A Change Of Schedule

So, I’ve made the decision that for the next month or so, I’m going to be focusing my efforts on my writing, rather than blogging.

This is largely because getting the website off the ground has really eaten up my time over the past couple of weeks. I’ve not been reading or paying attention to my blog, so I haven’t got any posts lined up, or a backlog of reviews to get posted.

It’s also because I’m going to have to work very hard as I start releasing books (book 1 is almost ready to go, book 2 is pretty much a hot mess) as I want to release them one a month. They’re only short – novella length, so it shouldn’t be too tight a frame, but until I get into the rhythm of it, I doubt I’m going to have much mental capacity for anything else.

Which is not to say there won’t be posts here, or on the new website (www.prospectandraven.com – check it out if you’re a fan of horror, science fiction and fantasy stories!) I do have books I can’t wait to tell you about, after all.

But things will not be as regular, and the ‘featured author’ posts won’t return until at least June. I have an idea who I’m going to invite, but I actually have to read their book first. In the meantime, thank you for your patience and your interest in my publishing ventures.

Exciting times ahead!

Prospect and Raven Launch

A departure from the regular schedule today to announce the launch of this:

Prospect and Raven Header

I’ve been talking on and off for FOREVER about actually publishing some of my work. Some of you have even beta read for me. But now I am actually going to do it. No concrete date for a first release – I have to fathom how to format the file and upload it to Amazon yet – but I’m anticipating it being some time in the first week or two of May.

I’ll be sharing a bit more information about the book and the series I’m launching with in the next few days, but in the mean time, I’d really appreciate if anyone who might be interested in fast genre reads would take a look, like the Facebook page and join the mailing list – and share with anyone else you know who might be interested!

Thanks:)

Review: Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

seven ways we lieTitle: Seven Ways We Lie

Author: Riley Redgate

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Contemporary

Received for review from Audible

Summary (from Goodreads)

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—whether it’s Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage; or Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

Review

When I saw that this had seven point of view characters, I was a little dubious. Seven? And it’s an average length YA book, not a massive epic fantasy. Any concerns were quickly assuaged, though, as within the first couple of hours of the audiobook, it was clear that each of the characters was well defined, with a unique voice, and even without the multiple narrators there wouldn’t have been any chance of confusing them.

What Seven Ways We Lie is, is being sixteen/seventeen in a nutshell. I’m British, so I didn’t go to an American high school, but clearly the experiences are very similar, because I recognised so many things from my own life in the trials and tribulations of the characters. The story explores that difficult, transitory period where you are sort of an adult, but also sort of still a kid (as much as any sixteen/seventeen year old would not like to be labeled as such). The ‘romance with a teacher’ plot line epitomises this struggle, and while the story line sounds like it’s going to be sensationalised and preachy – by the emotive nature of the issue – it’s actually handled in a sensitive, morally grey way that further demonstrates what a minefield growing up can be, without lambasting any character in particular.

The character Olivia also provides the opportunity to explore some feminist ideas about female sex and sexuality. At times, I think Olivia came across as a little too mature for a girl her age, but on the other hand, she’d been a mother figure within her family for several years, so it’s not unbelievable that she has a very adult outlook. And as a voice of reason against slut-shaming and misogynistic ideals held by a lot of teenage boys, and perpetuated by society, she’s an important character for young girls. Again, the issues aren’t presented in a way that’s strongly leaning towards one view or another – it’s not a call for promiscuity or abstinence, rather a presentation that either is a valid choice as long as you are making that choice and are happy with it.

In fact, I think that’s my favourite thing about this book – the non-judgemental exploration of teenage lives. Being teenaged is difficult enough, without being told you’re doing it wrong all the time. Even with a character who smokes a lot of weed – something I personally disagree with, though each to their own – I found myself sympathising with his choices, even as I was thinking that, by my moral compass, they weren’t the right choice.

Seven Ways We Lie perfectly encapsulates what it is to be almost grown up. From sexuality, to self esteem and body image, it presents teenage issues in a non-judgemental way, instead exploring what impact they have on characters that are so realistic, you’ll feel like you’ve met them before. Excellent narration from all cast members just made this an even more enjoyable experience. Perfect.

Rating: 5/5

Review: Close Your Pretty Eyes by Sally Nicholls

Close Your Pretty EyesTitle: Close Your Pretty Eyes

Author: Sally Nicholls

Series: N/A

Genre: Middle Grade Horror

Summary (from Goodreads)

Eleven-year-old Olivia has been in care since she was five, and is just beginning her nineteenth placement. Her new home is a secluded farmhouse, centuries old, where she slowly bonds with her foster family. But the house holds dark secrets. Olivia discovers that it was once a notorious baby farm, where unwanted children were left to die. She becomes convinced that the place is haunted. She is desperate to save her new family from the ghosts. The danger is real – but does it come from the twisted mind of a very disturbed child?

Review

I didn’t set out to read this one in order to review it. It’s a book I was given as a gift over a year ago now which, somewhat shamefully, I hadn’t got round to reading yet. So I bumped it up the TBR pile, thinking it would be a quick, fun read. Something I could read for pleasure without knowing I would be sitting down at the end of it, trying to put my thoughts about it into words.

I knew from about the third chapter that I would have to review it. Because if even one person considers picking this one up because of my review, it would be completely worth it.

What looks like a typical Middle Grade horror story, is actually a horror story because of more than just its ghost. It’s about the horror of people, and the things they do to each other, particularly what adults do to their children.

Olivia is a damaged, frightened girl who lives in a state of constant hyper vigilance. While she calls this her ‘superpower’ you start to realise that it’s not super heroics that have made her senses so sharp – it’s that she lives in anticipation of the next person hurting her, physically or emotionally. Her bids to control the other people around her make her a downright unlikable character at times. But at the same time, you completely understand the roots of her actions, the reasons she behaves the way she does. And though you wish for her to just change, just a little bit, to make things easier for herself, you can’t help but think you’d probably behave the same way in her situation.

I like that the ‘truth’ of the ghost is kept ambiguous. Yes, there’s some resolution to the person behind the ghost, but it’s never explicitly stated if the ‘ghost’ that Olivia experiences is an actual phantom, or just the imaginings of her fractured mind – her fears personified as a grisly Victorian woman who murdered children. I like it most of all because in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s a ghost influencing Olivia, or maybe it’s just who she is. Either way, the outcomes of her behaviours don’t change. She’s no less culpable for her actions.

Nicholls mentions in her Afterword that she spent a lot of time researching how children in Olivia’s situation – abused by their families, then shunted from home to home, no one able to take care of such a damaged child – behave. It’s very clear from the writing, and from Olivia’s characterisation, that the research paid off. There’s not a false note in the entire story, and despite the fact that Olivia is unlikable, you can’t help but root for her, feel for her, and love her a little bit. Stunning writing, excellent story, and a challenging, but eye opening exploration of the terrible effects of childhood trauma. Highly recommended to everyone.

Rating: 5/5

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Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

everything everythingTitle: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Contemporary

Summary (from Goodreads)

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Review

If you want to know what this book is like, look at that magnificent cover. Whoever designed that is a genius. It’s not only beautiful, but it perfectly captures the tone, the style, the content of the book.

Everything, Everything is a whimsical, tragic and beautifully written story of first love, broken hearts and devastating secrets. Told as a series of IM conversations, medical files, Tumblr book reviews and first person narrative entries, Everything, Everything explores the strange isolated world of Maddy, locked inside her bubble, and how love is enough to tempt her out, despite the risk.

The voices are authentically teenaged, the relationship between Olly and Maddy every bit as consuming as teenage romance usually is. Things are fast moving, but it doesn’t really matter. You’re swept along by the fast pace of the short chapters, the intensity of the relationship and the loveliness of the writing. It’s a proper ‘sit down and read in one sitting’ book, and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

Yes, I guessed the twist ending from about twenty pages in, but it didn’t really matter. The beauty was in the writing and the journey, and I’d highly recommend this to anyone looking for something a little bit different, and a little bit wonderful.

Rating: 5/5

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Review: Ruin by Deborah Bladon

runTitle: Ruin

Author: Deborah Bladon

Series: Originally published as a three part series

Genre: Erotic Romance

Received for review from Audible

Summary (from Goodreads)

Sitting next to a stranger on a flight from Boston to New York City alters the entire course of Kayla Monroe’s life. In her quest to escape the pain of rejection she jumps into the bed of an irresistible man who offers her a night that she’ll never forget.

Their connection is fierce and undeniable. When their paths cross again, a twist of fate brings her to the realization that the man she’s using to mend her broken heart is Dr. Ben Foster, a compassionate and respected physician.

Warnings about his past threaten Kayla’s future. She knows she should believe the rumors, but the moments she spends in his arms, and in his bed, wash away any doubt in her mind.

She sees a future with Ben but those closest to her won’t let her forget that the man she’s falling for has left a path of ruin in his wake that may impact her in a way she never saw coming.

Review

Ruin gets hot and heavy within a few scant pages (probably, I was listening to the audiobook. But though I can’t remember exactly how it started, having listened to the start a few days ago now, I’m pretty sure there was some graphic sex within the first few minutes) and stays that way most of the way throughout the novel.

It’s not romance for people who like ‘and then they went up to the bedroom’ followed by some mussed hair in the morning. It’s for people who like repeated declarations about characters feeling, tasting and being ‘so good’, don’t mind lots of use of the ‘c’ word (in an erotic, rather than abusive context) and don’t need a lot of emotional build up before the clothes start coming off.

The characters, obviously.

That said, there is a definite story to Ruin. It’s not an erotic novel of the sort that is all sex no substance. Kayla and Ben have their own personal dramas to overcome – dramas that quickly become intertwined, providing some good push and pull between them.

You can tell it was initially written to be broken up into three parts. Even if the audiobook hadn’t said ‘PART TWO’, I could have told you the exact chapter where the parts finished. Which makes for a slightly odd reading experience, as it’s like ‘DUN DUN DUN’ cliffhanger, then immediately you launch into the resolution of said cliffhanger.

It’s not badly written at all, it’s just written for the serialised format (and would work great that way – I doubt many readers would have been able to not pick up the second and third instalments after being left hanging on those endings for a few weeks!) and therefore the story doesn’t follow the conventional structure you might expect from a romance novel. In fact, the story is well written enough that the drama between the characters makes sense, and doesn’t ever feel forced – which is my chief complaint about romance/erotica novels.

No, the characters are well rounded, the sex exceptionally steamy and the drama of the variety that elevates the sexual tension, rather than being there for the sake of it, or worse, detracting from the delicious chemistry that we read romance to for.

Overall, an enjoyable read, with all the right notes to thrill fans of the genre, if a little unconventional in its structure.

Rating: 4/5

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Featured Author: The Seven Deadly Sins

Hello, ordinarily there would be a guest post today, but Riley was too busy promoting her debut novel to do both an interview and a guest post (the best excuse there is, I think!) so you get a Seven Ways We Lie themed post by me instead. Check out Riley’s interview with me here, and learn all about her debut novel here.

The Seven Deadly Sins

Envy

  1. Envy

O, beware, my Lordof jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. ~ Othello, Shakespeare

Envy is the sin of coveting what we do not have. More than just jealousy, it is where the desire for something that someone else has becomes so strong, we are prepared to hurt others to take it for ourselves, or to make ourselves feel better about not possessing whatever it is.

gluttony2. Gluttony

In a way, gluttony is an athletic feat, a stretching exercise. ~ Rabbit at Rest, John Updike

Gluttony, not to be confused with Greed, is the sin of wasteful excesses of food, of eating too much, drinking too much, overindulging, of obsessing about meals.

Lust3. Lust

If they substituted the word ‘Lust’ for ‘Love’ in the popular songs it would come nearer the truth. ~ Sylvia Plath

Lust is the sin of the flesh, of intense and uncontrolled desire. It is the uncontrolled sexuality that leads to unmoral sexual acts.

Sloth4. Sloth

I’ve heard that hard work never killed anyone, but I say why take the chance? ~ Ronald Reagan

Like the animal that shares the name, Sloth is the sin of laziness. It’s not only the failure of man to fill his life with purpose, but also the failure to do things that good men should do. Evil breeds when good men don’t act.

Greed5. Greed

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Greed is the hoarding of personal possessions. It is the excessive desire to possess wealth and physical belongings. It drives men to commit thefts and acts of violence to acquire more than he needs.

Wrath6. Wrath

Men often make up in wrath what they want in reason. ~ William R. Alger

Wrath is the sin of anger, but more than just anger. Anger is controlled, to a point. Wrath is uncontrolled anger – the rage and hatred that a person can feel, that can drive them to violence or self-destruction.

Pride7. Pride

I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine. ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Pride is the sin of over-inflated self-worth and self importance, of believing oneself superior to ones fellow man. It is though by some to be the worst of all sins, as pride can be considered the source of all the others.