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29 November 2018

Guest Post: Victor Dixen's Writing Tips

I fell in love with the world Victor Dixen created in the first Phobos novel, as you can probably tell by my review of Ascension. By the time I excitedly picked up Distortion I was pretty much addicted to the cut-throat creation.

If I had to describe the series so far in five words I'd go for: friendship, secrets, betrayal, hope, surviving.

So onward to this fantastic guest post from the author himself, where he talks about his own writing journey and routine, and shares some writing tips.

Distortion by Victor Dixen, Phobos series

What Brought Me to Writing

Each writer’s path is unique.

I always had a huge appetite for stories. Even before I could read, I kept asking adults to tell me stories over and over again, and I was especially fond of fairy tales. Later, I spent most of my childhood years buried in books. Around age 10, I began to write short stories of my own. But the real “start” came a bit later, and is linked to a condition that I once considered bothersome.

You see, I’m a very light sleeper and when I was younger I was subjected to sleepwalking and waking up very early at night. I spent several nights in “sleep laboratories”, special units in hospitals specialized in sleep disturbances. With time and therapy, sleepwalking eventually disappeared, but not insomnia. Then, in my twenties, I decided to stop fighting against it, and rather use it as a gift: extra time to write.

This change of perspective actually changed everything, and prompted me to write my first novel, The Strange Case of Jack Spark: the story of a teenage boy subjected to mysterious, unexplained insomnia…

The Strange Case of Jack Spark by Victor Dixen cover
Cover for the first edition of The Strange Case of Jack Spark

My Writing Routine

I do most of my writing at night, when I wake up long before dawn, at my large desk in front of a window through which I can see the sky and stars (and also, these days, the New York skyline).

Not only does the night give me the time I need to write, but it also offers me inspiration. Night time is dream time for the ones who fall asleep. Night time is imagination time for the ones who stay awake - whether they read in their bed, or write at their desk. I believe that night shadows are not empty: they are full of things strange and beautiful, that books can reveal.

Rosco and Billie, cats and night companions
My cats and night companions, Rasco and Billie, both born in Singapore, where I used to live.

Where I Write

Most of the times, I write at my desk – it has travelled with me in the different places where I have lived: Denver (Colorado), Dublin, Paris, Singapore and now New York.

As I still travel quite a lot, specifically for book festivals, I often write when I’m on planes, trains or boats.

I think that the most unexpected place where I spent some time writing is a remote wooden cabin in Patagonia surrounded by immense lakes, but close second is another equally remote wooden cabin in Tasmania, surrounded by kangaroos!

There was also one time when I needed to be away from everything to finish a manuscript. I rented a lighthouse on the Western Irish coast, no too far from Galway.

This was a retreat in the most isolated conditions, in the heart of winter, surrounded by a mist so thick I could not see through more than 3 meters in front of me. All and all, a wonderful, magical experience, that helped me finish my novel!

Loop End Lighthouse
This is Loop End, the lighthouse I rented… Without the mist!

Writing Tip #1

Fairy Tales for Inspiration

As I told you, when I was a child I was very fond of fairy tales – and I still am! 
I think that fairy tales are the matrix of all stories. They resonate in each of us individually, and more generally in our common human psyche. They often seem very simple on the surface, but in reality they hide huge depths of wisdom, meaning and emotion. I can always re-read them and find new treasures – and also new inspiration. 
Among my favorites are Charles Perrault’s and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.

Writing Tip #2

Creating Lifelike Characters

There are some literary forms like poetry or some kind of short stories where characters are not necessarily the most important ingredient. But when it comes to a novel, I am convinced that characters are at the very core. This is true whatever the genre: thriller, science-fiction, fantasy or literary novel. Characters are the medium through which readers will get interested in the story… Or not. 
In my opinion, the most important aspect here is psychological consistency. As in life, there is no consequence without a cause; the way a character thinks and acts must reflect his or her intimate psychological logic, the prism through which he or she sees the world. This is the most important rule to follow, that will result in a character who feels real. 
In a way, I think that “lifelike” characters are never boring, because we can relate to them, observe the world through their eyes and share their desires and aspirations. As a writer, I know it works when my characters start making their own decisions, different from the plot I had in mind while drafting my story. Decisions that I had not planned before, taking me to unexpected paths. This sensation of discovery is really exhilarating!


Thanks to Hot Key Books and their generosity I'm giving away a copy of Distortion by Victor Dixen over on Twitter. Just retweet my pinned post to enter! The giveaway is for my UK/Ireland followers only due to postage.

What's your top writing tip?

27 November 2018

My Favourite Non-Romantic Relationships In Books

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 
Platonic Relationships In Books
As much as I love romance (and I bloody love romance) sometimes it's the non-romantic relationships that really make a book. And here are some of my favourites.
  • Elektra and her family in Waiting for Callback by Honor and Perdita Cargill
    Gosh guys, this family? They're amazing. Supportive and caring and hilarious, and reading about them is a bit like getting a hug.
  • The Avery family in Secrets and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
    Basically I just love this book and wanted to mention it. I love the changing family dynamics and how the sisters try to deal with everything that's happening.
  • Lucy and George in Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud
    This one is a grower, but I love the back and forth between Lucy and George, the mutual disdain and (lets be honest) dislike that eventually turns to respect.
  • Renée and Flo in Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
    I think this book has my most favourite portrayal of friendship EVER. It starts small and grows until it consumes them like friendships do when you're a teen.
  • Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong from Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
    The friendship between these two is so special and pure and strong and just thinking about it kind of makes me want to cry.
  • Frances and Aled from Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
    It's just so beautiful and precious and I feel a reread coming on. I love how nerdy they are together. And then you have Frances' mum oh man, she reminded me of my mum.
  • Evie, Amber and Lottie from Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
    The Spinster Club are one of my favourite friendship groups and I love how they support each other and truly care.
  • Fliss and Margo from Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
    OK so this one starts off ROUGH but also Margo is *amazing* and needed to be on this list and I couldn't remember the names of her wartime friends.
  • The Fallen Children in The Fallen Children by David Owen
    Basically it's a group of girls who go through something awful and heart-wrenching and terrifying and horrifying, and yet they still kind of support each other and protect each other.
  • Milly, Elyse and Leonie from One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
    I don't think a book has ever hit me quite as hard as this one - and a huge part of that is because the sisterly relationship between these three is so real. It's like me when I'm with my sisters.

    Which non-romantic relationship is your favourite?

    26 November 2018

    Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

    Remember how a long time ago I got to do a Q&A with Matt Killeen? Well I've been working on the review of Orphan Monster Spy since then, because it's that kind of book that gives you lots of Thoughts and Feels, and it's taken me this long to get them into order. Ish. It's also been shortlisted for Costa Children’s Book Award so I guess this is pretty timely.

    Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen coverAdd to Goodreads button
    A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!

    After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah--blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish--finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead.

    Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can't attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe.

    With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she's ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined. 

    Amazon UK | Amazon US

    Source: Review Copy

    5 Words: War, power, monster, school, violence.

    Content warnings: graphic violence, child abuse, antisemitism.

    Sarah is FIERCE.

    This book is incredibly fast paced. It starts off at a run and doesn't let up. It's brutal and violent and at times almost a bit much, but it is so realistic and engaging a portrayal that I could not put it down. The story is addictive and this book packs a punch.

    The narrative isn't linear, it jumps around a little between different times in Sarah's life, and I loved how this slowly disclosed her past. It showed why she was so resourceful and skilled already, and sometimes it made my heart ache.

    I really like the changing relationship between Sarah and The Captain. It is a testament to the story telling how much they grew between the pages. I honestly think that if The Captain had had to send Sarah in a later time in the story he wouldn't have, because it was almost like a father/daughter relationship. I did find it surprising at first, but it was an excellent way to ground the story and show the stakes.

    I loved how this story explores the concept of monsters, what it means to be one, how you can go about creating one, and what defines a monster. The school is like a nightmare.

    The story is gripping, full of twists and turns and brutality. It doesn't shy away from the ugliness. It is obviously thoroughly researched, with complex characters and a killer storyline.

    22 November 2018

    Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

    I went in to Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan with Expectations and I was not disappointed.  The author has created a fantastic, layered world and doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of power struggles and desperation. This Asian sapphic lesbian fantasy really got to me. So I am going to try and do this glorious book justice with a spoiler-free review. And then link to my spoiler filled thoughts.

    Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan cover fairyloot
    Add to Goodreads button
    Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honour they could hope for... And the most demeaning.

    Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by the royal guards, and her fate remains unknown. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after — the girl whose golden eyes, whose rumoured beauty has piqued the king's interest.

    Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. There, Lei does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

    Amazon UK | Amazon US

    Source: Subscription Box

    5 Words: Family, friendship, power, abuse, love.

    Content Warning: Sexual assault, graphic animal death, torture, slavery.

    Starting this book, I had expectations. I had heard so many amazing things from the author and people I follow on Twitter, and plenty of warnings about the content so I was prepared beforehand and made sure I was in a good place before picking it up.

    Something I really appreciated with this book is how there were not only printed content warnings at the beginning, but also a list of helplines and resources for anyone affected by the difficult topics explored within the story.

    I feel like Girls of Paper and Fire was a very angry story. And there is plenty to be angry about. It doesn't shy away from violence and brutality, it confronts prejudice and abuse head on.

    But there is also a much softer side - girls supporting and loving girls, delicious food (it made me so hungry), hope, love. I loved those parts of the story where it slowed right down and looked away from the action and into the hearts of the characters.

    Girls of Paper and Fire is excellently written, and there are so many gorgeous quotes that I could share. The world came alive on the page, I could practically see it and smell it and feel it. The writing is lavish and evocative and I want to read it forever. The characters are masterfully crafted, and even the smaller side characters have depth and secrets you cannot wait to explore.

    I'm definitely going to read on in this series and I can't wait for the second book after that ending. In the meantime I am absolutely going to pick up The Elites.

    I read this as part of the Fairyloot Readalong, and you can read my more in-depth (and rather spoilery) thoughts below on the Fairyloot Blog:

    Instead of disappearing, she makes me feel reappeared. Reimagined. Her touch shapes me, draws out the boldness that had been hiding in my core.

    19 November 2018

    Blog Tour: Book Review: Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika

    I am a sucker for stories like Christmas at the Palace, where a regular person is swept up by royal life, wholly unexpectedly. I love the romance and how dazzling everything is, how perceptions change and characters grow. And this was no exception. It's light and funny and uplifting, but doesn't stray away from the darker side of life in the spotlight.

    Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika coverAdd to Goodreads button
    Campaigner, feminist, doctor, humanitarian - all words that Kumari would use to describe herself. Potential princess? Not even in the vocabulary.

    But when Kumari's charity work catapults her into the limelight and brings her to the attention of Prince Benedict - playboy prince and sixth in line to the British throne - all bets are off.

    Royal party boy, charming rogue, England's most eligible bachelor - Prince Benedict is all those things. Or at least he was. These days he's taking life more seriously, following in his dear mother's footsteps and focusing on charitable causes.

    When he meets Kumari the attraction between them is instant. But, according to the press, Prince Benedict might just have found the most unsuitable bride.

    Will love win the day?

    Source: Review Copy | Blog Tour

    5 Words: Family, love, friendship, change, pressure.

    I absolutely loved this book, and I wouldn't be lying if I were to say that it hit all of my catnip tropes. Surprise royals? Uneven power dynamics? Fiercely feminist lead? SOFT PRECIOUS CHARACTERS? Basically this book was perfect for me, the perfect escape, and I already want to read it again.

    I loved Kumari. She's such an angel, and so full of kindness and generosity. I love how strong her convictions are, how GOOD she is, how she treats those around her. She's brave and fierce and a little bit fragile, and all the better for it. She's smart and savvy and sometimes scared, and I love how her story shows that it's is OK.

    The romance itself is sweet, and if it's a bit of a whirlwind to start, it still works perfectly. I loved the exploration of the pressure of the press and paparazzi, the judging from all sides, the way images can be twisted into narratives far removed from the truth.

    I wouldn't say that this book is necessarily super Christmas-y, but it was a lovely read and it did give me all of the heart-warming festive vibes I'm after. And I think you can probably read this at any time of year when you're looking to be cheered up. It's a story to make you smile.

    So yeah, go get this book and read it, and turn the last page with a heart full of love and joy.

    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?

        01 November 2018

        The Book Blogger Candle * GIFTED

        There is nothing better than sitting down, lighting a candle, and either reading or blogging. I'm so scatter brained and distracted that I often try to do both at the same time. When I found out that Bookworm Candles and Crafts were doing a new range I jumped at the chance to try it, as I have loved past candles (like the Comic Book Heroes, I got the whole set for myself and a friend and they're amazing).

        The Bookworm Candles and Crafts candle of the month for November is Book Blogging, and that means it's only £5 for an 8oz tin. What a bargain!

        Book Blogging Candle, and planning blog posts

        I love how Bookworm Candles and Crafts don't only list the scent notes when it comes to their candles; they list the feelings, the emotions, behind them. It lends a sense of mystery and expectation for when you finally smell the candle.

        Book Blogging: Passion, Reviews, & Nutty Banana. 

        The Book Blogging candle honestly smells good enough to eat, and even unlit my mouth was watering. It's a bit like a super rich banana bread, and perfect for burning during autumn. There is a sprinkling of gorgeous blue glitter on the top and once lit the wax itself shimmers and the scent intensifies. This candle has excellent throw, and the three wicks keep it burning evenly.

        The tin has a beautiful ribbon around the lid with a cute heart decal, and on the side there is a quote which I'm sure any bookworm will agree sums up reading perfectly:
        It's a great blessing if one can lose all sense of time, all worries, if only for a short time, in a book.

        It's a great blessing if one can lose all sense of time, all worries, if only for a short time, in a book.

        Just A Little Bookish Candle

        The Just A Little Bookish Candle range will be Bookworm Candles and Crafts' usual mix of jars and tins, with that signature fabric decoration.
        • One More Chapter
          Into the Night, Irresistible, & Crisp Pines
        • Bibliophile
          Obsession, TBR Piles, & Sandalwood
        • To Be Read
          Endless, Mounting, & Warm Frankincense
        • Reading Nook
          Comfort, Seclusion, & Peace
        • Fall In To Books
          Autumn Leaves, Fluffy Jumpers, and Pear Cider
        Book Blogging Candle

        You can use the code BLOGGERS20 for 20% off of the range, but be quick as it's only available until the end of November, and not applicable to the candle of the month. The Just A Little Bookish Candle range is the perfect gift for the bookworm in your life.

        Bookworm Candles and Crafts

        What's your favourite scented candle?

        * I was gifted a candle for review purposes, all thoughts are my own.