Happy New Year! I hope you all enjoyed the festive season and have jumped back into the new year with gusto! Here is my first week in review of 2018!
You will notice I’ve given the blog a makeover! I’ve been planning this for a while and I hope that you like it as much as I do!
I’m currently beta reading two books for author friends so I’ve slowed down on my normal reading a little while I work through those beauties, and beauties they are! I’ve also put my writing on hold while I work through these two books. My first book is also with my wonderful editor now as well and I’ve started working on her marketing strategy for her as part of the skills exchange we agreed to in lieu of financial payment.
I’ve hopefully got my asthma issues on the right path to being fixed now. I’ve been given a new inhaler which I’ve been told is particularly good for people with exercise induced asthma who do a lot of exercise, which apparently I qualify for these days! I’ve only been taking it a few days so we will see how it goes but I’m hopeful. I’m now running every day, and back to my classes, three per week and although the asthma is still kicking my butt I’m pushing through.
Yesterday I went to a taster day at a dance studio in Bristol, trying out things like pole dancing, burlesque, and chair dancing. I have never been good at dance, I have no co-ordination, I’m not flexible, and I have no rhythm at all, so I had no idea what this day would be like. Six classes down I’m aching like you wouldn’t believe and covered in bruises but I had so much fun. I can also confirm that I cannot twerk or pole dance to save my life but I was pretty good at burlesque and chair dancing…who’d have thunk it?!
The Ninth Rain has fallen. The Jure’lia are awake. Nothing can be the same again.
Tormalin the Oathless and the fell-witch Noon have their work cut out rallying the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for three centuries. But these are not the great winged warriors of old. Hatched too soon and with no memory of their past incarnations, these onetime defenders of Sarn can barely stop bickering, let alone face an ancient enemy who grow stronger each day.
The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists – a distant island, mysteriously connected to the fate of two legendary Eborans who disappeared long ago.
But finding it will mean a perilous journey in a time of war, while new monsters lie in wait for those left behind.
Join the heroes of THE NINTH RAIN as they battle a terrible evil, the likes of which Sarn has never known.
I have been anxiously awaiting The Bitter Twins, desperately wanting to know what happens next in the story that Jen Williams so masterfully started weaving in The Ninth Rain. At the beginning of The Bitter Twins, Williams catches us up on where everybody is successfully without needing to do a recap chapter which I really like about the way she writes.
We move around the characters in this novel who are mostly separated fighting different battles, investigating different avenues, and discovering new things to help in the fight against the Jure’lia. Then of course we have Hestillion who is now with the enemy, will she fight back or will she cross over? I didn’t like her much in The Ninth Rain but her personality develops wonderfully through The Bitter Twins to become one of my favourite characters this time around.
We meet new characters, some fleeting and some more permanent members, one of those that really dug a hole into my heart Eri, an Eboran teenager, by which he was a few hundred years old, you know how those Eborans are! The way he starts in the book then integrates into the group is incredible and again a testament to Williams writing that a brand new character can become so important to you by the end of the book when there is already such a vast cast to choose from.
The existing cast are bonding with their war beasts and we definitely start to bond with them as well, they have very individual personalities of their own and their were some I loved more than others. I found myself more connected to Noon and Tor, they are a pair who need a good kick up the backside most of the time but there is something incredibly special about them and as they investigate the origins of the Eborans before the war really kicks off I had a lot of lump in throat moments.
Aldasair and Bern are so special and would make everybody coo over them in our world. Funnily Vintage who was by far my favourite character in The Ninth Rain, irritated me in this book, I’m not sure what changed but I just didn’t connect with her this time around.
Overall, the world building continued to blow my mind, the battle scenes for the most part moved to the sky in this novel and were incredibly vivid, my brain was creating them as I was reading and it was epic. The Bitter Twins has shocking twists that leave you gasping; with love, betrayal, friendship, and The Ninth Rain war really kicking off.
A huge thanks to Jen Williams and Headline for the eARC of this book in return for my honest review.
Happy New Year Guys! I hope you’ve all had a really great festive period and are going into the New Year full of positivity.
So…I thought I would highlight some of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2018. I’m sure I haven’t got them all listed here, I don’t actually keep a list of unreleased books so this has been done from memory! We won’t even go into how bad my memory is!
The Viper’s Nest (Kit Davenport #4) by Tate James
I’ve just finished the third book in this series (reviews of books 2 and 3 coming very soon) and I’m totally hooked. I already have this book on pre-order and waiting to read it will be painful. This series is a paranormal reverse harem, meaning it combines some of my favourite genres. Kit is a superb character, she’s strong and feisty taking no nonsense and she’s got this harem of strong soldiers who will do anything to protect her while they all work together as a team. Tate James has done a superb job of ensuring that the characters have unique and individual personalities so that it’s very clear who each person is and how they fit into the novel.
The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams
OK, this is a bit of a cheat addition as I’ve already read an ARC of this novel, but it isn’t released until March and I have the book on pre-release because I desperately want the paperback to add to my Jen Williams section of my bookshelf! What can I say about this novel other than it’s just everything I had hoped for, my full review will be up shortly, but continuing where The Ninth Rain leaves off The Bitter Twins takes our characters deeper into the war with the Jure’lia, Jen Williams writing is stunning as always and I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence
Red Sister blew my mind, about a girl who trains to be an assassin in a convent unlike any we know. Grey Sister is the sequel to this and sees Nona in the more senior class at the convent before she leaves. I’m really looking forward to this and seeing what happens with this girl and her classmates.
Reverie (Rock-Hard Beautiful #4) by C.M. Stunich
This book doesn’t have a cover or a release date yet, but I have been foaming at the mouth since C.M. Stunich announced it is coming. This series was originally written as a trilogy so I was settled with the fact that I wasn’t getting anymore but pretty sad as I completely loved all of the characters and feel totally connected with this rock band and the woman they are in love with. Knowing their story isn’t over yet has made me super happy, I can’t wait to see what comes next for these guys.
Inferno (Talon #5) by Julie Kagawa
I have loved this series, quite unusual as I’ve gone off YA in recent years but this one has really held my attention and the final installment is due out in April. This has been a really interesting story about dragons warring against each other while a faction of soldiers known as St George intend to wipe them all out.
It’s that time of the year again where I have to condense all of my reading into a list of ten. This has been a painful chore and I have agonised over the decisions made here, at the time of writing this I’ve read 203 books this year so narrowing this list to just 10 books is a painful endeavour. I could easily do ten books per genre I read!
There are books I’ve loved that I’ve had to leave off just because I only had ten spaces. Some of these have appeared in my most popular reviews over the last week which I think speaks for how they’ve appealed to a wider audience and that they have not just spoken to me individually. It would have been easy for me to only pick fantasy novels for this list because I find them so memorable, but I forced myself to look at the other genres I’ve read and picked my favourites from those as well. The Top 10 aren’t in a preference order, actually, I’ve put them in alphabetical order to keep things fair 😉
Allison’s Adventures in Underland by C.M. Stunich
This was a real last minute entry as I only read it roughly ten days ago, but it blew me away, it’s also one of two C.M. Stunich books which made it into this list. I have read more of her books this year than any other author so I guess it was inevitable that she would make a double appearance. Underland is a dark, warped, and very sexy shadow of the Wonderland we know from the childhood fairytale. This was basically my perfect retelling, I normally hate retellings, sometimes I think they are OK, but this one nailed it for me giving me all the dark and twisted ideas that run through my own head plus so many more. Stunich surprised me, wowed me, and teased me from cover to cover. I read it in one sitting because I couldn’t even contemplate putting it down and leaving these character and this world for even a minute.
This is an epic book, the main character in this book, Ryhalt is definitely more of an anti-hero. He’s not attractive, he’s an alcoholic, he swears too much, he fights too much and he leads a band of misfits. But my God, did I love this man. He may like to think of himself as going against the grain but he probably had the most attuned moral compass in the whole book. The worldbuilding in this book was vivid and sent you to some dark and lonely places. This was not a world you would want to end up in. You know how sometimes you can imagine living in a fantasy world, despite the wars and evil monsters? This was not one of them! I flew through this book, I loved it and I’m so pleased the story will be continuing with another book.
Wow, what can I say about this book, it’s dark, it’s bloody, it’s pretty much fantasy at it’s gruesome finest. Told from aprx 10 points of view (sorry can’t remember the exact number) we get to know the characters in this book intimately, and not just the good guys. Anna Stephens gets us closer to the bad guys as well, my favourite character in the book was one of the evilest characters and I’m literally chomping at the bit to see how his character develops in the next book. Not only does the book cause pain and suffering to almost every character on every page, with one of the most brutal torture scenes I’ve ever read, but THAT ENDING! Christ, it was one of the most epic cliffhangers I’ve ever read, it would take something huge to beat that I sat flicking my kindle into oblivion looking for more pages that just weren’t there, before I dissolved into fits of WTF, followed by distraughtly messaging Anna Stephens to make sure there was going to be a second book! (N.B. I’ve since met Anna in person and had a good chat with her and she now knows I’m not a complete loon…I think!)
This was my introduction to C.M. Stunich and reverse harem under the guise of reverse harem (I had read them before I just had never heard the term before). So much in this book touched home for me, I’m a rock chick, I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with bands (I used to do freelance music journalism), and I’ve got a lot of baggage in my past that screws with my head. As I started reading Lilith just got under my skin and I fell in love with her, her vulnerability her tenacity and also her free spirit. Then the guys in the band, each one of them an individual but together beautiful and strong. Her and them together it was just meant to be and the way that Stunich wrote it was just stunning, this is a book I will re-read over and over again. I was so deeply connected to these characters, their trauma, their pain, their longing, their love. This book touched me deep at my core and it’s not one I will ever forget.
Everybody needs to read this series, it’s as simple as that. If you like dragons, urban fantasy, and/or magic you just can’t afford to miss this series. Raising Fire is book two in the Ben Garston series, it was probably second in my list of most anticipated novels of the year, I was chomping at the bit to read it and bought it the day it was released. I was not disappointed, in fact it was far better than Chasing Embers because we got to see so much more of Ben’s vulnerabilities and that for me made his character grow and get under my skin even more (and if you’ve been following the saga you will know I’m completely in love with Ben Garston)! There is a lot of violence in this book, new characters, betrayal and some really interesting chinese mythology woven in.
Skullsworn is the first Brian Staveley novel I’ve read, I had no idea what to expect going in but to be gutted from the inside out was not it. Brian Staveley wove together a deeply harrowing fantasy novel which also drew on all those elements I love about romance novels and then left me a quivering wreck at the end. I don’t remember a fantasy novel ever leaving me feeling so emotionally broken before, the writing was exquisite, the world building had me living in the world with the characters and even now six months after reading it I think about that novel and the characters constantly. I will be fitting in some catch-up sessions for Brian Staveley’s back catalogue because I have definitely been depriving myself of this man’s work.
I had high hopes for The Lost Sentinel, actually, I had set my hopes unreasonably and unfairly high. It wasn’t possible for poor Suzanne Rogerson to meet what I was expecting from her second self-published work. Except she did. I sat down to read The Lost Sentinel and she blew my freakin’ mind! What appears on the surface to be straightforward quest fantasy is anything but. Suzanne Rogerson has woven a complex world of magic, treachory, and war. Yes, there is a quest, but there is so much more to this fantasy I got pulled in and became completely absorbed, tears running down my face as beloved characters are killed off and the unexpected just keeps happening. Suzanne Rogerson is masterful when it comes to sculpting a fantasy novel and waiting for the second book in this series is painful!
The Ninth Rain is the first part in a new series by Jen Williams and it didn’t disappoint. Giving us a new world, new characters, new creatures, and even aliens this book was everything I hoped for from Jen Williams and more. I finished and felt that lead weight of “oh hell now I have to wait a year for book two” because all I wanted was to pick up book two then and there. (I’ve just finished reading the ARC of book two and it was so worth waiting for 😉 review to follow in the new year.) I’ve said it before, I will say it again, my collection of Jen Williams books will continue to grow but her writing is addictive, you just want more of it. I would happily read her work 24/7, I love the pace, the flow, the style. It’s emotive and the worldbuilding blows my mind every single time. There is a reason this lady is my favourite Fantasy author, I just can’t get enough of her work!
Tate James came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. The Vixen’s Lead is a stunning paranormal/urban fantasy reverse harem and it has every single thing I would want from one of these novels. A kick-ass heroine in the form of Kit Davenport, student by day, master-thief known only as The Fox by night. Then there are her men, an unlikely group of ally’s who save her life and then step in to work with her. They include brothers and a geek (who I’m particularly fond of). The best thing is this is really slow burn so in this first book very little happens in terms of the romance side of things, the main story is being set up, there’s plenty of action and we get to know Kit. This is such a solid story and I was gutted when the book ended, I was just glad that I was a little late to the party so could download the second book straight away (which would have made it onto this list if I’d had space) and pre-order the third and fourth books…yes I may be a bit addicted!
It’s always hard to review a book by a friend, there’s that risk you won’t like it then you have to tell your friend you didn’t like their book (yeah I’ve been there), then you read one like Watching Glass Shatter and you finish it and think “how do I know somebody who can write something like this?” It’s awe-inspiring. Watching Glass Shatter is about a family facing grief, and their own secrets, five brothers and a mother trying to decide what to do with a devastating secret told to her in a letter in her husband’s will. As the secrets her sons hold unravel she has to decide what to do for the best of her sons and the family as a whole. I can’t remember a book affecting me like this one did. I sobbed for two hours solid as I finished the book, got through an entire box of tissues, and I felt as though each and every member of that family was connected to me. I loved them thoroughly, I felt their pain, their joy, and their grief.
This is my last week in review of the year. Next week I’m going to put up some posts looking at which reviews have been my most popular through the year, and I will also post my top ten books of the year, and yes I’ve been agonising over that one!
Into the New Year, I will go back to posting just one review a day on most days, I’ve been cramming the reviews in over the past few weeks to try and clear my backlog down so that I can go into the New Year relatively fresh. But at the speed, I’m reading at the moment that’s not going to happen!
One thing I wanted to talk about on here was a post I wrote at the beginning of the year. I know stretching it a bit, isn’t it? I wrote this post on my mental health blog before I stopped writing on it, and it was about what was essentially my resolution for the year. I wanted to be more positive. Anybody who has known me for a long time knows that I’ve always let the Bipolar dictate how things are going to be. I’ve always had a very short temper, I’ve been moody, and really not been a particularly nice person to be around and I went into this year wanting to put a stop to that. Last year I did a lot of work on learning how to manage the Bipolar and just understand it better, this year was about being a more positive person. So I thought I would just briefly summarise how I felt it has gone because as shocking as it may be I fully embraced this promise to myself and am still living it.
I started volunteering, and now have two volunteering roles one for mental health charity Second Step where I am doing digital marketing within their Communications team, and another for Bristol Council where I am a walk leader for one of the mental health walks.
I’ve been to more gigs/concerts/festivals this year than I have in the past four years combined. It feels like I’m getting back to myself, I used to go to gigs almost every day so to be starting to go to gigs again on a regular basis feels like a part of me is coming back. We all know reading is a huge part of my life but so is music and I’ve lost that in the past few years so I’m over the moon that I’m starting to find that connection again.
I’ve learned to say “Yes” and mean it, I used to say “Yes” and then find an excuse to back out of things, now I’m actually fully committing and trying new things. I’ve joined fitness classes which I’m loving and will talk more about in a minute, I’ve made new friends something I really struggle to do…while I’m very chatty and sociable, I struggle to make true connections with people, I’ve been out clubbing (shocking at my age I know!), and even just small things like meeting people for coffee, getting in my car and going to someone’s house. All things I was too daunted to do before.
I’ve been to lots of events I’ve never been to before including a bunch of book-related events, signings, discussions, Q&A’s, festivals and I’ve met some wonderful authors including Robin Hobb, Mark Lawrence, Laini Taylor, Ed McDonald, Joanne Harris, and Anna Stephens
I finally got the courage to chop all my hair off, and I love it, I’m so happy with my crazy haircut now, and I just changed the colour to one I’ve never tried before, because why not?!
I’ve had random conversations with people on the bus just because I took a moment to smile at someone as they got on so they sat next to me, these were really cool conversations and I think back and smile remembering the people I’ve spoken to over the year on the bus/in the street/in cafes etc. Being more open to human interaction is a wonderful thing. The other thing that has happened a lot this year is people keep thinking I’m younger than I am. Now whether it’s the haircut or that by being more open to people I come across younger I don’t know but people have guessed my age at being between 23-28 now considering I’m 38 all of these guesses were gratefully received.
I’ve argued less this year, of course, I’ve still argued, I’m not flipping perfect! But nowhere near as much as usual, I’ve learned when to keep my mouth shut and walk away which is about 90% of the time. My mental health has still had its moments but I’ve been much better at managing what is happening and dealing with it. As I write this I’m having a quite bad hypomanic episode in fact but I’ve done everything I can to manage it, my Doctor is aware and we are keeping an eye on it.
My fitness has soared as well, as I said I joined a fitness class. I go to three classes a week, I’ve just started running, and I do yoga at home, this is all in addition to the walking I did anyway. Doing all of this exercise is massively helping with the positivity and my state of mind and I highly recommend it!
So next year? I’m going to continue doing this, I didn’t realise going into this that being positive was a lifestyle choice. I know, naive right? I want to continue being open to new people, new experiences, and life as a whole. I missed a lot of life while I was really sick and I don’t want to miss anymore. I want to take as much of life in as possible, every single second. I have some great things already in the pipeline for 2018 and I can’t wait to share them with you.
So I promise myself to continue approaching life from a positive standpoint and to continue trying to be open to new experiences.
What are you going to promise yourself for 2018?
I hope everybody has a great Christmas. I know not everybody celebrates but I hope whatever you do it’s relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free
TBR Topple Winner
I drew the winner of this month’s TBR Topple vote, as always thank you to everybody who took the time to vote. This month the winner was Surviving the Rachel by Aven Ellis. I’m looking forward to reading this I always enjoy Aven Ellis’ books immensely and will be reading it in the next couple of days! Look out for the review in the New Year along with the new Poll.
Book of the Month
I’m choosing for December a little early as next week I will be picking my books of the year.
The Vixen’s Lead by Tate James
This book really blew me away, a debut author in the reverse harem genre, this is a paranormal/urban fantasy novel and is gripping from the first page to the last. A slow burn on the romance elements this focuses heavily on the paranormal storyline and I couldn’t put the book down. I finished it and immediately downloaded the second book and pre-ordered books three and four so confident was I that this was a series I was going to become completely enthralled by. You can read my full review here.
And because I’m indecisive, I’ve chosen another winner, Allison’s Adventure’s in Underland by C.M. Stunich. This was everything I want fairy tale retellings to be and they never are. It was dark, twisted, brutal, and sexy as hell. I read the whole book in one sitting because I just couldn’t tear myself away from it and I loved every last thing about it from the psychedelic drugs to the adaptation of “Eat Me” “Drink Me” which was just perfect. Every time I think I’ve seen everything Stunich has to throw at us she surprises me a bit more. I don’t know how I’m going to hold out until March for the second part of this series because I’m already at nail biting stage and I only read it last week!
What I’ve Read
I’ve not been showing books I pre-order on this, but I’ve decided to pop them in here on their own little gallery. I’ve added my most recent pre-orders to this week’s but going forward it will be a weekly thing as with the others.
I started writing another book this week, I’ve lost my mind! I had this idea for a paranormal reverse harem story that was literally drilling its way through my head, and although I need to do edits on book two I put them aside to get this story out of my head because I think it was going to send me around the bend if I didn’t. I’m starting to think I might self-publish my books, by end of January I will have three books written and will probably be on my fourth so I may as well put them out there. A good friend I’ve worked with on a number of projects is also an editor and she is going to edit my first book for me in return for me doing some marketing work for her so that’s worked out superbly.
I’ve finally changed my hair colour, it was time to be a bit daring and go for something a bit different, I’m not sure how long it will last, every time I change my hair colour it always creeps back to red but the purple makes a nice change, especially at a time when so many people seem to be adopting red!
Friday night I went out with the girls from my fitness classes, I’ve never really been a girly girl and I’ve never really gone on girls nights out, but I love these ladies. They are a blast and I have such a good time with them. Our ages and interests vary but our common interest in working out bonds us. We had such a great time and the conversation was hilarious and definitely not repeatable! Our trainer also gave us awards and mine was for “most determined” which I was very pleased with given I work my backside off even if my body isn’t always on the same page!
I’ve also had some potentially great news on the job hunt front. I’m not saying any more at this point in case I jinx myself but I will keep you posted as I hear more, probably post-Christmas.
This week in review covers a couple of weeks as I didn’t do one last Sunday with being on holiday. There shouldn’t be much more than usual on here though as I did nothing with my blogging for a week so it’s only really how much I’ve read that is overflowing!
Getting away was just what I needed, I think winter sun is definitely going to have to become something I add to my annual routine, even though I was sick most of the time I was away, escaping the cold and dark and getting some sun and warmth has definitely put a spring back in my step. I also read a lot of books, eight in total, one of which was an anthology of 17 novellas so I’d say I did pretty darn well, hopefully, I will get all of the reviews caught up pretty soon.
I’m now all committed to the running I recently added to my fitness routine. I’m having some trouble with my asthma when I run so I need to speak to my Drs about this and how to adjust my medication to help, I’ve almost had an asthma attack a few times running so I can’t leave it. But I’ve signed up to Mind’s January challenge R.E.D. January, it’s about getting active and running as much as you can every day in January, this will be great for my training and I know a few others taking part. Plus as it’s a mental health charity I’m even more committed to supporting it. I’m also signed up for the Bristol Tough Mudder in May, this is slap bang in the middle of a super busy week for me so not only will it be a huge challenge, I may already be dragging my backside from everything I’m doing that week! I’m also signed up for the Devil Mud Run in September which is a 10km obstacle course just to make things a little harder…heaven help me!
I’ve decided that during December I’m going to concentrate on reading books from my “Favourite Authors” list, I have a load of them on there and I spend so much time reading ARC’s that I just don’t clear this list as much as I would like so unless I have tour books I need to read I’m going to concentrate solely on this list, my own month-long Christmas gift to myself!
Book of the Month
I can’t believe this is the penultimate Book of the Month, I will do my December Book of the month a little before the end of December so that they are in the mix for my Books of the Year post.
Watching Glass Shatter left me an emotional wreck, I’ve read back on some of my other reviews this year and I’ve said they left me feeling emotional and thinking on how I felt reading those was nothing compared to how I was left feeling after I finished this. I got through an entire box of tissues reading this book, I sobbed big ugly real tears as I read about the Glass brothers and their turmoils. I felt so connected to them that, still now, over a month later, they are completely real in my head. This is a book I connected with on so many levels and I just can’t imagine why anybody wouldn’t connect with it and love it as much as I did.