Friday, 20 May 2016

Feature & Follow #9

Feature & Follow is back with a new look! This time, rather than a question, we've got a more open ended prompt. More of a struggle if you're not feeling creative, but luckily you get a pretty good prompt to get you thinking!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. I've just started getting involved in these features and they're great fun! It's a really cool way to find out what people are reading and connect with other bloggers. Added bonus, the aim of a blog hop is to follow others. You follow me, I follow you. Wins all round! I'm happy for followers on GFC, Twitter, Bloglovin', Goodreads, whatever works for you. I guess I'd prefer Bloglovin' follows if I had to pick one. Make sure you leave me a comment so I know you're a new followers, I'm kind of scatty with keeping track of new followers on Bloglovin' and the like!

The post prompt:
Ten reasons you love your favourite genre.

In a move that will surprise no one who has even glanced sideways at my blog, I've gone for fantasy YA.

In a land far, far away...
World building scores big points with me, and there's usually plenty of that in fantasy YA novels.

Dance, dance
I don't mean the Fall Out Boy song (although that it is a tune!), I mean the inevitable learning to dance and going to the ball chapters. If there isn't an occasion for you to have a "She's All That" style makeover and go to a fancy ball, then you're not in a YA fantasy novel.

The prince and the pauper
He's a prince, she's some kind of commoner/assassin/apprentice in the kind of one-sided match up that would last about five seconds in the real world. But come on, who doesn't like to think they could snag someone who's way out of the their league given half the chance?


An ass-kicking female lead
Some, alright most, of my favourite book characters are from YA. I have a whole page dedicated to my favourite leading ladies.

World Map
I love world maps! Honestly, I'd make wallpaper of some of my favourite maps if I could, or at least frame them and put them on the wall. A YA book is off to a good start if I open it to a world map, and most of them do.

Come on, who doesn't like to think that they're Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries with a long lost kingdom waiting out there for them somewhere? Who doesn't love a rag to riches story? Fantasy is just that, it's endless possibility and about reaching as high as you can and dreaming without limits.

Down the rabbit hole
A lot of YA fantasy novels and series share a lot of common themes and DNA. Some people call them cliches, and I do too, but that doesn't mean I don't love them. If you find yourself with a severe book hangover when your favourite series comes to a close, there's a ton of new ones out there and you'll find your new favourite read in no time. Fickle? Me? Surely not...

Ready for the close up
YA fantsy cover art is, 9 times out of 10, gorgeous. I've done posts dedicated to beautiful artwork here and here, and I suspect there will be more to come.

The leading man
No YA fantasy novel is complete without a swoonworthy love interest. Some books get this more right than others (and a few get it so horrendously wrong that the book reads like a warningly pamphlet for abusive relationships) but if a book features the literary equivalent of Ryan Reynolds, well, that's at least one review star right there.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Aurora - Everealm #4

Stolen power has been returned to its rightful owners, causing a significant shift in the dynamic of magics in Everealm. The surge of new sorceresses with little or no control over their magic are the perfect targets for the cursed creatures who roam the realm. A crisis occurs that even the Elder Mage may not be able to control on her own.

Vengeful kings seek to punish all who wronged them, but even the best laid plans can go awry. And the threat of secrets being revealed may end new romances before they can even begin to flourish.

As the sun rises over Everealm, a new chapter begins with the beautiful Aurora, Book Four of the Everealm Series.

Quick disclaimer - I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but that has not influenced my review any. There are no glowing reviews in exchange for freebies here!

It's no secret that I love the Everealm series! I mean, the name alone practically screams fantasy heaven. But while a lot of series these days clock in at three books, or the increasingly popular two, has Everealm run out of steam? Hell no! This time around we've got The Enemy That Rose From The Ashes, an invasion of murderous imps, assasinated kings, the return of the villainous Silas and the action now takes place across no less than seven kingdoms.

I was so happy to see Bree and Rowan finally get married! It's their journey that we've followed from the opening of Everealm and I'm a sucker for a happy ending, so it was lovely to see these two finally walk down the aisle, although Rianne and Zander remain my favourite pairing. So many books focus stubbornly on a single MC, to the point where every new character introduced is only there to add something to their story, which can make a series seem confined when it should be expanding outwards. But Everealm isn't afraid to introduce new, fully realised characters, without losing sight of the old ones. I loved reading more about Tristain and Sera and their slightly strained romance, and Bree and Rowan's daughter Sarita gets a bigger role here (in preparation for a new series perhaps?). The only exception to the list of wonderful new characters is Penny. The village girl turned knight of the realm, on paper she should be fantastic, but for some reason I just never took to her. Maybe because I like Finn and Adelphine as a couple so much, and she's an unecessary source of conflict for them.

The good thing though is that if you don't like one of the characters, there are plenty more to follow. And if you do like a character, you're just extra pleased to see them turn up in the next chapter. It's nice to find a book that gives its readers credit for being able to follow multiple storylines without feeling the need to tie them all back to one plot thread or person. The characters feel organic and real, not just ciphers put in place to support a by-the-numbers MC.

One of the things that I love so much about this series is that, even with so much going on with so many characters and kingdoms, it's never a chore to read. There's plenty of mystery and intrigue, but there's no special snowflake character who's secretive backstory we're trying to unpick or single conspiracy that will explain everything at the end of the book. It feels boundless, and J.D. Wright is never afraid to pick up a new story thread and weave it in with the others. But she doesn't do a George RR Martin with it was go off on a tangent that is totally irrelevant to our established characters and stories, it just adds another layer to what's already there.

I'm really interested to see where this series is going. With so many characters and lands now spreading out across Everealm, I'm starting to look for the breadcrumbs to the end game. There's still a wonderful mix of fairytale-esque, kind of whimsical events and quite dark undertones, but all the pieces are starting to fall into place for an epic showdown.

The only downside I found to this book was that, similarly to book two in the series Wildfire, there's a bit of a lack of bad guy here. King Leonard is an ass, but he's not quite up to scratch. Silas was an epic villain in book one and made a welcomed return in book three, but he didn't quite live up to my "villain in chief" expectations. He certainly has his moments - killing off kings left, right and centre - but is MIA for much of the book. Still, it's a nitpick in a book I really enjoyed, and he's perfectly placed at the end of Aurora to be back with a bang in Dynasty. Now begins the wait for book five!


Thursday, 5 May 2016

Author interview - J.D. Wright

If you follow my blog, you might be aware that I'm more than a little obsessed with the Everealm series. Fantasy books are my kryptonite and this series reads like a gift from the reading gods. Magic, castles, lands far far away, knights, faeries, sex, romance, old school wardrobes ... suffice to say, I'm hooked! I love Everealm, and Wildfire, and Blood Moon, and when the fourth book in the series, Aurora, came out recently I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy by the author J.D. Wright. Did I love it?

I'm still working on the review! Since J.D. is an absolute sweetheart and doesn't object to my fangirling about the series, she was happy to do an author interview answering my questions about the books. I'm not a writer (in the book sense anyway), but I'm fascinated by all the behind the scenes stuff that goes into world-building and making characters come to life. Once of my favourite aspects of this series is the boundless imagination behind it. There's no confining the story to our special-snowflake main character or sticking to one kingdom at a time, there's always a hundred and one things going on, in the very best way! So, here's the story of Everealm and the brains behind it ... 

What inspired you to start writing?
Mid-life crisis. No, I’m joking. But I did have a moment of “zen”, if you will, around the time of my 10 year high school reunion. I felt like I had lost a part of who I was since becoming an adult, getting married, joining the military, having children, etc. I wanted to do something for me. Something to stir my creativity. So when I came across my old binder, with notes from the novel I started in high school, I decided to go ahead and do it.

How did Everealm make the journey to print?
It started with the binder. I read over my notes, names, and plot points, from some 10-11 years before and I made an outline for Everealm. Then I just sat down and started typing, with absolutely no idea what I was doing. The entire book was written in around 2 months. I sent the draft to a few family members to proofread and I proofread it once or twice myself. Then I took the leap and uploaded it to Amazon. Is it perfect? Not even close. But it’s nice to look back and see how far I have come since writing Everealm. About a year later, when Wildfire was released, I put Everealm into print, as well. The print and new ebook covers were designed by me. That is still a learning process, too.

Who’s your favourite character/pairing?
It feels wrong to pick one. Like I’m cheating on my characters, since I have love for each of them for different reasons. If I had to pick one pairing, it would be Bree and Rowan. For my favorite character, Dahlia is the one I’ve probably enjoyed writing about the most. She has changed a lot throughout the series. Finn is fun, too, and I was surprised by how much I liked writing scenes with Sarita in them. I’m really excited to continue the princess’ story in the next series (Songs Series).

Do you have any writing rituals?
I do. I write in the bathtub! I have writing playlists to listen to with my headphones, a different playlist depending on the “mood” of the scene. I put the computer on a chair next to the tub, turn on the jets, put on the music, and write until I’m wrinkly and the water has gone cold, at least twice usually. With a house full of people (me, husband + 4 children), the bath is the only time I get to myself really. Maybe one day, I will have an actual office to write in. But it probably won’t be as comfortable…

Everealm is very medieval. What time period would you like to live in?
I love everything medieval, but I’m not sure I would want to really live there, only because I enjoy indoor plumbing too much. Though, Everealm is a medieval-ish realm with modern speech and tendencies so I could probably manage it. Another reader referred to it as a “parallel world with magic instead of technology”. I couldn’t agree more! I would actually love to have been a teenager during the 50’s and 60’s, here in America. Yes, there were a lot of issues that we had to work out as a country during that time, but I love the music, food, clothes, and cars of the oldie/golden era. Give me a poodle skirt, saddle shoes, ponytail, cheeseburger and shake, and mix it with some Everly Brothers and a man with a leather jacket driving a hot rod… I’m going to faint just thinking about it. :)

Would you rather be a Queen or a Sorceress (and no, you can't be a Sorcerer Queen!)?
No, I couldn’t be a sorceress queen because that is against the rules of the realm, too. I would probably choose to be a sorceress but very good friends with the queen because it definitely has its perks. So I guess that makes me Sidonie. Not sure if I would want the responsibility of being the Elder Mage, though.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Oh, no. *shakes her head* I decided early on to never base any characters off of people I know. I tried that with my first attempt at writing, in high school. But I found that I spent more time trying to make the character likable than doing what I wanted with them. Let’s face it, if you base a character on someone you know, you have to make sure they like that character and then you’re limited on what you can do with them. Nope. I base my characters on a set of personality traits, instead. I do however, tend to use celebrities/actors as inspiration for character appearances. It’s easier to visualize the characters in order to describe them if I can actually see someone who looks similar.

Who are your favourite authors/what are your favourite books/series’?
I read a lot of Nora Roberts. I have a soft spot for her since the first “adult” books I read were hers. I love her trilogies, especially. I also am a big fan of the Little House on the Prairie Series. I re-read that series last year. There are other authors that I tend to read on occasion but I will read a Nora Roberts book within 24 hours of release. Out of loyalty and habit, if nothing else. She writes a lot about Celtic/Irish lore and some supernatural elements. And who doesn’t love a good romance story with a mysterious ghost in it?

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Mostly just to take the leap! I had no idea what I was doing and am still learning as I go, but it has been such a fun and wonderful ride! Some authors spend years on one manuscript before releasing it because they aren’t sure if it’s ready. Let’s face it. It will never be perfect. There is no such thing. Just put it out there and move on to the next one. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

Author Links:

I highly recommend checking out J.D.'s website. She's put a ton of effort into world building (something that scores lots of points with me!) and there are maps, character histories and quirky facts about the kingdoms. And watch this space for my Aurora review!