Thursday, 17 March 2016

Review: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Publication Date: March 29th 2016
Publisher: Piatkus
Length: 352 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Piatkus for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...
This is not one of those times.
Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.
Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...
Or not.
There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.
But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...
Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

Every now and again I find myself needing a chicken soup read. Something I know will make me laugh, will make me swoon, and most importantly, will have a Happily Ever After. Capitals included.

And the author I know without a doubt will always offer me exactly what I need when I need it most? Julia Quinn. I fell in love with the Bridgerton’s a decade ago and so it was wonderful to be back with them once more – albeit a generation earlier.

This latest has all the trademarks that I’ve come to love in Julia’s novels. It’s funny, at points I found myself laughing out loud. It offers engaging and interesting characters who you genuinely come to care for. It gives you all the butterfly and swoon-worthy moments you could wish for, without veering too much into steamy territory. In short, it’s a quick, amusing read that offers the perfect chicken soup.

I did find myself slightly frustrated by one or two points. There’s a sub plot that comes into play in the last part of the novel that felt a little too rushed and thrown in at the end without due time to play out. I also found myself noticing a few modern phrases and Americanisms sprinkled throughout – the first time I’ve noticed that in a Quinn novel. There was also a lack of the usual peril and urgency that often comes with romance novels. Usually some circumstance or misunderstanding causes tears and upsets galore, but was missing from this one. Not that I’m complaining, it was nice to have a little less drama and more of our hero and heroine getting along and snarking at each other.

All in all this was a wonderful read. Not my favourite of Quinn’s novels, but a wonderful book all the same. If you’re after a light historical romance to pass an afternoon or evening, then this is definitely one to pick up.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created and hosted by the lovely folks over at 'The Broke & The Bookish' - to join in simply follow the link!

Spring is finally starting to make a half-hearted appearance here in Lyon, so it's the perfect weather to sit outside in the sunshine with a book. Luckily there are more than enough amazing books coming out over the next few months to keep me occupied. However, since 'The Broke & The Bookish' folks like their lists of ten, I've whittled my never ending excited about reading book pile down to the top ten books I cannot wait to get stuck into.

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: April 26th 2016
The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.
All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

I'm not even remotely emotionally ready for the last book in The Raven Cycle, but that doesn't mean I don't want it. It's going to be beautiful and brilliant and utterly brutal, and you can guarantee that I will likely be sobbing by the end. I adore this series, far more than I will ever be able to explain, and it's going to be wonderful and heart breaking to see it come to its conclusion.

Tell The Wind & Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: April 5th 2016
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets. 
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

A new book by Sarah Rees Brennan?! It's been too long! Take my money now! I'm so excited about this one, partly because of the blurb, but mostly because I adore Sarah's books. They're intelligent, gripping, brilliantly funny and always favourites on my bookcase.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: March 8th 2016
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

On the one hand, I'm a little bit Shadowhuntered out, particularly since my husband has become unbelievably obsessed with the new tv series... But on the other? It's Cassie Clare, and despite feeling like I've read (and seen) a lot about the Shadowhunter world over the last few years, I still really enjoy going back to it. It's kinda like crack. So of course this book is on my spring TBR pile.

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date: March 24th 2016
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

I am so in love with this series, and the cliffhanger at the end of the second book? So cruel. So brilliant and perfectly cruel. And it left me absolutely desperate to find out how this stunningly written series would end.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court--but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms--and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future--and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Whilst my heart truly lies with Sarah's Throne of Glass series, I really loved this new series she surprised us with last spring. It was something a bit different, a bit brutal, and very, very good. I stormed through the first one and I'm really looking forward to seeing how things play out in this second installment.

The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: May 3rd 2016
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

Another amazing book that wrecked me last year, and is coming back for another go at me with the second installment. This was a truly artful re-telling of the Arabian Nights story. Beautiful, heart breaking, and utterly gorgeous. The ending wrecked me, and the second part of this duo-logy is liable to do the same.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
Release Date: May 5th 2016
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. 
Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place. 
And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be...

This series has been an unexpected surprise. It's not something I would have usually picked up, and the narrative style is very strange and hard to get used to. But it's the kind of story that sucks you in without you even realizing. I'm thoroughly intrigued by the quirky misfit bunch of residents of Midnight, and I can't wait to visit them in this third volume of the series.

Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Release Date: March 29th 2016
Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...This is not one of those times.Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...Or not.There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

I adore Julia Quinn. Her books are like chicken soup for my soul. And right now I need a lot of chicken soup. It's going to be wonderful to be back with the Bridgerton's - albeit a generation earlier, and falling in love with a whole new collection of characters who are after their Happily Ever After's.

Marrying Winterborne by Lisa Kleypas
Release Date: May 31st 2016
A ruthless tycoon.
Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better…
A sheltered beauty.
Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable…the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…
Marrying Mr. Winterborne.

I loved the first book in this series 'Cold-Hearted Rake', and was all set to fall in love with the rest of the series. But then at the very end of the first book, Kleypas turned the hero of this book into a truly terrible man. It left me feeling quite unnerved and I'm very curious to see whether I can be persuaded to like him again in his own romance.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, sixteen-year-old Maya has only earned the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her world is upheaved when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. But when her wedding takes a fatal turn, Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds friendship and warmth.
But Akaran has its own secrets - thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran's magic, Maya begins to suspect her life is in danger. When she ignores Amar's plea for patience, her discoveries put more than new love at risk - it threatens the balance of all realms, human and Otherworldly.
Now, Maya must confront a secret that spans reincarnated lives and fight her way through the dangerous underbelly of the Otherworld if she wants to protect the people she loves.
The Star-Touched Queen is a lush, beautifully written and vividly imagined fantasy inspired by Indian mythology.

Gorgeous cover? Check. Intriguing blurb? Check. Fantasy inspired by mythology that I don't know a huge amount about but would really like to? Check. Be still my heart, this one looks like it's going to be fantastic.

So there you have the top ten books that are going to be right at the top of my spring to read pile over the next few months. Are there any here that you can't wait to read? Any that you hadn't heard of before but are eager to pick up now? And any you feel are missing from my list? Let me know and link me to your own top ten's in the comments below!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Author Interview: Maria V Snyder (Night Study Blog Tour)

Today I have the very great pleasure of hosting the final stop on the Night Study blog tour, with an interview with the author herself, Maria V Snyder.
I've been a huge fan of this series since I first discovered them way back in university, so to see the original trilogy continued and expanded is a dream come true. To actually host Maria on The Review Diaries? Even more so.

What inspired you to come back to these characters and continue their story?

MVS: My readers! They begged.  They pleaded.  They sent me hundreds of emails.  They made puppy dog eyes at me.  I couldn’t resist those puppy dog eyes. Also I sparked on an idea for a new story and I wanted to explore Valek’s past.

Can you give us a hint about the challenges Yelena and Valek will be facing in this book?

MVS: The Cartel is one of the biggest problems they have to deal with. It’s a conglomerate of powerful and wealthy business owners who have decided Sitia needs to be run as a business (and OMG I just made the realization that it’s very similar to Donald Trump running for president of the United States – except the Cartel isn’t campaigning, they’re just removing the current council and taking over).  Yelena and Valek also have to face and deal with Owen and his plans.  He’s a powerful magician and has recruited a number of powerful allies.

How has the original idea and concept evolved into the book readers will have in their hands?

MVS: The original idea for this new set of Study books started with Shadow Study and my desire to explore Valek’s past and create new problems to challenge them both.  Night Study is a continuation of what I set in motion in the first book.  Normally, I try to make each book a separate story, and they do have plot lines that are resolved in each book, but these three new Study books are definitely linked.

Can you tell us a bit more about your research process for the novels?

MVS: I usually discover what I need to research as I write a book.  Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, I discover the story as I go.  When I’m writing, I’ll make a list of things that need to be researched and, when I have time, I do it.  I’ll use the internet and I found juvenile non-fiction books to be very helpful when I don’t need to go into depth for a story.  I also do as much hands-on research as possible.  When I was writing the Glass book, I took a bunch of glass classes and learned not only how to work with molten glass but how to fuse glass and make stained glass.  So much fun!  I also learned how to ride a horse and I spent a day in jail!

It's well documented how hands on you are when it comes to learning new skill sets that your characters have, which was your favourite both to learn and to write about?

MVS: The glass classes were my favourite. I’m fascinated with the process and how malleable and reusable glass is.  I enjoyed writing about the process and have had many readers say they loved learning about it when the read my books.

What's the hardest part of writing any of your novels?

MVS: Writing the first draft is always the most difficult.  Since I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, I don’t plan out the story other than a basic plot.  Each writing session, I’m discovering new details about my story, but it’s slow.  I’m a slow writer and having to sit down every night over 5 to 7 months can be a cold hard slog.

And the best, most rewarding part?

MVS: Finishing the first draft is a wonderful feeling! I enjoy the revision process and it goes much faster.  I also love hearing from my readers.  When my books inspire them and influence their lives in a positive way, that’s just a gift and gives me great joy.

Does anything particular stimulate your writing and creativity, do you have any set writing habits?

MVS: When I read a really good book or see a movie/play that is spectacular, I’ll get motivated to write.  Also those 5 days I spend at Seton Hill University teaching the MFA students twice a year, is always a creative boost.  As for writing habits, I write at night from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., and before each session I have to tuck my family into bed, brew a large thermos of decaffeinated English Breakfast tea, and then turn on music (otherwise it’s too quiet).  It helps if my desk is neat or else I’ll procrastinate and clean it up before starting.

What are your go to comfort reads when you're not busy writing or researching?

MVS: I hardly ever re-read books, but there are certain genres I’ll lean toward when I’m on holiday and just want to relax.  Romantic suspense is one of my beach reads and I’ll also read mysteries.

What authors or books have inspired you?

MVS:  Here’s a partial list of books that have inspired me: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Jaran by Kate Elliott, The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper, and The Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly.  Other author whose work has influence me are: Dick Francis, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Glenda Larke, Barbara Vine, and Piers Anthony.

Once you've finished this latest series, will you continue with more stories set in Sitia and Ixia? Or will you be heading to a whole new world?

MVS: I will be heading to a whole new world.  After spending over three years with a set of characters, I need a break.  I might return and focus on the younger generation as there are a number of characters like Reema, Teegan, Fisk and Heli that might need their own stories. But that won’t be for a number of years.

Can you give us a hint about what you're writing next?

MVS: I don’t know what I’m writing next!  I’ve a fantasy idea and a science fiction one and I need to write up the synopsis for each and see what my editor likes.

And finally, any advice for aspiring writers?

MVS: I’ve lots of advice for aspiring writers.  In fact, I’ve a number of articles on my website that can read here:

My biggest piece of advice is persistence.  I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Poison Study was rejected many times, but I kept submitting the book and had planned to submit until I ran out of publishers to send it to. I also tell writers to be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!

Thank you so much Maria for taking time out to come and talk to us! It's fascinating to hear about the writing process! If you haven't yet nabbed your copy of 'Night Study' head on over to Amazon or Waterstones now and order your copy. It's a thrilling story that will have you feverishly reading through the night to find out what happens next!
Keep an eye out for my review which will be going live later in the week!