Friday, 27 February 2015

Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge | My TBR

Next week brings with it the start of my Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge, a four week challenge get people reading more diverse historical fiction! I'm partnering up with the lovely Amy @ Passages to the Past to bring this challenge to you, so for those of you taking part in Amy's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge anything you read for this challenge will count towards that one, too.

For all the information about this challenge, and to sign up, head over to my announcement post here!

So today I thought I'd share with you my TBR for the challenge. The books I choose may change - though I'm adamant I'm going to be crossing Kindred and Fingersmith off my TBR - but these are the four I'm planning on reading!

Week 1 - Read an alternate history book

Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. 

Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

Week 2 - Read a book with a non-white protagonist

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Week 3 - Read a book with an LGBT protagonist

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...

Week 4 - Read a book that is NOT set in Europe (including Britain) or North America

The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall

In a city full of thieves and Communists, danger and death, spirited young Lydia Ivanova has lived a hard life. Always looking over her shoulder, the sixteen-year-old must steal to feed herself and her mother, Valentina, who numbered among the Russian elite until Bolsheviks murdered most of them, including her husband. As exiles, Lydia and Valentina have learned to survive in a foreign land. Often, Lydia steals away to meet with the handsome young freedom fighter Chang An Lo. But they face danger: Chiang Kai Shek's troops are headed toward Junchow to kill Reds like Chang, who has in his possession the jewels of a tsarina, meant as a gift for the despot's wife. The young pair's all-consuming love can only bring shame and peril upon them, from both sides. Those in power will do anything to quell it. But Lydia and Chang are powerless to end it.

Are you taking part in the Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge? What are you reading?

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

What's Up Wednesday! | 25/02/15

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

My reading habits have been a bit all over the place this last week; I've found myself dipping in and out of things rather than just focusing on one book.

I started Relic by Renee Collins, which is one of those stories with an amazing premise that just hasn't been executed to the best of its ability. It's set in the Wild West during the 19th century, where the fossils of long-extinct mythical and fantastical creatures can be mined for magic. That's a brilliant idea! But so far the way the story's written just isn't living up to the plot. I think Collins' imagination is fantastic, but in my opinion this book could have done with more editing and a few more drafts because for the most part it feels quite juvenile.

I also started Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. Seanan McGuire is the real name of author Mira Grant, and I think we all know by now how much I love the Newsflesh trilogy. Rosemary and Rue is urban fantasy featuring faeries; I don't tend to read many books involving faeries, but I'm enjoying this one so far!

And this morning on the bus I started Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland. It's released on March 3rd and Donna very kindly sent me an ARC, so I want to read it and schedule the review for the release date. I've only read the first chapter so far, but I think I'm going to enjoy it!

What I'm Writing

I wrote a blurb for my SNI. I know that probably sounds crazy because I haven't even started writing it yet, but writing blurbs really gets me pumped for a project. I guess this counts as my 'What Works For Me', too!

What Else Is New

Don't forget to sign up for my Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge! ;)

I finally got my own computer at work! Now instead of jumping onto whoever's computer just happens to be free, I have my own shiny new Mac. I'm still getting used to using them, and I think I'm always going to prefer PCs because I'm just old fashioned that way, but it's certainly a cool computer and I can't help feeling very professional and important. Even if I do just spend some days on Twitter.

(I'm not slacking, I promise - part of my job involves me being in charge of a Twitter account and a Facebook page, so I end up doing a lot of social media stuff...)

Speaking of which, the main reason I got this job is because Seren were looking for someone to help organise the centenary celebrations of Alun Lewis, a WW2 writer who died under rather tragic circumstances when he was just 29. I'm in charge of a Twitter account and Facebook page for his centenary, and I'd really appreciate it if any of you could follow the Twitter account and/or like the page!

What's new with you?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The TBR Tag!

I wasn't tagged, but I saw Mel @ The Daily Prophecy doing this and thought I'd give it a go!

How do you keep track of your TBR?

HA. I don't. I'm constantly on Goodreads; really I should organise my shelves, because right now all I do is click 'Want To Read' whenever I see a book that looks even remotely interesting and most of them I'll never actually be interested enough to read. It's mainly so I don't forget about them!

Is your TBR mostly print or e-books?

It's all print books, because I don't own an e-reader. I suppose I could download PDF files, but I have no interest in reading a full-length novel on my laptop unless I'm proofing it or something.

How do you determine which book to read from your TBR next?

I usually have several books on the go at once, because there's so damn much I want to read. Basically I pick up whatever I feel like reading and I read it; I've tried giving myself monthly TBRs in the past, but they've always just ended up bumming me out.

A book that has been on your TBR the longest?

I feel like I've been meaning to read The Shadow of the Wind forever. Notable mentions also go to The Count of Monte Cristo and The Pillars of the Earth.

A book you recently added to your TBR?

The Great Zoo of China combines Jurassic Park with dragons. How could I not want to read it? I'd like to get a copy, but I entered a giveaway on Goodreads so I'm going to make sure I don't end up with a free copy before I buy my own!

A book in your TBR because of its beautiful cover?

Honestly I don't think there is one. I'm not saying I don't judge books by their covers, because I do, but I never buy a book I don't know anything about just because it's pretty. I find books that sound interesting, and then I find the prettiest copies I can find.

A book in your TBR that you never plan on reading?

If you'd asked me last week I could have told you, but at the weekend I ended up donating a big pile of my books to charity because I knew I was just never going to read them. Pretty much all the books I own now are books I've already read and enjoyed, or books I want to read.

An unpublished book in your TBR that you're excited for?

Give me Winter, give it to me now!

Also Mistress Firebrand by Donna Thorland, which I'll get to read very soon because Donna very kindly sent me an ARC.

A book in your TBR that everyone recommends to you?

Not everyone so much as one person who's recommended it so many times it feels like everyone (I love you really, Mallory): The Handmaid's Tale.

Number of books in your TBR?

Hundreds. It's embarrassing, really.

I tag Mallory @ The Local Muse, Frannie @ Frannie in the Pages and Michelle @ In Libris Veritas - what's your TBR pile like, ladies?

Top Ten Tuesday | My Favourite Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find everything you need to know about joining in here!

Today's theme is 'Top Ten Favourite Heroines From Books', a theme which got me really excited. I love my heroines, and I can't wait to share my favourites!

Before I start my list I should probably mention that the heroines that wind up holding a very special place in my heart are funny, angry, get-shit-done kind of women who are brazen because it hides the fact that they're actually very vulnerable. Not all of my favourite heroines are like that, but there certainly seems to be a trend. I just thought that was worth mentioning now...

Georgia Mason from the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant: Oh Georgia, light of my life and heart of my immortal soul. If someone held a gun to my head right now and said I had to choose just one ultimate favourite off this list it'd probably be this lady. Georgia made me want to trust the news again, she made me want to believe that there are still journalists out there dedicated to telling the truth, not just telling the best story. She's witty and intelligent and no nonsense and I love her with every fibre of my being.

Linh Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: The Lunar Chronicles has so much respect from me right now. It's a YA series that has managed to include so much diversity; we have heroines who are amputees, heroines from broken homes, heroines who are optimistic, heroines who aren't, and Meyer writes them all so well - there's a heroine for everyone! Her male characters aren't much different; our Prince Charming's Chinese, our Big Bad Wolf's the product of human experimentation, and then there's Thorne, who's basically the love child of Jack Sparrow and Captain Kirk. For me it's Cinder who stole my heart, as much as I love all the characters; she's a good person who's been through a lot of shit and she hasn't let it turn her bitter. When I read Glitches I genuinely teared up because I couldn't bear that Ari was being so horrid to such an adorable little girl who, more than anything, is desperate for acceptance and love. Cinder, like Georgia, just gives me all the feels guys.

Vicki Nelson from The Blood Books by Tanya Huff: If you've never read anything by Tanya Huff then that's something you need change right now. She's a fantastic writer of SFF who is constantly turning themes of gender and sexuality on their head, and her female leads are always amazing. My favourite has to be Vicki, the heroine from Huff's take on vampires. Essentially The Blood Books are urban fantasy crime novels set in Toronto and they're brilliant. Vicki is such a funny, sassy leading lady. I love her.

Violet from Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch: Violet is a fairly new addition to my list of favourite heroines who crept into my heart after I read the first volume of Rat Queens in January. This series is a female-led fantasy series full of innuendos, swearing, violence, and girl power. Naturally, it's right up my street. I liked all the ladies, but Violet in particular grew on me. The second volume isn't being released until later in the year so we know very little about the ladies' backstories as of now, but what I saw of Violet made me very happy; in particular an exchange between Violet and her brother when he asks her if she left because of him, and her simple reply is: "No. I left for me." Boom! Girl power.

Saba from Blood Red Road by Moira Young: (I still haven't read Rebel Heart or Raging Star, so no spoilers please!) I adored Blood Red Road when I read it, and while I enjoyed the plot it was Saba who convinced me to give the book 5 stars. She's so raw and angry and real and I love her lots.

Angel Crawford from My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland: Angel is another recent addition to my list and another heroine who convinced me to give her book five stars. In fact I love Angel so much that I ordered the next three books in the White Trash Zombie series before I'd even finished reading the first book, and I can't wait to continue with the series!

Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: "I am no bird; and no net ensares me; I am a free human being with an independent will." Jane's probably one of the most iconic heroines in classic literature, and there's a reason she's still popular today. While I'd take Mr. Rochester over Heathcliff any day he's still not the most pleasant of romantic heroes, but when Jane realises he's an arse she gets the hell out of there! For that, and for many other things, she has my eternal respect.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins: I'm not on Team Gale or Team Peeta. I'm on Team Katniss.

Tonks from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling: I love Hermione, Ginny and Luna, too, but I've loved Tonks since we were first introduced to her in The Order of the Phoenix (which is my favourite book in the series). I don't know why I love her as much as I do, I think when I was younger I was just desperate to be her, but she's always remained a favourite of mine.

Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Mary isn't particularly likeable when we first meet her, although there's something about her spoiled, guarded nature that does make you want to give her a cuddle, but she goes through one of the most astonishing character growths ever seen, from a child who is neglected and unloved to a child who uses that yearning for affection to nurture a garden back to life. This is a charming story, but it would be nothing without Mary.

Who made your list?

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review | Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland

by Diana Rowland

My Rating: 

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right--the zombie mafia.

Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower--and maybe a brain smoothie as well--in order to get through it without falling apart.

You can find my review for the first book in this series, My Life as a White Trash Zombie, here!

After finishing the first book in the White Trash Zombie series earlier this month I just had to jump straight into the second one. What can I say? This series is addictive because it's so much fun; it doesn't shy away from the inherent ridiculousness we often associate with zombie stories - especially those budget zombie movies that make us wonder how they ever got made in the first place - and yet Rowland fills her take on zombies with such endearing characters and tongue-in-cheek wit that it's impossible not to enjoy these novels even when they border on the bizarre.

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues basically takes off immediately from where My Life as a White Trash Zombie left off. A couple of weeks have passed, but nothing more, and we see Angel still enjoying the new, better life she had to die to achieve. But hey, why get frustrated with being undead when you can just chow down on brains and carry on as normal?

Soon enough, however, it's clear that Angel's in for a rough ride. She's held up at gunpoint at work and barely anyone believes her, she meets her new boyfriend's uncle who turns out to have a huge stick up his ass, only made worse when she discovers her boyfriend will do pretty much anything he says; including pretending that the two of them aren't dating, and somewhere out there the person who's been chopping heads off zombies may still be after them.

And to top it all off, Angel only has a few weeks to study for and take her GED or she'll find herself in prison.

I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first one, mainly because I've grown very fond of Angel and I was frustrated with all the crap she was being put through. Having said that, I did love that she didn't just lie down and take it; whenever someone called her a liar she put them straight, and whenever Marcus started acting like his uncle's pet she called him out on it. Angel doesn't take any shit, and I love that about her.

I still recommend this series, whether you're a hardened zombie fan or you're a newbie to the genre, and I can't wait to read the others!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Review | The Earl and the Fairy, Vol.1 by Mizue Tani and Ayuko

by Mizue Tani and Ayuko

My Rating: 

Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to London to visit her father, Lydia’s quiet life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued from kidnappers by a mysterious young man! Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces!

This book is a difficult one for me to review because I am by no means a manga expert; I'm much more likely to watch anime than I am to read manga, and sadly I rarely watch anime nowadays. Of course Inuyasha and Fruits Basket will always have a special place in my heart.

I picked this book up in WHSmith on a whim; the art is very pretty, and the story sounded cute. This is technically historical fiction as it's set in 19th century Britain, but it's historical fiction with a fantastical twist - my favourite kind!

Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor. She's someone who specialises in fairies, she can see them unlike most people, and she helps people who are having problems with them; if someone has some pesky pixies digging up their hydrangeas then Lydia's the person to call! But Lydia's always been something of a laughing stock among her contemporaries, as she lives in a world that's stopped believing in fairies for the most part.

Edgar Ashenburt, a gentleman, is one such sceptic. However, he needs Lydia's help to find the sword of the Blue Knight Earl, as he claims to be descended from the human ruler of the Fairy Kingdom. But he also looks a lot like a man who's been murdering people in America...

I didn't quite know how to rate this book when I finished it. I eventually settled on 3 stars because it's very cute; if you're a fan of mangas which have heroines so sweet they'll give you diabetes then you'll enjoy this. I also loved the idea. Not only did I find the idea of a fairy doctor adorable, but I was intrigued by the concept of the Fairy Kingdom belonging to a man who doesn't believe in fairies, but perhaps wants to. There's a lot of character depth and growth to be had with someone like that.

But character depth and growth is not what I got. The two leads are very stereotypical characters; in fact they felt more like caricatures than people. I finished the volume feeling like nothing had happened, and given that this manga is only 4 volumes long in total I expected each volume to be packed with detail.

So it's a whimsical, cute little book, but it's nothing special. When I started writing this review I couldn't even remember the main characters' names, so I very much doubt I'm going to continue with the series unless I find the other volumes very cheap.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

2015 Book Blogger Love-A-Thon | Questionnaire

I very, very, very recently discovered the Book Blogger Love-A-Thon, hosted by Alexa Loves Books, so even though I'm off to a very late start I thought I'd join in - I'll always try to jump on any opportunity that gives me the chance to meet some new bloggers!

Alexa has written a questionnaire for the participants to answer, to share a little something about ourselves, so, without further ado, here are my (very late!) answers!

1) What's your name?

Jess. :)

2) Where in the world are you blogging from?

I'm from the UK; I'm from North Yorkshire originally, but I'm currently living in South Wales.

3) How did you get into blogging in the first place?

When I realised that blogs were a thing and that people used them to talk about books I knew I needed to get in on that. For ages I kept meaning to blog, but I was very bad at making myself stick to it and I was always worried that people would have no interest in what I had to say anyway. Then by the end of 2013 I decided that one of my New Year's Resolutions was going to be to blog regularly throughout 2014, and I did and I'm still going!

4) How did you come up with your blog name?

I'm a big fan of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and I've always loved that line. :)

5) What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?

I'm pretty sure it's historical fiction. I love me some historical fiction.

6) What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?

I post discussion posts whenever I have something to say that's been eating away at me for a while, I post recommendations, I take part in Top Ten Tuesday and What's Up Wednesday as often as I can, I have my Stories & Songs and Classics & Contemporaries posts, and next month I'm going to be hosting the Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge!

7) Best blogging experience so far?

Being sent an ARC of Mistress Firebrand from the author, Donna Thorland, because she saw me mention it in my Most Anticipated Reads of 2015 post was pretty awesome!

8) Favourite thing about the blogging community?

I think it's the enthusiasm. It's so great to speak to people from all over the world who love books as much as I do.

9) Name the 5 books you're most excited for this 2015!

  1. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  2. Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
  3. Rat Queens, Vol.2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N'rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  4. The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán
  5. The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
10) What's an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?

I'll never stop recommending Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Black and Feed by Mira Grant.

11) Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?

Georgia from the Newsflesh trilogy. I adore her.

12) Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?

I'm a writer, I've had one of my short stories published and I've done some game writing, and I love watching films, too. Basically I'm a fan of storytelling in all its forms! I'm also a huuuuge history nerd, and I'll go and visit historic places whenever I'm given the chance to; my Dad and I visited Pembroke Castle last October and it was fantastic!

13) Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?

DVDs, jewellery and general nerdy stuff. One of the main reasons I go to Comic Conventions whenever I can is so I can stock up on Harry Potter necklaces and the like. I sometimes enjoy looking for clothes, but most of the time I just get frustrated because there's NEVER ANYTHING IN MY SIZE.

14) At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song - and it's your song. What song would be playing?

I don't know if it's really my song, but I will always, always dance to Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer"...

15) Pick out either a book you wanted turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book

I'd love to see the Newsflesh trilogy adapted into a TV show!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Review | Rat Queens, Vol.1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Rat Queens, Vol.1: Sass and Sorcery
by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

My Rating: 

Who are the Rat Queens? 

A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they're in the business of killing all god's creatures for profit. 

It's also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack! 

If you're into high fantasy, innuendo, swearing and girl power, then you need to get your hands on a copy of this book.

Rat Queens is a graphic novel series which follows friends Hannah, Violet, Dee Dee and Betty on their escapades. The four ladies are essentially bounty hunters; they go on quests to vanquish evil and kill stuff for a living, and they're pretty good at what they do. In the first volume, however, they begin to realise that they might be causing more harm than good, particularly when it becomes clear that someone is out to kill them.

This volume is so much fun. I laughed out loud more than once, and even when I wasn't laughing I was grinning inanely. By the end of this volume we're left with a lot of questions about these girls, about how they met and what their lives were like before they were the Rat Queens, but there was still plenty to suggest a wider story and a wider world, and to tantalise our tastebuds until the next volume.

I loved the friendship between the four girls and how real they are. Sure three of them aren't human, but none of them felt like stereotypical female fantasy characters, or even stereotypical female characters in general; these women aren't the product of a teenage boy's wet dream inducing fantasies, but well thought-out protagonists who piss all over the idea of the traditional fantasy heroine.

In terms of high fantasy this series feels more World of Warcraft than Lord of the Rings, so if you like your high fantasy quite serious it probably isn't for you, but if you're a fan of writers like Mira Grant and Tanya Huff, or if you're a fan of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga, then you'll love this series!

I can't recommend it more!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What's Up Wednesday! | 18/02/15

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

I haven't been reading too much this past week. I'm still enjoying Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland, and at work I got to read Judas by Damian Walford Davies.

What I'm Writing

I think I'm going to start a new project. Famous last words.

I am by no means giving up on Bloodroot and Bracken, I still fully intend to finish it, but I've had an idea for another novel that's been rattling around in my head since the middle of last year, and a thought suddenly occurred to me the other day: what am I waiting for?

I like this idea, but I also like how completely unfamiliar to me it is. Like Bloodroot and Bracken it's historical fiction with fantastical elements, but it's set during a period of history I know little about, involving real historical figures I know next to nothing about, in an area of Britain whose history I know virtually nothing about, including fantastical creatures I'm surprisingly unfamiliar with. At its heart it's a story set in Medieval Wales involving dragons and girl power.

It's going to be a huge undertaking - there's a lot of research that I need to do - but I'm excited about it, and after how low I was feeling last week creatively it's so good to feel this way about a project.

So am I writing? I'm still working on short fiction and every now and then I chip away at Bloodroot and Bracken, but for now the majority of my writing is going to be research, because I need to start collecting a lot of it!

What Works For Me

Improv. When I was at school my favourite subject was Drama; I did it at GCSE and A Level and loved it so much, and to be honest I really miss those lessons.

Anyway, there have often been times where I know I need to write a scene in which something big happens, but I have no idea how to go about it or what's going to be said. So I do a bit of improv. With myself.

I know that probably sounds really weird, but I've mentioned before how I find talking to myself useful in that it helps me write natural dialogue because I can hear how a sentence would sound, and whether it sounds like something a person would actually say. This works in a very similar way; when you need to write a dramatic scene it can be really easy to slip into cliche language, so improv helps me a lot in finding that happy medium between 'engaging' and 'real'.

What Else Is New

I'm still hoping people will start signing up for my Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge! *wink wink nudge nudge*

Other than that, not too much! Work's starting to get busier now, and it's my sister's birthday - she's 34 today! I never know what to get my sisters when their birthdays roll around, but this year I got my oldest sister and I tickets to go and see Imagine Dragons in Cardiff in November. I'm really excited!

What's new with you?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Anticipated 2015 Reads Pt. II

Back in December I wrote a blog post about some of my most anticipated reads of 2015. Now if I'm perfectly honest the majority of them were just books that sounded like the kind of books I'd enjoy that just happened to be coming out in 2015 because, for someone who works in publishing, I'm really quite rubbish at keeping up with what's being published when.

Since 2015 began I've discovered even more books being released this year that I'm very excited for, so today I thought I'd share some of them with you! Some of these have already been released and some of them haven't, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on all of them.

Rolling in the Deep
by Mira Grant

Publication Date: April 2015
Publisher: Subterranean Press

When the Imagine Network commissioned a documentary on mermaids, to be filmed from the cruise ship Atargatis, they expected what they had always received before: an assortment of eyewitness reports that proved nothing, some footage that proved even less, and the kind of ratings that only came from peddling imaginary creatures to the masses.
They didn't expect actual mermaids.  They certainly didn't expect those mermaids to have teeth.
This is the story of the Atargatis, lost at sea with all hands.  Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.  Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the bathypelagic zone in the Mariana Trench…and the depths are very good at keeping secrets.

by Neil Gaiman

Publication Date: February 2015
Publisher: Headline

In this new volume, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction-stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013-as well as BLACK DOG, a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods.

Trigger Warning is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explores the realm of experience and emotion. In Adventure Story-a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane-Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience A Calendar of Tales are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year-stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother's Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale The Case of Death and Honey. And Click-Clack the Rattlebag explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we're all alone in the darkness.

A writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Trigger Warning engages the mind, stirs the heart, and shakes the soul. Neil Gaiman is one of the most original and popular literary artists of our day.

by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Publication Date: May 2015
Publisher: Image Comics

This booze-soaked second volume of RAT QUEENS reveals a growing menace within the very walls of Palisade. And while Dee may have run from her past, the bloated, blood-feasting sky god N’rygoth never really lets his children stray too far.

by Garth Nix

Publication Date: June 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this remarkable collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

by Matthew Reilly

Publication Date: February 2015 (first published November 2014)
Publisher: Orion

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for 40 years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane 'CJ' Cameron, a writer for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong...

What are you looking forward to reading this year?

Friday, 13 February 2015

Review | My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

by Diana Rowland

My Rating:

Angel Crawford is a loser.

Living with her alcoholic deadbeat dad in the swamps of southern Louisiana, she's a high school dropout with a pill habit and a criminal record who's been fired from more crap jobs than she can count. Now on probation for a felony, it seems that Angel will never pull herself out of the downward spiral her life has taken.

That is, until the day she wakes up in the ER after overdosing on painkillers. Angel remembers being in an horrible car crash, but she doesn't have a mark on her. To add to the weirdness, she receives an anonymous letter telling her there's a job waiting for her at the parish morgue—and that it's an offer she doesn't dare refuse.

Before she knows it she's dealing with a huge crush on a certain hunky deputy and a brand new addiction: an overpowering craving for brains. Plus, her morgue is filling up with the victims of a serial killer who decapitates his prey—just when she's hungriest!

Angel's going to have to grow up fast if she wants to keep this job and stay in one piece. Because if she doesn't, she's dead meat.


I started reading this book by accident. I first stumbled across this series during Top Ten Tuesday when I saw How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back on another blog and was immediately intrigued. I'm not the biggest fan of zombies; zombie films tend to creep me out more than anything (even Shaun of the Dead!) and for whatever reason I just don't find myself picking up a lot of zombie fiction because it all seems very samey to me. Apart from Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, of course, which I adore with all my being.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie stood out to me because it's more along the lines of Warm Bodies than The Walking Dead. Yes, zombies are technically dead and yes, they eat brains to stay alive, but when they're alive they're alive. They're real people with feelings, and I loved this different way of looking at zombies that didn't involve groaning, grunting corpses.

Angel is the kind of heroine I never knew I needed in my life. I'm always ready for new heroines that aren't presented in the usual way heroines are in urban fantasy; if I'd known Angel in school I probably wouldn't have liked her very much at all, but Rowland writes an engaging, endearing and funny protagonist whom I knew I was going to love as soon as I started reading. She's honest and unfortunate and ultimately good, and I think she may be a new addition to my list of favourite heroines.

Basically this book was just what I needed to read, because I was headed for a reading slump until I cracked it open, and I've already ordered the next three books in the series so far - I can't wait to see what Angel gets up to next, and I'm so pleased that this book I picked up on a whim has introduced me to a new series!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

What's Up Wednesday! | 11/02/15

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

Since last week I've read My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland and The Earl and the Fairy, Vol. 1 by Mizue Tani. Both of them were pretty unexpected reads, but I enjoyed them; I loved My Life as a White Trash Zombie and I can't wait to read the other books in the series. The Earl and the Fairy I didn't like as much - it told more than it showed, meaning everything developed too quickly for my tastes - but I'm probably going to read the rest of the series because there are only four books in the manga, and I don't think I've ever come across a manga series so short. Plus the main character's a fairy doctor, so it's kind of cute.

Right now I'm reading Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues by Diana Rowland, and I'm loving it so far!

What I'm Writing

Still working away on short fiction!

What Works For Me

I'm not really feeling very inspired this week, sorry to be a downer. I'm having one of those existential crisis weeks where I feel as though nothing I ever write is ever going to be good enough, so why bother? I'll work my way through it, I just need to shake off the funk.

What Else Is New

Last Thursday libraries all over Britain were having Harry Potter Book Nights; Bloomsbury sent around a bunch of activity sheets, and I volunteered at my local library to help out with the event. I got to be Head of Ravenclaw House (mainly because I told one of the librarians I have a Ravenclaw shirt and a Ravenclaw scarf) and three other volunteers were the Heads of the other Houses. The kids designed dragon eggs, went on a treasure hunt, played 'Petrified Potters' (AKA musical statues), ate some of Bertie Bott's Every Flavoured Beans and there was a quiz, too, as well as prizes for the best costume. A little girl in my House won one of those prizes for her amazing Tonks costume; not only did she have a pink wig on, but she even had a name tag written like this: Nymphadora TONKS. It was really cute.

Slytherin came away with the ultimate House Cup, but Ravenclaw were a close second, and I think that's impressive considering there were only three kids in my House!

On Sunday my niece turned 4 - 4! I feel like she was only born yesterday! - and she had a big party where pretty much her entire nursery were invited. She also got a buttload of presents, I have no idea where my sister's going to put them all, and she had a great day running around with her friends.

My sister had the most amazing cake made for her. My niece asked for a unicorn and a rainbow, so that's what she got!

Then on Monday I announced the Forgotten Histories Reading Challenge! I've partnered up with Amy Bruno @ Passages to the Past to organise a reading challenge that's been created with the intention of encouraging people to read more diverse historical fiction.  You can find my announcement post here with more information, and I'd love it if some of you decided to join in or just spread the word! This is the first reading challenge I've ever hosted, so it would kind of suck if no one signed up.

Look how beautiful he is...
I've also been rewatching Inuyasha this past week, which ties with Fruits Basket for my all-time favourite anime, and it's been such a comfort. I first watched it when I was around 16 and I still love it just as much as I did then; one minute it'll have you laughing and the next minute it'll break your heart, but that's what makes it so darn good. I wish I could get them all on DVD, but each season is still around £25 each and there's no way I can spend £200 on anime!

What's new with you?