Book Review: A Festival of Trial and Ember by Logan Miehl.

Happy Hump day everyone! For today’s blog post, I will be reviewing ‘A Festival of Trial and Ember‘ by Logan Miehl, part one of what will no doubt be an epic fantasy featuring fairies, battles and creatures which lurk in the shadows.  So what’s it about?  Let’s check out the trusted blurb:

festival picA dangerous summer festival. A throne left empty. A forgotten world of faeries in a time of shadow and treason. Róisín, 17-years-old, is biding her time till graduation. When the shadows around her come to life, she discovers no one else can see these strange creatures except her and her brother. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a journey into the Otherworld—a land beneath Ireland where faeries live as the descendants of ancient Celtic gods. As Róisín struggles to survive, she realizes her decisions could alter the fate of an entire Kingdom. The Festival of Trial and Ember is the first book in the compelling new Faerie Festival Series. There are games to win, promises to break, and hearts to conquer. The Celtic summer festival of Lughnasa has begun.

The book follows a familiar format: a young teenage girl, thrust into a world she did not know existed, fighting for survival.  This template has been tried and tested, and let’s face it, it works.  You see the fairies and their world for the first time, through the main character’s eyes, and you learn about their ways as she does.  The premise is introduced really well, with the action starting almost immediately, and I found myself gripped from the first page.  It builds well, and contains the right amount of action and threat to keep you turning the pages.  I was slightly disappointed by the abrupt ending, but it’s clear that this is just part one of this adventure, so realistically, it probably couldn’t have ended any other way.

As a Celt myself, I really enjoyed reading about legends I learned about as a child, as well as discovering some new ones.  I also loved that the characters had traditionally spelt, and pronounced, Irish names.  The creatures and the fairies again are familiar, but Logan presents them in a new way.  With each chapter beginning with a quote from historical books about such legends, presented almost as facts taken from a text book, it gives the story and the legends within a certain amount of believability and credibility, as if this world could truly exist unbeknownst to myself and my fellow humans.

The characters are well rounded and believable.  I will be honest though, Roisin kind of irritated me for much of the book, acting like a petulant child a lot of the time, but she discovers who she is, finds her stride and becomes pretty badass towards the end.  I look forward to reading the following books and seeing her as a more confident young adult rather than a teenager with an attitude.

Overall, I found the book really entertaining, and at points, I couldn’t put it down!  I definitely recommend it for any fans of fantasy and Young Adult fiction, and I will 100% be reading the following books in the series.


An Interview with New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak and Professional Reader’s Box Giveaway!

brenda 1I have no doubt you have heard of the author Brenda Novak.  She has written over sixty books, sold millions of copies worldwide, topped the New York Times and USA Today Bestsellers lists and won award after award, including The National Reader’s Choice award, The Write Touch award and the Beacon Award for Published Authors.  In fact, you probably have at least one of her books on your shelf right now.  But did you know that, not content with merely taking the world of literature by storm, she also has started her own Global book club, as well as a monthly subscription box?  Me neither, but that’s how I got the chance to chat with Ms Novak.

If you aren’t already aware, I am a dedicated Bookstagrammer.  Basically, I take pretty pictures of my favourite reads and nerd out with other book worms around the world.  Geeky I know, but it’s a great community (if you aren’t already a part of it, definitely give it a look, and me a follow!) and you get to meet so many amazing people.  Enter Brenda Novak.  I was approached by her wonderful daughter Alexa to publicise ‘The Professional Readers Book Box’ and of course, I jumped at the chance.  They sent me February’s Valentine’s Day themed box, and I am truly in love (wait until the end of the article for a quick run down and review of the box as well as a chance to win one of your own!).  But not content with merely discussing the box, I chanced my arm and requested an interview with Ms Novak herself, and amazingly, despite her insane schedule, she agreed!

So grab a cuppa, kick back, and enjoy….

Let’s start with a brief introduction…who is the team behind Professional Readers Box?

I’m a New York Times Bestselling author of over sixty books. I curate these “professional reader” boxes each month with my daughter, Alexa Novak.

For those of us unfamiliar with the Professional Readers Box, can you explain a bit about it?

The Professional Reader Box is a subscription box that brings two autographed books to your door each month–one big name author and one up and coming author I’ve hand selected–along with other reader-related items.

It would be remiss of me not to ask a couple of writing related questions, while I have the ear of the Legendary author that is Brenda Novak! You have written over 50 books, and sold millions of copies worldwide, tell me, what was the biggest hurdle you faced to getting your first book published, and how did you overcome it?

Getting the time to research and write was probably my biggest hurdle. I never dreamed I’d be a writer, but when I caught my daycare provider drugging my children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day while I worked as a loan officer, I quit my job to stay home with them myself. I still needed to figure out a way to help provide for the family, however, so I was looking for something I could do at home. My sister had given me a good book–Jude Devereux’s KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR, and I loved it. I remember closing that book and thinking, “I wonder if I could do this!” I started right away, and spent the next five years researching the Victorian area (the time period of my first book, OF NOBLE BIRTH) and teaching myself the craft of writing. Meanwhile, I had two more children to give me a total of five, so you can see why getting the time to learn and create was a hurdle!

What is your writing process? Would you plan your book out before writing it, or is it more of a stream of consciousness style process?

I’m more of a “pantser,” which is the name bandied about among writers for someone who doesn’t plot. I start with the conflict of a story–something I think would be very interesting to explore–and then I decide what kind of characters would be most challenged by that conflict. The plot grows out of the characters.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

When I first started writing I had THE GREAT IDEA. It was based almost entirely on a title that popped into my head one day—OF NOBLE BIRTH. This title lent itself to a very specific theme: whether one is noble or not depends on the heart and not the pedigree. That was the message I wanted to deliver, and I knew the best backdrop for a story with such a message would be a historical setting where the caste system was firmly in place, so I decided that my book would be a historical romance set in Victorian times,

but I soon realize that was NOT the only idea I would ever need if I wanted to make my living as a published author. In order to build my career, I needed to write another story, and another, and another. In other words, I had to develop my imagination, turn it into a deep well of ideas from which I could draw time and again.

I didn’t know how I was going to do this but, fortunately, our brains are very adaptable. The more I demanded that my imagination deliver IDEA NUMBER 2, the harder it began to search. Before long, my mind turned into a “sifter.” It sifted through everything that came my way, every conversation I overheard, every funny anecdote I was told, every movie I saw, every newspaper article I read, every true crime show I puzzled over until I could pull an attitude from one character I’d come to know via a TV show, mix it with a situation my mother had mentioned the week before last, throw in some of my personal experience and…I was off and typing.

Have you ever suffered writer’s block? If so, how did you get beyond it? If not, what is the secret to writing over 60 successful books without suffering from it?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. But there are days when I get stuck, when my story seems to be turning to drivel or I can’t get it to hold any emotional tension. That’s when I know something is wrong. I’ve taken the story where it wasn’t meant to go, for lack of a better way to describe it. Fortunately, there are ways to get myself “unstuck.” Experience has taught me to mentally step away from the manuscript and look at it from a macro perspective, always asking myself, “Where did you go wrong?”

I start from the beginning and check the story as a plumber might check a series of pipes for leaks. I feel my way along, testing the story to see if it’s still “holding water.” I read, consider, read, consider and read some more until I find the “break” or part that isn’t in harmony with my intuition. Sometimes I do this by reading the manuscript aloud to my husband and asking for his input. Then we both look at the reasons my story isn’t coming together. Maybe I’m forcing my characters to do something these types of characters would never do. Maybe I’m ascribing a certain trait or pathology to my villain that just isn’t ringing true. Maybe I’ve veered too far away from my “core story.” It’s a bit of a hassle to go back, and definitely risks some unraveling and rewriting, but if I take the time to do this I almost always find the point that’s troubling my subconscious and interrupting my ability to proceed. Then I can fix it.

What advice do you have for young, aspiring writers?

Over the years, I have often been asked what piece of advice I would offer someone who is just starting out in publishing. I have always said I can boil it down to just one word, and that hasn’t changed even after 50+ books and nearly two decades. Believe. It’s really that simple. If you truly believe in yourself and your talent, you will be motivated to actually sit down and write the book instead of only dreaming about it.

You will be driven to seek out any help you may need (research or craft-related) to make it the best you can create. You will follow through with marketing ideas until you sell it (or self-publish it), and you won’t give up if you don’t immediately reach your goals. Belief drives the entire engine—especially through the rough spots.

Ok, back to the Professional Readers Box…What Inspired you to create this service?

Once I started my online book group on Facebook, I wanted to “add value” to becoming a member, and I did that through developing various programs. We have a Book Buddy Program, a monthly reading challenge, a commemorative pin for anyone who has read more than fifty of my novels, etc. The book boxes are just one more fun thing we offer to make it even more enjoyable to belong.

How do you go about curating each box? Do you pick a theme and then choose your book, or is the box built around a selected title?

I choose the books first. I fill out the schedule a year in advance. Then we choose items that will either go with a generic reading theme (like March’s box, which is all about reading in the tub and includes a pretty robe), or we focus on one of the books (like we did when we created our Whiskey Creek box). Sometimes we even focus on the closest holiday, like we did for our October, November and December boxes.

If an author or a business would like to collaborate with you on a box, is that something you would be interested in? If so, how would they go about arranging that with you?

Sure! I’d entertain submissions/ideas. We are very picky about what goes in our boxes, so it would have to fit with the theme and be of a certain quality, but I’m always interested in taking a look at new ideas and collaborating with others. There’s a contact link on my website, so I’m easy to reach.

How do people subscribe to the Professional Readers Box?

There’s a store right on my website at People can save a few bucks by signing up for a yearly subscription, or we have monthly subscriptions available. We even sell individual boxes, although it’s best to get a subscription because we sell out well in advance, and a subscription is the only way to guarantee getting one.

brenda 2Some invaluable writing advice from a true expert!  But what of the box I hear you ask?  Well, each box contains at least one book, often autographed, and a selection of bookish goodies chosen around that book.  My box, being Feburary’s, was all about Romance.  Along with two amazing books, All We Know by Jamie Black and The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak herself, I got some handmade chocolates from All things Chocolate in Georgia, powdered donuts (which as an Irish lass I have never actually tried this American treat, but I will definitely bee seeking them out again in the future), socks which say, ‘If you can read this, bring me chocolate’ (excellent advice), a beautiful wooden sign which reads, ‘It doesn’t matter what the question is, chocolate is the answer’, a date suggestion kit, and a make your own valentine’s card kit.  All of these goodies came beautifully packaged in peach coloured tissue paper and frankly, it was an awesome Valentine’s day gift to receive through the mail.  I couldn’t recommend the box enough, and the next one looks even better if that were at all possible.  You can check out how to order your own here.

It gets better though, you could win your own Professional Readers Box!  Just head to my Instagram to find out how to enter the giveaway!

Badass Women: Celebrating a century since the beginning of women’s Suffrage.

suffragetteIt’s been a century this month since the Suffragettes won their first battle, with some women being granted the right to vote, and in honour of that huge achievement and the women who made it happen, I just wanted to right a quick post dedicated to all of them, as well as the women continuing their fight one hundred years on.  Women from all walks of life, all classes, united under a common cause, stood up and fought for their right to be heard.  They fought, they bled, they were beaten and jailed, tortured and force fed, and some even died for what they believed in, so that you and I could have our say in how our country is run.  I think of them every time I vote.

I think if they saw how far things have come since those days, they would be pleased.  There are women Prime ministers and politicians, women astronauts, Police officers and scientists, women in every kind of job rocking at what they do.  But sadly, there is still some way to go.  Women are still paid less than men, the glass ceiling most certainly exists with the CEO positions in the biggest corporations being overwhelmingly male, and as the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the subsequent #metoo movement shows, there are still instances where inappropriate and even violent or abusive behaviour towards women, is merely accepted as part of that job/industry/culture.

So as well as dedicating this post to the women fighters of the past, I dedicate this to every woman out there who has stood up and said, ‘No.  That is not acceptable.’  This is dedicated to the working women, showing the world we can do it just as good as men.  The women soldiers, Doctors, politicians and teachers, and every one in between.  This is dedicated to the stay at home mums fighting for the respect they deserve.  This is dedicated to every woman who has had to utter those words #metoo, and the women made to feel like they aren’t good enough.

You are all badasses….every single one of you!!

Book Review: Death Row by Christian Sterling.

deathrowFor tonight’s blog post, I am reviewing Death Row, a novella by Christian Sterling.  The book follows Charles Colter, an inmate at Greenwood Federal Penitentiary, during his final days at the prison.  Charles is an artist, happiest when he is able to pour himself onto a canvas, and through his art and internal monologue, we see inside a man desperately trying to make peace with his life; the decisions he has made in the past which have led to this point, as well as the uncertainty of his future.

I hate reviews which include spoilers, so I will try to give my opinion on the novella without ruining it for anyone.  I will say this though, there is a twist which I never saw coming and one which I found slightly disappointing at first, but perhaps that’s the sadist in me.

Anyway, to the review:  Charles is a well developed, believable and most importantly likeable character.  For much of the book, the reader is unaware of what he did to deserve his stint in prison, something which should be of importance, but instead you find yourself liking Charles too much to care about what he did to deserve punishment.  I like the Charles we see now, introspective and regretful, so I’m not bothered about the Charles whose decisions led him to that prison cell.  In a nut shell, Sterling is great at character development.

Despite most of the book lacking any ‘action’ per say (bar one sadistic shiv wielding prisoner), being very much grounded in reality in all of it’s brilliant boredom, the storyline is genuine and compelling enough to keep you reading.  All of it takes place in a routine, a pattern from which Charles wishes he could escape, and his yearning for colour in a world of beige not only makes Charles a relatable character, but also means that simple and often overlooked details, become something beautiful and interesting.  Sterling’s attention to detail is outstanding and allows the reader to paint a vivid image in their minds.

My only negative, which I have alluded to at the beginning, is perhaps the book’s message is a little too optimistic for me.  I do however think that’s more to do with myself and my own cynical view of the world than an actual issue with what is, overall, an incredibly well written book.  I definitely recommend this as a quick and interesting read.

The Mermaid’s Promise: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Happy hump day folks!  I hope your week is going well so far.  For this blog post, I will be featuring the next instalment of my collaborative series I call, ‘Inspired.’  For those of my readers unfamiliar with the series, I collaborate with artists and crafty people from all over the world, writing a short story, which they bring to life by creating a piece of art inspired by that story.  For this piece, I am so excited to have collaborated with the incredibly talented Amaryah, the artist behind the Easy shop ‘The House of Worry Dolls.’  Amaryah takes all of our favourite characters from page and screen, and meticulously recreates them in worry doll form.  She can even personalise the dolls to look like you, your family and your pets to create the ultimate unique family portrait.  Her dolls are incredible, and you can see more of them on her Instagram.  For our collaboration, I wrote a short story inspired by her beautiful dolls, and she took my story and created two unique dolls just for me!  This one was a really fun one to work on, so I hope you like it!  As always, leave me a comment to let me know what you thought, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts.  Happy reading…

The Mermaid’s promise

mermaid 2She is a stealer of hearts. That is how she controls the ocean, with unspoken promises never fulfilled. Her whispers are carried on the winds, and her songs on the beating of the waves against ships. All who listen falter, turning their vessels into shallow waters or crashing against jagged rocks; a watery grave, welcomed with a smile, the spell unwavering even in death. It is said, that she can take the form of desire itself, changing her hair colour or face to appeal to the souls she subdues. One thing always remains true however, her tail. The scales are the colour of the clearest skies, but change with the moving sun, becoming navy or perhaps silver depending on the weather. They reflect the light with every movement and lead men to their deaths, a lighthouse beacon born of flesh and skin, a diamond in the rough.

I saw her once, when I was a just a lad. I was just a deck hand then, given the menial and unlikeable tasks. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were on our way to the Americas. The men were singing and joking, laughing or brawling, the noise of their chatter mixing with the cry of seagulls and the ocean’s sleepy drawl. I was peeling potatoes, when suddenly I realised it had become deathly quiet. I made my way on deck to find all the men aboard standing stock still, the tasks which they had been doing, becoming an after thought to whatever now consumed their minds. They stared, all of them, into the horizon, with wide eyes and calm smiles, as the ship simply drifted, as lost and submissive as the sailors.

I followed their gaze, squinting in the early morning light, when I saw her tail rise and fall amongst the waves, sending flashes of light all around her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, with deep red hair, and bright green eyes, the colour of the sea after a storm. I too was momentarily agape, watching her beckon us towards her, enticing us with a tender smile and parted lips. But my gaze soon fell upon the jagged rocks protruding from the ocean like a hand, grasping for the surface. It was then I knew her beauty to be only skin deep, a lure for her prey.mermaid 1

I began to shout and scream at the men, even resorting to slapping them or throwing water over their heads, but nothing stirred them from their blissful ignorance. The ship was slowly drifting towards its destruction, and these men were welcoming it with open arms. The ship’s wheel was also trying to get the attention of her passengers, swinging and turning wildly, causing our vessel to shift and jolt, but even her efforts went unheeded. I grabbed the wheel, using all of my strength to turn the ship away from the rocks, away from danger, before securing it with a yard of rope. And then I simply waited, for I knew that senses would not return to my crew until we had distanced ourselves from the siren’s call, her promises and seductions carried on the sea breeze.

I could hear her screaming as the vessel moved away, a terrible, guttural scream like a dying animal. It pierced my ears, and stabbed at my chest, and seemed to surround me, or perhaps it was inside my head. I must have lost consciousness, for when I woke, I was in the Captain’s room, the ship’s medic tending to me, my wrist in one hand, a pocket watch in the other. I felt cold, as if all heat had been drained from my body, and my head thumped to the beat of my heart.

“He’s awake.”

The Captain approached my bedside, and placed my hand in his.

“How do you feel boy?”
“Alright, cold, tired.”
“We’ll soon warm you up. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
“Thirsty sir.”
“No sirs or Captains, not today.”

It was as if my senses had suddenly returned to me in a flash, my knowledge of the creature and the danger she posed. I jolted upright, as if awaking from a nightmare.

“The sea witch…”
“Shhh calm yourself boy. She’s gone, and danger has passed, thanks to you.”

I lay back down, the pillow clammy against my skin. The cook brought me water, and they even gave me a dram of whiskey, to help my senses return to me. I regaled them with the day’s events, leaving no detail out, lest I convince myself of my own insanity. They nodded and listened, and finally, after a pause, the Captain spoke.

“I could hear a voice, more beautiful and tender than any I have ever heard before. It was like liquid gold. She whispered promises and declarations of love to me, asking me to join her forever, offering her heart and her breast. I became enamoured, besotted, overwhelmed. Suddenly, she was the only thing of importance in my life, and I yearned to be with her with every fibre of my being. I am embarrassed to say, I would have gladly given my life, for one kiss.”

Now it was the cook’s turn.

“Aye, I heard the same thing. Her voice rang ’round me head and I could not think of anything but her. I could not, would not, go on without her hand.”

Finally, the Doctor confirmed he too had experienced the same song, and felt the same overwhelming desire to be with the creature, whatever the consequences.

“It was as if, in an instant, she had become my everything, my very reason for existence. I truly felt that, without her breast to rest my weary head, and without the kiss of her lips upon mine, my life would not be worth living. She enchanted me, she possessed my very soul.”

I mulled their words over in my mind. At such a young age, I had no understanding of such things. I had not yet felt the grip of love, nor felt the sting of heart break. I could not imagine losing my head in such a way over a woman, even one as beautiful and magical as the Mermaid. I suppose that’s why I was immune to her song. My youth and inexperience saved me from the Mermaid’s promise, yet to this day, I dream of her red hair spreading on the surface of a clear sea, and I hear her voice beckoning my return. Perhaps one day, I’ll answer.