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Review: The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

“In The Light Fantastic only one individual can save the world from a disastrous collision. Unfortunately, the hero happens to be the singularly inept wizard Rincewind, who was last seen falling off the edge of the world…”

What I thought:

Why do I always have to struggle to review this series?? It’s not that I don’t take any notes, but it’s hard to do it justice. It’s mad, and there’s magic, and then it’s insane on top of mad, and the humour is rather delightful!

(…Can I go?)

I needed a feel-good read, and this was perfect!

It should be noted that the last time the two of them had seen the city it was burning quite fiercely, a fact which had a lot to do with Twoflower introducing the concept of fire insurance to a venial but ignorant populace. But devastating fires were a regular feature of Morporkian life and it had always been cheerfully and meticulously rebuilt, using the traditional local materials of tinder-dry wood and thatch water-proofed with tar.

The Light Fantastic made me smile on almost every page – I love love love the humour in these books! It’s exactly what I wanted, and I got through it in a matter of days. I know some of you read five books a week (it’s dark magic, right? RIGHT?) but my reading time is limited, so that I didn’t need one week for this one should tell you how quickly I got through it.

I did feel a little sad at the end when they parted ways. I knew that the same characters wouldn’t lead the entire series, but it still felt like something wonderful and truly magical had come to an end when Twoflower bought passage on that ship (or the ship itself, or the whole fleet, given how much he spent on it). I hope to see them pop up again here and there (there’s got to be room somewhere in 41 books, right?) but I’m also excited to see what else awaits in the Discworld <3

“Panic?” said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival; back in the olden days, his theory went, people faced with hungry sabre-toothed tigers could be divided very simply into those who panicked and those who stood there saying ‘What a magnificent brute!’ and ‘Here, pussy.’

I’ll probably read Equal Rights when I’m back from my holiday. I’m a little behind on my goal to read ten Discworld novels this year (so far I’ve read one… *ahem*) so I’ve got to step it up a bit!


Have you read The Light Fantastic? What’s your favourite Discworld novel? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – Beta Readers vs. Critique Partners

You’ve probably heard both terms before, but chances are you’re not sure what the difference is between the two, especially if you’re at the very beginning of your writing journey. How are beta readers different to critique partners? Do you need both?

Let’s recap what we’ve learned about beta readers over the last few months.

Your beta squad:

  • is recruited when you can’t think of anything else to change/when you’re sick of looking at your own WIP (don’t feel bad – we’ve all been there)
  • helps you find the last few mistakes in your manuscript
  • is the last stop before the final edit and publication

Critique partners, on the other hand, can come in at any time, and you likely won’t have as many, either – although that’s up to you, of course!

Your critique partners should be people you trust to be honest since they will likely have a huge impact on your draft. If you have an ideal reader, ask them! Here are some of the things your critique partners can help with:

  • when you’re stuck halfway through writing the first draft, and need a second opinion on something specific, like a plot development or a new character
  • when you’ve edited your manuscript once or twice already, but want another writer to go over it before you send it to betas.
  • when you’ve applied the changes they suggested, but would like them to have another look after having rewritten that one annoying scene
  • when you have any questions about your book at all
  • when you need to bounce ideas before you even start writing

So, you see, unlike betas who come in at the end your critique partner can jump in at any time you need them. And there’s a reason they’re called partners – you should be willing to do the same for them. You could say it’s an exchange of help!

Like your beta squad, critique partners are unpaid. You’ll likely already repay them by doing them the same favour, but if you feel they deserve something extra feel free to treat them. While they are generally unpaid, there’s nothing that says you can’t gift them your book, a voucher, a drink, or whatever you think is appropriate!

I’ve had two critique partners go over Wardens of Archos for me at the same time as my editor did the developmental edit, and I can’t tell you how much my book has changed for the better! Thanks to my editor and critique partners, my draft is so much tighter. By the time my betas get to it, they shouldn’t have too much work to do – but I think we all know how this works 😛

Whether you work with both is up to you, but more feedback can’t hurt and once you’ve found a critique partner you trust and who gets you and your books, you can call on them again and again, knowing they’ll help you change your draft for the better.

And that’s it for the series on beta reading! I hope you learned a lot, had all your questions answered, and feel better prepared for this step now. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please don’t hesitate to ask! Here’s a list of all the posts in this series again, in case you’ve either missed something or would like to remind yourself of a specific topic:

How Do You Find Your Squad?

When Do You Assemble Your Squad?

What Do Beta Readers Do?

How to Work with Your Squad

How to Make Sense of All that Feedback

Don’t worry if you lose this link but want to come back to one of the above posts later – you can easily access them via the Writing Help and Tips page on the left 😉

The next series is all about character creation! If you want to know why weaknesses are just as important as strengths and why you don’t want a perfect character without flaws (among other topics), make sure you keep an eye on this blog!


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Review: Becoming Lili by Julia Blake

“Never has an ugly duckling turned into such a beautiful swan…

An ugly duckling girl, Phyllis is bullied viciously at school and is unloved at home, a lonely teenager, longing for so much more from life …

Suddenly, a random encounter with a stranger, offers her a chance to have it all … if only she has the courage to change, to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

In the years that follow, as her dreams of attaining friends and beauty are realised, others join her on her journey to Becoming Lili. She realises, even when you seem to have everything, sometimes, the one thing you really want, is the one thing you just can’t have.

Becoming Lili is an epic, heart-warming tale of aspiration, friendship and love set against a backdrop of the vibrant 90’s, and is packed full of unforgettable characters you will instantly fall in love with.”

What I thought:

Unloved and unwanted by her own parents and bullied mercilessly at school, Phyllis’ only real comfort is her grandma. When her grandma passes away, she has no one left to love her. You’d have to be a cold monster not to feel at least a little protective of her! I just wanted to give her all of the hugs and make her all of the hot chocolate <3 I found it easy to connect with her, and was absolutely thrilled when she met Amy and prayed that their friendship would last!

Her transformation from Phyllis into Lili was inspiring and wonderful to follow. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I loved seeing how she influenced her new friends in much the same way that one pretty mystery lady influenced her one fateful day in the supermarket. Seeing Lili have such a positive affect on her own friends was fantastic to see, and when Lindy reflected on that it felt like Lili’s story had come full circle. In fact, my favourite scene is at the end when Lili is in the supermarket and feels overcome by a deja vu she can’t explain. It was such an important moment in her life, and that Blake included it was a genius move!

“Boris is another one of Lili’s lame ducks,” continued Kevin.

“Lame ducks?” Martin frowned.

“Lili collects strays,” explained Kevin. “Boris, Lindy, You, Amy and myself, we’re all strays, misfits, broken biscuits in some way. Lili unites us all into something much more.”

Lili has suffered, and knows how horrible human beings can be to each other. Because of this she is the most caring and understanding girl who surrounds herself with others who need the same love she craved before she moved out from her parents’ home (who neither noticed nor cared, by the way).

Lili comes across as incredible believable, and her pain made it easy to root for her. While I questioned her judgement several times, like how quickly she trusted Conrad, I know it’s only because she desperately needed a friend to accept her for who she was, even when she didn’t know herself. The message is clear – it doesn’t matter where you come from or the circumstances under which you were raised; if you want to be a better person, it’s in your own power to turn yourself into anything you want. It might not be easy, but it’ll be so worthwhile! Oddly enough, it also made me want to get a make-over – make-up, hair, clothes, the whole lot. I’m not a girly girl, so when I say that’s odd… It’s odd, friends.

One thing that caught me off guard were the erotic scenes near the end. I wasn’t expecting that kind of plot, which makes this book unsuitable for younger audiences – which is a shame because I think it could have been really empowering to young girls struggling with their own confidence.

The one thing I struggled with was the omniscient POV. Narrators who know everything and switch easily between characters mid-paragraph confuse me too much, and it didn’t work for me here. I’m all for multiple POVs, but not several in one chapter, please.

If you’re looking for a book that’ll make you feel like you can do anything if you just set your mind to it no matter you’re background, I urge you to read this one!


Have you read Becoming Lili, or do you need more convincing? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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A Chat with Dana Fraedrich

Goodness me, it’s been a while since I’ve last hosted an interview! I’m still open to submissions, friends – get in touch if you want to be interviewed 😉

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to Dana Fraedrich, a steampunk fantasy writer with a love for dogs and everything geeky. Today she’s here to talk about Out of the Shadows – and there’s exclusive insider scoop on the sequel, too! 😉

Hi Dana, and welcome to Cookie Break! I’m excited to hear more about Out of the Shadows!

Could you tell us a little about your book? No spoilers, please! 😉

No problem, Sarina, and thank you so much for having me.  I’m very grateful for the opportunity.

Out of the Shadows is a steampunk fantasy story wherein the main character, Lenore, is a thief in the city of Springhaven.  Getting caught would mean very bad things for her, the least of which being a life in prison.  She’s given a second chance at life when she meets the Allens, but that offer comes with its own dangers to navigate.  Lenore has to figure out how she fits into this new identity, all while the shadows of her past continue to pursue her.

Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?

Lenore was having such a good time she didn’t even object when someone took her hand and swept her out to the dance floor. It wasn’t the first time it had happened that night, after all. She turned to whoever had stolen her for the dance and felt her blood run cold. It was Rook! He was dressed as well as any of the other young men there with his hair slicked cleanly back, but it was him without a doubt. Before she could do anything, he spoke sternly through his smile.

“Act normally. There’s more than one Enforcer here.”

Lenore held her smile in place as she went through the steps with Rook.

“I know. It’s Fourth Hawkins, the debutante’s father. One of his Fifths is here as well. Why are you here?”

“I haven’t any other choice. You won’t answer my letters.”

“You really expect me to come and meet you…alone? You must think I’m a complete fool.”

“Look, little bird, I’m trying to help you, so why don’t you stop dodging me and listen?”

Lenore wouldn’t wish an Enforcer’s justice on her worst enemy, so she said, “I suppose I haven’t any other choice…until the dance is over, that is.”

It was a challenge, and she was surprised to see the corner of Rook’s mouth twitch upwards in a genuine smile.

“The Enforcers are looking for you. Not you now, but you from before. They suspect the girl from the gardens is the same one that helped that little pup making eyes at your friend over there.”

“You mean Fifth Sawyer?”

“Of course. They’re furious she got away, though I’m not really surprised. She’s a bit of a firecracker.”

Lenore felt the heat of a blush in her cheeks, and Rook smiled again. This time the real smile stayed.

“The description is muddled, but it’s close enough to make them pursue the lead. It’s doubtful that they can really connect the old you to the Allens, but, if they do, you’ll all go down.”

Lenore’s heart began to pound in her chest. No! It couldn’t be true, but if Rook knew about her…

“Keep smiling, little bird,” Rook said, bringing his head close to hers and resting his nose against her forehead.

She quickly smirked and said, “Why are you telling me this? Why not just leave us to whatever our fate may be?”

“Because I owe your father a debt, and I’d rather risk the Enforcers than an unpaid debt.”

She couldn’t blame him for that. It was how she had come to be with the Allens in the first place.

“What do I do?” Lenore asked softly.

The dance was coming to an end, and she was panicking.

“Meet me tomorrow at midnight behind the pasty shop. We can talk there. Don’t tell anyone you’re coming.” He came close again and whispered in her ear, “Promise me.”

Lenore didn’t have a chance to promise, however. The dance ended. Rook bowed and kissed her hand. She curtseyed appropriately and watched him disappear into the crowd. She would go meet him, but would she keep it to herself?

Do you remember what sparked the idea for Out of the Shadows?

Strangely enough, it was at least partly inspired by a dream.  I think I had already begun to write Out of the Shadows on a lark to see if I could write a steampunk story.  I might have had two chapters at most already written.  I was also reading a book in the Ketty Jay series by Chris Wooding* at the time.  In my dream, a character from Ketty Jay called Malvery was trying to help a woman who was lying in an alleyway.  Her hand had been cut off, and she was bleeding onto the cobblestones.  There was a mad dash to save her, and I saw so much of what would become the city of Springhaven during that adventure.  As soon as I woke up, I wrote the dream down in my dream journal, and the woman from my dream became the character Gadget from Out of the Shadows.

*If you’ve not read the Ketty Jay series, I highly recommend that you do.  I love it so much I named my car after the airship for which the series is named.

(*adds Ketty Jay series to Goodreads*)

What are you working on right now?

I just finished the first draft for the sequel to Out of the Shadows a few weeks ago.  Oh!  Sarina, you get an exclusive scoop!  (EEP!) I haven’t announced this anywhere yet.  The sequel now has a title to go with it too.  Are you ready?  The next book in the series will be called…*drumroll*…Into the Fire!  You heard it first!  So I’m letting Into the Fire marinate, as Stephen King would say, for a few weeks before going back and starting on the next draft.  In the meantime, my life seems to be consumed with marketing and the other business-y parts of being an indie author.

What draws you to the genre you write in? Have you always been drawn to it?

I have always been drawn to it, YA writing that is.  Even before I was a young adult, before I knew what the YA genre was, those were my characters.  I think I enjoy YA best because you can be passionate and intense, where everything is the end of the world (even if it’s just a does-he/she-like-me situation) without having to explain yourself.  I think there are people who see YA as juvenile and self-indulgent, concerned only with boy/girl drama and teenage angst, but I couldn’t disagree with that idea more.  I absolutely believe there’s this false idea out there that once you become an adult and have to start paying bills and doing all those other adult type of things, everything you used to worry about during your younger years disappears.  That’s laughably untrue.  The YA genre addresses all the things that people deal with their entire lives—relationships, facing your fears, fitting in, performing to expectations—but it makes no apologies for them.  It’s more understanding, more forgiving, about those eternal struggles.  I do often find myself bridging the gap between YA and adult fiction, though.  My characters are often a little older.  Late high school/early college age is generally my niche.

Who/what is your writing inspiration?

Oh gosh…everything?  I get ideas all over the place, from conversations, writing exercises, pictures, just looking around me.  Like I said before, even my dreams inspire me.  As for the who’s, I cannot express how much I admire so many of my fellow authors.  My first writing hero was Robin McKinley.  Since then, though, there’s been JK Rowling and Gail Carriger and Marie Brennan.  More recently I’ve been inspired by my fellow indie authors like Beverly Lee, Faith Rivens, Becky Wright, and so, so many more.

What do you do if inspiration just won’t come?

I’m so bull-headed about this, haha.  I don’t think this would work for everyone because it’s a bit like hitting your head against a wall until the wall yields to you, but it works for me.  If I’m really, really stuck, I’ll go to the Plotting page I keep in every Scrivener file and I start journaling.  I’ll write out my problem, what’s happening, why XYZ won’t work, the character’s motivation for that scene, ideas about what I could do, etc.  I’ll write and write and the issue will usually unravel itself during that writing session.  Sometimes I need to break out a timeline because I often have a lot of moving parts in my books.  For that, I go to a big whiteboard I have hanging in my loft and I’ll map out the entire timeline and all the pieces along it.

Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?

I love it when you get into a flow, when the characters are all playing nicely and everything is clear.  It’s in those moments that I know with every fiber of my being that this is what I’m meant to be doing with my life.  Granted, they don’t happen often, not even once a week, but when they do…man, that’s the best thing ever.  (I feel ya, sista!) As for the not so fun bits, that falls under editing.  Guh!  Editing.  Obsessing over commas and torturing yourself over the dialogue.  It’s a struggle to remain focused.  On the plus side, my house is never so tidy as when I’m supposed to be editing.

What is your number one distraction?

Other people, for sure.  Text messages from them mainly.  I get text messages on my computer, so when one comes in, a little notification box pops up in the corner.  Most of the time, it’s a member of my family sharing something fun, so I’ll go to respond.  Then it turns into a full-blown conversation and I’m no longer working on what I should be.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a mix.  I’ll usually start by sort of vaguely plotting out a book.  It’s more of a skeleton than anything because I’ve found that it’s during the writing process I discover what should actually happen in the story.  In fact, I ended up scrapping some huge events that were slated to happen in the sequel to Out of the Shadows because, as I wrote it, I came to the realization that those things weren’t right for the story.  That resulted in the second half of what I had plotted getting completely trashed and me re-plotting it.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee in the morning to kick my butt into gear and then tea in the afternoon (between 2 and 3pm) to carry me through the rest of the day.  And I know this wasn’t part of the question, but a glass of wine or a gin and tonic in the evening to wind everything back down again. 😉

What are the most important three things you’ve learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?

Oh, tough question.  Let me see…

1—Keep writing.  I’ve heard this from a lot of people over the years (most recently Stephen King in his book On Writing), but the first person to say it was a creative writing professor I had in college.  She basically told us to keep writing even when it becomes so hard as to seem impossible (because it will).  Maybe that’s where I got my bull-headedness, or maybe it just jives well with my personality, but she taught me to keep going.

2—Don’t make things too realistic.  My first editor suggested I take out a bunch of stuff I’d included with my very first book, Skateboards, Magic, and Shamrocks, because it was a little too true to life.  I’m glad she did because she was absolutely right; it would have turned a lot of readers off.  I still struggle with that, obsess too much over the exact details of things and get caught up in the weeds of realism.

3—Get involved with a community.  About six months ago I found the Bookstagram/writing community on Instagram and I can say without a doubt that my life, as a writer and on the whole, has been better for it.  All of those lovely people are so encouraging and supportive.  We lift one another up and promote each other’s work.  It’s the best!

(You’re probably sick of hearing this from me by now, but I second this completely and entirely)

What’s your favourite quote on writing?

Sadly, I don’t think I have one.  My favorite quotes change all the time as I discover new ones.  One of the latest ones, I think, is good for battling demons of all kinds, writing and not-writing related.

“Don’t let the hard days win.”

– Mor, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Best piece ever?  Oh my.  That actually falls under another quote I love.

“1. Be Kind. 2. Have fun.”

John Finnemore

I think that’s a pretty good mantra for life in general.

Where else can we connect with you?

I’m on Instragram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr and there’s my website, too.

You can also find all my books on Amazon here.

Thanks so much again to Sarina for having me.  You can show her how much you appreciate her by signing up to her newsletter, Cookie Break. I did, and I use it as an excuse to eat cookies while I read Cookie Break.  Have a wonderful day, everyone!

***

(Why, aren’t you the sweetest! My newsletter comes with freebies, too!)

Thank you, Dana, for stopping by – and thank you for the exclusive scoop! <3

If you have any questions for Dana, ask away 🙂 If she’s compelled you to sign up to my newsletter, there’s a link below 😉


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WWW Wednesday 14th June 2017

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

I won’t have an update in two weeks because I’ll be on holiday (can’t say I’m sorry… 😛 ). Prepare for a monster update when I’m back! I’m planning on doing a lot of reading by the pool <3

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

***

What I’m currently reading

Norma Jean’s School of Witchery: Book 1: Jewel

I was looking forward to this one but unfortunately it’s not quite living up to expectations for me. There are a few consistent issues with it which make it difficult for me to enjoy it, such as the lack of punctuation in speech and the run-on sentences. I’m just over 50% through it now and I haven’t seen any character development, but there’s still time. It’s a shorter book than expected, so I’m getting through it quickly and will finish it tomorrow.

Blurb:

Jewel has a problem. She’s in a witch school and can’t get the most basic spells to work. Her true magical talents must remain hidden. That might be hard to do with a killer on the loose. Murder, mayhem, and magic with a little romance along the way.

***

What I recently finished reading

Becoming Lili

I’m not going to go into too much detail now because my review will be up tomorrow (or you can find it now on Goodreads), but I enjoyed this one! It’s not my usual genre, but it was lovely to see Phyllis become Lili, and affect everyone else around her in such a positive way!

Blurb:

Never has an ugly duckling turned into such a beautiful swan…

An ugly duckling girl, Phyllis is bullied viciously at school and is unloved at home, a lonely teenager, longing for so much more from life …

Suddenly, a random encounter with a stranger, offers her a chance to have it all … if only she has the courage to change, to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

In the years that follow, as her dreams of attaining friends and beauty are realised, others join her on her journey to Becoming Lili. She realises, even when you seem to have everything, sometimes, the one thing you really want, is the one thing you just can’t have.

Becoming Lili is an epic, heart-warming tale of aspiration, friendship and love set against a backdrop of the vibrant 90’s, and is packed full of unforgettable characters you will instantly fall in love with.

The Light Fantastic

This was everything I wanted from a Discworld novel <3 It was a little sad to see things end and people go their separate ways, but I’m hoping some of them will make appearances in later books. I’m really looking forward to what else the Discworld has to offer!

Blurb:

‘What shall we do?’ said Twoflower.
‘Panic?’ said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival.

As it moves towards a seemingly inevitable collision with a malevolent red star, the Discworld could do with a hero. What it doesn’t need is a singularly inept and cowardly wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world, or a well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind (and legs) of its own. Which is a shame because that’s all there is…

***

What I think I’ll read next

The Dragon Sleeps

This is still my first planned holiday read! Once I’ve finished Norma Jean’s School of Witchery I’ll start this one, and I’m really looking forward to it now <3 I haven’t read a mystery novel in a while, and I’ve only heard good things!

Blurb:

A Dragon statue. An ancient sword.

What treasure is worth killing for?

It’s 1927 in Victoria, Australia. A hedonistic time after the Great War
when young people knew they could enjoy life without the threat of war hanging over them. A time when women have more options opened to them.

There is a weekend house party at Thornton Park and Alexandra Thornton thinks it will be a good time to break the news to her father that she wants to be an antiques dealer, like him, her grandfather and great-grandfather before her.

Only a small number of people are invited. Amongst the guests are Zhang Huo,
the Chinese antiques dealer who, with his son, has brought a Ming dragon statue from China for Thomas Thornton.

Benedict Archer, who is manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne and who has
been secretly helping Alexandra learn more about her family business, is also invited. Alexandra asks Benedict and Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, to be with her when she approaches her father.

When Edith claims that Benedict is in love with her, Alexandra can’t believe it.
In all the time they’d been at Thornton Antiques together, he’d never said
a word. Now, Alexandra looks at him differently.
Can it be true?

Then a body found in the orchard and, before the weekend is over, a priceless artefact is stolen. Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are connected to the Ming dragon and the antiques her great-grandfather brought
with him from Hong Kong so many years ago.

What secret has remained hidden atThornton Park for the last eight years?

Reflections

This is my second planned holiday read! I’ve been in love with Morgan’s books since I read Touch earlier this year, and am excited to read a full-length novel by her <3

Blurb:

“Rama would trade almost anything for the chance to become someone else, even for a little while.”

In the small, rural town of Aldale, West Virginia, Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan wants nothing more than to avoid dressing rooms for the rest of her life. After a brutal assault destroys her confidence and self-esteem, she yearns to be someone else . . . someone pretty, popular, and loved—until multiple girls in town are found murdered.

After stumbling across her beautiful classmate’s body and a terrifyingly familiar face in the murderer, Rama encounters a group of shapeshifters who know more of the killings than they let on.

Only by earning the shapeshifters’ trust and becoming one of them will Rama be able to help serve justice.

But first, she must learn to love herself and confront her painful past—and find the courage to investigate the violence.

***

Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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A-Z Name Prompts – N

Apologies for the delay, friends. I meant to have this out two weeks ago but there were problems with my computer screen, and then the following week would have confused my neat and tidy blogging order, so it didn’t happen then, either. And there won’t be one in two weeks, because I’ll be on holiday then 🙂 Unless I’ll get one ready in advance… Hmm… Watch your my Twitter, friends!

This one was written over two sessions, partly on paper and partly right here, and I didn’t edit it a hell of a lot, so be kind and lower your expectations, pwease :’)

Here’s the last poll’s winner:

Thank you to everyone who voted! We’re halfway through the alphabet, so I’ll have to come up with something new soon-ish. I’m open to ideas 😉

As always, if the prompt speaks to you, feel free to use it. If you do, please link back here so I can be nosy! 😉

***
Naida

(f; water nymph)

I was an adventurer, you know. Not by trade or anything – I don’t think you can be – but I loved visiting new places. Seeing the impossible and the ‘dangerous’ was what had originally drawn me away from home and into the world. Over the past year I’d visited all kinds of haunted places, but now that I was almost back home, with my parents, I felt more lost than I had done in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a map and no wifi signal.

I wasn’t ready to go home. I just wanted one last adventure before it was back to the routine, you know? One last rush of discovery and freedom. So when I saw the signpost I’d jumped off the bus from the airport to visit the swamps which stretched out ahead of me now.

The legend went that a girl went missing in the swamps when she ran away from her family, like two hundred years ago or something like that. Her father wanted to marry her to some rich chap or whatever, and she didn’t want to. So she fled to the swamps and lured young men into her lair to spite her father. I didn’t believe the stories but they did add a bit of extra chill, and made any old ruin come alive. Or any old swamp, as it were.

I entered the swamps under the worried glances of the locals, and just wandered for a while. There was nothing specific I hoped to find, I just wanted to see another haunted place before my journey came to an end. This wasn’t the most exciting stop on my list, but it was better than ending my trip and getting a day job, you know? Grown-up responsibilities could wait another day.

I did get a little carried away taking pictures of creepy branches and things like that. I’d studied Photography before I went on this trip, and had taken my camera more as an obligation than an actual desire to document everything, but it had turned into a bit of an obsession. Maybe I’d develop the rolls to find a ghost on one of the frames – you never know, am I right?

As I said, I got carried away. One moment you’re taking pictures of some branches someone had arranged to look like a shelter or something, the next you realise the sun is setting and you have no clue where you are. I took one last picture of the arranged branches to prove that some locals did come here every now and again – probably to freak out travellers – and tried to find my way back.

“Are you lost?”

I’m not proud of the yelp that escaped me when I jumped.

A girl with silver eyes and silver hair watched me with an amused smile on her lips. I knew the locals had been lying! Or maybe she was part of the attraction? I wondered how much she got paid for scaring the wits out of unsuspecting travellers.

She laughed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. You looked lost, is all.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I kinda am. Could you show me the way out of here? Please?”

She smiled, and a shiver ran down my spine. It was the strangest feeling, like her smile was genuinely warm, but something behind it chilled me more than the late autumn weather had done all day. Just odd, you know?

“Follow me.”

I blamed my jumpiness on how idiot-me hadn’t eaten anything all day, and followed her back the way I had come. Or at least I hoped it was. Everything looked the same to me out here.

We were still walking when it got dark. If it hadn’t been for the full moon and the stars I wouldn’t have seen anything but the girl in front of me.

“Perhaps you should stay the night,” she said without turning around to face me. “We’re still a way off, and it’ll only get colder and harder to see. My place isn’t far from here.”

I shivered, but she was right. It was cold and I hadn’t brought a jumper.

“That’s all right, I’m sure it’s not–”

She turned around then, and I swallowed my words. The moonlight brought out her soft, pale features. Why could I see her so clearly when everything else was disappearing in darkness?

“Stay with me.” Her voice was a whisper. Something else was hidden underneath it, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Loneliness? Lust? Hold old was she?

Then she stood right in front of me, and my eyes were drawn to her. I couldn’t look away, and I couldn’t help noticing that she was definitely a grown woman. Probably around my age, actually.

“Stay with me.”

I couldn’t speak, so I nodded. She smiled, and took my hand into hers. It was warm and freezing both at once. Something at the back of my mind told me that was wrong, but I couldn’t– Why was I here again? Wasn’t there something I’d been meaning to do? Somewhere I wanted to go? You know, I couldn’t remember.

“You want to come with me. Isn’t that right?”

I nodded. There was nothing I wanted more. She stepped so close I could feel her legs brush against mine, and leaned against me. Her bright silver eyes looked into my own, and it took my breath away how beautiful she was. Silver hair, pale skin, slender frame. And she wanted me to stay with her. Just me. Us. Alone.

She was so close I could feel her breath on my lips. I’d never wanted to kiss anyone so badly.

And then she kissed me, her lips freezing against mine, and emptiness poured into me.


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Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1)

“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”

What I thought:

Now this was a book I loved deeply end entirely! <3

An Ember in the Ashes follows two POVs: Laia, a slave, and Elias, a soldier. Laia is a scholar girl. Her people was enslaved by Elias’ people, the martials. Completely different in their upbringings and the things they’ve been taught, they were very similar in their desire to be free. I kept wondering how they’d meet, and when they finally did it was just as effortless as the rest of the book. It was so easy to root for both, and Tahir does a fabulous job developing her characters. I loved watching Laia and Elias as they figured out what they really wanted from life, how to get it, and find the courage to do what they believed in. So much love, friends <3

At the back of my mind, Darin’s voice grows fainter: Find something, Laia. Something that will save me. Hurry.

No, another, louder part of me says. Lay low. Don’t risk spying until you’re certain you won’t get caught.

Which voice do I listen to? The spy or the slave? The fighter or the coward? I thought the answers to such questions would be easy. That was before I learned what real fear was.

They weren’t the only great characters, either. Zak, Spiro Teluman, and Cain made for intriguing side characters, and the Commandant was a villain I loved to hate. I’m looking forward to seeing more of them (or the ones who live to see another book, anyway *wink wink*) in the sequel.

This was easy to love. Usually it takes me a few pages to get into a book, but this one I adored from the dedication page! I was constantly worried about what might happen next, which characters would make it to the end, and there were several points where I wasn’t sure how Laia and Elias would survive Book 1.

The background info was given naturally without being over-whelming, and as someone who loves lore and history in fiction I really enjoyed learning about the world.

“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”

I was worried there’d be a love triangle, but so far so very good! Laia is a young woman so naturally she felt attraction towards other people here and there, but generally she was too busy not dying to think about relationships, which was refreshing.

I’m dying to read the sequel, but I’m trying to be good and stick to my no-more-books-until-you’ve-read-everything-on-your-shelf rule. I might have to treat myself when I finished editing my book, though. It would make a fantastic reward.


Have you read An Ember in the Ashes, or do you need more convincing? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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Everything You Need to Know About Beta Reading – How to Make Sense of All that Feedback

Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at how to ask for beta readers, how to work with your eager beta squad, and how to be a beta reader if you’d rather be on that side of things. But how do you make sense of all their feedback? How do you know what to use, and what to discard? You’ll likely receive a lot of notes and once you do, things can get confusing quickly – especially if you leave organising them until the end.

As some of you know by now, I made the mistake of asking twelve betas to help me with Rise of the Sparrows, so naturally I had a huge amount of feedback! Some betas send me large chunks of notes on every chapter, whereas others only send me a few comments for the entire book. I still ended up with 21 A4 pages (typed, not hand-written – now that would have been chaos!), and if I hadn’t organised them from the beginning I imagine I’d have lost my mind doing it all at once at the end.

Please bare in mind that, while this process has worked pretty well for me, it may not do the same for you. If there’s another method you prefer, you’re welcome to share in the comments. I’m sure writers new to this process would appreciate it! 🙂

To start with, I asked my betas to send me lists of notes in emails as they read, rather than one big email with everything once they were done. This allowed me to add to my file here and there, and meant that I didn’t need to apply 21 fudging pages worth at once at the end. (don’t you just shiver at the horror?) Having lists, separated by chapter, also made the organisation itself much simpler.

I created a new document, and added all the chapter numbers with another section for miscellaneous notes at the end. As the feedback came in, I copied it from the email and pasted it into the relevant chapter section in my document. So far, so simple!

Next I colour-coded everything. Here’s a quick summary to give you an idea:

Positive feedback and swoonings

Change, don’t argue

Does this need changing? Come back to this

Questions

Notes

Changes were suggested, but we’ll ignore them

Once changes were applied or I’d made up my mind about everything purple, I changed the colour to a light grey. Here’s what my document looked like by the end:

 

Colour-coding your feedback makes it so much easier to see at one glance how you’re getting on and which chapters need more work. And anyway, it feels good to see all that red and purple turn white!

But how do you know which changes to apply, and what to discard?

It’s simple, really. You want to apply everything related to spelling, grammar, and punctuation – just be smart about it. If you’re British, for example, and your beta reader is American, they might think you’ve spelled ‘neighbours’ wrong because it’s ‘neighbors’ in American English. Unless your beta reader is also an editor, they might get some things wrong.

Opinions are more difficult to sift through, but even those don’t need to be complicated. If a beta says that the last line of Chapter 10 needs something more and you agree that it could do with a little more oomph, you get back to work. If four out of five betas tell you that a specific character didn’t add anything or that the prologue felt like filler, you cut. You may be especially fond of the prologue, or that character might be one of your favourites, but if they’re unnecessary or worse – slow down your plot – you cut them. You may have heard the phrase ‘killing your darlings’? This is what it means.

If, on the other hand, only one beta out of five didn’t like something, you can ignore it unless you agree. Other suggestions you can ignore are those which were meant well, but don’t actually work for your book. You’ll know them when you see them. One beta wanted to see more animals in Rise of the Sparrows, and wanted the ones that are in it to play a bigger part. That’s nice, but it’s not about the animals, so I dyed his suggestion blue and moved on.

Here’s one thing you need to be aware of: if, at any point, you think ‘Yeah, all right, I should probably change that but I can’t be bothered.’ or ‘He’s right, but I’m sick of looking at that chapter now and it’s so much work!’ you fudging apply the changes. I understand being sick of your own words after a while, but never let that stand in the way of a better draft. Not wanting to is never a good enough reason! Take a break, eat a cupcake, drink a bottle of wine by the fire with your favourite movie, and come back to it tomorrow. Or next week; however long you need.

Stephen King talks about this golden rule in his book On Writing: if half of your betas don’t like something and the other half do, you win – meaning you leave it as is. And don’t forget you can always ask your squad if you’re not sure about anything!

Having an ideal reader in mind also helps, so you can ask yourself “What would [insert name here] think?” when you’re stuck. Of course, the clever thing to do would be to ask your ideal reader to be a beta reader or critique partner… That way you don’t have to wonder what they’d think.

In two weeks we’ll look at the difference between beta readers and critique partners – and why you probably want both! 😉

How do you organise your feedback? If you’ve got any useful tips, share away! Or perhaps this is something you struggle with? Ask, and we can figure it out 🙂 Get yourself a tea and a biscuit first – it helps 😉


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Review: The King by Liz Meldon (Games We Play, #1)

“Not all vampire hunters dress in head-to-toe leather and sit on rooftops overlooking a gritty vampire-ridden city. Meet Delia Roberts. At twenty-six, she’s a mid-level hunter with the Harriswood League, and, despite her best efforts, isn’t scaling the hunter hierarchy anytime soon.

Months earlier, desperate to prove herself, Delia snuck into an exclusive vampire masquerade, only to wind up with a bite on her neck courtesy of clan leader and gorgeous vampire Claude Grimm. Fearful of the League’s punishment for succumbing to a bloodsucker’s charms, Delia does what she can to hide the bite and pretends the night never happened.

These days, however, Claude is determined to win her over, insisting the spark they felt that fateful night is worth pursuing. As Delia tries to ignore her steadily growing feelings for the enemy and fend off a mounting quarter-life crisis, vampire clan tensions worsen around the quiet city of Harriswood, bringing with them a danger unlike any the League has ever seen.

One that might change the course of history for good.”

What I thought:

This was one of my most anticipated reads this year. I already liked Meldon’s books, but this one, friends, has put her on my insta-buy list. I was looking for an intriguing urban paranormal fantasy with vampires and kickass heroines, and that’s precisely what The King is. I couldn’t have asked for more <3

I loved the characters, especially Delia and Claude. I already knew both from the prequel novella The Fool, but since novellas are short they didn’t get the time to shine that they had here. Delia is one of the most relatable characters I’ve read in a while. She tries to do the right thing when she isn’t being told half of the details herself, and makes a few bad decisions because of it, usually followed by regret. Who hasn’t been in that situation? She isn’t one of those heroines who just kinda gets lucky a lot, and guesses correctly most of the time. She’s real, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her struggle her way through life with the best intentions.

“Do you want me to take you home?” he asked, gently, like he was speaking to a lost child. Only she wasn’t a lost child. Just a somewhat broken adult, one who needed some time alone with a tub of ice cream, a bottle of wine, and trashy TV to nurse her bruises – on her body and on her ego.

I was actually amazed at how quickly I got through this. I wasn’t expecting a fast read since this isn’t a novella, but I flew through it all the same.

The King also had a villain I loved to hate – although, “villain” isn’t really the right word here, especially compared to the real bad guy. Kain was a twat, and added to Delia’s problems. He tries to do the right thing, too, and he believes in his cause, I just happen to disagree with him on everything 🙂

I don’t normally comment on this, but then it’s not usually worth a mention: The chapter titles were brilliant. My favourites include “CHAPTER 4: That Dream Where You’re Standing In Front of The Class Wearing No Pants…Yeah, That, But Worse”, “CHAPTER 5: I Like You, but You Suck at Your Job (Subtext)”, and “CHAPTER 11: We’re Bad at This.” :’)

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, believable paranormal erotic romance with a kick-ass heroine, you’ve found it! It’s not necessary to have read the prequel to enjoy this one, but I recommend you do anyway because there are some references to The Fool, and because it’ll give you a great introduction to the main characters. I’m waiting for the sequel The Queen now and can’t wait to get my hands on it <3


Have you read The King, or do you need more convincing? Get some cookies, drop me a comment and let’s get this book club going!

I don’t review books professionally. These reviews are mainly a small summary and my opinion on books I’ve loved, they are not intended to be anything more. All ‘reviews’ include a picture, title and name of author linking to the book’s Goodreads listing, the blurb from the back of the book and my non-professional verdict.

For all other book reviews, please take a look here.

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WWW Wednesday 31st May 2017

This meme is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words. A similar meme, This Week in Books is hosted by Lipsyy Lost and Found.

Why not join in? Just answer the following three questions in a post and then put a link to that post in the comments over at Taking on a World of Words.

WWW Wednesday

This meme will be categorised together with my book reviews. All links will get you to the book’s Goodreads listing, as always 🙂

***

What I’m currently reading

Becoming Lili

I’m enjoying Becoming Lili more than I thought I would. It’s quite far from my usual genre, and I admit I’m struggling with the omniscient POV, but I’m always excited to come back to it. Watching Phyllis turn into Lili and gain confidence is a joy! Oddly enough it’s also making me want to get a professional makeover, which is a first :’D I’m a third through it now and hope to have the review up on Goodreads before I go on holiday next month.

Blurb:

Never has an ugly duckling turned into such a beautiful swan…

An ugly duckling girl, Phyllis is bullied viciously at school and is unloved at home, a lonely teenager, longing for so much more from life …

Suddenly, a random encounter with a stranger, offers her a chance to have it all … if only she has the courage to change, to grasp the opportunity with both hands.

In the years that follow, as her dreams of attaining friends and beauty are realised, others join her on her journey to Becoming Lili. She realises, even when you seem to have everything, sometimes, the one thing you really want, is the one thing you just can’t have.

Becoming Lili is an epic, heart-warming tale of aspiration, friendship and love set against a backdrop of the vibrant 90’s, and is packed full of unforgettable characters you will instantly fall in love with.

The Light Fantastic

I wanted something light and mad that I could get lost in, so I decided to continue the Discworld series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this one once before (Goodreads agrees, I’ve rated it four stars at some point) but I don’t remember it very well and I don’t want to skip any. I’m only on page 39 so far but I’m loving it <3 The plan is to alternate between this one and Becoming Lili, so today should be a Discworld day!

Blurb:

‘What shall we do?’ said Twoflower.
‘Panic?’ said Rincewind hopefully. He always held that panic was the best means of survival.

As it moves towards a seemingly inevitable collision with a malevolent red star, the Discworld could do with a hero. What it doesn’t need is a singularly inept and cowardly wizard, still recovering from the trauma of falling off the edge of the world, or a well-meaning tourist and his luggage which has a mind (and legs) of its own. Which is a shame because that’s all there is…

.***

What I recently finished reading

An Ember in the Ashes

I loved this so much <3 An Ember in the Ashes had everything I want from a fantasy book, and I’m eagerly anticipating A Torch Against the Night. So far I’ve been good and have stuck to my no-new-books-until-you’ve-read-everything-on-your-shelf-(physical-and-kindle) ban, but this is making it difficult.

My review should be on Goodreads later today 🙂

Blurb:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

***

What I think I’ll read next

The Dragon Sleeps

I’m going on holiday for ten days in June, and this one’s coming with me <3 It looks like an excellent pool-side read, and it’s a genre I used to devour when I was younger, so I’m really looking forward to it!

Blurb:

A Dragon statue. An ancient sword.

What treasure is worth killing for?

It’s 1927 in Victoria, Australia. A hedonistic time after the Great War
when young people knew they could enjoy life without the threat of war hanging over them. A time when women have more options opened to them.

There is a weekend house party at Thornton Park and Alexandra Thornton thinks it will be a good time to break the news to her father that she wants to be an antiques dealer, like him, her grandfather and great-grandfather before her.

Only a small number of people are invited. Amongst the guests are Zhang Huo,
the Chinese antiques dealer who, with his son, has brought a Ming dragon statue from China for Thomas Thornton.

Benedict Archer, who is manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne and who has
been secretly helping Alexandra learn more about her family business, is also invited. Alexandra asks Benedict and Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, to be with her when she approaches her father.

When Edith claims that Benedict is in love with her, Alexandra can’t believe it.
In all the time they’d been at Thornton Antiques together, he’d never said
a word. Now, Alexandra looks at him differently.
Can it be true?

Then a body found in the orchard and, before the weekend is over, a priceless artefact is stolen. Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are connected to the Ming dragon and the antiques her great-grandfather brought
with him from Hong Kong so many years ago.

What secret has remained hidden atThornton Park for the last eight years?

***

Have you read any of these and would like to chat about it? I look forward to hearing from you if you do – just leave a comment below and we can get this book club started!

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