Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas!

Over the last 3-4 months I've been a pretty crappy blogger. Our family went through a tough time and I've been spending more time with friends and family recently than reading and blogging. I also have an unhealthy obsession with Grey's Anatomy which I'm currently binge watching. Again. 

I'd really like to get back into blogging and get my reading mojo back in the next year so for now wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2016 

Erin xx

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Review of Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

The bit on the back…

Five figures gather round a shallow grave. They had all taken turns to dig. An adult sized hole would have taken longer. An innocent life had been taken but the pact had been made. Their secrets would be buried, bound in blood …

Years later, a headmistress is found brutally strangled, the first in a spate of gruesome murders which shock the Black Country.

But when human remains are discovered at a former children’s home, disturbing secrets are also unearthed. D.I. Kim Stone fast realises she’s on the hunt for a twisted individual whose killing spree spans decades.

As the body count rises, Kim needs to stop the murderer before they strike again. But to catch the killer, can Kim confront the demons of her own past before it’s too late?

This is Angela’s first novel and it’s also the first crime thriller I’ve read in about 10 years. To say this is not my typical genre is a gross understatement. It seemed like every other review being tweeted was a raving review of one of Angela’s D.I. Kim Stone novels. So like the book crowd follower I am I took myself straight to Amazon and downloaded Silent Scream.

This book is set in the Black Country and focuses on kick ass detective Kim Stone and her pursuit for justice.

One of the things that drew me to this series, along with the great reviews I’d read, was the female lead. As I’m new to this genre I thought I would more easily identify with a female main character than a male. Kim Stone is a strong and seemingly fearless woman. She’s headstrong, stubborn and damn good at her job. Although her stubbornness sometimes lands her in hot water with her boss her instincts and the way she worked through the crimes in her head completely drew me to her.

I had immense respect for Kim by the end of the novel. Alongside the main storyline we get a glimpse of Kim’s past coming through in her moments of reflection, brought on by the closeness of the case to her own history.

As the story unfolds and as the body count goes up the story of the past and present is interwoven. At some points I thought I had the murderer pegged but it turned out I was completely wrong. For the most part Kim tells the story however there are scenes from the murderer’s POV too which were unnerving but had the effect of keeping me turning the pages. Just when I thought I was starting to work things out, learn what to expect, Angela through a complete spanner into the works in what has to be one of the best character twists I’ve read ever.

There were so many twists in this novel that my head was spinning by the end. I was a little bit apprehensive about finishing this when I was in the house myself… and when it was night time! It’s cleverly written, completely unpredictable and gripping to the very end. Reading this has definitely ensured that I want to read more not only from this author but in this genre – starting with 24 Hours written by one of Angela’s fellow Bookouture authors Claire Seeber.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Review of A Girl's Best Friend by Lindsey Kelk

The bit on the back…

After the crazy six months she’s had, if there was a ‘clear history’ button for your life, Tess Brookes would be the first in line to press it.

When the opportunity arises to join her best friend, Amy, in New York for Christmas, Tess jumps at the chance. The only slight hitch is that Nick, the man who broke her heart, lives there. And Charlie, the man she turned down, has just started talking to her again. And she has just four days to take a photo for a competition that could save her career.

But aside from that, everything is going to be great: it’ll be the best Christmas ever. Won’t it?

I, like all of Lindsey’s other fans, was looking forward to this book immensely. I couldn’t wait to get back into Tess’s crazy life and finish the whole Team Nick/Team Charlie debate – although Nick will always be my guy – makes love-heart-in-eyes face.

The prologue threw me for a loop. At first I was like wait, wait just one minute what’s going on here?! But then it all became clear! After those first few pages I was effortlessly engrossed in Lindsey’s writing once again. Every other page had me laughing and at times I was on the verge of tears. Tess’s life has one big chaotic whirlwind from assuming her flatmate’s identity and job to making a name, her own name, for herself and completing her adopted family circle. One thing missing was her man – but which man was the question.

Tess finds a way to make Christmas in New York happen. I’m so glad that this story was set in New York primarily because Lindsey and writing about New York go so well together. Lindsey’s I Heart series begins in New York and I loved going back there with her. I also loved the fact that we got to catch up with I Heart series main characters Angela Clarke and Jenny Lopez. If ever there were three characters who were destined to be besties it’s these three.

As usual chaos reigns where Tess is involved but she just about manages to turn things round for herself. The ending to this book is probably one of my favourite endings of all times. It just seemed absolutely perfect although I don’t want to ruin it by revealing anything more about it.

There are a few things that keep me coming back to Lindsey’s writing over and over again. Firstly the fact that every single time I read a new book of hers I am completely transported to wherever the location is. I never feel like I’m just reading about a place, I can visualise it and I feel like I’m experiencing it first-hand. Secondly is Lindsey’s sense of humour and sharp wit. It feels so aligned with my own and my sister’s that it makes me want to be BFFs with her main characters. I would love to meet Tess in real life, Angela and Jenny too. I can’t wait for whatever’s next from Lindsey.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Review of Deep Blue Eternity by Natasha Boyd

The bit on the back…

Livvy is on the run. And she’s escaped to the one place nobody will ever find her.
But the isolated cottage isn’t empty. Her refuge is home to a troubled stranger, Tom, there for reasons of his own.

In the intimacy of the abandoned cottage, and the remote wilderness of the island, the electrifying connection between them is impossible to ignore. Both running from their histories and shielding dark secrets, their pasts catch up with them and collide in an unimaginable way.

Deep emotions and powerful chemistry face a painful battle with the tangle of lies, and scars of the past. When the truth emerges, hearts will be shattered.

Firstly, thank you to Headline Eternal for sending me a copy of this book for review. I’d never read anything by Natasha Boyd before but I would definitely read more from this author based on this book.

This story is all about Livvy and Tom. Livvy is seeking refuge in her Grandmother’s cottage in South Carolina but when she turns up expecting the cottage to be empty she finds she is isn’t the only one seeking refuge there.

There is not a single emotion left uncovered by this book. I felt raw after reading this because every single page I turned the words on the next one seemed to hit me right in every single feel. Livvy’s running away from her life but you don’t find out for a while exactly what’s happened to her that’s made her run. She recognises Tom but is never sure until much, much later in the book where she recognised him from. She’s skittish, plagued by nightmares and completely unsure of herself and who she is. The transformation in her character throughout and the journey she takes is heart-wrenching. At times I could empathise with her and at others I was at a complete loss to what Livvy was feeling as I couldn’t possibly imagine myself in her situation.

Tom is a very real character. Real in his guilt, real in his attempts to rectify everything he feels guilt for and real in his need to fix everyone around him. He allows Livvy the room she needs to heal and to find herself, although in doing this he doesn’t fully disclose who he is and all the way through the book I had an awful feeling about what was going to happen between the characters. I quickly deduced who Tom might be to Livvy and was on tenterhooks waiting for the big reveal. I love Tom’s part in her recovery and how his feelings develop for her.

I cried, I smiled and then I cried again. I am not exaggerating the level of emotions in this book because they are absolutely clear to anyone who reads this. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of K.A. Tucker and Samantha Young. Yes. Pass me the next one!

Monday, 7 December 2015

Review of One King's Way - Samantha Young

The bit on the back…

When he's not working at the club, Craig Lanaghan looks out for his mother and little sisters. So when it comes to women, all he wants is a good time. But once Rain Alexander walks into his life, there's no denying that this woman could be worth much more than a one-night stand . . .

Rain's lifelong regret is having left her sister Darcy alone years ago with a guardian who turned out to be abusive. So when Darcy's boyfriend publicly humiliates her in a cruel way, Rain's overprotective instincts kick in and she follows him to Club 39 - where she meets a guy who just might be her perfect match.

The chemistry between Rain and Craig is explosive, but Rain is out for revenge, and refuses to be sidetracked by flirtation. As things between them heat up, she'll have to make a heartbreaking choice between giving in to the man of her dreams or putting her sister's happiness first . . .

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for ages – more so since Samantha posted a teaser on her Facebook of an excerpt of the story written from Craig’s POV. I’ve loved the little re-imagined excerpts from the On Dublin Street series told from the hero’s perspective that Sam has posted on her website so I knew she could nail this!

I love reading from both male and female perspectives in a book, especially in a novella when you have less time to get to know the characters and their stories. We have already met Craig as he worked alongside Joss & Jo at Braden’s night club but Rain is a brand new character. I was a little confused at first but quickly realised that One King’s Way is set way back between the first and second books in the On Dublin Street series.

Craig and Rain meet in the night club and although Craig is his usual charming self, Rain is too distracted to notice. Although she’s caught up in her own business I love that her level of distractedness meant that Craig had to double his efforts to win her attention.

Over the course of this short read we learn more about each character and their loyalty to their families and what drives it. The relationship between Rain and Craig is sexy and intense but there was always something in the back of my mind that thought the heat and the passion was masking the real issues that Rain was harbouring.

I didn’t quite expect the ending but I loved the both usual and unusual tie in that the title had, as with the rest of the series this novella belongs to. Sam is one of those writers whose work I could read over and over again and this is no different. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Review of One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

The bit on the back…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . to fall in love

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish on her mind…to start over.

With her nine year-old daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for an adventure. From hot chocolates and horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park, to ice-skating at the Rockefeller Centre, and Christmas shopping on 5th Avenue – they soon fall in love with the city that never sleeps.

But there’s more to New York than the bright twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has a Christmas wish of her own – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fufil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.
Determined to make her daughter’s dream come true, can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn into reality – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they both realise that life isn’t just about filling the minutes…it’s about making every moment count.

Firstly, thank you to Bookouture for approving me for a copy of Mandy’s latest read via Netgalley. One Wish in Manhattan is all about Hayley, her 9 year old daughter and Oliver.

The story is told from both Hayley and Oliver’s POV. I love this in a story anyway, but it works well in this one because there are a lot of different things happening for each character. Hayley is very family focused and is trying her best to fulfil her daughter’s Christmas wish and on the other hand Oliver shies away from commitment in general but also from being part of his family. They are an unlikely match but there is something that just works with them both. Hayley brings out Oliver’s good qualities almost unbeknownst to him and by the end he is the genuinely great guy he is capable of.

Both Hayley and Oliver have a lot of time to reflect in the novel and there is a lot of self-discovery for each of them. The biggest change though, remains with Oliver in all aspects of his life right down to learning his employee’s names.

I absolutely loved the setting. Mandy brought New York to life in this book and I loved that Hayley’s New York treasure hunt took her and Angel beyond the usual sight-seeing hot spots. It felt like an insider’s guide to New York and I loved that she and Angel kept thinking of reasons why New York was better than home.

Just like the cover says, this is an uplifting read. It’s about going after what you want, going after what you deserve and living life to its fullest for you and for your family. Mandy had my emotions all over the place throughout this book but one thing is for certain – her writing reels you in, wraps you up and invests your heart in her stories. More please!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Review of Snowflake Wishes by Maggie McGinnis

The bit on the back…

Noah Drake was that guy--the one always on the lookout for his next adrenaline high, so it was no surprise when he took off across the world, seeking adventure as a travel writer. But one thing he could never escape was Piper Bellini, the girl who got away--the girl he let get away, a fact he's never let himself forget.

When he returns to Echo Lake to see if there's any chance the flame between them can be rekindled, he never expects to spend the night holed up with Piper in a roadside diner while a blizzard rages outside. It's exactly the kind of situation that sent Piper running years ago. But this time, Noah may have been handed a Christmas miracle, and he intends to make all of his and Piper's wishes come true...

Firstly thank you to St Martin’s Press for approving me for a review copy of this title. I’ve read one other book of Maggie’s so far, although I have more on my TBR (shocker), and I really enjoyed her writing. When I saw this Christmas shorty I knew I would want to read it. I think it’s perfect for fans of Paige Toon too.

I LOVED Noah. I mean really what is there not to love - he’s handsome, he’s fit and adventurous and he’s the one that got away. Or rather he’s the one that went away.

The end of this story is predictable and a happy ever after, but the journey to the ending was unexpected. Piper and Noah separated when Noah followed his free spirit back across the world not caring about what it could cost him. There are a lot of unresolved feelings between the pair of them and their connection is rekindled almost as soon as they see each other.

I liked that the story had them going on a trip together. Being stuck together during the story allows both characters to work through their feelings about each other and their relationship. The journey back also shows Noah’s heroic side and Piper’s ability to overcome her fears.

I am looking forward to more from Maggie’s Echo Lake series after this lovely, wintery read.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Release Day! The Revenge by Holly Martin

Happy publication day Holly! The final installment in The Sentinel series is out today!

The bit on the back...

After the Oraculum orders Eve’s execution, she has to flee her home in the fort as those that have been guarding over her are forced to turn against her. Amongst the chaos, a new Sentinel is named. Adam, Eve’s half-brother. 

Adam has spent his life incarcerated by the Oraculum while Eve was allowed to grow up with a family and friends. Now he is hell bent on revenge. He rules over his Guardians and his new kingdom with arrogance and a cold heart, but his one ambition is to make Eve’s life a living hell. Nowhere is safe from him, not even her dreams. 

With the threat from the Putarians moving closer, her own Guardians betraying her, the survival of the world hinges in the balance. 

Above all else, Adam must be stopped. But when Eve has a prophecy of her and Adam saving the world together, she quickly realizes she needs to work with him not against him. 

But can Eve get through to Adam before it’s too late? Or will Adam’s evil heart result in the destruction of all? 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Extract from The Sentinel by Holly Martin

The first time I read this book it consumed me! I had been in a bit of a reading slump and decided to step outside my usual genre and straight into Holly's fantasy world. Everything about this is just filled with a crazy amount of imagination. On the eve of the release of the final book of the series read on for a look at the first chapter of The Sentinel...

A horrific squealing of brakes snatched me from my dreams.  As we swerved, my friend Julia smacked her head painfully against the window.  With a deafening bang, the coach lurched heavily onto its side.  The lights went out.  Metal screeched as it buckled along the ground.  Windows popped and splintered.  The coach suddenly tipped forward over what could only have been the edge of a cliff and our driver smashed into the front window.  Silence fell over my classmates as we watched in helpless horror, somehow knowing what was going to happen next.  With a sickening cracking sound, the glass shattered.  He scrabbled frantically in the air and his grass green eyes, filled with despair, found mine as he tumbled into the dark abyss below.  I knew that moment would be permanently seared on the inside of my eyelids, when fifty six people sat and watched our coach driver die.  And then the screaming started again.  It quickly intensified as the coach wavered precariously on the knife edge between our salvation and our death. 
Standing still and unmoved amongst the chaos Mr Kennedy, my English teacher, was suddenly by my side.  He tore me easily from my seatbelt, as if it was only made from paper, and swung me up into his arms so fast it was just a blur.  Leaping through a window into the icy black night, he landed on the road in one swift, gigantic, impossible movement.  Mr Curtis, my Science teacher, was holding onto the back of the coach with one hand.  A terrifying realisation engulfed me.  He was the only thing that was stopping the coach from toppling over the sheer drop and killing all my friends inside.
Mr Kennedy put me down and gestured to the coach. ‘Let it go, they’ll be too many questions otherwise. Eve is the only one that matters.’ 
My stomach twisted violently as Mr Curtis released it.
As gravity slowly took hold of the coach, pulling it over the great precipice, I shrieked with horror.  Without thinking I flung out my hands to stop it, clinging onto the bumper.  The coach stopped tipping immediately, though the screaming inside did not.  My eyes widened in shock as I realised that I was now singlehandedly preventing the coach from falling. I looked back at my two teachers in disbelief.
‘Help me,’ I screamed.
Mr Curtis joined me at the bumper.
‘Eve, if we do this, you will have to lie to everyone.  This never happened, the coach nearly slid off the cliff but somehow stopped before it did.  You were never rescued by Guardians, we never had this conversation.’
I nodded, numbly; anything to save my friends. 
With the loud, screeching sound of metal grinding against the rocks, Mr Curtis started pulling the coach back, as easy as if he was pulling a sheet off a bed.  He pulled it back just a few feet but it was enough that the coach wouldn’t topple over the edge. 
Before I could say anything I found myself in Mr Kennedy’s arms, whooshing through the air again.  I was lying back in the darkness of the coach a second later; a darkness that was filled with screaming and fear and pain.
Mr Kennedy’s voice was calm as he whispered in my ear. ‘Remember to lie Eve; it’s more important than anything that no one knows about you or the Guardians.’ He flicked open his phone and his voice changed to one of panic. ‘Hello is that the emergency services...there’s been an accident, oh please get here quick, the children, please...we’re on the mountain road between .....’
As I lay numb in the darkness, waiting for the emergency services to come, I listened to the sounds of Mr Kennedy and the other teachers, trying to calm down the screaming teenagers.  The sticky wet feeling of blood trickling through my hair was a sure indication that I had banged my head at some point.  But I was alive and so were the other fifty five passengers.  My teachers, the Guardians, had saved us. 
I swallowed, uneasily as I accepted the unwanted truth.  No, they hadn’t saved us, they had saved me. My head was buzzing with the thoughts crashing round it.  How had I managed to hold the coach?  All laws of physics dictated that what Mr Curtis had done, what I had done, was impossible.  And who or what were the Guardians? Why had they saved me?  What did they want from me?  ‘Eve is the only one that matters’.  I tried to catch my breath, but it stalled in my throat.  This didn’t make any sense.  What was so special about me?  Why was my life so much more important than anyone else’s?  My life had been pretty unremarkable.  I hadn’t saved any lives, I hadn’t done anything that was special, certainly nothing that could rank my life over anyone else. A sick feeling of panic prickled my scalp as I tried to breathe normally.
To make matters worse, my struggling to breathe alerted my two Guardians again.  How they had heard me above the screams of my friends was beyond me.  Amongst the cries of genuine pain from my fellow students, my Guardians stood unmoving by my side.
‘Is she hurt?’ Mr Curtis asked quietly.
Mr Kennedy bent down to touch my head, a surge of electricity shot through me and he stood back up again. ‘She’s had a bang to the head, but it’s just a lot for her to take in.  She’s beginning to understand how important she is and she doesn’t want to believe it.’
I looked up at them, at their grass green eyes that glinted in the moonlight; the exact same eyes as the driver who had fallen to his death. The same eyes as my parents.
‘This was no accident,’ Mr Curtis said.  ‘There were small explosives rigged to the tyres.  They were deliberately trying to kill her.’
‘The Putarians?’
‘Probably or someone after the bounty.  We will have to intensify the guard.’
‘There are already hundreds in her servitude; Eve’s teachers, doctors, neighbours.  She’s never alone now without a Guardian.  There are four that live in her house…’
Four Guardians that lived in my house? My parents, aunt Jada and uncle Silas, they were Guardians too? My throat was dry.
Flashes of my life suddenly filled my mind, like a film played too quickly to make any sense of it.  The flashes were of tall, powerful people with grass green eyes.  They had followed me throughout my life; they had seemingly watched me as if nothing else existed.  My family?  My teachers, next door neighbours, doctors, dentists, shop keepers, flower sellers? I had never been alone.  Even in seemingly innocuous situations the Guardians had never left me.  All of them shared one thing in common, that intense look in their eyes, that single minded ferocity that I had to be kept alive, that it was their job to protect me at all costs.  
Lying there surrounded by broken glass in the debris of the coach crash, the realisation of what the Guardians were came crashing down on me.  My heart was racing, my skin humming with horror.
‘She wasn’t supposed to find out this young.  She’s only seventeen.  She’s not ready for it yet.  She certainly shouldn’t have found out like this.  But still, the secret cannot remain at the cost of her life.’
‘No, we had to save her,’ agreed Mr Kennedy.
‘Maybe we can modify her memory.’
I felt a fresh wave of panic surge through me.  Finding out about the Guardians had horrified me.  The possibility of this knowledge now being taken away from me and the bubble of unawareness being refastened over my eyes and my mind was even more terrifying.  I had to find out answers not have what little I knew removed from me.  I shivered violently.
‘I can try.’ Mr Kennedy was doubtful as he bent down again to touch my head, then leapt back as if he had been burnt. He looked at Mr Curtis and shook his head. ‘She’s becoming more aware of her powers, maybe subconsciously now, but she is defending her mind against me.’
My powers!?  My heart was roaring in my ears.
‘I must say, I was very surprised to see her holding the coach earlier.  The strength isn’t supposed to kick in for a good few years yet.  Isn’t she supposed to be around twenty before she can do that?’ Mr Curtis muttered, as he shrugged out of his jacket and placed it over me.
‘We always hoped she would be physiologically advanced, but no one could have foreseen this.’
And suddenly, as if all this wasn’t enough to deal with, a tall man with a scar down his left cheek and golden eyes appeared between them, as if the air had just spat him out.  The two Guardians didn’t even flinch, as if people appearing from the thin air was the norm.  He glared at them as if he blamed them entirely.  He knelt by my side and put a hand to my head.  With a surge of energy from him the welcome dark of unconsciousness consumed me.


I lay in bed, in my home, thinking of the night of the crash and what it all meant.  Five days I had been back in England now.  Five nights of restless dreams, filled with super strength beings following my every move.  Five days where I couldn’t talk to anyone and no one in the know would talk to me. 
When I had woken in hospital from the relief of the empty unconsciousness, my Dad had been impossibly by my side.  How he had got to the French hospital in such a short time was a mystery.  I tried to talk to him about the Guardians, about what it all meant, but he had denied all knowledge of such things.  He tried to convince me that it was the bang to the head that had caused these hallucinations. 
Even Mr Curtis and Mr Kennedy denied what had happened that night.  And there was no one else I could talk to about it, because who would believe it.  What would any of my friends say if I started talking about Guardians and how supposedly important I was.  I can imagine the reaction actually; I’d imagine it would end with me sitting in a padded cell.  I couldn’t even tell Seth, my best friend, which hurt me the most, as I told him everything.  But it just sounded so unbelievable; I was having a hard time believing any of it myself.  Why would anyone else believe me?  Every time I started forming the words to tell him, my mouth would go dry with embarrassment. 
The annoying thing was Seth should have been there on the coach with me.  Seth had come on the school skiing holiday with us, but had seemingly broken his ankle a few days before the end of the trip and was flown home.  Though once back home he’d text me to say it was nothing more than a bad sprain.  I was so grateful in one way that he wasn’t there, so he didn’t get hurt in the crash.  But if he had been with me, he might have seen what had happened with Mr Curtis and Mr Kennedy and I wouldn’t be doubting my own sanity right now. 
I got up and felt Quinn, my golden retriever, stir next to me on the bed.  My throat was dry and the air was thick with heat.  The last few days had been warm despite the lateness of the year but the top of the house was always hot at night.
I took a long sip of water, opened the window and climbed out onto the roof.  My Dad hated me sitting on the roof and he’d nearly beat me once when he caught me out here.  But Uncle Silas had thrown him against a wall when he raised his hand to hit me.
Uncle Silas had been weird towards me since I came back from France.  Whenever we had been alone he would mutter things like, ‘trust no one’, or ‘just because they have green eyes it doesn’t make them safe’. 
The ‘secret passage’ was the strangest thing at the back of the garden.  He had showed me this hidden gate, with some special release button two days before. The alley, that must have cut across the backs of many of our neighbours’ gardens, led to a small side road.  Parked immediately outside the second gate was a black Range Rover, the keys to which were hanging on the back of the gate.  It was all very cloak and dagger.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the car had some kind of laser gun attached to it like something from James Bond.  It was almost laughable.
‘If you need to run, you run.  No one knows about this, no one.  Don’t look back, don’t take anyone with you, just run if you have to.’ That’s all he said and despite me badgering him for more information, he never said anything else.  Had Silas gone delusional?  What would I need to run from?  But then Mr Curtis had said that someone had tried to kill me by rigging explosives to the coach tyres.  But who would want to kill me and why were hundreds of Guardians in charge of my protection?  Was any of that even real?  The doctors at the hospital, the ones with the grass green eyes, had said a bang on the head could cause hallucinations.  It was easier to believe in hallucinations than super strength beings and murderers.
Quinn stirring inside caught my attention through the window but he slept on.  I sighed as my eyes shifted to my reflection in the glass. 
I was quite unremarkable in many ways.  My hair was a rather boring shade of brown, my nose, I always felt, was a bit too big for my face.  I was thin, but not in a willowy and graceful way, in fact I was quite short.  I had a strange birthmark on the inside of my left elbow; it looked like a small pair of wings. I always wore long sleeved tops to cover it up as much as I could.  The only part of my body I liked was my eyes.  They were big but what I liked best about them was I could never put a colour to them.  Where other people would say they had blue eyes or brown, I could never decide.  Some days they looked grey, some they definitely looked blue, some days I’d say with absolute conviction they were green, but the next I was leaning towards hazel, or maybe a bluey green.  I loved the uniqueness of my eyes, but that was definitely the only unique thing about me. Which just made what happened that night of the crash even more unbelievable.
Although certainly not unique, I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a freak, a bit of an outcast.  I have never been one of the really cool kids, or really clever or really sporty.  I am distinctly average.   I think my friends, well my classmates, will look at our class photo, years from now, when they find it covered in dust at the back of the cupboard, and after laughing at their younger selves, they might pick out their friends and laugh at them too.  And then their eyes might drift to me, standing second from the left on the third row and they’d say, ‘who was that, what was her name, was it Eve something, Eve Jones that was it.’  Then their eyes would slide away from mine to find a much more interesting memory.  As far as my class mates are concerned, I’m just Eve, nice, plain old Eve.  But that’s what I want them to think.  I would hate them to know any different.
It had become glaringly obvious to me very early on that I was different to the other children.  I hated it.  I had stopped talking to my friends about my weekends many years ago, when my experiences stood stark apart from theirs.  Now I have to pretend that my weekends are normal. I make up tales of shopping, going to the cinema, going to London to the theatre.  How I long for those tales to be true.
I go to school, get good grades, run for the school cross country team, and read my books and play on my computer whenever I have any spare time.  But that is where the similarities end.  Where my friends spend the warmer weekends and school holidays, camping with family and riding their bikes through the woods, I have spent most of my spare time learning to shoot a multitude of frightening weapons, to fence with swords so sharp that the slightest slip would be fatal for me or my opponent.  I can speak three different languages, fluently.  Where my friends are learning how to play the flute or piano after school, I have learnt hand to hand combat and have become a black belt in three different martial art disciplines.  Where my friends have just started to learn to drive, I had already accomplished this by the time I was thirteen.  Now looking back, it kind of feels to me that I was perhaps in training for something, though I’ve never figured out what.
The only saving grace in my training was Seth was present for all of it, his Dad apparently as keen for him to learn how to kill someone as much as my Dad was for me to learn it.  Seth took to the training like a duck to water, like he had been born to fight.  The bruises on my body and the way I spent most of my younger years aching, were a clear indication, at least to me, that I wasn’t really built for such brutality. 
As I looked out into the dark garden, my heart started pounding angrily.  With the coach crash, the training, in trying to make sense of my life, ‘freak’ didn’t even come close to describing me.  The Guardians had made me an outcast.  With the training they had forced me apart from my friends.  But what was worse was I’ve never been told what it was all for.  Knowing I was different was one thing, but not knowing why was the ultimate insult. 
In the last few days I had seen the Guardians everywhere, parked outside my house, following me to the shops, over the park when I walked Quinn and so many of them at school, all silently watching me, or watching over me.  Their very presence was a painful reminder of this other world that I wasn’t allowed to know about, but somehow integral to. It annoyed me so much that they think I’m stupid enough not to notice them.  Though I was more annoyed with myself that for the last seventeen years I hadn’t.  It struck me now that the grass green eyes was the marker of these Guardians, but there had been so many of them surrounding me, that it had long since become the norm, though clearly not just for me, for everyone. 
It angered me that they held me in such reverence. How could they be so callous to let nearly sixty people die, just to preserve this stupid secret, to preserve me?  Their continual watch was oppressive, almost claustrophobic. 
I heard Quinn bark inside and I cursed inwardly that the bark would draw the attention of my Dad again.  I scrabbled back inside glaring at him treacherously but he was standing near the door, his heckles raised.  He growled then barked again.
I coughed.  The air was so dry in here.
Quinn barked again and I felt my blood turn to ice in my veins.  Something was wrong.  Was someone here?
I grabbed my baseball bat and stood in the darkness behind the door.  Running was not an option from the third floor.
Quinn was pacing in front of the door whimpering, as I coughed again.  Why was it so hard to breathe?
Suddenly I noticed the tendrils of smoke trickling through the crack at the bottom of the door and realised what Quinn had been so upset about. 
I opened the door and ran out onto the landing.  The roaring sound that filled my ears was almost deafening. Flames covered the stairs, licking up the walls in a frenzy to consume the whole house.  As I looked on in horror, at the photos that were bubbling and curling up in the heat and the carpet melting just a few feet from where I stood, Quinn tugged on my pyjama top, gently but forcibly pulling me back into the bedroom.  I was too shocked to even put up a fight.  Our only escape route had been cut off. 
I closed the door behind me and silence descended on the room. The door was thick and heavy, but it would only stop the fire for a few minutes and the smoke was already consuming me, making it difficult to breathe.  Quinn whimpered as he paced the room.  I ran to the window, but as I looked out I knew that jumping from the loft window, three storeys up, would be almost certainly fatal. 
But at least standing next to the window, I could breathe cool, clean air, though the heat of the room was intense.  I knew I only had minutes left before me and my beloved pet was burnt alive.  What of my parents, my aunt and uncle, had they managed to escape but couldn’t get to me?  I turned to get Quinn to the window so he could breathe too, but through the smoke I couldn’t see him. His whimpering was coming from the far side of the room.
‘Quinn!  Come on, here boy.’  I knelt trying to see his shadow in the gloom.
Quinn’s whimpering suddenly stopped and I wondered if this was the end, if the smoke had already consumed my dog and I would soon succumb too.  I suddenly decided that I wasn’t going to sit here and die, I would try to escape, and if I died trying that was going to be better than dying whilst doing nothing. 
I stood and as I cast desperately around for Quinn one last time, a shape appeared from the haze and I realised with a new sick horror, that I wasn’t alone. 
There was a man in the room with me, a young man I had never seen before.  The bedroom door was still closed so where the hell had he come from?  He moved towards me.  I backed away from him, willing to take on the fire rather than comprehend where this man had come from and for what reason.  He grabbed my arm to stop me from running back out the bedroom and I instinctively fought him off.  I had spent my life learning martial arts and when it mattered most, my body reacted without thinking.  He clearly knew martial arts too, as he easily deflected my first few punches.  I didn’t have time to get into a proper fight.  Desperately I kicked him in the shins and as he staggered back I flew out onto the landing. 
The fire had reached the top of the stairs now.
‘Eve, please, I’m trying to help,’ said the man from my room, approaching me slowly like you might approach a wild animal.  ‘Don’t be afraid.’  His voice was croaky, like he hadn’t spoken for some time.  His eyes were so familiar, deep pools of melted chocolate.  I’d never seen him before, I would have remembered someone so beautiful, but somehow I knew that face.  A distant memory clawed at my mind, but it was gone a second later.
I backed against the wall as he came closer and he reached out tentatively to take my arm.  The stench of petrol hit my nose and I knew with horrifying clarity that this was no accident.
‘Quinn!’ yelled a voice from below and the man with me looked down through the flames. 
‘Eli, I’ve got her.  What the hell’s going on?’
I stared at the man in shock.  Quinn.  This was Quinn?
‘Quinn?’ He looked back at me. ‘You’re…my dog?’ Even with the heat almost burning my skin, with mere minutes left before I died, I was still embarrassed about voicing my insanity out loud.  He was tall, with shaggy blond hair, the exact colour of my dog’s fur.  The brown eyes were so familiar because I had stared into them for the last seventeen years.
The man nodded, reluctantly.  ‘Yes, I’ll explain everything later, but now we need to get you out of here.’
I shrunk back against the wall.  ‘You’re my dog?!’
Suddenly the air spat out another man at our side.  He was huge and towered over Quinn, ferociously.  Muscles seemingly screamed from every part of him.  He had the grass green eyes of the Guardians but they were fiercely angry filled with hate.  Uncle Silas’s warning came back to haunt me, ‘not everyone with green eyes is safe’.  For reasons I didn’t know, I didn’t trust this man.
‘Eli, thank god!’ muttered Quinn. ‘Where’s David and Marie?’
My parents.  Eli didn’t say anything but the look that he gave Quinn sent ice to my heart.  Something was very wrong. 
Had Eli started the fire?  Was he here to kill me? There was a smell of petrol about him too.
‘My parents, are they here, we need to help them,’ I said.
‘There’s no one here Eve, only you and Quinn.’
Without another word Eli grabbed me up into his arms and marched back into the bedroom.
‘I’ll come back for you in a second,’ he said to Quinn as he walked purposefully to the window.
‘Don’t worry about me, I can just fly down.’
‘I think seeing you naked once you’ve shifted is one shock too many for her tonight.’
Eli knelt and gracefully stepped out onto the roof and without hesitating he leapt off into the darkness.
I screamed, knowing we were both plummeting to our deaths, and braced myself for the impact that never came. 
Seconds later I felt the man’s hold lessen and I was placed on the floor.  I stood in horror as he leapt back up in the air, landing easily on the roof.  He ducked back through the window again to get Quinn.
Blood tearing through my veins I eyed the secret gate at the back of the garden.  Eli couldn’t be trusted.  My dog that had spent every night since I was little lying on my bed was actually a man.  I felt sick and I knew it was time to run. 
Without looking back I fled.  I hit the button behind the bird house and tore through the gate that flew open.  Silas had seen this coming and I thanked him silently for the precautions he had put in place.
‘NO!’ I heard Eli roar behind me. 
I hit the other button to release the second gate, grabbed the keys and was out on the street a second later.  I jumped into the car, started the engine, slammed it into first and flooring the accelerator I shot up the road. 
To my immense surprise, by the time I had reached the end of the road, a silver Land Rover was closing the gap between us.  I looked in my rear view mirror and saw Eli leap onto the side of the Land Rover like he was windsurfing.  The silver car didn’t even slow down as Eli opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat.
I pushed the car to go faster.  As I approached the traffic lights at the end of the road, the red light threatened me to stop, but I shifted the car into fifth gear and sped through them.  The car behind me didn’t stop either, easily keeping up with my renewed speed.  I turned left into a smaller side road and then turned right and right again to head back onto the main road, in an attempt to shake them off, but they were so close they didn’t lose sight of me for a second.  Speeding along the dark and empty streets, the silver car was suddenly joined by a police car, blue lights flashing furiously as it drew level with me. 
How could I explain this to the police?  ‘Hi officer.  The man chasing me in the car behind has super strength, I think he started the fire in my house to kill me and for reasons I don’t understand, this is the second attempt on my life in the last week.  There’s also a shape shifter in on this madness and he’s slept on my bed for the last seventeen years.  If you can find them there are Guardians somewhere who are here to protect me.  I’m sure they’ll explain everything to you, or maybe not as they certainly won’t tell me anything.’ 
I hesitated for a moment.  Was Eli one of my Guardians?  He had rescued me from the fire.  But his eyes had been filled with so much anger.  And then there was Quinn, my dog, definitely not a Guardian, he wasn’t big enough nor did he have the grass green eyes.  Eli knew him, were they in on this together?  Silas had always looked at Quinn with hatred and suspicion.  Had he known that he wasn’t really a dog at all?  I looked across at the policeman who was waving at me to pull over, but as we drove the street lights lit up the grass green eyes of the officer and I knew he was one of them too.   I slowed a bit; if he was a Guardian he was here to protect me, to save me from Eli. I looked back towards the policeman and was thrown by the look of furious hatred from him. The police were with Eli, they wanted me dead.
I put my foot back down on the accelerator again and took off through the town.  The cars followed, only inches from me.  Soon the town was left behind and I was speeding through the quiet country lanes.  A third car, a large red Audi, pulled out in front of me, slowing down, forcing me to do the same.  The patrol car drew level with me, boxing me in and the sense of claustrophobia added to my fear.  There was no escape. 
The police car slammed into my car, causing me to wobble dangerously as I fought to gain control.  The occupants of the red car were clearly not happy with this and swerved in front of the police car, taking out half of its bonnet as it did so.  The police car didn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Taking advantage of this distraction I veered violently to the left, I swerved off the road and ploughed across a field.  The car responded beautifully, it was built to be off road.  Unfortunately so was the silver car that was still following me.  The two other cars chased me too.  I’d lost their immediate proximity but they were soon catching me up.  I tore down the hill, flooring the accelerator.  There was another road at the bottom and I aimed for it. 
As the hill flattened out and I neared the road, the moonlight glinted off the surface and my heart crashed into my stomach as I realised it was actually a river that I was about to drive into.  There was no time to stop, and as the car hit a small bank and took off, I had time to pray that my uncle had fitted the car with some kind of wings.  The river was easily six or seven metres wide and I held my breath as I waited for the car to crash into the icy water.  To my upmost surprise the car landed slickly on the other side and I swerved quickly to avoid the approaching trees.  I sped along the river, my three car entourage keeping level with me on the opposite side; clearly none of them were stupid or brave enough to try jumping it like I had done. 
Suddenly realising the river had given me the advantage, I slammed on the brakes.  The other cars were travelling so fast that when they all did the same they stopped a few hundred yards up the field from where I had come to a stop.  The policeman was already out the car and in an impossible move leapt high in the air and landed on my side of the river.
I made to get out the car but Eli was already by my side, appearing from the air.  He slammed the door shut, his weight buckling the car door and breaking the glass.  Other men leapt across the river as easily as if they had stepped across a small puddle. But instead of running for me, they ran for the policeman.  My Guardians?  But was Eli one of them? Not waiting to find out, I scrambled to the other side.  I leapt out the car and burst into the woods, running as fast as I could through the darkness.  I was a fast runner; this much I knew, and with the adrenaline coursing through me, I pushed myself faster than I had ever ran before.
I wove through the trees and jumped over bushes.  The trees whipped against my face, the fingers of the branches grabbing my clothes and pulling me back, but I ran on.  I leapt over a small stream and scrambled up the bank on the other side.  I paused for a moment, listening to see if I had anyone following me and despite the speed I had torn through the woods I could distinctly hear at least two different people fast approaching my location.  This was hopeless.  There was never going to be any escape from them.   
I could feel the anger, the shock, the fear boiling inside my chest, a burning ball of rage that seemed to suddenly consume me.  My fingers twitched and for a second a flash of blue light seemed to flicker in my hand.  But I was distracted from this as the next second two men broke the trees on the opposite bank of the stream, Eli was one of them.
‘NO!’ I screamed in fury, instinctively putting my hand up.  A blue bolt of lightning shot from my hand and exploded in a sphere across the stream.  The men were blown back from the force of the explosion and I staggered away from what I had done, not sure how I’d even done it.  I ran on into the darkness, but running for a different reason now, running to get away from the shock of what had just happened. 

With disbelief I heard the men still running after me.  I looked back over my shoulder to see how close they were, when suddenly I slammed into a body so hard I would have fallen over if a pair of strong hands hadn’t held me.  I screamed and struggled against my captor but the grip only tightened.  A hand pressed over my mouth…

If you enjoyed this first chapter check out the links below for your chance to get The Sentinel for FREE this week only!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Archive Author Interview - Holly Martin

So excited about this post! Today I have the fantastic author lady Holly Martin to welcome to the blog. I read Holly’s fantastic YA Fantasy novel The Sentinel, first in The Sentinel series, at the end of last year and I had a whole bunch of questions that I was desperate to ask Holly about the characters, the story and her freakin’ awesome imagination! Here is the interview!!

Q1 – Tell us about your novel The Sentinel

It's a fast paced, action packed, fantasy adventure with great twists and superpowered beings.  It's a story about Eve and her destiny to save the world, a story of friendship, loyalty and love.

Q2 – Why fantasy, what inspired you to write in this genre?

I love writing fantasy because anything and everything can happen.  The only limits are your imagination. The Sentinel is filled with super powered and super strength beings, amazing stunts and shape shifters and I love that when writing fantasy the impossible becomes possible.

Q3 – Eve is the main character from The Sentinel. Was it natural that your hero would be a female character, did you ever contemplate having a male lead?

Great question.  When I wanted to write a book like this, I looked around at the other teenage fiction books in this genre and realised that most of the leads were men or boys.  Alex Rider, Young James Bond, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, there seemed to be a distinct lack of strong female characters.  The girls I taught all loved these books, the action, stunts, the fantasy as much as the boys did and I wanted to write a book that had a good role model for girls.  I started writing this book about five years ago.  Thankfully there are a lot more books with female leads now and I think this is a great thing.  Also, as far as I was concerned, there had to be a love story, one of those love lasts for eternity type loves and I felt this could only really be portrayed properly from the girl's point of view.

Q4 – Eve has super strengths that she wasn’t even fully aware of. How did you come up with all of her powers, did anything inspire them?

I used to watch Charmed when I was younger; I loved that show, so I was inspired by that.  I did some research into super powers and super heroes and found out there was a huge range out there to choose from. I wanted Eve to have them all.

Q5 – The thing that marks Eve out as different is that she has little bits of every other character’s powers. Did you decide that you would create her character like this at the start of the process, or did she get more powers as the writing process progressed?

She was always going to be really powerful, that was important.  She had been created to be more powerful than any other living thing.  The Oraculum, the council of nine that created her, had foreseen the end of the world and they knew that they themselves, the nine most powerful beings on this planet, would not be enough to stop it so they created Eve.  So she had to have some incredible strength and powers.  She does get more powerful as the books progress and she becomes more adept at using them

Q6 – Eve has the weight of the world, almost literally, on her shoulders. That’s a lot for someone of 17 years of age to deal with! How did you make sure she was strong enough to cope with that?

I just ensured she was surrounded by people that loved and cared about her.  Her relationship with Seth is very important here, she knows she has to fight for a world with him in.  Having Quinn and Persia and her Guardians around her to support her and cheer her on helps with the huge transition that she goes through.

Q7 – Which character do you identify most with?

I'd like to say Eve as I always thought that I was destined for great things when I was a child, saving the world type things, not just winning the 100m relay or getting ten out of ten on a spelling test.  I always thought that there was some big secret and that one day my destiny would be revealed to me.  I'm still waiting.

Q8 – If you could chose a favourite part of the story, what would it be?

The end of book 1 between Seth and Eve made me cry, I love the part with Edward and the part with the cat.  Can't say more than that, it would spoil it for those that haven't read it yet.

Q9 – Do you have a favourite character?

Seth, definitely Seth, I just love him so much. I want my own Seth.  The love he has for her, that 'I would die for you' type of love, I love that.

Q10 – We’ve already discussed a dream cast for Eli (Chris Hemsworth), Seth (Liam Hemsworth) and Quinn (Jesse Spencer). What about the girls? You have some kick ass characters to cast there, is there anyone that comes to mind?

Oh that's so hard, Eve would be very hard to cast.  I like Saoirse Ronan, but the actress that plays Eve would have to have some serious balls, the tricky part is Eve being so young too, she's 17. Persia could be played by the same actress who played Ginny Weasley; she's sweet but fiery too.

Q11 – At the end of the story you let us have a look at what’s next for the characters – talk about a tease! Can you tell us anything about the second in the series?

Eve becomes stronger in her power and can achieve some amazing things but her new gifts draws the attention of The Oraculum, the council that created her and they're not particularly happy about the way she uses her powers.  When she is summoned to their castle to answer for her actions she becomes aware of a rift between them that could not only endanger her life but the whole planet too.  Her love for Seth grows too and we see their relationship blossom.  But the book is also full of darkness.  Not everyone Eve loves will survive.

Q12 – Did you always know that this was going to be a series or did it start to take form when you were writing The Sentinel?

Initially when I started writing it, it was going to be a trilogy, but there was so much going on that I couldn't possibly finish it in three books, so it is now a four book series.

Q13 – When can we expect the second book to be released?

April I hope.

Q14 - You already know I absolutely loved this story, what would you say to other readers thinking about reading this story?

I’d say what are you waiting for!
So many people have said to me that fantasy or Young Adult books are not their sort of thing at all but how much they loved The Sentinel anyway.  People are put off by the Teen label but if you enjoyed Harry Potter then I think you will love this.  Read the first few chapters which is free on Amazon, if you like what you see, then read the rest.

Q16 – You have a chick-lit novel coming out, The Guestbook – can you tell us a little about that?

I love The Guestbook because it’s a very different way of telling a story.  The story unfolds solely through the messages left in the guestbook of a holiday cottage.  Annie Butterworth owns the cottage and lives next door, it is her story told through her interactions with the guests, plus we get a snapshot into the unique and unusual lives of the guests too.

Q17 – How has the writing process differed, if at all, between The Sentinel and The Guestbook? 

The Sentinel is fantasy so anything can happen, people can fly or shoot flames from their hands.  The Guestbook is set in the real world, so no super powers unfortunately.  The writing process was very different in The Guestbook, because its not a traditional story, so I had to think carefully about the type of information that could be portrayed in the book.  It was quite liberating because all the stuff that normally makes up a book like the setting or the descriptions of people or what they were wearing didn't really appear in this story.

Now for some Holly questions!
Q18 – What do you get up to when you’re not busy writing?

I work long hours, sometimes I'm out the house 14 hours a day so anytime I have, that's not taken up with work is normally dedicated to writing.  I'm on Twitter way too much.  Seeing friends at the weekends. I love going to the cinema, that's probably my favourite thing to do, meals out with friends.  I used to scuba dive a lot but unfortunately a terrible seasickness put a stop to that.
Q19 – Do you have a favourite book?

That's way too hard, one book, just one.  I loved The Host and Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, loved Shadow Forest by Matt Haig, love Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones, Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and On the Edge , Richard Hammond's autobiography after his car accident was so honest and raw.

Q20 – What authors/genres do you typically enjoy?

Chicklit, but the Happy Ever After type, the light hearted, rose tinted type, not the miserable sort that makes you cry buckets. I love fantasy, dystopian YA too.

Q21 – What are you most excited for in 2014?

Sherlock Holmes, can't wait for that.  Oh and the publication of The Guestbook that's very exciting eeek!!!

Thanks again to the wonderful Holly. You can read my review of The Sentinel here.