#fantasy, #fiction, #yafantasy, author, blog, blogtour, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, fiction, interview, middlegrade, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne – Jonathan Stroud

I’m very excited to be a part of the Blog Tour The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne by Jonathan Stroud. And I’m very lucky that Jonathan has written a blog post about his experience writing this book.

Jonathan talks about the writing process, drafting, editing and much more and it’s incredibly interesting to read. There’s some great advice here for writers so this is a great read. So, lets go.

Jonathan Stroud       Writing The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne

Hello. I’ve recently finished writing my novel, The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne. When I get to the end of a big project like this, my office is always festooned with papery debris that’s built up over weeks and months as I wrestled the book into shape. Sooner or later, I’ll summon the energy to roll up my sleeves, fortify myself with a stiff drink, and get rid of a lot of it, before filing the key bits away in the loft. But I haven’t done this for Outlaws yet, which gives me the chance to look here at some of the stages the book went through over the last three years…

1. First Notes

I began thinking about the new project at the start of 2018, a few months after my last Lockwood & Co. book had been published. I knew straight away that I wanted it to be set in a post-apocalyptic future Britain, where events had made the country much more dangerous and strange. I also knew that it would feature a river journey along the Thames, probably with a raft involved, and that there would be bit of a Western vibe. These elements survived to the final book, but other things were very different – for example, at the outset the main character was a middle-aged man, who met a couple of children on a wrecked bus in the wilderness. These pages of early notes show a diagram of one of the fortified ‘Surviving Towns’ and also a sketch of the crashed bus – both these ideas are still in the finished book, three years later.

2. Early Structure

After a couple of months making notes and writing fragmentary scenes, I tried figuring out the book’s structure – you can see the attempt here. It’s always good to do this, because it helps throw up problems, of which, in this case, there were many. My main issue was that the main character (here known as Bob Choi) didn’t work, but I didn’t realise this yet. He rescues a couple of children from a bus (chapter 3), takes them across the wilds, discovers they are being pursued by bad guys (ch 5), and escapes with them along the Thames (ch 7). All these elements make it (in a different form) into the eventual book, as does the climax in some half-submerged ruins in the London Lagoon (ch 17). But Bob Choi would have to go.

3. Still Struggling

Incredibly, though, he was still there eight months later, at the end of 2018, when these particular notes were done. I was having real problems making the book work, and you can see me here still trying to figure out the structure and rhythm of the book – how the plot would string together in a kind of necklace of ‘crises’ and ‘phases’. I was missing the point: the dynamic between my characters wasn’t working, and that’s the engine that ultimately powers a successful book. It took till early 2019, a full year after starting, that Bob Choi was booted out, and Scarlett McCain took over his role as the dangerous but reluctantly compassionate hero. At least in these notes here, I was having fun sketching toothed birds and giant mud-rats, and was profitably employed thinking about the accelerated evolution of the fauna of my future England.

4. Map Sketch

One thing that never altered, through the whole two and a half years of writing, was the idea of the river journey, from source to outflow, down the Thames. Towards the end of the project, when I knew pretty well how the story worked, I drew up this sketch map of the river and the London Lagoon (our London has vanished within it). It mostly follows the real course of the Thames, with a few tweaks and changes, such as the kingdoms (Mercia, Wessex, Anglia) that it passes through, the absence of most towns, and the promotion of a few real towns and villages to a more important status. I always like drawing maps: it has the same effect for me as it does for the reader, and helps anchor my characters’ travels securely in the mind.

5. Note Files

By the time a book like this is finished, I usually have a couple of ring-binders like these, filled with all the notes I made at every stage of the composition. I file them chronologically, so I can look back and check stuff, and also roll my eyes at all the false starts and appalling cul-de-sacs I explored along the way.

6. Drafts

I’ve lost track of how many drafts The Outlaws Scarlett and Browne went through, but you can see from this pile that it’s quite a lot. Early on there were two or three ‘unfinished’ drafts, where I got to a certain point, realised that it wasn’t working, and stopped to recalibrate, before starting again. Certain scenes that worked, however, were transposed almost word-for-word between them. There were probably at least four complete drafts after that, inching ever closer to the desired result. At each point I thought I’d cracked it, only for a re-read to show me that I needed to try again. Phew, just looking at this pile makes me feel a bit tired! Forget raft trips down the Thames – writing a novel is an epic journey in itself, but it’s all worth it in the end.

How amazing was that? Thank you so much Jonathan for doing this and for all the great information.

I was also lucky enough to read an early copy of this book, and it’s fantastic. It’s a brilliant start to a new teen series, its action packed, its got great world building and was full of intrigue. My favourite thing were the characters. They were brilliant. I enjoyed Scarlett & Browne so much. They made me laugh out loud, and I loved the connection Jonathan creates between them. I really believed their friendship. Now I’ve got to wait for book two, that I am definitely looking forward to.

Thanks again to Jonathan and make sure you check out all the other bloggers taking part. You can even read the first two chapters of this book. The Outlaws Scarlett & Browne is out April 1st.

Until the next review

Jthbooks

#contemporary, #fantasy, #fiction, #literature, #yafantasy, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, bookstagram, gay, lgbt, literary ficton, review, thriller, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

February Wrap Up

Another month has come and gone. Another month of Lockdown in the uk. I’ve, again, tried to spend my time reading but I did take a little break in the middle of the month. I’m not sure why, but that’s what happened and it definitely slowed my reading down. There was a time that I just didn’t want to pick up a book and that’s okay.

I did end up reading nine books somehow. I’m as surprised as anyone. There were a couple of standouts for me this month and I also think I’ve found a new auto buy author, which is always a good thing. So I’m going to call this month a success!

So lets talk about the books shall we?

First up was The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland. This was a really enjoyable, detailed historical fiction novel that is the beginning of a new series. It’s got a mystery that will keep you hooked until the end. Thank you so much to the publishers for gifting me this book. It’s out April 1st.

Then I read redder days by Sue Rainsford. Did I love this book? Yes. There was just something about it that totally captured me. It’s just brilliant, not always an easy read but to captivating. Thanks to the publisher for gifting me with this book. It’s out March 11th.

Up next I read This One Sky Day by Leone Ross. This is the book that took me a long time to read. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable, the beginning was going to be a 5 star read for me but then I just lost my love for it. Thanks to the publishers for gifting me with a copy of this book. It’s out April 1st.

Then I read The Split by Laura Kay. I bloody loved this book. It’s great to see queer stories in commercial fiction. Great characters, great story. I couldn’t put this one down. It’s a glorious quick read. Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book. It’s out March 18th.

Up next was Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden. This was an intimate look at the film making process and queer love and the things we feel we have a right to. This also had a quote that made me cry. Thanks to the publishers for gifting me with a copy of this book. It’s out now.

Then I read how to be sad by Helen Russell. This is a nonfiction that I’ve found really intriguing and even helpful. It says some really poignant things about grief that I’ve really connected. It’s educational and its always good to learn. Thank to the publishers for gifting me with a copy of this book. It’s out March 4th.

Up next was Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera. After a disappointing first book, I was intrigued to read this one and I can confirm I loved it. It was epic in every sense. And now I wait for the third book. Thanks to the publisher for my gifted copy. Out March 4th.

Then I read The Summer Job by Lizzy Dent. Another super enjoyable book! It was sweet, funny and a super quick read. I literally read this in a day. Thank you to the publisher for my gifted copy. It’s out April 14th.

Lastly I read here comes the miracle by Anna Beecher. This was such an emotional read that i very much enjoyed and didn’t want to put down. Grab the tissues for this one. Thanks to the publishers for the gifted copy. It’s out now.

That’s it. Everything I read this month. It was bit of a random reading month but a good one none the less. Are you planning to read any of these? Let me know.

Until the next review

Jthbooks

#fantasy, #yafantasy, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, gay, lgbt, queer, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera

Title: Infinity Reaper

Author: Adam Silvera

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Length: 512 pages

First things first, what a stunning cover!!

Synopsis: Brothers Emil and Brighton beat the Blood Casters in an epic war and escaped… or so they thought. When Brighton drank the Reaper’s Blood, he believed he’d be invincible – instead the potion is killing him. But finding an antidote risks disturbing the battle for peace. Now they have to reach the ultimate decision- to end the war or to win it.

I have been waiting for this book for this book since that ending of book one? Yes, yes I have. And I know often in the second book in a series we usually have a struggle, but does this one? No. It does not. It only goes from strength to strength. I loved it! This book does start immediately where Infinity Son ended, so if you need to reread the last few chapters like I did, theres your warning.

There was just so much I enjoyed about this book. In fact I enjoyed everything. Look, I like to be asleep by 10pm, 11 if I’m feeling wild, but I was up until 1.00am reading this book because I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened, I wanted to know what happened. I was feeling all the feels and I was loving it.

First of all, I loved the story. I loved the direction Adam took it in. There was so many different aspects to it. It was full of action. It was full of romance. It was full of character development. It was exciting. There was literally points when I was reading and I was saying to myself ‘damn this book is exciting’. But I also really loved the quiet moments in the book. I loved when the gang was at the New Ember Sanctuary, it was just so interesting.

I also loved the characters, everything that happened in Infinity Son, they’ve grown and learnt from and it’s really interesting to read. It felt like they all became more complex and likeable. I loved each perspective, I mean did I agree with everything Brighton is doing no, but its such a great choice from Adam and makes it really intriguing. But I loved Emil, Ness and Maribelle. I do remember at one point saying that Ness has my whole heart. But me feelings are invested in all of them. I’m excited to read more from them and I want to be part of the gang.

*Spoiler* That was your warning ok! The romances, I loved them. Brighton and Prudencia, I loved their trepidation towards their feelings for each other and I’m excited to see where it goes. I also enjoyed there sex positivity. But you know what us gays were waiting for, it was the reunion between Emil and Ness. What I didn’t expect was the love triangle and what I REALLY didn’t expect was how into it I was. I love how the different guys bring out different sides to Emil. I mean, I think Ness is endgame but I’m excited to see what happens.

In the first book, we had a lot of magic and a lot to learn but I think in this book its been toned down and it works for the better. It felt more compact and accessible. I know this going to sound strange but it also expanded in a way I loved. I don’t want to say how, I want you to be surprised. But it was so exciting.

I really loved the writing in Infinity Reaper. Reading from four different perspectives is tough, but I never got confused who I was reading. I loved how the modern world and social media was woven in. Also, the action scenes were epic. The were thrilling. I mean, the fight in the air on the back of the Phoenixes was cinematic. I could see it so clearly in my head. Like the rest of the book, it was all next level.

Shall we talk about the ending? You know I want to. I can’t believe it ended like that. It was brilliant. Don’t worry, no spoilers. But Adam has built it up so perfectly between Emil and Brighton, that it made the ending epic and heartbreaking. Also Maribelle, I have questions. I need answers.

So now I guess all there is to do is sit around and wait for book three…

Thank you to hashtagreads for my copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review review. It’s out March 4th.

Until the next review

Jthbooks

#fantasy, #fiction, #yafantasy, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

Book Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Title: The Gilded Ones

Author: Namina Forna

Publisher: Usborne

Length: 432 page

What a stunning cover!

Synopsis: Deka lives in fear of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she can become a member of her village. If she bleeds red, she will belong. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon. The consequences force Deka to leave her village with a mysterious woman, destined to join an army of girls like her – the alaki, girls who are near-immortals with rare gifts, and the only ones able to stop the empire’s greatest threat. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the battle of her life, Deka discovers the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem – not even Deka herself.

Yes. Yes to this book. It was everything I wanted and more. I’d seen so many people love this one, so my expectations were high but this surpassed all of them. I need all my fantasy to be this good. I’ve been struggling to read fantasy lately but I had no problem with this. I loved every page.

The Gilded Ones is full of fantastic characters. Deka, who has to deal with so much in a fantasy world, like not being ‘pure’, or deathshrieks. She also has to deal with racism, misogyny, abuse and trauma. But its all dealt within this fantasy world and its really cleverly done. I love the fact that you’re getting to discover everything as Deka does and it just makes you rot for her even more. She’s so complex and it’s handled beautifully. It’s black girl magic and I love it. It’s full of brilliant female characters and their comradeship is so powerful. Again, its Namina addressing patriarchy within our world, but dealing with it and educating us with this fantasy world. I mean, the literally call girls who aren’t pure demons. There’s some brilliant side characters especially Britta, she has my whole heart. Can we get a spin-off? I’ll let you meet the others yourself when you read this book.

One of my favourite aspects of this book was the connections between the characters. Namina really knows how to build relationships. *SPOILER ALERT* The relationship between Deka and Keita is a beautiful slow-burn romance. I love how slowly they began to trust each other and then helped each other. It just makes the romance so believable to me. The friendship between Deka and Britta, I love it. I love how loyal Britta is, how open she towards Deka. I love her. Also the connection between Deka and Whitehands was so interesting. It was tense, and you weren’t always sure how it was going to turn out, and it made it so interesting. I also loved to see the lgbtq representation in this book. Namina knows how to write relationships, and it’s fantastic to read.

The pacing in this book is perfection. You can feel the plot building and building until the very end. There’s so much going on in the plot to keep the reader hooked. It’s full brilliant action, especially towards the end. Namina just built momentum throughout and you can’t put the book down. It felt so cinematic at times. Yes, I want them to make it into a movie, but they better not mess this up because its perfection to me. The world building is also brilliant, its so immersive. You get so much detail and descriptions of the world but its never overwhelming or just a lot of information. It’s all needed.

Also, there was point in this book that had me so shocked and made me cry. It was one of those moments that you can’t believe what’s happened and you had to put the book down to take it all in. That’s all I’ll say on that. You’ll now what I mean when you read it. And I won’t even talk about that twist!!

So I guess the only thing left to say is when is book two out? I’m excited for it already. I’m excites to see where the story will and how the characters and their relationships will develop. If you love fantasy, read this book.

It’s out now

Until the next review

Jthbooks

#fantasy, #fiction, #yafantasy, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

ARC Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Title: These Violent Delights

Author: Chloe Gong

Length: 439 pages

Publisher: Hodderscape

Synopsis: A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang – a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their hero, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love.. and first betrayal. But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability, culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns – and grudges – aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Did I know I needed a Romeo & Juliet retelling set in Shanghai in 1926? But am I glad I got one? Yes. Yes, I am.

There’s so many enjoyable elements in this novel. I found the whole book really immersive. I just felt like I was in Shanghai and forgot about the real world. It just has such an atmosphere to it. Does anyone else think this would make a brilliant movie or mini series. I could see it all so clearly in my head. When it’s made I’ll definitely be watching.

These Violent Delights is full of fantastic characters. Of course we’ve got Juliette and Roma (see how it’s a retelling?) and they really are enjoyable characters. I’ve seen other reviewers say whether their team Juliette or team Roma and I have to say I’m team Juliette. She was such a great character. She was complex, fierce and kick ass! Honestly, I really loved her.

I’ve also seen people say whether they’re team Scarlet Gang or The White Flowers (again, see how it’s a retelling) and I have to say on this one I’m with Roma and the White Flowers. I found this one to had the most comradeship between the characters. Marshall and Benedikt, I want to be their friends.

Let’s talk about the romance shall we? It was a lovers to enemies to lovers and it was soooo good. It was sexy and romantic! And the longing, I was begging for them to get together. I also got the feeling of another romance between another two characters (which I won’t spoil) but I’m really excited for it to explored! I hope I’m not wrong.

I also didn’t expect the fantasy elements with the monster and the madness, but it definitely added another element to the novel. This is definitely a huge part of the story that kept me reading. I had to know what was going to happen.

Shall we talk about the ending? The pacing of the book really picked up and I couldn’t keep up. It was action packed. And let me tell you the ending shocked me. I had to put the book down for a minute to take in what happened. Ugh it was so good!

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s action packed, romantic. And I am so excited for book two to explore these characters and stories even more.

Thank you so much to Hodderscope for gift me with a copy of These Violent Delights in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out tomorrow. November 17th.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #literature, #yafantasy, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, gay, lgbt, queer, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

5 Books That Have Made Me Cry

I thought I’d do a fun, silly kind of post. I’m gonna talk about books that have made me cry.

Now, I love a book that makes me cry. If you care that deeply about a character, or they story that you openly weep, then the author has done a fantastic job.

Just because they’ve made you cry doesn’t make them depressing to me, sometimes sadness can be cathartic, beautiful even. I personally love the feeling of being so wrapped up in my book, that I begin to believe it’s real then become effected by it.

A good cry does the soul some good.

So here are the books that have made me cry.

First up is ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd. My favourite book. The book that made me fall in love with reading. In the middle of this book, something devastating happens. STOP READING NOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS. May, a character who finds the world hard to bare, receives some sad news and it pushes her over the edge and she commits suicide. Not only is this sad, but her sisters reactions are heart breaking. Then, she leaves a note, which is so heartbreaking and true to the character, it just makes me weep. Glorious storytelling.

Next up is ‘Lie With Me’ by Philippe Bensson, translated by Molly Wringwald. This is one of those books that makes you believe in love. This book made me cry for two reasons, first it’s just written so beautifully. It’s so lyrical, honest and deep. Like taking a look inside someone’s soul. It’s beauty made me cry. Second, that ending. I was sobbing. Once I finished I had to sit there and let me feelings out. It’s taken me a long time to get over this book.

‘Crooked Kingdom’ by Leigh Bardugo. I think most people that have read this know which bit I’m talking about. AGAIN STOP READING IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS. When Mathias dies, there’s just so many layers to make you cry. There’s the fact that he genuinely cares about the group after her didn’t for so long. There’s the fact that he was shot by a young kid, the exact kind of person Mathias used to be before he changed. And there’s the fact he made it back to Nina, to see her one last time. The imagery of her lying next to his body on the boat as it sails was enough to make me cry In the bath.

‘Second Chance Summer’ by Morgan Matson. I read this a few years ago on vacation. I have to say, I rather embarrassingly cried like a baby by the pool. STOP READING NOW IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS, but when Taylor receives a letter from her Dad after he’s passed away from cancer, after spending one last summer together. Well I’m sure you can imaging how sad it was. Grab the tissues for this one.

Dear Lily by Drew Davies. This book deals with grief in such a real way. It asks the questions we all have when we’ve lost someone close to us. In Joys case, it’s dealing with the grief of losing her sister. In my case, the loss of my mother. I really had to take some time after finishing this one and just let the tears flow.

So, these are the books that have made me cry. In fact, writing this I’ve realised a lot more books have actually made me cry, so I’m sure I’ll be doing another one of this blog posts.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #literature, #yafantasy, author, blog, blogtour, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, historical fiction, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

Interview with Tracy Deonn and Book Review: Legendborn

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Length: 490 pages

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Synopsis: After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family’s memories or childhood home. A residential programme for bright young high-schoolers at UNC- Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape – until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.

A flying Demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so called ‘Legendbornstudents that hunt the creatures down.

And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a ‘Merlin’ and who attempts- and fails- to wipe Beees memory of everything saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if it means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates. She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets – and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveals themselves as descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down – or join the fight.

For more stops on this blog tour, check out these other fantastic bloggers and see how much they love this book.

This is the kind of fantasy book I absolutely love. It had everything you could ever want. Fantastic characters, detailed magic, a brilliant plot and romance . Have I convinced you to read this yet?

We follow Bree, who joins a secret society to find out the truth about her mother’s death and gets so much more than she bargained for. It’s such a brilliant plot that I don’t want to go into too much detail and ruin it for you. I want you to be swept away like I was.

Bree is such a fantastic main character to follow. She’s smart, brave, gutsy. I loved her. You can’t help but root for her throughout. I even felt protective over her. I also have to give a shoutout to Sel. I also loved him. He had that classic arc of he’s a bad guy but is he really? I love him. Check out the answers below in the interview for some Sel information in book two!

There was a romance between Bree and Nick that was pretty inevitable but it was still fantastic. I totally believe it and was into it. But without saying too much, I wonder if there’s another character that could interrupt Bre and Nicks romance and i think I want it to be explored. It actually need it to be explored. I need it. It excites me.

The magic in this book is brilliant. It’s a real highlight. It’s incredibly detailed so pay attention. When Bree joins the secret order, it’s so interesting to learn about Shadowborns, Onceborns, Merlins. And I love how it all ties into King Arthur and the nights of the round table. It’s genius. I love the blend of modern and historical fiction. And just when you think it can’t get anyone detailed and intricate we learn about Rootcraft. Which celebrates black history and the power of your roots. Which I actually believe is genius and so powerful.

This book also has so many important messages. I love what Tracy has to say about grief. It was so powerful and poignant. It definitely made me tear up a few times. It’s just so honest and real. Such brilliant writing. It also makes you love Bree more. I’ve also lost my mum, like Bree and Tracy the author. So it really hit home for me. It also deals with race and it’s handled honestly and powerfully. It’s black girl magic. It’s what we need more of and this book is perfect at capturing it.

Ugh the ending. It was sooooo good. Tracy manages to build such momentum that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Seriously. It felt like I was in the action. And there was a lot of action. With so many twists and turns. I didn’t guess the ending. It totally surprised me. It was so powerful. I absolutely loved it.

I guess all there’s left to say it, when is book twoout? I need it. Like yesterday.

There’s so much to enjoy about this book and I really want you all to read it. You won’t regret it. Also, it’s just become a New York Times Bestseller

Now it’s time for the interview.

Thank you so much to Tracy for agreeing to do this. Enjoy the answers!

1) What inspired you to write this story?

The first early kernel of Bree, the main character of Legendborn, was born when I lost my mother. At that time, I found out that she had also lost her mother when she was my age, and that the same was true of my grandmother. Being a writer, I immediately wondered how such a pattern could have happened in my family. Of course, there’s no real answer here – life is strange and sometimes the odd and sad things happen to us and that’s that. But as a writer, I decided to create an answer. I began writing from a place of grief and mystery, and in the book Bree begins from that same place, too. I wanted to explore the idea of legacy and whose lives and deaths are lost to history and whose become legendary. That naturally led me to Arthuriana, as I’ve been a fan of the legends for most of my life, and I felt as though I could contribute something new to the 1500 year old storytelling tradition of growing the Arthurian canon. That’s really the source of Bree’s story—a book-length, contemporary fantasy answer to an impossible real world question.

2) Was it always going to be a school setting?

Yes! Once I decided to work with Arthuriana to explore some of my favorite legends, I immediately thought of Susan Cooper and The Dark is Rising Sequence. In those books, part of her brilliance was allowing Arthur and the stories to be pulled forward into the future in a sense. I gave myself the same challenge – How could Arthur and the Table exist in the modern day? The answer seemed very clear here in the US; the Round Table would embed themselves into a secret society somehow! Secret societies are a great cover for very old generations of power. I was familiar with secret societies at UNC-Chapel Hill because I went to school there for both of my degrees, and the campus is very much embedded in my mind. There are a lot of mysterious and fascinating societies at that school, being the oldest public university in the country. I did a lot of primary source research within UNC’s own archives. Tying in UNC’s history was actually quite easy with my background and because I’d been thinking about how that history impacts students for a long time

4) The magic system is so intriguing, how did you come up with it?

In the book, the Legendborn are descendants of the knights of the round table and have inherited magic because of that legacy. I wanted to believably stretch Arthur and the knights and the Table forward in time, and needed magic to make that happen. I also knew I wanted a magic system that had nothing to do with the Order of the Legendborn, and that they needed to have different uses and origins but work within the same environment.

Since the magic systems in the book are very, very old and fairly strict; they needed to be functional and solid over dozens of generations in order to work as I needed them to! So, my first step was to write them out in prose form first, in mostly full sentences, to test whether I could actually verbalize them. Then each system was moved to whiteboards to play out examples or work out problems. I have three whiteboards in my house: one in my kitchen for brainstorming while cooking or doing other tasks, one in my office that I can write on and refer back to as I work at my desk, and another that is portable so I can use it while sitting on the ground.

I used more than a dozen spreadsheets over the course of drafting and revisions, and they kept growing or getting re-organized. Some sheets were just about keeping track of recurring details. For example, I have a sheet that is just about the Scions and their bloodlines, their rankings, their inheritances (powers and personality traits), preferred weapons and character traits. I also collaborated in Google Sheets with my Wales-based Welsh language and medievalist consultant for all of the Welsh vocabulary, both made up magical terms and real ones. I think the magic systems took about a year and a half to design and “test” in revisions.

3) Have you always been interested in history, did this influence the book?

First – thank you for asking this question, because history is such a big part of Legendborn. How we talk about history, how it gets recorded, who gets to record it and why. I’m not a historian by trade, but I have always been interested in those sorts of issues around history. I am deeply fascinated with human storytelling, which is really the most critical component of history in my eyes. History as a strictly official, academic study feels to me like the stories that got written down or that have artifacts; But the history of humanity is much broader than we can possibly conceive and includes stories and tales that were never written down, or that were recorded using different methods and not captured by historians. The interesting thing about legends is that they’re different from myths because there’s a historical component – usually legends are based on a small sliver of truth revolving around a real person, or based on a communally believed history that doesn’t require a documented truth to persist. Legendborn is my way of playing with all of these ideas while working within some of the enduring themes of Arthurian literature and my own storytelling style.

4) Can you tell us anything about book two?

I can’t share anything too juicy, but I will say that the sequel builds on what is exposed in the first book, all of the magic levels up, and we meet brand new characters. And if you enjoy Sel, just know that we don’t see nearly the full extent of his powers in book one! Now that the groundwork is laid for the universe, we’ve got tons to explore.

Thank you Tracy for answering the questions. Such brilliant answers! Obviously I had to ask about book two, I’m obsessed. And we get more Sel!!!

Thank you to Daniel at Simon and Schusters Kids for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #literature, #yafantasy, author, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, bookstagram, review, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

August Wrap Up

Another month has come and gone. Don’t they just fly by! We had a mini heatwave at the beginning of August and I found it hard to read. All I wanted to do was sleep. But I always want to sleep no matter the weather so I shouldn’t use that as an excuse.

I’ve managed to read eight books this month. Eight isn’t bad. And there’s been a few I’ve read this month that I really enjoyed. I don’t usually read thrillers, but I read three in a row! And I enjoyed two of them.

So let’s talk about these books shall we?

The first book I read was Fin & Rye & Fireflies by Harry Cook. What a great way to start the month. A super sweet gay YA novel. I really enjoyed it. I loved the love story. This one is out now and you can check out my full review here.

Then I read 10 minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak. I can’t stop thinking about this book. It was brilliant. Stunning writing, visceral story and fascinating characters. I’ll be looking out for more Elif novels. She’s a genius.

I then read How It All Blew Up by Armin Ahmadi. I was halfway through and I friend told me that the author is problematic, so I didn’t want to read it anymore, which I didn’t mind because it wasn’t very good. I could see what it was trying to do, but it failed.

Then I read This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I had absolutely no idea what was going on but I loved it. A beautiful, epic love story set in an epic world. I highly recommend this one.

All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. This was sooooo good. It’s everything I want in a YA fantasy plus it has mermaids! Good mermaids. Definitely don’t miss this one. It’s out now. Check out my full review here.

I then moved onto An Inconvenient Woman by Stéphanie Buelens. This was a great thriller that I couldn’t put down. It was fantastic. It also has a lot of heart which gives it another layer. This one is out September 3rd.

Surrender your Sons by Adam Sass. A queer YA book like I’ve never read before. It’s got a dark subject matter but I really did enjoy this one. I definitely recommend this one to you. It’s out September 15th.

Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar. I get what this book was trying to do and it was nearly there but for me it mostly missed the mark. Parts of it definitely intrigued me, but most of it I didn’t care about. But I definitely wanted to see how it ended. It’s out on paperback September 3rd.

Now I can’t wait to see what books September brings my way. Have you read any of these? Or are you interested in them? Let me know…

Until the next review

JTH

#fiction, #literature, #yafantasy, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, gay, lgbt, queer, review, thriller, ya, young adult

WWW Wednesday – 26th August.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts (ok it’s been months but who’s counting). But I love doing them and I love keeping you up to date with what I’m reading.

What is WWW Wednesday? WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme where all you have to do is answer three simple questions. Look at me using the word meme! I feel so young!

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What have you finished reading recently?
  • What are you planning to read next?

So shall we get started and talk about these books?

What are you currently reading?

So I’m currently reading Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar from Littlebrown Books. I only stated this last night but I’m definitely intrigued. It’s also the third thriller I’ve read in a row and I don’t usually read them so we’ll see how it compares. I’m excited to see where the story goes. So I guess I’ll keep you updated. The paperback is out 3rd September.

What have you finished reading recently?

I recently finished Surrender your Sons by Adam Sass. This was a highly anticipated read for me and it didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed it, definitely a tough read at times, but I’m so glad I got to read it early. It’s a great piece of queer fiction with a difference. It’s out September 15th.

What are you reading next?

This question is always the difficulty one because my tbr is so huge, but I think I’m going to go with Summerwater by Sarah Moss. It’s just calling to me from my shelf and I’ve heard such fantastic things. So I think it’ll be that one.

But it could all change.

Have you read any of these? Or got your eye on reading some? Let me know.

Until the next review

JTH

#fantasy, #fiction, #yafantasy, blog, book blog, book blogger, book bloggers, book review, books, Uncategorised, ya, young adult

Book Review: All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

Title: All the Stars and Teeth

Author: Adalyn Grace

Length: 397 pages

Publisher: Titan Books

Synopsis: As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer – the Master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but to secure her place as heir to the throne, Amora must master the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic. But when her demonstration goes horribly wrong, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic. But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder – and more peril – than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stowaway she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

Royals! Magic! Pirates! What more do you want? Oh I know! Mermaids! Well this book has them all. And it’s good. It’s so good.

We follow the princess Amora who after she fails her magic demonstration to become High Animancer, she flees her island in search of the destructive new magic that’s rising.

I really, really enjoyed the world Adalyn Grace has created. It was fresh and super absorbing. I love the fact that there’s seven islands and they all practice different magic. We get to see a few of the islands in this book and I hope in book two we get to see this world explored more.

It’s full of fantastic characters. Amora is such a kick ass character to follow. I loved that fact even after her people became terrified of her she’s till fights to save them. I liked her. I wanted her to succeed. And we have Bastian and Ferrick who I also loved. And then we had Vataea who was my favourite. Such a brilliant character and she’s a mermaid. Do I need to say anymore? She’s such a good mermaid! I loved her. Again, I want more of her in book two! I love the gang the become. I hope we see more of the gang.

Loved the romance. Loved it. It was a beautiful slow burn that I totally fell for. I want more. I want this to be explored more in book two. I assume it will. Don’t break my heart Adalyn. I also feel like there’s another romance blossoming which I am totally here for. I want it. I need it. I hope I’m right.

I don’t want to give any of the plot or ending away, but it kept me guessing and intrigued throughout. It was exciting! This book didn’t end the way I thought it was going too, I don’t want to spoil anything but I thought the plot might continue into the next one, but it’s set up a new plot for the second one which I’m excited to see what happens. Very excited.

All the Stars and Teeth just has everything I love in a YA fantasy series. It had the fantastic characters, the interesting magic, the good plot and the swoon-worthy romance. I would definitely recommend this book. Can I have book two now please? Pleaseeeeeeee!

Thank you to Sarah at Titan books for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review. It’s out now.

Until the next review.

JTH