and subtracting accordingly. I then put it to one side and did my best to forget about it for a couple of weeks, finally picking it up again in the middle of April. After re-reading it and making more changes, I sent it off to my editor and awaited his verdict anxiously (it doesn’t matter how many books you write, it’s always nerve-racking waiting to hear from your publisher).

    At the end of April he replied very positively, with a number of suggestions – nothing too major I’m glad to say, but definitely changes that improved the book. I spent a week making the changes and returned the manuscript to him in May. He replied shortly after to say he was happy with what I had done and informing me he was sending it out to a copy editor. It is the copy editor’s job to check the nuts and bolts of the book from spelling and punctuation to whether the party took place on the day before or after the sledge ride and so on. This was returned to me with “Track Changes” turned on (that means you see red or blue comments in the right hand margin) so I could see every change proposed by the copy editor. I then plugged through it, accepting or rejecting changes until it was all done. I then returned it to my editor and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

    By this time, Dreaming of St-Tropez had come out and I had made a start on Dreaming of Tuscany (the next book to come out after Dreaming of Christmas). I’m sure other authors must have the same problem, ducking in and out of different stories, often confusing characters, places and timelines. You become quite schizophrenic after a while. So you can imagine how pleased I was to be finally shot of the Christmas book.

    But of course I wasn’t. The book came out on 27th August and I found myself taking to social media to promote it. And then, of course, there were preparations to be made for this blog tour and I found myself writing blog posts about Dreaming of Christmas just after finishing Dreaming of Tuscany while beginning to think about Dreaming of Rome. The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on. It certainly does for me.

    So if anybody thinks it’s just a matter of writing it and then seeing it published, think again. Like I say, The End really isn’t the end.

    It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

    Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it's been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

    The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it'll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others...

    Perfect for readers of Tilly Tenant, Holly Martin and Philippa Ashley, this is the perfect magical Christmas getaway from the bestselling T.A. Williams.

    The Insider by Mari Hannah

    I couldn't wait to jump back in and see what Stone and Oliver were up to next, so when The Insider arrived I read it straight away. And I was not disappointed. The Insider is excellent, dark and slightly caustic and wickedly clever.

    The Insider by Mari Hannah coverAdd to Goodreads button
    After their success in their last investigation, DCI David Stone has been promoted and moved to the Murder Investigation Team, taking DS Frankie Oliver with him. But there's a catch: the case they are given is the latest in a series of undetected murders. It's a baptism of fire for MIT's newest recruits.

    In the incident room, the murder wall makes grim reading: three women have been killed within the past year and nothing links the crimes: no day of the week, geographical area, similarity between victims and, most importantly, no forensic evidence.

    Joanna Cosgrove is the latest victim, her body discovered fully clothed close to a railway line on the south side of the river in the Tyne Valley. The MO is the same as the other three, but the words 'serial killer' are not welcome in Northumbria force.

    And the manner in which she was killed is too close to home for Frankie...

    Source: Blog Tour | Purchase

    5 Words: Mystery, northern, family, secrets, betrayal.

    You can tell that the author knows the area which she writes about, and being set pretty locally to me (there was even a mention of where I live) and I loved it. The story takes in a wide swathe of the North East, a bit of a tour of small towns and villages, and it's all so fantastically described that I could practically see it as I read.

    I loved how the story is as much about the impact of each crime upon the protagonists as it is them investigating it. The perspective switches between Stone and Oliver so you get to see things from both sides, and see how what is happening takes its toll. You also get a few peeks at the killer's perspective, which I really liked as it helps to build up a picture yourself.

    I think my favourite thing about The Insider - aside from the excellent characters, setting, and the story itself - was the feminist narrative lurking behind it all, the caustic take-down of misogyny and privilege. It was an added layer that seems particularly pertinent right now. The Insider is very much set in the here and now, and it doesn't shy away from that.

    You don't have to have read the previous Stone and Oliver book (The Lost) before reading The Insider, but it would help if you want to get a bit deeper into the characters. The Insider has a few reveals that were hinted at in The Lost.

    06 November 2018

    Backlist Books I Want to Read

    Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

    Top Ten Tuesday
    This week is Top Ten 
    Backlist Books I Want to Read
    Because I get a lot of books from the library, I end up picking up a lot of backlist books any way. My local library is actually great for getting new releases in, but I love having a browse of the shelves and picking out older books at random.

    This list was actually pretty hard, as when I want to read a book I generally do, especially if it's a backlist title as they're easier (generally) to get a hold of.

    • The Elites by Natasha Ngan
      I have had this book for years and just never got round to it. I can remember quite specifically picking it up in Aldi, because that's a weird place to buy books.
    • Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
      I have also had this book for years, I even have a signed copy! One Day I will pick it up, as I loved the author's writing style in the Shades of London series.
    • This is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees
      I think this is the only book by the author I have not read! I don't even own a copy, but I definitely want to read it at some point.
    • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
      I loved the Uglies series, they were some of my favourites as a teen, but I never read any of the author's other books and I'd like to change that.
    • iBoy by Kevin Brooks
      There are very few Kevin Brooks book I have not read, and iBoy is one of them. I did try years ago when it was first published but couldn't get into it.
    • The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
      Ask me what my favourite book ever is, and without hesitation I will reply I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. So it's probably weird that I've never read another of her books?
    • Leaving Poppy by Kate Cann
      I absolutely ADORED Kate Cann as a teen and read every single one of her books. Except this one. I definitely want to read it.
    • Mary Hades by Sarah Dalton
      My Daylight Monsters was delightfully creepy, but for some reason I never read on when it came to Mary's story.
    • Queen of Bedlam by Laura Purcell
      I recently read and loved The Corset by Laura Purcell so I am eager to check out the author's backlist. Queen of Bedlam sounds amazing.
    • The 100 by Kass Morgan
      Earlier this year I read Light Years and I thought it was incredible, and I've been making my way through The 100 TV series, so I'm excited to start the books.

      Which backlist books do you want to read?

      02 November 2018

      Book Beginnings #63

      For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

      For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

      I am currently reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.
      The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke's house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches.
      I am so excited to be rereading the Grisha Trilogy, starting with Shadow and Bone. It's been a good few years since I last read these books, but since BKMRK are hosting a month-long readalong I couldn't resist.

      I remember that I really enjoyed these the first time round, and this first sentence reminds me why: the writing. I love Leigh Bardugo's writing style.
      I pulled the kefta tighter around me, feeling suddenly cold. I remembered the surety that had flooded through me with the Darkling's touch, and that strangely familiar sensation of a call echoing through me, a call that demanded an answer.
      I feel like the Darkling is one of my favourite ever villains. I'm not up to this part of the story yet, as I'm only reading one chapter per day (which is hell, do not recommend, I want to read it all now) and I can't wait to get up to the part where Alina and the Darkling meet.

      I'm enjoying rereading this series with hindsight, knowing what's going to happen. The anticipation is delicious.

      What are you reading this week?