paranormal romance · PNR · REVIEW TIME · Reviews

Review: Blood Broken by Lindsay J Pryor

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Leila McKay is both blessed and cursed. Her potent serryn powers are growing stronger, but they come with a heavy price. And to prove her love for vampire leader Caleb, she needs to bring his murdered brother Jake back to life. The only way is to cast a spell no one has dared to attempt before, that could tear apart the fabric of time itself…

But Caleb fears that treachery runs deep in Leila’s veins. Although the heat between them grows hotter by the second, Caleb’s past has left him with a hard heart and a mistrustful nature, and it was at her sister’s hands that Jake was killed… but with his brother’s life in the balance, giving in to his primal instincts is more tempting than ever.

Time is running out for Caleb. In a matter of hours, Jake will be past the point of saving: and around them, all-out war rages in Blackthorn. With genetically modified lycans and vicious convicts roaming the streets, Sirius Throme at the Global Council has secret plans that threaten to devastate the whole district… and Leila is the only one powerful enough to save them all. But can Caleb really trust her?

With countless lives at stake, will Leila and Caleb’s fierce attraction be strong enough to see them through the ultimate test? Or in unleashing the darkness within, will they destroy everything they hold dear? 

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It’s fair to say that I’ve been waiting for the last in the Blackthorn series with a bundle of mixed emotions. Any long-term readers of my blog will know that I’ve been a huge fan of this series from the start and have always looked forward to each and every book with nothing but a hefty dose of excitement and anticipation.

When I first discovered Lindsay’s debut novel, Blood Shadows, back in 2012, it felt right up my street. Fresh off a wave of American writers such as Anne Rice, J.R Ward, Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer, it was refreshing to find a British writer of urban fantasy whose talent could rival that of my favourite authors, but who also brought different qualities to the table that could only come from a British voice. Blood Shadows was voraciously consumed and that was it: I was hooked.

I adored the world-building, and couldn’t get enough of the gritty, dangerous back alleys of Blackthorn and of the darkness that seemed to lurk around every corner. I adored the complexities of each third species and how they connected (although many of the connections were not revealed instantly, more drip-fed throughout). Lindsay has always worked on a tried and tested formula similar to that of many of her peers, focusing each book on a new character coupling – and sparking that ever inevitable discussion of which team you’re on and who’s your favourite (don’t even get me started on how many times I changed my mind!) – and as we have progressed through the series, I’ve adored (and been in awe of) how the individual character stories have come together, weaving into a far more complex web of plot than could have ever been predicted at the beginning of my Blackthorn journey.

Almost seven years down the line and each book has brought a sense of anticipation that no other book series has. Truth be told, I don’t get anywhere close as excited to hear of a book release as I do when I know another Blackthorn novel is on its way, so of course, now that book 8, Blood Broken is finally here, while I was just as excited as all the times before (if not, more so), I also dreaded it a little, because, quite frankly, I hadn’t realised just how much I didn’t want this series to end. 

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One of the most beautiful things about a series like Blackthorn is just how invested we as readers become in every character, every plot thread, every small detail. Books like these become a big part of our lives, whether just for the few hours it takes for us to read them (and re-read them), or whether we take those stories with us afterwards, allowing the characters to stay with us as we deliberate what might become of them in the next part of the story.

When stories are this powerful, it’s just so damn hard to say goodbye. 

Of course, there are some that will say that you never truly say goodbye to a book series when you love it that much, because there’s always the opportunity to go back and read again from the beginning and I will certainly be doing just that, because it’s been a couple of weeks since I finished Blood Broken, and I already miss my Blackthorn babies. Sadly, there won’t be the WTF moments from the first time round, but it will be wonderful to go back and feel the familiarity of characters I have come to adore as some of my all-time faves.

Now, this is where it gets difficult reviewing a final instalment of an 8-book series that you love. How can you possibly sum up everything you want to say and feel like you’ve done it justice? In all honesty, I’m not sure that I will be able to.

I’ve touched a little on the complexity of the individual character threads above, but for me, the way all the books were woven together was one of the truly outstanding achievements of the finale. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be, when you’ve focused mainly on one couple for each book, to then bring all of the characters together and not make some of them fade into the background, but somehow, Lindsay manages to make each one shine. Undoubtedly, Blood Broken is ultimately Caleb and Leila’s story, but every single character we have come to love (or hate) plays such a huge part, that none were ever diminished in any way whatsoever. This left me in total awe and added hugely to the pace of the novel, to the point where it felt like one incredible rollercoaster ride that was unrelenting and exciting and nail-biting to the very end. It’s rare to find a book that doesn’t have some ‘slower, perhaps less engaging’ scenes – that always seems sort of inevitable to me – but Blood Broken never tired for a second and it definitely had many of those WTF moments I spoke of earlier, and definitely contained the biggest WTF moment of the entire series (no spoilers!) that left my jaw on the floor and my heart spilling out of my mouth.

I’ve talked in previous reviews about Lindsay’s ability to keep the story unpredictable, because, let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you already know what’s going to happen. It’s hard to get excited about a story where only one outcome is inevitable. As readers, we need unpredictability. We need to be kept on the edge of our seats. We need to torture ourselves with a hundred different possibilities, because we’re all just weird little masochists at heart. Sometimes, we might get an inkling of what’s to come, but not once – and I genuinely mean that – not once did I ever see what Lindsay had in store for our Blackthorn babies. I think I stared at the page for a very long time, wondering WTF I had just read and wondering how the Hell I had never seen it coming. This is the kind of story-telling that makes my little reader heart a-flutter (and my little writer heart filled with jealous awe). I get such a kick out of being surprised by a story and Blood Broken definitely ticked ALL the boxes and then some.

It had everything we had come to expect from Blackthorn – adventure, action, romance, uber-hotness, dark twists and turns that kept me scrolling page after page.

By the end of this book, I was awe-struck, jubilantly punching the air, and sobbing (it’s the END, for goodness sake!!!) In fact, I sobbed that it was over for a good fifteen minutes, only then to realise there were epilogues (yes, people, EPILOGUES. PLURAL) and then I had to somehow gather myself together to read them, before sobbing again with joy and sadness and every other emotion you’re meant to feel when a series you adore has finally come to a close after seven years. For me, it really could not have been more perfect and I couldn’t have wished for a better ending.

With breath-taking, high-octane action, unpredictable story-telling and the plot twist to end ALL plot twists, Blood Broken is undoubtedly the crown jewel in Lindsay J Pryor’s urban fantasy masterpiece. This is a five out of five stellar fantasy book that deserves to be talked about for many years to come, and while I’m heart-broken to see it come to an end, I am so very glad that its been a part of my life for the past seven years.

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sci-fi · THE WITCHING HOUR · Writing

Genre-Hopping & Close Encounters

I wrote a blog post back in February about how I was experiencing a bad case of writer’s block which seemed something more akin to a weird apathy towards writing that I didn’t really understand. That apathy has haunted me so much this year, to the point where despite doing a good job of making it look like I’m working on new projects, all I’ve really been doing is creating aesthetics for each new idea in the hope that it might inspire me to write. Because every story must have an aesthetic before you start, right?

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The reality is that I haven’t really been working on new stories at all. Every time I’ve opened a new WIP or notebook, I haven’t been able to think straight to even start writing, let along manage a single paragraph. The longer this has gone on, the more I think I’ve allowed myself to make excuses about why I can’t write eg. okay, maybe I’m done with it, maybe it’s done with me, maybe I’m not really a writer, blah blah blah – you know, all the woe-is-me shite that gets to us all at some point.

At the weekend, however, I had one of those rare epiphanies (I don’t get them that often, trust me): I realised that I’d convinced myself so much that I couldn’t write that I had started to believe it and that, in essence, I was failing myself. What if instead of not being able to write, I had just made myself think I couldn’t do it, thereby allowing myself to give up before I’d even tried?

So, I went back over all my new story ideas and decided I would just pick one and start writing something. Anything. It really didn’t matter what to be honest.

The result? The one I ended up choosing was by no means the story that I ever thought I would write.

Why? Because it’s a genre I’ve never written before.

Now, I know many writers who hop genres. I know writers who hop genres to jump onto an emerging trend or because it’s a more lucrative and popular option. I know writers who hop genres because they’re just bloody good at writing anything they choose to write. I know writers who hop genres because they want to experiment with something different and end up finding they’re in love with writing that new genre. I’ve always looked at those writers with something close to awe, because I’ve tended to stick to the same genre – urban fantasy with a touch of horror or just horror.

I read far more genres than I write, and the older I get, the more genres I discover I like. There are definitely genres I’ve always wished I could write in based on my reading choices. Fantasy is one, thrillers and domestic noir are also genres I love. However, I never thought I would be drawn to writing sci-fi and yet, that’s the one I picked. It was definitely a late-runner in the new story idea stakes and came about mostly from my love for sci-fi films. I’ll be honest here, I don’t read a ton of sci-fi, but I love sci-fi movies, particularly anything alien-related. The Alien movies are some of my all-time faves. I was obsessed with the TV series, Taken. I grew up on a diet of Spielberg and stories of little grey men. I loved anything remotely linked to alien abductions and yes, I loved that cute little alien and his best mate Elliott. DO NOT JUDGE ME!

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Of course, I’m not writing about cute little aliens, but I am strangely excited about this new project despite it not being the one I ever thought I would opt for. I started writing at the weekend, making brief starter notes, then managing to get one very short chapter down that I surprisingly felt really good about. I have no idea whether this one will work out and whether it’s the next big project, but, right now, it feels right and it’s given me the kick start I needed to not only write something, but to also feel inspired about writing again.

Are you a writer that swaps genres? Are you a writer that wishes they could write in a different genre? If so, what genre would you like to write in? Are you a reader who’s recently discovered a new genre that you really love?

Drop me a comment and let me know!

 

THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

The Wattpad Dimensional Hole and How to Climb Out

If any of you are Hedoschism readers on Wattpad, you’ll already know that my main man Ethan Drake has an ability to open up dimensional holes and shove his unsuspecting victims into a void worse than being thrown into an oubliette in Jareth’s Labyrinth.

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If you happen to be a writer on Wattpad, you’ll also know that sometimes posting stories on there can be a bit like throwing them into a void of no return. With over 65 million users, over 400 million stories on the site, and new content being uploaded every minute, it’s no wonder that the idea of just posting on there can be daunting, let alone trying to tackle the fact that you’ve got to somehow make yourself and your story visible in a sea of 400 million.

Users are looking for all sorts of different reads and sometimes, when browsing the hot lists in each genre and checking out some of the more popular stories, it’s often a mystery as to what those stories possess that have earned them the numbers of reads/comments/votes that they have. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s a fucking conundrum that can NEVER be explained and is often the reason why Wattpad gets such a bad rap from those in the industry and from ardent book readers who see it as little more than ‘that place where kids write terrible fan-fiction’ (and I’m just repeating here, not confirming, as I know there’s actually some bloody good fan-fiction on there AND some amazing teenage writers who are a damn sight more talented than I am).

The problem here is that when there appears to be no magic formula on why a story has become popular on Wattpad (because bad plot/character development/structure/grammar appears not to be a deciding factor in many cases) it’s difficult to know just how to get the reaction you want. Of course, you could just opt for the easy route and chuck in a few ‘Slave to the BTS Vampire Kings’ or ‘Jungkook is my Step-Brother and My Lover’ (rewind a few years and you could replace with One Direction and Harry Styles) and yes, the chances are, if you appeal to a fanbase, then you could find what you’re looking for. However, there are plenty of writers posting original fiction who are struggling to find their place and, apart from requests for writing advice (to which I rarely feel qualified to give) I would say the number one question many new writers ask me, is how do you get noticed on Wattpad? How do you gain reads? How did I do it?

I’ll be honest. Usually when people ask me this, I send them in the direction of a couple of other trusted writers on the site who have penned some fantastic guides for new users. Katherine A. Ganzel has a great book called simply How to Get Reads, Votes and Comments – A Guide and Lauren Palphreyman has posted a book called 11 Ways to Wattpad Like A Pro. Everyone needs a little helping hand when they join Wattpad and trying to work out how to get off the starting line can be hugely confusing.

The short answer to these questions is: interaction is key.

I’ll never forget one user asking me to check out his work and throwing a passage from his WIP into my DM’s, and when challenged as to his method of going about getting people to read his story and what he does to interact in a more positive way with other users, he very confidently told me he ‘didn’t read’ and therefore didn’t see why he had to read other people’s work, because – I kid you not – he didn’t need to read to be a good writer. I mean, HELLO WHAT?

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Let me tell you something I do know with absolute certainty: refusing to read other writers’ work and believing you’re somehow above that kind of interaction is just plain wrong. I’ll die on this hill. Aside from sounding like a total arse, you’re also denying yourself the chance to be part of an amazing community AND gaining yourself readers along the way. When I started out on Wattpad, I was completely new to the writing community. I’d posted on here a little bit and made a few contacts via Twitter, but that was it. On joining Wattpad, I simply hoped that a few people would read my stories, but what I discovered was there was a whole world of amazing fiction that I just wanted to READ. Forget writing for one second. Put that aside, along with the terrible fiction that no doubt does exist on the site, and think about all the brilliant stories that ARE on there. The first thing I did was add a shit-tonne of books to my reading lists and began reading the ones I loved the look of the most.

Now here’s the thing – some of those writers read my books. Some didn’t. Some of the people who were also reading those writers’ books, began to read mine. Some didn’t. I discovered some of those readers were also writers and I added and read their books. And so on, and so on. It’s a never-ending circle of discovery – you find new writers you love and you gain a few readers along the way.

That kind of interaction – without agenda, just a desire to be part of a growing community of people who just fucking LOVE books was the first thing I discovered about Wattpad and it was also how I accidentally gained my first readers, some of whom are still with me today. It really is all about how much you want to get involved with the community and how much you want to put in to supporting other writers and connecting with readers who love all the same stuff that you do.

But… now here’s the other thing, and it was something I alluded to in my previous post Wattpad and The Art of Letting Go : you can read all the guides that you want, you can listen to advice and follow all the steps to the letter, but it’s no guarantee of success and certainly no guarantee of gaining the number of reads that you want. I say this with conviction, because with over 23k followers and over 6 million reads across my stories, I STILL find it hard to gain new reads. I’ve done most of the things the guides tell you to do. I’ve had successful stories. I’m part of the Wattpad Star program and this year won a Watty award. But YES, I still find it bloody difficult to gain reads.

Take Hedoschism as a prime example. It has 2 Awards under it’s belt, was the Wattpad HQ Read of the Week and was added to the Featured List, but it’s still taken me over a year to accumulate 165k reads. Now, compare that to Playing Dead which gained a million reads in the same amount of time. If you have any idea of how much time I’ve spent agonising over the slow uptake of Hedoschism and wondering why it hasn’t inspired as much reader interest as Playing Dead, I think you’d be surprised. But the truth is, I’ve really bloody agonised over it, so much so that I’ve thought about giving up at least a few times on a weekly basis and have severely doubted whether I should even stay on Wattpad as a result. Even after the Watty 2018 win, which saw very little uptake in readers, I have wondered what the heck I am doing pretending that I’m even remotely capable of writing a story that will hold a reader’s attention. (At this point, I’m completely aware some people will tell me that 165k is still a good amount of reads and there are many people who are on far less, and let me say, I understand that, but rather than focus on the figures, I’m simply making a case for the fact that just because you achieve a certain amount of reads doesn’t guarantee you the same again, and to try and prove that even those of us writers who you might think are complacent about reads or don’t care about stats, still agonise over them and doubt our own abilities just as much as anyone else.)

Rest assured, this is in no way a cry for sympathy. I don’t want that, because I know deep down that thinking in this way is complete and utter bullshit. I know it. And that’s not me blowing my own trumpet, or telling you I think I’m the dog’s danglies, because I don’t believe that either. What I am saying here is that to measure your worth as a writer by the number of reads you’re getting on Wattpad is, quite frankly, a one-way trip to Anxiety Central. Why, you might ask?

I’ll repeat what I said earlier: 65 MILLION USERS. 400 MILLION STORIES.

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Do you have any idea of the likelihood of becoming one of those lucky ones who has millions of reads and millions of followers? Or even hundreds of thousands?

Think logically about it. 65 million users across 400 million stories. Do the maths. Honestly, do it. It might make you feel a bit better.

If you’re not getting that level of reads, it does NOT mean that you’re not a good writer. It does NOT mean that the content you’re publishing is not bloody brilliant. It just means that the maths is counting against you. I know so many amazing writers who don’t get the reads I think they deserve. I know writers who didn’t get those level of reads on Wattpad, but who’ve gone on to have publishing deals, or who have self-published with great success. I’ve known writers who’ve moved to different monetising platforms and gained the traction they never had on Wattpad (disclaimer: I’m not endorsing those sites, but what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another and you gotta do what you gotta do, right?). The point is that the number of reads do not equal your self-worth as a writer nor do they validate your talent.

You want to know the key to writing on Wattpad? Start looking at realistic, personal goals and using the site to achieve those. Maybe your book doesn’t have many readers. Maybe you’re nurturing a small group of dedicated, loyal followers who’ll give you quality feedback. Maybe they’ll be the ones that help you become a better writer, offering advise and support. Maybe they’ll even become your friends – your community. This doesn’t have to be a community of thousands or even hundreds. It could be 5. It could be 20. It doesn’t matter. What matters is building your own community, while also improving your skills, and learning to be a better writer. Maybe you’re looking to try a new genre and want to test the waters? Maybe you have never posted your work online before and want to see if just one person will read it and love it? Start small. Nurture what comes out of that. HONE YOUR CRAFT (I can’t say that enough). Take care of your readers and they will take care of you. Keep those goals with you throughout your time on Wattpad. Remember what it was you set out to achieve and don’t lose sight of that.

Don’t be the writer I became. Don’t chase reads and then beat yourself up when you don’t get what you think you deserve. Don’t crave attention as validation of your art.

You are worth more than the number of your reads. 

 

 

THE WITCHING HOUR · Wattpad · Writing

Wattpad and The Art of Letting Go

This year marked my 6th year writing on Wattpad, and, it has to be said, it’s been quite a year.

Two of my works were added to the Featured List and saw a burst of reader reaction, one was made the Wattpad HQ Read of the Week and… finally, I somehow managed to win a Watty Award for my urban fantasy standalone, Hedoschism – a win, which was likened by one lovely and very funny reader, to Leonardo Di Caprio finally winning an Oscar 😉

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It’s been a fabulous 6 years, with Playing Dead (the first instalment of The Whitechapel Chronicles) reaching the coveted #1 in the vampire hot list, my short story The Fan getting Featured and hitting #1 in the short story and horror hot lists (back in the day when you could dual-categorise your works) and 3 Wattpad Star program commissioned short pieces for both the A&E TV network and Universal. While these are a drop in the ocean compared to what some Wattpad writers have achieved, to me, these were things I never dreamed I’d accomplish, particularly back in the day where the only place I ever published any of my work was on this very blog (affectionately known as the Tumbleweed Days.)

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However, while all these things are amazing, the best thing Wattpad has ever given me are my readers.

I joke-boast quite a lot on social media about how my readers are better than everyone else’s, but in truth, I do happen to think it takes someone quite special to be a reader of mine.

I’m not an easy writer to follow.

If you read my work on Wattpad, you would have needed a bucket load of patience to put up with my sporadic updates over the years, whether you joined me for The Whitechapel Chronicles – which was a 3 year labour of love, masochism and sobbing – or for my latest work, Hedoschism – which was meant to be my ‘easy-peasy’ standalone, that I was going to crack out in a few months, but ended up taking just over a year to complete.  The thing is, I GET IT. I do. Whether you’re buying a book from the store or downloading onto your Kindle, the chances are you’re not going to take a year to read it, so why wait a whole year for a book to be completed on Wattpad? I’m not even sure I do this, so why expect it from my readers?

The short of it is, I don’t, and I totally understand why I’ve lost readers along the way. I lost some during Whitechapel and I lost more during Hedoschism. I knew it was going to happen. I don’t have the kind of lifestyle that allows me to write as regularly as I’d like and sometimes it can be 3-4 weeks before I manage to upload another chapter, so readers are bound to get fed up waiting. Of course, there are many readers who do stick it out and they make sure they are there every time I update and I’m in total awe of their patience and endurance. They’re freaking superheroes to me. Also, it’s been lovely to see readers waiting for the book to be completed before diving in and then binge-reading until they’ve finished it – I’ll never get bored of seeing that rush of votes and comments and the warm, fuzzy feeing it generates to know you’ve captivated someone so much that they’ve given up a couple of their days to read all the way to the end.

And that, is really the crux of it all for me.

After six years, I still get a kick out of reader comments and a kick out of the interaction you can have with your readers on Wattpad. You upload a chapter and you get instantaneous feedback. After spending hours and hours slogging away at your writing, to be able to upload and get that appreciation and love, is immensely gratifying. It makes you feel like all the hard work was worth it. You might not be getting paid for it, as you would do if you had just made a sale on Amazon or in the bookstore, but for most Wattpad writers, it’s not about the money anyway. You’re on Wattpad to be part of a community, to hone your craft, and ultimately, to be able to engage with your readers in a way you can’t as a published writer. For a Wattpad writer, there’s nothing quite like watching the comments and votes and reads stack up against each chapter you upload. (Of course, this is a double-edged sword for those who aren’t getting the reaction they desire and can lead to a lot of disillusionment about their work as they seek validation through reader reaction, but I’ll leave that convo for another blog post.)  

Reader reaction is addictive and it’s what saw me posting Hedoschism when I was only a very short way through writing it, despite the fact, I SWORE after finishing the Whitechapel Chronicles that I wouldn’t post anything new until I was about 25-30 chapters in. Writing the third and last book of Whitechapel became a slog. The pressure of knowing I needed to update to keep my readers engaged meant that I struggled to write, and when I did, the quality took a nose dive or I would binge-write 5000 words in one day and then spend the next 2 weeks exhausted and sick of the sight of my own manuscript. In truth, writing online serialised fiction is not the healthiest way to write when you need to stick to a decent schedule. I found it harder and harder to dive back into my work each time I updated and it was much easier to lose interest and fall out of love with my story. Procrastination becomes a preferred past-time and I became a bit of an expert at it.

When I started Hedoschism, I promised myself I wouldn’t put myself through that kind of writing experience again. I was going to wait. I was going to work offline and then upload only when I had a significant chunk completed, but then, the inevitable happened.

I went through a Wattpad-reader withdrawal.

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Comments and reaction on Whitechapel had started to dry up as readers completed the series and I was left with… well, not much happening, if I’m being honest. Suddenly, I craved the attention again. I wanted to know that I hadn’t disappeared into the void and become a Ghost of Wattpad Past. And, much like social media junkies, I feared becoming irrelevant. Invisible. I worried I’d be forgotten and that when I did finally decide to upload a new work, no one would even care anymore. So, what did I do? Well, I made the fatal mistake of uploading a few chapters and plunging myself right back into the mire of feeling the pressure to update, knowing I couldn’t keep up with any kind of schedule and generally feeling miserable again about my writing.

I love Wattpad. I do. I appreciate everything I’ve achieved there. I appreciate every opportunity HQ have given me. I appreciate every single reader who takes time out of their day to support me, whether they’re vocal or silent. But, the sad facts are, that I have to learn the art of letting go of the buzz of instantaneous reader reaction. I have to let go of my addiction to it. If I am to do anything with my writing, I have to devote time to it. I have to nurture it a bit more. If I am to continue on Wattpad, I have to upload stories in a way my readers deserve and that means regular updates and a more dedicated schedule. I want to be in a position where I can say, ‘here you go, here’s a chapter and there’ll be another tomorrow and then another the next day.’

And, so, I’ve decided – with a bit of a heavy heart – that I’m going to take a step back and write my next full-length piece completely offline. I have a queue of ideas I am desperate to start working on, including one that’s been on the back-burner for months now, plus a couple of genre-swap stories that I fancy trying my hand at. I’m not withdrawing from Wattpad – I could never go completely cold-turkey – as I’m still going to post a few bonus chapters and maybe some short stories here and there, but there won’t be another novel until it’s done and dusted offline and ready to post in its entirety.

I’m hoping – praying – that this will kick start an increase in productivity and will help me fall back in love with the writing process again. I know it’s not going to be easy. Like I said, my readers ARE the best (and this is the hill that I’ll die on) and Wattpad is an addiction I’ve had for 6 years, but I’m determined to be a better writer and provide better content.

If you’re one of my readers, I love you – thank you for an incredible 6 years so far!

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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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paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review Time! Blood Bound – Lindsay J Pryor

blood-bound

Sequels are tough to write, there’s no doubt about that. Writing a sequel to a successful, well-received, debut novel is even tougher, but when you are seven books into a series? Even some of the most famous writers of the past forty years (I’m naming no names!) can struggle with that kind of pressure, so for Lindsay J Pryor to still maintain the adrenalin-filled, fast-paced buzz of her four-year old debut Blood Shadows is seriously no mean feat.

There’s always something rather wonderful about discovering a new author when they debut, diving headlong into the pages of a book that seems so fresh and exciting and knowing that you have found a new fictional world and characters that will go down on your all-time favourites list, and it’s been an absolute pleasure over the past four years to stick with Lindsay’s Blackthorn series and feel the thrill of an imminent new release. But, to be fair, I could have said that about a lot of authors over the years, because debut novels and new literary voices are always exciting – the difference with Blackthorn, is that Lindsay’s writing just seems to get better and better with each new book in the series. With each book, the tone gets a little darker, Lindsay gets a little braver with just how far she’s going to push her readers and there’s nothing I appreciate more than a writer who is willing to not just push the boundaries, but to hurdle right over them, not to be controversial, mind you – because it has to be right for the story – but to take a story in a more challenging and unpredictable direction.

Blood Bound starts where we left off in Blood Instinct, with the war mounting between the third species and the effortlessly twisted Sirius Throme, who seems to know just how to outwit his enemies at every turn. Forced to try and find a way out of Blackthorn via the tunnel system and now faced with another potential threat much closer to home, Eden, ex-Curfew Enforcement Officer and angel envoi Jessie embark on a mission that threatens to tear them apart forever.

I’ll admit that of all the Blackthorn pairings, Eden and Jessie were never really my favourite, having had my heart claimed already by Jask and Phia (swoon Jask!), but I have to say that Lindsay really turned my head with these two in Blood Bound. At times, the imagery that exploded out of the pages was hard to ‘watch’, particularly with the short, choppy chapters that Lindsay uses so well that you can’t help but feel like you’re watching a movie, seeing the action switch back and forth at speed between the characters, but I realised partway through that I was wincing and shifting uncomfortably in my chair much more than I would usually, because I’d grown to really love Eden and Jessie as characters. I saw depth here that maybe hadn’t captivated me the first time round in Blood Deep. I felt connected to them in a way that hadn’t been obvious to me before and it wasn’t long before I wished I could reach in and save them both, even if it was strangely and morbidly fascinating to witness all the trauma and horrors that both were forced to experience.

In all honesty, I had thought to myself prior to reading Blood Bound, that to have Eden and Jessie as the focus in the penultimate book was possibly going to be hard work for me, but as usual, in her own inimitable style, Lindsay has once again pulled me in and reminded me just why Blackthorn is still my favourite PNR series of all time.

The hot scenes were hotter than ever. The action scenes were gripping and edge-of-your-seat rollercoaster rides. And just when you think Lindsay can’t surprise you with any more plot twists, you get hit between the eyes by some new, jaw-dropping revelation that has you reeling because you just never saw it coming. Seven books into the series and I am still, completely and utterly addicted to Blackthorn. That, my friends, is testament to great writing and that is why you should all pick up this series today and fall in love just as I and many other Blackthorn fans have.

Blood Bound is a heart-racing, soul-pounding instalment and thoroughly deserving of five shiny, sparkling stars!

paranormal romance · urban fantasy

Review time! Blood Instinct by Lindsay J Pryor

Logging onto my WordPress blog in what was simply forever, I couldn’t help but smile when I realised the last blog post I made was a review for Lindsay J Pryor’s last instalment of the deeply delicious Blackthorn series. I should, of course, blog here more often, but if I only ever venture into the world of WordPress to review Lindsay’s books, then that’s totally fine with me and well worth the visit. 

So in my last review of Blood Dark, I made a point of declaring that it was Lindsay’s best work to date and that no doubt, I’d be saying the same thing for the next release and guess what? Yup. I was right. I’d love to say that I hold some supernatural psychic abilities to predict the future and THAT’S how I knew the sixth instalment in the series would be the best yet, but I’m afraid it has more to do with Lindsay’s talent and far less to do with my superhero spidey senses. The plain facts are that Lindsay is to writing, what Helen Mirren is to acting – a freaking do-no-wrong goddess!!! 

Having been a fan since Blood Shadows, I don’t think I could ever have predicted just how the story would unfold. For me, it’s gone from a dark and gritty paranormal romance set in the dangerous backstreets of a fictional world, to something that has reached epic proportions, where the sizzling relationships between our characters sits alongside key themes of social inequality, segregation, prejudice and supremacism. Now I know that might seem a little heavy for your average PNR, but the facts are that Blackthorn has NEVER been your average PNR and I believe, it’s part and parcel of what has kept me desperate for more after each release. What’s intrinsically powerful about Blackthorn is that it creates incredible empathy and passion in its readers – the world that Lindsay has created in Blackthorn, with its devilish politics, power plays and twists, had made a massive difference to the allure of the series and Lindsay’s world-building skills, in my opinion, are not praised nearly enough. Yes, we know she can write captivating characters. Yes, we know she can write hot scenes to rival JR Ward. Yes, we know she can inspire FEELS by the bucketload. But it’s the world that she has created behind all that, which provides the whole backdrop to the story – this is what makes it so blooming REAL. Quite frankly, open up a Lindsay J Pryor book, and you’re opening up a three-dimensional feast for the senses and if you’re going to step into that world, well, you’d better be prepared to start running because the action in Blackthorn never stops. 

This is definitely the case with Blood Instinct. Back to everybody’s favourite lycan, Jask Tao (he’s certainly mine!) and his partner Sophia, we find Jask battling to prevent his pack from being unjustly slaughtered by the powerful political forces at work in Blackthorn, while Sophia is battling forces of a very different kind. I loved the dark turn their relationship took in this book, it was at times difficult to stomach but captivating none-the-less, when being together became far more risky for them – Jask and Phia have always been effortlessly hot, but Blood Instinct takes things to a much darker and more gut-wrenching level. Combined with the ever present threat of the vampire prophecy and the sinister presence of the fourth species lurking in the shadows, the action in this book was so exciting and so thrilling that I almost wished I could strap myself in, just in case I fell off the sofa in shock of it all. In fact, I’m not even sure how I managed to reach the end without turning blue and passing out, because I definitely felt I should be holding my breath throughout!

As usual, I’m not going to say too much else regarding the plot, mainly because by book six, it’s REALLY hard to discuss without hitting everyone around the face with big fat spoilers, so I’ll just say that if you want an intoxicating read that will leave you breathless and reeling for days afterwards, then Blood Instinct is the book for you. 

Just don’t forget the safety harness. 

Five beautiful big glittery stars for this wickedly wonderful read! 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Instinct-Blackthorn-Paranormal-Romance-ebook/dp/B01DWURCFU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1462481615&sr=1-1&keywords=blood+instinct+lindsay+j+pryor