Music Monday

Music Monday: Magnificent (She Says) by Elbow

I haven’t done a Music Monday post in FOREVER, but this song has me hooked and I figured it was a good opportunity to start posting about my favourite ear-worms again.

I’m addicted to anything Elbow/Guy Garvey, but there’s just something so beautiful about Magnificent (She Says), a track from the Little Fictions album, that it seems permanently in residence on my daily commute to work.

The Monday morning grind is bloody hard enough as it is, so what better way than to start the day with something completely freaking gorgeous?

Enjoy!

 

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horror

Review: The Garrison Project by David J. Thirteen

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I had the pleasure of reading the first draft of this story when it was first posted on Wattpad, having already discovered David’s work a couple of years before.

David J. Thirteen isn’t your typical Wattpad writer, with his Dean Koontz vibes and nail-biting edge-of-your-seat storylines, he brings a maturity and brilliance that I believe, he really doesn’t get enough credit for. I’m constantly captivated and surprised by his work, because he has a real gift for twists and an unpredictability which is often very rare these days when it comes to paranormal/horror story-telling.

The Garrison Project is definitely no exception to the rule, particularly considering haunted house/demon possession has been done many times before, but David makes you feel like you’re reading it for the first time, bringing something fresh and beautifully sinister to the story. I’m so glad to see this story published because it really does deserve a wider audience and hopefully one that appreciates just how good a writer he is.

A disturbing, haunting read that I know will keep me awake in the dark for many nights to come!

Five stars!

New Adult

REVIEW: DIRTY LYRICS BY LANA SKY

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I have to I admit that this isn’t my usual kind of read, I’m more of a paranormal/horror kind of girl, but having read Drain Me also by Lana Sky and loving her writing style, I was very intrigued to check out Dirty Lyrics too.

In short, I was hooked VERY quickly and not just because of the hot scenes (and trust me, they’re positively SCORCHING) but because it’s about time we had a heroine who isn’t your archetypal female MC.

Abby Newman is unashamedly sexy, feisty and can give anyone a run for their money in the confidence stakes. She knows exactly what she wants and how she’s going to get it – that is until country star Jason Daniels walks into her life and turns everything upside down. Usually taking the upper hand in all her relationships, music publicist Abby is knocked for six by the complex, brooding Jason who seems determined to persuade her to represent him.

I loved Abby and Jason and I also loved how this didn’t turn into one of those predictable romances, it was complicated and gritty and completely addictive and yeah it has those naughty scenes, but don’t be mistaken in thinking this is like every other ‘erotica’ out there. There’s a damn good concrete plot, intriguing three-dimensional characters and the writing is impeccable as I’ve come to expect from Lana Sky.

A thoroughly addictive five-star read – I can’t wait for the sequel!

paranormal romance

REVIEW: DATING THE UNDEAD BY JULIET LYONS

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Vampires in fiction have been given short-shrift in the post-Twilight years and perhaps in some cases, rightly so, but vampire PNR is still a favourite genre of mine, if the authors can do something slightly different and not wander down the path of well-trodden tropes.

Dating the Undead definitely brings us something new – it’s vampires for the Tinder generation, in a world where we know vampires exists and if the mood takes us, we can even hook up with one through dating website V-Dating.com.

Appropriately named Silver Harris, experiences her first kiss (and first bite) on New Year’s Eve with a mysterious Irish vamp and decides that V-Dating might just be the thing for her and who can blame her, because I think most women would definitely swipe right for male MC Logan Byrne!

As female MC’s go, Silver has a bucket full of sass, is unashamedly open about what she’s looking for in a man, and has the right amount of feistiness without becoming irritating – in short, she’s the heroine for the modern age. Logan is the cocky heart-throb who discovers WAY more than he was looking for, is more vulnerable than he lets on, and who knows he’s met his match with the sassy Silver.

A chance meeting on New Year’s Eve sets the ball in motion for what at first seems to be nothing but a few steamy encounters (okay, more than a few!) but soon transpires into something deeper (pardon the pun) and Silver and Logan discover they are connected in ways neither could have imagined.

Dating the Undead is a fun, hotter than hell read, with characters that I found instantly likeable. It has just the right amount of sauciness, a boat-load of action, and a sprinkle of romance that thankfully doesn’t make you want to up-chuck because of its saccharine sweetness. I enjoyed this immensely and whizzed through it in a day, not wanting to put it down.

If you’re looking for a vamp read that’s not heavy on the angst, and that might leave you needing a cold shower, this one is definitely for you. Highly recommended!

 

paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review: Haven by Lindsay J. Pryor

Writing a spin-off to a popular series can often seem like a no-brainer for authors.

You’ve created something that your readers just can’t get enough of, and of course, your fanbase doesn’t ever want the series to end, but for some authors, you just can’t squeeze any more juice from the lemon and in some cases, probably shouldn’t even try. It takes a certain kind of world-building to be able to pull it off successfully. And you need to be brave enough to sometimes move away from characters that have become well-loved and to whom your readers have become attached to the point where you have to pry them off with a crowbar.

Fortunately for Lindsay J. Pryor fans, Lindsay is both a brave writer and a proficient world-builder, so they have nothing to worry about with her new release from Piatkus Fiction, Haven, the spin-off from the highly successful Blackthorn series.

With the Blackthorn series, we found a world that already seemed mammoth, despite being mostly set in just one of the districts that Lindsay has created – Blackthorn, the dark and dangerous district of the Third Species and any other low-life creature forced to reside there (for those newbies amongst you, the vamps, lycans and cons). But Blackthorn really is just one part of something much bigger, and if you’re already a LJP fan, and have checked out the ‘About Blackthorn’ section on her website, you might already have an understanding in just how huge this world is and how many possibilities there are to create spin-offs and new adventures to appease older readers and hopefully generate new ones. I remember reading Lindsay’s posts about Blackthorn and at the time, thinking how there was so much more I wanted her to write about, so many more tales I wanted to read, and this is why I’m so happy to see Lindsay investigate the Lowtown district with Haven.

For me, a successful spin-off should be able to stand in its own right and that’s just what Haven does. You can read Blackthorn first, of course (and you should read it anyway because it’s all kinds of awesome), but the first thing you should know about Haven, is that if you’re new to LJP, then you’re not going to have to read an 8 book series before you start on the Lowtown book. Yes, there’s a few references to Blackthorn, but you’re not suddenly going to find yourself in a world without a handy travel guide and spend forever wandering around, trying to work out what the Hell is going on.

Let’s meet Ember and Nate. Ember, a waitress in a cafe, is on the brink of gaining citizenship to the district of Midtown, having been through a gruelling and lengthy process to escape the gritty and brutal confines of Lowtown where she’s lived her whole life. She’s crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s and finally, she’s been given approval to cross the border, pending her final medical. Nate is a vampire, and has been dropping by the cafe for months. A man of very few words, he keeps himself to himself, but his elusiveness and air of danger has sparked some interest in Ember, even though she knows she has to stay away from him. Any involvement with the Third Species could have her application torn up before the ink is dry on the stamp of approval.

Her determination to gain a new life for herself seems certain to succeed, that is until she discovers Nate has moved into the apartment across the hall from hers and she finds him close to death in the stairwell of the apartment block. Helping him could risk her application, and Ember has to make a quick decision whether to be compassionate and save him or be selfish and leave him to die.

When sinister forces set to rip Ember’s world apart and threaten the business and lives of her friends, she finds herself on a mission to help them and the only person who she can turn to is her mysterious neighbour, Nate. But is Nate all he appears to be?

With danger lurking around every corner, and time running out, Ember must fight the demons of her past and her feelings for Nate, if she is to make it to Midtown and start a new life for herself, but it seems as if others have a different path for her.

As with all Lindsay’s female characters, Ember is something to be admired. She’s everything we want to see in a female MC – feisty, independent, compassionate but flawed – and I genuinely wanted to see her succeed. I was rooting for her from page one, right through to the end, even if I didn’t always agree with her decisions. As a reader, I think that’s important. I don’t want to see a perfect heroine getting it right all the time and turning into the Mary Poppins of urban dystopian fiction. I want someone real. Someone that I can identify with. Someone that I want to see win. I definitely found that in Ember, she’s vulnerable at times, but has the capability of great strength, and a protective side to her when it comes to those she loves.

Nate isn’t always likeable, particularly to start with. He’s aloof, cold at times, detached, but that is something I like in my male MC’s; one, because it means we root for our heroine more, and two, because again, I have no desire to see Mary Poppins and Bert chim-chiminey-ing across the rooftops of Lowtown, sprinkling magic over the houses and dancing up a jig. I like to feel a little bit torn when it comes to the male MC’s. I want to see tension. I want to see a bit of angst. I want to see two people battling against each other, because let’s face it, it makes the coupling all the more sweeter 😉

I absolutely loved these two. I’m not sure if these characters will pop up again in Lowtown or not, I’m sure we’ll meet new characters along the way, but the important part for me was my connection with them both and that is something LJP always gets spot on. Characters that we love, characters that drive us crazy and make us shout at the pages while reading (yeah, I did that), characters that make us want to keep reading and lament the fact we have to put down the book to go back to our lives/jobs etc (yeah, I did that too). I talk a lot about Lindsay’s skill for world-building, and I hope if you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you’ll just take that as a given now, but we should never forget the power of the characters she creates. The fans all have their favourites (HELLO, JASK!) but there’s something to be said for an author who can change your mind with each book and have you start bumping up new characters to the top of your list, particularly with a spin-off series.

The villains of the book, the powerful and brutal Hordas clan, are a disturbing bunch, seeking out businesses to claim as their own, while crushing, manipulating and abusing anyone who dares get in their way. They’re on a mission to rule Lowtown and their icy ambition left me cold in all sorts of good ways, because let’s face it, we all LOVE to hate a good villain, right? I definitely had all the bad feels when reading their scenes, but again, that’s important, because we shouldn’t feel comfortable when confronted with the bad guys and while I loved Ember and Nate, I hated the Hordas clan in equal measure.

The plot went places I never saw coming and as always, I was left with nothing but admiration for how well Lindsay weaves her web, to the point where we’re never quite sure what path the story will take. The pacing was fast and relentless, the tension was electrifying throughout, the hot scenes were, well, sizzling (as always) and there was mystery and intrigue on every page. It’s been a while since a book got me so hooked that I spent my time in between reading thinking about what might happen next and each time I returned to it, I lapped it up and hoped it would never end. It did, of course and yes, I may have cried a little (although this was mostly due to plot, damn you LJP!).

As always, I’m now left wanting more and counting down the days to a new Lindsay J. Pryor release. This author never disappoints. I love that she never shies away from dark content. I love that she keeps us guessing throughout.

Gritty, relentless and hot as Hell, with new favourite characters to adore and darkness and danger lurking at every turn, Haven is without doubt my PNR top read of the year so far.

If you haven’t yet checked out any LJP books, now is definitely the time to start!

Five stars for this breath-taking, brutal, dark fantasy tale!

Buy Links

iBooks

Waterstones

Amazon UK

KOBO

Amazon US (for eBook)

Amazon US (for paperback)

Amazon ANZ

Barnes and Noble 

Amazon.ca

Indigo 

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dystopian

Not All Are Equal – Gilded Cage by Vic James

It seems like forever ago now when I stumbled across the name Vic James, or as Wattpadders know her ‘JayVictor’.

Having just joined Wattpad, Vic happened upon my freshly Featured short story The Fan, a commentary on the sometimes obsessive and unhealthy side of fandoms, and her name flashed up on my notifications feed.

By that point, I’d become slightly disillusioned with the concept of being a Featured writer on Wattpad, having lost the dizzy afterglow some weeks before, when readers descended upon the story in their thousands. My notifications had blown up and I was lost in a chaos of inane comments that left me feeling despondent and despairing that someone would actually provide some constructive feedback on the story itself, rather than tell me which fandom they belonged to, berate me for the character’s foul language (‘it’s limited vocabulary, don’t you know?’) or to tell me that ‘you spelt grey wrong. It’s G-R-A-Y. Spell things correctly, author!’

Then one day, Vic appeared, and I was surprised (and touched) to discover that not only was The Fan the first story she had chosen to read on Wattpad, but that she had zero interest in telling me which fandom she belonged to and actually had something meaningful to contribute. A spark of something constructive that revived my love for the story and gave me the gusto to dive back into the comments board and interact with my readers. After that, I saw Vic’s name crop up quite a bit on my newsfeed as she navigated her way through the site and I even added her story – back then known as Slavedays – to my extensive To-Read list.

Now, I’m going to be honest here.

Slavedays wasn’t top of my list in terms of priority reads.

I didn’t do dystopian. Dystopian had suddenly become one of those trendy genres and I usually like to avoid trendy fiction as much as I possibly can. Remember when Fifty Shades came out and then everyone was writing about millionaire (or even billionaire) CEO’s with a penchant for whips and red rooms? Or when Twilight became huge and everyone was writing about vampire-werewolf love triangles and imprinting wolves and completely forgot that vampires weren’t always sparkly? Hunger Games…. Divergent …. none of it really caught my attention and so, I tended to avoid anything dystopian. To me, dystopian fiction was like your Great Aunt Gertrude, the one you avoided at family gatherings because she liked to spit on a hankie and wipe your face clean while overpowering you with the stench of lavender and moth-balls.

Yeah, dystopian was my least-favourite Aunt.

But still… I liked Vic immensely, having met her at the very first London Wattpad convention (she asked me to attend) and I found myself wanting to read it, just as I often do when I like the author – call it a sense of author-loyalty, if you like. Plus, the book had picked up a lot of attention, winning a Watty Award in 2014 and I knew that I needed to get past my snobby dislike of trend and just read the blooming thing.

Alas (for me) by then, Vic and Slavedays had been signed up by PanMacmillan and the book was removed from Wattpad (the old cover and prologue is still there) and by the time I wanted to read it, I had to wait just like everyone else. Damn it.

But hey, isn’t it just GREAT when you can honestly say that something really was worth the wait??

With the newly-named Gilded Cage downloaded on my Kindle before Christmas (the paperback is out in the UK on 26th January), I finally managed to secure some read-time and settled down at the weekend to dive in, having only managed to find time to read a couple of chapters when it was first released on ebook.

Shockingly, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, what with work, commuting, motherhood and writing now filling up my schedule but you can rest assured if I put the writing to one side to read – and by read, I mean CONSUME – then you KNOW it’s a bloody good book.

The story focuses on the fate of the Hadley’s, an average family torn apart when they are committed to doing their slavedays – 10 years of compulsory servitude to the Equals, the ruling aristocracy of the land, who rule because they are gifted with Skill, a magical power passed from generation to generation and which sets them apart from the commoners. In a cruel twist of fate, the Hadley’s (almost seventeen year old) son Luke is separated from his family and forced to undertake his slavedays at Milmoor, the grim, brutal industrial slave town, while his mum, dad and two sisters get to serve the infamous Jardines, one of the most powerful families of all the Equals.

At Milmoor, Luke learns quickly, trying to avoid the baton of the security guy Kessler who has taken an instant dislike to him, while also trying to make sure he isn’t crushed by the colossal machinery in the workhouse everyday. Back at Kyneston, the Jardine family estate, the rest of the Hadley’s have seemingly a better lot in life and are put to work serving the strange and powerful Equals.

We soon discover that life isn’t all that it seems in either Milmoor or Kyneston, and both Luke and his family, discover that adapting to their new lives brings more surprises and twists than they could ever have imagined.

The contrast between the grey, dirty almost Dickensian world of Milmoor and the sumptuous luxury of Kyneston couldn’t be more pronounced and I adored dipping back and forth between POV’s, creeping with Luke along the grimy back alleys of the slavetown and then wandering the halls of the Jardine’s stately home with Abi Hadley and her Equal masters. As usual, I am always envious of anyone who writes third person really well, as I really don’t, and Vic definitely nails her characters, giving us just enough tempting insight into each mind to leave us desperately wanting more. The narrative was compelling and I was torn throughout as the story led me through countless possibilities as to who I could trust and who I couldn’t and just when I thought I had it all worked out, I was right back to square one again.

Individual POV’s and plot lines are interwoven within the backdrop of political agenda, secrets and lies and civil unrest, all boiling within this huge cauldron of simmering tension that keeps you turning the page. Added into the mix is the mystery and wonder of the Equals Skill, awe-inspiring and, at times, quite terrifying to behold, in particular I thought, the power of the sinister Silyen Jardine (a particular favourite of mine) and the as yet unknown twisted intent of Lord Crovan (I can’t wait to find out more about him!).

It wasn’t until I reached the jaw-dropping end (and yes, its F-ing jaw-dropping) that I had to sit back and remind myself:

I DON’T DO DYSTOPIAN!!!!

Yet apparently now, I do. Who’d have thought it?

I’m not even going to lie. Gilded Cage rocked my world at the weekend and the truth is, I wasn’t expecting it to, despite the fact there’s been such an industry buzz about this book brewing for months now. Bloggers are talking about it. Industry experts are talking about it. Readers are loving it. I loved it.

If you want a book that’ll have you reeling for days, this is it.

If you’re like me and dystopian fiction is your Great-Aunt Gertrude, or Millicent, or Antonia, read this book. Seriously. Just read it.

If you’re already a big YA Fantasy fan and you’re looking for your next favourite read …well, you catch my drift already, I’m sure.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, this anti-dystopian reader is off to rage at Vic James on every social media account she has, to demand more words. OR ELSE.

FIVE BIG MAGICALLY SKILLED STARS!!!

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Wattpad

5 Reasons I’m Looking Forward To London WattCon 2016

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In 2014, Wattpad held their first London WattCon. I went, and it was so much fun, so of course I had to go to the next one the following year! This Saturday (3rd December, from 11:30 to 17:00), I am attending the London WattCon 2016, and I am infinitely excited. Jess (bookendsandendings) is also a Wattpad ambassador, and is needed slightly earlier, so I’m going with her to help set up.

I used to be completely obsessed with Wattpad. In fact, I used to have a story up on there that reached 10k reads before I unpublished it (it was a story I’d started writing aged 12, I’m sure you can understand why I wanted it deleted from the internet). Now I just like to read on it when I have time, but I still think it’s an amazing platform and love going along and joining in with…

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