Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Why We Love: Tidy

Last week I finally managed to get the little ones registered at our local library and we borrowed a selection of lovely picture books while we were there, one of which was Tidy, by Emily Gravett. 

This is the second Garvett picture book we have read, as we got Where's Bear in a Bookstart pack.

Tidy is a funny, clever story that follows a badger called Pete on his quest to make the forest tidy. It wasn't at all what I expected from its title, however, as Pete is interested in tidying far more than just litter! As a result, the story contains an important message about the vital role trees and natural spaces play in allowing the world around us to thrive.

Tidy is a really lovely book and I would definitely recommend it.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Snow Like Ashes

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raach

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again. {goodreads summary}

Snow Like Ashes has been on my tbr since I first saw the cover; it was too beautiful to ignore. The picture above really doesn't do it justice. 

“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake.”

Meira's kingdom has been defeated and enslaved for the majority of her life, and she'll do anything to help rescue her people. She's desperate for a chance to prove herself, learning to balance what is best for herself with what is best for the people who depend on her. 

“Holding on to some part of your past even if it means also holding on to the pain of never again having it. That pain is less horrible than the pain of forgetting.”

I loved the twists and turns in this novel; it didn't always go in the direction I was expecting and I often found myself looking at how many pages I had left, wondering how everything would be resolved in time. 

"Someday we will be more than words in the dark."

The world building was a real strength, with the kingdoms and their magic fully worked out. I felt really immersed in Meira's world and am looking forward to hopefully finding out more about the other kingdoms in the rest of the series. 

“Sometimes placing our belief in something bigger than ourselves helps us get to a point where we can be enough on our own, magic or no magic.” 

Meira was a fantastic character. I loved watching her develop as the novel progressed, weighing up how the decisions she makes affect not only her own life, but those of the people she cares about. There are interesting observations on selfishness and selflessness, courage and resilience, throughout the novel. I'm really interested to see how her character will progress in the next novel. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Why We Love: I Don't Know What to Call my Cat

Choosing what to name your pet can be a difficult decision - there are so many to pick from: from Ethel to Rocky to My Maestro... The wrong name can have unexpected consequences. 

I Don't Know What to Call my Cat has adorable art work and a very funny storyline - which I hadn't expected because I thought the book was just going to be a list of names.

However, my daughter is quite young and a lot of the story is hidden in the pictures, rather than obvious from the text, so so do feel like a lot of it is going straight over her head. She really likes the busy artwork and has fun spotting the cats on each page, but I think this is a story she'll get more out of in a year or so.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Sleeping Prince

The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom. {goodreads summary}

Reading the Sleeping Prince reminded me why I should try to read novels in the same series more closely together - it's been so long since I read the Sin Eater's Daughter that I had forgotten a lot of the plot lines and back story, which made reading the first third or so of the book a struggle in places. 

“The apothecary, the monk and the living Goddess went to war. We sound like the start of a joke.”

I'm not usually a fan of books in series which follow different characters to the original, but TSP is definitely an exception. I really loved Errin and Silas - they were such complex, interesting characters and a real credit to Salisbury's world. They also meant that TSP nicely avoided the mid-book slump that it all too common in YA trilogies, giving the story a fresh twist with the changed perspective.

“Fortune favours the bold." I smile weakly."So does death," she counters immediately. "The craven tend to live much longer than the heroic.” 

I adored the world building, and found myself lost in Salisbury's fantasy world for days after I'd finished TSP, even though I'd started on another book. I just couldn't get it out of my head. The backstory and mythology is incredibly detailed.

When I asked him why, he told me it was safer like that. For us both. And to not ask again.
Mysterious boys are not as enjoyable in reality as they are in stories.

I'm going to make an effort to read The Scarecrow Queen quite soon, so I don't encounter the same issues that I did at the start of TSP. I can't wait to see how this series ends. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Why We Love: Oh No, George!

George said he'd be good and he wants to be good, but being good is tricky when there are so many fun temptations to be found when you're alone in the house... 

George is like a toddler who's been left alone in a room for five minutes while you try to make a cup of tea/put the washing on/brush your hair/hide and eat a biscuit. He means well, but temptation keeps getting the best of him and before he knows it, the whole house is a mess!

We bought Oh No, George! on the strength of Shh! We Have a Plan and I'm sure it won't be the last Chris Haughton book we read together. The art work is so distinctive and the repetition in the text is great for getting little ones involved in 'reading' the story; Oh No, George! is full of questions which you can discuss with your little ones, getting them to guess/remember what happens next. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Half Lost

Half Lost by Sally Green

The Alliance is losing the war, and their most critical weapon, seventeen-year-old witch Nathan Byrn, is losing his mind. Nathan’s tally of kills is rising, and yet he’s no closer to ending the tyrannical rule of the Council of White Witches in England. Nor is Nathan any closer to his personal goal: getting revenge on Annalise, the girl he once loved before she committed an unthinkable crime. An amulet protected by the extremely powerful witch Ledger could be the tool Nathan needs to save himself and the Alliance, but this amulet is not so easily acquired. And lately Nathan has started to suffer from visions: a vision of a golden moment when he dies, and of an endless line of Hunters, impossible to overcome. Gabriel, his closest companion, urges Nathan to run away with him, to start a peaceful life together. But even Gabriel’s love may not be enough to save Nathan from this war, or from the person he has become. {goodreads summary}

I put off reading Half Lost for a very long time, mostly out of concern that it wasn't going to end the way I wanted (I'm so team Gabriel that I don't read a book without my Gabriel bookmark).

“You've been away a long time. Were you lost?

I was wounded, not lost.”

Half Lost follows Nathan learning how to use his new powers and master his all-consuming desire for vengeance against Annalise, culminating in the final battle against Sol and the Hunters.

Gabriel turns to Greatorex, saying, ‘It’s him. But still feel free to shoot him.”

Nathan is a really interesting character - he's dark, with a bloodlust and violence that's unusual in a YA protagonist. He's volatile and angry, often pushing those closest to him away. Green's writing style really helps you to get into his head, her narrative voice matching perfectly with the way you would expect him to speak to you.

“I’m tired of your revenge, your anger, your hate. The war is killing you.” 

The ending: oh wow! I don't want to say very much, as I'd hate to give anything away. It's one of the best series endings I've come across in a while though, even if it did break my heart. I can't wait to read whatever Green publishes next.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Why We Love: Edie

Edie is helpful. So helpful. She wakes up her parents, keeps the dog looking smart and tells her little brother 'what's what'.

Parents of toddlers will instantly recognise Edie's behaviour. I feel like it could have been written after watching my little girl for an afternoon. Edie's 'helping' is usually more of a hindrance to her family, but her sunny attitude and desire to make everyone's lives easier makes this book a lot of fun.

Throw in some adorable art work and you've got a real winner of a picture book. I'm already planning how I can dress my daughter up as Edie for next world book day!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Elements of Power on Wattpad

Last week, after four and a half years of updates, I posted the final chapter of Air and therefore the conclusion to the Elements of Power trilogy, on Wattpad. 

I am so grateful for all of the support, votes and comments I have received for the series on Wattpad. I'm going to miss my weekly check in with Roxy and Jasmine a lot - I learnt so much by working on this series, not just about writing but publishing, marketing and promotion, and it will always be very special to me. 

At some point, I would really like to work out the formatting so that the trilogy can be available in paperback on Amazon, with new covers more like the ones I use on Wattpad. Until then, you can still get the ebooks from all major ebook retailers, or read the full series on Wattpad:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Way Down Dark

Way Down Dark by JP Smythe

There's one truth on Australia: You fight or you die. Usually both. Seventeen-year-old Chan's ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one. The only life that Chan's ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive. But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness - a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead. {goodreads summary}

My first sci-fi novel in a while! I watch a lot of sci-fi films and TV shows, but don't seem to end up reading many novels, for some reason.

"After I helped to kill my mother, I had to burn her body."

Way Down Dark follows Chan's life on board the Australia - a space ship divided by fierce gangs, where caring too much, or showing the slightest sign of weakness, can get you killed.

"You aren't special, Chan. None of us are."

I loved the concept of the Australia. It placed really interesting limitations on the characters and plot due to the cramped confinement and lack of resources. It was a dangerous, but exciting setting and was the thing I liked most about WDD. There was so much you couldn't do, and so much that you couldn't escape from. It was a bleak world and the ship was as important to the novel as any of the characters. 

"'I'm not special,' I say, 'that's right. I'm really not. Anybody could have done what I'm doing, but they didn't.'"

But that doesn't mean that the characters weren't great too! Chan was a really interesting protagonist, and I loved the exploration of where she was 'special' and whether that actually meant anything - she was determined to try and make a difference because it was the right thing to do, not because she thought she was important or worth following. The novel was packed full of action and there was enough peril that I never felt assured of any of the characters' safety, which made it an exciting read. 

"I need her to believe that life isn't just death and revenge."

There is, however, one major reason I'm not racing to read book two, but I don't want to mention it here as it's definitely a spoiler. Way Down Dark was a great book and I really enjoyed reading it, but it hasn't left me rushing to complete the series. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Skin Deep: An Update

Chicken pox and the Easter holidays have delayed my Skin Deep posting somewhat, but chapter five was posted on Wattpad today! This is how it opens:

The voice behind him grated like nails on a chalkboard. Beau steeled himself before turning to face it; the beast. He had expected a monster of towering height, with horns, fur and blood-drenched fangs. 

What he hadn’t expected was a woman. 

She was draped in an etherial black veil that Beau at once recognised as a funeral shroud. The eyes that gazed out from beneath it looked dead and empty; her skin was skeletal in its paleness. She was a corpse incarnate; a spectre risen from a funeral parlour to freeze the blood running through his veins. Death and darkness and despair.

“Don’t tell me what you see,” she said, almost softly. “I learnt long ago not to ask such questions.”

You can check out the full story so far, here:

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Why We Love: Don't Wake the Bear, Hare!

The woodland animals' preparations for their spring party are curtailed by a sleeping bear. They need to be really quiet if they're going to avoid waking him up. Because bears are hairy and scary, right?

A good picture book should be fun to read aloud and Don't Wake the Bear, Hare! definitely ticks this box! The text scans really well and also encourages you to whisper and be really loud. It's really enjoyable to read.

The artwork is lovely too and there's lots to look at on each page - from towering stacks of cups to the tiniest of ants.

We've read Don't Wake the Bear, Hare! at least once a day since we got it and it's still just as enjoyable as the first time. Seriously though, if anyone knows of a job where so can be paid just for reading picture books all day let me know!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell's possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland's dying body through the rift--back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games--an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries--a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port. {Goodreads Summary}

I have a habit at the moment of reading the second novel in a trilogy at the same time everyone else is devouring book three. My ability to keep on top of trilogies is really lacking and definitely something I need to work on.  

“I am Delilah Bard, she thought, as the ropes cut into her skin. I am a thief and a pirate and a traveler. I have set foot in three different worlds, and lived. I have shed the blood of royals and held magic in my hands.”

In A Gathering of Shadows, Lila is back, causing as much trouble as ever and keeping an increasingly conflicted Kell on his toes. The Element Games allows for a brilliant insight into the world these books are set in and the plot kept me guessing throughout as it never quite went where I expected it to. 

"Call me crazy, but I think we do the best living when the stakes are high."

I loved the new characters - especially Emery. He reminded me a bit of Nikolai in the Grisha Trilogy, because of his ability to fit in everywhere.  

“Dozens of ships, Lila! And you had to climb aboard his.”
“I’m sorry,” she shot back, bristling, “I was under the impression that I was free to do as I pleased.”
“To be fair,” added Alucard, “I think she was planning to steal it and slit my throat.”
“Then why didn’t you?” snarled Kell, spinning on her. “You’re always so eager to slash and stab, why couldn’t you have stabbed him?” 

Kell and Rhy's relationship is a strong as ever and really is one of the best things about this series. I love they way they interact with each other, and the events from the ending of the first book brings an interesting new dynamic to this. 

“Look, everyone talks about the unknown like it's some big scary thing, but it's the familiar that's always bothered me. It's heavy, builds up around you like rocks, until it's walls and a ceiling and a cell.”

The cliff hanger ending was horrible, but the only benefit to being so behind with this series is that I don't have to wait long to discover what happens next. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

This Raging Light

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Can the best thing happen at the worst time?

Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. {goodreads summary}

I've wanted to read this since I first read the synopsis before it was released, so I was really excited to snap it up on a Kindle sale last week.

"Explain to me what the point of living is if you aren't willing to fight for the truths in your heart, to risk getting hurt. You have to rage."

Lucille's mum tells her she'll be back in a week, but when school starts and she still hasn't returned, Lucille starts to suspect she might never be coming back at all, leaving Lucille in charge of her nine year old sister Wren. This Raging Light follows Lucille's attempt to keep her and her sister fed, alive and safe. It's about keeping secrets, refusing to give up and knowing when to ask for help, as well as friendship, love and family. 

“All feeling has an equivalent in action or is useless"

"Did you say that?" 

Of course not," she says. "Virginia Woolf”

I do wish I hadn't ended up reading two books where the protagonist was in love with someone else's boyfriend back to back. I'd have probably enjoyed TRL more if I hadn't just read Anna and the French Kiss. There was still a lot to love in this book though. Lu is a really strong protagonist. I love how pragmatic she was - she never crumpled to the floor and gave up; she kept going no matter what was thrown at her. 

"Denial is for losers. Face your crap and move on. Otherwise you’ll get old and depressed and turn into a scary pod person whose most pressing issue in life is when they get to trade in the can of Dr Pepper for the can of Bud.” 

I also liked how open ended the final chapter was. There are loads of unanswered questions, leaving it to the reader to decide what happened to Lu and Wren next. Although, while writing this, I've just discovered that there's actually a spin off/sequel about Eden which comes out in April: But Then I Came Back. I guess the ending isn't going to remain so open after all...

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Why We Love: The Darkest Dark

It's been ages since I posted a picture book review and I'm really keen to do them more regularly since I spend most of my day reading them at the moment. Recently, my daughter and I have been enjoying The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield.

Before I went on maternity leave, I worked in a space-themed secondary school (yes, that is a thing. There's actually two of them in the UK!). Space (and physics in general) is a pretty big deal in our house and my daughter has been sung the astronomically correct version of Twinkle Twinkle since she was a few weeks old.

The Darkest Dark has been a great addition to our growing collection of space-themed picture books. The story is sweet, and incredibly appropriate at a time when we're struggling to get our daughter to sleep in her own bed. The illustrations are beautiful and it's been a great way for us to talk about space travel and the moon landing. We had great fun walking around the kitchen like astronauts after reading TDD this morning, although there were a few appearances from Zoe and Beans' moony moles, so there wasn't a lot of scientific accuracy!

We would definitely recommend TDD to all budding astronauts, or toddlers who are afraid of the dark. Are there any space-themed picture books you've enjoyed and would recommend? Please leave me a comment if you have any suggestions; I'm always on the look out for more.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all...including a serious girlfriend. 

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? {goodreads summary}

Anna and the French Kiss is a fun, fast read that will have you researching French hotels and Eurostar prices as soon as you reach the last page.

“French name, English accent, American school. Anna confused.”

The last thing Anna wants is to be sent half way around the world to complete her senior year, in a school where everyone has already known each other for three years and a country where she doesn't speak the language. But 

“I wish friends held hands more often, like the children I see on the streets sometimes. I'm not sure why we have to grow up and get embarrassed about it.”

This novel is really cute. It reminded me a bit of Dairy of a Crush in terms of how I felt about the characters and the ups and downs of the romantic plot line. 

“I mean, really. Who sends their kid to boarding school? It's so Hogwarts. Only mine doesn't have cute boy wizards or magic candy or flying lessons.”

My favourite thing about this novel was definitely the setting: Perkins brings Paris to life through her narrative and the setting is fundamental to the plot throughout. 

“How many times can our emotions be tied to someone else's - be pulled and stretched and twisted - before they snap? Before they can never be mended again?” 

Anna is the first book in a trilogy and I'm really keen to read the rest when I get a chance. 

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Mother's Day Reading

This Mother's day I was "lucky" enough to get some lovely gifts. I've put the lucky in inverted commas because my kids are 2 and a half, and 9 weeks old, so I knew exactly what I was getting as I'd picked them myself and sent my husband the links!

Mary Berry Everyday is my second Berry cookbook and now proudly sits alongside my much loved and often used Mary Berry's Baking Bible, which is easily the best recipe book I own. I love cooking and baking, so I've acquired quite a large collection of recipe books now. Some seem to end up just being for show (Crumb and The Weekend Baker have only been used once each so far) but I've already picked out three recipes from this one to try next week, so I think it's going to be a great addition. 

I'm halfway through the Unmumsy Mum Diary at the moment and have laughed out loud more times than I can keep track of. Turner is a brilliant writer and is superb at telling stories in hilarious ways. I'm only concerned that I'm looking slightly into the future, to when my two start interacting - and therefore bickering and fighting - with each other. 

I also received the blu-ray of Fantastic Beasts, which isn't in the picture as it was released the day after Mother's day). I didn't manage to see Fantastic Beasts in the cinema as I was seven months pregnant when it came out and didn't fancy being sat down for that long without a toilet break, so Monday was my first time getting to watch it. Although, I did know the plot as I picked up a copy of the screenplay in Minalima when I went to see the Cursed Child (which I saw in November, despite being seven months pregnant and having to walk up a lot of stairs!) I read a lot of plays, but FB was the first film script I'd ever read and I kept expecting the film itself to deviate from it in some way then had to remind myself that they wouldn't be any different (baby brain!). The special effects were superb and I'm already looking forward to watching it again.

I think I organised quite a successful, bookish Mother's Day for myself; however, I'm looking forward to the first year when I don't have to pick my own gifts even more! 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Skin Deep Chapter One: Little Town

Beau scrunched up his eyes in stubborn denial of the sunlight streaming in through his bedroom window. It couldn’t possibly be morning yet. He’d only come to bed a few minutes ago after an extremely undignified fight with a stubborn hen who refused to return to the barn. His eyes had been closed for five seconds, tops. He hadn’t even been out long enough to dream.

The shrill cry of a cockerel blasted through the thin walls of the country house Beau and his family had moved to last year, confirming that it was, indeed morning. The cockerel’s mischief-making mate was no doubt pea-cocking around the barn in celebration at her victory; Beau had once again had no rest and she would soon be back in the open air, harassing the horses and keeping the other birds in line. 

Admitting defeat, Beau groaned and threw back his threadbare blanket. The novel he had hoped - in vain - to finish last night lay untouched on the nightstand. Beau looked at it wistfully before getting up. He splashed some cold water on his face and torso from the pitcher in the corner of his room, avoiding his no doubt exhausted reflection in the cracked mirror hung in front of it, then pulled on a clean shirt and pair of trousers and headed through to the small family kitchen. 

It was neat, but compact. Hardly big enough for the seven person family who had to squeeze around its worn oak table for meals three times a day. Two baguettes remained on the counter from yesterday and Beau fired up the aga before sprinkling them with a little water and putting them on to heat. He filled the tarnished copper kettle to the brim with water and placed it on the hob, leaving it to boil while he attended to the house’s animal occupants. 

The farm animals’ feed was kept in a cosy store beside the back door and Beau refilled the buckets with a yawn, making a mental note to head into town later to purchase more feed. Their supplies were dwindling yet again. 

“Come on then, Hellions,” he called out cheerfully as he entered the barn. “Breakfast time!” He flung the doors wide open, allowing the animals access to the small but well maintained farmyard beside the house. As he’d predicted, the hen who had caused him so much trouble last night was the first through the door. She nipped his boot affectionately before helping herself to the feed that he had started to scatter around the yard. 

“Good morning, nuisance,” he told her with a fond smile. “Who are you going to terrorise this morning?” As if in answer to his question, the hen took off across the yard, chasing down another hen who had brazenly attempted to approach the cockerel. The morning was fresh, but dry; the sun that had woken Beau gleamed down on the yard, illuminating the dew coated spider webs. 

Once the animals were fed and watered, Beau returned to the kitchen where the kettle was whistling merrily. He took it off the hob and started making tea. Once he was done, he took the bread from the aga and put it in the centre of the table with a small slab of butter, an almost empty pot of homemade jam and seven plates. It was a meagre breakfast, but there was nothing that could be done about that. Milk, at least, was plentiful, having been provided by the family’s cow yesterday. Milking her would be his next job for the morning, once he’d had something to eat. 

Beau rang the brass bell by the door before taking his place at the table, tearing off a chunk of the warm bread and biting into it. He left the butter and the jam untouched. 

He was halfway through his breakfast when the rest of his family appeared. His father looked grateful as always. He was moving stiffly today; the injured leg that prevented him from helping Beau to run the farm must have been causing him more trouble due to the growing coldness of the weather. Beau made a mental note to put a hot water pan in his bed tonight. His three younger sisters - Rose, Clara and Estelle - took their seats with fond smiles in his direction, although tiny Rose struggled to hide her dismay at how little food was on offer. Her tiny bottom lip quivered as their eldest brother, Louis, seized the last of the jam, slathering it over his own disproportionately large chunk of bread without a thought for the others. Gabriel took an equally uneven portion, throwing Beau a look of disgust as he spread crumbs all over the table. 

“Is this all there is?” He complained loudly. 

“I’m not a magician, Gabe,” Beau replied, tearing off some of his remaining bread and handing it to Rose, who had already finished her own portion and was looking around hungrily. “I can’t fashion breakfast from thin air.”

“What about the eggs you collected yesterday?” Louis grunted, pouring himself another cup of tea. 

“I’m taking them into town to sell so that I can put breakfast on the table tomorrow morning.” Beau struggled to keep his tone even as he spoke to his brothers. 

“Get some croissants,” Gabe demanded. Rose and Clara’s eyes lit up, but Beau shook his head. 

“Do you have any idea how much they cost? It’s croissants for three of us, or bread for all.”

Louis laughed, tipping his head back so that his brown curls fell away from his eyes. “So long as I get to eat, I don’t care.”

Gabe, meanwhile, was glaring at their father, his green eyes glowing. “I miss the town. We were never hungry once we finished breakfast there.”

Louis laughed once more. “Only hungry for another eyeful of that maid. What was her name again? The one that always bought you extra pastries?”

Gabe shrugged, grinning. “As if I bothered to learn her name. I was too busy staring at her-”

“Gabe!” Beau admonished, cutting across him with a pointed glance towards the younger girls. 

Gabe shrugged him off, getting to his feet. At six foot, he barely fit under the kitchen ceiling. “If there’s nothing else to eat, I’m going back to bed.” Louis sloshed down his cup of tea, letting the cup crash back to the table with a loud belch before following his brother out of the room. 

“Do you need any help this morning, Beau?” Grey-eyed Estelle, the eldest of his sisters, though still Beau’s junior by four years, asked once their elder brothers had left. 

Beau hated delegating jobs to his sisters, who should have been playing with dolls and teddy bears instead of working on a farm. He shook his head, ruffling Rose’s strawberry blonde hair fondly. 

“I’ve got it, thanks. You three should go outside and play. There’s not much nice weather left this year; make the most of it.”

“You’re sure?” Estelle checked, although her eyes glanced hopefully towards the door.

“Of course.”

With identical grins, the three girls rose and headed outside, where their excited cries and chatter soon filled the air. 

Beau’s father looked at him and sighed. “I’m sorry-“ he began, but Beau cut across him. 

“Ignore them. They’re brutes. It’s not your fault that storm destroyed all of your ships. And I think we’re doing French society a favour by keeping Gabriel and Louis tucked away here where they can’t do as much damage. You don’t need to apologise to me for anything.”

“Except the loss of your happiness,” his father gazed towards the door as he spoke, where the girls could still be heard playing joyfully. 

Beau shrugged. “I wasn’t really any happier in town.”

“Too busy dreaming of adventure?” His father asked, smiling. 

Beau sighed. “I just want something… more than this. Not that I even know what it is I’m looking for.”

“If anyone deserves to live out their dreams, Beau, it’s you. I only hope I can somehow give you the opportunity to escape this place.”

Beau smiled sadly at his father before getting to his feet to clear the breakfast things away. Adventure. Escape. Those were dreams for someone without six other hungry mouths to provide for. Beau knew that he would be stuck on this farm for the rest of his life, his books the closest to adventure he was ever going to get. 

To keep reading, make sure you follow me on Wattpad and add Skin Deep to your reading list. Updates every Friday.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Skin Deep: one week to go

To celebrate there being only one week to go until I post the first chapter of my Beauty and the Beast retelling and the release of the new film, today I am sharing the Wattpad cover art and the first few paragraphs!

A tale as old as time with a rather different twist. When Beau's father steals a cursed rose from the garden of a terrifying beast, Beau bravely offers to take his father's place in servitude. 
Cursed to appear in the form that will terrify the beholder most,  Brielle doesn't know what to make of the new addition to her castle.
But the pair slowly learn that there is more to the other than meets the eye. After all, beauty is only skin deep.

Beau scrunched up his eyes in stubborn denial of the sunlight streaming in through his bedroom window. It couldn’t possibly be morning yet. He’d only come to bed a few minutes ago after an extremely undignified fight with a stubborn hen who refused to return to the barn. His eyes had been closed for five seconds, tops. He hadn’t even been out long enough to dream.

The shrill cry of a cockerel blasted through the thin walls of the country house Beau and his family had moved to last year, confirming that it was, indeed morning. The cockerel’s mischief-making mate was no doubt pea-cocking around the barn in celebration at her victory; Beau had once again had no rest and she would soon be back in the open air, harassing the horses and keeping the other birds in line. 

Admitting defeat, Beau groaned and threw back his threadbare blanket. The novel he had hoped - in vain - to finish last night lay untouched on the nightstand. Beau looked at it wistfully before getting up. He splashed some cold water on his face and torso from the pitcher in the corner of his room, avoiding his no doubt exhausted reflection in the cracked mirror hung in front of it, then pulled on a clean shirt and pair of trousers and headed through to the small family kitchen. 

What do you think? You'll be able to read Skin Deep on my blog and over at Wattpad. I will post the rest of the first chapter next Friday, so check back then to meet the rest of Beau's family.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Next Together

The Next Together by Lauren James

How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. 

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? 

Maybe the next together will be different... {goodreads summary}

Time travel, romance and an action-packed adventure - what more could you ask for in a novel?

"I don't think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy."

When Kate meets Matt in a university biology lab, he seems strangely familiar - right down to the Scottish accent she's expecting before he even opens his mouth. The more time they spend with each other, the more they get the sense that they have done this before. Many times. The Next Together follows Kate and Matt as they find and lose each other across various timelines. A brilliant blend of sci-fi, action and romance, The Next Together is a novel not to be missed.

"All throughout history they had been doing this, finding and loving each other and then being ripped apart before they even had a chance to live."

I particularly loved the way the different time lines weaved together; James' ability to keep track of all the threads and keep the pace moving was superb. 

"She had been here before. She knew she had, except she definitely hadn't."

My favourite parts of TNT were the really cute emails/texts/fridge notes between 2019 Katherine and Matthew which were often used to start the chapters. They were funny and gave a great insight into the characters. 

"This conference is everything I want in life: sun, sand and four talks a day about health and safety."

I'm really intrigued to see what happens in the sequel - The Last Beginning (which is a brilliant title!) - as I'm not really sure where the story will go next. 

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fairytale Retellings

While I continue working on Skin Deep, I wanted to share some of my favourite fairytale retellings on the blog, as there are so many brilliant ones out there.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? Because this series is a sci-fi retelling of not one, but four different fairytales! Meyer weaves the original tales into her work in unique and surprising ways. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? This is a very loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast but it has some brilliant moments. The sequel - A Court of Mist and Fury - is superb.

The Forbidden Wish

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? This is a novel about friendship as much as romance and Khoury's storytelling is superb. 

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift -- the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse -- once and for all. {goodreads summary}
Why would I recommend it? Because it's funny, lighthearted and enjoyable from start to finish. 
Beastly by Alex Flinn

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
  {goodreads summary}

Why would I recommend it? Because it puts some interesting twists on the original. The modern setting works really well. 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don't.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down? {goodreads summary}
Every Maas book I read is better than the last. If you haven't read any of her novels yet, I can't recommend them enough; she is a superbly talented author. The plot, the characters, the romance... I honestly can't decide which detail of this series I enjoy the most.

“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”

I loved the inclusion of all the characters from the novella series (which should definitely be read along with the full length novels, as they contain so many important character details). It emphasised just how rich and detailed Maas' world building is and prevented the jarring inclusion of too many new characters this late in the series. 

“You will find, Rolfe, that one does not deal with Celaena Sardothien. One survives her” 

And then, of course, there was the ending. Maas - Queen of the cliffhanger - delivered a Court of Mist and Fury worthy twist that will ensure I'll be thinking about this novel until the conclusion to the series comes out. 

“Even when this world is a forgotten whisper of dust between the stars, I will always love you.” 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Skin Deep: Inspiration and Planning

A few months ago I posted a little bit about my next short story, Skin Deep, which is a gender-reversed retelling of Beauty and the Beast. My plan is now complete and I'm ready to start work on chapter one, so I thought I would share a little bit of information about my inspiration and initial planning. 

After I'd got my initial character ideas down in Scrivener, my next job was to find and read the original fairytales. The most famous version of Beauty and the Beast (besides the Disney film) is by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but this is an abridged version of an original tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Both are worth reading, although they are rather different to Disney's interpretation. Skin Deep will use aspects from both tales, as well as a lot of new elements, just like Mirrored Snow and Princess Charming.

As well as my reading research, I also started to put together a Pinterest board. I make these for all my stories as I find them a really helpful way of compiling my ideas. The images are also be really helpful when I come to work on my cover art. You can take a look at my Pinterest board for Skin Deep below. It contains a few hints of what's to come. I'll be posting the first chapter on the blog before it goes on Wattpad, so keep an eye out for future updates!