Saturday, April 4, 2020

Blog Tour + Interview - Sanctuary by V.V. James

Today I am hosting a Q&A with author V.V. James as part of the paperback blog tour for Sanctuary!
I am so happy to be taking part in this tour, especially given these uncertain times. 
Sanctuary is very high on my to-be-read list and I can't wait to finally read it.

Did you do any research for Sanctuary?

Yes! Setting, and witchcraft, were the two key things to get to grips with. For setting, I went on a writing retreat to an affluent and historic seashore town in New England, and also visited Salem to understand the roots of how witch persecution played out in the U.S. A lot of the specific place details – houses, town geography, coffee shops – were drawn from those trips. 

For witchcraft itself, I’ve been a regular for a couple of years now at rituals and lectures held at the marvellous Treadwells Books, probably London’s most active occult store. I’ve learned so much there from witches of all ages. Check them out online – their events have been suspended due to Covid-19, but they’re just gearing up to get content online, including practical Witchcraft 101s! And because witchcraft is a belief system for many today, I had to be careful ethically – I needed to create a fictional witchcraft that was realistic and familiar, yet not appropriative or misrepresentative of specific practices and traditions. Hearing from people of so many different belief systems at Treadwells really helped me navigate this.


Do you have a favourite character in Sanctuary?

More than one! I love Maggie, the kindhearted, principled, but realistic cop. I also love her dynamic with her snarky boss, Remy, and her enthusiastic assistant, Chester. And there’s something about Harper Fenn that I adore…. Perhaps her defiance. 


What are you most proud of about Sanctuary?

I wanted it to get people thinking and making their own connections about important issues – marginalisation, the structure of power, believing victims – in a way that’s emotionally rewarding yet also an exciting read. At the moment, people are telling me they see echoes of the book’s events in panic around the Covid-19 outbreak, so its obviously rewarding to know that readers are finding it relevant and thought-provoking. But I’d also be thrilled to know that its simply providing some much needed escapism right now!

Where is your favourite writing spot?

I only have one writing spot – my desk! Which is also my dining table. And my office. It’s a lovely oak table and I have some beautiful woodblock prints hung above it. It’s the literal and figurative heart of my tiny flat, and I find it peaceful and inspiring. If I’m away for a long time, I can work on my laptop if I have to. But I’ve learned about myself that I’m hopeless at working in public, like coffee shops, and beyond hopeless at ‘writing dates’ with other authors. When I’m with people, I want to talk to them! I put in enough quiet solitary hours at home!

Do you have any advice for new writers?

All the best tips are those I’ve squirrelled away from wiser authors over the years! Two that really resonated with me personally are John Scalzi’s ‘bumglue’ – aka you’ve gotta just stay in the chair and keep writing. There’s no shortcut. Do the work – yes, it’s hard!

And the one that got me writing my debut, GILDED CAGE, was Antonia Honeywell’s advice ‘Give yourself permission to take your writing seriously’. It was that ‘permission’ which really unlocked so much for me. There’s this idea that writing is such a universal aspiration its almost a cliché, and the odds of ever getting published can seem so stacked against you that’s it’s somehow a self-indulgent thing to do with your time. You could be working harder, studying more, giving your time to others. But actually, if your writing is core to who you are, then you need to acknowledge that and give it sufficient priority, whether at the expense of other activities, or even people. That can feel scary and selfish, but it was what I needed to hear. I quit my job and went freelance to give myself time to write – and GILDED CAGE was the result.

What's your favourite book/series?

I have many favourite books – and favourite authors! Two favourite ‘classic’ writers are poet Emily Dickinson, whose writing is so stripped back, yet so very, very deep, and Yukio Mishima, the master of morally ambivalent characters. With contemporary fiction, I adore dark and wild fantasy: I can’t wait for the sequel to Taz Muir’s GIDEON THE NINTH, while I just binged the whole of Jay Kristoff’s NEVERNIGHT trilogy – which I think might possibly be the best fantasy series of the past 10 years. And I’m loving the current surge in the feminist fantastical – Samantha Shannon’s PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE, Mel Salisbury’s HOLD BACK THE TIDE, and keep an eye out for the shattering SISTERSONG, coming next year from Lucy Holland.

Thank you Vic for your wonderful answers!

The paperback is out now!
Sanctuary is also available in hardback, as an ebook and an audiobook.

Friday, April 3, 2020

April TBR

Here are the books I'm hoping to read in April:

 Sanctuary by V.V. James
The Silence of Bones by June Hur 
Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna

What are you planning to read in April?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review - The Loop (The Loop, #1) by Ben Oliver

Title: The Loop (The Loop, #1)
Author: Ben Oliver
Pages: 364
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 2nd April 2020

Blurb from Goodreads:

Luka Kane will die in the Loop, a prison under the control of artificial intelligence. 

Delays to his execution are granted if Luka submits to medical experiments. Escape is made impossible by a detonator sewn into his heart. 

But on Luka's seventeenth birthday, life in the Loop is altered: the government-issued rain stops falling and rumours of unrest start to spread. Breaking out might be his only chance to survive... and to stop a catastrophe from deleting humankind.

My Review:
*I won an ARC of this book from Chicken House*

The Loop is a prison controlled by an artificial intelligence. Luka Kane has been imprisoned there for over two years. His death sentence is pushed back every time Luka agrees to a 'Delay' - a medical experiment that benefits the wealthy, but could mean death for Luka.

Nothing ever changes in the Loop, until one day rumours spread of unrest and a potential war on the outside.

Then the inmates find themselves alone in the Loop with limited power, but a chance to escape.

What has happened to the outside world?

Can Luka and his friends all escape the Loop? 

Are they actually safer where they are?

The premise of The Loop intrigued me, especially the idea of a prison run by an artificial intelligence. This is something that I can imagine happening in the future, which is a little scary, but not as scary as the medical experiments ('Delays'), which were awful. 

The energy harvests were an interesting concept, but again scary. They reminded me a little of how screams were used for energy in Monsters, Inc..

I don't particularly have any strong feelings about Luka. I liked that he was a bookworm and I did feel a bit sorry for him, but I feel that I could have connected with him a lot more than I did.

I liked the diversity of the characters, but none of them particularly stood out to me.

The plot was okay, but it didn't feel revolutionary or ground-breaking, and I did lose interest once or twice. Nothing that happened really surprised me, and I was nowhere near the edge of my seat, but I did enjoy some of the action.

There were some quite gory/violent scenes which I wasn't really expecting.

The writing style was easy to follow.

At this point in time, I don't think I will be continuing with this series as I'm not itching to find out what happens next.

I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

This wasn't a bad book, but I wasn't as invested as I should have been.

Overall, this was an okay read that I did enjoy at times.

Monday, March 30, 2020

March Wrap-Up

Well, this month has been a bit of a crazy one!
I hope you're all doing ok!

Here are the books I wanted to read this month:


 The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow - eARC - 3.5/5 stars - read my review here.
The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1) by Renée Ahdieh - eARC - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren - library paperback - 3/5 stars.

 The Rage of Dragons (The Burning, #1) by Evan Winter - eARC - DNF at 12% (1/5 stars) - read my review here.
Jinxed (Jinxed, #1) by Amy McCulloch - ecopy - 3/5 stars - read my review here.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee - paperback - 3.5/5 stars.

Warcross (Warcross, #1) by Marie Lu - library paperback - 3/5 stars.
Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls, #1) by Rena Barron - eARC - 2/5 stars - read my review here.
Wildcard (Warcross, #2) by Marie Lu - library paperback - 2.5/5 stars.


 These are Kindle copies that I got for £0.98 each. Bargain!

I was very lucky to be approved all these NetGalley books, some of which are for blog tours I'm on:




The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heap by H.G. Parry

What did you read in March?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Blog Tour + Interview + Giveaway - Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Find the tour schedule here.

 Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: March 24th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings, Romance, Fairy Tales


A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Book Links:

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Pre-order to receive these goodies!
Find out more here.

How did you come up with the idea for Thorn?

I wrote the first draft of Thorn my senior year of university, in large part just to see if I could. I had always wanted to write a novel, so I set myself the challenge to write a chapter a week, and chose a fairytale I loved as the bases. As such, Thorn is a retelling of the Grimm’s tale, “The Goose Girl.” It’s both dark and whimsical, packed with sorrow and hope. It’s a tale of betrayal, and injustice, and sorcery, and learning to be strong in who you are and fight for what you understand to be right.

Did you do any research for Thorn?

Definitely! Thorn went through around 16 or 17 drafts, over about 18 years. Yeah, my mind is blown too. But, over all that time, I’ve forgotten a lot of what I researched. I worked into the story, and then lost track of what I always knew and what I learned on the job, so to speak. I do remember having to research horse expressions, and how horses show emotions. After all, there’s a talking horse in Thorn (as in the original fairytale), as well as a rather ornery regular horse. I wanted to get them right. I also researched different types of architecture, and what sorts of plants grow where (this story takes place on the plains) and in what season. 

Do you have a favourite character in Thorn?

I love Princess Alyrra (aka Thorn) deeply, and she is by far the character I have wept with and laughed with the most. I mean, she’s also the point of view character! But my favorite character is actually a rather ill-mannered, unfriendly horse named Moonflower who only shows up in the second half of the book or so. Moonflower has her own history, and I love how her response is to bite at people, and glower, and only slowly trust them. I love that she is passionately protective as a horse even if she won’t quite admit it to your face. As ridiculous as this might sound, I intend to keep writing companion novels until I manage to give Moonflower a happy fate. ;)

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Set yourself reasonable goals; work as consistently as you’re able (figure out what works for you!); and finish your projects. No matter whether you do anything or not with a particular story, learning to finish what you start will make a major difference in your ability to keep developing and writing new stories. (That said, if you can’t stomach working on something, it’s also okay to change gears – just make sure you are finishing something.)

What's your favourite book/series?

It’s impossible to pick a favorite! So instead, I’m going to rec two authors who have also written fairytale type adaptations that I’ve absolutely loved. W.R. Gingell’s Two Monarchies sequence begins with Masque (hookline: Beauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?) and is so much fun! And Kate Stradling’s The Legendary Inge takes a seemingly throw-away moment from Beowulf, genderswaps the main character (yay girl power!), and builds a fabulous story from there. Definitely an original fairy tale, and one of the few reads I’ve enjoyed so much I flipped back to start over again the moment I finished. 

Thanks so much for having me on the blog!

About the Author

 Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She first remembers seeing snow on a wintry street in Zurich, Switzerland, and vaguely recollects having breakfast with the orangutans at the Singapore Zoo when she was five. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters.

Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s debut novel, Thorn, was picked up by HarperTeen and will be re-releasedin Winter 2020. In the meantime, she’s hard at work on the remaining books of The Sunbolt Chronicles.

Author Links:

Tour-wide giveaway

Open INT 
(as long as The Book Depository ships to your country)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Review - Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls, #1) by Rena Barron

Title: Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls, #1)
Author: Rena Barron
Pages: 496
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Release Date: 3rd September 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:


Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can't even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to HarperVoyager and NetGalley*

Powerful witch doctors run in Arrah's family, so she isn't the only person disappointed that she has no magic herself.

Children are disappearing and Arrah decides to do something incredibly dangerous - she gives years of her life in order to have magic.

Arrah uncovers dark and terrible secrets that will threaten not only the lives of her family, but also the kingdom itself.

Can Arrah save the children, her family and the kingdom?

The main reason I wanted to read Kingdom of Souls was for the witch doctors, but they weren't in the book as much as I expected.

Arrah was a likeable protagonist and I enjoyed reading about her relationship with her father who she was close to. It must have been so hard for Arrah being a disappointment to her mother and other people for not having magic.

The setting was interesting and I liked the concept of the different gods/orisha.

The plot was quite slow to get going, but I did enjoy it to begin with. However, after a while I found myself becoming bored and I struggled to stay interested in what was going on. I did consider stopping reading, but I was hopeful that the pace and storyline would pick up. I did end up finishing the book, but have to admit that I did skim-read several pages. There was a twist that I didn't see coming, but by that point I wasn't invested in what was happening and just wanted to get to the end, which is a shame as I was looking forward to reading Kingdom of Souls and am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it more.

The writing style was easy enough to follow, but it failed to grip me and hold my attention.

The concept was interesting, but it didn't reach its potential for me.

I won't be continuing with this series.

Overall, this was an okay read.